The worst Thanksgiving ever happened between St. Augustine and Vero Beach Florida in 1995. I was eighteen, and angry at my family for not flying me back to New England for Thanksgiving. "But, Safey, your grandfather lives just a few hours away. And he says you never go and visit him." Probably because I hated the man. Everyone in the world had to conform to his timetable, and his way of life. If you did something that didn't fit exactly into the mold he had set for his life, he would spew forth venom that made Poison Dart Frogs and Sea Wasps blush and ask "Was that really necessary?" I made plans to stay there as short a time as I could.
My roommate, Matt, lived two and a half hours further south. He kindly offered to drop me off on his way to his happy platonic orgy of Thanksgiving Family Fun on Wednesday afternoon, and pick me up Saturday morning, so we could get work done before classes resumed on Monday. Truth be told, I had brought all the work I had to do with me, knowing there would be loads of time that I didn't want to deal with my grandfather.
On our way down, Matt decided to show me what was, at the time, The World's Largest Wal-Mart. A grocery store and three fast food restaurants in one department store was a little much for my non-Walmartian brain to deal with. I had to get away from the grocery section before my head a sploded. As I walked away, I heard a man absolutely screaming at an eight year old boy. The kid was bawling. And while I am just evil enough to be amused by kids who cry at ridiculous things like losing an annoying toy, or not getting to eat ice cream because they called their mother a bitch; seeing a defenseless kid being verbally abused in public while not being in injury threatening danger (I do believe a parent should scream their head off at a kid who is about to seriously hurt himself or someone else.), twists my psyche into something pretzilian and Herculean. It took every fibre of my being not to get involved. I did not know what the kid did that instigated the yelling. Unless there was physical violence, this was none of my business.
After we finished our BK or MCD "food", Matt and I headed back to the car. We were nearly in the car when I saw Screamy MacAsshole continuing to berate his kid. This was easily twenty minutes after I saw them by the grocery section. "Safey, are you ok?" I knew there were blood vessels bursting in my face.
"Do you want me to hit you again?" Again? "Because I'll beat your ass right here in the parking lot."
I snapped. This happens generally every three years or so, when something strikes me as so heinous, I lose all sense of boundaries and social behavior. "I fucken dare you."
"Excuse me?" This was none of my business. I should be in the car. I should be on my way to a miserable Thanksgiving with the one member of my family I truly couldn't stand. And maybe that was a part of the reason why I snapped.
"If you hit him while I'm in the same parking lot," Matt grabbed my arm, which I yanked from his grasp, "I will beat you til you bleed." I very much meant it.
"Safe, we should--" Matt looked into my eyes and backed off.
"No. We shouldn't. This guy has been yelling at this kid for at least a half hour, and he's threatening to beat him right here in public."
"Mind your fucken business, padre?"
Padre? As in Father? As in the thing he wasn't qualified to be? And here, I'm making a huge assumption. Maybe he wasn't a bad dad, maybe he was a kidnapper, or maybe he was what my friend referred to as Daddy Stove Top, a guy who just happened to be stuffing the kid's mom.
We were still close enough to the front entrance that the security guards could see us, and one of them, Spidey Sense all akimbo, came outside. "Is everything alright out here?"
"No." I said, in my sterncalm voice. "This man is threatening to beat up his son in your parking lot."
"Now wait a fucken minute. This isn't anybody's goddamn business."
"Actually, sir," the security guard said, "it is our business. You were asked to leave the store because you couldn't keep your language in check. I've already called the police. If I see you touch your son, I'll make sure your arrested for assaulting a minor. And I doubt the police will be real gentle with you."
The guard went on. But his presence made this very much No Longer My Business. Shaking, I followed Matt to his car. I buckled my seat belt, and we drove out of the parking lot. "I hope I didn't make things any worse for that kid." I said five minutes into the silence.
It was about to get dark when Matt dropped me off at my grandfather's condo. My grandfather's second wife (my grandmother had died in 1991), buzzed me in, and met me at the door. "Your grandfather is...I'm not sure where he is, but he's not in the house, Thank God. Your room is all made up. Do you want any ice cream or anything." I loved Caroline (my step-grandmother). I had no concept of what she was doing with my grandfather. She was unselfish, smart, funny, an English teacher. None of us knew that by next Thanksgiving she'd be ravaged with Cancer.
"No, thanks. I had a long trip."
"How about a game of Cribbage?" Ahh, Cribbage. The family card game.
"Sure. But if Grandpa comes home, let's hide the board. I don't think I can deal with him losing and accusing me of cheating. The only thing worse is actually losing to him."
