Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sparks & Letdowns

2001 | New Orleans, Louisiana
Just off the dining room is a small space we call “the computer room” because of the massive cherrywood armoire that houses a brand new HP Pavilion, fully loaded with Windows 98, dial-up Internet, and the CompuServe web browser. My little brother and sister would rather play outside and our parents don’t really understand how to use a computer, so it’s pretty much at my disposal. In lieu of doing homework or studying during the school year, I play on the Internet and chat with my friends from school with AOL Instant Messenger. My screen name is Froman0714 because I have a ginger afro and my birthday is July 14th.

2014 | Monroe, Louisiana
A cop pulled me over for speeding just outside Ball, Louisiana, and somehow I was able to talk my way down to a $25 seatbelt violation. I told him I was surprised to learn people actually lived in the middle of the state, which I’d always assumed was mostly forest and black bears and shit. He thought that was funny, which was good. It’s nighttime and I’ve never driven this far north up 165 before, so I’m a little disoriented and equally anxious to reach Destin — which [in this case] is the name of a person, not the town in Florida.

2001 | New Orleans, Louisiana
When I’m not chatting on AIM, I’m perusing photos of celebrities and Far Side comics. Napster is gone now, so I’m using Kazaa to download music, which usually takes an hour depending on the length of the song. It’s summertime and I’m too old for camp, so I’m spending the day filling the hard drive with the collected works of Ja Rule, Placebo, Nikka Costa, Hole, Aimee Mann, The Vines, P.O.D., Damien Rice, Trapt, Rob Zombie, Mya, Urge Overkill, Poe, Eryka Badu, Liz Phair, and Jimmy Eat World. We don’t have a CD burner yet, but I’ll be prepared when we do.

2014 | Monroe, Louisiana
Destin and I are friends on Facebook and Instagram, although I’m not sure which one of us added the other. A few weeks ago, in the middle of the workday, he direct messaged me saying I was cute and he liked my blog. We’d never chatted before, so we talked about the usual things people who don’t know each other talk about: family, education, career, dick size, etc. At first, the things we like about each other are superficial because it’s in our nature. He likes my taste in music and I like his tattoos. We trade phone numbers and text like two people who are hungry to know one another, and eventually, he convinces me to visit him in Monroe for the weekend. Which is why I’m here.

2001 | New Orleans, Louisiana
While waiting for a bunch of Phantom Planet songs to finish downloading, I open Internet Explorer and type www.gay.com, just to see if that’s a thing, which it is. I expected it to be porn, but it isn’t. Instead, it looks like a website where you can chat with other gay guys. Since I’m 13 years old, I’ve never spoken to another gay person before, unless you count my little sister’s friend Alex, who puts his hand on his hip when he talks. I’m excited by the prospect of talking to someone like me, so I sign up using the screen name DickGuyNola0714 because gays like dicks, I live in New Orleans, and my birthday is July 14th.

2014 | Monroe, Louisiana
It’s late when I pull up in front of Destin’s house. The porch light is on, and he and and a group of people are smoking cigarettes on the porch, which is surprising because I didn’t know he smoked. I’m anxious to see what he looks like in person, but I take my time getting down because I need a few more seconds to think about what I’m doing. Finally, I step out, swing my duffle over my shoulder, and stumble over my own feet, which causes an involuntary feminine screech to fly out of my mouth. They’re staring at me, so I readjust my backwards flatbill, saunter up the steps, and mumble, “Sup?” Destin smiles and hugs me. “It’s nice to finally meet you,” he says. He’s a lot taller than I pictured him, which distracts me from what he’s saying at the moment.

