Post Pride Coitus (An Essay)

Last year for Pride, I remember walking in the parade with some of my friends from Legacy, jamming to the song, “Who let the dogs out?” and telling myself, “Nobody knows.” What I meant was, nobody knew that I was gay, even though I was in a parade for gays and trans folk.

 
Of course, now I’m out, and it’s intense. But I find, very much worth it. I just, for a long time, couldn’t see myself as really being gay. Part of it was because I grew up in a strict, religious, conservative household, and being gay was taboo and unacceptable. But as I continued to live my life, I realized that nothing felt more natural to me, than being gay, and knowing this with a full heart.

 
I went this year to the Pride Parade and the Pride Festival with my great friend Preston. We got off to a rough start, because they wouldn’t let Preston take his camera into the festival, and we’d walked a long distance in the heat to get there. It wasn’t a good start, it seemed. I almost lost my cool. I was impatient with the situation. I didn’t lose my cool ultimately, because I wasn’t going to sabotage this experience: first time to Pride since being out of the closet. Anyway, I ended up hanging out for a few hours at Pride alone, so Preston could go to my apartment and drop off his camera.

 
It was an interesting feeling, being at Pride, out and alone. I had a plan, though. I was going to get food, then a shirt, a t-shirt acknowledging my same-sex attractions.

 
So, the day commenced. I’d been looking forward to it for literally two days. As I joked with my friend, I anticipated Pride so much and had false starts that I wasn’t interested in Pride anymore. A joke, of course, but you get the idea. I had actually walked to Pride a couple days before, and realized when I arrived they were still setting up, and then the next day, I found out that it wasn’t an all-day event, so it didn’t seem worth it to go. Not until Saturday.

 
Anyway, the day commenced, and I ended up buying a slice of cheese pizza with fresh tomatoes on them. It was good. Nothing fancy, but good enough for me.

 
Then I began to walk around the campus.

 
I got confused for a moment, because there were so many booths, and I didn’t know where to start. So, I decided to start at the beginning. You know, the Mad Hatter’s advice, start at the beginning, and then when you get to the end: stop.

 
I ended up stopping at a place selling literary magazines, which was super cool, given my literary and philosophical background. I thought the guy selling the books was cute, too, didn’t know if he was gay, but he was awesome. I talked to him about the magazine, found out he was on the cover of one of them. I told him I was a writer, and that it was hard being a writer.

 
I ended up buying one of the volumes, which was nice. I posted it on Facebook, describing how excited I was to sink my teeth into quality LGBT literature. And I found out I could potentially submit pieces.

 
When we got towards the end of the conversation, I recommended some books. A little bit of William S. Burroughs, Lawn Boy, Edmund White. The good stuff, Being unsure of your sexuality for so long (eight years, in my case) led to a lot of lonely and horny nights reading literature about the gay experience. So I had a whole arsenal to recommend.

 
Anyway, I continued moving through the booths. Most of them were really nothing amazing, but in the context of my life in that moment, it was great, a good opportunity to get comfortable with myself.

 
I finally arrived at a booth dedicated to the health of citizens of Salt Lake City. This was a booth I was looking forward to, because I wanted to learn about sex.

 
The guy told me that guys who are bottoming can wear female condoms. I didn’t know this, but you basically just insert it, and you’re good. It would have been nice to know this sooner, but better late than never. I mention that only because I think it’s a cool idea, a condom for the asshole. And indeed, the frankness of the guy helped put me at ease. He asked me what type of sex I liked, I shyly told him oral. And finally, I could come out and say, when he asked me if I was gay or straight, I’m gay. That was a good feeling, the assertion, even if merely a small moment. He talked me into really considering sex, as he said it feels fantastic to top. I was like, it will be nice either way.

 
One thing that surprised me was when he told me that the condom can keep you safe one hundred percent, from stuff like AIDS. Which did a little to dismantle my obsession and fear with thinking I’m going to contract an STD or some shit, something I don’t want. Which in turn loosened my expectation about sex, making me calmer. I know I have a long way to go right now, but I know that as time goes by, I’ll get more and more comfortable with sex. Things will just make sense to me.

 
That was an important booth, but so was the literary magazine, because as a gay man, a gay phoenix, I need to keep in mind that the intellectual realm is still important to me.

 

Rationalizations, writing, truth: all of it, is important to me still, still very important. It’s a huge part of my identity.

 
I was amazed at how relaxed I was when I talked to people in the stands. I talked about many things with them, mostly about the content of the booths, but it was nice, I felt cool, especially when I started sucking on a blue Jolly Rancher.

 
But I still hadn’t gotten a shirt yet. So, I continued the quest. I walked around more, feeling content and open, and finally saw something, something eye catching. The shirt said, “Some people are gay, get over it.” And it was in rainbow colors on a black shirt. This shirt literally jumped out at me.

 
So, I bought it, for just twelve bucks, feeling excited. Feeling ready. I went to put on the shirt, and then, now feeling open and honest, continued my journey.

 
But that’s when the heavy feelings hit, and I wasn’t ready for them. I remember needing some space, because I was getting a little sad. I was sad and nostalgic at how far I’d come as a man, which includes my sexual orientation. And I felt a little sad, that this was who I was.

 
The feelings are difficult to explain, but in short, I needed Preston to be there with me, kind of take the edge off. I was feeling a little lonely, but also happy, that this was who I have always been. We change, sure, but some things are just a part of us. And I realized in that moment, I was out of the closet, and I would need to take both the good and the bad when it came to this. The bad includes judgement, hate, bigotry, ostracism, misunderstanding.

 
And yet, so many people love and accept me, in real life. I’ve really realized this over the past year, and it’s honestly changed my perspective on myself. People love me despite me being gay. Even Christian friends. This was incredibly poignant when keeping in mind that there were strange people protesting the parade outside. I get it, religion, sticking to morals, whatever. But my experience of them, was them simply promoting hate and intolerance. If they could empathize with my experience even a little bit, I bet they’d come to a much different conclusion, as I ultimately had to. I realized later, trans people and gay people deserve compassion like anyone else.

 

Intolerance and hate won’t accomplish anything, it just divides people even more. And it’s sad. And this was one reason why I knew, indeed, that I had really entered a Wonderland since leaving the closet. And my identity was different, and I was different. But, moving forward.

