I have never been a successful roommate of plants. Haven't nurtured a seed into a leafy vegetable or house decoration since a seventh grade science experiment.
I inherited a bunch of plants from Zuzu when she moved South. The hanging plants died almost immediately, as they were just enough out of sight range that I completely forgot about them, but these two large, leafy standing plants thrived. I watered them....not very often...but enough that they seemed very healthy. I was shocked when, during a night she featured at The Treehouse, Zouzou remarked how much trouble she had with the type of plant that was so robust even a year after it came into my possession. A few months after a friend's dog chewed two of the biggest leaves out.
A year and a half later, I went away on tour, and all the remaining plants in the house died, except these two. They were very unhealthy with wilting, yellowed leaves, but they were still somewhat alive. I watered them...still not as often as I should have...and they continued to cling to a yellowed, phalllic-leaved life.
This went on for months. But starting at the beginning of the month, I moved them right in front of the door, and began watering them every day as I walked by them.
The yellow leaves collapsed, and I thought "Hmmm...maybe I've OVERwatered them now." But then I noticed many new leaves shooting up. Quickly. Like ridiculously quickly. I pulled out the wilted leaves, and now one of the two plants is about half as tall as it was at its peak, while the other is actually taller than it was when I first gained custody of it.
I forgot that, while it's easy for unhealthy plants to wilt and look unhealthy due to neglect, it's hard to accidentally kill them permanently.
None of this is a metaphor.
5: Karen yells at and kicks out a guy who blatantly takes a bottle of Jack Daniels out of his backpack and starts drinking it five feet in front of the bar. His excuse? "I bought one drink. And I even tipped! But I couldn't afford another one."
4: Kimberly Hyphen-Surname refuses to serve a clearly intoxicated guy who tries to sneak in through the back door. During the open mic, both Emily and Kimberly have to approach him as his drug-fueled enthusiasm is bothering the people sitting around him. As the last poet takes the stage for the open mic, the guy comes to the bar and asks me for a beer. I say no. So he asks for a ginger ale. As I turn to get a glass, he grabs a bottle Jack Daniels and starts to pour it into a plastic cup. I yell. Very loudly. Dude, who was hella high, jumps up, drops the cup, first tries to run into the ladies' room, then the mens' room, then the doorman leads him up the stairs and out of the venue. He hasn't returned.
3: Having driven all the way to Providence to pick up the night's feature, Zuzu expected to be able to read on the open mic. She is denied by the host, so she orders food (remember when there was food at the Cantab?) and a drink. When she pays for her bill, the server gives her incorrect change. Like, change that doesn't even make sense. Zuzu and the waitress argue quietly, and Zuzu goes next door to what is now Tavern On The Square but was then...something else, and gets deeeeeerunk. She re-engages with the waitress after the night's slam (which was a regional bout). The waitress who keeps repeating that she is from Revere and she will "fight a bitch" and all hell breaks loose. I don't think there were punches thrown, but the room cleared out entirely. Apart from the host, even the other emplyees got the fuck out of that basement. The waitress continued to shout that she'd "fight a bitch", Zuzu kept shouting "where's my nineteen dollars?", the host soft-voice shamed everyone still in the room, and the bartender did a lot of shouting. Zuzu was banned. When I interviewed the bartender for a project I was working on, she admitted that the waitress had almost definitely stolen the money, as she "had a history of taking things from people she didn't like". Independently of this, Zuzu was unbanned.
2: The first of two entries which could be subtitled "When Emily's Not At The Bar, The Crazies Take Over". In 2007ish, somebody great was featuring. This was before fire code, and I don't even want to consider how many people were crammed in that room before the doors were locked. Rudy snuck in through the back and nodded at the host. The host nodded back. Rudy's nod meant "I want to read tonight." The host's nod meant "Hello." The open went way over time (again, no Emily), and Rudy, who'd showed up forty-five minutes late and never actually used verbal communication or written communication to express his desire to read, didn't get to read. So, in a crowded room, he went up and started shouting at the host. Asterisk got involved. And thenthe bartender. The bartender was annoyed enough that she got out from behind the bar, leaving me behind it for, I think, the first time. In the midst of his tantrum, Rudy decided to leave, and threw an elbow at someone who was in his way. Someone who happened to be The Owner's Granddaughter. The bartender yelled at and banned him, which, in the long run, probably saved his life.
