When I met this guy on Friday, I could easily imagine the aftertaste of our chemistry: tragedy, heartbreak, and another eclipse of souls. I know that I fall in love too easily, and I also know (now) how dangerous love is, so I excused myself upstairs, crawled under my covers, and listened to the distant sounds of an open mic night: two guys sharing a microphone like they didn’t care at all.
I slept for sixteen hours straight, without meaning to, and woke up disoriented — a German Shepherd dozing on either side of me.
A friend caught me at the cafe around three that afternoon; I told her how long I’d slept for and laughingly mentioned that I’d briefly wondered if I was dying.
“But really — are you okay?” she asked, looking in at me.
“Oh, I’m sure I am,” I answered quickly, shifting my eyes toward the window and murmuring something about an iron deficiency, but I really wasn’t bothered by the idea of falling asleep and never waking up again. It would be so easy — so much easier than all of this. I stirred my latte with a spaghetti noodle and looked over at my book on the table, her Pokemon bag on the table, my backpack on the floor…
Sometimes, I’ll let a comment slip; a dark wish or insight of mine. I’ll laugh about wanting to die, hoping I’ll die, hating that I can’t control when and how I die… something of the sort. And then the other person will go, “How dare you say that!” or say something similar. They’ll make me feel bad for not wanting to stick around for the 4% of their lives when I’m in their presence — and then I, in turn, can’t help but feel exasperated with people who, in truth, care about me very little yet dare to profess that they care very deeply and assume a sober expression of extreme botheredness when I’m simply being honest about feeling bitter about having to stick around so they can see me sometimes. It’s like, if I am exhausted by loneliness and animal cruelty and the terribleness of human beings and I really, consistently am not enjoying this at all, why should YOU make me feel guilty for wanting to throw in the towel? You don’t see me trying to make miserable old YOU stick around against your will… although I probably would if I thought you were considering not sticking around. Anyways, that’s beside my point (meaning it’s irrelevant).
As a coping-with-living process, death-therapy exercise, whatever, I pretended I was interviewing myself on the day of my death last week, and in the course of the interview, I wrote this down:
“So… it’s your last day.” Interviewer smiles kindly, pen in hand. “What did you enjoy the most?”
And then I – the interviewee – provided a list in response; I can’t remember everything I listed, but these are some of the things that – already looking back – I know mean a great deal:
Colors (I’m picturing the shades and hues of my favorite blankets and scarves)
German Shepherds (they’re better than we are)
Sunshine (specifically, how it feels on your skin)
Food (particularly: cilantro, cumin and curry, avocado, and cardamom)
Microphones (I love how they interact with voices, changing them)
Autumn (everything about it)
Rabbits (they’re better than we are)
My backpack (it carries the little things I love most)
Holding hands (not being alone)
Hugging, and being hugged (not being alone)
Falling asleep beside someone (not being alone)
Wind (I want to be a ghost)
And despite the grand shittiness of feeling alone and misunderstood and boring and (irrationally) disliked by everyone in the world, I think I will stick around, because I feel bad about making other people feel bad and — who knows? If karma and reincarnation are real, I don’t want to intentionally hurt this soul of mine and thereby lessen its chances of coming back as a rabbit (which is strongly desired).
Another friend and I were messaging earlier today; he’s working through his weekend while I’m whiling mine away.
“I’m at a cafe now — going to lose myself to reading and researching rivers!” I shared.
“Why are you researching rivers?” he asked, and I smiled when I pictured his face.
“I feel oddly called by them recently,” I said, knowing it sounded new age-y as hell but also knowing there was no other way of describing it — that strange pull.
So after researching “rivers in birmingham” (AL, not UK — had to be more specific w/Google!), I’m now off to one with sandaled feet and a shot of caffeine swimming through delicately thin veins. I’m not sure what I’m looking or hoping for, exactly, but I believe that being with a river today will at least be peaceful.
Before I go (bc I might get eaten by a freshwater alligator while I’m out and about… those DO exist, don’t they? A girl can dream, ha!), I’d like to share a short poem from this morning (I originally drafted it in Spanish but have translated it into English also).
alma del río
yo puso mis ojos sobre el río
imaginé el frío, el movimiento, la vida
así yo puso mis pies bajo el río
sentí el frío, el movimiento, la vida
Y entonces dí mi alma al río
y me puse el frío, el movimiento, y la vida
i set my eyes on the river
imagined the cold, the movement, the life
so i put my feet down underneath the river
felt the cold, the movement, the life
and then i gave my soul over to the river
became the cold, the movement, and the life
Update @ 2:28 PM: No alligator incidents (or sightings).
“Ohhhhhh, I just love your shepherd! I have two of them,” I smiled, crouching down so that I could gaze into the eyes of this middle-aged woman’s best friend.
“Thank you! This is his first time out here, and he’s doing pretty well,” the lady said, swiveling her head back and forth constantly: assessing (and re-assessing) the crowd’s reception of her dog and then checking for her dog’s reaction to the growing, moving, changing crowd.
“What’s his name?”
“Hiiiiiiiiii, Gus!” I cooed, swooning over his caramel eyes, black and brown coat, and – despite his massiveness – his adorably nervous demeanor. He wouldn’t come to me. “I bet Gus is going to sleep really well later… he’ll be emotionally EXHAUSTED,” I said to the lady.
“Do you ever bring yours out here?”
“You know, I haven’t yet,” I answered, standing up and tugging my light-blue denim shorts down a little. “But I take my girl shep, Ty, out hiking with me sometimes… she does great. In an environment like this, though, where there are a million billion people hanging around…” I paused, imagining how Ty would feel about it. “We’ll have to see how she does. I’ll bring her soon!”
I said goodbye to the lady and Heartthrob Gus and then resumed my search for the very best peaches.
I learned something important at the farmer’s market last year: After purchasing peaches from the very first farmer I’d encountered who had them, I saw peaches that were more my style just a few booths down, and then there were even MORE lovely baskets of peaches stationed at booths ahead of the first “other one” (and it’s not that these peaches were “better” than the peaches I’d already bought — they were just more like my KIND of peach; does that make sense, or is it weird — comparing peaches-to-peaches?).
So my improved routine these days is to walk the whole perimeter of the farmer’s market — taking in all of the colorful and wonderful tomatoes, strawberries, onions, potatoes, fine cheeses, puppy dogs, goat soaps and peaches — and then circle back around to my soulmate peaches. I guess you could call this “peach dating”?
Anyways, I found the booth for me earlier this morning and handed the guy a dollar bill; I usually don’t buy a whole basket… just one peach for the morning. I enjoy it during my drive over to the cafe or while I’m walking laps at the park in front of the cafe.
“I’d like a peach that’s ready to go, please!” I told the guy excitedly.
“Like… a soft one?” he asked.
“Yep — a little soft.”
“Okay… well feel free to test ’em out.”
“Okay — cool,” I nodded. “I just hate to touch too many of them…” I imagined other people, dozens of people, pinching and grabbing at these peaches before me and the resulting germ vision made me feel faint. I didn’t want to make the existing germ situation any worse with my own germs.
The guy watched me gingerly pick at two, three peaches…
“Here,” he said, bending down, reaching underneath the table, and then reappearing with a box of secret peaches. “Let me give you two or three small peaches.”
“Oh wow — thank you!” I gushed, surprised. He helped me select the right ones and then offered me a plastic bag which I gratefully accepted.
On the way back to my car, I passed by the cute cafe boy I’d given a copy of my book to several months before; in addition to being a barista, he’s a fellow author, and I’d thought that – cliche as it sounds – we could maybe get coffee together sometime and discuss writing (our inspirations, processes, and hope, or intent, in writing). We never ended up meeting up, and he never told me this (I accidentally discovered it later), but it turned out that he was dating somebody when I gave him the book (which included a handwritten invite to coffee — a platonic invite, but still).
I unknowingly sat down beside his girlfriend one Saturday morning (we shared a couch; I was studying and writing, and she appeared to be meditating), and when he suddenly walked over and plopped down to spend his break with her, she talked about how – someday – they would be living on a farm together with lots and lots and lots of dogs. “You’ve been warned!” she laughed. She had a cute pixie cut and a lovely smile. This was my “ohhhhh — that’s why he never said anything!” moment.
I remember smiling then and thinking: She seems nice. And I understand what she’s doing here: Openly trying to lock-in a happy future with somebody she loves with these “someday” plans, promises, and warnings. I get it. I’ve done that before. I’ve thought about what my new last name would be BEFORE a first date! Who the heck wouldn’t? There’s simply no time for covert, hidden love — I believe in liking and loving and complimenting openly and being fully transparent about everything ever: your best parts, your worst parts, your dreams and regrets and insecurities and weaknesses… all of it.
So – happy for both of them – I stopped going to that cafe. It’s not for forever, just for a little while.
But today, I passed by that cute cafe boy; he was working a booth outside. When he saw me, he waved and smiled. I waved and smiled back and then continued on my way.
And have there been any boys lately?
You already know about the stupid one — the guy I like who obviously (and admittedly) likes me back but is in this weird open relationship (which I will NOT be a part of — gross!).
Well at the bike meet this Thursday, he sat down beside me, offered me a beer, and gifted me with a new saddle for my bike. I didn’t ask for a new saddle (or need one), so I was genuinely taken back (and delighted — duh). He even put it on my bike for me before the ride started. What a JERK! I have expressly ignored him for a while now, and while I’ve even gone so far as to tell him THAT I’m ignoring him and to explain WHY, still, he will NOT keep his distance. I just don’t get it. Or maybe I do and he doesn’t…
Anyways, in summary, no; there has been no real progress with Audio.
Charlie (my best friend and roommate) and I were sitting at the diner (not dinner, diner) table together the other night, finishing up supper and chatting when he mentioned that a coworker of his – a lady with beautiful long hair – had recently proposed cutting it off to her husband and he’d replied: “Sure… if you wanna look like a boy.” As if this would be a bad, inappropriate, or unlovely thing.
“Jackass,” I grumbled. Then I paused, mulling over the word and my personal associations with it.
“You know,” I said to Charlie, “as much of a jackass as that stupid bakery idiot is (now, I was talking about Christopher), when I stopped shaving my underarms and legs years ago and was afraid to wear shorts and tank tops in the summer, he encouraged me to wear them anyways… which was nice.” I paused.
