Ben is on the phone with his mother. Speaking all falling leaves and sunshine. He is planning on spending a weekend on a commune in upstate New York. He wants to get in touch with nature, and spend some quality time with Lisabelle. He does not tell her that he really wants to go because he found an acid connection, and he wants us to do acid together before it starts snowing. And then I hear him say something about Ani Difranco.
“Wait, your mom likes Ani Difranco?” I ask.
“Yes.” He says, then relays my question to his mom.
“Your mom, who likes to wear flannel, and fixes all the appliances in your house when they break, also likes to listen to Ani Difranco? Your mom is such a dyke.”
“My Mom is Not a lesbian.” He says. Then he listens to the phone. “She says she’s a non-practicing bisexual. And she says that if she ever meets you, she’s going to kick your ass.”
“She is sooooo a dyke.”
Ben scowls, and takes the phone out of the room.
I’ve been living with him for two weeks. Nothing’s happened. Everything has happened. I quit my job at the coffeehouse and went back to my old job, waiting tables at Kookaburra Canyon. I got an e-mail from my mother’s boyfriend telling me that she has cancer, and she’s coming to visit me in Boston this weekend to discuss her will and other things I really don’t want to, but know I need to, deal with.
“I’ll go with you.” Ben says. “You never talk about your mom, I’d love to meet her.”
Thus far in my life, my mother has only met three people I’ve dated: Jennifer (who hates my mother because...well, my mom was a total bitch to her at every opportunity), Ryan (though it was before we were dating...he liked her, but he liked everyone), and Elvis (who she instinctively knew was evil, but she actually tried to be supportive as possible until the day I finally got rid of him, which she claims was one of the happier days in her life). Even my really close friends have never liked my mother. She was emotionally abusive to Liam and Riley. She made Saint quiver whenever she came into our house. Earlier this year, when angry at her for something stupid, I toyed with the idea of inviting my previous crush, Dmitri, to spend some time with me at my mother’s house. We were going to claim he was a fifteen year old street kid addicted to crank that I was “taking care of”. It seemed funny at the time.
I don’t know about her meeting Ben. I just don’t think it would be fun for either of them. It would give Ben some new material for his “Letters to My Exes’ Mothers” song, though, since we’re not even dating, I’m still a future ex at this point. I bet he’d do a fantastic impression of her, but she’d also eat him alive. Oh he wouldn’t cry about it, I just imagine, as we left the restaurant, him saying “Jesus, well that explains a lot about you.” Also, I'm not sure how bringing my not boyfriend to a discussion of my inheritance and my responsibilities, in the context of her estate, would go over.
“Don’t worry mom. He hasn’t done speed in…” (whispers in Ben’s ear, Ben whispers back) “ok, technically it hasn’t been that long, but he hasn’t really been a drug addict in months. Plus, he has a job. I know. I know he looks like he’s fourteen. He’s not. He’s twenty two.” (and here Ben would add, “Twenty two, and one month.”) “Yes. Twenty two and one month. No, I haven’t IDed him. Mom, he really is twenty-two. And one month. No, I haven’t been spending loads of money on him. In fact, he’s been reallysupportive of me. No, no we’re not...I'm glad you like my haircut...No, I...Ok, well...it’s not...I should really go to work.”
It’s just too much for me to contemplate. But as fate or luck or whatever higher power you belive in, would have it, my mom and her boyfriend come for their visit while Ben is at the commune buying acid.
The lunch isn’t nearly as awkward as I expect. Turns out, my mother doesn’t havecancer. The cancer was a ploy to get me to meet with them to discuss the will. It sounds awful, but it’s not terribly surprising. When I was living in Arifuckenzona, I went a little over a month without calling or e-mailing them, so my mother called and left a voicemail on my phone, letting me know they were taking a trip down to Florida, and that they’d left their wills on the kitchen counter, so that if their plane crashed.... It’s a cruel game. Avoidance and guilt hop-scotch.
After the meal, they drive me back to Ben’s apartment, where an obese man in a too tight t-shirt is knocking on his door. “Do you live here?” he asks.
And because it’s Ben’s apartment, and his landlord doesn’t know I’ve been staying here, I say “No. I’m just catsitting.”
“Too bad.” He says. “I gotta cut your power.”
Out go the lights, the computer, the refrigerator, the fan. Everything’s off. I feel like it’s my shitty luck infecting Ben’s life.
