I'm in love again. Platonically, because he's 12 years old and I'm not a pedophile like my friend Ari. Although ironically we met through Ari's DVDs.
"Ari stole his DVDs from me," the 12-year-old boy says. "Everything about him is stolen from someone else, like the villain in that Matt Damon film."
"Matt Damon film? Isn't that an oxymoron like..."
I want to say "inhuman pain." My life is spiraling downward because I'm addicted to cyproterone, a testosterone blocker that gives an estrogen high similar to a good Lifetime film. I buy it from Ari - he's required to take it as a two-time sex offender. Every day he meets me at the mall and gives me a tablet, hidden inside a DVD.
"...Quiet Riot?" The boy smiles. We're standing in Blockbuster's VHS section (I only rent tapes due to my Romantic love of anachronism). It's deserted save a few ghosts. A headless woman drifts down the adjacent aisle, the space her head doesn't occupy obscured by Demonic Toys. I've come to rent movies similar to Ari's DVDs, which are the only things keeping me sane. I used to be addicted to camwhore sites because they're intimate windows into other lives, specifically those of the other subscribers, whose loneliness and ennui are as naked as the poorly photographed breasts they masturbate to. Ari's DVDs give the same intimacy: While watching the latest, Ghostbusters II, I felt like I'd entered his mind like Vigo does Ray's. I fell in love. But if Ari's DVDs belong to this boy, I must be in love with him.
We met outside the store, where he recognized me as a friend of Ari, who he'd briefly dated.
"Did he use and discard you like a cyproterone syringe?" I asked. "That's what my ex did to me."
"There are two types of love," the 12-year-old boy said. "One seeks to fill a void, the other to define it. Ari had a hybrid of the two I could never understand or return. The breakup was mutual."
"Yeah, but don't you obsess over your last night together?"
"The past isn't a code. It doesn't break under scrutiny. It's more mysterious than the present, and much more mysterious than the future, which can often be predicted through witchcraft."
A VHS-tape tumbleweed blew by. I wondered if it was made of tape fragments, or if it itself was a fragment. Were all tumbleweeds part of a larger tumbleweed? How did they get separated? And do they ever meet?
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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