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

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Recap: Moments of Charlie

When you're at death's door... your life flashes before your eyes...

Recap: Moments of Charlie
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When you're at death's door... your life flashes before your eyes...

* * *
From Volume 1, Chapter 1 – LIFE, AS A TATTOO

Charlie always swore that he'd move out of Boystown by the time he was thirty. The allure of living in the heart of the bustling thump-a thump-a of Chicago's gayborhood had drawn him in right out of undergrad, but something about living there past twenty-five always bothered him. It was sad in a way, like a forty-something wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt. "I should've outgrown this by now," he'd insist to himself every year when his lease was up. The time for random hook-ups, future ex-boyfriends, and hopeless one night stands should stay firmly rooted in one's early twenties. But a wildly awesome night out with his friends or an especially sentimental and drunken Pride Parade would seal the deal for another lease term. And so it would go, year after year, until finally here he was, twenty-nine years old with an unforgotten oath lingering over the lease renewal slipped under the front door...


"This decision," Charlie realized, "is best mulled over with a pint by myself, out at the bars." And so it followed, Charlie descended down the apartment steps, out the front door, to take on what the humid June evening on Halsted and Roscoe had to offer.

As he waded his way through the mass of guys watching a Donna Summer tribute video, the svelte linebacker silhouette at the main bar stopped him dead in his tracks. The piercing blue eyes that met Charlie's own chocolaty hazels confirmed the identity of the Ultimate Heartbreaker: He Who Shall Not Be Named. Turning a complete about face, nearly trampling several innocent bystanders in the hasty retreat to the exit, Charlie could faintly but distinctly hear He Who Shall Not Be Named calling out to him. The potential salt on this perpetually open wound outweighed the pathetic three seconds of bliss he'd feel talking to him, Charlie decided. He needed to get lost and so he ducked into the dark, crowded dank that was Cocktail.

He pushed his way to the far end of the bar and quickly ordered a pint of Magic Hat #9 and a shot of Jameson. Downing both in less than five minutes, he made a quick assessment of the situation. Even in the dim lighting, he knew that no one here was his type. The sweaty go-go boys thrusting their bulging crotches for tips added to the general seediness of the situation. He reached into his pocket, ready to settle up when he saw that svelte linebacker silhouette pass the window, group of friends in tow. He sat back down and ordered another pint and shot. He looked down at his drinks, trying to stop himself from believing that those piercing blue eyes were still searching for him.

Pint. Shot.

The desperate group text to Becka, David, and Tristan that simply stated: "HWSNBN! Help!" went unanswered.

Pint. Shot.

The passive aggressive Facebook status update "FML" fell on deaf eyes. Except a "Like" from his mother. Awkward.

Pint. Shot.

Is this what he had to look forward to if he stayed in Boystown? Avoiding exes that break your heart, drowning your sorrows all alone, on the fast track to bitter?

Pint. Shot.

He looked around. "Ok, maybe it wasn't so bad," he thought as the latest shot of Jameson warmed his chest. Guys were smiling at him. The go-go boys were actually starting to get cute. Especially...

"Want a shot?" the Go-Go Boy had sidled up to Charlie so abruptly that Charlie almost knocked over his tray. Go-Go Boy gracefully regained his footing, revealing a garish phoenix tattoo on his right shoulder. If Charlie were on the other side of sober, he might've waxed poetic about the symbolism of Go-Go Boy's tattoo and his current metamorphic conundrum. Instead, he focused on Go-Go Boy's clumsy charm: the adorably crooked smile peeking out from underneath the camouflage makeup that matched his helmet and jockstrap. "Dollar a shot," Go-Go Boy offered again.

"Thanks, I'm drinking with the grown-ups," Charlie replied, hoping his earnestness came off more flirty than snarky.

"I don't blame you. This sugar water is piss." Go-Go Boy leaned in closer, giving Charlie a huge whiff of his Axe body spray. "For twenty dollars," he whispered, "I'll let you play with it."

"Is that tonight's special?"

"Only for really cute preppy guys who shouldn't be sitting by themselves on a Saturday night."

