Friday, December 23, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.” That line from The Wizard of Oz is part of pop culture now. I am reminded of it and the vicious animals it mentions as I think of some of the candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination. Bachmann and Perry and Gingrich, oh my! Singsong it with me. Bachmann and Perry and Gingrich, oh my!!

Bachmann. She won’t respond to an 8-year old who says his lesbian mother doesn’t need fixing, but she’ll certainly cast an icy glare at said mother. She’s a coward, Mrs. Bachmann. Maybe the child’s mother shouldn’t have put him up to saying those words to Mrs. Bachmann. Maybe the child thought them up on his own. Who cares? The child spoke the truth to her. To him, the lesbian is nothing more than his mother. Bachmann and her husband call the Kinsey Report a myth. That’s their defense when asked to respond to the alleged fact that 10% of the population is gay. It seems to me that the Bachmann’s like to make feather-ruffling statements to goad liberal-public outrage. They then stand back and watch or walk away and watch. I’ve always wondered how gay people getting married affects heterosexual people. I mean lets face it, heterosexual people getting married doesn't affect me. Bachmann has been asked by a gay-friendly, heterosexual man what her issue is with gay marriage. She has been quoted saying, "Public schools would have to teach that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are normal, natural and that maybe children should try them." Bullshit! That’s like telling a heterosexual person to try homosexuality if they really think it’s a choice. All people, children included, she be taught that all people are equal no matter their color, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Gay is not a disease. It can’t be cured. I’m not sick. To me, being gay is normal. I’ve been gay all my life. Maybe if children were taught that being gay is as normal for some as being straight is for others we wouldn’t have so much gay bashing and bullying in schools.

Perry. He seems to think the country was better off when gay people couldn’t serve openly in the military. He uses his religious beliefs as a basis for his comments. You see, he thinks being gay is a sin. Doesn’t religious teaching come from man? Isn’t it man’s interpretation of God’s word? My question is, why is it better for someone to risk their lives for the country, in time of war, hiding the truth of who they are? Doesn’t the real problem with the repeal of DADT have to do with the heterosexual people who are scared of homosexual people? Let’s be honest. There are straight men who think that every gay man wants to sleep with them. I’ve worked with one of those men in my life. While living in Nashville, Tennessee I had a manager who on my last day of employment wished me well in my new venture, but said he still didn’t want to shower with me. What a confusing statement to make. I’m sure my face registered some sort of shock as I said I didn’t want to shower with him either. He responded to me saying, “Yes, you do.” Truthfully, I didn’t want to shower with him. I didn’t want to sleep with him. (Perry thinks we gays should just abstain from sex.) I might have wanted to see him naked, I will admit that, but it was nothing I ever would have acted upon. I thought he was handsome, but I knew he was straight. I also knew he was uncomfortable with me being a gay man. Everything about that situation was his problem not mine. I never flirted with him. Not even accidentally. I was very aware of my surroundings and his homophobia. Is my desire to see a handsome man - gay or straight - naked any different from a straight man’s desire to see a beautiful woman naked? As for that abstention, maybe Mr. Perry should abstain. No, that would be silly wouldn’t it. Who am I to say that because we don’t have the same kind of sex that I think you’re wrong and should just bury your desires somewhere in the back of the closet you wish I would crawl back into?

Gingrich. He’s a heterosexual man against same-sex marriage who thinks the government should be defending DOMA even as his record stands at: marriage - 3, divorce - 2. He cheated on his first two wives. So much for the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. What makes his current wife think that his desire to "uphold personal fidelity to my spouse" is really going to work this time? Maybe he wasn’t listening to those vows about honoring until this third marriage. Gay marriages have as much likelihood as straight marriages at being successful. People cheat, both gay and straight. People stay faithful, both gay and straight. One of my best friends from college - a person who has been in my life through tears and laughter, ups and downs, loneliness and companionship - has been with his partner more than 10 years. They have been husband and husband for 7 years. They’re faithful and loving. It’s a gay marriage that’s working. Love is what should matter, not the plumbing of the two people exchanging rings.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could all just treat each other as equals? As people? Instead of the governing few spewing their rhetoric upon the masses and trying to make it law? What if we could just respect each other instead of living in fear. What will happen in this country if we elect leaders who want to do nothing more than stop the progress of human rights for all people?

I realize that I live in one of the most - maybe the most - liberal cities in the country. We all live together - gay, straight, bi, transgender - in the biggest melting pot of races and sexual orientations around. I’m here, a citizen of the United States of America. I’m not invisible. None of the aforementioned politicians represent me and none of them have my best interests at heart.

The fight for equality is going strong and that makes those opposed fight just as hard to block it. There’s a heightened sensitivity to any comment, look or gesture that might be misconstrued as prejudice. I’m very conflicted about that sensitivity. It’s a fine line between allowing the bullies to walk all over us and realizing there was no harmful intent. We need balance. When will the road even out? I don’t remember necessarily being offended when someone said, “That’s so gay” before it became such an issue. I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up against the big things, but being sensitive to every inconsiderate, ignorant, button-pushing person out there makes us look like weaklings, like tattle-taling children. That’s an odd statement, I know, considering how strong the gay community truly is. My dad used to tell me to ignore the bully and he will eventually leave you alone. That’s easier said than done; I know that. Shouldn’t we start ignoring some of the slanderous verbiage so that those who spout it will realize they aren’t affecting us anymore and they will slink off to pick on someone else?

Gay people in the 21st century have gained enormous strides. We are stronger and more represented than ever. We have more support from the heterosexual community than I realized. What scares me is the unsupportive who listen to the bile spoken on a national platform from the lions and tigers and bears mentioned above. They would have us back in the closet, sitting quietly in a corner, averting our eyes in shame. They would have us be second class citizens, unworthy of human respect and protection. There is no closet. There is no shame. There is no hiding.

I may not be wearing a neon button proclaiming I’m gay to the world as I walk down the street, but I am tired of the sexual orientation prejudice that divides us as people and families. Love is inherent. Hate is taught. How about instead of teaching the children of today fear, lets teach them tolerance, acceptance and love. Let's teach them courage. Let’s teach them that it’s okay to be you and me. How about we teach them equal rights for all.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Follies - a Hint of Nostalgia with a Dash of Regret

The ghosts are ever present. Even when they turn their backs to us they are there, representing our pasts, commenting on our present. The wind rustles and on it are carried the eerie sounds of what was.

At 40 I already have that past full of what was and what could have been. I guess at any age one has that, but four decades into life, I'm aware of the roads I didn't take. I'm aware of too many mornings and I certainly know that all dreamers must awake and that I shouldn't look back. The problem is, I can't help but look back.  

During my second viewing of this season's Follies I found myself weeping. I'm always affected by the score, but this time my emotions hovered in that plane between holding on and letting go - where anything can happen - and they overflowed. It’s like on Halloween when the ghosts can walk the earth.

I rent in that place of nostalgia. I teeter on the verge of memory abyss. I don't like to fall in, but sometimes I can't stop it from happening.

Memories can be beautiful things; they can also be tied to regret - the things you wish you'd done, but didn't. "The roads you never take go through rocky ground, don’t they?" Well, don't they? I mean we make up excuses and reasons and justifications for not doing something. My frequent collaborator is fear. Anyone who reads this blog with any consistency knows that.

I was in such an open, receptive place when I sat through this production playing at the Marquis Theatre, that my emotions visibly manifested as tears that ran down my face. I was undeniably moved during “The Road You Didn't Take.” How can one not be when listening to the lyrics below and feeling the pain of the character as it spills forth from the stage and penetrates your heart?

THE ROAD YOU DIDN’T TAKE
BEN:
You're either a poet
Or you're a lover
Or you're the famous
Benjamin Stone.
You take one road,
You try one door,
There isn't time for any more.
One's life consists of either/or.
One has regrets
Which one forgets,
And as the years go on.

