Addicted Sportswear Dives into Summer with its ‘Splash’ Collection
In celebration of summer, Addicted, the naughty little sister brand of ES Collection, has unveiled its steamiest swim collection ever, “Splash.” “This summer’s swimwear collection features bright, bold colors with one of a kind prints and tongue-and-cheek slogans,” explains the collections’ founder, Ed Suner. “It’s playful, fun, a bit racy but also sporty, stylish, and designed to last so guys can enjoy the summer sun to its maximum.”
“Addicted has never been known for subtle details, and this summer’s collection of swim gear is certainly no exception to that rule,” laughs Nir Zilberman, the brand’s USA agent. “I’d venture to say ‘Splash’ is Addicted’s wildest collection yet!”
“‘Splash’ offers the quality, fit and comfort the Addicted brand is known for,” says designer Carmen Monforte. “All gear is designed with fashionable gay men in mind. They are intended for guys who feel good about themselves, are comfortable with their bodies and are daring enough to flaunt it.”
Suits are made from fast drying, high stretch, lightweight fabric that is heat moulded for reduced seams and a contoured fit. There is a wide range of designs in the collection from star, graffiti, floral and camouflage prints to shark and warrior motifs. Some are emblazoned with tongue-in-cheek sayings like “Top/Bttm,” “Harder than a Rock,” “Slap Me” and “Slut,” and some contain a removable pack up insert for extra boost and comfort.
As always, all garments are finely and meticulously crafted by Addicted’s superior artisan team. “As a men’s fashion label, materials and craftsmanship are top priority,” Monforte continues. “More time is put into the sewing of each piece so that they are built to last, even through the roughest summer play. The suits are tailored to fit every body type perfectly.”
The pictorial campaign, directed by the renowned photographer Leonardo Corredor, captures the sexually charged side of Addicted’s “Splash” collection.
Addicted is the sister line from ES Collection, the popular men’s athletic wear company. Since 2009, the brand has been dedicated to the design, manufacturing and sale of men’s underwear, swimwear, and sportswear. It was founded by Eduardo Suner, also the founder of ES Collection, and has distinguished itself by setting trends and pushing the envelope in stylish, sexy and very wearable men’s fashion.
Addicted’s “Splash” collection is sold directly at Addicted.es, as well as at select retail partners worldwide.
A Conversation with Al Farb – Houston’s favorite gay radio producer and host. Click play in the box below to hear the full conversation with Al Farb, Anthony Ramirez, and Wendy Taylor.
(DALLAS) – For years he’s easily been one of the most recognizable people in Houston’s LGBTQIA community, thanks in part to his time spent at the New 93Q as New Morning Q talk show producer and co-anchor. Starting off at the radio station at the ripe old age of 13, Farb got his very first on-air interview with none other than Donny Osmond, and his life, from that moment on, was forever changed. In the time since, he went back to school and worked in sports radio before eventually landing back at the place he first fell in love with radio, the New 93Q. But back in the Spring, Al Farb made his move to Dallas’s New Country 96.3 KSCS, where he’s taken over the roles as assistant program director, music director, and afternoon on-air host from 3PM to 7PM.
Still, there’s more to Farb than just what takes place behind his studio mic. Born to a well-known Houston family, Al grew up immersed in Houston’s boundless culture. And in discovering the wonders the city had to offer him, as well as those that radio did, Farb came out to joint Houston’s LGBTQIA community in his adulthood, where his fame only grew further. Going on to be a guest judge for Dessie’s Drag Race, working with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, hosting About Magazine’s FACE Awards, and meeting every country music star from Hunter Hayes to Reba McEntire to George Strait, Al, at the very young age of 31, has lived a full, well-rounded life.
As mentioned above, Al’s life has taken him to Dallas — or North Woodlands, as Houstonians might refer to it — and he’s there to show country music fans and Dallas’s LGBTQIA community everything that he has to offer. In the SoundCloud interview above for About Magazine’s Pride Edition, Al sat down with his friends (former American Idol contestant and renowned musician) Wendy Taylor and (About Magazine editor-in-chief and Less Than Butterflies author) Anthony Ramirez discuss what his life has been like since the transition to Dallas and into his new job. But the conversation wasn’t limited to just that. In the interview, Al gives his thoughts on how LGBTQIA people fit into the country music world, his former faux-feud with Ramirez and About Magazine, whether or not politics play a part in the world of music, and, of course, Houston drag royalty and friend, Kara Dion. Below is a transcript of the conversation.
AR: Everything that you say to me is on the record.
AF: Yeah, I learned that the hard way.
AR: What did I do to you?
AF: Your text messages [screenshots] that you post.
AR: Oh. That doesn’t count.
WT: So, if I’m co-interviewing, do I have to get off Facebook and pay attention?
AR: Yeah, you do.