They locked eyes, playfully waiting for the other one to call the bluff with the seriousness of a Fortune 500 merger. Without breaking the gaze, Charlie pounded his pint, pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and held it to Go-Go Boy's face. Go-Go Boy smiled that crooked smile and guided Charlie's hand down to the jockstrap. Charlie tucked the bill under the strap as Go-Go Boy continued guiding the hand's voyage. Charlie must've gasped when he felt how big and thick it was because Go-Go Boy chuckled as Charlie stroked. And there they stood, in a crowded bar, eyes locked, Charlie giving some random guy a hand job. The bartender's lispy voice broke the moment. "Another round?"

"Jimmy!" called Go-Go Boy, his eyes never leaving Charlie's. "His next round's on me."

* * *
from Volume 1, Chapter 7 – Daily Grind

Charlie didn't necessarily need the cash; he was just doing a favor for a friend. He hated summer school more than low-carb wine, so Molly owed him huge for subbing. Her lesson plan was easy enough; it was the same section of American Lit that he taught in the spring. He let the students off the hook by letting them catch up on reading Catcher in the Rye and finishing the essay due to Ms. Meacham by tomorrow. In the meantime, he did what any ol' sub does: he caught up with his friends via text:

TRISTAN: OMFG, you SLUT! The Bitches saw you doing The Walk! I could DIE!
CHARLIE: Whatever. Where were you? I texted you!

BECKA: So did HWSNBN try to talk to you?
CHARLIE: Kinda? He called out as I bailed.
BECKA: What a weirdo! Get over him already!

TRISTAN: OMFG, I don't know if I can tell Charlie.
CHARLIE: Tell Charlie what?
TRISTAN: Oh, sorry, wrong text.

DAVID: Wait, so you hooked up with your new roomie?
CHARLIE: Yeah. But like, before he was. It's complicated.
DAVID: And he's a Go-Go Boy?!
CHARLIE: Don't get me started.
DAVID: Have you guys talked about it yet?

Grindr sound.

BTOWNVERS: Looking for?
CHARLIE: Dates, friends, fun. HBU?
BTOWNVERS: Whatever.
CHARLIE: Maybe we can meet up sometime.

"Mr. Parker?" Charlie recognized Alex as he approached the desk. He had him for English I when he was a freshman. It surprised him that Alex was in summer school going into senior year; he was very bright.

"Yes, Alex. How can I help you?"

"I've already read this book. Three times. I've done my essay. Can I sit at the computer lab and work on my blog?"

"Sorry, Alex. The computer lab is closed during class time. Maybe you can, um, move ahead?"

"There is no 'ahead.' This curriculum was built for idiots. I've read everything on the list and have all my papers finished."

"Well maybe, you can just sit quietly and wait for everyone else to catch up?"

"That's going to be the story of my life, isn't it?" Charlie couldn't help but smile at that. He wished he was as sure of himself when he was that age. Alex started to go back to his desk but then turned back and leaned in close.

"You know, Mr. Parker," he whispered. "You really shouldn't be on Grindr while you're teaching class."

"I... what? Not even!"

"I heard the sound. We ALL heard the sound."

* * *
from Volume 1, Chapter 9 ALL THE OTHER BOYS

White wine and long hot showers were Charlie's guilty pleasures and at the moment he was indulging in the latter. Candles lit, the newest Christopher Dallman tracks blaring, Charlie could really lose himself in it. He could've sworn he heard the bathroom door creak as the new club remixes of "Nighttime in the City" gave way to the beautiful, flowing original, which was crazy because he swore he was completely alone in the apartment. He was hearing things, he decided, as he turned towards the showerhead to rinse off the shampoo out of his hair and ears. And as he turned to reach for the peppermint body wash, he was face to face with a naked Hunter.

"Hey," Hunter smiled.

"Hey," said Charlie, both confused and turned on. "Um... did you need the shower?"

"No," Hunter chuckled, revealing more of the crooked smile that immediately brought Charlie back to That Night at Cocktail.

"Well, I'll just be a minute... " Before Charlie could finish, Hunter wrapped one arm around the small of Charlie's back and drew him close.

"Take your time," Hunter said, inching closer for the kiss. Just as their lips were about to meet, the shower curtain opened and there stood Tyler, in the cornfed buff.

"Hi," said Tyler, grinning from ear to ear.

"Um... hi?"

"Room for one more?"

"Come on in dude," Hunter said, sidestepping to allow Tyler clearance into the shower. The steam rose as the hot water pounded down on the three of them. Charlie wasn't sure what was going on nor was he sure that he cared. Hunter slowly caressed his face as Charlie caressed Tyler's. They all looked at each other, longingly. Lustfully. Was this really going to happen? As the three of them leaned closer, lips aching to meet, "Nightime in the City" gave way to the loud, angsty chorus of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Which was Charlie's ringtone.