The road you didn't take
Hardly comes to mind,
Does it?
The door you didn't try,
Where could it have led?
The choice you didn't make
Never was defined.
Was it!
Dreams you didn't dare
Are dead.
Were they ever there?
Who said!
I don't remember,
I don't remember
At all.

The books I'll never read
Wouldn't change a thing,
Would they?
The girls I'll never know
I'm too tired for.
The lives I'll never lead
Couldn't make me sing.
Could they? Could they? Could they?
Chances that you miss.
Ignore.
Ignorance is bliss--
What's more,
You won't remember,
You won't remember
At all,
Not at all.

You yearn for the women,
Long for the money,
Envy the famous
Benjamin Stones.
You take your road,
The decades fly,
The yearnings fade, the longings die.
You learn to bid them all goodbye.
And oh, the peace,
The blessed peace...
At last you come to know:

The roads you never take
Go through rocky ground,
Don't they?
The choices that you make
Aren't all that grim.
The worlds you never see
Still will be around,
Won't they!
The Ben I'll never be,
Who remembers him?


My choice to stop singing is what comes to mind here. My dreams. The ones I gave up on. The ones that I bid goodbye. As I have aged so has my voice; its strength, power and range withered due to lack of use. The yearnings haven’t really faded, the longings haven’t really died. I’ve just learned to live with them shut behind a door that I don’t open.

Then there’s “Too Many Mornings.” My second blubbering moment. More so this time than in the earlier scene where I first lost my grip on emotional control. I've seen four productions of Follies over the years, this current one twice; I've listened to it countless times. I do believe it is my favorite Stephen Sondheim score. It always moves me and generally breaks my heart. I believe that this time was the first time I've actually cried while watching. I was so connected that I couldn’t stop the flow of tears. At one point my heart broke in two at the mere intake of breath by Bernadette Peters as her “Sally” listened to “Ben,” so robustly portrayed by Ron Raines, singing to her exactly what she has been longing to hear.

TOO MANY MORNINGS
BEN:
Too many mornings,

Waking and pretending I reach for you.
Thousands of mornings,

Dreaming of my girl...


All that time wasted,

Merely passing through,

Time I could have spent,

So content

Wasting time with you.


Too many mornings,

Wishing that the room might be filled with you.

Morning to morning,

Turning into days.

All the days
That I thought would never end,

All the nights
With another day to spend.

All those times
I'd look up to see

Sally standing at the door,

Sally moving to the bed,

Sally resting in my arms

With her head against my head.


SALLY (speaks): If you don’t kiss me, Ben, I think I’m going to die.

(sings)
How I planned:

What I'd wear tonight and

When should I get here,

How should I find you,

Where I'd stand,

What I'd say in case you
Didn't remember,

How I'd remind you--

You remembered.

And my fears were wrong!

Was it ever real?

Did I ever love you this much?

Did we ever feel

So happy then?


BOTH
:
Too many mornings

Wasted in pretending I reach for you,

How many mornings

Are there still to come?

How much time can we hope that there will be?

Not much time, but it's time enough for me.,
If there's time to look up and be/see

Sally standing at the door,

Sally moving to the bed,

Sally resting in your/my arms,

With your head against my head.


Sally has loved Ben for at least 30 years - through two children and one unhappy marriage she has held tight to what could have been. It's heartbreakingly sad to desire something for so long and so strongly and never be able to attain it. For the first time, I’m embarrassed to admit, I realized that Ben is singing to the Sally that he fill in love with, the Sally of his youth, while present day Sally thinks he singing to her in the present moment. I can’t believe I never realized that. Sally has wasted so many years of her life unhappy - unable to be happy, or choosing not to be - because she has been in love with a man who loved her once, but not enough to marry her. She settled and has lived with that regret ever since. 

"Losing My Mind" was a performance on the brim of a breakdown. It should be, but I haven’t experienced it like this before. The tears were in Bernadette’s eyes even as the lights came up. She was swimming in a sea of loneliness and regret. As she sang. I wanted to weep with her but was so entranced that I couldn’t for fear of blurring my vision of her as she cried and struggled to tell us her feelings.

LOSING MY MIND
The sun comes up,
I think about you.
The coffee cup,
I think about you.
I want you so,
It's like I'm losing my mind.

The morning ends,
I think about you.
I talk to friends,
I think about you
And do they know?
It's like I'm losing my mind.

All afternoon,
Doing every little chore,
The thought of you stays bright.
Sometimes I stand
In the middle of the floor,
Not going left,
Not going right,

I dim the lights
And think about you,
Spend sleepless nights
To think about you.
You said you loved me,
Or were you just being kind?
Or am I Losing my mind?


There’s nothing Sally can do but stand there and sing her emotional breakdown to us. Even though I’ve gone on verbal record as one who doesn’t fully embrace Bernadette’s performance in this role, her delivery of this song in that moment resinated with me this time. I find it difficult to sing while crying. I don’t know how she got through it, but she did and she conveyed to me her desperation and her crazy. Her sadness filled the space between the stage and me.

The ghost of my former self must cringe every time I say, "I used to be fun." We all used to be something different than we are now. Follies always makes me reflect on my life. It always makes me sad - for the characters choices and for my own. It’s a chance to reflect, but I never leave unscathed. My youth is gone. I’m not old, but I’m no longer that 20-something, new in the City, with dreams that seemed within reach; dreams that I let go of for one reason or another. I don’t regret some of those choices. Others I wonder about a lot. Memory can be hateful, but it should remind us to do it while we can. Don’t give up. Take the leap in the moment. Don’t get to the place where you have something to regret. The biggest goal for me is to look back at my life and be satisfied with my choices, even the bad ones. I made them for some reason in that moment. They are mine. I have beautiful memories of my performing past and I have beautiful memories of a love that I’m glad I opened my heart for.

There will always be a road you didn’t take. There will always be questions about choices made. I need to thrive in the present with an eye on the future instead of hindsight heartbreak for what will never be.

(Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim © 1971)

The Artist

Silence is golden. Black and white is the new color. Music is emotion. What do all of these things have in common? They make up the gorgeously rendered new silent film The Artist. Yes, that’s right, silent film.

What a beautiful way to spend a Friday evening. One hour and 40 minutes that I don't want to get back. On the contrary, I want to lose myself again in the grand simplicity of a bygone era.

A glance, a tear, the swell of the strings, a smile, a rampant drum beat - all of these things used to convey what's happening and how you should feel in that moment while watching the scene. I was mesmerized. There was a moment when I realized my cheeks were aching. It was from smiling. I was there, present and along for the ride. I couldn't take my eyes from the screen. What a fascinating gamble that actually paid off. 

I’d been wanting to see The Artist for at least two weeks. I have to say it was worth the wait even though now that I've seen it I wish I hadn't waited so long. 

As people filled the seats of The Paris Theater I was concerned. I won’t lie. I hate going to the movies in New York City. The people are rude and inconsiderate most of the time. That is, I find, until we hit Oscar season. Oscar bait films don’t draw the same texting, cell-phone-answering/talking, baby-bringing, sitting-in-my-own-living-room kind of crowds that say a summer blockbuster draws; I doubt Mr. Transformers is going to rush to see Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. For $13 a pop I want to be able to enjoy the film without the added soundtrack of someone else’s bullshit. I’ve gone off on a tangent, but it has to do with silence. The Artist is silent. There are no loud explosions or crashing vehicles to cover the ambient noise. Only a resplendent score and that’s not going to cover it.

Let me tell you, there was plenty of ambient noise when I sat down. The unwrapping of plastic candy wrappers, the juggling of packages from holiday shopping, the bitching and moaning about traffic, the crunching and chewing and slurping. That is to be expected, but I realized that if it continued during the film it would be a detriment to my mental health and physical enjoyment. Thankfully, I can report that it didn’t continue. We as a collective sat and watched a silent film. It must have been what audiences in the 1920’s did when there were no cell phones and people dressed for a night at the cinema. We laughed together and at times gasped together. It was like breathing as one. We applauded together at the end. And guess what, no one’s cell phone went off and no one pulled out their cell to check the time or to text. Insert satisfied, smiling face here.

