Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Rise and Fall of the Stoned Guest

Brushes with evil? Sure, I’ve had a few. Just some thin little paint strokes, though, really. Nothing you’d need to shake an Exorcist at.

Oh, yes. Yes! I remember one, in particular. His name was Damien. A demonic/cherubic/ceramic lawn statue, he was.

Damien first came into our lives when Corb worked the front desk at one of his first jobs, back when the little demon (Corb, I mean…not Damien) was a young, impressionable twenty-so slip of a thing.

Way before Corb started there, at some point in time, I guess, someone (somehow) thought Damien would be a cute addition to the hotel’s landscape. I don’t know why, really. Maybe that landscaper’s name was…hmmm, Satan? Specializing in decorations for Motel Hell?

Damien had an eerie smile and blank hollow eyes that either made him look like Little Orphan Annie or Linda Blair’s lost brother. In his hands, he gripped two frightened stone bunnies in a stranglehold. That’s not exactly warm and friendly, if you ask me. Certainly not the image I’d want for my hotel…if I had one, other than in games of Monopoly.

Anyway, by the time Corb started working at the hotel, someone had placed Damien so he was peeking out from behind a bush, kind of like a demonic Arte Johnson. He stared right the office of Corb’s boss, from her window. It was a frightening sight, particularly if you were working the midnight shift.

Thanks in part to Corb’s twisted sense of humor, Damien quickly moved up in the world, though, from lawn ornament to office joke. He made his way into the warmth of the building, appearing, occasionally, on someone’s chair, or on a desk in place of a vase of flowers. He was once hung by the neck from the top of a door.

Eventually, he started to make his way into people’s homes. That’s when things stopped being so funny, and just became kind of creepy.

That’s how he ended up at our apartment, actually. It was one of Damien’s first trips away from the office. The stunt was intended to celebrate Corb’s birthday. As a surprise, and without his knowledge, one of Corb’s co-workers met me at a rest stop off I-95 and delivered the statue to me under a shroud of silence.

“I’ve got the stuff,” she whispered, as if it were a drug deal.

Then we had sex. No, no, just kidding! She made the trade, I grabbed the statue and hid it inside my car. Then, at midnight, while Corb was fast asleep, I snuck Damien in and placed him inside our refrigerator.

Corb woke up the next morning and stumbled with his big feet toward the refrigerator, his blond hair sticking up at all angles. He opened up the fridge for a glass of milk. I hovered behind him, with a demonic/cherubic smile of my own on my face.

He opened the door. Then, closed it. “Why good morning, Damien, how are you?” he mumbled, without any change in the expression on his face.

Of course, I thought it was hysterical. Corb thought it was lame. He hates being on the butt end of jokes.

While I had Damien around, I managed to convince our cat at the time, Thumbkin, to pose for a photo in bed with him. Kind of a coitus interuptus kind of thing, or at least that’s what I was aiming for. I posted a horrible story about their intimate encounter on the thoroughly inappropriate cat blog I was keeping at the time.

Two months later, Thumbkin was dead. We came home one night to find him underneath a sofa, stiff as a board. The kids were devastated, and Corb was a wreck. That left me to deal with cleaning up the wreckage.

Was it shagging the stoned guest? A sheer act of sheer evil on Damien’s part? My tacky little cat blog? I have to be honest, we didn’t make any connection between any of that at the time.

Once back at the hotel, Damien quickly started getting passed around more than an ex-girlfriend of Charlie Sheen. It was as if the attention paid to him had stirred something, something deep within his demonic/cherubic/ceramic little soul (or lack thereof). In fact, he actually started bopping about from hotel to hotel, because people suddenly didn’t like having him around. Water breaks kept occurring, for some reason, shutting down the water pipes and depriving people of showers. That had a tendency to get the customers all shades of angry.

He was moved from that first hotel to one that Corb’s boss transferred to. Then back to the first hotel. Then to a hotel Corb had transferred to.

Then, somehow, he ended up back at our apartment.

Flash forward, to about a week after our new roomy had moved in with us. I come home to find the entire apartment building in total darkness, except for the eerie red glow of emergency lights throughout the building. I call Corb up, immediately.

“Something’s wrong in the building,” I say.

“It started around noon,” Corb replies. “The lights went out in the living room, and those red lights appeared. I called the main office. They’re not sure what’s going on.”

Five hours later, the lights are still out. It’s nine o’clock at night at that point, and Corb and I are running out of ways to keep the kids entertained away from home. In desperation, we drive back to the apartment, positive the light situation will be fixed.

It’s not. The crews are still working away.

Suddenly, it hits me. “Is Damien inside the place?” I ask Corb.

Corb nods.


