Anything Was Possible
"Assimilate My Purse," Maximumrocknroll, August 2008
A shift in the texture of the air
Sometimes I wish I could let go of sex, maybe desire would become something else like lying in the grass and holding the sky. I've been trying to regain a sense of liberation in my own sexuality, but I find myself trapped by the usual unsatisfying options and the lack of space to create what I really want.
For weeks now I've been trying to think of this particular phrase, something like it's over but grander and more eloquent like the love is gone but it never was love so I just get stuck trying to figure out how to say that I don't know if there’s any hope for me in public sex anymore. I mean beyond the possibility for the moment to transcend, even that is rarer and rarer now and maybe that's what I mean by the love is gone. I think I did used to love it, now all I can feel is the lack and I do think things have changed, especially the way guys walk around with a shopping list like they're checking off boxes and that's the internet overwhelming public space but also maybe I've changed. And I need something else.
I understand why so many fags give up on sex, or give up hoping that sex will become anything other than something lost, over and over again this loss or maybe I mean lack, this sense that something is lacking and some people go to great lengths to keep it that way. Others just follow the rules, and the rest of us slowly lose our sense that sex will ever illuminate anything else.
I understand why people hold onto relationships that aren't working -- at least there's something to hold onto. Something grounding in the gestures of the familiar, even when the familiar keeps you still when you want to keep moving, and moving when you want to keep still. I hold onto my relationship to public sex, and I'm unwilling to let go of the dream that it can become more, more of what I'm dreaming. I've been holding onto that dream for almost 20 years now, really 20 years I just realized it's been 20 years that's a long time. Starting somewhere in those first bathrooms when I was 14 I always hoped that somehow I'd meet someone like me, I mean I was there so what about someone else? I'm not sure that's ever happened, and I'm not sure it ever will. The culture is only changing for the worse, I mean the culture of public sex and the way its limitations become strictures.
I don't want to let go of the way sex in public is what sex means to me, more than the gestures it’s the possibility of a shift in the texture of the air. I don't want to give up. But sometimes I can feel the air changing anyway, this air inside me and sometimes that means my desire feels empty and pointless, a rush that only leads me to walls. I'm so sick of walls. But sometimes I can sense something else, a difference in the way that I hold desire and maybe that means eventually it will hold me.
Everything is different when I'm looking through the glory hole at this guy sucking someone's cock, then up at the scruffy guy towering above him, soft white belly pushing exposed underneath t-shirt, dark hair and a small tattoo at the hip and I'm breathing harder so they can hear me, but also so I can breathe harder and the guy is looking down at me I'm smiling until the guy sucking decides to stand up and lean his back up against the glory hole. Hey, you're blocking my view, I say, and I start poking at his jeans, softly, and then they both start zipping up.
Listen, I was playing by the rules, just watching politely and moaning a little, and the good news is that whatever for that bitch pushing her jeans-covered ass up against my view, 30 more seconds and the guy’s in my booth, wow I'm a much more ravenous cocksucker that's for sure, that's what I'm thinking but also I'm not thinking and that's what's good. After a while he reaches down for my dick and then I'm standing up, lips onto his neck cigarettes and liquor I'm still enjoying it, this is where I realize he really likes jerking so eventually I'm jerking it all into my throat and then I stand up and place his hand underneath my balls and do the thrusting until I'm giving this show I like the way I can just come like that, right up against the wall right after him of course it's because I've been holding it. The best part is his smile afterwards just a smile nothing and everything else I'm smiling too. Then there's some guy sticking his dick through the glory hole, probably it's the guy who was making belching noises earlier and I'm not horny anymore but I start jerking him off anyway, then I suck for a moment or two but why, so I say I'm feeling tired, but thanks, and he looks down through the hole and I reach through to touch his cheek and he says come over here.
So then I'm over there, and I say it again: I'm too tired right now, he says how could you be tired in that outfit? I'm working the contrasting plaids and he's a short guy in his 40s probably but with swept-back prep school hair, I kiss him on the neck a few times and then on the lips and afterwards I'm thinking about how desire in these places can bring me close to people I might not otherwise encounter, close if they're not pulling back the whole time and sometimes close anyway. Like when I said you're blocking my view, and saying what I was actually feeling brought me what I was looking for -- of course that doesn't usually happen, but the important thing is to say it anyway.
