Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Me2: Chapter 2

(from M.Christian's Queer Imaginings)

As part of a huge - and much needed - marketing push, I'm going to be serializing a few of my all-time favorite books ... starting with the (ahem) rather infamous novel that I may or may not have actually written: Me2


"Absolutely brilliant!" says Lisabet Sarai, author of Incognito and Fire, about Lambda finalist M. Christian's controversial manlove horror/thriller. 

He looks just like you. He acts exactly like you. He takes away your job. He steals your friends. He seduces your male lover. None of them can tell the difference. Every day he becomes more and more like you, pushing you out of your own life, taking away what was yours … until there’s nothing left. Where did he come from? Robot? Alien? Clone? Doppelganger? Evil twin? Long lost brother? Then you discover there are still more "yous." Can you be sure you are the real you? And how do you fight to take your own life back? 

An absorbing new approach to the question of identity, Me2 is a groundbreaking gay chiller you’ll remember for a long time – no matter who you are, or who you think you may be. 

(Despite rumors that this book was written by an impostor - but, rest assured, this is the real 'M.Christian.' Accept no substitutes!)

Chapter 11

"What?  What did you say?  That's what I thought you said.  No, no, it's okay, it's not that weird.  I just don't get asked this kind of question very often.

"Well, if I had to guess, I'd say it probably had to do with technology, with a machine.  It does sound kind of ridiculous, doesn't it?  But that's what I'd think if it was happening to me.  I saw too many movies when I was a kid, I guess.  Something like that.

"There's just so much happening.  Hell, I remember Liquid Paper, even black and white television.  It feels like only a year ago that cell phones were like bricks; now you can swallow them if you inhale.  I have an iPod now.  I hold it in my hand and just can't believe that it can hold 5,000 songs.  That's more than I've ever owned.  5,000 – and it's this big.  Amazing.

"But that's nothing.  Have you seen some of the stuff coming out of Japan?  We lost the race.  They won.  Sure some of our stuff is okay – I think Macs are sexy – but what they're doing.  It's all wonderful but also creepy.

"I saw this thing a week or two ago on a Web site – and that's something, too.  When was the last time you read a newspaper?  Pretty soon we won't have books anymore.  Just screens and little beeping devices everywhere.  Like bugs.  Fireflies.

"What?  Oh, the site.  Yeah, it was one of those technology ones.  Cell phones, new iPods, flat screen TVs, that kind of thing.  I don't look at them very often, but I was just clicking around one day and saw this new thing they'd developed.

"It was really creepy.  I said that, didn't I?  Well, it was.  Really.  I mean I know they've done some great things, but this was over the top.  It looked just like a woman.  Perfectly.  A Japanese woman, of course.  But you couldn't tell it was a machine.  Not at all.

"They had a video clip of it.  This Japanese guy was talking to it – just like you and I are talking – and it was talking right back to him.  I couldn't tell what they were talking about, of course, because it was all in Japanese, but the way it was moving ... it was like she was a real, live girl.  Lips moving, eyes blinking, she even raised her hand and brushed aside some hair, like this.  Well, better than this because I'm not doing it right, but she did.  It was ... well, I'm not going to say it was creepy again.

"It looked so real.  I mean it was real but she wasn't a real woman.  Listen to me, 'she' wasn't real.  See what I mean?  If I didn't know what was going on, I'd think she wasn't anything but a girl.

"That's what I'd think was going on.  I know it's stupid – that something like that robot could be walking the streets.  But I tell you, and don't you dare tell anyone I said this, but after I saw that clip I had a nightmare.  I know, it's nothing to be ashamed of, but I don't get nightmares, at least not since I was a kid.  But I had one that night.  It was a real doozy, too.

"No, I'm not going to tell you what it was.  I said no, and I mean it.  Yeah, I've heard that, too, but it's just kind of ... embarrassing.  Even if it will make it better to talk about it, I just – well, I don't want to.

"Okay, okay.  Just don't tell anyone.  Promise?  I mean it.  Alright ... well, I was walking near Third and Spring, you know, where Crate & Barrel is?  It wasn't exactly it, because there was a lot of things that didn't fit – like I remember a cop car was green, not black and white, but it's a dream, right?  They don't make a lot of sense.

"I was walking down the street.  It was sunny.  I remember that.  Sunny and hot.  Hmm?  Yeah, I guess I do have pretty vivid dreams.  Color, sounds, things like being hot and cold.

Don't know if that's really lucky, it just is.  There were a lot of cars on the street, heavy traffic.  Honking horns, engine noise – that kind of thing.  Then there was this woman, older, kind of like ... I don't know, an older Liz Taylor.  Fancy, all done up.  Pearls around the neck, Prada handbag – that kind of thing.

"She also had a dog.  A little thing, one of those hyper purebreds, pulling at a leash.  A white puffball.  It was yapping, too.  Barking at everything.

"When ... when I was a kid there was this lady on our block with a dog just like that.  'Pixie' she called it.  I hated the thing.  It bit – well, nipped, really – and never shut up.  One day it got out, got hit by a car.  I didn't see it, but the next day on the way to school I saw some blood on the street and knew that's where it had happened.  Maybe it'd have been better if I saw it, because the rest of that summer all I could do was think what it must have been like, guts and bones and all that.

"That's where the dog in my dream came from.  Pretty obvious, really.  So naturally the thing slipped off the leash and ran into the street.  Got hit – of course.  "

"But no guts or blood or bones, that kind of thing.  It was – it was really weird.  I mean, odd.  Said 'weird' too many times.  But when the car hit the dog, there was this sound like ... I don't know what it was like.  Snapping.  Grinding.  Like that.

"The woman was shrieking, really wailing.  Tears and everything.  But when I looked at the dog there was nothing but springs, gears, electronic parts, metal.  A machine, you see?  Like a toy ... a real toy poodle.

"But then I looked at the woman, the woman who owned the dog, and instead of skin on her face I saw it was plastic, like a mask, and her eyes were like those things at Disneyland.  A robot.  Her mouth was open, but inside was a speaker, and that's where her crying was coming from.

"I'm not telling it right.  But that's what happened.  It was ... I kept thinking about it all day.  Actually for the rest of the week.  The sound she made, the way her skin looked – like a plastic toy.  Her eyes clicked and clacked when they moved, but even though she was a ... thing, she kept trying to be like a person.  That was the worst of it.  Not that she was a machine, but that she – it – was trying to be like a real, human, person.

"It was sad, that she couldn't ever do it.  She could just go through the motions.  Be the way she was programmed, I mean.

"Hmm?  Oh, sorry, just thinking about it again.  I just can't tell it right.  It was ... well, I keep wondering if the machines, like her, would think the same thing about me if they saw me.  Just doing what I was doing, trying to be a person, and not doing it very well..."

* * * *

Leaving work, merging with traffic, I kept more than my usual focus on driving, seeing stoplights two blocks away rather than just one, noticing every car on the highway instead of the ones only in front and behind, eyes on a coming then going 35-miles-an-hour sign and flickering back to my speedometer to make sure the needle wasn't on 34 or (heaven forbid) 36.

