I walked down the street, the prenatural glow of things before sunrise. He’d smiled at me on BART and dropped me his card. I had texted him by the next stop. He wrote me right back and invited me to dinner. It was like something out of a trashy romance novel. We sat at dinner like we’d been dating for months. Sitting on the same side of the table, purposely touching the entire time. We took a stroll through the neighborhood afterwards resulting in a few makeout sessions that got extremely urgent. Against the final tree he said I should come home with him. I wasn’t about to disagree.
The world left behind, he sat by the campfire. Thick Pacific fog held the beach captive around him. His coworkers had called him a bit crazy for doing this trip. Who takes a vacation alone with a backpack and a tent out in the middle of nowhere? “Me” he cackled to himself, teasing the fire. They didn’t realize how much it took for him to be around people and to pretend to happy about it. How the shallow water-cooler conversations made him sadder each day he heard them.
The sunrise spread over the urban meadow as he walked quietly along behind his cart. His brown clothes hung like Buddhist monk's robes. This one had a drinking fountain, he could refill his bottles. He had been teased by others in the underworld for living there. They called him designer homeless, the organic, free-trade vagabond. This was home, their nicknames fell off him like water off a duck. He'd lived places where resources were scarce. Food bank passed out bags of rice.
"Welcome to MFFit, how can I help you?" "Yeah - I saw you guys had opened and figured I'd come in for a tour, and see what you have to offer." "Bitchin'", barked the man behind the counter, "One of our awesome trainers 'll be up in a minute." That's when his eye caught the name badge of the counterperson. It read "Fuck You, I'm Bill." Then he realized everything in the place was laden with curse words. Reminders about putting weights back read, "Really, Bitch?
The bar manager approached me apprehensively as I was setting up the sound equipment. Thursday nights the bar hosted ‘Beareaoke’ for the local bear club to come and drink beers and sing. “We have a problem, Bill,” he said. ”Rex at the bar double-booked Beareaoke with Red Hanky Social Night. What will we do?” “Me and Gladys,” I said, referring to the drag queen I cohosted with, ”are showmen; we’ll figure it out.” Gladys showed up perfectly dressed in a bright red sequin dress. She and I talked about the situation, and decided on the perfect solution.
He slumped over his cold cut special with extra pickles and no onions, it was almost as boring the book he'd dogeared and shut. Was this all there was to look forward to? Windy days in the corner eating a sub sandwich before tottling down the block back to his apartment? He had tried taking the sandwich home, upselling it with the idea of deep draw from a shimmering glass of Pinot Noir. But then last Wednesday night he'd follow up the sandwich with the rest of the bottle and woe is me menopausal dramas on cable television. Why couldn't she see that her boyfriend was the murderer?
He stared at himself in the mirror - a comfortable black tshirt, brand new blue jeans and engineer's boots with an obvious history. He clipped on his keys and headed down the block. The heat of a summer night made him make the familiar stroll to the bar. He could remember getting leathered up and meeting the boys. He would smile walking by the dark corners he'd made love to a man in the early hours. the first time he'd been called Boy. the first time he'd been called Daddy. The freedom. The abandon. All of them ghosts now.
You know that ringing in your ears after a loud Springsteen concert? The one where he sang every song you love and covered a few others. The one where you sang along to every word and let his voice flow over you like waterfall. Yeah, that one. All I can hear is the ringing, but I always hum Springsteen to myself when it bothers me, or for some odd mysterious reason, I am reminded that the ringing is there. The driver had been passing in a no passing zone. The road was a bit wet from the unseasonable summer rains from the night before.
this morning in my local Peet's... I got my medium in a large, because there really can't be enough half and half. I'm headed over to get the cream - and watched a cute young employee clean up the cream station. He's obviously a fresh new college student type, with the almost-a-goatee and the earring thing going on. I patiently waited for him to finish cleaning up. He grabbed the whole milk and someone had left the top off of it - so when he picked it up - it tipped and splashed all over the sugar and cream station.
He stared down at the ocean spreading out below the plane as he daydreamed. Two years in the south pacific helping island nations use technology for sustainable farming practices sounded like Klingon to his Vietnam Veteran father and macho brother. He watched his older brother raise his right hand two years earlier and join the Army. Not only the Army, but a god damned Ranger. It wasn't lost on him how proud his father was that morning.
They stood in line in the coffeeshop. He glanced at the clock, 645am. Plenty of time. The woman in front of him stepped up to the cashier, pulling out of her purse what looked like a long supermarket shopping list. She started innocuously with some pastries and drip coffee. Then she announced she had to pay for each order separately. When she reached her fourth drink, a quad macchiatto with 1/2 a spend a in the drink and 1/2 a splenda sprinkled over the top, I let out an audible sigh.
What was she doing there? She sat in the classroom, somewhere she hadn’t visited since her twenties, which is roughly what she guessed was the average age of the other students in the room. They all sat in front of spinning wheels. When they were together, he had seen beauty everywhere, art where she saw graffiti, faith where she saw stubbornness. They dated a couple more times before she gently let it go. Damn it, though, she thought about the disconnect for months after. She looked around her life and started to not-so-gently question it all.
For each day in March 2016, I’ll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today’s is from Rachel Unger who writes, simply: “Toast” - - - - - - - - - "It was so hot. Once I'd dipped it in the creamy sweet goodness, the whole thing glistened, I just couldn't wait to get it in my mouth - " "This doesn't sound like a work place appropriate conversation," he said, disapprovingly interrupting her as he walked into the break room. "We're talking about toast - how can that be work place inappropriate?"
