Since my very first Florida vacation, as an adult, there's been a tradition of trying to drink our way around The World Showcase at Epcot Center. The first year, my friends and I made it through Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, and Italy, before I got a text from another couple, and went back to Mexico. I *think* I drank my way around the world and a half again, but I have no documentation of that. So during my second trip with a different group of friends, we documented our journey in photos. Sadly, just as we finished Italy, it began to rain, and we retreated to the indoor rides of Future World, having failed at our quest.
Last year, Paul and I went on a Parkhopping Adventure beginning with Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and ending with the Drink Around The World Challenge at Epcot. It was still daylight when we arrived, but we only made it to Italy before they started lighting off fireworks and closing the park. This year, we were focused. We were ready. We ordered a Lyft to avoid driving. It was time to get Internationally Drunk. (Well, Mock Internationally.)
Perhaps a harbinger of our trip should be how long we stood in front of the house, anxiously awaiting a Lyft that was already in front of the house, just on the other side of the street. How long? No idea. Certainly more than two minutes.
Once at the park, we were greeted by a giant sign celebrating The Festival Of The Arts. As I'm sure you're shocked to discover, most of the art produced involved Disney properties. Lots of Mickey, Star Wars, various classic Disney characters, Frozen, Pixar products, etc. But quite a lot of them were inspiringly well-made, and didn't look like the basic Disney crud they sell in their stores 365 days of the year. The first thing I saw was the best, though: Louis Lochead's collage portrait of Prince. But we didn't go to Epcot to enjoy art. We came to drink.
In order to assure we wouldn't, for the third consecutive trip, end up stalling out in Italy, having only conquered five countries, we decided to start on the other end of the spectrum.
Waterfalls, a pool with no fish, Native-inspired totems. We hoped to start our day with an unhealthy amount of poutine (any positive integer number of poutine is unhealthy), and particularly Canadian beverages.
"What do you think their stereotypical Canadian drinks are?" Paul asked.
"Labatt Blue?" I ventured.
Paul nodded. "I'm guessing Moosehead Ale and Maple Whiskey."
We were both right. As they had no poutine, and only maple popcorn (or regular Pop-Secret Popcorn....the secret being...it's microwaved?), I made the first of many false promises that we would eat at whatever the next country was.
I had an Ottowa Apple, which was apple-infused Crown Royal whiskey with cranberry juice, while Paul had A Maple Cafe, which was a frozen coffee drink made with maple-infused whiskey.
"Gah! Brain freeze!" Paul gasped. "That's it! No more frozen drinks." This was the second false promise we made.
I'm not trying to neg on British food, but Paul and I had already made a pact not to eat any more British food on this trip, as we'd previously made a stop at a British restaurant in Clermont where, after cutting my appropriately anchovy-ish Caesar Salad wrap, they'd clearly used the same food prep items to make everyone else's food, so that everything had a strong Anchovy notes. Which is not something you want in a pork sandwich or a sausage. This might have had something to do with the restaurant in question being run by someone who didn't appear to know anything about food, business, or customer service.
I'm sure Epcot's England restaurant was Way Better. But a pact is a pact.
For the third time since entering the park, a stranger noticed my Jawas 2 shirt, and started a mildly flirtatious conversation. Leading me to write my theme for the day "Making friends....with my teeeeee shirt", which was sung several more times throughout the trip.
In honor of his cultural homeland, Paul had a Newcastle, and in honor of absolutely nothing, I had a pear cider.
We, then walked through one of the souvenir stores, where I heard The Most American Man In America chatting with the British cashier. "Where are you from?" He asked.
"London." she likely lied. "How about you?"
"I"m from Des Moine, Iowa." he said. "The. Heart. Land. Of. America."
"Oh wow." she likely lied.
On the other side of the store, there was a garden which, I think, is supposed to be from Alice In Wonderland, but Mary Poppins was the celebrity signing autographs, which Paul was too cool to stand in line for.
