Saturday, October 23, 2004

Attempt to give existential directions

LOCATION: Kramerbooks TIME: Midnight of the soul EQUIPMENT: Yourself, perturbed stranger

So I was in Kramerbooks one night reading literary tea leaves when a man approached me. It took him a while to talk to me; I could feel his presence and attention (distracting me from the sublime Czeslaw Miloscz) for a few minutes before he actually worked up the nerve to say anything. I looked up from my book. He was shifting his weight back and forth on his feet; he was sweating and his hair seemed greasy; he had a spray of pimples on his cheeks; even under his dark green sweater, I felt that I could sense all his muscles twisted into aching knots. He was a completely repulsive human being.

"Excuse me. Excuse me." His accent was South Asian.

Feminine egomaniac that I am, I assumed it was some kind of pickup and glared at him. "Yes?"

"Excuse me." His eyes were wide and frantic in an almost animal way; I thought of a bird I'd seen which had broken its wing on a glass window and was watching my hand reach down for it, certain of its doom. I started to doubt my pickup assumption.

"What do you want?"

"Excuse me." His voice was dropping lower and lower. "Is you this predominantly homosexual neighborhood?" The words all came in a rush.

"Oh. OH. I don't know. Well ... I think it's both. It's for everybody."

He gave me one more piercing, anguished glance, and walked away.

Dear reader, some of us grow up with a culture that tells us that certain behavior is evil and wrong. And yet we are compelled to do it anyway, even though we know it's wrong - so we hate ourselves, and we want to punish ourselves, and we're never comfortable, and we become repulsive human beings, and then our society assumes that it was right about us, after all: we are monsters (an opinion we share).

But perhaps, some day, we move to a "predominantly homosexual neighborhood" - the kind of place where supremely arrogant, oiled, tanned men stride around 17th st in ballgowns for parades - and perhaps, just maybe, things are starting to look up for us.


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