Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Steak n' Shake incident.

Even though the Steak 'n' Shake near but not too close to Scotty's apartment is a truly terrible restaurant, I still find my way there when it's late some nights. I go there when I'm a distinct mix of lonely, hungry for junk food, eager to see some weird people and/or want to read a book. Last year, Scotty and I used to meet up there on nights when we couldn't sleep alone, didn't want to merely talk dirty on the phone and didn't feel like just going directly to his apartment for the generally remarkable, supposedly meaningless sex. Lately, I've been going there by myself, for, even though Scotty and I ended the relationship we were never officially in back in December, I've not found an eatery near my apartment where I feel as comfortable reading a book after midnight. The Waffle House across the street smells like homeless drunks, and I can't find an all-hours place in Buckhead that's not too kitschy, too crowded on weekends or just too expensive.

I'm a late-night diner dweller, and I have the waistline and bags under my eyes to prove it. Before this Steak 'n' Shake, I frequented one in Duluth because I went to high school with Nancy the waitress, who was actually too brilliant and funny to be working there but nice enough to memorize my orders. (Beyond that, Nancy was incredibly cool both during the time I brought a date in there who'd just jacked me off while he drove 80 down the interstate AND the night I had her send a dessert to a cute guy I sorta knew. I loved Nancy and tipped her often and well until she got fired.) Before that Steak 'n' Shake, there were Waffle Houses and Huddle Houses that I've written in and written about in the hours after midnight.

Scotty and I were at the Steak 'n' Shake near his apartment often enough to develop repoire with some of the waitstaff.

The large kid who used to sing to himself would often forget our orders, and we secretly hated him. Thankfully, he was replaced by Alicia, a skinny, 22-year-old girl with thick red hair, glasses, pale skin, freckles, a warm smile and lots of Southern-fried secrets to confess.

She would dote upon us and remember our orders and be completely oblivious to our entwined legs and wandering hands underneath the table. Thus, we loved her so much that we'd request specifically to sit in her section. Upon sight of me, she'd fill a Diet Coke and bring it to the table. Scotty'd order his usual array of too much food with too much ketchup, and I'd usually tell him that he'd get an upset stomach later. And he'd ignore my criticisms and get his food (and, later, his stomachache). He'd always tell me that the chili was too watery. But we wouldn't tell Alicia.

We'd wait for her to come by and refill drinks, and we'd talk to her about her life. She'd mention about how she was working to get her kids back. About how, in her hometown, she only ever dated self-proclaimed rednecks before, to her shock, finding the love of her life in, gasp, "a Mexican" who apparently badgered her into going out with him.

The last time I saw Alicia was in January, after the second attempt at a breakup between me and Scotty. We met at our usual restaurant just to talk, to see if we could in fact go back to being the friends we used to be before the Fourth of July kissing. Sitting in that booth, though, our legs rubbed together in the same accidentally-on-purpose way. And he told me that I looked really good that night. Still, we talked about other dates we'd been on, and I started to talk to Scotty about how I was confusing intimacy and friendship with another friend of mine.

Alicia caught the vibe I was giving off, and she asked the two of us what was wrong.

"I'm just having problems with someone I'm dating," I said. "Or not dating. I can't tell."

"Well, what's wrong with her?" Alicia asked. (Scotty and I both flinched at the pronoun. I mean, how on Earth could our favorite waitress not know that, when we were there together, we were together?)

"He gets this way," Scotty explained to Alicia. "Everything has to be defined for him."

"Huh?" Alicia asked.

"Well, she says we're just friends, but I think we might be dating," I explained.

"They are just friends," Scotty said matter-of-factly. "They're not dating."

Alicia said that seemed easy enough to understand.

"Yeah," I said, "Except when we make out for a couple hours or hook up or something, then I get confused."

(Somewhere, Scotty and I both started talking about our own relationship to Alicia, rather than my thing with my other friend.)

"Look, you can just be friends and hook up with someone," Scotty said.

"How does that work?" Alicia finally blurted in her delicate Southern drawl. "Seems to me, if she's sleeping with him and kissing on him, then they're a hell of a lot more than just friends."

"It's not like that," Scotty said.

"Why would you want to be with this girl?" Alicia asked me. "I mean, is she retarded or just dumb?"

I smiled big and agreed, "That's what I'm saying."

Scotty just glared at Alicia as I got up to go to the bathroom, glancing at my ex while victoriously pumping my fist in the air like an ARSENIO audience member.

As I walked away, Scotty looked at Alicia, no longer his favorite waitress.

"You've just undone all of my teachings," he spat.

And when I got back to the table, Scotty told me that Alicia's opinion didn't count because, in defining relationships, "it's different for gay men."

All I knew was that, if Scotty and I weren't labeling our relationship because we didn't want things to be that complicated, it didn't work. Relationships, whether you label them or not, are complicated.

I felt like I'd won that night's battle, but Scotty deserved to know that I do understand his side of our relationship, which I explained to Alicia while we were paying the tab.

The video feed for the security cameras at that Steak 'n' Shake lies directly above the register. While I'm paying, I always look at the bald spot on the crown of my head to see how much it has grown. At the point where I last saw Alicia, the bald spot seemed to spiral out from my cowlick like an expanding galaxy, what once were natural parts in my hairdo now seem to me like canyons.

I adopted a reasonable tone of voice, telling Alicia what I understand about my relationship with Scotty. Of course, so as not to confuse her, I still called him "she."

"She's been going through a lot lately," I said. "She just got out of a relationship, and she's not sure what she wants."

