Finding a phone number for my mother
I’m living in Fort Myers to see a doctor about my balance issues.
I don’t like living in Fort Myers.
My closest friend here is my very attractive Christian physician, who constantly rejects my advances, and my second closest friend is Ali Kriegsman, the long-winded admin at the community center who spent the other day telling me about how she and her family bring buckets of water to the beach,
“So that when we get back to the car we’re able to sit inside the car while keeping our feet outside of the car so that we can use the buckets we’ve brought to wash off our feet. It’s important to make sure that our buckets have lids. Otherwise, when we’re driving to the beach, the buckets will spill in the car. We usually each have our own bucket because—,”
The story went on for four minutes.
Anyway, I hate her, which is unfortunate because she is my second closest friend and though it wasn’t the ideal distraction from my loneliness, at least it was something.
Last week, my mother flew in to hang. My mother doesn’t like that I don’t have real friends here but she doesn’t like a lot of things about me, like the fact that I am overly trusting of strangers and make poor choices and never lock the doors to my car or apartment, and have almost a disregard for keeping myself alive.
And so, to make sure she had friends’ numbers that she could call from time to time to make her feel better from afar, she took me to synagogue.
I don’t consider myself religious. I don’t pray or observe the Sabbath or even intend on dating someone Jewish, but I can’t change the past, and in the past, Judaism always had a special place in my heart. It was on the bimah (Jew alter) at a youth group sleepover where I kissed the first girl I liked, and it was at a Jewish summer camp where I unhooked my first bra, a bra which belonged to Allison Strommer, who wore the same perfume as my mother, and I believe that this is why I’m gay.
At synagogue, my mother and I made a couple of friends who invited me to Mahjong, which was nice, but I was still on the search for someone my age. It’s been quite hard to find people here, in this city that one TripAdvisor user describes as the happy medium between trailer-white-trash and DollarTree-white-trash, which is a distinction that most don’t ever get the privilege of coming to know.
I didn’t think this would bother me, as I actually fit quite well with most of the attributes on that trashy spectrum.
For one, most of my jeans cost less than $30. I don’t have a nice car or actually anything of value besides a $499 Chilipad mattress pad which helps me with my night sweats. I exclusively buy my groceries from Walmart Neighborhood Market and my favorite shirt is a black tank top that says Ain’t No Laws When You’re Drinking Claws. But the white trash spectrum aspects that I can’t get on board with are the ones more akin to those in a story a bartender here once told me:
“So, last week I was working a shift,” he said, “and I hear someone outside just yelling the N-word over and over again. And so I went outside to see what was going on. And there was a white girl, she must have been 12-years-old, and so I asked her ‘What are you doing? Stop saying that.’ and she says, ‘I can’t find my dog’.”
I don’t like that about Fort Myers and I don’t know how long I’ll be here. It depends on what the doctor says.
Last week the doctor had me hire a senior care agency to accompany me to the doctor’s appointments because I can’t show up alone because I get dizzy and the doctor doesn’t want to be liable in case I fall.
Tara, the woman who came from the agency I hired, was 23-years-old and happened to be black. We hit it off immediately. Not that I’m black. I’m just saying that we hit it off.
After the appointment was over, Tara and I were in her car, getting stoned (I will be hiring her again), before we ended up stopping for dinner at McDonald’s. She and I chatted about Fort Myer’s racism and homophobia. And then Tara said,
“My co-worker and I have been taking care of this woman for the past few weeks. The woman’s 70 somethin’. So nice to me. She tips a lot. Got all her memory and everything.”
“Oh that’s good,” I said, eating a french fry. “I bet it’s nice to have clients like that.”
“Well,” she said, “Then her kids came in town from Ohio or someplace, and they brought stuff for her to keep down here — you know, things old people like, like jewels, and clothes and pictures. And my co-worker and I were cleanin’ up her room and on the wall there’s a painting the family brought. Like an old painting, you know? And it was of a guy. Maybe her great-grandfather or something. And behind him was a field and he was holding a rope.” She took a sip of her Sprite, “and it was tied to two slaves.”
I stared, not knowing what to do.
Tara laughed hysterically.
“That’s fucked,” I said, not sure if I was allowed to laugh along. “What did you do?”
Tara continued laughing. “I mean. I’m not working for her anymore.”
“Wow. I’m sorry...that’s terrible…” I said. “Is your co-worker gonna keep going back?”
“Oh yeah. She loves the hours. And the money’s too good.” Tara paused. “She’s back to being a slave!” Tara exploded again, smiling.
Tara took another sip of her drink. She hadn’t really ever left south Florida, and I told her that other places are much more tolerable and not everyone in the world was as racist as the old white lady.
“Yeah, I know,” she said. “Just...for now, the old people here is where the good money’s at. I’ve got a daughter in school here. And she likes it. Not leaving anytime soon.” She took a hit of a joint and then passed it to me.
I took a hit and told Tara about my one night at the gay bar here. And how it didn’t feel safe, but at least it was something.
“Oh yeah. That’s not safe,” she said. “And don’t get caught walking around that neighborhood. People get shot there all the time.”
“Oh. I actually walked there from dinner. It seemed fine,” I said, now remembering the seedy motels and long stretches of unlit streets.
“Good place to find a prostitute though,” she said, “if you’re into that.”
“I don’t think I’m into that,” I said, unsure.
“Well, that’s up to you. My uncle loves it. He’s gay like you.” She took a bite of a chicken nugget. “I tried goin’ gay once,” she said, “twat just isn’t my thing.”
“Cool,” I said, proud of Tara.
She grabbed a couple of french fries from the bag. “You should meet my uncle,” she said. “Sweetest man I know.”
We finished our dinner and she drove me home. She was pretty high, but whatever. I like our hang. Better than being alone.
We might go to the beach next weekend with her uncle.
Should be fun. My mom’ll be proud.