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 a year of only being slightly chatty, Selina Ribcage has upped the caterwauling quotient. I thought it might be because her March Madness brackets are now completely worthless, but Carolyn thinks differently.
"Stop yelling at her." Carolyn said. "She's just very sensitive. She meows all the time to remind us of the senseless genocide in Rwanda. She wanders the house educating us. Silencing her is just wrong."
And the kitchen got very quiet.
"Shit." She said. "Now I'm going to get depressed every time she meows."
And, at the sound of her favorite word, Selina said "Mrrrrrrrrrreow?"
And, Carolyn stared down at her. "Shut up."
Seriously parents of Brookline? You just gave me crap for having How I Met Your Mother on the TV? Your twelve year old daughter is wearing a napkin as shorts.
2009 was a terrible year for my phone. And, frankly, 2010 doesn't look to be much better. I had three phones die, one of which I lost twice before it committed hare-kiri. It was difficult for people to get a hold of me, and difficult for me to return phone calls, as, when I don't have a phone, I don't think to call people. I'm also not terribly good at being in touch with people when I do have my phone. It's not that I'm self-absorbed, I'm environmentally-absorbed. If I'm at work, I'm thinking of comics. If I'm on the bus, I'm thinking about where I'm going. If I'm bed, I'm thinking of Sora. Rarely am I thinking, I should be on the phone with someone!
None of these reasons are why I didn't call The Slut Across The Street back, even though he'd given me his number several times.
The first time I got his number was New Year's Eve 2009. Since 1999, there has been only one New Year's Eve that I haven't been in Boston doing the family friendly Poetry Slam as part of First Night. This year was not the exception. When we were done, I was invited to a White Haus party with a bunch of poets. And Ben and I decided to split a cab and some champagne on the way there.
The party was uneventful for me, so just after midnight, I hopped in another cab, and went home alone. There were a dozen people left at my home from an epic party that I know very little about. I know the kitchen table was covered in a beer pong table. I know there were pants all over the kitchen floor. Both of my roommates were shirtless, and the guy that was leaving the party when I came in did not appear to know that he had a penis sharpied on to his face or that his pants were inside out.
My recently rescued cats, Selina Ribcage, and Yoda Louise Vader, were in my room, cringing in terror. So I picked up Yoda, and brought her out into the remains of the party. There are only two things you need to know about Yoda, she was adorable, and she was clearly not going to live very long. I named her Yoda because her head and ears were monstrously large compared to the rest of her body, and I called her Louise Vader because she had terrible respiratory problems, and wheezed uncontrollably at all times. I had only agreed to rescue her because I had already decided to rescue her mother, Selina, as very few people adopt cats when there are kittens around, and I didn't want her mother to be alone all the time while I was at work.
As I stepped out of my room, with the very tiny Yoda curled in my arm, a very intense guy walked up and started talking about Buffy The Vampire Slayer. While I'm willing to accept that not every guy with spikey hair and an intense knowledge of the work of Joss Whedon spends their Friday nights on Craigslist looking to sit on a dick, I would put the probability around 97%.
Somewhere around the middle of his "Ohmygod, I totally loved evil Willow when her eyes got all black and swimmy and her hair..." blah blah blah "and the time when Xander lost his eye and", that I realized this was the guy who had offered to help Zuzu and I carry a few boxes into the apartment when I moved in. I had noticed his crazy eyes, and his Natty Ice breath. Zuzu had noticed him noticing me.
And he was clearly noticing me now.
While we talked, the room cleared. And I went and sat in the living room. Yoda Vader sat in my lap. The Slut Across The Street was remarking how cute she was, and he started petting her, and looking at me. And petting her. And looking at me. And petting me. And looking at me. And petting me. And...wait, really? This dude just totally used my cat to feel me up. And then he just looks at me and says, "Do you wanna?"
Not really. "Sure."
