Thursday, November 29, 2007

Check out my new book essay in the San Francisco Bay Guardian...

It's called Lust and Loss, and it's a review of three titles:

Landscape, by Christopher Russell
What Do Gay Men Want?, by David Halperin
Good Sex Illustrated, by Tony Duvert

Let me know what you think...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oh, red onions -- look at this gorgeous red onion!

For six years I invented dreams

One of those moments when I wish I could have my own laundry machine, because at first I thought yes, a day without someone else's poison detergent but now I'm awake in the middle of the night more sensitive, trying to get enough air except oh this poison detergent! Waking up from a dream where my father’s showing me how arousal works, his dick grinding into his pants he's thrusting like he's fucking someone in his jeans it's like a movie where he's standing in the sun the whole time, the light shining down I reach for his hand to place it against my dick and that's when I come, just like that in my jeans. Then I'm hiding in the study, which used to be the guest room until I renamed it for more sophistication like in the boardgame Clue or anything British. In the dream it's my room and my sister’s trying to get in to see what happened, unlocking the door you only needed a scissors just a push-button lock from the other side. I'm trying to push the door closed, except I'm realizing there’s no evidence and then I'm sleeping with papers arranged all around me, my writing in piles I'm wondering what my mother will take while I'm sleeping -- I realize it will be the wrong thing, and that's what she'll think is everything, this story about my father and I wanted it.

Waking up I'm thinking when was the last time I wore jeans? Blue jeans, only for tricks or briefly when I was 13, I acid-washed them with Clorox they never looked right. But really I'm thinking at least he's dead so that can't happen, but then I realize I actually did come, not just in the dream, and that's when I feel horrible like I can't believe this is where my attempts at rediscovering a sense of liberation in my own sexuality have led, to this terrible terrible place of coming in my sleep thinking of my father. I can't even remember the last time I came while I was sleeping. Often I wake up hard, just about to come, but really I need to piss. There was one period in New York when I would wake up with something caked in my balls I thought there was something wrong I mean I was really worried until I realized. I guess that means maybe I didn't have wet dreams as a kid, maybe because before sleep is when I would grind myself into the bed until there were stains.

Waking up from this dream is the first time I can remember feeling shame about my sexuality, I mean since realizing that everything wasn't shame I mean that there was something else. It feels different than the dreams I started having a few years ago where I would suddenly sexualize my father instead of the usual waking up in terror my body something I could never protect. Those new dreams felt empowering. Here it's something about the way the dream enters reality as this stickiness between my legs that makes me desperate and angry -- desperate because why can't I just have good sex, angry because here he is again he'll always be here.

Then I wonder if there's more to come, all of my sexual memories about my father are pain and horror -- probably there were parts that felt like safety or arousal too, until the inevitable broken body suffocation dissociation help. No help -- never any help. People always said we were so close, fathers and sons aren't always so close. I remember when my father told me he couldn't kiss me goodnight anymore because I was too old, in my memory I'm four but the house is the one where we moved a little later, maybe I'm five or six I don't know it's just that feeling of loss. Why, I asked, why -- it was because that's not what fathers and sons do, kissing goodnight that was the problem not dragging me downstairs hours after in a haze of suffocation I'm nothing but the way everything can go black and then white and then black again the eyes in my walls faces in the blankets that's where I kept fear.

I was the problem for wanting that kiss, wondering if the end of that kiss meant the end of. The end of. I never wondered that. I knew that nothing ever ended except love.

But here I am fantasizing about my father, my father and my dreams in the sun like a spotlight he's everything a ‘70s porn model could want. I grab his hand, it's the pressure that undoes my pressure the pressure for release. One of the first guys I ever hooked up with off the phone sex line, he was into massaging my feet I got so embarrassed because that made me come in my pants I didn't know that was something I could say aloud -- suddenly I had to leave like a kid I felt like a little kid. I was 18, this was after years of trips to public bathrooms but something about a different kind of intimacy in a bed I was scared I wasn't performing correctly. I mean I wasn't attracted to him, but still I remember the look on his face when I said I had to go, or not the look but the way it made me feel so sad like I was disappointing him.

I can't remember when I realized my mother was reading my journal I had to hide it, before or after my sister there were no boundaries I knew there were no boundaries still I wanted. Once I wrote I HATE MY SISTER in huge letters, really I just wanted her to stop reading my journal -- she still remembers this, she's the one who reminded me it's amazing how thinking about her shock and sadness can make me feel like the most horrible person in the world, I mean now, even if I know there were no options we didn't have options. Things are different now, in some ways things are different now except I'm still thinking about sitting with my sister in the car outside of Whole Foods in LA, a few months after our father died, and she said yes she was there in DC for my father and that was okay, that's why she was there and when I asked why she couldn't ask him, not once in 11 years, not once in 11 years could she ask him whether he sexually abused me. Not once.

And she said: can you imagine how he would have reacted?

My sister’s a therapist now -- first my father, then my mother, now my sister. A while back, when I told my sister about my blog, she said at first I felt angry that you didn't have my side of the story, but then I realized that wasn't fair that this was for you, and I felt like I was reading your diary.

I said: I can imagine how he would've reacted, but I still wish you had asked him whether he sexually abused me. That still would have meant something to me. No one has supported me, everyone acted like he was the one who needed support and that's why it was so hard for me when he was dying to see how you wanted to protect him from me.

I don't mean to bring this up again, it's just that betrayal circles me I’m thinking about when they said I had to start going to therapy, I was 12. This was a requirement -- they wanted to know what I wasn't telling them. I would talk to the therapist, and then they would talk to the therapist to find out what I was talking about.

I knew all of this, that's why for six years I invented dreams. The therapist was actually responsible, he would ask me what I wanted him to tell them, and that's all he would say. Even though children don't have rights, the therapeutic vow doesn't apply to children. He never said that, but still I knew I could never trust him. Once, he said my parents were worried about my eating, that I wasn't eating. I remember pretending shock -- how would I have all this energy if I wasn't eating? He said sometimes not eating can give you energy, just like eating.

That was the most confrontational he ever got -- I wish I could've trusted him, that I could've talked about sex with men in bathrooms, about getting up in the middle of the night and going to the kitchen in a sugar panic, eating cookies and then freaking out because I was eating cookies, throwing them in the trash but then digging them out of the trash so then I had to throw water on them, but then I'd still take them out so then I had to mix cigarette ashes into the wet cookies in the bottom of the trash. I wish I could've talked about how much I wanted to leave, whether this was possible. I wish I could've talked about fantasies of being getting gang-raped fuck by all the boys who used to call me faggot.

There was one thing that kept coming up the last several years I saw that therapist, something that kept coming up in the dreams even though they weren't actual dreams but still I guess they were something in my subconscious, a lot of crabs on beaches and tidal waves -- this feeling that I was trapped, and that if I ever tried to get out of that trap I'd end deeper into despair maybe I'd never get out.

I guess it was only another few years before I actually remembered I was sexually abused, safer on the West Coast with 3000 miles between me and that therapist, I mean my parents. When I went back to visit my father before he died, I thought about going to see that therapist, making an appointment just to tell him everything that had happened. I wanted to know what he remembered about me as a kid, as a teenager, what he had wondered that he had never asked. I wanted to know why he had never asked.

It surprised me that my mother didn't want me to visit him -- the therapist, I mean, the therapist I used to see. I know she always felt resentful that he didn't tell her what she wanted to know, but that wasn't the reason. I'm trying to remember how she phrased it, something about how Barry and his wife had been over the house for dinner -- I think that's what she said, what she said that made me feel unsafe again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Glamour glamour glamour

You may notice a new look for this blog -- yay!

In addition, my homepage has moved to a new URL --

That's right -- it's now mattildabernsteinsycamore.com -- I thought you'd like that better (I know I do).

And guess what? There's more archived writing, everything will be updated more frequently, and of course there's more glamour glamour glamour -- let me know what you think of it...

And, by the way, this is all thanks to the stylings of the sassy Harris Kornstein -- if you need any web design drama, I'm sure he would love to hear from you...

Days when I need to get back in bed

Days when listening to music just makes me want drugs, any music just different kinds of drugs maybe a cocktail instead of lines except cocktails always lead to lines that's why I don't drink cocktails I need to get back in bed. Actually I don't even know what cocktails mean anymore it's been so long since I've had a cocktail I can't imagine anything except first that rush, oh that rush that rush. Yes. Then I can sit there and inhale the rest like breath it's never breath it's never breath it's never breath.

My one block walk down the sidewalk, across the street, around the corner and back -- thinking this is the time when I'm going to get hit by a car, even if I stand close to the buildings there's a car that's going to slide off the sidewalk and slam me against the wall in pieces I'm already in pieces how would I ever feel? Okay I made it.

Now: I shouldn't have gotten up today why did I get up I shouldn't have gotten up. Twelve hours in bed and all I get is time to cook before I get back in bed so that I can get up and eat, that's how it feels. I don't like cooking. I don't like eating. I don't like spending all this time on my hair, thinking I'm going somewhere to feel better and then the only place I'm going is back to bed.

But I do like the bed, oh I like the bed oh.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I felt I'd never get rid of this rage

It's almost comforting to express a sudden gratefulness to my father for allowing me to use his office, I imagine that maybe he wanted to give me something without terms. But now that he's dead it's so tempting to revise my past feelings to meet my place in the world at this particular moment. Like my 15-year-old self didn't really know what was going on. Too often now I see people I respect looking at others they might have been 10 years before as if their younger selves couldn't possibly know anything. This is the way personal history gets rewritten.

