THE BALLAD OF HANDSOME BOI

If he were just a little less handsome he would have been a successful
magazine model, he tells me. But now he’s cursed to wear a mask to
cage that beautiful face of his.

I first met Handsome Boi backstage after a set, in a club that used to
be called Chaos and now went by the even more charming Doom after
management changed hands, the same management that called me for this set and invited Handsome Boi over to model for the fall collection of
an upstart fashion brand, whose name I couldn’t remember.

I always wondered how superheroes made money because they were always fighting crime but I have never once seen them get paid in any shape
or form. Sure, there were the secret identities, so they could blend
in to normal society as mild mannered reporters or billionaire playboys but for Handsome Boi it was different, as with or without his mask he would attract attention, so he finally used his mystique to certain advantage when he became a freelance runway model.

People would clamour to see Handsome Boi shows, for the faint hope he would unmask and let us all glimpse his face for even the briefest
second.

His body was a delight, the result of long hours in the gym or genetic
miracle one could only speculate, but it was this body that strutted
onstage, with the coat and zipper mask, each strut in time with my
band’s synth beats and strobe lights flashing across his taut body.

With his finger and thumb on the zip tab underneath his chin he pulled
the zip upwards, ever so slowly. This was more enticing than seeing
old Hunny Bunny displaying her fake silicone titties by some greasy
pole, this was a moment everyone in the club was waiting for, just a
glimpse of face from the handsomest man in the world, for bragging
rights, for your own satisfaction, just to see if he was as beautiful as they all said.

With his chin pointed upward, he raised the zipper an inch higher,
revealing a juicy lower lip. He stood still and the audience mirrored
in kind while the music and the strobe lights shattered around him in brutal fragments, threatening to damage and erode this beautiful face
of his.

Another inch, and the lips became fully formed. He took a deep breath
and as he did so his perfect lips parted and a deep pink tongue emerged. He was teasing us with air cunnilingus and the women were getting wet via proxy and I wished I had a vagina that did likewise.

Then he turned away and walked back into the rainbow darkness of the
club while the audience cheered, women swooned and screamed and
fainted while my band packed the equipment backstage after my song
served as the accompanying soundtrack to Handsome Boi’s set.

Later I am sipping wine in a paper cup at the buffet line backstage, when a muffled voice says, “I love the egg rolls.”

I turn to see a man in a full on purple rubber zipper mask, wondering
how he eats. He probably sneaks the food in his dressing room and eats
while no one is watching. I didn’t mention this to him, not wanting to
create a social faux pas, so I just went with, “Really?”

“Yeah, they’re great,” he said to me, arms folded, each sinew of
muscle glistening with sweat, though this wasn’t the sweat you’d
imagine on a topless wrestler. His sweat somehow glowed along with
him.

He had nothing but his mask and purple tights. I couldn’t tell if he
was looking at me or at the food. The eyes of his mask were opaque
silver goggles, so there was no hint of me looking into his own eyes.
His skin wasn’t fair, it was tanned. My guess was he could be mixed,
or Hawaiian, or Latino, hell, anything. His accent seemed neutral and
I couldn’t tell what it was. This bothered me for days after my first
meeting him, as usually I prided myself on differentiating between
various accents.

“You were good out there,” I told him.

“Hey, you were good, too. You and your band. The Decibel Darlings,
right? You guys cut an album or LP or something?”

His question caught me off guard. Sure we had aspirations of fame, but
we were nowhere near any sort of record deal. Playing it cool, I told
him, “We’re working on it, you know, but you know how it is, it’s
tough out there, with the competition and all,” I babbled, then tried to swerve the topic. “You still do the whole crime fighting thing with
your crew?”

I knew he was, as it was always in the news. To be fair he did his fair share in cleaning up the city, but I had to make small talk. The most recent news was how crime boss Carmen Espinoza had a bounty on his head, but he acted so nonchalant about it.

