Sunset Plaza: Eddie Thomas and Chris Jericho

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Eddie Thomas’ eyes flash blue and green in the sunlight, as piercing as ever. He’s sitting at a cafe table, regarding me with a cool, almost reptilian quality, all fine-featured and full of smirks. His primary mutation is a mild form of telepathy, and he’s in his element today. His power manifests in a sway over emotions. He is preternaturally persuasive, when he wants to be. Although, generally, he only uses his power to generate empathy  from others. I don’t blame him for a second, for this. It’s an ugly world out there, and straight people are barbaric. We take the advantages we are given. This is known across cultures and eras. This is allowed.

Anyway, he’s a charmer.

He’s using his power on me, which I’m briefly allowing. He’s exceptionally likable, though he keeps the world at arm’s length. Today his hair, usually a chestnut brown, is streaked red with sunlight. His eyes, nearly incandescent, search to permeate me. He probes near my Third Eye. I open it a sliver. He can’t gain the same access to my Memory Castle as I can to his. I’m older, and my powers have been active longer. However, truth be told, I probably care more about this situation than he does, which gives him an advantage. But, I’ve also been telepathic longer than him, and I’m nothing if not self-aware.

I sense his power. He has been honing himself. Good.

He’s here ceremoniously, it’s likely to seem. We sit across from each other. I’m flicking my focus from his right eye to his left – it’s one of the ways I can open someone’s portal. Sometimes, even without their knowledge, these days. Now, I’m the one smirking. I can’t tell if Thomas knows I’m already inside him. I press myself inside a spot in the middle of his forehead as we make small-talk. We laugh about little nothings, and I emerge out of a long tunnel, into blinding white – I’m inside his Eye.

He wants to smooth things over. He’s here to talk, to make sure “everyone wants the same things.” He’s here to defend an improv comic who spent a couple years bullying and sexually harassing me online and over text messages. He’s here to talk about Chris Jericho.

(I’m standing on fluffy white clouds, just outside his Memory Castle. I smirk. Of course Thomas has made a castle in the clouds. This is about as far as his creative imagination usually needs to go, a well-trod trope supported by Sistine Chapels, Enlightenment mythos and other heavenly iconography. A good Catholic boy! A smooth alabaster castle, massive, spartan in design. Smooth, thick, bleached limestone. Few windows, mostly small, except – in the very center, overlooking a courtyard – larger windows. Peaking spires disappear into another, higher level of cloud cover.  A bright light, emanating from a beacon tower. I move toward the light.

At least he saw fit to make himself a modest banquet hall, I think to myself. I look down at the cloud cover. Opaque, they billow up to the ankle, which, sure, okay – respectable. But, then I realize, he doesn’t want me knowing if this is a high-capped mountain covered in clouds, or if his castle actually floats in the heavens. Christian hubris, I whisper to myself, opening a shining, gilded gate. Oddly, it makes a lonely, creaking sound. I suppose that makes sense. Everything here is solid, neat and tidy, but it’s unattended. Completely abandoned, I think to myself, and run a pensive tongue across my lips.)

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We smile at one another, playing catch-up – almost flirting, even. Manufacturing that sort of boring sensitivity people project at one another, when they haven’t connected significantly in quite a while. We are reconnecting – trading fun stories from the summer; reminding one another of progresses we’ve made. Acknowledging failures as learning opportunities, admitting no real fault. Showcasing display-model humility. Being spoiled, privileged, coastal elites meeting for coffee in a very moneyed  neighborhood.

It is almost placid, in its blameless wickedness. It is very Los Angeles, 2018.

Eventually he brings up comedy, and congratulates me for launching Evil Mutants and Friends at The Satellite. He runs a different queer variety show out of a smaller, dowdier venue, based on a donation model. I pay him a compliment, encouraging him to eventually move toward charging his audience.

I’m flattered, he says, that you think we’re worth the price of admission. I smile, and pay him other compliments. It’s a list of niceties, but it’s not insincere. He smiles, and we are silent.

I clear my throat. I bring up our mutual colleague, Chris Jericho.

