Me, the Consumer

Matt Rebholz

DATE: Coffee with G at the Good Cup
I ORDERED: Black drip
HE ORDERED: Caramel mocha, extra caramel
AFTERWARDS: Farmer’s market nearby, so we wandered. G had never seen wild Brussels sprouts, knobs on the stalk. I tell him they’d be great to roast with bacon, and he says, You eat these?

DATE: With B at Momo
I ORDERED: Sake in a wood box, pickled squid
HE ORDERED: Fatty tuna skewer, chicken hearts, beer
ORDERED: You stay put, I’m gonna piss
ORDERED: Separate the check
ORDERED: See me again sometime
AFTERWARDS: Fended off kiss. Walked B to his car, waved goodbye to his rearview

DATE: R, an intelligent, kind older man I picked on ManSearch who it turns out I would never, ever like to see without his clothes. Or with. Oh I’ve been a bad ManSearcher
ORDERED: Szechuan peppercorn burgers with bacon
AFTERWARDS: Let’s take a walk, I said, because I didn’t have the heart to turn him down so quickly. So we walked. But then, something’s wrong, very wrong, R needs a bathroom now. Now? Really? I ask. Right now? Right now! he says. We pop into a tiny shop, a sliver of an independent bookstore that I’ve somehow never noticed. While he poops, I explore: there’s a staircase, two stories, ten thousand stories. Philosophy, religion, art. I can’t wait to come back
WOULD I SEE HIM AGAIN? Sure, I told him, smiling, meaning never, not the bookstore either, because if I did ever come back they’d know my face, that pooper’s friend, or worse, his date

DATE: NOT A DATE: Food carts with K
HE ORDERED: Friendly, platonic falafel
I ORDERED: Mac and cheese served in a waffle cone
AFTERWARDS: DATE: NOT A DATE: Just eating, walking through a neighborhood that’s better off. K asks me, How goes the ManSearching? So-so, I say. Hummingbirdish, he pokes his nose into the flowers of the yards we stroll by. Teaches me the Latin name for every plant we pass, the edible parts, the culinary uses. Is full of this beautiful useless shit
HE ORDERED: Taste this. Offered me a flower he had plucked. I trust him, love him, ate it, petals, pollen and all. It tasted the way I imagine a bee’s meal, nectary, peppery
I ORDERED: Kiss me K, but didn’t say it, didn’t need to. He never does. Because we’ve been there, tried that. I do love you, K always tells me, do, do, yet behind every do there’s a great big invisible but

DATE: J at Pie Stop. Close to closing time but lingered, held hands with no kiss to measure by yet, playing risky, next day might forget each other’s names but this is where the fun lies, forking cinnamon apple and blackberry cobbler with ice cream, extra ice cream
AFTERWARDS: Everything wonderful not fit to print
WOULD I SEE HIM AGAIN? Is a question that doesn’t require an answer!

DATE: With M at his loft. M’s dishwasher was broken, his sink must’ve been broken too because his bathtub was filled up with dishes undone, to the point I couldn’t do it with him, all that filth sitting in the corner of my eye. I went to pee. I got distracted, had to clean them, start somewhere, one bowl at a time, one simple fork. M catches me. What are you doing? he asks. I say, What does it look like?
HE ORDERED: Me to please leave
I ORDERED: Myself to walk home, and to not catch the bus, so I had room to think
AFTERWARDS: At home, I did the dishes
WOULD I SEE HIM AGAIN: If he lets me do his dishes

DATE: With S, La Zapoteca. Friday night, packed house. Sat on a vinyl bench together, bare thighs close, for close to thirty minutes
HE ORDERED: Salad, sparkling water
I ORDERED: Enchiladas, rice, beans, margarita on the rocks, no salt, a shot of Grand Marnier
ORDERED: Margarita, shot of Grand Marnier
ORDERED: Margarita, shot
AFTERWARDS: Did river walk, found dark part of the loop, good for mugging/making out. Thrilled by possibility of danger/sex and moved in for the kiss but swerved to upchuck over railing. S touched my back. Called me a Lyft. Wished goodnight in a way that I knew this was it

