Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
After meeting with #6, about a series of shorts based on retail horror stories, we were waiting for the 66 bus when a guy walked out of Charlie's, crossed the street and asked me "Do you know Matt Waxman?"
"Nope." I said. Because I don't.
"Well, he's a fat fucken nobody." The guy said. "He goes to Harvard. Everybody else who goes to Harvard is a somebody. And most of them are attractive but Matt Waxman is a fat fucken nobody." And he walked away.
#6 turned to me and asked "Why do these things constantly happen to you?"
I don't know.
"Actually, I might have met someone."
There was a pause.
I earned this pause.
Three years of unrequited I love yous built up to this pause.
"What's he like?" Sora asked.
Who should I tell him about? The sweet, gorgeously nerdy drag queen? The stripper with the heart of platinum? The dancing actor with the scathing sense of humor and perpetual smile? Or #4, who had also just gotten out of a three year relationship, and who I was supposed to be meeting for lunch in a couple of hours.
"He's a dancer." I said.
"How old is he?"
Sora was, by far, the youngest person I'd ever dated. Eleven years younger. And our relationship made me pledge that I'd never date anyone with that much of an age discrepancy again. I was 32. #1 was 26. #2 was 24. #4 was 27. But #3, the dancer was "A month younger than you."
"What about you?" I asked. I was okay with answering questions about #3, but I really didn't want to get stuck on how old he was. He was only a month younger, calendar-wise. Maturity-wise, he was at least a decade older than Sora. Perhaps a couple of years older than me.
"Well, there's this guy online. He's 27, runs a motel in the suburbs, and thinks I'm an amazing artist."
"You are." He was.
"Speaking of...." Pause.
"Yea?" I asked.
"I finally got into MassART."
"Wow!" I said. "Congratulations!"
"There's just one problem." Sora said. And I could smell the bullshit churning in his brain. "I need to get married."
What now? "What now?"
"Well, you know that minority scholarship they offered me a couple of years ago?"
To be truthful, I probably wouldn't have remembered anything about the scholarship if it weren't for a night I spent in the kitchen with Ben and Celeste:
"It's bullshit!" Ben had screamed. "Why does he deserve a scholarship more than me? I'm much smarter than he is."
"Dude." Celeste said. "It's a minority scholarship. You know, to encourage diversity."
"So why does he get it? He lives in suburban Rhode Island.Scholarships are for kids from the ghet-toe."
I shot him The Velociraptor Look. "He's a gay Puerto Rican. As in born in Puerto Rico Puerto Rican. He's a double minority threat. Republicans hate him twice as much as they hate you."
"But that's only because they don't know you well enough." said my other roommate, Sir Trick. He was still pissed that Ben had once borrowed his Michel Gondry DVD without permission.
"Well." Sora said. "I got it for this year. But in order to get the scholarship for next year, I have to marry a Massachusetts resident."
I laughed. "No. Sora. All you have to is establish residency. We talked about this when we lived on Mission Hill. All you need to do is pay a bill in Massachusetts in your name. Like, an electric bill or rent or something,."
"No." He said. "For this scholarship, I need to be married to a Massachusetts resident."
"Is it a green card scholarship?" I asked.
"Sora, I'm not marrying you."
He sighed loudly. "I wasn't asking you."
"I..." Pause. "Some day. Maybe."
I no longer believed in our potential Some Day. I shouldn't even have been talking to him.
"Seriously!" #3 said, when I called him to schedule a make up date for our previous lack of encounter. "You need to change your address and phone number, and block him on Facebook."
"Yea, yea, yea. Look, I'm going out to lunch with #4 today. Do you want to go out for drinks after?"
"Seriously?" He asked. "Two dates in one day? And I'm the second one?"
"You're the headliner." I said. Which really was how I was considering it. #4 seemed cutely nerdy, but I was already pretty certain that #3 was The Keeper.
"Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine." He said. "Where should we meet?"
My initial suggestion was "Tuatara's." The bar I took most of my first dates to ever since the night I introduced Ben, Celeste, and Sir Trick, several years previously. But #3 had other ideas, and we spent forty-five minutes debating a hundred possibilities before he said "Let's go to Tuatara's."
First, though, was lunch with #4.
"My life is so weird right now!" He said.
"How so?" I asked.
