Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
God has Cancer. God is HIV Positive. God spent most of last Thursday night in Church looking for answers, but all he got were more questions. Now he knows why I haven't been inside a Church for years, unless I'm in the basement stuffing non-religious books into non-religious envelopes.
"I'm sorry." God says. "I don't mean to bother you, but..." and he begins weeping again. It's a quiet series of not quite sobs. It is to crying what hiccups are to breathing fire.
I take my headphones off, so I can hear him better should he resume speaking. I am sure he will resume speaking. He's God.
"I'm sorry. I'll be right back." And God gets up to collect himself.
Maybe I'm still dizzy. Maybe this isn't God at all, but some homeless weirdo who will hit me up for money just before "our" bus shows up. I dip my head back into Running with Scissors for less than a minute when I hear, "I got you something to drink." And there is God again, and he hands me a Cherry Coke. Homeless, maybe. Definitely God.
"I was in Vietnam." he says. I know this, because according to most spiritual people, and many sensible religions, God is everywhere. This is how he can both be in the White House advising our noble pResident, George W. Bush on how to get rid of Social Security and queers at the very same time he can be sitting next to me almost sort of crying. "I died over there. But they brought me back. I didn't want to come back."
So God is Buffy Sommers after Buffy The Vampire Slayer was moved from the WB to UPN. I can almost hear him singing "I was in Heaven.....Heaven." But, you know, he's God, and some people believe there is God in everyone, so of course there's a little bit of God in Sarah Michelle Gellar. I try to imagine Xander, Willow, and Dawn standing around a grave, and this short, unshaven, vaguely ethnic looking person climbing out of the grave and handing them each a Cherry Coke. I am so deep in this vision, that I miss something about drugs and death.
"I've never done anything bad." He says. "Anything. I'm always good, but everything is just so hard." And only God could ever look me in the face and claim "I've never done anything bad." It's the whole infallibility thing.
I want to say something comforting about the possibilities of The Afterlife or Reincarnation, but I figure, he's just spent the whole day in a Church being harassed by religious people, he's probably heard all the crap people pull out of their Holy Schwag Bags. So I mumble something about "I'm sure there's some sort of plan."
And he just stares at me.
I look hopefully in the direction the bus should be coming for. I want to pray for it, but I don't think, given the situation, that it would do me much good. The bus will come when it comes.
"I go to Churches every day. Every day. And everyone listens to me like I'm important. But then they leave, and I'm so alone. And nothing is better."
I take a really long sip of Cherry Coke to keep from saying anything.
"I'm a regular guy." He says. And then, "Here's our bus." And here it is.
On the bus, I sit near the front, leaving an empty seat next to me, but hoping he won't sit in it. He doesn't. He puts on his headphone. God is listening to Eminem's "Lose Yourself". I put my own headphones on.
Back at the house, Dr. O. and Landlord are discussing putting a party together for our departing roommate. "McDonald's?" Landlord offers. I pray he's joking, and then he laughs. God is so close, he has no choice but to listen. It's like I'm in his head.
Where is my "Future Fry Cook"? It's 10:30 in the morning, and I have no one but Augusten Burroughs and a creepy looking woman with a banana peel sticking out of her shoe for company. I have Audioslave's "I Am The Highway" on repeat in my discman. I am about halfway through rereading Running With Scissors, and I'm getting really into it when the bus begins to lurch. My eyes shake. A piece of the hot dog omelet I had for brunch makes a mad dash for the outside world, but after a frightening two seconds seeing the light of day through my trachea, it returns to my stomach. For only the second time in my life, I'm motion sick, and have to put the book down.
The first time I was motion sick, I was sailing from Jacksonville, Florida to Portland, Maine with my dingleberry grandfather and his douchebag son (my uncle, not my Dad). I had a pleasant/smooth sail all the way up to my home on the Cape, but while we were docked in the Cape Cod Canal, I made the unfortunate decision to eat a large bowl of lobster bisque before we set sail in the midst of a really bad storm. That happened when I was twelve. In the intervening sixteen years, I haven't been anywhere close to motion sickness.
Before the boating trip, I was only vaguely aware of what motion sickness was. Kevin, the friend who my parents had basically adopted, was motionsick pretty much constantly. Even a brisk walk made him dizzy. When we were thirteen, my parents took us white water rafting in Maine, and during the car trip up there, we had to stop four times to let Kevin puke. And we were bringing him white water rafting.
The lurching bus brings me my first thought of Kevin in over a year. I'm thinking of writing down a few memories of him when the bus lurches again. No writing for Safey. I am so focused on not being sick that I miss my bus stop, causing me to spend three minutes longer on the bus, as it lurches through a stoplight. I hate lurching. If Ted Cassidy were still alive, I would cockslap him in the eye.
