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?