“And when I wanted to chop all of my hair off during a summer trip to Tennessee, he didn’t say a word about it.” Another pause. I could feel my throat swelling up.
“And THEN, at the onset of my identity crisis, when I decided to legally change my name to something odd and androgynous, he still didn’t utter a single word of dissent…” he’d even had a special birthday cake made for me at Whole Foods that year: It read “Happy Birthday, Jace!” with a rabbit riding a motorcycle. Beautiful. Perfect.
I began crying. “Oh, I just HATE him,” I exclaimed, getting up and taking the dishes away. “He is the WORST in the WORLD.”
“I know,” Charlie whispered from the table, feeling sad for me.
I also feel sad for me. Helplessly loving someone with all of your heart and soul when you know you don’t occupy a single corner or wisp of theirs is very, very heartbreaking. I wish this was a spell I could pay somebody to summon or drug me out of, but that’s just not how it works.
So I’ll always love-hate that damn Christopher, and that’s old news. And really, I can’t justifiably be mad at the guy for no longer giving a shit about me — as one of my other best friends likes to remind me, I did it to us. I did. Broke up with him and then set him up with someone else. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well back then, I felt crazy. I was actively unraveling (at what felt like the speed of light) and pushing every single person I loved far away from me in case I detonated. I think I was, in my own way, trying to protect them while I figured out how to defuse myself.
Life’s pretty weird, and by weird, I mean soul-crushing. But every day, I know myself better, and accept myself more, and I know that things are always going to change, and that my feelings will change, too. I believe this, anyways.
And while some long-haired, new-agey dude at Thursday night’s bike meet awkwardly flirted with me and invited me to some comedy thing after the ride, I couldn’t say yes to him, because he was too pretty, too cocky, and too freakin’ proud of the coconut oil and ant powder (wth?) he’d put into his smoothie earlier that day. Also, I’m just not ready to date yet… still. When I’m being real with myself, I know this.
So when there was the briefest pause in our conversation, I took a quick leave of it, and when my friend Katrina asked about the cute guy chatting me up at work the next day, I simply said: “Nope. Not my type.”
So no; there have been no boys. But as of this morning, I do have three peaches in my possession.
And instead of imagining that all of them were mine, I immediately decided – when the nice farmer gave them to me – that I’d enjoy one of them (as planned) and give the other two away. There are a few homeless guys I see at the park on a regular basis, and I was hoping to catch one of them today… so far, they’re nowhere to be seen. Maybe they’re on exciting side adventures today, scoping out other parts of the city. But I’ve got the white plastic bag with me, with those two peaches tucked inside, just in case I spot any of them out and about. I hope they like peaches.
How’s the depression?
Oddly happy to report that it’s alive and well. At this point, that oozy center of grief in my core feels very much a part of me. It causes me to feel things very deeply, and I can appreciate that, because while my bad days are really terrible, every other day is inherently magical, and I don’t think I’d hold life’s “ordinary,” neutral days in such high esteem if a thick-lined contrast wasn’t present. The sadness in my soul seems to clarify things — making me more honest, objective, and empathetic. One of the worst aspects of existing in this place is witnessing the cruelty and inequality that exist; I want animals to be left alone, and I want people to quit being so mean to each other. In a world of superiority and degrees and power and dollar figures, I just want everyone to feel wanted and at home. Not less than, and not unequal to…
Anyways, I’m still writing songs and playing gigs… ordering lattes and cooking healthy, soul-warming meals (like vegetarian goulash; technically, Charlie makes that one, and it is the BEST). I’m also working on a new book this month and taking a stab (what a horrible expression!) at drawing… the idea is for me to draw rough sketches of what I’m imagining and then let Charlie reinterpret them with his whimsical artist hand. So all of this is good.
Tycho and I went on an adventure together recently; I drove us about two hours north to this lovely waterfall in Gaylesville. It was one of those bad days, and it was just the two of us. We hiked our way down to the river and then I watched her splash and bite at the water. I put my feet in it, and then sat down in it, and then tipped my whole head back into the water, letting the river chill my skull. I’d packed a manchego cheese sandwich and an apple; I ate the sandwich while watching her but forgot about the apple.
We got lost on our way back to the car, finding ourselves caught in a sudden rain storm, and when the woods turned dark and I couldn’t see through the rain, I started crying, feeling all panicky… but Tycho remained cool as ever and literally pulled me up the mountain. She’s the most kickass girl ever.
Wanna hear something cool?
I saw “Aurora” written on a box recently (at a cafe, store, somewhere) and immediately thought to myself: Aurora is in Colorado.
I’ve been infatuated with Colorado for a long time now and was just talking with Charlie, earlier this week, about us possibly moving out there someday. I want more mountains, more rivers, and more biking trails; more than anything, I want more land for my German Shepherds to roam on. I want their lives to be just as adventurous as mine is (and while I spent a bit of time in Denver last spring, I didn’t really venture outside of the downtown area).
Well last night, I dreamt that I was standing on the bank of a river and gazing up at a waterfall on the other side of it; the way the water was moving — both down the rocks AND sideways out of them — was impossible. A local, this random guy, looked over at me and I said: “I want to move here.” I already intuitively knew that I was in Boulder.
“Not today,” he laughed, for reasons of practicality.
“No, but soon,” I said.
He led me down to the water and I drank from it. Soon, I was vomiting.
“Now, when you drink from it again, you won’t throw up,” he said kindly, as if I was ready now — for what, I’m not sure yet.
And just a few minutes ago, while I was sitting here at this cafe table, an old guy in ironed khaki pants and clean tennis shoes (sitting behind me) was talking to a young gal about music and voice work gigs and master’s degrees and blah blah blah. I was reading a new library book and trying to tune them both out (to give them privacy, yes, but also because I’m here to restore my social reserves), but this one thing the guy said to the girl made its way to my ear:
“You’d love Boulder…”
Now tell me that isn’t weird.
I am now mapping out a short visit in October, just to scope things out. I can’t wait to see the foliage as it changes and find that river…
“They close at 8:00,” I replied quickly, proud that I knew the answer.
“Ah. Thought we could drink some tea and talk about Ecuador,” he continued, his voice trailing off…
“Awwwww — but they’re closed!” I repeated, and then it dawned on me what was happening; Audio was asking me out! FINALLY! Or at least asking me to drink tea with him — whatever that meant.
“But Good People is open!” I added quickly. “We could grab a few beers?”
“You wanna go… now?”
“Going to say goodbye to some people first.”
“Okay! I’ll head that way in approximately a minute and a half, then,” I said, and then sighed inwardly. I could have just said “See ya in two” or “I’ll be there in like five, dude” and sounded 800% more normal, but whatever. My bike was securely fastened to the back of my car and I was officially going to have drinks with Audio.
Audio laughed at where I parked — in a dark-ish alley a good ways down the street from the brewery.
“I thought maybe you were planning on us fooling around in your car later or something?” he teased as we walked toward the building (and this was before the beer).
“Oh my god! You’re so STUPID,” I exclaimed, laughing at him. But that’s yet another indicator that he likes you, I complimented myself.
We grabbed drinks and took them outside, talking about our jobs, our art, our shared intrinsic sadness, and my recent trip to Ecuador. He put his hand on my leg three times — I love math — and kept staring into my eyes. Yep; it was definitely a first date.
The more sips I took of that raspberry ale, the easier it was to talk with Audio, my three-month-long crush. I gushed about the cows I saw in Ecuador and showed him, on my phone, a pretty pattern of pink tiles I’d found while walking in Las Salinas.
“Sometimes, simple stuff like this is just so beautiful that it makes me want to cry,” I whispered, staring down at the picture. I felt him looking at me.
I showed him all of the pictures from my trip — from fresh fruits and vegetables and pretty cups of coffee to rushing waterfalls and me in a swimsuit.
“Look at how blue the water is,” I exclaimed, suddenly self-conscious.
“Yeah… the ocean is totally what I’m looking at right now,” he said, enlarging the photo.
“You are RIDICULOUS!” I laughed, shoving him with my elbow.
He talked about his health — his chronic pain; knees, wrists, back, ribs… he broke a rib once, he said, and felt it fall all the way down into his stomach.
“NO WAY!” I cried. “How the heck did that happen?!”
“Man… you’re a dangerous thing,” I mumbled out loud. You’re a dangerous thing TO LOVE, I cautioned myself.
There were lots of people sitting outside of the brewery with us: individuals, couples, groups of friends… a pair of girls, to our left….
“The brunette works at blah blah blah,” he remarked — I can’t remember the name of the place, so I’m putting blah blah blah.
I turned to look at her. “Huh… she is very beautiful,” I whispered. “Just stunning!”
“There are things I’d like to do to her,” he agreed, grinning.
“AUDIO!” I chided, suddenly feeling sad.
By the time he’d finished his beer, I’d almost drank half of mine. We were talking about family and relationships now.
“When was the last time you dated someone?” I asked.
“Am,” he said, and at first, it didn’t click — but then, it did.
“Am?” I repeated, stunned.
He nodded. “It’s an open relationship,” he reassured me, smiling cutely.
My jaw dropped. Nooooooooo… fuck!
“Well dammit, Audio — I wish you’d have told me sooner! I wouldn’t have told you that I liked you so much,” I exhaled, staring over into the dark… eyes following the grass and leaves in their windblown mayhem. I felt tangible heartbreak and a strange sense of guilt engulfing me on either side.
He was confused; it was an open relationship, he explained. I don’t do open relationships, I explained.
“The guy I was with for five years was co-dependent… possessive… we both were; it was my first BIG relationship as an adult, so it was a real learning experience… and our obsession with each other caused us to push all other friendships aside. Bad move,” I shook my head. “So while I think that having deep, meaningful relationships OUTSIDE of your intimate life partner relationship is SUPER great and VERY important, I am NOT okay with having multiple intimate relationships. It’s just… intuitively… not right,” I stammered, feeling light headed and heavy hearted.
We talked more about why. He understood where I was coming from. I respected his thoughts on the matter, too. But he said I’d hurt his feelings, assuming he was okay with (and wanted) an open relationship. I eventually gathered that it was his girlfriend’s (would you call an open-relationship girlfriend a girlfriend?) preference — but still.
