$50 on Both?
By Simon Graham - Jan 10, 2018
“My rent is $350 a week and I earn $600. So I should be able to move to Hamburg by December. That’s where it all is now. Berlin is over.” I leave that party in an Uber to another. “I’m starting a two-week residency tomorrow at the warehouse. My statement of intent is ‘to discover how sculpture as a praxis can be an antidote to climate change.’” How many Ubers in one night is too many?
I take an Uber to a shoegaze gig, where a guy who is cute, but not cute enough for me to act inappropriately, says, “I know that diet ice-cream is an oxymoron, but I’m happy in my denial.” I watch the band and dance. The vocals are washed out and the guitar lines are imperceptible beneath the reverb. It is music that makes sense to me. After the final act, I go home via 7-Eleven, where I pick up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, in an Uber.
Come morning, I’m still drunk, and I’m considering asking my ex-girlfriend to take me back. I type a draft message to her in my Notes, just to see how it looks on the screen. “I think we made a huge mistake,” I type. “Are you still interested in moving to your uncle’s farm/AirBnBing the granny flat/growing our own vegetables/raising a goat?” I read it seven, maybe ten, times, then delete it.
That night there is another gig on, but instead of going, I download Bumble and talk to a girl who is an EA at EY. I make a good joke to which her reply is a series of emojis — OK hand symbol, OK hand symbol, crying with laughter, crying with laughter — but the conversation dries up when she says she’s on her way to the airport, flying to Singapore for a week on business. Enjoy the chicken rice, I say, then download Grindr, which I delete once I can’t find the cute guy from last night—as if he was going to be living 456ft away from me and looking for a boy who can’t commit to a party, let alone a gender.
I make a booking with a new psychologist in the morning because my old one said that hardly anyone is “actually” bisexual, they all eventually “pick a side.” A boring perspective, sure, but I can’t blame a Gen X mother of six for losing sight of our infinite possibilities. Keeping multiple doors open is a privilege, a sign of freedom, I told myself while sobbing in the Uber home from our last session.
I drink two bottles of wine throughout the day, proud of myself for having made a new booking, paying the deposit, taking a ‘positive’ ‘step’. I drink in the sun, topless, on my roof, then order an Uber on sundown to a bar that is usually crawling with gay men and straight women. I accidentally order an Uber Black but just pretend I’m rich, to the driver, to myself, to maintain some continuity in the day’s narrative. When I get to the bar I discover it has closed down and been replaced with a multi-story mini-golf center. I ask my fit and suited Lebanese driver if he fancies a game. He doesn’t reply and then gives me three stars.
I score par, par, 1 over, 2 under, par, par, 3 over, 3 under. “That one’s called an albatross,” says the bearded man who suggested I play with him and his wife when he noticed I was golfing alone. The chest hair beneath his tight pink polo makes the material look like crepe paper and I fix my gaze on it when his gaze is fixed on me. “Do you know he’s gay?” I want to say to his wife, but this is the exact comment I fear will be leveled at me should my eventual life partner be sans chest hair.
Maybe I should do my Masters in writing instead of going to therapy, I think, after my first session with the new psychologist. She is better than the last. At least she believes in the Kinsey scale. But then again so does Wikipedia. Writing, someone has surely said at some point, is the best remedy to the public’s simplification of internal life. I notice I’m starting to sound like the sculptor from the party, and so I go to the opening of her residency exhibition later that night. The work is all mixed-medium assemblage that must serve, I deduce, as a cautionary tale of becoming too academic in your creative process, and of using words like “praxis”.
Nevertheless, the sculptor and I make love after the after party, and afterward, in bed, she explains all the things wrong with her art, with art, with society. She tells me nothing rings true to her except the voice that lives in the caverns of her body and speaks in a language no one can translate, not even her. I hold her while she falls asleep. Once she starts to snore, I check Uber. But the fares are surging, so I’m there for the night—a man in bed with a woman, temporarily connected to a collective narrative of gender relations to which I feel fundamentally disconnected.
The sculptor and I go to the markets in the morning and while I’m sifting through cumquats looking for the good ones, she says, “I hope this won’t offend you, but I always thought you were gay,” and I take a citrus olive from a pile, put it in my mouth, and say through the flesh, “It depends on the day.” The sculptor asks if I thought of that on the spot or if it’s a rehearsed answer. “Does it matter?” I ask her, but also myself.