(Beautiful, tightly manicured French municipal-style gardens line the front drive. Concentric hedges with little islands of manicured, neatly-arranged tulips – pink, and white, alternating groups. Floral, geometric patterns among the hedges. I’m impressed with this detail. The simple, austere Eddie Thomas has put some thought and planning into his Memory Castle and its structural systems. A courtyard, a fountain, immaculate white marble floors, stoic, sanded limestone walls. Bright, almost dazzling light rushing inward, ambient, as clouds, above and below, cover all.)

Eddie Thomas met me when I lived in New York. He came to see an improvised musical I was in, one night, and was impressed with some of my tricks. He started following me and we became friends. He’s sweet, mostly, but also self-serving in his sweetness. He’s an evil mutant, so, what else would I expect? He has just come from a swim at the West Hollywood Public Pool, and his skin looks perfect – creamy, even. Delicate, yet masculine, somehow alabaster, Thomas, so auburn, chestnut, rosy and white, and so very ABC Family. Nonthreatening, but not without an agenda. Perhaps a little smug, even, these days. He’s evolving, perhaps?

I open up his Eye a little more and I’m shocked.

His secondary mutation will make him formidable, when he’s older. Once he casts off his rudimentary world view and embraces his true self, he will skyrocket. Instinctively I sip my coffee, holding my left fist over my heart – clutching at non-existent pearls. I am thrown, momentarily shaken.

He senses me, there, inside his castle. I can tell. There is a subtle red glowing now, behind those hazel eyes.

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“Let’s get to it, and talk about Chris,” he says, pouring on the charm. I’m surprised at how good he has become at using his powers, even as I deflect them. By now, I can turn my skin almost-completely-diamond, but what’s more, just starting the process a bit easily deflects a low-level telepathic assault. He’s trying to glamour me like a vampire, and it’s almost working. It’s difficult to describe the sensation – it tickles, kind of. I smirk at him.

(A series of circular stone-hewn stairwells – levels within levels – like an Escher drawing.  Functional quarters, storage rooms, vast practice and sparring spaces, anti-chambers. Ambient warm white-lit rooms, tidy and efficient. The castle is beautiful, immaculate, and empty. Not a speck of dust anywhere, which, at first, suggests an obsessive self-care, but as I’m climbing and climbing these marble circle steps, it occurs to me – there’s nobody here! He hasn’t created familiars, or magical beasts. He hasn’t given himself totems or a unique mythology to his land. It’s empty! Still, I sense him here. He, is here, somewhere, at least. I can sense it.)

A few days earlier, his gay improv team posted a photograph. I made a rather sharp, honest comment the team took as inappropriate. I said something like, I used to do shows with these guys, until I told one of them I was never going to sleep with him. Thomas had messaged me immediately to ask me to take it down, but I refused. The Ford/Kavanaugh hearings had me on edge that week – triggered. But, nothing I had said on social media was untrue. I mention this to Thomas. He agrees, reluctantly, that yes, they used to book me on their show, and yes, after I halted Chris Jericho’s advances, the team started having trouble with my material. But he swears it’s just coincidence, just poor timing.

I shrug. I move to my next point of business. I remind Thomas of the inappropriate texts, late at night, well after I’d explained to his teammate I wasn’t interested.

“I told him I don’t fuck comics. Also, it’s true, I don’t fuck them, but what’s more, even if I did sleep with comedy folks and I was just letting him off easy, it’s still inappropriate, how he texted me.”

Thomas sets a look of concern on his face, but also, his mouth curls up on one side. He’s speaking in low, empathetic tones, but there’s a glimmer in his eye. Amusement, perhaps, or some secret enjoyment taken? I could force my way further into his Eye, if I wanted to know for sure, but that would also likely set him off.

“That’s right,” he says blithely. “I seem to remember you mentioning you didn’t quite understand the texture of his communication. I’ll remind you – he’s a comic, and he probably thought he was -”

“Making jokes? Yeah I guess he might try to hide behind that old favorite. But, the evidence doesn’t quite support your theory. I’d meet him for ramen, reiterate that I never sleep with comics, he would agree, then I would get weird texts at midnight asking “Does your wife know you’re cheating on her all the time?” That’s straight up high school bully behavior.