Arriving early, as always, I was the only patient in the waiting area. The old school receptionist tapped away. Her large Lee press-ons exaggerating the click of data entry. She wore glasses, held to her outfit by a classic 1950s string of white pearls. The med tech stood next to her, chatting. What I thought at first was an optical illusion soon became a truly visible glow all around the med tech.
For each day in March 2016, I’ll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today’s is from Brett Cook-Snell in Norfolk who writes, simply: “Pipe Smokers” - - - - - - - - - We'd met on Scruff, one of those phone apps for speed dating and guilt-free fucking? Yeah - you know the ones I'm talking about. He had these unworldly blue eyes, like somewhere in his bloodline his family had bred with some blue heelers. His skin was perfect, it was like staring into an oil of olay commercial.
For each day in March 2016, I’ll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today’s is from Kenny Hill in Toronto who writes,: “Learning to sing 'The Girl from Ipanema' in Brazilian Portuguese.” - - - - - - - - - "My Bonnie has tuberculosis. My Bonnie has only one lung," he gleefully sang as the car sped down the expressway, "My Bonnie coughs up a raw oyster, then rolls it around on her tongue..... Bring back.
For each day in March 2016, I’ll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today’s is from Stuart Gaffney in San Francisco who writes,: “ It seems to be my fate to destroy any chemistry within a month of being intimate.” - - - - - - - - - He wore five o'clock shadow and a blue pin stripe shirt that must have been magnificently ironed at 8am. Half of scotch and soda sloshing around a happy hour cocktail glass. A shiny undone molasses black bow tie dangling from his collar.
For each day in March 2016, I'll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today's is from Ed McLaurin in Nashville who writes, simply: "Your quest for the perfect cup of coffee" - - - - - - - - - He sat down at his perch. It wasn't his name for it, but the name the regulars at the coffee shop had given it. You could people watch and cruise from here like no other location. Today the parade of beardage and otterage was in rare form.
He sat on the 24 bus heading to the Castro, fumbling with note cards in his hand. He'd been asked to speak. He always knew the day would come where he could share his experiences with others and contribute back to the community that had given him so much. What was he nervous about? These were his friends and some of them had become extremely close ones. He knew, despite his fear of public speaking, that this was a safe place to do so. The bus leaned to a stop and he walked up to Our Lady of the Castro. He stared up at the white building and its black iron gates.
He sat with his head leaning against the glass. White earphone cords lead across his flannel shirt to his pocket. Eyes shut, he nodded slowly to the music as a contented sleeping smile swept across his face. He held a large leather-bound journal, liberally decorated with Easter-egg colored sticky notes. He was almost cuddling with it like he was under the covers. He smelled of sandalwood and coffee. He had missed a half-inch spot in that morning’s shave. I was feeling guilty at having him all to myself when his phone erupted in vibration and a Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto ring tone.
“Doesn’t this Utilikilt look great on me?” he asks. So not fair. In nearly 30 years of cultivated faggotry, I’ve only ever seen one man that looked good in a Utilikilt. I mean, even utilkilt.com photographs their models from miles away because they make most guys look like a moldy wheel of goat curd. So, first part of this scenario is my husband asking me the gay version of “Do these jeans make my ass look fat?” To which always the answer should be, “No hon, it’s your ass.” The second is, he’s chosen one that is this weird salmon color. My sweetheart wearing a salmony cheese-curd skirt.
“Hi. My name is Mark, ” I paused, speaking into the microphone, “and I like Miley Cyrus.” Instead of the expected support group auto-response, the silence in the room was deafening. After a few more moments, a woman in the front row spoke, “Get out. Get out now.” That’s how my nightmare goes, anyhow. My hubby tells me if I wake up humming “It’s a party in the USA” one more time, I should sleep in the guest room. I mean if you listen to her lyrics, she’s riding along in a LA taxicab and nervous about her trip and worried if she’ll fit in. Jay-Z comes on the radio and…problem solved!
"Mom, I'm scared of Ebola." Her mother rolled her eyes. "There was this report that some guy caught Ebola and died. Then like three or eight hours later he came back to life* "So the zombie apocalypse has started?" "MOM! We're all going to die.
He'd left the crowded national park parking lot, and he'd hiked determinedly up and away from them to reach the silence. He couldn't hear car horns, he couldn't hear people talking loudly on cellphones. It literally felt like magic. It was a thick wool comforter he could pull over his mind. Every year it took longer to get outside the wall of sounds and chirp of distractions. Our present environmental crisis, is in essence, a spiritual crisis. A plaque - the revolution that vaulted Christianity to victory over paganism.
My mind is a scary place. No - it's not 'state the obvious' day again. (hands on hips) It is just that with an alarming regularity my mind, more specifically my subconscious has hired a guest host. I rarely remember dreams, but these dreams I can remember clearly, what was discussed, what we ate, what we were wearing. I call this Lunch in my Mind with SBG. SBG being short for Subconscious Barry Gibb. That's right, the avatar of my inner most mind is the leader of the BeeGees. The dreams happen like I'm recalling a lunch date, like BG and I had lunch regularly like SBG and I do.
