Authors: Marshall Thornton
“You can stay here, if you want.”
“I’m not really up for—”
Lionel made a frowning face. “On the couch. You can stay here on the couch.”
Since I was too lazy and too sick to call an Uber, I said, “Okay.”
“Good. I’m going to go put on something more comfortable and then we’ll watch a movie.”
“Do you have pay-per-view? There’s a new
“There’s always a new
movie. No, we’re going to watch something that’s actually good,” he said, then left the room.
Whatever he thought was really good was probably going to be really bad. But it didn’t matter. I was actually feeling comfortable on the couch. I kind of liked being there. Even the red walls were growing on me. They were kind of scary in the daytime, but at night they made things seem sort of warm.
I wasn’t sure what I was doing. No, wait, maybe I was. I felt bad because Chuckie had been such an asshole. Taking Lionel out for dinner was a way to make it up to him. And if I got laid again in the process, that was okay, too. No harm no foul.
Of course, this wasn’t working out the way it was supposed to. He hadn’t agreed to have dinner yet and now he was taking care of me while I was sick. If I wanted to make everything up to him, it was going to have to be a really nice dinner. If I could just get him to agree to it.
Right then, he came out of the bedroom wearing pink bunny pajamas and carrying a blanket and pillow. He tossed the bedding onto the sofa and said, “You can take your uniform off. I’ll even turn around if you want.”
“You don’t have to,” I said and started taking off my baseball shirt. “You told me I shouldn’t be shy, remember?”
“Yes, I remember lots of things.”
Across from the couch sat an old armoire. Lionel opened it and there was a small TV, with a cheap, tiny DVD player beneath it. Every other spare inch of the armoire was filled with DVDs. Without looking back at me he said, “I’m into DVDs. I know it’s weird. So old-school. But I don’t have cable or pay-per-view or even Netflix. I just have my movies.”
He turned around to catch me in my boxer briefs and wifebeater. He took a good long look and seemed to enjoy it. I don’t know why, but I grabbed the blanket and wrapped it around me. That made him smirk and made me feel stupid.
“Do you like Joan Crawford?”
“Is she the one who has the brother named John?”
“No, that’s Cusack. You don’t know who Joan Crawford is, do you?”
I shook my head.
“Well, my dear, be prepared to have your world rocked. We’re going to watch the most fabulous movie ever made,
. The story of a woman who’s child is the most evil daughter in the world and yet Mildred still loves her enough to confess to a murder she didn’t commit. It’s stupendous. My favorite kind of movies are the ones where women do bad things.”
I had no idea what to say to that. Why would that be anyone’s favorite kind of movie? But it didn’t matter. He started the film and ten minutes later I was fast asleep.
Oh my Gawd, he kissed me. The fact that nearly four hours later I was still daydreaming about it was utterly ridiculous. Seriously, we’d fucked. Twice. Why was I getting all worked up about a single kiss for heaven’s sake? But I was. He slept for nearly ten hours on my sofa and when he woke up he said he was feeling better. I made him another cup of tea, this time without whiskey, and a bowl of Count Chocula. He barely finished either since he had to call an Uber and get to work.
Right before he walked out the door to wait at the curb for his ride, he grabbed me, pulled me close and leaned in. For the tiniest moment, I thought he might not kiss me, after all. But then he pressed his lips against mine. They were hard at first, tight, tentative, careful. But then they loosened, relaxed, as though they suddenly felt safe, as though they’d found home. He tasted of tea and chocolate cereal and toothpaste, since I’d let him borrow my toothbrush. I mean why not? We’d kissed the week before. It was practically the same thing, after all.
And, the smell of him. He’d showered but still wore his softball uniform, so he smelled of body wash and perspiration, grass and shampoo, sweat and old cologne. And beneath all of that was a warm, doughy, sweet smell that was, I don’t know what, maybe it was pheromones or hormones or some secret, wonderful smell that only he had. I couldn’t get enough of it.
His tongue slipped into my mouth, teasing, tickling, coaxing. I flicked my tongue against his, then I pushed back, eased my tongue into his mouth, and prodded, examined, searched every tiny speck of it. When I was done I ran my tongue around the inside of his lips, around in a circle, it was a sensitive spot. He quivered and stepped back in surprise. I pulled him back to me, held him pressed up against me and wouldn’t let go.
He’s quite a bit more substantial than I am and I liked that. Big arms, big shoulders, big chest. I liked holding onto him. Liked moving him where I wanted him. Liked when he pushed back. He’s not much taller than I am, but he is wide and thick. Very much a ballplayer’s body. Well, the one’s I’d seen on the news. Or on the Internet.
The night before, after Dog fell asleep, I went and got my tablet. While still watching the movie, I looked up the rules to softball and found some pictures. The pictures were far more interesting than the rules. The good players were usually stocky, broad, sexy guys. That might not have been my type before, but it was well on its way to becoming my type.
Dog pushed away from me, stared at me closely with a questioning look, like he’d been surprised by the kiss—I’d certainly been surprised by it—then said, “I’m taking you to dinner whether you say yes or not.”
