As I tug my sweatshirt over my head, my t-shirt rides up and the men at the bar -- who only seconds before were quiet dull Iowans -- are hooting and hollering like fratboys gone wild with jello shots, bikini girls, and MTV cameras. By the time I've got my head through the hole they're quiet again, grinning and winking, and I don't have to pay for my beer anymore.
I'm a star!!! Hot. Desirable.
Clarification: I am in Des Moines. At the Blazing Saddle bar. And it is January. It is 4 in the afternoon on a weekday. Most of the men at the bar are over 60. The younger ones -- and I mean that only relatively -- appear somehow different, in the Iowa sense of the word, dif'rent, as in there might have been some challenge there, cognitively, even before they started drinking as a career twenty years ago.
These clarifications clarify nothing for me. I'm the hottest man at the bar. The air sizzles with my seething sexual energy -- at least for me it does. And someone must have discreetly placed an air hose in my asshole because I feel myself expanding, swelling up. Soon I will rise into the air like a blow-up doll full of helium.
Except I am not full of helium. What I am full of is boring thoughts. Does he want me? Yeah, he wants me. Does he still want me? Yeah, he totally wants me. Am I hot? Yeah, I'm hot. Am I still hot? Yeah, I'm still hot.
Vanity is like a head injury. Suddenly there are no Icelandic novelists in my mind. No leaf-cutter ants of the Amazon. No Beats, no Surrealists, no Luminism. Actually, there isn't even any Iowa, even though I'm sitting in it. Is there a local beer? What are these men's stories? How old is this carpet? None of that. Am I hot? Yeah, I'm hot. Am I still hot? Yeah, I'm still hot.
I'm not content to let my hotness just sit around. No. I've got plans for my hotness. I want to go to all those sleazy clubs in Denver. I should fly to Amsterdam. Because this hotness -- this raw sexual force -- it ain't gonna last forever. (Am I still hot? Yes -- I think so. Maybe I should check? Maybe I should yawn and rub my belly seductively and see if anyone responds?)
Swollen up with boring thoughts, I find myself suddenly vulnerable. Anxiety arrives. Because I really ought to make it to the gym more often. Maybe get a trainer? How long has it been since I took any fish oil pills? Is a cheap moisturizer really good enough? What is 'photo-facial rejuvenation' anyway? What am I going to do when I'm 40? 45? 50? 55? 60? 65?
Plastic surgery is getting better all the time. Look at Madonna. What about penis enlargement? Don't hear much about that nowadays. Maybe I should do penis enlargement -- just as, like, gay sexual insurance? If I have mega-dong someone will always want me. Won't they?
A few hoots and hollers, one free Miller beer, and I have been transformed into a gay balloon of boredom and anxiety. Even making it to the toilet is going to be quite an operation because I appear to be taking up most of the air in the room.
The door to the bar opens with a shudder: a kid ambles in and knocks the snow off his boots. He looks sleepy; he's got three days worth of stubble on his college boy chin. He's not staying, just dropping off the free papers, but can I use the restroom sir? Sure you can. He's just a straight guy but I could convert him 'cause I'm so fucking hot except --
He Did Not Even Look At Me!!!
Which is probably a good thing because one side of my face has entirely collapsed, along with my inflated chest. Oh yes, I'm the Hindenburg disaster all over again. Zipping around the room, making a prolonged farting noise, like a birthday balloon somebody let go of. Nobody even notices this disaster because I am, like, invisible.
At last I come to rest back on my bar stool, a shriveled raisin limp-dick sort of man, a wizened husk.
My next beer I pay for. My career as the hottest man in the bar (god! it was glorious!) is over. From now on I'll have to fly economy, bag my own groceries, jack off.
As recompense, as a consolation prize, here is the world: Icelandic novelists and leaf-cutter ants, a long line of drunks sitting here at the bar in Des Moines on an afternoon in January when I was, for a very short time, the hottest man in the bar.