The church bell starting tolling. It was probably the Saint Marks over on third street. He remembered an impatient boy, waiting until 845am, hands hovering around the rope. The memory made him smile. He paused for a moment, realizing Wednesday was Epiphany. 'and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words' he mumbled to himself, waddling out to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. "should have brought the christ child some coffee. they have great coffee in Persia." Coffee wasn't the answer to everything, but it made the answers clearer anyways.
"Fiberliscious?," he said tapping the shopping list "Fiberliscious." he said matter-of-factly, "The name brand gives me gas so I get the more expensive Fiberliscious." "Can you tell a big difference?" "It's not like I drink a fiber supplement drink because it's delicious. Like I'm going to trade out mimosas for delicious orange flavored Fiberlicious. Even champagne nor vodka could turn it into a pleasurable drinking experience. I just care than I'm not turning meetings in the conference room at work into a cruel chamber of horrors.
I met Hank one day walking the dog. We played catch with her and laughed honestly. I told him I was going to dinner, he politely declined. It wasn’t till a few more encounters that I realized Hank lived in the park. He had moved here to find construction work and had gone bust. He said the only thing he hated about living on the street was deviled ham. Those little cans of meat that get donated to food shelters. He asked me once if they did Yelp reviews for foodbanks. Otherwise, he said, he had so far not been bothered much by police or residents. He knew how to be invisible, he said.
I heard the shocked wail from the living room and walked into the study to find my husband pointing at the screen in horror. "How could you let me wear that sweater to the party last night? Look at me? I look like the Hindenburg mated with a red throw rug. Batten down the hatches, I need to diet! Oh my god I'm fat." I stood there silently while he ranted on - and when he finally looked up, I said, "Thick winter sweaters aren't supposed to be sexy, they are supposed to be warm.
His entire outfit was a dark and murky gray wool, the kind that makes people worry that his iPod was loaded with nothing but boiling lava, Alanis Morissette fuck you anthems. He was always kind of scary quiet, the kind that makes you uncomfortable, like perhaps he was a modern-day version of Madame Defarge. He sat in the corner of the coffee shop nursing a quad Americano. His hair was producted into submission. Everything about him was meticulous.
I remember being a small child dressed in a suit designed for adults. She’d promised me she’d be here for Christmas but left us on the 12th. Forty years later, the handwritten, ‘For Richard, from Mum’ I’d received from her that year are framed and hanging in my study. Around the room, hung in their own little intimate settings, the individual ornaments Pop had taken us to get each year, our own special way of remembering her.
“I always thought about how hot it would be, to be the single bottom boy on Viking ships. All those swarthy husky blonde bruisers coming to me for their Viking needs.” “Ya know – you are like a National Geographic Special for Bottoms. You amaze me!” “Every great civilization had great use for bottom men, the Greeks, The Prussians, OH the Turks, oh Turkish men know how to treat a good bottom. Butt (see what I did there?) I digress…. Most people store useless historical knowledge – I store away useless knowledge I can actually put to use.
He gently rubbed his hair back in the steam of the bath. He gazed over at the empty wine glass. He chuckled to himself. ‘What a sad thing, an empty wine glass is.’ He’d thought perhaps he could shake it off but here in the tub, his thoughts got worse. But it was no use, and this year, it was worse than ever. He absolutely hated Christmas.
He had entered the dreaded Christmas media blackout period. Television had been intolerable for weeks already.
He could hear the ocean, but couldn’t see it. He carefully climbed down the stone face to the hidden beach. He set his pack against rocks and got down to business. The dry cedar kindling crackled to life. He set the grizzled and charred coffee pot on the grill over the flames. The driftwood break dissipated past him into the gray. The lonely moan of the lighthouse fog horn sang through the trees. The coffee pot started popping to life. The solitude of the small cove suited him.
"I'm through with men and all they meant to me, farewell romance! Forever bachelorhood for me," he proclaimed dramatically, standing up from the chair at the restaurant. "I've heard this one before," I responded drolly. "Nope. No more romances. No more attachments. Men are nothing to me." I snatched the receipt from his hand for the bill, "Did you really just give the waiter your phone number and email ON THE CHECK? Through with men, my ass." "I didn't say I wasn't sleeping with men, lavishing those most worthy with intense sexual gratification. I'm just not DATING men any more.
The priest began to speak. He thanked everyone for coming, made a few innocuous comments about gatherings and transitions. The church was full - men and women, families, many in black suits and a front pew of surviving family and friends. "Paul wrote to the Galatians, 5:19-21, 'When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.
“How could I have known she’d start crying and scream ‘rape’?” “You have anger issues. ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’ is what they say, right? Why decide to take out your anger with the Salvation Army on that poor woman?” “Oh, you. Fuck that ‘live and let live’ crap. To say that she doesn’t know about the organization she represents is naive.
He pedaled on the stationary bike at the gym. He was losing patience. Someone had chosen the 20 minute 'my ears are bleeding please for the love of god make it stop' remix of Don't Leave Me This Way. It was some 90's remake., some chick who thinks she's Thelma Houston. He loved disco as much as the next gay but this was intolerable. Walking up to the counter, he knew the trouble already. The child behind the counter was probably not even conceived during disco. His parents had probably made love to Air Supply or (shudder) Michael Bolton.
The ignition switched on - and the address was entered in the GPS. "Turn right onto third avenue for 1.2 miles," chirped the GPS voice.
The car sped out of the driveway turning left. "recalculating, in 400 feet turn left on Oak Avenue." The driver stopped at Oak Avenue and turned right. "recalculating.
