“Who do we let through?” Dr. Drew asks. “The next callers we have lined up are: 17-year-old Trina, who believes she may have a yeast infection and/or UTI, 14-year-old Daniel, who wants to know how to win back his ex-girlfriend, and 37-year-old Charles, who is in love with his wife but is also harboring feelings for someone else.”
Anderson, the engineer, snorts so loudly from outside the sound booth that Drew and Mike swear they can almost hear him through the glass as well as through the speaker. “He says he loves his wife. He sounds kinda sleazy.”
“Hey, now, he sounded sincere on the voicemail,” Mike says, putting a hand over his heart. “He seems like an honest dude with an honest problem.”
“So Trina and Daniel aren’t dealing with serious issues?” Drew inquires jokingly. “A yeast infection and/or urinary tract infection aren’t anything to sneeze at. Nor are the relationship follies of a freshman.”
“Oh, certainly not,” Mike says, chuckling. “But I’d rather close out the show with a heart-wrenching love triangle story than with vaginal infections and teenage drama.” He bursts into full-out laughter, Anderson and Drew joining in. Sometimes it’s hard for Mike to believe that this is his life, talking to strangers about life and love and sexual problems. But he loves dispensing wisdom. He loves that he’s done a complete 180 on the dark road he was heading down, and is able to use that to help others.
Drew shrugs, his cheeks gone a little red from laughing. “Whatever you want,” he says, composing himself. “Either way, I’m still getting some help to Trina. She shouldn’t have to be waiting around to get treated for something like that.”
“Alright, sounds like a plan!” Mike says cheerfully. “Anderson, put Charles on the line.”
Mike and Drew slip their headphones back on as the transition music plays. As it fades back out, they introduce the last caller.
“Our final caller tonight is Charles,” Drew says into his mic. “He’s 37, and he says he’s torn between two romantic interests.”
“Hey, Charles!” Mike greets.
A pause, then a slightly staticky, “Hello, guys.”
“Evening,” Drew says.
“Hi, Dr. Drew. Thanks for taking my call, I’m a big fan of both of y’all.”
“Thanks, we appreciate it,” Drew replies.
“Yeah, man, thank you,” Mike adds. “Where’re you calling from, Charles?”
“I’m in the LA area, same as you.”
“I can’t help but notice you’ve got a bit of a twang to your voice, are you from the South?”
A few chuckles from the phone line. “Yeah, I’m originally from North Carolina.”
“Born and raised. I ended up moving out here a few years ago for work.”
“Nice, nice. Big move, huh?”
“Yes, it was.” More chuckling. “But in my line of work, you don’t get very far in my home state.”
“Oh yeah? What kind of work you doing?”
“Uh, normally I’d be happy to tell you, but I’m trying to be anonymous, you see…”
Mike nods. “I feel you, man.” He raises an eyebrow. “So ‘Charles’ is probably a pseudonym, right?”
“…No, it’s my name, just not the one I go by.”
“Fair enough.” Mike claps his hands, rubs his palms together. “Let’s cut the small talk and get to business. You’ve got a problem. You’re in a love triangle.”
“…Of sorts. It’s not as one-sided as your traditional love triangle. Not entirely.”
“Well, set the scene for us,” Drew says.
“I’m married. I’ve been happily married for 15 years to my wife. She’s an angel. She’s absolutely beautiful inside and out. She’s incredibly strong and sweet, and every day I’m amazed at how lucky I am to have her.” Charles speaks with a reverent tone to his voice that is almost tangible. Mike raises an eyebrow and mouths “Damn,” at Drew who nods, a small smile on his lips. Mike turns and catches Anderson’s gaze through the booth window and gives him a ‘get a load of our ‘sleazy’ caller, wanna eat your words, now?’ look, which Anderson counters by rolling his eyes like, ‘calm down, he hasn’t even given us the full story yet.’
“We have 3 beautiful children that we love to death,” Charles continues. “We’ve got a happy little family.”
“So where does the other person factor in, Charles?” asks Drew.
There’s a long pause. Then, a deep sigh.
