Can I ask a question without you taking it the wrong way? was one of the first things she said to me. The first was, 'can I borrow some cheese,' but that's neither here nor there.

Well, since you prefaced it that way, probably not. I countered.

No, it's just that... well, are you gay?

Laughter, in my head. Amused laughter. Nothing bitter in its ring - no tired notes in its echo. How the fuck am I exactly supposed to take that? You question my sexuality; my masculinity doesn't satisfy your conditions for a heterosexual male. No, I understand. How could I possibly take it the wrong way? I'm sure you ask every guy you meet exactly which gender he enjoys fucking.

I do not fit into your agoraphobic definitions.

No I reply, only giving her a slight laugh that says, 'you aren't the first person to wonder.' Why do you ask?

I just enjoy making her squirm. I know she won't answer, and I already know the answer to my own question. The purely physical is enough for some people to wonder. What do 5'11', 145 lbs, and feminine features (fuck!! i just thought I was cute!) add up to? Depends on who's adding it up I guess. I rather enjoy not fitting into a box. I like surprising people; I like the fact that you just might be able to figure me out in one lifetime.

I wasn't always so enlightened.

What's the worst part about being an alcoholic? It isn't the hangovers, it isn't the withdrawal, and it isn't the poor health. Alcoholism is a disease (and for godssake don't let that term become an excuse). It preys on your mind. It leeches any feelings of self-worth right out of your head. You're depressed physically because even when you can abstain for a period of time, sobriety feels like swimming through a lukewarm tub of shit. When the mind starts to fire again, the depression drops precipitously, which in turn drowns the self with guilt and shame. Make no mistake; this is not teenage angst depression. This is the kind of depression that seasons the flavor of gunmetal in your mouth.

Long is the way
And hard,
that out of Hell leads up to light.1

For me at least, alcohol was the elixir of youth. You lose a lot of weight because although alcohol contains a lot of calories, serious alcoholics don't eat. You seem to stop aging too. I couldn't tell you why. Maybe my body was so possessed with the fight against a lethal poison that it found no time for anything else. At 23, I couldn't buy a pack of cigarettes without being carded, to say nothing of booze. And that goddamn shaking as I approached a register. I knew that they would question my age, but to me it was as though they were questioning my inherent decency and right to be a human-being on this planet. It seemed to me that I never passed muster in their eyes - in anyone's eyes.

Despair blooms in the knowledge of the fact that everyone else agrees with your self-loathing. They corroborate your fear that you are the most loathsome waste of organic matter on this rock.

At the moment I am noding. I've come out the other side a little bit wiser about life. I rejoice in the things that set me apart from the world. They are my strengths; they are not my weaknesses.

You have to wonder what a girl is driving at when she asks you about your sexuality. What possible motivation could she have for asking such a question? Really, guys have the monopoly on homophobia, and she was all woman. Apparently it wasn't a loaded question at all. She wasn't trying to say anything about me, she was just trying to ascertain her chances, much to my pleasure. Sex can be a wonderful way to get to know someone.

You know, you were the most emotional fuck that I've ever had. she said to me the next day.

I tried to understand how that could be considering it was really just a one-night-stand, regardless of whether we slept together again.

Oh? I said through a smile. Maybe you've just never fucked a man before.

1John Milton, Paradise Lost