“The worst thing you can do is say, ‘smile sweetheart’ to an unhappy woman,” I suggested. “But she looked miserable.” “She is the overnight Denny’s waitress in Bumfuck, Nevada; of course she’s miserable.” “At least she’s employed, has benefits, and gets to wear a fun yellow dress and matching scarf to work each day.” “Right, sounds so good. Why don’t you give up your Silicon Valley programming job at 120K and come out here and serve Grand Slams for minimum wage plus tips.” “Well…” “And speaking of tips, telling her that forgetting your fruit compote wasn’t going to help her tip.
“Thanksgiving gives me anxiety,” he said suddenly. “Here we are shopping in our boutique grocery store at 7 a.m. on a holiday. We argue over baguettes and grouse because they are out of trumpet mushrooms. We live in a city where the city council won’t say the word ‘homeless.’ We have eight or nine people living on the street just in our little eight-or-nine-block village center. I know there are dozens more within a 25 mile radius. I know that the ladies bickering in Spanish in the bakery are here baking rolls for people who don’t want to do it themselves. It all overwhelms me.
The brave knight rode through the night braving the cold. His package carefully stowed away, showing fearless dedication to his mission. He arrived at the castle keep, and crossing the drawbridge, dramatically dismounted and went straight to the Queen's chambers. "Well, did you get what I asked you for," The Queen said without looking up at him, stirring the boiling pot in front of her. "Yes, your grace.," he said untying the bonds on the package he'd traveled so far to bring to her. "Haricot verts," he said triumphantly and then bowed in reverence. "You know.
She slammed the book shut, tears welling up in her eyes. Fucking Shakespeare. It’s beauty overwhelmed her so completely. She would read the romantic ways men swoon. “Hear my soul speak. Of the very instant that I saw you. Did my heart fly at your service.” Nobody was going to talk to her online that way. Nobody was going to throw their coat down on a puddle in the rain. Chivalry was dead. Why does Miranda have shipwrecked men offering up their hearts? What did Miranda ever do to deserve them?
He was at the Christmas party and as first impressions go, he was so unironed. He had a five-day beard, his face framed by a pair of simple wire glasses, blonde hair in an unkempt tussle. He looked like he’d purposefully crumpled himself over in the corner. He sat cross-legged in a window seat looking out over the sparkling city below, taking occasional glances at the others at the party. I imagined him excitedly sharing poetry over a pot of tea in a cuddly corner, hands caressing a leather-bound book he’d found after several hours hunting in a bookstore on a rainy winter day.
The sudden forward motion of the bus caused the man to swing into the seat next to me. "Good Morning!," I said with a smile. "Crazy driver this morning," he smiled back. We exchanged other stranger pleasantries, I told him how long I'd lived in the city and how I was heading to my accounting job. "I'm a rapper," he said. "Rapper? as in rap battles and rhymes and ...." trying to confirm that perhaps there wasn't a line of work called rapper that meant something else entirely.
He flipped the radio off. So much sadness in the world. The story was so sad, that even the NPR reporter was careful with his words, and admitted it was a story that was messing with his head. So many people hurt or dead in so many places, for a host of reasons. Liberty. Security. Faith. Lack of Trust. Fear. Blinding Truth. He pulled the car over, and after pulling the emergency brake, just closed his eyes. Sadness was dangerous to him, because he felt it so keenly versus everything else.
He lit the blue candles in the windowsill before returning to his study. There, the blue candles sparkled at the foot of the Buddha, the driftwood he’d kept with him since childhood, the photograph of spirit house garden and other sacred objects in his private space. He lit a stick of incense. He stepped out of his robe and knelt in the darkness. “I create sacred space in time that is not time,” he began, “a place not a place; today is a day that is not a day; all malice and worry, now away, so all within here is right and just; this is a place of compassion, love, and trust.
“Good morning, ” he sang, picking up the phone. “I feel like hell,” said the croaking voice on the other end. “Aches?" "Yep." "Stuffy head?" "Yep" "Dry throat?” "How did you know?" “You have whore flu.” “Pardon me?” he coughed. “Think back to when our table was a receiving line of men at the bar. It was a marvelous thing to see you in action, people would walk by, see you and return to hang out with you, and smooch. It was amazing to watch.
“They’re goddamnit; ‘t-h-e-y-’-r-e’…for the love of God!” he said throwing the manuscript down on the sofa beside him. “Bad day in fiction land?” “The proper use of their/they’re/there is what separates us from the apes. This draft is going to make me burst a blood vessel. This needs a disclaimer,” he said, tapping on the manuscript, “will cause people with perfect grammar to foam at the mouth and hunt down the writer and cut his hands off to keep it from happening again.” “September 7, 1983.” “That is completely unfair! That grammar mistake was a fluke, a regional accent.
Ya'll might remember "Darth Vader Kill Voice" from my days commuting to San Francisco on Caltrain when dealing with unruly mid-teens on public transit. The voice that renders them quiet and compliant almost instantaneously? yes. that one.
The crimson leaves danced at his feet as he arrived at the restaurant. The waiter waved him through the greeting station and to his regular table. Wednesday night, table for one, crunchy sourdough and the seafood paella. He spent all day looking forward to a glass of sparkling pinot grigio. Tapping his phone off, he took a moment to watch the other people in the restaurant. Daylight savings time had seen to it that sunset was cued up just as they all collectively sat down to dinner. Everyone sitting along the window peered out at the fiery late fall sky.
