Cooking and Cleaning -or- New Hat. Who Dis?

So, here’s the thing about the hat. I am not sure what happened to my original khaki hat that said “The GAP,” but I flipped houses in it so my guess is that it just fell apart. Then, my sister came to visit and left it here. I have conveniently forgotten it for what will be eight years at the end of April.

I normally wear my CIA baseball cap because of what it took to get it. Easy for my friend Zac, not so much for me. Because he works with classified information, he occasionally has to go to different intelligence agencies, and one of them is Langley. If he thinks I can be bought for a baseball cap… Yes. Yes, I can.

I just figured a new look was probably called for. Half my videos I can’t tell the difference when they were made. 🙂

Progress Notes

Blue Bird Circle Clinic for Pediatric Neurology

Name: LANAGAN, Leslie Diane

Staffing Conference

Date: August 25th, 1978

Staffing Physician: Robert S. Zeller, MD

The history and physical of this now 11 and one-half month old girl was reviewed in detail. Although she still manifests a great deal of hypotonia, it appears to have improved from the time of her examination one month ago. She is still, however, hyperreflexic.

Our impression is that of hypotonic cerebral palsy, that is in all probability secondary to insults received during the immediate post-natal period. There is also secondary delayed motor development and she is felt to be functioning in approximately the 6-7 month age range. The parents were counseled in depth and told that we could not predict at this time her future motor function or intellectual capabilities [emphasis mine]. She will be referred to the Infant Stimulation Program in Kilgore, Texas within the next week. We would like to see her in our clinic in six months to evaluate her language and motor development. A letter of our findings and recommendations will be sent to the referring physician, Dr. J.B. Bates, and two copies will be sent to the father.

Sheila Owens, MD
Pediatric Resident


When I was almost one, here is the sum total of my physical accomplishments:

  • Does not seem to vocalize to recognition.
  • Infant rolls from back to stomach, turns head toward origin of voices or sounds and looks at toys in her hand as she plays.
  • She can hold a cube in each hand and picks up a cube from table and side.
    • It is difficult to say if she definitely looks for fallen toys.
  • Her muscle tone is not wasting.
    • The tone is moderately decreased and there is weakness of her lower extremity musculature being unable to support her weight.
  • Still unable to sit without support.
  • The infant has the appearance of a 5-6 month old baby.

When I finally did start talking, I didn’t look older than that. The harder my mother tried to convince people in the grocery store that she was not, in fact, a ventriloquist was met with derision. Instead of suing the pants off the hospital, my mother helped me strengthen my legs. It’s actually amazing that I can walk as well as I can, and that I’m only partially terrible at it. I continue to misstep all the time, mostly due to balance issues. Physical therapists are the bane of my existence because I say I don’t have enough balance for something and those idiots will let me fall and bruise myself a couple of times before they’ll let me be right. I also bruise easily, and I have no idea where most of them originate, because it happens too frequently to count.

My parents both got sort of lucky. I wasn’t an easy kid, but I wasn’t the worst in terms of medical needs….. until now. I met a spy at The International Spy Museum named Tracy Walder, and she had the same thing. She told me that I was the first person outside of her family that she’d ever met who had it. I don’t know how bad her case is, and whether mine is better or worse.

Therein lies the rub.

I’ve been told that I’m intellectually brilliant my whole life, and yet, I don’t really fit into the whole picture of healthy family, either. I was never allowed to play sports, probably why I was attracted to Meag in the first place. She never read this report, so she had no problem taking me out to the soccer field and kicking the ball around. The best compliment I ever got from her was standing in goal, and out of nowhere I hear her booming voice…. “NICE DROP KICK, SWEETIE!” That fed my ego for like five years. It was one good kick. I’ve never even scored a goal, but I might as well have for what it gave me.

It was the first time I realized that I didn’t need as much protection as I thought, and it was the first time I was wrong about something so huge.

So, if Daniel is right that I do choose a devil du jour to fight, this is it. I’m fighting my own body because I’m not even sure if I’m disabled or not. No one has been any help with this, because my sister found this report with my mother’s things after she passed. She didn’t want me in the “special classes.” I didn’t need them intellectually, but I was the physical class clown whether I liked it or not. It’s the same way at work, because work can be high school (except the bullies are bigger). Don’t think adults are above staring at my alternating isotropia, the thing that makes my brain choose one eye to focus with and the other drifts. As my vision has gotten poorer in my left eye, this has helped somewhat because my brain doesn’t choose it as often.

I made a chef miserable because I didn’t have enough strength in my arms to push an entire potato through a fry cutter. I made an owner miserable because I couldn’t carry a mop and a full bucket of water up two flights of stairs. Both of these things led to me getting fired because obviously I was too stupid to do these things.

Tech was difficult because it was a boys’ club, so I constantly felt pressure to carry around desktops and 21-inch CRT monitors to prove myself. It didn’t get really problematic until I had a cart loaded with 20 that it became too heavy to push…. which leads to another impossible kitchen job. Running loaded carts of food and beverages between Terminal A and Terminal E at the airport. That cart had to weigh 2-300 pounds, and the wheels didn’t help at all. I couldn’t even push it enough to get it going.

I’m having the same identity crisis as Daniel, except that I’m just now finding out what it is. I don’t know what I can do and what I can’t. My passion has been ripped out from under me, because I have the heart of a chef. There is nothing I love more than making dinner for my friends. I can still do that, but it’s nothing compared to the rush of 300 covers a night and you’re winning. I just don’t have any consistency, because sometimes my muscle tone and balance is better than others.

I also don’t see in 3D, so no matter how many times I am shown how something is plated, it is physically impossible for me to see height without other points of reference. This carries over into just about everything. I see the world differently. I am often in my own little world because I have so many insecurities that it’s easier not to engage. My whole life I’ve felt something was wrong, and I’ve been treated with kid gloves. Living in the real world takes an enormous support system, and I’m having to do therapy and medication for all the anxiety those appointments bring me…. which is why I haven’t made them. I’m older. I’m arthritic. Everything feels worse when I fall.

Luckily, I am very small. Therefore, when I fall, it’s easy enough to pick myself up or have someone else give me a hand. I rarely pratfall. It always looks like I’ve really hurt myself. I generally just get bruises, but some have been deep. I also used to rip the knees out of my pants from falling on the sidewalk.

This is also not great at work. Everyone is so concerned, and yet nothing changes.

Add being female and queer to all of that, and it’s just being behind an eight ball I never knew was there. I’m not just queer so I get homophobic comments, and I’m not just female so I get misogynistic comments, I also move weird and fall a lot. And people ask me what the hell I’m looking at all the time.

I’m looking at pictures of beautiful, strong women in my head.

Like Tracy Walder. I’m the only one outside of her family she knows that knows (perhaps) how it feels to be her.

I know we only met for a moment, Tracy, but it was a symphony for me. I hope you felt it, too. Solidarity is the name of the game. You’re the first person like me I’ve met, too.

Leslie D. Lanagan
Diarist in Residence

The Big Yellow House, Part Two: Prologue

In part one, we explored the first people I met when I came to Oregon and told their story. We started at The Little Grey House and ended at The Church That Used to Have Green Carpet. There is a prologue to The Little Grey House that starts in The Austin Stone Cathedral, and predates The Big Yellow House by about 12 years. If you think I don’t know what I’m risking with this subject matter, I’ve already talked it out. The people in the story outside the real issue would never know or even remember everything that happened in those 12 years, because only Bryn is close enough to me to have watched me since 1997, and there are a couple of people who remember from 1990, but I would never trust them and talk about it. The conversation would mostly consist of tears and guilt because I knew they were right and I didn’t care. The big secret of childhood abuse is that we crave it. We hate ourselves because abuse makes us feel so good (physically) until the lovebombing stops. With a narcissist, it generally comes pretty quickly after they realize they can control you easily and well.

In 1997, Bryn’s big brother Matthew was 16 (which I only remember because I was impressed he could drive… I was terrible at it and still am), Bryn must have been in the neighborhood of 14, which would have made younger sister Christy about 11? 12? I don’t remember the kids’ ages in score order, but I do remember each and every way they’ve enriched my life… and every sin I committed out of idiocy or malice or both.

In retrospect, the dark and the light combine into an amazing tapestry, because we were all loved by their parents. The fact that I wasn’t actually born to them is something that none of us have ever noticed, although I did date Matthew for a few months and that was confusing for all of us. Mostly because it was the first time I’d ever been attracted enough to want to date a boy as an adult. However, I will tell you that my experience with having a 7th and 8th grade boyfriend prepared me for some of it. This is only to say that at the time, bisexuality was not as understood by straights who are not okay and queers who aren’t doing any better. If you’re bi, you get it from all sides. No wonder I chose one too early. The two women I’ve mentioned previously took care of my magical thinking on that one. Once you’ve had sex with women, there’s no going back. It changes you. The way the abuse hurt still is that Alpha abuser thought it was a cute quirk and not real. She blabbed to all her friends about me when I wasn’t sure I wanted anything known about me. She knew this. I know she did. She just didn’t think. Now those friends have participated in my sex life as well, because they thought it was funny.

It was about March of 2003 or 4 (I’ve slept since then) that I had a pregnancy scare. It was devastating and exciting, but only a scare because I had no idea where I was in my cycle and whether it was even a real thing. I took a pill anyway, just to be safe. However, the reason I took the pill is that I didn’t want there to be any chance of me being a single mom. I asked Matt to be the boyfriend, and he turned me down, but very sweetly. He said that he didn’t think he was capable of being the boyfriend. I went on to meet someone else and so did he. It was not an ending, but a blessing and releasing.

Also, men are terrible. 😉

Luckily, I never had any of those hang-ups, because men relate to me in a different way. I’m sure that will change if I become another man’s wife, because me being married to a woman shut down their defenses. Most of my male friends are tenderheart bears who would die rather than show it. I know things about them that their wives never will, and it’s because friendship deserves secrecy. I treat all conversations as confessionals so it’s not weird for them to say they hate being married or WTF ever. The things you say to your friends to handle being married… The things you say to a woman who loves you but is not in love with you… The things I say to remind them of that fact. You’re not done, you’re just frustrated. Here’s how I fixed that issue in my own marriage. See if it works for you. No refunds.

Sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes it’s “we’ve been talking more in the last two days than we have in the last two years.” After being married for almost eight years, there’s virtually no problem I haven’t dealt with (whether it’s good or bad). I also have excellent recall of those years, so anyone who comes to me and asks for my opinion will get one already fully formed.

The most consistent problem across sexual orientation and gender is communication. Mostly “they don’t treat me the same at home as they do in public.” We’re all guilty of curating our marriages, but it’s dangerous to do that too much.

I have lived in too many fantasies to think that’s untrue. I have loved the curated versions of several people, none more than the first and the last. The first created a Beautiful Memory Picture. The second one took the picture and destroyed it right in front of my eyes. What she did differently is not allow me to live in that bubble. To date, she is the best interrupter of my life. It sounds like a dig, but she uses my ADHD like a superpower. She knows I’m listening, and to turn my attention to something else is a blessing. Just like with everyone else, sometimes I do focus on her minutiae. But it’s not because I’m in love with her. It’s just because I love her. Alpha pretended, and the fantasy lasted as long for her as it did for me.

Here are two differences between real vs. pretend:

  1. Alpha presented as having feelings. She does not. She knows how to imitate feelings. Omega started with a truthbomb and has never wavered because of them. Her behavior and her words match. I have a PowerPoint presentation complete with annotated bibliography (my diaries and letters of the time, all gone now but the words are still in my mind) on how to love both of them. What I did not know was that Alpha was going to destroy me and Omega is still destroying me. One put in flashbacks and triggers. One is taking them out and looking at them with me, setting fires with a blowtorch and gasoline so that I can function again.
  2. Alpha’s friendship started with Schrodinger’s Seduction. I can get her to do whatever I want if I install the trigger that I’m the only one that can meet her needs. That my parents were sus. Omega’s friendship was never dependent on that because she’s not looking for it. Her clinical separation with the way I could fall for Alpha (I thought it was real due to context clues and not her actual words). We were both musicians, both singers, kindred spirits. The problem was that she blamed me for years over a trigger she installed. Omega will have her ass for it if she ever meets her.