“Yeah,” he replied to my question simply. He didn’t feel comfortable
about me asking about his vigilante thing, a thing I kept reading the
cops weren’t too fond of. “It’s tough out there, in the city, with the
crime and all,” he said, mirroring my words.

I heard my keyboardist call out my name, then the whole band was
hollering how I was standing beside Handsome Boi himself. “Damn! Say
Handsome, how about we take a picture?” my keyboardist David said.

“Come on, guys, he doesn’t want to be disturbed,” I said in his
defense, but surprisingly Handsome Boi agreed.

“It’s fine, come on over here guys,” he pointed to a faded white wall.
“Away from the food,” he carried on. He didn’t want to have a bad
picture taken with the entire buffet in background, so my band, David,
Sheila (who was giggling like a crazed teenager at being able to be this close to Handsome Boi) and Bob Palin (not his real name, the last name a play on his first name, a palindrome) stood by the wall when Sheila called out to a waiter and asked if he could take a
picture for us.

Agreeably, the waiter took David’s camera and told us where to stand.
Handsome Boi wrapped his arm around Sheila’s shoulder and she slinked both hands around the sculpted curve of his arm, tilting her head to
rest against it. I guess I could be totally wrong of course, but I could sense Handsome Boi smiling beneath that mask. “So what you doin’
later?” I heard her ask him before the waiter with the camera prompted
with the usual, “One, two, three… Cheese!”

There was no flash on that camera, and I recalled that with digital
light adjustment there was no need really.

We shook hands with this real life superhero, who was flirting with
Sheila and now was among us as if nothing happened. As with many bands
where there’s that one hot, female member, I dated Sheila when the
band was starting up, but we split soon after, so I couldn’t exactly
say I was jealous, but there was something now that I felt, a certain
sense that ruptured my belief in living, in-the-flesh superheroes.
Like all cops, who upheld the ideal of justice and law, but were many
times human and ultimately given to corruption, superheroes with their
weird powers are people too, not the deities the public makes them out
to be.

This hero was sweat and muscle and lust. I imagined that his face was
really ugly beneath, and the whole public story about his being too
handsome for human eyes was a lie he cooked up for attention and to
gain his current mystique. Then came the words coming out of a Chinese
girl’s mouth: So who was that girl?

I turned same time as Handsome did. She had baby cheeks and wore a
skintight white spandex suit, he straight hair down to after her
shoulders, her arms folded beneath the curve of her breasts. I heard
they were a crime fighting team, though tonight it seemed Handsome Boi
was the crime.

Jenni Infiniti smiled, not outwardly jealous, though her tone tingled
with hidden sarcasm. “One of my loyal fans,” Handsome Boi told her.
Sheila herself stood like a ho caught in squad car headlights.

“Ummm….can we take a picture?” she asked Jenni.

“Sure,” Jenni Infiniti told her. “But this time I get to grope one of
your boys.”

We all gathered around to pose again. We couldn’t find that same
waiter, but I called another one over to take the photo.

As we huddled around the camera’s rear digital screen to see the
photo, something happened.

In the camera’s viewscreen, Jenni’s image tilted its head head and
waved at us, while our photographed selves stood absolutely still. I
could hear Sheila gasp as if she were a whimpering poodle. “What was
that? Is that your power at work?”

“Yeah,” she said to me. “I can make my projections come to life. You
should see what I can do with mirrors.”

“Freaky,” I told her.

#

Later as the buffet was clearing up, the now almost empty trays pulled
up and out by the caterers, I smoked alone, to be away from the
weirdness of the night. I stood by the back alley, rubbing my hands
together in between puffs. I heard the words, “….and when I’m
around? I could be doing something else tonight. Many-Face had a drug
deal I could have busted, but I came to be your cheerleader, because
you asked me to. I just want your attention when I’m around.
Especially when I came all the way here.”

