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previously...


I've been incarcerated a lot over the past thirteen years, so you'd think I'd get more comfortable with the idea of sleeping in jail. I never did, though. And so, this morning, thoughts of my pillow dragged my lifeless body across the length of Manhattan and up the stairs to my apartment.

The instant I shuffled into my room, however, my neighbor's voice appeared from the fire escape. "Where have you been? I've been worried sick!"

I replied, "Have you been sitting outside my window all night?" I then found myself asking a more important question: "You've been worried sick about me?"

"I would have called," she said, "but I don't have your number."

It had been some time since anyone had missed me. The sensation doused me both with confusion and excitement.

"I had another one of those days at work," she continued. "I thought we could discuss it."

I groaned, "I'm too wiped out for that right now."

"How about you just sit back and let me do all the talking?"

I shook my head. "Not today, Em. I just spent a night in a holding cell, and I need sleep."

She bit her lip. "You really got arrested?"

I didn't reply as I pulled off my boots.

She crawled inside, slipped behind me, and began unbuttoning my shirt. "You going to jail is like an aphrodisiac to me."

When her fingers loosened my belt and slipped my pants down my thighs, I said, "You doing that is like an aphrodisiac to me."

"That's something else we have in common," she whispered.

A half-hour later, I stumbled out of my room toward the kitchen for an emergency infusion of protein and simple carbohydrates. I had so little energy that my roommate Cameron's sudden ambush didn't really faze me.

"Do you talk to Emma at all?" he asked.

"Why do you ask?" I replied cautiously.

"She has a new boyfriend, but she won't bring him around."

As far as I knew, nothing in my demeanor betrayed me, but I needed to play it cool. "What makes you think she has a boyfriend?"

"I think you of all people should know the answer to that."

Now I was starting to worry. "Should I?"

"All of that carrying on all the time," he told me, "it keeps Mitchell and I awake all night, and we're on the other side of the apartment. You're, like, right there."

"You mean in the bedroom right next to hers," I clarified, "in this apartment."

He snorted. "It's not like you're in the same room as her when she's making all that noise."

"Because that would be crazy."

"I mean, just now, it sounded like it was coming from your room."

"Crazy."

He leaned in close and whispered, "Between you and me, she's never been this... vocal before. Whoever this guy is, he's really pushing her buttons. I have to meet him."

I was simultaneously honored and threatened by this line of questioning. "I'll bet you a dollar," I told him, "that when you finally meet this guy, you will not believe he's the one doing that to her." This is because the only reason I got this apartment is because I improbably convinced Cameron and his boyfriend I was as homosexual as they were--improbable because I have a lot of sex with a lot of women.

"It's always the quiet ones," he replied.

"Headphones," I said.

"Excuse me?"

"Headphones," I repeated. "Noise-canceling headphones." That sounded plausible.

He grinned. "Those must be amazing headphones."

"They're pretty high tech and shit."

"What brand?"

"Of headphones?"

He nodded.

"I..." Oh, shit. "I. Don't. Know. Because... they were a gift. And I never looked at the brand. Of the high-tech. Headphones."

"Can I take a look?"

"Sure," I replied. "I'll go get them." Oh, shit. Despite the sleep-deprivation and the numbing afterglow, I had to think fast. "Wait. Is that my phone?"

"I didn't hear anything."

"It's on vibrate." I put my cell to my ear and nodded my head, thinking of an excuse to get out of the apartment to find and purchase a pair of high-tech, noise-cancelling headphones. "Celebrity emergency," I told Cameron before fleeing to my room. "Got to go."

I slipped into my room and shook a very naked Emma awake. "Cameron's coming!"

"What?" she whispered.

"I need to pretend to leave, and you need to go home."

She groaned, "I guess this is why we always use my bed." She threw on her jeans and one of my T-shirts, wadded up the rest of her clothes, and escaped.

I tried to stroll nonchalantly to the door, but I couldn't escape Cameron's voice calling after me, "Max!"

