Where did Bobby go? Where did these lost lovers go? Where will we all go?

Blog Post #166: Goodbye, friends. Thanks for being here.

1/4: “Them or Me?” 

Monday night, I dreamt that I was inside of my parents’ old house, crammed into a room with at least 25 other people. The close confines were spiking everyone’s stress levels, and the air was laced with tension. Without looking outside or turning on the news, I understood that we were all alive in some kind of post-apocalyptic world, and I also knew something else; we were all infected. It went like this: you bit a person, drawing blood, and then THAT person became infected; then they bit someone else, the same thing happened to the next person, and yadda yadda yah. Sounds like a pretty classic horror movie plot, right?

There was one man in the room who suspected that I was pretending to be infected, and he was correct. I was.

 

I exited the house slowly, slipping out of the side door, with a game plan to gtfo of the city as quickly and as quietly as possible. As I descended the porch stairs, our current president stepped in line beside me.

“I need to practice my shooting with a live target,” he shared calmly, his voice even and his tone reasonable. “Run.”

 

I looked over at him, absolutely shocked. Was he really… commanding me to die? For the sake of target practice? I can’t remember my exact words, but I protested. I pleaded with him.

 

But he insisted. “I need to practice; start running.”

 

I looked further out towards the road — we were out in the country, in rural Alabama — and I saw a person and three dogs, right there, maybe a hundred yards away. I paused.

 

***

2/4: Ek Ong Kar 

I peed and then tip-toed into the room, wearing loose jeans, an outer space t-shirt, and tall socks that featured bunny rabbits. My best friend had stumbled upon them inside of a gas station.

“Welcome,” the instructor smiled at me. She was wearing white linen and sitting cross-legged with her blonde hair pulled back into a neat pony tail, looking mid 40s, warmhearted, and comfortable.

I smiled back, rolling my mat out onto the floor and feeling self-conscious over the dirt marks on it; Bruster. “It’s the dog’s fault,” I wanted to explain to the room, but I just flipped the mat over onto its somewhat cleaner side and then plopped down onto it, also cross-legged. I had a friend situated on either side of me.

The instructor explained to all of us that tonight’s kriya was going to stimulate the liver and the kidneys; it was going to help move toxins through the body; and it was also going to help us work through our frustrations, sadness, and fear.

Sounds perfect, I thought, inwardly grateful that I’d chosen to attend my first Kundalini class on this particular evening.

 

“We’re going to begin with a simple movement,” the instructor announced, standing upright and illustrating our starting pose. The movement went like this: stand up straight, and then bend the top half of your body downward so that its parallel with the ground. Secure your hands around the backs of your knees. Keep them there. Breathe in, poke your spine out; exhale, collapse your spine inward. Do this over and over and over and over. 

 

We repeated this movement for a while, and then moved onto others (all in all, there were about 5-6). I looked over at my friends now and then to check in on them; “my fingers feel arthritic,” my girl friend said; “my elbows are on fire,” I responded.

 

“Picture the things you are afraid of, and the things that make you angry,” the instructor whispered. “As you exhale and swing your arms outward, picture pushing these things away.”

 

As I did so, I thought of all of the people; I questioned my self-worth; I accused myself of lacking purpose and direction; I wondered if I was living in the right state, the right home; I asked myself if I was a good person or a bad one and then asked why I feel like a stranger and a burden and a loser everywhere I go. Lay it all to rest, Jace, I thought to myself gently. You’ve exorcised these demons so many times before. Really try to let them all go this time. This yoga shit seems pretty magical, so maybe it’ll actually happen for you.

 

After an hour of vigorous The OA-reminiscent movements, some light chanting, and several still moments of quiet meditation, the instructor asked us to lie down on our mats while she played the gong. I’d been secretly eyeing it during times when I rebelliously left my eyes open.

 

“Close your eyes and let your mind melt into your body; then, let your whole body melt into the floor. Feel the reverberations of the gong move through you.”

 

They were quiet at first — the reverberations. They sounded distant, small. But then they swelled, and when they swelled, they compounded and overlapped, creating dissonant, corrosive waves and spirals that mercifully took me out of my mind. I felt like I was experiencing the very baseline of grief from every single life I’ve ever lived as well as the ones I’ve yet to live, all in a raw and jagged sequence. I cried, closing my eyes and seeing black and then opening my eyes and staring straight up at the low-lying, yellow-white ceiling, and with my eyes open or closed, the single lingering thought in my mind was, where did Bobby go?

 

One of the very last things we chanted (and it sounded more like a song than an emotionless, mono-toned chant) was Ek Ong Kar. Translations vary, but my favorite interpretation is this: the creator and the created are one. My friend had said something similar to me months ago, and it was: we are the universe’s way of observing itself. The two statements paired nicely.

“What you have been searching for,” the instructor murmured, just before the chant began, “is within you; this external power or source you’ve been seeking is right inside of you.”

I found this to be heartbreaking and wonderful. I’ve been lusting after the truth for so long, I sighed, and it’s so elusive — so completely impossible to pin down. But maybe it’s just always felt intangible because it’s so much more simple than I imagined it could be — maybe it IS just lying hopelessly dormant inside of me. I rolled my eyes at the austere ceiling. Now doesn’t that just sound new-agey as hell.

Truth is my identity,” the instructor continued, translating the meaning behind another phrase, and this rang true to me. I repeated it to myself in a whisper; truth is my identity…

 

***

3/4: “Them or Me?” The Conclusion 

Three dogs, one person; if I just point them out to him, he might agree to ‘practice’ on them instead.

I thought about it. I really considered it. But I just couldn’t do it.

 

I said nothing and took off running as fast as I could. I could feel him chasing me; feel his energy touching my back, hear his exhales in my ear. I reached the dogs, leaned down, and asked one of them: “Please debilitate him for me.” The dog understood and cut the man off over near some brush. Meanwhile, I jumped into my car and possibly escaped — I don’t know if I did or not, because at the precise juncture of maybe making it out alive, everything just sort of fell away.

 

 

***

4/4: Goodbye 

I’ve so enjoyed keeping up with this blog; I think I’ve enjoyed it more than anyone. It’s helped me process through so much stuff; travel, break-ups, marriage, divorce, deaths, college, career changes, religious discoveries, and – most notably – the grand gender identity crisis of 2015-6. I’m so proud to be a girl. Now — whether this girl is gay or bisexual or 100%, full-blooded alien has yet to be determined, so stay tuned.

 

And I say stay tuned, but in actuality, what I’m trying to say is: I don’t know, I’m okay with not knowing, and goodbye. I planned on keeping up with this blog forever, because why not? It’s so therapeutic… it’s so interesting; it’s a wonderful and stable part of my weekly routine — a nice and easy exercise in writing, and one that helps me to develop that ‘part’ of my creative side. But I have three reasons for ceasing to blog, and each reason is a person. 

  1. Without meaning to, I hurt my best friend, deeply, in my last blog post, where I gave a very clinical, stripped down and emotion-less synopsis of my trip to the Kingdom Hall. My yoga instructor said last night that, following a kriya, our words become more powerful, and she cautioned our group to only speak the truth and to only speak from the heart. But I believe that pre- or post-kriya, our words — spoken or written — are always powerful, and I hate the idea that any of the words that I have spoken or written have injured others. I took something that was sacred to this person and treated it like it was unremarkable; commonplace; unimportant. This insensitive jab may have been unintentional (I promise it was), but it was still unkind, and as much as I wish that good intentions were all that mattered, they aren’t.
  2. Driving home last night and discussing the blog, my other best friend (who was sitting in the passenger’s seat) mentioned something to me that really rattled my emotions. “Yeah — Chris complained, a few months ago, that you put a lot of stuff about him on your blog that he really wouldn’t want anyone to know about.” I gripped the steering wheel, feeling my spine harden and my neck tense up, and I was unable to speak for a moment. “He said that?” I asked. “Yes,” my friend confirmed. I felt a few things; first, anger, as in why the hell didn’t he just tell me, and then I felt guilt, as in how the hell did I never put myself in his shoes and imagine an ex-spouse spilling intimate details about MY life on the internet? And then I just felt sad. I could feel my arms discreetly slipping themselves back into the cold and heavy trench coat that’s always there, growing mold in the closet, and I so wasn’t ready to wear it again.
  3. During that same conversation, my best friend admitted that he’d read things on the blog that had bothered him, too. Things that had hurt his feelings and made him feel sad.

