Satan in the Fourth Grade

Leviticus might say I’m Satanic when I’m engaging in anal sex, but I was really Satanic when I was nine years old. That’s because when I was nine, I was Satan himself. Yup, Halloween, 1974. My favorite Halloween costume of all time, my Ben Cooper Devil costume. The best part of my costume was the prop that did not come with it — my mother bought that separately for me.
The pitchfork.
That wonderful pitchfork was a combination of plastic and rubber, and it actually had weight. Holding the pitchfork in my small hand, I found it easy to imagine stabbing some sinner with my pitchfork and throwing the sinner into my cauldron of bubbling Hell soup. And then laughing.

Out I ventured into the streets of Larchmont that October night with my buddy Charlie who was dressed as a hobo. The leaves crunched under my Satanic feet as I greedily took candy from those pagan Larchmont Jews and those sinning Larchmont Catholics. All of Larchmont was under my devilish spell; my demonic destiny and I met that night under the Westchester moon.

But then something hellacious happened. Later in the night, I realized I had lost the pitchfork. It was gone. GONE. I went crazy. I was like one of those movies where the villain loses his magic stone and all his power seeps out. I felt emasculated, weak, skinny, a foolish ham in a costume bought at Walgreen’s, not a true demonic master bent on dominating all of Larchmont.

It was horrible. Truly, my night was ruined. I actually cried. I cried like Joan Crawford. Charlie the hobo tried to play it down, telling me it was “just a prop”. Just a PROP? What the hell do you know, Charlie? Stupid hobo.

Now that we are approaching Easter, that vivid memory of losing my pitchfork has gotten me wondering why that prop was so important to me. Okay, I know I was a gay kid. Props are very important to a gay kid. Just sit in on any acting class. I guess the more important question to ask is this: Why did playing the Devil have such a hold on me?

What is it about The Devil, and why are so many adults who live in the country I call home still so consumed with The Devil? I mean, there are loads of people who still talk about Satan as if he were a guy who lives on their block. Satan this, the Devil that.
Gay people are Satan’s handiwork. You hear that a lot. Allow me to ponder that if I may. So this guy Satan invents Gays to screw with God’s plan for this world, where men and women are supposed to procreate when they screw. Gays screw everything up by NOT procreating when they screw by engaging in dirty, filthy anal sex and footplay. Then, when us Gays die, this guy Satan greets us in Hell and keeps beating us up, making us burn for all eternity.

Now hold on there.

Why would Satan beat US up, when WE were the ones who helped him screw with God’s plan? Satan should be inviting us to drink champagne in his twelve-man jacuzzi with him, right? Like, why PUNISH US for carrying out HIS evil against God’s world? Doesn’t make sense to me at all. I would think that we would actually get luxury condos in Hell with 24-hour doormen and views of Bubbling Lakes of Fire.

Moreover, if God is stronger than Satan, why would He let Satan get away with creating Gays who don’t procreate? There’s got to be something in it for God, right?

We look for that in the Bible which we can utilize to help manifest our own hatred and fear, but when it comes to tattoos and “unkempt” hair, we just don’t care what Leviticus has to say. I would submit that Leviticus, were he to stroll through Venice Beach this week, would ease up on tattoos and unkempt hair pretty quick. Venice is a nice place, especially in March.

I’m getting devilishly concerned about all this literal interpretation of the Bible lately. That movie “Noah” just opened, and I want to see it, but I also would love the story of Noah’s Ark to be taught as this great metaphor, where this one chill dude hears his own inner voice, his God voice, his gut, telling him to build this wild radical beautiful thing even as every one of his friends and neighbors are telling him, “Bitch, please. You’re crazy. It will never happen. You’re a dreamer. You’re a fucking idiot.” Yet he just keeps listening to his God, his Higher Power telling him, “Build that fucker. Build it.” And he does. And it’s the right thing to do. That’s a great message, I think, for lots of young people today. Build your Ark. Get on it. The Hell with what anyone else thinks.

I wonder: What if the Devil is as plastic and produced as my beloved Ben Cooper costume from 1974? What if Jesus (because Jesus was brilliant) used Satan as a metaphor — yep, a metaphor — for all the really horrible, hateful, deceitful, evil, nasty shit we can get into as humans, the shit He was trying to get us out of?

We put masks on our faces on Halloween. I say we need a holiday where our masks come off, where we are allowed to let go of our masks completely, let go of our props, let go of our Satan. Who knows? We might find ourselves underneath.

And please, if you find a heavy pitchfork, made of rubber and plastic, somewhere under the crusty leaves of Larchmont, there’s a nine-year old boy who needs it back bad. I wonder if Leviticus took it.devil8fullLarge

 

 

 

 

Suddenly Single, Suddenly Grndr, Suddenly F**ked

I lasted but sixteen days on Grndr before I swiftly shut it down, and in doing so I may have saved a high-profile politician’s career.

But before we begin this story, I would ask you to please Google GRNDR if you have no idea what GRNDR is.  The Wiki entry will suffice.  Go ahead and learn about it, then come back and read the rest of my sad, lamentable, sexually graphic tale.

This story begins near Christmas of 2012, right about the time I left my partner of three years.

Finding myself suddenly homeless and suddenly single at Christmastime (ho ho ho), I stumbled into the welcoming arms of my first cousin Paul, who is just three months older than myself.  People often mistake us for brothers.  I tell them, “No, our fathers were brothers.  We’re cousins.  I’m the gay one, he’s the straight one.”  That always gets a laugh.

I wasn’t laughing all that much during that holiday season, but Paul was very good to me through it all, saying more than once, “You always have a home here, John-John.”  He let me use his Toyota Corolla often, so I could get out of his drafty house in West Windsor, New Jersey, and search for coffee shops to write in.  My good cousin Paul even permitted me to use his cargo van if the Corolla was detained.  His cargo van is a 2004 GMC Monster.  He uses it primarily for his privately owned small business which takes care of mass mailings for companies/organizations.  You know, junk mail and stuff.  One of his clients happens to be a high-profile politician.

You will not, as far as I know, find that high-profile politicians’s profile on Grndr.  You would not have found MY profile on there either, for I did not have a profile on Grndr.  I had no reason to have a profile on Grndr.  I had been in a happy, peaceful, boring sex-once-a-week marriage for three years and had decided Grndr was for single guys, not for married guys.  Call me traditional.

Now however, I was suddenly single.  I wanted to at the very least be TOUCHED, and by touched I do not mean touched by a Maya Angelou poem.  I’m talking about being touched by another freaking MAN, preferably a naked man.  I had forgotten, in my three years of marriage, how the need for touch can underscore the life of a single man, everything he does, and how wretched life can be without it.

I also just wanted some friends.  West Windsor is nice, but it’s um…well, it’s about forty-five miles from the nearest gay bar.

