Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Figgy Goat Cheese


I thought there’d be more like letters.

Turns out, there won’t be because our situation has advanced.

Instead, I have to do something different — something like this. I don’t ever want to write you a love letter because love letters are for pining, and pining is also something Christmas trees do, and I am not a Christmas tree.

If you haven’t realized it yet, I’m always trying to make you laugh. You and I both know I’m hilarious, but it makes my chest feel dense and fluffy at the same time [like the inside of a mattress] when my hilarity is rewarded with one of your hiccupy, Disney animal friend laughs. And sometimes, when I’m not feeling particularly funny, I just ask you to laugh for me, just so I can hear your fake laugh. It’s thrilling to think the rest of my life could be full of your laughter, peppered by a few fake ones here and there. I especially like the idea of the fake ones, because to me, synthetic laughter is conscious appeasement. And who doesn’t want to be consciously appeased?

That’s like love but with effort.

I get the same dense-fluffy-inside-of-a-mattress feeling when you say things like, “Oh, we can just pick up one of those supper to-go bags from Whole Foods whenever we don’t feel like eating out or doing any heavy cooking.” We haven’t had the opportunity to buy one of those bags yet because we’re too busy eating in restaurants or undertaking some complicated at-home dinner menu, but I like knowing we have the option. Even better, I like that you give us the option.

I never think too far ahead, but you do. You’re planning for a day when we might need a heat and serve prepared dinner for the grocery store, and that’s astonishing to me. Why? Because you might want to have dinner with me again in the future, and you already have a back-up plan.

It doesn’t even bother me that you call it “supper” and not “dinner” like a normal person.

I was going to write much more, but you just pulled up outside my office window and yanked me away from my computer — just to see me before heading home. Readers will think I’m trying to be poignant and convenient, but you seriously just drove off. Now, after you’ve gone, I feel inspired to say something that’s freshly minted in the wake of your absence, but all I can think of are phrases I’ve already heard. There’s no fate worse for a writer than becoming a cliché. But all I can come up with are lines from books and movies. See? That sentence itself is cliché, and I’m doing my damn best to sound original!

How about this: You’ve become my favorite thing to find on the receiving end of my awkward, prolonged stares.

No, not that.

How about: Thinking about you is like delicious figgy goat cheese for my heart.

Yeah. That’s the one. I know no one else will get that, but I don’t care because you do.

And that’s just about perfect.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Some Unpornographic Backstory

Spotted Dicks – Part II

I couldn’t exactly watch gay porn when my mom and dad were home, so I started printing out pictures and hiding them upstairs in my room. These were painfully low-res images of dudes self-gratifying or engaging in partnered activities, many of which appeared to be shot in someone’s living room in the Czech Republic.

For the most part, these guys were stocky, blonde, and uncircumcised — a highly targeted group I believed to be engineered by God to make my privates tingle. To make the experience more intimate, I’d give each guy a name and a very unpornographic backstory. There was Hans who made jewelry out of scrap copper wire. Derek, a former game show model. Tripp, a shy insurance salesmen. Luigi, a mobster’s son. And then there was Hamilton, who had pecs like two skillets and blue eyes that saw past my acne and red hair. I imaged that Hamilton worked nights at a steel mill and used the money earned from porn to chip away at the mounting hospital bills from his little brother’s leukemia treatment. He was kind to animals and brought his own canvas bags to the Latvian Whole Foods Market. Plus, his dick was like plop.

With anywhere between four and twelve of these gentlemen spread out on the floor of my room, I’d prop myself up on one elbow and get to work with my free hand. When I was finished, I’d fold each picture eight ways before cramming them into a tin X-Men lunchbox I kept behind the bottom drawer of my dresser. No one came into my room anyway, but I just wanted to be cautious. And just short of a Harry Potter concealing charm, my private stash was pretty well-hidden.

In the summer of 2002, I attended a weeklong wrestling camp at Appalachian State University, returning home to find my bedroom slightly modified. TV shows like Trading Spaces, Surprise By Design, and While You Were Out were really big at the time and I’m guessing my parents thought they could pull off a covert redesign without the aid of a professional team or a budget. So they tried and they failed. They opted for a Japanese motif — complete with globular paper lanterns and a Buddha statue with the barcode from World Market still on the bottom. Gone were the bunk beds, replaced with a black futon, and on the walls hung gesture drawings from my freshman art class in cheap plastic frames. My bedroom was now devoid of natural light because my father, who I’d never even seen hold a hammer, built a “privacy screen” out of muslin and plywood and retrofitted it into my window frame. I tried to ask my parents questions like Why does my room look like a prison cell in sushi jail? and Do you guys dislike me? But all that came out was “Hey, this is pretty cool.”

