My head is pounding. I finally remembered to pick up my new phone, so, naturally, I've forgotten where I left my charger, and I'm all out of battery power. I'm also out of batteries for my discman. My head is pounding too much for me to be able to finish the James Kochalka comic I'm supposed to be reading. At least I'm only two stops away from work, where I have been assured by my boss I will "make bank." This is why I dragged myself out of the house two hours early. "It's the day after Thanksgiving, we're going to be balls to the wall, come early, and you'll make bank." I later decide that he must have meant "bunk", but I'm getting ahead of myself. Right now, my head is pounding, and the bagel I had for breakfast has decided to use my stomach as a trampoline. I put my head in my hands, and all is normal on the severely crowded red line train. When I look up, there's a marching band.
Thirty or so sweaty, mostly overweight men in kilts and afghans of various shades of green have been known to incite motion sickness, even without moving or producing sound. This stumble of marchers, however, were not content to sit or stand on the crowded T and bask in the lurchiness of public transportation. Oh, no. They had decided that a crowded T on a Friday afternoon is the perfect place to play Christmas carols.
Somewhere around the seventh day of Christmas, I start to fashion my keychain into a shiv. I know I'm not stealthy or powerful enough to take them all down, but if I at least take a couple of these unfuckers with me before I'm wrestled to the ground beneath their kilts, I'll have done the world an incredible service.
By the time my stop comes, they have moved on to the most inaccurately named version of "Silent Night" ever conceived. I mean, bagpipes?
Work is so dead that even vampires pass by its corpse and go "Ehhh, it had a good life, I'll let it sleep." I'm so bored that I can feel my eyes rot away, as I watch The Naked Gun on the TV in the kitchen. The safe sex scene starts when my favorite Hungarian bartender says "What was the score of the Bears game?" Which leads me to believe he's never met me before. How the fuck would I know the score of a football game that doesn't even contain The Patriots?
"Tampa Bay won thirteen to ten." I was bored, okay, and the game was on the bar's TV.
Then he begins asking me about other games, and how many interceptions some person I've never heard of threw, and wasn't that onside kick a weird choice? I place my index finger to his lips and whisper. "Shhhh. You're only allowed to speak to me in Hungarian. Oh, the language of love."
His eyes flit from me to anyone who might be watching my bizarre behavior, and says "Uhhhh, ok." Then he walks away.
"I didn't know you liked the Hungarian." David gives me a cool, hurt look. The kind an ex would be allowed to shoot at someone who'd hurt them in a relationship. But if David wasn't such a pussy closet case we'd be dating, so I don't allow the look to register. Much.
"Sure," I say, "I'd like him...naked and chained to my couch."
That look again. Bastard. What is it with me and unworkable relationships? What is it with me and having the same stupid epiphanies over and over? I've got to stop getting myself in these situations. Closet cases, roommates, future suicides. I've got to get over this kind of shit and move on. I've got to move. Of course. But first I have to make a phone call.
An hour or so later, when both David and the Hungarian have gone to their respective homes, and most of the staff has begun cleaning, Ben and his Dad arrive in the restaurant. Because I'm already done for the night, they sit in someone else's section. I do my paperwork, sweep my tables, and do about 90% of my kitchen sidework before I'm asked to clock out. I do so. I then go to Ben's table and drink and socialize. We're there for about a half hour when I remember that I have to bring one more box of bread into the kitchen before I'm actually done done.
"What the fuck?!" says a steamy eyed server, as I walk into the kitchen. "Who the fuck are you, that you think you can fucken clock out and sit at a goddamned table without finishing all the fucken bread work."
I cock the Spock eyebrow. "I was told to clock out. I came back in to get the last box of bread, but―"
"This is such fucken bullshit. All I want to do is go the fuck home, and you never do any work, and―"
At this point, Hill comes to my rescue, "Well, since you're a closer, and the restaurant isn't closed, you can't go home for another hour, anyway. Why don't you step off him?"
"No no no no no. I want to be able to fucken clock out whenever I feel like it..."
"I was told to clock out." I say. "I was cut. My tables had left. And I'm almost on overtime, so they asked me to clock out."
"Whatever. Where's the last fucken box of bread, huh? And knives. The knife container isn't full."
"That's because I filled it before I cl― You know what? Unfuck you. Unless you just got a phone call that your mother got run over by a bread truck, and the managers won't let you leave to identify her body, you're being fucken ridiculous. This is a fucken restaurant job. It takes five seconds to get a box of bread, and it would already be done, if you hadn't attacked me the second I walked into the kitchen, but now you can do it your fucken self." And I walked out of the kitchen, put on my best customer service smile, and sat back down next to Ben. "I think we should probably go now."
"Hey, where's that cute Hungarian bartender?" Ben asks, unaware of my impending sexual harassment indictment.
