It would seem that the last part of this story should be the last, that I woke up and realized what I was doing to myself and swore to never harm myself again, especially not in the name of love. That’s what a rational being would do. But I was far from rational. The incident had unglued, unstuck, something in my mind that was now coming out, gathering strength and speed like snowball rolling downhill. At some point, you can’t stop the snowball anymore, no matter what you place in its’ path. It’s just too powerful and has too much momentum. I felt like that snowball, careening from cliff to cliff, sliding down icy patches, falling into every abyss, constantly go go going, with no end in sight. But as I rolled along, I was picking up new patches of snow, and shedding some of the old, and so the ball eventually became entirely disconnected from it’s beginning, much like the shedding of human skim cells. Constant regeneration continually reshapes our bodies, until we are composed of entirely new cells, and then the process starts again. I suppose my fate could have been foreseen, then, anticipated, if I had used that analogy earlier. Because what happened was a continual “reboot” of the process, independently of any other factors, just continuously growing and lurching forward and gathering fresh snow, until it was so big that it self-imploded, into a hundred separate balls, in a single horrifying second where the ball rolled over a cliff, but, being just a ball of snow, it carried in as if nothing had happened, started rolling again, not seeing another cliff up ahead, but this time there were dozens of hundreds of smaller balls all rolling downhill, some colliding with each other to make bigger balls, others branching out entirely and discovering new paths and, inevitably, new cliffs. With every death came a reinvention, a fresh start, but indelibly linked to the past, with a little bit of old snow left from the implosion, now surrounded by new snow, but continuing on in that same trajectory. Enough about snow, now. I’m really talking about me. Let me explain.
As I said, I met the Dean at the airport upon arrival. I knew he cared and was worried, but it suddenly struck me that there was a modicum of risk management in play. He confirmed my suspicions when I was driven back to school, to a meeting of the deans of student affairs and of academic affairs, along with an in-house counsel. This was an intervention. They did their best to explain to me, without judging me, that I was too large of a risk to the school as things stood right then. A suicidal law student looks bad in the rankings, and a successful suicide attempt would become the news, indelibly linked to the school. “USF student found dead,” “another student at USF bites the dust,” “USF failed in the care of its most vulnerable students,” etc. For a Jesuit school, founded on compassion, as well as academics, it was, ironically, too risky to have me in school, because there compassion would become their liability. They gave me one option: get a doctor to sign off on me returning to school. They provided a letter to be given to the doctor, outlining their concerns and restating their position, notifying the doctor that it was his decision, alone, whether I was medically cleared for school. Like a soldier suffering from PTSD, I was given a full battery of tests to ascertain my ability to return to the war front, or whether I was damaged goods and needed an honorable discharge. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how deep the damage went, I thought that the events of the past few days were somehow surreal, but not in a scary way, like how did I ever do that?, but rather in a third-person type way, where those events were simply observed, not played out. I had front row seats to a morbid opera, but I was merely a patron of the arts, not an actor myself. Or so it seemed in my mind. What could otherwise possibly explain a literal costume change, from a high achieving, high functioning student, to becoming suicidal? An instantaneous change, one that any performer who has to change outfits in the middle of a play, or concert, would make them jealous. How did he do it?, the audience gasps and applauds with delight. I was the star of the show, playing every character, in quick succession, like Mrs. Doubtfire, only without the luxury of a place to change outfits. It was more like Houdini, where did I go? Sawed in half, yet walking fine. Turned into a dove, yet striding across the stage. Strapped into a straitjacket, yet carousing around the stage. Unlike Houdini, though, my transformations were not expected, no one foresaw the caterpillar becoming a butterfly in the blink of an eye, the audience wasn’t restless in anticipation of the final trick. No, no one even knew they were supposed to be watching, waiting, scanning a wary eye across the stage, sitting at the edge of their seats, anticipating what would happen next, what plot line would be revealed, what character was coming next. No one knew, because this opera was shooting without a script.