“It’s not the most appropriate thing in the world.”

“There’s my Eddie Thomas. Always sitting diplomatic, on an invisible fence built by and for you. Thanks for minimizing!”

“It sounds as if you’re accusing me of being a fair-weather friend.”

“I’ve hosted you in my home many times over the years. Fed you, wined and dined you. I’ve collaborated on music projects with you for free.”

“What’s your point?”

“Since I moved here five years ago, you haven’t even given me a ride in your car, much less invited me places. What other kind of friend would I call you, besides fair-weather? I suppose ‘fifth-tier’ is a more sanitary way of putting it, if you’d rather?”

“In any case, this isn’t about us – it’s about Eric.”

“I’m not sure I agree. I only ever played your shows because I like you. I have a connection to you. I wished over the years we could have been closer friends, but it’s clear you only really want to hedge your bets, and check in with me every 6-8 months.”

“That’s a pretty damning summation to throw at me when I’m here trying to mediate for you.”

“I sent every single correspondence. I screen-capped it every time he said inappropriate things and I had to shut him down and draw a boundary. You said you were glad to get the information, but that you didn’t want to get involved. Classic Eddie Thomas, but your hands aren’t quite that clean. You kept booking me, and kept trying to ignore the awful way your teammate (and by extension your team) was treating me. Finally, in no uncertain terms, I had to tell the little twerp to leave me alone and stop trying to slyly intimidate me with his judgmental late night quips, and solicitations for sex! It was rotten, Thomas, and you knew it was rotten and you knew it was very triggering, and you minimized it every single time. I would have blocked him immediately, if I wasn’t working on a friendly relationship to you. Instead I kept reaching out, and you kept deflecting. ”

“Well, I’m sorry for that. Would you meet up with Jericho and discuss it?”

“Why? I don’t ever want to be associated with him again. Is he still an activist? I know he was really keen on it last year, right after the election, for about five minutes, when it was trendy. Has he secured a position with Amnesty or Lambda Legal, or…?”

“So you feel it’s gone too far to meet up and smooth it over.”

“It went way to far years ago. I wanted to be friends with you. ”

“We are friends.”

“He can email me.”

“Michael, be reasonable!”

“He can email me an apology.  He can say that he’s sorry, examine what he did and why, then say how he’ll change in the future.”

“How do I know you won’t just screenshot it and put it on your blog??!”

“You don’t. I can sit here and promise I won’t, but that isn’t how life or people work. The truth is, I might do any number of things with an email like that. You’d have to trust me, and he’d have to craft an apology that was sincere, and not dripping with saccharine. and we both know he’s incapable of that! We both know he’s widely regarded as an unfunny turd! He seems to get off on ruining perfectly good scenes.”

“You haven’t seen us in a while!”

“He’s comedy adjacent!”

“Stop.”

“Okay fine, but if you want me to stop commenting about his awful, immature, unprofessional late night harassment, you’ll have him email me. Did you know – once, he emailed me on Adam4Adam to tell me he’d recently gotten treated for gonorrhea, and that his ass was clean and ready for me! Mind you, this is after I had asked him twice to consider me a colleague only.”

“I… didn’t know that, actually.”

“No, actually you did know that! I texted you about it, and I brought it up in person a couple times.” You did your usual milquetoast culpability shuffle, and ate food I cooked for you.

Eddie Thomas’s eyes have been getting redder and redder this whole time. They look more brilliant when this happens. A crimson background makes his iris more vibrantly green. He’s been pouring on the empathic telepathy, but I’ve turned my entire face to a thin layer of transparent diamond – more than effective against an undergrad-level psychic assault.

We are both aware of the endgame here, and the impending stalemate. We’re just going through the motions.

He backs off, and the redness behind his eyes fades back to white. I’m still in his Memory Castle. He is either allowing this, or is unaware.

“I’ll ask him if he’s comfortable emailing you, but I know he’d rather meet in person.”

