Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
When I was in elementary school, I belonged to an organization called Future Problem Solving Program International. Elementary school students were given a problem that might affect their community and they had several months to brainstorm solutions, and present their best researched, most creative solution to the problem. I went ALL IN to this group. There were five or six of us in the group, and I don’t remember the name or face of a single other person. All I remember is the moment when all my optimism and enjoyment of the concept of solving problems was replaced with the rage of UNFARINESS when we lost to the team that hosted the regional finals.
The problem we fourth or fifth graders were given to solve was: Acid Rain. It was the eighties and industry was as uninterested in helping our environment as they are now but society hadn’t yet guilted them into pretending they cared about anything but profits. Nobody was making rainbow versions of their logos for Pride Month, promoting diverse members of their staff during Black History Month or Womens’ Month or AAIPI Month, and nobody was telling you that you could cure the environment by using fewer plastic straws while they dumped thousands of tons of unbiodegradable waste into the ocean. They had slogans like “Coal. Fuck you, we’ve been killing children for generations, why do you suddenly care now?” and “The Republican Party. AIDS is a faggot disease. We miss slavery.”
I don’t remember any of the other schools’ specific solutions to the problem acid rain presented to their communities. I just remember they were all pretty similar. They involved talking with companies, making regulations for environmental impact. A few suggested mild protesting, and one even made potential protest signs. There were three or four schools that I thought might win. The fake sign school was my pick if we lost. But I couldn’t imagine us losing. Everyone else’s ideas were focused on getting companies to change their habits to help the environment. We had gone in a very different direction.
I can no longer find the research that supports this theory but I promise you it was real. In the mid-1980s, there was an experiment in wetlands that found that certain species of birds had something in their feces that reduced the acidity in water. So wetlands with higher percentages of these birds, the one I remember being The Black Backed Gull, had much lower acid levels in the ponds and rivers they lived near. So we came up with a program that bred these birds, who didn’t have large populations at the time and who didn’t have a noticeably negative impact on the environment, and made sure there were ample nesting areas for them.
Looking back at this, as an adult, I appreciate our creativity but I can also see why the judges weren’t super excited about our Save The Water Supply By Adding Bird Shit campaign. But, y’all there’s already bird shit in that water. What’s a little more, if we want less acid rain? These judges didn’t know that this solution was so, pardon me, Bird Shit Crazy that it was So Debunked by the 2020s that The Internet, which no one could have conceived of in 198whatever, didn’t even record the study’s existence.
During the competition, however, I was convinced we would win. We had spent so much time researching this, and we learned how to convince adults of this study because it took FOREVER to convince our adult coach to let us follow through with this idea. For some reason.
I really thought there were only two threats, the team that had fake protesting signs, and the school that had done the best job, imo, presenting the same Let’s Just Talk It Out And Make Sensible Environmental Laws tactic. Well, that team came in third. The fake protesting sign team came in second. We had done it. We had …
I don’t remember what school hosted this event. Let’s call it Privileged Cheaters Academy. Well, PCA didn’t just win this event, they won by a landslide. The score differential between second and third place was a hoarse whisper, Privileged Cheaters Academy won by an Air Raid Siren. And they were not graceful winners. One of the winning kids flipped off the second place school’s coach and was chastised in the mildest way possible.
I was sour. It only got worse when all of the scores were released. We’d come in last place. Not only had we lost to homefield advantage, every team that had presented the same bland Play Nice And The Law Will Make Acid Rain Completely Disappear In A Few Decades had positively annihilated our Bird Shit solution.
Shortly after the scores were posted, a local journalist took pictures of all the teams from some newspaper. They printed all of them. Even ours. Our picture, which showed one carefree, blonde adult, three or four smiling children with unmemorable faces, and me, wearing the tear-stained scowl of a super villain engineering his first Death Ray in his head.
After typing the last entry, I stepped outside and watched the The last likely bus of the night (the schedule claims there is another one, but it never ever comes) pass by me. I think the driver flipped me off. So I hopped in a cab, where the driver was having some sort of icky phone sex with someone who might have been his mother. I'm unclear about that, though.
The first thing that caught my attention when I got home was the smell of piss. I rolled my eyes, and growled, "Rebound." I went into my room and...and the piss smell wasn't coming from my room. I went to the most likely place for a piss smell to come from, the bathroom. Nope. It was my roommate's room. And, since the cat had been locked in my room for the hours I was gone, I knew she was not to blame. I Febreezed her door, and decided to take a shower. After my hot, steamy (in the G-Rated way) shower, I wrote "Pay Your Bills!" on the mirror and window, as Divine has not paid me for electric or gas since November, and her room smells like piss and stale pot, and I was having a bad night.
It was two o'clockish, and I had to be on a bus at six o'clock in the morning, so sleeping was right out.