“Dinner and a kidnapping. What more could a girl ask for?”
I saw him hesitate, briefly, maybe because I’d just called myself a girl. But then he plunged onward.
“Sure. I don’t have to work until Thursday.”
“Good. I’ll be here after my shift. Between seven thirty and seven forty-five.”
And then he was gone, leaving me standing there with my tongue metaphorically hanging out. Well, maybe literally, too. I was going to dinner with him. That was fucking amazing.
A couple hours later, Carlos picked me up in Frida the Fiesta to do my weekly shopping. He’d named the beat-up, ramshackle car after his idol Frida Kahlo. A disastrous choice. Anyone who saw the Selma Hayek bio-pic knows that Frida Kahlo had dreadful health issues all her life. And so did Frida the Fiesta.
Seriously, it was a terrible car. The vinyl seats were ripped and the transmission only had three working gears out of five. Carlos had stripped out the other two and, as he shifted from first to third to fourth, it wasn’t hard to see how he’d done it. Still, we weren’t walking and we weren’t going far.
I live a half a mile from Ghetto Ron’s, so named because it used to be the absolute worst store in the Ron’s supermarket chain in the absolute worst neighborhood. Now the neighborhood was up-and-coming and the store had been completely redone, so it was the nicest Ron’s you could find. But the name stuck. It would always be Ghetto Ron’s.
“Dog came over,” I said, as Carlos ground his way into first and pulled away from the curb.
“Dios mio, Lynette, did you fuck him?”
“No, I kissed him.”
“Well, that must have been a terrible let down.”
“That’s the thing, it wasn’t.”
“Oh no, that’s not good. The lips are the window to the soul.”
“No, Carlotta. The eyes are the window to the soul.”
“Only for people who don’t like to kiss.”
“He’s taking me to dinner tomorrow night.”
Carlos gasped. “He wants to be your boyfriend.”
“Well, I mean, I think he wants to get to know me. That doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to be my boyfriend.”
“He wants to talk to you. You don’t have to talk to people to fuck them. Trust me, I know. Everybody wants to fuck me, but nobody wants to talk to me. He wants more from you. You wait and see.”
I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Did I want more? Did I want him to want more? I was pretty sure I was just lusting. I wanted to have sex with him again, and as soon as I did I’d want him to go away. Maybe.
“So Carlotta, when did you know you were in love with Donald?” I asked. Normally, I avoided talking about Carlos’ ex-boyfriend since it could cause a nasty tantrum, but I really wanted to know the answer.
“I knew I loved him the minute he put his penis into my mouth. And then…I knew I didn’t love him the minute he put his penis into Roger Tyler’s mouth.”
The breakup with Donald had been epic, lasting longer than the relationship. “That’s not what you said before. You said it wasn’t the sex that bothered you, it was the lying.”
“He didn’t call me and tell me he was going to have sex with Roger Tyler before he did. It was a lie of commission.”
As we pulled into the grocery store’s parking lot, I tried not to imagine what Carlos might have been like if Donald had actually called to ask permission to fuck Roger Tyler. I doubted it would have a reasonable conversation.
We’d barely been inside the store for five minutes when Carlos said, “You really need to learn to cook. Everything you eat is processed.”
I glanced over at his cart and said, “You bought half the same things I did.”
“I can cook though. I buy crappy food because I’m depressed and hate my life. It’s entirely different.”
“I could be depressed,” I said, though I knew perfectly well I wasn’t.
“No, you—wait, you could be. You’re about to lose your job. That’s depressing.”
“Chuckie Cooper is not going to get me fired. Oh look. Canned chili is on sale.” Carlos rolled his eyes. I explained, “You get shredded cheese, sour cream and corn tortillas and it’s just like you’ve cooked.”
“Without the cooking part.”
“If it tastes good, I say eat it.”
“Lynette, how are you ever going to get a man if you can’t cook?” Carlos asked at the top of his lungs. A middle-aged woman and her elderly mother looked at the ceiling pretending we weren’t there, and then suddenly turned down the household cleaners aisle.
I lowered my voice and said to Carlos, “I have plenty of other charms. I’m just not going to shout about them at the grocery store.”
“Lynette, when you whisper you’re still shouting. You just have that kind of personality.” Carlos didn’t like the look on my face. “Come on, let’s go get food for Patsy and Edina.”
Moments later we were in the pet food aisle loading up his cart with a thirty-pound bag of dog food for his two problematic pit bulls.
I was almost at the hospital when my cell rang. Fortunately, my truck has hands-free so I could pick up the call by just hitting a button.
“Hey Fetch, what’s going on?”
“Hey Dog. I’m here with Tim.”
“Have you checked your email?” Tim asked.
“No, I’m driving to work. What’s in my email?”
“Chuckie sent out a blast to the entire team,” Fetch said, breathless.
“He wants us all to email Bob and tell him to fire the cocktail waiter from last night,” Tim added.
“He calls him ‘that flitty little waiter.’”
“You’re not going to do that, are you?” I asked.
“Um, well, no…”
“It seems really mean,” Tim agreed.
“We might tell Chuckie we did, though,” Fetch admitted.
