Thursday, May 30, 2013

David Sedaris Wants To Fuck Me

I’ve only been standing in line for ten minutes when a slender woman with blunt, black bangs walks up and shakes my hand.

“Hey there, I’m Courtney,” she says. I smile and introduce myself. “Have you been waiting here long?” she asks. “Nope. Just walked up,” I say. Around her neck, she’s wearing a Barnes & Noble employee badge with the word “MANAGER” under her name. She nods and then asks to see my ID. Without flinching, I hand it over and she looks me head-to-toe again. “Am I being Punk’d?” she asks me in a hushed voice, handing my ID back to me. “Huh?” I say. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I just drove here from Lafayette to meet David Sedaris. I don’t know what’s going on.” She looks nervous. “Wait here,” she says. A few minutes later, she returns and asks me to follow her towards the signing table. “Okay,” she says. “I’m extremely embarrassed. My employees were playing a joke on me and they told me that you were David Sedaris.” There’s a beat of silence while I stand there, unable to say anything. “And I realize you’re much younger than David Sedaris,” she says. “But you have to understand that I’ve never seen him before. Plus, I know he’s infamous for playing jokes on people and you’re about his height, right? Please let me make this up to you. Can I get you something from the café? Anything you want.”

The only words I can find are these: “But I’m 24. Ice coffee, I guess.”

All day long, I’ve been on the verge of a complete meltdown. Sedaris is my literary hero. He is the reason I write. He is everything I aspire to. And within the last five hours, I’ve smoked half a pack of cigarettes and nursed a nosebleed. I’ve never been more nervous about anything in my entire life. And now I have this bizarre Kristen Ritter look-a-like harassing me because she’s confused me for the author? This is shaping up to be the perfect storm of me losing my shit.

Courtney returns with ice coffee and a muffin and tells me again that she’s sorry. She tells me that she’s going to get David, but she’s going to take care of me. Then, she leaves for a third time. A few minutes later, I hear rumbling from behind me, so I turn around and see Courtney ushering a small man in a pink button-down and a faded navy blazer along the shelves labeled “SUMMER READING” and “TEEN PARANORMAL ROMANCE.” 

Jesus. That’s him.

Courtney shows him to his seat between two beefy security guards and with the help of several Barnes & Noble employees, she organizes the line that leads to him. Before I know it, Courtney’s hand is on my shoulder, and I’m staring at the man whose voice I hear in my sleep.

“Now that’s more like it. That’s what I’m talking about,” says David Sedaris to me. “Where did you get those boots?”

I anticipated waiting in line until nightfall, so I packed some projects from work and dressed comfortably. My ensemble includes a plaid, pearl-snap shirt; grey, cut-off shorts; and brown, nearly-knee-high combat boots. In this moment, standing before David Sedaris while he asks me about my boots, I realize I’ve never been more overwhelmed in my life. And instead of telling him the truth — that I borrowed these boots from my friend Nick more than a year ago and I have no idea where he bought them — I just start lying to my hero.

“Charlotte Russe,” I say.

“Where?” asks David.

“I got them at Charlotte Russe. It’s a clothing store for poor women in malls in bad areas,” I say frantically.

He looks at me over his glasses and says, “Well, no one could wear those boots like you can.”

I feel the ice coffee coming up my esophagus. Oh, fuck. I’m going to vomit all over David Sedaris in front of all these people at this stupid Barnes & Nobel. Courtney is standing next to me, and she looks uneasy.

“There’s so many things I want to say to you,” I stammer, hot sweat beading my forehead. “Like how I read Corduroy and Demin when I was in high school and it inspired me to be a writer, so I worked towards a career as a Copywriter, and now I’m the Associate Creative Director at an advertising firm.”

“Oh, that’s swell! What kinds of commercials do you write?” he asks.

“Um.” My mind goes blank. “I don’t know. Lots of different kinds. For big hospitals and Indian tribes and stuff.”

“Do you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race?” he asks.

“No,” I say bluntly, distracted by the abrupt change in subject.

“Why not?” he wonders.

“Because I grew up in New Orleans where there’s lots of drag queens,” I say. “And If I really wanted to watch someone do drag, all I have to do is walk outside or go to my grandmother’s house because she’s basically a drag queen and her eyebrows are tattooed on. Plus, there are better things on TV.”

“Oh, I love it,” he says. “I find it just fascinating. Do you know what a Alabama Slammer is?”

“I’m guessing it’s like a butt thing?” I bend my tone to make it sound like I’m completely unsure, even though I sincerely am.