I was a bit too champagned to remember that night. And he was too Natty Iced to remember his name. I just remember that it was so unspectacular that, when he briefly fell asleep next to me, I was trying to come up with the politest way to tell him to get the hell out. Not in a mean "You son of a bitch" way, but in a "OH, this was a huge mistake" way.
I took his phone number out of politeness. I didn't use it. Something he pointed out a couple of weeks later when he stopped in, twice as Natty Iced. This time, I was unchampagned, and uninterested in his "So," flirtatious smile, "you never" hiccup "called me."
And then he invited me and my roommates (who were actual friends of his) over to his house for drinks. And, it's late. And I don't have work the next day, so why not?
"We're" hiccup (really, this can't be happening) "gonna have to" hiccup (ugh) "be quiet because" hiccup (Jesus) "my shitty roommate is a" hiccup *CRASH*
With one wsipe of his sweaty, drunken paw, he'd managed to knock his coat rack not only off the wall, but halfway down the stairs into the lobby.
"Oh" hiccup (God) "God" "I'll" hiccup (why am I still here? "fix that" and he waved his hands to insinuate, I assume, later.
While I went back down the stairs to collect the fallen coat rack, my roommates disappeared into some alternate dimension. I didn't see either of them again for days.
Instead, I walked into the now empty kitchen, and heard, "I'm" hiccup (I should really go home) " in my room."
And he was in his room. And his clothes were in his room. But his clothes were not so very much on him.
"So," hiccup (ok, naked hiccups are kind of funny) "do you have any friends?"
As come-on lines go, this was lacking something. "Yes. Quite a few."
"Do they like to" hiccup (did I feed Selina before I left the house?) "cum on people?"
Ugh. "It's never come up."
"Have you" hiccup (it gets less funny every time) "come up yet?" And he, of course, reached for my crotch.
Apart from the stairs, I had not. Despite naked hiccups.
He fumbled in the general direction for my belt. But instead of focusing on that, I had noticed one of my Buffy trades sitting precariously on a pile of filthy laundry. Had I let this mostly stranger borrow my
""I'll be right" hiccup (why would I have lent him my Buffy trades?) "back"
He did not come right back. I'd begun to suspect that he'd been swallowed by whatever dimension had taken my roommates. Apparently, the Drunken hiccup Dimension.
After ten minutes or so of waiting, I wandered out to the kitchen, and notices an ass and a pair of legs sticking out of the bathroom. There was a definite smell of vomit. At no point in my life has the smell of vomit appealed to me. And having had now two lackluster experiences, I deleted his number from my phone, and walked across the street. Comfortable with the knowledge that The Slut Across The Street and I would never again have any sort of relationship aside from neighbor.
This was when my phone rang.
Sora was calling.
The realization that Elvis was a flat-assed liar didn't ruin my life, or lower my respect for him. I had none. He was just some guy with no ass, bad teeth, and a horrible dye job who had invaded my life to escape...well, I have no idea what he was escaping because he never told me the truth. Finding out he was a lying liar didn't take away from all the happy times we'd shared together. We had no happy times.
Things were different with Sora.
If you read The Insafemode Journals before they were deleted by a Russian hacker, you may remember that Sora and I had lots of happy times. I wrote frequently about the happy things we shared. Easter with Cheerio, Ben, Celeste, and Sir Trick; antagonizing Ben at a house party. There were other times, I know there were. But they disappeared in a whiff of internet hackery.
I didn't write about the lying, because unlike Elvis, I actually love Sora. But our entire relationship was built around a lie. And, no, not the epic He Never Loved Me lie. Though, yes, that, too. The first lie was an innocent one.
We met at one of my shows, I invited him to another competition. He told me he would come up to Boston, we could hang out, we'd go to my show, and then he was going to stay with one of his friends. And then, totally weird, right, his friend never called him back, so he needed a place to stay, and came home with me.
Of course there was no friend.
