Monday, August 25, 2008

patti smith

I was thinking about sin yesterday, whether I still have any conception of it, whether the concept holds any currency with me, and whether the guilt that I feel after doing something "wrong" is some remnant of my early Catholic upbringing. So when Patti Smith came out for her encore last night at the park at Lincoln Center and she started singing "Gloria," I got very emotional, got chills up and down, and felt ready to cry, because she was talking about sin and about being responsible for your own, or something else, but it hinted at truth, or at least the one I was looking to hear, and those opening lines I was so ready to sing with her:

Jesus died for somebody's sin
but not mine

The night before I did stupid, harmful shit. I went to a sex party and had unprotected sex with someone with HIV. I was very drunk and stoned, but more than that I was my reckless self, satisfying the devil inside me, the thing hungry and always asking for sex, dirtier, naughtier, and I had to feed it. It was on the subway ride home that I really started to hate myself, though it would seem that perhaps that that moment actually occurred earlier, that the self-hatred must have been present when I was engaging in knowingly risky sex. But on the subway ride back to my house, four something in the morning, I started to get really down, wondering what was to be done with me, that I continue to engage in really destructive behavior despite having already taken PEP treatment, knowing how annoying that was, despite having friends with HIV, despite so many things, countless really, I continue to do this, have unsafe sex, sometimes even with people with HIV.

Some changes have to be made. I already had some other changes in mind, more personal and artistic ones, but apparently many other ones need to be made. I really don't think that I can attend naughty parties anymore, and a friend told me that it may already be too late to make that resolution, that I may have already infected myself, and that is true. And I have been given quite a lot of second chances, have engaged in risky behavior numerous times and have always come out unscathed, but this party may have been it, may have been something else. I guess I will find out in a couple of months. This has become a routine. I have unsafe sex, freak out about it just below the conscious level for three months, wondering if I am going to test positive, test negative, feel free, out of the woods, and then repeat, the periods of time where I am sure that I don't have HIV much shorter, much more brief, than the long three month windows of not knowing. And I hate that. I honestly don't know why, hating that, that I continue to put myself into that situation. I am so confused about my actions and why I engage in some, and I kept coming back to the subject of sin yesterday, thinking what it means to be sex-positive for the most part, to be liberated about notions of guilt and attachment, to have a pretty free attitude toward sex, and then coupled with that for there still to be in me somewhere the Catholic childhood, the thing that said sex was wrong, that masturbation was, the two of those things holding erotic sway because I wasn't supposed to engage them in, a thrill being obtained from trespassing rules. But when there are no longer rules, when I have thrown off those earlier methods of thinking, when sex becomes such a casual thing, where are the rules to be broken? At what sites and in what scenarios can sin still occur? And I thought to myself that perhaps this is why over the years I have found myself drawn more and more to non-vanilla things, to armpits and feet, to piss, drinking it, to abuse, and lately also to unsafe sex. With the general idea of sex now okay, something that is acceptable in my life and guilt-free, I have been pushing out to new frontiers, trying to reexperience that guilt feeling, that thrill of doing something entirely wrong.

But this wrongness that I am eroticizing, that of unsafe sex, is actually wrong. It really troubles me that in moments of heat, I value the erotic thrill of the wrong more than the consequences that may come about because of that wrong. And there is Patti Smith closing her amazing show with "Gloria," talking about sin. Midway through her set, she played "Free Money," and that was by far my favorite moment in the show, making me forget certain things and remember others, she performing that song so well, invoking some spirits with it.

I didn't know where I was during that song. I knew that I was in New York, outside of Lincoln Center, but felt to be in some other time and some other New York, someone's bedroom was evoked for me, and I felt younger than I was, more unsure and hopeful about the things that might lie ahead in my adult life, for that song felt like I was 17 in some sad bedroom (or a car at night) and blaring this song, hoping for better things. The crowd was pretty uptown at the show, lots of old folks and people dressed like they just left the office, but what was amazing was to watch these uptown ladies, young professionals, early thirties and late twenties, looking kind of boring in their black dresses and nice haircuts, rocking out to Patti Smith, singing along and jumping up and down, and I saw their 17 year old selves, saw these ladies for the moody teens that they probably were, that underneath this office wear, that teen is ready to break free and dance to "Free Money," to lose its shit, our shit.

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