“I don’t wanna keep you, Audio… just — stand up when you’re ready to go and I’ll follow suit,” I offered awkwardly.
He hesitated. “Are you saying that you’re ready to go?”
“No,” I answered quickly. “When I turn my head, I don’t see things right away, so I know it’s not time to drive yet.”
“What?!” he laughed.
I shook my head sadly. “I don’t care if I hurt myself, but I don’t want to hurt anyone else.”
A little while later, Audio stood up. I could turn my head and see things right away now… in real time.
He stepped over to the table of cute girls to say hi. I greeted them also and then we walked back to my car in darkness, our faces turning yellow underneath the streetlights. He hummed a silly tune and laughed. I smiled down at the concrete, fiddling with the rings on my hand.
Then we hugged goodbye for a little while. I asked him to let me know if his circumstances, his preferences, ever changed.
“What does your intuition tell you?” he whispered, dropping his hand down, down, down my waist…
“Nope,” I said, grabbing his hand. “You don’t get the butt,” I shook my head solemnly. “It tells me maybe, Audio. But that’s hope…” I looked up at his beautiful grey eyes, wishing he had a freakin clue. I’d love you forever, you dummy. “And hope’s a dangerous thing. You’re a dangerous thing, Audio.”
He kissed me on the cheek.
“That’s fine,” I said, “but you don’t get my lips unless they’re the only ones you’re kissin’,” I smiled sadly, pulling myself back to look at him again. I still wasn’t completely in my right mind and he was holding me way too closely for me to entirely trust myself, so I kissed him on the cheek and then drew completely away.
“Goodbye, Audio. Be safe on that bike.”
He winked at me and rolled away.
I cried in my car for a minute and then blinked my eyes several times, hard. I turned on the ignition and then turned to leave… I could navigate right, towards the interstate, or left, towards highway 280. I don’t like traveling on the interstate — it’s too fast, too dangerous. I wondered if Audio had started biking home or had stopped back by the table of cute girls. Turning left would tell me. I didn’t want to know — I wanted to hope, instead…
But I turned left. There he was.
Still freakin here but now entirely without a boyfriend,
Around two in the morning, we were on our third flight — Mexico City to Quito. After almost a year of joyful anticipation, we were finally en route to Ecuador! I was exhausted from a long day of travel and language translation and had been nodding on and off in my seat as we shot through a storm, but I stirred in my sleep when the flight attendant’s static-y voice began traveling across the intercom.
I peered over at Charlie — my eyes catching lightning in the dark clouds behind him — and saw that his raised eyebrows were asking me to explain.
“We’re making an emergency landing,” I said, now completely awake. “There’s a minor technical error with the plane.”
Although I felt sure we’d all die in the process, we landed safely, and then the flight attendant said that it would take twenty minutes (thirty, tops) for us to be back up and running.
Charlie and I sat there talking quietly. I hadn’t wanted to watch a movie on the plane, but now my nerves were bad, so I scrolled through the airline’s offerings, desperate for distraction. Other than a child’s movie or two, everything looked too violent, sexual, or stupid. Bleh.
I looked back over to my left and saw Charlie dozing off, leaning his head against the window. Lucky. How was he able to relax under these circumstances?! I could tell, an hour and a half before (when we’d first boarded the plane), that he’d wanted the window seat, so I let him have it with the understanding that it would be my turn to #windowseat (as a verb) when we returned to Mexico City a week later.
Anyways, I had resumed facing forward, waiting for an announcement or for something to happen, when I suddenly noticed a sober-looking, uniformed officer stalking down the aisle. Weird; he hadn’t boarded the plane with us.
And in his wake, a man in normal clothes followed, discreetly holding a gun on his right side… as this man brushed past me, looking predatory and severe, time shifted its gears into some kind of bizarre slow-motion and the whoooooole universe felt sickly surreal.
I vividly remember the face of a woman two rows in front of me when the armed man first appeared; her pained and strained expression probably mirrored my own: shiiiiiiiit… nooooooooo…
But right as I thought that some weird hostage situation was about to take place and it dawned on me that I was finally going to meet my end (was there a sense of relief in this? yes, a little, but I absolutely abhorred the means, worried over what kind of violence I’d have to see inflicted on others, AND grew heartsick for my German Shepherds back in Alabama — there are MUCH better ways to go), the police officer and armed guy BOTH returned to view, speeding in the opposite direction – toward the plane’s exit – with a handcuffed man in their arms.
I quickly turned to look at Charlie, to gauge his feelings on all of this — asleep! I grabbed his arm and shook it roughly; opening his eyes, he seemed dazed and disgruntled.
“THERE WAS A POLICE OFFICER AND A MAN WITH A GUN AND THEY JUST TOOK SOME GUY OFF THE PLANE,” I whispered hoarsely, needing him to be afraid like I was.
We all deboarded the plane right there in Tapachula — aka, the real middle of nowhere. Our flight attendant explained that, for everyone’s safety, officials needed to inspect the aircraft for “inappropriate items.” Drugs? Explosives? Harmless bottles of water that somehow made it through Mexico’s intense (and multiple) security checkpoints? Who knows, but we all had fun speculating. We actually passed by the criminal during our brief walk toward the tiny, one-roomed airport… he was being restrained by a guard and grinning at everybody. Insane.
It took us four hours to take off again. I fell asleep on the floor, with my head resting on Governess, after drinking some bottled water and peeing three or four times in a row.
The best parts of this experience? A. We helped catch a criminal in Latin America (yes we did) and B. We got to watch the sun rise over a couplet of nearby volcanoes. They were absolutely lovely.
Our week-long Ecuadorian adventure has been very dreamlike. We’ve ridden taxis (innumerable), buses (4), and planes (5 so far) — stayed by the ocean and trekked through an otherworldly cloud forest… and today, Charlie and I enjoyed our last morning in Quito inside of the Juan Valdez Cafe; he sipped on a grande cappuccino with his left hand and I held a medium-sized, whipped cream-topped caramel latte in mine. After writing (me) and listening to music (him) for a little while, we moseyed onto a cool little breakfast spot that he’d read about online. We’re having a nice, lazy day together.
I told him yesterday that he feels like a brother to me now, and then I cried a little. I’ve thought about Bobby and Bruster during this trip… I grieve for both of them a little bit, every now and then. The well, I know, is inexhaustible.
And I thought about them at the most interesting times; one afternoon in Las Salinas, I was lying in a hammock, looking up at some buildings and over at the sea through the apartment’s open window… there was another hammock next to mine, and the wind was blowing it around a little, making it look like a ghost was sitting there. I asked myself, who would you like to have sitting there? I ran through the names of people — alive and estranged; dead and gone… but the only person I could imagine sitting there with me was a dog. A big, fat German Shepherd: Bruster. He is the one I wanted the most.
And then, when we climbed onto a big old bus for a two-hour ride to Mindo yesterday morning, “I just can’t wait to be king!” (an old Lion King song) started playing in my head. I started humming it out loud and dancing in my seat, smiling over at Charlie, and then I realized that I was actually thinking about Bobby… remembering how my brother LOVED that movie so much; how he wore that stupid Lion King outfit on repeat for months when he was a kid. I knew how much he’d love to be going on an adventure like this right now, and I wished I could have taken him with me.
I wish I could take him all kinds of places when I land in bham tomorrow night — Alaska, San Fran, Vancouver… we could be having the best time together these days. Anyways…
Ecuadorian Highlights slash Points of Interest:
The outdoor markets here are intriguingly maze-like and overwhelmingly large. You walk through (what feels like endless) “aisles” of dirt, brick, and concrete to interact with the locals who are peddling their goods: fresh fruits and vegetables (14 bananas for $1!), handmade hats and clothes, and cheap souvenirs (like “Michael Kors” sunglasses, alpaca sweaters and blankets, and Ecuadorian wallets). I’ve had fun haggling w/artisans and taxi drivers… it’s a part of the experience!
We’ve mostly eaten simple, unprocessed foods while here — lots of bananas, scrambled eggs, panaderia bread and chocolate — but we’ve also gone out for Indian food and vegetarian lasagna. All of the food is local and beyond-reasonably priced. I love it. Bought a gigantic avocado from this magical old lady down in Las Salinas on Sunday and it was one of the best ever. Fun fact: Paid $0.15 for Charlie’s fresh-out-of-the-oven (like, we WATCHED it come out of the oven) croissant this AM.
produce w/sign inside of el restaurante vegano se llama “dulce albahaca”
produce w/sign + lasaña + lasaña con aguacate en el restaurante vegano se llama “dulce albahaca”
There are so many dogs on the streets. At first, it broke our hearts — seeing pup after pup wandering around, listless — but as we acclimated to the environment, we realized that the locals do a pretty good job of caring for these animals (whether they’re pets or not). Now — are all of the pets here healthy-and-happy-looking? No. But that’s everywhere, isn’t it? Charlie and I came up with a little game on the bus ride home from Mindo: If you spotted a pup on the street, you got one point; a pup on a roof (which is surprisingly commonplace) equaled five points; a German Shepherd on the street was worth ten points and a German Shepherd “roofpup” scored a whopping twenty. He won the game because I like riding in buses with my eyes closed… it’s less nausea-inducing.
I found a boyfriend in Las Salinas. His name is Daniel (dahn-ee-ehl) and he offered to ride me around on his motorbike one afternoon, but with Charlie and another non-Spanish-speaking friend in my custody, I declined. We’re keeping in touch (as friends) via email, and I’m mailing a copy of my book to him when I return home to the states this weekend.
I’ve dreamt in Spanish twice this week. Reading, listening to, speaking and translating the language has been INCREDIBLY helpful in solidifying my current knowledge and understanding of Spanish. It really is the language of my heart. I can’t wait to dig into the 47 million other verb tenses I don’t know yet when I’m back at Red Cat this weekend… 🙂 HA.
Depression travels internationally (gratis — for free!). I’ve always lightly held the belief that, if I traveled far and wide enough, the people and things and environment around me would all be so different that they would be different enough for me to not feel as sad as I do; as if an extreme change in external landscape could magically heal my internal self. But it’s not like that, and that’s alright… the more you know about your illnesses and weaknesses, the more capable you are of dealing with and managing them. Traveling won’t fix me, because wherever I go, I go… so I just need to keep on unraveling to maintain, I guess; writing and singing and strumming and biking with my shadow punctuating each line, curving the edge of each note, and sticking to my heels.