“My level of apathy has risen since the Buzzfeed piece on six-time Tony Award winner, and serial abuser, William Ivey Long. The level of indifference I have toward gay drama, much less gay improv drama is extremely high. Or put it this way – if I don’t mind telling the truth about an industry giant like William, what the hell is keeping me from telling everyone what a scumbag Chris Jericho is?”

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“Well, I’m forced to point out – Chris isn’t continuing the drama, you are. You already called him out publicly at the Inner Sanctum Cafe. You told him, full voice, to stop sexually harassing you. At least fifteen people heard.”

“Yes, and I thought that would help, but as it turns out, it was a triggering week in the media, for abuse victims, and I couldn’t help mentioning Eric’s awful behavior in the comments section of your posted photo. You deleted it. Here we are.”

“If you get an apology, will you stop speaking poorly of Jericho and the Baldwin Boys online?”

“If I like the apology.”

“Okay, I’ll bring this to Jericho and let you know.”

This last bit is untrue. I know it immediately. What is true is, we can not come to an agreement, and he will very shortly unfriend me. I am inside his Memory Castle and he can not hide certain basic things from me – not in my current astral form. Perhaps, when he’s older, but that kind of deception is currently incapable of.

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We finish our coffee, and exchange pleasantries. I tell him he should use his ABC Family face to pitch a show to Netflix. I’d like to seem him as a Blues Clues type host of an adult show about queerness. I’d like to watch him explain polyamory to puppets, or voice over cartoon segments about fisting, and how to do it safely. He laughs and dismisses my idea as silly, but we both know it could be his ticket to ride, if he was able to let go of some of that “nice Catholic boy” programming that seems to be so stringently hampering his development.

We say our goodbyes in the parking lot. A final compliment. An empty stab at planning a hike that will never happen. Grins, and cheerful goodbyes.

As I insert my ticket and pull out onto Crescent Heights, it occurs to me – it’s likely I won’t speak to him again for many, many years. It’s likely I’ll never speak to Jericho again.

(Up and up and up and around in circles. I’m in the tallest spire of his castle. The beacon of light tower. I’ve still seen nobody, no living creatures -not a cat, or mouse, or so much as a moth. This castle seems frozen, or fixed, somehow, but that has to be wrong! I’m here, and what’s more, Eddie Thomas is at the top of this spiral. I know it! My power isn’t ever wrong, and he’s not old enough yet to deceive me, even inside his own castle. I spiral further up, like an endless Guggenheim, or a throwback to Tudor castles from Frank Lloyd Wright, he has built a gorgeous, splendid, massively empty Memory Castle, and I’m starting to become alarmed! A glossy, blond, thick, wooden door suddenly appears. The hinges and lock are made of polished brass. I don’t have a key or see one. I try the handle. It opens.

Eddie Thomas is hunched over, in a white robe, illuminated, in the middle of the room. There is a ceremonial altar surrounding him. A mix of Catholic and more mythological icons, bleached, marble, carved precisely – white candles, lit, but barely even supplementing the resplendent ambient lighting that seems to come from nothing and nowhere. His back is to me. He stands in the middle of the circle. The back of his head, a body frame – his face is hidden. 

Around and around I go, picking up speed. I am faster and faster now, blurring round and round, like a millisecond hand on a very precisely engineered time-piece. He isn’t moving at all, and yet it is as if he was quickly turning. No matter what I say, or where I am, I can only see the back of his head. A faceless man. He raises the back of a hand, flicks up his index finger with a snap of his wrist, the way others might casually summon a waiter. 

Suddenly a force is rushing me away, crashing through the stained glass, out into the air above the courtyard, rushing quickly away from the misty bright light. I hurtle backward into infinity, the light getting dimmer, softer, as I tumult further away from his Eye.

I am excommunicated into the nothingness.

I open a portal, back to Ragisland, but I linger here, in this vast nothing. There is no light, nor space, nor even time. I smirk and turn toward my own Memory Castle. Pausing for a moment, on the threshold between my Third Eye and the Great Void…

I’m surprised it isn’t colder, here.)

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