Friday, November 30, 2012

Picture This

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my first date. Several hours after I posted it, the girl with whom I went on the date sent me a direct message on Facebook. And she attached this:

And, yes. Those cargo pants convert to cargo shorts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Scents & Sensibility

When I was 13 years old, I stole a bottle of Bath & Body Work’s Warm Vanilla Sugar body lotion from my little sister’s vanity because I thought it smelled like sex.

Being a pre-pubescent micro homo (micro’mo?) with overprotective parents and no vision of the world outside of Cow & Chicken and Dexter’s Laboratory, I couldn’t grasp the concept of porking another human, let alone describe the scent it would give off. But I decided that warm vanilla sugar had to be in the ballpark. It was romantic and intoxicating and made my underwear tighter. So I took the bottle when Rachel wasn’t around, and hid it in my tin X-men lunch box between an unwrapped Ring Pop and several pictures of Erik von Detten that I’d printed out at school. Every now and then, when I was waiting for the bathroom to fill up with steam, I’d take the bottle out, hold it up to my nose and think, “This must be what falling in love smells like.” It smelled like that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the front door of her house in Munchkinland and everything goes gaytechnicolorfiesta. “Ahhhhh, this is lovely.”

Although the bottle of lotion would eventual play a major role in my sex life, my relationship with it never veered into self-gratification territory. Sure it smelled like an Aimee Mann song, but I certainly wasn’t going to rub it on my dick. This was captive romance – the sex we envision when we’re too young to understand it. Candles, and rose petals, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. No, no. This was not for jerking off. This was special. Sacred, almost.

On the evening of Brother Martin High School’s Eighth Grade Dance, I laced up my Doc Martens, walked through a cloud of Axe Body Spray, and smeared a tiny puddle of Warm Vanilla Sugar across my neck. Monica Carlisle’s parents were dropping her off at my house around 6:00, but I’d been ready since 4:30. This was going to be my first date, and Warm Vanilla Sugar was decidedly part of my A-game. I had zero interest in kissing this poor girl, but Monica was one of the prettier girls from my elementary school, and I knew that she would definitely elicit looks from the popular guys at my new high school. This makes me sound like I was using her, but trust me: gay guys and the girls who befriend them mutually benefit from the bond. Girls get a shopping buddy, gays get straight bait.

Needless to say, neither dinner at Bennigan's nor the hormonal, American Eagle-soaked fuckpit of my eighth grade dance resulted in a handy jay for either of us. But my sister’s lotion was now part of who I was when I braved the world.

From then on, I’d wear just a little bit whenever I went on a date. I thought of it as my secret weapon – the one thing you can’t put your finger on. I wasn’t wearing it the night I met my first girlfriend, but every time we hung out after that, I was. And when I graduated high school and moved to Lafayette, it came with me. 

Today, the same bottle of Warm Vanilla Sugar body lotion sits in my shaving kit among a handful of unused LifeStyles Tuxedo Black condoms and a lighter that reads, “Tease.” It only has about two ounces left in it, but I’ll make it lasts as long as possible. Sure I can go out and buy another (and eventually I will), but it’s got good juju attached to it, and it’s seen me through some weird and horny times. And if you’re wondering if I still wear it, I do. But only on first dates or when I’m 100-percent certain of penetration.

Looking back, it's charming how I used to confuse sex with love. Even more so that I believed either could be reduced to a song, or a scene from a movie, or a scent. But when we're young, and primed for fucking up, we see purity and we deserve it. We'll lose our virginity on prom night to the person we'll eventually marry, and then we'll see the world differently. In the mean time, we hold on to the items that will take us there. Some of us even hold on to them long after the fantasy is over; a reminder. A relic. As for me, I wouldn't even trade my secret bottle of lotion for a pair of ruby slippers.

Ruby combat boots? Let me think about it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Glitch In The Matrix

Whenever I experience déjà vu, I just assume that there's been a glitch in the Matrix.

This happens mostly when I'm hammered. I'll look at John or Nick with squinty, bloodshot eyes and ask, "We've been here before, haven't we?"

When I turned 20, I lost my ability to create memories on nights of heavy drinking – God's way of protecting me from myself. I'll blackout and wake up on the couch in my underwear, socks, and whatever shirt I wore out the night before. Most times, I'll be within grabbing distance of fast food remnants or a styrofoam box smeared with sauces and crumbs. On more than one occasion, I've actually had to peel a Taco Bell wrapper from my face. And then I'll go out again that night and wonder allowed why this feels so familiar. I’ll gaze into my cup of watered-down Absolut and focus on the mangled lime wedge that’s bobbing for air. I’ve had same drink in my hand before. These people are saying the same things over and over. There must a glitch in the Matrix.

This also happens when I’m dating someone. I’ll find myself propped up in a booth at P.F. Chang’s across from a guy I’m vaguely screwing and out of nowhere, a voice will whisper, “You’ve done this already.” And then I’ll recognize it: the guy, the stories, the haircut, the thing’s we’re avoiding, the sex, the looming break-up, the mounting pile of mistakes and red flags next to the lettuce wraps. This table for two feels habitual – almost ritualistic. He might not be a clone, but this experience has been replicated 100 times. And now we’re living in it, all thanks to our robot overlords changing a single aspect of our artificial reality. Bitches.