And Charlie shot up awake on the couch, his phone ringing loudly next to a half empty bottle of chardonnay, his Macbook opened to unfinished curriculum planning, and with an unsettling hard-on. God, who was he, Pamela Barnes Ewing? And could knowing that reference make him feel any older or gayer?


What did the dream mean? Probably that he needed to get laid. The last guy that Charlie hooked up with was... well Hunter. Before he knew that Hunter was Hunter. And he couldn't even remember the specifics of it. He was due for a good ol' fashioned roll in the hay...

He sent out a blanket "You out and about?" text to the group labeled in his phone as Bar Buddies. Cody and Mark were at Roscoe's, so Charlie took a really quick whore bath and joined them. It was pretty bustling for a Thursday. He did the rounds, saying hi to Jonathon and Keith and the other staff before finding Cody and Mark in the patio with a pitcher of Magic Hat #9.

"Why are you guys drinking mixed drinks?" Charlie asked, pouring himself a pint.

"That's for you, young Charles," said Cody.

"We know how you drink," added Mark. And with that, they dropped straws in the pitcher.

Charlie didn't know whether to be ecstatic or insulted, but he was never one to turn down a free pitcher. Cody decided that they needed shots, so Mark went him to the bar as Charlie held their spot. The straws floating in the pitcher of beer made him chuckle and he thought, what the hell, and started to drink from one.

"Does the straw make it taste better?" asked the cute, shaggy blonde guy that Charlie apparently didn't notice was noticing him.

"Nah, it's just... my friends' idea of a joke. And I thought, why the fuck not, right?"

"You're right. Why the fuck not?" cute guy grabbed the extra straw and put it in his pint. Charlie offered his hand.


"Josh," said cute guy, shaking it. They smiled at each other, sipped their drinks, and then smiled at each other again. There it was: spark.

"You look like you just flew in from the Hamptons," teased Charlie, in regards to Josh's light pink polo, fitted khaki shorts, and boat shoes.

"You don't like the way I dress?"

"Nah, it's cute. Just, usually I'm the preppiest-of-us-all."

"Well, even when you're slumming it you look good."

"Hey! Who said I was slumming?"

"Well, we're in the patio of Roscoe's aren't we?"

"Oh no! Dede and Binky might see you and tell all the other girls at the Ladies Who Lunch Debutante Ball. Quick! Let's hide you!" Josh laughed hysterically. Sometimes, all you gotta do is commit to a bit, thought Charlie.

"So you're cute AND hilarious." Josh paused. Charlie blushed. They sipped drinks. They looked at each other again. They smiled.

"Listen," Josh started.

"Joshua!" called a cute, effeminate guy, dressed near identical to Josh except in purple polo.

"Over here Mason," Josh called over, sighing and rolling his eyes slightly so that only Charlie saw. Mason ran over, nearly tackling Josh, and kissing him on the mouth.

"Who's this?" Mason glared at Charlie.

"Mason, this is Charlie. Charlie, this is... "

"Boyfriend. Mason. Hi. Let's go. I'm over it."

"Sure, just a second," said Josh as Mason heaved an exasperated sigh and stomped to the exit. "It was... "

"Come ON, Joshua!" whined Mason, just as Cody and Mark returned with the shots.

"It was really nice talking to you," said Josh before quickly running after Mason. Cody and Mark looked at Charlie who simply grabbed a shot and downed it. His game was so off, he'd just assumed that Josh was interested. Figures.

"Belly up to the bar, boys. Next round's on me."

Losing himself completely in the flashing dim lights and this year's gay national anthem "Call Me Maybe," Charlie looked out into the crowd to see if maybe this night wasn't still salvageable. In the sea of blue and dark, he could've sworn he saw a light pink polo. As the music got faster and Charlie got sweatier, it appeared that the dot of pink polo was getting closer, almost fighting its way through the crowd.

"I'm just drunk," Charlie thought, closing his eyes, singing out loud "all the other boys try to chase me... " then someone pulled him off the stage. The pink dot and him were face to face.

"Hey again," said Josh.

"Hey again," said Charlie. He realized that they weren't shouting over the music. They could just hear each other.

