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Home for the Holidays: A Gay For You Christmas Romance by Jerry Cole (1)

In fact, if it were up to me, I would have remained in my cozy apartment back in the city. But of course, it isn’t my cozy apartment anymore, not after Sarah threw me out.

I guess I can’t blame her, because things got bad between us before we broke up. She did make more money than me. She still does, and she probably always will. It makes sense that she gets to keep our apartment, except that now it's her apartment and I have to think of it like that.

It's been hellish trying to get a new place on my own, and I'm sure I would do terrible with roommates.

I don't even know if I should stay in the city, because it seems like there is a lot more competition out here than there was before, and the people that I'm competing against all feel like they are younger and better-looking than me.

There are only so many times I can play a thug in a community theater production.

I guess I’ve made some progress—I’ve been victim number two in a bunch of procedurals, which is great except I only have to be there and lay down on a slab while big stars talk over my body about gang wars or something else. Because I’m brown-skinned, I’ve never been the victim of a serial killer, for instance. That’s only reserved for pretty, white girls.

I’m not pretty, I’m not white and I’m not a girl.

Okay, I guess some people would say I’m pretty. But that has done nothing to land me any roles.

I’m complaining for no reason. The victim thing isn’t too bad, really, because I still get paid just to be on set and it's a great way to network with bigger stars than me—which is literally everyone.

It was easier when I was with Sarah, because at least I didn't have to worry about how I was going to eat that day. Our—her, I guess—fridge was always well stocked. But we had nothing in common and she was starting to resent me. I couldn't blame her because I did take her for granted. I know I did, and I wish that I hadn't.

Not because I was in love with her—we were never in love with each other, we had made that clear, and we both tried our best to make it work—but because she was my meal ticket. I know that sounds bad, but when you're a struggling actor you have to do whatever you need to get by. Especially when rent is four figures, regardless of how shitty your apartment is and regardless of the fact that you share it with rats. Rats are no problem, honestly. At least they’re not bed bugs. Now that would be a problem.

At this point, though, I would even take an apartment with bed bugs. I’m worried that when I come back I’m not going to be able to find a place. If I come back. I don’t even know what’s going to happen after Christmas.

I have friends here…

But I have nothing else.

On the other hand, it’s kind of embarrassing to go home at twenty-six with nothing to show for my efforts. I have no savings, no girlfriend, no children and an IMDB page that I would rather not show to anyone. I have an agent, but every time I call her, she tells me to leave a message.

She’s avoiding me and has been for months. Things aren’t really moving forward for me. I don’t like thinking about it, especially in relation to my family.

My little sister made junior partner at the firm she works at and my older brother has three adorable and picture perfect mixed-raced children that he takes care of full-time. I love them, they’re great, and they deserve all the happiness in the world. I just don’t understand why they lucked out and I didn’t. I should get a slice of the pie, too.

I know that it probably makes me sound entitled, but I don't understand why my parents could help my siblings and why they couldn't help me. I mean, I understand my brother and sister wanted a more traditional lifestyle, and my parents were more willing to help with that, but it doesn’t mean that they didn't have to help me at all.

Life has probably been harder for me than it has been for Anna or for Alex.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't blame them for it. They decided what they wanted to do with their lives, and I decided what I wanted to do with mine. It turns out my path is a lot harder than theirs. It’s not like they ever rubbed it in my face. If anything, they have been supportive even when our parents haven’t been.

The issue is I don’t want to go home and admit I've not been able to do what I thought I would have done by this point. Not even be a star, just have enough regular gigs to pay my rent. I’ve had some, but with rent being so expensive… I don’t know. It’s always been a good month if I can make my half without having a problem.

Honestly, for the last few years I have been avoiding my parents.

I've spent the last six Christmases with Sarah's family, because I don't want to field questions from my own. I mean, it's not as if Sarah’s family didn't ask questions, but I think they understood Sarah knew what she was doing.

She also told them to back off, at least she did when we first started dating and I first started to be around them, because she believed in my ability to get my life together.

Of course, she was wrong, just like she turned out to be wrong about a lot of things, but nevertheless we continued our relationship. Her family was easier to navigate than mine because her family didn't have any expectations I would be a big success at any point.

My parents always thought I would be the one person in the family who made it big. Not with acting, of course, but they thought I would be a doctor or a dentist or something like that. Something that meant I wouldn’t have to worry about money ever again.

Well, I sure showed them. I'm book smart. I just make poor decisions.

The only reason I'm going home for Christmas this year is because I'm not invited to Sarah's family home again. Obviously.

