On One Hand

November 18, 2007

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November 3, 2007

Daylight Savings

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I dreamed of falling in love with a desperate alcoholic, writing song lyrics across each others’ naked bodies by candlelight at 4 a.m. I dreamed of being invited into the back room at the kegger where the cool kids hit cocaine off of a glossy paperback Bible. I dreamed of bragging, dude, I was so fucked up last night, taking a piss behind a tree in the park and falling headlong through the bushes before the guy who would break my heart helped me stuble home.

Not long ago I beleived I’d be spending the entire decade of my 20s as a tortured artist, nursing scars, finding myself lost and lovesick in the arms of someone who only half felt like a partner, puffing cigarettes in dark alleys of New York, Seattle, London, Santa Fe, Chicago…

Now I am 22, and lead the youth group in a Unitarian church. For tomorrow morning’s activity, I bought a bag of 100 daffodill bulbs the kids and I will plant in the church yard. Daffodills. Holy shit.

My weekday routine looks something like this: wake up at nine thirty, grab something to eat, and jog to the gym. An hour later, I’m back home mixing a protein shake and then taking a shower. I water my houseplants, inspect and then rotate them so both sides get some sun. I cook something with tofu and rice and walk to the library where I’ll spend the biggest chunk of my day. I think about the activity I’m planning for the middle school group at Boulder Valley UU fellowship. I go to class, walk home and cook dinner. I call my parents, who I talk to almost every day. I run errands. I call a friend. If I don’t have any more homework, we go to a bar, I buy one drink and then we come home. Otherwise I’m thinking about an article I need to write for Boulder Magazine. I check my email. I watch TV. I grab a book and read for a while before I go to bed.

Without any particular effort, I became so fucking wholesome. And I don’t doubt that this is exactly how I’m supposed to be. I was born this way, loving plants and being a vegetarian health nut who judges each food based on glycemic index and flavanoids. I was born to work in a church, I can’t imagine any organization that shares my work ethic more than a service-based small community. I just didn’t think I’d get to this place so quickly.

When I was a kid I had my hands dirty every day, planting seeds, digging for worms, catching crickets, climbing trees. It took a few heartbreaks to learn that it’s the thing that feeds me. I’ve said many times that I think that human beings are fulfilled by taking care of something. I’d been taking care of hopeless causes for years, and I came to realize that I needed something I could actually see some change in. I got some plants. It started with pineapple tops, avocado seeds and then shamrocks I dug up from the yard. Tomatoes and zuchinnis, zinias, marigolds, ginger roots, spider plants, wandering jews, pumpkins, african violets and aloe. I spend the first hours of each day just looking at the plants in the window, caring for them. The next time I fell in love with a human, it was the first time I thought someone really saw where my heart was. It was the first time someone’s compliments actually felt complimentary. It didn’t last, but it was the first time I knew such things were real.

After all that I got an email that a church was looking for someone to work with the youth. I never made a choice to apply. I was sending my resume everywhere, so I sent one to the church too. I didn’t think I’d get the job. Then I went in for an interview and they told me I got it. I met the kids and I liked them a lot. It was what came to me. There was never a choice; saying yes was only second nature; I was on a path, and that’s where the path took me.

So much for finding the desperate alcoholic. He was always temporary. I feel like I’m still so young, but already looking to figure out the rest of my life. My period of sewing wild oats lasted three years, and the oat fields, always small and tame, have succumbed to the onslaught of tomatoes and pumpkin vines, dasies and sunflowers, and under the upright oak tree in the middle is a heaping growth of bleeding hearts, the shady the trail of stepping-stones marked by creeping impatients and begonias.

June 25, 2007

The Language of the Body

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Baby, oh, it’s not like that; we fight because we love so bad. Bruises and burns are signs of devotion, visible prints of explosive emotion.

Moments after I start laughing at him there’s a fist pummeling my chest, leaving knuckle-blue bruises that will gradually turn yellow and ooze outward as they fade over the next week. Damn, for a 135-pound skinny boy, my boyfriend’s got one hell of an arm.

