I’ve never met the man known as Tommy Tinder’s father, but Brian describes him like this. A thick, red-faced man with a large gothic style tattoo of the cross etched across his jugular and flanked on both sides by the words: MY GOD, MY KING. In other words, the man sounds terrifying.
When Brian and I first moved into our little one-bedroom cottage together, we agreed that this was not a place for intimate, sweaty sleepovers. This was primarily for my benefit. I did not want to listen to Brian scream in ways I fear I’ll never be able to make Brian scream, nor did I want to hear the aggressive press and scrape of his breasts against the kitchen/living room carpet, smell the smoke of rug burn. What this means is that Brian and Tommy have to stay at Tommy’s house when the darkness that is nighttime creeps up from where all sidewalks end.
The first night that Tommy brings Brian home, his mother and father don’t say a word. They stare out from their petrified faces with sliding eyes at this being with the breasts and the unshaved pits and the short hair dyed to a shade of blue that leaks sadness. Brian is polite, says hello, but Mr. and Mrs. Tinder only glare at Tommy, so many questions in their now watering eyes. Brian follows Tommy to his room where he spends the night and the two of them, for the first time, try on each other’s clothes.
After Brian leaves for work the following morning, Tommy’s mother pulls Tommy aside and sits him down on the couch (a beige couch carefully positioned beneath a portrait of our Lord and Savior: white Jesus). She breathes in deep to slow her heart and explains to Tommy that girls like that—what’s her name, Brian?—girls like Brian want one thing and one thing only. They want sex.
Tommy says nothing. Mrs. Tinder goes on. “What do they want from this sex? They want, no, they need your soul. This Brian character,” says the mother, “this Brian needs your soul.”
What Tommy Tinder says to this is: “Okay.”
What Tommy Tinder does is sleeps with Brian, gives Brian his soul.
There’s an extra pep in Tommy’s step, as if his soul had been weighing him down. There’s a light in his eyes that adds contrast to the dried black blood color of his hair and when he shaves his raggy shag of a beard later in this post, it reveals a pallor so pale, so bright, you’d think he was burning. Brian stays at Tommy’s house—the Tinder Family household—and I go days without seeing him.
During this same stretch I’m having my own Tinder adventures—or lack of them—which I’ll explain in some detail in later journals. For now all you need to know is that I wait up at night and watch for Brian’s car, but Brian never comes home. We don’t talk late into the early dawn the way we would before we moved into this cottage together. I can’t talk to him about my loneliness and Brian can’t tell me about his, because he’s not lonely anymore. One of us is losing the other, though I’m not yet sure who’s losing whom.
I don’t yet know about Tommy Tinder’s home life, nor do I know about his father’s biblical masterpieces. I don’t know about any of it. It’s not until later, when the wrath of Father Tinder hits the fan and Brian returns to the cottage, that I hear about it all. I do my best to piece it together for you now.
On the nights when Tommy Tinder’s father emerges from his garage workshop, splattered in bright paints the color of crimson and hellfire, he emerges to see Brian’s black boots sitting in the entryway, one boot tipped to its side, its mud scraped across an otherwise clean rug. Tommy’s father rights the tipped boot, scoots it in line with the other shoes against the wall, and he retreats to his bedroom where the mother of Tommy Tinder sleeps. But the father cannot sleep. He reemerges from his room and takes Brian’s boots, picks them up with a rag, and places them outside. Only then can the father go to sleep.
Friday afternoon. Father Tinder is in the garage and he’s distracted. He’s on the very cusp of completing his masterpiece for the week, but he can’t complete it. Something is on his mind. Something is in his house and this something reeks.
At the time of the father’s distraction, Brian is in the living room fiddling with his phone, probably on Tinder. He’s always on Tinder. Often Brian and Tommy will be on Tinder together, because fuck it. Tommy however, is in the bathroom and he’s shaving the beard we discussed earlier, the one that is to be shaved as I type this paragraph, as you read it. Brian worries that Tommy won’t look good without a beard, because Brian likes beards. Tommy worries about his growing feelings for Brian, wonders if shaving his beard will ever be enough. Father Tinder, in the dark of his studio, worries that this creature with the breasts and blue hair and unkempt pits will never leave.
The door into the garage creaks open and closed and then it opens for good, Father Tinder stepping out. He’s covered in paint. He fiddles with his brand new ham radio, turns the dials, tunes into illegal broadcasts and police frequencies. He’s convinced—or attempting to convince—that this is the cause for his distraction.
“This is what ISIS uses to spy on the Kurds,” he says to no one at all. Brian doesn’t say anything, keeps swiping. The father walks to the open bathroom door, where Tommy is in the process of carving himself a handlebar mustache. “Did you hear that, Tom? This is what ISIS uses to spy on the Kurds.”
