It happens every time.
Well, not every time. But almost every time. You’re at a gathering of friends and theres always at least one person that finds out you’re ex-military and you can just see the question forming on their lips but a struggle of “do I ask???” And usually they can’t help themselves and ask.
“Did you have to kill anybody.” I sigh, because I fucking hate that question. It was one of the harsh realities I had to struggle with spiritually before I joined, knowing that scenario was going to present itself. You ask yourself day in and out what you think you will do in “that” scenario.
Before you are assigned to a Marine Corps unit as a Corpsman, you go through a 9 week course called Field Medical Training Battalion. It’s essentially a crash course in being a grunt. You familiarize yourself with the M4 and 9mm and 50 cal. You go through what’s called Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain. And it’s not a video game situation. Were armed up with paintball guns, and the instructors play the part of the locals/Taliban.
That’s one of the mindfucks about MOUT. Who is a civilian just trying to make schwarmas, and who wants to kill me? And heres another mind fuck—these mother fuckers don’t play fair. They will use “civilians” as explosive devices.
The kids will come up to the Marines on patrol asking for candy or whatnot but they’re really a lure to get you to drop your guard long enough for them to shoot you from a second story window. Look up then down then up again was the training mantra…. but MOUT was a humbling experience in just how quickly it could all be over. I remember one of my guys getting shot in the leg. I went to pull him behind a wall to kwik clot the wound and I didn’t get down low enough and took a paintball pellet to the neck. If it was real, I just died. I didn’t sleep that night.
So to truly answer your question you have to start back behind the wire.
You could be playing football and grilling hamburgers when your fire team is called to gear up. A fire team is a group of 5-7 that patrol together. It consists of either a Sgt or Corporal that’s the Fire Team leader.
You’ve got a doc, an EOD guy and the rest are gunners. So you’re playing football and talking shit about how Tony Romo would always break your heart and then the next moment you have to go put all your gear on and get ready to go complete a mission. As Doc that sucks even worse because you wear everything the Marines wear plus your med bag.
You’re responsible for making sure your whole fire team has certain things in certain places. Their tourniquet on the top right; kwik Clot in the right cargo pocket. Things like that.
Not knowing when your team is going to be called sucks, but knowing 12 hours ahead of time is worse. All that time waiting around to be under the stress of “is this the last thing Ill ever do?”
Some of my grunts thrived on the anticipation of getting to kill bad guys. That was part of the mission. And they had no moral qualms about it at all. They saw it as a very clearly black/white/them or me, no fuck that these people want to take me from my wife and kids and they can go fuck themselves. So in that aspect, the boys’ conscience is totally clear and the more people they shoot the better. I don’t think that makes us sociopaths. I think it makes us like Dexter [Dexter was a sociopath.]. Vigilante killers of people that need to die, minus the vigilante part.
I am a corpsman, so I am not wired that way. Every time we went out my prayer was 1 that I come back alive, and 2 that I bring everyone back with me, and 3 not to have to use either of my firearms.
On the shittiest day of my life we went out just like any other one. The mission was to go into town and give hep A and b, hep c , smallpox and anthrax vaccinations. My spot in line was last, giving hep a/b.
I don’t even know why there was a lull in the line. I think we had run out of smallpox spears or something, so I was looking around.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw it happening.
Dipshit wasn’t even trying to be subtle. So without thinking, safety goes off; I used my marine’s shoulder to balance my weapon on and I shot the fuck stick through his eye. Then I yelled “FIRE FIRE FIRE” which was the alarm for a bomb. EOD snatched the kid and worked their magic. My first trained response was to look for others because they are human hyenas and not averse to sacrificing one for the sake of the many.
At that point the field ex was terminated and it became about securing the town. No one was hurt, and that’s all I remember of the post action. We all came back across the wire and that was that [also terrifying that you have to feel like you’re in that much danger to feel comfortable in that much danger].
I can’t tangibly measure what my cortisol levels were. I know when I came back I was like “holyfuck holyfuck HOLYFUCK.” And I couldn’t get still. I couldn’t stop shaking.
I cried because now I knew I was capable of taking a life. Commander Baker, our on site Psychiatrist, talked to me for about two hours about innocuous stuff; the first Van Halen album; why the cowboys can’t win in December; why The White album should have only been one album of 14 songs. He gave me some Xanax, ambien and dilauded and sent me to a drug induced sleep. The next day they handed me my down chit, which meant I couldn’t go past the line for 6 days. So all I really had time to do was think.
And one of the things I thought about the most is that regardless of what we think over here, over there, we’re the heels and they’re the babyfaces. They are the heroes of their country trying to rid it of these arrogant westerners that think their culture is so superior to their own. They have families and dogs. And that family and dog hated me. I took someone’s dad, husband, favorite uncle, drinking buddy.
A day doesn’t pass where I don’t think about it at least once. And that’s part of why I drink like I do. Because when I’m sober it comes back to haunt me, and when I’m drunk I can let it go and forgive myself for doing what had to be done……………………………………
Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been here to see The Cubs win their first world series in a century; hear the first new Guns n’ Roses music in 17 years; to get to the point where I played 50 shows a year. And most importantly to be able to see my kid graduate high school, to make the very brave decision to come out as trans; to develop into this fabulous artist, to see my sister realize her dream of having a goat farm; to be able to help my mom through her post cancer recovery.
And to get to marry you.
And now im going to go cry.
Editor’s Note: I have been sitting on this for a while, because I thought I had something to say here. I don’t. It’s perfect on its own. I’m still crying.
I believe that most things are a house of cards. Humans aren’t strong enough to build everything right the first time… even me. I am glad that I have the strength to go back into the basement, and have so many stories that have gone through countless revisions over time based on telling them again and again (sometimes over and over to one person….. sorry about that, all y’all). Today I discovered a new level of dark. Luckily, I had a friend to guide me down, and then back up again.
We went to high school together. They were there. Leaving even their gender out because they wouldn’t want it to be known that they noticed.
They didn’t know it, but they were doing guided meditation. I closed my eyes and saw Carrie, my partner in that woman’s class. It was a health class, and we were “married” and caring for our egg child. I got lucky. All the boys were taken. Carrie was (and probably still is) a gorgeous girl. I knew she was straight. It wasn’t about that. For an hour a day, she was my arm candy. 🙂 James, Alex…. don’t tell her.
(note to my French Horn brassholes- I just made it up. Tell the others.)
As an aside, I am DYING thinking about how hard Sam will laugh at “brassholes.” She should know. She had a near miss in terms of almost marrying one. I absolutely thought she was the love of my life, and if you didn’t think I mourned that relationship, she hit me harder and deeper than she will ever know. That’s because I didn’t tell her what she did wrong. I didn’t care. Let’s just say that I got the thing I wanted, and in return, she hit and run. Take that phrase and run with it.