Nothing I did during those four hours is worth discussing. Eventually, I put Rebound out, and began to crawl to the T. Rebound decided to follow me. At first, she would run in front of me and try and block my path. Then, she would lag behind. By the end of my street, I had said "Go home!" elevenish times. So she pretended to walk back, but every time I'd turn around to make sure she'd gone home, I'd see her run behind a garbage can. It was the lamest spy movie ever, Stalker Cat. Halfway down the hill (a ways away form home), I picked her up, walked back to the house, and dropped her in the foyer.
The rest of the morning was ughworthy but not writing ughworthy, until I reached my high school. It looked different, but I couldn't place why. turns out, it's been annexed, but they dropped the new part of the school directly in front of the old part of the school, so it looks exactly the same, but the parking lot is shorter. I was definitively weirded out.
The plan was, we'd do two shows, each an hour and a half long. two of us, doing poetry back and forth. The first show was uneventful, but fun. During the second one, I spotted my Freshman Year English Teacher She gave me an appraising look, then disappeared. When she came back in the room, she was carrying a pie with a candle in it, and some cake and singing "Happy Birthday". During our lunch break, she told everyone that I had been her favorite student in the mid-eighties. I informed her that I had been in her class in the mid-nineties. I refrained from saying that I was fairly certain she'd hated me. The pie was good, and I preferred eating it to wearing it.
After our second show, we were getting ready to leave, when this short kid with plugs in his ears comes up and says "I missed most of the poetry stuff, but I told my botany professor about it, and we were wondering if you would mind doing another show."
So we did another show for a botany class, a geometry class, and a biology class. The Not only did they pay me on site (usually you have to wade through paperwork doom), but they reimbursed me for the bus ticket and the cab ride, even though it was my friend who flaked on the ride, and totally not their fault.
Back home in the city, I was accosted in the comic book store by happy birthday wishers. On the cash register was the list of trade paperbacks that I've been unable to find in Boston, with several crossed out. One was presented to me as...well...a present.
So far today is happiness, though I haven't slept more than an hour since Sunday, so I'm certain to lapse into a coma during the midst of one of my poems tonight, and it won't be from the liquor.
I've been doing a bunch of high school poetry shows over the last few months. And, usually, at some point during the workshop, or during the slam, I'll look at all the kids around me and think, I wonder how the kids at my old high school would react. Then I remember the teachers at my public high school.
My geometry teacher, Miss Nichols, was a frumpy fifty-something former nun who would have made an incredible first grade or kindergarten teacher, but was entirely too condescending to deal with bored ninth graders. Every day she would mark the floor-to ceiling blackboard with brightly colored chalk outlines and ask questions that no one would raise their hands to answer. And when she realized that none of us gave a runny shit about what she was trying to teach us, she would grab the flowy part of her mumu, and announce "If you're going to sit and look at the floor, I'm going to sit and teach on the floor." And the rest of the class would be peppered with "Hello?"s every time we failed to respond to her inane questions. In my final report card of the year (I got a D-), she wrote that I would be "best served in a remedial math course." When, the next year, I was moved out of my pre-calculus class to ADVANCED CALCULUS AND TRIGONOMETRY (I got an A-), my mother photocopied both my boarding school report card, and the one that Miss Nichols had wrote the following year, along with a note suggesting Miss Nichols would be "best served in a remedial teaching course."
My Life Science teacher, Mr. Hickey, was an arrogant, gassy sixty-something former scientist. He made alphabetical seating charts, because he hated learning kids' names. Every class, my friend Brian and I would count how many times he yanked his tie, or threw chalk at people. And whenever he made an audible fart, we would chuckle, prompting Mr. Hickey to say "Stone, do you want a detention?" To which I replied "No." To which he replied, "Fine. Stanton, you've got a detention." This same teacher tried to give me a D on an embryology project because I couldn't for the life of me draw an attractive looking graph, chick, or egg. When I pointed out that it was a science class, and not an art class, I received my first detention, which I skipped. When my mother gave a copy of my embryology report (along with Hickey's comments on my artwork) to the principal, my detention was rescinded, and my grade was upped to a B-. The principal hated and feared my mom. As did I.
My French teacher was a nice enough lady, but she didn't teach me anything. I don't even remember her name. Ditto the man who taught history.
But poetry workshops are organized by English teachers, and its my Freshman year english teacher I choose to remember now. Mrs. Wallins was the bland, moderately friendly wasp you'd expect to teach high school English. She liked to drill students on the difference between metaphors and like similes. She favored the kids who read out loud well, and thus I was, for the first semester, one of her favorite students. As long as I didn't question her, we got along fantastically. Our midterm assignment was to write a short fiction piece about Valentine's Day. A week before the assignment was due, she'd gone on a rant about how much she hated second person narration, how she thought it was demeaning to the reader. So, naturally, I wrote my fiction piece in the second person. It wasn't fantastic. It won't change the face of literature, but it was pretty fucken good for a piece of crap high school assignment about love. In her comments, she mentioned that I would have scored much higher had I written the piece in a "more traditional voice." Since I'd made the decision to rile my teacher consciously, my mother refused to back me up.
