‘You guys need to have babies!'
There isn't so much a conversation going on as a Southern-drawled swish of absurd anomalies. The dueling of Deliverance banjos delivered by way of Alan's post-holiday arrival — steeped in the colloquialism of political moonshine acquired from just being in Georgia too long — is having its airtime in our living room, buffeted by the equally abrasive laughter of the Sexy Savannah and buffered by my own shaking head. Some birther litany splatters the walls with nitroglycerin pellets about Liberia and Monrovia and other pointed unspeakables meant for laptop rifles on front-porch rocking chairs, and I — knowing the futility of lying across the tracks of unintended performance art — say nothing. What would Ma Kettle do?
"First of all, we have babies and they are eating your hair," I point out the canine accessories snuffing out Savannah's roots. "And if we were to spawn, however unlikely said sperm-on-sperm action might be, they would likely live in bipolar cages of feral uncertainty. They might even be fat."
"But they would be soooo cute!" Savannah's eyes stay wide. "If you weren't Alan's boyfriend, I would be Alan's girlfriend."
Rather than surrender to the procreative impulses of 1822 presidential colonialism, or whatever this moment has become, Savannah and I are on a far more modern path toward making something out of nothing: a night out, if you will; on the town, if you must. Specifically, the ongoing tetherball swing of one of Orlando's most recognizable squawks of frequency modulation — the one that has found her bleached voice back on the morning airwaves of Real Radio as a part-time, reborn Monster — means that, for the sake of promotion, she's got to be somewhere public so that people can look at her. And even in the coldest of snaps, riding sidesaddle with her right now sounds more appealing than riding the teabagging face of Larry Kudlow. She's calling it her "food tour." I'm calling it a way out.
"Will there be eating?" I grimace. Silence.
Tonight's event doesn't feel very promising at first. Johnny's Other Side, a recent "healthier" overflow addition to the tattooed burger biker-isms of Johnny's Fillin' Station, is not a packed house of ogling admirers, but rather an empty porch with space heaters and a backyard with a fire pit. There will, of course, be s'mores.
Savannah's been plucked to promo their half-off Tuesdays, a night that the manager-apparent, Andy, tells us usually draws a good crowd of up to 60 hungry people with an affinity for affordable fractions. Tonight's arctic blast could be a hindrance, his face divulges, but that's not enough to freeze out our inspired rebuilding of her brand.
"You know, you could really spice things up by taking half off," I stage mom. "It's your tits or your cooch," I clarify.
Instead, the frigid jawing of outdoors business conversation traverses the middlebrow of other potential attractions, like cornhole.
"What's cornhole?" Savannah blows.
"Ah, the old beanbag in the hole for drunks," I light a seasoned cigarette. "Known now prominently for its ease of competitive maneuvering for heterosexual tailgaters, the origin of the sport lies in the darkest crevices of only the seediest bathhouses."
"I'm not taking my top off, Billy," Savannah's eyes widen more.
After a few minutes, it becomes apparent that the entire evening is going to dangle in that sublime space between enjoyment and obligation, meaning there will be no rampant exhibitionism to make the slow-ticking clocks cover their faces or the Pink Floyd and "sports" soundtracking blur away into an amyl haze. This is just life, life on a Tuesday night. Just a few "Hey, what's up?"s and some awkward stares. So, life it is, then.
"I was just talking to a friend about how she's marrying an older man, you know, because he's stable," our own performance art becomes vaguely personal. "I don't know if I can do that. I mean, I like young drunk losers. Do I want to end up like that?"
"Um, I have."
"But Alan's hot!"
"Well, would you prefer skydiving at 60?" I would love to see that. "Do you have any other options?"
"Well, there is this girl …"
"A LIBERIAN!? I mean, you're a lesbian??"
"No, silly," we both acknowledge that that's one two many "L"s for this go-round and order an appetizer.
"How's your tater tot?" Savannah stares down my gumming of deep-fried root.
"Tater tight!" I become my surroundings, stirring Savannah's signature laugh back out from its momentary lapse into realization.
For the next two hours, we'll enjoy the easy-speak of conversation for regular people, occasionally inviting intruders into our fray for abridged vignettes on Savannah's personal Lifetime movie — "I've been a lot of things: an air traffic controller, an alligator wrestler, an oyster shucker" — while nodding and laughing through theirs. Grumble, grumble, domestic squabble in a hotel room, grumble, grumble, drinking problem, grumble, grumble, Van Halen, grumble, grumble, Dancers Royale. Life isn't very interesting when it's set to 35 degrees, it turns out, and neither are we.
"Maybe we should have a tater tight contest wherein women carry fried potatoes under the folds of their breasts across some kind of gooey threshold?" I offer in vain.
Instead, we end up thawing ourselves in Johnny's heated VIP living room, slumping across leather couches while two other regular guys slurp down filets in the flat-screen glow of The Biggest Loser. There's irony in here, perhaps even a future event ("the biggest gainer" is thrown around), but there are also 500-pound twins on the show from Orlando being forced to take their shirts off.
"You see?" I check my phone for a call from Alan. "That's what our babies would be like."firstname.lastname@example.org