AR: So, Al Farb, I want you to project your voice — so — cause I want it to be —
[Al shifts nearer to the recorder]
AR: Okay — not — that’s too much.
AR: [To another diner] Don’t look at us. That bitch just gave me side-eye. Okay, well that’s the end of the interview. Thank you for talking with us.
AR: So, tell us about your new job.
AF: Well, if you — as you, uh, would’ve learned through the other interview, but it was never published.
AR: Well, see … you knew there was an issue with that. [Pause]. I deleted the recording on accident.
WT: On “accident”?
AR: No, it really way. Because I have so many of these in my phone that they start taking up space. And I didn’t name Al’s. It was just a date. And usually when I do that it’s like–
WT: You didn’t even give him a name?
WT: That’s shady.
AF: All right, I am the, uh, assistant program director, music director, and afternoon on-air host at New Country 96.3 KSCS. [Pause]. That’s my job.
AR: Tell us about it.
AF: Well … that’s … what it is.
AR: Like the other day when I asked you, and you explained to me what you do —
AF: Yes, so.
AR: Because no one knows.
AF: No one knows?
AR: You’re just a disembodied voice — I mean people know — I mean, not here, but back there [in Houston] knew it was you. But, like, no one knows what else goes on other than the radio hosting.
AF: Yeah. Okay. So, we have a unique situation in Dallas where the company that I work for owns both of the big country stations here in town. So, my boss, Mac, is the program director for both country stations; and then I help him with everything behind the scenes on KSCS. There’s somebody like me on our other station, the Wolf, um [clears throat], so we —
WT: Sorry. His name is the Wolf?
AF: No! The station is called the Wolf.
WT: [Laughs] Okay.
AF: The station is the Wolf.
AR: [Sarcastically]Oh, because our radio DJs have much better names … Special K.
AF: Anyway, so part of my music director responsibility is starting, you know, having relationships and, um, keeping up to date with all of our label reps in Nashville through all of the various record labels, and finding out what they’re doing, what their artists are doing. If we need to do an event with them, I’ll set that up with the rep, who will then go to their management and so on and so forth. And then we’ll look at all of our research that is done through all of our, um — with all of our music that we play, our current songs, and then make decisions on where to move songs to schedule them for the rest of the week. And then I schedule all of the songs every day.
WT: So … you make playlists every day.
AF: I make playlists every day, basically. Yeah.
AF: And then … yeah. I mean, it’s true. I mean we have a —
WT: It’s cool, though.
AF: We schedule music a lot differently than you might on your personal iPod or whatever, because we’re playing for massive amounts of people. But, yeah. It is cool to make those decisions and have that — it’s like every day I start with a blank canvas, and you know, you’re painting your way through the day. It’s cool. And then, at the end of the day, I’ll go into the studio and host the afternoon drive home show on KSCS from 3 to 7. And, um, while people are stuck in traffic, they’re listening to the music that I program and me talk about it. It’s cool.
WT: How do you feel about the statement my friend Cedric Josey made, saying that “country music is basically just farm emo.”
AR: [Completely unfazed by anything].
AF: “Farm emo”?
AR: Yes, do tell.
AF: Well, historically, country music has a bad rep. But if you, um, really dive in and listen to the songs and listen to the music, that is not the case, at all. Of course there are some very honky-tonk sounding songs that, uh, you know, that are a part of the stereotype. But just like all genres and everything, there are those that stand out. And there’s actually a lot of really good song that have a really positive message.
AR: So, what’s it like now that you’re not doing a morning talk show vs. what you are doing now?
AF: Yeah, that was probably one of the hardest transitions. Well, as far as — it’s easy not to wake up so early. But, on the air, you know, we only have a certain amount of time to talk. And where I was used to having longer than I have now to talk, that was one of my biggest challenges, you know, transitioning from having longer talk breaks to just really quick information. So, editing the way that I talk, you know word economy and stuff like that, is — was difficult. And it was harder than I thought it was going to be to transition from waking up early and then having normal hours. It’s taken me — you know, I think I’m finally over it now, but your body and your whole everything just shifts in that direction. So, it’s harder than you might think.
AR: Well, you get to sleep later now, too. Right?
AF: Well, that was the thing is that I wasn’t sleeping.
WT: Well, welcome to the normal world.
AR: [To Wendy] What the fuck do you know about it?
AF: You’re not in the normal world.
AR: You slept ‘til 5 on Sunday.
WT: [Through a mouthful of chips] I didn’t say I was in the, um — [unintelligible] — but I was up at 6 o’clock this morning, because I went to bed at 9 PM.
AR: I was probably up at 6 o’clock this morning.
WT: But you hadn’t gone to bed yet — well … you hadn’t gone to sleep yet.
AR: Anyway, this isn’t about me. [Pause] For once.
AF: For once.
AR: So, what are the things you miss most about Houston? Don’t say Kara Dion. She’s trash.
