then i became a villain, too

“You like to drape yourself in things,” he observed. I tipped my chin down, looking at the blue blanket covering my chest, lap, and feet. Earlier that day, I’d been wearing a scarf. He wasn’t wrong.

“It’s like… you want everything to feel like a story,” he said. I wasn’t sure what he was trying to say.

 

***

 

And two weeks later, I’m still not sure what he meant, but I know what I eventually realized by replaying his words in my head — sounding them out, writing them down.

Real life and the stories I read and write are pretty similar but differ in one BIG respect: the “realm of good and evil” in storybooks portrays a fundamental separation between heroes and villains — a deep, marked line you can sometimes get across but that still places you either here or there. In real life, it’s just not like that.

Stories usually present characters who (either right from the start or by the end of the read) fall into one of two categories: heroes or villains. As we read the lines themselves and everything between them, we typically identify with the hero — the poor, victimized, capable and brave one — and steel our hearts against the villain — the bad guy; the one we feel the story could do without.

Because in real life, we view ourselves as the hero, making the people who hurt, ignore, or intimidate us automatically become villains. Sound about right?

 

Sure; we’ve bumped into heroes other than ourselves along the way: the person who’s let us merge onto the interstate during heavy traffic; the cashier who said “hey, it rang up wrong, so it’s free!”; the guy or gal who kissed us and promised they’d never leave (spoiler: this kinda hero usually goes villain, in the end); and the animals that keep us from swerving into oncoming traffic because they’re just so good, so much better than us, and we love taking care of them and we love them loving us.

 

But I’m going to share with you the mental newsflash that I wasn’t sure (at first) how to take: Outside of storybooks, NONE of us are just heroes or just villains. We’re both. Always. 

 

We’re all said to have character, and our characters seem to indicate our general caliber — the types of decisions we’re known to make, and the fine or fucked quality of our souls. But our characters are not (like a baked-and-cooled cheesecake) permanently set; mostly-good people can do bad things, and typically-bad people can do very good things.

We’re also a little biased when it comes to assessing our own characters versus the characters of others. We may fancy ourselves a “decent person who occasionally slips up” (aka hero) while dubbing the jerk who lied about xyz a villain because they did something – one single thing – we didn’t like. Is that fair (or accurate)? Of course it isn’t!

I just read about that “phenomenon” earlier this year — how we use the poor actions of others to malign their characters but excuse our own poor actions as a rare step outside of character. We call the person who cut us off in traffic a jackass, assuming they deliberately ticked us off because they either wanted to or believe themselves to be superior, while excusing ourselves cutting someone off as harmless because oh, I’m just in a real hurry today — I didn’t realize that lane was ending! — I don’t usually do this kinda thing… 

 

False. You are, like everyone else in traffic, a sometimes-jackass. And in case it isn’t clear, that’s what they are, too; a SOMETIMES-jackass. Not a perma-jackass.

 

So if we can’t call ourselves and the ones we like winners (heroes) and lump the rest of ’em together as losers (villains) , then what? Then it puts us all in the same bin: villain-heroes slash hero-villains… in other words, human beings who are probably (I still believe this) innately good but have the ability to make poor decisions (or great decisions) DAILY regardless of track record. 

 

So the guy who murdered my dog isn’t just a villain; the uncle who gifted me with a ’99 Neon eleven years ago isn’t only a hero; the boys who used me and made me feel like burnt toast aren’t wholehearted villains; the best friend who made a cranberry orange cheesecake for my birthday this year isn’t 100% sweet all of the time; and the girl who made fun of my granny panties in middle school isn’t a total witch.

 

We’re all sometimes-nice, sometimes-mean human beings. If you’ve been really mean, you’re still capable of being nice; and if you’ve been mostly nice, it doesn’t give you a free pass to be “a little mean.” 

 

Related Sidebar: I knew I’d hurt someone’s feelings for a while but didn’t know how to address the matter slash go about apologizing. I finally tried a week ago. I left a birthday card on her desk, asked her to please talk with me over coffee, and apologized for any discomfort/lack of peace I’d caused her. She said she wouldn’t take me up on the offer and that it simply was what it was.

