Needle Park ~amt © 2020
The Shoreline ~amt © 2018
At the edge of my immediate neighborhood lies a hill upon which one district rolls into another. On this hill are ramshackle duplexes of ill repute, washed in dirt and years of decay. A revolving cast of probationers and ex-cons cloud its reputation. Many vagabonds have trudged across this soil. And it is here where I found my one true love.
At first, the beginning of Jack and I looked like an end. We met at the Urn show, through our mutual gal pal Jenny from the Block and her on again/off again husband. Our first dates could have been construed as morbid; we hung out at the grave store and the haunted cemetery. Actually, on our very first date, I had to leave him at the bowling alley. He spent all his money on PBR and had none left for the shoe rental. But Jack eventually became my happy hour roadie who put records back in their sleeves. What’s wrong with having an ex-biker bodyguard for my DJ sets? The Grateful Dead had the Hells Angels, after all. But then one day last summer, I decided to open my heart.
Jack lives in a front, street-facing flophouse on the hill. Although the front window is concealed by a Snoopy-print sheet. The other is cracked and broken, mended by a plastic tarp. His living room is dark but bathed in the red glow of an old turn-of-the-century lamp.
In the back half of the house (which is sectioned down the middle) dwells Donna the Landlady, along with – rumor has it – two generations of cats and dogs. Nearly 20 in all. Although, we never see much of each other. Donna’s life doesn’t follow a normal pattern. She makes appearances like television commercial breaks. Rather, she knocks on Jack’s door with the authority of a Sheriff.
“THUD THUD THUD,” emanates from the hall. “BOOM BOOM BOOM”.
Then we’ll spy her bulky physique wedge itself between the screen door and the dark windy night. I’ll move my car, and she will zip away on some mysterious errand. One night, we swung open the door to head out to see Of Desolation, and right at that very second, Donna swung open her door to the hallway as well. We came face-to-face theatrically, and all that was missing were guns to be drawn and a shootout to take place like the Wild Wild West, or a historical reenactment of one at Fantasy Island.
“Humph,” Donna the Landlady slammed the door, and we heard her bumbling around in there as Jack and I continued towards the Uber idling curbside.
Another night, I opened the flimsy wooden door (which looks, on the outside, like someone attacked it with an axe), into the dark hallway. I spied what I thought was Jack’s little cat, Saltine, sitting on the ground.
“Go on in,” I coaxed. But behind me Jack said – “That’s not Salty.”
Sure enough, I turned and saw Salty – who is missing one front leg, she’s a rescue – perched on the kitchen table!
“Ahhh!” I recoiled back into the kitchen. “Something’s out there!”
Jack stepped in front of me and I pushed him out into the hallway with me stuck to his back like a koala. We peered around the edge of the door.
“It’s a badger,” Jack said, and shut the door behind him, leaving me in the kitchen.
“AHHH!” I ran into the living room and wrapped myself in the Harley Davidson duvet. Jack returned after a minute, saying it must be one of Donna’s cats, but the creature in the hall didn’t have a tail. It turned out to be “Zeke’s mom,” the feline matriarch, but now we refer to her as Badger even though I sadly never saw her again.
In the backyard is a government-grade American flagpole with a gold eagle shining on top and jackhammered concrete encircling the base – a found object from Willie, Jack’s “roommate,” although not a roommate in any monetary sense. He showed up shoeless in the snow and high on narcotics two years ago, and never left. He’s been self-quarantining since before it was cool in a room with a padlock and hinge.
“Doesn’t he ever, like, go to the bathroom?” I asked Jack.
There’s also Tim, who rides over on his bike more often than not, sometimes with leftover shrimp moo shu from the takeaway. He lives behind Beaver’s Snow-Plowing with his elderly mother and a brother who frequently calls into radio stations with a monotone voice.
“Kevin was on WECK radio winning $100!” Jack exclaimed one day.
Up in Jack’s room, the walls are emerald green with “Country Girl” painted on in cursive, even though Jack is neither country, nor girl. At first I scoffed and asked “Who’s country girl?” But when you live in a flophouse on a hill, the origins of such epithets are not exactly known.
We are enmeshed in mess and in mess we are one – just me, Jack and Salty the Cat. And Willie too, I guess.
“I’m going to go and buy you a toothbrush to keep here with your name on it,” Jack says.
“A…toothbrush?” I read in Cosmo that 52% of men view keeping a toothbrush at their pad a sign of commitment.
“I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your breath or anything -”
Willie stomps down the steep stairway sounding like Herman Munster in a black Choppers jacket and Stan Smiths with a Seneca dangling from his mouth and labret piercing glinting amongst a scratchy grey goatee. He mutters something in his mildewy tar-stained voice.
“I’m going next door to Pinky’s,” Willie says and scratches his balls, then treks out the door. Pinky has many male suitors; in fact she told me at the Social Distortion show that she’s descended from Italian nobility. But as for Willie, I think she just feeds him as well as their other friend Donald the Professional Plaintiff. (Donald was once a driver for a Medicaid van service who blasted Dying Fetus to drown out his passengers and later sued the company for personal injury after tripping on his own two feet).
My friend Dan, who provides me with “herbal refreshment” on the regular, warned me about dating a man whose mugshot was once splashed on the pages of the Cheektowaga Chronicle.
“You’re too glamorous for that house,” Dan says as we catch up on his couch. He knows the flophouse scene because his brother once dodged a warrant for violating an order of protection by “living” there at one point. Cheektowaga Police eventually caught up with him; he tried to escape via the second story window. “Run away…”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” I say, and look down at Dan’s freshly-shampooed carpet.
“Are you supposed to see him again?” he asks.
“He’s waiting for me now,” I stand to get my shoes. “We just went to Mister Dee’s and saw a guy who looked exactly like David Crosby!”
From the couch, Dan says, “Be careful…” and his voice is laced with an ominous tone.
“Willie met a super rich hottie on the Net!” Jack texts me as I’m mulling things over in the Marshall’s beauty aisle.
“What? He should stick with Jennifer!”
Every now and then, Jack and I will be chilling on the couch, deeply immersed in a Sopranos marathon thanks to the library, when suddenly, Jennifer will stomp through the living room in her signature ski cap and size 11 boots.
“I’m going, I’m going,” she’ll mutter while staring straight ahead, the edges of her mouth sliding into her trademark benzocaine smile.
“Who’s that?” I said. Jack told me all about Jennifer and Willie’s decade-long, on-again, off-again situationship, how Jennifer was thrown from the back of Willie’s Harley, and how they found themselves in hot water when a traffic stop turned into a drug bust, and how Jennifer had twins with another man while they were supposedly together.
On Christmas Eve, we came into the living room after my aunt’s soiree and saw a lump on the couch beneath the afghan knitted by a past resident drug addict named “Bed Bunny.” Jack crouched down to lump-level, and said, “Who are you?”
Jessica arose from her slumber, then went and sat in the dusty recliner across the room, which was once light tan but is clearly now saturated with dirt. Not long after, Willie stomped into the room with a bottle of booze and foil-wrapped food, threw them at Jennifer aggressively, and stomped up the dark stairway to his locked dungeon. She followed him with these “gifts,” and before long, plenty more sketchy folks began to arrive – Tim; Petey, who is one of Pinky’s suiters and a Korea veteran; Donald; and even Skitchy the drug dealer slash reptile enthusiast rolled up in his pickup, with hay bales in the bed of the truck for some reason, and orange overalls on. I thought Skitchy was pretty cute, and given how dark it is in the ‘flop, around my age. (In the light of day it’s actually plain to see that Skitchy is, in fact, 50 years old).
“Donna’s gonna freak with all these cars in the driveway,” I said. But Jack and I are never invited into Willie’s dungeon. I snuck a peek before while exiting the bathroom – it resembles something out of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, with mythical silver and crystal dragon figurines everywhere, and a red couch that wraps around the room. How or why Willie ended up with the “nicest” room, I’m not sure. Then again, why Jack actually pays Donna to live in the ‘flop, I’m not so sure of either.
For now, I guess Jennifer and Willie are “off.” He has fallen in love with his “super rich hottie from the Net.” (Willie also busies himself on the ‘Net selling Pokemon cards, which I guess are fetching some coins with collectors these days).
“He got five teeth pulled just because of her,” Jack continues. I’m not sure which app Willie is on, but this “super rich hottie” apparently owns a junkyard in Chautauqua County. He puts her on a pedestal. Her photo is his phone background. They talk for hours and hours. ( But as of the date of this writing, they haven’t met in person).
Of course, the saga of Willie’s harem wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Tabitha, Willie’s ad hoc boo thang he met downtown at the free clinic/needle depository. Her boyfriend’s currently locked up for petty larceny. He stole a stick of beef jerky; I guess that’s his calling card. Nowadays Tabitha lives a nocturnal lifestyle working as a prostitute. She sometimes rolls up in her teal Cadillac deVille, which might have been left to her in an old sugar daddy’s Will.
But of course, this is the tale of Jack and I, not about all these other people – right?
“Just you, me and Salty, one big happy family,” Jack says and throws one of his burly arms around me, then slurps from his glass of Natural Light. He is wearing a Motorhead tee shirt with his dark hair in a messy ponytail.
Today is an unseasonable 50 degrees, so we are chilling outside at the glass patio table playing Ratt cassettes and starting up a bonfire. The fire pit at Jack’s is the metal drum from inside a dryer. The delivery driver from the pizza joint next door is driving around like a madman and popping wheelies up and down Union, practically, and that’s not even to mention the souped-up BMW with a boat engine zipping by like clockwork.
“Tim’s heading over on his bike!” I’m snapped out of my reverie; sure enough, Tim pedals his mountain bike up the driveway and over to the patio table. He’s rocking a giant gash on the side of his shaved head, with a Band-Aid pathetically placed over it.
“My brother whacked me with a Swiffer!” Tim’s clutching his side as if he’s returned back from war. “Yow-OW!”
Is there a name for the phenomenon of feeling like you’re watching a really funny show, but it is, in fact, your life?
“Do you have a cig?” I ask Tim.
“I had to go and get him some on Doat and Genesee!” Jack interjects.
“What about me, I want cigs from Doat and Genesee!” I say.
Next door, Pinky is saying goodbye to one of her suitors. He is putting some things into a black Volvo with her hand on his lower back. Once he is seated behind the wheel she leans into the front seat to give him a smooch. I lower my all-black rectangular shades, which Jack bought for me at an Allen Street sip n’ shop.
“Did you bring the Temps?” Jack asks.
“Something better -” Tim reaches into his jeans pocket and pulls out a packet of “Nine Lives.”
“What is this crap?” Jack is alarmed. “She hates these – everyone knows that!”
Tim and I look at each other. I shrug. “Well jeez man fine, I’ll come back later, there was a coupon for these things -” And Tim heads inside to say hello to Salty, and later emerges with a bag of “Ginger Loon” marshmallows that Jack procured at the Airport Plaza Save-a-Lot. And so the night continues on like a peaceful fog drifting over the harbor.
Tonight, Jack and I are heading to Our Lady Help of Christians BINGO. Pregaming at the corner shanty will begin promptly at 5. There, we have blended into the familiar cast of Bloozies (aka, Bills Floozies) always there on Sundays – “Cuddles,” “The Ambassador,” “Peanut Butter Whiskey,” the girl who always hollers that someone scratched her Cobalt, et al. I’ve got my pack of Parliaments nearby, because Tabitha started bumming me her Newport 100’s. Now I carry my own for when the mood strikes. Bad habits die hard, what can I say?
Well, this is the Wild Wild West. Revealed by The Buffalo News to have the most cancer due to lifestyle in the country. Harlem and Genesee. Skid Row. Drunkenness to rival that of Vegas, hence the name, “Cheektovegas.” Or sometimes, “Cheektowarsaw.” Jack and I are chilling at the corner shanty, me with a bucket of Barefoot chardonnay, and Jack with a bucket of Budweiser, with the Bills after party in full swing. The Ambassador and the girl with the Cobalt’s mom are slow-dancing to Ed Sheeran. Floyd the Cook with the clubfoot is slouched against the end of the bar, and suddenly takes a sideways swing at the bartender’s husband’s head, but misses. The exertion makes him almost fall over sideways.
