‘Music and Feelings’ by Ruiyan Xu


From Five Chapters:

A gay man always knows what kind of gay he is. Some of us make that determination early in life. Others deny and waffle, interloping into different types as if trying on costumes. But we are all interlopers, all invented, determined, performed selves. “Selves,” I say, as if there is such a thing. I learned from a young age that there is no such thing as a self; there is only the costume — only how you are seen by the world you inhabit, by those who judge you and whom you judge.

By the twelfth grade I knew of nine others in my public high school. I had known before, but I wasn’t certain. I hadn’t trusted myself until that fall. During the summer, I had gone to Ann Arbor for a program for the young and the talented. I painted and sculpted, I learned to scorn representation for abstraction, I had my first love affair, and I sat at the feet of Jack Javier, along with all the other fey, beautiful boys.

Jack was twenty-four and had a gallery in New York. He made sculptures out of foam, enormous facsimiles of pills – Advil and birth control, Valium and ecstasy – that were perfectly shaped, painstakingly finished to a high gloss. We looked for photographs of his work online that summer, and we found them, the pills as big as canoes, sitting in white-floored, white-walled rooms. Sometimes we also found pictures of Jack at parties and openings, staring coldly into the camera, wearing one of the thin, heather-grey T-shirts he wore everyday. He had a kind of glamour, a hard-edged one, that I found instructive at seventeen.

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