By the time I went ahead and took the plunge and signed up on Grndr, taking photographs of myself to advertise how amazing I am, I had not been touched by another man in 45 days.  My good cousin Paul had hugged me often (with his clothes on), and that always felt good.  But it ain’t the same thing as being touched by a naked gay man, come on.  I had been touched every day for three years (give and take) by my partner, so forty-five days in a row of no touch is way too much for this starving and suddenly single man.

Date?  No.  I did not want to date.  I wanted attention, adoration, I wanted to reach out and touch someone — or several someones.  I was hurting, I was in pain, I needed a diversion.

I picked NiceDudeJD to be my Grndr name.  I thought that summed me up.  I was nice, I was a dude, and my name was JD.  The photo I used for my profile was the one you see below.  I thought that photo looked pretty groovy, and sexy, with just the right amount of insouciant toughness and sexy availability mixed with guarded roughness and simmering handsomeness.   I also wanted to get across the idea that I had thoughts and could spell.

I started to get messages from other guys almost immediately.  “Hey.”  “Handsome!” “Into?”  “Top or btm?”  I found it interesting that those guys who had “Looking for Relationship” on their profile sent me messages like this:  “Any dick pics?”

But I soaked up the adoration and attention like a sponge.  I also wrote messages to guys, like “Hey, nice picture, how you doin?  John here.”

One guy responded by sending me a photo of the palm of his hand.  In his palm lay a puddle of semen, which I assume came from his penis.  I wondered if perhaps this was some traditional custom of the country he came from.  Perhaps this was how the men of his tribe proposed marriage.  Perhaps dowry came in the form of a palm-sized offering of the groom’s semen.

Things got stranger after that.  More dick pics, more ass pics, more body parts tossed back and forth like salad ingredients, and sudden, urgent requests for sex.  I got sucked in.  Grndr was a Hoover vacuum and I was a crumb on the rug, just a dusty, crummy, sexy, lusty crumb on the rug desperate for as many dick pics as I could get my hands on.

What the hell had happened to me?  Not two months before I was texting my partner “How are we on toilet paper?” from Shop-Rite.  Now I’m texting “You want more pics of my ass?  How about you just see it in person!” to someone I had never met.

Note: I did have some nice conversations with guys who shared similar stories with me of how they had to leave their partners.  I did engage in some nice bonding and some genial, warm conversation. In fact, tonight I may be sharing a beer with one of the guys I met, but I do feel a certain sense of caution about meeting anyone from Grndr ever again and that’s because I went ahead and decided to meet Larry7.

Larry7 texted Hi to me, I texted Hi back, and we exchanged pics.  Larry7 wasn’t very far from West Windsor at all.  Grndr said he was twelve miles away.  He was in a town called Yardley.  He lived alone, was about 52, very handsome in an aging Steve McQueen kind of way, and he owned an antique shop.  That seemed nice.

At one point he sent me a very graphic video.  I received it while I was eating a sandwich at Subway.  It was odd.  I was enjoying a delicious turkey club while watching Larry7 masturbate on my Iphone.  I imagined aliens from outer space watching me eating my turkey club while screening Larry7’s masturbation vid.  I imagined the aliens monitoring my erection from their spaceship, asking each other, “Is the erection from the masturbation video or the turkey club?”

I decided it was time I met Larry7.  I decided that he would be the first man to touch me since my divorce.  Larry7 would offer me company, warmth, affection and touch AND he would devastate me with erotic thrills seen only on the covers of romance novels.  There was another thing Larry7 had to offer me: firewood.  This may seem trivial, but it is not trivial.  The winter of 2014 has been hell, and Paul’s house in West Windsor is cold, very, very cold.  Moreover, Paul’s house is heated by OIL, which, I learned, is incredibly expensive.  How the hell would I know this?  I used to rent in Manhattan.  In Manhattan, there are radiators and the heat comes from underground where little trolls make the heat by burning homeless people.

So. Burning wood in Paul’s fireplace became the antidote to burning the oil.  Wood itself became precious.  I had gone through it all.  Lowe’s was closed.  It was Friday night.  I wanted to write but it was very, very cold in that house.  Paul was out on a date with a woman.  He took the Corolla.  Larry7 had wood.  Larry7 also had KINDLING wood and for those of you who have never used a fireplace, kindling wood is CRITICAL.  You cannot just hold a match under a log and expect the log to explode into a fire.  No.  You.  Must.  Have.  Kindling.

So I texted Larry7 at 9:30 that Friday night.
Me: Were you serious when you made offer of wood?
Larry7: Yes
Me: freezin in this house.  can i come get wood now?
Larry7: yeah!  ive got other wood for you too ;) ;)
Me: heh heh.  okay.  cool.  you have kindling wood too right?
Larry7: yeah.  come over!  i havent shot a lod in three days

Larry7 had misspelled “load” but I knew what he meant.  So I rationalized it this way: I was freezing, Lowe’s was closed, there was no wood to be found, all of West Windsor was covered in snow, and I needed firewood.  And I needed to be touched.  And Larry7 needed to lose his load.  I could help with that.  People helping people.  That’s what it’s about in the age of Obama.  Isn’t it?

So I took Paul’s cargo van.  I drove the van to Yardley, all the while talking to myself like a madman.  “Well, it’s okay I need the wood, and I need to be touched, and yes, I need sex, I’m a grown man and it will be fine and my fantasy will be real, I will get my wood and come home and write…”

That never happened.

When I arrived at Larry7’s home in Yardley, I drove up his driveway, which was narrow and crooked and insane.  The driveway, completely unsuitable for a cargo van the size of Mothra, took a sharp right into Larry7’s wooden fence.  Larry7 came out of his house and yelled, “Watch out for the –” but it was too late.  The van had ripped into the wooden fence, right over a nail, and SSSSSSHHHH!

Flat tire.  Flat.  Freaking.  Tire.

Yeah.  I hadn’t even gotten out of the van.  I hadn’t even made eye contact with this man, and already I had ripped apart his wooden fence and put a gash in the tire of my cousin’s cargo van, the van he depends on for his livelihood.

“Oh SHIT I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS!!”  was the first thing I shouted when I got out of the van.  Larry7 had his hands in his pockets — it was freezing cold — and he looked at the tire, and then at his mauled fence. With a slight Philly accent he moaned, “Oh my gosh, this is so awful.”  Then he looked at me.  “Oh my gosh this is so awful but you are so cute!  Oh my gosh, you are so much cuter than your picture!”

Suddenly, the catastrophe of my cousin’s flat tire took a hike.  I was cuter than my picture, according to Larry7.  “You’re marriage material!” Larry7 added.  Having only known me for one minute, he decided I was marriage material.  Maybe it’s because I drove over his fence.

