Private Magazine

Tag: dating

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.

No Ifs, Ands, Or Big Fat Butts

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This story isn’t about butts. It’s about romance. But what is “romance?”  No one seems to know, not even the dictionary. The dictionary says it’s, first and foremost, a “novel, movie, or genre of fiction.” Google says it’s “a feeling” associated with “love.”

I always thought romance was something sold in the Victoria’s Secret catalog.  This is probably because I used to wear the Amber Romance fragrance from their Fantasies line. (I later switched to Strawberries & Champagne, and they’ve both been discontinued).  Romance, to me, is rather illusory and fleeting, like cheap perfume.

In college, one of my upper-level English classes was “Romantic Journeys.”  It was taught by a very handsome professor-slash-documentary filmmaker.  It was then that I went from an Existentialist to a Transcendentalist.  Romanticism is about being free to express raw emotion.  There are also lots of castles in Romantic literature, so maybe that’s why Cinderella and all of them live in castles and get swept off their feet? But in reality, some Romantic guys actually went insane.  Edgar Allen Poe had syphilis, didn’t he? Frankenstein is also from the “Romantic” era.

Men today shouldn’t be scared of Romantic gestures, or expressing their emotions for that matter.  It’s slightly macabre, scary and perfect for the Halloween season. Here are some ways to make your relationship more Romantic this Halloween.

Live on Your Own Private Island/Castle

You will be able to have sex anywhere and everywhere, first of all.  On an episode of MTV Cribs featuring Nas and Kelis, they boasted that they are super loud when they have sex, so it’s a good thing no one else is around. I can’t remember where they lived, but it seemed pretty secluded.  Sadly, they went through an acrimonious divorce.

I once visited Alexandria Bay, NY with my belligerent former-sugar daddy and we did a ghost tour. There’s a castle there called Boldt Castle; it’s very famous.  The man who owned the Waldorf Astoria in NYC started to build a castle on a heart-shaped island for the love of his life, but she died mid-construction.  He ordered all work to permanently end.  You can take tours of the place now though, and the area’s ghost tour covers that and other places.

Sigh… so Romantic. A ghost tour would be perfect for a spooky yet sexual date. Or you could drive around looking for castles and explore.

Wear Vials of Each Other’s Blood

Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie were certainly a Romantic couple.  I never found out how they obtained the vials of each other’s blood that they wore around their necks. Was it professionally drawn, or was it more of a DIY effort? Donating a pint of blood would be something interesting to do as a couple.  You will get free juice and donuts, too! #FreeDates. Maybe you can take some blood home and fashion it into jewelry.

Bram Stoker wrote during the Victorian period, not the Romantic period, but Romanticism permeates the novel.  Dracula lived in a castle, of course. The sexualization of vampires is no secret; Helloooo Robert Pattinson.

Today you can visit bondage dungeons that resemble castles.  While there, mingle with the folks turned on by blood. There’s nothing closer to the heart, and therefore passion, than blood.  You might pick up some new ideas for the bedroom.

If you prefer to stay in for your Romantic night,  red wine and candy apples make succulent and sexualized treats. The Halloween film Sleepy Hollow contains blood play/bloodletting sex scenes.  It will surely get the blood flowing to the right areas.

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Pick Out Your Tombstones Together

So what if it’s only your second date? It’s never too early to choose how your headstones will look side-by-side. Personally, I want a heart-shaped tombstone. Black marble. What can I say, I’m a Romantic ‘til death. And the font is very important – chic cursive for me, all that way, with an etching of a rose.  A cemetery date would be great for Halloween. A walk through Forest Lawn is very picturesque, not to mention Rick James is buried there and I recently discovered a pond coated in cool green slime.  You can decide where your side-by-side burial plots can be placed, too, and then listen to “Cemetery Gates” by The Smiths.

Edgar Allan Poe is said to have died from syphilis, probably due to the fact he married his first cousin, but the actual cause isn’t known.  He was apparently murmuring the word “Reynolds” over and over when he appeared  at the hospital. It could have been syphilis, alcoholism, rabies, or something else.

His first cousin/wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, died before him, even though they married when she was only 13 and he was 26.  She had “the consumption,” but Poe’s extramarital “sexual improprieties” are said to have contributed to her early demise.

They’re buried together in Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, Baltimore, Maryland.

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You may not view all this stuff as “Romantic,” and simply dismiss it as the stoned ramblings of an utter nitwit.  That’s your decision. You can keep it PG, put on the old French maid costume and tickle your man with a feather duster again…  That’s cool for Halloween, too.

The dark and the mysterious has always been sexy, and dare I say, Romantic. The brooding Romantic hero in an exotic setting  has become a familiar plotline.  A Happy Ending is what we crave,  but sometimes, it’s the emotion and intrigue in between Happy Endings that makes the Happy Ending feel so good. The whole ‘Happily Ever After’ thing is for the birds.

Romantic Retardation*

*In the clinical sense of the word

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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.

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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!!

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

It Started With A Syringe

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I was at work the other day and ended up having a conversation about losing your virginity. Believe it or not, I wasn’t the one who brought it up.

“I was thirteen,” my co-worker, Ginnifer with the Blue Mani, said.

