“You’re moving?” Ben asks when we get back to his apartment.
I’ve been thinking about it since he got back from New York. And the phone call I made at work was to Celeste. Her roommate is moving to North Carolina on December first. He’s leaving behind his old computer, his bed, a few shelves, and most importantly, a room of my own. No van seat perpendicular to Ben’s bed.
“Is that why you’ve been so happy? Because you’re leaving me?”
“Leaving you? Since when are we together?”
He fluffs his hair. “You know what I mean. Good for you, though. You do need to get your own place. But now where will I get my crab cakes and coconut shrimp from?”
And I reassure him that I’m not disappearing out of his life. Celeste’s house is a half-hour walk or ten minute bus ride away.
“Oh, good.” He says. And we don’t discuss it again until December first, when I throw all my stuff into my backpack, and one of his suitcases, and tell him I’ll be back in an hour.
“And the next time you see me, I won’t be your roommate, I’ll be a guest, so you’ll have to start treating me better." Though I know he doesn’t treat his guests any differently than he's treated me for the last three months.
“So, what now? Am I supposed to hug you goodbye or something?”
I wrap my arms around him. There is a split second where I debate kissing him, notbecause I’m still in love with him (I’m not sure I am), but because I know it will infuriate him.
Instead, I smile, pick up my bags, and walk to the elevator. Fucker didn’t even offer to help carry my bags.
My inability to hold boring small talk with strangers is proof of nature over nurture. Friday night, my father, my stepmother, Ben and I managed to have a ten minute discussion on how cold it was. It was really fucken cold. That could have summed the whole discussion up.
To rectify the coldness, my father and his wife are headed to Cancun. My mother is in Florida. I have been walking around the streets of Boston with Ben at two o'fucken clock in the morning to get milkshakes, because really, what warms a frigid body more than cold milk blended with ice cream?
"You should use some of the family's timeshare in Florida." My father says. "It only costs about $400, and you could take like eight people down there with you. That's fifty bucks a piece." My father, the human abacus.
Maybe I should. I haven't taken a vacation since...I don't know. I went on tour with Steggy in 2003, I moved to Arifuckenzona a few months later. Since then, the furthest I've ventured is to my grandparents in Connecticut.
"My mother's pissed at me." My father says. "You've seen that commercial with the old guy who shuffles, and can't remember things? Your grandfather has that, and I'm trying to tell Ma she should tell the doctor to have him checked for it but" and small talk and small talk and small talk.
I should go to Florida. Or California. Or go to Vegas with Ben.
My father says, "Last time I went to Vegas, I learned to only take $200 with me. That way I won't spend more than I can afford. And if I make money, great. I've been doing really well at the dog track lately." and small talk and small talk and small talk about medium money.
"Your parents are remarkable." Ben says, on our way back to his house. "I've never seen someone be so interestingly boring. And they're so...nice. What happened to you?"
Nature over nurture. "I don't know." But I remember my father's temper when he was still with my mother. The way she taught me to work him into a rage. He was never the violent asshole father depicted in movies of the week or cop shows, but he had his moments of my body slammed to the wall head first into wheelbarrow the coffee table splintered my grandmother standing between us. But he didn't mellow with age. He didn't have a revelation or therapy or karma. He just got away from us. A small island with a woman who loved him more than power, kids who would offer him grandchildren.
"She's so smart." My father says of my stepniece. "She's fifteen months old and when her parents watch television too long, she climbs on to the table in front of them and dances. And sometimes" small talk small talk small talk "and we gave her one of your old Raggedy Andy dolls?"
"One of?" Ben asks.
"Yea, I had a big one from my grandparents, and a small one that we got from this place on the Cape, years before we moved there. It's weird, Jennifer had one too, and she got it around the same time. It's possible that we actually met when we were―"
"Wait." Ben says. "You had two Raggedy Andys but no Raggedy Ann?"
I know where this is going. "Yea."
"Well that explains a lot."
"It was because of my red hair that people got them for me."
"Oh, I'm not judging you. I just think it's funny. When I was a little kid I had My Little Ponys because my best friends were girls and they had them. I just didn't know any better." He laughs. And under his breath I hear "Two raggedy Andys. Homo."
I'd kick him under the table, but it's a small table and the angles are all wrong.
