Jim, my roommate Byrne, and several other people in the poetry community seem to have the mistaken impression that I hate all Gay People. "And I don't mean you're self-loathing. It's just other Gay People you hate. I mean, if I were to make a pie chart of The Gay Community where the red part was people you hated, and the black part was people you liked, it'd look like a watermelon."
"To be fair," I replied, "the chart would look exactly the same were you to divvy up the straight people I did and didn't like."
But it's Pride Week, and most of the people annoying me are Gay. Here's the thing, I don't like PDA, even when it's hot gay guys groping each other and doing the type of kiss that surrenders to Germans. I don't like the huge rainbows, the Madonna karaoke or the horrible fashion shows with clothes designed by people who should never be given scissors within a hundred yards of curtains or bathmats. When I was invited me to read for Coming Out Day, rather than Pride, at a local spoken word venue, I knew the organizer understood me.
Ryan and I had a couple of hilarious conversations about how we hated melodramatic gay people. Which made his choice to kill himself rather than come out to his parents all the funnier. Ok, I didn't find it funny at the time, but it makes me giggle now. Ben and I used to riff on hating stereotypical Gays, too. And that was funny because Ben is as stereotypically Gay as you can get without bursting into Flamer (note, I am not calling him a Flamer...he's just sort of sparky). But it was Sora that I really bonded with on the loving homosexual men, and disliking Gays.
And while I may joke about not liking Gays because of their fashion sense, their musical taste, their propensity for PDAs, their coifs, their deliberately screechy octavoices, or their gonorrhea; the truth is none of them seem to know how to kiss properly.
Trey kisses like a damp sponge being pressed against your lips and slightly squeezed into your mouth. I met him, as I'm sure you're shocked to know, over The Internet. And his kissing was the only thing I could fault him on, but I haven't called him back.
Breezy uses his tongue like a woodpecker searching for ants at the back of my throat. I wouldn't have called him back either, but the thing is, he has this great apartment. I mean, the apartment itself is average. Not furnished very well, devoid of any art, but it's on the water, meaning bay breeze, which, given the current heatwave, is good enough reason for me to continue seeing him.
"So you're dating a guy for his apartment." Asterisk said. "I've done worse. I've dated people because I've liked their dog."
And while I've never dated someone for their dog (and I do love dogs), I did threaten to break up with someone when their ex-roommate got custody of their awesome cat.
But it's not just the apartment. Despite his being the sort of Gay you can see from space even when your eyes are closed and you're facing in the opposite direction, staring into the sun, he looks really good naked, and since he has no roommates, we spend a lot of time naked in various rooms. But we're not dating. I know we're not dating because both of us had sex a few hours before we met up (with other people, natch), and then a few hours after we parted ways.
Clem was the guy a few hours earlier, and he received kisses exactly the way a closet case kisses back when they're about to freak out. Our sex didn't really last long. We'd been trying to meet for months. And by we, I mean he. I gave up on him after the first night of his utter wishy-washiness. He wanted to meet. He wanted to bottom. He had the night off, but, horrors, what if someone saw me go into his house and knew I was A Homosexual? What would the neighbors say? (I surmise they'd say "Yawn. He could do better.") Three months and eleven potential meet-ups later, he sent me his address, and I hopped on a bus that connected with another bus, and yet another bus that dropped me off in his neighborhood. We made very small talk before we went into his bedroom, where he closed his shades, turned off all the lights, and took off his clothes. When I tell you he had the tiniest penis I've ever seen, I'm not trying to insult him. As much as I can appreciate a good looking penis, it's not the part of the body I'm most looking for. His ass was assdequate. But barely had he slid his skivvies around his ankles, when he started stuttering. He had one hand on my cock, and said "Your c-c-cock is so big. I can not b-b-bottom for you." Which is flattering, but not at all true. Not even remotely true. So I started putting my clothes back on. "I can jerk you..."
"No." "You can't." "You've got a car, right?" In the movie version of my life, I'm smoking a cigarette. Perhaps two cigarettes.
"Yes. I have car." Apparently, my cock was also so big he forgot how to use articles in his sentences.
"You're giving me a ride home then."
And he did, without question. And as soon as he dropped me off at the house, I e-mailed Breezy, and he took care of my Indigo Testicles. And I took care of his. And he took care of mine. And I took care of...you get the idea.
When it was finally well past time for sleep, Breezy plopped down beside me on his bed, and grabbed my arms around him. Which is fine. I can be rather cuddly when the mood strikes, much to the chagrin of Sora, and the amusement of Zach. The latter referring to me as a Reverse Teddy Bear. "A big furry thing that never lets go." Breezy was the first guy I've ever thought of as aggressively huggable. Every time I was certain he was asleep, and I tried to move to a more comfortable position, he would wait for me to adjust, and then commandeer both my arms, roll his neck under my chin, and slide his butt up against my cock, which is a pretty surefire way to get me to not move too much for a while.
"Where are you going?" He asked when it was time for me to head home, shower, and consider going to work.
"Not yet you're not." And he was correct. Three times.
When I got the e-mail from Diego, telling me he would die without a sperm transfusion, I wondered if meeting him was a bit over the top. True, I hadn't been laid since Wednesday afternoon, but it was only Friday afternoon, and I had a show to go to Friday night. But he was insistent that he come over. he was insistent about everything. Kissing too desperate. Mashing of mouths, yanking of head. It was like kissing a fish that kept flopping around to different sides of your face. "Am I too rough?" He asked.
"No." You just suck at this.