Pure escapism is what it was. I know you may be thinking, “Why would I want to sit through a silent film?” To be entertained is the reason, and to see what a film maker can do when the idea of revisiting a moment of cinema history comes to fruition for today's audience.

The story is exciting, funny, heartbreaking, triumphant. Boy meets girl. He’s a movie star, she’s a fan. From obscurity she is plucked and to obscurity he falls. Just as her star begins to soar toward the heavens his begins to descend. We’ve seen the story before, but not like this. Not in silence. As for that music that guides my emotions, it is exuberant from overture to final scene, full of life and movement.

For me, the experience was delicious and one worth repeating, from the first frame to the last, with surprises and unexpected moments thrown in. I enjoy revisiting the past. Classic films are some of my favorites. Film making has come a long way since the days of silent pictures, but when something works, it works. I felt exactly what I was supposed to feel without a word being spoken.

Silence does speak volumes.

My Week With Marilyn

“Shall I be her?” she asked.

That was probably my favorite line from the film My Week With Marilyn. It is innocent yet provocative; knowing and not a bit naive.

I must admit that I’ve only seen two films in which Marilyn Monroe appears: the Bette Davis vehicle All About Eve and the cross-dressing comedy Some Like It Hot. I’ve never gone in search of her, but she’s always been in my view: the blast of air from the subway blowing up her white dress as she stands atop the grate in The Seven Year Itch, her rendition of “Happy Birthday” sung to President Kennedy wearing a form-fitting dress she was sewn into, the “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” scene in Gentleman Prefer Blondes imitated by Madonna in her “Material Girl” video. She’s iconic – her platinum hair and big smile, the way she walks and talks. She is part of pop culture and cinematic history.

All of these things ran through my mind as I tried to focus my approach to this piece. Then it occurred to me that the focus is getting what you want.

Colin Clark, who wrote the book upon which the film is based, wanted something different for himself. He wanted to work in the movies. I wanted something different for myself than the small-town life into which I was born. I wanted to perform, the goal being Broadway. Marilyn wanted something different for herself. Norma Jean wasn’t it, so she created Marilyn and gave her the last name Monroe. We’re all similar, with dreams and desires bigger than our surroundings.

If I am too believe Colin Clark’s memory of the week he spent with Marilyn in 1955, then I am to believe that Marilyn was an insecure, vulnerable person who craved being taken seriously as an actress. The persona that she created lent itself to beautiful, sexy, and some might say, dumb girl roles. She wanted more than that. She wanted to be a serious actress. It wasn’t easy for anyone to see her as such. Then there’s the idea that she suffered from stage fright. There are published reports that she would be physically ill before shooting a scene and would have to be coaxed and calmed in order to get the scene on film. She was notorious for being late to set, sometimes not showing up at all. These things are pointed out frequently in My Week With Marilyn. She had her acting coach with her constantly. Laurence Olivier, directing the film, The Prince and the Showgirl, the time period during which My Week With Marilyn is set, is said to have thought Marilyn’s acting coach was there for nothing more than “buttering” up Marilyn. Basically, he thought the coach was just blowing smoke up Marilyn’s ass and collecting a paycheck. Who among us knows what Marilyn got from her coach? Who among us can judge what it takes to do another's job?

Maybe the person answering the phone in the call center for American Express has to give himself a pep talk in the mirror each day in preparation for the inevitable call from an irate customer. Maybe the chorus girl has to convince herself each night that she will remember the choreography when she steps onto the stage by saying a little prayer. Maybe I have to take a breath and know that I can face each customer at my ticket window and that no transaction is the end of the world. We all have our shit. Who can say what we need to get through it? Marilyn needed pep talks. She needed convincing. She needed images to latch onto in order to complete a scene. She needed to find a way to believe her character’s situation. At least that’s what Week would have us believe. I believed it. I’ve read about it in other places. What is astounding is that for however much time it took to get it in the can, it seems worth it. Colin portrays all who view Marilyn in Olivier’s completed film as mesmerized by her, unable to look away.

As seen through the eyes of a young man in his twenties, Marilyn seemed happiest when she was out of the public eye - strolling along the grounds of her rented house on the arm of a boy who would do anything for her, running barefooted through the grass, swimming nude with no paparazzi in sight. She had achieved international stardom, but it seems to me what she craved most was lost somewhere in the past with Norma Jean. She didn’t seem to have a solid marriage between her personal and professional lives.

As portrayed by the beautifully nuanced Michelle Williams, Marilyn was effervescent when she was Marilyn the actress. But she also sparkled as Marilyn the woman. She was completely at ease out of the spotlight. She was heartbreaking in her desire to please not only the people around her, but also herself. She wanted to be loved and she wanted to trust - desperately.

My time with Marilyn was less than two hours and it wasn’t even the real Marilyn. It was, however, the most insight I’ve had into Marilyn Monroe’s life. I want to learn more about her and above all I want to watch more of her films.

So if I may respond to the question posed above in my favorite line from the film. The answer applies to both Ms. Monroe and Ms. Williams.

“Yes, please.”

Friday, December 2, 2011

Return to Winthrop St. - Part 4

“Nothing” by The Script was playing on the radio the next morning when Atwood’s alarm woke him. His head was pounding slightly as he opened his eyes. He’d felt the pressure behind them as he teetered on the verge of waking. He refused to give in to it.  His mouth felt full of cotton, his body dehydrated. He had to get up, and he needed to do it now. He slowly stood and his stomach lurched. He moved in slow motion as he stretched toward the ceiling, trying to keep the contents of his stomach in his stomach, trying to keep the pounding of his head from making his eyes explode. His body shook as every muscle stretched and tensed. He rubbed his hand across his face, the skin of it feeling more like sandpaper than flesh. He went to the mirror and saw that his upper lip and chin were both red and looked raw. They looked worse than they actually felt. It took a second to figure it out and then memory crashed onto existence.

"It's from kissing," he said to himself in the mirror. "It's from Bobby's scruff.

He made the familiar trek down the hall to the bathroom and felt nauseous as he released the dark yellow liquid into the white bowl. He was definitely dehydrated. He held his breath. He was already fighting the urge to vomit. The last thing he needed was a bad odor to make it happen anyway.

He felt ridiculous and stupid yet somehow proud. The experience from the previous night was real. It had happened. He had given in to the pleasure and let it override his fear.

When he returned to his room he collapsed back onto his bed. He rubbed his head, which seemed to be pounding even harder now. Blood was pumping faster through his heart. He reached, without looking, into the drawer of his nightstand for the aspirin that he knew was there. He chewed four of them and swallowed the bitter, pasty result without the use of water. He wanted nothing more than to lie still in the quiet darkness of his room until he felt normal again.

He grabbed his phone from the top of the nightstand in order to check the time and that's when he saw the text message. It was from Kinlin. His timing was impeccably off. 

Just wanted to say hi. I'm thinking about you.

It had been weeks since they'd had any communication and now, the night after a crazy sexual adventure, Kinlin had decided to break the silence. 

Atwood wanted to respond right away, but made himself wait. Kinlin deserved to wait. He thought he might be acting childish, but he didn't change his mind. 

He threw the phone into the drawer with the aspirin and shut it away. Kinlin, now, somehow only seemed to cause his heart to ache—sometimes with pain, sometimes with pleasure. Right now he wanted nothing more than to protect his heart and shut Kinlin out of it. 

Before curling back into the fetal position of security and comfort something caught his eye. He sat up. He noticed the shadows of the blowing tree limbs outside his window. It was odd and somehow pretty. He’d never taken the time to notice anything like that before. It also reminded him of Kinlin—shadows are almost present but never within reach. He shook his head as he realized that even something as minute as shadows behind the blinds had caused him to think of Kinlin. He collapsed dramatically back onto his bed, pulling the covers over his head, blocking out the shadows, blocking out Kinlin.

