Excerpted from So Many Ways to Sleep Badly (City Lights, Fall/Winter 2008)
The energy is exploding upwards through my head, and for a moment I can’t see except this beauty, expanding inside and out of me. I want to lie on top of today’s yoga boyfriend, namaste, tongue wrapping around tongue—hands on his head we’re grinding and squeezing sweat all over rubbing and dammit, his cock into my mouth, thickness feeding me he’s got his hands on my head his come tastes like butter, pushing him down we roll around until rugburn overwhelms us. The instructor says if we could just harness this energy and make fuel for our cars, we’d have a perfect world.
At dinner, Rhani’s adding red and white to her eye makeup while I’m shitting because my digestion’s too sensitive. Rhani walks me home and the kids downstairs see us kissing goodbye. I go in and one of them says you’re embarrassed, I can tell because you’re red. He’s right: I’m embarrassed because Rhani’s wearing fur.
Daddy Scott, who lives across the street from me, calls me up for a trick with another whore, Davey—it’s the three of us on the guy who’s a 911 operator. Daddy Scott’s got an electric dildo that fucks the trick in short motions that make him howl. Davey comes over my place afterwards and I get all excited, playing music for him and talking about clubs I should just throw already, but for some reason Davey goes home to bed instead of just seven-and-a-half—or okay, maybe eight—steps to my bed.
I want to cuddle with Jeremy but he’s not answering the phone, really I’m worn out but also still high from last night’s sex with him, the orgasm that went on and on while Jeremy kissed me and held me all over. I want that high to continue, I want to overcome the brain-numbness so I can live in that soft space between my head and the sky.
I go on a detour to the Power Exchange. There’s this blond guy on the bench by the entrance with his hand on his crotch, a welcoming committee. Upstairs, the music gets gorgeous—so much space and why won’t the girls dance? And that’s when I fly upwards, laughing and smiling and cackling for every tweaker who looks at me with double question marks in his eyes. Let’s throw down a couple of definitions. There’s high hypoglycemia, when I’ve finally started a group scene at the Power Exchange—I mean, these girls stuff their entire faces through glory holes, but they’re too scared to do anything in public! This one shady bitch—high hypoglycemia is pouring lube all over her hair. Low hypoglycemia is when I keep thinking why am I here why am I here why am I here, but I can’t do anything about it because I’m so fucking hypoglycemic. There’s a porno with this guy doing anal sphincter exercises, and I notice the fly on his ass.
In the laundry room, a woman asks me if my earrings mean I’m a member of some group, do you need the piercings in order to join? Do you mean a cult—why of course! She asks me if I eat Filipino food, they have Filipino food in the basement every Saturday. I’d really love to say yes and be her neighbor, but I can only picture a tableful of meat and allergies. I tell her I work Saturdays.
Speaking of work, Chrissie’s back in the business, she calls me from Union Square—hello Fairmont! A trick comes over to deliver just what I was craving last night, a hot load in my throat—tastes awful but oh the feeling, once in a while I love my job. Funny how the guy won't kiss me afterwards, honey it’s your come.
Speaking of come, Daddy Scott has this barebacking video on, one guy has come oozing out of his asshole and someone else shoves his dick through the come and starts pounding away. It freaks me out but turns me on: the abandon. The next day, this hot couple hires me—two super-friendly preppy guys from New England, staying in a fancy bed-and-breakfast in an old Victorian in the Mission on a corner once known for gangs. But this place has lace curtains and armoires. It’s some kind of kept boy situation—while I’m sucking the older guy’s dick, the kept boy starts teasing my asshole with his dick—which is way too long—but pretty soon it’s inside. I can’t believe it—I’ve hardly been fucked at all this year, and it’s suddenly so easy—even with a condom, a non-latex Avanti condom—product placement at it’s finest.
Except that after I come, the guy thrusts a few times more and then he shoots, the condom breaks and for some reason I don’t really freak out. What can you do? Then the come might be oozing out of my asshole like in that video, I can't tell for sure because there isn't a camera there. Chrissie arrives at my house with a can of Dust-Off, just as depression enters through my sinuses. Every ten minutes, she takes a sip through the straw until she’s got her pants down, leaning over the toilet to piss while talking to the bathtub. Huffing and puffing and she would blow the house down if I let her—maybe I should—would it do me some good?
So much air outside, encircling my headache but failing to enact justice. Three annoying tricks in a row—if only I could stay hard! The cab driver says: I like to go to a good movie alone first, then lie to my friends and say that I haven’t seen it yet.
Are dust mites the root of all my problems, burrowing into my sinuses until I can’t do anything but dig? It turns into an excavation—entire lost cities—see, what an advanced civilization! Jeremy says as long as you don’t wake up with roaches in your nose.