"I am ready to be-" don't say it, don't say it, don't say it "taken by you, Big Boy."
Sora developed a sense of dirty talk sometime after the first year or so of our on/off/on/off/off/off/on/whatever dating cycle. I think this goes back to a conversation we had where I mentioned liking when a guy was vocal in bed. But what I meant was guttural, or pleasured, not loquacious and porn talky. But Sora gets away with it because I like him & he has a sexy voice. Diego...Diego doesn't fall into either category.
It's not just the bad kissing, the bad porn talk, or the everything else. Diego proved something I suspected, but didn't know for sure. I'm not into black dudes. It's not a racist thing. I cold surely fall in love with someone black, and I can damn sure realize when someone black is hot, but I'm just not into them, precisely the same way I'm not into women. They can get me hard, they can get me interested, but they can't make me come. Diego tried and tried and tried and tried, until Byrne knocked on my door to let me know it was time to go to the show. I don't think he heard what we were doing (and if he's read this far, I'm sure he now regrets it). "What do we do?" Diego asked. "You have not--"
"We've got to go." I said. "Sorry, I didn't realize this would take so" epically "long."
"I will call you later." He, I hope, lied.
"You are such a whore. Again." Dmitri said, when I relayed the stories to him. "Who killed himself this time?"
"Ouch. No one. I mean, I'm sure someone, but nobody I know. It's just..." Oh shit.
Trey kisses sponge, Breezy woodpecker, Diego cinder block, Clem like a terrified mannequin. Diego is too needy armed, Trey too non-existent. Diego too existent. Clem not enough anything. These ass shaped men trying to fit themselves in my heart slot. And, in theory, the piece should fit. Not perfectly, or even well. But they should drop into the too big space for them, and slide around like the last pretzel in a kiddie pool sized bowl. Everything about Breezy is nearly acceptable except that he isn't Sora.
The best thing about having your perfect boyfriend commit suicide a month into your relationship is that you realize pretty quickly that there's no way you can improve upon your relationship or bring things back to the way they were. He's never going to be nearly as responsive, even if you dig him up and put a tape recorder in his chest. He's never going to kiss back, or silently judge you for your horrible necrophilia jokes. Ok, he will always silently judge you for your necrophilia jokes, because silent judgment is one of the few things corpses are good at. But, I digress.
Sora is, thank everything, in no way shape or form dead. Nor is he, nor has he ever been perfect, as my friends frequently remind me. But he kisses properly, which is sometimes enough. And we've become accustomed to our cycle of whatever it is we do or don't. And Zach was right about me. I'm just this big, furry thing that never lets go.
It's been 2:18 for over a month now. I get up at 2:18. I sleep at 2:18. Life at Zuzu's is consistently 2:18.
The last time it was 2:17 was when Renee Francois, a French student (quel suprise), moved in. Renee has the peculiar habit of launching into showtunes during the midst of conversation:
"Hey, Francois, how's the new job?"
"It's good for my brain...I could while away the hours, consulting with the flowers..."
It's cute until you're trapped in a car with him for ten minutes.
"Is he gay?" Zuzu asked me.
"Either that or he's French."
It was still 2:18 when he moved out last weekend. One of his friends, a very Elvis Costelloish nerd, came over to help him move.
"Stop oogling my tenant's friends." Zuzu said.
"I'm not oogling." I said. "I've never oogled anyone in my life. I'm ogling. Check out his ass." And for once, I wasn't calling attention to my favorite boy part because of its shape, but because of what was in the back left pocket: a red bandanna.
"What does it mean?" She asked. I made a fist with my right hand, a small hole with my left, and then punched the right hand through it. We tried not to giggle everytime Costello walked down the stairs. "It could just be something else." Zuzu said, but the next time I saw Francois walk down the stairs I noticed the red bandanna in his right pocket. I had to go out back and laugh into my fist until the look of my fist grossed me out, which caused me to laugh even harder, then I was thinking the word "harder", and I was a snort away from hiccuping.
Shortly after Francois moved out, Zuzu adopted Pup Ratzinger, an impossibly cute (not miniature, thank God) dachshund who only barks when barked at, and has a nearly insurmountable fear of stairs. For some reason he reminds me of Dmitri.
Last night, while Zuzu was training Ratzinger, Landlord, Doctor O, Straight Roommate and I went out to a French Bistro to wish bon voyage to Straight Roommate, who will soon be replaced by an Evangelical Christian. I couldn't imagine why Landlord was inviting an Evangelical to live with us until I saw a picture of our future roommate. He's a Chinese guy in his early twenties. Landlord would invite Reverend Phelps to live with us if he looked remotely Asian. "Don't prejudge him because he's Christian." Landlord said when I rolled my eyes at his the picture he's brought with him.
"It's not that." I said. "Look at the banner he's standing under: Crusade for College Christianity? Crusade? No one in their right mind would combine the word Christian and Crusade these days unless they were trying to evoke negativity or violence. Why not just call it 'Kill a Campus Muslim for Jesus'?"
We argued semantics for a few minutes until the hot, obviously straight, Asian waiter took our order. I don't like American French Food. Pate disgusts me, and if I'm paying twenty dollars for an appetizer, it better suck my cock before I eat it.
Dr. O and I split an order of escargot in garlic butter that was amazing. Then, I had some lobster bisque. For $18 I got two tiny pieces of lobster in about an ounce of bisque. Next time, I pick the restaurant.