Rudy would also appear on a list of the Top Five People Thrown Out Out Of Tuartas By An Angry Bar Staff. I think he's even show up on that list multiple times. Perhaps, he would be all five. We're a bit stricter about the kind of people we let back in.
1: A Poet Who Shan't Be Named Because Fuck Him Getting Any More Attention came to the bar on yet another night that Emily wasn't around. Apparently, he had started a fight with me at Seattle NPS in 2001. I have no memory of this. But he was in a bout with the team I was on that year. Flash forward to 2010 and the guy buys three drinks from me, and seems amiable. He's loud, but he's not obtrusive. Then, during the feature, he starts talking during a few of the poems. Asterisk approaches him to be quiet. I don't know if he got quiet, but I didn't hear him. As the slam starts, he is loudly talking nonsense to a friend. Asterisk, again, approaches him, this time snidely. The guy starts yelling that he "read at The Nuyorican" and is "allowed to be loud" (He was not FROM the Nuyo, he was just letting us know that he'd been there once). He then tries to order a drink, and I refuse. He responds by offering to fight me, Asterisk, and Wiz. Wiz laughs. Asterisk gets enraged. The featured poet tries to subdue things. I go upstairs to get Cowboy, the bouncer. The upstairs bartender asks why I'm getting Cowboy, and when I say "I'm throwing somebody out." he joins the party. All of this is taking place WHILE the slam is happening. When the upstairs bartender, Cowboy and I get downstairs, The Attention Glutton is still yelling about himself and how he's not going to leave the bar. One look at Cowboy changed that. (Cowboy is....6'5? 400 pounds? Not to be fucked with.) As he was being led up the stairs he shouted at us that he was a former Mass Poet Fellow (Turns out he shared the title with another individual because he helped design a website for poetry. Using Angelfire. Remember Angelfire sites?) and we would never be as important as he was. He then stood outside and took video of poets, asking them why I was crazy. By the time I got home, he'd sent me four e-mails calling me pejorative terms for female genetalia, and asking me to call him so he could help ME be less crazy. He also claimed to have helped book our show (translation: he'd been on an e-mail chain wherein poets were invited to participate in a regional), and has since claimed (falsely) to run another reading that I've gone to.
He has not returned.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: All y'all pillowhumpers who won't stay off the fucken stairs, or who think you're cool enough to go into the back room. There's probably fifty of you on my FB page. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
A room is a good indicator of how well your life is going. TV shows and inexperienced writers would let you believe that when someone's life is in the throes of depression, when they believe there is nothing left to live for, there will be towels strewn over lamps, weeks worth of wet newspapers left open and collecting mold. This is not true. If there are newspapers, they will be stacked, and in some sort of order. All towels, clean or not, will be put in one particular area.
When I get depressed, I clean.
Lately, the only time I clean my room is when I'm about to get laid. And even then, clean is a subjective term. Usually, I just throw everything in the closet.
Last night I dreamed that Paris Hilton was helping my clean my room. She was excited, because I'd decided to use her as the basis for one of the characters in my book. "I'm using you," I told her, "instead of Brittney, because her crazy selfishness is affecting the lives of her kids, and her family. All your bad decisions only affect you. I think that makes you a better person."
She agreed, and thanked me. "You've been so nice. Ever since your friend died, you seem to have really gotten a good grip on yourself again." Then we started throwing hundred dollar bills out of my bedroom window.
I didn't even really try and evaluate the dream when I woke up. Paris Hilton? I don't remember ever having celebrity cameos in dreams before. Cleaning my room? what for, I'm busy, and I'm the only one that's using it. Hundred dollar bills? I'm doing well, and all, but I haven't been spreading my money around too much. Dead friend? Been a while since that happened.
I was at work when Zuzu called. Our good friend, Gina died last night.
She's had cancer for a while. Not just the degenerative disease, but a parasitic husband. He was younger than her. Cute, possibly. But chronically unemployable, and a control freak.
