The House Dracula Built- by Gregorie Marshall

This pink deco palace sometimes appeared like the bed Rimbaud laid upon, holding his tool inone hand with a syringe hanging out the opposite arm. Life and destruction as starring participants in the same painting. Like Wojnarowicz remembered. Finding a man to love seemed more crucial than running this state-of-the-art, well-furnished place of business andidentity. I just wanted him. Whoever he was, I wanted him. I craved him to the point of tasting him. I was lonely, and searching for something to complete this illusion of a man? And I began a test, as if I were a bride in search of the most decadent wedding dessert. I tasted… and I saw. Cavalier about appointments. Cavalier about dick. That might be crass, but the truth isoften a combination of crass and sweet. Love is sweet. Searching for it can be a cruelty.Sounds like a wonderful journey you would think – the success of industry and the searchfor love. We rarely liken such a quest to darkness; we assume that this is light. But I was bestreceived in the dark of the night. What laid waiting for me in the dark of the night was sleeky men lurking for sexual satisfaction and I was prepared to give it to them at all costs. I gave it to them at all costs. It was like doing a drug, like the syringe I mentioned. I went places with mypenis that today I wouldn’t go with a gun. Penises of all sizes and shapes. One after the other. Memory is selective… and so is belonging. I remember the stroking… the rubbing… the thrusting… the choices. I remember feeling like I belonged but knowing that whatever the encounter, it was an illusion. However accomplished, now there’s alcohol, drugs, through these journeys and I still find myself unfulfilled. Darkness. I find myself trusting men that go to hotels and then beat me up for my money. Cruising the streets late night and letting men in my car that robbed me at knife point. Darkness. More penises. Lost and alone at night with more thrusting and more darkness. Less light. Then no light. Monsters. Dracula in several iterations.

Van Helsing. Bram Stroker. No matter whose telling the story, no matter how the monster shows up, this desire for the romantic lasting relationship was clearly an unrealistic set of fangs, and I was my own Dracula. Biting myself. Being educated in the many categories of what these homosexual relationships, again finding himself in an area of segregation, where new subcategories created discrimination amongst their own kind. Desperation was clearly part of trying to find a place to fit in. Belonging is selective…. Remember? My ears rang with the narcissistic tone of being used for their fulfillment and then the loud sound of the bass drum when I was discarded by the filth in which I looked for solace. All this random use of these men became dangerous territory with growing health concerns. Darkness causes AIDS to now be a crisis that was being politically ignored, more obnoxiously by the same careless men that created the steamy alluring fog of the dark nights that no one could conceive. This would prove to hold no decimation. This tempest storm as it evolved would create the need of coming together, bringing into light those who preferred the darkness of the night. Wojnarowicz identified with Rimbaud when he took photos, and in the twenty-six years since his death, he became a Rimbaud-like figure: young, iconoclastic, gay, and gone too soon. Would this be me? Damn.

One late afternoon, my last appointment of the day arrived. The pink palace was as royal as it could be. She was a petite woman with a look on her that would shield all from social harm better than your thickest Roman shield, and Rome wasn’t about to fall if she had anything to do with it. I said to myself, “This one is going to be a bitch.” Well as always, my transformation of her had to happen quickly and dramatically. Within the hour I reshaped her into the latest asymmetrical cut with soft highlights to frame this hardened face. Using real salon tools that felt strange in my hand because of the tools I’d been spending too much time massaging. During that short style visit, through our conversation, we discovered we shared the same last name, which gave her this unexplainable joy. Her real last name was probably something else, since she explained that her father’s name was changed upon his entrance to this country because it was too ethnic. This country. I swear. I felt she took this shared name we had as a sign – woman’s intuition let’s call it. She came back to me to have her hair done as much as possible and brought her family and friends to me as clients, almost as if to insure me a great success. She had some great plan for me. She really did. She would, a few years later, become the vessel that would bring to both of us a daughter that would forever change our lives.

It’s a Promise. Their eyes meet, miraculous beauty of a female, that loves you more and always. This is confusing yet amazing conflict. This is tantric – the promise of moonlight in her hair. This is the day I promised my best version of love in return for all the cornucopia of gifts he sees in her eyes. This is what I promised…. Added another song poem stanza.

