Halfway through the televised debate I kick my boot into the screen. Even on mute I can't stand it. It feels good to smash the TV, though. I feel like I'm participating in the political system. The candidate's head vanishes in a shower of glass and noise, and I stand there wondering why I let my knowledge that violence only makes things worse prevent me from being violent.
Before he left, Chris made me promise to be gone before his boyfriend comes home at six. That means I have six hours to calm down, call Richard, and convince him to drive me into a straight neighborhood so we can steal a replacement TV.
I used to steal from heterosexuals for political reasons. Anything owned by a straight white yuppie is bought with oppression. The hetero-normative ownership paradigm is a tyrant belief system that deserves to be undermined on every front, from political protest to petty thievery.
Now I'm a little more honest about it. I can admit that I steal from straight people because I just don't like them. I made myself a t-shirt that says "I break into heterosexual houses so I can masturbate in their heterosexual kitchens."
The TV belongs to Chris' boyfriend, and so I shouldn't have broken it. But I promised myself that if the talking head thing said "of course we should be tolerant of the gays" one more time I would kick in the TV, and if you can't trust your own word, what can you trust?
Richard answers on the first ring, and I say "Where are you? I need you to drive me somewhere." I can hear a sound in the background, low repeated clunking of a headboard is my guess. "Who answers the phone in the middle of fucking?" I say, and Richard just laughs. The voice in the background says "Who is it?" and I hear Richard say something. The boy asks "What's he wearing?"
"What are you wearing?" Richard asks me, and that's that. A half an hour wasted on mediocre phone sex. I think about Chris while I listen to Richard's overacting. Last night, fucking Chris, I thought about Richard. It doesn't matter what I fantasize about, these days. All that matters is that it's something different from what I'm doing.
I probably won't ever find out who the boy is that Richard's fucking, and I don't care. He's a prop, just some mouth around Richard's dick as I pull myself off on the other end of the phone. A half an hour. Chris' boyfriend will be here in five and a half hours now. Richard says he's on his way over, and he hangs up.
The boyfriend has a separate dresser from Chris, and I dig through it looking for a clean sock, wipe myself off, and fold it nicely back in with the others. There's no TV, so to kill time I get out the phone book and flip it open randomly. The first name is Hubert, J.
"Good afternoon," I say, "I'm sorry to bother you during the lunch hour, ma'am, but I wonder if you'd like to take a survey in exchange for a free dinner for two at a local restaurant."
"What restaurant?" she says, and there's hesitation in her voice, like she thinks maybe it's a trick. Maybe it's dinner for two at McDonalds or something beneath her. "I'm right in the middle of lunch," she says.
"Any restaurant in the city limits," I tell her.
"Are you married?" I ask. "Sorry, are you happily married?"
"True or false," I say, "A man should never hit a woman."
"True," she says without hesitation. I pause a moment like I'm taking note of her answer. In reality, I'm sitting on the edge of Chris' dining room table leaving smudge marks. He's uptight about it. "Always use a coaster. Always use a coaster."
"Wrong." I say into the phone. "No. No. No. Hasn't it ever occurred to you that gender is an illusion? I mean, what if a pussy little faggot punched one of those chunked up body builder girls with a clit like a three foot cock? I mean, that right there is vaginal-dentata-night-terrors three feet from being realized, isn't it?"
"Excuse me?" she says, but I'm getting into it. I wonder where Richard is, and whether we'll fuck later. I picture the woman I'm talking to, sitting at her kitchen table while I push Richard down by the shoulder and pull open my belt. I picture her skinny botox face with a Desperate Housewives smile while she watches Richard take me in his mouth and she clucks her tongue. On the phone, she's saying "Excuse me?" again.
"Gender isn't a dichotomy," I say. "Sometimes a baby's born and it's a boy, and sometimes it's a girl, sure, but sometimes a doctor is in the background behind one of those pull-around curtains, flipping a coin. Sometimes the mother says "Is it a boy or a girl?" and the doctor really does say "Yes." That isn't the punchline to a joke, Mrs. Hubert, it's the punchline to the whole misguided notion that the concept of boy or the concept of girl are anything more than constructions."
There's silence on the other end of the phone.
"How many loads of laundry would you say you did each week?" I ask, but she's already hung up on me. It doesn't matter. Outside, Richard is honking his horn. I hang up the phone and check my fly. She won't think about what I said at all. Her husband will come home, and she won't even remember to say "we got a crank call today." I don't know why I waste my time. It's like writing letters. Fuck it.
