The characters in this week’s blog series are:
Nate, played by Nathaniel, my brother.
Jon, played by Jonathan.
Laurie, played by Laurie, the first syllable pronounced “lah” and not “lore”.
Me, played by a partially deliberately fictionalized simulacrum of myself skewed by gaps in my own perception.
Unlike all of the homos going to Pensacola, we’re departing from Atlanta to head up to West Virginia to climb for memorial day weekend. The New River Gorge is kind of the opposite of Pensacola. Aside from being North, and not South, and being mountains, and not beaches, West Virginia is also not hosting Pensacola Gay Pride.
Me: “I need to ask a question about Pensacola Pride.”
Laurie: “It’s called Sexacola. I’ve been. Woooooo! Ask me! What’s the question?”
Jon: “How many penises did you see?”
Laurie: “None. How many vaginas did I see? Yeaaaah! Alex, what was the question?”
Rowland: “I just needed a quote for the blog. I got one.”
Laurie: “I told Melissa you would be blogging and you could follow us on the blog. You should give her a shout out. Maybe not on this post.”
Rowland: “Because of the talk of Sexacola? It’s for the better, because it signals I’m a positive influence.”
So I’m passing up on Sexacola to go to West Virginia. I have mixed feelings about this, because the only time I’ve had sex on the beach was really, really, really fun, despite our failure to figure out how to carve an apple bong. But I also was a bit bored by recent weeks’ Facebook talk about everyone’s plans for sardine canned motel rooms in Florida, and I was also concerned about the very real threat that it would just be a bunch of Atlanta gays expecting to finally be able to meet some fuckable guys who don’t share 86 mutual facebook friends. For those of you who are outsiders, gay in the big city is its own small town.
I lived in North-ish Florida for several months a year ago, and I was not very successful on the dating scene, I think because the beauty expectations there include shaving and showering on a daily basis. Fun trivia: GQ magazine named Atlanta the worst dressed city in America. I’m pretty sure I’m part of the problem.
Laurie’s discussing her girlfriend:
Laurie: “Melissa’s always a step ahead of me. When I’m thinking of buying her flowers, she shows up with flowers. When I’m about to send a text, I get a text. Always a step ahead of me.”
Nate: “Just push her down the stairs. She won’t be a step ahead of you then.”
We’re passing through Knoxville.
Laurie: “How is working at the zoo?”
Nate: “I held a baby kangaroo. Cutest thing in the entire world. We have a lot of charity balls. Rich people dressed up and donating money. Animals. Alcohol.”
Jon: “Animals drinking alcohol.”
Nate: “There was a chimp holding a beer.”
My mind drifts back to Pensacola. Last night, I was in Atlanta for a lawyers’ networking function, and afterwards I went to the gay bar, and there were people talking about their difficulty in choosing which bathing suit to use to premier their Lah Fitness bodies in Pensacola. I didn’t own but one gay-ish bathing suit, and Elsbeth says it’s not even gay, it’s just European. For what that’s worth. Anyway, the discussion reminded me of a recent conversation with my mother, which was spurred by the gay bathing suit companies, who got ahold of my parents’ mailing address and sent them a catalog.
Mom: “These look like women’s bathing suits. And their legs are shaved. Why don’t they just wear speedos? Speedos are attractive, but still manly.”
Rowland: “I agree. Don’t look at that page.”
Mom: “Do people actually buy bathing suits designed to make your penis look bigger?”
Rowland: “Nobody I know of.” I knew several.
My laptop will probably die before we cross the Tennessee/Virginia border. Or whatever border we’re heading toward. I get confused when we don’t go up 85. We’re currently looking for an exit where we can stock up on Reese’s Pieces and Slush Puppies, because it’s midnight and we still have four hours on the road to go. We see a sign for a truck stop seven miles away. Truck stops are dangerous—I always end up buying kitschy shit, like my “Just Swallow It” keychain, memory foam pillows, numerous pairs of sunglasses, and overpriced beef jerky. Everything looks really appealing at a truck stop at midnight. It suddenly dawns on me why straight truck drivers have sex with each other.
The enticing objects included a hologram dogs-playing-poker poster, and a large floating helium filled goldfish with battery powered fins that would probably be sold at Sharper Image for a thousand dollars. The Sharper Image model would probably have an air filter attached.
Nathaniel scouted through the DVDs. “The king of the midgets grows to be beloved by the circus he works for. Let’s get this one. $5.99.”
Jon: “I think we should get this book on tape about L. Ron Hubbard and scientology.”
As often happens when there are more than two men in the 18-35 age bracket, we ultimately found consensus in shotgunning beers in the parking lot.
Me: “I’ve never actually shotgunned a beer before. How do you do this?”
Laurie: “You punch a hole in the bottom with a key and drink it from the other side.”
So now we’re on the highway and I’m a little bit intoxicated and wondering if some flash of honesty will pierce the veil of my sobriety. “I want a boyfriend with a really big dick.”
That wasn’t very interesting. Also I already knew that. I don’t feel drunk at all. I’m just saying things I think rather than just thinking them.
My laptop battery is fading. I feel the urge to come up with something meaningful. Some conclusion that will round out the underlying mental conflict I have about riding with my crew off to the mountains while the Alex in the parallel universe is riding in the opposite direction toward Pensacola.
It occurs to me that I made the right decision because Nathaniel is in this universe; which sounds overly sentimental, but it really isn’t.
I see signs saying we’re heading to Bristol, and I mentally transpose it with Beckley. I think back to when I first drove to Beckley to pick up [redacted]. I think about the affair I fucked up, and wonder if anything serious would have come of it if I hadn’t fucked it up, and then I realize that I don’t regret it at all, because then I never would have fallen in love with [redacted], and later [redacted], and of course fucked up those too. I wonder to myself if when I’m dying by the side of the road they’ll all seem like links in a chain I could never imagine not remembering.
The parallel universes where I didn’t strangle Schroedinger’s cat spiral out of control, particularly the ones where I was at least briefly honest about how I felt rather than opaque under the delusion that no one would fabricate what I was after if they couldn’t tell what it was.
And in this universe, I’m returning to West Virginia. Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” reminds me of the times I wish I had said something, and more importantly the places I would have said it. In front of the bow of the docked cruise ship, or running up the amphitheater stairs to catch the first song of a concert. If Virginia is for lovers, then the East River Mountain Tunnel is an appropriate extension of the analogy.
The beer fades. Nathaniel is asleep in the back seat. He and Jon were watching some video with the jersey shore guy on acid. One of them is snoring but I’m not sure who.
Me: “George Michael? ”
Laurie: “I only have Faith.”
Me: “That’s fine.”
It’s just the two of us now, working the graveyard shift. They’re the longest two hours of a car trip. But not when you have the entire Jagged Little Pill album! That it’s still a seminal record makes me feel better about collecting the entire album on a cassette tape as a kid. I sing along to all the jilted lover songs now, as I did then, even though I’m the asshole she’s talking about.