by Adrian Gaitan
Photo Illustrations by Johnny Le and Jenelle Rensch
"Both of us broken, caught in a moment. We lived & we loved & we hurt & we jumped. But the planets all aligned when you looked into my eyes, & just like that the chemicals react." ♬ -Aly & A.J.

Chapter One – The beginning

I'm 18, a child just beginning to figure out who I am. Life with my fiancé, who is also my best friend, just ended. In the back of my head there's always been this curiosity to be with a guy, sexually.

"Is this normal?" I ask myself daily. I pray for this curiosity to go away, I always have. I give in to the temptation and begin dating my store manager, Josh.

I first met Josh when I was 16 while we worked at Hollister Co. He always pursued me, but I never acted upon it. Now was his chance to get what he wanted – me.

Josh was my first gay kiss. All I remember was a giant pumpkin, a bathroom stall and a drunken Disneyland adventure for gay day with co-workers from Abercrombie & Fitch. This was my coming out. A&F made me who I am today and is the common denominator in every relationship I've been in.

It's July of 2007. I just started working full time at A&F. One day, I'm styling a mannequin on top of a table in the women's front room. The warm aroma of the fragrance Fierce flutters around the store and the scent lingers in my nose. I see a cute boy walk in through the vestibule. His name's Art.

Our eyes meet. He smiles. I smile. I soon discover he works next door at A&F and we share friends. He invites me to a mutual friend's surprise birthday party that night. We listened to Paris Hilton's "Stars Are Blind" on our way to the party – it's our first song. There's drinking at the party, of course. I go to the bathroom, and when I open the door to leave, there's Art, standing in my way. Our eyes meet. He smiles. I smile. He pushes me back into the bathroom. He picks me up and puts me on top of the sink. Shirts fly and pants are pulled down.

Our relationship begins.

Art is my everything. We fall madly in love and swear we'll be together forever.

Chapter Two – Flash forward

"Back then I swore I was going to marry him someday, but I realized some bigger dreams of mine." ♬ -Taylor Swift

Three and a half years later I've learned a lot about myself; I've grown up. I've become someone I never thought I would be and I love my life, but there is one problem. After cheating (I was young and stupid), withstanding exes, a few breakups, Art despising my best friend, a child of our own (London Elisa Ryyder – sure she's a toy poodle, but she's still our baby), I like you, I really like you, I love you, you're my meant-to-be, and now I can't stand being with Art.

Art asks a lot of me. It's one thing to be a full-time student and in a relationship, but it's entirely different to be a full-time student, in a relationship, working two jobs and balancing a social life. The pressure is getting to me and I can't do it anymore.

Art is taking courses on sociology at a community college. He's accepted into Berkeley, but decides not to go.

He doesn't want to leave me behind; after all we're in love. The truth was I moved on. I moved on while still in the relationship. He asks me to quit one of my jobs to spend more time with him – he feels neglected. He asks me to cut everyone out of my life and just be with him. Worst of all, every little thing I do is analyzed, compared to a textbook. He's convinced he's a sociologist!

I begin talking to my best friend again. She and I had stopped talking for a while because of Art.

I sacrificed our friendship to be with him.

Big mistake.

Chapter 3 – The breakup

April 21, 2010

"& I don't know. This could break my heart or save me. Nothing's real until you let go completely. So here I go with all my thoughts I've been saving, & here I go with all my fears weighing on me … & I don't know. I could crash & burn, but maybe at the end of this road I might catch a glimpse of me." ♬ -Kelly Clarkson

My best friend influences me greatly. I take her advice to heart because at the end of the day I know she'll always be here for me, no matter what. Never again will I sacrifice my friendship with her for a guy.

Art isn't happy to hear I'm going to Las Vegas with her and throws a fit over us talking again. This is my chance; this is my way to get out of this relationship by causing a fight over this not so big of an issue. I know if I don't make a big deal out of this we will get over this minor blip, but I don't want to get over this. I just want to leave him!

"I always say how I don't need you, but it's always going to come right back to me. What is it with you that makes me act like this, I've never been this nasty. Can't you tell that this is all just a contest; the one who wins will be the one who hits the hardest. Please don't leave me." ♬ -Pink

I want out.

We both say hurtful things. I hate you, I really hate you, I despise you and I will always hate and despise you. Feelings of regret flood into my body. Tears, tears and more tears.

It's over; it's finally over.

Chapter 4 – James.*

"My heart stops when you look at me, just one touch & I believe that this is real, so take a chance & don't ever look back. I finally found you, my missing puzzle piece; I'm complete." ♬ -Katy Perry

April 24, 2010

It's been three days since I broke up with Art.

