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The streetlights above me glowed orange and yellow on the cobble stoned street of Vienna, making them look as if they were covered in honey. But the lights felt cold and distant, similar like the colourful lights in the club I had just left. Slowly, in the night sky, far to the east, a warmer light, the light of the sun, made its way over the horizon. On the street, left and right the baroque houses stood tall. I was unable to see the first sunrays, but I could see the weak light of the coming day.

I looked at my phone, it was about four in the morning and the temperature had already climbed up to 24 degrees. It was one of those summer nights, soon to be summer mornings, when you woke up and it was already hot outside. I liked those summer times in Austria, when you just felt warm and could think, read and write in the shade.

But in this night, this early in the morning, on my way home from clubbing, I could not feel the warmth. It was the words, the gossip of the gay clubbing scene. It was that quiet understanding, which had slowly crept into me, stronger than before. Within this community, where I was supposed to find the rainbow, a spectrum of colours, I found more boxes labelled black or white, with no shades in between.

I had been predrinking with some of my gay friends, or let’s call them acquaintances, sort of friends, people you hang out with, before you would go to the club and then ultimately lose them all within the crowds, the music and the dancing.

I haven’t been clubbing in a while. I had been to uni in England for the last four months and within all the reading and writing I had forgotten how vile the gay gossip could be. There was the comparison about who’s abs looked better, who’s biceps were bigger, thus was more desirable and therefore received more attention on Grindr and within the gay scene. Ultimately, the most desired ones could choose whom to fuck. It was like going to a buffet and pick whatever one liked best. And that was too much tonight, because usually, one either developed a resistance towards it, not hearing it anymore, blending it out or taking part in it. It was like throwing out empty words, which meant nothing at all and were forgotten the moment they were spoken.

This night I noticed more of it because I had not been clubbing within the Vienna gay scene in a while. And I had all that gossip still on my mind when we headed to the club, and then, when we were inside the club. Loud music, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and many more tunes invited one to let go.  

I’m beautiful in my way, cause God makes no mistake. But everybody here aspired to a certain beauty standard. I am on the right track baby, I was born this way, don’t hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and you are set. I very much doubt that anyone here loves themselves. I am on the right track baby, I was born this way. Were we on the right track though?

The alcohol rushed to my head. The fun entered my body which all the classic pop hits brought with them. So one last time, I need to be the one who takes you home. Yeah, been there, done that. One more time, I promise after that I’ll let you go. You sure about that? Baby I don’t care if you got her in your heart, all I really care is you wake up in my arms. But maybe I care about it though. One last time, I need to be the one who takes you home.‘That’s so toxic.

You would let go and just dance to the immortal songs of these iconic superstars. Up in the club, we just broke up. I am doing my own little thing. Yes I am. You decided to dip but now you wanna trip. Cause another brother noticed me. Okay good, I am feeling it now!  Don’t pay him any attention. I try to but I probably will later. Cause I cried my tears for three good years. Hell, I did. You can’t be mad at me. But you are going to anyway.

For a moment the night’s music worked on me but then it passed. I was still thinking about the gay gossip. Me and the others were on the dance floor, some others by the bar, drinking and shouting over the music to other hot gays they knew from Grindr or recent clubbing nights. Some men sat in the corners of the club, in the shadows, most of them alone, some at least talking with a friend, shouting things to each other over the music into their ears. There was an older guy, who looked from person to person, taking in the scene. He appeared as if he wanted to join the groups. He looked like as if he had dressed up for the night. A red jeans and a purple floral shirt which would definitely draw attention during the day. But here in the club, he was just another gay guy sitting in the corner not fulfilling the demanded stereotypes, like a big biceps or a handsome face. He just looked outstandingly normal.

Although, we were all in the same room, it felt as if there was a wall between the gays I had arrived with, the gym gays, the fashionable ones, the hot ones and the ones who actually looked pretty normal. If there is such a thing as normal. But that was their mistake within this world. If you weren’t hot enough, didn’t have abs or a big chest and biceps. If you were not fashionable enough. Simply, if you were not masculine enough and when the right amount of gayness was missing, a delicate balance which must be sustained within the gay community at all times, you might be allowed to participate, but you were not part of the scene. You were a spectator, a visitor but never really there, mostly ignored. Standing in front of an invisible wall, one could never break through, because how could you break through a wall that was not physically there but within all our minds.

If I stopped going to the gym and stopped being fashionable, which were things I liked doing and cared about, what would happen? Would I end up on the side-lines too? It was very likely. And there was nothing to be said or done about it. Not in this situation anyway. The songs of Lady Gaga and others, singing about love, inclusivity, that everyone is equal, everyone’s a hot bitch did not ring true to me tonight.

This night, I wanted to leave, just go home, because I did not understand this place anymore or let’s better say, I realised more and more what this place was. It was fake, it was inclusively exclusive. It was a toxic environment when you were not drunk enough and could blend out everything. But I did know that I would join them eventually again. To be gay required you to live up to certain standards which you had to fulfil from time to time.

This night, I just left the club without saying goodbye to anyone. There was nothing to say. Like a ship on the high seas, I was fishing for the right words in the deep below that opened up before me. For the right words to say, to speak, what this gay community is like. As the rest of the world, the straight world and its society, it was a place to be put into a box in order to belong. It felt twisted but it was a place where you could be yourself but had to be someone else at the same time. The gay community was ultimately not different from the straight world. It was a beautiful nightmare.

I got in the taxi and while heading home, when I left behind the tall buildings of the city centre, I could see the sun rise, glowing red and orange over the hills of Vienna, dipping the city into a new light. It was not an understanding, like darkness giving way to light, where everything would appear brighter and clearer, but more like a feeling of constantly wondering why there was shadow and light in the first place.

One comment on “Shadow and Light

  1. Fluid and beautiful, and a deft handling of a sad truth. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.


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