Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interviews with semi-naked men

"Are you the guy who plays music?"

It seemed an odd question to be asked while sitting in the humid, foggy bank of a steam room.

"No," I said. "I don't play music. I did in high school, but I wasn't very good. The right thing to do was to stop, I think."

The guy nodded and fiddled with his swim trunks.

"You look like another guy I used to talk to," he said --a familiar line-- "He's like you." He pumped his arms to signify that he thought I was a little buff --an unfamiliar line -- "He had a beard --looked just like you."

The steam machine roared and for a moment drowned out any point in trying to talk, which wasn't my idea in the first place, but I don't know how to shut up.

"No, not me," I said. "I do write about music, though. I work for the paper."

He got my paper on the first try.

"Boy, that must be interesting."

I shrugged. It has its moments.

"I used to play music," he told me. "I got a fender stratocaster and took some lessons --had a whole bunch of a equipment and thought it would really be a rush to play in a band." He frowned and again, fiddled with his short. "But everybody wanted to get drunk or high before or after we played." He shook his head and smiled. "I'm not 21 anymore."

Then he told me, in big brush terms, what it had been like for him to be 21. It sounded familiar --drinking too much, smoking dope and chasing girls.

"I didn't really care for pot, but the girls really loved the weed."

Maybe that had been my problem, I thought, but no, my problem had mostly been I didn't know how to relate past fairly superficial levels with women. I could talk to them, drink with them, but man... I had no idea about how to ask them to come home with me. That always seemed accidental when it happened, which was rarely.

He talked more about drugs: Cocaine, heroin, crack --things he'd never tried, never seen and only understood because of cop shows. Things I'd never tried because nobody thought to offer them to me or because they rightly figured I had enough of whatever I was doing at that particular time.

I listened for a while, eventually grew bored and wondered if this was leading up to either some sort of proposition or a witness. I wasn't really interested in hearing either. Besides, I had to get to work.

"I've got to go," I said.

He followed me as far as the showers then peeled off after he said that he thought it was very sad when people overdosed on drugs.

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