11/02/2014 08:32 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Queer and Selfie Loathing in NYC (Part 2): On Leaving New York

inigofotografia via Getty Images

Love and Other Misguided Concepts

It's impossible to find love in New York.

I should clarify: It's impossible for me to find love in New York. This city has been romanticized for years, probably because being in love in New York must be great. It's a Gershwin tune. It's an Edith Wharton novel. It's a mid-period Woody Allen film. There are literally hundreds of parks through which couples walk hand in hand, have walked hand in hand and have fallen in love for ages. Hands in pockets, I stroll through these parks year in, year out, immune to the romance, ignorant to love, yearning for a hand to hold.

Only once in my entire life have I ever been in love, yet still I cannot bring myself to call it that. It was a one-sided love, unrequited, and love that is not equaled and matched in return I cannot bring myself to call love. It was an almost-love, but ultimately, it was an exercise in futility. You know how they say it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? This lay somewhere in the middle, because it wasn't love, but if it were, could I honestly say I'm better for it? Whatever joy I experienced was too short-lived, now overshadowed by a lingering bitterness that chokes at my heart. But I learned from it. Oh, did I learn. I can at least pretend that that somehow makes it worthwhile. I learned what I want and don't want in a man -- a collection of qualities and characteristics I won't begin to list here. But I also learned of beauty.

Ah, the beauty of men.

The beauty of men sends me to euphoric places that inspire and ignite me. These beautiful boys, these beautiful boys with beautiful bodies and beautiful faces, lack beauty where it counts. These beautiful boys are so full of beauty, yet they feel so empty. These beautiful boys who send me only to leave me. They cannot be possessed, only worshiped from afar and, up close, made physical but not emotional love to. Their bodies are available, but the distance between their bodies and their souls is often insurmountable.

Ah, the beauty of men.

The beauty of men transfixes me, drugs me. If beautiful men are a drug, New York is the biggest, most successful dealer in the world, with an inexhaustible supply of beauty in all ages, shapes, sizes and colors. There's always someone new, some hot, young thing, fresh off the bus. Love, like everything in New York, is a competition, but among gay men, attraction and competition exist within the same body. I must be beautiful, I must be better, I must be the best, then maybe I will be loved. But love gets lost along the way in this pursuit of perfection, when a world of beauty opens up and is opened up in the palm of one's hand. Desire overwhelms love -- maddening, all-consuming desire.

These walls of beautiful boys, decapitated and disrobed, at the touch of my fingers. Their bodies are available. They're zero feet away. They are untouchable. I am overwhelmed. The thousands of people jostling past me each day. On the streets, in the subways. They're zero feet away. They are untouchable. I am overwhelmed.

All throughout my 20s I have confused sex with love, in need of affection. Hoping romance would bloom in the course of a night, only to rise in the morning to an empty bed. One or both of us would eventually lose interest, opting for someone newer, who is always in fresh supply. Lost in this hunt, I yearned for a genuine connection. Still, I sought to satisfy my all-consuming desire. With this world of beautiful men available to me, how could I not indulge? Man when confronted with excess is never satiated. Sure, I wanted love, but I also wanted to fuck, to feed my hunger for beauty and to validate my own. I wanted to be beautiful.

To keep up appearances -- and New York, if anything, is a city of appearances -- one must always compete, and sex is simply another leg to have up on the other guy. Literally and figuratively. The competitive nature of New York is what drew me here, inspiring me to better myself in the pursuit of being the best. But the best what? What am I fighting for here but the preservation of my vanity?

Beautiful boys, whose beauty will fade, who will love you when your time has passed?

New York is a city forever in transition. There's always someone remarking about how the city has changed, and before them someone remarking about how the city has changed, and before them and before them and before them. It's hard to find permanence, which, like love, evades my grasp. But even as New York changes, its hold on those who come here remains the same. To those lovers holding hands in the park, New York is the same as it ever was.

I almost fell in love once, with a beautiful boy who didn't love me back. This almost-love is endemic to a city that spurns you should you deign you to put anyone before it and its charms. And this city has broken my heart like that boy never could. Because he's just like every boy I've met here along the way -- that is to say, a victim of this city. This city in which boys tout their masculinity like bravery because they don't have the slightest clue what it means to be a man. Boys who are too afraid to live and love openly, honestly, bravely as men, because they're still the hurt little boys they came to this city to escape. Enchanted and distracted by this pursuit of something like love, and finding only heartbreak and disappointment, we succumb and surrender to the fleeting beauty of men.

To be continued...