Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Swingset

And then it’s the end of the chapter, as this guy is grabbing or maybe holding, I think he’s holding David’s head and saying go ahead, enjoy it, and then: “His fingers and face scattered into shards of light.” That line in red, the way it goes into my eyes suddenly light too, and I’m wondering if David was able to plan out the layout of this text, the layout of the text and images before he died.
And when I look up at Ned he’s smiling at me, and so I smile at him, and there’s something like desire between us. Or, maybe not desire exactly, what is it?

And Ned says: I want to give you a hug, is that okay?

And I’m trying to remember if he’s ever asked before if it’s okay. And I say yes, that would be sweet, and I’m wondering if it really could be sweet, maybe in this moment, even the smell of the baby oil he’s always rubbing on his body, it feels kind of nice to rest my head on his shoulder for a moment and drift away except then I’m thinking oh no, now he’s going to suggest we go in the bedroom, I don’t want to go in the bedroom. But after a moment he just says that was nice, really nice. And then I get ready to go out.

Of course it’s not until 1 a.m. when I get to Paradise, but honey, that’s the perfect time. I’m dancing
with some blonde guy I’ve never seen before who really knows how to work the moves, I mean really. After a while he’s got me in his arms, I don’t even know how it works exactly because it’s not the cheesy grinding thing but something else, and then he says do you want to go home with me, sure, so then we’re outside getting in his car and I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever gone home with anyone from Paradise.

And I’m thinking about Avery too, I mean of course we’re not monogamous but have we ever had a real conversation about it, I’m not sure, every time I try he changes the subject. And when I get to this guy’s place in the South End, kind of a large for living alone and how does he afford it? He says do you like K, definitely, but after that first bump something changes in the room, I don’t know what exactly, but I keep looking over at the door like someone else is there, watching us. Preying on us. A stalker.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t done K in a while, but this panic just surrounds me, I can even feel my heart beating inside, is that my heart oh my eyes are closed and this guy says is something wrong? I say I just got really tired; I think I should go home. He looks kind of surprised and sad but I give him my number and then when I get outside I remember how much I love this feeling like I’m in the ground beneath the ground but also on a swingset and when I get home I lie in bed and watch the flickering of the chandelier for a long time, could be minutes or hours, 3:10 am I guess I’ll take my magical Marinol.

3000 posts, oh my!!!

Monday, July 29, 2013

A place where I might escape

The way Wojnarowicz writes about desire as something connected to everyday experience, how driving becomes sex becomes imagination becomes intimacy becomes loss, and how reading his words the first time freed me to imagine my desires that way too. The way you turn the page past the rest stop and the silhouette of a man, to an image of a guy jerking off in the top left corner of the page, maybe this is inside a truck but it looks more like a theater and the guy is holding a hat over his dick for cover. This guy is more heavyset and maybe it’s the rumpled shirt and is that a fireman’s cap, that same uncut dick I guess David liked uncut dicks.
I’m studying the way the brushstrokes are like magic markers and clouds and smoke blending black with grey, and it’s the next page that’s the first one that makes me think of my own desire, my own desire in a really big way as one guy leans forward to suck another guy off, that same chair yes it must be a porn theater, didn’t it say that on the back cover, this one’s hot the way one guy’s hand rests on the other guy’s head and the guy getting sucked is leaning back in something like pain, need and greed and here the background looks like smoke billowing up.
Cruising: the theater the truckstop the bathroom the park, wherever it makes sense and doesn’t make sense this hope for transcendence. That’s what David first gave me, a language for talking about my own desires that before I still thought pathological. Because when I went to those bathrooms as a teenager, I was trying not to feel, over and over again as these old guys, white WASPy guys like Ned with pasty skin and pink sweaty bodies, over and over again as these guys would suck my dick and I was really trying not to feel it, this drive I hated but couldn’t stop. And then afterwards, once I remembered about my father, I thought oh, I was trying not to feel, not to feel anything, I wanted to beat him, to win, to win over these desires that meant I was evil, deserved to die, I would never be anything else.
So when I first read David’s words, is it okay that I call him David, David because he feels close even though I discovered his words through his death. When I first read his words, these words about sex in the everyday I thought oh, this is what it could mean, should mean, I mean this is how I see desire too: something that can illuminate, a flash or explosion, a connection with this disconnected world, so rare, so possible, so hopeful, so empty.
And here David talks about looking at the light fixture on the ceiling through a puddle in between bathroom stalls, and I’m thinking about how I used to stare at the tiles on the floor of the bathroom at Mazza Gallery after school, looking for the flicker of the shadow that meant jerking off, that meant maybe someone would hand me a note on toilet paper wrapped around a pen, and we would head off to the back stairwell and down into the parking lot.
Because first I was trying not to feel it, and then I was aware of something else, I didn’t know what exactly, but there was a way that this secret world felt like a trap but also a place where I might escape.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

But I'm a writer

Sometimes I don’t want to write, ever again. But I’m a writer. Sometimes I wake up in so much pain that I think I’m going to die, that must be what this is, right, this intestinal pain, why do I keep trying so much, over and over again and still I end up here, thinking maybe this is cancer, my father died of cancer, it started in the gut.
Once someone sent me an email and said maybe you have Lyme’s disease, here’s how to get tested the right way. But I didn’t get tested. Somehow I manage to go to a protest in all this pain, mostly because several people I know have spent a lot of time working on this protest and it’s well-planned but quiet and then I get home and get back in bed and when I wake up I’m eating again, but this time it doesn’t hurt so much, and then I need to take a break because I want to eat more but is starting to make me spacey and bloated again so I better go on a walk, a walk in the sun and then I lie down and when I get home I eat more.
I’m hungry now too, but now I stop eating before six, which helps with my sleep I think, but is that helping with anything else, I mean I’m hungry and it’s 7:40 but I’m not going to eat. Sometimes I think I’m getting somewhere, getting somewhere with my health, because now I can taste my food more, sometimes, and maybe these symptoms are candida die-off but why, why do I think that and there's no reliable test for candida and then I end up with days like this, I mean the bloating has been getting worse for a week now, at first it was getting better with this new exploration in terms of eating, trying to stay in my body, whatever that means, this body that leads me here. Leave me. No, I mean I don’t want to leave.
I just watched a performance, I mean a video of a performance that made me remember that I need to write. That now it’s hard to write about what I’m feeling now, because I’m trying to use the tiny bit of energy I have to write this novel, I want to finish a draft by mid-September so that when I go to Boston on my book tour I can really think about it all. In Boston. For a month. A minute ago I had the whole ending written in my head. Now I just want to go to bed.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Oh, look – the new issue of The Advocate includes The End of San Francisco in a big feature on the "New Gay Memoir"...