Then came the dogs.  Two dogs tore from the house like two demons, two Boston terriers, mother and daughter.  Their barks, their screeches and howls, were something out of a horror movie, from a scene in an asylum, where the torturers devise various noises to drive the hero insane.  The dogs didn’t stop.  They never took a breath.  All they did was bark and howl and screech at me, as if I had arrived with one purpose: to kill their owner (after demolishing his fence).  “Get back inside, get back inside!” Larry7 commanded them, but they would not listen to Larry7.  They would not “get back inside”, like what?  Like a father?  Like, “Oh there’s nothing here that concerns me, I’ll just go back in and read my paper.”  No.  The dogs targeted me, encircled me the way the Indians did to the settlers, and whenever I moved, they moved with me, like a planetary orbit.  Now I really did want to kill Larry7.  Why the FUCK did Larry7 invite strange men to his house when he KNEW these two MOTHERFUCKING ASSHOLE DOGS would corral the strange man and TORTURE him with screeches that make nails on a blackboard sound like sounds of waves on a BEACH??!

“Can I just — do you have any bourbon?!” I yelled to Larry7 (one had to YELL over these dogs).
“YES I THINK SO!”
So we moved into the house, leaving my cousin’s van out in the cold with itsi flat tire and unknown future.

Larry7 and I drank a bit and talked, but those two fucking dogs would not leave us alone.  I was amazed — truly amazed — that Larry7 appeared to have no control whatsoever over these two Harpies.  It was as if he had just inherited them at his doorstep, like they were dropped there by some freaked-out worker from the Insane Dog Asylum.

Finally, the dogs calmed down and Larry7 and I got down to business.  But in the middle of business, Larry7 suddenly got limper than lettuce at Subway.  “What’s the matter?” I asked him.  “Oh, oh,” he chuckled, “it’s just so — so hard to concentrate…”
He broke out in laughter.
“Why?” I asked him.  “Why is it so hard to concentrate?”
“The dogs were sniffing your ass as you were going down on me.”

Well, that did it.  Sex was now over with Larry7.  We agreed that stopping was best, for in the case of dogs, there’s no “putting them to bed” as there is with children.  No.  They stay up.  They watch.  They sniff.

Yeah.

So now it was time to attend to the flat tire in the freezing, painful cold.  The spare tire would not budge.  It was stuck.  Larry7 had to drive me back home.  He brought the dogs.  As they climbed all over me, sniffing and howling and barking, banging into Larry7’s hands as he drove, almost sending us off 95 North, I rehearsed telling my cousin Paul that his van was now stuck at Larry7’s house in Yardley.  Paul had no idea about Larry7.  He had no idea about Grndr.  Uh oh.  This one’s gonna hurt.

It did hurt.  Paul had been so good to me, and now I had to tell him this very, very bad news.  He was mad, and he had a right to be.  “You lied to me!” he said.  “You texted that you were going to a friend’s place in Yardley for firewood!  You were going to a stranger’s for sex!”
“Now wait a second, Paul!” I said.  “I really, really did go for the firewood!  That was the first priority!  And the kindling wood!  Seriously!  But you’re right.  He wasn’t a friend.  He was a…Grndr person.  Grndr man…friend.  Grndr trick.  I don’t know.”  I didn’t even know what to call Larry7 except perhaps a mistake.

The next day was Saturday, and Paul and I took the Corolla out to Larry7‘s house in Yardley to attend to the injured van.  Paul and Larry7 shook hands in Larry7’s driveway, and that was odd.  “Hi Larry7 this is my straight cousin Paul and Paul this was my trick from last night, Larry7”.
Almost needless to say, Mother-and-Daughter-Bitch-Hounds-From-Hell treated Paul the same way they treated me, as if I were Lucifer coming to rip Larry7’s heart out and stick it on the busted fence.

The three of us, Larry7, myself and Paul, could not budge that goddamn spare tire off its whatever-the-hell-it-was-stuck-to.  Paul was on his cellphone with his brother-in-law, my cousin Lenny.  Lenny is a mechanic.  “Paul, just twist the —of the—upper end–then–”  screamed Lenny through Paul’s cellphone as Larry7 screamed to his dogs to stop barking.  Paul did not get good service in Yardley.  His phone died, and so did Lenny’s voice.  We were fucked.

Paul and I left Larry7’s house, leaving the diseased van stuck in Larry7’s driveway.  Paul was despondent.  “I have to have that van back at the warehouse on Monday,” he sighed.  “We’re delivering a mass mailing for a politician.”

Shit.

On Sunday, Paul’s roadside assistance came to get the spare tire off, but — believe it or not — they couldn’t get the damn spare tire off the whatever-the-hell-it-was-stuck-to either.  So then Paul and I arranged for a tow truck to come to Larry7’s house.  The tow truck driver called me while I was in Manhattan attending the funeral of a friend who had died on Christmas Eve.  “Ey, yeah uh…dis is Dave,” the tow driver said.  “Uh…I can’t tow da van outta here without dee uh…keys.”

Paul and I had not left the keys to the van inside the van.  I called Larry7.  “Hi, do you see the keys to the van anywhere there?”

“Huh?”

“Would you please look for the keys?” I asked him.  Larry7 replied that he had “a million things to do” that day but would get to looking for the keys asap.  He never found them.

Paul finally found the keys in the Corolla.

This meant that on Monday, I had to get my ass out to Yardley for the third time to orchestrate everything, the handing off the van keys to the tow driver, towing, the Pep Boys replacing the tire with a new one (the spare never came off), and so on and so on, and finally…

at five p.m. on Monday night…

I got the van back to Paul, flat tire off, new Pep Boys tire on.  Paul was able to make the delivery, and the high-profile politician’s career was saved.  Oh.  And Paul didn’t lose a client.  But I sure lost a whole lot of sleep that night before, as well as the precious self-esteem I had been clinging to right after my life went to shit before Christmas.

I told Paul, “I’m getting off of Grndr and you are my witness.”  He thought that was a good idea.  So I did.  I cancelled my Grndr subscription, deleted my profile, and deleted Grndr from my phone, all in one fell swoop.  NiceDudeJD disappeared into the ether, along with all the other Grndr profiles who realized that Grndr would not save them the way they had hoped.

That night, I sat on the edge of my bed, held my chest, and I sobbed so hard I could barely breathe.  I realized, in the midst of my sobbing, that I had been using my delightful, dizzying, dick-pic exchanging, distracting time on Grndr to delay the inevitable.  I had to — absolutely had to — start grieving the end of a three-year partnership with the man I loved.  And that’s tough.  But it had to be done.

Paul sat with me as I grieved those nights thereafter.  He opened a bottle of wine.  He looked at me and said, “Let’s drink this, cuz.”  I wiped my tears and said, “Yes!  And let’s start a fire.”
Paul replied, “I don’t think we have any wood.”
“Oh but we do have wood,” I told him.  “In the back of the van.”  Despite the 72-hour-long tragedy of errors, Larry7 had placed firewood in the back of Pau’s cargo van while the van had been sitting in Larry7’s driveway.  And kindling wood, too.

So Paul and I drank red wine…
in front of a fire that burned Larry7‘s precious wood.  I imagined many other things getting thrown into that fire, a great many other things.

SuddenlyGrndr
-JD Cerna is a GLAAD-Nominated Writer and Performer.  From 2002-2005, he was a featured columnist for the Washington Blade and the Houston Blade.