"I just... here's my card. Maybe we can hang?"

"What about... ?"

"Look, I just... I don't know. I knew when I left, I felt awful that I'd never see you again. Which is stupid I know. So here's my card. Do with it what you want. I hope... I hope to hear from you." And he fought his way back through the crowd. And as the chorus "Call Me Maybe" continued on repeat, Charlie hated that his life had been reduced to becoming the mirror image of this year's gay national anthem. Fucking typical. He looked up at Cody and Mark. They were too busy dancing; they hadn't noticed. But it happened; Josh came back. He felt it too: the spark.

* * *
from Chapter 11, IMAGINE ME & YOU

Maybe a walk was what they needed anyway, Charlie thought. It was a nice day and they could be alone without being "alone." Hunter had been quiet since they left Nookies, so Charlie broke the silence.

"Sorry about my friends, Hunter."

"Don't worry about it. It's cool, dude."

"I've been meaning to ask you about your tattoo."

"You like it?"

"Yeah, it kinda represents what I'm kinda going through right now. Change. Rebirth."

"I got it cuz of Jean Grey."


"No. Um... Jean Grey. X-Men. The Phoenix?"

"Oh. Right." As any good former boyscout would, Charlie looked both ways before crossing Aldine. And as he looked east, he saw that svelte linebacker, blue-eyed heartbreaker heading north on Halsted, holding some twink's hand. Has to be the new boyfriend. The very sight of him stopped Charlie dead in his tracks, his heart immediately dropping.

"Oh fuck. It's him." Charlie said under his breath.


"He Who Shall Not Be Named."


He Who Shall Not Be Named glanced west and noticed Charlie also. Charlie quickly grabbed Hunter and kissed him, closing his eyes, shutting out the image of He Who Shall Not Be Named holding hands with that awful twink boy. Hunter lost himself in the kiss completely, grabbing the back of Charlie's head, drawing him closer. Charlie found himself reciprocating, kissing him hungrily until he was out of breath. Then he remembered that they were in the middle of the street, in the middle of the day.

Charlie slowly pulled away, their lips lingering for just a moment. Charlie opened his eyes at the exact same moment that Hunter did. They looked at each other for a moment. Then Charlie sharply looked away, towards He Who Shall Not Be Named who had seen the kiss as he walked past, quickly looking away to avoid Charlie's eyes. Charlie didn't know whether to be disappointed or relived. Seeing him just made him sad. He collected himself with a sigh, took a step back, and looked at Hunter.

"So... about That Night... "

Hunter wanted to tell Charlie that he never hooked up with anyone randomly. Ever. He wanted to tell him that the minute he saw Charlie, he thought there might be something there. A spark. He wanted to tell him that the night they spent together was the best sex he ever had. That Charlie was special. He wanted to tell him that his heart broke a little bit when he heard Charlie sneak out the next morning. Hunter wanted to tell Charlie that when he moved in, it took everything he had to not to sneak into his room and fall asleep holding him. That Charlie was probably one of the funniest, smartest, sweetest guys he'd ever met, that just knowing him inspired Hunter to become a better person.

But he saw the way that Charlie looked at that guy, who'd obviously meant something to him at some point and still did. And Hunter knew that Charlie could never look at someone like him that way. So instead, he said:

"Whatever dude. It was... you know. Just a thing. No big. We can be cool, right?"

Charlie was taken aback. "Um, yeah. For sure. We can be cool. I just thought, since we were living together... "

"You don't have to fag out about it, dude. It's not a big deal." Hunter was so annoyed at how diplomatic Charlie was being. "I'll see you back at home dude. I gotta... do some stuff."

Charlie watched Hunter walk off. Again, he didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed. All he knew was at that moment, he wasn't thinking about He Who Shall Not Be Named. And he stood there on Halsted and Aldine, watching Hunter walk south on Halsted until he disappeared into the horizon.

* * *
from Volume 1, Chapter 15 PLAY ME

Scarlet didn't seem as imposing or daunting to Tyler the second time around. Not having his whole life packed into a duffle bag definitely helped. Charlie kissed William the bartender hello and ordered a round of beers. When he turned to give Tyler his, Charlie caught him gawking at some fratty gay.

"Go ahead," Charlie said. "Talk to him." Tyler flushed immediately.