I kneed you because I need you (he says),
I pummel you because I pine for you (I say)
I lobbed you because I love you (we say),

and finally I’m in a relationship that resolves conflicts in a way I can understand. I tackle him in the grass affectionately and it hurts his neck, so he punches me in the arm hard enough to knock it dead for 20 minutes, gives me a death-glare in the mean time, then when it’s over he kisses me and apologizes. I make fun of his indecision over picking a body soap in the grocery store and he hits me in the chest and knocks me back. I accidentally ash my cigarette onto his foot and he knees me in the thigh as he howls.

For the first time in my life, a boyfriend lets me know exactly what he’s mad at me for, and gets his anger out in a straightforward, physical way. There’s no extended lecture on my thoughtlessness, no prolonged brooding that lasts for the rest of the night, no exile from his bedroom, no passive-aggressive failure to return calls the next day or unprovoked “I don’t know if I like you anymore” crisis three days later intended to torture me into hating myself as punishment for being clumsy or sarcastic.

This is the kind of conflict we grew up with as boys who were earthy and tactless and crude, coming home from the field with buckets of crawdads and dirt on our faces. It’s a return of a time when knocking someone a “dead-leg” was sufficient retribution for any cruel joke, and by the time the sharp pain in your thigh eased into that familiar warm, numb, tingly feeling, you knew the whole fight was already in the past.

Garrett fights the way dogs fight, asserting himself dramatically, and when the guilty person apologizes and the anger subsides he becomes submissive and sweet and loving again.

Then when I do something right, I am caught in the spiderweb of his limbs. He’ll rub his chest against my side and kiss me on the cheek while he tells me I am perfect and thoughtful. He is openly excited when I come home, openly excited when I cook him dinner, openly excited when I write him a note, and openly excited when I let him know I am thinking of him when I’m away. His face and eyes light up, his mouth opens wide, and he bubbles across the room.

There is something innately satisfying in this language of the body. It communicates in ways that do not require dissection or analysis, do not require skepticism or doubt, and do not require me to think back over the last 5 days to see how many things I could be in trouble for now. When we talk, it is deep and animalistic and full of life. It gets the message across.

I am bigger and heavier than Garrett, but I’ve never thrown a full punch in my life, always pulling back to weaken the blow at the last moment, and my body’s natural aversion to acting in violence would keep me from being able to take advantage of my size. It’s a reflex to be gentile, worked into muscle-memory through years of growing up fighting my little sister who is weaker and smaller than me. I am not as good at being straightforward, so my body language is more complicated; when I am mad at my boyfriend for drinking too much or thinking he can drive, I walk away and hope he understands my refusal to condone it. When I don’t like the way he is acting but don’t think I have the right to criticize him for it, I simply disassociate myself, letting him be him and me be me. I am more cat-like, and operate through autonomy and jealousy. But when it’s over, it’s over, and I forgive him the moment he reaches for my hand.

It is not as simple a message as being punched in the arm.

“You deserved it,” he says.

“I know,” I say.

“Does it still hurt?”

Ha, “no,” I lie. Hours later, my left shoulder is actually still half-paralyzed.

I lift my arm part way to show it still works, trying not to wince.

He smiles. I feel stoic and he feels satisfied.

This is so perfect.

January 29, 2007

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October 16, 2006

The Funeral

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One of my cousin’s 3-month-old twin sons was found dead in bed in October 2006. The diagnosis was sudden infant death syndrome. The twins had been born premature in June, deliveries filled with complications and worry, much like my cousin’s own birth twenty-one years earlier when he came into the world months early and weighing less than two pounds. My cousin is just five days older than me – though we were never close, in age we are practically twins ourselves. I have a close family, but my cousin is somewhat estranged from the rest of us, always invited but associating more with his mother’s family. The twins, meanwhile, were closer to the family of their mother – my cousins girlfriend – and I never met the baby who died.

I didn’t know how to feel about the death. It’s hard to mourn someone you knew almost nothing about, and though I could sympathize with my relatives as parents suffering a terrible loss, it was hard to picture my cousin as a father, especially without meeting his sons. I didn’t know much of his girlfriend either – he first introduced her to the family during a past Christmas as his fiance, and soon after we learned she was pregnant. I had seen her a total of maybe four times.

Robert was raised Catholic like the rest of us, and Cassie was “Pagan,” a vague self-description few know how to interpret; the funeral was in a Unitarian Universalist church. For the first time after four years calling myself Unitarian in principle, I stepped into an actual church and attended a service for the funeral.