When I finally make it off the bus, I am an octopus on rollerblades, a one legged turtle surfing on an armadillo's back. Luckily, I work near a hospital, so if I do fall and get a concussion, a hot doctor is only a few steps away.
I do not fall and get a concussion.
Still, my head hurts. All the customers are either whispering or screaming. One manages to do both simultaneously. I am trying to figure out what the Lithuanian woman who speaks no English would like in her coffee, when the phone rings. "Safey? It's Helga. I'm going to be a little late for work. My son is having a baby."
There are three things wrong with Helga's statement; "My son is having a baby." One: boys do not have babies. Two: Helga does not have a son. Three: Helga is seventeen, so while it is possible that she could have hidden the fact that she had a son from me, the odds that her son is old enough to reproduce are fairly nil.
"My" *cell phone static* "is having a baby."
"Whatever. How late are you going to be?"
"Maybe ten minutes."
Helga never shows up to close the store. This is the third week in a row I've had to close for someone because another employee just didn't show up. My head hurts. I need to sit down. My son is having a baby, and it is motionsick. If I sit down, I'll fall asleep, so I run to CVS to pick up some Coke. I plan on filling the Coke with our cherry syrup, because the CVS doesn't sell Cherry Coke, but I accidentally add Boysenberry syrup to my Coke. It's not as awful as it sounds. But it's close.
The phone rings. I expect it to be Clarissa, as she hasn't called in nearly a day. A new record. It's not Clarissa. "Thank you for calling the MBTA." the phone says. I have not called anyone. The recording has called me. I hang up the phone because I need to sit down, and I don't think I can handle sitting down and talking on the phone at the same time. I have to clean the espresso machine soon, but my son is ringing and his Boysenberry is sick.
I wanted to go to the Audioslave show tonight, but Boysenberry didn't show up to cover my shift, and CVS is motionsick. I didn't have tickets anyway. I've been listening to the radio all week to try and win. The last time the WBCN Ticket Load is announced on the radio, I call the station. Instead of Audioslave tickets, they are offering tickets to see Papa Roach. No, thank you. The DJ announces that he has taken the last pair of Audioslave tickets for himself, but to make up for it, he's going to play a half hour of Audioslave music. I decide to crank him. I call up and ask if they still have Nirvana tickets available. He laughs, then hangs up on me.
The espresso machine is still giving me its dirty look. Cleaning it will require getting up and moving. Instead, I call my house to check my messages. I don't have any. My voicemail is motionsick. My Boysenberry son is ringing the espresso machine. The MBTA wants tickets to Nirvana.
"Are you okay?" An unfamiliar woman on the other side of the counter asks.
I lie. "Yes."
"What time do you close?" She asks.
"Between seven and eight."
"Yesterday I came at 7:15 and there was nobody here." She says.
"Yes." I say, pulling myself up, using the mini-fridge for leverage. "If it's slow, we close around sevenish. If we're busy it's closer to eight."
"But yesterday, at 7:15..." My son is a minifridge with tickets to Nirvana. I grab some Boysenberry for leverage.
"I'm sorry." I say. "Can I get you something to drink? Maybe a cookie?"
She shakes her head and walks away. I grab a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie for myself, and begin to clean. Once the cookie has successfully voyaged into my stomach, I grab a lemonade from the minifridge, I add four spoons of sugar (it helps the medicine go down), and drink and clean and drink and clean and it's 8:30 and I'm beyond late for getting home for dinner. I grab a slice of pizza on the way to the T.
The T lurches. The pizza is made of aluminum and velcro. I need to get off the T. Copley. Sweet sweet Copley station is next. I get off, and wander around Newbury Street. Last time I was on Newbury, Dmitri and I were in the Hello Kitty Store buying lollipops for one of his professors. And for us. Each of us took a Hello Kitty Pop home. I still have mine. When I get home, I'll suck it away until I can suck no more. Goodbye Kitty, you make me motionsick. I grab Dmitri for leverage, but he hasn't been here in nearly a month. Fuck you Boysenberry Street, fucking with my memory.
It's not long before I'm in Newbury Comics, wandering around the used CD aisles. Before I moved to Pieceofshitdeserttown, I was a CD collector. I wanted to own every piece of music I loved. I had over 1,000 CDs, and I listened to as many of them as I could, as often as I could. Since I moved back from Pieceofshitdeserttown, I've bought one CD: Modest Mouse's Good News For people Who Love Bad News. Last year, I lent it to Celeste. I haven't seen it since. I'd be bitter, but a year and a half ago, she lent me Kingdom Hearts. She hasn't seen it since. Tonight I need music. I rebuy the Modest Mouse CD, as well as the best of Stone Temple Pilots, and the Velvet Revolver CD. A total of $20. Not too shabby. I count the rest of my money: 1.80. .90 for the bus ride home tonight, .90 for the bus ride to work tomorrow morning. At the bus stop is a woman who smells like the MBTA and Nirvana. I wait behind her for ten minutes, while two fags in hot hats talk about something I can't begin to comprehend. The way they wave their hands make me motionsick.