“It’s when a man shits in a woman’s mouth and then fucks her in the mouth, using the shit as a type of lubricant,” he says, sternly.

I’m fully beside myself. But from somewhere, I hear myself say, “Cool. I guess I’d be willing to try that.”

He grins and then opens the book I’ve laid in front of him. He flips to the title page where my yellow post-it note lies. Earlier, we were instructed by the Barnes & Nobel staff to write what we wanted David to inscribe in our books on post-its. But to me, telling David Sedaris what to write is like telling Christ how to walk on water. So instead of doing that, I just wrote [something fucked up]. As he scribbles, he asks me another question: “So, you’re a writer. Do you have a blog?”

“I do,” I say

“Can I see it?” he asks.

I pull out my phone, which is coated in palm sweat, and I tap the button on the screen labeled XBFM. He takes it from me and scrolls a little through my last post, It Didn't Work Out, But I Don't Remember Why, which I wish wasn’t my last post because it’s just a rant about some douchebag and it’s not exactly Pulitzer material. He immediately hands it back and says, “There. Now I’ve read your blog.” The reality of that statement hits me in the balls. David Sedaris just read my blog. Now, I’m fighting back tears and a boner.

He has a small stack of sticker books on the table, one of which he grabs and begins looking for something specific. He flips past the marine life and the insects until he comes to a page of woodland creatures. He peels a sticker of a log off and presses it under the message he’s written to me. He gives me his hand and I take it. “It was lovely meeting you,” he says. “It was really weird,” I say. “But an honor, I think.”

I start to walk away when Courtney grabs me by the elbow and says, “Hang here with me while he signs the rest of the books. You can hear all the fucked-up shit he says.” So I do. When he’s finished, he goes upstairs and reads to us like we’re a congregation. In the crowd, I run into my friend, Jenna, and together we stare up and let his words rain down on us like Mardi Gras beads. He stops talking, shuffles his papers around, says “thank you,” and returns downstairs to sign more books.

I find Courtney and thank her for being so badass. “I’m glad I could make up for scaring you,” she says. I laugh and tell her that I thought she was playing the role of the rock band manager who wrangles groupies. I thought David Sedaris had seen me from afar and sent Courtney to feel me out before bringing me back to his dressing room. “You think we give visiting authors their own dressing room?!” she yelps. “Can I just live in a fantasy where an aging, gay, internationally famous memoirist wants to fuck me?” I demand. “Would you have gone through with it if that were the reality?” she asks. I open my book to the cover page and show it to her.

Stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It Didn't Work Out, But I Don't Remember Why

You posted those pictures just to frustrate me, didn't you? 

Oh, you definitely got my attention, you smug little prick. Look at you posing on the beach all sun-kissed and happy to be alive. Ugh, you're giving me diarrhea. And this picture right here. The one of you in a speedo and a flat-bill. You're just walking the line between angel-faced teacup chihuahua and smoldering sex god, aren't you? You just want me to lick my iPhone screen, don't you? And you knew I'd see all these photos from your family vacation in Galveston and I'd feel flustered and uncomfortable. All because I broke-up with you in a text message.

Sure, it might have felt completely unexpected to you. But I gave it some serious thought, bro. And, to be honest, I think I was very nice about the whole thing. If you recall, my exact words were: 
"Hey. I didn't want to end things without an explanation, so I'm going to be direct with you. I don't know if now is a good time for us to keep this up. If you want to try again in a few months, I'd be willing to reassess our relationship. Take care."
See? I could've said something less considerate. Or worse: I could've just bailed without saying anything at all! And it's not like I owed you anything, buster. We only talked for two months and had sortasex one time. But now, you're prancing around my Instagram with red cheeks, windswept hair, and a body that stops me in my tracks every time. And once I see you, I have to follow the curves of your traps and trace the insides of your thighs with my eyes. I should be working, but instead, I'm studying the color of your nipples and the shadow pattern on your crotch. God, you're beautiful. But you're distracting me, and that's not very mature of you.

Now, I don't really know where you're coming from, and it's impossible for me to gauge your level of investment in this ploy to make me lose my cool, but you seem committed, and I'm impressed by that. I guess that's another item I can add to the list of things I like(d) about you. I'll pencil it in between "the way he smiles" and "his ability to do a backflip." It's not like any of this matters anymore, though. You're trying to get a rise out of me, but it's not happening, chief. Uh-uh. Not happening. Tough nuggets.

So what if I save the all pictures you upload? Each one is an opportunity for me to rally outrage from John and Nick with photo captions like, "Are you fucking kidding me with those forearms!?" or "God almighty, he's burning the house down with that ass!" Oh, but don't mistake this for flattery, Mr. Photogenic Dick Shaft. But this is what you want, isn't it? You want me to break down and send you the "sup?" text. 