Also for the first time I saw photographs of the babies, and in the small, glossy images they became real. The surviving brother now seemed incomplete, squirming, small and fragile, without a companion. Another cousin, just thirteen years old, who had only met the twins once was crying; at the most callous and insensitive age a boy will ever pass through, he was sensitive. He always cries at the funerals even if he doesn’t know the people who died.

In general I don’t know how to conduct myself in funerals. That was compounded by the fact that I didn’t know how to conduct myself around my cousin, the father, either. It was easy when we were children – we were rivals, being so close in age, and not knowing what else to do, we mostly fought – and years of that awkwardness had left residue.

Sometimes Robert and I had casual conversation, and sometimes he would rouse bursts of intense affection that I didn’t know how to respond to. Tonight he stood at the church door stoically as we all arrived, his thin, small frame wrapped inside a black jacket, long hair pulled back, and inspite of the recent tragedy he was composed and friendly. Robert and I looked at each other for a minute without talking. He said hey, I said what’s up, we extended our hands to shake and then Robert hugged me instead. I hugged back. The moment lasted a few seconds. Then we went back to not talking, which is how it had been since we were teenagers.

My sister was better with these things. She bubbly and affectionate, using using her flowing femininity to soothe wounds. Angela and I are not like that with each other so I’m always surprised when I see her bring it out. She asked Robert how he was doing, hugged him for a long time, and was respectful and sweet.

I wanted to explain why I wasn’t like that. It would be something to say, I grew up as a sensitive child going to school where showing too much emotion ended in black eyes and bruises, and years of fear has bled that energy out of me. I am not affectionate with people unless it’s trivial. Not with family, not at funerals. The urge to show love may be there but it rarely comes out. In truth I long for connection – which is why I smother my boyfriends until they gasp for air and hate me, them being the only people I know how to show that side of me to. That night I was left standing beside my cousin and sister, wanting to say please understand that I’m not a dick, or at least I don’t mean to be.

My cousin never finished high school, and he was having a hard time getting by. He is intelligent but grew up tossed between two drug-addicted, neglectful parents who were never married and, since Robert was born, never got along. Meanwhile I was a high school honors student and was in college, where I was successful, and sometimes I felt it weave a subtle tension between Robert and I. I wanted to tell Robert I didn’t think I was any better than he was and I thought it was incredible that he was a father. Consider: I was toiling away because someday, in the future, it could be meaningful if things work out. If I got lucky. All stakes were on the future – the job I could get – years of investment were mounting and still I’d given little back to the world. Was all I had to show a few lousy published articles in the campus paper? Robert’s life was meaningful then – he’d created life by fathering children – he had a family – and even if he died that day he would have a purpose in his surviving son. I was jealous that he was in a relationship with someone who loved him. I couldn’t make relationships work that way. I put too much weight on them and they fell apart.

The ride back to my parents’ house was full of bad spirits. My sister was picking apart the family, saying how Cassie was a good mother and why, explaining how Robert was a better father than his own father and why, and I was cringing at the fact that, though she was offering compliments, Angela had no way of knowing anything she judged to be true. I was needlessly but genuinely annoyed, biting my tongue to avoid a fight but in the end starting one anyway.

The funeral was awkward for all of us. We, most of my mom’s family, hadn’t seen the children, so assumed the babies were confined to bed or something, sick and vulnerable since they were born premature. We learned at the funeral that they were being seen and held and coddled and visited by their mother’s family, while we were out of the loop. We found out that babies were named after Robert’s other grandparents on his maternal side.

The twins had been born within two days of deaths of two older relatives in the family, and I know that my grandmother, a devout Catholic but superstitious anyway, was thinking it was reincarnation, that her cousin and brother-in-law died when they did because they wanted to come back and stay with us as the twins. At the funeral my grandmother’s whole theory was destroyed.

My grandmother sat thoughtful during the service, which must have been awkard for her. A Unitarian service is just about the farthest thing possible from the ritualistic Catholic mass she is used to. And though she was surrounded by people in their chairs, my grandmother looked more alone in thought than I had ever seen her before. My whole family was looking awkward and alone among each other during the Unitarain sermon. This is the religion I have chosen for myself – left theirs for – and it works because, for me, talking to God has been awkward and solitary for a long time.