He filled his day with late morning classes and an afternoon of sun drenched hours in Murphy Sculpture Garden. It was October and it still looked and felt like summer. He missed the changing of the seasons that would inevitably be happening back home in Massachusetts. 

He kept checking his phone to see if Kinlin had sent another text. After the fifth time with nothing but an empty screen he questioned his own sadomasochistic ways. 

He stared across the Garden. He missed seeing the leaves change colors over night. He missed the sound and smell of the brown leaves as they crunched under his feet—the unmistakable sound and smell of fall on Winthrop Street. He realized he was feeling a little melancholy. He was absentmindedly putting his phone away when it vibrated, replacing his Massachusetts daydream with his California reality. His first thought was Kinlin; he couldn't help it, but it wasn’t Kinlin, it was Bobby.

Bobby: Hi Atwood

Atwood: Hey, Bobby.

Bobby: What’s up?

Atwood: Not much, u?

Bobby: Just hanging out @ home

Atwood: I’m sitting in the sculpture garden taking in the sunshine.

Bobby:  nice

Atwood: You should join me.

Bobby: then I’d have to get dressed

Atwood: you’re not dressed?

Bobby: no

Atwood: ?

Bobby: it’s easier to play with myself if I’m not dressed

Atwood:  LOL! That’s true.

Bobby: ;)

Atwood: did you go to class today?

Bobby: really? That’s your next text?

Atwood: what?

Bobby: I’m naked! You just asked me about class

Atwood: sorry :(

Bobby: ;)

Atwood: so you’re naked, tell me about it.

Bobby: why don’t you come over and see for yourself

Atwood: tell me first.

Bobby:  well, I’m laying on my bed, naked, stroking my cock.

Atwood: and?

Bobby: I’m using the other hand to play with my balls. I like that.

Atwood: ur getting me hard

Bobby: good

Atwood: yeah, but I’m in the sg.

Bobby: so don’t be in the sg

Atwood: ?

Bobby: be at my house. you could replace my hand with your own

Atwood: text me your address.

The next thing Atwood knew he was standing at Bobby’s dorm room door. It felt eerily reminiscent of the previous night waiting for Clancy to answer. The difference was he knew what he was getting into this time.

Bobby opened the door shirtless, the button on his jeans undone. He was barefoot and smiling. His eyes were gleaming. Atwood felt his face flush as a wicked smile formed on his lips. He wanted to be there, and he could tell that Bobby wanted him to be there. He walked through the door.

Before the door had even latched Bobby was right behind him. He felt Bobby’s hands around his waist. He couldn’t stop himself from tilting his head to the left as Bobby’s lips found their way to his neck. His breath quickened and his pants got tighter. He spun around to face Bobby. He looked at the hot guy standing in front of him; taking in the eyes and the lips before closing his eyes and placing his lips on Bobby’s.

Bobby submitted to the kiss fully. He placed his arms around Atwood and pulled him tighter to his body. There was no space for light or air between them. 

Bobby’s right hand found it way to Atwood’s butt. He squeezed and pressed their midsections even closer, if that was possible. Atwood put his hand down the back of Bobby’s jeans to find no underwear. Bobby’s back arched slightly as Atwood gently squeezed. Their kissing intensified. Without breaking the connection of their lips or hands from one another Bobby moved them toward his bed. They collapsed just like in a movie. Unlike in a movie however, they bumped their heads together and teeth met lips.

“Oow,” said Atwood.

“I’m sorry,” said Bobby, laughing. “That was much sexier in my head.”

They lay on the bed looking into each other’s eyes.

“It’s always sexy in the movies,” said Atwood.

Bobby smiled at him. Without breaking eye contact from Bobby’s beautiful blue-green eyes, Atwood moved to reestablish the kiss that had been broken by their fall.

They kissed deeply and passionately. Atwood was trying to let go and enjoy the moment. He couldn’t keep his erection at bay, but he didn’t seem to be fully participating. The text from Kinlin was gnawing at him. Flashes of Kinlin kept crossing his mind, blinding him from what was in front of him.

He pushed Bobby away and sat up. His feet were on the ground and his elbows were planted on his thighs just above his knees. He put his head in his hand and closed his eyes. He rubbed his head as if by doing so he could smear away the image of Kinlin. 

Bobby sat up and gently placed a hand on Atwood’s right thigh. Atwood turned to him. Bobby had a look of concern on his face.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

Atwood didn’t answer immediately. He stared at the face of the man sitting next to him as pangs of guilt and frustration cramped in his stomach. How could he be sitting in a room with a guy who actually wanted him and still be thinking of someone who didn’t want him who was miles away?

“I’m fine,” he responded with a look on his face that betrayed his lie. “I think I should go.”

Atwood stood up and made to get his jacket. Bobby grabbed his hand.

“I really wish you wouldn’t,” he said with a smile. “You wanna smoke a joint with me? It might relax you.”

Atwood had never smoked pot before, but he was curious. His head was filled with colliding thoughts—What am I doing? Am I gay? Kinlin. School. Bobby—bouncing around like too much debris in a junk strewn heap. He thought now might be just the time to kill the cat.

“I’ve never smoked before.”

“It’s cool. I won’t pressure you, but you’re in good hands if you decide to,” said Bobby.

“I think I want to,” responded Atwood.

Bobby smiled and got up from the bed to get the joint from its hiding place in his closet. He walked back to the bed with the joint and a lighter in his hand. He motioned for Atwood to come sit next to him. It reminded Atwood of the previous night when they’d met and Bobby had motioned him to the sofa. He tried to recapture the sense of excitement and relaxation that he’d felt with Bobby by the end of the evening.

Atwood sat down on the side of the bed next to Bobby. Bobby lit the joint and inhaled, momentarily holding the smoke before exhaling. He passed the joint to Atwood as he exhaled the smoke. Atwood could smell sweetness in the air. He had only smelled it once before. It was at a bon fire held during homecoming his senior year. He had always been told that marijuana had a smell reminiscent of skunk spray, but that night it smelled sweet. It was the same this time. The sweet smell filled his nostrils. The smell took him back to the bon fire and to hanging with his friends, which included Kinlin.

He took the joint from Bobby and put it to his lips. He must have looked apprehensive because Bobby told him to relax.

“Just inhale some of the smoke into your mouth and then take air in with it to take it into your lungs. Just go slow.”

Atwood inhaled. As clichéd as he knew it was, he coughed. He couldn’t help it. He had tried to rush it. He didn’t have a lot of patience. He wanted to replace the image of Kinlin with that of Bobby as quickly as he could.

Bobby couldn’t help but laugh. Atwood laughed too, which made him cough even more. Bobby took the joint back and inhaled again. 

“Inhale my smoke,” he said to Atwood while still holding his breath.

Bobby blew the smoke slowly at Atwood and Atwood inhaled the discarded smoke. He then held it briefly before exhaling it back into the air. 

He took the joint from Bobby and took a real hit that didn’t make him cough this time. He was determined to do it right. He slowly pulled on the joint and felt the smoke fill his mouth. He slowly took in air and felt his lungs fill. He exhaled and smiled at himself like a child finally learning to put the circular piece of wood into the circle instead of the square.

Bobby smiled at him and leaned in and kissed him on the lips. Atwood felt Bobby’s tongue, a familiar feeling for sure by now. Bobby pulled away and took the joint from Atwood inhaling deeply another drag.

He passed it back to Atwood as he let the vapor infiltrate his lungs one more time. Atwood took another drag and inhaled deeper this time. As he exhaled he caught himself watching the white smoke as it drifted across the room and danced on the rays of late afternoon sunlight that penetrated the shear curtains covering Bobby’s window. Bobby started to laugh at him and he started to laugh at Bobby although he had no idea why he was laughing. 

