A Quick Load


I met George at a support group for gay fathers.  He was not a father, had never been married, but he had been engaged to a woman once, and I suppose that made him feel like he had been close enough to the blade. The rest of us opened up our wrists every Wednesday night in a semi-circle in the basement of a Unitarian Universalist Church in a Boston suburb, airing dirty laundry with our “God knows I tried,” stories. 

We would pass the talking stick around and one by one, a nervous guy would fidget, tug at his collar and stammer through this week’s trials and tribulations on the road to, I don’t know where, but it sure as hell wasn’t here.

When the talking stick landed in George’s lap, he stood up and the room took notice.  He was broad shouldered, cocky and wore a blonde crew cut.  He was shaped like a refrigerator, all hard angles and cool.

“I’m not a father,” he said and the room of enraptured men replied “That’s OK!”

“I can’t say I’ve ever been married,” he continued and the room shouted “Good for you!”

“When I told my mother I was gay, she said you must get it from your father’s side,” he said and the applause was so thunderous that you would have thought that God had just farted.

When the meeting was over, word went around that perhaps we should all just walk over to the local bar and continue the support over a libation of our choosing, give us a chance to talk in a less formal setting, which was code for “hook-up.”  The apple-tinis, cosmos and chardonnays were cast aside for something more manly seeming, like beer, in the presence of “box boy.” The appellation was justified, as later we would learn that in addition to being shaped like a box, he also sold them for a living.

I was the lucky one who nabbed his number, or he nabbed mine.  In any case I ended up speaking with him on the phone for an hour or two that night replying “uh-huh” and “you don’t say,” while he told me what a catch he was.

“I’m looking for something long term,” he said.

“So am I,” I replied.

When I met him the following Sunday at his home he wanted to show me his hobby, which was a collection of vintage washing machines in his basement.  Now, most people would begin to second guess a relative stranger’s invitation to voluntarily venture into their basement to take a gander at their “hobby,” but I decided to find it cute and quirky.  It wasn’t like he held up a rag and asked me if it smelled like chloroform.    

We never made it to the basement. We hardly made it from the sofa and we never made it to a second date. I was foolish.  He just wanted to wash a quick load. Maybe we were both looking for something long-term.  It just wasn’t with each other
       


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Eye of The Beholder


I am taking pictures of the clouds with my iPhone and casting a shadow over Paul. He is lying on his stomach in the driveway,scrubbing the rim of a car tire with a brush specifically designed for this task, when he grunts “Can you find something to do for an hour?”

An hour really isn't long enough to do something productive like exercise or write and I have already taken the opportunity to go for a run on the beach, while Paul cleaned the gas grill.  It is a found hour, sort of like a crumpled twenty dollar bill you might pull out of your pocket.  Not enough to buy something you really want, like say, a life sized golden piggy bank, but enough to make you a little giddy with the possibilities.

I decide to take a selfie and try photo-shopping different eye colors, which is not as easy as it sounds. First, if your eyes are as beady as mine, you need to take a picture where they appear open, but not like they are in a state of shock; as if someone has told you that golden piggy bank costs more than $100, for example. Then, you need to get the right size software tool to color the iris and erase the spot over the pupil.  If you go too blue, then it just looks fake.

When Paul opens the front door and enters the kitchen, I am surprised that an hour has passed. He glances over my shoulder at the laptop screen and asks “Did you spend an hour on that?”

“I know,” I exclaim and then add “It’s really tricky, getting this to look real.”

He wipes the sweat from his forehead and stares at me without blinking, which is when I realize that his eyes are a mixture of brown and hazel and that this subtlety is exactly what I am missing.   As I adjust the tool and zoom in on the picture of my eyes, Paul grabs a rag and the spray bottle of vinegar and plods to the bathroom, where I assume he is going to clean the glass shower doors. I’m proud that I suggested a dual headed shower, though it requires more cleaning. I have learned not to complain about the vinegar smell.

It is precisely this moment when I realize his suggestion of finding something to do for an hour might have meant anything other than performing virtual cosmetic surgery, which is why I think our relationship works.  I bring a sense of whimsy to his otherwise strictly ordered life.

The next morning, Paul is driving me to work while The Captain and Tennille are singing on the radio about how love will always keep them together. Unfortunately, it did not.  Toni was always the bubbly outgoing one and The Captain was content hiding behind the piano. Something must have changed, a power struggle perhaps. Maybe The Captain said “You know Ton, I’d really like to get up and dance the fandango when we sing Muskrat Love,” to which Toni replied “It’s the Tango you buffoon! And that spotlight is mine, bitch!”

I offer to drive us in to work.

Paul rolls his eyes and says “Honey, I’d really like an enjoyable ride in today.”

Maybe our roles are as immutable as our eye color, but I know our emotional piggy bank will always remain full, because unlike Toni, I’m not a diva and I’m willing to bend.  Good thing we met later in life when our interests were equally shared, but if we ever need to change, I know we will, because we both have the right set of tools and more importantly?

We know how to use them.  

  

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Word Fishers


When you are writing a memoir, each morning you sit at your desk and kill your father, slander your mother and shame your children.  This is the price that you pay for seeking your version of the truth and that truth is like a wadded up ball of string that you pick away at slowly.  You may be able to get a purchase on the beginning and the end, but the middle seems hopelessly riddled with knots.

Once you untangle the twine, you are not even half way there.  You tie a hook on the end and throw it into a sea of words and hope to catch something, anything.  Most days pass without a tug.  Then, you feel a slight nibble and you struggle to reel it in.  Sometimes the catch is too small, sometimes too big and still others are monsters with razor sharp teeth and dark eyes too terrifying to consider. You cut the line.

At night, when sleep eludes you, the words swim through your mind. 

They shudder with a bright silvery flourish just beyond your grasp, but you try to remember. In the morning you say “Here, this is the spot,” and cast your line.  If you are patient, you catch a few and then some more until the boat is teeming with words.

Once you have enough, you select the best and prepare them, fry them, broil them, bake them; add a bit of salt here, add a dash of spice there until they are ready to be consumed.  You place your dish proudly in front of other fishers of words.

You wait.

You wait.

You wait.

“This dish is too cold.”

“This dish is too hot.”

“This dish stinks.”

They pick apart the words and spit out the bones.  They ask if you considered baking it less or baking it more or adding this spice or just throwing the whole damn thing out and starting all over again.

You swear off fishing for words. 

“I can sit on the beach with my friends,” you say.  They seem perfectly happy, you think. You rest.  You drink.  You go out to dinner, but you cannot stop thinking about the monster that lurks in the murky depths of the ocean. 

The next morning, when the world is sleeping and your dreams are like the mist on the sea, your line breaks the glossy surface. You let it sink deeper and deeper until it reaches the abyss where the weight of the words on the string threatens to capsize the boat.  You kill your father, slander your mother and shame your children. Because you know that if you don’t catch the words,the words will devour you.   
 
    

  

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