OK, nobody’s perfect. I don’t idealize my family but I find myself putting a lot of weight in them anyway. I like to picture myself fitting nicely in their perfict niche, but I don’t always. I do what I can to find my own, bring my family to the world, the world to my family, but I am young and it never seems to work. Instead I’m watching my cousin struggle to do the same thing, to get everything,but now he’s sitting and bowing his head and being a diplomat, hunched alone and holding hands with his mourning girlfriend at his infant son’s funeral.

September 22, 2006

Libra

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I love this time of year so much! It starts always on exactly September 21 or 22, and I can feel this energy suddenly shooting through the air like sparks, stark contrast to the ho-hum day before and absolutely euphoric. It’s the most romantic time of year and it’s when I am most myself. I see visions of lovers standing in swirling leaves and books with faded pages and feel urges to write poetry by candlelight at night with the window open. I want to do everything in twos and threes and life is extremely intimate. Memories spring themselves upon me and I think fondly of times I didn’t appreciate in their midst. I dream vividly and I take long walks alone to think. I love the morning sunshine, the cool afternoons, the cloudy evenings, the earthy colors, the drizzly rain, and most of all the smell of the air, crisp and fresh, with an overpowering sweetness rising throuought in the blend of cracking foliage and dry grass.

I just have the feeling of being in love all the time, this time of year. It’s not with a specific person, and certainly doesn’t demand reciprocation. I just want to shout odes of adoration to every person I see and celebrate the love between other couples like it’s my own. I want to connect with everyone and share quiet moments baring my soul.

I am a summer person, and in June and July I enjoy the warm air, the abundance of life and grenery, the bright, white sunshine that pricks the eyes, and the power of thunder and rain in the afternoons when dark clouds loom ominously. But somehow it’s when all of that is dying in autumn that my mind is really liberated. Maybe I just like change, and while the spring in Colorado has summer heat punctuated by bouts of soggy snow, in a shaky transition that lasts for months – spring again, winter again, spring again, then the trees, naked while the earth was blooming, slowly begin to emerge at irregular intervals in a painfully groggy wakening to green, crippled by the occasional late frost to be forced to start over – it is in fall that the colors drastically change and the world, in a matter of weeks, even days, sheds itself of its exterior and appears entirely new, green to red, to yellow, to brown and gray and a mottled mix of earthy colors.

I was just thinking this summer how my tastes had changed – I was suddenly interested in masculine guys with short hair, who like sports and take off their shirts in the sun to reveal bulging muscles and a tan. I was into the sterotypical, straightline image from the American media, and was surprised at the change. But that’s not how it went when fall hit – and I suppose it goes this way every year – but I’m back to the quiet intellectual, brooding in class with his pencil in hand and gathering books in his arms on philosophy and culture. I look for poets, and if he’s not a poet I’ll make him into one in my mind. He’s humble and not connected to the extravagant gay culture, his slim body tucked modestly under layers of clothes; his sweaters and old jackets carry an expired, East-Coast feel. He doesn’t need a tan, only to think, with deep eyes and philosophical ambitions. I only connected with one person who fit that role, this time last year for a month or so, and in spite of the fact that we couldn’t get together (he had a boyfriend and I wasn’t interested in anything long-term), it was absolutely perfect.

September 14, 2006

Cancer and Abandonment

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I know a really cool Christian minister who used to hang out around the CU campus untill she moved to Phoenix a few months ago. Tamara was actually a leader of a Progressive Christian and Unitarian Universalist student group I attend, and I got to know and respect her very well before she left.

My dad had a friend from his work who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and he brought her up often, with concern, which is rare for my dad. He usually doesn’t talk much about heavy issues – he usually keeps emotional topics to himself – but one of the things he mentioned was that his friend Louise knew and talked about the same minister I knew. He asked me to get in touch with Tamara to let her know that a congregant of her old church was sick, because Louise had a lot of respect and admiration for Tamara. My dad said Tamara would know if it’s appropriate to give Louise a call and could at least say a prayer or two if nothing else.