It’s good to know a dragon in human form, especially when she lets me hold onto her tail. My hand fits firmly in her claws, which she uses to massage my head when I’m sad or angry. It helps, even in fiction. My ride or die is a muscle mass of fury, and I need it. Her “lead the charge into hell” attitude has saved me from so much trauma because I listen to her and parrot her opinions on a number of subjects, most of them about me.

We are both better people than we think we are. We both tend to give an enormous amount of love without receiving it, even though it is given freely. As I mentioned, if I pick up her coffee, she’ll turn around and do it for me. When it’s something special, she’ll buy me a book she loved and wants to share. She really listens, and picks winners. Everything from Stanley Tucci to Deborah Harkness to Karin Slaughter. We also talk other media, and she’s only given one recommendation that I liked and didn’t love. I was in a bad place when I saw it, and it scared me. I just couldn’t tell her why.

I’d started hanging out at the Spy Museum, practically living there when I had a membership because I was so dedicated to studying the world of intelligence. I am less interested in writing a novel about spies and being able to use that library of images correctly. As a result, I met regular people who used to be spies. The “regular people” put me through the ringer in terms of thinking about what it might be like to actually live that life. I’d love the travel and the worldview. I think if you’re CIA you become a citizen of the world… because maybe your job is at Langley, and maybe it’s in Kandahar with terrorists or drug runners at the Texas border. CIA charter says that they only work overseas, that anything happening is the United States is FBI. The crossover comes in with things like 9/11, where enemy combatants from other countries were arriving here.

My clinical separation was non-existent at that point. I was thinking about these friends being in danger, and the show she recommended was basically as close to a procedural as you’ll get from any US Intelligence Agency. It was called “The Enemy Within.” It didn’t deserve to get canceled, because it was brilliant. I will probably borrow structure from it at some point.

What wasn’t brilliant was all of the actors appearing as my friends if I picked up that telescope. I was zooming in on the feeling that being a spy is not all it’s cracked up to be. You have to lie a lot by necessity, and you have to worry about your personal and professional lives colliding in a very, very bad way. It is not for the faint of heart, and I could have done it given my experience with Alpha. If I was in operations though, I don’t think I would have stayed long. Living that way over time wears you down. I think I would have been very happy as a Feeb, and might check on their psychological requirements. Here’s why. What bothers me the most about military and intelligence is that there’s a very real chance they’re going to die. Most of the time, with intelligence the chances are a million to one. Sometimes they’re not. If you’re in the Armed Services, the percentage of death jumps by a large margin. Spies are able to live in the shadows, but are sometimes also forward deployed. And then you have DIA, which is basically CIA except you’re in the military. And that’s where I think about dying far away from home, like Daniel almost did… and an unlikely hero of mine, Harry Windsor. It was alarming how much I freaked out when I realized that the prince was in Kandahar at the exact same time as Daniel. Both of them could have died because of a terrorist.

I could have been there because I had to cut off my emotions to survive abuse. I could have been a spy because my reality cracked in childhood. I would have been very good. It makes me feel like a monster that I know how to get what I want from nearly anyone as long as I ask it the right way, and I am well practiced in making an ask………………………..

Two things about that. I don’t want a compartmentalized life, even if it comes with trips to amazing places. I also don’t want to be cut off from my emotions, because thinking about all my secrets and lies would undo me pretty quickly.

In short, I want to forget about Alpha, because imitating the way she makes every relationship transactional and tells you she loves you every single day without being willing to do even the smallest thing is toxic. I would not want to be that person, and yet I do have those tendencies. It’s why I work so hard on my relationship with Omega. I need a friendship that is rock solid and real. That if I fall, I will hit the ground. Nothing is bottomless or worth despair over when it was. That’s because Lindsay (younger sister) doesn’t even remember what she looks like. Why should I remember all this? It’s inspiring that I may get there one day.

I would still apologize and regret if I hadn’t figured out that the relationship was a fantasy on both our parts. The story I was telling myself is that I mattered to her. The story she was telling herself is that she was the perfect mothermentorsisterfriend and I was just bipolar and acting out. She used my diagnosis effectively in the destruction of our relationship, and I won’t forget that, either. I thought she was being abused, I wasn’t crazy. I thought she’d signed up for a lifetime of being railroaded into the ground, because patterns don’t come from nowhere. She has convinced a lot of people that she’s been amazing to me, probably hoping to make me look like an ungrateful spoiled brat because she’s “given me so much.”

She loved me when it was convenient for her (read: when she needed something from me; transactional). Her other friends were blind to this fact, and she thought nothing of telling me that she’d made one friend her “pet person.”

Gross.

I’m not trying to tell her story at all. I am saying that in that moment, I figured out what was being done to me, what had been done starting a few months before I turned 13. I don’t think she ever did something like this to other young girls, but I’ve seen the pattern play out with more women than I can count. The one woman before me who was brave enough to call her on it also got dumped as the friend because obviously she was crazy. If you talk to Alpha, she has never done anything wrong in the history of either relationship, and if she has said the opposite, she said it because you had something she wanted.

If her dopamine levels are low, she’ll get a hit any way she can… and in my case, it was reaching out for adoration because she knew I’d never say anything negative. Then, I got mad. So I was discarded for telling the truth and now some of my former friends think that I am mentally ill. It’s true, but not about this. Some of those triggers helped to set up my valley of vulnerability, but no one remembers that, either.

Her reality cracked, and then mine because of it.

In this case, correlation provides all of its causation, but no one looks at it except me in any regular sense. Everyone else has moved on, because she has. Here’s the thing, though. As fake as she was, she also never would have left me. If there is someone on earth that she genuinely loves, it’s me. This is because life hadn’t hit her too hard when we met. I slid in under the wire and disarmed the bomb. My ire is directed at how love was presented. Being seductive while she told me we were family and then treating me like she didn’t know what the hell was happening “must have been confusing and upsetting to you.”

Must have been? No. I deal with all this every day. Every time I talk. Every time I sigh, every time I am looking in the mirror and one of her facial expressions appears. That is the one true fact that I know people can remember. My impersonation is dead accurate.

