Otoño: a short story by Jace Yarbrough (for her creative writing class)

I remember a windy day.

Leaves crunched noisily underneath your worn sneakers; I amused myself then, imagining that they felt honored to die for you. Or were fallen leaves already dead? No matter. I walked beside you — beautiful, living, animated you — and kept stealing glances over at the red stubble on your face and the sea-green dreaminess of your eyes. If I could cast a spell and freeze you, for just a minute or an hour, I would spend all of that time staring at you — memorizing every freckle and wrinkle, each of your pupils and all of your pores.

You were leading us to a creek we’d visited before. I knew we were getting close now, because I could recognize the downward slope of the trail; there was something about it. A sort of tug or pull to it. Traffic sounds were almost able to follow us here, but they ended at a point several yards away from the water where they would wait patiently for me.

As these sounds begrudgingly retreated from us, I began to realize how squeaky my own sneakers were. What an annoying sound! I decided that the leaves here tolerated my presence only because it included yours.

And here, right here, I tripped right over a rock that had wedged itself halfway into the ground. I was able to catch my balance by grabbing onto the thing closest to me: you.

“Heyyyyy… you alright?” you asked, the smoky texture of your voice slicing through mid-November coolness and lighting a flame somewhere near my ribcage. The warmth of it heated the top layer of my abdomen, and the sudden rise in temperature made me feel like passing out or vomiting. I wished that I had a ginger ale.

“Oh, yeah!” I laughed, letting my arm linger on your right shoulder. Totally cliché, right? But I did it anyways.

I dropped my arm slowly, and you intercepted its fall, smoothly taking my hand in yours. So smoothly… so easily! It’s like, I knew you hadn’t been thinking about doing it or waiting for an opportunity… you just did it. Just like that.

Why did I always have to overthink these things? Imagine being brave about us without mustering any real guts? Always waiting for the right second, the perfect moment, an impossibly well-timed opportunity… 

I waited too long. I can’t help but hate myself for it, because the smallest thing — pressing my lips against yours, leaning my head on your shoulder, or just kicking my left foot into the back of yours — could have changed the timing of things… could have changed everything. 

***

When the creek came into view, you released my hand and crouched down near the edge of the water, where you dipped your fingers into it.

I knelt down beside you, letting my knees touch the ground and feeling the wetness of the soil soak through my faded denim jeans.

“I hope we’ll find some good ones today,” I said.

“Oh yeah… I’m sure we will.” So confident. So sure.

You lowered your head closer to the water and gazed at it with a ridiculous intensity, like you were some kind of anesthesiologist or chemist who needed their measurements to be very, very precise.

I huddled closer to you as you drew closer to the bed of the creek. Your fingers were already gone, and I watched your hands and wrists follow them underneath the water and could tell when they were touching sand; I knew this because the creek’s glassy surface became turbulent and murky as a cloud of debris bloomed. You’re definitely the type to cause a commotion. Gorgeous, brilliant, and constantly producing — always creating and changing and tinkering away. I often wonder if you’ll ever settle down… with yourself, with life, or with somebody.

The muscles in your forearms tensed suddenly, which told me that you’d just collected your first samples. I stared briefly at those forearms, straining to see the muscles and tendons and blood and bones underneath them, and I sighed without meaning to.

I don’t think you noticed. In a flash, your hands were breaking through the water. As you slowly unclenched each of your long and slender fingers, you grinned and inclined towards me so that we could inspect these specimens together.

***

“Oooooooh… I looooove this one,” I cooed, touching a reddish stone with my fingertip.

“That is a good one!” you agreed. “Go ahead and set it to the side.”

I reached into my back pocket, pulled out a plastic bag, and deposited the stone into it.
We perused the rest and found nothing remarkable. You took your time flinging each stone back into the water, watching the SPLASH, the pulsating ripples, and the tiny waves composing them. You took your time with your processes; you could never just set a ball in motion and then walk away from it, because you had to see and understand the impact of your actions. I wish you had walked away sometimes. I really do.

But you repeated your experiment another six times; reaching into the cool water, scooping up handfuls of slippery rocks, and then presenting them to me for review. We found three other beauties out there: a mossy-green, diamond-shaped stone; an opaque, black stone; and my favorite: an iridescent purple stone with the most interesting grooves and ridges. It was hard to classify the exact shape of it; it definitely wasn’t shapeless… it was just odd.

“What do you think turned this one purple?” I asked, clenching it in my hand a few times, so that I could get a good feel of the shape of it, and then bringing it closer to my eyes.

“Jesus,” you answered straightaway, with a tone of conviction.

We both laughed. My mother despised you for your atheism, which is, I guess, ironic, since Christians shouldn’t really despise anything… including people.

I heard a loud popping sound.

“What the fuck was that?” I whispered, startling.

“Hmmm… probably just somebody out hunting,” you answered, slowly and calmly. “It is, after all, the season for killing lovely little forest animals in the false names of necessity and manhood,” you continued irritably. “Primitive jackasses.”

I was glad you were a vegetarian; that was, at least, one thing my mother could appreciate about you. She kept five dogs on three acres and couldn’t see the difference between them and a pig, cow or chicken. I kept two German Shepherds myself and completely agreed with her.

“Ugh,” I breathed out in agreement with you, beginning to disarm myself.

“Anyways,” you continued brightly, looking over at me, “we’ll wrap some hemp around this purple one later and make a necklace for you,” you smiled.

I grinned back at you. “Yayyyyyyy! But what about you?” I asked. “Which one of these do you like most?”

You didn’t even bother to look before answering. “Any of them. They’re all equally lovely. I’ll take whichever one you think suits me best.”

I peeked into the bag and considered the characteristics and subtleties of each of them: mossy green – natural, organic, possessing strong intuition and an intrinsic goodness; mineral red — aged, altered, and either tarnished or seasoned; opaque black — classic, pure, dark, whole, mysterious…

Just then, a buck — a gorgeous, majestic, and strapping buck — came bolting towards us from the other side of the creek; he leapt into the water, barreled through it, and then emerged on the other side, passing us in a flash. There were splashes, and waves, and ripples galore, much more of them than any of your discarded stones had caused, and I just knew that you would be tickled by it.

“HOLY CRAAAAAAP,” I exclaimed, as another POP sounded. “Did you see him? Oh my gosh — how COOL was THAT! He looked so STRONG — did you see how fas–”

I turned to look at you, and when I saw that you were looking at me with positive alarm, my voice disappeared.

I noticed the panic in your eyes first and the little red specks on your neck second and then the big, dark red blot about an inch below your collarbone, which was growing wider with each heartbeat, third and then I looked up at your wide and terrified eyes again. Fourth.

“No…” I whispered. “No… Clyde. no —– CLYDE!”