 
These feelings lasted for a while, so I continued to explore the Festival. I listened to a trans person talk about fear, and how fear is a major component to how people of the LGBT community relate to the world. It sucks, that fear is so present in our lives, but I understand this. I was so afraid, for over eight years. I didn’t know who I was. I kept asking myself why I didn’t have a girlfriend during this period. Well, because I was gay.

 
I listened to the trans person, relating to all that was said. The history of LGBT people is diverse but also heartbreaking, because of all the crimes that people have committed against us. Assault, murder, suicide. Stuff like that. Or medically castrating Alan Turing, who’d saved the Western world, and forcing him to commit suicide. Just because he was gay. Probably one of the smartest people who ever lived, and yet, he didn’t have the chance for a fair life, to live the way he wanted to.

 
And then Preston showed up! I was excited for this. We talked, I told him I was enjoying myself, and I was. The heavy feelings were still there, but with Preston with me, they were less intense. Preston has been a positive influence in my life, and he was actually the reason why I finally decided to come out of the closet. I had hit on him once, and instead of condemning me, he told me, I needed to deal with my truth, my reality, my emotions. And he was right, even though it was hard, and there were many, many false starts and fears.

 
We did what friends do: We hung out, and had a lot of fun.
We passed a hat place, and I found three cool hats. One that said Pride in rainbow colors on a black hat, one that said Bitch in colored letters on a black hat, and another hat that said Pride on a flower background. And you know, I like flowers. They are cool. Who cares if that doesn’t match the paradigm of patriarchy in our world?

 
We joked about the Bitch hat, because we’d just had a run in at a library, for me swearing once, and them pretty much kicking us out. He told me it’d be cool, because I could totally wear that in a library, and see how far I’d get.

 
I ended up getting a hat, which was cool. I got the Pride black hat.

 
In the meantime, my friend got some art prints, and that was great. I love my friend Preston.

 
We hung out for a while, getting into trouble, and it was great. And when we were ready to go, we left.

 
And with everything going on in my life, I couldn’t help but acknowledge that that was literally one of the best days of my life. The Parade would be tomorrow, something to look forward to. In the meantime, we could chill.

 
And we did chill. I had a lot to reminisce on, for sure. My life was changing drastically, because the event was helping me accept this deep truth about myself. The best way to describe being gay, is that, even though we live in a Puritan society and sex isn’t seen as a part of us and our identity, I can’t help but say that it is a part of our identity, and we can’t suppress it.

 

Heterosexuals have a lot of visibility, so it’s easier for them. But homosexual tendencies are looked down on (just think of the protesters I saw), and this affects the psyche, as well as the culture. I didn’t think this was true for a long time, because I’d heard the opposite claim, particularly from religious friends, but I know now that sexual orientation is how a person actually is. In a Puritan society, we can continue denying this, but I’ve found for me, personally, being gay does something for me, something special for me, and being open about it does even more. It’s a deep part of me, and I feel sad when I see people being hateful towards our community. It’s crushing, really.
The next day was the Parade. I went with Preston, not really knowing what to expect, but feeling very excited. I had an idea it was going to be fun.

 
Later, after the Parade, I talked with my friend Preston about capitalism and how it was integrated into the Parade, into the civil rights of it, without people really being consciously aware. But this makes sense, because there were a lot of businesses claiming to be LGBT friendly, when for them, it was just a matter of the bottom line: money.

 
We also talked about the Mayor, and how when she came near the beginning of the Parade, saying she wanted equality, I had a hard time seeing this as non-hypocritical. I’ve been critical of her policies towards those experiencing homelessness, and I wondered, in an honest way, how much the Mayor really believes in equality.

 
We continued to watch the Parade, Preston leaving every once in a while to go and take more photos. I remember enjoying the Parade, enjoying the interesting floats, ranging from floats about organizations about the leather culture and S&M, to seeing trans kids walking proudly in the Parade. I remember actually finding one shirt funny: Trans guys are hotter. Lol.

 
Truth be told, I like being a guy. I like having a dick, truth be told, and that’s why I like other guys. It’s interesting how my love for the power of the male body doesn’t feed into our culture’s narrative of a specific idea of patriarchy and masculinity. I say this because I could very well, if I was straight, use my dick to oppress other women and groups. But I don’t want that. I just want to be an adorable gay. Cute, too.

 
Anyway, on the Parade, there were many floats, and they were interesting to watch, coming from me, who was at this point much more open-minded than I had been in previous years. It was indeed fun for me because of this openness and willingness to take part.

 
It was hard too, though. The guys next to me were interesting, but difficult to engage in any conversation. And the guy on my other side felt out of my reach, in a sense. But even without engaging in conversation with them, I still nonetheless felt more connected to the LGBT community than I ever had before. It was nice. It was nice being around those who identify as gay.

 
The funny thing about this adventure of mine, though, was that I ran into more straight people than I did gays. That was kind of frustrating, because I was hoping to meet more people that I could potentially be friends with or date. But in the end, I realized that me taking this next step was what mattered the most. There will be plenty of time to meet others in the future, what this event did for me was make me more comfortable with myself and change my perception on my homosexuality, which had been steadily evolving over the past year, since I came out.

 
I felt decked out, too, at the Parade. I was wearing a rainbow-colored band on my wrist, my shirt that said, “Some people are gay, get over it,” and my hat that said, “Pride.” It really was nice for my self-esteem. Even though I’d been more open since coming out of the closet, I didn’t necessarily wear the colors, so to speak.

 
We joked later that it was a never-ending parade. Because it was way late, and yet, there were still an endless number of floats coming our way. So, we headed out just a little early. But I was content. I felt happy. It was nice to be in a safe space to acknowledge what I feel and who I am. Living loud is nice when you have the appropriate venue to do that.

 
After the Parade, Preston and I went to Publik, and I ordered toast with hummus and vegetables. We went in, and I was happy at the reception of the server there, who’d asked if we just came from Pride, seeing me decked out in my clothes. Which we had, of course, and this visibility, I’m telling you, really does a lot for a person’s psyche, especially when there was repression for such a long time.

 
When we finished, we walked to the Tower and got a movie, The City of Lost Children. As we were walking there, a guy stopped us, looking for a lighter. I remember telling them, we’d just come from Pride, and they pointed out my shirt. I told them that I like it because it’s short and to the point. They were like, “Yeah, totally, whatever,” basically saying it really isn’t that important, even though people usually freak out about it. The gays are sinful and going to Hell!