Last year, Gina and her husand had no place to go, so they moved back in with Zuzu, rent free. When Zuzu's ex failed to send his alimony, meaning Zuzu couldn't afford the heating oil, she politely asked Gina's husband for some money to help with bills. Then she went to work. When she came back, all of Gina's stuff was gone. All of her husband's stuff was gone, and a bunch of random things that belonged to Zuzu were gone, as well.
Since then, he changed his and Gina's cell phone numbers, and refused to let her stay in touch with her friends. When occasional Gina-related news would get out, we would track her down at various hospitals and see how she was doing. Zuzu and I offered to do a collection of her poems, and sell the books as fundraisers for her medical bills. We were to meet her tomorrow night to find out where the poems were stored.
This morning, her parasitic widower sent out an e-mail. "Gina died last night. There will be no funeral, and no memorial service. I have no regrets. You will never hear from me again."
We assume he means to skip town with the insurance money he's getting, and go find someone else to mooch off of for a while.
I spent most of the afternoon reorganizing the comic book store. Moving things, alphabetizing; things I normally do, anyway, but I did them a tad more obsessively than usual. And when I got off work, I headed to the pet store.
Cycle of life, cliche, what-have-you. I've been meaning to get a pet for a while. And while I really do want to get a kitten, I was, more practically, thinking of something along the lines of a fish. Minimal care, minimal expense.
I left the store with a ten gallon terrarium, a rock wall, a cave, a water well, ten pounds of sand, three thermometers, a black light, a reptiglo light, and three baby leopard geckos. Also, some crickets.
I haven't named them yet, as I like to let pets earn their names by personality. They have already had their first stalk and eat in their new homes, munching on a good chunk of the crickets. And they are already doing their Peter Parkering up the rock wall, and each has found their own private hiding place.
They only came out when I started playing Jenny Owen Young's cover of Nelly's "Hot In Here". They did a little tail twitching and cricket eating to the music.
Which reminds me, I should order food.
Zuzu, Lot and I spend our Tuesdays at Pope John Paul Park, walking Pup Ratzinger. While Zinger is great with humans, he has a specific code about what types of dogs he'll get a long with. He hates puppies, Mastiffs, any variation of Wolf or Huskie, and German Shepherds.
Today, the only dogs he really got along with were a trio of pugs. The three pugs were a mother, father, son grouping who all looked alike. Little flat nosed, chub pugs. About a half hour after we saw the pugs, Zinger made friends with a mutt hound. The mutt's owner was a woman on rollerblades. Zuzu explained "It's really weird how Zinger likes your dog. He's been a brat all day. Barking at everyone. Such a brat. The only ones he got along with were these three little black pigs."
"I think they're triplets." The woman on the rollerblades said.
"No, they're a mother, son and father."
"Oh, the pug dogs." The woman said.
"I thought you meant..." and then she looked off in the distance where three young black children were playing in the grass. "Gotta go."
Apparently, Hell beckoned.
Every Tuesday night, I head over to Zuzu and Lot's for dinner, TV, and conversation. Tonight, after dinner, but before television time, Pup Ratzinger (Zuzu's dachshund) started to go a little haywire, so Zuzu picked him up, and immediately fell over an exercise machine and on to the floor (thus furthering my theory that exercise machines and dachshunds are evil). Both Lot and I are fairly certain she broke her arm. She's refusing to go to the hospital until tomorrow morning, so we made her a sling, and made her put a bag of frozen asparagus over her arm (it's the closest thing to an icepack in the house).
Last week, my grandmother threw out her shoulder shoveling the sidewalk in front of her house because she wasn't sure her neighbor was going to help her. He always helps her, and arrived to do the shoveling three minutes after she damaged her shoulder. She's completely fine, but while I was down there visiting her and making sure she was okay, her evil mutt, Frisky, kept jumping on her shoulder and humping it. I would yell at him, which did no good, and ended up smacking him on the nose to make him stop. Then my grandmother yelled at me "He would have stopped when he was done. Leave him be." She also refused to go to the hospital. But at least her house had a proper icepack in it.
If Zuzu's arm doesn't improve, it looks like she won't be driving for a while, so I'm going to be her acting chauffeur for a while. How does this affect you?
