Monthly Archives: May 2016
The alley behind the closed bus station is about the only even vaguely “city” looking thing in this little town. There’s a dozen or more teenagers and young adults standing around in it. They’re drinking beer and Southern Comfort. They’re smoking both kinds of cigarettes.
It’s not so much that I joined up with them but more that they surrounded and engulfed me. I heard them. Then they saw me. Then they decided to bring me into their little scene.
Even though I’m pretty clearly not one of them. One drunk guy’s been calling me “Mr. Peter Perfect Boy Scout.” A girl who’s high on something (I don’t know what) keeps calling me “White-Ass,” even though they’re all white themselves. A guy with a circle-A on his leather jacket called me “Mr. Conformity,” even though they’re all like one another and I’m the only “different” one here.
But I’ve learned a lot of people don’t understand what my lifestyle and my religion mean to me. I’m not trying to “fit in” with the other kids in my school. I stand out from them, in fact. Not just because I don’t (or didn’t until just recently) drink, smoke, swear, or sleep around; but because I try to be a good student and a good person, not just to have “fun” and get by.
Our former pastor used to say “true” Christians weren’t really the “mainstream” of American society. The real American mass population, he said, consisted of secular, materialistic people who feigned an informal loyalty to some watered-down idea of Christianity. He said that we “true Christians” were the only wide-awake people in a world full of sleepwalkers. Which is more or less what these kids are saying about themselves, as opposed to me.
One reason I liked our former pastor is he wasn’t afraid to use “big words.” I try not to use long words in public. I don’t want people to think I’m too “weird.” Of course, that’s just what these people here think of me.
My youth-group leader wouldn’t pass judgement on these kids; she’s just not like that. But my old pastor would have. He’d have said they were unknowing slaves to drink, drugs, bad music, bad attitudes, and (worst of all) to the adolescent curse of sex madness.
It was my own sex drive that first got me into this mess. And now I’m even deeper into the mess. Whatever it is.
My youth-group leader, who’s the wife of our current pastor, always says we’ve always got choices to make. We can choose to let emotions and obsessions control us, or we can choose to control them. We can choose the way of selfishness and greed, or we can choose the way of compassion and love.
My youth-group leader doesn’t say much about sex, except that it’s a healthy and God-given gift that we shouldn’t spend “wastefully.” She’s talked about getting and staying out of abusive relationships; about not getting emotionally caught up too far with another kid who was just as immature as you were; and about not getting, or getting anyone, pregnant. But she’s never told us to never do it.
Which, according to these “street kids” (do any of them live “on the streets” or are they just having a night out?) is what I’ll soon have to do. They’ve collectively decided I need to be converted from what one guy’s calling “Mr. Goody Two Shoes” into someone more like them. The girls are playing an old playground game to decide which of them will be the first to corrupt me. I don’t tell them I’ve already been corrupted, by someone I’d trusted. I don’t tell them much of anything.
The guy with the circle-A jacket tells me if I let them do this “to” me, they’ll then do something “for” me. “What did you want for Christmas that you didn’t get?” I presume that means they’ll shove a bottle or a joint into my hand. I mumble that I just want to get home. “Done!,” he proclaims. I haven’t told him how far away home is for me. Right now it seems like a million years away.
The girl who won the playground game walks toward me in a pseudo-stripper strut, in a jacket and dirty jeans. She alternately looks either no older than 15 or prematurely aged. She lifts her T-shirt (just a T-shirt and a jacket, in January?). She grabs my right hand and pulls it toward her. She tells me it’s time to be a man. It turns out it was she who, from outside the closed bus station, I thought sounded like someone who used to be in my youth group. I don’t recognize her face, not in this dark place.
Now she’s reaching to my pants zipper. I didn’t think she’d really do this. I really didn’t think the rest of the kids would gather in to watch.
Even though I (really) don’t want to respond, my body does anyway. It’s over mercifully soon. She wipes herself off with my shirt tail.
How I feel right now: just weird. In my body, I’ve never felt so masculine before. In my mind and emotions, I’m confused. I’m embarrassed. I’m disgusted, mostly at myself, mostly because I didn’t hate it as much as I’m supposed to. There’s even a part of me that likes having been the center of attention.
I realize I still haven’t eaten since a sack lunch in the car this afternoon. If they make me drink with them, I’ll really be in trouble.
They make me drink with them. Southern Comfort, straight from the bottle. A lot of it. I try not to throw up. I fail.
My ordeal is cut short by the headlights of a car driving into the alley. It’s the same car I came here in. But somebody else is driving.
Terms of Sweetness
“I don’t know why you are so mad at him. He’s sweet. He don’t mean nothing by that talk. He’s just trying to be his cute French self.” Karma was busy at her stove. She was “Chef,” of their group of friends and the owner of the restaurant they all hung out in. tonight the gang was coming over to Karma’s house for a Midsommer’s feast. It was a fine Seattle afternoon, cooling off after a prior week of soaring heat, which helped ripen the cucumbers, zucchini, onions, carrots and herbs.
“It’s just in my culture we never ever call anyone any other name than our own given name or a short nickname. It would never ever seem possible for anyone to be called a pig, much less “my little fat piglet,” and then say, “ I could just suck the meat off your little sweet & honey bones.”
Karma started laughing so hard she had to go out to the back deck and sit down.” Keiko, turn the beans down and come out here for a sec.”
Keiko turned down the steaming pot of garbanzo beans, poured herself another glass of mineral water, added a couple of ice cubes, pushed open the screen door and joined Karma on the old fashioned porch swing.
“Girl, you are so funny. You find the sweetest dude and then proceed to find fault with the way he talks love to you. You’ve got to understand the culture he comes from just like he … well speak of the devil.”
“The devil you say. What’s happening mes petites abielles?” Eddie came up through the back yard and up the stairs. He popped into the kitchen and out again with a can of PBR. He squished himself in between the two girls on the swing setting all three in motion.
“Oh, we were talking about how French you are. How you talk about us girls using animal names. Is this something all French people do? How come you French people do this? What gives? Let us in on the secret. I mean what did you just call us now?”
