Hey, it’s you guys who insisted on thinking of me as “nice.”
SOMETHING HAPPENS WHEN YOU HIT sixty, or, to make this as painfully personal as possible, the last couple of months of sixty-four-ness. That’s right. On September 21st, 2020, I will officially be sixty-five years old.
And what happens is me, unmoored. I’ve cut myself adrift, slipped the surly bonds of that last tie between what you think of me and how much, or if, I care.
Sixty-five. Senior Citizen. Golden Oldie, may I never hoark up an oyster and lob it at your Spectator pumps. An Old Freak in a trench coat, pin-striped shirt, dress shoes, socks and no pants, that’s right. My man bits are flapping under my coat like raw turkey gizzards as I cruise the Eaton Centre.
I stand patiently outside the Liquor Control Board until some customers come out, then I whip open my trench coat, whoosh! as I scream,
“Jackson-Triggs is on special but mine’s not reduced at all!!”
“Liquor Control Board?? I haven’t even met her parents!!”
The genius thing about the no pants is not having to pull up any pants as you run away! So I can race down the escalator to the main level, jump in the fountain and pose as mercury, god of communication, like the FTD logo. Still, it’s hard to hold the position, and frankly it’s a relief when the police escort me out of the fountain five minutes later.
You gotta admit, it passes the time and gives the boys in blue a productive morning. Mr Social Justice Warrior, that’s me!
Sixty-four and counting means I’m soon to be a recipient of Canada’s Old Age Security pension, graciously reduced because of my spending, one might say squandering, sixteen years of my youth in England being special, drinking warm beer and having anonymous sex, none of which do I regret for one second, by the way. Not one single dick, not the third champagne cocktail, not a nano-second of all the attention turned onto my disingenuous little face. I accepted without gratitude every scolding speech and every broken heart, including mine, as I burned the quasar at both ends.
If seven hundred dollars per month is old age security, I blanch, or is it blench, when I think of what old age destitution must look like. Is there a box of corrugated cardboard less roomy than this one, in an even less lavishly appointed sewer conduit? A more raucous corner of the Don Valley, where one is serenaded, perhaps, by the frustrated shrieks of the would-be suicides on the King Edward Viaduct, as they grapple with the gossamer cage of barbed wire put in place to make them losers even at suicide?
Go ahead and jump! The pandemic’s a bore and your plummeting from the diving board into an empty pool will do nicely as a minute’s distraction. I don’t give a flying fuck, though you surely will, once you find your personal subway platform, elevator shaft or observation deck and achieve lift-off.
I know you think you’re making one final, grand statement, and I hate to be the one to break this to you, but— if jumping off a bridge is what it takes to make us pay attention, your problem isn’t despair. Your problem is consistently overestimating how interesting your grand statements are.
I mean, what if you threw a suicide and nobody came?
Je suis Odieux. Odieux! And that’s not all.
Someone wants to be my friend, and—I don’t want to be their friend. Isn’t that horrible of me?
I’m missing the fuck that flies. Tu manques de moi, fucké volant! Es fehlt mir, der fliegende Fick! In every language I smatter in, I couldn’t give a fat rat’s ass.
My wannabe friend is intelligent and almost verging on kind, but there is a problem. And although the person is transgender, that is not the problem. Or rather, it is, but not in an anti-transgender way.
No! I am not one of those guys. If you are transgender, I am your ally. I will do cartwheels of support as I ostentatiously voice your preferred pronouns. I will march up Parliament Hill and throw myself under an eighteen-wheel Bernier just to show how much I insist on your having the same rights as me. I will speak up on Twitter, the toilet that’s also a phone, when ignorant trolls doubt that you exist.
I will do all those things for you, and more. I will make you nourishing soups when you have Covid-19 and I will do your soiled laundry. Yes, I will. When you tell me that you are transgender, identifying as male in opposition to your assigned-at-birth gender of female, I do not tarry.
I power up Evernote, using the handy crankshaft provided, I peel back the digital leather cover, pick up my imaginary fountain pen from the two-dimensional holder and place its imaginary barrel thoughtfully against my cheek, just below the place where I’d have a mole if I were Liz Taylor. I type in your name in a suitably steam-punky, decorative font, John Anon, and I note that I address you as: he, his. Done!
This, my wannabe friend, I do for you, gladly, openly and always where it will get up the noses of the most people. I got your back, transgender buddy. Big, inclusive hugs!
But I’m sure as hell not gonna lick your goddamn pussy.
NO! I’m not going to do it. Nothing with my tongue. No wagging, no circling, no laving, no cleaving, no pretending I’m tying shoelaces. Nope-arama. Three kinds of no way, José, so I can live another day. No No NO and a bottle of rum.
