Wren had to park a good distance from the venue. He wouldn’t have known it was the right spot, except the catering truck was parked there: just a gravel driveway, encroached upon with overgrown bushes and trees. If the country had alleys, this was one. As Wren turned off the car, Franny pulled up, so he paced gathering his things, trying to get out at the same time as her. Franny was one of the managers. She was about twenty years older than Wren, with a range of facial expressions that all conveyed disgust and a musical knowledge vastly limited to new wave bands. One time, at a small event with few staff, while they were setting tables, she played nothing but Tears for Fears and was delighted that Wren knew all of the words: “Going far, getting nowhere, going far, the way you are,” “It’s not that you’re not good enough / It’s just that we can make you better,” “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.” They had been devoted to one another since then.

Franny was a city girl, so as they walked on the shoulder of the road, she muttered, “I don’t want to be out here after dark,” and Wren began listing horror movies set in rural locations. The venue was situated in the countryside, but was still only miles from the freeway. It was a Stars Hollow sort of farm, with darling house, landscaped grounds, little stone patios under trees with lights hanging from the branches. At the back was a huge ancient barn that had been covered in some kind of glue to keep the boards level and dull any sharp grain.

In such an unincorporated area as this, Wren thought of Craigslist, partially because he was always thinking about Craigslist, but partially because his last casual encounter had been around here. In these parts, only the few and the desperate posted: the risk was higher, so your hunger had to be more intense, be it queer or curious. The immediacy, secrecy and security of it were what attracted and addicted Wren. How you could instantly connect and be charged by the knowledge you were desired. How you could delete everything until there was no evidence. How you could intermittently convince yourself nothing had happened. How you could become anonymous even to yourself.

The event was a wedding, which usually makes the entire catering staff nervous by association. Wren was on appetizers and charmed himself to the teeth: “Would you like to try some Spicy Chicken, which is coincidentally the name of my band?” But he needn’t have bothered, because the bride, groom, their parents, parties and guests were content. They were also stylish, diverse, smart and attractive. It was the sort of crowd that absorbed you, made you want to be better, made you believe that maybe you were better.

Wren was not better. He was worse. Worse wasn’t the right word, because that implied movement in some direction, presumably a dangerous one, but Wren hadn’t budged. He just dredged. Dragged up the same shit over and over again. Nearly every decision he’d ever made was wrong, he was wrong, it was all wrong. Of course, this way of thinking was wrong, too. Since the pact, Wren’s behavior had changed, but his mind and heart were the same. It was hard enough to stop the behavior, now he had to stop the thinking and feeling? The only reason to stop one thing was to start another.

Meanwhile, within 24 hours, he had to go from one wedding to another, from server to guest. Some would think of that as going from work to fun, but it was the opposite for Wren. At the first wedding, he could hover and observe, with no obligation to participate; at the second, he would have to engage and interact, so as to communicate his gratitude at being invited. The reality of introversion isn’t just that you can only be around people for a limited time, it’s that the time with them has to be unlimited in its depth of intimacy: small talk requires huge amounts of energy. And that’s all people have to offer at a wedding, unless you find another introvert and a bottle of champagne and a quiet corner somewhere.

There weren’t adequate corners in this venue, long, narrow thing that it was, like a galley. From where Wren was sitting, he couldn’t really see any of the ceremony; only hear the pastor’s voice, talking about the vine and the branches. And pruning. What a vicious job. You had to nearly kill the plant so it could grow.

Nearby, a boy in his early twenties wore a vintage brown tux, somehow both aware that he could work the look and unaware that it was tight in all the right places. Wren admired this briefly, then felt ashamed, as there must have been a decade between them. It was difficult having an aesthetic orientation that pulled every bit of male beauty with its tractor beam. If Wren wasn’t careful, his brain would beam up to another location where he could be with the beauty alone and talk about the weather, or maybe not talk; almost immediately it would beam back, blaming Wren for being so depraved, blaming beauty for attaching to a person. A crossbeam.

Though Wren had made the pact some years ago with a fellow addict – they had to stay off Oxycontin, he had to stay off Craigslist – he was seriously unsettled by recent news that the site had discontinued the personal ads, as if it were a collector’s coin he had kept, not intending to use it, just imagining the increasing value, knowing it could always be sold, but then found it had disappeared. It was like that quote from C.S. Lewis about thinking that if we are good enough, long enough, our poor deprived soul will be given permission to return to its fleshy desires.

