"You need to learn C.P.T.," Eddie late-drips in the drizzle of another trivial Wednesday night.
"Is that a pregnancy test?" I pursue.
"No, it's colored people time."
See, Eddie's black, which means that he shits the obvious before anybody else on the demographic rainbow curve can play it to their advantage. It's harmless, really, like when I effuse about the balls-in-my-mouth, Scott Maxwell-in-the-bathroom hijinks that led to the birth of our imaginary brood of neglected children. Nobody gets hurt.
But something tonight is pointing toward pain, or rather Church Street. O-Rock sideburn Drew Garabo plays host to the Big Belly Brewery middlebrow weekly, I'm told, picking their lobotomies for remnant factoids of "trivia" while the girls who couldn't make the Hooters cut traipse their cooter-cutters around the barn with never-ending pitchers of Miller Lite. It's all very intriguing in an anthropological way, so I've picked this particular crime scene as this week's place to die.
"I just don't know where to be!" I whine as we shuffle our way into the door and through the masses.
"Over there," Eddie fingers in the direction of a door with a dog on it. "Over there by the stripper pole, behind the door with the dog on it."
He's clearly mistaken my existential indecision with a urination situation, but either way it's probably good advice. Any sort of stall security would be an improvement over the glares of queer hatred and subsequent glares of smart-phone text messages driving my current bladder-bust torture to distraction. Eddie makes some poetic observation about a "sea of plastic cups with nothing going on" — something that would have been much hotter in a football locker room, mind — and I just stand there and stare at the bar trivia screen blankly, pretending to try to figure out exactly which company revived the British chocolate industry with the introduction of a candy bar.
"You're black," I shit chocolate.
"And you're stupid."
This isn't going very well. Up in the DJ booth, Drew is spinning new oldies like "Teenage Dirtbag" and "Ants Marching" while wrestle-shouting sundry epithets about trivia and competition over the balding heads of the hops hounds, and I'm doing my best at fly-on-wall anonymity. Nobody. Knows. I'm. Here.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a real live journalist in the house and he's doing some research on how to be heterosexual!" Drew casts a booming voice and a beaming gaze in my direction. "So let's show him what it's really like. Let's show him how to rock and roll!"
Then he plays "The Reflex" and proceeds to make fun of me. This. Means. War.
"Am I the only one who didn't know that Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) used to be in the Housemartins?" he happy-hours over to me.
"Yes," my eyes roll. "Hey, this is my friend Eddie. He wants to give you a blow job in the bathroom. Why don't you get on that big ol' PA of yours and finally come out of the closet?"
"If I were going to come out, it certainly wouldn't be at Big Belly," he blushes.
"Why not?" I swish some beer champagne from cheek to cheek. "I'm pretty sure I came out under a big belly."
Tasty. Anyway, what follows is a bizarre '80s trivia-off between self- proclaimed Thompson Twins fan Drew Garabo and myself, one that travels the depths of Men Without Hats, the Lightning Seeds, Scritti Politti and, alas, the Blow Monkeys. Tragically, I'm victorious, at least at being the whitest gay guy with the worst CD collection in all of tarnation, but you've got to pick your battles, right?
"I need to pick my weave," blacks Eddie, whose hair is quite short. "And I have to pee."
So there we are, behind the door with the dog on it, staring at what might be an alchemist's special laboratory for crafting heterosexuality and/or killing ovaries. A professional bag of tricks — Drakkar Noir, Joop, CK One … Right Guard — is being emptied onto the counter by a toilet watcher who only seems to be able to speak in bursts of vowels. "Ooooh, ooooh!" he says to every straight guy who doesn't wash his hands for fear of having to pay a tip to do so.
On the wall above the urinal, a sign reads "Lost Dog: Three legged, blind in one eye, missing left ear, broken tail, recently castrated. Answers to ‘Lucky,'" and I'm starting to get a little squeamish. Like, Klan squeamish.
"Did somebody just say ‘date rape?'" Eddie shivers as we exit the pee-hole.
"Oooh," I self-lubricate. "Can I get a date rape and ginger ale?"
Back in the throes, the triviality is winding down ("alder" is a type of tree, "edify" is to instruct, etc.) and is eventually won by somebody who operates outside Drew's — and the bar's — demographic: an older gentleman who might do your taxes or check your teeth. He grabs his DVD/T-shirt booty and makes haste toward the door. Fearing hetero fallout, we follow suit.
Out on the cobblestones, a freight train screams its bloody commerce murder, and I start to contemplate ending either my life or my column right here. I charge across the tracks against Eddie's warning, clearing it by, say, 20 feet. "Wouldn't it be great if I just died at the end of a column?" I nonsense between cars at Eddie. He doesn't hear me. Maybe I am dead.
But I'm not. In fact, I've just bumped into Scott Maxwell at the Peacock Room and made an ass of myself again. Gotta run!
Better go on home and check my E.P.T.email@example.com