The Heroin Addict’s Wife

I’m sorry I didn’t text you back. A walk sounded nice, and if I’m being honest the weather was absolutely perfect for it. Right after sunset. Right between the day’s heat and the night’s chill. I couldn’t really find the energy for it, somehow. At the time I was driving past a thick, imperious column of smoke on the 105 – a textile factory caught ablaze in Lynwood.

I spent the morning glued to Facebook – so many women coming forward with testimonials about assault, abuse, rampant misogyny in show business, and also a friend posted about National Coming Out Day in a poignant, cogent way. He used to capitulate to homophobic banter in an effort to hurry it along, to move past it with blushing self-consciousness, to bury it. The eye contact he would make with women afterward. Conspiratorial acknowledgement of a darker, unsaid truth between them. Mutual ill feelings creeping up spines – forcing laughter together at homophobic jokes or hyper-masculine energy that, unchallenged, goes way too far. A shameful, empty feeling as one contributes to one’s own subtle oppression. Awfulness.

I’ve been incommunicado and that’s nearly unforgivable. I was billing hours at Renata’s house. She, a budding, bubbling teenage girl, just coming into her own special, savage power. A bright light, affable, funny, outgoing. A charmer.

I would have answered your FaceTime request, but there was apocalyptic traffic today. Google maps showed a red line all the way past the downtown area, and I was suddenly overtaken with a taxing, almost leaden exhaustion. Nearly falling asleep at the wheel, I pulled off near Rosecrans into a 7/11 parking lot, parking in a sliver of shade beneath a billboard advertizing the Hustler Casino. Liz Flynt encouraging people to “Play Harder.”

I got the Snapchat ping – you sent me a short video, but I didn’t get a chance to look at it before it went away.

The 7/11, the angry plume of smoke rising like a bomb blast, blotting out the distant horizon. Barely able to keep my eyes open, I eased the seat back. For a while I thought sleep would overtake me. Strange, absurd visions – fantasies played out before my darkened eyelids. I couldn’t let go of sweet Renata, of the sour smell she lives in. The rankness. Inky, dark, tar-like paths cut through her apartment’s wall-to-wall carpeting. Years of oily, dirty feet tracking filth – grinding it down. Let’s be honest, if you steam cleaned that carpet you’d regret it for a week – the smell would send folks running for the hills.

I got your follow-up text. I’ll read and respond, I promise.

Renata in my mind, bringing consciousness back. Padlocks on the doors, the colony of ants, unchecked, unfettered in the bathroom, the mini fridges in each of their rooms  guarding the spoils of their monthly CalFresh benefits. Her father, moaning and shouting in the next room, (Is he drunk; it’s the middle of the afternoon?!) unintelligible even to Renata herself. She doesn’t mind. She’s glowing.

She loves when I visit, she says; I remind her of The Great Gatsby.

I saw your shout out on Twitter and I blushed at the compliment, thank you. I owe you a few likes and maybe even a re-tweet –  it’s just at that particular moment I was reclining in the 7/11 parking lot and trying to nap during an early rush hour, and it all came over me at once. The reality of Renata’s situation. Her low probability of succeeding her way out. The generational poverty morass she was born into – a life lived next to the steaming churn of a factory down by the harbor. The lowness. The squalor.

Hot, salt tears splashed suddenly, my body wracked with spasms. A gasp. A stone sewn into my heart, my gut shook to pieces. The slow tick of the Toyota engine in the heat of the cracked asphalt parking lot.

Your WeChat message came through, darling, but I was baking in the desert sun, prosessing, purging. There was a time I prided myself on having “integrity of communication.” I responded to every email. Answered every single text. I’m sorry, but I’m just not that person anymore. That isn’t me.

This afternoon, as Renata and I were trying to cobble together an outfit to wear to her job interview, there was a rapping at the window. A wizened, crone-like woman, seemingly carved out of driftwood, tapped away at the thin, sliding windowpane. Oh, Renata said, smiling with a shrug, that’s the heroin addict’s wife. She pays my dad 100 bucks a month to park her van in the back yard. She lives back there with her husband. Renata slid the window open. The heroin addict’s wife wanted to charge her iPad.

I rejected all your calls and powered my phone down. I sobbed and squeezed out all of today’s terror into a compact Japanese car in a 7/11 parking lot.

