Mise en Scene: NYC²
Number Two: Where I am a whore.
Read Part One
INTERIOR: MOVIE THEATRE. Lance is slouched in a movie seat in a stadium-style theatre. His face is sometimes lit by the flickering images shot across the screen that we cannot see. He wears a green sweater that glows faintly, like the dial of a Timex that has been out of the sun too long to hold its radioactive luminosity. The sweater seems to move of its own volition, as if an alien baby is about to sprout from his chest, but it becomes clear that there is a hand under there, and not his own.
His hand, attached to his arm, stretched across the body of the man next to him, gropes in the darkness at the other man’s crotch. The sounds of the film neither and both are watching pound through the film palace, explosions, crying, screams of pain, babies lying in mud as their mothers are raped, drownings, lynchings, wholesale slaughters. Lance watches the screen as Nicole tries to plow a field as Renee looks on. He knows Nicole will have her assistant on set in the moments he will not see, giving her a glass of organically grown iced tea flown into the Romanian set from the fields in Thailand where they were grown. Renee will march purposefully to a full-length mirror and examine her own ass. None of this is real.
What is happening to him is very real, but his brain is having a hard time matching up what its eyes are seeing and what its body is feeling.
(Internal monologue, voiceover) “What am I doing? This is all wrong. This is sick. I should be appalled at my own behavior. Is it New York? Is it this city? Is it me? This is a film with Oscar®-worthy performances! I should be, oh golly he’s going for the nipple. Oh, wow. Okay, look at the screen. Look at the screen. Look, Jude Law is totally sad! He’s been totally shot in the neck and he’s totally in the hospital and he’s totally in pain and totally hot! Jude Law is fucking hot! Oh my Lord, what a beautiful wounded man! Holy shit, imagine kissing him on the lips. All that dirt and blood and hot, hot, totally hot Frenching with his soft, wet, warm tongue and, dammit! Dammit! Okay, no, this is a film, this is not a movie. This is not a popcorn and Coke® movie, it’s a capital-F Film, it’s going to win awards so I should be watching it and into it so I can discuss its relative merits later with friends and whether it’s a good interpretatio… shit, oh shit, he certainly knows what to do with his hands. Oh Jude. Oh, oh, Jude. Hey Jude! Don’t get me hard! Man, I am so going to hell.”
(Flash Forward: Oscar Night, 2004) “And the Oscar goes to… Nicole Kidman for Cold Mountain!” Lance groans slightly and his friend Danny looks over inquiringly. “What, didn’t you like Cold Mountain?” “I enjoyed the experience of watching that film very much. I just wish I could remember what happened.”
EXTERIOR: MOVIE THEATRE. Pedro asks, expectantly, “What do you want to do now?”
INTERIOR: TAXI. Lance sits upright in the corner of the back seat. Pedro is lying across the rest of the seat. They are kissing, deeply, as the car hustles along 6th Avenue uptown. Lance’s hand is down Pedro’s shirt, stretching the V-neck of the sky blue Gucci badly out of shape, and this he remarks on apologetically to Pedro. Pedro says, “what?” in between kisses and Lance ignores the question regarding clarification of an apology for something that probably doesn’t matter but may, because this is the way he thinks. ‘I am kissing this man in the back of taxi (thinking, also, absently, of a story someone told him of delivering a blowjob in the back seat of a cab, but at the moment, the details and storyteller evades his memory) and I wonder what the taxi driver is thinking, but he probably doesn’t care, I’ve seen Taxicab Confessions on HBO, I know they’ve seen it all, and besides as long as someone pays the fucking fair and doesn’t leave a mess on the seat, who gives a shit?’ Then: ‘I wonder if they have those cameras in these cabs like they do in San Francisco? I keep meaning to check to see if you can watch those cameras online. Man, that’d be sweet. Voyeurism in taxis, trying to catch someone getting a blowjob,’ “Ouch! Too hard!” ‘that’d be hot.’
He worries about where his brain is going, but feels simultaneously proud that he’s a freak and just never knew it. He’s also acutely aware, due to his frequent and ample use of the web and its endless opportunities to explore, that he is so not a freak and that two guys making out in the back of a cab in New York City is about as unusual as discovering dog shit on the bottom of your shoe after a walk in Dolores Park. Still, he basks in the glow of surreptitious libidinous frenzy and the unholy alliance of man on man sex that is sure to happen minutes from now.
He smiles and Pedro says, “what?” in between kisses.
INTERIOR: HOTEL ROOM. Pedro sets his ground rules. “I don’t take off my pants on a first date, just so you know.” Lance stands awkwardly balanced, shirtless, one leg already out of his Diesel jeans, his erection clearly outlined in his 2Xist briefs. He attempts to stand on both legs as if he is not in a rush to be naked and twists the pants around his legs, causing him to fall backwards onto the edge of the bed before bouncing to the floor in a tangle of denim. “Okay, I understand. That’s cool.” “I mean, it’s not you. You’re very hot. But it’s a rule I have.”
