Author: aunaqui

Personal stories, lengthy rants and lighthearted explosions of optimism, all neatly bundled into one blog. Aun Aqui (Still Here)

Puppy Paws, Broken Bones, Shrunken Clothes and Hurt Feelings

I’ve got (4) story updates to share with you.

  1. The Dawn of Tycho Moon
  2. GRAMMY DID WHAT? How the hell did she do that?
  3. You’re Getting Fat, Skinny
  4. I Ain’t Sorry, -Beyonce

 

First up…

The Dawn of Tycho Moon

A few weeks after Bruster’s passing, I began clinging to the interwebs, obsessively searching for another German Shepherd to adopt. I knew that this new boy shep couldn’t, and wouldn’t, replace Bruster, but I longed for a second companion myself and knew that Silo needed a playmate. At first, I searched locally — strictly in the Birmingham area — but gradually, as page after page of disappointing results loaded, I grew desperate. I expanded my search to include Montgomery and Huntsville (both of which would equal an hour and a half drive), and then Atlanta (a two hour drive), and then, quickly thereafter, parts of Mobile and Tennessee (requiring a 4+ hour drive).

I’d estimate that I looked at 35-40 different German Shepherd Dog ads total, and absolutely none of them — with their published descriptions and endearing photographs — struck a chord with me. I started to think that maybe the universe was telling me that I was moving forward too quickly — that I needed to redirect my thoughts and energy elsewhere for the time being.

Just as I was about to (temporarily) give up on the search, one weekday afternoon, I stumbled upon a recently published ad that I’d somehow overlooked and that I just KNEW was IT. Seeing it hit me like an acorn spiraling down from a tree — reading it resonated with me like the booming echo inside of a cave.

I took a quick screenshot of the ad and messaged it to my boyfriend, Charlie.

18491475_10210616531183328_6575115662886204771_o

L-R: (cute) boyfriend and me

“Hey — I’m taking a super quick lunch break at work today and don’t have time to reach out to this guy; will you please get some deets and see if we can swing by this evening?”

The originator of the ad appeared to be located in Gadsden — I’m not great with geography, but I guessed that it would only be a 30-45 minute drive, which wasn’t too bad.

Charlie responded to my text affirmatively, and before 3:00, I’d received news from him that the man was okay with us stopping by that evening. I was THRILLED. I already, intuitively knew that we weren’t stopping by to just look at puppies; the one was there, and we’d be leaving with him that same night. Excitement bubbled up within me, and time began to annoyingly trudge its way forward, as it usually does when you’re anticipating something wonderful happening in the very near future.

I used mobile banking to transfer money from my account to Charlie’s that afternoon and then asked him to withdraw the transferred funds in cash, using an ATM (I haven’t carried a debit card in years — topic for another time).

To abbreviate the story slightly, we left the house at 8:00 that evening and arrived at the man’s home in Albertsville approximately 105 minutes later (who the fuck lives in Albertsville?). I was texting my grandmother – whose name is Grammy – all along the way, sharing with her how excited I was and, also, how nervous.

“Do you think I’ll know which one to take home?” I typed out in a message to her.

“Yes. Just let the pup choose you,” Grammy replied sagely.

When we were finally pulling into the driveway, a big, strapping shepherd – clearly the father – began charging towards the car, barking voraciously. I heard a man yell out an order and then watched the dog retreat.

“Damnnnnnnnnnnn,” I whistled. “That dog is gorrrrrrgeous. Just stunning.” A pang of sadness passed through me as I thought about Bruster and about how idiotic and insane that dumb-assed and evil-hearted neighbor of mine was for shooting him. For escaping from the backyard and barking. Like dogs do.

It had been almost 5 weeks since I’d lost him. I shook my head quickly and pushed the sadness down, down, down, folding it neatly and tucking it underneath my abdomen, and when I got out of the car, I reminded Charlie to roll the windows down slightly for Silo (we decided to bring him along with us so that he would feel like he was a part of the decision to add a new member to the family).

Charlie and I walked the rest of the way up the driveway, ascended a short flight of wooden stairs, stepped onto the smooth, gray porch, walked through the living room, and then emptied out on the other side of the house, where ANOTHER porch was (it was a very nice home).

I looked to my right, and they were all right there: Five fully-awake and absolutely beauuuuuuutiful German Shepherd pups, struggling to jump over the safety gate in order to reach me.

I cooed at all of them, hopping over the gate so that I could sit down onto the porch floor with them. Once I was inside of their enclosure, they all clamored to get on top of me. Charlie and I started laughing, delightfully overwhelmed by our sweet and fluffy company.

Minutes passed, and the puppies slowly began to meander off, losing their initial interest in Charlie and I. It was now a few minutes past 10:00, and I knew we were running out of time. I was becoming stressed.

“How am I going to know which one is the one?” I whispered over at Charlie, my eyes scanning the pack for the seventh time as I tried to pinpoint which pup was the loner, or runt, of the litter.

I’ve always taken home runts. Bruster was easy to spot, because I couldn’t see him; when I’d entered his family’s living room in Tennessee, a small herd of German Shepherd puppies began running toward me, but my eyes glossed over all of them, because all I could hear was this soft moaning coming from the corner of the room. I followed its wavelength trail until I discovered sweet, precious Bruster, hiding between the couch and the wall. I knew he was the one. And the same thing happened with Silo, only I didn’t have to make the choice at all; when I reached out to his family via text, the owner reported that he was the only one left — the smallest one… the runt. “He’s very independent,” she’d commented. I knew he’d be perfect, too.

 

But I couldn’t really find the runt in this litter, and with time ticking away, panic began to settle in. Did we really just drive almost two hours to look at a bunch of gorgeous pups and leave with none of them? I worried.

A puppy who had been camping out underneath Charlie when we first arrived kept trying to get my attention, but in the process of trying to find the runt, I was slightly ignoring it.

Around 10:10 PM, the owner shook a bag of food, drawing the crowd of pups completely away from Charlie and I as they rushed toward the gate. But then I watched, in mute amazement, as one pup — the same pup that had been hiding underneath Charlie and that I’d ignored when it was trying to cuddle with me — left their ravenous siblings behind, walked back over to me, and rose up on their hind legs. I continued watching as they reached their left paw up in the air, as if asking me to take it, and my voice caught in my throat.

“Oh my god, Charlie…  it’s choosing me,” I croaked. “Just like Grammy said it would!” I couldn’t believe it.

I gently swept the puppy off of the floor and cradled it in my arms. “Do you want to go home with me, little baby?” I murmured into its ears. I glanced down and my eyes widened with surprise. “Ohhhhh, shit… it’s a girl,” I whispered to Charlie. He raised his eyebrows back at me. “Are you okay with that?” he asked.

I continued holding her and gazed down into her eyes. “I am, actually. She’s the one.”

I told the owner that we’d made our decision. His son, who was peeking at us from around the corner, peered at my arms to see who I’d chosen and then cracked a smile. “Ahhhh… so you’re going with the beast.”

I laughed. The beast? I looked down at her, the hefty baby in my arms, and then down further, considering the four other pups roaming around on the floor; she really was the largest.

And it was hilarious. I was leaving with the biggest pup, and it was a girl… and all of this was precisely the opposite of what I had expected I would do.

18527193_10210637748233741_4097407575800241628_o

Tycho Moon (aka Tye Dye/Thai Food/The Tychoist Tycho/The Most Tychoist/Little Oso/Black and Tan Panda/Ty)

 

Tycho has been living with Charlie and I for about three weeks now, and I’m already head-over-heeeeeeeels in love with the gal. She is, for the sake of brevity: funny, vocal, spunky and fierce. She’s the first pup that’s ever chosen me, and I look forward to spending many, many years living alongside her… loving her, learning from her, and watching her grow.
***

Next up: GRAMMY DID WHAT? How the hell did she do that?