I get all the way to the door and decide to call her back, give it one last try. Mrs. Hubert. I pick up the phone and press redial.
"Hello?" she answers, and I pause. I hate her for the fact that I know she'll hang up, but I hate her more because there is a chance she won't.
"When I pluck my eyebrows, I'm becoming more of a woman." I say, "When you stop plucking yours, you become less of a woman. When I fuck a man, or his boyfriend," I say, "and my chest is shaved, and my eyebrows are plucked, and his expensive underwear is pulled aside so that his cock springs free into my mouth, what do you have? Is gender really just tits?"
"Who is this?" the woman says.
"And women who develop breast cancer, who have their tits cut off, who wear the same breast form fakes as I do when I'm all dressed up, are they less than women?" She hangs up and my anger is confused because I don't know what I believe anymore myself. If that's what gender is, just an illusion, then why don't I fuck women?
In the car, Richard wants to know where we're going.
"We're going to break into a house and steal a fancy TV," I said. "I want to get something silver and digital and at least thirty seven inches. We're size queen burglars, and we're after something so new and expensive that it'll make us think about getting real jobs."
"I've got a job," Richard says, as the car starts.
I ignore him. Richard works at the phone company, doing technical support for a bunch of broadband internet customers. He brings home big paychecks week after week and he uses them to fund his "deviant" lifestyle. He doesn't need to steal things, the way I do, but he likes it. That's part of his charm.
We're walking up the driveway to this two story arts and craft style and Richard says "So, we're replacing the TV so the boyfriend doesn't know you were there?" and I nod. "Won't the boyfriend notice that it's a different TV?" I think for a second, and then shrug.
"So it's an apology present," I say. At the front door, I reach out and ring the doorbell. No answer. We turn our backs to the door like we're just casually waiting for someone to answer, and we look around the neighborhood. Nobody watering their lawns, or staring out their windows at us. We walk around the house.
Out back we climb the steps to the deck and Richard lies on his back in the sun while I slide my lock-picks out and get to work. "I thought you were supposed to be at work this morning?" I say as I select a pick. Richard laughs.
"You couldn't hear us slamming the photocopier into the wall?" I can picture it, the photocopier's lid breaking off, cheap and plastic under their hard and violent bodies. Sex is always better when you're breaking something.
I learned to pick locks from the MIT guide to picking locks. I found it on the internet, and you can tell it was written by the sort of queer that doesn't like the word queer. The whole thing is prefaced by an ethics statement, again and again apologizing for being a guide to picking locks. Explaining and apologizing, like those fuckers I'm always seeing on TV talking about gay marriage, about being in love and being just like straight people, just as monogamous and sexually repressed.
I ordered the pick set off the internet. I'm having trouble concentrating on which pins are set, though, because I keep picturing Richard fucking the mailroom boy on the photocopier at work.
"I thought it was a headboard," I say. Then the lock is open, and I turn the knob. "We're in." Richard has his shirt pulled up so the sun can get at his chest, and he lays there for a minute in silence before he acknowledges that he hears me.
"Alright," he says, sitting up. "Let's do this shit." I love how he talks like that, like we're TV criminals, about to "do a job." It makes me want to bring pantyhose to pull down over our faces, but that shit can ruin a perfectly good pair of hose.
There are kid toys all over the wall to wall carpet and there are tasteful clocks and paintings and a decent microwave-fridge-stove kitchen set. The whole kitchen is chrome, and I wish we'd brought a truck. Standing in the doorway, I feel like going upstairs and getting all the clothes and papers and hidden pornography and dumping it in the back of a moving truck. I feel like stealing their house. They come home and I'm making some popcorn and watching pornography on their television.
I get to work, looking through the silverware, and Richard starts picking up the toys and putting them in a plastic toy box near the wall. The family will come home to a clean house and a missing TV. Richard's fingerprints will be all over everything, and mine will too.
Already I can see my finger prints on the cutlery, and I press my index finger to the wide blade of a butter knife. The oils from my skin leave a perfect fingerprint. They've got expensive silverware, but it's heavy and kind of tacky so I leave it.
Richard puts the last toy in the box and looks at the TV. It's a flat screen TV, and more expensive than my rent would be if I paid rent instead of living on people's couches. "That'll fit in the trunk for sure," he says. "Let's look around first."