“I called you my little honeybees. What’s so wrong with that?” Merde, girls, you have me cornered. How do you say in America, up the tree.”
“No we say up shit creek without a paddle.” Karma laughed aloud.
“ Ah le meme chose, être dans la merde jusqu’au cou, to be in the shit up to the neck.”
The happy trio enjoyed this perfect moment, the rush of the slight wind as they rocked in the gentle warmth. Birds sang in the trees as green as the tall green grass. Bees buzzed in the orange sunflowers and pink and purple gladiolas. Bigheaded dahlias stood tall against the sun-faded fence while the sprinkler lazily arched across the fecund vegetable garden.
“I’ve got to do some work to do in the kitchen.” Karma said breaking the spell of tranquility leaving the couple hugged up on the swing. “By the way Eddie. Your girlfriend thinks you are disgusting.”
“Me! But why, what have I done?” Eddie stopped the swing with his foot. He looked genuinely upset. Eddie was a very good-looking millennial hipster. He had on very skinny jeans rolled up a couple of inches. The thin faded plaid shirt a bit too small for him, kept him warm enough in the cooling afternoon. He sported a short well-trimmed blond beard and a pair of light colored shades. His hair was long; he usually had it up in a ponytail or bun when he worked at the restaurant.
“She seems to have taken offense at the disgusting animal names you call her all the time, my boy,” Karma shouted from the kitchen.
Keiko chimed in, “Yes I think you sound like a male chauvinist pig.”
“Wait a sec, wait a sec you don’t understand, Keiko. I am no chauvinist I consider myself to be a feminist. I am French and the French use a long list of, how you say terms of endearment.”
“Well, your Miss Japan Flower Blossom 2016 is getting pretty annoyed at your French, n’est ce pas!” Karma shouted and turned her attention back to her perfectly cooked garbanzo beans that she was getting ready to whirr into perfectly blended Hummus for the feast.
“Oh Eddie, I just don’t understand all this talk you do. It is so strange to me.”
“Ah Keiko, I’m so sorry to upset you. You know those words just come out when I touch your soft, soft skin.” Eddie climbed up next to Keiko setting the swing into motion. He put his right hand under her shirt and gently squeezed her left nipple, which immediately responded, hardening and she moaned very softly.
She didn’t pull away as he pinched and twisted ever so gently. She could hear Karma busy with the blender in the kitchen in between the lilting beat of reggae music.
Eddie’s long arms had an advantage over Keiko’s small statue. He leaned over to kiss her and simultaneously slid his left hand around her back and into her panties, his fingers searching for her clit. She was already wet. He knew just how to make her cum. Without wasting any time his index finger pressed hard against her pubic bone and his other fingers stroked her to a swift orgasm.
Keiko’s eyes closed tight as she panted into Eddie’s mouth. He let go of her smoothing her clothing and laid his head on her stomach. If anyone had been watching they would have thought these two innocents were just swinging on the old porch swing.
Keiko’s thoughts reminisced about her old life in Japan. There she would have married a man that her parents knew. The arranged marriage wasn’t so strict anymore but there were certain criteria that had to be adhered to and choosing a proper husband was still important.
He would have a proper job and for her parents making a lot of money by working at least eighty plus hours a week. He would be dutiful in bed giving more of his real self to his fun loving mistress. Keiko would be very, very skinny not plump like she was now. She would be bound to the home, to his parents and to her parents. She would grow severe along with her two perfect children and that would be the confines of her world.
“Hey you two.” Karma called from the kitchen, “I need some help in here, plus I have it all figured out.”
The two were already in the kitchen before she finished talking. “Look you guys are obviously hung up on each other and I want to keep you both as my friends and of course at the restaurant. So I think you, Eddie, need to find better French words to convey your admiration for Keiko.”
“C’est chouette, Karma, I can do that for sure. There are plenty of endearments for my little chou chou, that’s cabbage but a good thing.”
“And for you Keiko. You have to get off your high horse and find some new words to convey to Eddie some nice cute Japanese expressions.”
“Yes, we do have some for girls.”
“Yeah, they call the girls eggs with eyes.”
“Dang that is so wrong. I guess we being vegans could call her a …”
Eddie grabbed a white eggplant from the table and pretended to kiss it “ My beautiful eggplant girl. Come here and tongue me!”
“I know, I know, I could call you my daikon-san. You’ve seen those big white long radishes at the store. Yes, today I will name you Monsieur Daikon”
“I quite like that nickname Keiko and I will try and live up to my reputation. No more sucking the meat off your bones. From now on we’ll just endear each other in pure vegan terms.”
“Okay, I agree bettarazuke-san”
“Bon ma chichoree doux.
Meeting in the City
The breeze was crisp after the all night stale air of the vehicle. She still found her fatigue a bit daunting, but as she stretched facing the early morning sunshine, arms raised and back arched toward the sky, she basked in the freshness of the wind and the contours it cut in the grass. The leaves on the big tree next to the rest area parking lot shifted in the wind like they were scales on a fish’s skin. A world of mundane sensations struck her as new, not just in the luster of the sunrise but as having been revealed to her as marvels connected to so many things she had not been able to see before.
If you do not have words for it, how can you be aware of it? She’d never come this way before. This space was a discovery everywhere she looked.
She fingered the green stones on her pendant. Her grandmother had given it to her the last time they had spoken. She just seemed to up and decide she was done. Started giving away what little was important to her, stopped taking her medication, upped her smoking. Those last two months she spent every night on the sun porch, wrapped in blankets, sitting in silence, dozing or watching the sky. She said she was comfortable and peaceful. Delia had been gone for the weekend, the big senior trip. Her grandmother was gone by the time she got back.
Delia had been surprised at how well she had dealt with it. She had been so upset when grandmother had been diagnosed. She’d avoided her for weeks. Not that she had ever shared that much with her. Her grandmother had been a quiet and benevolent force in her life. Rarely acting directly, but always present, keeping tabs in a good way. You would see her and did not need to catch up. She seemed to know what was going on, always. She was connected and aware despite a thriftiness of word and gesture.
