Popped Culture is a story about a girl named Joan, formerly a girl named John. It's about her life, the people in her life, and... a penis in a pickle jar.
“I’m going to need a better answer than that, Joan,” my doctor told me, looking at his watch.
“Obviously it’s an odd request but… I just feel that… as glad as I am to be rid of it… well, I’d still like to hang on to it,” I tried to explain, touching my heel to the bootstrap of my shoe, since manners didn’t permit knocking on wood—let alone this guys head.
“That doesn’t exactly answer my question,” he exclaimed, resting his chin in his cupped hand. “I don’t suppose there’s any real problem with it. But...”
“Yeah, I know… it’s nothing like that.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s… well, this is gonna sound kind of stupid but… it’s a part of my past—and it was a part of me… I just want it… kinda like a scrapbook,” I said, crawling through my words.
He gave a low-browed pose for his reflection in the window before turning to address me. I swallowed my anxiety and sat up straight for the verdict. His eyes dabbled on the side of judgmental. He looked me up and down while his fingers tapped on his desk, leaving a pronounced thump that echoed in my skull. I pulled out of mind to embody his, no doubt, shady opinion of me. The kind of self deprecating reflection inherent to eating disorders, Catholics, or people who request ‘amputated body parts they endeavored to escape.’ But before I could get into it…
“Alright… you can have it,” he sighed, likely having grown bored with my presence.
“So… how do you plan on… transporting it?”
“Gotcha covered,” I gleamed, turning to the side and reaching for my faded pink, cargo bag. I unbuckled the bag and fished around its innards of crumpled paper until I felt something solid. The dusty glass pickle jar I’d packed into my bag was blanketed in an old, ripped up, magazine. I brushed aside the final sheets from the jar and tossed them aside—catching eye of a dazed model, posing by streetlight.
“That’s not what I meant,” he mumbled, as I slid the pickle jar halfway across his desk.
“I wasn’t referring so much to the vessel of transport as I was to the means of transportation,” he explained, tentatively pulling the jar towards him. He made a huffing sound and gave me a frustrated look. He hadn’t seen my bag. “I would think overtly carrying a penis in a pickle jar would get you the wrong kind of attention.”
“Not compared to cutting it off in the first place,” I laughed, dotting the i…
The streetlight was always the focal point. I woke up missing my alarm clock two or three times, striking the table instead, and smelled the damp of my room. Everything was dark, quiet and still. The floor wasn’t there or, that’s to say it could hardly be seen under the clothes piled atop it. The posters of screaming musicians, whose names I’d forgotten the day after I purchased them, watched over me. They were peeling and, unfortunately, let my bright orange wallpaper shine through. This ghastly decorative feature was complemented by the bare wires poking out of vacant electrical sockets, missing doorknob, and the cigarette charred hole in my wall. I sat on an old mattress that I had managed to salvage from the street corner. It shone of yellow stains that originated from either urine or coffee. Neither managed to dent the high nasal reek of vomit, creeping in from my bathroom. To my right was my disposal area, which consisted of a garbage bag duct-taped to the wall. To my left was the window, illuminated by the solo streetlight, which saved me the trouble of paying my electrical bills most months. And right in front of me were the double-gold doors of my closet, shadowing the dark green door providing entrance to this hell.
“How did I get here?” I groggily asked myself, slowly peeling my pasty lips apart. I stretched my arms and legs, letting out a loud yawn and slight squeal.
I kicked around a little, until the sheets were at my waist. I leaned against the wall, resting my head on Gene Simmon’s long black and white tongue. My ass sank into the mattress and I felt an M&M crush beneath it. As poster-Gene ate out my scalp, I reflected for a moment on my current situation. I thought of last night (or that I knew last night had occurred) and hoped thinking would restore my memory. But I gave up on that when a misplaced hooker walked past my window. Then I focused on what I could do in the middle of the night with no money, but forgot what I’d been thinking once more when a rustling came from outside my door. I lowered my head and bit my lip, frantically checking around my bed for a used condom in case I had fucked someone the night before. Nothing. A moaning floorboard drew my focus and I scowled sharply, staring at the hole in my door reserved for a lost knob. I watched as something moved past the opening. My heart raced and I let out a shrill cry with my voice cracking in the middle. Then, like the sound of a stampede, the hole was filled with the figure of an unknown charging full throttle towards my ugly green door. I said a little prayer against a burglar, rapist, or Jehovah’s Witness. I either held my breath or couldn’t breathe, as a loud thud came from my door slamming open. And even amidst all of my flinching bravery I couldn’t help but cry out, ‘Take what you want and leave me alone!’