“I was fifteen,” said Shelby with the Mauve Lip Liner.  “And I’ve been on birth control ever since.”

“I was…seventeen, um, eighteen,” I said. “But honestly it took me that long to hit puberty.”  

We ended up trading stories about the loss of our virginities, about how, like Madonna and Britney Spears and Cyndi Lauper, we all became “touched for the very first time” and “hit one more time” and “time after time” after that.  

It all started in college. When I got to my room in Alumni dorm, I unpacked my Smiths CDs, issues of Nylon and Woody Allen movies to go out and party right away. It wasn’t long before I had a crush on a hipster I saw buying photo paper and film at the bookstore.

“He had glasses and a plaid button-up shirt – unbuttoned halfway,” I gushed to my BFF/roommate Tara as we ate mysterious dining hall casseroles. “I want to know his name.”

The very next day in the dorm,  I was listening to Belle & Sebastian and writing in my diary when our landline phone rang.

“He’s in my logic class,” Tara said. “My philosophy class. The guy with the glasses.”

“No effin way.”

I shadowed Tara’s next logic class for the purpose of learning this guy’s name. He turned out to be a senior named Tommy who said many intellectual things. I was swooning.

A couple days later, I was in our dorm searching for my clove cigarettes. The phone rang at 3:00,  about the time logic got out.

“Tommy wants to know if we can find him a syringe,” Tara said.

“My brother’s diabetic, so probably. For what?”

“His ‘Drug Life’ photo project.”

“I’ll go to LoGrasso. Have him come to our room.”

I walked to the health center, and believe it or not, there must not have been an opiate epidemic in 2005 or something, because I was given a syringe right away, no questions asked. Sweet!  I ran back to the room, and pretended to be working on something at my computer. The door swung open. Tara entered; Tommy was behind her.

“David LaChapelle, David LaChapelle,” Tommy was saying, wearing jeans completely frayed at the bottom with a giant hole exposing one thigh, Doc Marten boots, long wool overcoat and those glasses I had a thing for.

“I really appreciate you doing this for me,” he said while snooping through my bookshelf. He picked up my Annie Hall DVD. “When are we going to get married?” Turns out, Tommy was a huge Woody Allen fan.

“I have to find a few more things for the shoot,” he said. “Want to come along? I’ll grab you guys some wine afterwards.”

Oh yeah, Tommy was 21. It was all music to my ears.

“I saw The Dandy Warhols in London,” he said. We were squished in the backseat of our other friend Valerie’s broken-down Cutlass. She was the only one with a car.

We drove to Wal Mart, the only store in town, to find a “drug dealer-esqe” gold chain, Shower-to-Shower bath powder (“the only kind that really looks like coke,” according to Tommy), and a fake nail (“even though we could probably score one from a theater major,” he said). After Tommy purchased all this stuff, and a box of Franzia, we dropped him off at his place.

“Call me later and we’ll drink wine,” he said.

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Tommy and I started hanging out after that – walking around campus, smoking cigarettes, that kind of thing. One night he invited me to his house – off-campus.

“Sorry, we don’t have heat,” he said, opening the door and wearing a coat.

“Oh, okay, that’s cool,” I said.

We went up to the drafty second floor. Someone with a tie-dye tapestry over their door was blaring Grateful Dead. Tommy took me into his room and closed the door. There were stacks of books everywhere, photos tacked to the walls, an electric keyboard, bong, pack of Ecstasy herbal cigs, Velvet Underground & Nico poster, and a carpet that seemed to double as an ashtray.

“Wow. Your room is so cool,” I said.

We sat on the floor. Tommy rolled a joint, took out his iPod, and put the Brian Jonestown Massacre on. We smoked, and I got super high and paranoid because I was innocent and had no tolerance for weed back then. Tommy’s face kept getting closer to mine, somehow. He was about to kiss me when suddenly a dreadlocked girl barged into the room.

“Do either of you have a cigarette?” she yelled.

I looked at Tommy. He looked at me and said, “She’s trying to quit.”

“Um..uh, here,” I extended a Marb Light her way, my hand shaking. She retreated into the hall, shutting the door.

“Damn,” Tommy said. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s okay,”  I said. “So, where were we?”

This blog never gives an explicit play-by-play because it’s better to leave things to the imagination, in my opinion. It’s classier. But when I left Tommy’s house that night I wasn’t as innocent as when I entered.

“Tara,” I said, turning the light on and waking her up. “It happened.”

“Oh. My. God!” She sat up in bed and hugged me. “I’m so proud of you!”

The next morning, we were celebrating over DIY omelettes in the dining hall when I felt nauseous.

“BLEEEEGHHHHHH,” I puked for a good five minutes in the bathroom then came out, pale and sweating. “Tara…I’m so sick.”

I was in bed for the next 36 hours, perspiring, worried I was pregnant, watching The Virgin Suicides.

“Baby girl…You can’t be pregnant,” Tara said. “It’s got to be the flu.”

Sure enough, it was the flu. The only “clean” glass I could find at Tommy’s was totally cloudy and under the bathroom sink, but I was desperate.

