Selling A Life's Icon

Today, I began the journey that will end with my car being sold: I removed all of the stickers. As I was peeling and razor-blading them away, I had an odd feeling that I was someone forcibly removing tattoos from another person. Tied down, gag in their mouth, as I scraped and laser-ed all visual personality from their body.

Tito Rodriquez, as my car is affectionately named, has been with me since 1997. I remember picking him up from the dealership, a blank canvas for vinyl and ink. Tito's first was a black dragon on the inside, back passenger's side window. It was trendy, dragon's where in; to Tito it was a way of saying my owner was born in the Year of the Dragon. A powerful statement: Don't mess with me. My owner will kick your ass. Tito's second was on the opposite window, the back driver's side window. It was the classic PETA "Meat is Murder" circle with the cow in the center. Another statement claiming that the owner of this car didn't eat animals. It is a hardcore statement and one that I stand behind, but there was a tinge of humor in it as well. I know I am outnumbered and that everyone will still eat meat, but this sticker forced them to think, if just for an instant, that it is wrong. Over the years, I have receive many a finger and dirty look, but also praise, waves, and smiles. The third was commemorating a Spring Break trip to Key West. A great week filled with wonderful friends. It was a slogan sticker placed in the center of the back window that said "One Human Family" which is the motto of the city of Key West. All around town you could see it stuck to everything: mailboxes, store windows, street furniture. Many times the sticker had been cut to only say "One Human." The forth, and final piece of body art was the Human Rights Campaign logo: the blue square with the yellow equal symbol. This was placed next to the license plate. It was Tito's subtle way to say that his hot driver is queer and political.

This final sticker actually replaced a small rainbow sticker the was in the middle of the licence plate but deemed illegal (for being ON the plate) by a very hot officer that pulled me over for doing 50 in a 30 in my neighborhood back home. I only got a warning. And when my friends and I went to the beach once, Tito was the only car that didn't have parking ticket on the windshield. It pays to let people know who you are, I say.

I still have a few steps before my car is ready for market. A thorough cleaning and wash, maybe a detail. Tito wasn't my first car, but when I am in New York City subwaying, taxi-ing and walking to and fro, it will be Tito Rodriguez that I think about fondly and hope that the person that bought him from me has plastered his body with their own car tattoos and drives him rough, just the way he likes it.

Subway Conversations

Gainesville, March 2005: Today, I went to a local SUBWAY® Restaurant to get a Veggie Delight (foot long on whole wheat with provolone, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, black olives, and salt and pepper). Being that I live in a college town, there was a young blonde couple in front of me (hers was dyed). As the girl was ordering, the guy kept leaning over to kiss her. I see this often in this town, kissing at inappropriate times. I always chalk it up to insecurity, not love. This conversation between them ensued:

"Could you please cut that into thirds?" the girl asked the SUBWAY® Sandwich Artist.
The SUBWAY® Sandwich Artist simple replied, "Sure."
The boyfriend then interjected in a tone with which to belittle his girlfriend, "Why do you get it cut into thirds that is so annoying. God."
The girlfriend retorted without being confrontational, "It is easier to eat and you can save part of it if you need to."
"That is so stupid. Why would anyone do that?" the boyfriend says, obviously annoyed that his girlfriend was not mortified he had mentioned her idiosyncracy.
The girlfriend the said, in a mesmerizingly, commanding tone only the most important woman in you life uses to get what she wants, "Get yours cut into thirds, too."
"Could you cut that into thirds, too, please." the boyfriend, crestfallen, said to the SUBWAY® Sandwich Artist.
"Sure." he smiled.

Mouth's Cradle Revisted

This morning, I woke up and set up my laptop at the dining table like most of my days I plan to do school work at home. As a student apartment, I say it is efficient. Most others would say it is small. It is a two bedroom apartment and besides the two bedrooms, everything else is one room. At the front door there is the kitchen to the right and my bedroom to the left. Walk a few feet further, past the half-wall partition of the kitchen and you "enter" the dining area and the "living room." My roommates room is to the left.

So, I am set-up in the middle of my apartment, where I can see everything. I turned on the television to watch The Ellen Degeneres Show and sat down to start working. As I checked emails and created lines through clicks on AutoCAD, I glanced over to the television and caught some movement out of the corner of my eye outside the window. My back window faces a wooded, swampy natural preservation. I sat watching for a few seconds wondering what these little particles were that were zooming about. I ruled out that it was leaves caught in a whirlwind, so I go up and walked the ten feet or so to the window and looked out.