Sometimes it feels like my mouth was shut before it was open, that before I could speak my father had already moved terror in -- there is no memory without memory there is no memory. I'm trying to say something and he's holding everything.

As a kid I was always in pain, of course this sounds familiar just that pain moves around and reappears in different spaces. This pain was my body a broken toy, my head filled with glue, my dreams just more pain to make the other pain less painful. I didn't believe I would ever feel hope that felt like hope.

When I started going to my father's office on weekends, it was part of the battle we fought whenever we spoke, if I turned colder than the heat of his rage, except in the other direction, could I flip the balance and overcome? He knew he was losing me though still he could hold onto his educational attainment status-driven achievement; I still meant he was succeeded.

What I want to say is that his office was part of what kept me there I wonder if he knew that -- I had already started to think about leaving, if only someone had told me I had the tools but that I would barely survive, I would have left in a second just to avoid three four more years of suffocation. No dreams in the upper middle-class dream. But remember how I thought I needed to beat him on his terms, before I could do anything else? That was what kept me there, kept me under his threats about everything financial once he knew the rest was over it was a battle to see what he could own. When he'd threaten not to pay for college I thought what a joke I knew what he would never let go of -- my neck, I didn't know what was me and what was pain, me -- no that was the past the past I didn't remember the memory all of this rage I felt his rage I felt I'd never get rid of this rage.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So much writing, I better give you more pictures -- more decorations in my apartment...



Imagine not in the fictitious sense

(I'm starting to feel an arc all this writing -- starting with the writing I did when I went to visit my father before he died, continuing with the writing about trying to regain a sense of hope in my own sexuality and now this writing about childhood and growing up -- I can feel that all of it together is going to become some sort of book in some form or another. I'm starting to think of things I've written elsewhere, parts of them that makes sense in this project which is my life to of course -- I started to write about my father's office, then I thought of my introduction to Best Gay Erotica 2006 when I was the judge and the writing I did about cruising bathrooms which were on the way to my father's office, it's fun to cut and paste and think about how things can be arranged inside and outside and around all of this, I'm excited!)

But I want to tell you about my father's office, it all started when my sister and I would meet him there after school so he could drive us home. His patients weren't supposed to see us -- anonymity in the psychiatric practice -- so we would wait upstairs where there was a roof deck and a little library where people would discard old magazines. That's where I discovered Interview, when Lauren wasn't there I would jerk off thinking about whatever new discovery on those hallowed New York streets of radical possibilities I was desperate for the explosion of so many interactions I craved.

The first time I had sex in a public bathroom was on the way to my father's office, at Woodie’s department store. I stopped at the Woodie’s makeup counter to look for a suitable base to cover up my acne, and the salesperson asked if I was shopping for my mother. I could feel my face turning red. The only thing I could bring myself to ask about was the Evian Brumisateur, spring water in a metal can with a nozzle that sprayed out a fine mist. I bought some: maybe gay consumerism hit me early.

But back to the bathroom, I was standing at a urinal right next to someone, which made me nervous but my father was always yelling at me to get used to it, what was I so afraid of, any normal kid would just pull it out and piss. Normal kids had been calling me faggot since I could remember, way before I knew what it meant. I’d go home to my father screaming at me about everything else. He didn’t even know that I jerked off to pictures of guys in onionskin shorts, that I planned to live in an East Village commune, that at thirteen I already searched frantically for the right cream to eliminate the bags under my eyes.

But back to the urinal, I was staring straight ahead at the wall so I wouldn’t get accused of looking, but I could still see what was next to me, which was this guy’s dick sticking straight out after he dropped his right hand. My heart started pounding, I didn’t know how to breathe. My dick got hard and I covered it with my hands. I stood there for a while, facing straight ahead with my eyes looking diagonally down to the left. I didn’t know what to do. I dropped my left hand.

I reached over to touch this guy’s dick, and he reached for mine. Someone came in, I stuffed my dick into my pants and practically ran. Never again, I promised myself. Never again.

I was back a week later, then several times a week throughout high school. Woodie’s Friendship Heights, Woodie’s downtown, Mazza Gallery, Georgetown Park, Georgetown Public Library, Bethesda Public Library. Always promising : never again.

I want to say that every time I came, it was an explosion of unbridled passion. I want to say that every time I looked into the eyes of some old guy with pasty skin standing next to me, tongue flicking in and out of his mouth in anticipation of my eager erection, I was in heaven. I want to say that every time I saw some man shaking out of fear and longing, sweat appearing in the armpits of his starched shirt, I wanted to hold him.

The truth is that I grew up in a world that wanted me dead, in a family that was ready to kill me, except then who would be around to carry on the family name? Kids had been calling me sissy for so long -- I knew about gender deviance, but I didn’t know how to claim it. What I knew is that I didn’t want to feel, that if I just kept going back to the bathrooms, holding my body shut while men opened their mouths down there, then maybe I would win.

Winning meant defeating my father on every front—doing better in school, going to a more prestigious college, getting a higher-paying job. This was the late-’80s that seemed like the tail end of a decade of greed, oh if only it had been the end!. And winning also meant learning not to feel, because then I wouldn’t have to remember my father splitting me open, over the sink in the basement, with all that mold entering my nostrils, when I was a broken toy. I’d already blocked that out, now I just needed to conquer my desires and then no one would be able to erase all my accomplishments with a single word.

Faggot. My sex life started with guilt and shame and grabbing that guy’s dick in the Woodie’s bathroom, it felt so huge and warm and spongy. My sex life started with the urinals, usually me and some old white guy with puckering lips or a business type with a briefcase on the floor between us. Was I attracted to them? I was hard, I wanted to come, I didn’t want to feel it.

I graduated from urinals to stalls after this one guy waved me in; when I pulled down my pants he put his hands under my shirt. Someone entered the bathroom, this guy sat on the toilet and pulled me onto his lap. Shh, he said. He hugged me and this flooded me with so much sensation. But I could feel his dick pressing up against me, I was afraid that it would get inside, that I would get AIDS. When the other guy left, I slid away, pulled up my pants, opened the stall door, and hurried out. Soon I heard the guy behind me, looked back to see his curly hair and glasses, black overcoat with brown leather shoulder bag. I literally ran—out the door and through the parking lot, up the hill and over to my father’s fateful fucking office.

In some ways those bathrooms were my first safe gay spaces—or not safe, really, but more comfortable than the rest of the world. I discovered a hidden culture of foot tapping and notes written on toilet paper, wrapped around pens, and passed underneath stall walls. I imagined entire worlds around shoes and socks and ankles, the texture of hands, the skin underneath wristwatches, the pattern of hair on thighs. I pressed my body against metal partitions while guys on the other side offered hands and tongues and lips and mouths.

Once I brought a guy to my father's office, the doorman gave us a knowing look I wondered what he knew. I was shaking when this guy and I took off our clothes, his crotch smelled like Dial, the way his eyes were so blue they matched his shirt, afterwards he wanted a paper towel. This was a turning point because in that moment I wanted him to love me. I couldn't remember his name.

I grew bolder, cock against cock or my hand cupping his balls. At the Georgetown Public Library, I would kneel on the floor when no one was around and inhale the smell of stale piss. I came all over the floor of the bathroom at Mazza Gallery, right in the center of the room, halfway between the stalls and the sinks, and left it there. I led guys into stairwells and parking lots, I jerked guys off in the safety of their cars. One guy wanted me to meet his wife, another handed me his business card: Capitol Hill. Just after I learned to drive, I picked a guy up at a gas station, by leaving my hand at my crotch a little too long and then moving my gaze to the hill across the street. It wasn’t a hill, really, just some landfill between buildings, but we jerked each other off in the sun anyway. He pulled way too hard.

My father's office became my hideout on weekends like my own apartment in the city, or actually a half block across the Maryland line but still. Erik and Kayti and I would drink pitcher after pitcher of margaritas at Las Rocas, then smoke as much pot as possible and sing the words to “Jane Says” until we passed out. I had the passcard to the front door, and the key to the office, which was really a studio apartment with a wall built in to create a waiting area for patients. He didn't know I was using the office until Erik or Kayti burned a hole in the rug with a cigarette, he said have you been in my office? I said no. He said what is this cigarette burn in the rug? I said that must've been one of your patients.

But his patients didn't smoke in the office anymore, so I had to admit it -- I tried a different tactic: you don't want me to drive home drunk, do you? Remember logic, how it was his weapon? Well, sometimes this worked in my favor.

So his office became my apartment on weekends, sometimes when I didn't have anywhere to go I would go to his office, sit at his desk, drink a few beers and stare into space. I felt very adult, adult meant sadness; I had always felt that. At least now I could stare into space and think about how I had nowhere to go -- but I’d always done that. Then what felt different? Maybe I was starting to imagine sitting somewhere else, imagine not in the fictitious sense but in the sense of creating something to hold onto.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

That conversation about childhood but something would always happen

Less Than Zero was supposed to be an anti-drug movie, but for weeks after I saw it all I could think about was cocaine -- Robert Downey Jr. lighting up in the car oh that was me, lighting up that act of desperation I knew that feeling so well. You can take it further, that's what the movie was saying to me -- it all ends when they catch Robert Downey Jr. in bed with some guy and someone scrawls FAGGOT on the walls of his apartment no I think house of course I knew all about that too. He looked so hot in the bed with everything strewn around, I couldn't say that. I wanted to make sure no one was looking at me, but I didn't want to look like I was looking. We were at home -- me and Lauren and Scott and Carrie -- Scott and Carrie were the Philips’ kids, Dave Philips was my father's best friend from childhood.