The following semester, Tommy left to study abroad in the UK. I thought I’d never see him again. But junior year, Tara and I took the school van down to Pittsburgh, where Tommy was in law school…

READER SURVEY: WHAT SONG WAS PLAYING WHILE YOU LOST YOUR VIRGINITY? FACTORYGIRL1987@GMAIL.COM

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.

WTF R U TALKING ABOUT: VOL. 1

 

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Thank you to all the men who send me messages on Facebook. Please don’t stop! Whether it’s to discuss their relationships, sex lives, or secretive forays into bisexuality, I had no idea my blog would resonate so well with men. I’m blessed to learn what I have about the male mind, which is… that they don’t know what the FUCK women want! That’s no fault of their own. Women don’t know much about men either, it seems.  Or rather, they do, but many don’t care. Women are the new men. Either way, there are serious, stage-five miscommunications going on.

Honestly, I’m blessed as fuck to know the things that I know. It’s a writer thing. Which leaves me… just as hard up as all of you guys. Knowledge is power until it all goes sour. I don’t have love, romance, or even so much as a recent dick pic to speak of. Ok, that’s a lie. I received a dick pic yesterday. But it wasn’t the dick that I wanted a pic of. So typical. Sad emoji. C’est la vie. The best I can do is watch August Alsina music videos, because apparently that’s what aspirational true love looks like in this day and age.

I’ve noticed communication gaps between men and women around here, and I’d like to talk about them. Let’s not allow technological fuck-ups to ruin our love lives.

Any romance queries can be directed to factorygirl1987@gmail.com and our panel of experts will reply shortly.

DICK PICS

A source for building sexual energy between two people, the Dick Pic is my favorite relationship enhancer, besides wine. While I called this section “Dick Pic,” I’m intending this to mean any “sexts” between two people including X-rated pictures and/or text messages. For two consenting adults over 18 who have filed a privacy protection contract through their respective attorneys to hold them accountable should said Dick Pic wind up on the Internet, (wouldn’t that be a good idea?) the Dick Pic is a faster, cheaper sex tape. I grew up admiring Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee and their brazen exhibitionism. You’ve seen how far that’s gotten me. But it’s okay to love one’s body so much that you want to share it with the world. That’s the Kim Kardashian Wave of Feminism, and it’s taking over Instagram. If you are in a relationship (or just hooking up) with someone and the Federal Government hasn’t tapped your phone due to a pending felony, there’s no harm in shooting off a sext. Just make sure the recipient is the one you intended.

Here’s some practical tips on making your sexts look great. 1) Take them when you aren’t sober. They come out better, for some scientifically-undetermined reason. 2) Don’t use a filter. You are going for Terry Richardson/American Apparel ad/I-woke-up-like this, in-the-heat-of-the moment aesthetic. 3) For a great picture of your own butt, you are going to need a mirror that’s either full length, or a wide mirror like you’d find in a public bathroom. There’s nothing better than shameless sexts from a public location. 4) A long-distance relationship without regular sexting isn’t a relationship. 5) There’s money to be made by sending pics of your feet to weirdos from Craigslist. 6) A sex tape won’t turn you into a superstar anymore. The best you can hope for is Stassi from Vanderpump Rules level (If you’re asking, Who? I rest my case).

BLOCK PARTY

It’s never been easier to meet people. With online dating, I can easily Skype (and sext) with a beau who lives in Hong Kong and works for a Fortune 500 company. Hell yes! However, this works both ways. Technology has made it easier to cut ties and theoretically erase ex-lovers from our lives. I’m jaded and have no patience, so I’ll admit I’ve felt a surge of contentment after blocking a guy that I was just on a date with five minutes before.  One guy made me pay for my own chicken parmesan, so I blocked him. Another man flaked on a date the morning of, so I blocked him. That’s not to say the legitimately psychopathic ex-con I had to block didn’t deserve it. But damn, he was sexy! And that’s not to say, there are some men who have me blocked. Yes, lil ol’ innocent moi. Besides, I’ve seen the blockers and blockees in person since. We’ve gotten along courteously enough. It was eerie. It was as if the Internet world was a completely separate reality.

Recently, I ran into the previously-mentioned flake at Gypsy Parlor. I was out with a new man. It was cordial between all of us. So that little hit of satisfaction over clicking “Block” is a passing high. It feels like you are getting back at the person, since they probably will notice that you’ve blocked them. But I doubt they’ll lose sleep. Plus, you will run into them soon enough around town, anyway, and just act like nothing happened. So, out of experience I’d recommend not blocking someone unless it comes down to personal safety. You look immature. It’s more enjoyable to let your jilted lovers see all the fun you are having.

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DRUNK DIALS

We all have our Achilles heel. Mine is the Drunk Dial. Back when I was having an affair with a married man, I’d LOVE to get boozed up at the club and call him late at night. It was on my top five favorite things to do, right between watching Steve Wilkos and drinking pickle juice straight from the jar.  The man was a lush himself, so we’d have some seriously heartfelt late-night chats (if I remember correctly).