 

So there you have it; three of my most beloved people in the world shared that my blog has, in some way or another, hurt them, so it’s just not worth having anymore. You know that I love transparency; I think that it’s so good, so freeing, to be honest… to be candid and authentic, and to hold no secrets, but just because I feel that way doesn’t mean that I have the authority to make that decision for other people. And sure; I could try to just tell my story on here, but my story indispensably includes other people’s stories, and it’s not my right to tell their stories.

 

In capping off the blog, I’m setting better boundaries for myself in respecting the privacy of others. Now, I won’t have to worry that friends, present or future, are withholding parts of themselves or details of their life from me in fear that I’ll share it with anonymous others without their consent. I hate the mere idea of compromising and handicapping my friendships for the sake of maintaining a blog, and without the easy outlet and welcome distraction of 2000-word weekly blog posts, I’ll be way more likely to complete the novel that I started on more than three years ago, and I might even take on an exciting new endeavor: beginning my first real work of fiction.

 

I’m going to miss this. More than you can imagine. This blog has been my friend, my confidant, and my lifeline for a very long time. And whether you’ve read one long-winded post or every single one since May of 2010, I want to thank you for your time, thank you for caring, and I hope that you find peace, passion, and happiness on your journey. I hope the whole thing is a wonderful and memorable adventure; that you never stop learning and experiencing new things and that you’re never too afraid to love again.

 

“So what do you blog about?” A new friend asked on Saturday afternoon. We were sitting across from each other, sharing a booth at Golden Temple. I looked over at her — her pierced lip, adventurous eyes, and half-smile.

 

“Everything,” I answered. “I used to journal, as a kid — my aunt told me, when I was maybe 10 and my mother decided to home school me, that I could journal about my life; where I went, what I did… who I hung out with, what I ate,” I laughed. “And after filling up ten journals, I turned to blogging — my first experience with public writing. My blog skimmed the surface, at first… I felt like I needed to withhold some things, you know? But then, over time, I stopped editing out the really personal parts. I quit trying to create a perfect reel of highlights. I shared the intimate details; I confessed everything. And it’s so liberating… getting it all out there. It’s just like laying your burdens down. When I sit down to write, I’m able to sort all of my thoughts into categories, assemble them into cute little short stories, and make sense of everything that’s been making me feel hazy, and then after that, I’m free to move on to something else, feeling clearheaded and inspired. It’s wonderful. I love it.”

 

One last piece of unsolicited advice. :)

One last piece of unsolicited advice. 🙂

 

Love always,

Jace, aka Aun Aqui

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Things I’ve Learned Lately

Because of how much “stuff” I have to catch you all up on, I’ve created an outline:

  • Visiting the Kingdom Hall
  • Visiting a new friend
  • Visiting another new friend
  • Visiting the Unitarian Universalist Church
  • Discovering something about my tattoo artist

 

I’ll try to stick to it.

 

First up…

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One of my honest best friends is a Jehovah’s Witness, and a few months ago, as were riding alongside each other (my bike, much cooler than hers), I offered: “You know… you’re a really great friend.”

 

“Why do you say that?” She asked.
“Because you came out to watch me and my band perform a year and a half ago, dropped into Saturn a few months ago to ‘check it out’ because you know it’s my favorite coffee shop ever, and now here you are in downtown Birmingham, on a 10-mile Trample ride with me.”

 

She nodded. “Yeah… I AM a good friend. I’m interested in what YOU’RE interested in, and I like to show it. Sure would be nice if you’d come hang out with me at a place I like sometime.”

 

I rolled my eyes and smiled, and she laughed, because we both knew what she was talking about.

 

And after a few weeks of turning her words over in my mind, I told my friend that I would go with her to the Kingdom Hall. “Now DON’T get your hopes up,” I warned her RIGHT off the bat. “I won’t be visiting in some kind of effort to ‘find god’, because I don’t think that any one religion has ‘it’. My spiritual objective in this life is to just uncover and piece together the best truths from each religion and denomination that I study and to live my life as kindly and insightfully as possible. So, with that on the table, me attending a Kingdom Hall service with you will achieve a few things: A. it will show that I AM a good friend and B. it’ll be like a social study. For me.”

 

Satisfied with this, she gave me a date, I put it on my calendar, and the day rolled around quickly — last week, on Tuesday.

 

I messaged her that morning: “You know, with your friend visiting from out-of-town, I’d understand if you would prefer that I not show up this evening. That way, you two could have a little more one-on-one time together.”

 

“I’ll see you a few minutes after 6,” she responded curtly, via text.

 

“Alllllllllright,” I breathed out slowly. “So that’s it; I’m going to church again.”

 

We met at a local Mediterranean cafe for dinner first, and I listened to her visiting friend (a beautiful young girl, apparently my age) speak about her international work and travel.

 

“I’m already READY to go back to Maui,” she confessed at one point. “It feels strange, being back in the states again. Like, I dropped into a Walmart a few days ago, and the lights were on… constantly. Consistently. So people could shop. Back in Maui, I’m working in hospitals where electricity is available 25% of the day. The other 75%… we have to figure out how to keep patients, and babies, alive.” She shook her head. “It’s so depressing.”

 

“Welcome to the nihilists club,” I murmured, dipping my spoon into the container of tabouli again.

 

We continued on to the Kingdom Hall, and the service was, in a nutshell, nice, like most church services are. The congregation was welcoming and while the atmosphere felt distinctively conservative, I could also sense the nervous, happy and concealed energy of liberals testing the ceilings, the walls, and floor. The service also contained a nice mix of training methods; a few videos, a couple of role-play scenarios, Bible readings and – my favorite – a short grammar lesson!

 

The message itself, delivered by a guest speaker, wasn’t anything to call home about, but I extracted two helpful ideas that seem pretty universal:

  • Protect your spirituality. Guard your mind. Fight off hypersensitivity, laziness, and immorality. 
  • Seek out people who possess the qualities you desire. 

To comment on the first bullet point, what appealed to me, particularly, was the bit on guarding your mind. The speaker specifically admonished the congregation to resist engaging in sexual immorality and to avoid pornography, but since those aren’t things that I personally “struggle” with, I found a different application for the phrase.

 

For me, guarding my mind means disciplining it; IE, critiquing and controlling my thought process. I have a tendency to ruminate over the past; like a horse that’s been walking a circular track, over and over, SO many times that it’s difficult to go anywhere else or do anything new, I’m so in love with the people that I’ve lost and the pain that I feel without them that I have little ambition or resolve to continue onward with “life without them.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: my life, and perhaps yours, feels like a series of stages. I take on a new role from time to time, drinking down the lines like water and falling in love with the new cast… and then suddenly, it’s show time, and everyone knows when the show’s over except me. As my favorite characters fade into a quick and easy oblivion, I play my best memories of them on repeat until they’re so degraded that my fiction fucks with the reality of it all and I’m just left crying, wondering what’s real, what’s imagined, and who the hell we’ve all become.

But it’s time to move on. Maybe it wasn’t before — maybe I needed to pace the track and reflect on life with them; maybe it was okay to generate such little productivity (outside of writing, keeping a German Shepherd dog alive, and working a full-time job) for a whole year and a half to achieve this level of stability and sanity. But time’s obviously up.

 

To comment on the second point — “seek out people who possess the qualities you desire” — this statement really reinforced a quote that I fell in love with recently. That quote was:

 

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

 

Upon reading it, I immediately located a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down the names of the five people I spend the most time with (it was a fun exercise! I’d encourage you to do the same). I also listed, beside each individual’s name, what characteristics I really liked about or admired in that person. I found that the qualities (recorded in adjectives) I appreciated most were these: adventurous; confident; brave; passionate; easy-going; sensitive; gentle; creative; unorthodox. Then, I asked myself what prominent good qualities I had to offer people and the world, and I boiled it to down to these three descriptors: love; empathy; optimism.