“Get out!” The fire engine red-haired bartender shouts at Floyd. Her tank top says “Wine-y Bitch.” “Go outside!”
Floyd drags his weary, lopsided, liquored-up body out the door, and stands under the twinkling Christmas lights looped around the patio. There’s a rowdy scene outside, too, with the Gen X’ers throwing a football around and plenty of smokers settling into patio furniture. A curly-haired lady is leaning out the door of her red Mustang, talking on her cell. I see a guy, out of the corner of my eye, walking in the middle of Harlem Road. He’s got a bottle in hand and is weaving in and out of traffic, illuminated by the ceaseless glow of the corner 7-Eleven.
“Oh my God!” I point. “He’s going to die!”
The Ambassador straightens up from leaning against the brick wall.. He’s a freckly Millennial so named because he always shakes people’s hands, especially new patrons he’s never met. He might have a future in politics.
“Oh, he works in the kitchen…” The Ambassador doesn’t seem too concerned. “Must’ve just drank a bottle…”
Jack and I settle into the last patio table next to Peanut Butter Whiskey. He’s a snow-capped gentleman who once bought Jack a shot of peanut butter whiskey. All of a sudden, Jack’s phone rings from an unsaved number – and he actually picks up!
“Oh, uh, what’s going on?”
I lean close to the speaker. It’s clearly a tweaked-out female’s voice on the other end.
“Hey! How rude!” I shriek.
“It’s been a while -” Jack says, clearly uncomfortable.
“Hang up on her!” I turn away and cross my arms. “Weird!” Jack finally hangs up the phone.
“Who was that?” I say. It’s not that I’m a jealous toad, just that since Jack and I are “official” now, I should be able to articulate my curiosities.
“This ex-girlfriend from years ago,” Jack looks totally weirded out. But honestly I get calls/texts/friend requests, etc. from exes all the time, and never respond to them, much less answer a call from a random number on BINGO night. Granted, the girl sounded messed up on drugs. So I’ll let it slide. And who cares? Jack and I will probably win a fortune at BINGO.
Not long afterwards, Jack and I are cozy under fluorescent gymnasium lights surrounded by BINGO dabbers, golden Buddhist cats and a ladybug Beanie Baby belonging to the older ladies at our table. One has a sequined visor on, and many are munching on the 75 cent pizza slices. Up on stage, a dusty gentleman recites the numbers on the Ping Pong balls popping around inside a giant clear globe.
“O – 69,” the guy says deadpan into his microphone, and O- 69 lights up on a scoreboard taking up the whole stage. You would think with all of our boards, we would have won something. But no such luck; Jack and I are still penniless, but slightly tipsy. However, not long after the game begins, Jack’s phone starts to light up again, with that same demented ex’s unsaved number.
“Hello,” I flatly answer Jack’s phone. Because, since we are official and this girl is apparently annoying, she should not be allowed to interrupt BINGO.
“Tell Jack to stop stalking my house,” the girl slurs. I look at Jack and narrow my eyes.
“Look, you’re interrupting BINGO,” I tell her. “GOOD bye.” And I hang up on her.
After BINGO, I drop Jack off at the corner of Union and Genesee, instead of taking him all the way to his house. I’m pissed at him. And why wouldn’t I be? Even if the ex is a drugged-out mess, he needs to block her number – immediately.
Because upon reflection, how could Jack have just been stalking her house, when I’ve literally been at his house all day? He doesn’t have a car, anyway. Tim later confirms this insanity of the ex defense. I guess this “Chrissy” once started a row while volunteering at a Save the Owls tent at the Taste of Buffalo. Well, whatever. I suppose I will let it go. We briefly broke up at BINGO – but I’m not ready to completely run away yet. I’m going to wait and see if Jack proves himself to be trustworthy.
Willie enters the living room in a Sons of Anarchy tee shirt, saying he was chased by wild turkeys down by the churchyard.
“They followed me all the way home, dude,” Willie flops into the dusty recliner, lit cigarette dangling from his mouth, and wraps himself up in the stolen hospital blanket spotted with burn holes.
Tonight, Jack and I are snugged up with Salty to watch The Masked Singer. I head to the fridge, and look inside; despite dropping multiple hints that I need snacks 24/7, there’s nothing inside but pomegranate seeds and coffee creamer.
“Random…what’s with the seeds?”
“They just showed up here,” James pours a Hemptails into the red and white plastic wine cup I always use. “Cube?”
“Yes, please,” I say. “Smoot.”
After a few more sips of Hemptails, of course I have to pee. I wander into Jack and Willie’s bathroom. A former inhabitant excavated all the copper pipes and scrapped them for cash, so the water from the sink drips into a bucket underneath. I’m high maintenance when it comes to the bathroom, and so are Jennifer and Tabitha evidently, because we frequently overflow the bucket until water is running all over the floor. But for real, Donna needs to do something about, well, everything here. Sometimes the water even drips down into the mutual hallway.
I use up the last of the toilet paper and hope that there’s more, and turn the doorknob a full 360 degrees. It appears there is also something wrong with the doorknob; I am trapped in the bathroom.
“Help!” I shout. “I’m stuck!”
Willie appears on the other side of the door.
“I’ll get Jack,” I spy his scratchy goatee moving through the crack in the door. “He will know what to do.”
“Grab the butter knife!” Jack yells from out in the hall. “On the shelf to the left!”
Sure enough, there is a butter knife, which I slide down the crack in the door and it eventually trips the lock. The door opens. Jack’s standing in the dark hallway.
“I love you, Jack,” I say.
“I love you, too,” Jack says.
Um, what was that about? I go back to watching The Masked Singer.
There have of course been times when I questioned whether Jack was for real. Like the time he picked all the onions out of Pinky’s potato salad for me, because he knows I do not like onions.
“What’s in it for him?” I narrowed my eyes. I have trust issues, what can I say.
We went on a cheesy overnight Valentine’s Day getaway at Salvatore’s Rose Garden Hotel. We were totally “those people”. The girl at the table next to us was a total prude, and lactose intolerant to boot. What’s wrong with a little PDA?
One morning, Jack let me wear his slippers instead of my heels when I had to do a “Walk of Shame” down to the NFTA stop. We rode the bus together back to my house, and when one of the nefarious local drunks climbed aboard, Jack shielded me from his gaze.
Jack buys me stuffed animals too, like, all the time.
Oh and who could forget our “couples costume” this past Halloween: young Avril Lavigne and Carnivore-era Peter Steele?
It’s not perfect – I did stomp a bag of Ruffles in combat boots when Jack wasn’t paying enough attention to me during The Masked Singer. Jack gets moodier and more bitchy than I ever do over which Dollar General to go to. But I just roll my eyes.
This might be the only one of my blogs not ending with me running away screaming from whatever male I’d been dealing with… But I would miss Salty too much if I bailed. We are enmeshed in mess all right, James and Salty and me, and on lockdown to boot. I only wish that this summer, Jack and I will find ourselves at the beach again, listening to the sound of the waves, doing photoshoots, drinking Hemptails, and just staring distantly at the clouds floating by.
Jeremy the wine clerk won me over for the simple fact that I can’t “Just Say No” to a Gen X-er who looks like he fronted a 90’s band like Fuel or Bush. In fact, Jeremy plays guitar.
I saw him working at the wine store last week and commented that I had never seen him before. He has shaggy, surfer hair streaked with grey, like he just washed ashore from Oakland or Anaheim, along with a deep pack-a-day voice.
“Your sign says this is $4.99,” I blow dust from a mini-box of rosé and hand it to him. “But it’s labeled $3.99.”
“Well for you, young lady, it’s free.”
“Free?” Jeremy just looks at me with sensitive brown eyes that fall somewhere between “sad puppy dog” and “pit bull on cocaine.”
“Well don’t just give it to me. I don’t want to get you in trouble.”
“It’s totally fine,” he says. “You should come back when you’re done at the library.”
Yes, it’s true, I was on my way to the library that evening to complete my life coach assignment. But, like with the best experiences in life, I got sidetracked. A romantic rendezvous with Jeremy had begun. And it began rather strangely.
“I fucking love you!” Jeremy shouts in the middle of the store. We’re alone; there’s no customers.
He grabs me and kisses me against a tall shelf stocked with gin. Bottles clang together, almost crashing to the floor. Suddenly, our moment is punctuated by a beep. A customer enters. We peer towards the door.
“We’re closed,” Jeremy says.
“Oh you are so silly,” says a sassy blonde lady. “I just want my numbers.”
I turn towards a display. “Miss?” Jeremy yells from the register. I set down the bottle of Everclear I’d been inspecting. “You’re being disruptive.”
“Me?” I say.
“Oh, no she’s not, she’s fun,” says the sassy blonde lady, and she leaves the store.
Jeremy walks over to me.
“I love you,” he says.
The logical part of my brain knows this is all completely crazy, because I’ve known Jeremy approximately one week. But I can’t help falling for him. I seem to have this effect on men.
Since he has blown my phone up with constant adoration, I decide to meet up with Jeremy outside of the wine store, even though there’s one very obvious red flag.
“Are you married?” I asked right away.
“Oh, we all have our issues,” Jeremy had said, then began organizing mini bottles of Fireball while examining a New York Lottery scroll and tapping his foot.
“Yeah, I know,” I say. “Issues aren’t a problem. I love issues. But, you know, if you’re married…”
“Look,” Jeremy locks both my palms into his own. “I just want to keep talking to you. If it means I have to give everything up, I will. There’s just so much wrong with me. I need to talk to you more about everything.”
Jeremy, at that moment, looked positively pitiful, a twinge of Fireball on his breath.
“Ok, ok,” I backed out of the store. “Jeez.” I left that night unsure of my next move. But it only took a split second for me to realize – actually, I had already fallen for Jeremy, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of.
My Pontiac rolls onto the curb, practically, as Jeremy runs towards my passenger door while yanking up his shirt to expose his “abs,” for some unknown reason. He’s apparently been hanging out by the stop sign. He tumbles into the passenger seat with a half-empty bottle of Mountain Dew and cigarette dangling from his mouth, and I start to drive even though his door is still wide open. But Jeremy’s lit cigarette falls on his chest and sits there until I toss it out the window,
“Yo! Can you not, like, start on fire?”
But Jeremy’s already talking a mile a minute, ranting and raving about cigarettes he needs to buy and how he had a miserable day confined to the dreary liquor store aisles.
“It’s ok,” I put my hand on his knee. “Anyway, I’m excited for the fiesta.”
Today is, after all, Cinco de Mayo, and there happens to be a legit taqueria right down the block. Jeremy and I pull into the packed lot, up against a white fence with a subtle mural design. The sun is strong, and the bassline of a song blaring leads our way to the back patio, where two dudes are serving cool icy margaritas. I get mine on the rocks, and tons of people are around, with a bumpin’ sound system to boot. The speakers throb with masculine energy as Daddy Yankee turns to Sean Paul.
Shake that thing, Miss hunabunna get busy, don’t stop just swivy yeah bust in the groove just get crunked and get jiggy, yo sexy lady come wine wit’ us yeah.”
Jeremy already made best friends with the two guys serving drinks. They both have cursive neck tattoos of people’s names. Jeremy waves his debit card in the air, and puts down our names for a table.
“How romantic,” I hug Jeremy tight. We wander to the very back of the enclosed patio space. “Gasolina” blares and the sun beats down on us as powerfully as Rhonda Rowsey in a metallic bodysuit. All is calm. Jeremy’s chain-smoking and chain-talking in my ear about how beautiful I am, and how he’s going to make me his wife. There’s only one problem…
“Friends for right now,” I try to catch Jeremy’s eye contact, but his eyes ping around the room. That’s when I spot them – smack in the center of the patio lies the only table, and it’s occupied with a gaggle of my high school frenemies, and their significant others too!