We opted to desert it up (because hungry and full of alcohol. Paul having the Creme Brulee, while I had a profiterole in the shape of a swan.
I made more friends with my t-shirt in Morocco, where Disney's Microagressive Family Of The Day made a bunch of I Dream Of Jeannie gestures, after declaring that all the clothes in the Morocco store were "hideous", which I imagined meant thy were a perfect match for their personalities. But they didn't end up buying them.
Paul ended up having another red wine. "Better than the one in France!"
I, breaking the previously mentioned No More Frozen Drink rule, had a Tangerine Daiquiri.
"My...throat...frozen...stars...gah." was my full review of the daiquiri.
"They don't even know what causes throat or brain freeze." Paul said. "They think it might have something to do with the constriction of the throat due to the temperature difference between the cold beverage and the warm air around you. But they're not sure because nobody is doing the research. Probably because nobody has ever died of brain freeze."
At this point, a Very Drunk Dad was yelling "JACKIE!!!! JACKIE!!!" at a sheepish little girl, who was being guided to him by one of the International Festival Of The Arts employees. "I Told You To Stay With Us. Where Were You?"
"I told you I." she whispered.
"NO." He said. "NO. You Do Not Leave Us." and then, showing his complete lack of self-awareness, he drank more of his beer, and said "You Need To Pay Attention To Your Surroundings."
As he said this, I was mildly bumped by a person in a mobility scooter.
The solution to throat freeze, in case you were interested, is Not a hot beverage. Particularly if you don't like hot beverages.
I'm sure my sake was a decent representation of plum wine. But I like neither plums, nor wines, nor hot beverages, so it was a poor choice on my part.
Paul had a lavender iced sake, which was not quite a single plum floating in perfume in a man's hat, but was close.
We also went into the Japan art gallery, which was mostly Kawaii, and made me wonder why none of my friends have written "From Ronin to Salary Man: The Changing Ethics In Japanese Cultural Icons" or "From Samurai Swords To Tentacle Hentai: What The Fuck Happened?"
I only managed about 3/4s of my sake. I poured the rest out in memory of my fallen comrades from the manga section of NEC Brookline (none of us have died, we're just clumsy).
The night before our Drink Around The World Challenge, Paul and I had met up with a friend for mostly sober mini-golf, and then drinks at a localish beer bar. I was psyched to see they had hard root beer on the menu, and I ordered it. So, of course, they were out of it.
I meant to order the hard root beer at the completely unnecessary United States Of America section of The World Showcase, "where you can get your picture taken with George Washington on his way across the Delaware to murder a bunch of British people. Or fight in a war. However you call that." Paul said.
He took a mulligan on drinking, which I think is totally acceptable considering we'd been drinking in the US all week, but I had a hard orange soda to go with my pretzel, which was, of course, in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head. I thought several times of taking a picture of it, but it didn't happen.
Mimes with whistles. Who knew that was a thing you'd encounter twice in your drunken tour around the Disneyfied world?
The one in Italy juggled with soccer balls and umbrellas, and antagonized adults, while being kind to children. I'm sure I've seen worse things while munching on a pretzel.
Paul had decided on prosecco while we overheard someone behind us say "I bought limoncello from this place last time. It didn't end well." So I decided an orangecello would be a safer choice.
I'm not a beer guy, but what else do you get in Germany? For the first time, Paul and I got the same thing: Octoberfest.
Other than that, Germany was entirely uneventful. Probably because we used up all of Germany's magic, spending an hour taking pictures whilst wearing a variety of hats on a previous trip.
Nothing on China's drink menu struck Paul's fancy, but I found a cream, vodka, and amaretto drink called "Fortune Cookie" which I thought was just a trite name for a drink in "China", but it actually tasted like a fortune cookie, so...well done, Disney.
