Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gender Skewed & Drug Dealer Blues

Stories From The Road
September 9, 2013

Shuttle, bus, train.
  Bus, car,

Now The Story ...

We met in line to board the Amtrak bus in Los Angeles. He was wiry, buzz cut and could have been mistaken for a seventeen-year-old sweetheart if there wasn't something more distinct in his smirk. We're gonna call him Miguel because that is the name he gave me later for a fake ID his friend lifted. Miguel is Caucasian, smokes Marlboro Red and totes a soft dusty black gym-size duffel.

"You look like somebody, man," he says, smoke unfurling from his lips. "I keep thinking it."

The Hispanic guy between us thinks Miguel is talking to him but he quickly corrects, "Nah, nah. Not you, man. This guy."

This guy is me by the way.

This is not new occurrence. It's just the usual in a series of unfortunate gender bending events such as women who re-enter the bathroom to tell me I'm in the wrong one. There is the long standing, "Sir, Mr., Dude, Man" gender identifiers that follow me all black and cloud like. Raining on my androgynous female parade. 

So, what Miguel has done is not surprising to me though it is to those close to me in my life.

"I don't know how people can't see you're a girl," says my friend Watson.

I follow with a grin or a smirk or something that should resemble a smile and say, "My Dear Watson, I look like a man."

"Um, that would be no bueno on the man look, Trujillo."

"Seriously, bro," and Miguel's voice snaps me out of my head and back to the Amtrak bus line. "You look like someone famous."

The famous intrigues me, so I bite.

"Yeah?" I say.

"Oh, yeah, man," Miguel says. "You look like Andy Milonakis."

Okay, so someone just cued the crickets because I've got nothing for this comparison.

"You don't know Milonakis? He cracks me and my homies UP!"

The word "homies" sounds all kinds of wrong coming from Miguel.

"Milonakis is the funniest guy ever," Miguel says.

So, I not only look like a man but look like the funniest man ever? Hmm.

"Seriously, bro," says Miguel, keeping his black duffel away from the underneath bus storage. "Look him up. You're him. His videos are funny as sh*t."

Meet My Famous Twin (According to Miguel):

Andy Milonakis

e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Amoeba Music
Andy with his glasses.

I'm texting Josh Flowers to share I've been mistaken for someone famous. He quickly replies with a comeback that assures me I look like no one of notoriety.

Miguel and I board the bus. There are two tables mid-way for computers to jack in. This is a luxury on a bus, and I sit across from a guy wearing a red shirt with white letters that reads:

I Serve One King

He's a nice enough guy, and doesn't seem too interested in anything I'm doing with the coordination of my book bag. Ear buds in, a business call and I'm ready to get back to life on the road.

"Andy ... !" I look to my left. Miguel. "Hey, bro."

Miguel has two twenty-something young women doting on him. They too have mistaken me for a guy. When one of them flirts with me, I flash to Boys Don't Cry and squirm awkwardly in my seat.

Dilemma #8,298.56: Reveal I'm a woman, and end the whole Tom on the Foolery right then and there and hope not to get bashed or ... play along and be done with all this at the next stop.

I option for Plan B.

Always option for Plan A.

After a few exchanges about music, I drift off to Miguel bragging about getting baked on a series of shrooms and pot at an amusement park somewhere near LA.


I ask the attendant in Bakersfield, CA if the train to my right is the correct one.

"Only one a day," he says.

I apologize.

"Wouldn't expect you to know that," his grin feels less warm the more I look at it.

I hop on and drag my carry-on up the narrow stairway to the top car.

Minus Miguel + Flirting Twenty-Something = #smile

The storage rack is full, so my luggage becomes my new imaginary body pillow in the seat beside me.

Trust that this is a stretch of the imagination.

As we pull away from the train station, the deafening sound of a child screetching bears down on my ear drums.

This child has something to say ... to every single person on Earth.

It just so happens I am in close proximity, and consequently could be deafened more quickly than some. A Hispanic older couple in front of me stretch their necks around, making eye contact with the mother. Let me tell you something.

This. Does not. Faze her.

She throws them a glance and continues to text on her phone while adjusting her bra.

I know better than to do what the couple had just done. Getting up and finding another car seems viable as I attempt a conversation with someone on my cell. I ease up out of my seat when I hear, "Milonakis!"