Two men came rushing towards us; I could hear them – their heavy footsteps and low voices that sounded angry and afraid — but I couldn’t make out a thing they said, because I was too busy holding you against me… whispering in your ear, and crying in your ear, and screaming NO, and scream-crying no, and thinking this must be a dream, this can’t be real, what are the chances, this can’t be real, no WAY is this really happening while your sticky cotton t-shirt soiled more and faster and stuck desperately to mine.

***

It smells like fall again.

Like cool, spicy, bittersweet decay. Leaves cover the street like carpet while the shadows and light behave strangely around each other. The wind rustles the leaves, animates the trees, and carries the scent of fresh ground coffee toward me.

I also caught, or thought I caught, your scent just now — salty, musky, and cinnamon-like… familiar. You smell like “home”, like “safe”, like “that one”. You also smell like “the creek” and “that deer” and that pain” a striking pain that looks and feels like a general, visceral, oozing and searing achiness.

It always feels like the spirits are out this time of year.

An opaque black stone is tied around my neck and, like the ticking of a clock, it knocks lightly against my chest bone with each careful step I take forward.

As the wind blows the leaves around, I watch them tumble forward; are they racing? Are they fleeing? Are they delighted by the ghostly chill in the air or perturbed at being disturbed? They’re just too lovely to be sad, or scared, or dead; too stubble-red and ocean-green and too oddly-shaped and wonderful to ever leave, to ever not be here.

Even as I’m trying hard to sidestep these crackly, colorful leaves, I’m realizing that avoiding all of them is impossible, because they are everywhere and when they inevitably crunch underneath my tired feet, in small groups of two or three, I like to imagine them leaving with the spirits, and following yours, and the final noise that each one of them makes sounds just like a wish: “I am going to find you again.”

Like you, I don’t believe in a god, so while I don’t know where you went or where the leaves are going or where I will be heading after all of this, I do believe that I will also find you again, simply because I want to believe that I will, and in a way, I have to believe that I will, or absolutely everything will just fall apart. So I’m waiting. And waiting. Always waiting, waiting, waiting…

Too long. I know I’ve waited too long.

The coffee smells equal parts bitter and sweet; my cup of it tastes like creek water and ashes.

Oh, I used to love the fall. 

 

 

Note from the author: I edited this story at a cafe this morning but actually drafted it three weeks ago, before the big epiphany

Isn’t it interesting to see how processing and coping with grief requires all kinds of activities, trains of thought, and exertion — physical, mental, and emotional? Isn’t it intriguing — how grief can MANIFEST itself using a full range of emotions, WRITE itself into fictitious stories, and expertly WEAVE its way into the strangest dreams?

 

 

Aun Aqui

 

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“The Living Dead”: Faking Death and Forgetting Dreams

In the past month, I’ve attended (3) book slash poetry readings, and each of them held my interest (for different reasons).

The first reading took place in a performance arts center; the poet dressed and delivered with a distinctly dramatic aesthetic, and despite the exaggerative flair, her work really was moving.

After sharing a few selections, she opened the floor to questions. I didn’t think I’d have a question, but suddenly, my hand was in the air.

“Yes?” she asked, nodding at me, a dimly lit figure in the wide audience.

“Do you ever dream of poems and then wake up unable to remember them?” I asked. As a musician, this has happened to me before (with songs), and it is always depressing (and frustrating!).

A few people chuckled at the question. She took a long while to discourse on the idea, thoroughly drawing out her reply… but I think that her ultimate answer was no, not really.

***

At poetry reading number two, an old white man shared pieces from his collection — a series of poems dating back to when he was a kid, earning money for college at a local bakery.

I enjoyed listening to him, and when he finished reading and asked if anyone had any questions, I did. Just one. 

“Do you still dream of the bakery?” I asked. For him, the bakery had been a terrible (but interesting) place. I assumed that he had dreamt of working there while working there (don’t we all?) and felt sure that, a solid forty-to-fifty years later, his mind was still so seared by the memory of it that the fucked-up bakery somehow wove itself into his subconscious.

“Sometimes,” he answered quietly.

 

I wonder if he wakes up feeling exhausted from those dreams, I thought.

***

At the one and only book reading I attended, a woman read an excerpt from her novel — a terrifying scene describing a narrator who had just found themselves trapped in a zoo where a gunman was on the loose.

“What would you do here, at this juncture?” she asked the audience. “How would you react?”

No one said anything.

“Pretend you’re dead,” I offered, shrugging. “Fall down and pretend you’ve been shot.”

She shook her head. “No one’s ever suggested that!” she laughed.

 

Really? I thought. I could remember thinking, even as a child, that if a crazy person ever approached me, I would act crazier; that if a robber ever demanded my money, I’d comply with their request and act like I even admired their courage and audacity; and that if somebody ever came at me with the intent to kill, I’d simply act like I was already dead. 

And all of this in an effort to stay alive. Isn’t that interesting?

***

We do lots of things we don’t like in order to stay alive; we work long hours, pay boring bills, change out the tires on our cars and try to adhere to some kind of diet (whether that means going vegan or gluten-free, eating only pickles for an entire week, or smoking one packet of cigarettes a day instead of five).

But why do we do it? What makes life so WORTH it?

Why do I put forth such an effort to sustain this odd existence? I asked myself in the car late this afternoon, driving straight from work to a volunteer event. I mean really — I work so that I can afford a house and food and clothes and buy coffees and burritos sometimes and the BEST times are when I travel and go on adventures but all of this is really just experience… in a word, it’s experience.

I want to experience delicious tastes, and great views, and warm kisses on my lips and a strong hand holding mine… I want to feel the sun on my skin and the wind all around me and I want to hold my big, fat German Shepherd in my arms, just like a baby, and never have to say goodbye to her…

And then what? Because the Shepherd’s going to die, and I’m going to die, too. So is it – life – really just all of this on a loop “forever” — forever, until I die?

 

Pretend, for just a few seconds, that the universe isn’t infinite — that it’s massive, enormous, but has an edge to it. What’s there, at the edge?

 

Now, consider this: Our lives feel infinite, don’t they? We all seem to believe that we’re just somehow not going to die, despite the clear evidence surrounding us… but there is an edge to our lives. A bolded line that we meet and… step over? An end that we arrive at and then… cross over? Maybe. I don’t know. Try to imagine it: You take your last breath (you will someday) and then…? What the fuck happens next? 

 

Some people believe in a heaven of sorts, and my theory is that they like to think that “this” (eating, drinking, and being merry with pets and friends and family) will go on forever. I believe that it’s a comforting thought for them to have — a trusted coping mechanism. And I guess that a never-ending this sounds nice to some people, but to me, the mere idea of it is depressing… because this ISN’T enough! This on repeat, on an infinite loop, still wouldn’t be enough!

 

I feel like we should be hoping for and dreaming of and striving for something massive, excellent, incredible, phenomenal, BRILLIANT, magical… but I don’t know what the hell it is. Do you? Do you have any guesses at all? I’d really love to know.