She absolutely devastated me. To get over it, I had to cut off all my emotions and pretend that she meant nothing to me, because she made for damn sure I knew I meant nothing to her. I blocked her on everything. E-mail, phone number, all social media. I was crushed. It was my first real relationship in seven years. Why wouldn’t that kind of thing destroy me? Do you have any concept of how long that is? I didn’t even get Leah while I was waiting for Rebekah. I was completely alone. Touch starved except for a few hugs along the way. Depressed. Down and out.
Sam and her kids were balm to a soul that needed them, and I can only say that now, when the outcome of that relationship no longer matters to me. She could have had me for multiple lifetimes, and she threw me away like the bird shit on a newspaper after one day in the cage.
Yet, the only way she’ll ever know how I feel is if she comes up in my yard. My dog bites, motherfucker. I reserve the right to be angry at any time. I also reserve the right to not.
That relationship still confounds me, I just don’t care enough to find out why. She didn’t want to get together to figure our stuff out, it was just over by text message. Why are you guys more concerned that I started dating Daniel so quickly when it wasn’t me that wanted to separate? Why are you guys on me about Daniel at all? Isn’t he a logical successor to be my partner after realizing what Dana had done?
On my very first date with Sam (sorry if I’ve told this story before, but it’s a card that needs to fall), she texts me to tell me that she’s sitting on my front porch. I run downstairs to meet her, and she’s adorable. My heart didn’t even take five seconds to assess the situation. Just a seductive, take your breath away fantasy from the moment I said “yes.” She matched me feeling for feeling, or so it seemed. I saw so much of myself in her. I thought that we’d be together so much longer than three weeks, but I did something. I just don’t care what it was, because it might not have anything to o with me at all. And since she’s not going to marry me, I don’t really care what it was that I did. I would correct my behavior if it mattered.
Back to why Dana even matters. She definitely shouldn’t, but she does. When she hit me, she installed a trigger. Sam’s fist coming at my face whether I wanted it to or not. I realized that I might never get rid of he tripwire, because Sam had fixed hers, but what about the next woman?
Just another reason why I trauma bonded to The War Daniel. He’s huge. He’s weapons trained. No one would ever fuck with me ever again. I have had enough of the bullshit in life and not enough enjoyment. So “noping out” to a different country and trying to make a life there is attractive to me whether Daniel comes or not. My top choices are Aberdeen and Phnom Penh. Two completely different cities, two completely different cultures. It’s just that I have friends in both places. Suzanne has known me for somewhere between 10 and 15 years. I don’t remember, but I do know that she was friends with both Dana and me. It’s not that she remembers Dana, it’s that she’s familiar with the story of my life so far.
My friend in Cambodia has known *of* me for a long time, but we’ve recently connected because I was brave enough to ask him if I could come and visit. I know I will go there first, just not when. The attraction to him is that he’s the exact opposite of Suzanne’s story. He’s only just finding out who I am. So obviously I need six months a year in both.
I have listened to all the sad music. It’s enough that I have to deal with idiots who think that I move really fast in dating. What in the actual fuck? Am I supposed to mourn people longer than the relationship actually lasted?
I broke up with Theresa because I had spent *weeks* planning the perfect first date and she told me that she was backing out and just wanted to talk on the phone “this trip.” No, baby. That’s not happening. We have done too much to go backward and reassess. It’s too hard and it’s too much. We’ve been talking for three weeks. If you can’t have a drink with me, it’s not happening.
That relationship was weird, too, because we were off to such a good start, and then I probably ran my mouth too much or something, because lots of people have no idea how INFJ people operate. They make plans, then contingencies, thn more contingencies. For instance, here was the process of cleaning my room this week. It was hell.
I’d been trying to organize little by little when the house caught fire and I needed to get it ogether immediately. I reserved maids over the Internet. First mistake. Two appointments. Two companies. Two no-shows. Finally, I contacted Hayat (landlady for those just joining us) and asked her to get her own handymen out here and I’d pay them. Even that tuned into a nightmare.
It’s all done now, except for the cleaning and designing. The paint cans and drop cloths are still all over everywhere. It’s painted bright white, like the marina where I wish I lived in Beirut. I’ll include a photo because it’s hanging in my living room. I want my room to feel the same way… that when I’m dreaming, I’m not in my own bed. I’m there.
While I am working on my ugly house of cards, I can dream of what it will look like when I am finished. I want a welcoming space, full of that same pure energy of white and teal and waves and sailboats…. though it isn’t for everyone, Beirut is my happy place. I have been Lebanese for almost eight years now. When I see it for real, I will fall.
….just like a house of cards.
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.
I’m an idiot. I pulled a classic IT geek move. Claim to know about computers. Forget to attach link and/or image.
On December 31, 2022, at 8:00 AM, “Leslie D. Lanagan” <the famous lanagan @ gmail . com> wrote:
Really all I want you to do is read my blog and listen to the story of my boyfriend and one-day husband, Daniel. Then boost the signal if you like what you read. However, I am not only checking in with you because of that. Just asking what I need up front in case you’re busy.
First of all let me say that you are one of the people I love most in the world just for being you. I am proud to see that when you were acting, you took a huge risk and it paid off big. I take you as you are. All your crap because all people have it and your incredible capacity for love shows through every damn day. We are not strangers, but I doubt that you would remember me because we have not communicated since roughly 2003. You used to be one of my fans and on my Blogrolll (orwhatever). We exchanged comments a few times, and then when you published “Just a Geek,” I came to Powell’s on Burnside to get it signed (Or did you do Powell’s Technical Books that tour? I don’t remember). My blog back then was called “Clever Title Goes Here,” and when you matched a name to a face, you signed my book, “Dear Leslie, Clever Inscription Goes Here.” Those are such precious memories.
Are you tight with Anil Dash and Chason Chaffin? I remember you commenting on Chason’s web site as well, but he hasn’t told me if you stayed in touch. I’m a huge fan because you’re famous, and the way you got there was being well respected at craft. If you have any teaching experience in writing, I’m all ears.
I am definitely writing this to ask you a favor, but not one that’s hard for you……. yet impossible for me. I just need a tool that you have and I don’t. You’re famous, full stop, and you’re a well respected writer. I wrote a blog entry about my boyfriend winning a medal of valor that just left me emotionally spent, and it was short. If you like it, could you put it on blast?