“Oh wow, hey guys,” I tip-toe nervously up to their table. Nobody takes off their sunglasses, or smiles, or says anything at all. “This is Jeremy. We’re on a date.” My face contorts into a mortified grin.
“Jeremy,” I take Jeremy’s hand in an effort to quell his manic energy. “These are some of my friends from high school.”
Jeremy runs up to Karey, who up until that moment remained totally stoic and unamused behind classic Oakley shades.
“So you can tell me all there is to know,” Jeremy rasps in her ear with a puff of rancid Marb smoke. “Ha ha ha.”
“Ugh!” I turn my back on the mortifying display before me and wait for it to be over. At least I have an icy cool margarita on the rocks to calm my nerves.
“Come on, like, let’s go over here,” I yank Jeremy away from the hateful table of frenemies. I pull him away, back under the awning next to the makeshift bar area. All is calm, all is still, as Jeremy replaces all my margaritas and chain-smokes in my ear and the sun refuses to stop shining…All is fine, until Jeremy gets agitated and spots a really cute Spanish one-year-old with a distinct resemblance to Sonny Bono.
“Hey, she said he’s fucked up,” Jeremy yells at the kid’s mom, who had been chilling and caught totally unawares. She stares at him in confusion and annoyance.
“What are you talking about,” I interject, “I didn’t say that! He’s making it up.” I plead with the mom. But she already totally realized that Jeremy is an idiot.
“Yeah, she said why does he have to be so fucked up,” Jeremy says, pointing at the kid, and I’m wondering, Is Jeremy seriously trying to start a fight right now – with a baby?
“Come on,” I pull Jeremy away from yet another person. “Calm down.”
Luckily the kid’s father – also with an intimidating neck tattoo – shows up. Jeremy’s face suddenly shifts to Mr. Charming and he backs away with a wink and a smile.
“Were you seriously trying to start a fight – with a baby?”
But Jeremy doesn’t answer, just changes the subject to how amazing I am, how he wants to go to Costa Rica with me, but not yet, first he has to consider leaving his Old Lady.
“Hey,” Jeremy’s raspy voice is on the other end of the line. This is his third phone call to me today. It’s after ten, meaning the liquor store is closed. Tonight, I decided not to meet up with Jeremy, for once, to practice “self care” and all that.
“What’s up?” I say. It sucks that Jeremy has me under his spell, and worse yet, I think he knows it.
“I just wanted to tell you – ” Jeremy must be home by now, or close to it.
“I wanted to tell you I love – “ All of a sudden, Jeremy trails off and then his whisper turns into confident bravado. “ Dude, I wanted to tell you. You got the job dude, at the liquor store!”
“I have to go,” Jeremy whispers and hangs up the phone. He must have been taking out the trash.
I’m walking over to the corner beer emporium to visit Jeremy. Come to find out – his full time gig is at the beer store where I worked over a decade ago. And yes, caustic angry Seth, with the personality of a bottle of bleach, is still the manager. Granted, it was my college summer job, not somewhere I would expect a mid-40’s, self-proclaimed Casanova to be working. But we all have our issues.
“No loitering,” Seth growls, coming down the microbrew aisle. He’s the same as always, minus all the hair once growing on his head. Stress. I lean over Jeremy’s flimsy beer sampling booth and don’t pay attention to party pooper Seth trying to shit all over our parade. We are in love. I’ve got leather shorts on, it’s a hot Saturday afternoon, and I just stopped in for a 24 ounce can of Seagrams’ “Jamaican Me Crazy.” But Jeremy is stuck inside this rat hole serving up samples of Genesee “Bock.”
“Can I taste your Bock?” I say to Jeremy.
Jeremy hands over a little foamy cup.
“I love the taste of your Bock.” I slowly pull an ice cube from Jeremy’s bucket, and hold it out to his lips.
But before I can even trail it pornographically across his mouth, Jeremy suddenly chomps on it with his front teeth like a ferocious beaver . He chews up the ice cube, crunching and cackling like a bipolar witch. He smiles his wide grin and wrinkles crinkle at the corners of his eyes – but are they from smiling all the time, or just from one too many Marb Reds?
Maybe both, I think. He’s perfect.
Plastered on all the walls and windows of the store are the names of customers who have donated their change to Parkinson’s Disease. Apparently many didn’t want to actually fill in their own names, so Jeremy took the liberty of scribbling “I love Annie” and “Jeremy Loves Annie” on these heart-shaped pieces of paper hanging all over the store.
“What’s up with that address you texted me?” I say.
When I was about to walk down here, Jeremy was texting me as usual and he randomly sent me the address of a house the next street over from his. He wouldn’t explain why.
“This dude that’s in here all the time,” Jeremy says without a moment’s hesitation, “He’s having a house party and I thought it might be a good place for us to meet later.”
“Heck yeah! I am so in.”
“But nothing’s set in stone,” says Jeremy. He is grinning from ear to ear.
“Okay. Let me know.”
Seth glares while using his trademark Solo cup spittoon; spit-soaked tobacco drips from his slackened jaw.
“Ok Seth, I’ll take my Jamaican me Crazy and go make myself crazy somewhere else,” I say to him, and then to Jeremy, “See ya later.” I blow Jeremy a kiss, and I’m out of there. I’m not even worried about Jeremy coming through with the party. Of course we are going to meet up later. We always do!
But around 6:00 p.m., Jeremy totally goes silent. I don’t blow up his phone or anything, at first, but at 10 I call him three times in a row. Because honestly, Jeremy is always the one blowing up my phone, and now we supposedly have plans at a neighbor’s sketchy bungalow, and you ghost me?
Not to mention, I totally could have stayed at my homegirl’s Porch Fest birthday bash. I didn’t have to drive back to the ‘hood to meet Jeremy. It makes no sense.
“You are clearly a LIAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” is what I write. “LIAR x100000000000000000000000000000000.”
And when Jeremy doesn’t answer that, I toss and turn all night, chugging leftover “Jamaican Me Crazy” to numb the pain. But the sugar only makes me more wired, so finally I just turn on all my lights and blare all my 80’s hair metal vinyl.
Then, my phone starts ringing – at six in the morning. Is he for real. At this point I’m too bleary-eyed and stupefied to care. I am obviously trying to get some beauty rest. I bury my head in pillows, blankets, everything, but my phone keeps ringing and ringing and doesn’t stop. Jeremy calls me ten times in a row.
And by morning, with the sun coming up over both our houses, and me with completely disturbing blood shot eyes, my homegirl Stephanie and I had planned to do a gossip n’ brunch at Bread Hive. Thank God, because I need charcoal water and rosé, stat, and a distraction from all of this drama.
I have a text from Jeremy before I even pull up to Bread Hive.
“I need to see you. Now,” it reads.
Ha! Like really, I’m obviously not available.
“I have plans with my friend. I will be back in a few hours,” I reply.
Jeremy is SO controlling.
“Fine,” he says. “Meet at the park.”
Yet, I can’t help but want the 411 about last night. What WAS that about?
It’s not like I don’t comprehend that Jeremy is psychotic.
“He sounds…terrible,” Stephanie says while waiting in line. “I can’t really think of anything good about him.”
“I know!” I shriek. I always feel bad for anyone having brunch in my vicinity. My conversations aren’t 100% family-friendly and veer into the absurd. I have to give Stephanie credit; she definitely listens with an open mind.
I listen to a couple of “our” songs on my drive over to the park – “Your Love is My Drug” by Ke$ha; “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” by Ariana Grande. .Of course we are meeting at our spot, the swings, where our true love was revealed that second day we hung out.
For some reason Jeremy has the audacity to ask me to pick him up a pack of smokes. He’ll “pay me back.”
“I’m at Draino’s,” Jeremy texts.
Ew, Draino’s? I hang in my fair share of rowdy saloons and dumpy taverns, but being spotted at Draino’s is the lowest of the low, not even Charlie Sheen on a week-long bender would be caught dead in there!
It used to be called something else, and I went there once when I was nineteen and got a Swedish Fish shot with no ID after my shift at the beer store with the twins who worked there and had crushes on me, and then the owner’s brother started showing me naked pictures on his flip phone – barf!
Draino’s is an alcoholic old guy scene which recently dealt with an outbreak of Hepatitis C and where a local politician got arrested after allegedly running his wife off the road – not exactly the romance I had in mind for my Sunday in the sun.
But… I’m willing to lower my standards.
“And don’t worry about the cigs, a bunch of people gave me some,” Jeremy continues.
I wasn’t going to anyways. I toss my phone into the backseat, along with my dignity. Draino’s it is.
I walk into Draino’s, which is totally empty except for some lunatic squawking like a methed-up seagull and squished against some poor, sad looking old guy in a Hawaiian shirt.
“HAR HAR HAR,” Jeremy laughs at his own joke, which typically make no sense.
“Um, hi.” I say. But at first, Jeremy doesn’t even notice me.
“Oh, HAAAAAAAIIIII,” Jeremy slurs out. His complexion has the grey pallor of someone who stayed up all night performing sexual favors for crack cocaine; he’s sippin’ on what looks like a 50% vodka, 50% tomato combination, with his liter of Mountain Dew nearby.
“Is this your woman?” asks the sad looking guy in the Hawaiian shirt.
“No, I’m nobody’s woman!,” I declare.
“Nothing for her,” Jeremy says. “HAR HAR HAR.”
The bleach blonde bartender has sympathetic eyes and hands me a pinot grigio that I apparently ordered telepathically. Jeremy’s tab here has been going since 1998. We grab our drinks and shuffle onto the front patio. Or at least, Jeremy is shuffling in some oversized loafers halfway hanging off his feet.
“I ran out in my gardening shoes,” Jeremy flops onto the patio chair. “I slept in the park.”
“Slept?” I say. “In the park?”
Cars zoom by, and across the street, the town park stares back at us with a vast, empty, void-like stare.
“Look, honey, I said times were going to get rough,” Jeremy looks at me with pleading, puppy dog eyes. “I need you to hang in there with me.”
“Am I not hanging? Hello.”
Jeremy leans so far back on the flimsy furniture, he might just fall right off the chair. He’s puffing on a cig, happy as a clam. We enjoy a short, comfortable silence, a moment of calm in a sea of chaos.
Then I ask –
“So, um, the park? Why’d you sleep there.”
Jeremy exhales a pre-emphysema-esque sigh of despair, and begins to unravel a barely-believable saga spurned on by the fact I called him at 10 p.m. Apparently, his old lady began “laying into him” and smacked him around, so he ran off and slept in the park since six in the morning.
“What about the party?” I ask.
Jeremy continues to chain smoke and shake his head.
“I didn’t even go.”
I embrace this new level of absurdity. I’m ride-or-die for guys who deal wine. Jeremy and I head into Dollar General for provisions to take to the park. We find some beach towels and I grab a Vitamin Water; Jeremy still is doing the Dew and going for broke.
“$7.42,” says the stoic girl. Her pin says “manager on duty.”
“Why d’you have to be so mean?” Jeremy leans over the swipe card machine and leers in her ear.
“I can make you cry if you want,” she says, unimpressed.
Jeremy counts out a few tattered bills, and we leave the store. We cozy up under a tree. R&B music thumps from a shelter.
“Can I have a sip?” I unscrew the Dew and gulp some down, and choke.
“Don’t drink that!” Jeremy takes the bottle away. “It’s vodka.”
“Whoa.” I wash it down with Vitamin Water.
All is calm. Stability is reached once again – for the present moment anyway. Later, Jeremy will have to return to his wretched old lady.
I’m speeding on my bike through the dimly-lit streets, with nothing except the cool breeze in my hair and lustful fantasies on my mind. Jeremy is closing up the liquor store. This is what my life has become – late night, 10 p.m. hangouts with my “man.” This past month we’ve become something of an item: there’s the signs commemorating our love at the beer store; Jeremy’s loud proclamations in Draino’s; we’re even familiar “Same Side Sitters” at the Walden Applebee’s. And one night, he walked me and my bike home, under a theatrical spotlight cast by a full moon.