I visualized my fridge – the racks and shelves and bins – and what was in there, and then what wasn't in there that I might need.  Beer?  Always needed beer.  Dutch?  German?  Japanese?  A commercial played between my thoughts: a couple on a beach, looking sedately out at a pure blue sea, a bottle between them with a wedge of bright yellow lemon wedged gently in the neck.  Corona, that was it.  Mexican.  Sounded good.  Mexican sounded real good.

Where to find Mexican?  The store, obviously.  A liquor store, even more obviously.  Supermarket, very convenient – there was a Safeway only a few blocks from my place.  But the thought of walking into the buzzing fluorescents, yellowed linoleum, and screaming signage wasn't exactly appealing.

Home had been the promise made to myself, but the idea of stepping into the silent rooms, the institutional indoor/outdoor carpeting, and the cold, staring blue of my monitor, wasn't appealing at all.

They had Coronas at Chevy's.  There were people at Chevy's.  I wouldn't be alone at Chevy's.  The next light, far ahead, was green.  The lane to my right was empty, so I drifted over, turned hard at the next corner.  Even though it was Monday, Chevy's it was.

Driving.  My fridge.  Beer.  Chevy's.  One after another, in way too much detail, with more thought than was really needed.

Anything but thinking of what had happened after work.

* * * *

For a few more signals (one red, one green, and one a yellow 'what light?') I considered the Chevy's on Twelfth, and not my usual one downtown.

No, I finally decided: it would be the old haunt.  The usual.  The place to go before or after dancing for a protein fix of cheap Mexican.  If I was lucky, some of the various hangers on would be there in all their flirty, silly selves.  Not really friends, not really strangers, just people I might recognize: distractions with colorful drinks in their hands.

But I wasn't there yet, and so no colorful distractions: without a blip of warning my mind returned to twitching, fretting, sweating about myself.

...and myself.

* * * *

Even though it wasn't exactly my specialty, I tried to reason it out.  Breathing deep, gripping the steering wheel tightly, I put real effort into it.  Logic: the power of mental exertion.

Tail and headlights coming and going reminded me of the stars I couldn’t see for the coming and going tail and headlights.  Thinking of stars became thinking of other worlds.  Other worlds became thinking of other kinds of life.

This is the way my thoughts went: the universe was a big place – a very big place.  Why couldn’t someone from somewhere, a someone very weird from a someplace even weirder, have come to our little corner of that very big place?  Why not?  And wouldn’t he – as someone very weird from someplace even weirder – not want to appear out of place?  When in Rome, he’d want to look Roman ... right?

Had I been Roman enough?  Had I been what he’d needed not to stand out as someone weird form someplace even weirder? 

This is the way my thoughts continued to go: the universe is so damned big that maybe it’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’ someone from somewhere, a somewhere very weird from a someplace even weirder comes to my place that isn’t that weird, looking for someone totally not weird.  Me: totally not weird.  He: wanting to be totally not weird.  He tries to look like me.

A few signals and my brain cells began to calm a bit.  It all seemed too silly.  Ridiculous.  Face it, accept it, the theory I’d been mulling, chewing, pondering made no sense.

Beer made sense.  Think about that: go back to beer.  Long-necked, the color of ... well, I always thought it looked like piss, and according to a few of my snobbier friends that’s just what it tasted like.  But they were also the guys who wanted to look like a spread in Vanity Fair.  Not me.  I was a proud Boy of Summer, tanned and buffed, pearly white teeth, bright gold hair, pure blue eyes.  Much more accessible, a more fleshy, more bloody kind of guy, someone you could really see waking up next to you.

Not like the manikins my 'Looks like piss, tastes like piss' friends wanted to be.  Too pretty, too perfect – and, yes, there really is such a thing.  Michelangelo's David is a masterpiece – is absolutely a masterpiece – but marble can be awfully cold, and way too stiff to have fun with, or at least not stiff in a good way.

A sigh at another light.  It felt good to only think about beer – even beer that looked like piss.  Damned good.  My brain finally felt like it was beginning to wind down, going from 120 to the legal limit of 35 ... 25 in a school zone.  What had happened had been ... odd, that's all it was.  Not weird from outer space.  There were lots things right here that are just as weird: grown men who like Saturday morning cartoons (knew one), all that Ripley's Believe it or Not crap, ghosts (knew someone who saw one), Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, guys who didn't get their teeth whitened, even though they were a horrible shade of yellow (knew one), gay Republicans (knew two), people who collect plates (never knew one, thank god) – those kinds of things.

Then I was there, at Chevy's, where I could get some Coronas – piss or no piss – and, hopefully, after a bottle or two in a place where nothing was ever strange, or odd, or weird, or disturbing I could return to routine, dull-as-dishwater, predicable, ordinary normalcy.

Like hell.

* * * *

Turning this way, then that way, light to light to light, and before I knew it I glimpsed a familiar landmark, a signpost up ahead, which meant I was just about, almost at the Chevy's.

It would have been easy to miss if you didn't know what to look for, as the marker was just about as gaudy and bright as the restaurant.  I turned in, green/red/blue neon of the Lowe's Megaplex thrown into my car as I passed.  Eyes off the parking lot for a second, I saw on the marquee, in black letters, that a new blockbuster had opened.  The title rang a commercial bell or two.  Ben Affleck?  Matt Damon?  Nicholas Cage?  All three?  Macho chests, rippled and gleaming ... with explosions?  Definitely explosions.  A Saturday with popcorn and a well-oiled Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Nicholas Cage, or maybe even (sigh) all three.  It was a date, even if I didn't have a date (heaven forbid).

The Chevy's was in the back, its own tequila and mariachi neon not as bright as the Lowe's, but it was still a throbbing, eye-hurting, fake Acapulco island against the black sea of the parking lot.

Fuck, it was busy.  I had to circle and weave around at least four times before I spotted a pair of bright white tail lights.  Parking where the minivan had left, I killed the engine, opened the door, checked myself out in the rear view by the glare of the dome light, after a quick hand through my hair to fluff it up a bit, I saw that it was all still good – or at least not bad – and stepped out.

Terracotta tiles, heavy iron patio furniture, fake and real ferns (or were they really fake ferns?): Chevy's was a Disneyland Mexico, but remembering my last trip down to the real Acapulco – and the three days out of the week I'd spent with both of my ends spewing into a toilet – I liked the safety of a fake cantina.

A peasant-skirted waitress waved a five out of ten Commandments-sized plastic-coated menu, but I shook my head, pointing to the bar and the gaggle waving back at me from a booth.

Ladies (well, 'gentlemen' then), the gaggle (well, a few of them to be general, three to be specific):

'Intense' was hard brown eyes, severely cut black hair, one heavy steel ring in one ear (the left), a speckless turtleneck and black jeans.  He was rap, minimalist living rooms in Architectural Digest, fresh-on-DVD Japanese movies, and meth.

'Sandy' was drifting blue eyes, always wind-blown and always 'producted' gold hair, a 90-decibel Hawaiian shirt, painfully white shorts, and sandals.  He was the Beach Boys, a van, zinc oxide, Quiksilver, Billabong, Volcom, Hurley, Roxy, Reef and O'Neill, the perfect curl (both in the water and on his head), and weed.

