Monday, November 29, 2010


I had been fighting with my boyfriend for the past couple of days. “Eat your own damned food off your own damned plate,” he snapped, I quickly withdrew my fork from his enchilada, he was an angry little fuck, I thought, I knew this when I met him. He had a lot of childhood trauma, had been mugged 3 times in the past decade, and had to go through life as a 5’4” man, but still you can’t let me taste your enchilada? After hitting his favorite Mexican restaurant, it was off to the comic book store, and then to the sneaker store, he explained that this trauma had robbed him of his childhood, I was along for the ride as he reclaimed his pre-teen years, we would be forty before we knew it.

Tomorrow was going to be dedicated to me, I had decided, Dave had come home with bags of comics, toys, and sneakers, he’d spent his paycheck like a kid blowing his allowance on stupid stuff. But in the morning, I would be getting a custom sound system installed in my new sports car. I had done all the research myself, had purchased all the best components I could afford, and now I was off to the sound system installers in Park Slope I’d heard were some of the best.

I was waiting in front of the place for about 45 minutes, the steel gate was down when I had arrived in time for my appointment. I was thinking I should leave already when the guy screeched into the slot next to me in front of the gate. My installer had arrived, he was hard-to-look-at hot. He introduced himself, pulled up the heavy metal gate with one hand as he explained that he was the preeminent sound system installer in all of Brooklyn, and told me to come back to pick up my wheels at five. When I returned that evening, he was sitting in my car admiring his work, it did sound fine, and he looked good there in the driver’s seat. We spent an oddly long time there in the driveway there in my car, but my boyfriend would be waiting outside my place any minute, so I wrote a check and asked Johnny for my car back.

I loved this car, and now that I had this primo system installed, there would be no stopping me. I roared back down Union Street, windows down, speakers loud, I wanted to see what it could do. I hit the dial that balanced the power between the front speakers and the back, and turned it all the way to the back speaker position, but the front speakers went full tilt. When I turned the dial to the front speaker position, the back speakers shook the house. The preeminent sound system installer had screwed up my installation, for a moment I was regretting not going with the stock sound system, but I reassured myself that everything would be made right. I parked the car and Dave was sitting on my stoop with his hoodie pulled up around his head, he thought he was a baller now. Sometimes out of nowhere he would start talking like a homie. He’d say “woot yoo saee” instead of “what did you say”? He’d been waiting for ten minutes, “where you been, woomone,” he said, snapping his head back, as I put the key in the front door to my lobby. It was a little hard not to laugh, he was a 5’4” white boy from Indiana, but alright. “I wanna get some chicken for dinner, you good with dat?” There wasn’t a Popeye’s in Carroll Gardens, a pro or con of the neighborhood depending on your tastes, but I ordered him some chicken wings and fried rice, and myself a steamed chicken a broccoli. He was glued to yet another basketball game on TV, yelling at the TV in ebonics, eating his chicken dinner. I went into the bathroom and gave myself a facial then went to bed while Dave was in the other room watching his double dip of Seinfeld reruns. I wondered if he would now morph from a black man into some other personae, his hood was now in the down position, he had changed into his sleep pants, eating Ben and Jerry’s with a big soup spoon. I was pretty certain he was now a seven-year old boy state. Either way, it was all good, I would go back to the sound system installer first thing when they opened and ask Johnny to make my back to front speaker snafu right.

Johnny was out in front when I got there, catching some rays like he was poolside at some Beverly Hill’s hotel. “Hey, babe – nice to see ya,” he said, his handsome face tilted upwards to soak up the skin-damaging rays.

“Look,” I told him, “you crossed some wires or something, the back is front and the front is back,” so went my diagnostic assessment. “Oh no. Did I?.” he was feeling all of his pockets for a pack of cigarettes. “Not a big deal, leave it, I’ll try and get to it by the end of the day,” he said reaching through the driver’s window to take the keys. I wasn’t sure what other business he had going, given he was sunbathing and smoking and there were no cars in the garage save for mine. But I hopped a cab to work, and got back to the garage at five on the dot.

“You’re good to go,” he grinned as he pulled the car out, “listen.” He turned the dial all the way to the back position, the back speakers went all out. He turned the dial to the front speakers, it was true, I was good to go.