Then she had put the necklace away. She stumbled on it last week, dusted it off, and suddenly it just felt right. Hers as well as her grandmother’s.
The cloudless blue sky struck her as limiting. The reflection from water still hundreds of miles away, hiding the expanses just beyond this little bubble of atmosphere of sustenance. Limit or no, the world was green and beautiful under the sky this morning.
Work had offered her plenty of shifts lately, and she was glad of it. Putting some money away. For what? She wasn’t sure. She had even been getting on with mom lately. Watching her sister had definitely earned her some credits. Mom had even been complimentary, cheered when she saw her wearing the necklace she recognized.
“I’m not surprised your grandmother gave you that. It suits you and it’s pretty. It goes well with your standard costume.”
Delia had replied, “I’ll wear any color as long as it’s black – or grandma’s.”
Anyway, things with Mom were good, and when Delia told her that she was taking off for a few days she had not even seemed to care. True, her mother was probably thinking, or assuming that she and Nathan were a thing. Whatever to that. Nathan was alright, but he was not on her list.
Nope, it had been a chance to get out of town. Granted, not much of a chance. She worked with Nathan at the Pizza Hut. They were friendly enough, having done a lot of dead weeknight shifts together where there had been nothing to do but talk away the silence. She was pretty sure she was not on his list either. That made it seem not too shady when he asked her to drive with him out to Washington for a few days. Nathan was always trading things, a regular craigslist wizard. He collected all sorts of cards and spent most of his free time playing video games and whatever you called what they do on reddit. He said he had a deal worked out in Seattle. Needed to deliver it himself, didn’t want to mail it.
Of course, she had to ask him if it was meth or pills.
“Yeah, right,” he laughed, “I’m moving that stuff from Deer Lodge to Seattle. Pretty sure that road usually runs the other way.”
Nathan was more of a bartering kingpin businessman in the making than a dealer anyway. His favorite drug was delivered by Mountain Dew. He drove an old Toyota van he had bought from his uncle. Hardly a pimp mobile, but it ran.
“You don’t even have to pay for gas. Just need you to stay awake with me. I want to get on the road after we finish our shift.“
He had watched her sleeping. She had not exactly been all that helpful at keeping him awake. He did not mind though. His connection in Seattle had said they could crash at his place for a couple of days. Nothing weird he said, just being friendly. So what if I do not know that much about Max in meatspace, he thought. I’ve been gaming with the guy for almost a year. He’s a good partner. Reliable, runs on the same hours. Consistent. Besides, he had hooked me up with the rocks in the first place.
Yup, Nathan, you really are putting things together. Trades and deliveries. Max said he would cover the gas and let us couch surf for a couple of days. What’s not to love? All just to deliver some rocks. And having Delia along was a breather from isolation. Talking to Delia was pressure free, simple.
They had made it until four or so, when Nathan felt like he was starting to weave on the road. A couple of hours and he was ready to go again.
“Two or three more hours and we can drop the rocks. Then we can check out the city.”
“So, you’re delivering these rocks to this guy. What kind of rocks are they?” asked Delia.
“Shards, or so I am told,” said Nathan. “Max hooked me up with this guy. He was a little unusual, even for a trader.”
“I don’t know. I just sorta didn’t like him. His face seemed to have a natural smirk. Nothing I could put my finger on. Probably nothing. Anyway, Max said some of them used to be pots or bowls in a camp, somewhere near a reservation.”
“Near the reservation?”
“I know, but it seems innocent enough. Just some rocks – shards. They lie around in all sorts of places.”
The sun climbed higher and then they were climbing into the mountains, traffic picking up, then more houses and the city on the horizon. Soon, Nathan had her reading the directions off from a text message on Nathan’s phone. Despite the rush hour traffic they found their way to the address without too much confusion. Max’s place was in this island of quiet and trees amongst the teeming city. When Nathan hopped out, Delia was immediately impressed by the quiet. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t think you were in the city at all.
Delia waited while Nathan went in. She saw him at the door, talking to a hairy and sloppy guy she assumed was Max.
Delia was thinking more about the shards now, more about the guy Nathan had picked them up from. She was no long so sure about their plan to crash at Max’s. This place was eerily quiet and the more she thought about Max the less sure she got. She slunk down in her seat, fingered the stones on her grandmother’s necklace, thought about home.
She remembered how tired she was, climbed into the back of the van, curled up next to the rocks, shards, Nathan was transporting and went to sleep. Maybe I can just stay out here until we head home. She remembered the way the grass and trees had looked at the rest stop this morning, remembered how fresh and new everything seemed.
Next thing she knew, she could hear Nathan opening the back of the van. A couple stood with him, one of them the creepy guy she had seen him with at the door.
“Well, well, well Nathan, look at what we have here,” a woman she had not seen before said with a leer. She reached a hand adorned with many rings in towards Delia. She had “LOVE” tattooed on her hand, a letter for every finger. “Nathan, my love, you must introduce me to your friend . . . “
Vanessa nudged the pill bottled toward me across the kitchen island.
I picked up my cereal bowl and carried it to the sink. I resisted the urge to wash it out and set it on the drainboard, limp cereal flakes stuck to bottom of the bowl and the spoon.
“I told you, I don’t know how I feel about T. Maybe sometime I’ll want it – I’m not saying never – but right now I’m just not that interested.”
“Yeah, you’ve been saying that for months, Lee.” One of the spaghetti straps of Vanessa’s red tank top slipped down over her shoulder and she ran her well-manicured fingers back and forth across her collarbone, a mannerism that I’d never noticed before and found strangely irritating.
“I just think you’d want to be your best self. You could be amazing, Lee, and instead you choose to be this bookish in-between kind of person. I just want you to embrace your potential.”
I picked up my backpack off the floor and started searching through the piles of coats and boas on the coat rack for my hoodie.
“Are you headed to the gym?”
“Uh, nope. Library.”
Vanessa arched an eyebrow at me, “Mmmmkay. We’re meeting at 4:00. Don’t forget and don’t be late.”