Forgive Yourself For Your Weird Crazy Sex Shit

One Saturday morning, I raped my grandmother’s couch.  I was twelve, though, so I’m not sure it was rape.  You know what?  Let’s call it Stupidity.
Disclaimer: If you’re offended by explicit language and graphic descriptions of sexual activity, stop reading now.
 If, however, you’re holding onto guilt about some crazy weird sex stuff you’ve got going on (whether it be in your mind, your bedroom, your grandmother’s bedroom), read on and know that you are NOT alone.
My grandmother Nana was a very nervous person.  All the old home movies that feature Nana, you’ll see that she puts her fist in her mouth and keeps it there, biting down on it hard as if it’s some kind of salve to ease her nerves.
You could not blame Nana for her anxieties.  In 1941, my Cuban grandfather basically said to his wife, “Yyyeah, this husband-slash-father-of-two thing? Not really workin’ for me.”  (He said this in Spanish).  
And then he ditched for the States, leaving Nana to raise two girls on the island of Cuba by herself.  Not a whole lot of “abandoned women support groups” in Havana for Nana to attend then.  She struggled.  She got nervous.  A lot.
In 1974, Nana was hit hard with cancer.  We used to visit her in the hospital when I was a child.  My brother would warn me not to laugh when she farted.  “The cancer medicine makes her fart, John!  If you laugh at her farts, I’ll fuckin’ kill you!”
After Nana died, my family moved to a big house in Larchmont, New York.  The house was big because Nana was supposed to live with us but unlike many happenings in Larchmont, Nana’s cancer and subsequent death was not planned.
My bedroom inherited Nana’s big green couch so I could have friends over for sleepovers.  Nana’s couch was sturdy, heavy and it had two thick gigantic back pillows like giant erasers and they fit together like stiff puzzle pieces and together they formed this tight CRACK.
My mother took very good care of that couch; she took good care of everything.  She was always maintaining and cleaning.  In fact, my mother cleaned before the cleaning lady cleaned.  She had made up words.  Instead of dustpan, it was “the scooper upper”.  Also, Comet was the answer to everything. She scrubbed out everything with Comet.  I swear she looked up recipes that used Comet.
Me?  I masturbated.
My mother scrubbed, I rubbed.
But it took a very long time for me to actually RELEASE anything when I masturbated.  I don’t know why that is.  Perhaps it had something to do with the Energy Crisis.
I used whatever I could for visual aids.  Closing my eyes and reaching down to touch myself, I would visualize the scene in “Planet of the Apes” where Charlton Heston and his fellow astronauts get naked and jump into the pond together to swim.  Or I would look at the back section of The New York Post (my father would bring it home from the city), because there was always a tiny ad in the back for gay porn theaters (!!) in Times Square that featured “All-Male” cinema with Air-Conditioning!!  I really loved the air-conditioning part.
One Saturday morning, like 1976, I woke up with a hard-on bigger than my grandfather’s drinking problem.  This hard-on was ripping through my Star Wars pajamas, almost ripping the Millenium Falcon in half.
And I just HAD to put the erection SOMEWHERE.  I felt like my mother when she’d be redecorating the house for the umpteenth time. She’d be holding some giant planter or something in her arms. “Now where the heck am I gonna put this thing?” she’d say, holding her planter.
That was me with that erection. Just where the heck was I gonna put that thing??
And then there it was, the place I where would put that thing.  That CRACK between the green pillows of Nana’s couch.  The crack was tight, waiting for my pubescent erection. “Fuck me, John,” the crack seemed to hearken.  “Call me, I’ll arrive!  When you’re ready we can share the wine.”
I was ready.  
I lifted my skinny frame up, pulled down my Star Wars pajamas…
and proceeded to…
Insert my thing into the crack.   
And I started to hump that crack as best I could.
And I was close to some kind of release…
so close…
but
 I peed.

Yes, I peed into the crack.  
I just knew I had to…
Release something.  
Anything. 
Oh my God.  I urinated into the crack between the green pillows of Nana’s couch.
I looked at what I had done, and then I went downstairs, heated up a Grape Pop-Tart and sat down to watch “Scooby Doo’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics” on ABC. 
I went from deep horror and shame to excitement for Scooby Doo.  Funny how that happens when you’re twelve.
Later, I returned to my bedroom and there was my mother, grasping a can of Comet and sniffing Nana’s couch.
“DID YOU WEE-WEE ON NANA’S COUCH?!?!” she howled at me.  (Wee-wee was my mother’s made-up word for urine).
“For Godsakes, John Dayton Cerna, did you wee-wee on Nana’s couch?”
“No,” I lied. “It’s–It’s–um– I meant to tell you, Mom — um, that’s Edie-poo’s wee-wee.”
Now, Edie-poo was our family cat.  When we first got the cat, my brother Tommy said (with some disdain), “All that cat does is eat ‘n poo!  Eat ‘n poo, that’s all that cat does!” so my Mom named the cat “Eat-’N-Poo” which evolved over time into “Edie-poo”.  I don’t really understand how the name evolved that way, but perhaps there’s some Ken Burns thing that speaks about it.
“WHAT?!” my mother cried to me, shocking me out of my Saturday morning.  “EDIE-POO’s WEE-WEE?!  You’re telling me that Edie-poo backed into the space between the pillows and wee-wee’d?!  Why would she wee-wee here in this crack?!”
“Mom, I don’t know,” I lied, “but it was Edie-poo!  She just backed into the pillows and peed.  It was crazy!”
Poor Edie-poo.  She wasn’t even in the room to defend herself.  I imagined her completely livid, talking like that cat on Mr. Rogers.   “Meow-are you fucking kidding me-meow?  Meow-you throw me under the bus-meow, you couch-raping sex addict meow-meow?”
I could see Nana looking down in horror, biting her fist. “That little shit fucked my couch!  He laughed at my cancer farts and now he fucked my couch!”
My mother sniffed again and again, like Dian Fossey sniffing gorilla piss.
“This is not Edie-poo’s wee-wee, John Dayton Cerna,” she said quite sternly.  “This is human wee-wee.  Edie-poo’s wee-wee has an acidic odor!”
The acidic odor was the glove that didn’t fit.  The scent of Edie-poo’s wee-wee was her strongest defense.  But I stuck with my Edie-poo defense.  I didn’t budge.  I was like a Republican; I just did not break.
“Gonya God-aho!” my mother cried again.  “This is not Eedipoo’s wee-wee!  You’re going to tell me, young man, why on EARTH you defiled my poor mother’s couch!”
And then it all came up…
this shame inside me, this embarrassment, watching my mother kneeling on the couch, sniffing, muttering, “En el nombre de Dios, sé que esto no es de Eeedipoo pipí, ¿qué le pasa a mi hijo que iba a hacer una cosa así?”
My mother held her glove-covered hand up to hit me.
I stood there and I shook.
I wanted to say, “I’m sorry. I am litter, I am filth. I peed on Nana’s couch, I did, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
But then,
 something amazing happened.  My mother quietly said, “Okay, honey, just go. I’ll take care of it.”  When she uttered those nine forgiving words, her voice had a sage and soothing quality, like Yoda’s did when he talked about the Force.
 