“I love you Annie,” Jeremy stood at the end of my driveway, and shouted at the top of his lungs. “I love you!”
We are often at the swings, or the slide, or engaged in some other whimsical activity.
“I’m willing to give everything up – my life is so messed up,” Jeremy said, swirling a small bottle of Fireball around in his hand. “You just have to show me that you’ll do anything for me – you have to move in.”
“But how can I move in, if you’re still married?” I’m making a true attempt at getting Jeremy to understand logic. “The space is occupied.”
Apparently a year ago, according to Jeremy, he was separated from his wife. Another girlfriend lived with him. But allegedly, this girlfriend made out with another guy at her work Christmas party in front of Jeremy. So he kicked her out. His Old Lady moved back in the same day, according to Jeremy .
“I’m not going to be like that,” I said. “You have to choose me and me alone.”
I can tell Jeremy is burying himself in lies. Now, according to him, his Old Lady knows nothing about us, even though he first said they were on the outs and “roommates,” and each did their own thing. But yet, she goes through his phone, and he gets “punished.”
“Why would she go through your phone if she doesn’t care and you’re not together?” I said.
“She loves me, she pays all the bills, she just doesn’t do stuff for me anymore and doesn’t do things that I want her to do,,” Jeremy said. “I’m telling you I will give everything up. You just have to trust me.”
Of course, it’s impossible to trust a man like Jeremy.
Then, Memorial Day weekend, Jeremy asks a kid at the beer store to cover his shift so we can be together and have a picnic on the beach.
“I was supposed to work from nine to six,” he says. “So just meet me at nine at the store.”
“We can’t go at like, ten or eleven?” I ask casually.
“YOU ARE SPOILED,” all of a sudden, Jeremy snaps. He starts yelling at the top of his lungs, even though he’s on his continuous work smoke break. “SPOILED LITTLE BITCH GIRL, WHINE AND BITCH, THAT’S ALL BOTH OF YOU DO, YOU AND HER, PLANS ARE OFF, GO FIND SOMEBODY ELSE – “ Jeremy starts coughing and hacking and I don’t even respond to any of this.
“Fine. Bye,” I say.
And I hang up the phone, and immediately feel better for not having to deal with Jeremy anymore, his constant need for attention and having to go to the wine store at ten when I’d much rather do my skin care routine.
ONE WEEK LATER
I’m alone in my room and it’s the middle of the night, and I’m doing what I like to do at least one night a week, that is stay up and blare music and write my innermost thoughts. But then, when the moon is full, sometimes I feel lonely and wind up looking at all my ex’s and frenemey’s Instagrams and toss and turn and wonder what’s up with everybody. That’s how I wound up texting Jeremy. It only takes a second for the carefully constructed house of cards to fall…
“I just want to let you know, that I thought about things and I forgive you,” is what I send. It’s eleven, and Jeremy’s prone to passing out early, so I don’t expect him to reply, maybe ever.
“I’m bringing you lunch tomorrow!” he says.
And thus began Part II of our torrid affair, when Jeremy became more passionate-slash-obsessive than ever.
Jeremy started taking the Genesee bus downtown every day to bring me lunch. The first day, it was so romantic, Jeremy even sent me a selfie from the bus stop. We sat out in Lafayette Square, on the statue where I always sit, and Jeremy hovered over me with two pepperoni slices from Gino’s and a Lipton iced tea.
“Just hang in there with me,” Jeremy said, dabbing at my face with a napkin when it didn’t have to be dabbed. “Times are going to get tough.”
“What are you talking about,” I looked around at the manic seagulls surrounding me. “My life is fine.”
After a week straight of two pepperoni slices and an iced tea, and being dabbed when I didn’t need to be dabbed, Jeremy started wearing on my nerves.
On Friday, I come outside to find Jeremy standing in the middle of the sidewalk playing his acoustic guitar and yelping some kind of melody.
“I want to know, Can we get clean againnnnnnnnnnn,” Jeremy wails. He fits in on Main and Court perfectly.
“Wow, Jeremy,” I head towards him. “This. Is. So….Nice!”
I have to pay my parking at the underground parking office, since I always wait until the day it’s due, and the whole walk down Court Street and around the corner, Jeremy follows behind me with his guitar and makes loud comments about my ass.
“I swear, I don’t even know this guy,” is the look I give to people passing by, in a helpless “damsel in distress” kind of way, even though I know how to handle this. Jeremy keeps singing all the way up to the parking office door. I ring the bell, and the girl comes out to take my check with Jeremy still carrying on with his off-kilter melody.
“Whoaoaoawhoaohwhoahohohawhoaa,” his voice has had better days.
I lead him into the elevator and the whole way upstairs and on the walk through the Main Place Mall, onto the street corner and crossing over towards the CVS and through the revolving door into my building and up the stairs and almost into the elevator, Jeremy continues to wail.
“Look. You could ride up with me, but there’s an important meeting going on,” I say. The unaffected, snowy-haired security guy with tatted-up arms keeps watch. Jeremy takes a selfie with him, and gives me a smooch which tastes like cigarettes and vodka. I hop in the elevator and get back to work.
Later that day, we are in Draino’s again. Jeremy dropped his happy-go-lucky songbird demeanor from earlier and replaced it with a much more sour disposition.
“He told me he loved me. Should I believe him?” I ask a sexy urban chick reminiscent of young Lil Kim next to me.
“Yeah!” she exclaims.
Jeremy’s forehead drips with sweat, and he barely touches his vodka-and-tomato.
I walk away to the jukebox and accidentally cut in front of a dude with a shaved head who already put money in.
“Oops, sorry,” I say. “But can you play Poison?”
“Yeah, sure honey,” he says. He’s about Jeremy’s age but I don’t think he’s trying to flirt. I sit next to Jeremy again, back at the bar, and take my hoodie half-off so my shoulders are exposed in a silky camisole.
“ZIP YOUR HOODIE UP,” Jeremy snaps. “ALL THE WAY UP!” He fiercely zips it up himself and pulls the hood over my head and tightens the strings until I resemble Kenny from South Park.
“It’s hot in here!” I say and try to break free.
The guy with the shaved head is next to me, staring Jeremy down, and I’m all but certain a fight will break out.
“RAAAAAWWWWRRR,” Jeremy erupts like a pissed off caveman, hops up off his barstool and rushes across the room. He throws his battered arms around a thick blonde lady who resembles Honey Boo Boo’s mom, with a crazy, cracked out smile of her own, and the two of them slow dance at warp speed like a record on fast-forward, immersed in some kind of psychobilly samba on speed.
I turn to Lil Kim and, with tears in my eyes, sadly state, “He’s being an asshole.”
“Jeremy!” She yells to him, over “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” now blaring, “Come here and talk to your woman!”
Jeremy feebly reappears.
“NO,” he says, then stomps outside clutching a cigarette.
I rush after him, into the cool still night, and stare at him in utter confusion.
“Why are you doing this to me?”
All Jeremy does is stare back with a blank, empty stare, puffing away on yet another Marb. I grab my 12-speed Huffy that had been chilling against the beat up side of the bar, push off from the curb and take off, quickly and powerfully, the cool night air whipping around me as I descend the bridge and swerve through the silent streets. Behind me, I hear Jeremy emit his trademark “MMMMEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHH”, which sounds like a herd of dying sheep bleating at the moon, fading away into the darkness behind me.
I’m triggered every time I turn on my TV.
Triggered to do what, exactly? Well, maybe TV is different for those without deadly vices. Happy-go-lucky folks seem to dig cooking challenges and talent competitions. They’re gratifying, satisfying, and wholesome fun for the whole entire family!
However, my go-to shows are “Intervention” and “Celebrity Fame and Scandal.” And I watch them alone.
I’ve recently cut way back on “Intervention,” after Episode #119 – “Joe” fucked me right up. Ever since age 8, Joe was choking himself unconscious for kicks. Then he mixed in heroin. Joe hung around with junkie girls in motel rooms, but none were into commitment. Poor Joe. At the end he got sober (for a second), looked at his face in the mirror, and had no clue who the hell that person was staring back at him. Depersonalization Disorder. So he relapsed on heroin, did some prison time, and as of 2016, he’s been sober. Or so the story goes.
I wanted to give Joe a big hug. And I couldn’t. I was far from gratified and satisfied once the end credits rolled. So I changed the channel to “Fame and Scandal”; it was the Mackenzie Phillips episode.
I first saw Mackenzie Phillips on every 90’s girl’s favorite after-school snack, Disney Channel’s “So Weird.” The show was kind of like The Gilmore Girls, but instead of being about the fostering of a healthy mother/daughter bond, or something, “So Weird” centered on a girl named Fiona, who travelled around on tour with her folk-rock musician mom. And, what’s so weird and cool, is that Fiona encountered paranormal activity along the way.
“So Weird” is more culturally relevant than Gilmore Girls. Instead of aliens, spirits, and the like, the only thing poor sweet Alexis Bledel encountered were basic Connecticut cookie-cutter boys with personalities that make bowls of clam chowder look stimulating. Whether Fiona’s paranormal run-ins really happened or were delusions never became a topic of conversation.
IRL, right before “So Weird,” Phillips was famously coming off a cocaine/heroin binge that had lasted for longer than I’d been alive. Her main fame had come from a 1970’s sitcom, One Day At A Time, that she was booted off of. In addition, she was a rock star’s daughter – John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas – with whom she carried out a consensual sexual relationship in her twenties.
After “So Weird,” I didn’t see Mackenzie Phillips again until Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. She had a hand in potentially saving Mindy McCready’s life as she suffered an on-camera seizure. Phillips can now be seen in my favorite Netflix show, Orange is the New Black, Season 6!
So, I recently came back from whoring my [copyrighted] scripts in LA. Below are the ones picked up for production.
Yes, that’s right, I’ve got Bam Margera, Seth Green, AND the Artist Formerly Known as Carrot Top signed on. At least, that’s what their manager Spitty told me at that gas station in Ohio… So, without further ado, here’s a teaser for my TV Channel and the shows lined up for the Fall Season.
Do you yearn for validation from a man you’ve never met? Scores of lonely hearts arrived by plane, train and automobile for 23 seasons for exactly that – this time, to vy for the approval of one Colton Underwood – one of those totally basic, totally banal, totally inauthentic and unremarkable boys who should probably just model boxer briefs for a living…
Anyway, if that isn’t sadistic enough, there is no way to know for sure, that if and when you get close with Colton, that you are ever sure to receive some dick.
That’s right – the dude’s a virgin for reasons completely unknown. To everybody – even Colton himself, it seems. Despite having played for the NFL and been in long term relationships with famous and attractive women, Colton just hasn’t had the opportunity. Nope. Not at all. He never gave it much thought.
Please. Colton, I totally know you are plotting to release a sex tape with Farrah Abraham. I heard it from 1-800-HOT-GOSS. So sorry to take the piss out of everything. Either that, or you’ll “lose your virginity” on the show for the whole world to see, like some sort of sick, twisted geisha ritual. I had to Google your virginity status to make sure it’s still in tact at press time.
Dirtbag Bachelor launches this Fall with a hirsute hottie fresh from jail – “Jonny McThunderstrucksdick.”
He was facing 10 years for marijuana trafficking – but the DA just tossed out the charges. So Jonny’s gone back to being a professional tattoo artist/model in his Brooklyn warehouse. He’s looking for love, and his criminal record’s been expunged. The Dirtgag casting agents will be touring around Detroit, Akron, and Southern Ontario this summer looking for the right, open-minded woman to become Jonny’s muse…And he’s not a virgin. In fact, word on the street is that he’s rocking a Prince Albert.