I woke up in my bed at about 7:00 last Saturday morning. After grabbing my phone, I realized that my friend, Ivey, had sent me a text, inviting me to an International Food Festival. I texted her back, asking for details, and then I pulled up Messenger. The first message to pop up was one from my mother.

“Gram fell during the night and broke her hip. She is in the hospital now. They might do the surgery today if her blood isn’t too thin. She is on blood thinners, so if it’s too thin, they will have to wait until tomorrow. Poor mommy. She has been in a good bit of pain.”

I sat up in bed. What the fuckkkkkkkkk, I muttered, blasting off a message that asked her to call me right away. More than a minute passed, which was too long, so I called her instead.

“What HAPPENED? Do I need to come up there? I can be there in five hours,” I began.

“No, no, no… it’s very sweet of you to offer, but Grammy doesn’t want company. She’s on a lot of pain meds, so she’s sleeping a good bit, but when she is awake, she’s miserable,” Sierra relayed sadly.

“So what happened?” I repeated impatiently.

“She fell asleep watching christian television last night,” Sierra began, “and when she woke up later on in the evening and realized that it was still on, she got up, out of the chair, to turn it off. She didn’t realize that her leg had fallen asleep, so when she stood up, she fell down, and when she fell, she broke her hip,” she concluded sadly.

“Wow,” I breathed. “That is insane.”

So the past week has really sucked for Grammy. She spent four days in the hospital (where the only nurse she liked was “a girl your age with tattoos — she seemed like your type,” Sierra reported) and was then relocated to the rehabilitation wing of a nursing home, where she is presently undergoing physical therapy for the next 10-14 days.

I keep reminding her that she is irrevocably scheduled to visit me in 6 weeks and needs to be fully recovered by then. I’m hoping the trip will serve as motivation for her to exercise consistently and regain her mobility as quickly as possible.

 

18620555_10211852029768545_4677929546350846189_o

10-year-old Rose and 25-year-old Jace: “My Grammy’s so brave.”

 

It’s funny, though… the thoughts that start racing through your mind when you hear of someone you like or love falling ill, or being afflicted by what you would imagine as a near-death experience. When I first read Sierra’s text message last Saturday morning, I immediately pictured Grammy playing with Bobby and I in the pool when we were kids; baking biscuits with us in that tiny, moldy, and blisteringly hot kitchen in Florida in the summertime; and walking with us (because she couldn’t drive) until we reached the city fair at the park down the road one fall in South Carolina. I began imagining her upcoming visit — seeing myself stocking the refrigerator with buttermilk and the cupboard with coconut macaroons (her favorite foods and beverages that she, for religious reasons, denies herself)… I envisioned taking her and my mother to the best cafes in Birmingham and sitting on couches with them in those places, asking Grammy questions about her childhood, her early adulthood, her already half-a-century-long marriage and even her thoughts on “the afterlife” — why she’s so excited by the prospect of a heaven, and how she’s able to unwaveringly believe in something when so little proof of it exists. Our minds operate so differently, and the lives we lead are so contrasting, but she’s always been one of my closest friends, and the (honestly) most magical person I’ve ever known.

I remembered and imagined these things and worried that maybe, making memories with Grammy was over… I pre-mourned the dark possibility that I might not need to purchase these forbidden foods and beverages after all.

But after speaking with Sierra and realizing that Grammy wasn’t dying just yet and that she probably would get to, while muttering disclosures such as “I normally wouldn’t be doing this”, drink the buttermilk, eat the macaroons, and visit the parks and cafes, my anxiety quieted itself a little. But then again, who knows. I could trip down the stairs, break my neck, and die LONG BEFORE July 2nd even rolls around. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The lesson in short: Test the awakeness of your legs out before rising up out of chairs and deeply love the good people in your life while they’re around. They won’t always be there, and neither will you.

***

#3/4: You’re Getting Fat, Skinny

Whew. Here we go.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for years. There are seasons in life when I hardly notice it at all, and others where it’s the dominating presence in my life. At the height of Chris and I’s marriage, when we were truly happy together, I weighed in at 140 pounds, and then, as our marriage slowly declined and then ended, I lost a good portion of the weight I’d put on when we united, dropping down to 105 pounds.

As Charlie and I have dated (on and off) for the last year and a half, I have found meals to be enjoyable again, and recently, I’ve discovered that the size 2 pants and shorts I could fit into last winter are too snug for comfort now. I slipped on two different pairs of shorts this morning, both of which were too tight to be reasonable, and I sighed heavily at the news, reprimanding myself for letting myself go — cursing aloud all of the oven-baked burritos, plates of spaghetti with mozzarella sticks, and “organic and healthy” desserts.

I returned to the closet, threw the stupid, shrunken shorts onto the floor, and began sifting through hangers, trying to find something baggy to wear so I wouldn’t feel as self conscious parading about in this 120 pound body.

Near the back of the closet, a pair of orange, corduroy pants caught my eye. I smiled a little as I pulled them off of their hanger, remembering that Charlie had purchased them for me – secondhand – during a pop-up fundraiser event at work one day last year. He’d brought them home proudly — these bumblebee-covered corduroy pants — and when I’d tried them on, they were too loose to fit me properly.

“But I still love them!” I’d gushed. “And I’m going to hold onto them — I’ll probably fit into them someday,” I added jokingly.

“Andddddd I bet someday is now,” I sang to my room, accusingly. I slipped them on and, sure enough, to my simultaneous delight and despair, they did fit. Perfectly.

“Whelp. Guess you’re a size 6 now,” I announced. “Congratufuckinglations, Jace. Hope you’re happy with yourself.”

 

Then, before leaving the room, I paused. A scene had begun playing across my mind, pulling from a memory I’d stored maybe three months before.

 

I was in a dressing room at Nordstrom, trying on nine things so I could leave with one or two of them. In the dressing room next to mine, a mother was trying on clothes, and I could hear her children — there were two or three of them — there in the room with her, handing her items to slip on and then fixing her discarded items back onto hangers. One of her comments had bugged the shit out of me.

“Oh mama, that dress looks so PRETTY ON YOU,” her daughter raved.

“Ugh. Maybe it would, if I was skinny enough. All of this Chipotle’s gotten me so fat… go see if you can find a size 4. This 2 is NOT going to work.”

 

I had suspended my movements, an overpriced Free People t-shirt halfway over my head. “Being a size 4… makes you fat?” I wanted to scream at her. “Do you want your DAUGHTER thinking that, when she’s a size 4, or 8, or 12 or 1600 someday that she’s ‘fat’ and unattractive? What the HELL are you thinking, lady — thinking out loud like that?” I paused. “And don’t you DARE blame Chipotle for your chub!”

 

I shook my head at her through the wall, feeling slightly sympathetic toward her negative self-image (because I could relate), but mostly, I was frustrated and bewildered that she was instilling her daughter(s) with such horrible ideas about beauty and weight.

 

Present day, this morning, wearing an adorable pair of size 6 corduroy pants in my bedroom, I felt ashamed of myself for being ashamed of myself. Wasn’t I treating myself just as badly as that lady had been treating herself (and, unwittingly, had been training her daughters to treat themselves)?

