Parker sleeps in until 5pm. My early afternoon fills with paranoia: What if he’s sleeping in to avoid me? What if he was so drunk last night that his body needed this extra time to recover? In his mind, did anything actually happen between us?

I spend the day not mentioning a word to any of his brothers. I eat the hangover special: chicken fajita omelets. I tan by the pool. I have a few drinks. I plant myself on a couch and watch UCLA lose dejectedly to Villanova. I shower and check my email in the mansion’s office. I’m dressed for our 7:30pm limo ride to a strip club: my best jeans, a casual white-button down, its sleeves folded halfway up my arm.

Through the door, I see him in his boxers as he waits to iron his dress shirt. I say nothing. He says nothing. I wonder if this is awkward or normal: our still-unacknowledged interactions from last night.

I wait outside with the rest of the guys. They filter in and out of the porch and the kitchen, and eventually, looking out into the Texas hillside are me, Parker, and another brother. I sit quietly as Parker asks his brother a question. His friend goes back inside, leaving us alone, eyes still out into the open.

He takes out his box of cigarettes. He remarks that they’re empty, and I laugh at him knowingly.

We board the limousine and don’t interact for the hour and a half ride to the nearest strip joint. When we arrive, we find a reserved area, half booth seats, half swivel seats. I pull a swivel seat behind me, and as I look around at the girls—half-attractive, half-not—he pulls a seat next to mine. He asks me to save it for him. I nod.

Our party’s first bottle of Grey Goose arrives, and a first string of girls comes to give Emil lap dances. I think briefly about his fiancé before Parker sits down next to me. We talk about the strip club and the girls. I demonstrate unusual curiosity, as I confess never having been to a strip club before. He compares this one to ones he’s visited in Oklahoma and Bourbon Street. He says this one is not bad, but it’s certainly not the best.

He offers to buy me a lap dance from a girl. I laugh and tell him it would do nothing for me; he laughs and tells me they’re fun. Being clear about my sexuality though—something I never articulated explicitly the previous night—opens the door to debriefing our hot tub encounter. He makes it official: he couldn’t find me. When he peeked into the mansion’s office and saw me on the floor, he thought that I was one of his brothers. He eventually gave up looking and fell asleep. “But tonight,” he says, “we can fix that mistake.”

Two of his brothers tap him on the shoulder and ask if he wants to go to Pervert’s Row—the closest tables to the main stripper stage. He gets up to follow them, but turns around and tells me to come with them. He almost grabs my hand before remembering where he is.

I’m handed a dollar bill and told to stick it into my mouth. I do, playfully. We look around Pervert’s Row, and while no one is on the stage quite yet, we eye the swarm of girls writhing on the laps of visiting men. He expresses fondness for one of them in particular—he calls her Ms. Canada, because he was trying to talk her into dancing for the bachelor. I compare her breasts to the breasts of some of the other women, and he begins mentoring me on the differences between fake boobs and real boobs.

When we return to our reserved area, word has gotten around that I had never been to a strip club. The bachelor insists on buying me one.

He brings a girl over to my swivel chair, a blonde with a short cut, and she begins to dance. I ask her if she knows what’s going on, and as she twists across my lap, I whisper to her: I’m gay, and they’ve put me up to this. She becomes self conscious and whispers back: don’t worry, I won’t do anything uncomfortable. And as she puts on a show for the other guys without actually giving me a full show, I notice that right next to me is Parker, in his own swivel chair, receiving a lap dance of his own. I find it ironic, funny, and then flirty that we—two men with some sort of interest in each other—are bonding in the straightest possible way. I feel the rest of the boys watching us. I hear them cheering us on. We, men into men, effectively being teased by beautiful women, become, in a way, more of a show than the women’s show itself. The explicit image of heterosexual desire collides with implicit homosexual desire to perform perhaps the most exciting event of the evening.

Parker and I look at each other and laugh. The strip club has a way of relaxing all the rules you’ve ever known: it does, in a way, enact its own rules upon you. For more than just its dancers, it’s a place to let your hair down, and for Parker and me, that meant defusing any unease from the previous night’s unfinished business.

The rest of the night blurs by: we flirt at another bar. He pulls me into a bathroom stall for a kiss. We buy a post-drink pizza. He puts his arm around me in the limo ride home. It slips down my back, reaches under my shirt, and nudges at my side. We take pictures. And when we get back to the house, I see him stealing pillows and blankets and throwing them onto the same floor on which I had slept alone the previous night.

And this time, when I wait for him by the makeshift bed, he comes inside and closes the door.

To be continued…

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