Apparently, this weekend she's doing some sort of promotional work in Worcester. Many of you who read this, live in Worcester. I have no problem driving her out to Worcester and back, but would rather not drive her there and back on Friday, and then drive her there and back on Saturday. Any Worcesterites have a spare couch or two that Zuzu and I could use? Preferably one inside a heated house? Zuzu offers free magazines (Which, I assume has something to do with her promo work), I will offer to either cook or pay for/order take out food, depending on what you think of my cooking. And, of course, there's bound to be an amusing story or two involved.
When I met Zuzu, eight years ago, she was desperate for information about me. She quizzed me on exes, and jobs, and family, and blah blah blah. She asked me about my SAT scores, and I told her the truth. I got a 1510 when I took my SATs as a sophomore. My guidance counselor tried to persuade me to start reading through old SATs to learn more about them, in the hopes that I would retake the test, and get a perfect 1600. But I knew that the 1510 was a fluke, and I staunchly refused to retake the test.
Zuzu's son, Lot, has recently taken the new SATs. There's a new scoring system now, but there's a way to average them out to figure out what your score would be if you took it under the old system. His score would have been a 1500.
Zuzu remarks how amazing this is, given the quality of education Lot's received in the public school system. He has revisionist history teachers who make up statistics to suit their needs, a calculus teacher who can't do simple addition, and an English teacher who confuses the words "alliteration" and "allusion", and talks about how one of her friends recently wrote a fantastic autobiography about William Shakespeare.
This leads to me ranting about the various stupid people I've recently encountered. I probably go on for about fifteen minutes listing mundane people I've encountered on the street, my landlady who frequently calls to remind me what her name is and that she's my landlady, and the various geniuses I've met through poetry who can't so much as operate velcro sneakers.
The three of us decide that we are much more intelligentier than your average humannoyed.
After dinner, I head to the local liquor store (all the non-local ones being so very far away), and ask the man behind the counter for a Jack Daniels, pointing in the whiskey's general direction.
He asks "Would you like a pint, or a half pint?"
To which I reply "Whichever is bigger."
I'm really glad I didn't retake my SAT.
Before leaving for New York, Ben and I were eating breakfast at our favorite diner, when he said: “You always order the Eggs Benedict, and you manage to get like three quarters of the way through breakfast without cracking the yokes. That’s damned impressive.”
Later that night, during a poetry event, Zuzu asks “Are you aware of how many times you mention Ben’s name in a sentence.”
“Only about once a sentence, thank you. It’s just that I usually run said Ben sentences together.”
My grandmother called today to let me know that my grandfather just got out of the hospital, and that my dad, who I haven’t seen since...let’s not speculate on that one...is staying with them for a while. So I’m going to Connecticut. Connecticut, place of my birth and adoption, where I nearly grew up, but for my father being transferred to Cape Cod when I was six.
Ben plans on arriving sometime early this morning, possibly giving him enough time to sleep before he goes to work. I leave at fuckall o'clock tomorrow morning, so that my grandmother can cook a meal large enough to cover the two years since we’ve seen each other: potato pancakes, waffles, bacon, and Eggs Benedict.
There’s a variety of reasons why I haven’t gone to visit them since I moved back from Arifuckenzona. They’ve been dealing with a sick relative (my not so great great uncle), selling off a house (my great grandparents’), and spending as much time waxing the floors of God’s house as their local church allows. I’ve been busy with work, moving, writing, sodomy, and coming up with excuses why I can’t go visit them. There’s never enough time. But there’s nothing like the possibility of imminent death to inspire family members to take personal time off from work to de-guiltify.
Before I go, I make a run to the grocery store to buy jello, soy milk, and rice. Things Ben likes that I don’t. It doesn’t occur to me until I’m back at the house that I’m hungry but I haven’t bought anything for me. I don’t know whether I neglected to buy groceries for me because I knew I was leaving tomorrow and didn’t want to waste money or because I’ve never been good at putting myself before others. You’re more or less than welcome to draw your own conclusions, just draw them with pencil because you may change your mind later.