But not everyone is keen on receiving Drunk Dials. Those are the people I tend to avoid, and they avoid me right back. Drunk Dials are a polarizing subject. For the most part, the men I’ve discussed them with enjoy being on the receiving end of a genuinely heartfelt Drunk Dial. It means, ‘Wow, she got drunk and had me on her mind. Flattering!’ I used to have a Friends With Benefits who would Drunk Dial me semi-regularly. He worked at a bar and would get out of work at 5 a.m. (He appears on the blog as “Dan” in The Sex Drive).  The best Drunk Dial I ever received was from “Dan” at about 2 a.m.  I was asleep in my loft downtown when my phone rang and Dan told me that he was outside. Literally the dude took a cab from Cheektowaga to Gates Circle to apologize for something he did a month before. A little belated, but I accepted his apology but made him sleep on the floor. There was something endearing about Dan’s stupid Drunk Dials. Of course, now that I think of it, he got stuck in FWB territory, and wasn’t exactly known as boyfriend material. Which leads me to…

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

It’s 2016. All the single ladies and all the single men seem to be ships passing in the night. We are all obsessed with ourselves and if the other person doesn’t like it, we tell them to go away forever. It’s all or nothing nowadays. We don’t compromise. We don’t exchange pleasantries. We don’t make sacrifices. I’m convinced that sometimes our soulmate is right in front of us, but we are too preoccupied with looking at our own image on social media to notice them across the room.

I walk down the street every day and always say ‘Hi’ to strangers, and only get a “hi” back maybe 50 percent of the time. Hipster men with glasses and beards are the hardest to talk to. They really have a wall up. I think I’m known around town as the doped-up girl with the vacant stare always saying hi to strangers, but that’s better than being known as a raging asshole.

Perhaps the best part of dating and the Internet is being able to save articles related to ex-flames’ arrests and police reports. I have a whole folder saved on my Web browser – DWIs, weapons charges, even a date rapist I met at The Bend! This technological age of dating allows us to get to know the object of our infatuation faster. But is this always a good thing? If my mom got to know everything about my dad the first month of dating him, would I ever have been born? The question remains as to whether ignorance is bliss. But typically, yeah, it is.

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Working the Corner in Niagara Falls

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It’s 11:40 a.m. and four old men are collected, like a clump of fungus, in the parking lot of the corner 7-11. They hold 40 oz. Ballentine’s Ales in dirty, gloved grips and discuss an impending “disability check.” When I walk by, coughs and groans bubble from their raspy throats. It’s been a long time since these men have uttered sounds of passion – for life or for anything which life has to offer. Theirs is the blissed-out fog of the forgotten.

It’s 12:01 p.m. and Jennifer and I are opening the Niagara Falls watering hole to the morning crowd. Come to find out, there is a “morning crowd” and by all appearances, they are ready to get their groove on. A flanneled gentleman known as “Skip” drags his body through the entrance in clunky, steel-toe boots. Clomp. Clomp. Clomp. His lips open slightly into a preposterous grin. I notice one of his front teeth is missing. Gone. This is my third day working here, at this landfill of a bar known only as “The Third Hole.” Skip’s been here every single time. I’m sure all the times that I haven’t been here, Skip has been here, and he will be here in the days after I’m gone.

It’s 12:30 p.m  and every bar stool is occupied by a member of the male gender. Coolers are stocked with domestic bottles plus cans of Schmidt’s and Stroh’s. First in line down the L-shaped bar is Ricky, a walking type-2 diabetes, high-blood pressure situation. Despite being a ticking time bomb, Ricky requires three ever-present beverages in front of him – double well vodka and water; tumbler of Mohawk blackberry brandy; and a plastic cup of ice. If any of these get low, you will endure wails of exasperation. Next to him sits Canadian Stu in a half-unbuttoned dress shirt. The level of his Molson doesn’t currently require attention. Then there’s Chester, the most elderly of the bunch, slurpin’ a Schmidt’s along with what’s apparently known as a “Polish Bloody Mary” – a shot of vodka with tomato juice on the side.

“Does anyone want a shot of Patron?” I ask. “Does anyone want to try something new?”

Nothing new is ever on the menu inside “The Third Hole.” Everyone here sticks to a daily routine. Ricky grunts, scratches his stomach. This city, and many of its inhabitants, appear to be lost in the sauce.  An angry-looking fortysomething in a baseball hat glares at me from the end of the bar.

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“Can I get you another?” I say, removing his empty bottle. “Bud Light?”

I bring a fresh beer to this bozo but he’s still glaring and not saying a word.

“$2.25,” I say. His eyes pierce through mine. “I said, $2.25!” An utterly-futile staring contest continues for a few seconds, until I’ve had enough.

“The dude at the end of the bar is giving me a hard time,” I say to Jennifer. “He won’t give me the damn $2.25!”

“Oh, he has a tab,” she says. “He didn’t tell you?”

I run to the side of the bar featuring Canadian Stu, who is pretty chill. He’s been knocking back shots of Old Grandad. A biker with glasses declares he wants to buy everyone a round. I place plastic shot cups in front of every man – currency for their next libation. All the drunks are stacked up with shot cups, guaranteeing many rounds to come.

Sometime around 1 p.m., two younger guys walk in. They are probably around 30 and look tired. Sliding onto bar stools, they casually look around and wave to Jennifer. She already knows what they want – a couple Heinekens.

“I haven’t seen you before,” I say to the one with brown, spiky hair who looks like a cross between Shia LeBoeuf and John Belushi. “What do you guys do?”