Atwood leaned forward and kissed Bobby this time. There was nothing but joy in his heart and his mind. His eyelids felt heavy, but he was more relaxed than he’d been since he’d gotten to California. It was a feeling he thought he could get used to. He then slipped off the edge of the bed, crashing butt first to the floor.

Bobby started to laugh again. Atwood quickly moved from shock to laughter himself. Bobby joined Atwood on the floor. They leaned up against the bed and continued to pass the joint back and forth.

“This shit is amazing,” said Atwood. His body felt weightless as he lifted his arm to take the joint Bobby was trying to pass him.  

Bobby started laughing again.

“Stop it,” said Atwood, trying not to laugh and losing the battle. “Stop it, I’m trying to inhale.” He inhaled and laughed the smoke right out, then started coughing.

“Remember when President Clinton said he didn’t inhale?” laughed Bobby. “You know he did. I mean why would he not wanna feel this way?”

“I don’t know man,” coughed Atwood. He passed the joint back to Bobby. “You were like, two when that happened. How do you even know that?”

“I’m a political science major. I read about our Presidents.” He took another toke off the joint and exhaled while speaking. “I mean can you imagine just holding the smoke in your mouth for nothing? That’s like chewing chocolate then spitting it out instead of swallowing.”

Atwood snorted. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

Bobby looked at Atwood and tried to focus. “Your eyes are like slits. Seriously, man, can you even see me?” he said as he passed the joint.

“Slits?” Atwood continued to laugh. His perma grin would not stop. “Of course I can see you.” His eyelids were so droopy that the lashes created a hazy blind through which he had to fight to focus. He tried lifting his forehead, but to no avail. The lids didn’t budge. He took another hit and passed the joint back to Bobby.

Bobby laughed and took another drag.

“Why do you think President Clinton didn’t inhale?” asked Atwood. “Do you think he knew he was going to run for President one day and didn’t want it showing up if he had to take a drug test?”

“A drug test?” The words burst from Bobby’s mouth before he could stop them. They were followed quickly by the infectious laughter that wouldn’t let go of either of them. “It doesn’t stay in your system that long.” He passed the joint back to Atwood. “He just lied like he did about that blowjob.”

Atwood was sitting with his eyes closed now. He looked like he was either asleep or meditating. The joint had burned down to his thumbs. Bobby reached over and took it from him and put it in an ashtray that he kept under the bed. Atwood smiled and Bobby kissed him.

“You said blowjob,” said Atwood without moving anything but his lips.

“Yes, I did,” said Bobby as he stood up from the floor 

Atwood tried, but couldn’t get up. He felt heavy now, yet still somehow weightless. They started laughing again. It was beyond their control. Atwood was too stoned to get off the floor. Bobby did his best to finally get Atwood on his feet. 

They sat back down on the edge of the bed, Atwood making sure he was solidly planted enough to not fall off this time, a checkpoint not lost on Bobby.

They started making out again and lay down on the bed. They continued until the kissing slowly stopped. Atwood turned into spooning position with Bobby the big spoon. They fell asleep. Bobby was holding Atwood in his arms. Atwood was holding Bobby’s right hand in his own. 

When Atwood awoke he saw the hand in his own and felt the body pressed against him.

“Kinlin?” he said with hope in his voice. He turned and saw that it was Bobby. His muscles seemed to collapse as the hope changed to despair when the edge of dreamland melted into the reality of his real-world setting.

He eased out of Bobby’s arms and grabbed his jacket and slipped out the door as quietly as possible. He had to get over Kinlin. Kinlin didn’t matter. He was unimportant to Kinlin. Kinlin was his best friend. Why didn’t Kinlin want him?

He burst through the doors almost running. The sun was setting; it was dusk. In a full run now he ran away from Bobby’s dorm. He ran as fast as he could. He couldn’t stop the tears spilling from his eyes. He ran until he stumbled into Westwood Plaza. There he sat down on a bench and tried to catch his breath, tried to stop the tears.  

He realized that he was angry with himself more than anything. His desire to be wanted by Kinlin was keeping him stuck. He had just slipped out of the arms of another guy—a guy who wanted him—to run away and cry over a guy who didn’t want him. 

His heart was still pounding, but more from anxiety now than the running. He was shaking. He wanted to scream. He wanted to yell at the top of his lungs. He just wanted to forget. He wanted to pound the thoughts from his head, the feelings from his heart. He had no concept of how long they had slept. The marijuana had helped him forget briefly, but its effect had mostly worn off.

His phone buzzed. He didn’t even stop to think before pulling it out and looking at it.

Haven’t heard from u. R u okay? I’m around tonight. Wanna have a beer and talk?

There it was, another text from Kinlin. His heart immediately slowed. The pain in his chest dissipated. He read the words over and over. He couldn’t stop the smile that formed on his face. 

Atwood: Hey! Been busy. Sorry! A beer and talk sounds nice. I’ll text when I get home.


Kinlin: cool.

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Margin Call (or Shit Show)

When the stakes are this high tension is to be expected. My heart rate was slightly, just slightly, elevated the entire time I was watching Margin Call. In my opinion it is the suspense thriller for 2011; a true comment on our most recent, some would say current, state of affairs. Some might even call it a horror story.

tick tock

I’ve not really given much thought to the financial crisis and how it affects me. I’m working. I continue to make my salary and put money into savings each week. I continue to see people buying tickets to theatre, which supports my salary. I haven’t exactly been oblivious, but it’s not the first, second or sixth thing on my mind. Of course I noticed when the interest rate on my Orange ING Direct savings account dropped. There’s really nothing I can to about that though but wait for it to regain its former high. I just keep putting money into it. After watching Margin Call however, I wonder what happens to that money, my money. It’s not exactly tied up, but it’s also not exactly available. It’s floating out there in the ether. It appears on paper, but that’s about it.

tick tock

My annuity investment through my union is handled through Mercer. I don’t really understand any of it. Contributions are made in my name and an account manager at Mercer puts it into funds deemed appropriate, as I have made no suggestions. I recognize gain and loss. In the past 4 years I’ve noticed one loss in the amount. That was in the last quarter. Is the financial crisis finally catching up to me?

I have trust issues as it is. Watching the powers-that-be at MBS – the fictional financial institution in Margin Call, loosely based on Lehman Brothers – come up with the plan to save themselves at the expense of everyone else does not assuage any of those issues. In fact it fortifies them with chains of unease.

It’s cutthroat. Hide your jugular. Everyone is expendable; from the newest employee to the long-time manager to the executive to the person walking on the sidewalk 20 stories below. I’m one of those people walking on the sidewalk and I don’t like being expendable.

tick tock

When the ground is shifting under your feet, when you’re standing atop quicksand, what do you do? You unload the dead weight at what ever cost to you or the buyer. You find a scapegoat and pay them a lovely severance and allow them to walk out the door with their head hung in shame taking the blame for something that you chose to ignore. Step right up folks, get your tickets to the shit show. The warnings were there, but the money that was being made blinded you to reality. Money makes the world go ‘round. We can’t help ourselves. Money is seductive, having it intoxicating. If you made millions of dollars a year, would you want to give that up? Would you bury your conscience so deep that you were unaffected by whatever you had to do to keep making the money?

tick tock

The world is full of fat cats and starving dogs. The starving dogs are those occupying Wall Street in Zuccotti Park. – so called representatives of the 99%. The fat cats are the 1%. The owner of MBS is definitely one of the fattest of cats. He was a billionaire until the 24-hour period in which the film takes place. Now he’s just a millionaire. Forgive me if I don’t shed a tear. I don’t feel the need to become a protestor in the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’m not even sure like-minded people represent me there. I do think Margin Call will open the viewer’s eyes to what must happen behind the gray, sun-reflecting windows of the 20th floor every day. It’s a glimpse by us, the laypeople, into their world.

tick tock

What’s that sound I hear in the darkness? It’s the sound of shovel upturning earth. Is this a dream? Am I digging a hole to bury my money or is the hole being dug to bury me? Silence. The music has stopped, the wheel has stopped turning. There was a moment of complete silence around the boardroom table in the film to drive home with taut effect, “What happens when the music stops?” The music is of course a metaphor for the buying and selling, the trading, the moneymaking. What happens is shock and silence, despair and darkness.

tick tock

If the music stops, time has run out. The Merry-Go-Round ceases to make another turn. The ride is over. We’re left to get off the horse with his fake, nightmarish smile and find joy in what was, moving on to what is. Hopefully what is isn’t something that has been taken away from us without our knowledge of its happening.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Melancholia

In the new film Melancholia, written and directed by Lars von Trier, Melancholia is the name of a planet that has been hidden behind the sun and is now visible, rapidly moving toward a collision with Earth.

