Editors' Note: 25 year old guest blogger Hunter Andrews began as an escort while working on his International Business degree as a sophomore in college. He currently lives in New York City and is the writer for his blog, Confessions of a New York Rent Boy.
It was the second semester of Biology during my sophomore year of high school when I learned what love is. My teacher gave us all an assignment to go home and bring back a photo of ourselves under the age of 3. Confused, and somewhat taken back, I picked one of my favorite pictures. Me, in a pink bathroom sitting in a tub full up water and Mr. Bubbles bubbles. There I sat in that picture smiling from ear to ear in a sea of foam and hair lightly sweeping over my face. Kiddie porn.
The next day in class we all laughed as we shared our pictures. Making fun of each other for the throwback articles of clothing our mothers put on us. I think I was the only one without clothes on. Go figure. Shortly after our teacher explained it all.
"Look at your photo. Remember that little boy or little girl?"
"That is you, pre war." He continued.
Pre-war? To this day whenever someone mentions his or her pre-war apartment, I think of my Biology teacher.
"This was before you ever knew what it meant to hurt. To want. To experience loss and heartbreak. Before you were exposed to teasing and hatred. Racism. Homophobia. Titles." He said with much conviction. Like a Baptist pastor, his voice trembled throughout the silent classroom. I looked around and saw sadness in everyone's eyes. Goosebumps on my arms. My right hand let go of my pen and I rested my hand on my thigh.
"Before you knew what money was. Success. Education. Rich and poor. This is who you were, and sadly, you will never be that person ever again."
"This, my friends... this is you at your happiest. People think they're happy. But they're not." He grabbed my kiddie porn picture off my desk without looking and waved it in the air. Like a Baptist pastor waving The Holy Bible in the air, I felt a lump in my throat.
"But no, this child in this photo... no, he is happy. Why? Because he knows nothing else."
"So ladies and gentleman, this is why we fall in and out of love. Because the endorphins flowing through you now and then are trying to go back to that time when you were happy."
He began to explain it in further detail and I sat in my chair stunned. As like any drug, endorphins are natures preferred. When you're happy, your endorphin levels are high and pain (physical and emotional) is at an all time low. So in essence, the three year old in the photo is the happiest he has ever been and our brain has been chasing the same high ever since.
I wasn't reminded about my sophomore Biology lesson until last weekend. A friend of mine, who was a client at one time, invited me over to his beach house as a way to escape the sadness and demands of the city. As a highly successful New York lawyer on Wall Street, Spencer had a natural mundane seriousness about him that is hard to break. During our visits I never not once was able to crack his arduous personality, until one night we made a deep connection in regards to music. Scarred from a series of broken engagements, a rare medical condition and September 11, I understood why he remained so guarded. As time progressed we became genuinely close friends and rebelled together in all things childlike.
"I can't believe we are watching cartoons and eating ice cream this early in the morning." Spencer said as he uncrossed his legs off his B&B Italia sofa, reaching for the dish of crumbled Butterfingers.
"Dude it's the best! I would never do this, only with you. I don't even think I did this when I was a child! My mom would have freaked!" I said with a mouthful of ice cream.
"When you were a child? You mean like last week?" Spencer loves to marvel at my age, as he thinks being 41 is old. That and the fact I am in fact his youngest friend.
"Shut up!" I squealed as my voice cracked. We both laughed.
"See, you still haven't reached puberty, goof!" Spencer laughed while stuffing three wafer crackers in his mouth.
"So last week I went to Candle 79 with Marc... you know the all organic vegan bullshit on the Upper East Side? Well, I said I had to take an important phone call and walked towards 3rd and inhaled three hot dogs off the street! I was so hungry!"
"That was me on Tuesday. Table full of models at this benefit, so you know me, I'm so not gonna eat in front of them. On my way home I scarfed down a Big Mac!"
"I feel I have to eat like an adult in front of people. Too many carbs. There's a new diet craze. Its not chic to be seen eating from this restaurant or that bistro. It's too greasy. Clogged arteries. Dammit, I just love eating with you and doing stupid shit. We're like children, just with our own American Express cards."
