I looked up Terry’s address. Bad neighborhood. I put on Slumberhouse Baque to smell like rotting fruit and tobacco. Maybe I can fool the street dogs into believing I’m walking compost so they won’t attack. It doesn’t work. I smell right (wrong) but am dressed too preppy. They can see right through my Michael Stars white and navy striped sweater with yellow boat neck collar.
Terry doesn’t have a doorbell. I form indentations on my knuckles knocking on his black steel security door. I call. He answers with that gender ambiguous Tracy Chapman voice of his.
“I’m at my neighbor’s. I’ll be right there.”
The next door down opens. There’s a shuffle of slippers, do rags, and sweat pants.
“How are you doin’ this morning?” Terry asks.
“It’s a beautiful day to be waiting outside. Enjoying the sun. Better than last week.”
His place is not unlike most economical apartments in Oakland. The carpet is hard and thin, good for ballroom dancing. The mini blinds are bent and don’t fit the windows, his sofa is black leather and his bedroom could have easily been pay by the hour.
The room I had in high school wasn’t too far off from his: fringed scarves were draped over flimsy and bowing curtain rods, the matte powder coat on the iron headboard glistened in certain spots, where oily hair product lives for an hour as you lean back and read in bed or get soundly fucked.
I found as many pairs of handcuffs as I’d expect to find in a small town police station and counted the same number of whips. There wasn’t any cattle to move or rabble-rouser heelers to arrest.
I shifted my attention from the leather and studs to comment on his red leopard print bedding.
“This is sexy. You have a very sexy bedroom.”
“Thank you.” He looked at me with his one working eye and batted his eyelashes. They grazed my cheek. They were that long.
Terry must’ve been in mortal pain. There were colored pills everywhere. Maybe his bondage bed was also his deathbed. “Make this whip mark good this time. It could be my last.”
The assortment of pill colors were remarkable, delicious, fun. The tops of his dressers were Candyland game boards. I wanted to be in mortal pain with him; I wanted to ingest all that color and plead with every hue, “Work, work, work. Please kill me. Please help me. Please.”
I wish I had asked him more questions in his bedroom so I could have stayed long enough to read the labels. I wish I would’ve been my usual chatty self, gabbing until all my saliva evaporated, gabbing until there were no words left, only coughs. He’d ask if I wanted a drink of water. I’d say, “Yes, please. A tall glass if you would.” He’d go to the kitchen for a minute and I would sneak in a picture or ten.
It was time for me to leave. “Are you going to go back to your neighbor’s? I’ll leave the door open behind me.” “Yeah, I need to get my dog. He was stolen last night.” “What? And you found him? That’s horrible and great.” “I came home and he had been cooped up for 9 hours. As soon as I opened the door he ran outside and peed on the front doorstep. I was so upset. It was 1 am. He’s not supposed to pee there. I yelled at him and said ‘You’re going to have to sit here in the cold for a minute! Daddy needs to get a bucket of hot water to rinse your mess off!” When I came back he was gone. I saw this white car speed away and I just knew he was there. I knew they took him. I looked all over the outside of the building just in case. He was nowhere to be found. I went inside and prayed. I know He was teaching me a lesson – to be more compassionate and forgiving. He could’ve peed in the house, but he didn’t; he waited until he was outside. He always has a plan and always wants to teach. I learned my lesson I tellya.”
“Then what happened? How did you find him?
“My neighbor called, ‘TERRY! I HAVE YOUR DOG!'”
A big chunk of the story was missing. I leave out big chunks, too – they make the best mental souvenirs.