Private Magazine

Category: Travel

Always a Side, Never a Bride

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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!”

“What?”

“I have to go,” Jeremy whispers and hangs up the phone.  He must have been taking out the trash.

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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!

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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.

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Poetry by Jeremy*

 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.

“Why?”

“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.

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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.

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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.

“BYE.”

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.

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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.

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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.

“HAR….HAR….”

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.

Abducted in Poughkeepsie

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“Gibson Mcaskill and Crosby, LLP,” I recite the law firm name painted on a brick wall behind me, in the tone of voice an anchor girl would use before removing her top.

“You’re beautiful,” shouts a man from parts unknown.

“Cut,” says Pete.  He lowers the camcorder. “That was really good.”

“Now what?” Randy says.

Randy is slouched in the background, but I’ve failed to notice.   Other than being Pete’s drug connection (whom we called upon for a mid-date favor), his role in tonight’s activities is uncertain.  He’s got a “Less than Zero” persona but told me he’s a lawyer, and I have no reason not to believe him.   But then again, I have no reason to believe him either.

We just wrapped up at Tudor Lounge karaoke, where Pete sang Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” and I did “Interstate Love Song” by Stone Temple Pilots, and Randy, well, I forgot he was even there.  And now it’s 3:30 a.m. and we’re at The Pink, the only place we can potentially blend in and belong.

We’ve consumed enough drinks to mellow our dispositions, and I’ve forgotten where they are coming from. These drinks are being mysteriously procured and paid for by somebody unknown, not by me, even though both Pete and Randy are certified drifters on the fringe.

Something I’ve noticed about derelict guys: they love to party and aren’t afraid to beg.

It’s last call at The Pink, at the time and place reserved for zombies looking to score – sex, drugs, and who knows what else?   Lightning zaps the sky, straight to the celestial vein. We pile into Pete’s car. Inside, it smells strongly of cigs and b.o.  I’m riding shotgun with my head out the window, uncertain whether to even bother smoking weed.

I decide to just let the pinot grigio soak in.

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We are a ghoulish, ghastly trio cutting sharp edges against the fog.  We sit beneath a tree in Day’s Park,  at the same spot where somebody I know may or may not have, as a cry for help, sliced into his wrists with a box cutter.

“This place has the most picturesque litter,” I say. “Where’s the category for that in Buffalo Spree?”

“Melvin Toadsdale, don’t you remember Melvin?” Pete says to either Randy, or to me, or to no one in particular. We’re gathered under the tree smoking herb in the dark.  Pete hasn’t stopped talking for even one minute, not to take a breath, not for anything.

“He died,” says Randy.  Tires screech from somewhere far away.

“Melvin’s dead,” he continues. “Drug overdose. Three years ago.”

Pete pauses for what feels like an eternity, lowers his head, then starts to cry.

“Fuck,” he says.

A group of bros drift by on the sidewalk.

“I remember he was such an awesome kid,” Pete’s words are muffled by his snotty sleeve.   “I wish there was something I could have done, something I could have done to help him before he got back on the drugs that poisoned his mind.” Pete’s glasses fog up, then we’re all silent for a while.

I put my shaking hand on his arm. And then without warning, a new day begins.

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The sound of Pete’s screeching tires eventually fades away.  The unforgiving sun has emerged from behind gray clouds, which hang tackily over the North Buffalo Denny’s like a hooker’s panties on a clothesline.  There’s no place I loathe more than Denny’s.   My brain is a lava lamp.

“Randy, will you give me a ride?” I say.

We drive away in Randy’s car, its floor littered with cut straws and credit cards.  Randy himself is missing a side tooth, and in profile looks like a skeleton. Behind us, the sun rises over Hertel Avenue with considerably more hesitation than usual.

SLUT5

It’s Memorial Day weekend.  Time to take off.  Au revoir, fuckboys!

I’ve got an AirBnb booked down in Cold Spring, New York, near the Hudson Valley and an hour’s train ride from Manhattan.  It’s a “meditative retreat” according to the married lady hosts, who live in the woods near a pond!  My bedroom looks straight from the Free People catalog, and did I mention there’s an ELLE-approved spa in town?

*The one caveat to this hideaway is that there’s no non-vegan food, alcoholic bevs, or drugs allowed on the premises.  But I can abide by this.  I have respect, pshaw.

I’m not vegan mind you, never was.  To quote Anthony Bourdain’s 1999 article in the Times, “Even more despised than the Brunch People are the vegetarians.  Serious cooks regard these members of the dining public – and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans – as enemies of everything that’s good and decent in the human spirit.”

