Monday, December 12, 2011

Somebody Drove a Car Into My Bar

I've mentioned before that my hometown consists of a few bars and a gas station, resting flat on the edge of nowhere.

Somebody drove a car into one of those bars.

This is normally the part where one would link to a news story about the incident, but the fine journalists of my hometown haven't seemed to notice yet. The best I can find is the bar's Facebook page, where this fuckery was documented.

Car rhymes with bar... I smell a country song.
I may be leaving the edge of nowhere in January, but I hope I can take that cavalier, "fuck you I'm driving my car into your bar" attitude with me.

For some reason I suspect I'll fit in better if I do.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vehicular Manslaughter Sandwich

I got my first speeding ticket.

Last Thursday afternoon I was driving to Columbus, where I would be spending the evening before departing for Boston the next day. I was excited, because I had saved a lot of money when my friend in Boston set me up with a discounted flight.

I was driving along a two-lane highway on the edge of nowhere. The car behind me was being driven by a man who, quite clearly, had a mental disability of some type. He was rocking back and forth in his seat, he was muttering to himself, he was sporadically pointing. At one point he attempted to spit out his window, only for the stream of saliva to land on his shoulder. I laughed at this, and I swear, somehow he knew I was laughing at him.

This caused more rocking and muttering, which seemed directly related to how close his front bumper was to the back of my car.

When the car in front of me wasn't veering over to the wrong side of the road, it was suddenly braking for no reason. It was being driven by a girl who I'm convinced was twelve years old, and whose face was never removed from the screen of her phone. She was probably texting a boy she liked, maybe arguing about how she wasn't comfortable giving him a blow job until after her braces were removed. I don't know. It's been awhile since I was a twelve-year old driving down the highway.

Deciding that I no longer wanted to be involved in this vehicular manslaughter sandwich, I decided to pass the girl and leave both drivers behind me, hoping that the twelve-year old girl wouldn't swerve into me as I did so.

I successfully passed her vehicle, only having to increase my speed to about seventy miles an hour. Right as I released my foot from the pedal to decelerate to the speed limit, I passed it, the police car.

As I saw him turn around in my rear-view mirror, I pulled onto a side road. There was no reason to pretend like I didn't know I was being pulled over.

I mean, this was at least going to lead to hot cop sex, right?

No. It didn't. The officer wasn't even attractive in a "I've had a few drinks and the uniform is adorable" kind of way.

It's like everything porn told me was a lie.

This was worse than the time I ordered twenty-seven pizzas and didn't get a single sultry, aroused delivery boy. And trust me, by the time I was finished eating all that pizza, nobody wanted to have sex with me.

I tried to explain to the officer about the deranged man driving behind me, the vehicular manslaughter sandwich, that I fully intended to slow down after I passed the twelve-year old girl that was driving in front of me.

"Twelve?" he asked.

"Well, maybe twelve-and-a-half."

He went back to his vehicle and printed my ticket.

$110.00.

At least it didn't cost more than those twenty-seven pizzas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ten Things I'm Going to Say Over the Holidays

The holidays are here again! And for me, that means every delicious morsel of food comes with at least two awkward conversations with family members. So this year I'm coming prepared with answers to the questions that typically come my way. I'm going to make sure this is the best Thanksgiving ever:

1). Technically I'm not seeing anyone but I think it's starting to get pretty serious with my twitter boyfriend.

2). If by 'job,' you mean helping a kooky elderly woman run her studio, receiving an occasional PayPal deposit for writing jokes about where I put my tongue, and selling my tattered boxers for $15 a pair on the Internet, then yeah, I guess you could say I have a 'job.'

3). Oh the barn by the highway? No. I refuse to have anymore conversations about the barn on the highway. You people have been talking about this fucking barn since August.

4). Yeah it's actually not that expensive to live out there if you move into a sober living commune. I'll fake a heroin addiction if it means cheap rent and a pool. A pool is a necessity. I need somewhere I can work out and get drunk at the same time. You know how it is.

5). I'm not saying [news personality name excluded] is bad at his job, I'm just saying he's a bad lay. It's all white teeth and puns.

6). No, I don't know why the barn by the highway leaves its lights on all night long. Maybe the pigs get seasonal affective disorder.

7). Can I get some Paxil to go with these peas?

8). Well bovine depression is a serious issue in this country. Just ask the pigs in the barn by the highway.

9). You ever go to look at porn and you click a video and then before you know it you have six tabs open in your browser and you're sixteen pages into an essay on the roles of race, wealth and social status in sexual attraction? Such a boner kill. Like, Boner City, Population Zero.

10). You know, money just isn't that important to me. Anyway, I've got to get going to the Black Friday sales. If you need me I'll be on the news driving a baseball bat into a mother-of-three's spine for an iPad. Thanks for the meal. See you at Christmas.

Happy holidays everyone! Especially to you, twitter boyfriend. Maybe this Christmas we can have a tweet-up with our parents.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Negasonic Teenage Nomad

"Seriously boy you don't have to read the entire thing. It's boring," I say.

"I want to," Antonio says. His eyes narrow for a moment and he points at a word on the glossy page. I look to where he's pointing.

"Infrastructure," I say. When he doesn't answer, I add, "City stuff, roads and sewers and power lines."

He hums acknowledgment and continues reading. He's self-conscious about his difficulty with English. I've reminded him that English is a language that plays by its own rules and constantly changes them, that he has no reason to be ashamed of struggling with its silent letters and inconsistent laws.

We're sitting on the carpeted floor of his apartment, our backs pressed against his couch. He's reading through my most recent article in Columbus Entertainment Magazine, a five-page cover story featuring the August visit of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to a deserving Columbus family.

"You really don't have to read it," I say again.

"Be done if you just be quiet," he says, gently swatting me on the arm. I leave him alone and occupy myself with his bookshelf, looking through the rows of fantasy and horror, mystery and satire.

He looks up from the magazine and says that he liked The Da Vinci Code. "It was hard but I like it."

"Phrasing," I say, almost instinctively. He ignores me and redirects his attention to the magazine. As he reads his head bobs and his shoulders pulsate to the song streaming from his laptop, a YouTube playlist I had set up earlier. He has a rhythm that makes itself known even when he isn't paying attention.

I notice.

"Love this song," I say. He smiles.

"About poor people still having fun without money," he says, then adds, "What being Cuban is all about."

"You got jokes," I say.

We may speak in our own short-handed language, we may have difficulty understanding the sentences we try to relay to each other, but the humor always transcends.

"Been my theme song for a few months," I say, "Traveling and stuff."

Nashville. Atlanta. The island.

Next is Boston. Columbus. Chicago. Maybe Charleston?

We sit around a little longer, doing nothing significant or important, until it's time for me to leave. It's a Friday, my last day of work at a job that is difficult to explain without hours of time and a bottle of bourbon. It was a music job, a combination of office work, studio time, and bizarre errands. But it's time to move from the island, I'm onto the next project.

"You leave too early," he says, "Should stay longer."

"Last day, lots to do, very important."

Antonio hums approval, pecks me on the lips and squeezes my hands.

"Travel safe, boy," he says. He rests his head on my chest, pressing me against the door of my car.