So it was that the Dean decided to place me on a medical leave of absence. I was distraught. First, that meant that I wouldn’t get my financial aid payout, how was I going to afford rent? Second, where could I find a doctor to sign the form? Third, was I really that incapacitated, or were they just avoiding the slightest whiff of liability, cutting me loose rather than risk the negative publicity. Now what? At the very least, how was I going to kill time? Pun intended. At this point, Chris and I had moved out of the flat and I was Irving alone in a studio apartment in Alamo Square, a beautiful neighborhood, sandwiched in between “the projects” on each side. But the vagrants never crossed the line, literally, the street, that divided the neighborhoods. So I was in a good spot. It was even on a direct bus line to school, not more than a 20 minute ride (to cover at most a 1.5 mile stretch, it was often faster to walk). I can’t believe I scored that apartment. I had (and still have) abysmal credit, and no corporate landlord would so much as loom in my direction. So I had to find someone that would trust what I said over a strong history pointing in a different direction. I found that person, I don’t know if I was just walking the streets, or responding to an ad, but he was perfect. He was an older man, Klaus, that owned a bed and breakfast in the neighborhood, and made some extra change by owning and managing a rental property just down the street. It was a rather dilapidated four unit building, with my apartment on the ground level, roughly 400 sq ft to call my own. And he only wanted $1100 for the unit. This was back when San Francisco was still affordable. Today, that same unit would cost at least $3000. How I wish I had been able to hang on the apartment, but events dictated otherwise.
Actually, it’s funny, the “event” happened on the bus one night, late in the evening, on my way home from a long day of studying. Actually, I was just going home to change, so I could go out for 80s night at one of the bars. I had to wear heavy black eyeshadow and liner, rouge, glossy lipstick, do up my hair in a series of spikes, all the steps necessary go transform into a punk kid, one of those New Wave kids, listening to Bowie and Depeche Mode and all the British bands making their way into America. I loved transformations. I don’t know how well I pulled it off, but it didn’t really matter, I enjoyed doing makeup so I had my fun even before going out. The black glitter eyeshadow was my favorite, with glitter lashes spilling down to the cheekbone, highlighting a defined, high cheek, dusted with bronzer, smoothed over with creamy foundation, set in place with a powder brush, and a few extra punches of glitter on my lips, enough to leave a mark on whoever I kissed. I’m not a cross dresser or anything like that, I just wanted to have a good time. Anyways, I looked up across the bus to the other wheelchair/disabled/senior seats at the front of the bus, I always sat there to piss off the Chinese women with their impossibly big carts and fat women who needed the exercise of standing up, Lord knows they sit around often enough as it was, and my eye caught, rested upon a boy, a boy my age, brown hair, casual clothing, but fitted, ice blue eyes that cut straight through me, perfectly manicured brow line, but in a masculine kind of way. I never knew what my “type” was, but surely he fit the bill. Stereotypically the Midwestern look, though he was from the East Coast, which was exotic to me, foreign, much like they must think of California. We were reaching Divisadero when he pulled the bell for the next stop, and he glanced up as he did. I was staring, awestruck, unable to tear my eyes away, when I saw his eyes meeting mine. In that second we telepathically communicated lust and desire and sexuality. I only had that moment, because, without a word, he stepped off the bus at his stop. I looked back as we pulled away, watching him watching me. My heart was pounding. Not since Jason had I had such a crush, though admittedly I was in love with with a straight friend, Justin. So in love that a mutual friend of ours, a gorgeous girl, asked me for my permission to ask Justin on a date. I sadly said yes, with my blessings, just take goodness of him. Her name was Abby. They were destined to end up together, and eventually, recently actually, chose to marry each other. I wish I had been there for that wedding. Anyways, I had a crush, this time on someone who could reciprocate love (or lust).
I stayed late on campus the next night, taking the same bus home, hoping to accidentally-on-purpose run into h again but really it was several days, maybe several weeks, before I saw him again. This time we didn’t waste the few moments we had together. We exchanged names, his name was Joe, numbers, and, to hell with it, I’ll just ask if he wants to come back to my place right now. He did. We were electric in our connection, diving in with passion and lust, ravaging each other’s bodies, kissing like the world was about to end, I couldn’t let go of his mouth. It was wild, beautiful sex. Afterwards, he said he had to get back home, turning down my invite to stay the night, saying his partner would get suspicious if he came home late. Partner? That’s the type of thing you should disclose up front. But, you know, I didn’t care. In fact, I wanted him even more. He was obviously dissatisfied with his relationship. I could be the perfect opportunity for him to finally break it off with his boyfriend. I wish I could remember his name, but I can’t. It’s not important. What was important was that, eventually, yes, in a matter of weeks rather than months, I successfully ruined their relationship, and Joe was all mine. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to be all mine. He wanted to be all for a lot of people. I could have foreseen that, I suppose. He had classic good looks and was a smooth talker, he always got what he wanted. When he focused on me, I was flattered. When he kissed another guy, I was heartbroken. I see sawed back and forth, ambivalent about what I should do, when he proposed an offer to me (not that kind of proposed). Did I want to move in together with him? He had a down payment from his ex, who essentially paid him to get out of their place, but kindly spared no expense, and there was plenty for apartment hunting. We didn’t have to look far. In Castro, at 17th and Sanchez, sat Casa Sanchez, an imaginatively named small complex, we found a two-bed, two-bath unit, with patio, dishwasher, laundry across the hall, private bathrooms, a sizable living room and dining area, combined, and bedrooms that were just barely smaller than my current studio. All for only $2200/mth. Split, that was exactly what I was paying now. True, paying less would have been ideal, but at least I wasn’t paying more. Plus now I had the companionship of a roommate, who was also an excellent cook, and, soon, two cats, yes, call me a cat lady, but he brought his car with him, and I thought she looked bored, so I got her a playmate. They actually got along very well, I was a little jealous of their instant camaraderie since that meant some nights they curled up with each other instead of coming on my bed.