And with her yellow latex gloves, my mother scrubbed the wee-wee out forever and never brought the subject up again.
When I was 42, I talked about it with her. “Can you imagine, Mom, if you hadn’t forgiven me?  If you had punished me?  You really could have screwed me in the head.”
And she replied, “Oh honey, you were already screwed in the head.  You raped your grandmother’s couch, for Christ’s sake.”
She was kidding, of course.
 But she taught me two things.  
1. Forgive yourself for your crazy sex stuff.  Even if you’re into furniture.
 And 2. Laugh about it.  Because in the end, 
All will be erased anyway.  One day, sooner than you think, this entire planet will get erased…
just scrubbed out forever…

by a big
Comet.
Some years later, my family moved to a smaller house in Larchmont and Nana’s green couch got put out on the street.  I remember seeing it there on the curb, so lonely, so done-in for.  Kind of like Nana was in that hospital room, all by herself, dying of cancer and farting uncontrollably but still so happy to see me.
If I could go back in time, I’d walk up to Nana’s couch.  Gingerly I would whisper to it, “You were the first, Sleeper Couch.  And you’ll always be the first.  Thank you, Sleeper Couch.  I’ll never forget you.
Not ever.”

-JD Cerna
JD Cerna is a GLAAD-Media Award-Nominated Writer

JeannieAndMe

Muscles for Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard had just been brutally murdered.  Two days later came the vigil.  My best friend and I (and at least hundreds more) marched and held candles silently.  As we marched, we passed the biggest gay gym in Los Angeles.  Upstairs on the weights floor were scores of gay men passively observing the procession.

We raised our hands, gesturing to the boys to come down and

“Join us!   Come down, join us!  Make a sign real quick!  Have it say “Muscles for Matthew Shepard” or something!”

But they didn’t come down, they didn’t join us.  The parade passed them by, and then they went back to tearing up their muscles on the gym floor.

I’ve thought about this image, the gym rats declining to march.  I think about it when I’m in the gym myself, pumping my muscles so that they might reach Comic Book 3D proportions.

It disturbed me to see my brothers refraining from marching with us that dark night.  For Matthew’s sake, and for their sake as well, was it not appropriate to cut the workout short?  I just remember feeling, “Matthew doesn’t even HAVE a body anymore!  And you’re worried about making sure you get in fifteen reps on your ass muscles?!”

With all the muscles I get from working out, I almost wish someone would gay-bash me, just so I could fight back, beat ‘em to a pulp, and feel better about spending 95 bucks a month on my gym membership.

I know why I work out.  Besides wanting to be healthy, and sexy, and sexy, and healthy, and sexy, I don’t trust that you’ll desire me for what’s inside the package, so I have to keep cutting up and pumping up and primping up the package.  I wish it didn’t matter so much in my life, all this cutting and pumping.  I want other things to matter more.  Wish me luck.

I wanted to write a book once.  I was forced to make a decision: Work out or write.  I wrote.  My muscular definition diminished, I put on twenty pounds and finished my manuscript.  I was a new, fat author.

My boyfriend at the time told me he didn’t mind my new “love handles”. Yuk!  Guh-ross!  I wanted him to mind them. I actually minded that he didn’t mind them.  When Nelson and I made love, there was something in the bed I didn’t want: my fat body.  It wasn’t enough to enjoy my lover and the sex that came from being connected to him.  I wondered, “How can you be attracted to me right now, Nelson?  I’m out of shape.”  That actually got in the way.

What I needed to do, for his sake, was allow myself to be loved and desired despite my selfish requirements to be in “peak physical condition” first.  If I didn’t allow it, I would drive a healthy relationship out the door.  I can drive the healthy relationship I strive to have with myself out the door too.  “You ain’t worth a whole lot if you don’t make other boys hard” may be acceptable for Gay Economy’s bottom line, but it must not be okay for me, if I can help it.  Sometimes, however, I still can’t help it.  If someone comments on my body positively, I still get excited about it, and it’s not always a subdued excitement.  It’s more like a “THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR VALIDATING MY EXISTENCE AND FOR SAYING THAT I AM FUCKABLE!” kind of excitement.

I think it was Carl Jung that said the first half of a man’s life ought to be centered on the physical and material, while the second half ought to be centered on the spiritual and mystical.  I figure I’m somewhere in-between.  I can seek to connect with a power greater than myself through meditation and prayer and then a half hour later work out, get pumped, and want to have my biceps licked by my boyfriend and then fuck him mercilessly.

Yeah I’m somewhere in-between.

But I do tend to see guys with the “my muscles are huge but I’m still not happy” expression on their faces.  I think it has something to do with putting in hours of hard labor and getting small returns.  Because really, “looking better naked” is nice, but then what?  Hot sex is amazing, but then what?  Working out five days a week?  I moved it to four, just to see what I could do on the fifth day.

Man, the stuff you can get done when you’re not lifting heavy metal.

Screw the treadmill today and go to that protest. You’ll burn calories on rage alone.  Pick up a pen – it’s lighter than a dumbbell – and sign that petition, or make that masterpiece. Volunteering at the gay community center or at an AIDS Meal Service may not help you get that eighth ab, but it could fuel your soul in ways unimaginable.

Alas, if only my biceps could crush the hatred that’s bubbling in the cauldrons of the right-wing witch caves.  But they can’t.  The pen will always be mightier than the muscle.  So, too, will the soul.  And the voice, and the brain, and the brotherhood.

And are you done with that butt machine, bro?  Can I just jump in?  Thanks, buddy.  I have a blog to write.  And prayer later.  And then hot sex after that. Hopefully.

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-JD Cerna

The Abercromber Has No Clothes

The guy on the billboard was smooth and muscular and…
Naked.

A billboard hanging over the New Jersey Turnpike.  Tenement buildings, exhaust fumes and traffic, and this gigantic billboard with this naked guy and –
Wait a second.
Did it say “Abercrombie and Fitch” under the naked guy?
Let me get this gaily forward.  Naked guy…in an advertisement for clothing?
Let me try that again; it didn’t compute.
Naked guy…in an advertisement for clothing.

I’m flummoxed, perplexed and my panties are in a twist around this Abercrombie and Fitch thing going on with my gay brothers.

The sighting of that billboard reminded me of that classic tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.  Need a refresher?
Vain emperor hires two dudes to make him the finest suit ever made.
Two dudes tell emperor the fabric they’re using to make the suit is visible only to smart people.  The dudes are swindlers (obviously).
Swindlers dress emperor up in the “suit”. The emperor drums up a procession so he can show off his new suit.  He’s completely naked, of course.
A little kid shouts out, “the emperor has no clothes on!”  The crowd catches on, but the emperor marches down the avenue, holding his head high, naked as a newborn and looking like a moron.

