Animals, Food, New York, Photography, Relationships, Writing

We’re Setting Fires

images-44I have a pet rabbit, and she has unwittingly become my euphemism for having sex. As in, “Would you like to come upstairs? I don’t believe you’ve met my rabbit.”  My rabbit is the spirit animal for my libido, gnawing on shoes and live electrical cords, freaking the fuck out for no reason and bolting beneath the couch, three pounds of compacted instinct and hunger and fear.

I’ve now had three dates with Dig, and he still has not met the rabbit. This is radically unfamiliar territory. A beautiful girl I know was recently telling me the story of walking up to some man in a bar; she lead with “Hey, do you want to have sex in the bathroom?” Names got exchanged sometime after penetration, while the toilet auto-flushed over and over and over again. I identify deeply with this sort of transaction. You want something, and I want something. Sex is exchanged like a briefcase full of money, like a ransom.

With Dig, it is not like this, and that, of course, freaks me the fuck out. He’s the kind of person who would return a briefcase full of money if he found it on the street. I squint hard at him, because he is so different from anyone I’ve ever dated that he is nearly invisible, the way an iguana that grew up in a banana tree won’t recognize anything but bananas as food.

I have these vast mental blind-spots. For example, I didn’t realize until this morning, waiting for Dig to come and pick me up, that the verb I gave him is cribbed from the title of this blog. It gives our thing a resonance that I don’t think I want it to have, and yet Dig, with its tone of industry and masculine functionality suits him perfectly. And I do dig him. He picks me up for our third date this week and brings me, utterly unprompted, to my favorite Greek restaurant, where I struggle mightily to flirt while trying not to swallow the branzino’s tiny, needlelike bones.   After lunch, he kisses me for a long time, his truck warm against my back, but he seems to be in no particular hurry to meet the rabbit, and this is baffling the fuck out of me.

I can’t tell where the borders are between liking him and liking how he treats me, and I desperately survey my own feelings for markers. My whole system is aslosh in oxytocin, and I am left flooded and harried.

On a more familiar note, it is Sketch’s birthday this week. I go uptown with that Rembrandt etching I bought him in Amsterdam, clumsily framed and matted, and leave this present with his doorman, along with a note bursting with news about my trip.  Before I beat feet out of there, I whisper I love you, I miss you, in the direction of the elevator, while the doorman looks at me fretfully.   I will find out the next day that Sketch happened to come downstairs minutes later; he sprinted down Broadway looking for me, but after the drive-by gifting, I had gone in the other direction.   He searched but he couldn’t find me; I was in Riverside Park, watching the dogs, just chilling in geographic proximity to my beloved ex-boyfriend. We were close enough that if something was on fire, we would have smelled the smoke at the same time.

And something is on fire. Ignoring the growing swell of panic in all my organs, intensifying like a siren’s Doppler shriek approaching from a neighborhood away, I take a midweek phone call from Dig.   A phone call! On the phone! It’s crazy. I am out of practice, unsure of the last time I talked to a heterosexual man on the phone, and there’s a couple of awkward pauses, in which I am tempted to yell down the line I LIKE YOU like a twelve-year-old.   It reminds me of when I was in seventh grade, and I had this boyfriend I had never met. We went to different schools, but mutual friends set us up, and we would just hang out on opposite ends of the phone line, peaceably listening to each other breathe. Today I still find it sort of gratifying just to know I’ve got a man’s attention, and Dig and I don’t talk about anything important; I just keep him electronic company for the last half hour of his shift and then release him.

The next day I go out to Far Rockaway with my friends. The sand here is so full of wave-smashed shells it’s like walking on broken dishes, and the surf makes its point belligerently, repeatedly, but I love the beach and I love my friends. We talk about the different kinds of weird dicks we have encountered over the years: Easter-Egg Dick, which appears to have been dip-dyed two different colors, or Pointy-Pyramid Dick, which I think is self explanatory, or that long, thin one that you wish you could double-up the way you would store an extension cord. The longer I wait to take Dig to bed, the more nervous I am getting about what is going on in his pants.

I am trying, hard, to pump the brakes, because dating Dig feels like running downhill, his lack of resistance both liberating and alarming. The oxytocin levels in my brain are dangerously high, sending out a high tension whine of I NEED HIM.   I keep shaking my head to clear this ludicrous thought like a dog with a tick in her ear. Fuck, I don’t even know this man. He’s just a “good person” who wants to “get to know me,” and here I am, all hanging air-quotes around these words.  My inner cynic belligerently points out the grammar mistakes in his texts, props her combat boots on the desk, sucks her teeth and asks: What are you going to write about after you fall for this guy who can’t discern between there, their, and they’re? And more persuasively: What about Sketch?