There’s a few other characters in this scene, they were important then but, no offense, didn’t have a lasting impact, at least not one that tangibly changed my course in life. There was Kimalah, a beautiful black girl from USF, who i spent many happy hours with, even, especially, after she left school to take up other interests. She had tiny studio in the Tenderloin, and I wasn’t a accustomed to the streets yet, so I enjoyed meeting her and braving the neighborhood to go to a gay/drag bar down the street. For all their bark, most of the Tenderloin actually has a soft bite. Polk Street, running up the outer edge of the 42 sq blk neighborhood, used to be the “Castro” of San Francisco, before Castro turned into the gay scene. Castro had all the twinks, the cute, young blonde boys who had never lived through the AIDS crisis and just thought being gay was all fun and games, and dancing and drinking. Then there were the Polk Street guys, now the Mission/SoMa guys, who were older, larger, more bear-ish, attractive only in the dark, “real” me overcompensating for their sexuality with over the top machismo. I didn’t care for them. Not that it mattered, as you’ll see, they would use me anyways, in fact, probably because I was a young, cute gay, not in spite of the fact. These were the guys who had lived through Stonewall, the gay rights movement, the AIDS crisis, guys who themselves were infected or knew someone who had died already from HIV complications. Being gay was no laughing matter, it was something they had literally fought for, and they banded together. Eventually, with the help of Harvey Milk, an enduring gay icon, San Francisco started to become the mecca for gay rights. Other civil liberties too; this was the period of the Beats, women’s rights, racial integration, all happening at once, and San Francisco, unlike many other cities, was progressive enough to embrace the differences, welcome the differences, become a place where different was safe.
Mariah was another friend, also from law school, who also took a permanent sabbatical. Ultimately, I think, San Francisco just wasn’t the same as the Deep South, and she never fully embraced the change. All of students didn’t, especially those from New York, who left at the end of the first semester so they would be able to transfer to an East Coast school. Mariah was my dancing partner, my going-out friend, someone I could always count on to be there when the party was ready. She wasn’t a party girl herself, but gay clubs bring out a side in people, like a freak in the sheets, that usually doesn’t show in general public. I did go to Mission bars with her, on occasion, it was on fair that she got to find a boy too, but we often ended back up in Castro, with or without a straight boy, when the dirtiness of the Mission became overwhelming. With her, I met a good friend, Keith, a middle aged man, who loved to dance and could always be counted on to come out with Mariah and I. He had a thing for young boys, me for a while, but it didn’t disturb me. He wasn’t your classic pedophile, just an ordinary man reaching above his given potential to occasionally snag a boy who was either desperate enough or drunk enough to take home. Like I said, I was that boy for a while. I was waiting for the bus, late at night, around 3am, having finally left the club and some after party, it was dark and cold and I was alone on silent, dead streets. A car drove by, I saw the guys inside looking at me, my heart raced a little, then suddenly the car stopped, spinned it’s wheels into reverse, and stopped right in front of me. There were three guys in the car. Keith was the driver and Rob was a passenger, along with someone in the back seat whom I can’t remember. We all went back to Keith’ place, just up the street, in Castro, went inside, had some drinks (but of course), then Keith took us out back, and what would you know but he had a hot tub! There is something inherently sexual about hot tubs. We knew that, because we all immediately stripped, ran through the grass and bushes, and jumped into the tub. We had fun that night. The sex wore off after a month or two, and I became just a friend, not a fuck buddy, but he would still go out with us and sometimes even share a boy with me. I didn’t complain.