When the bus arrives, I get a transfer, and shut my eyes. I wake up in Central Square, my head is a minifridge filled with Boysenberry sailboats. I want leverage.
The wind cockslaps my face. I shake my head and look at the bus schedule. I have 45 minutes before my connection shows up. I open Running with Scissors and begin reading where I left off in the morning. I feel my head clearing. All of my instability is pouring out of my eyes and into the book about Augusten Burroughs' childhood. I didn't have a relationship with a pedophile until I was 19. My parents never left me with their crazy psychiatrist for more than an hour at a time. I'm the one in my family who writes crappy poetry, not my mother. My world comes into focus. Nothing is spinning anymore except the pinwheels that someone has attached to the back of a woman's wheelchair. I am content, and ready for anything. Modest Mouse is singing "The Good Times are Killing Me." A man motions for me to take off my headphones.
"Do you know what time our bus comes?" He asks.
Our bus? "9:45." I say.
"Good. Good." He says, inferring how much he's going to enjoy our special waiting time. "Mind if we talk?"
I look closer at him, trying to see if he's a police officer, a family member, someone I've wronged, a hallucination brought on by too much Boysenberry Coke and motionsickness. There are tears in his eyes. "I just need to talk to you about something." He says. That's when I realize, I'm sitting at a bus stop in the middle of Cambridge, and about to have a conversation with God.
You are not regular. I don't care if you shit every day at 8:45 AM, spend from 9-5 in a cubicle crunching numbers and drinking coffee. The fact that you like "24" and "Desperate Housewives" makes you average, but "average" and "regular" are not the same thing. Six inches hanging straight down may be average, but it ain't regular.
Three customers at work today asked for a "regular" coffee; one meant a medium black houseblend, one wanted a small houseblend with two creams and two sugars, and one wanted a shot of espresso. Words failed me, but not as much as the word "regular" failed them.
When a person writes a personal ad, and says he's a "regular guy", I picture an obese black underwear model with blonde hair, purple eyes, wearing only a sweater vest and six Swatch watches. His ass has a door over the hole that says "unleaded only". You know, regular.
I don't like regular people. My friends have style: Zuzu is adopting a dachshund (against my advice) and, because dachshunds are German, naming it Pup Ratzinger. Celeste uses a 1950's era medical kit as a purse, and even writes with pens shaped like syringes. Dmitri drinks ketchup straight from the bottle when he's nervous. My friends don't even have regular names.
Landlord woke me up at 5 AM to tell me my room was messy. I knew this already. "Why are you in my room anyway?"
"I'm looking for dishes." he said.
"Try the kitchen." I rolled over and fell back asleep. I dreamed I was on "American Idol", freestyling a Christian gospelesque song while Billy Joel played classical piano. I have this dream every Tuesday. It's a regular occurrence.
I rewoke up at 9:30, had eggs and toast with my new roommate, an Australian woman who tests the effects of psychotropic drugs on schizophrenics. I call her Dr. O.
"When I was sixteen," I told her, "my roommate, JBOB and I took mescaline for the first time. Just as the high started kicking in, we were given free tickets for a preview showing of Natural Born Killers. When it let out, we alternated between hiding in doorways and searching the city for Laura Palmer's remains. I haven't touched mescaline or NBK since."
At ten thirty, I caught a bus to work. A complete stranger with piercing green eyes said, as he stepped off the bus, "I love your haircut."
I stammered out a weak "Thanks?". He turned around and waved. His shirt said "Future Fry Cook". The film version of my life has run out of extras.
I was barely at work for a half hour when Clarissa called. Twice. Fuck Clarissa, I should refer to her as Needy Smurf. No, that's too harsh. Needy Bitch. She's been telling my coworkers she's my girlfriend, and she constantly "calls me back", which is remarkable only because I never call her first.
After an uneventful day of pouring coffee, I took the T to Quincy to mail books to prisoners. As I opened the door to the church I heard "Safey?" And across the street was my beautiful ex-not-quite-boyfriend, MAMIP. "It really is you."
I wondered if he was surprised at my haircut, the fact that I was wearing the shirt he bought me, or that I was entering a church. Turns out, one of my illustrious former coworkers told him I'd moved back to Arizona. "Right." I said. "Just after I had breast augmentation and took up drinking kerosene and lighting my belches on fire."
He stared blankly at me. I am on the receiving end of this look more than I care to admit.