"Chained to the bed." I whisper, while his dad talks to our server.
"What?" he asks.
I place my index finger to his lips. "Shhhhh. You're only allowed to speak to me in Hungarian."
"Right." He says, and pushes my finger away. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Nothing, I just feel all smirky right now."
"Oh, because you have something worth smiling about?"
And I do, actually. I'm sitting next to someone I dearly despise in a restaurant where, any second now, an angry little white girl is going to come around the corner screaming obscenities about bread. The satellite station is playing Aaron Neville's version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and my head is pounding. I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.
I am the subject. Am is happy to be helping. In is the preposition I'm currently stuck with. Love is the real object. See? Ben, David, Dmitri, CSB, Ryan, it doesn't matter who, does it? Fuck who is the object of my desire, desire is the objective.
I've been mocking Ben for lamenting that no one he's attracted to is attracted to him. I haven't met anyone gay or straight who doesn't think he's attractive. Of course, I suffer from the same affliction (the no one I'm attracted to is attracted to me thing, not the everyone thinks I'm attractive thing, I wish). Should have gone for the guy on the T with the staring problem. Dealt with that musician guy from the Lizard Lounge. Dmitri who's far away and already has a boyfriend. Or David, who I'm starting to realize is from another planet.
Celeste says "It sucks that Ben led you on for so long." But he never led me on. I led me on. Ben is always direct with what he wants, needs, expects. I'm not. This is why no one ever knows what I want. This is why everything.
Trick says, "Ben doesn't deserve you. Go for David." But Trick has never met David. And when I question the accuracy of the word deserve, he recants.
Deserving is a stupid word. The bitch that moved into my old apartment and posted a Craigslist ad of my room deserves a snatch full of razor blades and rubbing alcohol. And may the blades be lubricated with leprosy and Hepatitis C. What she gets is an asshole ex-roommate who refuses to be in the same zip code as her, thus not paying his share of the bills. And since that's me, I deserve the heavy backpack grinding away what's left of my spine.
I need to relearn the ability to be direct. You there, in front of me in line at the Store 24, you've got a great ass. Clarissa, if you weren't so silently judgmental, you'd be happier and have more long term friends. Celeste, thank you. Ben, I love you, and thank you for putting up with me at my most awkward and freakishly dependent. We need to go see Serenity. We need serenity. Serenity now, goddamnit.
I need to relearn the ability to object. I can't work seven nights a week. No, I won't meet you halfway if you live in an abattoir. I'll just leave what you need by the front door. I'm fine. Thanks for not asking.
This is as up front as I get. Seven years ago, the only man I ever trusted when he said he loved me, killed himself. I only think of him every time I feel anything like love. So fucken what? Everyone has ashes under their scars. You either get over it or you don't. Either way, life is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. If you don't make a decision, you're stuck on the same boringly inconclusive page for the rest of your life.
I only love improbable relationships because they're uncomfortably familiar. I love Ben because I don't know, his voice makes my ears twitch, he's starting to write like breath, he doesn't talk like FM radio, he doesn't act his or anyone else's age. I love him because it feels natural.
He deserves better.
When I get back from Connecticut, and Ben gets back from New York, he is all apologies and duct tape band aids. He takes me out to the movies. We go to the Different Twist for dinner with Trick and Celeste. He tells us about his trip. "It was awful. I decided to try two hits at once, and I ended up spending most of the night outside, trying to talk to the rocks or some shit. When I came back in, I borrowed Lissabelle's cell phone to call you, but you didn't answer. Thank God. Anyway, I gave the phone back to her, or at least, I thought I did. When we were getting ready to leave this morning, she said she couldn't find it. So I cleaned the entire commune. Twice. No phone. I unpacked all my stuff, and repacked it, and unpacked it, and repacked it. No phone. She kept screaming at me and telling me what a terrible person I was. And I wanted to find the phone, not just to shut her up, but so I could call you, because I desperately needed to hear someone say something nice to me."
Trick coughs conspicuously. Apparently, Celeste told him about the I Don't Love You Conversation.
"Anyway, she had one of her friends hypnotize me, to see if that would help me remember what I did with the phone. I didn't. And when we finally gave up, Lissabelle put her coat on, and the phone was right there in her pocket, and the bitch didn't even apologize."
"Wait," Trick says, "you thought to get hypnotized in order to find her phone, but you didn't think to have her check her pockets. Why not just burn the house down and use a metal detector to find it?"
"Booooo. Anyway, we're going back next week because I was only able to get a dozen hits, and I have friends coming down to visit tomorrow. Oh, Celeste, can Safey stay with you while my friends are in town?"
I flinch. Trick flinches. Celeste rolls her eyes. "Of course. Did you think of, I don't know, asking Safey how he felt about it before asking me."