I’ve already introduced Joe, my roommate, and Justin, my straight crush. There was also Billy, with whom I was best friends, always out at (straight) bars together, slamming back pitcher after pitcher of IPAs, holding down a table til everyone else could join. Our favorite bar was Pig & Whistle, an English pub. Apparently Whistle comes from Wassail, but I forget what that means, anyways, there was apparently a story behind the name. They had dart boards, pinball machines, pool tables, and, most importantly, trivia nights every Wednesday. That happened to be Kirk’s Bar Night as well, so the bar was generally stuffed to the gills when all of us arrived. I sucked at trivia, I think I successfully helped with maybe two questions over the course of a year, but I was there for the camaraderie, not the prize. We did win a few times. The rest of the pub crowd hated us, another gaggle of USF students taking over their neighborhood bar, and when we would occasionally win at trivia the discontent was palpable. But we played fair, so no one could complain. The rest of that inner circle of friends, some of whom I’m sure I’m forgetting, we’re Justin, Michael, Mike, and few others. On the girl’s side, I was close friends with Christy, Molly, Abby and Katie. Abby, Justin’ future wife, would often go to the clubs with me and we would dance til dawn. After they started dating, Abby managed to drag Justin along too on at least one occasion. Christy, Molly and I were serious students. We would study long into the night, sneaking Chinese take-out into the library so we didn’t have to take a dinner break. I think we all ended up in the same general GPA range, we were smart but not brilliant, but I didn’t like the brilliant ones, they had a way of rubbing in their superiority that just rubbed me the wrong way. If that’s how lawyers act, I was not prepared for the practice of Law. I could only hope that they were outliers. Oh, and Stefani. Another dancing partner. Often too busy to join, but when she did, she always brought cute boys and we rocked the town. Mystic was an odd friend. I managed to convince her, and myself, that I might be bisexual or bi-curious, and, to an extent, I was. She was gorgeous. Not in a classical sense, but classics aren’t ways what matter. She was thin and pale, a bit shorter than me, long flowing black hair, a smile that drew you in and just enough flirting to make you want more, gay or straight. The closest we ever got was a pants-off dance-off, a party at her place. She did take a few of us, all close friends, down to visit San Diego, a visit I’ll never forget. The town was beautiful, sunny, warm, beaches everywhere, hot, tanned, ripped shirtless surfer boys. It was like a slice of heaven. We stayed at her parents’ house overnight while they were gone, and she introduced us to real Mexican food. She also introduced us to a rooftop bar, with reflecting pool, in an unmarked bar on top of unmarked building. I was nervous to go in. Oh, and Donovan was there on that trip. He had a way of making you comfortable, making you feel like part of the inner circle, just by his gregarious mannerisms. He was cute, to boot, but so many of my straight friends were. You are who you surround yourself with, and I chose only attractive friends. There was also Shoshana, an SF native, painfully awkward at times, but always near me, hovering, trying to get into my circle. She succeeded, I couldn’t not be nice to someone, and she clearly needed to learn social skills, so I took her under my wing. I actually attended Thanksgiving at her place with her parents, so you could say we became close. There’s so many others, my section of class had 100 people, all of whom I knew well, plus most of section 2, another group of 100. The only ones I didn’t know we were night students, and I think they preferred it that way. School was just a side job for them, they didn’t want to get wrapped up in the politics.
my legs pleasantly crossed, my tie tucked in, my briefcase at my side
my mind focused on the tasks ahead
where is my ride?
did life pass me by?
i’ve always wanted this to end
take me from this earth
let this time be the last time
give me an ending, save me from my life
i can’t die
death refuses to take me yet
to where it all began
where is my ride?
did life pass me by?
-Wonder, personal writings, 2012
Well, I’ve rambled completely off course. You see, I was supposed to tell you about the snowball effect, me careening down cliffs, hitting every ledge along the way, what caused that and what, exactly, did happen. And you deserve to know. Like I said, you were there. You may have noticed something slightly amiss, but couldn’t place your finger on it, just something a little off. I was more than just a little off, though. I had gone off the deep end. What you saw was my body acting independently of me, something inside me doing damage control, trying to retain my humanity when there was no human left in me. You saw all this, but never pried, never questioned, never judged, and that’s how I wanted it to happen. I kept tight control of the things I could, while everything else in my life was falling, ripping apart, until finally, there was nothing of me left, the emperor had no clothes. And that’s what this next part is about. In this chapter we saw the joyous moments of my life, met some of my friends, saw the activities in which I engaged, and generally saw a good impression of me. Now, I’m going to go over that exact same time period, but this time from my inner perspective, from my vantage point, recalling, as much as possible, the events that transpired and how I kept myself together for so long. I’ll take a break now, the next chapter will be emotional for me to write, hopefully emotional to read, if I’m a decent writer, but necessary for me to explain and recover. Go ahead, look into the details. I’m not who you think I am.