Tuesday, December 10, 2013

For Mom And Dad

When it comes to traveling, my mother hates two things: airplanes and any destination that doesn’t offer waffles in the shape of Mickey Mouse. This generally sucks for the rest of us, but on more than one occasion, it’s worked in my favor.

A few years back, I took my mom’s place on a seven-day Alaskan cruise for two that my father booked through his company. It was just Dad and I, and we spent the entire week on Holland America’s Zuiderdam enjoying what we considered to be luxuries compared to the hellscape of the Carnival Holiday — a budget cruise ship that carried our entire family to Cozumel and back nearly a decade before. The Holiday was our only basis for comparison, so we found the Zuiderdam to be a lot nicer in just about every way — most notably the grade of passenger. While the Holiday was a showcase for obesity and the varying results of what happens when people from Alabama fuck each other, the Zuiderdam was basically a slow-moving retirement home where geriatrics in scratchy sweaters shuffled from one buffet line to another and never used their outside voices.

During our fourth sunset at sea, Dad and I had drinks in a bar with panoramic views of the glacial landscape named "The Crow’s Nest." Dressed in dark suits without ties, we sat in plush maroon lounge chairs, sipping our drinks and gawking at the sky; a majestic explosion of purples and oranges. I was making a mental note to write about the sky later and use the word “majestic” to do so when a cocktail waitress swept by and asked if we needed anything. We looked at each another and shook our matching tumblers of Grey Goose on the rocks; our shared drink-of-choice. “Nah, we're good,” said Dad. “Hold on,” I said, cocking my head in his direction. “By the time she comes back with a new one, I’ll be ready for it.” He rolled his eyes. “So order another, smelly. It’s not like you have to drive anywhere later.” I looked back to the waitress. “If you would, please bring me another one of these,” I said. “Fuck it. I'll take one as well,” said Dad. “Oh, for Christ’s sake!” I groaned. The waitress tossed her head back and service-industry-laughed before touching my shoulder and heading back towards the bar. We gulped from our glasses in unison, and without looking at me, my dad said, “Man. I think she thinks we’re a couple.” I readjusted my jacket and crossed my right ankle over my left. “She doesn’t think that,” I said. “I might be a lot younger than you, but I’m clearly out of your league.” And without missing a beat, my father said, “Please. I could do way better than you.” A few seconds of silence passed between us, and then I said, “Whatever, man. I wouldn’t even let you buy my drinks.” Dad raised one eyebrow and leaned across the arm of his chair, clinking his tumbler against mine. Then he said, “But you already are.”

The thing that’s always fascinated me about my parents is how much they shouldn’t be like they are. My dad is a hyper-masculine lifelong athlete and food and beverage salesman who prides himself on his dual abilities to intimidate and charm. By contrast, my mom has spent her entire life working for small cardiology practices on the Westbank and avoiding any trip across the river at all costs. By all accounts, they shouldn't be as open-minded about the gay thing as they turned out to be.

Throughout my childhood, my father coached me in baseball, soccer, and basketball. But when he noticed I wasn’t taking to sports like the other boys, he brought me to the library on weekends and purchased tickets to every Broadway touring production that passed through New Orleans. And when I was in fourth grade — at the height of my Spice Girls obsession — he checked me out of school early so that I’d be the first kid in my class to see Spice World at the movie theatre. Mom wasn’t as proactive about fostering my “unique” interests as Dad was. She thought buying me the Young Magician’s 50-Trick Magic Set for Christmas was weird, but she got it for me in a heartbeat when she noticed the next item on my list: a My Size Barbie. Then one day, when I was a sophomore in high school, my mom came home from work and asked for my username and password to the home computer. I refused, a Mexican stand-off ensued, and I ran upstairs to my room to wait for my dad to come home. I never gave my parents the password, but I did admit to watching gay porn, which in my option was a lot less mortifying than having them look through the search history for themselves.

I didn’t officially “come out” to my parents until my 19th birthday, when I told them I was "bisexual." As expected, they got annoyed and said, "We've known you your whole life and you're definitely not bisexual. You're clearly a gay person.” Since then, they’ve met six boyfriends and never questioned anything on my Christmas list. Last year, I asked for a knit infinity scarf from 21Men.com, and on Christmas morning, there it was on top of my pile of presents. I yanked the scarf around my neck and from across the room I heard my dad scream, “OH, THANK JESUS IT’S A SCARF! We thought that was some sort of girl’s tube top sweater! It still looks ridiculous, but Christ Almighty!”

Even though they’re wonderfully accepting, that shallow trench of intolerance is where I like to mess with them. I get an immeasurable amount of pleasure from making them uncomfortable with my sexuality. Every so often, I’ll show up at my parent’s house, unannounced and wearing something overtly homosexual. One time, I snuck up on my mom in the kitchen wearing a deep V-neck under a thigh-length button-down, with cut-off shorts and cowboy boots, and she wouldn’t even look at me. Now, I like to threaten her with potentially fruity outfits just to watch her squirm. The day before Thanksgiving this year, I repeatedly told her I had something "really special" planned for dinner and the only clue I gave her was "Two words: sexy pilgrim." For the remaining 24 hours, I watched her bite her nails off and wordlessly shake her head at me like she was waiting for the impending murder in a horror movie.

I give her a hard time, but my mom is an endless source of support and guidance when it comes to my dating…I don’t know what you’d call them. Ventures? She doesn’t get invested in a person until I tell her it’s safe, and otherwise, she just tactfully dispenses advice and asks non-prying questions. I can tell she worries about me, though. She worries that I’m not taking my relationships seriously and that I’m burning bridges along the way. She worries that I don’t want a family and that I’m going to spend the rest of my life bouncing from one guy to another. She worries about whether I’m being safe and if I’m getting enough sleep. She worries if people are laughing at me and if my boots are heavy. She worries, but she doesn’t have to because I’m doing my best to make her proud.

My blog notwithstanding.

I won the parent lottery, really. And not just because they're generally great parents, but because they’re great parents for me. I have a father who encourages my behavior and a mother who frets over it. A dad who cheers and mom who shushes. He gives me rope and my mom worries it’s long enough for me to hang myself. And when I write my first book, I plan on dedicating it to the both of them. Not just because it seems like the poignant thing for a person who writes a book to do, but because dedicating a book to my parents would piss them off immensely.

Because if there’s one thing my parents share, it’s the fear that I’m going to write about them.

Sorry bout it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Visual Companion To Rick Ross

So I dropped my phone in the toilet on Thanksgiving because I was drinking chardonnay like I was running for Junior League President and my mom was like, "Welp, I guess now you're going to the Apple Store at Lakeside Mall on Black Friday. Good luck with that." And I was like, "Hand me that box of Uncle Ben's Rice. You're upsetting me." So I kept my phone in rice for a few hours and when I pulled it out, it was fine. Then I went to the sink to brush my teeth, left the water running, turned my back for five seconds, and when I turned back around, the sink was overflowing and my phone was floating in a puddle next to it. It was okay [again], but upon further inspection I noticed that a grain of rice had lodged itself in the charger port. And that's when I started to cry.

Anyway, the whole ordeal must've shaken something loose, because I kept getting "Not Enough Free Space" notifications, so I deleted a bunch of apps before turning to my camera roll. That's when I came across this. It's a video I recorded back in February, and I can't tell if I did it consciously or not. Apparently, I'd met someone at a bar and thought it would be interesting to take photos and capture a video of the car ride back to my place. The funny thing is, I'd actually written about this experience before in a blog post called Rick Ross, and now I have a visual companion to accompany the text.

More importantly, I actually got to witness myself talking to another guy in the wild as an observer. And as you'll see for yourself, it's pretty mortifying.

Here is a photo of "Rick Ross" from the back:

And here are the two of us in his truck, both drunk and attempting to run game:

Well, how did it go? you might ask. Well, here's a picture taken the following morning:

And now everyone knows this about me. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What's The Matter With Misty?

This essay was originally published on ProfessionGal.com, a website aimed at career-oriented women who are looking to manifest their talents and personal styles into occupations. So read more essays like this, visit ProfessionGal.com.

When I was 18, I closed out my second semester of college and went back home to New Orleans to live with my mom and dad for the summer. Within the first six days of being home, I’d fallen asleep in the bathtub at 1:30 in the afternoon twice, eaten four bags of Sweet & Spicy Chili Doritos, and snapped a plank of wood inside the loveseat from habitually throwing my body onto it.