Anything was possible
Sometimes you have a dream and that dream infuses everything your relationships are part of that dream and the dream is part of your relationships and everything is hard but it's the dream that means you'll be okay. And then that dream is over, or no the dream is the same or maybe not the same but similar it's the relationships that are over. Or not all of the relationships, but some of them. Maybe it's harder to dream, or maybe it's just harder. Or maybe some things are easier but not dreaming. Or you're definitely not okay, but you're okay with dreaming. Or you're just not okay, is that okay?
Maybe the dream is love, love which is a commitment. Or maybe the dream is commitment, commitment which is love. Like running into the traffic islands near Dupont Circle and RuPaul's Supermodel is playing, you better work, this is the height of Supermodel, turn to the right, I mean when RuPaul became a pop celebrity and you know it's cheesy but you're doing runway anyway, runway in the town where you grew up but you couldn't dream. They wouldn't let you. Now you've gathered with a million queers or mostly gays and lesbians, gays and lesbians whose dreams are so limited you feel further away than ever but you're dreaming.
I met him at an ACT UP protest, I remember he came right up to me in the sun with such a sweetness we were both 19 I liked the tiny little silver dot in his nose the way his eyes sparkled even his braces I thought they looked cute. We got arrested together and we did runway to RuPaul and then we got bashed together, my eyes so red I thought it was spraypaint, right next to the 24 hour restaurant I used to go to in high school all of this was big, these were big things, but then I went back to San Francisco and he went back to Michigan and we wrote letters, beautiful elaborate letters that's what people did in the early ‘90s.
If he was my first boyfriend, the first person to hold me when I was having incest flashbacks, we broke down a lot then broke up and broke down and everything was difficult but we knew we were building something in the ruins, that was us the ruins. We wanted to create a world we could live with. A lot of the people I believed in then I no longer believe in now, of course we've all changed and some of us have different dreams. So it's not unique that my first boyfriend and I don't talk anymore, don't talk because I stopped believing in his promises, his promises that we were family not just ruins it took me almost 10 years. I mean 10 years to let him go, not as a boyfriend I mean that lasted a year but as something more: hope. Now I like running into him from time to time, but there are no more dreams.
Today I heard something that I'm still trying to process. I mean it makes me sad and I don't know what else to think. Maybe I feel conflicted, conflicted because it makes me so sad and then I think it shouldn't make me so sad, why this investment in his life choices? In this case, it's a barebacking video.
I want to back up for a moment and say that when we went out, we were absolutely meticulous about safe sex. Soon it would be called safer, and that made more sense, but at the time we even used Kiss of Mint condoms for sucking cock. Looking back, I wonder if our dedication to the rules could only exist in such a pure form because we came of age almost certain that we'd eventually die of AIDS, isn't that what happened to everyone like us? Still we wanted to beat the odds, and we wanted to dream, remember dreaming? This wasn't monogamy or anything silly like that, we didn't believe in such ownership spectacles we were sluts and sure, soon enough our ideas of sexual safety would change too, but not our ethics, I mean I didn't believe our ethics had changed until now.
As far as I'm concerned, barebacking videos participate in a culture of nihilism and selfishness that is one of the grossest manifestations of a gay sexual culture that has given up on any vision of communal care. I won't pretend that barebacking videos don't turn me on -- lots of things that disgust me turn me on. What frightens me is the way in which they actively promote loyalty to condomless sex as the One True Vision of sexual satisfaction. And not condomless sex as part of a safer sex regimen, but the type where come must be unloaded deep within stretched anal orifices, as the camera waits for it all to squirt back into our vision. A negotiated decision to have sex without condoms is a different story, a story never portrayed in the unquestioning, masculinity-drenched fantasies of bareback porn.
I can't help thinking that bareback videos are about giving up, even if I watch them and I don't give up. I mean I'm still committed to safer visions of sexual splendor. I'm struck by the thought that nothing was missing from the sex I had with that first boyfriend. Because anything was possible: that's what we believed.