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.