Dipstick

I wake up to pigeon sex. I don’t like pigeon sex. It is disruptive. Flopping. Flapping. Squawking and cooing. In the alcove next to my air conditioner. I don’t like Chicago pigeons. They are toxic. I don’t like pigeon sex. It sounds like my neighbors. Either upstairs or in another unit. Faraway vibrating sounds that are possibly human. They are not. The pigeons make avian sounds. Flopping, flapping, squawking and cooing. I run up and bang the air conditioner. The pigeons flee.

It is 5PM and I am groggy. I need to start my day. I go back to sleep and wake up at 8PM. It is still light out. I don’t want to go out. I want to stay home. I play video games. I smoke wet. Dips. Dust. PCP. Like God, it has many names. With similar effects. I put my video game on pause while I smoke. Then resume once smoking is complete. I wait for the effects. I don’t carjack anybody. In the game. And it’s not one of those games where pre-teens decapitate each other. It’s a child’s racing game. Filled with funny sounds and spinning fruits. I put the game on pause. I change my clothes. I don’t have the correct clothes for gaming. I put on the correct clothes for gaming but no longer feel like gaming. I change again. I put on drab clothes and listen to Drab Majesty while reading Carmen Maria Machado, who is not drab. I no longer want to stay home. I want to go out. My clothes are baggy. On my body. My body is a skateboard. Flat and shapeless. A longboard. I am one of those boards Californians use to ride down hills. I take my longboard and head out. I walk around Logan. With my headphones on. I don’t like ear buds. They fall out. I want to get pregnant. Even though I am male. Cis male. Cis men can’t get pregnant. I decide I don’t want to get pregnant. I decide I want to try to get pregnant. Repeatedly. With many men. Repeatedly. I will pick up many men and I will try with many men to get pregnant. Until the semen takes. No matter how many men it takes. Eventually it has to. If I am full of semen.

I stop at Furious Spoon. I am hungry. Hip-hop and ramen. I order something hot and steaming. I add lots of soy and slurp. I listen to WAP on my headphones while they are playing WAP inside the restaurant. There’s some whores in this house. I finish everything inside the bowl. I am no longer hungry. I leave and head west on Fullerton, then south on California. I get scared. A red Honda with limo-tint windows stops. I hear loud Drill. Mostly the bass. The bass makes my guts shake. I make my way to the alley and vomit. Repeatedly. My esophagus feels like a cocktail of bile, battery acid and vinegar. I look at my vomit. It is milky and running. It takes the shape of Hawaii. A big island. With little ones trailing. I’ve created a wonder of the world. From my innards. A lake of calm soy. In an alley. I am not an artist. I am not a poet. I leave Lake Soy and head for La Michoacana with my innards failing. I crave something doughy and delicious. I order a funnel cake. Then head back out to the streets.

Goth girls knock me over. On the sidewalk. I have finished my funnel cake. If this story takes place in Brooklyn (like 91.625% of them do and involve a male character and a female character who meet in a creative writing class and have hetero sex once or multiple times because the female character is a creative writing student and the male character is a creative writing professor, and they break it off in some meta way that is boring, cliché and uncomfortable for everyone else in the class who has to pretend they don’t know what is going on) I’d have fallen into garbage. I am an idiot. So is Brooklyn. The goth girls have no time for me. They are going somewhere important. In black lipstick. Two of them in black lipstick. Big shoes. Black stockings. Clomping along. They did not mean to knock me down. I don’t think they meant to knock me down. Maybe they meant to knock me down. My vision is blurry. From PCP. I do not feel superhuman strength. I cannot lift a helicopter that has crashed and is sinking into a retention pond with a mother and baby inside who are drowning. They would die. Without superhuman strength. I do not feel strong. I have to think. I have to get what I want. Semen. A baby. I can give it away. The baby. Not semen. It’s mine. Once it arrives in my ass. It’s mine.

I head over to Halsted. To pick up men. It is three neighborhoods east and one neighborhood north. I will walk. No. I am tired. Languor. I have the languor of a vampire. Without blood. Without semen. The languor of a blow-up squiggly doll in front of a used-car dealership low on hot air. I take an Uber. I press the button on my device and turn on The Faint. “Animal Needs”. I listen to the song five times on repeat in the car. I do not talk to the driver. I must pick up men. They have semen. I haven’t been fucked in so long. It will hurt. I am not a masochist. I must do what I must do to get what I must get.

