John Criscittelo: I Wish, 1, 2, 3 (2015 Gouache on paper) by SUZANNE BEAL

John Criscittelo
I Wish, 1, 2, 3 (2015 Gouache on paper)

Even though the engineer hardly ever spoke, he was down with visiting any of the hole-in-the wall bars I proposed, as long as we wrapped it up by about 9:00pm. He was an early riser.

He was in the middle of remodeling a three-story house in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, a posh suburban street in the middle of the metropolis. He was still living in Eastern Washington where he and his ex-wife were working out the custody of their four kids.

He told me, that his ex girlfriend had spray painted “asshole” along the entire south side of his home-to-be. Maybe I should have asked more questions, but the few I did ask were met with a smile and a shrug. I didn’t push. I kind of liked the whole not talking thing. I’d been told that the house was fairly large (in which case spray-painted signage would have had a profound impact) but I could only imagine it because up till now I’d declined visiting it. It was mainly the whole not talking thing. He could have been a murderer. A construction site seemed as good a place as any to leave a corpse.

The engineer was a sportsman. That was why he needed his rest. He arose at the crack of dawn to go skiing. Sometimes he’d text images of himself on the slopes. Sometimes he was in the company of his kids. He seemed like a nice guy. He just didn’t talk much. He often wore a sleeveless puffy vest and looked like one of those guys in the REI catalogs: competent, laid back. I remember the vest because we were fooling around once and the zipper on it jammed. It didn’t really matter though because our kissing wasn’t going anywhere clothes removal-worthy. Still, we had these comfortable silences.

We drove around in his Westfalia, the back of it a jumble of sports equipment and camping gear. Sometimes he’d text me a picture of himself at the beach and the caption “wish you were here.” I couldn’t tell if he was being ironic or literal. This had been a problem in the past. A boy I’d met in Paris once wrote me after he’d returned to the States to say that he missed his laudanum. I thought he meant the dreamy, drug-induced state of our coupling. But later I discovered he hadn’t meant it metaphorically. He’d brought home a few bottles in his backpack, got hooked, and was craving more.

The last time I saw the engineer we were driving on the freeway when his Westfalia started to sputter. “We’re running out of gas” he said. It seemed incongruent with being an engineer—but who was I to judge. He pulled into the right hand lane then slowed down in an effort to conserve gas. But even with the emergency lights on, a backup was underway. The first few people flashed their lights before pulling around and ahead of us. It wasn’t until the first guy honked that all hell broke loose.

The engineer rolled down his window and flipped the driver the bird. Then, as the honker sped ahead of us the engineer leaned out the window and screamed, “Suck my dick motherfucking faggot!”

Regardless of whether or not you believe in hyphenating “mother-fucker,” this was the longest sentence I’d ever heard him spit out. The Westfalia made a couple of gassy attempts to lurch forward. The engineer thrashed his arm outside of the car, his middle finger rigid with rage, and repeated “Faggot!” while the veins on his neck bulged.

We rolled off the freeway, through the fortuitous blur of a green light, and into the brightly lit Shell station. I turned to him, incredulous, waiting for an explanation. Was he being ironic?

He chuckled and shook his head. “Fucking Faggot,” he repeated.