AR: I’m just kidding. [To Kara who is not there] Happy belated birthday!
AF: Um … I miss … a lot of things. I miss the culture of Houston. Houston’s my hometown. I always feel — I will always feel a, um, a sense of pride for — and not the Pride that we’re celebrating this month — a sense of pride for belonging and, you know, for Houston. It’s my hometown. There’s so much heritage that not only I have there, but my family for many years. So, I miss that. I miss the food. I miss all of my friends and family.
WT: I love how friends and family came after food.
WT: That’s appropriate.
AR: Let’s not act like we wouldn’t say it the same way.
AF: And the sense of community that Houston has. I’m still a couple months into living here in Dallas, so I don’t want to speak — I can’t speak on the Dallas community. But, you know, Houston has a great LGBT community, and I felt very much a part of that. And I miss being in it, you know, on a day-to-day basis.
AR: What’s been your experience so far with LGBTQIA community.
AF: Um, I’ve had very little experience because I’ve been really focusing on my job and, you know, there’s a lot of stuff we have on the weekends — concerts and what not. There’s a lot more concerts here in Dallas because the rodeo takes up a lot of that in Houston. Whereas it’s all kind of, we do it all in a month, they spread it out all over the year. So, um, for me it’s getting to know the city and driving around the Metroplex and getting to know all that stuff. So, I haven’t really had that much personal free time to go and explore the bars and the scene here. But I can definitely tell that it’s very different.
WT: Yeah. Do they have something here like we have in Houston? Like the Montrose Center?
AF: Yes. It’s what y’all [About Magazine] donated to — the Resource Center.
AR: So, let’s just divert to a little bit more of a lighthearted topic. You and I have had a feud for a very long time.
AF: Oh, geez.
WT: For a very long time.
AR: It feels like it. It’s been since like —
AR: January. Whatever. Do you want to tell everyone … how you scorned me?
AF: How I what?
AR: How you scorned me. Done me wrong.
AF: I don’t even remember.
AR: [Slams his hands down on the table] I really thought this could be over as of today.
AF: So, while I was hosting the, um, season — what was it? — 12 finale —
AR: No one cares about that part.
AF: — of Dessie’s Drag Race.
AR: The drag queens are out of control in Houston right now. [Laughs]
AF: I fights.
WT: I fights.
AR: I’m sorry —
WT: “I only got eight nails …”
AF: It’s pretty funny.
WT: It’s really funny.
AF: Anyway, so while I was co-hosting, or judging, or whatever I was doing — I was a guest celebrity judge for the season 12 finale of Dessie’s Drag Race at Rich’s, every Monday night.
WT: [Laughs at the word ‘celebrity’]
AR: I’m not even the one who made a joke about you not being famous, I just want to say.
WT: I just think — nevermind. [Pause] Go ahead.
AF: I didn’t say that. They promoted it.
AR: Well … you quoted it … so …
WT: Yeah. You did.
AR: No, you’re very famous.
AF: [Gives Anthony a ‘go-to-hell’ look].
AR: You are! I’m not making fun of you! Jesus. [Pause] So, you did what now?
AF: So, I was doing like I usually do … I judge. And, um —
AF: #iJudge #iFights
AF: Um … so, at the end of the evening, I was making a beeline to the patio bar, because that’s where my friends were, because they had texted me that that is where they were. And, apparently, for the very first time in history, somebody didn’t recognize Anthony Ramirez. Not that — not that he’s a celebrity or a well-known person. It’s just that he’s just … quite hard to miss.
AR: He means … fat.
AF: I didn’t say that.
AR: But what he really means is slutty.
AF: So, I, um, mistakenly did not see him.
AR: And thank you, by the way.
AF: And therefore Anthony took great offense.
AR: I did. I stormed out of Rich’s and went to Guava and hung out with Morena [Roas]. And I said, “This motherfucker …”
AF: ‘Cause at that point, I’d only really met you in person one other time.
AR: Yeah. And it was circumstantial because —
AF: I thought you were going to make a circumcision joke.
AR: … no. [Pause] So, I feel like we’ve come to a nice place. Not … here [the restaurant] … like literally … but in our spiritual journey —
AR: — where we can put the feud behind.
WT: Well … I am … very disappointed. [Laughs]
WT: This has been my favorite thing of the whole year.
AF: I think there will always be a feud, but unofficially.
AR: Mostly for readership.
AF : [Laughs] “Mostly for readership.”
AR: [To Wendy] Well, you could have a feud with someone.
WT: No, it’s more fun to watch y’all do it.
AF: I think you should have a feud with Kara Dion.
WT: [Unintelligible through all the chips in her mouth]
AR: I think you should have a feud with Brenda Rich.
AF: There you go. And so it begins.
AR: Have you had any feuds in Dallas?