We make our way up the red-lit stairs and stumble into the place. Theo’s afraid to enter, afraid of the shadows. Corb runs around, lighting candles to bring some light back into the world, followed by Theo, all the way.

Meanwhile, I locate Damien, lurking in a corner by the couch. I grab the little son of a bitch and make my way back downstairs, throwing him into the back of Corb’s truck.

Fifteen minutes later, the lights go back on.

The next day, I receive a call from Corb in the afternoon.

“I almost didn’t get home from work today,” he says.


“My truck was almost totaled. The car in front of mine smashed into an eighteen-wheeler that stopped suddenly. I put the brakes on just in time. Ted, I’m still shaking. It was scary.”

I pause for a moment. “So, Damien’s still in the back of your car?”

“Oh.” I can hear the wheels in Corb’s brain, racing away. “Oh, shit.”

“That’s it!” I scream. “Get Damien out of your car before anything really bad happens.”

Corb runs back to his car and lifts Damien out. Places him next to our dumpster. Walks away.

The next day, he arrives home with the kids, after work, and parks next to that dumpster. To check on Damien, to see how his day has been spent.

But Damien’s no longer there. In his word of a lie...Corb finds a handful of large-sized bones on the ground. Not chicken bones, exactly. Too large to be those. What, then?

Coincidence? We may never know. What we do know is that Damien has never returned. In the time that’s passed, we have yet to see him adorning someone’s balcony or as a lawn ornament at the front office of the apartment complex. He has yet to run as a candidate in a local election for any political office that I know of. My feeling is we’ll probably never see the evil little guy again.

I’m not sure if I really believe he was a good statue gone bad. Maybe he truly wasn’t bad, just drawn that way, by our stories and the creepy things that happened (that maybe had nothing to do with him). Whatever the truth is, I don’t need any ill wind blowing over my house, thank you very much.

Blow, ill wind, blow away. Good riddance to you. And take those scavenger bones with you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Eyesight for Two

"Betty, when you get a chance, can you hand over the glasses?" my Dad says, as he squints his eyes and tries to scan the menu in front of him.

I glance up and watch, amused, as my mother takes the glasses off of her face and hands them over to my father. "Waitaminute, let me get this straight," I say, after he places the pair over his nose. "You two share the same glasses?"

"It's the damnedest thing," says my father. "We went to the eye doctor a while back for our eye exam, and he came back into the room and said, 'I've never actually seen this happen, but the two of you have exactly the same prescription.'"

"I guess all those years of living together have kind of rubbed off on us," laughs my mom.

"So you decided to buy only one pair of glasses because of that?"

"Hey, why spend more money?" says my dad, placing his menu down after selecting a salad. "We're always around each other, so it's not like one of us is ever going to be without them."

"I really hope both of you never need to buy false teeth," Corb says. "I'd never want to eat lunch with you and have to watch that."

I think it's kind of cute, and a sign of how strong their relationship is. I can't see Corb ever sharing a pair of eyeglasses with me. We'd get in all sorts of arguments about who was going to use them first to order, and besides that, he'd have to Purel the glasses to death every time I handed them over. Which would make them smell funny, I think.

Still, I guess when you've been together for over forty years, things such as who gets to order from the menu first and Purelling (is that an actual word?) become kind of meaningless.

I'm simultaneously envious of their longevity and filled with admiration for it. It takes a lot of trust to get the point of sharing eyewear together. Even a lot of people who have been together for over 40 years fail to get there. I think my parents number among the lucky.

Perhaps that's where I learned devotion from. In fact, I'm pretty much convinced of it. Either that, or it's just a matter of genes. My parents taught me to stick it through to the bitter end, and in both of the major relationships that I've had, that's the approach that I've taken.

Is such loyalty a good thing or a bad, I wonder? There are many cases where it doesn't make any sense at all, of course. But for my parents, it's clearly been a good thing.

For me, I haven't been nearly as successful, but even so: Corb and I are now going on eight years, an eternity in the world of gay males (although I really think that's a bit of a cliche and patently untrue, because there are so many long-term gays around.) Even more, Josie and I could have ended things a lot worse than we did, and even though we're no longer together, we still share a number of common bonds. It's never been like some divorced couples who feel the need to sever their ties completely and with a certain amount of cruel finality. That's a twenty-year connection that still exists, even if it has been redefined, several times.

I'd like to think the loyalty gene my parents passed on to their children has served me well through the years, even if others may not agree. While I may never get to the point of sharing a pair of eyeglasses with someone, I do think they've passed on to me a sense of shared vision, a way of seeing things in a way that other people don't: two people, one lifetime.

Two people, one lifetime. I have to admit, I kind of like the sound of that. At the very least, it's kept my parents seeing things the same way for over forty years now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Keep out.

