When I get really lonely, I conjure up people from the old days. I have selective schizophrenia, if you like- it often comes in handy. Tonight, I imagine Colin sitting on the bed in my little square bedroom, reading over my latest rant. I probably would print it for him, willing to endure my father’s ink-cartridge-saving-wrath for the sake of aesthetics.
“Why the attack on Kate Bornstein?” He’d be smoking one of his ridiculous cigars; drinking, but not drunk. Loose tie, open shirt. Classy, cinematic, how I like to remember him; how he seemed at first. “Is it because she sort of snubbed you that night?”
I’d sigh. “I’ve never liked her. That particular night just solidified my opinion. Besides, why are you surprised? You know how I feel.”
“Rejected?” (Colin is always more perceptive in my fantasies.)
“There is no fucking revolution,” I’d say. “And if there is, it’s anything but cutesy.”
“Semantics,” Colin would stretch and yawn. “You know things are changing.”
“Not for me.”
He’d look up at me with pity. “Come here, Emo.”
“No.” It is a word children overuse. Psychologists say it is because it expresses individuality.
“Maybe she’s not perfect,” Colin would continue, looking back down at the papers, “but she’s old-“
“Age is a social construction!”
“-and she’s done a lot in her day. She’s not your enemy.” He’d rub his neck-beard wisely. “That’s the problem with Americans in general. We can’t have civil political debates. It’s always Us vs. Them, even when we’re fighting for the same cause. Besides, I’d think you’d be more worried about your Tea-Party neighbors there. And your boss too, right? Now that would be something I’d like to read about. Do they know about you at work yet?”
“Who cares. They aren’t writers…they don’t claim to be experts on my life. And besides, my neighbors have a nice cat.”
Colin hates cats. “But obviously Kate has to keep her distance from fans–”
“I’m not a fan.”
“I know, and that’s your right. But let me finish. Just think about how you must have appeared, asking something so goddamn personal like that. Plus, she probably gets crazies begging her for help all the time. Think about how you’d be if you had that sort of power. Which, by the way, I know you want. I know you want lines of queer kids asking for your autograph and advice, and I know you’d turn them all away.” He’d laugh. “You’d be ten times ruder, too! You’re just mad because you wanted to rip the microphone out of her hand, didn’t you? You wanted to sing some ballads, Antony and the Johnsons-style. You wanted say it all happened to you too, but your story has more glamour!”
At this, I’d dive at him. “Go back to France then if you’re so clever!”
He’d just hold my wrists and laugh. “Come stay with me,” he’d say. “She’s right, you know. A patient lover is what you need.”
“No,” I’d say. “What I need is- “
He’d kiss me, hard, and silence me like the old days. We’d make out for a while, but then, when least opportune, I’d turn away and curl up on the bed in my smug fetal position. He’d sigh and evaporate; it’s not like he hasn’t plenty others to haunt.
I could relive that moment a million times. Denying him was ecstasy- no one since has compared. I pull my knees tight to my chest, clench my jaw, and press my bony ass to the wall. Impenetrable. Take that, world!
Work ended early tonight because of the snow. I hung back in the parking lot to smoke, long after the librarians left. I don’t want to mess with their image of me as the ageless, virginal, boy-next-door. But I’m not the kind of virgin who goes on a killing spree in Arizona or collects comic books of Japanese porn. I’m the virgin one wishes their sixteen year old daughter would date. I’m the boy who will make a great English professor and an even better father. I’m a regular Clark Kent in my trendy, oversized glasses. I graduated from the local high school, but I’m going places. I’m intellectual but trustworthy. Even my name is all-American. You can tell by the look in my eyes, the heady books I check out, my polite demeanor with elderly patrons…I’m a real boy scout. A sighting of me with a cigarette could ruin all of that.
It feels like I’m constantly under threat of exposure. I know that sounds melodramatic, but it’s a hard feeling to shake. It’s as if, somehow, my self-esteem got tangled up in my anxiety. “Stay vigilant! You’re too pretty, it isn’t allowed! Someone’s gonna get you!”
Someday I’ll leave this behind. For what, I don’t know, but the day is coming. Out here in the countryside, beyond the motor homes and the golf courses, it’s something of a miniature Siberia. The expanses of barren marshes, too waterlogged for housing developments…the buzzing, dangerous telephone wires. Out here, I am truly alone with my conscience. Great.
I watch the snow falling and again, I wince and wonder. What would Kate Bornstein have said, had we been alone? Would we have exchanged the gory details, the half-recollections, the self-pitying fuel of the past? Or would we have known better? And suddenly, I’m glad she shut me up. I still don’t like her books (or her outfits), but she reminded me what’s important. If there’s one thing every young artist and gender outlaw should know, it is what and when to conceal. The mystery- that’s our power. That’s what will save us from this dump.
Image: Elliott Deline