I froze.

"I just have to tell you," he said, "that you are, by far, the strangest cat I've ever met. And I'm dating Mitchell."

"Thanks," I replied, "I put a lot of work into it."

He laughed, "Go take care of that thing at work."

By the time I'd locked the deadbolt behind me and theatrically stomped down a flight of stairs, Cameron had lost all interest in me. I waited a extra minute until I was extra sure the coast was clear before tiptoeing back to knock gently on Emma's door. Giggling, she beckoned me inside.

"You got to admit, dude," she said, "this is a little fun."

I shrugged and smiled. I had to admit it that it was.

"Wait right here," she told me and disappeared into her room.

Unbuttoning my shirt, I asked, "Shall we go another round?"

"Dude," she shouted, "are you fucking insane?"

I buttoned back up with a sigh.

She emerged wearing clothes that could be seen in public. "Let's get a cup of coffee. I'm buying."



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


A lot of people blow off work-related steam by getting drunk or high. My job is getting drunk or high, so I always had to look other places. I didn't really like movies because I had met too many people involved in making those movies. I didn't really like retail therapy because I didn't have any money. I couldn't go dancing because it's too social an activity. Same went for sex.

If there was one thing that always wound me down, it was the uniquely freeform structure of cooking. Not only did the sizzles, aromas, and flavors put me into a meditative trance, but I had something to eat when I was done.

If there was a downside, though, it was that I ended up with a lot of food I didn't know what to do with. Luckily, I had roommates, and one drifted in, buoyed by the scent of my hobby.

"Hey, roomie," Cameron said.

"Hey, roomie," I replied.

"Hangin' out in the kitchen?"

Since I was indeed hanging out in the kitchen, I could safely say, "Yes."

"You cooking?"

"Yes."

"Cool." He bobbed his head and studied every detail of the cramped space except for the large percentage of it occupied by me.

I waited a long time for him to say something, but nothing happened. It was pretty obvious what he wanted, though, so I decided to go ahead and skip the small-talk. "Want some?"

"I couldn't."

"I insist."

"Mitchell and I just ate," he replied. Not really hungry."

Maybe it wasn't that obvious what he wanted. "Oh."

"Roomie, I think we need to talk."

"Nothing good ever begins with that phrase, Cameron."

He took a breath and stared into space, looking for the words he'd need to continue. "You know that Mitchell and I have no problem with you smoking pot on the fire escape, right? We even join you sometimes."

"But...?" I asked, because the situation demanded it.

"But you need to be cool about it," he continued. "Somebody's been complaining to the super."

"Who?"

"The super?" he replied. "That's the guy that--"

"Who's complaining?"

"We don't know."

"I know who it is," I concluded. "It's our neighbor."

"No," he said slowly, "Emma and I talked a long time ago about it, and she's totally okay with us smoking weed."

"She's okay with you smoking weed," I clarified.

"So you're telling me that she dislikes you so much that she'd make all of our lives miserable just to mess with you?"

"Yes."

"That's crazy!"

"No," I told him, "she's crazy."

"You barely even know each other!"

Well, that wasn't entirely true. "Leaving aside the identity of the snitch," I said, eager to change the subject, "does the super know who's doing the smoking?"

"No, but he's getting pretty pissed."

"Well if he doesn't know..."

"Come on, roomie," he whined, "you know he's going to figure it out."

"He never struck me as a perceptive man."

"You've never met the guy."

"In that case," I said, "he'll never suspect it's me."

"I don't want to get evicted."

"What should I do, then?"

"Be," he replied, "cool."

He left me in the kitchen, considerably less cool I was when he'd entered. With a grunt, I spooned some of my lamb rogan josh into a plastic takeout container I'd held onto because I was my father's son, and he was apparently raised in the Great Depression of the 1930s. And the, after thinking long and hard about the implications of the conversation I just had with Cameron, I decided to smoke some pot on the fire escape.