Melancholia (from Greek meaning sadness) according to Wikipedia is a mood disorder of non-specific depression. Dictionary terminology defines it as: a gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression. In his New York Times review, A. O. Scott quotes Freud’s description of the emotional disorder melancholia as: “a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment.”

It seems appropriate that a planet ready to wipe out our very existence would be given a name meaning depression. A gloomy state of mind with loss of interest in all activity seems par for that course.

The film is broken into two parts. “Justine” and “Claire” respectively. Justine is a girl battling her demons of depression and Claire is her sister, the one who holds it all together. In part one, we see Justine on her wedding day. Claire is trying to keep everything moving smoothly as Justine tries to just be present. In part two, we see Claire become the unhinged sister as the threat of total annihilation sets in while Justine remains calm. Inspiration for the film is said to have come from Trier's own life after suffering a depressive episode and gaining insight that depressed people remain calm in stressful situations. This makes the title an apt choice. Nothing I’m saying here is a SPOILER. All of the above plot points were revealed to me in the New York Times review.

What’s it all about? That’s a question I kept posing to myself during the first part of the film. I have to say here that I thought it was slow. I found myself interested but wishing for something to happen. I was intently watching Kirsten Dunst who plays “Justine” so as to not miss a look or breath. She has been well received in the film and already won Best Actress at Cannes. However, I found myself wishing to see Alexander Skarsgard, the man playing Justine’s husband (and the hot vampire Eric on True Blood) strip down to less than his wedding tux. Alas, we managed a glimpse of him in tuxedo shirt and boxer briefs, but that was all. Focus!

I kept thinking, “What is going on at this wedding?" "Why is she so weird?" "Why is no one talking about the planet?" Then everything changed and my reason for sticking with this film was made known.

What would you do if you knew you were going to die? In the distance, that planet you see approaching. Yeah, it’s going to hit us.

Charlotte Gainsbourg plays “Claire” and to me she was the breath of exciting air that this film needed. The moment that her story took center stage I was more intrigued. She’s a wife and a mother. She fears the approaching planet. She tries to not look up information on the Internet about its approach but fails. She can’t stop herself from viewing the planet’s ever-nearer proximity to Earth. She doesn’t want to believe the inevitable, but can’t resist. When she checks one more time to see if the planet is closer her despair is palpable. As Claire began to have trouble breathing, I found myself focusing on my own breathing. Watching her was like getting a glimpse of the way I would act should this be happening to Earth in 2011. Or for that matter December 2012. Thanks Mayan calendar. Prepare to comfort me folks. I tend to get a little unhinged myself.

If life as you know it were going to end in a matter of minutes or days, what would you do? Would you freak out? Would you remain calm? Would you cry? Would you be able to leave your house, your bed? Would you spend every moment with your family and friends? Would you be able to sleep? Would you be able to not sleep? Would you enjoy your favorite glass of red wine? Would you sing a song? Would you soak up the sun and breath the air? Would you commit suicide?

Life is fragile and precious. Do we take the time to live every moment as if it was our last? No. I don’t think most of us live as if we might not take another breath. I don’t. I get inspired to live that way when I see a film like this or hear a song about said ending, but it doesn’t always stick. Life is fleeting. It may seem like we’ve been here forever when we’re 40, 50, 80 years old, but we’re just a speck in the great scheme of life. We have to enjoy it while it lasts. Live it while we’re in it. What Claire suffered from is the fear of impending doom; it all but paralyzed her ability to continue living. I suffer from that dread when something – a spanking from my father, the results of the doctor’s exam, the rapture, a planet crashing into Earth – is pending and I have to wait for it to happen. I know it’s coming and that makes everything worse.

I’m left to ponder the question, “What would I do?” I know myself well enough to know that I would freak out. I would stress myself into a blithering heap of blood and bones, barely able to leave the house. I would probably take a sleeping pill to ensure that I calmed my anxiety-prone self into sleep. There would probably be no relief from the pain that would take up residence in my chest. That dread of impending doom. How do you even pretend to live when you know the worst is coming? Even though I know man cannot predict the rapture, I was a wreck the day of its predicted happening. I sat at my desk, the very desk where I am now writing, and I watched the still water in the glass sitting next to my computer. I thought if there was going to be an earthquake and we ascended to Christ the water would surely move. It didn’t move. I was watching for any ripple, ala Jurassic Park. Nothing happened. The appointed time came and went. The sense of relief I felt was stupid considering I had worked myself into the frenzy.

Melancholia will not be for everyone. It can be slow and tedious, but it can also be beautiful and thought provoking. The acting by its two females – especially as they change emotional positions – is the first reason to get sucked in. I do not regret watching it if for nothing more that to connect the beautiful pieces together and to see a little bit of myself that I know I should change.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Return to Winthrop St. - Part 3

When she walked into the library, Atwood took notice immediately. The library became the setting for a fantasy sequence straight out of an R-rated teen sex comedy, complete with a fan to billow her hair and a backlight to show her panties. She was tall, blond, and gorgeous; her tan, the perfect shade of brown. She looked like a typical California girl. Of course, none of that actually happened.

She noticed him and that snapped him back to reality. He smiled. She walked to the table he occupied alone and sat at the opposite end. It wasn’t long before he found himself unable to concentrate on the paper, “Voodoo in the Deep South,” he had gone to the library to write for his sociology class.

She looked in his direction and noticed that he was staring at her. It should have been creepy, but she couldn’t help but smile back. She was twirling her hair and the smile happened spontaneously. It was the worst moment for his face to flush red. Neither of them had much control over their actions in that moment. 

She grabbed her bag and books and moved down to his end of the table.

“Hi,” she said, now sitting across from him. “I’m Clancy Lord.”

“Hi, I’m Atwood Ross,” he said as he watched her continue to twirl her hair. It was clichéd that the blond girl would be sitting across from him twirling her hair, but she was. He was staring into her big green eyes, wanting to fall in, trying to stay calm.

She demurely looked down at her books as a crooked smile formed on her lips. When she returned her gaze to him her eyes seemed even bigger than before.

“I see you’re a Delta Sig,” said Clancy, indicating the insignia patch on his backpack.

“Yeah,” said Atwood completely at a loss for words. He felt so stupid. She was just a girl. Why couldn’t he talk to her?

“I’m a Delta Gamma,” said Clancy, showing him the Greek letter pendant she wore around her neck. “Do Good!”

“Sorry?” said Atwood, a little confused by her final comment.

“Oh,” she said with a laugh. “That’s our motto, Do Good!

“Oh.” Atwood smiled back at her and felt his shoulders relax a little. “Ours is Better Men, Better Lives.” Atwood cocked his head to the side slightly when he realized he had just quoted his fraternity’s motto.

“I know,” replied Clancy. “I’ve dated a couple of you guys already. You guys have ‘Better Men’ and I’m supposed to ‘Do Good’ and when we get together we can create ‘Better Lives’…at least for an hour or so.”

“I can’t believe I actually remembered our motto,” said Atwood and then her words sunk in. “Wait, what did you say?”

“I said, ‘You guys have ‘Better Men’ and I’m supposed to ‘Do Good’ and when we get together we can create ‘Better Lives’ at least for an hour or so.’”