2001 | New Orleans, Louisiana
I message a guy with the screen name BananaBopper because I like his name. “Hey,” I say. “Funny name.” “Thanks!” he says. “a/r/l?” I think for a moment, then I type, “19/white/New Orleans.” “Cool,” he says. “18/white/Philly.” So far so good. “May I see a pic?” I ask. He sends a picture of a tan, muscular guy who looks a lot like this counselor I had at 4H camp the summer before. “Cute!” I say. He doesn’t respond. I decide the exclamation point made me seem overeager. Finally, he asks if he can see a pic of me. I tell him my computer doesn’t have a webcam and that I’m sorry for that. “It’s cool,” he says. “I’m already hard anyway. Wanna play?” I get nervous. “How? Like cyber sex?” I ask. “If you want,” he says. “Or we could try phone sex…”

2014 | Monroe, Louisiana
I’d never spoken to Destin on the phone before, so meeting him in person was a gamble. I’d crafted his personality and voice based solely on text, so his entire mortal being is new to me. In the living room, he and his friends pass the pipe around. I’m too scared to get high around a group of new people because I know I’ll embarrass myself with observations about the wall d├ęcor and my theories about what’s going to happen next week on True Detective, so I don’t. Instead, I keep quiet and watch Destin — taking in the way he moves his hands around, the way he smirks, and the way looks at me when no one else was looking. Still, I feel disconnected like an outsider. I send a message to Nick and John in our group text that says “I think I’m going to bail.”

2001 | New Orleans, Louisiana
I consider bailing. All I have to do is close the window and BananaBopper will be gone forever. Then suddenly, he says “I’ve never had phone sex before and I’d really like to try it out with you.” I’m home alone, but I look over my shoulder just to make sure no one else will catch me talking like this. “Yeah I guess,” I say. My parents promised me a cell phone when I start high school, put that’s not for another month, so I give him the house phone number. Then I run upstairs and make sure I look good in the mirror for some reason.

2014 | Monroe, Louisiana
I catch myself in the mirror at Club Pink and push the hair off my sweaty forehead with my palm. I thought we were going to stay home and get to know another, but Destin thought it would be a better idea for all of us to go out. Now I’m drunk, but content to be here. I walk over near the pool table where Destin is waiting for me. Even though we’ve texted for weeks, tonight feels like we’ve just met. He gets excited when he talks, which is my favorite thing about him. We look each other in the eyes when we talk and our laughs feel genuine. At the next bar, we split for a while but find each other again at last call. We go home and have sex before falling asleep, which is what I expected but not entirely.

2001 | New Orleans, Louisiana
I don’t know what to expect, so I take my shirt off and start rehearsing what I’m going to say. The phone rings. When it stops, I still hear it echo throughout the house. I don’t have a cordless phone in my room, so I sprint into Rachel’s room and grab it on the third ring. There’s silence on the other end. I mumble, “Sup?”

2014 | Monroe, Louisiana
After two days and two nights with Destin, I don’t feel the spark. I think he’s wonderful and I enjoy getting to know him, but it’s just not there. It’s raining outside when he walks me to my car and we both have our hoods up. I turn to say goodbye and I kiss him, then I climb into my car and I head south for 165. For the first twenty minutes, I don’t think to play music. It’s quiet and I feel guilty. I wonder if it’s my fault for not giving him more time and I wonder if it’s always been my fault for bailing before sinking into whatever’s going to happen. I think about when I was a kid and I had all the time in the world to develop a threshold for falling in love. Way before I started dating and breaking up with other people. Way before I got all weird and dismissive and needed the spark. I’m thinking about this when my phone makes a bleep noise, meaning someone just messaged me on Facebook. “Hey man,” it says. “I just wanted to say I think your status updates are hilarious and maybe we could chill next time you’re in Baton Rouge.”

2001 | New Orleans, Louisiana
We finish in less than three minutes, which is an unbelievably long time to be on the phone with someone who is making grunting noises. I wipe my stomach with a towel and slip my shirt back on. Back downstairs, I clear the browsing history just as BananaBopper messages me. “That was really hot,” he says. “Is it cool if I show you something?” I tell him sure. He sends me a picture of a black guy with dreads who is easily 30 years old and wearing a blue Under Armour shirt. “This is the real me,” he says. “I hope we can be friends.” I close the window, clear history again, turn off the computer, shut the armoire doors, and pull the computer cord out of the wall before running into the kitchen and taking the phone off the hook so he can’t call back. My parents will be home in a few hours and I’m excited to see them through the eyes of a boy who is never going to have sex with another boy in his lifetime. Because this whole “gay thing” is clearly going to be disappointing, so I’m just going to stop now.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Collaboration Crush II

In the tradition of Collaboration Crush, ExboyfriendMaterial presents its annual Valentine's Day card! This year's design was created by Ryan Cormier, a wonderful artist whose work I adore. Find more of his work at corm.carbonmade.com.