Afterwards, at the reception, Wren provided commentary on the entire staff, a judge at an event: they hadn’t set the tables properly, weren’t dressed professionally, didn’t behave appropriately; he had plenty of adjectives and adverbs for them all. For example: someone spilled a huge bowl of salad near their table, and after 5 minutes of no one doing anything, Wren began cleaning it up with his bare hands. At this point a server walked by and asked if he needed a rag and Wren almost said “NO, I NEED YOU TO DO YOUR JOB.” It was his favorite part of the day, really. He was a guest, he was a server, he was a guest server, being invited into the work. He texted Franny about all of it and she replied, “give management a business card and say when they want good help, come find us.”

A week later, Wren remembered that he didn’t bring a card for the couple, which was the most he could do. It was frustrating when he didn’t do the most he could do. After reading a dozen cards, he finally selected one that had three panels – Faith, Hope, Love – connected with a ribbon that you could hang on the wall. There was a spot to compose a message. “Sincerest apologies for the delay in getting my shit together,” he wrote, “but there are few wedding cards that are not delusional, damaging or diabetically sweet. Instead, I found one that references the most challenging passage in all of the Bible! Never stop failing beautifully in your attempts to fulfill it.” He signed it with his name.



out of the depths we cry to you

our souls melt for heaviness;

they are weary with sorrow

they are downcast

bowed down to the dust.

Our tears have been our food

day and night.


We mourn for the loss of Your children

who came to what they hoped

was a space where they could be safe

and the space was violated.


They were teachers and parents

great friends and brand managers

overprotective brothers and army captains,

contagious personalities and pharmacy technicians

good kids and assistant producers

blood brothers and ride operators

the best godmothers and Target employees

beautiful souls and high school graduates

cancer survivors and baristas

dancers and the kindest people you could meet.


But first and last and always

they were, and are,

Your children.

We mourn for them.

We are in mourning.

And we will not move on

we will not move on

no matter how undignified it may seem

or how uncomfortable anyone becomes

we will not move on

we will not move forward

we will not move away

we will not move from this spot

until we have flooded our beds with weeping

until we have soaked the dirt with tears

until the roots of injustice are permeated with grief

and while we grieve we wait.


We wait for you, oh Lord,

more than watchmen

wait for the morning.


And we ask, “who can show us any good?”


Let the light of your face shine upon us, oh Lord.

for only You can turn our darkness into light.

Surround us with songs of deliverance.

Cover us with Your feathers,

give us refuge under Your wings,

prepare a table in the presence of our enemies:

for those we have mistaken for our enemies

but are brothers, sisters

whom we are called to love

because we are the Church

even if we don’t understand

even if we don’t agree

if we can live in complete unity

then the world will know

You are Love

and they will know us

by Your Love

the Love only You can do

for You are Love

and Love

is a promise that preserves our lives,

everlasting to everlasting,


full of redemption,

always protecting,

always trusting,

always hoping,

always persevering

always displaying your power

among the people

the people whom

You Love

You Love

You Love

with a









One thing we ask

this is what we seek:

for Your children lost,

Your children here,

Your children here who are lost,

let us dwell in Your hiding place

the shelter of Your tabernacle

high upon the rock of our salvation

let us dwell in Your house

Forever and ever



“I was looking at their ages…[they] might’ve been out for their first night at a gay bar…” someone says on the radio. “Seeing, you know, what I consider to be children have to face this…”

I consider them to be children, yes. Older than the children at Sandy Hook, at Columbine, but still children. I consider myself to be a child at that age. In my early ‘20s. In 2005. In Orlando. In Pulse.

“We went there,” a friend says on the phone, “we went there all the time.”

I remember going there and pacing around the block for an hour before deciding to go in. Or was that another club? That was another club. It could have been any club. It could have been me, it was not me, it is with me, it is over me, a large black umbrella that was handed to me a long time ago and it was not heavy at first but I’ve been holding it so long that my hand is shaking.

“You seem focused,” a roommate says as I unload groceries.

