Michelle parks Richard's car in the mall parking structure. Consumerism is a devastating creature, don't get me wrong. It crawls across the world again and again, destroying the older, weaker versions of itself. Wal-Marts eat mom and pop shops, malls eat the Wal-Marts, and super-malls (like this one here) eat all the little malls, chewing them like gum, and stretching them across six floors and eight blocks of conformity. It's disgusting, but if you're in the mood to cause trouble, there's nowhere better.
"I don't want you to make any jokes about Sheryl's clothes," Michelle says as we walk to the elevator. "She's on this kick about beauty and fashion, and so she's been wearing suit jackets over these awful yellow sundresses. You probably won't offend her, but she'll think you're an idiot."
"Don't worry about it," I say. We go inside and they're waiting for us.
We find a woman walking with a baby carriage, and we rush over to her, all smiles. "Oh my goodness!" Sheryl squeals as we look down into the carriage at the pink blankets and wispy hair. "Oh my goodness, what a cute little BOY!" and the woman opens her mouth to say something, but Gilyan cuts her off, reaching in to gently tickle the baby's pink bootie.
"What a handsome little boy! What's your name? What's your name?" She does the baby-talk voice so well that I want to laugh. The mother opens her mouth again, and this time it's Michelle who cuts her off.
"He looks like an Alfred," she says. "A little Alfie. Are you going to grow up to be an Alfie?" she says. "You'll get all the girls, won't you? Won't you? I bet you will!" and I lean over to take a look. The baby smiles up at me, and I can't help smiling myself.
"He's handsome," I agree, and I turn to the mother. "But why do you have him dressed up in pink, like a little faggot? That shit can seriously warp a child."
"It's a girl," the mother says. She turns to Michelle, "Her name is Meg." And I roll my eyes.
"You can't raise a little boy like he's a girl," I say. "He'll grow up all confused. You have to instill in him right from birth that boys and girls are inherently different. If you don't teach him that, he may never figure it out, and then what would happen?"
"Madness! Utter madness!" Michelle says. "It would be chaos! Boys and girls would have similar life goals! They'd treat each other as individuals instead of as potential mates or acquisitions! Could you imagine?"
"How would they know what to wear to prom?" Gilyan says. "How would they know who to fall in love with? They might be guided by their interests instead of societal norms!"
"She's right," I say, putting my hand on the woman's shoulder. "You need to take this boy upstairs to Baby Gap and get him into some overalls before he starts fagging up the whole world."
She stands there silently, looking at each of us in turn, and then she gives a sort of half smile like you give to homeless people who want to tell you about their chicken and cat sandwich recipe. She walks away.
"Goodbye Alfie!" calls Gilyan, and she turns away before she lets herself laugh.
On the second floor, I buy a coke from McDonald's and drink it. Michelle and the others are sitting near me, pretending that we don't know each other. They're laughing and talking, and I wonder what they're talking about. Sheryl really does dress like an idiot. She's great. They both are.
I walk up to the front, and slam the coke down on the counter beside the cash register. "The manager," I say to the twelve year old girl they've got working. I think she's twelve, anyway. I have no idea how quick girls develop these days. I saw something on TV about it, I think. All these hormones in their milk at breakfast, in their cereal, fucking them up. Maybe little girls are born with tits now?
She's still young enough to be a ballerina, isn't she? I've missed so many opportunities. I'll never be a ballerina. It's too late. I missed the boat. I made the wrong choices. I couldn't even be a high school dropout if I wanted to. Still, I'll get to be a cantankerous old man, one day, with a walking stick to shake at all the little five year old girls with their tits all hanging out.
The manager is skinny and balding. "Is there something I can help you with?" he says, and I give him a long stare, and then look down at the coke. He follows my gaze. "There's something wrong with your beverage, sir?" he asks.
"You tell me," I say, and push the coke towards him. "I bought this coke five minutes ago. I thought I would stop off on my way home and buy a book at the mall, maybe have a coke. It's my girlfriend's birthday, though, so I didn't want to take too long. I planned on slipping her the dick, if you know what I mean."
