37. Dirty 30

Dear Jon,

I miss you.  28 year olds aren’t supposed to die of cancer.  28 year olds are supposed to hug their 10 month old sons with arms that aren’t emaciated.  28 year olds are supposed to speak with mouths that still have tongues, to talk sweet baby talk.  Have gentle hands that can wipe baby food off tiny faces.

I miss you.  I am one of a thousand that do.  I see you in your son’s eyes, I still hear you laughing when my brother laughs.  I miss you at the most ridiculous and inappropriate moments because that’s when you would have told a joke to make everything ok.

Could it possibly have been this long we’ve been without you?  Like all of my memories, it somehow feels like a thousand years ago and yesterday at the same time.

I can still feel your hug around me when I was crying in your car at seventeen.  I can still feel your hand reaching up to grab mine as I sat by the last bed you’d ever lie in, comforting me of all things, in my apologies and tears.  I just wasn’t there for you enough.

Happy Birthday sweetheart.

We miss you.  We miss you so.

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36. Stop

Stop!  Stop Stop stop.

I keep telling myself…don’t think it. Don’t dwell on it.  Don’t let your mind wander, it hurts too much.

But I can’t.  I’m losing it.  I’m tearing my hair out, I’m in grief on the ground.

I am only 29, and they tell me I will never have sex again.

Focus.  Focus on your life.  Focus on your investments.  Create your future.  Earn that  promotion, start your own LLC.  Learn Spanish, play guitar, get one of these stupid blogs published.  There’s more to life than romance.  50% of marriages fail!  Most happy people have whole communities I tell myself… I can still have that, even if I can’t have….

Stop!  Stop stop stop!

I am remembering what it was like to smell that spot where his neck meets his jawline.  I am remembering skin all over touching skin, “I love you” whispered into my mouth, my hands at the small of his back, “I love you, I love you”.

Stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop.

I am 29 years old.

Will no one ever touch me again?  Will I spend the rest of my life longing for something everyone takes for granted, cut off by a wall of pain from my own ability to give and receive love.  This can’t be it for me.  This can’t be the end.  Please don’t tell me I have nothing to offer, and never will again.

Stop.

Stop stop stop.

Don’t remember his mouth, his hands, his breath.  Don’t remember how it felt to be held at night.  The lips lingering on the back of your neck, the arms around you, hands holding your breasts and exploring your stomach.  Stop.  Stop crying.  No one can help you, and it only reminds you how much it hurts.

Stop.

Stop stop stop.

32. Doorway

He isn’t the type to show up in your doorway, and that’s a good thing.

When I watch the wrong movie and the man tells the woman he respects the work she does and wants her to be successful because she’s earned it, above and outside of their romance, I cry; he doesn’t come.

When the janitor at work gets me flowers on my birthday that should have come from him, because she still loves me, but he doesn’t anymore, he doesn’t come.

When the rain hits the California ground for the first and only time all winter.  Not even enough to banish the edges of the drought, but enough to finally wash away the heart he drew with his fingertip on my driver side window, he doesn’t come.

He isn’t the type to show up in your doorway.

His pride is more important.  He will tell himself, and he’ll tell me, that it is maturity.  He will save me, really, from the back and forth, the wavering, the heart sucking, gut-wrenching act of pulling myself out of his arms sobbing, knowing somewhere deep down that in the end, all he’ll do is throw back a few too many and shatter me into a thousand pieces just like every time before.  His pride is saving me from suffering of a greater kind.  I know that.

And he doesn’t come.  And he doesn’t come.

And at two am I am up in the living room.

And he doesn’t come.

29. Too.

It isn’t until the morning after – the sunlight streaming through the half ripped out vertical blinds – that I really feel like shit.

I only had one drink last night, followed by a plastic cup after plastic cup of water, and a cold walk in the dark from downtown.  I spent an hour crying on a bathroom floor.  My phone, screaming accusations, but all in text.  He wouldn’t take any of my calls.  Or my thousand requests for Facetime to prove I was where I said I would be.  I was doing what I said I would be doing.  I am frantically texting pictures of my face, my feet, the room, my friends, and begging please.  Please.  I don’t understand.  Why are you doing this to me?  I love you.  Why?  Please.  Please.  And so many other phrases that turned out to just be words strung together that should have meant something but didn’t.