That’s because I curated it.

Long before we ever went to the The Big Yellow House, love was based on what I could do for her, and not what she could do for me. I would not believe that had I not spent 23 years in the trap.

I said that I was going to borrow structure from Wicked, and that Alpha might not even appear in the series because I wanted to focus on my friends other than her that came to me through the relationship. Then, I realized it was unfair to throw everything out there, only telling one side of the story.

I decided to say explicitly why it was hard, because no one recognized it back then. I was 19, but arrested at 14. Then, when the trauma started resolving, I had to develop coping mechanisms. For me, it’s writing- the lead the charge into hell that Omega exhibits comes in handy when I realize “now is the time I should unleash holy hell because I’m right.” I am being a judgmental bastard right now because here’s what happened.

When I was 36, the relationship ended for good. I was too upset that not only had Alpha done this to me, she had the audacity to tell people that she just didn’t understand why I was so obsessed with her. It’s because she put every single problem we ever had on me, particularly why it was wrong for me to be in love with her because she was an adult and I wasn’t.

…….without ever taking in that I was following her lead, just like in everything else.

The exact reason I went to The Big Yellow House in the first place and even have all these memories. To that I can attribute gratitude. The rest combined malice with idiocy depending on the day. I was sat there listening for days.

It’s just that for me, there are some core memories that are damaged from certain things that have been said or done. For me, it was one of the worst days of my life. For her, it was Wednesday.

Homophonia

When I look at myself on camera, I get flashbacks. They aren’t panicky. They induce rage at the woman I’ve become. I love my personality and my humor. I hate how I present it. If there is any lingering trauma from this whole experience, it is my voice and mannerisms; even my micro aggressions look the same or similar. I have every facial expression that she does in addition to mine because I’ve been doing it for over 32 years. I’ve talked this way since I was 13. I sound just like her, because I’ve spent more time with her than my own mother over the years. My presentation also says (to me, not others) that especially when we were young, I wanted to sound just like her. I craved it because she couldn’t be near me as much as I wanted, so I basically studied her every word so that she’d always sound like herself in my head.

The way that it helped was that I discovered I was a singer, and not a trumpet player who could fake it. She unlocked a piece of me that I didn’t know was there. She forced me to kill my imposter syndrome. I am a soprano. I am very good. I know it, so I don’t talk about it. My soprano attitude comes out in other areas of my life and oh my God… I’m just like her.
She and Dana are my two uploaded consciences, the one where my thinking divides into mine and theirs. We’re happy because we never disagree about anything and I am making up our relationship as I go along. Or at least, that was the case until I got angry. Dana and I are still over the moon about each other, but only in a best friend kind of way. Hearing her responses to everything for so many years helps me to predict what she would say about something else. The last time I really cried was picturing her meeting Daniel for the first time and what that would have been like for her… just how much I wanted to share him with her and to be buddies again. I am not worried that there would be any violence between us ever again.

There’s a reason for that. I wasn’t looking for the biggest motherfucker in skater shoes who is also trained to shoot the nuts off a gnat. He just showed up. I wanted him to be my companion, and then I wanted him to be my husband, because I couldn’t let him protect me without feeling the pull toward him in every single way you can possibly imagine. It’s a new experience, pining for a man and not a woman. I like it. It feels like every “straight” girl has ever felt when she realized “uh oh. These feelings are scary and I don’t know what to do with them.”

I’ve been with men before. It’s not a big deal. I think I’ve said it before, that I didn’t identify as a lesbian because of my sexual behavior in individual instances. It was thinking about who I connected with more emotionally and whether I could picture a relationship that lasted more than a few years. I couldn’t until I realized that I’d thought about Daniel off and on over the years and it was a reconnection, not meeting a stranger. I don’t think I would have been so quick to label myself as a lesbian if it hadn’t been the ‘90s. Lesbians aren’t particularly friendly towards bisexual women at the best of times even now, because there is some kind of dick measuring contest that I don’t understand or want to enter.
Lesbians who have never been with men tend to think they’re better than the rest of us. For every man we’ve been with, points are deducted. My street cred will go down immediately if I marry Daniel because my experiences with women will be put on the back burner, as if marrying him caused amnesia. Women who don’t know me will assume that I am closeted and don’t have a clue that I’m gay, because we’ve heard that story a million times. If this marriage does end up being a thing, I cannot wait for this because it will happen. Someone will try to tell me I’m gay and offer to help me leave because I’m just not being fair to that poor man. He should have someone that is capable of loving him the way he needs to be loved and don’t I understand what I’m doing to him?

I understand exactly what I’m doing to him and what I want to do to him later, okkkkkkkk.

I don’t know if you guys will remember this. Some of you might. When Kathleen and I were partners (common law yet not legally married at that point), we went to a conference on bisexuality. Dr. Fritz Klein and Dr. Carol Queen were the hosts, and they were so fabulous. I learned more about the science of sex than I could from any documentary, and especially not having to draw my own conclusions about large scientific works.

Dr. Klein was especially brilliant. He designed the Klein Grid of Sexual Orientation, which expanded the scale originally posited by Alfred Kinsey. The grid also has you rate how often you socialize and fantasize about each gender as well. Through it, I have come to the conclusion that homosexuality and heterosexuality are subsets of bisexuality. That the spectrum is very wide. For instance, I can think of one friend in particular that our relationship is all white hot fire.
We turn each other on intellectually and deep dive into all kinds of things. What we don’t do is fawn over each other. That package doesn’t come with a combo meal, but I’d rather have it than literally anything else. You can’t buy what’s in it, and if you break it, there’s no replacement.

She is a one on the Kinsey scale, perhaps a two in the Klein grid sense of not being bisexual but understanding how it is a thing that happens for reasons. She loves pictures of beautiful women, but they don’t turn her on. That’s fine. More for me. She is perfectly happy for that to be my department… and yet, if something happens to me that’s negative, she will release the fire of a thousand suns and point it right at the offender. I am her lamb, the one she will always search for if I am lost. It feels good to finally be going so hard for the right person when I’ve given so much to the wrong ones. I am perfectly happy to love her up like Oprah loves Gayle… especially now that we both have found our Stedmans.