 
So, all in all, it was a remarkable experience. But one thing was still weighing on me. I had basically spent all of this time being out, proud, and open, but I was still sexually frustrated. Post Pride Coitus, you know, having sex in my head by writing an essay: ha! But honestly, I can’t deny my sexual frustration, my desire. I haven’t really met anyone I am really compatible with yet (except for unsatisfying flings), so I often have to resort to having sex in my head. Someone compatible is out there, but for now, I have to find other ways of satisfying myself.

 
Often, Preston and I would joke about how I had a crush on him, but can’t have sex with him because he’s literally as straight as it gets. Too straight for me, really. We joke about being single, and how it’s a lonely experience. So Post Pride Coitus may not actually be happening, in other words.
But really what this does is reflect my changing attitudes on sex. I see it as something that can really make a difference in a person’s life, can empower a person in a deep and fundamental way. Sexual frustration is sometimes a part of that. But really, loving who you love, and having your desires satiated: It’s huge, I would say. For a long time, I had given too much credit to abstinence, thinking that was the only way to go. I didn’t realize how much I longed for sex in the meantime. You can imagine, it was a long eight years.

 
In that sense, the landscape is a mess. Hooking up sometimes is stigmatized, casual sex stigmatized. Not so much in the gay community, though, and I think that’s one thing I latched onto. I don’t know yet what this means for me personally, but I know that I’m more comfortable with the idea (sex, that is). As one of my friends once told me, sex is powerful. In other words, it’s not something to think about lightly, and it’s not something to avoid thinking about. I get frustrated when people don’t talk about what they actually think. That’s why I joke with my friend Preston about having a crush on him, because I need to get it out, and it helps me cope more with my limitations and thoughts. I’m much more comfortable with my sexuality, because I think it’s an important part of how a person ends up being who they are. I have to actively resist some of my thoughts otherwise, which have been indoctrinated since birth. It would be foolish to say sex isn’t liberating. There’s a reason why there are strains of counterculturalism that go against the grain of our more conservative tendencies in our society.

 
In other words, we need more honest conversations about these things. At least so we know where we are at. People aren’t as bad as other people make them out to be. We can demonize people, groups of people, because we don’t understand them. But, it isn’t worth it. Especially because there is so much that makes us special.

 
Indeed, that’s something I’ve thought about recently, how much I appreciate the diversity of thought that exists in society, and even among the LGBT community itself. Diversity of thought is what makes things interesting. Diversity of thought is important to the flourishing of society. If we all thought the same, society would never advance or progress. This is because diversity of thought brings innovation. Differing ideas and ideologies clash and form culture, and when we’re in a good place, good things come from it. We need to be able to disagree on certain things.

 
And really, that’s one of the crazy things about this new mindset that I have, about pretty much everything. I think that it’s okay that I don’t possess the stereotypes I need to function, that my life goes in just a little bit of a different direction. It needs to, because it brings me to unpredictable but fun places. It keeps life interesting. Honestly, that’s why I really appreciate diversity of thought and lifestyles: life stays interesting and fun. It’s why I still appreciate the Christian worldview, even though they oppose me. It’s why I can handle protestors, not because I agree (I don’t agree at all), but because I realize that the world is a complex place, and you have to allow many things to happen in life, allowing opposites to find a way to coexist. We shouldn’t stifle our development as a species and society. Because I realize that I’m not perfect, my ideas and ideologies are not always right. But being able to appreciate that, I’ve learned, has brought me to a place where I can accept myself more fully.
So, there’s my piece, Post Pride Coitus. I still dream about getting laid, of course, but you know, everything in time. I don’t know where my life is headed, but taking part in Pride this year really changed my perception on a lot of things. I’m proud to be who I am, and I will live loud. People are good, and they have a lot to offer, and we need to be patient with them. And we need to be patient with ourselves. Really, I’m proud to be gay, because it’s given me a unique perspective, on top of my mental illness. I just love the sensitivity that I see in the homosexual culture. I find it inspiring.

 
So really, you know, just live. Be proud. That message is true for anyone.

Queer (from Feeling)

In anticipation of Pride 2017, a poem/manifesto.

Queer

in this world of world whirlwind
of orthodoxy and patriarchy
is washed whitewashed
in hetero-dominant hetero-oppressive
never homo-friendly or homoerotic

think quick
you’ve gotta be wicked straight
they tell you who to date
never homo-complex or homo-complete
complex complexity erased
even my favorite rock songs
inundate
are about hetero glow
never homo
never queer there’s too much to fear
it sears so

I go and drink a few beers

I burn for gay blood gay life gay freedom
I remember my heritage
in this hypocritical age

in my own process
coming out never fully fearless
but I progress never digress or repress
I make it
because we don’t burn homosexuals
at the stake anymore
fucking sinful faggots
where they smear swear fire
where we’ll burn in Hell

so I accepted I’m queer
probably about a year ago forever ago

my life has evolved deeply
and I don’t fear Hell
but I am still sad
for all the gay kids
still in the streets and burning
for church
for God’s creed
the gay kids are angel seed

I’ve internalized all the hell
homophobic slur
I just tell orthodoxy patriarchy
to fuck off
to fuck off and die

I process

queer straight queer
are you straight or gay or do you even know
what do you actually think
about love and sex
if you’re straight it just fucking sucks

and what about all that bullshit
in Putin’s Russia
innocence despaired and love slashed
pain crashed

if they want to tell me
I should fuck off
to really fuck off and die
maybe from HIV or some shit

I’ll respond with a fire
a burning heart of desire
feel pride they want us to hide
and I’ll burn burn bright

of course none of this
is easy
but I don’t care
I feel raw all the time anyway
and I burn as a consequence

I walk amidst chaos
and love it being a fucking fag
what about drag

yes I understand

I want equality
and I see it
more visibility
like when I used to think
everyone was secretly gay
maybe the battle is all
in my own head
between what society dictates
and the raw desires of my own heart

they want us to be perfect
hetero-dominant
but I don’t care
to care
not anymore

I just want to live my life here
queer
without fear or hate like a dumbass bigot

I just want to tell the truth
even if silence is more comfortable

I would say to be queer
is to free the soul
you become a sexual fiend
a blazing marginalized mastermind of passion

so I kiss truth
sleep with desire again
kindle a soul flare
mind fire

I slowly understand

and it’s okay.