In a few months, after the year passes, I'll settle down in one place, a loud city in a faraway place where the weather is warm and the people are dark. Until then I'm a nomad, and in the month that celebrates giving thanks, I'm thankful for people like Antonio, people who accept the travelers with open arms despite their inevitable departure, someone who can joke about retiring together knowing that it will never happen.

Although I might have to come back in fifty years to keep that promise. After all, this place is an island paradise.

Antonio says we'll have a pool and everything.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Head Scratchies

I scratch his head. He keeps his hair in a short, clean buzz-cut and my fingers brush straight to the smooth scalp.

"Mm, head-scratchies," he mumbles, "Makes me lazy."

"You mean tired."

"Whatever boy..."

He sleepily throws his head on my chest.

We're sitting on a towel on the beach, waiting for the sun to set, because this is Florida, and isn't this what one is supposed to do while in Florida? Sit, relax, enjoy the breeze, hold someone comfortable, wait for the beautiful end.

His name is Antonio, not one of my employer's three Antonios, the pool guy, the gardener, the contractor, but an Antonio just for me. He's a coworker of my friend Valerie. Working construction by day has left him with a meaty but tightly-bound physique and waiting tables by night has instilled in him an overly polite nature.

"Everything okay?" he always asks. With concerned brown eyes he'll say, "You comfortable?"

And I always answer, "I'm good. You not at work, boy. Relax."

He's short, much shorter than me, but his head rests right on my chest. It fits. He's originally from Cuba, spent his teens in Washington D.C. and moved to Southwest Florida in his early twenties.

"D.C. was too loud. Too dirty. It's nice here," he'll tell me. He speaks in short phrases and simple words based on his still-developing grasp of the English language. At first I had difficulty making conversations flow, but it grew on me.

Say what you mean, say it quickly, understand that quiet doesn't mean uncomfortable.

"Thump, thump, thump," he says, his ear pressed against the thin fabric of the shirt covering my chest, "Heart always thumping, never relaxed."

I scratch his head again, try to slow my heart, put it in rhythm with the crush of the waves and the gentle motions of my fingers.

"I'm leaving in a few weeks," I say, "I meant to say something earlier." He pauses for a moment, mulls it over in his head. Then he smiles reassuringly, flashes that waiter's grin I've grown accustomed to during my short time with him.

"It's fine. People always leaving. It's how it is here," he says,"We have fun until you leave." He smiles again, leaves a kiss on my chin and says, "It's no problem." He adds, "You okay, right?"

I tell him I'll miss him.

"I won't miss you," he says, flashing that sly waiter's grin. I put him in a playful headlock, just for a moment, just until he admits that he'll miss me.

We fall into a comfortable quiet and watch as the sun slowly rests over the horizon, no need for what he calls the "talk, talk, talk, always talking" of others.

This island, the wealthy retirees and the seasonal tourists, they'll pay you just to exist and be young. On paper you may be a cashier or a landscaper, but to them you're that sweet girl at the office supply store or the nice boy that always stops to chat over a glass of lemonade. They want the talk, talk, talk. It'd be easy enough for a young person to move here, find a good-enough job, reside in a nice place and live a comfortable life in a palm-lined paradise.

That's all Antonio wants. Somewhere quiet, nice, safe. Someone to give him head scratchies.

I'm envious of him, his succinct way of speaking, his uncomplicated work, how something as simple as head scratchies makes him so content with existence.

I want to take him where I'm going, force him to teach me the secret to satisfaction with simplicity, but where I'm going is loud, cruel, dangerous. It isn't for him, but I'm comfortable there. I thrive in the absurd. It's why I'm on an island working for an elderly self-made music mogul and holding a Cuban boy who I admittedly have difficulty understanding. Did he just say "next week" or "what street?" Probably "next week," I don't think he'd answer a question with a question, unless he didn't understand what I said... fuck it, I'm just going to scratch his head and smile, talking is stupid...

Unlike Antonio, I'm not capable of being content living a comfortable, good-enough life, even if it is in paradise. The cynicism creeps in. Oh, the beach again? How about you do something interesting with your life, asshole.

I'll go to the loud, cruel, dangerous place, and anytime I start to let the cynical take over, I can at least take comfort in knowing that head scratchies will find a way to tame the bitterness.

Scratch, scratch, scratch...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Where the Sand Ends and the Rest of the World Begins

I live on an island now... a tropical island, not some garbage island up in Alaska where I'd have to deal with hockey pucks shattering my windows and Sarah Palin poking around my yard for oil.

After my lease and campus job expired at the end of August, I stayed with my parents for a few weeks.

I love them, I really do, and I love visiting home, I really do.

But I have a tendency to drink too much on the weekends and sleep with media personalities. There's no sidewalks or cabs in my hometown, and Toledo's 'Blizzard' Bill Spencer just wasn't going to cut it. Besides, he's like an hour-and-a-half drive away and is probably married anyway.

So I packed up the car and headed south. I have family scattered across the country, which is convenient when you want to travel but don't have any money. You see my grandmother, always planning ahead, was smart enough to spawn five daughters, then annoy them enough to make them want to move as far away as possible.

I spent a week with family friends in Nashville, a few days with an aunt and uncle in Atlanta, and ended up in Marco Island, Florida, where another aunt lives.

Marco Island is south of Naples and Ft. Myers. It's a small island inhabited by tourists, retirees, and the Cubans who clean up after them. The shore is lined with hotels and the suburbs are bursting with mini-mansions. A lot of the residents actually come from Ohio, so it's common to see Ohio State University apparel while strolling down the beach.

It's like I didn't even move.

My aunt, who has been a server at a restaurant on the island for an amount of time that makes her sound experienced but not old, knows a lot of people around here, and introduced me to a woman who would able to provide me with part-time work.

I don't want to reveal too much about her business, but it involves music copyrights and providing soundtracks for television and movies. She's been doing it for over forty years. Her clients have included NBC, Comedy Central, and Miramax, among dozens of other names that I recognized immediately.

A few years ago she moved her entire business from New York City to her Marco Island home. Filing cabinets fill the garage. Audio equipment and shelves of albums line the walls of her home.

My first day I walked in to find her dancing to heavy rap as she compiled an album for some clients. She went on to tell me that Ice-T loved this song when he heard it, and something about what a nice young man he was.

I've been helping with archiving and organizing and updating the business. And sometimes I have to bring in the garbage can from the curb, because hey, it's heavy.

I'm not sure how long I'll be here, or what the next step will be after that, because I've never been good at life-planning. It's why I collected two minors, two part-time jobs, and five internships during my time in college.

But for now I'll enjoy this island purgatory, this humid place where the young come to unwind and the old come to die.

If you need me I'll be where the sand ends and the rest of the world begins.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Butterfly

She woke me up with a light slap on the face. I groaned and took a moment to dig the crust out of my eyes and acquainted myself with my surroundings: her bed, her bedroom, her.

She's my lesbian ex-girlfriend. Everyone should have one.

We did it again. It seems to inevitably happen at the most unexpected times.

"Did we really do this again?" I asked, "I mean, is there like a punch-card or something? The fifth lay turns us straight?"

"Cured," she sang slowly, a reference to a joke made during similar mornings in the past.

