All By Myself: In which Zach channels Eric Carmen. Calamity ensues.

Well, folks…this was bound to happen.

Yesterday evening, I came home from work to an empty home. There was no boyfriend humming and bopping along to Britney, slicing, dicing, and preparing an exquisite gourmet meal. There was no Kitten skulking around the kibble cabinet. There was no Bird-Brain perching imperiously atop the refrigerator overseeing the proper running of the household.

No. Instead of being greeted with the customary pre-dinner hustle and bustle, there was…silence. Bird was in her cage, quietly picking the yellow pellets out of her food and flinging them into the water dish, Kitten was busy knitting fuzzballs under the couch, and Boyfriend was nowhere to be seen. No pre-dinner White Russian or glass of pino met me at the door. No delicious aroma greeted me halfway down the corridor.

The inevitable moment I always had feared, somewhere in the back of my mind, had come to pass.

Yep…after three long years, Boyfriend was gone. I was alone.

Two nights a week, at least. See, as of yesterday, Boyfriend returned to college. And while this is a good thing, as it means Boyfriend is that much closer to that much-more-lucrative-than-mine degree, it was also a very, very, very bad thing.

Because it meant I had to cook and fend for myself.

Now, it’s not that I’m not an independent, grown man fully capable of taking care of myself. After all, I made it for years on my own before Boyfriend came along without starving to death. And once upon a different lifetime, I was actually regarded as a pretty decent cook, thank you very damned much. The things I could do with top ramen? Amazing.

It’s just that over the last little bit, those skills have fallen by the wayside. I mean, sure, I can cook. I can even bake. But have you seen Boyfriend’s repertoire? When you’re living with a man who likes to cook and is actually good at it, you don’t look that gift horse in the mouth. You hop on and ride that sucker for all he’s worth, right?

You bet your ass. And I’ve been riding that horse all the way to the dinner table, every night.

Yes, I’m aware that I’m spoiled. As an old acquaintance of mine (and by acquaintance, I naturally mean ‘tall, blond, green-eyed, muscle-y acquaintance of hot South African accent…) once said, I’ve really managed to land my bum in the butter this time.

(And no, the expression doesn’t make that much sense to me, either, but did I mention the blond hair, green eyes, muscles, and accent??)

But spoiled or not, surely I could manage to take care of myself two nights a week. Surely all those latent kitchen-y skills would re-emerge, right?

Uh, yeah. Riiiiiiiiiiight.

Let’s just say that by the time Boyfriend got home (to be greeted with a wadded-up shopping bag to the face) and dinner was served (an hour later, despite my determination to have it served the precise minute he walked in the door) some new ground rules had been established. Among them: (a) I am not allowed to go grocery shopping alone (shopping list? what shopping list??); (b) I am not allowed to handle the kitchen cutlery unsupervised (lest the vegetables expire and grow new forms of penicillin before I finish chopping them); and (c) I am not allowed to use the stove (because really? who knew you could burn water?).

Also, from now on, it’s been determined that I am to spend Tuesday and Thursday evenings, when Boyfriend is in class late, either (a) writing or (b) in the gym, but never (c) cooking, and that dinner will be either leftovers or something prepared by Boyfriend the night before.

This, Boyfriend assures me, is probably in the best interest of the entire universe.

The Rules of Engagement

Living with somebody has a way of exposing certain unequivocal truths, of stripping away whatever layers of mystery and intrigue might remain. And trying to change those fundamental truths is about as fruitful as chipping away at an advancing glacier with a toothpick: no matter how big the toothpick, that big ol’ chunk of ice is gonna continue relentlessly on its path. And if you’re stupid enough to stand in the way, well, you’re gonna get fucking smoooooshed.

As anyone who knows Lee and I can attest, we both can have our share of glacier moments. I’m astrologically a Taurus and thus genetically and cosmologically predestined to be stubborn and intractible, and Lee…well, he’s still got the certain infallibility of youth on his side. And on top of that, we’re both just general asshats…but you knew that.

So what happens when these two little glaciers collide? And how about when you throw Kitten and Bird-Bird — who only know how to negotiate when there’s kibble or sunflower seed involved — into the mix?

And finally — and really, I know it’s the question on everybody’s mind — who’s the toothpick?

Well…having lived together for a little under three months (!) now, we’ve all had a few of those glacial collision. Turns out that in reality, the collisions haven’t been all that bad…it’s less a matter of mighty glaciers running over toothpick-wielding morons and more a matter of icecubes bumping harmlessly off each other in a bathtub: there are moments of impact, but for the most part, we drift back onto our own little paths. For an apartment full of such…ahem…strong-willed individuals, we’ve all managed to coexist in a miraculously peaceful manner.

Remember those great universal truths that living together exposes? Well, we’ve uncovered a few of those. And the key to not committing homicide, caticide, or birdicide every single night is knowing these fundamental truths for what they are, and realizing that they are in fact resolutely immutable.

In other words, some things? They ain’t never gonna change, and we just have to learn to fucking deal with them.

And here, in no particular order, are the most important of these great universal truths. Or, as I like to call them, the Rules of Living-Through-Engagement-and-Making-it-to-Marriage-With-Both-Parties-Alive-and-Kicking:

Universal Truth #1: I will always be late. Even if I say I will be early. Even if you reset my clocks. Even if I start getting ready waaaaaay early. I will. Be. Late.

Universal Truth #2: Boyfriend will always leave little drippy footprints from the shower to the towel rack. Regardless of placement of nice cushy floor mat.

Universal Truth #3: An hour later, I WILL find the one remaining puddle. With my foot, and two seconds after finally managing to find and put on two matching socks.

Universal Truth #4: I will always ‘forget’ to put a new liner in the trash can under the kitchen sink after taking out the trash.