Celeste calls during my walk home to let me know that yesterday, someone broke into the coffeehouse and stole the cash register. In addition to the physical presence of the register, they also got away with all the money inside of it. Approximately forty cents in pennies. Somewhere, there’s a very winded, very pissed off thief. I’m presuming they ran, because it’s hard to look nonchalant when ambling around Boston with a cash register under your arm or trenchcoat.
I’m tired now, but not sleepy. I’ve got a million things to write about, but can’t seem to get them to lineup properly in my mind. I’m still hungry, but not motivated enough to go out and get something to eat. Tomorrow is a banquet. I will eat every bite that’s offered, and with any luck, won’t crack until the very end.
This month is an ostrich on a canoe. Midnight, June 30th/July 1st, and I am running to catch one of the last busses to take me to the last train between me, and Clitty's house. Clitty, who is moving the very next day, has offered me a bean bag and conversation. But first must come the bus. I am thinking "Future Fry Cook. Future Fry Cook." This may be the last time I ever take this bus, and wouldn't it be funny to run into him again.
Instead, I see a hot guy fidgeting under the T sign. "Thank God." He says. "There's another bus coming?"
I reach into my pocket and pull out a stack of bus schedules. Like a good magician's assistant, he picks out the schedule for the 101, which will whisk us to Sullivan Square.
"Wow." He says. "Are you always so prepared?"
"No, I'm moving, and I found my T schedules just as I was leaving the house." Tonight has been cast glances out of focus. Move out. Is this my suitcase? Pile of unmarked papers. Where is my cell phone? Do I have everything I need? Turn off the air conditioner. "Where are you headed?"
"Me, too." I say, feeling inappropriately closer to him. "I'm going to stay with a friend on Ashton Street."
"I live on Ashton Street." He says. "Weird."
And the bus comes, and we exchange horrible roommate stories. My Melissa Plummer stories are trumped by his tale of a roommate who stole all of his possessions while he was at work, down to pictures of his girlfriend and his underwear. He keeps looking at me like I'm his favorite pint of Ben & Jerry's, and I think, hmmm...maybe something could happen, I mean...pictures of his girlfriend. He casually drops his girlfriend so many times during our conversation, that I think, perhaps, I should pick her up.
I'm tempted to get off at the same T stop as him, and talk more, maybe exchange contact info, but I want food and stability and focus.
At the all night pizza/sub place, the frat boys are screaming obscenities at the guy behind the counter. "Fuck moo." Says one. I presume I have missed the context for this.
I order chicken fingers, and Cherry Coke, and contact info for hot guys who are as oblivious to drunken frat language as I am. Two out of three ain't a Meatloaf song.
Clitty is tired, and chatty when I get there. I eat chicken fingers in her kitchen, let her cat chew my fingernails for me.
I want my own place. No more Landlord. A former and recurrent coworker has a friend "I think you two would get along great, but he's kind of particular about" and I don't care what he's particular about, I'm done moving in with particular people I don't know.
I know Zuzu. I know her particularities, and how best to mesh with them. So I head over to her house. Pup Ratzinger licks my eyes out, and nibbles off my nose. For once, I may have needed it.
For two days, we shop together. Mainly meaning, she shops, I assist as best I can. No one is selling focus or a way for me to move my suitcases, or a permanent place for me to move them to.
After Zuzu's, I spend time on Celeste's couch, playing The Vagina Game with her and Trick. It's fun, but I don't want to stay. I should be on The Vineyard this week, spending time with my Dad, but the people I'd planned on traveling with are having their own trauma. Little tragedies, like my own. I find myself longing for the days when I could turn my tiny grain of sand problems into beaches large enough for me to spread a blanket on and get comfortable. Melodrama seems just out of reach.
"I am so out of touch with the world." I tell Zuzu. "I focus on every day so precisely, that I have no concept of how to handle my future."
She pours me another Kahlua and Stoli.
Celeste, Trick, and I share a few Ginger Beer and Stolis.
I can't drink enough to sleep.