This whole week has been a series of papercuts with elaborate bandaids. No working computer means I spend more time Chez Zuzu, overindulging on homemade food and watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force with her son, Lot. Put some ice on it. Because yet another coworker was late, and I spilled coffee on myself, I had to skip a night out with a cute non-poetry-slam bisexual and his friends. Instead, I spent hours on the phone talking with cute friends in Iceland and California. Kiss it and make it better. I still haven't made it to the post office, and I have a ton of shit to send, so I go home and eat a half dozen macaroons I bought at the French restaurant. Bathe me in Bactine. Fuck papercuts, all of my problems are two tiny pieces of lobster in an ounce of bisque. People would kill for my problems.
Except Tuesday night.
Tuesday night was a six pound order of escargot sauteed in battery acid. Tuesday night was Reverand Phelps with automatic weapons. Instead of a papercut, Tuesday night was a guillotine. For the eleventh time in one day, I'd identified someone as the cutest person in the world. I watched him watch me watch him for ten minutes before he came to the counter to order some "Mode?"
No one has called me Mode since I was a camp counselor over ten years ago. "Grant?" I can't believe I was checking out one of my former kids, why he must only be...25...ok, I can believe it. I just forget that the "kids" I counseled were only three years younger than me. The chasm between 14 and 17 seems immense, but 25 and 28? Who cares?
I walked around the counter and hugged him. An act that would shock most of my friends who seem to think I wrap myself in barbed wire to keep people from touching me. "How've you been?"
"Better." He said. "I've been much better than today. My mom's here." He waved in the general direction of the hospital. "Breast cancer."
"I'm so sorry." I said.
"Oh, it's no big deal. It's just that this is the first time I've been back to Mass since the Bernard thing."
"Bernard thing?" I asked.
He gave me the Velociraptor Look. "You don't know? Oh my God, it must have been after you left. Do you want to go out for a drink after work? I'm buying."
I don't remember the last time I said no to that question.
For the next hour, I flashed through disjointed memories about my days as a camp counselor at Camp Davis. Nothing emotional, just a series of snapshots of people I'd forgotten. Bernard. Bernard was my nemesis. When I was an eleven year old camper, Bernard was a twenty year old counselor. He taught archery. All the cool boys got special permission to spend time with Bernard at the range, while the rest of us suffered through gymnastics or horseback. I was not cool, so I hated Bernard. The first year I was a counselor, Bernard was unemployed due to his mistakenly thinking he was more valuable to the camp then he was, so I got to work on the archery range with his assistant. Sure, the cool boys spent a lot of time hanging out with me, but so did the uncoordinated girls, the boys with lisps, and even the girls who smelled like their fathers' insecurities. When Bernard returned the next year, I was banished from archery, forced to teach swimming to the kids not cool enough for bows and arrows. At after work parties, Bernard shunned me, and spread the rumor that I was a fag. I wanted to shatter his smile into arrowheads.
Oddly enough, it was Bernard who offered the peace pipe. I was dragging a cooler down to a beach with a group of Irish friends when Bernard drove by in his black Jeep and blew the horn at me. "Hey Mode, I'm having a party at my house tonight. If you and your friends want to stop by, that'd be cool. Just bring some beer."
So a sixpack of Zima and a sunburn later, my friends and I were sitting on Bernard's porch, listening to the Black Crowes and mingling with some of my other coworkers. The night was fireworks with no calendric meaning. I stumbled into the kitchen for another Zima when Bernard grabbed me by the hair and said "Take your faggy ass friends and get the fuck out of my house."
The people around us supplied the "What the fuck?" for me.
"You come into my house, trash my living room, drink my beer, and..."
"What are you talking about?" his girlfriend of the week asked. "The living room is fine, and he brought the beer, remember?"
I ran out of the house before he could respond. I stopped on the porch and looked at my friends. "We have to leave. Now."
From that day forward, we spoke in scowls and glares. Then I grew up, took a real job and forgot all about him.
"He molested us." Grant said after our third shots of tequila.
"Fuck." Was the only thing to say.
"Didn't you ever wonder why it was only the cute boys? Why he called everyone he hated 'fag'?"
I hadn't. Then again, I'd been a naive 18 year old when I'd left.
"He made me hate myself for years. Then I found out he'd started messing around with my little brother and..." He took another shot. "It had to stop."
My tongue was granite, my eyes seized.
"There were so many of us...Jared ended up in jail for some hate crime thing. Brad still won't talk about it with anyone. And Ryan ended up killing himself."
Must not break shot glass in fist. Must not shake Grant until he sucks his story out of my brain to some place safer. Must not drive back east, find whatever cell Bernard is currently occupying and rip his balls out via his ear canal.
"Fucked up, huh?"
I heard nothing else until goodbye. A brief hug.
I gave him my phone number and told him to call me if he needed to blow off steam. I've spent enough time in hospitals this past year staring at white walls to know the loneliness of fluorescent lights.
"Sure." He said. "I'll probably come down and get coffee from you tomorrow. Mom might come with me. She'd shit if she knew you were here. You were one of her favorite counselors."
"That'd be great." I said.
I didn't see either of them on Wednesday. Thursday was my day off. Yesterday I took long breaks, and spent most of my non-break time reorganizing shelves. I'm staying at Zuzu's to avoid the temptation to answer the phone at my house. When I close my eyes I see a slideshow of kids with question mark eyes and closed mouths. I wish I'd been smart enough or strong enough to help them back then. Today, I'm thankful I'm out of earshot.
