“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
- Rainier Maria Rilke (via theremina)
There are five things about my life I remember, and think always will.
I remember in kindergarten, I don’t know, close to when I first started, there was this boy who didn’t like me. I don’t remember his name, nor do I remember what he looked like aside from the fact he had longish shaggy brown hair and was pale. He had freckles. Anyway, it’s not that I remember everything but there are things. You know what I mean, you know how it goes. At some point on this day, I guess we were horsing around and he became really upset and angry and he chased me about until I couldn’t run across the grounds for very much longer and I tripped and fell. He was on top of me, straddling me and punching me in my sides. He was so angry. And I laughed in his doughy face. He punched and punched and I couldn’t muster the energy to punch back - it wasn’t as if I was being injured; we were barely children - and I laughed and laughed and laughed. I laughed in the way you laugh when you think you might pee on yourself. I laughed the way you laugh when you can’t stop. And he became angrier until he began to cry because I laughed instead of roaring in pain. He got off me, finally, and walked off sniffling and wiping away his tears. And I laughed some more. This is when I learned not to be afraid.
In the fourth grade, our teacher stopped coming and we were split up amongst all the other fourth grade classes. It was a little shocking because it meant that I wouldn’t see my friends every day in class. We would have different recess periods. I was a little upset. The class I was sent to was in the other side of the building and when my other four class mates and I walked in, the kids from class were so strange looking. And they were all looking at us standing by the door as we were assigned seats. When I got mine, I tried not to make any eye contact with anyone. I’m not sure why. I settled in and saw on the desk next to me a book we didn’t use. This wasn’t good. I dropped my pencil case as I took it out of my backpack and someone at the next desk over reached down and picked it up for me and I said thanks and looked up at the prettiest green eyes I’ve ever seen. She had long strawberry blonde hair and looked like she was white and was so pretty. She smiled at me and said, “You’re welcome,” and she asked me my name, and she said my new teacher wasn’t that bad, and she asked me what I brought for lunch, and that was how I had to learn to talk to girls.
I was in my twenties (I think. Probably, closer to thirty than not. I can’t recall.) and I was on the train back to Los Angeles from San Diego. I had, maybe five dollars in my pocket and hoped it was enough to get me home from downtown. My head hurt and my lip was cut and my clothes reeked of booze and smoke. My backpack on my lap, a paperback in my hands, but I couldn’t concentrate enough to read it. Just a few hours previous I was let out of jail after two days. Something about disorderly conduct and public intoxication and minor private property damage. I felt like I was wearing my shame as a thin film all over my body. It was terrible, and even now, every time I think about it, I feel a little embarrassed and rather guilty. When the train pulled into Union Station, this is when I began learning from my mistakes.
I don’t remember when I first realized I wanted her to marry me. Is that weird? I mean, I think I sort of knew, but if I were to put a date on when I decided that I wanted her to say yet, I’d be lost. After three years, you get used to someone being around all the time. It’s who you call every moment you can, and who does the same, just because. It’s knowing that I want to do X because she wants to without feeling a sense of duty. I can’t really explain. Can you? I’d think not. We were somewhere in Seattle because we wanted to take a trip somewhere. I don’t remember how we settled for Seattle. We were walking back to the hotel. She wanted a shower and a drink. We walked past a little huddle of office ladies smoking, each of them with a Starbucks cup in her hand. She laughed and I laughed after we past. She said, “My god, did you see? They were all wearing the same outfit, just different shoes? Maybe you have to look like a has-been Florence Henderson to work there.” And I thought for a moment, right then: I want her and I to laugh together without saying a word forever. I stopped her and asked her if she would marry me. She looked at me and said yes right then. I mumbled something about not having a ring. She said she didn’t care, and she kissed me. This was when I learned to be happy.
In a hospital just a few years ago, it was the whole thing: machines beeping ad wheezing along with my breathing and my heart, tubes up and in me. It wasn’t that terrible, but I couldn’t do anything. Of course I was scared, who wouldn’t be? I remember the wife and kids looked so sad every time they came. They tried not to be - they smiled even though I knew and they knew there was very little to smile about. They would talk to me as if I could answer back. They talked to me as if I was just laying in my own bed on Sunday morning. And I wanted them to stop all of that. Maybe they didn’t think I could understand what they were saying. Maybe they thought that I wanted to be treated the same way as always, when all I wanted was to yell at them, “I’m stuck in a fucking hospital bed: everything is not the same as always!” But I couldn’t. No one ever said anything to me about how I was slowly dying. Slowly, yes, but definitely dying. It’s not as if it’s any big surprise: you can feel life leaving you, even if it is in little terrible and painful stages. And even thought my family and doctor were infuriatingly frustrating, I looked back and thought, “Shit, I don’t want to die, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Wish I could tell them all to live well and enjoy their life, and maybe even think of me from time to time.” I would say, “I’m okay. I will be fine, and so will you. I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again, but if I do, it has to be somewhere better than here.” That’s when I learned there is somewhere better than here.
[so. that’s roughly 25000 words, give or take. i’m glad it’s over, but i’m beat. thinking on the fly isn’t one of my strong suits. but, most of it was fun, some of it i hate, and some of it i love. frankly, if i remember correctly, i thought this was fun because of you all who fill this little space of the internet for me. so, thanks. lost a few of you along the way, but that’s okay: as always, it’s the story that matters. and if you read along with me, you get a special place in interweb heaven (is there an interweb heaven? it’s 2011, you’d think someone would’ve made one up by now if not.). anyway, thanks again, and good night.]
[off to vegas…three stories on monday…!]