To move, use the space bar or arrow keys on your keyboard,
or swipe your touchscreen.

(Use landscape mode & turn on your audio)
There I was
with my shirt off
the girls drunk and camera-ready
where they hire guys like me
and put us in a controlled environment
a brownstone on the upper west side of New York City
to pose with so they can send their selfies to ex-boyfriends
snobby parents
or post them online...
anyplace to cause a scandal.
It's called "Naked Call"
although no one's completely naked
the photos just make it seem that way.
Today, the pose was from Rubens' "The Drunken Hercules"
where Clay (that's me) molds Clay
into heroic poses
with a girl on each side of me.
Usually it's no sweat
and not as difficult as you'd think
to play like a statue
when all around you
is warm, giggly flesh.
"Drunken Hercules" was a tough pose
my arms stretched out on either side
my pecs flexed
holding my breath for the shot
and suddenly
it'd never happened before
the room spun
the blood sang in my ears
and I passed out.
I was out for maybe fifteen seconds
and woke up on the floor
with her
who lay down next to me
because she thought it was part of the pose.
Pushing her off
I rolled to my feet
threw on my shirt
and got out of there.
A B.S. in Liberal Studies from CUNY
3.7 GPA
twice on the Dean's list
and the only job I could find
was Naked Calls.
"And they took selfies while I was passed out..."
The guy at the bar was drunk enough
to think I was the best conversation in town.
"And they was naked?" he asked.
He gulped his beer, and his eyes shone under his baseball cap.
"No, I was naked. Me."
"Like a manstitute?"
"No," I said.
"I hear ya," the drunk said. "Reality happened, but no one sent ya the memo."
"I was a Liberal Studies major..."
"I was an English major," the drunk said. "Now I drink too much."
"Did ya got some?" the drunk asked. "From the ladies?"
For sure, he was drunker than me.
"I had sex with all of them." I said. "Ten, maybe twenty."
"Twenty..." He sighed around the lip of his bottle.
"Maybe more. I lost count..."
"Lovely," he said.
The drunk's eyes rolled back, and he fell off his stool.
The next morning, there was a knock on my door.
It was María Martinez
my landlord.
"The rent," she cried through the keyhole
jacking my hangover
into overdrive.
I opened the door a crack, and her crinkled face peered in.
"Didn't I pay you?"
"Nah. No check."
"Here you go." I wrote a check and handed it to her.
She wrinkled her nose like she smelled rotten fish.
"Serious National is no good. Last one bounced."
"Bounced? I thought they were a reputable bank. I won't use them anymore."
I offered her another.
"Nah. This is bad, too. Got cash?"
"No cash. Paupers Loan & Savings?"
More rotten fish.
"Bankers United?"
"Wegotcha Bank?"
She hadn't heard of that one.
"Ok, Wegotcha Bank. I'll take that."
"If they give you any trouble, let me know and I'll call them immediately."
I closed the door and heard her footsteps down the hall.
It was our joyful ritual.
On the first of every month
she nailed me for the rent check
so I'd always remember
not having any money
That afternoon
I was at the same brownstone
a new party of rich girls
drinking Appletinis
image here
and nibbling on crab cakes.
image here
"Clay, it's sweet of you to pose with us," one girl said.
She munched on a crab cake
and spilled some Appletini on my leg.
"I'm Eve," she said
and explained how her parents were always away
on trips to other places
image here
never taking her anywhere
image here
so tomorrow on Facebook
image here
it was payback.
image here
"Did you see Love Tweets?" she asked sipping her drink.
"Totally," I said. "It's a paean to our times."
"She runs away to Rio and meets a fashion model."
"Yeah," I said. "They get married at the end."
She squeezed my arm
and I squeezed back
gentle and restrained
with no promises
she leaned in for a kiss
and shit if I didn't I pass out
I was in the hospital
for some tests
and a vision of my future
when the doctor came in
and handed me his card
image here
"We're always looking for donations to the Show," he said.
"It helps our young boys dress for the stage."
"A worthy cause," I said
and wondered if the boys passed out at work, too.
"How you doing, uh, Donny?" he asked checking my chart.
"It's Clay," I corrected him
but really
my mind was on something else
image here
"Uh, Clay, we have a problem."
image here
"It's your heart," he said tapping my chart.
"You've got Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Your ticker's no good."
"Huh? What's wrong with it?"
"Your heart muscle is abnormally thick. It's stopping your heart from pumping blood. That's why you've been passing out."
"Is it serious?"
"It's very serious. Either you get a new heart, or you die."
image here
"Get a new heart?" I asked.
"Sure," he said. "We just have to find a match for you."
"I'm short on cash. Do you take checks?"
"No worries," he said. "It's all free, thanks to Obamacare."
"Ok," I said. "Can I leave now?"
"You'll have to come back..."
I was already out of bed
and putting my clothes on.
The next day, I was fired from Naked Call
They told me when I passed out
I broke a statue of Zeus in the corner
and left the feet
So I hooked up with Eve
had a couple of beers at her place
and talked about my future.
"You could be a manstitute," she said.
"No thanks," I answered.