I’m in Facebook Jail because a black girl called me “Raisin Potato Salad” and I took exception to that. She was clearly trying to insult me based on an hour’s conversation and she wore down my last nerve. I am a line cook. Food is life, and Africans/African-Americans have always been trailblazers In the kitchen. I said nothing racist, but she said something prejudiced. I said, “if you want to come at me with ‘raisin potato salad,’ you are messing with the wrong bitch. I’m from Houston, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world be cause it’s a port. We will throw down, and I will kick your ass sideways.” As my college roommate and soul sister would say, “I am a Christian and I also have no problem breaking your back tooth and praying later.” I don’t even want to tell you what she does for a living, but if she was queer, I would have married my life partner in 1999. This is because she’s already my life partner in a platonic sense, because she’s just one of the people I do life with and have since I was 20. Her daughter is a lesbian, and I said two things that are worth putting here in response to it.
The first was, “you know why your daughter’s gay, don’t you? God saw how you treated me and decided to give you a special girl of your own.” The second is hearing how she deals with homophobia. See above. “I need you to be my mom now. Fight for me the way you fight for her.”
My skin is white but I have a black soul when in comes to cooking because so many racist Southerners (only white ones. Racism is a system. People of color cannot even begin to create such a thing) eat the same shit and turn food into a ridiculous stereotype but only for POC.
Soapbox over. Rooting for you to win Celebrity Jeopardy. I think Ken Jennings is a hell of a guy. Never met him as a writer/content producer, but he’s bomb. Mayim Bialik is the absolute hottest choice known to God and man for this role. Fight me, although I know you won’t. Privately, rawr in the most respectful tone for the good doctor as possible.
If you have a minute, will you tell me what it was like to work with Gaiman once the adrenaline wore off? I’m not digging for dirt. I just want to learn what you learned about his craft, because I know you’re smart enough to have analyzed it by now. Actually, any stories you’d like to share with me about fellow creatives’ process would be wonderful. I’m very positive, not being a dick, wanting to be a student like watching Inside the Actor’s Studio every week even though I don’t act. These days I’m obsessed with carpentry and making check out Laura Kampf on YouTube- gay movies tend to suck because production values are low. So gays went to YouTube and made their own content. They own HGTV now, it’s just not on cable.
That’s what’s running through my mind as I’m discovering I’m not gay, I’m just queer. I’m writing through it. If you think of a project I’d be right for, I’d love to be in the writer’s room. I have legit no experience, but if T**** can be the president, I really don’t mind just shooting my shot and seeing what you say. Not willing to move to LA but would come and visit if you could pay. I don’t want your money. It’s just a tool you have that I don’t. I would also love a digital autograph I could use as the background on my tablet (not for publication ever in case you’re a privacy nerd like I am), also assuming that I’m not taking too much of your time.
All love, brother. I hope all is well. You seem good on the outside. Is that true? You okay?
I want to tell you something about the man I eventually want to be with for the rest of my life. I need you to really hear me, really cry with me, really feel the pain and joy that I felt when Daniel decided that I was trustworthy enough to be trusted with a story this big. I want it to go around the world by tomorrow, and I’m not kidding. I want you to lose your MINDS when you hear his story, and I want to make myself the best known writer in the world for this one entry alone. I do not think this is undoable. Please make me famous for this one thing, and I will owe you everything.
I just got a text message from Daniel that said, “my girl, be prolific.”
Well, I am nothing if not that.
It was a calm day in the market when Daniel was in country. He noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He stood strong and shot.
The “noticing someone” was a terrorist wiring up a five year old child to explosives so that he could blow up everyone in the plaza.
If I showed you the award he got for it, the Marines in the audience would lose their minds.
I did. I took on all his pain. Just all of it. I sobbed and sobbed and couldn’t get ahold of myself for hours, and I’m sobbing even now. I can’t get over it. I am too filled with joy that even though it was the worst day of his life, it feels like the best day of mine.
I definitely had thoughts. The first was the strength it took for a military-trained nurse practitioner to break the Hippocratic Oath…. to wrestle with it, because he was tasked with saving life, not taking it. I wonder what it was like to look a terrorist in the eye, knowing that under normal circumstances, you’d be taking his history and physical. The second time was just how close I came to losing one of the great loves of my life before it ever happened…. well, as children. It counts, but there’s so much more. The third was how humbled I know I’ll be to be in his presence. It’s a reverence that will fade when he hasn’t done x or y, but will never be forgotten. Please don’t let it be forgotten by anyone else.
But don’t you DARE do it to honor me. I’m just the messenger.
This entry is going to be short, but I hope it hits you like you didn’t even see gravity’s rainbow until the bomb NEARLY went off, taking a five-year-old with it.
Sit in that. I did. I am humbled. Just bleeding out with gratitude. My heart can barely take it, but it wants to.
Editor’s Note (DW): When we called general quarters on the ship, I never felt the mixture of fear and excitement. It was all business. I took control of my sound powered phone with my CSOSS manuals and a dry erase marker and kept track of what systems were up and down. That was my job during the shit in the shop. Afghanistan isn’t even a different animal. It’s a different being. You literally see a bag of chips and ask if that’s a ied. The excitement is skipped and the fear is squared. Getting back to the wire was a tear leaking experience , because thank fuck today wasn’t the day and all 7 of us came back
I just had a thought that is so funny that I cannot end the entry without telling you. “When you want something done right, hire a Corpsman.”
Let me also add a note to my dad and all my friends in Naples, particularly Tiffany Anthony, MD. I am fully convinced that I am eventually going to marry Hawkeye and House, mixed with the very best of Jimmy Leeves we have left in this world and Dr. Anthony in our corner from Dallas.
My conversations with Daniel in preparing content are tough shit, and I am so glad that I’m a blogger because of it. When I go all up in my feelings, I have a place to express them without having to think about what he’s going to think when he reads the entry. It’s a mixture of fear and excitement, because if you get PTSD from combat, those are generally the only two emotions in a story.
And then there are things that make me bleed out, like telling Daniel why I have PTSD and Daniel explaining to me why mine was so much worse than his…… Daniel’s enemies were clearly defined. Mine were turncoats, both of them, at a time when I was too little to know that wasn’t okay and took it on as all my fault.
One of the things that’s so different with our two cases of PTSD is that I cannot define triggers before they happen. I’m fine one minute, and inconsolable the next. He actually has enough self awareness to say that he doesn’t like the sound of popping popcorn, because “that’s what M4s sound like when you put them on fully automatic.” He can do something that at this point, I cannot. He can tell me what his triggers are, and I can avoid them. I have tried to quantify what a trigger means to me for nine years, and I haven’t really come up with a good solution.
The biggest trigger I have is smell. Whether it’s my abuser’s old perfume, or the air smells just the way it did when I was standing there with that journal, asking what certain things meant. I think that is true for all trauma, the way the smell of the smoke in our recent house fire took me back to the one my family had when I was 11.
Music doesn’t bother me, generally, but there are a few choir pieces and opera arias that I have put away. If I’m in a church choir that is doing one of the pieces that for me, acts as a trigger, I don’t sing that day. I don’t even go to rehearsals that contain it.