Because I was over being with him while still together, this isn't hard for me. I don't care how he feels. All I care about is myself so I decide to go out with Josh, (yes Josh my very first kiss). For the past few years Josh has been trying to get me to sleep with him. But I haven't. He disgusts me with all the guys he's been with.

I decide to go out with Josh and one of his friends, who I end up hooking up with. Whoops. But that's neither here nor there. I'm drunk. I think Josh just gets me drunk so he can get in my pants.

After two very strong margaritas and a couple of mixed drinks we head over to The Abbey (a gay bar I will be spending a lot of time at within the next coming months).

I love to dance. The music is blaring and my heart is pumping as my feet dance the night away. I notice Josh talking to some guy that he apparently knew when he worked at the Hollister in West Covina.

He's cute.

I'm not sure how, but I find myself dancing and making out with this guy, James. It's really hot inside, so we decide to venture outside to cool down. As we're outside we're all over each other (I know what you're thinking, "God, Adrian just makes out with everyone." But I don't just make out with anyone, only the cute ones).

Outside some guy comes up to us and pushes me. I think, "Great, now what?!" I push back.

This guy, Gabe, says, "Why the fuck are you making out with my boyfriend?!"

I turn to James and say, "You have a boyfriend?!" I've never been one to kiss someone in a relationship. After all, I do have morals.

James takes off running. The rest is a blur, well until I get Gabe back to Josh's hotel room.

Gabe and I spend time together and talk – he's pretty cute – and I convinced him to come back to the hotel. Josh wasn't too happy, but I could care less. Well, what happened that night with Gabe happened, and it was only a one-time thing that wouldn't really matter. Or so I thought – turns out, Gabe is James' ex and they just broke up a week before after a three-and-a-half year relationship (just like Art and me).

As I drove back home the next day I had a Facebook message pop up on my phone. It was from James.

I think, "How the hell did this guy find me?! I didn't tell him my last name."

The message reads, "I had a great time dancing and making out with you. I just wished it would have lasted longer."

After adding him as a friend I find out I went to high school with him. He graduated a year before me, but I had no idea who he was. It was time to pull out my yearbook.

As I'm flipping through the pages I stumble upon him by accident.

I let out an audible, "NO!" Could this curly-haired, nerdy boy really be the gorgeous guy I hooked up with last night?! He looked nothing like what he was in high school. I use to make fun of this guy!

It sure was, and damn has time done him a favor. Well, except the crow's feet, I later confess to him.

Two weeks later.

After a few dates and seeing each other every day, I made James my boyfriend. We moved really fast. We both felt the same way: We had been in each other's lives for so many years without knowing each other. Clearly there was something there, more than what either of us realized. I had finally found my missing puzzle piece.

Chapter 5 – True colors…

"He took a swing, I took it hard & down here from the ground I see who you are." ♬ -Taylor Swift

One month later.

It's our one-month anniversary. Things with James have been perfect. He's sweet, caring, we make each other laugh, he's so free spirited and we love going on adventures together. We decide to go out to "our spot," The Abbey. And later in the week when I get back from Chicago we'll go out to dinner and have a romantic date on the beach.

A couple hours later, we meet up with James' friend Phillip. He's down-to-earth and we get along really well. Except one thing bothers me: He gets really close to James' and keeps touching him.

But I ignore it. We all grab a drink and head to the dance floor.

As we're dancing I have to go to the restroom. James says he'll come with me, but I tell him it's okay and keep dancing with his friend. Big mistake.

I walk to the restroom and the line is really long, so I decide to go back to the dance floor and see if James wants to go to the restroom next door with me. As I walk back to the dance floor I see something that crushes me: James and Phillip kissing. It seemed like it lasted forever, but I think it was just a peck. I was heated! I walk up to James, tap him on the back and tell him give me the valet ticket because I'm going home. I don't play games and we're done. He's shocked to see me back so quick from the restroom. He tries explaining the situation, but I saw what I saw and he fucked up. We're done and he couldn't convince me otherwise.

After what seemed like hours of him trying to get me to stay I walk up to the valet attendant and I grab my stuff from his car. My best friend was on her way to pick me up. I didn't want her to see James because I know she would kick his ass. She knew how much I liked him.

I spend the next day at my best friend's apartment crying and eating. James keeps calling, but I refused to answer. I leave for Chicago the next day and it couldn't have come at a better time. I need to get away.

Five days later.

I was back from Chicago and I talked to James a few times while away. He picks me up from the airport when I arrive. I wasn't as upset as I had been; Chicago had been a great getaway and a time for me to forget about my worries at home and just let loose.