Some day, I will be as happy as Hayden was with his bubble machine. We waited about forty-five minutes in line for the Frozen ride in Norway. Partly to give some space for our next drink, and partly because it's one of the few Epcot rides I've never been on. Throughout the entire ride, the kid in front us, who was named Hayden (which I know because every thirty seconds one of his parents would say "Hayden, stop it. Hayden, get over here. Hayden, pay attention!" had a wand that shot bubbles everywhere.
"How long do you have to work here," I asked Paul, "before you no longer notice that a kid has been blasting you in the face with bubbles for a full minute?" If the employees guarding the end of the line noticed the bubbles, it wasn't apparent.
While I made friends with my t-shirt, Hayden fired bubbles at his parents, Hayden made a bubble tower on the floor, Hayden made a bubble beard on his brother. When Hayden's dad took the finally no-longer bubble producing wand into his custody, he blew his own bubble with gum he was chewing, and Hayden burst the bubble and put the gum in his own mouth. Because kids are gross.
Despite being directly behind them in line, I don't think we ended up on the same boat as the Hayden Clan. But we did get on the boat, where I reassured myself that this was a ride designed for nine year olds who loved princess movies, and was probably not going to have any parts that would cause me to spew my own alcohol-fused bubbles all over Paul or anyone else in my vicinity.
I don't know if I was just the right level of inebriated, or just happy to be sitting down for the first time since France, but the Frozen ride was great, if brief. It's very much the same as the old Viking ride, but with singing snowmen, a bunch of unfamiliar songs medleyed together so hard that I couldn't tell you whether they included "Let It Go" (though they must have, right?), and creepy mini-snowmen. I would have gone on it again, but we were due for our Aquavit shots, which I forgot that I hated. Unlike the sake, I powered my way through it, and Paul and I headed to Mexico. Sans bubble wand. Stopping only to take the selfie, like we had at every country, but a helpful stranger took the photo for us. Thanks, helpful stranger!
We made it to Mexico! The final nation of the tour. Traditionally, we've grabbed some form of tequila based drink, usually a margarita, and then hopped on the Three Caballeros Grand Fiesta Ride. But fuck tradition. Tradition means we end up not finishing the quest, so we each violated the rules once again by getting frozen margaritas (Paul going for lime, me going with Strawberry).
Since we'd forgone the Three Caballeros, I suggested we end the night on another ride. I'd hoped to do the Soarin' ride at The Land, but as we approached, I noticed that, in addition to The Land, which I was familiar with, there was The Sea, which I've never been to. So we headed in that direction, and entered the Finding Nemo ride because I really wanted to say "I've never been drunk on a slow clammobile ride before." There was also what would have been a very impressive aquarium, except it was not as impressive as the one we visited at I-Drive 360, and it had a manatee tank with what appeared to be the two most depressed manatees in the entire world.
"How do you know?" Gary asked. "Don't they all just look like that?"
If all goes well, the next time I'm in the Orlando area, we'll be drinking around Galaxy's Edge, where Han will take his shot first.
Before the open mic, I stopped at Already Been Chewed Pizza (not the Problematic place, but the place next to The Cantab) to grab a couple of slices of subpar pizza for me, and some mozzarella sticks for Dr. Bobby,
While I waited, I checked FB on my phone. The person behind the counter called out "Slices", and before I could look up, the person behind me in line said "Your pizza is ready, Phone Guy."
Me: "Yea, I'm waiting on mozzarella sticks, too."
Random Person: "I hate Facebook. But I love it, too. I have 600 friends. I don't even know 600 people."
RP: "And people be messaging me, like 'Good morning, wifey.' Do you see a ring on this finger?"
Me: "I do not."
RP: "Wifey? Maybe if they got a million dollars, though, right? Not these 4.99 motherfuckers."
Employee: "Mozzarella sticks are ready."
Me: "Thanks." No, really. Thanks.
When I brought the food into The Cantab, I relayed the story and Simone pointed out that that was not an unusual human interaction for me. For someone else, maybe, but not for me.