I cried on the cold bathroom floor until three am.  Begging and grasping and completely lost, why would he do this to me?  I didn’t do anything wrong… I love him so much… I asked him if it was ok to come down.  I went out of my way to stay with someone he could be comfortable with… Why is he doing this?  Why is he doing this.  And then I realize he is doing this because he has been drinking.  And I realize this is never going to end.  And I realize I should turn off my phone.  I tell him what I need to say.  Then I make good on my word.   I cried on the bathroom floor until three am. Then I washed my face, turned that phone off, and climbed into Travis’s bed, wearing his old sweats.  I tell myself I am not going to cry there, but I keep crying there, then asking if it’s ok with his girlfriend, then crying again.  He reminds me that the living room is freezing, that his girlfriend is a nice and understanding person, and that we’ve known each other since we were eleven.  Its’ ok.  I cry some more and tell him I’ll try to shut up, but since I’ve cried so much I’m sure I’ll snore.

Travis falls asleep immediately.

Travis snores.

In the morning, when the light shines in too bright and it’s maybe only 3 hours later, we get up, because it’s too light to sleep.  “I want to make you breakfast” he says, because he is a good friend, and because my stomach is empty, and because I have black rings under my eyes and am in desperate need of care.  I tell him that’s sweet but not to worry.  “I have eggs!” he yells, before realizing they’re past the expiration date.

“Eh, whatever” I say

“You really want to take that kind of a chance”

“I’m feeling lucky”

I pause.

“Oh fuck it, I’m feeling the opposite of lucky.  I’m feeling a million times worse than lucky, but I’m feeling so terrible a couple of bad eggs can’t make things any worse”

Travis laughs.

“Everything you say sounds like it’s a quote from a book or a movie or something”

“I think men fall in love with me because of that and then leave me when they realize I’m an actual person.”

He hugs me.  We go to Ralphs for eggs.

We make and enjoy breakfast.  I hand him my phone as it turns back on and ask him if there was anything not hideous or hateful said as it rings 6 or 7 times, indicating all the texts to wade through.  Travis checks the phone.

“No” he says decidedly.  So I don’t read them.

About an hour later, another one comes through.

“Everything after last night just left me more confused than ever…”

And confused myself, I read every last word from the night before until I am unshakable.  And all I do is copy, word for word, the final text I sent before I turned off the phone.

“If you are confused, allow me to clarify.  By the time I come home, I want all of your things out of my house.  I want you to leave your keys on the table by the door, and I want you to leave, and never, ever come back.”

He tells me he can’t get there.  He tells me this.  He tells me that.  He gives a thousand reasons and excuses but he has a functioning car and his crap in my home, so he’d better remove it.  I ignore it.  Travis illegally downloads Catching Fire so I can watch it with my broken body (movies are hard for girls who can’t sit) and it turns out movies where lots of people die are hard to watch after you’ve just had a loss.  I cry, then say it’s an amazing movie, then cry, then say I love Lenny Kravitz, then cry.

Enough people have died in the film at this point and I’m starting to lose it.  I ask Travis to pause the movie and he does.  He has me in blankets with a heater straight on me, and I’m still shivering.  He comes over to hug me while I start to sob.  The hateful words said to me, the loss of love I thought would last, the disintegration of everything I planned around me all over again.  And it’s only because I’m so broken and so vulnerable, only because I’ve been ripped up one side and down the other, only because the nerves are raw and the heart is bleeding, and the dreams are crushed, do I whisper in his ear what I’ve been stuffing into corners, under cheerfulness and positive platitudes, afraid to say out loud for the last four months.

“Jon died.  Jon died.  I could die too.”

“I’m scared”

And he holds me.  He holds me like a good friend would.

