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My Buddy and Me

I’m inside a refrigerator. 

Caricatured milk bottles and eggs and heads of lettuce stare me in the face. The plastic smell is inescapable.

I’m trapped.

This is my first memory.

***

I’m dressed in a blue sequin two-piece, and watch enviously as Saved By the Bell’s Zack Morris marries some random woman in the ocean. But everything about this moment bleeds into the background, and all I see is Zack’s chiseled form.

This is my first dream journal entry.

***

Laura and I are walking our dog past our old middle school when she stops me.

“Well, I have plenty of straight friends and plenty of gay friends. But I don’t have any bisexual friends.”

“Well, I am.”

“Hmm. Well, whatever. Alright by me.”

This is my turning point.

***

I’m two meters underground — skimming layers of soil with disturbing precision. Amanda is shoveling behind me. We’re talking about guys. I say one is hot. She stops and turns. I stop and stare.

“I like men.”

“I know.”

A snake burrows through the wall and falls into the unit. We scream and jump out.

***

“I. Am. Gay.”

Three words strung together. Superficially, that’s all they are. And yet, they’ve reached into my gut, my heart, my mind and pressed puree. With my mental blender whirring loudly, I watch my mouth sync these words to my reflection.

I’ve known this phrase, but never sculpted it through audible language. Though whispered at first, the words seem to melt into the darkness of my apartment, permeating every atom with the spoken truth.

“Gay,” I murmur louder, my lips contorting a little less than before. The whirring stops.

I look back into the mirror and see myself for the first time.

This is my freedom.

***

He looks like a Russian poet. That’s what I tell him. He finds it endearing. We drink a bottle of wine. He makes lasagna. And the next morning, the sun fills the room, and glances off his torso. I turn over and smile into the sheets.

This is my first time.

***

I stare hard into the antique dining table’s surface, so much so that my vision blurs. Then I look up, right across to Laura. And there she sits: solid, unmoving, protective.

A few tense seconds of silence pass; they seem like months. Mom’s voice shatters them to pieces.

“Well, I hope you know this doesn’t change how much we love you.”

This is acceptance.

***

The air conditioner sputters uselessly. His leg rests on mine. We’re hot and tired and bored. We’re together. He looks up from his book and smiles.

This is love.

***

He’d always been there of course – a passenger of sorts, riding along but never engaging. But he had to be given a voice. My voice.

This is me.

Where memories are made.

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Blushing Pink

After flipping over the sixth pillow and finding an $85.00 price tag, I start searching for the clearance rack. If this swanky décor boutique even has one.

So I smile and peruse and pick things up and try not to drop them because everything is bloody expensive.

And then, behold, the clearance rack!

But I know even before puttering over to the dark corner where all things stained and forgotten are banished that I’m not here for a chipped vase–even if it’s only $55.00!

I’ve been thinking about these “Mr.” bowtie hand towels since I first saw them with Andy. I was so despicably close to snagging them then, along with two “Mr.” mustache-laced highball glasses, that I really want them now.

But, there’s a catch: “Mr.” towels are tied to their “Mrs.” complements.

Because, sweet readers, it seems only straight couples can have these particular hand towels.

But just for bitchy shits, I give it a whirl.

“Excuse me. Is there any way I can switch these two so that there are two ‘Mr.’ towels?”

The smartly dressed employee walks from behind the counter, smiling as she does.

“Oh, hmmm. I thought each was sold separately. I doubt there will be an issue. But let me just check with the owner.”

She disappears into the back, and I imagine some Oz-like character with a pompadour dictating his will to his employed peon.

“NONSENSE! Absolutely no gay hand towels for the flamboyant one! Look at his sweater for bejesus-sake!”

She reappears. But I already know the answer.

“Well, the owner says that we don’t have enough in stock to split them, but to come back later. There might be some then.”

And I just might not have the money in my pocket.

I smile and thank her, since she seems genuinely sorry.