Two weeks later, he was supposed to meet me and Celeste around noon to go to one of Celeste's shows. At 1:30, Celeste was long gone, and I was thinking I had maybe overjudged our relationship, when he called to apologize for being late, that he was almost to my house. So I walked down in the direction of the T to meet him. I was halfway down the hill when he bounded up, a white rose in his hand. And the kiss. And the kiss. And the wow, okay, kiss. And a white rose. No one I had ever dated had ever given me any sort of flora. And no guy since.
Back at the house, Sir Trick was watching MXC. "Hey guys." He said, flashing a rare smile. He hadn't been smiling at me, partially because he wasn't a full time smiler, and partially because Ben, who I wasn't talking too very often, had borrowed one of his DVDs, and had now had it for several months. And I, being an associate of Ben's, was guilty of overborrowing by association. But, at that very second, Sora had committed no wrong, and was, thereby, smileworthy. "What happened? Thought you were going to be here at noon."
"Oh." Sora said. "I forgot to take my medication, and I passed out on the train, they had to stop it and call an ambulance."
Which was news to me. "You passed out?"
"Yea, it was no big deal."
"What condition do you have?" Sir Trick asked.
"Oh, I don't know."
Because, of course, he had no condition. He was not on medication for a condition that he didn't know about. He did not pass out on the train. He missed a train, because he was completely unreliable. He would miss train after train in the coming months. He would get caught in traffic that didn't exist. I would lose entire days waiting for him because I loved him and knew he was lying and didn't care because I loved him and.
There were many, many little lies littered throughout the happy times. But there were happy times, so why focus on tiny, little harmless lies?
In August 2007, after four months of knowing each other, and three months of dating and living together, I went to Austin for a national poetry slam competition. On my second day in Austin, I got a call from my friend Don, who happened to also be Sora's boss at The Truffle Shuffle chocolate store. "Hey, Adam, tell your boyfriend he's late for work."
"Ugh. Really? Sorry, Don, but I'm in Austin, so I can't exactly dump him off the couch or wherever he fell asleep. I"ll call Celeste, though, and see if she can wake him up."
Well, Celeste said he wasn't home. I told her to call me when she saw him. I told Don to have Sora call me when he got to work. I called Sora's cell a few times.
No one called me back that day.
The next morning I got a call from Sora that his dad had a heart attack, and he had to spend some time helping take care of the house, and he didn't know how long it would be for, but probably not too long, and he missed me, and was really sorry, but "Don't be mad. It's an emergency."
What were the odds of me dating another compulsive liar with a supposedly dead parent who would leave me by telling me a close family member was ill and he had to take care of them?
Apparently, pretty good.
A couple walks in three minutes before the store closes, and the woman announces that she is going to walk around and point out all the things she didn't know were inspired by comics. She mentions From Hell, V For Vendetta, The Tick, and then she stops and asks, "There's a Buffy The Vampire Slayer Comic Book?"
"Yes," I say, "it's a continuation of the TV show."
"Oh, I never watched the TV show. It didn't have Paul Reubens, which makes the movie instantly better. And my research professor is a big fan of it, and he's just...he's no good. Although," and she turns to her poor beleaguered companion, "she would make a good match for your mother. We should hook them up."
"I think my father might have a problem with that."
"I don't like your father. He's so....unlikable. Anyway, I don't get the appeal of the whole comic book thing. This whole modern serial style of storytelling is so unnecessary."
"Actually," Beleaguered says "serial stories have been around for generations. Most Dickens stories were released as serials. Oh, and let's not forget The Oddyssey."
"Ugh." She says, and points her finger at his chest. "You need to read more. The Odyssey, The Iliad, and The Inferno were a trilogy, not a serial. Like Star Wars."
And I couldn't let that slip. "I'm sorry. Did you just mention The Inferno as being a part of a trilogy with The Odyssey and The Iliad?"
"Yes." She says.
"You're aware that The Odyssey and The Iliad are two ancient texts attributed to a possibly fictional person named Homer from at least 400 B.C., and that The Inferno is part of The Divine Comedy, which is a thirteenth century poem written by Dante, right?"
