I recently took a trip to Chicago
and stayed with three friends,
all of which are bears living in Andersonville.
Andersonville is a suburb of Chicago where the brownstones are organically decorated with green vines and rainbow flags are cheerfully accepted and decorate the street lamps on the devil’s strip.
My friend Adam just moved to Chicago, hence our trip.
He is one of those people who is so gorgeous it makes you wonder how they can leave the house in the morning to walk to work without a thought. He is covered in his own hair, has sad green eyes and is well-dressed.
A thick bunch of shiny black curls that test your politeness by encouraging you to take one big handful, (in hopes that some of them find a way to wind around your fingers.) hangs heavily above his right eyebrow.
His jaw is square
and his nose is a few centimeters off to the left.
The only reason you can tell is because the ring that hangs from his septum dangles a few centimeters left over his dark pink cupids bow.
Asymmetry is endearing.
When we were watching Girls in his bed the night before I found out, we had green sauvignon bottles between our knees and I noticed his bedside table was half taken up by vitamins. Mentally, I congratulated him on this but I chose not to say anything out loud because formulating a compliment about dietary supplements sounded like an absolute insult to the fine wine. But I was secretly happy that at least one of my friends were finally starting to give a damn about their health. We fell asleep in the light of muted Lena Dunham and the angular shadow that was cast from the screen sliced the wall adjacent to the slanted staircase in half.
The next night we decided to go out to a bar called Jack Hammer. On a side note: Jack Hammer is one of those places you see the afternoon after, when you’re on your way to drunk brunch, and think “Why. We were really there last night?”
When I saw it on the drive out of town after this story took place,I took note that the interior designers were pure aesthetic genius because from what I could remember, the inside was immaculate in comparison to it’s shoddy storefront.
is a fetish bar.
was exactly what we expected
and wanted it to be
and since lately I have had no qualms whatsoever
about utilizing my power of belated apologies and self-forgiveness instead of my morals, I excitedly
accepted the invitation to make myself uncomfortable.
When you walk into Jack Hammer nearly every wall reflects the men dancing on the black stages that ring the room three quarters of the way around. The men are naked apart from black leather belts the thickness of your pinky finger. The belts cover the bulging groins but the rumps are like full moons, toned, firm, occasionally bronzed and bouncing like wild,
ASSES reflecting into eternity.
The dancers’ silver and gold necklace chains rose and fell to the dark house music
bounced off shiny, well-defined pectorals and honestly
it’s hard not to look because I know I’ll NEVER be in this situation again.
All five of us let our forearms rest into the plush velvet lining edging the bar’s counter and order drink
after drink from naked men, all of us accidentally watching their rumps turn away toward the liquor cabinets.
None of us were phased by it. In fact, we were all extremely comfortable in the situation. Gay bars have the STRONGEST drinks. Everyone knows it. So we all had three. So that might have had something to do with it.
Then Adam suggested we should all go to the basement, which is called The Hole. Having read the insightful Yelp reviews and having heard Adam talk about his previous hole experiences, we all agreed harmoniously that it was a great idea.
But then Corban took a shot of fireball and began to vomit on the floor and Adam and I were left were alone at the bar. And to be honest, it was all quite cinematic, seriously. Especially since I just remembered an extremely important detail that really sets the mood: On two walls in front and to the left of the bartop there hung six enormous samsung televisions displaying tri split screens.
Each television displayed three different hardcore gay porn scenes that had been editing into monochrome blues on one wall and yellow motochrome on the other. But over time, eventually you forgot what you were looking at and resumed normal eye contact or room scanning.
So, with that taken care of
I apparently decided it was the perfect time to tell Adam I thought he should take iron, honestly, if he was lacking energy. Since I hadn’t seen iron on his bedside table and I for some reason felt it very important to talk about vitamins again, I said:
“I didn’t see it with your other vitamins but
you should totally take iron.”
It was a horrible transition on his part and mine, but to this he tells me he was just taking his one pill.
I say:“What pill? There were a million bottles.”
He says: “Oh, you don’t know?
They didn’t tell you?”
I say: “What? Tell me what?”
He says: “I have HIV. I found out
a couple months ago.”
What? HIV? Only Californians get that.
Only my dad’s deceased friend named Tim had that because he lived on house boat in Greece with an older man and numerous other young men.
I look at Adam, his crooked nose. He is terminally ill. How? I want to cry and hold him. Talking about something so ugly, I immediately feel like we should be somewhere beautiful like the Chicago botanical gardens I suggested earlier. I am without words. I am sullen.
I say nothing... and so, a moment goes by.
until I brilliantly ask,
“Have you ever seen that movie with uhm..
Jared Leto? Which one am I thinking of?”
“Requiem for a…”
“Dallas Buyers Cl..?”
He says nothing. I say nothing.
Then, like a diving bird, I swoop my arms around his tiny waist and turn my eyelids into his sweater and softly say
“I’m. so. sorry.”
as though saying it any louder would shatter him. And I kiss his shoulder.
He says: “Yea, It sucks.”
And changes the conversation. Because that’s just like him.
I quickly buy us two shots and we delve into a conversation about sexual perversions because it seems like he starts because this is how he wants explain how it happens to people, or him, I don’t know…
He tells me that right next door is a Turkish bath house called Touché where orgies are not uncommon and gloryholes are available to certain customers.
I ask him what that’s like and he tells me:
“...its just like weird but cool and Voyeuristic.”
and I imagine a house made of swiss cheese with naked men walking around in it and the men taking handfuls and bites out of the walls at eye level to see the person on the other side who they’ve been getting to know below.
Our sick friends come back to us and we decide to go forth to The hole in the basement.