My parents were equal parts pissed and confused. To them, I'd shown so much growth and maturity while I was away at college and then seamlessly reverted to a human slug under their roof. And when my dad told me to get a summer job, I let my shoulders and knees go limp, and I collapsed onto the floor. This was my childhood reflex to being told to do something I didn’t want to do; a reflex perfected over years of being woken up and ordered to cut the grass. Every Saturday morning, my dad would call up the stairs for me to “Come see,” and when I’d arrive on the landing, he’d remind me what day it was. Then, overwhelmed by the idea of having to put on dirty old sneakers and push a lawnmower around in the South Louisiana heat, I would release a feminine moan and implode from the inside — causing my body to flop like one of those push puppets that’s kept under tension until a button is pressed. Everyone in my family picked on me for doing this, but they still found it kind of cute in a frustrated-gay-adolescent-quirk kind of way. But at 18, with a year of dorm living under my belt, that shit was not cute anymore, and it caused my dad to come unglued. Between whining, “Finals were really hard! I need to rest,” and “But I just started reading He’s Just Not That Into You!” he swatted at me and called ma “lazy bitch.” So I got up, snatched the keys to my 1996 Ford Explorer off of the bar, and ran out the door.

Halfway down the street, I realized I was still wearing the same clothes I’d been lounging on the couch in: drawstring cut-off shorts, flip-flops, a ball cap with a flaming cayenne pepper embroidered on it, and an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt that read “Life Of The Party.” This wasn’t exactly job interview attire, but I certainly wasn’t going back home where my father would definitely slap me with my gently used copy of He’s Just Not That Into You, so I kept driving.

I stopped at a tanning salon half a mile from my subdivision and asked the tall blond behind the counter for an application. She eyed me from cap to flip-flop and handed over a piece of paper and a pen. Once finished, I asked if I could speak to the manager. The blond wordlessly retreated to a back room and shortly returned with a woman who looked like she’d be about as tall as a barstool if it weren’t for her black denim 6-inch strappy platforms and the haphazardly yanked-together bun on top of her head. Her mascara was clumped together like black birds on a wire and her jaw dropped and rose with every smack of gum. “Hey, I’m Misty,” she said, her voice sounding like a shrill kazoo that was manufactured in some swamp town trailer park on the outskirts of New Orleans. The tall blond slinked away to the back room and Misty gestured for me to take a seat. She kept my job application facedown in her lap and asked me questions about sunless tanning. “Oh, I’ve never used a tanning bed before,” I said. “Gingers tend to burn real easy. I can’t even get too close to the TV.” She snort-laughed and used her long, French-manicured nails to fan her eyes to keep from crying — which is a weird reaction I will never understand.

I could tell she liked me already, and I liked her too. Mostly because she looked like a pocket-sized drag queen. I imaged her on stage in a miniature tutu, next to an Amazonian version of herself, voguing in-sync to “When I Grow Up” by The Pussycat Dolls, which distracted me for the duration of the interview until she put her hand on my knee and said, “Do you have a problem acting a little, well, gayer?” I took a moment to collect my response. Finally, I nodded and said, “What now?” She straightened up. “We’ve never hired a boy before, and I just want to make sure our clients feel comfortable with you,” she said. “Women get naked behind those doors, and if they need something, they might feel super awkward around a masculine guy.” I was stunned. “I’m pretty gay as it is,” I said. “You want me to like bat my eyes a lot or something? Or, I don’t know, act like a black lady?” She looked confused. “Act like a black lady?” I shrugged. “I’ve noticed that really flaming gay guys are just imitating black ladies.” She looked astonished. “You’re so right!” she yelped. “Ugh, all the neck-rolling and finger-waving. It all makes sense now! Yeah, do that. Can you start Monday?”

Working at the salon was a breeze, and I liked hanging out with Misty. She was my boss, but she never really asserted herself like a boss. Then one day, she burst through the door, threw herself onto the carpet, and began sobbing. It was the mid-morning and at least three patrons in the shop were within listening distance, and also nude behind closed doors. I ran over and picked her up by the wrists, before dragging her to the back room. “Miss girl, are you okay?!” I said, forgetting that I didn’t have to keep up the gay-gay act around Misty. She’d gotten into a fight with her boyfriend and he’d threatened to throw her out of the house; a hovel in Westwego I imaged to be sloppy with cast-off bras and stinking of Hamburger Helper. She recovered fairly quickly, but a few hours later, I discovered her facedown and bottomless on a tanning bed, crying into her balled-up booty shorts.

At the time, I was involved in my first real same sex relationship with a boy I met on Bourbon Street named Chadwick. Being that we were both 18 and equally lacking the emotional wherewithal to be in a gay, committed, long-distance relationship, we fought all the time. So I’d come to work frustrated and then Misty would roll in like a goddamn hurricane of weave and runny eyeliner, and we’d both listen to “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and sulk like two miserable old bitches; Misty being the oldest and most miserable. Over time, I began to notice that Misty really didn’t have any boundaries or filter. She would smoke cigarettes inside and provoke screaming matches on the phone right in front of the store. She would often overshare about her rocky sex life or her boyfriend’s personal shortcomings, which made me whatever the opposite of horny is. And then one time, when I was wiping down beds, I overheard her fighting on the phone with her boyfriend and she called him a “stupid faggot.” I stopped what I was doing and walked out into the waiting area where Misty had her phone wedged between her shoulder and cheek while her free hands tied her flannel shirt into a knot just under her boobs. “I need to go home,” I said in a stage whisper. She waved me away with her long French tips and I never came back.

I didn’t leave because she said “stupid faggot.” I didn’t leave because I’d had it with her outbursts. I left because I was scared. Misty was a grown woman in a managerial position who routinely behaved like she was unhinged. And it frightened me that someone like her could be given the keys to the building and the autonomy to hire and oversee other employees. Later in life, I would understand that this happens quite often, but at the time, I was mortified by her rampant unprofessionalism and the idea that there might be other bosses like Misty.

On the way home, I stopped at the Applebee’s near my neighborhood and filled out an application because I didn’t want a lapse in my resume or a sidekick to the dick from my father. Misty called me again and again and left a bunch of angry voicemails; none of which I returned. Then, on a Tuesday, I started work at Applebee’s, where the chicken finger baskets are consistent and no one ever asks you to act gayer than you already are.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ewok Boner

"Ewok Boner" is a dialogue that requires two alternating readers or one crazy person with alternating voices in his or her head.

On Grindr, I thought his picture was attractive, even though he was wearing shades and making a duck face.

On Grindr, he opened with ‘Hey Hey Hey,’ which — to me — seemed overly eager and reminded me of Fat Albert.

On Grindr, he introduced himself as ‘Chuck,’ which is one of the names I hate; along with Carl, Hank, and Lester.

On Grindr, he said his name was Ryan and that he worked in advertising. I guess he thought I’d be impressed?

On Grindr, we made small talk and traded pics, one of which was a full-length selfie of him wearing the smallest jock strap I’ve ever seen.

On Grindr, I sent him some pics and he immediately asked if I wanted to hang out. It must’ve been the jock strap.

On Grindr, it looked like he was squeezing a hot pink Tamagotchi through his crotch.

On the way over, I smoked a bowl and listened to Kennedy. The drive to Lafayette usually takes about thirty minutes.

In the bathroom, I smoked cigarettes and listened to the new Cults album. I had about thirty minutes, I guessed.

Through the window, I saw him fidgeting. He looked nervous.

From the sofa, I watched him climb the porch steps, so I positioned myself so that I appeared both casual and masculine — although I am never either.

At the front door, I knocked.

At the front door, I side-hugged him and made a mental note to tell him his Grindr photos didn’t do him any justice. Even though he was two inches shorter than I am.

In the living room, I finally got a good look at him. Definitely bangable. But tense.

On the sofa, I said he looked like Edward Norton, but nugget-sized.

On the sofa, I told him I get the Edward Norton thing a lot. But it has more to do with the way I speak than the way I look. The exchange felt conventional and recycled.

On NBC, Edward Norton was hosting SNL, which we both felt was too bizarre to pass up. So we watched it, until he needed a smoke break.

On the porch, I told him I’d just moved back from Manhattan and that I was practicing interior design here. The story I told sounded a lot more glamorous than the whole truth.

On the porch, he was dodgy about his past, but it felt like he was trying to protect me from it. Still, I found him adorable in the way Ewoks are adorable. Ewoks with boners. Also, I could see his boner.

On the sofa, I deliberately sat closer to him. He smelled like English Laundry cologne, isolation, wet skin, piña colada-scented moisturizer, and skepticism.

On the sofa, we discussed curtain fabric, the peplum silhouette, Terry Richardson’s hackneyed portfolio, and the appropriateness of certain kinds of art in kitchens.