Afterwards we went to dinner at a Szechuan restaurant, I can't imagine what I ate since back then I didn't eat much but I remember there were a lot of mirrors like in the movie, mirrors meant cocaine I need that now. And we were by ourselves, without our parents, or maybe they had a separate table. Scott, who was the oldest -- maybe 15 -- said something about ice, ice was in the news right then -- a designer drug destructive like none other, you did it once and it took over your life, worse than crack because it was rich people who did it. Scott had seen people doing ice, it didn't ruin their lives or at least he didn't think so -- drugs weren't as dangerous as people said. But did it really look like ice?

I didn't ask that question -- I was way too concerned with appearing worldly. Anyway, I'd seen an article in Time Magazine and ice looked like diamonds in a plastic case. After we watched Less Than Zero, I knew I could never do cocaine because otherwise I would never be able to do anything else. Alcohol and pot still worked well enough for me to get to the ceiling, I could smoke a cigarette like Robert Downey Jr.'s crack pipe, thinking about those eyes. Don't get me wrong -- I really didn't think about Robert Downey Jr. that much after that, even though I was already going to bathrooms every day after school, where older men would suck my dick I would try to disappear. Although I did wonder how much Robert Kennedy Jr.'s character in the movie blended into his life, soon he was in rehab the tabloids were talking.

This was a period where drugs saved my life, it was as simple as that. Those weekends when I could float away, how else would I have possibly been able to stay around I mean alive? Weekdays it was only a little bit of Vivarin or NoDoz I didn't want to get messy except on weekends, a few cigarettes to keep things even. It helped that I didn't eat because otherwise I wouldn't have any energy, I knew that because when I ate a bagel or a salad I already felt worse. Weekends were for dancing and passing out, adventures in world we were not supposed to enter oh how I loved those moments when I could lean back without even leaning, my head another constellation in the stars.

Later in high school, after I ate a little more and drank more too, I thought of all of this as Sadly Beautiful like the Replacements song, no actually that's how I saw my friendships. We were all privileged overachiever kids who felt hopeless under the weight of our parents, the weight of expectations their rage and violence we hated our parents we hated our drive to beat them to win to do better we wanted collapse we would never have it. We dreamed of something else we didn't know what it was, we fetishized addiction we believed in its power to help us we didn't know what to believe. We believed in our lives away from our parents, even if this just meant Friday night through Sunday evening -- the later we stayed out, the better. We discovered noise and laughter, warehouse parties and clubs, elaborate strategies to get fake IDs or just to get inside, rides from people we didn't know, trips through areas of the city we could barely imagine, waking up in houses we'd never been to before, waking up and going somewhere to get something to eat, maybe a bagel and cream cheese and a cigarette.

Drugs became a world to hold onto, a world where getting up the stairs was an adventure, and everyone carried secrets in their eyes. Ecstasy revealed hidden layers of light beyond darkness, softness in yearning, a lifetime of hope in a Michael Jackson song. I grew up in a world of sadness and longing, and drugs brought me somewhere I could crash from. Mushrooms made me lean out the window and scream I couldn't find myself -- almost literally, I called my own answering machine to find me but still I did them again I appreciated the new landscape. Back then pot would still get me so high I’d almost have visions, passing out in the back of the 24-hour Dunkin Donuts, this was college. I woke up and then I actually did escape, all the way across the country to San Francisco which was lonelier and more desperate and filled with possibilities so explosive I could feel myself changing every day. The first time I did crystal it was just something someone offered me at a club in exchange for pot. It made me laugh a lot and almost fall down at Safeway while I was eating muffins out of the bulk bins. Later I tried it again because the music wouldn’t get good at clubs until 4 a.m., but especially at 6 a.m. when the EndUp opened -- by then I was fading even with lots of soy lattes and chocolate covered espresso beans. So the second time I did crystal the world opened up -- just a few bumps and I could dance until noon.

The problem was the crash -- everything became the crash and it was hard to even conceptualize pleasure without a bump, this would happen every time and I would try to go as long as possible without, just when maybe the crash was fading I’d do another bump. This was when I learned to hate drugs, or at least to hate crystal I kept trying to find coke -- with coke you did a few bumps and then went to bed, that was all. This was 1993 and the only people with coke were old-school tricks and yuppies in North Beach. But everyone had crystal, this was speed but not the ice from Time Magazine -- no display case, a drug dealer could roll a quarter gram into the wrapper where a stick of chewing gum used to be. Juicyfruit, if the drug dealer was feeling sassy. Who wouldn’t want a stick of Juicyfruit, late at night in an after-hours club? Except for the crash, oh the crash -- this was when I became a bad druggie because I was always trying to take care of myself -- chamomile tea at the club, trying to eat afterwards, staying awake all day so that my sleep pattern wouldn't be disrupted. I always crashed harder than anyone else. Coke was like candy, I did coke to quick coffee. Literally.

I fled crystal, cross-country even arriving in Boston for a couple of cocktails, maybe a few bumps of coke to get things started, Xanax to take off the edge, Special K to bring it all out of focus, ecstasy to get that feeling of moving diagonally upwards and back. It was all about the eyes—you know what I mean. After-hours meant taking e just before sunrise, then smoking pot until the world vanished.

In New York, coke was everywhere, people did so much that their eyes popped out and then they went to work. I hated New York, this was 1998 Giuliani time consumer culture unquestioned even in counterculture -- by this point I hated drugs too, drugs just made me sad I was always trying not to do them until the third cocktail and then I’d do anything to get white powder up my nose. This is when I developed the fantasy of being strung out with my sister. It wasn't a fantasy out of nowhere – I’d go over my sister's apartment and there would be a mirror on the table with a pile of white powder almost like in Less Than Zero but the apartment was much smaller, a pile of white powder but I was always trying not to do drugs.

Later at night or later in the week, after the third cocktail I’d call Lauren and say do you want to meet up? It was always too late at night, she had to go to work but she wasn't like the 4 a.m. bar crowd at least not on weekdays, weekends were busier for both of us. Once I went out with her and her friends, maybe it was her birthday we were at one of the bars in the East Village that I’d never dreamt of going inside, she and her friends kept heading to the bathroom with the vial and I thought why not? She handed it to me and I did a huge bump out of the lid and wow this was the good stuff, when they all went to bed I was still so wired I remember sitting in Union Square after the sun had come up, this was hours and hours later after doing way more of the terrible stuff too, the stuff with too much laxative that I usually did. The problem with coke was that only the first bump was fun, but the worse it got after that the harder it was to stop.

But I want to tell you more about this fantasy, it's a fantasy of collapse but also care. You see, it's the two of us alone in all of our terror and rage and desperation but there’s hope because we have each other the way drug addicts take care of one another, adding on the fact that we’re a brother and sister team. Even if it's just so that we can do another bump and then talk about childhood when we're crashing and holding one another. Sadly beautiful.

When we both lived in New York, we always planned to have that conversation, that conversation about childhood but something would always happen, we’d talk about something else and then just when we got to the deep and scary parts, Lauren would have to go. Or she wouldn't show up, trapped in her apartment with only the best cocaine, she could order in groceries. It's a fantasy I still hold onto, the conversation-about-childhood part, neither of us does drugs anymore. It was so hard to see her when my father was dying, I mean our father -- I'm so used to saying my father, even though I don't want him. Or I didn't want him, before he was dead.

It was so hard to see Lauren then, because my fantasy is about us against the world, just like when we were kids, but seeing her in that house where we grew up she was with them. I'm still getting over that.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Studying

What’s most depressing is how many people say happy Thanksgiving when I'm walking down the street, first it's the woman who's with the guy who says something to me and I look at him to figure it out. Oh, he just looked me up and down and said you’re a mess. He's clearly the mess, practically nodding off just standing there -- walking away I realize it made me sad when he said you're a mess, I guess because I was looking at him with some sort of openness. I thought of saying look who's talking, but instead I said thanks, darling. It's the girlfriend who says happy Thanksgiving from behind me, I lift my hand a little to show that I've heard but otherwise I don't respond. Then I feel sad that I didn't return her wishes, she was probably embarrassed for her boyfriend and wanted to say something nice.

Back at home, I call the phone sex line, just to see -- I'm trying to resist talking like everyone else, with that efficient masculinity I've unfortunately learned -- I mean, I've been calling phone sex lines since I was 15. The first ones were recordings, a woman talking about that big, fat peppermint stick ooh I want to suck on that peppermint stick. After that it all went live. I used to actually hook up from phone sex lines, but now it's about one out of a hundred calls -- I mean literally. Anyway, I'm trying to sound more like myself and less like someone playing the rules, because the rules don't serve me they're serving someone else. It's hard to avoid changing my voice to hey-what's-up-speak, I have to record my message a few times before I actually sound like me -- I say: I'm not looking for turkey, I just want your come down my throat -- you can eat mine too. And then I'm laughing a bit on the message, I like that.