My family seems quite excited I'm coming home. I mean, I’ve seen them since I moved out almost ten years ago, obviously, but never during Christmas. Part of the reason for that is I don't like to be there during dinner, when they start picking apart everyone's life. I go home for a couple of days, then I go back to the city, and I tell them that I have a lot of work to do.

Which is almost never a lie, I do have work to do.

The problem is that I barely get paid for the work I do, because auditions don't pay, classes don't pay, and it doesn't matter how many times I've done my friend Chris's podcast, he's probably never going to pay me for it. No matter how many online sponsors he gets.

I could do his podcast from home, anyway.

Just thinking about all this is depressing me. I don't want to go home, and I definitely don't want to have to tell them that I'm probably going to have to stay for the time being.

My parents would be happy to take me in, and they would be happy for me to do something else. But I don't want to do anything else. This is what I want with my life. It's just hard, but, without Sarah’s support, the difficulty has ramped up. It has gone from hard to almost impossible.

My parents will also be happy that I'm not with her anymore. They could never understand why I couldn't settle down with a girl my age, instead of someone in her forties.

They thought I could do better.

But they were wrong.

I couldn't do better, because Sarah was great.

She was exactly what I needed at the time, and I was exactly what she needed.

She had never settled down with someone, and she probably never will, and I needed someone to look after me, at least financially speaking, until I got on my feet. She didn’t mind the arrangement. In fact, she was the one that pitched it to me in the first place.

I wasn't super into the idea at first—I had always thought that if I was going to move in with someone, I might as well love them—but she was fun, interesting and the sex was good, plus I really did need an apartment in the city.

That was why I moved in with her. She knew it, too. It was never a secret. She was okay with it. To start with, anyway. Things stayed like that for about six years. But sometime in the last two years things changed for her. They didn’t change for me.

I still thought she was great and funny and that the sex was good, but I didn't want our arrangement to be more than what it already was, and I think she did.

She never told me that, but she started to act differently. She would get mad if I didn't call her to let her know I would be spending the night somewhere else. I didn't care what she did, because she had her life and I had mine, and that was the arrangement. Exclusivity was never part of it, but I think she dated a lot more than I did. She had a lot more time than I did.

I never wanted to change the arrangement. The arrangement suited me just fine.

Part of it was that it needed to change, evolve, because we were together for so long, but I still didn't love her. I don't think she loved me either. I think she liked the idea of being in love with someone, but it's over in any case.

I should probably stop thinking about her. It's just hard because my life is so different now and it's only been a few weeks. I don’t miss her, but damn, do I miss having a nice warm bed to sleep in.

A real bed.

I can't imagine what it's going to be like in a few months, when everything settles down a little bit. Now that things are still up in the air, it's easy for me to think back on how good things used to be.

At least how good I wanted it to, in any case. I mean, don't get me wrong, I could probably find another person like that. I'm not opposed to the idea of living with someone, and satisfying their needs, if it means I'm going to be able to pursue my aspirations.

That much has become crystal clear to me, but I think I like the idea of being able to find someone I like enough so when I move in with them it isn’t because of some sort of financial arrangement but rather because I want to live with them. Because I like them, not because I like having a real bed to sleep in.

But I don't know that's going to happen anytime soon, and right now I'm definitely not looking for a relationship. I'm just going to put my head down, think about what I want to do with my life, and then decide whether I can move back here.

Maybe I can save for a bit, if my parents let me stay at their place, and I can put a down payment on an apartment. I already have some savings, but it’s not enough to buy anything. I don’t even know how I managed to save any money, but mostly, I’m sure it’s because of Sarah.

Regardless of how things ended between us, the woman was a financial whizz.

Anyway, I need to stop thinking about her. She’s out of my life. I need to start thinking about my apartment.

It doesn’t have to be a nice apartment. It can be shitty and far away from everything I need to get to. It can even have bed bugs, but I don't think I'm ready to give up on my dreams yet.

Sarah or no Sarah, it doesn't matter to me. I just need to be able to do what I said I was going to do, because otherwise, I've wasted the last eight years of my life. And I'm not willing to admit I've done that yet.

Not yet, anyway.

I'm only going home for Christmas. That's it. I'm not going to beg my parents to stay there. I’m not going to talk my siblings into giving me the spare room in their houses. I'm going to try my best to make it seem like this was my idea, though obviously they won't believe that.

My parents aren't stupid. They're just a little over-protective, I guess. They’re also a little bit annoyed I haven't managed to make as much of myself as I should have at this point. I'm a little bit annoyed at that myself, not too annoyed because I know I've got time, because lots of people are successful later in life.