I take a bus over to Celeste’s apartment, and tell her the story. “I hope it’s not ametaphor, like Ben’s way of saying Here are the keys to my life, you are alwayswelcome, but you have no power. And then I read the little card the NStar guy gave me, and it says they turned the gas off, too, so I thought, hey, if I’m going with the metaphor, it means that he also thinks I’m not gassy.”
“Oh, dude,” Celeste days, taking my hand, “that’s not what it means at all. It means he thinks you're not hot.”
“It’s weird.” Celeste says, when we meet for breakfast the next day. “Ever since you started hanging out with Ben, you don’t write about anything else. I mean, you mention me, and a couple of other people from time to time, but it’s always in relation to a story about Ben. It’s like he’s the only thing that matters to you.”
I don’t know quite how to respond to that statement, so I don’t.
I’ve had this feeling with disturbing frequency recently. This need to speak, but lack of proper words to use. Rainbortion. Rainbortion. Rainbortion.
“What the fuck?” I scream.
And Ben peeks his head out from the kitchen. “What’s wrong?”
“You know that crazy bitch who’s moving into the room down the hall from me?”
“Yea.” he says, fluffing his hair, “I don’t like her.”
“She put an ad on Craigslist saying my room is for rent.”
“Are you sure it’s not for the room downstairs. I mean, if you don’t like her, maybe that Becky chick doesn’t like her either. It’s probably just a misunderstanding.”
I reread the ad. “No. There’s no misunderstanding. The headline is Shitty Roommate Must Go, and there’s fucken pictures of my room, with all my stuff in it."
“I’ll just finish making the tea then.”
I call Celeste, and start verge of tear bitching about this crazy situation, and how I can’t afford to put a deposit on a new place to live, and...and she says she’ll be over to Ben’s as soon as she can, in order to help me come up with new ideas about where I might move.
“You could stay here.” Ben says, and hands me a cup of tea.
“As long as you don’t mind sleeping on the van seat.”
I sip the tea. It’s wretched.
“Oh, I forgot to mix it with the orange juice. Want some?”
I decline. I’ve never liked orange juice.
“Suit yourself.” And he lights up a Galouises.
“Where’d you get that?” I ask. “I thought you told me that the convenience stores nearby were officially out of them, what with the whole French not exporting them here anymore.”
“Yea, but I keep finding stores with a couple packs left. I should just stop smoking them, but it’s like that exboyfriend who’s no good for you, who calls every once in a while, and you can’t help but invite him over and fuck him.”
“You are now, officially, the King of Analogies.”
He smiles. I get the chills.
“I kind of ground up the stems, so the tea is a little...thick. Next time I think I’ll leave the stems out.” Saying the tea was a little thick was like saying Don King was a little unscrupulous. A tad wordy. I use a spoon to chew the first half of the tea, chasing it with lemonade. The second half, I down as quickly as possible, but not as quickly as Ben does. “Is it hitting you yet?” He asks, his eyes: a cat watching a nuclear explosion.
“I don’t know.” We head up to his roof to smoke, and watch the sun consume the city around us. A hot guy comes up and starts doing tai chi in front of us. This is the best high ever. My phone rings. It’s Celeste. She'’s downstairs waiting to be let in. While I go downstairs, Ben grinds up another batch of tea.
“Your eyes.” She says. “Have you been crying? You looked positively wrecked.”
But I’m not wrecked. I’m rebuilding.
When I was sixteen, I made a bet with my mother. I would not be caught smoking, drinking, or doing drugs between the time the bet was placed, and my twenty-firstbirthday. If I succeeded, she’d buy me my first used car.
Years later, I learned that the actual bet wasn’t that I wouldn’t get caught, but that I wouldn’t do any of those things. But by the time my mother passed this revelation on to me, I was already on my second car, and was in no financial position to reimburse her for the first one.
I have a very competitive nature. Not only was I fixated on winning the bet, but I also gauged my rate of drinking, smoking, and doing drugs against the rates of my friends. I figured, if I was smoking, drinking, and doing drugs less often than my friends, then I wouldn’t get caught, I would win my car, and I would have the satisfaction of being a better person.
