“You’re putting me in a real position here, James.”
“What?” he said, confused. “You can take that.”
I kept my eyes on the board. “Yeah, but then you’ll get me with the horse!” I’m no idiot, I thought to myself.
“That’s your horse.”
I paused. “Oh… then I’M taking it!” How wonderful, I thought.
James and I played six games of chess together this weekend, and despite his kind efforts to educate me (saying: think that through; I wouldn’t do that; why would that be a bad move?), he won all of them. Now… I’ve played the game a handful of times over the course of the last decade and – whoever I’m playing with – I generally always win AT LEAST one game. Not so this time.
It’s going to sound weird, but I kinda liked fairly losing all of those games, because I LOVE how crazy-smart this dude is! I can’t wait to get deeper inside his head — ask him lots of questions, hear all of his stories…
And while James is clearly better at playing chess and having a cool mustache and riding his bike uphill for a long time and watching sports, I’m pretty good at other things: spinning words, strumming the guitar, obsessing over rivers, finding good coffee shops… it all balances out nicely.
After James drove down from Chattanooga on Friday, we spent our weekend on bikes and in books. We woke up cuddling this morning and then read different books in bed together (he was in India while I was in Ireland); an hour later, we rode our bikes to a bunch of places downtown, just like we did yesterday: got coffee, walked around, people-watched… he kept asking me to try his food, gently insisted on carrying things for me, and was always bending down to kiss me. James is so sweet and dreamy that I’m afraid he’s actually a dream — like I’m going to blink twice one of these days and he’ll just be gone; nowhere forever.
He wanted to catch a football game on Saturday, so we spent a few hours downstairs at Avondale — he drank two beers and I sipped on one (featuring a fun elephant mascot) over the course of two hours. He kept his arm around me or his hand on my knee while I smiled, leaning into him and holding a pen with my left hand. I was underlining my favorite passages in a favorite book in between catching the more interesting game plays (where the guy with the ball gets to run a lot — I hate it when they all just fall into a big dumb pile right away).
I’m not a big sports fan (clearly), but when I asked James what he and millions of others like about football so much, he explained that each game is sort of like life “in miniature” — with highs and lows, plans and dreams, wins and losses… lots of emotions and excitement and things.
On one of those football TVs yesterday, I watched these words flash onto the screen: “…so-and-so player never knows when the play is over. The game is never over for them.” That’s interesting, I thought, appreciating the layers and implications of the phrase.
Anyways, during the game, after every single play, they replay the play like three times and talk about it, so I had lots of time to read… and after months of stringing myself along, I finished the book there at the bar last night. It was hard to close it so I left it lying open for a while, flipping backwards to re-read some of my favorite lines.
“This feels like saying goodbye to an old friend,” I told James sadly.
I gleaned a lot of wisdom from William Least Heat-Moon, and I’m glad my professor accidentally marked his book as required last semester (he told us on the first night of class that we wouldn’t need it, but I decided to read it anyways). Of Heat-Moon’s many best lines, this one is my absolute fav: “The journey began when I started wondering.”
Isn’t that nice? And isn’t that how it happens! We wonder about things, right — imagine them happening, poke at the possibility of them happening, ask ourselves what them happening would do to us — and then decide to either pursue them or leave them ghosting about, hanging there in the air. That’s exactly how it goes. (Sidebar: I’m getting a ghost-and-plant-friend tattoo after class on Tues! Woohoo! Story for another time.)
Well I’ve done a whole lot of wondering over the years (especially these last three), and this wondering led to wandering which introduced all kinds of crazy experiences and revelations (some of those: the onset of my now-resolved identity crisis; first and second trips to Denver; trip to Ecuador; trip to Seattle; trip to Portland; trip to the OBGYN (pronounced “ahb-gin”); trip to the therapist; trip to Nashville; Waffle House meeting w/the OG stalker; the legit scary stalker incident; my exp with dating apps).
And while I’m not at the end of it yet (I’ll never be able to say I am), as far as where I’m at right now is concerned: I’ve never felt more at home with myself and in this world. The world still stinks, mind you (people are TERRIBLE to each other and animals), but I’m doing the best I can to be nice and to do good (as well as surrounding myself with the best company).
“Noooooooooo!” I cried out during our fifth game of chess.