Sycamore’s work… is structurally challenging, and reads like it was driven more by free association — Freud’s psychoanalytic technique that employs spontaneous and unconstrained collecting of emotions and ideas — than by any style taught in an English literature classroom. The result is brilliant, a collection of unstructured vignettes about sex abuse, dying parents, feminism and veganism, Tracy Chapman and Le Tigre, dyke bars and gay tricks, AIDS and ACT UP that all weave together a life of hope in ’90s San Francisco and the disappointment that follows.”
—Diane Anderson-Minshall, The Advocate

Disappearing into the floor

But back to Close to the Knives. Ned and I start the second chapter, and I notice the sound of the refrigerator in the other room, which I haven’t heard before. I look up at the chandelier, and the way the light goes in all directions. I think about my breathing, is it shallow or deep?
And then Ned clears his throat, and I look at his face, familiar and yet so far away. And he says: I think I’d like to start with the other one.
He means Memories That Smell Like Gasoline. He saw it in my room. I actually have two copies because I used to give them out to people in San Francisco, new friends, anyone I wanted to get to know. No, wait, that’s what I did with Close to the Knives. Or, I guess both. Because I remember lending Memories That Smell Like Gasoline to that boy who was visiting one of my roommates, she wanted me to make him radical and I guess I tried because he was so cute. Even gave him a Xanax so that he would relax and then we slept together and does that count is getting someone high so they’ll have sex with you? Probably.
Okay, I say to Ned, although I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. I go upstairs to get Memories That Smell Like Gasoline. This was actually the first book by David Wojnarowicz that I discovered, after I read about him in an obituary, or maybe it wasn’t an obituary but a review published shortly after his death, a review that felt like an obituary, and then I went over to Modern Times and looked at it but somehow the images scared me, what was it exactly? I thought they were gross. Childlike. This wasn’t art.
Back downstairs with Ned and I hand him the book, his copy. He opens up to the table of contents and says would it be okay if we read one chapter at a time, and discuss each one afterwards? Sure, I say.
Before I was angry, disgusted that Ned couldn’t handle it, couldn’t even handle it in writing. But now I’m excited because I haven’t read Memories That Smell like Gasoline in a while — and, it’s so short that I’ve never thought of reading it in more than one sitting.
So I sit at the table and study the cover, the blurred headlights of a truck on the highway in a soft teal blue, what do they call it when a photo is blue and white instead of black and white? I can never remember, but I always love that look. Cyanotype, right?
And then the title in yellow, David’s name in black, black and white stripes on the side that lead to the spine and onto the back cover, which otherwise is orange. I never thought of this before, but maybe the stripes are supposed to represent a prison jumpsuit? A piano. A hospital.
And then you open it up and on the inside cover there’s some of David’s handwriting, enlarged so you just see a few words and phrases like “8th Avenue,” or wait, what does it say altogether — “8th Avenue and hands and” and then a word I can’t recognize, plus some words that are just pieces of words and then “wouldn’t sucking him he come in the curtains.” Oh, I love that.
And then the next page, just a small snake on a white background before the title page, and what does that mean exactly. Oh — it’s just the logo for the publisher. Onto the first page, which means the first image, a watercolor of three guys having sex. Or, I guess on the back it calls it an ink painting. I think it was something about these images that scared me that first time, and even though I’m not looking at Ned I can hear his breath quickening and I know that means he’s looking at it in a different way.
I see three guys jerking off. Or, one guy on his knees, and two guys cut off just above the waist, framing the guy on his knees with a cock on each side of his mouth. It’s kind of funny, because all three are holding their dicks in the same way, hands like wrenches, and I wonder if that’s on purpose or if it’s just due to the limitations of David’s drawing ability. They all have the same body, loosely muscular — and the same cock, actually, large but not ridiculously large, two with foreskin and the other without.
What’s spooky about this picture is the look on that guy’s face — it’s like he’s grinding his teeth and furrowing his brow, looking down or deep inside and not at either of the cocks in front of him. The only desire is the way his left arm wraps around one of the guys’ calves, hand disappearing into the floor. I mean there’s no hand, just an arm that goes away.
I never noticed any of this before — or I must have noticed the feeling, but I didn’t take time to experience it. You can see the way darkness frames light in the brushstrokes that almost look like fingerprints, gray and black and then white: the white is what makes it look like the flash has just gone off.
And then, just when I feel like I’m reading too much into the expression in that one guy’s face, is it pain or emptiness or hopelessness or yearning? Then there’s the first line of text: “Sometimes it gets dark in here behind these eyes I feel like the physical equivalent of a scream.” And I look at Ned; he’s looking down.
I remember when I wanted to scream so much, throwing glass bottles out of windows to hear them shatter. Now I just go in the bathroom to do another bump and what does that mean about this shattering?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Goggles

After Ned goes to bed, I go to Avery’s. I mean Sean’s. I mean the haunted house. I guess I’m starting to think of it as Avery’s apartment but he still has his other apartment, with roommates, right, and does he ever go back there?
Anyway, right after I arrive the doorbell rings and Avery says sorry, I have to get this, and then he buzzes someone in and I can’t believe it, it’s Don and John in matching camouflage parkas with fur around the hood, and I have nothing to say to those tired bitches so I smile blankly and then hide in the bathroom while Avery makes the deal. But then I realize I should have gone in the bedroom, right, what am I going to do in the bathroom besides stare in the mirror and pop more zits?
When I get back out, Avery’s kind of edgy — what’s wrong?
What do you mean what’s wrong?
You seem kind of edgy.
I’m not edgy. You’re edgy.
I’m just thinking about Army and Navy.
What do you mean Army and Navy?
Those snotty bitches and their camouflage parkas, did you notice they had fur collars and I’m sure that fur was real. The next thing you know, they’ll be wearing the whole uniform.
What’s wrong with camouflage parkas, it’s cold again and the military thing is in right now.
You did not just say that.
What? What did I not just say?
The military thing is in.
Mattilda, haven’t you noticed?
Of course I’ve noticed, and that’s the whole problem.
Mattilda, you don’t have to take it so seriously.
Every time I see camouflage, I want to vomit. Or shoot someone.
Mattilda, Mattilda, you just said you want to shoot someone when you see camouflage.
That’s right — it makes me feel violent. It’s violent.
It’s just a look, Mattilda, it’s a look. A lycra camouflage bodysuit is not violent.
Oh, gross — don’t say that!
Lycra camouflage bodysuit. Lycra camouflage bodysuit.
Okay, okay, you would look fierce in a lycra camouflage bodysuit. With camo stilettos. Camo-lettos.
Camolettos — that’s brilliant. But what about the bustier?
Coostier.
Coostier, chante. Chante chante chante.
Chante Chanel.
Oh, you’re getting couture on me. A Chanel coostier — who’s next?
Geoffrey B. Small.
Oh, now you’re getting local. Make that a Chanel coostier, with a Geoffrey B. Small micro-mini made from recycled camo, fresh and bloody from the battlefield in Kuwait.
Don’t forget the glasses. Goggles.
Yes, bitch, night vision goggles. You would look fierce in a pair of camo night vision goggles.
Camo coochie goggles.
What are coochie goggles?
The better to see you with, my dear.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The street on the other side