I considered the idea that each person will likely gravitate towards something, or someone, very different from the next. For example, if you long to be rich, you’ll want to surround yourself with wealthy people; if you want to be famous, better surround yourself with ambitious and socially active characters; and if you simply want to be a better person than you are right now, surround yourself with people who will nurture and encourage your good qualities as well as challenge you to better yourself. In the world of self-betterment, I have only one word of advice to offer: Compete with yourself only. Resist comparisons. 

***

identify-as

A few days before this, I was sitting in a friend’s comfy, over-sized chair. Her boyfriend had just left the apartment for a few moments to drop off his laundry and to pick up an order of mozzarella cheese sticks and a fancy fruit-and-cheese plate from Rojo, just down the street. The front door closed; I watched my friend take another hit and then listened to her as she thought out loud: “Sometimes, I feel like a masculine dude,” and here, she paused and flexed her muscles, making me smile. “Other times, I’m like a fairy tale princess,” and she smiled cutely to illustrate. “And then other days, I just… I’m just a cat.

 

“Rabbit, over here,” I rose my hand and volunteered.

 

She looked at me and nodded.

 

“You ARE a rabbit,” she declared seriously.

 

“I wish,” I murmured, considering how much simpler a rabbit’s life would be than my own.

 

“No — with how crazy the world is,” she continued, lighting up again, “you probably are a rabbit.”

 

It was the most beautiful thing anyone had said to me all day.

***

internet-life

On Saturday evening, I was sitting outside of Redcat with a beautiful girl, another new friend. She was talking about lots of things: her partner, who studies computers and plants; her art, which includes sculpting and painting; her travels, from dog-walking in a suburban neighborhood to attending three trimesters in Austria; and then she began discussing social media.

“I check in every few weeks,” she stated, her voice soft, steady, and whimsical. “I used to do so more often, but I’d feel this nagging sense, like I had to check, and it bothered me — for a long time, I listened to it, but then one day, I asked myself: why? Why am I checking again? It was overstimulation; exposing myself to so much news all of the time… having such an intimate view into the lives, problems, and tragedies of others. So I resisted the urge to check and then observed my feelings about it. I did something else instead of checking, something more productive. I would Google a topic and educate myself. Go for a walk. Complete a task.” She paused, took a breath, and then continued. “I wake up sometimes and am unable to fall back asleep; I used to try to force myself back to sleep, but now, I recognize that — fully awake at 3 AM, I must have some kind of extra, free, creative energy, and that I need to do something with it. It shouldn’t be wasted.”

 

The sun was setting, her brown hair was cascading in small waves down her bare shoulders, and I knew that I was falling in love with her.

 

So I said that I needed to go, hugged her goodbye, and walked away without turning around, as I’ve learned to do.

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This is too real, huh?

***

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I went to church again yesterday. Not at the Kingdom Hall, though; this time, I was visiting with a Unitarian Universalist congregation, sitting next to one of my inside-and-out beautiful friends and hoping to catch a real message.

It came about 30 seconds before the closing song, cradled inside of what felt like the most authentic and unrehearsed statement of the morning. And it was:

 

What you say, do, and are in this world matters.

 

I’m sure people have said it, or something like it, before, but yesterday, I heard it for the first time.

An LGBTQ friend of mine posted in an online forum recently, sharing that they were experiencing ‘imposter syndrome’ and that they felt like everyone around them was just putting up with them — like these acquaintances felt sorry for my friend, but weren’t actually interested in being their friend. I commented that I feel like that, too — like an outsider, or imposter, everywhere I go. Whether it’s a Kingdom Hall, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, the uppity Whole Foods grocery store over in Mountain Brook, or one of the credit union branches I train at. I always feel as though I don’t belong. And I’m trying SO HARD to figure out why. Is it perceived only? Or is it real? Is it a lack of confidence on my part (all those goddamned years of homeschooling), or is it genuinely intuitive?

 

So to hear that what I say and do and who I am in this world matters — even if it came from some random guy who has never made eye contact with me — was a friendly punch on the shoulder. And if that punch could have spoke, I think it would have said:

“Your #crueltyfree Instagram posts, your transparency about your depression, your investment in your work, your whiny and strum-strum-strummy original songs, and your long hours spent sweeping and mopping and washing the stupid fucking dishes are all making a difference. Stay here. Stay here so that you can see what happens next.”

***

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I was over in Crestwood on Saturday afternoon, getting a tattoo inside of Aaron’s new shop. I sat down, and he cleaned slashed prepped the area, and then we chatted away while he etched the outline of this new tattoo into my skin.

“There’s a comic book I wanted to tell you about,” he said while he worked. “Because of the conversation you and I had the last time you were in here.”

 

“Oh yeah?” I signaled for him to continue.

 

“Yeah — it’s getting a bad rap in the literature world right now because of some questionable content, but it’s basically about a girl who’s exploring her identity — her gender, her sexual orientation — all of it. It’s very empowering. When it came out, I thought of you.”

 

I felt like crying. Not only did he listen to my incessant rambles during tattoo time, but he actually remembered what I said, and he obviously cared.

 

“Do you have it in your shop?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I’m buying it today,” I smiled.

 

He finished with the outline and then paused to dip the needle into a new ink color, and as he paused, I ventured a quick look down at my wrist.

 

“Whoaaaaaa, shit; is that REAL blood?”

 

He looked scared. “Yeah —–

 

“Neato,” I whispered. I could feel Aaron looking at me.

 

“Do you… want me include a few drops of blood in your tattoo?”

 

“Well, the shattering bunny glass DID make me bleed, and life is painful, so yeah. Let’s do it.”

 

He laughed. I did, too.

 

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5 Short Stories, 5 Simple Lessons

  1. Seek out people who possess the qualities you desire. While you’re at it, control (aka discipline) your thoughts; whip those suckers into shape. 
  2. You are whoever (and whatever) you imagine yourself to be, so don’t value or gauge yourself, your abilities, or your worth based on the real OR imagined perceptions of others.
  3. Don’t squander your short bit of time here on some e-version of life.
  4. You matter, and every time you choose to stand for something (politically, socially, or otherwise), you’re making a layered impact on others — directly, indirectly, and subconsciously.
  5. People care about you (and I’m not talking about your mom; I mean people you wouldn’t imagine care about you care about you). Isn’t that wonderful?

 

Still Here (and attending a Kundalini class with friends tomorrow so that I can really purge this shit from my mind),

Aun Aqui

Dream Chronicles: “You and me and the weird mango chili”

I dreamt about you last night.
I was in our old apartment with my new best friend. It was dark outside, and although no one had knocked, I had the feeling that someone was standing outside the door, waiting for me. I opened the door, and no one was there, but when I leaned my head out and looked further out, I saw you standing there, facing the street; I could see your long hair falling down your back and a suitcase on either side of you. I already knew who you were, so my first question was: were you moving in or moving out?
I recalled that you’d already moved out, so I understood this — the baggage — to mean that you were moving back in.
I was overjoyed. I walked down the stairs, barefoot; you turned around and said that the two of you, you and your now girlfriend, had broken up. I took you in my arms and held you; I told you that I would be there for you. I whispered that you two might still be able to work things out, not to worry, and I promised that, no matter what, I would be your best friend and help take care of you.
And I remember realizing that, although our touch wasn’t even remotely romantic, holding you again was absolutely euphoric. One of the very best feelings I’ve ever had.
I had made plans for that evening, but, at your arrival, I dropped them instantly. I think that I forgot to call, or text, the people with a cancellation and apology. Instead, I drove to the store with you in the car, beside me, and we picked up items for a homemade vegetarian chili; you said you wanted to put mango in it, which I thought was weird, but you’re a self-proclaimed chef, so I didn’t question you. I was just so happy to be in your life again, as a real friend. I was so glad to have those awful pretensions and barriers removed.
And then I woke up so damn quickly; of course it was a dream.

The mango-infused chili isn’t marinating in a cold, stainless steel pot in the fridge right now, and you’re still living on the other side of town (but further away than that, really). Come to think of it, I don’t think I even know the zip code.

