When I Need A Pick Me Up, by my friend Ryan King

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So In The Middle Right Now

SO in the middle. Let's start with a downer. When I lived in Harlem, before my eviction, I lived on the street one block south of my closest (great)aunt. My mother's aunt. She treated me with love and affection. She had three children, and a bunch of grandchildren. Her grandchlidren are my age. Well, she passed away a few years ago and her son, who had once given me a 20 dollar bill on my birthday (with which I went flying off to see Star Wars in the movie theater to discover I couldn't get in by myself) had come to visit me in my Harlem apartment. He was the only real father-type figure in my family. The other men were older--they were my great grandmom's brothers. So this guy, let's call him Marduke, held a special fascination for me.

Marduke was the father of my closest cousins, so when I hung out with Marduke's son I'd watch Marduke too. What kind of father was he? What kind of husband? What kind of black man? What kind of adult? What kind of homeowner? What kind of American citizen? Clearly, whatever answers I found, I didn't pay attention to. I idealized him because he was in all those roles, and I thought position equated to capacity. Not so. When I was reaching my twenties, I discovered he divorced his wife, had several affairs, and moved down south to leave his children--my cousins. I activated my blind eye and went slogging through my own FUBAR'd life.

So the few years ago when Marduke visited me, he seemed like he had his head on straight. Enough, at least, to tell me a few things about himself. Like his drug peddling and subsequent habit, and his regrets, and his recovery and on and on. Still, I couldn't figure him out. I wanted him to be who I thought he was and it seemed that he now was, or was again. He had never lost his height or his manly stature. He had all his bright teeth and wolfish grin. He had my mother's eyes. But I didn't know what he wanted. He took me out to eat and he expressed interest in my life. He promised to keep in touch. I never saw him again.

On Monday, his sister called me. She had found my number in the back of her mother's address book, tucked away. Her mom had kept all the numbers I had over the years. The one I had in Missouri, the one I had in Trenton, and the one I've had ever since I moved into NYC and got my first cellphone. Marduke's sister is an intelligent, vibrant, verbal, outspoken woman who I've always been fascinated with as well as with her brother. This was another adult black person with children (my other two cousins, brothers, to whom I'm NOT that close with) and a home and a profession. She's someone who lived in NYC all her life and survived (with and then without a husband). I just never grew closer to these people because I grew up a few suburban culture borders away, across a river, and up a state. It was only 25 measly miles, but evidently it was like another continent. I'd take the bus into NYC to go find back issues of comicbooks at conventions, but not to find my relatives.

Well Marduke's sister was calling me to tell me that Marduke had died. I forget how long ago, but she described his funeral and how his kids, my cousins, had scattered his ashes on his mother's grave, and that she was upset that they did it all so privately without telling anyone else. But since this was Marduke's sister, she was going to have her own celebration of his life and draw the family back together before we were all lost. Yeah. Told you she was outspoken. And she's having it this weekend.

THIS weekend. My VACATION weekend.

Well, I'm not going to Marduke's memorial at his sister's house. I need and I want my Geektastic vacation and I'm taking it.

But here's the kicker. She described the details of Marduke's death as she learned them. Marduke was in a boat off the South Carolina shore with a friend. The boat capsized. His friend drowned. He tried to swim to the shore and almost made it but got tangled in the seaweed and lost his life too.

Now ain't that some shit. She told me this about fifteen minutes before my first client on Monday evening. Which, as the Great Scriptwriter In The Sky would have it, our session was on my client's fear of water and refusing to fulfill the sailing lessons from the weekend. I swear to God. There I sat listening to an alive person talking about capsizing a boat on purpose as part of a paid lesson while thinking of my dead cousin who's accidental capsizing cost him his life. Can't make this stuff up, people.

So Marduke's sister tells me he was in his early 70's. As she must be. Or in her late 60's. Either way, I can't get my head around any of this. How does my cousin die tangled in seaweed? How is it that he was IN HIS SEVENTIES?!? Was he seventy when he visited me? How is HIS generation in their SEVENTIES for crying out loud?

And I just can't. I intend on having myself a good time starting today at 4:00pm and not stopping until I report to work 8:00AM next Wednesday morning. Marduke's already dead. Been dead longer than I knew about it. And his children, the cousins I was closest to, didn't think or bother or want to share that information at the time.

