“NO!!! I don’t wanna do it!” Jay screamed while banging his bald head against the car window like an angry toddler.
“Hey! I drove all the way to LAX…in rush hour traffic…sober, just to pick you up. The least you can do is go shopping with me.” I said. “And did I mention I was sober?”
“You did. It must be terrifying.”
“It is. So will you help me pick out some clothes for school? It starts tomorrow and I need your whole queer eye shit so I can look good.”
“Remember that time I told you not to do hair? That was me trying to help you and look where it’s gotten me now. The answer is NO.”
“Why do you need new clothes for school anyway?” he whined.
“Because Rene said the dress code is black on black, no exceptions.”
“Who the fuck is Rene?”
“Rene is the Head Mother Fucker In Charge and I don’t wanna be on her bad side, which is probably all of her sides but still…”
“Lemme ask you something, even if I did wanna go with you do you think I look or smell like someone that should be allowed in public right now?”
He had a point.
Jay had gone straight from a sex party in Thailand to the airport to begin his 20 hour trek home in a flying metal tube, fermenting the entire way. Both his body and his clothes were stained with god knows what from who knows where making his odor the only thing more offensive than his attitude.
“Right now everything about you is obscene but I’ve suffered worse for less, I’ll be quick I promise.”
“Who did I wrong in a past life to deserve this?” he said, putting his hands over his unshaven face.
“Does that mean you’ll help?”
“Fiiiiiiiine, as long as you’re fast because I need a Silkwood shower* stat.”
He had me drive to the Beverly Center which is an upscale mall in Beverly Hills. I pulled my rickety Honda into the garage, parking amongst the pristine BMW’s, Land Rovers & Benz’s. As Jay got out of the car he slammed the door hard enough to make one of my headlights fall out.
“Awesome piece of machinery you have there.” he said as the light dangled from its cord like an eyeball out of its socket, causing every 90210 shopper to stop and stare.
I bent over and shoved it back in its frame before more One Percenters could gawk at my Section 8 ride.
“What store should we go to first?” I asked, wiping my dirty hands on my shirt.
“On your budget the only place we’re going is H&M.”
“Really? Because there’s a Ross across the street and I figured-“
“I don’t do Ross or any of those other barbaric dumpster dives. The lowest I’ll stoop is H&M. That is where we are going, that is the only place we are going and when we’re finished you’re taking me home or I’m calling 911 to report my own kidnapping.”
Once there I picked out clothes that Jay would either give a thumb’s up to, a middle finger to or if he really hated it, just grab it out of my hands and throw it on the floor.
“You need some skinny jeans.” he said.
“No. They’ll make me look emo.”
“Young man you brought me here for a reason remember? And you don’t think you’ve been acting emo these past few weeks?”
“Fine, I’ll try a pair on.” I said defeated.
I put on a pair and came out to show him.
“Still too baggy.” he said while munching on some airline pretzels he’d saved. “Go to the women’s section and try on a pair, they might fit better.”
“I’m not wearing women’s pants.”
“You are if they keep you from looking like Floppy the Clown. You need to look slim and sharp, not saggy and soft. Now chop-chop.”
I moped over to the women’s section knowing that the humiliation of trying on women’s clothes was his way of punishing me for dragging him to the store.
I found a table of skinny jeans and held up each pair trying to figure out what I was in a woman’s size.
9? 10? 12? Who the fuck knew?
I just hoped no one I knew was around to see me doing this.
“Stuke?” a woman’s voice said from behind me.
I spun around and saw it was Gums’ good friend Deya and I instantly felt vulnerable, exposed and embarrassed.
I had no doubt that Gums had told Deya everything starting from the first time she fucked Rob the Banker (probably telling Deya how nice his place was, how big his dick was and how much his net-worth was) all the way up to Gums telling Deya the wedding was canceled long before she’d told me.
I also had no doubt that Deya would be calling Gums as soon as she left the store.
Girl, I just saw Stuke and he’s so fucked up he’s wearing women’s clothes now. Good thing you left him.
“Deya…how’s it goin?”
“Good. How have things been with you since…you know…?”
“Uh, well I’m definitely…here…heh, heh.”
