Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
I'm not sure why I thought of this today, but I remembered, perhaps, one of my most culturally ignorant but inoffensive moments of the last decade.
As many of you know, I went to school as a Deaf Education major. I was, many many years ago, near fluent in ASL, and tried to be vigilant about keeping up with Deaf Culture.
Almost a decade ago, I started the Insafemode Podcasts, and put them up on my own website, as well as iTunes. They contain a couple of stories about a few of my Deaf friends from Cape Cod.
A Deaf friend of mine messaged me and asked if there was a version that was accessible to the Deaf and Hard Of Hearing.
I spent about an hour trying to figure out how to justify my desire to not write up transcripts of the podcasts because I just didn't feel like I had time.
And then I realized, I was reading all the posts from a book. Books Exist And Are Accessible To The Deaf And Hard Of Hearing. So I sent her the PDF, shortly after I slammed my head my head so hard into the counter that it made a dent.
The computer lab where I check my e-mail plays a loop of about ten songs. Usually Eminem’s “Mocking Bird”, Destiny’s Child’s “Soldier”, something by Mariah Carey (sometimes a new one, sometimes a classic...tonight it was “Emotions”), a 50 Cent track, and other assorted hip-pop. Tonight, I heard Aerosmith’s “Don't Want to Miss a Thing” seven times in there. Which is odd enough, but I’d heard the song on my way to work via someone else’s loud headphones, and then again at work, sandwiched between Weezer’s “Beverly Hills” and Nine Inch Nails’s “Only”. Why is BCN playing Aerosmith? I like it, but what the fuck? It doesn’t fit in the playlist.
And the song...in 1998, after my first boyfriend killed himself, after I tried to recuperate by fucking as many strange men as I could meet over The Internet, I got kidney stones. While I was recovering, out of my mind on Demoral, I’d accidentally bought a plane ticket for a strange gay kid in Georgia. And we ended up roommates and sort of lovers, and it had been a huge mess. The thing is, I don’t remember ordering him the plane ticket. I don’t remember the car trip home from the airport. Whether he smelled like cigarettes even then. Whether he smiled. I don’t remember the last thing he said when I put him on a bus back to North Carolina, a month later. But the day I woke up with a Demoral hangover, and a voicemail message reminding me to pick Elvis up at theairport, I heard the song “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” six times between Hyannis and Boston.
I’m not complaining. Sure, it’s pretty bombastic as far as Aerosmith songs go. Yea, it’s by far their most popular song, without actually being one of their best. Still, I like it. It was a guilty pleasure in a summer of guilty pleasures, Elvis, definitely included. But the point is, the song. It was all over the radio that summer. So romantic, so winsome. I was on my way to pick up a complete stranger, a gay complete stranger, a gay complete stranger who was coming specifically to spend time with me, and this horrifically cheesy operatic rock ballad is playing all the time. It should have been our song. We should have been happy, and so in love we couldn’t bear to be apart, especially when the government asked him and my father to fly into space to blow up that meteor coming to destroy the Earth. But it didn’t work out that way. I ended up wanting to hurtle him into space dick first into the meteor. I was afraid his head may actually crack through it.
As soon as the relationship went bad, I stopped listening to the radio. I wasn’t weepy, or violently angry. I was just afraid that if I heard that stupid song that should have been ours, I would have to climb inside the radio, shake Steven Tyler by the frilly things that hung from his sleeves, and say “Love like that doesn’t exist you fucken asshole. And I know you didn’t write that song, but fuck you for singing it and making me believe that sort of love was out there waiting for me.”
By the time the summer ended, the song had completely faded off the playlists of the radio stations I listened to. Mr. Tyler must have known what the consequences of me hearing that song would be. So, for years, I’d banished that song to the part of my brain where Celine Dion and Meatloaf lyrics hibernated. And during those extremely rare times when I smoked a joint or drank to excess, I tried really hard to fry the cells in that particular section of my brain.
Tonight, the song is back with a vengance. During its seventh revolution at the computer lab, I look at the clock, and see it’s about time for me to go catch one of the last buses of the night. I put my notebooks in my bag, and my skin starts to bristle, in a good way. Air conditioner in Miami on an August day bristling. I have this smile, like I know the world loves me for a change. This can only lead to disappointment. I’m thinking of picking up some pizza on the way home for my new roommate. I don’t like her, and I’m fairly certain that she doesn’t like me, but pizza makes friends of almost everyone.
I’m on my way out of the lab when I hear the hottest, most intriguing voice in the world saying “Baby” in a way so sexy, I have to turn to see who God blessed with such a power of inflection, and it’s Ben.
