I’m Nice Right Now, Man

Apparently Klonopin was the right move, because my whole body has just said, “aaaaaahhhhhh…..” The title of the blog entry is taken from an Asher Roth song called “I Love College.” I do not drink my beer or smoke my weed, nor do I stay up until three and wake up at ten, go out to eat and do it again (Impressed that Hakeem Olajuwon is mentioned, though). The first time I heard it, I was watching Last Call with Carson Daly, and I was hooked (I hope they put the whole series on Netflix or Hulu). I downloaded the whole album, “Asleep in the Bread Aisle.” When I listen to it, I relax into putty. Now, I’m carrying that relaxed into putty feeling all the time. I am on a very small dose, .5 to one mg at night. I don’t necessarily feel like a new person, but I do feel like I can handle more emotionally, and that is the thing we were going for. As I said earlier, my psychiatrist is the bomb diggity, but I need to find another one butt quick, because she is known as what’s called a “safety net” doctor, someone who can refill my meds until I find someone permanent, given to me by the county. I’ve been pointed to an organization down the road from my house called Vesta. Interestingly enough, they also had a position for an IT generalist, so I applied for that as well. The position pays enough that I can afford Uber more often. That’s not a bad deal at all.

Right now the only reasons I use Uber is when I need to get somewhere quickly or I have several bags of groceries. Going into DC takes me an hour from Silver Spring, which is not a deal while I am unemployed. I just relax with my Kindle and therefore, I am one of the people on the Metro that is truly kind. I’m not in a rush. When we get there is when we get there. There is so much to hate about being unemployed, but if there is one positive, it’s that I have the ability to be kind and not step on everyone as I am not rushing to wherever I need to go. I continually ride on the right side of the escalator. I have time to stop and be interested in other people. I have the time to notice the beauty that is DC, because I feel that most of the people that live there forget.

That is one thing that I’ve never forgotten. When I lived here before, I had a cute little purple Saturn at one time and a little white Mercedes at another. I lived in Alexandria, in a townhouse complex on N. Van Dorn right behind Landmark Mall.

Whenever I took 395 into the city, tears would come to my eyes, because I passed the Pentagon, the Jefferson Monument, and the Washington Monument in the distance. It was breathtaking every single time, because I couldn’t even believe I lived here. My downfall, and I have said this before, is that I didn’t think I could make it here on my own. I did not have enough faith in my ability to bounce back from a disastrously abusive relationship. I was hurt, and I just wanted to go home. First it was back to Houston, and within months, I was headed to Portland with my family’s blessing and support. I counted on Diane and Susan to provide the comfort I needed to get by, and in small measure, they did. But after a while, that relationship disappeared and I didn’t know what I’d done to drive them away. It was like a wall had been built, and I can tell you the exact moment it was. I was working for Wells Fargo as a collection agent, and Diane called me on my lunch break. She said that I was the kind of woman that she wanted to get to know, and it breathed unsafe. Diane has a history of being close to her partner and having a side chick, like I treated Argo because I didn’t know any better. I thought that with Argo being straight, I could avoid the pitfalls that had been modeled for me since childhood. As it turns out, not so much. But anyway, her voice was a little seductive and I realized that I did not want to be that person. I reacted like a wet cat with claws extended, and she never really called me again… not with any regularity, at least. She found someone else to be that person with her, and it caused no small amount of damage. The closer she got to her best friend, I roiled with anger and pride. I was angry that I wasn’t the best friend, and I was proud of myself that I did not become caught in her triangulation. That shit was for other people, even though I was flattered that I was her next choice. It was a case of knowing deep within myself that she’d gotten dopamine from me long enough.

Kathleen had destroyed me, and I needed a distraction (a truly bad idea because the dopamine rush made me put off my grief for a long time). I became “friends with benefits” with a boy in my church that I’d known since he was 16 and I was 19. He was so beautiful, so perfect, and we were both so flawed that we were perfect for each other in that time and place. My lesbian friends wouldn’t have been more surprised if a spaceship landed in front of them and little burritos walked out, but it was worth it just to see their faces. He had an 8-bit Nintendo, and I am ashamed to talk about just how much we played with it. Oh my GOD was I addicted to both Super Mario Brothers 2 and 3. My favorite memory of us was our first date. We went to see 8 Mile, and listened to “The Eminem Show.” It was fun, flirty, and he was The AntiKathleen.