"What seems to be the problem, sir?" he says, and it's like he's reading lines out of a fast food manager script. Everyone talks the way they're supposed to these days. It's like we've become the voices for our institutions. He's the fast food manager, and I'm the disgruntled customer. In a few seconds I'll go back to being the frustrated genderqueer faggot and he'll be the frustrated manager. Either way, you could listen to us talk for five minutes and figure out who we are.
"This coke made me gay," I say. I hold out my hand for him to examine it. "Look at that. I've never had a manicure in my life, but now my nails are neat and tidy. Neat and tidy! I work in a factory, man. I can't have the guys at work thinking I've been filing my nails instead of biting them down."
"The pop made you gay?" he says, and now he's the sarcastic fast food worker, embittered etc. The big-titty twelve year old is covering her mouth, pretending not to laugh. He gives her a dirty look.
"What am I going to do now?" I say. "I have a girlfriend at home, waiting for my Johnson Special, and all I'm thinking about is how to do her hair!" The manager is looking behind me now. "Hey! I said my girlfriend loves cock! You look at me when I'm talking to you about my lost heterosexuality."
"I'm sorry, there are customers waiting," he says. "If you have a valid complaint, you can call the head office." I open my mouth to say something, but Michelle interrupts me.
"I don't mean to interrupt," she says. The manager is smiling again, and he shakes his head.
"Not at all, ma'am." He says. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"I sure hope so," she tells him. "I think this coke turned my friends gay." She points over her shoulder, where Gilyan and Sheryl are making out in their chairs. Customers all over the store are staring. "I don't mind or anything," Michelle says, "I mean, six in ten people are queer these days or something. Whatever. It's just that we have to get to a swim meet, and I'm worried that they'll be too busy thinking about vaginas to focus on their warm up exercises. Is there anything you can do? Have you got any pepsi, maybe?"
"You probably have to call the head office," I tell her, and Michelle nods, thoughtfully.
"Oh, okay." She says. She smiles at the manager. "The food was really good," she says.
After that we're just wandering around the mall, trying to think up things to do to fuck with people. Nobody can think of anything else, and everyone just wants to get in the car and go find some beer.
"Okay, we'll go," Michelle says, but there's disappointment in her voice, like she's looking for one last hurrah before we head off. One last complete mindfuck to leave people with their jaws hanging out, and maybe leave them thinking about things they never thought about before. Unlikely.
I'm having a blast, though, and I just don't want to leave. I have one last idea. I find a girl that's skinny and blonde and Paris Hilton fake. She's got a dainty little bag slung over her shoulder, and her skin sort of glitters. She's standing beside this boy with cheekbones I want to run my fingers over. He's fucking hot, is what he is, and she's got her arm in his.
"Wait here," I tell Sheryl and the others, and I walk over to them. As I approach, I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get when I see a straight guy with some ditsy looking pin-up girl. I want to push her down stairs. I want her to step out in front of a car and leave a makeup smear for blocks. This is how I react to the beauty myth, I guess.
Normally I push those feelings down, or turn them into sarcasm. Not today. Today I punch the girl in the gut. She bends a bit, and steps back, and I wonder if I should say something here. Make some comment about reinforcing an unrealistic standard of beauty, or about perpetuating the cycle. I want to kick her when she's down, but instead I turn and smile at the boy. "Do you come here often?" I say.
His fist connects, and then Michelle is there, her knee in his groin, and she's pulling me in the direction of the elevators and laughing. "You are fucked in the head," she says, and I run along beside her, looking back. The girl is climbing to her feet, looking around. She doesn't help the boy up.
I have no idea where Sheryl or Gilyan are. In the elevator Michelle just looks at me, with this half smile on her face. "I wanted to be you, there," she says. "Fuck." There are no security guards waiting for us, and we get in the car and we're gone. We pick up Sheryl and Gilyan on the street outside. They've come out the front doors of the mall.
Then we drive, with no destination. I think about the look of shock on the blonde girl's face when I punched her. She's as much a victim of the beauty myth as anyone else, and I'm not sure whether what I did is justifiable or not. She was born that way, skinny and blonde and tall.
