Sunday, August 07, 2011

The loss of what you were supposed to be

Picture this scene: I’m at dinner after a reading, several people I haven't seen since high school, I mean they came to the reading – yes, Washington DC, even. So one of these people, who I wrote about briefly on my blog, his fast car and the apartment he shared with his mother, lying on his bed smoking cigarettes and wondering if there was an expectation for something else, maybe that's why he'd invited me there. And then he contacted me just after I wrote about him but didn't mention it so I didn't mention it either. At the reading he’s positively beaming in spite of all that cologne, buying my books for his brother, but then at dinner suddenly he's obsessed with my path to sex work although of course that isn't the word he uses -- not hooker or hustler or whore either, those are my words – maybe escort?

Or: male prostitute. The way you need to add male to emphasize that you're not tits and ass or maybe ass but wait, maybe it's that something has become even more degraded, the loss of what you were supposed to be now just a male prostitute. Maybe curl your lip a little when you say male. That was the term I used in high school, when people would say what do you want to be when you grow up or no they didn't say grow up anymore we were all grown up, I'm talking about other high school students probably people would say what do you want to do when you graduate? I was envisioning an endless supply of absinthe and hair dye and cigarettes somewhere on the Left Bank in Paris, right? Well, when I didn't feel imprisoned by the need for Ivy League status, the place I'd been working towards since I memorized all the names of cheeses my father served for guests at the only big party I remember my parents throwing, when we moved into the new house and I was five or six.

But anyway this guy from high school with the white convertible, permed hair fresh from the suburbs actually the suburb where I lived too but I been going to school in the city for so long that I knew how to wear my black clothes with sufficient ennui to pass as urbanly bred. Although he had certainly mastered the unquestioning and unquestioned masculinity, something I knew I would never pull off so we were an odd pair, odd enough that our friendship only lasted down a few speeding trips on the highway, maybe a party or two before he or I discovered we didn’t quite match and maybe I had a crush on him, didn't matter because a crush in high school just meant feeling crushed, wanting something that would never happen or certain death.

But anyway here he is at dinner obsessed with the details of turning tricks, but even stranger his telling of the story involves the changing of my last name and the bleaching of my jet-black hair to pass as sufficiently WASPy not the Jewish intellectual of high school years but a pinup porno posterboy. Do you see how there's so much you can create when you don't know the worlds you're describing? And even though I’m saying WASPy now, I think he might have said Italian – now, that really really wouldn't have been possible. But let's look at these errors of interpretation: my blonde hair was dyed jet black in high school in order to pass as sufficiently outside the norm although it turns out inside another norm I didn't even know I was evoking. And, sorry, darling, but hookers don't usually have last names, not even WASPy Jewish intellectual hookers I mean we don't give that out.

But here's how I wake up: I’m at the reading group, and Trav who’s facilitating lets all these people join in who didn't even read the book, everyone's passing around my throat lozenges like candy but Trav is fascinated by the diversity of this new gathering – entire families with kids, most of them Latino but now it's a sing-along and I'm so angry that I get up to look for my clothes so I can go home, walking through the entire school and yes, there's my scarf, coat, sweaters in bags but dammit where are my sandals, someone took my sandals. Oh, here they are in the bathroom, socks too, but when I get into the lobby of my high school I realize no I don't wear socks with sandals and wait, these are someone else's sandals, too small and not negative balance they're going to hurt my body for sure so I take them off and then I walk back around but now I'm lost, all this security outside a hotel lobby, I've been up all night but maybe that guy sitting on the sofa with his legs spread, maybe it's time for cruising except he gives me that look like how dare you give me that look.

Okay, back to school and now it's a stadium or an art museum with a long long hallway, Indian grocery in the corner, hair salon and I apologize to the stylist for leaving everything there but then I realize nothing’s there, the place is spotless – I'm wearing all the clothes, sweating like hell, but where are my sandals I can't lose those sandals because they've been discontinued and I need them for the hot weather and just then I realize this dream really doesn't matter because my sandals are right here in my living room in Santa Fe, right? So then I wake up with a horrible headache, wondering if stressful sleep counts as sleep I mean is there any other kind and that's when I think about hair dye too, how when I started turning tricks one of the reasons was so that I could keep dying my hair – flamingo pink and green apple and dark tulip and all those other day-glo colors, a job without getting a job I mean I’d just been fired from two jobs that hired and fired me for the way I looked.


Claire Cramer said...

Love your dream stories. <3

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yay -- thank you, Claire!!!


kayti said...

Is this guy a photographer?

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Sounds like a good guess to me…

Love –