While I did have a brief addiction to cigarettes when I was twenty-one, I generally only smoke a cigarette or two every six months, when I’m exceptionally stressed. I drink socially, and until I started spending time with Ben, I had been decidedly antisocial. I’ve also held true to my ideal of drug usage. I don’t pay for them. Ever. This way, I don’t run the risk of becoming addicted to them. I do drugs on a purely peer pressure basis. For the most part, I only smoke pot. And again, not very often. Apart from pot, and a few cups of mushroom tea when I lived in Burlington, Vermont, I’ve only ever done one drug, mescaline. I was sixteen, and my high school roommate (thank you, boarding school education), JBob, had bought some from another student. He’d never done it before, I’d certainly never done it before, so we decided we’d do it together, and invited our friend Matt to hang out with us so that we wouldn’t do anything stupider than the sort of things we usually did when we were together.
About an hour after we took it, we weren’t feeling anything. Neither of us had ever been buzzed from any of the pot we smoked, so we decided that our experiment with mescaline was a failure, and decided we would go into town and watch a movie. As luck would have it, there was a brand new movie out that all three of us (me, JBob, and Matt) wanted to see: Natural Born Killers.
Well, the mescaline kicked in at some point during the movie. I don’t know when. I don’t know what I hallucinated and what was actually in that fucked up movie. All I know is, I haven’t been able to watch the movie since. I also haven’t touched mescaline since.
“Have you ever done speed?” Ben asks. It’s Labor Day, and we’ve just finished an extra large pizza, a bottle of Jack Daniels, two liters of Coke, and four hours of watching the Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston reality show.
“Never.” I say.
“You’ve got to try it.” He says. “I got so much writing done when I was on speed. I mean, it was all terrible, but I used to get sooooo much accomplished. You’d love it. I mean, I’ve always been hyper. My mom used to say I was like a kid on speed, but the truth is I totally was a kid on speed.” Ben kicks his voice up an octave. “Look at my Lego castle. I used 2,458 pieces. The princess sleeps in this room. See the way the drawbridge works…” and he is talking a mile a second, and I am laughing too hard to keep up, because it isn’t that he was a kid on speed when he was a kid, he’s a kid on speed now, just without the actual speed...or the kiddiness.
He talks like this all the way to the bus stop, during the entire trip to his house, and most of the way to the grocery store where we are, for some reason, buying a coffee grinder, lemon juice, lemonade, apples, nectarines, and bananas.
“I haven’t had bananas in ages.” I say, setting him up for a gay joke.
“Why not?” He asks.
“I don’t know. I like them, but I mostly have apples when I’m feeling healthy. Apples are my favorite fruit.”
Ben smiles. “I thought I was your favorite fruit.”
When a cute guy walks by him in the cereal aisle, Ben’s eyes and body follow the cute guy to the left. I push his left shoulder and he turns to the right, toward me. “I wonder if that’s an instinct?” He asks of his newly discovered navigation control.
“I don’t know. But there are other portions of your body I’d like to press to find out what happens.”
He shakes his head. “Booooo.” And then, “Have you ever done opium?”
“No.” I’ve always been leery of opium. All those terrible TV spots tell you that marijuana is a gateway drug, but they never mention which drugs it opens the gate to. Opium, from all the Burroughs I’ve read, is the gateway drug to heroin. And while I have no fear of needles in doctors’ offices, I have no desire to start sticking them into my arm, taint, or spine on a regular basis. Plus, I’ve never been turned on by young Arab boys, or shooting a loved one in the face.
“It’s a really mellow high.” He says. “It’s like the anti-speed. Of course, it makes you really nauseous and shit, but that’s totally okay because when you do opium, you do opium with your friends, and puking is like conversation when everyone’s high.”
“I don’t think vomit is a language I want to speak.”
“You’ll love it.” He says. And on the way back from the grocery store, we stop at a florist, where we buy a dozen dried poppies.
While Ben grinds the poppies in his newly acquired coffee grinder, I check my e-mail. Note from my mom’s boyfriend letting me know that my mother may have cancer, porn spam, invitation to a lesbian wedding, Viagra spam, and an e-mail from Celeste:
Dude, my roommate was going through Craigslist looking for an apartment
for his new girlfriend, when he found this ad. Isn't that your room?
When I wake up, Ben is in the shower singing Nelly Furtado’s “Turn Out The Lights”. Nelly Furtado? I should be cringing. But it sounds sooooo...sooooo...sooooo right. I take a look around the room. In an ideal world, I am looking around the room from his bed. I reek of sex and alcohol, and probably his precious Galouises. In reality, I am looking around the room from the van seat he uses as a couch. He ripped it out of some van he was touring in back when he was in a band.
“Why haven’t you slept with him yet?” Celeste asks, a few hours later, when we’re at work. “Trick thinks it's because you’re both tops. I think it’s because you're a huge pussy."
