I’m just gonna call her. No big deal. I’m just going to pick up the phone, dial the number … It’s easy. Simple. Painless. I’ll say hi, she’ll say hi, then …
What? What do I say next? I have to say something. There can’t just be silence. I’ll look like an idiot. I need a strategy. A plan. I can’t go into it blind. I need to be prepared.
An icebreaker. That’s what I need. Something to get the conversation started. It’ll make it easier for both of us. Anything will do. The weather. Perfect.
“Great weather we’re having,” I’ll say.
No, that’s stupid. I can’t do that. Nobody calls to talk about the weather. You run into someone on the street, you talk about the weather. It’s convenient. You’re there, there’s weather, you talk about it. But on the phone? That’s just weird. The conversation’s over before it even gets started.
“Great weather we’re having.”
“Just called to let you know. Talk to you later.”
Why is this so hard? She gave me her number. She said, “Call me.” Obviously, she wanted me to call, right? She wouldn’t have given me her number if she didn’t.
Unless she felt bad for me.
That’s it. It was pity. She didn’t want to hurt my feelings. That’s why she gave me her number. She’s a nice girl. Too nice. That’s what her friends tell her. But she couldn’t help herself. It was like charity for her. A good deed. Poor Tom, sitting all by himself, sipping a Diet Coke.
Is that what I was doing? I was sipping? What kind of guy sips? Guys chug. Guys guzzle. Guys pound. But not me. Noooo … I was sipping. Through a straw. It wasn’t even a real straw. It was a sipping straw. The thin one they put in so you can stir your drink. You’re not even supposed to drink from it. It’s decoration. It’s dainty. But there I was. Sipping Diet Coke through my dainty little straw.
She thinks I’m gay.
That’s why she gave me her number. Because I’m non-threatening. Just a non-threatening gay guy, sipping his Diet Coke through a dainty little straw. Perfect. Just the image I’m trying to convey. Why don’t I just swap my jeans for a pair of leather chaps while I’m at it? Call up the Village People. “Hey guys, let’s go to West Hollywood. I’ll drive.” Tell them not to bring the Indian. He’s a bitch.
I know. She wants me to help her pick out shoes. She needs shoes and she wants a gay man’s opinion. Someone with a sense of style. Someone she can trust. She can’t trust women. Women are catty. Women sabotage. She asks her girlfriends and they lie to her, tell her to buy the wrong shoes.
“Jimmy Choo is so last year,” they say.
They can’t be trusted. But me? She can trust me. I don’t have a hidden agenda. I’m just there because I like shoes. Like most gay men. Just shoes, and hair, and makeup and lingerie.
Lingerie. That’s it. Not shoes. She wants me to help her pick out lingerie. So she can look sexy for her boyfriend. We’ll go to Victoria’s Secret. She’ll try on thongs. Ask what I think.
“Does this make me look fat?”
She can trust me. I’ll be honest. I won’t tell her she has big thighs. Gay men are sensitive.
“Tell me the truth,” she’ll say. “If you were a guy, would you think this was sexy?”
“Yes,” I’ll say. “If I was a guy.”
Then she’ll tell me she wishes her boyfriend were like me. “All the good men are taken or gay,” she’ll say. I’ll nod understandingly. Gay men are very understanding. She can tell me anything. And she will.
“My boyfriend is great in bed,” she’ll say. “He does this thing with his tongue that makes my hair curl.” Then she’ll wink at me and say, “Let’s go to Trashy Lingerie. I want to get something nasty.”
Oh good. Something nasty. For your boyfriend. That’s just what I want to do. Then you can go home and he can tear it off you with his teeth.
Me? I’ll be home masturbating.
I never should have gotten that Diet Coke. If I had just ordered a real drink, none of this would’ve happened.
“Bartender, get me scotch.” That’s what I should’ve said. “Jack and Coke. No, fuck it. Jack and Jack.”
“And bring some wings. Hot wings. The hotter the better. You don’t have wings? Fine. Just bring me meat. Meat with a side of meat. And a glass of meat to wash it down. Don’t cook it. Don’t even kill it. I want to look it in the eye before I eat it.”
Forget the bar. I should’ve gone out back. In the alley. That’s where the good stuff is. Moonshine. 180 proof. Homemade.
“A sipping straw? No, thanks. I’ll drink it straight from the still.”
I’d pour a shot. Ask for a match.
“Watch this. It’s flammable.”
Light up the shot. Suck it down, matchstick and all. Yeah, it burns. Big deal. I don’t mind. I like it. It’s a real drink. A man’s drink. Drink half, use the other half to clean the rust off my boat. Dissolve the lining of my stomach. That’d show her. Who’s the gay man now?