When Jeremy comes over, at first I wonder who is this new person in my life, a few moments before I feel comfort. At dinner, I'm remembering how nice it is that Jeremy always wants to share, I mean he can eat practically anything on the menu. And usually I don't even attempt to share with other vegans—I have to avoid much more than most people, I mean I can’t even digest raw vegetables -- let alone fried foods, sugar, tofu, fake meats, nightshades or refined oils. But Jeremy actually gets excited about shifting his options and then when he pours soup into my bowl or passes the stirfry it feels so intimate. Later, I want to say I love you—just casually—but can that be casual? I say I’ll get some new pillows for you, I mean I’ll get some new pillows for you to use. He says what’s the difference? I’m laughing. All this work not to feel too vulnerable.
My trick says: do you like music? Too much conversation, I get on my knees and suck, suck, suck—watching him close his eyes and sway. On the bus, one obnoxious straight guy says to the other: so man, have you tried Viagra? I go to an empty Cambodian restaurant and grind my teeth while they take fucking forever. Did the pilot light on the stove go out? At least the food’s good, no trippy MSG aftershock. On the radio, a seventy-five year old woman talks about selling her house to pay for arthritis meds.
At yoga, the sun is a spotlight—photoshoot—Kraftwerk in my head: “she’s a model and she’s looking GOOD.” Sun sparkles off my sweat, better than glitter, and the shadow of the ceiling fan creates a strobe. If only they’d open the window and let me breathe. Downstairs, the owner is flirting with every long-haired woman. He must be in his forties or fifties, but he’s wearing a frat sweatshirt. Telling some blond woman with overly plucked eyebrows: you just need to keep coming, keep coming. Yeah—so you can buy another Porsche.
Late-night expedition: I just need to get rid of one more blackhead—one more before I go to bed. Jeremy calls and says I heard your voice on the answering machine and I got all excited—that gets me excited, 3 a.m. and I’m playing dancing games, head peering out my window, and is it kind of warm out? I go outside, the rain feels so good. When I wake up, I’m still happy until everything floats away, fuck it’s a new day.
Later, Jeremy and I are hugging and hugging, he keeps telling me how hot I am in my magenta pants with yellow plastic floral belt, orange floral print t-shirt and a necklace made of huge clear plastic beads and a piece of a chandelier. It’s so refreshing that Jeremy gets all excited by my queeniness—faggots are usually so afraid of faggots. When sex is on the agenda, I’ve learned to channel a masculinity that isn’t exactly shutting off. I mean, I can still experience all the sensations in my body.
That sounds awful—let’s get back to Jeremy—we go to the Berkeley Free Clinic to get HIV and STD tests. There are forty people waiting. On TV, there’s a fascinating history of diseases. Then it’s a movie where a guy is about to get his finger chopped off. Jeremy and I race up the Oakland hills in his friend Sarah’s BMW, searching for a place to watch the sunset. But it’s wall-to-wall mansions—blocking the sun with money! We race down and then up to the Berkeley hills, finally at dusk we arrive. The sun’s beneath the clouds and it’s freezing out, but the air is amazing, it actually smells like trees. I piss and someone probably watches. In the car, I’m grabbing my crotch and Jeremy’s head, he says we’re gonna get arrested. Ten feet away in their own car, a straight couple pretends not to notice, the guy is looking for his heart in the gravel.
I know it’s a relationship, because we’ve reached an impasse: my asshole—Jeremy wants to fuck me, but there’s so much locked in there—I’m a little baby with crushed butterfly wings, don’t call me an angel ‘cause there’s too much pain. I’m cracked in half and am I alive? Everything is a gaping hole where my body should be. I fall in. Alice in a blue gingham dress with caves as eyes, but I can still see the pretty mushrooms and butterflies, oops someone swatted me.
Then I’m back to gingham, this time it’s yellow—and I’m Cinderella, pounding a frying pan on the washing machine. As long as I make noise and jump up and down I’m all right, otherwise I feel shards of glass poking at the pulp where my eyes used to be. Inside the washing machine, I’m a squashed frog, pulpy goo, and outside I’m a cat inside Alice’s no Cinderella’s head. I just want Jeremy to pet me. He doesn’t know all this yet.
In Jeremy's arms, I'm a squashed butterfly flying out of the black hole of clichés. We’re making out on the street—hard-ons and all—can you believe the homeless woman with the white wigs says disgusting? I mean, honey’s in the Castro practically 24-7. Jeremy takes my hand and says gay is good as we round the corner like we're in some 1970s documentary, I mean we’re actually both wearing clothes from around that time period, the glittering dome of City Hall in the background. Jeremy catches the BART, at home I get sky-high wired and horny too—I love it when I actually have a libido for more than five minutes, not just craving sex to crave feeling.
Now I know what mood I need for the Power Exchange—it’s like I’m on speed except I’m not gritting my teeth. I hook up a four, five, six-some and I’m grabbing everyone’s necks and chests and asses. I fuck this one guy after asking for a condom, it’s fun and then three guys argue about who gets my come. Afterwards, I’m in such a great mood, it’s another window into how I could feel, everything in my head so expansive oh open all the windows, keep them open it’s time it’s fucking time, it’s time. 3:27 am, January 30, 2002, and I notice that the stamp on my hand from the Power Exchange is a peace sign.
