Between the 1970’s and 1980’s, New York City’s defunct and abandoned piers downtown served as a sort of haven where gay and queer men found pleasure and solace in what had been considered by the city a desolate place. Leonard Fink, gay activist and chronicler of downtown life, captured a series of photographs depicting the intimacy, joy, and release that could be found in even the most unlikely of places. This is for Leonard.
1982, and the piers are whistling at him through their broken wood teeth. It’s a good life, if it keeps going. He knows that loving is its own isolation. His body is its own isolation, too. Sweat that’s his own, and then a stranger’s. Sweetness. Kindness. Something here is amiss but he keeps going anyway. No one can tell him nothing when a cigarette hangs limply from his lips. Limp wrists, long curls, skin made of morning dew. He’s one of many boys here. The walls are flesh and bone and graffiti, an invitation as much as warning. Lapis midnight comes in off the Hudson, off the docks, off the other hardened shapes.
He keeps finding his way, one warm mouth at a time. Finding ways to be a man, not a stranger, not a memory. Finding ways to stay warm in the building shadow of a faceless year. Finding ways for his body, for their bodies, to become constellations in the dark. Finding ways to hear melody somewhere above the city’s keening. Finding ways to forget the long corridors he’s roamed. Finding ways to burn alive in face of growing cold fronts. Ways to outrun his limbs, run down the clock. Ways to cheat death. Ways to remember. To forgive. To be forgiven. To be here. To be now. To be home. 1982, and they look up together to see a star fall from the sky and into the soft river, their miraculous illumination.
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