Carefully consider your traveling companions. Charlie is very easy to travel with — he’s quiet, self-sufficient, upbeat, thoughtful; but the other friend who tagged along with us was very co-dependent and extremely self-absorbed during the trip. I spent the first five days catering to her whims — whenever she was bored or hungry or tired, we’d stop whatever we were doing (or planned slash wanted to do) to take care of her needs. And when I mentioned, one day, wanting to spend some time alone, she made me feel guilty because she didn’t know the language and didn’t want me far away from her (although she knew about this trip ***nine months*** in advance and could have made some very basic preparations for it; studying the culture, learning some key phrases, etc.). But on the evening of day five, when I finally admitted to her (and that was my fault; I shouldn’t have waited so long to express myself) that I felt like I’d been making a lot of (aka way too many) concessions, she became furious — spat out some of the most hateful things anyone’s ever said to me right there in the taxi and treated me like a total piece of shit. It shook me up so badly that the incident rendered me crying in front of our AirBnB apartment with her glaring down at me and Charlie wrapping his arm around my shoulder and telling her: “Enough — it’s finished.” Ironically, we spent the next day (a nine-hour venture) doing what she wanted (another concession I made, and one which meant I wouldn’t be able to visit Cotopaxi — a volcano I’d been longing to see for nine months), and then – immediately after the outing – she abruptly announced that she was leaving that evening — two days early. Whew. D-R-A-M-A. With all of that being said, I absolutely, 100% prefer solo adventures to group vacations, but as far as future travels involving another party (or parties) are concerned, I will be very cautious as to who I agree to travel with (and for how long, because a two-day getaway is very different from a seven-day, close quartered, international adventure).
My overall three favorite memories: Splashing my feet in salt water and fresh water — feeling the chill, energy, and pull of ocean and river; holding smooth stones and turning cool rocks over in my hands; and speaking with everyone in Spanish.
Did I cross paths with the next love of my life in Ecuador? Nah. Daniel is VERY nice, but he isn’t the one, and while another beautiful man (seemingly, a native of Mindo) with long, brown hair and the very best eyes shook my hand quite lovingly yesterday afternoon, I’m still holding out for this Audio character. Stupid, huh? But on the real real, I’m pretty sure he likes me (either that or he’s the freakin WORST). Have he and I spoken while I’ve been away? Sort of; on Tuesday, I sent Audio a picture of a motorcycle I spotted in Las Salinas (I plan on framing and hanging the pic en mi casa) and he replied: “Sweet little bike.” Then, a day or so later, I sent him a few pictures of the cloud forest, and he replied: “Amazing.” I followed up by saying that, while there were lots of lovely cows (oh, I looooooove them!) and so many shades of green up there in Mindo, I was very much looking forward to coming home, and then he replied “night” — with a smiley face. So basically, we’re going steady now.
When I arrived home earlier this week, the house felt very still. I placed a paper bag of groceries on the table and then sat down. Sitting made me uncomfortable, so I stood back up and walked to the side door. The weather was fair, warm, and I thought airing the house out might help. I went to unlock the door, to crack it open, and discovered that I was too weak to unlock it. Frustrated, I turned around, facing the stairs. I tried to climb them and was amazed to realize that I could not. I was so exhausted, so numb, so beyond joy and despair and imagination that I couldn’t move. I collapsed onto the stairs and cried, nuzzling my face against the soft and dusty brown carpet. It smelled like dirt, dogs, and incense. I could hear Silo scratching at the door upstairs and Tycho pacing around. I worried about them worrying about me. I opened my eyes and centered my gaze between two spindles — looking out at the living room, where my best friend lives downstairs. He sleeps on that couch, and plays video games in that chair. He was at work now, and feeling happy today, I hoped. I thought about my family up in Tennessee, with their highlighted bibles and church clothes… my three best friends in Birmingham and Trussville, as well as the one who’s far away in Florida… and the two exes who live locally, one of whom I never did care for very deeply. Gave myself away, I did. It was loneliness. I cringed at the memory.
And back in this moment, I felt like I couldn’t possibly feel more alone, more depleted, more hopeless, or more indifferent to whether I was still in this world or finally out of it.
“stairs and doors”
a non-poet’s poem
my bones cannot climb these stairs
so they’ll rest on them a while
we’re weak in the wrist or we’d open the door
take a few steps
breathe in the world
i whisper to you — sometimes, some days:
“think about me; remember my face”
you never do
it’s always those stairs,
there’s always a door,
and you’re too far away
too alive in that world
I’ve experienced this before — a sudden slope in my depression that’s so drastic I can barely move. It’s a strange physical phenomenon, and for a Virgo who craves absolute control over her mind, body, and heart, it’s difficult to comprehend how I can become so truly weak in the knees that I can’t keep my body from hitting the floor.
When I reflect on childhood, I can remember dark spells, gloomy years, and a sustained sense of being 1. out of control and 2. an outsider. To cope, I stopped eating, cut myself, and danced the downward spiral with OCD. But I was always bravely happy — firmly insistent that the sun was there despite steady clouds overhead.
My depression back then was never as bad as it often is now. I trace this current “dark age” back to my big breakup three years ago. I think that losing a long-term companion after losing my brother and my religion affected me much more than I anticipated it would, and now, I’m wondering what I can do to help myself cope with the ceaseless uncertainty and heartbreak of life.
Things I’ve either realized or been thinking about a lot recently:
Over the years, I’ve been overly invested in my work and relationships to distract myself from scary nihilist thoughts and deep-seated feelings of loneliness.
Until recently, I’ve misunderstood unconditional love.
I’m highly critical of myself and others.
I’m a true agnostic who is dying to know the meaning of life.
Before work and relationships taking up my time and attention, it was church stuff — teaching classes, working events, and sharing music (back when I was a “believer”). I’ve always had something “big” to devote myself to and identify myself with (a god, a person, a company), and as I take a step back now to assess that, I realize that – as good as my intentions were, and are – over-investing in anything external is just a subliminal attempt to escape from myself and not address my innate unhappiness and dissatisfaction with the world.
Why am I so dissatisfied with the world? As beautiful as it can be, it equally sucks. People are so violent — so cruel to each other and to animals and indifferent to the suffering of others. It’s like when I pass by a farm of cows — I eagerly roll down my window to greet them, my whole face a smile, and then I begin wailing two miles further down the road, realizing that those cows probably aren’t pets. I mull over how murderously selfish meat eaters are, re-realize that they’re fucking everywhere and that people who genuinely give a shit about animals are in the minority, and it just rips my soul apart. So I turn on Spotify and think about something else instead — like how much I can’t stand being here, and how awful it is to be driving on the interstate alone; without a warm hand holding mine, a trusted voice drawing me out of my troubled mind, or a good soul navigating through all of this shit with me.
And as far as unconditional love is concerned, I’ve always claimed to love people unconditionally, but I realized, after Christopher spat on the small bit of friendship we had left roughly a month ago, that I was basing my love for him on the premise that he loved and respected me back. When I finally learned that he didn’t (at ALL), I told myself that he didn’t deserve love, and that I should firmly dislike him for the rest of our lives.
Something similar happened with Charlie, my best friend; when it hit me, a few months ago, that I was no longer his VERY best friend slash favorite person, I told myself that he shouldn’t be MY best friend or favorite person, either.
But the truth is, if you actually love someone, it shouldn’t be because of how they feel about OR what they do for you. If the existence or degree of your love depends on their own, it isn’t love. And the truth is that I do love Christopher unconditionally, as a person, despite his grand jackassery. Not romantically, as I used to — he’ll never again be that same old companion I knew and loved, and I no longer wish to speak with or hear from him again — but as a person, I still care about his well-being. It’s a fundamental kind of love; like, you want that other person to be healthy and happy and would give them one of your kidneys, if needed (regardless of whether or not the freakin Gemini “deserves” it).
And whether or not I’m his best friend, Charlie is still mine — I don’t have to pour our love for each other into two separate test tubes and then measure them to ensure that they’re equivalent. It doesn’t matter. I’ll simply love him as much as I do.
As for Audio (the boy I like who maybe but probably doesn’t like me back)… well, I still like him. Pride aside (because I don’t have much of it), it’s okay to like someone who doesn’t like you. It’s honest. Why should we be dishonest with ourselves, others, the world? What a waste of time and energy that would be. I’m sure I’ll like other people before I die — I’ll instantly fall in love with their spirits and then hope that they love mine, too — but some of them, maybe even most of them, won’t feel the same. And that’s alright.
Also, this soul-recognizing-soul event doesn’t always have to be romantic — sometimes, a connection is just a connection. And more often than we care for, the connection just randomly dead-ends — even though we hoped to a god that it never would.
For the last couple of weeks, Charlie has been obsessed with astrology. He already knew my birth date, but recently decided that he wanted to drill deeper down into my psyche to give me a “fuller picture” of my true, inner self, so after I gave him my birth time and city, he completed a “star chart” of sorts that rendered a startling accurate analysis of who I am and how I operate.
I don’t remember very much of it — there was a bunch of stuff about houses and moons and moods. I place about much stock in it as I would any other theory. Other than a rough middle-eastern translation that stated that I am “a business” (love it!), the other thing that stood out to me the most was that I am highly critical of myself and others. Star charts aside, it’s a very true statement.
I’ve never given myself a passing score in anything — abilities, looks, interpersonal relationships, inherent worthiness. None of it. And as an adult, I’m constantly working through all of that. But I’ve also always been highly critical of others; judging someone’s entire character by one unforgettable incident, or one (what I’d call) major flaw. For instance, I know a person who lies incessantly, and when I first discovered this, I immediately thought: Well, I can’t be friends with so-and-so… they lie. But their habit of lying doesn’t define their whole character. As I got to know them, I discovered that they have many good traits also, and that these aren’t rendered void because they feel a compulsion to lie (for whatever reason — it could be due to a lack of self-worth, like me, and they’re just trying to remedy theirs differently).
The same goes for people with other bad traits and qualities (which we all have — they just vary). We’re all still valuable — still just as important as anyone else in the world, whether we’re out in it or hidden away in our homes.
