For many years, New York has been considered a perversion, a rotten town full of dirty streets and outrageous people. A wayward city hooked on drugs. It’s fast, intense and doesn’t seem to take a break. In order to fit in, you have to adapt quickly. Otherwise, you take the risk of being left behind — or walked all over. If you’re not up for the challenge, better get out before it eats you alive.
I stumbled across a newspaper article on my way to work the other day. I usually don’t bother reading the morning paper, but it was right there, so I grabbed it and rushed to catch the train. The article had enough depressing material to bring even the most optimistic person down. Three sentences stood out:
“This is the end times.”
“Crime is rising.”
“Global warming spikes.”
Passing the New York Public Library’s long staircase, I spotted a seemingly unsane individual gush out in a forceful stream that a giant asteroid is heading straight to earth in 2036, threatening to wipe away every sign of existence. His pure panic was particularly concerning and caught a lot of people’s attention.
Less than a minute after my walk inside the office, I overheard officers discuss tragic cases that happened overnight: The decomposed body of a homeless man was discovered inside a manhole in Midtown. A woman was sexually assaulted, beaten and left for dead in an alley in Hell’s Kitchen. A fight ensued between a liquor store owner and two men responsible for a string of burglaries in Brooklyn.
On the other hand, a newsflash showed how over three decades, lead poisoning has been taking over the entire city, engulfing aging homes and residential buildings all over the city. A recent news report showed that almost 30,000 children have tested positive for lead, and that the city’s department of health had failed to compile the children’s addresses and inspect their homes. Housing authorities have also been facing a lot of scrutiny for lying about failed lead paint inspections and endangering the lives of thousands of children.
The amount of overwhelming bad news made me think about the purpose of human life and why we bother to fight and thrive for survival in a world where our lives are doomed from the moment we are born. As I pushed away all the tragedies of the world, I waited for a light to pierce through all the darkness, but instead, I gradually and unwillingly buried myself in my own misery analyzing yet another confusing dream revolving around Matthew. It was odd, weird and infuriating.
It started with me standing on a patio, facing a bunch of punk rock-looking individuals sitting in a booth. Surrounded by them was a woman I recognized as my cousin Céline’s mom; Emmanuelle. She was dressed in a fluffy gray fur coat which made her look a bit off. The sky was overcast, the mood, stale, the ambiance, dreary. I turn around and see a clearer view of the location; a small cozy bar with walls covered in pale-colored stone and wooden window frames. I sense a bit of commotion inside, so I walk in to the sight of a man sitting at the bar. His back is turned to mine, but his silhouette is unmistakable. I walk toward him and position myself to his right side. He takes notice. It’s Matt. He gives me an impassive look, grabs his beer and takes a sip.
“My husband will be back here any minute now. Don’t let him see me with you.” Those were the only words that came out of his mouth.
Somehow, I wasn’t hurt — partially because I didn’t believe he said what he said to hurt me. He was just concerned about the inconvenience and trouble it would cause him to be seen with me. As he proceeds in drinking his beer, I slowly walk away and head back outside where Emmanuelle is more proactive with her guests. She’s flamboyant, laughing and socializing with her friends. A couple of new people in dark clothes join them at their table. I observe their interactions as if I’m having an out of body experience. I feel numb and vapid. Suddenly, I’m transported elsewhere. I’m inside a house that feels like mine, but looks nothing like it. It’s filled with degenerates, weirdos, and trashy drag queens in creepy alien outfits. I walk inside a corridor and find a bunch of people with video cameras. In the living room, a girl is sleeping on the couch with her mouth half-open and her legs stretched out. On the rug, a boy is flipping and turning as if he’s having some kind of seizure. I can’t understand what’s going on, but Rosamunde is responsible for letting them in. Somehow I know that even though she’s nowhere to be seen.
Back at the bar, I see Emmanuelle kiss her friends goodbye and head for the exit. She walks past me — almost through me. I reluctantly walk to the window to check on Matt. Peering through the dusty glass, I finally see him; the husband. He’s in all black, with a chiseled face and a beard. He’s also wearing a cap, so most of his face is obscure. He’s looking at the TV screen overhead while Matt goes through his phone. He has a neutral — dissatisfied look his face. They look disconnected. As I move over to the door to get a better look at them, Matt’s head twists out of nowhere and rotates toward me. As soon as his eyes met mine, I woke up.
In the throes of limerence, my psychological welfare seems to be fully dependent on him. If I went back in time, to when we were together — to when he was still alive, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be swept by such a powerful force — a force greater than my own will. It’s only now that I’m realizing I’ll never recover from this. I feel like I live in a fragmented world, rattled with a sense of security more fragile than it has ever been. Why am I so infatuated with him? Is it the unsolved mystery of who he was that’s drawing me in deeper and deeper, or was he truly the love of my life? My mind keeps projecting images of him — day and night. Images so real I could almost smell him and hear his voice.
This city will be the death of me. It’s terrorizing me, filling me with existential dread. Even when the night meets the morning sun, nothing changes. I find no solace in feeling the comforting warmth of the rising sun. Instead, I turn to violence.
Billy Arias is a gay journalist and aggressive LGBT rights activist. He’s also a complete hypocrite. We met on an online forum dedicated to hardcore sadists who were looking to beat people up and masochists who were looking to take the beating. Billy and I chatted back and forth for a little over a week before we met at his apartment in Sunnyside. I had printed and brought along a consent form I made to make sure he doesn’t pull off any funny business. The beating went on for fifteen minutes. I’d punch him, let him take a breath, get up and punch him again. Recently, I started kicking him in the ribs, sometimes even choking him until he was close to passing out. The only thing he didn’t allow were knockout blows. Although he never verbally revealed to me the reason behind his masochistic fetish, his personality and behavior suggested he was a self-loathing homosexual. He simply hated himself. Yet he never skips a protest or holds anything back when it comes to journalism. His articles have garnered a lot of attention over the years; they’re cutting, ruthless and unforgiving. This side of him — the side he’s shown to the world — certainly defied the stereotype of the isolated dysfunctional nerd/loner who, ironically, is who he truly is in his day to day life. Pathetic, boring, with a tremendous amount of low self-esteem. That’s another reason I found such delight and pleasure in beating him. Sometimes I’d go too far without the intention to stop. I’d beat him repetitively, with no remorse or sense of shame. Because deep within me, I found the ultimate satisfaction in crossing a line no one really dares to cross. To assault and violently disfigure another human being. To beat their face to a bloody pulp.
“You need to take it easy on me, man. Last time, you almost broke my ja—”, I barely let him finish his sentence. I punched him — once — pulled him back up — twice — pulled him back up — three, four, five, six times — until he couldn’t stand up anymore. I wiped my bloody knuckles with a cloth he had nearby, gave it to him to clean up and left him a couple hundreds in case he needed medical assistance.
I never thought I was capable of something like this. For me to burst in sudden violence meant my anger has become too tight and impossible to dissipate. It’s also a strong indication I’m in grave danger of losing my self-control.