“What?” he said.
“I didn’t wanna lose the horse.”
“You’ve gotta lose pieces to win.”
Whew — read that again. Like you, I’ve already lost several pieces of myself, and some days, I still walk around carrying a half-broken heart inside my chest. But I’m very clear-headed most days, and the clarity makes hard things, sad things, difficult things that can break a person’s heart easier to handle… sometimes, I’m even able to appreciate them.
Related: When you lose a person, or a pet, or a sports game, you focus on the perceived failure, right? The absence, the booing, the letdown. Like, okay… James was disappointed that this particular team lost on Saturday because a sports blogger guy had promised to cut off his pinky finger if that team won a whole bunch of games. Insane, right? Unlike James, I’m GLAD they lost.
Anyways, instead of focusing on the bummer factor (losing a game or a person or whatever), try remembering the highlights and lessons from the game, or the color and contour and beauty of that soul you loved — what’d you love about it so much? What thrilled you, made you laugh, made you happy? How have you changed because of it, becoming stronger, better — more enlightened somehow?
Because if you think of it in terms like these, you’re never just losing a part of yourself when someone goes missing or a game ends; you’re gaining something, too — and I don’t mean material-somethings. I’m talking about wisdom, clarity, independence, courage, empathy, self-knowledge, confidence, resilience… the things that really matter. So basically, more than losing something, you’re just trading this for that — it’s like an exchange.
Just don’t weigh everything out, like a stickler… let it be what it is, and appreciate what you’ve got and who you are and what you’re still able to do with the time you’ve got left.
Fun activity: Think of the people and things that have hurt you most, and then try swiveling them around in your mind a little so you can view them a bit differently (as helpful instead of villainous). Ask yourself: How have these people and things — their existence, words, talents, time spent with me, absence now — helped make me better in some way? In what way? And how am I helping other people become better versions of themselves?
For instance, I ran into two of my exes earlier: Space Boy and Foster. Everything negative and annoying aside, I learned things (about the world and myself) from both of them. Foster asked how I was doing today while Space Boy complimented my outfit (an over-sized red sweater + muddy Vans) and hair (super oily). Very kind of both of them.
I’ve let the bad feelings go, because they only ever made me feel bad. If I’d seen Captain Kangaroo today, I probably would have been awkwardly nice to him, even… asking: “How do you do?” or maybe “Any Glass Animals records lying around the record shop these days, you stupid dumb-dumb idiot-man?” Ha… I’m just kidding. Mostly kidding. Kidding just a little bit and sort of serious; he’s a tall idiot man.
But back in real life, I admittedly held a heavy paper bag up to my head while quickly passing by the other ex — the Christopher one. Hoping it was inconspicuous enough — I’ve worn sunglasses in the store’s bakery before to achieve this same invisibility. Didn’t want to see him OR be seen by him, you see, and yes; I was at the grocery store when I ran into all three guys.
Fun fact: I’ve only for-real dated six people during this lifetime, and FOUR of them, the majority of them, work at Whole Foods. That’s insane, isn’t it? Weird and insane. Why not Sprouts, or 7-Eleven, or Target or Chipotle or Home Depot? Home Depot sells those plants I love — those death-row aisle plants!
I’ll never be completely done with this damn blog,
FOR REAL THOUGH (aka PS): I don’t plan on writing all about my and James’ relationship on here because, in retrospect, I think that was a kinda inconsiderate thing to do w/the other guys. And since my life mostly revolves around work and coffee and music and books and school and pups and my closest friends and James (and it’s just too tempting for me to want to talk about him on here), the only real updates I intend on posting to this blog are going to be school-related (ie short stories and vignettes I write). Possibly some life stuff, but not like the usual stuff. I’m trying to become, not less transparent, but more judicious with writing now that I’ve mostly got my shit together, so if you want details on the real deal, let’s get coffee together. Honestly, if you’d like to know my three main reasons for stepping away from the blog, they’re that A. I’d rather channel time and energy into writing books and graphic novels right now; B. I want to let things develop organically (relationship-wise); and C. the blog’s become a sort of backpack — it’s got too much shit in it now for me to continue carrying it around all the time (so I’m leaving it in the car for a while). 🙂 Take care, dearly loved friends of mine! You’ll hear from me again, of course.