 

I walked into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, and shrugged. “You have to know that you aren’t actually massive — you’ve got issues, and you know who they stem from. The pants are cute, and you’ve got an orange, cropped top in the closet that will go nicely with them. You’re healthy… that’s what matters.”

So I put the top on, told the pups goodbye, and slipped out of the house. I stopped by Whole Foods on my way to Urban Standard to say hi to Charlie.

“Oh my gooooooooodness — you look SO CUTE,” he raved. “You look like you’re from the seventies!”

“Those are cool pants,” his co-worker agreed.

“I love your outfit!” another friend commented as we passed each other.

“Love your dress — or, outfit, whatever it is!” the cashier complimented me.

“You look cute,” someone I didn’t know at all offered as they passed by me.

 

I was surprised and delighted. Wow… I guess I don’t look totally awful.

 

Thirty minutes later, I parked my bike at Urban Standard, threw my backpack onto my couch, and then approached the front counter to order a latte and a side plate of tofu.

“I loveeeeee that outfit,” the barista exclaimed, eyeing my pants.

“Awwww, thank you!” I smiled at her. “The whole outfit is secondhand,” I added, as a note of interest.

“REALLY? What thrift shops do you go to?”

 

We spent a few minutes chatting about it, and it was really nice. Before today, although she’s checked me out at least a dozen times before, we’d never shared more than two words.

 

20170520_101107 (1)

 

Sooooooo wear clothes that you feel good in — try to stay away from tight-fitting things, because they’re constrictive, which isn’t good for your circulation. As a sidebar, while I like wearing all black outfits 9/10 days, donning cheerful, colorful clothing on occasion can serve as a good conversation starter.

 

***

Lastly…

I Ain’t Sorry.

Oh, it’s the same old thing, you guys; you already know what I’m going to say… when Chris and I separated, I wanted to stay friends, because we’d been BEST FRIENDS for years, but he was hurt and needed time to heal. So we were casual friends and I decided to set him up with someone I knew he’d click with (sure enough, they did), and while I anticipated that, with this new love interest, he might push me out of his world a little (he has a tendency to fixate on whatever person he’s in a relationship with and dismiss everyone else), I was truly sorry to have that suspicion confirmed.

I’ve tried, for months, to let go of our friendship, but I love him so deeply that it’s felt impossible to do so. Finally, a few weeks ago, I texted him, outright telling him that it hurt my feelings that he didn’t want to keep up with me anymore… that he never wants to grab lunch, or coffee, like normal, “real life” friends do, and that he doesn’t even care to know what’s going on in my world. “It feels like I’m just hanging around the outer cusp of your social circle all of the time, waiting for you to notice me, and you never do,” I messaged, baring my soul to him.

He responded nicely but honestly… saying that he didn’t have time to focus on anyone but the girl he’s with (bullshit) and that he just can’t be “the kind of friend” I need right now. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I did it, and that evening, I had a dream about Chris.

In it, I was standing outside of his car, crying and waving goodbye. He got out of the car to hug me… knowing, I guess, that I was about to head off somewhere and that he wouldn’t be able to see me again. I was about to board a plane with Charlie, I think; who knows where we were going.

Just as I was about to tell Chris that I needed to cut things off with him entirely so that I could stop missing his friendship, he said something hurtful but necessary.

“You’re just always so sad and serious,” he whispered disapprovingly, shaking his head at me.

I looked up at him, finally — with an aching heart, and a sense of relief — realizing that he really didn’t care about me anymore… because even if someone IS sad or serious all of the time or is partially, temporarily broken, if you care about them, if you love them, you still GIVE a fuck about them.

I hugged him goodbye, for the last time, and walked away, leaving one of my shoes — from my favorite pair of Vans — in the back of his SUV. I don’t know how it got in there, or why I didn’t bother to just walk back over to his car and pick it up.

Charlie and I boarded the plane.

 

When I woke up the next morning, Charlie quite interestingly informed me that Tycho had removed one of my Vans from the storage cube I keep the pair in downstairs. She’d dragged it underneath the ottoman with her. First time she’d ever done it.

 

I smiled at his report. “Huh… I see.”

***

I’ve never been much of a Beyonce fan, but from what I’ve heard, she is BAE, and when I caught up with an old friend a few months ago, she insisted that I listen to a few tracks from Bae’s new album, Lemonade, with her.

I was taken back by how talented an artist Beyonce is — I really should have checked her out before now, I know — and one of her new songs in particular, made a big impression on me. It’s called “Sorry, I ain’t sorry,” and if you’re somewhat prudish (like I am), you may want to just listen to the audio and ignore the video portion of the song. This track brings me to tears, every single time I listen to it: “her heaven will be a love without betrayal…” or end.

 

Middle fingers up
Put them hands high
Wave it in his face
Tell ’em boy, bye

 

I explained it to Charlie this way: “It’s almost as if I grew roots standing there, hovering near the window and waiting for him to show up… but now, I’m elsewhere in the house, through with gazing out the window but still leaving the door unlocked in case he ever needs me.”

That’s the somewhat shitty thing about me; I love people unconditionally, even when they don’t give a flip about me. I’d take a bullet for that dummy in a heartbeat, like I would have died for Bruster, Bobby, or, presently, Melissa… but the recipient of this undying love can’t spare thirty minutes out of his day to grab a coffee with me once or twice a year. *Shrugs* *Pretends to be unbothered* *Starts planning a yummy and distracting dinner instead of feeling the sadness of unrequited love*

I don’t get it, but I’m done trying to understand that mind. I’ve got puppy dogs who love me and know where both of my shoes are now, so…

 

 

Still fuckinnnnnnn here,

Aun Aqui

The Cruel and Untimely Demise of Bruster Yarbrough

Originally published on 3/31 and then hidden during the investigation. The case has been closed. This is my story.

The man’s name has been withheld so as not to defame his character.

***

On Thursday afternoon, at approximately 3:59 PM, I was at work, sitting in a classroom with my new hire (a teller). She had just finished taking her knowledge assessment, so we were celebrating her passing score and discussing plans for the following day (training at a branch) when my phone rang, unexpectedly, at 4:00.

I glanced down, checking the caller’s name, and felt surprised.

“I’m so sorry,” I apologized to my new hire. “It’s my roommate — he knows not to call me when I’m at work, and he never does. It was probably an accident,” I explained, declining his call and beginning to draft a simple text message that read: “You just called — I’m in class,” but I never got to finish or send the text, because his message arrived first: “Call me RIGHT NOW.”

The urgency of his words caused my pulse to quicken while dread seeped into my gut, heavy as lead and quickly expanding its reach.

I looked up at my new hire, desperately trying to mask my anxiety with a false sense of complete calm. “Our Loss Prevention Specialist will be joining you in just a moment,” I assured her in a smooth tone, and then I excused myself from the room, closing the door behind me. I took a few quick steps away from the door and then touched Charlie’s name on my phone.

“Jace…”

“Are you okay?” I asked quickly, my voice trembling; Charlie was crying. Why was he crying???

“Jace…” he repeated, sounding miserable.

“Is it Bruster? It’s not Bruster, right?…” silence. “CHARLIE, TELL ME IT’S NOT BRUSTER!”

“It’s Bruster,” he sobbed. “He’s dead.”

 

I don’t know how I knew it, but I did… intuitively. It was like I asked myself: What is the worst possible news that a crying Charlie could deliver? “Something bad happening to Bruster,” my most honest self answered.

 

The afternoon and evening curled together like smoke, replacing the clean air in my lungs with a life-stifling heat and burying my heart underneath a grimy sheet of tar.

