Black and Blue

The property management lady looks at the signature on the lease. “We rent mainly to young urban professionals like yourself, but we have some older tenants like me who have been with us for years. You should really enjoy living here.” The last is said with a stern stare that says, If you don’t enjoy living here, something is seriously wrong with you.

“I’m sure I’ll like it just fine.” John glances at the keys she holds to his new apartment. He’s signed the lease and given her a check, but she makes no move to give him the keys. Instead, she just makes him uncomfortable by staring at his hairline. “Is there anything else?” he asks.

She pulls her gaze from his hair and smiles at his face. “No, nothing at all. You’ll fit in fine.” She hands him the keys, then rises to shake his hand. “Welcome to the Portland Towers.” Continue reading “Black and Blue”

The Walk-In

Wayne felt slightly off when he woke up and even more so when he realized he wasn’t in his own bed. At 73, he couldn’t remember the last time this happened. The bed had red sheets with tiny black hearts. On the facing wall amongst cutouts from teen fan magazines, was a poster of a boy band, four teenage boys posing petulantly for the camera wearing black rags and sporting black die jobs. They all looked like androgynous twerps to Wayne, more examples of the feminization of today’s male. The swagger of Sinatra had been more his style.

As he lay there letting his old head clear of sleep, the significance of waking in a girl’s bedroom fully struck him. With a hot flash of adrenaline he glanced at the rest of the bed, relieved to be the only one in it. He couldn’t recall a thing from last night, which meant he must’ve blacked out, but he didn’t remember drinking or have a headache or even feel a hangover. In fact he felt really good. “Peppy” described it best and he hadn’t felt peppy since his doctor told him to lay off the triple espresso a decade ago.

He rubbed his face with his hands, wondering how the hell he ended up in this bed, and froze. His face felt all wrong; it was smaller and the skin was soft and smooth, no morning stubble. He felt his head with his hands and found he was no longer bald but had long brown hair and both his ears were pierced in multiple places. He stared at his hands, flipping them back and forth. They were the hands of a woman. Oh my god, he thought in a panic and cupped his crotch. His Johnson was gone. And so were his jewels. Continue reading “The Walk-In”

Swallow It

That first Christmas being back in Portland with my family was my first time being sober through the holidays since I was a teenager. It was raining Christmas, that distinct Pacific Northwest drizzle that is less than rain but more than mist, much like in the Scottish Highlands but without the romance, and we ate Christmas dinner at my brother-in-law’s parents’ house. It was an extended gathering of his family and my sister’s. I knew everyone, but not well enough not to be uncomfortable when the banter faltered. I don’t follow sports, not even the local U of O Ducks, but if I had the evening would’ve been a breeze. This was the fallback topic when there was no interest in the other person, easy conversation for people halfway through their second jumbo box of Gallo’s finest. Continue reading “Swallow It”

Single

Ethan had sex on the brain ever since his girlfriend of two years, Andrea, left Friday for Aruba. He’d been single now for eight days and nights. When they were together, he’d been so faithful to her that if he hadn’t forgotten about other women, he’d certainly inoculated himself to interest in them. But now that she was gone, she had set him free. Everywhere were women he no longer had to stop himself from being interested in, women he didn’t have to look away from. Continue reading “Single”

Intervention

The wind gusted toward the house and the rain hit the picture window. As the drops trickled down the pain they joined with others, became larger and formed unexpected shapes. Warm inside on the couch, Aaron watched Super Bowl highlights on the big screen. Upset with the loss of his team, he comforted himself with a family size bag of Doritos. Comfort food. He floated through life on a bed of comfort food, and if it weren’t for the increasing effects of gravity on his body he wouldn’t give it any thought.

A strong blast of rain hit the windowpane like a smack to the face and when Aaron glanced away from the game highlights he swore the splattered raindrops had taken the form of the Pillsbury Doughboy, hat and all. His glance turned into a stare as the Doughboy’s little donut shaped mouth began forming words. Aaron hit the mute button on the remote. At first he heard nothing but the rustle of leaves in the wind outside, but then he might’ve heard a high pitched squeaking but couldn’t be sure. He scooted to the edge of the couch cushions, heaved himself up and went to the window.

Feeling a little foolish and a little scared, he put his ear near to where the mouth was and to his shock, he heard a small voice speak. Continue reading “Intervention”

Departure, Arrival

I’m sitting in the Dublin Pub with two good friends, Will and Paul. We’re drinking pitchers of Henry Weinhard’s, waiting for the Fabulous K-Tels to start playing. They’re one of our favorite bands in Portland, playing old R&B, like Booker T and the MG’s, and a few dated surf tunes. The band brings us three together, strengthens our bonds. It’s known for that among our other friends. Wednesday is K-Tels night, a guys’ night, the night we three go out and talk guys’ talk. It’s a different sort of evening than the weekend. We have no dates, no need to entertain, no restrictions. Guys’ banter takes care of it all. Continue reading “Departure, Arrival”

The Plaid

KissesIt was when I realized more people were coming out of the bathrooms than going in that I started to get the creeps working at the Plaid. When I got hit by a car working as a bike messenger, it was a way to collect a paycheck while the tendons they reattached in my thumb healed. It was hard to stop a bike when my thumb wouldn’t do what I told it. With the long row of stitches on the back of my hand, my chances for being a wedding ring hand model were slim to none–maybe I could model skull rings–but a friend of a friend hooked me up at the Plaid. Either way, I needed to work. Work kept me out of trouble. Continue reading “The Plaid”

Plugged

the scorpion and the frog - pluggedDinty scratched the bald spot on Stanley the stuffed Chihuahua’s head. “I was getting headaches until I started wearing two,” he said, tapping the earbuds in his ears with his index fingers. Both were attached to the cell phone in his shirtfront pocket. “Now all my calls come in stereo, like a voice inside my head. When Mr. Orly calls, he sounds like the voice of God.” Mimicking his boss’s deep baritone, he said, “Dinty, public toilet two in Tower Three has crap smears in it. Get over there with your brush.”

He petted Stanley’s side, curled up in his lap. “Mr. Orly is like every boss, absolutely obsessed with smears.” Continue reading “Plugged”

Triggers and Cravings

Ray woke in an agitated mood and couldn’t shake it. By noon he wished he still drank, but knew if he touched the stuff he’d pick up right where he’d left it eight years ago and quickly flush everything he’d built since quitting right down the toilet. But the drink always dulled the edge on agitated moods, and he missed the recklessness.

He mostly frowned on that behavior now. He was living the suburban high life where every step was thought through and planned, but on days like this it felt more like treading aimlessly on a hamster wheel and his ranch house was his cage, stifling with frustration of a monotonous routine. Up in the morning and off to work five times a week. Exercise four times a week. Eat multiple servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Avoid cholesterol, avoid sugar. No booze, no cigarette, limit caffeine. Go to bed early and get plenty of rest. What was the point? Continue reading “Triggers and Cravings”

Hot Pants

the scorpion and the frog - hot pantsThe job was suit-and-tie stuffy, but, still a rebel after years of conformity, Will fought the dress code by wearing Sex Pistols T-shirts under his white button-down shirts and leather thong underwear that made his butt crack itch. He felt the itch was more than worth putting up with considering what it said to the world about who he was. Will was in his thirties and living a dual life. He worked for the DIP Corporation. They manufactured everything from baby formula, sold for consumption outside the U.S. only, to the plastic heel tips on women’s shoes. Continue reading “Hot Pants”