I steer my Pontiac coupe up the rocky driveway.  Soon enough a dreadlocked blonde in a dip-dyed ensemble emerges onto the porch.

“I’m Shelley,” she says with a mystical air.

She shows me around the house, through the kitchen where there’s “all the granola you can eat,” and a sink spewing unadulterated well water.  There’s a sun-drenched meditation nook with incense burning slowly, ever so slowly, and in the yoga studio Shelly describes the guru they stream.

“At 8 a.m, every morning, we will be in here should you decide to join us,” she says with unfailing eye contact, which makes me self-conscious, like, I probably should have removed my black boots with the spurs and leather jacket, I mean, it’s so colorful in here, so… open. So honest.

“Well, I’m going to go mosey into town,” I tell Shelley a half-hour later. She’s reading a book in the meditation nook.  “I’ll be back a little later.”

On my way out, I meet the other host, Shelley’s wife, who is really skinny and tattooed with piercing eyes like nails.

“I’m Talyia,” she says.

I don’t know what either Shelley or Talyia do for a living, but it must be something really dope, as their spacious enclave in a rather bourgois neck of the woods leads one to believe.  Rich hippies…I think as my car crushes whatever foliage and insects dare to obstruct its path. Could be kinda neat. I roll my window down and as soon as I roll into Cold Spring proper,  locate my weed stash.

SLUT1

Later that night in Beacon, a town 10-minutes away: I’m told by the garçon at the French bistro that this town is pretty hip. Turns out, Beacon has a distinct Brooklyn-meets-East Aurora flair. Pretty soon, I’m tucked inside an air-conditioned hotel bar amid a cougar crowd. I watch a Hall-and-Oates cover band, one half of whom is from Buffalo, according to his wife at the bar –

“Oh, really, Buffalo,” she turns towards me and leans closer, “We met there about thirty years ago…”

After striking out with the sweaty rockabilly bartender, I walk up and down the street, as the stars emerge, and chat with a cute young music producer from LA.  He’s in town for a wedding, and tells me the pitfalls of no one ever knowing your name.

But I pull an Irish goodbye after asking him to meet me outside for a cig.  He probably won’t even come, he probably thinks of me as a dirty, smelly smoker now, and it’s not like I’ll ever see him again…

I walk up and down the street some more while replying to certain texts I’ve ignored.

“I want to apologize in person,” Randy says via a long-winded text from two days ago. “For how rude and disgusting my behavior was, and I want an opportunity to make it up to you.”

I hung out with Randy a few times; but every time we got together, it was apparent that Randy is a legitimate cocaine addict and full-blown alcoholic barely gripping the edge of life. I ran away from him the last time I saw him, literally, ran away after saying I had to return some videotapes. Despite knowing him only a week, I agreed to celebrate his birthday with him.  But when I got to his house (aka, his mom’s unfinished upstairs rental), Randy was all alone and hungover, chain-smoking on a folding chair.

“Um, it’s okay,” I type out. “I’m out of town anyway. Near Poughkeepsie.”

“I could go to Poughkeepsie,” Randy replies, with a wink face emoji.

“Lol,” I send back. “Yeah right.”

“No, really, I could take the train. Pete can drive me to the station.”

“I am staying at a vegan and sober airBnb,” I say. “Okay…”

When I return to the commune, Shelley and Talyia are in their hippie love nest with the door half open.  I say “Um, goodnight” and tip-toe into my tie-dye bedroom.

SLUT2

The next morning, with caged hens clucking beneath my window, I shake myself awake and realize – Randy might actually be on his way. To Poughkeepsie Station. But really, would this dude actually hop a train in the middle of the night?

I slink into the kitchen, and it’s about 8:40.  Yoga is over.

“Good morning,” I say, pouring dark coffee into a mug. “Say, um, is it okay if this guy I know stops by later? I didn’t invite him, per se, he just decided to show up at Poughkeepsie Station…”

“Oh, but you know him?” Shelley looks concerned. “He’s not stalking you?”

“Well, I guess,” I hike up my sateen pajamas. “I don’t know him that well, and he may be a bit stalker-ish. It should be okay though.”

I drive to Poughkeepsie and spend the morning walking across the Henry Hudson Bridge, which is majestic and scary and proof that it’s actually really difficult to jump off a bridge, and definitely not for pussys. Finally, Randy calls and says he’s at the station, so I leave to meet him on the platform.