She might be right. There really isn’t a good reason why I haven’t attempted to make a move with Ben, apart from the fact that I have the self-esteem of a slug in a salt factory, or a slut in a slit factory. No matter what I try to tell myself, I’m obviously enamored with him. I drop his name in conversations more often that I use the word the. So I decide that tonight, I’m going to make my move. It’s been two weeks since the first date. I think he’s hot, funny, a talented singer, hot, appropriately mean, hot, he has fuzzy duckling hair, and he’s extremely hot.
I invite Ben to The Lizard Lounge. It’s like romantic or something, our second week anniversary, and we’re going to have drinks at the bar where we had our first date. After the fourth Captain and Coke, Ben writes Pussy Drink on a napkin, and sticks it to my sweating glass. I laugh, not just because I think it’s funny, but because this is the least pussy drink I’ve had in a month. It didn’t even come with an umbrella. I make sure the next drink I order is a Midori Sour. “Now this,” I tell him, tapping the cherry toward the bottom of the glass with my straw, “is a pussy drink.”
He sneers a smile at me. “Pussy.”
I don’t know if we’re flirting. I don’t think so.
“Do you want to come back to my place tonight?” I ask, hoping it doesn’t sound like a weird come on line.
He raises an eyebrow.
“I just mean, we always go over to your house. I live much closer. We can stay until the bar closes. And tomorrow’s Arbor Day or some shit.”
“Labor Day.” he says.
“Yea, Labor Day. I assume you don’t have to work.”
“I never work Mondays anyway.” He says. And then, “Sure, I’ll come over.”
So we continue to drink. And drink. And drink. And then it’s last call. And we’re drinking.
“Do you have any more alcohol at your house?” He asks.
“Homeward ho!” He says. It takes me a few seconds to determine whether or not there was a comma between those two words.
About ten minutes into the walk, Ben says “So, I’ve been reading the stories you’ve been writing about me in your journal, and”
I wait for him to finish the sentence. There are several things Ben is good at. One of them is finishing sentences.
He doesn’t finish the sentence. He says “Does this hill ever fucken end? My God. I hate this hill. I’m gonna break my damn ankle. I want to date a guy who would feel so bad about my ankle that he’d carry me all the way back to his house. And he’s got to talk cool, too. I’m modeling the way I talk after the characters from Dennis Cooper’s books. I love how LA they talk. I want to speak in soundbites that don’t sound too forced. Like a famous person. I’m going to be famous, so I should talk like it.”
“It’s not too much further.” I say. Relative to what, I’m not sure. “And if I wasn’t so drunk, I’d totally carry you up this hill.” Really, I would have. But it wasn’t that much further.
“I was kidding.” He says.
We are at the house. And for some drunk reason we start talking about vaguely sexual things and exes and “I could really use a margarita. Want one?” I ask.
“Sure. Don’t make mine too strong, though.”
Intoxication being the subject of the week, we start talking about poor Courtney Love, which reminds me of the Robot Chicken episode that has an American Idol spoof called Zombie Idol, where dead rock stars come back from the grave to compete. A claymation Ving Rhames, straight out of DawnoftheDead, pulls out his rifle and starts shooting, only to have the rifle snatched by Zombie Kurt Cobain, who turns the rifle around and shoots himself in the head.
“That show is awesome.” Ben says. “I’ve only seen one episode, but it ruled. It had Optimus Prime and he totally had colon cancer, and at the end of the skit he turned into a coffin with the Transformers logo. I love that show. My friends...no one told me about that show for like six months. And that show was made for me. I told my friends that they failed at friendship for not telling me about it sooner.”
“So do I get bonus points for bringing it up” And before he can answer, “It’s on in like 10 minutes!” Naturally, it is the one episode he’s already seen. But we’re drunk, and Robot Chicken is funny no matter how many times you see it.
But by the end of the episode, Ben is passed out in his chair. I wake him up. “Why don’t you go upstairs? I have some writing to do. You can crash on my bed.”
“Are you sure that’s okay?” He asks when we get upstairs. He spread eagles across my bed before I can even answer.
Since there is no more room for me on my bed, I debate rolling him to a side, throwing my arms around him and going to sleep. It’s not a sexual move, but it’s a move. It’s progress. I would be making progress.
Instead, I take the only pillow that’s not resting under his head, toss it on the floor, and lay down. I spend hours watching him sleep, before I finally drift into the edge of unconsciousness. Just as I sense the last rational thought slip from mind, I hear Ben bolt up in bed, and say “Brain surgery. That’s what he needs.” And then he rolls over, and goes back to sleep. My Zombie Idol.