The relationship ended abruptly when I realized that even though I enjoyed him, I couldn’t envision a life with him. Plus, he really wasn’t ready for a full-time relationship, either. He had his own issues- his own story to tell. I was the one that initiated the breakup, but it was truly time for both of us. We remained friends after that, and I remember years later, when he’d been arrested as an accessory to murder, that I didn’t know if he would come back or not. I just wanted to lie down on his bed, smell his sheets and blankets to see if they still smelled like him. Luckily, he is back where he belongs, or will be soon. The judge was very lenient with him, and for that I am grateful. He trusted me to hear what he’d been through, and it changed me in the way that all stories do. We finally ran away from each other, because we were the same personality in two bodies, unable to stop wrestling with the abuse we dealt each other because it was too hard not to. We’d come to a place where we were no longer good for each other, and even though I hope that’s not the case in the future, it is right now. I needed to, in Argo’s beautiful words, “take the life raft of apart.”

I am very close to his sister, though. She’s one of the people that if money were no object, we’d visit each other all the time because we need each other. Our stories reflect each other in a major way, and talking to her is the ablution I need to make peace with myself.

I am already on my way. Taking life slower and really concentrating on the needs of the community around me is helping me to move on with grace, even though I am tending to kick and scream about it. God how I miss Dana. God how I miss Argo. Life without them is pretty fucking miserable. They’re the best people that have ever happened to me, and the guilt of how I behaved is eating me alive. I am grateful that I have a psychiatrist who is talking me through the chemical side of anxiety and sadness. The organization I talked about earlier, Vesta, will help me with that, too, and also examine the behavior patterns I’ve had since childhood that allowed me to make this mess in the first place. I don’t want to be that person. She was so angry.

But I’m nice right now, man. I hope it brings peace to not only myself, but the people around me. It can’t hurt.

The One Where I Talk to Myself

Yesterday I wrote about hot dogs because I am getting tired of writing about grief. It is all I can think about when I close my eyes, a repetition of facts because maybe there’s something I can do. Something that’s within my control. Something that does not include sitting here doing nothing, thinking about the people I love and feeling helpless. I love Dana just as much as I love Argo, but currently she is a lot farther away. That may not always be the case, but it is right now. With Dana’s parents in the area, it’s not inconceivable that our paths will cross again, but it is unlikely. The sound is deafening when I think about her being so close and so far away like she was this summer… and the fact is that we needed to see each other, not for pleasure, but for business. She did not want to meet me at the bank so we could separate our bank accounts. I’ve gotten text messages when her account is overdrawn. I don’t think it’s my right to know things like that. I am not accusing her of any irresponsibility. I think she’d just not transferred a bill and it hit our joint account without knowing that the money was in the bank, just in a different location. It happens. I’m not worried. But at the same time, she didn’t get the message. I did.

We’d had an enormous fight in which I wasn’t yelling at her. I took out my anger on her, but in the immortal words of AWOLNATION, “baby when I’m yellin’ at you, it’s not your fault.” I tried to explain this, but she was done. She blocked me on just about every way I could contact her except text message, so it was humiliating the next morning to have to send her a text that said “your account is overdrawn.” She was very gracious about me catching it and letting her know so she could take care of the problem, but it mired me in all the things I’d planned for meeting again after a couple of months. I could have shown her all my hangout spots- the ones I’ve found since I’ve been here and Teaism in Dupont Circle, my favorite place of all time and space. I would have bought her a hot ochazuke or some salty oat cookies and we would have sat, lost in conversation. It was a dream dried up like a raisin in the sun. But the dream did not fall apart all at once. Her parents’ house is in a suburb just far enough that even if I took the Metro all the way out, it would still be another 20-30 minutes by Uber. She didn’t have a car, and her parents had scheduled every moment of her visit. So between all of the travel either one of us would’ve had to make, it was hard to carve out time. So I pushed her away so it wouldn’t hurt so much when she got here and I still couldn’t reach her. I just took a little thing and made it a big thing and voila. I don’t want to see you. I couldn’t be vulnerable with her anymore, because it would have come across as begging and pleading. I didn’t want to be with anybody, even in friendship, that doesn’t want to be with me. On a day that I thought we’d be tooling around Congress Heights and Dupont, I went to Capital Pride with Prianka and Elena instead. I was so glad they were in town, because it saved me from being utterly miserable.