I love NY train conductor accents … Silver fox train conductors down here have them… I’m thinking as I wait in the hot sun.  Finally, Randy walks towards me, and as I get closer I inhale a strong smell – the B.O stench of a homeless cannibal mixed with regurgitated booze simmering on asphalt. He gets even closer to me and hugs me, and what I breathe in is the bubbling spoon of rancid filth spewing from his pores.  He’s wearing a filthy sport coat made of tweed, even though it’s over 90 degrees down here. His complexion in daylight is like that of a caved-in corpse – pale, gray, and rubbery at best, with teeth melting out of his skull.

“Bleh,” I recoil in disgust. “You totally reek.  I should have known better than to meet you here!”

“What?” Randy schleps towards me, dragging his feet. “I’m here!”

“You can’t stay at my Bnb.”

I’m power-walking way ahead of Randy now, heading towards my car but walking across the parking lot in a daze with Randy lumbering behind me like a sasquatch, half-drunk, and me totally not realizing that obviously this is exactly what would happen, and how did I ever think it wouldn’t?

“I thought it could be cool,”  I shout back at Randy. “But now I know this was a bad idea and my whole solo, mediative getaway has all gone to shit, you don’t have anywhere to stay and you are expecting to stay with me at the Bnb, and I’m telling you IT IS NOT going to happen. Okay?”

We’re alone at my car in a vacant lot; Poughkeepsie Station, and not a soul around. Somehow, I didn’t actually think Randy would come.  I really didn’t invite him and I never said anything to give him the impression he could crash at my Bnb.  Not to mention, Randy is, needless to say, persona non grata anywhere near the hippie commune.

“Just keep away from me.  I need to get sushi and figure shit out,” I say, breathing deep, and remembering that this is just another day-in-the-life.

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Randy and I are at the waterfall/swimming hole in Garrison, right near the Bnb and where I figure, no doubt, at least Randy can rinse off his stench. I just need to get him to another motel for the night, or to head back to Buffalo, anything but just stay the hell away from Shelley and Talyia, please don’t get me kicked out.  I’m a bad girl trying so hard to be good.

But, am I really trying?

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On the way to the waterfall, we stopped at a liquor store, which I already knew existed but hadn’t entered out of respect for Shelley and Talyia.

“I want you,” Randy says, slurping from a rum bottle. There’s a few younger couples around, plus a lot of moss. “You don’t understand.  I would do landscaping tomorrow if it meant I could come inside you again and again -”

“SHUT UP!” I stand up on a rock. “I am just not into you! Get it through your skull!”

(I had previously told Randy that if he would apply himself and his law degree, join a firm, get malpractice insurance, and pay your dues to the Bar Association, or at least get some kind of decent job like every other fortysomething dude, maybe I would consider dating him. It was obvious, however, that Randy’s ever-present, bloody coke straw is his one true passion and that he will only succeed in ruining my life).

Now it’s 6:00 p.m.  The sun is beginning to fade.  I check my phone and see a message from Talyia:

“We went out and will be back around 9:00,” it says.

“Great,” I exhale a sigh of relief. “We can go back to the Bnb and I can shower and we can figure our shit out.  You need to call a motel and then maybe I’ll go find the strip club in Newburgh…”

“We locked the door,” is Talyia’s eventual response, right as Randy and I arrive at my car; we are both dirty and sweaty, and hungry to boot. “We couldn’t leave it open, obviously.”

What the fuck!”  My voice echoes; somewhere far away, a bird flies out of a tree. “Noooooooo!”

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Randy and I go to Beacon to kill some time.  Despite the extensive “nighttime” looks I packed, I’m stuck going out in Victoria’s Secret slides and a muddy skort, with Randy, this year’s worst accessory, to boot.

The Stockholm Syndrome sets in at the air-conditioned hotel bar.  I toss away my cares and worries simply because I have absolutely no control over the situation, never did. I succumb.  No matter how hard I try, Randy doesn’t listen to a word I say. I’m locked out with him stuck to my side.  We are both homeless derelicts, so what’s a girl to do? Enjoy a pinot grigio, even a cig, and Metallica’s “Sad but True” emanating from the jukebox.  I stop drinking to keep in driving shape, and when we stagger into the Bnb, it’s close to 10:00.

Inside, It’s deathly quiet. Shelley, Talyia, and a new kid with glasses are all sitting in the  mediation nook.

“Well, this is Randy,” I look at Talyia with pleading (but probably bloodshot) eyes.  Everyone is silent.

Randy and I creep closer to the crew, until Randy is right up next to Talyia and she looks up at him in horror.  I’ve probably grown used to his noxious stench, and can’t smell much of anything anymore.

“Ok I think I’m speaking for the group here when I say Randy needs to leave,” Talyia says.