Fuck home, fuck my roommates, I’m an asscat, and Ben’s voice is a can opener. I follow him to a trendy bar down the street called The Anorexic. It’s trendy in that horrid way. A room half-full of mismatched wannabe scenesters drinking their shitty beers and trying to look and talk cool. There’s a lot of people wearing argyle socks on their arms, in place of sleeves.
“Do you serve wine here?” Ben asks.
The bartender points to the wineglass sitting in front of another customer. “No, he brought that in from next door.”
“Is it any good?” Ben asks the guy with the wine glass in front of him.
“The white is ok.” The guy says. “But I wouldn’t drink the red.”
“I guess I’ll have the white then.”
“Sorry, this bar only has one wine glass.” The bartender says.
But his wisecrack is drowned out by the other wine drinker, who says “White wine at a bar? What are you, some kind of homosexual?”
“I’m the best kind of homosexual.” Ben replies.
“Can I take you home and take naked pictures of you?” The other wine drinker asks.
“Sorry,” Ben replies, tilting his head. “I’m gonna be famous soon. Naked pictures would be scandalous.” And he pays for his wine, and we move to the other side of the bar.
We’re about a minute and a half deep into a conversation about Ben’s impending New York trip when Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” clicks on the jukebox.
“¿w-t-f?” I sign. “¿song everywhere ― s-t-e-v-e-n t-y-l-e-r dead?” And I have to be careful, because I made a joke about Nell Carter’s death in 2003, and she had a fatal heart attack that very night. So I attempt to steer the conversation in another direction, but Ben is clearly the coxswain tonight, and he leads me down a different current of conversation, and soon we’re walking out of The Anorexic, headed to a better bar. A guy he knows and is attracted to, who isn’t me, is sitting at the corner table. While Ben and I discuss our various relationships with older men and younger men, his eyes keep darting toward this other guy.
“I don’t want to date an older man.” He says. “They’re always going to go on about achieving my potential. And I already have an internal voice saying that all the time. I don’t need another one.”
I want to say I would never go on and on about your potential. You’re an amazing artist, and sure if you worked a little harde....fuck. but I’m not quite that awkward, and I know his comment wasn’t about me. Maybe it’s the four rum and Cokes I had before I went to the computer lab, or perhaps the Soco and Cokes from the Anorexic, but I’m starting to get jealous of the way he’s looking at this other guy. I make some lame joke about the guy who offered to take naked pictures, and Ben says he needs to take new pictures for his LiveJournal page. “I’ll take your picture.” I say. “I’ll even make sure you keep all your clothes on.”
So we’re back at his house, me with his digital camera in my hand, taking picture after picture after picture. I hate the way I see a perfect shot, and the digital camera waits three seconds, thereby getting a completely different, never as good shot. Every picture is at the wrong angle, in the wrong light. “My face is too fat.” Ben says. “My forehead is gigantic. Like that Pixies song. Gigantic. Gigantic. My big big head.”
“Your head is not gigantic.” I say.
“It is. I’ve totally got that great big gay guy head, where it looks like the guy’s Godzilla sized head is in a battle with the rest of the body for supremacy, and the head is winning.”
“You do not. Your head is fine. It’s your jaw that’s too cleft for your face.” I’m being an asshole. His jaw is cute.
“I don’t want to be cute.” He says, as if I made the last comment out loud. “I want to be hot. My hair is too fuzzy duckling head. Look at it bounce. Why is my head so big?”
And I think, but do not say, because whenever I’m around you, I inflate it. “Your head’s not that big. It’s not like ten years from now I’m going to have to e-mail you from New Zealand, saying ‘Dear Ben, I was in the ocean taking pictures of a pod of dolphins, and somehow your face is in every frame.’”
“I’ll write back ‘Sorry, I’m in the Australian Bush.’”
I was going to say he was in Cleveland, but I let it slide.
“I’m beautiful in motion.” He says. “But I’m ugly in stills.”
“You’re not ugly. You’re hot.”
“Keep telling me that.” He says. “Eventually, I’ll believe it.”
You’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful and I know that you’re going to destroy me you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful
“I’m tired.” He says. “We’ve taken how many pictures, and only five of them don’t suck. I’ll hate two of them by tomorrow morning.”
Rufus the Asscat hops on the bed. Ben grabs him into a super bearcat hug. “Oh, let’s take a couple of me and Asscat. I love when you’re holding onto a cat, and they know they’re trapped, so they just tense up and wait for you to let them go.” Ben says. “It’s like OW!!! Fucken cat!!! Hsssssssssssssssssssssssst.”