I crawled outside, balanced the container on the railing, and spent the next hour watching the buildings of the city fade from the cool blues and grays of daytime to the reds and ambers of night. The sound and fury of my life dissolved away and blew away in a gentle summer breeze, and I hadn't even had to eat or spark up yet.

Wait. In other words, after all this time out here, the food was getting cold and my pipe was still in my pants. Fantastic. Now the memory loss was becoming a permanent fixture.

I shrugged and reached into my pocket, an action that knocked the container from its perch. In a move that would have impressed even the swiftest of hummingbirds, I lashed out my hand and caught it.

I placed it back on the railing, waited a moment for my heart rate to settle down, and put pipe carefully to my lips. No sooner did I light the match than I heard a voice behind me say, "Hey, dude."

I yelped, spun around, knocked the container over again, caught it, returned it, and hid the pipe behind me.

Emma shook her head and grinned that sexy, crooked grin I still remember from when I first met her. "You know, dude," she told me, "I'm not going to turn you in."

"Why would you think I was thinking that?"

"Because the walls are thin, and you were shouting."

I should have been mortified, but I really wasn't. "I was shouting?"

She shook her head and laughed. "Nice move there, by the way, Johnny Ringo."

"It's the boots," I informed her. "They're what give me ..." Once again, I knocked over the container, and once again, I caught it.

"There's got to be a better place for that."

I put it back and rolled my eyes. "Nonsense. This is the perfect... ah, fuck." Apparently I'd not braced it properly this time, because it tumbled off the edge, and I couldn't to anything to stop it this time.

It ricocheted off the railing below us, and, defying all laws of physics, bounced off the one below that before rebounding off the shoulder of a pedestrian, splattering lamb and yogurt and onions and ginger and cinnamon and lots of other colorful spices all over the sidewalk and said pedestrian.

Hypnotized by shame, I stared at the carnage until that he craned his neck to glare in my direction.

"Um," I said to him. "Sorry?"

He continued to stare, his rage simmering to a boil.

"Do you think maybe you can toss that back--urk!"

The urk happened because Emma had grabbed my collar and yanked me from the edge. Eyes wide and teeth gritted, she hissed, "Do you have any idea who that was?"

"An innocent bystander?"

"The super."

"Oh," I moaned, "fuck."

"You are such an idiot."

I switched to disaster mode. "Here's what we're going to do," I said. "We're going to split up. That way, he can't get both of us."

"Good night, dude."



to be continued...

Sobriquet

Jun. 20th, 2011 07:08 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"Maxwell?"

"No."

"Maximus?"

"Do I look like a gladiator?"

"I've never seen you in a toga."

I liked her. "Keep playing your cards right."

"I give up," she said with a coy smile.

"Maximiliano."

"Really?"

I nodded.

"Why would you ever want to shorten a name like that?"

"Because it's impossible to say in the middle of an orgasm."

After she blinked them, her eyes went wide.

"Have you ever tried?" I asked.

"Max Fuentes!" shouted someone else entirely from outside the dressing room we occupied.

"What is it, Fraulein Kommandant?"

When Gretchen entered, her angel's face was scrunched up in confusion; but she let that pass before replying, "You're supposed to be interviewing the star, not the makeup girl."

"Makeup woman," I told her.

"Well?" Gretchen tapped her feet to further illustrate her point.

As I stood, the makeup woman said to me, "When you're done in there, let's get back to talking about your name."

"Looking forward to it, Jen."

"Lynn," she replied coldly.

I winced. Gretchen snorted.

I let Gretchen go ahead of me, because my dislike of her did not extend to the way her ass swayed when she walked. "I don't see why I have to be here for this," I muttered.

"Because you're the reporter." She didn't end the sentence with the word idiot, but it was implied.

Sarcasm was a concept that didn't exist in her world, so I skipped ahead in the conversation. "I'm a goddamned stenographer. Let me save everyone the time: 'I'm Curtis McKean, and I'm really excited to be working with Stanley Marshall again. He's an actor's director, and he has this vision I believe in that really connects with the audience. Know what I'm sayin'? It's a dream come true to be working on a movie about the character of Mastermind, because I've been a fan of the comics since I was a little kid ...'"