What becomes problematic sometimes is my flowery expression vs. her strident, no bullshit personality. I am a gardener, and she is an architect. She’d rather have bullet points. I’d rather spend six pages on a rose bush (that was a joke about Nathaniel Hawthorne). I know she routinely rolls her eyes at the length of my letters while I struggle to understand the bread crumbs I’ve been given. It’s not a bad relationship because of it. She’s just like my sister, 50 times busier than me. It takes her time to read and absorb. What’s worth it are the letters after she’s done so. I recently figured out that she is crazy about me. Just loves me more than I do, and I’m hoping to catch up. It’s a tall order. Because you see, I didn’t understand how straight women love each other when we met. Now, I do.

I just had a flashback to a sweet memory of Dana and me. We used to get married every morning. One of us would lean over and say, “hey baby? I do.” And the other would say, “I do, too.”

So. Now I’m apparently Jay because Silent Bob over there just laid down the truth last week. She’s my hetero lifemate. She loves me. She just couldn’t tell me. Not that she didn’t want to. Words aren’t her love language. There’s no wrong way to be in a relationship, but if you expect someone to respond the way you would have, you’re setting yourself up for failure. I tell her I love her in words, or I did until I realized that her love language was action. So I stopped only telling her and started doing things for her.
Picking up her afternoon coffee on a whim is more important than telling her it broke me open to hear that she took piano lessons as a child. For me, love is hearing her think/emote. For her, love is supported by evidence. I get brownie points this way: when I tell her I love her, she can bank on it. The check will always cash because my words and behavior match. When she tells me she feels something, I listen and respond immediately. What she says goes, because what I say goes, too. It’s a balancing act as to which one of us is more right this time, because both of us are so damn smart that neither one of us are going to be wrong at any time. In fact, we might get to the exact same conclusion and argue over semantics.

It’s tricky, those semantics. Sometimes words get in the way of communication, especially when they’re painful.

Oh my God. My God. I just had a thought that hit me like a ton of bricks and I need to breathe through it. I have serious Internet relationships because when I communicate by typing, I don’t hear myself in my abuser’s voice. I hear myself the way I want to sound. I hear myself without her version of how things sound, because that’s what it is. I cultivated that sound. Now it’s a monster I avoid because it’s not an homage. It’s torture.

I speak by writing to avoid talking altogether. Bryn has no idea what she’s done in a good way. I’ve published vlogs without thinking about hating my voice several times now, and it’s because of her. Forcing me to use FaceTime helped me to Think Different (oh, wow… that was unintentionally clever. I mentioned an Apple product and then tied in Chiat/Day. I’m not impressed with my own writing. I am impressed that I recalled the connection.). This is important because as I’ve been talking to Bryn, more of my expressions and mannerisms that aren’t really mine have shown up and begged to be friends. I will go there with her only, because she was there. She knows that it hurts and why it should. She should know but doesn’t yet that another friend gave me a jump scare by sounding just like her- they’re from the same area of the world. Completely unintentional, and I still panicked. She’s never met any of my friends from Portland, so I can safely say that this friend would never in a million years figure out it’s her. Another person that I love their writing, could do without seeing them in person because it’s painful in a way that cannot be treated quickly or easily. It’s my trigger, it’s my deal. I just have to work through it so I can love her sound because it’s hers. I can love her voice as much as I love the rest of her.

It’s more complicated than it needs to be because I am way more complicated than I need to be. I was born as a visionary, in a traumatic birth experience and recovery, and then emotionally abused so badly that I didn’t have opinions for many years. I am rediscovering what it is like to date people while having them. Having emotions has also been problematic.

There’s no right or wrong answer in a relationship. For me, it seems to work to make one or two friends my primary partners so that if my romantic partner leaves, my entire world doesn’t go with them. It doesn’t make sense to make something that needs to be so permanent a pressure on dating. I have made the executive decision to divide my soul and let a few people have a part. To let more than one person all the way in so that more than one person has that level of understanding of me.
Some marriages aren’t built on romance. Some are built on wanting permanence during a tumultuous time in people’s lives. Some are built on confidentiality so that both people have the freedom to say whatever they want without judgment and get feedback. Some people are asexual but still need to have a person.

I’m still working on that “both people aren’t judgmental” thing.

People being concerned about the gender I marry is ridiculous, and yet the sentiment continues. My deal is that if you care whether it’s real or silicon, that’s fine. I don’t. What matters to me is our shared upbringing and our shared thought processes. They’re virtually identical except for the way we take in information. He’s all brain, I’m all heart…. Or I was, until my heart walked out of my body and back to Texas. I hope Cora and Daniel each get pieces. All they have to do is reach into the chords that run between us and grab them.

Geometry and music combine to make new sounds all the time. Different layers, different directions at which the intersection breaks your emotions out of their military grade prison. Military prison is accurate, because I feel like I have been Lord John Grey my entire life, starting a few months before I turned 13 and ending when I was 36. The unrequited love is over, but I have wondered many times how often John lingered over Jamie’s speech patterns, craving it because he couldn’t be near him as much as he wanted, studying his every word so that he’d always sound like himself in his head.

I wonder how long he cried when he realized that he and Jamie could never be close enough for him, that he was jumping into something the relationship couldn’t sustain……………. And yet, he still sounded just like him.

The Woke Mob and How to Join

Be queer and concerned about someone trans, apparently.

Also, when someone says “don’t call me a drunk,” the right answer is not “but you are a drunk, Daniel.” Probably not my finest moment, but I didn’t think about it because the friends I have who are drunks have been sober a long time…. Which made me sound like I was an expert punching down at 101 over there, but it just didn’t register.

Once he’s admitted he’s an alcoholic every day until May, then at 30 meetings in 30 days, and then every meeting for the rest of his life, maybe he’ll have some compassion for why saying “you are a drunk” didn’t phase me, but probably should have because I didn’t realize I was dealing with an AA newborn. I have done that, I have been the newborn while my friend was getting treatment, but we were learning together so that I could support her and be knowledgeable while doing so…… I’m more like the convert who’s mad there’s not a group for people who don’t have addictions and yet still can’t get their shit together.