But there are rules in The Hole. You are not admitted to The Hole unless you are wearing leather. Only leather. and Girls have to go in topless if they don’t have leather. A shop conveniently located next door will even sell you leather and studded gear if you’ve come unprepared.
Luckily, my friend Tommy recently moved to Chi as well and got a bartending job here so we were given half an hour without dress code rules.
When the naked men in a leather harnesses see me, one says:
“You know the rules.”
We sure do. The gin allowed me to effortlessly pull my t-shirt over my head and when Corban looked at my chest and stomach, he quickly took his shirt off too. Then I took my pants off and was proud of myself for having worn black opaque tights pulled up to my belly button under my black skinny jeans. And I did not remove them.
Corban called me a cheater for the tights and took his pants off too. Brittany was wearing a dress and was not so lucky.
Adam didn’t need any moral support and undressed quietly behind us. In just our skivvies, we entered the pitch black room. Naked men in leather bondage scattered like sad angels under the blue and yellow television light and three large candles lit our faces from the bar top.
Many men were making out and rubbing each other out in the corners. The polarizing opposites in society are magnificent.
We all stayed relatively quiet and observant. We stood very close and wore the warm perspiration on our foreheads like crowns and, standing in the middle, I felt our naked shoulders rub sensuously against one anothers and thought that that feeling was probably the most innocent in the room. I thought that if the naivety and element of surprise that was leaving each of us with each blink in this darkness could be measured, it would form a puddle underneath of us that would stay behind when we left and we would never get that naivety back.
Adam had disappeared somewhere and in my stupor, I allowed myself to respond to my anger about his sickness.
I know. The medications today are better than ever.
But he’s twenty five.
and terminally ill.
And someone hurt him
and I can’t help him.
And he’s alone dealing with this demon
and his vitamins
and coming up with explanations before taking someone home
because he chooses to exploit his body
as some perverted response
to some perverted motive that I can only half understand.
When Brittany began puking in the flowerbeds outside, we left. I was sad to put my clothes back on and Corban said he liked feeling exposed in a public space. I called him an exhibitionist and he called me an exhibitionist right back.
Then, when we got home we found Adam
dancing with all his might
in front of the brownstone
drunk and smiling
with an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips
like Hannah Arendt
and a white house chicken bag crunched in his hand.
He was like a movie star with earbuds in
listening to the Wicked soundtrack all by himself
and lump formed in my throat and I yelled at him:
“YOU ARE TOO GOOD!
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.”
A crudely chiseled outline of a person who is completely lost in a house made of mirrors.
The Impossibility of a Genuine Moment
Best we can,
we hum the sickness
chills and sweat
Greyish nail beds tap out faint rebellions
on the sapphire veils
protecting us from the outside.
The noise we make
we misinterpret for music.
But it is the precursing syncopation of our dirge.
Hallej-, Hallow, Hollow, Hum.
A fingerprint pressed into a softening wooden windowsill
will always go unrecognized and fade.
Family photographs are lost in a move.
Gaze of longing
collective iris recoloured and retouched.
Lonely fingerprints persist
daftly rapping out rebellions
against the indoor lives we’ve built
Go out, go out!
Come in again for
the waiting sickness.
The smiling doorman.
The obscure tenant.
The passive, biting lover.
The dog on your feet.
The health of our nature,
our balance and suchness,
does not hang
or in vagueness
or in ambivalent recline
or in stylization
or in complete atrophication of the amygdala.
I swallowed every potion and still was not transformed.
In an outward spectacle of mourning I slashed my Trojan hair short, weeping like Andromache
Tearing at my cheeks until the red uprooted;
impossible inner pigments reminded of an autumn when I was not sleeping.
Streaks of rose, an unembarrassed blush; full bloom.
The ambivalent grey clouds were unmoved
by the thunderstorms’ wretchedness, a royal crowning.
Bleating trumpets rose to climax at the entrance of new royalty.
In the bible black night before me, torches had been lit
by the omniscient hand of genius,
enlightening an immeasurable corridor that had been only so visible before, that only a hollow likeness of myself fell out from under my toes onto the reflective tiled floors.
Genius, in form of whispering winds and nocturnal screams, hissed and whirled
but always settled at my feet like dust
as I stood in that doorway, wanting so much to run and open the next set of doors
at the other end of this corridor
and behind those doors was perhaps another corridor.
The screams and winds had brushed against my face and I began to step carefully into the hall
then quickly both feet were off the ground and I ran.
Those wooden doors behind
of cratered glass and heavy metal
swung out behind me like wings.
I had been acknowledged!
A realization slowed me to a hault as quickly as it had lifted me to run: what had come to me through the black corridor had aged on it's passing on to me and was not for me, not from me, but again, a passing anesthetic.
The defiled scent of the inauthentic is particularly pungent. It was not in it's finest condition, not of myself, but transcending me.
Gratitude and principals were dismissed and I grabbed the scepter, whatever pungent truth the dark had given me,
Holding on for dear life,
panting with eagerness.
All at once the lights were pinched out by an unseeable saliva-wet finger.
The look genius gave me must have been for one standing right behind me, I thought.
Like a stranger who smiles and waves not at you,
though it seems so, but at an acquaintance standing behind you.
And so, it began to downpour.
As I stole back into my room I listened to what could have been my storm:
The heat and coolness unwillingly united but
not a single lightning strike was evident from the ground
where townspeople stood in pathetic, unwavering expectation of calamity that was out of their hands.
They waited only to find out what trees would be ensnared in live telephone wires and fall across intersections.
Children said they could hear the voices of the town
between sounds being emitted from the wires that dangled feet apart between electrostatic sparks.
But there was no real storm.
It was a meager, passing breeze
that had the potential for lightning
and the mane of a lion
but no roar or reign.