Argo thought it was particularly bizarre that I bitch slapped Aaron for wanting to make a local move, and then when I broke up with Dana, I moved back to DC. I explained to her that I’d had that conversation with him, the one where I had to swallow my pride and make amends, because I was so wrong. I did make it plain though that there was one difference in the equation and it was why I was worried about him. Aaron wanted to move to a city where he’d never really spent time and didn’t know anyone except the woman he was dating. To me, the difference was that I was already established in DC, and I could step back into my old life and my old support system, adding Prianka because even though we’d been writing to each other since Jesus was a boy, we’d never gotten to live in the same city. Prianka was so touched when I told her that she was one of the reasons I moved to DC, because I needed a hiking buddy and she needed me. Elena is a social butterfly, and Prianka is one of those people who is so introverted she’d rather stay home and talk to one person while on her laptop. She says it’s good that Elena pushes her to do new things, but it’s good to have a friend that can quietly sit across the table from her and enjoy silence as well. Now, Elena can fill a gap in both of us, the one that says we need to stay solitary and she says we need to play… because we do. Sometimes we have to play against type for our own sanity. I enjoy Elena so much for that, because if she didn’t say “let’s go do something fun,” I’d never leave home. I wish I was kidding. I want my laptop and my Kindle, not necessarily in that order. I am also ashamed to say that I am watching BoJack Horseman. It’s the little things in life, really.

I thought I’d done a good enough job in explaining to Argo why I was moving back, but apparently not. I think she thought I was coming here for her in a grand gesture sort of way. She’d already said no. She’d already said goodbye. I didn’t want or need her for anything save that I hoped one day we’d be able to let the past be the past and enjoy each other for the hilarious people we are, especially together. She shoots goals and I get the assist, unless I’m feeling particularly snarky that day… and even still, I am not sure that I got a goal. Whenever I say something funny, she says something funnier and more irreverent.

Honest to God, what fucked up my program the most was wondering if Dana was right. What if she was holding something back from me? Getting out of that loop saved me from myself, because I wasn’t caught in her alternate reality, and Argo did a good job of bringing me back around. I think I’ve said this before, but I got so desperate with Dana’s ruminations that I sent Argo an e-mail that said, “could you send me a 12 page report with graphs and pictures on how much you like dick? It would help. BY EOB. Thanks.” When she replied, she changed the subject line to “Bullet Points” and I laughed so hard I farted.

My journey was to leave Dana’s ruminations behind because they were making the “in love” feelings worse instead of better. Letting go of that part of me has been much easier by realizing I could love Argo’s mind all I wanted without being in love with her in the first place. It would have made me so much better a friend if I’d realized that say, two years ago, but I did not have the capacity to see what I was doing. It was what was modeled for me as a child, and reinforced when I moved to Portland. Healthy boundaries are key, and I did not have them. In that time and place, how could I? What could have ever prepared me for a friend that was willing to go as deep as me without feeling that line itch and twist until it broke? I freaked Argo the fuck out, and it was a reaction for which I could not have prepared. I had no history as to how to be in that kind of relationship, one that sustained me through hard times and kissed my scars to make them better without feeling the need to seduce each other because I felt it was all I had to offer. I had to take time to convince myself I was worth more than that.

I had to write and pray my way into wholeness, realizing that I am not ready for any relationship right now that’s deeper than an orange juice glass. I moved to a city where I know no one on purpose (I separate Silver Spring from DC and VA). It’s not time to work on other people. It’s time to find my own compass and True North. It’s coming together in a major way. When I arrived in Silver Spring, I was scared of what Argo might have waiting for me if she really did think I was coming for her and she didn’t want me to. Luckily, she didn’t, but I was still a nervous wreck thinking she had the power to call the police, even though it was wasted breath. I’d already gotten used to the idea that the city was big enough for both of us, and I could and would find my own path. No matter how much we needed each other in the beginning of the relationship, we didn’t by the end, and that was okay. I didn’t want to be with anyone, even in friendship, who didn’t want to be with me. Taking responsibility for my own actions took away feeling victimized, and I began to feel better in a hurry, both because of my healthier mental state and because I gave up my car, because one fed the other. My mental state got healthier and healthier the longer I walked and talked to myself in the sun.