"Sorry about the gay jokes." Ben says on the T ride home. "But, really, two Raggedy Andys but no Ann? Gaaaaaay,"
Before Ben, the only gay person my father met through me was Elvis. It was after things had started to go horribly horribly wrong, so Elvis wasn't terribly talky, just terrible. He mostly moped that he was on an expensive resort island and no one was buying him anything. He had a bus ticket home in his not so distant future. My father, like my mother and all my friends, hated him. But unlike my mother and all my friends, he didn't say a word about it. To this day, he's never asked how Elvis was doing or what happened to him. Elvis was there, then he was gone. He probably doesn't even remember the false name Elvis gave him (because if he'd given his real name, who could forget it?).
My dad likes Ben. I know because he called me from Cancun (and my dad NEVER calls me) to small talk and mention that "that Ben kid seemed really nice. Anytime you want to come down to the island together, let me know."
"It's tough to get him out of Boston." Ben says. "But I'll try."
So there is balance to the universe. Ben's dad likes me. My dad likes Ben.
"How come I didn't get to meet him when I came to visit?" My mother asks.
"He was in New York, remember? I had you drop me off at his house so I could feed his cat."
"Well, next week I want you to come down and get all the stuff you want out of the old house so we can put it on the market. You should bring him with you."
Um. Um. Um. Um.
Yes, I'm vanishing. Yes, life is more complicated than explaining calculus to someone who doesn't speak the same language as you. Yes, Asscat scratched the blood out of my hand last night. Yes, taking three hits of acid on your first time is an incredibly stupid idea. Yes, I'm fine now, thanks for not asking. When Ben asked me to feed Rufus while he went back to New York, he said "And this time, I promise the power won't go out."
Celeste, who I called to keep me company while Lissabelle torments Ben, smiles at me through thirty-seven coats of lipgloss. "The whole arrangement is just decidedly weird." Ben and Lissabelle are in his apartment, packing, unpacking, repacking for their return trip. The acid was so good, Ben's going back to buy one hundred hits. Celeste and I are in the hallway, passing one of Ben's Gauloises between us.
I inhale and then try to flick the cigarette, but the filter catches under my nail. "How so?" Twitchingly.
"Well...." And I hate the way that word hangs between us, as though I'm going to tell you something you already know, but don't really want to hear right now is sandwiched between the e and the first l. And I know what she's trying to say, it's weird how I met and fell in love with Ben so quickly, and then unceremoniously moved into his apartment, even though he doesn't really love me. And it's weird how Ben, who doesn't love me, and who hasn't even known me for very long would let me move in with him. "You know, the whole, uh...living situation."
In the reflection of Celeste's lip gloss, I see Ben open the door. "Hey, hun, you're gonna want to get your shit off my bed, because everything that's on my bed in three minutes, gets put in my bag and taken to New York."
I head into the apartment, collect the notebooks Celeste and I have been writing in, place them on the piano, and then lay across his bed.
"No. I'm not taking you. Nice try." He pushes me off the bed, and begins throwing things from the bed into his bag. "Oh, check these out." He picks up a pair of argyle knee socks.
"Hot." I say, because they are.
"You are sooooo gay." Lissabelle says. And I'm not sure whether she's talking to me or Ben. Sure, Ben is the one who has pink hair, eyeliner, and knee socks, but I'm the one who's attracted to him.
"He didn't used to be gay." Celeste says. So they're talking about me. "You know, apart from the whole sleeping with men thing."
I should be saying something clever and catty, but I have been abusing my brain and body for the past week or so, and they are both decidedly unhappy with me.
"Fascinating as your socks are," Lissabelle says, "we are way late right now, so you need to pack so we can get out of here."
"Bitch, we're only late because you forgot to pack." Ben says, fluffing his hair. "So, no more from you. Shhhh. Shhhh."
And then they are packed and gone. And it is Celeste and I alone in Ben's apartment. She is standing in front of the mirror, "Adam, do my lips look puffy?"
"No." They look varnished like the hardwood floor in a sports arena, but they don't look puffy.
"Ok." But she continues to look at her face in the mirror. This is Ben's apartment. There are mirrors everywhere. "We should go out for a walk. Moving would be really good."