"What if Broadway went the way of movies and started recreating classic musicals as stories about zombies? Imagine it. "South Pacific ZOMBIES"," he said as he began to sing, " 'There ain't nothin' like some brains, nothing in the world.' or 'I'm gonna wash those brains right out of my hair, and send them on their waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay? or Seven Brides for Seven Zombies? Or The Sound of Zombies"? or "Camelot vs. Zombies"? or version of "Meet Me In St.
“God, this is depressing,” he thought to himself. He sat at his desk, poking a kale salad around a plate with his fork. The store clerk sold it hard, it was their ‘New Kale Superfood Salad Special.’ Not even some feta or goat cheese. Just kale, raisins and red onions. It looked more like ‘Punish Yourself by Eating the Flavorless Kale Salad of Ultimate Despair!’ He began to resent it. “Stop it, you’re being a food snob,” his inner voice suggested. He’d thought about other choices – greasy burgers, Dagwood sandwiches, the always dependable chicken strips.
The bank of fog made it almost supernaturally dark. I tried sleeping in - but the smell of him next to me was invading my dreams, so it was just better to be awake. I pulled the heavy covers up and moved in behind him being careful not to wake him. He let out that seven-year-old whimperwhine that says "no, i'm sleeping" while simultaneously backing up against me. I'd made the mistake with previous guys of daydreaming years into the future. I learned the hard way that it kept me from seeing things that were going on right in front of me in the present.
I could feel him whisper, his five o'clock shadow sandpapering against my neck, and the impact of his words on my flesh from his breath bringing goose bumps. He was taller than me, and we learned on an early night out together how he seemed to fit in against my ear and neck. He always smelled of linseed oil. His lower torso sometimes pressing in against me like we were in a perpetual country western slow dance. He never spoke out loud, just breathed the words on my neck as we stopped to examine each piece.
"Dramatically different, honey, you look dramatically different," he chuckled to himself in the mirror as he applied moisturizer. He put fixer in his hair and made quick work of it with the brush. He picked up the cologne bottle spritzing into the air and dipping is face and neck into the mist. Walking into the closet he went right for the gift section. So many shirts that would see one party or that hosted brunch where the gift giver was sure to notice.
I am not sure how long it had been going on. All the signs were there in front of me. He had lost his job at Christmas and it was taking a toll. It started with mumbling in the grocery store. Then at Target he started fidgeting, sweating. We got home and I gently asked, “So how long have you been doing this?” The pain shown in his eyes as he whimpered, “I tried not to.” “I know how hard it is. And once you start…. You remember how bad it got in 94 when I was home sick. You know I understand.” “I need an intervention. Can we do it together?” “Sure,” I said gently.
She walked down the sidewalk, barking angry orders in Chinese at the man following her. Overburdened with two rolling suitcases and matching handbag, stuffed to capacity, he shuffled along with an air of purpose. The bright screaming salmon color of all of it matches her outfit. High heels clicking on the sidewalk, she was clearly unhappy he could not keep pace with her. Her companion stopped to remember in his mind’s eye the meek, soft-skinned girl he had married. Reminiscing for a special moment how beautiful she’d been before the anger came.
“I can’t seem to get out of this funk. I’m so tired of this whiny useless soundtrack," Pete whined. “It is like the proverb of the Buddha and the sitar player. The sitar player asked the Buddha whether he was working too hard or not hard enough in his meditations. The Buddha asked the musician how he tuned his instrument before playing. The musician said, ‘If I tune the strings too tight, they break. If I tuned them too loose, no sound will come out.
The dog could remember the frisbee in the park, the cuddling, the extra treats when her Daddy wasn’t watching, how he’d get down in the ray of sunlight with her and take afternoon naps, making her feel special. It wasn’t like Daddy didn’t do those things and more, she slept in bed up against Daddy’s chest every night. But, gosh, it was nice to have two Daddies.
I’m onto you gingers. No, seriously. My resolution is to no longer be under your spell. The ginger that makes my morning latte no longer gets the extra 2% ‘holy hell, he’s ginger hot’ tip. The ginger mechanic will not make me take time off from work so I can pick up the car while he’s still at the garage. The ginger at the gym won’t see me changing my workout routine so I can watch him the entire hour and a half I’m at the gym. He’ll probably appreciate that since I hear he’s straight. Don’t give me that adorable makes-me-weak-in-the-knees Ginger Power Pout™.
It was like the whole world had declared a holiday, but not let him on it. The quiet was palpable. His overactive imagination got the best of him. Invisible movement just outside his peripheral vision. Sounds he couldn't identify teasing at him from dark corners beyond the reach of the streetlight glow. Creatures and monsters were imagined. He could smell that autumn decay in the air. Why did he think such horrible things? Why would a wearwolf live in Palo Alto anyway, that was a stupid idea. Hipster coders and the real housewives of Silicon Valley weren't the tastiest choices out there.
The waiter escorted him and his date past my table. I smiled, waved and said hello. He walked past me like I wasn’t even there. I headed to the restroom before departing. I was washing my hands when his voice snarled from behind me. “Pro tip, boy. Waving at tricks in restaurants is totally classless. Now you’ve got my husband wondering who the fuck you are.
