The daily serial fictional based on Chicago's Boystown neighborhood: Boystown series by Danny Bernardo

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2. $150 For The Night

The first time Tyler saw two men kiss was the Chicago Gay Pride Parade. There was nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary about these two men, at least that Tyler could remember. He was, after all, a questioning twelve-year-old stuck in Podunk, Ohio at the time. What was remarkable to Tyler was h

2. $150 For The Night
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The first time Tyler saw two men kiss was the Chicago Gay Pride Parade. There was nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary about these two men, at least that Tyler could remember. He was, after all, a questioning twelve-year-old stuck in Podunk, Ohio at the time. What was remarkable to Tyler was how commonplace, how pedestrian this simple kiss between two men was in the foreground of drag queens and rainbows that he'd long associated with the word "gay."

"These could be any guys, anywhere," marveled twelve-year-old Tyler. "They could even be here." His father changing the channel, muttering something about the liberal media and decent god-fearing folk, quickly interrupted that hopeful musing. But the "damage" was done: Tyler knew there was a place where there were people like him, who could be free to be themselves. And he knew that he'd live there someday.

So that's how Tyler found himself at twenty-one, standing at the corner of Halsted and Roscoe, with only a duffle bag, $600 cash, and an associates degree to call his own. Right away he recognized the random red phone booth from the Pride Parade news clip forever embedded in his memory. It was his lighthouse tower, a beacon of uniqueness on what would be an ordinary street corner. It made him feel right at home. He took a breath. The "I'll live my life the way I want" argument with his dad was a six-hour bus ride behind him. He'd finally made it. Now what?

He ducked into the first bar he passed. The overwhelming smell of locker room mixed with an Abercrombie and Fitch store reminded him that he still had the stink of MegaBus on him. That wasn't going to stop him. He was going to make a place for himself here, starting tonight. Fighting his way through the dark and crowded front room, he almost took out three pretty boys on the dance floor with his huge duffle. The posters promising frat parties and ice cold 40's hanging over the bar made this seem like the bar that Tyler could call home.

He made a mental note of the $5 he paid for his beer, almost twice as much as what he would've paid back home in Strongsville. That was now $595 he had to his name. "No big," he thought. "Just like an investment in my future here or whatever." A cute boy that seemed to walk out of an American Apparel ad came up to the bar next to him. This was it: now or never.

"Hi," was all Tyler could think of to say.

"Huh?" American Apparel Ad seemed disinterested. Tyler didn't let this faze him: as soon as he got to know him, they'd be instant friends.

Try again. "Um... hi? I'm... "

"You wanna buy me a drink?"

It's a start. "Oh, hey, yeah, sure, that's... "

"Vodka tonic," American Apparel Ad told the bartender, nodding at Tyler. "And two Jager-bombs." Tyler didn't want to think of what that would cost, but again, no big deal. It was a friend investment. American Apparel Ad handed him one of the shots and knocked it back with him as the bartender finished the vodka tonic.

"Thanks," said American Apparel Ad, grabbing his drink. And before Tyler could even get his name, American Apparel Ad disappeared with his drink into the sea of people. That left him with $570 to his name and still friendless. The next hour went on like this, with one more nameless drink bought and two more double priced beers downed. Maybe he was a little too quick to call this bar home. He left, dejected, this time not caring that he knocked over two pretty boys with his huge duffle. They'd get over it.

Back onto the humid night on Halsted, the panic began to overwhelm him. The romance of leaving home on a whim was beginning to die off. Everything he owned was in a bag on his shoulder. Every cent he had would barely last him the week. He had no job, no place, no friends. What the fuck was he doing?

He kept walking up Halsted, debating on how much crow he would eat if he ran back to Strongsville now with his tail between his legs. How many more sexless nights or dodged questions from Dad? He breathed in the dimming neon lights and the exiting last-call crowds as he said a silent prayer, "Please God, where do I belong?" Then he saw his beacon, his lighthouse tower. And as the packs of gays went in search of the after-hours bar, or the next booty call, or dejectedly walking towards the train, Tyler saw two male figures backlit by the light of the phone booth. Just looking at each other. And after a minute, one touched the other's face and drew it into his own. The kiss was simple. Pedestrian. Remarkable. Tyler knew where he was meant to be.

He'd seen a hotel on Belmont on his way to Halsted Street and figured that'd be as good a place as any to start, at least for tonight. Most importantly, he had to find a job. Once he had a job, he could get a place of his own. He'd have money, he could go out, make friends. He'd make a place for himself here. As he arrived at the hotel on Belmont, he was greeted by a drunk homeless man sleeping under the sign in the window that said SRO. The despondent Latina desk clerk looked up from her cracked iPhone as he approached, the two caged doves by the desk chirping their welcome. "Odd," he thought. "But hey, it's the city." When she offered the option to pay by the night or by the week, his heart nearly leapt for joy. He could stay here! He could put all his focus on finding a job. As she led him down the hallway that smelled of mildew, vomit, and feet, he thought, "I might actually make it!"

It wasn't the smell of the room or the blood and pubic hair on the sheets or the five roaches he saw in five minutes that made Tyler reprioritize his objectives. It was that he heard his next-door neighbor's bed was right against their adjoining wall and she did not seem to lack for gentleman callers. He'll sleep on top of the comforter tonight. Tomorrow is a new day: he will find a place to live, find a job, conquer the world. He had $450 in his pocket: anything was possible. Using the last bit of battery on his phone, he started looking at prospects. That's when he saw the ad: "SGM looking for roommates for a 3BR in the heart of Boystown."


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