Written by: Langston John Blaze
After a month of trying to play it cool and find ways to engage conversation, I finally built up the nerve to talk to Garrison Avery aka Grey, which was the nickname I’d given him since my friends told me he had intimidating grey eyes. Yet come to find out, they were just light brown. The gays knew that first Friday was party night at a popular club in Midtown, Atlanta. I was accompanied by my friend, Omar, and new friend, Quantavius, also known as simply Q. Q was a vibrant personality who’d been making a name for himself online, doing celebrity gossip talk and hilarious discussions about gay issues. I’d prepped them that night that if I saw Grey I’d finally make a move.
Nevertheless, Omar had already hyped me up to Q as this so-called go-getter when it came to men; like I was a mastermind. “What’s your secret?” Q asked. “I try to be observant and use any situation to work as my benefit when talking to a guy,” I told him. “I must see your magic!” Q replied, making us laugh. As we arrived at the venue, I didn’t feel any pressure to speak to Grey if I seen him there, but something inside me knew I had to do it. Several hip hop ratchet songs, a few twerks, and a spilled Ciroc pineapple mix later, I saw Grey standing amongst the Atlanta Plastics of the city; you know, the Mean Girls Rachel McAdams wannabes, except with bigger egos and bitchier personas.
However, Grey stood out from the crowd. He was like the Lindsay Lohan Mean Girl of the group, the good outweighing the bad. Somehow, Omar and Quantavius got separated from me, which was somewhat a good thing since I didn’t want them to watch me in action. Casually, I walked over to my goofy drunk friend Adrian as he shook his ass on any dude that would dance and be silly along with him. I pretended to care about whatever conversation I was having with Adrian later, seeing as though Grey was behind him across the barstool table. As natural as the day was long, Grey gave me a funny cute squint of the eye and I returned the expression, smiling with no shyness at all.
Nevertheless, I noticed Q on the far end of the club which was the deck we were on. He winked at me as I walked over to Grey and began to talk to him. “Protect your friend!” I shouted to the cutie, pointing at Adrian. He stood about 5’9 with those bright brown eyes and chocolate skin. He smiled and for a second I thought I was floating. For the passed few months, I had built up to this. Langston, here’s your big moment I thought. “I’m Langston by the way. What’s your name?” As he spoke in my ear, I could not help but notice he had a stutter. My eyes grew a bit wide. It completely caught me off guard, but I wasn’t willing to blow this over something as petty as a stutter.
Continuing our conversation, I learned his name was Garrison Avery and he worked in health care for a big corporation which was strangely enough adjacent to the nightclub and another couple of blocks from his high rise condo. He was 28 and was from Long Island City, New York. Meanwhile, as he excused himself to the restroom, I walked over to Quantavius. “Okay, so spill the T!” he said, wanting an update on Garrison and I. I told him how everything had gone well. Yet, I also mentioned, “He has a stutter…like not the nervous kind, but that’s how he speaks.” Q gave me a disappointed look. “Langston, I know you’re not about to drop him over a stutter, are you?”
“No, no! Of course not! It just threw me off. That’s all. He seems like a great guy.” Q smiled. “I think you should go for it. You’ve wanted to talk to this guy for awhile. It’s worth seeing how it plays out.“ Moments later, I continued my conversation with Garrison. We danced, which was more like having sex with our clothes on. Suddenly, I realized Nathan was on the other side of the floor, so I danced even harder. However, finally, it was no longer about me getting over Nathan. I was genuinely having a good time with Garrison.
Later, we sat down and talked. He told me how he liked to travel and showed me about 100 pictures of him with no shirt on via Instagram. Yet after we exchanged numbers, somewhere between his drunken friends and the club getting ready to close in the next half hour, Garrison and I left like a couple, hand in hand. I walked by Omar on the way out. As his face said, “What’s going on here?” I verbally said, “I don’t know.” He smiled and continued on his way. It felt so incredible to hold another man’s hand like we were official. I liked the feeling. It felt so…stable.
Meanwhile, I walked with Garrison across the street to his place. We both agreed we were hungry and drove over to an IHOP close by. He drove a sporty red car and sped like he was a Fast and The Furious action star. I knew he was passed the sober legal limit so I crossed my fingers on the short trip for most of the ride. At the restaurant, we talked more and suddenly, I noticed his stutter wasn’t as strong as when we initially spoke. “So tell me about yourself?” I remembered asking him. I could not recall what he said verbatim, but a few things did stand out as a warning label thought. I noticed how often he said, “I’m successful,” and this validating need he felt to keep naming all the luxurious places he’d been and things he possessed, and then, he said something that kind of bothered me. “Most guys can’t handle my personality. I have a low tolerance for people who don’t use common sense. Guys can‘t take me.”
