The pandemic came to America and for the first time in as long as I could remember (i.e. for four or five years) I was happy, I was so happy, I wasn’t having sex anymore, but still, I was so. so happy. In the early days of quarantined life, Grindr was a wasteland (alas, even in Hollywood). That’s a bit of a fib—there were still plenty takers, but they weren’t for me. (Chemsex stops for nothing.) I read all day. I sort of learned to cook. I had the greatest excuse for getting out of seeing everyone I hated and more time to think about exactly just who it was I hated, too. I was enthralled. Eventually (i.e. in two months), I had sex again.
One day I turned 27. Couldn’t live off of unemployment and my mom’s health insurance anymore. I searched for a job with decent-enough benefits. It took me a while. Eventually, I did find one, on Craigslist. It was at CITIZEN CAPTIONS. CITIZEN CAPTIONS was a 501(c)(3) whose employees captioned live television. In my phone screening, I asked the nervous-seeming voice on the other end of the line, “It’s not a robot doing it?” “Oh, we have a robot,” he said, “but it isn’t good enough.” Yet, I thought—but still, I’d found a job with a built-in endpoint of obsolescence, and there was something liberating about that, it was a small thrill, I’d even say: I would not die at my post after years of miserable struggle, most likely, there was no future for me here, I could put in the honest-to-God bare minimum. I wasn’t worried about references, I could always dig up a friend who’d lie for me (they owed me, anyway, I’d lied for them). Two more interviews and a typing test later, the gig was mine.
The Best Buy at La Brea and Santa Monica reopened and became something of a cruising spot for homo nerds among the dull, black matte of metal racks overflowed with Zack Snyder Blu Rays and clearance video games. In any other city, that reputation would have kept me away for good—but LA was not another city, it was and is a special fucking Hell, a special Hell for fucking. The Hollywood nerds were repressed, they were anime-watching beefcakes from Texas and Wisconsin who worked in PR or waited tables or—God forbid—went out and read for casting people. They usually let me fuck them bareback—nearly all of them did.
I went to Best Buy on a Tuesday, my work schedule’s Saturday, to purchase a copy of Samurai Showdown for the Xbox One. I picked up a man instead. (Actually, I still bought the game.) I took him back to my car parked in the structure beneath to fuck his ass. He was short, Filipino or Mexican, maybe. He was handsome enough. He said his name was Timmy. After he swallowed my cum, I sucked his cock and swallowed his. In the backseat, we sucked the foggy essence of THC from his vape. He asked me if I had anything stronger and I told him to get the fuck out of my car.
My work consisted mostly of speaking into a microphone, parroting with near exactitude the speech of the news anchors on Bloomberg TV and PBS NewsHour and NBC’s Baltimore affiliate in the makeshift workspace I’d cultivated inside a sort of nook/closet beside my bed with only a red bead curtain for a door. There was a five second delay between my transcriptions and their broadcasting—if I was fast enough, I could correct any typos from the voice recognition software, it screwed up a lot of the proper nouns. We were supposed to input vocabulary lists and set up keyboard macros for tricky terms prior to each of our allotted shows, but I rarely bothered. Sometimes my cat strutted across my keyboard and I’d let his gibberish captions roll to air.
My old roommate from sophomore year at Mathews College—who dropped out after the medical intervention that followed his downing a half-full canister of my Klonopin and nearly an entire handle of Tanqueray—called to tell me he was in town. “Are you still seeing that girl?” he asked immediately; I told him I wasn’t. “What happened?” “Tell you later,” I said, but I wouldn’t. “Want me to come suck your dick?” I told him sure, why not? “You still living with Mack?” He was, he said, but they were opening it up. “Come over,” I said, and sent him my address. He’d never seen my apartment, the last I saw him in LA I fucked him in a ditch in a park of dead grass in West Hills near his childhood home. He showed up after my shift, after eleven at night. “Nice place,” he said, but it wasn’t. He kissed me right away, more intensely and less playfully than I’d had in mind. “Hold your horses,” I said, trying to tease him but maybe coming off tersely. “How about a drink?” I said, because I can diffuse any situation, ignore any tension, and do so with such aplomb that I recover from any misstep. “You got beer?” I didn’t. “Tequila?” Of course. “That’s my dick-sucking drink,” he said. “Every drink’s your dick-sucking drink,” I replied, and had finally landed on a tone, and had nailed it.
Before long, we were naked, tumbling around on the dull hardwood floor. I slid him along it under me like a mechanic wheeled out from beneath a sedan and shoved my cock down his throat, as I was wont to do. He choked on it, I’m not bragging, it’s not anything special, I was just feeling it that night. His slobber spilled everywhere. He rubbed my chest, he scratched it, pulled at the hair, matted it with his spit. I thrusted my cock out from his throat and more spit washed the floor. I stood up and pulled him to his knees. “Yes,” he said. “Yes,” he said. “Open up,” I said. “Wider,” I said. “Are you ready?” I asked. He nodded with his mouth still open wide, his eyes even wider. He was covered in his own drool. I shoved myself back in. I can’t lie, it felt amazing, it felt better than any snatch, at least I thought so in the moment. After ten seconds of spirited facefucking, his gagging shifted suddenly into a more panicked, serpentine register, less of a shlug shlug shlug, more of a KA KA KA, a drying rattle. Then his cheeks puffed up. A new hot sensation shot into me. I pulled out my dick and a quart of his vomit plunged to the floor. “That’s so fucking hot,” my old roommate said. “Shut up,” I replied, pushed him down, turned him over, and fucked his ass with the assistance of the barf smeared all over my cock.