We exchanged new phone numbers and soap opera stares until he had to go to work.
When I was finished with my volunteer work, I headed over to Zuzu's for dinner. Then I headed home and went to sleep. Alone.
Brandon had an asshole like the Chunnel, and a cock so large, it once beat Yao Ming in a slam dunk contest. All those racist assholes that say Asians have rice dicks should have to spend at least ten minutes of their lives with Brandon's dick up their ass.
Surprisingly, his anatomy wasn't the reason I wouldn't sleep with him. Nor was it the vague smell of fried onion that hovered around him. I wouldn't sleep with Brandon because of his tongue ring.
There are some people in the world blessed with the talent to give head/kiss/lick nipple. If these people would like to stab a piece of steel through their lip/tongue/uvula before they kiss/blow/rim/lick me, they can feel free. But if you kiss like a dachshund with emphysema, for the love of all that's horny, keep your steel balls in your own germ-infested mouth.
Pre-piercing, Brandon once kiss-raped me while we were watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was totally into John Ritter's performance as a freakazoid android when out of nowhere, a tongue still coated with butter and salt from the handfuls of popcorn he hadn't even finished swallowing yet, suddenly started trying to pry my lips apart. Because Brandon was cute, and I'm a huge slut, I opened my lips for him, and allowed him to continue the assault. After five seconds he pulled away and smiled at me. I said, in my best deadpan: "Don't ever do that again, please."
For two months, he didn't do that again. I only saw him naked because we went skinny dipping with HIS GIRLfriend one Saturday night when they were drunk, and I was bored. Then, during a drive home from work, he waggled his newly pierced tongue at me. "What do you think?"
"Did they kill it?" I asked, hoping the answer was yes.
"No. Ever kissed a guy with a tongue ring?"
The answer was yes, but I knew he wasn't going to give up this obvious plea for attention until I let him kiss me with his new tongue ring, so I said "No." And before he could get out his lame "Do you want to?" come on line, I reached over and initiated kissage.
Have you ever had faux-steel slam against teeth on both sides of your mouth? It's not sexy.
He pulled the car over to the side of the road, and began reaching for my zipper. Knowing where this was going, I reached for the door handle. I'd rather walk a mile home in seven feet of elephant piss and razor blades than have his barbell permanently imprinted on my nutsack, or worse, stabbed through my peehole.
After I invented an imaginary closeted boyfriend who I swore to be faithful to, Brandon was very cool about not doing anything more affectionate than squeezing my ass when we hugged. That's something I'll never have a problem with.
Every morning, on my way to the hospital, I find the hottest guy on the bus and try to picture how Interesting our life will be when he realizes that I'm his soul mate. Usually, there's a body part to fixate on: eyes, hair, the back of their head.
Today's obsession was all eyes and fauxhawk until he folded his copy of The Metro, revealing a bright-green (eye accentuating) t-shirt that read "Future Fry Cook". This suits him probably more than he'd like to admit. But is this his long-term career path or do his shirts and jobs change by the season?
If this sort of honesty through t-shirt slogan catches on, I can finally land myself a blue shirted "Future Doctor" or better yet, a black shirted "Living Off Multi-Billion Dollar Inheritance".
I see myself flipping through my closet, filled with "Recovering Bartender", "Former Loss Prevention Agent", "Jester-Suited Fudge Maker Eventually Embarrassed Into Finding Real Job". I would keep the pretentious "Occasionally Makes Money Off Writing" in the back, with the stonewashed denim suit and the Kurt Cobain flannel.
Future Fry Cook clears his throat when he notices that I'm staring at him. I blink my eyes twice and redirect my imagination out the window.
At work, I tell Celeste a revised version of my fantasy: "An entire closet of patchwork t-shirts reading "Odd Jobber".
"What about 'Marginally Employed Barrista Approaching Thirty'? Or 'Whore With Crippling Emotional Distance'?"
"Laugh It Up 'Flakey Artist Who Pours Coffee Near Hospital'."
This will never catch on. I'd rather wear a shirt that had pictures of all the ugly guys I've slept with. At least then I'll be able to point out that it's all stuff from my past, not my future. No, really, someday I will be a famous novelist. I'm not a "Future Waiter", I'm a "Former Waiter".
I'm in the middle of coming up with a color scheme for my line of "Future Job Wear" when a guy with the most beautiful eyes in the world approaches the counter. He is the fourth person with "the most beautiful eyes in the world" that I've seen today.
I'm convinced that he's about to tell me how hot I look in the black hat I've been wearing to hide the fact that I didn't have time to wash my hair this morning, but what he actually says is "I'd like a hot black Colombian with lots of head."
Me, too. Oh, wait, he means the coffee.
I've really got to find a new job.