A trio of gorgeous misfit girls led by a dumb blonde and backed up by a nerdy brunette and exotic-looking Caribbean chick take to the mean streets to extol revenge on guys who have it coming to them. This goes for public figures (like Robert Kraft caught totally unawares at Panera Bread!) and also run-of-the-mill douchebags. The “Crack” in Crackass comes from the ladies’ visible thongs yanked up their asses to above pants level; the trio simply rides around town in a 1968 Chevelle with complete hell to pay, and yes, smoking plenty of crack rock along the way.
The unscripted storyline includes plenty of pants-ing of dudes and instigating fist fights. Keep in mind that, disclaimer alert, Crackass has absolutely no affiliation whatsoever to Jackass, since their cast was 99.99% dudes with no femme fatales in sight. Considering that was like, twenty years ago, I suppose it’s time for the boomerang to fly in the other direction.
Crackass will premiere this Fall!
Some of my pitches wound up on the cutting room floor, namely, Smallwood starring Chad Michael Murray, about a guy with, you know, an ineffective body part. Also, the Hollywood bigwigs weren’t really into The Real Housewives of Niagara Falls. Bummer. Either way, I’m fairly certain my TV channel will feature a late night psychic with a call-in hotline and definitely a compulsive shopping network with jewelry, lots and lots of jewelry.
So stay tuned all you guys and ghouls, because the Private Vblog is going to premiere in the Fall. Ciao.
They bulldozed the whole block to the ground and now there’s nothing but a big black hole. It’s as vast as the universe. It stretches deep into the core of the Earth. But just like the universe, it’s not empty. Who knows what goes on underground? In Vegas, there’s thousands of people living in underground tunnels. Talk about Heroin-Chic.
Friday was a night just like any other, except for the fact that I was now “Facebook official.”
I had even gone to my actual boyfriend’s actual band practice that very afternoon.
“Thanks for inviting me to your band practice,” I say to Rusty. “I won’t say anything about the unreleased material.”
“I am so HONORED that you came,” he says.
Now Rusty is driving us to the bar where a punk show is set to begin. It’s been months since I was at this particular establishment, and yet it feels like it was years ago, even though it was only this past May. It was one of the demented stops Randy and I made the night we decided to stay up until sunrise to watch the Royal Wedding . It was just as deranged as it sounds. I wound up singing “Interstate Love Song” upstairs at karaoke.
But I’ve moved on from Randy, Billy, Mick and Pete (In fact, Pete up and vanished. What ever became of him?)
Rusty and I met when right off the bat, he offered me some smoke.
That’s right. A totally millennial moment took place at the Mohawk one chilly September day. To quote Brittany Murphy in Clueless – “Right off the bat, he offered me some smoke.” It was Metal Fest at the ‘Mo, and I took the Metro down because it started at noon. I decided to roll up on the #24 around 4. I just got a blow dry from a new girl, and my head was caked with beach spray. I wasn’t feeling like David Lee Roth though, more like Tammy Faye Bakker. And of course, I was a little bit baked. When I knocked my purse to the ground, the guy next to me dropped his sunglasses and so I picked those up, too.
Next thing you know, Rusty and I found ourselves in Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson territory. He rolled up to my house one day, Sweetest Day, it turns out, with a bouquet!
“Wow, cattails, very autumnal! Thanks, Rusty.”
I was honestly so shocked, I mean, a bouquet from a metalhead dude? Who knew! I suppose I was accustomed to way worse. I.e, the time when Billy acted crazy on Valentine’s Day, of all days….
“Can we go see 50 Shades Freed?” I texted.
“Yeah, sure,” Billy replied.
No way, I thought. Billy just told me, in between drags of his Marb, that he doesn’t “do” Valentine’s Day. I was merely being a smart ass by asking. Ha! Surely, Billy MUST be coming to his senses. Finally!
Of course, Billy never set an official date for 50 Shades Freed. In fact, he acted like a total dick at the Marilyn Manson show, for no apparent reason! Despite the fact Billy picked me up and we drove there together in a snowstorm, at the concert he refused to touch me or hold my hand, in fact he stood a foot away from me and stared me down like a shark! Not to mention, at the casino, he randomly insinuated he had a one night stand there in the not-so-distant past! So the next day, I was confused. I called him to see what all that was about.
“What? Oh nothing, nothing’s wrong,” he said.
“Did you…really have a one night stand at the casino, then?”
“I made that up.”
“Like, do you even care?”
“If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have taken you to the concert.”
So I was crazy then.
“All right, sorry,” I said.
A few days later, Valentine’s Day: Billy sent mean texts all morning while I was trying to concentrate at work.
“You’re too sappy, you’re too emotional,” Billy was blowing up my phone. “Go find another man who will do what you want. I’m out. Maybe if you came over when I didn’t expect and have sex with me maybe then you’ll be surprised to see what I’d do, like go out to dinner, or to the movies, I’m just so tired most days, you work in an office, I come home and I have no energy to do anything.”
“Fine, whatever,” I totally gave up. Every time I text Billy with a simple question, it goes unanswered. But then he has time to blow up my phone with abuse all day. Why me?
“I’ll come over Friday then. Peace out,” I said, to get him to shut up.
Of course, I had no intention of going over to Billy’s house Friday – or at all!
I made plans with my Chapter 13-version-of-a-Sugar Daddy, my “Stevia Daddy,” if you will, instead – Mick! He made last-minute reservations at the Protocol on Transit.
So we hit up the Protocol, and Mick dragged over a gargantuan funeral bouquet just for me. Gee, thanks Mick…I tossed it on my bed. All I wanted was to get wasted, to be able to get through/enjoy this day.
While at dinner with Mick that night, Billy must have been stalking my Instagram or something because later in the night, after I posted a pic, my phone blew up with texts, again.
“Don’t bother coming over Friday,” Billy said. “I don’t want your sloppy seconds. Have fun doing whatever it is you’re doing, it was nice knowing you, I’m blocking your number, goodbye.”
Like, what? I wish I could say it ended there, but I ran hysterically crying out of the Protocol, only to call Billy all night in vain, until when in the a.m. I realized he unblocked my number so I blocked his and never spoke to him again.
Until I got sucked back in, you see.
Tonight, this punk show, this is the first public debut Rusty and I are making after becoming “Facebook official.” Not that anyone cares. But just let me have this moment, would you? I decided to wear gold sateen shorts with stockings and heeled, hiker-esque boots.
My neighbor Dan came to my house beforehand to lend me a cup of weed. Then off we went, Rusty and I, with nothing to tarnish the silver-plated memories being etched in our minds.
“We are a Super-Couple,” Rusty says at the bar. I’m lapping up his words along with my pinot grigio like a submissive puppy dog. My leg is draped across his lap, his bass player BDE steeping the air like cologne. That’s the thing about Super-Couples, aka Angelina and Billy Bob, Tommy Lee and Pam; they do not care about societal norms and common decency, or what is even going on around them, necessarily…We prefer to live life á la music videos and porno sequences, inside an elite plastic bubble ungoverned by rules and conventions…
Wait – who is that getting their ID checked? It looks like, no way – some fool who looks like Billy but is acting totally grandiose! I squint, but get tunnel vision and the area where Billy’s doppelganger is standing becomes a blind spot, a black hole, and I’m staring down a narrow corridor. I don’t know if it’s Billy or just some clown who looks like Billy. His beat up Vans are the same – but everyone has those. And his vest – it’s not the same patch-covered one Billy wore before. But this one looks like he could be starting a NEW VEST. Perhaps a new life. He grew a mustache too. And he’s…smiling…a totally sick, deranged, and menacing smile, but he’s smiling across the room, in my direction, nonetheless. My vision gets blurry and I convince myself that it is not, in fact, Billy at all, but just somebody with the unfortunate curse of looking like Billy.
I turn back to Rusty; it’s not uncommon for me to look dazed and confused.
“Yes, Rusty,” I lean in closer. “You were saying?”
Billy’s doppelganger sits behind Rusty with a mousy girl who could be his cousin, a random from Tinder, or his steady girlfriend of five years – who’s to say?
A short time later, I get up to go to the bathroom, and as I’m walking by…
“Damn…” says a voice behind me which sounds like a stoner-slash-skater from somewhere in Ohio…
I don’t turn to look who said it, because I already know. It is Billy standing back there, or wherever that voice came from.
I keep walking. I didn’t really hear that. Whoever said “Damn” falls back into a black hole, again, behind me, sinks down into the ground… I lean over the ledge at the bathroom mirror. I’m trying to convince myself that it was all a visual and auditory hallucination – nothing but a mere hallucination!
Any man reduced to communicating with you via email is probably on the outs (except for Eddie, who just doesn’t have a phone) and should stay there. On Easter morning, I began to receive apologetic emails from Billy. I choked on a Peep. First, he acted like everything was no big deal. He ended the note with an Irish blessing. He proclaimed he was in touch with his therapist. He said he was sorry – but didn’t explain for what. I didn’t reply.
But for some strange reason, I fantasized about revenge. Revenge is a dish best served cold. I think I read that somewhere. Meaning, it’s best to wait awhile for tempers to cool….
You think it would be easy to avoid someone emotionally abusive, run as far away from them as possible. Then I ran into Billy when I least expected. I was just walking down the street and there he was like a big obtrusive glacier, staring at me as I walked up to Stamps, the Bar, and unlike the Titanic, Billy never sunk completely from my mind.
“Hi,” Billy said.
He ended up buying me drinks, acting “nice,” even saying he’d buy me a DVD player for my birthday. (Like, what?)
Next came more long-winded email proclamations, until I finally did the unthinkable. Something I vowed I would never, ever, do.
My willpower took a dive and I couldn’t ignore him anymore, or the fantasy that maybe, just maybe, Billy was remorseful.
I was four months sober from Billy. So of course I had to fuck it all up. It only takes one second, to fuck it all up. For all the time it takes to learn to not fuck it up, it only takes a second to fuck it all up completely.
What’s one little hit, totally in secret, just one little, one-time hit it n’ quit it?
I’m going over to Billy’s in fraying, white denim shorts with laces down the front, and a vintage Rage Against the Machine tee my dad once confused for a dirty rag. I know that tonight is the night for make up sex with Billy. Stars twinkle in the sky like an exotic dancer’s body glitter.
Last week, during my quest for “revenge,” I unblocked Billy’s number, called him and told him I was coming there to his hot tub. That’s what I’m talking about, fucking it all up in an instant. All those hot tub selfies he posted apparently got to me. I wanted nothing but to “use” Billy for his hot tub. After work, I went to Tappo with Mick, and of course I had to get lit, how else can I cope? Either way, an hour later I was in Billy’s hot tub with only a bra on, as I had been going commando since midway through the workday.
“I won’t let you drive home,” Billy said. “Just stay here.”
So I did. But we didn’t hook up. I definitely submerged my head in the hot tub after shouting “Underwater BJ!!!!!” loud enough for the whole town to hear and swam towards Billy’s crotch, but that was a drunken fail and it doesn’t count.
Then, this afternoon, I texted Billy and asked –
“What time does the hot tub open?”
“Nine,” said Billy. “But can you bring a friend for Tony?”
“Tony?!” Tony is Billy’s omnipresent homeboy. It’s a “bromance”. “I thought he has a girlfriend.”
“They broke up.”
“Oh. I’ll see if Trixey can come!”
And, sure enough…
“Yeah maybe,” Trixey replied right away. “What time?”
“Nine!” I said, overjoyed, because we were about to become one big, happy love triangle, no wait, a love RHOMBUS, and it would all work out with Billy too and we’ll live happily ever after in a barn/skatepark somewhere.
Of course, Billy and I had sex.
“Get out!” I barged out of the bathroom in exotic nightwear, aka a thong reminiscent of Rose McGowan’s “naked” VMA attire alongside Marilyn Manson. “I don’t care where ya go, but ya can’t stay here.”
Trixey and Tony skulked out of Billy’s kitchen, leaving us alone to consummate our twisted romance. They were to fall victim to their very own one-night love affair. But that’s a different story for another day.