Lastly, the agnostic bit. When I visited my family up in Tennessee last week, they wanted to know when I’d have my “epiphany” and rejoin their religion (as if such a thing could be scheduled). They seem to believe that this disbelief of mine is a phase — something that’ll pass. That it’s a temporary rebellion so I can “do what I want” (which is drink coffee, work hard, study Spanish and go to bed at 8:30). A close friend of mine is, like them, hopeful that things will “click” for me someday and that having a god will give me a sense of solid footing in this world. To be completely honest, I genuinely envy those with faith (in any religion/denomination), but I know myself; it isn’t in me.
To me, the idea of there being this heaven place is a beautiful fairy tale — one I can easily understand people wanting to people in. When I hear “heaven”, I imagine people, many years ago, thinking to themselves: “I hate it when we have a famine and run out of food; when we get sick; when friends and family die…” and then dreaming up, mapping out, and writing about this perfect world you can eventually end up in (offering eternal life, perfect health, and endless fun with the people and animals you love) if you play your cards right. Dreamy, right? Right. It is the stuff of dreams. And for me, it just doesn’t resonate.
However, this is why I call myself an agnostic — not an atheist. I can’t imagine that tangible and intangible things like music, love, trees, rabbits, burritos and German Shepherds just apparated. Just happened. I think there’s some intelligent design in play, and I do feel what I can comfortably refer to as a kind presence following me around most days, but – unlike many – I don’t pretend to know what it is (or they are), because I remain unconvinced. Some frown at this lack of faith, this laziness, whatever… but for me, it’s all there is.
And since my life purpose slash meaning doesn’t come from saving souls, I have to figure out where it does come from. Thus far, I’ve been attaching meaning to over-investing in my professional work and relationships. Recently, I added academic studies, death row plants, and travel adventures to the list. And at this exact moment, I feel like the most meaningful things I can do while I’m here on this earth are to create art (in the forms of stories and songs), take good care of the people and animals who are in my neck of the woods, and lessen the suffering of every person I meet to the best of my ability (whether that’s handing out a meal, offering some sound financial advice, giving somebody a hug or just listening to them complain). Suffering is universal — and so is love. The two are very closely related, and because I know the magicalness of love and the corresponding terribleness of sadness, I want to be there for people who are suffering as I have (and am).
How about you? What seems to give your life purpose? And do you ever feel so weighed down by everything (or nothing at all) that you literally can’t move?
“If he’s at that bike ride thing tonight, you should ignore him,” Sierra (aka mother) advised via Messenger.
“Yep,” I agreed. “Going to do just that.”
This was on Thursday morning, and when Thursday night rolled around, yes — he was there.
Feeling exuberantly bummed that A. he was present and B. he cared enough about me to greet me, I tipped my head down in mute response and then hurried on to the restroom, peeing for the 17th time that day (I drink lots of beverages).
After walking back outside, I hopped up onto the concrete ledge and leaned my back against a whitewashed brick wall. This is my usual “waiting for the ride to start” spot, and like other “fixed” parts of my life routine, it gives me a sense of comfort and ease — a feeling of safeness. Withdrawing a book from my helmet, I stretched my legs out, crossed one foot over the other, and began to read.
Less than 30 seconds later, I felt another human being hop up onto the ledge and plop down beside me. I glanced to my left, and it was him… that (not)stupid boy that I like.
Against my will, I chatted with Audio about this book (Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood) and other books, and when I learned that he’d also read Ender’s Game (one of my all-time favorites), I accidentally gushed about the piggies (an “alien” species Ender encounters in the book’s sequel — my favorite piggie of whom was named Human).
While we chatted, he held out an open bag of walnuts, and I hesitantly withdrew one of them, mentioning that I had macadamia nuts in my backpack, which was in the car. We talked about motorcycles for a bit and I began to miss mine. I wondered if Audio wears a helmet when he rides, or if he would like to borrow my armored leather jacket for a while, and then chided myself for caring about his safety so much.
We both fell silent for a minute, watching an older couple taking a selfie (or trying to) in front of us. The guy wasn’t into it, but his gal was. “Get into my picture, dammit,” she said, and Audio and I both laughed. Hearing us, the guy turned around and pointed over at Audio and me.
“Take a picture of them instead… they’re cuter,” he said. And the woman did — I laughed nervously, glancing over at Audio, and saw that he was making a cute face at me. I couldn’t stand it. But I also had to refrain, later, from asking the lady to please send me those pictures.
Just before the ride began, I hopped off of the ledge and walked over to my bike, noticing another bike positioned closely alongside it. Drawing nearer, I realized that the other bike was actually leaning right up against my bike — very odd. I lowered my head to assess the situation further and perceived that the other bike didn’t seem to have a kickstand of its own, and when I went to move my own bike, this other bike moved with it. Not wanting this mystery bike to fall over, I paused.
Well shucks, I thought to myself, looking up and around. I won’t be able to go anywhere until this bike’s owner returns.
Audio strolled over to where I was then, and just as I began to ask do you know whose bike this is?, he reached for it, gently grasping the handlebars.
How FORWARD of him! I thought, love-hating the gesture and feeling slightly indignant. Placing his bike in MY bike’s vicinity…
But my heart quit missing so many beats when I was able to steer myself and my bike away from Audio. As our bikes cut through the humid air and rolled over the hot asphalt, my mind cleared all of that emotional debris away and I felt calmer, content to enjoy the scenery and the sound.
“Remember: You made it clear – WEEKS ago – that you like him like him and he didn’t seem to reciprocate… so keep your guard up, rabbit,” I advised myself coolly.
“I KNOWWWWW,” I replied, exasperated.
Our secret destination turned out to be a lovely little park over near Crestwood. After parking my bike, I moseyed off from the crowd for a few minutes (to inspect an old brick building across the street) and then spent the last bit of our break swinging. As I was happily kicking my legs into the air, I felt someone seat themselves and start swinging next to me (him, of course). We didn’t speak. I just don’t get you at all, I thought to myself.
When it was time to go, I returned to my bike, tugged my stickered helmet off of a handlebar, and started fiddling with it — my helmet had been giving me grief that evening, resting on my head a bit too loosely.
Suddenly, Audio appeared in front of me, took the helmet from my hands, and began adjusting it. After tightening the straps, he placed it on my head, adjusted it a bit more, and then buckled it, his fingers brushing lightly against my chin. What the hell.
“You’re supposed to wear it like this,” he explained, pulling it forward.
I felt myself blushing and hoped he didn’t notice.
Forty-ish minutes later, we were back where we started — hanging out in the alley behind Redemptive Cycles. I gave my number to an old guy who enjoys talking psychology and then tried to sneak off, quietly wheeling my bike around a bulky SUV en route to my Fiesta. Somehow, Audio still managed to spot me and intercepted my path, holding his arms out.
I hugged him back (happily and sadly), and when I sensed him not letting go, I seriously felt like vomiting. Does this dude actually LIKE me, or is he just crazy un-perceptive and unaware of how torturous this is?
So I pulled away to look at him: He was smiling. Radiantly.
“Look — can you just… walk with me to my car?” I asked awkwardly.
I rolled my bike forward and he walked alongside me. I still felt queasy. What was I going to say next? This wasn’t planned…
“Listen… do you NOT like communicating outside of these Thursday night rides?”
He seemed surprised, but recovered quickly. “Oh — yeah… I don’t like writing much,” he said, which explained his habit of not responding to my text messages. “Also, there was sort of a disconnect for me growing up, technology-wise. I prefer in-person interactions.”
“Ahhhh…” I murmured. Reasonable. “Okay — because I felt like I was probably driving you crazy with my texts a few weeks ago, and decided I should just stop messaging you altogether–”
“NO,” he exclaimed quickly. “Don’t do that — it’s something I need to work on.”
I realized we’d already reached my car and noticed that he’d placed his beer on top of it. I wasn’t sure when we’d stopped walking or when he’d set it up there. I felt queasy and nervous and dazed.
“Well okay then,” I nodded slowly. “Then I will likely text you a song or a picture of my German Shepherd from time to time,” I warned, and he laughed. His face was tinged with red — just a little. I was happy to realize that he might be nervous, too (or possibly just flush from the alcohol).
“And uhmmm — since you prefer in-person interactions,” I continued boldly, “I’m dropping my best friend off at the airport this Saturday and then I’ll be pretty free, so if you’d LIKE to get lunch or dinner or coffee or drinks or whatever this weekend, just let me know — you don’t need to decide right now,” I added hurriedly. Although I like you so so much and I bet we’d have a really great time together and I TOTALLY think that you should stop being so freaking mixed signal-y.
Then I bid him farewell and drove home, trying to NOT replay and over-analyze every single second spent with him. HA!
I texted him a song recommendation later that night (#whywastetime?) and a picture of my German Shepherd the next day, proposing that – on Sunday – we could maybe ride our bikes over to a local brewery and then check out this jazz show on 5th?
Still waiting to hear back. 🙂 Shocking, huh? WAIT, hang on — I just got a notification on my phone!…ahhhhh, it’s just DuoLingo; time for my daily Spanish lesson.
Randomly sharing a few pics from my recent trip to Knoxville — had a great time visiting w/fam!
She was sprinting through the house, wearing grey sweatpants and a towel on her head. It was our last day together.
“I always think that the bus is waiting for me,” she said, grabbing her makeup bag and cell phone in one swift movement, “but it’s actually me who’s waiting for the bus.”
“That’s really insightful,” I called out from the couch, my right foot propped up on a three-tiered cake of pillow. “On so many levels…”
She laughed, and then I heard the bathroom door slam shut.
I spent last weekend in Portland, Oregon. It was a solo trip taken for the sheer hell of it; I wanted to try the coffee, and the vegan food, and take in all of the views — from tall trees, soul-soothing waterfalls, and soft old clothes to some of the most notoriously peculiar human beings on the planet.
But I had to tweak my plans early on in the trip.
On day two, I was riding the #20 in the direction of Mt. Tabor Park. As we neared the next stop, I readjusted my backpack, tugged on the yellow rope running along the interior of the bus, and went to stand up. Nothing weird — just, you know; rising up onto my feet, like usual.
But when I did so, I felt something like a ball explode inside of my foot — it was insanely jarring, took me completely by surprise, and every single step I took afterwards was more excruciating than I can properly describe.