While my friends were fantasizing about being astronauts, doctors, rock stars, or Teen Wolf, I was harboring dreams of my own. I wanted to be a firetruck. Not one of those ladder-climbing masochist firemen. I didn’t want to spend my time hooking up hoses to hydrants or putting on those unfashionable helmets, I wanted to be shiny red with flashing lights and blaring sirens.
When I realized that I was never going to transform, no matter how many Optimus Primes I bought, I settled on a new dream: writing my dirtiest secrets for the entertainment of a few close friends and hundreds of complete strangers. I’d like to thank LiveJournal for making that dream come true.
Apart from the occasional pulling to the side of the road, and a few high school fire drills, I haven’t had a close relationship to fire trucks in years. Police cars on the other hand were becoming routine. So were red trucks.
During a trip from Boston to Burlington with Zuzu, we got into a very minor fender bender. Even the fender escaped unscathed. In the fantasy story that the pseudo-Abe Simpson who’d crashed into us when he wasn’t paying attention told his insurance company, he was driving along minding his own business when a fleet of red trucks swerved around him causing him to crash into him. The insurance company was positively shocked to learn this wasn’t true. Apparently Not-So-Honest Abe had used The Red Truck Defense in previous accidents.
Between that story, and the deja-vu truck, I was developing quite the case of fucuvehicuphobia (fear of red trucks). So the police car at the end of the street was somewhat of a relief. Of course, being having studied myself into oblivion (stupid Anthropology!), there was also an air of foreboding. I made eye contact with the officer in the car, nodded, and walked up a road between the mall and the parking garage. Neither the truck nor the cop car followed.
“You’ve really got to relax a little.” Ryan said. “The world isn’t out to get to you.”
“Shouldn’t you be busy decomposing somewhere.” I muttered.
“That got boring real quick. Serving as your subconscious is much more fun.”
I scanned the road for signs of life. “Go away. It’s not Christmas yet, Jacob Marley.”
“And I’m not indigestion, asshole. You’re so baked you--”
I started singing U2’s “40” until I was safely at the building that passed as home for most of the year that I lived in Burlington. By then, Ryan was buried in the same portion of my brain as Ted’s talking cat.
“Hey Ads,” one of the many people who didn’t live in our house, but was nevertheless always there, said. “Want a hit?”
Hell, yes, I wanted a hit. I wanted a hit like A-Rod during his first month with the Yankees, like J*Lo’s A&R man, like a masochist in the ring with Mike Tyson, like a guy with two deucesplaying blackjack, like a hurricane on unprepared land, I wanted a hit like a paranoid kid coming home high from a party and running into a red pickup truck a cop car and the ghost of his dead boyfriend. God fucken damnit I wanted a hit.
“Do you want a hit?” Zach asked.
Wasn’t he listening to the narrative going on in my head? Yes, I wanted a fucken hit. “Uhhh. Sure.” I sat down at the dining room table, and waited for him to hand me the bubbler.
Again with the questions, what was he, Barbara fucken Walters? “Yea. There was this kind of....intense party at Ted’s...shrooms...pot...a talking cat...an action figure in a an electric chair...and then this truck was following me...and there was a cop car...but the brownies were pretty good.”
Zach was inhaling during the entire seven hours it took me to finish my soliloquy. Actually, it might have only been a second and half. I wasn’t sure whether I was talking ridiculously slow, or insanely fast. All I knew for sure was that my pupils were spinning around my eyes. I was seconds away from “TILT”.
I took another really long drag, sputtered out a “Thanks, I needed that” and retired to my room. But just like Ozzy Osbourne retiring from touring, I was up again five minutes later, taking another hit on the way to the bathroom, and then another on the way back.
I locked the door behind me (mostly to keep things like this from happening), took off my clothes and tried to find a comfortable way to sleep on my god-awful futon frame. After approximately fifteen seconds, I flung the futon on the floor, turned up the Gomez on my CD player and commenced an intense self-loveathon.
I think the reason the masturbation fest lasted so long wasn’t that the various drugs had numbed me, it was that I couldn’t decide who I was fantasizing about. I have a strict no masturbating about people I could theoretically fuck policy. That way, if I ever end up fucking said person, I won’t have ridiculously high standards. There’s little worse than spending months fantasizing about drilling a hole in the tight, toned ass of a screaming in ecstasy coworker only to discover that their nearly non-existent ass can’t even muster a proper moan when you insert your thermometer of love in their rectum. The prospect of another four years of Bush? Worse. The fact that they green lighted a spin-off of Friends? Worse. Mushroom clouds over North Korea? Worse. That’s about it, though.
I flipped through the appropriate celebrities of the moment, then the most attractive of the guys I’d fucked during whore month, then the most attractive guys I wished I’d fucked during high school and college, I had just about settled on Saint when “What about me?” Ryan asked.
“I’m not even” And he wasn’t. I went back through my catalog, and settled on Victor. I don’t mean I settled for Victor like I’ll settle for macaroni and cheese when I’m all out of steak, I mean I settled for Victor like Puritans settled on the North American continent. Actually, there was nothing Puritanical about the way I was settling on Victor, but I was using him as refuge from the tyranny of the First Church of Ryan.
When I woke up, it was either still dark outside or dark again. I checked the answering machine for messages. Took a hit of the bubbler while I listened to my roommate’s psycho bitchgirlfriend’s thirty-seven messages asking him where he was. Then I called Ted and made plans to hang out downtown so I wouldn’t spend any more time in the house getting high and/or jerking off. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things.
I was on my way out the door when Zach, James, and an assortment of people I’d never met before in my life bounded in through the back door, prattling on about an upcoming Ween show. :...and if I go as a geisha girl, they’re bound to remember me. Oh hey, Adam, heard you had a little run in on The Loop last night.”
