He can’t leave. He’s The War Daniel.
I am not saying he did or did not leave. I am saying that I am wrestling over what kind of impact I’ve had and continue to have on someone I love to a nearly desperate, crazy amount. I just don’t show it. I haven’t seen his body in years, but I see his soul on paper multiple times a day, just bleeding out in front of me while I go blurry with teary eyes and back into my own history, particularly with alcohol. I’ve never truly had a problem, but I used to be really bad about counting and timing because if it had ice in it, I wanted some. I have literally gotten drunk by accident. I helped it to continue, but originally the loopiness came on because I was thirsty. I know how that plays out in an alcoholic’s eyes.
This is my experience from what my AA friends have told me, particularly the ones I’m closest to, but reflect a lot of people there. They can’t watch you sip. They can’t watch you take a drink and sit it down and walk away, then come back. It has nothing to do with cravings, or at least, over time it’s not about that. Over time, it’s shame. You have done something they could not. You left a drink on the table and walked away.
Something broke in me when Dana got her DUI. However, the way it broke let light in. When she was asked to go to these classes on alcohol and the brain, I went with her and sat in the back. I was in my 30s, it was like doing an extra rotation after going to medical school in the backseat of a Lexus.
I don’t diagnose anything, but I know a million symptoms and how they connect. I recognize things like shingles by the pattern. I can recognize the emotional fibromyalgia of trauma. As a resource, I am a great friend. I have the capability to listen and an acute awareness of when you are above my pay grade, Clown Shoes. The closer you are to me, the more I hug and kiss you while I tell you that you’re not only clown shoes, you’re all three rings and a big stripey tent……. and I wouldn’t have it any other way. All my friendships are this deep. I love my friends until they can’t take it. Literally. There have been meetings, most of them on what to do about me. 😛
Add alcohol rehab onto major trauma, and it’s just like real fibromyalgia. You might never get rid of it. You just have to manage it. My poet friend Wendy said this to me a hundred years ago, and it’s how I express this idea now that I’ve ripped her off verbatim for like 15 years…… She wrote me an e-mail that said, “you don’t have to love it, Leslie. You just have to live it.”
This is what I think to myself when I’m thinking about rehab and everything that goes with it. The semicolon and the ampersand, if you will. In fact,The War Daniel is the semicolon itself, and the ampersand is all that comes with him. Everything about who Daniel is contained in one punctuation mark (Full Stop and Keep Going), and everything that’s important to him in another. I have nicknamed it the “andhausen.” Daniel and his daughter will fall on the floor laughing at that.
I want to give it to them, because their word for the best of the best of the best is actually a suffix on the end of a word. For instance, Doc and Cora are Dochausen (or Danhausen) and Kidhausen, or Corahausen. Cora is not my daughter’s name. It’s from Coraline, Neil Gaiman’s novel.
[Incidentally, my favorite movie is now Argohausen. Bryn is going to love that. She calls me Rev. Argo. I did her wedding. I have literally married her. Just not to me…. I’m a Rev. in the Church of The Latter Day Dude because none of my friends wanted to wait until I finished grad school to do a ceremony I’ve had memorized since I was like, nine.]
Here is my own best of the best of the best. Daniel is “The War Daniel.” Cora is The Doctor’s Daughter. Do you see it now? Do you SEE IT?
The War Daniel is from Doctor Who. The War Doctor without an MD…. He’s not a fan, but says he wants to be. I hope when he sees John Hurt he will remember who he is. HE IS THE WAR DANIEL. I told him that if anyone needed a clarification, not to say to a Whovian that it was my own way of saying that he was my River Song, and that he wouldn’t even know for a few years what that even meant….. also that he could make very, very large men weep in the street, particularly in the UK.
I didn’t want to be married to this Doctor. I wanted to be married to all of them. I wanted the young boy. I wanted the teenager. I wanted the man he is. And I am so curious to find out what happens next. Literally I will watch this next regeneration that chooses the same face and hope to God he remembers that his companion is me. I’m your Amy, and you’re my Rory. You cannot even imagine how that feels. That out of nowhere, Rory Williams showed up…. and Rory is a nurse.
That’s just the Doctor Who connection. We haven’t started on MASH yet. Sorry, it’s not spelled right because my 8 key isn’t working, but you get it. Saying that he’s Hawkeye and Honeycut and Winchester and Potter all rolled into one is an understatement, because they never really got bombed. But all of these medical characters mean something to me, Hawkeye in particular. I have said for a long time that it was rough being a Hawkeye in a Frank Burns world…… and then Hawkeye showed up on my Internet front porch.
As Jill says, “you are really not subtle about hiding Daniel from all your friends. You only have one friend named Daniel on Facebook, and his last name is Williams.” Given that I think he’s part Rory, his last name counts. I was never trying to hide him. He told me that he’s an open book. I am sure that he is looking for a PowerPoint presentation on his flaws that’s just not going to come until I’m not punching down anymore. I want him fighting fit.
Yes, I’m terrible about hiding things. I should learn to leave so many less breadcrumbs than I actually do. But this is not one of them. I will wait and change my relationship status based on two things. The first is staying out of Facebook Jail long enough to do it, and whether or not this miracle occurs. I only own half.
Because here’s what I see. I see a writer that should be teaching how to write war fiction or journalism. It seems like everything I know politically boils down to David Halberstam’s books. I know I’m marrying The Best and the Brightest. If he were alive, he would approve… and probably retort that it will get better…. it’s just The Coldest Winter. The War Daniel has Pulitzer Prize talent. What he does with it is completely up to him. It’s just that the raw talent is there.
He’s also electable. He could do any job in this country, including president, because the US elects war heroes all the time. I know him. He would turn down POTUS in a heartbeat to get right to Veterans’ Affairs. The first time I brought it up, some light came into his eyes and he said, “I could help my brothers.” I’m just talking about his character. That’s the man I want to marry. I don’t care if we stay on the beach and do nothing. It’s not about that. It’s about seeing options and choosing from them (not always saying “this is the very best bad idea we have, sir. By far”).
Like choosing to have a daughter.
I have been “Other Mother” for a little while, and I have to say, I really enjoy it. Falling in love with a child is a whole different ball game. Here’s how much different. I am going to make you bawl, because I’m about to make myself bawl for like the 30th time so I am telling you, get the Kleenex.
Cora and I were talking about trans pain vs. queer pain and how they’re different and how they’re the same. I told her I felt like she was overfocusing on her own pain and that it might be holding her back from empathy.
Holy God I have never seen anyone turn around this fast. The next day, she was talking about getting new driver’s license, passport, etc. We were talking about names. I said, “Cora, I want to change your deadname for you a little bit so that you can think of it as someone else’s name, and only two people in the world know what it is…. and in fact, I would be very surprised if it was information retained. Is that okay with you?” She said, “sure.”
This may be telling tales out of school, but it needs to be.
“When Meagan and I were planning our own future, we picked baby names for our future son and daughter. Your deadname was going to be the same name as my own son should he have appeared, and isn’t it crazy that I named my son your deadname and your father, who I will remind you I have known since I was seven, thought of the EXACT SAME NAME for his kid.” It wouldn’t be a thing if it was a common name.
It is, but I wanted it spelled differently, and he picked the same spelling I wanted. Not so much “isn’t this eerie…. we’re mated now based on that one fact.” No. Bullshit. I just meant that great minds think alike. This time, really. An INFJ and an INTJ belong together. No one else can stand us. This has been proven to both of us time and again. 😛
Meagan proposed to me when we were 18. It was just as ridiculous as agreeing to marry someone who was going to rehab, but I said yes, anyway…… like two months before she noped back to Canada and found someone else. What is different about Daniel is that he is everything she’s not. She was a romantic who didn’t really think things through, and I could say the same about myself now except I’m almost 20 years older now and I’ve learned from my mistakes. He is a seasoned combat veteran and doctor. I will put his street creds up there with any trauma surgeon in the nation. His stitches may not be art, but you’ll live. If that kind of person can’t be trusted with my heart, it will only be due to incompatibility and/or timing. Not that he’s not the right person- for me or anyone else.
The first lesson in being older is don’t marry someone you think you love but underneath realize they’re kind of a jackass. Marry someone who wears their jackass proudly, like I do (and like many of my friends also do, because I wouldn’t love them as much if they didn’t).
Here’s why being a jackass is important to the story. I’m not the same person I was when I was 18, but I’m grateful to her, the woman I was. She protected me from me. She was a musician, yet alone. She found ways to disappear. She’d been outed at school and humiliated. It was ninth grade. By 12th, I’d had enough. I just wasn’t that smart. I did everything right, and I still got dumped in a terribly humiliating way, which is completely forgiven a hundred times over because her friendship has been so valuable… but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hell on earth back then.
In present day, after we’d talked about The Struggle, I told Cora everything about my name and why I hate it so goddamn much. Leslie is fine. The D is no longer with us. It humiliates me to even think about changing the name my mother gave me now that she’s dead.
Cora, in her empathy, said, “I have a name that I’m not using. Would you like to have it?”
When your child says something like that, their name could be Osama and you wouldn’t blink. I actually think Osama would be a cool name for me, based on the movie about the girl who had to become genderqueer on purpose to fool the Taliban into believing she was worthy of education and training. She’s adorable, and she has my heart…. and if Daniel and I ever travel to the Middle East, you can bet my gender non-conforming ass that I will carry her picture everywhere and say, “See? I’m like her. I’m just ancient.”
When I loved my name, I wasn’t ashamed of who I was. I was lonely. It was Meagan or nothing. I would have died rather than choose nothing, for only the simple fact that Southern women are sold a bill of goods that only one person will fulfill their every need until they die… forever and ever, to God be the glory, Amen.
I do not believe that. I believe that The War Daniel and I have woven through each other’s timelines, and because it’s always the future, there’s never a conflict…. no moments of “fixed point in time. I’m so, so sorry.” I also believe that being married to Dana was also wonderful, and being with Kat was adequate. It just wasn’t all wonderful, all the time…. and neither is this. It’s just a much bigger gamble. If I win, I win big. If I lose, I still played a part in keeping my friend alive.
Relationships can be built. Regenerations are a fairy tale told to children, and they work so wonderfully well because you do the same thing your whole life…. instantly recognizable on the outside. Completely different on the inside.
Same software, different case.
It was an astounding offer, one that could only be made by someone with childlike wonder and innocence. Someone who’d been beaten down by the world every bit as much as me. Her trauma might be more prevalent nowadays because people don’t understand the ideas of transgender or genderqueer as easily as they accept queer sexual behavior. I don’t know why it’s such a mystery that people have a spectrum of sexual behavior and gender identity, but it’s becoming more nd more true every day. I am just a regular queer, but people have been coming at me 20 years longer than they have Cora. Cora’s 24. She has no idea. None. I don’t think she even knows how big a sacrifice it is. To hear her deadname come out of my mouth, to see her letter where mine used to be… it’s too much for me. I can’t do that to her, even if it wasn’t her real reaction. I can’t take that chance. To be that careless with a deadname would be devastating if it hurt after the fact. I see her pain, she sees mine. I am sensitive to it in all ways.
Daniel and I might want to foster/adopt kids in the future. The first thing I did was ask Cora if it was okay. The girls (important, because our idea was getting children out of impossible situations, like being betrothed to a Talib fighter who is 47 years old) would be at least a decade younger, possibly more. It was important that she see my dreams as clearly as I saw hers, and we talk about them.
Last night, I remembered almost 20 years ago, curling up with the thought of my wife and my son….
I woke up this morning thinking of my daughter. The D is no longer with us, but only physically. I have a right hand ring that’s him all over. A claddagh with skeleton hands. My daughter and I are bonding without him, which is a very good thing for all three of us. You can’t be in love, or even think you love an alcoholic/addict until you’re ready to think about murder. We need each other. If for nothing else than going to Finland so he can stand out in one of FORTY BAZILLION FORESTS and take the band pic. It’s Finland. There’s only one.
Why yes, he did want to move to Helsinki at first. I’m glad you asked. I believe that I have talked him down off the ceiling by agreeing to go and live there for a little bit and see if we like it. As I was telling Zachausen the other day, “I’m using the Internet wrong. I don’t think I’ve even adapted to the reality that Air BnB is a thing we could do.” It’s just not all about us (Zachausen can come, too).
I got Cora at such an incredible time in my life, the part where she’s young and doesn’t have anything figured out and doesn’t know shit about Civil Rights or where we came from in terms of people like JFK, RFK, MLK, Bayard Rustin, and all of the best and the brightest Halberstam talked about. Talked about how three of the brightest stars in the Civil Rights firmament were all assassinated and how Bayard Rustin was out of he closet for ALL OF IT. MLK knew. Baptist preacher. Knew his top advisor was gay and didn’t give a damn, because he wasn’t perfect.
She also doesn’t know that Jesus isn’t perfect yet, but I will definitely disabuse her of that notion. Dude who killed a fig tree just because there wasn’t any fruit on it is not the picture of mental health you see before you today… you know, the one that’s white. What, like he’s the only baby born in Israel with French features? Seriously. Explain it to me like I’m five. Everyone around Jesus was brown. Get there faster.
I’m not pulling for her to choose Religion or Not Religion. Just that it’s a spectrum as well. One of the funniest things that The War Daniel has ever said was when he was angry, so it was not appropriate to laugh as loud as I wanted to… because it wasn’t Doc making me laugh. It was the characterization of “show me someone who can keep their anger in check when they’re angry and I’ll show you Jesus Christ.” I fell out thinking about how many tax collectors of the day might have taken exception to that.
Every day, I know more about Jesus just by being me. I’m not saying I’m divine, I’m saying that the Historical Jesus posited by Marcus Borg is very much like me. Being the son of God and a preacher’s kid can’t be all that different, right? Jesus was born to the Source. I was born to upper management. We were both baptized, but I’m going to bet that since he was an adult and I was an infant, he peed on John a lot less than I peed on Bishop Crutchfield.
But when you are baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit, stand up. Don’t you dare think you are any less than it is or Jesus was. We were never meant to be Jesus. Jesus was always meant to be us.
The writing that comes out of me when I’m thinking of Daniel and our daughter is better than anything I’ve ever written in my life, and it’s not all here yet. Some of it is praying The War Daniel to DC or Baltimore.
Some of it is praying we just make it through tomorrow and tomorrow without reliving yesterday.
Who knows? Who…. nose.
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