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...