 

 

Aun Aqui

 

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Tattoo #9, The Shattering Bunny Glass: “Because everyone and everything changes, breaks, leaves, or dies”

To set the stage, I’m stringing together a few of my favorite excerpts from a comic book that I read recently (titled: “So, You’re Going to Die“).

To contemplate the end of ourselves in this world is frightening; to do so without looking for life after this world requires a special kind of bravery. I’ve targeted this book at skeptics for a reason. If you have faith, real faith, in a solid Abrahamic religious doctrine, you should be able to find your solace in your conception of the afterlife. (Or be scared silly by the threat of endless hell fire, but that’s a different comic.) There’s an old chestnut of a story, where there’s a powerful king who is searching for an artifact – or maybe just a bit of wisdom – that would make a sad man happy and a happy man sad. One of his servants brings back a ring inscribed with ‘This too shall pass.’ It’s not just our instincts that tell us to hope for eternity: our culture and religion do as well. I blame my years of faith for leading me to expect things — at least some things — to be able to last forever and ever, world without end, amen. Figure out what makes you happy and do it, because life is interesting.

 

…and it doesn’t last forever.

 

Two summers ago, the water was running, and I was holding a green and yellow sponge in my left hand, passing dish after dish underneath the kitchen faucet; scrubbing the top, bottom, and inside of each item and then placing it into the dishwasher, which was down to my right.

The activity was monotonous and totally mindless, so I was either listening to music — streaming Spotify on my phone — or examining my own thoughts while my subconscious self orchestrated these mundane movements. Eventually, I reached down into the sink and took my number one favorite glass EVER into my left hand, a small glass that pictured a bunny dancing with a strawberry on the front. I squeezed and nudged my left hand down into the bottom of the glass and then began my back-and-forth scrubbing motion, but I must have used too much force, because the next time I looked down, I was jarred back into full consciousness; without exaggerating, blood was everywhere — forming a pool in the glass, flowing down into the sink water, and then extending itself into sickly-looking circles that covered all of the dishes. I felt like throwing up. But instead, I just stood there, completely paralyzed; bending over the sink and staring down at the broken glass in my hand.

 

I’M BLEEDING,” I yelled at the house, informatively.
WHAT?” A pair of feet stomped down the stairs, and then Christopher suddenly appeared beside me, turning off the water and removing the broken glass from my hand in one quick motion.

 

He pushed me up the stairs and made me sit down on the tiled bathroom floor.

“I… I can’t keep my eyes open, Chris,” I stammered, feeling gravity’s force on my eyelids like I’d never experienced before.

 

“You STAY AWAKE, Rose,” Chris grumbled anxiously, fumbling with a bottle of alcohol.

 

“I… I think I’m about to pass out,” I whispered. He shook me, yelling that I had to stay awake, did I understand? No matter what, I had to stay awake.

 

About 45 minutes later, I was sitting stiffly on the couch downstairs and cradling my bandaged left thumb in my right hand. I had calmed down after finally realizing that I wasn’t going to bleed out and die.

 

But immediately after registering the relief that came along with realizing that I was going to survive, another kind of grief settled in: “Oh no… my bunny glass! It’s gone…”

 

Orange juice and chocolate milk could be poured into other fun and decorative cups and glasses, sure, but they would never, ever taste quite the same.

***

I was saying goodbye to John, Charlie, and Jeffcoats at Whole Foods this morning, laughing and waving and spinning around with a brown, paper shopping bag in my hand (and which contained a glass bottle of root beer-flavored kombucha, a small plastic bag of figs and chocolate ginger cubes, and a slightly bruised yellow pear) when I saw the face that always makes me feel like I’ve been living and dying every single day for the last million years.

 

“Be safe out there,” he said in a low voice, patting my shoulder and then brushing past me. I was already walking away; I didn’t know how to turn around, or what to say, so I didn’t do either. I stepped outside of the store and onto the pavement, feeling the ice crunch underneath my feet and wondering if he’d even bother to show up at the hospital if I got into a car crash that afternoon.

 

“I’m sorry you’re probably crying right now,” a text message from my best friend read. I got it when I reached my car. “Remember that you’re not alone.”

 

I let out a deep breath.

 

“It just feels like I’m living in this alternate reality with someone I was best friends with in a previous world or life, and while I can remember them perfectly, they don’t remember me at all. It is horrible.”

***

Let’s rewind a few months.

“Let’s say that you have a FAVORITE glass,” Charlie began, molding the air with his hands and sculpting the general outline of this glass. “It has a bunny dancing and holding a bunch of grapes pictured on it–”

 

“A strawberry,” I corrected him quickly. “It’s holding a strawberry.”

 

“–a strawberry,” he repeated, lowering his head. “Yes, it’s dancing with a strawberry, and you like the size of it, the shape of it, and the way that the glass feels in your hands. It is a PERFECT glass. And you have it sitting there on the table one afternoon when somebody walks through the room, bumps into the table, and sends this glass — your favorite glass — falling to the floor.” He shakes his head sadly. “It shatters into pieces, completely irreparable, and you think to yourself, of course — they would break THAT glass.

 

I nodded my head up and down, like I was sitting in the front pew at church and couldn’t agree with the pastor more; I could understand his analogy perfectly.

 

“But imagine,” Charlie’s voice softened, “that you had known all along that this bunny glass was going to break. That it wouldn’t be yours forever. You already loved it a lot, but wouldn’t you have adored it even more if you had known?”

 

“Of course I would have,” I exhaled, feeling incredibly nostalgic.

 

“That’s how it is with most things. If you had taken that glass in your hand when you first bought it years ago and could have seen that it was already shattered, you would have treated it more gently, paid more attention to it, and loved it even more. I can see that you’re already dead, Jace — that you’ve already died — and that’s how I am able to love you fully right now.”

******

“I already have an idea for the next one,” I emailed Aaron (my tattoo artist) in late November.

 

contemporary-everyday-glasses

 

“I’m not going to tell you the whole story until I’m there, BUT the sentiments behind this one are impermanence and appreciation. I’m attaching two pics; the first includes the shape/style of my fav bunny glass (the bun holding the strawberry — the third one from the left), and the second pic is a close up of that bun on a matching dinner plate. What I want: a tattoo of the bunny glass shattering. I’m picturing it in three disjointed parts, visibly in the process of breaking (like part of it is leaning this way, part that, and there are possibly shards of glass shooting out here and there). Please take this, creatively, wherever you want (like the glass could be filled with OJ orrrrrr nothing). This one will go on my left wrist and, if you aren’t already booked for Jan, I’d love to schedule to have this one done in your cool new shop!”

My appointment is scheduled for next Saturday afternoon. I’ve been saving this placement (the wrist of my dominant hand) for a while, and I’m glad that I waited. Tattoos can serve as conversation starters, special landmarks, beautiful works of art and even gentle reminders, and I believe that they’re more for you than they are for anyone else. Each time I glance down at the shattering bunny glass, I’ll think of my favorite people and things, and I hope that doing so will make me smile. Looking at it will also remind me of something that’s truly important to remember (and I’m repeating the words of a half-assed Buddhist friend of mine here):

“If you like or love something, enjoy it while it lasts; if you don’t, know that it won’t last.”

Whether you’re happy or sad today, this phrase/truth should resonate with (and, I hope, comfort) you.

Still here,

Aun Aqui

20170107_085429

“Me braving 20-degree weather with the dogs yesterday morning” (hey… I’m originally from Florida)

My view from my little nook in the fireplace #eyecandy

I’ve created a little “nook” for myself in the fireplace (does that sound insane?); cooped up in the house because of inclement weather, this has been my view all weekend #eyecandy

img_20170114_191721_595

PS: ^ 1/14/17 pic update! 

20170102_150238

“Just keep asking questions.”

“Am I a person?” I asked.

“No,” they answered in unison.

 

“Good… those are the worst. What about a place?”

“Nope.”

 

“A THING?!”

“Yes!”

 

“Hmmm,” I pondered over my next question. “Am I an animal?” I asked hopefully.

“No, you are not,” Jarrod answered sadly.