 

landscape__31_by_sylar113-d7m8a3n
photo credit: somebody named “Skylar” — I suppose that endless space travel with other life forms (who we call “aliens”) would be nice (interesting, adventurous), but again, that’s assuming that the universe is infinite… and I just can’t fathom a universe without an edge.

 

Playing dead and dreaming of life,

Aun Aqui

TWO YEARS to get over you: MY BEST WEDNESDAY EVER

It’s hard to put today’s epiphany into words, but I’ll try very hard to do so, because of how moving and staggering it was.
For the last two years, I’ve carried a burden so heavy and so massive that it’s completely overshadowed me. Burdens are supposed to be external, aren’t they? Something tangible, entirely outside of you, that you pick up, shrug onto your shoulder, and then tote around with you… grunting and sweating and aching all the way. 
This one was different. It felt like a chunk of my heart had disconnected from the rest, shriveled up, withered away, and died. Instead of losing weight, it somehow gained it — and then it magically appeared on the outside, on the ground, right there in front of me. 
When I reached down to pick it up, I discovered that it was too big to fit into my hand, so I tried to cup it with both hands and found that those weren’t wide enough for it, either.
So I grabbed a bag, dropped that piece of my heart down into it, and then threw it over my shoulder.
And that the little dead heart followed me around everywhere… to work, and to school… into cafes and cities and dreams. I showered with it on, slept with it on top of me, and drove around with it beside me. It was, genuinely, a constant companion — this cold, hard, and non-responsive but oddly treasured thing. I identified with it too strongly to part with it.
Until today.
I was uninterestingly driving back to work after spending my lunch break at the library (where I picked up a few items — most notably among them, the third book in the Ender’s Game series and a DVD copy of Office Space). As I meandered into the left turning lane, my eye spotted something small and orangey-brown rolling around on my car’s floorboard.
At the light, I bent down to pick it up: it was an orange-and-ginger scented lip balm. I furrowed my eyebrows, trying to place when I’d gotten it and why.
I realized that I’d purchased the tube of organic chap stick years ago, before we split up; do I like ginger-scented or ginger-flavored things? Heck no. But he did. I’d bought it for him. I wore it because he liked the smell of it, and the taste of it on my lips.
I grimaced. How many times, and in how many ways, had I compromised my authenticity to please him?
And why do I still miss him? I asked myself for the seven billionth time. I was sick of missing him — truly, so sick of it! Isn’t it awful, feeling something you don’t want to feel and finding yourself dreadfully unable to figure out how to stop feeling it?
“You don’t miss him,” an unusual voice answered my question. “You miss a statue. A memory.”
The statement jolted me. Like, REALLY jolted me.
A statue? I repeated.
A sudden wind carried the burden right out of my driver’s seat window. I flinched, startled to no longer feel it there. I always felt it there.
You mean… something inanimate? Not alive?
The light turned green.
…something fixed; permanent; closed — something that can’t change and that WON’T change? 
The car behind me edged slowly forward.
“Yes,” the voice murmured. “You love your memories of the person, and the picture of them that you keep in your mind… one of who they were then. But they’re gone, Jace. That person is, essentially, as dead as your brother, as your dog, and as Rose… irretrievably gone.”
I pressed my foot onto the gas, knowing that the dead part of my heart was, right then, crumpling to ashes on the concrete behind me, fading fast, forever.
***
I don’t know why on earth it suddenly made sense today, of all days. A Wednesday! A dose of reasoning and a healing salve just apparated, appearing right out of thin air. And not a moment too soon. 
I’ve been losing my time grieving a strange loss; the loss of someone who is still alive. And it’s hard to exhaust that kind of grief, you know? To really get rid of it… because there’s always this secret bed of kindling called hope — this hidden, eternal, dancing flame named desire.
I was stuck in love and had to feel – over and over again – the terrible frostbite of love unrequited — the rejection, the heartache, the nausea, the devastation, and the end-of-the-worldliness of it all. What was I to do with it, this love? Seal it up and store it in the freezer — hope for an opportunity to defrost it later? 
Nope. I couldn’t even do that — freeze it, file it away, or bury it underground. Instead, I carried it with me everywhere… like a burden.
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But here’s what I realized today (in my heart, finally, instead of in my head, where nothing seems to stick): The person I loved has evolved and transformed and morphed and changed a hundred times over without me standing by, seeing or hearing or feeling any of these changes. And because of that disconnect, the person who is still alive — working, living, laughing, breathing, and eating — is a complete stranger to me. I do NOT know them and really can’t love them, because how can you love somebody you don’t know?
And guess what? I’ve changed a hundred times over, too — drastically, radically. So I’m a stranger to them as well.
So what we’ve really got here is two strangers. Are they in love? Of course not. This was realization number one. Number two (believe it or not) hit me even harder: These strangers — do they have anything in common? Could they possibly re-learn each other, fall in love again someday?
The answer is – I’m happy to say – no.
We don’t speak anymore, but there are things that I know, and here, I’ll address the person directly: My lifestyle is so different from yours. My morals, and standards, and hobbies, and goals, and dreams… they are the exact opposite of yours. We aren’t riding the same wavelength anymore, or tuning into the same station at all. I find myself feeling more centered and authentic and strong every single day as I challenge myself to develop personally and professionally and to confront the sadness, strangeness, and loneliness within myself, and when I hear other people talk about you, they say that you play video games and watch movies now. That’s all I hear, but hopefully, you’re doing more than that… like playing the piano, writing insane guitar riffs, or thinking about going back to school. Because while you aren’t the love of my life anymore, you’re still talented as hell, and it would be a hell of a shame to waste it. 
Regardless, you’re finding your own happiness, and I’m discovering mine. It’s a powerful thing to experience. It’s an adventure! And climbing this mountain solo… talking myself out of suicide and navigating a divorce and figuring out who I was and am and want to be… well, I don’t think anything else could have bolstered my self-esteem more. I did it! I made it! Without you. I didn’t know that I could do such great things without you… and I honestly never thought that I could be as happy (let alone happier) without you. But I am. I’m getting there now… right now. 
I threw away the lip balm today. I asked myself, what about the cards? The cards that contain your handwriting and say the sweet things that I like to replay every now and then? I threw those away, too. I don’t need them anymore. It’s exhilarating… it’s strange! I stumbled across a childhood memento of yours two months ago — a stuffed ranger cat; something you gave to me seven years ago as a token of your enduring love —
and when I asked myself, should I text you about it? Ask if you still want it or if I can donate it? I answered no. I’ll let my best friend drop it off at your work instead.
And that’s how I know. I’m not trying to find a reason to read your words, hear your voice, or have your attention anymore. I don’t need you to like me, or miss me, or be proud of me, or think about me. I’m free of you. I am finally, finally free of you. The anger is gone, the grief is dying down, and the past is graciously creaking its wide-open door closed. Peace. The past and the present have finally made peace.
And for the first time in two years, I notice myself thinking: I feel ready for love — new love, not old love — to enter my life now… now, or SOMEDAY! Maybe AFTER I’ve enjoyed this #singlelife for a little bit longer…
I’m over you. Who knew it would ever actually happen? And on a WEDNESDAY… 
Still here,
Aun Aqui

TWELVE BUCKS?! That’s TOO MUCH, Bob!