"A dancer? You have a nice body."
image here
We thought some more
image here
"An out-of-focus guy in a swimsuit catalogue?"
image here
"Or a CEO of a tech company?"
image here
image here
"Or a disco shirt model?"
image here
We stopped talking then
and I spent the night at her place.
I was in her apartment the next morning
when someone rang the door.
"Dr. Franklin...?" I asked.
"Kelly," she said. "I'm collecting donations for the Dr. DragQueen Show."
I was in shock at first
had she tracked me down
to check my heart?
but figured she'd got Eve's address from my file at the hospital
so I let her in.
"Eve's not here," I said. "But you can start in the closet..."
She checked out the brands in the closet
She filled her arms with dresses, pantsuits, and blouses
and struggled with some boxes of shoes.
"Let me help," I said
and grabbed a box
image here
and followed her down the stairs.
We stuffed everything in the trunk of her car
She got in the driver's seat
waved a manicured hand at me
and drove off.
"I hate you," Eve said.
I was in her apartment
wearing the new jeans she'd bought for me that morning
"No," I shook my head. "You're just angry."
"You bet I am. You gave all my stuff away!"
"It's for the girls..."
image here
"I don't care. It's over."
"She'll return the clothes," I said...
"How's that?"
"She'll return the clothes. It'll be ok."
"That's not the point!"
"What is the point?"
"I thought you were special. I trusted you!"
"But you can't," I stammered
"We're Ken and Ashley..."
"I'm sorry, I can't be with you anymore."
"Wait..." and I forgot her name. Just like that. A blank.
"We're done! Get out of my apartment."
"No!" I cried.
but it was too late.
I was sleeping in my apartment
dreaming of naked socialites
jumping up and down on me like I was vineyard grapes
and crushing me into fine wine
image here
the cell suddenly so loud in my ear
it woke up my hangover.
"Is this Clay?"
"Is Clay," I said it soft
almost like a question
because Eve was on my mind.
"This is Doctor Franklin."
"Hi, Doc. How are the boys?"
"Harrumph." It wasn't a laugh, just him clearing his throat.
"We've got your heart. Or will have," he said.
I sat up in bed.
"Two days, maybe three. We're waiting on someone."
"Should I come in?"
"We'll call you. Probably tomorrow night..."
"You're lucky, Clay. The family didn't want to do it..."
"They only decided today."
"They had a change of heart?"
I almost asked
but didn't
image here
My father lives in an apartment complex in Queens
(My Pop, when he still dreamed of owning his own house)
My transplant was coming soon, and I wanted to catch up
in case, you know,
my new heart didn't beat right
and Clay stopped being Clay.
image here
Like always, my dad was at his kitchen table
in a mythical world he invents
every day.
He has Anterograde amnesia, a rare form of memory loss
It was from a car accident when he was a young man
when he hit his head on the dashboard
and permanently screwed up his brain.
He remembers the distant past, before he was married
but nothing after that.
He can't form any new memories
and he doesn't even know who I am.
Which is a good thing
because of my college debt.
"Hi, Pop. It's Clay," I said sitting next to him.
"What's the news, Clay?" he asked.
He knew he was sick, so every time I visited, he had to be brought up to date.
That meant covering pretty much my whole life
which was how we kept in touch
using me as a portable history
to supply the bookmarks.
image here
"Blah, blah, blah," I sat next to him at the kitchen table.
Literally. That's exactly what I said.
Those words exactly.
"Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah..."
He nodded as I talked, like he was taking it all down
but he forgot the moment I said it.
"And finally blah! That was something, huh, Pop?"
"That was something," he said. "A great story..."
"And I got fired from my job. Pretty sweet, huh?"
"Sure, that's great!"
He got a faraway look in his eyes and patted my leg.
"Who are you again?"
I drank a beer
image here
and another
image here
and another
image here
and another
image here
and another
image here
and another
image here
it didn't matter how many
image here
until my mouth was numb
my chest ached
and a black anvil fell on me.
I woke in the hospital again
a colony of furry ants having a party in my mouth
"Argg," I muttered.
Dr. Franklin bent over me.
"How're you doing?" he asked.
"Urg," I croaked.
"Good," Dr. Franklin said. He held my wrist.
"Your pulse is good. No temperature."
"You had a heart attack," he said. "The EMTs brought you in."
"You beat the odds," he said. "Say hello to your new heart..."
"New... heart....?" I finally got it out
"Fifteen-year-old girl. Hit by a car."
"Congratulations," Dr. Franklin said.
"In a few days, you'll be back to being Clay."
"Donny," I croaked. "It's Donny."
Seriously, I wasn't ready for this.
"Her name was April," he patted my arm. "Remember that."
"April," I muttered. "I won't forget."
"Bring on the nurses," Dr. Franklin said waving them in.
Then there were nurses, lots of them, fussing and cooing like I was a newborn child.
Not one of them wanted a selfie with me.
And I didn't ask.
image here
With thanks to:
Raphaël Parrée of edc4it
Hakim El Hattab & reveal.js
Voices: Elizabeth Licata
Some images supplied by:
Animation Factory
123RF Stock Photo