By Rick Segreda
Lucien wasn't Ted's type. He hated Lucien's hair, so perfectly coifed and gelled, not one single follicle out of place. Then there was Lucien's flashy Tommy Hillfiger jacket. In fact, when he first saw him at Tony's party, he couldn't see Lucien's looks for his hair and clothes. For Ted, perfect hair and designer jackets were symptomatic of all that he hated about the gay men: their vanity and their preoccupation with fashion. It pointed to an absence of depth, a lack of a soul. By contrast, Ted only washed and combed his hair once every morning. His fashion statements were purely and proudly Goodwill.
Ted daydreamed about the one day his ship would come in terms of professional success. When he hit it big, he knew that Lucien-types would gladly eat his garbage to be near him. So Ted didn't see anything appealling about Lucien's until the skinny-dip in Tony's swimming pool. That's when he took notice of Lucien's sparkling blue eyes and infectious smile. But what really got Ted excited was that everybody else was "noticing" Lucien, especially Ted's ex-lover, Ryan.
Seeing how Ryan looked at Lucien got Ted thinking of Lucien in a different light, Maybe he wasn't THAT shallow and vain after all. After discovering they both had professional goals in film and video, Ted even thought that maybe something could happen with him. Lucien already had a mini-career going, hosting his public access television show in Seattle for five years. He now started moving into independent film, though his work was shot on video. So when Lucien agreed to go out with him Friday night, Ted was secretly ecstatic.
Ecstasy turned to ennui within midway through his chicken curry at 'India Grill.' Ted wondered what was going on. In the three hours spent in Lucien's orbit since they met downtown for dinner Lucien had not stopped talking about himself. He had not asked a single question-any question-about Ted. Every time Ted had thrown out anything about himself that people usually find interesting-that he's the nephew of a former Washington governor or his fluency in French, Lucien ignored it. Every time that he even tried to change the subject to something objective outside either one of them, the conversation somehow came back to Lucien, or specifically, Lucien's accomplishments. But thinking of Ryan, and his own career goals, Ted minded his manners. By desert, Ted rationalized that Lucien was simply nervous and not really meaning to come off as self-absorbed.
A short while later Ted followed Lucien into Lucien's one room studio apartment. If was oddly undecorated.
"Movieline, Entertainment Weekly, and The Stranger all did articles on my work as independent video filmmaker," said Lucien opening up a glossy magazine and pointing towards a still from his work.
"Hey, that's impressive," said Ted, concealing his envy.
"An associate editor for Spin e-mailed me yesterday," Lucien responded. "He actually wants to interview me Thursday. I figure I will have my own agent by next year." He then walked over to the kitchen and poured himself a beer. "'Terminal City' in Vancouver said they'd call me this week. I'm still waiting."
"Wow. That's great. By the way, I need to use the bathroom."
"It's that door over there, the one with Johnny Depp's personal autograph."
In the bathroom, over the toilet tank was a large, glossy, black and white, framed photo of Lucien wearing a Versace suit. Ted couldn't take his eyes off the picture while he urinated; it was eerily intimidating, like a ghost. He finished and zipped his trousers.
"That's a very beautiful portrait of yourself in there." Ted hoped that Lucien would respond warmly to Ted's description of the photo as "beautiful."
"LA, four years ago. I did some modeling for Ford."
"Ford? That's big time!"
"Yeah, I did it for about a year. It got me into a lot of parties. I dated Brandon Mills, from that TV show LA Vice."
"But it wasn't a serious. He's very passive in person, nothing like his television character."
This was the sort of life that Ted merely fantasized about. Starting to feel a bit resentful, he changed the topic.
"I have dreamed of being an independent filmmaker since I was thirteen. I really admire you for getting out there and, as Joseph Campbell puts it, 'following your bliss."
To which Lucien responded with:
"Did I mention that an old college friend just got hired as a copy boy at 'Vanity Fair?' We've kept in touch, so I look forward to becoming a name on the East Coast as well." Lucien finished his beer.