"It's ok. I'm good," Tyler said quickly, gulping his beer. Charlie laughed at how Tyler demurred.

"Tyler, c'mon. You obviously think that guy's cute. If you never play a hand, you'll never win the game."

"I don't even know what to say. And what if he doesn't like me?"

"What's the worst he could say? No?"

"Could there be anything worse?"

"Yeah," said Charlie. "Not knowing."

"Ignorance is bliss, isn't it?"

"There was this guy," Charlie started, deciding that a shot of Jameson was in order for this walk down memory lane. "This guy when I was in high school. I was out in high school, sure, but dating and my social life and stuff... it was still difficult. I mean, there weren't a lot of out guys at school so I didn't really meet anyone there. Plus, I was like real angsty, not really confident about my looks or whatever. So one day, my girl friends and I are hanging out at the Sonic by school, cuz where else do you hang out after school? They have Sonics in Ohio, right?"

"Yeah," said Tyler, completely enthralled. "The drive-in place where the girls are on roller skates?"

"Yeah, except at this one, out of nowhere, there was this guy on roller skates. And he was totally cute and had these awesome green wolf-eyes and this shaggy hair. So he brings out our food and he sort of smiles at me. And I guess I notice? Usually they just drop and go, but this guy kinda lingers, then skates off. And while we're eating, he skates around us. And the girls are giggling, figuring out which one of them he's flirting with. Then he comes back, sits right next to me, and just starts talking to me."

"Omigod, he was flirting with you?!"

"Yeah. I guess. I mean, at the time, I was like, whatever. His name was Seabring, his parents were hippies or something. God, he was so cute. And the whole time I look all special needs cuz my contacts are bugging and my eye is doing this weird twitch thing. But he stays the whole time, talking to only me. Laughing with only me. Anyway, his manager comes out and yells at him for not working and he skates away. So we all get in our cars, and as my friends drive away, I look in my rearview mirror and see this guy in skates chasing after me, waving for me to stop. I stop the car, roll down the window. He'd brought me drops for my eyes."

"Gosh, that's so sweet! How long did you and Seabring date?"

"We didn't. I was so fucking down on myself, so convinced I was too lame for anyone to even consider dating me, that I didn't even consider that he was flirting with me. It wasn't until my girl friends convinced me of it the next day that I let myself believe it. So I went back, trying to find him. But he'd been fired, I guess his manager had it out for him and that night was his last straw. So I never found out what happened to him. I'd never know what could've been. And so from that moment on, I said I'd never regret not talking to a guy. If I have a passing interest, I'll nine times out of ten say something about it. Cuz the worst he could say is no. And at least I'll never have to wonder what might've been."

"Wow. That must be so awesome. Living with no regrets."

"Oh I've got regrets, dude. Tons. Just a different kind."

* * *
from Volume 1, Chapter 25 COLLISION

The perks of being at the VIP event: open bar. The perk that Hunter was the bartender: open bar for Charlie continues throughout the night. He was drunk off his ass, having the time of his life, bouncing around the side room dance floor. Random guys were grinding on him. He didn't care. He saw Josh come in with his lame boyfriend. He didn't care. Someone grabbed him firmly and turned him around. Charlie was face to face with the bluest eyes he'd ever seen: He Who Shall Not Be Named. Before he could even open his mouth to say anything, Charlie pushed him off, his blood running cold as he fought his way through the crowd. He made it out the door, out into the crosswalk and looked back to see if He Who Shall Not Be Named had followed.

He never saw the car that hit him.

Thank you everyone who contributed to the "Help Danny B Write Again" fund, whether through donations or love and support. I came very close to my goal and am able to replace my stolen MacBook and keep on working.

Huge love and thanks to :
Jason Groh, Andy Masters, Steve Long, Ovetta Sampson, David Belew, Narciso Lobo, Jason Gaulden, Kevin Mayes, Rachel Heyl, Mia Park, Eliza Shin, Jess Godwin, John Zuiker, Kent Haina, Becky Crawford, Joe Mitacek, Matt Simonette, Blair Robertson, Kyle Gibson, Jai Ramos, Rob Kauzlaric, Aaron Benham, Mike Bleecher, Jay Schaff, Lili-Anne Brown, Christa Buck Van Ermen, Mark LeBeau, Melanie Keller, Kate Garassino, Brian Solem, Brittany Townsley, and some awesome donors who wished to remain anonymous!


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