It was great meeting you today about our room for rent on Caselli. As much as it pains me to do so, I need to tell that we're sorry, but we can't rent the room to you. Your references check out, your dog is super cute, and your credit is immaculate. But, one of the few household rules is never rent to someone that everyone in the house wants to sleep with. Poor Mike, the one that greeted you at the door, hyperventilated after you left. Bill downstairs discussed mounting a camera in the shower. It just wouldn't work out.
They were at the Eagle scanning the Sunday Beerbust, when he mentioned how handsome he thought a particular man was. “He’s the kind that won’t ask before taking selfies in bed after sex,” his friend observed. “What? How could you possibly know that?” “You never pay attention to social clues. See,” he said pointing and then gesturing at his own jeans’ pocket, “HTC ONE in the left pocket. Which means he doesn’t care about the phone part, he won’t be calling you back, but a high-pixel, self-facing camera? That’s hot.
The sunrise spread over the urban meadow as he walked quietly along, behind his cart. His brown clothes hung like Buddhist monks robes. This one had a drinking fountain, he could refill his bottles. He had been teased by others in the underworld for living there. They called him designer homeless, the organic, free-trade vagabond. This was home. Their nicknames fell off him like water off a duck. He’d lived places where resources were scarce. Food bank passed out bags of rice. What good is microwave-for-ninety-seconds rice to an underworlder?
Glancing out the window I noticed the moon. It seemed to be moving across the pre-dawn sky. Thick Sleepy Hollow fog rolled past it creating a rich darkness that could inspire Stephen King at his typewriter. I got the dog leashed up and we walked out into it. The only things visible were the vague colors of fall from the trees and globes of streetlights, but even they were quickly subdued. The breeze pushed visible wisps of ocean scented mist past our feet as we walked down the street. The dog would stop to sniff but also seemed entranced by the morning wonderland we were venturing out into.
(QUE LAW AND ORDER THEME) (NARRATOR VOICE) In San Francisco amongst gay men, some of them are single. and dating. poor bastards. and sometimes their behavior is particularly heinous. These are their stories. (LAW AND ORDER CHIME: DUH DUH) SCENE: BILL'S APARTMENT "Before I forget I wanted to show you something." Mike said reaching into his backpack. He pulled out a small bottle and set it on the coffee table. "This bottle is going to change your life.
“Are you Jack?,” she asked me suddenly. Looking up from my cell phone, I matched eyes with a beautiful woman in her forties. “No, sorry,” I said. “Oh,” she replied, “well…. you have a kind face.” She then looked away and continued to walk down the block. I walked into the coffee shop and ordered, and the barista said, “I see you met Jack’s girlfriend.” “Well, she asked if I was Jack. How does that work? His girlfriend?” “I’ve worked here 12 years, and she is here from 7:40 to 8:15 every morning asking any guy with a beard if he’s Jack. She has been here every morning like clockwork.
The last beer bust of summer was in full swing. The KGAY soundtrack boomed from the back of the bar. The DJ deftly manipulated the crowd by playing a Madonna song immediately followed by Britney, splitting the bar like the Jets and the Sharks from A West Side Story. We'd known each other since high school. It was tradition to meet on this weekend to drink and laugh our way through the neighborhood. His fifties were looking real good on him. He was still running marathons when most of us had given that shit up. At 6'6" he had a commanding presence.
He sat in the banquette nursing drip coffee, adding cream occasionally and humming Carly Simon as it hit the surface. Then, glancing over his screen, he noticed her. She walked, no, she floated across the room. In a blue summer dress, old-fashioned pearls, and a white leather purse on her shoulder. He hated small-talk introductions. He’d formulate one in his head, then erased them with self doubt. He tried not to stare. She ordered, in a surprisingly bass male voice, “Softboiled egg and toast. Thank you, darling.” Looking up again, suddenly, she was gone. He’d lost his opportunity.
Returning to school in the fall only meant one thing, the return of Basketball Torture Hour. It rotated through my eighth grade schedule like a specter. I was already the runt. I remember tucking my late 70's Sean Cassidy hair behind my ears and praying to god that I'd survive the hour without a bloody nose, ball induced black eye or some other life threatening calamity. It was like living through an hour-long episode of Mutual of Omaha's 'Wild Kingdom' - and I was the lone antelope on a savanna filled with lions and flying orange rubber projectiles.
It had been a good day at the flea market, particularly the breadbox radio he’d found. There was something appreciatively old world about spending the dark of winter gently sanding and refinishing things like these, giving them new life. The radio was going to be work, but he loved them the most of all. He slid the plyboard casing off the back and noticed that taped to the inside was a crusty black and white photo. He guessed by the chrome and fins on the car the man was leaning against, it was somewhere in the mid 1950s.
“Hayden Christiansen!” he screamed, sitting straight up in bed. “You are such a dorkzilla,” said his husband, now also awake. “What?” “You had the ‘Hayden Christiansen is the new doctor’ nightmare again.” “Damnit, that is twice this week; sorry lovey.” “It’s all okay. I knew campy, sci-fi-related nightmares were part of this carnival ride.” “What I don’t understand is why Prometheus didn’t give me nightmares. I mean, the whole thing makes no sense. And I wanted to hand Charlize Theron a Twinkie or some carbs through the whole film.