"Well, ok! You know how I told you about my breakup last week, right?" I did. "Well, like, ok, yesterday, I got this awesome promotion at work. Which means I'm practically running the hotel now. And we have this regular customer who's just a huge pain in the ass, he comes every month for one weekend to visit his kid or something, and he's just this, like, total dillweed, and anyway, yesterday he he shows up with his kid, right? and he"
I so did not care about anything he, like, had to say.
"right in the pool?"
"Isn't that hilarious?"
"Yea. Wow." Two hours before I was supposed to meet #3 at Tuatara's.
"and he was all like aren't you going to get off the phone, and I was like but this is an important call, and he's standing there and his suit is positively dripping, and he's like what is more important than your customers and I was like"
He was, like, wicked fucken annoying. I pitied anyone who had to spend more than, like, an hour, like, listening to this guy and his dull dull stories. He was nice enough, but
"and then he asked me to marry him, and I was like what?"
"The customer asked you to marry him?" I asked.
"Not the customer, silly. Are you listening to me? The guy. The art student. We went on, like, two dates, and he actually, like, proposed to me. I mean, he says it's for this weird art school scholarship thing, but I think it's--"
Are you fucken kidding me? "Sora?"
"Yea." He said. "How do you know his name?"
"Oh. My. God." said #3. I was explaining to him why I needed to drink more than should be humanly possible that night. "So your date was proposed to by your ex? Your The Ex?"
"Yea." I said, taking a sip of Tuatara Tea (which was all alcohol, no tea). "Hey, do you want to try this beer punch?"
"What is it?"
"I don't know." I said. "But it comes in a pitcher."
"Bring it, bitch!"
We were about halfway through the pitcher when #1 texted me, asking if I wanted to come over.
"You should go!" #3 said.
"Fuck, no." I said. "I'm having a good time with you."
"Ok." And for the first time, his smile wrinkled into a half frown. "Here's the thing. I like you, but we're friends."
"Yea, I don't knoooooooow. I just think we're friends."
I chugged another glass worth of beer punch, and filled it back up. "Friends." It didn't sound as firm when I said it.
"You can still check out my ass, if you want." He said. "You just can't touch it."
We only made it through 3/4s of the pitcher before we had to call it quits. I wasn't going to end my eleven year not puking streak just because I'd had my heart walloped twice in one day.
"Awww, poor baby." said #1 when I took the T to his house. "Come to bed, daddy will make it all better."
"Really?" I shot him The Spock Eye. "Daddy?"
He kissed me. "Would you rather be Daddy tonight?"
"I would rather we not be related."
"Kinky." He said.
When we were done being positively no relation to each other, he looked at me. "I'm not the one, am I?"
"Don't be silly." I said "You're #1. That's as one as it gets."
He smiled, and pulled my arms around him. "You're sweet." He said. "But you're a terrible liar."
When the Chinese restaurant under Asterisk's apartment started letting their trash pile up onto his fire escape, and blasted Chinese pop after they closed at 2 AM, Asterisk decided it was time for war. He made an offhanded joke to Ben that he was going to start posting missing cat posters throughout the neighborhood, forgetting that Ben had both copious free time, and access to an industrial printer. The next day, every lamp post, telephone pole, and wall of an abandoned building was littered with flyers for Snuffy, Shadow, Anabelle, Mr. Whiskers, Grape, Francis, Hamlin, and dozens of other fictionally missing felines. All with some variation of "last seen in the vicinity of Jade Panda" , many rife with misspellings, backwards lettered children's scrawl, and wet with fake tears. It was truly a work of genius. Wait. No. It was truly a work of racist. A genius plan would have actually solved the problems of the lingering trash and loud crimes against music. The posters didn't help with either of those things.When I use ironic racism, I try to stay far away from actual racist stereotypes. I may lament how those fucken Hawaiians drive me insane with all their fucken bowling tournaments, or how I'm tired of the waking up on Tuesday mornings to find a Navajo on my front porch trying to convert me to Shamanism.
So it is with great shame that I must include the elements of cats and Asians in yet another story, but the two things just seem to keep showing up to the same parties in my life, doing little dances, and then wandering off alone.
#3 exuded theater major in most of the common ways: flair for the dramatic, intense eyes, and the creepy smiling as a defense mechanism that so many actors seem to adopt. He was, however, missing one of the most crucial properties of a theater major: he seemed employable.
