Thursday, September 18, 2014

Anonymous Fun

I slow to a crawl until I finally spot the address and then I park across the street. It’s early enough to expect morning joggers, but I don’t see any.

I am wearing the shirt I slept in with fresh underwear and a pair of blue gym shorts with Comeaux High School printed across the thigh. I did not go to Comeaux High School. These gym shorts used to belong to someone else. “Can I borrow these to wear home?” I asked, already sticking my feet into them. “Sure,” he grinned. “I probably won’t bring them back,” I said. Still naked, he got out of bed and strutted over to me. He put his hands around my neck and stuck his face in mine. “If I let you borrow them,” he breathed into my mouth. “You’ll have to bring them back at some point.” I rolled my eyes up to meet his. “You’re letting me hold your gym shorts ransom?” He reached down and grabbed my dick. “You’ll be back.”

I haven’t seen him since.

These gym shorts — the blue ones with Comeaux High School printed across the thigh — they are part of a collection that includes t-shirts, boxers, hoodies, and other gym shorts taken from guys I’ve slept with — each one swiped in haste before a kiss on the cheek and a promise to text later. There isn’t any “stashing”; I just integrate them into my wardrobe and wear them without ritual. Often, I can’t wash the boy out of certain items but that doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I’d prefer if each retained the odor of its former owner. My two favorite scents come from a Tulane University sweatshirt (Andes Mints) and a Hackberry Cardinals Baseball shirt (burnt hair and stale sweat). But these gym shorts — the blue ones with Comeaux High School printed across the thigh — they just smell like my fabric softener.

I get a text that reads, “You here yet?”

I stare at the screen for a moment before typing, “I just parked.”

“Ok. The door is unlocked. No small talk, remember?”

I don’t respond.

I exit the car and cross the street. Finally, a morning jogger: a twenty-something of mannequin proportions. I want to equate her running posture to a graceful animal of the plains like a gazelle or a springbok, but I’ve never actually seen either run — in person, that is. I have seen a golden retriever run [in person], and that has to do, I guess. Unlike the jogger, the clouds are not hard to describe. They are metallic and appear to be bolted to the sky like God’s art installation. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of his work, but sometimes the presentation feels smug. I can’t speak to his early work, but I’m assuming it was less sanctimonious — the same shit we say about the early work of every artist.

The jogger passes by and smiles at me, but I can’t manage to return one. I feel grim.

The front door is unlocked. I step into the foyer. Inside, there are three numbered doors and a spiral staircase winding up from the center of the floor. Somewhere in my head I hear an enthusiastic talk show host yell, Let’s see what’s behind Door Number Two! My heartbeats are so much louder than my footsteps. I exhale and quietly open Door Number Two.

The only light coming into the tiny living room is filtered through a thin purple curtain that is draped over a solitary window. I quickly close the door behind me and stand there waiting for my vision to adjust. Without saying a word, I gingerly kick off my shoes and place them neatly next to one another — a small act of affection they can’t feel. I walk toward him, indecisive about what to do with my eyes while he keeps his gaze fixed to his fist and erect dick. I kneel next to the couch and finally look at his face. I’ve seen his face in pictures and twice in the flesh, but never up-close like this. He is strikingly handsome; puffed lips, emerald eyes, and a boy band haircut. We are both still, besides his arm, which is rising and falling with the rhythm of a carousel horse. It’s just a blowjob, I tell myself.

I think about boy bands.

I think about guys I actually like.

I think about getting a haircut.

I think some background music would be nice.

I wonder if he likes me.

I wonder if he’s enjoying this.

I wonder what his parents do.

I wonder if there’s such a thing as a “depression boner.”

I consider stopping.

I consider writing about this.

I consider going for a run later.

I consider grabbing Chipotle on the way home.

I realize Chipotle isn’t even open yet.

I realize I’m starving.

I realize I've never been described as "boy next door" and that weirdly upsets me.

I realize he’s about to cum.

And then.

All of a sudden.

He does.

And it’s over.

By the door, I jam my feet into my shoes with one hand on the doorknob. “So,” he says. “What are your plans today? Big Saturday, huh?” I look him right in the eyes when I say, “No small talk, remember?” I don’t slam the door, but I make sure it shuts securely. The neighbors might misinterpret this. Outside, the clouds are gone but the joggers are up and down the sidewalk. I slide into the driver’s seat and start the car. Finally, some background music.

I drive and I hate myself in waves. When the tide in my head goes out, I feel vaguely self-satisfied — like God and his metallic clouds. But when it comes in, I feel like a fucking cannibal. I pass Parc Sans Souci and see families. So I reach for my phone and I give my mom a call just to feel connected and little less like no one.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Would Like To Be Scrambled

The waitresses at Mel’s must be tired all the time. I know none of them actually work a 24-hour shift, but that’s the vibe they give off — like each one is on her third Adderall and perpetually waiting for the next smoke break.