I don’t have any answers. In the meantime, Dig and I talk about taking it slow. “Like building a fire,” he says.

“We’re setting fires!” I announce gleefully to no one in particular. Not exactly the same thing. I have fires, too many fires, left wild and untended, and in the spirit of responsibility I douse the dating apps right off my phone. My phone asks: Are you sure? I am not sure, of anything, ever. This is the rough country of uncertainty; a trail of small signal fires behind me, I squint hard at the rock-strewn beach and try to see if anything looks familiar.

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Amsterdam, Food, Holland, Paris, Photography, Sex, Travel, Writing

Amsterdam: No Directions

11891192_711289038983122_3242937641971891705_nIt doesn’t hit me how rude the Parisians are until I get to Amsterdam and a woman smiles patiently at me when I ask for directions. I want to know how to get to Damrak, a street that, as it turns out, we are standing on.  She apprises me of this fact without any judgment. This is radically unlike Paris, where when you ask for help, they look at you with disdain and incomprehension, like you are standing there making armpit farts.

Despite the Dutch helpfulness, I’m hopelessly lost. Amsterdam is laid out in circles, like Dante’s Inferno, so if you stay on the same street for long enough, you end up back in the same place where you started, no closer to the Van Gogh museum than when you first set out.

I settle for a visit to the Amsterdam Sex Museum. It’s a sort of filthy musee mechanique, with mechanicals roughly wanking one another off or showing you their genitals, and apocrypha like old-timey condoms or two-thousand year old carvings of people giving blow jobs.FullSizeRender-7

What I love best at the Sex Museum is the old photographs. Photography was invented in nineteenth century, and people immediately began documenting their junk: a photograph from 1870 shows a man with an enormous Civil War beard inserting his semi-erect penis into a woman who looks like Kathy Bates. There is a look of dreamy calm on both their faces. In another photo, this one from nineteenth-century Russia, a nun flogs the bared bottom of a saucy peasant girl with some tree branches.  The photos are beautifully preserved; someone cherished them.

My love for naked photos is long-established. When I was fifteen, I posed naked for some friends who were doing a photography project for school. I remember those photos emerging from the darkroom, and it was like seeing what I looked like for the first time.   I loved those images, and I like to believe that the photos still exist somewhere, my teenage body spread out in the snow, making bare-ass snow angels. Something had opened up in me, in front of the camera. I wonder if the women in these photographs felt that power too, the power of showing yourself. Could they have guessed that these pictures would be collected, hoarded, hidden, that they would eventually migrate from private hands to end up behind glass, valuable things that they are?

The most crowded room at the sex museum is the fetish room. It’s interesting how regional fetishes are, and what they reveal about a culture.   According to the museum’s smeary informational wall-panels, the world can thank the United States for all the anal sex in pornography; the write-up posits that this is due to American feminism and the sexual revolution, resulting in more non-procreative types of sex.   (Here I must note: my love for anal sex has nothing to do with my feminism. Never do you feel more like you have handed over the keys to your body than when somebody is in your ass).    The next informational panel proclaims that Americans love bondage, so what does that tell you? No sooner do we get our freedom than we go looking for someone else to take it away.

It’s not the pot or the prostitutes that leave me feeling Amsterdam’s otherness, it’s the small differences, like the fact that the iced tea is carbonated here, or that French fries are served with mayo. After dinner, the smoking-hot waitress brings over some kind of Dutch lollipop that is filled with, I believe, baking soda.   In front of the royal palace in Amsterdam, there are the same costumed photo-op Mickey Mice that populate Times Square back home, but here they are joined by Freddy Kreuger and the Grim Reaper.   It’s a weird place. If Amsterdam were a person, it would be someone’s little Goth sister, the one that says smutty things to try to shock you.  I buy a vibrator at a Christine le Duc, a store where an elderly British woman is walking around shopping, and she asks my advice on a toy she wants to buy; do I think it will be good for her clitoris? I love that I look like the kind of stranger to whom you would pose this question.

I buy other things here, like anatomical drawings labeled in Dutch: a spine, a human heart.  Below the bones and tissues, the Dutch word for dissection. I have to restrain myself from acquiring the skull of an ibex I find in an antiques store; how the fuck would I fit it in my carry-on bag?