The problem is that to be successful later in life I need to be able to have a well-paying job. At least one that covers my rent. I have no skills, and getting a forty-year-old woman with a great job to give me a place in her apartment is hardly a skill.

I mean, I guess I’m good at sex, but I don't really think my skills are that much in demand. And I don't really want to be a sex worker, though I have nothing but respect for them.

I like thinking that I'll be able to make it as an actor.

I'm good, believe it or not. There's just a lot of competition, and very few roles for people who look like me.

I’m thinking about all this as I look out the window of the gate to where all the planes are. I bought a ticket home, and I should be leaving soon, but the plane hasn't even started to board yet. I don't understand why, because we're supposed to leave in about forty minutes, and I know people start to board about an hour before the plane takes off.

They should at least be letting people with children and disabilities through, but no one is boarding, not even the crew.

I think that it has something to do with the little drizzle outside.

It was bitterly cold when I first got here, and I heard on the radio in the car service that there might be a storm later, but the meteorologist said that unless conditions change, there wouldn’t be a blizzard. It doesn’t look like conditions have changed.

This winter has been unseasonably cold. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's always cold in NYC, but this winter in particular has been punishing. The wind pierces through you when you walk down the street, your eyes brimming with tears.

Not because you’re upset, just because it’s so, so cold.

Even inside, the cold is punishing.

I really miss having a heater. An electric heater that I could put at the bottom of my bed, because that's what I did when I was living with Sarah.

When I moved out, I started crashing on my friend Paul’s couch and I didn't feel very good about using his electricity as well as his living room, so I didn't use the heater. What I did use was about seven blankets, because the windows of his apartment aren’t double glazed.

I couldn't stay there forever. We both knew that I had to leave, especially because Paul is going out of town to see his siblings, who are all coming from down south. I guess they're meeting somewhere in the middle.

Paul did invite me, but I didn't want to go. I do miss my parents, even if I act like I don't.

I just don't like to be judged, but my parents are generally great. Except when they’re talking about my acting, and then—well, then they’re not so great. But I try to take it in stride, because I know they just worry about me.

My siblings, on the other hand, are a little bit less forgiving than my parents.

They are supportive about my accomplishments, so in that sense, they’re nicer to me than my mom and dad. At the same time, I’m moderately sure they’ve started to resent me. I think it’s because of how much my parents worry. Anna and Alex don’t worry about me. They know I can handle myself, but they do worry about our parents.

My siblings think I could have made something of myself, and when I tell them this is me making something of myself, they try their best not to laugh. They’re sweet, I guess.

They’re not doing it to be rude, they just don’t get it.

I don't really talk to them about how much I struggle in the city, because they would think I'm being an idiot, and they would ask me to move in with them.

Now, it's not that I think my family is overprotective necessarily—they could well have a point—or that I don't like them looking out for me. It's just that I'm an adult.

I've decided to have this life, and I'm not telling them that they have to like it or that they have to help. I would like their help but it’s absolutely   hundred-percent not required.

It's just the constant idea I'm not going to be able to make it that makes our interactions in general so disheartening.

Of course, I have nowhere else to go. But even then, maybe it would be better if I stayed in this airport, or if I went to one of my friends’ places for Christmas.

My friends would probably take me in. There are plenty of us that don't speak to our parents anymore. But then again, wouldn't that be an admission that things aren't going as well as I said they were?

I probably need to stop being so prideful and tell them the truth. It’s just the idea of makes me feel a bit dizzy, because I don’t want to admit that they're right.

I can't admit that they're right.

They can't be. Because if they are right, then I'm nothing. And I don't want to be nothing, I want to be making it somewhere.

Of course, I'm not making it. I think that much has become obvious by this point. As I sigh and sit on one of the uncomfortable chairs by the gate, wondering when the plane will start to board, my phone rings in my pocket.

I don't want to answer it, because I already have some idea who it will be.

When it continues ringing after a while, I fish it out of my pocket and look at my sister's face on a tiny screen before I press the green button to receive the call. “Hello?”

“Hey, Max? Is that you?”

“Hey, sis,” I reply, putting my finger in my left ear so I can block out the airport noise. I stand up and walk away from the sitting area so that I don’t bother other people with my phone conversation and to get away from the noise. “Can you hear me okay?”

“Kind of. I just wanted to find out what the flight number is you’re coming on is.”

“I thought you already have it,” I reply, more to myself than to her.

“What? There’s a lot of background noise.”

“I said I thought you would already have it,” I reply in a shouting whisper, cupping my hand so that no one can hear me but her.