It didn’t take long for me to reclaim my sex object position on Billy’s dusty shelf. Sad, really. Pathetic.
“What’s this scar from?” Billy said as we laid on his bed in the a.m., in his disorganized and unadorned room.
“A palm tree,” I laughed, squealed really, because Billy locked me in a vice grip with his legs and I couldn’t break free.
“Where were you where there was a palm tree?”
Since when does Billy care what I do? He simply projects his own issues onto me…
“Tampa, duh. My cousin lives there,” I said. “Do you still have the articles I wrote?”
Billy leaned over the edge of his bed and rummaged in his bottom dresser drawer. He pulled out a stack of Hustlers and a handgun fell out from between the stack onto the floor and spun away.
“Is that loaded?” I looked over at him; Billy was holding the Hustler with my story in it. “Aw Billy, you really do care.”
Billy didn’t say anything, just laid back and stared at the ceiling. If I would have looked, I mean really looked at him, I would have noticed Billy’s stare was as dark and empty as his soul.
The same old cycle began once again.
Oh, to be nice. Isn’t it so rare? Nice, nice, nice. Nice guys finish last. Well, that’s a good thing. Nice guys make sure their ladies come first. NICE!
What I really need is a nice man. Someone who considers my feelings.
Pete seems like he can keep up. Plus, he makes me laugh. He reminds me of Philip Seymour Hoffman, he’s really nice, and he’s down to go out any and every night of the week! I met Pete last year through my social butterfly bestie, Maurice.
Recently, I ran into Pete at Caffe Aroma (where the writers hang). He asked me out for a drink.
A few days later, he picked me up in an environmentally-conscious car stickered with hippie quotations. The passenger side said, “Kindness is an act of rebellion.”
“You know, when I met you three years ago – “ Pete’s driving us downtown, and hasn’t stopped chain-smoking. “I got so nervous, I got so…” He sucks a hard drag. “I felt bad about myself for a week.”
“What? I met you one year ago. With Maurice.”
“You guys came into Aroma,” Pete continues, and inhales another drag. “And you looked at me and didn’t say anything, and I felt bad about myself for a week.”
“Pete!” I’m shocked, because I don’t even remember. “I’m sorry.”
Before we hit the town, Pete needs to shower. We pull up to the truck stop. You can apparently shower for $8.00 here. It’s a full moon. Turns out, Pete is a legitimate homeless person, albeit one with rich parents on the West Side.
We walk into the smoggy diner. There’s a smoking section enclosed by glass. The vibe here is of a hospital waiting room on an 80’s soap opera; Pete introduces me around to some people he knows, an old saggy couple in stretched-out sweats.
“Here ya go, honey,” the waitress’s voice crackles like a record.
I sip diet cola slowly and page through XXX Guide.
All I hear is the ticking of a clock, and the gradual burning-down of a cig.
Suddenly Pete emerges, towelling his hair. “I feel so much better now,” he says. “Ready?”
We leave, and continue on our way downtown.
Pete squeezes his car into a spot across from Thin Man, still chain-smoking, still a nervous wreck.
“I only have twenty-eight dollars in my wallet and thirty-two in the bank,” Pete says. His glasses fog up. In his car are empty cans, clothes, even a half-full mug of coffee is in the console, which he spills all over the place. “Oh my GOD,” Pete yanks the rearview mirror down towards his face. “I just have to do my hair quickly.”
Pete grabs a container of pomade from somewhere, rubs a giant globule between his palms, then pours bottled water over it and slicks down his coif with the mixture. It becomes a methed-out Morrissey kind of look, and it works.
“The other day I almost smoked crack,” Pete declares. “This girl came out of the alleyway over there…”
The two of us cross the street. Apparently, a show is about to begin. Pete is a huge fan of the band playing tonight. I didn’t even know this place was a venue? I’m apparently not as hip as I once was. We sit in a booth at the far end, so we can order fries and absorb the mood.
“I need to smoke,” Pete says, standing up. “I need a cigarette.”
A waitress approaches; she has a Tori Amos/Ani DiFranco kind-of vibe.
“Hey, guys,” she says.
“Oh, uh,” Pete fumbles with his pack of smokes. “Hi,” he says. “Let’s all have some shots. I’ll buy you a shot,” Pete says to the waitress as her patchouli wafts across the table. “Look at all this money I found!” Pete opens his wallet and there’s a bunch of twenties inside.
“What about me?” I say.
“Of course,” Pete says. I look at the table, embarrassed. The waitress is looking at me, and I mean really looking at me, almost through me for God’s sake. I know my shirt is low cut, but…
“Can I please also order some fries, with a few avocado slices on the side?” I say. “Is that weird?”
“No,” the waitress says. “Not weird at all.”
The waitress disappears, but soon enough another girl is at our table. She’s a plain jane of indeterminate age. She stands at the side of our table and gives me the stink eye for thirty seconds, but it seems like forever. My confusion and the awkwardness is too much to bear. I turn to Pete and say,
“What IS going on?”
“I’m sorry,” Pete says. “This is my ex-girlfriend Mandy.”
The waitress is ten feet away, and definitely eyeing me up and down provocatively.
“I invited her,” Pete says. “Mandy, I just wanted you to be able to meet new people.”
“Pete?” I say. “What IS the situation?”
“I’ll be right back,” he says, and the two of them go off and argue in a faraway corner. I’m certain I’ll be left with the bill from the shots and alone to fend for myself. I’ve never truly been this close to a lesbian encounter in my life. I return the waitress’s gaze.
But soon, Pete comes back, apologetic, and we continue the evening at Rohall’s.
“I wrote a song about you,” Pete’s text says the next morning. There’s a video attached and sure enough, it’s of Pete singing into a mic in a living room somewhere. He crashed at someone’s apartment last night.
“She takes away my misery….” he croons. “She took away my virginity…Metaphorically….”
The phone video crackles and cuts out. Hmm…
I’m never bored with Pete in my orbit. He’s always down to hit the town even though we are in the friend zone, or maybe because we are in the friend zone? His thoughts are always scattered and never able to be pinned down…
My mom and I are going to an event at the Hotel Lafayette. There’s supposed to be vendors, and cocktails, and more. I invited Pete via Facebook. He told me he would be there. It’s Sunday, and the sun is shining down upon the beautiful pigeons and street people of the Square.
As my mom and I walk up to the Hotel, I can already spot Pete dramatically inhaling a cigarette and pacing around the sidewalk.
“Good morning,” he says. I wonder how long he’s been here? Maybe Pete is always here. He manages to be everywhere at the same time, omnipresent if you will.
“I can’t stay,” he says. “I’m double parked, and I lost my wallet last night. But I wanted to give you something. It’s my most cherished possession.” I look at my mom. She’s unfazed by all this.
Pete presents me with a heavy cast-iron amulet on a leather cord, an upside-down cross with a snake wrapped around it. It’s mildly Satanic in nature and in line with my aesthetic.
“Wow!” I say. “Thanks Pete.”
There’s a show at the Mohawk tonight. Pete invited me. We are supposed to meet up on Washington and Ellicott to get some sushi, get some chow. It’s Wednesday, and a balmy night at that.
Can Pete actually seduce me? Ever since his ex showed up on our first date, he’s been stuck in the friend zone. But I can’t help but think Pete is so nice.
“Hey, how’s it going,” Pete walks towards me from the curb. His outfit throws me for a loop – white linen pants, loud aquamarine Hawaiian shirt, and a floppy bucket hat. In my world, Wednesday is strictly an all-black affair. I didn’t get the memo. Maybe tonight is a special Beach Boys/Gilligan’s Island tribute…
We go into Seabar for some chow.
“I’m going to tell Mandy tomorrow I have strong feelings for you,” Pete says. “We are meeting at Spot.”
“I don’t know, are you sure?” I say. “ You don’t have to do anything hasty…”
“It’s something I have to do,” he says. “She keeps wanting to get back together.”
“I admire that,” I say. “I’m nervous about settling down with someone.”
“I do want to get married again..” Pete says, staring into the distance.
“I couldn’t marry somebody unless I’ve known them at least ten years,” I say. “Even for a few years, somebody can hide their true self, who they really are, and turn out to be some kind of psycho…”
“Are you a serial killer?” Pete says.
“No,” I say. “No one’s ever asked me that before.”
The next day at work, I receive a text from Pete around noon.
“I’m back with Mandy,” it says. “We decided we both want the same thing. We are going to get married with the Justice of the Peace. I can’t wait 10 years.”
The JUSTICE of the PEACE? I shouldn’t have fallen for Pete, not even a little bit, even though he did just give me a bouquet of black, faux roses two days ago. His world is one of chaos. My therapist says that I connect with chaos. I think Pete and I are better off as friends.
I’m sure he’ll change his mind. But I mean, a plain jane? Then again, I’m just not “nice.” Let’s face it – I’m too much of a diva to settle down and have kids while also being the breadwinner of the family and breastfeeding while wearing yoga pants and “practical” shoes. Bah! The next man I date will surely be wild, more wild and crazy than ever before. But at least now I know I can appreciate a man who is nice.
I’m down in the outskirts of Tampa, FL visiting Cousin Phil, and also his friend Blaine Templeton with whom I’ve corresponded a year. I was supposed to meet “Blaine” when I visited Phil last February. But apparently, Blaine got caught up in some sort of bender three hours away, and wasn’t around. I seized Cousin Phil’s phone during that trip and texted Blaine. We continued talking until now. I’m not sure how or why we kept in touch. Signs pointed to this Gemini party boy and I being soulmates. I even sent him a few butt pics.
Blaine is a troubled chap adopted from the UK by his aunt. His voice is a cross between Mike Skinner from The Streets and the gecko from GEICO commercials. Most interestingly, Blaine has been staying with Cousin Phil for the past two months! He told me he’s sleeping in the weight room and I’m in the guest room, and we’ll be sharing a bathroom. There’s no way we won’t cross paths. How is this really gonna go?
“You can meet me at the airport with a rose if you want,” I texted him.
“Woman,” Blaine said. “I am sober and in therapy. I will not be much fun whilst you’re here.”
Blaine had to go and dent up Phil’s stainless steel fridge while he was home for Easter, and he’s taken a vow of sobriety. Why did he have to fuck everything up right before I got there? He previously told me he was getting the “troops together” – aka a bunch of guys – for a night on the town of Prince Harry proportions!
“Well, I’m just looking forward to sun and sand,” I said. “I’ve been doing squats.”
The words Gun Show Weekend loom on a giant billboard overhead. Semi-Automatic Showcase. Mobile homes are sprawled around palm trees, their pastel hues bleached by the sun.
Phil and I are driving through the small town of Gibsonton, FL, where it is rumored circus and carnival workers crash during the off-season. Blaine is staying home, again. He hasn’t done anything social with me this entire time. My new term for Blaine is Spores Boy (like in The Secret Garden) a.k.a The Catfish/Hermit Crab. Now that’s he’s sober all he does is sleep. He’s lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did, except for odd moments we smoke cigarettes in the yard and he tells me his woes.
“There’s a bar over there that was on one of those travel shows,” Phil says as we roll past in his overbearing Escalade. “Look.”
He hands me his phone. A YouTube video is playing with blurred-out faces lumbering around a dimly-lit room. “Freaks do come out at night,” the narrator says. “It’s a veritable hotbed of circus-folk.”
“We obviously have to go,” I look out the window at this bar, a disintegrating plywood shack covered in paint flakes. “No question about it.”
It’s three days into my five-night stay, and by the way, it’s confirmed – I’m delusional and histrionic. I brought a see-through nightie with me, thinking Blaine and I would probably have a late-night hookup in the bathroom. But he wasn’t exaggerating when he said he wouldn’t be fun whilst I’m here.
It’s 4/20. Cousin Phil and I cruise to “Showplace” in his innocuous work van. Phil gelled his hair down into a devil’s lock and paired it with a teal Florida logo tee, in an attempt to “blend in.”