At least, that’s what I thought until I remembered there was such a group for people like me.

To say that I have been to a few more AA meetings than he has is correct. However, I’m just a normie who goes to open meetings to support her friends. I’ve never actually been through addiction as a patient. Just as one of the people they delightfully injure until they realize they are doing it…. and let’s get real, some never do. I just have to lick my wounds with Tall. Mustache. Fishing Hat. There’s got to be a DC version somewhere. There’s a version in every AA and Al-Anon meeting in the country.

I cut The War Daniel off after he went vitriolic and broke up with me. Again, I didn’t break up with me, he did… It’s not that I don’t want to reconnect later. He just needs to sit his ass down for a while. Maybe he’ll change his mind when he realizes that I am not a threat, and neither is the “woke mob” mentality that’s been served to him in NE Texas and not its actual definition. He was fine and wanted to learn everything about everything until five minutes before “Son Of’a Bitch, Everything’s Real.” He is somewhere between it and DENIAL (Don’t Even kNow I Am Lying).

Daniel has no idea what I’m doing because he has been blocked on Facebook, and I have no idea about him. I didn’t do it to avoid him. I did it to avoid making things worse. He says it’s over. I say “you’re in rehab.” I do not believe that you can make a decision like whether you want to get married, travel the world, or even get a major haircut without letting your brain clear out from that. So, I’m giving him until January next and say “you can always come home again.” He can, but if he has no interest, I can’t help that. In fact, I am helpless here. He means too much to me to turn back now. It would be a loss like I’ve never felt before, and have already been mourning because I don’t know whether it’s real.

I just don’t think it’s possible to go from wanting to marry someone one day and wanting to break up with them the next unless your nerves are so fried that you can’t handle anything of substance. Despite it, we are in a large argument right now that will not resolve because neither of us will give an inch because we’re both right. I just happen to think I’m a little more right than he is.

He is correct in thinking that rehab is a big deal. He is incorrect in saying homophobic shit repeatedly and getting called on it repeatedly because he does it repeatedly.
Now we’ve gone from the proverbial “baby, I’ll try” to “you fuckers don’t even tell us the rules.”

We did.

You just threw a bitch fit about it.

Daniel’s point, and I get it, is that he’s a white, cis, straight male who’s about to enter rehab and he can’t handle all this. He’s correct about the rehab patient thing. If he pretends to be a white oppressed male one minute longer than he needs to get well, my boot will leave tracks on his ass. He needs me to back off. I can roll with it when it’s just me. I’ve been taking shit like that my whole life, starting when I was 10. It’s not that people do things on purpose. They do things that they’ve never been taught are wrong and then don’t remember. Then, they’re offensive all over again and I have to endure that pain another time. If you don’t catch it when it happens, then you’re really screwed. There’s even less chance that someone will remember what you said if you ask them to recall something. There is no way I could put Daniel through any of that unless I was punching down.

Punching down is a relatively easy concept, but I can’t explain it in English. We don’t have two verbs to tell people about yourself. In Spanish, there are two. “Ser” is “to be.” It’s for things that cannot be changed, like being black or trans. The other verb that also means “to be” is “estar.” Estar is for a transitory state, like hungry or crying.

“Estoy cansada” is correct. I am tired. When I wake up after a nap, I won’t be tired anymore. Daniel might not have thought this in reality, but he handled my situation as if being queer was a transitory state. That I could give up being so angry. The problem was that I wasn’t agnry. I was annoyed. Again, nothing new. Just hard to keep it under wraps all the time because Daniel isn’t even the millionth customer. That had to be ten years ago. I am not angry. I am exhausted, and there is a world of difference. What I have learned so far is that I will bend, but I will not break.

Here’s the line in the sand, and it’s easy to draw it because I’ve left as much room for him in my life as he deserves…. a chance to redeem himself. Rehab grace only lasts so long before Sweetpea begs to be let off leash. She sent me a picture of herself the other day. She doesn’t play video games at all……. and the picture of her was *Alduin* (incidentally, she doesn’t know it, but I am very much like Paarthurnax).

Like I said, I can take it when it comes to me. It’s just that he has a trans daughter. So, he does twice the irritating shit that he used to and is even more angry that he has to adjust. Apparently rehab is also going to fix homophobia, transphobia, and aggressions toward both. He sees me as the enemy now, when all I’ve tried to convey is the normal amount of “hey, that hurts.”

When Daniel and I first started talking, I thought he was fine. He wasn’t. The medication he was taking to control his cravings, plus the one beer he was drinking a day to make sure he didn’t accidentally commit suicide kept him stable.

So, I was on board. I’ve been down the rabbit hole of addiction with friends several times before, and my ex-wife got a DUI years ago, so not only did I learn about addiction and the brain, I also drove my wife around for three months until she got her license back. This was torture for two reasons. The first is that I hate driving. The second is that I hated Dana more than usual when I was driving. I’ll just let your mind wander on that one.

We’d spent a lot of time talking about the TV show MASH, because Daniel was a Navy hospital corpsman embedded with a team of Marines in Kandahar during Operation Enduring Freedom. His stories are just humbling, and always make me cry… just thinking about the sheer number of times I’ve almost lost him is enormous. Thinking about his service record is intimidating. Sometimes I think “why would somebody like him love somebody like me?” I’m not being down on myself. It’s just that you have to dig under the war hero stuff to make it make sense. He’s a writer. You can tell that clearly.

My work in progress is set in Viet Nam. Obviously, I have friends who are soldiers to help me with patois, but it would be nice to have a coauthor on the project who actually knew what he was doing with that kind of dialogue. The most frustrating thing about being married to a Marine’s daughter was all of the acronyms. No one can penetrate all that without private lessons, and no one gave them to me.

They were very content to let me go on not understanding their conversations. Dana and I were together almost eight years. In all that time, I have learned that a PX is like a Wal-Mart. I am sure that I could do better if I dug deep, but tax free means something. Maybe not for candy and sodas, but you can get things like TVs and gaming consoles. Again, not free. But a major discount. Anything else I picked up was from context clues, and here is a big one.

Flying standby.

