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The Reader's Eye on Television

"Fine! Do whatever you want! I'm sick of it!" She's screaming, sitting at my counter, and touching her temples. I reach for the bottle of bourbon on top of the refrigerator, unscrew the cap, and pull a long slug of brown booze from the glass neck.

"That's it. That's going to help," she says. Her voice has lowered.

The bottle goes back to the top of the fridge.

"What do you want?" I ask. I'm pushing the confrontation instead of letting it lie.

"I want you," her voice is normal, "to do the things I want because they make me happy. I do things you want because they make you happy, even crap I can't stand."

A gay kid on the TV is leading a double life. He wants to tell his friends that he's gay, but he's afraid he'll be alienated. The thing is, all of his friends already know. The kid's affected speech, mannerisms, and behavior when he's drunk and flirting with men have left clues even the stupid and blind could follow.

"Who does he think he's fooling?" I yell and point at the screen.

"I know," she says. "With that accent and those hands that go all over the place."

"What did you want me to do?" I ask again.

"Ugh!" Her fingers curl back toward her face in rage. "Do things that make me happy even though you're miserable."

"You want me to be miserable to make you happy?" I ask and chuckle. I didn't mean to laugh.

"YES! I do all these cockamamie things you like! Why can't you do something I like?"

The bottle comes back off the fridge, unscrew, tip, gulp. I suck at my teeth -- seeetk.

"Never mind," she says and hops down from the stool. "Just get drunk. That's what you want anyway." Her head is shaking and she watches her feet as she walks out of the front room to the bedroom. "Why do we even do this? Why do I even bother?" she shouts from the dark.

The gay kid on TV is crying into the phone.

She's on the phone, crying to her mom.

I suck at my teeth -- seeetk -- one last time, and the bottle makes its way back up to its spot.

An hour later, the gay kid's TV show is over, and we're in bed. My arm is around her waist, and her head is back near mine. I can smell her hair and feel her body shake. We're laughing. Hysterically. We're out of breath and nearly crying. My side hurts.

"YES, I SAID, 'COCKAMAMIE'!" she yells.

"Why do I even bother!?" I scream in laughter.

WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK

The week's shows, as they relate to articles of clothing I found in a bag behind my apartment:

Thursday, November 30

JAG

USA 8:00 a.m. First item from the bag: a hat. It's round and drab green -- a military hat. Not a beret or officer's cap, but enlisted...maybe Army, with a baseball bill. It doesn't seem worn out; it's still good-looking and crisp, but the olive color has faded. It's done its duty and is now discarded. No one cares. Also: JAG is still on TV?

Law and Order: SVU

USA 8:00 p.m. One glove? What the hell happened to the other glove? This one is a hideous purple Isotoner with tan faux-leather pads on the palm and fingers and holes spaced along the back. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why someone would wear this thing or discard it as half of a pair. Nor would I ever think about putting my hand in it. There's something inside, but I'm icked out. I drop it and my hands fly back toward my body and I go, "yeeeiieggiy!"

Friday, December 1

Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy

FOX 9:00 p.m. Item the third: a baby bib. It's white with blue piping, and it has a berry juice or jam stain. But the beauty of this article is the block print across the front that reads "My Mommy Puts Out." Only one word can describe this: tacky. It's goddamn tacky is what it is.

Saturday, December 2

V-Twin Motorcycle TV

Speed 5:00 a.m. Next up: a T-shirt. An ordinary T-shirt? No, my friend. I'm digging through a bag in an alley in North Park near the City Heights border. This is a very special T-shirt. On the front is a picturesque landscape of white-capped mountains. Hovering above the snowy peaks is the vignette of a wolf howling. The wolf's head is the same size as the mountain range, which opens up several other questions in my mind that I'll spare the reader. Along the bottom, near where the bellybutton resides, is a miniature biker and motorcycle, no bigger than half a pine tree or the wolf spirit's snout. The shirt is soaked in red oil that's now on my hands and collecting grit from everything I attempt to wipe them on.

Kiss of the Dragon

Telemundo 7:00 p.m. OW! Something bit me! A creature crawled from the Naugahyde sleeve of a felt jacket; like a letterman's jacket, only it's all black and there's no insignia sewn to it. I didn't get a good look at the animal, but there's a little red dot of blood on my nose-pickin' finger. It could've been a spider or a koala for all I know...my head was turned. It nabbed my finger and escaped beneath a truck parked behind me. Son of a bitch!