One of the things that I’ve done for the last probably, ten years that I refuse to do now is minimize. Everything that has happened to me is now being given its full meaning and weight. I am no longer trying to make it look lesser than, that things weren’t as bad as I thought. In order to know how bad it was, you cannot just know my side of the story. You have to know the life story of the woman who emotionally abused me as well, and how that pathology affected me. I can only tell my story and a teeny, tiny part of hers. There’s so much more you will never find on this web site that you would find if you looked in other areas. For instance, none of our mutual friends except Dana has ever talked to my dad about what I was like as a teenager.
I can think of a few more I’d like to have him school. Some because I still don’t understand their reactions, some because I just want my people to know who I really am without pretense or bullshit.
I am coming into my power. I am 45 years old. Either this year or within a few years half of my life will be over, using my 92 year old grandfather as an example. A whole lot of shit I used to care about doesn’t even exist now in terms of my focus.
Like getting all upset because Daniel is in love with me and I know it. He has been for 36 years. Let me get this straight. A military doctor wants to be with me, and he’s telling me up front that he’s an alcoholic and has PTSD and is going to rehab to change himself and just wants another writer to lie next to in bed with both our laptops going…… and I’m going to freak out because he’s male and not female? I got this picture in my head of Jonna and Tony Mendez writing “The Moscow Rules” on a king-sized bed and thought, “why not?”
Here’s why I didn’t freak out, and it’s all my trans friends’ fault (I’m really grateful and I’m teasing). I realized that there was just enough man in me to be absolutely terrified that a straight dude wouldn’t like me AS A PARTNER. Straight dudes love me in general. Instead of thinking of myself as a bisexual woman, I had to game this relationship out as a trans man. This is because I knew that Daniel had never been in a gay relationship before, and so his reaction to my gender identity would never be negative, he just might be confused. I needed him to know that I express as male sometimes, and that has to be okay with him. Luckily, it very much is.
But this is just the beginning of a very, very long story. Please do not think that I have lost my fucking mind. Daniel doesn’t start rehab until January 5th. He lives in NE Texas. There is no possible way we will even see each other until his rehab is over, and that could take up to a few months. We’re talking about living separately for at least a year, because if he moves to DC we might screw ourselves over by skipping dating and just moving in. It wouldn’t be a deliberate screwover- DC is expensive and it might seem tempting to have one household “since we want to be together, anyway….” Eyeroll………
My perfect picture of Daniel and me is that we visit each other a few times in 2023, and then think seriously about stability after 2023 is over. This does not mean that we won’t be in contact at all, just not physically sharing the same space. Rediscovering each other through calls and letters for a year before going all in.
I am also not saying that Daniel is my forever person. I am saying that he’s one of them. Maybe it will be this fairy tale in which I suddenly transform into the perfect heterosexual wife. However, my money is not on that. My money is on Daniel becoming so important to me that he becomes a priority, and it is too damn early in our relationship to put constraints on what that actually looks like. Just be happy for me that I have someone that loves me and is in my corner. That if I get into a Situation, it’s handled. Don’t look into the future and try to pigeonhole us as friends or married. Let us decide that over the next few years on our own.
I am turning a corner in my sexuality. I am less sure about my gender than I ever have been, which has made me flexible about everything else. I was telling my friend Zac that I was feeling very non-binary, without the need to come out or change pronouns. How that plays out in my relationship with Daniel is that I feel like a partner, not the archetype one sees in their minds eye of a “wife.”
I have also been a wife before, but not to a man. My definition of “wife” comes from that context, and I don’t know enough about men to know whether my definition and theirs is similar. My saving grace is that Daniel is attracted to my personality. I don’t think he would have been attracted to me if I was male on the outside, because sexual orientation is a thing. But what I do know is that if I look at myself in the completely genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary but doesn’t give a crap about pronouns kind of way, Daniel still loves that person.
I’m not becoming less. He’s becoming more. He’s opening himself up to the possibility of not being with the picture and definition of “woman” he’s always known.
It took me back a bit. All of the sudden, someone from my past reappeared, and I want to talk to her “privately.”
I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday. We were out in the sun at Chuy’s on Westheimer, and I was completely suckered in by your preppy attire. I mean obviously, my wife teased me about seeing you and running into a door for like four years. What might have seemed schoolgirlish actually made me relax and find peace within myself. You were the first woman I’d ever met who identified as straight and also wore men’s clothes without making it a big deal. Nine times out of ten, it was men’s styles in a women’s cut. Every time I looked at you, I saw a little more of who I wanted to be on the outside. I saw a style that fit me on someone else.
You might think it’s because I thought you looked like a lesbian. Actually, that’s not it at all. I saw the way your husband looked at you and realized that I was putting too much emphasis on my clothes. That what I wore wasn’t advertising anything. That if a straight woman could out butch me any day of the week, then wear whatever I want. Nothing about my wardrobe says that I am seeking attention from men or women.
I know this because now I’m divorced, it’s eight years later, and now a man wants to be with me. I said yes. I said yes because I looked at you on that warm April day, and knew that he would love me no matter what. I saw a style that fit me on someone else.
It’s a double entendre, that title. Earlier today, I talked about fully letting go of Sam. Then, I forgot to add all the tags I normally add so that the readers that normally read me couldn’t find me….. like forgetting to attach a picture to an e-mail when basically all you’ve said in the e-mail is “here’s a picture” and still forgot to send it. Basically, I’m writing another entry to notify my readers that there’s a new entry. The writer reader relationship in the digital age. I hope we’re in love, otherwise this web site is me being Pepe Le Pew. I am not that desperate.
I was amused when I was in Facebook Jail that I watched two women fight over my picture. They weren’t fighting over the right to ask me out. They were fighting over whether kd lang was hotter than me. I didn’t pay attention to the outcome.
Fuck yes I did, are you kidding me? I flat out won. I knew I would. People have called me a better looking kd lang since I cut my hair short back in ’95. I don’t see it, but a hell of a lot of other people do. I think it’s the brown hair and brown eyes, but mostly that’s where it ends…… except that most lesbians my age have the same resting bitch face. Maybe we look like each other in that way that when you live with someone for a long time, people think your facial expressions look alike. Therefore, it’s not even that we look like each other. It’s because we’re from the same tribe.
When I was a kid it was straight person code for “I know you’re a lesbian.” That amused me to no end, and I have gotten a lot of mileage out of it. I also can’t think of a universe in which it’s a good idea to tell you which straight people have said it, but that’s the funniest part of all. God, it sucks to be you.
Now that kd isn’t popular broadly and straight people have lost interest, I don’t get it that often. But put me in a room where everyone and their pets have listened to all her music on repeat since college and I am begging to get away from the attention. A stroke to the ego never hurt anyone, but after a while it gets embarrassing. I love attention to bits, but I microdose.