This year, we've made two cards: one for the exes you wish well, and one for the exes you wish were dead. Share them with someone you ****.

xoxo Ryan


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Doing The Lord's Work

Sometime between “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and the first reading, I notice that Derek Rittner is sitting in the pew in front of us. He looks exactly the same as he did when we were in elementary school together, except now his skin is tanner and his shoulders are broader. I kind of want him to turn around and smile, but I mostly want to disappear. For a moment, I consider telling my dad and brother that I have to take a shit, then bolting out the front of the church and sprinting to playground behind the gym where I could smoke a cigarette in cold solitude. I haven’t seen Derek Rittner in nearly a decade, but looking at him makes me feel like I did when I was a kid: horny and panicked.

Now, my sweater is itchy and my clothes generally feel like they don’t fit. I feel stupid for wearing a blue pullover from Target with blue skinny pants, also from Target. The monochromatic outfit I’m wearing is unseasonal and I’m totally underdressed for Christmas mass. My hair is too long, my forehead is too oily, and my man-tits are bulging out above my potbelly. I feel lumpy and prickly and out-of-shape. I am basically a bag of oranges wrapped in cheap, hot fabric. And just four feet away sits Derek Rittner in a dark suit that looks like it was sewed onto his perfectly carved body. He’s facing forward, but I can still tell that his complexion is smooth and spotless — infallible as always. I don’t really care for his haircut, which I decide is called the “corporate pageboy.” When he turns to whisper something to his sister, I catch a flicker of his eyes; bitter emeralds that often possessed me do things to myself when I was alone in my room after school. Know what I mean? Dick stuff. Anyway, there he is in all his post-pubescent glory, licking his lips in the House of The Lord and here I am: pink and splotchy and full of self-loathing. Dear God, he’s beautiful.

Father Steve is talking about the real reason for the season and I’m sending Melanie a text that says, “I’m at St. Andrew and Derek Rittner is right in front of me!!!” Melanie and I grew up together and share a mutual attraction for the boys who never noticed us in grade school. Right on queue, Melanie texts me right back saying, “God, I wanted his nuts so bad.” I’m mildly surprised she hasn’t screwed Derek yet. Every now and then, I’ll strike up a conversation about one of the cute boys from St. Andrew and Melanie will say something like “Oh him? Yeah, I gave him a handy junior year” or “I let him finger me at a party once, but I haven’t seen him since.”

I always thought Melanie was pretty — I even took her to a Homecoming Dance once — but now she’s striking. She’s the type of girl who blossomed late in high school and flourished in college. She’s also the type of girl who grew up to have the looks and charisma to reach into the past and bang all the guys who wouldn’t bang her before. She’s living everyone’s dream, including my own.

Melanie and I circa 2003, and again on January 25, 2014.

Melanie got prettier, but prettier wouldn’t work for me because I’m a dude. Growing up gay is tough because every crush feels either risky or pointless. It’s brutal being a kid who’s attracted to people who can seemingly never like him back. But alas, I got older and now I’m pretty much slamming whatever I want. I’ve even had sex with a Colonel in the military! Never thought that would happen when I was eleven years old. That’s pretty cool, right? I guess it does get better.

I’ll never have a shot with any of the popular boys I grew up with, but I’m okay with that. I can just live through Melanie and all the dirty, dirty things she does with them. There are a lot of men out there and I’m doing my best with the ones who will have me. She’s got the rest covered. God bless her for that.

In the mean time, Derek Rittner is filing into line to receive the Eucharist. His ass is what I would call a champagne booty. The choir is singing “Silent Night” and my little brother is texting his girlfriend. I actually have to shit now, but I’m mortified by the idea of running into Derek in the men’s room after I’ve only presently dumped out. My dad makes eye contact with me and then nods in Derek’s direction. I look towards Derek, then back to my dad and shrug as if to say, what about him?  He purses his lips and gestures with his hand to Derek’s mom, who I haven’t noticed until just now. She is wearing a skintight cheetah-print wrap dress and a full face of porn star make-up, complete with pale pink lip-gloss. She shuffles in behind her son and they both process towards the altar, together prepared to receive God’s grace.