"I'm not talking about comic books." She says. "I'm talking about literature. Homer was a major character in Inferno."
"No." I reply. "Virgil is a major character in The Inferno section of The Divine Comedy. Virgil wrote the Aenid, which IS related to The Odyssey and The Iliad, though they're not generally considered a trilogy."
"I don't mean in the comic books." She replies.
"Neither do I." And then, mimicing her tone, " I'm talking about literature."
"Whatever. They're not a serial."
"You're right." I say. "They're not a trilogy, either, much the way Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Clerks aren't a trilogy, even though Kevin Smith went on to make Jay And Silent Bob Strike back."
"What do you know? You work in a comic book store."
And with the gauntlet thrown down, I ask "What do you do for a living?"
She puffs out her, admittedly, sizeable chest. "I'm a Mass Art Student."
"And how many times did you fill out an application here, and get rejected?"
Beleaguered snickers again.
And she says, "Can we just...can we go?"
#1 asks:despite the fact that he frustrates, I think that I've fallen for him what defines "fallen" in your opinion?3:23 AM I'm looking for real responses here not something contrived
When it comes to gravity, I'm stupid. I don't know how or why it works. I've heard things about the moon, and Newton's apple. I've even fallen down stairs just to see if I could hit my head just right enough to figure it all out. But I still don't know anything about gravity, other than, it works.
And, of course, I'm going to liken falling in love to gravity. It's an easy analogy. Both can be explained with graphs and equations. Neither make any damned sense to most people. Still, devotees of science and romance claim that they understand them. Both get you through most of your life, while occasionally knocking you on your ass. Both are bitches.
I've never really thought of either one of them having definitions. Gravity is serious. It's something that binds you. Falling is an accident that results in gravity.
Here's something I've never been completely honest about. Sora.
I was turning twenty-nine. I'd been in stupid with Ben for months, and knew that if I didn't get in a relationship soon, I wasn't going to get over him, the way I never really got over Ryan (and I don't mean I was going to kill him, though that thought certainly crossed my mind on a near-daily basis). So all I wanted for my twenty-ninth birthday was to fall in love with someone else.
So when I was asked to do a poetry reading on my birthday, I said sure. Why not? Ben was out of town. Celeste had plans. And I tried not to make big deals out of birthdays, so I invited a few friends to my show in Rhode Island, printed up some books, and grabbed the commuter rail to Providence. There, I met up with my friend Cheerio and blah blah, the show happened. And the show went long. Very long. I'd planned a half hour set, including a reading of my first ever "chapbook", a hand scrawled journal I'd written when I was six. Complete with stick figure drawings, and a count of how many Cherry Cokes I'd had to drink (it's a life long vice). When I realized I'd been going for forty-five minutes, I asked how much longer I had, and the host told me to keep going. SO I went. And, at one hour, I stopped. And the host asked me to do one more piece. So I decided to do my hallucinating while waiting tables poem, which involves me wandering around the venue. And, while wandering, I circled around a pole that had been obstructing my view of a certain section of the audience all night. And on the other side of that pole was Sora. He was staring at me. Like, in a creepy way. STARING.
At the end of the night, I was selling books, and talking with Cheerio and Zouzou (no relation to Zuzu, they just have the same phonetic name), when Sora approached me.
"This was my first ever poetry reading. My friends told me it would be something I would really like, but I didn't think it would be for me, but I thought you were really really good, and I wanted to buy your books and see if maybe you had another show coming up somewhere that I could go to and see you again." And then he just smiled.
"Uhhh. Thanks. Well, I don't have any other show shows for a month or so, but there's a big slam in Boston next Wednesday to decide who will represent Boston at the National Poetry Slam. I'll be in it. And, no matter who wins, it should be a really good show."
"Cool." Stare. Smile. "Here's my Myspace profile, could you send me the info? I'd really like to be there." Stare. Smile.
Stare. Smile. Walk away.
"Wow." Zouzou said.
"Yea." I said. "He was a little intense."
"A little intense?" Cheerio said? "He wants your dick. Often."
