Today was a rough day.
It started during the early hours of the day. I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I aborted, got up and went for the TV remote. There was nothing on so I turned the TV off and stared into space for what felt like hours. I thought about nothing in particular. Eventually I drifted to sleep without a say in the matter.
A few hours later, I awoke. I took my MacBook Air outside to the deck and began writing. It was cold so I put a hooded sweater on. I wrote of nothing in particular. The words that flowed formed coherent sentences but meant nothing when grouped together in paragraph form. It was disheartening.
I abandoned my efforts, went back inside and back to bed. I kept drifting in and out of sleep. Briefly I dreamt of sea turtles.
I have always struggle with the definition of love. I was watching an episode of Mad Men last night where Jon Hamm’s character Donald Draper tells someone that the definition of love was invented by someone like him, an advertising agent. I believe that to some extent.
So I have struggled with it and I’ve no doubt it’s because of what Donald Draper said or because there are many, many definitions and I’ve settled on looking for The One.
But my thinking has changed since meeting you. I know now that love is many, many things. It defines many aspects of our relationship. I know now that it is being with you and without you, touching you and not touching you, being near you even when you are thousands of miles away and being far away even when your lips are inches from mine.
I marvel at how easily your words flow from your mouth. I marvel equally at how my words trip over each other and struggle to move forward. It’s as if they were caught in a hurricane.
Yet here I am, both strengthened and weakened by my love for you. I can’t imagine a better place to be.
I was thirteen when he walked up to me on the street, asked he could speak to me discreetly and asked if he could suck my cock. I said no and walked away briskly.
I’d see him periodically since then. He was a middle-aged man, not particularly good looking but he spoke in a calm, flamboyant voice. It was hard to tune him out when he spoke.
He had a penchant for young boys. He surrounded himself with them. Sometimes he’d hold court with a handful on a tenement stoop. I suppose some of them let him suck their cocks and I learned later he paid for the service. I don’t remember being offered money.
Years after our encounter, his body was found in an alley full of garbage between two burned-out abandoned buildings. He was stabbed multiple times in the chest and his throat was slashed. The neighborhood was abuzz with this news but kept the sordid details behind closed doors. The killer was never found.
My mother was an “old lady” by the age of thirty-five. At least in my eyes. I don’t remember her being “as young” as I was when I was thirty-five.
Her job at the local bodega took much of her life. She raised me as a single parent for her entire life. I suppose that took a lot of it too.
When she died at the age of forty-nine, I thought she had lived. At the age of twenty-four anyone over the age of thirty-five had lived and anyone over the age of fifty was simply ancient.
Things have changed. I’m forty-five and I’m much healthier than my mother was at that age. I don’t know how I’ve managed that. I chalk it up to sheer luck versus a conscious effort to live to a ripe old age.
Of course the night is young.
When I used to bail on school (which was rare) I used to end up at the American Museum of Natural History. I was a dweeb. I still am a dweeb. I love it. It hasn’t changed much since I was a kid either.
I guess in a way I’m bailing on the present by visiting here today. As much as I enjoy being at home or being close to home I need to get out from time to time.
I remember when New York City was my partner in crime. Sure it had its rich and its poor, the wannabe’s and already there’s but it had an aura that’s been stifled recently by a storm of destruction and construction, much of which is disheartening and soul snatching.
Sure you can still buy a sandwich or a slice of pizza at three in the morning and yes, you can dance the night away in some dark nightclub. But the sandwich place or pizzeria or dark nightclub are located on a generic street you’d see in any municipality. New York City doesn’t scream New York anymore. It screams New York City, sponsored by <insert the major corporation of your choice here.>
But I am here today and I will take pictures and reminisce about what was. I’ll think of my old friends taking on the city by storm every Saturday night because those are good memories.
I’m a time traveler today.
He grabbed my comic books and started to run. I ran after him. I was faster than him and when I caught him I threw him against the accordion gates of a closed candy store. I hit him over and over again with closed fists. He let go of the bag and ran away. “I was only playin’,” I heard him scream.
The bag full of take-out food that my mother sent me to buy was on the sidewalk. I was afraid to look inside. I let it fall to the ground when I gave chase and I was sure that the container had opened and the medium-rare cooked steak along with the buttered baked potato would be out of its container and one within the bag.
I was twelve blocks away from home and it was dark. I didn’t have a wristwatch but I knew it was about nine o’clock. I was always told to call when I was late but I had spent all my money on comic books.
When I got home my mother snatched the bag out of my hand and shouted at me. I didn’t tell her about the mugging attempt. I just closed my eyes in an attempt to drown her out.
Afterwards I went into my bedroom, tossed the brown paper bag filled with comic books on the bed and wept.