I pulled the hoodie I’d found under Vanessa’s silver puffy over my head and laced up my Timberlands.
“I’ll be there.”
“And take a shower if you go to the gym.”
“Are you suggesting that I go to the gym?”
“I don’t know, you just always seem in a better mood after you’ve pumped some iron,” Vanessa smiled in a way that I used to find alluring, but this morning seemed straight-up manipulative.
“If I have time.”
She looked sad, so sad.
I walked across the kitchen and put my arms around her. She pressed her stuffed tank top to my chest and I could feel her erection against my thigh. That, at least, still thrilled me a little. I had only been with men a couple of times before Vanessa; horrible adolescent experiments that had stilted my interest in the males generally. But I wasn’t usually drawn to people as outwardly feminine as Vanessa, either. Her eyelashes were at least an inch long, her ankles and wrists delicate, her hips (strangely) curvy, and she favored skin-tight dresses and four-inch heels. Her wild curly hair fell to the middle of her back. My typical dates wore baseball caps and plaid shirts. And they were women.
I had been shocked that Vanessa was interested in me in the first place, then I thought it was joke, then I said what the hell and we humped liked bunnies for a couple of months. In the beginning it was incredible. But lately, it had gotten weird. I liked that we both looked one way on the outside but different with our clothes off. I liked her girliness in clothes, and her flat chest and big dick when the dress came off. I liked her five o’clock shadow and the way it contrasted with her carefully-applied lipstick. I thought she liked that about me, too. Early on she was like a baby at my bosom and loved kissing my smooth cheeks. But in the last couple of months she’d been leaving articles around the apartment about breast reduction surgery and testosterone supplementation, and it was becoming abundantly clear that I was not man enough for her.
“Lee,” she whispered.
This was more physical than we had been in weeks, and I wasn’t that interested in going to the library so I bit her ear and reached down to the bulge that was pressing against my leg. Suddenly she was pushing away, though, and tensing up. She smiled at me, but I could sense the moment was gone.
“I think a little weight-lifting would do you a world of good, and that will give me time to get all of the signs and posters ready.”
“Whatever, Vanessa,” I shook my head and picked my backpack up off the linoleum.
“Don’t be late!” she chirped, “This election is the most important one of our lifetime! This is our chance at revolution!”
I let the screen door slam behind me.
Three hours later, after reading more than I cared to about concrete structures for my engineering exam, I packed up my backpack and headed to the student center for the rally. I had considered not going, just heading back to the apartment and drinking beer and doing laundry. I hate politics with a passion, and going to a political rally is on par for me with getting a root canal. But the thought of the scene that would ensue with Vanessa if I didn’t show up urged me on. She’d be mad enough that I spent the afternoon at the library and never made it to the gym.
As I was walking up the breezeway, I ran into Hector and Felicia.
“Hello, darling,” Felicia sang, wrapping the end of her boa around my neck. Felicia was one of my least favorite friends of Vanessa’s, but I was working up to best behavior and smiled back at her.
“All of the signs up and the crowd assembled?”
“OMG, darling, it’s packed! Snuggle room only!”
Hector was wearing a beautiful ballerina’s costume and had waxed his mustache to within an inch of its life.
“Nice,” I said, nodding in the direction of his tutu.
“Some people make an effort,” he said, rolling his eyes at Felicia. They both tittered.
I would have punched him, or at least come up with a clever come-back, but we were already being swallowed by the crowd, almost to the double doors with the giant rainbow LGBTQ FOR BERNIE banner above it. A team was organized outside handing out buttons and signs with slogans:
FEELING THE BERNING LOVE
BORN THIS WAY – BERN THIS WAY!
YOU DON’T NEED A GREAT WARDROBE TO BE A GREAT PRESIDENT
USE MY BATHROOM ANYTIME
CORPORATE CONTRIBUTIONS OUT OF OUR BEDROOMS
BOAS FOR BERNIE
Vanessa was sitting at a table with a bunch of her pals, bumper stickers and contribution cans mixed with peacock feathers and flowers. She was even more dolled-up than usual, and for a moment I had the strong physical memory of holding her earlier in the day.
I started to call out to her, but my shout was interrupted by a strapping…girl? boy? who threw their arms around her and gave her a big kiss on the neck. She smiled up at this person and reached up to caress a well-muscled bicep. So manly, I thought. So masculine.
“Pay attention, Lee! You’re stepping on my slippers!” Hector gave me a shove, and I tripped over my Timberlands. I couldn’t fall far, as the crowd was so dense, but I felt myself drifting away from Felicia and Hector, away from the double doors and towards the corner of the building.
Suddenly I was pushed up against another table, and there, in front of me, was a giant picture of Hillary Clinton on the wall. And in front of that picture was a short girl with a baseball cap that said LESBIANS 4 HILLARY.
“Hi there, I’m Li. Li Yan.”
She had round glasses and a plaid flannel shirt and her short black hair was tucked back behind her ears.
I’m sure I had the most ridiculous look on my face, and all I could think to say was, “Me, too! I mean, my name’s Lee, too!”
She smiled back at me and I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks.
“You escaping the tranny bros?” she asked, her eyes twinkling.
I nodded dumbly and, at that moment, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would be voting for Hillary Clinton.
Sewing Lesson – Dalmatia Flemming
It was just after 3 pm. The “Living Room” of the Foogle Corporation was quiet, more like a library at this time of day. Overstuffed, oversized gray flannel chairs were occupied by small groups of people talking in hushed voices, some of it work related, some of it personal. Others were clustered around the industrial lighting where it was easier to read or work. Some were eating or even napping. A few lazy dogs wandered through, stopping to curl up on the brightly colored yellow-green area rugs. In the background was the muffled sound of bouncing ping pong balls.
Raj played a game on his phone while Jason thumbed through the local hipster magazine. Jason always made it a point to read the dating and sex advice column in the back, always good for a laugh and sometimes actually helpful for straight guys like him.
Jason started to laugh quietly.
“What’s so funny?” Raj said without looking up, still focused on his game.