I came home and told Charlie that I felt terrible. “I really want to make peace with her,” I said. “I don’t want to make anyone unhappy, but in scenarios where I have, I want to end it and make up for it…”

He shook his head. “You’ve asked her to forgive you; it’s her choice now whether she does or doesn’t. All you need to do now is forgive yourself and let yourself have peace. That isn’t someone else’s decision.”

While I know he’s right, it’s still hard: liking yourself when you know other people don’t. So I’m trying to picture it like this: I like pickles in my grilled cheese and mashed potatoes on my pizza, but not everyone does, and similarly, not everyone will like or accept me. That’s okay. Sometimes, it’s a mere matter of preference.

My best advice in light of the fact that we’re all hero-villains/villain-heroes: Be your best, do good things, and practice empathy; hurt people usually hurt people, so if someone’s being unkind to you, keep that in mind. You’ve been unkind before — would someone being mean have helped you in that situation?

A second piece of advice: Don’t keep tally of your nice words and acts and intentions versus the world’s… we’re all in a state of flux, changing for the better or worse every day, and the season I’m in right now could be totally different from yours. My worst days and your best ones — they aren’t to be used for comparison. Harboring jealousy or resentment hurts you more than anybody. Like my friend John said earlier today: Old news is old news. 

Heroes versus villains — that shit’s for the storybooks. In reality, our default is something like swimming along the line of two oceans touching each other — and I hope we CHOOSE to be nice, good, and kind today, and tomorrow, and this fall, and next spring… 

 

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Still here — just keep swimming, just keep swimming… 

Aun Aqui

Ten Things I Hate About Nashville

  1. Alcohol is fun (in measure), but Nashville’s streets (particularly Broadway) really reek of it. While I was out walking (after snagging some REALLY great Indian food — check out Chauhan), I watched a young guy who was INCREDIBLY drunk wipe out on a rented scooter. Some dude called an ambulance, a lady ran over with a towel, and then I drenched the towel with water from my purple bottle before instructing the kid to hold it firmly to his forehead. He kept removing the damn thing, asking if he was still bleeding (DUH), and the thick, oozing, reappearing gash nearly made me faint. “Either of you got a camera phone?” he asked suddenly, slurring the words out. I was too stunned to reply — what the fuck does a camera phone have to do with ANY of this? I thought. He eventually produced his own phone. “Take a… picture…” he murmured, holding it up for one of us to grab. The lady who’d brought the towel snapped some shots and then he proceeded to text the images to his friends. “Good luck, dude. Hold the rag to your head,” I said, continuing on my way.
  2. (Almost) everyone has a butt — I know this — but I DON’T WANT TO SEE IT! I think I saw the shortest shorts in America up in Nashville, and I was not a fan of them. Look, I get it; we’re born naked, with butts, and it would be the most natural thing in the world for us to, generally (barring super cold weather), live our lives naked. Agreed. But here’s the deal: In the US, the human body is heavily sexualized in every possible media form, meaning that the more skin you show, the weirder and more insecure people around you tend to feel. And don’t even get me started on the disgusting horribleness of how the media objectifies women for advertising… just this week, back in bham, I drove by a billboard promoting boxing. Boxing’s fine, cool, whatever. But why does the girl-model have to flash sultry eyes and BITE her glove to effectively advertise boxing? I swear, sometimes, I really hate being here (ie in this world). It’s gross (people are gross) and mean (people are mean to each other AND animals). A good friend told me once: “Forget how your body looks — how does it feel? What can it do?” YES! Yes, yes, yes. These are WAY better points of focus, so why not show that same girl looking confident and kicking (or punching) ASS in the advertisement? Anyways (I said I wouldn’t go there)… I know it’s a thin line to walk — authentically expressing yourself while considering and respecting the sensitivities of others… and I don’t really know what to say to you about it, other than: If one’s ass is LITERALLY exceeding the length of their shorts, the shorts are probably inadequate.
  3. Drunk people are loud. And indecent. And rude. “Hey little girl!” some dude shouted at me, riding along in the passenger’s seat of a golf cart. “Gimme some of that–” “NOPE,” I yelled back at him, shaking my head firmly. The audacity. The golf cart zoomed away (as fast as a freakin golf cart can… how lame) and I hoped that the fat stuffed rabbit sticking out of my backpack was throwing him a sideways glare.
  4. Country music reigns supreme in Nashville, which is fine. I knew that, driving into the place.
  5. I passed by lots of “gentleman’s clubs” with the ickiest and most objectifying signage — and why the FUCK are they even called that? They are, in fact, NON-gentleman’s clubs. Hello!
  6. When people go to the obgyn, why do they spell it out? O-B-G-Y-N? Why not just say obgyn? This has nothing to do with (specifically) Nashville, but it bothers me… always has…
  7. There were simply too many people in Nashville. Whether they were residents or tourists (like me), there were just too many of us. That’s why I left and came home right after the vacation was over.
  8. The Whole Foods in Nashville did not carry my favoritest brand of kombucha (the Live brand). Minus 15 points from G’dor.
  9. There were more cafe options in Nashville than Birmingham. That makes me sad, so we’ll minus another 18 points from G’dor.
  10. One cafe I walked into didn’t offer caramel or white chocolate flavor options. I politely left. In addition to the lack of flavor options, the place was just uppity (for example, no basic white chocolate or standard caramel flavors, right? But they DID have a signature drink called the aspen or the apothecary or the aviators… and that’s some weird bullshit).