They looked proud of themselves so I gave them each a hug and mentally made plans to move things bit-by-bit to the trashcan in my backpack, beginning the next day. My dad turned and left, leaving my mom and me alone. I threw my suitcase onto my bed and told her I was exhausted. She said, “Okay. Also, I found that lunchbox under your dresser and looked at all the pictures in it. I almost threw up in the toilet.” And without even waiting for me to look up, she left the room.

A few weeks later, I checked to see if she’d taken the lunchbox, which she didn’t. But I never had the courage to open the latch and look inside it. All because I couldn’t ever see those Czech guys — mostly Hamilton — the same way again.

"But I miss you!"
The actual Hamilton circa 2002

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spotted Dicks

Spotted Dicks - Part I

I’ve seen enough dicks in my lifetime to die happy.

Maybe happy isn’t the right word. Satisfied, I guess. I could be on my deathbed 60 years from now without having seen a single wiener in that timespan and tell my adult children I have no regrets in the dick department. Actually, that sounds awesome and I hope it happens just so I can see the looks on everyone’s faces when I say “dick department” right before I croak.

Part flesh and part digital, my collection of spotted dicks really covers the bases of what a penis can look like. It begins with my own and ends with the three I saw on my lunchbreak today courtesy of the hardworking whores over at Men.com. Like most little boys, the first penis I ever saw in the wild was my dad’s, which only seems fair because he saw my baby dick pretty much all the time I’m guessing. After that, I saw the penis of a fellow first-grader named Demetri Costich when he waved it at me from a neighboring urinal. The only reason I remember this is because the little fucker told our teacher I was looking at his wiener in the bathroom and then that bitch called my parents. That night, I was given a stern talking to about the dangers of looking at wieners, and I hated everyone involved for the injustice I was being served. That’s why I just used Demetri Costich’s real name. He got me in trouble when I was six years old and I hope he’s dead.

I didn’t see another dick until seven years later, and then it was like dicks were crawling out the woodwork to find me. Just poking their little heads out the woodwork and singing at me through their peeholes, “Ryannnnn. Look at meeeee…” That’s what high school was like: Dancing little singing-peehole wieners just cooing and squirming for my attention.

I went to an all-boys Catholic school and I was on the wrestling team, so my opportunity to see a dick or two was greater than most people’s by a cosmic margin. Not only were vaginas completely out of the mix from the get-go, but then I went ahead joined an athletic team, which meant two things: a soul-crushing inadequacy complex that would leach itself onto me forever and mandatory group showers.

When I tell people I wrestled varsity in high school, their first response is something like, “Oh, I bet you liked that.” To which I’ll respond, “Yeah, practicing for three hours a day just to have my ass handed to me tournament-after-tournament was a fuggin blast. I’m really chubbing up right now just thinking about all the concussions I suffered, not to mention that one time a girl from a public school beat the shit out of me.” Let me be clear about something: my three years on the wrestling team were underscored by no gay motivations whatsoever. The guys were ruthless, psychotic, and always angry from cutting weight. Plus, they were mean to me because I sucked and I carried my inhaler with me everywhere. I didn’t like them and they didn’t like me, so I found it very difficult to find any of them sexually attractive. Sure, I had that fantasy of wanting one guy to “bully” me into “forced” sex, but that went away after a very tense game of British Bulldog where he cross-faced me — breaking my nose.

Over the course of three years, I saw a bunch of dicks in the locker room stolen through side-eye glances and flagrant ogling. But I wasn’t necessarily running home to melt pearls on my belly over it. These guys were my teammates. And although there was a rift between them and me, covertly using them to jack-off felt like betrayal. But, honestly, I didn’t need those guys anyway. Because when it came to spank bank material, I had a brand new perpetually replenishing source at home.

Just off the dining room was a small space we called “the computer room” because of the massive cherrywood armoire that housed a HP Pavilion, fully loaded with Windows 98, dial-up Internet, and the CompuServe web browser. And this was my gateway to a new frontier, covered in sweeping planes of dicks that bobbed on a mid-afternoon breeze before coming to rest in a collective sigh; a steady hum that sounded like someone calling my name.