For you, Rudeboy, for the boy you once were.
For me, for the man I will become.
Many years ago, Mr. Big gave me some of his old books before he left for Canada. I was browsing through one of them and chanced upon one of my favorite stories written by William J. Mann titled "Tricks of the Trade".
Here is an excerpt.
"What's your name?" the boy is asking.
"Jeff," I tell him. "Yours?"
We shake hands. Our eyes hold. And so, another one.
Loving strangers is a heady mix of romance and reality, the sordid and the sublime. I have returned this summer for that mist of sweat across a boy's bronzed back, for the magic that happens when the two of us marry eyes across a dance floor and become forever young.
"Can I still get away with it?" I asked Javitz before I left tonight.
He laughed. "Maybe for another year."
Once Javitz and I were lovers, when my skin was soft and unmarked like the boy Eduardo's. My face then was not the one that stares back at me now from my mirror…
My current lover Lloyd tells me I'm being absurd, that at thirty-two I still have many years left. But I see his own surreptitious look in the mirror, notice the tweezers he's left behind on the sink surrounded by a scattering of bristly gray hairs.
Once, we were the boys of the moment, angry young men marching through the streets in black leather jackets covered with crack-and-peel slogans: "Act Up! Fight Back! Get Used to It!"
Javitz and his generation had smiled indulgently at us.
"Ah, youth," they had sighed.
But how quickly our energy dissipated, how quickly boys are replaced.
"And then what?" I asked Javitz, replying to his comment, trying to mask the honestly of the question.
"I'll see you at Spiritus," was all he said.
That he will still join me there takes courage. Spiritus Pizza is the late-night joint where men gather after the bars have closed, hoping for one last chance to evade the damnation of an empty guesthouse bed. It is not a place for the weak of heart.
Javitz is not weak. He is a tall, striking man, with long, black hair and intense dark eyes. Once, we were lovers, I thought he was the handsomest man in the world, but now we are not lovers anymore, and I no longer think that.
We talk little about why I broke up with him; but it's there, every time Lloyd peels off his shirt in front of us to lie in the sun, his skin still tight, his stomach flat.
It's there every time I get dressed to go out tricking, and the boys I bring home become younger and younger.
Javitz is well known in Provincetown and back home in Boston, too. "A leading activist," one newspaper account called him, "an icon of the gay community."
But it's his loss of muscle tone that makes him stand out from the crowd at Spiritus now, the predictable result of years of antivirals: shapeless calves, spindly arms.
And not long ago he witnessed what happened to one man - nearly fifty years, near bald - who dared assume he could still come out and play.
"Did you smile at me?" this man had asked me, standing on the steps of the pizza joint.
"Sure," I offered.
"Are you trying to pick me up?" he asked.
I was taken aback. "No," I told him.
"No," he echoed, darkening. "Of course not." He visibly slumped, shoulders sagging, like a tire slashed.
Growing old is not for sissies, Bette Davies once said. But sissies do get older. All of us sissies here tonight, with the hot juice of youth pulsing through our veins.
Some of us are already well on our way. But what does it matter, Javitz said. Get old or get AIDS: the result is the same.
At the first wrinkle, or the first purple blotch on your leg, and you are exiled. We rarely question the banishment, dismissing any who try.
"How old are you?" Eduardo asks, as if it were the next logical question in our conversation.
"How old do you think?"
"Twenty-eight?" Last year, it probably would've been twenty-sex, but it's good enough; it's what I want to hear.
"Around there," I lie. "And you?"
"Twenty-two," Eduardo responds.
Who has ever been twenty-two? I ask myself. Not me. not ever. If I ever was, I don't remember. Yet every summer, a new crop is twenty-two, standing at the cusp of the dance floor as if they were the first ones ever here.
"Do you want to dance?" Eduardo asks suddenly, as if it were an original idea that had just struck him.
My line: "Sure."
And so we dance, the prelude to the sex I know will come, predicting the choreography in my bedroom just a short time from now: back and forth, round and round, up and down.
Eduardo smiles. He knows he can go no further. He's in over his head.
Was from the start.
I first read this story six years ago. I was 24 then, young, and naïve; not unlike Eduardo. Once, my friends and I too, were the boys of the moment. But how quickly boys are replaced.
As I grew older, I learned the tricks of the trade, the rules of the game. And mastered it. How to make them like me. What to say, when to say it, and how to say it. When to tell the truth, and when to hide it.
Until they fall. In over their heads. Were from the start.
But until when?
William is 55 years old. Once in a while, we would have dinner and drinks and he would regale me with tales of his escapades when he was younger. His voice becomes excited and his eyes take on a faraway look; bathed in the warmth of his memories.
He was beautiful, once. Men courted him, desired him, and he had a lot of fun. Decades of it, to be exact. His lovers probably thought he was the handsomest man in the world. They probably don't think that anymore.
Youth is too fleeting, age is not always kind. Not everyone ends up with someone.
When once, you can have sex anytime you wanted, now you have to pay for it.
"Basta, i enjoy mo ang pagkabata," he would always tell me. "Pagtumanda ka na, ATM machine na ang tingin sa iyo ng mga lalaki."
His words echoed in my head like an omen.
Growing old is not for sissies, Bette Davies once said. But sissies do get older.
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