BEES! Thousands of them were swarming outside the window. My window has been open for a while, as the weather has been great, so I sometimes feel that I am outside while in my apartment. I tried to see what they were swarming, but couldn't tell as they were at such a close proximity to the building. So, I decided that the best thing to do would be to go outside and around the building to check things out further.

At the back corner of the building I looked around and was confronted with the bulk of the swarming bees about fifteen feet away with a few stagglers closer. I turned abruptly and walked back into my apartment to call the leasing office. When Mary picked up, I told her what was going on and she said that she would notify maintenance.

Fifteen to twenty minutes went by and the bees were calming down. They seemed to have created a hive in one of the air-conditioning units outside and the only explaination to the swarm was that it was finally just warm enough for someone's air-conditioning to come on causing the fan to start and upset the bees.

A little bit later I heard the maintenace workers outside spraying them. I didn't bother looking to see what they were spraying them with or whether they may have been wearing protection.

I heard them saying that it was the most bees they had ever seen. I just thought to myself that I have seen more.

Subway Conversations

New York City, March 2004: A young woman on the subway was carrying her newly purchased pet rat home, neatly tied up in a shoebox. A man's phone was beeping it's "no signal" message nearby. "Beep-beep" was heard every few seconds on the oddly quiet subway car.

"Sir?" the rat-lady said.
"Yes?" the man was heard responding.
"Is that your phone making that incessant beeping noise?" She said.
"Yes, it is." the man said.
"Could you please turn it off. It is DRIVING US BANANAS!" Rat-Lady yelled as she waved her hands in the air, rat and all.

Gay, Interrupted

I met Andy* at a Gay Pride event I was working in 1996. We had chatted online for a while and he came by with friends and said hello. We started hanging out and became close friends. Eventually, I developed a crush on Andy. He was 4 years older than me and much more established. Nothing ever happened between us, it seemed that I would talk to him about having feelings for him, but he would be dating someone at the time and the time I was dating someone he said he had feelings for me. After my relationship ended, Andy was conveniently in a relationship again.

During this time, I developed a strong friendship with Andy’s roommate, Rebecca. She had worked with Andy. We talked on the phone, mostly about my feelings for Andy. All the time she never betrayed Andy’s trust, never telling me if he had shared anything with her.
After a while, my friendship with Andy ended. It wasn’t a dramatic ending. I just think that the feelings that we both had toward one another, whatever they may have been, made things awkward between us and I came to the conclusion that it was easier to not talk to him anymore. I occasionally saw him when I would come see Beck, but eventually that became even more strange and we would meet out and not at their apartment.

Andy’s health took a turn for the worse and Becky found herself caring for him much like a mother would care for a sick child. He said he was told by his doctor that he should not drive. He was dating someone at the time an hour or so away from their apartment and Becky would frequently drive Andy to his house every evening, even after driving him on errands and other obligations he had. I advised Beck that he was clearly taking advantage of her and to sever her relationship with Andy as I had done. She stayed on for much longer than she should.

Andy attempted suicide in his apartment by taking some pills. What kind I don’t know. Becky had to break into his room to find him, unconscious on the bathroom floor. A 911 call and ambulance ride later, Andy was in the Emergency Department of the local hospital. It was mother’s day 2000, I believe. He was Baker-Acted. While in the hospital, his mom, boyfriend, and roommate were left in the waiting rooms together. Stories began to be shared. Answers were trying to be found.

After the initial conversations ceased, the boyfriend and Rebecca began to ask Andy’s mother questions about Andy’s life, about stories Andy told. The stories began unraveling as lies. Facts taken from other lives in his family and distorted to be his own history. He lied about where he had been born. He lied about having a stillborn twin at birth. A story contorted from his mother’s. He lied about his mother’s country of birth. He lied about having been diagnosed with cancer during college and that now he was suffering from lymphoma. After a while Beck and I just started to believe that everything he told us had been a lie. The only things we knew is where he worked and where he lived. We began to compare stories he had told us and find discrepancies. We found pattens in his life of "friends he lost touch with" or "was no longer close to."

What brings someone to lie about so many trivial things? Is it a defense mechanism? Perhaps the person feels that if they are hurt by one of the people in their life, they can simply desert them and start over with new friends. Rationalizing that "my old friends didn’t know me anyway." No harm in leaving anything behind because it was all made up to begin with. If it isn’t real, than it can’t be lost.

*named changed to avoid any possible drama