“Excuse me? And exactly what would I take?” A high pitched voice exclaimed. I cracked my eyes open to see a man standing with his hands on his hips, glaring at me. His rock-and-roll, light denim, worn jeans—with the benefit of cuts on the knees and ass—gave me hope. A long-sleeve, violet, vneck, 100% cotton shirt, with a Power Puff girl holding up her dress, gave me pleasure. And when my eyes were finally open enough to come to a conclusion, relief was the verdict.
“Jesus Christ, Lillie! You scared the shit out of me!” I yelled, slamming my hands on my mattress. He stood motionless, curling up the top of his mouth until his face reflected the very definition of disgust. I had to have done something wrong, and ‘what?’ was what I had to find out.
“It’s bad enough that I had to stay in this shit hole over night because of you! But now you’re screaming at me? Well I don’t need this crap.” Lillie bitched, as he shifted his weight from his right side to his left. His arms were now off of his hips and his hands fully extended making gestures while he talked. As his right hand glided up and shook its way back down to his hip, I recalled his show—immediately thinking of dark blue eye shadow and fish net stockings. I shook my head a bit, trying to dismiss my thoughts and pay attention, but Lillie was too angry to be coherent and following him was a dead end.
“Like I’m some kind of fucking servant!” he yelled, continuing on with how infuriated he was, leaving me uninformed on the happenings of the night prior. My head stopped as I stared off into space, trying to remember why he was in my apartment. However, in my doing so, he took it as though I were blowing him off and began to storm out of my bedroom.
“Wait! Why did you have to stay here over night?” I asked, with just enough desperation in my voice to make him stop and turn towards me again. He lifted his hand until it was next to his face and looked at the floor shaking his index finger back and forth.
“Do not tell me that you don’t remember last night!”
“I don’t remember last night,” I said hesitantly, squinting and waiting for the fur to fly upon his outraged response. His jaw dropped and he stared at me bug eyed for a moment. He made a few attempts to speak, but only varying degrees of murmurs came out.
“God, you are so pathetic!” he squealed, now enjoying my absent memory and ignorance of whatever stupid thing I should have known I’d done. “Well good luck with that!” he stated, turning once more to leave, only to stop upon my dire request for him to stay.
“Come on Lillie, please! What happened last night?” I cried, slumping my shoulders and pouting. I kept my head down but looked up at his now glowing smile.
“Why exactly should I tell you what happened?” he asked, toying with my curiosity.
“So I can begin to understand just how much I owe you,” I whined, puckering up; not to kiss ass but to lick hole. His smile lessened and turned into more of a smirk. He took his weight off of his leg and stood upright folding his arms across his chest.
“Now that’s a good reason,” he said, gesturing for me to get up and follow him by quickly tilting his head back and to the side. I wobbled to my feet and stepped on my sheet a few times over, tumbling forward into a large heap of clothes. I cursed face down into them, releasing only vaguely recognizable dogmatic damnations directed at circumstance and my clumsy act. After a moments hesitation I sucked in a breath of air, festering with my dirty laundry’s potent repugnance, and flipped to my side like a groggy walrus. Lillie watched me wearily, growing more and more impatient since I hadn’t showed him the proper respect. After a few seconds he walked forward and gracefully extending one of his long legs to kick me in the shoulder. I swatted lazily at him, and sat up out of principal-fury.
“What the hell?” I remarked, rubbing my shoulder that didn’t really hurt.