I am a gay man who fathered a daughter, her entrance into the world saved his very life. Descriptors. Adjectives. When speaking of her, only then are they decent. Memory is selective… I remember becoming a father. I remember encountering this woman. I remember entering this woman. A woman always, and always has, and always will be the strongest, most responsible, most loving and most intelligent of the species, as long as she is respected and not ruled. This woman was open to all of my previous journeys. I remember our beginning began with the question “Have you ever had a girlfriend?” I answered: “Yes.” I remember entering this woman. I remember the stretching of her entrance and how it welcomed me in. That was… different. And we went on to have the most remarkable child together. A beautiful little girl. A melding of aestheticsof both of them, her almond eyes, full. This woman who was now my daughter’s mother was also my confidant. This one woman suggests to this new-found man to take one more HIV test to quell her concerns. With his fading glamourous past and his glorious future, he agreed completely and had blood drawn. Memory is selective. So is belonging. And I belonged… And I remember a little over a week after my daughter’s birth, I received my test results. Positive. HIV positive. Betrayed by blood again.

Yes. Blood. Again. A substance pumped through the body by the heart as asource of life. But for me, this crimson invigorate has tried to take breath from me. Three times blood has betrayed me. Consistent respiratory distresses caused the doctors to look deeper into my coded breathlessness. A tonsillectomy would be the remedy and serve to temporarily extract me from my catholic elementary school playground predators. My father came to visit me after
surgery, complete with popsicles and concern for my recovery. He asked, “Son, how are you doing?” I was never much for spilling my guts to my father, but his question was answered with the expressing of the contents of my stomach. Gallons of blood spilled from my mouth like lava from an erupting volcano. It is believed that Jesus’ blood was shed for the saving of all mankind. I have been disturbed to understand that my bloodshed has no such importance or relevance. It appeared to be no more than a continuation of horrors and false accusations. Damn. The final blood event came with the love of this woman. The loving eyes of my new-born daughter invoked the strength of a lion, the fierceness of a warrior, and the determination to remain in this life for my beautiful little girl. This syndrome, this condition was pushing me to leave my body behind, thus, leave her. At this time, treatment was null to none. There was no pill. No vaccine. No cure. No hope. I took to holistic treatments and educated myself as much as I could with the available drugs and methods that were simply pacifiers and nothing more. The President at the time ignored the plague at his best. There was also a class of men in dark suits with dark secrets who also were a hinderance. Capitalism was alive and working hard, and the dark suits of government, religion, and corporations seemed more concerned about spouting business and societal rhetoric than finding what was needed for me to stay alive. Now, this is the “faggot”, “fairy”, “gay boy” health crisis – the disease of the queer. Let the faggots figure out a
cure for themselves. No one told them to go bumping into each other in unnatural ways. Those words again. Only this time, these hated adjectives were being given the starring role in the drama of my life and the artistic license to decide whether or not there would be a final scene or sequel. So, “God bless the child who got his own!”

Frightened out of my mind, time was not on my side, but I had the beat of my marvelous daughter’s heart to help me preserve some sense of my sanity. One morning, everything changed. The dream scape I lived in as that young boy would come back to me, and I tried to enter it to find solace, but the door was locked. Blood locked me out again. I woke with a nose bleed, a quite cantankerous nose bleed. After many calls to the doctor, I was left with instructions to ice my neck and lay my head back. Such simple instructions did not match the severity of my experience, but he was my doctor. I should trust what he says and not question it… right? The bleeding slightly slowed but never stopped. I prayed only for the morning to be followed with a full dark night of blood – so much blood saturated the mattress filled a pickle tub almost to its rim. With a silent film noir running in my head, I told all those familiar around me: “Hurry, we must leave here. They are going to kill us all.” Fuck. Memory is selective. I don’t remember having a hospital bed delivered to my home to provide comfort in my newly enlightened state. Unlike Dorothy when the house hit the ground, my vision changed from technicolor to shades of gray and then total black, with no call for a close-up at the end of the film. I do remember hospice. I do remember the welcome mat in front of death’s door. Norma Desmond, it’s all over. But I was no Norma Desmond. “I think therefore I am… I think I’ll remain.” And I have remained. Miraculously. Unapologetically. It’s been said of Jesus’ blood that it never loses its power. By cogent determination, I rendered bloodshed powerless and commanded that it behave from now on. It has obeyed me. Thus, the final stanzas of the tattered song poem:

It’s a Threat. The last Blood Betrayal, came with no turning back, for now it runs through my veins. This threatens my life. Now nothing will be promised, unless a miracle abounds, and the anger I directed toward myself for not heeding the threat. It’s a Yearning. Blood can skip over what it wants to – it would not affect my new-born or her mother. Every ounce of passion in every sense seems to be met by forces threatening annihilation. By this point on this journey, I understood that the heart pumps the blood away from itself. We must be the force to bring it back, to sustain life. I yearned to live… It’s a regret. I regret not just letting himself be just that beyond, criticism, he regrets being fearful, when he had access to strength, He regrets saying yes when the circumstances called for a no. But he would not allow this regret to have power over the life in front of him, all the beauty and promise: No! I won’t let regret fester and miss all of life ahead. So I returned to my dreamscape, his world of make-believe colors and hues, that placed that had saved me as a boy. Only this time, to my dreamscape – to my world of sanity-saving art, I added the full poem. I titled it It’s A…

It’s a nod.
It’s a chase.
It’s a I want what he got.
It’s he wants what. I have.
It’s a promise.
It’s a threat.
It’s a yearning.
It’s a regret.
It’s a time to love. It’s a time to just be.
It’s a life we must live, and we must live it together. It’s a…

Uncannily, the young boy’s favorite Halloween costume was Dracula. Dracula – a blood-thirsty monster had been the character I assumed. Not knowing the legend, a tale to haunt the world at large, would hold more meaning in this life than I ever expected. Blood weaved in and out of this fabric that has now become my life. Monster – derives from the Latin word monstrum which means abnormal or supernatural in appearance. A slightly more hopeful definition means miracle or wonder. Monsters are commonly thought of as repulsive and abhorrent creatures. Yet, if focus is given to the wonder or miracle part of the definition, I am Dracula. I am thought to be repulsive and abhorrent by many. Queer. Unexplainable. Frightening. A monster. But to many, and most importantly, to myself, I am a wonder. A miracle. A survivor. By conservatives, whatever their rigidity be, I am an abnormal, scary “outsider”, made to present disgustingly because they deem themselves “insiders.” But is the outsider really an outsider? Or in the complex definition of Dracula, is the outsider is really the insider? Similar to the concept of a zoo. The authentic is held captive by the inauthentic. The bars are actually there not to protect what is captured and thought to be wild, but to keep safe those that captured the wild. I am no longer behind bars. I am free to roam about with no threat to those who observe, and if they are threated, it is by their own choice and not because I savagely attacked them. The hideous, arid, and misrepresented of me is a glass ceiling.

The wonderful and miraculous of me is my foundation. I live in a house that Dracula built. I am an insider – and concern for the thoughts of the real outsiders is the wasteful spending of great energy that if used properly, could be used to change the world. Artists change the world. As an artist, I am informed by both the natural and the divine. Like Jesus’ blood framed his journey, my blood journey informs my artist journey. My journey is a path hewn out by the cruelty and sadness of a series of events that led to understand and appreciate… me. Therefore, I state that in creating art, it becomes clear to me to use my life experiences the good, bad and the unresolved to create a Masterpiece. I want to use these experiences to cause others upon reflection to see the ultimate beauty of themselves. Stigmas are created by the ignorance of those that are uneducated, who by their own fear do not procure the ability to understand the enigma – the Monster – the beauty that lies within the soul that renders their thoughts and opinions irrelevant. Anyone that finds the need to deplete one’s difference holds no power or purpose in life to create a better day. For it is not in gender, or ethnicity, sexual choice, or in illness that gives anyone the power to call another less than or the right to discriminate against anyone. For in that heart and soul lies the promise to love, the opportunity to give back, and the way of kindness, which we all desire to reap as we have sown it. I refuse from this moment forward, through free will from my plotted disadvantage, to allow the greed of capitalist souls to use me to their advantage. I am awakened to the stigma that is honestly owned by those who arrogance attempted to cage me by creating it. I am completely comfortable living my life maskless, committed to be appreciated for who I truly am. For to try to rise above stigma is an illusion; the truest accomplishment is to know and accept that we are all the same. Through art, I hope to teach others to learn to love and treat each other as bounty and not as gain. To teach the  world live in respect for the breath of those who stand before us longing to be loved. For to be loved authentically through all our differences without shame or stigma creates the reason to be.

And this I learned in the house that Dracula built.

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