I asked her if she could get me a Capri-Sun and play some Dragonette, one of our favorite musicians.

"ALL OF THE DRAGONETTE," she hummed, speaking in bizarre Internet-meme language. She slipped a t-shirt over her head as she stood up. Her bedroom was similar to mine, a mismanaged mess of boxes and furniture, signs of an upcoming move. She loaded a song on her laptop and left. When she returned she was sipping on a Capri-Sun with another in her hand.

"You know sometimes I worry that you're just using me to relive your rape," I said.

In her attempt at suppressing her laughter the clear liquid from the Capri-Sun pouch sprayed from her nose and rolled down her lips.

"Is it okay for me to laugh at that?" she asked. Her hair was buzzed, but growing back. The extreme haircut was an attempt at regaining control and she instantly regretted it, embarrassed like someone caught naked. Fortunately her face is narrow and lined with sharp angles, chin and nose and cheekbones in all the right places and littered with a star-scape of gleaming piercings on her eyebrow and nose and lip. The hair is an irrelevant sidenote, an unnecessary frame.

Small strips of white medical-tape were wrapped around several of her fingers, cuts from playing with her newest toy, a butterfly knife. I've watched her use it in the past, the blades gracefully dancing between her fingers and the clack-clack-clack of metal striking metal. Watching her do it made me nervous, left butterflies energetically batting around in my stomach and cutting up my insides.  It's a hobby she picked up from a few of our other friends. She was only doing what myself and so many others have done, attempting to find peace through violence.

"You really need to stop with the butterfly knife thing," I said, eying the bandages, "This will make you the fourth person I've dated that has one."

"That says something fucked up about you, not us," she said, taking her butterfly knife in hand and twirling it among the flesh of her fingers.

Clack-clack-clack.

"I swear if I wake up castrated... well... I guess I won't do anything, considering the number of suspects."

Clack-clack-clack.

I rose from bed and dressed myself, said something about how I had to get going because of work and moving and everything that needed done. She walked me to the door and we stood in the doorway avoiding the word "goodbye."

Through her short hair I noticed a small, round, barely noticeable birthmark about an inch deep into her hairline. It was a speck, minuscule, a dot from an ink pen. She's shorter than me, and I took her head in my hand and pulled it towards me.

I left a kiss on that dot, because it was a part of her I've never kissed before.

We finally found our voices and exchanged goodbyes.

Our fingertips separated but the fluttering in my stomach lingered. As days passed the fluttering died down.

But the clack-clack-clack of one lone butterfly remains.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Healing Through Absurdity

A dominatrix, a lesbian, and myself go to a funeral.

There's no punchline here, this just happened the other week.

The funeral was for a close friend of ours, a father figure of sorts to the restless youth of Columbus. He gave us advice and drinks and the often-needed verbal evisceration, angry-but-compassionate speeches composed of a unique juxtaposition of swear words and wisdom from experience.

He grew dark hair and mixed clear drinks.

He discovered the secret to trusting people while being acutely aware of exactly how they behave in the dark. He was teaching me the same, but I'm a slow learner.

He was entering his fifties, but all of us, including him, were too young to be prepared for his departure.

He did it to himself, clogging his lungs with tar and nicotine since his adolescence. His expiration date was in June, but he held out until August to make it as inconvenient as possible for all of us. In June we had clear schedules, we had prepared ourselves for the inevitable emptiness. By August we were exhausted, busy with relocating and work and other responsibilities, wondering why he found it necessary to drag it out. During our visits we'd tell him to "just die already," attempting to make a joke out of what we honestly wanted and needed.

Making us wait is something he's always done. He'd show up to the bar late, prepare dinner late, watch and wait for us to fuck up before explaining what we were doing wrong. It was his way of garnering our attention.

Even in death, he's still an inconsiderate ass.

He's lucky his husband didn't put R.I.P. ASS on the tombstone.

Actually there wasn't a tombstone, because as a couple they didn't believe in partitioning that much public space for a memorial when it could be put to better use and something about the thought of their bodies getting all gross in a box being too much to handle.

So we wrote R.I.P. ASS in every bar bathroom we could find. We dug into the walls of stalls with keys and wrote across tile with markers, leaving scars and tattoos on every clean space we could find. We vandalized the city in his memory.

But the vomiting? The vomiting was all for Amy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blackout Faith

I woke up in a jacuzzi at the Hyatt.

I didn't know it was the Hyatt, at the time I assumed it was an apartment. The tub had been drained. I was slightly damp and comfortably wrapped in a towel.

It smelled like my grandma's house, Skinner's Salve, her miracle cure for every ailment that comes with age.

A few weeks ago I went to Denver for a cousin's wedding. Being a gentleman and a grandson, I asked my grandmother to dance.

She quickly seized the opportunity to corner me, preaching to me about not attending church on Easter.

Which is funny, because she's the reason I've been agnostic since third grade. Yes, I know agnostic is just a coward's atheist, but for now that's what I am.

Let's get back to the part where I woke up in a jacuzzi at the Hyatt wearing a bathing suit that wasn't mine.

I found my clothes on the bathroom counter. After putting myself in the comfort of my own clothes, I did the pat down, the one where I make sure I have the essentials: wallet, keys, phone. Check, check, check.

I wandered out of the bathroom into a bedroom, framed pictures on the nightstand. In the pictures were a woman with strawberry-banana hair. Her face was vaguely familiar, and the synapses in my brain lazily sputtered back and forth in an attempt to retrieve our meeting the night before. If I had to guess, I'd assume she was thirty-eight years old. It's a low guess, but I'm always a gentleman when it comes to a woman's age.

Some memories spark: my tongue twisting around the mouth of a stranger, a girl, someone I'd met at a bar and left at a bar, somebody that I made out with mostly to prove I could and a little bit to stir up one of my friends. Blurred images crept behind my eyes: hugging my friend, leaving the bar alone, attempting to find a cab, discussing my inability to find a cab with a woman with strawberry-banana hair...

I looked at the three framed pictures on the nightstand, each one of her with a different person of interest.

George Carlin. Bryant Gumbel. Ricki Lake.

Finding the bedroom empty, I walked through the doors into a small but swanky living area. Sharing the stand with a flat-screen television were two more photographs of the strawberry-banana haired woman with the rich and (sort of) famous. I made a mental note to Google "the older girl from Just Shoot Me" and "lead singer of Staind."

The woman with strawberry-banana hair was sitting on the couch and sipping a coffee, the steam surrounding a gracefully aging face, each wrinkle working as a compliment, a signature marking an experience. I can't exactly describe what she was wearing, because I don't know the word, but it was purple and draped and sort of a shirt but kind of a dress. She made it work even though it was a bit disorienting, but anything can be disorienting after... how many shots did my former coworker and his girlfriend buy me last night? When did I leave them to go see other friends?

"Nice apartment," I said.

"Sweetheart, you're at the Hyatt."

The same Hyatt where my ex-boyfriend bartends, the same Hyatt where I went to see my friend model in a hair show.

I suspiciously eyed the framed pictures by the television.

"My definition of home is different than most people," she said, using a tone that implied there was an inside joke between us.

"I was just talking about that with my friend last night."

"I know," she said, "You told me last night."