“I lived in Orlando.” I say. “I was at that club every weekend.” The roommate is holding the refrigerator door handle but I don’t realize and reach for it; I accidentally grab his hand, he instinctively pulls away, I open the refrigerator. I place bags of celery and carrots on cold shelves.

I reread the names, the ages. I look at their pictures again. I feel as though I am attending the ceremony of the dead in Sartre’s The Flies, where the departed souls return, enraged. They are rattling me like a chandelier in an earthquake. I want to sit in a gay bar and drink. I want to go to a gay club and dance. I want to have sex with as many men as possible. But I am in recovery. I am celibate. I am not going to do any of these things. So I get a Judy Garland film from the library. I Could Go On Singing.

Judy plays Jenny, a part written for her, a part that is her. Dirk Bogarde plays her ex, David. “I can’t be spread so thin. I’m just one person,” Jenny says to him, slightly drunk but getting sober. “I don’t want to be rolled out like pastry, so everybody get a nice big bite of me. I’m just me. I belong to myself. I can do whatever I damn well please with myself and nobody can ask any questions.”

On the radio they are interviewing someone who is placing white carnations and notes on the car windshields of family and friends of victims as they meet with the FBI. The note says, “You are loved.”

David starts to say he loves her, but Jenny places a finger on his lips. “Don’t – don’t say it. Because if you said it now, and if you didn’t mean it – I think I’d die – I think I’d die.”

Just Like Me

Your-own-private-Bose-Idaho headphones are on, canceling the noise you don’t choose for the noise you do; they are connected to your iPhone, which is connected to your hips, which are connecting the bops of Betty Who:

I heard she’s beautiful
A 20 out of 10
That doesn’t keep me from
Wondering how you’ve been

She is in St. Cloud. It sounds like the safest place. It sounds like the name of a TV drama. There was one called that, wasn’t there? In a hospital? No, that was St. Elsewhere. Perhaps that is more accurate. The cop who pulled her over said she did not know who she was. Now she cannot call you. She cannot text you. Her husband calls you. Her husband texts you. You both talk about her like a place card at a table setting; you wonder when the real person will be there.

So if you think you’re falling apart
And I’m the only one you’ll call
If you keep reaching for me in the dark
And can’t stand it anymore

You are doing the dishes, spinning the scrub brush around the outline of the plate, like a tone arm and turntable reversed. At the moment you are happy, because for momentary happiness, Betty Who is your Captain Picard: she makes it so. Especially when you first heard “Somebody Loves You” as the soundtrack of a flash mob marriage proposal between Spencer and Dustin Stout-Reese. It simultaneously went viral on the internet and in you, infecting with false hope. Someday, you think, they will release a study that concludes gay marriages are unnatural and unhealthy. What a terrible thought, you think, and you tell the thought so. It was not you thinking it, you decide, setting a Tupperware container aside to soak. It was a character – a character without an arc, drowning in a flood, because all the other animals have their partner. “At least she is married now,” you told the pastor earlier. “She cannot be alone. I’ve known her for years and I’ve always known that.” “I met her at a performance of your play,” the pastor replied. “she said, ‘it’s so funny that we’re meeting here, because this play is about me.'” In the bead counter of your mind, you try to calculate what is more narcissistic: her imagining your play is about her, or you insisting it is about you.

Then you just call my name
I will do the same
You can look into my eyes and see
If you’ve got a broken heart
Then you’re just like me

At the beginning of the breakdown, she wrote to you in an e-mail, “GOD can play with pretty, fragile, tragic, desecrated, dishonored, shamed and histrionic messes like ‘us’ – and you and I know our heaven was granted because it would not be again the night I feel in love with the band that captured all the songs I shared with you waiting for him…and the songs would have been forgotten if I didn’t know in my heart that you secretly loved me more than you thought I loved you – and I let you in whatever way you wanted because I was always water and I could transcend whenever the world was too much for me to share…This is not good-bye, this is I will find you again when God wants to remind us of his story as he would tell it – but we have to establish what we think our narrative is – so we predict what we don’t want – in the deepest hope that we get everything we need before what we want, because I can only hold the things that are truly cherished in my heart – as you are my darling Ben.”

Just like just like me
Just like just like me
Just like just like me
Just like just like me
Just like just like me
Just like just like me


For 29 years I’ve lived in a bomb shelter. Literally. Not literally, that was just for emphasis. Though I’m planning on hyperextending this metaphor to such an extent that you’ll wish it was literal.