“I feel like a queer woman in a male body,” I type to a friend that afternoon, wine in hand. “That just makes you straight,” he says. “No it doesn’t, it’s so much more complicated than that,” I reply. He asks me to explain, but I can’t.
The same friend sends me a .pdf guide to polysexuality later and my first impression is, “This just sounds like greed.” Which is incidentally what my gay uncle said when I confided in him that I like to kiss boys as well as girls. That night, he took me to a gay bar, the mechanics of which resonated with me about as much as the way my friends and I rated girls out of ten in high school.
What is the percentage difference between men and women on Tinder who select the option to see both genders? What is the percentage difference in those that will admit it?
I write three drafts of a story that week, but can’t thread the needle of clarity through any of them. One is about a guy who breaks down while singing Madonna at a karaoke bar. The second is about a girl, and she’s also cry-singing, but now it’s Neil Young, a male, the punch line being that she is so overcome with the dissonance of who she is and who she could have been had things been different. In the third draft, I do not specify the character’s gender, and they are singing Androgynous by The Replacements, but the story falls flat, because, as my undergrad tutor told me, good writing is all about conviction.
I throw away the drafts and instead of starting something new, or at least preparing for the classes I have to teach that week, I spend a few days obsessing over an older male publisher from New York who I discovered through Twitter. I masturbate to his Instagram and listen to a podcast in which he says, “Blowjobs and cunnilingus are the same to me, it’s the same head space.” The words enter my ears like the sweet harmonies of cupid’s lyre, and I find myself playing a game of Would You Rather? with myself. Would you rather give the publisher head or have him publish your first novel? Maybe he’ll publish the novel and I’ll use the royalties to put a deposit on a beautiful house for my beautiful wife, or husband, so I can sit there and wonder whether things are better in my neighbor’s house, or on the other side of town.
At some point, I stop daydreaming and go to work. The mid-semester break is over and my students are rapacious creatures. They have an essay due about Kundera and Nietzsche and ‘the weight of being’. The essay question posed by the lecturer is purposefully ambiguous, which the young students do not like. I tell them that the lecturer wants them to deconstruct the theories put forward by both writers. She doesn’t want you to pick one and argue in their defense, I say, she wants you to embrace the ambiguity. They tell me that that is really difficult – “How can you conclude if you don’t take a side?” – and I say, “I really don’t know, you tell me.”
In a queer twist of fate, I run into one of my exes at the train station on my way home from class. He is with another man who is introduced to me as his fiancé. I feel the ring as we shake hands. The fiancé invites me over for dinner and says I can bring my boyfriend. “Or girlfriend” my ex adds, and in doing so turns the absence of a person next to me into a presence. I tell them that dinner sounds great, and that I’ll probably see them at the marriage equality rally next week anyway, which they take as some sort of slight.
After that, I don’t feel like being alone, so I go to the casino. It is Monday at 11am. Where else can I drink? I order a G & T at the bar and look over the poker machines. I wonder about all the decisions the people playing them have had to make. I think of the decisions they didn’t make, choosing the flashing lights and pssssh of soda guns instead. I walk toward the roulette table. There, in the fluorescent glow, I see that the fence is sharp and rotting and unstable, and that this is why few try to balance atop it. “Red or black?” The croupier asks. After ten seconds I say, “$50 on both?” And she rolls her eyes instead of the roulette wheel and ignores me until I leave the table.
But I don’t want to leave the casino, not until I’m doing so with somebody else, in an Uber, to his or her house, because that is the real mission of the day. It is only when a person’s sweating head is on the pillow that they come alive to me in all their innumerable unsanctioned selves and I don’t feel so alone in my lack of definition. There, in that dank room with a stranger, I feel a sense of communion that takes the shape of the galaxy, omnipresent as air. I wonder, am I an apparition? Without categories, the lightness is unbearable. Kundera was right. Nietzsche was wrong. But I may say the opposite tomorrow, and isn’t that proof?
I get an Uber home and start writing in my journal. I plan out days, a routine to abide by, because routine is the only consistent piece of advice I’ve been given by the succession of therapists who predicted the battle in my head would end in a victor rather than mutual peace. After the third day of following the schedule however, I am invited to a party, which is not in the planner, and I go. Of course I go. The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still function, says good ol’ F Scott. Well, then I’m just trying to be smart, I say to myself, while opening Tinder in the back seat of an Uber.