“So, which one did you decide on?”
Taylor’s question broke Kirk from his reverie. Kirk had been scrolling through the Nu-Vellum interface for almost an hour, unable to make up his mind.
“I haven’t,” Kirk sighed. Like streaming platforms, grocery ordering, and other applications Kirk interacted with on a regular basis, he was nearly paralyzed by the number of choices being offered to him.
“Come on Kirk–we have to leave for Felix’s place in less than an hour.”
Kirk noted Taylor was outfitted in black leather pants, tight black cotton shirt, and a black leather jacket. Kirk heard the faint jangle of metal and the thud of thick-heeled boots as Taylor impatiently paced around their apartment.
“Which one did you pick?” Kirk asked.
“You can’t tell?” Taylor hissed. Kirk immediately felt his face grow warm.
“Face/Off? Lord of War?” Kirk guessed.
“Ugh–no. Lord of War: too preachy! And Face/Off would be too confusing, because then wouldn’t I really be dressed up as John Travolta?”
Kirk’s mouth hung open slightly as he tried to formulate another guess, simultaneously wondering if it would be better to just feign stupidity.
“Gone in 60 Seconds!” Taylor crowed, his leather jacket creaking as he threw his hands up in the air.
“Of course! Oh jeez,” Kirk tapped an open palm against his forehead.
Feeling his eyes beginning to glaze over, Kirk finally forced himself to choose. It was the one he knew he had wanted from the beginning. He tapped the Moonstruck icon, confirmed his payment method, and took off his t-shirt and shorts. Kirk sat the Nu-Vellum console down on the chrome coffee table so it could do its thing.
Kirk had heard people talk about using the app before. Wanting to be able to say he had done his own research, Kirk read numerous reviews before deciding to go along with Taylor for the party. Still, Kirk felt his pulse quicken as the proprietary “Nu 4D” technology swept over his body. There was the warming, tingling sensation, which he had expected. Kirk had also been anticipating feelings of tightness, like his body was being wrapped in cellophane. But when the Nu-Vellum had completed its work, Kirk did not feel constricted at all.
Taylor gave him a once over, sighing, “Moonstruck? Really? You are such a hopeless romantic.”
Kirk smiled, “Yeah, but I’m in love with you.”
“Whatever,” Taylor began to walk past him for the door, then stopped and slapped Kirk’s rear-end. “At least the ass of those jeans does you some favors.”
Kirk breathed a sigh of relief as Taylor pulled into the circular drive at Felix’s house. In addition to temporarily adopting a look from Gone in 60 Seconds, Taylor had decided to temporarily adopt the car thief approach to driving as well.
With avatar technologies becoming more main stream, avatar theme parties had enjoyed a parallel rise in popularity. Predisposed to a love of camp and drag shows, Kirk was not at all surprised to find many folks in the queer community as early adopters of Nu-Vellum. Now instead of spending hours finding the perfect blonde wig and white gown to dress up as Marilyn Monroe, you could do it in less than a minute, freeing up time to decide on the perfect rose and finger food accompaniments.
Felix, who had become Kirk’s friend by being Taylor’s friend before he and Kirk had begun dating, had thrown a few avatar parties already. Kirk had managed to worm his way out of going to the first they had been invited to. When Taylor showed Kirk the evite last week for the Nicolas Cage-themed soiree they were about to walk into, Kirk sensed his time had run out. He was going to have to give Nu-Vellum a try, or otherwise risk upsetting Taylor with another request to just spend the weekend around their apartment, relaxing.
Felix’s doorman was a Nicolas Cage dressed in a white Elvis jumpsuit.
Kirk snorted, “Isn’t the Nic Cage movie in Las Vegas about him becoming an alcoholic with a stripper?”
Taylor rolled his eyes, “That’s Leaving Las Vegas. This,” Taylor gestured to the doorman, “is Honeymoon in Vegas.”
“Oh,” Kirk said, uttering a thanks to the doorman for letting them in.
As they made their way down the long front entrance, Kirk could hear the din of several Nic Cages echoing down the hall. Kirk found it an odd sensation to hear versions of the same voice undertaking dozens of conversations at once, like he was overhearing someone’s fever dream.