If I needed to talk to myself out loud, I just put on my headphones so people would think I was talking to someone else. It seems crazy, but sometimes hearing yourself out loud reminds you of how ridiculous you sound. It takes the crazy out butt quick, because you think to yourself, “would I really want my parents/friends/coworkers to hear what I just said?” Nine times out of ten, I don’t. As Clara Oswald says in The Day of the Doctor, “that probably sounded better in his head.” I talk out loud to myself because believe it or not, there are very few times that I am eloquent in real life. I have a lot of stories, and I tell them well, but in conversation I am lost without a delete key. Canned responses are no problem. Off the cuff is iffy. Sometimes, I own that shit. Sometimes it seems like I need a jump start to get moving because the crowd has intimidated me. In front of my own church, however, that never happens. I know them well enough to know they’re rooting for me no matter what.

In front of strangers, I wish I was alone with my keyboard so that I could write down what I wanted to say to you. It will come out better than my stammering to remember what I was talking about in the first place. When I don’t manuscript a sermon and you come up to me afterwards, I literally have no idea what I said. I just hope it was meaningful.

Bah Dum Pum……………. Jesus!

Hot Dogs and Sundry

I am fairly certain that if Whole Foods stopped selling their veggie dogs, I would be dead by now.

When I was a kid, I hated hot dogs. I could taste the chemicals and the poor quality meat, but didn’t know that’s why they tasted that way. I also had an aversion to the smell of hot dogs boiling, and that made me nauseous way before I tried to eat them. I liked sausage just fine, so it wasn’t that I had an aversion to tube steak. Just the ones specifically marked as “hot dogs,” and the “wurst” were the ones that mixed poor quality beef AND poor quality pork. When I had no other choice, I would eat the bread and all the toppings and the chips and/or french fries, leaving the frank on the plate where someone, hopefully, would grab it from me before no one noticed I hadn’t eaten it.

The first time I had a grilled hot dog, I noted that it was slightly better, but only because of the taste of the grill marks. The inside tasted the same. Two bites and I was over it. Maybe it just wasn’t done enough. I can say this in retrospect because I truly love either low sodium pork or turkey SPAM sliced thinly and laid low and slow on a heat source. It takes forever, but what you get is bacon on crack. Perhaps if I’d grilled my hotdogs sliced longways over slow heat, it would have been a different experience altogether. As a child, I hadn’t learned to cook, and therefore could not give my mother or my friends’ mothers the finer points of feeding me.

As it turns out, I do like hot dogs. A lot. I just prefer the ones with no meat in them. I am not exactly sure what IS in them, exactly, but I know that it tastes like hot dog. That should be close enough. It’s probably some kind of texturized vegetable protein that will one day rise up and kill us all, but it’s delicious with a bit of cream cheese and Sriracha.

That’s another thing about hot dogs. I used to go to this restaurant called “Zach’s Shack” in Portland, where they had trivia and $2 PBR tallboys on Wednesday nights. The hot dogs were expensive, but also the best in town. Well, technically, they aren’t that expensive except that I could always eat two or three plus fries (I tend to eat one large meal a day instead of spreading it out). They gave me the idea of loading up a hot dog with cream cheese, and if you’ve never tried it, you should get on that shit MANANA. I use Sriracha here, but if you can get a bottle of Secret Aardvark sauce, all the better. Just make sure you get either full or low fat cream cheese. No fat and the Aardvark will burn all the way down to your asshole. That’s the secret.

Zach’s original idea was to mix cream cheese and bleu cheese to spread on the bun, then top the dog with Aardvark and shredded carrots. Aardvark isn’t really a wing sauce, per se, but you get the general idea. Heaven on a bun.

So, now veggie hot dogs are my favorite meal, and I eat them all the time… ironically enough, most of the time cold and right out of the package as I am on my way up the stairs- no hot needed. When I am bothered to make a sandwich, I prefer either sourdough or potato hot dog buns, and I make two. One with ketchup and mustard, and one with cream cheese and hot sauce. I don’t drink PBR anymore, though. I’d rather save my calories for another hot dog at midnight. 😉

Don’t Cry for Me

I liked my psychiatrist. Raised in Buenos Aires, there were a couple of times I had to ask her to repeat herself, but she was sharp as a tack. She wanted to change up my protocol, but only a little bit. Step up from 200mg to 250 on Lamictal slowly, go down from 60mg to 40mg on the Celexa, and replace Atarax with Klonopin at night. The Klonopin is a temporary measure because I am starting therapy with a trauma specialist, and she could tell that I was struggling. I told her that I can keep all of my appointments, and I am not scared to look for work, but I haven’t left the house otherwise except for church and grocery shopping. That I am afraid of conflict, so I go out of my way to stay home and read. She said that there were worse things that I could do with my time, but at the same time, I am in my own little bubble. Ummm…. yeah. You guys know me. WE’VE MET.