28. Wait. Courage.

I’m hiding out from my latest ego blow in a high rise in Portland, with positively nothing worth noting I should be afraid of. I feel like such a shit. Dana has brought me to the Sapphire Room on the roof. The rain sprinkles, turning everything green with blossom while we eat artisanal donuts on top of the world. I’m spoiled, I think. Already, just past 27, I’m wallowing in more luxury than would have ever crossed my wildest dreams as a child.

 
We snack, overlooking the city, as she talks to me about how her family stood her up for trying on wedding gowns. About how they refuse to accept her wife. And as she talks I feel her pain sinking in to my skin, and I want to do something with my body to take away her pain. To hold her hand or touch her shoulder and somehow suck out all those rejections, all those broken feelings, and put them into my own body so she doesn’t have to feel them. She doesn’t deserve them. They shouldn’t belong to her.
Her parents want to love her, but they don’t know how to love a gay daughter. So they keep rejecting her, promising then pulling away, failing to follow through in the most gut wrenching heart-aching ways. And me, white, straight, privileged, and quiet, soaking in the smallest amount of her pain, helpless.

 
I still feel like a shit. Just a few months into finally dating again. Scared of romance. Scared of loving. Recoiling at my first solid rejection.  Riding the wave of the last two years of brokenness. I have considered myself, and having found her, wonder if what she has is something anyone wants.

 

There is just so much I don’t understand.

 
What I do finally understand is that by not knowing myself, I’ve made myself incapable of truly receiving love or goodness in many circumstances, because I react to your presence by becoming exactly what you want me to be. And you, silly boys, love that girl, but that girl isn’t me. Years go by as I try to please you, thinking if I could just be a better person, this would be working. I wake up feeling lonely even with your breath on the back of my neck, wondering why I feel this enormous disconnect. Wondering why no matter how hard I work I can’t make you happy. Ever so slowly, I have come to the realization that I can make no one happy, because it’s impossible. And being some long haired, sultry, joke telling mirage only attracts the type of men who think I can patch a hole in their hearts. But I can’t.

 

Dana knows herself. Or at the very least, she knows she’s gay. And she’s in love with one of the most amazing people I know.  You fell in love with a mind shaker-  a poetry slamming, heart saving, suit wearing, grace giving, soft loving, masterpiece.  To find love like that, you don’t want to hide it. You want to scream it.  You can’t hold it in anymore. Nor should you. To hold yourself in a box to try to gain love for what you’re not… oh god… what a misery. So much time spent trying to live with half truths and half loves and half acceptances from the most important people, afraid that if you draw a line the ones who should love you the most will turn their backs and leave you completely.

 

And they might.
They really, truly might.

 
But if someone doesn’t love the whole you, just the parts of you they find acceptable… polished and pretty, soaking in Jesus, golf clap up to par… are they really loving you at all? Does any of that emotion even crack the surface? Or are you still left hollow inside, lonely for a want of connection, as their love is all focused on a you-shaped cardboard cutout standing ever so slightly to your left. Resembling you, but not you at all. And there you are, grasping towards that cutout. Frantically patching it’s dings and dents with a sharpie, clinging desperately to whatever shreds they may give you… and only when sheer exhaustion sets in, realizing that being loved for something you aren’t is to not be loved at all.

 
I have spent so much time presenting acceptable versions of myself to people. Sit still, smile sweetly, hold a Bible, keep your knees crossed. I’ve always felt like I couldn’t measure up to that image, and I didn’t. But I kept cranking out the image of that girl, thinking that if I was just good enough, just once, just for long enough… If I could fight through the exhaustion and hold my head up and get enough A’s and control my temper and speak softly…. if I could only cure this incurable brokenness that was my very existence, the connect would come.

 
Now, here I am, a tree stripped of it’s leaves by the wind, all rough edges and twisted branches and broken twigs. I know myself now. And it’s terrifying. Do I dare tell you that you don’t get to dictate me anymore? That I am who I am and you can take me or leave me? I have spent my whole life assuming that’s when everyone will walk out the door. What will become of me?