It’s 8:00, and I’m in a bar. As usual. What’s unusual is that I’m waiting for someone specific. I know his name, what he looks like, how he smells. I already know that he’s often funny in person, that his voice, while not precisely soothing, won’t send merunning out to the pharmacy for earplugs. I’m prepared.
Who the fuck am I kidding? I’m a mess. My fingernails are chewed off, my bottom lip bears the indentation of my front teeth, and I’ve run my fingers through my hair so many times, clumps are falling out. God, I can’t go bald on my first real date in...thismillennium.
After the third Southern Comfort and Coke, I check my watch. I’m not wearing a watch. I never wear a watch. “What time is it?” I ask the bartender with laryngitis. She points to the massive clock on the wall behind her. It’s 9:04. Both my date and my friends who offered to act as moral support (and to keep me from going home with him on our first date) are over an hour late. And I’m, if not already drunk, getting there.
The women next to me have spent forty-five minutes talking about Harry Potter, about friends who have also read Harry Potter, and about shunning one of their mutual exes because he hasn’t read Harry Potter. I am about thirty seconds away from throwing my ice at them, and yelling It’s a children’s book. What the hell is wrong with you? when I see my date walk by the window, dressed in khakis and a blazer. I am wearing blue jeans and a Transformers t-shirt.
“Oh my God!” Ben says when I step outside. “I love the Transformers. I’m writing a webcomic about their sordid sexual proclivities. Oh,” he puts his Galouises in his mouth, and shakes my hand, “sorry I’m late. We had this call from a woman claiming to be her daughter, and it was so” I think he’s talking about his work, but my mind keeps looping the phrase Where’s Celeste? over and over. If my support network doesn’t show up, I’m liable to go home with him before we even order drinks. Well, before he even orders drinks.
“Adam!” someone shouts from across the street. It’s thank God Celeste. She’s with her boyfriend, Trick, and...I don’t remember her friend’s name. I think it’s Steve. Most of her friends are named Steve. There’s Steve the Bassist, Steve the Drummer, Anarchist Steve, Socialist Steve, Starbuck’s Steve, Steve Jackson, Irish Steve, and THE Steve. I know this isn’t THE Steve, but apart from that, I don’t have a clue. He might not even be a Steve. “Sorry, I’m late.” She says. “You remember Steve, right?”
“Of course.” I say. “And this is my friend, Ben. Ben, Steve. Steve, Ben. Ben, Trick. Trick, Ben. Celeste, Ben. Ben, Celeste.” Introductions make me dizzy.
Somebody Steve shakes his dreadlocks. “Adam and I were almost roommates.” Oh, that Steve. “But I ended up getting my own place. It’s much easier.”
“Well that’s not very socialist of you.” I say. Celeste, Trick, and Steve all laugh.
“Steve is a socialist.” Celeste explains. Ben laughs. Politely.
When we are all back inside, Ben takes off his blazer, revealing a wife beater. Now we look like a unit. Socialist Steve in his black jeans and Misfits hoodie, Celeste in her pink bunny shirt and skirt made of ties, Trick in jeans and a navy blue t-shirt, me, and Ben. If the waitress hadn’t seen me sitting at the bar for an hour and a half, we could have been a group of scenesters coming from an all ages emo show. Something free. I can tell, as she takes our drink order, that she’s calculating how much we’re likely to tip her.
Socialist Steve orders an obscure lager that I’ve never heard of. Celeste gets a hard cider. Trick gets a Guinness. Ben asks about a good ale. I forgo the Southern Comfort and Cokes for a Midori Sour. When the waitress puts it down in front of me, a couple of minutes later, Ben says “That’s the gayest drink I’ve ever seen.”
Celeste asks “Where’s the umbrella?”
And then Ben is bullet point talking at us. Celeste throwing in the occasional story which may or may not have anything to do with whatever it is Ben is talking about. Talk talk talk talk talk, meandering story, talk talk talk talk talk, meandering story, talk talk talk talk talk, Socialist Steve makes a dry remark about his beer, meandering story, talk talk “Mind if I try some?” Ben asks, reaching for my drink.
“Not at all. Here.”
He takes a large sip from my straw, swishes it like wine, and swallows. “Too fruity.”
In those two words, he’s summed up the reason why I’ve fallen out of crush with every fag I’ve known since I started dating.