After the night was over, Dr. Bobby, Manon, and I headed to Noir, the absolute best worst place to get a drink. I bought a round that was fun but uneventful. The good doctor bought a round that was fun but uneventful, and I was sent to pick up the credit card and the final round, and...the person in front of me ordered a drink, and then turned around and began singing "I just called to say I love you. I just called to say how much I care."
Singing Guy: "I just called to say I looooooooooove you. And I mean it from the bottom of my heart."
Me: "That's a great song."
SG: "No New Year's Day. To celebrate."
Me: "Wow. You know ALL the words."
SG: "Only my solitary heart to give away."
Me: "Those aren't the words."
SG: "I'm 66. Just like Stevie Wonder."
I order the drinks and ask for the credit card.
SG: "No first of spring. No song to sing."
Me: "You're literally singing, right now."
SG: "I just called to say I lovvvvvvvvvvvvvvve you."
Then he gives me a hug, I pick up the drinks and go back to the table.
Me "Tell me you guys saw that."
Dr. Bobby: "Oh, did the guy by the bar just serenade you and give you a hug."
DB: "He does that all the time. He drools all over me. I don't mean he finds me attractive and gives me attention, I mean he has literally drooled on me several times."
I am both relieved to find out that at least ONE weirdo's actions can be verified as frequently occurring oddness by at least one other source, and annoyed that he is a regular near the area where I work.
But I'm mostly relieved he didn't literally drool on me.
After the second drink, I tore up my coaster for no good reason. After the third drink, I grabbed a new coaster.
Bartender: Oh my god. Did you just put that thing back together?
Me: Yes. I am the David Blane of coasters.
Cider before liquor, we'll probably bicker. Liquor before cider, I'll pull an all-nighter.
I'm pretty sure that if I kill this bottle of chocolate cherry Bailey's by myself, I officially become someone's problematic aunt.
Several Friends And Exes Over The Years: "How come you don't go out to bars to meet people?
Tonight, at a bar:
Random Guy: "Where's your friend?"
Me: "Which one?"
RG: "The guy you're always here with."
Me: "The tall, goofy blonde guy or the other one?"
RG (moving toward me): "The other one."
Me: "No idea."
RG: "You look nice tonight."
Me, raising my eyebrow and turning to the bartender. "Apparently, I'm dressed misleadingly."
Boss: “Hey, Adam. The artists left behind some beer. Would you like to take it home?”
Me: “Sure.” Opens bag. Discovers ten cans of Busch Light. “You and I have different definitions of the word ‘beer’.”
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.
“I tend to dominate.” Ben says. He has been doing most of the talking (I’d say three and a half blocks worth), since we left the coffeehouse where I work. “I have to tell my friends that it’s okay to talk over me. I know I can be kind of domineering. And it’s not just in conversation.” His point is that we’ve been walking aimlessly around Boston, but he looked so purposeful that I hadn’t questioned that he knew where he was going. “Where should we go?”
In the other direction. We backtrack two blocks, talking about the cow he had as a kid. And then we’re in a liquor store, which seems like not just a good idea, but possibly the best id that’s ever been eaed. “Do you like Miller High Life?” He asks. And, then, immediately “Wait, you don’t like beer, do you?”
“No, but I’ll drink it.” Because I need to get drunk.
“Fuck that. Let’s get something we’ll both like.” So it is that we end up with a four pack of tiny margaritas, walking back to his place, talking about old jobs and bad music. I am enamored of Ben in a way that I haven’t been enamored before. He’s hot, and smart, and funny, and we’re so in tune that we both have written love poems/songs based on a phrase from a book that most people have never read. I should really want to fuck him senseless or climb into his bed and melt around him. And it’s not that those feeling aren’t there, it’s that they’re superseded by the desire to talk and listen to him. My inner whore must hate me.
