"Can you hold back my pubes?" Taylor conjures a nauseous cheerleader's scrunchy whilst marveling at his follicular fantastic. "I've got to pee."
We've convened in the hallowed urinal halls of Revolution's big gay men's room not so much out of physical necessity — obstructive harpy notwithstanding — as out of a higher need to establish just what it is that's going on. There's a benefit tonight, and creeping in from beneath the bathroom door are the thumping, predatory tones of hairstyled night life nearing its bump-and-go apex like it always does. But there's also this nervousness, this tiptoeing over fragile subject matter littered haphazardly over the past 25 years for fear of stumbling over an ethical land mine. In the post-post sense, we don't really want to go too far.
"You sure do write about AIDS a lot," Taylor shakes then zips.
"Mmmm, AIDS," I squeeze out the last of my dignity. "I could sure use a bump of AIDS right now."
Ouch. With all due deference, the intention of tonight's festivities is to raise some $5,000 for a team of bicyclists riding the 165-mile stretch from Miami to Key West in the name of philanthropy. Perennial local lipstick chanteuse — and sister of the bleach — Baby Blue has assembled a group that doesn't include her to wedge bike seats into their asses for two long days for the fifth annual Southernmost AIDS/HIV Ride, or SMART Ride, in an attempt to wipe out the evil scourge. In order to make it all happen, there's a show scheduled in Revolution's Majestic Theatre that will largely feature people wearing wigs and moving their mouths to prerecorded music, probably making bawdy statements and possibly eliciting tears. Hooray!
The trouble is that by now we're all cackling jackals incapable of even the slightest reverence; we've turned taboo into tattoo in the most self-serving tumbleweed of postmodern escapism imaginable. We blow things up to laugh at the pieces and we know no consequence. Or is that just me? I hate myself right now.
"I put on a few pounds, but then I found sweet, chocolatey AIDS!" I blow up. "Now I'm the same weight as when I was 12!"
"Have you heard my new band?" Taylor finds a piece to laugh at. "We're T-Cell and the Viral Loads."
A floppy-haired twink named Joey enters the fray to wash his hands and doesn't know whether to laugh or not. Eventually he does.
OK, I hate everybody. To be fair, AIDS isn't in the least bit funny. I lost my stepbrother to the disease in 1990 just as I was coming out, and have since trod lightly through the Stonewall remains of the mortally wounded gay psyche, ticking off friends along the way. But after a while, everything just sort of sifts into the landscape and becomes indistinguishable from everything else. A plant is an asshole is the sky is a disease. You point. You laugh. You move along.
So let's move along, shall we?
"Billy Manes!" belches a bewigged Tweeka Weed from the lectern at the theater entrance. "Give me $10. I've got AIIIIIIIDDDSS!"
OK, all bets are off. AIDS is the gay N-word, and everything is fair game. Taylor and I squeeze ourselves into the VIP cubbyhole, naturally renaming it the "HIV" section, and get down to the business of ridding ourselves of all the hideous, dangerous puns occupying our ribcages like victims nervously laughing at the deaths of their families.
"I am positive that this is going to be a great night," Taylor spits.
"I'm not," I swallow.
But it is. Because AIDS has been around so long, maybe the whole polyurethane shield of reverence has peeled away a little, but that's not to say that there isn't genuine concern underneath. The room is packed, after all, and just because Tweeka is ripping off her wig and sporting a dress that looks like an extended skid mark, that doesn't mean that her sloppy heart is not in the right sloppy place. Maybe we just all need to laugh a little. Like right now.
Baby Blue gets on stage for a tiny rant about how she's going to be the one at each of the bikers' stops holding out a reprieve cigarette. "It's not cancer, right?" she quips. The room cackles.
More performances follow — some hilarious (Miss Sammy's take on the Winehouse "Rehab"), some saccharine (folk songs and piano balladry) — as does a moment of silence inevitably broken by an explosion in Taylor's mouth. At some point, the door to the disco swings open and introduces a Pussycat Dolls chorus of "Be careful what you wish for 'cause you just might get it," leading us into an ill-advised discussion of why we just haven't. Tweeka makes a "poot" noise and divulges that she's just queefed on Wayburn Sassy. There are pieces. They are laughed at. Good night.
Outside on the patio, I try to cram ice cubes into the hole in the crotch of Taylor's jeans while he talks about weed on the phone to nobody. Not everything is so serious. In fact, nothing is.
"You're welcome," he smirks, plucking a lone pubic hair and dropping it in my drink.