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Authors: Justin Chin

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BOOK: 98 Wounds
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“I wish I could use those,” I sigh. “But the circumstances are a little more hazy. I don't know where this whole thing is heading. I think of him constantly, and he possesses my every waking thought. I even called the radio psychic to find out my destiny.”

“Ah, I remember that day we did ‘Destiny,' good day that was, an inspired day that was,” Adam reminisces. “Then that Destiny's Child shows up and makes it all soppy, screws it all up for everyone.”

“They were better as a four-piece, better harmonies, rounder sound,” the midget chimes in. And he's totally correct, too.

“Sally the Psychic said it would work out, but it hasn't. Why would she give me faulty advice on an Arbitron-rated Best for Easy Listening Lite Rock station, the radio station that everyone at work can agree on? I'm hopelessly smitten by this guy. I have detailed fantasies about us: it started quite simply, romantic vacations, camping trips, matching tattoos, a night at the opera, but last night I found myself dreaming about us in
Supermarket Sweep
. He was running down the aisles with the wobbly shopping cart under perfect control in his gorgeous tattooed arms, and I was screaming product names at him. Lysol Linen-Fresh Disinfectant, Ray-O-Vac 12-Pak, Deep Woods Off!, Tide with Bleach, Springfield Chicken Chunk Pot-Pies, Snicker's, for god's sake, Snicker's. I don't even use half of those things and I don't know whether he does or not. I long to hear his voice, even over the static of the phone line, but he has call forwarding so I can't even call to hear his voice on the answering machine message. I hunt for his name on the Internet everyday and bookmark every instance of it. I look at his name in the phonebook just to pass the time. I hide behind parked cars and municipal trash bins so that I can just look at him.”

“I think you're looking for Stalker or Obsessed or Unrealistically romantic or Romantique, if you please,” Adam says.

“And every time I see him, every time I watch him move, I think I feel some crusty cosmic fingernail poking at my very insides. I have no word for what I'm going through. I don't know what I am, he is, or how to sleep or wake. I need a word for this condition that I've found myself in.”

Adam looks flummoxed. He looks defeated. “Wow, that
a difficult one. If only because the condition is imaginary, unrealistic, too idealized, and that, my dear friend, can be called by any name and it would still make no difference or sense.”

The midget shaking his head slowly in resignation has tucked his notebook away and has powered his laptop off.

Happiness is not the remedy for unhappiness.



When the dumping occurs, friends rally around. They look doleful in solidarity, they tread lightly, they offer sentimental platitudes intended to uplift, to raise hope, to soothe.
Better to have lost in love, then never…,
they say,
You deserve better…,
they declare,
It's his loss…, It was never meant to be…

Yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. But there is also jellyfish and mercury poisoning. Go fish.

The guy I was dating sent me an e-mail telling me that his life was too busy to have to factor me into the equation of work and school and family and friends and obligations. We can still hang out, he writes. The e-mail contained an attachment, an unwieldy ten megabyte image file which I think is a picture of him, but it's all pixilated into swirly bits of a million and two colors, as if the Shiseido make-up counter exploded in his face. Apparently someone still had time to break in his new bong and play with Photoshop for eight hours.

It's as if the very last dinosaur or the last mammoth – or in my case, the very last dodo bird – suddenly looked up and realized that evolution had kicked in. Something had kicked in, someone had pressed play on the button marked TIME,
Do not pass GO, do not collect two bits
, and I had spent way too many years snuggled in the tattered nest with these other bewitching fowl and not honing my survival skills.

Someone had shaken the snow globe. This is not where I got off the bus at all. When did it slip away from me? Was I not paying attention? How did I not feel the plate tectonics?

One day, I walk through the pounding circus of my city and it creepily dawns on me. I feel like the creature from long ago, the coelacanth swimming in the lagoon of spangly reef fish. How did it all become so puzzling? Where did my city and its dwellers go?

Some weeks later, I venture out again, and once more, the rug had been pulled out from under me, the room rearranged, and the understudies have all taken over. Who's been playing musical chairs in my absence?

It's not as if I can re-live that past even if it were to suddenly resurrect in a new body, or a different time, or another place. Nothing escapes the fusillade, does it? One day, as it always does, it happens. The center, already soft, shaky and chewy, just cannot hold any more poop.