A flash of memory, from seven years ago. February, 2004. From the first apartment I moved into after separating from Josie. The kids were only eleven and six at the time. But I wonder, have I done a good job of preparing them for the deep cold outside during the time that's passed?

Somewhere outside, I can hear a drunk boy arguing, then burst into tears. Men are so unattractive when they cry.

His words are muted, indistinct. Instinctively, I turn the lights out in the apartment and move close to the picture window to hear more. I've always been nosy like that.

But it's no use. I move the curtain back a sliver and look outside into the cold, dispassionate evening, searching for this infrared pocket of heat.

I can hear two or three muted voices, but can't make out what they're saying. I hear the boy trying to speak, but then his words grow even more indistinct, becoming sobs, low, guttural sobs, and then even those start to fade.

There’s the sound of a car starting up, then pulling away.

I lie on the bed in my apartment, cross-legged, my computer in front of me. From the other room, Ashes is snoring loudly, Tiger is squirming in his sleep.

And then, another sound, in the hallway. A woman’s voice, clearly on the brink. I lift myself up from my bed and quickly shuffle into the living room toward the door.

Her voice becomes more distinct. She sounds as though she’s in her thirties, most likely not too old, but old enough to no longer have that youthful blush. Clearly intoxicated. There’s another voice, a masculine voice, but I can’t make out his words.

I can hear hers. “I don’t care anymore! I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care anymore.” She’s crying, too, and her sobs flow like the tide, like breathing in, breathing out.

Something falls to the floor, smashes. A plate? “I’m dying I’m dying I don’t care. What do you want?”

The masculine voice, indecipherable, a low sonorous growl. But she doesn’t give him much of a chance.

“Shut up. I want to be with my kids. They’re my kids and I want you to shut up. You have no clue what kids are about, so just shut up. You, shut up.”

Another growl.

“You know what? I don’t even care. Kill me, kill the kids. You feel so freakin’ proud about it, go ahead and do it, just do it, just do it, okay? Dad would be so proud to know you were a fucking asshole.”

Low tones start to say something. Mumble mumble mumble.

“...all those other jackasses...I haven’t BEEN with ANY OTHER jackasses! I haven’t had sex since...since...see, I can’t remember. I can’t even remember. I don’t care. I don’t. I’m too tired. So murder my kids! Go ahead! Just...”

She starts to sob, hysterically, and there’s that rhythm again, that breathing in, breathing out.

They talk. I can’t hear their words, although wish I could. I imagine them sitting there, probably on the staircase. I wonder whether they’re close together. Is he holding her? Is he leaning against the side of the wall, keeping his distance? Is he threatening her?

I think of my ex-wife, Josie. Thank God that we avoided this. Thank God it never ever went there.

Her voice rises in volume. “I never want to be involved with anyone EVER I never did anything to anyone ever...I don’t fucking WANT to TRY anymore I FUCKING HATE YOU ALL, fucking kill me, just kill me don’t ever fucking threaten my kids, you fuck I hate you I hate you I hate you...”

A noisy stumble up a flight of stairs. Her sobs start to fade away. Silence.

Then, more stumbles. Her voice, again. It sounds as if she’s alone, talking to herself, close to my door, mumbling about this apartment and she’s not crazy and this is not the way she is. Then, she moves away.

Ashley snores grow a little louder, taking me out of the trance I’ve been in. The kids. Have they been taking this in? No, they haven’t; they’re fast asleep.

There’s a knock. Downstairs. Not on my door.

(But what if it had been my door? What would I have done?)

I hear my neighbor downstairs. A gentle man. Brown hair, slight squat, thick glasses. I think he’s disabled. I hear him talking to her, whoever she is.

Then her voice, a hysterical stream. “I don’t think he’s a murderer. I don’t know where my car is, I don’t know where he is. I'm just tired, tired of all this. You must think I'm crazy, I’m really not crazy, I don’t usually get like this. I don’t think he’s a murderer, I really don’t, I just don’t know, but I don’t know where my car is and…”

”Relax. Keep it down.”

I hear that, distinctly. Slowly, I move over to the couch where Ashes is sleeping, sit down next to her. I place a hand against her cheek, feel the warmth of her skin. Brush one of her wet sweaty curls away from her face. Her snoring is steady, even. Peaceful.

I glance over at the door, the door that separates us from it. It, exactly. The cold outside world I want so badly to protect my kids from. I won’t be able to, though.

Not forever, at least. It’s not enough to lock a door or pull back a curtain. That only keeps the real world at bay for a while.

Downstairs, a door clicks shut. The cold outside retreats.

For now, that is. Only for now.