Humans of New York
Humans of New York

@humansofny

New York City, one story at a time.

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Humans of New York
humansofny
“My first tattoo said: “I Hate.” I tattooed over it a long time ago. I was twenty-one when I got it. It was a very self-destructive period of my life. I’d dropped out of college. My girlfriend had just left me for an older guy. I’d gotten a Mohawk and was doing a lot of slam dancing. I felt like everyone in the family was disappointed with me. My dad was a very successful attorney. My brother was a diplomat. So I rebelled against everything and decided that I was going to live the whole ‘poetry lifestyle.’ I lived in the desert for a couple years. Then I came to New York and tried to survive as a poet. I ended up working as a freak in the Coney Island Side Show. But after fifteen years, even that became like any other job. It was the exact same thing every day. Only the audience changed. I still haven’t figured out what I was trying to escape. There’s no such thing as a true outsider. We all have to breathe. We all have to eat. We all have to work. I wanted to run away from everything but I ran into myself. I’m still a middle class, intellectual kid from the suburbs.”
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“God doesn’t answer my prayers like he once did. But he still talks to me. He talks to me through my mind and through my own mouth. He’s upset with me because he wanted me to wave at someone on the street and I didn’t. So he took away my money and told me to leave my jobs. My family put me in the hospital and they said I was bipolar. But I’m not mentally ill. I take the medicine because it’s part of the deal for me having my own apartment, but I’m not mentally ill. When I’ve paid my debt, God is going to transform my voice. He’s going to make me a great singer. One night I had a dream that I was singing and something golden fell from the sky. And I caught it so everyone gathered around me. I hope you pray about me and then you’ll see the truth. Pray to God and ask him: ‘Is this man honest, or is he mentally ill?’”
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“I always thought of kids as being simple in a way. I knew that having a child would be challenging, but I underestimated how complicated their emotions can be. I thought I’d have greater influence over my child’s mood. I imagined that I’d be able to make him happy when he’s unhappy. I hoped that I would always have a solution. But you learn quickly that some unhappiness doesn’t have a quick fix. And often it’s just part of who he is. And that can be painful to accept. Sometimes I just have to provide as much guidance as possible, and trust that he’ll find comfort within himself.”
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“My mom and I have always been close. But we had to learn how to communicate again after my dad died. It took therapy. We’d stopped being honest with each other. My dad’s illness had been so stressful that we didn’t want to create any additional worries. So we tried to protect each other. Neither of us would admit if we were having a bad day. Or if we were feeling depressed. The answer to everything was always: ‘I’m fine.’ But we weren’t fine. And it was obvious. So we worried about each other all the time. It caused a lot of stress and arguments. We had to relearn how to admit when we were having a bad day. Because you can never truly know if someone's 'fine' unless you trust them to tell you when something's wrong."
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“I call them clobber verses. There are six of them. They’re the verses that get used to hammer gay people. The funny thing is that I never felt pressured by God himself. Only his followers. But I desperately wanted God to change me. I didn’t want to be part of a group with so much shame attached to it. So I started praying in my twenties for God to make me straight. If I could have taken a pill, I would have. I joined the ministry. I got married. I told my wife that I’d had experiences with men, but I convinced both of us that I could choose to be different. I wanted to be normal. I wanted kids. I thought it was just a matter of commitment. I even tried to take reparative therapy classes—just to show her I was serious. They tried to teach me that homosexuality wasn’t real. They said that I'd just had an overbearing mother. But I couldn’t change. I kept slipping up. I couldn’t give my wife what she needed. My marriage ended. I had tried so hard but nothing worked. I got so angry with God for not keeping up his end of the bargain. But after some time, I finally realized why he wouldn’t change me. He never felt like he needed to.”
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“I like watching her get excited about things. She has a very distinct look when amazement comes over her face. Like she gets really excited about dachshunds. I always text her pictures of dachshunds. Or the tile work at the 81st street subway station. She loves that. Or warm socks. I mean… warm socks are kind of exciting to me. But she really loves warm socks.”