I actually think that’s why I was always so bubbly whenever Sam was around, because I was alone the rest of the time. It wasn’t that I wasn’t off doing my own thing and obsessing over her. It was that by the time she worked all day and put dinner on the table for the week, enough time had gone by that my social battery was recharged. I think it would have been a big shock for her to spend a long time with me to know that I am not bubbly in the slightest. The one thing that would never have changed, and hundreds of people will attest to this because they saw it with Dana for eight years, is the energy for me when Sam walked into a room. Time would just stop.
I had been married to Dana for four years before the accompanist at our church knew we were a couple. This is because Dana wasn’t a singer, and I drove myself to church so that I could sing and she could sleep in. When she walked into the sanctuary, all the joy rushed into my face, and it got warm. The accompanist said she just assumed that Dana and I must not be that close because I was always so happy to see her.
Quite the opposite. When we’d been best friends for three and a half years, we’d learned to talk with our eyes. She was everything I’d ever wanted and more. Neither one of us could breathe and not have the other one feel it. I didn’t tell her for a long time, because I knew I would be playing with fire. That I could destroy the most stable relationship in my life by losing myself to her, even if I was supposed to because relationships are all about compromise.
Our relationship did end, and it was traumatic. But I would go back in time and do it all over, knowing it either could or would end the same way. There are lessons I learned from Dana that she was there to teach me, because she’s the one in my life I felt was capable of doing so. Cooking was an authority I let her own. If we were in a professional kitchen, it was “yes, Chef.” Of course there were a couple of exceptions. Of course there were. But by and large, we were a dynamic team who could turn on a dime because when seconds counted, we could say things with a look. We could anticipate each other’s movements, because we had done it day in and day out for years at our house without missing a beat. It didn’t matter how a pro kitchen was laid out. Improvisation was our forte….. because Dana was loud. (I can’t wait until she sees that line and I hope it lights up her face.)
I didn’t just want any woman, I wanted Dana. It was obvious to everyone from the start, and our relationship lived on hope for quite a while in each of our minds, not knowing exactly how much platonic love had made room for romance while the other one dreamt.
I could have asked her so many times when we were alone, but I did not want to set the ball rolling on an affair, because that’s something that would have changed me and taken me away from who I was. No, if I was going to risk everything, I had to be sure.
I did and I won big. Just Kings full over Aces. To be clear, we did have an affair. We admitted our feelings to each other, and eight hours later, we told the people we were in relationships that we loved them, but that we were too close to each other to make it work with them anymore. They were unsurprised by this knowledge, and yet I apologize for the enormous amount of time it took for me to make my decision, literally and metaphorically. I’d cheated on my then girlfriend for eight hours, but I’d been leaning more on Dana for emotional support than anyone I’d dated for YEARS at that point. The clue phone was stalking me obsessively and I wasn’t picking up. Thank God I eventually did.
It took me two years to get it together, and eight hours for my life to absolutely fall apart. It was traumatic and painful for a higher purpose. We were both in relationships that were just fine. We could have been happy for a lifetime with them, but it wouldn’t be the fit we had. We weren’t breaking up with our significant others because there was anything wrong with them. Tokyo and Los Angeles are both beautiful cities but you’ll be miserable if your partner never wanted to come on the trip.
It wasn’t that they were wrong. They were wrong for us. We wanted cherry blossoms and strong matcha. They wanted Milk Bar.
Dana and I wanted an attachment we’d never forget, and that has been true. It was worth it to find the love of my life for a short time than never to have experienced a love like that at all. I reached out for fantastic, and I found it.
There’s one picture I love of Dana at my sister’s engagement celebration brunch at Brennan’s in Houston. She’s wearing a fabulous outfit, shoes, and jewelry that we spent the day shopping for, just giggling and laughing like we invented it. We’re at one end of the table smiling, and my mother is on the other….. also smiling. At the time, it was my favorite picture we took to display in our house.
Now, it is a beautiful artistic representation of what marriage looks like for me now….. my wife and I on one end of the table smiling, and my mother on the other.
It’s a shame I forgot the attachment.
One of the things that Sam and I joked about was being polyamorous because she knows I’m dating Rachel Maddow in my head, but Susan is her primary. 😛 And then I told her that I was also dating Helen Mirren. Obviously, I have a very busy inner life and Google Calendar.
My very busy inner life made me happy yesterday, because I laid out everything that was going on with me and why, and my stats boomed. I don’t want to tell you exactly how many because I don’t want to scare Sam by telling her just how many people think she’s an idiot. The 20 shares the post got should give her an indication. I have entries where thousands of people have read them, and yet not one person shared it.
I am enjoying this moment of schadenfreude, but not because I am being vindictive. Quite the opposite. I’m feeling better about myself in a way that is completely separate from anyone I’ve ever dated, not just the last one. When Sam walked out, it only ended a future that didn’t happen. I’m not upset anymore. A three week relationship isn’t worth crying over any longer than necessary. I just don’t know how I feel about a relationship for me anymore.
Maybe I’ll just date people until I die because I am too emotionally intense to limit my emotions to one person. They run so deep it’s scary for both of us. For instance, I told Sam once that even when she’s not with me, she doesn’t leave the room…. and it was so true then that it hurts to remember. But it’s true. Once she got under my skin, I wanted her there in some capacity for life. Married, friends, whatever. That part didn’t matter. I just liked her. Period. I thought she was a good person, and I was wrong, at least in how she treated me. I’m sure she’s wonderful to other people, I just never became her priority. I wasn’t someone that she would do anything for, much less end our relationship in person. I didn’t think of her as my girlfriend, I was more casual than that. But that’s not the message she took home. The message she took home was that I was falling in love with her too fast…. when in reality I was furious that she trashed our potential, not anything we’d already done. I saw pictures of our future and thought, “I want that.” At no time did I say, “I want that tomorrow,” or even a couple of years from now. I thought I didn’t have to worry about all that stuff until her 15-year-old graduated from high school.
I was certainly infatuated, drunk on the spirit of attraction. I also loved her platonically in a way that said, “I’m ok with just being your person. If you need something, call. There is no time in this life where I will not pick up the phone if it’s you.” For Sam, I think she underestimated philia and overestimated eros. Philia is the love that gets ignored. If we lose a friend, it’s not an acceptable form of grief…… even though it happens ALL THE TIME. Love is such a confusing word in English. It should be all Greek to me.
The thing I keep ruminating over is timing. Sam could have asked me to be exclusive so much earlier, and even when I was on said date, she never left me…. even after she broke up with me and I had to try like hell not to lose my shit over a girl when I was supposed to be on a date with someone else. It was so embarrassing. Just one of those “I hope the earth swallows me up” moments.