DATE: Chinese place forgot the name of, can’t remember who with
I ORDERED: Looking out the window, realizing that it looked out on the very backyard that I’d visited one night last month with T, who brought me there after the bar to show me that garden he’d mentioned, to prove how good he was with his hands, to joke that he didn’t mind getting dirty, then into the house where he, well, I don’t want to call it rape, because I’m a guy I guess, because I liked it except when I didn’t, because he asked me every step for my collaboration, offered me a dozen outs. Offered his status, positive, treated, totally safe, don’t worry, and I knew I didn’t need to, that is if I could trust him on that treatment part
HE ORDERED: Take your clothes off
ORDERED: Underwear too
ORDERED: Lay down
ORDERED: Face down

DATE: Now T’s my boss, I need a raise
DATE: T’s my professor and I have to pass this class to graduate
DATE: My daddy and I’ve been so bad
AFTERWARDS: T offered me a ride downtown, to Chinatown past ten, another risky scene to brave as I wait for the last train home. Pressed a kiss, asked would I see him again

DATE: With Dr Z at county clinic downtown. Building that I’d passed a hundred times but never before wondered about. Walked into lobby. Nodded at security guard. Elevator rickety
I ORDERED: 6. Prayed the whole way. Sat, filled forms out, fidgeted, tried hard to look not at anybody, everybody trying hard to do the same but failing bad. This girl asks me, Who do you got? and I say, Z. Oh no, she says, never again, I’d ask for someone else, seriously. A sign on the wall began, Nobody will be turned away. That’s it, that’s my motto, my problem right there, there’s no need to test me to tell me what’s wrong after all because that’s it, precisely it. But then, right when I stood up to go, Dr Z came out, called my name. She’s my mom’s age and reminds me of the elevator, scary/harmless hopefully. She asks, What brings us here today? I say, I made a bad choice
SHE ORDERED: Herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, hepatitis A, B, HPV, HIV, moral lassitude, incurable homosexuality, congenital male libido, acute inflamed penis, overall terrible human condition. The full
battery. My penance: take my blood, my piss. Swab my throat, swab my ass
ORDERED: Bend over. Joked with me, that was kind of her. Tried not to make this just another violation, though that’s not a black/white concept but a whole rainbow of feeling, isn’t it, a point on a plot from desire at one end to mortal embarrassment
AFTERWARDS: A phone call, a clean bill
WOULD I SEE HER AGAIN? Not if I can help it

DATE: NOT A DATE: Tea with K at Ceremony. Water-running-over-rocks-with-windchime soundtrack, smooth blonde wood, bright as hell but outside dreary, hailing. K and me the only ones who braved the storm. The server buried in a book
HE ORDERED: What he always does here, that particular green blend whose name I can never remember
I ORDERED: One that comes in little brown balls but smelled not bad in the jar the server offered, and is Chinese, called gunpowder
AFTERWARDS: DATE: NOT A DATE: Just tea. I tell K about Dr Z and the reason for seeing her, T. He pats my hand, squeezes. That’s tough, he says. I ask K, Do you think about settling down again ever, by which I mean stop dating, by which I mean stop dating other people, people who aren’t me? He says, Hmm. This song sounds familiar. What song, I ask, water and windchimes? but he says, You know what I mean. He says, You’ve broken up with me before. Says, You would remember that, I hope. Would hope you made the right choice then, because you’d given it some real thought? Some real feeling? That you’re not just some flake? I do love you (do, do), but I meant it most that first time, the first time we tried this, and each round we go, I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t be there anymore, K says. Where? I ask. There, he says, you know, sitting there, waiting for one of these other guys not to pan out. I’m sorry. I can’t be

DATE: A fit guy in the locker room who doesn’t look at me
DATE: A man who stretched to pull the cord to get off at the next stop and his shirt rode up
DATE: A fat young dad who happened to have nice legs, baby buckled to his chest
DATE: A highschooler eating a hot dog
DATE: A fellow lying on the street with yellow skin, closed eyes, whose beard was beautiful