I should’ve gotten in a fight. Beaten someone up. That guy with the long hair. I could have kicked his ass. Pansy. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me anyway. I should’ve smashed his beer. Broken off the bottleneck. Shoved it in his ear. “You want to see a real man? I’ll show you a real man.” Slammed his face into the table. Twice. “Punk.” Licked the blood off my knuckles. She would’ve swooned.
They’d have to call the cops. Eight of them. They’d surround me. Spray pepper spray. I’d laugh. “I use that to clean my contacts.”
They’d try tazers. Cattle prods. Rubber bullets. Nothing would work. They’d have to shoot me in the leg to take me out. Hog tie me. Put me in one of those Hannibal Lechter masks. I’m dangerous. Women like that. Dangerous men. Sexy.
“He hurts people. He’s cute.”
“See the way he broke that guy’s arm? I hope he calls me.”
That’s what she likes. A real man. A challenge. “Help you pick out shoes? Fuck shoes. I’m gonna go kill a bison.”
“You like my spear?” I’ll say. “Made it myself. Long stick, couple of rocks. It was easy.” I’ll condescend to her. Women love that. “Maybe someday I’ll show you how to use it. Now go knit me a sweater, bitch.”
Christ, what the hell’s wrong with me? That was mean. Sexist. That’s not me. That’s not the kind of guy I am. I got carried away, that’s all. Heat of the moment. I went too far. I have issues.
I need to take a second. Get a grip. Calm down. I can’t talk to her like that. I’ll upset her. She’ll end up crying somewhere, telling her friends what an asshole I am.
“He used to be so nice.”
She’s right. I was. I was a nice guy. Harmless. Non-threatening. Now I’m a dick. I should call and apologize.
“Remember when you thought I was gay? That was funny.”
I’ll remind her of the good times we had. “We used to go shopping together, remember? That time at Trashy Lingerie? You tried on a thong. I bought you Cinnabons. I made an origami swan. You love swans. I love swans. Let’s go buy some shoes!”
“No,” she’ll say, turning away from me. “I don’t know you anymore. You’ve changed.”
I didn’t mean to. I don’t know what happened. It was going so well. She gave me her number, I said I’d call her. We were on the right track. Then suddenly, I turned into a caveman. “Knit me a sweater?” What was I thinking?
I’m a bad person. She deserves better than me. She needs a man who will be caring and loving and nurturing. Not me. I’m not good enough for her. I’m a worm. If I was her, I wouldn’t even pick up the phone. I’d have a friend answer. Screen my calls.
“Who is it?”
“Ugh, it’s The Worm.”
“No, the other one. You knitted him a sweater.”
“Oh. Him. He’s a dick.”
I’ll bet this isn’t even her real phone number. She doesn’t give out her number to strangers. Why would she? It’s a safety issue. I could be anyone. A serial killer. A psychopath. A telemarketer. You never know. They look just like everyone else. She gives me her real number, next thing she knows, I’m calling her, trying to sell her brie.
“It’s the Brie Of The Month Club,” I’ll say. “First month’s free. That’s a month of free brie.”
She wouldn’t want that. She’d give me a fake number. A decoy. I’ll call to talk to her, and some guy will answer. He won’t speak English. I’ll ask for her anyway, just in case. There’ll be a misunderstanding. I’ll apologize. A half hour later, the guy will show up on my doorstep with Kung Pao chicken and an eggroll. I’ll explain there was a misunderstanding about the misunderstanding.
He won’t understand.
And where is she during of all of this? Probably sitting at home, drinking Merlot. Reading Cosmo. Watching “Sex And The City.” Does she care that I’m here, all by myself, staring at the phone, trying to call her? No, of course not. She doesn’t care about my feelings. I’m just an object to her, a pawn in her little game.
I blame Sarah Jessica Parker. Her and her snooty New York friends, using men and then throwing them away. Well, I, for one, am sick of it. I’m sick and tired of being treated like an object. I’m not a piece of meat. I’m not disposable. I’m a real person, with real feelings. Hurt me, I cry. Cut me, I bleed. Tickle me, I giggle. Some people think that’s cute.
But not her. Noooo …. Not her. To her, I’m just a sex toy. An orgasm donor. She looks at me, and all she sees is penis. She doesn’t care that there’s a real person attached. She doesn’t care about my needs. She doesn’t want to hold me at night. She doesn’t want to spoon.
“Let’s cuddle,” I’ll say.
She’ll get out of bed. Put on her shoes. “I better go,” she’ll say. “I’ll call you.”
I’ll sit by the phone. Waiting. A day will pass. Two. Then it’ll ring. I’ll pick up. Try to sound casual.
“Oh, hi Mom.”