Oh -- but who else says happy Thanksgiving? The woman dealing crack who I talked to once, the drunk guy with a pink face, the guy standing outside the Turkish restaurant, the guy who works at the convenience store across the street from me. All of these people in my short walk -- is it really a happy Thanksgiving for all of these people? But back to the phone sex line -- that's a happy Thanksgiving, I scroll through the callers -- eleven, more than I would have expected. Before the internet there were always 35, which was the maximum the line could take, but now it never goes above the teens, sometimes there are only six or seven. I listen to everyone's messages -- the usual -- I'm about to hang up, but I actually get a response, this guy says he's 31 and Latino, I sound hot -- and oh, my name’s Jorge, he says at the end -- I like that part, a human touch. I like having sex with humans.

So then we make plans to hook up, he says he's coming over in a cab -- suddenly I'm wired, like I can't focus on anything, even though I'm not sure he’s really going to show. I put a sheet over my comforter so that I don't have to change the whole bed, eat some more, put my toothbrush out so I can brush my teeth right before he arrives, and -- I'll admit it -- I put on house music. I'm not embarrassed about living for house music, I mean the right kind of house music -- but it's kind of cheesy to throw down the pumping bass right before the pumping. I check the time, figure if more than a half hour passes then I'll forget about it, but then he’s actually here.

There's the awkwardness when he enters and I'm studying his face, I'm wondering if this is what cheek implants look like. He’s a circuit queen type in his mid-40s, but he's cute enough -- I wish we lived in a world where someone could say he’s in his mid-40s, and actually hook up on the phone sex line. I'm not sure he’s that into me either but I hug him and kiss his neck, hoping his cologne will wash off and pretty soon we're on the bed I can tell he’s most fascinated by my dick, which is -- um, a lot larger than his eight inches, but I'm not stressed out about that kind of thing. He angles my dick up against his ass and that's hot enough, his ass is one of those that could certainly be called a bubble, in the language of gay pickups -- I remember someone asking me a while back: does that mean it's a bubble inside, or outside? Bubblicious, like chewing gum -- salty salty chewing gum!

What's funny is that this guy doesn't really like to suck that much, we're in the 69 position I'm certainly going all the way he keeps jerking me really fast I keep grabbing his hands so he'll stop but he’s jerking harder and faster anyway and then dammit I'm coming already. I guess that's what he wanted, because he gasps then he's coming on me, he has one of those bodies where everything is round -- steroids, the gym, creatine, I'm not sure if that's the order.

I'll admit I'm annoyed at him for getting me to come so fast -- I'm neurotic about wanting to come at the exact right moment, so I can get to that high where I can hardly open my eyes not just the oh-what's-next. Turns out he's in a rush to get to the Thanksgiving dinner, but he likes the photos on my walls, he glances at the wall of books and says what do you study? He’s studying my face for something, I'm not sure exactly what. He says what are you doing tonight? I'm going to hide inside. He says you’re going to get high? Then he adds: not that there's anything wrong with that -- that's what makes me think he's sober. I say no, I actually don't do drugs, but I don't repeat myself about hiding since he didn't get it the first time.

I like this moment at the end, one minute of conversation with someone random who I’ll never really know anything about but it feels comfortable -- that's what I like, the comfort in little tiny pieces of knowledge. But what do I study? Good question -- afterwards I'm in the shower for a while, I want to make sure that none of the cologne remains, tearing up my sinuses when I'm trying to sleep. The first half of the shower is relaxing -- I'm thinking I'm ready to go out! Then the second half I crash, thinking how do I get out of this shower? Then I'm walking extra-slow like there's no energy left, how am I going to do anything? But then I eat, and eat more, and then I actually feel calm even though I'm still wiped out. I think that's the first time I've had sex in like a month, which is crazy -- I mean, I jerked off with that guy hugging me from behind at the Nob Hill Theatre, but that was more like jerking off with someone there. Other than that, it's been at least several weeks -- the thing about having sex that's even somewhat satisfying is that then my body’s ready for more, but I feel calm about it

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What the hell is this?

I'm not sure what the point of that nap was, except to clear my head for maybe a half hour. The half hour ended a half hour ago, I'm supposed to write something now about how it's funny that, even though I never hook up on craigslist, the fact that I've banned myself makes me feel like I'm missing something. I mean I keep thinking how am I going to hook up? I guess it's the way the options keep feeling more and more limited, I used to have places that were dependable -- the Power Exchange or Buena Vista Park here in San Francisco up until 2000 or 2001, I can't believe I'm saying the Power Exchange was dependable -- see how everything just gets worse! Blow Buddies sometimes, except it was always depressing too. Or the Fens in Boston 1995, walking between reeds oops don't fall in the water -- that was gorgeous except for everybody's disdain. Basic Plumbing in Seattle 1997, except then I thought no sex club could get worse than that. Even the horrible place known as the West Side Club, New York 1998, that was dependable then. The Cock, oh I miss the backroom at the Cock -- not that I would even be able to go there if it still existed in the same space, because of all the smoke!

I guess there's no use mythologizing, when even at the best of times most of these places were terrible zones of conformity to the masculine norms I've always despised, still I found so much beauty. I can't find it anymore, that's the problem, and the other problem is that I don't know what else to do, I mean where else to search for that passion in the moment except really I want it to last. I keep thinking of these ideas that seem great -- like oh, I'll learn how to pick people up in bars -- but I hate bars, there's always smoke that destroys my life, I can barely even convince myself to go to one. I write certain places in my datebook, and the date just goes by. But then the worst thing -- the worst thing is when I don't have any energy at all except for a few random moments in the day, any sexual energy or any other energy except exhaustion, I guess exhaustion is a form of energy but then I can't help wanting sex to save me anyway, help save me help! It never works. I don't even know where I'd go if I did have energy, except to walk in circles at the Nob Hill Theatre or to look in people's eyes in my neighborhood, wait maybe this person -- he's looking at me, but no he’s not turning back. I could run down the street -- attention commuters, stalker in a red dress, a red dress stalker, red dress red dress I see red, dress!

I know what you're thinking -- maybe it's not passion in the moment that you're looking for, maybe you want something else. Of course I want something else -- I want everything else! And I also want passion in the moment. I was talking to Chris about going to the faerie house for their Thanksgiving, gross I don't even like saying that word but that's what they call it -- even a huge carcass on the table and everyone grabs chunks and wanders around. Actually there are all different kinds of carcasses -- vegetables too, but literally the grease from the flesh is dripping on them.

But wait: the appeal, I was getting ready to talk about the appeal. Well, let's back up -- they used to have a night there called Tuesday Sucks, a sex party every Tuesday and what was amazing about it was that people actually talked, talked and then had sex, and had sex and then talked, and freaks were an item instead of -- well, freaks. I mean we were still freaks, but we were an item, okay -- an item! Anyway, it was kind of sweet, even when the conversation was a bit airy. The night went on for years, but I guess they stopped maybe around 2001 -- by then the conversation was getting worse -- less Goddess bless her and more mainstream gay crystal catastrophe sex club masculinity. My worst memory: this guy was sitting in the hot tub, I want to say that he was wearing an Army shirt, but wait he was in the hot tub -- see how memory works! Anyway, he was talking about joining the military -- oh, that's why I remember the shirt, maybe he was wearing the shirt later? Anyway, in the hot tubs he was saying how it was going to be pretty difficult because he didn't know how he felt about being closeted but he was up for the challenge, he wanted to serve his country. I can't remember if this was before or after the war on Iraq, but the point is that these faeries sat there and listened and offered sympathetic advice -- I mean, I've been around all kinds of apathy, but that was just crossing the line into complicity.

So, anyway -- most events at that house have a similar dynamic -- a sweetness that goes somewhere but, um, maybe sometimes to the wrong places like there’s a numbness around that critical thinking area. But still people generally treat each other like humans, that's pretty rare in gay sexual spaces. Thanksgiving is the low-key event, it's supposed to be some kind of family-type thing -- how lovely that the alternative family can celebrate, well -- you know. Thanksgiving has always been one of the grossest days to me -- in high school I started fasting, but then I couldn't do it anymore because I'd get too hypoglycemic -- one year I had a breakdown after seeing that Queen Latifah movie where everyone gets shot at the end. So now I generally try to hide in my house, or maybe cook dinner with a few people.

The faeries are a strange group of people because they celebrate gender transgression but so many of their events are closed to people they consider women. For some reason Genocide Day is one of the exceptions. So Chris wanted me to go with him, and I actually thought about it -- I didn't want to go in the hot tub, because of the chlorine, and I didn't want to check my clothes in exchange for a towel to wander around in the sex space, because I'm having way too much body drama to be naked around people I might know. Isn't that weird -- I don't have a problem being naked around random people, but around people I know I get all self-conscious like they'll know my history and they'll see that I can't exercise and what that means to me. They'll see that I'm failing. But I was still thinking of going and saying hello and trying to avoid the carcasses, living and dead, and keeping my clothes on, but then I remembered that people smoke pot inside, and that would ruin my sinuses and I just can't risk that.

Why does a nap give me more pain, wrists ready to snap off no not snap -- maybe break? Then my sinus drama is so intense I'm wondering about the mold I need to do something about the mold at least I need to find out what exactly is going on. I finally talked to someone in the city office responsible for citing buildings, but they won't write any citation unless the mold is visible, and then the only thing they do is make the building make it invisible. So they’re not going to help me. It's times like this I mean times like this every day when I start thinking what if I need to move out -- I mean, where would I move anyway -- move without mold, move when my apartment is finally almost together and one of the few things that fills me with calm is to open my up my eyes and look out these beautiful windows, all the buildings and so much sky beyond. The fire escape, my own private beach. It's hard enough for me to get out of the house, let alone move -- are you kidding? No, I can't move out -- there has to be something I can do, first I need to get tests done I guess so I know what I'm dealing with. For now I'll turn on the stove so that it dries out the kitchen, I think that helps. I'll boil water with a few drops of eucalyptus in it, so that's what I'll smell in the air not mold.

