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.

The War Daniel in His Own Words

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.

Especially children. 

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.

          

Lopez, Island.

Trigger Warning: Teen Sex Abuse

I told you earlier that a friend was doing guided meditation on me, went down to the point I could, then pulled in a humorous story about Sam because I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t tell you another story in which I felt emotionally abused, because I was a ninth and tenth grader. At the time, I thought I was making friends.

I wasn’t. I was an accessory. The person chosen to sit in the classroom so that one of my friends and our teacher could get away with an affair. I unwittingly protected a sexual predator who was actually fucking one of my friends and I didn’t say shit. I don’t feel guilty for two reasons. The first is that I was never older than 15 in their presence. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d stayed at HSPVA, and I don’t mind saying where it happened because I found out later that everyone knew. The second is that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with someone 11 years older. In my head, we’d each found love. Neither my friend nor I knew it was toxic until years later…. and I don’t think my then-love thought of it as abuse, either. I think she thought she was treating me like I treat my own daughter, the one I adopted through the rainbow flag. We are our own country. No woman is an island, to paraphrase John Donne.

Or at least, that’s what I thought about my friend and me. I thought Lopez definitely was…. she could get away with anything and my friend was so lucky. She got everything I wanted and a bag of chips. What stopped it from happening in my case is beyond me, because all the grooming was there. I just got lucky. Whatever it was that stopped her, I think it was positive now. She had me dead to rights back then.

I was just as genderfluid/genderqueer as I am now. I always felt a bit of white knight valor, as if saving her was up to me. It’s a pattern I struggle with to this day. I want to save everyone. Every little girl. Every woman…. and even though they’re a minority in terms of sexual violence, boys and men. I can’t think about children being put through any of this. Even if it’s just grooming that sets up a trigger and not actual intercourse. It’s especially egregious in little boys, because it’s before the weight of the world is on them to be a man. So they’re raped or molested while they’re still young enough to be sweet and affectionate and every bit as kissyface as little girls are…. and then that shit gets buried, because no one wants to hear their pain. Sexual trauma is difficult. It’s even more difficult to exorcise when “being a man” means “cut off all your emotions and never speak of anything but how angry you are.”

I feel it’s another reason I can love Daniel for all he’s worth, which is a hell of a lot. I knew him befoe life broke him. I knew him before anyone ever said “buck up, buttercup.” I had forgotten, but he remembered that our “first date” was to the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas. My mom was with us that day. I know she was, she was one of our substitute teachers that year… actually, I’m not sure that I had a year where my mom wasn’t my substitute in elementary except K-2. So many great memories, and Daniel was there for all of them.

For instance, my mom and John Brennan have both taken me to Egypt. It’s just that my mom was first.

The connection to Brennan is a scene from “Undaunted,” his autobiography. When he was young, he went to University of Cairo. Picturing John at like, 19 or 20 riding around the city high as hell on hashish and getting his ear pierced is just as much of a happy place as Beirut. I have John’s number. Invite him to Cairo, and leave an earring and some hash on the table. What I wouldn’t give to hear his stories, even ones I’ve already heard before, in his own patois.

My mom and dad went to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan when I was small. I have always wanted to walk the Bible like them, and was even more obsessed with the idea when Bruce Feiler published a book called “Walking the Bible,” an atheist’s journey. The ending is too rich to spoil, but he ends up Jewish (Beth dies, he was dead the whole movie, K has a daughter). They brought all kinds of cool stuff home, and then Mrs. Watson had to have her thyroid out.

Enter Carolyn Lanagan with all her cool Egyptian accessories.

Keep in mind this is a *substitute,* okkkkkkk. I have never seen anyone more dedicated to their job. Mrs. Watson was out for practically the whole year, and we didn’t watch a movie once. She ruined me for every sub ever. I never paid attention to any of them. I was a blogger even then, I just couldn’t type.

Though I can’t speak for them, I am sure most of my classmates will remember walking into the fifth grade hallway and seeing the lights dimmed, all the chairs arranged like the rows on an airplane, and the three fifth grade teachers handing out handmade American passports and *personalized* plane tickets. I probably also remember a little bit better than they do because of the time it took to create such a thing.

I am not sure, but I think my mother had a PC at home. I know I had an old one in my room, but I don’t remember whether she just used mine when she needed it. I know that Mrs. Watson had an Apple IIe, but I don’t think my mom used that one, either, because it wasn’t in her classrom. In any case, I was the computer person, so I made *some* of the stuff for her. It’s not like it was hard. It was Print Shop and a dot matrix. I can’t remember what banner it was, but it was something with a plane and a piece of paper that looked like a menu.

It was. The teachers took drink orders.

