You’ve Heard of It
So Im in New York. I am in New York and I'm staying in a penthouse apartment overlooking a famous Square. Everyone I know in New York lives in penthouses, or at least top floor lofts. Thats not normal or at least its not normal for other people. Its normal for me.
We are coming back from the dance club, the one below mid-town, in Chelsea. Youve heard of it. Youve seen the T-shirts. Youve watched the advertisements flash across the banners of the online gay sites. Its eight in the morning. We shut down the club because my friend, the one I am with, is a DJ, and we flew in just so he could play that night. Play that late night. Play that morning. My friend, the DJ, is very good. Youve heard of him. If you havent, you arent somebody that hears about things. He flies to Amsterdam, Brussels, Tokyo, and all over the U.S. He promises to take me with him. He wont. I already know he is lying. He doesnt.
We are both kind of high, me not as much: I spent the last few hours of the night making out with a young, black man from Long Island. You havent heard of him. I spent the last few hours making out with him on the dance floor where he begged me to have sex in Central Park. I didnt. Instead, we, my DJ friend and I, are walking down the sidewalk on a sunny Saturday morning in NY. It is beautiful. It is quiet. The street vendors havent uncovered their tables. They havent uncovered the old Stephen King novels, the battered LP records, the tattered pornographic magazines that smell of mildew and stale cigarette smoke. They havent yet but sit napping.
We walk back to the penthouse and go up in the elevator. As we ride, the doorman tells us there are guests upstairs. Everyone talks in the elevators. They say things that register in the doormans eyes. It would make me laugh but I dont. He would laugh but he doesnt.
The foyer is quiet and I walk through the living room to the guest bedroom, the room where the DJ and I are staying, sleeping in the same bed. He snores and hogs the blankets and cant sleep without a fan blowing. We bought the fan the night before. Downstairs in the drugstore. He pretends like he doesnt think hes in love with me. I pretend not to notice because I already know he isnt. I know but he doesnt.
The owner of the penthouse is naked in the guestroom when I walk in. There is another man there I dont recognize. He is a porn star. Youve heard of him. Almost everyone who hears about gay porn stars has heard of him. Everyone but me.
I cant tell if they were fucking or sucking or just rolling around. I stand stupidly at the door and stare at the tangle of muscled arms, muscled legs, shaved torsos, and bobbing dicks. I say excuse me and leave, walking back across the living room to the wood paneled library where I slide the pocket doors shut.
I turn to the DJ. His eyes are shining bright with cocaine. So are mine. We bought it the night before from a man on the street and it isnt bad considering. The DJ took most of it, in the backroom behind the booth in the club. I had some too, not as much. I was off kissing the man from Long Island. I was hard against his thigh on the dance floor.
Behind me, the doors slide back into the walls and the owner comes in wearing a pair of tiny white underwear. I wonder why he put them on. The porn star, youve heard of him, is still naked and has a British accent. Hes beginning to look familiar.
The DJ keeps asking Do you know who this is? Do you now who this is? as if I am someone that doesnt know anyone. As if everyone I know in New York doesnt live in Penthouses. As if he is not going to take me with him to London and Miami and San Diego. He still thinks he is. He still thinks he is in love with me. I know the truth and we pour out more cocaine, including the stash I put aside in the guest room, the room where they were fucking. It is almost eight thirty now and I can see the sun outside the stained glass window.
I say Of course, Ive appreciated your work with an extra layer of innuendo on appreciated. Maybe I sound sarcastic or maybe I sound witty. They dont care. Our eyes are shining with cocaine. No one has a straw. No one has a dollar bill. The maid wont be coming in today to make the coffee, or restock the kitchen that no one uses. The owner takes a book off the shelf. Its Hannibal, the one about Hannibal Lector. The one after The Silence of the Lambs. Or is it before? He tears out pages and we use them to snort up the lines of white powder that we all take out from nowhere in particular.
The porn star is already on an alphabet of drugs. Youve heard of them. The owner too, though his boyfriend asleep in the master bedroom pretends not to like them. This place, this penthouse, is where the previous boyfriend died. Youve heard of him. Youve read about it. The furniture is still the same. I sat in the room the day before and watched their eyes as they showed me the drawer where they keep the arsenal of dildos.
From behind other books comes a crystal vase filled with psychedelic mushrooms. I have never tried them. The porn star is playing his CD for us. You havent heard it. He is trying to convince the DJ he should remix it, should make a club version of it. You havent heard of it. You wont. The CD is terrible. Even stoned. Even with my eyes shining and covered in the liquid, imaginary mercury of cocaine.
I will try to convince the DJ to remix it anyway, try to convince him that it will be a triumph of irony. Later we laugh about this until people in Manhattan look at us funny on the sidewalk. They dont know who were talking about.
But that night, that night the owner goes to bed, back to bed and his boyfriend with the narcotic sweat of the porn star still on him. I wonder what it would be like for them, what it would be like a dozen floors down. What it would be like if no one had heard of them and if the sheets had a lower thread count.