My guess is that even Daniel hasn’t thought of this in his “you fuckers” haze, but he can show up at any base in the entire world and fly standby to anywhere else. If Cora and I are invited, we can go with him. We cannot go unaccompanied anywhere, but that really doesn’t matter. I don’t want to go anywhere without him.

I was starting to be glad that Sam was a hit and run, because I saw so much potential here. We planned all kinds of trips, from Helsinki to Cairo to Phnom Penh and back to wherever we’ve chosen as home. As I was telling Cora, “I’m fine with living overseas or staying in this area. It’s just that we can’t live in Texas anymore.” She’s trans, and they’re losing out on nearly every right imaginable in the State Leg. I will probably go to a Molly Ivins level of batshit crazy if I think about it too long, so let’s move on.
Daniel thinks that I wake up every day to wrestle the devil du jour, and while it’s an interesting phrase, it’s bullshit ALL DAY. He’s not the devil, and I’m not the “woke mafia” of legend. I’m trying to keep him from doing irreparable damage to our relationship, and more importantly, the one between him and his daughter. I do not want to be the cause of Daniel losing his daughter, and if he keeps it up, that’s what’s likely going to happen. Cora is going to be just as angry as I was, and it will not go well for Daniel.

But I cannot tell him that. I have told him. He has heard me. He is too overloaded to change right now. I have to be brave and hope that he’s willing to change later. I cannot hope that he cares enough to make amends, but I can hope that when his brain chemicals are level, he realizes that he betrayed his daughter and the woman he wanted to marry by saying that he already had new friends now that accepted him for exactly who he was.

Life is not black and white. There’s so much gray area here, because normally I wouldn’t put up with any of this. It’s that he doesn’t live in the world of awake yet. Alcoholism was keeping his night terrors at bay. Sobriety has made them rise from their graves. That is conjecture, but it has happened to my other AA friends.

I also think that I have been too flippant because I have so many AA friends that it didn’t occur to me that Daniel had never been. I’m sure it was annoying because I was talking like he’d been in the program for years and it was like, five days.

But the point still stands.

At this moment, Daniel does believe that he has hurt both me and Cora. He just doesn’t register our pain as valid. His is much more important than ours whether we think so or not.

It’s why I’m trying to be so kind and loving, and have my anger moments, but let them go. I wouldn’t even have posted anything about this except that Daniel is being stubborn and not talking to me at all. It was time to prepare for the end of the relationship on Stories after I’d had time to process it on my own. In fact, I’ve been processing so much that the only thing I can come up with is just to let it lie. Don’t respond, don’t talk, don’t breathe where Daniel is concerned. He’s got too much on his plate to worry about me, which was his point originally (even if the execution left A LOT to be desired).

He also knows that the reason this is a big fight is that he didn’t just offend me. I am not the only queer person in his life, and not only did I jump in for myself, I interrupted years and years of family-entrenched behaviors.

As the interrupter, I became the enemy.

I’m used to it. I’ve only had one relationship where I really got along with my girlfriend’s parents, and that was Kat’s. I don’t think they ever believed Kat was bi to begin with, and I have to say that I should have agreed with them. It would have explained so much. However, I would not have met Dana, and Dana opened a door for me that taught me how to think in a different way.

I just feel as if I shouldn’t emotionally bleed out over this, because he doesn’t deserve it. He would if we’d been together long, but we weren’t. The difference between me and him and everyone else is that I’ll wait for him.

I bet that seems surprising.

Too much other shit going on to explain everything in a way that wouldn’t “out” other people, so I won’t. All I have to say about the whole situation is “thank God for grace.” I know I am capable of it, I hope that The War Daniel is, too.

I know for certain that if he was able to disconnect that quickly, it would have been a horrible relationship. Any time we needed to talk about anything, he’d fold into himself and become a brick wall. I’ve been in that relationship before. I’m tired of it. I want to go back to the lovebombing, because I believe that’s the person Daniel really is, and the person I’m not talking to is the one who is alcohol-deprived, miserable and lonely as much as he says he has new friends.

If there’s anything I also know about Daniel, it’s that he does want to learn. He won’t be happy staying in a place where everybody is just like him. Where he doesn’t learn anything about how to love a trans woman properly through listening to both of us (trans pain and queer pain are alike and specialized). He doesn’t spend any time with Robin DiAngelo. He doesn’t have to sit through the thousand lectures I’ve heard over my life in order to become this “woke mob” unto my own. If we have an incompatibility, it is this. It’s not that he can’t or won’t learn, it’s that I’m so far ahead of him that he can’t listen to me anymore. He just thinks I’m pedantic, meddling, and the kid was fine til I came along.

I have so much more power than I thought.

That being said, I won’t grieve long. Even if I did everything to the worst of my ability, one fact remains. I got Daniel to rehab in the first place. The reason the relationship could die is not because I don’t think I’ve met the love of my life. I have, and I know it. There will never be another War Daniel in my life, so I hope that this one remembers to check in. It’s that he cannot continue to make me a part of “you fuckers.” I get that he’s angry. I even get why. I don’t think that expecting Daniel to understand that I’m hurting is invalid during treatment. Again, though, I can’t count him out. Rehab is such a tricky thing. You know an alcoholic/addict is sick, but when do you start holding them accountable for all of their words? I am weighing whether I am hurting myself for a goal that will never come.

I don’t think he’s done anything that says I won’t love him.

Yet.

He is The War Daniel, but if I have a character, it is Rory the Roman. It will take as long as it takes, possibly centuries. He doesn’t know what that means, either.

But I’m betting you do.

In Which the Sun Comes Out

Part One in the “Stories from The Big Yellow House” Series

The yellow house is much yellower now, though in my memory it is not so bright because I’m not there. Neither is anyone else I know, but it was so precious while it existed in my world, and now in my memory. I am glad that The Big Yellow House is so entrenched in my core, because it will never fade.

Because when the Big Yellow House goes, so do my memories of a lot of other people. This entry is for them, and starts with a conversation between Bryn and me regarding our “shared childhood.” Now that we’re older, we both think of each other as children back then. I was 19, so I think that makes her 14 or 15 when we met. She would remember. I can remember everything but her age. 😛

Saying Bryn’s name out loud because she’s one of the, like, three people I would entrust with this conversation at all. Anyone who knew I was talking about it with someone and cared could easily guess all three. That’s because neither of us are the main characters. We were the ones that snuck off to be bad girls.