AF: [No response]
AR: Okay, so seriously. You have said before that you were very open with your sexuality at work when you were with 93Q. It was totally cool. Totally chill. Have you gotten there here yet?
AF: Oh, yeah.
AR: I mean, I feel like if they didn’t know you were gay before, your excitement for Shania Twain [in concert] gave it away.
AF: Oh, yeah. And Hunter Hayes. He’s playing the State Fair in September.
WT: Isn’t he like 12?
AF: No, he’s like 24. He’s older than Anthony.
WT: That’s 12 times 2.
AF: Which is older than Anthony. [Pause] Although —
AR: I’m 24!
AF: But Anthony wasn’t blessed with his looks. Some sort of Otter-Mexican combo.
WT: An ot-ter?
AR: That’s so — otters are so cute! I would love [to be] a Mexican otter
[Anthony thinks Al is talking about otters as in the animal, and not otters as in the tribe of gay men … he finds both very cute and flattering]
AF: You are a Mexican Otter.
AR: Thank you! [Pause] So, I had a point to asking that question. Goddamnit.
AF: Very open with sexuality …
AR: Right — um — so, how are you going to — okay, I feel like at some point, you are going to have to kind of get yourself out in this community.
AF: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I’m already — I’m very excited to know that About [Magazine] is coming up here to Dallas and is going to start getting entrenched in the community. So, I feel like I can get on the ground floor with the magazine to help host events or do whatever I can to promote the events with not only myself, but with the radio station that I work for to get behind and be supportive.
AR: Oh, how do you feel about representation of LGBTQIA people in the country music scene?
AF: Oh, there’s a lot of representation. One of the biggest writers of this time or generation or whatever you want to call it, Shane McAnally, is openly gay. And he’s one of the most successful writers of this current time, whatever you wanna call it. And his Dad is Mac McAnally, who is also a writer. He’s been in the business a long time. He’s worked with Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, and all of those artists. And he’s [Shane] very well-accepted. A colleague of mine now in Houston is the program director for the Bull, which is a country station there. And he has been out for a very long time. He’s married. He and his husband Kevin are very well accepted throughout the industry. And he’s a big reason that I was — that I felt comfortable to come out, once I learned that he was accepted and that everybody was fine with him. That helped me along the way to come out fully and know that I would be accepted. You know, there are artists, Ty Herndon, Billy Gilman, who have come out. Honestly, I don’t think it has anything to do with their success or not. There are a lot of pro-LGBT country artists. Cam, who just announced that she’s going to open for Sam Smith on her tour. And she wore a — I think it was a Pride t-shirt at her show in Houston.
AR: Well, you have artists like Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, who have all spoken out about this — Jennifer Nettles.
WT: Carrie Underwood.
AR: They’ve all spoken out in favor [of LGBTQIA rights]. I think historically, though, country music had associations with right-sided politics. But, now I think —
AF: Everybody loves country music. I know that’s a broad, general music. I know everybody doesn’t love country music. It’s a genre of choice. But what I mean by everybody is people of every walk of life. It doesn’t matter — just because you listen to country music doesn’t mean you are one way politically or not, or one way with sexual orientation or not. It isn’t true. I can give you a handful of LGBT people. I can give you a handful of people who are liberal, who are everything that aren’t what the stereotype is who will spend a lot of money at a country concert to sit front row and do all the VIP stuff. And it’s great. I mean … that’s what music is. It brings people together. It should not be identified as a political party, a sexual orientation, or anything. At the Shania Twain concert, which you attended with me here in Dallas —
AR: I do not recall.
AF: Well, that’s your fault. And I attended the one in Houston. And there were a ton of —
AF: — of LGBTQIA+ people. There were a ton of African-Americans, a ton of Hispanics — just people. It’s a melting pot. It’s how all concerts are, and how all musical gatherings should be.
AR: Okay, I want to expound upon that a bit, actually. Because I do agree — and this isn’t about me — but I think that music should have a place where it is separate of all of those things. But now, especially politically and the way that climate is — I think that it’s more important now than ever for people who are in a position to have a voice and who have a soapbox to preach off of to use it combat hatefulness and discrimination. I think it is important for artists who have come out in support of gay rights. So … yes … it doesn’t need to have a direct correlation to a political party.
AR: But isn’t it important that people are using their platform to do the right thing?
AF: I do — I mean, I really don’t want to get into politics. But I — on that level — I do think that unless you have — it just gets really dirty when you get into politics. And musicians who have historically, one way or the other … it has not gone well for them. Because you’re always going to be wrong to somebody. So, obviously gay rights is a human right. That goes without saying. And everyone should be in support of that. But when you get behind a political party or a political candidate, it is really, really hard to come out on the right side of that, because you’re never going to be right. And, as a musician — and me, and I’m speaking as an entertainer, someone who is in that similar field, presenting those songs — I don’t care to have a public political voice. It’s not my job. I don’t want to get involved with that. Because, like I said, you’re going to come out on the wrong side of it. And, for me, it would affect ratings. For them, it would affect their music sales or concert ticket sales.