“Thank you,” I quickly throw Randy under the bus. “I’ve been trying to dump him all day!”

Shelley and Talyia gather around us and the room starts to close in.  I worry that my tainted mental state is obvious.

“Have you guys been drinking?” Talyia says.

“No, no, not me,” I say.  “Randy, I’ll pay for your Lyft back to the station, and therefore pay you to stay out of my life forever!”

The new skinny kid with glasses comes outside with Randy and I, and he waits with him at the curb. I go back inside.

“Thank God he’s finally gone,” I look to Talyia and Shelley for sympathy, or something, but Talyia shrieks at me like a banshee.

“I think it’s best if you just went to bed!”

And that’s precisely what I do. But it’s only 10:30 p.m.  Damn.

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The next morning, over dark coffee, I am asked to leave.  It’s okay with me though; I do not fit in here.   I start to cry because of the lack of control I seem to have over my own life.

“I wish there was more we could have done to help you,” Shelley says.

Like not lock me out.

“I had no idea it would get so bad,” I say. “I thought I could handle it on my own.”

“We wish you peace,” Talyia says.

“Namaste,” says Shelley.

I pack up my room – contraband salami sandwich, leather clothes – and take off down the hill.  It reeks of Randy’s booze in my car, and sure enough, I find a cigarette butt in the console.   I clean and freshen the shit out of the interior then leave my car at the train station. It’s a fresh and foggy morning, and while waiting for the train into the City, I share my story with a South Carolinan family here for West Point graduation.  The train squeaks to a stop.  Soon, I’m smushed up against cute guys in Yankees gear heading to a game.

I walk from Grand Central to Soho in my boots with the spurs. “Coffee?” says a man with a shaved head near Washington Square Park.  “On my way back,” I say.  I’m comfortable in the NY crowd, where you’re totally alone and totally not at the same time. There’s peace when nobody knows your name, when you are just a face in the crowd with nothing but endless pavement, noises, doorways.

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Homeless

homeless7

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.”

homeless5

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.  

“Thanks.”

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?”

“Sure.”

We leave, and continue on our way downtown.

Homeless4

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.

HOMELESS3

“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…

Homeless6

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.”

HOMELESS2

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.

Hump day.

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.

Homeless

“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.”

homeless8

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.

 

The Sunshine State Affair

FLAMINGO

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.”

WALL

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.”

FLORIDA

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?

Nah.

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….

COYOTEUGLY

“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.”

WALL3

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.

WALLS2

The Slut Diaries: Part I

Melrose

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.

March 10:

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.”

Schnapps

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.

MARCH 11:

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…

March 23:

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.

Harbor Inn

MARCH 31:

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.

SHoes

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.

APRIL 1:

“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.”

APRIL 13:

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…

 

Cupid, Cuckolds, and the Cherry on Top

Cupid2

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.

 

Cupid3

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.

“Sir?”

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.

Cupid5

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.”

—-

BRB8

“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.

___

Cupid4

“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.”

“What?”

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?”

What?”

“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.  

Cupid

“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?

 

Romantic Retardation*

*In the clinical sense of the word

20170520_152208

Another Memorial Day, another drama. That’s my life. For the past two months, I was seeing this guy “Billy,” an electrician with peroxided hair. I thought that I knew the real him.

Our passionate connection made me feel like we were sheltered under the sunny boardwalks of Venice Beach in 1994 with nothing to kill our buzz.  I was wrapped up in his bubble. Billy skateboards all the time, and lives out in the country actually. He was kind of like an obscure record I discovered in a beat-up barn out in Cambria.

We met in a strange twist of fate and turns out, we both read Hustler for the articles. Our romance was meant to be. Billy took me out to eat and to the park all the time, brought pinot grigio and PBR for us, held my hand and gazed into my eyes… He was just so romantic.

But then the record totally scratched. Billy flipped the script. Everything changed.

Masks

The masks we wear

One week ago, Billy told me that he was too broke to take me out to eat anymore.

“I’ve been saving for a house,” Billy texted me. “I can’t spend any money.”

“But it’s impossible not to spend money when there’s a woman in your life,” I said.

Honestly, I was hurt. Why would Billy take me out on dates for two months straight and then suddenly say he can’t anymore?  I figured it meant he wanted to do his own thing, and that I should break up with him as soon as possible, before I’m the one left in the dust.

“Look, Billy…” I said. “If you’re trying to be rude and passive aggressive, than just leave me alone.”

“What are you talking about?” He texted me about five hours later. “I’m not mad about anything.”

So I’m a crazy bitch then, apparently. It was all in my head. Ugh!!