Rufus leaps from the bed and into the kitchen.
“Man, that’s deep.” He says, showing me his sliced finger.
“Hey, Asscat,” I shout at Rufus, who is peeking around the corner, “how would you like to be drumskin?”
“You know he’s thinking, how would you like to be a colander?, right?” Ben asks.
I laugh. My head falls onto Ben’s bed. We scan through the pictures I’ve been taking one more time. I never captured him quite right. He’s so beautiful, and these pictures of him are so pedestrian. I am the older man who wants him to live up to his fucken potential, as though potential were a goal and not a starting point.
I try and figure a way to work I love you into the conversation, but the playlist is high school memories and internet celebrity. Eventually, we wind into a discussion about exes, and he’s talking about his HIV positive ex, and I’m rambling about Ryan, and surely I love you would fit anywhere around here. But it doesn’t. It’s too cumbersome. It doesn’t match the decor. I love you is the perfect couch to sit on, but we’re decorating the kitchen. So I say “Dear Ben, I am in my subconscious, taking pictures of all the men I’ve ever loved, and somehow your face is in every frame.”
“Unrequited love is soooo eighth grade.” Ben says.
There is no preamble, no conversation about a friend who is in love with someone who doesn’t love them. There is only the way I’ve been looking at him, the way his name has infected my vocabulary. The way he couldn’t possibly love anyone like me.
“And I saw this totally hot guy on the way to work today. He was wearing these tight pink pants, so you know he was a total ‘mo. And he was obviously checking me out. Like eyefucking me and everything.” He fluffs his hair. “But then I totally like eye fucked him right back, and he kind of stared at his feet. I mean, what a fucken pussy, right? Whatever, he was totally too old for me anyway. He was like twenty-five or something.”
I am twenty-eight.
It’s another late night at Ben’s apartment complex. I’d been in the neighborhood, checking my e-mail at a computer lab down the street from his house, when I read a note in his Livejournal about how it was his birthday, and all he really wanted was a cigarette, but he didn’t feel like going down to the convenience store. So, even though it was one in the morning, I decided to stop at the 7-11, pick up a pack of Galouises and surprise him. He was surprised. So was his Dad, who had been asleep on the floor.
In order to let his father get back to sleep, Ben and I head up to the roof of his apartment complex, and listen to the Allston riffraff head from their various bars to their various dorms and apartments.
“Back when Ethan and I were totally in love,” he says, “we used to come up to the roof and piss on the people as they walked by.”
“How...romantic.” I say.
“We were doing a lot of speed, coke, and heroin at the time.”
“Ahhh.” is the only sound my mouth can wrap itself around.
“What did you do for fun when you were in college?” And I’m pretty sure there’s an implied back in the Dark Ages in his question.
“Well, my roommate and I were both Deaf Education majors, so we would go to fast food places, and one of us would pretend to be Deaf, and the other one would pretend to be an interpreter. And whenever the supposedly Deaf guy was watching the interpreter person, we’d act all nice together, but when the supposedly Deaf guy would turn away, to look for a place to sit, the non-Deaf guy would start to talk mad insulting shit about the Deaf one. We were kicked out of two Burger Kings and a Subway.”
“Oh my God, you know sign language?” He asks.
“I used to be near fluent in ASL.” I say.
“So teach me.”
It begins with the alphabet, and then expands to the swear words. I tell him how I used to confuse the sign breakfast with bitch and lesbian with lunch, how I used to sit in my non-ASL classes and sign the words slut and asshole at unsuspecting teachers. By three o’clock he can swear, spell, and knows important food signs like pizza, ice cream, and cookie. I consider this a small victory in my war against Ben’s body image issues. At four, I tell him how my roommate and I used to like to combine signs to create new words.
“Like what?” He asks.
I can’t think of a single one from college. So I start to run through my mental vocabulary list, trying to imagine signs that look alike. “Like asshole and cat.” I say.
I show him the sign for asshole, which looks like the universal sign for okay laid on its side, so that the o shape is on top, and the three fingers are parallel with the ground. Then I show him the sign for cat, which is the three middle fingers, held up to the face, and wiggled back and forth in the area where a cat has whiskers. “Now, if you take the sign for asshole, and hold it up to your face, and wiggle the lower three fingers like its the word cat, voila, you have a new word, asscat.”