A week ago my dad said his friend Louise had “not more than a couple of months” left. He once talked about her getting better, saying if she ate more or took better care of herself she could pull out of it. Meanwhile the cancer was spreading through her lymph nodes, and eventually, in the teltale stamp of the end, it spread to her lungs. I thought giving Tamara a phone call could be a great way I could connect people and help someone who is in a lot of need, so I put it in the back of my mind as something I should find some time for over the next few weeks.

Sometimes when people are dying and you say they have months to live, they just hang on and hang on, and years later you’re still saying it will be “a couple months.” They’re like a living ghost that seems to linger in the corner of the room, fading slowly with diminishing strength and consciousness.

Not this time. Louise tricked everyone because right until the end she kept going to work, despite the protest of concerned coworkers who urged her to stay at home as she shriviled into a skeletal form, always dragging an oxygen tank behind her.

My dad just told me that his friend Louise died yesterday. On calling Tamara I procrastinated a week, a fucking week, and now I feel like shit because it’s too late to do anything. Death is the hardest transition people go through and I beleive wholeheartedly that neglecting the dying is just about the worst thing a person can do to another. I’ve never met this person and have no idea what she’s like, but while she was sick I was really concerned for her and found myself thinking about her often. She seemed like a really good person. The situation helped me see some good in myself, because I hoped the best for her even though it was of no benefit to me to do so. I question my own motives and mind a lot, and this time I felt like I had no reason to.

I heard in a series of programs about cancer on NPR that having loving family and friends around you when you’re sick is the best way to improve your chances of survival, and if surivival is impossible, the pain and suffering is cut, according to the program, “in half” if you don’t feel lonely. They said it’s because cancer is a disease, not of an organ, but of the whole body – especially the immune system – and feeling abandoned or fearful shocks the body to a point where it can no longer fight the disease. In fact, a doctor on the program said a person diagnosed with cancer who has close friends or support is twice as likely to survive. It seems like everyone I personally know who ever got cancer got it straight out of a divorce or really tough time, and it makes me beleive more than anything that people need each other, and have a moral duty to be there for loved ones more than anything else.

I fucked this one up, but I hope when it’s someone close to me – like a parent, grandparent or friend – I’ll be able to step up and give that person one hundred percent of myself. It’s the least I can do.

June 20, 2006

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June 19, 2006

Gaps

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Lately I’ve been pulled away from the real world into a sort of transitory limbo that lays hollow between fond memories and vague, indistinguishable future. Two people in my extended family are dying, in the same hospital, of unrelated causes. One has been on kidney dialysis for several months and is now tired and has chosen to be unhooked. He is 89. The other is unconscious and finally cannot breathe on her own after decades of emphysema. A few hours ago, while I was at work, my dad called to tell me they unhooked her from the machines keeping her alive. She could be dying at the very moment that I write this. She is 79 years old and an only child. Her mother, who is 99, is still alive in a nursing home.

I don’t know either of them well; I’d have to ask my mother exactly how they relate to me. In my life I’ve probably spent a total of 100 hours or less with either of them; far less than I have spent with coworkers I feel absolutely no attachment to. I think that one, Gloria, is my great-grandmother’s, sister’s daughter, making her my great-aunt. The other is my grandmother’s, daughter’s husband, making him my great uncle. Beyond that I know little of them except for memories of family reunions and holidays.

I do distinctly remember talking to my uncle Jim when I was four or five years old, his perpetually frowning yet good-humored face seeming to glare down at me under a shock of straight, wash-white hair. Jim was loud, sarcastic and rude, with a cutting sense of humor that was hard for me, a small child, to find as anything but hurtful. But I was always intrigued by an old wound on his shin that had healed long ago with bone showing through. Like a cut-off branch of a tree now partially grown over by the expanding trunk, the white surface peeked through a cusp of skin and gave me a sense of amazement that I could actually see the inside a living person’s body. To look at a living bone defied one of the laws of nature and I felt I was a part of a spectacular magic trick. I have not seen my great uncle in the few years that have passed since that leg was amputated, but always remember him by that peculiar, and to him either annoying or insignificant, wound on his shin.