Sidebar History Lesson: The previous week, I was training new hires up in northern Alabama and spent my evenings walking several miles in unsupportive sandals, which I could tell – afterwards – stressed my feet out… and I suspect that THIS is what primed me for the explosion.
And regardless of what was supposed to happen next, what I did was grit my teeth, hobble through the park, and then limp up and down the city’s bustling streets for the next two and a half days, chasing food and coffee and books and scarves.
this guy was one of my faves… gave him a copy of Jinx
scarf purchased @ Rerun
lavender latte + a rad(ish) salad @ Bipartisan Cafe (where I legit saw Carrie Brownstein)
las flores (near Mt. Tabor Park)
*VEGAN* FIESTA MAC N CHEESE @ Off the Griddle
caramel latte @ Albina Press (lovely atmosphere — big windows, open doors, and pretty plants)
burrito bowl @ Por Que No?
me figuring out how to look like Portland (sweater purchased @ House of Vintage)
BEST vegetarian BLT ever @ Vita Cafe
caramel bourbon latte @ Case Study Coffee Roasters
super fantz coffee dubbed “The Oregon” (dulce de leche, hops, and sea salt) @ Never Coffee
biggest ritto I’ve ever rittoed @ Common Grounds Coffee House
me trying to selfie (misunderstanding between myself and self-timer)
Hover over pics above for deets.
My favorite memories of Portland:
One afternoon, a young man (20s) and his dad boarded the bus together and seated themselves near the front. I’d been engrossed in scenes beyond the window, so I heard the young man before I actually saw him.
Why? He was making the most interesting noises: deep grunts, sharp exhalations, gleeful laughs and high-pitched siren sounds. His dad, I noticed, communicated with him by clicking his thumb and pointer finger together, slapping him on the knee, and making intricate movements with his wrists. It didn’t look like formal sign language, but I definitely understood that this was their language.
The young man made one noise, in particular, that I found so beautiful it almost moved me to tears… it was a lovely trill, sort of like a bird’s. He did it once, twice, maybe four times; every now and then, it would magically reappear, and I wanted to hear it nonstop forever.
After about ten minutes, I noticed the father gathering their things together. I wish he’d trill one more time before leaving, I thought to myself; I’d appreciated hearing it before, but I wanted to really record the sound in my mind before he disappeared from me forever.
And then as the door opened and he began descending the stairs, there it was — that sweet, rolling trill, tumbling backwards through the air. I closed my eyes then. I can still hear it now.
Early one morning, it was finally on the cusp of being overcast (it didn’t rain AT ALL while I was there — what the heck!) and I was on the bus again. We were passing through the city, bumping over downtown Portland’s uneven roads.
To my right, I suddenly saw a narrow and dark patch between two buildings — and there in that shadowy space was a man, sitting between this wall and that one; he was wearing a blanket and quietly staring down at the flame on a lighter. It was strikingly beautiful.
At the bus stop (YES, I practically lived on or near the bus!) on Monday, I sat waiting beside a man who looked like a rock star — wearing a leather vest, leather pants, a jet-black faux hawk and silver hoops in his ears. A girl approached us, and then there were three of us waiting for the bus — possibly four, but the other lady was standing pretty far off in the distance, staring down at the asphalt and cursing at it, so she might have just been hanging out.
I heard the rock star fidgeting to my left, but didn’t look over at him.
“Need a lighter?” the girl asked suddenly.
He laughed. “Yeah.”
“Hey, I’ve been there before — it’s hard to light a joint from a cigarette.” I heard the click of it, and then a sizzle.
I was staring after a plastic bag blowing down the street, feeling puzzled; if he was able to light the cigarette, why can’t he light the joint? I wondered. Maybe he lost the lighter, or it stopped working, I reasoned afterwards.
Seconds later, I could smell it. Delicious.
“You know… I appreciate you not judging me, you know?” the guy said to the girl.
“Hey — I’d smoke it if I could,” she said.
Me too, I thought. But it isn’t legal back in bama… YET.
“It’s just… a lot of people judge me for it, you know?” he continued, and I heard him make a snorting sound. I couldn’t stop my head from turning a little and saw him batting at his nose.
“And it’s just like… some people need to be sober, and some people need to NOT be sober,” he concluded.
The girl murmured her assent.
The bus came and she and I got on it… I sat in the back, by the window again, and watched Rock Star fade away. Turned out he wasn’t waiting for the bus.
On Sunday, I purchased a scarf from a secondhand shop and then hobbled to the park across the street. Plopping down and leaning my back against a tree, I watched as — on a great, big court — several games of basketball occurred simultaneously.
There were four groups of older men — predominantly black, with one goofy-looking group of white boys — and two batches of young kids. Didn’t spot a single girl on the court, which was disappointing. I suddenly remembered getting hit in the face with a football during 7th grade PE. That dickhead — I couldn’t remember his name, but knew he was Ryan’s twin brother, and though he’d claimed it was an accident, I’d been standing just seven feet in front of him, counting as fast as I could: one mississippi, two mississippi, three mississippi, four…
I noticed that one of the kid groups (composed of four members: a skinny kid, another skinny kid who was dressed really well, a toddler, and a chubby kid) had an all-star on their team: the chubby kid! He kept landing shot after shot, from all sorts of distances, and I loved watching him dribble, because you could tell that he felt good about it (and himself).
This one time, though, the skinny-and-not-dressed-well kid went to steal the ball and fell in the process; chubby kid kept on going with the ball, landed the shot, and then reared back around, approaching the kid who was still on the ground.
My heart to started to ache a little as it anticipated hurt feelings, but then, it soared; I watched as chubby kid walked over to skinny kid, held his hand out, and helped him back up onto his feet. Then, he slapped him on the back encouragingly, like nice try. It was freaking awesome, because the kid was like seven.
A strung-out, emaciated guy walked onto the bus late one afternoon and started chatting with the girl across from him; she was middle-aged, dressed well, and seemed kind. He rattled on about having just lost $3000 in poker (apparently trying to be impressive), and she told him that she’d stopped playing ten years ago… that it had nearly ruined her life. He bristled a little at the unsolicited advice and got off at the next stop, and then the guy beside her chimed in, saying that poker was like a drug.
“It really is,” she agreed. “I was a stripper for a while and used to blow the money on the game.”
“Oh… that makes sense; so that’s why you’re into such alternative stuff,” the guy said, nodding after the already-gone emaciated guy (who – seemingly affecting a feminine accent and wearing a women’s shirt – had appeared to be in the process of possibly transforming).
“Excuse me?” she said, narrowing her eyes as she considered the guy.
Good for you, lady, I thought at her, happy she’d stuck up for herself and the other guy. You fuckin’ jackass, I thought at the jackass.
A few things I learned in Portland:
How to use public transit. We’re sorta, kinda getting there in bham, but spots like Denver and Portland have got it goin’ ON in the public transit department.
It took me a few days (and several missed stops slash incorrect bus boardings) to get the hang of it, but MAN did I feel proud of myself once I figured out how to route myself from this spot to that one via buses, streetcars, and even trains.
I didn’t have to Uber — not even ONCE (although, at times, the public transit system was really freaking confusing and I was TEMPTED to Uber — persistence is key!), and with a 2.5 hour pass costing $2.50 and a full day public transit pass costing just $5, I spent a total of $17.50 on transportation the whole time I was there.
You can bring your own coffee mug to coffee shops! I watched hipster after hipster do it, and realizing that doing this was possible resolved a true dilemma of mine:
Coffee shop mugs are so homey, and I just love sipping coffee from them, but it takes me FOREVER to finish a latte, so I usually opt for paper to-go cups (which come with lids). However…
At the thrift store last month, I found this neato porcelain coffee mug and swore I’d start making coffee at home with it (because I liked it so much). I tried doing so, and my coffee didn’t compare to Red Cat’s, but GUESS WHAT? I can now bring this reusable coffee mug (which comes WITH a lid) to the coffee shop WITH me and vwahla: My latte will preserve its favorable temperature for a bit longer AND I’ll be helping the environment out. Double win.
Happily back home in bham, I brought my coffee mug w/me to Red Cat this AM, and look at how splendidly things went! (And there was a surprising third benefit, too: The barista gave me a $1 discount for bringing my own mug!)
Socializing doesn’t have to be difficult (or weird). My AirBnB host (the girl with the towel on her head) was a super sociable person who invited me out for drinks twice — the first time, I politely declined, but the second time, I agreed… and it was fun! Easy, even!
She and I met up with two of her friends (a guy and his bro, who was visiting from Turkey) and we went to two different bars (I ordered a drink at one of them). At the first place, we watched a local emo band perform on an outdoor stage — the 2015 Oregonian Pinot Noir had me swaying in the audience beside three new friends — and when we made it over to the second joint (a smoky jazz bar), I could feel it — understand it, and I’m talking about jazz — for the first time in my life:
I was the piano solo, and he was the saxophone solo… the notes were our words. The bass was the feelings we felt inside of ourselves — grief, passion, fury; the heart skipping a beat, or beating too fast… the drums were the movements between and against us — embracing and repelling — and the singer’s sometimes smooth, sometimes shouting vocals were the eyes that we gave each other.
Duh! NOW I get it, I thought to myself.
My AirBnB host broke up with a guy three years ago but finds herself still obsessed with him — always catching herself looking for him in the bar, on the bus, and at the grocery store…
“And you can’t really do anything about it,” she said, elbowing me with a sweaty and hoppy IPA in her hand. She’d just commented on how sexy the guy with the saxophone was; his name was Taylor. He was hanging back in a dim corner of the room now, waiting for his next solo. “You just have to focus on something else.”
I nodded. I get that more than you’d possibly believe, I wanted to tell her… thinking about Spanish and caramel lattes and college and gigs and travel and novels and work and bike rides.
She held the IPA out for me to taste it. I took a single sip, wrinkled my nose, and gave it back to her, smiling anyways.
But like AirBnB said: If you’re helplessly obsessed, focus on other things. So I’ll keep on doing that.
PS: Oh yeah — the whole broke myself in Portlanddrama bit: Turns out that the bus mishap was me spraining my ankle! I paid a rare visit to the doctor when I returned to bham and am now wearing a fashionable medical boot for the next 13 days. Woohoooooooooooooo!
