i’m best friends with a biracial gay man who infiltrates support groups for mothers of autistic children so he can download their profile pictures and use them to set up catfish accounts where he pretends to be a neo-nazi for fun. or at least, i was until i called a wellness check on him after he threatened to kill himself again. in the past 24 hours, he has called me at least 4 times to tell me that i’m a good friend, i’m an awful friend, everyone hates me, he never wants to talk to me again, and he’s pissed off because i’m not answering his calls.

the first time you told me you wanted to die, i talked you off the ledge as you threatened to hurl yourself off the golden gate bridge in front of me. the fourteenth time i wish you’d cut vertically for once. i woke up to a new voicemail every morning. “i know you’re getting these”, you’d hiss. “quit acting like a celebrity.”

i remember when you asked me if i thought you looked whiter in the winter. i hesitated to answer. you opened a tube of foundation two shades too pale and smeared on so many layers you might as well have constructed yourself a new face. then you applied eyeliner like cleopatra, your hand shaking so much the line trailed off on the right side of your face. in true ancient egyptian fashion, you had embalmed yourself. i saw your face contort, and i couldn’t tell if you were laughing hysterically or crying. when i asked, you didn’t respond. you just kept whispering “if you can’t beat ’em, just join ’em” over and over.

when i went home, you called me 7 times in a row. it was a school night, i think. i didn’t think much of it because you called me multiple times every day to tell me about something more mundane, like how the last guy you hooked up with had a soundproof room in his house with dozens of different types of knives displayed on the wall, or how you went into cocaine-induced psychosis and i appeared to you in the form of a purple pterodactyl. a couple weeks later, you told me you swallowed two bottles of pills after i didn’t pick up that night. you said you were going to take a knife and disfigure yourself in front of me. honestly, i think that it might’ve been better if you did. even if you didn’t mutilate yourself intentionally, i think your face would’ve eventually peeled off by itself due to your 500-step skincare routine. you were so obsessed with staying beautiful that both of us doubted you would make it to 30. maybe an acid attack was what was needed to set you free from yourself.

we used to go to this one sex shop in the really shitty part of san francisco. i mean, there weren’t really any areas that were good, but you know what i mean. in the back of the store there were these red curtains, and if you parted them, you’d see a dark hallway. when you walked down that hallway there were a series of these little booths to your left, illuminated only by a couple dim light bulbs. even you never dared to go inside those booths. you weren’t that desperate. afterwards we’d take a detour to the local smoke shop before heading to church, as if that made up for everything we’d done and continued to do. the boy who sold us edibles and rush always seemed like he was 10 seconds away from drifting into unconsciousness. you thought he was hot for some reason. the first thing he asked us was whether we just came from the pride parade. what he said didn’t even register at first - i didn’t start to feel offended until we had already purchased the substances. you opened the bottle of poppers and huffed as if you were about to get laid, and i just laughed.

when we went to church i started to cry, and i told the lady at the front desk i thought i’d been cursed because i couldn’t fathom what i could’ve possibly done in a past life to deserve to feel the way i did. funny how people only pray when they know they’ve done something wrong. the stained glass windows towered above me, and the sound of my own sobbing seemed to echo for miles, yet the room seemed so small. she told me the priest wasn’t there that day and gave me a little silver pendant with the virgin mary on it. we walked back to the train station and the satanic sidewalk graffiti we saw on the way there had mysteriously vanished, but there was an accusation of pedophilia against the priest spray painted on a wall instead. i felt like my sacred heart was about to explode. we popped pills on the train to the city and drank diet coke on the way back. i wonder if you’ve burned that photo of me holding a bag of little blue capsules in my hand like a trophy yet.

last month you told me about this vision you had after smoking salvia. jesus appeared to you and guided you through the amazon rainforest, where angels possessing hidden knowledge reside in temples. your description of him seemed pretty historically accurate - middle eastern sounds about right, but i don’t know about six foot tall with a chiseled jawline. when you came back from heaven you told me that princess diana, tupac, robert oppenheimer, rosa parks, and gg allin were there. not only did rozz williams get in, he’s the king of heaven. he performs live every day and flings underwear full of shit at the crowd. pornstars don’t go to heaven, but suicides can. gandhi and michael jackson are burning in hell. candace owens, steve harvey, and oprah are getting there. jerry springer’s in purgatory. hell is too good for someone like him.

i had a dream last night about my former lover, the one you wanted me to leave. i wasn’t much older, but i was fully bald. the day before i told him it was over, i broke into an abandoned water tower with a couple of his friends. i brought my camera with me. in real life, those photos never developed for whatever reason. the polaroids remained white. but in my dream, i went digging through my backpack and found them. they were fully developed.

in the images, i still had hair. in one photo, we were on a bench and he was laying there with his skinny arms outstretched above his head. his face - framed with curls, angelic as always - was turned to the camera. you couldn’t see mine in any of the pictures. i decided to reach out to him. i don’t remember what i said, but he sent me a cryptic message in response. “if i didn’t want you”, he said, “i would’ve stayed.”

then i woke up.

there were always rumors that we were sleeping with each other. we never did. we never even had feelings for each other. you liked me too much to fuck me. i’ll always be glad i met you. i’m also grateful i’ll never see you again.

i saw you the day that i got a buzzcut. you just stared at me in silence for a while. after what seemed like an eternity of studying at the crevices in my face you spoke. “you look like the kind of guy i’d suck off once at a party and then never talk to again.”

i always thought your habit of sneaking out every night to get fucked by men two or three times your age in dingy motel rooms was a form of self-injury. i never understood how you could have sex without love. i get it now, though. when you’re cruising there’s no time to be afraid of abandonment. there’s no uncertainty. you don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll leave you. there’s a guarantee that you’ll wake up alone in the morning with no one beside you, laying on top of a soiled bed sheet. sometimes i wonder if any of the men i walk by on the street ever blew their defective load inside you. maybe the unborn souls of their children scream out in pain as they hit the cold, hard, tile of the bathroom floor, but i don’t see any catholic protestors guarding the lotion aisle at walmart. i don’t think i’ll be able to date ever again - not because i don’t love, but because i love too much. you said so yourself. i have too much empathy for those who don’t deserve it, and not enough for the ones who do.

the last time i saw you i admitted that there were times when i thought about leaving you, but i realized i’d never find anyone to replace you. in an uncharacteristically quiet voice, you threatened to destroy my life if i ever did, and then you told me that there are a million men out there who are just like you. i said that it’s true - there are a million men out there like you, a million men choking on their vomit on the dirty floor of a “straight” man’s apartment, a million men with a father who break dances in the street for crack money, a million men who believe in god when it’s convenient - but there’s only one you.

for now i’ll wander the streets, getting lost in the crowd, searching for you in every parasitic face. resisting the urge to ask every ugly stranger if they’ve seen my beautiful friend. maybe someday i’ll write another story. i always write the ending first.