I walk down Halsted. The block is filled with Legacies. It’s the Legacy Walk. Twenty-five foot tall golden pylons on the sidewalk with a rainbow in the middle. And a plaque memorializing someone queer. I will never be on a plaque. Who would memorialize me? I move on. I pass by Silky Smooth Salon and look in the window. They do sugaring. It’s not an additive. It’s hair removal. It costs fifty dollars. Up to eighty dollars. Depending on the body part. I should look into this. I’m bushy. Men don’t like bushy. They like trimmed and neat. I must be trimmed and neat to acquire semen. I go inside. The attendant tells me to drop my pants and bend over for a look. I do not do this. He laughs and says it’s a joke. I am not laughing. “What can we do you for? Need a refresh?” he asks. I am not sure what he means. So I ask. He tells me they do anal bleaching. I’ve never heard of this. Anal bleaching. I don’t think I want my anus bleached. It sounds painful. I’m unsure of the color. Of my color. I’m not sure why my anus needs bleaching. What is my color? Do I have the wrong color? What is the right color? I will have to go home later and bend over naked in front of a long mirror I do not currently have with my cheeks nearly kissing the glass and blood rushing to my head so I can get the perfect angle in between my legs like those self-fellatio suckers online while taking several selfies of my anus and stand up quickly without passing out or falling into the mirror so as to end up breaking it with shards of glass in my anus all so I can sit on the bed and look at those selfie photos to make an honest determination on whether my color is satisfactory or not and whether I really do need anal bleaching. Or not.

I settle on my nose. For hair removal. It is painful. The swab goes up my nose. They twirl it around several times. Then pull down hard. A lot of hair comes out. I didn’t think I had that much hair in my nose. The swab looks like a Christmas tree. Balsam. I don’t get my balls done. Those follicles remain intact. Untouched. Like me. I start to cry. Not from pain. Not from emotion. My nasal passages are irritated. I don’t have a choice. My body makes the choice for me. I sit on a stool and cry. Two blond boys walk in. They know the attendant. Their blond hair is natural. All three make high-pitched noises, the meaning of which, I am not privy to. Followed by air kisses. I listen to them while crying. The blond boys are getting their anuses bleached. They’ve done this before. “Back for some touch-ups, honeys?” the attendant says. “Only best friends get their assholes bleached together,” they say, and clasp hands. I do not have a best friend. If I did, we would get our nose hairs removed. Together. I must flee.

I end up somewhere near Division and Damen. I have no idea what I have done with the previous three hours of my life. It is past midnight. I sit on the sidewalk. The weather is lovely. Lots of people are out. My high from PCP is gone. I have not acquired semen. I would know if I had. But I must be sure. I step into the alley. I hear rats traipse through dumpster slime. I reach back with my hand into the seat of my underwear. I do a dipstick. To check. To be sure.

Dipstick = Finger-in-anus-and-then-quickly-removed.

It’s Death Valley back there. Dry. Barren. No signs of life. Unsticky. No signs of semen. I am not sore. My journey is a fail. It is an all-around fail.

I make my way home. I pass a furniture store with the all the lights on. The door is open. There is a record playing on a turntable. The music is shitty. It sounds like everything I’ve ever heard someplace else. What kind of furniture store is open after midnight? I go inside. I see a few pieces of Mid-Century Modern furniture intermixed with pillows and candles. It’s one of those pillows and candles stores. With specialty paper more expensive than a cheap meal for two. I wonder when the going out of business sale will take place. All the furniture is made in the 21st century. By local artisans. I know this because each piece has a placard that says “made by local artisan”. I inspect the furniture. These makers are not artisans. I pass by rows of glasses. I see glasses in sets of six. Or eight. They are organized beautifully. I pick one up. It is clear and etched in the grip. I hold it up to the light. The reflection through the etching gives me a strobe effect. I get dizzy and put it back. The other glasses are solid white with a gold ring around the top. Not as interesting. I have two glasses at home. They are from Walgreens. They do not match. I do not need glasses that match. I do not need six glasses. Or eight glasses. I don’t need anything except for the needs I have already failed to fulfill.

I round the corner.

I am ready to leave.

I round the corner and see something I need.

I see something I definitely need. 

I buy a full-length mirror.

***

Randy Romano is a graduate of Queens College/CUNY where he received the Silverstein-Peiser Award for Fiction, and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. His work has previously appeared in Fresh Men 2: New Voices in Gay Fiction, Off the Rocks and Utopia Parkway. He currently lives in Chicago.

Back to Issue: Spring 2022