After three games, and half a bag of Milano cookies, my grandfather came home, and the board and cards were hidden under one of the deck chairs.
"Well lookee who's here." Oh, great, he was drunk. "My favorite grandson. My only grandson."
"Up for a game of cribbage?"
"No, I was thinking about turning in. I'm incredibly tired."
"You chicken?" I wanted to fire his internal author.
I went to the guest room for about a half hour when I heard him snoring on one of the couches. I took the opportunity to sneak out to the beach and get some writing done. I was so incredibly proud of the poetry I wrote that night. It was so cutting edge, so Important. I've long since burned any and all copies of it, but that's because it was too amazing to be comprehended, not because it was horrible crap written by an egomaniacal eighteen year old with three different colored pens in his possession.
I snuck back into the house and went to sleep around three. At six, I woke up to my step-grandmother stage whispering. "Robert, you keep your voice down. Safe is in the other room trying to sleep."
"Well, he needs to get up. We should leave in an hour."
"For heaven's sake, we are not going to spend Thanksgiving at a boat yard--"
"A yacht club."
"A boat yard. This is Thanksgiving. If you want to go to a proper yacht club with a buffet service, that's fine. But I see no reason to drive to your old boat docks and eat turkey with a bunch of strangers who don't need our company."
"Care, they're living on boats, and need some company during the Holidays. It's the Christian thing to do." It's important to note that my Grandfather only attended church for weddings and funerals. I'd never heard him mention Christ's name before without having dropped something on his foot.
"If you want to be Christian, let's go volunteer at a soup kitchen. I'm not going to your damned boat yard."
But we did. When the smoke cleared, Caroline and I were sitting on elementary cafeteria style chairs at the end of an oblong table full of rich people too cheap to buy their own food, and too hated by their families to be invited to Thanksgiving dinners. These were definitely my grandfather's people: assholes who owned boats and treated everyone else like trash. They hated us, despite our best green bean casserole and mashed potato intentions.
"He was the cutest little thing." Snob #47 said. "A Brazilian nigger. Dumb as a tack, but loyal to no end." The part of me that wasn't horrified by the language, was amused that he'd inadvertently admitted the guy was smart. You didn't have to be sharp as a rubber ball to figure that out.
"Sandi" (sometimes you can tell when names are spelled with an "i") "be a good girl and get daddy some more turkey." Daddy was too fat to get it himself.
"Wayers yer bote?" asked a particularly well-groomed boat child. "Ares is the biggggg won over thayer." It's important to note that I'm not making fun of a child's accent. This kid was likely from Connecticut or Ohio, or one of those states that has no discernible accent. He was talking this way specifically to aggravate me.
"We don't have a boat anymore." My grandfather had sold the Spar-Kee a year before.
"Sew weye are ewe heeeeyer?"
"That's a great question." Caroline asked. "Why are we here Bob?"
I excused myself under the pretext of getting more turkey. I have actually never been hungry enough to eat the fried cardboard that they were serving as turkey. But while I was up, Caroline grabbed my arm. "Grab your jacket, we're leaving."
"Do you have a suit with you?" Caroline asked. Given that I'd expected my grandfather to spring a formal meal on me, I had, indeed, brought a suit. "Good, we're going to the Yacht Club."
"We were at a yacht club." My grandfather mumbled.
"We're going to a yacht club that made a big fancy buffet for all the members. Not one where I have to eat jello with marshmallows and broken glass with a bunch of people who were invited to spend time with their family, but decided they were too good for it. You know, civil snobs."
So we stopped off at the condo, and walked to The Yacht Club down the street. The Yacht Club was only about half full. "Most of the members are with their families today." The hot maitre'd said when my grandfather pointed out that they weren't full. There was an implied "But I can see you're the sort of asshole who doesn't get invited to family functions" on the end of his statement that made me miss Alex. I got the feeling that if Alex spoke better, all of his statements would have implied insults in their intonation.
The Yacht Club was...Yacht Clubby. There was a gigantic center island in the ballroom with a six foot tall cornucopia ice sculpture. It was surrounded with every type of food imaginable. And a few types you wouldn't believe even after they'd passed through your digestive system.
Having already had my stomach shredded by the half piece of cardboard I'd ingested with The Boat People (and not the interesting International kind), I was pretty reserved with what I picked up from the buffet. A little bit of turkey with mashed potato. Then, some ham with corn on the cob. Then, a very little roast beef.
"Safe!" My grandfather called from the other side of the ice sculpture. "Come here."
Not willing to sink to his level and scream back across the room, I walked over to him.
"Try this." He said, putting some sort of grease covered squid looking thing on my plate.
"No, thanks. I'm getting kind of full."