That's the subtext, right?

Alright, fine! I'll admit it. I don't remember exactly why things didn't work out between us. I think it had something to do with you not being into me enough. I don't know. You were always getting high after work and forgetting to text me. And sometimes, I wouldn't hear from you until late in the afternoon the next day. That sucked, man. Because I really liked you, and I gave you another chance every time you asked for one. I broke it off with you because you made me feel crummy. And no one deserves to feel crummy or get heavy boots in the beginning of a relationship. But now, looking at these pictures of you, I keep thinking, "It couldn't have been that bad, right?" and "Maybe I was being overly sensitive." And now a nagging piece of me feels like I missed out on something.

When I was 20 years old, my boyfriend got drunk and hit me in the face  giving me a black eye. We broke-up, but a few weeks later, I let him back into my apartment and I had sex with him for two reasons:
  1. He was [and remains] the most attractive person I've ever seen.
  2. I romanticized our relationship and intentionally blacked out the bad parts.
And on a lesser scale, that's what this feels like, buster. I "forget why it didn't work out" to justify wanting the good parts of you (see: red cheeks, windswept hair, smile, forearms, backflips, etc.). It's my way of passively giving you the benefit of the doubt. So enjoy it while it lasts, stud. I have a date with an LSU grad student tonight, and I can't spend another minute imagining myself doing body shots off your immaculate torso.

But if you wanted to send me something private, I wouldn't be angry.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Name Is Chip Chance

When I first started going to the gay bars in New Orleans, I would never tell strange men my real name. This was during the MySpace administration, and kids (including me at age 15) still used aliases on their Internet profiles because child molesters could, and would, find you by your last name in the phone book. The term "social networking" hadn't been invented, yet. All we had was AOL Instant Messenger, MySpace, and a new feature on cellular phones that allowed you to send short, typed messages from one phone to another for only ten cents a message! 

On Saturday nights, I'd tell my parents I was going with Liam and JP to play Halo at Bobby's house, and then Liam would pick me up at home and drive us to Bourbon Street. We'd sneak into Bourbon Cowboy and The Frat House, and eventually, I'd break off on my own and head to Oz, telling the guys I'd meet them outside Cat's Meow at two o'clock. I wanted to remain anonymous among the elder gays, so I never outright offered my name to anyone. But if I was asked, I'd stick my hand out and say, "I'm Nick Ducote." This was the name of the first guy I'd ever fallen in love with, and after he stopped talking to me for reasons I'll never know, I assumed his identity and even gave his number to guys I didn't particularly want to have sex with. I imagined Nick getting phone calls and maybe even text messages on his Nokia cell phone from foreign numbers, and the exchange going something like this:

Unrecognized number: Hey Nick.
Nick: I don't have this number saved. Who's this?
Unrecognized number: This is Dylan. We met at Napoleon's Itch last night.
Nick: Huh? Ummmmm I was in bed last night.
Dylan: This is Nick Ducote, isn't it?
Nick: YES?!?!
Dylan: And now you're going to pretend you didn't kiss me by the cigarette machine?

I fantasized about this situation playing over and over again until Nick developed a very real suspension that he might, in fact, be suffering from waking blackouts, a là Ashton Kutcher's character in The Butterfly Effect, wherein he meets unattractive gay men and then forgets he did. I haven't had a reason to use that fucker's name in years, but I was reminded of him when I met a guy in New Orleans last February.

He said his name was Chip Chance, which might as well have been Flava Flav or McLovin. Upon seeing him on Grindr, I ambushed him with flattering pictures of myself until he agreed to meet up with me. I was staying with my parents that weekend and he was "temporarily staying with friends," so neither of us could host. So, remembering that my friend Karen was out of town for the weekend, I asked her for the code to her vacant apartment in the warehouse district. Chip said he "didn't have a car at the moment," so I would have to pick him up from his job in the French Quarter, which isn't terribly far from Karen's apartment, considering the size of New Orleans.

Now, I'm sitting in my Ford Fiesta in a rainstorm at the corner of Royal and St. Philip, waiting for someone with a fake name to walk up and have sex with me in my friend's apartment. Well mom, at least I'm not on drugs, right? From across the street, I see a tall man with a messenger bag jogging through the rain, towards my car. I unlock the door, he sits down next to me, and I immediately text my best friend John these words: "This guy I'm about to hook up with is so hot that it hurts. My boner is literally making me lightheaded."