Excerpt from Chapter Ten of The Lonely Children of New York

From my new book The Lonely Children of New York. Find it on my author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Children-New-York/dp/1542891469/ref=la_B00QEL41LS_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494623751&sr=1-1

As the sun continues to rise, I find Gabriel sitting at the back of an alley, sitting against the wall and enjoying an orange.

 
Gabriel loves oranges. It’s one of his loveable quirks. Just oranges. He’s not really a fan of bananas, or a fan of apples, or a fan of pomegranates or grapes or blueberries. Just oranges. But oranges, he could eat all day. Something about the tangy flavor that he enjoys more than anything.

I can tell he’s enjoying the orange, and I can’t help but feel like I’m disturbing him, but he sees me, his face dripping with the juices, his eyes alight, and when he sees me, he tosses me an orange, and gestures for me to sit next to him.

I do as my friend tells me, feeling content and contented, and begin eating the orange, my breakfast.

“Where did you get these?” I ask, noticing they taste pretty freaking good.

“I got them from the kitchen, believe it or not,” Gabriel says.

“The kitchen?” I say, surprised. “These are pretty good for the kitchen.”

“I know, right?” Gabriel says. “But we know a miracle when we see one. The Virgin Mary is looking out for us.”

I nod my head, and continue to eat the orange beside my friend. We talk occasionally, but both of us are enraptured by the goodness and delicacy of the orange before us.

When we finish, Gabriel pulls out his handkerchief and wipes his mouth gently, like a boy or a bird washing themselves, and I look at the handkerchief, and am reminded of a past I know pretty much nothing about. It was a handkerchief that his grandmother hand knitted for him, and I know it’s important to him. One of the few pieces of property he has, besides his clothes, and a piece of property that I know means the world to him.

Gabriel then pats me on the back and stands up. I stand up with him, ask, “What’s up?”

“We’ve got the whole day,” Gabriel says. “My belly’s full with a great treat, and I’ve got my best buddy to chill with. Let’s go for a walk or something, scope and canvas the area. Get into trouble. Comprende mi amigo?”

When Gabriel can tell I’m not quite on board, as I’ve got other things on my mind, he laughs, slaps me on the back again, and then gives me a killer hug that makes my day.

“It’s up to you, Alex,” Gabriel says. “I just thought it would be fun.”

“Of course it would be fun,” I say, forcing myself to get into the groove. “Yeah, Gabriel. Let’s go.”

“Maybe we’ll run into Isaac,” Gabriel says. “That would be nice. But that little hooligan is probably getting into trouble, don’t you think?”

“I think knowing you, you’re probably going to get me into trouble first,” I say, and I say this with a straight face. But when Gabriel sees I’m kidding, he laughs, and shoves me affectionately, and then I say, “So did you sleep okay last night?”

“Yeah, I did, now that you mention it,” Gabriel says. “Una noche dulce. But what about you?” He pauses for a moment, then says, “Did you go visit Young?”

I have to fight off the blushing. I hate it when Gabriel pries into my private life. But we’re brothers, we tell each other everything, and so I say, even though I haven’t fully processed my feelings and emotions about the event yet, I say, “Yeah. I saw Young.”

Even though I say this very neutrally, Gabriel whistles.

“What?” I say, taken aback a little.

Gabriel just laughs at me, innocently mocking.

“What is it?” I say, losing a little bit of my patience, but only because Gabriel is making fun of me now in that great way he does.

“You like him, don’t you?” Gabriel says, and he says this seriously.

“Young?” I say. “Why would I like Young?”

I’m a little surprised at this statement, but after further consideration, not really. I’m not surprised because Gabriel is always good at picking up on the crushes of others. He tends to be a matchmaker in his own right, being the hustler he is, so I say, “I didn’t know you knew I was gay.”

“I don’t,” Gabriel says. “I just always suspected.”

“You won’t tell any of our other street friends, I hope,” I tell Gabriel. “This needs to stay a secret for now, until I feel ready to talk about it openly.”

“Mi amigo,” Gabriel says matter-of-factly, “I don’t know what you’re so afraid of. I’ve been hit on so many times by kids my age, male kids my age. And I find it charming, even though I’d rather be with a girl. You personally may want to keep it all a secret, but you can’t keep something like love bottled up inside. I guess in your case, maybe not love, but … you know what I mean.”

I do know what Gabriel means. It is impossible for me to get close to someone. I’ve always seen it as my duty to be respectful of boundaries, and make everything platonic. But I wonder if maybe Gabriel is right, that I’m suppressing my feelings too much.

“Just because you like him, doesn’t mean you’re going to go out and get married,” Gabriel points out.

“I just can’t believe you knew,” I say.

“Like I said, I don’t really know. I just pick up on stuff. I don’t know if I’m even right. I don’t decide what you do with your life. You’re twenty-six, you know what’s best for you. But I think that Young has some good he can offer you. I’m glad you went over there, even if only for a moment.”

I think about when I tried to masturbate in the lake, when my thoughts were clear like water, and I think about how I had no idea I was going to switch to such a confusing mindset when I met Young. Do I like him, do I just want to be friends? Does Young like me? Are we good for each other, or will we just drive each other nuts?

“Just don’t let it make you sick,” Gabriel says. “Don’t overthink it. And before you say you can’t believe I know, just … don’t. I don’t know anything. I just think you haven’t had enough honest conversations with yourself yet, Alex. I think you’re still gun shy. I think you’re still a little yellow when it comes to these matters.”

“Well, even if I do like him, it’s not like it means anything,” I say quickly. “It’s not like it could really mean anything, in all honesty. I’m a homeless dude. Cast out, unwanted, unneeded. Society would rather just throw me away. They have no use for me.” And that’s when I notice that Gabriel is barefoot, and I say, continuing my line of impatience, “And why are you barefoot? You have shoes.”

“Actually, I don’t have shoes,” Gabriel says matter-of-factly, but I can tell he’s lying. “No zapatos. Sin zapatos para mi. But that isn’t bad, sí? Of course not.” And Gabriel shoots me a mischievous smile.

I have a feeling that Isaac put Gabriel up to this, and I point this out.

“Estas loco,” Gabriel says, grinning even wilder.

I shove Gabriel gently, and say, “Cut it out, Gabriel. Isaac totally told you to go barefoot, didn’t he?”