"You are a child!" He said.
"Says the one with chocolate syrups stains on his shirt. Need a bib?" I said.
"My mom always said I was a messy eater." He said as we broke into laughter as that is an opening line to one of our countless inside jokes.
Later that day we decided to head to Coney Island, as neither one of us had been. One ferry, two Pepsi's, a pack of Marlboro Lights and two hours later we arrived at the legendary park. It was fun being a tourist, trying out the arcade games, the rides, hot dogs and treats. For the first time in a very long time, I felt like a kid again. Just like when I was young, I was with my close friend with a mouthful of cotton candy placing $5 dollar bets on who would win the arcade games. And true with tradition, just like when I was young, I won.
The sun began to set, and so did our tummy aches. We stumbled trying to find the car and right when we got our bearings straight, we came across a old vintage photo booth.
"Oh I love these! C'mon lets do it!" I motioned towards the booth.
"I am not taking pictures. Have you ever seen one picture of me...ever? No, I am not doing that. I don't do photographs." Spencer insisted.
"Dude! Come on! It's just like the ones in the mall growing up. The best part is waiting for them to develop! Come on!" I dragged him by his left wrist and threw him into the booth.
"See, they don't take credit... time to go. It was a good idea!"
"No you doofus! These bad boys don't take credit. Cash. See, only three bucks." I said while inserting three crumpled up dollar bills. I sat as I saw George Washington's sad facial expression disappear into the machine.
We saw the countdown to the first picture. 3. 2. 1. Flash!
"I blinked!" Spencer said.
"Okay! Okay! So this time we have to make a really goofy face... cross your eyes and stick out your tongue!"
3. 2. 1. Flash!
"Now lets be dinosaurs!" I said, as we growled our teeth and clawed our paws!
3. 2. 1. Flash!
"Okay, now what? Hurry!" I rushed.
"Just normal. Lets just smile." Spencer suggested.
3. 2. 1. Flash!
And just like that, the machine shut off and instructed us that our picture strip would be ready in four minutes.
"Thank you." Spencer said.
"For being my friend. I would never do these things. I feel I'm too old. But with you I feel like a kid again." He said while grabbing the developed picture strip.
We watched as within seconds our blurry faces began to form into sharp expressions. We watched as one by one everything started to take shape and form. Our eyes. Our hair. Our smiles.
"And thank you." I said.
"For what?" Spencer asked.
"For being my friend. I would never do these things. I feel I'm too old... I feel like a kid again when I'm with you." I confessed.
If We Were Old
Instead driving back to the beach house, we decided to drive back to the city. We stopped by a Duane Reade for Pepto-Bismol to nurse our upset tummies before he dropped me off at my apartment. Once inside my apartment I took off my clothes and took a long shower.
While in my shower, I got to thinking about love and our chemical dependency in regards to love. Then I started thinking about endorphins. According to Michel Odent of London's Primal Health Research Center, endorphins induce a "drug-like dependency." Like any drug, endorphins act as a painkiller, suppressing the feeling of discomfort. Allowing us to feel soothed, peaceful and at ease. So, if it really is true what my Biology teacher said, are we as humans trying feverishly to regain the feeling of happiness we had as a child? If in fact Odent is correct and endorphins are like drugs, are we chasing the high? And if so, how do we soften the withdrawals?
As I dried my hair I walked into the living room and put in one of my favorite movies, The Way We Were. Putting on a pair of gym shorts, I sat on the sofa watching Katie and Hubbell go back and forth for almost two hours. In between I looked at the picture strip of Spencer and I. There in a photo booth in Coney Island we captured our brief happiness. Underneath the stains of pink and purple cotton candy that outlined my mouth, I recognized something. The smile that was on my face, was the same smile in the picture I took more than 20 years ago.
Maybe we wont ever be at the same levels of happiness as we once were. But for a brief stint in time we can still experience it, even if it's somewhat temporary. I grabbed my phone and texted Spencer.
"Wouldn't it be lovely if we were old? We'd have survived all this. Everything thing would be easy and uncomplicated; the way it was when we were young." I sent at 9:35 PM.
(Photo via Bob Prosser)