2016 was really one hell of a good year for me. My life was thrown for a tailspin at the end of 2015, so I really was forced to get myself together in a way I had never really had to in my young adult life. One thing I learned, and now fiercely value and protect, is my independence. I relied way too much on other people, and put all my eggs in a basket I couldn't control. When that basket fell and all the eggs cracked, I was left with nothing I had before and had to rebuild. I've come to realize it was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to shape my new life in a way I wanted it to be. I didn't have to take other people into account. Whatever I wanted to do, I could do it now. I vowed to myself that no matter whether I chose to stay single, or chose to date again, I would always fiercely protect my independence and keep the ability to do what I wanted to do. A year later, I've been largely successful at keeping that as a core value.
So as I look back on this past year, one small moment from it stands prominently among the many big things that happened in 2016. Rewind back to a cold night in February, not long after I had made the promise to myself to be completely free and independent. At that time, in my mind, being free and independent meant living a very indulgent, vein, hedonistic lifestyle of partying and sex. Living in a big city with a large gay population made this so easy its almost ridiculous. I was going to the clubs every Friday and Saturday till 4am, and Grindr was draining the battery on my phone constantly. It was a period where I had a lot of fun, and I don't regret much of anything about it. Was I making the smartest decisions all the time? No, but damn it the whole thing made me feel so alive and euphoric. I still get excited thinking about it now, and sometimes, in my weaker moments, wonder why I ever gave a lot of it up.
Anyway, so this one night started like any other. I went with a couple of friends to a popular dance club here in Philadelphia, and we drank and danced and did all the other stuff for most of the night. I remember I wasn't in the mood to try and get with anyone that night. I just wanted to dance and hang out with friends. That club closed at 2am, and our little group migrated over to the after hours club in the alleyway across the street. My friend wanted to take a break from dancing, so him and I went up to the second floor that overlooks the main dance floor. The scene was amazing. A huge dance floor, packed full of men, pulsated below us with lights and energy that is so infectious. Standing above everyone, looking down at this scene of pure celebration and freedom below, made me truly believe this was everything. It was amazing just watching the whole scene play out and know that you too were a part of it.
And then I saw him below me. This absolutely gorgeous, dark-skinned and lean muscled boy dancing shirtless right below me. He was sexy beyond belief, and at that moment I was instantly infatuated in a way I had never been before. He moved so gracefully, and I could tell he was probably a little bit of a queen. Exactly my type.
I tapped my friend and said, "Look at him, that cute Brazilian(?) boy down there. I'm going."
"How do you know he's Brazilian?" my friend asked.
"I don't know, I'm just guessing", I said.
"No, you're fantasizing", he said laughing. He knows I have a thing for Brazilians.
"Alright you wanna bet?"
"Sure. If he is, I buy the next drink. If not, then you buy".
Off I went, and retreated toward the back and down the stairs. I got down the stairs and started slowly pushing my way through the mobbed dance floor toward the corner where this gorgeous boy resided. I got within about 15 feet of where he was when he looked my way and our eyes locked. He stared intently for about two seconds right at me, gave me a quick smile, and then looked away. The universal gay club way of saying 'You want me, and I know you want me, so come get me'. I knew right then and there, before I even got to him, that he was gonna be mine for the night. It all becomes not someone that is to be treated as a human, but a trophy to be showed off, collected, and discarded when a newer, shinier version comes along. Those of you who have been a part of this world before know exactly what I mean.
I make my way the last 10 feet to where he is dancing, grab I'm by the waist, and pull him into me with every ounce of confidence in my body. He flashes that gorgeous smile again, leans his whole body into me, and says, "I want you" in the sexiest accented voice I'd ever heard. I remember thinking how perfect this boy was turning out to be. I simply smiled, let my hands wander down right over his bubble butt, pulled him in close, and kissed him, sticking my tongue deep down his throat. Now granted, I was definitely more then a few drinks in by that point in the night, and my head started to spin a little from the music and lights and everything, but I didn't care. At that moment I was so sure of myself and felt so totally alive that the world could be falling down outside those walls and I couldn't have cared less. That's one thing I have yet to figure out, was whether that feeling was actually real or was it just the substances and sex and selfishness that created this giant illusion. Sometimes I wonder if it was all just a big cover for a life going nowhere.
We dance for awhile, and his ability to dance was something only a gay Latino boy could possess. He really knew how to move, and it made him all the much sexier. I still didn't know if he was actually Brazilian, nor did I know his name, and nor did I really care anymore about either of those things. I just wanted him in the way I was making him out to be in my drunken mind.
Eventually we get tired and he asks me if we can go back to my place to finish out the night. I cringed a little bit as I really don't like bringing one-night stands to my apartment. I like to keep my work life, normal private life, and gay life as separate from each other as possible. I used my usual excuse of "Oh I live with roommates and they don't know I'm gay" (which is a lie. I live with a roommate but she knows and has no problem with me being gay).
"So you're closeted?" he asks?
"Something like that," I said. Again, mostly a lie (except at work).
So he says we can go to his place, but he lives way up in Frankford, which is about a 25 minute train ride from where we are and not exactly a safe area at night. At this point, I'm considering ditching and just going home, but his sexiness is just too much to give up. I agree and we head to the station. During the overnight hours, the subway only comes every 20 minutes, so we have to wait awhile and take a seat on the bench. I'm dreading this part because now we have to make awkward small talk the whole way up and I'm not used to this. Most of the time the guys I hooked up with I never really talked to much and didn't know much about them other then what they looked like naked and what kinks they liked in bed. Its kind of crazy to think that I had no problem getting completely naked and screwing with a guy I didn't know anything about, but the thought of actually having to talk to someone made me filled with dread.