“Maybe,” Gabriel says, playing with me gently. “Maybe not. It’s hard to say. I think in all honesty, I may have forgotten what Isaac told me to do. Something about you being envious of the barefoot boy club, or something.”

Even though this is told to me lightly and with that charm that makes anything Gabriel does excusable, I feel a pang at this. I’m not sure how Gabriel knows about my new obsession with Whittier’s poem and what that means, but it’s obviously a reality I have to confront. Though it isn’t that surprising. Isaac and Gabriel are both so incredibly perceptive about things. They get stuff about me that I don’t even get about myself, and they like and understand my faults. They in fact want my faults. I’ve never been able to figure out how those boys can read me so well, but they can, and it makes me both happy and sad that they have picked up on something that I’ve been thinking about heavily for the longest time now.

So I say, in response to all of this nonsense, “Gabriel … I may have gotten a little depressed lately.”

“About what?” Gabriel asks, but he’s serious now.

“I don’t know exactly,” I say. “It’s the usual nostalgia for my youth, except, that familiar pain is challenged by the fact that I’m trying to figure out … why, exactly, I care about what I care about, when it’s easier not to care, you know, and when I obsess and obsess about these things I love and care about over and over again, to the point to where it makes me both miserable and alive.”

“In other words, you can’t figure out why you’re a mentally ill, gay, homeless man?”

I laugh. “Something like that. And I’ve been remembering things. I used to go without shoes all the time when I was a homeless kid.”

“You still are a homeless kid,” Gabriel says.

I say, “But I’m not that kid anymore.”

“Why do you have to be that kid?” Gabriel asks me seriously, with a bit of innocent contempt. “Why can’t you just be yourself?”

“Be more authentic?” I say. “Yeah, I’ve thought about that too. I wish I was more real, but I don’t even know what that means. How can I know what it means? I don’t think I can know what anything means. It’s all hopeless, it’s all a blur. I’m secretly going crazy.”

“You’re overthinking the barefoot thing,” Gabriel says. “Too much Romantic poetry. Though I guess Don Quixote would be a fan. Still, I think you’re getting your head in the clouds too much, you need to mellow it out a little bit. Just become the kid you want to be.”

“Right, go back in time,” I snap, though lightly.

“No, not that at all,” Gabriel says. “Just be honest with yourself. Try to figure out what’s missing in your life.”

“You guys are what’s missing!” I say in a sudden passionate outburst.

Gabriel isn’t bothered by my outburst, but he looks confused. “What do you mean?”

And I realize that I’m crying a little bit.

Gabriel notices, and he tells me it’s going to be okay, and I hug my friend, as if remembering a thousand lifetimes with Gabriel, a thousand moments of thinking about him, my lost past, my past friend, and then I say, letting him go, “I mean … I don’t want you kids to be homeless anymore. We don’t have it half as bad as they do in war torn third world countries, but we still have to admit that sometimes it gets a little shitty over here.”

“I had mi naranja, I’m good. Like I said, you’re too much of a dreamer, a lost Romantic. You underestimate your own happiness because you get caught up in the happiness of others. You see a barefoot boy named Gabriel and assume that he’s out of your reach, and you get sad because he’s homeless and his mother abandoned him and nobody loves him and the shelter abuses him.” Gabriel pauses, looks at me. “But it’s nothing. It’s nothing to worry about. Nothing at all, mi amigo. I promise it’s all going to be okay. We’ve got you, and you’ve got us, and there’s nothing you need to fear.”

“But I worry I won’t be able to keep you safe all the time,” I say. “I’ve slept for years on the streets, but I can’t stand the thought of you sleeping on the streets for even a night.”

“The streets are my home,” Gabriel promises. “Just relax yourself a little bit. Quit letting pride clothe your walk. Just let yourself go. Let yourself be. I don’t know if you know how to do that, though, because you’re worried so much about lonely street kids in New York, when really … it’s you that is lonely.”

I think through this. Gabriel is, as always, so very perceptive, and it makes me feel a little better, but also still sad.

Because I don’t know what else to do, I hug Gabriel again, and he assures me, gently, “It’s going to be okay, mi amigo. I promise you that. You came to check on me, but it seems in the end, I had to check on you. But don’t worry. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be all right.”

And I believe him. I believe Gabriel. Part of me, there’s things I’m never going to let go, but for the moment at least, I believe that Gabriel is right. I have my friends, it’s going to be okay. And I find it charming that ultimately, Gabriel was the one who ended up checking on me, rather than the other way around. I can’t help but feel touched by that.

“Bueno?” Gabriel asks me.

I nod my head, and smile. “Yes. I’m good.”

“Great,” Gabriel says. “Now let’s go get into trouble! There’s so much we should be doing right now!”

And without warning, Gabriel begins to run.

Acceptance

I never thought that I would be at this point. Not only have I come out, but I am actually comfortable with my sexuality. I see it as something good, something positive. I no longer see it as a burden and something that I have to overcome, and instead, I see it as something that is meaningful to me. I see it as an important part of who I am.

 
I never thought that I would end up here. I had a lot of homophobia, for instance. While it still exists, my more intense phobic ideas have kind of dissipated. I have realized how distracting those ideas are from me living my life.

 
In a way, that is the simple but great victory that has come from my acceptance of myself. I finally get to move on with my life, and actually enjoy certain aspects of things that I never thought that I could. I understand why people are very fearful when they come out, I have experienced some negative things myself. But in all honesty, because I’m confident and sure of myself, my experience isn’t as bad as it could be. I don’t have anyone bashing me for being who I am, and that is crucial.

 
I still have doubts, of course. How can I not have doubts, when I have doubts about pretty much anything and everything in the world? But, these doubts don’t dominate my life like they used to. Like I said before, I feel confident in who I am, and that is definitely very empowering. In my limited perspective, I think it is better to be open and honest, rather than repressed. I think we do better when we tell the truth. Sometimes we don’t tell the truth, and we have our reasons, but I prefer to be honest with people and I prefer to be honest with myself.