 

romantic

But the situation didn’t go away. For the entirety of this past week, Billy turned into a withdrawn and depressed goon who didn’t want to do anything, despite the fact I told him I would be an emotional support and wear a schoolgirl outfit to his house.

“I don’t want to bring you down when I’m in a depressed mood,” Billy said.

“It’s okay to be in a depressed mood,” I said. “Everyone gets in depressed moods, you don’t have to totally ignore me because you’re in a depressed mood.”

But that’s basically what Billy did. His personality changed. Emotionally, he disappeared. He hid away in an emotionless purgatory, and he didn’t care how I felt about it. I suppose you could say he left me high and dry, feeling abandoned, vulnerable enough to join the Church of Scientology…I mean, right when I thought that I met someone honest, it turned out to be an act.

“I actually don’t even like going out to dinner,” Billy said. “I hate going out to eat. I hate going out downtown.”

“What?” I said. “You could have fooled me.”

“I don’t know how to show my emotions,” Billy continued.

“You are a sociopath, I think,” I told him. “American Psycho!”  I hung up the phone, and then I went out for the night.

20170529_151513

Saturday night, Allentown was pop, lock, and droppin’ from Wadsworth to Main. I decided to forego stilettos and wear pointy ankle boots which said “Girl’s Night – Not Trying to Talk to or Be With Any Men.”  Except that is, the men who were in Q. and supplying me with dollars to pick out songs by Nicki Minaj and Demi Lovato, (what can I say, I’m a great DJ at Q. late at night, when the THC and pinot grigio and Adderall are coursing through my veins and I think that 1:30 a.m. is still early and that I should call a bunch of people right away).

“Eddie!” Eddie is my somewhat nocturnal ex-bf/BFF who is definitely an emotional support.  I thought maybe, just maybe, he might be awake. “I’m tipsy and I can’t get home!” But did I really have any intentions of going home?

“I’ll be right there, where you at?”

By the time Eddie’s olive-green Honda pulled to the curb, I had already twisted my ankle while crossing the street. Damn ankle boots…I muttered, flicking the ash of a cigarette whose origins were unknown. Stupid little Billy boy…I paced the corner of Allen and Delaware amidst taxi beeps. If only he could see me now! 

“Eddie!” I hopped in the passenger side of his olive-green Honda. “Hi!’’

“So, you, like, needed a ride home?”

“Meh, I guess. But I don’t really feel like going home yet!”

Eddie drove around to a quieter street, and we sat in the car and talked awhile. I hadn’t seen Eddie for several months; but it doesn’t really matter, because we’ve known each other a super long time and there just aren’t certain pretenses between us. Except now, Eddie has a girlfriend who would chase me away with a broom if I were to ever show up at his place.

“It’s just all gone to shit,” a tear rolled down my cheek under the glow of a crescent moon. “This dork Billy, I never should have given my heart away. He’s too busy saving for a house, apparently…”

“He’s an electrician, he should already have a house,” Eddie lit another cig. “They make good money.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“What an asshole,” Eddie said, and I realized he was wearing finely-striped silky pajama pants the whole time.

“I like your pants,” I said.

“Thanks,” Eddie said, and I leaned over to give him a kiss.

 

 

How to Have Sex in a Church (and Get Away With It)

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“Got no religion / Don’t need no friends / Got all I want / And I don’t need to pretend” – Black Sabbath

Are you turned on by dripping hot candle wax? What about sipping wine in a robe, or whipping yourself in a cold, dark room? It’s easy to become aroused in church. Inhale the incense and look around. There’s the illusion of mystery, the whole ‘getting down on your knees and begging forgiveness’ thing, and many potentially erotic uses for the confessional.

When Lucifer calls, you’ll pick up the phone, because he will manifest as a Johnny Depp-lookalike dripping sweat and tasting like Moet, not a hooved creature with stank breath. That’s why it’s called “temptation,” duh – sin is everywhere and it’s hard to say no. (Side note: I once met an exotic dancer named Sin, how’s she doing?). If I learned anything in Catholic school, it’s that it’s okay to give into sin, just as long as you confess and say you’re sorry afterward.

Churches have a lot in common with dungeons – kinky sex dungeons, that is. Last week, I got a call from “S,” a guy who’s titillated by subterranean exploits as much as I am. He suggested we try to have sex in a church. Even though I rebuffed his advances in the past, his church idea was too good to ignore. We didn’t really think it would be possible, anyway, but was worth a good, old-fashioned Ozzy Osbourne “Shot in the Dark.” So I doused myself in a vial of True Religion cologne, listened to my “Crucifix Playlist” on Spotify (Madonna, Justice, Tori Amos), and met “S” in front of our chosen house of worship.