But then I redirect my attention to the overflowing display. Then do some quick math:

Overpriced towels+Empty store/Potential customers on the outskirts of downtown=Bullshit.

I stand there a minute more, silently accusing the towels of their misdeed. But that makes me angrier.

Don’t blame the towels, Matt. Blame Oz.

So I buy some random Deco-like tray reproduction and leave.

Fair Trade?

Yeah, that’ll show’em.

***

By the time I run more errands, mourn the fact that my favorite camera shop is closing, and circle back to The Target to print off some photos, I’m fairly well pickled with resentment.

But as I take my frustrations out on the photo kiosk, muttering “No gay towels for me!” I select a photo of me and Andy from Pride.

I stop.

I take in the moment.

I own it.

So I let the pickled jar of resentment burp a little–no, I don’t fart–swallow my frustration, and revel in the fact that I’m happy right now. That I don’t need some goddamn towels to tell me that I have a boyfriend whom I love, someone who makes me want to come home. That I should stop having some stupid pity party over cheap cotton and get over it.

And I do. I grab the photos and start searching for conditioner.

“Excuse me! Sir!”

Great. Now the kiosk Nazis are going to shake me down. And I’m not old enough to be called ‘Sir.’

But when I turn, I see the guy who’d been standing behind me, waiting patiently as I’d muttered and punched the kiosk screen.

I’ll go ahead and admit I’d prejudged him–fratastic and vapid with a few pretty girlfriends (at least from what I could see blown up on the kiosk screen, from my perch next to an old pumpkin display); basically, many of the traits I associate with the proverbial bigoted Bubba.

“You forgot this.”

It’s another copy of the Pride photo.

I thank him, turn, and blush a little. And that gets me angry, too.

There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. And, clearly, he doesn’t give a shit.

Wait.

He. Doesn’t. Give. A. Shit.

If he’d wanted to, he’d have tacked a smirk, or sigh, or epithetical comment after “this.” But he didn’t. Because he was printing out moments of his own life. He had his own life. Why should he care?

Exactly.

***

With bags in-hand, I toss everything onto our bed and get changed. And there, pushed against my closet wall, hangs one of the first shirts I bought specifically for a gay college party.

Not a fun-gay party.

A gay-gay party.

The Pink Party.

I’d only been out for a little while when I got the invite through a friend’s friend. Having little in the way of man-snagging clothing at that particular point, I’d run to The Target in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to find something pink.

Anything.

I think I was probably contemplating a Bratz tee when I saw the fairly ho-hum pink-and-gray striped shirt.

Mine.

Pinky

So I was prepped for the party. I was going to be with The Gays.

Somewhere along the line, I ended up on a couch with my friend, and we giggled as we watched two guys totally suck face on top of the kitchen island. (Yes, I think I even said ‘Suck face’ back then.)

And they did so without worry–like it was normal.

Because it was normal.

Oh.

But then I got tired, and slightly despondent that I’d decided to wear my battered Adidas, and left with my friend. Right before we left, though, a guy gave us each a shot.

I’d had a little to drink already, but did a little equation:

Sober stranger with a shot+Unknown party host+Unfamiliar apartment complex+Driving home=Take the shot.

About five minutes later, I remembered I’d always been terrible at math. And gullible to boot.

“Ay ThiNnnk there-uh mayuh Bin somMMmmmethinnn in Dat shottttt.”

I was totally fine to drive.

And then I drove over an entire roundabout. I didn’t just hop the curb. I mean I drove right through the center of it–planting bed with pansies and all. How my Pontiac Sunbird ever made it is still a blur.

That, single reader who stumbled upon this blog, is the reason why I never drive after a stranger hands me a drink.

Kidding! No strangers and drinks. And no drinks and driving. Alright, PSA over.

Regardless of the roofie dollop, the party was fun. Because I was out.

I was OUT.

The Out Matt.

I was myself. For the first time in a while.

And it felt a whole hell of a lot better than being drunk.