A Story by Michael the III

We first published Michael Rinaldi’s erotic illustrations in issue 12. Now the Montreal artist and icon returns with his alter ego, Michael the III, in this short story all about missing the party.
Published in issue 17.

Don’t be so dramatic, of course I’m still coming, I just want to know what everyone’s outfits look like. It matters because this is an important party. Is it really so hard to tell me observations about your own guests? Can’t you do that for me? Okay, okay, thank you, you won’t have to worry another minute about me. No, I don’t have a “history of lateness.” I’ve been a few hours late on rare occasions but I’m coming soon, don’t worry. Is Bruce there yet? Of course he is! And what is Bruce wearing? Oh is he? That’s clever, not to upstage the birthday boy like that. Okay. I’m leaving.

Michael the III was completely naked, but at this moment he considered himself prepared. Roughly 18% of last week’s spare time had been occupied brainstorming ideas for this look, and earlier this afternoon he steamed a shirt. Now knowing what the guests were wearing, he wanted to rethink his strategy. He sauntered into his bathroom (which was more like a living room with plumbing than anything else) to find inspiration, draping himself over a love-seat. He put his feet on a stool and the golden chihuahua that was once sitting peacefully, re-adjusted herself under his large feet. A cold cloth was placed over his face. It didn’t look like he would be out of the house soon, so he reached for his phone.

Well, I’m not exactly on the way, and of course I have a valid excuse, so excuse me if I add, “Don’t I always?” A lot of people would actually agree that a Twitter war is a good excuse. They take time. Do you really think I should just let it go when someone says Beyoncé isn’t iconic? And on her anniversary with Jay-Z! I can’t believe you’re bringing this up before the party. Maybe I shouldn’t come anymore. I am serious. You’re bothering me right now. Okay. You love me? Oh, you always know just what to say. I feel fine now, just fine. Well, of course I do too, didn’t I say it back? I’ll be there in an hour. Never mind my lateness, the important thing is that you know I have a reason. It means a lot to have your trust. Send my kisses to everyone. Yes, even Bruce, but only on one cheek. See you soon!

Michael the III’s mother once told him that inspiration comes when you’re least expecting it, and so he wandered about his room, patiently expecting the unexpected, though he did expect it sooner. He called his brother, Mercutio, but he was also preparing for a party and was too busy combing his hair to offer fashion advice. He could, however, confirm that Michael did not have a problem with lateness and that though he did think Michael was too harsh on that Twitter user, he agreed that a Twitter war was an acceptable reason to be late. It was not Michael’s fault, he confirmed. And just like that, the extra hour was up.

How is the party? Just how do you expect me to be there if the address on the invitation is smudged? If it were my birthday party, I’d check every card to ensure the information was provided. I’m not blaming you for my lateness, you’re being silly. I’m just lost because of it. How about I ask someone for directions to show you that I’m trying my best here? Stay on the line. Hello! Could you help me young man? I’m lost. I’m that far? Another hour until I get to the party? My boyfriend will be so disappointed. But he’ll understand, he’s the kind of supportive boyfriend you see at the start of romantic comedies. Well, now you’re just flattering me! These pants? Yes they are a bit snug in the crotch, I’m glad you noticed. I actually have been wearing my hair differently. Do you like it? My boyfriend doesn’t and—okay, OKAY. Did you hear he said “an hour”? Don’t wait to start drinks, but do not order food without me and tell Bruce he can’t sit in my seat. See you soon!

Michael wondered how he had gotten himself into this mess: he was dating a guy who refused to text. Not only did he refuse to text, but he found a phone plan that didn’t even offer texting. He pondered this mysterious choice as he drew a bath. It was much easier to evade via text. Phone conversations took more work. He started Titanic on his bathroom iPad and skipped past the opening credits, conscious of being economical of time. He slipped into the tub, not needing to remove any clothing beforehand, for he had not yet put any on. He painted his toenails, shampooed his chest hair and discovered from Cosmopolitan Magazine that he is a Carrie-Samantha hybrid, but he already knew that. Bored, he rested his head on a pillow and fell asleep. When he woke up, the Titanic was sinking and his phone had been ringing for several minutes.

Groggily, he answered.

I’m there! What’s this? No. I never lie! I wasn’t lying when I said kissing your brother was an accident and I’m not lying now. Well, I bet Bruce never lies. I bet he’s always early for parties. He can be early on account of having no style! Yes there’s something wrong with that, it’s creepy! And I know you two are having an affair. You’re always saying things like “Bruce adopted another dog” or “Bruce spent $10,000 on Oprah Chai Lattes this year which you know support charity.” Well maybe I just don’t like chai tea and maybe my chihuahua is too jealous to adopt another dog. Is that so bad? I’m not coming tonight, are you happy? You’re breaking up with me on your birthday! Now what should I tell my friends? What do you want me to say to everyone on Facebook? And to think that I’m only late because I was preparing your gift! Well, of course I had to bother with a gift, it’s your special day. Okay, okay, if you believe me then I do accept your apology. Just another hour! Yes, just one more. Just wait.

Michael hung up the phone and hopped out of the tub. The calmness he had nurtured for the past three hours was suddenly threatened by this newest lie. He ran frantically around looking for a gift. In the pocket of last winter’s coat he found $37, but even Michael knew it was an awful gift for a boyfriend. He came upon a cashmere scarf, unworn, but he was planning on looking forward to one day maybe adding it to his look. He found a set of facemasks, but he remembered his boyfriend was the type of person who didn’t rejuvenate his skin without posting a photo of it, and he couldn’t encourage that behaviour. Another hour passed and he was hysterical. He ran from room to room in his surprisingly affordable 70-bedroom apartment occupying the last five floors of a quaint waterfront tower, looking for a gift that said, “This took me four months to find, one month to wrap, you’re very welcome so please start shopping for mine because you’re already late.” But just as he was sprinting from bedroom to gift-room, his humble, innocent pinky toe caught the corner of a stool which Antiques Roadshow estimated at roughly £10,000 and he gasped, hopping in circles around it as he looked for his phone.

Yes, hello! If you stop yelling I can tell you why I’m still not there. My toe has been stubbed! Stubbed! STUBBED! Yes it actually is kind of serious in its own way because I’m in a lot of pain and it’s red. Yes, I did seek a medical opinion, my concierge came up to see. He is qualified! You don’t know this but he watches BBC all night long, and he’s had the job all winter, so that’s really like a master’s degree in knowledge which is nearly a PhD, which is technically a doctor. If he tells me to give it rest I’m going to believe him and not you. Yes, I’ll be alright, just don’t let me leave the house until it’s better. Can you do that for me? If I beg you to let me come over, no matter how much I talk about being there for you, force me to remain iced and elevated! I swear it won’t take long. But maybe it will. And if I don’t come, you need to save me some birthday cake, A PIECE WITH A FLOWER OR A NAME ON IT PLEASE. And then we should probably have a talk about the way you’ve been acting tonight…