On the sofa, we mostly talked about gay designer crap — the crap I live and breathe — but at one point, he said, 'In [his] opinion, people who eat pizza without toppings don't want to be happy.' And I couldn’t stop laughing.

On the sofa, I made him laugh.

On the sofa, he told me about the tranny who works at the Circle K around the corner who often lets him leave without paying for his beer or cereal bars.

On the sofa, he introduced me the late-80s New Orleans rapper, Bust Down. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t already familiar. “Nasty Bitch” is clearly a hometown classic.

On the sofa, I felt ashamed for sending him that jock strap picture.

In my stomach, I felt churning. I think I wanted him to like me.

Under his shirt, I felt gurgling. And then he farted. On me.

Behind my eyes, I fought back tears. I was mortified. But then he started laughing and pressing down my stomach — trying to make me fart again. Then I started laughing too and we wrestled around.

On the sofa, he pushed me away, but I wiggled on top of him and pinned his hands above his head.

On the sofa, he kissed me.

In my head, there were issues of hyphenated last names, and what I was going to eat later, and safe sex, and being single, using my tongue to its fullest potential.

Outside, the wind was blowing the lanterns that hung from our old crape myrtle around. 

In all honesty, I wanted to stay over, but it was already past midnight and I had to meet a client in Youngsville the following morning.

Under different circumstances, I would’ve asked him to stay over. But I didn’t want him to bail on me after we had sex. So I said, 'I’m going to need to crash soon.'

On the porch, he held my face with both hands when he kissed me goodbye.

Under the covers, I waited for him to text me when he made it home. He never did.

In the morning, I told him that I passed out as soon as I got home, and he said 'S’all good.'

Throughout the day, I thought of him often. But since he was few years older then I am, the reigns were in his hands. The senior should take the lead in my opinion. Right?

Around sundown, I asked him if he wanted to hang out. He said, 'Sounds good.' But I’m not stupid. His day-length silence and clipped, detached responses were meant to throw me off. This motherfucker was definitely into me. Right?

On the porch, we smoked cigarettes and listened to Yeezus. And when I told him he’d lost me on a rant about the predispositions of Capricorns, he said, “Ketchup, mustard!”

On Tuesday, he said he had to work late, so instead of going back over to his house; I poured over floorplans and jacked-off to a group scene on Rocket Tube.

On Wednesday, he came over and we watched Modern Family and American Horror Story. After, we had sex and my mind barely wandered.

On Thursday, I didn’t hear from him until twilight. Was he still playing hard-to-get? That seemed a little unnecessary. We already did sex.

On Friday, we went to dinner at Agave. I liked the way he looked in lighting that wasn’t native to my home. Actually, I couldn’t stop looking at him.

On Saturday morning, I woke up in his bed. I sat up and pressed the palms of my hands into my eyes and he reached around my waist and nestled his shoulder into my hip.

On Saturday morning, I woke up and he was in my bed. His skin smelled like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I didn’t want him to go, but at some point I would need to take a dump.

At his friend Dustin’s apartment, we ate gumbo for dinner, and at one point, he asked me if I wanted to take a ride with him to the store for a bottle of Vitamin Water.

In the car, I told him I sometimes get social anxiety and I just need to get out and go for a drive.

In the car, he held my hand and I wondered why everyone thinks they have social anxiety. No one likes forced conversation or big crowds or heavy silences. But that’s part of human interaction.

In the car, I felt like I had overexposed myself.

In the car, I blamed his 'anxiety' on the YouTube generation. His generation.

In the car, it got quiet. And I began to feel anxious.

In the car, it got quiet. But I didn’t mind because there was talking ahead of us, just not at that moment.

In the car, I wanted to know what he was thinking.

In my head, I was screaming, ‘Jesus, if you want to know what I’m thinking, just ask!’

In my heart, I wanted to control his internal dialogue so that I didn’t have to wonder.

In his eyes, I could tell that he wanted to know if I liked him.

In the car, he smiled at me and said, “Catch up, mustard.” And I finally got it.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nightmare In North Louisiana

The following is an Exboyfriend Material spooky story. It’s written in third person, which is weird, but just get over that. Happy Halloween, tricks.

North Louisiana scared Ryan, so he didn’t venture up there very often.

In fact, the last time he found himself above Alexandria was in 2009 to see Britney Spears on the last leg of her Circus tour. There, in Bossier City, he witnessed young moms with delusions of living in Dallas, as evident by their exaggerated accents and exaggerated hair. He also watched grown men in Aeropostale t-shirts spit dip down the necks of empty beer bottles. The food at a nearby restaurant tasted like plastic and made his face greasy. And then there was the Britney show: a loud, dismal hellscape of drowsy choreography and inaudible, nasally yelps punctuated with heavy breathing. In his heart, he knew he couldn’t blame Britney for the regional oddities, but she wasn’t exactly bringing the sunshine, and for that, he held her accountable. The next morning, after accidentally leaving his new Circus Tour t-shirt in the hotel room and eating four sausage and French toast sandwiches at the local Shoney’s, he watched Shreveport-Bossier shrink in his rearview mirror, vowing never to return.

Until three years later.

On Wednesday afternoon, Ryan received a call from Courtney, the manager of the Baton Rouge Barnes & Noble. They met a few months earlier at a David Sedaris book-signing when Courtney mistook Ryan for the author in disguise; a mix-up perpetuated by Courtney’s staff. Now, they were Facebook friends who sporadically liked one another’s posts. She told him that Sedaris would be back in Louisiana the Friday before Halloween, and she asked if he’d be interested in working the event. “Absolutely,” said Ryan. “Where is it?”

Enter if you dare. But I wish you just wouldn't. 

Ryan arrived in Shreveport just after twilight, but not before experiencing projectile diarrhea in a gas station bathroom, breaking the zipper on his weekender, and getting a speeding ticket for going 85 in a 70 through Mansfield, Louisiana. Still, with all his misfortune, he was happy to be there. He smiled at the marquee of the Strand Theatre that read, DAVID SEDARIS TONIGHT ONLY, and even greeted the people waiting in line as he breezed past them and through the side door reserved for important people like him. When his beloved author arrived, Ryan shook his hand and played it cool, and when the reading and signing ended, he texted his friend Jude to see if he would like to join him for a drink. “Of course!” said Jude. “I’ll meet you at Corner Bar in ten minutes.” Ryan had never been to a gay bar in this part of the state, and he looked forward to seeing how their breed celebrated Halloween weekend. But what he would soon encounter would disturb him to his deepest gay core, which is probably located somewhere in his butt tube.

Where were the amazon drag queens in various Marie Laveau? The go-go boys in tiny masks and assless Andrew Christian briefs? The tacky, over-the-top décor and flashing lights? To Ryan, the paper skeletons and jack-o-lanterns taped to the walls were frightening, but not in the way they were intended to be, which I guess isn’t frightening at all. The decorations would have been better served on the bulletin board of a kindergarten classroom. This looked like the kind of place where if “YMCA” came on, everyone would get really excited. Except the place was dead, and that’s not a Halloween joke.

Ryan was already taking a few steps back towards the door when Jude spotted him and waved him over. Bailing was no longer an option. Jude sat on the far end of the bar with two guys and a girl, and Ryan approached them with the unease of child to a pile of corpses. Jude introduced the girl and the first guy as his work colleagues and the second guy as his boyfriend, Beau. Ryan thought Beau was cute and he thought he and Jude looked good together. Still, Ryan decided all the pleasantries of Corner Bar, which included the lovely gay relationship of Jude and Beau and nothing else, would be better appreciated if he were drunk. So that’s what happened.

He drank Absolut on the rocks, segmented with shots of Fireball. And every now and then, Jude would order a round of Jäger, which Ryan would toss back and chase with vodka. Jude’s boyfriend Beau asked Ryan who David Sedaris was and Ryan laughed in his face. “No really,” said Beau. “What books has he written?” Ryan finished his vodka and looked Beau in the eye, saying, “If I start listing book titles, I’ll be wasting my breath because you clearly don’t read at all if you don’t know who David Sedaris is.” This sent Beau into a rage and he screamed, “I have two degrees! I’m a goddamn LPN! That really pissed me off! You think I’m stupid because I talk this way?!” Ryan was completely caught off-guard. And he felt like an asshole, so he did his best to apologize and calm his friend’s boyfriend down. Things were tense after that until Jude finally suggested they all head home, inviting Ryan to stay at their place.