Sunday, December 3

American Dad

FOX 7:30 p.m. A rag of an old shirt. The shirt is nothing special, an almost imperceptible logo to a radio station adorns the front, and on the back a banner reads, "The World's Most Dangerous Morning Show." The pits are so stained that it appears someone has used them as a filter at the outlet of a fish hatchery -- two big, yellow, moons from the shoulder to the love-handle area. I'm guessing this was a yard-work shirt. There's oil and grass mixed in around the belly.

Monday, December 4

Martha

NBC 11:00 a.m. Something in this bag smells like fish. I must be revisiting someone's lunch on a piece of clothing heated in the sun. I'd like to get my head further in to find the source, but I fear gagging or possible unconsciousness. Woof! Oh, my god. I'll have to dump the rest out. My neighbors are going to love me.

Tuesday, December 5

Gifts of Food

QVC 10:00 a.m. I've dumped the rest out. There's a tin can in here. The bag must not have been bound for a thrift store and, instead, left out here for the trash man to pick up. Still, it seems weird that there's only one can, with the label ripped off, leaking grease into a bag of clothes. I think it's the source of the smell. And maybe the reason my animal attacker had clawed its way through the black plastic and taken up residence inside. Until the damned thing bit me. That's not funny.

Wednesday, December 6

The Biggest Loser

NBC 8:00 p.m. Whoa! Ho ho! What is this, a moo moo? What a horrid pattern: yellow background with orange palm leaves splayed across it. There's some sort of permanent belt sewn into what I assume is the waistline, or what could be the cinching strap on the nastiest car cover in America. This thing is huge; I can hold it almost at full wingspan. No, it's pants. Double-knit, heavy fabric, and stretchy. Whoever wore this, honey, I applaud you for throwing it out.

Thursday, December 7

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

ABC 7:00 p.m. I had to cut the experiment short because my crackhead neighbor came out. She's 450 years old if she's a day. I've never seen her in anything except a tattered baby-blue robe. She's missing all but one of her teeth, and the three gray hairs on her head sit straight up. She has a Southern accent that she spits out of her wet mouth. She came out of her house and yelled, "What the hell are you doing?" I had to sweep everything back in the bag, afraid of being bit by something else, and run into my apartment.

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"Fine! Do whatever you want! I'm sick of it!" She's screaming, sitting at my counter, and touching her temples. I reach for the bottle of bourbon on top of the refrigerator, unscrew the cap, and pull a long slug of brown booze from the glass neck.

"That's it. That's going to help," she says. Her voice has lowered.

The bottle goes back to the top of the fridge.

"What do you want?" I ask. I'm pushing the confrontation instead of letting it lie.

"I want you," her voice is normal, "to do the things I want because they make me happy. I do things you want because they make you happy, even crap I can't stand."

A gay kid on the TV is leading a double life. He wants to tell his friends that he's gay, but he's afraid he'll be alienated. The thing is, all of his friends already know. The kid's affected speech, mannerisms, and behavior when he's drunk and flirting with men have left clues even the stupid and blind could follow.

"Who does he think he's fooling?" I yell and point at the screen.

"I know," she says. "With that accent and those hands that go all over the place."

"What did you want me to do?" I ask again.

"Ugh!" Her fingers curl back toward her face in rage. "Do things that make me happy even though you're miserable."

"You want me to be miserable to make you happy?" I ask and chuckle. I didn't mean to laugh.

"YES! I do all these cockamamie things you like! Why can't you do something I like?"

The bottle comes back off the fridge, unscrew, tip, gulp. I suck at my teeth -- seeetk.

"Never mind," she says and hops down from the stool. "Just get drunk. That's what you want anyway." Her head is shaking and she watches her feet as she walks out of the front room to the bedroom. "Why do we even do this? Why do I even bother?" she shouts from the dark.

The gay kid on TV is crying into the phone.

She's on the phone, crying to her mom.

I suck at my teeth -- seeetk -- one last time, and the bottle makes its way back up to its spot.

An hour later, the gay kid's TV show is over, and we're in bed. My arm is around her waist, and her head is back near mine. I can smell her hair and feel her body shake. We're laughing. Hysterically. We're out of breath and nearly crying. My side hurts.

"YES, I SAID, 'COCKAMAMIE'!" she yells.

"Why do I even bother!?" I scream in laughter.

WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK

The week's shows, as they relate to articles of clothing I found in a bag behind my apartment:

Thursday, November 30

JAG

USA 8:00 a.m. First item from the bag: a hat. It's round and drab green -- a military hat. Not a beret or officer's cap, but enlisted...maybe Army, with a baseball bill. It doesn't seem worn out; it's still good-looking and crisp, but the olive color has faded. It's done its duty and is now discarded. No one cares. Also: JAG is still on TV?

Law and Order: SVU

USA 8:00 p.m. One glove? What the hell happened to the other glove? This one is a hideous purple Isotoner with tan faux-leather pads on the palm and fingers and holes spaced along the back. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why someone would wear this thing or discard it as half of a pair. Nor would I ever think about putting my hand in it. There's something inside, but I'm icked out. I drop it and my hands fly back toward my body and I go, "yeeeiieggiy!"

Friday, December 1

Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy

FOX 9:00 p.m. Item the third: a baby bib. It's white with blue piping, and it has a berry juice or jam stain. But the beauty of this article is the block print across the front that reads "My Mommy Puts Out." Only one word can describe this: tacky. It's goddamn tacky is what it is.

Saturday, December 2

V-Twin Motorcycle TV

Speed 5:00 a.m. Next up: a T-shirt. An ordinary T-shirt? No, my friend. I'm digging through a bag in an alley in North Park near the City Heights border. This is a very special T-shirt. On the front is a picturesque landscape of white-capped mountains. Hovering above the snowy peaks is the vignette of a wolf howling. The wolf's head is the same size as the mountain range, which opens up several other questions in my mind that I'll spare the reader. Along the bottom, near where the bellybutton resides, is a miniature biker and motorcycle, no bigger than half a pine tree or the wolf spirit's snout. The shirt is soaked in red oil that's now on my hands and collecting grit from everything I attempt to wipe them on.

Kiss of the Dragon

Telemundo 7:00 p.m. OW! Something bit me! A creature crawled from the Naugahyde sleeve of a felt jacket; like a letterman's jacket, only it's all black and there's no insignia sewn to it. I didn't get a good look at the animal, but there's a little red dot of blood on my nose-pickin' finger. It could've been a spider or a koala for all I know...my head was turned. It nabbed my finger and escaped beneath a truck parked behind me. Son of a bitch!

Sunday, December 3

American Dad

FOX 7:30 p.m. A rag of an old shirt. The shirt is nothing special, an almost imperceptible logo to a radio station adorns the front, and on the back a banner reads, "The World's Most Dangerous Morning Show." The pits are so stained that it appears someone has used them as a filter at the outlet of a fish hatchery -- two big, yellow, moons from the shoulder to the love-handle area. I'm guessing this was a yard-work shirt. There's oil and grass mixed in around the belly.

Monday, December 4

Martha

NBC 11:00 a.m. Something in this bag smells like fish. I must be revisiting someone's lunch on a piece of clothing heated in the sun. I'd like to get my head further in to find the source, but I fear gagging or possible unconsciousness. Woof! Oh, my god. I'll have to dump the rest out. My neighbors are going to love me.

Tuesday, December 5

Gifts of Food

QVC 10:00 a.m. I've dumped the rest out. There's a tin can in here. The bag must not have been bound for a thrift store and, instead, left out here for the trash man to pick up. Still, it seems weird that there's only one can, with the label ripped off, leaking grease into a bag of clothes. I think it's the source of the smell. And maybe the reason my animal attacker had clawed its way through the black plastic and taken up residence inside. Until the damned thing bit me. That's not funny.

Wednesday, December 6

The Biggest Loser

NBC 8:00 p.m. Whoa! Ho ho! What is this, a moo moo? What a horrid pattern: yellow background with orange palm leaves splayed across it. There's some sort of permanent belt sewn into what I assume is the waistline, or what could be the cinching strap on the nastiest car cover in America. This thing is huge; I can hold it almost at full wingspan. No, it's pants. Double-knit, heavy fabric, and stretchy. Whoever wore this, honey, I applaud you for throwing it out.

Thursday, December 7

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

ABC 7:00 p.m. I had to cut the experiment short because my crackhead neighbor came out. She's 450 years old if she's a day. I've never seen her in anything except a tattered baby-blue robe. She's missing all but one of her teeth, and the three gray hairs on her head sit straight up. She has a Southern accent that she spits out of her wet mouth. She came out of her house and yelled, "What the hell are you doing?" I had to sweep everything back in the bag, afraid of being bit by something else, and run into my apartment.

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