Forgive me, I  whispered into my black, sleeping iPhone.

Forgive me, I haven’t been myself lately.

-3

MonDATE: Bisexuals, and the Right to Privacy – Part One

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Him: Hello, are you Michael?

Me: Yes. You’re Sam?

Him: Yes. Hi. Nice to meet you.

Me: You too, Sam, I like your shirt.

Him: It’s Hollister.

Me: I like it anyway. Wanna take a walk?

Him: A walk? That sounds so weird and creepy, in the middle of the night.

Me: Is it? I just don’t really want to go drink right now. I’m trying to shed the winter layer.

Him: But isn’t a bar… Safer, somehow?

Me: We can stick to Colorado – it’s well lit. I’ll try to resist the urge to take you to a park and chop you into small pieces.

Him: That’s what I meant when I said weird and creepy!

Me: Let’s operate off the assumption neither of us is a murderous sociopath?

Him: You don’t seem like a sociopath to me.

Me: Thanks, man! I like your attitude!

(We walk for a while, chatting. I find out things about him. He’s in medical school. He’s into extreme sports, hiking, and surfing. He seems nice enough, and he’s no dummy. He’s read most of Kurt Vonnegut, so he gets points.)

Him: So, I guess you’re wondering why I’ve contacted you?

Me: I guess I am, now that you mention.

Him: I wanted to ask you a question. Do you mind if I ask a personal question?

Me: No, I guess not, as long as you don’t mind not getting a full answer, depending on the question.

Him: Haha, fair. Fair enough.

Me: What’s the question?

Him: Well, I have a few questions. Firstly, are you bi-sexual? I read your site for a long time and I always assumed you were gay, but now you’re married to a woman, and what’s the deal? Is she a lesbian? Does she need a green card, or whatever?

Me: Oh wow. I thought personal question meant something like ‘boxers or briefs?’

Him: No. You clearly wear briefs. I’ve seen your Instagram.

Me: Fair enough.

Him: Are you bisexual?

Me: Let me ask you a question. I’ll answer yours, but let me do the rudest thing and follow up a question with another question. Does it matter?

Him: What?

Me: Does it matter? The difference between me being Gay or Bi? Or even straight?

Him: What do you mean? Of course it matters. Of course .

Me: How so?

(There is a pause. He looks confused.)

Him: Do you realize, I’ve read you for years?

Me: No, I usually go into these meetings pretty blind. When I meet with people it’s much more likely they’ve lurked or stalked me, whereas I might only have a brief email and a fuzzy photo to go on.

Him: But how can you do this? You talked about Gay dating, alienation and minority rights for years. How do you just get to marry a woman and continue on like nothing happened?

Me: Because nothing happened. I got married. It was pretty important to me, in the scope of my life, but in the grand scheme of human events, it’s not even a blip on the radar. It’s just a marriage. Most people do it at least once.

Him: But why a woman? Are you Bisexual?

Me: Again, I don’t see how that matters. It’s clear that I’m definitely a member of the LGBTQ community. Right? And, consider this: you haven’t told me your sexuality, yet you seem to think it’s fine to pry about mine and my wife’s?

Him: I’m Bi.

Me: Okay, good. I’m Queer.

Him: What does that mean? In what sense?

Me: It means I am as Gay as Kurt Cobain.

Him: What about your wife?

Me: She’s whatever she is.

Him: Stop. This is frustrating.

Me: This is nobody’s business. One of the perks of marriage is people stop prying about who does what, when, with whom, and how.

Him: But I’m curious!

Me: Well, that’s flattering. Are you openly Bi?

Him: What?

Me: Do people know you’re Bisexual?

Him: Some people do.

Me: Your family?

Him: No. My brother knows, I think, but by and large, no.

Me: Your work friends?

Him: No. I don’t want them thinking I’m weird, or off.

Me: Your friends from school?

Him: No.

Me: So, pretty much, just the people you have sex with.

Him: You make it sound sad.

Me: No, you make it sound sad. You’re the one who made those choices.

Him: It’s just what happened. I’m a victim of circumstance.

Me: You’re what? 28? 27?

Him: I’m 30 this year.

Me: Okay, well, welcome to the club. I’m going to say something, and I hope you don’t get offended.