And because I am completely oblivious, I said "No. He's just really really into poetry, I guess."
Zouzou laughed. "Hon, no. That intense little drama student is completely besmitten with you."
I shrugged. "I don't know if I could date someone who was majoring in Drama."
"I think you're a little old for college students, anyway," Said Cheerio, who had just cursed me more than either of us could ever possibly know.
My new friend Mike offered to drive me back to Ben's apartment (I was catsitting Rufus while Ben was in Virginia), and on the way we discussed "the intense drama student", whose name I didn't have, but whose myspace profile, I did. While we were talking, I turned my cell on, and noticed I had a message.
"Hey, Adam, it's Ben. I'm still in Virginia. Anyway, I saw this totally awesome pair of shoes down here that would be completely perfect for you. And I know it's your birthday, and all. Happy birthday, by the way. And I was thinking about getting them for you, but they were really expensive, and I didn't know if I could afford them, or if you could afford them, so I decided not to get them, but I wanted to let you know that I was thinking of you. Happy Birthday."
And that's why I needed to not be in love with Ben. A really good friend would have bought me the damned shoes. A moderately good friend would have called, regretted that they couldn't really afford the shoes, but would have bought them, and asked to be reimbursed. A really good friend who was completely broke would have never mentioned the shoes at all, and just called to say Happy Birthday. Ben was none of those things. But I had been in love with him. I didn't really like him very much, but I was in love with him.
It turned out that the message was very old, because Ben was already at home in Allston, when Mike and I arrived. And we drank a little. Shit was shot. Ben sprawled out on his bed, and craned his neck in a way that someone had told him accentuated his jawline. And I packed up my stuff, said goodbye, and Mike prepared to drive me back to the apartment I shared with Celeste and Sir Trick. And it would have been a long night, sure. It was a bit past midnight, but I could get in bed by say, twosih, on this now early morning after my birthday, except...except...except Mike's car was not at all where he parked it a scant half hour ago. But right above where he had parked it was the number of a tow truck company. A number Mike dialed while scowling at his phone.
Now I could tell you that while he dialed, and spoke, I was thinking only of that strange intense little drama student. That my thoughts were pure or dirty or whatever. But I wasn't thinking of the (I still think) hot guy who'd given me his myspace profile because he wanted to come up to Boston and have me do him. I was thinking of Ben, who had been very direct about how he didn't find me attractive, how he didn't love me in any way. I was thinking of him sprawled out on his bed with his head cocked at a funny angle. How he had called to let me know that I wasn't important enough a part of his life for him to get me a birthday present. How much I loved him, and his stupid goddamned chin.
The comic book store has signs like skin has pores. Like an ocean has hydrogen atoms. Like sororities have STDs. Like lazy authors have analogous similes. When our stores have sales, the signs cover the front window, the door, the ceiling, the shelves, the counters, and, in some stores, even the floors.
This is why no one can ever tell when we are or aren't having a sale.
When I was still fairly new to the comic book store, I had a fairly terrible day. I was living in Slummerville, but still had loads to do in Allston (and not the laundry kind). So I got up early one morning, and discovered it was blizzarding. I was in Allston in God May Or May Not Know Who's apartment. I threw on my shoes, trudged through the snow to the Allston store, opened the door, and sleepily entered the alarm code to one of our other stores. Now, I'm sure someone had told me what to do to clear out the alarm so you could enter the correct code, but all I could hear and think of was "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
I tried calling the alarm code company, but the siren was hogging the phone line. So I just kept pressing the code until it worked.
I picked up the Chinese food I'd left in the refrigerator the day before, and hopped on the bus home.
Back at home, I was leisurely (read: naked) updating my Livejournal when my phone rang.
"Hey, Adam, it's Lulu. What are you doing?"
"Oh, I'm just working on some writing. How about you?"
"Aw, nothing. Just working in Harvard, looking for some books. I called Allston to get some transfers but, uh, you aren't there."