Though he was tanked, Ryan thought Jude and Beau’s house looked straight out of a horror movie. It was tall and white with dark windows and four slim columns out front. They rounded the back and up a flight of stairs into the kitchen, which was small, but very colorful. Beau poured them each a glass of red wine and asked Ryan if he would like to have a cigarette with him on the porch. Grateful for the truce, Ryan joined him. They talked about Jude and how charismatic he was; always the life of the party and the star of every room he entered. When Jude appeared, now on his third glass of Merlot, they stamped out their cigarettes and headed back indoors. They changed into gym shorts and collected on the couch where they watched one lame YouTube video after another of former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants performing music video parodies. Ryan excused himself and headed for the guest room to go to sleep. Jude followed him, but branched off towards his own room. From the doorframe, he hissed at Ryan and beckoned him into the bedroom. Ryan shook his head as if to say, “I don’t know what you’re planning, but I don’t want any part of it.” In a stage whisper, Jude said, “Just come watch TV in here.” Still woozy from the drinking marathon, Ryan went over and sat on the bed across from Jude. They were thirty seconds into a ridiculous Jessie J. live performance when Beau walked into the room, grabbed Ryan by the back of his head, and kissed him.

The Jäger sloshed in Ryan’s belly and his head spun. He impulsively kissed back and tugged at his shirttail. On a primal level, he thought Beau and Jude were hot, but he wasn’t sure if this was the right thing to do. Everything was black, but he could hear belt buckles clinking. His head moved in circles. Everything was moving. The room went dizzy. He was sweating. And then Jude asked him if he really wanted to, and he nodded “yes” just as he felt himself falling down a funnel of blackness that swallowed him whole.

But then no one had any lube! AHHHHHHHHH!

And then they all did poppers, and no one could get hard after that! AHHHHHHHHH!

And then Jude and Beau got in a fight about whose idea it was, so Ryan had to slip out and stagger naked into the guest room! AHHHHHHHH!

And the last thing he saw before drifting off to sleep was a litter box and Ryan has terrible cat allergies! AHHHHHHHH!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

To Thine Own Self Be Fancy

“See that axe up there? That’s Gimli’s axe from Lord of the Rings,” he says. “And those metal Frisbee-lookin things. Those are the chakrams from Xena. You remember Xena, huh?” I bend at the waist so that my nose is almost touching the glass. “Hold on,” I say, grinding my teeth. “Is that the Sword of Gryffindor?!” “Yup. From Chamber of Secrets,” he says. “I know that,” I say. “Don’t try to impress me with elementary Potter,” I think. “Asshole.”

The display case is wider than my armspan and towers a few feet above my head. The contents inside range from Indiana Jones’ bullwhip to the Hanzo sword from Kill Bill, which I consider stealing on my way out, but can’t quite figure how to hide it under my tank top and gym shorts. “Pretty sweet,” I say. He nods in agreement and continues the tour of his room. On the merlot-colored wall next to the weaponry is a poem painted in black script. I read the first words out loud: “Some say the world will end in fire — Oh my God! I know this! It’s Robert Frost. I can do it.” I spin around to face the opposing wall, cross my arms behind my back, and begin:

“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”

I feel like I just sank a free throw after doing a series of round-offs and handsprings. “You said ‘If I had to perish twice,’” he corrects. “It’s actually ‘If it had to perish twice.’” I roll my eyes. “Well then,” I say. “It thinks you’re being a dick.” He puts his arm around me and kisses me on the temple. “I’m just messin wit ya,” he says sweetly. He walks over to the nightstand and picks up one of those massive electronic cigarettes. It’s easily eight inches in length and has a clear compartment in which brown syrup sloshes around. He takes a deep breath and blows a thin line of vapor in to the air. He sets the pipe next to an alarm clock that reads 4:10AM.

I don’t usually take Adderall, but I thought I was going to be working late and I wanted to fire on all cylinders. My friend Ellen swung by and dropped off a tiny, 20-milligram pill, off of which I chewed a corner (less than half), and worked my way through my entire hot list for the next work day. I was home before 1:00AM, feeling wired and confident, so I struck up a conversation with a guy on Facebook named Nolan, who I think I met on Grindr, but I’m not totally sure. He was pretty, with yellow hair swept across his forehead and lips that hung agape in a scowl. We made conversational debris until he invited me to come hang out at his place. “Maybe so,” I said. “It’s late, but I’m jittery and I don’t think I’ll be crashing anytime soon. Where’s your place?” “It’s about 30 minutes from Lafayette.” “Yeah,” I said. “I’ll head over soon. Just don’t pass out.”

On 1-10 West, the fog was a thick, continuous wall that I collided against over and over and again. I took the Iota exit, which led me through a ghost town bordered by miles of rice fields. I followed a dirt road that cut trough the stalks of rice and onto another dirt road that did the same. Siri said “The destination is on your left,” and I arrived at a brightly lit farmhouse that didn’t have a neighbor on either side for the visible horizons. He was standing in the driveway, barefoot, in a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up and shivering under a regenerating cloud of his own breath. “Sup,” I said. “Ma Ambien hasn’t kicked in yet, so let’s see how this goes,” he said. I half-hugged him and followed him through the side door and into the mudroom. We walked past two meandering Great Danes in the kitchen and his sister, who was fast asleep on the couch in the living room.

Here, in his bedroom, everything smells like stale menthol and the time is 4:10AM CST. Nolan takes off his hoodie, under which he is wearing a highlighter yellow workout shirt that looks like a child size medium. He is extremely skinny, which I don’t mind, but I don’t really prefer either. But frankly, at this hour and in this part of the world, I’m in no position to have preferences. He sees me eyeing his torso and he takes another drag from his mechanical cigarette. “I know I’m too skinny,” he says. “I can’t help it.” I throw myself onto his bed, pointing my feet towards the display case. “You’re not usually my type,” I say. “But you’re very handsome.” He takes off his shirt. “What about now?” he says. His body is spotted with tattoos. I tell him to come closer. Across his collarbone is a series of roman numerals, which he points to and proclaims, “That’s my birthday!” He turns around to show me his lower back, which is emblazoned with the words, Better To Be Feared Than Loved, from which a river of stars snake up his spine and onto the nape of his neck. Finally, in an Old-English typeface on the left side of his rip cage are the words, To Thine Own Self Be True. “Good one,” I say. “Classic.” “Yeah,” he says. “It’s from my favorite Reba song.” A few moments of silence pass while I register what he just said. “Um. You know Reba McEntire didn’t write that, don’t you?” I ask, even though I already know the answer. “Huh?” he says. “Yeah-huh. That’s from a Reba song. She’s the best.” “No,” I say. “That’s from Hamlet. It’s Shakespeare.” He flops down next to me, takes a puff from Cruella de Vil robot cigarette, and says “Whatever.”

What happened next made less of an impression than the Reba/Shakespeare mix-up. I mean, how could a 26-year-old man permanently ink himself without knowing the source material? I don’t expect everyone to have a minor in Brit Lit, but give me a fucking break. Reba? You thought the same lady who wrote “Fancy” also came up with “To thine own self be true?” It bothered me on the car ride back to Lafayette. It bothered me just as much as when he took drags from his stupid cigarette machine while we were doing it. Let me repeat that: He smoked his weird android pipe while we were hooking up! At one point, I said, “Hey, I know we just met and this isn’t exactly the most romantic experience ever, but can you not smoke that thing right now?”

I expected the sun to be rising when I left Iota, but it wasn't. The roads and the sky are as empty as the condom wrappers in my pocket. I think about Nolan’s other tattoos, and the Frost quote on his bedroom wall he painted himself, and the display of replica weapons, and when he played Rihanna’s “Take A Bow” on the keyboard while I sat on his bed and listened politely. He might not have known Shakespeare, but he wasn’t a complete dumb ass. Rude with his smoking habits, but not stupid.

In his bedroom, above the doorframe, written in the same black script as the Frost quote are the words: People Always Leave. I think about that a lot now. It’s simple and nihilistic, but it's beautiful. Plus, it’s such a funny thing to paint above a doorframe, isn’t it? I don’t know if Nolan does that kind of thing often — invites strange, jittery men to his home in the early morning — but if he does, I hope he gives them the full tour like he gave me. 

A few days later, in a bar on Frenchmen Street, I will meet a very charming vet school third-year, and I will often wonder throughout our conversation if he also owns a replica of the Sword of Gryffindor. Or if he can play Rihanna on the keyboard. Or if he's got any tattoos he doesn't fully understand. And eventually, I will excuse myself to the bathroom, circle around the booths in the back, and make my way out the front door and into the street.

Because that's what people always do.

Or so I've been told.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Candidates Will Be Judged On Their Appearance And Their Completion Of Sexual Activity

The following is a creative essay that examines my personal reaction to having sex with people who are physically “out of my league.” It theorizes what would happen if this elite group of guys were given gold star membership to an imaginary society somewhere between the prison dreamscape in The Cell and an eternal stag party.