I’ll have to explain it all to my mother. The girl. The Diet Coke. The sipping straw. She’ll get worried. Put my father on.
“A sipping straw?” he’ll say. “Son, is there something you want to tell us?”
“Dad. I’m not gay.”
“Yes, Dad. I’m sure.”
He’ll cover the phone. Call to my mother. “Martha, it’s okay. He’s not gay. … Yes, he’s sure. Put down the Rosary.”
My parents don’t understand. Nobody does. I’m just sensitive, that’s all. Maybe if Cindy would call me, she’d know that. What we had together meant something. Sure, it was only forty-five seconds in a seedy bar. But to me, those forty-five seconds meant everything. I opened up to her. I exposed myself. Not literally, of course. But emotionally, yeah.
She was special. I don’t just share myself with anyone. When I give myself to someone, I give all of myself. If only she would take the time to find out what makes me me.
I play piano. I’ll bet she doesn’t know that. I’ve been taking lessons for twelve years. And I wrote a song for her. But you know what? I’m not going to play it for her. She doesn’t deserve it. She doesn’t deserve me. I’m too good for her. I’m tearing up the sheet music right now. There. It’s gone. I hope she’s happy.
Yeah, I’m crying. So what? Men cry. Is that so wrong? What, I’m not allowed to emote? Or, if I do, that makes me gay, right?
I’m sick of all the stereotypes. I cry, okay? I cry all the time. I cry at ‘When Harry Met Sally’. I cry at ‘Sleepless in Seattle’. Anything with Meg Ryan. ‘You’ve Got Mail?’ I couldn’t leave my house for a week. ‘Kate and Leopold?’ I cried at the preview.
Meg Ryan would understand me. She wouldn’t just use me for sex. She wouldn’t laugh at me when I want to watch Oprah. So what if the Super Bowl’s on? What of it? Meg wouldn’t judge me. She’d be supportive. She’d rub my back if I was feeling bloated. She’d bring me herbal tea. That new Pashmina I wanted? Meg would buy it for me. I wouldn’t even have to ask. One day, I’d come home from work, and there would be Meg with a gift-wrapped box from DKNY.
“Here’s your Pashmina,” she’d say. “It’s pink.”
Then she’d blow me.
Yeah, I went too far again. Fuck it, I don’t care anymore. I’m tired of judging myself. I can be a dick. So what? I push boundaries. I take chances. I say demeaning things about perky women with cute haircuts. It’s all part of the package. I’m a complete man, take it or leave it.
Yes, I cry. Yes, I do. But I also fuck. And, yeah, I swear too much. I’m not all teddy bears and pillows. I swear, and fuck, and watch NASCAR, and spot-weld sheet metal. At the same time. That’s what guys do. We’re bred for it. It’s genetic. It’s called evolution, baby. Look it up.
I own a gun. There, I said it. Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but it’s true. It’s a big one. Have I ever used it? I don’t like to talk about it. Let’s just say, I did what I had to do. I’m a man. Men kill. It’s biological.
Kill. Bathe. Repeat.
Does that make me some kind of psycho? I don’t think so. We’re hunters. It’s the way of the world. Men hunt. Women gather.
With other women.
At the mall.
They go to the Food Court. Eat Haagen Daas. Talk about their orgasms.
“My boyfriend does this thing with his tongue that makes my hair curl.”
“Hey, Cindy — Great shoes! Did you pick them out yourself?”
“No, my friend Tom helped me. He’s gay.”
All right, enough of this.
I’m going to call her. Right now. No more messing around. I’m going to tell her exactly where I stand. No games. No guesswork. I am who I am. Take me or leave me. If she likes me, good. If she doesn’t, so be it. It wasn’t meant to be.
Okay, so I’ll do it. I’ll call.
5–5–5–0–5–3–4. Ring. Ring. Click. Okay, she’s picking up. Deep breath.
“Hey, it’s Cindy. I can’t come to the phone right now –”
Shit. Voicemail. Think fast. Think fast!
Do people even leave voicemails nowadays? That will seem desperate, right? I should just hang up. She’ll see the missed call, call back.
Unless she doesn’t recognize the number. Which she won’t. Why would she? I’ve never called her before. She’ll just see a missed call from a random number. Ignore it. Assume it’s a telemarketer. “Ugh, it’s that Brie guy again.”
I could text her. Let her know I called.
Oh God. Why am I even calling her in the first place? Nobody calls anybody anymore. What is this, the Eighties? I should —
“Uh … Hi, Cindy? This is Tom. You gave me your number the other night …”
Say something interesting, asshole! THINK! THINK!
“So, uh … Great weather we’re having, huh? Just thought I’d call to let you know. Talk to you later.”