I try to take Ben to places away from the usual tourist attractions whenever he shows up in Houston, and so this past weekend, we went to the Wilde Collection — a curiosity shop in the Heights — because a) it’s my favorite independent business, and b) I figured it was time for him to have a visual representation of what it’s like inside my head.
We pulled up to the shop, and Ben looked at the vehicle parked by the front door and asked, “Is that… is that a PT Cruiser hearse?” And I was like, “Yeah. It really sums up everything you’re about to see.” I was a little concerned he’d start proactively rethinking his life choices the second we entered the building, but instead, his eyes darted to the contents of a glass cabinet tucked amidst various antique medical specimens, and he was like, “Ooh, raccoon penis bones! These will make great souvenirs for the people back home!” And that’s when I relaxed a lot.
So Ben approached the guy behind the counter (who turned out to be one of the owners), and was all, “Hello! I want to purchase some raccoon penis bones.” And the owner smiled warmly and replied, “Let’s go pick out the ones you’d like,” as if they were baby turtles or hermit crabs or something.
I gave Ben a little space to critically inspect the penises (I mean, if I had a nickel…) and scooted through the next room (which is basically the Department of Dead Animals and Demonological Studies) to the lavatory in the back. I passed two young women admiring a vampire baby doll nestled in a Victorian bassinet, and I’m normally not one to eavesdrop, but one of them said, “They sued Netflix over it, but how can you trademark an ancient image?” And then I heard a voice that sounded remarkably like mine jump into the conversation. And then I realized I was talking.
“The thing is, Baphomet is usually depicted as having male genitalia and female breasts, but the statue commissioned by the Church of Satan has a male chest.”
An awkward silence ensued, which I decided to fill by apologizing profusely.
“Oh, please don’t apologize,” one of the women said, waving off the interruption and gesturing for me to continue. “This is fascinating!”
“Okay… well, the statue used on the set of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also had a male chest. But see?” I pointed to a conveniently located mannequin dressed up as the ubiquitous Goat God. “Breasts. So whoever created the prop for the show assumed that the Church of Satan’s version was a traditional image and thus free of royalty, when in fact it really was protected by copyright. Which is why the Church sued.”
The women nodded thoughtfully and thanked me for my insight, and I quit while I was ahead and fled to the restroom. I glanced at my reflection in the mirror as I was locking the door, and maybe it was just the mood lighting or whatever, but I stopped for a second and was like, “Wow. I… totally look like someone who would accost a stranger to correct their misconceptions about the Devil.” And so I took a selfie.
I finished my business and went to catch up with Ben, but my attention got snagged on a plastic display box, inside of which was a foam cupcake, with a preserved longhorn beetle (Diastocera wallichi tonkinensis, a.k.a. Thysia wallichii) balanced delicately upon it. And suddenly, all I could think about was the last scene in Secretary, when Maggie Gyllenhaal carefully makes the bed and then drops a dead cockroach on the comforter. And I was consumed by the emerald flames of covetousness.
Ben wandered over, penis bones in hand, to stare at the oddity along with me. And then he was like, “FOUR PEAS. You need this.” And he snatched it off the shelf and ran to the register.
I have spent a disconcertingly large chunk of my life feeling like some kind of tragic, retarded Martian; like I just bumble around saying inappropriate things at unfortunate moments, in a language no one is capable of understanding. Lately, though, whenever self-deprication sets in, the Universe drops someone in front of me who forces me to accept that I’m nowhere near as weird and alone as I think I am. Sometimes it’s one of my co-workers at the Forge, or one of my brothers in the Misfits. Or sometimes it’s a random window shopper who thinks that what I have to say is relevant and interesting.
And sometimes a beautiful man and I both look at a freeze-dried bug and immediately quote the same movie.
I can’t wait to introduce him to Baphomet.