 

That’s all! I wanted to write about my experience in Nashville, of course, and thought it’d be more fun to rant about it than rave. In all fairness, Nash has some tasty vegetarian food and a nice collection of cafes (with interesting flavor options OTHER than caramel and white chocolate). Sharing pics of my latte orders (and listing where you can find ’em) below.

 

 

More than anything, I had a great time catching up with my parents. We perused various thrift stores together, drove down to the Harpeth River (which was TOTALLY awesome), and enjoyed being in the sunshine. I arrived home yesterday afternoon, with a bag of scarves and rosy cheeks, and then fell asleep around sunset.

 

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

Bham: Boys and Coffee Shops

My first writing assignment of the semester was a total emotional purge, and I’d like to share it with you guys.

Our instructions were to draw our own personal map of Birmingham, and it could revolve around whatever kind of theme we wanted: where we’ve lost pairs of gloves; where we’ve had the best or craziest of times; or where we’ve kissed boys and girls… and the assignment (if you’re curious) was inspired by this book.

Filing for a legal name change on Monday spun my emotional wheel, and I’m genuinely happy to report that – after drawing my map, drafting a 95% nonfiction story, and tearfully depositing an old necklace, poem, and ring by those rusty ole’ railroad tracks – I am now ready to read and report on something other than old news.

I’m done — d-o-n-e — re-living all of these soul-crushing heartbreaks, both old and recent, and it feels so, so good to be facing forward for once. Actually letting go after holding on SO TIGHTLY for SO LONG has made it easier to breathe, easier to think, and easier to feel alright with who I am and how things really are. I think they call that peace.  

And this is the last time we’ll be talking about ’em, so goodbye, boys. 

 

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Birmingham: Boys and Coffee Shops

Jace Rose

 

Number one tasted like resin. If taste was a color, stone grey; a nut, an old walnut; a chip, a stale Frito.

Number three tasted like baby powder. Or he smelled like baby powder, which made me think he tasted like baby powder… and I believe I was his first.

Number four tasted and smelled like tacos and fish. Fish tacos?

And number two was just like coffee. I love coffee.

I love the coffee on the corner of 1st and 17th most. This cafe is directly across from the park where families picnic, pups startle one another, and trains howl. The baristas make the whipped cream in-house and know me by my mug: “It’s Pumpkin Spice Season!” Thought I’d scored a real vintage treasure when I’d dug it out of a bin at a thrift store. Then I flipped it over after running it through the dishwasher at home and saw the streaky remains of a Walmart sticker.

I first started drinking coffee after I broke up with number one. It’s like I started needing something that would make me feel as alive as he did… and now – every day – I taste like white chocolate caramel, or white chocolate lavender, or white chocolate pumpkin spice. And nothing else.

First kisses happened everywhere.

With number one, it was on a picnic blanket in Georgia, two guitars in two laps, the boy leaning in quickly and surprising the girl. Squishy, wet, blunt pressure… like: Is this a kiss? We’d forgotten to bring food, and we’d also forgotten it was sabbath. All we really wanted was each other that day, so we drank water for free and kissed freely until sunset.