 

“Well fuck. That’s a bummer.”

***

On Friday evening, I was driving down Patton Chapel road with two friends: my roommate, Charlie, and my visiting friend, Jarrod. We were on our way to look at a piano. My parents gave mine – a thousand-year-old Kimball – away six years ago when I moved away from Florida, and I’ve been without one since.

We were all making small talk when I decided to pose a question.

“If you could hop into a rocketship and go up into outer space right now, but the catch was that, if you did, you could never come back, would you do it?” I already knew my own answer, and I thought I knew theirs, too.

“No way,” Charlie and Jarrod both answered.

 

“Are you kidding me?” I asked them again, shocked.

“It would be beautiful,” Jarrod reassured me, “and I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places, but as interesting as they can be, nothing is as unique as an individual. And I love people more than places.”

 

His response has been sitting with me for days.

******

“Just keep asking questions,” Jarrod prodded me.

“Okayyyyyy,” I exhaled, feeling exasperated. It was New Years Eve, around 11:30 in the evening, and we were all huddling in the living room together — a fire burning beside us, and plates holding pizza crust lying on the floor in front of us. We were taking turns throwing crusts over at Bruster, and since discovering that I wasn’t an animal, I’d continued to ask questions for ten minutes, questions that got me nowhere, and my patience was running out.

“Am I heavy?”

“Mmmmmm, that’s kinda relative,” he responded.

“Okay, am I as heavy as a refrigerator?”

“No.”

“As Silo?”

“Mmmm… less than that.”

“Am I… in this house?”

“I don’t know…” Jarrod squinted his eyes, looking over at Charlie.

Charlie considered the question for a few seconds. “Yes!” he answered cheerfully. “You are, actually.”

My hope revived. “Okay… am I in this room?”

“No,” Charlie answered.

“The kitchen?”

“No.”

“MY ROOM?”

“YES,” he smiled.

 

“Great,” I grumbled. “I’m in my room. There are like a thousand million things in my room, and I’m a thing that weighs less than Silo.”

Jarrod shrugged. “Keep asking questions.”

*********

I was standing in the kitchen Saturday afternoon, preparing lunch, when Jarrod walked into the room, leaned against the counter, and asked: “How are you feeling?”

I looked over at him, a little surprised by the question. “I’m good…” I answered slowly.

His gaze was gentle. “You just seem a little sad.”

I was surprised, again, by his perceptiveness. “Honestly Jarrod, I am a little sad. Talking with you about Chris earlier this morning, when we were at Urban Standard, just made me feel a little down.”

“Why?”

I stirred the elbow noodles inside of the pot slowly, cautious to position my hand safely above the rolling, boiling surface of the water.

“I just miss him.”

 

I’d spoken with Chris on the phone the week before, unexpectedly. During the conversation, I told him – while struggling to control the emotion in my voice – that I “just” missed him.

“I know,” he responded.

But do you know how it feels — to tell somebody that you love them, that you miss them, that you would rip your heart out and hand it over to them in a heartbeat if they needed it, and then to have them respond, I know? 

It feels like you’re at a restaurant, sitting across from your very best friend, spilling your deepest secrets and sharing your wildest dreams while they’re staring down at their phone.

It feels like you’re standing beside them in a line somewhere, talking about how excited you are to see this new movie or how thrilling it’s going to be to hop into this rocketship, and when you look over at them, their eyes are glazed, like they’re wishing you were someone else, like they’re dreaming that they were there with someone else.

It’s like taking both of your arms and wrapping them around this person, telling them that they are so special, so exceptional, so important, while their hands and arms just hang there, lifeless, at their sides.

It’s like telling a wall, I really wish you could just love me a little, and watching it as it doesn’t blink, doesn’t speak, doesn’t budge. And you know, in your heart, it’s a wall — it will never love me at all, because it can’t.

 

“Don’t think that Chris doesn’t miss you,” Jarrod offered quietly, interrupting my inner downward spiral. “He’s just dealing with things in his own way. With how long you guys were together, there’s no way he couldn’t miss you.” He paused. “Nobody could meet you and not love you, Jace.”

************

“I honestly just want to give up,” I pleaded. “Just tell me what it is so we can be done.”

“You can’t give up!” Jarrod exclaimed. “You’re going to be SO mad at yourself when you find out what this is… you can definitely guess it!”

I looked at him, and then at Charlie, skeptically. The fire in the room was crackling lightly, the log now half of its original size; I just couldn’t think of what to ask next.

“Here,” Jarrod offered encouragingly, “let me give you a few clues.”

“Okay,” I leaned forward, clearing my mind and fighting to stay awake.

“You’re one of a kind; no one else in the world is you. You chose you.

I raised my eyebrows.

“I know,” Jarrod smiled, “that doesn’t really make sense.”

“Nope.”

“I’ve seen you move things,” Jarrod continued, “and light fires. I’ve seen you comfort people; I’ve watched you destroy things.” He was quiet. I held my breath. “You are tangible, concrete, but you represent something that only exists in a fictional world.”

I felt sad upon hearing this, like I’d lost something that I loved — something crucially important that I’d never even seen. “What? You mean I’m not real?

Jarrod, who had drank at least two bottles of Blue Moon, looked at me with sad eyes. “People wish you were real. Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” he turned to Charlie, “if it was real?”

Charlie nodded solemnly.

And even with all of these hints, I was still absolutely clueless.

***************

I was walking in the rain today. I knew exactly where the umbrella was — lying on top of my leather jacket, on the floor of the passenger’s side of my car – but I didn’t care to retrieve or use it; the raindrops — cold, small, and sick of trying to hang with the clouds — felt wonderful on my skin, felt perfect, making my hoodie heavier, my lips quiver, my hands shake.

I sat down on a bench that was at the edge of the park and watched a train go by, remembering two weeks before, when I’d been watching a train pass with Ryder.

We had been standing on a bridge, looking down as railway car after railway car hurtled along beneath us. We talked about jumping onto a moving train; how to do it safely, how long to stay on, how we could safely get off…

I squealed with delight a few times, imagining doing something so brave and dangerous and uncharacteristic; jumping off of a bridge and landing onto a train. I wished I had the guts to do it, but my mind was too concerned — there were too many questions I couldn’t answer, like: lying on top of the train, would I have enough clearance to make it safely underneath the next bridge, several hundred yards ahead? How would I get from the top of a box car to the bottom of the train? And then, once I did, how would I safely jump off? What technique would I need to use — what speed could I do it at? And if I jumped off, would I land on glass — get cut, get infected, get some kind of disease? If I was unable to jump off and got stuck on the train for as long as it was in motion, where would it take me? How would I get back to my car, and my dogs, or report to work on time the next day?

 

Today, sitting alone and watching another train move slowly by, I cried. The tears were hot, and they made my whole face feel hot, emanating a warmth against the rain. I was wearing earbuds and listening to one of the last original songs Chris and I ever recorded together (you can listen to it here, if you’d like), and I was mourning losing yet another best friend.

It took you seven years to stop pining after Melissa, I reminded myself. How long until you get over this one? 

I love him more than I loved her, I answered, so I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. 

******************
I just don’t know,” I whispered, feeling truly desperate. And not knowing made me feel bad; I wished, so badly, that I had the depth, the imagination, the intelligence and the determination to discover what I was in this game. But it just wouldn’t come to me, and I felt tired of trying to lure it in.

“Come onnnnnnn,” Jarrod cheered me on. “You’ve learned a lot so far — you know that you’re a thing, that you’re powerful, that you are unique to your owner, that–”

 

“Wait,” I sat up quickly, feeling dangerously hopeful. “Am I a PATRONUS?”

 

Jarrod looked confused. “A what?”

 

“Oh, you knowwwww… the Harry Potter thing…”

 

His eyes widened. “Oh — no, not that, but that was a VERY good guess. A very, VERY good guess. Back up just a little, Jace.”

 

I thought about it, beginning to feel despondent again, but then I looked up.

“Am I a wand?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“….yes?”

 

“Yes,” he repeated.

 

“Like, ‘I’m on the right track’ yes, or yes, that’s what I am?”

 

“That’s what you are,” he smiled.