'Family' was dark green eyes, caramel brown hair, Mister Rogers sweater, sensible cotton pants, and Florsheim's.  He was a committed relationship, a cream-colored ranch house in the suburbs with a manicured front lawn, three dogs, an SUV, a boxed set of Sex & The City, and Amstel Light.

"Hey there," chirped The Family Man, toasting my arrival with a lift of his diet ice tea.  "Welcome back."

"Dude," saluted Sandy with a thumbs up from one hand, a margarita in the other.  "Glad you came."

"Ta," said Intense with an almost-not-there nod.  "Always good to see you."

Sliding along cheap leather, I tapped hips with Family Man, returned Sandy's thumb, and then Intense's bare nod.  "Good to be back."

"Thought you weren't going to come," Family said, a mellow bite to his words.

"Yeah, dude," Sandy added with a distracted twirl of his faggy drink umbrella, "we were thinking it was, like, something we said or some shit?"

"Or you just needed your eyes checked." Intense's voice was maybe a touch tighter than usual.

"Sorry guys, didn't mean to keep you waiting," I said, twisting to scope out the waitress.  That and to get away from their stares.

"It's okay," Family said.  "You're here now."

"Yeah, dude," Sandy said.  "All's forgiven."

"Friends are too rare," Intense said.  "No problem."

"Whew!" I pantomimed wiping mythical sweat from my brow.  "Glad that's all over." Laughs from each, more from some (Sandy), less from others (Intense).

Once past the rocks, conversation drifted into calmer waters.  Around the table, slices of their lives were casually offered up.  Family wondered if he should trade in his SUV, having read good things about a new Ford model – and, besides, the old one was at least two years past its brand new showroom prime (we said that it was a good idea).  Sandy pondered out loud whether his hair was getting too long, and asking the table if Zachary Travis's look on American Idol would be good on him (we said it probably would).  Intense threw out his pissed-ness at having to get rid of his Buddhist books after reading an article online saying the Dalai Lama wasn't gay-supportive (we said that was upsetting).

I followed their chatter, losing myself in the to and fro, in and out, up and down, of their voices, trying to vanish into what Car and Driver and Road and Track said about the new Ford SUV, how wonderful Zachary's hair looked, and how it would have been better not to read that article on the Web.

Eventually things rolled to my direction.  "Anything new with you?" Family asked.  "What's up, dude?" Sandy inquired.  "Life worth reporting?" Intense questioned.

"Same old," I responded with a forced smile.  "It goes on."

"That's good," Family replied.  "Groovy," Sandy grinned back.  "Cool," Intense said.

It was ... life as usual, same old, nothing special going on.  But with a tickle behind my ear, a shiver where my spine ended and my ass began, I had a niggling feeling of oddity.  I looked at them – carefully, slowly – peering surreptitiously into brown, blue, and green eyes as they continued to chatter at each other.  Ever walked in thinking something had just started, not realizing that it was actually halfway over?  A new car, a new haircut, a new belief system – laughter, giggles, smiles, but I felt like I'd missed the setups, hearing only the punchlines.

Brown, blue, green were staring at me, Chevy's plastic Mexifornia the quiet eye of a conversation storm.  "Sorry," I coughed out, realizing that they'd asked me something, and a while ago at that.  "I spaced."

"No sweat," Family said.  "That's cool, dude," Sandy said.  "Meets with my approval," Intense said.

Relief untied the muscles of my jaw, especially the ones I didn't know I'd knotted.  Pushing myself, I squeezed into the conversation: "That model seems really popular," and "If he looks that good then you certainly will," and "I'd hate to be queer and Buddhist right now."

Slowly, one word at a time, I melted, becoming just one of the gang, so much so that when Family and Sandy slipped out to go to the can, it wasn't only Intense and I, just a slightly smaller group.

But then he looked across the table at me, saying nothing for a long stretch of time.  Just when I was about to cough (again), he said "What's up?"

From anyone else it would have been casual, cheaply tossed out.  Two words that didn't mean anything.  But for Intense, who chose the contents of his vocabulary as carefully as he picked out the complementary colors of his living room (charcoal and burgundy, if you have to know), "What's up?" was a sentence made up of two-thousand-pound letters: weighty, unable to be ignored.

"Nothing," I lied.

"You're lying," he said.

"No, really.  I'm fine."

"No, you're not.  I've seen you fine.  What you are right now ain't 'fine.'"

"It's just–" I began, but then didn't.  Family would've feigned concern, maybe say a few greeting card words about how he 'understood' how I might be disturbed, how he'd 'feel' for my discomfort, how he'd try and 'be there' for me.  But he wouldn't.

Sandy couldn't feign anything, let alone concern; his laughter would be too loud, his smile too broad, his joke about it not funny, and that would be that.

Intense, though ... if I could tell anyone about it, it would be the serious, the thoughtful, the intellectual, the perceptive one.  But even with him there was a risk.  I had to be careful, cautious.  It sounded so stupid.  Or rather I knew it would sound stupid, because that's how I felt just thinking about it.

So I said.  "Really, I'm okay.  But there's this thing that's been kind of ... preying on my mind.  Something I just can't stop thinking about..."

So I said it that way, hidden in a game, in an intellectual exercise.

He listened, then he told me about a dream he'd had.  A dream about a robot.

* * * *

After he'd finished, I looked across the table, met his firm brown eyes and said with as much honesty and kindness as I could: "Thank you."

In return he didn't do anything but pass me another of his subtle nods.  I didn't know what to think – at least not right then – but knew he'd stepped far into very harsh sunlight.

From returning my look, his head tilted up, an inch or so that said we wouldn't be alone for too much longer.  Sure enough, Family and Sandy announced themselves a moment later, a duet of laughter at an unheard (at least by Intense and I) bit of bathroom humor.  Getting up to let Family slide in, I grinned back at both of them, hoping they wouldn't be aware of the deep oddness that had been shared between the serious one and me.

I shouldn't have worried.  Not about them, at least.

"So glad you decided to come," Family said, making himself comfortable next to me.  "We really were thinking that maybe you were pissed at us or something."

"Yeah, man" Sandy echoed, playing with his umbrella again.  "We didn't know what to think there for a while."

"Like I said," Intense said, "Friends really are rare." His own few words hinting of softness, continued reflection at the momentary vulnerability between us.

"Really sorry, guys," I repeated, finishing the second of the two words with a trickling drip down the back of my neck.  The chill wasn't from Intense and my conversation; the shivers were from finally not just hearing what they were saying, but beginning to understand what they were saying.

Cold became ice, the stuff you find in drinks.  "There you are, hon," a waitress said, appearing at my side.  "I know you said you didn't want another, seeing that you were leaving, but since you're still here I thought I might tempt you."

It was a beer.  My drink of choice.  "Thought you weren't going to come," "we were thinking it was, like, something we said or some shit." "Or you just needed your eyes checked.  "

Reaching out, I pushed the bottle away, causing the Corona to get dangerously close to the edge of the table.  Family, Sandy, and Intense had seen me sitting at another table, but I'd ignored them.  I told the waitress I didn't want another beer.  Then I left.

But that hadn't been me.

* * * *

Run!  Ass sliding along faux leather, and then I'm on my feet.  Run!  Behind me, three quick voices of shock (Family), concern (Sandy), and disappointment (Intense).  Run!  Three hurried excuses tossed over my shoulder: "I forgot...  I forgot something," (to Family); "I've really got to get going," to Sandy; "So sorry," (to Intense).

Run!  The waitress stepped quickly back, reflexively shielding her breasts behind a serving tray.  Run!  I heard glass hit the fake terra cotta-tiled floor with an explosive yet musical chiming.  Run!

The Corona had fallen off the table.  Broken.

As things went, it didn't count for much, but it did, at least, count for something: despite panic beating up my heart I didn't actually run.  Instead I walked – okay, it was very, very fast walking, but still walking nonetheless – through the bar, past plastic ferns, and up to and then out the front door.

The night felt good: brisk and clear.  Stopping a foot away from the edge of the curb, I took a shuddering, careful breath.  Calm down ... take it easy ... breathe easy, breathe slow ... in and out, in and out ... there's a reasonable explanation ... there's always a reasonable explanation.  Always.

Eventually, it worked: my chest didn't feel quite so tight, my pulse not quite so hammering.  I probably should have gone back in, made my apologies, tried to slip back into the chatter and laughter of three friends.  A drink.  That would be good ... a stiff one.  Not just a beer.

But I didn't go back inside.  Sure those guys were nice enough, but turning around, going back through those doors, down the length of the bar, to the booth, would mean seeing bits of broken glass and a gleam of wet on the butterscotch-colored tiles – from the beer I hadn't ordered.

Instead, I finally stepped off the curb and headed out across the parking lot toward my car.  At first I didn't recognize mine, it blending in with the other Jello-mold machines – and my mind being still very, very rattled.  After a minute or so, though, I remembered the view through the windshield when I'd parked, and got my bearings.

Still, I tried to open the Volkswagon GTI next to mine, only realizing my mistake when my key stubbornly refused to work.  Finally behind the wheel, safe in my home away from home, I didn't immediately turn the ignition.  Breathe, I thought.  Take it easy.  There's always a reasonable explanation.

I didn't know what it was, but there's always a reasonable explanation.  I wished to hell I did know what that reasonable explanation was.  But I couldn't think of one.

What I did think of was that I didn't want to be there anymore, friends, beer or not.  Away, was what I thought of.  As in, I have to get away.

So with a twist of my wrist, I started the engine – a comforting German-engineered purr – and pulled out of the parking lot, into sparse late-night traffic.

A stoplight – another machine – stopped me.  Time for breaths, one after another, one after another.  In out.  In out.  Scared, freaked, creeped?  Yup.  But I held the wheel tightly, maybe too tightly, using the fleshy and bloody reality of 'hand' on 'wheel' engaged in the act of 'driving' to keep me from dissolving into a greasy puddle.  It might not be a real answer, but it kept me focused.  It might not be colorful drinks, beer, and friends, but it kept me from freaking out.

Red to green, foot down, and me and my car moved through the intersection.  Joining, as always, a surge of fellow machines racing to their various destinations, or at least the next red light.

Home.  Yes, home.  Apartment safety.  Life safety.  Close the door behind me, curl up on the couch with a hit show, try to let the creamy smoothness of my Ikea living room set lull me into cool and tranquil safety.  When sleep finally began to tug at my eyelids, I'd stumble into the bathroom for my nightly regime of scrubs and peels, and then to bed and a snug womb of Crate & Barrel sheets with a Bed, Bath & Beyond comforter.

Then with the hated morning, reverse it all: bed to bath, bath to clothes, clothes to the door, door to my car, car to my job.  I never really thought about it before – my life always just being there – but it was nice to have it be so common, so predictable, so average, so ordinary.

But was it?  There had to be a reason, something about me that wasn't a part of the crowd.  There had to be something special, something unique about me.  If all of this was happening – really happening, I mean, and I wasn't just having a breakdown or something – then I wasn't just, only, merely, simply, who I thought I was.

Why me?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Me2: Chapter 1

(from M.Christian's Queer Imaginings)

As part of a huge - and much needed - marketing push, I'm going to be serializing a few of my all-time favorite books ... starting with the (ahem) rather infamous novel that I may or may not have actually written: Me2


"Absolutely brilliant!" says Lisabet Sarai, author of Incognito and Fire, about Lambda finalist M. Christian's controversial manlove horror/thriller. 

He looks just like you. He acts exactly like you. He takes away your job. He steals your friends. He seduces your male lover. None of them can tell the difference. Every day he becomes more and more like you, pushing you out of your own life, taking away what was yours … until there’s nothing left. Where did he come from? Robot? Alien? Clone? Doppelganger? Evil twin? Long lost brother? Then you discover there are still more "yous." Can you be sure you are the real you? And how do you fight to take your own life back? 

An absorbing new approach to the question of identity, Me2 is a groundbreaking gay chiller you’ll remember for a long time – no matter who you are, or who you think you may be. 

(Despite rumors that this book was written by an impostor - but, rest assured, this is the real 'M.Christian.' Accept no substitutes!)

Chapter 1

"They're everywhere.  Here, there – even next to here, even close to there.  You see them all the time, but you don't see them ... understand?  You look right into their eyes but don't know what they are inside, down deep, where their real selves are – where it really matters.

"I knew you'd say that.  Heard it a million times ... nah, more than a million times.  Billions.  Billions of times.  More than billions ... what's more than a billion-billion?  Is it something like a gazillion, a multi-billion?  Gigillion?

"Heard it lots.  That's good enough to say I guess.  Lots.  But lots more than lots.  Like, when I say 'lots' you take the number that comes to mind and you add it by another billion – and then add that by still more billions.  That would only be a bit of the real number of times I've heard it.

"Just like you, they say 'You're nuts' when I tell them the truth of what's going on, what's up, what's happening.  Bonkers, mad, insane – majorly, completely, totally – fucked up.  That's me ... I mean, that's not me.  Really!  That's just what they say when I say what I say, when I tell them about the shit going down.  I'm not crazy, though.  Lots of other things, sure – but then who isn't, right?  But I'm not.  Crazy, I mean.

"I know how it sounds.  I do.  Really.  But I say it anyway, because someone has to say it.  Even if they do say I'm not right in the head when I say it.

"But aliens are out there.  Here, I mean.

"Don't look at me that way.  You know what I mean, like I'm crazy or something.  Everyone looks at me that way when I tell them the truth – or did I say that already?  Not about the aliens, I mean, but that people always say I'm fucked up when I tell them.  I did say that, didn't I?

"But not because of the aliens.  They're there.  You know it.  Don't tell me you don't.  You see them all the time.  There might be one standing behind me, or next to you, or in front of you, or next to you when you ride the bus ... or do you drive?  They're like the guy my friend Larry saw while he was at the clinic waiting for his meds.  He told me – and I trust Larry in this even though he really is nuts, but never about the aliens – that he could just tell, you know, that there was this guy there who wasn't ... like the rest of us.  Humans, I mean.  And when someone just isn't human then what else could they be but an alien, right?  Doesn't that make sense?  I think it does.  That's not the kind of logic a real crazy person would use – is it?