“That’s brilliant.” He says. “And it so suits my cat.” And it does. His cat, which he named Rufus, after Rufus Wainwright, has the annoying habit of being extremely cuddly and then, without warning, clawing the blood out of whichever body part is closest to him. I have a friend who had a tryst with the cat’s famous meth-addicted namesake, apparently the two Rufuses had a lot in common.
“Do you remember any more?”
“How did you come up with the idea?” He asks.
"Well, oh! I remember another one. So, we were trying to come up with sign lyrics for a bunch of random rock songs. And one of the songs my roommate really liked was ‘Coma’ by Guns-n-Roses. But we couldn’t find a sign for coma anywhere, so we combined the signs for dead and asleep.” I show him the resulting sign.
I'd forgotten how fun it was to correct the limitations of languages. To create new words and ideas to express thoughts that you couldn’t do otherwise.
“I’ve got another one.” I say. “Take the sign for beautiful, only instead of making the bhand, make the v hand. Now you’ve got vapidorable. The perfect description for all those terminally dull, terminally beautiful people you’re so attracted to.”
“Booooo. Moving on. The sign for rainbow,” Ben says, “looks like it would fit with the sign for dead.”
And he’s right.
“Deadbow?” He asks.
I snicker. “If you start it near your crotch, it could be rainbortion.”
“Rainbortion? What the hell would that mean.”
“Well, a rainbow is the universal sign for fag…” I begin.
“Not the limp wrist?” Ben asks.
“That, too, but the sign for rainbow is more acceptable. So...so I guess rainbortion would be those times when you’re so disgusted by how stereotypically gay you feel, you want to rip the faggotry right out of you.”
“Wow.” He says. “I totally know what you’re talking about.”
But I suppose it could have another meaning. Forget the gay aspect. Rainbows are also used to symbolize happiness. Kids color them next to smiling suns and fluffy clouds. So maybe, maybe rainbortion is that moment when you’re ludicrously happy or content, but you know that feeling is about to be torn out of you, and all you’ll want to do is die.
Whoever started the stereotype that firemen were hot, certainly didn't live in any neighborhood I've lived in. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather have a troop of non-attractive, competent firemen than Zoolanders with large hoses. These firemen were Rescue Me firemen, which makes sense, the show takes place in Boston, I live in Boston. Still, having Dennis Leary rush into our house, then come back out and say "Your smoke detector has low batteries, everything is fine." is a very anticlimactic result to a morning fire. And, what the fuck, what kind of smoke detector is designed to go off loudly and set off the other alarms in the house when it's low on batteries? Wouldn't a simple occasional beep be sufficient? Maybe the lights could go out or something?
With tragedy averted, Dale duct taped his broken car window and drove to work. I got dressed and headed to the coffeehouse to hang out with Celeste. Poor Celeste was still stuck in New York, where she had apparently been punched in the face while waiting for the Chinatown bus, because...well because the Chinatown bus sucks, never shows up when it's scheduled, and, according to yesterday's newspaper, has a tendency to go up in flames every other month or so. Suddenly, fifteen bucks to get from Boston to NYC isn't looking so hot good. I'd rather spend the extra ten bucks to go Greyhound, and live through the experience unscathed.
Because Celeste was not there, I volunteered to work her shift, even though I haven't so much as looked at a cup of coffee in two months. Apart from a few of the regulars asking me where I'd been, the shift was largely uneventful, until the last hour.
I was pouring out the coffee of the day (Mango Duck Chutney) when I noticed someone at the counter.
"of-course ?want this? ?want that?"
"that ?busy day?"
"not yes-not no ?coffee?"
And I suddenly realized I was signing to a stranger. A stranger had walked up to my counter and, without any introduction, begun speaking with me in pidgin sign language.
"no coffee thanks"
"?how you know I sign?" I asked.
"you fingerspell and" (mimes pouring) "coffee same time"
Right, I do have a tendency to fingerspell when I'm daydreaming. I wasn't aware you could notice that across a crowded room, though.
"William!" Did someone step on a bird with strep throat? No, it's just some obnoxious woman yelling at.... Who is she yelling at? "WILL-YUM" She's coming right at me. Ohhhhh.
"?name w-i-l-l-i-a-m?" I asked.
His eyes conveyed the question "Are you psychic?" while his fingers remained motionless.
"someone yell at you"
William turned around. "?what?" Then he signed something I couldn't see.
"Don't sign to me." She said. "I don't have a clue what you're saying."
"I thought we were supposed to sign to each other as much as possible so we could get fluent faster." His voice is...flawless. Deep, rich, and...not at all the voice of someone who can't hear their own voice.
