Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Feels Like I've Been Run Over in Traffic (I Need to Be Healed)

Disclaimer: This post is about violence and a distinctly masculine preoccupation with aggression, but not in a direct manner, so bear with me!
Last night, as I always do when J. is working, I rode my bicycle down from Btown or Aville (depending on the day), and I plop my sweaty, panting body down on a street corner, right next to where he stands when he works.
Now, J. is not a street worker in the sense that may come to the minds of you dirty birds. But he does work on a street corner, but more like an old-time newspaper boy (think Newsies).
I keep him company while he works, which is always late into the morning, and then we ride home together after a rock/paper/scissor match to decides whose place. He's much better at that game than I am.
The job is repetitive and were J. not a consummate performer I would be bored. But he speaks, moves, bounds about with a natural grace and a captivating allure that makes it a pleasure to watch. And when the streets are dead we talk--of all sorts of things and topics!
We also tend to see the very best and the very worst of people on that street corner. There is, of course, the wide variety of Homeless, which ranges from the frighteningly insane and erratic to the "shoe-shine guy" who once polished-up J.'s leather backpack at a discounted rate because their friendly. The more or less coherent Homeless strike up conversation with J., and though I'm not partial to these sorts of encounters, J. has a beautifully wide soul that makes space for those people most everyone else would rather not have to deal with. I wonder if I am like this, too, and in those moments the floral smell of my shampoo and my washed clothes seem very thin shields.
More disturbing, however, are the men who stumble around together--"dude-bros" we call them, though these men are are in their late thirties and early forties. They always have something clever to say to J., something disparaging and nasty. Couples are less offensive, but groups of three or more men are always trouble.
One night, early in our relationship, the Friday night before Pride, a guy started to pick a fight with J., got just too close to him for my comfort, and I said something pithy to draw attention away and onto myself. This got me, effectively tossed all over the street corner, and punched up in the head a few times. I had to flee the scene, mostly because by the time anyone showed up and chased the drunk bastard away I was already in the throws of shame, and needed to hide myself. All I could think was: you're a coward, you're weak. I rode my bicycle home with an insane need to punish myself, actually screaming out-loud just to expel the indefatigable, relentless build-up of humiliation.
J. called frantically a number of times, worried that I now disliked him. I, in turn, could only apologize for running away. The incident itself brought us closer together, but it also hardened me a bit more. I hadn't been hit by anyone since I was 16 years old, some scrawny kid that had come-out of the closet and defiantly got beaten-up rather than retreat into the shame of secrecy. But that had been so long ago and it did fuck me up--I trusted almost no one, and sought out in the eyes of everyone I passed by the glint of aggression.
I don't do that anymore, and living Boystown has helped immensely. No one calls me a faggot here, and if they do, they're out numbered, and by gym-bunnies, too. Even despite the rash of muggings--a phenomenon typical of any city, and not targeted against homosexuals--I feel safe here.--Hint for all the boys and girls coming out to play: don't get so drunk that you can't pay attention to what's going on around you ;-)
Last night, as I said, I rode down to hang out with J. and in the course of our night met two amazing Australians, Will and Lyndsay. We slid into a groove, exchanging euphemisms and idomatic jargon--"Scrag Tag" rather than "tramp stamp," "Mangy" instead of "ripe" or "groddy," and "piked-out/piker" instead of "copped-out"/"flakey fuck". I finally went into the place where J. works and we enjoyed cheap draft beers while a cabaret piano man took our requests (mine were "anything Rufus"--he played "California"--and "anything Judy Garland"--he played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"). He was a big old homo, but talented and we had a grand time. Plus, there were crayons on our table so we made a mural-esque collage of our drawings, each of us filling a corner until our designs met in the middle--a perfect metaphor for our night.
Walking up the lake at 4am we enjoyed the breeze--the specific kind of breeze that follows a rain-storm--and when Lyndsay said that the city was beautiful I replied, "You're lucky to come in the summer time, because the rest of the year this city sucks." I said this while walking past a man--white, mid-thirties, well dressed (he was wearing a designer swimsuit)--and what he heard was "this city sucks".
This was enough to set him off into a miss-directed rage: "This city sucks? Go home then, you fucking rich suburban fucks. We don't want you here. You aren't welcome here!"
I thought this was all, and after holding my tongue until out of earshot, I resumed my praise of Chicago summers.
It was only when J. looked over his shoulder and nearly jumped out of his skin that I realized, upon looking over my own shoulder, that this man was stalking us, following closely behind, listening in, his fists clenched, his bare chest tight with rage.
I pretended this was nothing, despite the fact that we all four has now looked over our shoulders and felt the quick tightening in our guts.
Fortunately, and as if out of nowhere, a pair of headlights appeared. From riding the bike path as frequently as I have I know it isn't uncommon for police to troll the path at night and I was instantly relieved upon seeing the headlights, especially as they grew closer.
The man started to yell again.
The truck started to pass.
I banged on the side of the truck, yelling, "Stop--this man is drunk and wants trouble, please call the police." It was half a bluff to get rid of the guy and half an earnest appeal for their help.
We kept walking, us four, as the truck stopped and the man walked to the window.
"No worries," The man said, "I work for the Parks. These guys are just causing trouble. There's no problem here."
The truck begins to pull away.
My heart sinks.
"What?" the man demands as the truck's lights fade away, "You thought you were safe? We Parks guys take care of each other!"
And with that, the man runs up close to us, and punches me in the back of the head.
I didn't dare turn around, I didn't want to instigate him by facing him.
And I was scared--scared he would still be there, wanting to punch me in the face.
As it happens, he turned and ran as fast as he could.
J. screams out, "Dick head!"
I scold him, afraid he will come back: "J.! Shut the fuck up!"
I pretend the rest of the night this didn't happen.
We enjoy the rest of a beautiful night and morning together.
...
Last night, after some slight--some tranny mess threw an empty bottle at me--I was undone. I couldn't pretend any longer that nothing had happened, afraid that somehow I seemed weak in the eyes of others.o
Still, I gave the police the license plate number of the black Hummer the girl was in: A47-0029
They couldn't care less. Go away, they said with their eyes and bodies.
I left, with J., but all of this was bubbling over.
We lay in bed, but in a torturous state of tension.
The tension snapped.
At one point I snarled: Get out!
He started to leave.
I begged him not to go.
He still went.
I chased after him.
Please don't go, I begged.
...
Sometimes the world--the very thing that brings us together, that allows us a common language, experience, and life--this seems too close, too ugly. I want to punish it, and those within it: to destroy it, actually. I pushed J. away with the desperate hope that he wouldn't leave. He started to leave. He didn't fight, even when I tried to bait him. He said: Why were you trying to fight me? Because I needed to let this get out somehow, I wanted to say! Because I need to purge this filth--what I am afraid is my own filth, my own doing--onto--_into_--something that I know is strong enough to take it and hold it and kill it and still take me in.
As if by magic, he said: my heart is big enough for the two of us.
If I could, I would have wept.

1 comment:

William said...

I'm also greatly moved by this entry. You also forgot to mention Bono-syndrome, but I think that particular syndrome is a separate post in itself