 

I remember walking into my manager’s office, following the phone call, and saying: “I need to leave right now.” She took one look at me and then nodded, escorting me to my car, and holding an umbrella over our heads. The rain hitting the nylon made soft thumps. She asked if I needed a ride. No.

 

I remember beginning the drive home and calling my mother.

“Hi, sweetie!” she answered. She sounded so cheerful that it hurt me even more to tell her about this impossible happening.

“Oh Sierra,” I whispered into the phone. “I’m so, so sad right now…”

Panic seized her voice. “Rose —— what’s wrong? Are you okay? What’s going on?”

 

Too soon, I was pulling onto my road. The first thing I noticed was that Charlie’s car didn’t look right — it wasn’t lined up, neatly, against the edge of the concrete, like it usually was. It looked like he had parked it in a hurry. I was trying desperately to hang onto logic, and facts, as I edged the car forward. Up ahead and to my right, I saw people, three people, huddling over an object in my neighbor’s driveway. An object. A lumpy object. A white sheet, covering the object. An object. Oh god… oh god.

 

I couldn’t get my car up my driveway. I turned it off, and then Charlie helped me out of it. He escorted me over to the murderer’s house, where Bruster’s body lay, crumpled on the concrete driveway… a white sheet, obscuring everything but his black tail; blood, soaking and oozing out from underneath the cloth. I fell to the ground with a wail, holding my German Shepherd in my arms. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I cried, over and over and over.

 

This continued for maybe half of an hour, but it felt like I spent centuries there on the ground, my shaking hand cupping Bruster’s elbow, over the sheet; my fingers tracing the fur on his neck, over the sheet; my hands resting gently on his back, over the sheet. How could this — this — be real?

 

Then, the neighbor who shot him — a tall man with strong arms and tattoos — was awkwardly giving me a side hug, apologizing, and I was apologizing back at him, and I asked myself, why are you apologizing to this murderer?

 

Then, the murderer and his companion were depositing Bruster’s big, fat, beautiful body into the back of Charlie’s trunk. I stood dumbly beside the car, dazed and watching his blood trickle down the back of the car; someone dabbed at it with a paper towel, I can’t remember who.

 

Then, Charlie, Bruster and I were at the vet’s office. I walked into the front and realized that I couldn’t speak. The receptionist’s eyes glazed over. “I’m so sorry. Do you want to pull your car up to the side?”

 

Then, they were taking him out of the car.

 

But first, when we were still in the car, when I still had a voice and knew words, I had turned to look at Charlie. “Charlie… I can’t do it… but please; before they take him, get his collar for me. I want to keep it, and his name tag.”

 

So now, with his car pulled up to the side of the building, Charlie ran over to where I was standing as they carried my hefty baby away; it took two strong men and a stretcher.

 

“Jace,” Charlie’s voice was edged with anger, “I got his collar, but look — his name tag and rabies tag are both missing. And they didn’t just fall off; they were CUT off.” He showed me the spliced metal. I just shook my head. Why?

 

I turned to look at the receptionist, who was awkwardly standing next to me, a familiar expression of grief on her face. I touched the pockets on either side of my leather jacket; my wallet wasn’t there. Where was it? At work, at home, in my backpack, in the car? At that moment, I honestly didn’t care.

 

“I… Charlie, do you–”

 

She understood. “We’ll take care of that later,” she whispered gently, nodding her head up and down.

 

I felt embarrassed, but I also felt like all of this was maybe just a horrible nightmare I’d wake up from soon and that I wouldn’t end up paying for my child’s cremation today after all, and that, when I did wake up, I would be crying grateful tears and hugging my dog until he began crying back at me in protest.

 

“I’ve… he’s… I have been bringing him here since he was a baby,” I croaked.

 

Then, we, Charlie and I, not Bruster, were back at home, sitting across from each other at the Dr. Pepper table. Sometimes, I cried; sometimes, I gazed at nothing for a while and then, when I looked up, I wondered how much time had passed. Charlie slowly filled me in on all of the details. He’d probably mentioned them to me earlier, on the phone, or in the car, but I hadn’t really processed them. So he repeated them, and the story goes like this.

 

3-4 months ago, Bruster was out in the front yard with Charlie when the neighbor’s daughters were in the car with their grandma — coming home, leaving home, who cares. Bruster saw the car, hauled his ass down to the street, and then barked at the car, scaring the children and grandmother inside of it. Charlie ran to retrieve Bruster and apologized profusely… and that was that.

And while Charlie and I were both at work yesterday, Bruster got out of the house, digging a hole and then squeezing his fat ass underneath the fence. And, according to the neighbor, Bruster then ran into his yard, and he shot him. “He came after my daughters before,” he had explained to Charlie (referencing the car “incident”), who was numb with shock. “I’m sorry… I had to put your dog down.”

“No you didn’t,” Charlie replied.

***

About 6 months ago, Bruster snuck out of the house and took off gallivanting down the road. Fortunately, my next door neighbor’s girlfriend spotted him, opened her car door, and he hopped right in. This was, I’ll mention, the first time they’d ever met. She kept him at her house until I was able to come retrieve him, and she remarked on how sweet and friendly a dog he was.

Around that same time (within a matter of weeks), Bruster escaped again, this time preferring to stay local. “He’s on your front porch, hanging out,” my other next door neighbor texted me. “He looked thirsty, though, so I brought him some water.”

And Bruster didn’t bite his hand off? Fascinating. Oh wait… NOT fascinating, because HE WAS NEVER A VICIOUS DOG.

 

Throughout his whole 6.5 years of life, believe it or not, he never, not even once, bit somebody. Ever. He would bark at strangers, and cars — like many dogs do — and what is absolutely infuriating to me is this: If a Pomeranian, or a Poodle, or even a Golden Fucking Retriever had gotten loose and walked up this dude’s driveway, he wouldn’t have been alarmed, but because it was a large, strapping, and drop-dead-gorgeous German Shepherd, he just went ahead and preemptively shot him. You know, for no goddamned reason. So he wouldn’t have to ever “worry” about the dog getting out. And you know what that’s called? Animal cruelty. And so is eating meat, but this is far, far, FAR worse. 

 

I called the police on the evening of the incident, as my shock began to wear off. Two officers came out to the house that night.

 

“I don’t want money, and I don’t want to get him in trouble,” I told them. “I just want there to be an official record of this happening so that he’s put in check and won’t feel like he has license to kill my OTHER German Shepherd if he happens to get out. It’s… insane,” I stammered.

 

“You need to press charges,” one of the officers replied, shaking his head. “This is animal cruelty. You don’t see a dog running around, go into your house, grab a gun and shoot it. If the dog seems dangerous, you call the authorities.”

 

“You look white,” Charlie whispered to me. “Please sit down.” I sat down and then vomited five minutes later.

I was given a case number, and then the officer said that he would be forwarding my information along to an Animal Cruelty Specialist. But here’s the devastating part: Regardless of what comes of the matter, I won’t be getting what I want out of it, because I want my baby back, and that cruel, evil, dirty bastard took something from me that I wouldn’t have sold for a million, billion dollars. He took a person, a best friend, and a beloved soul. I don’t know how or when I’ll ever be able to reconnect with Bruster’s soul, and the thought of how many years we won’t get to share together creates a somehow hollow-yet-heavy ache in my slowly decaying heart.

***

The morning of the incident, I woke up around 6:30 to get ready for work.

As I stretched my arms and legs and pried myself out of bed, I spotted Bruster, lazily sprawled out on the floor, the morning sun alighting on half of his body, and the other half cold in the shadows. I walked over, smiled at him, and reached my hands down to pet his cheeks and tummy.