As I pulled out the driveway, he pounded on the hood and stood with his fists at his waist like a super hero who had saved the day. What a stud, I thought, as I threw it into second gear down Union Street. Boy, this sound system sounded great, I was glad I hadn’t gone with that stock stuff they sell you with the car – too much money, and not enough power. Ha, I’d got it right. I moved the balance slider over to the left, both front and back left speakers went silent, I moved it to the right, the right went dead. Unbelievable. I hung a U-turn and gunned it back to the garage but the metal gate was already down and handsome was out of sight.

I drove home and parked the car, and Dave came over. I tried to tell him about my trials with my car stereo, but he was too busy pouring over comic books he was pulling out of his Jansport backpack. He didn’t like to be interrupted when he was sorting through new additions to his collection. I reached over and picked one up to show interest. “Hon. I ask you one more time not to touch my things,” he admonished me, “please respect that.” I couldn’t tell what personae he was in. Was he a ten-year old reading comic books? Was he a trauma survivor with serious control issues? Was he a middle-aged West Village Lesbian therapist? All I knew was my head hurt, I would go back to the sound installer in the morning, I went off to bed early so I could get up to be there right when they open.

It was 10 A.M. and the gate was down. 11 came and went, I called into work to say I would be more than my usual late. Johnny finally rolled in around around 11:45. “Hey, babe – how ya doin,” he said as he hopped out of his black car and threw up the gate. “No big deal,” he said, “we were so busy yesterday, I musta got distracted.” There were still no cars in the garage. “Let me make it up to you, whadya say we go out tonight and catch a bite.” The most inept sound system installer in all of Brooklyn, and possibly all of the tri-state area had asked me out on a date.

“I don’t think so,” I said, “just please get it right this time, OK?”

“Anything for you, Babe,” he said, snatching the keys from my hand and pulling me towards him. The guy was incompetent, but cute. Still, I had Dave, my loyal, loving when he wasn’t angry, twelve year old, trauma surviving, black militant, lesbian lawyer boyfriend.

When I finally got into the office there was a message from Dave. “Hon. How many times have I told you not to touch my stuff. I’m pretty sure you moved my action figures. I don’t remember moving them myself, and I have a pen mark where each of them should be. And they’re not on the pen mark. It’s Dave, call me back.”

Ugg. I had given Dave a corner of my apartment to keep some of his things. He had put up shelves to display his many action figures, comic books, and Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia. While I was doing some light cleaning I had, in fact, touched his action figures. I should have taken a Polaroid of them to put them back just so, but I had screwed up big time, I had removed them from their Bic pen marks on the wood, and all hell had broken loose. Dave would sometimes adopt a white-trash beer drinking personae, and he’d say it like, “All hill is broke loose,” no matter how you said it, there would be hell to pay.

I went back to the sound system garage, Johnny was in the driver’s seat cranking the thing to eleven, smoking a cigarette. “Hey, babe, check it,” he said proudly, “back… front…. Left… right…. loud…. soft… Perrrfect.” It was true. And although he completely screwed up my stereo the first couple of times, he was pretty perfect himself. Over six foot, jet black hair, muscles, face, psychologically simple. “You still wanna hang out tonight,” I said, jumping into the passenger seat. I had never called Dave back about the action figure debacle, I was in hot water already, I figured just go for the gold and go out with the guy that looks like he’s in the road tour of GREASE.

“Let’s just stop back at my place so I can change, K?,” he said, throwing my car into reverse, “I'm all hot 'n' sweaty, we were biz-eee,” he drove us out to some God forsaken no-wheres-land section of Brooklyn.

He unlocked the deadbolt to his basement apartment, and asked me to sit down on his leather couch while he took a shower. There was a giant birdcage with no bird, a huge TV, an orange shag carpet, the leather sofa and mirrored coffee table in front of it. The place was immaculate, Johnny was in the shower, my car was parked outside, I wanted to call Dave, but there was no phone. The place smelled of room deodorizer, or those car freshener trees you hung from rear view mirrors, it was turning my stomach, I suddenly wanted to go home but I didn’t see my car keys, Johnny had never handed them back. I waited for him to come out, he was now in his bedroom changing, I would tell him I had a change of heart.

Suddenly, the room went pitch black, some multi-colored lights came on from above my head that were flashing in time to the disco track that was suddenly pounding around my head from some mysterious source, I hadn’t seen any equipment. Johnny emerged from his bedroom dressed in skin tight briefs, dancing like it was a show. Hands clasped, moving his arms in a wave pattern, flexing his muscles, giving me the back view, then front view, then back again.

“DID I TELL YOU,” he yelled over the music, “BEFORE I WAS A SOUND SYSTEM INSTALLER, I WAS A DANCER AT CHIPPENDALES!” He was mid-routine, I was sure he had seen his fair share of five spots shoved in the top of his Speedos. His chest was waxed, his shoulders were huge, his penis was in the down position, but seemed to be hard, he was reliving his glory days there in the basement apartment in Bumfulk, Brooklyn. “OH YEAH, OH YEAH,” he whisper/screamed over the music, his choreography hardwired into his muscle memory. He was building towards something, some big crescendo, some grand finale, whatever it was, it would be happening inches from my face. He had me pressed against the back of the leather sofa, which upon closer inspection may have been Naugahyde – he had jumped up on the couch so I could get up close and personal with what appeared to be red nylon briefs, but it was hard to tell in the dark room with the multicolored flashing light show.

“I want to go home,” I choked under his gyrating girth, the evening had taken an unfortunate turn.

“YOU WANT WHAT, BABE? YOU WANT THIS?,” he yelled to top the music, which suddenly stopped, he was breathing heavily from the vigorous dance routine, straddling my lap, his huge thighs locking me in. “You want this,” he whispered in the silence before the next disco hit kicked in. I was hungry and scared and wanted to go home and call Dave.

I pushed Johnny off of me, he grabbed both of my hands to pull me up off the sofa, he thought I wanted to dance. “I WANT TO GO HOME,” I repeated, “WHERE’S MY KEYS??,” I yelled after him, he was doing some backwards come hither pony step move, then went into a spin. I felt around for a light switch, but gave up and grabbed my bag of the sofa, and started feeling around the coffee table for my keys. “WHERE YA GOIN BABE? THIS SHOW’S ALL FOR YOU,” The scent of his deodorant was taking over the room, creating a toxic hybrid perfume with the pine air freshener fragrance, I was feeling around the carpet for my keys. “YOU LEAVIN? YOU SURE?,” with that, he theatrically pulled the red nylon fabric away from his stomach and down with his thumbs, revealing a huge penis, two tiny bird’s egg testicles were hanging on for dear life under the wood.

“JOHNNY, WHERE ARE MY KEYS??,” I yelled trying to push past him, he grabbed my wrists.

“WHERE YA GOIN, I THOUGHT WE’D ORDER PIZZA. YOU LIKE PIZZA?,” he was in a slow improvised sway now. I broke free of his hold and felt around and found the light switch. He was standing there naked in the garish white light, music blasting, the red Speedo now taught around his calves. He waddled that way back into the bedroom and turned off the music, returned with the briefs pulled back up, holding my keys. “Do I at least get a kiss,” he said like a spurned boy on a first date, as he handed the keys back to me.

“Jeesh, where’s my purse,” I said, disoriented, my Coach bag was on the floor, I must have dropped it during our forced dance/scuffle. I unlocked the dead bolt, leaving him standing there in the middle of the room naked – he seemed perplexed how his first date strategy had gone so wrong.

I got into my car and just started driving until I found a familiar road that could take me home, I turned the stereo system off when I started the car, and left it off the entire ride home.

When I finally got home, there were two messages. Dave had called, “Hon, I’m sorry I got mad about the action figures. We’ve talked about this before, but I forgive you, and I love you, Hon. Call me back.” There was still 10 minutes before the double header of Seinfeld, he’d still be up, I wanted to hear his voice. Black Dave, white trash Dave, lesbian Dave, any Dave would do.

The other message was from Johnny. “Hey, got your number from your receipt – I wanted to say I had a real good time and if you’re free on Saturday,” I hit the erase button before he could finish, he sounded hopeful and sad and still a little out of breath. He called me the next three nights. That following Saturday night I told Dave I loved him back and asked him to move in the following week. He said yes as he pushed his plate of fried chicken and collard greens towards me, asking me if I might like to take a bite, “Yo, you want try some of dem collard greens,” black Dave inquired. But it sure beat Chippendale’s Johnny any day of the week.


  1. Freakin' hilarious, Claud! Have you EVER had a normal boyfriend? Hell, does such a thing even exist?

  2. haha, thanks, O. Yeah, they exist - they just don't make particularly good muses.