She tossed her perfect waves of blond hair and growled, "What the hell is your problem?"

"My problem is that I have to walk through that door and say the words, 'Rumor has it that you and costar Alysin Perez sizzled off-screen as much as you sizzled on-screen. Any truth to that?'" I held my thumb and forefinger millimeters apart. "I am this close to clawing out my own goddamned tongue." I muttered, "Not like I'm going to get to use it on Gwen anyway."

Gretchen looked over her shoulder to the dressing room with a frown. "I thought her name was Lynn."

"Fuck this," I told her as I burst into the green room. "Time to be a quote-unquote journalist."

"Pull yourself together, Max Fuentes!" she scolded.

And the worst part? She was absolutely right. I loved my job. When was the last time I let it get to me like this? When was the last time I forgot a woman's name like this--especially one I was wooing so successfully? And so, as much as I didn't want to admit that she was right, I had to. "Okay," I sighed. "Why don't you give me a second while you go take some pictures or whatever it is you do."

"Because I took them already."

"Even the one where he gazes soulfully out a window?"

"Yes."

"How about the faux-candid shot where he lets down his guard and laughs shyly into his hand?"

"I forgot that one."

"Well get to it, then!" I demanded.

"You don't get to tell me how to do my job!"

From the overstuffed couch nearby, Curtis McKean chuckled, "You two need to get a room."

I was aghast because, while my body would gladly explore a weekend's worth of sins with her body, my personality found hers intolerably irritating. She was aghast because she'd found out by accident exactly what my personality thought of hers.

"Curtis," I said. "Can I call you Curtis?"

"Sure!" he replied.

I took a careful, cleansing breath before I said something I might regret. See, I know that I can be a cranky person. Some of this could be attributed to the fact that my job consisted of enabling overpaid narcissism, often on an irregular schedule, and usually at the cost of my sleep and health. Some of this could be attributed to my biggest hobbies, which consisted of sex, drugs, and the acquisition of such. Some--if not most--of this, could be attributed to the fact that I was a New Yorker. Hell, I'm sure that a lot of the blame could go to growing up in a trailer park with a bipolar tomboy as my closest friend.

But today was special. Today marked the eighth time in the two weeks since I met my new neighbor that she called me dude. That's not what was breaking me. No, what really pissed me off was how much that was getting under my skin.

Curtis McKean didn't deserve me taking this out on him, but that wasn't going to stop me from doing so.

"Curtis," I told him, "if you ever insinuate any kind of romantic chemistry between me and my photographer again ..."

"The newspaper's photographer," she clarified.

"...this photographer again, I will drop-kick your skull across the Triboro Bridge."

"What he said," Gretchen agreed.

Curtis McKean's perfectly sculpted nostrils flared with a furious veracity that he could never quite bring with him to the big screen. "You can't talk to me like that!"

The fact that I did was all I needed for me to return to character. I laughed, "Just kidding, Curtis! Can I call you Curtis?"

Curtis McKean's membership in Mensa was one of those little publicity factoids bandied about as a means of distinguishing him from the rest of the stars dotting screens big and small, but even all that intelligence couldn't help him comprehend what had just happened. He turned to Gretchen for slack-jawed clarification, but she just giggled, rolled her eyes, and shrugged.

"Before I ask you what it's like to work with director Stanley Marshall," I began, "how about letting me in on some of that behind-the-scenes chemistry between you and costar Alyson Perez?"

Hours later, I shuffled up the stairs to my apartment, dreading the inevitable run-in with my neighbor, who always seemed to be waiting to ambush me with that most cruel of cudgels: the word dude. Yet somehow--and I don't know how--I made it home unscathed.

As I deadbolted and chained the door, my fellow apartment-dwellers waved from the loveseat in front of the television.

