she was crying ...
She was crying hysterically. A lot of her snot got on my shirt.
I have to give away my cat, she said. I can’t afford him.
Oh honey. I’ll take your cat, I told her.
She stopped crying. No offense, she said, but you are an absolute mess and I would never, never, subject that poor little guy to your bullshit.
That stung a little.
But, honestly, she’s right. Besides. Her cat has AIDS. You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but he does. He was good about it… He told everyone… Didn’t sneak around with the shame bubbling just below the surface. Lost a lot of friends. But won my respect.
Another catless night passed and in the morning, hangover and all, I grabbed my net from the closet along with my galoshes and went to the creek to hunt frogs. I needed a pet.
I got there and the ferns were hanging heavy with the rainfall. 5 or 6 guys of around my same age were standing around drinking coffee from thermoses and talking about girls. They had far superior equipment to mine and I felt crestfallen as I walked back to the bus stop.
There’s an incredibly fat man who lives in the building across from me. He likes to stand at his window and gaze into mine. He’s usually topless. Due to the height of the windowsill, I can’t tell if he’s wearing pants. Here’s hoping he doesn’t get a ladder.
Things haven’t been the same since I was outed at the boys and girls club. We were 8 and 0 and I’d scored 21 first half points against the 5th graders when the opposing coach got livid and started calling me a fraud in front of everyone. He’d somehow procured a copy of my real birth certificate and was waving it around for all to see. I didn’t even argue. I just took off my jersey, told coach I was sorry, shared some solemn handshakes with my teammates, left the gym, and went to the bus stop.
The next day there was a flyer circulating at work with my picture and the simple caption ‘fraud’ in all CAPS. The boss called me in and after confiding in me that he’d often thought of doing the same, ‘a little glory feels nice now and again,’ he let me go. Now I’m just drifting. Mom says I should just end it before I do the family name any more harm, but what does she know.
I filled out a dating profile on one of those sites where all of the girls have the obligatory picture of themselves looking triumphant on a mountaintop. Mine said: I like to get fucked up and listen to music… No replies yet. In a few days, I’ll make it more abstract. Maybe trick someone into going to a movie.
On Tuesday, after radio silence, I decided to fib a little bit. Head engineer at Boeing. 120k a year (plus benefits). They started lining up.
The first date was with a girl named Caitlyn who, after half a glass of chardonnay, came clean that she thought Cisco’s ‘dumps in the trunk’ was the epitome of American pop music. I held out for awhile but, I was 3 whiskey’s in and she was still on that same glass of wine. I called her a philistine and was chased from the bar by the majority of its patrons. One guy named Mike followed me outside and told me in confidence that he agreed with me. We shook hands.
Second date was a girl named Samantha whom I met at the top of a local mountain where she was waiting with an easel. She’d been doing a retrospective on what the city would have looked like before people like me had come and ruined it. ‘Don’t take this the wrong way,’ she said, ‘but, people like you (gesture to my skin tone) are who’s to blame for the ruin of this country.’
I didn’t even bother to tell her that I was a second generation Irish immigrant and my grandfather had built the railroad that enabled her family to even come this far west. I just apologized and let her paint a scarlet letter on my windbreaker and meekly explained that this probably wouldn’t work out.
‘I knew that the moment I saw you coming up the hill,’ she’d said.
I think, if I get up before 5 (I’ve mapped the route) I can get to the creek before those guys with the x ray guns and the heart beat radars that show them every living creature in the vicinity. All I need is one measly frog to come home to. Then I can justify all this misery and degradation.