I have nothing very interesting to write about this evening, but since my beloved grandmother has asked that I please not “let her down”, I will post a short update.

Today, I attended a conference for trainers up here in Seattle. I really enjoyed listening to the keynote speaker at 8:30, the same person’s mid-morning talk, and then a few other afternoon sessions led by different speakers (where we discussed how to onboard new employees, keep them engaged during training, and adapt to the changing paces and media content of classes).

 

After the conference, I followed Google Maps to a nearby vintage clothing store: Bon Voyage.

I stepped inside and was immediately taken by the ambiance of the store. I leafed through an intimately small collection of racks, each of them featuring all kinds of treasures, and selected a few items to try on. Of the four, one fit perfectly: a black and copper dress with a fun (and cool) fringed hemline.

 

“Ohhhhhhh, I just loooooooove that dress,” an employee raved as I neared the checkout register.

“Thank you!” I smiled at her. “I love daleks — you know, in Doctor Who? — and the copper ones are my favorite, and THIS dress is black and copper,” I explained, realizing, halfway through my reply, that her compliment didn’t really necessitate an explanation.

 

“Ahhhhh, yes,” she murmured kindly, quickly stepping past me.

 

The other girl who rung me up (and who I assume owns the store) was also very kind, and she was also very excited.

“My mom just flew in from Norway!” she cheered, lifting her shoulders up to her ears and cracking a grin. “And I’m charging you $14 for this dress instead of $16, because four people tried it on today, and you’re the one it fit,” she said.

“Oh wow — thank you so much!” I gushed, surprised.

 

At that moment in time, I may or may not have knelt down and noticed slash purchased something cute within the glass display case that I knew my best friend who may or may not read this blog post would like. 

 

“Ahhhhhh — yesssssss… I was JUST crushing on this thing a few minutes ago,” the store owner may or may not have said, sighing as she may or may not have unlocked the cabinet and reached her arm inside of it. 

***

After quietly exiting the store, I went on the hunt (as only a vegetarian can) for dinner, meandering down the dimly-lit streets by Elliott Bay and carefully side-stepping an upturned cardboard plate, a packet of condoms, forty seven crushed cigarettes and the absolute loveliest red and orange and yellow leaves. The leaves, at least, were nice to look at. A fall wind had been sweeping up and down the streets all day long — tickling my neck, blowing through my hair, and playing with the plastic bag in my hand — and as it continued carrying on into the evening, it just felt extra magical.

As I walked, I noticed tents everywhere — erected behind buildings, tucked into alleys, and even located right off of the highway. I saw a woman lean out of one of them and ask a man to light her cigarette; I looked away.

The streets smelled like weed, urine, and – sometimes – laundry detergent. I stepped across them quickly.

***

As far as dinner was concerned, I wasn’t very hungry; I’d had Indian food for lunch and it had been so tasty that I’d eaten nearly half of the portion they’d given me. It had also been a bit pricier than I’d expected, so I wanted to offset its costs with a cheap dinner.

 

I’ll just duck into a grocery store and grab a few things, I decided.

 

I asked Google Maps where I could find a grocery store, crossing my fingers that a Whole Foods would be nearby, but the closest place was not a Whole Foods. It was, however, becoming much darker outside than I was comfortable with, so I went with it anyways.

 

When I stepped into the store, it appeared to be a mom-and-pop-shop type of deal… disorderly, offering a myriad of things, and with a distinctly homey feel to it.

Let’s see… cheap and easy…

After approximately seven minutes of perusing, I decided to purchase the following:

  • a 16-ounce bottle of Smart Water,
  • a 12-ounce bottle of Virgil’s Root Beer Zero,
  • a .75-ounce wedge of cheese (three-bite-sized), and
  • a 15-ounce jar of chunky, mild salsa.

 

This should be like eight bucks, I estimated (as none of the items were marked with a price tag).

“11.57,” the cashier announced.

Fuckin hell, I thought to myself, handing the man my Discover card.

“Can do Visa instead, yes?”

“Sure,” I replied. You’ve already jacked your prices up like mad, but if me swiping a Visa card will get you a little more interchange income, I’m happy to do it.

 

So I lugged my light, brown paper bag back to the hotel and stepped into an elevator. A woman joined me, and as I waited for us to arrive to the 11th floor, I noticed a Whole Foods shopping bag in her right hand.

“Hey — how far away was Whole Foods?” I asked her, nodding towards the bag.

“About a fifteen minute walk!” she smiled.

.

I exited the elevator, swiped a card to unlock the door to my room, shed my cool kid, red denim pants onto the floor and then began my merry little feast.

 

20171016_185015
Getting to know Salsa… I can understand why s/he was so pricey now: SALSA CAN TALK!

 

Sidebar: IN ALL FAIRNESS, the cost of living is higher in Seattle than it is in Bham, making $11.57 not THAT big of a deal. I just like to rant, is all. 🙂

 

Goodnight,

Aun Aqui

Still here

My Evening at a Hostel

Thanks to my solo trip to Denver earlier this year, I know how to Uber now, so that wasn’t a big deal; my Uber driver chatted with me and narrated our short trip yesterday evening as the Seattle airport extended further and further behind us and the city’s dazzling lights and towers came into view.

Within just twenty minutes’ time, he was dropping me off in front of the Green Tortoise Travelers Hostel where I quickly shuffled inside, climbed two short flights of stairs, and then approached the group of cool kids huddled around the front desk to check in.

 

BACKSTORY:

When I learned that I would be traveling to Seattle a few months ago, I asked my company to please fly me in a day early and assured them that I would take care of my lodging for the extra night. Reason: I wanted to sightsee!

I used AirBnB earlier this year and it was a great experience, so AirBnB is immediately where I went to find my accommodations. There were tons of little one-room-deals being offered for $75-$150/night, but I happened upon a listing for a $60 hostel bed and it intrigued me for three reasons:

  1. It was cheap… duh
  2. Staying in a hostel would be a new experience
  3. In my naive little mind, staying in a hostel would be a dangerous and therefore exciting new experience

My mother and best friend and manager all disagreed wholeheartedly. “So it’ll save you FIFTEEN BUCKS? Who cares!”

“Here’s the thing, though,” I tried to explain. “If I was sharing a room with ONE other person, that WOULD be terrifying, and truly dangerous — but these hostel rooms accommodate anywhere from 4-6 people, so – statistically-speaking – the chances of me being assigned to a room with ALL bad people are just…” I paused, considering. “They’re probably really, REALLY low,” I decided, smiling. But even I wasn’t fully convinced. Still; I’d made the reservation on a whim and wasn’t about to go back on it.

