No Happy Endings: A Post-Private Massage, an essay by Zak Stone for #ETINTERBRO
When youâ€™re flirting with someone you have to be very aggressive, he told me after. You have to show them that you want to make them yours. But, at the same time, that you donâ€™t give a shit.
We were observing the localsâ€”a young couple giving their son a swimming lesson by the waterfallâ€”while chatting about privacy, about whether or not itâ€™s disappearing.
Is a post-private world futuristic or nostalgic?
My thoughts: Outside our specific worldview, privacy is hazy. Parents, family, neighbors, watch, listen, ogle you eating, breastfeeding, screaming. They give feedback.
Only those who are free can get bothered about privacy. Itâ€™s a prestigious right.
In Southern Arizona border patrol agents have erected outposts on the northern side of the border. â€œAre you on American citizen? Are you an American citizen?â€ they ask drivers commuting through the desert.
Video phone in hand, privacy activists drive their cars up to the checkpoints, stop, roll down the window, and thenâ€”when asked the routine questionâ€”refuse to answer, press â€˜record.â€™
The community of activists (itâ€™s a straight-white-guy thing) posts their defiance to YouTube. Itâ€™s for privacyâ€™s sake (not for immigrantsâ€™).
They get lots of hits.
Both those who arenâ€™t like them experience privacy differently.
The family swimming in front of us may occupy a realm thatâ€™s maybe pre- or post private, to which we are just returning or arriving, he suggests. (Weâ€™re staring at them.)
My thought: We who have privacy are choosing to give it up, and we should do so proudly.
We ascend the castle and the massage begins. His hands press my back while I think about shame and fucking, about sex and love, and what I look like now on the ground, and how it feels to be watched.
A womenâ€™s voice monotonously describes the loneliness of a beautiful place in my ears through headphones. Natureâ€™s beauty is lonely because nature defies our urge to be transactional. You canâ€™t fuck nature. You canâ€™t pay it. Its beauty leaves us isolated, cold.
We put pressure on natural places to do things to us. To change us, to give our thoughts silence (privacy), to allow us an escape. But there is no longer an escape, even here.
Itâ€™s always just the village.
By the waterfall, the little boy from Xilitla had stared back at us, swimming ten feet away from his parents who are in love and distracted. His mom is chubby; she looks up at her man. Heâ€™s climbed the waterfall and straddles the stream of water and cups his hands in front of him to outline a heart and looks down at her. He wants attention.
I tell the little boy â€˜mira a tu papa.â€™ He keeps his eyes trained on us.
Natureâ€™s the same as the massage â€“ you canâ€™t fuck a massage. Thereâ€™s no orgasm. You donâ€™t come, but this personâ€™s touch is meant to change you. The body is a meat that the masseur tenderizes, and eventuallyâ€”thereâ€™s a result, thereâ€™s matter thatâ€™s changed: a resorting of particles.
The process is designed for a closed environment. Highly controlled, an experiment but intimate. Itâ€™s meant to be private. We play Eastern music and modify the lighting.
On our date before the massage, we swam, and I took a picture of him in the waterfall with my iPhone 5, and it looked like he was climbing up to heavenâ€”the overexposed sky was white above him from the sun â€“ and he thought the picture was cheesy, but then again, why does it have to feel cheesy when somethingâ€™s just niceâ€”
And then my grandmother texted with details about picking me up from the airport on Friday, that You Do have Togo thru customs. It is in terminal 4. I will meet you there. Text me just before take off and also when. You land.Â Haveagood flight.
Itâ€™s an interruption into a moment that could be romantic. Or itâ€™s just business or itâ€™s just friendship between two lustful men: one older, smooth, light, European, who performs; the other younger, tanner, American, who records.
The text in my ears is taken from personal journals he kept on a 90-day retreat to a beach in Crete. It was an effort to condense his artistic mission into a digestible paragraph (for the galleries) while he can take a more interesting, less-directed pathâ€”hiding behind the clarity of his own statement.
He says his work deals with exploring his own femininity. â€œA hetero-male feminism.â€
Heâ€™s performed this routine since last February on people from the art worldâ€”in a reconverted church somewhere in Brooklyn. But the performance has a different sensibility in Las Pozas, in open spaceâ€”where I can hear tourists stepping over my body, spread across a towel on one of Edward Jamesâ€™s many bridges to nowhere.
One ought to feel freer here, but Iâ€™m told my back is tense, just like the New York galleristsâ€™. (Iâ€™ve out-smoked them in cigarettes here too, and out-frustrated them sexually.)
Iâ€™ve wanted a hand to touch me but have it go beyond whatâ€™s going on right now, to own someone, to get intimate. Because isnâ€™t that whatâ€™s supposed to happen in beautiful, private places.
When youâ€™re flirting with someone you have to be very aggressive. You have to show them that you want to make them yours. But at the same time, that you donâ€™t give a shit.
But when youâ€™re facedown on the towel, you have no choice. Youâ€™re already his.
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