One morning, I just could not put up with having one more crackhead camped out on the front stairs, swaying his head in the smoke-ring clouds billowing from his crack pipe which looks suspiciously like my truck's radio antenna, not another protracted spell of wheezing and coughing and hacking up sputum all over the take-out menus. One day I wake up and I realize I can no longer climb Meat Mountain at Hahn's Hibachi. I can make a valiant attempt but the best I can muster is Base Camp Five, the Kal-Bi Super Combo Special; which is neither Super nor Special since it only contains two animal species whereas “super” calls for a minimum of four, and “special” calls for six, at least.

Some weeks ago, someone defecated on the side of my apartment building, and then some animal pooped right squarely on top of the pile of shit. I'm guessing a cat, though a raccoon might also be possible. A squishy hazelnut brown patty on top of the choco-brown curled pile. At one time, I would have thought this was so damn cool; I would have taken Polaroids of it and showed everyone the sculptural effects, I would have postulated about the theories of abjection in art and culture. But now, I just want any one of my neighbors to wash that damn thing away before someone else poops on the existing totem. No one washed the poop away. And yes, the next day, there was another layer to the totem. And the day after, another.

Still, nothing familiar stirred in me. Not even a shitstack could prod a nostalgic ping out of me. I was gone.

I have less patience to suffer fools willingly anymore. This makes dating in the city a sheer challenge. Matters are not helped by my underdeveloped social skills and inept grooming sensibilities.

It's been years since I've mustered the balls or the heck to go out to the discotheque, and it's not even called that anymore. Not since dancing got so damn complicated and I inevitably end up looking like the lost
Solid Gold
dancer, the one who's escaped from the island where they've been banished. (It's an island like Dr. Moreau's and every
Solid Gold
dancer has a miniature version of his or herself who lives on a small column doing Debbie Allenesque
Solid Gold
jazz dances to power ballads only they and their intended victims can hear in their heads.) I always feel disconcerted in bars. I never mastered the art of street cruising, or even the intricate techniques of flirtation in its minor and major scales and arpeggios. Being a soggy ball of crankiness and wearing my heart on my sleeve as if some emo bomb just exploded certainly does not help things. And in all honesty, in most of my waking life, I'm just crushed by a terrifying discomfort of being in my own skin whenever I am in public.

And then, there's
. And then there is booty. When the time comes, and it will for everyone I'm certain, when you have to choose between sex and dignity, go with dignity. Unless, of course, – and here you get to fill in the blank with whatever you want.

I confess. I don't have sexual fantasies any more, not like I did when I was a pup. And such terribly elaborate and dirty ones they used to be, too. These days, I seem to have a lot of domestic fantasies. In 78 percent of those fantasies, the object of my affection is an ex-boyfriend. In almost all of those fantasies, he's wearing much better clothes than he does in real life. In one version of that daydream, we raise kids together; in one, we have a farm or a sprawling mansion; in another, we care for elderly parents; and in another, I die á la Ali McGraw in
Love Story
or Elsa the Lion in
Born Free
; and in yet another, we plan our big gay wedding. In one version of that wedding, I've concocted a snowstorm of gardenia petals inside the church as a surprise; in another, Tony Bennett sings at the reception. And in yet another, Shakira performs. She was so blond.

There used to be an old disco stomper, “So Many Men, So Little Time.” Now, it's So Many Issues, So Little Time. I used to make fun of people with issues. Ha ha, I said. But now, I have them, I have issues. I have whole subscriptions. And I have arthritis. I have a pile of bills to pay, obligations to fulfill. I have a liver that is slowly turning to mush. I have my weaknesses whose hungers must be fed. I have all this chaos in my veins. I have half a tank of gas but I'm sure it's enough to get me to where I want to go.

At the end of Edith Wharton's
The House of Mirth
, the heroine who has lost all hope of knowing herself, of finding love or even settling, crumples onto the floor and wails, “I've tried so hard, but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person.”