 
I don’t want to make it seem like any of this is easy. It definitely is not easy. I struggled and suffered for eight years, keeping my sexuality hidden from others. I just couldn’t tell people, I was so afraid. I wasn’t even aware of how afraid I actually was. And then, I had a few rocky experiences when I did come out, roughly a year ago, and that did not help my perspective. In fact, even just a month ago, I was still trying to find a way to talk myself out of my sexuality. I was hoping that I didn’t actually have to be gay. I was hoping that they were just thoughts, that they were just ideas that I had. But it seems that at this point in my life, it is too apparent. And granted, there are moments where I wish that I could slide back to where I was before, and deny how I actually feel, just so that way I am not hurt by society and people. But I nonetheless realize that I have to be straightforward with this, because when I am not, I feel like I am dishonest and disingenuous.

 
A friend of mine once told me that he accepted the teachings of the Bible, including the things that he didn’t like. I suppose this meant that he had to accept the fact that the Bible condemns homosexuality. But I suppose I could subvert the argument just a little bit, and say, I have to accept myself fully, even the parts that I don’t like. I think this is an important way to look at the issue. I know that many Christians will not accept who I am. But I also acknowledge that I am not a Christian, and because I am not, I have a completely different worldview. I have a worldview that is very complex and nuanced, and it has led me to realize certain things about myself. One of which, is that I can never see homosexuality is a bad thing, when sex itself is one of the best things that we have, sex and an expression of love and affection, commitment.

 
I said before that none of this was easy, and I can say it again. I can also say that I am still very nervous about certain aspects of my life. I have only dated twice, and those were not the best experiences I could have had. So, I still have a lot of apprehension about dating, because I don’t know the ropes fully, I don’t know how things work. I am afraid of making a mistake, I am afraid of doing something stupid.

 
It isn’t easy to be this honest. It isn’t, because I know that I am subject to harsh judgments, and that people can indeed be mean to me because of who I am. But, I am honest because this is one of my values. I definitely care about being honest with others, not putting on a front. We are told to do this so many times, when it is unfair and untenable. There are so many aspects to ourselves that are very good and important that we not suppress. I think we lose sight of this in our lives, with all of the mixed messages, but in my experience, this is the best way to live.

 
I hope that I can find love. I suppose I wanted that for a very long time. It was always weird for me, because there were times when I wanted to be with a girl, but I knew that I couldn’t like her the same way that I like guys. That was an intense realization, to realize that I have a deep respect for women, but that my temperament is different, and there are certain things that I like. This was hard for me to accept, but I am closer now to acceptance than I was before.

 
In other words, I knew that I didn’t like girls the way that I like guys.

 
Sometimes it makes me sad, realizing these things. There are many reasons for this. One reason: because my mother and my father do not approve, and I had a very specific vision in mind for me. But oddly enough, all of their children, me and my sister, turned out this way. Perhaps it is genetic? I don’t know, but I think that it is interesting that both of us turned out this way. It’s definitely food for thought.

 
I know that I could be hurt along the line. The road is complex, and there is no telling what kind of roadblocks we will encounter. I hope that I am not hurt too much, because I have felt a lot of pain in my life. But nonetheless, I think that I will face negative things. But I can’t focus fully on that. I can’t focus fully on what could happen, what negative things could potentially happen.

 
Today I have a date of sorts with another person, or so that is what was supposed to happen. I am aware that things may definitely not turn out the way that I hope. We may not meet up, we may have a negative experience if we do meet up, he may not be interested in me or already has a partner: whatever the case, it could definitely be a very complex situation. But nonetheless, I am hopeful that good things will happen, that good things will come out of this. I don’t want to exaggerate these things, and exaggerate what could happen and what cannot happen, but for whatever reason, I started late in the game. And I can’t expect things to just happen the way that I want them to, this fast. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of work.
That said, I still feel like I have worked really hard at it. I had to get over eight years of repression, and then I had to deal with certain dysfunctional qualities of the gay community. But I ultimately think it will work. I believe that what I am doing is right.

 
Indeed, I believe that what I am doing is good and right. I can’t really explain why, it is simply a very powerful emotion and conviction that I have. Maybe it’s because I know that we don’t understand those who are different from us, and so we cast judgments. Maybe because religion gets the best of many people, and it ends up oppressing others. I don’t really know, to be honest. But I know that I don’t necessarily need to have the answers for this. So, even though I may have certain bits of evidence that suggests why what I’m doing is right, I cannot make the case and I certainly cannot win the argument. But I understand I don’t need to win the argument, because life is complicated, and there are many things that happen, and we don’t need to defend everything. Indeed, there are many factors, and we have to accept this.

 
So yeah. That was what I wanted to talk about, about how much progress I have made. I have made a lot of progress, and it leaves me feeling very hopeful about the future. I am actually dealing with my problems, and that is important and crucial, it is meaningful to me as a person. I am not running away from who I am, I am not running away from my responsibilities in my future. I acknowledge that many bad things can happen, I acknowledge that I don’t have it all figured out, but either way, I still remain confident in myself, and who I am. And I suppose, that is good enough.

A Scene (from He Lights Out)

Just some ideas I’ve been tossing around. I’ve been searching for clarity on understanding life, in all of its significance. Things are not black and white.

This is an excerpt from my book-in-progress, He Lights Out, the story before my book The Street Kid.

 

I nod my head, thinking about what he is saying, Tyson, my good friend who no doubt has a lot coming up for him, if he can be ready for it.

 
“Me, I like being gay,” Tyson tells me. “I know it won’t always be apparent, but it is apparent now. I like being gay because it opens up my mind, it forces me to be humble, as it splits open wide my perception. It forces me to open myself up to vulnerability, it forces me to be honest. All of these things, I can’t pretend otherwise.”

 
I think about what Tyson is telling me, and I agree with him. Here, where we are at, homosexuality just makes sense to us. We are horny boys, who like each other, and are willing to tell the truth with each other. It is no doubt very meaningful. And we’re safe here, because we are in a safe place, a place where we can be who we are.

 
But I know that it isn’t easy. I don’t think Phoenix really sees himself as being gay, even now. And yet, I know that he is. I know that he has a lot that he has to figure out, and I know it will not be easy. It can never be easy. But that is part of it, that is part of why he is falling: so he can deal with the consequences of who he is, no matter how hard that ultimately becomes. If he is not going to be accepted for being gay, it may open up his mind, and he may understand things of a deep nature, truly comprehending the Kosmos. At least, that is my hope. Because I fear that Phoenix is going to fall, and there will be nothing I can do about it.

 
To me, homosexuality is about opening the mind. It is about being both primal, sexual, but also intellectual and cerebral. There are many things that I wish that I understood better than I do now, including my sexuality. We always want to blame people for things that they do not understand themselves, I have never understood this mentality. I don’t understand it at all, but I see it as the dominant paradigm. And in that way, there is very little that I can do about it.