When the food has been digested, and the check has been paid, the five of us head outside. Celeste gives me the Is It Okay For Us To Leave You Two Alone Eyebrow. I reply with the It Is Nod.
And we’re alone.
“I don’t think Steve paid enough to cover tip.” Ben says.
“I don’t think he paid enough to cover his beer.” I say. “I put in five extra bucks.”
“Me, too.” He says.
There’s about ten seconds of comfortable silence, and then Ben’s tongue turns Gatling gun again. “You know the French are so mad about the way George Bush is ruining this country, that they’re refusing to export Galouises here, which means I’m either going to have to quit smoking or find another brand. It sucks because I just started smoking Galouises a few months ago because my mom used to smoke them in high school and they’re incredibly smooth, and I just really like them. I don’t think I can go back to Marlboro Lites. It seems like every time I like something, it instantly disappears, like there’s some vast fucken conspiracy against me. Well, bring it on Universe, I can take it, I can find another brand of cigarettes that I’ll like even better. And"
And I should kiss him. That might just be the one thing that stops his nervous babbling. But I don’t. And I don’t care to analyze why.
“and I totally had fun and everything, and it was really nice to be on a date with someone who wasn’t just trying to get into my pants on the first date or anything. Like my last exboyfriend, who’s totally HIV positive. I’m not, by the way, I’ve been tested recently, and we haven’t had sex in over a year. But he is, and I think I want to ask him to marry me, because then I can just marry him and do the whole ‘til death do us part thing, and know that it won’t be that far away. Though, honestly, I’ll probably marry the first guy who asks me to.”
And before I can stop myself, the words “Will you…” leap off my tongue, and cartwheel over the tightrope of desperation that serves as the only common thread between us. I can’t marry Ben, I don’t even know his last name. “Will you―really?”
“You didn’t.” Celeste says, when I relay the story to her later. “That’s soooooo lame.”
“What about Dmitri?” she asks, referring to my most recent unavailable fuck interest.
“What about him? I’m not going to wait for some confused gay guy in Chicago who has had the same boyfriend since he was fourteen. That’s slow suicide.”
“But he’s a med student.” Celeste says. “Wouldn’t your mom be thrilled if you were marrying a nice, rich doctor?”
“Sure.” I say. “If I were a woman.” When my mother calls to ask how I’m doing, she always asks Do you have a new boyfriend or, her voice swells with hope, girlfriend? “I think she’d be content with me marrying a hair dresser, as long as the hair dresser has a vagina.”
She rolls her eyes. “So, the proposal thing. You only proposed…”
“I didn’t propose. I very nearly proposed.”
“Wev, dude. You only very nearly proposed because you were drunk, right?”
“How many drinks did you have?”
I tap the tips of my fingers. “I lost count at four.” The problem with mixed drinks is the problem with boys: the fruitier they are, the easier they go down, and eventually you lose track of how many you swallow. Not that either Ben or I did any going down or swallowing on the night I nearly almost proposed.
“Will I really what?” Ben asks.
“Marry the first guy who proposes.”
And I wait for him to ask if that’s a proposal, or if I’m kidding, or for him to say anything to end this awkward, depressing silence. “I don’t know.” He says, taking the last drag off his last cigarette. “Depends on the guy, I guess.”
“Well, I’d hope so.” And I throw in a fake laugh, that I hope sounds sincere.
“I should go.” He says. “I don't want to miss the last train.”
And I almost detain him just a long enough so we end up going back to my place to share either a great fuck, a huge mistake, or both. But I don’t.
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.
You are not regular. I don't care if you shit every day at 8:45 AM, spend from 9-5 in a cubicle crunching numbers and drinking coffee. The fact that you like "24" and "Desperate Housewives" makes you average, but "average" and "regular" are not the same thing. Six inches hanging straight down may be average, but it ain't regular.
Three customers at work today asked for a "regular" coffee; one meant a medium black houseblend, one wanted a small houseblend with two creams and two sugars, and one wanted a shot of espresso. Words failed me, but not as much as the word "regular" failed them.
When a person writes a personal ad, and says he's a "regular guy", I picture an obese black underwear model with blonde hair, purple eyes, wearing only a sweater vest and six Swatch watches. His ass has a door over the hole that says "unleaded only". You know, regular.
