FAKE AND SHAKE 


"Maybe we could just go out to happy hour at Harvey's Bistro and try to overhear stupid conversations," yawns my copy editor and sometime cruise director, Jessica, over the phone and overflowing without ideas.

"I'll do whatever," I try to take a sip and a drag at the very same time. "I just need to get out of here. I've been hacked!"

Now, seeing as this is only the fifth time that I've told my sob story in the past five minutes, I'm pleasantly surprised how much panic I'm still able to hack into my "hack" (meaning that I'm a hacker and not really smart enough to be a "hacker," I suppose). Added to the blight that is my life at this moment – a hypochondriacal habit of sensing that my dead kidneys are rolling down my leg, and the fact that my spousal voice of reason is out of town for the week – such a space-age glitch in my personal downloading space ought to take a lick out of my liver and shove a cork up my ass. Carry on, nothing to see here. Alas, this is not to be.

"I'm a porn-again Christian," I snivel to Jessica, before laying out my tale. "And I think I'm in big trouble."

So, to catch you up to speed, this is my tragedy-at-hand (ahem). Way back in the day, when I thought it was perfectly OK to do so, I downloaded tons of porn. There was the convert-the-straight-boy porn, the gym teacher porn, the whole nine (inches), and when I figured out that it really pissed off Alan, or rather he let me know just that, I quit and purged my download purse of all anally lubricated wrongdoing. My relationship, or rather his approval, is way more important to me.

Imagine my chagrin, then, when I walked into my back bedroom two days ago and found some sort of webcam on my poor screen: a shirtless Latino situation with a text box stating, "Come see me in private."

And I know you might not think that I would – as I am not your standard pile of scruples – but I panicked and clicked the little red "X," running out of the room like a preacher out of a bathhouse. Or maybe like a preacher into one. Whatever.

Anyway, today I pulled up my bank statement online, or rather my joint checking account of which I am only a meager part, to find that my debit card (Debbie, I call her) had been charged $75 for unknown webcam services rendered. Except no services were rendered, and no numbers were actually exchanged; I never paid for sex, just downloaded it for free. And I'm even too lazy (or frightened) to do that anymore. The only things I've paid for from that computer were some used CDs from Amazon.com, none of them of a sexual nature, just tragic ones.

So I called up the company and within seconds of politely introducing myself as a disgruntled non-sex-payer, the phone is screaming back at me and calling me a liar.

"We've got transcripts!" it cracked across my ear. "You're probably not even William Manes. You need to put William Manes on the phone."

"If only I weren't," I sighed. "But I am! What, is my voice too high? This is a gay sex webcam situation, remember."

"So you're calling it a fraud?" he frauded, then threatened. "If I reverse the charges, the company has your address and they will come after you."

"Fine! Fine!" etc.

Suffice to say that after an hour on the phone with the bank followed – canceling, filing and fretting – Alan called and totally (understandably) didn't believe me, rendering me a pile of nerves with a white flag and a bubble window faintly reading, "This really does happen" and "I am not a slut, even of the downloading variety."

Story over, Jessica looks at me through the rattle-haze of the Thornton Park Dexter's signature din and says something like, "I wish it would stop raining, so I could wear my gold shoes again."

This is why I needed to go out? To get away from the golden showers and back into the gold shoes?

So I let Jessica go(ld) on as I struggle to squelch my permanent panic attack, weighing in only momentarily when the conversation changed into talking about a useless slut we've nicknamed Mary Kate who may or may not have shoved her thighs in JBY's BF's face, among other crimes.

"She's a blight to your gender," I know nothing about her gender.

"What can I do? I'm not the ultimatum type," she sharpens her perfect nails. "There are no ultomatoes in my garden."

I manage a honking laugh before my kidney slips again. I say something about constipation, and how much I love it, before signing my epitaph. "I used to be such an overachiever."

"Oh?" Jess rolls her eyes. "That's funny."

No, it's not. Then, as we're getting ready to leave, some woman who I feel I've never seen before starts talking to me about running for office … again. My kidney runs down my leg, and I run out the door. I can't, after all. I'm a porn-again.

We hop from Dexter's to Hue, like so many social classes, and quickly settle into our roles as pursed-lipped gossips with debit cards to our husband's bankrolls. Well, I do anyway. Jessica's busy staring at the monstrosity behind us in some sort of black cotton "X" wrap pulled together with a thick leather weightlifting belt.

"Uh, I'm sorry," she demurs. "I think I got lost in a fat roll."

Rolling by on a bicycle comes my favorite burst of insanity, a guy named Tyler who's got a knack for handing me crazy zine-leaflets and getting in my column. This one, fittingly, is called Tiger Meat and sports a picture of an acquitted Michael Jackson with "Note to self: Rage against the dying of the light" scrawled on his forever-waving hand.

"That's kind of funny," allows Jessica, quietly rewriting my column in her head.

No, it's not. Well, sort of it is. Michael Jackson has a webcam, right?

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