DATE: The park eventually, with L. We met at his apartment first (not inside, downstairs in the lobby, I was being good). An older building. L says it’s a real dump. I say I’d like to see his dump someday. He says, Oh, well I did forgot my water bottle, would you like to come up? So I take the tour. It is a dump, the charming kind though, gayly decorated. Wow, these floors are really interesting, I say, do you, and then he kisses me. Walks me backwards to the bedroom. So is that water bottle in here, I ask, or do you, and then I fall onto the bed. Duvet rumpled, dirty clothes lying around, two signs he hasn’t planned this. Or he’s just a slob. Odor of aftershave, armpit, and foot
HE ORDERED: Us an Uber uphill to the park, so not to tire out too quick
AFTERWARDS: DATE: We couldn’t get rid of each other! No dinner, just drinks at the Yellow Brick Tavern, where Breakfast at Tiffany’s played on the TV, including the racist bits. Everybody watching from the bar politely turned his head or took a sip when Mickey Rooney came on buck-toothed
HE ORDERED: A Malibu pineapple. Asked me, You ever have a Malibu Pineapple?
I ORDERED: HE ORDERED: Me a Malibu pineapple
HE ORDERED: Listen. I have kind of a funny idea but what if, L says, we split up now. Split up? I ask, and he says, What if we pretend we’ve never met before. And when my friends show up, he says, Your friends, I say, When they show up, he says, we could pretend that I don’t know you. I could “meet” you (used his fingers, “meet” me) on the dance floor, like we’re meeting for the first time. Role-playing. It sounded exciting. We split up
AFTERWARDS: DATE: I danced and watched L at the bar. We made eyes from a distance, that was sort of hot. And then his friends showed up. They all drank at the bar, while I danced. Then they all came to dance too, we all danced together, L, me, and his friends, although they didn’t know me. L didn’t know me anymore, I was a stranger now. L didn’t “meet” me either, no second first time after all. And when the song changed L left and his friends left too but I kept dancing
I ORDERED: A Malibu pineapple
HE ORDERED: I ORDERED: Me another Malibu pineapple

DATE: My cat, Mr P. My couch. Clothes mostly missing. Paid time off evaporating rapidly. I ask Mr P, You ever have a Malibu pineapple?
I ORDERED: A Malibu (just rum, no pineapple, we’re out of pineapple) from this gin joint’s cat waiter. Cat waiter won’t get his pay today (read: pets) because he’s feeling unhelpful. I got myself a Malibu instead, brought back the whole white plastic jug with palm trees on it
ORDERED: A movie to stream that I’d missed in the theater, that I’d really looked forward to, an important film, an artistic one
ORDERED: A porno, the kind where everybody’s hollering, growling like animals, slapping each other silly. Now they’re bringing out the heavy hardware, power drills, chainsaws. People literally crying, sobbing. Where you think, Is that blood, think, Should I call the police, think, Oh shit don’t bother, the FBI’s already on the way over but then, at the very end, they do these exit interviews and each guy smiles for the camera, says he had an awesome time, how hot it was. You get your money’s worth. I wonder are they really happy, or is all this just another date for them, is it all an act, are they actors
ORDERED: A ManSearch Elite subscription, including the power to
conduct advanced ManSearches, save and rank up to one thousand faves, plus run unlimited compatibility analyses at no extra cost per month to me, the consumer
ORDERED: ManSearch Customer Support to cancel my subscription. And delete my account. My profile. My history

BEFOREHAND: Met at Sing Low Chow Mein American & Chinese Food, that place that overlooks his garden
WE ORDERED: Things to share, things we’ve both never tried
ORDERED: Each other, ourselves, to use our mouths more, and not just in a dirty way
DATE: Now T’s my landlord and my rent’s late for the last time, unless
DATE: T’s my stepdad and I better not tell mom, or else
DATE: My doctor and yes, this is going to hurt, but it’s for my own good

Originally published in Moss: Volume Five.
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