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Better Stories

I get tired of my stories. The predictability of the subject matter or my wide-eyed boy motif, whatever it is I keep saying. And while I believe that all of us have one or two stories that we will constantly retell or relive or re-create, I resist. I’m aware of Michael watching Michael as stories, new and old, occur to him. The Michael watching finds flaws in each story, or sighs dramatically in the backseat like “god, haven’t we circled this block a billion times by now, we’re late for the party, for Christ’s sake.” But Michael the backseat driver has no parties, not really; nobody’s invited him anywhere because quite frankly he just sulks in the corner. I need to drop Michael off at daycare or something and take a few “personal” holidays.

Sometime in the last couple of weeks I started jotting down little notes about other people’s funny stories, as if I intend to write a novel filled with quirky characters like my friend Ted, who is a mortician. Ted’s friend died and Ted had him cremated and took the ashes home “for a couple of days” but ended up keeping them for twelve years. Or this other boy I barely know who admitted at an AA meeting to taking out a contract on a business partner when he was dealing crystal meth. I find this fascinating because honestly my “drug story” is rather tame in comparison. He also told a story about showing up at his ex-boyfriend’s apartment when he was homeless. The ex invited him in, locked the door behind him, then pulled out a gun. He told the boy to get naked and he tied him to a chair where he molested him for five days. At one point the ex-boyfriend, who was HIV-positive, injected a syringe of his own blood into the boy’s arm. The boy was negative.

As the boy told his story I felt the numbed silence settle over the room and I realized that I was jealous. Not of the boy’s life, just his story. I had always prided myself on my ability to tell a good story at an AA meeting; and I believed the people who told me it was one of the best stories they had ever heard. Listening to this boy tell his story, I became uncomfortably aware of my envy, that his resurrection trumped mine. Fortunately I was able, about ten minutes later, to laugh at myself, to laugh at my childish need to feel special at all costs, to be the most fill-in-the-blank to everyone; the most intelligent, the most honest, the most talented, the most handsome, the best lover, whatever you need I thought I was your man. I’m sure I could lay blame on my parents, who didn’t exactly fall over backwards making my brother and I feel cherished when we were young. But so what? I’m almost 32 now and blaming your parents only takes you so far, certainly not into adulthood. Let’s see, what was my point, I’m losing track here.

There’s always someone more talented, more handsome, more charming, more extroverted, more muscular, more fabulous. But somehow we all get by. Somehow, somewhere in the last couple of years I realized that there is enough for me in this life, certainly enough love. A few years ago when I used to spend many hours in AOL chatrooms, there was a regular guy who would breeze through each Man for Man room in the city asking “Anyone in here with dentures?” And it finally hit me that there is someone for everyone. Sure, the pretty ones may get more than their fair share but somehow we all get by. And honestly, if you listen to enough guys tell their stories in AA meetings, you come to realize that it’s the pretty ones who are the most fucked up of all. God love ‘em.

Maybe someday, after I get my own story out, I will write a novel, full of fictional characters. But if it’s any good it will still be about me, it will be the same story I’ve been telling all my life. It will have insecure losers who look their entire lives for love. It will be painful and sad. It will have resurrections. It will be about boys who are afraid to say their dreams out loud for fear that it’s too much to ask. It will have a big, wheezing heart. It will have beautiful men who break the heart, who handle it poorly, who drop it on the floor on their way out. And it will have one man who shows up with his own heart, wrapped up in a plastic bag, tucked in the pocket of his Carhartt jacket. And the two of them, if they’re very lucky and very patient, will take out their hearts and unwrap them and show them to each other. And who the hell knows what happens after that because I haven’t gotten that far. I’m hanging on for the ride.

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