The cart came by as the lights dimmed and we “took off.” In front of us was a screen full of pictures from my mom and dad’s trip. I saw my mom picking out my souvenirs, and I knew they were mine because I already had them. That day I think I was even wearing my Coca-Cola spoof shirt, the one that said “Enjoy Torah.” We all felt good, literally on air. My mom was really good at that for kids.

It wasn’t until she put me in a terrible position that I started to hate her as much as everyone else who was hurting me, because she became one of them. She saw what was happening with my abuser, and that I was going to be coming out of the closet whether she wanted me to or not. When I was 13, she just gave up. She didn’t know what the fuck to do with a lesbian daughter, so me running to a narcissist was seemingly fine. She noticed, but it was too late. They had me.

Then, when I was 15, she heard me talking on the phone to a girl I was interested in at school. She told me that I would *not* talk on the phone like that, I would not cause my father to lose his job like that. I was terrified. I could cause my father to lose his job? What in the actual fuck are you talking about?

Hell wasn’t that she said it. Hell was knowing she was right.

Or, at least, her fears weren’t unfounded. In the United Methodist Discipline, it says that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” I personally think that being a judgmental bastard of an organization is way more incompatible, but no one asked me. “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.” What a crock of shit. They can’t even hear themselves out loud. They are also perfectly happy for you to attend church as long as you don’t want to get married or ordained or in my ittle 15-year-old mind, both. They’ll also thank you for putting money in the plate while denying you all of these things.

In my case, it’s an eyeroll and “you know we can see you, right?”

If I was still a Methodist and actually cared about the organization, I would have fought tooth and nail for equality. It is criminal how the Church has managed to mangle Jesus’ from “widen the net” into “the gate should have closed after I got in.” No one likes gatekeepers, particularly because no one is good enough to do the job…. which is to destroy the gate altogether.

It was in this righteous indignation that I stopped caring what anyone thought of me. I am one of the most empathic people I’ve ever met, along with every close friend or partner I’ve ever had say that I’m too intense for them at some point or another. It’s not that I don’t feel. I have to cut off my emotions to stay alive. Everything that is a weight on the world feels like it’s on me as well. I’m not egocentric, I was made for this….. sort of. It’s an INFJ’s lot in life.

For me, it’s A LOT in life. I don’t go a second of any day without feeling somone else’s pain. One person’s in particular is wound around me. Another person’s pain is so far inside me no one will ever find it. And then there’s the two women that ratcheted up my libido before it was supposed to be ready.

I was one person’s first choice. I was on deck for the other. One of them was at church. One of them was at school. Women to absolutely rearrange my insides whenever they felt like it. Sometimes it was being particular to me over my friend to ensure that it looked from the outside that she was objective while she was fucking my fourteen year old friend. Sometimes it was flirting that seemed innocent until after my reality cracked.

Neither woman was an island…. or at least, the one I loved wasn’t. She was watched meticulously. She met with my mother and agreed to stay away from me. It injured us both and lasted three days. Because, see, we needed each other… just in completely different ways.

Lopez is an island.

The one true sexual predator out of all of the abusers I’ve known. It wasn’t me, but it felt like it…. especially when said friend wanted to hide the fact that she was in this relationship and probably also thought that she needed to take care of The Leslie Problem in case I got designs on “her woman.”

She was a visual artist. She made up a postcard calling me a predator and saying that I was out to harass/rape/whateverthefuck all the straight girls and made copies. Put them in people’s lockers. Had a shitty picture of e on them and everything. I mean, if you’re going to go to the hassle of making a poster that shits all over me, at least include a picture that actually looks decent.

That is how I eventually turned into an island. I shut down. It just took about 25 years. I didn’t know how fucked up my humor reflexes were until I got called out by three straight women that I love to the ends of this earth, and I blew it. The worst part was only realizing it in retrospect, because I lost all three friendships at the same time.

I am only now being networked again at my own hand. I haven’t had enough strength. I disappeared into myself for every reason imaginable. It’s nice to have a close mom friend, because I don’t have a mom. She’s not my replacement for her, just the one I go to when I have those sorts of issues. It was actually pretty funny, when I asked her if she could answer those mom questions, she said sure…. as long as I didn’t expect her to answer the same way that my own mother would have.

I choked a bit and said, “I think of you and my mother being alike in the same way that Tom Brady and I are both 43.” I have grown since then, I am 45. So has she. Before, she identified as a mom. Now she identifies as a dragon. Or a wolverine. She alternates, but whatever it is, it will eat your face off either way. The fire, teeth, and claws aren’t for me. They’re for anyone who dares try to hurt me. There are several people who I know would be under her pool if need be, but even though she’s a beast, she’s on a leash.

It’s the kind of love that makes me fight for my baby girl just as hard. We’re not blood, we’re queer. This is how we avoid the institutional pain of isolation. I adopted Cora so that I wouldn’t be an island, and neither would she.

Working on My House

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.

Beirut, Lebanon