As we drive up, I notice the flashing lights of police cars.
“Oh damn, the cops are here,” I look out the window. “But it’s probably something minor. Let’s keep going.”
Conveniently, patrons enter this place from the side. We go inside the dark shack. I walk across the room, and look out the window to scope the drama. Two men are standing across from each other, bathed in blue/red light. Maybe it was a brawl?
Cousin Phil’s at the bar and it’s stocked up with guys drinking. I turn my back to the illuminated shelf of vodka, and survey the room. It’s karaoke night. A curly-haired DJ in a long hippie skirt is on the other side of the room. There’s a skinny girl singing in a crop top and skull-patterned newsboy cap.
“I’ve got no roots cuz my home was never on the ground, I got no RoooOOOO O-OOTS, I got no roots..…” she croons, grinding her hips to the melody. I rush towards the DJ, awoken by this cacophony.
“I’ll do…” I look around hyper-actively. “I’ll do ‘Gimme the Light’ by Sean Paul…But I’m not sure I’m good enough.”
“You ARE good enough,” says the scrawny singer in the hat. She walks up to me; her teeth are sharpened to a point, and she’s still grooving her hips to the melody.
“Thanks.” I walk to the bar and sit next to Phil. There’s a tan dude on my right. He has an earring and a backwards camo-print cap.
“Hm, he could be cute, I can’t tell,” I say to Phil out the side of my mouth. I’m squinting through the smoke. Oh Florida, the shamelessly smoky heartland… At that moment, the tan dude gets up and walks past my barstool, kind of knocking into it with his shoulder.
“Oops, sorry ma’am,” he says, backing away with hesitation.
“No, it’s okay,” I give him my most flirtatious gaze.
“Der – duh – doo,” the tan dude says, coming closer, and I see that he only has two front teeth, and no other teeth at all, not on the top row anyway. I don’t compute. “QQQ mmm?” he says. My mind goes blank.
The tan dude walks outside. A few guys have pulled their motorcycles up by the front door, and have formed a little circle. That’s hot… Several chubby dudes lean against their bikes, basking in the glow of a hillbilly moon.
“Ann Marie, come on up here Ann Marie,” says the curly-haired DJ, who reminds me of the clown girl from Big Comfy Couch. She hands me the mic as the chords of Carrie Underwood fade away. The girl who was singing the tune looks like a cross between Taryn Manning on Orange is the New Black and Avril Lavigne. Her hair is tangled as a tumbleweed, with a bow stuck to the side. However, if I closed my eyes right now I’d swear it was actually Underwood, albeit an MTV Unplugged version. “She caught the eye of an oil man, dancing one summer night in a dime store dress…”
I assume the mic, and as the words appear on the faraway television screen, a table full of faceless ladies starts to hoot and howl. The beat begins…a man’s voice from somewhere booms “Four twenty!” I pace around.
“Jus’ gimme the light and pass the dro…” I crouch low to the ground. “And I gots to know…” But then the speedy chorus starts up and I botch the whole thing. But thankfully I’ve got some real dro in a flattened Marlboro pack in the pocket of my tattered miniskirt, and I cannot wait to join the erotic-looking bikers out in the parking lot. “Can I be your protector, your boyfriend, wanna come wreck ya?” I slurp my Corona. “Got the dro in my cornrow. Yo yo yo yo.”
Once I’m done, a zombie juggalo in ankle-grazing, wide-leg denim approaches. He seizes the mic. Out pours a beautiful country hymn. That was certainly unexpected. Despite his dead-squirrel hairdo, he’s got a voice like butterscotch candy – suckable, and dare I say, fuckable?
The skinny girl with fangs grinds her pelvis to the melody. Another young female with “Bossy Girl” on the back of her tee moves close to her, presses against her, and they fall in sync with the rhythm. They are moving their hips in unison back and forth, pressed together, until the song ends and they drift into a dark corner together.
Back at the bar, I knock back Coronas to the last bitter drop. It’s a damn good thing this place doesn’t sell wine. If I was on a pinot grigio high, let’s just say I’d be here until dawn and probably join the circus, too. Everybody here is outrageously talented. There’s not a bad singer in the bunch, except me.
“I’m moving to Gibsonton!” I proclaim. “I’ve found my people!”
I’m facing the entrance when in he walks: a Johnny Cash enigma on a Jack Sparrow streak, clad in head-to-toe black and spit-shined shoes, with a short black ponytail and get this, an eye patch. Ever so slightly my jaw drops, and my eyes widen. He walks past me, nonchalant.
“Do not look,” I murmur. “That’s the man of my dreams.”
He pulls a pack of Reds from his pants and I strike up a convo. He lights my cig and his nails have chipped black polish. Is this a real life pirate, a Goth, or does he just work at some Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World? Maybe it’s all the above, and I don’t care.
“I’m Joe,” he says, exhaling smoke. “Actually I just moved here, from P.A. I just moved to Riverview.”
Joe…from Riverview…I’m reduced to the drool-face emoji. Joe and I have a personal, but not too personal, chat. The air between us is hazy… and then I say goodbye…I think it’s best to end this night on a high, without even getting Joe’s number. Because what’s the point? I’d rather keep him as a fantasy. I hop up to the passenger side of Phil’s van, still inside a full-blown swoon….
“WILL YOU MAKE ME A SANDWICH BLAINE?” Unfortunately, I think I’ve gone deaf. Blaine’s frying up paninis in a pan, and Phil’s gone to bed. “CAN YOU OPEN THIS BOTTLE OF WINE?” Oh, and I’m drunk. “ALEXA, OPEN THIS WINE.”
“Woman, god damn it,” Blaine is pissed, and puts his two lovely paninis on a plate. “Make your own sandwich.” He doesn’t even look at me.
“PHIL, BLAINE IS BEING ABUSIVE,” I yell, to no one. It echoes. Blaine ignores me. “BLAHHHH!” I pick up two pieces of bread along with a floppy piece of deli ham and fling them towards Blaine. He is hunched over the sink and cowers with his arms raised above his head.
“Woman!” he says, “Damn it!” He takes the sandwiches into the dark weight room with video games still playing and I’ve just about had it. We correspond for a year, then when I’m here you act like I’m chopped liver? Nothing to get out of bed for?
“SPORES BOY,” I stand outside the room with Blaine slumped on the bed.
“I don’t like that watermelon perfume,” he says.
“NOMMMMMMM.” I snatch a sandwich off his plate and take a giant bite, chew dramatically, and then strut off towards the guest room. “IT’S VICTORIA’S SECRET BITCH.”
We kind of made amends before I left. Kind of, not really. I apologized and got him a little dominatrix action figure from the flea market. That’s something we talked about, anyway, dommes and dominas. Blaine did not initially accept my apology.
But then one day, just today in fact, I got a text from Blaine. Thank you for the dominatrix-looking action figure, he wrote. Well, then. Maybe hate sex is in our future after all.
There’s playing with fire and getting burned, and then there’s dousing yourself in lighter fluid and going full-on Richard Pryor. Ever since the emotionally-abusive cycle with Billy ended, after he spazzed off on me in a jealous rage and things went totally caput, I’ve propelled myself into a Sluttylicious Spree of epic proportions, with party favors included.
Kurt’s on my list of guys to bone. Actually, he’s on the list of guys I have boned. But is he in the friend zone, or is it possible to re-light a match?
We had our blink-of-an-eye fling, sure. But it wasn’t my fault it ended. Kurt suddenly got a girlfriend and banished me from his apartment downstairs. I wasn’t allowed to hang with his roommates or homeboys, not when he was there anyway. Honestly, I like Kurt – we go back, way back. We’re in the friend zone.
This drunken date of ours was slated to happen for, I don’t know, months. Kurt just bought a house in our old college town, a spacious relic on a winding road. So we went on a date to the Italian joint. I drove down; it was a snowy afternoon and the town was empty. Where did everybody go?
Kurt’s truck rumbled up his driveway. “Come on,” he said. “We’re going to the liquor store.”
“What are you, some kind of raging alcoholic?” I said.
“We used to live in the same house,” Kurt said with a grin. “You know I’m a raging alcoholic.”
Yeah, true. We did almost burn the place down once or twice.
Kurt handed me his debit card and I ran across the wine mart parking lot. Back at the house, we situated ourselves inside Kurt’s rustic den. I put on John Denver and rolled a joint. The place had been owned by an “old man” who had been a “hoarder,” according to Kurt, and one with an obvious affection for the wilderness. He left behind in the den two giant walls of books. Their musty jackets loomed over Kurt and I. Kurt gave me one he said reminded him of me.
“Here, this is it,” he said. “Mistress to an Age.”
Kurt swilled Evan Williams and I downed wine. The homespun haze put us in a daze, completely under its spell, until we remembered the Italian joint closed at eight. So we caroused our way downtown, and succumbed to total drunkenness at the Italian joint. It was there I felt the psilocybin kick in. Maybe I shouldn’t have mixed alcohol with a mushroom in the den. My ravioli became something of a muse. We discussed our common Libertarian ideals and emotional instability. Kurt ordered an excessively-huge carafe of cabernet. Back at the house, my face was numb but I pressed it against Kurt’s anyway and we started making out in the kitchen.
Kurt inexplicably woke up at 6:00 a.m. today, even though it’s Sunday, by turning on his light and saying casually that he “had to go to work.”
“Are you for real,” I turned over. Embarrassingly enough, bootleg big booby smut still emanated on mute from his TV. Kurt put it on as we were making out after dinner.
“I have my period, sorry,” I said. “Goodnight.” And I turned over.
“Oh come on,” Kurt said.
“I can see now that I’m not your type,” I said. “I’m not a big booby uggo downloaded from LimeWire.”
“I don’t have a type!”
Yeah, of course I know men don’t have types…How else do you explain Tiger Woods?
“Shhh,” I said. “I need to get some shut eye.”
At some point thereafter, we both passed out. Dead, and still in the friend zone thanks to that carafe of wine. Either way, in the morning light, I kept repeating to Kurt that I needed shut eye, until he shouted “Shut up!!!!” and clomped outside in his work boots. I heard his truck back down the gravel driveway.
I slept for a couple more hours, smoked some weed, folded Kurt’s laundry, and then began to plot our next adventure – for some time, Kurt and I have discussed joining the swingers club in town, and going there as a “couple,” actually…
Let’s see, “Scotty” from The Third Hole re-emerged, in the strangest of ways. Turns out, he broke up with his fiancé. We made plans to go out to dinner, after I wound up at The Third Hole last Saturday and Scotty and I made plans while in a drunken, coked-out stupor. But nonetheless, we made plans to go out to dinner in the Falls.
But I guess he has a child and was to have custody of him for the evening or something like that? How do these things work? Anyway, a few days before, Scotty said we’d have to postpone. So I asked Mick if he wanted to go out instead. He’s always down to go out to dinner, even at the last minute.
“Let’s go to Mother’s,” I said, and I figured I would just guzzle pinot grigio to make the night more enjoyable. Since when have I ever needed an excuse to get drunk? Mick is like 50 years old. But right before, while I was getting ready to go, Scotty texted me and said his son went to the movies with friends, and he was headed to The Third Hole after all!
Great. Now I’m stuck going to dinner with Mick, when I could be having a much more stimulating night with Scotty. Hmmmm.
Mick picked me up at 6:00, which is MAD EARLY, and especially bizarre since we were going to Mother’s and they serve dinner until 2:00 a.m.
“Why are we going out so early?” I put my sunglasses on. “It’s still light out.”
I turned the radio dial to the pop station.
“Oh sure, change the channel,” Mick said sarcastically as “It Ain’t Me” by Selena Gomez emanated from the speaker. “Who’s going to walk you through the dark side of the morning…” I said, not nearly stoned enough. “La la la, it ain’t meeeeee.”
“Oh my God, please, can we just have a quiet evening,” Mick droned.
“Sheesh” I said while trying to take a selfie. “The lighting is really bad in here.”