Nor am I going to finger, rub, twaddle, diddle, frot, trib or otherwise disturb the serenity of your mystic pond, your swamp, your gateway to heaven, your grilled cheese sandwich. Nononononononono. No on a high C! NO NO NO NO!!!
No pussy licking, carpet munching, setting sail with the little man in the boat, proving I’m a cunning linguist, no box lunches, no dining at the Y.
No furburgers—I’m a vengeful contrarian.
I”ll be your ally and your buddy, but eating you out is not what I signed on for when I made it to the front of my preferred line-up. I’m talking about that pre-incarnate Black Friday, the pre-birth Waiting Lounge, where the unborn and inchoate jockey for position behind signs labelled Dick for Days, Symphonic Composer, Gift of Gab, Psychologically Able to Handle Reptiles, Big Naturals, ‘Jolie Laide’ but with Money, Equanimity in the Face of Stupidity, Mother of Genius, Terrible Autocrat, Midas Touch, Natural Silky Blond.
I was camped out and first in line for what seemed, and, in fact, was, an eternity in front of a big mirror surrounded with blazing make-up lights, and on whose surface some angelic hand had written, in the gaudiest red lipstick that Yves Saint Laurent ever cooked up:
Big Fabulous Gay Dude, Late Bloomer and, Hold the Phone, Not Obviously Effeminate, This One Will Go FAST!
And I owe my success to the helpful spirits at the Welcome Desk, who gave me a personal recommendation then sent me racing to grab my spot. “”Ya can’t miss it!” they yipped, as I elbowed my way through all of humanity, “It’s right next to Dick for Days!”
I’m a horrible person. I don’t give a shit. I keep all my x-rated selfies right on my phone, where the police will easily access them after they’ve nabbed me from the fountain, also the US border patrol the next time I travel stateside for some poontang with red-eye gravy.
I love to see the expressions on their faces as they huddle over my smartphone, watching me demonstrate non-traditional Kama Sutra poses, like “Horizontally-flipped cowperson with a rainbow gradient, variation 14.” I’ll just laugh, lean in closer than they advise and tell them that’s a banana down my pants, then smile during the anal probe. Drives ’em crazy!
Facebook, not merely incompetent but horrible at everything that’s not selling your mother’s organs to Elon Musk, perks up when it discovers my gallery of not-the-slightest-bit-of-shame.
Would you like to add these to a STORY!? chirps the algorithm, displaying some random guy’s picture of his schlong that he sexted me, next to a full gallery of me wearing nothing but a hopeful smile and something that surely must be night regenerating lotion all over my chin.
I don’t care. I’m horrible, remember?
Growing old is like being cast as the lead in our personal horror movie. I don’t necessarily mean the physical horror: the inevitable wrinklings and weepings, secretions and excretions, the saggings and floppings, the mocking melt-down from youth’s plump juiciness to flaccid incontinence, though that process could merit its own art-house retrospective.
Horror isn’t primarily in the moment or physical. It’s foreknowledge, anticipation, dread.
The horror movie’s trajectory is either tragic (the hero’s fatal character flaw is the engine of his downfall) or melodramatic (the actors are just pawns in destiny’s chess game). Either way, we know what will happen, but that knowing doesn’t diminish our horrified vicarious delight in the proceedings.
Oedipus kills a man, marries a woman; we know the story. We know he will kill his father and marry his mother and, in madness blind himself. This isn’t just a bout of temporary insanity: his sight, his rational belief in his own destiny, has viciously betrayed him. It’s the end of man as visionary, the end, even, of civilization. Destiny is not something to shape, it is imposed.
There are no surprises, here. We know this is the plot before we go to the play; the Greeks knew it before they went to the play.
This was not a new episode in a series, “I wonder if he goes to the Delphic oracle again and who do you think that old shepherd guy is? I can’t wait! Cleo said there’s going to be a talking sheep in this one! Did you remember the hummus this time?”
The point is not the twists and turns of a storyline; the point is to let Oedipus stand in for us.
In the standard horror-movie trope, there is a forbidden act and the transgression. We watch the girl ascend the stairs to the attic, and we cry, Don’t do it! but knowing she has to. She can’t not ascend the stairs, to end up filleted and served with French fries on the side. We’d feel cheated if she escaped.
We ache with dread. We know what will happen tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. We affirm that forces beyond our control will cast pearls under our feet so that we slide from our virginal beds into the gutter.
But it’s also delicious to know this, and to know that we know. Every accident scene we observe with guilty pleasure, every spin of the Ferris wheel, every trope of practised terror is our hungry rehearsal for the final thrill, every triumph its warding off. This is how we learn to lie every night belly-to-belly with fear.