Where’s Chrissie? Last I heard, she was turning a trick and then buying three quarters of crystal to treat her friends who’ve been treating her for the last few years. On self-immolation: Mike Tyson is barred from boxing in Nevada! Jeremy and I have these abstract discussions that usually I’d hate—college shit—I left college for a reason. The worst one is about the meaning of art. Jeremy believes in the classics, the European tradition, as in the Rennaissance and everything’s been downhill since. No, wait—he’s all about the nineteenth century, maybe everything went downhill later than I thought. The worst part is that he believes in standards of greatness—there’s been no great art since 1950, he’ll say, and I’ll get caught arguing with him.
What about Eva Hesse, I say—I’ve just come from her exhibit of infinite textures in repeating plastic forms. Not her exhibit—she’s dead and that’s why SF MOMA’s giving her a show. But Jeremy hasn’t seen it.
What about contemporary Iranian cinema, I say—Mohsen Makhmalbaf or Abbas Kiarostami—but Tony doesn't know if he’s seen their movies. What about Mike Leigh -- did you like Secrets and Lies? It was okay.
I try my favorite authors—David Wojnarowicz, Rebecca Brown, Robert Glück. Jeremy hasn’t read them. I scan my bookshelves. What about Jean Genet or James Baldwin? Okay, Jeremy says, maybe 1970.
Then Jeremy wants to talk about the democratic process—the what? That’s how I know I’m falling in love, because I can tolerate these silly conversations. But even without the falling part, I want to say I love you like with all my close friends, but I’m worried he’ll get scared. And maybe I’m scared, a wolf ready to bite off my head and will Jeremy sew it back on?
We’re at a party making out, I’m ready to get on my knees but Jeremy’s uptight around his friends—they might think he’s a slut! And this is the high fashion set, some cheap-looking new carpeted flat on Mission with a bunch of ‘80s runway casualties hanging with the mods and suburbanites. Every time the music starts to sound okay, it ends up turning into a dance remix of a rock or pop song: “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Paint it Black,” and something that sounds like Bon Jovi. Jeremy and I are slamming each other into the walls, and the buttons of my sweater keep coming undone. One guy asks for more tongue and I ask for his, but apparently he’s lost it. I lose my mittens and Jeremy finds them—how romantic!
Jeremy goes home to do K and I go home to wash the smoke out of everything. The next day’s good news: endless scenarios run through my head about what to do if I test positive, wait stop the cameras I’m dying. But the good news is there are no white lines in this fantasy—just crying, food, and shopping. Jeremy’s so nervous he’s shaking, and I just want to hold him all day, night, and right through to tomorrow—forget about the earthquake, at the clinic it’s duck! Duck. Goose.
Luckily we’re just ducks in this game. Jeremy says I don’t have much stress in my life and it was just so hard waiting. I don’t know what he’s talking about: no stress? We look for music, Jeremy’s Bach and my electro. Later, we go to Steamworks, where the sauna’s too hot for Jeremy, but I like the eucalyptus—or wait, is it Pine-Sol? Afterwards, I’m hugging and hugging, the feeling of Jeremy’s skin. He says I feel like I’m coming to a new period of calm in my life and you’re part of that.
Jeremy holds me so tight while I’m on my knees sucking this guy’s cock, wanting his come but mostly wanting Jeremy to keep holding me. We get a five-way started in a room—every guy is kissing me too softly and I get way too hypoglycemic, my body shuts down and I panic. Jeremy’s a raging ball of non-stop arousal and I’m scared in the cheesiest way, what if he doesn’t love me? Looks like he’s about to fuck this one guy and I’m jealous, but if I don’t eat I’m gonna cry—I whisper: I’ll be right back, wait for me to fuck him—then I say it out loud: I’ll be right back.
The guy who was in the TV room when we arrived is still sitting there, and I still can’t decide if he’s cute. I’m having problems digesting my food; I just feel so edgy, rush to shit again. Then I’m heading back to the room and Jeremy finds me, he says I missed you. We head back to the TV room so I can eat more, and I get all teary-eyed, I say: I keep wanting to say I love you, but I stop myself ‘cause I don’t want to scare you. Standard TV-movie fare. Jeremy says I love you too and the clouds clear in the background, my hair blows in the gentle breeze, light reflecting off three small tears. But wait: we’re at a sex club, glaring fluorescents and a chain mesh wall behind us.
Jeremy fucks me on the floor in the video room, it’s easier to relax if I’m watching someone else getting fucked—we’re in this together! Hardly anyone watches, what a weird crowd. We’re a bad example, without a condom—well, it’s on the floor next to us and when we come, on that floor too, Jeremy’s tired and I’m ready to go dancing. In the morning, I sit in the sun on Jeremy’s roof, a view of everything. We go to a movie in which time slows down, a man steals clocks, a large fish in the kitchen swallows the man’s father, reincarnated as a roach. Everyone loses their luggage or acts like it. At the end, time and everything is a giant ferris wheel spinning backwards. Jeremy says I can’t imagine you not being in my life, and the ferris wheel is my eyes turning around into the beauty of the future.