I managed to get in a quick word or two about me. Abruptly, I even found myself telling him how I’d attempted to approach him a time before. We laughed and had a good time. That same night, Garrison dropped me off to my car and we concluded the night with a hug. Damn, he smells good I thought.
The next day, I told Omar how things went down. I gave him the positive and the not-so great parts. Yet, Omar, with a more positive view on dating than normal, suggested I continue my pursuit; so I did. Nonetheless, our schedules were very conflicting, but I managed to text and call Garrison consistently and so did he. Most of our conversations were still filled with the Luxurious Life of Garrison Avery Chronicles, but I did see parts of him that I truly liked. He came from a big family and seemed closer to his mother than his father. Traveling was his way of escape. As a matter of fact, one particular evening when I was out at a bar with Omar, Garrison had traveled a two hour trip to Alabama to have fun at a casino.
He had invited me to go, but I felt the trip was premature and I had much rather done something with him in town. Yet, it seemed like every time I suggested something, Garrison objected. We couldn‘t eat at the Mexican restaurant because he didn‘t eat fattening foods. We talked about watching the movie Interview With The Vampire. He had not seen it, so I suggested we watch it together. It was one of my favorite films. But of course, Garrison decided to watch it alone because he didn’t think there was any point in seeing it with me since I’d already watched it. At one point, I remembered uttering, “F–ck it!” But Omar, who was seeing daffodils and gumdrops lately, had suggested I give it more time. That evening, on his way back from Alabama, I met him in a garage where I’d parked my car. The garage was in the middle of the city and was often full since most clubs, bars, and restaurants were in walking distance.
Meeting Garrison, I got in his car and he pulled over behind mine since there were no places left to park. Meanwhile, as I asked him about his trip, a car drove by us. Sharply, Garrison turned his head and shouted to the driver, “There aren’t any places to park! God! Are you f–king stupid!?” Completely, caught off guard, I didn’t know whether to laugh or be concerned. “Are you okay?” I responded. “I just hate people with no common sense. It’s f–king irritating,” he continued.
Suddenly, I wanted to change Garrison’s nickname from Grey to Firecracker Red. I called Omar that evening and told him about the incident. He laughed and said, “Langston, just give the boy a chance. Maybe he was tired from his trip and on edge.” Days later, Garrison gave me a call one late night. He was coming back from yet another trip from the Alabama casino. Lord, does this boy have a gambling problem? I joked. Nevertheless, he did seem to win a lot. We talked for hours that night as he drove back to Atlanta.
Although I was sleepy, I stayed on the phone with him, because I didn’t want him to fall asleep driving. “You don’t have to stay on the phone with me if you’re getting sleepy,” he said in his cute Northern accent. “No, it’s okay. I want to.” Through our sleepiness, we had an in depth conversation about what we wanted and didn’t want in a guy. I told him I had never been in a relationship. “That’s not good,” he mentioned. “Why is that?” I replied. “If you’ve never been in a relationship, how would you know what it takes to maintain one?” I giggled. “Look at it this way. I’ve never been broken up with or had to break up with someone. The fact that I’ve never been in a relationship doesn’t mean I’m not commitment-oriented.” “True,” he responded.
Being considerate, Garrison agreed to call me when he got home since he was about 50 miles from Atlanta. I enjoyed our conversation that night and said to myself, Okay, Omar, you MIGHT be right this time around. The following weekend, I was deciding what I wanted to do. A movie date with Garrison sounded like a great idea. I text messaged him the suggested, but of course he objected. Surprisingly, he wanted to go to the Alabama casino and had invited me to join him again. Since our last conversation, I was beginning to really like him and told him I would think on it and get back to him later.
That afternoon, I had a talk with my good friend, Julian Stewart, or Juju, as I liked to call him. Juju and I met when I was working for a call center outside Atlanta. We had grown to be great friends and he knew most of the b.s. I’d put up with involving my dating life. Juju was an ordained minister, which was completely new to me, but didn’t surprise me since he sung every R&B song like a gospel choir hit by Kirk Franklin.