“So, on our second date he asks for monogamy. Isn’t that romantic?” “I guess so. So when will you tell him that is not you?” “What do you mean?” “Don’t play all blushing bride with me, Blanche. This is me you’re talking to. The one whose guest room was a trick palace for you when you were with your ex? If I recall, that relationship was romantic and monogamous as well.” “Now that is not fair.” “Love and romance are rarely fair, but I think you’d have more successful relationships if you were more honest about your inability to be monogamous.
“You look like shit.” “Yehp, I got your code. I fehl like death.” “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. Did you find the lozenges and everything? Can I make some tea?” “Meh head is full and I can’t taste anything.” “Well did you at least try to eat…oh, sweety.” “You know meh when I’m sick. Sorry sack of crap.” “But you’re an adorable sack of crap.” “Very funny. Remember who brought this code into the house.” “It’s fall; colds happen.” “That’s not helping.” “Oh my poor baby,” he said, pouring on the dramatic tone. ”Can I pour you a bubble bath? How about that tea?” “That’s better.
“Oh my god, you look just like Lea Michelle; it’s so pretty,” chirped the young woman on the train. “YES; I handed the stylist a picture of her from the first New York episode and said that was what I wanted, and I totally got it. Then they showed how to do my makeup like hers. And then Forever 21 is selling her Christmas coats, and voila!” She was wearing a retro-style jacket in forest green with gold bell buttons and white fur accents. “Gorgeous!
“Hi. My name is Mark, ” I paused, speaking into the microphone, “and I like Miley Cyrus.” Instead of the expected support group auto-response, the silence in the room was deafening. After a few more agonizing moments, a woman in the front row spoke, “Get out. Get out now.” That’s how my nightmare goes, anyhow. My hubby tells me if I wake up humming “It’s a party in the USA” one more time, I should sleep in the guest room. I mean if you listen to her lyrics, she’s riding along in a LA taxicab and nervous about her trip and worried if she’ll fit in.
She was an aubergine storm trooper. Everything matched. Purple UggBoots, purple stretch pants, purple skirt, purple jacket with purple fur on the collar. It was like she’d violently harvested the McDonalds character Grimace and wore it proudly like a woman might wear a fancy fur to the opera. The sparkle lavender eye shadow finished the look along with shiny, long, weapons-grade purple nails.
“I don’t get this shit,” he said, pointing at the personals in the back of the gay newspaper. “Is there a more self hating term for a fag to use than ‘straight-acting’? Talk about a boner killer.” “Pro tip: Sucking cock or getting fucked is hardly something a straight person would do. Kneeling and begging for it isn’t incredibly straight either.” “Here we are, decades past Stonewall and someone wants to fuck you, but in a ‘straight way.’ That shit is fucked up.” “Maybe it is somebody’s way of saying ‘I’m new to gay sex’?” “Then just SAY that.
The KFAG soundtrack started pounding from nearly a block away. I was just tired of Sunday afternoon television. I thought maybe getting out among my kind might help shake off the sense of isolation I’d been feeling lately. I entered the bar, watching a few guys in the corner cheering the football game on the small TVs, the bar lined by guys that nursed scotches and rye. I walked to the bar and ordered a beer, scanning through the dimly lit space for a spot to stand.
I sat in the dark listening to rain hit the skylights above the bed like Caribbean steel drums. I rolled over and sniffed deeply into the pillow, reminding myself he’d been here by smelling him on the sheets. We’d met at a party and I invited him home after. The sweetest thing happened. We just fell asleep drunk in each other's arms, like a blissful pair of puzzle pieces. That changed around 4 a.m.
The Royal Donut had been a neighborhood destination for decades. The smell of freshly slathered ring donuts hit you as you turned the block. The atmosphere was charged by the childhood memories the smell created. You could almost watch new customers be struck by, and then get lost in, the wave of nostalgia. Oscar was behind the counter, a muscular tattoed man in his mid-thirties. Locals remembered him starting there as a bright eyed teenager.
The acolytes stepped forward in the hushed room. The kabal surrounded them in a circle, lighting candles. This was the day they'd been working towards their entire lives. A man stepped forward, tightening his inoffensive orange tie, brushing lightly across the starched eggshell button-up. She stepped forward in the navy blue dress, pursing her lips adorned with a purposefully neutral shade of red lipstick. "You are no longer Karen Smith, you are," the speaker paused dramatically, then continued,"Anika Tonkoplis. You are no longer Mike Jones...............
He sat up on the side of the bed, rigid and straight. He’d had ‘the dream’ again, and was thankful that he couldn’t remember much. He started breathing normally, and began an inventory of the items on the bedside table. Doing so reminded him that he was awake and ‘the dream’ was over. He ran his fingers through his hair and scratched his beard. It was ‘the dream’ because in other dreams that is how it was referred to. Other residents of his night time mind knew it by name and feared it among all other things.
He opened the windows and for a moment let the breeze dance around him and in his hair. The choir of treefrogs were already at full voice - and a far off fog horn sounded in tandem with the grandfather clock chiming in the other room. He smile at how old world it all felt despite very much in the present. "Imbolc is so far away," he the thought to himself. With the equinox in a few days the winds would start whispering the name Samhain. Spirits of old and new will start visiting his dreams again.
The aroma of the fresh pot of coffee hit me before the alarm. There are few things that make me swoon like that smell. It is my daily reward for getting up before the sun and getting things started. I put on my robe and shuffled to the kitchen. There on the butcher block was my pottery coffee cup. It’s probably a misnomer to call it a cup, since it’s more like a cup-shaped bowl. I moved to the coffee pot in the corner and pour myself a ‘cup’ of fresh, hot morning coffee. I went to the fridge and grabbed the half and half, unscrewed the spout and poured.
