Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe weren't always famous, but they always thought they would be. They found each other, adrift but determined, on the streets of New York City in the late '60s and made a pact to keep each other afloat until they found their voices--or the world was ready to hear them. Lovers first and then friends as Mapplethorpe discovered he was gay--
“Lovers first and then friends as Mapplethorpe discovered he was gay”
“Lovers first and then friends as Mapplethorpe discovered he was gay”
”Lovers first and then friends as Mapplethorpe discovered he was gay”
Two years ago, while shopping at Walmart of all places with my family on vacation (in the middle of nowhere, between Nashville and Knoxville, if that explains why we were at Walmart at all), I found a t-shirt printed with the cover of the Rolling Stone issue announcing Kurt Cobain’s death. With the t-shirt came a free one year subscription to Rolling Stone. Clearly, it had to be mine.
About halfway through that year, Patti Smith’s autobiography was released. I’d already been a huge fan of Patti Smith, being the punk rock kid I was (am). Needless to say, I was incredibly fucking excited.
And then there was the issue in which Rolling Stone printed excerpts from the book, specifically the ones about Patti’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.
A year and a half later, I still can’t get over how fucking beautiful it is.
every time someone slips every time they accidentally call you a boy every time, your caged bird battered, corset-fragile heart (why can’t it be a lion?) beats quick hope against the iron strength of your ribcage beats quick as if to say you recognized me of course it’s a lie (it’s not a real lion) every time they pick themselves up every time they apologize (apologize for what) every time you want to say (to beg) just see me just look past my eyes the curve of my lips the face my mother gave me the continents of my hips the contents of my throat my chest my abdomen just see me every time you worked up the courage to say sometimes i get mistaken for a guy like you’re proud of it and then someone says really? i would never do that your face is so feminine you want to tell them you’re not being generous you’re not making me feel better (why can’t it be a lion?) you want to tell them no, I don’t want to be a boy not like my brothers are with their pro wrestling and their homophobic slurs and the way they joke to their friends about their lesbian sister (their obliviousness) you want to be a gentleman you want to hold open doors and walk facing the street you want to touch her like she’s a goddess (everywhere) you want to defend her honor but you also want to understand when she says she can do it herself you want to be a boy with the arms of your mother you want to be a girl with the heart of a lion
I know you’ll never see this, but I still want you to know a couple of things. If I’m lucky, maybe they’ll travel to you telepathically.
I want to say thank you.
When I was a freshman, I wrote an essay about my fears of death as a child. My English teacher thought I needed to talk to you. So off I went, still with my shoulder length hair, clutching the small, white note excusing me from class in my sweaty palm. My heart was beating so fast by the time I got to the door of your office that I had to stand there for a long moment and catch my breath before I had the courage to knock on your door.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I’m sure it wasn’t you. From the moment I sat down in your office—the old chair that sqeaked slightly whenever you moved, the ugly pale green paint on the walls, the embroidered blue flowers on the pillow I hugged the day I finally had to cry—I felt comfortable. Even when I felt like the whole world was against me, you always made me feel at home. Like I could tell you anything.
I remember the day you told me I was living with low-level depression—not bad enough to medicate but enough to make my life hell. You didn’t try to talk around it, didn’t try to soften anything. You just said it, without looking away from my eyes. I never told you how much I appreciated that, but I did then and I do now. You never tried to bullshit me.
Years later (years, I can’t believe that), you told me you always knew there was something I wasn’t telling you. I like that you never tried to force it out of me, just let me deal with things when they came.
So when I was a scared, quiet little freshman, you let me talk about how stressed I was and how I couldn’t deal with my depression and how I just didn’t really like myself.
And then, sophomore year when it felt like everything was falling apart around me, you watched me patiently as I took a deep breath and told you that a friend had asked me if I was gay. You didn’t say anything at first, just looked at me, with my shaking hands and the way I couldn’t look you in the eyes. The way I was scared, so scared that you would dismiss it, would be like everyone else, would just give me the same platitudes and quotes from the catechism that were the only things about homosexuality I had ever heard from any of the adults in my life.
You just watched, and then you asked me what I told her.
That was the next two years, me trying to pull all the disparate, random strings of my feelings together, trying to figure myself out again, and you telling me it was going to be okay.
I’ll never forget the day I told you I came out to my parents, huddled in that squeaky chair in your office the way I hadn’t been since those first few weeks freshman year. I’ll never forget the look in your eyes. The quiet way you handed me a tissue before I even knew I was about to cry. The way when I did cry, you talked me through it, never let me get too far in my own head. The way you listened to my litany of apologies, my I hate crying in front of people, my I’m sorry you have to see me like this, my I’m sorry I can’t be eloquent I’m sorry my voice is cracking I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. The way you handed me another tissue and asked me why I was apologizing.
Thank you for that. Thank you for everything.
Thank you for the last time I saw you, for hugging me, for telling me how proud you were, for telling me to come back and visit, when I had a pierced nose and dyed hair and tattoos and a girlfriend.
Thank you for the moment you told me you hoped your daughters would grow up to be like me. No one could ever have given me a bigger compliment.
Roy Cohn:A city! Good! I was worried... it'd be a garden. I hate that shit.
Belize:Mmmm. Big city. Overgrown with weeds, but flowering weeds. On every corner a wrecking crew and something new and crooked going up catty corner to that. Windows missing in every edifice like broken teeth, gritty wind, and a gray high sky full of ravens.
Belize:Prophet birds, Roy. Piles of trash, but lapidary like rubies and obsidian, and diamond-colored cowspit streamers in the wind. And voting booths. And everyone in Balenciaga gowns with red corsages, and big dance palaces full of music and lights and racial impurity and gender confusion. And all the deities are creole, mulatto, brown as the mouths of rivers. Race, taste and history finally overcome. And you ain't there.
This was me. The first time I saw it in theaters. And the second. And the third. (I shelled out like 30 bucks to see this movie before it came out on DVD, okay?) Also, the first time I saw it after I bought it. And… who am I kidding, the last time I saw it, too. I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS OKAY.