I am a useless person and I am content to lay in bed with the cat watching nine continuous hours of the Food Network or the
Top Chef
marathon on Bravo. And I'd say things to her like “Omigawd, Decat, did you see that? They've just marinated the sesame seeds and stuffed them into the asparagus, which they've lightly blanched and seasoned with the oils from crushed lemongrass and infused with just a tiny drop of mirin; then they've stuffed all that into a snapper which has been rubbed with handfuls of minced Korean ginger root and drizzled ever so lightly with light soy sauce and just three drops of that 75-year-old balsamic; then all of that is stuffed into a game hen whose cavity has been brushed with truffle oil and powdered liberally with Ras el Hanout, and then the whole thing is wrapped with slices of pancetta and its all going to salt-bake in a big hole in the backyard filled with red hot Bolivian lava rocks and salt from the Caspian Sea. Oh no! They're going to sous-vide the whole thing in someone's bathroom sink apparently, what a twist! Isn't that clever?”

Then I'd grab the cat's head and make her nod as if she was saying, “Yes! Yes! That is ingenious, I wouldn't have thought of doing that to snapper because I don't have opposable thumbs, can I have my Science Diet Lo-Cal kibble now?”

My dear mom has a plan for me. It worked for my brother and so she thinks it might just work for me. Go With God! is the plan. On the eve of his wedding, my brother told me that Mom was always tormented by the idea that he might marry a bimbo. She decided to fast and pray for a week in supplication so that God would find a good wife for him.

I was the best man at my brother's wedding, I love my sister-in-law, I simply adore my little nieces to whom I am the wacky uncle who buys them amazing books and scads of completely impractical but absolutely fabulous presents.

I love my mom, she is so beyond PFLAG already. She's going to fast and pray to God, that's with a capital G, the Big Man as seen in the pages of the Holy Bible, Jehovah, Yahweh — the same God that Baptist conventioneers pray to in order to save the known Earth from wooly shit-stabbing perverts — and she's going to beseech Him to find me a partner. “I truly believe that God has a good man in store for you,” she tells me. “And you know what would be nice?” she says, “It'd be so much better if you fasted and prayed at the same time with me!” Okay, that I can surely do.

Five days later, Mom calls and asks how my fasting and praying is going; she has been steadfast in her faith. At that moment when she called, I was sitting with a box of Popeye's Fried Chicken in my lap, watching Mixed Martial Arts on cable.

I like fried chicken because it is chicken, and it is fried.

Chapter 15, verse 34 of
The Gospel According to St. Mark
tells us that “at the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi Eloi, lama sabachtani?' which is interpreted, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'“

Life is difficult, and I am a useless, useless person. Look to the language, I've been told. But we all have the same language, used in the same epoch; we all have the same raw ingredients. Except some folks will make a lovely marinated smoked herring, to be served with a marsala custard on homemade pancakes. Some will make a good, filling unpretentious ham and cheese sandwich. And there are those content with an oily but tasty take-away with dubious nutritional value. And then there's McDonald's. This is why I hate cooking shows on television and why I love movies where the Amish fall in love; which is all neither here nor there, but I already told you I was useless.

I am checked into a room in the tower of Babel. It is a tall building with many rooms. I wander through hallways and corridors rushed with the colors and soundtrack to this life. Somewhere at this time, somewhere in the world, someone is falling in love to Sam Cooke crooning
That's Heaven To Me
, and here, in this one room, I will find my love. Here in this room, there is nothing that cannot be named, and nothing that needs to be. He speaks to me in barbed wire and I reply in gasoline. He kisses me fire-ragged and I smooch back lava-perfect. We crucify, we resurrect, we beloved, we end, we begin. We know. We tender. We open wide enough for birds to fly through and nest wherever they should desire. And in this one room, I know what it is to be happy.

I've been told that there is a Japanese word for something that is made more beautiful by its use. I know there is a French word for the trail a scent leaves in its wake. There is a Dayak word that could mean either nausea or affection, all depending on the context, tone, circumstance, and the relation between the speaker and the subject. That's the sort of guy I want to be when I'm tormented by love and its bafflements. But I don't even have the proper words to describe what I want to be, how pathetic is that? Love, that cocksucker. Oh, if only there was truth in naming.

I used to want a daddy. Now, I want a daddy to mother me.

I still sleep on one side of the bed. I still love the way guys smell. I still harbor in my heart something that resembles hope but is not it. And I still want to see the ending that has yet to been written.

I still want to be king.

And in spite of it all, I still do love my life in all its queer permutations. Even on the days when I so desperately want to be saved, even in the moments when I so direly need to be tamed, even at my lowest crush, I still do honestly love my life. And saying that I love my life is not the same as saying that I expect any happiness from it.

BOOK: 98 Wounds
11.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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