I walked downstairs to feed both of the pups before hopping into the shower. I shoveled food into Bruster’s bowl first and then Silo’s, and after patting Silo on his back and beginning to walk away, I looked over at Bruce; he was chewing a mouthful of food, but had paused to look up at me. I walked over, hugged his hips affectionately (which caused his ears to go back), and then he happily returned his attention to his food bowl.

I showered, got dressed, and then shuffled the pups out into the side yard. I closed the door, grabbed my things, and then looked out the window to say goodbye to both of them, as I always do.

I said “goodbye; I love you; I’ll be home soon!” to Silo first, and then turned to Bruster. He was sitting by the gate, watching me, and looking very serious. My special boy. I mouthed “I love you” to my favorite dog in the world and then walked away.

***

The last two and a half days have been hell. People keep telling me this, and I know that things are going to get easier, as time progresses; I know this because I can finally share my memories of Bobby (my deceased brother) with people without tearing up, and I can hold a conversation with Christopher (my still-living ex-husband and best friend) without totally breaking down… but things are different when it comes to animals. When I dream about my old Holland Lop Rabbit, Hiro, for instance, I wake up to a distinctly somber and overcast day, where I cry on and off, missing his evil villain persona and worrying for his safety… wondering why the chick I gave him to never responds to my emails, where I’ve asked about him and his sister, Panda.

Things are different with animals. I’ll never love a dog the way I loved Bruster. He was my first child. I won’t rehash the whole story here, but he’s been my closest friend for the last six and a half years. He’s seen me through the very worst days of my life, and what kills me the most is, every few months, I would lean over the couch, wrap my arms around his big body, and whisper: “I’m going to take care of you until the day that you die, Brucey,” and then kiss his stupid floppy ear, but when he died Thursday afternoon, I was ten minutes down the road, entirely oblivious, and completely unable to protect him, or even be there. When Charlie pulled up to the scene, with paper bags full of groceries and three containers of motor oil, he ran over to Bruster and discovered that his body was still warm. Still warm. And when I finally arrived to the scene, grief-stricken and numb, I could have sworn that – without expecting to see it – Bruster raised his head just a little, from underneath the sheet, when I petted him, and Charlie told me that he saw the same thing, later on, before I even told him about what I’d witnessed. It was almost like he waited for me to get there before leaving.

We were just miles and minutes away from saving him. That’s what’s really killing me.

 

And now, with him gone, every room in the house whispers his name. I walk down the hallway, picturing him gazing at me from the top of the stairs. I peek into my bedroom, expecting to see his strikingly gorgeous form lying comfortably on the bed. I visit and revisit the kitchen, dining, and living rooms, searching for him in all of his favorite spots, and they are all vacant, because he’s never coming back to them.

 

I poured Silo’s food this morning, looked over to the right, and saw that Charlie had thoughtfully removed Bruster’s bowl from the garage. It broke my heart a little more. A tear here, a jab there… fractured fragments of my heart are lying around everywhere, in this house, in his driveway, in those cars, and in that classroom, and everywhere.

 

It’s like he’s still here, but he’s invisible, and I can’t figure out how to feel him anymore.

 

So what happens now?

The day Bruster died, I felt completely helpless. My dog was already irretrievably gone, so I didn’t know what to do or say… I felt like a previously perfectly-functioning robot that either was crucially low on batteries or had been insidiously deprogrammed and was now slowly breaking down.

“I don’t know what to do, Charlie,” I cried over and over, wringing my hands. I remember my eyes being so puffy that they hurt constantly, open or closed. “What do I do?!”

“This is what you do now,” he answered, holding me tightly. “You breathe.”

 

15626452_10209381333664162_5522291882908549558_o (1)

***

4/14 Update: A letter to my neighbor

 

Person’s Name (protecting his privacy),

I want to sincerely thank you for returning Bruster’s nametag. It brought me such comfort. The past two weeks have honestly been one of the most difficult and dark time periods of my life. Everyone around me – co-workers, friends, family – are pushing me to go to the magistrate and ask for your arrest, but I have decided not to, for a few reasons, and I’d like to share them with you.

 

  1. I’m not that kind of person. I don’t want you to go to jail, I don’t want money from you, and I don’t want your wife and children to have to be away from you. I am not unkind.
  2. You going to jail would be pointless. I don’t think you’re a cruel person, at heart… I think you did a terrible, cruel thing, but I hope (and believe) that you will find a way to become a better person because of it.
  3. You going to jail or paying me a million, billion dollars wouldn’t make me happy. The only thing that would make me happy would be having Bruster back, and that is impossible.

 

I have spoken with Deputy Sloan and understand that you claimed that Bruster tried to attack you. I am not going to call you, or your wife, liars, but I will tell you that I know the truth. Bruster escaped the fence multiple times – a neighbor brought him water when they found him camping out on my front porch, and one neighbor’s girlfriend even invited Bruster into her car one day when he was walking down the street… she kept him safe at her house until I was able to leave work and retrieve him. He was never vicious. He barked, like most dogs do, but he never – NOT ONCE – bit a person, or even another animal. He was the sweetest, smartest, most precious dog I’ve ever known. He was my best friend and my child… with you being a father, I’m sure you can understand the kind of love I have for him. I honestly would have done anything to protect him. If I could have been there that afternoon that you shot him, I would have gladly taken the bullet to keep him safe. Whether I sustained injuries or died wouldn’t have mattered. I loved him that much.

 

I also know what you intended to do with him.

 

I know why he was positioned the way he was in your driveway.

Why the pickup truck arrived suddenly.

Why you chopped his nametag off.

 

And realizing all of this added a fresh layer of anger to my already horrific grief. I am spending time, every single day, meditating, crying, and pouring over old pictures and memories of Bruce, trying to feel my love for him instead of my anger for you.

I am writing this letter to tell you three things:

  1. I am not pressing charges.
  2. I forgive you, and I hope that you become a better person.
  3. I am sending a copy of this letter to Deputy Sloan and keeping one on file for myself. Let me be clear: Do not come near me or my family – including Silo, my other German Shepherd – ever again. I do not want to see you or talk with you. This whole event rattled me so much that I actually considered moving, but then I remembered that I’m a kind person, that I’ve lived in this quiet old home and – heretofore – safe neighborhood for years, and that I belong here. If you want to arrange for your daughters to meet Silo, I want to stress that I would be happy to introduce them and let them play with him. Bruster wasn’t dangerous, and neither is Silo. You and your wife misunderstood him and the situation, and instead of taking his life into your hands and foolishly and cruelly killing him, you should have contacted me. There were so many other, better ways to handle the situation. Don’t make the same mistake again… with my pets, or anyone else’s.

 

Wishing you and your family the honest best,

Jace

***

In memory of Germany/ Lush/ Gorgeous Handsome/ Sheppy/ Sharkface/ Fishy/ Barracuda/ Chug/ Bruce/ Prada/ Bestest Friend in America…

Aun Aqui

My Solo Adventure in Denver: Shhhhhh… I wasn’t here.

During the weeks leading up to my vacation — a solo trip to Denver, Colorado, involving a plane, a train, lots of buses and my first ever Airbnb and Uber experiences — I was convinced that I was going to die while everyone around me felt sorry for me, traveling alone.
***
20 hours before the trip.

A friend and I went to lunch together the day before my scheduled flight.

“You’ve made it!” she celebrated, smiling. “You didn’t die!”

 

“Well,” I shook my head warily, “not quite. The plane takes off tomorrow… a lot could happen between now and then. I could choke,” I continued, gesturing down at my burrito bowl, “get hit by a car, trip down the stairs…”

She laughed. “What happened to you? I mean, really… did a childhood vacation get canceled, or something?”