[Side note that Wendy Taylor, a professional singer, is the loudest and most die-hard liberal in the entire world and who lets everyone she comes into contact with know it]
AF: Because, as I said earlier, music is for all. And with that, you should entertain all, whoever they support politically.
AR: As much as I want to go deeper into that, I’m not going to. But I feel like we should circle back to this conversation another day. So, I’m gonna jump to this: You are contracted for a couple of years with this station. I know that it’s kind of early to tell, because you did just get here, but do you feel like you’ll be calling Dallas your home for a while?
AF: I hope so.
AR: You hear that, Houston? He don’t wanna come back.
AF: No, that’s not what I said. The station, as I arrived, was already rising up in the ranks. We are overall doing very well ratings-wise. So, I hope to be an actual contributor to that success. I don’t feel that I am yet, because I just got here. But I hope that that success will continue and that I will be able to grow myself and with the company. And, you know, as I said when I interviewed with for this position — and I brought this up last time we interviewed, but you deleted that interview —
AR: It was an accident.
AF: I’d said that if there were any job that I was going to be looking at to leave here, it’d be to Houston. You know, Houston’s my home and I do hope to return one day. But, I don’t know if my job here will be done in two years. So, to answer your question, I hope to stay here for as long as they’ll have me.
AR: I guess my next question is — and this is one that a lot of people wanted me to ask you — where is the Farb Family Fortune buried?
AR: No? No comment? [Pause] So, do you have any events coming up? Are there any concerts you’re going to that you want to plug? — oh, by the way! I want you to get me into Sam Smith.
AR: Oh! Do you have a message for Kara Dion? She heard that she was replaced.
AF & WT: “Mess!”
AF: She is not replaced. She will never be replaced.
AR: Snapchat said otherwise. She saw it with her own two eyes.
WT: Yeah, I saw it, too. I saw it, too.
AR: Okay, well, it’s been wonderful, Al. It’s been so great for you to let us have the honor of watching you put food in your bobblehead.
AF: [Laughs] Wendy is my favorite person at the table.
WT: That’s right.
AR: He is lying. He is in love with me.
WT: Hey, Anthony.
WT: Who’s your favorite person at the table?
AR: … Me. Always me.
WT: [Laughs hysterically]
AF: The correct answer to that is Jesus. Because he is always watching us and he is always with you.
AR: “I can do all things –”
AF: “… through Christ –”
AR: “–through Vodka, who strengthens me.” [Pause] That’s my inspirational quote of the day.
AF: And on that note, I need the check.
AR: And on that note, we want to thank you again [for buying lunch]. And thank you, Wendy Taylor, for joining us.
WT: Oh, like I had a choice.
AR: You did. You didn’t have to come with me.
WT: I did.
AR: Oh, she wanted to meet Lupe [Valdez]. That’s going to be a much better interview.
Menswear Line, AD Fetish by Addicted, Brings Summer Lovin’ into the Sex Dungeon
(NEW YORK CITY) – Ever since Olympic medallist and figure skater Adam Rippon showed up on the Oscars red carpet last month in an S&M inspired tuxedo that included a leather harness and bow tie, fetish has been everywhere! Now Addicted, the popular men’s wear line, is luring guys even deeper into the forbidden subculture with AD Fetish, their edgy collection of kink wear. The collection features stylish tank tops, jock straps, harnesses, singlets, lingerie, leather items and even cock rings, finely and meticulously crafted by Addicted’s superior artisan team. “Customers were craving a harder line of gear that re-imagined the Addicted brand for the S&M scene,” explains founder Eduardo Suner. “Our AD Fetish collection blends fashion with erotica. It offers the same quality, fit and comfort found in our popular sports collection, but as the new summer campaign depicts, takes the fun into the dark, steamy depths of the sex dungeon.”
“The gear doesn’t just look good, it feels good,” continues Nir Zilberman, the brand’s USA agent. “The leather is softer than traditional fetish gear. Shirts and pants are tailored to fit every body shape perfectly. And while traditional fetish wear breaks or rips quickly, AD Fetish is built to last, even through the roughest play.”
“The team has had fun experimenting with materials such as rubber, leather, and transparencies for these latest creations,” says designer Carmen Monforte. “We were also careful to keep in mind the significance a particular color has to the community and the very specific message it delivers,” she adds. Traditionally, colors have been used to depict a guy’s sexual preference from blue meaning DTF to red, a more aggressive DTF, and yellow (DTF with water).