“Huh?” I was new to this whole drug thing. I’d smoked a little pot here and there in Cranberry Lake, but I’d never been up on the lingo. “The loop?”
I can only fit 10 1/2 inches in my mouth when I've taken my socks off first. I have no idea how much I can take in the ass because no one has made an attempt to kick it since I was in junior high. While I think Aaron would be entitled to pull my foot out of my mouth and insert it up my own ass, I believe he has made other plans for that particular orifice.
"We should maybe continue this conversation at your house, with alcohol."
"Yes," I say, "lots and lots of alcohol." I'm not sure if there is an actual volume of alcohol that can be drunk to erase away the memory of gender identity confusion. But if there is such an amount, tonight I shall drink it.
Aaron rides my ass all the way home. I have a feeling he may continue to ride my ass once we get there.
"Nice place." He says when we've put the last shower-capped pan of fudge on my kitchen counter. "Beer in the fridge?"
"Where? All I see is hard lemonade, cider, and Zima. Are you sure you're not a girl?"
"There's Guinness in there somewhere. Let me see if I can find it for you." I reach in and start moving around the various togo boxes and Cherry Coke cans that have filled the lower two shelves. "Ah, there we are, one" penis presses firmly against my ass. "Hello."
"Just wanted you to be sure that it was there."
Apart from Randy, no one has ever been remotely as forward as Aaron is being. I am equal parts turned on and horrified.
He reaches over me toward one of the widget cans on the top shelf. "You, uh don't want one of those, let me get you a bottle."
"I prefer the cans, if you don't mind."
"No. They've been in their since R...they've been in there for a long time. The bottles are fresh."
He backs away from me. "Ok."
A Guiness for him, a Pumpkinhead Ale for me, and we are good to go. I go into the living room and sit in one of the cranberry wingback chairs that my mother left in the condo when she moved out. I am not terribly surprised when, instead of sitting on the couch, or the other chair, Aaron straddleds my lap. "Comfy?" He asks. I am decidedly not, but it is the type of uncomfortablity that I am growing accustomed to.
"So how many years have you been working at the faire now?"
"And all this time you thought I was a woman?"
Truth be told, I hadn't thought of Aaron at all until he approached me about working for us. I had taken the blank slate approach to working at the renaissance faire. I stayed in my little booth and did not very exciting fudge centered things, while the faire moved flamboyantly around me. In three years I hadn't learned the name of a single person who didn't work in my booth. "Well, to be fair, until last night, I'd only seen you from a distance."
"So you weren't interested in me at all? You were too busy drooling over Ben and CSB, I guess."
"Ben drools enough on his own, he doesn't need me helping him, and CSB is straight. I didn't notice you because I'm incredibly" He kisses me. Like a girl. His face is soft, like he just came from swimming in an ocean of aloe and vera.
"You're a pretty good kisser for a first timer."
"Have you kissed a guy before?" His gaydar may be finely tuned, but his whoredar is apparently on the fritz.
"One or two" hundred.
"Anyone else from the faire?"
"No. Are there a lot of gay guys working there?"
"Most are trendy-bi at least."
"Like who?" I asked.
"Both nut boys, one of the mud men, the village drunk, three of the wax workers, three of the fudge men, one blacksmith, the jeweler, two of the leather & chain mail salesmen, the entire staff of the costume booth, and the red knight. The court jester, one of the guys at the fried dough booth, the other mud man, and about half a dozen of the actors are straight up gay."
"Jesus, is there any guy there that you haven't fucked?" I ask incredulously. Whether I am incredulous at the volume of people he had slept with, the shittiness of my gaydar, or the hypocrisy of me being shocked by someone's whoring, I'll let you decide.
He shakes his head and laughs at me. "I didn't fuck all of them, I just know they're gay or bisexual. I've only slept with" he began counting on his fingers, "most of them."
"Wait a second. You said three of the fudge men."
"I know CSB shows up on gaydar, but I'm reasonably certain he's not even really bi. You haven't..."
"Well," he says, "I think he's at least bi, but I was talking about Brent."
"Yea," he says, "we work together at the hardware store during the off-season. Everyone there calls him Juice."
"Because when he gets drunk, he takes guys home and asks them if they'll juice themselves on him. You know, come."
"Thanks, I got it." And I want to give it back. Brent is fairly cute when he isn't speaking or otherwise making a fool of himself, but I do not want to think of him spread eagled on a floor somewhere asking people to jerk off on him.
"I take it you don't want to invite him over for a threesome. It's just as well. I'd rather have you all to myself."
Every hack psychologist and creative writing teacher will tell you that writing is therapeutic. I feel it’s my job as an author to tell you they’re full of shit. Reliving Ryan’s death has never brought me an ounce of peace. I feel like I’m Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. Only instead of aiming to seduce Andie MacDowell, I’m trying to kill Ryan in such a way that no one will know who he is. As his lover, his confidant, and his killer, it’s my duty to keep his secret.
So why am I telling it here? There’s no moral here, no healing, no zen realization about life’s suffering or love. I can’t offer any reason why I happened to Ryan or vice-versa. I offer it only as what it is, near truth. Which is all I have left.
Maybe I’m in the minority (and I don’t just mean because of the gay thing), but I don’t find rape confessions to be a big turn on. Sex was no longer on my mind, in fact it wasn’t even in the same zip code as my mind, as I held Ryan sobbing in my arms. “I’m so sorry. I know this isn’t” sob “what you planned on tonight.”