It’s not long before the margaritas are gone. It occurs to me that I didn’t really eatanything, and drinking on an empty stomach can occasionally lead to bad judgment, but there’s nothing to be done about it now. And we’re talking about Lord knows what, and then “There'’s this guy I stalk on Tuesday nights. He hangs out at The Anorexic. We should go.” So he gets dressed, and I lament my lack of foresight. It’s jeans and my “God Bless America” t-shirt for me. The Anorexic is empty (which is truer than metaphor), so we decide to go to another bar down the street. Also pretty much empty. So we play video trivia. He, drinking High Life, me downing Southern Comfort and Cokes.
“Hey, I think that guy down there tuned my piano. He’s kind of hot, and he’s in this really cool band―”
“And I went to high school with him. Jack?” And it’s Jack Marple, who lived across the hall from me my sophomore year. We shoot shit about performance venues, and his band, and the irrepressible Ben dominates the conversation, and kicks me when I mention that we only came out tonight so that he could stalk someone at The Anorexic.
Soon the bar is closed, and Ben and I head back to The Anorexic, which is open foranother hour or so. The stalkee isn’t there. In fact, there aren’t many people there. We’re both buzzed and talking about publishing and music, and I love his opinions and the sound of his voice, and I might be vaguely dizzy. Soon, I am following him back to his house because both the bus and the subway have stopped running, and I am way far away from home, and I think...hope...I left my backpack at his place.
I did. “Do you mind if I play you some of my music?” He asks.
Mind? Ben’s music turns me almost fanboy. Some of the lyrics make me feel the way I feel about Billy Collins poetry: I shouldn’t like them, they should be cliché, but they’re not, so I do. And I’m not the sort of person who thinks someone is talented because I like them. When someone sucks, they suck, even if they’re hot and I want to sleep with them. Even if they’re just a really good friend. Ben doesn’t suck. Is, in fact, hugely talented. “Your music makes it hurt to be alone.” I say.
And I am drunk, so I’m sure I’m not explaining myself properly. When I hear his love songs, and even some of his not love songs, I want to run my fingers through someone’s hair, put my hand on their face and kiss them for hours. His is the kind of music you should hear with someone. And, technically, I’m with him. But even if he weren’t using his hands to play his instruments, running my fingers through his hair or kissing him are not options. Ok, they are options, they’re just bad ones. Not now. Not when both of us are so jaded about love and gay men. Not when I’m three Soco and Cokes and twomargaritas over an empty stomach. Not. Not. Not.
There’s a not in my stomach that I can’t undo.
The computer lab where I check my e-mail plays a loop of about ten songs. Usually Eminem’s “Mocking Bird”, Destiny’s Child’s “Soldier”, something by Mariah Carey (sometimes a new one, sometimes a classic...tonight it was “Emotions”), a 50 Cent track, and other assorted hip-pop. Tonight, I heard Aerosmith’s “Don't Want to Miss a Thing” seven times in there. Which is odd enough, but I’d heard the song on my way to work via someone else’s loud headphones, and then again at work, sandwiched between Weezer’s “Beverly Hills” and Nine Inch Nails’s “Only”. Why is BCN playing Aerosmith? I like it, but what the fuck? It doesn’t fit in the playlist.
And the song...in 1998, after my first boyfriend killed himself, after I tried to recuperate by fucking as many strange men as I could meet over The Internet, I got kidney stones. While I was recovering, out of my mind on Demoral, I’d accidentally bought a plane ticket for a strange gay kid in Georgia. And we ended up roommates and sort of lovers, and it had been a huge mess. The thing is, I don’t remember ordering him the plane ticket. I don’t remember the car trip home from the airport. Whether he smelled like cigarettes even then. Whether he smiled. I don’t remember the last thing he said when I put him on a bus back to North Carolina, a month later. But the day I woke up with a Demoral hangover, and a voicemail message reminding me to pick Elvis up at theairport, I heard the song “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” six times between Hyannis and Boston.