And now that Marduke's sister called me, I'm going to go visit her next week and see this celebration of Marduke's life, and of our family, in a more private setting. And maybe what's left of our relationships will mend. And maybe the rest of my adulthood will have some connectivity to it, without the qualifier of religious reconversion to first achieve--in the absence of romance and in the distance between you and I, my internet intimates. Isn't that what family is, for better or worse? It's about being comnnected? Not feeling adrift and helpless and inhuman? I dunno. I guess I'll find out. Or not.

And that's the downer.

The upper is that remember the Day Job Girl? What did I call her? I forget. But she was the girl who used to drift by my office and say hello to me, and say other things like she heard there was this "nice guy who worked here" and blah blah blah, talking about me? And how I believed she did this because she liked me? And so I was to bring her flowers and ask her out, on Scott's recommend? And how I may have done, but now I can't remember? Well, I do remember leaving a few messages for her but she didn't respond, and so like I do, I dropped it.

Yesterday, I found her working in our corporate office! And she had these large braces on her teeth! It was as though I had caught her in mid-transformation! And when she saw me, it was very much like it was when she'd come by my office! She has this way of looking at me as if it's "Wow. He's so handsome!" I mean, she looks at me like she's 14 and I'm Elvis. I swear.

And it occured to me yesterday that all along, I could have just asked her out. No games, no notes, no phone messages left. Just, while she hovered in my doorway, trying to make small talk, sending me more signals than the NJ Transit MetroNorth line, that I could've said "Hey, you want to get some lunch?"

So yesterday I said, "Hey, you want to go get some lunch?" And she said, "That would be great!" And we went and got some lunch. Then after work I stopped by again and gave her a ride back to her place. Where I promptly lost my virginity and every ambivalence I ever had about my sexuality.

Now you know that last paragraph is not true at all. It would only be true if I were a normal person. I probably wouldn't even be a blogger if I could do the events in that last paragraph. I'd just be out living my life and not typing about how many different ways I cannot and have not lived it. And if my stops and starts frustrate you and make you turn away from these pages as it appears to have done the others, I do apologize. If it's any consolation, I wish I could do the same. But it's kind of my life, y'know? I don't get to unBookmark it and escape the frustration. I don't get to tidy it up with the "Age of Aquarius" playing in the background.

But the real kicker is that the Day Job Girl came back on my radar after I decided that girls weren't going to be for me. That because The Past Girl blew me off, that I was just inherently unsexy to women and possibly destined to have a relationship with a dude. And that if I'm to stay honest, the most electrifying sexuality I experience at first glance comes in this package;

And I've learned that there are non-penetrative ways for menfolk to do The Deed that won't drive me screaming from a given bedroom, and that if I'm going to Hell for being homosexual, then I'm going because no matter what I want to do or how I want to appear straight or live straight--no matter how much I want to avoid condemnation, judgment and scrutiny...no matter what I WANT WITH ALL MY HEART, my sexuality is its own entity. Whether this sexuality was forced on me or whether it got jumpstarted by an inappropriate and criminal adult, it just IS. It just is.

And when I face God, with all the layers of human culture and interpretation stripped away, I'm only going to open my heart and say "You know what this is and you know how hard I tried to do what I thought was Your will."

I mean what else can a person do?

Either way, The Day Job Girl can adore me. She can look at me the way I look at Jason Statham. It isn't going to change everything I'm struggling with. I might get to sex her, but it isn't going to make the 30+ years of my constant craving disappear in one puff of heterosexual coitus. Somehow I thought and hoped ... prayed ... that it would. But that just doesn't make sense to believe it will. And I guess my fallback plan was to live with the dichotomy. To have a woman know me and accept me and still be my wife. But how can I do that? Seeing Day Girl Job again, and seeing who she might be--what hopes she might have for her own life--her braces to make her more attractive, her new position to giver her a better life--am I what she deserves? Is that fair?

No, I don't think it is. Life's not fair, but I don't think I want to contribute to its unfairness.

And even as I say this, still I'd love to be able believe for the normal life. Still I'd love to fake my way through it. Still I'd love to pull it off.

I am SO in the middle right now.

But you know what?

I'm really not.


Shades of Scorpio said...

All I can say is ... you just write so honestly. Your words are like a zipper holding in a heart and soul and as you pull it down with every paragraph, everything comes busting out. I think that's an obvious compliment but in case it isn't.....it's a compliment. ;)

Alan said...

I'll take it as a compliment--especially from one who writes so damn well herself. And I'll take it as a consolation too. It feels good to know I can move someone with this Redeemable Life. No doubt that I blog for this reason--for someone to "see" me. Sounds like mission accomplished. And thank you for seeing me, and not flinching. Or for flinching, but not running away.