But still this pain – I’m staring at the pot on the stove -- what the hell is this? Really that's what I'm thinking, for a minute I can't remember what's going on -- what am I doing? But then I remember -- oh, I'm cooking beans -- at least I get a laugh out of that one, maybe it will become a refrain. Soap in the shower, a toothbrush in my hand, a pen, the phone, my keys, a glass of water, a towel, clothing, a CD, my shoes, I'll think of more when this headache goes away -- wait, what about this headache, let's try -- what the hell is this? What the hell is this? What the hell is this? Oh, it's my headache.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My father's logic

My father fought with logic, that's what he called it: logic. I was the son who was his wife no. The son who was his. No. I couldn't. No.

Before logic, maybe even before language I was his. I mean of course before language -- that's how it works, silly that's what kids are babies are babies are his. I was his baby, baby -- he never called me baby he. Me. My. Baby?

I couldn't be a baby I could only be his.

So before I was his wife I was his. That's the way it works. Hands twisting neck around there were no words for these words. Ouch. See? It didn't work. I wanted anything. I wanted anything but his hands twisting neck around hands twisting hands twisting me. I wanted the end.

I earned his trust because he knew how to break me. Is it hard to break a child? A challenge? A challenge to break your child, make your child, make your child you. Remember: I memorized all the names of his wines, wines in the wine room a burlap sack, me. No, first I memorized all the names of the cheeses, I liked all the cheeses especially port wine cheddar with the orange and red swirling around and Jarlsberg with the holes like the mouse had started for me. I didn't like brie until later, when they said kids weren't supposed to like brie it was too expensive.

Remember: I did all those math problems, all those math problems until he couldn't give me any more I was too good at math I was too good. He stopped playing chess when I started winning. I was getting good at logic, this was when I was earning his trust he made me. Remember: first I was his baby and then I was his wife, he sat me down and told me about the college savings accounts, don't tell Mom she doesn't know she'll want to spend it.

My parents were liberal, they live in a relationship where everything was shared. My father said: Karin, did you take $20 out of my wallet? Karin, did you take money out of my wallet? Karin? My father said: Karin, I'm taking the Visa card away.

I was good with logic, I found the business card where he counted his money and I mimicked his handwriting. It was okay if he noticed too, he already knew it was Karin, Karin with whom he shared. Shared everything. Do you see how I was his wife?

We argued about the sofa, the new sofa for the family room -- he wanted brown leather, I thought brown leather was tacky, suburban. I wanted black, black leather was European. I told him it would go better, there was already too much brown in the room with the knotted pine walls, knotted pine wasn't sophisticated but the black leather with square edges, that would solve the problem. I was artistic, but not as artistic as his mother, the artist. My father asked her: she suggested brown, brown was the right color for the room with the track lighting and the TV. I shifted tactics, made sure that at least we got the more expensive one.

With the refrigerator I switched gears. I knew we needed the larger one with sleek lines and an ice maker, I’d always wanted an ice maker like at richer people's houses. But I didn't say this, I needed to work with his logic -- I said: you want an ice maker, remember you said you wanted an ice maker? We got the refrigerator, top-of-the-line. This was the last of the good times with him, before a tongue sandwich at the Star Deli -- that's what he always got, exaggerating the expressions on his face like he was eating his own. This was our time together, Boys Night Out or no that was Thursday this was Sunday -- Boys Day Shopping for the Refrigerator? I got matzoh ball soup, and corned beef that I stuffed into napkins when he turned to the side.

This was the beginning of the end, you know how marriages work. Soon we would only argue like he and my mother, my mother always threatening to leave until she stopped -- she was the bad wife and I was the good, until I argued to win. No, I always argued to win so what was the difference? My father had taught me. The difference was that I didn't care, I mean I didn't respect them. Now it was both of them they were threatening: we’re going to ground you. I laughed -- ground me -- ground me for what? Because you didn't come home on time. Are you kidding? Why would I come home on time? You have to do your schoolwork. What are you talking about -- I always do my schoolwork.

They couldn't argue with that, soon I would be the one to leave.

New decorations in my house, a glimpse...



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Just not where it was before I went to explore

Today it's so beautiful out it's almost startling, the air so clear the sun shining through strips of tender clouds evaporating ribbons. I actually get outside before dusk, 4:30 p.m. and the 27 is going uphill so I jump on it -- maybe I'll go to the Nob Hill Theatre, even though I shouldn't go to the Nob Hill Theatre now it's beautiful out I'm trying to experience daylight out in the world so expansive, not just my fire escape also expansive but there's a wall behind me, my apartment, from the fire escape I can only walk around inside, oh these are my walls. I get off the bus at Bush, but no I'm not going to the Nob Hill Theatre just to walk around and get super-sketchy because I'm sure I haven't eaten enough yet. At Hyde I'm crossing the street, looking to the left, downhill with the pale blue sky and the soft light, hills and houses and hills for dreamland. Some guy’s crossing with me I'm looking to see if he's hot -- do other people do that all the time, look at everyone to see? I can't tell until the other side of the street when I look back at his tight brown corduroys, oh.

I meant to stop here and look more at the buildings sloping down into sky -- that's why I turned around, but then I realize I'm two blocks away from that thriftstore run by the Cathedral school and it's just before 5 p.m. when they close, I don't know if I've ever been up here this early. At least I think it's before 5 p.m., except when I get to the store it's actually closed I mean it's closed permanently -- there's a sign that says please take your donations to Goodwill. Like Goodwill needs donations! Not that the Cathedral school needs any money either, but they could've at least supported a smaller business, one of the other thrift stores run by corrupt churches.

Anyway, I go into the costume shop because that's next door, the guy there looks at me like he's never seen a space alien -- um, haven't you been selling costumes for like 30 years? But the problem is when I'm walking back home and I realize I've already crossed the line into exhaustion, the point is to stop right before not after, after’s so much harder to get from. Or half way, just under half way would be the best idea because then I can turn -- but what device would I need to measure, everything’s so precise here in the pain factory brain drain! So then I'm back home, back home away from home in my head I mean my head’s away maybe not away just not where it was before I went to explore where it was.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Now this is fog, honey -- yes, fog -- bring on the fog!



Two pictures, two years

Summer 1985, the beach, this is when you're supposed to be relaxed. You're posing for the camera, shoulders up high and the flash reflecting off eyeglasses, a red glow. It's like you're caught in headlights, terror of eyes, mouth open slightly no breathing. Still the bowl cut that looks like it may be even an actual bowl it's grown out and uneven, Izod shirt with tiny shorts someone picked out for you, one of your parents -- what's most noticeable is that your body is too small for everything, especially chest tucked in between elbows a rectangle. Your father has already said: most fat babies grow up to be fat adults. Or maybe he'll say that soon, you'll stop eating. Judging from the photo I'm guessing you've already stopped. I want to ask: why didn't anyone ask? Not about the eating -- everyone asked about that, boys weren't supposed to care about their weight. I mean: why didn't anyone say anything? They talked about the eating, that was important -- a battle they wanted to win. I mean: why didn't anyone say you look so scared, how come everything is fear? No one wanted to save you.

Summer 1987, a trip to Mexico, this is where you're supposed to be relaxed. You're posing for the camera, remember to hold chin up like nothing matters. You've spent a lot of time on your hair, brushing peroxide through and holding with mousse. Howard Jones says No one ever is to blame, you like his hair too so sensitive he'd understand. Or maybe you're already on to the Clash – We met when we were at school, never took no shit from no one. Your neck is still tiny but there’s a way unbuttoned shirt swept back over t-shirt like hair connotes nonchalance, hands tucked into belt loops on side there's a toughness. You've studied the way guys do that. You want to be one of those people who doesn't care, at least you don't want anyone to know you care, you care about that. You're learning the gestures. Of course you care about everything, you care more the more you care about not caring but soon no one will know -- you're learning what's important.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

At the beach, you could fall in the sand and it didn't hurt

When the baby was born I was scared. I was scared for the baby I was scared I was scared I was scared. Probably I'd always been scared, always is a long time, a long time to be scared.

The baby, was so small -- I wanted to teach her things. To build another house with legos, we could live in it. Except when we were done we were still on the same rug. I taught her to read, it was early, in my memory Lauren was only three, that meant I was five but maybe really it was later, I just remember adults were shocked it was so early -- I remember that, everyone said so. They said: Matthew’s a good teacher. But they didn't want me to be a teacher, teachers didn't make money.

Starting around five I didn't want to do anything except read, reading and math problems -- I liked math problems too. Anything where it was just me, not me against someone I didn't like being against. That's what my father liked -- in the new house he taught me chess like we were fighting. The clearing between trees in the back yard, we called it Three Sisters -- the three trees; me and my sister and the trees. Oh, how I wanted to live in that clearing, or the one in the front of the house where sometimes there was a rabbit. I knew these things were impossible, all I could do was stare outside.