I kissed the top of his head. “Don’t worry about it.”
I fell asleep sitting against the couch with Ryan in my lap. When I woke up it was light out. Ryan was still asleep. I wiggled out from beneath him, and put a pillow under his head. I went upstairs to shower my drunk off. It was my day off, but I had to go to work, pick up my check, cash it, and frivolously spend it on CDs. I’d get some writing done until Ryan woke up, then either fix us breakfast, or head out to a diner.
By the time I was done with my shower, Ryan was up. “Hey.”
I flashed him my ridiculous looking smile. “Morning.”
“Thanks for the pillow.”
“No problem. It’s probably not as comfortable as my inner-thigh, but it’s the best I could come up with on short notice.”
He grinned back. I’m a sucker for goofy smiles.
“I should probably head home and get ready for work.”
“Want some breakfast first? I asked.
“Nah. Never touch the stuff. Are you working tonight?”
“Nope. You’re working with Karen.”
“Mind if I stop by later? No drinking this time.”
“Sure. Give me a call when you’re on your way.”
He did his best to dewrinkle his shirt and headed to the door. Then stopped, walked back toward me and kissed me. I’m also a sucker for good kissers.
I spent the day in a daze of good music and happy thoughts. I went swimming, fired up the grill and made some chicken. I was adding my homemade teriyaki glaze when the phone rang.
“Hey Safe, it’s Ryan. I’m on my way.”
His arrival was perfectly timed with my completion of dinner, which was delicious. I felt incredibly domestic.
As Ryan and I put the dishes in the sink he threw his arms around me and kissed me on the cheek. I giggled. This was the gayest I’d ever been without having my dick in someone’s ass.
“Do you want go upstairs?” he asked. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to waste any energy walking all the way to the other side of the condo and up the stairs, but I said yes.
If I were to go on pure lust factor, perhaps the sex would have been mundane, very vanilla. But this wasn’t about sex. This was someone I’d been subconsciously in love with for years. Someone who, if he didn’t love me back, at least wanted to take a chance on me.
I fell asleep with his arms wrapped around me. His personal faith in humanity flotation device. I could save him.
I woke up the next day and he was gone. My panic attack lasted just long enough for me to notice the note on my computer desk.
He loved me. I did the happy underwear dance around the room. Looked longingly at the phone. I wanted to call everyone I knew and tell them the news, but, of course, I couldn’t. I wasn’t going to be the one to push Ryan out of the closet. Not yet, anyway.
I went through the motions of my day, as though I was on ecstasy, which, in a sense, I was. I got home a little late, made myself some mac and cheese, and sat down to write. I don’t know when I fell asleep, I only know that I woke up next to a blank piece of paper and half a bowl of cold macaroni and cheese. I looked at my answering machine. No messages. I was okay with that. After only two days of knowing Ryan was gay and interested, I wasn’t going to turn into that obnoxious “Why didn’t you call me?” obsessive lover.
The next day, I got up early, headed out to work, and started doing some of the miscellaneous jobs that should have been Ryan’s. I was organizing cases of wine by brand when the phone rang.
“Thank you for calling Cranberry Liquors, this is Zachary, how may I help you?”
“Safey, it’s Karen. Is Ryan there?”
“Not yet. I was about to give him a call. I got so busy organizing the wines that I didn’t realize he was late. Want me to give him a message.”
“No. He didn’t come in yesterday.”
My Adam’s apple falls into my stomach. “What?”
“I would have called you, but it was so dead yesterday that he sort of did us a favor.”
“Ok. Well, thanks Karen. I’ll call him and see what’s going on.”
I call his cell phone, and am not terribly surprised to get no answer. I am wearing my best pessimism. He freaked out about us and moved to Tibet. His mother had another heart attack, and he’s at the hospital again, and was too overwhelmed to remember to call out for work. But Ryan isn’t the sort of employee to even call in sick, nevermind do a no-call no-show. And if there was some sort of emergency he would have called me. I’m his boyfriend. Sort of. I must have come on too strong, and now he can’t even stand to look at me.
I am just reaching the meat of my pity-me sandwich when I see him walking toward the door. I crack my knuckles, breathe deep, and say, “You’re late.”
“It’s eleven o’clock in the morning. If anything, it’s a little early to be buying a case of beer.”
“Sorry,” I say to the person who isn’t Ryan. “I thought you were someone else.”
“No problem.” As he walks over to the beer cooler, I dial Ryan’s home number.
“Ms. Evans? Is Ryan there?”
“Who is this?” He is screening his calls. Or she is. She sounds like she’s holding back tears. Did he tell her?
“Safey Mode. I work with him at Cranberry Li―”
“Oh, Safe. I’m sorry. I should have had someone call yesterday. I’ve just been so―”
I remember seeing Michael Hutchence’s father, Kelland, interviewed on VH1. He was telling the story about how, on the day his son’s body was found, the first phone call he received was from a reporter asking if he had a comment for the papers. “You mean about the new album?” Kelland asked. The nervous reporter muttered only “Oh God.” and hung up.
“He died yesterday.” The beer cooler slams shut. I sit down. Ms. Evans and the man with the case of Michelob Light are talking to me at the same time. So sorry. How much? Visions of his car wrapped around a tree. Lovely day for the beach. Drunk driving. Incorrect change. Cryptic suicide note. So sorry. Dead. Have a nice day. Dead.
I hang up the phone, walk over to the door, and lock it. I pull the chain on the open sign, and walk into the beer cooler to scream.