The model on the Jersey billboard also had no clothes, yet I’m supposed to march to the nearest Abercrombie and Fitch store to buy their clothing?  I don’t get it.
No, really.  I don’t get it.

If the clothing is so Aber-utiful and Fitch-tastic, then why don’t they dress the model in the clothing?
Why are you looking at me like I’m stupid?

Okay, the model was beautiful, to be sure.  In an…airbrushed, Photoshopped, black-and-white kind of way.
Alas, to get the attention of a beautiful airbrushed model, to get him to sleep with me, date me, love me, and maybe call me again.
Perhaps I shall exert that same sexual power, that same effect, on other Abercrombie models (?), if I wear Abercrombie and Fitch clothing (?), even though most of THEM are NOT wearing Abercrombie and Fitch clothing (!)
I visited the Abercrombie and Fitch website and — Aberdammit! — the model there has nothing on there either.

Let’s say the naked model on those big Abercrombie and Fitch shopping bags (yup, they’re naked on the shopping bags too) had a few extra pounds on him.  Or a zit.  Or a scar.  People wouldn’t want to walk around with THAT shopping bag, which means they wouldn’t want to buy the clothing.  That’s kind of fucked up, don’t you think?  If you think about it, I mean.  Alas, Mass Marketing’s most feared nemesis is Critical Thought.  So don’t think about it.  Just walk around with your naked model on your shopping bag declaring how awesome your new naked clothes are.  But come on, think about it just a little.  If the model on your shopping bag had just one of those aforementioned characteristics (I said characteristics, not flaws)…
Eh, you don’t wanna think about it.

How about this?

If you own a sweatshirt made by Abercrombie and Fitch, I ask that you put it on.  Maybe you have it on already.  Put it on and look at yourself in the mirror.
Look at yourself and ask, “Why did I buy this shirt?”

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How does it compare to your other shirts that do not have an A and F logo on it?  Is it that much better?
Wearing your sweatshirt, do you feel as though you belong to a sexy, white, young, white, breezy, young, spoiled, sexy, breezy, white surf club?
Do you feel something when you see that label emblazoned across your chest?
What is it you feel?
Sexy?
Why do you feel sexy?
Is it because every single Abercrombie and Fitch ad employs as much overt male sexuality as humanly possible?

I’m asking these questions because I don’t think it’s fair that the filthy rich CEO’s of A and F have swindled you – yeah, swindled you –into advertising for them for free.  They should be paying YOU to walk around with their logo emblazoned on your chest.  Or they should have at least given you their sweatshirt for the same price they pay their sweatshop workers.
Unless, of course, you really do love their shirts.  Then, go ahead and strut your stuff, baby.  Strut it over the turnpike and over the traffic, over the cars driven by common folk who wear generic brand clothing as they gaze up at the young, empty-headed Abercrombie Angel of Lust.

Me?  If A & F thinks I’m gonna march down the avenue with their invisible sweatshirt on, I have one thing to tell them:

AberBlowMe.

-J.D. Cerna

An Interview I Did With NYTheater.com


What an amazing thing it’s been for me, performing my one-man play and receiving so much love in return.  Have I got a lot of money right now in my life?  No.  But perhaps it’s true what the author said, that “an artist is never poor”.   I don’t feel poor when I’m onstage telling my stories and connecting with you guys out there.  The play has been extended.  If you’re in NYC February 22nd, come on down to the Duplex at 61 Christopher Street and check out the show (9:30 pm).  In the meantime, here’s an interview I did with NYTheater.com that came out a couple of days ago.  -J.D.  Keep on rantin’.Image

Who is more important in the theater: the actor, the playwright, or the director?
Actually, I would submit that the Usher is the most important person. Last thing any writer, director or actor wants is some disgruntled audience member put in the wrong seat. Next to Usher, I would have to say Playwright. He or she is the one who first has the daunting task of putting chaos into order. I think the actor and director’s job is getting inside that writer’s head, figuring out how to make that writer’s vision, worldview, order, truth – come to shimmering life up there on that stage – correctly.

Is there a particular moment in this show that you really love or look forward to? Without giving away surprises, what happens in that moment and why does it jazz you?
I look forward to what is actually a painful moment in the play – the scene where I get a phone call from my ex-lover who’s calling to tell me he has AIDS and that I better get tested. The reason I look forward to that scene… is that I am conscious there’s a slew of guys in the audience who got that phone call too, and this is what we do in theater, right? We communicate specific moments like that, and then the audience realizes “Wow, I’ve been there, too and I’ve forgotten about it” and then we all get to face it and remember it together. And it’s not just the guys. It’s everyone. Everyone’s gotten that phone call that suddenly turns the world upside down and we have to deal with it whether we like it or not. I feel like that’s the moment when the audience is one, as it were, and you live for moments like that onstage. Then, one second after that, the audience meets Patrick, based on a waiter I worked with who used to take drugs and then vogue as he took food orders, and he’s just so damn funny. That’s when the audience gets to exhale and laugh and it’s fantastic.

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
So exhausting. Does that count? But exhausting in the best kind of way. So exhausting because I’ve played almost 20 roles, many of whom are physical dynamos, but each night the audience connects so much to the story and the characters so yeah, it’s the best kind of exhausting. I guess Sexy, too. One of the characters gets really drunk and moons the audience and one guy wrote me and said “I got horny when you did that.” Ha! It’s funny because I never think that it’s me mooning the audience. It’s the character doing it, not me.

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
God, I hope so. I know it can bring individual change, and isn’t that the start of societal change? I have been changed by theater. I remember I saw a play once and I cried so hard at the end that a complete stranger next to me just grabbed my thigh tightly and knowingly. Yup, she clenched my thigh! She knew I was moved because she was too. It sounds funny, right? Like, was she making a sexual advance? No. She was bracing me because she knew I was losing it. And I thought – wow, two total strangers holding each other in the dark because we’re so moved by what we are seeing. That, right there, is society changing from “we’re all strangers” to “we are not all strangers”. I think the problem with society is that we all believe there’s a society out there, when there’s really just a bunch of people all trying to find their way in the dark. We can be lights for each other, guiding the way.

Not as Cute as Picture

Friends and Readers, 

If you’re in New York next weekend, please come check out my one-man show, “Not as Cute as Picture”.  The show was nominated for a GLAAD-Media Award, and it’s just me onstage telling stories about a time in my life when I gave up a good job to go for a dream.  Here’s what the Washington Post said about my play: “It doesn’t seem like a one-man show, as Cerna brings to life some 20 people who crossed his path during his 29th year. An intensely physical, high-energy performance, “Not as Cute as Picture” is a candid, sometimes stinging and usually very funny journey of a gay man…” One week from tonight! Two nights only! Fri Jan 11th and Sat Jan 12th at The Duplex. 9:30 p.m.