Months later I discovered that, while at no time was #3 not in a play, he was also, at no time, a theater major. "Bitch, please. Do I look like a theater major?" Again, yes, he did. "I am a psych major."
"Pfffffffft." I replied. "Theater majors at least have a little bit of fun getting their useless degrees. Psych majors all end up bitter Starbuck's baristas wishing they'd majored in something more useful like theater or competitive Bocce Ball."
He shot me a Theater Major look.
Our first date was on my birthday. Which happened to also be my anniversary with Sora. Which, on the list of my great ideas, was probably not in the top ten.
After a delicious meal of Vegan Chinese food, we walked back to my house, and each had a piece of my birthday cake that my roommate, Koko, had made for me.
"What do you think?" She asked.
"Wellllllllllll, it's ok, but I'm more of a Red Velvet guy." Pause. "I'm joking. It's delicious."
All three of the people I had started dating so far were way gayer than I'd imagined. In fact, after our successfully chaste first date, I called #3 to schedule a second date. "Helllllloooooo?"
"Hey #3." I had been very up front with the numbers that they were, in fact, being labeled as numbers. "What are you up to?"
"Ohhhhhhhhhh, you know, I" and then there was commotion.
"Yo, Stone." said an unfortunately familiar voice. Goldschlager.
Goldschlager was a poet I knew from The Cantab. He had a long, hyphenated name, but had earned the nickname Goldschlager when he'd showed up at my house with a bottle of that glittery monstrosity that calls itself alcohol, as well as a date. He had brought a date to the writers' group I held at my house, and then had the nerve to be surprised when she broke up with him.
"I knew it!" He said.
"I knew you were dating Dallas. He said he went out for Chinese food with a poet, and I knew it was either you or Ben. I also know you have a thing for tiny Asians."
I dredged my brain for the logic in that statement. While I had certainly dated Bacchus since I'd met Goldschlager, I was pretty certain the two had never met. "What are you talking about, Schlag?"
"Ummmmmm." Not many people can make the letter m sound as nasally as Schlag could. It was a gift. One he should probably return to whoever gave it to him. "Well. Sora."
My brain exploded. "Sora is Puerto Rican, not Asian. He's also 5'8"."
"Right. Puerto Rican is a type of Asian."
The fuck? "No, asshole, Puerto Rico is in the opposite hemisphere from Asia, across both axes."
And in the background I heard #3 say "Sorry, Adam." It was very melodic.
Once Schlag gave #3 his phone back, he invited me to Guerrilla Queer Bar, a weekly event where a bunch of gays crashed an unsuspecting bar and turned it into their night.
Neither #3 nor I were especially amped about being completely surrounded by other gay and bi people, but we both agreed we needed more gay friends who weren't people we'd had awkward sex with, so we made it a date. 8:00 on a Friday night.
I got home from work at 6:30, took a quick shower, and headed into my room. Once dressed, I filled the cat bowl, and tapped it with my finger. Motherfucker came running to the bowl. Selina did not. I clucked my tongue in the universal Come Here Cat manner, which always caused her to either run to me or from me. Neither thing happened.
"Selina?" I called.
"Where the fuck is Sel---" the top half of my bedroom window was open. God DAMN it.
I called #3. "Hi. I might be a little late. My cat has gone AWOL."
"Reeeeeeally?" He sighed. "That's ok. I have a couple of friends who are going. We'll just....entertain each other until you find your cat."
I spent the next hour walking up and down my street calling Selina's name. I was relieved that, at least, it was her that ran away, and not Motherfucker.
At 8:30 my phone rang. It was #2. "Hi!" he said. "What are you up to tonight?"
"My cat ran away." I said. "And I can't find her anywhere. I keep calling her name, and thinking I see her, but it's always some stray cat taunting me. And there's all this caterwauling, and I had Selina fixed, but she's so slutty, and so cattractive that I know the longer she's out here, the more pregnant she's going to get."
"Oh, God!" He said. "I'm coming over right now!"
So, while #3 sat in a bar with a bunch of sparkly shirted flirters, #2 and I walked up and down my neighborhood, through people's back yards, searching for my slutty, lost cat. God DAMN it.