For National Poetry Month, Mrs. Wallins had organized an open mic in the cafeteria, featuring all the students that would be included in the school lit journal. I had two poems accepted. They were terrible. Awful. Should have been banned from the English language. At the time, though, I was proud of them, and I showed them to one of my friends, Jeff, who wasn't in my class. He turned the poems in to his English teacher, who also submitted them to the lit journal. I was one of the first people to read, so I read my poems to a mixed reaction (the poems sucked, the kids were forced to be there), sat down, and prepared to get a "well done" clap on the back from Mrs. Wallins. Instead I received a whisper in my ear "We need to go to the principal's office. Now."
The battle over who wrote the poems wasn't pretty. Jeff argued that he'd written them. I cried. Parents were called. My mother played the stern, supportive woman who frightened high school principals, and Jeff's mother played the crazed psychopath who knew, KNEW that I'd been out to destroy her son since we started hanging out in fourth grade.
In the end, since neither of copped to the plagiarism, or had any proof that we'd written the poems first, we were both removed from the lit journal. And for the rest of the term, every time I turned in a piece of writing, Mrs. Wallins would ask "Did you write this?"
This year, for national poetry month, I have been asked to run a slam and poetry workshop at my old high school. I will be reading a series of poems in the second person in Mrs. Wallins' honor. I'll tell her how the last time I saw Jeff, I gave him permission to use those poems whenever he wanted (remember, they sucked), and that I recently googled Jeff to find out how his writing career was going. Curiously, when I googled his name and poetry, I didn't find anything. But when I googled his name and "police log", man did I get a bunch of hits. I was initially impressed by his career as a law enforcement agent, until I read a few of the pages and discovered he wasn't so much a police officer as a frequent suspect in a series of low-grade crimes. Apparently, he's gotten really sneaky at the breaking part of his criminal life, but his enterings frequently attract the notice of local police. Maybe I'll start doing a few prison workshops and readings so we can get back in touch.
When I met Zuzu, eight years ago, she was desperate for information about me. She quizzed me on exes, and jobs, and family, and blah blah blah. She asked me about my SAT scores, and I told her the truth. I got a 1510 when I took my SATs as a sophomore. My guidance counselor tried to persuade me to start reading through old SATs to learn more about them, in the hopes that I would retake the test, and get a perfect 1600. But I knew that the 1510 was a fluke, and I staunchly refused to retake the test.
Zuzu's son, Lot, has recently taken the new SATs. There's a new scoring system now, but there's a way to average them out to figure out what your score would be if you took it under the old system. His score would have been a 1500.
Zuzu remarks how amazing this is, given the quality of education Lot's received in the public school system. He has revisionist history teachers who make up statistics to suit their needs, a calculus teacher who can't do simple addition, and an English teacher who confuses the words "alliteration" and "allusion", and talks about how one of her friends recently wrote a fantastic autobiography about William Shakespeare.
This leads to me ranting about the various stupid people I've recently encountered. I probably go on for about fifteen minutes listing mundane people I've encountered on the street, my landlady who frequently calls to remind me what her name is and that she's my landlady, and the various geniuses I've met through poetry who can't so much as operate velcro sneakers.
The three of us decide that we are much more intelligentier than your average humannoyed.
After dinner, I head to the local liquor store (all the non-local ones being so very far away), and ask the man behind the counter for a Jack Daniels, pointing in the whiskey's general direction.
He asks "Would you like a pint, or a half pint?"
To which I reply "Whichever is bigger."
I'm really glad I didn't retake my SAT.
Tenth grade shall be etched in my memory forever as The Year of The Porno. It was several years after my initial contact with porn (or perhaps my initial contact with myself in connection with porn), but tenth grade was the year I first found out about group porn.
I'm not talking about orgy videos or gang bang photos, I'm talking about the curious practice of a bunch of straight boys wanking off together while watching porn. I don't get it. I like it but I don't get it. I'd feel weird jerking off to gay porn while some woman was fisting the kitty, and not because I'm repulsed by pussy (I'm not, I'm just not turned on by it) but because I find it an unerotic distraction from my special time with porn. As a gay guy, however, the fact that I lived in a dorm full of straight boys who masturbated together was a huge turn on. That said, had I been out as a teenager, this story might not be such a fond recollection.
I'll never forget walking into the basement at 3 AM on a Friday night and hearing the fap fap fap of future frat boy self love. I didn't stay too long. I watched enough of the porn to remember that it was a Star Trek ripoff where the set is made of paper, and a woman actually ripped through the paper as a naked guy made the "fsssssssssh" sound of Star Trek doors opening.