“Listen to this …
‘Dear Sven. Please help me. First, let me explain that I live in an older building. Besides 2 small businesses, it contains 5 apartments that share a communal laundry room with only 1 washer and drier.
About 3 weeks ago, I went down to do my laundry to find that someone had abandoned their clothes in the washer. So I had to unload it in order to use it. I swear, there must have been 20 bikinis in there! They had sparkly things on them, sequins I guess; this was what I was unloading! Meanwhile, in saunters a statuesque woman wearing a bathrobe and apologizing, in a deep Lauren Bacall-type voice, for not tending to her clothes earlier. She lingered. This was quite an uncomfortable encounter for me!
About 1 week later, I hear a knock on my door. I open it and there stands the same statuesque woman wearing a bikini, showing me another bikini which she needs to mend, and asking me if I have a needle and thread. Asks me, a guy, if I have a needle and thread? There are 2 other women and a gay guy who live in the building! I’m sure they all have a needle and thread! Why not ask them? And one of the women is a nun! Nuns are caring, helpful people by nature and a needle and thread would NOT be considered to be excessive personal possessions!
You won’t believe this; about a week after that, I come home to find a small package with my name on it sitting on the ground just outside my front door. I open it only to find some fabric, some elastic, a pattern for a thong, a needle and thread and an invitation to come over to said woman’s apartment for a sewing lesson!
I am petrified! I have been crawling in and out of my second story window ever since, which is not easy I might add, to avoid running into this woman! Sometimes I even stay with friends!
Sven, what should I do?
Signed, Ask Someone Else For A Needle And Thread’”
Raj flopped back into his overstuffed chair laughing. “Oh man … that’s funny! It’s a dude.”
“I know!” laughed Jason.
“What did he answer?”
Jason, containing his laughter, read on…
“‘Dear ASEFANAT. This is NOT about borrowing a needle and thread, fyi. I agree that there are obvious likelier sources of needles and threads in your building besides you, ASEFANAT.
You mention your presumed caring and helpful neighbor, the nun. Well ASEFANAT, I think you have ANOTHER caring and helpful neighbor in your building in the form of a statuesque, bikini clad tranni … er, I mean, deep voiced beauty that really CARES that YOU have a properly constructed thong and really wants to HELP YOU construct it! Lucky YOU! Go get YOUR private lesson!
But I have the feeling you will not follow this advice, ASEFANAT, so I will give you a second, lesser choice. To diffuse the focus from you, invite all your neighbors to your apartment for a sewing party to be taught by the statuesque, bikini clad, deep voiced beauty. Perhaps you can all construct something neutral such as pillows instead of bikinis and thongs. And, heaven forbid, if you will not even follow this lesser advice, here is a pathetic third choice, ASEFANAT … move if you must.’”
CJ approached the laughing men and collapsed into an empty overstuffed chair. “Hey.” Self-absorbed, he immediately opened his computer bag, pulled out his asthma inhaler and took a few puffs.
“Hey CJ … allergies got you down?” asked Jason.
“Naw … I think it’s stress related” answered CJ.
“Stress? … Here? … No way!” laughed Raj.
“…Yeah … well … CJ’s voice trailed off.
“Look at you CJ, all dressed up … got a phone interview or something?” said Jason laughingly.
“Ha ha … dressed up … phone interview … right” said CJ. No, I just haven’t done laundry in a long time. Now I’m down to my good clothes. Those are the only ones that are clean.” CJ dug into his computer bag, pulled out a tube of Neosporin, a Band Aid and began to nurse the sore on the back of his hand.
“Ouch, what’d ya do there CJ?” ask Raj. “That looks pretty bad.”
“It’s not that bad. It’s healing. I was … I … I borrowed Tyler’s bike and I fell off, that’s all.” said CJ.
Jason and Raj glanced at each other simultaneously.
“… Hey, be careful man. Take care of that.” said Jason.
… “Yeah … well … gotta go … see you guys later.” said CJ. CJ got up and left. Jason and Raj locked their gaze and then watched CJ walk away.
… “Hey CJ … CJ” Jason yelled.
CJ stopped and turned, “Yeah?”
Jason motioned for CJ to come back. … “Don’t forget, tomorrow is Lanyard Lounge Lizard night at Spunky’s, we’re all going.”
… “Oh, yeah.” CJ answered unenthusiastically, then turned and left again.
Jason and Raj locked their gaze again, and then started laughing, trying to keep it quiet.
“Ask Someone Else For A Needle And Thread … it’s CJ,” laughed Jason.
“’Fraid so”, laughed Raj. “Let’s just hope that his statuesque neighbor doesn’t work at Spunky’s!”
DID HE SAY HIS WIFE?
By Karen Uffelman
“Did he say his wife?”
Trina gave me the look that I hate.
“What. The. Fuck.”
“I thought you knew,” I whispered.
If Trina could have set my hair on fire with her eyes my head would have been smoking.
“I mean, I thought you knew. Shhhhhh.”
This evening was not going to end well.
SO MY WIFE, CAROLINE, IS THE GENIUS OF OUR FAMILY. SHE’S TUTORED BOTH OUR BOYS IN LATIN AND FRENCH, IN ADDITION TO RUNNING THE MOST SUCCESSFUL LAW PRACTICE IN SEATTLE. I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT, BUT I’M A LUCKY MAN.
“Boys? He has kids? He’s married and he has KIDS?”
A couple of middle-aged League-of-Women-Voter types in front of us turned and looked Trina up and down. One of them held a finger to her lips.
“Dude, how could you not know this? He’s running for lieutenant governor. He’s got his family’s pictures on his frickin’ website and 1 million pieces of direct mail that I designed for him. I invited you because I thought you’d like this party, not because I want you to make a scene in front of my client… can youplease keep your voice down?”
Trina set her wineglass down a little too hard ad the base of the glass shattered. Luckily it was white wine that spilled everywhere and no tablecloths were sacrificed. People were looking at us. I tried to give my most reassuring smile. Eventually folks turned back to the speech
“You are not my friend, Maya.