The coke cure is back. I couldn’t help it, I mean I couldn’t sleep without it, and you know I need my beauty rest. Wait, what am I saying — that coke helps me sleep? No, what’s my point? Well, Avery was starting to get on my nerves and I wasn’t feeling sick anymore, or not as sick, so I thought why not just a little? And then, well, you know.
The best part was that first cocktail, that first cocktail after not drinking for over two weeks, I mean Ned thought I was crazy when I didn’t want to drink, he just can’t imagine an evening without cocktails. But then he heard me coughing and he went out and bought me a bunch of apples: an apple a day keeps the doctor away, he kept saying. I don’t even like apples — well, maybe Granny Smiths, but these were red delicious, yuck. But it was a nice gesture, so I figured I’d throw one in the trash every day, just to make Ned happy. I mean, Ned’s not usually cute or silly. Plus, I could tell he thought I was going to die when he heard me cough that first time, so I tried to figure out how to emphasize that I’d just gotten tested, and that everything was fine, I mean without saying that directly, since he never said anything directly, right? But eventually I think it worked because then he got me the apples and we all know apples don’t cure HIV.
Once I was almost better, but still not drinking or doing coke, Ned kept saying Tyler, you don’t seem like yourself. And it’s funny because that should have emphasized that quitting might be a good idea, right, but instead it made me go right to the bathroom to do a bump. Or, okay, not right away because I wanted to be discreet, okay? You know how I’m always discreet.
But what was my point? Oh, right: that all the drugs I take to sleep, without the coke I just felt groggy all the time but then when I didn’t take a Xanax and melatonin and magical, magical Marinol I felt like a total wired catastrophe, pacing around the house in the middle of the night thinking about slamming my head through the walls and out to the street on the other side but you know I would just get stuck in the middle. My cough was almost gone, I mean at least all the phlegm, now it’s just the raspy thing I had before.
Anyway, I don’t know where I’m going with all this. What I really wanted to say is that now Ned and I are reading Close to the Knives together — and I like our little reading group. I actually feel focused when I’m reading.
But wait, I wanted to tell you about my first cocktail, my first cocktail after I didn’t drink for two or three weeks — Ned put it on the table, and I took one sip, and I thought oh, this is it. This is everything. This is everywhere I want to be. And then after the third cocktail, I went upstairs and did a bump, even though beforehand I was thinking I would call Avery up and give him all my leftover drugs. And that first bump? Oh, that first bump —everything literally got brighter and then I went downstairs and Ned said: you’re in a good mood.
And that’s when we decided to read Close to the Knives together, I mean I’ve already read it at least three times from cover to cover and then different parts at different times, for a while I carried it around everywhere because it’s my favorite book, I’m always ready to read it again.
So it starts, that first chapter, “Self-Portrait in Twenty-Three Rounds,” and there’s that feeling in the back of my head, how do I describe that feeling? Just listen: “So my heritage is a calculated fuck on some faraway sun-filled bed while the curtains are being sucked in and out of an open window by a passing breeze.”
It’s that passing breeze, going right through my body, like suddenly my skin is alive, I can feel things all over. Except there’s Ned across from me, he’s wincing and somehow I forgot about all the violence in the opening scene, somehow that’s not what I remember, since there’s violence everywhere, I mean everywhere in this book and also everywhere everywhere, right? And then of course I finish the first chapter way before Ned so I sit there and wait, sipping my cocktail and looking at his face until he looks up and I say what do you think?
And he says: it’s a little much.
What do you mean?
Tyler, it’s a lot to look at.
Before I was ready to laugh about the end of the chapter where some trick with a foot fetish comes in his shoe and then says yeah, that smells like eggs, but now I’m thinking about the violence and does it ever end? And am I participating in this room? And what are my other choices?
But also I’m thinking about how reading Close to the Knives was the first time I ever felt my own rage in print, and also my sense of maybe a little bit of hope in a world of loss, and I’m wondering if I still feel that rage. Maybe I’m feeling it now.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Oh, look – the fall tour for The End of San Francisco is starting to take shape! Of course, let me know if you want to bring me to your town or university…

MADISON, WI
University of Wisconsin
Thursday, October 3
Madison, Wisconsin

CHICAGO, IL
Women & Children First
Monday, October 7, 7:30 pm
5233 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 769-9299
womenandchildrenfirst.com

CARBONDALE, IL
Southern Illinois University
Friday, October 11
National Coming Out Day Keynote
Carbondale, Illinois

New York University
Tuesday, October 29
New York, New York

NEW YORK, NY
Bluestockings Bookstore
Wednesday, October 30, 7 pm
172 Allen St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 777-6028
bluestockings.com

BROOKLYN, NY
Brooklyn Community Pride Center
Monday, November 4, 7 pm
Brooklyn, New York

A few days

Avery brings the soup in my room and it smells so good. I take a few sips, but then I start to feel nauseous again.
Okay, let’s save it for later.
So this is how the whole week goes: Avery takes care of me, and when she goes out to make her deliveries I just wait in bed until she returns. And I feel awful, but I also feel like there’s something new in our relationship. I really never expected this, and I don’t know what to do exactly. I mean, right when I got sick I started thinking about my mother, that’s how I knew it was really bad, and then I started worrying that I had no one except Ned to take care of me, Ned who was out of town, Ned who would never take care of me like Avery is now, I mean he would pay for things, right, but lie in bed with me, I mean that would be gross anyway, but what am I going to do when he gets back? What are we going to do? Why am I worrying like this, maybe it’s just because I’m sick. Okay, let me close my eyes again.
When I wake up, Avery’s kissing my face, what time is it? Noon. Did I really just sleep for 12 hours? You needed it, Mattilda, you needed it.
I get up and I’m still coughing, but my phlegm is yellow now instead of red and I don’t feel like I’m going to fall down. I don’t feel hot or cold, and sure enough I take my temperature and it’s down to 99. I’m done with the antibiotics, and Ned is coming home tomorrow — I’m going to miss you, I say to Avery.
I’m not going anywhere.
But I’ll miss you anyway.
It’s funny how she can be so calm on so much coke, how does that work? Do you want some, she says, it’s good for your complexion.
No, I’m not ready.
I was just kidding.
The truth is that it is good for my complexion, just look at all these zits now, and it’s only been a few days.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our holiday bed