“We work at the casino,” he says.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Scotty.”

“What do you guys do at the casino?”

“We’re pit bosses,” Scotty says. “We sit at the card games and make sure nobody cheats.”

“That’s hot,” I say. “Really hot. Like Rounders starring Matt Damon. You are Edward Norton.”

He doesn’t seem amused. Scotty and his homeboy take their beers to a corner table and start dealing out cards.

“I thought we’d have a shot of Patron?” I say as they’re walking away. Ricky, et. al. start hollering for beer while I’m staring into space.

“Hey, we’re waiting here,” he bellows. A rough-looking Falls chick in a Luke Bryan tee is also vowing for my attention.

“God, thank you,” she says sarcastically. I hand her a basic bottle of Budweiser.

A handsome professional is in the seat where Scotty was. His hair is black with a few grays. He’s mellowing out and doesn’t seem in a rush.

“How about that shot of Patron?” he says.

“I thought you’d never ask,” I say.

The mysterious professional and I stare into one another’s eyes. We sip Patron until he gives me $5 and continues on his way. Ricky, et. al. start hollering for beer again.

“Hey!” Scotty shouts. “Over here!”

“I’m almost done with my shift,” I say. “I’ll come hang with you in a bit, Scotty.”

“No, we need beer,” he says.

The afternoon drags on….

“Barmaid, barmaid,” shouts Chester while rattling his empty Schmidt’s.

Around 6 p.m, Scotty’s girlfriend shows up. Great, I’m thinking. Just what I need. She starts giving me the stink eye. I didn’t realize this place would bring more enemies than friends. It can be hostile when you’re not a Falls chick. If I’m ever found in a barrel at the foot of the Falls, now you know why.

I pop open bottles with a flick of the wrist. I’m not talking as much, lest the drunks get annoyed I take too long delivering their fix. Led Zeppelin drifts around the smelly bar like a missing cat. A sliver of sun manages to cut through the grimy windows. It’s a depressing scene.

These are the men who have washed ashore. The ones society forgot.  Sweat-soaked alcoholics and veterans and lonely widowers, the incapacitated and disabled, the racists and homophobes and misogynists, all paying for beer with plastic cups and loose change. An empty beer with a shot cup over it signifies that person wants another. It’s a secret language spoken by the braindead and the downtrodden. I decide to ride the wave back home, back to Erie County, forever.

The Silver Fox

ricks
I have a silver-haired suitor named Mick. He’s a fortysomething banker who proudly goes commando.

As Sunday morning turns into afternoon, light fog permeates the air. A misty gray sky hangs above downtown. It’s calm after last night’s drinking crowd. Mick is driving me around in his ‘01 Beamer, six-foot-two frame squished behind the wheel. He stickshifts around the Harbor Center, taking a meandering route to nowhere in particular.

We check out construction on the new ice rink, killing time before an afternoon Christmas party. This mysterious soiree – hosted by a priest – will contain local politicians. Or so I’m told by Mick. My hunger for adventure made me accept his invitation, which came along at just the right time. I’m going through a Jon Stewart phase.

“Thanks for the wine,” I say. Beringer Estates white zinfandel sits in a little wicker basket.

“I need that basket back though,” Mick says. He lets out a chuckle, peering at me sideways with crystal blue eyes.

This is the first time I’ve gone anywhere with Mick. I definitely didn’t expect a gift. We relax at the Main and Chippewa intersection. All is still. The street, vacant. As the light changes from red to green, Mick shifts the car into gear.

Instead of moving, the turn-of-the-century BMW just absently rolls forward and stalls out.

“There’s something wrong with my car,” Mick says, turning off the ignition and turning it back on again. The car does the exact same thing – nothing.

“This has never happened before,” he says. “Oh my God why is this happening?”

“Maybe you should take the keys out and let it rest,” I say, putting my hand on his thigh.

Mick swiftly exits the car and starts pushing.

“Do you want me to help? I really don’t mind.”

“No, absolutely not. It’s fine!”

Mick steers the car towards a parking lot 30 feet away. A random pedestrian in prison orange appears out of nowhere, and helps him push. I feel like Cleopatra being carried by two male attendants. We make it to the parking lot and I get out of the car.

The random pedestrian asks Mick for money.

“What? No! Get out of here!”

I’m shocked Mick doesn’t toss him a couple bucks, but then again, I don’t either.

“Whenever someone’s car dies, there’s always that random helper nearby, and they always ask for money. It’s a known hustle,” I say.

“That was the same guy?! I was too shaken up to notice.”

We are in a parking lot right by The Lodge. We go there to figure shit out. I left my car on Elmwood and Auburn. The party is around Nottingham Terrace/Parkside, at Father John’s crib.

We take a seat at the bar.

“Look, I have AAA,” I say. Mick orders a martini, straight up. He’s visibly frazzled.

“It’s going to be ok,” I reassure. “The party doesn’t start for like, two hours.”

Mick emits a deep exhale. “You’re sweet.”

The two of us hang out for a while, eventually abandoning the car. AAA would only tow it five miles with the policy I have, and what good would that do? We take a taxi to my car and head to the party.

uncork
At the party, the cozy kitchen is stuffed with middle-aged couples. A long table is lavishly spread with various canapes and hors d’oeuvres. The host, Father John, emerges from the crowd in a nubby Christmas tree sweater.