I began walking away from him. "No, thank you."
"I'm not asking you. Safe!" My name is not Safe. I am Edouardo. I am minding my own business at this hoity-toity buffet being stalked by a cray person. Ring-around-the-rosy-pocket-full-of-restraining-orders. "SAFE!"
"Robert!" Caroline. "Lower your voice this instant."
Thus began the public unwinding of five years of family turmoil being voiced very loudly in public. I'd like to think that if this happened now, I would have just taken whatever the alien life form was he was trying to get me to eat, and defused the situation. Of course, if this happened now, it would be really creepy because my grandfather has been dead for eight months. But I was eighteen, and angry, so every time he pushed one of my buttons, I pushed his back until the hot maitre'd actually asked us to lower our voices because we were disturbing the other guests.
"I'm going back to the condo." I walked back to the condo, changed into some less formal wear, and went back to the beach to be passive aggressively angry.
The shades are down. The doors are locked. The regular lights are off. The blacklight is on. There are condoms in the top dresser drawer. The music is up to eleven. It's fuck time.
"¿not want?" Alex asks, pointing to the ecstasy.
"not need" I've never needed drugs or alcohol for sex. Cocks and ass provide just the right level of intoxication. "¿want do?"
"(sign I don't understand)"
I push him back on my bed, pull down his shorts, and kiss him. This does not appear to be a huge surprise.
A synapse fires in my brain. How are we going to communicate while we're making out/fucking? Having spent the first ten years of his education in an oralist school, he has a pretty strong grasp of lipreading, and he can get his point across with speech if he needs to. But he hates relying on English, and--
"stop - ¿k?"
"yes" I sign.
"¿if do wrong how me know?"
He squeezes my wrist.
"me hurt" He squeezes my wrist again. "you hurt" Then he kisses me. He's much better with his tongue than Victor was. I'm tempted to tell him this, but he's grabbed my hands and put them to work in a manner that sends signals clearer than spoken, written or signed language can ever hope to achieve.
I'm just about to go down on him when the Mellisa Etheridge's "Your Little Secret" comes on.
"song (point to radio)"
Alex gives me The Velociraptor Look. A look I would steal and use on future unsuspecting boyfriends. "¿s-q-u-e-a-k?"
I lean down and slowly put his cock in my mouth. He squeaks. I look up at him. "¿you-see?"
"don't care - don't stop"
After about five minutes of putting the hurricane to Florida, the hands that have been massaging my shoulders, give them a slight squeeze. I stand up. Alex pushes me back on Matt's bed and my shorts join his on the floor.
Getting head from Alex is like sticking your dick in a vacuum (the space anomaly, not the household cleaning device). The suction. The pressure. The tracks it leaves on the carpet. I am right on the brink when he stops and licks a line up to my neck.
I wrap my hands around his ass and return the vampire kiss. The prospect of hickeys barely graze my brain. I begin licking down his stomach and down to the Mason Dixon Line (please leave your clever puns at the door). His moaning is oddly on beat with U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" which happens to be blasting out of the speakers. I feel his body tense, and I pull him out just in time. "Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"
While I'm sure there were a few people on campus who didn't hear him, I'd guess that they too communicated via ASL.
I expected him to lean back and leave me to finish myself off, but after he took a few seconds to shiver and blink, he sat on my stomach, began kissing me, and jerking me against his flotation device. I don't even think I lasted five minutes.
Any conversation that starts with dark depression, is bound to end with an angry albino.
I licked my lips. No blood, but you could have made dentures from the depression on my lower lip.
"¿fine?" Alex asked again.
"yes - sorry - think too hard"
"¿not want?" he nodded at the pills. "sorry"
"no - don't know word - not worry - me"
There was a knock on the door. "Hello?"
"¿who you think?" I asked
"¿who me think what?"
"¿knocking? sorry - not hear - (shocked expression) maybe me deaf"
I flipped him off.
"sorry - not understand" anyone who thinks that sarcasm is all about vocal inflection needs to spend a day locked in a room with a sarcastic Deaf person.
I got up and opened the door. "Hey Safe. What's wrong with your lip?" It was Bernard, the campus's albino asshole. What he lacked in pigmentation, he made up for in pigheadedness. I would have invited him in, but I was afraid he'd accept. "Is Alex here?"
"Alex?" I yelled. "No answer. He must be somewhere else."
Bernard pushed the door open. "Oh there he is. Hey Alex, something wrong with your hearing?"
I translated. Alex signed back "no - ¿wrong with skin?"
I felt like I was trapped in a very boring David Lynch script. "Ask him if he's coming to my party tonight?"
"¿you go asshole party?"
