Read My Best Man Online

Authors: Andy Schell

Tags: #General, #Fiction

My Best Man (5 page)

BOOK: My Best Man

“I get the feeling you don’t want to talk about Jacqueline,” I tell her.


She takes her glance from me, her smile fades, and she at her own reflection. “Sometimes people aren’t at all what appear to be,” she tells herself. For a moment she stares at visage, unblinking. And she looks as if she might even cry. like a wind-up toy that is suddenly rewound to its tightest turn, smiles and chirps, “Let’s have a drink!” and flings me into kitchen, which is too small to house such a big mood swing. she opens the refrigerator, I can sense she’s aware of my which is why she bypasses the Diet Dr. Pepper and nail polish go straight for the only other item in her refrigerator: champagne

She pops the cork, fills two flutes, hands one to me, then back through the living room and the hallway so smoothly that champagne in her glass doesn’t even move. I look to see if she wheels on the bottom of her shoes. We arrive at the doorway the vacant bedroom. “This is your bedroom if you want it, Ford,” she offers. “I’m a great roommate.”

I’m stunned. I thought she was offering me a room for the ni not something permanent. “You’re serious?”

“Serious as Clan Rather sitting on a corncob.”

I peer into the bedroom; it’s carpeted and has windows in different walls. “You’d offer a stranger a place to live?” I ask.

“Harry!” she says, hitting me on the shoulder, spilling a of my champagne. “You’re not a stranger. Do you consider me stranger?”

“No,” I answer sheepishly, still wondering what happened Jacqueline.

“You need a place to stay. I need someone to share with. let’s be roommates.”

“But I don’t even have a bed,” I tell her.

“No problemo, amigo,” she tells me, going into the hallway and opening the closet door. She hauls out a deflated full-size mattress. “I don’t have a pump so I guess we’re just going to have to blow up this bad boy ourselves,” she says. I follow her to the


living room where she puts Thriller on the turntable and starts it up. She takes me by the hand and leads me back to the carpeted square hallway that sits in the center of the house, dividing the bedrooms from the bathroom and living room. I feel like a little boy being led to school. We sit on the floor and smoke from the bong.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Harry. I think we’re going to be wonderful roommates.” Room mites.

I’m flattered. “Me too, Amity. Thanks for helping me out, coming to the hospital, and now offering me a place.”

“I know you’d do the same for me,” she says matter-of factly She grabs the bong, stuffs it full of marijuana, and offers it to me. I use the plastic lighter and light up. I smile at her as I inhale. She smiles back. Her hair is a mop of gold, falling down upon her shoulders like sunlight onto a beautiful ridge. Her face is lightly brushed with color, and she is wearing the same perfume as the day we met. But when she sticks her painted lips around the bong and sucks like a Hoover, she’s all action. It’s a fetching quality I notice right away her ability to meld the feminine with gusto. She’s take charge, confident, one of the guys. I can’t-help but like her, because, for whatever reason, whether we’re straight or gay, guys like guys—especially when they’re women.

We blow and blow that air mattress, stoned out of our minds. The more oxygen we surrender, the higher we get, as if we’re sitting on our own private mountain. We start laughing about Michael Jackson, who’s wailing in the background.

“Sings like Tarzan, looks like Jane,” I choke. “Looks like his mother,” Amity corrects. “What?”

“Everybody always thinks he’s trying to look like Diana Ross, but just look at a picture of his mother that’s who he’s trying to look like. It’s all subconscious, I’m sure. Anyway, I don’t care


what he looks like. He’s rich!” Amity screams. “If he wants to fuck me, I’ll shut my eyes and turn him into Billy Dee Williams.” : “I couldn’t do it with him, even with my eyes closed.”

“He can wear his little dust-and-particle mask while we make love!”

I take a sip of water to offset my cotton mouth. “Are you dusty?”

“Of course not. Lemon Pledge, baby. But you know Michael. He’s got to be sure before he impregnates me. I can’t wait to have Michael Jackson’s alien baby!” Bye-bed

We laugh until we choke and pee our pants and think we’ll die if we don’t catch a breath. And we know if someone comes into the house and asks us what we’re laughing at we’ll laugh harder.

And this is the moment I know I’m saved that I will survive post-school, post-suicide, post-breakup, real-world, no-inheritance adult life. Because there’ ssomebody in Dallas, Texas, who doesn’t want me for the value of my family name or money or my willingness to make her laugh because Michael Jackson can supply it all.