Direct link to reservations:  

Friday, January 11, 2013 @ 9:30 p.m.

http://www.theduplex.com/webcalendar/view_entry.php?id=6982&date=20130111

Saturday, January 12, 2012 @ 9:30 p.m.

http://www.theduplex.com/webcalendar/view_entry.php?id=6983&date=20130112

 
 
 

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GOODBYE, MR CHIPS

The producer of one of the most successful television shows of the 1970’s had a secret to share, and that secret was never safe with me.  

Rod (not his real name but close enough) loved to talk about the show he created and produced about two highway patrol cops in California.  I might get in trouble if I mention the name of the show.  What are those crispy things that go so well with Salsa called again?  Nachos?

I met Rod at party in the Hollywood Hills, when I was trying to be an actor out there.  He asked me if I was “for hire” and he didn’t mean to clean his house.  Like many aging gay men in Hollywood, Rod believed that his stockpiles of cash could buy him the gay adolescence he never got to have back in the 1950’s. Rod bought boys and Rod bought toys and Rod relished regaling with me his stories of erotic adventure.  Once a pornographer buddy of Rod’s used Rod’s swimming pool to shoot the background footage for the opening credits of his latest movie.  Porno actors floated by on floats in Rod’s pool, their erections at full mast.  Rod was so excited because he got to be one of the erections.  “They’re using my cock in the porno!” I remember him saying.  He was very proud of that.

Rod liked me because I did my best to be real with Rod.  I liked seeing if I could excavate the man behind the ego who paid extra money to have his zip code changed to 90210 (it was a status thing) and who also paid the phone company a handsome sum to have his phone number spell out his name. 

When I finally left Los Angeles — like a refugee — and landed down in Miami, Rod would visit me.  That’s because his frail parents, both sick and dying, clung on to life down there like barnacles.  Whenever Rod came to Florida, he left his bigger-than-life Hollywood persona in baggage claim.  In Florida, Rod mellowed and softened.  I figured it had something to do with being around his parents and caring for them.  

One night after dinner in Miami he told me how he fell in love once.  With a priest.

Another night, with his pipe in his mouth, Rod started talking about his show, the one whose name will go unmentioned here in this blog.

But what are those chocolate things in those cookies that go so well with milk?

Rod opened up to me, almost confessed to me, as if I myself were a priest.  He told me about the star of his show, and how in almost no time at all this star became a sex symbol of mammoth proportion.  But there was a problem.  His star wasn’t exactly…

well, he wasn’t exactly straight.

So Rod told me, as he puffed on his pipe and drove his father’s Cadillac, how he and his business manager huddled together and made a decision.  They decided to ask a waitress who served them often in their eatery of choice if she would marry the star of Rod’s show.  Just like that.  Rod said that he and his biz manager agreed to pay the waitress a very large amount of money to marry the star of Rod’s show.  Then they would pay her a very large sum to divorce the star, leave Los Angeles, and never return to Los Angeles again.  Rod said that the waitress agreed.  Rod looked at me and said, “Wouldn’t you?”  The divorce became very messy and very public, securing loads of press.  That, Rod said, they made sure of — that the divorce was very public.  That way the marriage was public.  

His star had been married.  His star was straight.  Marriage to a member of the opposite sex = heterosexuality.

And that’s what they had to make sure of, that there was no doubt whatsoever that the sex symbol star of their show didn’t have a gay bone in his body.  Not an ounce of gayness anywhere.  

Hollywood insider that he was, Rod told me that “arranged marriages happen every day in Hollywood” and I believed him though I hated to.  Mimi, Nicole and Katie.  Could those women have been package deals too for you know who?  Public marriage, 3-5 year commitment, public divorce?  

Who was it that said “we are all as sick as our secrets”?  Whoever said it must have spent some time in Hollywood.

I asked Rod how the star of his show felt about marrying someone he did not love in order to further his career.  His response?  “He’s getting lots of work in South America these days”.  

That’s good.  Work is good.  I like truth too.Image

 

-JD Cerna is a GLAAD-Media Award nominated Writer/Performer.  His one-man play, “Not as Cute as Picture” was called “a triumphant cry of victory” by The Washington Post   johncerna@yahoo.com

 

MAKE TEXT, NOT LOVE

 

A good friend recently admitted to me that his last “relationship” was “95 percent texting”.

95 percent of his communication with the guy he was dating was in the form of texting each other on the phone.

Thts fkd up.

I get it about texting.

Texting offers us the opportunity to toss out unfiltered and immediate messages of affection, sex and love, as well as communicating that ill be 5 mins late.

Thts cool.

The problem I’m seein’ is that the scales are tipping in favor of more texting, less talking, and that’s why there’s a whole lotta fkd up relationships out there.

I’ve already suffered fights that didn’t have to happen because I simply misread a text that my lover had sent me.

In another case, I got in a bad fight with a good friend because we made all our plans via text.  One of us just read the text wrong, thought I WAS coming for dinner, when in fact I was saying I don’t think I COULD come for dinner.  He bought a whole extra chicken for chrissakes.  I flt lyk 2tal sht.

We want to text because if we text, we can skip out all the other stuff that we might have to talk about.  But there is a way around this.  That’s to call on the phone and say “Hey, I only have like a minute right now but I wanted to confirm that you knew I wasn’t coming for dinner so please don’t get an extra chicken, okay?  Okay cool.  I’m sorry I can’t talk more now, I gotta run but I wanted to say it in person instead of texting because texting can fuck things UP!”

And if the best you can do is text, then at least spell out the word YOU when writing I love you.  I am a YOU, not a U, thank YOU very much.

Walk down the avenue.  There’s another one, and another one, walking and texting, walking and texting.  The other day one came right at me.

I’m loath to admit this.  I’m a grown man; I let a twenty-something girl collide right into me on Fifth Avenue.

I just couldn’t take it anymore, the walking and the texting.  The texter-walkers have this selfish attitude, you see.  It goes like this:  IM BZZY AND IN A RSH.  I CNT STP AND TXT.  U R LKNG WHR UR GNG SO JUST WATCH OUT FOR ME, K?”

She was texting as she was walking and the only place she was looking was down. She was directly in my trajectory, coming from the south.  I came from the north.  At first, the impulse was normal — just veer out of her way, John (how I’ve negotiated all the other Texter-Walkers in this city).  Get out of THEIR way, John, so you don’t ram into THEM.

But, for some reason, as she text-walked towards me, a message texted out of my brain that went “ENUF, JOHN. U SHLD NOT HAVE 2 WTCH WHR YR GOIN, JOHN. SHE IS THE 1 WHO SHLD WTCH WHR SHE IS GOING.  IF SHE WONT WTCH WHR SHE IS GOING THEN…”

I’m 175 pounds. I train every other day in a gym.  Texter Walker probably vomits after she eats.  It was like hitting an innocent bird.

Had I taught her a lesson?  In my delusional mind (the one that does way too much of the thinking these days), I decided that yes she had.

The worst is when I do it myself.  My boyfriend, if he’s with me, loves to let me know:  “You’re texting and walking, Hypocrite.”