Fellow dweller number one, Cameron, said, "Roomie."

"Roomie," I said back.

"Just getting in?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Cool."

"Yes, it is."

Fellow dweller number two, Mitchell, chimed in, "Shorty."

"Chico," I chimed back.

"How was work?"

"Crap," I replied. "Yours?"

"Crap."

"Glad we had this talk," I told them.

"Same again tomorrow?"

"Probably," I muttered before stumbling into my bedroom, kicking off my boots, and tossing myself onto my mattress just in time for my cell phone to buzz. I didn't have to look to know that it was my editor, Myron, who was the only person who ever called me.

"Chief," I said.

"I hate it when you call me that," he replied.

"Probably as much as I hate it when you call me on my phone."

"I don't really care what you hate," he said. "Reese Kensington just got arrested again for drunken disorderly."

"I'm not surprised," I replied. "Guy can't hold his liquor."

"I need you to meet Gretchen downtown and get a statement as soon as he makes bail."

I whined, "I just got home!"

"Well," he said, "since you live all the way up in Inwood, it's going to take you forever to get there, so I suggest you leave now."

I cried out, "Fuck!" so that the fu part lasted all the way through my ending the call, getting to my feet, slipping on my boots, splashing my face with cold water, and storming through the living room. The ck only occurred when I stepped out of the door, only to see my neighbor in the process of stepping into hers.

"Dude," she said before disappearing into her apartment.

Great. Now I was going to have to lash out at Reese Kensington, which sucked because I actually liked him...



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"One plastic cigarette lighter; one three-by-five-inch spiral-bound notebook, blue cover; one leather wallet, no cash ..."

"Hey!" I snapped. "There was cash when I got here!"

"That's not what the logbook says."

"Son of a bitch!"

"Continuing on:" said the police officer as he tallied the items piled on the desk in front of him; "one cell phone, turned on; one breath-mint tin full of business cards; one watch, cheap-looking ..."

"No editorializing, please."

" ... one eight-and-a-half-by-eleven-inch flyer, folded; three condom wrappers, empty--want me to throw those away?"

"I think I'll hold onto those for now," I replied with a grin. Mementos."

"You are a smug bastard, Fuentes."

"It's true."

"And finally: two disposable pens."

"Thanks, Roger," I said as I swept the items into my pockets.

While I signed the necessary forms, Roger read from his clipboard. "Says here you were brought in for possession."

"Accessory," I said. "Came in with the band." My definition of accessory was scoring some mescaline in exchange for an interview, but that was between me and my work-appointed attorney.

"Anybody I ever heard of?"

"Doubt it," I replied.

"Try me."

"The Jane Plains."

"Never heard of them," he admitted. "What's their genre?"

"Hip-hop-slash-tribal-Native-American fusion."

Roger winced. "That doesn't even make sense."

"I know," I told him, "but they actually sounded pretty good."

"Wonders never cease."

I shrugged and headed for the door. "Until next time, Roger."

"See you later, Max."

In the men's room of a nearby coffee bar, I checked the date on my phone while brushing my teeth. It was the twenty-fifth, so I still had about a week to find a new apartment That comforted me just a little, until I remembered it was February.

I rinsed, spit, and muttered, "I should probably do something about that."

Even though the night before had come and gone without any real substance abuse on my part, it still took a few minutes for my brain to rev up properly and remind me of the flyer in my pocket. I held my breath and called the number.

"Hello?" muttered the man's voice on the other side of the phone.

"Is this Cameron?" I asked.

"Cammy!" the voice yelled. "Phone!"

From somewhere in the distance, Cameron yelled back, "Jesus! Stop shouting so loud!"

"Can I ask what this is about?" whispered the first voice.

"I met Cameron at the Jane Plains show last night, and he said he was looking for someone to help out with the rent."

"We are!" the voice said. "Do you want to schedule an appointment to swing by and take a look at the place?"

Cameron yelled, "Jesus! Stop talking so loud!"