There were four guys fapping away. They weren't the hottest guys in the dorm. I suspect, it being a Friday night, the hottest guys in the dorm were out cruising in a girls dorm getting their fuck on. I returned to my room with only my curiosity aroused.
I found out that the Friday night fapfest was a weekly occurrence. And while I knew that some of the regulars were guys I wouldn't mind seeing spew into a towel, I would have felt exposed if I ventured down there on a regular basis, so I tended to avoid the basement on Friday nights. On one particular Friday night, I was in the midst of a movie marathon. Alien, Terminator 2, Caddyshack. About halfway through Caddyshack, the seat & beat crowd came in and demanded we eject our movie so they could watch porn. My fellow marathon watchers were sophomores, like me. The sit back and whackers were seniors. Our dorm was so famous for hazing that freshmen had been banned from living there. The porno went in.
The opening scene featured two trampy women sucking an ugly looking guy's dick. After a few minutes, the guy begins fucking Tramp #1 while Tramp #2 shoves a dildo up the guy's butt.
A few minutes into the video I went upstairs to wrap my head around a bunch of straight guys jerking off to a guy getting a dildo shoved up his butt by a woman who could have easily passed as a man, had she not had an innie.
Of course I walked in on my roommate experiencing a fap-attack. In the three years I went to boarding school, I had four roommates, and I caught all of them in mid-jerk. Little phased me. (I bet they'd all hate to think that I'd used the word little in such close proximity to the image of them jerking off) JBOB put his trouser snake away and flushed.
"Can't I go anywhere without seeing dick tonight?" I lamented for the last time in my life.
"Oh, I'm just cranky because we were in the middle of watching Caddyshack when the Friday night crew took over the basement to watch a video of some chick sticking a dildo in a guy's ass. Bunch of homos." Yes, it's true what they say about people who protest too much.
"Dude, just because a guy likes getting a dildo shoved up his ass doesn't mean he's a fag." JBOB said, a bit too defensively. "I mean, it was a girl sticking a dildo up his ass. If he were gay it would be a guy sticking...whatever into his ass."
Of course, he was right. Our discussion drifted around various gender and sexuality issues until we came to the issue of guys jerking off with each other.
"I just don't get it." I said "The other day I walked into Seth's room to find out what the Algebra homework was, and there's nine guys sitting in a circle jerking off with a pile of nachos in the room. What the fuck?"
JBOB shuddered. "Dirty nachos. Bleurgh. Stupid fucking hockey mutants. I don't get that shit. Why you'd want to jerk off with a bunch of guys is beyond me, and the idea of the last one to come having to eat nachos with a bunch of other guys' come on it is---"
We agreed that Dirty Nachos was, along with Dirty Sanchezes, one of the most disgusting sexual ideas ever invented. Eventually we got around to discussing gay sex.
JBOB: "I mean, if I had to have sex with a guy, I'd want to be the guy getting fucked. That way I wouldn't get any pleasure out of it."
"There's something wrong with you. I'd want to be the guy doing the fucking so that I'd at least get to shoot my load. Besides, getting fucked in the ass sounds painful."
Then we started talking about pain in a very non-sexual way. What stayed with me, though, was the idea that he would rather be a bottom than a top, and he thought that enjoying things being stuck in your ass was not necessarily a gay thing.
JBOB and I never had anything remotely like sex. Walking in on him (to date, I've never been unexpectedly interrupted) was as close as we got. But I did eventually meet a straight boy who reminded me of him.
Randy lived up to his name. While I was working at Kookaburra Canyon in Cranberry Lake, it was my job to train new employees. Randy was finishing up his menu test when I came in. While I graded his test he kept looking at me oddly. I initially thought he was coming on to me. When I told him he passed he said "Is your name Insafemode?"
You can guess my answer.
"Oh wow. You used to be a counselor at the camp I went to. Remember me?" I didn't. "I was the kid who jumped off the boathouse and sprained my ankle." Now I remembered, he was the stupid kid. He wasn't one of mine. I had been sixteen at the time, and working with the eight to ten year olds. Randy had been fourteen. We spent the night working and reminiscing, and at the end of the shift, for no apparent reason he leaped on my back much the way the kids had when I worked at camp. Of course, the kids weighed about fifty pounds, and Randy weighed a buck forty. Had I been prepared, I would have lifted him easily, as it was I nearly fell face first into a table. "Sorry about that."
On a particular Friday night, while a new generation was lurking and jerking at my alma mater, Randy needed a ride home. He started talking about a girl he was casually seeing and how she liked to do E and let him fuck her. He was quite the charming conversationalist. "When she's feeling really frisky, she throws on a strap-on and fucks me up the ass."
I pulled over to the side of the road. "Bullshit. Why would you tell me something like that?"
"I don't know, maybe I'm hoping you'll take me back to your place and fuck me."
Who says that shit? Randy. I'm sure it was meant as a joke. Still, I pulled a U-ey.
"Where are we going?"
