Sometimes it takes a little more than a swig of hooch and a Google map to catalyze this weathered Q-Tip into a directional purpose frenzy. As inertia would have it, my ass has been growing roots into the couch while my inner-circle poem has been descending in disappearing loops of caramelized woe and chagrin … again. Fortunately, there's a giant television box that's veritably pixilated with foreign conflicts of the plaintive variety, each vignette presenting itself with a greater and greater imperative to be alive against the odds. Films like Tall Dark and Deadly, A Job to Kill For and my personal favorite, Shattered Innocence — the saccharined tale of leg-spreader Shauna Grant and her early-'80s cocaine descent into porn unreliability — have been lighting up my day with a whole Lifetime I never knew about. I could get out more.
"I think for the sake of our family and Jesus Christ himself," I snivel to an arriving Karen Leigh, "that we'd better live tonight as if it were the most important Lifetime movie ever."
"So, um," she gingerly tilts her head forward, obviously aware of the weight that sits before her, "we should drive over somebody and think that it was just a raccoon, thereby setting off a series of investigations that could lead to your miscarriage and my drowning in a yacht?"
"Exactly," I grip at my Google map and briskly exit the front door. "There is drama to be had."
The trouble is, where we're going has a tendency to feel like nowhere. George Michael — he of the bathroom sex and doobage tabloid drama, not made for TV — is playing at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight, and although the predictability of my presence there goes without saying, the fact that I already went there almost exactly 20 years ago makes internal reconciliation dubious. It's like I'm caught in a two-decades-wide hamster wheel and only now beginning to realize that this pace I'm keeping is one of muted tragedy, always ending in a "Careless Whisper" that I've already heard before. Sigh.
"But I didn't get to go 20 years ago," Karen snaps me from my cyclical descent. "And I still have my ticket. So for me, this is a lifelong dream come true! Or something."
Barring a wayward raccoon, that'll have to do. Karen rattles on about her own cubicle dramas for the majority of our sojourn while my iPod gently weeps its way through the increasingly hair-covered Wham-to-George-Michael oeuvre. There are drips of conflict and resolution everywhere but no one cup in which to keep them, drink them and make them my own. When do I get to fall apart in a grand, overarching "You don't understand me! They think I'm beautiful and I don't care what you think!" What about my reaching for the gun in the closet while the shoulder strap of my negligee drifts down to my scarred forearm? I want my "One More Try" from my "Different Corner," so that I can someday kill a "Father Figure" and end up with "Freedom," around, say 1990. I want "Everything She Wants." It's on now, you know.
"This song reminds me of my yacht," I stretch my imagination into a lifestyle with which I would be more comfortable.
"You don't have a yacht," Karen ruins everything. "But I think you just ran over something."
Before the show, Karen and I settle into the Icons Lounge on the second floor for a bout with food, liquor and some storyboarding. Our waiter has a pockmarked face and can't seem to walk straight. He's a killer, obviously, still living in his mother's basement, where he keeps a curio cabinet full of stained pink underpants from deceased transvestite prostitutes. We both nod in his direction, acknowledging that we know his story all too well.
Next, a gay crew from Orlando shows up, headed by my beloved man-crush, Tadpole, and approaches our table. One of them, with all due hilarity, recalls overhearing me giving an etiquette lesson at the Peacock Room about how insulting it is not to swallow. Indeed.
"I haven't seen you out," Tadpole simmers. "Where have you been?"
"How did you find me here? You weren't supposed to know," I live a Lifetime in my head. "Besides, the baby is doing fine in Bulgaria and the loot is stashed safely away inside a cliff in Costa Rica. I will call you when I need you. Humph."
With a frazzled flip of my remaining four hairs, we make our way into the arena with all the other middle-aged wives with strap-up jeans and gay husbands. George Michael takes the stage with some of his own controversy in tow (he has a "cold" brought on by "air conditioning"), but ultimately delivers the most magnificent journey through melodramatic self-affliction imaginable. And for the better part of two hours, I'm a flailing tantrum of broken mirrors and liquor-drenched stockings; a pretty mess made for small-screen viewing.
"I love yeeeeeeeeeeeeeew!" The squeals from the mom behind me don't even make me mad, they just make me competitive.
"I love you mooore!" I approximate the exploding jukebox from "Freedom 90," slamming my hands together like a couple of pans with no feeling. And in a moment of clarity, I look down to see that the wedding ring on my one hand has left a welt in the corner of my other. Amazing.
"I've got my drama!" I shake Karen nonsensically, in a manner she doesn't immediately approve of. "Bruised by Diamonds!"
My Lifetime is complete. Now, where's that email@example.com