 

I couldn’t believe it! I took my headband off and read the word he’d scribbled across the card. I was a wand.

20170101_094332

 

I’ve seen this thing move things, light fires… comfort people and destroy things… and everyone wishes this was real; wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was?

***

I dried my eyes and raised myself off of the bench. I looked at the people walking around the park; there were only a few today: a couple in workout clothes; a little girl with her father, who was running along ahead of her, trying desperately to make a kite work; a security officer; an old man with a limp.

 

I had noticed the old man earlier — not because of his limp, but because of how well he was dressed; wearing shiny brown shoes, a corduroy cap, khaki pants, a green scarf, and two other, layered shades of green, he looked very handsome. And I was actually approaching him, because of the direction I was walking in, and as I began to pass him, we both looked over at each other and smiled.

 

I whispered hi, and I thought I heard him ask me a question — it sounded like: “You enjoying the day?”

 

So I unplugged one of my earbuds and offered: “Beautiful day! I don’t mind this rain at all.”

 

“Me neither,” he nodded in agreement, leaning heavily onto his right hand, which held the cane. “I used to work in it a good bit.”

 

“Oh really? Where did you work?”

 

“US Steel,” he responded, “and one day, I was working out on the tracks — trying to reattach an engine that had derailed itself — when I felt the rain coming, not in drops, but in waves.” He stopped walking and placed his left hand on a telephone pole, stabilizing himself. “Turns out, I was working in a tornado! But I had no idea,” he continued, shaking his head. “No idea until I turned the news on later that evening.”

“That’s insane,” I whispered. “I guess it would be hard to tell if you were right in the middle of it.”

He nodded.

We continued chatting, and then he said: “My name is Elijah.”

I smiled. “My name is Jace; it’s nice to meet you, Elijah.”

*

I was leaving an Indian restaurant Friday night when the waitress – someone who I can only describe as looking intrinsically magical – came by the table to drop off our checks. “2017,” she whispered excitedly, smiling and shaking her head softly. “What year would you go back to?”

Jarrod and Charlie both responded, and the waitress shared her answer, too, murmuring that she’d return to 2013 because something very special had happened that year. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was, and if she hadn’t had so many other tables to tend to, I would have asked. I listened to all of them as they responded and then I gave my own answer.

“2010,” I said out loud, thinking to myself, I would go back in time and not get married. 

But that didn’t sound right.

“Actually, 2015,” I corrected myself. I’d go back in time and not get divorced, so that Chris and I would still be best friends right now. But that didn’t really sound like what I wanted either; if I hadn’t got divorced and given myself a whole lot of space, I would have never come to the realizations I have and developed into the more real and more sane person that I am now…

“I… I honestly just wouldn’t go back at all,” I answered for the third time — but this time, silently. “I don’t want to change anything. I just want to keep going.”

I scribbled a tip and a quick note onto the receipt before she grabbed it.

“I hope that 2017 is as magical for you as 2013 was.”

 

Jace

Aun Aqui

Still Here

20161217_120227

I found god; dude was sipping on a frappuccino.

 

I have a surprising bit of news to share, but before I deliver it, 4 quick things.

 

  1. Jeopardy Contestant: What is… exhausted?
    I was out of commission for about a week last week, thanks to a throat-throbbing and head-pounding illness that pops in on me once each winter. On day 4, I was downstairs in the kitchen by myself, brewing tea. While the water boiled and the kettle worked its way up to a high-pitched whine, I prepared a mug by rinsing it out, picked a tea bag out of a multi-pack containing 4 different flavors, and sliced a lemon-yellow lemon open. I then set the tea bag down into the bottom of the mug, squeezed fresh lemon juice on top of it, and reached for a squeezable bottle of pure, unfiltered honey. I squeezed and I squeezed and then I realized, as I watched a devastatingly tiny trickle of honey drizzle out from the nozzle, that squeezing this bottle of honey was the most tiring thing I’d done all day. It felt like the 10th mile on a Thursday night bike ride. After days of doing nothing but holing up in the house and battling illness, I was that exhausted. So I paused, setting the container down onto the counter and taking twenty seconds of stillness to power back up, and then I picked the container back up from off of the counter and continued draining honey from the bottle, the kettle now screaming at me in the background.
    jeopardy

  2. “This painful reminder brought to you by multi-factor authentication.”
    It happened pretty recently, but I can’t remember what I was logging into, exactly; whether I was checking on my finances, printing off updated insurance cards, or paying on a utility bill.. but while in the process of logging into whatever, I was subjected to a sort of identity verification process. “Correct password! Now, let’s move onto something a little more personal. What was the name of your childhood best friend?”

    I sighed and typed in the answer I always have, and as I did so, it suddenly hit me: the answer is never going to change. This is the answer I’ve always typed in and always will. 

    I guess I’d never thought about how I’ll be thinking about Melissa so far off into the future — but when I’m 47, logging into my online banking, or 63, logging into BWBB, or 81 and signing into the OSEC (Outer Space Enthusiasts Club), I’ll still be thinking of her. Remembering her. Who was my childhood best friend? Melissa, of course. It will always be her. I can’t rewrite history. And while I don’t miss her the same way I used to, I still feel her vacancy. Poignantly.

    1916405_1269599813958_1692661_n

    2009, right before the allegorical shit hit the allegorical fan.

  3. Just focus on something else. 
    When I was sick last week, my best friend, Charlie, was very attuned to my needs. “Need a cough drop?” “Want some more tea?” “Can I warm up some soup for you?” “Need another blanket?” He checked on me daily and, one morning, he asked for a status update: “So how’s the throat doing today?”
    “Ehhhhhhhh, it’s still sore and sandpaper-y, but it’s MUCH better than yesterday,” I answered, sniffling but smiling a little.
    “Well how does your left hand feel right now?”
    I paused. “Ummm.. it’s fine.”
    “Okay, good,” he responded quietly. “Then try to think about how your left hand isn’t hurting and it might help your throat hurt less.”
    I laughed at his ridiculous optimism, but I tried it out and I’m surprised to report that it did help. Just a little. And I figure that that’s a trick you can use in other situations, too; bummed out over something? Validate that feeling of pain, anger, or disappointment, but don’t spend too much time dwelling on it; give yourself a break by refocusing your attention elsewhere and by re-channeling your energy into something more positive, productive, and uplifting.

    Was going to feature this cutesy picture:

    focus-cute-version

    But decided that this one was way cooler:

    focus

  4. But isn’t that how it has to end?
    Two weeks ago, I was getting dressed in my bedroom. My backpack already held all of my ‘necessary weekend items’ (laptop, phone charger, library book and wallet) and I was slipping on my Vans, bending over awkwardly while doing so, when – with my head lowered and turned to the side – a red bookcase came into view, and within that red bookcase, one book title in particular stood out to me: She’s Not There. It was the tale of a transgendered woman’s journey — transitioning with a wife and children and, as a college professor, within the public eye. As I finished tugging on one of my shoes, I asked myself: “What was the happy ending on that one?” And then I stopped.

    I stood up and shook my head, realizing, for the first freaking time, that that’s what I always expect — in every movie, book, and life, even; that the ending will always be happy. Yours, mine, and ours. The truth is that it should be — endings should always be happy and peaceful, and they should only come to gather us up and whisk us away when we feel as though we’ve accomplished and experienced and produced enough — but that’s not promised to us. That’s an ideal. The end of every day, week, month and year should be happy, because who doesn’t love ending, even temporarily, on a good note, but it’s really just a roll of the dice… your dog might get hit by a car, your partner might cheat on you, you could get fired, accidentally step in something gross, or choke to death on your burrito while you’re eating dinner at home, by yourself. Hope for the best, certainly, but don’t count on it.

crappilyeverafter

 

Now, with these 4 stories in mind, this morning, I went to church.

 

grand-church

fancy-looking church

 

OMG, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? Jace walked into a church and… sounds like the opening line of a joke. It’s actually been three and a half years since I last stepped foot into a church, and after considering the idea for a few months and then discussing it with two friends yesterday afternoon, I decided to give it a shot today. One of these friends even said she’d go with me.