It's hard to stay alive when everything around you is rage except sometimes a trip to Wheaton Gardens oh the flowers the flowers the flowers, just not the roses because they smell too strong I'm allergic. Let's watch the goldfish in the water, they go under but reemerge for food. But they could live without air.

Your mother was somewhere, somewhere else. Maybe she was with Lauren. I was with Dad, Daddy still then. My father screaming at my mother: Karin, how could you be so stupid? I memorized the names of all the wines. What was the word they exchanged, exchanged in the psychiatrist’s house? Pathological, conceited, dramatic, pathetic, sociopathic, immature, stuck -- I can't remember it, something that meant all those things together.

Lauren was enraged like my father, yelling at my parents: fuck fuck fuck you fuckers I'm going to chop you up and put you in the frying pan. This was common, I was the one who tried to soothe everything over, to make everyone hug or hold hands I wanted Lauren and I to have our own world too, a world where we could keep things for each other, secrets. I wanted us to be a forcefield. Our parents didn't like this, loyalty meant we were against them. Lauren always turned against me, every secret a weapon until I knew I could never trust.

If I stopped breathing then I’d never need. I wanted them to get divorced, this arguing they said meant they loved each other, my mother was always threatening to leave him, I wanted that too maybe then something would be okay. I read all the Hardy Boys, the Nancy Drews when no one was looking, the Hornblower books, Watership Down in third grade because it was the longest book at the school book fair, all the Agatha Christie's by the end of fifth.

Lauren wanted them to stay together, she would cry every time they argued, or my father running naked through the hallway we would scream. Lauren was still like my father, she'd push and push until you'd explode except I could only implode. So when my father would yell I'd stare right through him like he could shoot me in the face with a gun and I would just keep staring, later I’d yell into the pillow or shake so much like crying. He'd unlock the bathroom door to come in when I was taking a shower. I would try to cover -- he always got piss on the rug later the rug I would press my face into the rug, remembering what I couldn't remember or else.

Nighttime meant Lauren would scream HELP ME HELP ME HELP!!! My mother would wake up to soothe her back to sleep. I would dream of being smothered to death in shit, this was masturbation. Sometimes I’d get dragged off the bed and down to the floor, eyes in the walls the monsters, always monsters I didn't know what was real.

Anything Lauren could tell them she would, anything that would hurt me. I wanted it to be us against them, us against the world but that would all change as soon as she wanted something else. I can't remember a single one of those secrets anymore, it was so hard to forget. I wanted to be a good brother, I wanted to be perfect but sometimes I'd snap in silence and rage, the ballerina on my sister's jewelry box on fire when she left the room, it must have been the mirrors conducting the heat from the sun; the glass on her boombox broken, it must have been defective; urine in one of her facial products, it was just rotten -- no one knew who did these things. This was when I wanted everything Lauren had that I couldn't: Body Shop cosmetics, Benetton sweaters, acne medication, cut-off jeans with fishnets, makeup, friends who talked about boys.

Later, Lauren and I switched -- this was puberty. She became the good one, better than me because she wanted my parents’ dreams. I wanted them to die, or just disappear and then I could learn to live without so much pain I didn't know anything else I did all my school work I mean I did more than all my school work I was always at school, sometimes later then my parents went to bed then I could breathe -- I did everything and I did more I was a success and this meant I didn't need them. They couldn't tell me what to do because I'd already done all of it, this meant I could get away, I mean I got away -- pitcher after pitcher of margaritas, bars were the best or even better clubs or warehouse parties where the music became my body into the floor when I wasn't flying yes the floor and laughing cocktails and pot, I always drank more than everyone else if someone couldn't finish, oh I'll take that. When drinking stopped working I needed to add something that said WARNING DO NOT TAKE WITH ALCOHOL, then everything became okay for a while.

The beach was the best place for Lauren and I, the best place for our relationship. I remember standing on the balcony above the cement leading to ocean, playing New Order Technique my own dance moves Lauren said what are you doing? I'm dancing, this is how people dance at clubs and then we were both dancing the sky, usually we couldn't see that I mean feel. Another year I was reading Sartre and thinking about freedom, we’d climb out the windows to drink together with other teenagers -- they thought I was cool because I wasn’t interested in controlling my sister, she could make out with guys I'd keep drinking. I'd never been cool to people like this before, guys who said are you gay? I mean guys who no one said that to. Laughing -- this was the key -- at the beach, you could fall in the sand and it didn't hurt.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Computer screen love affair

Okay, here's the problem with craigslist: even when I just open that monstrous men seeking men window to scan the first page of postings -- 100 postings, looking at the photos just in case -- even when I do that, it becomes my whole day. I mean it's only 15 minutes at a time, but I'm sending a reply here and there and then I'm barely thinking about anything else. Even though I never hook up on craigslist, no one ever responds and then when they do respond I can't decide if I'm attracted to them anyway. In person, I'd probably be attracted to half of them, but staring at a photo on the screen plus a few numbers and positions and thinking about what would happen if I actually went there -- then it's already over.

Why am I on craigslist anyway? I want social and sexual engagement in the world, that fluidity and potential and spatialness when I'm actually embodied. And out in the world. A lot of people lament the loss of 1970s gay sexual cultures, especially people like me who were born in the ‘70s. But actually I have no nostalgia for something I never experienced, especially when I've heard that in many ways the codes of masculinity and conformity were even more rigid then than now. I actually miss the possibilities of the mid-late 1990s, the time when I did experience the hope of transcendence in an engagement with the gestures of public desire. I mean when I cruised, and it was fun. Of course there were problems -- of course it was never enough, I mean the connections far sparser than they should have been, even in the crowded spaces clambering for that embrace, yes. Embrace of cock down throat or hand on neck or tongue to tongue, dark sky up above or the back walls of some bar like a hug, when anything could tease and then it was a done deal. What I mean is that now people have desocialized themselves away from cruising, sometimes I walk outside on the streets so gorgeous with buildings and other people's memories, I stare into any eyes that come my way to see if they are the eyes but it so rarely happens that way anymore. Everything has been emptied out for the computer screen love affair.

But anyway I'm on craigslist -- I figure why not post what I'm looking for, I mean post that I don't know what I'm looking for. I give it the headline: Maybe a childlike vulnerability in my eyes there's a gentleness. I add pictures that I think are sexy -- a glowing fluorescent tube in a black ceiling, red lights on another ceiling, blurred colors, the back of my head with my orange paisley sweater. One person responds, I'm not sure if I'm attracted to him but I say so anyway. He doesn't reply. Then I'm looking at the postings again, again and again and again until I realize I need to ban myself until 2008 -- maybe I should try 2009, but I like to pick goals that I’ll succeed at. Remember -- I banned myself from Blow Buddies until 2008, that was around June and I thought maybe I'd get to 2008 and never want to go again. I thought maybe I'd have figured something else out by then. I guess I still have a month-and-a-half, but right now I'm thinking I'll be there as soon as January comes around -- I miss going to sex clubs, I mean I don't miss that one but I don't know where else to find a concentrated number of people looking for sex in the moment right then the moment. At least if I go back, then I'll know whether I have to ban myself again.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A childlike vulnerability in my eyes there's a gentleness


I want to know what this mood is, so I can hold onto it. In the shower, I felt horrible, like this might be another day when I had to get back in bed -- this time before even leaving the house. I was annoyed that I was in the shower, which meant that I had to do my hair, and then get back in bed -- or get back in bed without doing my hair -- both just sounded terrible. When I got out of the shower, I felt a little better -- I decided to leave the house, because it was about to get dark and I wanted to see some sunlight, I mean I see sunlight when I sit on my fire escape but it's different out there in the world from all directions.

Outside, I'm surprised that I'm closer to the ground, I mean my feet aren't rocking all over the place in my shoes like usual -- I feel more stable. I decide to walk a few more blocks, and then a few more. Then I remember: don't wait until you're tired, go home first. There are a lot of hot people out at this time of day, coming home from work I guess -- I smile at them. None of the guys smile back, but a few women do. Where is this calm coming from -- that's what I'm wondering as I get back in the house, sitting down to eat -- pay attention, I'm thinking. As soon as I start eating, my head clouds over -- okay, eating, that makes me feel worse -- it starts with the beans, but maybe it's anything really. But it doesn't get terrible -- I'm looking at the bookshelves and there's something different about my perception, it's softer and I can sense the shadows in between things more. I'm still in a low mood, low energy, but there's more air -- more possibility. I don't want to do anything too fast, so that I can sense everything.

As soon as I sit in front of the computer, the sinus headache starts so I decide to adjust the screen contrast but then it's too dark so I change it back but the headache isn't getting awful, I think it's something about knowing that it's there and acknowledging it but not worrying too much. So I feel spacey and tired, not speedy in either direction -- usually I'm trying to maintain something wired, or it's all plummeting but this is something else -- where did it come from? Is it because the weather changed so suddenly, from super-hot and congested to cool and clear? Probably something about that, but also there’s a difference in perception that I’m trying to pinpoint so that I can know how to keep it. My hands are moist like there's more blood circulating than usual, actually I can feel extra sensation all over -- kind of sexual but not frantic, warm without heat, a childlike vulnerability in my eyes there's a gentleness.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Look at this light, this beautiful light (except it's just pollution)...