 

I’d never considered the question before. I paused, dug around in my brain for a few seconds, and then found it. “Oh my god. Actually, I can trace this back… it wasn’t a vacation, though; it was a school party. I was allowed to go to public school from kindergarten through 4th grade, and on one memorable day in the first grade, my teacher in South Carolina — Mrs. Brasco — announced that there was going to be a class party.”
“Like a birthday party? Holiday party?”
I pressed my lips together. “No… nothing like that. Just an out-of-the-blue, snacks-and-music-and-games party. The news was well received, and I eagerly anticipated the event from the very moment she announced it would happen. I remember waking up the morning of the party, dressing myself, gathering my school things, and then excitedly prancing into my parents’ room. When I opened the door, though, it was dark, and my mother was still lying in bed.” I paused. “My heart sunk. I already knew. But still, I tried; ‘Mom!’ I cried urgently, ‘It’s time for me to go to school — let’s go!’ She rolled over, without leaving the bed, groaned a little, and said something to the effect of, ‘I’m not feeling well today, Rose; you can just stay home.'” I stirred the tofu, beans, and greens around in my bowl. “She possibly thought that she was doing me a favor — treating me; what kid doesn’t want to stay home from school? But I started crying. ‘We have to go though, MOM!’ I begged her. ‘There’s a party at school today and I can’t miss it!’ I hung out in the doorway for a few minutes, waiting, wishing, and willing to see her relaxed body tense up, become animate, set into motion… but nothing changed. I only heard, again, ‘I’m sorry, Rose.'”
My friend nodded up and down, slowly. “Wow. There it is.”
“Honestly, it wasn’t THAT big a deal,” I concluded, hovering over my food, “just a first grade class party… but I still remember the disappointment, and the feeling of powerlessness — wishing that I could take control of the situation. Annnnnnd maybe THAT’S why I’m always convinced that I’m going to die before anything good happens or before the departure date for some fun trip rolls around.” I smiled, raising a fork to my mouth.
***
16 hours before the trip.
“You’re traveling ALONE?” someone gushed.

“Oh wow… all by yourself? No friends or family?” a second voice chimed in, sadly.

“But you have to know people there, right?” another urged.
I smiled at each of them. “I am traveling by myself on purpose — I don’t want to have to worry about where the other person wants to go, how long they want to be there, what restaurant they’re in the mood for, etc etc. I have three objectives for this trip: 1. be self-sufficient, independent, and go on a loosely-planned but free-roaming adventure; 2. work on the novel; 3. find out if this is a place where I’d like to live someday.”
Still, even with my buoyant optimism and sound reasoning floating in the air, their looks revealed that they pitied me, the lonely traveler.
***
March 17th, 2017 finally rolled around, and when it did, I woke up, astonished; I’m alive. I’m awake. I haven’t missed my alarm, the flight, become severely injured, OR died… IT’S HAPPENING!
The morning and early afternoon elapsed in a flurry of activity; rolling luggage out to the car; being dropped off at the airport by my best friend, Charlie; inching through a security checkpoint (forgot you had to remove your shoes — glad I happened to wear matching socks that day); locating my gate, and then waiting, and then boarding the plane, and then finding my connecting flight in Atlanta, Georgia. I passed the time spent inside of the airport reading a book that I borrowed from the library, about a girl who could taste feelings in food, and passed the time on the plane looking out of the window at the strange, rolling landscape below. I was lit-trah-lee going to Denver… all by myself.
literally.gif

Chris from Parks and Recreation

6 hours later, when my second plane touched down, a rush of adrenaline pulsed through me. “Okay; now it’s REALLY go time.” My Airbnb host, a new age-y guy named Reed, had mentioned, via text, that he needed to head into work at 5 that day, meaning that I would need to check in with him by 4:30. My plane landed at 2:30, meaning I had exactly 2 hours to get there.
I quickly followed the maze-y trail leading out of the airport and then purchased a ticket for the RTD (Regional Transportation District) from a machine outside, learning that, for just $9, a ticket could be used for a 24-hour time period… to board any trains or buses meandering through the city. “Cool,” I thought. “I wish Birmingham had a well-mapped out public transit system like this one.” Denver: 1. Birmingham: 0.
 
The train ride into the heart of the city made me feel giddy; I was doing such a remarkable job… staying alive and getting from the airport to Reed’s house!
I exited the train once I reached Union Station, where a bunch of buses were parked. I checked the GPS on my phone; it was now 3:30, meaning I had an hour left to travel to Reed’s. Google estimated that walking would take 1 hour and 20 minutes, so I decided to hop onto a bus instead.
And I hopped onto 2 buses, actually; one getting me closer to his place, and the other, closer still. By the time I had finished with RTD, it was 4:15, and I was still 20 minutes away (by foot) from Reed’s. 😦
“Damn ittttttt,” I moaned, picking up the pace as I rolled my carry-on down the bumpy concrete sidewalk, shouldered my bulky, tightly-packed backpack on my left side, and sweated profusely underneath an indigo-colored jean jacket and a leather jacket. I’m going to Denver in the late winter, I had thought to myself while getting dressed earlier that morning. The actual temperature: 80 degrees. The last time I’d had water: maybe 5 hours before. #hustlin’
I walked up to Reed’s door, panting and red in the face, at 4:38, and to my surprise, he was still there… standing in the doorway, but obviously in the process of leaving. Upon seeing me, a surprised look passed over his face (and I’ll explain that later).
“Reed?” I ventured.
“Yeah… Jace…” he shook his head quickly, from side to side, obviously clearing his thoughts. “Yeah, I was just leaving, but I stuck a key in the mailbox for you,” and he nodded, indicating its location.
“Oh, wonderful! Thank you SO. MUCH. I know you’re in a rush, so I won’t keep you, but thank you so much for having me,” I smiled, bypassing him into the house and promptly greeting his plump orange cat, Yoshi.
I showered immediately, changed into clean, dry clothes, and then plopped down onto the couch that would be my home for the next 6 days, having foregone the luxury of renting a costly private room for the attractive alternative of paying $20 per night for a couch.
Welcome to Denver, I murmured, stroking Yoshi’s swirly, orange-and-white cheeks.
***
Denver was a trip. During my stay, I visited five of its local coffee shops (Amethyst, The Corner Beet, Thump, Roostercat, and Hudson Hill). Each of them was filled with living plants, big windows, and good vibes. I tried a root beer-flavored latte at Amethyst and a vanilla lavender-flavored latte at Hudson Hill; both were incredible. I worked on my novel inside of these bright and cheerful coffee shops; visited the art museum and Cheesman Park on a whim and – in between quick and $$ saving food runs at Whole Foods – treated myself to four vegetarian-friendly restaurants (Watercourse Foods, City O’ City, Illegal Pete’s, and Sputnik). Every single day, I traveled the city on foot, camera in hand, walking – on average – ten to twelve miles. That’s the really quick overview… below, I’ll share – in detail – my most memorable experiences while visiting the city.
1. The Spring Equinox Detox Yoga Class
2. Salsa Dancing (in a dress)
3. Snowboarding
4. Excessive Consumption of Edibles
5. My conclusion

First up, The Spring Equinox Detox yoga class.