Tuesday night, I was assaulted by Bruce Campbell. It was past seven PM on an already trying day that had included work, a bus accident (the narcoleptic MBTA employee driving the bus I was on crashed into a stopped car at a traffic light), and stops at every house in the Boston area I have ever lived in (with the exception of the one I shared with Melissa Plummer). I was scheduled to meet Zuzu and Lot at 6:00 in Coolidge Corner. Due to the bus accident, I was running about a half hour late. Naturally, I was there about an hour before Zuzu and Lot.
The first thing I see at the theater is a sign that reads "All Bruce Campbell events are SOLD OUT." Bugger. I do a shakedown of the line, asking strangers for extra tickets. I get two. There are three of us.
When Zuzu and Lot show up, I run out of the standby line to give them my tickets, thus losing both tickets and line space. I will never make it in. Luckily, the ticket guy feels pity for the fact that I had worked my ass off for two tickets, and then gave them away, so he lets me in.
I am standing at the end of the aisle, trying to find Zuzu and Lot in the theater when someone knocks on my back like they're being chased by coyotes, and my back is the door of their insomniac savior. I turn around.
Bruce Campbell: Hi.
Me: Uh. Hey.
Bruce Campbell:You're in my way.
Bruce Campbell looks at me inquisitively.
Me:I should get out of your way.
Bruce Campbell: Yes. Yes you should.
Me: I'm going to sit down.
Bruce Campbell (laughing) : Ok, then. Good.
I sit down in the only empty seat in sight. Bruce shoots me one more look, snickers, and trots down the rest of the aisle to thunderous applause. He announces that instead of reading from his new book Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, he is going to do a question and answer session for an hour, then start signing books. A woman to my left says really loudly in a thick indistinguishable Eastern Europeanesque accent "I am not shy. Is a book. Is down. Where?"
Bruce either doesn't hear her or chooses not to reply. Instead he calls on a random lady in the audience. Zuzu. She asks something about Sam Raimi. He answers it, then says something incredibly flirtatious to her.
"I am not shy. Is movie theater." Incoherent mumbling.
Bruce calls on some geeky guy.
Crazy Lady screams "I am from Latvia. I am not shy." Something Something "Russian mafia."
Bruce says "I don't think I called on you, but since you won't stop talking, what is your question?"
"I am from Latvia. I am not shy." Something Something "Upset."
"I don't know what you're saying."
"I am not shy." Rikki-Tikki-Tembo-No-Sorembo-Cherry-Berry-Bucci-Pip-Berry-Pembo "Kill me."
"Yea. Look Latvia. I don't know what you're saying. Why don't you ask your question to someone around you, and I'll call on them to translate."
"I am not shy." Blah Blah Super Soaker "Why won't you answer my question?"
"Because I don't know what it is. Who's next?"
For the next twenty minutes or so, Latvia tries several times to ask her incoherent question, despite the fact that she is never called on.
"You've gotten a hero's welcome here in Boston." Some sixteen year old in a black shirt says. "Is there anywhere you've ever been where you've felt like the local people didn't like you?"
"Yea." Bruce says. "I hear they hate me in Latvia."
"I am not shy. People who use bad languages are not bridges."
I wonder what the bad languages are. Icelandic? Swahili? Elbonian?
"Could someone," Bruce asks, "preferably four large someones escort Miss Latvia out of theater?"
He then goes on to an interesting story about how, through his chain of logic, he's going to be playing Spider Man in Spider Man 3. I'm listening so intently to it that I don't see who it is that removes Latvia's Least Wanted.
After the session is over, Zuzu, Lot, and I head to the bookstore to buy a copy of his book. Latvia is at the counter. "I will not but this book." She says, waving around a copy of If Chins Could Kill. "He is trying to kill me. Always he follows me to the grocery store. Is Russian agent. He thinks I don't see him, but he is not bridge."
The lady behind the counter nods the service industry "you're a nutbag, but I'm stuck behind this counter and must talk to you" nod.
"Not bridge! Not bridge!"
Five minutes later, she leaves.
I purchase a blank book to use for a One-Off. While I'm at the counter, I compliment the lady on how well she handled The Latvian.
"Oh, it's nothing." She says. "Last week Mitt Romney was trying to kill her. The week before that it was Tony the Tiger. She's a popular mark for assassins and members of the Russian mafia."
The only thing I tried to shoot her with was a nasty look.
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.