It was cool to
be a slut in the Seventies. There were no taboos left, no infections that
antibiotics couldnt cure. We had sex with everybody, including at least
once with our best friends, male or female, gay or straight.
I spent most of that decade metropolis-hopping. First London, then San Francisco, then on to Paris. They were all fun, all touched by the sexual revolution of the Sixties. In each one of them my lust for sex brought me to their most mysterious corners - abandoned warehouses, deserted canals, lonely parks at night. I was living my own Fassbinder movie.
By the time I was finished with Paris, I had exhausted the second tier of World Cities. I was ready for the ultimate metropolis where I could fulfill all my fantasies. I immigrated to New York in April 1978.
On my second night, a couple of friends took me out for dinner and to check-out the bars in the Village. Later, after ample drinking, I decided to go cruising on my own. Thats when my friends, knowing my appetite for adventure, warned me: DO NOT GO TO "THE TRUCKS." The Trucks, they informed me, were those big, empty commercial trailers left open overnight in the Meat-market to be loaded in the morning. I duly listened and sincerely promised to act accordingly. And I meant it. But bad advice is telling an addict where he can get a fix -- no matter how good your intentions.
So now I am alone on Sheridan Square around two in the morning. Perhaps a little walk down Christopher Street would be a nice start. A few minutes later, Im on West Street, at the old elevated highway. Under it, broken bottles and glass, a few abandoned cars. I look north, toward the decrepit piers and some shady figures walking in the dark. Like a Pavlov dog, I begin walking towards them.
It all feels awfully familiar. It's nighttime in the gutter of the metropolis. As much as I love the sizzle and the bustle, the skyscrapers and the bridges, the boulevards and the subways of big cities, I also have a weakness for their underbellies. For those gloomy, forgotten corners, those treacherous but thrilling places where the common law looses its grip and anarchy takes over.
And as I enter this new one, my heart is beating faster. The prehistoric hunter in me is awakening. The cool spring air coming from the river is invigorating my gaydar. The streets are passing me, one by one, and, now I am suddenly surrounded by trucks. And men are lurking. My adrenaline is rushing. New York, here I come.
Its dark -- only one street lamp on the block. I notice two guys. They both give me the look. Two, thats hot. With a seasoned ease, they climb into the back of an empty truck. Blood is rushing into every vessel in my head. The force is beyond me. I am by the truck. Inside the truck. Inside the pitch black truck.
I move forward. A hand slowly feels my back. Another feels my arm. Four hands. And the lustful make-out begins. Clothes begin to come off. Mouths all over me. Hands in front, hands behind, feeling me, holding me tight. Now, too tight. And, in an instant, it is no longer an embrace, but an arm-lock from one, and the other one has a gun to my face.
The cold of the gun on my temple triggers a bolt of a lightening in my head. I see a great flash and feel an electric wave all the way down my torso, out into my legs and arms. My body jerks up in a snap, and with unnatural force I wrestle the two hoodlums to the ground.
Im out of the truck and running for life. Into the light, into the street, and smack into a cruising cop car that I stop dead in its tracks. I throw open the back door, jump in, and burst into hysterical tears.
Once I finally calm down, the two burly Irish cops start their questioning. They are too calm, for my taste. And all too matter-of-fact. I try to be as dignified as I can, of course, but its not easy when youre only wearing sneakers.
Back at the truck with flashlights, we can only find my shirt. Pants and underwear, gone.
The officers drive me home. The shirt covers my lap. When we get there, I thank them for their help. Their answer, "We hope that this will be a good lesson to you."
It would have been so much easier if the cops had just arrested me and been horrifically mean. I could have been pissed at their homophobia. But instead they left me with myself to blame. So I lay there in bed, in my new metropolis, with the same yearning Jean-Paul Belmondo had to finally admit in "Breathless" I couldnt wait for the Seventies to be over.
FLORENT MORELLET is co-chair of Save the Gansevoort Market and president of Compassion in Dying NY. He is a mapmaker, drag queen, and the unofficial mayor of the Meat Market. The restaurant that bears his name has been a New York institution for eighteen years.