“You know I never mean anything by that, you know I love you but baby,
this is my work, I gotta keep a public image and be friendly,” another
voice said. I turned to look. At the end of the alley Handsome Boi had
his hands raised up in argument. He rubbed the back of his mask and I
could hear it squeak as his fingers moved against the rubber. They
felt my eyes upon them. I stubbed my cigarette against the wall. “I’m
sorry guys, didn’t mean to–”

Jenni walked away and turned the corner, away from us. Handsome Boi
turned to me. “Dude, I’m sorry you had to see that,” he said. “Listen,
catch up with you another time, right? See you around,” he said as he
turned the same corner and ran to find an upset girlfriend.

#

The next time I saw him was two months later, this time at a superhero
club called Death Ray. When I say superhero, it wasn’t necessary they
were really superheroes. Not many real heroes would bother, because it
would be too obvious if some master villain said, let’s bomb this
place, and that would be the end of the costumed heroes in this city,
but this particular club gave normal people a license to come dressed
in super getup, some practical, functional, military type costumes,
with lots of pouches, while others went old school with gray and
purple and pink costumes, and these were the men!

The women who came here were all hardbodies, they had to be, to dress
up in skintight costumes. Aside from a comic book convention, this was
the place where costumed people could be seen hanging out, and get
drunk or high, and there were more and more of these clubs popping up
worldwide.

My band The Decibel Darlings were playing a set tonight. Handsome Boi
was tonight modeling for superhero costume designer Jean Patric
Girard’s newest collection of super clothes, and this party was
slammin’ hot. We played new songs and some covers, and after the night
two months ago we were discovered by a record producer who’s
interested in signing us on. It’s not set in stone or anything, but
I’m more confident now if Handsome Boi asked me the same question
again I could at least say we got a record company interested.

Jean Patric Girard had cut a fine niche for himself as the only super
designer. He’d design costumes and sell them at high prices to
superheroes who could afford it, quality leather or special materials
he’d worked on, so on the streets now you’d see higher quality outfits
and not cheap spandex anymore. When the suits wore out from fights
he’s redesign the suits for his repeat customers, and now normal
people were in on the gig too, hell I’d bet that more than half the
people here bought their costumes from his JPG boutique online.

But for all the superhero glamour the audience was packing, they still
couldn’t compare to the living, breathing Eros who was strutting on
stage as we were playing, though they didn’t mind it one bit.

This was the show they had paid for. Just as I’d remembered, except
Handsome Boi was now wearing a leather trimmed jacket designed by Jean Patric Girard while beneath the jacket was nothing but glistening muscle whose every sinew was highlighted by the strobing neon lights.

He owned the stage, just like he did the last time I saw him, barely
able to keep my lyrics in my head. He had the same effect on men as
well as women, a true metrosexual maybe, unless I’m using the word
wrong.

As I sang I kept my eyes open, looking out for Jenni Infiniti but I
couldn’t find her in the crowd. I even started looking at any
reflective surface but I couldn’t find anything reflective in the strobe of the club. She was beautiful, the fairest of all them superheroes to me. I hardly know her of course, apart from meeting her that one time, but her image keeps appearing to me when I close my eyes.

At first I thought it was just an extension of her power but that was
just ridiculous, of course. I finally came to the conclusion that I was having a celebrity crush, plain and simple, but the last time I had such a thing was when I was a late teenager and I was kinda past that now, barely.

Before I could finish my final verse the lights blew out then there
was an explosion, followed by screams. In the sudden dark the first
thing to pop in my head was I am in a room full of men and women dressed as super heroes, that I am saved and the realization hits me that these heroes are just dressing up in tight outfits for play, the only true hero was the model that was on stage.

That thought, though, was interrupted by the splatter fire of some type of machine gun. I was on stage laying flat on the ground as the screams went on. My head raised up slightly, trying to squint through the darkness to see who was behind all this but what I could see were only brilliant flashes of gunpowder emanating from rifle tips, too bright for my eyes in the sudden darkness.