I’m not sure where we’re going but we’re on Newberry Street when I start coughing, and when we get home I’m still coughing what can I do about this coughing and Avery says maybe a bump of coke, which makes me laugh and cough, which I guess is better than just coughing, especially since my throat is getting really sore and I don’t know, maybe miso soup, maybe miso soup and then a bump, okay actually the miso is helping, oh, I hope I’m not getting sick, getting sick on our week together it was supposed to be a vacation, right, a vacation without Ned around and he wanted me to go with him to Hong Kong on his business trip, or Hong Kong and Taipei and Tokyo, one right after the other I guess to recruit students or something like that, he didn’t say exactly. Ned doesn’t like to talk about his work, I mean once in a while something slips but generally he doesn’t say much and I don’t ask because that means I don’t have to tell him much when he asks me about school. School, work – it’s all lies, right?
So it’s my romantic week with Avery, except now I’m coughing and then I do a bump, which kind of makes me cough more but at least it makes my throat a little bit numb and then Avery is kissing me again — stop, you’re going to get sick, stop.
Mattilda, I never get sick, you know that.
Avery, you don’t want to get this cough.
If I was going to get your cough, I would’ve had it a long time ago.
I think this is something different.
And just then I’m coughing again, and then Avery gasps and grabs my hand and I’m wondering what’s going on but when I look down I see there’s all this blood on my hand, oh my nose, maybe I shouldn’t have done a bump. I always think of blood red as being something really dark, burgundy or maroon or even darker but then when you look at it on a white towel it’s red, bright red. Shit, what am I going to do with this towel?
Maid service.
But I don’t like to leave them things like this.
Mattilda, I’m sure they’ve seen worse, let me get you some ice.
And she’s right, they have seen worse, like that time when Ned’s shit poured out of his ass like dark brown water onto the sheets, I’m thinking about that awful smell and how he seems so embarrassed when he was pulling the sheets off the bed but then he still wanted me to fuck him. That was before he figured out how to use his enema bag, now it’s always hanging from his shower even though we haven’t fucked and I don’t know how long and I’m so glad we had separate bathrooms, thank you to whoever designed this house.
The next day I wake up in bed with Avery and at first I feel a little better, right, I mean at least I’m not coughing, but then I go to the bathroom and my nose is bleeding again, this time both nostrils, and my throat hurts so so much, what the fuck is going on? Avery thinks I should go to a doctor, but I hate doctors, what is a doctor going to do for me? Give me some antibiotics that’ll make me sicker, but why am I so fucking freezing, Avery I know it’s 60 degrees out but should we turn on the heat? Then I’m shivering so much that my whole body starts to shake and I’m sitting on the toilet shitting everything out, I mean I’m shitting everything out and then I’m still trying to shit more, it’s like my sphincter won’t stop contracting even though there’s nothing left.
So we go to the clinic, and they tell me it’s bronchitis. And I have a serious fever, 102.5, I don’t think it’s ever been that high before. Guess what? Antibiotics.
So then I take the antibiotics, and I’m shitting again. Shitting and coughing and shivering and then sweating, shivering and sweating, back and forth I mean this is ridiculous, for three or four days everything blends together it’s just fever and chills and nausea too and I realize Avery isn’t offering me coke anymore, I mean I realized that before but I didn’t want any although now I sort of do. But Avery’s hugging me while I’m in bed sweating and I can’t believe she hugs me this way I mean what would I do without this hug but I mean I don’t even like to be around someone when they’re sick and here she just keeps bringing me closer, it’s our holiday sick house and when will I ever feel better?
Oh Avery’s sleeping, so cute here in my sweaty bed and I don’t want to wake her because she hardly ever sleeps, right, but I am getting hungry again, although last time I ate miso soup and then went right to the bathroom to shit it out, so what can I try this time? What time is it, I can’t quite see the clock, oh, 4:50, maybe Avery sleeps in the middle of the day, maybe that’s the key, I don’t know, maybe I’ll just watch your eyelashes and the way they go up and down, oh, now I’m getting tired again.
When I wake up, Avery’s sitting next to me on the bed, petting me through the covers, I don’t want to say it but this is so much fun, in a way, even though I feel absolutely fucking awful I mean I can hardly breathe, what the fuck is stuck in my head, why does my throat hurt so much, I must look awful, I can’t believe she’s seeing me when I look this awful.
And Avery says: I made dinner.
Dinner?
Yes, I made you miso soup, just like you asked for.
I asked for? I didn’t know you knew how to cook.
Mattilda, I don’t know how to cook, I’ve never cooked anything in my life but I’ve been watching you and taking notes, notes in my head. I made miso soup — with tofu, broccoli, mung bean sprouts, scallions, that radish, what’s it called again?
Daikon.
Right — Daikon radish. And ginger. A little bit of ginger. I know you said it’s good for your throat.
I don’t know if I can get up yet, what time is it?
9:30.
In the morning?
Mattilda, I would never wake you up in the morning. Here, I’ll go get some soup, and bring it upstairs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A forcefield around us

I remember when Avery was afraid of kissing in public and here we are, making out and rolling in the grass as the sun’s going down and the strollers and dogs and kids and teenagers and old people and whoever the fuck else walks by, all the homophobes, whoever they are, and no one says anything or maybe they’re saying something and I don’t care, just go ahead and beat us to a pulp, see if I move from these arms and was that a gasp? I think that was a gasp. Someone says disgusting, and I can feel Avery get tense so we sit up and yes, people are watching, but they turn around, they actually turn around and we look out at the water glowing and sort of flowing, I mean does the Charles River really flow, and Avery says wait, I need to tell you something.
You think you might be gay? It’s okay, it’s okay, Avery, I accept you anyway. Usually I hate the gays, but you are a pretty good kisser...
No, I’m serious. I want to tell you something serious.
Okay, serious, I’m ready.
I’m a liar.
Okay, you’re a liar. Who isn’t a liar? Give me one example. Just one.
No, but I lie about everything. I’m from New Haven.
So what — are there a lot of liars in New Haven?
Mattilda, have you been to New Haven? Think about it, Mattilda, you know how I’ve always said that my parents were rich, that’s a lie.
Oh, I don’t give a shit about that.
I know you don’t give a shit, but I just want to tell you, so that at least I’m not lying to you.
Everyone lies.
I know everyone lies, but it’s not the same thing. My father stole that Mercedes. No, that’s a lie — someone else stole it, and left it with my father.
I always did wonder about the Mercedes.
My father runs an auto repair shop. No, that’s a lie, he used to run an auto repair shop. Before he got arrested. He got arrested for beating my mother. And you know they never arrest the abuser, you know that. That’s how bad it was. I’m a scholarship kid. I mean I was a scholarship kid. I failed too many classes. So I lost the scholarship. Mattilda, this is the first time in my life when I’ve really had money, you know what I mean?
Sure.
And this is the first time when I realize that it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything at all.
And that’s when someone behind us says faggots, and I think of turning around but then I stop, I don’t know why but I stop, and he says it again. And I look at Avery, who’s looking at me, I can tell she’s thinking of looking back but instead we just start walking, we start walking like we didn’t even hear it, we didn’t hear anything, there’s a forcefield around us, okay?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

On the runway

Avery rings the bell and when I get to the door he’s standing there with a huge bunch of sunflowers in his hands, who are those for?
These are for you, cunt — Daddy’s out of town and it’s our special time together at the palace. Finally.
Avery hands me the flowers, and then reaches down to pick up some boombox I’ve never seen before – I’m bringing back the ‘80s.
Oh, no, please, not the ‘80s. Anything but the ‘80s, even the ‘70s I mean anything’s better than Michael Jackson, anything. Thank you for the flowers, they’re beautiful.
Okay, the early-‘90s. You’re beautiful. Now let’s put these sunflowers in water so they can grow. I’m sure there’s some big heavy crystal thing around here, right? When daddy comes home, you can just tell him they’re for him.
I will not tell him they’re for him.
Whatever you want, but can we please go to the bathroom, I want to fuck you over the sink.
So romantic — how can I resist?
You’re too hot. Are you ready for a bump?
That’s not really a question, is it?
I don’t know – let’s take a shower, okay? Let’s take a shower, and then go to the Esplanade. To watch the sunset. It’s warm out today, 60 degrees.
Really? 60?
And I brought the boombox.
When we get to the Esplanade the sun is starting to set and everything is glowing. There are people everywhere, but somehow they don’t seem as awful as usual. Avery puts the boombox down and says wait, wait until you hear this. And she presses play.
Oh my God, you are not serious — where on earth did you find “I’m Too Sexy for Myself”?
Tower Records.
Are you serious? Tower Records has “I’m Too Sexy for Myself”? — girl, Tower Records is where it’s at.
I just want to see you do runway.
“Oh, honey, I’m too sexy by far.”
“Too sexy for this song.”
Is that it?
No, wait, a tribal mix. Danny Tenaglia.
You are not serious.
I am serious — this is the Danny Tenaglia tribal mix.
With those awful ‘80s beats.
Early-‘90s, remember, you said it’s all about the early-‘90s.
“Too sexy for Milan, New York and Japan.”
Oh, yes, give it, give it, give it, did I ever tell you, did I ever tell you that’s when I first fell for you?
When?
When I saw you. On the runway.
Are you serious?
I am so fucking serious. Okay, bitch, work it out, work it out and then I have something to tell you.
And oh, I’m flinging myself into the air and around, jump up and throw myself to the ground, rolling in the grass or dirt or leaves or whatever this is, stand up and give it, take it, make it, break it, fake it, snake it, shake it off, break it off, the lake, it isn’t a lake it’s a river, give her, give her what, give her the river, deliver, shiver, my liver, and Avery’s shrieking and I’m throwing my arms everywhere, hands flying up and back, head in every direction, yes the joggers are scared, bitches, the joggers are scared and never mind the strollers, too sexy for my, too sexy for my, too sexy for my, and then I do the big kick in the air, as high as possible and I almost don’t believe it but I land with one leg straight out and the other crossed underneath like I’m just sitting there so calmly oh so calmly. Avery comes over to fan me with her hand, and that’s when I jump up and twist around her, is this really version 3, how many versions are on this CD?
And there’s that beat like one of those movie songs, who the hell made “I’m Too Sexy for Myself” anyway? Okay, okay, here I go, running down the Esplanade and Avery is cackling and fanning himself and I start to twirl around and around and around until I’m dizzy enough that doing the falling-over runway really is falling over, bending side to side and taking the tight rope in the middle into fight rope, light rope, blight rope, smash the glass and jump up and down delight rope and Avery runs in front of me and I stop, turn, put my hand on her face and then we turn around together, I’m holding onto her back like I could hold on forever and then I push her aside with feigned disgust and she laughs and what is this mix, I don’t remember this mix and Avery’s back I’m leaning against her like a prop or a wall or treasure or the end of the line or sustenance and she says Mattilda, you are so, you are so.
Don’t say it.
Fierce. I said it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Progress