At 9:15, I called #3 and told him there was no way I was going to make it.
"You look really stressed!" #2 said. "It's cute how attached you are to your cat!"
The truth of the matter was, I was mostly stressed because I was missing my date with #3. I liked #2, he was cute, eccentrically fun, but there was no long term potential there. Apart from the sex, the only thing we had in common was that we both enjoyed reading and writing poetry. Sadly, there were centuries between the poetry we wrote and enjoyed. #3 was more than just a cute guy I wanted to fuck. He had...something. That stupid intangible something.
Maybe it was just that he was the first guy I'd gone on a date with in three years that I hadn't put my penis in the first night we'd met. Maybe it was his smile. Maybe it was the melodic sound of his voice.
"You owe me big time." He said, during the 9:15 phone call. "I am. Not pleased."
I sighed as I hung up the phone. Across the street, #2 was shining a flashlight in the neighbor's hedges, softly calling Selina's name.
An hour later, we were in The Slut Across The Street's back yard when he #2 said "Oh my god! Oh my GOD!"
"You found her?" I asked. I wasn't hopeful, we'd had a series of false alarms. There appeared to be more stray cats in my neighborhood then there were houses.
"No!" He said. "But I just realized this is your fortune!"
"The cat in a broken airplane! Your terrible journey! It even involves a cat!"
It was too dark for him to notice that I was rolling my eyes. "Right. Look, I'm kind of tired, and thinking of just putting some food out on the porch, and sleeping. That way I can get up early, and look for her when it's light out."
"Oh! That's a good idea! Want me to stay over, so I can help you look tomorrow?"
And he looked at me with the most hopeful eyes. Nothing sexual, an honest I Want To Help You More stare.
"That'd be great." I said.
I made him some tea, and poured myself a Cherry Coke. In my room, we talked about his insane roommate.
"Yesterday, after you left, he started shouting at me because you stayed over!"
"I'm sorry." I said. "I didn't mean to cause drama.
"It's not you!" He said. "I pay rent, I can bring over whoever I want to! But last night, he decided he loves me!"
"I know! I locked myself in the bathroom when I got tired of talking to him, and he knocked the door down!"
I put my arms around him. "Jesus."
"I know he doesn't actually love me! He's totally in love with this other guy! When he came home last night, he had just finished getting fucked by the other guy! He is SO fucked up!"
"You need to get out of that apartment."
"I know! I know! There's this guy in Philadelphia who thinks he's totally in love with me! He bought me a violin last week! He's creepily possessive, though! But sweet! I think, if things don't get better by the end of the summer, I'm going to move down with him!"
"But," I asked, "do you really want to move down to a city you've never been to in order to spend time with some creepily possessive guy you don't even know? One who thinks he can buy you with gifts?"
"Oh! I think it's a terrible idea! But I cut up an apple last night, and it revealed that I would soon be taking my own journey! That it would be hard, and filled with awfulness!"
"Yikes." I said. "So, I'm going to throw it out there that you probably shouldn't go."
"But I have to!" He replied. "The apple said I'm going!"
I let him go, and looked at him. Really, looked at him for the first time. At the end of my first date with #1, I'd been shocked to discover that he was a Drag Queen, and then sat back and thought about it, and realized I really shouldn't have been shocked. I was having the same experience with #2 now, only instead of realizing he was a drag queen, I was realizing he was out of his fucken mind.
"You think I'm crazy! Don't you?" He asked.
And I thought about the the split apple, the many dying plants in his basement apartment, the tea leaves at the bottom of my cup. A cat in a broken airplane.
"You will soon go on an adventure!" He had told me on our first date. "That's the airplane.! But see how it's split in the middle?" I did. "That means it's going to be a sad journey!"
"Ok." I said. "What does the cat mean?"
"The cat is a sign of deceit! Your journey is going to be littered with lies!"
At the time, I thought that maybe, instead of reading my future, he had read my past. That the tea leaves represented my life with Sora.
Tonight, #2 had decided that the cat was not a metaphor for deceit, but actually Selina. "Which is great!" He said. "That means I was wrong about the lies!"
And now here we were in my bed, him looking at me with that stupid, hopeful expression. "You do! Don't you?" He asked. "You think I'm crazy!"
And I looked him straight in his gorgeous eyes, and said "No."