My third first kiss was on a boulder, way high up… and he asked first. Sweetheart. As inexperienced as I felt I was, he was the real baby that time.

Number two got me at a coffee shop — not the best coffee shop, but its sister café; the one that’s plagued with tourists on Saturday mornings, visitors with too many peaches in their baskets and kale sticking out of their reusable Whole Foods shopping bags. I’d signed separation papers with number one earlier that morning and then reported to my then-favorite cafe for a comforting latte. The girl behind the counter had leaned in, close, and grabbed my necklace while I was ordering, cooing over the material of it or the word on it, I can’t remember. I could smell cigarettes on her. Anyways, I took a seat on a couch and then a few minutes later, number two had walked in, wordlessly, and smooched me on the lips. “You’re mine now” is what I felt… the old blunt pressure becoming words.

And number four took me on his couch. The jackass. I think of him and think: shaved head; fish tacos; an old amplifier left turned on, buzzing throughout the room. He loved that damn amplifier more than he ever liked me. Raved about it like it had just taught itself the major scale. And when I broke up with him in the car, this was his stupid response: “Guess I’m not in the band anymore?” No shit. I’d stuck my guitar and effect pedals in the trunk before we’d even left his house. His home, I’ll mention, was a literal walk away from a pretty great frisbee golf course… that’s one of my deepest losses, looking back on us.

They were all great guys until they didn’t work out.

Number one liked to smoke weed in the house, so we didn’t really go anywhere. We’d move from sitting on couches to sitting on beds to sitting on floors. We’d travel the house in rooms, in socked feet and old t-shirts, an overweight German Shepherd padding stealthily along behind us. We stayed there. The world was small: wooden beams and frying pans and the fat dog and us.

But number four liked going places; punk shows, waterfalls, coffee shops, under my shirt. He was always going. He never settled down. I knew he wouldn’t, but I hoped I might change his mind. Reading this, you think I’m a teenager, but I’m older than that… I should know better than to expect someone to change for me.

Number two was and is a homebody, like number one, but he’s different. Quiet, deliberate, thoughtful. He is a lot like a turtle – slow and wise. He smokes his weed, but he also cleans the fridge out, also throws sticks for the dogs, also records the songs that he writes and goes out to buy us orange juice when he’s drank the last of it. I try to remember what went wrong with us and it’s hard to say. Timing? Plus the fact that I was still in love with number one?

Number three — I didn’t get to know him very well. But I believe that his time is divided pretty equivalently among three spaces: his workplace, the lab where he creates brilliant things, and the house where he sleeps upstairs and dreams about the girl next door. Spoiler: That girl isn’t me. And he really should have told me he was in love with his best friend, who is also his roommate, before we slept together. But that’s alright. And by that, I mean it’s totally fucking not.

So there was the issue of going nowhere, going everywhere, going too soon and going blindly. And then there were also things that they simply liked much more than they liked me.

For number four, it was marijuana, alcohol, LSD, DMT, and anything else mind-altering. Why he’s always dying to get out of his own head is still a mystery to me, but it probably has something to do with him being a complete jackass.

Number two likes coffee and tea and marijuana and mushrooms and cereal and almond milk and peanut butter and regular butter and chips. And falling in love. He really loves romance. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t make myself stay in love with him, and me breaking up with him nine times in two years sort of seemed to kill the romance for him. He’s now, wisely, looking elsewhere. We still enjoy talking and sharing dinners.

Number three likes protein bars (the same ones she likes), playing games (the ones she and he make up together), and riding bikes (with her). I got him to ride bikes with me once and – in retrospect – I do remember him finding interesting ways of bringing her up constantly. We like to talk about what and who we actually like, you know? Too bad I was too busy planning our future, non-existent wedding reception in my mind (catered by Chipotle? Yes please!) and didn’t notice.

Anyways, wrapping things up, number one likes jazz, weed, stability, big boobs and anime. And the big boobs are probably why he’s so into anime. And my flat chest, paired with my lack of stability, is precisely why we are no longer together.

I can remember exactly when I fell in love with each of them.