Yes, yes it would. "Where should we go?"
So we head out to the streets of Allston, where the colors are vivid and the wind is a word I can't come up with. We don't go anywhere exciting. An ATM and the ice cream shop. Then we are back in the apartment, and it is time for Celeste to go home. "Bye, Adam. See you later." And she smiles, again. I can see myself in her lips, alone in Ben's apartment, looking at the calendar, trying to figure out how long it will be before Ben comes home.
I am Contrast. Do gooder nice guy does what told. Folds blankets for sleeping guests. Buys presents for friends and loves and loves and would do anything for and is supremely talkative. Give me a topic and yes, I'll listen too. Tell me a story. That's fabulous. I love you but don't you piss me off. I disappear. Give me a new haircut and I'll be silent forever. You can give away everything I don't own. I'm a packrat who doesn't care anymore. Take everything. We'll call it even but it's not balanced and certainly not fair. I'm a flying fish on land with a papercut tongue. Come kiss me.
It's morning and I wake up alone in a haunt of ghosts. I wronged that one and that one and that one and that one, but that one took off in the night with my discman and the last fleck of trust, that one strapped wings on my back, kicked me, and had the nerve to act pissed when I flew away, and that one is Princess Thundercloud and she wouldn't have been happy if I hadn't left her crying.
I part my ghosts with morning breath and mint leaves. Stand still. Let the room cross me. I want and am wanted and am wanted dead.
This is every morning before I go to sleep. I can't sleep for all the dreams and guilt I'm not having. Fuck you all, I'm sorry.
I can't even decide whether to use punctuation today. It's noon now and so dark outside I am snowblind.
Celeste is having a party. It's not her birthday or Halloween, but it is somewhere between and around both. I have forgotten we are supposed to dress up naked insecurity costumes. And when she reminds me, I have no clue what I will be but instinctively know it will be conflicted like my determination to be something but my resingedness as to what.
I spend my day laying on this bed that isn't mine running around town collecting ideas and ending up with nothing. I don't want to go to a party, I want to be alone with all these ghosts figuring out who is who and then blending them all into some forgettable mass and flinging them from the apartment. I want to be surrounded by people who love me and will tell me I'm imperfect and kiss me on the flaw and say fuck you don't leave me ever.
I am Contrast but this is a gray day. I don't know where my thoughts begin or end or rest comfortably in the middle drifting off and around but still tethered to my vagrant mind. This is a gray day and I want something immediately but I don't know what it is except not gray.
Color comes home. Rather, Color comes to his home and I am already here. "We'll go as ourselves" he says and the floor turns luminous wood wherever he stands. The mirror explodes. And this apartment is vibrant and alive and humming electric and I think the whole world must be reacting to him and everything beauty and everything colorful but outside is still gray and wet and we have three hours until the party.
Color says "Paint me." And I am Contrast. He is feeling creative so I am flat piece of wood without texture or design. I paint because he wants me to and the colors on his arm clash brilliantly like him and my perception of him and me and my perception of myself. His arm is bright green dark blue painful yellow soothing purple and then fleck red and spit orange and he is blissfully unhappy with the results. The party is two hours away and we start over. River of purple splotches of yellow red leaves footprints like a soccer player in a marshmallow field and there are other colors there I can't name but can paint and yes that's it entirely. Color is acid and giggly. I adore Color but stay gray until I look myself in the mirror. I am Contrast I see things in contrast. My face whitens with black lines sectioning things off the part of my hair I like turns black the rest white and my hands only comfortable when cracking knuckles paint themselves in contrast but not really color. Soon I'm wearing a coat and it appears that wings have sprouted from my back but more likely I pulled them off someone else and tied them around my body. My wings are black. Color's are white. So we are both contrasting, but we are not both colorful.
We are late to the party and giggly and depressed and frantically apathetic about being late. The outside gray has turned darker but still gray and it is of course raining and I envision all the color in his face and hair and arms swimming away from him and my contrast sludging into this gray day night. We make tepid jokes and Color says "I think I like you most because you're decidedly not crazy though everything in your life right now is."