It was one o'clock on Not My Day Off, and there was no one in the store that was supposed to open at 11. Crap.
I hoofed it through the blizzard to the 66 fucken bus. Of course, I could have crawled to the stop, as I waited over an hour for the first bus. I didn't get there until three, and my boss was there, not very happy with me. I signed my first You Fucked Up Form, and she left. For the first time since I met her, she did not high five me when she left.
Ten minutes after she left, two women in too much black makeup came in. "Excuse me. I don't mean to be a pest, but..." Anyone who says this phrase is a liar. "one of your signs says 'open', and the other says 'closed'. Which is it? Are you open or closed?"
"Oh, sorry." I said, going over to flip the sign. "We're open. I must have missed the sign." Ans I smiled my fakest customer service smile.
"So, do you only get half paid for the day, then?"
Over by the new arrival racks, a customer who knew me sucked in air through his teeth.
"Ha." I ALF laughed. "Is there anything I can help you find?"
She came up to the counter and smiled at me. "Do you have a girlfriend?"
"Are we playing The Question Game?"
"I'm asking because I"m here with Avon Cosmet--"
"Oh, I'm sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry." I said. "So, you could read the 'closed' sign, but not the big sign next to it that says "no soliciting'?"
"Well, we're just here---"
"Your just here to bother people who are working with your cheap products that can't work or be stylish or else they'd be being sold in stores by people hired to understand the product and its customer base, not by some--"
She leaned over the coutner toward me. "Hey! Look,, buddy, if you don't want--"
"I'm not your buddy." I said, leaning into her. If this were a sitcom, we would have started making out in less than ten seconds. "Take your friend and your briefcase full of garbage out of my store. And tell your boss, if they're going to try and push make up on people, they should hire someone who has a sense of fashion."
"GET OUT OF MY STORE."
And, she did.
I knew her company didn't take the product seriously because they'd sent her and her creepily silent, and also creepuly made up friend. They looked like a 1994 Nine Inch Nails video. When a company had a product they believe in, they send two middle aged men or two middle aged women in professional suits, who immediately ask to speak to the business owner or "the man of the house." If the product is mediocre, they send a man and a woman, and it doesn't matter what they're wearing. But if a product is beyond hope, they send two attractive women under the age of twenty-five. If they send two blonde chicks who, like, totally don't even look like they're even, like, fourteen, RUN.
Last week, two, like, blonde chicks bopped into the store. My coworker took one look, and meandered to the back of the room.
"Hi!" Bimbette #1 said. "We're here with, like, Vita Coco."
"It's this totally delicious coconut water." Said Bimbette #2, matching #1's cadence.
"It is soooooooo delicious. We drink it all the time." Giggle.
"It's realy refreshing, and totally good for you, too." Giggle.
I was transfixed. I don't like blonde women at all. Especially not, like, totally stupid and fake ones. But these two were hypnotizingly moronic.
#1: "Like, all we do is work out and drink this delicious beverage."
#2: "And now they totally come in different flavors. Would you like some samples?"
NO. No, I did not want any samples. I just wanted them to leave. I had started digging my finger nails into my palms. And I focused on the only thing in the world that can block out a person when they're trying to hypnotize you.
"Thanks." Giggle. I couldn't even remember which number she was.
"You're totally going to love it."
And they left.
Quentin, my coworker, made his way back to the front of the store. "I wouldn't. I wouldn't drink that if I were you."
I opened it up. "How bad could it be?"
VitaCoco tastes exactly like sperm would taste if sperm could vomit. And vomiting is what I nearly did after drinking it. It was the single most vile thing I've ever had in my mouth, and I've put my tongue in some questionable places.
I brought all the samples out to the bar with me that night, expecting to make horrible drinks for people, but several of my friends clained to love VitaCoco. Some of them even taking huge gulps of it without flinching or making a face.
"But...but...sperm vomit." Was all I could say.
The next day, the Vita Coco Van was parked outside the store. I barely contained myself from going outside and slashing the tires.