BACKSTORY = OVER.

 

So last night, an extremely pretty Hispanic girl checked me in and gave me the low-down on rules.

“No food, drinks, or smoking in your room. You can rent out a lock for $5 and, if you return it to us when you check out, you’ll get $3 back. You can rent a towel for the showers for $1. Breakfast is served each morning from 6-10, and we offer guided tours and excursions throughout the day… they’re listed on our calendar. Check out is at 11 AM. Bring your bed linens and pillowcase with you when you check out and throw them over there.”

I turned around and saw a trash can.

“In… there…?”

“Yes, in there.”

 

Okay. Easy rules to follow.

 

She led me to my room (#206) which contained two sets of bunk beds. I did some quick math and then referred back to my statistics; the maximum number of people in this room would now be 4 instead of 6, which actually wasn’t preferable… but I brushed the uneasiness off.

 

“This one’s yours,” she said, indicating the bottom bunk that was closest to the door.

 

“Wonderful — thank you!” I smiled at her. “And the lock… is there a special way of using it?” I asked quickly, before she left.

 

“Uhhhhh nope… it comes with a key,” she smiled sweetly, closing the door behind her.

 

It took me a few minutes, but I figured how to lock my belongings in the trunk underneath my bed and then asked myself: what now? It’s 9 PM in Seattle, and I’m not SO grandmotherly that I won’t do something fun before retiring to bed.

 

So I zipped my wallet and phone up into the pockets of my leather jacket and stepped outside, into downtown Seattle.

***

The first red flag was the fact that there was lots of commotion outside — rowdy young people EVERYWHERE, hollering and laughing and tripping over their own feet on the concrete. They rattled my nerves, but I reminded myself to act cool. Act like you’ve lived here for yeaaaaaars and know the place inside and out. You “own” it. 

 

I spotted three young people walking in a group and decided to tag along just behind them — I figured that, as they navigated to their destination, I’d (more safely) be able to find one of my own.

But unfortunately, they arrived to their destination VERY quickly: an adult theater (yes, it is as awful as it sounds) that was approximately 50 yards away from my hostel. They boisterously entered the theater, laughing and making cat-calls at each other, and I grimaced. Gross gross gross gross GROSS.

I performed a quick 180 and began backtracking, which I knew didn’t look good; if you know where you’re going, why are you turning around? Oh well. What else could be done?

I noticed that there were lots of homeless people on the streets — more so than in Birmingham, which REALLY surprised me, since Seattle’s population is actually a little lower than Bham’s. Some of them were just homeless, but others were clinically crazy and homeless; they appeared angry, too angry, and seemed to be spouting off whatever crossed their minds, berating themselves, and stop signs, and empty, crushed beer cans as they punched at the air and spit their barely-coherent words out. I felt empathetic towards them, and I also feared them.

Still trying to look cool, calm, and collected, I halted at a street crossing, and as I was waiting for the pedestrian light to turn white, I noticed a young man beside me; he was wearing cut-off shorts, a tight t-shirt, and spiky pink hair. I felt like he would be safe to talk to.

 

“Hey,” I whispered.

He looked at me.

“I’m so sorry to bother you, but can you please just tell me where I can buy a bottle of water in Seattle?” I forgot to mention this earlier, but I was really thirsty and had unofficially planned that my big, non-grandmotherly outing of the evening would take place at a convenience store of sorts. I just couldn’t fucking find one.

 

He looked puzzled. I wanted to explain myself — the drunken crowds, the adult theater, the crazed vagabonds… I feel very out of my depth right now! — but before I could…

 

“Uhhhh… Target?” he suggested, taking a step backward and revealing, like an angel, that gorgeously familiar red-and-white sign.

 

“YES!” I cried, instantly beginning to walk towards it. I noticed that he was walking alongside me.

 

“So you aren’t from around here,” he stated.

 

“No,” I shook my head, deciding it was an appropriate and necessary time to break my rock-solid cover. “I’m actually from Birmingham. I’m here for a trainers conference — I’m the training specialist for a credit union in Birmingham — but I flew in a little early…”

 

“Boss!” he nodded up and down. “I’m Francisco,” he offered, extending his hand.

 

“I’m Jace!” I announced, enthusiastically shaking his hand. I paused in front of the Target entrance, waiting to see if he was coming in or not.

 

“So do you like… wanna smoke some weed with me?” he offered, shrugging cutely. I’ll mention here that marijuana has been legalized in Washington. 

 

I remembered my out-of-mind experience in Denver and frowned. “Oh, I so appreciate you asking, but it gives me such anxiety—-“ I paused. “But how about we meet for coffee tomorrow morning instead?” I offered brightly.

“What time?”

“8:00?”

He stuck his hand out, shaking his head from left to right. “Too early.”

I laughed. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Francisco!”

***

I bought a jug of water at Target and then purchased a light dinner from the supermarket down the street: Greek-style lemon curd yogurt and an organic mozzarella cheese string. Or I guess you’d call it a stringed cheese… either way, you know what I mean.

On my way back to the hostel, I passed a scene that featured three police officers, a frightened-looking woman, and a government van (yes, van) that was pulling away. Don’t know what the hell happened there, but do you think that seeing this made me feel safer, walking the streets alone? NO.

 

I scarfed down my cheese string and fancy yogurt outside of the hostel’s front door and then quickly trudged upstairs to bed.

 

When I opened the door to my room, I gasped involuntarily.

 

Another person had joined my room, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise but did, and at first, I couldn’t really make out what they looked like, because they were wearing a mask. NOT a Halloween mask, or a bank robber mask, or a V for Vendetta mask. A weird, beauty face mask of sorts. It just took me a few seconds to gather what kind of mask it was.

 

Once I realized yes, there is another person in here; yes, they are human, I smiled to signal my okay-ness with it all and they laughed a little and then we stopped talking for the rest of the night.

***

This morning, I skipped out on a shower (because I couldn’t stomach the idea of renting a towel), applied some cedar-and-juniper-scented deodorant, gathered my small collection of things and checked out. I dropped off a free copy of my book at the front counter, and when an employee saw it, they ran over and picked it up.

“Did YOU write this?” they asked.

“Yeah!” I smiled. “And my best friend drew the pictures… they’re the best part of the book!”

He was delighted, which delighted me.

 

I navigated the city on foot for a bit this morning, feeling way more confident and optimistic that I’d continue living in the daylight. After about thirty to forty minutes of walking aimlessly, I found myself zoning out while waiting for another pedestrian light to turn white again.

 

“Excuse me,” a middle-aged woman asked, jolting me back to the present. “Do you know where bitchin’ biscuits is?”

