I am a skin sock, a body bag, a frozen chicken breast with the tooth-cracking crisp of microwaved edges tonight, and it's getting me nowhere. Outside the dribbled humidity spit of random progress beads on windshields waiting to be wiped with the bugs and the bird shit, while here, in here, in this gaping void of a heart-bone-connected-to-the-brain-bone, words like entropy and atrophy wind around this spent spinal husk whooping up hollow echoes and occasional cracks in an effort to simulate life in a coffin. Everything is gauzy slow motion, the dull throb of defeat, the bees missing knees, the nose smelling toast. That should be reason enough to keep me prostrate on this couch forever, that and the dull buzz of my imaginary EKG, but it's not. I know I have a little life in me yet. I know I have a lot of strength left. Thump. Thump.
"Need a date?" Anna shocks defibrillation through my iPhone. "I just got my hair did!"
"I think I just died," I numb-thumb back. "So, yes!"
To be clear, it's not actually me rattling the rusty gates of the junkyard in the sky tonight, nor are those my ashes-to-ashes grating rashes between the devil's broken toes. The end that is clearly in sight is for this weekly ruse of night life bonhomie that's hacked and scratched its way through 10 years and half-a-million words about standing in big rooms with small numbers of people and shrinking in anxiety while the ends of my hair break off. Speaking of, this column ends and breaks off next week (applause!).
So, I'm losing a limb and gaining numerous phantom itches, probably, but for now it's just that rather daft feeling of disbelief suspended over an ocean of silence. That and a dandruff denouement dash of feeling sorry for myself.
"I think I made the right decision," my face elongates into a silent "Scream." "I never wanted to be that 40-year-old guy standing in bars and feigning relevance."
Anna can't be bothered with my face. She's got the passenger-side visor down to stare into her own rebirth.
"My boss surprised me with a makeover today," she drolls from beneath her dark bangs. "I'm not sure that's a good thing."
It probably is. Appropriately, tonight is all about makeovers. Pulse — the mystical, magical neighborhood gay bar that emerged on South Orange Avenue from the ashes of an Italian restaurant at which I used to work the door — has had enough of its tri-polar, three-roomed self after the better part of decade, and, out of nowhere, has decided on a minimizing, two-roomed facelift. What's more, there's a VIP party for the shiny shirts of the gay mafia and I'm invited! God, I'm going to miss this.
"What's your first name?" the valet standing next to the sticker on my bumper with my name on it posits.
"Oh, I read your column!" He doesn't.
Inside, with all the other 40-year-olds feigning relevance, the mingle-dance begins; it's a familiar two-step, one with cut-out adhesive feet seemingly stuck to gay floors, each adventure chosen ending in a condo or botox or an asymmetric shirt silkscreen or my hairdresser.
"You're 80!" Joel stares down a former client before staring back at the recession of my hairline. "I can't make you look 50!"
Alarmed, Anna and I scuttle off to a quiet corner to take in the surrounding Pulse transfusion. Wisely, the bar has segued away from the schizophrenia of it's former self, replacing its space-age tendencies of white walls that change color here and mini-Moulin Rouge theater there by tearing down the wall between them and creating a large open space orbed with Chinese light balloons.
"They're lanterns," Anna corrects. "But you can call them light balloons."
Regardless of the newly soft-lit coziness and its resultant titter of comfortable Armistead Maupin austerity, we're both fidgeting for a way out, not unlike two trembling tears in an anesthetized eye socket. So we head for what's left, what hasn't been touched: the black room.
"Looks like we're safe in here," I point to a hole in an exposed duct. "Not everything is better."
"Well, you know, Rome." Anna was not built in a day. "So I was just talking to my mom about the possibility of me finding a girlfriend. She was not into it. Nobody trusts bisexuals. We're like unicorns. Nobody believes in us."
Our unexpected stumble into the murky sociological waters of bisexuality and black light fantasy is only made more confusing by the addition of my hairdresser's boyfriend. He wants a cigarette. He wants to talk.
"I heard you're giving up your column," he chatters. "Must be for a good reason."
Before I can respond with either a mirror or a tear, his monologue shifts to some lengthy discussion of piloting and drugs and the hyperawareness of gay men while standing atop a needle balanced on the fraying tightrope of binary stereotypes. "I think too much," he dismounts.
I know the feeling.
As the queer mafia congeals into a Cartier mist in the main room, I'm snapped back into my own body bag of worthless discussions by a version of myself from 10 years ago, only in this incarnation he's wearing hipster knickers and is called — forgive me Lord — Jamesson Beane.
"How have you been?" he turns into an unforgiving mirror to my bar-left.
"Put some pants on!" I old man.
"I'm wearing pants!" he titters. "They're Marc Jacobs."
Grumble, grumble. "What year?"
And then his face goes white, while mine pulses to healthy pink. Or grey. Or formaldehyde green.
"I don't know. I got them at Dechoes," he sees his future of running mascara disappointment and second-hand labels and doesn't like it anymore.
This woman's work is almost done: "I know I have a little life in me yet. I know I have a lot of strength left."firstname.lastname@example.org