I squeezed my eyes shut and kept my head down after that, imagining
that there would be perpetual gunfire this entire endless night, until I heard the distinct sound of bone against bone and skin, followed by
a burst of red light.

Someone had turned on the emergency lights I reckoned, so I looked up to the sight of Handsome Boi standing in the center of the dance
floor, his hands hanging on the neck and chin of a twisted head whose
body was slumped lifeless on the floor.

Handsome Boi let go of that head and it fell not with a whimper but
with a snap, as if his twisted neck broke as it hit the floor.

Handsome turned when he heard footsteps behind him, then leapt away
with precise athletic grace before another barrage of gunfire went
straight for him but had the sheer misfortune of drilling through the
skulls and ribcages of the faux superheroes, who fell dead to the
floor screaming.

Handsome Boi stopped and yelled, “I know it’s you, Baron! Stop shooting these people and just tell me what you want.”

The Ballistic Baron.

I had read about him in the papers. A weapons expert who it seemed
knew and dealt with every weapon known to man. He of course had
clashed with Handsome a few times, so I assumed this was some kind of
revenge.

From what I could gather from my vantage point on the stage floor
there were about five dead bodies and many other casualties. At that
point I couldn’t tell if my own band members were OK, but when I
titled my head up ever so slightly I saw the Baron decked out with a
machine gun and a black mask. Behind him was a large mirror, part of
the club’s decor.

“Nothing personal, Handsome, I know you and me had our differences but
this time it’s business. Carmen Espinoza put a bounty on your head in
case you hadn’t noticed. Word on the street is I get a cool million
for you dead.”

“Me dead, not these people.”

“You have to have some fun in your job, eh?”

This angered Handsome so much he leapt against the trail of gunfire
aimed right at him, dodging away from the bullets with an almost
superhuman speed. He stopped in his tracks and he pulled his mask off,
as if in slow motion, to reveal his face to the Baron.

The Baron screamed, as if afraid of the power of Handsome’s handsome
face. He shielded his eyes so that he wouldn’t be paralyzed by
Handsome’s visage. I couldn’t see what the Baron was seeing. I could
only see Handsome’s back, so I could only imagine that his face was so
either so handsome or so repugnant it could stop anyone in their
tracks.

Just then, a lady’s fair arm emerged from the mirror and grabbed the
Baron from behind, pulling him into the mirror. Handsome Boi stopped
in his tracks and as he stood his body heaved heavily. From under the
mask I couldn’t tell if he was smiling or frowning.

“Jenni?” he said.

I stood up and saw Jenni Infiniti in the mirror, holding onto the
Baron. She stepped out the mirror leaving the Baron within it. I
couldn’t hear him but he kept slamming his fist from the other side of the mirror as if to say, “Let me out!”

Handsome held Jenni’s hand and asked if she was all right.

“I’ll be fine. But you gotta be more careful next time. Running into a
hail of bullets like that, could’ve gotten yourself killed. And why didn’t you tell me about the price on your head?”

“I know what I’m doing. I got it under control.”

“I know that, but still, I’m just saying, be careful.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Handsome walked away from her and she was a little miffed.

“Fancy seeing you again, dude,” he told me. “How’s the band?”

David, Bob and Sheila stood up nervously. Sheila looked at her black
soaked shirt, then touched it. “Jesus,” she said before she fainted
and dropped hard on the stage floor.

#

The cops arrived and questioned us and Handsome while the paramedics
wheeled Sheila into the ambulance van. She had lost a lot of blood,
but the bullet only scraped her shoulder. I gave Handsome and Jenni my home address in case they needed my help for, whatever, I guess.

A week later Jenni and Handsome entered my apartment through the
living room mirror, a bit of a squeeze but that didn’t matter too much
to them, they claimed. “When was the last time you guys used the front
door?” I joked.

They laughed it off and I offered them two bottles of beer. They
lounged on the couch and told me they had visited Sheila in the
hospital and she’s been quite the trooper.