The bomb threats were from unverified sources, but that didn’t matter, once I started listening for the ticking. I kept listening to that ticking until I had a tic; until I was a tick, sucking on the pumping blood of self-loathing. All because I was afraid of the abombination. Of being devoured by fire.

The sources of these threats – don’t misunderstand, I don’t blame them – I was one. It was safer underground. In the dark. When I was so alone – so alien – when it was so awful I could not abide anymore – I ran through the underground railroad until I ran into someone. We’d light a match, but it always burned out, and after awhile we’d wander back. But we were all free. We just didn’t know.

Then, a year ago, I began receiving love letters, handwritten on a paper so white it glowed. Every time my name was written, it was like my signature, but better; like a famous artist’s signature, which had intrinsic value regardless of where it was. I hoped they were from Him, but I doubted; I doubted. Still, they kept arriving.

The last one was an invitation. “I am requesting the honour of your presence, as yourself, as you were created.” I set it in front of me and stared at it. Each time I picked it up, expecting it to be addressed to someone else; expecting it to disappear. But it didn’t.

So I’m coming out of the ground. This is my coming out party. I feel like Lazarus, raised from the dead. You can drop a bomb on me, baby. But I’ll know it’s not from Him. I have the letters to prove it.

Holding Pattern

I can turn wine into weakness faster than Jesus turned water into wine. Which is what I am doing tonight.

A night where we sit on the patio, dabbing our pulse points with vanilla extract. It’s supposed to repel mosquitoes. It makes us smell like cupcakes.

Everyone is husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend. Two candles on a mantel, glowing with the relief that at least they aren’t alone. Everyone except me, the one burning at both ends.

This incites a brief debate in my mind about whether to have a second glass of wine. Against: some nice 89 year old with Alzheimer’s. For: a horny Harvard senior with a high IQ. It is a merciful victory. A third glass is poured in celebration.

“I’m so glad you have one another,” I address a candle set, “But I don’t think God wants that for me.”

I’m beginning to resemble Bobby in Company so I walk away. I scroll through my cell phone book. I collect lint from my navel like cotton candy out of a machine. I select someone. I drill for more lint. I text:

“So mysterious and sufficient is the love of God. And yet, some nights I just want someone to hold me.”

It’s a miracle my phone doesn’t throw up after eating that shit.

The next morning, as I undress to shower, there is a gleam of encrusted blood in my navel. Gingerly I clean with Q-tips, who, in their soft sterility, imply I should have employed them to do this job at the start.

When I turn my phone back on, it groans, remembering what it did last night. Pause. Then it receives a text message:

“If you were my son, I would hold you.”

It Had To Be You

a restaurant should not have a stage. isn’t food entertaining enough? but this restaurant does and i am on it. the piano player begins  “it had to be you,” and speaking of which, You are somewhere in the dimness.

my lips part and my voice lilts with timid desire.

talking – (disrespectful but i will be merciful) – scREEching microphone – (i smile louder to dissuade a duet) – bReAKing diShEs – (my eyes shock closed and my shoulders jerk, soldiers disobeying orders before i can give them) – Waiter takes an order and telephone rings – (i grip the microphone like a bullhorn)

Sabotage is a multitasker. i’m distracted by the noise, enraged at the noisemakers, disgusted with being distracted by and enraged at the noisemakers.

finally we’re outside and walking and You’re telling me, “you have a wonderful voice.” i can’t believe it but then i remember: it is a new song, i’m still learning it, and it is for You.


The door bell rings, and my dogs explode into a cycle of agitation and pompousness: “Who could it be? Jeffrey Dahmer? Billy Graham? Gloria Estefan? Who cares! We love the sound of our own voices!” It is a pitiful yowling hysteria, though they think it a thunderously dignified display. My dogs love the sound of their own voice (like humans), although I suspect if I recorded it and played it back they wouldn’t love it any more (also like humans). ShuddUP! SHUDDUP! I gingerly wade through the furry waves of dog towards the front door and open it.