"My place. I've got a hard-on and a refrigerator full of beer." I am absolutely positive that it was not meant as a joke.
Randy was tall, blonde, and cut like a Bel Ami porn star. He wanted more than anything in life to be a Navy SEAL. I could never date anyone like him, but I could get him drunk and fuck him, though I didn't imagine things would go as planned. I figured we'd get drunk and pass out, have some really cool conversation that didn't involve either of us getting naked.
We didn't even make it to the refrigerator before he started taking his clothes off. "I have a few rules." he said.
"Tell no one. Seriously, I'm not gay, I'm just really turned on right now." Whatever,
There was nearly no foreplay. A bit of fingering to prep him, naturally, but no kissing or anything. Just him bent over the arm of the couch, upside down in the middle of the living room floor, laid down on the chaise lounge on my back porch. We fucked everywhere that night. And the next night, and a week later. By then we were making out first, caressing each other like lovers. The fourth night was so amazing we knocked over and broke my computer monitor and I didn't care. That time he spent the night, playing with my hair, nibbling on my ears. I knew that this was going to be my first post-Seith relationship. I sensed the coming of an overwhelming happiness.
Hence, I don't work for The Psychic Friends network.
Randy didn't show up for work the next day or ever again, A few weeks later a mutual friend told me that he'd run into Randy at the mall buying clothes for his move to Florida. Having no idea that Randy and I were anything more than acquaintances, he was quite surprised that Randy asked how I was and told him to pass along the message that he was sorry to move out without saying goodbye.
In my mental atlas, I was somewhere south of eviscerating Elvis, a bit northeast of I can't believe that guy got stung by a wasp while we were fucking, and a little to the left of the admissions office, where I was supposed to hand over my check and course choices for the coming semester.
"Mode? Is that you?"
I looked up and saw the sort of hotness you usually only find in the south.
"Brett?" The two of us had met when he moved up from Florida in fourth grade. Because he was new and talked funny, he was relegated to the social outcast circle. In other words, me, Kevin, and our friends. In sixth grade, he started working out and became entirely too pretty to not be popular. In seventh grade, I went away to school and never bothered to keep in touch.
"Wow." he said. "I was just thinking of you the other day."
I was both touched and overly concerned. "You were? Why?"
"Well," and here he paused for about five seconds, grinning at me. He hadn't been thinking of me at all. If he had, he would have known the answer. Why was he stalling? Was someone sneaking up behind me preparing to pants me? "Uh, someone did the Woody Woodpecker laugh that you used to do all the time, and I was like, whatever happened to Mode? You know, one day you were hanging out with us at the beach and the next day you just kinda vanished, but your parents were still around. Weird."
"Yea. I went away to boarding school."
"Rough. Did you kill the family cat or something?" Well, I had sent my cat to live with my Dad after the divorce, and he had left a puddle of antifreeze on the garage floor that P.K. (the cat) had licked, causing him to go to Kitty Heaven. I guess I had rather indirectly killed the family cat, but I failed to see what that had to do with my going away to boarding school.
"Ummmm...no. I just went away to school to get off Cape."
"And now you're back." He said, grinning.
That's right, fucker, I'm back but I'm not too pleased about it.
"Maybe we'll be in the same classes again or something."
We small talked for a bit, exchanged phone numbers, and promised to keep in touch. I don't know which one of us threw away the phone number first, but the next time we communicated each other was in an m4m chat room:
ibreak4no1:I thought you were looking at me funny the other day
ibreak4no1:what're you doing in this cesspit?
Cruising for ass, naturally. He just happened to be the ass I found. I invited him over to watch X-Files that night. I had stopped being really interested in X-Files when I graduated from high school, but that week, the episode had been written by Stephen King.
At 7:30 Brett came over with pizza and beer, and we talked, watched the first half of the episode, decided it was terrible, and went upstairs to mess around on my computer. We googled old classmates, surfed through Memepool and Somethingawful, and created a troll account to harass the losers in the m4m chat room, what with us no longer being the losers in the m4m chat room.
"It sure is hot in here." Brett said. It was clear from this statement and the things he’d been typing in the m4m room that he had learned how to be suave via poorly written pornos. I mean poorly written FOR porn.
"Uhh...sure." And as I continued typing, I could see his reflection in the monitor taking off his shirt. I decided to be cool and wait thirty seconds before I checked him out. Twenty-nine. Twenty-eight. Twenty-seven. I turned around and came nose to navel with what I can only describe as Cabbage Patch belly: smooth, squishy, but with an obscenely long umbilical cord belly button. How had I not seen it through his shirt? It was….hypnotic.
"That’s not my dick." He said, proving that he thought I was as dumb as I thought he was.
"I should hope not." I said. It wasn’t that big. "I’ve just…" and because I had to do something with my mouth before I said something awful, I pulled his head down and kissed him.