 

I woke up early this morning, took care of the dogs, showered, and then camped out in the music room, setting a 2-hour alarm on my phone so that I’d remember to leave the house in time. I wrote a new song, tabbed out the chords and lyrics, and had just begun recording the chorus vocals in Logic when the timer went off.

 

Shit — time to go to church, I realized, trying to taste the phrase on my tongue as I carefully placed my guitar into its case.

 

I hopped in the car, typed in “unitarian universalist church birmingham AL” on Google and arrived alive within twenty minutes. I felt an odd sense of anxiety bubbling up in me as I parked and then exited my car, habitually tilting my head down to ensure that the interior light bulb had switched off.

 

“They’re going to greet me,” I predicted. “And they’re going to smile and awkwardly touch my shoulders or hug me and.. gosh, am I going to have to pray at some point during the service?” What I’d done online, prior to showing up, was nowhere near research, but I knew this much: Unitarians didn’t discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community and they also didn’t promote a certain deity. Theirs wasn’t even a christian platform. They were a supportive bunch of progressives, of thinkers, of open-minded and kind-hearted individuals who were all on separate journeys, searching for and finding faiths that suited them, and their common bond was, from what I gathered, singular: a desire for truth.

 

“Doesn’t sound bad,” I’d thought, appreciating the refreshing ambiguity of the sect.

 

I entered through the front door and glanced down at my phone; my friend had texted that she’d just pulled up. She saw me first and ran over to hug me; we headed into the ‘sanctuary’ together, snagging seats near the back (but not the very back; moms, dads, and kids had already claimed dibs on those).

 

I opened up the bulletin — gosh, it had been such a long time since I’d held a bulletin in my hands, and back when I did, my name almost always appeared inside of it; me, offering prayer; me, performing special music; and, on special occasions, me, delivering the sermon.

 

I quickly realized, while perusing the bulletin, that this was going to be a Christmas special. My friend seemed to realize this within the same moment and groaned.

 

“If I had known…” she apologized, turning to me and looking distressed.

 

“Oh, don’t worry about it!” I reassured her. It was, at least, a soft reintroduction into the world of religion for me; live music, free smiles, and colorful, iced Christmas cookies.

 

Kids dominated the service, performing skits and singing songs and dancing awkwardly, without confidence or conviction, to the relaxed pacing set by the conga drum and studio piano. I did appreciate that the never-ending play featured scenes of Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t at a church, exactly… a church, yeah, but not the kind I’d grown up in and grown to disbelieve in.

 

The service ended, and I congratulated myself on making it through without having any weird freak out moments. My friend apologized, again, and I reassured her that there was nothing to be sorry about; I was re-acclimating to the religious world and, if nothing else, it was nice — getting to hear somebody decent play the piano and getting to sit next to a beautiful woman.

 

“I’ll come again in January,” I told her. “The holidays will be over by then, so hopefully I can catch an actual ‘message.'”

 

We grabbed lunch together at Rojo afterwards. Before placing my order (and this isn’t important to know, but it’s interesting), a young woman (seemingly my age) brushed past me and smiled at me, knowingly. “Hey girl,” she sang out. “Hey!” I smiled back at her.

 

Odd, I thought to myself. I don’t recognize her, but she seems really sweet.

 

Later on, at the end of the meal, I noticed my friend had two cinnamon rolls left on her plate. “Let me go snag a to-go box for you,” I said, stepping off of my stool and heading toward the front counter. A guy was placing an order there and he seemed to be taking a while, so I looked around, hoping to flag down another employee who could simply hand a box to me.

 

The same girl showed up beside me; I smiled at her: “Hey! Can you please help me find a to-go box?”

 

She nodded eagerly, handed me one, and then leaned in to hug me. I was, once again, extremely surprised, but hugged her back.

 

“It’s nice to see you,” I offered, awkwardly.

 

“You too! Your hair looks so GOOD today,” she exclaimed, eyeing me. “I’m so jealous. I love the angles of your face.”

 

I laughed at her; looking at her — dark brown eyes, long brown hair (she was Hispanic) — I wanted to say, “You are drop dead GORGEOUS,” but I couldn’t get the words to come out, so I just said: “Well you look very beautiful.”

 

I touched her elbow and wished her a great weekend and then returned to my friend, to-go box in hand.

 

“Do you know that girl?” I whispered, nodding behind me. “The one who gave me this box?”

 

“Hmmm.. no,” she shook her head from side to side.

 

“Well she just hugged me and I feel like she knows me, or like she thinks she knows me.. I don’t know. Anyways.”

 

We left shortly thereafter and, as I drove away, I thought to myself: Maybe I should have given that adorable girl my number. But I decided against it. Wanna know why?

 

Because despite the fact that I always seem to be searching, I don’t want to be in a relationship right now. I think I know, as of today, what I’m relentlessly searching for, and it’s actually two things, neither of which are a significant other. We’ll call these two things A and B.

 

A. Remember me going on and on about cafe girl? About how I discovered how similar we were and how that just added to the ‘heartbreak’ of her being taken? (From what I’ve gathered, we’re both short-haired vegetarians and left-handed musicians.) Well, I realized, a few weeks after meeting her, that what I liked about her was what I like about myself: my hair, my left handedness, and my love for animals and music. When I was able to translate her ‘cool features’ into my own, it was very eye-opening. Maybe we long to love and adore others because we’re afraid to love and adore ourselves. And maybe that’s what we really want in this life; to just be okay with who we are. To be okay with being in a room, in a city, in the world by ourselves. I don’t need a partner to have a purpose, and I don’t need a partner to love me when I can love myself. These are just thoughts.

B. Remember when I spent the evening crying in a hotel room in Dothan earlier this month? Oh, that’s right.. you weren’t there. Well here’s what happened.

I was reading this book called One Of Us; the gist: an evil dude develops this dream-transferring technology that enables the rich to pawn their scary or boring dreams off on lowlifes who need $$$. Eventually, one of these lowlifes (who has a remarkable dream-intake capacity) begins accepting memories from others (this is more lucrative, and dangerous, work) and, by the end of the novel, he’s finally identified a mysterious figure who’s always reappeared in his life at pivotal moments as being god. The final scene takes place at a table outside of a cafe where our main character is already seated; god walks up to him, sits down, and asks our guy to buy him a frappuccino. He does so, and when he did, I had to lay the book down and cry my eyes out.

 

Why is this affecting me? I asked myself, feeling absurd. And then I realized what it was: I was jealous. This fictional character was getting to sit down and drink coffee with god… and he was acting so casual about it, like it was nothing. I’d gladly chop off a leg for an opportunity to sit down and chat with the deity of the universe, but we all know that no one in 2016 will get the chance. Because… well I don’t know; that’s just the way it is, sweetheart. Instead of in-person encounters, we get faith and the written word and blah blah blah. #IJS

 

So I was sad, and then I was angry. If there is a deity out there, or a whole host of deities, and none of them are willing to condescend to meet with me, then why the hell should I give a shit about them? 

 

And so on and so on.

 

I wouldn’t say that I’m on a faith search, or even a spiritual journey, but I am interested. I am casually looking. For girls and deities. 🙂 I don’t plan on subscribing to a particular faith or religious creed, because I don’t foresee that there will be enough ‘proof’ for me anywhere. But I think that I’ve figured it out; I’m not really longing for a romantic partner. I’m longing for a spiritual companion; somebody who knows me, somebody who’s got the answers. I don’t want a god to worship or fawn over, and I don’t want to be bossed around or micromanaged. I just want a very best friend, one I can be sure won’t leave or take advantage of me or break my heart again. I’m tired, and I’m hurt, and I’m nostalgic for the relationships that I’ve had in the past — ones where I trusted people implicitly, and invested in people fully… people whose existence and love sustained and grounded me — and I’m wanting to find healing, and companionship, in something better. I, like many others, want that kind of happy ending. Mine honestly doesn’t have to include a partner or kids or a PhD. But I’d really like to meet god. And that feels about as likely as me jumping, with nothing but conviction and my eyes closed, defying gravity, and shooting up into outer space. Aka, dream on, kid.