 

I raised my eyebrows at her and noticed her husband beside her. “Uhhhhhhh… no, ma’am — I’m so sorry, I’m just visiting!” I explained. A homeless man started shrieking several yards away from us, engaged in a ruthless war with unseen forces. “I’m just trying to keep my wits about me and find a cafe,” I explained further, laughing a little.

 

And here I am, waking up at the Cherry Street Coffee House (they whip up a yummy caramello latte!) and preparing to head over to Pike’s Place Market for my next grand adventure.

20171015_081505
= me trying to figure out how to increase my coolness/hipness

Until the next update,

 

Aun Aqui

Still here

Airports, Dreams, and Josie

There are four wheelchairs lining the wall, and four women occupy these chairs: an Asian woman who has her hands folded neatly in her lap; a black woman dressed in purplish hues, who is filing her nails; a white woman with a butter-blonde poof of hair that’s sticking STRAIGHT UP and who is – I kid you not – stereotypically knitting away; and another white woman who is wearing a fixed, gloomy scowl and holding a paisley-patterned duffle bag on her lap.

I observe them and smile.

 

After knocking out three Spanish assignments at a nearby “recharge” station, I decide to relocate myself so that I’ll be closer to my flight’s terminal. I notice an empty seat beside an elderly woman (who is in a wheelchair but who is not one of the four) and, when I ask her if the seat is available, she nods.

Fifteen moments of silence pass between us before I clear my throat, turn my head, and incline towards her.

“So — is Vegas your final destination?”

“No,” she answers quickly, smiling. “California.”

“Oooooooh, California! How neat!”

“Yes,” she agrees. “I live there, actually… I was just here visiting my children.” Here, she rolls her eyes slightly and shakes her head from side to side, as though she is very, very weary.

I laugh a little. “Was it… a nice visit?”

“I mean, yes,” she assures me (and herself). “It’s just… they want to make me MOVE here, and it’s so HUMID,” she cries.

“I see,” I nod.

“Also,” she continues, “they use bad words,” she confides in a lower tone. “Like the f word. I do NOT like hearing those bad words spoken aloud,” she fusses, looking miserable and lost in the mere memory of it.

I make a mental note to watch my own language. “Huh… well… I don’t blame them for wanting you to live nearby,” I offer. “I mean, if MY mother was living by herself MULTIPLE states away, I’d feel the same way they do, and I would be VERY insistent about it,” I admit.

“Oh, they ARE being insistent about it,” she huffs. “My daughter says that she’s going to fly out to California and pack my things up THIS FEBRUARY!” she laughs. “I love them, of course… it’s just, since my husband passed back in ’09, I’ve gone to bed when I wanted, eaten when I wanted, DONE what I wanted…” her voice trails off.

“You’re independent.”

“YES! And I love it.”

“I understand that,” I say. “I really value my alone time, too.”

 

We both sigh.

 

“Well, I mean — would you have to live WITH them? Or do they just want you in the state, closer by?”

“The plan is to build a little home for me, next door… they have lots of acres, you see,” she explains.

“Well there you GO!” I cheer. “You’ll still be on your own, and they’ll have peace of mind.”

She smiles, appearing a little less skeptical.

 

We watch together as the group of 4 roll down the terminal, and then an attendant in gray comes to collect my new friend.

 

“Enjoy the ride,” I smile at her.

“It was nice talking with you,” she smiles back, winking at me as the attendant takes her away.

 

I caught her again later on as I was exiting a terminal in Nevada, and when she saw me, she grasped my hand, firmly.

***

So my friend rolls away and then Letter A Passengers begin boarding the plane from Birmingham to Las Vegas. I’m still waiting. A woman pushes a stroller forward and then pauses right beside me.

“Now how are we going to do this, little Josie?” she asks her baby, grabbing bags and bottles and what looks like a dozen other things with her hands.

I want to offer my assistance, but know it’s futile; she’s an A person, and I’m a B. I’ll be boarding and finding a seat at least five minutes after her.

“Josie is a GREAT name!” I offer, and I mean it. I really love the name. I’d like to name a dog Josie, or write a book about Josie.

“Thank you!” the woman smiles proudly. She’s beaming with pride, actually.

A moment passes, and then she turns to me again.

“This is going to sound like an odd request,” she begins, and I notice, once again, the heavy bags layered across both of her arms, “but could you just… pick her up and put her in my arms?”

 

I pause, realizing that “her” is Josie. Josie, who looks to be maybe 6 months old and who has a blue bow strapped around her forehead and an adorable pink-and-blue owl shirt on.

 

I immediately feel panic-stricken; pick up a BABY? A real, LIVE baby? 

 

Will her neck break if I do it the wrong way? Will the pressure of my hands — skin, muscles, bones — break her? Should I tell this woman I’ve never held (or picked UP) a baby before and that I’d feel more comfortable performing surgery on my own foot?

 

“Sure,” I heard myself saying.

 

SURE? Are you fucking MAD?!

 

But I was already standing up, already reaching down into the fashionable stroller and looking down into Josie’s wide brown eyes.

 

“Like… like right here?” I asked Josie’s mother, awkwardly slipping my hands underneath Josie’s arms.

 

“Yep! Like that.”

 

I slowly raised the warm and chubby baby up into the air and then rotated my body towards her mother, my arms as stiff as… I don’t know, a ruler? Something metal, I guess — unbreakable. Like, I will not drop this baby.

 

“Heyyyyyyy, Josie!” I said, flashing a smile at the baby and then placing her, as gently as I could, into her mother’s arms.

 

She isn’t broken… way to go, I congratulated myself.

 

The mother thanked me, sounding truly relieved, and then continued moving forward with her baby and her stroller and her million billion other things.

 

I suddenly felt an odd stinging in my eyes… an inexplicable tightening of my throat. Strange.

 

Maybe I’ll name a baby Josie someday, I thought to myself.

***

On the plane, I secured a window seat. Beside me, a woman gripped what appeared to be a thrilling novel between her hands, and beside her, a man streamed an Alabama football game on his Mac book. The man, I learned, was her husband.

I smelled the saltiness of her Pringles when she popped the lid off of the can, and later, I saw – out of the corner of my eye – her husband’s hand reach itself over to gently squeeze her thigh — affectionately, and reassuringly. Maybe she was afraid of flying, or maybe he just loved her. Maybe both.

 

Too familiar. I felt a light pang — a tiny, painful pang. Tiny.

***

We hovered above bodies of water and dry stretches of desert and big, industrialized cities and clouds that looked like popcorn, marshmallows, whipped cream, cottage cheese and mashed potatoes. I read my book and wrote in my journal after squarely facing the reality that the plane might crash.

I envisioned the whole thing: a horrifying and crackly announcement over the intercom from a panic-stricken flight attendant and then all of us plummeting to a quick and fiery death amid screams and beeps and explosions.

