I LOVE TRAVELING. I got this hat when I was in Hell. This was back in 1992. I didn’t know that’s where I was going at the time and yet I’d made all the necessary arrangements. Hell takes some planning. Nevertheless, I was surprised when I heard the gates clang behind me and found myself standing in the middle of a strange kitchen with a rabbit attached to my dick. I tried pulling it off by its ears. I thought if I could just get it off some sort of inverted magic might occur and out of the rabbit’s mouth would come the voice of God. But I couldn’t get it off. I was too self-conscious.  Next to me in the kitchen was a very large woman wearing an oven on her head like an oversized top hat. This in and of itself didn’t bother me because she was quiet. However, when it became apparent to her that she had caught my attention, she began to try to communicate with me by way of the gas jets on top of the range. The flames would flare up in some sort of indecipherable Morse Code. I couldn’t figure it out. But as her efforts to be understood grew more and more concerted it was as if everywhere I turned flames flared out at me so that my world had become a rotisserie. And I thought, this is hell. I got little comfort from the fact that the rabbit now lay at my feet in a charred mass on the yellow linoleum floor. I had to get out of there. And I did.

I went all the way to the living room, where I squatted in front of a very large television set. It was an incredible set. 15 feet high. 30 feet wide. With a picture as clear as reality. And on this screen was a truly wonderful thing. Because it wasn’t HBO. Or Cinemax or Showtime. It wasn’t even Great Performances on PBS. This was network prime time in the ‘90s and here was this bigger-than-life beautiful gay male couple walking down the beach. They were one of those matching couples. Same haircut. Matching bathing suits. Shirtless. Cute. You know the type. And when they’d pass families under beach umbrellas or children building sand castles, the people they’d pass would turn and look and smile. Not with approval but with enjoyment.

And then the camera cut to this lesbian couple. They were a matching couple too. Perfect teeth. Perfect tans. Perfect tens. And they were sitting in these lounge chairs. And then this dog ran across the screen and he caught a Frisbee in his mouth, and then he dropped it, and then he barked, and then he smiled. And then the first lesbian pushed the second lesbian in the shoulder and the lesbian whose shoulder got pushed turned to the first lesbian and they laughed. And they smiled. And they stared into each others’ eyes as if they had a secret. It was obvious they were in love. And then the camera cut back to the gay male couple who both turned their heads together either in response to the barking dog or the laughing lesbians. I couldn’t tell which for before I could decide this giant first appeared in the center of the screen. And in this fist was a pack of gum. And fist one man’s hand took a piece and then another man’s hand, and then a woman’s hand, and then another woman’s hand and then the camera pulled back and there was the first gay man and the second lesbian and the second gay man and the first lesbian and they were all smiling and chewing and they were all heterosexual. Just from a piece of gum. And underneath was this chant. Doublemint. Doublemint.

And I thought this is Hell. And I got the hell out of there and went down the hall to my bedroom. I had a suite of rooms in hell. And I shut my door and I latched it and I locked it. And I climbed into my bed. I wrapped myself up in the sheet. Even though I was cold, I started to sweat. Hell’s like that. What you’ve heard is true. You never stop sweating. It’s like a fever. It’s like fear. And I was scared for I realized that I wasn’t alone. Wrapped up, behind me in the winding sheet was this monster. And this monster had a little shriveled baby fist pressed up against my back. Somehow, I knew it wasn’t trying to hurt me. It just didn’t know how to open it. And it’s other hand it didn’t know how to close. And it was this hand that slid around and down. And I thought I’ve been here before. When I lived in New York. At 2 AM I was walking down the street with three friends, all drunk and straight, and this car full of clowns pulls up and the head clown rolls down his window and he shouts at me, “Hey, know where we can find any faggots.” And I stated clearly, succinctly, “Go fuck yourselves.” And then I turned.

And then as clowns are apt to do getting out of cars, they came one after another after another after another after another after another. And each of these clowns had a wood plank in his hands. And each of these wood planks had a nail in it. And they hit me in the head. And they hit me in the head. And they hit me in the head.  And they hit me in the head. And they hit me in the head. And they hit me in the head. I’ve been here before. I’ve been here before: Inebriated college girls at college parties who just wanted to put their hands down my pants despite… A party a few years later where a straight guy tried to poke his special something into my sleeping mouth. Oh yes, I’ve been here before. You don’t recognize hell by the landscape or the visuals or the buildings or the statues or the monuments. You recognize hell by the actions that you’re forced to take. I’d been here before and this time I wanted to remember it. I wanted something for my mind, something for my head.

I wanted a hat. And I went into the closet. Don’t ask me why, I guess gays always go in the closet at one time or other. Anyway, I thought I’d find something there. I looked first for that old ladies’ hat that that pillar of straight masculinity had worn at the state fair as a joke. It was white plastic with white plastic lace and big red plastic roses on top. But I couldn’t find it. So I looked for that wide brimmed straw hat upon which I had sewn various fruits and vegetables and in which with a floral print dress I had danced with a dangling carrot in front of an applauding crowd. But I couldn’t find it. I stood there in the dark of the closet with the hangers clanging over my head and I saw that a monster was standing in that room and staring at me and he was wearing this hat. Which I snatched and ran with then jumped out the window behind him. It wasn’t a suicidal gesture. Hell is the bottom of the very bottom situated in a lost-chance neighborhood where the heat makes everything rise so there’s nowhere to go but up. Now it may seem strange to some to take a knit hat from a hot place but when you’re getting out of hell, you take what you can get. And I took cover in the only way I could.

 

DREW PISARRA is currently co-curating a series of haiku for a movie marquee of a Brooklyn theater under construction by Nitehawk Cinema. Outside of that, his play Muscle Beach: Not Jayne Mansfield's Story had a couple of readings in NYC over the last year and his short stories have recently popped up in such magazines as taxicab, Unlikely Stories, Post Blank, and Brave New Word.