 
“I don’t think it is supposed to make sense,” I finally tell Tyson. “I don’t think we are supposed to understand it. I think things are supposed to evade us, in so many ways, with us wishing that it was simpler, even though it is not, not even close. These things are very complex, we know this. They must be complex.”

 
“But the world is changing,” Tyson tells me. “Some people are starting to understand that being gay is godly and mythological, in a very powerful way. People are understanding that our reality is deep, and that being gay allows you to be sensitive and kind. Emphasis on being sensitive. We want to corrupt everything, and so, we see homosexual love, a pure expression, as something bad, as something deserving corruption. But honestly, the free world has it all backwards: homosexuality is the purest way to show love, and it is deep and meaningful to those who take part. The world is slowly starting to understand this, in all honesty, but it’s got a long way to go. People like to profane others for being gay, but it isn’t right. Why do you think most street kids are gay? It is because they are pure. Street kids are already pure, and they’re even more pure for being gay. It is something special, there is a kind of exceptionalism to being part of the homosexual crowd, and this is not understood by many people, who seek to demonize it, condemn people to Hell, whatever it is they wish to do. Either way, it is not functional, this arrangement. It accomplishes nothing, it simply hurts the innocent. Homosexuality is a form of innocence, but it is never understood this way, it has become the crux of cold jokes and cruelty, and that is not okay. But we don’t need to do anything about it, except for let ourselves be subtle. We don’t need to be obvious.”

Opening Scene of The Lonely Children of New York

Hey! Here is an excerpt from my new book, The Lonely Children of New York. If you like what you read, you can find my book here: https://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Children-New-York/dp/1542891469/ref=la_B00QEL41LS_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491514428&sr=1-11

Enjoy!

Phoenix

 

I

I am the loneliness of children running around in unrestrained free play, the free spirit happy and sad for no apparent reason, the kid that grew up too fast, the beautiful human being alone in the city, lonely reading books in a lonely city in a lonely world. If this is too melancholy and nostalgic and beautiful and Romantic for you, then it might be easier to just let it go now, and stop reading. But if you want to hold on, feel free to follow me. You never know where we’ll end up.

II

I’m one of the lonely children of New York. I’m not really a kid any more, though according to some “official criterion” that the people in charge of homeless commissions and homeless shelters have to say, I still somewhat qualify as a street kid, a street youth, to be more precise.

 
I’ve been homeless since before I can even remember (be aware, though, that the title of homeless is a complex title with many implications and meanings). I’m not sure I’m a fan of this, as you can imagine, I’m not sure I could ever be a fan of this, but you do what you have to in order to survive, even if that means being there for others. Being there for my other lonely friends.

 
I’m thinking about this, my past, my future, my present, twenty-six years with nowhere to go, wondering, and thinking. I’m with Isaac, and we’re both sitting against the wall of an alley in the most glorious slum of this side of town, and we’re both happy and content, and Isaac, who’s too young to really contemplate adult matters (he’s only, like fourteen, fifteen … pretty young, still innocent), doesn’t know what I’m thinking about right now, doesn’t know what’s going on in my mind. What I’m thinking of, what I’m desiring, what I need. As we sit together, I feel like we’re an odd and peculiar but necessary pair, like Jim and Huck, looking out for each other, even if we couldn’t be any more different. But that’s the way it should be. Isaac looks up to me, and I don’t want to let him down. I don’t know why he looks up to me, of course, but he does, and I don’t want to stop him from doing that, as I want to be his guardian, his protector, his angel.

 
Though of course, I’m far from an angel.

 
I’m thinking about love. I’m thinking about Romanticism, what it means to be a Romantic, lost in the zeitgeist of a brutal world. I can’t believe all I’ve gone through, all I’ve experienced. It’s too hard, but it also seems necessary. Though I couldn’t say why. I’m kind of dumb sometimes, and so I miss out on the most important things. Though I’m okay at street smarts, as one would hope. When I spend my time bouncing around from place to place, from the shelter to some friend’s house to a stranger’s house and back to the shelter, and then on the streets as well, things get a little hectic, and everything blends into everything, and it’s hard to know what is what, if you’re sleeping in a bug-infested shelter for the homeless or you’re sleeping in the back of an alley.

 
What is love? Everyone thinks love is just sex, including me. It might be because I’m a male, and because I’m a sensitive male, I have to try and redeem myself and pretend that I want more than love, that I want sex as well. But what would that mean? What would it amount to? What could it amount to, to be more precise? What is the purpose of it?

 
I’ve known for about a decade that I’m probably gay, or at least as close to gay as the gay community would ever allow me to be, being the misunderstood outcast of the kingdom. Don’t tell Isaac, though, or any of my street friends. They wouldn’t be devastated, as many homeless people can be gay, but they’d look at me different. I don’t know how to explain it. They just would. That’s why I keep all of my fantasies locked away from them. Out on the streets, it’s about self-preservation and survival, not about finding love and fulfillment and companionship, whatever that may mean.

 
I don’t tell Isaac, but I have an erection right now. I don’t know where it came from. I guess, just these thoughts. There’s something overpowering about desire, and not knowing what you desire.

 
They’re too much, these thoughts. And I want them to stop.
But they never stop. I have a need to procreate. I have a need to have kids, a family. I have a need to touch and be touched. To be loved.

 
Amazingly, I’ve never been sexually exploited, what with my twenty odd years on the streets. I find that odd, though I’m grateful. I find that strange, when I know that some of my younger friends haven’t been so lucky. Gabriel, one of my favorite street friends who speaks Spanish like a motherfucking Cervantes and immigrated straight from Mexico, with innocent tanned cheeks and a darker complexion (“blessings on thee, little man, barefoot boy, with cheek of tan …”), hasn’t been so lucky, precisely because of how beautiful he is. It breaks my heart thinking about what he’s gone through, how unfair it’s been, but I try to think about other things.

 
It’s hard, though, when you’re dragged through the mud over and over again.

 
I guess if Gabriel has anything going for him, though, it’s his charm. He’s good with the girls. He hasn’t gotten anyone pregnant yet, thank God, but he’s always looking for an excuse to check out the girls. He likes to see himself as an angel, for sure. A lost angel.