Him: Are you going to call me a Jerk?

Me: I don’t do that anymore, Jerk. Just kidding. No, just this: There’s no such thing as a victim of circumstance. Not really. I believe life is a series of choices. It’s in the art of choosing we discover what kind of man or woman we become. If you don’t like your circumstances you have a right to make a different choice. It might be more difficult to make a courageous choice. It might, in fact, be stupid to make a courageous choice. It might make your life more of a struggle to make an honest choice, or to have enough integrity to look your family in the eye and say, here’s what I am – here’s how I was born and here’s the way things are for me. I’m sorry you feel differently about how I should live my life, but then again, my life is the only thing that is arguably entirely mine – and I’m the one who has to live it.

Him: What’s that have to do with the way the world is?

Me: To say you’re a victim of circumstance is a bit misleading when you’re the one creating your own reality.

Him: That’s arrogant. That’s incredibly arrogant, and I knew you’d say something like that. I knew you’d come up with a way to make me being down low about my sexuality my fault. My sexuality doesn’t define who I am anymore than my liking baseball defines who I am. Why do I have to make a huge issue of who I’m sleeping with? Doesn’t my mother deserve a good birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving without me ruining everything by talking about sex with dudes? Why are people so obsessed with where I’m putting my penis? It’s nobody’s business.

Me: And yet, you’re so very obsessed with where I’m putting mine.

(There is a long pause. He starts to speak, then stops, then looks confused.)

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

Tuesdays With Woody, Episode 2

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Hey folks. Here’s another episode of Tuesdays With Woody. In this episode, Shaun ‘raw dogs’ a stripper from Detroit. Woody and Michael tease mercilessly. Have a look!

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Naked People

photos by tommy kha

That’s my friend Julia Wiedeman.  She came over to make some pie with me.

We made mango pies, because I was reading that mangoes are in season.

That’s me eating some of the mango.

We added strawberries. They were selling for a dollar a pint at my local market, and it was too good a deal to pass up.

Julia is a writer and a performer here in New York City.

She wrote a show called NAKED PEOPLE.  It’s currently playing at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater.

It’s a one woman sketch show. On top of being extremely funny, it’s very body positive.

Also, there’s the requisite amount of nudity you might expect from a show called NAKED PEOPLE.

I’ve seen Julia’s show, and it’s great. Super hilarious.

We had a shit-ton of fun in my kitchen, too.

We laughed and joked around, and talked about performing – about how you have to constantly shut out that voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough.

About how you hear your insecurities nagging at you, but you still get up, get your writing done, and get on stage anyway.

That’s some side boob.

I think Julia’s pretty inspiring. Her show is funny, sure, but it’s also socially forward, challenging, and just plain ballsy.

Her next performance is Thursday, April 12th, at 9:30pm at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater.

Click here to make a reservation.

Don’t Write About Me

photos by eryc perez de tagle

Him: Hey. I know you.

Me: Hey. Do you?

Him: Yeah I think so.

Me: From where?

Him: You’re the guy online.

Me: Oh shit. Yeah. I guess I am. Hi.

Him: Hi.

Me: What’s your name?

Him: Kelley. 

Me: Oh wow. I really like that name for a guy.

Him: Thanks. You’re…?

Me: Michael. It’s nice to meet you.

Him: You too. (pause) Oh my God. Do you have pie?

Me: What?

Him: Did you bring pie?

Me: To a Brooklyn gay bar?  No.  I didn’t.

Him: Well. You’re supposed to be the one who has all the pie, aren’t you, mister?

Me: I suppose I am.

Him: Well see?  You should have brought some.

Me: I’m hoarding it.

Him: You are?

Me: Yeah. I’m hoarding all the pie and nobody can have any except people I like.

Him: Aw!  That’s not fair.

Me: Also I tried bringing pie here before but it made my coat pockets sticky.

Him: Really?

Me: No. But you’re cute.

Him: Really?  So are you.

Me: Thanks. So are you hungry? Wanna get some cheap Mexican food?

Him: Right now?

Me: Yeah, or later. It’s always there, on Grand and Graham.

Him: You know what?  I better say no.  No offense.

Me: I’m… What? I’m not offended.

Him: Yeah but I better say no.

Me: Why?

Him: I’m just more of a prude than you are.