"Nah, I don't know where they come from.  I'm not an astrologist.  Maybe nearby, like Mars or Venus or Vulcan, or maybe somewhere real far away.  Don't know how they get here, either: ships, or rays, or maybe they have homes and stuff.  But they're here.

"Here and everywhere.  Everywhere ... but they're aliens, see?  So they don't quite 'get' us, what it means to be us.  And that's what fucks them up.  All of us got all our guts in the right places, the right spine, the correct feet ... but the aliens, they aren't born like us.  I don't know how they come out – hatched, grown, built, whatever – but they don't have mothers or fathers.  They have to copy the rest of us who do ... have mothers and fathers I mean.  Not that having them is good, you understand, mothers and fathers I mean.  Fathers, especially.  Like mine.  Not to complain, you know.  Just that sometimes having one – like mine – isn't a good thing.

"But having one – even a bastard like mine – makes us people, right?  They don't have one, or a mother either, and because of that they have to cheat.

"So what they do is they just look around, right?  They look at us and find one that looks right to them.  Maybe pretty because – I don't know – they want to be pretty if they are a girl, or handsome if they are a boy, or maybe they think ugly is pretty, or pretty is ugly, whatever.  I don't know what they think, or why they do it, because they're aliens, right?  And no one can know what an alien thinks.  But they do look at us, you can tell that, and after they look at us they go back to their planet, or their ship, or their houses and they put on makeup and all, fake faces, like masks, maybe even fake eyes and fake hands like you see in the movies, and because they do, these aliens, and you can't tell one of them from one of us.

"But they aren't like us, or they can just pretend to be like us, like humans I mean.  That's how you can tell that they aren't like us, because they look just like us.

"Why?  Don't know that.  They're aliens, right?  They do alien things because they like alien things for alien reasons.  I used to think they wanted our jobs, like Mexicans, but no one wants to do our jobs, not even Mexicans.  Then I thought they might want our human women, like maybe they don't have any where they're from.  But if they do then why don't they all look like movie stars?  They could want to take over, but I'll tell you, friend, I hope they do because even something with alien arms and weird, creepy alien eyes could probably do a better job than those fuckheads in Washington.  Or they could just need water, food, or shit like that.  Or they might just want a new place to live.  Like I said, they're aliens – so I don't know why they're here, just that they're all over place, looking just like us.

"Hmm?  Yeah, I guess that could be it.  But like I said I don't know why they're here, just that they are.  They could be here, like you said, because they just like to look like us and all, like maybe they are real ugly – ugly, ugly, ugly, and we might be the best looking folks in the universe.  Maybe, but – well, have you looked in a mirror lately?"

* * * *

Morning.  Belch.  Monday morning, double belch in a venti cup.  Nothing special in that: lots of people hate mornings.  Hell, everyone hates Monday mornings.

Blink, blink, blink.  The red numbers on my nightstand still there, still too high, no matter how many times I blinked, hoping each time I wasn't reading them right.

But I was reading them right.  I was also late. 

Crap.  No, not just crap: double crap in a venti cup.

Covers tossed aside, I jumped – or rather stumbled – out and into the bathroom.  Hello, me, I thought, greeting my reflection, my face hovering in the mirror above the sink.  My blondness looked to be inching toward too long, and bit jagged with imminent shag, but nothing to worry about – for today.  Note to self: schedule time for a trim, then a shampoo and repeat.

Skin looked clear, no obviously pitted pores, no unnecessary roughness; but you – or more importantly I – could never be too careful.  Lepers might only be on basic cable's 10 Commandments, but zits were the next best – I mean worst – thing.  Second note to same self: while getting my locks done, also get a peel.

Above the cheeks, below my hairline, no red beyond the blues of my eyes.  I heard that they could even bleach it out when it did appear.  It hadn't, but still it might be worth asking about when I got clipped and slathered.

Was that ... well, not yellow, not yet, but they weren't as pearly as they could be.  So, another note, this time for my dentist to bright them back up to their brilliant best.  "Your teeth say hello long before your voice does."  GQEsquireMen?  Couldn't remember which – just that the headline sounded too true not to be.

Piss, comb, brush, exfoliate, deodorate – then back to the bedroom.  This time I knew it was Men, because the July issue was still there on my nightstand, folded back to "The Boys of Summer."  The second page of the spread on top, all Cape Cod dazzling blue-sky backdrop, sand under his sandaled feet, the model all tightly gleaming youth.

Late – very late – sure, but I hadn't spent Saturday and Sunday shopping to go out on Monday with what I'd been wearing on Friday.  Diesel, Gap, Nordstrom, opened and tags carefully cut off with the manicure scissors from the nightstand's drawer.  Shirt, drawers, shirt, sandals, then my closet door full-length reflection with a grin to the Mr. July who smiled back at me.  If my supervisor saw me without my regulation black shirt and pants ... well, there are jobs and then there are jobs, but looking good is better than anything.

Now it was time to get going – or at least not to be so late.  On the way to the door a glance back to the white elegance of my Mac.  Nope, no time to check my email.  That was an option.  What wasn't was the silver elegance of my cell phone, which went in a "Boys of Summer" pocket.

The hall outside my apartment door was cool, dark, and way too long: more like winter rather than the cloudless summer I'd seen going to and coming back from work on Friday and retailing on the weekend.

It only got darker and colder after a trip down in the elevator.  Arms crossed, goose bumps not at all complementing my Boy of Summer self, I walked past spaces, 112, 113 and then to 114, where my 115 Volkswagon GTI sparkled.

Fishing out my keys, Dad was there in my brain, brought up with the clinking metal echoing in the garage and the smooth plastic in my hand.  When I told him about the make and model, he'd originally tisked and tutted, vanishing for a few months into Consumer Reports, only to finally emerge during one of our monthly family phone calls to say that he thought it had been" a good decision," his tone of voice clearly making his agreement with something I'd done a too rare event.

Key going from fished out to lock inserted, I thanked dad for his 'support' in my 'intelligent' and 'well thought out' decision.  Sliding into the driver's seat, twisting my carefully gym-toned butt into the leather, I adjusted the rearview, putting on my best Boy of Summer grin at how my 'intelligent' and 'well thought out' buy made me look so damned good.

Turn of key, spin of wheel, back out and then forward and up the way-too-steep ramp, out of the cool darkness of the garage and into a dazzling, blinking, summer morning: feeling damned good, and looking even better.

* * * *

"Bet they'd even follow us home," Buddy said once, talking about driving the same route over and over again and how our cars could probably do it by themselves by this time.  Shake things up by taking the bus home and there they'd be in the garage when you got there, wounded expressions on their chrome faces.

His car, maybe.  Mine was a bit more absent-minded.  Rather than letting it take me from my apartment to work, I had to put it in the right lane, pay close attention to the correct number of stoplights, and keep an eye out for the proper landmarks.

Martin Luther King Boulevard was a wide and busy one.  Waiting in the left-hand turn lane to merge with it, I checked myself in the rearview, noticing a stray lock of blond.  Sighing at the betrayal of yet another product recommendation, I managed to tame it just before the green arrow popped up.

The road split in two, one side staying MLK, the other the beginning of Main.  It was a weird corner, a triangular oddball in the usual grid, a marker obvious enough for my ditsy car to drive it without a thought in my head.