The Goldstar Club hasn’t seen any new members since April 2013, when a bartender from a restaurant in the Warehouse District was initiated; his headshot framed and nailed to the wall next a photograph of a 22-year-old boy with the most beautiful smile the world has ever seen.

This bartender, a former gender studies major with hair the color of sap, was inducted under highly unusual circumstances that should be noted upfront, and not buried under lesser details. The first being that he gained membership before having sex with the Membership Chair, and the second being that he was involved in a committed, long-term relationship with another man on the night of his installment as a life-long member of The Goldstar Club.

Both of these details are anomalistic because all fellow members of The Goldstar Club were single throughout candidacy, and had engaged in relations of a sexual nature with the Membership Chair before installation. From this information, you can assume the bartender had attributes that the Membership Chair deemed valuable enough for inclusion into the exclusive association for supremely attractive men, with whom he’d slept.

Though the décor is expensive and the architecture resembles that of a 19th century English gentleman’s parlor, the Club itself isn’t luxurious in the traditional sense. Sure, there’s the humidor and the crystal decanters, but these things go unused for the most part. Members typically bring their own bottles of Svedka or Crown Royal from home and drape themselves across plush chaise longues under the dizzying rotation of a Kelly Rowland song. The nice ones will sometimes talk to one another or discuss the various taxidermy, but everyone mostly keeps to himself. After all, none of these men have anything in common besides supernatural good looks and the fact that they’ve individually slept with the Membership Chair, who also happens to be the President, Founder, and Sole Proprietor of The Goldstar Club.

The organization is lean by circumstance (not design); six members in total, including:

  1. The bartender with hair the color of sap
  2. The boy with the most beautiful smile the world has ever seen
  3. A systems analyst with perfectly symmetrical stubble and hands like baseball gloves
  4. A guy with a fleur-de-lis tattoo across his perfectly puffed-up chest
  5. The Membership Chair’s exboyfriend, who is the thickest of the group, but has the sculpted facial features of a Nordic television star
  6. The organization’s first honoree; a stocky blond Zoologist whose crystal blue eyes and bubble butt caused the Membership Chair to create The Goldstar Club in the first place as a way to honor the men who he considers to be “out of his league”

To say these men are sexy is like saying macaroons are faggy.

They hang around The Club and sometimes they speak, but for the most part, they just bask. Why would they need to do anything else? In the real world, they might have smarts, or chops, or savvy, or talent, or ambition, but that doesn’t matter at The Goldstar Club. Here, they don’t have to be anything but winners of the genetic lottery. So they become more like extensions of the furniture than patrons. The boy with the most beautiful smile the world has ever seen sits wordlessly in a well-worn chesterfield armchair while the Zoologist studies a stuffed bobcat. The scene always looks like a well-blocked fashion ad. One of those two-page spreads you see in GQ.

But the new guy — this bartender — he just stares at the photograph of his smiling face on the wall. Every time he stops by, he plants himself before the portrait, his hands in his pockets and his eyes following the sweep of his hair from brow to cresting wave. He examines the olive and rose tones in his soft skin and the emerald storm clouds in his eyes. Every now and then, his gaze will wander to one of the neighboring pictures. The boy with the chiseled, Nordic face or the man with the symmetrical stubble, but he always returns to his own.

Back home, his boyfriend is making dinner, so he needs to get going. On his way out, he makes sure to shake hands with each of his cohorts. One-by-one he says goodbye to them and each time he registers their vague understanding that he, the bartender, did not get to The Goldstar Club like the rest of them. But he certainly belongs there.

By the door, he catches his reflection in a gold cup the size of a toddler. He runs his fingers through his hair and checks his teeth for errant food particles. He gives himself a smirk and waves one last time to the other five before slipping out the front door and into the the real world where he can be anything he wants to be.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Between Boyfriends

Hello, handsome gentleman or foxy lady!

Welcome to Between Boyfriends, an online community for the newly single and the lonely lifers.

Here, we believe that every break-up is a new beginning — a chance to sidestep all those dark, abysmal post-break-up potholes and forge a new trail on your lone journey into the imminent sunrise.

We’re all about taking you outside your own head and taking you on exciting, insightful adventures for one. Because he can’t hurt you when you’re hang gliding over Pensacola Beach, can he? Of course he can’t! You’re up in the sky and he’s down on the ground where insensitive bastards belong. You’re soaring through the clouds like the majestic songbird you are, and his big fat ass is probably still sinking into his piss-stained loveseat while he crams Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos into his stupid face.

At Between Boyfriends, we are dedicated to making life after your break-up as fulfilling as possible. After a speedy damage assessment, our team of professionals will develop a strategy for healing, which may include solo experiences like a sightseeing tour in a city you’ve never been to before, or a reservation for one at a fancy restaurant that your shitpile exboyfriend would never set foot in. Speaking of which, we ensure that you’ll never run into that dickless mama’s boy on any of your Between Boyfriends outings. That’s because we always have someone following him around. Once you sign up, we track down your former lover where he lives and we monitor his every move. And if there’s ever a chance of him coming your way, we’ll orchestrate an elaborate sudden turn of events that shifts your plans into another direction. And we guarantee you’ll never notice.

Think of us as your Consolation Consultants — from the moment he stops answering your desperate, mid-day texts to the first time you have sex with another man and feel something. We’re here for that period of your life when all those butterflies in your chest are dead. When you’re suffering alternating tidal swells of loss and failure. We’re here to rip you out of your pillow and comforter cocoon and put you in the front row of an Aimee Mann concert! Did you know she’s touring right now? Well, she is and you’re going to be there for a night of somber, recession-era doom folk rock in the dark with a whole bunch of single people just like you. This might sound awful, but trust us: nothing makes you feel like you’re really working shit out like a room full of broken hearts, a plastic cup full of white wine, and soul-crushing acoustic ballads from the Mann herself. Try not to have a cigarette after that. It’s nearly impossible.

The point is, Between Boyfriends helps you cope without you realizing you’re coping. We understand that all men are assholes, and we want you to know their malfunction doesn’t mean you have to shuffle around feeling fractured. So don’t worry, gorgeous. You’ll get ‘em next time. And eventually, someone’s gonna get up in you again.

In the mean time, call or live chat with one of our Consolation Consultants and we’ll schedule a damage assessment, wherein we ask questions and dig through your trashcans and call history while you try to hide his leftover boxer briefs from us in the freezer. And whether you’re a hysterical gay gentleman or a sad, broken, heterosexual woman, we ask that you please keep the crying to a minimum during our assessment.

Because you’re about to take yourself out on a series of solo dates and you’re going to need that eyeliner later.

Monday, September 30, 2013

the chipmunk and the field mouse

Illustration by Denise Gallagher for exboyfriendmaterial.com.
Find more of Denise's work at 

The chipmunk and the field mouse already had a history, but they were both in places where they were ready to try dating each other again.

"I know it's only been a year," the chipmunk said to his best friend, the hedgehog. "But he's grown up a lot since then, and I'd like to see where this goes." The hedgehog chewed on a pine needle and pressed the rewind button on the remote. "You made me miss what Walt said to Skyler about the car wash," he muttered. "So you don't care at all if I date the field mouse again?" asked the chipmunk. The hedgehog huffed so that his quills stood up, and he pressed pause. “Why would I get invested in a story when I already know the ending?" he said. And then he pressed play and they watched the rest of the episode in silence.

The field mouse was tiny with a square smile and dreams of one day becoming a foot surgeon. The chipmunk was older than the field mouse and had a reputation among the other woodland creatures for being impulsive and sometimes reckless. But he cared about the field mouse, and he wanted to make a good first impression the second time around. "Would you like to go to a football game with me?” he asked the field mouse one day. “The bears are playing the falcons this weekend, and we could go together. If you want." The field mouse grinned and bit his little fingers. “That sounds like fun,” he said. “Would you, um. Would you like to sleep over the night before and maybe we can order pizza and watch a movie?” The chipmunk breathed a hopeful sigh of relief and said, “That sounds wonderful. I’ll be over around seven.”

Since they’d dated before, they were already quite familiar with one another. They called each other “baby,” and avoided pushing sensitive buttons. Deep down, the field mouse was afraid the chipmunk would break up with him again, and the chipmunk had his reservations about the field mouse’s maturity. Still, they weighed the advantages of being in a relationship and vowed to be cautiously optimistic about the future. And for both of them, Friday night could not come soon enough.