I say "It's because I've grown to realize that I'm never going to be stable if I keep reacting to things around me so I just stopped reacting outwardly and now I seem serene though really what the fuck am I doing with my life?" As if to explicate this, a car passes too close splashes water all over me but it is raining anyway so what the fuck do I care if I get any wetter I just keep walking and spouting philosophy about how happy I am these days but really I'm so full of shit that I'm wasting away to nothing.
I'm standing outside of The Anorexic, waiting for Ben, who is half an hour late, to show up. On my way here, I ran into a poetry acquaintance who'd recorded one of my spoken word shows a few months before. While most of the tracks are fairly mecentric, there's a couple of tracks I did with Ben, Celeste, and Wiz. I am in the midst of listening to Ben sing, via my headphones, when my cellphone rings. "You need to come home right away." He says. "The cat is pink."
I go home to his apartment right away. Sure enough, Rufus the Asscat is pink. "It's an organic, non-poisonous hair dye." Ben's friend, who is sporting blue hair, says. Ben's hair is green. Ben's other friend's hair matches Asscat's fur.
"So, is this a good trip?" I ask Ben.
"Oh, yes!" All three of them say at once.
"Great. I'm gonna get some Cherry Coke." And when I open the refrigerator, in the place where my Cherry Coke usually sits, is my industrial sized stapler. "Why is my stapler in the fridge?"
"Oh, the places it has been." Blue hair says.
Pink hair chimes in, "The things it has stapled."
"You really have to try some of this." Ben says. "We each took just one hit. It took a while to kick in, but it's...I mean, wow."
So I open up the freezer, and take out one of the sugar cubes. And, what the hell, I have a high tolerance, I pull out another one and suck them both into nothingness. I open a box of Cheez-Itz while the three already high members of the room torment the cat.
"Cheez-Itz?" Ben inquires. "Might I have some." And he swoops a monstrous hand full of Cheez-Itz and begins slowly crunching them. "It's like I'm crushing entire civilizations with my mouth. Desert civilizations. These Cheez-Itz taste like sand. Delicious, delicious sand."
I laugh, and begin to pet Asscat, who has wandered away from the freak contingency, and has approached me for, perhaps, solace. I take a sip of Cherry Coke, put it down, pet Asscat, then go to pick the bottle up again. It's not there. It's not anywhere near me on the floor.
"It's on top of the bookshelf." Blue hair laughs.
"Oh, the places it's gone." Ben says.
And I"m not sure if what he's saying is funny, but I laugh anyway, because the cat is pink, and my stapler should, perhaps, be writing postcards, and I'm starting to think maybe this is acid is hitting me just a little bit faster than I thought it would.
"Ben?" Ben, the cat is pink. You've turned safety light green and god I want to touch your hair. Your friends are blue and neanderthal. please help me Ben help me please I shouldn't have taken two tabs at once. Everything was fine until the lights came on and Ben, the fucken cat looks pink to me.
"What?" He asks.
Ben, your Neanderthal friend tripping face and talking close needs to leave, but the door is a jar of mayonnaise that I can't open with arthritic hands.
"I'm gonna go to the Sleven. The Sleven. The Seveneeeeleven. Do you want anything?"
Ben, help me please me help I love this feeling of shifting time and rubbing the little Communist cat under your bed but I have to get out of the room and away from your friend and get cigarettes for you because stop waving me away I love you and the room keeps shifting and the cat is pink and Neanderthal. and I am hungry and thirsty still can't find missing Cherry Coke so off I go to the inconvenience store and maybe also get cigarettes
"Ben." I say, hugging myself in the elevator. I put my headphones on, and start listening to the track I recorded with Ben and Wiz. "Ben." I say.
Ben, the man in front of me in line is trying to buy cigarettes with a pile of nickles. The agitated man behind the counter scratching dandruff over counter waves me over because he probably thinks I am in a hurry but the thing is I am swimming and forgot cigarettes, left the store with more Cheez-Itz and Cherry Coke and some sort of god it was awesome candy bar.
Ben, if the opportunity ever comes to do two tabs of acid, go outside on a cold autumn night, and listen to a CD of yourself performing a poem about schizophrenia, take it. It was so awesome I forgot how to chew.
When I get back to the apartment, everyone is either asleep or not there anymore or both. I make my way over to my van seat, flop down on it and stare at him. At some point I heard myself whispering "Ben, help me. Please. Ben."
