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.