“Unrequited love is soooo eighth grade.” Ben says.
There is no preamble, no conversation about a friend who is in love with someone who doesn’t love them. There is only the way I’ve been looking at him, the way his name has infected my vocabulary. The way he couldn’t possibly love anyone like me.
“And I saw this totally hot guy on the way to work today. He was wearing these tight pink pants, so you know he was a total ‘mo. And he was obviously checking me out. Like eyefucking me and everything.” He fluffs his hair. “But then I totally like eye fucked him right back, and he kind of stared at his feet. I mean, what a fucken pussy, right? Whatever, he was totally too old for me anyway. He was like twenty-five or something.”
I am twenty-eight.
It’s another late night at Ben’s apartment complex. I’d been in the neighborhood, checking my e-mail at a computer lab down the street from his house, when I read a note in his Livejournal about how it was his birthday, and all he really wanted was a cigarette, but he didn’t feel like going down to the convenience store. So, even though it was one in the morning, I decided to stop at the 7-11, pick up a pack of Galouises and surprise him. He was surprised. So was his Dad, who had been asleep on the floor.
In order to let his father get back to sleep, Ben and I head up to the roof of his apartment complex, and listen to the Allston riffraff head from their various bars to their various dorms and apartments.
“Back when Ethan and I were totally in love,” he says, “we used to come up to the roof and piss on the people as they walked by.”
“How...romantic.” I say.
“We were doing a lot of speed, coke, and heroin at the time.”
“Ahhh.” is the only sound my mouth can wrap itself around.
“What did you do for fun when you were in college?” And I’m pretty sure there’s an implied back in the Dark Ages in his question.
“Well, my roommate and I were both Deaf Education majors, so we would go to fast food places, and one of us would pretend to be Deaf, and the other one would pretend to be an interpreter. And whenever the supposedly Deaf guy was watching the interpreter person, we’d act all nice together, but when the supposedly Deaf guy would turn away, to look for a place to sit, the non-Deaf guy would start to talk mad insulting shit about the Deaf one. We were kicked out of two Burger Kings and a Subway.”
“Oh my God, you know sign language?” He asks.
“I used to be near fluent in ASL.” I say.
“So teach me.”
It begins with the alphabet, and then expands to the swear words. I tell him how I used to confuse the sign breakfast with bitch and lesbian with lunch, how I used to sit in my non-ASL classes and sign the words slut and asshole at unsuspecting teachers. By three o’clock he can swear, spell, and knows important food signs like pizza, ice cream, and cookie. I consider this a small victory in my war against Ben’s body image issues. At four, I tell him how my roommate and I used to like to combine signs to create new words.
“Like what?” He asks.
I can’t think of a single one from college. So I start to run through my mental vocabulary list, trying to imagine signs that look alike. “Like asshole and cat.” I say.
I show him the sign for asshole, which looks like the universal sign for okay laid on its side, so that the o shape is on top, and the three fingers are parallel with the ground. Then I show him the sign for cat, which is the three middle fingers, held up to the face, and wiggled back and forth in the area where a cat has whiskers. “Now, if you take the sign for asshole, and hold it up to your face, and wiggle the lower three fingers like its the word cat, voila, you have a new word, asscat.”
“That’s brilliant.” He says. “And it so suits my cat.” And it does. His cat, which he named Rufus, after Rufus Wainwright, has the annoying habit of being extremely cuddly and then, without warning, clawing the blood out of whichever body part is closest to him. I have a friend who had a tryst with the cat’s famous meth-addicted namesake, apparently the two Rufuses had a lot in common.
“Do you remember any more?”
“How did you come up with the idea?” He asks.
"Well, oh! I remember another one. So, we were trying to come up with sign lyrics for a bunch of random rock songs. And one of the songs my roommate really liked was ‘Coma’ by Guns-n-Roses. But we couldn’t find a sign for coma anywhere, so we combined the signs for dead and asleep.” I show him the resulting sign.
I'd forgotten how fun it was to correct the limitations of languages. To create new words and ideas to express thoughts that you couldn’t do otherwise.
“I’ve got another one.” I say. “Take the sign for beautiful, only instead of making the bhand, make the v hand. Now you’ve got vapidorable. The perfect description for all those terminally dull, terminally beautiful people you’re so attracted to.”
“Booooo. Moving on. The sign for rainbow,” Ben says, “looks like it would fit with the sign for dead.”
And he’s right.
“Deadbow?” He asks.
I snicker. “If you start it near your crotch, it could be rainbortion.”
“Rainbortion? What the hell would that mean.”
“Well, a rainbow is the universal sign for fag…” I begin.
“Not the limp wrist?” Ben asks.
“That, too, but the sign for rainbow is more acceptable. So...so I guess rainbortion would be those times when you’re so disgusted by how stereotypically gay you feel, you want to rip the faggotry right out of you.”
“Wow.” He says. “I totally know what you’re talking about.”
But I suppose it could have another meaning. Forget the gay aspect. Rainbows are also used to symbolize happiness. Kids color them next to smiling suns and fluffy clouds. So maybe, maybe rainbortion is that moment when you’re ludicrously happy or content, but you know that feeling is about to be torn out of you, and all you’ll want to do is die.