It was the end of the first half of Harbaugh Bowl, a.k.a. Super Bowl LVXII, and Kaep’s pass had just been picked off by Ravens safety Ed Reed. As a Giants fan, I had no skin in the game, but I was watching it at the house of a San Francisco 49ers fan. The scene at that moment was particularly grim. As Reed ran down the sideline, there was much lamentation, jumping up from sofas and rending of garments, particularly number #7 jerseys.
But it was also then, as the sofa cleared momentarily, that the coffee table—one of those glass top kinds common in the living room of men who haven’t bought new furniture since college—came into my view. And on that table, next to a desultory bowl of Tostitos and dented empty tall boys, was a platter of bright orange Buffalo wings. Glistening in the flickering light of the television screen, they were an orange jumble of limbs akimbo and entangled. It was chicken Fellini, an inflammatory orgy whose smell and steam rose like a side-lined athlete during a winter game. My lips began to twitch and press together. The fabric of my pants grew tighter and I slid a paper plate over my love-middle, both to hide my tumescence and prepare the bed for my wing conquête.
I was Jean Louis-David at the threshold of Le Bain Turc. The wings rested against each other in positions of extreme loucheness, circled around a milky pool of bleu cheese dressing, guarded only by straight, narrow celery stick eunuchs. I drew myself closer to the platter. I disregarded the football game. I took some girl’s seat. I knocked over a beer, sat on a cat, and didn’t file my taxes on time. I didn’t care. All I knew was that those wings and my mouth had to be inside one another.
Buffalo wings come in two varieties, wingettes and drumettes. Wingettes, also called flats, are like Nordic models, long and skinny with delicate bones. Drumettes, or drummies, are like this girl Lorenna I dated: curvy, darker, and meatier. Some people prefer one over the other, but I’m of the school that thinks that each offer their own pleasures. Wingettes, which take subtlety and effort to consume, are good for making love to. A drumette is the girl you wouldn’t let your mother meet, the girl who is crazy in bed, so crazy that for a while you love it, ”like really love it,” but then you sort of feel weird and then, finally, concerned. After a few months it’s too much, and rather than tackle the dilemma, is it more disrespectful to continue to engage in such outré sexual fantasies (even though you watch them on the internet) or to suggest professional help for proclivities shared in confidence? You just slowly disengage.
But man, those first couple of times! I chose a drumette. Coated in an unnaturally orange sauce like a poultry tan mom, my drummy was already wet. That’s a good sign, I thought, for nothing is as unattractive and rattling as an under-sauced wing. Nah, Lorenna had a fetching sheen of buttery, garlicky sauce, made of Franks RedHot and butter with garlic and habaneros, but it could have been sheer orange chiffon. Underneath, her skin was dark brown and crispy. Her silhouette was pleasingly like a light bulb. Search term: BBW.
I brought Lorenna to my mouth, gripping her gently at her base and at her head. Time had slowed for me and all noise had receded. The world beyond Lorenna was out of focus. All I saw was her bulbous flesh closing in on me as I took one bite of the wing, in the meatiest part of the thigh. My mouth began to tingle, my tongue to ripple. At every point on my face where Lorenna slimed, I burned. It was like some instantaneous and delightful sexually transmitted disease.
Dear reader, I ate her. I ate Lorenna in a matter of seconds. A second, maybe. She hung out in that unreal zone between rotund butteriness and sharp spiciness, between crispy skin and moist meat. Soon Lorenna was nothing but bones and gristle. I plucked up a second, then a third. I picked up a wingette and, using a speed-eater technique called “the butterfly,” I pushed so hard on her head, her skin and meat came off in one fell swoop, leaving but two tender bare bones. I ate her meat, gristle and all.
The burning continued and I didn’t want it stop. Ever. Even as my fingers were covered, the orange bleeding to my palms and wrists and forearms, from my lips, to my mouth and up to my nose. I didn’t want it to stop. Even as my stomach grew distended and full and the pile on the plate grew lonelier and fewer. Even as I knew I was transgressing some ancient party etiquette by eating an entire plate of wings, I could not stop. I felt the burn. Feel the burn. I felt the burn. I yearned for burn, blew my wad, waded with an orange warrior grimace, into the burn. I got up to pee, but when I returned, the burning had migrated below. It hurt, but Christ, what a pleasure to hurt like that.
The football game wore on, but I was balls deep in Buffalo wings and couldn’t care less. Beyoncé did some shit. Ray Lewis was outrageous. The Ravens won.
Soon after the game ended, the party disbanded. Already drunk and now sad, the guests sloughed away like dandruff on a windy shoulder to their homes. But I remained, in a drunken post-game, post-coital culinary stupor. It was just me and a plate of bones. I gazed down at the Buffalo wing graveyard. Using a finger, I drew a heart in the hot sauce there pooled and said, “Adios, Lorenna, see you next year.”