“Incase I hadn’t made it clear earlier, hanging out in this flee pit isn’t putting me in a better mood. So I suggest that we get to getting things settled so I can get the hell out of here,” Lillie whispered/hissed, knowing that resorting to violence only worked so much as to get my attention. I whimpered grudgingly at first, but when my nose caught coffee in the air my motivation became clear. I quickly rose to my feet, ready to follow Lillie wherever he wanted to take me.
I watched Lillie’s tall lanky figure stride forward, with his arms positioned at his sides in a perma-feminine stance. He wiggled his hips that contained about as much fat as a runway model fresh out of the john. He turned to the side to check if I were still following him and I could feel his indignation shoot off his sharp cheekbones, keeping me on edge. His dark, short hair, (blotched in places from ruff-sex-tugging-escapades) was matted down on one side from sleeping on my couch. He looked a mess, which would undoubtedly mean I’d be subject to more than his typical ‘mad at me’ mood.
“Are you making coffee?” I asked, while wrapping my sheet around me to keep my ass from getting cold. He ignored my comment at first as he walked over to the counter, thrusting his chest up and clenching his cheeks.
“Yeah, I thought you’d need it after last nights escapades, but your alcohol tolerance has wowed me once again,” he exclaimed, fiddling with a kettle that he had resting on my dormant stovetop.
“How did you get any hot water? Everything I’ve got to heat it is broken,” I said, sitting down on one of three chairs surrounding an old lime green kitchen table. Lillie pulled out two plastic cups from a bag that I had on top of my broken-down, pink, spray-painted, fridge.
“It’s not hot, just warm,” he said, looking back at me while plopping two instant coffee bags into the cups and chasing them with more coffee. “Your sink’s not working in here and there’s no way in hell I’d go into your bathroom! So I had to go down to the Chinese restaurant across the street and buy some egg roles to use their washroom,” he explained, crumpling up an old cup that he had used for coffee at some point earlier on. “By the way there are still a few rolls left if you want them... I think they’re diseased or something,”
“Thanks,” I said, pulling them towards me as Lillie swung around from the counter and dropped into a chair, handing me my drink as he did so. I lifted it to my mouth and took a sip. I slammed my eyes shut and thought of chocolate to keep the gag reflex from kicking in, but after the initial blow I let my bitter face fade to a scowl.
“If you’re too good for it, I’ll drink it,” Lillie remarked, clearly resenting my high standards for night-after-refreshments.
“I’m sorry, I appreciate everything you’ve done, but it tastes like something died in this,” I said, sloshing around my coffee, as I stared into its gooey black depth.
“So what’s the last thing you remember happening last night?”
I paused for a moment scanning my memory, trying to find the rewind button. I got a flash of Lillie holding my hair back while I puked my guts out into my bathtub. I saw us getting passed by cab after cab, and Lillie yelling at each of them while they screeched away. A flash of a club, but I wasn’t sure which one. Another club came up, but I didn’t know if it was the same one or not. Then I remembered us sitting on my torn-to-shit, plaid couch drinking coolers. The gurgling that defined every word I could recall, morphed to clear and distinguished words. ‘We’re running out of people to discriminate against; pretty soon we’re gonna have to admit we don’t have a reason for hating each other,’ I remembered hearing Dawn, the biggest bitch in all the land, complain.
“We were all sitting around here drinking, and Dawn was talking about prejudicial-fads,” I finally replied, after much hesitation and thought. Lillie laughed and took another sip of his coffee—throwing in a little ‘commercial enjoyment of his beverage,’ before continuing to demean me.
“You know that was over a day ago?” he exclaimed, giving me a sympathetic (for the sake of superiority) look that made me feel even more pathetic.
“Fine, so what happened after that?” I said in a huff, trying to get the whole ‘memory loss’ thing out of mind.
“Before we get to that,” Lillie stated, pulling back his anger just enough to show how concerned he really was. “Are you ok?”
“I’m fine… a little hung over, but…”
“No, not today… lately you’ve been acting like...”
“Look, I know how hard its been for you since she left you… since the robbery and the funeral, but… what you’re doing to yourself isn’t ok.”
“I’m fine,” I stated, shooting him a cold glare so he’d stop tickling the skeletons in my closet.
