Gay arsonists are the best arsonists. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Well, besides the arson part. That’s wrong.
Phil didn’t seem like a firefighter, so I just sort of assumed that my effeminate co-worker was the part time gay arsonist that had been running around setting fires in the City. What else could explain his constant fire-related pick-up lines towards me? “That shirt is on fire, bro!” “Those jeans are smoking!” “That jacket is lit!” Based on the heterosexual societal norm that men never compliment each other, a gay arsonist seemed to be the only reasonable explanation for his odd behavior towards me.
Besides, he was always yawning, like he wasn’t getting enough sleep at night.
Truthfully, I didn’t mind the attention, even if it was from a gay arsonist. At my age, you take a compliment from anyone, even a gay man with a propensity for illegally burning stuff that doesn’t belong to him.
Phil wasn’t a jerk about coming onto me either. That’s what I respected about him. His compliments always made me feel better about myself, and really, that’s all you can ask of a gay arsonist who finds you hot.
Sure, I’ve always been irresistible to gay men and arsonists. It’s a combination of my thin build, keen sense for fashion, and an overload of ruggedly handsome good looks. Humility has probably played a role as well.
Perhaps Phil thought I, too, was a gay man for never outright telling him to stop. After all, we both shared a love of chamomile tea and fir-scented candles. Phil would wax poetic about “the intoxicating scent of pine aromas that fill the air, as the singular flame burns stoically, sending its hazy smoke into the ether.” Heterosexual arsonists do not talk like that.
As much as I needed to hear the encouraging words from Phil, I couldn’t lead him on any longer. It was time to shatter his dreams forever; and while I knew that what I had to say could potentially cause irreparable damage to his kind and generous heart, it was the right thing to do. Besides, I could never fall for an arsonist, gay or otherwise. It’s just not my cup of chamomile tea.
So, one afternoon in the break room, as I sipped my delicious tea, I confidently, but compassionately, broke it to Phil that I wasn’t gay. “I like fir-scented candles and Melissa Etheridge music just like you do, but I’m straight,” I said.
Phil looked at me awkwardly, as I continued.
“It’s fun hanging out with you at lunch and stuff, and I love that you love my shirts. They are spectacular. I’m married though. To a lady.” I pointed to my wedding ring for dramatic effect.
Leslie, the administrative assistant warming her coffee at the nearby microwave, looked on uncomfortably.
It was not easy to miss the confusion and pain in Phil’s eyes. He awkwardly smiled and turned to walk away, shaking his head as he disappeared down the hall, past the copy room where the memories of his pick-up lines towards me were still fresh in both of our minds.
I didn’t see much of Phil after that. He seemed to avoid me, which I figured was the only reasonable outcome for me breaking it off with him. My concern was that Phil would find himself in so much pain that he might turn to arson even more.
Sure, I’d catch him chatting up Rich, the analyst in charge of budgets. I would overhear Phil say, “Whoa, Rich. That shirt is a four-alarm blaze,” and then Rich would blush and snicker, as they both looked over in my direction. Frankly, they were doing it to make me jealous—and, in all honesty, it worked.
Months passed and eventually Phil moved past our breakup. I knew things were okay when I received a wedding invitation from him recently.
Turns out Phil wasn’t gay. He was marrying Leslie, that coffee-warming weirdo. Why would anyone, especially Phil, marry a nosy administrative assistant who had a weird habit of microwaving her coffee thirteen times a day. Who can’t drink their coffee before it gets cold? Losers, that’s who.
I guess the reason for Phil’s constant yawning wasn’t because he was up late setting fires, but because he was doing gross things with Leslie every night.
In fact, Phil probably wasn’t an arsonist either. They caught the actual arsonist and he was a regular, heterosexual fire starter. Apparently, Phil was just a nice guy who had an eye for fashion, a love of fir-scented candles, and a vocabulary laden with fire-related words. Still, I can’t attend Phil’s wedding. I’m still upset that he led me on about being a gay arsonist.
The conflagration in my heart cannot be extinguished so easily, Phil.