As we sit on the bench, he leans into me and starts telling me all about his life. He was originally from Brazil (I was right!) and had come to the US when he was 20 to live with a cousin. He was a waiter at a restaurant, and a whole bunch of other stuff I won't bother to write here. His accent was so sexy that I didn't care what he was saying as long as he kept talking, and it meant I didn't have to say much. If he wanted to tell me his whole life story, so be it, but he won't ever hear mine. But as he kept talking, there was something about his willingness to tell me so much when he didn't even know me that made me relax a little and let my guard down just a bit.
"My name is Thiago (I changed his name) by the way," I remember he said.
Now usually when random hookups ask me my name, I usually use some Romanized version of my name, mostly in Italian or French. I never actually tell them my real name, because again, I don't want my different lives to become entangled.
"Matt", I said without hesitation. He flashed that beautiful smile again. I was immediately taken aback by the fact that I hadn't lied, because in this situation it had been so automatic in the past. I lied without even thinking twice. Gay men are such good liers, because we mostly grew up having to be.
Even though I was surprised with what I had just done, something inside me relaxed and I immediately became more comfortable around this boy. We got on the train and I eventually started opening up more to him as he asked me questions about my life. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a early elementary school teacher. This was a fact I usually always avoided telling hookups, because a lot of guys would instantly view this as less manly, and therefor less sexy. A lot of the time I pretended to work in construction, because I figured out that combining pretending to be closeted with pretending to do a macho, blue collar job like construction was a huge turn on for a lot of guys. The whole thing forces you into putting on a charade that, looking back on it now, is pretty much the same thing I had to go through as I grew up deeply in the closet. But this boy didn't react like that at all. He told me how he thought that was such an amazing job and how he really respected people who worked in a job with a real social purpose. I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me feel really good about myself. We got back to his place, and by the end of that train ride I was feeling completely comfortable and at ease around this guy. We got into the shower, and the sex started. I don't necessarily remember how many times we did it, or much of the specifics, but I just remember that it was mind blowingly good. It felt as good as they make it look in porn. It was the best sex I have ever had with a person who I wasn't in a relationship with. In between doing it, we'd talk about our lives and I surprised myself by how much I revealed to him. I told him things that only the people closest to me know. Eventually, after being completely drained, we both fell asleep in his bed.
I woke up about 45 minutes later, and turned over to look at him. His leg and one butt-cheek was exposed on my side while the rest of him was covered under the blanket. I could tell he was out cold from exhaustion and the alcohol, and I just laid there for a few minutes thinking. I started to wonder why I had become so quickly comfortable around this guy and why I had to decided to let my guard down and tell him so much. In my mind, I was terrified that maybe I kind of liked this boy. If I liked this boy, then maybe something more then a fun night of sex could ensue, and maybe I'd have to leave my newfound life of individual freedom and self-reliance. I had promised myself that I wouldn't give that up for anything. I remember becoming panicky at the thought of this, and decided at that moment I was going to sneak out and disappear. I gently crawled out of bed, and gathered my clothes that were in a pile in the corner of the room. I put my underwear on, but decided I'd make too much noise trying to put on the rest of my clothes. So, in nothing but my underwear with the rest of my clothes and shoes in a bundle under my arm, I snuck out the back door of the building and into the alley. It was freezing cold, desolate, and the sun was just coming up over the river. I threw my clothes and shoes on as fast I could, and practically ran back towards the train, scared he would realize I was gone and come chasing after me. Thinking back on it now, this was kind of stupid because why would anyone go chasing after a one-night stand the morning after. The whole point of it was now over, so there was nothing left to be had. I hoped a train a mostly empty train and began the long ride back to my part of the city.
Looking back on it now, this one moment of many wasn't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of everything. It didn't lead to any change in my life, and I continued doing what I had been doing for many more nights after that until I finally ended up with a guy who made me wanna stick around the next morning. I'm happy now with that.
But for some reason that night sticks out to me as extraordinarily memorable. Maybe it's because that night is the perfect snapshot that captures the essence and feeling of that period of my life that, at least for now, is mostly over. It's funny, because a few months later, and not long before I started dating my current boyfriend, I ran into Thiago at a bathhouse one Saturday night. I was sitting in the sauna room, which was strangely empty at that moment. Whether he saw me beforehand or just happened to wander in at that time, I don't know. But as I was sitting on the bench, in he walks and sits directly across from me. We look at each other, and we each smile at each other, but say nothing. We just sit and stare at each other, not awkwardly, but neither of us make any kind of move to signal that we want to start something again. I think we both know that we had fun that one night together, but it was just that: fun, for one night and one night only. Some guy came in not too long after and began playing with Thiago, and I watched as he did the same things to this guy and he had done to me that night in his bed. It made me realize that in this world, nothing is special, everything is disposable, and one hot guy is interchangeable with the next. There was nothing special about him, I, or this other random guy. The game gets played and the cycle continues.
On a side note, if you haven't read Andrew Holleran's Dancer From The Dance, I highly suggest you do. It is basically set around a pre-AIDS, 1970s version of this lifestyle, and really hammers home how we all cope with being gay and changing. It really helped me realize a lot about myself, despite it being in a completely different era, and it has become one of my all-time favorite books.