Inside my office-closet, in which I spent nearly half my day, I thought about killing myself once again as I zoned out during a Bloomberg Asia broadcast. And how would I do it? I could hang myself to death, like my first-ever gay friend did, my favorite person ever in this world; or, I could rekindle an association with my most problematic former pal, a well-known and prolific manipulator, just to steal the Glock 19 he kept beneath his bed in an unlocked safe and blow my brains out; or, I could jump from the roof of my building; or, I could roll like a log down the hill I lived on into the intersection at its base and pray for a bus or a sixteen-wheeler to plow through me as I entered it; or, I could gas myself in my car parked and barricaded inside my father’s garage; or, I could feed myself to the hoard of standard poodles there each day in the dog park a block away; or, I could drown myself in the LA River (though only if it rained so the river were deep enough); or, I could digitally harass my most unstable former classmate in the hopes they’d track me down and kill me in my sleep; or, I could drink a gallon of gasoline straight from the pump at the Chevron station around the corner; or, I could try to pull the gun from the gun-holster of the beautiful, bald traffic cop who so often directed the traffic below the broken light by the Panda Express and goad him into my killing; or, I could sell myself to my horse-smoking neighbors and things would sort themselves out eventually.
I went to Best Buy the next Tuesday hoping someone might let me ejaculate into their open, unblinking eyes. Rest assured, I was upfront about this desire. The first man in the store to glance at me told me he wore contacts and would prefer not to partake in my sudden fantasy. Then he asked if I “knew Tina” and I told him to get the fuck away from me. I found another man in the check-out line. He was a lot older than me. He wore a Hawaiian shirt. He wasn’t so gross. He was buying a Blu Ray set of Caddyshack and Caddyshack II. He asked me if I wanted to watch the movies back-to-back at his one-bedroom apartment in Echo Park. I told him I didn’t have time for that, but we could hang out in my car? He agreed. “You want me to what?” he asked when we sat down in the spacious synthetic backseats of my Honda Element. “Yeah, okay,” he said, and he removed his glasses. “Go for it,” he said. But I wasn’t even close to hard yet, I was fully dressed, we’d just sat down. “Right between the eyes,” he said, “or in the eyes, rather. Come on. I want to feel it. Like gooey sea water, I suspect. Salt. I’ll like it, I think. Memories. They’ll come dashing back.” I told him to get the fuck out of my car.
It was 10:30 PM. I let my cat tackle the captions for a post-sign-off infomercial advertising a 10-DVD Cher boxset from Time Life. Our supervisors gave us scripts we could punch back into the software for repeats of pre-taped programming, so my cat got a lot of it right simply by stomping on the Enter key. My friend, whom I lost my virginity to in the ninth grade, called me and complained about her mom bitching her out because she wasn’t letting her mom take a date to her wedding. I told her she should just let her mom take a date to her wedding. She never spoke to me again—at least, not so far. Which is fine, she was one of the ones I’d decided to hate. Meanwhile, my cat enjoyed his new career.
My supervisor invited me into a meeting on Microsoft Teams. Just us, his message said. He said hello upon my joining and then immediately shut off his camera. He continued speaking: “They’re shutting down the Texas office. They tried to unionize. Fired everyone. I know it was the right thing for them to do—to try, at least—and the whole thing is out of my hands. Let’s just say: I wouldn’t fire them! So I just thought I’d tell you. In case you were thinking of, well, unionizing. Which, between you and me, would be the right thing to do. And they couldn’t shut down LA. There’s too much at stake here. Connections, so duly cultivated. They’d be fools to. So maybe you should. Try, at least. I know you’ve been thinking about it. [The pay was dismal for the grueling nature of the work, but. truly. I was not.] So, think about it. More. I mean, think about it more, even more, than you already have, like I know you have. Talk to your friends. [I had none at this job. I’d only spent two weeks training at the Santa Clarita office before being sent home.] This is off the record. Just between you and me. You’re not being recorded. Serious. Not telling anyone. But you should tell people. What am I saying? I know you already have. Well, fill them in. Update them.” I thought about cumming into my boss’s open, unblinking eyes, which were just a blank, dark gray square on a screen with a callsign in the bottom corner that read Michael D. (Supervisor).
My old roommate came over unannounced just after my shift. It was nearly midnight. He was clearly drunk. I let him in and handed him a drink, a beer I’d likely purchased subliminally for him. “Back in town?” was the first thing I said. “Never left,” he replied. “Before we talk about whatever it is that’s going on with you,” I said, “would you be interested in me cumming into your open, unblinking eyes?” “Oh yeah, like that night back in school? Sure.” But I’d totally forgotten about that, and immediately I lost interest. “What’s going on?” I asked. He told me Mack said he didn’t want him to come home. He said it was because he’d slept with someone in California. “But you told me you guys were open.” “No, it wasn’t you,” he said, and took a deep breath. “I…I fucked this chick.” My old roommate’s crossing the homo-line had shaken Mack to his very core, it had thoroughly chilled his bones. “He called me and you know what he said? He said, ‘I thought you were a fag. I thought you were a little faggot.’ But I tell him all the time I’m bi.” He’d always maintained this, my old roommate, but even I—rather cruelly—had insisted upon his gayness back in school, which I realize now must have been for reasons of sexual dominance. And what can I say? He was a terrific lay. He still was. But we didn’t even fuck that night, I merely held him as he cried, for like five hours. But we fucked in the morning, we fucked a few times before I kicked him out just prior to the start of my afternoon shift inside my office-closet.