I’m not complaining. Sure, it’s pretty bombastic as far as Aerosmith songs go. Yea, it’s by far their most popular song, without actually being one of their best. Still, I like it. It was a guilty pleasure in a summer of guilty pleasures, Elvis, definitely included. But the point is, the song. It was all over the radio that summer. So romantic, so winsome. I was on my way to pick up a complete stranger, a gay complete stranger, a gay complete stranger who was coming specifically to spend time with me, and this horrifically cheesy operatic rock ballad is playing all the time. It should have been our song. We should have been happy, and so in love we couldn’t bear to be apart, especially when the government asked him and my father to fly into space to blow up that meteor coming to destroy the Earth. But it didn’t work out that way. I ended up wanting to hurtle him into space dick first into the meteor. I was afraid his head may actually crack through it.
As soon as the relationship went bad, I stopped listening to the radio. I wasn’t weepy, or violently angry. I was just afraid that if I heard that stupid song that should have been ours, I would have to climb inside the radio, shake Steven Tyler by the frilly things that hung from his sleeves, and say “Love like that doesn’t exist you fucken asshole. And I know you didn’t write that song, but fuck you for singing it and making me believe that sort of love was out there waiting for me.”
By the time the summer ended, the song had completely faded off the playlists of the radio stations I listened to. Mr. Tyler must have known what the consequences of me hearing that song would be. So, for years, I’d banished that song to the part of my brain where Celine Dion and Meatloaf lyrics hibernated. And during those extremely rare times when I smoked a joint or drank to excess, I tried really hard to fry the cells in that particular section of my brain.
Tonight, the song is back with a vengance. During its seventh revolution at the computer lab, I look at the clock, and see it’s about time for me to go catch one of the last buses of the night. I put my notebooks in my bag, and my skin starts to bristle, in a good way. Air conditioner in Miami on an August day bristling. I have this smile, like I know the world loves me for a change. This can only lead to disappointment. I’m thinking of picking up some pizza on the way home for my new roommate. I don’t like her, and I’m fairly certain that she doesn’t like me, but pizza makes friends of almost everyone.
I’m on my way out of the lab when I hear the hottest, most intriguing voice in the world saying “Baby” in a way so sexy, I have to turn to see who God blessed with such a power of inflection, and it’s Ben.
Fuck home, fuck my roommates, I’m an asscat, and Ben’s voice is a can opener. I follow him to a trendy bar down the street called The Anorexic. It’s trendy in that horrid way. A room half-full of mismatched wannabe scenesters drinking their shitty beers and trying to look and talk cool. There’s a lot of people wearing argyle socks on their arms, in place of sleeves.
“Do you serve wine here?” Ben asks.
The bartender points to the wineglass sitting in front of another customer. “No, he brought that in from next door.”
“Is it any good?” Ben asks the guy with the wine glass in front of him.
“The white is ok.” The guy says. “But I wouldn’t drink the red.”
“I guess I’ll have the white then.”
“Sorry, this bar only has one wine glass.” The bartender says.
But his wisecrack is drowned out by the other wine drinker, who says “White wine at a bar? What are you, some kind of homosexual?”
“I’m the best kind of homosexual.” Ben replies.
“Can I take you home and take naked pictures of you?” The other wine drinker asks.
“Sorry,” Ben replies, tilting his head. “I’m gonna be famous soon. Naked pictures would be scandalous.” And he pays for his wine, and we move to the other side of the bar.
We’re about a minute and a half deep into a conversation about Ben’s impending New York trip when Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” clicks on the jukebox.
“¿w-t-f?” I sign. “¿song everywhere ― s-t-e-v-e-n t-y-l-e-r dead?” And I have to be careful, because I made a joke about Nell Carter’s death in 2003, and she had a fatal heart attack that very night. So I attempt to steer the conversation in another direction, but Ben is clearly the coxswain tonight, and he leads me down a different current of conversation, and soon we’re walking out of The Anorexic, headed to a better bar. A guy he knows and is attracted to, who isn’t me, is sitting at the corner table. While Ben and I discuss our various relationships with older men and younger men, his eyes keep darting toward this other guy.