"No." Alex said. "Busy." It struck me that Alex's voice was sexy in that gravelly, hardly-ever-used sort of way. He turned his head back to the computer. Conversation over.
"Well, if he's not going, ask him if he's got anything he might want to donate to the cause."
"Like what?" I asked.
"You want to know, you ask him."
He tapped Alex on the shoulder and very slowly and loudly said "Do you have any ecstasy?"
Alex cocked his head to the side, and expanded his eyes until they were frog sized "Noooooooooo." and to me he signed "tell asshole go"
"What did he say?"
"He either said 'sorry he doesn't have any pills, maybe you should ask someone else' or 'tell the asshole to go away', I'm not sure, my sign language is a little rusty."
"Asshole." he said to the back of Alex's head, and slammed the door as he left the room.
Alex turned toward me "¿hear that?"
"¿his problem?" Any discussion that begins with an angry albino is bound to end with a sheep. At least, that's been my experience.
"not know - ¿bad day for vampire?"
Alex laughed. A sound I loved.
"¿doing?" I asked.
He waved me over to the computer. He had been writing me a note on my laptop. I not know sure if you know signs I want to use, and no patience for fingerspelling. Hope I not make you uncomfortable with ecstasy. Just like hanging out with you. Thought it would be fun. Don't know when the next time Matt go to parents's. Maybe my one chance to corrupt you.
"¿sign c-o-r-r-u-p-t?" I asked. He showed me. "¿you corrupt me? ¿me?"
He went back to typing. Yes. You. Reading the way he was typing, I realized that his English comp teacher was right, he was definitely picking up my writing style. Short, choppy sentences that get directly to the point. Of course, it was also possible that my writing was influenced by American Sign Language. You need corrupting. I saw your cache.
Cache? Cash? Catch? What did cache mean? "¿c-a-c-h-e?"
He dragged the mouse up to the history folder and opened up my cache. Ohhhh, cache. Fuck.
He turned toward me. "me know you - same as - like you ¿like me?"
It was my turn to get frog-eyed.
"no" I shook my head "yes" I should have clarified by kissing him, instead I leaned over and started typing Yes, I like you. I didn't know you were...bi? gay?
He pointed to gay, and then took control of the keyboard. Why do you think I hang out with you? Your ASL sucks. I waiting for you make move. But you slow.
"you english shit ¿who teach you type?"
I picked up the Ziploc bag and poured a couple pills in my hand. "¿many?"
"¿first?" he asked. I nodded. "one" And like a good little sheep, I swallowed.
A Insafemode entry that begins with ecstasy is bound to end in depression. Maybe Murphy's Law, Karma, Fate, Ka, or whatever you call The Mysterious Force Who Keeps The Universe in Check, decided my pessimism should be rewarded with realization. Maybe I'm just a precog. But when Alex pulled a Ziploc of ecstasy out of his pocket, my stomach sank.
"¿Try?" he asked
I had read an article or two about how E made you lose your inhibitions. Not medical texts, but stories from the The Nifty Archive. I liked my inhibitions where they were, around my neck, strangling me.
"No." I liked Alex a lot. He was track star/swimmer hot. Short blonde hair. Chiseled stomach. The type of face that looked awesome in sunglasses. Michaelangelo's David in swim trunks. He was also hella funny, smart, and always fun to be around. So, Insafemode, I ask myself, what's the problem? And don't say it's the drugs.
But it was the drugs. I had no aversion to doing drugs, I just wasn't sure I wanted to do any drugs in the presence of Alex. I mean, why was he offering me ecstasy? Did he want to fool around? Was Alex gay? Was there some other cool reason to do ecstasy that I didn't know about? (Curse you Nifty for not having more thorough reports on recreational drugs!)
Aside from the drugs, there was the issue that I wasn't out. I'd had some fun with Victor in high school, but I'd been going straight since then. And, frankly, the experience had been more traumatizing than good.
So, assuming Alex was trying to get with me, why was I being so hesitant? I could get high and chalk everything up to drug induced experimentation.
I came out of my daze long enough to realize I had bitten down so hard on my lower lip that I'd left teeth marks.
In an ideal world, any story that starts with an erection and a bottle of Cherry Coke would end with ecstasy. Sadly, I don't live in an ideal world. In my world, I was a closeted Deaf education major living in a city I hated. Every morning I would drag myself out of my cot-sized bed, take a shower, throw all my books in my backpack, and head to the dining hall for breakfast. A bowl of cereal and a bagel later, I'd be ready for whatever classes the day held for me: Calculus, ASL, French, Spanish, Elementary Education, Teaching English Composition, Set Design, Technical Theatre. At some point in the day I'd take a break for lunch either in the dining hall or the theatre. Just after lunch the rain would fall, filling the city's antiquated drainage system to capacity and filling the city with the stench of sulfur. When the sulfur faded like The Red Sox's hopes for winning The World Series, I would return to either the theatre or Only Hall for more classes. Lather, Rinse in sulfur water, Repeat.