AD Fetish is the first fetish line from Addicted, the popular men’s wear company. Since 2009, the brand has been dedicated to the design, manufacturing and sale of men’s underwear, swimwear, and sportswear. It was founded by Eduardo Suner, also the founder of ES Collection, and has distinguished itself by setting trends and pushing the envelope in stylish, sexy and very wearable men’s fashion.
The AD Fetish collection is sold directly at www.adfetish.com, as well as at select retail partners worldwide.
Less Than Butterflies is a regular sex column that follows the real-life sexual encounters of its author, Anthony Ramirez. In this case, unfortunately, the encounter was non-consensual and the story contains information that may be triggering to the readers. While it does not outline in graphic detail the sexual assault itself, it does speak about the events leading to it and that followed. Reader discretion is advised.
I swear to God I predicted it. Or maybe I jinxed it. I’m not sure if this is one of those things you can Beetlejuice—as my friend Hope might say—but it had been on my mind a lot lately.
After all, just the weekend before I’d been sober at a bar where a friend was hosting karaoke when a man and his “wife” came stumbling out onto the patio shit-faced. The man tumbled directly into me, spilling some of his drink on my shirt. Then, as he reached for leverage as not to fall, his hand fell below my waist and cupped my genitals. It may have only lasted a few seconds, but it could have lasted an eternity as far as I was concerned. Hell, it could have lasted two eternities. How long is an eternity, really? Sure, he let go, but even as he did so, his hands fumbled around my torso, thumb grazing my nipple through my shirt.
I wanted to push him off of me, uncaring as to how drunk he was, but I stood there immobilized, frozen. In the back of my head, I could hear the nails-on-a-chalkboard-like chirp of a cuckoo clock, something I’d not heard in nearly half a decade. His wife, a woman boasting some sort of eastern European accent, grabbed her husband (albeit too late) and pulled him away from me, spouting off nonsense about how she’d put her stiletto through the eye of anyone that her husband ever laid his hands on, regardless of what the case was.
Was she blaming me? I’d been standing there alone smoking a cigarette when he’d bounced out the patio door like a Weeble, wobbling and falling into me. Besides, if she couldn’t tell that her husband was clearly a flaming homosexual, she had more problems than I could roll out onto the table for her.
That was the first uttering of Beetlejuice.
The following Monday, I’d been invited to an exclusive party at a new bar called Victor at the corner of Montrose and Richmond. Joining me as my date was my friend Taylor Kyle, whom I never saw much of since he worked all the time and lived all the way out in Cypress. We stayed at the party for a short while before heading over to Guava Lamp to catch another friend’s singing competition. After we left there, Taylor and I traveled up to the Room Bar in Spring to catch a few drinks before last call, where we met a few other friends I don’t often see.
When my friend Jeremy joined us on his way home from work, the three of us were having a nice little reunion of sorts. But on my neck I could feel eyes from across the bar. It took everything in me not to turn and look to see who the eyes belonged to, and eventually I conceded and turned upward. Staring directly at me was a man I’d seen at the bar a few times before. He was a bit pushy, I’d heard, but harmless nonetheless. Still, his glance was invasive and the smile he bore was nothing short of predatory as he drilled holes right into my skull with his gaze.
The others noticed it after a while, as well. A girl named Kelsey who worked at the tattoo shop next door kept catching my eyes and mimicking his face as a joke, which at first did make me laugh. Taylor told me not to pay him any mind, and Hope shrugged him off as nothing more than some pervy old man who hung around the bar to look at boys. A moment later, Jeremy and Taylor both had to use the restroom, and went together, leaving me sitting alone at the end of the bar. Hope asked me if I’d keep an eye on things while she ran into the back cooler to grab a bottle of liquor she’d run out of behind the bar; and in that moment, the man staring from across the bar took his chance to approach me.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been formally introduced before,” he told me, that ghastly smile curving into an ugly, crescent shape. I didn’t turn to look at him as he ran his hand across the small of my back before introducing himself and asking me my name.
“Please don’t touch me,” I muttered out in breathy, broken fragments.
“I’m sorry,” he said, although he never took his hand off my back and traced his fingers up my shoulders and around to the back of my neck. “I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re very cute.”
I was frozen, again. Every muscle inside of me tensed as if they were exercising and my breathing quit completely. I may have given him my name—I can’t really recall to be honest. What I do remember is hearing the bathroom door open behind me and the laughter of both Jeremy and Taylor coming from the bathroom. As they approached, I was finally able to untense and to exhale. And from behind I could hear the man asking Hope if he’d done something wrong once she reappeared behind the bar. I couldn’t tell what she was saying to him; but for the rest of the night I sat in near-silence turned away from both Taylor and Jeremy. No matter what I tried to change the thoughts in my mind to, no matter how I tried to distract myself or get drunk, I couldn’t stop feeling his thick, invasive fingers trailing me all over my backside.