With number two, it was when we were hanging out upstairs one afternoon, printing off chords for a song. I’d forgotten to pull the printer’s tray out, and papers started falling to the floor. I apologized quickly, setting my guitar down and scrambling up from sitting cross-legged on the rug. It was a burnt orange rug – scratchy, warm. “No,” he said gently, holding his hand up. “This is exactly what I wanted to have happen.” I loved him right then — right at that very second.

With number three, it happened when we were stargazing at the park, the one in front of the cafe. The falsa blanket was under us and the lights were over us, and right in the middle of pointing out some constellation, he stopped himself. “You know, all I really want to talk about is black holes.” Bam. There you are. 

And with four, it was totally random; we were cuddling on the couch one evening, studying Spanish (independently but together — both of us working our own lessons on DuoLingo). He was absentmindedly repeating a phrase out loud, his voice different than usual, because he wasn’t thinking about someone listening. “Un… ves-tido… a-zul…” I could, by really hearing him, see him more clearly then, and I loved him.

There was another, unnumbered guy: Audio. I loved him but never dated him. He told me a story once, while we were sitting underneath the awning at that park (it was raining), about how he’d worked at this warehouse that was perpetually slow. “They used to let me sweep the store when nobody was in there, but then, I became confined to the ‘box’ — the area where the cash register was.” He paused, shaking his head. “So I started doing math.” Math? I laughed. He’d said it so seriously, and after confirming the word, he went on to explain that this was how he got a job working as a math tutor later on that year. That’s when I fell in love.

And then there was number one, of course. He’s the only one I loved before words. I just saw him one day, standing maybe thirty feet away from where I was in this dimly-lit sanctuary, and I felt something. It was a strange mixture of recognition, pain, and soul magic. My next memory of him is of me sitting next to him on a piano bench — him turning his head to the right, toward me; eyes half closed, fingers still tapping the keys, smiling.

I remember them when I smell pastries baking inside of Urban Standard, write about them from my camel-brown chair at Red Cat, and laugh over how stupid they all are when I’m alone in the shower, twenty-four driving minutes away from Birmingham. I think the funniest thing I’ve ever said to any of them in my mind was directed toward number three, picturing him in his tiny, white lab coat, in a sterilized corner of some room at the university, wearing smart-person glasses and holding a test tube like he’ll never hold a lover:

“I hope your research papers smell as good as my hair with leave-in conditioner.”

 

 

words, and when I fell in love with them

Wanna know something cool (and weird)? In English, I write stories, but in Spanish, I write poems. And I don’t know why! 

But I think I like that, because I’m such an amateur in this new language, the only way for me to express myself is extremely simply. You know? There’s no grab for fancy jargon (which often happens in English) because everything is just what it is. And saying something plainly — as honestly and succinctly as possible — feels really nice (for a change).

I’d like to pose a friendly challenge to you: Start learning a new language and then begin writing little poems in it… you’ll see exactly what I mean! It’s great! And then, you can do fun things w/your weird poems: hand them out to strangers or crushes (maybe they’re one in the same); post them on a bulletin board in your work’s break room; tape them to telephone poles; slip them underneath windshield wipers (unless that’s illegal — I’m not sure, although I did take a driving class recently). 

 

Anyways, I’m sharing three recent “pieces” (eye roll bc that sounds so pretentious — I’m NOT a poet, I just love language) below. Numero uno recollects a dream while dos and tres are about a boy (the same boy — you know; the cute, free-spirited, jackass type). And I’m actually sharing a fourth also — my first Spanish poem ever; I wrote it back in March but don’t think I ever shared it w/you guys. (Sidebar: #’s 1 and 4 are about a certain dumbhead who works in a bakery, in case it isn’t totally obvious.) Tip: If you’d like to read any of these poems in English, German, or Japanese, paying a quick visit to Google Translate will yield a rough (but mostly solid) translation.

 

Before I share these poems, though, I need to share something else: I love words, and when I’ve fallen in love with boys, it’s happened because of their words.

 

With Charlie, it was when we were hanging out upstairs one afternoon, printing off chords for a song. I’d forgotten to pull the printer’s tray out, and papers started falling to the floor. I apologized quickly, setting my guitar down and scrambling up from sitting cross-legged. “No,” Charlie said gently, holding his hand up. “This is exactly what I wanted to have happen.” I loved him right then — right at that very second.