There are several signs of becoming an adult. The physical signs: body hair, properly sized genitalia, relatively normal height, were very evident on every part of Tommy’s body. But there’s also the mental/emotional signs: having a full-time job, ability to form five or six consecutive sentences without using the word like, and emancipating yourself from your parents’ house. These were things Tommy was not up for yet. Shit, these were things that I, like, wasn’t ready for yet, and I was twenty-one to Tommy’s seventeen. And here I was, living in my mother’s condo (granted, she was living with her boyfriend), working part time at an Australian themed steakhouse called Kookaburra Canyon, and totally, like, not doing anything with my life.
My solution to the non-grownuppedness problem was to resume taking college classes. I enrolled at UMass Cranberry Lake, and began taking classes that would surely help me get a degree in No Good Job Can Come Of This. I signed up for UMCL’s infamous Psychology course, where every morning, a mumued, former psychiatrist would greet every class member by name, and compliment them on their hair/their clothes/their smile/their posture/whatever she could think of. Every morning I heard “Good morning, Adam, I like your shirt.” I was eleven shirt days in when I dropped the class.
The only other class I could take that didn’t interfere with my Australian steak delivering was acting. A class that was so educational, I took it three consecutive semesters. The first semester, my classmates were mostly British Au Pairs. I had recently cut out all of my friends who knew Ryan. Elvis was gone. I was pretty much down to my fuckbuddy Tommy, Saint (a guy I’d gone to middle school with), and the people at Kookaburra Canyon. After our third class, I was sitting in my car,debating whether or not I should try and get closer to the British Au Pairs, when I backed it into a car being driven by one of the Au Pairs.
“If you really wanted my phone number, all you had to do was ask.” Buffy said.
“Yes, but this way I can get your phone number and your insurance information, without seeming too needy.”
And for the next four months, I was tight with all the foreign child caretakers on Cape Cod. Even hosting terrible parties with entirely too much noise and alcohol to fit into my tiny condo.
“How come you never invite me to any of these parties?” Tommy asked during a particularly pensive afterglow.
“Uh…because I don’t want to go to jail?”
“For fucking a seventeen year old?”
“No. It’s perfectly legal for me to fuck you, I just can’t give you beer.”
Nevermind that he’d been smoking pot in my condo since the first day we met.
The subject was dropped, and our relationship shortly followed.
The last weekend before Buffy was being exiled back to her life in Suffex, I held a huge party and invited every non-Tommy that I knew. All the au pairs, all my fellow waitstaff, everyone in my acting class, everyone I worked at Camp Davis with during the summer, the guys at the CD store I most often frequented, Saint. Buffy had invited a group of Irish guys she’d met that day. They all showed up in a cab, and de-clown carred in front of my house. Seventeen. Seventeen Irish guys in one cab. One for every year Tommy’d been alive.
One of the Au Pairs was a somewhat obese, bald, twenty-three year old guy named Scott. I hate Scotts. This particular Scott had been making the moves on Buffy since he’d arrived in the states, a month earlier. He dressed all in black, and liked to play with Tarot Cards and Ouija boards in his alarmingly spare time. On the night of the party, he’d shown up with Buffy, wearing black jeans, an X-Files t-shirt, and a beret.
“D’yave a tarrow dek?” he asked in his overly British accent.
“I’ve got, like, playing cards.”
“Eksillent. Cood I haff thim pulees?”
He shuffled them around a few times, and began “giving readings” to anyone at the party who accidentally made eye contact with him. When it was Buffy’s turn, he began making a lot of faces at the deck, emitting the occasional “hmmmm” and “that’s intresteenk.”
“Wot?” Buffy asked. Her accent always accentuating when Scott was around.
“Ewe’ve alreddy met yore troo luv.”
He poked a couple of the cards with his fingers.
“Izzit Adam?” She asked.
I rolled my eyes.
“No. Itz someone ohldir. Someone cloas to ewe, but not, leyk, totallee cloas. ‘eez pretty big, dark ‘air, and”
“And he’s wearing an X-Files t-shirt.” I said, rerolling my eyes. And then I walked away to another part of the party.
Buffy and Scott were married a year later.
I was still single. In fact, I spent most of 1999 focusing on performing poetry. I didn’t meet anyone online. I didn’t call or see Tommy. I did, however stop doing my summer job at Camp Davis, and picked up a new part time job to help supplement my income.
I am a creature of cycles. Short term rituals created, followed, broken, started again.
I am nineteen years old and terrified of not being normal.
If I learned anything from my three years at Torpor Heights, it's that I'm a pussy closet case homo. While fooling around with Victor, I'd publicly dated Kate, who I dumped for Beckee because dumping a fat chick for a skinny artist girl with purple hair makes you look straighter. When I dumped Beckee on Valentine's Day, I told everyone I'd gotten back together with Jennifer, but the truth was I was in lust with Victor, and didn't want to be distracted by fake dating. But that got too dangerous, so I stopped talking to Victor without explanation, redated Beckee, redumped her for Jennifer (this time for real). Jennifer, Beckee, Victor, Jennifer, Beckee, Victor, sorry, sorry, sorry.
When Jennifer came back from Europe pregnant with someone else's child, I knew our cycle was broken. But I still used her name as a place holder at college. Jennifer, My Girlfriend Back Home. And now here is Alex. Salvation in sunglasses. Fluid as sulfur water. Of course I am going to do right by him.
I have an appointment with my guidance counselor two days after my horrible Thanksgiving with my grandparents. The plan is to look at next semester's classes and make some minor changes.
"What is this?" I ask my counselor, the head of the Education Department.
"Your schedule for next year."
"These are all English classes. I'm an Education Major."
He blurs his words at me. "excellent grades" "natural ability" "problems in your elementary education class" "try it for a semester"
"I don't want to be an English major here." I say, nearly in tears. "I could have been an English major back at home." You can't fall out a window in Massachusetts without landing in a four year college with an exceptional English department. "I came here to major in Deaf Education."
"Well, we can see how next semester goes and---"
"No. No." Flurry of words "transfer" "paperwork" "so out of here" "sucks"
"¿okay?" Alex asks, when I see him in the dining hall.
"no - college bad - hate everything"
Frog eyed Alex. Fucken bloodshot probably high frog eyes. "slow down - ¿happen?"
"must leave" I say, and pick up my bag.
He probably assumes I just mean the dining hall, which is why he doesn't follow me.
I don't return his e-mails. I make it a point not to be in the room when I think he might stop by. I don't answer the phone ever. My roommate thinks this has something to do with a screaming match I have with my grandfather when I tell my family that I'm not coming back to Sulfur City after New Year's, that I'm transferring to UMass Cranberry Lake. Let him think that.
Matt is the only person I say goodbye to besides my teachers. He is the only person I say goodbye to that I don't sneer at when I say it.
Back in Cranberry Lake, I take a job at a place called Raspberry Records. I take a full course load at UMCL. I get in touch with Saint. I start writing again. My tan fades. My blood thickens. I have mostly forgotten Florida by February when I receive a postcard from Alex. The front of the card has a Brazilain man laying on his back, his huge cock filling out his Speedo, and in white bubble letters it says "An ounce of image is worth a pound of performance." On the back Alex scribbled out a note "Saw this card and thought of you. The biggest cock I know." I know he's not talking about my endowment.
Victor gives the secret knock. I pick up my towel and look at the clock. It's 2:22 AM. My roommate, JBoB, is off campus at this girlfriend's house, running lines for Into The Woods. Most of the jocks are at some lacrosse tournament. "Ready?" He asks.
Some people get butterflies in their stomachs. I have a swarm of yellowjackets in my heart. "Yes." I kiss him, and wonder if he can feel their stingers pushing out of my chest.
He leads me to the bathroom, where I reach for the light switch.
"Leave those off." He says. I feel ugly and secure. "Okay. You turn on the first shower, and I"ll turn on the fourth. If the door opens, you run into the other shower."
I turn on the decoy shower, hang my boxers on the hook next to my stall. Breathe. Breathe.
"Coming?" He asks.
I cross the Rubicon in flipflops. Victor pulls me into his stall, his hands go down to my ass. I mirror his movement. Surely, he knows what he's doing.
"I love you." He says.
He licks his way down to my torso until he is "Oh." He smiles up at me and "Ohhhhh, ohhhhh, ow!"
"It's okay." I say, looking down to make sure it is, in fact, okay. No teeth marks.
Then we are blur of water, mist, fingers, tongue, lubrication, squeaky voices, and then he is leaning forward, palms to the wall like he's under arrest. He says "Please."
I say "Yes."
There is a moment. Everything kissworthy, porn beautiful. I am inside him and groan. He pushes back yes. Wet hair in my fingers. I am thrusting oh. Then he is wow, and I...and I...and I...I am oh God, I forgot to put on a condom.
I wish there was some sort of romantic or dramatic story about how and why Victor and I started fooling around, but it couldn't be that great because I don't remember our first kiss, our first conversation (though I'm sure it was awkward), I do remember our first time we were naked together in his room.
He had barely wrapped his hand around my cock when there was a knock on his door.
While nothing was ever said to either of us, I couldn't shake the feeling that the dormhead knew what we'd been about to do. Victor threw on some boxers, nervously answered the door, and stepped outside into the hallway to talk to her.
"Veektor" (I'm no good at typing Elena's accent. She was Colombian, not Transylvanian. Try to imagine everything she says in a very unsexy South American Catholic Guilt Trip Mother Voice Box, and you'll have a reasonable facsimile of her voice) "You weren't in class this morning, and there was a quiz. I told you if you missed...Are you ok?"
The conversation continues in Spanish. I am was fluent in French and just starting to learn American Sign. Spanish was Greek to me. But without the extra vowels.