The chipmunk arrived at the field mouse’s burrow just after twilight, but the field mouse was not there. He’d left a note saying he’d run out to the store and that the chipmunk should let himself in. The chipmunk tried the doorknob, but the door was lock. He puffed out his cheeks and sauntered over to the windowsill where he propped himself up with both hands. A few minutes later, the field mouse ran up to the door, clutching large, plastic cups in each hand. “Hey,” he said, kissing the chipmunk on the cheek. “I’m so sorry. I thought I’d make it back before you got here. I got margaritas!” The chipmunk grabbed the field mouse around the hips and kissed him on the mouth, slowly. “I’m just happy to be here,” he said quietly.

They sat together on the moss-stuffed sofa where they ate pizza and watched the Evil Dead remake starring that girl from Suburgatory. When the movie got especially gruesome, the field mouse would scurry up the back of the sofa and burry his nose into the chipmunk’s neck. The chipmunk kept his arm around the field mouse and tried, with difficulty, not to laugh at him. When the movie was over, the field mouse picked up the empty boxes and cups, and wordlessly led the chipmunk by the hand to the bedroom.

In the morning, they had breakfast and discussed breezy topics like family and mutual friends. The atmosphere only became mildly heated when the conversation turned to dogs. “I just love dogs,” said the field mouse. “If I were big enough, I’d like to care for one of my own.” The chipmunk grimaced and slurped his orange juice. “I’m allergic to dogs,” he said. “But even if I wasn’t allergic, I’d still hate them.” The field mouse looked indignant. “And why is that?” he asked. “Because they’re fucking terrifying,” said the chipmunk. “They’re like giant, stupid murder machines. The fact that they make me sniffle is nature’s way of keeping me far away from them.” The field mouse pushed his omelet fragments around the plate with his fork. “Pomeranians are beautiful,” he said under his breath. The chipmunk reached under the table and grabbed the field mouse’s hand. “You’re all the beauty I need,” said the chipmunk, and then he kissed the field mouse, even though his cheeks were puffed up with hash browns.

At the football game, the chipmunk got very drunk. The field mouse watched him stumble around and pose for pictures with his friends. The chipmunk flirted with a handsome badger, and the field mouse stood by and whispered to his friend, the raccoon, about what an asshole the chipmunk was being. Then, it began to rain and they all got wet. It rained so much that the field mouse had to take the chipmunk back to his burrow where they dried off in front of a fire. “I knew this was a bad idea,” the field mouse finally said. “You’re always going to be an obnoxious drunk, and you’re never going to take anything seriously. Especially me!” Still plastered, the chipmunk rolled his eyes at the field mouse and said, “You’ve been looking for a reason to break this off since we started again. I’m just sorry I gave you one. You always act like such a little bitch. And for the record, I don’t buy your whole ‘timid field mouse’ routine. You gave it up on our first date, remember that?” Outside the burrow, the rain was falling harder and harder and thunder gurgled in the meadow. “I want you to leave,” said the field mouse. “But since it’s raining, you can stay here again tonight. I’ll take the sofa.” The field mouse got up and the chipmunk reached for him and missed, sending his arm swatting through the air. “Look, I’m sorry,” said the chipmunk, running both hands through the fur on his head. “I shouldn’t have said that. But you need to relax. You can’t bury me in blame like a pile of acorns and then walk away. Can this really be over before it begins?” The field mouse began to cry. “There were a few moments last night when I felt like this could work,” he said, gripping his long tail and curling it between his hands. The rain outside crashed against the ground in dull thuds. “But this was a mistake.” The chipmunk tried to plead his case, but since he was still drunk, he failed continuously to prove a convincing argument. So the field mouse left him there in front of the fire where he finally fell asleep to the sounds of inclement weather.

In the morning, the chipmunk sat on the edge of the moss-stuffed sofa where the field mouse was sleeping. The field mouse awoke and rubbed his eyes, gazing up at the chipmunk, who looked disheveled and sad. The field mouse stayed quiet, waiting for the chipmunk to say something. Finally, the chipmunk took a deep breath, his furry tummy rising in a big heap, and said, “I messed this up again. And I’m truly sorry.” The field mouse did not say anything because they had reached the point in their dialogue where anything further would be conversational debris.

So, the chipmunk left the burrow and climbed up the nearby tree that would take him home. From a jutting limb, he took one last look at the field mouse’s burrow, which was surrounded by a trench of standing rainwater. He thought about going back to tell the field mouse he wanted to try one more time, but then decided that all the water would make it too difficult.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Not Tonight. I Am Good.

The crowd at Blue Moon Saloon is exactly the crowd you would expect at a bar called Blue Moon Saloon. And I don’t see anyone I would screw until I see the one person I would screw.

He is stocky and blond with wide shoulders and an underbite. He is wearing dark denim jeans, high-top sneakers, and a tight, white t-shirt with blue stars running down the left side of his torso and red stripes down the right. Based on his ensemble and his frequent head-nods, I can tell he’s not from around here. “A European,” I say to myself. It’s easy to make this assumption because the Blue Moon Saloon also serves as a guesthouse. Foreign transients passing through Lafayette spend the night here, and the locals come for the live music and the multi-cultural stimulation. I’m here because I was dragged by my friend, Sonny, who says she wants to fuck the trumpet player because “his beard gives [her] a wide-on,” which I think is gross, but not because I'm a misogynist, which I'm not.

I approach him because if I waited my whole life for someone to approach me, I’d still be a virgin. He’s by himself, so I don’t have to fight for his attention. I say “Hey,” and he says “Ello.” I ask him what’s up, and he says, “I am hanging out with the band.” Again, he is alone and the band is still performing. I ask him where he’s from. “France,” he says. “Paris?” I ask. “Not Paris,” he says. “In the west more.” “Like Brest or Nantes?” I ask. “No,” he says. “Erm. No. Not those places.” Normally, right here is where I’d say "Nice meeting you," and run off, but I like his accent and I would like to see what he looks like without a shirt.

I ask him a few more questions and find out that he's my age, he's an occupational therapist, and he’s been traveling the world for ten months. He tells me India is colorful but also a lot of browns. He says Bali is like paradise, but while he was there, an ATM ate his credit card, so it was “very difficult to manage.” His favorite place is Australia, where he lived for six months and delivered pizzas on a working visa. He says all the people are in good shape and there are free outdoor grills for public use everywhere. From Brisbane, he flew to Maui and then to Los Angeles. He rented a car in Flagstaff and purchased a phone in Tucson. Then, he skipped Austin and stayed a few nights in Houston before traveling to New Orleans. Now, he is spending the night in Lafayette because he wants to try Cajun food and to see a real swamp before heading to Chicago. And even though I rephrase the question several times, I can’t get an answer for how he’s funding the expedition.

A profound language gap separates us, but hand gestures and repeating the same words over and over again help us get the messages across. I find him funny in the way everyone finds foreigners funny. He makes off-color, offensive comments without understanding the cultural implications of them. I’m laughing my ass off, and I want to share this experience with my friends later, so I begin recording the conversation with his consent. He tells me he stopped for lunch in Morgan City, a small town on Highway 90 halfway between New Orleans and Lafayette. He says, “Morgan City is very offshore with its population. And many Afro-Americans.”

“Oh,” I say. “As many as in New Orleans?”

“Yes. Many,” he says. “I’ve heard there are lots of Afro-Americans here because of chicken fast food.”

“That is definitely a racist thing to say," I tell him.

“No, no,” he says. “Some people tell me that they like chicken because it’s from where they’re from. It was in Africa. They used to eat that and then they just brought it here.”

“I guess,” I say. "I'm not sure."

He says, “They are also — all of them — relations of some guy who was a slave one day and they stayed here, yes?”

“I never thought of it that way,” I say.

“Yes. And before you and the Afro-American people came, it was just some Native Americans here in Louisiana,” he tells me. “It’s weird because. Erm. I was hearing about the Native Americans, but people only care about the Cajuns here and no one cares about the Native American history.”

“They're doing alright," I say. "They own big casinos now."

He looks at me for a minute, then he says, “That is definitely a racist thing to say.”

If this were a romantic comedy, then we would be right on-script. Our European opposite American dialogue feels like it's been run-through by a million other people before us. We alternate buying rounds of beer, and after several rotations, I'm feeling brave enough to ask him something. "Do you want to see a Louisiana swamp?" I ask. "Like right now?" He looks suspiciously at me, but then he says, "Okay, then. I can go." We get in my car and I drive a few blocks to the University of Louisiana. We park near the Student Union and I walk with him to Cypress Lake, a living swamp in the middle of campus. Once we're there, I launch into an oral presentation of Cypress Lake that I perfected over hundreds of campus tours as an Enrollment Services Tour Guide for the University. "Cypress Lake began as a prehistoric buffalo wallow. Then, the University sprung up around it in the early 1900s and then became a pigpen, then a space for open-air theatre productions, then it was flooded during WWII as a reservoir to fight potential bomb fires. Today, it's home to alligators and other indigenous swamp life," I finish and smile, showing all my teeth. He stares me. Crickets. And then he says, “This is not real swamp. People made it to fight war. I will see real swamp tomorrow.”