I don't like regular people. My friends have style: Zuzu is adopting a dachshund (against my advice) and, because dachshunds are German, naming it Pup Ratzinger. Celeste uses a 1950's era medical kit as a purse, and even writes with pens shaped like syringes. Dmitri drinks ketchup straight from the bottle when he's nervous. My friends don't even have regular names.
Landlord woke me up at 5 AM to tell me my room was messy. I knew this already. "Why are you in my room anyway?"
"I'm looking for dishes." he said.
"Try the kitchen." I rolled over and fell back asleep. I dreamed I was on "American Idol", freestyling a Christian gospelesque song while Billy Joel played classical piano. I have this dream every Tuesday. It's a regular occurrence.
I rewoke up at 9:30, had eggs and toast with my new roommate, an Australian woman who tests the effects of psychotropic drugs on schizophrenics. I call her Dr. O.
"When I was sixteen," I told her, "my roommate, JBOB and I took mescaline for the first time. Just as the high started kicking in, we were given free tickets for a preview showing of Natural Born Killers. When it let out, we alternated between hiding in doorways and searching the city for Laura Palmer's remains. I haven't touched mescaline or NBK since."
At ten thirty, I caught a bus to work. A complete stranger with piercing green eyes said, as he stepped off the bus, "I love your haircut."
I stammered out a weak "Thanks?". He turned around and waved. His shirt said "Future Fry Cook". The film version of my life has run out of extras.
I was barely at work for a half hour when Clarissa called. Twice. Fuck Clarissa, I should refer to her as Needy Smurf. No, that's too harsh. Needy Bitch. She's been telling my coworkers she's my girlfriend, and she constantly "calls me back", which is remarkable only because I never call her first.
After an uneventful day of pouring coffee, I took the T to Quincy to mail books to prisoners. As I opened the door to the church I heard "Safey?" And across the street was my beautiful ex-not-quite-boyfriend, MAMIP. "It really is you."
I wondered if he was surprised at my haircut, the fact that I was wearing the shirt he bought me, or that I was entering a church. Turns out, one of my illustrious former coworkers told him I'd moved back to Arizona. "Right." I said. "Just after I had breast augmentation and took up drinking kerosene and lighting my belches on fire."
He stared blankly at me. I am on the receiving end of this look more than I care to admit.
We exchanged new phone numbers and soap opera stares until he had to go to work.
When I was finished with my volunteer work, I headed over to Zuzu's for dinner. Then I headed home and went to sleep. Alone.
Every morning, on my way to the hospital, I find the hottest guy on the bus and try to picture how Interesting our life will be when he realizes that I'm his soul mate. Usually, there's a body part to fixate on: eyes, hair, the back of their head.
Today's obsession was all eyes and fauxhawk until he folded his copy of The Metro, revealing a bright-green (eye accentuating) t-shirt that read "Future Fry Cook". This suits him probably more than he'd like to admit. But is this his long-term career path or do his shirts and jobs change by the season?
If this sort of honesty through t-shirt slogan catches on, I can finally land myself a blue shirted "Future Doctor" or better yet, a black shirted "Living Off Multi-Billion Dollar Inheritance".
I see myself flipping through my closet, filled with "Recovering Bartender", "Former Loss Prevention Agent", "Jester-Suited Fudge Maker Eventually Embarrassed Into Finding Real Job". I would keep the pretentious "Occasionally Makes Money Off Writing" in the back, with the stonewashed denim suit and the Kurt Cobain flannel.
Future Fry Cook clears his throat when he notices that I'm staring at him. I blink my eyes twice and redirect my imagination out the window.
At work, I tell Celeste a revised version of my fantasy: "An entire closet of patchwork t-shirts reading "Odd Jobber".
"What about 'Marginally Employed Barrista Approaching Thirty'? Or 'Whore With Crippling Emotional Distance'?"
"Laugh It Up 'Flakey Artist Who Pours Coffee Near Hospital'."
This will never catch on. I'd rather wear a shirt that had pictures of all the ugly guys I've slept with. At least then I'll be able to point out that it's all stuff from my past, not my future. No, really, someday I will be a famous novelist. I'm not a "Future Waiter", I'm a "Former Waiter".
I'm in the middle of coming up with a color scheme for my line of "Future Job Wear" when a guy with the most beautiful eyes in the world approaches the counter. He is the fourth person with "the most beautiful eyes in the world" that I've seen today.
I'm convinced that he's about to tell me how hot I look in the black hat I've been wearing to hide the fact that I didn't have time to wash my hair this morning, but what he actually says is "I'd like a hot black Colombian with lots of head."