“Hello, very good to see you Mick,” Father John says, giving Mick a long, hard embrace.

Mick introduces me to Father John, who extends a polite handshake. The two of us head to the open bar. A couple older bartenders are mixing drinks in Father John’s cleared-out living room.

Mick and I stand against the wall, close together.

“Father John is in love with me,” Mick says.

“Oh come on,” I say, “In love?” I look over my shoulder. Father John is staring at us from across the room, with a twinkle in his eye.

Guests gradually fill up the kitchen, living and dining rooms. A state Senator who I spot around town all the time shows up. Mick points out another Senator rocking a hideous royal blue fleece in the kitchen. I force my tipsy self to not ask him questions about his latest controversy. They aren’t as attractive as Mick, anyway, and not just because they’re both Republican.

Mick and I make a few more trips to the bar. The martinis and wine are flowing. A carving station opens up, offering turkey and succulent roast beef sandwiches.

After we chow down, I lead Mick down a random carpeted hallway. We find an empty den with bowls of chips everywhere.

“Ugh, finally – we’re alone,” I lean into Mick.

“You are gorgeous and young,” Mick says. “Everyone here is looking at you.”

“No they’re not. I haven’t noticed, anyway.”

We sit down on the futon.

“How could you not have noticed?”

I want to make out with Mick badly, but go figure – the damn door is clear glass. Not exactly the privacy I had in mind. Suddenly, a goofy-looking short guy with a crooked tie enters the room. He slumps in an armchair with a beer.

“Hey, I’m Jack. Sorry – mind if I sit in here? You weren’t trying to have a private moment – were you?”

Mick and I look at each other.

“Uh, it’s fine,” I say.

Jack starts carrying on about his public speaking job with the county.

“Oh you know, I give tours. Looking to retire soon. It’s been very rewarding….”

He carries on and on and neither Mick nor I say much in response. I’m waiting for this Jack creature to vamoose but then…a fiftysomething woman in one inch heels and candy cane socks comes in!

“Oh, this is my wife,” Jack says, rolling his eyes. Jack’s wife sits on the other side of the room. She looks tired and bored. Jack keeps talking about his job while his wife just sits there looking miserable.

After 25 minutes or so, Jack and his wife leave. Mick and I emerge, going back into the soiree. Father John rushes towards us.

“We’re gonna get going,” Mick tells him.

“Oh, Mick, so good seeing you. Merry Christmas.”
We go off into the night, stopping to make out in the Historical Society parking lot.

Later, I fall asleep while reading a text from Mick.

“See – listen to this. I told you Father John has a crush on me. He sent me an email saying he wishes I slept over and that he loves me! And that asshole Jack. I should have told him to give us some fucking privacy! They are so fucking nosy! And then his wife walks in. I should have told them to go away. You are beautiful and amazing. Let’s go to Rick’s on Main next weekend. Good night.”

Dicks, Diners, and Drives

Diag

Part One

My phone is ringing. It’s 2 a.m. and no surprise – it’s Dan.

I hear static…drunken shouting… and then…. Dan’s voice breaks through, but sounds like it’s coming from miles away.

“HELLO YES -” Dan yells, “HELLO.”

I’m laying in bed, picturing Dan.  He’s holding his phone out in front of him like a walkie-talkie, outside the 33 Speakeasy. His polar fleece is bunched up around his hairy stomach, and his pants? They are no doubt falling down, due to his open fly. He trots away to catch a taxi. I see him, in my mind, trying to light a bowl of weed while running, which undoubtedly leads to him setting his beard on fire…

“YES HELLO -” he continues. “HELLO.”

Now, I don’t always answer the phone at 2 a.m. But when I do, I just so happen to be in a good mood.

DISCLAIMER:  Dan previously assured me that when he calls in the middle of the night, it’s not a booty call. It’s because his workday is from 8 p.m to 5 a.m. To him, calling at 2 a.m is his equivalent of my 2 p.m. So, if he calls and asks to hang at 5 a.m? It’s not a booty call!

“I AM IN A CAB,” Dan shouts, “ I AM ALMOST TO YOUR HOUSE NOW.”

Dan barges through my front door, and the stench of alcohol slaps me awake like a frozen seabass. The room becomes encapsulated in an alcohol-sweat cloud.

He collapses into my armchair, holding a practically-empty bottle of Labatt Blue.

“HELLO,” he says, with a bag of weed balancing on his chest. “WHAT’S NEW.”

The two of us stay up for an hour talking and drinking tea. Suddenly, Dan decides to climb the ladder to my loft bed and pass out with his clothes on. I didn’t want to sleep up there next to him, anyway. The putrid, alcoholic-sweat scent was a major turnoff.

I end up sleeping on the floor.

——————

In the a.m, I put on dance music.

“Come on, wake up, we gotta get coffee before work!”  I say.

Dan raises his body slowly, and opens his eyes as fast as a sloth on ketamine. He stares out  blankly and distantly into the abyss.

“…All right,” Dan says.