Ben, when your Neanderthal friend left us it was it was it was time is broken and sometime morning and I was in the bathroom making faces in the mirror. How could you ever love someone so ugly? And morning is coming and light and I look ugly in light but it's dark and I could kiss you now but won't because that would be ugly and imperfect and instead I go to the freezer and take out a third sugar cube and mmmmmmmmm gone.
Ben, in retrospect, the third hit was a bad idea.
The wall over Ben's bed has the costume angel of death that I'm supposed to wear to Celeste's party on the left side, a poster of a beautiful boy with the word Never written all over it on the right side, and inbetween is a gigantic American flag. I am seizing angel of death side and Ben is never and beautiful and America is the bed between us. And Ben, wake up, don't let Safey trip lonely no more. When you're awake everything smile fuzzy and petting pretty poor pink Asscat under your bed and everything mostly okay moving furniture compulsive cleaning Ben continuing to tackle the ever expanding mess of my life and we were all awake together and "Wake up please Ben wake up I'm lonely" Ben is sleeping America. Can't wake him because Safey, Ben needs to be sleeping now, has ten a.m. job up by seven shower smile dress hello wash out green hair cat isn't pink Good Morning This is Ben how may I help you?
Ben, I really hope you were sleeping when my face went all "Please me Ben help please me."Fear and Loathing and breath seizing cracking fear out of joints and the hallway beckoned and I answered and why aren't you looking for me?
Ben, these Cheez-Itz taste like sand.
Ben, I don't think I've ever articulated how much your Never poster scares the fuck out of me. I stare at him and dark angel and the clouds are advancing morning purple and bright eyes and it's cold here and the clouds platoon of dreams that will never rain fruition advance and unfuck clouds and unfuck you getting up for work but I won't let you oversleep I'm a responsible friend waving and never oversleeping and never sleeping and never scares me Ben.
I get off the van seat, all twitchy and stoplight. I've got a notebook on the desk, which I pick up and start writing in. Blue ink overlaps red ink. And there is no time to process. See, some mornings the pen moves so fast it bends to your will bleeding words and those are the good mornings when the radiator only clinks when it's time to get up and the neighbors don't mind the singing but would you mind so terribly much turning down the volume of your dreams And words and thoughts sometimes get lost in the margins of notebooks Well to make a proper omelot you must first lean to crack, then collect the best that remains scramble scramble add some ham salsa tomato bacon where are my fingers? this pen is so shiny right now and yes i could return to help me Ben please but that's so overlydependentgay and my voice is lower scramble scramble voila ohmlet omlit Omelet is not an early morning word Who on Earth would invent a breakfast word so imfuckenpossible to spell Unfuck not being able to spell Awmlette egg dish within which other things are folded I may not be able to spell you but I can spell desideras and omniscient and other words that are way more important than some stupid breakfast words This is why I only eat sane people things for breakfast like Lobster Benedict which turns lobster in your stomach and he's never loved you
Ben, every time I close my eyes the room goes precise and geometric patterns of darkness and never angel and someone is screaming perfectly ordered someone is screaming and I think it's me the most horrific gyroscope ever
Ben, see that meteor coming toward Earth? See how it's shaped like your face and smiling?