The sun was shining. The birds were singing. And all of the doors were locked. Damn! But guess what? We totally pulled it off in under thirty minutes. Yes, S and I had sex inside a church and didn’t get arrested. So here it is, my sexy readers, theprivatemag’s Valentine’s Day gift to you – a definitive how-to guide on how to have sex in a church and get away with it. *For entertainment purposes only. Church sex is illegal.

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Check out Churches with Cool Architecture and Art

It’s easy to gain admittance from a clergy member midday, on a weekday, under the guise of wanting to sneak a peek. Real Tiffany windows, Gothic Revival architecture, actual gold, and Renaissance-era art are NO JOKE, and worth checking out. Trinity Episcopal (371 Delaware Ave.) features stained glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany and John LaFarge; the Lombard-Romanesque interior of Blessed Trinity RC (317 Leroy Ave.) features a major collection of Christian symbolic art – 2,000 pieces deep- along with Byzantine details; Our Lady of Victory Basilica (767 Ridge Rd., Lackawanna) is mammoth, marble, and has a Father Baker museum in the basement; St. Stanislaus (123 Townsend Street) is a Romanesque fixture of Ol’ Polonia built in 1882; and when St. Louis Cathedral (35 Edward St. ) was built in 1855, it was meant to be an homage/knock-off of Cologne Cathedral from 16th century Germany.

Wander Off to Explore

While on a self-guided tour with your companion, look for annexes, nooks, and dark corners until you are alone and everyone thinks you left the building.  S. and I explored the main church by ourselves, then ended up finding a room with music stands and a piano. From there we wound up in an alcove between two doorways – one led back out into the church proper, and the other into a courtyard.

Make Sure you are Concealed and Undetectable

First thing’s first, make sure you won’t get locked in. (Asphyxiating in an old church dungeon is no laughing matter). Have an escape route. The door out to the courtyard was ours. An area with no windows is ideal. There was only a tiny window toward the bottom of one of the doors inside our alcove, and S. kept pressing his face up against it, but that’s a good way to scare the beJesus out of a nun.  I suggest a stealthier approach: get down on your hands and knees and peer every so often.

Turn Your Phone Off.

I figured this out the hard way. You will have adrenaline flowing and won’t remember to do so. In a quiet church, even vibrate mode could blow your cover. Turn that shit off completely.

Foreplay is Crucial for Testing the Limits

You might think a quickie in a church calls for ramming it in and running away, but foreplay is crucial. Not only will it increase your enjoyment overall, in this case it’s best to dip your toes in and see what you can get away with, slowly at first. If someone is going to catch you, it’s probably better to be moderately clothed and between first and third base. After five minutes, if you’re undetected, heat things up more. And then even more!

Don’t Leave Evidence

If you are prone to leaving things behind, now is not the time.  FYI, if you leave a condom wrapper, you’ll go to Hell forever. I heard it from the Archangel Michael himself.  The less personal belongings you bring with you, the better. It makes for a faster departure.

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I wish I could say I’m sorry that I had sex in a church, but I’m not. Why should I be? Jesus Himself probably had sex in a church at one point or another. The Romans weren’t exactly nice to the guy. So this St. Valentine’s Day, let’s all just try to have sex in as many places as possible.

READER SURVEY: WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE YOU’VE HAD SEX? FACTORYGIRL1987@GMAIL.COM

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Waking up on Wednesday

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It’s a schitzo kind of morning in a hotel room on the outskirts of town. Despite how thick the blinds are, the sun manages to shoot across the unmade bed. Beside me lies a snoozing male companion. Um, what’s his name? No, seriously…what was his name?

I jump out of bed and tiptoe across the carpet, following an adult-Hansel and Gretel trail of various items: a leather slip-on loafer in mens size nine; crushed pack of Kools; plumping lip gloss in the shade “Inflamed Desire”; a clear green lighter; hotel-sized Neutrogena lotion, squeezed; a pink, lace thong by Jessica Simpson brand; one 50 ml bottle of Acqua di Gio; and a Trojan, still wrapped.  I open the door to the bathroom, examine my face in the mirror then splash water on it, leaning over the sink.

What’s-His-Name walks in the bathroom. He’s 5’ 9’’ and has a Matt Damon in Rounders vibe, or maybe it’s Christian Slater in Heathers. Either way, he’s got chest hair and clear blue eyes, and something tells me he’s not totally innocent. Something about What’s-His-Name and I sparked last night. It wasn’t just those Kools we smoked in front of the hotel at 5 a.m. If only I could remember…

When What’s-His-Name gets out of the shower, I’m face down on the couch.