I am scratching out words when a waitress comes over and stands across the counter from me. Her hair is in a saggy, feral bun and her collar is smeared with whipped cream from [what I assume is] someone’s pecan pie. “What can I get you, sugar plum?” she asks. “Just coffee for now,” I say. If she says anything else, I don’t hear it because I’ve already shoved in my earbuds. To my left are four boys in various styles of gym short tucked away in a booth. I choose the one I’d fuck if ever given the opportunity: the one with the slicked back hair who looks like a kid I taught when I was in grad school — before dropping out to focus on my career. This boy, he reminds me of a forgettable student with an unforgettable face and a swagger that put the other students at ease, but put me on edge.

My class was an introductory copywriting course, and none of the students had a gift for it. This should have frustrated me, but it didn’t because I mentality checked-out of my teacher role and began planning my dropout strategy after the second week. But until I could execute it, I went to class, did my best to appear engaged, and then I would go home and jack off — sometimes thinking about one of the boys from class. And the guy sitting in the booth over there; he’s a dead ringer for one of the guys I’d use to cum — alone in my room at four in the afternoon.

He and his friends are close enough for me to eavesdrop, but I’ve still got my earbuds in and I’m enjoying the same Wild Ones album that I’ve had on a loop all day. Plus, I really don’t give a shit what they’re talking about. They don’t look vile enough to discuss pussy in public, but I’m sure their conversation isn’t too far from debating a BuzzFeed article.

“Anything else I can get you, sweetie?” says the waitress from over her shoulder as she slides a heaping mound of thick-cut onion rings onto a tray with a bacon cheeseburger and an order of biscuits and gravy. I tug out an earbud for courtesy’s sake. “Sure,” I say. “I’ll take Cake and Eggs, scrambled with salsa on the side.” “Hot or cold?” she asks. I don’t understand the question. She can see on my face that I don’t understand the question. “The salsa, boo,” she says. I’ve never been given this option before. “Oh. Um. Hot. No. Wait. Cold.” She grins and snaps back around before popping something into the microwave and slamming the door. Part of me wishes she’d ask what I’m writing, but then I’d have to lie because I don’t want her to know it’s about her. And about the guy over there who looks like another guy. And eventually, about me.

I don’t really want her to know that I’m here — at 1:58AM on a Wednesday because I’m having a hard time and I’m trying to make myself feel less panicked by writing — because I’m supposed to be a writer and this is supposed to make me feel purposeful. But I’m not sure it does. And [worse] I’m not sure it ever has.

More onion rings. Nachos Supreme. And then my Cake and Eggs. She sets the plate down and part of me wishes she’d compliment my notebook. But then I’d have to lie because I don’t want her to know the last time I wrote in this notebook was three years ago when I brought it with me to Alaska. I don’t want to see her embarrassed face after I tell her I remember Alaska so vividly because I was genuinely happy for several consecutive days — and that’s rare for me. She doesn’t really need to know that I cling to moments of true happiness because I never know if I’ll see another. I don’t want to scare her when I say, “People who claim to have no regrets make me want to vomit.” And that I’m sitting here with my short stack, and scrambled eggs, and bacon, and hot salsa, and cold coffee because I need to feel something besides small, and antsy, and misunderstood, and shipwrecked.

The boys from the booth are paying their bill at the register now, so I lean back to scope out my guy’s ass. Not bad.

I flip the pages backwards and read the last thing I wrote before this; the last Alaska entry. At the bottom of the page, it reads, “You don’t love Caleb.” Caleb was a dancer on the cruise ship with whom I briefly fell in love. This last line is a nice reminder that I am often wrong. I smile to myself and think, Fuck me, could I be anymore self-loathing right now?

It’s 2:36AM and Mel’s is packed with customers in various stages of drunk. My waitress — I didn’t even catch her name — shuttles hash browns and patty melts above her head and people flag her down for ketchup bottles and extra creamer. I think about a line from Amy Hempel’s short story Jesus Is Waiting. A traveling, lovelorn narrator says, "I would like to be scrambled and served with sausages at an all-night diner.” You and me both, sugar plum.

My waitress swoops by and trades my dirty plate for a handwritten bill for $6.70. I’m tempted to write “Thanks for not asking any questions” on the back, but instead, I just slip a folded twenty under the coffee mug before slipping myself past the drunk, joyful customers and into the night like I was never even there — a ghost with nowhere else to haunt.