A few times Jeremy and Taylor would ask what was wrong, and Taylor was sweet enough to put an arm around me and ask if I needed anything. But the two of them were not the problem. They’d done nothing wrong at all. I was just stuck inside my own head, where cuckoo clocks resounded like a child banging pots and pans together so loudly that I couldn’t stand to direct my attention anywhere else.
That was the second mention of Beetlejuice.
On the ride home, Taylor was drunk, and I was sober enough to drive as I’d not been drinking much at all that night. I was finally able to engage in conversation that was lighter, that didn’t send me into hysterics. And I did my best to apologize for coming off as a dick at the bar earlier.
“What was going on with you?” Taylor asked me as we were driving down the highway back toward Cypress.
I knew that if I chose to share it with him, if I chose to let him know that there was an actual person somewhere inside this cold, sarcastic shell I put off for the world to encounter, I wouldn’t be able to unshare it with him. But I also knew that there was a good chance he might not remember me telling him, at all … or, at least not in great detail. And somehow, that comforted me. I needed to get it off of my chest and to breathe a bit easier. What I did not know, however, was that by telling Taylor Kyle that I’d been raped by a friend at 19-years-old, before I’d come out of the closet, before I’d even really accepted myself as a gay man, I’d be uttering my third Beetlejuice conjuring.
And in not knowing, I shared it with him. I told him about the person I’d called a friend who took advantage of me. I told him how I had only recently begun sharing that story, because it only recently seemed okay to do so, and why it scared me to ever come forward in the first place. I did not, however, tell him that when I was reminded of it, when men groped my dick on bar patios or when strangers complimented me and ran their hands across my back I often heard the sound of cuckoo clocks drumming in my mind. It’s one of the very few things I remember clearly about that night: the old-timey cuckoo clock that hung on the wall and rung the hours as they passed both before and after I was raped.
Flash-forward a bit, and my day was going exceptionally well. I’d been busy work-wise; a radio interview, a work function, and had decided to round off my evening with a little karaoke at the Room Bar. A few of my friends were there, and Hope was all smiles behind the bar as she made drinks and poured shots. I wasn’t drunk when I arrived having just come from the aforementioned work event, although I imagine that by the time I was ready to leave, I was running on a strong buzz. Still, I didn’t want to spend the entire night getting smash-bag asshole drunk, so I left a while before closing to make it home, as the next day was set to be a busy one. I did make the decision, however, to visit a friend on my way home that I hadn’t seen in a long time who’d been asking to hang out for quite some time. But now as I reflect on it, all of that seems like nothing to me.
And I don’t mean that in the way as to say that it feels like nothing happened. I mean it to say that I can’t recollect a lot that happened in the moments after I left the Room. In fact, even being at the Room is a bit hazy. I can recall the songs I sang at karaoke. I can recall bidding everyone farewell and leaving, feeling fine. But the memory itself is rather foggy. I don’t think I felt foggy at the time, but trying to recollect on it sort of is.
I remember seeing my friend briefly—that is, the memory is brief—and I don’t believe the interaction was long. I remember telling him goodbye. I remember how tired he was. I think he may have even gone off to bed before I left. And I remember that, too—leaving. I didn’t at first, but now I can. But everything after that is just … black.
This is what I do remember:
I remember waking up the next morning in an near-bare apartment. In the middle of the floor, where I laid, there was an air mattress with no sheets. Across the room there was an old, ratty-looking couch. The walls were all bare and white as far as I could see, and there was no sign of anyone in the kitchen.
I wasn’t sure what was happening or how I’d gotten there, but from the moment that I jumped off the air mattress, I knew something was wrong. My head felt like someone had laid cement inside of it, and I fell down immediately upon trying to get to my feet. The room was acrid with the scent of disinfectant and it was cold. In fact, I could feel the draft against my thigh where I noticed a tear in my pants from knee-to-waist. As I finally put myself on both my feet, a sensation as if I was being split in half resonated from my anus. It hurt. And it hurt bad. My legs were sore on the insides of my thighs, as if someone had tried pulling them apart like a wishbone on Thanksgiving. I fumbled around in my pockets for my keys, but nothing was inside of them.
As I searched the room around me where nothing seemed to exist, I suddenly took note of some sort of table standing next to what appeared to be the front door. On it, all placed neatly as if done so by Mary fucking Poppins, I found my phone, my cigarette pack, my lighter, and my keys. Beside the odd table on the floor sat my shoes.
Snatching everything up, I took one last look around the room, then unlocked and darted out the front door.