My bag is getting heavier. This whole trip has been about minimal baggage, but it’s impossible not to accrue at least a few plastic magnets along the way. And of course, I buy gifts for Sketch, selecting a Rembrandt etching from Rembrandt’s actual house, because Sketch should be here. I can picture him in perfect detail, standing in front of Rembrandt’s easel in his boots, being so much cooler than every other man I meet.

But then, Amsterdam doesn’t promote the kindest view of manhood. I watch the men bro-out all stoned in the square, pretending to shove one another in the canal, taking pictures of the prostitutes in the windows in the Red Light District.   How do the women feel, behind the glass? Does the window make them feel safe, or does it make them feel cut off, like a chicken breast in the butcher’s window? In the lights, their lingerie glows.   I try to catch one woman’s eye, but her gaze slides around me with a practiced evasiveness. She is working.

I meet up with some friends at the Dam, a monument that looks like a huge phallus. “Amsterdam is so cool,” I enthuse. “It’s like the Brooklyn of Europe; it’s like Bushwick with canals.” To which my friend laughs, “You know, we can drive to the actual Breukelen, that Brooklyn was named after.” And we do, and I buy strawberries there; there are cows, and horses with names like Peter.  I love Holland.

Reluctantly, I leave Amsterdam and head back to rude Paris, to meet a French dude I met online. He has an umlaut in his name, which impresses me. If I told you his name, you would agree that it sounds like the name of a sea monster. We will visit Pigalle, the Parisian red-light district for people who like their smut lame and sad. After Amsterdam, it is disappointing, mostly sex shops peddling cheap, flammable-looking lingerie and racks of porno dvds for people who don’t know about the internet yet. There is, of course, the famous Moulin Rouge here, but all the tourists waiting for the show are sexless middle-aged white people in Euro Disney rain slickers. They want to tell people that they saw real Paris cabaret, but so far as I can tell, to find real burlesque here you would need a time-machine. Much like New York, Paris is a city that has lost its keen edge.IMG_2400-1

I try telling all this to my date, the Umlaut. He smiles the way a monkey does, baring both his upper and his lower teeth, but I kiss him anyway, feeling nothing. The only bolt of desire I feel is when I ask him to say something dirty to me in French, and he growls a bunch of French I don’t follow in my ear. The only word I catch is salope, which I know means whore, at which point I consider taking him home, because that is how I am wired. According the fetish room in Amsterdam, I am not alone in wanting to be called names in foreign languages.

But I go home without him. We had escargot for dinner and I am obnoxious with garlic, and I want to be alone. Solo, I keep trying to find my way; I will refer to the map a hundred times, I will count the canals I cross, I will look for landmarks. I will find a way to chart a straighter path through all these circles, to find my way at last to a different spot. With any luck, there will be a fizzy iced tea waiting for me at the end of it.

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Lady from the past, are you me? I love you.

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Art, dating, Food, France, Paris, Photography, Travel, Writing

A Common Tongue: Paris Part II

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The theme for the day is kissing men in front of French landmarks; I’ve arranged to meet some guy I met online in front of the Bastille monument that evening. I had only clicked the heart beside his picture by accident, but I was glad I did. We’ve traveled to many of the same places, and I chatter happily at him as he squires me around the neighborhood of Marais, pointing out buildings built before the first American colonies were a thing. He is older, more diminutive than I generally go for, but he writes reviews for the opera world and he is well-read and delightfully informative. He indulges without commentary my wish to have chocolat chaud even though it is August, and he brings me to this amazing place beside the Louvre, where they put crème fraiche instead of whipped cream on top.

Afterwards, I think he’ll kiss me in front of the Louvre’s glass pyramid, illuminated and surrounded by brides having their photos done, but he doesn’t. Nor does he kiss me on our stroll over the Pont Neuf bridge, or at the Paris Plage, where we sit with our feet dangling over the Seine and watch the Eiffel Tower go all disco. The lights twinkle madly for five minutes on the hour.

IMG_2203He waits until we are in front of Notre Dame before pulling me in close to kiss me.   He is slim and smart and kind and thoughtful, and the moment is beautiful, and I wish I could feel the lust and joy I think it ought to elicit, but I don’t. I really like him, but my vagina is tapping her watch and pointing out that the last Metro is in ten minutes.