We get breakfast at Spot. Dan pays, so I consider this a date. (The actual “dates” in this world are few and far between). Then, Dan needs to get back to his car, which he abandoned at Gordy’s Tavern. I make Dan drive us to Gordy’s, on the outskirts of the Cheektowaga/Amherst line,  in my car.

While cruising down the 33, I ask Dan if he has ever engaged in road-head. (I’m not sure why).

“Why, ah, no.”  Dan furrows his eyebrows.

“Oh, yeah, I did that before,” I say, absently. “Back in the day when I was in a monogamous relationship.”

After a minute of staring out the window, I look over. Dan has his penis completely exposed.

“You moron! I didn’t mean today,” I shout. “I’m already on thin ice with the B.P.D, I do not need a ticket for performing fellatio on a highway.”

I grab a bed sheet from my backseat (from the beach), and toss it over his lap.

We arrive at Gordy’s Tavern. I give Dan a half-hearted smooch in front, like the ridiculous Cheektowaga person that I am.

Is it weird that I consider Dan one of my best friends?

————-

Dad

Part Two

Nothing quickens a man’s pulse like being ignored. At least, that was the case with Eugene.

Back in the spring, it seemed as though our passionate fling would go on forever. It seemed as though the drunken, hedonistic evenings would never end. Actually, we only went out two, maybe three, times. But what can I say? Eugene has that je ne sais quoi.

However, that je ne sais quoi is also pourquoi I decided to cut him loose. Months ago, I grabbed Eugene by his tatted-up arms and placed him in the friend zone. Despite haphazard texts from Eugene, my desire to be more-than-friends with him is suppressed. I just don’t pay him that much attention.

Imagine my surprise to get a text from Eugene while I was gone for the weekend. He was all worried that I moved to NYC. We made plans to meet for coffee upon my return. Apparently Eugene wanted to discuss a “humorous situation” which happened to him “earlier in the week.”

I get to Romeo & Juliet’s as the clock strikes three. The place is closed. “Will re-open Wednesday,” declares a note on the door. I look at my phone, and read a text from Eugene. “R&J’s is closed,” it says. “Meet me at my house.” I drive a very short distance to Eugene’s home.

It’s always really welcoming, going to Eugene’s. I unlatch  the chain link gate and walk right in. Romulus starts barking at me. Eugene rushes downstairs in navy sweatpants, applying citrus-infused wax to the tips of his mustache.

“I was planting garlic, then went for a jog,” he says. “Had to take a shower.”

He follows me into the kitchen and turns on the espresso machine. I turn around. We’re sandwiched in the breakfast nook, facing each other awkwardly.

“So, hi,” Eugene leans in, and inches towards my face with his lips. I back away with a quizzical expression and go sit in a chair.

“So, what’s new?” He asks, sitting across from me.

We catch up. Eugene talks about the kayak expedition he just took down the Mississippi River. I feel kind of awkward. What the heck is up with Eugene,  anyway?

“Let’s go upstairs, listen to some music,” I say.

We go up to the den. Since the last time I was here, the leather lounge chair moved from the room on the right to the room on the left. It’s those subtle changes that remind you time has passed. We go to the room on the left, and I recline on the chair.

Eugene decides to perform a series of yoga stretches.

“I’ve just – become – so – flexible lately,” Eugenes says with a leg behind his head.

“Uh, yeah…” I pick a book from his shelf. It’s called “Sexual Styles” and I start to flip through it very intently.

“I love this book!” I say, focused upon the Table of Contents. “According to this, I’m a Histrionic Lover.”

“Me too.”

I look up after a few seconds. Eugene has both of his hands down the front of his sweatpants. He tugs out the elastic band and pulls them down completely. I look down at “Sexual Styles” unaffected. What the heck is up with Eugene anyway?

“Let’s go for a walk,” I say. “To the bodega or something.”

It’s during the walk that I realize – I am totally desensitized to dicks.

What this all proves is that A) Eugene invented the Pre-Planned, Stone-Cold Sober-in the-Middle of the Day-Booty Call, and B) When men can’t expose what’s really on their minds, they expose their dicks.

Asshole in Sheep’s Clothing

catbook

Fresh pieces of a mutilated cat lay along Delaware Avenue.  Its body has been crushed beneath bicycle tires. What was once a cat is now a torn-apart, unrecognizable mess. Stray cats slink up and lick the delicious cat-aver.  Dripping ooze falls from their whiskered lips, as they devour their feline friend. Cat-ibalism.

There’s one glittering blue eyeball here, a pile of white goop there.  Blood red body parts decorate the asphalt. There are other rainbow hues – bright yellow, green, purple – melting in the humidity. There’s a blue jellybean face and white frosting flesh.

The cat cake had been my idea. It seemed like a stroke of genius for Neil’s birthday. He has cats – and it’s no secret that men love cake and pussy.

catcake2.jpg

——————————–

WHEN IT ALL BEGAN

Neil and I have been going out and talking on the regs for a few weeks now.

We went to the movies and shared popcorn (Neil ate most of it). He held my hand at the Bisons game, while he took an Instagram of the fireworks. When we went to the Taste of Buffalo and it started to pour, Neil gave me his hat.  Neil’s a nice guy, an interesting guy, and I really like him a lot.