It would be an interesting way to go, for sure, and I’m braced for it, I mused, but I’d rather not die today. I’ve performed Google searches, and there are soooooooo many cafes and vegetarian restaurants in Seattle.

 

A flight attended with classic, brunette curls and rouge lips asked me if I wanted a snack, naming off Fritos, Oreos, peanuts, pretzels, cheese crackers and something else I couldn’t make out.

“Peanuts, please!” I smiled at her.

“Anything else?”

“Oh no, but thank you!”

She looked unconvinced and handed me three packets of peanuts, which made me smile again. I felt very special.

***

So I munched on peanuts, sipped on cranberry juice, and shook the left side of my leather jacket to make sure that they were still there; my two dollars in quarters. I smirked slightly, imagining playing a slot machine (for the first time EVER) during my upcoming layover and winning a hundred, a thousand, or THREE MILLION dollars.

Back when I was a kid, I played the stuffed animal machines at restaurants and flea markets so intensely that my mother swore I’d end up with a gambling habit.

As an adult, I’ve never gambled, but her worry inadvertently became my own.

 

“TWO DOLLARS,” I told Charlie before we left the house this morning. “I shall take two dollars in quarters and that is IT.”

“Why not four?” he asked.

“Oh… no SIR. That would be excessive,” I frowned.

 

But when I stepped out of the airport and saw them this afternoon — the glowing, noisy, sad-looking machines and the despairing people in front of them — I just felt gross. There’s no other word for it, really. It was a very depressing scene to behold, and I didn’t want to identify with it in any kind of way.

Never mind gambling, I thought to myself. I’ll visit the vending machine instead. But after visiting the vending machine, I realized slash remembered that vending machines offer nothing but shit and decided to just hang on to my quarters until reaching Seattle.

I can use them to tip somebody at a coffee shop, I decided, and felt peaceful about the decision.

***

I’ve got 49 minutes to go until flight numero dos takes off. I’ll be leaving Las Vegas as quickly as humanly possible and continuing on my way to Seattle where a hostel bed awaits me. Yep — that’ll be a story for next time.

But before I sign off…

 

Last night (or very early this morning), I dreamt that I was talking with someone special. I was trying to explain to them how badly it hurt when they left and began telling them about the house, the one that I live in now.

“It became a zoo,” I said. “I took in animals of all kinds — they filled the house and the yard. They overwhelmed me. I didn’t know how to care for them properly, and feared many of them. I remember walking past dark rooms that I didn’t want to look into… I couldn’t even flip the light switch on,” I said. “I didn’t want to come into contact with what filled those rooms. It was a terrible time.”

“But one day, I went walking through the house and realized that they were gone. All of them had gone.” I shook my head. “Everything had suddenly changed, and while I couldn’t remember HOW things had changed or how long it had taken them to change, I was so glad. So relieved, and so glad.”

I paused.

“What I’m trying to say is, the house is home again. And I know that your home is different — it’s somewhere else now. I’m still figuring out how to live with that, but my inner turmoil is gone, and I hope you’re doing well also.”

I turned away as I said goodbye and told them what I knew they should already know, and when I woke up, I felt peaceful, but also, strangely numb.

 

Josie Elliott – with two t’s… that has a nice ring to it.

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

How hurting has helped me

When I reflect on the last few years, particularly their most remarkable events (Bobby’s death, Bruster’s murder, my gender identity crisis, my struggle with self-acceptance, the unrequited love I don’t know what to do with, and my lingering depression), I find that the predominant feelings I feel are relief and gratitude, and because I’ve been thinking about this all morning, I’ll try to explain why.

Relief is easy: I’m still here. I haven’t given up the ghost yet. I’ve wanted to do so many times, but people and things have kept me around; my love for my Shepherds, best friend, mother, and family; an upcoming trip or adventure that I’m excited about; the promise of another quiet morning at a coffee shop where I can either mull over or forget about everything with a cup of coffee in my hand and a bowl of grits on my lap. I’m relieved that I’ve made it this far, and in this healthy state of mind. I’ve FELT crazy, but I haven’t actually gone crazy. I get major points for that.

My gratitude is more difficult to explain, but I’ll try to do so, and in doing so, I’m going to break it down by category.

 

Death

When my brother Bobby died, I was mad at whoever the hell “god” was (like, okay, so you can allegedly, according to a book, part seas, rain bread from the sky, and – in modern times – help Brenda get into a brand new Lexus, but when shit like the Holocaust, rape, and my brother having a seizure and vomiting at the same damn time happen, you just step back and let things play out NATURALLY?).

When my German Shepherd Bruster was murdered, I was mad at his killer… the “neighbor” across the street. More aptly-speaking, I was furious. The guy has two kids, so he should be able to understand, then — be able to imagine — what the fuck it would be like to be at work and get a phone call saying that one of them had been shot dead in a stranger’s driveway. I am still working through the devastation of what happened, and I’m still processing that anger, but at this point, seven months later, I’ve found peace on the matter; I’m not angry with him anymore. Instead, I genuinely feel bad for him. I got to love Bruster; he ended his life. I can live with what I did… but good luck to bitchass.

Wasn’t I supposed to be talking about gratitude? Yes. Here’s where the whole gratitude part comes in: losing Bobby taught me — and losing Bruster reminded me (because of course, I forgot) — that we don’t get to have the people and animals and things we love forever.

My favorite scarf (which I’m wearing today) will probably get left on a train or plane someday and I’ll never be able to find it again. Or Tycho (pictured below) might simply destroy it on an afternoon when she’s bored. My dogs will die of old age… I will lose so many of them over the course of this life that it makes me want to die right now. My best friend may die before or after me (which is worse? I’d rather go first, but that’s selfish), and over the years, I will have to helplessly stand by and watch as a whole procession of family members and friends take their bow.

Where will they go? Where am I going? I don’t believe in heaven or hell, and while reincarnation intuitively sounds right, I don’t know how that would happen or what it would look like. Will my soul find theirs again? Doubt it. What are the chances? How lonely it is — being alive! There is so much grief waiting on the shelf.

But because I’ve already experienced death, I know that the best way to live is to love fiercely and unapologetically. My favorite people, favorite animals, and favorite things know that they are my favorite because I show them and tell them. I’ve learned that holding back is stupid, fuck reserves, and that playing your life out on a telephone or computer screen is nothing compared to living it in 3D. If you want to hear me blabber on about this some more, check out my semi-recent post on impermanence.

 

outline
color

 

Identity and Self-acceptance

I will NOT start from the beginning, but in short, I feel like I’ve already lived so many lives in this lifetime.

I’ve been a devout christian, a stout atheist, and a lazy agnostic; I’ve self-identified as being straight, bisexual, transgendered, gay, and then straight again… and looking at what I’ve just typed is absolutely mind-blowing. What the FUCK?! THIS chick is clinically INSANE! You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Trust me… I’m aware.

