Kisses and Knifes

April 23, 2009

So a few days ago my pod-mate Jamie (we were both genetically manufactured in the same line) said something goofy to me.  “Andrew,” she said, “I just worry about you.”  So many people are worried about me.  Boners. I’m fine!  “Why are you worried about me, Jamie?”  “Well,” she pauses and exhales, her face smeared with a girly marmalade of concern (huh?), “I just think you get too logical sometimes.  Like, you’re all logic – not enough heart.  I worry that you’ll think too much when you meet someone, and that’ll get in the way of you actually allowing yourself to really like them.”

Jamie and I have been doing relationship talk lately… it’s been like a Babysitters Club adventure over here over the past few days, thanks to the arrival of Jamie’s new tortuous boy-crush.  It’s all very wine-saturated and maudlin.  I enjoy it.  But her warning bespoke a tiny misunderstanding of my personality… one I absolutely don’t blame her for.  She and I are still in the oveture of our friendship – actually, it’s more like we’re still tuning our instruments to one another.  She’s seen quite a handful of my facets… but she’s yet to see my goopy, giddy, “I’ve got a big fat crush” girly side yet.  So I don’t blame her at all for thinking that I’m a robot – I’ve been acting like a robot.  It’s my default mode when there isn’t someone I’m a quivering pile of flan over.

The thing is that she’s such a complete nutball romantic that I’ve got to compensate.  I’ve got to be Spock… because she’s Bones McCoying it all over the place… flouncing around like a giddy butterfly.  Again – that’s not a criticism.  It’s adorable, actually.  But I, being the counter-balancing bonerkiller I am, have to take the opposing side.  I’m an adjuster.  I tinker.  I compensate.  Someone gets too romantic, I kick in the logic.  Someone’s being too logical, I start spraying feelings like a marshmallow cobra.  (what the fuck is up with these metaphors?  And yes, I know, that last one was a simile)

Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase – because really none of this is what I really want to talk about.

I went on a date tonight… and it went really really well.  I’ve got no idea what I’m looking for from a romantic parter at this point in time.  I’m still adjusting to Earth’s atmosphere after my four-year lunar expedition… and I don’t know if I want to jump into anything serious just yet.  Not like that’s even on the table at this point.  Damn the perpetual motion of an excited mind!  Bah.  Anyway.  I went out with this girl, and she’s fucking lovely, and she layed one on me at the end of the date (I know, gross, right?) and I’m all flickers and flits over here.  It’s that old familiar feeling… the “uh oh” feeling you get when you’re excited about someone.  Hooray to that.  Regardless of where this thing with the girl goes, Jamie’s going to get to see my softer facets… so that’ll be something.

But again – that’s really not what I’m writing about.  I’m just prefacing everything because, if I write an extra-long blog, I’ll feel better about not working on my final manuscript.  I’ve been a bit of a slackatron lately.  Tut tut.  Whatever.

So the girl and I are standing outside this bar in Philly, smoking cigarettes.  She had rolled her own cigarette with my tobacco while I went to go contract hepatitis (see: pee in the bathroom).  There was something about that I really liked.  She just started using my stuff.  It wasn’t rude – I know it could seem that way by my description of it – but it wasn’t.  She wasn’t annexing my stuff.  It spoke towards an intimacy.  A level of comfort.  The girl : my tobacco :: Elaine : Jerry’s refrigerator.  I like that very much.

So we’re out smoking our cigarettes, and it’s clear that someone’s going to have to make a move… and the tension of the moment is getting higher and higher – but not in a horrible way.  In a nice way.  And just as I was about to say something undoubtedly stupid, these two dudes pass behind us.  One tall, big beard, goofy stocking on his head.  The other shorter, glasses, red long-sleeve shirt – looks like a character in a Spike Lee movie about how white people ruin everything.

I hear the shorter guy’s voice before I see him – to the girl: “Yo baby, wassup? You got a fuckin’ fine ass – and I gotta big ol dick,” he points to his pants… in case either of us were confused.  Then he gestures towards me, “bigger than this guy’s dick – yo baby…” and he continued to ramble on, making himself even more of a sterotype.

I wasn’t going to argue with the guy – since he was such a sterotype, I was sure he probably did have a bigger dick than I did… I saw no need in engaging in that debate.  I just waved as he and his friend walked backwards across the street, shouting and jeering at us like two chittering weasels.  He almost got hit by a car – and then he stepped into a giant puddle, ruining his shoes – and then he bumped into a street light.  It was a bad exit for Redshirt.

I totally kept my cool.  Wasn’t really affected by it at all, surprisingly.  Other guys would have thrown down, called him a pussy, battered his chest.  I didn’t.  Why?  Because a. I don’t want to get my ass handed to me by two dudes who are looking to beat up someone white, and b. beause it doesn’t really solve anything.  Any macho nonsense I’d have done in that instance would have been to preserve my own ego – not defend the girl… who had absolutely no problem taking care of herself.  I’m a grownup, I guess.

I turn back to the girl, who’s smiling bewilderdly at them, and I say, “This is really embarassing… I used to date that guy.”  And then she laughed and touched my arm and fell into me.  I win.