It’s my cousin Angela. Her sweatshirt, earrings and eyeshadow are all turquoise – a color made for tropical waters and fifth grade girls. Angela is not a fifth grade girl, though sometimes it seems like it. She’s twenty-two, but doesn’t learn at the same speed as others her age. The condition has some repugnantly polite name, nearly as repugnantly polite as calling it a condition. But I prefer to imagine all her blood deciding to stay home, in the heart, and not travel to the head. This is better, really, I believe it makes her a better person. And she’s so beautiful. She’s a beautiful men can’t quite fantasize about, because they’d feel guilty afterward.

When we were young she was the only one with the mad imagination, farcical tendencies and preference for all forms of exaggerated feminity that matched my own. We wanted to be Vera-Ellen in White Christmas (She’s so thin because she’s always dancing. We must always keep dancing.) or Ariel in The Little Mermaid (Ways I Am Like Ariel: 1. Red hair! 2. Female-fish anatomy?) Within two minutes together, our jog pants and T-shirts would be converted to whorish hyperbole, including pink plastic heels and feather boas. Then we’d get out her tea set and promise to be careful with every intention not to be. Cups were filled with water (her mother’s idea) then tipped over/thrown/dropped as quickly as possible, then refilled again. We seemed to fall out of chairs more than we sat in them. We called it “crazy tea party,” adding an unwitting anti-British element to playtime.

This was all before Love blew a spitwad in her eye, which slid down her cheek, impersonating tears in a way that was vicious, not funny. You would think Love would pick a little man to be the pilot of that spitwad. She didn’t. He was tall. Taahll. Tuawwl. In any accent he was tall. A man who was much older than her. That much had a mouth full of years, a potbelly of years, pockets stuffed with years. The years were a dare; a do-it-now-or-you’re-not-alive dare. The years were a functional alcoholic:

  • I can do this.
  • I’m in control.
  • I feel fabulous.
  • I feel fucking fabulous.
  • I’m God.
  • No, I’m David Bowie.

I don’t know if that’s how she felt, but I know that’s how I felt, the first time I met him. Not her former him, my former him. He respected our age difference, respected me, respected himself. Respect is such a good strategy it doesn’t need a strategy. “I’m a lot older than you,” he said. “No you’re not,” I said.

Angela met her former him for coffee the other day, which made her father’s red face get even redder. So red that looking at it makes your heart beat faster, makes you want to eat more vegetables. Why so red, father? Because I’m Italian, and I have high blood pressure, and MY DAUGHTER TRIED TO KILL HERSELF OVER THIS MAN.

She tried to kill herself.

It was fantastically ineffective.

Thank God’s nose hairs, his eyelashes, his toenails for that.

It was phenomenally unsuccessful because of Angela’s boating accident in the birth canal. Her skull was hurt, so the skull took it out on the brain, and the brain took it out on logic. Anyway, when the time had come for trying to kill herself, she opted for drinking laundry detergent. Isn’t she spectacular? If she hadn’ t had that pre-birth business, she would have done something more logical and conclusive – perhaps leaning too far over a ledge…and I do appreciate her picking something outside of social acceptability, not to mention the determination. Her taste buds must have cringed with courteous disgust through the introductions: Oh, hi, Alkyl phenoxy polyethoxy ethanols, It’s nice to meet you, Xylene sulfonate. Ultimately, though, anything’s preferable to lying in front of a lawnmower (“What are you doing?” “Oh hi.” “Yes, hi. Could you move? I don’t want to run over you.” “You know it’s really fine. Just go ahead, you’ve got to get this lawn mowed.” “Your life is more important than grass. Anyway, it’s not that long.” “Well, it is. You almost didn’t see me. You almost didn’t stop.” “Uh, okay. Actually there’s a good twenty feet – were you trying to kill yourself or not?”).

Angela formed a business partnership with prescription medication, and they got through it together, ended up in the black. So she asked her former him to meet her for coffee. He treated her with an unfeeling friendliness, like you would a postal worker. Angela braved the pleasantries. They said goodbye, he indifferently, she intensely. This is how things end, she thought, with nothing at all. She came home to her mother. Her mother, who raised Angela like she was a full bowl of tomato soup being carried across white carpeting, careful, I can do this, carefully.

We do not talk about any of this, standing in the front hallway. My dogs are loving her now, with their tongues, paws, ears, tails. She is smiling at them, and at me, with big eyes that are even brighter than her eyeshadow.