"I don't have time for this." She says. "Do you have my muffin?"
"Yes." He says, holding up the bag.
"Is it hot?"
"No." I say.
She bristles that I have addressed her. She clearly wasn't asking for my input. "Well, heat it up then."
"I can't." I say. "No microwave or oven."
"Why not?" She asks.
William turns around and starts watching my lips. He definitely can't hear. I'm guessing, based on their conversation and his incredibly precise voice, that he only recently lost his hearing. And, that this cunt is his mother. "We're a coffeehouse, not a restaurant, per se. We just sell muffins, biscotti, and cookies."
"So buy a microwave to heat up muffins for people."
Twat. "We don't have room for a microwave. Plus, in the year I've worked here" this is a complete lie, I worked there for all of three or four months "you're the first person who ever asked to have their muffin heated."
"Well now I don't want it. So you just lost a customer. Maybe you should rethink your position on microwaves. Let's go William."
Yes, bitch. The $1.50 we just lost because you don't want a muffin will make me rush over to Best Buy RIGHT NOW to buy a microwave. Clearly, you win.
William looks like he just sat in water. "sorry" he says to me "mom" Then he turns away, pauses, turns back and says "see-ya"
"later" I reply.
"William!" Cunty McFucker shouts. "Let's go."
And because I have lost my tact when it comes to this woman, I look straight at her and say "He can't hear you, lady, he's deaf."
William's eyes telescope large.
"sorry" I sign.
"same" And his laugh sends me in orbit around the coffeehouse. I may never touch the ground again.
I am a creature of cycles. Short term rituals created, followed, broken, started again.
I am nineteen years old and terrified of not being normal.
If I learned anything from my three years at Torpor Heights, it's that I'm a pussy closet case homo. While fooling around with Victor, I'd publicly dated Kate, who I dumped for Beckee because dumping a fat chick for a skinny artist girl with purple hair makes you look straighter. When I dumped Beckee on Valentine's Day, I told everyone I'd gotten back together with Jennifer, but the truth was I was in lust with Victor, and didn't want to be distracted by fake dating. But that got too dangerous, so I stopped talking to Victor without explanation, redated Beckee, redumped her for Jennifer (this time for real). Jennifer, Beckee, Victor, Jennifer, Beckee, Victor, sorry, sorry, sorry.
When Jennifer came back from Europe pregnant with someone else's child, I knew our cycle was broken. But I still used her name as a place holder at college. Jennifer, My Girlfriend Back Home. And now here is Alex. Salvation in sunglasses. Fluid as sulfur water. Of course I am going to do right by him.
I have an appointment with my guidance counselor two days after my horrible Thanksgiving with my grandparents. The plan is to look at next semester's classes and make some minor changes.
"What is this?" I ask my counselor, the head of the Education Department.
"Your schedule for next year."
"These are all English classes. I'm an Education Major."
He blurs his words at me. "excellent grades" "natural ability" "problems in your elementary education class" "try it for a semester"
"I don't want to be an English major here." I say, nearly in tears. "I could have been an English major back at home." You can't fall out a window in Massachusetts without landing in a four year college with an exceptional English department. "I came here to major in Deaf Education."
"Well, we can see how next semester goes and---"
"No. No." Flurry of words "transfer" "paperwork" "so out of here" "sucks"
"¿okay?" Alex asks, when I see him in the dining hall.
"no - college bad - hate everything"
Frog eyed Alex. Fucken bloodshot probably high frog eyes. "slow down - ¿happen?"
"must leave" I say, and pick up my bag.
He probably assumes I just mean the dining hall, which is why he doesn't follow me.
I don't return his e-mails. I make it a point not to be in the room when I think he might stop by. I don't answer the phone ever. My roommate thinks this has something to do with a screaming match I have with my grandfather when I tell my family that I'm not coming back to Sulfur City after New Year's, that I'm transferring to UMass Cranberry Lake. Let him think that.
Matt is the only person I say goodbye to besides my teachers. He is the only person I say goodbye to that I don't sneer at when I say it.
Back in Cranberry Lake, I take a job at a place called Raspberry Records. I take a full course load at UMCL. I get in touch with Saint. I start writing again. My tan fades. My blood thickens. I have mostly forgotten Florida by February when I receive a postcard from Alex. The front of the card has a Brazilain man laying on his back, his huge cock filling out his Speedo, and in white bubble letters it says "An ounce of image is worth a pound of performance." On the back Alex scribbled out a note "Saw this card and thought of you. The biggest cock I know." I know he's not talking about my endowment.
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"