“Fine,” he snapped, returning to anger. “Anyway, back to last night… Since we were celebrating April’s promotion, we went where she wanted. But, as always, we got split up on the dance floor. After like an hour or so, we managed to re-group but Dawn found his fuck buddy for the night and ditched.”
“He can be such an asshole,” I grumbled, reaching quarter-cup-gone zone on my coffee.
“Yeah, he sure can be,” Lillie stated in an unimpressed tone. He adjusted his seat and uncrossed his legs so that he could turn to look at me head-on for the upcoming onslaught. “Well somehow in the midst of all the confusion you had run into your old friend, Joe. You remember Joe, right? The one I forbid you to converse with, the cost being our friendship?” he said, lowering his brows, head, voice and my feeling of self-worth.
“Yeah... I remember Joe,” I replied, gulping down some of the putrid goop coffee that I had left in my mouth.
I noted past mistakes, supposed resolve and inevitable regress as Lillie continued to lecture/inform me. He was with out a doubt more upset than he had ever been with me. But, anger I could handle—it was his pity that scared me.
“So, if you remember Joe, then of course you remember what he does?” he half asked, half snapped at me.
“Uh huh,” I said, nodding, while sinking down into my chair cushion that deflated and made a noise like a muffled fart.
“And you’ll never guess what the two of you did while you were talking,” Lillie exclaimed, becoming noticeably more tense. He watched me squint, smile, and then whimper, “Sorry.” “Anyway,” he continued. “by the time we found you, you’d done enough lines to draw a white picket fence.”
“I didn’t OD did I?” I asked, appreciating my coffee, as a sudden zest for life hit me and I thought how things could be so much worse.
“No, you didn’t OD,” Lillie replied, positively pissed and losing his Queen-like charm. “You did however perk up quite a bit... April decided that you were ok to come along with us to another club, seeing as how she was having trouble getting laid where we were. I however was—scratch that am furious with you. But I didn’t want to ruin April’s big night by killing you, so we all grabbed a cab and sped away to a dike bar,” he muttered, taking a brief moment to chomp onto one of the egg rolls. “You were deep-fried for the whole ride and were looking at all the pretty lights pass by. I was biting my tongue to keep from screaming and April was fantasizing about whatever cheap trick she’d be hooking up with for the night,” he explained, making the obligatory eating while trying to talk noises. I waited patiently, covered by my puffed-up-white-sheet-tuck-job, complemented by the egg roll crumbs and diarrhea coffee. Lillie swallowed hard before resuming his eccentrically detailed storytelling and I relaxed as he finally appeared to loosen up.
“Which bar did we go to?” I asked, forgetting that I was walking on eggshells.
“It doesn’t matter, and stop interrupting me!” he yelled, shutting me up. “We arrived and I locked arms with you to keep you from finding another candy store. April sat down at the bar and tried to fend off all of the people hitting on her. You even got a few nibbles yourself, but I managed to keep them away,” he said, pausing momentarily to see whether or not I was going to object to his actions and interrupt once more. I stayed still, watching him glare at me before he hesitantly continued his story. “So, April found the lust of her life and departed from the group, leaving us with the task of finding a way home. I went outside and tried to get a cab, but somehow you managed to grab a hold of a few more Margaritas when I wasn’t looking; I think you swiped them from other people at the bar, but I’m not sure,” he muttered, trying to logically explain my means of inebriating myself behind his back. “So after I’d half-bitten off my tongue, and my eyes rolled back in my head far enough to unplug themselves, I managed to get you to sit down outside.”
“Wait! I remember this part,” I exclaimed, enthused that my incompetence hadn’t completely taken over. “You had me sit down next to this homeless guy, so that I’d have someone to talk to while you called a cab.”
“Do you want to take over from here?” he asked, crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair. I took a quick swig of my coffee, treating it as though I were taking shots of gasoline, and continued.
“I remember he told me his name was Rusty and that he wasn’t really homeless; he just liked the feel of the curb on his ass and the people who were out late at night. He was really… weird… and old, like 60 or something,” I said, looking up at the ceiling, trying to decipher the fragments of memory floating around in my head.
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