Despite having early been catechized (brainwashed ?) in Roman Catholic superstition and mythology, escape from which required decades of grasping desperately on to one after another mystical, mythical, magical, occult arcana, the tenets of which I’d hoped might help me make sense of life, now, six decades in, I don’t believe in fate, nor, while I’m at it, have I any truck with kismet, karma, destiny, or divine will; Life is, or, has been in my experience, finally and for the most part, a cluster-fuck of Balzacian ruminations on the runes of relationships, romances, reactions, ridiculousnesses, riots, relentings, relinquishments, renunciations, recusals, refusals, and ruinations of the daily carrying-on with all of its numbing twists, clauses, asides, digressions and distractions, until, at last, one reaches that terribly welcome and none-too-soon full-stop.
The detection of a pattern therein, an a-ha discovery of underlying plan or ultimate purpose is soothsaying sophistry, as in, bullshit, a story we tell ourselves that we might soldier on through the meaninglessness, ignoring the fact that we all to dust return. We want, so desperately, to think there is more than this, than today, and so we try to string together a narrative of the yesters and tomorrows and was and will be.
It’s why I write. I’ve tens of thousands of pages of journals from age twelve to now, cartons of stories and poems and unfinished novels and finished plays and cabaret patter and emails and letters and effluvial desiccated esoterica as records my lifelong rant and raving in search of meaning, of doing the math of existence that I might find the capital T: Truth.
Which just keeps me going in circles. Fucking geometry. I have always been terrible at every branch of math. Fucking geometry. Fucking circles. Math. Matthew. Plural, actually, Matthews.
Yesterday, October 12, was the day in 1998 when Matthew Shepard was crucified on a fence near Laramie, Wyoming. He was killed because he was gay.
Yesterday, October 12, 2015, I was in the locker room of my gym when a young boy who is at the gym a lot, who I see all the time, who is one of the regulars who talk to each other quite a bit, details about all of whom I have overheard and noted, casually responded to another young boy’s remark about having bad knees with, “That’s what you get, faggot.”
Some days, I just can’t. And I just have to.
Me: Whoa, no. That’s unacceptable. And offensive.
Me: The derogatory F-word for gay – you can’t throw that around.
Boy: It doesn’t mean anything.
Me: It means something to me. It means something to every gay kid who gets beat up because we live in a world where boys like you think it’s okay to throw it around like an insult. It means something to Matthew Shepard’s mother whose son was left to die on a fence in the middle of a Wyoming desert 17 years ago today – probably the year you were born – because he was a worthless faggot. Like you just said I was.
Boy: Dude, I’m 19.
I walked away. I was only wearing a towel at the time. Which was bad enough, but worse, I was – I knew – any second – going to start crying. Because, Matthew. Because all the times I was called faggot through my life, chased, hit, terrorized. Because all the people who didn’t die, tied to fences, but, rather, suffered long slow, tortured, prolonged deaths called life, where they were starved for the oxygen of self by a world where boys in locker rooms casually call one another faggot and no one calls them on it.
And I am tired of it. I am exhausted. I am weary of the Matthews.
Matthew is the name I christened a character in my novel, that Balzacian-unpublished, yet to be two-million-dollar advanced first novel about which I’m always talking. Matthew is a boy, late teens to twenties in the story, who would call another boy faggot, who would use his confused, ambiguous sexuality as a weapon, as a manipulative tool, because he was tortured by the fear instilled in him in a world where faggot is casually tossed and thought okay. Matthew, in my novel, is built of parts of many of the boys by whom I was tormented, taunted, and, later, the young men who I tried to rescue, in whose eyes and souls I sought refuge, solace, through the saving of them, meaning to save my younger self, to rewrite my past by shaping their presents.
The locker room boy, the faggot-caller, after his friend had gone, approached me.
Boy: Dude, I’m sorry. It didn’t mean anything. It’s just a dumb word. I’m sorry – I mean it. I didn’t know you were gay. I wouldn’t have said it.
Me: There’s so much wrong with that sentence, kid, I don’t even know where to start.
He huffed and walked away. I know. I missed a moment when he was trying, sincerely I think, to make amends, and wasted the opportunity to maybe educate, maybe enlighten, because I was being a snarky, curmudgeonly, hurt-feelinged, exhausted Charlie.
Sorry. Some days, I can’t.
And, here’s the part – the circle arc – I’d never put in a story because it’s too unbelievable. That kid from the gym, his name is Matthew.
And, here’s the next part – another arc – ridiculously unbelievable but true; after all this happened I was feeling needy and lonely and sad and invisible and I decided to text someone I haven’t seen in a while, a someone in his twenties, a someone who would only ever keep me a secret, a someone who told me – for the first few times we conflagrated – that his name was Matthew. Eventually, we had an actual conversation and exchanged real names. He was not a Matthew. That night, the real conversation, was the last we saw one another – as if telling true names was too much. He messaged me a few times, but I was busy, then he stopped.
In my phone, I never changed his name, he is still Matthew. And, yesterday, I needed the Matthew of him, the surface, the touch. I texted.
NotMatthew: Who is this?
Me: Me – you used to call me [REDACTED] before we shared real names – I know it’s been a few months.
NotMatthew: Sorry, but I never shared shit with you. I just got this number two weeks ago.
Another Matthew gone.
I am struggling, trying NOT to make yesterday’s Matthews into some recondite lesson sent me by the universe, some catechetital instruction in the dogma of hermits. There is no doctrine, no foundational philosophy in which any of this makes sense or has a moral or is anything but one more digression on the way to my full stop.
I have always been bad, it seems, at Matthews.