“Complain, complain, complain,” Mick said monotonously, and I knew right then it would be an annoying evening.
Or would it?
When we got to Mother’s, it was totally empty. We sat in the far dark corner by the bathroom.
“It’s so early I’m not even hungry yet,” I said, thinking maybe I shouldn’t have popped an Adderall and 15-day herbal cleanse that I had lying around from Feel Rite, but so what? I was only trying to have a pleasant evening.
“Cannot believe we have a prune mixed with a banana for a president – I mean what the serious fuck?” I said, looking at Mick but he has the personality of a dial tone, and his face didn’t even move. “This scandal with Facebook using our information and pandering to the GOP? Of course they did, and he knew how stupid everybody really is and how to manipulate them emotionally. We impeached Clinton for getting a BJ – but we are going to allow our civil liberties to get ass raped?”
I watched Mick pour steak sauce all over a bloody piece of meat until I felt about ready to puke.
“I stand up for sex workers!” I grabbed a knife. “And freedom of speech! Does the Cheeto with Easter grass for hair, does he really know how to even read the Constitution?”
Mick sat there, detached.
“Who are you talking about?” he said.
“Ugh!” I said. “Do you want to go to the Goth store after this? There’s a party at nine.”
“No, I do not want to go to the garth store,” Mick said. “What is so great about the garth store? If you want to live that lifestyle -”
“Yes, I DO want to live that lifestyle,” I stood up and tossed my cloth napkin aside. “You are insulting my community. Just meet me at Q.”
I walked down the block to Q., and after Mick paid the bill and everything he came in after me. I wonder if he realized it’s a gay bar, with all the subtle rainbow accents? Mick is totally square nowadays.
“Look,” he said, sitting down. “I think after this we should both part ways, you should just go back with Billy, both of you don’t care about anybody but yourselves -”
“Wow, really?” I got upset and walked outside again. That was a low blow, even from Mick. I dialed Scotty’s number not sure if he would be available, but he answered on the first ring.
“If I took an Uber to The Falls,” I said while walking towards Delaware Ave. “Could you drive me home later, or like, tomorrow?”
“Yeah sure,” he said. I could hear The Third Hole background noise. And that’s exactly what I did. I rolled down the car window as we approached the saloon, and smelled smoke in the air. A house fire was just being extinguished.
I’ve wanted to do nothing all day except day drink and listen to Danity Kane. Why the fuck is it still snowing? Luckily, Troy*, my platonic homebody from the past, re-emerged. We met up at a sushi joint right after my hair appointment, so I looked pretty bossed-up if you know what I’m sayin’.
But I wasn’t trying to seduce or flirt with Troy. I wasn’t sure what was going on in his love life.
We were day drinking in the Hertel jurisdiction, D-District, where it all began, back when I lived in a minuscule attic studio more suitable for three blind mice and Troy was still legally married.
But wait – is Troy still legally married? Who knows, who cares. Either way, we watched a drunken Camilla Parker Bowles-look alike chug Michelob after Michelob at MT Pockets. We started gyrating to “Boys” by Britney Spears at Gecko’s. Somewhere along the line, I thought maybe Troy and I were going to make out.
Little did I realize, we would soon be making out in a full-blown PDA episode inside Gecko’s! And afterwards, we staggered into the Video Liquidators theater. Apparently I’m a regular, but they really do have the best selection of slutty lingerie. Anyway, no one else was there, which was weird since it was a Saturday and we found ourselves alone. First I peed in the ladies room, which is painted a dusty rose hue.
We wandered to the back of the store.
What happens in the Video Liquidators theatre stays in the VIdeo Liquidators theatre, if you know what I mean.
But we emerged from its dark, sticky depths still in the friend zone for the most part.
“Do you want to become a mouthpiece of your generation?” I say to Pete, in front of the giant window of Just Vino that looks out upon Main St. I’ve found myself on an actual date with someone I know, but not very well.
“I like your blog,” he says. “I had no idea you were so talented.”
Sure, you say that now… But what about after one is about you???
“It would be okay, actually,” Pete said. “That would be cool. Just change my name. Or don’t.”
I’m driving home from work, a.k.a smoking a jay and circling the block, wondering about how I’ll ever feel normal in relationships again. But did I ever? I’m not exactly “normal.”
I’m chasing the dragon of actually caring. I feel numb to the earth. I’m waiting for The Feeling to sneak up on me again, like heroin probably does, but I’ve never done heroin.
Wait – who’s that? Chasing the dragon, right, that is until I see the guy taking out his trash – t-shirt, beard, tattoos – he looks to be moving old carpets and junk. It looks like maybe he’s moving in…and just on the next block over too…Hmmm…
A Valentine’s Special
It’s a cold winter Saturday, the time of night when fog creeps into this part of downtown and hangs over the cobblestone streets. It seems haunted, eerie, like something from the days of Jack the Ripper. Smoke clouds emanate from a factory on the horizon. I’m wandering the casino with Louis and my Cousin Phil. Rows of slot machines glitter into the distance.
I’m sitting at the Playboy machine with Louis, who’s just put in $20.00 I look into his eyes. They’re blue, like mine. A cherry pops up in one, then a dollar sign in the other. I’ve hit the jackpot as far as online dates are concerned. Who knew finding a boyfriend would be this easy? We’ve been seeing each other for about a month now.
For our first date, Louis and I met up at an art show. As he came through the door, I admired his beard and chubby physique. Via message, Louis confided that he has a foot fetish – but what’s so weird about that, compared to all the other stuff out there? What’s a simple, normal foot fetish, in the grand scheme?
We sat down at the little bar area in Revolution Gallery. He bought drink after drink. Throughout the night, he held my hand. Louis’s body is encapsulated in tattoos, yet he has a sad puppy-dog face. At the end of the night, while walking down the street, Louis revealed he bought me the painting I liked while I was in the bathroom.
“Louis!” I was shocked, because I knew it was $300, but Louis had the receipt and everything to prove it wasn’t stolen. “You really didn’t have to, though. It was expensive.”
“You don’t like it then?”
“I do,” I said. “Of course I do. Thank you, Louis.”
From that night on, I’ve spent every weekend with Louis. He lives 45 minutes away, in a small rusty town.
Tonight, I thought I would introduce Louis to my Cousin Phil, who is up from Tampa and already tipsy, because he has been here at the casino drinking way before we even arrived. We are all going to see Dave Attell at Helium together, and I just know the two of them will get along.
“Lou,” Cousin Phil puts his arm across his shoulders. “You know, I like you already. What do you do, anyway?”
“I do signage, commercial signage.” Louis pulls out his phone to show Phil some pictures. “I carve stuff out of wood. And metal, sheet metal mostly -”
“Excuse me, sir,” says a security guard coming towards us. “You’ll have to check that knife.” I look at Louis’s crotch, and notice the folded-up blade against his hip. This security guard is a petite lady, and she doesn’t seem pissed or anything.
Louis looks up from the musty carpet.
“Oh, my knife?” he says. “Sorry.” He walks off with her towards the security desk.
“That’s hot, right?” I say to Cousin Phil. “The fact he has to go check his knife?” Cousin Phil leaves to buy some drinks.
“You’re manly,” I say to Louis upon his return. He stares at me with an unflinching stare.
“Um, sorry” I say, leaning into him. “Daddy,” I whisper.
Last week, Louis said that he doesn’t want me to call him “Louis” anymore, I am to call him “Daddy” and nothing else, and frequently too. Louis sucks on his lithium-powered vape, and exhales strawberry-flavored smoke.
“What do you want to drink, Doll?” he says.
Louis owns many knives and guns, as well as a Harley. He seems like the kind of guy who could kill a bear with his own hands. In fact, he can make and shoot bow-and-arrows, which seems like a totally romantic thing to do, very Cupid-esque.
But I’m noticing that behind closed doors, Louis is rather intense.
“Fuck,” Louis gets up from his couch and heads towards the kitchen, naked as a shucked clam, which is customary because Louis is a self-proclaimed nudist. “His numbers are still good.” He’s talking about the Donald Trump “news” on TV that he found after 10 minutes of trying to find news on Hulu. “They’re still good, fuck what they say.”
The elephant in the room. Louis stomps off with the empty pizza box.
“Get the fuck out of here, dog,” Louis yells at his dog, Bruce, who’s sitting straight up and staring at the wall. Louis rescued Bruce from a shelter, but I feel really bad for Bruce’s current situation, because Louis keeps him cooped up in his stupid apartment all day and yells at him all the time.
“Aw,” I hug Bruce. “He’s not doing anything.”
“You know what would be hot to do while I’m out of town, Doll?” Louis texts.
“What, Daddy?” I reply.
“Send me some photos of you fucking another dude,” he says.
Yikes! Why is Louis so into this idea? Honestly he’s brought it up before, but I’ve been stalling for time by saying that I will eventually, later on, after we date a while. After I figure out if he’s worth it. Because honestly, this whole time, I’ve been fantasizing about having sex once again with my ex, “S.,” but I’m scared about releasing S. into my current dating situation.
Comparing Louis and S. below the waist is to compare an acorn with a log, respectively – a log any beaver would thirst for. Sex with Louis sucks. He seems depressed about his own manhood. It’s true what they say, that men with small packages compensate with cocky personas. Louis struts around like a cockatiel, whereas S. is quiet and shy.
The more Louis pushes this idea on me, the more I have sexual fantasies about S. Since I’m sexually frustrated and about to blow, I decide to send him an email.
In the subject line, I type the word “Orgy.”
“I suppose this letter may come as a surprise, I write. “I have a new boyfriend. He’s soooo romantic. Plus, turns out, he is very open about wanting to watch me have sex with another man. Someone to be a “sex slave,” so to speak…
You came to my mind as a potential sex slave for this orgy because you wanted sex without any emotional involvement or attachment, said you never want a relationship, ever, and seem okay with a straight up friends with benefits scenario.”
What the hell am I doing? Talk about a can of worms. I hit Send and do not expect any response at all.
“I just want you to be happy, so I’ll do that for you,” S. says over the phone a mere five minutes later. “Just tell me one thing.”
You can tell S. is driving because I hear the whoosh of the open window since he’s probably smoking a cigarette with me on speakerphone.
“How’s the sex?”
“The sex,” S. exhales. “ I mean, I’m asking because clearly there must be a reason you thought of me.”
I’m not telling S. that sex with Louis sucks. That would only feed his ego, and have me eating from the palm of his hand. No, this time I’m going to be the one in control.
“The last girl I dated didn’t work,” Louis tells me over brisket at his town’s BBQ pit. “I took care of her.”
“Oh, really?” I say. Louis insisted on paying for this meal, and these drinks, again, even though I was the only one carrying cash. He never lets me pay for anything. That’s why I decided to buy him a gift, some Viktor & Rolf SpiceBomb cologne, to show my appreciation. The bottle is shaped like a grenade, perfect for Louis’s heavily-armored self. I hope he likes it.
“If we ever lived together,” Louis says, staring at the bar TV screen with a diamond ad projecting from it, “I would want to pick out what you wear when you’re at home.”
“Um, really?” I haven’t touched my Bloody Mary. “I am very particular about my wardrobe.”
Louis stares at me with his penetrating stare.
“I have something I want to give you,” I say, to change the topic as Louis pays the bill.
“What is it?”
“Just something small,” I hand Louis a tiny gift bag with the cologne inside. “What’s wrong?”
“I really wish you wouldn’t have,” Louis stands up and puts his hands in his pockets, starts walking towards the door to the back parking lot. “I won’t accept it.”
“What? Why?” I walk faster to catch up with Louis, who’s standing in the shadow of his giant truck. “I wanted to show my appreciation.”
“The way to show your appreciation for me is to call me daddy, and let me play with your feet, “ he says. “For future reference, I don’t like surprises and never accept gifts.”
I climb into the passenger side of the truck, and don’t bother saying “Sorry, Daddy” this time.
After all, what did I really know about this dude?