My Airbnb hosts, Reed and Jake — two bicycle-riding, yoga-loving, and 99.5% vegetarian gay guys — invited me to a yoga class that was scheduled for Monday night. Eager to glimpse as much of the local life as possible, I agreed to join them.
It was a 2-hour event, taking place in a dimly-lit auditorium. Mats were provided, and in front of each mat, a blue crystal, a black stone, a typed mantra, and a fake candle were all provided.
A woman — one of the two young yoga instructors — walked over, smiled down at me, leaned forward to murmur something, and then sprayed something in my face. I coughed a little. “I’m sorry — what… was that?”
She smiled again. “I was cleansing your aura,” she whispered, mystically.
“Ohhhhh — okay… thank you!” I smiled back at her.
This same woman began the meditation. At her instruction, we all layed down, resting our backs against the mats, holding the blue crystal in our left hand, and placing the black stone where our third eye is — on our foreheads. She discussed the significance of this astrological year; explained how the crystal could absorb our negativity, our depression, our anxiety, and our bad vibes in general, and how the black stone would do something else powerful for us. I can’t remember everything.
Her session concluded with us both handwriting and visualizing a manifest list and a release list for the spiritual new year. “On your manifest list, I want you to envision what you want for yourself this year, and on your release list, I want you to picture yourself letting go of whatever is holding you back.”
My manifest list included words and phrases like: “Be confident; feel accepted; be stable; practice good mental health; be independent.”
My release list was much simpler; it contained a name and, underneath the name, the words “stop thinking you’re an outsider.”
I cried when the name entered my mind; I wrote the name down, I pictured letting the person go, and then the second instructor swept in, leading us through a 70-minute series of challenging stretches, movements, and poses while the salty tears dried on my cheeks.
Back at their apartment, the three of us stayed up late (for me; past 12), talking about the class, sharing our personal life stories, and snacking on food.
After I divulged my gender-identity-crisis-and-tragic-divorce story, Reed looked over at me, a small smile playing on his lips. “Hey — since we’re all being open here, do you want to hear something crazy?”
“Yeah!” I smiled at him, snuggling more deeply underneath my blanket (which, I learned, Jake’s grandmother had sewn by hand). It pictured teddy bears on one side and Native American people on the other.
“When you first booked your stay, and we saw your name and your profile picture and thought that you were a gay dude…” Reed admitted slowly.
“A cute one,” Jake added, winking at me and flicking another piece of popcorn into his mouth.
Our laughter filled the room, and then we journeyed outside, taking turns passing a lighter and burning our manifest and release lists so that our intentions could flow out into the universe, seeking fruition.
***

Up Next: Salsa Dancing with Senora and Jig.

I walked into a vintage clothing store on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, locking eyes with the corduroy pants, elbow-patched jackets, and retro patterns everywhere. The dresses, I realized, were in the very back of the store, and I approached them hesitantly, my hand brushing against at least 30 dresses before lingering on one viable candidate: velvet, with interesting straps, and long, with a swooshy, rainbow-patterned fabric. “Perfect for salsa dancing,” I murmured to myself, imagining twirling in it.
I grabbed it, folded it across my arm, and approached the store clerk, a young brunette wearing a black dress that was partially colored and partially see-through. She looked like a witch.
Understanding my need, she gestured towards the fitting room; I tried the dress on and texted a picture of it to my best friend. “What do you think?”
“Beautiful!!” his text read. “I love those colors and the skirt is classy. You have a wonderful body,” he added, as an afterthought.
I rolled my eyes and smiled.
I brought the dress back to the apartment, showered, changed into it, and then took an Uber ride to La Rumba, where the class was being held.
The instructors were, like my dress, very classy, and very serious. No jokes. No smiles. It was all business to them… this light matter of beginner salsa dancing.
Women were stationed on the right side of the room, and men were shooed over to the left. We each learned our separate movements. I struggled to keep up, at first, but then caught on to it; the only movement that stubbornly evaded me was the spin… its foot movements are extremely precise while my version is just a quick, purposeful twirl to get back to a forward-facing position.
After learning our separate movements, each man was tasked with choosing a partner. My heart started racing. I had wanted to learn the moves and face my fear of dancing in public, but I had not anticipated actually dancing with somebody.
My first partner was a young man, my age or a little older.
“Hi,” he smiled bashfully.
“Hi,” I replied, smiling back at him. “I’m really bad at this,” I whispered.
“No problem,” he whispered back.
By the end of the class, I had danced with about 8 different partners — some of them better, and some of them worse than me. My favorite partner was a sophisticated older gentleman who appeared to be in his early 70s. He danced with me delicately, and respectfully, and he insisted on working with me on my spin until it was nearly perfect.
Another dancer — a local girl who was slightly younger than me — asked me to get coffee with her after the event. We walked to a local coffee shop together, chatted, and she ended up inviting me back to her apartment, where she offered to cook us dinner. I accepted, but when we arrived at her place, the apartment was so insanely messy that I just couldn’t stomach the idea of eating there. I told her that the coffee had taken my appetite away, and after an hour of chit-chatting, we walked over to Voodoo Donuts together, where she ordered a doughnut covered in Captain Crunch cereal and I requested an old fashioned plain cake.
“You two look really nice,” a hipster girl complimented us as we left the store.
“Thanks!” I gushed, smiling at her and thinking to myself, I’m actually wearing A DRESS right now… what kind of alternate reality is this?
17358575_10210150651136618_3664852134282707784_o

“Salsa dress” w/avocado socks and Vans.

***

Snowboarding. It’s just like skateboarding, right? Wrong.

I’ve skateboarded for years… I snowboarded once, eight years ago in Connecticut. I recall it as being pretty intuitive, but I was also much younger and, when it came to physical pursuits, braver back then.
So last Wednesday, in Denver, I woke up at 5:30, paid an Uber driver to take me to Union Station, and then hopped onto a ski bus, which escorted me and about 15 other passengers an hour and a half up north, into the mountains.
IMG_9896.JPG
Inside of the ski resort, I rented out a snowboard and a helmet. After purchasing these items in advance, I was ushered over to another counter, where a second clerk took a quick look at my contract and then completed my order. “So no snow boots?” he asked me, surprised.
“Oh — I’ve already got those,” I smiled smugly, balancing on one foot so I could hold the other one up and show him.
His face darkened. “Oh no… those aren’t going to work. You’ll break your ankle,” he stated plainly, shaking his head. “I tell you what — you can get back in line… actually,” he interjected himself, “just follow me.”
He led me over to an area with benches, measured my foot, and then brought out a pair of snow boot rentals, free of charge. I thanked him heartily. His name was Ghoul.
The ski resort was divided into 2 major parts: the basin and the valley. The valley was recommended for beginners, which I definitely considered myself to be, so off to the valley I went.
Now… the valley offered three separate chair lifts. Thinking each of them to be of equivalent complexity, I went with the third, which was far off to the left.
I stood on the platform, nervously waiting, and sure enough, it came along quickly, swinging from behind me; without missing a beat, the chairlift snatched me up and began carrying me away, high up into the mountain.
My stomach flipped just a little, at first; for one thing, there was no steel bar containing me… meaning that I could, hypothetically, if my OCD dictated, easily slip, fall, or slide off of the chair lift to certain pain (or death) below. Secondly, my right foot was strapped into the snowboard, leaving my left foot free. It felt strange; the board was heavy, and I couldn’t imagine how the hell I was going to get off of this thing without hurting myself. Thirdly, this lift was taking me way too fucking high.
I chanced a look down and groaned; I turned to look behind me, where tall, snow-capped mountains towered over me, and my heart rate and breathing both accelerated.
A sign a little ways ahead indicated that I should begin preparing for a drop off point. I steadied myself, attempting to gain control of my breathing, but when the time came to unload, I freaked out and just couldn’t do it. I passed the small, elevated bank, turning in my seat to look back at it. The attendant looked at me; I stared back at him, and tears began to fill my eyes as I receded further and further away from him. I resumed facing forward and started sobbing outright. I was going higher and higher — much higher than I imagined sane for any rider — and I was going to have to figure out how to get back down.
The second drop off point — the highest point on the freaking mountain — was the last one. I had no choice. When the elevated bank arrived, I lowered my board down onto it with a sustained, fearful cry. I stepped out of the lift, placing my left foot onto the back of board, and slid down the six foot decline, landing face first, with a scream and a thud, my board awkwardly stuck to my right foot, behind me.
The attendant came out of his station to check on me; asked if I was alright, and explained that this was an advanced beginner lift. He looked sorry but helpless.
“Well… all I can do is try,” I decided, strapping my left foot in and positioning my board to begin the descent. I picked up speed way too fucking fast and freaked out, forcing myself to fall down because I hadn’t yet learned how to make the board “stop” or change direction.
“That’s IT,” I muttered, unstrapping both feet. I turned some music on my phone, tucked the heavy board underneath my right arm, and began walking down the hill… slowly and carefully.
I met up with two other snowboarders; they were sitting on the side of the hill, as one of them had sustained an injury. They watched me pass on foot and then, moments later, caught up with me, asking if we could all trek down together.
The one who had sustained an injury — a blonde girl from Texas — fell again during our journey down, but instead of resisting the fall, me and her boyfriend watched in awe as she surrendered herself to the mountain, allowing it to carry her downhill much faster than our cautious stepping did.
He and I looked at each other. “Wanna do that?” I asked.
“Yep.”
The rest of the trip down was actually pretty fun… a fine blend of walking and sliding and screaming and laughing.
I returned all of my rental gear within about 90 minutes of checking it out.
“You’re… done done?” the clerk asked.