"Oh," Alicia said.

Then I added, "And she just doesn't want to want me."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Internal monologue. (Plagued by doubt)

Pathetically, I know one of the reasons I've never written anything long-form. It isn't just that I think I'm going to fail. It isn't just that I don't have the time. It isn't, unfortunately, simply that I don't want to do the work.

I can't sit still. I don't like being alone. And my mind is so frantic and in such need of attention or conversation that I can't stay alone in a room for very long. When I think about the work - like the big, big project I've had in my head for a couple years now, I think I can't do it. I always picture scenes, rather than words on a page. I see the characters living and moving. I just wish that I could describe them. Maybe a screenplay, although I doubt my ability to do that, too.

When I've spoken with authors, they always talk about rising before dawn and/or locking themselves in a room. Oh my God, I think I would go fucking insane damn doing that.

I keep thinking that eventually my drive will return, that the story will just take over and compel me to write it.

Still fucking waiting.

(Yes, my friend Lupo would inform me that this is a passive, rather than active, approach to one's own goals and one's own life. I'm aware but apathetic.)

I just thought - rather dumbly - that it was just supposed to happen.

(I'm not dumb. I know exactly how bad or sad or unmotivated or dumb I sound. I'm trying reverse psychology on myself.)

My story's about identity. I want to write it. I am tired of writing about writing about it.

There's no time like now. Except now, it's 1 a.m., and I have to be at work at 9.

I write. I can write. I can fucking write. Seriously I can motherfucking write. I can motherfucking write like a goddamn motherfucker.

(God, this reverse psychology thing is hard.)

At work, in fact everywhere, one of my problems is focus. Another is that I overanalyze everything. I don't take an unexamined step, and I stress way way way too much.

I can't just ask the guy to dinner. (I stammer.) I can't just write. (I take the class and fill the free time.) I can't just quit the job. (I go on a seven-year-long job hunt that's more passive reaction to "Hey, they're interviewing ... Maybe you'd like it ..." than active search.) I can't just relax around new people. (I'm the awkward apologizer who's nice enough yet clearly trying too hard to make an impression.)

I keep thinking it's a phase that I'll break out of.

Maybe I will. Maybe I should just retire "Benjamin" and become someone more motivated.

Would I enjoy being a writer if I actually worked at it?

How much could I have written while I was writing this?

To end on a positive note, the scenes from the story that are in my head are generally original and decently good. It isn't until I try to write them down that I doubt that I have the first idea what I'm doing.

What good is it to be afraid of fear? Someone once asked me that.

At the time, I didn't understand what he meant.

I know what I have to do. I think I might maybe do it eventually.

Don't judge too harshly. It's late.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

By the way ...

To those of you who actually missed this blog thing, thank you for your compliments. They did mean a lot to me.

So thanks, both of you.

The night they drove old Dixie down.

Tonight, because the person I was supposed to have dinner with got sick, I ended up traveling around to five, I think five, stores to see what Prince CDs they had in stock. I ended up buying the new John Mayer at a used store, a copy of The Band's Greatest Hits and Prince's Hits Vol. 1 and 2. Right now, I'm not listening to any of those. I'm listening to Elton John sing "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."

I was looking over my blog entries circa March-April 2004. Good stuff. Toward the end of my blogging days last year, I was mostly writing shit that didn't actually seem to examine anything. The blog worked best when I was really in therapy and wrote an actual journal with an actual narrative drive. I don't write like that anymore. I don't really think that way anymore.

For example, this week, a date stood me up. This week, I ran into an ex. I've seen three improv shows this week. On Valentine's Day, I bought a heart-shaped cake with a sculpted mass of delicious chocolate mousse on top of it, and I shared it with mostly strangers. Someone's interviewing me next week for a job in California, and I'm leaning toward not taking it because I don't think I can afford to move and am currently curious about all the wonderful, new possibilities that have opened up around me in the past couple weeks. I find myself a little unsure around all these new people, but, when I become reasonable, I realize that they like me because I've not yet given them any cause or reason to think they shouldn't like me. And I'm showing them something in me positive, something that they like. I'm learning to be OK with being OK. I still wish I was who I was in London, until I realize that I am who I was.

I told someone this week - I forget who - that I can't imagine being constantly on display, a one-man-show everywhere I go.

He said, "Depends on how interesting you are. And what you have to say."

This narrative is unfocused, but I bring you out of the narrative by stating that in the middle of the narrative itself.

There are reasons to go to California. There are reasons to stay here. This may not be the best opportunity and time for me to go. I keep changing my mind about whether to stay or go.

I'm not sure if I should post this blog. There are people I don't want to know me or know about me that might invariably read it.

My grandpa has been sick in the hospital for about a month now. My sister-in-law found out this week that she's having another boy in July, and I want to be here to meet him. But I don't have to be.

I haven't tried writing fiction in a while. I wonder if I'd be able to do it better now that I've been performing onstage with more regularity.

I'm in improv class, so my thoughts have been all over the place. It's time for thought. Lots and lots of thought.

Now I'm listening to TLC's "Creep." I wonder if I'm funny onstage. I wonder if what I'm doing with all this improv is study of a craft or just some new obsessive fanboy hobby.

The Oscars are this week. I'm scheduled to work at the bookstore during them. Oh well. I still haven't seen LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. I've not been in the mood. Improv puts me around people.

I'm there too much, arguably, but it puts me around people. I like being around people lately.

I'm going to post this. I'm not thinking straight. But I'll read this years from now and find it interesting.