 

So, in December of 2016, my half-assed search for god began with me sitting among a smiling audience of truth-seekers as a line of small and awkward children wiggled their bodies in front of us — adorably out of time with the music and without any sense of intrinsic rhythm — and it will continue with me visiting a Unitarian Church and a Kingdom Hall in January. Know of any cool spiritual places in the ham? Shoot me a recommendation. I’m open to anything and, for the moment, committed to nothing. Commitment — now that’s a topic for another time.

 

I’ve referenced this meme before, but it’s worth revisiting:

unbecoming

 

On my drive over to Saturn this afternoon, I pictured myself as a chalkboard, born into this world with a bunch of shit already written and drawn onto me… other people’s beliefs, preferences, and ideals. It feels like I had to scrub all of that stuff off in order to give myself a chance to really construct and define myself. I had to wash everything away and then slowly decided to reincorporate some of the stuff I’d erased back into my life.. stuff that I realized I actually did like or identify with or believe in… and then other things that I added were entirely new, and uniquely me. It’s a fun and interesting mix. And religion is one of the things I had to scrub off. I was raised in a religious cult of davidians, the most legalistic, impractical, heartless and exclusive bunch of folks I’ve ever spent time with, and I will never, ever return to such radicalism. But I’m, intrinsically, a spiritual being, and it’s impossible for me to believe that brown eyes, three-note chords, planets, avocados, German Shepherds, laughter and kisses and 9 x 9 = 81 weren’t intelligently created, beautifully designed, or magically orchestrated.

 

20161217_120227

Sculpture of R. Hugh Daniel (in downtown bham)

 

“I like that sculpture,” my friend Ryder said yesterday as we were both walking past it.

 

“Huh — it’s interesting!” I commented. “It sort of looks like the person is falling apart.. disintegrating.”

 

“Or perhaps they’re coming together,” Ryder offered quietly.

 

 

Slowly piecing myself back together —

 

Still here

Aun Aqui

sadturtle

Turtles and Spaceships

I was at an aquarium; standing in front of a wall of glass, and curiously peeking in on the interesting lives of the sea critters who existed on the opposite side.

 

This made sense, because Charlie and I had watched a “live stream” of aquarium footage a few weeks before; about twenty minutes into it, though, I had noticed that things began repeating. It was a very subtle looping transition (no glitches), but I still noticed it.

 

“Charlie,” I called out from my spot on the couch, “those two scuba divers just entered the shot from the bottom left.. again. In the exact same way they did earlier.”

 

“Huh!”

 

I took another sip of peach-flavored sangria from my mug, eyeing the screen critically. I had just purchased this TV for the living room the week before (I hadn’t owned one in a year), and I already mistrusted the thing. Then, another repetition occurred.

 

“HA! I knew it,” I celebrated. “That weird-looking blow fish just waddled across the screen AT THE SAME TIME that the shark appeared ominously in the background. Remember that happening TWENTY MINUTES AGO?”

 

“Uh huh!”

 

So we turned the live stream off.

 

And here I was now, actually standing in front of a very similar looking display. The thick glass likely separated me from at least a hundred different types of fish — from shrimp and sharks to seahorses and sea dragons — but all I can remember really honing in on was this tiny, sad-looking turtle, wading slowly near the bottom of the glass.

 

“We have to get him out of there,” I told Charlie, determined to set him free.

 

And then things happened quickly. With no one else around (and that should have been my first red flag; when is there NOT a crowd at the aquarium?), I bent down and located a strange mechanism underneath the display; a lever that, when you turned it, sealed off the main water ‘rig’ but allowed certain things to pass through. There was a slide to the motion, too; you could open the ‘window’ to a size as small as an inch or make it wide enough to accommodate a small sea turtle. And I made it exactly that big.

 

It felt like achieving success at a claw machine. Remember those?

claw-machine

 

The sea turtle popped out, I scooped him up, and the next thing I knew, we were all driving home together — with Charlie driving and me in the passenger’s seat, gently holding the turtle.

 

I blinked. I was standing outside of my house now, staring down at a kiddie pool. I had filled it up with water, apparently (although I didn’t recall doing so) and tossed the sea turtle inside of it, eagerly looking for signs that this made him happy — that he was having fun, swimming around in the water. I watched him lift his head up, off of the surface of the water, and I worried that maybe he couldn’t breathe underwater; that maybe, at the aquarium, they’d installed some sort of air pump that had made it possible. He safely made it over to the side of the kiddie pool and then then stayed there, clinging to the plastic wall; I picked him up and noticed, with surprise, that he had gotten heavier.

 

Then, in a flash, the sea turtle had grown to be twelve times its size and was hugging me. There’s no other way of describing it; he had wrapped his cute little sea turtle arms around me and was embracing me. He squeezed me a little too tightly once, and I sighed in a way that asked him to relax his grip. A twenty-something year old was skateboarding through the neighborhood; he had gone up and down my driveway a few times, without asking, nodding vaguely in my direction as he did so, but now, he was skateboarding on TWO skateboards, one moving underneath each of his feet. I couldn’t believe it. If you’ve seen my driveway, you would understand how reckless he was being.

 

Meanwhile, the turtle was still hugging me. I thought about calling for Charlie — asking him to come outside and take a look at this! Snap a picture! It was completely adorable. But then I started worrying again.

 

The sea turtle has gotten so much bigger, I thought to myself. Just in one day! He was tiny this morning, and now he’s massive. How big is he going to get? Where will I keep him? How will I take care of him? CAN he breathe underwater? He’s going to need a bigger pool..

 

Just as I was thinking these things to myself, a group of people began cutting across my yard, seemingly coming from my neighbor’s house. One of them, a young girl named Sarah, I recognized as someone who had attended the same church I did years ago (back when I went to church). She took in the sight of the sea turtle and looked openly worried.

 

She shared that it was a certain breed of turtle – a rare one, apparently – and that it would grow to be absolutely enormous; just as I had worried the case might be. 

 

“What should I do?” I asked her, and even as the words were leaving my mouth, I quietly wondered why I was asking someone so much younger than me, someone who had just stumbled onto the situation, for advice.

 

“Call for a ranger and have them come and pick him up,” she suggested.

 

She walked away with the others, and I thought to myself — a ranger? That sounds like a park thing. Not an aquarium thing. 

 

I paused.

 

And technically, I STOLE this turtle from the aquarium. It occurred to me, for the very first time, that I had done something wrong.

 

When I call them and ask them to pick up the turtle, they’re going to ask how I got it. I can’t just say it showed up on my doorstep, or that I bought it from someone off of Craigslist — the first answer wouldn’t make sense; the second claim, I couldn’t substantiate with documentation; and thirdly, I just couldn’t lie like that!

 

Maybe if I tell them that I wanted to give him a better life, they won’t consider it robbery, I hoped. I didn’t mean to steal him. I just wanted him to be happy. He seemed so lonely and confined in there.

 

So I called the aquarium, I confessed that I had the sea turtle they were probably missing, and then I waited, thinking maybe I’ll go to jail, or maybe they’ll just charge me a five million dollar fine. I sighed.

 

While I waited, I looked down at the turtle; he was still hugging me, but he had pulled back in his embrace just a little bit, enough that I could see his face. I realized, without feeling surprised, that he was now taller than me. And I noticed that he was wearing rings on his turtle hands (paws?). He pulled one of them off – his favorite – and handed it to me; speaking for the first time, he smiled and asked (in a kind and elderly voice that strangely resembled my grandfather’s): “So this means that you were my girlfriend?”

 

I feel like I might have ridden back to the aquarium with turt (what I named him — how original) in an underwater spaceship (if that makes sense). I don’t remember anything else.

 

And this is what happens when I’m sick; I dream dreams that are slightly more interesting and bizarre than usual. I can’t really grasp the “deep meaning” behind this one, but if I had to try to boil it all down into a practical and water-soluble lesson..

 

  • Don’t lie, and don’t steal. While good intentions can mean a lot, they can’t justify bad actions.

 

Still here (with a throat that feels like it’s made of sandpaper and an army of lemons standing ‘at the ready’ on the kitchen counter),

Aun Aqui