Ben, the third hit, on my all time list of good ideas, not so much on it. That third hit is Elvis. Clarissa. Arifuckenzona. Your beautiful pink cat has been tethering me sane for broken time now and he thinks my writing of this journal is bad and he keeps knocking it out of my hands as though this book were responsible for rancid farts, Jimmy Fallon movies, the Serbian genocide, and holding his cat mother hostage and doing unspeakable non-cat things to her
Ben, the colors of this morning are roof worthy and decidedly matching this book and ink and even the cat Brava If every morning were so youtiful and vivid I'd be a morning alarm not necessarily clock morning person gazing out on Allston at first light watching college urchins and homeless students and vagrant businessmen knowing my morning even alone without you caring is so much more Interesting and worth living than theirs and this is not the greatest place in the world to say kiss me but please do it will stop me making silly scary mirror faces while you sleep
Ben, beautiful green safety traffic light hair go gently into this no doubt for you seizure inducing i'm sorry day
Ben, writing loud again no good music Safey think like vacuum and every stupid and every honest and every insafemode line and love line and frustration is sand The real geometry is smiling while your face melts
I hope this wears off soon I'm losing my language and i can't kiss him figure out how best to kiss him get over this and his sweaterfish is breathing on the desk while he is sleeping quietly and the pink cat is licking my feet and the chirruping where's the chirruping coming from oh yes alarm
Ben, if this is rebuilding I am wholly fuck all you ain't kidding wrecked but the thing is, I was wrong. Most people let their substances their addictions wreck their lives. Big pink neanderthal balls schtupping large puzzle pieces they'll never get back, allowing them to feel more comfortable traveling from "Hi, nice to meet you" to "That was subpar, be a dear and lock the door behind you when you leave." Me however I am for some godawfullythoughtnotwellout reason using substances to build elaborate but shit looking spiderweb bridges to people who are so close, the only things between us are these unnecessary rebuilt bridges
I wake you up on time good wifey infagmode You smirk pink kitten I did that sorry and washout green you go au natural work I sit sentry in your bed You tired excuse want call in sick so I sit sentry knowing that with me in your bed you won't go anywhere near it and this is either hilarious how awful that revelation is or awful how hilarious it is
Ben, I'm thinking that third hit is your sour face regarding pink puss you slam door shut between us There is waaaaaaay too much light in this room now Kiss Kiss Good morning
I am the subject. Am is happy to be helping. In is the preposition I'm currently stuck with. Love is the real object. See? Ben, David, Dmitri, CSB, Ryan, it doesn't matter who, does it? Fuck who is the object of my desire, desire is the objective.
I've been mocking Ben for lamenting that no one he's attracted to is attracted to him. I haven't met anyone gay or straight who doesn't think he's attractive. Of course, I suffer from the same affliction (the no one I'm attracted to is attracted to me thing, not the everyone thinks I'm attractive thing, I wish). Should have gone for the guy on the T with the staring problem. Dealt with that musician guy from the Lizard Lounge. Dmitri who's far away and already has a boyfriend. Or David, who I'm starting to realize is from another planet.
Celeste says "It sucks that Ben led you on for so long." But he never led me on. I led me on. Ben is always direct with what he wants, needs, expects. I'm not. This is why no one ever knows what I want. This is why everything.
Trick says, "Ben doesn't deserve you. Go for David." But Trick has never met David. And when I question the accuracy of the word deserve, he recants.
Deserving is a stupid word. The bitch that moved into my old apartment and posted a Craigslist ad of my room deserves a snatch full of razor blades and rubbing alcohol. And may the blades be lubricated with leprosy and Hepatitis C. What she gets is an asshole ex-roommate who refuses to be in the same zip code as her, thus not paying his share of the bills. And since that's me, I deserve the heavy backpack grinding away what's left of my spine.
I need to relearn the ability to be direct. You there, in front of me in line at the Store 24, you've got a great ass. Clarissa, if you weren't so silently judgmental, you'd be happier and have more long term friends. Celeste, thank you. Ben, I love you, and thank you for putting up with me at my most awkward and freakishly dependent. We need to go see Serenity. We need serenity. Serenity now, goddamnit.
I need to relearn the ability to object. I can't work seven nights a week. No, I won't meet you halfway if you live in an abattoir. I'll just leave what you need by the front door. I'm fine. Thanks for not asking.
This is as up front as I get. Seven years ago, the only man I ever trusted when he said he loved me, killed himself. I only think of him every time I feel anything like love. So fucken what? Everyone has ashes under their scars. You either get over it or you don't. Either way, life is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. If you don't make a decision, you're stuck on the same boringly inconclusive page for the rest of your life.
I only love improbable relationships because they're uncomfortably familiar. I love Ben because I don't know, his voice makes my ears twitch, he's starting to write like breath, he doesn't talk like FM radio, he doesn't act his or anyone else's age. I love him because it feels natural.
He deserves better.