More peculiar still was that the car was parked outside the apartment. As I raced down to it and jumped inside, I found that it was unlocked. The car was nearly out of gas—which made sense to me later when I realized how far I was not only from home, but from the Room and the friend I’d visited the night before—and in the passenger’s-side floorboard sat my wallet and my ID. When I opened up the former, however, I found that there was no money inside, nor were either my debit card or my credit card in their rightful place. For a moment I wondered why someone would take the cards and not the expensive Louis Vuitton wallet that couldn’t be traced back to me. But that thought was fleeting, as all of the thoughts were that went through my head while I navigated my way home. I tried tirelessly to call my mother, to call my best friend Gwen, to call anyone who could help me, but none of my calls were going through. The service on my phone was out; if I hadn’t been so good with direction, I might have had to stop at the nearest McDonald’s to use the WiFi to find out where the hell I was. But I knew the general area. Somewhere off of Airtex and I45. I’d been in the neighborhood before, but not for whatever reason I was there then.
I think for the first time since I was a child, I actually prayed on my way back to my mother’s house. I’m not sure if I was praying to God or if I just needed to hope that someone could hear me when I couldn’t speak, but nevertheless I carried on an inner-monologue asking for help, asking for the pain to subside, asking that I make it to my mother’s without running out of gas while I had no credit card.
And when I arrived without issue, my mother sat on her front porch smoking a cigarette as she said something to me. Maybe she asked why I looked so bad; maybe she asked me where I’d been; I couldn’t tell you. Because when I finally opened my mouth for the first time since waking, a jumble of words fell out that were meant to sound something like, “I think someone drugged me last night.” And when my mother leered at me from her perch, I added, “I think someone ra—”
But I couldn’t bring myself to finish the sentence, because that’s when I lost all control. I don’t know that that’s when everything sunk in, but that’s certainly when it all came to the surface. In crooked fragments, I tried to relay the information I knew then and there. That my pants were ripped. That all of my money and cards were missing. That I was in insurmountable pain. That I couldn’t remember anything past being at the Room. And as I reviewed it all over-and-over again both verbally and in my mind, I began to understand what had happened.
For the second time in my life, I’d been raped.
And soon, I’d be in a clinic not having showered or eaten since the morning before where a doctor would put a large piece of paper down on the floor and ask me to disrobe in front of her. She’d take my clothes, and she’d brush through my hair, and she would swab me both externally and internally. She’d poke and prod me; and she’d find the new bruises on my waist and knees and tell me after having a thorough exam, it was not a question of whether or not I was correct about what had happened to me, but now a question of who did it.
I would be humiliated. I would leave there, and I would go about my business as the rest of the day carried on, unable to shake off the feelings of filth and embarrassment even after showering, even after throwing myself into a routine. And I wouldn’t tell anyone who didn’t need to know. Gwen, because I told her everything. My friend Ezra, because he’d been worried about where I was when I wasn’t answering texts because my phone wasn’t working. Lauren, who needed to know why I’d gone MIA on such an important work day and when I’d be back.
And although I didn’t break down over the next few days—not really, not as I should have; although Ezra came to stay with me because being alone terrified me, and didn’t mind sharing my bed or when I laid my head on his shoulder; although I’d wake up screaming and sweating every night since, I did my best to present myself as the person the world knew me to be.
But that’s just the very thing about it all:
I don’t know who I am anymore.
It isn’t like it was when I was nineteen and already carrying around so many secrets about myself that one more made no difference. This time, I am an egg that has been thrown with great vigor into a wall. And while the pieces of the shell are still here, still accounted for, what was once inside of me, what once made me who I am has been vacuumed out and has dripped away to somewhere I fear I may not ever be able to find it again. Nothing seems funny to me anymore; nothing makes me smile. Eating is an aberrant thought to me and showering is a task I have to force myself into. I want to stay in bed and hide beneath the covers when I am awake, but sleep as much as possible. I want not to be left alone for fear that someone else will find me and do to me what’s already been done, the unspeakable, unthinkable horror I can’t even conjure a memory of, but that haunts me still. I want to scream from my brain, but not have my skull quiver as it holds the sound inside of me. I want to not look at every man that passes by me with disgust as if he were the one who did this to me. I want not to question whether or not I brought this on myself by being a shameless, openly, sexually active person. I want the deafening silence of being alone to subdue. I want to not to need someone by my side at all times. I want not to wonder if I Beetlejuiced this by worrying so much about it as of late before it ever even happened. I want not to question why the men that I fall in love with want nothing to do with me, and yet there are men out there so sick and disgusting that they’ll go so far as to drug and rape me just to have sex with me—why I’m not good enough to fall in love with, to share a life with, but good enough to be raped by a stranger. I want not to feel like I can’t dress nice or wear makeup or wear something that rides a little higher or is cut a little lower just because some creep might take advantage of me.
I want my life back. I want my heart back.
And though the time that has passed since I sat down to write this has been short—incredibly so by the standards of many—it’s the only thing that I can do to keep myself from going insane.
And it’s killing me. I feel it killing me. I feel it extinguishing my soul.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who I am.
What I do know is that I was raped, and now I’m walking around as the ghost of a person who existed before that cannot stop hearing the sound of cuckoo clocks beating against the inside of his head.