In Providence

In Providence: The DJ of Bowen Street

If you were walking down Bowen Street sometime in the spring of 2005, you may have been going for a leisurely walk and detected the low thrum of a beat pulsating as if a small rave were happening within walking distance of East Side Pockets.

The minor earthquake was courtesy of a boy whose name I can no longer remember, but with fondness, I think of him as The DJ.

We met at the Starbucks on Thayer one night as I was pretending to read a book while secretly trying to find Brown students I could date and one day marry, shamelessly pursuing a career as a trophy husband. If anybody even remotely resembled the child of a celebrity, I would look right at my copy of Infinite Jest and laugh as though I was on my third reading of it and still marveling at its insight.

That evening, barely anyone was in the Starbucks aside from a guy sitting across from me. He had headphones on — the large kind that went out of style, then back into style, then out, and now seems to be returning again. Nothing says “Please don’t talk to me” like covering up your entire ear with a sound-producing device while hunched over a laptop acting as though you’re trying to decipher nuclear codes.

Despite all that, when I smiled at him, he smiled back. Not only was he cute, but he was cute in that “I’m not Rhode Island” way that’s catnip to all gay men. The mere hope that we’ve met someone attractive who hasn’t slept with everyone we know yet is American Dream for all queer people. After the smile, he came over and asked if he could sit. We started talking, and he invited me back to his apartment on Bowen to check out his “sound system.”

If you’re listening to me tell a story and you want to know what age I was, just ask me what kind of career impressed me at that particular point in my life. You’ll find that the younger I was, the lower the threshold for knocking me out with your professional passion. When I was 19, I made out with a guy twice my age in a car with tinted windows outside the Providence Place Mall just because he told me he was the voice of all those club promotions that used to be on the radio.

You know–

This Sunday at Camelot, the cast of MTV’s Jackass is stopping to party at Providence’s only 18+ dance club that hasn’t been shut down for serving minors. Ladies are free before ten. All hats must be worn backwards.

We were in the car making out when one of his ads came on, and I think that’s the closest I’ll ever get to knowing what it must feel like to date Jason Derulo.

Back on Bowen a few years later, I entered the DJ’s apartment to find what I can only describe as American Psycho-meets-Hackers decor. There was no furniture. And when I say “no furniture,” I’m not being a snob and referring to a poor quality sofa. I mean there was no furniture.

The apartment was only two rooms and a bathroom. There was a small stove and a fridge in the living room, and that was it aside from a massive console and sound system that took up an entire wall. There were at least 10 screens, multiple keyboards, speakers and fans aimed at all of it to keep it from overheating. It looked like Dr. Claw’s lair from Inspector Gadget if he had been voiced by Skrillex.

In the adjoining room, which I believe was supposed to be a bedroom, there were pillows. Lots of pillows. Pillows covering up the floor and piled against the walls. There were some blankets, but not many, and the windows all had thick, red curtains covering them so that it gave the feeling of a genie’s bottle, and I cannot express to you how sexy I thought all of this was.

As soon as we walked in the apartment, I assumed the DJ was going to put on some music made for people who do ecstasy and pierce their nipples, and we were going to make out on the mountain of pillows under the light of his techno-mountain.

Instead, he said the seven worst words that can come out of a man’s mouth when he takes you back to his place–

Do you want to see something cool?

He tapped something into his keyboard and music started blaring so loudly I was sure that a S.W.A.T. team would raid the place in no time. Little did I know that he had soundproofed the entire place, which might have given me pause since here I was at some guy’s apartment without letting anyone know where I was, but considering how attracted I am to the killer in every single movie I’ve ever seen, it’s doubtful.

While the music was shaking loose the fillings in my teeth, every screen started to play its own unique light show. From god knows where, lasers began to fill the room, and I felt like I was in the middle of a botched jewel heist.

As all this was going on, the DJ seemed to go into some kind of zone wherein there was not a boy from Starbucks sitting on his floor trying not to have a seizure. He kept typing different words into one of his many keyboards, causing the music to get louder or more static, the lighting to strobe with a deeper intensity, and the lasers to fly by my eyeballs at a frightening speed.

By then, had he simply taken out a knife and proclaimed his intention to murder me, I probably would have thanked him for his mercy. I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t speak over the noise, and the only lights were coming from the Jordan’s Furniture backroom virtual show that was happening right in front of me.

While I nearly slipped into a coma, the DJ got up from his Circuit City office chair with the ams removed, took me by the hand, and led me into the Pillow Palace, where the two of us lay next to each other, kissed a little bit, and I listened (as best I could) while he explained how one day AI would be so advanced, we’d each be able to design our soulmates and humans would cease to marry each other. It took me a little while to realize that he wasn’t just regaling me with stories about the future, but actually laying out his life plan, which sounded like a dirty fanfic episode of The Jetsons where George and Rosie get a little too cozy.

Somehow, even with the Diplo version of the Battle of Normandy happening all around us, he fell asleep, and I showed myself out. I’d love to tell you I never went back, but we had swapped numbers on the walk to his apartment, and I proceeded to go over there at least five more times hoping for something more than cuddling in the padded cell where he slept. If I’m not mistaken, we managed to get as far as shirts off one night, but that was about it. Like most Brown affiliates, he either graduated or became a professional European hiker a few months later, and we lost touch.

I still have my memories — and probably some hearing loss.

To this day, when I walk down Bowen on my way to Insomnia Cookies for the fourth time in three days, I pass by the house where the DJ used to live, and the muscle memory causes my teeth to chatter so loudly, I’m surprised nobody can hear them.