I know this is a little extra for a PS, but I had to ask FOUR different medical personnel if I could please view images of my foot x-ray before it finally happened. And FYI, my foot looks REALLY cool in b&w.
“Guess I’ve got bones down there after all!” I laughed to the nurse (who’d begrudgingly escorted me to the viewing room).
“Do people ask to see their x-rays often?” I asked as she led me toward the exit, curious.
Well — I felt very fortunate to have been able to see mine, and I would have asked for a 4×6 print to-go, but… #vibes #sociallyperceptive #igetit #butitsMYfootxray.
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I was hanging out at a cafe, writing and wearing headphones, when this guy walked in — a regular who’s hit on me a few times in the last couple of weeks. He’s nice enough but came on a little too strong the last time we spoke, and when he greeted me and then sat down beside me last Sunday morning, I was already feeling beyond exhausted from finals, a forty-hour work week, and a weekend music gig.
He’s going to stay here and talk TO me for the next hour and A HALF if I don’t nip this in the bud RIGHT NOW, I warned myself.
I know, but what can I do?!
Just… SAY something, I offered weakly.
Gee, THANKS, I grumbled inwardly.
So I smiled as I removed one of my earbuds. “Hey dude — look, I’d really love to chat with you, but my emotional and social reserves are right here,” I explained, lowering my left hand towards the cafe’s concrete floor and squinting over at him.
His eyebrows shot up. “Oh — well…”
And then he picked up his things, seated himself at a table nearby, finished his coffee and meal very quickly and left.
I got the pretty distinct impression that he had been offended by my lack of niceness, but you know what? Go me.
Four Days Later
“So what’s the best part of your week been?”
I glanced over to my left. Audio (the boy who knows I like him but refuses to directly address the matter) had just pulled up alongside me (again) during a Thursday night bike ride. We were now rolling through an intersection together.
“The BEST part?” I repeated. “Wellllllllll…” I hesitated. “LOTS of nice things have happened this week!” I exclaimed finally, feeling frazzled.
“You can include the weekend,” he added encouragingly.
“Hmmmmm…” I thought about it some more. “You know, I feel like something really great happened on Tuesday — I just can’t recall what it was… but I DID stick up for myself on Sunday,” I said, telling the tale and expressing how proud of myself I was.
“You know what?” he laughed. “It’s funny you’d say that, because I stuck up for myself this week, too,” and then he related a work incident that he’d handled bravely and professionally. I noticed him really holding my gaze while he spoke, and I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him — like REALLY, dude?! What the heckin’ HECK?
Instead, I smiled over at him and his stupidly gorgeous gray eyeballs.
Soon after, we were rolling into the alley behind Redemptive Cycles and everybody was stepping off of their bikes, grabbing a beer or a water bottle and then finding a group of people to hang out with. I leaned my bike up against the chain link fence and, when I turned around, Audio had reappeared.
“So like I was saying earlier…” he continued, looking and being adorable. I love-hated watching and listening to him.
“Let’s go mingle,” he suggested eventually, nodding towards the others.
“Alrighty,” I sang out, leaving my bike to walk beside him, “but I don’t usually do this — just walk up to people and start chit chatting…” but then I spotted a guy I knew there in the crowd and ran over to him.
“Heya!” I greeted him. “I’ve been tasked to mingle, which is terrifying, so I decided to come over here and hang out with you,” I explained openly, hopping up onto the metal landing behind the back door.
“Ahhhhh — you know me, so I’m safe?” he laughed.
“YEP!” I grinned.
He leaned his back into the railing, crossing his feet and arms in front of him. “Who here isn’t safe, Jace?”
His question surprised me. I looked around us. “I mean — nobody isn’t safe… all of these people seem safe…”
“But if you had to pick, who seems unsafe? In other words, who would you NOT feel comfortable walking up to and starting a conversation with?”
My eyes and ears traveled the crowd again, taking in shapes and colors and faces and voices. I saw Audio’s outline to my right and my heart lurched. He isn’t safe at all, I admitted to myself, because I like him too much, and too openly.
“Again — I really don’t find anyone here to be unsafe…” I hesitated. “I mean, maybe that girl over there.” I nodded toward her, a curly-haired brunette. “She isn’t DANGEROUS or anything, but I try to smile at her whenever I see her and she’s always kinda bristly… I’m afraid that she doesn’t like me.”
“Ahhhh… that’s Valerie,” my friend said, nodding. “She’s an introvert, like you.”
I nodded understandingly.
“Let’s go talk to her,” he clapped, grinning.
“NO WAY, Jose!” I protested, but he had already grabbed my hand and tugged me down from the landing and, suddenly, we were approaching Valerie and her group of friends. I felt queasy.
“Hello, all!” my friend greeted the group. Five pairs of eyes immediately settled on the two of us. “Valerie,” he continued, gesturing toward me, “this is Jace.”
“Hi,” I offered quietly, desperately hoping she didn’t think I was hitting on her, because while I totally wasn’t, I imagined that it might seem like I was (strolling over, uninvited, with a well-meaning wingman).
She nodded at me and then continued speaking to the group; they were discussing internet speeds and competitor pricing (AT&T versus Charter). I bounced on the balls of my feet while I listened along and smiled over at my friend every now and then — sincerely grateful for his interest in making me feel less like an outsider.
After ten minutes of hanging around, I decided I’d had my fill for the evening.
“I’m heading home,” I told my friend. “I have to pee, and the back door’s locked.”
He laughed loudly. “Oh dear — well I’m sure we can find somewhere for you to go and use the restroom,” he protested.
“Nah, that’s okay — I’m also tired.” I smiled, bid him goodnight, and began walking back toward my bike.
“Jace — are you leaving?”
He hopped down from the metal landing (he’d taken my spot when I’d left) and ran over to hug me goodbye. I hugged him back, noticing him holding me a little closer than he had the previous week, and then I let him go, suspecting that a hug from me would never mean as much to him as a hug from him meant to me. How sad!
And then I hoisted my bike up onto the rack on my car and drove home, feeling proud of myself for being somewhat okay with that.
“There is no future that we’re supposed to have; there is the future that we create for ourselves every damn day.” –somebody
Aka, Audio and I aren’t destined to be together. Don’t be silly, reader! I just think that I might like for us to be together… might, because I don’t even know the guy! There’s just this magical something about him — this essence…
Be selective about the fucks you give. For example, caring deeply when the cashier is unfriendly, the guy in traffic’s being a dick, and your German Shepherd has eaten another pair of your fancy and expensive mountaineer socks could beindicative that you are lacking real meaning in your life. In other words, if you’re choosing to expend your energy and burn your emotions on trivial, petty shit (trivial and petty in the grand scheme of things), you must have nothing better to focus your attention on. And if that’s true, you might wanna take a closer look at your lifestyle, dreams, and values…
Stop trying to avoid suffering. We’re wired to do this: pursue pleasure and avoid pain — ignore all of the stuff that hurts and breaks out hearts and chase after pleasure highs instead (food, alcohol, cinema, parties, etc.). But the truth is that suffering is an essential part of this life process — and that while suffering isn’t pleasant, it’s actually good for us, because it’s instrumental in helping us grow! The slightly good news: You can often choose what you’re going to suffer for (and thereby choose to make it something worthwhile; for example: Instead of fretting over the fact that a coworker or could-be friend doesn’t like you and suffering from that sense of rejection, you could choose to nicely not give a fuck about that and – instead – suffer through tedious hours of practicing Spanish verb conjugations so that you can connect with a whole other group of people). I’d like to share this, too: The best moments of my life so far haven’t been those big ole highlights: graduating with a 2-year degree, performing on stage in front of 800 people, or getting married. My best and most defining moments were the ones that happened long before or after these “big” milestone events: spending four years’ worth of evenings and weekends attending classes and studying to get that puny degree; dedicating my free time, as a teenager, to earning callouses on my left hand as I learned the notes and scales and proper chord structure for the guitar; and collecting slash reassembling all of my broken pieces after an earth-shattering divorce and realizing – when I was neck-deep in that excruciatingly painful process – that I was WAY more resilient and brave and powerful than I’d EVER given myself credit for.
Quit trying to be right all of the time. I know people like this; they do or say something that is plainly wrong but absolutely refuse to admit it. Annoying, right? But here’s the thing: WE ALL DO THAT! We ARE those annoying people! At least sometimes… and if your focus is always on being slash appearing to be right, you’re precluding the chance of learning something new about yourself and the world (plus, if you’re an “always righter”, you prob won’t come off as being very real or likable to others).A few tips:1. When you discover that you ARE wrong about something, realize that you go from being wrong about it to LESS wrong about it — not necessarily right. We’re all on an infinite journey of approaching truth and rightness, but I (personally) don’t believe that any of us ever actually make it all the way there.
2. Don’t be afraid to be real with yourself. If you’re avoiding a person, confront yourself about it. Why am I avoiding them? Do they make me nervous? Make me feel bad about myself? Make me feel inferior? If so, why? And if so, why? If you’re avoiding a career or lifestyle change that’s always on your mind, why are you hanging back? Does the idea of taking action make you feel scared? Are you afraid to find out whether or not you can actually do the thing and would prefer to simply sit back and imagine that you could if you really tried?
People may be to blame for your unhappiness, but they are NOT responsible. This one hit hard, because I’ve been through some shit, and I have (at least in part) blamed others for my deep, dark sadness… but you know what? All of us have been through shit AND put others through shit. People break our hearts and murder our pets and go and die on us, and in ways, we do the same mean shit to them. But here’s the thing: Though we like to believe that our suffering is special and that we are poor victimized targets of the world, we are not. And we are not helpless.The truth is, neither our talents nor our suffering are unique or special… our sadness isn’t something to be worn like a crown. So shake it off, and let it go — and if you aren’t sure how to do that, figure out how. One part of that “how” is asking yourself real questions and then being completely honest when you answer yourself.If someone has injured you in some way, shame on them, but don’t expect them to make it better. You are ultimately responsible for your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, so figure out how to heal and take care of yourself. Placing the blame and burden on somebody else and waiting for them to come through on making amends is just foolish… and why hand off your control over something so vital — inner peace?