Lance is attempting to re-pants himself on the floor while looking both dignified and unsurprised at this turn of events. “No, no, I understand perfectly. I think that’s probably a good rule. You never know, um, ouch, shit, you never know, you know, what the other guy, fuck, there goes a perfectly good nut, dammit.” “Do you need help with those?”
Pedro extends his hand and helps Lance, now with his unzipped jeans hanging loosely off his hips, his equipment uncomfortably packed into an inconvenient fold, to his feet. A wince crosses Lance’s face and he adjusts himself before irreparable damage is done. Pedro takes a step back to elucidate. “It’s just that I think sex on the first date is kind of slutty”
SEGUE: FLASHBACK to APARTMENT IN HAYES VALLEY DISTRICT OF SAN FRANCISCO. The studio apartment is expensively furnished. The art on the walls conveys a sense of whimsy and taste. The art deco chandeliers flicker with faux flame bulbs and the stereo is playing Ella Fitzgerald out of all 7 speakers. Lance is on the floor, naked, with a curly-topped man, also naked. He asks, “Do you always have sex on the first date?” Lance says, breathlessly, “Never,” and pushes his lips against the other man’s to shut him up.
FLASHBACK to APARTMENT IN HAYES VALLEY DISTRICT OF SAN FRANCISCO. Lance is in bed with a blonde. Both are naked. Suddenly the two men pivot and twist, sending a martini glass on the night stand to the floor with a sparkling crash. They are tangled up in the 300-count sky blue sheets, Talk Talk is explaining that Life’s What You Make It on the stereo and a small calico cat is attempting to unravel a woven Calvin Klein graphite gray blanket that has been shoved over the end of the sleigh bed. The pair stop suddenly at the sound of the breaking glass and look over to the night stand. “Sorry,” the blonde says. “No problem,” replies Lance. “I’m not usually this awkward but you kind of took me by surprise.” Lance smiles and pushes blonde locks from the man’s eyes. “Sorry, I never do this sort of thing on a first date, usually.” They quickly and silently agree to ignore the broken glass for now and go back to their more preferred mode of communication.
SEGUE: INTERIOR: HOTEL ROOM. “I couldn’t agree more,” Lance answers. His erection is deflating what with the conversation and the explaining and the no-pants-off rule. “We can still make out, though.” He says this both expectantly and hopefully, the phrase spoken as a fact rather than a question. “Of course,” Pedro answers.
SEGUE: FLASH FORWARD 20 MINUTES. INTERIOR: HOTEL ROOM. Pedro is at the foot of the bed, lying on his belly looking up at Lance. Lance is naked, propped up against several pillows. Pedro twists himself over, unzips his pants and hooks his thumbs in the waistband. “Okay, but I don’t take my underwear off on the first date. It’s a rule!” Lance smiles and nods.
SEGUE: FLASH FORWARD 60 MINUTES. INTERIOR: HOTEL ROOM. Both men lie naked on top of the sheets of a king sized bed. The room is in shadow, the only illumination is creeping in through the gauzy blinds of the window, fed by the blue light of the moon and the yellow light of the city. Lance lays on his back, Pedro next to him. Pedro’s arm extends across Lance’s torso. Lance is staring at the ceiling and the pattern of light and dark across the surface. “Four times?” Pedro laughs slightly. “My record is seven.” “You are so fucking lucky.”
EXTERIOR: ‘PUBLIC,’ A RESTAURANT ON ELIZABETH STREET. A few people are gathered outside smoking. Lance sidles up next to Choire, asking about his experiences of the multi-orgasmic variety. “I can’t believe you,” Choire retorts, stifling a laugh as he sucks cancer inside his lungs. “You’re the one who encouraged me, why are you so surprised?” “Jesus, Lance, you go from zero to sixty faster than practically any other man I know. One would think you’re 18 years old instead of… how old are you tonight?” “I turned 42 officially, or double-21 as I like to think of it.” “And this was a little birthday present to yourself?” “He was the one who came four times, not me. I think that if anyone got a present it was Pedro.” Choire pushes Lance on the shoulder in an ‘oh, you’ fashion and turns his face into the very countenance of the devil. “Oh, Philo is going to love this story.”
INTERIOR: CONFERENCE ROOM, SAN FRANCISCO START-UP. Lance has returned from New York City and is having his third birthday celebration, this one thrown and attended by his co-workers. Several slices of different kinds of cake adorn a white platter, each has small cuts taken from them. Everyone plays with their own selection of dessert, smearing chocolate and creme fresh and cheesecake across paper plates.
Lance sits at the head of the table as the group recounts How I Spent My Christmas Vacation. Someone asks if anyone has seen any good movies lately. “I saw Cold Mountain in New York,” Lance volunteers without thinking. “How was it?” someone asks. Heather and Judith immediately begin to laugh loud and long and clear as Lance’s face turns pink and then red.
“Honestly,” he says, his eyes slicing dangerous glares at the two women, “I don’t remember.”
January 7, 2004