What is it that makes chemistry with some people, and not with others? I would be delighted to feel it with this informed, charming man. We could make out in front of monuments all over the world. I want to feel it, but I don’t. Even as he kisses me, I am distracted, trying to think what verb I might apply to him for this blog entry and coming up short. Expirer, maybe. The French word for breathing out, with the English word for running out of time tucked inside.

I am running out of time here in Europe, and I still don’t have any answers.  In Paris, the leaves are already changing color and skittering along the sidewalks. I want to feel what I feel with Sketch, with someone else, anyone else, but I don’t. I want to call him, from across the world, even though I know what it will cost me.

I get an incomprehensible, Google-translated text from one of the men who demonstrated real French kissing on the Rue des Lombards the other night.   He wants to meet up, and I think about his enormous hands, and I put my hands on myself and I am tempted, but it’s too frustrating trying to conjugate all the verbs in someone else/s native tongue. Maybe there is someone other than Sketch that I could love, but maybe he is on the other side of the world and we do not speak the same language so I will never know him.   It is a depressing thought.

There is a language barrier here, a concrete dividing wall between me and even the English-speaking Parisians. I ask for something: Avez-vous le wifi? Or Are you still serving lunch?  They answer with a curt non. Not: No, I’m sorry, I wish I could help you, I’m sorry you don’t have the thing that you need. Just non, with the implication that it was rude of me to even ask.

Maybe this is something I need to cultivate for myself, non as a complete sentence. I can’t just say non; I need to make elaborate excuses. I don’t know what is wrong with me.

This city is making me crazy, so I try to do the things that make me feel more like myself: I go to a Bikram yoga class, and although it is all in French, I can follow along. I know what ouvrier means, and I do. Amidst the reeking carpets and the jacked Parisians, I open.

I decide I need to spend a day by myself, and I go to Pere Lachaise cemetery, where the crows call out overhead in French and I visit the graves of Jim Morrison and Balzac and Delacroix and Charlie Chaplin. Alone, contented, I spend time with the bones of Collette, a French writer who asked her man to lock her in her room and not let her out until she had finished her writing for the day. I identify with Collette.

I eat my lunch near the grave of Oscar Wilde.   I had gone there, looking for something pithy on his tombstone, and here’s what I found: “And alien tears fill for him/ Pity’s long broken urn/ For his mourners will be outcast men/ And outcasts always mourn.” It’s not funny, and my eyes fill up unexpectedly. No other grave has been so defaced with lipstick kisses; they had to put up a plexiglass screen to protect it.   I kiss the glass, leaving a mark amidst the all the other outcasts.

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Food, France, Photography, Travel, Writing

French Kissing Lessons: Paris

FullSizeRender-3 The plane from Florence to Paris is delayed for eight hours while we camp out like refugees in the airport, eating consolation sandwiches and waiting.  Airports appeal to the street-urchin side of my personality; nowhere else is it acceptable for adults who are not homeless people to sit on the floor eating stale pretzels out of a bag and muttering to themselves.  I make myself right at home.

Airports also make me incredibly chatty, and as I have no idea what is going on, I appeal to those around me.   This is how I meet an enormous lovesick Parisian, holding his suitcase in one hand and a bottle of Chianti for his ex-girlfriend in the other.   “She broke up with me two months ago,” he tells me, ripped up in all the same places as me. “But I’m still hoping.”

We share the common tongue of those who can not let go, and when finally the airline confesses that our plane is actually at Pisa airport, over an hour away, and that we will need to find a bus to meet it, I hang stubbornly onto my new best friend’s gigantic sleeve.   We eventually land at Charles de Gaulle at three in the Paris morning, long past any hope of public transit, but Lovesick lives near the apartment I am staying in, and I have faith that he will make sure I get home. In the movie of our travel adventures, I tell him, we would be trying to make it from Florence to Paris first with conventional planes, busses, and taxis, eventually enlisting helicopters and maybe submarines. In the film, the wine that Lovesick is bringing home for his ex-girlfriend would be forever imperiled; he almost lost it at airport security in Pisa, and in the film it would fall over a highway overpass into a truck-bed filled with cushiony hay and we would have to chase it down on stolen Vespas.