He got up out of the water and stepped out of the pool. It was the kind of tattoo meant to be admired and seen in a pool where swimsuits were optional. All etched in the darkest black and shadowed the entire length across his body were the treble and bass lines of a piano score. It was so intensely dark it almost looked like it had been bruised onto his flesh versus being drawn. The tattoo began on the back of his shaved head, down his neck, following his spine, through the curve of his butt and then curling between his legs and ending in a circular wave around and down his right leg.
He'd known from an early age what he'd become. He had begun volunteering to help as soon as he knew what service to others meant. As he matured that became the very thing that defined him. "Must be rough.," she said with sympathy, jolting him out of his daydream, "That way they look at you." He'd become so used to it that he didn't see it anymore. That look of accusation, the stare of harsh judgement. "People who respond to my collar have reasons to." "It's so. mean. to judge all of you like that. so disrespectful." "I work hard to have compassion.
He sat across from me telling me about his day. We’d met on men2date.com. He was, I’m guessing, somewhere in his late sixties, had a couple of days beard, and wore a loose tshirt that read in bright red letters, “line forms in my rear" strained around his large belly. “I’m sorry, I can’t do this,” I said, interrupting. “What do you mean?” “I mean, that you are nothing like your online profile at all. You aren’t fifty. You aren’t athletic and muscular. You came on a date without your wallet. I mean…” “But you saw my pictures and came to meet me.
He had promised her he’d come. So he would just grin and bear it. His suit for the ceremony was in the plastic hanger bag behind him. On the counter in front of him she’d left out a razor, shaving cream and some aftershave. “Good try,” he chuckled to himself, as he pulled his long beard together in a tight braid. He actually did shave around the edges, so he could claim some effort. Without thinking, he splashed his face with a little aftershave. Oh good lord, it was Old Spice. Shit. There was no washing it off. He arrived at the church in his construction man’s pickup.
“This project is really hard,” one student offered. “He said hard. Heh, heh, heh,” another responded, in his best Beavis impersonation. “Thank you, one per class, and frankly, you wasted that one,” said the professor, continuing, “Writing about sex is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.” “Mine reads like IKEA instructions.
I saw him walking into the grocery store. I hoped that looking down into the produce would keep him from seeing me. Mike is a walking CAT5 hurricane of drama and trouble.
“How nice and old fashioned! You have an admirer!” said the bartender, placing an icy beer mug in front of him. “The muscle boy in the red t-shirt in back,” mumbled the bartender. He lifted the glass gently, motioning a “cheers” to the man in the back of the bar. “Do strange muscle boys send you beers all the time?” said his friend next to him at the bar. “Can I help it if the boys need Daddy?” “Revolting. You know a boy that age barely knows what gay is. He is not prepared for that dungeon of yours and sling of the ages.
He flipped the radio off. The story was so sad, that even the NPR reporter was careful with his words, and admitted it was a story that was messing with his head. He pulled the car over, and after pulling the emergency break just closed his eyes. So much sadness in the world. Sadness was dangerous to him, because he felt it so keenly versus everything else. He was a happy man in a good place in his life, but the power sadness has to overtake him has never gone away.
He sat with his head leaning against the glass. White earphone cords lead across his flannel shirt to his pocket. Eyes shut, he nodded slowly to the music as a contented sleeping smile swept across his face. He held a large leather-bound journal, liberally decorated with Easter-egg colored sticky notes. He was almost cuddling with it like he was under the covers. He smelled of sandalwood and coffee. He had missed a half-inch spot in that morning’s shave. I was feeling guilty at having him all to myself when his phone erupted in vibration. “Hello…” he said softly.
"I married Sasquatch. I'm cleaning up more of his hair than the cat," she laughed into the phone, "Yeah. Everywhere. Ev-er-y-where.......................Yes. I'm sure if hair would grow on the bottom of his feet it would be there, too......." She laughed outloud, "No, he won't manscape. leave alone wax. LOL," She squealed out another laugh in response to the person she was talking to. "what? flossing? LOL. oh.... down, dear god. I have never .... oh you are just disgusting. no I am not going to describe my sex life to you over the phone. what? no? gross. no!
She stood at the wall staring over the raging surf. The first frost glistened on the stones around her. She pulled the furs around her shoulder to keep the sea from catching her cold. When complete, the fortress would face the ocean wind and be a beacon to the coast. She imagined the thick stone walls would reveal themselves like a ghost in the ocean fog. The golden and red banners flew in the breeze from the spire tops.
“I saw the entire sky ‘powdered with stars….'” [caption id="attachment_1400" align="alignright" width="300"] Bill Hayes & Oliver Sacks
“Blasphemer!” “What?” “Who is Donna Summer? Really? That’s like asking 'Who is Barbra Streisand?' ” “Um,” he said, hesitating. “Good lord honey, do they teach you baby gays anything about your cultural history?” “I know Britney and…” “I know you didn’t just try to group Babs and The Donna with the Mickey Mouse Club?” “The what?” “Oh, nevermind. We’re going to have to give you a crash course: Babs. Donna. Diana. I will tie you down.” “Wait, is she singing about leaving a cake out in the rain?” “You are hopeless.” “Green icing? She lost the recipe?