Now that I had crossed the line and allowed one texter-walker to ram into me, I was eager to see if my intrepidity could withstand bigger beasts. If all I was going to do was let the female birds ram into me, then I was a yellow-belly.  I had to let all the stupid animals of the New York City jungle ram into me, too.

My next collision occurred on Seventh Avenue, across from Madison Square Garden.  This texter-walker was a big man, about six-foot-five.  He may as well have been a basketball player; might have been playing that night in the Garden.

WHAM.

That hurt.  My shoulder really hurt after that.

Directly after the crash (I did not look back, I never do), I panicked.  What if he were to, in direct retaliation, turn around and push me back – hard – right onto the asphalt?  I quickened my pace, shot a glance behind me.  He was fifty feet away now (phew), oblivious, still walking, still texting, texting, walking, texting, walking, texting, walking.

Did he care?

Sigh.

What about you?  Hey, are you reading this on your phone?  At the same time are you tromping up the avenue, not looking where you’re going ‘cause your head is stuck in your phone like a bird sticking its head in the dirt to catch a worm?!  Well, I gotta tell ya.  If you’re headed for me, this old-school WATCHER WALKER (who stops and pulls over to the side if he needs to read or write a text MOST of the time)…

Well, you just better watch out, see.

This WATCHER WALKER will NOT veer out of your way…

Oh no he will not!

UNLSS HE WRRIES HE MGHTGET KLLD.  THIS IS NEW YRK AFTR ALL.

-JD Cerna is a GLAAD-Media Award Nominated Writer and Performer.  His play, “Not as Cute as Picture” was called “a triumphant cry of victory” by The Washington Post

Can’t F**k the 9-11 Away

I arrived in Manhattan on September 10 2001 to shoot an author.  Not with a gun.  With a camera.  The author’s name was Amy and I was going to be directing a shoot in her apartment in Soho.  I was very excited about it.

I was also excited to be home for a couple of days.  I was living and working in D.C. but New York was my home.

Amy’s publicist Ellen instructed me, “Make shaw you only shoot in Amy’s apawtment!  Amy is aGAWra-phobic!  She nevva leaves her apawtment!”

Early the next morning, on September 11th, I climbed a Stairmaster in my hotel’s fitness center, mentally preparing to shoot an agorophobic author.  Through the gym’s window, I saw black smoke vandalizing a brilliant blue morning sky.

A woman on the other Stairmaster was looking at the news playing on her little television monitor.  She said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center.  I ran back to my hotel room and called my parents.  I told them it was “the Hindenburg of the 21st century”.

Ellen called me in the hotel.  “We’re undah attack, John!  The shoot’s been cansult.”

I ran to Fifth Avenue to get a better view of the tragedy, still dressed in my gym sweats.  As I ran, I realized that many of the people I passed had no idea what was going on just thirty blocks to the south.  In Midtown, people hurried to work, stuffing bagels in their mouths.  Downtown, people threw themselves out of windows to their deaths.

The second tower fell as soon I reached Fifth and 23rd.  As the steel twisted and tumbled through empty space, it shot back a reflection of the sun.  For the first time in history, every New Yorker – gay, straight, white, rich, poor, Black, Latin and so on…

was doing the same exact thing at the same exact time.  Looking up at the end of the world.

Many of our heads turned to the Empire State.  We thought that building was going to be next.  To my left, a tall woman dressed in New York chic shook and shook until tears erupted from her elegant face.  I wanted to hold her but I was afraid that she would be afraid of me.  Nobody knew yet who the bad guys were.

I ran to the Foundling Hospital on 16th and 6th, where my doll-faced friend George works with sick children.  George is an atheist, loves everything absurd, loves underground theater and angry art.  He owns no pets, he owns no plants. He curses, he drinks, he smokes and he wanted to launch an online magazine once and call it “Cranky Fag”.  You won’t see George cry, not ever.  He once said to me, “I can’t cry.  I don’t know why.”

When I reached George I told him, “They’re gone, both towers.”  That’s when I realized that when I was a little boy, sprouting into a teenager, the twin towers were sprouting at the same time.  I remember seeing the towers grow, week by week, like plants.  When they were finally finished I was about thirteen years old.

I hugged George and I cried but he didn’t.  George, with his bare blue eyes, had seen the second plane hit on his way to work.

I ran back to my hotel as jets shot their way over Manhattan and sirens blared like human screams.  I met up with my director of photography, Afshin, in the hotel lobby.  Afshin’s origins are Middle Eastern.  I told him to go back to his hotel room and never leave.

I went back to my hotel room and wondered if sex would help.  I had just witnessed a massacre.  I ached from contemplating all that I had seen, all that was happening.  I wanted to escape.  I called one of those phone sex lines and listened to guys leave messages about their body parts and what they wanted to do with them.  As it turned out, there were others who wanted to fuck the pain away too.

But how many people were still alive under that twisted metal, screaming for someone to rescue them?  How many people were shattered at this moment, knowing their loved ones had been trapped inside one of those towers?

Later I met George at one of the only open bars in Chelsea.  We drank hard and fast until we were obliterated.  Floating over the bar the television played images of people searching for their loved ones, their bodies covered in photographs.  At one point, George looked at me and said, “Armageddon any?  Armagettin’ any?”

We closed the bar and stumbled into an all-night deli.  A wiry man from Dublin was shaking next to the soda section.  I asked him if he was alright.  He said he had just been “down there” to volunteer.  He was not alright.  He said there were “baskets” for the “different body parts”.  I put my hands on his shoulders and told him he was going to be okay, though I really had no idea if he would ever wake up from the nightmare he had seen.

I walked George back to his Chelsea apartment, the streets now lined with tanks and military personnel.  It reminded me of when they were shooting “Godzilla” in Manhattan just a couple of years before.  If only it were a movie.  If only this binge could last forever.  If only sex could make it go away.  Go away, go away.

But it wasn’t going away.

I couldn’t go away, I couldn’t leave.  I wanted to be in my hometown. I wanted to stay.  And anyway, there were so many bomb threats at Penn Station there was no way I could leave.

George biked to the piers, where Army people and volunteers zigzagged around him.  George brought whatever he could from his apartment, to donate.  He spotted a billboard with photographs of the missing.

A missing guy, our age, who had been working in the Trade Center was described, partly, this way: “Has tattoo on left buttcheek.  Possibly “Tweety”.  Please call…”

Possibly Tweety.  They knew the guy had a tattoo on his ass.  They knew it was a Warner Brothers character.  Possibly Tweety.  George threw his head back and laughed.  He lit his American Spirit cigarette and smoked it under a smoldering sky bereft of two mighty towers.

They say the towers buckled before they fell, and as they came tumbling down the people of the world said in unison, “Oh my God”.

George buckled too, his fingers clutching his American Spirit, his eyes welling with tears.

And then George wept.

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-J.D. Cerna is a GLAAD-Media Award nominated Writer/Performer.  His play, “Not as Cute as Picture”, was called “a triumphant cry of victory” by the Washington Post.