 
Gabriel is about the same age as Isaac, just a little older. The two are good friends.

 
We’re all good friends, really.

 
I think that’s one of the things that makes me feel the loneliest. That is, the fact that I have good friends, people that I care about, people that I love. People I would die for, if I needed to. People that take me back to when I wasn’t so innocent, when I knew what was going on, simply because I’d cry every time my mother took me to the shelter, or when I was afraid when the cops were being hard on me again, because they didn’t trust me, because they didn’t like me.

 
It takes its toll, having a beautiful soul. Nobody looks at the soul anymore. The soul doesn’t matter. Some would say the soul doesn’t even exist. Those nihilists.

 
I guess what I would say is that, I don’t let it go. I’m supposed to, let go of the beauty that destroys me, and comes at such a heavy price, but none of that matters. Because, I care, and that’s one of the consequences of being beautiful, of having a beautiful soul. That’s one of the consequences.

 
It’s one of the consequences of being a beautiful human being. Even if you can’t see it: Especially if you can’t see it.

 
“… paying attention?” Isaac says.

 
I snap back to reality. I look over at Isaac, who has a gentle and smug look on his face.

 
“Yeah?” I say.

 
“You’re daydreaming again,” Isaac says, if just a little impatiently. “I was wondering if you’d noticed the sunset yet.”
I nod my head, looking at the sunset now, with its gentle and vibrant shades of orange and yellow and pink. “Yeah. I see it.”
“And I was asking you if you wanted a smoke.”

 
I look at my friend, and then shake my head.

 
“Suit yourself,” Isaac says, and pulls out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, and lights up. I let him take a couple of puffs, and then, I take the cigarette out of his mouth, toss it far away.

 
“Hey, what the—”

 
“You’re not smoking,” I say assertively. “At least, not when I’m around. You need your lungs to run away from the cops you irritate all the time.”

 
Isaac doesn’t say anything, but I see his pride deflating when he sees I’m serious. He says, “I guess that could come handy. You know, good lungs and all.”

 
“It might come in handy, yeah,” I say.

 
“What were you thinking about, anyway?” Isaac asks me, handing me his pack of cigarettes without comment.

 
This question hits me kind of hard. Where do I even begin? I was thinking about my sexuality. I was thinking about love. I was thinking about Romantic poetry. I was thinking about childhood. I was thinking about homelessness. I was thinking about all the street youth that exist in the world that everyone else on the outside ignores.

 
As I think about what to say to this complex question, I think of another line from Whittier’s poem: “Outward sunshine, inward joy/Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!” I can’t help but wish for the best for Isaac. I never know when we’re going to be ripped from each other’s protection, stripped away from the home we’ve built together.

 
As always, Isaac is barefoot, because he can’t afford shoes, and thinking of Whittier’s poem continues to make me feel sad. I once was a barefoot boy, but as Whittier describes, soon we have to clothe ourselves in the shoes of pride: That happened to me too quickly, hence why I am no longer the barefoot boy running around the city, or playing soccer in the park on the grass, or just being a kid. For a moment, I feel a pin-needle pang of envy for what Isaac has stripped away from me. I was once that barefoot kid, but not anymore. That has been taken away from me, by experience, and the innocence I once had, it’s gone.
But what makes me hurt more, is knowing that soon, Isaac will lose that innocence too, if he hasn’t already. Of course he hasn’t, of course, but … well, I’m not sure. What is innocence anyway, except for a fleeting aloneness?

 
Isaac snaps his fingers in front of my face. “Wake up! I asked you a question.”

 
I snap back to reality, this time promising to not drift and dream again. “Sorry, Isaac. You know I get my head in the clouds.”

 
“I know,” Isaac says. “That’s what I’m worried about. So: What are you thinking about?”

 
“Do you often wonder what it’d be like to be free?” I ask.
Isaac doesn’t say anything for a moment. Then he says, “I don’t know, Alex. Why are you asking?”

 
“I’m just wondering,” I say.

 
“I guess it depends on what you mean by freedom.”

 
I think this is a good point. I can’t help but think of Rousseau’s line that man is born free but everywhere he is in chains. Even though the dissenting Enlightenment thinker didn’t mean this, I think his statement is a perfect metaphor for street kids and their contrast to urban society. The irony being, that we as street children are not born free, and yet, we aren’t in chains, while everyone else, born free, is in chains.

 
Rousseau would probably like that little bit of Romanticism in my intellect, my point. It would seem to me that we as street kids are more free because we have tried to return to nature, to the state of nature in which we originated. Not that I want to Romanticize the plight of street children, of course, because it’s far from beautiful … but, I’ve learned that you have to find the beauty in even the most unbearable of situations. When Gabriel was first abused, I was so angry with the person who had done it that I thought I would murder them. But Gabriel, being the light-hearted Cervantes that he is, and the good-spirited angel, just laughed about it, and said that at least he’d had sex. I didn’t agree with his sentiment, but I knew it was enough to keep him going.

 
Indeed, it’s so much easier to lie. So many times, I want to lie, and say something untrue, just to say it, just to assert a different reality. Oh, how Oscar Wilde would like my poetry! But to do that would be to bring untold agony to this lying and cheating world we live in, this unfree world.

 
“I think by freedom, I mean … the ability to let yourself fly. Metaphorically of course, but still … letting yourself fly.”
Isaac considers this, and then says, “I don’t think I’d like flying. Sure, it’d be reckless, but the wings would get heavy after a while.”

 
“If we could just be ourselves,” I say. “If I was myself.”

 
“You don’t feel like yourself?” Isaac says, sounding a little surprised.

 
“No, it’s not that … I just wonder if one could be more authentic.”

 
“You’ve read too much Sartre and Beauvoir. You can’t force authenticity. You have to let it happen in its time.”

 
Maybe I need to stop trying, then, I think. Maybe the flight will come in its time.

 
“But I hear you,” Isaac says. “Being vulnerable all the time, we’d think we’re more ourselves, but maybe that’s a distraction sometimes. Who can say?”

 
I’m not sure, but I don’t respond, because I find the entire question too difficult to answer. Authenticity. Being who you really are. With everyone connected to the system, no wonder I ached to be real. Because you realize, when you’re real, you crave being even more real, and even more real than that … and it never ends, the quest to be true and honest. As if, I know what any of that means, being true and honest.

 
Being as true and honest as the barefoot boy Whittier describes.