We hung out and James explained that he didn't mean to kiss Phillip, it just "kind of happened" because they previously dated, about a week before, he and I had our run-in at The Abbey. It all made sense now, James would hang out with Phillip some nights when I wasn't free, and even spent the night at his house when he was too drunk to drive home. Had I been naïve to all of this, or just too trusting?

Nonetheless, I forgive him. We would work on building back the trust and move on with our lives together.

Three months later.

James and I work everything out and we were now in, what I thought was, love. We fell for each other. We went on vacations and even camping in Mammoth – that shows how much I love him, I hate camping. The only problem I had was the weed smoking, but I was helping him get over his addiction.

September 4, 2010

After a Riviera event I drive to James' to spend the night. He's been out with his best friend, Michelle, and I know they've been drinking and most likely smoking. After all, they smoked every day.

It's 2 a.m. and he's still not home. I'm pissed.

An hour passes, and he pulls into the driveway. He stumbles out of his car, drunk and high. This pisses me off even more, and I'm not one to hide my feelings.

I say this is beyond disgusting and his best friend is so trashy for getting him into doing drugs. James doesn't like this and pushes me. I push back. Justin takes a swing and hits me dead in the face. He tackles me.

We're on the ground and he's on top of me. He won't stop hitting me. His punches to my body aren't hard and they don't hurt. But the couple of punches to my face are brutal. I feel my lips swell and taste blood. I feel my eye pop and then swelling. I feel a crunch in my nose and then throbbing pain.

We're wrestling on the ground; I tell him his punches aren't hurting me. Big mistake.

"James, stop."

"James, what is wrong with you, stop!"

I shout, "PLEASE STOP!"

He begins to bite me: First my chest, then my ribs, then my arms, then my legs, then my back. With every bite my skin breaks. There's blood everywhere and my shirt is soaked. I'm in pain and the bites burn.

I finally fight back. I punch him once in the nose and grab him by the face. I begin to gouge his eye and my palm slips into his mouth. More biting. Blood runs down my hand and arm. He won't let go. I finally knee him in the crotch and throw him off of me. I grab my keys, which are on the ground. James grabs them from me and throws them.

"James, I'm going to call the cops. You're seriously fucking crazy!" I shout to him with blood all over my shirt, face and arms – I must look like a crazy person.

"No, I'm going to call the cops!" James replies.

"Haha, go ahead and call the cops, idiot!" I shout back.

James pulls out his phone and dials 911. He hangs up.

I sit on the curb, bloody and broken. "Did this really just happen?" I ask myself. "What the hell did I do to cause this?"

I sit on the curb with a bloody, torn shirt and begin to cry. James sits next to me.

Seconds later, three police cars pull around the corner, tires screeching. James looks at me, grabs my arm and says, with a worried look on his face, "Don't say a thing."

The police get out of their cars. They take a look at me and then look at James. I don't have to say a word; my appearance explains everything.

"What happened here?" one of the officers asks.

"Nothing, everything's fine." I reply.

"Really, everything's fine? Let me guess, you 'fell'?" another officer says with a disbelieving tone in his voice.

"No." I simply reply.

They separate us.

Questions are asked, pictures are taken and I'm given pamphlets on sexual assault and domestic violence.

James sits in the back of a police car looking down. One officer tells me I'm free to go.

"What's going to happen with James?" I ask.

"He's going to jail." An officer replies. "Are you sure you don't need medical assistance, you're pretty beat up and bloody."

"I'm fine," I reply meekly.

That's the last time I'll see James. We're done.

Chapter 6 – The healing process.

"I just want to set you on fire so I won't have to burn alone." ♬ -Rihanna

It's 5 a.m. and I pull into my driveway. I walk in the door and the house alarm doesn't sound. This means someone's awake. I hadn't thought about what I was going to say or what lie I was going to make up to mask what happened. How am I going to explain the bloody mess, swollen lips, black eye and torn shirt?

I walk straight to the staircase to head up to my room and keep all the lights off. My dad is walking down the stairs. I'm trapped. Do I go back downstairs, or just walk past him with my head down and hope he doesn't notice what I look like in the dark? I walk past him and he grabs me to give me a hug good morning. I wince in pain from his tight hug.

As he pulls away he looks at me. His eyes grow big.

"What happened?!"

"Are you okay?!"

"Oh my God, you were in a car accident! How did you get home?! Why aren't you at the hospital?! Look at you!"

"Your arm, it's broken! Hurry, let's get you to the emergency room."