“I am totally your friend, Trina. I know he flirted with you a lot at what’s-his-name’s party, but I thought you were enjoying the attention and I assumed you knew he’s not actually available. He acts like a player, but he’s harmless.”
Trina gave me another one of her I’d-like-to-cut-you-to-pieces stare. She’s my most beautiful friend – runner’s body, big, expressive eyes, perfect teeth. But lately, she’s been a little rough around the edges. A little too much makeup, seems like she’s lost weight, she probably ought to not dye her hair so often. I know I haven’t been as attentive a friend as I should be, and I feel guilty about it, but I can’t really listen to her complain about her life anymore. I really just want her to settle down with somebody and be happy and not so frickin’ high maintenance. Inviting her tonight was my effort at being a better friend, but was clearly a mistake.
I turned my back on Trina and tried to listen to the candidate, Richard Belkin. Self-satisfied the way politicians so often are, but seems like a genuinely good guy, and quite handsome. I liked having him as a client. I could understand why Trina was disappointed that Richard wasn’t single. I looked back at her with what I hoped was a convincing sorry-let’s-make-up smile.
She stepped around the table and hissed into my carefully flat-ironed hair, “Until tonight, I thought Richard lived in a condo in Belltown. By himself. Until tonight, I thought he was just an attorney, not a political candidate.”
“He is an attorney,” I whispered back, “but he lives in Bellevue, not Belltown.”
I started to get a bad feeling in my stomach.
“Tonight he’s sleeping in his condo in Belltown, because that’s where he invited me to meet him after his ‘work event’ you asshole.”
She said “asshole” a little too loudly, and those same event attendees who had noticed her breaking the stemware now looked at us again. I did a repeat performance of my reassuring smile. With a little less success this time.
“Trina,” I said, my voice hushed but, I feared, still audible, “don’t go. It would be a mistake for both of you. Just chalk it up to poor judgement on his part.”
“Or maybe mine, Maya. Because this will be my ninth date with Richard. Ninth. Which means I’ve slept with him seven times. You know, seven, because I’m such a nice girl and I don’t FUCKING sleep with people on the first two dates so I can make sure they’re really interested and not like, oh, I don’t know, MARRIED or something!”
How had she gone out with Richard Belkin nine times without me knowing?
She could see the gears turning in my head and blurted out, “Because you are the WORST friend in the world! You pretend to care about me, you fit me in here and there, you introduce me to fucking MARRIED MEN, watch us flirt, and don’t clue me in. You SUCK, Maya!”
By that time, most of the people in the room were looking at us. Richard was still carrying on at the front about his kid’s field hockey team or his feelings about local B&O taxes, I’m not sure which. Trina’s mascara was running in thick black streams down her face. I was trying to calculate how much it was going to cost me to lose Richard as a client.
“Come on, Trina, let’s get out of here,” I said.
Trina wiped her face with one of the nice hotel napkins and took my arm.
“I’m not fucking voting for him,” was all she said.
“I know,” I said, “I know.”
Opportunity Grows – Dalmatia Flemming
Louie emerged from the shower of the most perfect temperature. The bathroom air was thick with warm, moist air. He inhaled and exhaled fully and slowly through his mouth, generating a coughing spree.
Louie donned a terry cloth full length robe. He wiped the fog off a little portion of the mirror with his sleeve so that he could see himself. Then he towel dried his hair and brushed his teeth.
There were little knocks on the bathroom door. “Louie, I’m going to the grocery store, is there anything in particular that you’d like?” ask his mom.
Louie opened the door and emerged. “Hey mom, do you know how great it is to take a hot shower? AND with soap that smells nice? Or to be able to brush your teeth without standing in the hallway while you do it because other people are using the bathroom? And to not have someone pounding on the door telling you to hurry up every time you’re in the bathroom? I feel like I’m at a spa!”
“Yes Dear, I’m sure this seems luxurious compared to where you were living in Whistler.”
“Oh man, this is the best mom. YOU’RE the best.” Louie hugged his mom.
“It’s nice to have you back Louie.”
“It’s nice to be back mom.”
Louie poured himself a cup of coffee and headed to the living room, sitting down man-spread style. He checked his phone for any communications from his friends. There was a text from Tom, “Louie, u gotta get over here. FIL wants to do biz with u.”
“All right!” Louie said out loud to himself. Then he checked the airfare to Hawaii.
Louie’s mom walked in the front door.
“Hi mom, any more bags in the car? I can help.”
“Yes, three heavy bags Dear, thanks for getting them.” Louie brought in the bags and then helped his mom put away the food.
“Mom, I’m going to Hawaii!”
“Oh? First it was snow and now it’s sun?”
“Yeah, you won’t believe this. Tom had this girlfriend for about 5 years, a long time.”
“No, Tom McCann.”
“… Yes, that pretty Pacific Islander girl. Stunning … I remember her. What was her name?”
“Yeah … uh … I don’t know. They split up.”
“Oh, well that’s too bad. I hope he’s not upset, or her.”
“No, it’s all OK, they’re still friends.”
“Well that’s good.”
“So you know it’s now legal to grow pot in Hawaii.”
“Really? When did that happen? You know, soon it will be legal throughout the whole country.”
“… Uh, yeah. Anyway, the way the law is set up is that you can only start a pot growing business if one of the partners is currently a Hawaiian business owner. Meaning of Hawaiian descent, not just someone who owns a business in Hawaii.”
“Oh, so is this something the ex-girlfriend is interested in … what was her name?”
“Mom, I don’t remember … Alani, that’s it.”
“Yes, that’s it! What a beautiful name, I bet it means something. Do you know what it means?”
“No mom, it doesn’t matter” Louie said bruskly.
Louie’s mom momentarily stopped what she was doing and looked at Louie. “Louie?”
“You know that I like to hear about your old friends. I’ve know them since you all were in kindergarten, or before. You just got home last night. Now I know you have a lot to share with me, but we have a few days. You don’t have to be in such a rush.”
Louie and his mom returned to putting the groceries away.
“OK, so you were talking about Tom and Alani and pot.”