Reconsider your goals and values. In a nutshell, good goals are process-oriented, and good values are non-comparative… BAD goals and BAD values are just the opposite.Like:Instead of “lose twenty pounds”, try “treat my body well” — the latter is more of an ongoing and comprehensive/balanced kinda goal (that includes LOTS of things other than weight, like getting ample sleep + sunshine, eating a varied diet, and exercising).
Instead of “make every person I meet like me” or “make people like me more than they like xyz person” (which is impossible and is NOT something you can directly control), adopt values like “express myself honestly” or “improve my social life” (by relating with others authentically and unswervingly practicing friendliness and compassion, even in the face of evil-troll-bitch-from-hell characters).
The next chapter in the book (which I’ve yet to read) is titled “The Importance of Saying No”. I’m especially looking forward to it, because saying no to cafe dude on Sunday was a monumental but terrifying step for me — a person who loves to make people feel happy and good about themselves at almost any expense to herself.
How about you?
Are you able to nicely say no when necessary to protect your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being?
Are you fully conscious of how you’re spending your life energy, and are you happy with where it’s being channeled?
Are you deliberate about doling out your fucks or are they just spilling out everywhere?
Are you setting sustainable and good goals for yourself as well as measuring yourself and your personal success with metrics that are solid, honest, and worthy? Suggestion: Craft and adhere to your OWN values, because most of society’s generic ones (IE be the most attractive person; be the most wealthy person; be the most popular person) are fucking stupid.
After careful thought, my three big goals in life are to:
Empower + lessen the suffering of others (animals + humans, in that order)
Create art that is honest and meaningful (stories and songs)
Appreciate and savor beautiful experiences — like sipping on lattes, petting German Shepherds, going on adventures, and walking hand-in-hand with another human being. Could be Audio, but probably not. I wish Aziz Ansari was single and not quite so famous…
PS (a few hours later from a brewery I biked over to): Pic below = my fav page so far. Accurately describes why my 5-year relationship worked so well (he was the fire starter and I always loved putting them out).
This heathen’s spending another Sunday morning at the cafe where coffee is doing its thing: gently nudging me awake with a warm hug and some sweet hand-holding.
I’m sitting in my chair at Red Cat — hearing the French family from last week speaking beautifully to one other, the four of them seated at the round table in front of me; watching the elegant woman in the brown leather chair to my right, with her suede brown boots and yellow-and-gray polka dot scarf, reading a novel on her iPad; and passively listening to the customers around the wall’s corner placing their orders, the baristas behind the bar calling out those orders, and the magical coffee machine whirring in the background for all of us.
I’m remembering sitting on a park bench a few days ago; leaning forward with my elbows resting on my knees and my hands clasped underneath my chin, observing the pond water swishing and swirling around in front of me. I counted three ducks swimming that day — finally, three — and when I did, I cried with relief.
After a few moments, I heard a little girl’s voice calling out from behind me, so I turned around with red eyes and she asked: “What are you looking at?” Two, three times… she kept on asking. I could hear her question clearly, but I was wearing headphones, so I just smiled as her parents – each of them grasping one of her tiny hands – ushered her quickly forward. She cried out in protest.
“I’m watching the universe coming alive and dying over and over again,” I answered myself. “But to her, I would have said: The water! The ducks! It’s all very beautiful, isn’t it?”
A few weeks prior, I had spent my Saturday afternoon chatting with a remarkable guy at the same park (yes — the guy was Audio; sigh), and on the way back to my car, I had passed by two ducks waddling through the grass.
“Hey, guys — where’s your friend?” I wondered after them, as for years now, there’s always been the trio — three inseparable duck friends who I always spot wandering around the park together. I began to feel worry creeping in, so I ducked into my car and headed home, deliberately (and literally) leaving the matter behind me.
But last week, another weekend rolled around and I was studying Spanish at the park (at a table near the pond) when those two ducks came into view. Again, just two of them.
A police officer (one of the guards who routinely strolls the park) walked past me, and when he did, I almost flagged him down to ask about the third one: Do you know where s/he went? Any idea what happened? I’m really starting to worry…
But I decided that he probably didn’t know or care, and that I probably didn’t want to know, anyways, so I reeled my grief in and then held it there as I continued to practice verb conjugations. Incidentally, I’m now reading, writing, and speaking in three tenses.
But like I said — the third duck finally returned to view a few days ago. It was a happy ending (for now).
I watched a bluegrass band (another trio) from Montgomery perform at an art festival yesterday; they sang about wearing purple flip flops, visiting different states, and worshiping the dirt. It’s funny — bluegrass isn’t one of my preferred genres (not even in the slightest slightest), but there’s just something about live music and the sense of community latent in it that makes any flavor of sound appealing.
I also spoke with different artists yesterday: a bearded guy had his painter girlfriend take a picture of his German Shepherd tattoo and mine; a skinny girl from Portland sold me a clay necklace she’d made — a creek side leaf from Oregon etched into its surface — and wished me safe travels there next month; and a tall and lanky guy named Jim handed me a delicate pair of mixed molten earrings. “These are the tiniest ones I’ve ever made,” he said, laughing. I put them on this morning.
A girl wearing lots of jewelry complimented my tattoos in the grocery store yesterday afternoon and I felt like running away from her. Instead, I complimented her jewelry and then said goodbye immediately afterwards.
I drank a white russian to loosen up at a bar before performing last week — sang three songs while feeling like a ghost; perfectly invisible, and wonderfully untethered. I didn’t even know that I was breathing. The crowd, composed of many other musicians, cheered enthusiastically. I played inside of the saloon, but noticed Audio walk outside right as I began to play; he complimented my sound later on and then played a mostly silent game of pool with me. One of our only exchanges:
“Hitting that triangle of balls is called breaking the cue, right?” I asked. The phrase, while unfamiliar, just intuitively sounded right — like I’d somehow picked up some cool pool lingo in passing.
“No,” he shook his head, smiling. But he never did say what it was called.
I just can’t figure him out.
And then I passed by a special man this morning. He was sitting on a bench at the park; somewhat near the trio, and fidgeting with his shoes. When I saw him, I felt my blood turning pulpy and flowing thicker, ambling through my veins like the train clattering across the tracks, to my right.
“HI!” he greeted me loudly, offering a brilliant smile.
“Hi!” I replied, smiling back at him.
“How are you?” he asked quickly.
“I’m good — you?”
“You look nice!” he answered happily.
I laughed. “And so do you! Enjoy your day!”
And then I walked away quickly, trapping grief in my throat.
I thought of my brother Bobby again moments later when I passed by a bright red Doctor Pepper truck. I asked the maintenance man to take a picture of me in front of the truck, and then I deleted it. He’s been gone for nearly five years now. I often wish that I could talk with him… his presence was always so stabilizing. It’s like you knew exactly who you were when you sat down with him; you could clearly see and feel your darkest parts and your best parts. Everything just became so weirdly apparent and tangible. And you knew exactly who he was, too, because it never occurred to him that he could or should hide…
Meanwhile, I believe that we all waste inane amounts of time building walls and fashioning masks and then burn up even more of our energy and hours choosing when to hide behind either (or both). Bobby lived so much more authentically. He was always 1000% transparent. He’d only smile if he was happy or humored — that classic, toothy grin was never affected. Alternatively, he’d yell – really loudly – if you hurt his feelings or angered him. And then, my favorite, he’d simply pass the phone off to somebody else (anybody else) in the room mid-sentence if he was done with a conversation, cutting your question or story short with a monotoned and slowly drawn: “Alright — bye, sister babe…”
And when he’d give you one of those awkward and shaky arm-crushing side hugs, you knew that he loved you so, so much. He was so open. So goddamn trustworthy.
And when you remember a soul so radiant and flawless and true, you miss having somebody so real around, because you re-realize (it dawned on you before; we just easily forget the things we hate knowing) how fucking fake the rest of us are with each other — pretending to like who and what we don’t, and then absurdly concealing how strongly we actually feel about someone or something with light shrugs and small smiles and powerful words that we keep to ourselves.
A Month Ago
“Is it weird that I’ve made friends with this hole in my hand?” I asked Charlie.
“Good. Because I just feel such an affinity for it — like, I feel so whole with a hole in my hand,” I sighed. “I hope it never, ever heals.”
But is has. The blood dried up within a day and then the soft flesh knitted itself back together in a few more. And as per usual, I keep on wishin’ that somebody would wanna HOLD my hand, dang it! 🙂
I used to get so secretly excited when I’d return home from visiting my old best friend in Connecticut, because I knew that – having been gone for two weeks – my mom was going to hug me when she saw me in the airport. It was one of maybe two or three hugs I’d get from her all year, and I looked forward to it with that nervous dread you feel when something is awkwardly unfamiliar but happily-anticipated. And for the record, I’m not upset about it — the lack of hugs in my young life; we just weren’t a touchy-feely family, growing up.
But when friends in middle school started hugging me and grabbing my hands with theirs, they seemed to slice right through the first layer of me — creating weak trickles of blood and revealing soft skin. And those same hugs that cut zig zags into me became the very hugs that healed me, and then,I began to crave them. Like burritos.
And in the world of hugging and hand-holding, I’ve discovered that there are simply no arms and no hands quite like those of a companion. What I miss most about being in a relationship is 1. the physical warmth and 2. the emotional intimacy. But you can just disregard the 1 and 2, because it’s a genuine 50-50.
I used to watch my Holland Lop rabbits snuggle up beside each other, their overlapping fluffiness turning them into this one gigantic puff of rabbit (with two heads); while they had all the space in the world to occupy, Panda absolutely insisted on existing right at Hiro’s side, sleeping or awake. And nowadays, I watch my German Shepherds interact similarly; Tycho will walk across the room to go sit on my other German Shepherd Silo’s back — and it’s a total nonevent; she does it so she can just sit there, in very close proximity to him, and look around the room — and then in the evenings, I often catch her falling asleep with her paw resting on his. And I get it. I totally get it. Sidebar: Why was it always Panda and Tycho – the gals – reaching out for affection? Why were Hiro and Silo such emotionally-clueless IDIOTS? 🙂
And now that the hole in my hand has healed, I’m just waiting for somebody to want to hold it.
Somebody other than the three guys who’ve flirted with me in the past week — it’s nice to know that I’m not actually invisible, I guess, but jeez; A. too old, B. too young, and C. too BOLD. Why can’t Audio just get it together?!