Prose Poetry and Fiction from Web del Sol

Peter Johnson


I'm telling my story to this couple who're over for dinner, they're friends, though not best friends anymore, more likely over to check out my new wife. I used to be close to them but found out they dropped acid one night, then crawled around on the floor with their two-year-old, that turned me off. People my age, especially women, are very strange, and that's why I married again and again, and why my new wife is so easygoing, and young, she's only eighteen, and, like I said, that's probably why this couple is over.
      I describe the morning my story begins, how I go to the DMV, how there's this guy waiting an hour with the rest of us to renew his license, how when his time comes to get his picture taken, he says, in a very effeminate voice, that he'll come back after his cold goes away. After his cold goes away? That's what I think. And that's what the clerk asks. He tells the clerk his face is puffy, that he has a bad cold and won't walk around for five years (that's how long your license lasts in Rhode Island) with a picture that doesn't "reflect" (his word) the way he really looks. Frankly, I didn't care if he had a Mohawk and 15,000 zits, I just wanted out of there. I'd had it with the other flunkies in line, mostly foreigners who couldn't speak English, yet in a matter of hours would be driving all over the state. This guy behind me, a tall, fat guy wearing a beat-up Red Sox hat, must've had it too, because when the man with the cold leaves, he mumbles, "Faggot." Which startles me. I turn around, and he says, "You have a problem with that?" "No sir," I say. But I'm lying. I saw no reason for that comment, I was almost a college graduate, I have some sensitivity. I've also had firsthand dealings with homosexuals, and I tell my company (the couple over to look at my young wife) that I don't hate gays, to remember that because it relates to the mess I'm in, to the story I'm about to tell.
      That's not to say I haven't had my moments with homosexuals. In my neighborhood, they're all over the place. They bought up all the two- and three-family houses and jammed them with other homosexuals. And there's a garage sale every time you turn around, but who's in a big hurry to buy silverware or a set of wine glasses off these guys. I've already had three HIV tests. But what I don't like is when they mess with my space. I'm tall and attractive, I attract attention from women. (When I explain this to my friends, they laugh because they know what I'm like.) But I guess I also attract attention from certain men. One night, walking past Dairy Mart, I lit up a cigarette and this guy approaches, starts to talk, you know, what a nice night, this is a great neighborhood, things like that. Then he asks for a smoke, and I light one for him, then he asks what I'm doing, and I begin to see the light, get a little mad, think about having his cigarette in my mouth. "I'm out for a walk," I say, "Christ." And his back's up too, maybe he had a fight with his boyfriend, or is mad because the Irish homosexuals weren't allow to march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, whatever, and he tells me I'm homophobic, probably not aware I know the meaning of that word. Considering my history with a certain homosexual, I'm very angry, so I explain I don't hate homosexuals, I just don't like jerks, and he's certainly a jerk. (This makes my friend's wife laugh, and my new wife laughs too, though she doesn't know where I'm going with this.) I also tell this specific homosexual that I'd be mad if a guy came onto a woman outside Dairy Mart. It's inappropriate. Plain and simple.
      But the story I'm about to tell isn't about Dairy Mart, it concerns an accident. Last Friday my new wife and I had tickets for a play starring Olympia Dukakis, the woman who was in "Moonstruck." I always make sure I go to the theater once a year, I did with my first wife, my second wife, and now with my third wife, it's something I think a man and a woman should do together, it's culture. You can't go to the theater alone, or with another guy. Are you supposed to call up a friend and say, "Malcolm, (that's the name of my friend, so he laughs) would you like to accompany me to the theater?" It doesn't quite work. So my new wife and I are excited about the play, but then it starts to snow, so we go back and forth, should we leave or stay home and watch TV, back and forth, back and forth, because we know that Rhode Islanders freak out when it snows. But we decide to go, we're all showered, dressed to kill, ready to attract attention, and, except for my brother's shotgun wedding, we haven't been out in a month. Right before we leave, it starts coming down, and I begin to grumble, but I'm committed. There's about an inch of snow on our street so I take two cinder blocks out of the trunk of my new wife's Escort and throw them into the back of my New Yorker for traction. But things improve as we hit the hill on Angell Street, the pavement worn clean by traffic. We cruise, laughing, I lean over and kiss her, she says something nice, then it all happens. For some reason, the other side of the hill is as slick as a baby's bum, and this jerk in front me, like so many jerks in this state, starts braking and braking and braking, like that's going to stop him, and his car turns sideways just in time for me to glide into it. My new wife starts screaming, and I'm pissed off, knowing that I'm legally responsible because, technically, I hit him, and in this stupid state my insurance will go up about eight thousand dollars. But I try to be cool, maybe work something out with him. He's out of his car sooner than I expect, and in a short time, I'm hitting him, at first in the face, then all over, and that's why I'm telling this story to my friends, to explain the trouble I'm in, to tell them I left out something very important, something about my first-hand dealings with homosexuals.
      You see, I didn't visit this couple for awhile, it was during a period of heavy drinking, when I lived with this woman who ended up being a little crazy, punching out walls, things like that. (This confession quiets my friends, and my new wife holds my hand.) During this period, I discovered this woman had lived with a homosexual, though she said he was a bisexual at the time, but who knows what to believe, because she was still friends with him while she was living with me. And I dug this woman, so I accepted the situation, having the guy over for dinner, one night all of us going to the movies, like he was a brother-in-law, or an uncle. I just blocked it out. Then I learned they were more than friends, so I left, but I had to deal with some pretty unpleasant ideas, and here's when I don't go into details because how do I tell people who're over for dinner about the kinds of things I imagined. But I explain that I'm still pretty angry, about the boozing, about the screwing around, about the HIV tests. Then comes the end of my story, the guy I punched out was the same homosexual or bisexual, have it your way, who went out with my old girlfriend. When he got out of his car and I recognized him, I popped him, just once, but then it felt so good, I kept popping him, again, and again. As I tell this part of the story, I'm on my feet, shadowboxing in my own living room, my new wife looking a little afraid, but my friends acting very sympathetic. You see, I go way back with them, they know how I react to situations, the way I think. It takes some getting used to.