“Uh, yeah. So Alani’s dad, Kalino, is a business owner and Hawaiian, obviously. Kalino always liked Tom, and they’re still friends too.”
“That’s nice Dear.”
“Yeah. So Kalino mentioned to Tom that he would like to look into starting a grow business and does Tom know anyone who knows about growing.”
“Well, you do Dear.”
“I know, so Tom told Kalino about me and Kalino wants to meet me!”
“Oh, so that’s what this trip is about, it’s not just about sun.”
“The sun will be nice too, no problem there.”
“Well, isn’t this nice. You spend the winter being a ski bum, you come back and it looks like an entrepreneurial opportunity has just fallen into your lap. I’m very excited for you Louie.”
“Thanks mom, you’re the best!”
I can’t see much through the back window (just raindrops and the silhouettes of trees and a couple of glaring outdoor lights). But I can hear things. I can hear at least two dogs howling and yipping. I can hear a loud TV, coming from a building I can’t see from here, playing some action movie. I can hear the man and woman who drove me here, arguing at the top of their voices against at least one other person.
Actually, the woman isn’t getting many words in. Most of the yelling’s being done by her partner—boyfriend? husband? brother? From the way they were shouting at each other a few minutes ago, they seem to have a lot more emotionally invested in each other than you’d think mere business partners would have.
This guy, and the guy he’s arguing with, sure like to drop a lot of F-bombs on each other.
I try to make out what they’re saying, in between all the F-words. Even when I can make out a complete sentence, it doesn’t make any sense.
At one point it almost seems as if they’re trying to come up with a business deal of some kind. How much money, in what form, delivered when and where. But then they just start insulting each other again.
It’s been more than half an hour since the couple left me in the back seat and told me it would just be a minute. They were supposed to drive me to the nearest town where I could get a bus into Portland, and from there get back to Seattle, and from there back to the ‘burbs.
They’d made a bunch of other stops before this one, including a short stop at a gas station/convenience store, a long stop at a bar, and a longer stop at some small rural house. After they came back to the car from each of these stops, they were louder and more incoherent and more belligerent.
Especially the man. He’s about five foot one, stocky. He’s got a gruffy tenor voice and a face that’s more “delicate” looking than his personality would imply. He’s wearing an oversize black suit jacket, slacks, and a white shirt without a tie. The woman is a few inches taller than him, with hair almost as short as his. She’s wearing beat-up jeans and a flannel shirt, and is pretty obviously braless. She’s got a stern demeanor and a sharp tongue, especially toward the man. They seem to have known and hated one another for some time. I’m trying to remember everything about them, in case I have to testify someday.
It’s dark now. Very dark. It’s January, so it’s not even 6 yet. Even when I do get to the bus stop, will there be any buses still running? If I have to use my emergency-only credit card for a motel room, my mom will know I’m not at the church youth retreat I’m supposed to be at.
All my life I’ve tried to be the good child, the one who’d never get into any trouble or cause my mom any worry. And now I’m here, wherever this is. All I know is it’s on a gravel road, off of a two-lane paved road, off of a four-lane state highway.
Every mile or so while it was still light out, I could see a small sign posted in memory of someone who’d died in a drunk-driving crash along these roads. I pray to my lord Jesus that I don’t become one of them.
I know I haven’t been a very good Christian the past 24 hours or so, or a very good person either. I’ve slept with an older woman, a woman in what news stories about court trials would call “a position of trust and authority” over high-school kids like me. I let her convince me to run a weird errand for her, driving across the state line in the same car I’m in now, carrying I still don’t know what in the trunk.
The drive was all right, considering. I’m still new at the whole driving thing, so I was borderline panicky and extra careful anyway. I found this couple’s place all right, even though I’d promised that woman I wouldn’t use the GPS.
This other woman and this man were sort of nice when I first drove up. They didn’t open the trunk or ask me anything about what was in it; they apparently knew. They had me get into the back seat while they got in the front.
Outside the car now, they’ve stopped screaming. Now they’ve started screaming again. Now they’ve stopped again, and I’m hearing strange sounds from the general direction of the house, as if they’re fighting. Or it could be a fight scene in the action movie on the TV. I think I hear a gunshot; but that could also be from the TV.
The dogs are even louder now.
Now the two are coming back to the car; the woman running, the man stumbling. They get in. The woman gets in on the driver’s side. She looks a little scuffed up. But the man looks worse. He’s got a bloodied hand (I hadn’t noticed how skinny his fingers were until now). His suit jacket is opened; it may have lost its buttons. His shirt is opened a little too; he’s got Ace bandages all around him from the shoulders down. Was he already injured from some earlier fight? They say nothing. Neither do I. The woman seems even more annoyed by the man’s behavior than before.
The woman finally drives us toward the nearest town, even though the man keeps yelling at her to take him home instead.
They stop at a tiny, tired looking, old Greyhound station that seems to be closing for the night. The woman tells me to get out. I immediately do just that. Then she motions for me to come toward her. She whispers to me something about how the man’s stupid on testosterone. I may be young but that’s not the first time I heard a woman complaining about testosterone or stupid men. Then she tells me I should have seen him “before.” I don’t ask what she means.
She quickly drives off back in the direction we’d come from.
The bus station has indeed just closed.
In the alley behind the station, I hear some teenagers screaming and clinking bottles together. One of the voices sounds vaguely familiar.
Eggs and Tea for Two
“Eggs, Madam,” The waiter said curtly as he placed a plate of two boiled eggs in eggcups in front of the woman. I noticed she was smartly dressed for the cool weather and had a nice handbag sitting next to her. One strange thing was that she wore sunglasses despite being inside the hotel restaurant.
The waiter put the plate down with a small clink on the marble tabletop. The woman peered at the eggs from above her dark glasses and softly began to weep.
I quickly lifted my newspaper to block my view of the scene unfolding in the banquette opposite my table. But the sound of her weeping pierced my paper shield.
You know that New York feeling that when you turn a corner anything can happen? I studiously avoid that.