My mother used to call the Catholics vampires because were so fixated on drinking the blood of Christ. "The only reason they chose wine to represent His blood was to give them an excuse to be alcoholics."
The first time I went to Catholic mass, I was nine and spending a school vacation at a friend's cabin in Remote Resort Town. I was so fascinated with the rituals that I followed my friend up to the altar and heard the priest say "This is the body of Christ. It was broken for you. This is the blood of Christ. It was shed for you." Shed not spilled but shed. Something done with Purpose, something even more powerful than Reason. As an adult, I recognize the power of His blood being shed instead of spilled. As a child, I envisioned snakes.
Despite my family's somewhat negative view of Catholicism (my parents were both raised Catholic, and were practicing adults until the Catholic Adoption service deemed them unfit to adopt...and for the record, as the child they did end up adopting and raising, they're saints compared to an overwhelming majority of Catholic parents I know), I've never been one to generalize about people. If I'm going to dislike someone, it's going to be for their specific attitudes and actions or their vocation.
I refuse to generalize about Catholics, but I will say that in my experience, catholic priests are snakes. I remember hearing about priest abuse back when I was a pre-teen in Cranberry Lake. My neighbor across the street was raped by a priest in the seventies. She was raising her children Congregationalist. By the time we moved from Cranberry Lake to Nowheresville, she had converted my mother. While I've never had strong opinions on the religion front, it was nice to see my mother find something she believed in.
I found my faith in the body of man. I've never felt the need to kneel for any man, but I've prayed to eyes, and made sacrifice for holy voices that offer me love or forgiveness.
Ryan's eyes were salvation. That first night, when the awkward drunken conversation had been pissed out of us in the river of Guinness and Cider Jack, our conversation got exceptionally sober.
"When did you realize you were gay?" he asked me. I told him a condensed version of the truth.
I suppose this was my moment to ask him when he realized. I didn't.
The subject shimmied into something abstract and unimportant like what we looked for in guys, when I noticed that Ryan had fallen asleep. On my floor, like a teenage girl at a slumber party.
There is something perfect about the physical appearance of a sleeping man. Still, all I wanted to do was interrupt his sleep. A kiss on the cheek, pulling him up by the arm and leading him up to my bed. I wasn't thinking of fucking. I wanted to rest my head on his stomach and listen to the tide of his breath.
"Ryan." I whispered as I brushed his hair back. "Ryan."
"It's me, Insafemode."
"Oh. Safey. Is it time to go to wor--" comprehension pried his eyelids apart. "What?"
"I thought you might want to go upstairs and sleep in a bed."
"I was hoping." His eyes swiveled away from mine. "But there's the spare bedroom if you'd prefer."
"I'm sorry. It's--" his eyes came back, as if on a pendulum. He leaned in to kiss me. His tongue tasted like barley. His 3 AM stubble scratched my own. I bent toward him for another kiss when he shot up and into the bathroom. Another sacrifice to the porcelain oh god of hangovers.
"Are you ok?" I asked when he came back out. "I know I'm not the world's best kisser, but--"
"No, it's not that, it's--"
"I know. I was kidding. We both drank quite a bit tonight."
"It's not that either. The last time I kissed a guy--" I knew this was a pause I shouldn't fill. "I was raped. My--" He turned and spoke to the TV, as though it were displaying the real truth behind human emotion, rather than reflecting the streetlight as filtered through venetian blinds. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Now I can't-- can't kiss a guy, can't even pass a fucken church without shaking." "Fuck. Fuck him."
I was nine years old and standing behind Patrick, waiting to take communion for a religion I knew nothing about. Everyone else in the church was standing up and walking toward the altar. I heard the priest say "This is the body of Christ. It was broken for you. This is the blood of Christ. It was shed for you."
Ryan was shaking in my arms. Baptizing me with his tears. His tears shed for his lost faith. It occurred to me, shed is more than a verb meaning to pour forth. It's also a noun. A place to store things when you don't need them, but know that someday soon you will: a rake, a bicycle, a secret, your religion.
Ryan and I had known each other since he was thirteen and I was sixteen. The fact that we never had an inclination about each other is further proof that something in Cranberry Lake air jams the fuck out of gaydar.
We'd met at a summer camp, and as is common in Cranberry Lake and the rest of The Peninsula, we'd seen a hell of a lot of each other since: various parties, at the beach, at random mutual friends' houses.
I was managing a liquor store and waiting tables when he showed up at the restaurant looking for a job. He was less than qualified, and therefore, not hired. So I hired him at the liquor store, allowing me to take more time off to wait tables and fuck strangers that I'd met over The Internet. His working at the store affected my porn time, not a bit.
So when he showed up at my front door, I said "Ryan." I was thinking FUCK.
"I wasn't expecting ---" someone who I've hired twice to work with me to show up on my doorstep wanting me to fuck them up the ass. I wasn't disappointed, mind you. Ryan was fun to be around, and easy on the eyes.
"This is very ---"fucking awkward.
"Awkward. Yea." But I was willing to make the most of it. Even if we weren't going to get our fuck on, our IM conversation had hinted that he really needed someone gay to hear his shit. I was gay. I was his friend. I was more than willing to hear him out, and offer whatever advice I could.
"Yea." Was he going to come in or was he going to run screaming back into his car and drive off into the night. And if he did, was I going to half to hire a replacement at the liquor store?
"Well ---" I did my best frog bow a la Lewis Carroll. "C'mon in."
Ryan did the hawk circle around the den, picking up and then replacing the seashell ashtray, and the Tom Robbins book. "So. This is Chez Insafemode."
