New Years Day 2010...
At 12:01 AM, exactly one year ago, I remember I was standing on the edge of Arthur's Court - the neighborhood I grew up in. All the three story houses glowed with Christmas lights brightening up their grand backyards and driveways to accommodate boats and suburbans. The city mayor lives two houses away, and just behind us an orthodontist who owns two German shepherds and was the first in our neighborhood to have a plasma screen TV. A bit to the left is a director at NuSkin and a few doors down from there is the owner of a Zion's National Bank. His wife owns a classy dance studio in the basement. If you go further down the street, you'll find a Marine family, a BYU professor family, and a chiropractor family. A fenced up majestic world, carved from pristine whiteness and heft of landscape, winding lovely in righteous twirls, made of houses and covered with ice.
A year ago, I stood standing at the edge and mused to myself aloud that I'd be standing here again in 2010 wishing that 2009 had never happened. Just a feeling. Likely brought on by a decade's worth of college cynicism and all-around broken national faith in the future. I guessed that I'd look back on 2009 wondering if it was a year I could have skipped.
At the time, there was little sign of what 2009 would bring. Admittedly, I was still angry and scared at what my breakup with my first boyfriend might mean, with all its deconstructions and devaluing of everything I was raised to believe I was not capable of ever having, or feeling. My only job was to act out what was assigned to me. There was an agenda to follow, after all. But then along came a redhead in a pickup truck, who could play the cello and give you such a kiss, and he denied me - my friendship or my past with him - for a better but dying man, ex-Army and hiding in the mountains. And all those hand-me-down ideas about everything had to change.
So 2009 didn't look like a recovery period or a time to resort priorities. It looked like a Nothing. But I hoped things would turn up. I sensed change coming. And as I was accustomed to, I believed this change would come about from some temple castle glowing in mountainous dark night, or a promise at the end of "that" small blue book, or a lonely faithful moment on my knees at my bedside. Or maybe Erik would come back and make everything right again. Or maybe nothing would happen at all. But I couldn't have guessed it would actually be a long, timeless and spaceless chain of the weirdest and worst times of my life.
I never knew I'd find myself little more than a month later on the floor of a bar, convulsing after that "one more" menthol American Spirit. Propelling curses and reckless shame at a ruined castle keep, a snowing sky and invisible God. Racing down the highway in too much black pain to think about anything except the week-old memory of a friend coming home from the streets of New York, with his honor folded neatly for everyday wear. Even after swearing then to abandon the bottle, months later I'd be back on the floor, vomiting, shivering, shirtless. In a personal place without emotion, without beauty, and without time. And cradled on that damn floor by people who really shouldn't care about me.
A penthouse apartment, an abandoned field outside of town. Secrets, and even more secrets. A dark blue hotel room, a Wisconsin bathroom. She takes a long drag on her cigarette, looks at me, and says with a cackling laugh, "You look a bit overwhelmed!" As the banker turns me away, I mutter, "I guess I won't get that ticket to New Orleans." There are sounds of vomiting from my bathroom and now he's begging me to see his boyfriend, but he can't stop laughing so much. She's telling me in a rowdy campus hallway that prostitution is now the only way she'll make it through school. There's a sickly old voice with gray whiskers around the mouth and jeans stiffened by dirt, telling me to get out of the car and keep quiet, so as to not wake neighbors. "Matthew," she says, her voice glassy and strained, "Brother Pratt's been arrested. For raping a girl." I hear furious yells through the walls and the Guinness to get me off the floor and the hell out the door. The surging crowd lifts the girl above swaying heads to latex glove hands, and the medics carry her away strapped to a board as mud splashes and the band plays on.
The train rushes by and I feel walls around me tremble. A mysterious alien thing too tiny to see has come from nowhere, invaded my throat and wrapped my body in so much continual pain that I'm prevented from even whispering. He puts his hand on the cool steel of his gun as he reassures me he knows the gospel of Christ as taught by Joseph Smith is true, but can't say the same about the Mormons. There's a firetruck outside flashing all my living room in blacks and reds with a pulse. She only lets herself look at the Kansas City photo for one moment before gently closing the drawer, and no one ever sees it again. "You're such a good cuddler," says boy with a body he stole away from Greek gods, and I taste his salty-sweet tongue on my side of the bed. I'm sinking into a chair and feeling the uncountable elephants in the room when the boy in the bandana has finally had it up to here with curiosity and yells at my face with a weird smile, "DUDE, are you FUCKING HIGH YET?" The midnight sky is scarred for one blinking moment as a ball of fire strings to a hot white light and falls down, down to the western horizon. She can't look at me, only at the ceiling, and she says, "A lot of people are about to die."
I still don't know how I got a straight divorced man to make out with me in the lobby of a Hilton. I've been dragging so much secrecy, guilt, loneliness and anger inside of me that finally when on Halloween I watched a David Bowie get handcuffed and led away, after both of us had been turned away from a house of God to hands of the law, something inside me finally snapped. Cave paintings, comic books or stained glass windows? Birthday parties, pride parades, church sermons and elections...or masks, makeup, theatrics and temptations...what's the difference. Small wonder that when a gay guy comes along weeks later claiming to have visions and revelations from God about my life, I don't believe him.
Go to hell, Everything. You have confused the mother living fuck out of me.
But then something happened in Neverland. About a week ago, after days of not eating or sleeping, I finally collapsed on my bed...but I actually went somewhere. I could see the beginning of things, and I could see myself in the middle of some eternally marching time machine, with a million plans and every possible kind of lie. And I saw how it could end, everything - the big capital End of everything.
I can't explain it. And I can't talk about it, not yet, anyway. But I'm wondering if this year is closing on more than just a decade of my life. I wonder if it's closing on an entire era of existence, an entire way of life.
A boy lives in the house at the very very limit of Arthur's Court, where the large fence meets the city streets. He moved from Riverside, California when a great friend of mine had to move away. Riverside moved into his old house. We became very close, and maybe too fast. He was someone I loved more than my own life. But this world tells us that love can very rarely be nonsexual if it's with someone we're not related to. And this world tells us that if it is a feeling towards someone the same gender as you, it's either love, sexually, or it's lunatic crime and sin. So with religious fervor, I pulled that old sleight of hand, and I fell in love with a beautiful, strong, handsome and virtuous idea of him, of who he could be for me. But Riverside didn't have enough strength to keep up with my little magic trick. In a few days now, he'll leave on his LDS mission to jungles below the equator. And without knowing it, he'll take a lot of my old and dying intangibilities with him. A door is closing.
When I was a sophomore in high school, the stage technicians and actors used to call me Moses, because I was in charge of opening and closing the giant red curtain, and in order to do it I had to use a wooden two by four on this old machine. I remember watching, memorizing every blinking instant of the final moments in each scene, and how every time it never plays out quite the same way. It's the same words, the same clothes and the same boys and girls on a very wide and black stage, and out in the outside blackness is an ogling audience. The moments are composed of musical notes and chapping paint and makeup powders, always the same because of practice, always different because of time.
And just before time and audience can pin it all down into some singled finality, I shut the curtain on everything, and the illusion can be preserved for me alone, behind the curtain, where everyone is frozen for that exact second before the abrupt rushing around to the next performing instant for the darkness. So I memorize the moment for tomorrow. And then it ends.