I try explaining all this to Lovesick, whose jet-lagged and exhausted English is not up to the task of following me. He all but claps a hand over my mouth and instructs the cabby to drop me in front of my apartment. I realize: I am in Paris. There are ten terrifying minutes when I can not figure out where to touch the front-door magnet to unlock the lobby door, and resort to waving the magnet around in the air like a conjurer, but eventually I make the proper contact and am inside, in an beautiful, uninhabited apartment a New York friend has lent me the keys to.   The heated towel rack restores my faith in travel, and a shower later, I am so glad that I’m here that I can’t sleep. I keep opening my eyes to see if it is morning yet.

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So French.

The next day, I walk around Paris, involuntarily squealing: at la Tour Eiffel, at the macarons, at all the French people. Sketch liked to say about certain things: “That’s so French.” I’m not sure what made certain things, like tight underwear or neat little moustaches, particularly French to him, but this never failed to make me laugh. I’m laughing now as I type this, the kind of laughter that’s like broken ribs. At the Louvre, I take pictures of the portraits by David, Gerard, and Sketch’s favorite, Pierre-Paul Prud’hon. They are so French.   I will keep these photos on my phone, like Lovesick, carrying that damn bottle of Chianti; somehow, having them means I will see Sketch again.

After a Musee D’Orsay / Louvre doubleheader, I get a text from Lovesick inviting me to meet some of his friends on the Rue des Lombards at a bar. His friends are each foxy in their own way. One is funny and wildly flirtatious, with corkscrew hair.   Another is trim and intelligent, the son of a French diplomat. He has traveled everywhere and speaks five languages fluently, including one language I have never heard of; he is an accomplished salsa dancer. The third friend who joins us was a former NBA draft pick, who blew out an ankle and with it his shot at the pros; he speaks no English, but watches me with moist, gentle eyes, his hands the size of trashcan lids. He places one on my leg and I shiver.

What follows: hours of these men getting drunker and wilder in their competition for my attention.   For this sex addict, this night will go down as my Mardi Gras, my St. Patrick’s Day, my New Year’s 1999 all rolled into one bacchanalian feast of getting-some.

The guys tell me I have not experienced French kissing until a French person kisses me, and so first I kiss the son of the diplomat, leaning over the café table and toppling drinks. He bites a little, and he will bite harder as I proceed to kiss each of his friends: the funny one, who buys me a rose from a passing peddler, and then the one who speaks no English, who will use his phone to translate the question: Will you come home with me tonight?

I am sorely tempted. But as the night slips on closer to the hour of the last Metro because this is not New York and the freaking subway CLOSES here, the guys have fallen into drunken argument. They take pictures of one another kissing me, threatening to send the pictures to the girlfriends whom, naturally, they all have at home. Under the table, their hands are all over me.

The smart one, the diplomat’s son, bites me too hard when I kiss him good-bye. My mouth tastes like blood.    Lovesick, who has been talking quietly with his friend about his ex-girlfriend, begins sobbing into his hands. He’s so hurt; I hope she comes back to him, whoever she is. I walk him to the Metro, leaving his friends to their squabbles, clapping him on the shoulder. Of all these men, Lovesick is the only one who is single, and he is the one who is least available. I leave him at the Bastille stop, thinking about how we are all prisoners, and how everyone who tries to love someone is a revolutionary, one who better be ready for blood.

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Ominous symbol of love in Paris: the padlock. So many of them have been clapped onto the guardrails of the bridges, the weight threatens to pull them right into the Seine.

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Blogging, dating, Food, Relationships, Travel, Writing

Minimal Baggage: Rome

images-38Before I have even left New York, I take a Roman to bed.

While I am packing, I suddenly remember him, a handsome journalist whom I met while I was doing that whole celibacy thing last year, the way you remember a treat from the back of the refrigerator. I take him out for drinks to pick his brain before my upcoming trip to Italy, and things lead to other things. He lives in my friend’s building, and I have her keys, so when we get to the front of his building, I freak him out by pulling out my spare key and unlocking his lobby door like a magic trick.   “I know people,” I inform him breezily. “I am very popular.” The Roman is gorgeous, with that thick mane of hair Italians have, and those dark eyes, and a tenuous grasp of English syntax. I can tell I am losing him with my improvisational, slangy vocabulary, and our conversation is sparing by necessity.   I wonder if it bums him out, to be a writer who earns a living from his words, and to be here, and to find himself down to stock phrases with which to woo women.