The other thing that really irritates me is that we had plans for dinner on Monday. When she broke up with me, I said, “I asked you if we could talk about this later and you break up with me?” She said that Monday was too far away. The longer I think about it, the funnier it gets. It’s so easy to be amused by the youngest of four, because I’m the oldest of four and she fucked around and found out. Don’t come at me with your bullshit, you’ll just be windmilling your arms while I have my hand on your forehead.
And by the way, I apologize for sounding like an asshole yesterday by seemingly giving conjecture about Sam being a miserable walking disaster as if I needed it to make myself feel better. I don’t. I just forgot to say that one of her last texts to me was “I’ve been crying for two days, I have a killer headache, and a bloody nose. And none of that matters.” It was unbelievable. Her audacity struck me dumb. You’d rather cry over me than tell me what’s wrong? You can’t wait to sit down together and use your words like a grown-up? Her impatience and jealousy got the better of her. Once you set up a bad pattern, you never get back out of it.
That’s what convinced me to go no contact, not that I thought she was actually going to rush right over and apologize. She sent me an apology text, and that’s like, the same. As my friend Michael said, “it was the reaction of an 18-year-old boy.” I don’t date children.
I’ve been waiting for seven years to say that I’ve met someone and not have it be an April Fool’s joke or clickbait.
Today is that day.
I can’t tell you much about her because she’s a mom. Her kids know she’s dating someone, but not who it is. It’s too early for them to meet me, but acceptable for them to know that if their favorite sci-fi novels are missing, they haven’t been stolen. I hope they know what their mother has done having told me I could read anything I want. 😛
Editor’s Note: This week I borrowed “out of my mind,” by Sharon M. Draper. It’s about an 11 year old girl who has a photographic memory and is trapped inside her body. She can see everything, but she can’t tell anyone about it because she can’t write. She finally gets a voice, and not everyone is eager to listen.
I can give you details that have nothing to do with my girl’s current life, though.
She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Vocal Performance. When she’d gotten those done, she auditioned for one of the specialized choirs in the Army, and got a secured chair as an alto before she shipped off for basic training. After she retired from the Army, she directed church choirs for a while, then reinvented herself yet again. I absolutely wouldn’t tell you what that was, anyway, because it tends to make people ask her for things as if her time doesn’t cost money.
One of the things I truly love about my girl is that she reminds me of so many people I’ve loved over the years…. The professional musicians that raised me, including my biological parents, teachers at Clifton, HSPVA, Clements, private instructors in trumpet and voice, beloved choir directors, et al. are the lights that shine behind her, strengthening our connection with shared language. She’s also from New Jersey, not Texas, so she doesn’t remind me of any one musician from my past, or any of them if we’re strictly talking personality. The Texan church musician is an archetype all its own, can I get an “amen?”
And now you’re going to ask if her voice makes me cry, and I’m going to have to decide between snarky comeback and my vulnerable truth. I’m going to go with it.
The truth is that even when she’s just driving and singing absentmindedly, my heart flips. If I was sitting in the audience of one of her performances, forget about it… I’d be gone. She’s got the kind of heart that I know she’d be singing to me no matter how many people paid to be on the front row. What really makes my heart clench is singing together…… You can coax me into crying with that mental picture almost a hundred percent of the time.
But that doesn’t stop her from giving me shit about being a soprano and a trumpet player, and I love every second of it. Because she’s a choir director, she already knows all the inside jokes that are going to make me laugh, especially because her field choir traveled with a band and that rivalry never goes away. For instance, a lot of her friends have gone from the Army Field Band to professional work all over Washington and Baltimore. I am only one degree from Marin Alsop now, and I will not tell you anything about those conversations. I will only say that no matter what I’ve heard, it’s trivial. I’ve heard it all in my own musical life. I still want to see Alsop conduct. Whether she’s Jesus incarnate or Lucifer, every time she gets excited and does that little Bernstein hop, I’m drooling like a computer programmer at a Star Trek convention.
Here’s the best inside joke according to me:
My Girl: Voice is the superior instrument with choral music being perfection.
Me: Back the fuck up, Wilhousky.
Here’s why it’s an inside joke. Peter Wilhousky wrote one of the most famous, glorious arrangements of the Battle Hymn of the Republic I’ve ever heard in my life. My choir director at church from seventh grade to ninth loved it, so I’ve known every note to the soprano, first trumpet, alto, and second trumpet part since before I could type. I have also dabbled in first tenor because I will never drop out of the the a capella section in rehearsal. It’s just too chewy.
One of the first things I asked her was, “since you were in the military, just how many times have you done the Wilhousky arrangement?” She said, “a million, and I’m not even exaggerating.” One of the reasons I like it so much is that whether I was singing or playing, it was so damn fun.
My girl and I have other things besides music and the full on church experience regarding how the sausage is made, but I feel they might be too identifying, and thus, too private for now. But if we stay together long term, I’m sure more details will be allowed to creep out. I know we’ll be having discussions about how much I can say and when, and later on if things go really well, asking the kids themselves how much they want said about them because they’re teenagers. They can make up their own minds. I would also rather sign up for shock therapy treatment than become, for lack of a better term, a “mommy blogger.”
I’ll tell you right now, though, one of the kids and I are obsessed with the same thing. I’m not aiming to be a parent. The kids already have two parents. However, if neither of them are as into this shared thing as me and the shorty, it’s on like Donkey Kong. I tease my girl about it all the time…. I get fake disgusted with her assessment of something in said activity and say things like, “if I ever meet your kid, I’m going to assure them you’re only there to hold my bag and my water.” Teasing that hopefully never even gets close to the line of actually hurting is our thing.
This is the first potentially serious relationship I’ve ever been in where we’re not thinking about having kids. She has kids already. So, time is deliciously limited and every moment counts. It’s a little bit tricky because even though we don’t live that far from each other, it’s not really close enough to meet up on a whim. This is because I live in Maryland, a few miles further northwest than the line between Maryland and The District, still inside the beltway of the city. She lives in a suburb of Baltimore that’s closer to BWI, only 30 minutes from my house by car but two completely separate transit systems. The closest I can get is taking the bus to the Metro station and getting on the MARC train, with either my girl picking me up at the airport station (which thankfully, is very close to her house), or a quick Uber ride to get myself there if she’s tied up at work or something.
I downloaded the public transit app for Baltimore and added one ticket to BWI and a funds card with a few dollars on it. It’s for both of us. I can escape if something goes wrong and I just don’t feel like talking about it right that moment, and if nothing ever goes wrong, it’s just handy to be self-reliant. I’ve also watched too many couples break up because one person always has to do the driving… or if that wasn’t the main problem, it certainly didn’t help anything.