It’s part of my personality type that I like to stay home and read, but it is not me to completely isolate from everything for days at a time. It has been for the last two years, but those years have been extraordinarily atypical. The only thing I know is that for the first time in my life, I am actually taking steps to make the problem better, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. I do not have to tell anyone and everyone just how fine I am. Nothing to see here.

I also told her about the possible youth director job, and how it didn’t bother me to be in front of people like, in “show mode,” but it bothered the hell out of me to really connect with people because there is only so long you can know someone before conflict arises, and that’s when I feel the impulse to run. I don’t believe that it’s not because I am incapable of intimacy, or that I have a personality disorder. I think I’ve just had a lot of emotional trauma dished at me since I was a kid and now I am in the long process of rediscovering society… I can’t take it all at once. It needs to be in measured steps.

She seemed to understand that innately- perhaps doctors are the same way, or perhaps I am just not as alone as I think I am.

I went to Starbucks after my appointment and had an Earl Grey (Teavana…. yum…) so I could have a few minutes of peace to stare out the window before I began my long trek back to Silver Spring on the Metro.Then, I found that I wasn’t quite ready to go home yet, because for the first time since my mom left, I was truly hungry. I got some beef stroganoff at Noodles & Company, and then noticed there was a grocery store across the way that might have Haribo Happy Cola. I walked over there, and it was a natural foods store. I did not find anything I wanted, except for a flavor of hi-caf they don’t sell at Whole Foods, English black. Disappointed, I finally got on the Metro and read until this young couple got onto the train in front of me. They were insufferable. He was one of those theater boys who cannot talk about anything other than himself, and she seemed to adore him. However, from my perspective, it was like he rattled on incessantly and I just wanted to interrupt and say, “ummm, does she get to talk?” A few minutes later, my suspicions were confirmed when there were all these things he wanted to do with her, and she mentioned one thing that she thought was going to be cool and he was all like, “I’m so busy… I mean, I’m like doing a thousand things with my plays and I’m still writing songs for Megan…” She accepted this like it was perfectly okay to do whatever he wanted because her thing didn’t matter, anyway. I am sure I have been guilty of this at times, which is probably why it bothered me so much. I was glad when I got off the train only to find out that they were getting off at Silver Spring, too, so the endless repetition of everything going on in his life continued all the way to Colesville and McDonald’s next to the 7-Eleven.

I turned the other way on purpose, and climbed the hill to drop off my prescriptions at CVS. I spent an inordinate amount of time searching for the aforementioned Happy Cola. The last time I went, they had several bags, and this time they were out. That did not stop me from staring in disbelief for quite a long time as I walked up and down the aisles. I thought about walking to 7-Eleven, but it was getting late and rain clouds were starting to gather. I settled for some rice crackers and wasabi peas at Whole Foods, steps from CVS on Georgia. You could probably just take the -ers off the end, because I am pretty sure that crack and rice crackers are synonymous. Have you ever been able to stop eating them? I haven’t. I divided mine up into snack-sized Zip-Locs so that the entire tub wouldn’t be gone by tomorrow morning. Also, Cliff’s Kids were on sale, and if you have not tried “chocolate brownie,” your life would undergo a miraculous change if you did. Brownies with vitamins. Look into it. I also remembered to get bananas and milk, because I’d used most of my milk for tea and I have Peanut Butter Cheerios in my pantry that need attention. Again, Peanut Butter Cheerios are life-sustaining, especially if you mix them with the chocolate ones. Trust me on this one.

It was raining when I came out of Whole Foods, so I called Uber to pick me up. I don’t think I would’ve if it was just sprinkling, but the skies opened up and I would have been drenched to the skin in less than three seconds. This is because I don’t have an umbrella because I’m still such a damned Portlander. Umbrellas are for tourists. It doesn’t work that way in Maryland- the rain is too sudden and too fast, not like Portland spitting in the slightest. But have I changed my ways? I’m gonna call that a NO.

Baby steps.

The Basics

I have to start with the basics this morning. I’ve had a cup of tea. It was large, with two high-caffeine coconut teabags, four packets of Splenda, and a heaping tablespoon of CoffeeMate (it tastes better in black tea. Ironic.). I will probably make another one soon, because I have a psychiatrist appointment at 2:00, and I have to go from Takoma to Rockville on the Metro. If I don’t, I will fall asleep and miss my stop. It’s that kind of day. I took a sleeping pill last night and it is not wearing off as nicely as it normally does. I feel as if I am walking through a castle made of Jell-o, my favorite scene in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

While I was drinking my tea, I was reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. So far, I hate it. The story is great, but the stream-of-consciousness is driving me crazy and I wish I had Cliff’s Notes to tell me what in the hell is going on. Joyce flips back and forth between dreams and reality, and it’s hard to tell which is which. I feel as if I am walking through a castle made of Jell-o, my favorite scene in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

It is especially poignant to me after reading Outlander, because it proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the UK has not changed its stances on Catholics and Protestants ever. Jamie and Claire are thought of as evil by the Protestants in the Outlander series, and a fight breaks out at Stephen’s dinner table over the very same thing. It pleases me to know that one of the bishop’s names is Lanigan. I am not sure that the Lanigans are part of our clan, being that my ancestor was out to sea when the cholera epidemic hit Ireland and therefore, my clan escaped with their lives, for which I am thankful. I am not especially thankful to be reading Joyce, but I feel it is a necessary endeavor. Not only am I Irish on my father’s side, no one escapes a liberal arts education without suffering.

I put Stephen Dedalus aside because my head was a little swimmy and realized that I’d forgotten to read the Outlander novellas, and I started one of them to become engulfed in that world once more. It is one of my favorites, ranking up there with the world of Harry Potter and the world of Doctor Who- incidentally, I believe that Outlander is based upon Doctor Who, so it’s no wonder that I was attracted to it once I got over the initial few pages. At first, I did not see it as a Doctor Who type escape. If I had, I would have swallowed it whole the first time it was recommended.

The novella is called The Space Between, and characters you thought were lost are in fact, not.

The thing I love about my Kindle the most is that I can be in the middle of many books at once without carrying the weight. The other books I am reading are 1776 by David McCullough, and John Adams by the same author. I have to thank Diana Gabaldon for getting me interested in the Revolutionary War, because frankly all I remember from Con Law is that Philadelphia was really hot in the summer. John and Abigail Adams are possibly my favorite people in the entire world of books, and I find it a damn shame that they are dead. What I wouldn’t give to take them to lunch……

I am slowly coming back to life after divorce and the loss of a great friend all at once, especially because I blame myself entirely. I have so much guilt that at times it’s hard to function, but getting lost in the world of literature and non-fiction is bringing me peace and propelling me forward. When I read, I go deaf to the rest of the world, and for it, I am grateful. When I am thinking about books, I am not thinking about grief, which consumed me for a time and is now a dull roar in my ears as I fall asleep. It still pains me greatly that at this time, I will never walk on the beach with either of them. I keep hope alive that as the waves crash against the shore, one of them will carry my messages of peace and turn their hearts. If that cannot happen, I hope for peace inside myself, that I can fix what I broke inside me and leave them behind with grace. I rail at God with “it’s not fair,” but only because in relationships, I do not view much of anything as a deal breaker… I forgive easily, and I am willing to rebuild anything broken from the ground up. I do not understand giving up. I do not understand letting go if I mean as much to them as they say I do. But none of those things are in my control, so the waves are on my own face, the ablution of tears and the taste of salt on my lips.

I told a woman from the Meetup that I wanted to see her again, without knowing that I lied. In the moment, I connected with her on a deep level. When I got home, I felt like I was betraying my own grief, that I needed more time to sit in it alone and not get wrapped up in the dopamine of dating. Not yet. It’s not time. I still need my monkish existence of books and solitude and tea and cookies. I fell hard for Dana in real life. I fell hard for Argo in our virtual world unto ourselves. Love on the ground and in the air. It was a high I’ve never felt, and will probably never feel again because I will not allow the luxury I took in feeling that kind of love for two people. I will not let two people into that space ever again, and I am having trouble with even one, knowing the capacity for destruction I’ve wrought on both loves of my life.