Everything is happening so fast. So many questions, so much shouting. It's so overwhelming.

I begin to cry.

He stops and looks me in the eyes. "What happened?"

I stumble over my words. "Umm. Uhh. I…"

The thing is, my dad doesn't know I'm gay. What do I say?

My dad jumps in, "Were you jumped?"

"Yeah, I was jumped. I got into a fight defending a friend."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I just want to go to bed."

"You need to wash your body so your cuts don't get infected. I'm going to start the shower for you."

"Thanks, dad."

Over the next two weeks.

I'm broken down. Heartbroken about what happened. I've been talking to James' mom and he's still in jail. I tell her I don't want any updates on him. I don't care what happens to him. How can I care about someone like that?

Everyone thinks I'm fine. I pretend to be. I have to be strong and not let this get to me. I feel like a weak person.

I'm still getting better. As much as I pretend I'm 100 percent okay, I'm still a broken down, heartbroken little boy who had everything taken away in a matter of four months. And now I'm paying for it. I might seem like I'm put together on the outside, but it's all a façade. I'm still broken on the inside and in a million pieces that just aren't fitting back together.

One night after closing at Hollister in Culver City, I decide to go out with some co-workers to celebrate promotions. It's going to be a great night. This is the first time I'll be out in West Hollywood since I went with James a day before our break up. I'm kind of scared of running into him. From what I've heard, he's in rehab, Alcoholics Anonymous, taking anger management classes and not allowed to go out. My friends reassure me that I'm not going to run into him for those reasons.

We begin our night at Fiesta Cantina with two double-Patron margaritas, then The Abbey for a mixed drink and end our night at Rage.

It's midnight and we're having a great night. We're waiting in line at Rage and I run into a guy named Rudy, who I dated for a week back when Art and I had our first breakup back in 2007. When Art and I got back together I cut Rudy off completely, ignoring every call and text without giving him an explanation. He hates me for what I did – how could he not, I was the first guy he ever kissed and I was an ass. I'm shocked he embraces me with a hug. We exchange numbers and decide to catch up during the week. This is weird. Everyone within A&F knows Rudy hates me. (Once again, A&F was the common denominator in that "relationship.")

We get into Rage and I need a drink after what just happened. I'm shocked. Could this be my next relationship? He was very flirty and looks even better than before.

The night goes on and we're dancing. From across the dance floor I see a familiar face. It's Michelle's boyfriend, Carrington (yes, Michelle, James' best friend).

That means that James has to be here. Why else would Carrington come to West Hollywood if he wasn't with James or Michelle? James and I thought Carrington was gay. I see something that doesn't surprise me: Carrington's making out with a guy. His eyes shoot across the dance floor. We make eye contact. He stumbles over and starts talking to me and then tries to kiss me.

"Are you kidding me?! Get the hell away from me!" I yell. One of my friends from A&F is with me and she yells at him. I can't believe this guy!

I text a friend who thought Carrington was gay too. She thinks what I just told her is hysterical.

Twenty minutes later.

My phone vibrates. The text reads: "You're going to hate me."

I respond, "Why?"

My friend had text Michelle telling her what happened with Carrington and she was with James.

They're on their way to Rage to confront Carrington. I freak out.

I can't see James. I don't want to. I still haven't gotten over everything. This is horrible!

I tell my friend we need to leave before James and Michelle get there.

Thirty minutes pass.

After finding all 12 people in our group we leave to go to The Abbey to end our night. I've been texting my friend to see where James is so I can make sure I don't run into him.

Someone slams into me as I'm walking and texting with my head down. I look up immediately to apologize. I hear someone shout something. It's James.

"This isn't happening," I think.

Four of my guy friends from A&F jump in front of him. He's trying to talk to me. They tell the girls to take me outside and they'll meet us at the cars.

We walk outside. I'm shaking and on the verge of tears. I'm feeling so many emotions I can't describe how I feel.

As we reach the crosswalk I feel someone hug me from behind and hear a sobbing voice say, "Thank you so much for telling me about Carrington."

I turn around. It's Michelle and she's with one of James' exes, Santos.

I tell her to get off of me. I don't want to see her, talk to her or have her anywhere near me.

The girls from A&F jump in. They start yelling. Santos starts yelling at me.

I just want this night to be over. I can't do this. The girls tell me to go to the cars.

I'm walking by myself. "God, I love my A&F family. They've always been there for me," I think.

As I'm walking to the cars I hear someone shout my name.

It's Gabe.

"You have to be fucking kidding me right now," I say out loud.

Gabe approaches me and tires warning me that James, Michelle and Santos are here.

