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  • The New York I remember is not the New York I now return to, many years later, the bars, the cafes, the bookstores, all those haunts of my youth have vanished and I am now a stranger, a tourist, yet, the city is still familiar, the congestion of human lives squashed together, the breathless, stampeding hordes, the ecology of glass-steel-cement, the way the pigeons swerve en-masse , swooning across the sky, they dilate and contract in unison with an organic geometry.

    I am searching for something I know cannot be found and yet I continue to skim down 17th street, and when I arrive at my destination, I find only this: a for rent sign, forlorn and vacant. Here was my first gay bar, here, I stood, across the street, the tinted window, the gelatinous feeling in my legs, pacing back and forth, desire, trepidation, pacing and pacing until finally . . .the air inside is cold and smoky, it is a twilight womb, on stage, a red spotlight shines on a muscle man, a goliath wearing only a g-string and army boots, drenched in oil and sweat, he is both repulsive and deeply desirable, he gyrates, moving his pelvis, old men fondle him with their gaze, waving twenty dollar bills, for a lap dance, a groping, a sliver of ecstasy.

    I leave the bar feeling hollow and empty, reeking of smoke. I wander back towards the West Village, the maze of streets are new to me and I feel as if I am wandering in circles, the windows of the brownstones shine with gold light, peeking through them, I feel homesick for a place I have never been. On the corner, a French bistro, a wicker basket of baguettes, white table-cloths, waiters in aprons, a gaggle of gay men, in their twenties, they are talking, laughing, drinking.

    They seem so sophisticated, so suave, confident, everything I wish to become, everything that I am not.

    I want. I want. I want. I have always wanted so many things. I still do.

    I want Jasper to make me a cup of coffee like those Sunday mornings when we awoke with the languor of the afternoon light.

    I want Gary to guffaw at his own jokes, laughing so hard, his face, blushing, red, like a turnip.

    I want Luc to show me how to make a debutante ball gown out of plastic trash bags and paint my face so I look like a divine whore.

    I want to be young again. I want to be smarter. I want to be kinder.

    That night though, all I wanted was a lover.

    And so I found myself at a piano bar. A good looking latino man with a tenor voice is singing a song from Westside Story. The crowd is happy, happy drunk, and I order another cocktail, a glass of whiskey, the alcohol makes my stomach squeal, but it also sweetens my spirit. I feel both numb and light-footed—as close to an out-of-body experience as I’ve experienced outside of meditation.

    I am swaying with the crowd, the sound wraps around me, washes over me like some amniotic fluid, my voice blends in with the voices of these strangers, who now seem so intimate. Every time we reach the same note in a song, I experience this quaking bliss, I feel myself dissolving, my body has become pure vibration. As I merge with the voices of everyone in the room, I find myself losing sense of form, melting, I become nothing, nothing but pure sound.

    When the bar closes, my voice is hoarse. And when I leave the bar, the hollow feelings inside of me return. I begin to walk back to the NYU dormitory near Washington Square Park.

    As I am walking, I hear footsteps behind me. Fear.

    The fear dissipates the woozy cloud inside my head. Visions of being mauled. Fag-bashed.

    --Relax, sweetheart.

    He smiles. I recognize him from the bar. The latino man who was singing when I came in. He has whiskey color eyes. Rum color skin.

    I will not know it then, but this man will become my first lover, I will wake up many Sunday afternoons in his bed,there will be pot of coffee brewing, a newspaper to read, an entire day to dawdle. This man will be the first to buy me a gift for Valentines (a gold crucifix), the first to cook me dinner (chicken fajitas), the first person to confess his love for me, the first person to introduce me to three way sex. . .the first to break my heart.

    And like that gay bar with the go-go boy gyrating for cash, he too will vanish from New York City, leaving no trace, just this empty space, a vacancy that time has yet to fill.
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