Tommy doesn’t respond, the mowing of facial hair too loud. Father grunts, turns the dials. He mumbles to no one over the static, over the grinding clippers. He mumbles from one topic to another. He never looks at Brian. Brian doesn’t look at him.
“I decided I know what I want to happen,” says the father to no one. “I decided I want Sanders to win. I want everyone to see his socialist shit won’t fly.”
Without missing a swipe, Brian says that’s why he wants Trump to win. So the world can burn, he says, and then anarchy. Brian is an anarchist.
To which Father Tinder grunts, walks to the open bathroom door and says, “Did you hear me, Tom? I want that Sanders to win. I want everyone to see—“
GGGRRRRRZZZZZZZZSHHZZZZZZZ. Beard hair flying everywhere. The static of the ham radio. Also, the silence of Brian just standing there.
Tommy emerges from the bathroom, shows off his handlebar mustache and Brian applauds. The father does not look. Tommy disappears back into the bathroom, works on his next look.
Father Tinder then says something, again to really no one at all, about how he’s never once seen inequality. Never once has he seen any evidence of racism. “And I’ve lived in Atlanta,” he says. “I would know.” It’s unclear to everyone involved how this topic comes up and why, if he’s trying to prematurely defend himself against Brian’s liberal agenda or just has a lot on his mind, or he’s just, you know—racist. Anyway, he goes on to say that white people are the most repressed race in the nation and that Black Lives Matter’s only objective is to repress white people further. Black Lives Matter must be brought to an end, he says.
To this, Brian must put away his phone. To this Brian says that, actually, no, it’s just a fair enough request from black people for black people to not be shot by white cops every other day of the week.
The father rolls his eyes, rolls the dial of his radio. He grumbles something about “media.”
Tommy emerges again from the bathroom, with a Fu Manchu mustache this time, and Brian applauds less enthusiastically. Tommy returns to the bathroom.
Several minutes pass before Father Tinder speaks up again. To no one at all, though certainly not to himself, he says that more white people are killed by police than black people.
Brian is about to walk away, go outside for a smoke, when Father Tinder says that the blacks are taking over the country and that us white people need to watch out.
To which Brian rattles off a rapid succession of examples how this is not true at all—one of many examples being that only one of the nine Supreme Court Justices is black.
The reason I only mention the Supreme Court Justice example is because this is the example that Tommy’s father responds to. He looks to Brian for the first time, right into him with a look so disgusted and condescending. What he says is this—
“Nine justices? No hun, there are 15. Nine of which are black.”
This is when Brian leaves, because there are some things you just can’t argue.
This is also when Tommy emerges from the bathroom, with a Charlie Chaplin mustache, and his father gives him a wink.
The coming weeks find Tommy strolling around the house wearing jean cutoffs and one of Brian’s old sport bras, humming the tune to “Lola” by the Kinks—
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls. It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, except for Lola. Lo lo lo lo Lola.
Late at night when Brian comes over, Father Tinder lies awake unable to sleep because of the hushed conversations that seep through the thin walls, Tommy talking to Brian about what he really thinks of men, what he dreams about men, how he actually feels about his father. And then there are the screams, the slapping of wet skin. Father cannot sleep. Mother pretends to sleep. Both are a mess. Both coming to a slow realization that this is not a phase.
In various corners of the house, the mother and father whisper to each other, though really it’s just the father whispering to the mother. The mother passes along these whispers to Tommy, all messages jumping around what’s actually wrong. One night, for example, she sits him down and asks if Brian is on food stamps.
“I don’t know,” he says. “He might be, because I mean, he qualifies for it.”
Mother sighs and says, “Well, your father doesn’t respect anyone who takes a handout and doesn’t want anyone like that under his roof.”
Tommy tells Brian about this and together, the two of them laugh about it. The next time Brian comes over, the mother walks in on the two of them trying on each other’s clothes and says to Tommy (who at this moment is wearing violet lipstick) that “your father does not want her here anymore.” By her, she means Brian. “She’s not allowed here anymore. She needs to leave.”
And Brian leaves, still wearing the dark clothes and ripped jean jacket of Tommy Tinder.
Two nights later, as a joke, Tommy places Brian’s black boots in the entryway, strewn across the carpet the way Brian would always leave them. Tommy thinks this would be funny, and it is. It’s so funny, in fact, that Tommy no longer lives there. Because father told mother to kick Tommy out. The Tommy that Brian met on Tinder is now homeless*, and he’s still wearing Brian’s clothes.
*Though not entirely homeless, because Tommy from Tinder now lives in a tent on our lawn beyond the pond and now I see Brian all the time, and also Tommy Tinder. It’s wonderful, it really is. I seem them all the time.
join man next week for journal #7 (in which said man contemplates suicide and dancing fish and also, a familiar face)