We have some time.
Upstairs the master bedroom has a big replica of David's Marat, naked hand hanging down beside the stone bath, holding the pen. There's a nightstand on each side of the bed. His side has a journal and a pencil and a Tom Clancy novel. There's a hair laid across the journal.
I flip it open randomly, and read. Good wife, good kids, good life. It used to be you could count on breaking into some house and exposing the dark underbelly of the middleclass lifestyle. I mean, it's all they ever make movies about anymore, isn't it? Now they've got a cocktail of pills to get rid of middleclass angst. I flip to the last page and pick up the pencil.
Maybe the police will get a handwriting analyst to examine the note I leave behind. "We were going to watch some hardcore gay pornography and leave quietly, but you didn't have any so we took the TV with us."
I wonder what kind of person it'll say I am. See how the letters are all above the line, here? That's arrogance. Or self-confidence. Or a big cock. It's hard to tell. Also, who prints anymore? Was it some grade school kid who doesn't know how to write cursive?
I close the journal and carefully replace the hair.
Richard yells "Hey, get in here," from the closet. It's a walk in, and there's a whole wall of shoes. "These aren't very well organized," he says. He picks a pair up off the floor and gets to work. I sit behind him, on the floor, and watch. "I heard you slept with a woman," I say.
I watch as his organizing slows briefly, and then speeds up.
"You too, huh?" he says. "Fuck, man. You're the one who said that gender was just made up, weren't you? Sometimes you get so drunk that an ass is an ass. I was out at a party full of straight people, and it was either go home with this seventeen year old girl with her face all tattooed and who wouldn't stop spouting politics at me, or follow one of the guys home in the car and try and find some bushes with a good view. I've got nothing against frigging myself in the bushes," he adds, "but this girl had me convinced, she was just a talker, man. An ass is an ass."
I'm nodding even though he can't see me. "Are you going to see her again?" I ask, and Richard thinks a minute before nodding.
"What if I am?" he says. "Are you gonna give me the talk I got from Robb, about how I'm just too scared to live a gay lifestyle, and I'm subconsciously seeking the security you get from sticking your dick in a woman?"
"Nah," I stand up and head for the door. "I just think we should start bringing more people when we do stuff like this. We should start finding people we trust, and a seventeen year old with facial tattoos who gets off on convincing fags to fuck her sounds like my kind of girl." I pause in the doorway and grin. "Not that I'd fuck her," I say.
He throws a shoe at me, but I'm already gone.
Downstairs I unplug the TV and DVD player and roll up the cords. There's a plastic bag in the kitchen big enough for the player. Richard comes downstairs and we look around one last time before we pick the TV up and carry it outside. There's a kid on a skateboard trying to ollie in the street beside the car.
On the drive back to Chris' apartment, Richard tells me that he's got plans to crash a high school student council party tonight with that tattooed girl and some of her friends.
"I know you were dead set on showing up at the lesbian ball," he says, "but if you change your mind, you should come." I'm already nodding. A high school party. How can I turn down the chance to break some young boy's heart for the first time?
Chris' boyfriend is there when we arrive, standing in the doorway with a frown on his face. I smile as wide as I can and offer my hand. Richard is carrying the TV himself, his arms wrapped around it.
"You must be Chris' boyfriend," I say, and he tentatively shakes my hand. "I'm one of the guys Chris has been fucking while he waits for you to come to your senses and realize that monogamy turns love into an ownership thing." He pulls his hand away and Richard sets the TV down. Chris' boy is just staring at it, and I hand him the plastic bag with the DVD player and cords.
"You've been sleeping with Chris?" he says, and I grin.
"Yes sir," I say. "And it's just great." I turn to follow Richard back to the car, but pause. "Oh, there might be a serial number or something on the bottom there," I say. "If you ever sell it or anything, you should get rid of the number. It'll probably be in a police database by tomorrow."
And that's that. In the car Richard is already talking about the party tonight, with this girl Alex and her friends whose names I'm already forgetting. We're gonna hit the lesbian ball first, dressed in suits and fake mustaches, freshly shaved and calling ourselves drag kings. There's nothing more satisfying than going out as a drag king and having the girl at the door roll her eyes at you because she doesn't think you pass. I live for that moment.
I roll down the window and stick my hand out, giving a family in a minivan the finger, but really just enjoying the feel of wind over my skin.