First, there’s the fact that he can get me pretty much any item of apparel at a great price. But where, I ask you, is the victory in that? The second thing is that Preppy just can’t comprehend that I have no issue with wearing someone’s old shoes. It’s not like I buy them indiscriminately. There’s an art to incorporating other people’s junk into your existence. One must be particular.

At the Last-Chance Thrift Store on North Decatur, everything is half-price on Mondays. I hesitate to share that information, because it’s already a nightmare in there — hundreds of people pushing, shoving, snatching, behaving like extras angling for camera time in a disaster movie. It’s kind of awesome, and kind of a nightmare.

That’s where I was last Monday, thick in the gumbo of bargain hunters and yielding no results, when the surprise penis arrived. I only see two penises with any regularity — one is literally attached to my body, the other is metaphorically attached via a wedding ring — so the sudden appearance of a new one is startling.

It came via a text message, from a guy I’d known through work years ago. I hadn’t thought of him in ages. He, however, had obviously been thinking about me. The photo had been offered without comment, so I didn’t have a social cue to guide me. I would have been fine with something as simple as, “Look out, here comes a penis,” which at least would have allowed me to brace myself.

It’s a curious experience, standing in a sea of gently used half-price trousers, staring at an unexpected wang. My brain told me to stop looking at it, but just try not to gawk at a picture of someone’s junk when it’s right there in front of you.

Even more alarming was the realization that I would need to formulate a response. I considered reviewing it in some fashion: there were a couple of points of interest I could discuss. An expression of gratitude wasn’t really appropriate, but I wasn’t exactly angry about it. In the end, I went with, “Well, look at that.”

And then I stared at my phone, unmoving, for about three minutes. It’d been so long since I’d had to rebuff someone’s advances, I was getting a charge out of deciding exactly how I’d do it. Lightly bemused, but firm. That’s what I’d decided. Behave as though this sort of thing happens all the time, because I’m so dangerously desirable.

“OH MY GOD IM SO SORRY THAT WAS FOR ANOTHER TOPHER” was his eventual response. As much sense as that explanation made, I had not considered the possibility. I felt a little let down. For a moment, I’d been the sort of person who gets forbidden photos at four in the afternoon. But that was some other Topher.

I decided to let the text exchange end there, deleted the photo, and gave up on that particular day’s hunt. Not everybody’s junk is meant for you.


Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at

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