summer

It’s the first day of summer, isn’t it?

Last night’s big reveal has left me feeling exhausted. I’ve got three announcements.

 

1. I’m taking a summer break from the blog.

2. I published an album earlier this week! You can listen to “The Ones I Liked” on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Napster and etc. under the artist name Aun Aqui.

3. I’m going to spend the next two(ish) months accepting and experiencing and appreciating my solitude. No muses — no fictional OR real boyfriends…

And I think I’d like to spend some of that time learning more about plants, car maintenance, and cooking. I’ll certainly be studying Spanish.

 

I wish you all a healthy, happy, and magical summer.

 

Love,

Aun Aqui

my sad evening: goodbye, audio

“Do you know how late Red Cat serves tea?”

“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?”

“Sure.”

“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?!”

“Mountain biking.”

“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,

Aun Aqui

criminals on planes, dogs on streets, and boys

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.

 

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***

 

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!IMG_2079
  • 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.
  • 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 faceSo basically, we’re going steady now.

 

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Mas fotos:

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

stairs and doors: depressed and dying to know it all

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

aun aqui

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?

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

he put the helmet on my HEAD, dammit!

“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.

 

“Jace!”

 

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.

 

“Sure.”

 

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. 

 

“Okay.”

 

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!

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui