The shirt you used to wear on your head and pretend it was long luxurious hair. You were five, maybe six, and you would prance around your childhood home tossing your head back and forth. The way the shirt hit your shoulders got you excited; it was your version of a prized stuff animal. Your parents would look at you quizzically and probably silently say to themselves, “Houston, we have a homosexual. This will be a lot more work.”
Driving in your dad’s BMW—the car he couldn’t afford and would soon have to sell for a Buick—and peeing on his brand new leather seats. You were four.
Having no money. Searching for loose change under couch cushions so you could buy a hamburger from Foster’s Freeze. Five bucks was like a million dollars back then. Now five dollars is one dollar.
The first time you masturbated to the idea of a boy. You were 13 and home alone watching Studio 54 with Ryan Philipe. You never saw a face so pretty, an ass so perfect. You went in the shower for an hour and right before you came, you thought of Denise Richards in Wild Things so you wouldn’t believe you were gay. Whatever you gotta do.
Losing your virginity on a dirty mattress with a boy you really liked, maybe loved, who knows, let’s fuck! It hurt so bad and you thought something was wrong with you, like maybe your body wasn’t wired to enjoy sex. The second time you did it, you were facing a mirror on your stomach in the guest bedroom. Your face looked so pained and you thought to yourself, “Fuck sex. This is bullshit. How does anyone like this?” You found out why a month later.
A moment when you believed that everyone had your best interests at heart. A moment when you thought no one would hurt you. “Anyone who’s ever had a heart wouldn’t turn around and break it.” RIGHT?
The first time you ever took a drug. It was a muscle relaxer called soma and you were at a big mansion house party in the hills. The girl who lived there was schizophrenic and addicted to heroin. But oh my god, her house was sick and she looked like a model!
The summer you came out of the closet and the universe was giving you everything you ever wanted. Being gay was going to be awesome; it was going to work out great! You had a coming out party and bought everyone gift bags full of condoms and penis pasta. You bought a nice shirt from a boutique in Santa Barbara and felt like a ripe young thing.
Nights you couldn’t stomach alcohol, couldn’t bear the thought of it.
A functioning left hand/body. You lost that when you decided not to look both ways while crossing the street. Having the doctor tell you that your hand may be completely dead and thinking you were in some bad Lifetime movie and crying so hard and wondering if you could ever make yourself happy again. The ability to tie your shoes, handwrite and make your bed: Those are things you will honestly never get back.
The summers you spent in Los Angeles recovering from surgeries and existing in a haze of painkillers. Taking two percocet with your friend and going swimming in an apartment complex that wasn’t yours. Getting slurpees from 7-11 and feeling no pressure to do anything other than “get better.”
The apartment on Sunset and Curson with the jacuzzi bathtub. You would take your pills, listen to Biggie, and soak in the water until your limbs felt like they were going to detach. During the day you would just wander from lunch to dinner. Los Angeles agreed with you then. It wasn’t a two-faced nightmare that made you want to kill yourself.
Going to a house party in the Hollywood Hills and running into Devendra Banhart wearing a dress. The power went out and someone blasted George Michael’s “Faith’ and you were just so so so in love with the city.
Having your father—the social worker—drop you off at college in San Francisco and tell you, “just remember, Ryan. This is when mental illness develops. If you feel depressed, it could be something much more serious. Have a great time at school!”
Going to a a party at Barnard and telling everyone your name was Chloe and that gender was a social fucking construct.
Going to frat parties in Westwood and jokingly asking people for meth. Most were horrified, some were not.
Overhearing this conversation at Neiman Marcus cafe: “Mom, you’re just jealous because I’m thin. Stop projecting.” “You’re right, honey. You do look good.”
To observe is not to have. To observe is to watch is to remark is to perceive is to notice is to remember and to keep, but you will never have any of this ever again.