"Oh, I know. Now leave me alone," I respond.

More small talk…

"So do you want to hang out sometime? I heard things with James didn't work out," he says.

"You're kidding me, right?! Leave me the fuck alone!" I yell at him.

"What's your number so I can text you?"

"Seriously, LEAVE ME ALONE!"

He stops in his tracks, I can tell by the look on his face he can sense the irritation and anger I'm feeling.

I just want to be home in my bed.

Chapter 7 – Stupidinlove (one word).

"You gave me all your love & all I gave you was goodbye. So this is me swallowing my pride standing in front of you saying sorry for that night. It turns out freedom ain't nothing but missing you, wishing that I realized what I had when you were mine." ♬ -Taylor Swift

Two weeks later.

I tell myself I'm better and stay distracted with school, work and other extra-curriculars – like the six guys I'm talking to. I'm always one to move on really fast and don't ever have a problem finding a new guy.

Josh. Rudy. Israel. Sherif. Max*. Art.

Josh is the Mel Bushman to my Blanche Devereaux (it's a Golden Girl reference, look it up!). He will always be part of my life.

Rudy's back in my life, but I can't stand the way he acts around his friends. I remain his friend, and still sleep over occasionally.

Israel and I went to the same high school but he lives in Utah. He's fallen for me, but I'm not interested in him. He's too clingy.

Sherif is Rudy's neighbor. We met through Rudy and hooked up on a tractor in West Hollywood the night we met, which happened to be a night I was on a date with Rudy). Scandalous, I know.

I occasionally sleep over with Sherif too, but it's tricky since Rudy doesn't know about us and they're next-door neighbors on the penthouse floor of The Hollywood Tower. I like what Sherif and I have though. We both know we don't want a relationship and we know we're just hook-up buddies with no strings attached. It's convenient.

Max's super sweet, and I'm extremely attracted to his personality. But I'm superficial and trying my hardest to feel attracted to him physically, but it's just not happening.

Art is my meant-to-be, but he has a boyfriend.

"Some call it jezebel, I call it attention." ♬ -Danity Kane

October 16, 2010

Art is back.

"It should've been me and you. It could've been you and me." ♬ -Rihanna

We see each other for the first time since break up. The second I saw him so many feelings rush back. I didn't expect this to happen, but it did. I know he has a boyfriend, but I don't care.

He's always been mine.

Over the course of the next few days we text and talk nonstop. I know he still loves me. He told me he did.

But there's one problem: His boyfriend.

Art is my stupididiot (one word), but we're only friends and I'm stupidinlove (one word) with him. If this is the only way I can keep him in my life, then I'm okay with it.

"If we loved again I swear I'd love you right." ♬ -Taylor Swift

One day we'll be together again and when that day comes I'll love him the way I was supposed to love him the first time around.

Until then this is my time to put the pieces back together and figure out who I am. This is my time to live life for me and no one else.

Chapter 8 – Moving on…

"Baby you're a firework. Come on let your colors burst. Make them go ah ah ah. You're going to leave them going ah ah ah. Come on show them what you're worth." ♬ -Katy Perry

November 1, 2010

It's been two weeks since I've seen or talked to Art. I'm starting to realize it's not him I miss, it's the relationship we had. I was only thinking about the good and forgot how bad things were with him towards the end. I'm still madly in love with him, but I've realized that sometimes love means letting go and letting that person be happy whether it includes you in their life or not. It's complicated, but I've always been.

I'm letting go – for the both of us – and moving on.

"Just know that I loved the time that we both had, & I don't ever want to see you sad. Be happy. Just know I'm gonna have to walk away. I'll be big enough for both of us to say, be happy." ♬ -Miley Cyrus

I'm at a point where I don't care if the person I hook up with has a boyfriend or not. Halloween is a perfect example: I hooked up with two guys who are in a relationship together – neither knows

I made out with the other. It was exciting, but I realize I can't be so promiscuous. I need to gain control of my life again. I'm turning over a new leaf and becoming the person I was before everything with James happened.

December 9, 2010

I'm working as an assistant publicist at P3R Publicity in Beverly Hills. Once again my life has drastically changed ¬– but this time for the better. I have celebrity clients and living my dream. My nights are filled with walking my clients down red carpets, attending parties with them and networking with other publicists, editors, producers, publishers, models and actors – one whom I'm now dating.

The pieces are fitting together again and my life is back to normal – except for the reality show offer in the works. But that's another chapter in my life that has yet to write itself.

"It was the end of a decade, but the start of an age." ♬ -Taylor Swift

*Names have been changed