Me, too. Oh, wait, he means the coffee.
I've really got to find a new job.
I would like to apologize to The American Public for the current blizzard situation. It's my fault. In September 2000, I moved to Burlington, Vermont, where I spent some time hanging out with my friends, Dagster and The Soggy Blind Lesbian (they have real names, but they're intimidated by my other friends' cool monikers). 2000/2001 was the snowiest winter in Vermont in 50 years. On December 26th, the three of us had a reunion, and sure enough it was a disgusting snow muck in Boston. Last Sunday, Dagster and I made pizza and went out to a poetry slam. It snowed. Today, I passed her on my way for a brief visit with my mother on The Cape. I'll be lucky to get out of here by Monday.
Thus far, it's been an eventful 2005. The new apartment...the new aprtment...Dear God, the new apartment.
The day after Christmas, my Dad dropped me off at the ferry (with an er, not an ai, wise-asses), and I headed into Boston to have dinner with the aforementioned Dagster and SBL. On my way, I decided to stop at my new apartment and put my luggage in my room, so as not to drag hundreds of pounds of suitcases around in the freezing snow. Now, I know Boston pretty well. I'm fairly new to Slummerville, but I know I live off Broadway, so when I get off the T and see a bus that says "via Broadway", I get on it. For whatever reason the "via Broadway" bus does not run via Broadway. So I had to ride it all the way back to the T station, and then walk the mile or so home. I was not inhappymode.
Now, those of you regular readers might think what happens next would be something of an enjoyment for me; a late Christmas present from the God of Twisted Whores: I opened the door to my new apartment, a room I'd set up with all my belongings, a bed I'd slept in twice, and what do I find? Three half-naked Chinese boys. The room is filled with suitcases that I don't remember owning, and there are three half naked Chinese strangers sleeping in my goddamned bed. Did I strip off my clothes and join them? Take off my shoe and beat them until they ran screaming out into the snow? Read them the advanced copy of the Are We There Yet? screenplay until they beat each other to death with my industrial sized stapler? No. I calmly closed the door to my room, and had a bit of a "what the fuck?" session with The Landlord. The crazy assed, what the hell was I thinking moving into this place Landlord. Oh, right, I was thinking "Food is included in the rent." Unfortunately, sanity, privacy, and a healthy sense of personal boundaries were not.
Having griped out some of my stress, I head into town to meet Dagster and SBL. About halfway there, I get a phone call from SBL, Dagster and she have been in a minor car accident (I told Dagster she should have let the blindie drive). They are fine, but are freaked out about the snowy driving conditions, so they go to Dagster's house, which is also in Slummerville. I go to The Lizard Lounge for poetry. I am one of five people including the real host, and the bartender that is stupid enough to go out for poetry during a snowstorm. We drink free drinks, and I catch a cab Chez Dagster.
By the time I get home, it is the 27th, and the Chinese Boys are barricaded in another room. Apparently, the pill popping gay roommate sat on one of their faces at three o'clock in the morning, so they decided to move into an empty room, and put a desk in front of the door so he couldn't get in. My room no longer shows evidence of anything Chinese, not even General Tso's Chicken.
The Chinese boys (who are mildly hot, but a tad on the rich and clueless side for me) head out to New York, leaving me, Landlord and Pill Popper. Pill Popper regales me with tales of his youth on Cape Cod. He repeatedly refers to me as Michael, Jonathan, and occasionally Frank; never by my proper name. He goes into vast details about all the clubs he used to go to on The Cape. Unfortunately for him, I actually did grow up on The Cape, and know that every story he tells me is complete and utter bullshit. Fairy fantasy tales. Meanwhile, The Landlord has adopted a Korean houseboy.
Korean houseboy won't let me do my own dishes, won't let me cook my own food, and gets in the habit of interrupting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to ask me questions about American culture. He has a fetish for "silver hairs." Hence, he is fucking my Landlord, though he is about five years younger than me, and Landlord is thirty years older. I try and stay out of the house as much as possible. New Year's Eve Eve, I am rescued from the madhouse by my friend, Celeste, and her ultra-cool roommate. We eat pizza and play arcade games at The Good Times Emporium. I even beat a straight boy at air hockey.
Actual New Year's Eve, I move my stuff into my new new room; a refinished attic with all sorts of cool angles, and closet space for all my friends who can't deal with their sexual orientation. I set up my bookcase and my laptop, and mourn the fact that my computer isn't equipped for wireless Internet yet.