Please, someone, can you tell me when this bloating will end? And, really, I’m getting more and more confused about this thing called hunger, what the fuck is it? I mean all this time I’ve been thinking it’s that feeling in my head when I get edgy, but it’s something in the rest of my body too, right? How do I know, how do I know when I’m actually hungry and not just anxious or exhausted or anxious and exhausted, and when I eat and it makes me more exhausted, does that mean I’m more present in my body, or that the food is making me exhausted, that I’m eating too much, and that’s what causes the bloating?
So this awareness practice from somatic therapy, that’s what led me here to this exploration, this exploration of how the fuck to stay present in my body while I’m eating. How the fuck to get to a place where I actually feel better after I eat, not worse. How the fuck to get to a place where I’m not overwhelmed by intestinal pain, stomach pain, bloating, exhaustion – and everything else too, but let’s start there.
So I’ve started to think that maybe I eat too much, too much at once, but also too much as a whole, and that’s part of what makes me sick. That at one point I did need to eat this much, but not anymore. But I can’t really figure out how much is the right amount. I mean now I think I’m not eating enough, or not consuming enough calories, how do I get enough calories if I eat less? I have no fucking idea. I wish I could eat oil or nuts or something like that — healthy oil, healthy nuts — but I can’t eat any oil at all or, forget it, the bloating gets so much worse.
But here’s the good part. Sometimes, now, I suddenly taste something that’s so incredibly delicious — like a piece of broccoli on the plate, incredible! Or these beans -- all the sudden, amazing. I think that means I’m more present. And that eating less helps me, at least right now. Even if it’s kind of like a modified fast, maybe this helps to cleanse my body.
Candida. That’s another thing I’m wondering about. Because of this pattern of craving food, the bloating that starts at a particular time no matter what. The fact that now I’m more exhausted, but not more hungry — is that the die-off? How the fuck can I figure it out? I don’t want to be hurting myself, I want to be helping, you know? I think this is helping, but is it?
Oh, health — will I ever get there? What the fuck is it, health? What else? There was so much else to say. At least my head doesn’t feel cloudy, not right now at least.
Dizziness — I am getting a little dizzy. Is that from not enough calories, or from the candida die off? Detox? How do I figure these things out, these things I’ve been trying to figure out for years and years and years. Obviously being more present while I eat has to be a good thing, in the long term at least, but in the short term it’s often kind of stressful. Like I’ll eat four bites, and then I feel like I’m full. But I know I’m going to need to eat in five minutes. So usually I’ll just keep eating anyway. But that’s the trick, I think that’s what makes me sick, or one of the things. So I need to stop, and get up, move away from the table, do something until I get too edgy to function, then I know I’m really hungry so I can go back. And maybe, all these different times when I’m eating five or 10 or 20 minutes from when I just ate, maybe if think of four or five of these times as one meal that stretches over an hour that makes sense, right? Isn’t that what a meal is supposed to be?
I mean I can’t just sit there, and take a break, and wonder if I should eat more yet, because then within a minute there’s a fork in my hand and food in my mouth and I don’t even know what’s happening. Literally. This is so confusing.
As a teenager I was anorexic. That’s why I thought that when Nathan first suggested writing down notes about how I feel while I’m eating, I just thought no, that will be too overwhelming, right? But actually it does help me to stay present. Although then I worry that if I’m eating less, am I getting back into an anorexic pattern? I mean I know that’s not my impetus, but it’s still a fear.
Oh, food — how to figure it all out, I hope I’m getting somewhere. I remember when I had to eat immediately before getting into bed; I knew this was unhealthy, and it made me feel disgusting, but it was the only way I could fall asleep. And then, for a while, I had to get up in the middle of the night and eat toast. Now it seems like if I eat later than a certain point, that makes the bloating much worse. And, that time gets earlier and earlier, probably because I’m getting up earlier, but still it’s a bit confusing when now it seems like I shouldn’t eat after 6 pm at the latest, especially when a month ago it was 7 pm and a few months before that it was 8, and then before that 10 and way before that I would eat at 3 or 4 am just a few minutes for climbing into bed. But this sounds like progress, right? I think.

Remove points of structure

Speaking of potions, Ned has discovered melatonin, he says it works as well as any sleeping pill, and he’s right, it does work pretty well. Especially since I’m taking sleeping pills all day long. Add some melatonin to the magical Marinol at the end of the day I mean night and I’m set. “The lady in red… she’s dancing with me …”

In the mirror: they call it flesh but actually it’s so many hills and valleys, sun and rain no pain no gain, poke-me marks, pock, is that a word by itself, pock poke-me marks or is it poke-me pockmarks? But this flesh, me, the colors: red and pale blue and pink and white and yellow and orange all blended together and those prickly hairs poking through, darker than the other hairs, right, the rounded pointiness of cheeks and the way my eyes can be blue but really that’s white and blue and a circle of green, sparkly brown spots on the left I never realized brown could sparkle is it really purple in disguise like the way the white of the eyes is the part that shines the most and you never realize that from far away. Or, the way skin is really all of these little holes, some dry and some greasy even after the apricot facial scrub and oil-free moisturizer it’s never just smooth except from far away and I guess that’s why so many people wear so much makeup. Good evening, evenness. Evenness the bags under my eyes can become pretty when I stare long enough and let everything. Look, look how my lower lip is bigger and puffier and more red than the pinker upper lip. Pinker tinker toiler troubler, cauldron boiler toilet bubble.

And, introducing: teeth. Teeth — that’s just the way you are — teeth.

The way we think of you as white, right, white, but you’re so much closer to yellow, at least mine no everyone’s I think unless they’ve been bleached. And who wants bleach in their mouth, really, it hurts enough every time I bleach my hair. Or maybe my teeth are stained. And the biggest stain is that white white on the front left tooth from that fluoride treatment when I was 12 or maybe 10, what were they thinking? Poison the kids with fluoride. We drink it every day, help, Ned we need a water filter, yes, why don’t we have a water filter?

Nose hairs, oh my. Okay, stop, stop pulling skin back to remove points of structure leaving only softness giving way to pain in search of softness and it never works, popping those blackheads, okay, stop, but my point was the way the water runs over my hands, oh my hands, right, washing my hands with the oatmeal soap because it’s like a massage with the hot water and my contacts, right, I’m taking out my contacts, no, I’m in the bathroom at the Westin, just for old-times sake, all those times Abby and I sat around here waiting for tricks, why the Westin, I don’t know, just because of these comfortable chairs.