A second date

I want somewhere to be social and sexual, somewhere without smoke and sadness but I go to the Nob Hill Theatre -- at least there's no smoke there. It's almost 2 a.m., so someone's cleaning the booths -- an older guy, he says hey kid -- I kind of like that, the familial aspect. There’s the guy I hooked up with last time, but he was too tweaked really although he wanted me to suck his dick, I rub his chest and say you lost your baseball cap last time -- he's kind of friendly maybe, I whisper in his ear do you want me to suck your dick? He says I'm done for the night, I keep walking and the guy cleaning says that's a nice outfit, I like your outfit. Thanks!

The guy from last time is peering into a booth so I try it too -- it's some guy who's taken off everything but his white briefs, pumping the glory hole -- pretty hot, he's very aggressive. I go into the booth next door with the window but no hole, put in a dollar so I can watch through the window, I'm on my knees and the guy from last time comes in, he says are you watching? Yes, and he sits down next to me I'm rubbing his leg just to be friendly while watching the guy pumping, he's really loud and then he pulls to the side maybe he's coming or maybe he just came, the guy watching with me says I'm done for the night and he leaves the booth, okay. I see him go into the booth next door -- maybe to lick the come off the floor is what I'm thinking. Then this super-hot guy comes in, he's my tragic type -- fashion casualty gay masculinity passing maybe as straight the fashion hidden if you're not really looking, short dark hair with stubble, denim jacket, boots, he's standing in the hall looking through his wallet for dollars I'm staring right at him but he won't look up. He’s shortish and maybe slightly chunky, covering it all with a veneer of toughness. Then he goes into the booth with the glory hole, locks the door so I stand outside and then try watching through the crack, I can see him jerking his dick for the other guy who's saying can I go in your booth but he's not responding except to keep jerking -- I'm struck by the way his dick is illuminated in the TV glare like an ad for uncut whiteness on the US landscape, surprise! I'm sure he wants the other guy to suck it, but I don't know if he sucks -- I mean he's not doing anything, that bitch.

I do the rounds again, the super-suburban-looking guy with waxed eyebrows and a baseball caps says we met once. I say yeah I came over your house. He says yeah you had an unusual name. I say Mattilda. He says that's right. I'm Travis.

We actually had a hot time, but his drunkenness is too sloppy tonight, it's not really turning me on. I go back around to peer into the cracks and my boyfriend's still jerking or wait, he's pulling back and then the door opens, he rushes around the corner. The guy cleaning says don't you hate it when someone comes out of a glory hole booth embarrassed? I love it that he's loud, trying to make the guy more embarrassed -- most of the guys working there are quiet or they just say everyone go into a booth like they have authority and we’re pathetic. This guy's socializing -- I look him in the eyes and he is wired, but I can't tell if he's tweaking or there's just something big about his eyes, maybe medication or maybe he's just happy to see me, why can't he just be happy to see me? He says can I tell you a joke? Travis is there too, at this point. I say sure. He says what does a lesbian bring to a second date? I say I don't know. He says a U-Haul -- that's right, a U-Haul. And what does a gay man bring to a second date? I say an exterminator? He says I don't know -- he never has one. I'm laughing even though it's a cliché -- when was the last time I had a second date? Or a date?

Would it be fun to go on a date? I think it would be stressful unless I already knew I liked the person -- it would still be stressful then, but at least it would be worth it. I should leave now because I'm in a good mood -- I don't really want to have sex now anyway. I run into Travis again -- I'm going home, can I give you a hug? We hug goodbye and he says that guy’s scaring me -- he means the guy doing the cleaning. I go back around to say goodbye to him too, he's sweet I like him.

Why does it makes me sad when he doesn't respond, even just to say thanks?

I look at craigslist for a minute, there's a posting from some guy trying to figure out how to come in a guy's ass with a condom on, so he wants someone to practice with -- he says "practice on," but I still think it's a cute posting. I send him a response:

It's great to see someone trying to stay safe -- I'll
admit I'm super-turned-on by the whole thing (picture
included), but I'm terrible at getting fucked -- even
though it turns me on in my fantasies, I get too
nervous if I don't know the guy well (or even then),
plus I'm allergic to different kinds of lube and I
used to think latex too so I tried Avanti condoms with
oil (they're polyurethane, not latex, so you can use
oil -- have you tried them?) and that works the best
but I don't think they're made very well. Also, have
you tried different types of lube -- those silicone
ones are so slippery, maybe they would help.

I actually don't have a problem coming in a guy's ass
(with a condom, I mean), except that I don't like the feeling actually -- I used to have difficulty staying hard in a condom, that happens sometimes and
then what works for is if he reaches back and tickles
my balls, that does the trick but sometimes it's hard
to maneuver :)

Anyway, can't help but fantasize about your cock down
my throat -- that is where I'm talented, but wait it's
only a fantasy so I can think about sitting on your
lap right there in the picture too.

I hope you have a lot of fun -- I'd love to hear how
it all works out (or if you want someone to watch...).
Maybe a week isn't enough time to figure it all out, I
would say give yourself as much time as you need and
try not to get too stressed out -- this is your health
and the health of the guys you're having sex with,
you're doing really important work.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How much I mean to them

I want to talk more about my conversation with Florence. She starts talking about Sylvia and Tina and Barry, but I don't know who they are. Sylvia sounds familiar -- oh, she's my grandmother's sister. But Tina and Barry I've never heard of, apparently they’re Sylvia's kids and they all live in Gloucester, Massachusetts right by the ocean and it's beautiful. Tina doesn't usually live there -- she's been in the Peace Corps for years so she travels all over the world, most recently she was living in Darfur but then she got sick.

Then Florence is talking about helping Kim to find a house, Kim is her brother's daughter -- I used to see her once a year for Passover dinner, she's maybe five or 10 years older than me -- I can't remember. She was the smart and quiet one, that's how it seemed at least. Apparently Florence, who's a realtor, is helping Kim to find a townhouse, but Kim is really hard to please -- they've looked at 35 different places and Kim just made an offer, but Florence doesn't think the owner is going to make the repairs that Kim wants, so the deal probably won't go through. I ask where the townhouse is, apparently it's right by her parents’ house and she’s living alone, she used to do hospital management but now she's in computers. All of these relatives living right near their parents -- strange.

I'm kind of curious about all these relatives -- growing up, my parents didn't like any of them really -- they didn't even want us near their parents. Of course this is common for abusive families, but at the time they said they didn't want Florence, the 1980s high roller with a stockbroker husband, to influence us to become too materialistic, and they didn't want us around Rose, the artist, because she might encourage us to be too impractical. We had two choices: doctor or lawyer. At least those were my choices, as the overachiever child. I chose lawyer, because I liked to talk and I was good with logic, my skills developed from arguing with my father. When it became clear sometime in high school that there was no way I was going to become a doctor or lawyer, my parents presented another option, for the renegade: college professor. As long as I received an advanced graduate degree, they would allow me to go in a direction they saw as intellectually stimulating yet financially unrewarding.

It's true that Florence wanted me to be a stockbroker -- she encouraged me to look at Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, starting around fourth grade. And Rose did want me to be an artist when I was a kid, but later, when I decided to leave college after a year and this was the big family crisis -- how to keep me from wasting my life -- Rose said to me that she wished that she had finished her university degree instead of pursuing a career as an artist. Here was a woman who'd spent more than 50 years making a life and living as an artist, and she was throwing away that entire history in order to convince me to do something that disgusted me. When I was growing up, Rose was the only person I looked to as having any integrity, but her willingness to renounce her entire life story to satisfy the conventional narrative of upper middle class attainment made me sick, I mean it made me realize how she was just as caught up in status and respectability as the rest. It's true that she told my father, who wanted to be a writer, that then she would cut him off and he’d have to support himself -- she was proud of this anecdote, proud of succeeding in getting my father to do something he didn't want -- he chose the doctor option, I'm not sure if that was his only choice or if lawyer was on the table too. Maybe that same white table Rose has in her kitchen now, a round white table with center platform Jetsons-style, designed by the architect Mies van der Rohe is what my she says.

But back to Florence, she’s the one I'm talking to right now -- I'm interested in this information about relatives, because I've never really known them. I asked Rose to send me a family history scrapbook, so I could ask her questions, but I'm not sure whether she knows where it is. I told her where I thought it would be -- in the basement by the laundry machines, I remember seeing it there -- but she’s in a lot of pain so I'm not sure if she looked. When she's not in pain, she wants to paint -- it's why she's still alive -- I can understand that, sometimes I feel that way about writing.

So Florence is telling me about relatives, and she says something about how my parents never wanted us to visit her and why do I think that was? This is kind of like when my sister asks me why she doesn't remember her childhood. I say that's the way abusive families work, they want to keep everything secret. This is around when I'm talking about Nobody Passes, about the introduction where I talk about how kids used to call me sissy and Florence interrupts me before I can tell her what I say about her: it hurts me, is what she says. It hurts me to hear about things I can't change.

The truth is that you can change, you can always change -- maybe not what already happened, but the way that it's happening now. Florence was the one who came closest to acknowledging that I was sexually abused, when I confronted my father 12 years ago; I sent everyone in my birth family the same documentation, what I'd written about how and what I remembered, how it all impacted me, how I was healing. And saying that I would never speak to my father again unless acknowledged sexually abusing me, raping me, molesting me. I sent this to my mother, my four grandparents, and my sister, Express Mail so that it would arrive exactly at the time I was planning on confronting my father, so that he couldn't twist my words around -- it would all be there on paper.