"You've been here before." "Haven't you?"
"Not since you got back from college, no." I watched a single drop of sweat make its way down Ryan's forehead and down the bridge of his nose. I could barely restrain myself from walking over to the couch and licking it off.
I had never realized how beautiful his face was. Well." Maybe I had. Maybe that's why I kept hiring him. Maybe my gaydar wasn't as fucked as I thought. Maybe I'd just buried it into my subconscious. How had I not realized how badly I wanted him. "Hard” yes I was “Lemonade?"
"I should probably be going." Over my dead fucken body.
"No. Please. Make yourself at home.” Move in “I know this isn't what" I tapped on a few of the piano keys. "either of us expected but" damn it, it's what I've wanted for years, whether I was aware of it or not. I flipped the cover over the keys. "you said you needed someone to talk to."
"Yea. But the idea was that it wasn't someone I knew. And that we would" he picked up the ashtray again I'd never seen him nervous before. He was so cute when he didn't know what to do with himself. "but I mean" he put it back down "that would be weird now" So the fuck what? he examined it as if it contained the most important element of his DNA "Right?" Wrong. It made perfect since. Our lives had been intertwined for six years. There was no logical reason for it. Small towns be damned. We were meant to be together forever and ever and -- I must have been fucken tanked.
"Are you sure you don't want something to drink?" I didn't want to be the only one trashed out of my fucken gourd.
"Jesus. I could really use something to drink, but if I have to drive home later."
"No. Don't worry. You can sleep in” my bed “the spare" I remembered the piles of dirty laundry and other assorted crap I'd thrown in the spare bedroom. "Couch. The spare couch." My bed.
"Okay." He sat on the couch. "Do you have any Guinness?"
I did. Back when I juggled restaurant work and managing a liquor store, my house was filled with every conceivable beer and hard liquor known to Cranberry Lake Liquors. I wasn't too much of a lush but company was forever dropping by, and whether it was a friend from work or someone who stopped over for some cock, they always wanted something to drink. I wondered if he knew that I'd been a little liberal with my employee discount. Would he care? Had he been liberal with his discount? Dear Lord, what if we started fucking on a regular basis and I ended up having to fire him for stealing or --- Yea, I was drunk.
"So." Ryan picked up the ashtray again. "You're gay."
"Yea." I went into the kitchen and pulled out a Guinness and a Hard Cider (much better than Hard Lemonade).
"I had no idea."
"Well. When I'm not in love or balls deep in a guy's ass, it's not an important part of my life."
"Fuck." I handed him the Guinness and a gigantic mug I'd picked up when I worked at a Renaissance Faire. "Have you ever fooled around with anyone I know before?"
"That's classified." I hadn't. Yet. "Would you want me telling the next guy about you."
He chugged the Guinness like it was a Coor's Lite. "Well. We're not going to." We were going to I could see it in his eyes. And in the bulge in his khakis. "I mean, we can talk and everything" more chugging "but you probably don't want to" "that would be too" perfect?
I went into the kitchen again. I brought the whole four pack out. It wasn't too far a walk from the den to the kitchen but I had a feeling I wouldn't want to leave the room again. It also didn't take much of a psychic to realize that he was going to drink through his fair share of widget cans.
He took the second can, popped the top and poured it into the mug. "You're not just trying to get me drunk to take advantage of me, are you?"
"Would you like me to seduce you?" "Is that what you're trying to tell me?" I couldn't tell whether he was getting the movie reference, or if he thought I was just quoting a George Michael song.
"Ha." He took another pull. "Man." "I don't know if I'm up for this." Again, I refer you to the bulging khakis. He was up for it.
"No worries." I sat down in one of the chairs facing the couch. "You said you wanted to talk about things first anyway."
He picked up the ashtray again.
It wasn't that I was ugly, it was just that when I first started whoring over AOL, I didn't have any pictures of myself on my computer. I knew what I looked like. Most people on AOL just assumed that if you didn't have a picture on your computer then you were some hideously deformed freak with a tuna casserole where your face should be. After a week of being mostly rejected due to my non-pic having status, I broke down and got some pictures scanned.
Sure, some of the people who rejected me because I didn't have a pic went on to reject me again, but more than a few became Insafemode Entries.
Not being too much of a hypocrite, I often agreed to meet people without pictures. Most of the guys were average to good looking. Granted, I have fairly low standards. The way I figured it, it was just as easy to lie about what you looked like by sending a fake pic as it was to just not send a pic.
Ryan was a twenty year old closet case who didn't want his picture sent out, but he seemed sweet and funny so I decided to take a chance. I attended to the usual: toss all of the dirty laundry into the spare bedroom, change the sheets, make sure the condom drawer was filled, and make sure I'd taken proper advantage of my employee discount at the liquor store.
The doorbell rang at almost exactly midnight, thirty seconds before Cinderella's coach turned back into a pumpkin, and a minute before Peter Peter came to eat it.
When you've agreed to meet someone for sex, someone you haven't seen before, you mentally come up with a variety of possible appearances for them. Ryan said he was 5'9", brown almost black hair, swimmer's build. With a description like that he could look like anyone. Well, anyone 5'9" with almost black hair.
I tried to picture how he carried himself. Perfect posture? Mild slouch? Hunchback? What did his ass look like? I hadn't yet met Elvis, so I didn't realize that it was possible to have a concave ass.
When the doorbell rang I imagined his wide nose, piercing green eyes, and big pouty lips. I was in no way prepared for who would be waiting on the other side.