Fucking Jay and his bourgeois attitude towards Ross. If we could’ve gone there I wouldn’t be standing here feeling like a dumbed-down dipshit.
“Are you shopping for…a girl?” she asked.
“Funny you should ask, I-“
“Bitch, are you gonna try those pants on or not?” Jay said, coming over and adding insult, injury and confusion into an already uncomfortable situation. Deya gave us both a WTF look.
“Jay! This is Deya.” I said in an attempt to ease the awkwardness.
“Charmed I’m sure.” he said, tossing more pretzels in his mouth and chewing loudly.
“Oh!! Is this the Jay that…”
I knew where she was going and I didn’t wanna go there.
“It is and we were just getting ready to lea-“
“Is this the Jay that what?” he asked, spraying pretzel crumbs everywhere.
“That was hosting the wedding. It was supposed to be at your place, right?” Deya asked.
I could feel the ground start to rumble.
“How do YOU know about “the wedding”?”
Here it comes.
“I’m ******’s friend.”
And there it goes.
“YOU’RE friends with Gums?”
It took her a sec to make the connection and then…
“OMG yeah!! She told me you called her by that name!”
“Oh trust me, I’ve got a lot more names to call her now.” he said with the lethal snark only a gay man can conjure.
“Whatever.” he spat, tossing his pretzel bag on the floor and putting himself in-between us.
“When you see Gums can you give her a message from me?”
“Tell her she’s a piece of shit and that she can go fuck herself with a hedge trimmer and if she’s got a problem with that she can call me although I doubt she will because she doesn’t have the ovaries big enough to do it. Can you remember all that?”
Deya stood there speechless, dazed from Jay going full-on Kanye on her.
“I think you can. Now if you don’t mind, I’m making my friend over since your friend destroyed him, you’re excused.” he said, shooing her away.
Deya hung the items she had in her hand on a random rack then fled the store.
“You didn’t have to do that for me.” I told him even though the hurt child in me appreciated it.
“No, I did. I did it because you can’t and if you had it would’ve made you look bitter and weak and I want you to look strong and indifferent…even if you are bitter and weak right now.”
He hugged me, burying my face in the scent of body odor, 3rd world sex dens and street vendors but I didn’t care. It felt good to be embraced by someone that I knew loved me.
“What she did to you was fucked-up but I promise, things will get better.”
“I just wanna feel normal again, I’m so tired of hurting.”
“I know, it just takes time and time moves so fucking slow when we’re in pain. Don’t give up.”
He gave a big squeeze then pushed me away, tossing a pair of jeans at me. “Now try these on.”
20 minutes later we walked out with enough clothes to dress up a Black Mass.
“Well, even if you don’t feel like a new man at least you’ll look like a new man…in women’s pants”
I had to admit, I liked them, which explains why I bought 5 pair. Besides, who was gonna notice?
We left the mall and I snaked my way over The Hill and into The Valley. By the time I reached Jay’s house he was snoring and drooling all over himself.
As I pulled into his driveway I thought about my wedding that was supposed to have happened here in 3 weeks’ time, the kick-off to my life with Gums.
But now, instead of starting a new life with Gums I was starting a new life on my own, one that I hadn’t seen coming but had come for me anyway regardless of what I had planned.
If you wanna make God laugh, tell Him your plans.
Was a line from a movie that had always stuck with me. Now it stuck a little deeper.
I got out and grabbed Jay’s luggage then opened his door and gave him a soft shake.
He came to with a yawn and a stretch and then pulled himself out of the car.
“What time is it?” he asked, looking up at the twilight sky.
“Time for you to take a bath.”
I helped him carry his luggage inside and as I was getting ready to leave he put his hand on my shoulder.
“Listen, the hair industry isn’t always a nice place, especially in L.A., it can eat away at your heart and right now I’m worried you don’t have much left.”
“Well, maybe the less I have the less it can eat.”
“Maybe. I just want you to know I worry about you.”
“Thanks. I’ll be ok sooner or later.” I said then walked outside.
“Good luck on your first day of school tomorrow.”
*A Silkwood shower is a long, hot shower taken to decontaminate one’s self from dirt, grime and the bodily fluids of strangers that have accrued on one’s body over a period of hours, days or weeks.