Sometimes I crave the feeling, a form of self-inflicted mind-fuckery. I’ll brave the deep waters of my Facebook pictures by scrolling backwards through 2010, then 2009, then 2008. I feel him coming as I edge closer and closer. Down in my stomach, something churns. I scroll. I close one eye and then I open it. My exboyfriend is right in front of me. It's a picture of the two of us together. And then the feeling bursts in my stomach, up my spine, and into the backs of my eyes. I've been here before; skinnier, and happier, and full of shit. And he looks beautiful; the best he's ever looked. It's not a comfortable place to be, but it registers. But it wouldn't be productive for me to stay here. It's been nice visiting, but I really must be going. Romanticizing a memory is the same as lying to yourself. And I lie
enough to myself these days. So goodbye. Miss you, kiss you.

Bye, nigga. It's been real. Well not entirely.
I wonder, could this be home – the place where I return for a feeling I can't explain? Or am I just monetarily suspended in my headspace – the victim of a mechanical animal poking around in my brain. Or maybe I just have a problem with drinking, men, and emotional cutting.

It's just more fun to blame the robots. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Other Side Of The World – Part II

"I’m writing this from seat 32E on the 4:15PM flight from Maui to Dallas. 
The time is either 6:30PM or 12:30AM, depending on where I wish I was, which changes by the minute. In my heart, I’m still with you. But in my head, I need to be home – undoing myself from us at a safe distance. 
I keep replaying our last conversation again and again in my head. In the moments before boarding the plane, I rolled my phone around in my hand like a hot coal until I finally dialed your number (which wasn’t saved). I’d waited until the last possible moment before I departed the island. If I told you I was leaving earlier, you would’ve tried to stop me. You would’ve tried to convince me to stay. And if I might have done it. 
But I want you to know that I meant what I said last night in La Perouse. I can still feel the cool leather on my neck as looked up at you from the backseat. The sun roof was open. Above us was the Maui night sky, littered with more stars than I’ve ever seen before. Listen to me. I sound like an asshole. Talking about night skies and stars and cool leather. You’d want me to be myself right now, wouldn’t you? You’d want me to say something honest. Something like, 'Fucking you wasn’t terrible. B+ work, champ.'" – Excerpt from my Maui Journal
Writing in my Maui Journal on the flight home.
I told my friends that I met Cullen at a luau, but that was a lie.

On my second day on Maui, I got blackout drunk and woke up in a shallow puddle of my own piss around eleven o’clock at night. I stumbled to the bathroom, peeled off my damp underwear, and sat on the toilet. When I returned to bed, I rolled onto my back and checked Grindr. In the grid of torsos, I noticed him. His name was Cullen and he lived on the other side of the island in Lahaina. We chatted for about an hour before he said that he’d be willing to meet me at my hotel in Wailea; a 45-minute drive from his house.

After showering, I ran downstairs to tell the valet that my cousin was on his way and ask if he could park his car in the unloading zone. I could tell that he knew I was full of shit, so I reached into the cargo pocket of my board shorts and pulled out a ten. He took it and I walked barefoot to the bar. My nerves were keeping my hangover at bay, but I still felt like it needed some nursing. I was halfway through my second Mai Tai when he walked into the lobby.

He was exactly my height and build and wore a familiar shade of mainlander pasty. Somewhere in the back of my mind, The xx’s “Heart Skipped A Beat” was playing. And I must have been smiling when he looked my way. "Hey, cousin!” he said with a smirk as he swung the strap on his backpack from one shoulder to the other.

He walked with me down to the beach and sat to my left on the edge of the water. He told me that he was from Rancho Cucamonga, California and he'd moved to Maui a year ago to work at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua. And like most young transplants, he was bored with Hawaii, which was unfathomable to me. We spent hours asking each other questions and trying to be the most distilled versions of ourselves, wrapped in masculinity and sex appeal. At some point, we stopped trying and everything kept spinning, so we kissed.

He held my hand on the walk back to the hotel. “I’m not tired yet,” I said. “You want to go for a ride? I can take you halfway to Hana,” he replied. “Just so you know, I’m not going to fuck you tonight,” I said in a voice loud enough for the valet to hear. “Sure you are,” he said without looking at me. “You’re already in love with me.”

When I climbed into his red BMW at 2:30AM, I didn’t even know his middle name. Just magnets and butterflies and the fact that I had five more days of Hawaii and an open road that led halfway to Hana ahead of me.
"You were wrong the first night. I wasn't 'already in love with you.' I just thought you were handsome and funny and adventurous. And I was drunk on rum and Maui. But I want to remind you that you said 'I love you' first, asshole. Somewhere between the first time you saw me in the lobby of the Grand Wailea and last night, you fell in love with me. 
The time is irrelevant because I need to be back in New Orleans. And now the flight attendant is inching closer with the beverage cart and I'm in serious need of a Mai Tai. 
Because you're not here. And that's the next best thing."
Sunrise over Maui.