Again his face flushed. She laughed because the reddening hadn’t gone unnoticed. How could it? His golden eyes were even more pronounced when surrounded by a red face.

“I think you’re cute, Atwood,” said Clancy. “There’s a party at the sorority house tonight.” She took out a small card and began to write on it as she spoke. “Here’s the address and my number. Come by around 9pm.” She slid the card across the table and grabbed her books and bag and stood up from the table. “It was nice to meet you, Atwood Ross. See you tonight.” She then turned and walked away.

Atwood picked up the card. It was embossed with the Delta Gamma insignia. It had the name her sorority and the address of her sorority house in bronze-colored ink. Just below the address was her phone number. He was excited. This could be just what he needed to get his mind off of Kinlin.

“Clancy Lord,” he said aloud to himself as he pocketed the card. He looked down at his nearly blank notebook page and realized he had to get to work on his report or he couldn’t even think about attending the party tonight. 

A little over halfway down Hilgard Street, Atwood stood in front of the Delta Gamma sorority house. He looked from the card to the house. The insignia was there and the house number. He was in the right place. He was nervous. He wasn’t sure why. It was only a party. Although it didn’t look like a party was going on. Maybe he was just early. Clancy had told him to stop by at 9pm. That was a little early for a party to be in full swing. He had to stop himself from his characteristic internal criticizing. He was there on time and there was nothing wrong with that.

He walked up the sidewalk toward the house—a three-story red brick mansion adorned with four white, round columns stretching from the barely-raised-off-the-ground front porch to a half-moon roof at the second level. He took in the black shutters that side-framed each window and the doghouses with their varying degree of pulled shades on the third level. The house was much larger than that of the Delta Sig Fraternity. 

“I guess girls just need more space,” he muttered aloud to himself.

He looked up to see that the ornate lighting fixture that hung from the center of the porch roof was adorned with bronze roses. The house was almost daunting and seemed empty. He couldn’t believe that a party was actually going on inside. If it hadn’t been for the many-lighted windows he would have thought the beautiful girl was playing a cruel trick on him. 

He rang the bell. As he waited for someone to open the door he checked his breath. He didn’t smell anything unpleasant, but popped a piece of gum in his mouth anyway. He should have chosen breath mints instead of gum. How annoying was he going to look to Clancy chewing gum? He didn’t have any breath mints though so gum was his option. Note to self: stop sabotaging the moment.

It seemed an eternity before Clancy opened the door. He had turned his back to it and was looking across the street when he heard her voice.

“Right on time.”

He turned around. She was standing in the doorway wearing a man’s white dress shirt, a black lacy bra peeking out from underneath. He noticed she was barefoot as he took in her smooth legs. All that was missing was a lollipop. He felt like he had just stepped into Risky Business
“Come in, Atwood,” she said, desire in her eyes and a lust for satisfaction in her body language.

“Hey,” said Atwood. “I thought you said this was a party?”

“It is a party,” replied Clancy. “Just not the kind you were expecting.”

Atwood walked into house. It appeared to be empty. Was he the sole attendee to her party? What was she planning? His heart raced with excitement peppered slightly with fear. As if on cue AC/DC’s “Back in Black” started playing. It was a little sinister and erotic at the same time. His heart continued to pound.

Clancy closed the door, then walked past him, glancing back and motioning with her head indicating that he should follow her.

He walked through the opening to his left into the living area of the sorority house. The room was painted pale blue with mahogany stained molding around the windows and doors. Ornate wainscoting in the same shade of mahogany climbed a third of the wall, surrounding the room. It was warm and inviting, the fire in the fireplace perfect for a California night.

There was another guy sitting on the overstuffed sofa. Atwood froze where he stood. Clancy had moved to the chair across from the sofa and was now sitting, looking at Atwood.

“You don’t have to be shy, Atwood,” said Clancy. “This is my friend, Bobby. Bobby Blake,” she gestured toward Atwood making introductions. “Atwood Ross.”

“Hi, Atwood.” Bobby stood and extended his hand. 

“Hi, Bobby,” said Atwood, extending his hand to Bobby’s and grasping it firmly. He was unsure of the three-person party, but that didn’t affect his manners.

Bobby was slightly taller than Atwood. He had blue/green eyes and short dark brown hair. His teeth were perfect and white and stood out amongst the scruff that darkened his face. When he smiled at Atwood during their handshake, Atwood felt immediately at ease.
“I’ve never met anyone with golden eyes before,” said Bobby.

Atwood smiled. He had heard that a lot. Golden eyes were odd, and he was used to people finding them the most interesting, or beautiful, thing about him.

“You’re right, Clance, he is cute,” Bobby said to Clancy, then he turned back to Atwood and smiled again as he sat back down on the sofa.

“I told you,” said Clancy. “Atwood, would you like something to drink?” Atwood paused. “I know we’re all underage, but there’s no need to be a prude. I have a stash of Malibu Rum and nobody’s here.”

“Sure,” said Atwood as he shrugged. He didn’t want to be a prude. He had no idea why he was there, but being a prude seemed to be the surest way to get kicked out of this party. 

Clancy brought him a glass of rum on the rocks.

“Is this straight rum?” asked Atwood.

“Yes,” replied Clancy, her eyes and mouth still seductive. “Can you handle it?”

“Clance, dial it down a little,” said Bobby.

Atwood looked at Bobby then back to Clancy before taking a drink of the rum.

“I think I can handle it.” With no immediate disposal options apparent to him he used the drink to swallow his gum. 

“Good,” said Clancy. She smiled at him and took a drink from her own glass. “Why don’t you take off your jacket and stay a while?”

Atwood took his jacket off and threw it on a chair by the opening to the living room. The music coming from unseen speakers continued to play 80s tunes. Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard filled the space with hard driving beats. Atwood tried to take in everything about the situation in which he had found himself.

Bobby and Clancy were both staring at him when his mind came back into focus.

“Sit down, Atwood,” said Bobby.

Atwood sat in the second chair opposite the sofa. 

“Not over there. Come sit over here,” Bobby said indicating the sofa with a pat of his hand on the empty space next to him. 

Caution surged through Atwood’s thoughts as he got up from the chair and sat at the end of the sofa that placed him between Bobby and Clancy, who remained seated in her chair.

“How about we play a little game?” said Clancy.

“What kind of game?” asked Atwood.

“Nothing too serious, just something that will help us loosen up.

“Loosen up? Why do we need to loosen up?” asked Atwood.

“If you have to ask that question then you need to loosen up,” replied Clancy.

“It’s okay, Atwood,” said Bobby as he gave Clancy a “take it easy” look. He then turned to face Atwood and smiled. “It’s just a little drinking game that involves fantasies and talking. It makes it easy to relax and open up and learn about each other.”

“You in?” asked Clancy. She wasn’t letting up and she wasn’t taking Bobby’s looks with any degree of seriousness. 

“Sure,” said Atwood, unsure, but proceeding. He was there. What did he have to lose? He tried to remember to keep his wits about him and to know when to say when.

“Okay,” said Clancy, her crooked smile from earlier in the day reappearing as she sat up straighter in the chair. She revealed her black panties in the process as she pulled her legs Indian style underneath her. “So this game is called ‘I Never.’ What you have to do is say something that you may or may not have done with the words ‘I Never’ in front of it. If anyone in the game has done it then they have to drink. I’ll give you an example. I never used a dildo.” 

There was a brief pause before Clancy and Bobby took a drink. Atwood was surprised to see Bobby take a drink. Bobby again smiled at him.

“So, you just learned a little bit about me…and Bobby. You now know we’ve both used a dildo before. The questions are supposed to be sexual. They don’t have to be, but only pussies play without sexual questions.” She gave him the look she had given him in the library where her eyes looked bigger than they could be. This time they also looked more seductive. She was coming on strong and Atwood was fighting the butterflies in his stomach. He wanted to let go and be part of this game—this situation—whatever it was. He hoped that if the alcohol was indeed going to relax him it would be the chloroform that would sedate the butterflies and knock them out if only for a little while.

“I’ll start,” said Clancy. Neither of the boys in the room was surprised by her willingness to begin. Atwood had known this girl for less than eight hours, but knew already she was used to getting what she wanted. Example number one was the fact that he had shown up at the sorority house tonight. He realized that she knew he would come as soon as she had given him her card.

“I never sucked a cock before,” said Clancy as she stared at both of them. She surprised herself by keeping a straight face.

She was the first to move her glass toward her mouth. From his peripheral vision Atwood saw movement next to him. He turned to see Bobby also taking a drink. He wasn’t sure he wanted to divulge that information about himself yet, but he couldn’t stop his arm from moving his own glass to his lips.

“Really?” said Bobby, surprise in his voice, a devilish grin on his face.

Atwood heard him, but chose not to acknowledge his words. He could, however, tell from the tone that they were accompanied by a smile.

“Bobby,” said Clancy, indicating that he should go next.

“I never had a 3-way.”

He was drinking almost before the words were out of his mouth. Clancy too took a drink. Atwood sat motionless on the sofa. He couldn’t drink. He had never experienced a 3-way. He had watched a 3-way in porn before, but that didn’t count in this game. He did notice that Clancy gave Bobby an interesting look. Interesting was the best way he could describe it because he had no idea what it meant.

“Your turn, Atwood,” said Bobby.

Atwood didn’t really know what to say. He hadn’t had that many experiences. He didn’t think under-the-bra action at prom was likely to illicit much more than laughter from his new sexually adventurous acquaintances.

“I never…” he paused. “I never kissed my best friend.”

Bobby smiled while Clancy laughed. Bobby gave another one of his looks and she acknowledged him this time by dialing down the laugh and taking a drink. Bobby also took a drink. Atwood smiled a shy smile and shook his head as he too took a drink.

Thirty minutes later and drink number two, Bobby and Clancy were playing to Atwood’s strengths. The questions had become less sexual in an effort to keep him drinking. He was aware of the change at its beginning, but now that the rum was coursing through his blood stream—chasing away his fear—he was just having a good time.

“Hotel California” was filling the room with its guitar interlude when Clancy moved to the sofa. She sat between Bobby and Atwood. She started to kiss Bobby. Atwood watched like a voyeur. His eyes were slits, his mouth in a half-smile. From the guitar strains of “Hotel California” to the bluesy chords of “Sweet Emotion” the atmosphere in the room changed again as he felt a hand on his leg. He thought it was Clancy, but when he looked down he saw that it wasn’t a feminine hand.

He looked at Bobby and Clancy kissing next to him and saw that Bobby was looking at him. His head was cocked slightly to the side so that he could see Atwood while kissing Clancy. It was Bobby’s hand that was rubbing his thigh.

Atwood didn’t know what to do. He wanted to be in the moment, be part of the situation. He wanted to let go and succumb to the passion that might await him. Flashes of Kinlin flickered behind his eyes. He didn’t know why. Kinlin was being distant. Kinlin had already made out with two girls at Elmhurst. This moment was Atwood’s. It was real, and it was happening. He could be a pussy and not participate or he could be the luckiest 18-year old at UCLA.

“Fuck you, Kinlin,” he mouthed barely audible.

Atwood took Bobby’s hand from his thigh and placed it firmly on his crotch. Bobby squeezed the hardness under his hand and kissed Clancy harder. There was nothing to lose. The alcohol had indeed knocked out the butterflies while giving him the courage to experience whatever this experience was to be.

Atwood sunk down a little into the sofa and placed his own hand on top of Bobby’s so that they caressed Atwood’s cock together. Before he knew what was happening there were lips on his cock and lips on his lips. He didn’t remember pulling his pants down let alone off, but he was naked. Clancy was naked and Bobby was naked. They were still on the sofa in the living room. Atwood wondered what would happen if anyone walked in, but the clutter in his mind became clear as he put one hand on Clancy’s breast and the other on Bobby’s cock. His breathing was fast and hard. He was losing his grip on reality. Was this happening? Was this real? He was trying to live in it.

He let go of Bobby’s cock and used his now free hand to push Bobby’s face from his own. He stared into Bobby’s eyes then looked down at his cock. Bobby took the hint and moved forward. Atwood took Bobby into his mouth like a starving child. He licked and sucked like his life depended on it. Bobby moaned. They were all drunk. The alcohol should have slowed down the orgasm, but it didn’t.

Bobby threw his head back as the sounds of mad passion broke forth from his throat and the spasm of climax shot into Atwood’s mouth. Unaware of any other choice but to swallow, Atwood swallowed, as did Clancy when Atwood lost complete control at the peak of ecstasy.

Bobby leaned down and kissed Atwood deep as if he wanted to taste himself in Atwood’s mouth. Atwood could see Clancy smiling with satisfaction at what they’d done. He leaned forward and kissed her. She took him by the back of the head and plunged her tongue deep into his mouth. He welcomed her intrusion even as he felt she would suck the tongue from his mouth. 

Bobby moved into the space left vacant by Atwood’s forward move. From behind him he placed his hands around Atwood, one on his stomach, the other on his chest. He began kissing Atwood’s neck. Atwood could feel Bobby’s cock, hard again, pressing into his back. His own cock stiffened. 

“Welcome To The Jungle” filled the room with a wild soundtrack cue for the scene they were in.

Bobby reached down and took hold of Atwood’s cock and Atwood reached forward and slipped two fingers inside Clancy. Her sharp intake of breath was not lost on him. He didn’t know how he knew what to do, but he used his thumb the massage her sensitivity. She rocked against him.

Clancy’s eyes were staring intently past Atwood. He realized that she was staring at Bobby. She was thrusting hard against Atwood’s fingers without breaking her gaze. Bobby had now removed his left hand from Atwood’s chest and had found his way to the spot that gave Atwood sensations he had never experienced.

How am I here, he thought to himself. What am I doing? Living was the word that popped into his head.

While stroking Atwood’s cock, Bobby slipped a finger inside of him. It hurt transiently then felt amazing. His body tingled. It was alive with pleasure. Atwood couldn’t stop himself from rocking back and forth on Bobby’s finger as Bobby continued stroking his cock. 

It was hard for Atwood to concentrate on what he was doing. Thankfully Clancy took charge of her own climax. Her breath began to quicken, her body to shudder as she moaned through her closed mouth. Atwood was in such a state of frenzy that he couldn’t hold on any longer. His entire body convulsed as he came. He felt Bobby’s finger inside of him as his pulsing tightened around it.

He was spent. Exhausted. He fell back against Bobby who wrapped him in his arms. Clancy wore the elated smile of a girl who’d just gotten everything she wanted. She also looked like she wanted a cigarette, but maybe that was just an image the movies had placed in Atwood’s head.

“So, Atwood,” said Clancy. “Are you glad you came to the party?”

He couldn’t resist the smile that formed on his droopy-eyed face. “More than you know.”

“Good,” she replied looking past him to Bobby. “We’ll have to do it again. What do you say, Bobby? Would you be up for another ‘party’?”

His eyes twinkled when he smiled. “That goes without saying.” He kissed Atwood’s neck. Goose flesh bumped over Atwood’s body.

“Well then, I think we have to make that happen,” she said as she stood up, put on the white dress shirt and began buttoning it. “Leave me your number, Atwood.”

When Atwood and Bobby were dressed the three of them stood looking at each other. There was just enough rum left in each of their glasses to have a final shot. They clinked their glasses and downed the rum.


Atwood wrote his number on the back of one of Clancy’s cards. Bobby was going to stay for a while longer. Atwood wondered if the two of them were going to fuck after he left. It didn’t matter; he was just curious. As he picked up his jacket and made his was to the door “Cum On Feel The Noize” began playing on the hidden sound system. He shook his head and laughed to himself, said goodbye to Bobby and Clancy and left the Delta Gamma house.

©2011 Michael Rohrer