The term comes from the name Karen Silkwood who was a chemical tech that died under mysterious circumstances after raising safety concerns at the atomic plant she worked at.
In the 1983 movie Silkwood starring Meryl Streep there was a decontamination shower scene which is not only the basis for the term but also the basis for one not being able to enjoy a shower for years to come after watching the scene.
And now a message from our sponsor…
Do you have a few minutes to talk?
First, thank you so much for coming here every week and reading my story. I know that the one thing we have very little of and that can never be replenished is time so I can’t tell you how honored I am that every week you choose to spend some of your precious commodity by reading my material.
Your attention and positive response to the work I create makes me feel like a bonafide writer and I cannot begin to tell you the sense of fulfillment that gives me. Thank you for doing that, thank you for making me feel like an artist with a talent. I hope I continue to entertain you, give you inspiration and connection and if I’m really lucky…get you to laugh out loud.
Laughter is something we’re in short supply of these past few days and with good reason.
I was on the barbed wire fence if I should post an episode this week given all the heartache, fear, anger and severity that our nation has been faced with.
I wasn’t sure if now was the appropriate time to crack a joke or offer some sort of escapism because we as a country cannot afford to try to escape our race crisis any longer. All you have to do is turn on your TV and see the result of us evading this crisis for so many decades that the pressure cooker it was in has finally (and rightfully) exploded.
So now we must face it.
Now we must do something.
Only there’s no manual.
And so it seems impossible, that there’s too many layers of pain and suffering that our black community has endured for so long.
But that’s no excuse to run from the challenge, it’s a calling. A calling to do something about it and here’s the catch, here’s the hope…it doesn’t have to be gigantic.
Just do something small. It can start by listening with empathy. It can start by choosing a side. It can start by having a conversation, asking questions, and being vulnerable.
You can also broaden your understanding by reading. One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read was The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley. It takes you inside the psyche of black people and the damage that systemic racism has done to them.
All of this change starts with you and it starts with me and together we make an “us” and the bigger the “us” the better the chances we have of trying to figure out a way forward for the sake, survival and betterment of our black brothers and sisters.
Small steps will always lead to big things, we just can’t quit making those steps.
Listen, I’m not an expert on race relations I just know that when it comes to race in America it’s a toxic relationship and it has to change.
We are so much more alike than we are different and our differences make us unique and that uniqueness paints a prettier picture on our canvas of humanity. Our differences also give us the opportunity to grow from one another and become more enlightened and you can never have enough of that.
Just remember, at the end of the day, all we have is each other.
I need you, you need me and right now an entire community needs “us”. Needs “us” to listen, support and to fight alongside them to where we all become the same “us” which is how it was meant to be in the first place.
There are a lot of protests going on and with them come the opportunists piggybacking on the legitimate pain and frustration these protests are expressing so they can loot, vandalize and destroy. It’s unfortunate and greatly undermines and diminishes the death of George Floyd and countless others that have become innocent casualties in our American Race War.
With that being said, I’d like to invite you to a different type of protest. It’s happening on July 7th, it has a great message behind it and here’s the best part: you can participate regardless of where you live and you don’t even have to leave your house and look for parking.
It’s called Blackout 2020.
It’s simply a day that you do not spend a single dollar and if you do, spend it at a black owned business.
It’s an economic protest and let’s be real, while street protests and marching and chanting is cathartic and romantic, the one thing that captures people’s attention more than anything else is this little sign right here:
$ (insert cha-ching sound)
So I encourage you to join me in flexing our economic muscle. It’s warfare without the violence.
More info can be found here: https://www.blackoutday.org/?fbclid=IwAR2g9z_zAZoMrkseE0-yiPmzd7GxrNBh1hqkZFEkhwezUsdlWx4ytwrCMAA
Again, thank you for taking the time to show up here once a week and thank you for allowing me to speak with you about the issues we’re all faced with and hopefully give some sort of solution ideas. Doing something (no matter how small it is) will always be more effective than doing nothing.
Please take care of yourself and take care of your neighbors and your community and remember, every day is a chance to take a little bit of action and push things in the right direction.
Stay safe, stay beautiful and stay believing in the power of “us”.