Univers….Oh, You Get The Point #5: Boyfriend will ALWAYS mysteriously get distracted and forget what he’s doing RIGHT as he gets the trash (now in a bag, as he typically discovers my forgotten bag when the bin is approximately half full) to the front door.

Great Fucking Universal Truth #6: Kitten will always forget how to cover up her special litterbox presents right when one of us needs to be browsing through the walk-in closet or adjacent bathroom.

Immutable, Irrevocable Truth #7: Birdie will always have her Big Morning Poop of Doom two seconds AFTER you pick her up, having lulled the hapless humans into a false sense of security by first having a Slightly Less Big Morning Poop of Doom.

Absolutely Unyielding, Resolute Truth #8: I will always get a goofy grin and remote look on my face – and possibly need a few moments alone – when Jared Leto takes off his shirt in a new 30 Seconds to Mars video.

Fundamental Fact #9: Boyfriend will always scowl at me when Jared Marry-Me Leto and his 30 Seconds to Mars somehow end up in his Pandora All-Britney-All-The-Time queue.

And finally, the most universal of all universal truths: I will ALWAYS, FUCKING ALWAYS, flip the fucking garbage disposal switch in the middle of the night when searching for a glass of water. Even though the switch for it is a good six feet from the closest light switch.
And these truths we find self-evident.

O Christmas Tree: In which Zach discovers that his holiday spirit looks suspiciously like procrastination

Well, this has been inevitable…it’s about time to say goodbye to a dear friend. Though we’ve put up a good fight, there is just no escaping the fact: it’s time to say goodbye.

Sigh.

Christmas tree, we hardly knew ye!

Yeah, it’s that time of the year again…the eggnog is gone, the rum has stopped running, and the tree is dropping needles faster than Kitten sheds fuzzies. Boyfriend is tired of finding the needles in his hair (I think he and Kitten must wrestle under the tree…), and has decided to hold my ears hostage until I agree to take out the tree. Mariah Carey’s obnoxious yet inexplicably catchy ‘Oh Santa’ will continue to play in our home until I acquiesce, apparently.

You know what, though? As much as I’m ready to retire Mariah to the depths of the digital dungeon that is my ipod, and as tired as we all are of traipsing through dried needles that Kitten so graciously scatters all around the house, I’m not so sure if I’m ready to part ways with the tree just yet.

See, this wasn’t just a Christmas tree — it was an EVENT. As anyone who knows me that well can attest, the Christmas tree-ing of my humble abode — like the release of a Mariah Carey album that doesn’t tank — is something that just doesn’t come along that often. In fact, in the past however many years it’s been since I moved out from under the roof of the parentals, this is just the third time that a Christmas tree has graced my home: the first was when Willow and I got our first apartment, and the second was to commemorate our first Christmas out of Alaska.

Seeing as the move to Washington occurred in the summer of 2001 and it’s been nearly that many years since Willow and I realized we both liked boys, it’s been a little while since the aroma of pine has wafted through my home.

No, I’m not a Grinch. It’s just that typically, Christmas is just not all that big a deal to me. Most years, I’m lucky if I get around to throwing a few little red and silver balls on the nearest non-dead houseplant, and — before Lee came waltzing along and ho-ho-HO’ed up my holidays — the holiday season was a gentle respite from a rigorous schedule of bed-hopping, since all the fratboys had gone home for the winter. It was my time to catch up on work at the office (because nothing tells your boss you’re an up-and-comer like a memo sent out on Christmas morning!), catch up with friends of the non-intimate sort (imagine that!), or work on the Sisyphean task of sorting out the plumbing issues at the old Chez Zach (remember the chronic pipe-bursting incidents? I may have blogged about them once or twice…). And none of that required the presence of a Christmas tree.

This year, however, was different. This was a capital year. This was a friggin’ CHRISTMAS TREE year. For one, it was the first holiday season Boyfriend and I would be spending in our own little home together. Our own posh, high-ceiling’ed, crown-molding and granite-countered trendy little home in the heart of the Phoenix downtown gay district. Secondly, as this was the first holiday that Boyfriend and I would be sharing a living space and I would therefore be subjected to all Mariah-Christmas-tunes all-Mariah-time (both albums!!!), I figured it would be handy to have fresh prickly needles to stab into my eyeballs every now and then. And finally (and most importantly), this was the first holiday season post-Year of Hell (which, if you might recall, had me feeling so Grinchy the Grinch was a friggin’ little Who by comparison last Christmas). Which meant that I could afford to do more to get into the Christmas spirit than scatter green tic-tacs on a pepperoni pizza.

And all this? All this meant that it was time to actually celebrate. As in decking the halls, slugging eggnog and hot buttered rums by the gallon, blaring Christmas tunes all month long, baking Christmas cookies, doing holiday parties, making pilgrimages to Starbucks to see cute little barrista boys bearing peppermint mochas and eggnog lattes, wearing warm little sweaters and posh wool jackets (which I got to shop for! And not on clearance!), and yes…even getting a Christmas tree.

And that’s why, despite the scattering of needles all around the apartment and Lee’s threat to keep playing ‘Oh Santa’ (which actually has grown on me, if only because I giggle whenever Mariah screeches and squawks trying to hit those old high notes) until it’s gone or I’m in an aural-trauma-induced-coma, I’m a little dis-inclined to take down all those sparkly ornaments and send the tree to the Great Forest in the Sky. Now that there’s been cause to actually be festive — to really, honestly celebrate the season — I’m not sure if I’m ready for it to end.

Either that, or I’m procrastinating from the inevitable Christmas-tree-needle clean-up that will commence after we actually try to MOVE the damned thing.

Eggnog and rum, anyone?

Our tree in her glory days, looking very Dickensian, hold the grimy gimp kid.