Ted held fast to the faith that Lucien must see SOMETHING in him. He decided to throw another possible "something" out to Lucien, to feel reassured that there was a balance of power tonight.
"Up till now I haven't had the courage you've had in pursuing your dreams. The most I've done is work on my fiction while holding down day jobs. But I did submit a poem to 'Northwest Poets Review' and not only did they publish it, the chair of the English Department at WSU sent a letter saying that it touched her."
Lucien put down his beer. "WSU? They hired me two years ago to teach video editing. That's when I had my own public access television show in Seattle. I had all these WSU undergrads assisting me as interns in exchange for college credit."
"I took a video production class once," said Ted with a degree of strained self-confidence. "Years ago, while I was a freshman at State University of New York at Purchase."
Lucien seemed lost in thought and paused before responding.
"Of all public access shows hiring interns, mine was the most popular with video and film undergraduates. And a number of them were quite cute."
Lucien then walked back to the kitchen and poured another beer.
"Would you like to see one of my shows? I got one from two years ago where I interviewed this lesbian political heavy metal band called 'Bleed'. They credited my show with getting them gigs all around Seattle." Before Ted could respond Lucien added "Better yet, let me get this show on avant-garde body piercing. We had piercing done live. The show was a finalist in Capitol Hill Weekly's most outrageous public access show' award."
Acting like his own mother when she lacked the rude courage to turn away Jehovah's Witnesses, Ted forced a smile and said: "Whatever you want to show me is fine."
"While I am putting on the tape, why don't you open up my modeling portfolio. It's on the kitchen counter. That's what I looked like before I had my hair permed. In LA I bleached my sideburns and widow's peak, but after I hung out at all these circuit parties in Malibu it caught on so big that I gave it up. Ironic, huh?"
"Circuit parties in Malibu?"
"Oh, good, here it is. This tape will run about 30 minutes. While you're watching it I'm going to call my sister, if you don't mind"
Lucien left the room while Ted was in mid-sentence.
Ted walked into the kitchen, filled a glass with water. He began silently musing to himself as he went over to the couch. He still held out some vague hope that he could make it with Lucien, though that would not turn out to be the case-Lucien would send him home shortly this evening with little more than a polite handshake. In a few months Lucien would become the blissfully happy partner of a man Ted would fall deeply and madly and unrequitedly in love with. Still, dear reader, that was yet to be both in the immediate and near future. For the moment, Ted mused his mixed feelings of envy and longing.
"Why is it that my dates turn out like this? If weren't for the fact that everyone at that party last week wants to be in my shoes tonight, I'd almost come up with some bogus excuse for cutting this date short. But I have to get back at Ryan after he dumped me for that coach at Western last summer. I KNOW he wanted Lucien real bad, particularly since he himself got dumped for a twenty-two year old, and Ryan is desperate for proof that he really doesn't look over thirty. Nope. I am not going to let Ryan one up me here, ha, ha.
Oh brother. The camera is out of focus, the sound is lousy, and the lighting is lousy. Okay. His first guest is this drag queen trying to be funny. I can tell she's stoned. She looks like she eats meta-amphetamines for breakfast. She's not funny. In fact this is really lame. But Lucien is and his crew is laughing at this crap.
Still, Lucien is getting written up in Entertainment Weekly and what am I doing? I'm doing commuter surveys for the WTA and writing my crappy little stories and poetry in between my work hours. While I was in college studying Kierkegaard and Plato, not to mention Bergman and Goddard, this jerk's notion of revolutionary art was The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Oh great-now she's trying to do Joan Crawford. Come on, lady, Mommie Dearest jokes are beyond passé. Our rising star is laughing at this as well.
Forget it, he's a total shallow, vain jerk. Well, a very handsome jerk that modeled Versace suits. Bagging him even for just one night would do my reputation for the rest of the year. I don't know. I shouldn't so quick to judge, as my Mom always told me. He agreed to go out. He must see SOMETHING in me, right? Ryan, eat your heart out."
To e-mail with comments or questions.
Return to fiction page.
Return to main page.