Whenever coming to the city I always stay at a small boutique hotel downtown. The hotel lacks the flash and “bling” of many uptown grand scale hotels (no Trump water on the nightstands here, rather glass bottles of imported Italian still), but it also refrains from the clubby atmosphere of throbbing music that permeates so many now “hip” downtown hotels. The place, as I prefer it, is understated and elegant, albeit an elegance of frayed sofas and moth eaten drapes. It isn’t fancy, per se, but it offers a level of discretion and privacy I appreciate (and which many celebrities value as well). Even the paparazzi are somewhat discrete, parking their camera bags and long lenses on a wooden bench obscured by a small planter of sculpted box wood shrubs. The twinkling vintage hanging lights strung over the door make one feel they were entering a small pensione, somehow transplanted from Europe to lower Manhattan. An old Otis elevator rattles up to the small rooms. Upstairs, sounds are muffled by the faded red carpets than line the narrow halls. From the elevator I overheard one disappointed hotel guest remark, as she peered down the dimly lit hall that, “This would be an ideal location to film an American Horror Story episode.”
For breakfast I descended to the hotel restaurant where I took my morning tea and read the paper. The quiet room generally served as a good place to start my day before going uptown to meet with the trustees of my family’s foundation. But today the softly sobbing woman broke the silence. I heard the waiter muttering apologies and scurry away. I had just poured a fresh cup of tea from the teapot when the crying began and I was desperately trying to figure out how to get a sip of still hot tea without lowering my newspaper, which I gripped, tightly, with two hands. Stretching down to drink directly from the cup I was able to get a good sip, but the top half of the newspaper folded down over my head making a tent for me and my cup of tea.
I heard a sniffle, then a sort of chortle coming from the woman. I quickly sat up and snapped the paper back upright. But of course the bottom half of the newspaper caught on the lip of my teacup, and in an instant the practically boiling hot tea spilled onto my lap. My wool trousers worked as a sponge to the hot liquid. The searing pain in my groin area caused me to bolt upright from where I sat. In my hurry to get up I knocked into my table which seemed to teeter for a moment before toppling over, spilling tea, breaking china and send silverware clattering across the tile floor of the restaurant.
In the awkward silence that followed, I looked over to the woman who sat staring speechlessly at me. Just then, the waiter returned, with two more eggs in eggcups and briskly set them in front of the woman with nary a glance at me nor the disaster I’d made of his dining room.
“Eggs, Madame,” he said politely.
She looked at the eggs then back to me and began laughing hysterically.
And that is how I met my wife.
As I stand here, listening to her make small talk to me from the next room, I’m thinking about the other females in my short life.
My mother had always instructed me in the discipline of being a moral person, a righteous person, and most importantly a young man who listens and defers to women. She raised me alone from the time my father left, raised me to be the exact opposite of anything he’d been. Even to the point of her regularly making dinners of all the foods my father had always hated. (I mean, how much butternut squash and eggplant can a guy take?)
My mother had latched onto me as her self-proclaimed “last hope” for “a good child,” after my older sister repeatedly proved incapable of self-discipline. My sister was your basic Lifetime TV movie waiting to happen. One crazy or creepy boyfriend after another. The high-school dropout (while she was still in middle school). The street pot dealer. The small-time shoplifter. The steroid-hooked football star. The white slam poet with at least three other girlfriends. Worst of all, the English prof who’d picked her out to be that semester’s midlife-crisis temptation for him.
From my mother’s lessons and my sister’s contrary examples, I constantly tried to be a guy who wasn’t like other guys; a teen who wasn’t like the other teens.
And now, here I am. A walking cliché.
I look at myself in the full-length bedroom mirror. I’d never seen myself undressed in one of these in, how long? Ever? I was never the hunkiest guy in school, or had the best posture. This sight just proves it. I look away.
It’s not what I’ve done that I feel sad about, I decide.
I mean, what future bride (even a Christian one) expects her future husband (even a Christian one) to be “pure” anymore?
It’s what I’m going to do that I’m not so sure about.
Now it’s me who’s the Lifetime TV movie waiting to happen. Maybe even a “48 Hours Mystery” waiting to happen.
I look at her clothes in the closet. It’s a big closet, with a lot of clothes, and an awful lot of shoes. This is the kind of woman that my mother would make snide remarks about behind her back; and maybe she’ll get the chance to do so. If I’m unlucky, that is. Let’s hope they never meet.
For that matter, let’s hope nobody else finds out. She could go to jail for what we’ve done. We both could go to jail for what I’m going to do. Probably. I don’t even know what it is, really.
She’s walking back in here. I stop snooping around. I close the closet doors.
No. She’s still out in the other room.
She’s shouting at me even though the door is open and she’s just 20 feet away from me at most. She’s calling me “cute” names. Yuck. She says she’s writing down the driving directions. She says there’s enough gas in the car to get all the way to Scappoose without stopping. She says I shouldn’t stop. Take the bridge at Longview, then left onto Highway 30, then when I get there hand the keys over to the couple; they’ll drive me to a bus stop. Don’t stop. Don’t get stopped. Don’t look in the trunk. Don’t let anybody else look into the trunk. Nothing she hasn’t said six or seven times already.
My mother thinks I’m on a youth-group trip.
Sudden thought: Has this woman done this with, or to, other guys before? I try not to think about it. I use her hair brush.
She throws my clothes into the bedroom. Freshly washed; still a little damp. I check: no booze or perfume or pot smell.
How’d I get here? Really easily. As my mother had always told me to be with women, I’d been courteous, I’d been trusting, and I’d listened sympathetically to everything she said.
I wonder how far I could run once I got dressed.
I wonder what’s in the trunk.
I wonder if I could “accidentally” crash the car without hurting myself.
No, drive it into the river instead.
No, I’m not the greatest swimmer. And the water’s too cold these days.
I’m still thinking about this while she yanks the hair brush out of my hand. She’s still in her robe, still barefoot with painted toenails. I remember how they’d tasted.
She opens her robe with one hand, and pushes my head toward her with the other.
I’m doing this. I’m doing all of this. Don’t even think about it.