She explained that we had met on High Street and decided to share a cab but were enjoying the conversation so much we ended up drinking all night. Memories stirred between my eyes. She said that she had been attracted to my aura.

"But this isn't the first time you've been complimented on your aura, is it?" she added, narrowing her eyes at me.

I've always tried to avoid believing in ghosts and auras and fate, because those beliefs would mean some of my experiences are real and that would be a totally fucked-up world to live in.

But you can only be complimented on your aura so many times before you start to have faith in... something?

We went to get breakfast together, where she walked the line between honesty and deception, revealing the darkest corners of her being but refusing to discuss the job that keeps her traveling.

I did the opposite, telling her about my previous jobs and what I'm considering doing with my future.

My lease expires on August 25th, my campus job a day later. I see the strings in front of me but I'm unsure of which ones to climb. Some lead to Columbus, others to different cities, and quite a few to places I never would have imagined.

So I'm going to take the woman's advice, and follow my aura. I'll have faith in the dizzying powers of chaos and ride the waves of coincidence until it leads me to somewhere I can call home.

It led me to a jacuzzi at the Hyatt, so it must have pretty good judgment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

To Hurt and to Hold

"Bobby, your boner is poking me," he mumbles. He says it in a way that implies the appendage is no more offensive than a leg or an arm. He came from a part of my life when people called me Bobby.

"Sorry," I say, shifting my body away from him.

He's a nurse from an old group of friends, a group that used touch as a form of communication. Boys and girls, resting our heads on each others' laps and casually draping our legs over shoulders. We could fit seven of us on a couch and still be comfortable. We embraced the warmth and care of each other without the pheromones and motivations that came with sexual exploits.

I guess that's what he and I are doing, considering we've been sleeping with each other for months but haven't so much as exchanged a kiss. When we sleep together we abide by the definition of the word, keeping our genitals and body fluids to ourselves but reveling in the connection of entering the twisted reality of dream with another person.

Besides, he smokes and I don't appreciate the taste of ash the way I used to.

I run my hand through his hair. His Chinese ancestry gifted him with sleek, wispy hair and high cheekbones, a strong but balanced brow and a wide jawline that seems to have a Western influence

A few minutes later he rises from bed, the bruise I planted on him last night blossoming on his side. The muscles of his stomach are always more defined in the morning, dehydrated and craving nourishment. His shoulders are wide from the push ups he frequently partakes in, like the ones he's currently doing on his bedroom floor.

He's been teaching me to spar in his living room, sometimes the back patio if the weather is comfortable. We exchange fists and feet in a flurry of violence then collapse into a heap of tangled limbs and affection on the couch, sometimes discussing our new love interests and other times soaking in the silence of our souls. I used to attempt to avoid that silence, fill it with music and books and movies, conversations with strangers and bottles of beer, but I've become more comfortable with it over time.

Usually we'll only spar for an hour or two a night, but sometimes when we're feeling frisky we'll go for hours, sweat spraying into each others eyes and knuckles sliding across shoulders. But we always remain to nurse bruised bones and bleeding elbows.

Someone to hold, someone to hurt, isn't that what everybody really wants?

We sneak in and out of each others' apartments, discover new ways to cover cuts and bruises, avoid intertwining our fingers around friends. The parallels to an abusive relationship aren't lost on us.

Eventually we mentioned our situation to friends. Some were hostile, others curious and full of questions we weren't quite sure we knew the answers to. We were met with some rolling eyes and we answered with shrugged shoulders, often responding with "I don't know." Some don't believe us and others ask "what's the point?"

Our friendship is defined in a way that crosses the boundaries of traditional camaraderie but doesn't quite roam into the realm of romance. We walk the borders in between, nomads declaring ourselves citizens of neither and left to fend for ourselves between the opposing sides.

It's about finding what's comfortable.

And sometimes running your fingers through the hair of a close friend while he rests his head on your lap, splitting a six-pack of Shiner Bock, and watching an episode of Misfits together is what's comfortable.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Put Your Hands Up for Detroit.

Wait... I meant Denver. Don't put your hands up for Detroit. I mean, have any of you guys been there lately? That place is tragic.

I went to Denver for a cousin's wedding last week, traveling across the country by van with some family members. We set up residence in a swanky hotel, my room on the second floor while my parents stayed on the fourth.

I woke up Friday morning and decided to head upstairs to see if my parents wanted to get some breakfast. As I walked down the scarlet-carpeted hallways I noticed remnants from the night before left outside each room. Some rooms had two wine glasses on the floor and others just one, indicating a night of romance or a quiet evening alone. Others had a single plate covered by a napkin, revealing that the room's resident had indulged in an exquisite meal.

My parents' room was at the end of the hallway, and after a long trek, I arrived at their door.

Where I found this:

More like Queer's Light, am I right?

I guess my older brother was lying when he claimed I was adopted.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Alkaline

It started with a pharmacy book.

It was January of this year and I was working as a library assistant. When he arrived at the front desk we made eye contact and there was a pause in the way he looked at me.

It was a look of curiosity, mixed with fear and relief and topped off with recognition. He didn't recognize my face, but recognized something in me that was similar to him.

I was instantly smitten. More handsome and charismatic men pass through the library every day, but I could feel the same recognition that the man across the desk was experiencing, and that was more desirable than the never-ending line of chiseled jaws and smart mouths that passed.

Was it because he was a pharmacy graduate student? Maybe I was attracted to his knowledge of pharmaceuticals, the way he was already familiar with my past romances, pills with odd behavior and exotic names. Names like Darvocet and Ritalin and Xanax, they were the kind of names that brought a sharp zest to the tongue when spoken, names like the people I've dated in the past. With the likes of Klonopin and Strattera and Vicodin already filed away in his mind, I wouldn't have to explain how they took me in and the way we mistreated each other. He would already understand.

He had one of those names. I would later learn he grew up in a faraway place where the weather is warm and the people are dark.

When discussing him with friends I began referring to him as my Pharmacy Student Crush, a way to make a joke out of it, an attempt at sucking the tension from the air.

One Sunday morning in spring I found him in the lobby as I waited for my supervisor to unlock the doors to the rest of the library. He struggled with the Coke machine, feebly attempting to get it to accept his tribute. But like the printers and computers and other mechanisms of the library, the machine was temperamental and unwilling to sell. After he gave up, I slid a crisp dollar and fresh quarter into the machine, change from the bars the night before, purchased a Cherry Coke, and handed it to him. He gave me that same look as always, brown eyes filled with recognition and confusion.

"It's what you wanted, right?" I asked. I couldn't recall how I knew Cherry Coke was his preferred method of contracting diabetes, it was one of those notes about him I just knew without memory as to how.

He stammered, "Uh yeah. Thanks, I owe you one."

Weeks later I would accidentally spill an entire cart of books in front of him, a clumsy spectacle that embarrassed me to the core in a way that is rarely experienced past childhood. The various motherly figures I've accumulated on Facebook were quick to console me. They have a way of taking the silly and trivial and transforming it into something beautiful:


Months passed and soon it was summer. I was working at the library full-time while looking for work after my recent graduation. My job with a before-and-after school program ended with spring, as well as the writing internship I was participating in. I was at a point where my job search, after several incredibly promising, potentially life-changing leads and interviews, had flatlined.