And that night, as I stretch out on my air mattress, t covers pulled up to my neck, I lie back and stop worrying about where I’m going to be five minutes from now. And for the time in weeks, I drift quickly off to sleep, thanks to Amitymplus my waning marijuana-induced stupor.

“No! Help me! No!”

Amity is screaming! I kick the covers off. Roll out of bed. Run into a wall. Out. Into her room. “Amity?”

She turns the light on beside her bed and sits up. “Harry,” she says, clutching her heart. “Go back to bed.”

“What’s the matter, Amity? Are you OK?”

“Nightmare,” she whispers, staring at the wall ahead of her.


“That silly old nightmare.” She turns the light off and rolls onto her side. “Go,” she whispers.

I’m left standing in the dark. Awkwardly, I feel my way out of her room, and grope the wall to make the turn into my own room.

Settling down onto my air mattress, I have to wonder what she meant by that silly old nightmare. Though clearly in terror, she spoke coolly and tried to brush it off, as if describing an annoying but harmless cousin who showed up uninvited at a party. But there was more to it, I could tell. Something in her eyes told me it was far more familiar than that and far more frightening.

For a moment I get a sick feeling. Have I done the wrong thing by moving in here? Do I really know this girl? There’s always more to people than you think. I like to think of the more as good, but what if it’s not?

Forget it. It’s probably just my mind going paranoid on all this smoke. In fact, that’s probably it: the pot. She was having a stoner nightmare, and here I am making a big deal of it. Creating some big dark secret that doesn’t really exist. Right? Maybe. I don’t know. What happened to my blissful sleep? I’m hungry. Shit, all she has is Diet Dr. Pepper and champagne. Never mind. I’m too wired to sleep. This air mattress feels as if it’s floating on a body of water. When I move, it tilts, and I fear it will capsize if I’m not careful. This blanket is irritating every nerve cell in my body. I kick it off, but then grow cold. I drag it back on. I wait for sleep. Am I too stoned? Or not stoned enough?

Should I really be sleeping here at all?



l stay. I sleep on the sheets she provides, wash my hair with shampoo, and listen to her records on her old beater of a stereo. And when she’s sleeping at home and not with her

I attempt to grow accustomed to her occasional nightmares. On flight attendant seniority list, she is senior and I am junior, so we cross paths only occasionally at first. On a day off, I fly back Kansas and reclaim my car from Matthew, a 1968 Volkswa Beetle, and drive it back to Dallas. The poor old car has seen years of service, and it barely limps down to Texas. I coax it alon knowing that, if it breaks down, I’m fucked, because I just have the money to fix it.

My second weekend in Dallas, Amity is down in Houston on , date. She says it’s a flight attendant thingmgoing out of town a date. You don’t have to clean your house, you impress your with your mobility, and you’re guaranteed to have sex, because when it’s over, you fly away.

I’m jealous that she’s in Houston with a guy. I wish it were me, But now that I’m feeling somewhat more secure, and my stitches are dissolved, I’m brave enough to strike out on my own for night.

I head over to the gay bars. I luck out and find a parking


right in the thick of it on Cedar Springs, and as I step out of my ‘68 VW, I hear a gaggle of guys catcall my Kansas license plate. “Girl, you need to ask the Wizard for a new car!” I look at them and laugh, as if they’re just having fun with me, and they look back as if I’ve broken a rule by smiling at a stranger. A different guy says, “He ought to ask the Wizard for a friend.” That hurts. They walk on, singing “If I Only Had a Friend.” My confidence is weakened.

I unknowingly choose a bar that’s infamous for its heavy S&M: Stand and Model. The place is named LBJ’s and I’m amazed that the Johnsons haven’t sued. It’s all glass and chrome and pretense. The floor is actually carpeted with now filthy dark green short pile carpet that does nothing to soak up the deafening sound of the thump-thump gay-boy music. Behind the main bar is a wall-to-wall mirror that the bartenders use for preening rituals during their few off moments: flick of the hair, teeth check, suck in the cheeks, change the angle. The patrons use the mirror for the same thing; these guys in Dallas act like peacocks. I order a beer, stand two feet from where I paid the bartender, and check my hair in the mirror until I’m pushed aside, little by little, by people with biceps who know each other. The place is packed, and no one speaks to me. I look for, but don’t find, a sign that says: atvs WITH SMAgg ARMS MEET HERE. I squeeze myself over to a new area near steps that lead to an elevated platform. I park awhile and try to look relaxed, friendly. Friendly doesn’t work here. Every time I glance at someone he looks away, as if he doesn’t want to be the one to tell me I’ve been turned down by the Barbizon School. As the place fills to its limits, I’m pushed farther up the stairs until I’m on the shiny platform surrounded by a chrome railing.

