We’re the sum of our experiences and the people that we share them with. They determine who we are and will be even if these experiences are temporary. I had spent a total of twelve days with Dr. Bill in Manhattan. That was thirteen years ago, but he had a influence on me. When I decided to revisit New York from Toronto after all that time, I had to look him up. Problem was that both his business and home phone numbers had been disconnected and he hadn’t used his Facebook in three years. When I arrived back in the city, I decided to drop by his place in Chelsea. He lived on W 19th Street, but I had trouble recognizing it because most of the shops on his street had changed. I remembered his front door though, very clearly. I nervously scrolled through the directory. His name wasn’t there.
I had originally met Dr. Bill at a party at the Roxy back in the day. I was high on E, like I usually was back then. I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time but I had a bit of a problem. He had come up to me, introducing himself as “Dr. Bill” and handed me a business card to prove it. At first I thought, that’s so New York, but I later learned that he was more modest than that. He was simply a proud man.
Dr. Bill was a hearty 6’2, thick and muscular with a hairy chest like some super hero. He was 42, double my age at the time, and was from Jersey (I could tell by his accent). I was so high that night that I can’t remember much else, just that I had gone home with him and we cuddled. The next morning in bed I do remember him confessing all sorts of things: how he had grown up on a trailer park in New Jersey with mother, how she used to beat him with a stick, and how he now sends her money out of a sense of obligation that he hardly understood. He also told me about his recent ex who was a drug addict and destroyed his life over crystal meth. Dr. Bill had tried to help him but his addiction got out of control so he finally paid him off to leave him alone. He seemed anxious as he explained these things in bed like he was trying to let them go, but you could tell that they were rooted deep in his mind. Maybe that’s why he wanted to help me.
Dr. Bill was a self made man, go-go dancing at circuit parties to pay his way through school. He never got wrapped up in drugs though, not like me. I admired him for his struggles and the sort of success he achieved in a city like New York. He had his own practice down the street from his place, loved his job and even had celebrity clients. This was where his pride came from.
We had seen each other a few more times that trip. He was the first person I ever let fuck me. He had a massive cock, which was frightening but I guess I felt safe around him. He fucked me in bed, in the kitchen, in the living room and in the bathroom in front of the mirror. After we came in the bathroom he held my hips and analyzed our reflection in the mirror. He smiled and said, “We’d make a great couple.”
After that trip he had urged me to visit again and again, so I did every couple of weeks. He always took care of me when I was there and offered advice so that I too could have a good life. I’d been disowned by my family for my sexuality and was pretty reckless those days with the drugs and stupid risks I’d take, so knowing someone who was so together inspired me. Whenever the taxi dropped me at his front door during those trips, I used to get so excited waiting to get buzzed in the front door. That will never happen again though—he doesn’t live there anymore.
I remembered that his office was down the street so I decided to try him there. I worried that it’d be awkward to ask for him at his place of employment but I needed to see him, just to lay eyes on him again. When I got there though the place was boarded up and there was a cage over the front door. It took me a moment to process: the idea that he had vanished made the city feel empty to me. He was everything I’d ever known about New York.
Dr. Bill had always been on my mind through my entire 20s. Anytime I tried to better myself I thought of him. I wanted to tell him that I’d stopped doing drugs and that I was finally doing something with my life that I loved. I wanted to apologize for how I acted when I was high and tell him that his influence made me a better person. He will always be a part of me regardless of where he ended up.
I finally walked away from his building, but thought to myself, I can’t just give up like that…
Mike's work has appeared in Instinct, The Gay and Lesbian Review and Daily Xtra. His first novel, Paris Demands, is out now by Lethe Press.
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