My aunt Gloria was much quieter but always had kind things to say to the kids, always invited us to pick from bowls of peanuts or candy that lay around the house for guests, and was always concerned about her mother, Leena, who Gloria lived with almost all of her life. Leena was hunched over from osteoporosis and sat a fleshy lump on the couch, face seeming to come from the middle of her chest and two beadlike eyes peeking out at all of us. I saw Leena last year around Christmas time and she joked joyfully about how the men in her nursing home complex “don’t do nothin’ for me” and that when I was a toddler I used to jump on her bed. Despite her shriveled appearance, she is very healthy. Recently she asked her daughter to will her two thousand dollars, and the fact that she will outlive her only child isn’t a surprise to most of the family.

I didn’t visit Gloria or Jim in the hospital as they were dying – this all caught me off guard and I didn’t think to skip summer classes and would likely get fired if I skip work. And at this point it’s too help much anyway.

I don’t know what my responsibility is to dying family members so far removed from me. At this point in my life I’m realizing that the most important thing I can do as a human being is to be there for others in times like this, but I think my mother would have asked me to go to the hospital if she thought it was important. Aside from the biblical imperative to care for the sick, I know that my dying relatives haven’t been lonely; my mom said that Jim was extremely touched by all his visitors he has had in the last week, while Gloria is completely unconscious anyway. Jim is now fading out of reality; my dad told me Jim was babbling in his hospital bed this afternoon, telling my visiting parents to “remember to pick up some ice on the way home,” and he soon won’t be able to recognize us.

I have never experienced the death of someone I have been close to. All times I have felt great loss have been when relationships end, and those are the moments I dread more than any others. I remember when my uncle died and my dad fell apart for two years, and I remember my cousin’s death when his mother, my aunt, lay on the floor for hours, and my dad found her sobbing on the carpet when he arrived at her house. I’ve only seen such loss in other people – I didn’t know my uncle or my cousin well – and have always been unable to help those who were suffering greatly.

Yet whenever someone in my family falls apart, someone else steps up, if not for the sake of the person hurting, then for everyone else. When my Dad’s brother died my father was an utterly different person for two years – angry, violent, demanding, artificially masculine; I was sure he hated me and we fought every time we spoke. I was afraid of him, flinching ever time he raised his arm to point or pick something up, which made him angry, and I think also hurt him to see what his behavior was doing to his son. Back then it was my mother who became the strong one, not always knowing what to do but doing the best she could. When I came out to my mother years later, she cried, prayed rosaries, prayed over me against my will, threatened suicide, said I hated her, said I hated women, said that the her life was ruined forever. That was when my father stepped in, and he was always calm and rational. Then we formed a closeness we have kept ever since. The way one person would fill in the other person’s gaps seeded my concept of what I now feel a family should do, what people should do, and I’ve been looking for that in all my friendships and relationships ever since.

I guess my family is filling in for me now. I have school, work, and my therapeutic activities; while my emotions are shattered across the floor and I’m trying to put them into some logical order, and I can’t accept much responsibility. My family is filling in by recognizing my condition and therefore not asking me to do what I can’t. My parents are getting older, and though they’re doing fine now, someday they won’t be. Then will be my turn to fill in the gaps for them.

March 10, 2006

Sidewalk Confessional

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 7:31 pm
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God I want this relationship to work so bad, so bad that I don’t know if I could walk away from it even if I needed to. I love him. But when we sit down and try to talk about what’s wrong, (which is a real novelty, I might add, to date someone who actually doesn’t mind talking, who doesn’t hang up the phone when I say I was hurt), when we talk like that I have no idea what he’s saying. I try so hard to sit there and listen and I don’t see it, because what he says sounds too much like what I am saying, because what he says sounds too much like saying nothing, just “I hate this conflict” and no real explanation of what the conflict really is.

No, I do get it sometimes, I do say we are making progress when we talk, but then he thinks we are not making progress so I must not be getting it and I throw up my hands and say I’ll never understand.

And it hurts me to death that he has this aversion to my friends, because I have spent hours and hours trying to bond with his, to the extent that I overstayed my welcome, my presence too strong, too forceful, and now he expects me to somehow make it up with them but the only way to make it up is to make myself scarce and I guess that’s what he thinks is part of the problem. I wish I got some kind of credit for the fact that I’m doing the best that I know how.