With Space Boy, it happened when we were stargazing. The falsa blanket was under us and the lights were over us, and right in the middle of pointing out some constellation, he paused. “You know, all I really want to talk about is black holes.” Bam. There you are. 

And with Jackass, it was totally random; we were cuddling on the couch one evening, studying Spanish (independently but together — both of us working our own lessons on DuoLingo). He was absentmindedly repeating a phrase out loud, his voice different than usual, because he wasn’t thinking about someone listening. “Un… ves-ti-do… a-zul…” I could, by really hearing him, see him more clearly then, and I loved him.

There was another guy: Audio. I loved him but never dated him. He told me a story once, while we were sitting underneath the awning at the park (it was raining), about how he’d worked at this warehouse that was perpetually slow. “They used to let me sweep the store when nobody was in there, but then, I became confined to the ‘box’ — the area where the cash register was.” He paused, shaking his head. “So I started doing math.” Math? I laughed. He’d said it so seriously, and after confirming the word, he went on to explain that this was how he got a job working as a math tutor later on that year. That’s when I fell in love.

 

And then there was Christopher, of course. He’s the only one I loved before words. I just saw him one day, from maybe thirty feet away, and I felt something. It was a strange mixture of recognition, pain, and soul magic. My next memory of Christopher is me sitting next to him on a piano bench — him turning his head to the right, toward me; eyes half closed, fingers still tapping the keys, smiling.

 

 

lágrimas como nieve (inspired by a dream in late August) 

Ayernoche, soñé de tú.

Estuvimos a una fiesta para nosotros… fue una celebración de cambiar. Ud. tomó mi anillo desde este dedo y lo puso sobre un otro — libertad. El fin. Todos estuvieron feliz.

Yo lloré y lloré y gemí en la sala, el jardín, y sobre el piso del armario. Mi madre sento aqui conmigo, y mi abuela también — mi madre enfrente de mi y mi abuela detrás. Solo ellas supieron mi pena.

Lloré los copos de nieve afuera de mis pulmones y supe: aquí viene invierno.

 

 

días pasados (inspired by a cute memory Jackass shared w/me) 

estuvieron muchos libros en el carro

muchas peras sobre la tierra

tal fuego cerca al océano

tal viento en sus almas

 

 

quiero, sé (written after an informal breakup w/Jackass)

quiero ir a te

decir las cosas cálidas

mirar a tus ojos

y verlos ir

 

pero entiendo la verdad:

tú no piensas de mis ojos nunca

o se preguntas adónde los van

 

 

alma (written during a stronger-than-usual bout w/depression) 

mi alma duerme en un vestido azul

en un lugar frío

yo sueño de un jardín verde

una primavera después de tú

de sangre fuerte y brillante – rojo como una rosa

una mente fácil…

un mar de estrellas debajo de la tierra neblinosa

 

al mismo tiempo, es difícil gustar un mundo sin tú

 

 

first spanish poem

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aquí

uh-oh… she’s changing again!

“Are you by any chance related to so-and-so Yarbrough?”

I paused, typing something in on a work computer. I was logging into a program, or replying to an email… I don’t remember. I do remember instantly feeling sick to my stomach.

“You know, I’m not… I’m not actually a Yarbrough; I married into the clan, and we’re divorced now, so…” I said this lightheartedly, comically, with a smile. As if I’m not still heartbroken over the thing.

“Oh! Okay…” And then the person felt bad, and I didn’t want them to feel bad, and I didn’t want to feel bad.

 

***

 

That was on Wednesday, and while reaching for a container of lavender and argon oil lotion yesterday morning, I randomly happened upon our old wedding rings. They were tucked into a corner of my little red bookcase. Funny timing, right?

I knew mine would still fit but didn’t want to wear it, so I slid his onto my left index finger, nestling it right underneath my beloved cow ring. I was sitting on my bed then, having just finished unplugging my diffuser and dressing myself for the day. I let myself cry for a quick minute and then reminded myself that it was time to go appear alright in front of the world.