I was in a morose mood. I shuffled about the stacks on the fourth floor of the library, a pair of the library's giant, seemingly ancient headphones covering my ears and blasting them with modern bass. I was unshaven, trying to recall if I'd showered that morning and came to the conclusion that I hadn't. Had I even bothered to brush my teeth? I shelved book after book, a repetitive task that couldn't keep me from thinking about my impending doom when my college job and lease expired in September.

After I finished putting the books in their proper place, I began my descent down a stairway left dark and dingy by recent construction in the building.

I heard his footsteps coming up as I made my way to the landing of the second floor.

We passed on the second floor. He was there with his dark hair, his olive-brown skin, his plain but functional clothes and his triangular nose.

In a split moment my brain declared war on itself.

The right side, controlled by my mother and fueled by creativity and impulse, whispered "Fuck it. Why not?"

The left side, reigned over by my father and functioning with rationale and logic, screamed "WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU CAN'T JUST MAKE OUT WITH PEOPLE IN STAIRWELLS THIS IS HOW PEOPLE LOSE THEIR JOBS."

The two sides are usually able to come to a compromise, but in that instant the right side won.

Without provocation, wordless, I took his chin in my hand and kissed him.

There was a slight recoil, the bite one feels when licking a battery, the bitter taste of alkaline. As time passed the initial jolt remained but relaxed itself, like the electric beat pulsing through my ears. My right hand held his chin and my left hand brushed along the hair near his ears.

When it was over he looked at me, that same look of curiosity and recognition, but this time with a wider smile, the kind that releases noise, almost a laugh. I took my headphones off and left them on my neck as they cried for attention.

"How did you know?" he asked.

"Uh..." I hummed, rubbing my neck, "I'm not sure I did."

He gave me his number and told me to text him sometime, but warned me that "this stuff" was a secret for him.

I gave him my number and told him to call me in a few years when he was more comfortable with himself.

It's been a few days.

He still hasn't called.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tears on Linoleum

I've been MIA.

AWOL.

Wait, AWOL is the name of the bar I stole my gay Coors Light coasters from.

Beer is manly you guys.
Where the hell have I been? Just chilling with my bros and ice cold Coors Light like those dudes on my coasters, obviously.

Long story short, somebody I used to date was bothered by this post, something about how its depiction of me dating a girl (over two years ago) bothered him, even though I wasn't dating him anymore, or something? I don't know, we were drunk so I'm sure it made sense at the time. The point is, it forced me to reevaluate what I put on this blog...

Just kidding!
That would be silly.

I've actually been sort of busy getting in car accidents, graduating college, working here and here and here and here, going to Pennsylvania with friends, celebrating my 23rd birthday, attending my high school reunion, and looking for a job.

Looking for a job.

Searching for a job is sort of like a dating game. You put yourself out there to someone that interests you, showing your best face (just look at all these other places I've made happy!), then stare expectantly at your phone praying they love you back. It usually ends with no response and you crying on the bathroom floor with a Four Loko while your roommate worries that she won't get her deposit back because of the ass print you've left in the linoleum.

We'll return to our regularly scheduled fuckery after I wipe my tears from the linoleum.

If I had to guess I'd say that it will take me until Monday.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Brush with Death

The other weekend my friend modeled in a hair salon and runway show that took place in downtown Columbus. Only in its second year, the show is a Midwestern attempt at metropolitan style. It was like a casino at first glance, an impression of glitz and glamor but in reality a cheap imitation.

But that didn't make it any less entertaining, each salon parading with a theme, giant hoops and cascades of hair, costumes both demure and deranged, a parade of skin and hair and human ingenuity with pulsing music and an energetic crowd.

The drinks weren't bad either.

The event happened to take place in the same downtown hotel where an ex bartends, but he wasn't working that night, which really took from my potential to nod to my friend and say something clever like, "I used to fuck that bartender and I totally stiffed him on the tip."

The salon my friend was representing won the competition, and after a brief celebration in the lobby, moved the party to a nearby nightclub. The salon my friend worked with chose a life and death theme, which involved intense makeup on their subjects. Some faces chalk white, others painted like skulls, others with torn cheeks exposing muscle and mandibles, all with beautiful, precisely sculpted hair. It seemed an appropriate theme for a world that was expecting the apocalypse in a few weeks' time.

The after party was in a dark room with velvety curtains and mirrors on the walls. Champagne flutes were tossed around to stylists and the living dead that represented them. I took part in the appropriate hand-shaking and mingling and shot-taking that comes with such celebrations.

Then I had an idea.

I have to take one of these dead people home.

Not only because they were, makeup or not, downright gorgeous, but because it would be a story to tell. It didn't even matter which one as long as I could describe pasty-white makeup smeared around lips. I could write about him bringing death to my lips and me bringing life to his. I could describe my bed as a coffin as the morning light crept through my blinds, and compose a scene in intricate detail of me quickly whisking away the dead before the light burnt through the remains of his soul and he turned to dust in my arms.

As my most recent drink carefully swirled these ideas around in my head, my friend thanked me for coming to see her and asked me if I wanted a ride home. It was barely past midnight.

Midnight, midnight, ghosts come out at midnight... Soft echoes from childhood clashed with modern, metallic music that left the walls throbbing.

I accepted my friend's offer. Because I didn't want to sleep with Death, I wanted to tell the story of sleeping with Death. It's the line between fiction and reality that's becoming less blurred but more difficult to walk as time passes. The previous haziness had given me, while unstable, still existent stepping room. In its new definition it's become more thread-like, requiring greater finesse and control to travel safely.

I thanked my friend for the ride home and stayed up entirely too late drinking cheap beer and snacking on pretzels. I sat in the soft glow of my laptop in a drunken haze writing the fictional prose I've been neglecting.

I shouldn't be surprised that I looked like Death in the morning.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Safeword


It’s July of 2009.

In the first few hours of meeting her, you discover that her name is Inez and that she’s a veterinary student. Even though you’re gay and have already done the dating that comes with it, there’s something about the way she moves that draws you to her, rough and abrasive but somehow eloquent and smooth. You have a hard time describing things properly while your blood is trying to balance rum and Darvocet and decide which organs to rush to. So instead of using words to describe it, you just hold yourself against her and acknowledge that something feels right. Right works. Right is a small word, a simple word that doesn’t require thought or reason.

After you kiss, you whisper, “I’m gay.” You aren’t attempting to stop her. You just want her to know.

She grabs you by the testicles and says, “Not tonight.”

You fuck her like you’ve never heard the word “homosexuality.”

-

A few weeks pass and you realize you spend every day with her. You remind yourself you’re gay and wonder why the female body doesn’t interest you but hers does. You think of geometry, the way all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares.

Over drinks she explains her job as a dominatrix, how she’s paid to beat and humiliate men.

“I know it’s fucked up,” she says. She explains that there’s no sex or nudity, that it’s completely legal. She explains that she doesn’t participate in S & M with boyfriends because she doesn’t want to sexualize what she sees as simply her job, even though she gets enjoyment out of her work.

“It’s… honestly the whole thing is really hard to explain,” she says.

You can’t help but relate.

-

One morning you wake up to her running around the mess of her room, collecting items for her day. This is a daily ritual, the disciplinarian who can’t seem to organize her own belongings. You ask her what her schedule is like.

“Class, class, then class,” she says, tossing a biology book in her book bag, “off-site session with that newscaster jackass tonight.” She wraps a bullwhip around her hand and slides it into her bag.

You ask her why he’s a jackass.

“He has this whole scenario where I’m an Arabian princess and he sees me partially nude so I discipline him,” she says. She pauses for a moment, running her finger over her lip as her eyes scan the room, “Where the fuck is my ball-gag?”

You shrug as she begins opening drawers and rooting through the contents.

“Anyway, the entire thing is full of stereotypes. I don’t even think he knows the difference between Hinduism and Islam.”

“Or Latino and Arabian,” you add. She nods in agreement, then dramatically pulls her hand from the bottom of a drawer. She raises her hand in triumph, a rubber red ball with a black strap in her palm.

“Found it!”

You know it’s a bad time, but you ask her how much longer the two of you should keep seeing each other, considering you’re gay and probably have no business dating girls.

“Until it isn’t fun anymore,” she says, leaving a kiss on your lips before rushing out the door.

-

On her back patio she attempts to teach you how to crack the bullwhip. In your attempt it snaps loud and hard, flailing back towards you and lashing your forearm.

“Ah fuck,” you say, hissing through your teeth as you hear the echo from the whip, “That fucking hurt.”

She laughs, spraying the last sip of her cocktail across the patio.

“This isn’t funny and I hate you,” you say. You feel a grin force itself past the pain.

Immediately you think of that book you’ve been reading, the one where the main character just assumes hate and love are the same.

-

A night of drinking brings your jealousies and insecurities to the surface.

“Christ why don’t you just fuck him if he’s so interesting?”

“Why don’t you just fuck him if you’re so fucking gay?”

You apologize to each other the next day but the air feels heavy as if tied down, uncomfortably hot as if smothered by leather. Over the next few days your conversations are just as sharp but the tone has changed.

In your head you hear the crack of a whip as you mention a handsome man you saw at the gym.

You hear the snap of leather as she describes making a client cry in a session earlier in the week.

Your conversations have become the rumbling of chains, a combination of pain and pleasure that benefits neither.

It’s become a struggle for control. Domination. Aggression. These words go through your head as if one of them is the safe word that will unlock the passion of the night you met.

-

One night, as the two of you attempt to sleep, you hold her close against you and say, “This isn’t fun anymore, is it?”

She agrees.

You say “I’m sorry” and she asks why.

You vocalize concerns that you’re no better than the men she disciplines for a living. You question if you were just using her as an escape from reality, a place to feel safe at first and later a place to play victim.

She laughs.

“That’s what dating is, dumb ass,” she says. She runs her hand through your hair. You’re not sure if you agree with what she's said but her answer comforts you.

You go to bed holding each other. In the morning you have sex and for a moment everything seems right again. But as you put your clothes on you remember it isn’t.

Afterward she frantically storms about her apartment gathering her school books for the day and you collect your things: the gym shorts you kept in her room for sleeping, some books on her coffee table, your toothbrush in her medicine cabinet.

You hug at her front door and thank her for being so much fun despite having a vagina, and apologize for acting a little crazy, but that she simply surprised you.

She pinches your penis through your jeans and says, "You surprised me, too."

The two of you agree to remain friends, because you live in a city full of assholes, and finding people that are fun is hard.

The safe word is "camaraderie."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bones

I work at the front desk of a health sciences library.

That means I'm responsible for making sure everyone can find the books about sexually transmitted infections, gastrointestinal gaffes, and dermatological deviancy that only those with the strongest of stomachs can handle.

I'm also responsible for the bones.

The ones that came from living, breathing people and now serve as educational resources for the next generation of doctors and nurses.

We keep the bones in plastic bags or boxes, the names of their owners lost and replaced with "Femur" or "Tibia" or "Clavicle."

But the skulls interest me the most.

The skulls are various shapes and sizes, with cracks and contours in different places, some a dingy yellow and others a dull gray. They carry a ripe, relaxing odor.

They line the shelves in leather-bound boxes, amateur coffins lined with felt and topped with handles, stray teeth scattered along the floor of the box. We host a miniature mausoleum. The boxes are labeled with the skulls' new names.

Missing Teeth. Broken Jaw. Detached Mandible.

They're named after their flaws.

The students and medical professionals use them to study. They don't ask for the skulls by name. They just need a skull, any skull. Sometimes they ask for a plastic one, because it doesn't have to be real as long as it serves its purpose for two hours.

Prior Health Sciences Mausoleum and Brothel, this is Justin. How can I assist you today?

I can't count the number of times I've sent Detached Mandible with a student, only to have the student return in just a few minutes to ask for another one.

"Can I like, get another skull? This one's jaw is like, all messed up, you know?"

Each one has a laminated bar-code stretched across its forehead, meaningless lines and numbers that keep a detailed record of the hands the skull has passed through.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like be able to access a similar catalog of the skull's life, to be able to learn who held it and when.

An educated professional may be able to determine gender, age of death, and other qualities based on these features. I cannot. I prefer the ambiguity of it all.

Detached Mandible could be a doctor continuing her life's work or a murderer seeking redemption by saving lives in his death. The skulls have limitless potential. It's comforting, knowing that potential still exists after life.

Missing Teeth could be a mother or husband or someone you fucked in a Buick behind the 7-Eleven.

Was Broken Jaw's jaw broken in a bar fight defending his girlfriend's honor or cracked by a clumsy student?

In the same way an infant's future is full of possibilities, the past of the skulls is ripe with potential.

The skulls were reborn through death.

I hope that, someday, when the time is right, the same happens for everyone.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thursdays

You guys are clearly getting too out of control on Thursday nights. Is it Spring Fever? Was there a full moon last night? Did somebody slip Percocet in the water supply? Because I woke up to find series of borderline-insane messages sent to me in the middle of the night, and I thought I was out late last night.

Here's a sampling of the text messages I received last night (this morning?) while sleeping:

"we got stoned and forgot how time zones work. What time is it in America?"

"HOWL AT ME."

"I just passed a girl on the street I don't know her but I'm in love with her but I don't know how to find her back to tell her that I love her."

"HOWL AT ME FUCKER."

"Fuck fuck fuck cant take it anymore. Might need to crash on ur couch for a few days. Call me."

"SERIOUSLY WHY AREN'T YOU HOWLING BACK TO US?"

And a very eloquently worded "Can I fuck you?"

If this is what goes down on Thursdays I don't know if I can even handle the upcoming weekend. Y'all are nuts.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Alejandro

"Your ex-boyfriend is named Alejandro?” Here we go again.

“Yeah,” I answer.

“Like the Lady Gaga song?”

“Yeah… like the Lady Gaga song.”

Guys, something’s been bothering me lately. It’s about this “Alejandro” song. I’m not going to rant about how Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster was the same generic mish-mash of pop that she’s already released, or how she’s built an amazing character but hasn’t backed it up as a musician, or that the “Telephone” video really just wasn’t that great and went for shock value instead of quality. I won't even dive into the repetition and pandering lyrics of "Born This Way." Damn it, this always happens, trying to talk about something else but the topic turning over to Lady Gaga.

Anyway, this song, “Alejandro,” it comes on at a bar, at a party, wherever, and like what happens with most Lady Gaga songs, people flip their shit. Girls are on tables, in circles, pretending to sing along but stopping as soon as they have to actually, you know, remember the words (all FIVE of them, I know sweetheart, it’s hard).

You guys, I’m sick of this song.

Because when you have your ex-boyfriend’s name blaring at you at over one hundred decibels, it’s kind of hard not to think about him. It's hard to avoid memories of hungover mornings, the passion that overtook him when he talked about politics, the way he mixed your drinks just right but did so many other things so wrong.

And that’s just the start, you go down the list, it isn’t just Alejandro the bartender you think about. Suddenly your thoughts turn to Inez the dominatrix and Louie the doctor. There’s Jessica and Kacy and Robin, there’s soldiers and cheerleaders and artists. There might have been a date with a weatherman at some point. The past few years have been sort of weird for you, and you don’t remember much from that summer of Vicodin and Paxil abuse, other than that it was equal parts sky high and train wreck.

If your name is Judas, do yourself a favor and stay away. This is the crazy train you don't want to board.

Every crush, every date, every relationship spills into your mind, even that first sloppy make-out session with a girl in the back of your Bonneville joins the party, invading your thoughts and making you question every social decision you’ve ever made. The alcohol pumping through the channels of your brain sloshes the memories around, mixing and matching them, stirring up rage and confusion and affection, breaking past the dams you have in place that protect your psyche from your own insecurities. You question your education, your job, your life. You’re confident that you’ve made the right choices and that you’re working towards what you want, but you still consider the different versions of you that would exist now if you’d done things a little differently. Those existential questions are lurking in the shadows of your mind. Those questions aren’t bad, they’re normal and healthy and part of being human, and even though they make you feel crazy you know they’re keeping you sane.

But you see… they’re also completely uncalled for at one in the morning when you’re out for a night on the town. Damn it, now you’re thinking about how that slut Leah didn’t tell you she had a boyfriend. What a whore. And Jason, the beautiful, brown bastard, brilliant with physics but wasting all his time on that guitar. What a jack ass.

By the time your mind digs into a foggy memory of making out with a thirty-six year woman on a school bus full of drunks, you start to wonder: Are you making the choices that you want to make, or the choices that make for the best story, and, for you, are those two options starting to become the same thing?

So it really isn’t about Alejandro, it isn’t about Robin or Louie or Kacy, it’s just the joy ride your mind likes to take when you combine an ex’s name with alcohol. And unlike that summer of Percocet and Zoloft abuse, your mind goes straight to train wreck, every single time. And then you’re that guy. You’re that guy scrolling through his phone debating whether to call one of the exes, trying to determine that if you do call them, whether you’ll proposition them for sex or insult their flaws (or what usually happens, both).

Your laugh is annoying. Let's fuck.

You’re that guy who’s so deep in his own brooding that he doesn’t even notice the set of eyes on the other side of the bar looking him up and down. You're that guy who's so focused on questioning himself that he's completely unaware of the arm wrapping around his waist or the shoulder pressing against his back or the whisper in his ear. You’re that guy at the bar at one in the morning who should be drunk and having fun with the gang but is drunk and having an existential crisis instead. That guy is so fucking lame.

Can’t we all just listen to “Poker Face” instead? It has a subtle oral sex reference. That shit’s hilarious.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Face Metal and Ink

Sometimes I use this phrase to describe things.

Face metal and ink.

I’ll say a face metal and ink kind of crowd, I’ll say a song just had a real face metal and ink feel to it, I’ll say it’s a face metal and ink type of bar.

This is the part where my friends give me that “What the fuck are you talking about? Please speak English” glare.

And I go “You know… like guitars and shit.”

I’m so descriptive.

Face metal and ink is putting on the kinds of clothes you would never wear in front of your normal friends, it’s having your dominatrix ex-girlfriend style your hair in a wild way you would never wear in front of your normal friends. She snaps clip-on earrings over your ears, wraps a tight bracelet around your wrist, slides a pill onto your tongue.

Face metal and ink is not asking what that pill is.

It’s going to the bar that people in expensive suits shake their head at as they walk past. It’s entering the bar with one hand intertwined with the fingers of a bald, muscle-bound man while the other hand pulls along the dominatrix ex-girlfriend. It’s feeling the floor shake from the stomping of feet, the thrashing of guitars, the beating of drums, and, for a moment, feeling a trace of fear. It’s embracing that fear, and can in hand, diving into the crowd.

Face metal and ink is a combination of sexual energy and pure aggression that is hard to explain without sounding like a totally fucked-up freak. It's taking a few hours to shed the awkward mannerisms and traits of your normal self to become a totally fucked-up freak.

It’s surfing through a crowd of people that are sexy in the most androgynous of ways. It’s passing a beautiful arm, a handsome face, a flat-stomached torso, and simply appreciating them without taking the time to assign them a gender. It’s pushing and shoving. It’s the scent of sweat and the taste of alcohol. It's flesh pierced with metal and artwork stretched across skin.

Face metal and ink is that common cliché of feeling at peace in the carnal chaos.

It’s waking up the next morning, trying to figure out if the bruises came from the violence of the crowd or sex with your boyfriend. It's realizing you've lost your dominatrix ex-girlfriend's earrings and bracelet. It’s going to brunch with your normal friends, and when asked what you did the night before, simply answering, “Just went to a bar and then bed, nothing exciting.”

Face metal and ink was a hidden secret in my life for almost three years that only a select few were privy to, a secret affair traced only by fumbling lies and lingering scents. But all romances come to an end, and after developing a preference for quiet and balance, I separated myself from the head-rattling madness of it all.

I’ve moved on without face metal and ink, but sometimes I listen to one of those vicious, sensual songs and wonder what could have been. Sometimes I feel guilty for leaving it when it did nothing wrong, but if face metal and ink has taught me anything, it’s that cuts and bruises heal.

Face metal and ink understands.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Touch

One of the third graders in the youth program has a touching problem.

He seems incapable of interacting without it. When he talks to the teachers, he leans too closely, drapes his arm over ours, rests his head on our shoulders. When with the other children, he almost always has to throw his arm over their shoulder as they talk.

We’ve tried to explain to him that he needs to give others more personal space sometimes. But the behavior comes to him so naturally it’s practically involuntary.

To him, touch is a language that others aren’t able to translate.

His mother passed away, so he’s currently raised by his older brother. His older brother works a normal job now, but has a history of excellence and national fame (which I won’t go into here, to keep everyone’s privacy safe and sound).

Watching the third grader surf this torrent of emotions while living in the shadow of the brother he admires so much, I can understand why touch has become so important to him. I relate to him.

As a child I quickly learned that words were, for the most part, a useless way to communicate. People used them to generate lies nearly nonstop, so why even bother? But people didn’t lie with their shifting eyes or the way they scratched their neck. Even if faked, the true intents could be felt in a handshake or a hug.

I was the friend who leaned too close. I’m the lover who touches too much.

My coworkers and I recently discovered the third grader has been telling his friends what he knows about sex. He’s also been claiming that when he hugs female staff members, he feels their breasts (or as he refers to them, boobies).

I was shocked by his behavior, and more surprised by how much his behavior distraught me. He’s always been prone to talking out-of-line and minor misbehavior, but we enjoy his company and more importantly, we trusted him.

We went through the talks about disrespect, about boundaries, about sex. There were discussions with his family and disciplinary actions taken. For a week he was separated from the others, forced to sit alone while they played. It was heartbreaking to watch, to see him divided from the touch he craves.

During our time in the gym, he understood that he wasn’t allowed to play with the others, but asked if he could participate in the laps and stretches before they play. We allowed it.

He found solace in books.

He read a few chapters out loud to me. He reads especially fast for his age.

His week has passed and his punishment is lifted, and he’s working hard to rebuild our trust in him.

I know behind our backs he’ll drop the occasional reference to private parts or say something inappropriate about someone. As an adolescent he'll probably approach females too aggressively and be too much of a smart ass towards his teachers.

But I think he’s going to be okay.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Hoodie

I felt a kiss on my forehead and heard my bedroom door open and close. I knew Louie was leaving for work, but was too comfortable to get up and lead him to the door. It had been cold the night before, so I was wrapped up in my hooded sweatshirt and a blanket. The morning light was starting to come through my blinds and warm me up, so I peeled the blanket off.

It was autumn in 2009, and Louie had recently started his surgery residency. When it came to his residency he was nervous, but confident, the same way he was with me. At the time I'd been seeing Louie for a few months. I was comfortable with him. He was intelligent and interesting and made me laugh. He was short and red-headed and muscular and an all-around adorable guy.

My mom was so pissed when we broke up several months later. "You don't just run into a surgeon every day..." she reminded me.

Uh, I work in a medical library, so yeah, I do.

Around eleven in the morning I finally decided to pull myself out of bed. I ate a cup of applesauce and drank a glass of water, which is usually my first meal during a hangover.

I saw it draped over my orange desk chair as I walked over to my computer. It was a hooded sweatshirt, a green one with a zipper. It didn't belong to me.

It belonged to Louie.

This item was not mine. It was foreign and strange. This green, hooded sweatshirt with a zipper, it did not belong to me. I repeat: it did not belong to me.

I did what anybody would do in the situation: panicked and called my lesbian ex-girlfriend (if you don't have a lesbian ex-girlfriend, I'd strongly recommend getting one, available at your local Home Depot).

She groggily answered and I explained my predicament, confident that my tone would make her see that calling at the ungodly hour of noon was justified.

She was unimpressed.

She told me it wasn't a big deal and that he'd come get it later. When was later?

"But what if he leaves more stuff, like leftover pizza or something? What if he leaves a toothbrush? I'm so fucked if he leaves a toothbrush."

"I've seen your medicine cabinet. There are at least a dozen toothbrushes in there. What's one more?"

She told me to just tell him I was uncomfortable with him leaving stuff at my place.

You'd think that after sleeping with me so many times she would have understood that I was never going to say that. But she probably didn't use sex as communication the way I did.

I was all, No, because this shouldn't bother me, and if I tell him it bothers me he'll figure out I'm crazy and leave me for some slutty nurse or a handsome burn victim, somebody better looking and more mature and who never wears boxers. What if he thinks I have, like, commitment issues or something? Isn't that what always happens to those sluts that are always buying shoes on that show?

Or something like that. It's been a few years.

"Don't even act like you don't know the title of 'Sex and the City.' It's not cute." She always called me out on those things.

"Sex and the what?" But I was too stupid to admit it.

And then she hung up on me, as I was in the middle of this reasonably important and unmanageable crisis. What an awful friend. We'll see how many shots I would buy her on her next birthday. When she wakes up the next morning in her own bed without a circle of vomit around her, she'll remember what she did to me. That would show her.

In retribution I sent a text message that probably used the word "cunt."

She didn't respond. I took it as a victory. She knew she did me wrong, the cunt.

I took the hoodie and hung it from a hook on my bedroom door. I thought moving it would help. It didn't. It hung there for two days, taunting me and invading my space. Thankfully, I had two jobs, so I wasn't home that often, but even at work I could feel its presence. I imagined the hoodie becoming animate and wandering around my room, sorting through my clothes and mocking my tastes, looking under my bed for secrets, judging the amount of dust behind my desk. That hoodie was a jerk.

Later in the week I saw Louie again. He stopped by my house for lunch after his work out while I was between shifts at my two jobs. I was able to remain rational, and was planning on politely (and sanely) letting him know that he left his hoodie in my room before he departed to the hospital for an evening of slicing open skin and moving organs around.

"Oh," he said between bites of his sandwich, "I forgot my hoodie here the other night."

While I wanted to sprint to my room, tear the hoodie off my door, and throw it at him in a fit of excitement, I simply said, "Yeah, it's in my room."

We finished our sandwiches, talking about the hospital that employed us or books we had read or whatever it was we talked about. I retrieved his hoodie from my door and returned it to him with a peck on the cheek. Finally, my sanctuary was back to normal. That rude, invasive hoodie was leaving. Louie smiled and planted a kiss on my forehead, which left him making an almost cartoon-like movement because he nearly had to jump to do it.

"Hey," he said, "Do you mind if I leave my gym bag here? I don't want to carry it all the way to the hospital."

 "Of course," I answered, feeling my irrational fears inside me screaming in protest. Past the knot in my throat I was able to release the words, "No problem."

And surprisingly, it wasn't. The gym bag politely sat in the corner of my room until the weekend. I barely noticed it was there.

I'd like to think that it was a turning point for me, that I was on the road to becoming less crazy, that maybe I had grown to a point in my life where I no longer personified inanimate objects to manage my social fears and relationship insecurities.

Or maybe that hoodie was just an asshole.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pardon My Sobriety (That's What She Said!)

I've been inexplicably boring the past week. Or busy? I think busy is the word people use as a synonym for boring when they want to sound interesting. Expect better content as soon as I get drunk and make a regrettable decision.

Meanwhile, I've been cheating on the personal blog with... other websites. I'll be contributing pop culture and lifestyle articles to The Next Great Generation. Today I have a guest post on the popular Columbus-based website Gen-Y Journey.

The kids at work discovered the phrase "that's what she said." They have no idea what it means, so they use it out of context, which only makes it more hysterical.

"All right everybody line up for the gym."

THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID.

See what I mean? Hilarious.

Friday I locked my keys in my car. But luckily my brother, who has the spare set, just moved into an apartment two blocks from the new office I've been working in. I didn't even have to reschedule my two o' clock meeting.

Speaking of the new office, I've been interning at a local Columbus magazine. They keep me busy and out of trouble... so if anybody's to blame for the lack of prophylactics and spilled whiskey around here, it's them.

Wednesday night Columbus Entertainment (the other magazine I write for, I get around like that) held a special event to commemorate the release of the Spring issue. I shook hands with media personalities, football stars, and other wealthy, interesting people and attempted to pretend I was normal for a few hours.

In retrospect I guess the week was less "boring" and more "sober."

I really have to stop using those two words as synonyms.