I read the flyer. "Your address in Inwood, which is a little over two hundred blocks from here." I read my cheap-looking watch. "Also, it's eight thirty, and I'm expected to be in the office by nine. I can come over right now if you like."

"I don't know. Cammy drank a little too much at the concert. It might not be the right time."

"On the contrary," I told him, "it's the perfect time. Hell, I just spent the night in a holding cell ..." Shit. I probably should have kept that to myself. I pushed on, though, just in case. "If we can get along in this condition, then maybe we're made for each other."

After a long pause, he said, "I like the way you think."

"Doesn't everybody?"

A little over two hundred blocks later, I knocked on a door on the fourth floor of a five-story walkup in the northernmost neighborhood in Manhattan. It was not Cameron who answered. Where Cameron's shape was tall and slightly rounded, this guy's was short and sharp. Where Cameron's skin was the shade of cappuccino, this guy's was more like hot cocoa. Where Cameron's forehead was expansive and crowned by a tight, salt-and-pepper fade, this guy's was hidden by a threadbare golf cap. And where Cameron wore cargo pants, this guy opted for snug cotton briefs.

I could have stood there in silence, averting my eyes for all eternity, but Cameron rescued me by yelling from somewhere within, "Jesus! Stop opening the door so loud!"

"I'm Mitchell," said the guy. "Come on in. I'll get some pants."

"Thank you for that." I froze immediately upon entering. When Mitchell returned, I asked with great awe, "What is this, nine hundred square feet?" After consulting the flyer, I asked with even more awe, "Two bedrooms? In Manhattan? At this price? Is this for real?"

"I know, right?"

In shock, I sank into a nearby easy chair, impossible flyer in hand.

Cameron yelled from the kitchen, "Jesus! Stop sitting so loud!"

"Long story short," Mitchell said, "Cammy got laid off in December, and there's not a lot of prospects out there."

I shrugged with genuine sympathy.

"It's a big place, and the other bedroom is empty anyway, so we figured could really use the help."

"What a coincidence," I replied. "I could really use the bedroom."

After we traded names and occupations, the important questions began. "What do you think about living with a couple?"

"I think domesticity is comforting." Truth be told, I was worried about relationship drama.

"Most people are worried about relationship drama." Imagine that. "You're not a party animal, are you?"

"Not at all." Not at home, anyway.

"Do you smoke?"

"Not for years." I was referring, of course, to cigarettes.

"Do you cook?"

Finally, something I could be completely honest about. "I love to, actually."

"I bet you make a mean enchilada."

"Excuse me?" I couldn't remember the last time someone had drawn attention to my ethnicity with that kind of recklessness, and I had no idea how I was supposed to react.

From the kitchen, Cameron yelled, "Jesus! Stop being tactless so loud!"

"What?" Mitchell was confused for second, and then he caught on. "Oh."

Had there been even the slightest bit of malice in his words, I would have walked away right then and there. We chose instead to ignore it.

He moved onto the next topic. "Have you ever seen a UFO?"

I laughed.

A wide-eyed Cameron appeared suddenly behind Mitchell, making quiet slashing motions across his throat--which is the universally recognized signal for "Stop what you're doing! Oh, for the love of God, stop!"

I recovered in the time it took me to blink. "I laugh because I was born and raised in New Mexico, and the UFOs practically live there."

"Wow," sighed Mitchell.

Cameron flashed me a grin and a thumbs-up before retreating back into the kitchen.

Mitchell cleared his throat. "And last, but not least, do you have a boyfriend?"

"I'm between relationships right now," my mouth said before the rest of me had a chance to comprehend what my ears had just heard. And it was a good thing too, because my eyes now discovered a detail on the flyer I'd missed before: "F or GM only."

And so the question before me wasn't whether or not I was willing to lie about my sexuality in order to win their approval; I had no problem with that. The question was, how long did I really think I could get away with it?

Oh, what the hell. Nothing ventured, et cetera et cetera. "I just haven't met the right guy yet."



to be continued...

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