It’s the guy.
The one from about a month ago. The one with the seahorse tattoo and the word “Brooklyn,” in the New York Times font – on his left shoulder blade. He’s Asian, or Pacific Islander I’d say. Actually, I wouldn’t say that. I won’t. I won’t mention his ethnicity until he does. Wait, will I? Will I seem like a ‘color blind’ white asshole if we go out for a few dates and I don’t ask him about his ethnicity? Whatever, I’ll gauge it later. I can mention being white on the second date self-effacingly, and see what information he offers. I’ll say I’m Icelandic and we’re good at stoicism and have a high happiness index. Nope. Won’t say anything like that. Stooge.
Holy shit, he’s smiling! Jeez! I’m being charming. This is awesome. He’s never going to put a shirt on for the entirety of this conversation is he? Oh man. Now I’m bringing up work schedules. And work. Fuck. He’s a writer. Of course he is. Beautiful. The tattoos say he has some sort of sense of humor. Of course, a writer. What else would he be? Oh fuck he works for Showtime. Of course he does. I’m also a writer, I say. OH NO my arm is propped up on the side of this bank of lockers! Jesus, I look like a villain in a John Hughes movie hitting on a timid girl. Come on, correct yourself… Open up the body. Breathe. What is he saying? What am I saying? Did I just say I even love being in traffic sometimes? What an idiot. Whatever. I’m trying. It’s obvious I’m trying.
Smile. He’s being nice. His body language is open. Now I’m casually saying how I’ve learned, since the election, to just look at the news for 15 minutes a day, and turn the radio off in the car, so I can be alone with my thoughts, and focus on serenity. What a fucking asshole! Focus on serenity. I mean, it’s true, but good lord I sound like a used wet wipe. Awful.
He’s. So. Fucking. Cute.
If someone ever approached me like this, would I go on a date with them??
Whatever. I’ve been waiting to chat him up again for almost a month. I’m asking him out, or I never will. Okay –
“Well, I’ll let you go. I just need to know when you’re taking me out for a drink.” Wow. Idiot! You should offer to take him out! Really hitting it out of the park today, fool. Still, maybe he caught the irony that I’m doing something cutely inappropriate, like offering to let him take me out for a drink. I’m not even a drinker anymore. Whatever. I’ll pay and it will seem adorkable in retrospect. I’ll find a way to make this memory of me asking him out seem charming.
Great. I bump into the towel cart, and the small brown man pushing a load of wet towels back to the laundry. I make deep eye contact and mouth the word “sorry” to him. Some of the brown men who tend the towels and squeegee the floors, some of them I never look at. The ones that seem cocky or mean, like they’d say misogynist jokes if they were alone with you, and expect you to laugh along. Also, sometimes those jokes are funny and I laugh along, and feel bad later. Also, sometimes I forget to feel bad entirely. It depends on my day.
But this middle-aged man of the towels is sweet and kind, so I always look at him and say hello. Eye contact. Mutual respect. Los Angeles runs on small framed brown people taking away the dirty towels, stocking the shelves in the grocery stores, cutting the grass. It’s easy to forget to look at them. It’s also condescending and stupid to look at them on purpose. If I really cared about them I’d hand them cash. I guess I only care about myself. I guess that’s okay? That’s okay. I help people for a living. That’s fine. I’m fine. Am I fine? Yes.
Oh SHIT. It occurs to me in this weird, lingering moment – I’m making dumb, deep eye contact with the middle aged brown man I like, while hitting on a young grapefruit skinned man I like much more. Right in front of both of them. I’m certain this is foolish behavior. I’m a fool.
Oh, shit, though. The seahorse guy is handing me his phone! Yes. He says he’ll text me. I enter my number, and text “Hi, dummy,” to myself. Yeah. That’s charming, isn’t it? Ugh.
Well it’s done. I say goodbye and go work out.
I don’t get a text.
Fuck me in the fucking face. I put the wrong number in. Asshole. Idiot. Now it will be, what, another month before I see him again? I trudge through the rest of my workout. I become inundated with sweat. I’m walking up the eternal stair treadmill, watching my sweat on the endless up-the-down-escalator turn from droplets to rivulets, now a trough of sweat. I walk back to the locker room. The kind faced small brown man who does the towels is there. He looks at me. He opens his mouth as if to say something. I hold eye contact with him. He says nothing. I touch him on the arm. It’s too much. Now it’s weird. Okay fine, bye.
I start to feel better in the shower. The seahorse guy told me his name, and the name of the last show he worked on. I can find him on IMDB and message him somewhere. He has Twitter, I’m sure. Facebook. I’ll send a message. I’ll say something charming.