It’s something of which I’m aware, but I’m not as panicked as I would be if I lived in Houston. Now, I don’t have to be reliant on my girl to get me anywhere in either city/suburb. Any time she wants to pick me up to save me time or to spend more time together, it’s welcome and I am always grateful. I just don’t want to feel like a big issue later on…. Driving is one of those things that’s irritating enough if you’re rarely the driver… more so if you’re the only one who does it. When the honeymoon period wears off it’s generally the first knock-down drag-out fight.
Only one piece of the puzzle is left, and that won’t get solved until we decide to get really serious. If I move to the same city or the same house, we’ll gain the ability to do one more thing that we don’t have now…. being able to call each other up and say “I’m going to the pub with the crew. Meet us in 20.” It’s still possible if plans are made early enough in the day, but right now I’m at door to door in somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours. Her town is small enough that I could walk to a pub in 20 minutes if I was local. As long as I stay put, though, 90 minutes to two hours door to door is much faster than I could do it by car, because between traffic and construction there’s no time of day where it takes dramatically less time than others.
It’s so easy that next time my girl might not want to drive here, either. Our friends in Silver Spring would haul us around or we could Uber. So much better than sitting in traffic and driving. It’s sitting in traffic, reading and cuddling. The reason it’s not sustainable as a solution is that if we’re a committed couple, I would lose my mind getting to her or the kids if there was an emergency. Anything less than immediately is unacceptable. “Less than two hours” might fly in a long distance dating situation, but in a partnership is cruel to everyone. Being reliable is important to me.
For now, it’s a delicious thing to will time to stand still; things can progress slowly… I can take things out, try them on, think about them until they’re not foreign anymore. My girl and I can create a private bubble of writing to each other and dates where we really get to know each other with more senses than just reading words on an electronic page. If we’re playing for keeps, we need to be a team, starting with learning how the other one communicates.
I find that I communicate best in writing, especially when I have to say something hard. I can take as long as I need to flip out about it, and then calmly craft a response. My emotions are enormous. Most people don’t deserve my kneejerk reaction. They deserve my response after I’ve walked off and written about it. Just one of the things that lets me be an INFJ on my own without scaring the bejesus out of anyone… and then when I get to the part where I need to say something out loud, I’m confident because I’ve worked it out on my own. I simply need input. If my girl feels strongly about something, my own conclusions need to change. If we’re chatting about it online, I have two things. The first is the ability to copy and paste my thoughts into a letter. The second is that a moment expands when I read about it later…. and in a much more beautiful way than if I just tried to think about the conversation and remember it that way. That’s like trying to read a series of novels and then being tested on which events happened in which book.
I love going back over our conversations and rereading, because different things jump out at me than they did the first time, because I’ve walked away and am looking at it from a different perspective than I was even ten minutes ago.
There’s another advantage to rereading our conversations, and it’s invaluable. Because I’m rereading our conversations and replying to things as they come up, it’s like conflict repellant, and every bit as effective as bug spray. One of my triggers is having someone tell me that my perceptions aren’t accurate. I spent so many years doubting my own perceptions and instincts when I am actually extremely astute. Not much gets by me, and doubting my abilities as a visionary and truth teller when I can bring the receipts is a flat out rejection…. yet another reason why it’s taken me so long to open myself up to a romantic situation.
Only once has this happened, but I went on a date several years ago with a woman who’d gotten the URL for this web site from my OK Cupid profile. Then, she asked me out for coffee. When I accepted, she turned out to be a drooling fangirl who wanted me to be the voice I am here. It’s something that doesn’t seem like it would be problematic. This web site is me. I am this web site. Here’s the rub. At no time during that conversation was I ever allowed to deviate from anything I’ve already written, as if writers are never allowed to change their minds. Particularly with bloggers, entries are just verbal pictures, not even videos. It’s 2D with a timestamp. She’d quote me to me and then accuse me of lying, even if it was 2016 (or whatever, I don’t even remember that much- just that it was before my mother died) and the entry was from 2014. It made me express something verbally that I’ve always known with my other senses. I love respect. I hate fame.
Blogging is a stream of consciousness first draft in which I’ve given myself permission to write absolute shit. This is nothing compared to the heights I can reach with research and dedication. In some ways, I should never have become a blogger in the first place. I laid out every problem I had, including my struggles with mental illness, in hopes of “leading from the back.” Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen, et cetera.
The pro was that people I didn’t know flocked here because I was saying things that connected. Those closest to me started trying to judge the stability of my mental health by my silly observations. I have the same relationship with my blog that I do with preaching in public. I can lead one person or a million, but not two…. as in, it’s very easy to talk to people I don’t know. People I do know tend to think that they are excellent detectives. Not once have they ever been right. They are right that occasionally I do spiral out, and as bad as they think. But not when.
The difference in my writing voice is not mania vs. depression. It’s “in the creative zone” vs. “I haven’t written in X number of days and I am itching to get everything out.” The other differences that are seen as lies are actually easily explained without being excused. I can only write one line at a time. My mind is a multi-core processor. Every time I tell a story, it includes thoughts from all the cores and not just the one I was using at the time the story was originally written. My details don’t get larger or smaller. They just get more dense…. or in layman’s terms, “I can bring the receipts. I don’t just make shit up.” Well, unless I’m preaching. One of the funniest things my little sister has ever said was “DAaad? Wassat true, or were you just preachin?'”
Returning to this moment, it’s foreign to me that someone wants to date me… will hold my hand walking down the street, will give me quick kisses and put her arm around me as if we’ve known each other our whole lives. It’s been 10 or 11 days. Nothing is being rushed about our relationship. It cannot be for all our sakes. We’re not thinking for two, exactly. Well, we are, but it’s not the two of us. I have an activity to do and she has a bag and a water to hold.
I’ve thought about kids two other times in my life, and shut the door permanently. I can’t remember what year it was that Dana and I went to the OB/GYN to check and see if we were good to go, but I was much younger then……. even still, it would have been a geriatric pregnancy. I am almost positive that if I had to make a choice between getting an abortion and having a child would be torture, because some kind of trauma was probably involved. I’ve also wanted a child since before my mother died, but I know my biological child would look like her even if the biological father didn’t. The flip side of the coin is that I would be much crazier than advertised if I decided to carry the pregnancy to term. I already have to choose between physically and mentally sick (physical drug side effects). A pregnancy would make that distinction as clear as it could possibly be. Both my medications (I think) are pregnancy approved…… but what if they don’t work for me while pregnant? Yes, I have thought a lot about this. Maryland has everything I need if something were to happen here, but I go to Texas more often than I travel anywhere else. Southern men are typically sweet and genteel. If they are liberal enough that they don’t have a problem with homosexuality, sometimes the flirting gets intense because we both know it’s not going anywhere.