“She could kick my ass,” I told them. “She probably did, back in the day.”

Handsome unzipped the lower half of his mask just enough so he could
drink from the bottle. In the daylight, without the theatricality of the club, his lips though exceptional, seemed almost ordinary in the context of him as a dude drinking with his buddy. Maybe he hasn’t activated his power yet. Maybe, I wondered, did he even have any powers? Our conversation veered ultimately into my curiosity of the other real heroes in town. I tried not to talk too much about the dead
partygoers of the shoot out. It had made headline news this whole week
and Handsome and Jenni had declined any public comment. Little did the
press know they were laying low at my pad.

We talked about origin stories, how The Decibel Darlings formed, how
me and Sheila were and how we weren’t anymore, we talked about how Jenni got her powers, a freak accident, though we didn’t really say
much about Handsome’s origin, as if he cooly was veering us away from
himself by letting us talk about ourselves. As the day wore on into
evening Handsome and Jenni had to say goodbye and stepped into the
mirror and left me alone.

That was how it went the week later, too, when they visited me again.
It was beginning to be a regular thing probably, and now I asked them
a different type of origin story, of how they met and fell in love.

Sheila was already out the hospital so David and Bob brought her over
to my place. Now the Darlings were with the premiere superhero couple,
just shooting the breeze. They didn’t talk about their superhero work,
but I did ask Handsome about that bounty on his head.

“Oh it’s settled,” he said casually, as if bounties on his head were
such a common weekly occurrence.

“He couldn’t have done it without me. I’m the smart one. I did all the
legwork. Or mirror work. I spied into the offices of Carmen Espinoza
and his men with my mirror powers. Then Handsome beat the shit out of
them.”

We all laughed and Jenni continued, “But I just wished you were more
careful. Every time you show that handsome face of yours you’re
susceptible to gunfire.”

“I’m so handsome even men can’t look away,” he said smugly.

“Yeah, but just, be careful out there, OK?” Jenni pleaded.

Handsome didn’t say a word. He stood up and walked out the living
room, motioning toward the balcony. He threw the bottle over the
balcony and I hoped it didn’t kill anyone down below. I would imagine
him taking out a cigarette, but again, apart from the first time I saw
him in the club I hadn’t seen his lips in daylight. His beauty it
seemed was forbidden for the common people, unless they paid to see it, and it seemed his total beauty I realised was only for the mob and
for his enemies, as a means of stopping them in their tracks. A beauty
that literally stared in the face of danger. I reckoned he also showed
his true face to Jenni when they alone in their intimate moments, when
they were making love under the sheets, or maybe she didn’t see his
whole visage if he didn’t turn on the bedroom lights. Maybe they did
ordinary things too like normal people; digging their nostrils for boogers, taking a huge shit. How beautiful would the handsomest face
look while picking his nose?

Shelia muttered “awkward….” very softly.

Jenni stood up and I thought she would come to find Handsome by the
balcony but she raised her voice and said, “Here it is with his stupid
fucking ego again.”

She excused herself and walked into the large mirror by the door, and
disappeared. And like that, she was gone.

I stood up and looked at the band. I was already at an impasse. My
guests of honor had left us stranded, had left us with the aftermath
of a barren parade, where we were pieces of discarded confetti, bursts
of color and excitement that had become nothing but trash once it fell
to the ground.

I heaved out a sigh and walked to the balcony where Handsome was. He
sat perched on the ledge like an eagle ready to swoop. I couldn’t tell
what he was thinking.

“Hey, you all right there, dude?”

“Been better.”

“Listen, I’m sorry about—”

“Don’t be, buddy. You ain’t got nothing to worry about. It’s all me.
Maybe I’ve tipped it just enough to piss everybody off. I’ve got a mask and maybe this gives me an excuse to parade my ego around. I’m the one should be sorry,” he said. I thought I heard him sniffle under the mask, but it could just have been the wind.