And the payphones out of the rain or the heat or the cold, right, the luxury of waiting. No: luxury while waiting. There’s never luxury in waiting. But what am I doing at the Westin? Waiting for Avery to make a delivery, now it’s all about deliveries, I forgot what we were getting today, sofas? Too heavy. Avery, should we make a list? Extra cheese, honey — remember the extra cheese! Do I need another bump? I think I’ll go back in the bathroom to smooth everything out.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"An End to Easy Answers," indeed -- a beautiful review of The End of San Francisco in Tikkun!!!

As its title suggests, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s searing new memoir chronicles a series of losses in Sycamore’s queer activist life, but none of these losses evokes traditional nostalgia for an earlier, happier time. Instead, each loss is held up to the light to examine how it reflects the contradictions inherent in our attempts to build authentic relationships in a world where personal and structural violence separate us from each other and ourselves. Sycamore repeatedly demonstrates how our efforts to create alternative cultures often replicate the racist, sexist, and homophobic world in which we live. And while this is a heavy theme, reading this memoir is the opposite of a gloomy excavation of Sycamore’s life. Instead Sycamore’s associative, non-linear narrative is filled with sparkling language that illuminates the importance of reaching for connection and alive-ness in the face of brutality and loss.

That feeling in my head

The good thing about the coke cure is that it helps with my cough. No, seriously. Just a little bump and I'm fine. Another bump and I’m even better. A third bump and the cough is practically gone. When did this cough start, anyway? It feels like I’ve always had it. Sure, it’s a little uncomfortable in my throat, but what a perfect distraction: a faggot with dyed hair and a purse, coughing for the cameras: AIDS alert in aisle four. “Camera’s ready, prepare to flash.”
Avery, you’re right, you’re right, this is fun. Fun for the whole family. Whose family? “Brighter days, I’m looking for a -- brighter days…”
But shit I have to be home for Ned, at least for a few minutes, right, what am I making for dinner yes dinner, do you want to come over, no, probably not a good idea, I mean not right at this moment.
Why not at this moment? You don’t want him to see you with your bitchy boyfriend?
I don’t want him to see me with my bitchy boyfriend when we’re both coked out of our minds.
I am not coked out of my mind, I’m coked into my mind.
I wake up the next day singing, “I think I love you, what am I so afraid of, I’m afraid that there’s no cure for…” — what are the rest of the words? “No cure for… No cure for…” Avery, do you know that song, who sings it? “I think I love you…”
Yes, I’m in bed with Avery. I stayed over at the haunted house. Told Ned I was studying late. I couldn’t help it, really, there’s a lot to study. Like those freckles on Avery’s back, I’m keeping track of those cute freckles.
“What am I so afraid of…”
Yes, yes — that’s the one.
I’m just imitating you.
Well, you looked pretty cute while you were doing it. What time is it?
2:30 in the afternoon — I can’t believe you slept this late.
When don’t I sleep until 2:30, that would be a better question.
I’ve got something for you.
Girl, it’s too early for lines, first I need breakfast.
Absolut in the freezer.
There’s still Absolut in the freezer? Someone needs to throw that shit out. Let’s get some Stoli — now, that would be good for breakfast. But first I need oatmeal.
Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
I am not eating Cocoa Puffs.
The way it all blends together, one day and then the next. One store and then the next. One line and then the next. The day we take a whole shopping cart full of canned food out of Star Market. And then the next Star Market. And the next. Honey, we’re getting a tour of all the Star Markets, that’s for sure. Who’s the star now?
What’s next? Not Bread & Circus; I can’t risk getting banned from Bread & Circus. What about Safeway, do we have Safeway in Boston? Shoes, where can we get shoes? Urban Outfitters, girl — they keep the shoes in the boxes. No way, are you serious? Well, not after our lovely visit — empty boxes. Should we go back to the sporting goods stores for boots, yes, boots, homeless people need boots, right? What about the surplus store, I don’t want to get new leather. Although those boots are kind of shit, I mean I’m wearing a pair right now, soles taped up with duct tape and I know it’s glamorous and all, but it doesn’t actually work that well. Except when you pick me up in the Mercedes.
That feeling in my head, where am I, that feeling when I’m sitting with Ned and he’s speaking and I’m trying to pay attention — oh, right, another cocktail, thank you. That feeling in my head, so warm and cool at the same time, blending these pills and powders and potions and yes, that feeling in my head, hold me.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

How to provide

Avery calls me up and says Mattilda, I figured it out.
You figured what out?
I figured it out, Mattilda, I figured it out, I figured it out, I figured it out!
Honey, you are coked out of your mind.
Mattilda, who isn’t, who isn't? I know you're always talking about how everyone in Boston is totally apathetic and I'm like the worst example of that I mean I don't even have a political bone in my body. Although wait, I was a PoliSci major for 10 minutes. But I didn't even know what was going on. I thought PoliSci was science. With geology at least you get to look at something. Mattilda, there are so many problems, Mattilda, so many problems and I know you know that I know I know I know, Mattilda. So, what was I saying, what was I saying, Mattilda? Oh, oh – I still don't fucking know what's going on, but I thought of the perfect idea, something we can do together, oh, maybe I shouldn't say it on the phone.
Are you teasing me?
Mattilda, it's true, I have to wait at the haunted house for a few deliveries, but maybe we can get together later, and I'll tell you my idea. I think you'll like it. I think you'll really like it. Really really. I’m sure. I’m really sure. Okay?
When we finally get together, it’s the end of the day I mean the beginning and Avery and I are at Bertucci's because I'm still trying to get her to eat. She looks around to make sure no one’s paying attention and then says listen, Mattilda, listen: Remember when we went to Star Market last night to get contact lens solution? Yes, last night, that was last night! Okay, so I was looking around at everyone looking at you. Everyone. And no one, no one at all, no one was looking at me. You see what I mean?
Not exactly.
Mattilda, don't play coy with me, coy decoy, you're the one who likes to call it bargain shopping. No one was looking at me, get it?
Oh, okay, yes, yes, I get it. Bargain shopping realness.
Yes, yes, bargain shopping realness — you got it, Mattilda, you got it. So are you ready?
I’m always ready for bargain shopping.
I knew it, Mattilda, I knew it! And, you're right about something else —I should smoke pot more often, I didn’t realize I could be so hungry, even though there isn't any fucking cheese in this pizza it’s delicious, almost as delicious as you and here's my example, it's cold out, right? Really fucking freezing-your-tits-off cold. So what do people need, people outside? People stuck the fuck outside in this fucking freezing cold. Sleeping bags, right?
Sure, sleeping bags, sure, why not? But where are we going to get a bunch of sleeping bags?
Mattilda, obviously you haven't been to Allston, Cambridge, Brookline — there are plenty of places to get sleeping bags, Sleeping Booty.
Sleeping Beauty, I love it.
Booty, Mattilda, booty. Give me a kiss.
Usually I'm so focused on my own bargain shopping, studying everyone’s reactions while I yawn and pretend to be oh-so-relaxed. Wait, did I tell you how relaxed I am? Honey, I could almost fall asleep right here I’m just so comfortable.
Everyone looks at my hair, but then there’s the moment when they look away and that’s when I drop some 50-dollar vitamins into my bag.
But it’s so much easier when all I have to do is take in the attention, right? And whenever someone starts to glance in Avery's direction, all I have to do is ask a stupid question or act like I'm about to take something, and boom, all eyes are on me.
Eight sleeping bags in one afternoon, honey – we can't help adding up the prices on the labels, just to see, and it's more than $800. Okay, goodbye evidence. Hello homeless shelter. Let’s just drop these off outside, okay?
Remember Drugstore Cowboy? I watched that movie three times in high school. I just thought it was the most glamorous thing, driving around and stealing pills from drugstores and then watching tiny people float around in the clouds. I don’t think there’s any other movie I’ve seen three times, except The Unbelievable Truth, where in the beginning two girls are lying in the grass looking up at the sky and talking to one another and that’s kind of how I feel in the car with Avery, doing another bump of coke and this is our movie, shot from inside a cream-colored Mercedes. Avery, what’s this color called? Anyway, inside it’s brown. Reddish-brown. There must be a more sophisticated name for that, too. Leather, of course, because what kind of luxury could you have without your sweaty ass on some dead animal skin?
Breathe deep and let your head roll back and then step outside like you don’t even notice the cameras on you because that’s just the way it always is. Serious high-level undercover runway with all these mirrors, every store has mirrors, even if they’re just selling sporting gear, what is all this gear for? Bug smearer. Rain fearer. Forty-degrees-below-zero mirror, perfect to check my hair, my forty-degrees-below-zero rain gear hair smear fearer here, turn, I almost want to wave but don’t worry, honey, I’m not going to give it away.
Are they really playing “Highway to Hell”? Don’t look at the cameras. Yawn again. Turn. Okay, Avery’s out the door. Pose. Turn. Let the lights blend into your eyes. Runway runaway.
Avery doesn't care about the cameras, she says as long as she does it fast, and no one notices, they'll never check the footage. Maybe at big department stores they have people actually watching, but not anywhere else.
Another bump? Of course, darling, of course. You always know how to provide.