“I’m a mess,” he says, buttoning a wrinkled dress shirt.

“So?” I sob, gasping for air. “What’s the point? I can’t believe I slept with a total stranger.” I blow my nose dramatically in a paper towel, and take a good look at What’s-His-Name. He’s cute.

“No offense,” I say.

“None taken,” he says. “I need to stop drinking. I need to take a break.”

We check out of the hotel and call a taxi. What’s-His-Name’s company paid for the room. He’s the boss and sells mortgages, from what I recall. But right now, we need to get back to our cars, back to his Cadillac and my Pontiac, abandoned last night outside the Batavia casino.

“Hey, how do you spell your name?” I say in the backseat of the cab. “So I can put it in my phone.”

“You already have it,” he says.

“Oh,”  I say, noticing a missed call from a (585) area code. It’s saved under the name Lawrence Jacobi.

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The cab grinds to a stop in front of the downtown bus station. Three skinny smokers are congealed in the threshold. Our driver is an old Italian guy in a leather newsboy cap. “$16.85,” he says.

“Thanks,” says Lawrence, handing him a twenty.

I push through a revolving glass door into the white noise of the bus station. Lawrence follows me, overflowing gym bag on his arm. A big group of Amish people are waiting at one of the gates. I scurry into the stainless steel bathroom to douse myself with Strawberries & Champagne body spray and pop a couple Excedrins.

“Gold chains, gold chains,” says a hyper black man outside the bathroom door in a camo print bucket hat with chains draped elegantly over his forearm.

I walk past him, towards Lawrence, who’s easy to spot since we’re the only non-Amish patrons in the bus station. We walk side-by-side up to the Greyhound counter with our sunglasses on.

“Two tickets to Batavia,” Lawrence says. He removes his Polo shades, squinting in the fluorescent light.  The woman at the counter is wearing dangly earrings with big gold triangles on them.

“The next bus leaves at 2:04,” she says. “$18.”

Lawrence pays for the tickets. We walk outside into the hot sun. It’s only 11:45.

“I guess we have some time to waste,” I say.

We sit on a bench on North Division. I drape my legs across Lawrence’s lap. He lights a cigarette.

“Change, change,” chants a woman with a shopping cart who looks like Whitney Houston.

“Let’s get out of here,” I say, giving Lawrence a seductive glance.

We walk down Ellicott Street towards a daytime watering hole. I hear Seabar is open this time of day. When we get there, we sit at the bar. Businessmen on lunch breaks eye my attire: black shorts, huge Rage Against the Machine tee, snakeskin strappy heels. Lawrence seems to be in the same boat: wrinkled dress shirt, leather slip-on loafers, and sunglasses totally askew. I have a dirty thong and half-smoked joint in my overpacked tote, and Lawrence reeks of Tanguaray. This is what an extended walk of shame looks like. This is what it looks like to be approaching age 30. Or in Lawrence’s case, age 35, from what I recall.

“So, Lawrence,” I take a dainty sip of Bloody Mary. ”You live in Batavia?”

“Yes,” he says, drawing a straight line in the condensation of his Corona. “That’s where I’m  from.”

“You don’t look like any country boy I’ve ever met.”

He grabs my hand under the bar, and gives it a squeeze. The businessmen are watching us, since we’re obviously more interesting than the news on TV.

“To the couple at the end of the bar,” slurs a drunken white collar-type, raising his tumbler of scotch in the air. His tie is loosened, and it’s just past noon.

“Thanks, guy,” says Lawrence, with a twinkle in his eye.

“A shot!” says the white collar-type. “Let me buy you two a shot. What are we having?”

“How about Patron,” I say.

The unfazed bartender pours three Patrons, with limes on the side.

“Cheers!” we all say.

Before I know it, my cell phone says it’s 1:45 and we need to go back to the bus station.

“Ciao,” I say to the white collar-type, taking Lawrence’s hand as we make our tipsy exit from Seabar, which I’m sure won’t be our last.

Outside, the sun is hot, hotter than before. Lawrence lights two Kools. We reach the bus station, dripping with sweat. The bus to Batavia is boarding. The Amish are nowhere to be found. We sit in the back of the bus. Lawrence gives me the window seat. We lean against each other, and take a nap.