But the truth is, during my quarter life crisis, I participated in a live broadcast of sorts… openly manifesting what I was processing in ways that I think most people would want to hide. For me, asking deep and scary questions, learning how to manage depression, and facing feelings of shame weren’t things to hide — they were dark and curious things that needed illumination.

Present day, I like to imagine that these unpleasant feelings and discoveries were like blinking red lights — indicators that some fucked up internal shit needed maintenance. I’m glad I didn’t ignore them or keep them to myself, because my gender identity crisis was the heaviest burden I’ve ever carried, and I really don’t think that I could have managed it alone. It felt like I had to physically disconnect from my physical body so that I could figure my soul out, and when I was ready and able to come back home, it was a powerful experience.

The places that used to seem so foreign and unwelcome — this body, and this world — suddenly felt like home. But “suddenly” didn’t actually happen suddenly. It took me two solid years to strip off all of the hand-me-down layers from society and to purge away the resulting toxic build-up. But it was well worth the effort, as I emerged from the chaos feeling stronger, braver, more centered and more authentic than I’ve ever been. I also feel resilient now, and in addition to feeling all of these things, I actually know that I am. 

Today, I’m wearing a sweet pair of Vans and showcasing my wonderful, hairy legs in a patterned, pink dress. Rose couldn’t have done this. She wouldn’t have felt worthy, or comfortable, or authentic. I’m so grateful to have outlived her and to have liberated myself from the bulk of her insecurities. Poor girl.

Remember to be gentle with yourself, friends; practice compassion with yourself first and then you’ll have the ability to be truly compassionate with others.

 

 

Unrequited love

This has, perhaps, been the most difficult thing to manage. Most of the people who read this blog know that I was married to my best friend, Christopher, for five years. When my gender identity crisis began, I told him that I wanted to separate, and our divorce was heart-wrenching. It felt like staying awake while dying. My depression peaked that October, and it has steadily held its height since then… until very recently.

Christopher wasn’t doing well after the divorce, emotionally or physically, and I was extremely worried about him. To distract and comfort him, I set him up with a friend/co-worker of mine; they hit it off and have been dating ever since. I was, and am, happy for him, but I’ve also uncovered a deep-seated jealousy and sense of loss within me; now that I’m whole again — whole on my own, like I never was before — I miss him. If I’m being honest with myself, I sincerely wish that we were still together, but at the same time, I really don’t regret separating, because if we hadn’t, I wouldn’t have had the time that I needed to focus my attention and energy inward. I wouldn’t have healed.

But present day, I miss him dearly. I catch myself wishing he were riding in the car with me, sitting across from me during a meal, or playing one of his video games beside me while I study, or write, or play the guitar. I still think of him when I’m grocery shopping; Whole Foods started featuring little loaves of ginger bread at the checkout register last week, and I almost grabbed one for him the other day, because I forgot that we don’t talk, or see, or think about each other anymore.

For a long while now, I’ve been asking myself, how can I be truly happy without having my soulmate around? 

But as the months have rolled by, I’ve sourced, grown, and nurtured an inner sense of peace. I am now grateful for the searing pain of unrequited love, because through it, I’ve discovered the integrity of my love; I always believed that I loved unconditionally, and now, I know that I do. In the face of knowing that I’ll never again be with the person that I love most, I still love him. I love without expectations, or hopes, or dreams, and still, the love doesn’t die.

I think that sometimes, love is selfish; I will love this person so they’ll love me back — so I won’t be alone — so they’ll do things for me — so they’ll entertain me — so they’ll make my life easier — so I’ll feel better about myself. 

I love him, and he doesn’t speak to me. I love him, and he doesn’t hold my hand. I love him, and he doesn’t dance with me. And I love him.

I think that realizing this… that my love is unselfishly genuine… has made the heartache worth it. And I believe that, as the clock continues to tick and the restless seasons proceed to turn, it will become easier for me to imagine a happy life with someone else… with another soulmate. But for now, I’m actually happy on my own. I feel weightless, untethered, and free. I’m grateful.

 

Depression

Clearly, all of this shit has underscored my already existing biological depression.

And you’re GRATEFUL for it? you ask. Yes, I am… for TWO reasons:

1. Happiness and sadness are always at war with each other, aren’t they? They seem to operate like a see-saw; when one end flies up, the other sinks down or – in our minds – completely disappears. But I’ve found a steady and reliable middle ground: peace. On happy days, it’s easy to find peace… that blissful sense of contentment. On sad days, it’s a little harder, but the important thing to remember is that while you can’t control everything that happens to you, you CAN control how you interpret it and how you react to it.

How good are you at rerouting and changing plans? Do you know how to salvage what you can, leave the rest, and then recreate it? I’m grateful that, inside of my depression, I’ve identified a place of comfort — and that comfort is knowing that peace is attainable under all circumstances. It’s about accepting what it is, mustering the courage and energy to change what you can, and challenging yourself to be the best and bravest version of yourself possible without comparing yourself to others.

2. Because of my depression, the little things are so much lovelier than they were before.

I was sharing this story with a friend on Friday, and I’ll repeat it here: When I was a kid, my mom took me shopping with her one afternoon (presumably, we went to Walmart or somewhere similar). I found a headband that I liked a lot, and when I showed it to her, my mom said that I could have it. According to her, I then thanked her a billion times and nearly cried, I was so overjoyed!

A headband. I feel like I need to point out that this wasn’t a bicycle, or a hundred bucks, or a trip to Disneyland. It was a $2 (and, likely, unremarkable) headband. But I loved and treasured it so, so much! 

 

And I think that I’ve reclaimed that sense of joy and wonder as an adult.

 

I was driving and chatting with a close friend on the phone last week — he lives in Florida, and we’re always talking about how we both want him to move up here so that we can play Dungeons and Dragons together (I’ve yet to play the game). Towards the end of our conversation, he asked: “So how are you? How have you really been doing recently?”

“Well,” I sighed into the phone, “I am depressed, but I know how to manage it. For instance, I’m getting such a thrill out of this cool weather… I love watching these leaves fall! When I’m having a bad day, the smallest, loveliest thing can cheer me up… like a strong gust of wind, or a silly piles of leaves rustling around on the concrete. I derive a huge amount of joy from just wearing my scarf and ordering a coffee and grits on the weekend…” I paused. “So I’m actually doing really well,” I concluded, smiling at the steering wheel.

 

Today’s yummy breakfast at Urban Standard! If you live in Bham, you’ve gotta check this place out… but please be advised that I’ve got dibs on the couch.  🙂

 

Let me put it this way: I’m grateful for my depression because it’s made me happier. The world appears far more magical to me now that I’ve seen and experienced some of the very worst parts of it.

 

And now, I’d like to hear from you… what are you grateful for? How do you manage your pain, sadness, or loneliness? Please share your comment below, or you can shoot me a private message.

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui