|A Pretty Thing Like You
||[Jan. 31st, 2017|02:16 am]
Don't you just hate it when you're in the changing room at the gym and the place is empty until you return from the shower only to discover that there's someone sitting right at the locker directly across from yours? I mean like, Really? There's what? four rows of lockers here and no one else but us and you have to randomly pick right where I was going to get dressed. For a recovering misanthrope such as myself it's situations exactly like this that make you question why one would ever quit being an equal opportunity hater. |
But such is the situation at hand, here at the Y on a Monday night just fifteen minutes before they close down and throat checking a stranger's no option so I deal with it. The guy, kid really, lithe, swimmer's physique, pale of flesh with no body hair, the bangs in the eyes goth black or is that emo now or some new shit way beyond an old fuck like me's cultural radar. The main thing is that he's all just sitting there zoned out staring into the locker, naked, dangling between his lap an open bottle of vodka he's been sipping on. None of this surprises or offends except the fact that he's got the rest of the bench occupied with his clothes and gym bag.
"You mind?," I huff seeing as Little Lord Smirnoff here doesn't seem to be registering me hovering ominously over him while I narrate all this shit to you in my head.
Without breaking his attention away from the empty locker he offers up the bottle my way. He does so real slow, mechanically, vibing somewhere between shell-shocked and hypnotized.
The gesture throws me off guard and I take the bottle from his hand before really thinking about what I'm doing. I look at the bottle, it's perfectly balanced between full and empty, I look back at buck naked Goth Boi (if Lux Interior & Joan Jett had a baby) who still won't look at me.
"Go ahead... no one's looking," his words have that tone you hear from young men in animes, a defeated stoicism that comes before they turn into some kind of killing machine or hentai beast.
I study the bottle a good second, tempted, it's been a long time since somebody offered me a drink, even if that somebody won't make eye contact. Nervous for some reason and I don't realize how much until I tell him - "Uh, you know, it's like a total myth all that stuff about people not being able to smell vodka on their breath."
"Good," he answers with a smirk 50 years older than him easy, "why hide you want?"
Without an answer to give him I probably look stupid with my mouth open.
"Did you drive here?," he asks.
"Nuh-uh," I say.
"Me neither," he sighs, "so what are you waiting for?'
But I've got the cap off and already hammered back a shot halfway between the last sentence.
Shit burns from the back of the throat clear down to the chest where it disintegrates a good month's worth of cigarette damage gumming up the lungs. Cheap vodka has this taste to me like someone tried to make an antiseptic out of a potato and a pair of old socks. I fight back the urge to vomit it back up, instead I manage to pass the bottle back, pop open my locker, and dig out the bottle of water I had stashed there for the walk home.
Goth Boi takes a swig back and hands me the bottle.
This time I take it slow and sip gingerly while he clears me off a seat by moving his gym bag.
I take a seat and offer it back but he just tells me to catch up. We sit there a moment, me dripping wet still from my shower towel wrapped beneath a gut I haven't been able to shake in over a year and him wraith naked without a shred of concern. I bide my time trading sips off the vodka and the water bottle waiting for him to tell me whatever it is he has to say.
"Can you do something for me?," he asks blinking into the locker and taking the bottle from my hands for another glug.
"Can you tell me something pretty?," he asks the locker because he sure can't be talking to me.
"Come again," I slug back water and already feeling a little woozy from the vodka.
"Can you tell me something pretty?," he repeats into the bottomless void there in the locker.
I scrunch up my face into a comical scowl - "Why?"
"Because," he says turning to me with pale blue eyes blazing as furious as messiahs presented with the doubts of the unfaithful, "the world is very much lacking in pretty things right now and it's going to become a place much uglier than we ever feared. So I know you're scared and I know you feel helpless and I know you feel alone but if you have something pretty, something beautiful and wonderful in you maybe you can tell me now while we still have a chance for it to be spoken between us. But mainly, mainly, you should say pretty things because it can make someone feel pretty enough to take them home with you and in return make you feel beautiful, make you feel like a man or a lady or something better, something they don't know how to name because it scares them the way their fear scares us. So please, can you tell me something pretty?"
Looking down into the white towel over my lap and the bottle of water I'm holding I whisper - "I don't even know your name."
"Does it matter?," he places a hand gently over my chest.
"Whatever it is," I say laying my hand over his turning my face with lips a breath from his ear, "it's the prettiest thing I could tell you."
"Do you mind?," the old gray custodian asks standing with a mop in the opening of locker alley.
I pull back and the stranger, with his bottle, are gone.
"It's just we close in five minutes and you've been talking to an empty locker here for a few minutes now."
"Sorry," I laugh humorlessly, "long day. I'll be right out of here."
"Uh-huh," he says and walks off muttering to himself about fools talking to themselves when a man is just trying to do his job so he can go home.
"Shit," I tell the empty locker he was/wasn't sitting at, "I just wanted to say something..."
And it doesn't matter, does it? I dress silently, zip up the backpack, fire up the headphones, and it's a fifty five minute walk home or a fifteen minute Uber to a drink. Either option I arrive at the same place - alone, angry, scared at a world afraid of all the pretty things.