[In his essay “The Couple Undercover” from the sexy new anthology Boys, Oscar Raymundo writes about a memorable night when he attended a conference for finance-types hoping to become high rollers. In celebration of GLAAD’s Spirit Day, Raymundo will participate in a Google Hangout with Huffington Post’s Noah Michelson, Hello Mr.’s Ryan Fitzgibbon, and the book’s editors Zach Stafford and Nico Lang.]
From the foyer of the conference organizer’s West Village townhouse, I could see two chandeliers and listen to the crackling of a gentle fireplace. Men in suits paced around, mingling while balancing bubbly champagne glasses filled halfway to the rim. Across the hall, I ran into the Columbia student who had originally told me about the conference.
“You made it!” He gave me a hug, and I could smell the whiskey.
“I did,” I smiled.
“Isn’t it grand? I can see myself finding a hookup here.”
“Oh, are there a lot of single guys here?” I sounded way too enthused.
“No, I meant, internship offers. But if you’re interested I hear some guys are playing strip poker upstairs.”
“No,” Columbia laughed grossly. “Fire Island is that way!” He snapped his finger to my left.
“Actually, it’s behind you.” I excused myself to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of Dom. I strolled into the piano room where an unknown pianist played a harmless melody in the background. There I overheard the guy from Yale discussing the economy with two other students. He seemed to think that the decibel level of his voice somehow played into the effectiveness of his argument.
“You’re from Europe,” he said as soon as I got near. “How do you think we should fix the economy?”
“I’m Mexican,” my words came out like buzz kill.
“Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t look Mexican.”
I squinted my eyes, offended.
“Please, I don’t subscribe to identity politics, we all know that,” he motioned towards his two compatriots who nodded briefly and looked back towards me for my response.
“To answer your question, about Europe,” I reverted for I did have an opinion on the matter, “we have to recognize the limits of capitalism.”
“Not this crap again!” Yale interrupted.
“He’s right,” your soothing voice trailed in from behind me. “We were too optimistic about the Euro,” you said.
“Yeah, but blaming capitalism? How passé,” Yale blurted. “People need incentives.”
“In the form of million dollar bonuses?” You asked.
“Whatever,” Yale said, not to me, but to his friend, as they both began to walk away. But then Yale, desperate to have the final world, stopped and turned back at us. “I’d just be careful about your dissidence. Your drink was probably paid for by a bonus.”
We didn’t respond back. I was just excited to be in your company.
“Thanks so much for that,” I smiled at you. “I felt like I walked right into the lion’s den.”
“Don’t worry about it,” you said. “They’re harmless. And you had a point. As socialist as it might have been.”
“There’s nothing wrong with socialism,” I defended myself.
“You are too trusting.”
“Where do you go to school?” You asked. It was the first time at the conference anyone had taken an interest in anything beyond themselves.
“I’m living in the city this summer, but I go to school in Chicago.”
“University of Chicago? That’s a great school.”
“That’s an even better school,” you smiled and kept your mouth open so that you could quickly steal a sip from my drink.
“You know there is an entire bar next to the kitchen,” I said.
“I just wanted to know what you were drinking,” you said and flashed a twinkled smile.
“You could just ask.”