We drive back to Blue Moon Saloon in mostly silence because I can’t make it feel un-weird. We come to a stop and I ask him if he’d like to spend the night at my place so that he doesn’t have to go back to his crappy motel on the Northside. He opens the door and says, “Not tonight. I am good.” Then he closes the door, gets into his car, and drives away. I hang out for a while and smoke a cigarette. I haven’t smoked all night because I thought smoking might gross him out, even though he’s French, which was pretty considerate of me. The least he could’ve done was sex.

In the morning, I drive to Baton Rouge for the LSU game. There, I check Grindr and see he is less than a mile away from me. I guess he woke up and heard Baton Rouge calling, too. I wonder if he saw a real swamp this morning. And if he’s alone right now — wandering around the tailgating chaos and looking for something new and exciting before moving on the next place, and then the next.

That, I understand.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Dawn And The Day

This is a reflection on an experience described in a post from November 5, 2012 entitled The Other Side Of The World - Part II.

I remember you in pieces, now.

Like when you pulled up to the valet and you were wearing a blue shirt. Or maybe it was white. Or coral.

And you were wearing a backpack, and I thought that was weird and a little premature for a first meeting.

You were built like me. Only leaner. Which made me insecure about my stomach and my arms.

I didn't feel pressured to impress you, which I noticed. You seemed nervous, which we both noticed.

On the beach, we sat at the water's edge, and your hip touched my hip first.

You looked down and smiled when you said I was sexy, and the gesture didn't appear affected to me.

Maybe your shirt was maroon. Or teal. Or maybe some kind of pale yellow.

Your car was red and it had a sunroof, but I can't remember anything else about it.

When we stopped for gas, I took a picture of you when you weren't looking. I remember it was fuzzy because you were moving. That was with my old phone, so I don't have the picture anymore. I'm sorry about that.

There were lots of stars. The most I've ever seen in the sky. And through the open sunroof, we stared at them and turned to one another to wordlessly ask, "Can you believe this?"

I remember wondering if you did this with every vacationer from the mainland.

We kissed a lot that night, but I can only remember the first time. I'm sorry about that, too.

We saw each other again the next night. This time, I met you at your hotel in Lahaina. I wandered the lobby and the pool area until you found me.

We went back to your place, which was messy and boyish.

We had sex for the first time, and it was good.

You put on The Hunger Games and I fell asleep before the reaping.

The next night, I was having dinner with my dad on your side of the island and you happened to be in the bar next door.

My dad went back to Wailea and I stayed with you.

We went to Mic Fleetwood's bar and we got in a fight about something serious. I remember being very angry with you. We each closed our tabs and we left. I asked you to take me back to my hotel.

In front of the valet, you asked if I would let you show me one last thing. I said yes. And then you pulled away and down a dark pathway into the woods.

The water was black and the moon made it look like shiny leather. There were more stars here, too. We climbed into the back seat and we kissed. I remember this. And then we had sex again. I don't remember if there was music or not, but it sounded like there was. You told me you loved me. I said I loved you, too.

I held your face in my hands when I kissed you goodbye. You told me you'd see me again in the morning. I remember thinking that this was the last time I would ever see you. And I was right.

I waited until my plane was boarding before I called to tell you that I was leaving the island a day early. A hurricane in the Gulf. I waited because I knew you'd try to stop me. And I remember crying. And I remember lying to you to make you feel better. You heard my voice crack, so you told me that there was lube in your backpack the first night we met and I started laughing my ass off. We said goodbye and I texted you when I landed in Atlanta and then when I landed in New Orleans.

I remember the first time we Skyped. I remember the second time we Skyped. I remember the last time we Skyped. But those are the only ones I remember. I'm sorry about that.

I remember staying up late and writing you letters. And I remember when I got your postcard in the mail. And I remember pressing it again my chest because that's what you do with postcards, right?

It's been a year since we met. And I still remember your face often and the way it felt in my hands. I recall these memories from time to time, and when one unravels in my head, the others come undone, too, and suddenly, I'm reviewing our entire history in fragments and shards. The timeline is broken up and I can't storyboard the events in chronological order. But I really, really want to because that's all we have. We can't make new memories. We've only got this small window in time that's been shattered across 368 days.

I remember taking the elevator up to my room after you dropped me off that first night. I remember pulling my phone out of my pocket on the breezeway. I remember calling John and saying, "I just met the person I'm going to marry." And I remember hearing how crazy that sounded. And I remember not caring.

It's 11:25PM where you are right now, which makes it 4:25AM here.

We just told one another goodnight. But before that, you helped me remember some very special memories I'd forgotten. And we celebrated one year by saying sentimental things and also the word "fuck" a lot.

The sun will be up soon, but even if I stayed awake to watch it, I probably wouldn't remember it because sunrises are forgettable. They happen every 24 hours. The dawn and the day that follows it are reminders of night's finiteness. Sunshine bleaches out the stars again and it all feels routine and militarized.

Besides, if the sun isn't rising in your company, then why should I pay it any attention?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Big Brother Is A Bottom

This piece was written as an original oratory. The idea is that high school students could memorize and perform it at speech and debate competitions. Not that they should.

Dear Ms. Delaney-St. Lamont,

I am Bennigan’s mother, Pepper. You remember me, don’t you? Pepper Hoffstrom. Well now, it’s Pepper Lancaster. Mrs. Pepper Lancaster. I know it’s been quite some time since we’ve seen one another and I wish it were under different circumstance that we were reconnecting. But as you’ve probably expected, I’m writing to request an in-person conference to discuss today’s incident.

Certainly, I will better understand why you reacted the way you did once we have our little sit-down, but just so you know, I’m still quite distressed after hearing Bennigan’s side of the story today. He came home practically in tears! I rarely see my son in that state and I’ve never seen him throw a lawn chair across the backyard like he did. What upper body strength, though. My husband thinks he should try out for the wrestling team when he gets to high school and see if the coaches can make something out of him. If you ask me, I think he might even have a shot at varsity if he can channel that strength into some Greco-Roman takedowns. But hey, I’m not a wrestling scout. And what do I know about athletics anyway, right? I just think my son has the potential to do anything, and if a spot on the high school wrestling team is in his future, then you can bet your flat, twice-divorced fanny that I’ll be the most supportive mother in the stands — wearing his letterman jacket and shaking one of those loud-as-blazes milk jugs full of pennies. But that’s just how things work in the Lancaster household. We support one another no matter what. Which is why I have the tiniest issue with how you spoke to my son today.

In case you were wondering, the answer is yes. We did see his show-and-tell presentation and we thought it was lovely. My husband even called it “informative” and said it was “just the kind of thing to get second graders thinking.” Oh, you remember my husband, Morty Lancaster, don’t you? You two briefly dated in college, correct? That’s back when we all ran in the same circle and I was seeing that studly architecture major with the squid tattoo; Mauricio, or Giovanni, or something European and greasy-sounding. Anyway, I remember when you dumped Morty because you supposedly walked in on him performing oral sex on one of his fraternity brothers. What a shame that was. Of course, I never believed the story because, at the time, I thought you were an obnoxious cow with the moral fiber and intelligence of, well, a cow.

At the time, that is.

Shortly after, I broke up with the greasy architecture student because he tried to proposition me into a threesome with his other girlfriend, and I set my sights on the wounded and slightly more feminine arms of Morty Lancaster. It took some real browbeating, but eventually, he gave in and took me to dinner at Winky’s Catfish Shanty. The rest is history. And now I’m Mrs. Pepper Lancaster and you’re Ms. Caroline Delaney-St. Lamont. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? Even though your second marriage recently came to end and you’re basically exactly where you were in our college days: single and intolerant. Believe me, I can understand your frustration, what with your having to sit alone in restaurant bars after spending your days in a classroom full of second graders. But that’s no reason to take it out on my child. He’s proud of his big brother and he just wanted his classmates to know it. As you may have gathered before you berated him in front of his peers, Bennigan’s older brother, Hampton, is gay.