The raise in her voice, and the timbre of his led me to believe that she was going to enter the room at any moment. I, too, was skipping a class in the interest of pursuing sex education. I contemplated hiding in the wardrobe or under the bed, but then if she found me she'd know that we were doing something more than just skipping classes, so I sat at Victor's computer and opened up a file that I had written for him, and pretended to proofread. I was shaking and sweating so profusely by the time Elena came in, you'd think I had swallowed a blow up doll full of cocaine.
She said something in Spanish that had my name in it. I gave her the Mr. Spock eyebrow (this was pre-The Rock...I wonder if The Rock chose his name because it rhymed with Spock). "Sorry. Insafemode, what are you doing in here?"
"My computer is down." This was true. "So I asked Victor if I could finish up one of my papers on his and print it out. When it's done I've got to run to class."
"Ah, I see. Well, you'd better hurry, it's nearly fourth period." She left. Victor collapsed on the bed. I melted into the chair.
You couldn't cut the tension with the jaws of fucken life.
Victor and I, limp in every possible way, stared across the room at each other. He pulled off his boxers, and laid on his stomach. I got out of the chair and walked over to his bed. I started caressing his ass. That's when the fire alarm went off.
Before I met Victor, the only things I associated with Colombia were coffee and cocaine, two things I’ve never had much use for. But watching him wiggle down the hallway in nothing but a towel, images of stainless steel suitcases and the word “ese” are replaced with bench pressing and honey-glazed skin. He is the shy, stupid looking surfer kid that every girl (and according to statistics, at least ten percent of the guys) wants to fuck and bring home to mommy. And while everyone who’s ever been to a swim meet has seen him in a speedo, I’m the one he invites into his room, late at night, to hang out and do homework with.
Tonight, I have to finish a particularly complicated essay on my interpretation of gender roles in Shakespearean language. It was due a week ago. While I ponder the significance of Viola’s role in Twelfth Night, I look over to see Victor flipping through a porn mag unlike any other I’ve ever come across.
I grew out of Playboys and Penthouses before I’d turned thirteen. Between the airbrushed beaver and silicone breasts, and the fact that my father had purposefully shared the contents of the joke section before I got the chance to steal the magazines from the top shelf in his closet, I found the concept of American porn duller than a plastic hamster wheel. What Victor is gawking at is Latin American porn. Four incredibly hot guys buried in one hot, innocent looking girl. Well, as innocent as a girl can look with a cock in her mouth, one in her twat, one in her ass, and another in her hand. I make a mental note to borrow it from him some time when he isn’t paying attention. In the nicewhile, I focus on my essay instead of my ese, and making conversation as though he was playing computer solitaire, and not lying on his bed, fondling himself. Buzz buzz.
“You still dating Jennifer?” He asks.
“I don’t know.” I say. “I don’t think so.”
He Spock eyes me. “You don’t think so?”
“I don’t know. Things are pretty weird right now.”
“Yea.” He says. “Yea, they are.”
When I am done typing my paper, I go back to my room, to pick up where I left off with my ceiling staring.
Three hours and no sleep later, I get out of bed and click off my clock before the alarm even rings. Victor is already in the shower when I walk into the bathroom. “Hey, Z?”
“Yea?” I ask.
“Could you do me a favor? I forgot my towel. Could you go into my room and get it for me?”
“Sure. Your room unlocked?” It is. While I am in his room, I open the bottom drawer of his computer desk, and swipe two magazines. I detour into my room, where JBob snores lightly. I hide the magazines under my mattress.
“Took you long enough.” Victor says, stepping out of the shower to meet me. He proceeds to make small talk that I can’t follow because he is toweling himself off, focusing a great deal of time on his my God that thing is huge buzz buzz. Victor smiles. I think we are seconds away from kissing when the bathroom door opens, and Theo comes in to use one of the showers.
Victor motions for me to follow him back to his room. “I hate Theo.” He says, with a venom that surprises me. He is getting such a shame dressed. I am laying across his bed, trying not to watch him getting dressed. “Two weeks before he transfers to some junior stupid college and he comes out at that stupid assembly on cultural tolerance. All those stupid teachers lining up to shake his stupid faggy hands.”
Victor had come out honestly. During a lively debate concerning when, exactly, Saturday Night Live began to suck (my vote was 1989), Victor casually mentioned that he imagined he could suck a pretty mean cock. While the hockey jocks we lived with were busy fake lisping and playing limp-wristed minstrel charades, I was trying to figure out whether or not my cock could be considered mean. Or pretty. I made a mental note to ask him were he ever to be at eye level with it. And now, here I am, alone in his room, laying across his bed, while he pokes ever so slightly out of his boxers. I want to say some clever, nonchalant seduction line. Something suave that we’ll remember when we’re seventy-eight years old, playing chess in a remote village in Spain. Something. Anything. Touch me.