So Florence came the closest to acknowledging it, she said is there any possibility that it didn't happen? I said no. She said then it had to be him, because there was never anyone else around.

But then she cultivated a relationship with him -- they'd never been friends before, but now she met him for dinner on a regular basis -- she spent more time with him than with my mother, who didn't like to see her. And she encouraged me to make things up with him, not because she didn't believe that he sexually abused me, but because it would be better for appearances. She would say: your life could be so easy if you made up with him. She meant financially, that's what mattered. Later, she would say: what if he was sick? What if he doesn't remember?

Keep in mind that this man who was my father, who still is my father I guess, bones in the ground under a stone, this man who maybe was sick, who maybe didn't remember -- as a well-respected psychiatrist with a career that continued to flourish, he had every possible access to coming to terms with sexually abusing me -- everything was open to him -- help, he could have said to any number of experts -- help me come to terms with what I've done! He chose never to even try. He tried calling a false memory syndrome specialist -- you know, the ones that assure the abusers that it's not their fault, that their children are to blame -- my mother even tried to get me to meet with this guy, before I knew he was a false memory syndrome specialist. She said he's so nice, you like him. They all got together -- my mother, the three grandparents because my father’s father had died, my sister -- to try to figure out what could be done about me. How they could get me back.

At one point my sister tried to defend me, the therapist shut her up right away: don’t you believe your father? Oh, right -- there was an emergency -- I was a hooker and I might get AIDS -- if I wasn't already dying, they had to save me. Maybe even if I was dying -- they'd bring me back, chain me to the hospital bed and pump AZT into my acne.

For a long time I talked about creating a chosen family to replace the horrible one given to me at birth, but now I'm not so sure about the word family. Is it worth reclaiming?

Everyone always said I was the most important thing to my father. The most important thing. I meant the most to him, the thing I could be: his. Florence says: it hurts me. Not: I'm sorry this happened. Not: I'm sorry I couldn't help. Not: what can I do now? Not: I want to understand. Just: this hurts me, I don't want to read it.

I gave them all an opportunity, an opportunity to support me and they didn’t. Eleven years went by -- never mind telling me they believed me, never mind telling him they remembered or that they wanted him to deal -- they couldn't even ask him what was true.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

They're renovating this apartment -- they've moved the tags on the cords from the new blinds so they hang out the window...


Twisted into my head a broom handle

Okay, do you want to hear about my day? I get up at 2 p.m., then I heat up my food, steam some greens, go out on the fire escape to sit in the sun, do my feldenkrais movements, take a shower and get dressed, then go outside just after 5 p.m. to experience daylight but daylight is already over. I walk to Walgreens to look for a new spray bottle for my hairspray, since this one isn’t working and it's hurting my hand. I walk by the place where I have a mailbox, but for some reason they’re closed. I'm back home within a half hour max, but I'm so exhausted just from walking five blocks that I don't know if I can function. I make a few phone calls, I'm getting wired but it's the kind of wired that’s so edgy -- behind it is nothing but my eyes closing. If I breathe, then I can't think, which means I can't write -- I try to get some energy by looking at craigslist sex postings -- because earlier, just before going out on the fire escape I had this funny thought that it would be kind of hot to post some stupid straight-guy-wants-to-get-sucked-off type of escort posting and see what happened. You know my sex life has gotten terrible when I'm thinking about turning tricks again -- but the truth is that with craigslist I'm probably not going to be attracted to the guy anyway because it'll just feel like turning a trick. But what is up with the dressing-as-a-straight-guy fantasy -- that's one of the things I always hated the most about being a hooker. I guess what I want is some kind of scene, but turning tricks is pretty much the only place that I always did that, played around with scenes -- their scenes, unfortunately. But maybe mine at the moment?

But the other truth about craigslist is that nothing ever happens anyway unless you’re really dedicated to the email exchange, which destroys my body, and even when someone's feeling it I look at their picture and I can't imagine. That's what sex over the internet does -- destroys imagination, as far as I'm concerned. Oh, but the other thing is that just the fact that I'm thinking about getting sucked off means I'm actually horny, I mean I notice that I'm hard in my boxers just before going out to the fire escape and I'm kind of self-conscious about it. I mean I'm actually horny to get sucked off, which isn’t usually what turns me on that much, I mean not without reciprocation -- I want to do the sucking first! So maybe today's going to be a good day -- that's what I'm thinking, because wait -- the other thing is that I almost never wanted to get sucked off by a trick, I mean I hated coming with tricks, what the hell is this fantasy all about? Definitely a severe crash afterwards, that's for sure.

Not that I want to turn a trick right now, anyway -- I think I want to figure out my sexuality without sex work first, I mean that's what part of this fantasy is -- a return to the familiar. Even though I hated how much my sexuality was tied to sex work by the end of 12 years, I still feel like I was more present in desire. Maybe not my desire, but it was still desire. I mean I made it my desire.

So much for desire now -- there's no way I can function unless I get back in bed, 6 p.m. and I'm hugging the pillow again but so wired that I'm thinking maybe I should get up, until I really need to piss and I guess it's been 2 1/2 hours. Why does everything hurt more? My wrists are burning, neck twisted, whole body aching -- I'm dehydrated like it's first thing in the morning, and I'm freezing even though it's not cold out. I hope I'm not getting sick -- the problem with fibromyalgia is that it always feels like I'm getting a cold, but usually that's not the case it’s just the everyday-in-every-way pain and exhaustion. At least I don't have the sinus headache -- that's what I'm thinking, until I realize that I have the sinus headache, it's more subtle than sometimes, mostly just making my thoughts more difficult, twisted into my head a broom handle.

Monday, November 12, 2007

You were wondering about my Manhattan apartment...

I know – you’ve seen all the real estate I keep posting and you're wondering: where on earth is Mattilda's Manhattan pied-à-terre? Well, of course I was saving up until the right place came along, luckily I found a copy of W Magazine downstairs -- the issue with the "Nancy Reagan Exclusive: The First Lady on Her White House Clothes," "The Real L Word: Hollywood's Other Gay Mafia,” and, of course "The Most Spectacular Jewels of the Season." But, before I had a chance to read any of these scintillating articles, I turned right to a stunning quote:

That's right -- "If there were buildings like this when Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz were falling in love in New York, he might not have taken so many pictures of her.” Well, that truly hit my bohemian sensibilities -- we all know Georgia O'Keeffe was only around so that a man could take pictures of her -- so sexy, an independent woman posing as an artist! And then I looked to my right, at one of my favorite squares in New York, to see a glass tower littering -- I mean glittering – the sky, oh I was impressed because when I was last in New York I kept looking up at all these new towers and I didn't know where I was, like neighborhoods I remembered had disappeared and become the alienation of Midtown -- but when I looked at this tower, all by itself on a formerly beautiful square -- I mean formally -- oh, I got excited. Then I glanced down at the ad, and saw "Residences Starting at $6,900,000," so I was impressed with the honesty, purity, and clarity of all those lovely zeros. Oh, did I get out my checkbook! I called up Wilbur Gonzalez and Wendy Maitland right away at (212) 353-0100 and bought six floors (48-53, if you must know), for a total of, well... just under $44,911,411, oh isn't that so cute – but wait until you see my special elevator with a custom-made Baccarat chandelier hedge fund analysis and views of the World Trade Center, oops, well New York is growing...

Oh no -- boxes in the window -- that means the cats are moving out!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How could I when everything was supposed to be perfect?

Back to my conversation with Florence -- she's wondering if she should read any of my books, if they're not too graphic. We've had this conversation before. I say maybe you should read Nobody Passes -- actually, you're in the introduction -- it starts where I'm talking about when kids used to call me sissy and faggot on the playground, before I really knew what those words meant. Florence says oh, I didn't know that -- I don't like hearing these things, things I can't change. I say well, for me actually talking about everything that was awful helps me to feel empowered and hopeful. Florence says well I want whatever's best for you, but it hurts me to read about it -- unless it helps you.

I don't get to tell Florence about the second sentence, where I talk about how she used to ask me why all my friends were "colored." Later I think that actually maybe it would help me, but then I'm thinking about something Lauren asked me, sometimes she asks me questions about our childhood and why she can't remember anything. She doesn't have memories of being sexually abused, but of course she's asking me why she can't remember, she knows what I remember. I say maybe it was too traumatic.

But sometimes she has more specific questions, recently she asked if I remembered when we would go over Florence’s house and Florence would lose her keys and we would look all over the place for them -- did I hide them? I did hide them -- as a kid, I used to hide things because I wanted to find them, then people would see me as good, even though I was a horrible, evil monster underneath who didn't deserve to live -- but I didn't want them to know. That's why I always had to appear perfect.

That's what I knew then, but now I realize I was trying to tell Florence that something was wrong, I didn't have the words for it I didn't even know how to speak yet except about what was in books, what I was supposed to learn, how smart I was -- I could analyze art, but I didn't know how to say help, how could I when everything was supposed to be perfect?

Lauren said and maybe you didn't want to leave? She's right -- I didn't want to leave, I always loved my grandmother's apartment -- just the feeling of being in this big building with so many people and you could go outside and walk around among other buildings, it didn't feel terrifying and claustrophobic like a house in the suburbs. You could even go out on the balcony and watch people walking around, or wander the hallways and take the elevator up and down, up and down. Except there was always perfume on the elevator, that made it hard to breathe but not as hard as staring out the window at home, wondering if I could live in the trees outside. No, my parents would find me.