So, what to do tonight?

I could go out, of course.  Light dinner at the scene of the season, or a casual diner at an acceptably tawdry eatery.  From there a cruise down to a few of my favorite spots to check out some batting eyes, bump some hips, and stroke some chests all toward some possible early week play.  So far my dance card had been nicely filled with a good number of guys between the sheets, or even in the damp darkness between buildings.  A stud?  Not really, certainly not like the one I wanted to be.  But I sure wasn't a blushing, stammering, shoulder-rocking, eye-drooped wallflower.

There was always Buddy, of course.  Speaking of blushing, stammering, shoulder-rocking, eye-drooped wallflowers.  Buddy wasn't his real name, but that's what he was to me, so that's what I called him.  That's all he was to me.  But for a blushing, stammering, shoulder-rocking, eye-drooped wallflower he was still kinda fun to hang out with.

But so much for him (I remembered): Buddy had some kind of temp gig that began at neon-switch-on-time and ended too-damned-late, and he was stuck on it for the next few days.  Setting up a new office for some kind of mortgage company, I think.  Poor guy.  My own employment definitely sucked – sometimes with extreme determination – but at least I had from neon-switch-on-time to too-damned-late to put it behind me.

Blink, blink, blink.  Shit, did I miss the turn?  Luck was a red light and a quick turn left and then right, trying to get my bearings.  Dirty-windowed Domino's on one side, McDonald's on the other, across the intersection a Burger King.  Ah, behind the Burger King was a familiar sign, meaning I hadn't overshot.  Passing the Carpeteria, I gave it a friendly salute, the shoppers inside too focused on either indoor or outdoor styles to notice.

Turning into the packing lot, I winced at the time on the dash.  Crap.  Crud.  Corruption.  Way beyond the "fifteen minutes of safety."  I wasn't supposed to park in front, but I did anyway, sliding the Volks into a no-man's-land space between the Blockbuster and the Site For Sore Eyes.

Mumbling the Prayer of the Late Employee – which went something like "please don't notice" or "be in a good mood" – I jogged down the sidewalk.  Before hitting the door, I sighed that there were only two people behind the counter: Black Girl with Attitude, and Hippie.  Whew, no sign of a supervisor, for which I thanked the slacker gods, promising I'd stay home and tap the remote and gulp beer in praise of their intervention.

I got a "you're so lucky, dude" expression from the Hippie, and a "fucking asshole" one from BGWA.  Coming around the counter, I gave them both a quick nod – agreeing with both of them – punched myself in, and grabbed my green apron.

Welcome to work.  Burner of days, deliverer of money.  Too much of one, not enough of the other, but who was I to complain?

Dad, of course, thought I was wasting my life.  When it came up, and it always did, I explained that it was a good gig – something that provided regular bucks, and even pretty good health insurance.  I sure as shit didn't want to do it for the rest of my life, but it was an adequate enough situation while I weighed my various career options.  That my temporary situation had so far gone on for three years and that my various career options equaled a big, fat goose egg was also something that always seemed to come up during our monthly spats ... I mean calls.  Mom didn't seem to care one way or another, everything was fine with her as long as I was happy.

I was here and they were there, a chasm of more than a thousand or so cashed-in frequent flyer miles.  I tried to imagine how their minds worked: jobs were for life, sex was mostly secret and too often shameful, America was the Greatest Country in the World, pants for men, skirts for girls, and gay people should always be secret and always shameful.  I tried, like I said, but I always had a headache afterwards.

My life was good enough.  I had people (beyond my 'not really a boyfriend'), movies to see, magazines to read, clubs to club, shops to shop, a gym to keep me tight and firm, vacations to plan, eateries to try, and an easy enough job that kept it all going.  It wasn't a big life, extra shiny, well-padded, or splashed on headlines, but then most people's weren't.  Sure there were things I would liked to have changed, and who knows?  – maybe someday I'd have that Porsche, that Architectural Digest house with that House and Garden backyard, a film career, a picture-perfect boyfriend who was also a picture perfect model, but for now it was all average, ordinary, and agreeably satisfactory.

It was then that the place began to hop, the second surging wave of sleepy-eyed commuters on their way to their own life-enabling jobs pushing through the doors and wobbling toward the counter.

Assuming the recommended frozen smile, chipper tone, and plastic politeness I took the disliked position of manning the register as an act of penance.

Saying "Welcome to Starbucks," I began another day at work.

* * * *

Ding.  "Thanks for stopping by."  Ding.  "Have a nice day."  Ding.  "Thank goodness the weekend's almost here, eh?"  Ding.  "Have a real nice day."  Ding.  "Be excellent to one another."  Ding.  "See you tomorrow."  Ding.  "Love the sweater."  Ding.  "Have a damned nice day."  Ding.  "Don't work too hard, okay?"  Ding.  Ding.  Ding.

The Volkswagon parked outside might not be smart enough to get home on its own, but I was a real efficient autopilot.  Prop me up in front of the register and the machine gets going, the numbers begin flashing, and the drawer starts popping – and then the register revs up.

Briefcase in hand – who carries those anymore?  – was the stiff and ironed Double Espresso.  Handing him his Tall, I imagined the cup as cardboard outside but a steaming hot jungle with pounding native drums inside.

Caramel Macchiato was right behind him.  A schoolteacher type, all mom and graying curls, she sipped her grande with a look of religious ecstasy on her beginning-to-wrinkle apple face.  Watching her moment of caffeinated bliss, it was easy to see her bouncing off the playroom walls with her terrible-two students – and then crashing along with them when it was nap time.

Next was Cinnamon Dolce Latte, but not just a Cinnamon Dolce Latte – heaven forbid she'd only order a plain and simple Cinnamon Dolce Latte.  No, she had to have it with this much cinnamon, that much Dolce, only the right kind of espresso, with this measure of steam, a cup from the center of the stack, a lid from a fresh box, and a wooden stirrer untouched by human hands.  The joke goes that that the length of an order is directly proportional to the amount of assholeness in the orderer.  Ms. Cinnamon Dolce Latte was definitely one, so long was the order, and so great her anus that I doubt she could sit down for fear of it swallowing the chair.

Hands softly curled together, head gently bowed, native-sewn skirt, peasant blouse, Tazo Green Tea Frappuccino Blended Creme with Melon Syrup was ordered with a voice like temple bells.  Even though her order was long, it was simple and spiritual.  Accepting her drink, she bowed ever-so-slightly before shuffling out the door.  Even though she ordered it with a chiming voice, the order was still long – and she was still an asshole.  Through the front window I saw her climb behind the wheel of a mountainous SUV, dreamcatcher hanging from the rear view mirror.

Then there was Just Coffee.  God, not Just Coffee.  The day is "special" when he shows up.  "Special" meaning extra crappy.  No Breakfast Blend, no Brazilian Ipanema Bourbon, no Guatemala Antigua, no Gold Coast, no Yukon – Just Coffee.  Not in a tall, not in a grande, not in a venti.  Just Coffee, in a medium cup.