So we make plans to go out again – she grabs my hand and squeezes it – and then we walk away.  And this is where I get to the real meat of my story.

I’m a giddy motherfucker on my walk back to my car.  I’m all electric and shimmery from the kiss – and I’m glowing a bit from the drinks I had had back at the bar.  I’m tromping down the street when, lo and behold, who do I come across?  The two guys.

“Yo! Gay dude! Come here!” redshirt calls.  And what do I do?  Do I smile and keep walking?  Do I put my head down and bustle past?  Nope.  I look at him and say, “Hey!  I know you!  I got a kiss because of you!”

He laughs… and walks over to me.  His friend looks nervous.  I smile at him.  He says, “sup?”  I say, “not much.”  Redshirt pats me on the shoulder, his face expressionless and cold which surprises me.  Don’t bullies tend to look angry?  I haven’t been bullied in probably 20 years.  If that.  Come to think of it – I don’t think I was ever bullied.  Made fun of, sure.  But nobody’s ever beat me up before.  Not since I kicked Joey H’s ass in the second grade – and then wept like a seagull after I got in trouble for it.  I’m just incapable of ever looking cool.  But still – don’t bullies have an emotional stake in their bullying?  Not this guy.  He’s ice.  I’m not even human to this guy – I might as well be a tv screen or a traffic jam – something you talk at rather than to.

“Check it, son” he says, “where’s that girl?”  “Oh she’s gone, man… probably driving home by now.”  “Damn dude, I was gonna fuck her…”  “Oh, yeah?  I’m sorry you missed your opportunity.  I’d have told her to stick around if I knew you’d be walking back that way.”  He pauses, puzzled.

I’m no stranger to dickhead men acting like dickheads.  It’s what they do.  They’re dickheads.  And, for whatever reason, I – not being a dickhead – seem to have a magnetic field around me which attracts them.  Maybe it’s because I’m sensitive.  Maybe I do look gay, as my new chum had pointed out.  Whatever.  Either way, I’ve become quite gifted in dealing with people like this.  I’m not going to be able to out-tough the guy – and I see nothing to be gained in doing so.  My tactic, when some neandertal insists on legitmizing forced sterilization like this, is to simply agree with them.

Bullying is a contract.  The bully posits the insult: “You’re a faggot.”  Now, if everyone’s playing by the rules, the target is supposed to react negatively to that, and then (if he’s a real man) throw it back at the bully: “I disagree.  I think it more apt that you’re the faggot in this scenario.”  This puts the onus back on the bully, who will often respond by pushing the target away and saying something like, “Come here and say that to my face!”  And the dance commences.

I don’t do that.  I just agree.  Agreeing breaks the contract.  Agreeing : a bully :: standing still : a T-rex.  They can’t see you – it dazes them.  So I agree.  I agree, and then I ask questions.  Questions that make no sense.  “Oh, are you wearing red because it’s Earth Day?”  “Did you ever try to brush your teeth with a carrot?”  Shit like that.

So redshirt continues:  “Yeah, check it gayboy… my man Black here,” he gestures to his bored-looking friend, and I interrupt.  “Your name is Black?”  The stocking-headed guy nods, “Yeah…”  “Well,” I say pensively, “that’s convenient.”  Black laughs.  Redshirt gets frustrated.

“Yo man, ma nigga Black an’ me… we gon fuck you.  It’s gon’ be him and me an we gon’ fuck you… we gon’ fuck you wit three dicks – ”

“You’re going to fuck me with three dicks?”


“Where’s the third dick coming from?”

“We gon’ get one of our homies -”

“But where does the third one go?”

Redshirt stops.

“Man, you fucked up.”

“Well, not yet, I’m not… no.”

“Yo man… why don’t you buy me an ma nigga Black here a few drinks?”

“Well, technically… since you’re the one fucking me, shouldn’t you buy me drinks?”

Redshirt stops again.  He starts to feel around in his pockets.  “Yo, Black… where’s ma ‘straight?”

I stop at this.  What does ‘straight mean? my brain asks.  Is this about me being gay again?  Probably not… he’s looking in his pockets for something.  Straight… straight… what’s a straight?  Could he mean a knife?  Straight, as in straight-razor?

Suddenly the possibility dawns on me that I might actually get stabbed by this idiot.  Either stabbed, or at least cut up a little.  And as curious as I was to figure out what he meant by it… I didn’t particularly feel like sticking around to find out.

“Listen, man,” I say calmly, “I gotta go.  Good luck with… well… your life.”  And I turn around and walk away.  I don’t look back.

Needless to say – I didn’t get stabbed.  I didn’t get pushed or punched or even spit on.  Redshirt called something out to me, but I didn’t really hear it.  I was too confused.  And a little scared.  But more the former.  Assuming that straight really did mean knife… and assuming further that this imbecile really did mean to do me physical harm… I was left with only one question:  Why?

Not just why would he want to stab me.  I can piece that together – I’m infuriating.