She tuts. “I don't. You sent it to Mom and she never gave it to me, and I think she's really busy right now. So I would like to know when your flight is so I can go pick you up.”

“Okay. I'll send you a text with information. Does that work?”

“Yep, it works. Can you email it to me as well?”

“Sure. I can’t wait to see you.”

She sighs. “I'm so glad you said that.”

“What do you mean?” I say as I swallow. I have some idea of what she means and part of me wishes that I never asked her to clarify it in the first place. But I have asked, and I kind of already know what’s coming next. Even if I don’t want to hear it.

“You know. It's just, Mom really misses you. She's so excited to have you home for Christmas, plus the kids really want to see their uncle. And Dad would never admit it, but he misses you too.”

I smile at that. The idea of Dad missing me, someone as stoic as Dad, it’s hard for me to believe. But I appreciate what she’s saying nevertheless. It’s making me feel a little better about going back home for Christmas.

“Yeah,” I say. “It's going to be great. I'm sorry I haven’t managed to go out there for a while. But I'm looking forward to this.”

There’s a long pause, so long that I think the call might have dropped. I’m about to ask her if she’s still there. But before I can do that, she speaks and her tone is harsh. “Wow.”

“What?”

“Nothing. It’s just that, y’know, for an actor, you're kind of a shitty liar.”

“I'm just... I'm kind of dreading the thought that you guys are going to decide to ambush me about my life decisions,” I reply quietly. “Like, I know that this isn’t the most traditional path to success but—”

“No one's going to ambush you about your life decisions,” Anna replies. “People will just be happy to see you.”

“I know but—”

“You’d think you could do them the same courtesy.”

I swallow. “Anna, don't get mad at me, please. I didn't mean it in a bad way.”

“I don't know why I'm surprised. You always manage to make everything about yourself. This is about Mom and Dad, okay? So stop being selfish, put on your big-boy pants, and come home for Christmas.”

I want to tell her that was what I was doing, but before I can open my mouth to reply, she hangs up.

I look at my phone and sigh, then take a picture of my boarding pass and send her the information. I email it and text it to her and then wander back to where I was sitting.

My seat has been taken by someone else though. That's okay, I could do with some stretching.

I'm going to be on a plane for five hours, so it's probably best that I got some exercise in now. I'm tall, not too tall, about six one, so being on a plane for a long time is kind of uncomfortable for me.

My legs get cramped, and sometimes they start bouncing by themselves, especially when I'm about to fall asleep so the person in front of me isn’t having a great time on the plane either.

If I tire myself out enough, I'll be able to sleep all through the flight, which will be better for everyone involved.

I get my stuff, including my phone charger, and yank it out of the charging station in the middle of the seating area. I won’t wander very far. I'll just get a coffee and then return the moment I hear that they’re boarding.

Since the airport is loud and outfitted with a huge sound system, there's no way that I’m going to be able to miss an announcement like that. Plus, I have an alarm set on my phone so that if anything happens to the flight, I'm sure to be notified. Even if I'm away. I'm thinking all these things as I'm walking away from the gate when a tinny voice comes over the loudspeaker. “All flights have been delayed due to inclement weather.”

I look outside. The weather is not as bad as they are making it out to be, and I’ve flown before when there have been storms.

This is nothing.

I look outside and wonder what the fuck they’re doing when the sky seems to darken. It's kind of sudden, so sudden that it’s as surreal as it is trippy, and I know other people are watching it with me and thinking the same thing.

Even though it's happening right in front of our eyes, I think we're all finding it a little bit hard to believe.

I've seen plenty of blizzards before, but none have turned into blizzards like this. Not this quickly.

That light rain, maybe even light snow, starts to lash against the windows of the airport, making a noise every time that it hits. The wind has picked up speed, and it has turned louder. The airport, which was loud before, has now had its volume cranked up to full.

It’s almost unbearable.

The wind has started to shake the windows.

I'm not surprised a blizzard is happening, but I'm a little bit disappointed. Or maybe I'm happy.

I don't know. All I know is that I have a lot of feelings about this.

Maybe it's a good thing I get to stay here. Maybe it's a good thing I don't get to see my parents when they want to see me because I know there is a good chance they are going to rip me a new one for wasting my life.

I don't want to spend my Christmas at the airport and I don't know when the storm will pass.

People are looking outside around me, some recording the sudden blizzard with their phones. There are some with children, many much more disgruntled than me. At least I don’t have kids to take care of.

There has to be an upside to this.

There has to be. I just need to find it.