Chip Chance looks like former a child star, and I mean this in the best way. He is very tall and muscular, with sculpted, classically handsome masculine features and deep-set sockets that hold sparkling, emerald eyes. The sleeves of his denim, pearl-snap shirt are rolled up to his elbows, revealing bright, colorful tattoos. Owls, and squid, and flowers, and skulls swoop around his forearms on waves until the break on shores of his wrists. His smile is not a smile; it's a smirk. The kind of smirk that only John Krasinski, Zac Efron, and Barack Obama have perfected. But the most striking thing about his appearance is, without question, his hair. Which is green. Somewhere between inset chlorine and mint sorbet, Chip's hair doesn't demand your attention, but instead, beckons you closer to have a conversation with it. He's been in my car for less than a minute and I'm having to restrain myself from running my fingers through it. He is the human equivalent of a kaleidoscope; the type of boy you'd see on the Urban Outfitters homepage and hate for hitting the genetic lottery.

In Karen's apartment, we drink her Abita Strawberry and trade basic information followed by canned responses.

You're the baby of the family? I bet you got away with everything, huh? 
You work in advertising? I bet you're like Don Draper around the office. 
Living in the Bywater must be really exciting. That neighborhood is just booming!
I've only been to Lafayette once, but it was a good time. So much culture, man.

I'm on autopilot, and want nothing more than for the talking to end and for Chip Chance to take his shirt off. And then it does, and then he does. When he kisses me, my right hand slides down to his forearm and my left into his hair. I can kiss cute guys anytime, but how many times will I have the opportunity to trace a squid tattoo with my fingers or tousle seafoam hair? This is worth it, already.

By the time I drop him off at his house in the Bywater, I like him. Not like him-like him, but I think he's interesting beyond his looks, and he's got a story. He climbs out of my little car, and I ask him to tell me his real name. I don't plan on looking him up on Facebook later, but I still have to add his name to my list, and I'd feel better if it wasn't made-up. He tells me his real name and I say goodbye, promising to text him later. On the ride home, I rub my belly, and even though it's gotten more robust in a few short months, I feel content. I've been meaning to lose weight, but if guys like Chip Chance keep banging me, I don't really see the point.

I wish I had the physical magnetism as Chip, but I don't. Still, I bet I can capture some of his magic. And maybe not tonight, but at some point in the near future, someone will ask me my name, and I'll extent my hand, smile with the confidence of a man with green hair, and say, "My name is Chip Chance."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Great Expectations

I've been standing at the bar for less than ten seconds when Tung grabs me from behind, swings his arm around me, and demands the bartender put my drink on his tab. "Whatever he’s drinking, I got!" he says loud enough for everyone within a 50-foot radius to hear. "You really don’t have to do that, buddy," I say with disingenuous bashfulness. He smiles as wide as he can. "It’s so good to see you, man!" He's radiating happiness. I smile back and I mean it. "You too," I say. It's been 11 years since we've seen one another.

The girl hands me my drink and Tung ushers me through the crowd and onto the patio. I expected The Bulldog to be much more swamped than it is, what with it being Jazz Fest weekend and all. Every twentysomething this side of Carrolton Avenue with a bachelor’s degree should be here, but they must be as exhausted as me. Tung and I cut through the patio and under an archway that leads to a private courtyard. Here, somewhere between 15 and 20 of my schoolmates from St. Andrew the Apostle have gathered for our reunion. Tung barrels past me, waves his hands in the air, and yells, "Hey, y’all! RYAN’S HERE!" Everyone looks at me, and I try really hard to appear gracious and shocked, even though I knew this was coming. People woot and raise their glasses and a few even clap. I see Adam sitting near the front of the archway and we smile and roll our eyes in tandem.

Adam and I were classmates from Pre-K through high school. We even carpooled for a few years. Then, when we were juniors, we began dating two girls who were also best friends. We have a lot of history, me and him. Now, when we see each other at the gay bar in Baton Rouge, we screech when we talk and refer to one another as "Britney" and "Christina." It doesn't matter who's who. As long as I'm Britney.

When we bumped into each other at Splash three months ago, we couldn't stop talking about our collective anticipation for the reunion. We threw our heads back and cackled about what a fuckmess it was sure to be. I said I wouldn't leave until tits came out. Mine or someone else's. It didn't matter. But now, standing here in the courtyard, scanning the crowd for stray breasts, I can see this is not what I had in mind.