His apartment has nothing hanging on the walls, no plants, no tchockes. There are four pairs of shoes facing the door with the socks still balled inside. It looks like he could leave at any time, but the Roman is a man who goes slow. He doesn’t tell me I’m beautiful; instead, he shows me, rubbing my bare back for an hour before unbuttoning a single button of his shirt. He holds my damaged and exhausted face like you would hold a kitten, and he looks at me until I think he can actually see me. He’s hard the entire time I’m there, even after sex, even after he falls asleep. He sleeps with both his arms around me, his stubble pressed into my forehead. It is exactly the right amount of human connection before I prepare to leave for Europe with a bag so small I can hide it under my pillow.

Or, at least, I keep trying for minimal baggage.  But things keep coming up. Hours before I leave for JFK, I have to go to Urgent Care; something is amiss with my lady parts. At first, I thought my girl-petals were just trampled from hours of sex with the Roman, but when they are still smarting a day later, I bike (uncomfortably) over for some last-minute medical attention.   Doctor Douchepants takes a look and heartily posits that it is an STD, a 1940ish one like the clap. “Looks like someone’s been having a little too much fun in New York City,” he chuckles, swabbing, while I glower in the stirrups. I get a shot of penicillin as a just-in-case, and he promises to email me the test results.   The only unprotected sex I’ve had this year was with Sketch, and I am already mentally dress-rehearsing how that conversation is going to go. How should I play it off, when I call him? Casual and off-handed? Accusatory? The naked truth is, I am dying to talk to him, even if it’s about VD.

It’s hard not to feel all this as the universe rebuking my sluttish ways.   It sucks, having all the illnesses that carry stigma; just once, I would like to have MRSA from building homes for orphans in Haiti or lockjaw from rescuing sad-eyed kittens from their rusty pens instead of, like, alcoholism and a complement of STDs.   All my diseases are the selfish ones you get from behaving badly.

One of the last messages I get from some dude online while I’m waiting for my flight is a question: Are you clean?   Like I’m a horse for sale. I answer with some choice words for him to reflect on and block him. Just the other day, I was messaging with some guy in the park who wanted to know what I was wearing. I told him a burqa.   He asked what I had on underneath.

I’m done, I’m out. I know that leaving New York fixes nothing, that wherever I go, I take myself, addictions and STDs and mess, with me. But I do like the sharpness of focus that travel brings, every step an engaging little puzzle.   I land in Copenhagen and am instantly confused, but somehow I feel OK about needing to be taken by the hand here. The Danish vending machine, which takes kroner or a credit card but only if you know the magical Scandinavian way of inserting it, is like a Sudoku puzzle, one with soda at the end of it. Abroad, there is magically less mental bandwidth with which to obsess about Sketch, and what he is doing, and whether or not he gave me a disease.

I fly on to Rome, brushing my teeth in the airport bathroom. This is the first time I’ve travelled someplace where the water is safe to drink, and Romans are profligate with their water.   In the middle of white-hot piazzas, I refill my bottle from another spouting baroque masterpiece; all the Bernini sculpture sucks involuntary noises of appreciation from me. There are no fountains like this in New York, and if there were, they would probably run with cigarette butts and the toe-jam of a thousand poorly-cared-for homeless people.

My path through Rome is a vast, lost, looping spiral, like the signature of a crazy person. I am wearing cutoffs so short that I am given a vaguely surgical-looking paper sarong at every church. In St. Peter’s, I slip into an annex where the guard stops me, telling me sternly, “Is not to visit, only to pray.” And I do pray. For Sketch, for my friends, for my insane family, for my diseased self. When I rise, I am embarrassed by the tears on my face.

I love it here, all the strata of ruined history. I relate to this city. It is messy, a city to be toured not with a clipboard, but with bleeding feet. I cross the olive green Tiber River, unmolested—I thought, and half-hoped, that I would have packs of men following me here, but they leave me alone. I talk to strange men without expecting any follow-up: an interesting but odorous Englishman on the Metro who could donate his breath to science, a Dutch dude who takes my picture with my hand in the mouth of the Bocca della Veritas. The marble mouth is supposed to bite off the hand of all liars, but I leave with both my hands, and walk around Trastevere, lost on purpose again. Someone is playing “As Time Goes By” on the sax, and I am eating a chocolate gelato as dark as my soul, and it all feels perfect. Everything is where it is supposed to be.   The email I get from the doctor, telling me that I don’t have any diseases, or at least not any new ones, comes almost as an afterthought.   When I turn around, no one is behind me, and I’m not following anyone either, but eventually I figure out where I’m going next.

The author, tempting fate.

The author, tempting fate.

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