"You pull up those videos yet?"

"Uh, no," I reply. "My signal (yes, I was lying) is crap out here."

"You should seriously watch one, Andy. They're hilarious. You going this way?"

To exit seems futile.

"Nah," I say. "I dropped my pen. That's all."

Miguel grins and walks off, "Milonakis! Yeah ... !"

For a few hours, my friends and girlfriend endure the on again off again sounds of the three-year-old girl. Might I add that she seemed pretty bored with nothing to even play with. I'd cry and scream too.


We arrive at our next stop to do our final change over by bus. I watch a woman in weightlifter pants that 1995 would envy wrestle with a series of bags and luggage while trying to smoke a cigarette. Her life seems much harder than mine. She looks worn out. In so many ways.

I toss my carry-on beneath the bus and launch up the steps. The nauseating smell of perfume and cologne spikes a growing migraine. I have an aversion to such smells and make my t-shirt into a mock mask. An Asian couple stares at me which is on par for the course of making one's t-shirt into a mask.

No sooner do I think we are moments from lurching forward do I hear, "ANDY!"


He slaps my shoulder in that "we're buddies" way, and I half-halfheartedly grin.

"You watch one of those videos yet?" he asks.

"Not yet," I say through my t-shirt mask.

"Dude, you're being funny, man. The shirt."

I'm really not trying to be funny but apparently I'm channeling Miguel's comic idol.

"Dude, you should come sit back here," he says motioning to the back of the bus.

"I'm good, thanks."

The bus pulls away from the station. Chico, CA now seems to be in sight. A stop in Sacramento (known as The SAC), and we empty out a few seats. That's when Miguel comes up and gives me a "bro" slug in the arm.

"Milonakis," he says."Dude, you should come sit back here man. Seriously."

"I'm good, man," I say.

The Asian couple has moved to the handicap seating in front of me. They look over their shoulders as Miguel rattles on with no sense of curbing his volume.

"No worries, I'll come sit up here," he says.

Miguel returns with his duffel and plops in the seat beside me. There's no escaping it. We're gonna have to interact which would be fine had I not pretended to be all "dude" the entire trip.

What begins with a series of strained bromance conversation topics evolves quickly into Miguel sharing details that add up on the strange. How he had left Chico, CA the day before and was zipping back in less that twenty-four on the hours. He talks about expensive cars, getting blacked out and tormenting his friends who waste out by drawing penis and other unrefined images on their face. He recounts stories a little too seasoned for the average traveler.

Miguel is a drug dealer.
I am the new best friend, at least for the ride, of Miguel The Drug Dealer.
This does not make for an easy ride.

His cell phone begins to blow up with text messages and phone calls. All the while he grins that absolute mischievous grin. His eyes catch glints of the sunset as he tries to steady the flow of his rambling thoughts. Everything he shares is about humiliation, revenge or a cocktail of JD + Drugs. He raves about his destruction of people's things and says, "faggot and b*^ch" frequently. Miguel is playfully dangerous. 

He asks me direct questions: Who are you staying with? What's his name? All in the suggestion of maybe knowing him.

After revealing a wad of cash loaded in hundred dollar bills, I decide to man it up.

Man It Up is defined as: A moment by which e.E. dials up the masculine factor for self-preservation.

And then I wimp it down a notch and text the person I'm dating.

Call Now. Can't Explain. Call. Please


While waiting for the call, Miguel offers to share some of his "good times" that I suspect are in his bag. I pass with what has become a cross between Dumb and Dumber in the joke factor.

"Dude, pull up Andy on your phone," he says.

I oblige knowing I'm now only 45 miles from Chico, CA.

The video is not high brow and that's being generous.

"Turn it up, man," he says.

"I think maybe that's not such a good idea, yo," I say and yes, I said "yo."

He looks at me confused.

"Like those people," I say referring to the Asian couple. "They're gonna get pissed."

"Dude, they don't even speak English."

The more I know about Miguel the more I wanna open up a can of feminist whoop-a*s. The truth is, I feel held hostage in a narrative I created.

I'm Andy Milonkis' twin.
I am a 23 year-old guy who lives in Los Angeles.
I have a friend named Screwball with crazy eyes (thank you Orange Is The New Black).