 

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***

 

I’ll miss Christopher forever and ever, and I know this. It is not a choice, or a phase, or a delusion (as much as I wish it was); I’ve simply lost my soulmate — and by lost, I mean I pushed him away so I could fall to pieces and then I missed him once I’d finished reassembling a better, healthier version of myself. But it was too late then, and there was too much there.

And it’s the strangest thing — to be so happy with and proud of who you’ve become while abhorring the means it took to get there. In short, in the process of finding myself, I completely blew it with him. Was it worth it? I just don’t have the heart to say it.

 

I’m certain that he thinks I’m crazy — the whole damn world probably thinks I’m crazy (objectively-speaking, I would too!) — and the only sane thing I can really do to redeem the who-knows-how-many days I’ve still gotta be here is to focus my attention and energy on the things I like and to love the people I do. I’ve lost Chris, Bob, and Bruce now… so I know better, way better, than to take anything or anyone for granted ever again. So I will write and strum and sing and hug with a latte in one hand and a burrito in the other until these breaths quit coming. I’ll visit rivers and pass peaches out and I’ll try really, really hard to recognize what’s real instead of dwelling on what I wish was real.

 

Are there people that you love, admire, or feel you couldn’t live happily without? Please tell them. Don’t wait until it’s too late, or until circumstances make it so that you can’t comfortably (or decently) tell them.

 

Anyways — I am getting to my actual point…

 

College is in full swing now, and this morning, I’ve been toggling between coffee and kombucha; joy and despair; espanol and creative writing… and while I was standing by the coffee counter just now, waiting for them to call my name, I was reading about names. Three lines from “The Soul of Place” (Lappin) that really stood out:

It is also believed that an individual ‘becomes’ his or her name over time, which suggests that names have the power to shape and mold character and destiny.

Names can also express a form of wish-fulfillment, for example, when we give a desert road a name evoking water or trees, or try to enhance the glamour of a modest town by naming it after some great cultural capital, hoping that a little of the original charisma will rub off.

Names allow us to differentiate and mark out what would otherwise be blank, undetermined, and unknowable space.

 

And that’s when I suddenly realized it, you guys: I’ve always loved Rose.

I know this because, when I first started working at Publix (back when I was 16), an older woman who also worked there was named Rose, and I remember feeling distinctly jealous that she got to be Rose while everyone else called me by my first name (which I never liked): Amber.

And before that, during my public school days, the same feeling of disappointment would manifest in my gut when, on the first day of class, the teacher would call out “Amber Roderick?” instead of “Rose Roderick?” Present, I’d say, feeling like no one was ever really going to “get me” with a name like Amber. But Amber was my first name, and Rose was my second. I guess it made sense.

 

And when I dropped Amber Rose entirely three years ago — so I could start making myself from scratch, like a biscuit, by borrowing the name of a literary character whose selflessness and bravery deeply inspired me — I missed Rose. I missed her like a whisper, like an exhale. But at the time, I felt I had to let her go, because I didn’t want people to have the choice to remember her at all. I didn’t want a precedent for myself — nothing in concrete, nothing to be used for comparisons. I wanted to be free to go, or let go; to change as drastically or as slowly as I needed to… does that make sense?

When the identity crisis bloomed, it sort of felt like, just like I didn’t belong in dresses, a name like Rose was beautiful but wasn’t right for me. Like I didn’t deserve it. But I worked through all of that (wiggles fingers) and am wearing a super cute pink-and-yellow dress today (think: roses and sunshine). It looks very nice.

And when I read what I did (now 30ish minutes ago — sorting my thoughts out is taking a while), it struck me in the best kind of way: I can be, and have, both: the best beginning and the best ending — just a first and a last. The middle was always the part I didn’t want or need. It was the element that confused things; it contained what I wanted, but it wasn’t placed properly.

 

And this week, by a REALLY strange alignment of circumstances (it would be too hard to explain and it would bore you), I have the opportunity to legally change my name (again), and you know what, people who likely think I’m a $0.99 bag of pistachios (aka nuts)? This is the last frickin’ time. If I EVER get married again, dude’s going to have to change his name. Or we can both just love each other while staying ourselves.

 

Still here,

The girl who’s tending to her 35 indoor houseplants, trying so hard to be kind and brave always, and still growing into herself… 

Jace Rose (aka Aun Aqui)