Funny, he doesn't look insane.  Every blue moon or so someone wanders in, their eyes bright and clear with innocence, faces a moon glow of childish delight, and orders a 'coffee' in a 'medium' cup.  Innocent, childish, until my Hippie or BGWA Starbucks pal of the week runs them through the laundry list of flavors, cup sizes, and all the rest, with our plastic smiles on our plastic faces.  But Just Coffee was different.  No matter how many times we tried, he just never got it.

The worst of it was that the day had ebbed, the commuters were on their way to their various destinations, and the place was practically empty.  With only an audience of employees, he could (sigh) chat a bit more than usual.  "They're everywhere, all around us–" he began, the words tumbling out of him loose and broken up.  In clean jeans, new-looking tennis shoes, bright blue hoodie, cleanly clipped hair, freshly shaved cheeks, he was a picture of Average Joe, not a loony who refused to order anything but a Just Coffee in either a tall, grande, or venti cup – and who though that aliens were everywhere.

* * * *

Just Coffee, after he finally left, signaled the official eye of calm.  The storm of the morning gone, along with the cars in the parking lot – the next not due until people swung in to grab a booster for the night.  There was little to do but clean, play around with the thermos mugs and CDs, or chill out in the store room while 'checking the inventory.'

So for an hour I grabbed some supplies and scrubbed, dusted, swept, polished, wiped, deodorized, and sanitized until the cream station, the displays, the floor, the restroom, the windows, and the espresso machine gleamed, glittered, shined, shone, sparkled, and reflected.

For another hour I arranged the CDs by title, band, lead singer, height of hairstyle (where appropriate), and eventually by degree of awfulness.  I sorted the thermos cups by height, color, popularity, and my own 'looking like a jerk while using' scale.  I organized the chocolate by color and pomposity.  I classified teas by flavor, caffeine strength, country of origin, and lastly by hipness.

The last hour, I tried to get comfy in the storeroom, but gave up when the bags of beans, boxes of cups, and cartons of lids just wouldn't cooperate in my quest for comfort.

Lunch came and went like the regulating tick of our time clock.  1PM: exited, proceeded down sidewalk to corner.  I had a wide range of choices, eventually settling for KFC (love their desserts).  2PM: returned, entering to see that a rush hadn't rushed in my absence, that the place was still spotless and still empty.

So I thought about Just Coffee, and what Just Coffee had said about aliens.


* * * *

I've traveled ... some.  No backpacking through the Andes, no throat-singing on the steppes, no sailing the Caribbean – just a bit of Mexico, a touch of Canada, a summer in Paris when I was in college.  But the point is I've done it – just not a lot of it.

But when I have, I've noticed something odd about my foreign tourist self that's very different than my USA residential self.  Same guy, inside and outside, even though the money in my pockets was a bunch of different colors and the street signs made no sense.

Sure I like to be part of the crowd, among my own people – whether they know what to do with a throw pillow, sling Jamaican blend all day, dance the night away, keep on an eye on the latest fashions, or can tell you what Celine Dion is up to – but take me away, plop me down where they spit before shaking hands, put cloves of garlic under their armpits, talk like they're clearing out a ton of phlegm, boil everything they eat (and a lot of things they don't), or shriek like warbling banshees when they're happy (and even when they aren't) and I change.

What happens is I suddenly want to hock a loogie before 'putting it there,' stick an elephant's head in my pits, gargle my words, put everything in a stewpot, or trill at the slightest provocation.  Anything, you see, to fit in; to not be the tourist sticking out like a sore ... well, whatever they stick out there.  I want to blend.  I need to blend.  Blending becomes a very good thing to do.

So it isn't hard to imagine what it might be like to travel a bit further than the Rio Grande, Quebec, or to get a shot in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Stranger in a Strange Land, right?  Where did I hear that?  Anyway, there you are, away from home, friends, the usual and comforting anything.  So what if you have ... weird hands, tentacles, bug eyes, slimy organs, weird heads, and all that kind of sci-fi stuff?  Wouldn't you want to be anything but a tourist with a camera around your eight-foot neck, sandals on your blue feet, zinc oxide on your elephant nose?

Of course you would.  You wouldn't want to stand out – especially if you've seen flicks like Independence Day and Aliens.  E.T.  might have had a nice visit if he looked like one of us, right?

But cruising the mean streets of Mexico City, I might have wanted to vanish into the brown-skinned crowd.  Meandering the avenues of Toronto, I definitely would have been happier knowing when to say – or not say – "eh." Skipping down the boulevards of the City of Lights I absolutely wanted to understand why Jerry Lewis wasn't known as a complete and total asshole.  But wanting to and being able to were at least a thousand miles apart.  Sure, I could have practiced my Spanish, tried to love syrup, and puzzled out the genius in The Lady's Man, but I'd never be able to really blend in.  I'd be the gringo who ordered cerveso rather than cerveza and got a bowl of baby shoes instead of a beer; the tourist from down south who cheered for this guy rather than that guy and got a fist to the face instead of a clap on the back; the Ugly American who ordered French Fries instead of ... whatever they call them.

So what would I do?  What would a spaceman do?  The same, I bet.  He'd look around at what everyone else was doing, and try to do what they were doing, look the way they looked, smell the way they smelled, and sound like their voices.  He couldn't make up a new person; he'd just copy what everyone else was.  I couldn't do it well, but I bet someone who could go from Mars to here could.

So I think Just Coffee might have been on to something.  Nuts, sure.  Freaky, absolutely.  But he had something there.  They wouldn't want to stand out – so they'd look like you or me, or that guy over there, or that girl, that old guy, so forth and so on.

The late day surge rushed in and rushed out, forcing my mind back to mochas, espressos, lattes, chais, macchiatos, americanos, cafe au laits, and frappucinos rather than on the business woman, the surfer dude, the yuppie, the Gen X'er, the Baby Boomer, the fossil, or any of the others I took an order from, made cash for, and handed drinks to.  I had no time to think about what they looked like on the outside, or what might be on the inside.

On a side note, as someone who works in the food industry, that's exactly the concern they should have about the drinks they were walking out with.

As the rush trickled down to just a stream of lead-eyed coffee buyers, and night began to turn neon and fluorescent lights inside the store – and I only had an hour and a half of both left before I could escape – and out along the mini-mall, I began to look at the dribs and drabs that stumbled in and buzzed out.  Him?  Her?  Them?  I never really thought about UFOs and stuff but ... well, could that many people be wrong?  Even if they had crooked teeth and no indoor plumbing there was just too many of them.  Sure, scientists were smart, but did they really know everything?  Who was to say that aliens weren't out there?

At one hour to Getting the Hell Out, I asked my Hippie co-worker about what had been percolating in my mind.

"Aliens?" he said, rearranging pastries in the case, the scorn in his high-pitched, mouse-squeaky voice coming clearly through the thick glass.  "Yeah, right, man."

"Just think about it for a second," I tried, carefully outlining my theories, laying out my well-thought-out logic.  Never, of course, mentioning that Just Coffee was my inspiration.

Out from the case with a toffee almond bar in his tongs, he looked at it to see if it was too stale to sell, then at me to see if I was too nuts to engage.  The toffee almond bar went in the trash, a too-loud noise in the empty shop, and to me he said: "Get real, man.  Aliens.  What a fucking crock."

At half an hour to Getting the Hell Out, I asked the Black Girl with Attitude about what I'd been pondering.  She told me I was crazy and to fuck off.

