BLISTER 


I am not myself today, having spent the day in shorts rednecking on a boat on the St. Johns River (not St. Joan Rivers) eating fried chicken while my own chicken fried and listening to satellite-fed renditions of the white middle class (Heart!). Whether there's even any self left has been called into question. Did I drop something into the brackish streams of nature? Have I lost my gay?

"I can't find my gay," I drivel into my flip-top portable communication device.

"Good," Eddie perks back from his own portable point of social ambiguity. "You can be my date!"

From one brackish stream to another, then, as we flop like mullet down the Saturday-night Church Street thoroughfare in search of a destination. We have one in mind — Club Paris — but we're saving that disappointment for when we're already drunk. Of course, we are already drunk — always have been — but for the sake of appearances we're as fresh as wilted daisies, staring up at the moon like it's the sun's ugly sister. We're going places. Namely, up.

"I can't remember the last time I went to Latitudes," I grudge my way up the three flights of wooden stares (geddit?). "And that has absolutely nothing to do with my Baby Jessica turn down a three-for-one well."

"Oh, shut up," responds Eddie in unison with all of the newly heterosexual voices in my head.

Fortunately, Savannah's here on O-Rock raffle duty, but even she's symbolically straight (and, well, really straight), sporting a hoodie and passing out Fallout Boy CDs to the type of people who listen to Fallout Boy in the break rooms of their 10-minute lube empires.

"Heeeeeyyyyyy!" she spits a diamond out of her rough. "They have three-for-ones!"

I know. But in order to maintain my detachment, and indeed my latitude, I opt for a one-for-one from the top shelf and set Eddie and myself on a path of not sticking out and attempting to speak to no one.

"I'd like to thank Billy Manes for being here!" Savannah floods my stem in an amplified manner.

Awkward silence follows. Good, then. I don't belong here. Until ….

"Steam in the subway/The earth is afire," Simon LeBons from the speakers or the sky. "Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo … DOO! DOO!"

And momentarily, I'm a hung gay and a poof finding some mild elation in bumping into a fellow Durannie, Shannon, and her hot husband, feverishly gossiping about how this Timbaland is going to ruin that new Duran record, as if it even matters. Now it just feels like acting. Who the fuck am I? Oh, yeah.

"Oooooh, who's he?" I float back over to Savannah's perimeter in the direction of 7-foot-tall mass of throbbing manhood. Of course, he's already making moves on Savannah — introducing himself, tellingly, as "Ash" — and quickly losing the favor from his flavor (that just leaves "L," which is for loser, word calculators). Ashes to ashes, Eddie and I opt for a quick exit before we get blown away in the hot air. Or, worse, even straighter.

"So, am I even going to be able to get in Club Paris?" I slur.

"I think so," Eddie raises a brow. "Don't they know who you are?"

"Yes. That's why I asked."

Turns out they don't know who I am, or at least they don't seem to as we're guest-listed right on through. Of course, they don't really know who they are anymore, either, what with the surgical removal of the heiress' assflap from their overwrought concept. It still looks the same, though, only with an added film of misused sweat and smoke machines.

"I think I smell the ghost of Paris Hilton," I sneeze.

"Bless you."

Inside, in the couch-go-round of the upstairs VIP room, a series of disjointed parties-with-bottle-service are reaching their muted peaks, with a central dance floor occasionally mixing them into a toxic mess of hetero contortion. Eddie's dragged me here for a birthday celebration, tiara included, for his old friend from Full Sail, Kristy, a brunette take on the Hilton ethos. She seems like a lot of fun, and she even knows who I am. Seems she hardly remembers Eddie, though, as they haven't seen each other since Halloween and in the meantime she's found a fag replacement.

"You guys should totally talk!" Kristy tiaras.

No, they shouldn't. With all due hilarity implied, Eddie's replacement is a 30-something receding Fabio longhair in pants-too-high with a rhinestoned belt! I suppose insult has taken the place of injury.

"Omigod! He looks just like you!" I poke one of Eddie's ribs to the point of fracture.

"Shut up."

I don't, though. In the shadow of Eddie's hair-replacement trauma, I spot the most affable-seeming, goateed Rob, Joe or Steve I can trouble and flatter his Full Sail prowess with a monologue on sound quality.

"Why does it sound like everything is coming from under the couch?" I grimace at the ooonce-ooonce of whatever Usher single has been scraped from the 2005 Billboard charts and pressed through the Paris PA. "Or from out of the closet?"

"It does!" he takes the bait.

And as we go through the motions of our gay-straight couch summit and reveal our innermost doubts (he's just broken up with his cheating girlfriend, while I've been straddling 35 with one eye on the eject button), something beautiful happens. Whether it comes from the kind winks and the overflowing chatter of relative anonymity, or whether it's just an absence of judgment or social placement, I can't be sure. But for a moment, all is right with the world, even the world right here at Club Paris.

And with one genuine hug goodnight, my gay is back. Hooray. Eject!

bmanes@orlandoweekly.com

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