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“I thought when I came to New York it was going to be this huge change of scenery and that I could be whoever I want to be. I thought there’d always be a plan, or an event, and that I’d never feel alone, and that I’d be very ‘fabulous’ — for lack of a better word. ‘Carrie Bradshaw-esque,’ so to speak. But in reality, I still spend a lot of time alone. I think it’s because I’m afraid of being a burden on those around me. What if I’m not fun enough? What if the parts of me that are sad and complaining outweigh the parts of me that are good? Will I be wasting other people’s time? And when I do spend time with other people, I’m afraid to demand a certain level of kindness and respect. Because maybe that will make me even more of a burden. So I don’t reach out to other people very much. I spend a lot of time alone. But then I still get mad when I look on Snapchat and see people hanging out without me. But I’m trying to change my thinking. I’m not allowed to feel left out if I’m not making an effort. I’m not the protagonist of reality. I can’t expect good relationships to happen just because I exist.”
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“Last year I started figure modeling for art classes. I’m plus-sized, so I was a little worried about being nude. I was nervous about everyone seeing my stomach, and my thighs, and all my fat. But apparently my curves are fun to draw. In the classroom, all the features I saw as negative were viewed as assets. One student told me that it’s no fun to draw straight lines. It’s been liberating for me. I’ve always been insecure about my belly. But now my belly has been part of so many beautiful pieces of art.”
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“I want to be a stand up comic. The hardest thing is to find material that’s not just funny—but also true. Funny can just be a surprise. But good comedy articulates truth in a certain way. And I don't think I've experienced enough to know what’s true for other people. I’ve had a bit of a charmed life. Nothing too traumatic has happened to me. I have a lot of creative energy but I’m not sure that I have the arsenal to back it up. Recently I was at an open mic upstate, and there was an older guy performing who used to be a heroin addict. There was just this sense that you should be paying attention to every word he says, and not just the punch line. I’m not there yet.”
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“I felt like sometimes she didn’t want me born. I was like Cinderella—even though I was a dude. She blamed me for everything. Maybe it’s because I was ugly, I guess. Girls were all running from me. My brothers were better looking. When I grew older, it was all about money. Mom and I never discussed anything personal. It seemed like she always wanted something from me. One time I called her crying, because I was trying to quit marijuana, and I felt really depressed. She just told me: ‘You’re wasting all that money on weed. You could be giving it to me instead.” She used to cash my student loan checks. One time she even used my social security number to get a credit card, and I didn’t even know until I got the bill. So I detached myself from her. I stopped answering the phone. Then two years ago she called to tell me she had cancer, and she needed an operation, but I didn’t even answer the phone. I thought she was tricking me again. She left a message, it said: ‘Michael, I’ve been trying to get a hold of you. I love you. And I know you love me.’ And I just ignored it. And she died. And I’m haunted by that. I’ve been trying to write about my life lately, but I can’t get past my mother. I wish I could just start my story with that phone call. With her saying that she loved me. The only other time I ever felt love from her was when I tried crack cocaine. I was a teenager, and I had been using for a couple weeks, and I went in her room to ask for baking soda. She started crying, and she looked scared, and she said: ‘Michael, why do you need baking soda?’ And I felt love at that moment. And it was so strong that I quit doing crack right then. I never used again. I didn’t go to a program or anything. That’s how strong that feeling was.”
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“I’m what they call ‘ethnically ambiguous,’ so I get a lot of work as a background actor. I’m playing a ‘parkgoer’ today. It’s my 25th job since October. In Madam Secretary alone, I’ve played an Israeli military officer, a Colombian college student, and an advisor to the Iranian president. And that was all in the same season. They’ll keep using you as long as you don’t have any speaking lines. Maybe one day I'll have a recurring role, but right now I’m really grateful to be doing this. My parents are immigrants from El Salvador. They are the hardest working people I know. They were really skeptical about me wanting to be an actor, so I love that they get to see me working. My first gig was a Hallmark Christmas movie with Melissa Joan Hart and Dean Cain. My parents couldn’t believe that I was on the same show as Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Superman.”
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“When the last kid left for college, it came to a point where it was just pretense. And I couldn’t hide it anymore. I was tired of worrying if people suspected, or if they’d find out, or if they’d still care about me if they knew. The first person I came out to was my wife. It was wrenching. It was the end of our marriage. I just kept telling her I was sorry. I think she felt abandoned. And I’m sorry for that. I also think she felt that our life together was a lie. But I don’t see it that way. We were a family. We had four wonderful children that we raised to adulthood. And those are facts. I’m not happy about the hurt I caused. But I feel authentic now. I regret the things I did, but I’m so happy about what I’ve done.”
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