I don’t bring it up very often, but ever since childhood I’ve had to manage living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I don’t mean the sanitized “disorder that’s secretly a superpower” OCD you see in movies and TV. I don’t solve crimes by “obsessing” over details, and I’m not fastidiously neat to a comical degree. My OCD is legitimate, but manageable. It’s been well over a decade since the compulsions were in any way clinically significant; while it’s odd that I tap door frames four times, at least I am not paralyzed at the sight of one black pen and one blue pen waiting for me to use them.
I still struggle somewhat with controlling the typical obsessive thoughts that follow this disorder. It’s tough for me to spend time with friends and family without continuously visualizing what they would look like dead.
This isn’t pleasant for me, but it happens. I’ve learned not to freak out over it or feel guilty. I know I want the best for the people I love, despite a habit of imagining what they would look like swarmed by bees or hurled out of airplanes. It’s fucked up, but again, it’s not something I can stop. It hits me, and the only thing I can do is roll with it until my brain finally decides to shift gears into something more closely related to what I imagine a normal thought process is.
I bring this up because the other night, at a David Sedaris book signing, I noticed that the infinity fountain he sat in front of was lit with light bulbs placed under the water. That’s not too weird. You see underwater lights all the time. But the power rigging was underwater too. Big, thick metal cables twisted along the tile, intersecting through gnarly, chunky power boxes. For all I could see, these things were sealed with little more than pressure from the screws.
I know well enough that there was no legitimate danger of electrocution, but the thought wormed its way into my head the way a masturbatory fantasy does when you’re thirteen and in church, or twenty-eight and in church.
What if Sedaris fell in?
And then there was no stopping me. The image played out like a sad advertisement for Weekend at Bernie’s III. I could see someone tripping up as they approached Sedaris, their arms flailing as they struggled to catch the small library they’d brought for him to sign. It was biting cold out, so the added layers of clothing would add to the poor bastard’s momentum until BAM. He and Sedaris would fly into the artificial pond, their cries muffled by the sparks in the water and the hum of the lights as they flickered on and off.
As we got closer to the signing table, the oafish schlemiel in my head began to look a lot like me. I’m no legal expert, but I’m pretty sure they shoot to kill the second they find out you’re imagining the accidental murder of a celebrity, regardless of whether you meant to think it or not. We were two couples, then one couple, then just a few feet.
My jacket kept slipping in my arms. My hands were sweating, making my books so slick I had to tighten my grip on them. Goddammit, why am I holding these things like weapons? How do schmoes like me keep getting past security?
With a polite smile and a little wave, Sedaris beckoned my friend and I to the table.
Oh Jesus, I’m about to murder David Sedaris with my own stupidity. The dumbest guy in the room was about to kill the smartest.
Of course none of that happened. I managed to approach one of my favorite authors with the same general level of competence that allows me to access ATMs and water fountains. The book I brought had been previously owned, and inside someone had written To Michelle, I hope this brings you all the laughs it brought me. Sedaris dutifully corrected laughs to pussy and drew what could almost be construed as a hooded Eye of Sauron. Evidently Sauron is a regular with Brazilian waxing.
“I’m not even really sure that’s how they look,” he said. “I mean, mostly I just see pictures of them in medical books.” He looked to Monica. “Are they difficult to maintain?”
Mo shrugged. “Like, a few days a month, yeah.”
“I just don’t get the appeal of the vagina,” he went on. “I mean, I see pictures and I just can’t imagine ever being turned on by that.” He looked at me. “Is that how straight men feel about cock?”
I told him that as a bisexual man, I wasn’t the best resource to turn to.
“Oh, then you just like it all. That must be wonderful!”
“Well, I don’t have much of a taste for bestiality.”
“Oh, it’s very passé nowadays.” He covered his mouth and looked at Monica. “Jesus, I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t have insulted your genitalia if you’ve bought my books.” He laughed. “Holy shit, I’m really sorry. That was really pretty shitty of me, wasn’t it?”
“Hey, that could be a new opener!” I said, suddenly imagining Sedaris giving me a strange look after an awkward attempt on my part to be funny. I ploughed ahead anyway, with the same dedication that never got me laid in high school. “It’s delightful to meet you! Your genitals appall me.”
Sedaris laughed, and I would have gladly paid double what I did for our tickets for that. With our books signed we braved the cold back to our parking spot, Monica laughing over the fact that Sedaris expressed explicit interest in her vagina. This seemed like quite the achievement.
I can’t blame him for his temporary fixation on her pussy. For several years it was prominent on my mind as well, though I would wager in a significantly different context.
We broke up a couple years back, but the occasional hook-up punctuates our friendship like drops of ink from a leaky pen, or some other appropriately sexual simile. I got over it, but she was in my thoughts constantly until the day we finally moved out of our old place. She found a nicer apartment on the other side of the city, and I made the long haul back home, a state away. Sometimes she visits family in our hometown, and we’ll spend a day sitting outside and catching up. Or I’ll drive back up to Nashville, and we’ll pal around the city for a weekend until reality reminds us we have jobs and bills.
It was cold inside when we got back from the signing, and we both jumped under the comforter to get warm. We ended up spooning, my arm around her shoulders, my nose against her neck. A year ago this would have led to a clumsy rush to tear off our clothes, a ritual that always made at least one of us fall over like a drunk panda on YouTube. But by this night my mind had finally shifted gears, and we dozed off, fully clothed. I dreamed of tripping over my own feet, and of pussies scribbled on old book paper.