Michelle takes a corner fast, and I press my hand against the door. I still feel weird about fucking Alex and Richard at the same time this morning. Fucking Alex's cock didn't feel like sex. Or, it did, but it felt like Richard was fucking me with a dildo. It's just that the dildo could talk.
We stop at an adult video store, pile out of the car. Gilyan asks the guy behind the counter "Do you have anything with Asians in it?" The guy nods, and leads us all upstairs. There's a whole wall of boxes. Before the clerk can leave, Gilyan says "Is any of this gay porn?" and he sighs and leads us to the back.
"Here you are," he says. "Gay Asian porn."
"Thank you so much," Gilyan says. She pretends to look at a box. "Oh, I can't tell from looking, are any of these Asians born in Canada, but living in Europe?"
"What?" he says, and Gilyan smiles.
"I have a thing for gay porn starring Asians who were born in Canada, but who were living in Europe at the time of filming. It's kind of my fetish, I guess. I don't like blond Asian guys, though. A lot of the Canadian-born Eurofag Asian porn you get has blonds in it. It just looks so fake." She turns to me. "It's really gross, don't you think?" she says.
"Disgusting," I say. "Unconscionable."
Our next stop is the liquor store, and then to Michelle's. The television is showing footage of a "family values" rally that went on today, and there's a dark haired man standing at a podium with his finger pointing out at the crowd.
"You care about your children," he says. "I know you do. That's why you're here." There's a little boy standing beside him, holding on to the fabric of the man's black pants. He reaches down and picks the boy up. "That's why I'm here too," he says.
"Can you imagine what it must be like to be that kid?" Michelle says, taking a sip of her beer. "Every day you wake up and pad downstairs in your dinosaur slippers to a breakfast across the table from that." She points her beer at the TV just as it cuts to a close up of the man's face. The caption says "Dr. Verge." He's still pointing.
"Political correctness and the truth are two different things." He says. "Maybe it isn't politically correct to say that homosexuality is a disease, that it needs to be cured or destroyed. It might not be polite to say so, but I know that it's the truth, and I have a right to defend my child's future." The camera pans to the boy's unsmiling face.
"The poor thing," Sheryl says. Dr. Verge's face fills the screen again.
"My child deserves the chance to grow up in a country that still believes in the word of the lord. A country where marriage is a symbol of the love between a man and a woman, not a joke or an excuse for some novelty cake with two plastic tuxedoed deviants on top. My son deserves to grow up in a world where he can go to school without having to worry that one of his teachers is having lustful thoughts about him."
There's a lot of applause, and Gilyan groans. "He's not making a very coherent argument, is he?" she says. "But he's touching all the right nerves." She lifts the remote and switches the channel.
The world would be better if people took things into their own hands. A world where people acted on their beliefs. A world where, if they saw someone like Dr. Verge raising their child to be hateful, they would simply take that child from him and raise them right. My eyes are heavy from the alcohol, and my mind is flitting all over the place.
Alex was angry that I'd chewed up her cock. His cock. I didn't know what to tell him. I said "Sometimes I get carried away with sex toys," and he threw the chewed up cock down on the ground and said "It isn't a sex toy. It's my fucking cock."
Richard hadn't said anything at all.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean that." But it was too late. Later, he made it clear that he didn't want me to come with them to see Richard's brother. So Michelle and I drove them across town and dropped them off before we hit the mall. What time is it now? I lift my head, but can't see a clock.
There's a cartoon or something on television. Death to the cartoon heterosexual paradigm. Richard and Alex should be back soon. I'm worried that Richard's getting too attached to him. I open my eyes again and watch a cartoon man on the television. He doesn't do anything but sit and talk. That's the problem with cartoons these days. It's all just talking heads. None of them do anything anymore.
I miss the violence, I guess, and that feeling that you're watching a whole new world, where the rules change constantly. These cartoons could be filmed with real actors. There's no surrealism, no magic. There was one moment, the moment when Richard's cock entered me and Alex's cock pressed against my throat, where I really believed that it was two men. Just that one moment.
And then it was gone, and it was a girl with a fake dick again.