“You wanna come inside? Cool down or something?” I asked.

“I’ll see you soon, buddy,” he said. He stood on the corner of the balcony, feet straddled on each junction. He leapt off the balcony, and I screamed out for him.

I panicked and leaned over to see if he had become street pizza. But what I saw over the ledge I couldn’t believe: he leapt from window to walls of adjacent buildings until he snuck into the shadows of an alleyway and melted into it. I heaved out another sigh and laughed, the tears in my eyes drifting away under the wind that swept across the balcony.

#

A couple days later Handsome Boi met me at the balcony. He climbed up
in the middle of the night, sight unseen. I was leaning over it taking
a smoke, thinking about them, actually. His sudden appearance somehow didn’t surprise me, as though deep down I expected him to come. He sat with his butt on the balcony ledge, arms straightened by his sides to support his balance. The city lights glowed and highlighted his
beautiful, lean muscles, muscles any man would be jealous of and any
woman would want to caress and melt into.

“Hey,” I said simply.

“Hey-hey-hey buddy. Mind loaning me a fag?”

I gave him a cigarette and he unzipped the lower half of his mask in front of me. I struck a match and lit his cigarette hanging from his lips, and he took in the first puff slowly, as if he hadn’t had one in a long, long time.

“How’s it going?” I asked him.

“She’s still not back home. Usually she’s hiding in that mirror world of hers.”

“How’s it like? The mirror world.”

“You could get lost in it, if you wanted to. And she wants to. At this point, she could go anywhere, pop into any place she wants, any place but where I am. I blew it. It’s my fault. I know she’s just concerned about me is all. Dumbass.”

“Listen, you want a beer or something? Take the edge off?”

“Thanks, but I want to be sober. I want to be aware of every last thought now. What I did wrong. Because I don’t know if she’s coming back. I looked at every club and crime scene. But I can’t find any trace of her. I look into every mirror, every reflection I walk by,
hoping I’ll see her reflection in it. But she ain’t never there.”

Just then, a tune formed in my head. The lyrics to this tune would
soon follow. Handsome finished his cigarette and stubbed it and let
the wind take the stub where it may.

“I’m sorry to hear about that,” I said to him. “If there’s anything I can do to help out, just let me know, man.”

“You’re doing enough, just by listening and being here,” he said to me.

He zipped his mask down and his lips were covered once again. He leaned back until his body rocked back at an obtuse angle, until he fell off the balcony backwards. But I wasn’t afraid now. I didn’t even look over the ledge to see if he was all right.

He hasn’t come back here in all these months. I sometimes hear whispers on the Internet and sometimes the good old newspaper, about Handsome’s many exploits, but hardly any news at all about Jenni.

I wrote a song in between that time about the two of them. I had even
taken on Handsome’s paranoia, wishing each time I looked in the mirror I would find Jenni in there, avoiding the fairest man of all. But I
only saw my own disappointing reflection.

I remember the first time we rehearsed the song I wrote about them was the best I had ever sung it. I only hoped Handsome and Jenni would be able to listen to it on the radio, or online, somewhere, somehow.

We were in the studio and it was just me strumming the guitar while
David, Sheila and Bob sat and watched as I sang these words:

He’s always in a club

Or alone in an alleyway

Always looking for her

But she ain’t never there

She never meant to stay

He’s got no one to love now

She made him this way

This beautiful man now gone

Empty without Miss Infiniti

Half a man without his Jenni

Every time you look in a mirror

Hoping to find your darling dear

Never giving up though she ain’t here

She could make her reflections move

She could also move you

She was the mirror

You wore the mask

Such pairs were not meant to last

Handsome Boi why can’t you let her go?

There’s so many others you could know

Why live with this pain, what can you gain?

Nothing you can do but cry in the rain

Stop sulking in the dark

Bathe now in the light

The world is waiting now

To see your Handsome face

Step out Boi, to a better place

FINIS

20140114-214658.jpg

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s