If they’re a conservative crazy, and the percentage on that in Texas is not zero, it’s not impossible that they’d say they love Jesus while shooting me in the chest, or letting me live but raping me because “you’re only a lesbian because you haven’t had a real man yet.” Let me really drive it home for you. After the shooting in Colorado Springs, I had a panic attack. I was filled with survivor’s guilt. My only accomplishment that day was living in Maryland. I met my girl not long after, and it was like coming up for air after free diving. When she kissed me, I remembered what I was fighting for. I fall asleep thinking about her, and all I would do to keep myself strong so that she can lean on me. It’s all any couple wants. That the idea of support in government via marriage tax breaks and support in community through erasing prejudice is just crazy and we have to tear down all the progress we’ve already made is Looney Toons. Of the two, though, I’d rather have the love and support of the community. I’m kind of over entangling marriage and the government. Laws can move legal protections. They can’t change hearts and minds because that’s not what they’re designed to do.
As for me and my girl, we’re being careful not to become examples of the lesbian U-Haul stereotype. It’s good for the kids, but we see why it’s not that big a deal for other people (especially if it’s just the two of them in a very large house). Because of our shared language and library of images, I believe we could move in together tomorrow and with some counseling, make it work. There are multitudes of things that make us unique, but we are also extraordinarily similar. Both musicians, birthdays five days apart (although she’s four years older), both fluent in church lingo for an amazing understanding of my life before she arrived. It’s a whole bunch of things that would make us able to start off with good communication and get better at it, not constantly trying to make it work and needing counseling to keep from throttling each other. Getting by is just not the goal, though. It’s both of us thriving and growing together and not at each other’s expense.
Actually, there are ways in which it would be eerily difficult to tell us apart. There are others that are wildly different, but not in any way that would cause conflict. The kind where her life experience differs greatly from mine and brings a whole new skill set to the table. At her core, she’s the kind of peacenik musician you’d find at Interlochen and Julliard, but of course she also had to go through a program physically designed to make her fail to get into this professional-level program. It’s akin to winning a chair in a major symphony (or medalling in the Olympics). By contrast, I synthesize ideas very fast and often throw out thoughts before saying “do you have the bandwidth to listen to……” I am also highly adept at taking on the emotion of every person in the room, and thus have inside information as to their motivations. I’ve always had instincts in that direction, but I’m deadly accurate now that my bullshit detector has dropped.
Speaking of taking in the reaction of everyone in the room, my favorite thing is still being the only one not drinking. Sometimes I do, but I think it’s more exciting to relax with a non-alcoholic beer (especially in a glass) so that people forget two things. The first is that you’re not really drinking. The second is that you’re a diarist. You’re not talking to a reporter, but definitely reporter-adjacent. At parties, if I don’t know you and you have a dumbass attack in front of me, you’re probably going to become a funny story on this web site. If I do know you, I’ll at least ask you if I can write about it because you can laugh about it and I’m not hitting a real nerve. Live and learn.
I feel so good around my girl that it’s a great surprise she’s told me I do things for her that help. I don’t feel as if the relationship is one-sided. I feel wanted in a way that I haven’t in years, that I am a priority and she drops everything for me the same way she checks out of our relationship when we’re apart so that other people also get her full attention. It’s priceless, and feels healthier than trying to manage five conversations at once.
I honestly forgot how much all people need these feelings. I was so focused on independence that I forgot about interdependence, and how nice it can be as well. I’d let the pendulum swing too far into loneliness… particularly because I didn’t notice I was lonely. I used to be the real life Linus Baker, just American and not British…. also not from the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, but that’s neither here nor there.
Now, my life feels whole. I have amazing friends, and a chance at a real thing with someone I’m crazy about. It didn’t feel real until she told the kids, though. Doesn’t matter that she only told the kids she was dating someone. Fine for them not to know it was me specifically. It just made me feel important that she thought our dating life was important enough to mention. Maybe now she’ll let me have diet soda at her house (I can hear it now… “friggin’ sopranos…..”). Even if she doesn’t, there are times when I think my heart can’t get bigger; it always does.
Like when she took me to Ingrid Michaelson and held me while Ingrid sang… some dates are close to magic… when you can feel the night stretching to accommodate your wishes. We went for half smokes and fries at Ben’s Chili Bowl, then walked to Jeni’s ice cream for a “nightcap.”
The next day we took in a matinee of “Into the Woods,” and then it was time for her to go back to her real life. It was so hard to let her go, knowing that I was stepping out on faith that we’d find a way to keep seeing each other if our paths aligned.
My faith is in this being the start of something big. She feels the same way, but I don’t want to speak for her on anything more than that. Wanting to be together for keeps if we continue being successful at communication is the one thing I don’t have to fact check. How we feel is deep and intense, passionate in every color across the Scandinavian sky. At the same time, I’m 45. She’s older than me. Combining lives is not an easy process, and when kids are involved, sometimes love isn’t enough. Unclear communication regarding division of labor kills a relationship faster than lack of love ever will.
I have issues with having brilliant ideas and an interesting relationship with follow-through. Luckily, my girl has plenty of experience in dealing with people close to her that have mental health issues. My girl can recognize a coping mechanism and roll with it, or help me create one. I will never get over the idiosyncracies that my mental health presents, but I can always use more cognitive behavioral therapy to make it manageable. It’s the same with medication. I take meds to make it better, but it’s a pill…. not a magic wand.
There’s one last connection that we have that I can tell you about, because it’s probably the thing I feared the most in putting myself out there in terms of dating. My grief is deep, It is ever-present. There is no moment of any day that I’m not away from it. It’s a constant dream, waking and sleeping. Her mother is dead, too. So much I don’t have to explain when we share that particular frame of reference. You just join the shittiest club on record. It’s something you literally can’t explain to anyone else who hasn’t lost a parent, because the feelings are too deep to put into words. Losing anyone is painful. Losing a parent rewires you from the inside out. Putting things into words gets easier over time, especially for writers because they’re constantly exorcising their demons whether it’s fiction or not. My girl and I are also in roughly the same place in our process. It’s not overwhelming anymore. It’s a dull buzz that’s occasionally triggered into an alarm. It makes our music connection that much more intense and primal. If you know me in real life, you got here several paragraphs ago.
I need to write this down for posterity, because it is a moment I’ll never stop treasuring. I remember her sitting on my couch. I was kneeling on the floor so I could look into her eyes. It was too much. Too powerful. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. I said, “thank you for bringing the music back.”
Nothing you could say could tear me away from my girl.
It hit me all at once that I was dating someone my mother would have loved and wanted to adopt. James Lipton was famous for asking this question from the Bernard Pivot questionnaire…. “If heaven exists, when you arrive at the pearly gates, what would you like to hear God say?”
My favorite answer is Harrison Ford’s…. “You look just like me.” My own is a delicious smirk and “see what I did there?”