Me: So?

Him: So I’d better not accept a date invitation from you.

Me: ‘Cause you’re a prude?

Him: Yeah. I’m a super prude. I’d never have a website where I do what you do.  Post revealing photographs like that.

Me: They’re not that revealing, are they?

Him: Don’t you think they’re slightly dirty?

Me: Not really. I feel like I’ve seen worse in fashion magazines.

Him: Maybe. But there’s this context. It’s jarring.

Me: That’s on purpose.

Him: Well, mission accomplished.

Me: So, okay. So, don’t start a website where you post photos and stories like I do. What’s that got to do with having some cheap Mexican food with me?

Him: I just think I probably wouldn’t be the best person for you, is all…

Me: Well that’s why people go on dates. To find out if that’s true or not. And to have fun along the way.

Him: Thanks for asking. I’m going to decline.

Me: Okay. I respect that.

Him: Partially, too, I don’t want to get written about.

Me: Oh, I’m probably going to do that.

Him: No!  Why??

Me: Because it’s a slow news week, cutie.

Him: Stop.

Me: I don’t know why. ‘Cause that’s what I do. I probably would write about you either way, but now that you’ve implied I’m too slutty to qualify for a date, I’m definitely going to.

Him: Oh jeez.  That’s not what I meant.

Me: I know. But I have to capitalize on what’s going on in front of me – as a writer.

Him: I’m not an extrovert. I don’t want to be part of your thing. I like it, but I don’t want to be part of it. Why isn’t that okay?

Me: That’s fine. But I might write about it.

Him: Why?

Me: Because I write about conversations I have.

Him: I know, but just don’t write about me.

Me: You’re trying to censor my writing, and you just met me, Kelley.

Him: That’s not true.

Me: What else would you call limiting what I can write about? I’m kidding. I don’t think you’re really trying to censor me. Except for the censorship part.

Him: Okay, fine. Please don’t write about me?

Me: Sure. On one condition.

Him: What?

Me: Come have cheap Mexican food with me. Sit with me and chat for half an hour and I promise I won’t write about you, ever. You don’t have to ever talk to me again.

Him: No. I already said no.

Me: Okay. There it is then.

Him: But, don’t write about me.

Me: Eh. We’ll see…

Advice

photos by ryosuke kumakura

Dear Michael,

I’ve been trying expand my horizons as some might say, and have gone on dates with a few guys I’ve met (relatively new for me); however, this hasn’t been working out very well. I went on a few dates with a guy that I really like (very handsome and refreshingly articulate) and I would say they went well; he seemed more than happy too. After our last one, we couldn’t help but fool around – which was overly enjoyable to say the least. After this though, our communication kinda just stopped. 

We both were visiting our home town for the holidays (Neither of us live there anymore – semi long distance type of thing) and he just left without saying anything and I haven’t heard from him since. Being the type of person that doesn’t like to serial text, I sent him a message and he never responded; thus, I am assuming that he is not going to – being that it has been a week and we used to chat all the time.

My fear is that people just use me because of my face in order to get what they want and then toss me aside. This leads me to the point of advice. How do I know if a guy’s intention is to simply get into my pants and ditch, or if someone actually wants to go on dates with the intention of dating? And, if you have any idea, what should I make of the above situation?  
 
Thanks, 
Duke 
The attached pic is me – sorry I don’t have any fun baking pics 😉
Hey Duke,
Thanks for writing in.  I’m sorry to hear that you recently experienced disappointment in the dating world.  Dating it tough, and being able to process and manage a certain level of disappointment will help you in the process.  It sounds like you’re already on the right track –  if you’re looking for a guy to date for  a while, rather than just fool around with a few times.  Making him wait until the second or third date is a good strategy.  As far as being able to tell whether the guy is just looking to date or just fool around, that’s difficult – most of the time people don’t quite know what they’re looking for, even as they’re out and about in the dating world.
My main piece of advice to you is this:  even as you’re looking for a suitable long term partner, try not to be goal-oriented when you’re dating.  Just see each date as a chance to get to know the other person and have fun.  Try not to read too much into an experience, even if you do wind up fooling around with your date.  People don’t respond well when they can palpably feel your expectations.
Why not consider yourself the commodity?  Be friendly, and have fun, but ultimately make the other person prove to you why they deserve your time.  Always value your own self and what you want most of all.
I’m not exactly sure what it means when you say that people just want to use you because of your face, but as far as faces go, it’s a pretty cute one.  Don’t be surprised if people want to use it for kissing, or other more aggressive activity.
Duke, you’re young and attractive.  Keep your chin up and have a good time.  If you look like you’re having a good time that breeds an attractive energy.  I’m sure there’s plenty more crushes, dates, and foolings-around in your future.
Thanks again for writing in – Jerk.

