It was an absolute honor to be selected as one of the Fellowship recipients at this year’s Lambda Literary Foundations Writers Retreat. Here’s a piece about why we need gay clubs in Indonesia.
This time of a short story that deals with jealousy, insecurity, and a big, fat, white zit while visiting – what else – West Hollywood. This is a modified version of this post.
Graduate Reading Series at St. Mary’s College of California. Introduction by Michael Caligaris (Creative Nonfiction Writing MFA candidate of 2014).
I’ve seen this part of the City of Angels before, but only in movies.
Sunday. Blinding afternoon sunshine. Heat that disappears with the breeze under the shadows of trees, buildings. An ostentatious building called the Pacific Design Center. Three big bean sculptures in a park in front of it. Boys playing basketball.
“I think everyone here lives at the gym,” I mutter as I look outside the window of his Passat. Safe inside the cage. He agrees.
“Please don’t climb the art” the sign says about the beans. I argue that it’s not art. They’re sculptures. Calling them art is presumptuous. Who decides what is art and what isn’t? He shakes his head. I can’t argue. I can’t make arguments. He called me ridiculous when I told him he should stop smoking pot.
We enter an establishment. Young waiters. Defined bodies in tight red shirts. “The Abbey”. I’m not going in. “It’s just a tour,” he says. I give in. I walk in. Young Asians staring daggers at me. I’d like to say, “Come now, boys. Don’t be jealous. I’m not half as pretty as you are.” Young Asians staring daggers at me. Spiked jet black hair. Chinese? Japanese? Korean? I can’t tell. I look the other way. Too fast. Too soon. I should get shitfaced. But not at this place. Where are the monks? There are two boys in lycra swimsuits by the bar. Where are the monks? Are they the monks?
Back on the streets. Two muscular gods holding hands. One in a black shirt with Gucci logo and other words splattered on it in white. The other, taller one, six foot five, in white shirt, his wrist as thick as my neck. Veins bulging, as though screaming from all the testosterone, all the hours spent at the gym, all the lifted weights. I can’t look. I look the other way. At a bird, a table, a tree, a car, anything. It’s all about the pecs. And the tight t-shirt. I need to get shitfaced.
A donut shop is opening in January 2014, disappointing, what I wouldn’t give for sugar. A cakery has four decorative cakes in their display, all of which look fucked. “But they look good on television,” he says. I agree. I can’t argue with that.
He’s wearing Adventure Time shirt. “Puncha Yo Buns” with Finn’s head on it. I bought him that shirt. He’s reaping the benefits. I bought him that shirt.
One boy, two boys, three, four, eight, I’ve lost count, smile at him. He likes the attention. My false sense of security falters. The ultimate test. There’s a zit on my jawline. Big, fat, white zit. Big, fat, white. He offered to take it out earlier in the day. I refused. Afraid it’d hurt too much. I can feel it throbbing. I haven’t had anything throbbing in me for days. Big, fat, white. I need sugar. I need to get shitfaced.
“You’ve been missing a lot,” he says, coming out of a raw eatery, checking its menu. I stand by the road, by a parking meter. Three boys sitting outside. I don’t say a word. Why are there so many fag hags?
I avert my eyes every time someone looks at me, smiles at me. Should I flirt back? Can I? Just smile sheepishly. Hide behind the glasses. Hide behind these dirty lenses. I can’t see a thing. The sun is blinding. I’m glad I slathered sunscreen on my skin.
More boys. More men. Sidelined. Sidedished. Sideshowed. A guy points at his “Puncha Yo Buns” shirt. The guy says, “Oh hey, Adventure Time!” and disappears around the corner. The guy is tubby and he’s wearing skinny jeans. I want to say, “Oh, honey, it doesn’t work that way. See, wearing something that’s labelled ‘skinny’ doesn’t make you skinny.”
Why am I judgmental? Why am I offensive? Why am I bitter? Can’t you guess?
A thrift store. I found an XS sweater. Take off my black hooded jacket, reveal my low cut shirt. A young Latino comes in and smiles at me. I look the other way. I’m with someone else. The sweater doesn’t fit me. I’m fat. I’m wearing skinny jeans.
We enter “Gold Coast”. Oh, this is cozy. Dark film screens the windows, censoring half of the sunlight, dark wooden parquet floors beneath us don’t creak, or perhaps they do but I can’t hear it because people inside are talking, smiling, being friendly. Oh, this is lovely. A mutual friend greets us. How relieving it is to see him, to see someone I know in this beautiful world. I feel like fish out of water, a mutt in a dog show, a donkey in a horse race. Hee haw. I need to get shitfaced.
A handsome Ginger by the front door smiles at me as I enter. I avert my eyes yet again. Unsure of the smile. Really? For me? I stand where I can see him, where we can see each other. We see each other. I’m with someone else, sorry, someone who buys me Coke (in all fairness, I ask for Coke), I want to say, someone who says (jokingly) that it is apparently possible to have even less fun visiting West Hollywood with me than visiting The Castro with his ex.
Feels like being punched in the gut. Puncha Yo Buns.
I sip my Coke. Is this Diet? A little Christmas tree is blocking the Ginger. I want to burn it.
It’s getting colder in West Hollywood.
“You have to remember that I choose you. None of those boys are as beautiful as you,” he says as we walk back to his Passat. “I think it’s good that you don’t know how beautiful you are. I’d rather keep reminding you that you’re pretty than telling you you’re not all that.”
I want to smile, I want to believe, but I’m tired and somewhat defeated. I have a big, fat, white zit on my jawline. I can’t argue. You like the attention, I want to say. But everyone likes attention.
We come home and sleep until ten pm.
They say I’m a fag
And that’s the honest truth
I don’t deny it
I’ve been that way since my youth
They say I’m ugly
Well, I have good and bad days
My skin isn’t flawless and I have Orc teeth
And insecurities about my body and my face
They say I’m a weirdo
I know I’m sometimes strange
And more often than not
I act deranged
They say I’m passive-aggressive
Like it’s something awful
I’ve seen other things they do
That are far more horrible
Well, they can say anything they want
They can say anything they please
As long as they don’t say I can’t live my life
And live my dreams and live in peace