Now, the romantic feelings for Argo are gone. I needed them to go away, because it was just torturing me and fucking up our program. I had to let go of that part of myself, and I don’t miss it. What I do miss is the idea that we will one day have tea and books and solitude together instead of apart. Argo said, and I will remember this line forever and a day, that she needed to take the life raft of apart. Even though it was sad, it was beautiful because I could see us both as ships in the night, mooring unhinged.

Maybe someday we’ll pull into the same port, changed in only the way time can make plain.

I just have to start with the basics.

My Farhenheit

Go Set a Watchman is burning inside me.

While the book centers on Jean Louise, the undercurrent is about how much white people in the South loved blacks as long as they acted, for no better a term, like their pets. The trouble in Watchman starts when black people want to be treated as equals. The white people feel betrayed- one character actually says, “after all we’ve done for them…” The opinion on Brown vs. Board of Education has just been released by the Supreme Court, and the entire state of Alabama, including Maycomb, is incensed.

To be fair, the whites genuinely believe they are helping. It makes them feel good to give blacks their old clothes and the toys their children don’t play with anymore. They literally do not have the capacity to see why this is unequal, especially in a town as small as Maycomb… and this attitude is still present in the South if you know where to look for it…….. I am from the South. I have seen it with my own eyes. Whites have no issue with parental generosity to black people, but God forbid putting them next to whites in the office or in school.

My own education was like this, especially in a small town. Blacks had their own neighborhoods, and whites had theirs. The only real integration was on the football team (which was awesome- the team was tight-knit). In school, we sat at different tables in the lunchroom. We whites did not understand why blacks talked differently, but it seemed to me that there wasn’t an issue with it. It just was. Queer to our ears, but not enough for comment. I cannot remember having a single black friend until grade seven. Of course there were black people in our classroom, but it’s not like we went over to each other’s houses to play.

One of the memories from middle school that I will always regret is sharing a bed with Leslie (my middle school black friend) on a class trip to San Antonio. Before she went to sleep, she put a kerchief over her curlers and I laughed my head off and told her she looked like Aunt Jemima. Now, there is not a racist bone in my body. I literally meant that she looked like a syrup bottle. In retrospect, I can see her face clearly and how much I didn’t know.

When I was 19, I dated a black woman. One Sunday morning, I went to her house to pick her up for church. Her parents looked at me like I had three heads the entire time. It was so uncomfortable that the word awkward was onomatopoetic. It was like an alien had arrived to take their daughter away. They were drinking coffee while my girl put on her last minute church touches, and I asked for a cup of coffee as well. Not wanting to be impolite, her mother gave me one and stared the entire time I was drinking it, as if white people drank coffee differently and there might be cooties left on the cup. White is not catching. I looked it up.

In reminiscing on that moment, it’s hard to tell whether they were upset that I was female or white or both. As I have said before, if you’re in an interracial relationship in Texas, no one will notice you’re gay.

I didn’t know that there were American blacks that spoke just like me until I moved to DC the first time around, in 2001. I say “American blacks” because I went to the Bahamas as a kid and was fascinated by black people with British accents. Moving to DC was an education in itself, because had I not moved here, I don’t think I would have discovered that there was a difference between Southern and Northern blacks. And this is not to say that either is better or worse- just different. Because there is less segregation, there is less difference in language. There is less difference in education. It just highlighted to me how backwards the South was, because integration was key to black success… and in the South, there is less incentive on both sides of the equation.

If it sounds like I am pulling for black integration into white society, I am sorry. That is not my point in the slightest. My point is that every black deserves a white education, and every white deserves a black education. The way to equality is always compassion and understanding. I have been to majority white schools my whole life. I chose Howard on purpose. I understand the white side of the issue. It’s time to flip my understanding on its ear. If I am called to be Christ in the world, one of my jobs is to understand race relations, and I will never understand unless I experience. There is only so much experience I can have not being black myself, but at least I am making the effort. I am one of the white people that wants to absorb the experience of being black in America, because my skin is white, but my eyes and ears are open. I seek to learn.

I am angry about #alllivesmatter, because of course they do, but the hashtag misses the point entirely. #blacklivesmatter is bringing attention to racism, because the treatment of black people in America has long been a disaster area of an enormous proportion. Whites fall into the guilty category most of the time, and with their WASP upbringing are loathe to talk about it. There are also those who are still angry that the South lost, and take it out on the descendants of slavery daily. There are still more people who just don’t care enough to engage. As with voting, this is where the rubber meets the road. What if all the people that didn’t care suddenly did? How different would the country look?

In Watchman, there is what is going to be a famous scene in which Jean Louise goes to Calpurnia’s house. While there, Scout realizes that a wall has gone up between them because of current race relations. It brings them into sharp picture, ironic only because Calpurnia has gone blind.

Jean Louise rails at the heavens, and it burns her up thinking about the fact that Cal raised her. The truth that came up for me in all this was thinking about race relations in different areas of the country, and how it’s funny how fast things change, and how nothing ever does.

The Watchman, the Calendar, and the Clock

I was one of those unfortunate souls who was not tasked with reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” in high school. Like Pudge, a character in John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” I was more interested in Harper Lee’s biography than her books. When Argo told me that the movie version of “Mockingbird” consistently ranked in her top ten, I put it in the back of my head that I should read the book before I saw the movie, but was not in any way motivated to follow through until I realized I wanted to read “Go Set a Watchman.” Since I wanted to read them in order, I finished them both in about seven hours… and now, I am in an incredible funk. Their styles are drastically different. “Mockingbird,” while talking about serious issues, was also hilarious. It reminded me a lot of Haven Kimmel’s autobiography, “A Girl Named Zippy.” “Watchman” was angry.

Very angry. The difference in tone was striking, almost palpable. While there are pieces of text that were lifted for use in “Mockingbird,” most of the story centers on Jean Louise’s hatred of her father, because the person she thought he was in the past is clearly not the person she sees when she comes back to visit.

It’s a universal story at its core. Who IS the person we thought they were the deeper we get to know them? Argo got to see all of my funny until she helped me pick at my own scars, and I went out of my mind with rage. I unleashed on her in a way that I’ve never unleashed on anyone. I wasn’t the person she thought I was. Diane groomed me to tell the story that I was just a little kid with a crush and I just couldn’t get over it. When the shit hit the fan for me, she disappeared. She wasn’t the person I thought she was. The more Dana and I loved each other and opened up, the more we gained the ability to hurt each other, because we were using the other’s flaws as weapons. Neither one of us recognized each other anymore. We weren’t the people we thought each other were.

The great state of Texas is trying to override the Supreme Court in any way it can to get around issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. It is not the government I thought it was. A state built on individual principles and freedom seeks to mandate their brand of morality. I got tired of fighting. I got tired of feeling invisible. My last straw with the state of Texas was spending hours at the DMV trying to prove to them that the last time I’d come in, they’d taken a copy of my domestic partnership document as proof of identification, and when I came back, all of the sudden, they wouldn’t take it anymore.

Eventually, they found the scan they’d taken the last time I was in, but it took more fight than I was ready to have. When faced with such conflict, I run. This time, I ran to Maryland because it was more liberal than Virginia the last time I lived here, and Kathleen and I said even then (almost 15 years ago) that we needed to make the jump because Virginia wasn’t going to change as fast, especially with Richmond still caught up in speaking the “Jeff Davis English.” DC is the liberal haven we sought; Virginia was the part we didn’t consider. It wasn’t the state we thought it was.

“Watchman” is not so much a story but a “man vs. man” conflict. How do you watch these civil rights struggles when you are not on the same side as your family or your state? How do you love them through it despite differing views? How do you love people that do things you despise? Harper Lee’s answer is that there is no collective consciousness, that we are all responsible for what we see and what we do… but nothing renders another inhuman. You have to meet people where they are, and connect on the things with which you can connect, and not with what you cannot. For instance, if and when I have to go to Southern Virginia and someone says something racist or homophobic, the best thing I can do is start talking about pie or football.

Darkness will always exist. The calendar and the clock will not stop it, because humans will always find the next new thing for which they can harbor prejudice. There cannot be only one “watchman,” because one report will not fit us all. We all have to go and set our own watchmen, to create our own calendars and our own clocks with which to move ourselves forward. It is all at a different rate because we cannot synchronize humanity, and we never will.