With the exception of Tung, who is shithoused in the way that my dad's friend Buster, who owns a gas station and drinks Taaka and crushed ice out of a to-go cup gets shithoused, everyone seems pretty mellow. Adam is sitting next to Kathryn, who is still one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in person. I say hi to them, then make my way around the courtyard, asking questions about everyone's careers and families, and fielding questions about three very specific topics:
  1. My recent promotion.
  2. My sassy, offensive Facebook posts.
  3. My blog.
I spend 20 minutes speaking to Ashely Adler about the recent suicide of a mutual friend. I discuss Cameron Yorke's plans to go to culinary school. Everyone looks just like their Facebook pictures. Everyone is doing great. No one grew up to be a disaster. No one is faking enthusiasm. My former classmates are just as happy to see me flourishing as I them. This isn't what I had in mind, but that's okay. Still, one rogue titty would've been welcome.

I circle back to Adam and Kathryn. "No one got an introduction like you did. Just saying," says Kathryn, smeyesing harder than I've ever seen anyone smeyes before. Adam leans across Kathryn and says, "I’m going to The Pub at midnight. Come." "I don’t know," I say. "I’ve been at Jazz Fest all day. I’m whipped and don’t think I want to be around a million fags right now. You’re enough."

It's two hours later, and I'm standing on the balcony at The Pub overlooking Bourbon Street with Adam and a bunch of fags. "That was nice," I say. "I wish some of them would've gotten fatter, though." "I know, right?!" yells Adam. "No fatties at all!" "More than half of them are still in school, though," I say. "I've been out of school since 2010 and I've advanced in my career every year since. I'm kicking ass aren't I?" He looks down at his phone. "Shit, my boyfriend just got here. I gotta go run downstairs and meet him. Stay here," he says. He leaves and I'm alone with my drink. I see my friend from Alexandria, Brandon, across the balcony, so I walk over to say hello. Standing closely behind him are five guys — none of whom appear local. Based on their unified effort to show the world that tucking t-shirts into belted jeans is a good idea, I guess Central Louisiana or somewhere swampy like Thibodeaux, maybe. One of them is wearing a blue, gingham button-down and he’s cute in the way that stuffed animals are cute. But among the other men in his immediate area, he’s clearly the most attractive. While Brandon and I discuss the benefits of living Uptown versus Midcity, I keep an eye on the Monchhichi doll in the gingham shirt. I don’t catch the last thing Brandon says, but it sounds like he’s waiting for a response, so I say, “I know, right?! Plus, Whole Foods is right there, and Uptown traffic isn’t really a thing until carnival season. Hey, are those your friends?” I say, gesturing with my chin to the gaggle behind him. “Yeah. Do you want to meet them?” he asks. “No, not really,” I say. “Just the cute one."

"Ryan," says Brandon, motioning to the man in the gingham shirt. "This is Joel."

Joel works for a bank that does banking for other banks, so you can imagine how exciting and funny he is. Which he isn't. But he is handsome and he smells like cinnamon gum. He talks about work and I wonder what his face looks like during sex and if my friends would like him. I can tell he's into me and also very anxious, so I do this thing where I bite my lip and I look down at my feet saying, "I know this is going to make the next few seconds weird, but I think you're really cute and I'm actually kind of nervous right now." In my head I just made a basket from the free throw line. He offers to buy me a drink, I decline, and then I give him my number and tell him that I have to meet some friends across the street but will come back a little later. Then, I leave.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't expect him to text me immediately. But he didn't. And later, when I returned to The Pub, I couldn't find him anywhere. At three in the morning, I say goodbye to Adam, Brandon, and the rest of my friends, and walk alone to my car on Royal Street. I listen to Alice Smith on the ride home, and when I get there, I quietly unlock the front door so I don't wake the dogs. Before heading upstairs, I kick my shoes off and grab a family size bag of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos from behind the bar. In my bedroom, I strip to my briefs and sit Indian-style in front of the TV. In my head, I compartmentalize tonight's events — rolling the memories around and wondering how exactly they'd led me to being naked and alone in my bedroom, eating Doritos by the handful and watching a black guy confront a white guy who was pretending to be a black girl on MTV's Catfish: The TV Show. This isn't what I expected to happen. But then again, that seems to be the theme of the night. From my St. Andrew reunion to my encounter with Joel, the banker with Monchhichi hair, my expectations were met with objection. The wild titty rumpus turns out to be a mature get-together among old friends. The career-oriented gentleman whose underwear I'm charming off turns out to be not so interested in me, after all. I wouldn't call this feeling disappointment. It's more like surprise. The type of surprise you feel when you learn an offbeat science fact or that Norah Jones is the daughter of Ravi Shankar.

I smile to myself when I recognize the irony of Catfish being the show I settled on, and chip-by-chip, I finish the entire bag of Doritos.