“Why would you do that? Just tell him no.”
“Yeah, but four guys have already emailed to say they did it.”
“Five,” Tim corrected.
“That sucks,” I said, pulling into the hospital parking lot. “That
“I know, man. Where’s a queeny guy like that going to get another job?” Fetch wondered.
“If he’s not going to work in a gay bar—”
“I’m sure there are lots of things he could do,” I said, defensively.
“Oh, so maybe we
“And tell him to fire Lionel?”
“No!” I practically shouted. “Lionel didn’t do anything wrong. Chuckie’s being an asshole.”
“Wait, who’s Lionel?” Fetch asked.
“The faggy waiter,” Tim said, exasperated.
“Oh, that’s his name? Good to know.”
Right away I was afraid that meant Fetch
going to call Bob. I mean, he didn’t need to remember Lionel’s name for any other reason. “Didn’t you say something like ‘Snap, he got you, Chuckie?’ when Lionel stuck up for himself?”
“I already sent him an apology about that.”
“We were all drinking,” agreed Tim. “You should never take what someone says in a bar too seriously.”
“You shouldn’t have apologized,” I said. “Chuckie deserved what he got. He shouldn’t have called Lionel nelly. And a flamer. And whatever else he said.”
“I mean, he is though, right?” Fetch asked.
“You’d think he’d have a thicker skin. People must say things to him all the time.”
“Why should they? Why is it anyone’s business?”
“He kind of puts it out there.”
“He’s very in your face.”
“But Fetch, you’re a black guy. People must say stupid things to you all the time. Maybe you need a thicker skin.”
“Fuck you, Dog.”
“Yeah, Dog, I don’t know if that’s a fair analogy,” Tim agreed.
I parked my truck but left it running. Turning it off would have killed the call. “Why isn’t it a fair analogy?”
“I was born black.”
“Yeah, he was born black.”
“I don’t know how people get to be butch or femme. But I don’t remember making a decision to be the way I am. Do either of you?”
I did remember being relieved that I wasn’t like the kids in high school who got called sissy and faggot all the time. I remember it felt good that I could play sports and pretend to be straight. Yeah, I didn’t fit in, but no one knew I didn’t fit in. It was safer to pretend. It’s always safer to pretend. Then I realized that if the thing with Lionel and Chuckie had happened two months before, I’d probably email Bob and tell him to fire Lionel just to make Chuckie happy.
I didn’t like feeling that about myself, but it also made me remember why Fetch was being the way he was being. “Look, you guys do what you’ve got to do. Just think about it, okay?”
“No hard feelings?”
“It’s cool,” I assured them.
Turning the truck off, I went into the hospital. Of course, none of this should have come as a surprise. We all knew how Chuckie was. Last season we’d come in dead last, but there wasn’t much Chuckie was willing to do about it. A couple of us had talked to Linda Sue about joining the team. She used to be a professional athlete, right? Even in a dress she’d play better ball than most of us. But when we brought the idea up to Chuckie he just about flipped.
“No straight guys,” he said flatly.
“Linda Sue’s not your average straight guy,” Simon had pointed out.
“I don’t care what he is. He’s not playing with us.”
“She,” I said. “I think it’s polite to say she.”
“He’s not trans, he’s a transvestite. My sister is trans. I’m not giving the same respect to a straight guy who likes to raid his wife’s closet.”
There wasn’t too much to say to that, so we let it drop.
The security guard waved me by when I showed my ID, so I didn’t have to wait in line to go through the metal detector. I got into the elevator. Pressed eight. There were two other people going to lower floors. I didn’t pay much attention. For some reason I started thinking about what it was like when I first started going to the bars. I didn’t fit in there and, for the first time in my life, I didn’t know how to pretend I fit in. I mean, I didn’t know anything about Lady Gaga or
or the Kardashians. I actually had a guy once laugh at me because I couldn’t name a single drag queen.
“Seriously? Not even Harvey Fierstein?” He’d asked. I just shrugged. Why would a drag queen be named Harvey? I thought they all had silly names?
The first couple of years that I was out, or whatever, weren’t so great. Then I found the gay bowling league. That made things better. I fit in. I was a good bowler, so that helped. And some of the guys knew about sports. And then I started with the Birdmen. For the first time I really felt like I fit in.
Things were good. I liked playing with the Birdmen. I shouldn’t mess with that. I probably shouldn’t have told Fetch not to email Bob. I didn’t really know Lionel. I mean, I liked him but big deal. I couldn’t really see myself with someone like that. Not for more than a few dates. I needed to stay out of the mess with Chuckie. If the guys wanted to email Bob, well that was up to them.
wasn’t going to email Bob. Beyond that it wasn’t my business.
I walked into the room where I worked. The far wall was wall-to-wall windows looking out at the sprawl of Los Angeles County. That was nice. It gave patients something to look at. Three treadmills were spread across the wide room. Along the inside wall were cabinets where we kept supplies. Most of the drawers were empty. We didn’t need that many supplies. I used one for my keys and wallet and a light jacket if it was chilly. On the south wall was a row of plastic chairs for people to wait in.