“I don’t want to date an older man.” He says. “They’re always going to go on about achieving my potential. And I already have an internal voice saying that all the time. I don’t need another one.”
I want to say I would never go on and on about your potential. You’re an amazing artist, and sure if you worked a little harde....fuck. but I’m not quite that awkward, and I know his comment wasn’t about me. Maybe it’s the four rum and Cokes I had before I went to the computer lab, or perhaps the Soco and Cokes from the Anorexic, but I’m starting to get jealous of the way he’s looking at this other guy. I make some lame joke about the guy who offered to take naked pictures, and Ben says he needs to take new pictures for his LiveJournal page. “I’ll take your picture.” I say. “I’ll even make sure you keep all your clothes on.”
So we’re back at his house, me with his digital camera in my hand, taking picture after picture after picture. I hate the way I see a perfect shot, and the digital camera waits three seconds, thereby getting a completely different, never as good shot. Every picture is at the wrong angle, in the wrong light. “My face is too fat.” Ben says. “My forehead is gigantic. Like that Pixies song. Gigantic. Gigantic. My big big head.”
“Your head is not gigantic.” I say.
“It is. I’ve totally got that great big gay guy head, where it looks like the guy’s Godzilla sized head is in a battle with the rest of the body for supremacy, and the head is winning.”
“You do not. Your head is fine. It’s your jaw that’s too cleft for your face.” I’m being an asshole. His jaw is cute.
“I don’t want to be cute.” He says, as if I made the last comment out loud. “I want to be hot. My hair is too fuzzy duckling head. Look at it bounce. Why is my head so big?”
And I think, but do not say, because whenever I’m around you, I inflate it. “Your head’s not that big. It’s not like ten years from now I’m going to have to e-mail you from New Zealand, saying ‘Dear Ben, I was in the ocean taking pictures of a pod of dolphins, and somehow your face is in every frame.’”
“I’ll write back ‘Sorry, I’m in the Australian Bush.’”
I was going to say he was in Cleveland, but I let it slide.
“I’m beautiful in motion.” He says. “But I’m ugly in stills.”
“You’re not ugly. You’re hot.”
“Keep telling me that.” He says. “Eventually, I’ll believe it.”
You’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful and I know that you’re going to destroy me you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful you’re beautiful
“I’m tired.” He says. “We’ve taken how many pictures, and only five of them don’t suck. I’ll hate two of them by tomorrow morning.”
Rufus the Asscat hops on the bed. Ben grabs him into a super bearcat hug. “Oh, let’s take a couple of me and Asscat. I love when you’re holding onto a cat, and they know they’re trapped, so they just tense up and wait for you to let them go.” Ben says. “It’s like OW!!! Fucken cat!!! Hsssssssssssssssssssssssst.”
Rufus leaps from the bed and into the kitchen.
“Man, that’s deep.” He says, showing me his sliced finger.
“Hey, Asscat,” I shout at Rufus, who is peeking around the corner, “how would you like to be drumskin?”
“You know he’s thinking, how would you like to be a colander?, right?” Ben asks.
I laugh. My head falls onto Ben’s bed. We scan through the pictures I’ve been taking one more time. I never captured him quite right. He’s so beautiful, and these pictures of him are so pedestrian. I am the older man who wants him to live up to his fucken potential, as though potential were a goal and not a starting point.
I try and figure a way to work I love you into the conversation, but the playlist is high school memories and internet celebrity. Eventually, we wind into a discussion about exes, and he’s talking about his HIV positive ex, and I’m rambling about Ryan, and surely I love you would fit anywhere around here. But it doesn’t. It’s too cumbersome. It doesn’t match the decor. I love you is the perfect couch to sit on, but we’re decorating the kitchen. So I say “Dear Ben, I am in my subconscious, taking pictures of all the men I’ve ever loved, and somehow your face is in every frame.”