She wasn’t quite old enough to be bad properly, and I was a computer geek. We just sat and talked, and increasingly listened to jam sessions that were mildly interesting as background music and right now I can think of at least five people who are going to read that sentence and hate my guts. And two who will absolutely fall on the floor laughing and go, “she went there.”

I was never into the banjo. I hated it. Just for the record, but no one asked me… whereas I would say that anyone who learned to play the banjo in The Big Yellow House was clearly trying to isolate me. I am certain that was on purpose (one of the only jokes I will make about my time in The Big Yellow House, because it’s a shame that I can’t. Not right now. Even a decade later, it’s still Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

It’s because I have love for some of the people I met there and still have on my friends list, and some others that are a memory. Still alive, certainly, but with no need or want on either side to reconnect. Actually, that is a lie. I do not know for certain about them. I know for certain about me. I am not willing to do anything to help things along in terms of getting closer. I am reaching out to the people at that house when I was there. I feel that my ramblings might give the impression that I mistook the part for the whole and was trying to say that everything was bad.

This series is a way to say thank you for the things that they gave me while I was also in hell. I haven’t forgotten it, and I don’t want to focus on darkness. I want to bring this into the light, because that’s where they brought me. I cannot regret coming to Portland, because I wouldn’t have wanted a chance to meet Dana and then blown it by not coming back.

I definitely would have met some of these people one time, but they would not have raised me the way that they did. I’m kinder because of them. I’m a better person because of them, even though they knew nothing about me.

For the record, some people believe that I am a liar and I am just crazy. I don’t believe that, but they do. I believe that I can express what I’m feeling better than at least half the world, so my faith in my sanity is fairly sound. However, in my tribe, no one is perfect. It’s just that the more of us there are, the more it’s likely that one of us is all right.

The Big Yellow House will look at my experiences in Portland through the lens of one particular backyard… with two particular young girls… and three particular puppy dogs (Bunce, then Barley, then Maisie in score order). We’ll look at history, both personal and American, interestingly enough. We’ll go to church, where I was basically the youth group (what’s new?). We’ll walk up 36th to Division, then 37th up to Hawthorne so we can go to trivia.

We’ll listen to Outpost at the Block Party. We’ll go to Le Pigeon. We’ll invade the kitchen at Tapalaya and drink at Biddy McGraw’s. But we’ll start with a prayer for ablution. Water is washing over me and my tears are stinging my face. We’ll start with 1997, just a snippet of a memory.


Alex

Alex was one of the first people I met in Oreon, predating the yellow house by quite a few years. She had my heart from day one when there was a party at The Little Gray House, and men were bothering her. She asked if she could be my girlfriend for a second to get them away from her. To know how funny this actually was, you’d have to know Alex and me. She’s a diva, the amazing kind that makes you pray to the voice gods before an audition that you don’t have to follow her.  I’m short and I don’t like many people. Enough said about that except to say that “Odd Couple” moment made me think that maybe I had more than one friend in the neighborhood. Alex and her husband have blessed me many times over just by being them. I have told their story before, and was crying so hard in the middle of a Starbucks that my mother thought we should leave so I could calm down. I think she thought I needed Xanax, when in reality it was the best sermon I’ve ever heard, and I will put it up against anyone, anywhere, because the structure ENDS ME to this day. I am sobbing right now just thinking about it.

At Bridgeport, we divided the service up in to different duties. Instead of always having the pastor du jour (our word for having rotating preachers and an alarmingly deep bench- mostly brilliant lesbian preacher’s kids and ordained pastors kicked out of other churches,tbh… theological academician crack) do what we called “the offering pitch,” different people were asked (generally five minutes before… not planned, but useful because people will rarely say no if you don’t give them a chance to think about it).

Greg, Alex’s husband

I’m sorry. This is going to take a minute to get out because I know this story and you don’t. I cannot breathe all the way down, and this happened such a very long time ago. It’s a core memory that is one of my blue orbs hoping to find yellow and avoid red. My emotions are turning inside out.

I can remember about 10 years ago losing my everloving mind with grief as I relayed this story to my mother, where I wailed and she said we should leave Starbucks.

Greg walked to the front of the church and stood in front of the baptismal font. He pointed and he said, “this is where I was baptized.”

Then, he walked to the altar rail and looked toward the windows facing north, and he said, “And this is where I got married.”

This is the part where I am crying so hard I think my heart is going to break. I haven’t been back here in so long, and it was the most traumatic thing that has ever happened in our community. We will never get over it. We had to learn to live with it, our entire church life beginning back over at the Book of Acts, or as I call it, The Gospel of “Holy Shit, What Do We Do Now?”

Greg turned so he was standing behind the Communion table and he said, “this is where I buried my children.”

It was true. Greg and Alex lost their twins, Eleanor and Quinn, to a rare genetic disorder. They were only about two weeks old. 

We’d bought the layette.

Today I learned that grief makes you cry out louder than you thought you could.

He used the resurrection of the Christ to show us how we resurrected ourselves. That the loss of his and Alex’s twins didn’t go unnoticed because it bonded us. Love poured out for them and back into us.

It was a sermon. And I remember it all. I am absolutely sobbing and it was almost 20 years ago.

The people who visited The Big Yellow House were often more important than its residents.

Over time, the color never faded. It just got brighter, especially with the telling of it. “A little brighter than it used to be” was “it BURNS” by dinner.

I assure you, the people who have also been there share this opinion. In fact, it seemed to shine more every year. As we got older, it got smarter. It remembered our secrets and our lies, told to each other in the dark summer nights filled with beer and conversation. 

I was 19 when I met the church at the opera, 20 when I met the church that used to have green carpeting (and is still known that among my crowd… I’m 45), and 21 when I knew that these people were my life.

By 24, I was driving up I-5 feeling like I’d been punked. This had nothing to do with the Big Yellow House and everything to do with the fact that I’d only visited Oregon in the *summer.*

Stay tuned.