It was my last night in New York. I was standing at the back of Nowhere, a bar on 14th Street with my cock out, somewhat discreetly, telling Ernan to jerk me off. He’d returned to the city for a quick 12-hour trip before I left for Germany. He started to stroke me a little bit but once I closed my eyes and got into it he stopped. “People are watching,” he said.
“There are strippers everywhere,” I said with a laugh. “What does it matter?” There were maybe 15 guys walking around in Speedos, soliciting dances. I’d been to Nowhere several times on the weekend, but it was usually just a regular bar.
“Nobody is having sex though,” he protested. I tried to unbuckle his pants but he laughed and pushed my hands away.
“Don’t,” he said.
“Come on.” I don’t know why I liked the idea of having sex in public so much. Perhaps it was about breaking the rules of decency, which can seem inhibiting at times. Or maybe it just made me feel present.
Less than 24 hours before, I was doing a final walk through the East Village, up Firstt Avenue to 14th Street, and zigzagging back down to Houston. I’d only been in the city for six weeks but felt as though I’d become a part of it. Knowing that I was leaving made it feel like it was all slipping away though, like I was about to wake up from a dream. It was as if the city was a hologram in front of me — or maybe I was the hologram. It would still be there long after I was gone.
It was the same feeling I’d had when I was leaving Toronto. It was happening all over again, and I knew it would happen when I eventually leave Berlin. I would keep doing it until the only permanence that I had was my impermanence.
Maybe this would be a new state of enlightenment for me. We’re taught to settle down and get cozy so that we can die more comfortably than the next chump — but I didn’t want that. I wanted to feel free.
If I’m being honest, this whole thing frightened me. I’d been conditioned to be far too comfortable back home. It’s like when you swim out from shore and realize that you’ve gone too far, and the current is dragging you away. I had nothing to hold onto but instead of trying to go back, I decided to swim out further as calmly as I could even if it meant that I might drown.
When I got back down to First Street, Ernan called. “What are you doing?” he said.
“Just taking a walk.”
“I’m going to New York tomorrow. Once you go to Berlin I can’t just fly and see you.”
“Okay,” I said, laughing. “Sure, I’d like that a lot.”
Despite my desire to let go of all permanence, I didn’t feel that Ernan visiting inhibited me in any way. He’d urged me to keep going on this journey, encouraging me even when I was losing sight of why I was doing this. He was the last bit of stability in my life. He was a life preserver, keeping me afloat just a little longer with each visit. And so he arrived the next day.
We’d agreed to meet for drinks at Monster in Greenwich. When he entered the bar and noticed me, I felt calm. Some guys were singing show tunes around a piano in the back while we got drunk at the bar. We were smiling, touching and flirting, likely annoying those around us with our overt affection. After a few drinks we went for Mexican food down the street. He had to leave on a 6am flight, so we debated whether we should go back to my place or go out somewhere. We decided on more drinks at Nowhere because I knew that if we went home I’d just fall asleep right away, and I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible.
I’m not certain what time we stumbled back home — we were both extremely drunk by that point. He woke me up in the middle of the night to say goodbye. I’m certain that he kissed me on the forehead, but when I got up in the morning he was gone, just like a dream. And then I was gone later that day, heading to Berlin, a little less frightened than I was before.