Then it was time to leave.  Hippie drew the short straw, so he had to close up.  The BGWA and I could get out a bit early.  Leaving our aprons behind, I could tell she was just itching, positively burning, to get the hell away from me, so I did her a favor and snuck out a bit early so as not to be anywhere near her.

Time for the drive home, time to honor the slacker gods with my ass on the couch, a remote in one hand, a beer in the other.  No time for aliens.

But "Hey, hey, hey," came a familiar voice nearby.  Twisting from the beeline to my car and Getting the Hell Out I looked for who said it-and looked right into the bright-eyed faced of Just Coffee.

"Eh, hello," I said, quickly trying to think of a way to escape.  Sick mother?  Urgent appointment?  Had to beat traffic?  Favorite show to catch?  Not feeling well?  Too many options jammed up my head, gummed up my mouth.

"Won't keep ya," he said.  "Just wanted to thank you is all.  No one says that enough, do they?  Must be something really fucking wrong with this world.  Screwed up, it is.  Anyway ... just wanted to say it."

"No – no problem," I sputtered, at least having the brain cells to jingle my keys.

"It's just it takes a real nice person, a great guy, to take time with someone like me – a person they don't even know.  Just deserves thanks, it does.  So I'm saying it."

"No problem at all." Now, I really must be going ... was what I was about to say.

"If it wasn't for you ... well, I bet a lot of folks would think I was stupid, or crazy, or maybe a bit of both.  Right, right, right?"

"Never!" I protested.  Well, yeah, was what I wanted to say.

"Anyway – don't want to start running off at the mouth again.  Saw you and just wanted to say 'thanks.' Because of you I'll never make an idiot of myself again by ordering 'Just Coffee.' Now I know to say 'Coffee of the day in a tall, grande, or venti cup.'''

Then he ... well, I couldn't call him 'Just Coffee' anymore, could I?  ... left, turning around and walking off, looking back one last time with a light and cheery wave of his hand.

Being complimented can be nice, being complimented can make your day, being complimented can give you a warm feeling inside.  But being complimented can also be bad, being complimented can ruin your day, being complimented can give you goose bumps when the compliment is for something you didn't do, but for what another person did.  A person else who sounded like you, looked like you, acted like you.

Yeah, he was crazy, even though he didn't look it.  Positively nuts, even though he'd gotten me thinking.  For sure bonkers, even though he acted like a normal human being.

I got in my car, slid the key in the ignition, but didn't turn it.  Instead, I adjusted my rear-view mirror, seeing in the reflection the glare of nighttime traffic, the bright colors of mini-mall signs-and my own eyes.

And thought about coffee, three sizes of cups, and someone else sitting behind the wheel of another car, key in the ignition, looking at the bright spots of rushing headlights, the glow of advertising – another pair of blue eyes, very much like mine.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


(from M.Christian's Classes And Appearances)

Wheee ... this is going to be a real treat: I'm going to be attending and participating is a ton of panels for the Burlingame, CA, science fiction convention, CONVOLUTION.  

Here's my schedule ... see you there!

Friday 4-6 
20 Books To Launch In To Space

Friday 8-10 
Kink: The Good, The Bad And 50 Shades Of Grey

Saturday 10-12 
How To Build A Better Story

Saturday 1-4 
Writers Workshop

Saturday 10 PM 
Turning The Heat Up Beyond Time And Space

Sunday 12-2 
Reading #5 (Never On A Sunday)

Sunday 2-4 
"New Adult" - Is This A Real Thing?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Coming Up: Basic Bondage: Tie Me Up On A Budget

(from M.Christian's Classes And Appearances)

This is going to be a blast! I'm teaching my very fun class, Basic Bondage: Tie Me Up On A Budget, for the great SF Citadel on Tuesday, September 23rd. Here's the info - hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 · 8:00 PM –10:00 PM
Location: SF Citadel​, ​181 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA
Cost: $20 at the door, $15 in advance


Let's face it, SM - especially bondage play - can be pricy: steel shackles, leather restraints, handcuffs, and other fun things don't come cheap. But in this class students will learn that tying someone up doesn't mean you have to break the bank. From Saran Wrap to Bungie cord, duct tape to clothesline, and more students will learn all kinds of tricks and techniques to not only restrain on a budget but how to do it safely as well as effectively ... and enjoyably!

About the presenter:

M. Christian has been an active participant in the San Francisco BDSM scene since 1988, and has been a featured presenter at the Northwest Leather Celebration, smOdyssey, the Center For Sex and Culture, The National Sexuality Symposium, QSM, San Francisco Sex Information, The Citadel, The Looking Glass, The Society of Janus, The Floating World, Winter Solstice, and lots of other venues. He has taught classes on everything from impact play, tit torture, bondage, how to write and sell erotica, polyamory, cupping, caning, and basic SM safety.

M. Christian is also a recognized master of BDSM erotica with more than 400 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many other anthologies, magazines, and other sites; editor of 2t anthologies such as the Best S/M Erotica series, Pirate Booty, My Love For All That Is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica, and more; the collections Dirty Words, The Bachelor Machine, Love Without Gun Control, Rude Mechanicals, and more; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Finger's Breadth, Brushes, and Painted Doll. His site is www.mchristian.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

COPE Was A Blast!

(From M.Christian's Classes And Appearances)

Just wanted to toss out a heartfelt and very enthusiastic THANKS to all the fun folks I met at COPE ( - plus the great attendees to my classes - and ESPECIALLY to the organizers of this amazing events. It was a blast and then some!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

COPE Was A Blast!

(M.Christian's Classes And Appearances)

Just wanted to toss out a heartfelt and very enthusiastic THANKS to all the fun folks I met at COPE ( - plus the great attendees to my classes - and ESPECIALLY to the organizers of this amazing events. It was a blast and then some!!

Friday, September 05, 2014

I'm Going To COPE!

(from M.Christian's Classes And Appearances)

There's cool then there's cool: the great folks at COPE (

Sex Magic: Manifesting Positive Life Energy Through Erotic Play
Sex, without a doubt, is a powerful personal force: it has the ability to not only give tremendous pleasure but also lift us up beyond our normal selves, and sometimes even to higher states of consciousness. Whether through sex with a partner or via masturbation, this class will explore how sex can be used to explore sometimes hidden spiritual and sensual dimensions, grow as a sexual being, manifest positive life-changing energy, or simply have a lot of wonderfully erotic fun! But sex also has its emotional risks as well, and participants will also learn how to protect themselves as they explore sex magic and deal with sometimes shocking revelations about who they are as a sexual being.

You Want To Do What? Sex & BDSM Scenes
Even though it is often seen as 'alternative sexuality' a lot of people in the BDSM community are often baffled by how to include direct sexual activity into their scenes. From STC (Sexually Transmitted Condition) concerns to issues of intimacy, to switching from the intensity of hardcore play to the intensity of sexual contact, this class and discussion will playfully but restfully give examples of how erotic play can be added into BDSM activities in a physical as well as emotionally safe way – as well as being able to handle the sometimes unexpected emotions that can come up for even the most seasoned of BDSM aficionado when sexuality enters the mix.