And he dribbles forth more apologies. And he pays for my pizza. And whatever.
At work, the next day, I am so far beyond overtired, that I strongly suspect the ASL sign for coma was invented to describe the way I feel. Ben calls the work phone around eight to ask me to bring him some food. I say "Sure thing, baby, I'll see you when I get home."
Things wrong with that statement:
1. Baby? What the hell?
2. Ben's apartment is not home.
A few minutes later, one of the new waitresses, Hill, taps me on the shoulder and says "Ben is on the phone for you again."
I decide to be funny, to go way over the top with the whole baby thing, so I put on my sexy phone voice and say "Hey, baby," (shudder) "what's up?"
"Baby?" Says Ben my boss, not Ben my future ex-boyfriend. "It's Ben."
And I say "Uhhhh....Hey?"
And when I weasel my way out of that conversation, David (my almost mutual infatuation partner), who's been standing around the corner the whole time says "Baby? Who's your baby?"
And I say, "No one. I'm just really drunk." And it's true, four Peachtree Schnapps, Smirnoff, Peaches, Chambord and Champagne will do that to you. But, given how stressful this week has been, the solution seems to be, drink more. So, after work, David and I take the T together, discussing everything but the word baby. I get off the T and head to Ben's house where we take loads of digital pictures, change our LiveJournal layouts, and drink Rated X liquor, thus keeping everything I've drunk, a fluorescent shade of pink. And while we drink and take pictures,we play En Vogue's Funky Divas album.
"This is so gay. You're not allowed to tell anyone about this." Ben says. "Especially not the part about how I got really into it and sang the lyrics in the most sincere way possible."
"Ok." I say. "I won't."
In mid-July, Melissa announced that she was leaving for Florida for a while. This made me very happy. I’d recently started working at a nearby Kookaburra Canyon. It was a job I’d loved when I lived in Cranberry Lake. And since I couldn’t stand the crap corporate restaurant I’d been working at when I met Melissa, I was overjoyed at the prospect of returning to work at a KC.
Among the typical college student servers, and the housewives whose children had gone off to colleges, was the hottest man I’d ever laid my eyes on, rested my eyes on, desperately wanted my eyes to fall into a coma on. David.
I’d been working at KC for a week when David turned 21. I served him his first legal drink. I was the first man to get him drunk, but, though I thought about it, not the first one to takeadvantage of his drunkenness. I was the first person to notice when he started using color contacts. “Are your eyes...I mean...your eyes look...purple? Aren’t they usually...brown?”
“How do you know what color his eyes are? You checking him out?” Asked Becky.
I didn’t like Becky.
“Either that, or I’ve noticed that Brazilian men with deeply tanned skins and brown hair all tend to have brown eyes.”
Becky glowered at me. “Racist.” This from the bitchy former stripper who once cooked a huge catering order of chicken on the same stove top she’d used to cook bacon for the cheeseburgers, and said “I want to see a big old Jew take a big bite out of this fucken chicken. Send that fucken Jewbag straight to Hell.” And, yea, she’d laughed after she’d said it, and then, on seeing my horrified expression, “I was just kidding, Adam.” I heard that’s how Eva Braun got started.
Yes, I’d noticed his eyes. There were quite a few other features, I’d noticed, too. I was busy noticing one part that, in French, rhymes with carrier, when I bumped into a server who wasrearranging the bread oven. I pulled him back, so he wouldn’t get burned, when Becky then rammed into me, full force. This was a sandwich I did not want to be the meat in.
“Were you...were you checking me out?” David asked. We were on the T. His shift had ended about an hour before mine, but he’d sat at the bar, apparently waiting for my shift to end.
And then silence.
And then, “Want to come over and take advantage of your new found liquor buying abilities?”
He nodded. Adorably.
While we hadn’t had anything like sex during the next three months, there’d been quite a bit of cuddling, and out makeage. But when I told him that Melissa was headed to Florida for at least a couple weeks, he said he wanted to come spend the nights for a while.
He claimed to be too drunk for any debauchery during the first night that he stayed over, but the next morning, he’d must have sobered up a bit, as I awoke to something on my penis that felt strangely like a tongue. More normally as a tongue, actually. And then there were hands, and flesh, and lips, and all the other fun stuff, and then condoms, and then moaning. Loud, wow, moaning. This went on for about twenty minutes. When we were done we heard applause.
David hopped off the bed, threw on his pants, and peeked through the venetian blinds. “Fuck.” yes, we had. “Look.”
Outside, three also hot Brazilian looking guys were sitting on chaise lounges, pointed at my bedroom window. Apparently, they were house painting when they heard our, uh, performance, and decided to take a break.
“I’ve...I’ve got to go.” David said, throwing on his hoodie, and some sunglasses. “I’m….I’m sorry.”