The inevitability of the horror movie is liberating. Is that a koan? If it is, I say to you, “Just drink tea, dude!”
I have never met a young person who wanted my advice. Never. And I have a rain barrel full of advice, sometimes sweet and warm, sometimes roiling with mosquito larvae, and I earned it just in time for it to be useless to me except as a gift to be offered so that others might benefit. And no one wants it.
I complain about this, but, in fact, I understand. The last time I was in New York City and staying with my friend in Gramercy Park, I connected with this hot guy online. But my friend dipped into his rain barrel of advice.
“I’ve been with that guy, and believe me, he’s bad news.”
I took in the advice and I mulled it over for an hour, but I was seething with resentment. I finally said,
“OK, John. Here’s the deal. It’s not that I don’t believe you, and I realize you’re looking out for me, a mere innocent of fifty-eight in a town with no mercy. But you had the experience, and I want to have it, too. And you’re you and I’m me, and I may very well have a different experience. In fact, it’s guaranteed. So I’m going to meet this fucker. You survived, and so will I.”
I went and had the hook-up and afterwards, as I wandered around the streets at four in the morning somewhere in the vicinity of Coney Island, high on crystal and wearing someone else’s t-shirt and thanking my lucky stars that the neighbours hadn’t called the cops, wandered until I found the subway back into Manhattan, I thought, He was right. That guy was bad news.
And I was right. I survived.
And I wouldn’t have missed it were you to offer me every emerald, every peacock, every magic mirror telling men’s thoughts, that Herod offered Salome, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
I would demand the head of Jokanaan on a silver platter. I’d seize the Prophet’s head by his long, tangled hair and I’d kiss the dead lips and taste their bitterness.
A friend, a former roommate, actually, brings me a gorgeous French coffee press, with the glass carafe sheathed by intricate gleaming bands of stainless steel. It’s so perfectly my style that I gasp with pleasure. I estimate it’s on the expensive end of French presses, worth at least fifty bucks, and it’s obvious that he’s stolen it from somewhere, because the stuff he doesn’t steal is always non-functioning or ugly or covered with bugs or all of the above.
I suspect he’s the one responsible for stealing a palm tree off my balcony a week ago, and also for sticking a big piece of driftwood into my giant houseplant while I was sleeping, and wrapping the stems around it, so that my houseplant now brings to mind the victim of a serial killer who’s been bound and gagged and is stoically waiting to be flayed before being raped.
This former roommate-friend and I have a history. He did a midnight flit three years ago, on the first of September, leaving me in the lurch for five hundred dollars rent and in real danger of eviction; and turned up, jealous and threatening and banging at my door, at least twice during the ensuing year when ‘Fred,’ his boyfriend, had dropped by to visit me. I had had a fling with his boyfriend, but before he was his boyfriend and not since. At least, if we did I don’t remember.
What I do remember is Fred and I going to a party during the period of our fling, my passing out on the sofa late at night, and, on my awakening, Fred telling me he’d had sex with a buddy of mine, in front of my buddy’s girlfriend and her bestie. Just for the hell of it, just to see that he could.
When I’d recovered enough breath to express how lacking in good manners, good taste and decency I thought that was, how there might ever so slightly be a time and a place, Fred responded, “It’s my right to have all the experiences I want, when I want, and you’re not going to stop me.”
Shortly after that event Fred started talking about a new boyfriend, an unemployed guy with a beaten up red truck and a temper who did interesting things like hurl the TV set out the window.
Mark the TV thrower was the guy who became my roommate.
Fast forward: Then, after this horrible roommate experience, all the being dumped for rent, and banging on my door, and hostility and anger, this ex-roommate turned up unexpectedly about six months ago looking meek, also hot as hell, and bearing joints, and we got high and we fucked.
Well, I might as well have all the unstopped experiences I want, when I want! Right?
I’m gleeful as a billy goat at the thought of how thoroughly pissed off Fred will be when he finds out, which I thoroughly intend to make happen!
See what I mean? Schrecklich ! Schrecklich !
I’m old, I’m bold,
I won’t behave as I’ve been told.
My greasy dishes fill the sink,
I’d rather dally with a twink.
Burn the floor with cigarettes
Won’t get me listed in Debrett’s.
Kawartha ice cream by the quart
Is felony but not a tort
I sleep till noon and mock your ethic
Wage slavery is quite pa-thethic
And when you weep from your bad luck
I say, “I couldn’t give a
Roasted, buttered parsnip, darling boy, not even if you paid me. And those dishes ain’t gonna wash themselves, bright eyes, and I would remind you that you can be back on the streets just as quick as you got off them, you get my drift?”
Full-frontal geriatric lust
Concupiscent until I’m dust
My earlobe hairs grow more deplorable
As I revel in being horrible.