Memories of Last Weekend

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I’m a nymphomaniac courtesan at Motel 6 on Niagara Falls Boulevard making predictions about love. There’s no better place to write about romance than a seedy motel. It’s where you can spark up some pcp, listen to the night’s heavy breathing, dip into the ink and sink into your thoughts. My adventures in the name of love are hot, but extinguish rapidly. It’s a tough gig, being a romance columnist, but I’m opening my diary to you.

My weekend began with a call from Mick, my jealous friend/sugar daddy. We went to Mickey Rats, the watering hole for the overtan and over-50.  I picked him up, since his car’s AC is broken, but I didn’t mind. I spread my NY Times and Lacoste towels on the sand. Mick returned with a pinot grigio in one hand and what turned out to be his fourth scotch in the other.

“I can’t listen to you go on about Jerome,” Mick said. “You have been talking about him all day.”

“We went out for drinks,” I said. “What’s the ordeal?”

Mick’s face turned red. He said he was moving on with another woman. Ok fine, I said. What did I care? I’ve told him numerous times that this wasn’t going anywhere.

“I need someone who is serious,” he said.

I started crying, then whacked Mick over the head with an empty Styrofoam container from Hot Mama’s Canteen. He charged at me like the tragic lead in a Shakespearean play.  I splashed my entire pinot grigio across his face and power-walked away.

“Leave me alone,” I said. “Leave me alone!”

“I can get home on my own,” Mick’s voice echoed behind me. “I don’t need you. Go blow Jerome!”

I left Mick on the beach. He had to pay $200 for a cab back to Lancaster. When I got home, I sought refuge in the form of an older man’s sympathetic ear. Call it what you will, daddy issues maybe, but I called “Esquire” – a married, way-too-old for me man. I was baked from the beach, in more ways than one.

“Meet me at Bennigan’s in 30 minutes,” he said. “I’m not in driving form.”

Even though Esquire is by most accounts a professional man, whenever I hang with him he’s drunk and kind of smelly. I can’t really explain my desire. Is there ever an explanation for matters of the heart? I found Esquire lurking outside Bennigan’s in a deteriorating flannel.

“Bennigan’’s is closed. It’s closed, man,” he said.

“Hmm. I know a place.”

We drove a half mile to a dive on my side of the tracks, which means patrons knock each other over the head with pool cues and play “Stan”-era Eminem. We had one drink then got cozy in my car.

“My dick doesn’t work,” Esquire said dismally.

“Can’t you score Viagra at Chophouse?”

“That’s not the point. I’m married. And old. How old are you, anyway?”

“28.”

“And I’m married,” Esquire continued. “But I…love you. I do.”

What happens in my Pontiac stays in my Pontiac, where Esquire and I are concerned.  I dropped him off at the corner of his street.

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The next day I found NY Times and Lacoste towels folded neatly on my porch. I had all these emails from Mick, since I blocked his number.  But I had zero time to deal with him. That day, I was to have a “normal” date with a hopefully “normal” man. Actually, JJ was probably just my thirtysomething flavor of the week. Even though all he talked about was baby mama drama and the diamonds he’s got on layaway, I thought maybe – just maybe – he was worth a shot.

I met him last summer, when I was office assistant at an auto garage. My job was to literally buy Busch Light at the gas station on Military. JJ does body work. I liked his glasses.

The plan was to hit the beach – a different beach. I drove, since JJ’s license was revoked. Fist pumping techno boomed from the beach club.

“If we go in there, I’d come out in handcuffs,” JJ said as we walked by. “I hate guido fucking douchebags.”

“We can, um, avoid that,” I said.

We settled beneath an umbrella at Cabana Jims. I slurped a marg on the rocks. JJ threw back ten shots of “Jamo”.  After this booze smorgasbord, our food arrived. The waitress placed my cobb salad and JJ’s dinner of choice – a $15 girlie drink served in a giant coconut – on the table.

“Damn,” I said, eyeing the coconut, which bore some kind of tiki smile face expression.

After the beach, as the sun went down, we walked around the Japanese Garden. I decided I’d make out with JJ, then call it quits. We weren’t a match. He seemed like a hot mess.

“Why don’t we make out on this log?” I said, taking JJ’s hand.

“Make out?” JJ drawled in a drunken stupor. “That reminds me of fourth grade.”

I stared at JJ through the leaves. He was wearing patriotic shorts. Ugh.

“Look, look, I’ll just walk home,” JJ said, wandering away. “There’s like, moms and kids over there.”

“What?” I said. “So?” I guess JJ wasn’t an exhibitionist like me.

“I’m going to go blow some lines,” he said. “Peace out.”

I went back to the Pontiac, cackling like a witch, relieved to be rid of JJ. The truth is that a writer sleeps alone.