As he and Taylor stepped into the room where most of the Nics were currently congregating, Kirk’s audio-based disorientation was replaced with visual disorientation as his face moved from one Nic Cage to another, all in various party poses. Kirk wasn’t a big enough fan to remember the character names, so he racked his brain for various movie titles as his eyes roved around the room. There were two Raising Arizonas clinking wine glasses, one Peggy Sue Got Married sipping a margarita, in deep conversation with a City of Angels and The Rock. A pair of National Treasures were dancing together to what Kirk assumed was a Nic Cage-inspired playlist emanating from the house’s sound system.
Kirk wondered how they were ever going to locate Felix, or anyone else for that matter, when his eyes began to adjust to their surroundings enough to notice subtle LED-lit names displayed on the left upper biceps of some of the Nics. Kirk looked down at his left arm, surprised to see his own first name glowing in soft purple light. He said something about it to Taylor as they continued to weave through the crowd.
“Yes, that’s the self ID setting of Nu-Vellum. It defaults to having a name displayed. I figured since you’re a newbie, you’d probably want your name on for the party,” Taylor responded.
Kirk wasn’t sure this made sense: he wasn’t worried about forgetting his own name. He did think it was weird he could no longer recognize a friend he might actually know.
Taylor said he was going to try and locate their host in order to say hello and thanks, leaving Kirk standing alone in the middle of the party. Feeling decidedly butch in his Ronny Cammareri avatar, Kirk decided to see if there was any beer to drink.
Having located a bottle of the current en vogue microbrew, it wasn’t until Kirk attempted to open his beer that he had to reckon with the wooden right hand of his avatar. Taylor had pointed this out as another reason Kirk’s Nic Cage character choice was a bad one.
“If some people have had to deal with only having one good hand their whole life, I am sure I can make do for one party,” had been Kirk’s response. Taylor quipped back with a comment about limiting his ability to dole out any hand jobs, which Kirk had ignored.
Kirk was working out how to balance the beer bottle on the counter and lean on it in such a way where he could use his working hand to open it, when he heard someone chuckle behind him.
“Need a hand?” they asked.
“Ha, ha, very . . . ” Kirk was mid-retort, when he turned around to see another Ronny Cammareri grinning back at him.
“I already went through this earlier. Let me help you.”
Using their working hands together, they were able to quickly open Kirk’s beer.
“Thanks,” Kirk said, smiling. He leaned to one side to see the other Ronny’s left shoulder, reading the name there. “You must be Gabe.”
“That’s me,” Gabe raised his bottle of beer. “Cheers.”
They clinked bottles and turned from the bar counter to look out across the sea of Nics.
“What do you think of the party?” Gabe asked.
“It’s fine, I guess,” Kirk said, taking another drink from his beer.
Gabe snorted, “You do not sound like you mean that.”
Kirk found himself smiling again, then sighing as he tried to formulate an answer about how he actually felt. “Yeah, well. I guess the most surprising thing is it makes me feel the same way I always feel at parties.”
“Oh? How’s that?” Gabe asked.
“There are all these perfect gym bunnies and chiseled professionals, standing around together looking perfect, talking about their latest conquests. And then there’s me, being and doing none of those things, sticking out like a sore thumb.”
“We are really making the most of hand-related puns here,” Gabe said. After a beat, he added, “You know what Ronny Cammareri says about perfection in Moonstruck?”
“No,” Kirk said, “What?”
“We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die.” Gabe recited.
Gabe’s performance jogged Kurt’s memory, “Isn’t that when he’s declaring his love to Cher at the end?”
“Yep,” Gabe nodded.
“Doesn’t he then throw her over his shoulder and carry her up to bed?” Kirk asked.
“One thing at a time, Kirk. One thing at a time.”
James Drew Siegel
James Drew Siegel writes fiction influenced by his experiences navigating the world as a queer-identified trans man. Consultant by day and writer by night, he is about to relocate from Ohio to Denver with his beloved husband, three cats, and two dogs.