FriDATE: I’ve Done That

photos by ryosuke kumakura

Him:  Nice coat.

Me:  Thanks.  It’s my heavy winter coat.

Him:  Is it warm?

Me:  Yeah, it’s my heaviest one.

Him:  Looks like it would be warm.

Me:  It is.  It’s a warm coat.

Him:  Looks like it.

Me:  Yeah.  It’s warm. (pause) How long have you been here?  Long time?

Him:  Nope, only a little bit.  Five minutes.

Me:  That’s not too long.

Him:  Not at all.  So…

drawings by naruki kukita

Me:  So…

Him:  So tell me what you do.

Me:  Well you know about the website.

Him:  Obviously.  I used to have a website.  I used to run a very well attended blog.

Me:  Oh?

Him:  Yeah, I kept a sex blog when I was 15, and it became a bit of a thing.  

Me:  What?  I can imagine!

Him:  Especially because I was sleeping with older people, so it was illegal too.  I got a lot of heat for it.

Me:  I can imagine.  Wow.  That’s crazy.  What happened?

Him:  I took it down.

Me:  Why’s that?

Him:  I kind of outgrew it.

Me:  I can see that.

Him:  Plus, I was applying to schools and I Googled myself and my sex blog came up immediately.  I had like 5000 hits a day.

Me:  Wow.  Not too shabby for a 15 year old.  Good job.

Him:  So what else?  What do you do?

Me:  I teach.

Him:  Oh me too!  I used to teach literacy to remedial students.

Me:  Wow.  That’s noble.

Him:  It was a student job.  I outgrew it.

Me:  Oh, okay.  I teach improv to adults.

Him:  Do you do improv?

Me:  I do, yes.

Him:  I’ve done that.  I was in an improv class once.

Me:  Did you study here in the city?

Him:  No, there was a class offered at my university.

Me: Oh, okay, cool.  Did you like it?

Him:  Not really.  I thought it was dumb.  Sorry…

Me:  It’s not for everyone.

Him:  I was good at it.

Me:  I’m sure.  You seem like you would be.

Him:  What type of improv do you teach?

Me:  Musical improv.  How to improvise musicals.

Him:  Oh my God, I used to do musicals.

Me:  Surprise!

Him:  In college I did a slew of them.  Well, three. But then I outgrew musicals too, I guess. 

Me:  How so?

Him:  They started seeming frivolous or dumb, somehow.  Then I stopped doing them.  My teachers were super upset about it.

Me:  Think of the talent you denied the world!

Him:  By the way I like your shirt.  Where did you get it?

Me:  In Hamburg.  I went with my brother once.

Him:  Oh my God, I went to Hamburg with my cousin!

Me:  No kidding?

Him:  How long were you there? 

Me:  15 days.  I liked it a lot.

Him:  We stayed for three weeks.  It was pretty boring.

Me:  It’s not for everyone.

Him:  (burps)  Whoops!  Sorry.  I had bodega Chinese food before I came here.

Me:  Oh my God, I’ve done that!

Him:  What?  Burped on a first date?

Me:  No, eaten Chinese food.  It was a long time ago, when I was in the Peace Corps in Romania.

(long pause.  we lock eyes)

Me:  I’ve been to 33 states.

Him:  37.

Me:  I can do a cartwheel.

Him:  Handspring.

Me:  Double jointed.

Him:  Trained contortionist.

Me:  I have six fingers on my left hand.

Him:  I was born with a vestigial twin face growing from my abdomen.

(pause)

Him:  Do you want to go make out?

Me:  Obviously.  Let me get coat on.

Him:  That’s a very warm looking coat.

Me:  It’s very warm.

Him:  Looks like it.

Me:  It is.  It’s a warm coat.  It’s very warm.  My coat is warm.