The other man, the one who used to live here. He died of a GHB overdose. Our host, the mans boyfriend. The late mans boyfriend gives me glasses of juice and tells me to give them to the DJ and the porn star. Be careful, he tells me, these have G in them. I remember the man who died but I carry the glasses anyway; carry them to people youve heard of. No one has heard of me.
The porn star bores me. His eyes are shining but dully, like a puddle on the sidewalk, a leaden gleaming rainbow of oil and dirt. He talks incessantly about his album, about performing it naked on stage while holding hands with a woman. He talks about the rich men who brought him to New York, the men who pay. He talks like a man still charming, like someone people have heard of, someone people pray to in temples lit by video. I go to bed.
The DJ acts like he wants me to stay. Maybe he is afraid that if I go the porn star will leave too. Maybe he hopes the porn star will make me horny enough to fuck them both. I go to bed and fall asleep in my jeans with my belt cinched tight around my waist. I go to bed acres above the street, windows open onto the Square and the angelic horns of the cabs far below.
I wake some march of minutes later. I wake with the porn stars limp penis pressed against the side of my face. It is cold and heavy. He is trying to press it into my mouth. I am awake and asleep. I am scared like an animal caught napping and I am angry enough to throw these pounds of man, this worn object of despairing worship, off the balcony into the cement pandemonium of fallen angels below. Youre so beautiful. He whispers and repeats. He whispers and repeats. Then he tells me, Everyone wants me to fuck them because I have such a big dick, youve seen it, youve seen his dick, but I really want to bottom for you. I want you to fuck me.
It is the voice of God to men alone in the dark. To young men cowering in video booths to old men alone in their apartments. But this man, this porn star youve heard of, is the answer to their prayers, not mine, or at least not mine remembered. Have I seen him? Have I stroked myself fiercely to his image? Remote control in left hand, cock in my right? Have I wished for him to come to me in the barn? In the prison? In the locker room?
My friend, the DJ, comes into the room and pulls the porn star away, with rug burns on his elbows and knees. The DJ shines his eyes into me and says, This is a once in a lifetime chance. I have to. This is a once in a lifetime chance. And I feel pity for them both. I feel pity because they talk like people no one has heard of, like each is unworthy of the other and it is only I, in my disdain, who can touch them.
I caress the edge of sleep again, fist knotted around belt buckle, sex defended by denim armor, rivets and leather. I caress the edge of sleep with my tongue counting my teeth. He slices into the tender flesh of sleep with the tip of a pen, the porn star. I think he is crying now but am not sure, am not sure I want to shine though the dark to care.
He shows me my own arm, what he has written there, and asks me to read out what I see. It is hieroglyphs. It is cuneiform. It is numbers. I say some of them but get others wrong. He writes his sevens with a cross through it, martyred in the European style. He writes them again, and again. On both arms, on my shoulder, on my back, and as I half roll over, on my clavicle. You are so beautiful he says again and again. Call me. Call me.
His eyes no longer shine and I feel something for him. I feel the urge to lift him higher than where we are but there is no place higher than the penthouse, nowhere he has heard of. Can a lie be a gift? I lie. I say Ill call. I say I will to make the hurt in him a little less. Not because he expects me to call, not because he would actually answer, but because he wants me to want to call. The desire for desire. The dog chasing its tail. The Ouroboros devouring itself. The porn star so hung he can fuck himself into oblivion, where no one has heard of him.
He has consumed so many drugs he is foaming at the mouth, a foam of saliva and words. A foam of his father and his childhood. A foam of the rich men who call him across oceans to fuck but he goes down in the elevator anyway. He goes out into the morning below where the sun has only just touched and he carries some of the night down with him.
It was a once in a lifetime chance. The DJ says to me again as he goes through his ritual before bed. We both know now that we will never love each other. We will never be that couple. That couple that flies from city to city. That couple of electronic beats and typed word. We will never be that couple youve heard of.
When he is asleep, I get up and shower. I wash away the sweat of the club, the press of trans-Atlantic flesh and I wash away the phone numbers men have prayed for. Even when I am done, a few remain on the back of my left shoulder. Two or three digits surviving dimly, youd know them if you saw them. A nine. A one and a seven crucified by the line through its middle. The rest are just markings without meaning, broken, faded things no one will hear of.
I take a pillow and blanket out of the guestroom, where the owner and the porn star greeted us with their fucking. I take the pillow and blanket across the living room where the carpets are scuffed with the marks of knees and hands and elbows. I go into the library where the porn stars CD album has gone away with him, and pages of Hannibal lie curled into tubes on the ottoman. The dark wood gleams like a polished coffin as the morning shines brightly through the stained glass, a funeral for no one we know.
Im in New York. Im in New York, eyes closing and the sun shining bright. None of its normal. Its not normal for other people, though some of you might have heard about it, even if you havent heard of me.
Im in New York.