 
I’m up in Portland with my married, lesbian, interracial friends, and dear god, I feel like such a shit. I have so much privilege and so little self acceptance. So much is made easier for me yet so little understood.

 
I don’t know what it’s like to patiently love my parents into understanding that I deserve equal rights. I can’t even imagine.  I don’t know what it’s like to be told I’m a lesser brand of human. To know that if my spouse and I had a child, and the person I loved died, I would be grieving this enormous loss, and in the midst of it fighting the legitimate terror that my own children could be taken from me.

 
My only barrier to being myself is myself. Fucking coward. Own worst enemy. Fucking coward. Society tells us a billion things about who we are, who we should be, and what we should become. My society told me that my strength was criminal, my questioning was bold-faced defiance, and my punishment was hell.

 
Being with Dana reminds me that I don’t know shit about being courageous. To know yourself. To love yourself. To know that the truth living in your body is undeniable. There are parts of me I know that the people close to me don’t want to receive. But I’m tired of being anything but myself. There is love to be had, and I want it so badly, I am ripping all the chains apart, clawing through the wallpaper, and when the Audrey Hepburn diamonds and pearls rip from my necklaces and hit the floor, you’ll see me, whether you like me or not.

 
Dana’s parents cannot love a straight girl, because that isn’t who she is. My parents cannot love a Christian.

 
I pause. And I start drawing lines in the sand. You can’t love the version of me you wish existed. You can’t love the girl who agrees with all of your beliefs, because she isn’t me. You can’t love the worship leader, the charismatic party girl, the straight A student, or the sex bomb anymore. Because they aren’t me. All I have is all I’ve got, and you can love me or you can not love me, but today going forward, there are no other options.

 

So I say, hands shaking, eyes welling, but standing firm.

 

Wait. Courage.

27. Truth

The truth?

The truth is that I want to put my mother fucking hands on you. For no reason, after 10 years. For no. fucking. reason. I want to put my hands on you and feel your hands on me, and just kiss. Kiss like we did when there was nothing else we could do. Like when we hid behind quickly closed doors and turned backs.  Like when our secret was the only secret in the universe.

I want to kiss like we did when I straddled you in the front seat of a beat up Nissan, an 18 year old virgin with no knowledge of the universe, no ideas of sex and all it’s consequences.  No innocence lost.  Now that I’m an adult I realize how kind you really were. Five years my senior and a college grad, you never once tried to get up my skirt or unclasp my bra. In the dark we hid, and in the dark we stayed, just kissing and kissing in secret, texting our friends, pretending we were lost downtown, when really at the park on seventh, or the permitted college back lot, or outside your best friend’s apartment –  your hands on my waist my chest pressed up against you – we kissed until beads of water ran down outside the foggy windows.  For months, hiding our secrets, we kissed like this.  You never once tried to push me or press me for more, and I didn’t realize it then but I realize it now, just how fragile I was and how gentle you were with me. You just kissed me. You kissed me and kissed me and kissed me.  And despite knowing I shouldn’t, and how much it could hurt me, I could never stop kissing you.  For all the secrets, all the hiding and hoping and betrayal… I couldn’t stop kissing you until I knew you were moving half way around the world and there was nothing I could do to keep you.

I am twenty fucking nine years old.

I have been engaged and broken apart.
You have been married and long since divorced.

Years have passed between both of these things. And the only reason we are even speaking, after five years of blocked calls, is that I thought you were one of my doctors. But I don’t care.  I wrote my first song about you.

I play Iron and Wine. I lie alone in bed. And I imagine you here. Your arms around me. The insanity of it. The want of you like crazy. The uncontainable need to have you.

Come back to Los Angeles so I can kiss you.

25. Windows.

I want to go to his house and break all his windows. I want to take everything that means anything to him, and stomp it into the ground. I want to punch him in the stomach a thousand times, until he finally hurts as much as I do, and when he does, he will cry out and say “little bee, I had no idea, I’m so, so sorry” and he will remember he loves me. And he will wrap his arms around me. We will cry together and things will be the same again.

 
But they won’t.

 
And they never, ever will.