But no, that’s not the real problem, it’s just a complaint. The real problem is I am no good in relationships, that once I like someone it stops being fun and when it isn’t fun you’re just addicted. I don’t laugh and joke, I care too much, I don’t give myself the freedom. Most of my friendships, relationships, whatnot, are short-lived. My family, they stick around no matter what, but of course any outsider can see that aside from my dad and I, my family and I don’t get along. My mother and I fight, my sister and I are awkward trying to overcome years of rivalry, and the rest of the family, grandparents, uncles, aunts, well – I am very quiet at those gatherings. I love them but I am quiet, listening, hearing the stories and not really being the rude and crude and center-of-attention me that I am with my friends. Which isn’t bad, I just don’t think that they know me.

I do have friends I’ve known for a long time. The main difference between those friends and the short-lived friendships of college years is that my good, old friends aren’t ambitious. It seems odd but it’s true, they love the moment, love life, love earning five-fifty an hour, are content, and they don’t cling to the distant future, which, I hate to break it, never comes, I’m saying the distant future only retreats and all you really live in is the present.

Clay and I need to do things together, which we don’t do. He says he wants to know me more. But he doesn’t ask me, he doesn’t even read my journals, which would be a start. He isn’t nosy, I wish he was nosy. I wish he could see me in my natural environment. That would be amazing, for him to know me as I am, with my friends. But he is averse to my friends, a quick circumstantial judgement he made that they’re all the same, and after six months of dating he has spent time with my friends twice. Twice!

I hate to say this but I really think he’s just not interested in my friends because my friends don’t have to do with his resume, with his future, his career, which is only realized through time spent working and chatting with film and theatre majors, not my lame anthropology and womens’ studies and sociology friends. His career/resume/involvements (one word) is very important to him. He is, to steal a phrase, “hyper-involved.” His career – it is his life. He spends 70 percent of his time on it and he hasn’t even started a career yet, a junior in college.

It sounds like I’m cutting him down, just for being career-oriented, for being just like any college student, just like any American (who he hates, ironically, the Americans). But I’m the same about the career. So much of my life is poured into writing. Really, all of my life, every moment, is traceble in meaning to “that thing that I do.” And I think the difference for us is that writing, to me, is a much bigger thing than just the degree I’m working on. Writing isn’t words on the paper. It’s how you connect, bring together, all the lost and fragmented pieces of life. It’s how you make the world a Whole. Bringing things together. And so, to write, I make friends. I do things: I fall in love, I talk smugly about Clay, I sing in the wrong key, I drink beer, I write for the paper, I smoke cigarettes, I work out and then stop working out, I try cocaine for the first time, I hit my head on the ceiling, I pound my angsty fists against the quivering card table, I hear my families’ stories, I read the Baghvad Gita, I throw up over the side of the porch, I love my mom and my dad, I wear my ex boyfriend’s underwear, I speak to my coworkers in terrible Spanish, I cut onions until tears run down my face, I plan trips, I fall out of trees, I try to make up with my astranged sister, I slip playing kings-cup and spill all the vodka, I laugh, I talk, I listen. Because that’s what I view as my career; take the parts, make a life, mess it up again and again, learn, listen, and then sit at a keyboard and share.

And somehow I think he and I can connect. Clay and I, we have hope. I do writing, he does film. They’re both about telling stories. They’re both about sharing little moments with the world, and both have a powerful yet undefined purpose for all of humanity. If only he would see it the way I see it, or maybe I am the one who needs to learn, maybe I get him wrong, but if that’s the case it will all come in good time. If only we can bring our minds together, to touch.

Because I love him, I told him once and then took it back later because he didn’t respond, but I do love him. In truth I’ve whispered it thousands or hundreds of times into his hair or over his chest, and countless more I’ve confessed it in his absence. His blue eyes, his tall, lanky body, his hands, always dirty, his wide smile, his laughter, his mind, his heart. I love it. I want to pour myself into it and make it work between us. But I’m coming to terms with the fact that the only person in the Universe I control is myself, and that means preparing myself for faults in others, because I can’t change the facts that they will and do have faults, and are undependable in the end.

Maybe I have to remember again what I once beleived and then forgot, that I have to keep pushing, walking over the nails, the pins, the scorched pavement, without protection, to keep doing what I think I need to do in spite of those faults, to pretend, to dream that we are all perfect.

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