Now, Hampton has been “out” for nearly ten years now, and his father and I fully embrace the way God made him — ever since the day he made the big announcement at age nine. Heck, we were his cheerleaders! I’d take him to the salon with me to get his bangs shaped and Morty even taught him how to walk in heels. And speech therapy? Ha! That lisp was part of the package wasn’t it? Changing it would be like taking wings off a butterfly. And with our help, Hampton Lancaster grew up intelligent, cultured, skinny, prissy, judgmental, opinionated, witty, fashionable, and sassy. Just like his father. Then, when Bennigan was born, all stocky and stoic, and we knew that we had a little apple to compliment our little orange. Those two couldn’t be more different. And yet, Bennigan looks up to Hampton the way Hampton looks up to Jessica Lange. It’s really something special that you’ve tried to squash with you cankle-anchored feet.

And for your information, the booklet Bennigan made out of construction paper for show-and-tell was a gesture of love for his older sibling, and not an “inappropriate art project depicting deviant behavior.” Sure, the crayon drawings of Hampton and his boyfriend, Omar, may have been a little too honest for certain small-minded audiences — especially the one where Hampton is sitting on Omar’s lap. But couldn’t you have at least praised Bennigan’s artistry and interpretation of the male anatomy before chastising him in front of the entire class? Furthermore, I think it took some real creativity on my son’s behalf to come up with a title like My Big Brother Is A Bottom.

He might look like a pygmy moose, but that boy's got savvy for sure. And it really broke my heart to see him so crestfallen because, according to him, his teacher is an “oppressive bitch.” Normally, I would’ve reprimanded him for such language, but since the Lancaster boys drafted their “Free Cussing” amendment to the family constitution, I couldn’t infringe upon his freedom. This amendment passed shortly after Hampton’s “Right To Bear Bears” amendment — a real game-changer that led to our meeting Omar, a large, hairy, African American man in his late thirties, and Hampton’s lover. You remember love, don’t you? It’s that thing you’re looking for at the bottom of that glass of chardonnay. That thing that keeps slipping through your fingers.

But don’t worry yourself sick, Ms. Delaney-St. Lamont. Some desperate man with bad breath and bad credit will come into your life, and, God willing, open your eyes to the bigger picture. But for now, I’m going to serve your exboyfriend, my husband, Morty Lancaster dinner. Then we’re going to take our sons and Omar to a Tea Party rally and then maybe out for froyo.

Looking forward to seeing you again,
Mrs. Pepper Lancaster

P.S. Attached, you’ll find a booklet I made myself with pictures of Mr. Lancaster and me. It’s called, My Wife Is A Top.

Monday, August 26, 2013


“Who the fuck wants to see that?” whispers Joey, his lips nearly touching my shoulder. “It looks like grief porn.”

The trailer is for a movie about two little girls who go missing and what happens to their families in their desperate search to find them. People hold candlelight vigils and Viola Davis asks the detective, Jake Gyllenhaal, if he has any children of his own. It looks like a painful experience. “Not me,” I say. “If I wanted to be depressed and stressed out for two hours, I’d spend time with my grandparents.”

Soon, the movie will begin, but right now, I’m funneling Reece’s Pieces down my throat and bouncing my bare feet on the seat in front of me. I am wearing eight-year-old breakaway sweatpants, a backwards hat, and a t-shirt from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s African American Culture Committee 2009 Fashion Show. “I think I want a hot dog,” says Joey. “What?!” I say. “We already have nachos and candy.” Joey stands and asks me if I want anything. “Yeah,” I sigh. “Surprise me.” He leaves and I’m alone.

In the next trailer, Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut who gets detached from her space station tether and spins out into space. She gets smaller and smaller on the screen and the theatre gets darker and darker until room is the same pitch as it was when the lights first went down. In the interior nightscape, the only thing I can see is a pair of disembodied arms bobbing up the stadium steps to my left. They glow and I stare, moth-to-flame. But then, a burst of light shoots out of the screen and illuminates the theatre in digital sunshine. The title of the movie is emblazoned across the screen and shining out over the audience. It's like coming up to the surface for air. I quickly turn back to look at the arms, which are now attached to a full person; a man in cuffed jean shorts and a black tank top. He is standing still, mid-step, and looking back over his shoulder to catch the title of the film before ascending to his seat and settling in with the rest of us. In that moment, his face, lit up by the words of some designer who labored over the stroke and kerning of each letter, is a mosaic of black and white. And as quickly as it came, the luster is gone and he is reduced to a pair of arms again that float to a seat in the row behind me. And even though the trailer is over, and Sandra Bullock is lost in space, and a new trailer featuring home invaders wearing animal masks will begin shortly, my heart is in my throat. Because the person sitting behind me, the one's whose handsome face was illuminated by roaring light, used to be my boyfriend.

I don't see him very often, which makes seeing him now even stranger, because I ran into him a week ago in New Orleans. He was standing with a group of guys near a bar on top of which a middle-aged man in a thong danced. Alone, I marched up to him, pinched the fatty underside of his bicep, and shook it. I don't know why I did this. Maybe because it seemed like a smart balance of intimacy and aggression — like giving your younger brother a noogie or slapping your best friend on the back. But when I shook his arm, I didn't notice he was holding a drink, and vodka and cranberry splashed onto everyone around us. We stared at each other, too stunned to speak. Then, he made a loud glottal sound and stormed off to the bathroom without saying a word. I was left with his friends and began stammering. "I am. So sorry," I said. "I didn't see his. Ugh. Drink and I. Um. Wanted to. I'm Ryan. We used to. Um. Date a while back. But I'll see you later bye." I scampered away and didn't see him again that night. Now, a week later, he is here — in the same theatre as me, seeing the same movie as me, but not wearing breakaway sweatpants and funneling Reece’s Pieces like me. Everything about me is amazingly unflattering and somehow, he just managed to accidentally catch a ray of God's glory all over his face. Nothing is fair about this or anything that’s ever happened.

Throughout the movie, I’m mostly unaware he’s there. But every now and then, I’m haunted by the memory of the last time we saw a movie together. We were in this exact theatre more than two years ago, both of us dressed in button-down shirts and long pants. I don’t exactly remember if we were dating other people at the time, but I do remember that we weren't together anymore. Actually, we'd been broken up for nearly a year and we were trying to develop a friendship. A movie sounded like a good idea for a friendship outing. I’d wanted to see Inception, anyway, and I figured maybe we could just see it together. So I ironed an outfit and picked him up at his apartment. He was dressed up, too, but I wouldn’t expect anything less of him. He could always dress himself, even if the outfit included something I hated like vinyl drawstring capri pants. In the movie, he held my hand. And when it was over, we went home and had sex. And it would be the last time, except for once in February 2012 when we were drunk and angry with our boyfriends.

On my twenty-first birthday, when we were dating, he recreated a campsite in his living room with bungee cords, tarps, and handmade signs. He even lit a fire in the fireplace and fried catfish because he knew that fried catfish was my favorite food. We nestled into sleeping bags and watched What Dreams May Come; his favorite movie, not mine. But I didn’t mind. I’d never seen it before, but I thought it was beautiful and eerily complimentary to my favorite movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. We fell asleep in front of the fire, and in the morning, I collected all of the signs that were taped to the walls, one of which said “Beware of Badgers,” and placed them into the break-up box I kept under my bed. A few months later, I would feed each piece of paper into a fire while my new boyfriend stared at me and tried to figure out how to make me feel better.

A few weeks ago, I was throwing a party at my house when someone asked me how I felt about my ex’s new boyfriend. “Should I feel anything?” I asked. “I haven’t really talked to him in a long time, so I don’t know what kind of person he is, now. But if he’s anything like he used to be, I hope the new guy has the sense to bail sooner than later.” I thought about adding, “But I hope he’s happy,” but I didn’t. Because I don’t care either way. You reach a point when you stop wishing certain people well, and you feel ambivalent about their well-being. Wishing takes effort. And I’d rather focus that effort elsewhere. The truth is, we never got a happy ending. From the beginning, our love was furious and toxic, peppered with a few happy memories that still break my heart. I loved him with one eye open — always afraid things would fall apart and never sure how to hold it together. And now, he is sitting behind me. Close enough for me throw a fistful of candy at him. And if I did, maybe he would make a loud glottal sound and storm off to the bathroom without saying a word. Or maybe not.

When the movie is over, Joey and I go outside where the climate is warmer and the views are less cinematic. We’re halfway home before I realize I forgot to look behind me when the movie ended. But if I had seen him, I probably wouldn’t have said anything. I probably would've made eye contact and looked away before I could feel angry, or frustrated, or optimistic, or disgusted, or in love because none of this was supposed to happen this way, and he is a living symbol of my past that went on to have a future. He is the choose-your-own-adventure that went unread.

He is Chris Nielsen if he would've just stayed in heaven.

He is Joel Barish if he would've just met someone else after Clementine erased him.

He is Cobb's dead wife's totem that just keeps spinning. Spinning. Spinning. And then black.