These are the things he knows about me.

I am not a woman.
I am not bi-sexual.
I am not anyone real to him.

The Asian couple look over their shoulder. I interpret it as uncomfortable, and suspect they think I'm as narrow as Miguel.

I don't like that feeling.

My language has all but gone monosyllabic. Fearing for the most part that Miguel might catch on that I'm in fact, not a guy and will go all "gay bash" on me. Remember, I don't really know what is in that black duffel, and it's become clear that he is at the very least running drugs.

"I like you, Andy," he says.

And under any other circumstance I might have liked Miguel liking me. Even if he thought I was a guy. But given the wealth of potential bad in all that should be good, I keep up the act. Especially given it has now gotten dark, the bus driver is not what I would call "in sync" and the only thing I've got going for me is a flat chest, a background in acting and an ability to spin a narrative on demand.

My cell rings. It's the woman I'm dating. She assesses the situation in three questions over a period of 30 seconds. I text her between pauses to say:

Being on the phone with her slows down the energy of Miguel. It also doesn't make me feel like the epic loser that I had begun to feel like. You know, not confessing to the whole "I'm Just A Girl" and playing into the gender skew. I text my friend Watson who plans to pick me up. She's going to bring her husband Tom. This seems like some of the smartest thinking of the day.

When we arrive in Chico, CA, Miguel presses me for what part of town I'm staying in. I play it dumb which isn't difficult to believe since I've gone along with this whole charade.

I say, "My friend's such an ass, yo."

"How so, Andy?"

Yes, I am now Andy.

"He's sending his parents to pick me up. Sucks, man."


Then like a tour guide Miguel points out places he's been fired from, places he's eaten "tasty melted grilled" something and the bars I'd really like.

"The girls there are smokin', yo. Me and my homies are always pickin' up skanks there."

Yes, he said homies again.
Yes, he said skanks in reference to easy women.
Yes, he is an ass.

We pull up to the stop in Chico outside a boxcar diner. Miguel stands with cigarette lingering from between his lips. He holds out his hand, "Andy."

I play along with this final action and do some form of semi-cool handshake.

"Miguel," I say.

He grins.

"You're funny, Andy. Shit, man. See ya," Miguel steps off the bus and vanishes behind a stream of cars and college kids. I saddle my backpack and small sound bag. I'm off the bus for a mere second when Tom and Watson almost magically appear. Tom herds me away from the bus and the baggage being off loaded.

"I gotta get my carry-on," I say.

Tom makes the whole move like the President being taken into isolation. Maybe I shouldn't have been as colorful about my threatening bus passenger. Once Watson and I are at the car, Tom slips a can of mace in my hand and returns for my baggage.

"You okay?" asks Watson.

"Yeah, I'm just ... it sucks being a guy," I say.

"You mean when you're not?"

"Yeah," I say.

As we pull away from the bus, I'm in high spill-it mode and recount details that don't even make their way into this blog. Like the woman who tried to pick me up on the first bus ride. Or the conversation the guy in the

I Serve One King

has with his father about the religious zealot he follows. Or about the grandmother who spent most of the bus ride to Sacramento shaming the hell out of her eleven year-old grand kid. And the habitual snorer, the shifty-eyed guy with homemade tattoos or even the woman who sat alone and she was clearly somewhere else with someone else who I think she needed quite desperately.

And of course, I relay the play-by-play action of Miguel + Me. Two guys in route to Chico, CA from Los Angeles, CA only one of us wasn't a guy.

I recall the story to Watson's kids.
I recall the story to my girlfriend via FaceTime.
I recall the story to my friend Margaret.

And that night in the safety of Watson's son's borrowed bedroom, I recall the details just to myself. Reviewing the events, I remember Miguel's eyes. How something was missing there. I sat on the edge of the bed, knowing this wiry, buzz cut young man had the distinct potential to kill someone for fun on a smashed and blazed high. To be honest, he might stone sober.

Why had I pretended to be someone that I wasn't?
Was it worth it?

1 comment:

  1. Love the way you weave humor into what was a terrifyingly true story. The deeper truth, of course, is the way society demands we only show those versions of ourselves that it deems acceptable. This part of your ordeal comes through with aching clarity. It makes a great story, yes, but you actually lived it. Not so great at the time.