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Just beat it

A former Atlantan fights to survive on the mean streets of New York

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My first winter in New York, I did many things: I started blogs, I drank heavily, I took ridiculous freelance gigs for very little money, I drank heavily, I did drugs, I drank heavily. All of these things were, at the time, sensible activities meant both for survival and escapism, given the ominous grey depression that is a New York winter, a time of year that settles in your bones like the flu. In the span of that first winter, I'd gone from fucking a Republican for fun to fucking the same Republican for the masochistic pleasure I got out of her treating me like shit to not actually getting fucked at all, and instead carrying out a semblance of a relationship with her voicemail greeting. That winter was brutal, but the summer that followed was even worse.

My first summer in New York, the ubiquitous smell of sweat, a female perfume of its own kind, and tanned skin (or pale; I don't discriminate) nearly drove me insane. Atlanta summers are disgusting, lethargic affairs, a variation on a dry hump ending in premature ejaculation. New York summers are celebrations, a reclamation of sweat-drenched skin. Think about it: We like the idea of sweat; we want to make the object of our desire sweat. A New York summer is the return of the gorgeous line of sweat above a woman's upper lip, that woman having traded in layers of GORE-TEX for a gauzy top and a short skirt. Even feet, the body's most disgusting appendage, become sexy, as they striptease their way out of snow boots and slip into something a little more comfortable.

The same temperatures that paralyze the libido in the South crank it up in New York, turning every chance glance while in line for an iced coffee into an imagined quick, dirty, ass-on-sink bathroom encounter to alleviate what I call PSE: permanent summer erection.

So there I was, my first summer in New York, surrounded by long, thin arms, graceful necks, tanned hip bones poking out of low-rise jeans — and I couldn't get laid to save my life. New York wasn't supposed to be this difficult. After all, hadn't I heard that, in NY, women outnumber men, like, 3,000 to 1?

I'd left Atlanta on a sexual high, a veritable peak, even. Newly single, I'd find myself, nearly daily, at a Decatur wine bar with too much wine and a girl, any girl, in a tank top and red lips leading to the hotel room ... or bathroom — encounters I'm still to this day piecing together. And then, upon moving to the sex capital of the world, nothing.

All sexual encounters with women, by now the Republican included, happened only in my imagination. Case in point: In the self-checkout line at the Key Foods one particularly sweltering day, I happened to graze the handbasket of a small-boned, high-nosed woman who looked to be in her late 30s or early 40s, and was shopping with her petulant child. This quick, unintentionally violent action knocked a can of black beans from her basket. As she bent over to retrieve it, I noticed a small dolphin tattoo on her lower back. A soccer mom with a tramp stamp, bared sneakily, like a back-room quickie, in the midday humidity of the Astoria Boulevard Key Foods. I jacked off to that mental image for days.

Yes, in fact, that summer in New York the only person I was fucking was me. I'd fall into bed drunk on cheap red wine, having sent embarrassing text messages and even more embarrassing blurry camera-phone pictures to my nonresponsive Republican. I'd tell myself to get over her — she was, after all, the sort of person to say "ice coffee" rather than "iced," a tic I found, in my sober moments, deplorable. I wanted to launch myself into the steamy streets and find someone to do, but I couldn't. Having effectively cockblocked myself — she'd have come around, any "she," really, wouldn't she? If I'd just been unavailable — I'd jerk off furiously, imagining whatever long pair of legs I'd sat next to on the train to relieve my PSE and fall asleep.

But inevitably I'd wake, sweating into my sheets, still lonely, horny, drunk and desperate. During that first summer, nailing one of those sidewalk goddesses, every one hotter than the next, burning their little, red mouths into my brain, would prove easy to fantasize about but harder to execute. At least I was always ready to go.

Former Decaturite Russ Marshalek now lives in Brooklyn, where he curates literary and music events and "does" social and digital media, whatever that means, while he pretends to work on his book.

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