And not the why of him wanting to make a fool out of me in front of the girl – I’m standing there with a willowy, pretty girl who’s about 80% eyes, and he’s standing next to a guy with a redundant name.  That makes sense, too.

Not the why of what I perceive to be his animosity towards my race – I’m used to that.  Some black guys are like this, I’ve noticed – they act as though white guys are beneath them… they’re weak, nerdy, gay.  It’s one of those popular, socially acceptable racial sterotypes that comedians use to get chuckles.  “White guys are like this…”  I’d get offended by that… but I’m not allowed.  Besides, I’ve got more important things to think about… like… thoughts.  I’ll leave Redshirt to wade through that ignorance all by himself.

The why that I couldn’t escape – and the why I’m still thinking about now (hence this absurdly long post) is why I didn’t react with greater emotion.  Was I scared?  Sure.  Kinda.  A part of me was.  The italicized words in my brain that decrypted Redshirt’s euphemism.  That was probably fear.  Or maybe just self-preservation.

It was fear/self-preservation that made me stop talking to them and walk away.  But I didn’t run.  I didn’t even walk briskly.  I just strolled away.

Why did I do that?

Was that ego?  Was I being a fancier, smarter, more dapper version of that idiot black guy by not running?  Maybe it was ego that made me talk to him in the first place.

But I didn’t talk to him.  He talked to me.  I just responded.  So… still… what was that?

What should I have done?  Should I have put my head down and walked on by?

I think about this now – about the fact that, if you’ll excuse the slightly hysterical thought experiment, I could have been knifed and left bleeding in the street tonight – and my mind takes me back to Jamie.  Back to her fears about my feelings.  Or my lack of feelings.  Or how all my feelings are woven together by the cold cords of logic.

Nothing of what transpired between me and Redshirt was rational – certainly.  The logical thing to do would have been to calculate the situation, and take the path of least resistance out of it – translation: walk on past.  But I didn’t do that.  I coldly engaged in discussion.  So I made an emotional decision… and carried it out emotionlessly.

What does that say about me?  Am I like that with all of my emotional dealings?  Am I like that as a friend or a son or a lover?

That can’t be – because the girl swooned at my affection… and I swooned at hers in return.

I could do this all night – pull myself apart and examine the bits.  Paw and scratch at the mineutae and look for a greater understanding of how I am – who I am.  I’ve already spent a good deal of time doing this – and it seems so futile.  It’s such a waste of time, really.  I feel bad for those of you who’ve read this far… because I’ve got no answer here.  No answer to a silly question.

I guess it just tickles my brain, is all, the question of what I really am.  I ask that question all the time – and everything I do is subject for examination.  Am I a robot?  Am I Spock?  Or am I McCoy?  Can I be both, maybe?  Wouldn’t that make me Kirk?  Trapped, shirtlessly, in between two total extremes?

I can’t help but wonder if that cold emotion I experienced tonight is my median hum – if that’s how I engage with the world.  And that’s got me scared.  Far more scared than I was when G-street wanted to gut me on 13th Street.  Jamie might be right.  Maybe I am too cold.

I don’t know.  I’m writing just to avoid having to take my socks off at this point.


What’s the moral?  I don’t think there is one.

Black guys are assholes?  Nah, that’s not true.  Not fair or nice, either.

I’m a robot?  No, that’s not it either.  Maybe I’m kindof a robot.  Maybe I’m Data – to keep this Star Trek thing running along – I’m a robot who wants to be human… and through my attempts at humanity, I expose the deepest ligaments of that humanity.  That’s a pretty lofty resolution – even by my standards.

I’ve got to stop this somehow.  How can I do it?

Fuck it – I’ll stop it with this.

I really really liked kissing that girl.


That’s emotional enough for me.


One Response to “Kisses and Knifes”

  1. midnitesnak Says:

    In not so many words, a few ppl have called me “emotionally unavailable” and I think it’s one of the main reasons i’ve never been in a serious relationship. Too much thinking not enough action. How did you overcome this? Perhaps this wasn’t exactly your problem, but this post, like others, reminded me of myself so I feel compelled to ask.
    My “aloofness,” as i like to call it, manifests itself when people are threatening me as well. I usually do the most logical thing and walk away (or just walk faster!). The worst times are when I’m walking down the street and sketchy guys leer at me, or say pretty degrading things, when I’m certainly not in the mood to be leered at. Limited eye contact, and putting on a sort of “i’m a angry bitch” face are the main tactics i use to avoid encouraging anything beyond a random shout out. If I am simply confronted with ignorance,in a non-threatening way, I rarely feel compelled to argue or engage because I usually dismiss people off-hand who seem so entrenched in their ignorance. That’s no way to change minds, surely, but i only got so many hours in the day.
    Rolling cigarettes is definitely the way to go (cheaper and i feel less like an addict), and your similes were a little crazy, but i appreciated the effort to try something new.
    Anyway, I shouldn’t be commenting at all, since i am, like yourself, writing my final paper. Perhaps I too am justifying this time spent reading and commenting by making my comment unnecessarily long. Sigh. Good luck on the manuscript.

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