Before I know it, the lights go off, and a spotlight slaps itself onto the platform and I can feel its heat, and standing inside that spotlight is a god with a microphone. “OK!” he says. “It’s contest night!” A few guys whoop and holler, but most everybody looks


toward the platform stage with scrutinizing smirks, their scorecards ready. The ME, in jeans and a white tank top, has the size of hams and thighs as big as toddlers. His face is stunnin even under all that bronzer. “We’re tired of girls being the ones who enter wet T-shirt contests, right?”

The crowd livens a bit more and applauds and yells its “So let’s see ‘em, boys! Show us those pecs!” Nobody forward, and I can see he’s getting anxious. “Come on. There’s fifty-dollar prize I” The gorgeous carny barker with the biceps thighs is too close, and I’m trying hard to escape his range. As scouts, he makes eye contact with me. I push back into the behind me, but they respond by giving me a hard shove, and I

in the arms of the ME god. “OK, here he is!” he shouts.

The crowd goes wild.

I want to die. I look behind me and see the guy who said should ask the Wizard for a friend. He and his friends are laughing hysterically at me. They pushed me. They fucking pushed me the contest.

“What’s your name?” the god asks, putting his arm around shoulders the way a gym coach would.

“I’m not in the contest,” I say, the microphone magnifying twidly voice a hundred times.

“You are now!” the guy says, and as he backs off, some out of nowhere sprays me down with a hose. I want to scream. not even wearing a T-shirt. My favorite long-sleeved flannel is instantly soaked and stuck to my skin. The primping crowd




boys goes wild as splashes of water ricochet off my little chest and splatter their faces. I’m practically in shock, the water so cold. I try to leave, push against the mean gaggle. They like a trio of sissy defensive linemen and hold me back. The asks the crowd, “What do you think?”

The crowd, seeing my humiliation, goes wild. I’m so de


and losery, they love it. I don’t know how they can applaud so forcefully when they’re laughing so hard.

Again, I push hard past the gaggle, and this time I escape. As I press through the crowd, I hear catcalls and get slapped on the ass. Somehow I find the door and get out. The winter air is cold against my wet shirt. Thank God my car is close. I lock the doors, fall back against the seat.

What a fucking nightmare. Most gay guys will tell you they hate those obnoxious straight guys—big, mean, steroid-pumped jerks who work construction or man the oil figs, who whistle and holler at women with big tits. But everyone in the place tonight was acting just like them they were screaming for big tits in a wet shirt and acting like pigs. “What a bunch of fucking assholes,” I say aloud, starting the car.

The car chugs to life, and I slide the heater knob over. Aw, hell, who am I kidding? If I hadn’t been on stage, I’d have been ogling any guy with a decent chest and catcalling too. I’m just pissed off my chest is so small. Everybody tells me I have a cute butt so why couldn’t it have been a wet butt contest? I release the clutch, pull away, and drive to the nearest pay phone, where I dial information for the number of the neighborhood’s 24-Hour Nautilus. The guy at the gym sounds garbled, as if he’ sin the middle of swallowing a mouthful of supplements, but I understand his directions well enough to jump back into the VW and take a left, then the first right, onto Oak Lawn, and about a quarter of a mile later there it is: a 24-Hour Nautilus. I wheel in and turn the VW off. Before I can talk myself out of it, I haul out and march inside, all wet and dripping. The guy behind the counter thinks I’m nuts until I pull out my credit card and he sees that I really do want to buy a membership right here, right now. I haven’t allowed myself to charge on my new credit cards I’ve obtained since landing my job because I’m already so far in debt. But this is an emergency. As I’m filling out the forms, I feel someone staring at me. I look up


to see a well-built guy with jet black hair and eyes the color green glacier ice. He’s leaving, his gym bag over his shoulder, he casts his glance on me long enough to make me think he’ interested. I can’t believe it. He’s way out of my league, but I how to read the signs. I hurriedly put my signature all over pages and try to make it out to the parking lot in time to catch Too late. He’s driving off in his shiny black BMW. But then stops … and so does my heart. Do I walk over to his car? driver’s window rolls down, his sexy pumped arm comes out, hand holding a white piece of paper, a card it seems. I walk step up to his window, and look in to see a masculine face that’ even more gorgeous than I remember from minutes ago. In dark, his glacier green eyes glow more stunning yet, and before say a word he tells me in a sexy drawl, “I’ve got to get home.” Then he hands me his card, his wedding ring catching the glow the parking lot lights, and drives away.

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