But today was different. An erection, mine. A bottle of Cherry Coke, with a note:
Thanks for the help with comp homework. A+ & thanks to your tutoring, I even new enough to give an empromptue (sp?) report for the class, giving me another A. Call me when you get up. We'll go out for drinks.
I sat up on the bed, stared at the TTY for a moment, and decided to hold off on calling him. I had just began to stretch when Alex waved at me from the window.
"wake up lazy shit" he signed.
"¿time for late bitch? - wrong - ¿breakfast?" It was one of my lame jokes. The first time Alex came over to hang out I'd intended to ask if he wanted to go out for breakfast, but had inadvertently used the sign for bitch.
"no early lesbian - sorry - lunch."
I let him in and let him use my laptop while I went into the shower. When I came out, he and one of my suitemates, Dan, were harassing someone on AOL. "¿ready?" I asked.
"¿you go future h-y-p-n-o-t-i-s-t?" I asked when we were in the dining hall. "maybe funny - ¿maybe you h-y-p-n-o-t-i-z-e-d?"
Incredulous look. "¿how he h-y-p-n-o-t-i-z-e me? ¿he sign instructions?"
I hadn't thought about that. But over the course of the discussion I convinced both myself and Alex that it was possible that a real hypnotist would be able to tap a person instead of snapping to get them awake or in a trance. I also imagined it was possible that a hypnotist who could sign would be able to give instructions in ASL. The odds of the hypnotist that was performing that night being an ASL fluent hypnotist, I admitted, were slim.
"don't want go - ¿You?" he asked.
Raised eyebrow and shrug. "maybe - ¿you doing?"
"both of us go-to (sign I don't understand)"
"k - telephone me when ready"
After lunch, I went to the theatre to work on the set for a Christmas play one of the student directors was working on. It was hard for me to come to terms with the approaching holiday season. It was seventy degrees, and well, seventy degrees alone. I had the same problem when I was living in Icarus Arizona, but that will get its own entry this December under the heading "Worst Xmas Evarr11!!1".
While I was ankle deep in drill bits and cotton, my roommate, Matt, yelled to me from the balcony "Hey, Safe! I'm going to Taco Bell. You want anything?" Not feeling in the mood for botulism, I declined. "Ok, then I'm gonna head home from there. See you Monday."
I secretly cursed him for living a mere two hours from college. I was hundreds of miles away from any relative besides my grandfather, and after the miserable time I'd had with him during Thanksgiving (which will get its own entry this November under "Worst XGiving Evvvvvvvvvar!!11!!1), I had no immediate plans to revisit him. In fact, I was debating dropping out of college and moving back to Cranberry Lake.
I made plans to spend the night in my empty room downloading and masturbating to as much gay porn as I could find, and then deleting it all before my roommate or other suitemates stumbled upon it. I had forgotten that I'd made plans to go drinking with Alex until I was on my way into my room for the night. He was in the rec room, playing pool with Dan.
"hey z - wait - dan (cut-throat gesture)"
"k - me go wait (point to my room) jerk-off"
"funny - me wait ¿2 minutes? ¿3?"
About five minutes later, he showed up with a six pack of Heineken and a bottle of Bacardi. "¿thirsty?"
"¿where guitar?" Guitar was Alex's sign name for Matt, who had a habit of carrying around an acoustic guitar and playing Melissa Etheridge and Indigo Girls songs for no apparent reason. He was the first male lesbian I ever lived with.
"cool" After pouring ourselves each a drink, and putting the rest of the alcohol in the mini-fridge, we alternated between harassing people on AOL and signing to each other. "Hey, baby" he typed to some woman in SuulfurCityW4MCollegeStuds "Me and my sweetmate looking for a hot time. What are you wearing?"
I waved at him. "s-u-i-t-e-m-a-t-e not s-w-e-e-t-m-a-t-e"
"know that - but me live here not - not s-u-i-t-e-m-a-t-e me"
"¿you and me boyfriends now?"
"¡yes! blow me"
"¡face-first-love! me very horny now"
He reached into his pockets. I assumed he would be making a lewd gesture, but instead he pulled out a ziploc baggie of pills. "¿want?"
"what (pointed to pills)"
He smiled in a very Cheshire Cat manner. I didn't imagine it would be long before his body disappeared. "e-c-s-t-a-s-y"