“I see you doing big things, my friend,” Juju told me several times. “I see you moving to New York, on the magazines, writing scripts, and starring in them. Stop wasting time with these foolish boys. This new guy told you he’s successful. Success isn’t measured by what you have, but the foundation you put in place to carry the weight of those blessings. That’s success. You need to concentrate on you.” I would listen to Juju with a smiling face, nodding. I knew what he was saying was right. I needed to slow down with men and pay more attention to what mattered most; me.
Meanwhile, Juju and our mutual friend, Chris, were thinking about going to the movies. I was a big horror movie geek and they’d decided to go see Insidious Chapter 2. I wanted to go, but I also wanted to spend more time with Garrison. Previously, I had another enlightened conversation with Omar and he figured since I wasn’t working my regular job any longer, I should take advantage of any fun opportunities. Nevertheless, I vouched out of seeing the movie with Juju and Chris and decided to hit the casino with Garrison.
Earlier that evening I told Garrison my decision and, that night, headed over to his place. Driving on the highway, I began to get the craziest thoughts in my head. What if we got in a horrific accident on our way to Alabama and died? What if I got bored at the casino and Garrison got mad? What if he irritated me with his bad singing in the car? What if we had sex? Would that ruin things? Well, not in the moment. Shut up, Langston! I thought. Suddenly, as my GPS led me through Atlantic Station and toward 13th Street, I called Garrison.
“Hey, where are you?” he asked. “I’m about five minutes away. Where should I park when I get there?” I asked, knowing his condo was in the middle of the city and unaware of where the parking garage was. As Garrison began to explain, I was very distracted by my GPS. Between trying to listen to the automated-lady and Garrison, I was not juggling very well. I heard him say something about 13th Street and Peachtree Street and Crescent Avenue, but frankly, I was overwhelmed.
By the time I made it down the street, my GPS advised me that I had “arrived”, but I didn’t see a parking garage. I did ride passed Garrison’s place but I did not notice a garage adjacent to it. Suddenly, my phone rang. “Shit!” I said as Garrison’s name flashed across my touch screen phone. Looking back, I knew what inspired that sort of reaction, but I was too busy concentrating on where I was going. “Where are you!? He said in a more aggressive tone. “I-I got turned around. I’ll be there in a second.” Now I was the one stuttering.
“Turned around!? Langston, how could you get turned around?! It’s two plus two instructions!” I was so stunned, I had no words. My heart began to pound. My breathing pattern changed. “Garrison, calm down. It’s not that serious. I’m right down the street from you.” A sudden silence filled the space between my ear and the phone. Did he hang up on me I thought. “Hello?” I said.
“You’ve got five minutes,” Garrison threatened. Again, I was lost for words. “What?” I said, confused and overwhelmed by his commanding tone. “You heard me.” With no warning, he hung up. How could I go on a trip with a man who would hang up on me because I went the wrong direction. Ironically, getting lost had found me. As I calmed down, I found exactly where that parking garage was. However, I didn’t go inside. I called Garrison back and he continued belittling me, using two plus two as his main metaphor source of disrespect. I hung up on him that time. He had the audacity to text message me: I’m not mad. I just don’t understand how you could not understand something so simple.
As I was on my way home, regretting not going to see the movie with Juju and Chris, Garrison’s name flashed across my phone screen again. Take a deep breath I said. “We can try this again,” Garrison said, referencing me going the correct way to his residence. I chuckled. Something inside me was playing Tug of War. One side of me thought, Just let this go, Langston. Go on the trip and have a good time. The other side said, No, Langston! This stuttering Stanley damn near called you an idiot! “We can keep going back and forth about this, but it’s not going to get us anywhere. We can talk about it on the road. Are you coming or not?” he said, demanding an answer. He expected me to have a good time after this? I scratched my head with very conflicting thoughts. My heart said one thing. My mind said another, but suddenly, the words uttering out of my mouth were, “ You know what, Garrison. I will be honest with you. It took me a lot of nerve and balls to approach you, and up until this point, I really liked you. I don’t think it’s a good idea.” “Okay, okay!” he said, irritated as he interrupted me. I still liked him, because somehow my heart allowed me to say, “We can talk later.” Having to have the last word, Garrison text messaged me, “There’s nothing else to talk about.” I messaged him back, “Ok.”
In an hour, everything I was beginning to like about Garrison, or Firecracker Red I should call him, changed in a matter of moments. I drove the long way back home, thinking, What the hell just happened? And then, in the back of my mind, I heard Juju saying, “You need to concentrate on yourself.” Hey, the man was ordained. How could I not listen?