Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sweating anyway

Let’s look again at 1988 -- I guess what’s so stunning to me now is that this would be the end of the transitions I’m thinking about, but it’s almost hard for me to believe: this was the kid who was drinking pitcher after pitcher of margaritas at Las Rocas on weekends, having sex with men in public bathrooms almost every day after school, confident and secure enough to encourage others to try and exist outside convention? I mean I would never have said kid, but there’s no way else of looking at this picture: I look like a kid; I look like a kid who isn’t doing too well.

Let’s go back again to 1985, here I am with my sister and it’s the closest I’m going to get to looking happy, mostly because I’m looking down at the ground so you can’t see my face, and the picture is out of focus anyway: everything looks better out of focus. We’re grabbing on to a branch of a cherry blossom tree, I always loved the cherry blossoms: this must be in Kenwood Gardens, the neighborhood where my parents would take us every spring and I wanted to be those kids selling lemonade to everyone walking around and gazing up at the trees -- we had a bigger yard, but here it seemed like people actually talked to one another and I liked the way the houses felt aged, white paint peeling off red brick to reveal something stately.

But here I am, in focus, my clothes hanging on me like maybe they don’t know I’m there. I’m squinting in the sun, but the sun’s behind me. Somehow my face looks fuller, maybe just because my hair is overgrown the way I liked it better, but still it’s like I’m caught somewhere between not looking and not wanting to look. Back in New York, I’m with the Daniels on a tram at the Bronx zoo, I’ve never noticed the way Dan and Steve give off a vague sense of counterculture -- Dan’s newsboy hat and mustache, Steve’s black-framed glasses -- I mean I never sensed that then, and I wonder if it’s just the distance of time. They’re looking vaguely at the camera, a calculated distance; I’m looking right at my father, but it’s like my head hasn’t figured out how to stay on my shoulders.

Soon I will stop wearing short-sleeved shirts, I don’t want anyone to see too much of my body. At baseball games with my father and the Daniels, I’ve never really figured out what to do except to keep score -- then I can pretend that everyone isn’t looking at me like I’m in the wrong place. I mean I am in the wrong place. The Baltimore summer and I’m sweating, my father says it’s because I’m not wearing short sleeves. I say why does it matter -- I’d be sweating anyway.

This is around when the back pain starts, like my body is going to split apart right above my waist, no not when the back pain starts but when I start going to doctors for it. They tell me there’s nothing wrong except a slight curve in my spine and we’ll give you cookies for that -- that’s what they called arch supports in my shoes. I went to specialists, they sent me to other specialists. Then I got a headache that lasted for about nine years, no one knew what to do except ibuprofen, or fancier drugs that were kind of like ibuprofen but more colorful. I learned to like the texture of the pills.

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