Monday, July 08, 2013

What would you do

Clinics are so depressing. It's like they’re just waiting for you to die. While you’re waiting. They’re waiting, and we’re waiting, and why can't they at least play good music, maybe a DJ and a dance floor, they could easily fit a disco ball over there in that corner by the fake flowers. What about real flowers in gorgeous bright ceramic vases, art covering the walls, brighter colors instead of gray and beige, something celebratory because we’re here to take care of ourselves, right? What about comfortable sofas and herbal tea and healthy food and maybe something to read besides pamphlets about STDs?
What if STD clinics were like cafés where you could meet people and sit around and read the paper or a book, what about a library or free massage or acupuncture or hugs? It just seems like they could do better than sterile beige office carpet and uncomfortable hand-me-down gray office chairs and a few boring advertisements for safe sex. What about velvet, they need some velvet in here — maybe makeup lessons, a reading group, we could even read Kevyn Aucoin if people don’t really want to read, what about a dj-ing workshop, I would love a dj-ing workshop. Art supplies — what about art supplies?
I'm thinking about bringing all this up with the clinician, but then they call my number and Avery’s still holding my hand and I’m thinking about art supplies — oh, collage, the STD clinic would be such a great place to make collages, wouldn’t it? It wouldn’t even cost anything. Everyone could just bring in discarded magazines and cut them up and get to know one another that way. It would be so much fun. Avery’s squeezing my hand tighter and they call my number again so I look down, oh, that’s me, and I kiss Avery on the lips.
Another sterile room, fluorescent lights, and this blonde woman in a powder blue cardigan with pearly buttons asks me what I would do if I tested positive. I have nothing against powder blue cardigans, and especially not powder blue cardigans with pearly buttons, I mean I have a lavender one just like that but I think it looks different on me than on her. And maybe it would look okay on her too, if it wasn’t for the strand of pearls around her neck. Real pearls. I think.
Those pearls, I want to say. Those pearls are really too much. What are you trying to say with those pearls?
What would you do if you tested positive, she asks me again.
Honey, I’m thinking, I would jump off a bridge. Can you take me to the highest bridge? I need a ride. Oh, you didn’t drive? Then at least give me directions, okay?
I want to say that I would go out and do so many drugs that I wouldn’t even know my name. “My name is Luka. I live on the second floor. I live upstairs from you. Yes, I think you’ve seen me here before.”
But instead I say: I don't think I'm going to test positive. I've been pretty safe. I tested negative 8 months ago, and I haven't done anything really risky since then.
What's really risky to you, she asks.
Getting fucked without a condom.
Is that all?
Fucking without a condom, but I haven't done that either.
What about oral sex?
I don't use condoms for oral sex, but I don't think oral sex is that risky.
There's always a risk. Condoms can cut down on that risk.
I wasn't nervous before, but now I am. Is she going to give me my results?
Do you have any questions for me, she asks. Oh, she adds, like she just thought of it, and she looks down at the paper just to make sure, and then she says: you tested negative for HIV. Thank you for coming in today. Do you have any questions for me?
Back in the lobby, now I'm nervous, waiting for Avery, until he comes out with a smile and I know everything's okay. I can't believe how hot it is in this waiting room, I'm totally covered in sweat.
Outside, I'm so grateful for the freezing air, and Avery says the guy who gave me my results was really hot. I would come back just to see him.
Great, maybe you can ask him to teach you how to use a condom.
I'm sorry — I didn't ask you.
I'm fine. I mean I'm negative.
What should we do to celebrate?
Well, you can fuck me on the bathroom sink.
While your sugar daddy is home?
No, probably not. I need to get contact lens solution. Are you hungry?
Mattilda, I'm never hungry. The only things I eat are cookies and Doritos.
What are you take some Marinol? It's good for sleep too.
I know, I know — you’ve told me that like ten times; you’re the fucking advertising salesman for Marinol. But it makes you black out. I don't like blacking out.
It worked for Sean. She's the one who gave me the idea.
You did not just say that.
Oh my God you're right, you’re right, I did not just say that. Do you want to get cocktails?
Now you're talking – that's what worked for Sean.
At least we can joke about it.
Kind of.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Honest