“I gotta admit it, now,” he says lowly, nervously. “My wife… is a love of my life, but she isn’t the only romantic love of my life.” Another deep, shaky exhale. “I love Rhe – uh, my best friend.” He lets out a bit of a drawn-out groan. “Oh, crap, man,” he says, starting to laugh a little, a note of hysteria in it. “Oh, god. I just said that. I just said that on national radio.”
Drew quickly scrawls a note on a scrap of paper and slides it across the table to Mike. Boy, this guy’s got a lot to unpack, it reads. Mike shakes his head in somber agreement.
“Don’t worry, man,” Mike says comfortingly. “You’re anonymous, like you said. And you’re in great hands. You’ve got me, I’m around the same age as you, same generation. And you’ve got Dr. Drew, who’s been through it all and more ‘cause he’s a doctor. But you knew all that…! So keep going.”
“Yes, please,” Drew adds. “We’ll do our best to get you through this, and if we can’t, we’ll get you to someone who can. Tell us when you began to develop feelings for your friend.”
“I can’t really pinpoint it, with my fri – with him. We’ve been friends quite literally our entire lives. That’s a little over 30 years now, fellas,” Charles says shakily, but proudly.
“30 years?” Mike and Drew echo in unison, eyes widening a little.
“Him?” Anderson chimes in through the speaker, raising an eyebrow.
“Dude,” Mike says, with an open-mouthed grin, “that’s insane…! This really is your best bud. You guys must have an incredible bond.” It’s the kind of thing you see in coming-of-age movies. You don’t find cases of lifelong friends quite like this too often. It’s kind of blowing Mike’s mind. And it’s also making him a little wistful; he wishes he had a friendship like that. “Just, wow, man. Your best buddy. And you’ve had the hots for him for this long?” Damn.
“And this is your male friend?” Dr. Drew, getting back to the important questions. He bridges his fingers and rests his chin on top of them. “Charles, did you ever consider that…you might be gay?”
“And a greedy sleaze-ball!” Anderson mouths. Mike ignores him.
“Labels, Dr. Drew?” Mike asks wryly.
“It’s a perfectly valid question. It’ll yield some insightful answers.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Charles says quickly. “I signed up to do this. It’s something I’ve thought about, trust. I’ve thought about it long and hard. No pun intended. Growing up in the rural south, in the bible belt, they don’t go for people like that at all. I was scared thinking about it. But I did. I’d secretly look at men in magazines and on the TV, and I’d, like, scrutinize the boys in my town, trying to see if I liked any of ‘em in that way. And it just…was weird. Nothing. None of ‘em made me feel the way that Rhe – my friend did. And I still liked girls – totally honest. Still do. Case in point: my wife, and the other two biggest crushes of my life, Becky Lucinda from the 4th grade, and Posh Spice.” He tapers off into a giggle.
Drew chuckles a little. This man was a character.
“So you’re fluid in your sexuality. You’re attracted to who you’re attracted to. And you’re deeply attracted to the two closest people in your life,” Drew says, ticking his fingers. “I know it seems as though we’re talking in circles, here, but I’m just trying to get a proper handle on what you’re all about, what you’re truly feeling.”
“I mean, just think about it, y’all. Think back to your first crush. Not the silly grade-school puppy love, but your first actual one. Probably happened when you were a teenage. But it felt so real. You were totally convinced it was. Now think of your best friend, the one who’s so close that you might as well be siblings. Nothing could tear you apart. How special that is. Think about when you met your wives and you just knew, she was the one. Now tell me how one guy is supposed to deal with all those thoughts. Because it’s a battle in my head. I’m stuck between my best friend, my first love, and my second love, and I don’t know how to give any of them up.”
Mike’s heart went out to this guy.
Then, Drew says, “Then don’t.”
“Don’t wha – oh, Drew,” Mike says, breaking into a grin. “You’re going there!”
“Charles, you don’t have to give anything up. Not your wife, not your family, not your friend. And you can have everything that you want.”
“You mean –”
Drew pauses for a second, gives him a chance to piece it together.
And then it clicks.
“That – that seems awfully greedy, don’t it?” Charles says breathlessly.
“I disagree,” Drew says gently, firmly. “Giving your love and affection to multiple people is the very opposite of selfish, to me.”