“This is probably going to sound really stupid, but I have to ask.”
“Ask me whatever you want, Bry. I don’t want you to think I’ll mock you in any way. I get it, man. This is all new. Unexpected. You didn’t sign up for it and I guess…”
Bryan waited, but it seemed as if Aubrey might not continue. “You guess?”
“Aw, man. I suppose if I want you to feel free to say anything, I should give you the same respect. Like we said before—no games, no bullshit. Right?”
“Well, I’m worried I pushed you too fast. I’m not gonna lie. I wanted you before I met you, I… Shit.” Aubrey mumbled something unintelligible. “Fuck. We should wait to have this conversation in person.”
Bryan swallowed down the fear of what Aubrey might be about to reveal. “Come on, Aubrey. You’ve already brought it up and it’ll be at least a couple days before we can talk face to face.”
“Oh hey, that’s right. When are you—?”
“Aubrey. What conversation?”
Aubrey let out a slight groan on the other end. It didn’t sound happy. “Please, Bry. Please don’t be angry. I care about you. I believe in you as a writer. I wouldn’t want anyone else to do my memoir—I’d rather not do it at all if that were the case. This isn’t just about sex. For real, no games.”
“That’s… That’s all wonderful. But I don’t see how that would make me angry.”
What amounted to a small, strangled noise could be heard from Aubrey. “I only decided to do the memoir so I could have the chance to meet you.”
Aubrey’s confession was like a rock that had landed in the pit of Bryan’s stomach. “You… You what?” He breathed in through his nose a few times, his heart pounding at the thought he’d been played by the master player.
“Bry, baby, please listen. Think about it. I couldn’t very well call you up and ask you out on a date. I had no idea if you were gay or straight, or open to the possibility of exploring or if we’d click… Anyway, I wasn’t about to send you an email inquiring if you’d ever considered whether your sexual options should include cock.” Aubrey mumbled a ‘fuck’ under his breath. “Do you know how difficult it is to meet a decent guy in my position? Someone who I might actually have a real connection with, who might ‘get’ me?” Aubrey’s voice had risen in pitch. He paused, then sighed before speaking again. “I’m a public figure. I’m in the closet. The men I meet only want to put their dick into a celebrity or they want an out and proud partner. The few others who might be prospects are usually a part of the circle I’ve always traveled in—sanctioned members of the wretched institution we call the music business.
“I don’t like the industry. I hate the corporate machine. Does that mean I’m biting the hand that feeds me? Probably. But I can’t help it. I came back to the music biz because I decided I had more I wanted to say. I don’t need the cash. The adoration is great, as long as it’s from a place of sincerity, from a love of the tunes. But I don’t need that mindless hero worship I once had.”
Aubrey lowered his voice, spoke with a pleading tone that gripped Bryan’s heart. “I need real. A genuine bond. A future with the possibility of love. Everything I said to you before was the absolute fucking truth, Bry. I’ve been looking for someone who speaks the only language I understand, the language of music. When I asked you if you might be that someone, I said it from my heart. Yeah. I orchestrated our meeting and I’m damn glad I did. Because you’re the best person I’ve come across since I can remember and I’ll do anything to be worthy of you.”