After Ned’s in bed, Avery calls. She’s so nervous about getting her HIV test results that she starts crying on the phone. But she doesn’t want me to come over, too many deliveries tonight so she has to pull herself together which I guess means sampling the product because that’s what she’s doing on the phone. I can't believe she’s 23 and she's never gotten tested before.
The next day when Avery comes over, she's practically shaking, I kiss her neck and oh, it's so cold — how come you're not wearing a scarf? Ooh, but I like your cold skin, let me warm you up.
Avery says let's go in the bathroom, which means let's do coke because even though I say people should always do their drugs in public I have this rule at Ned’s that we can only do it in the bathroom. With the water running. Just in case.
It's fun in the bathroom too, like we're in a club but we control the lights.
We go upstairs and Avery snorts way too much and then shakes her head back and forth and starts jumping up and down — girl, how much have you done today? She starts laughing and hands me the vial, says let me hold you while you do it.
Girl, you are not holding me while I do coke.
Yes, yes, please, let me hold you — I like holding you.
Avery, you are fetishizing my addiction.
I am not fetishizing your addiction.
Then you’re fetishizing your own addiction.
I just want to feel your hot body.
Now you're changing the subject.
I'm not changing the subject.
A few minutes ago you were saying you never wanted to have sex again.
That was before. Come on, come on, hurry, catch up with me, and then I'll bend you over and fuck you over the sink.
I'm not even dressed yet.
Just the way I like you.
Okay, hand me the vial.
Avery hands me way too much in a cap and I do the whole thing and he unties my robe and pulls it open and he's grinding up against me.
Honey, I have to get ready.
I'm getting you ready.
You are such a mess.
I am not a mess.
Girl, come on, let's eat something.
I can't believe you're going to eat after all that coke.
Makes it taste better. I made miso soup with ginger and tofu and vegetables.
Okay, I’ll try to eat something. But first will you put the music on — it's time to dance. Dance dance dance dance dance.
Well, I can't argue with that. I need to get a sound system in this bathroom. Ned said it was a good idea.
Yes, yes – it will be our own club — Blue Tile Snatch.
You did not just say that.
No, I know — Snatching the Blues. That's it, that's it — Snatching the Blues.
I don't know about the word snatch.
I know you don't know about snatch, but snatching, you can't argue with snatching.
I just think it's misogynist.
Girl, we’re reclaiming it. I know you believe in reclaiming.
But how can we reclaim something we’ve never been called?
Like bitch.
Don't tell me you've never been called a bitch.
Don't tell me you've never been called a snatch.
But you can’t even deal with the word faggot.
That's because it hurts me. It hurts me it hurts me it hurts me – I don't like being hurt.
But it's beautiful, it’s such a beautiful word. You're a beautiful faggot. Come here, faggot, come here and kiss me.
I just think it's different. But I do want to kiss you.
But, that's it — it's different because it hurts you. And I think it's the words that hurt you that you can reclaim. Right?
Oh, Mattilda, whatever you say, you're tiring me out. Let's take a shower.
A shower and miso soup and music and then somehow it's already 5 pm and we haven't left the house. Our appointment’s not until six, but we’re way too high so we better get out before Ned gets home. Avery, do you want to borrow a scarf? How about this pink one? Ooh, you look pretty in pink.
Isn't she.
Pretty.
In.
Mauve.
We get to the clinic early and Avery doesn't want to go inside, let's wait in the Park Plaza lobby. What if I have AIDS, Avery says, what if I have AIDS?
We’ve already talked about this— you're not going to test positive. Unless there's something I don't know about.
There isn't anything you don't know about.
I mean I know you fucked that guy in the bathroom at Avalon.
I already told you I've always used a condom. And I've never gotten fucked.
Except once.
Except once. And I liked it. But I don't want to do it again.
Why not?
It's too scary. I already told you. It's too scary.
But you also keep saying you never want to have sex again. And then we keep having sex.
That's different. I mean I'm not serious.
But you sound serious. Every time you sound serious. And then that one time you asked me to fuck you.
Just once. I only asked you to fuck me once. I wanted to know what it felt like. I already told you I liked it. But it's too scary.
I mean it doesn't matter to me. I don't care about fucking.
I like fucking you.
I'm just saying that if it will make you feel safer, we don't have to do any of that. We don't even have to suck each other's dicks. We can just make out, and roll around, and jerk each other off.
That's not enough.
It's not enough for you.
Okay, you're right, it's not enough for me. Does that make you happy?
I just want you to be honest. I just want you to be honest with yourself.
Okay, okay — I'm being honest. Now I'm going to the bathroom, and then we'll go over to the clinic, okay? Do you want any?
I'm too high already — I don't know how you do so much.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Progress

One of the things that I notice while traveling is that I feel more resilient. Not that I feel good, but that I feel like I can recover from the times when I feel awful. Like last night after the reading, which was amazing, amazing in the way that it felt like it nourished me, that I wasn’t just pushing through exhaustion, that it was a complicated and emotionally engaged conversation that meant so much to me. Maybe everything. Talking about public vulnerability, and feeling vulnerable, feeling like this will save me, like this will allow me to connect with people and ideas and communities, and it does, it does.

And then, afterwards, well, right afterwards, I still felt okay but then I crashed into that horrible drained annihilated feeling like why, why did I do that, why do I do anything when it always leaves me feeling this way, who am I kidding, what is the point, and will I ever recover? Driving home with Meghan and this pounding headache attacking me with pollution or pollen or whatever it is through the windows, and then when we got home I changed my clothes anyway so I could go for a walk, a walk in the grass to try to reset my body.

And here’s my point: it actually worked. Worked enough that I slept well and not in pain, yes, now I’m exhausted and the headache is back, but maybe not in that annihilating way. And I think this is progress.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Watching

"Like a bunch of ninety-five-year-olds watching their generation end." I close the book for a moment and drink the rest of the cocktail Ned poured me, the second cocktail, and I stare at him for a moment. I notice he's shifted his body to the left a little, and I’ve shifted myself to the right, so we’re not directly across from one another anymore.
What is a lie, and what isn't? Like when the narrator tells a new client that his former attendant misses him, even though she's never actually met that attendant. And when the new client says: I miss him too. That place between your heart and the fabric on your chest, the fabric on your chest and the world beyond.
Heart, hearing — that’s what I write down. I’m wondering about this lie, this relationship with Ned. Although I've always been honest. Honest about what matters.
Of course he lies to me too, like when he said he made $200,000 a year, and paid half of that in taxes — he said that because he wanted me to think he was giving me a quarter of his entire earnings, that I shouldn't ask for more. And then I looked at his tax statement when he was out one day, it was right there in the unlocked file cabinet under T, and last year he made over $600,000. But am I getting too used to this house with the chandeliers and a cocktail always ready?
The narrator learns that her supervisor is leaving. Home-care aides leave a lot, but the supervisors generally stay. She's leaving because she sick. Another of these moments that feels like a shock, a shock to the narrator and a shock to me at this table with Ned where I keep crying and he doesn't look up, except this time he does, just briefly, and then he reaches over for my hand and I reach over for his, this gesture that happens so often in the book and maybe it feels nice here too. Although it’s hard to reach that far across the table, I mean reach that far and keep reading at the same time. So I pull my hand back, softly, and I smile; Ned smiles too and then we both go back to reading.
The narrator starts crying at Connie's house, Connie who she's taking care of, and Connie ends up holding her. The way this book is about generosity, how much it matters.
It's not that this book doesn't have flaws, just that there are very few of them. There's a cheesy moment at a meeting to say goodbye to the departing supervisor, a meeting where the narrator asks her if there's anything she can do, and the supervisor says: "You can hope again." It's not that that doesn't sound like something a departing supervisor might say, just that it's given too much emphasis as the last line of a chapter, and the chapter is called "The Gift of Hope." Maybe I don't believe in hope.
I'm getting to the end of my third cocktail, and there's that feeling in my head that must be chemical, the perfect combination of liquor and coke, invulnerability on ice. It’s what I need to channel in order to fuck Ned and right now I could easily bend him over that white sofa and shove my dick in his ass. He would laugh in that drunk old guy way and say let's go upstairs.
Maybe I'll never have to do that again.
The book ends with Connie's death. Her gay son and his boyfriend are there at her bedside, with the attendant. The end of the book is nothing but sobs until I have to put the book down and go upstairs and that’s when I realize I need to piss, I mean I've been holding it for a while but now I can’t hold it anymore, I mean I don’t need to. So I go in the bathroom and look in the mirror — under my eyes I have a rash from crying and my lips pressed up into a child’s frown. And I wonder whether closing the book with the death of an old straight woman is fair, even if it doesn’t matter it matters but what really matters is the way this book has affected me.
I can't decide whether I want a bump of coke, but I do one anyway, and then I go in my room and lie on top of the velvet comforter and stare up at the crystals of this chandelier, floating in a way but also sinking. Eventually Ned comes upstairs and he stands in my doorway. He looks like he's in shock. His face is red like a really bad sunburn. I sit up, and he sits next to me on the bed. It feels crowded, but not too crowded. I give him a hug, maybe this is the first time I've actually felt like it.
He says: I've always felt guilty that I didn't come out sooner, that I lied for so long to my wife and then my kids. It's only the cowards of my generation who’ve survived. If I’d come out sooner, I know I would be dead.
And I wonder if I’m a coward too, in a different way but still a coward.