When I get back from Connecticut, and Ben gets back from New York, he is all apologies and duct tape band aids. He takes me out to the movies. We go to the Different Twist for dinner with Trick and Celeste. He tells us about his trip. "It was awful. I decided to try two hits at once, and I ended up spending most of the night outside, trying to talk to the rocks or some shit. When I came back in, I borrowed Lissabelle's cell phone to call you, but you didn't answer. Thank God. Anyway, I gave the phone back to her, or at least, I thought I did. When we were getting ready to leave this morning, she said she couldn't find it. So I cleaned the entire commune. Twice. No phone. I unpacked all my stuff, and repacked it, and unpacked it, and repacked it. No phone. She kept screaming at me and telling me what a terrible person I was. And I wanted to find the phone, not just to shut her up, but so I could call you, because I desperately needed to hear someone say something nice to me."
Trick coughs conspicuously. Apparently, Celeste told him about the I Don't Love You Conversation.
"Anyway, she had one of her friends hypnotize me, to see if that would help me remember what I did with the phone. I didn't. And when we finally gave up, Lissabelle put her coat on, and the phone was right there in her pocket, and the bitch didn't even apologize."
"Wait," Trick says, "you thought to get hypnotized in order to find her phone, but you didn't think to have her check her pockets. Why not just burn the house down and use a metal detector to find it?"
"Booooo. Anyway, we're going back next week because I was only able to get a dozen hits, and I have friends coming down to visit tomorrow. Oh, Celeste, can Safey stay with you while my friends are in town?"
I flinch. Trick flinches. Celeste rolls her eyes. "Of course. Did you think of, I don't know, asking Safey how he felt about it before asking me."
And he dribbles forth more apologies. And he pays for my pizza. And whatever.
At work, the next day, I am so far beyond overtired, that I strongly suspect the ASL sign for coma was invented to describe the way I feel. Ben calls the work phone around eight to ask me to bring him some food. I say "Sure thing, baby, I'll see you when I get home."
Things wrong with that statement:
1. Baby? What the hell?
2. Ben's apartment is not home.
A few minutes later, one of the new waitresses, Hill, taps me on the shoulder and says "Ben is on the phone for you again."
I decide to be funny, to go way over the top with the whole baby thing, so I put on my sexy phone voice and say "Hey, baby," (shudder) "what's up?"
"Baby?" Says Ben my boss, not Ben my future ex-boyfriend. "It's Ben."
And I say "Uhhhh....Hey?"
And when I weasel my way out of that conversation, David (my almost mutual infatuation partner), who's been standing around the corner the whole time says "Baby? Who's your baby?"
And I say, "No one. I'm just really drunk." And it's true, four Peachtree Schnapps, Smirnoff, Peaches, Chambord and Champagne will do that to you. But, given how stressful this week has been, the solution seems to be, drink more. So, after work, David and I take the T together, discussing everything but the word baby. I get off the T and head to Ben's house where we take loads of digital pictures, change our LiveJournal layouts, and drink Rated X liquor, thus keeping everything I've drunk, a fluorescent shade of pink. And while we drink and take pictures,we play En Vogue's Funky Divas album.
"This is so gay. You're not allowed to tell anyone about this." Ben says. "Especially not the part about how I got really into it and sang the lyrics in the most sincere way possible."
"Ok." I say. "I won't."
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.”
Two days after I move in, the egg hatches. The next day, the mother pigeon flies into the closed window and dies. The day after that, I come home from work to an oddly jubilant Ben. Oddly jubilant, even for him. “You’ve got to see this.” He says. And opens up the window.
The baby pigeon looks to be in sorry shape. Its eyes are open and empty. Its mouth is open. It looks completely dead, except for the rise and fall of its chest. “Doesn’t it look like it’s still alive?” Ben asks.
“It is.” I reply. “Look at its chest.”
“That’s what I’m trying to show you.” He says. “Those are maggots moving around under its skin.”
I shudder. “That doesn’t gross you out?”
“Not at all.” And he sits back down at his computer.
I walk over to him, put my hand over the top his head and start wriggling my fingers through his hair. “It doesn’t even freak you out now, when there are maggots crawling in your hair?”
He brushes my hand away. “The only thing about that sensation that creeps me out, is that it's your hands that are causing it.”
The day I move into Ben’s apartment, we notice a mother pigeon on his balcony, sitting on an egg. “It’s a sign.” Ben says.
“Oh, baby,” I say, “are you saying you want to have children together? I’m all for the experience, but you should know, I’m not properly equipped to conceive.”
I can’t explain how much I love that sound.