Then I see it. There, in the cubby.
The showers are chrome and sleek, with doors of semi-opaque frosted glass. Always immaculate – always pristine in here. Tight marble tiles on the floor. Ceramic actually, but they’re made to emulate marble. Smooth tiles on the walls. A cubby hole for your goggles, or suit, or cell phone, or soap. In the cubby, I see it. A gum wad.
I’ve seen gum wads left in the cubby before. People somehow frequently decide they’re done with their gum in the shower, and can’t be bothered to hold the mealy, flavorless offense in their mouth even five minutes to shower. Or, maybe they’re brushing? Even so, though, they have to make the decision to leave the gum in the cubby, and I always feel a small outrage for the towel people when I see careless gum in the shower. You’re so pampered you can’t even pick your gum back up and throw it out? Gross.
But this isn’t errant, wayward gum. This gum is jammed into the back corner of the cubby. Someone smashed it in with their thumb. Someone wanted to humiliate the towel guys? Or, maybe they hate the towel guy I like with the kind eyes? Maybe they just want to know someone has to work to dig their gum out of the cubby where they lodged it? Maybe it’s pure sadism. Sadistic person at the expensive gym? Probably common. I think about a comedy set I heard last week about how some people who go to my gym shit next to the toilets, just because they can. I feel deflated. Defeated. Sullen, even. I’m not going to pick the gum out, that’s absurd. The gym membership is embarrassingly expensive. It’s a car payment.
But, on my way out of the stall I see a discarded tooth brush on the shower room floor. I grab it and take it back to the stall. I poke at the gum.
It springs open.
It has suddenly become a frizzy spider web egg sack. Spiders – glossy rust colored spiders emerge from the gum wad. Hundreds, thousands. They pour out of the angry wad and radiate up around and down. In twenty seconds the stall is mostly covered with them. Hundreds of thousands of spiders now, pouring into the shower room. It reminds me of movies, when a ship springs a leak. There are so many of them. I back out, naked, into the locker room. I drop the toothbrush. Millions of spiders now. They’re engulfing everything. Counter tops, mirrors. People running in horror, but as soon as the first spider bites they are paralyzed. Frozen in place. Like a kid’s game of freeze tag. It’s coming too fast now. I grab the kind faced brown towel man and look into his eyes. It’s time to run. He holds me fast. His eyes say, stop. You know this is pointless. It’s happening. It’s all ending right now. That’s not gum, or a spider egg sack in there – and this is the End of Things. Call it God, or a pinprick into a worm hole. But you know what this is. You know we are all ending right now.
I suddenly stop struggling. Instinctively I know he is right. Some reptile part of my brain activates enough to tell me there is no hope left. The world has given way to something different. Something much more simple and primal. I lock forearms with the kind faced brown man. His eyes are dark inkwells, with a deep azure ring around them. An optical illusion.
“You wear contacts, don’t you?” He nods. It’s barely perceivable, but he nods.
I only feel the first bite. Soon we two are as one. Covered in an increasingly infinite coating of spiders. I think, we must look like a gnarled rust colored tree. Withering. They’re eating our bodies. Our faces. His foreskin. My eye. We feel nothing. We dissolve into a writhing reddish orange goo. At some point, things go dark. There is nothing, but it’s still something. Just an awareness of nothing is something. It must be.
The seahorse guy is on top of the parking garage. He sees the dirty orange red tide start to seep up Vine and spread out into Argyle. They’re coming up to the roof. He takes his clothes off. He smiles and looks down. It is a sad, resigned smile. He rises into the sky, naked, with a seahorse on his left arm and the word “Brooklyn” stamped on his left shoulder blade. He rises more. Higher and higher he goes, up, up into the stratosphere. Beyond. But, slowly, while the ruddy stain spreads up the coast like a gunshot wound. It’s happening so fast now. Nobody is even afraid. The seahorse man curls himself up into a ball. He swells huge. Bigger than huge, and rises even further up into the nothingness.
Later that night the world takes on a black, reddish glisten. The spiders are everywhere. There is nothing else. No land mass. No oceans. Just an unctuous throbbing mass. Two moons hang in the sky bathing the writhing spiders in different colored lights. Trillions. More. So many. A whole world full of other dimension spiders.
One of the moons is stark, white and pock marked. It looks made of cheese. The bigger one is warmer. Golden.
The seahorse has become a faint whisper on the surface of a grapefruit moon. Brooklyn has vanished completely.