Sure, at times he can be condescending and egotistical. Like that time he said – “What you should know about our friendship, our relationship, is that you can’t get defensive, you just have to listen.” I had poked fun of a drunk college girl who fell in her heels. Her friends stood up in Founding Fathers and shouted, “Melinda!” I’m usually that girl, so it was nice not to be Melinda. I stood up and said “Whoa!” and staggered at Neil. He found it a cold-hearted move…I  was wrong, I should just admit it, I was an asshole for making fun of her. Neil always has to be right. But I really like his beard.

Neil’s birthday is today. For the past few days, Neil’s texts have been spotty/ borderline nonexistent. But, according to my friend Julie – who has known Neil many years – that’s not unusual. “He just gets really into his work,” she texted. “Definitely make the cake. No girl has done anything for him like that before. He’ll love it.”

I have all the cake supplies set up on my kitchen table. It’s noon. I call Neil to wish him a Happy Birthday, and tell him I’m making a gift.  He doesn’t answer. I get a quick text back. “Sorry, can’t talk, I’m picking up produce for a photoshoot.” Neil’s a photographer. “Shit’s hectic.”

“Ok,” I say, “I have something to deliver to you at some point. It’s not done yet.”

“I”ll text you when I’m back in Buffalo,” Neil writes.

So I go about concocting my creation. I separate the cake batter into six bowls. Then I make each one a different color, with those food coloring drops. I pour the colors one on top of the other, in layers, and make two round cakes.  The insides will come out tie-dye. One cake is the cat’s body. The other I cut into the head, ears, and tail. I frost the thing white, and put Funfetti sprinkles on the tail.  I put in sour Jelly Bellys for the eyes, red ones for the nose, and paint on whiskers. Then, in the final step, I write in icing “Happy B Day Neil.”

catcake

I run out on some errands, then go for a walk. Before I know it, it’s 8 p.m. and still no word from Neil. Hmm. My friend Jerome and I are supposed to go to Blue Monk later.  I’m anxious for Neil to be impressed by my culinary artistry. I’m one step away from pastry school in France!

So I text Neil. “Are you done with your tomatoes or nah?”

“Yup,” comes Neil’s reply. “I’m at dinner with friends from out of town.” My eyes narrow – did he not say he would text me? Then Neil says, “I’ l be free in a few.”

An hour passes by. Annoyed, irritated, and dumbfounded, I text Jerome. The cat stares at me mercilessly.

“Come over to my place before Blue Monk,” I say, looking the cat in the eyes. “Looks like we’ll be having cake.”

By eleven, Neil still hasn’t texted me. Jerome just showed up.

“This cake was supposed to be for Neil,” I say pitifully, exhaling marijuana smoke. I wipe the word “Neil” off the cake with a sigh.

“This is one badass cake!” Jerome says. “I’m going to take a photo of it with my camera.” And he does.

“Yeah, thanks Jerome.” I plan on getting drunk on wine ASAP.

I send Neil a photo of the cake with the message “I ate the cake with friends. Happy B Day.”

—————————————————

We go to Blue Monk and sit in the DJ area. Jerome is taking photos. I plant myself on a stool. My phone dings; it’s Neil.

“I don’t know what you want me to say?” Neil is responding to the cake photo. “We didn’t have plans to hangout today. Thanks for making a cake.”

The ungrateful, selfish, rude things that I’ve heard from people are nothing compared to this moment. As soon as I look at my phone, I want to run away from this scene. Don’t know what you want me to say?

I have some transient promoter from the West Coast jabbering away and repeating everything I say back to me in the form of a question…Dudes staring at their own reflections in their pint glasses of ale….Everyone guy here seems completely enveloped in raging narcissism. It’s like that scene at the end of “American Psycho.” The only emotion I feel is disgust. When “Sue Sue Suidio” comes on, it’s too much to bear. I run out of Blue Monk, and go to the left so no one can see me disappear through the front window.

I trot across the garden path in front of the Unitarian Universalist church, down West Ferry and around the corner, past Canisius High School. This is where it all started with the men in my life, at the Canisius dances. The Canisius men, drunk on Daddy’s scotch, would walk around with raging hormonal boners and come up behind you, as Usher came on. How little they change.

I’m intoxicated and decide to pee in the Canisius flower bed. The sprinklers mist around me, concealing me. Educating men for and with others since 1870.

I pass Brylyn medical facility, and consider going in for the night. We are crazier out here, I think to myself. It could be a fun overnight stay. Maybe I’ll wind up with some meds.  But I venture on and arrive at my apartment. I run upstairs in my platform shoes. There’s one more thing I have to do.

I dig my hand into the cake in one fell swoop and take a giant bite.  It’s delicious. Then, I run down three flights of stairs, carrying the cake pan in front of me. I run to the end of my driveway, grab the cake with my bare hands, and fling it down on the Delaware Avenue pavement. I throw the pan on top of it all and run inside.

My final reply to Neil’s remarks – “Fuck the cake. It’s gone. Was trying to do something nice, and you completely did not care. Just leave me alone.”

catsign

———————————————————

The next morning I wake up, and see that Neil defriended me on Facebook and Instagram. Well that’s mature, I’m thinking, You make someone a cake, and they delete you on Instagram. Only in America.