“Yep.”

I ordered a bowl of vegan soup in the cafeteria and a cup of hot chocolate from the cafe (the young barista slid the hot chocolate over to me with a smile and then walked away before I could pay her). I sat outside, in awe of the majestic and magical mountains enclosing me, firmly deciding to not feel bad for giving up so soon.
17492318_10210154802080389_1585876032987806050_o
***

Annnnnnnnd #4: Excessive Consumption of Edibles. Sigh…

Ahhhh, yes. Edibles. Some are likely wondering, what exactly are they? Here’s the short answer.

Starting with the basics, cannabis is a plant that can be used medicinally, as well as recreationally. Medically, cannabis (or marijuana) is helpful in alleviating unpleasant symptoms (like joint inflammation, nausea, and anxiety disorders) and even in preventing or lessening the effects of certain diseases and illnesses (like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy). Recreationally, people smoke, eat, and drink marijuana to simply relax, unwind, and have a good time. It can also enhance the enjoyment of certain experiences, like fairs and concerts.

This plant, cannabis, contains – among many other things – something called THC. THC is a naturally occurring chemical that, interestingly enough, acts as the plant’s immune system, helping it fight off parasites, bacteria, and other bad things. When humans smoke marijuana, eat baked goods laced with marijuana-infused butters, or drink beverages containing THC, the effects they experience can be strange and wonderful. The muscles relax; time slows down; thoughts and ideas are magnified; bodily sensations are amplified.

There are two major “strains” of marijuana: indica and sativa. Indica provides its user with an energetic high, while sativa offers a deeply relaxing and “spacey” high.

Now… back to explaining edibles. Edibles are simply food items that have been cooked with marijuana, meaning that – instead of smoking to achieve your high – you can pop a chocolate mint-flavored cookie, a brownie, or a cranberry orange chocolate bar into your mouth. But be careful, because that shit is powerful, and it takes a little while for it to really sink in.

Want to hear about my first experience with edibles (in a wonderfully progressive state where the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized)? K. Better buckle up for this ride.

I got into CO on a Friday, but due to travel exhaustion, didn’t really venture out into the city until Saturday. I had included “visiting a dispensary” on my agenda, thinking that it would be unlikely that I’d just stumble upon one and that I’d actually have to spend one morning or afternoon going out of my way to find a place. Wrooooooong. They’re everywhere.

As I was exploring the downtown scene on Saturday morning — sizing up all of the coffee shops and making a mental note to retrace my steps and visit the art museum — I saw my very first one: a dispensary with a green and white sign that read “Mile High Green Cross.”

My heart started racing. Am I really doing this?!! I squealed inwardly, tugging the door open while looking back over my shoulder, feeling like an absolute criminal and just waiting for the police sirens to blare as men in blue suits raced toward me with tasers in their hands and light bouncing on and off of their shiny handcuffs.

But I opened the door, stepped inside, and nothing happened. Everything had remained just as quiet as it was.

I approached the front desk tentatively, where a man behind a glass window smiled at me.

“Hi…” I began, awkwardly. “I’m here to um, purchase, the recreational, marijuana…”

“Sure! Just need to see your ID.”

I fumbled with my wallet for a few seconds and then dropped my license into the space between the top of the counter and the bottom of the glass wall. Panic seized my heart again. Oh nooooooooo… are they going to report me to the authorities in Birmingham? It’s legal here, so surely I won’t get in trouble… but WHAT IF I DO?! What if they’re waiting for me right when I arrive back at the airport on Thursday?!

I swallowed hard.

“Alrighty — they’re ready for you in the back!” he announced cheerfully, nodding toward a door I hadn’t noticed before.

“So I just… open it?” I clarified, pointing at the door.

“Yep…”

I entered cautiously, and then relaxed, because the room smelled wonderful. I can’t even describe it. A young girl met me at the counter, asking what I’d come in for today.

“Well, I’d like to try edibles,” I announced in a soft voice, eyeing the items on display.

“Awesomeeeeeeee,” she cheered me on, nodding enthusiastically. “Which ones are you interested in? We have gummies, candies, chocolate bars…”

“Uhhhh… do you have any cookies?” I whispered.

She smiled, reached down into the display case, and withdrew a white package containing two fudge mint-flavored cookies.

“These are really good,” she commented, handing them to me so I could look at them. “The package contains 10 milligrams, so if you’re just now starting out…” she peered at me, waiting.

“Yes — this will be my first time,” I confirmed.

“Right,” she nodded, “so if you’re starting out, I’d recommend taking just one cookie — which would be 5 mg — giving it about 2 hours to kick in, and then, if you aren’t feeling the way you want to feel in TWO hours, taking the other one.”

“Got it!” I smiled, excited at the idea of experiencing something new. “I’ll take them!”

I purchased the tiny package of cookies, ate just one of them, waited almost two hours, and then took the other one. I enjoyed perusing the art museum with an ever-so-slightly affected mindset, and the afternoon passed very pleasantly and smoothly.

But the next day, I really fucked up.

I visited another dispensary — this time, purchasing a chocolate peanut butter bar containing 100 milligrams of THC; ten times as much as the previous food item.

The clerk gave me the same spiel — “take a little, wait a few hours, then take some more” — I nodded quickly in understanding, paid with cash, and then left.

I popped one of ten chocolate squares into my mouth, letting it melt on my tongue, and then swallowed. 10 milligrams down… double the amount I’d initially consumed yesterday. And the THC — I swear, I could taste it better in the bar than I had been able to in the cookie. Its flavor was unique; distinctive.

I walked to the park, plopped down with my backpack, and — feeling very much the same — decided to take another square and a half — consuming an additional 15 milligrams. And I did this maybe 45 minutes after consuming my first square.

I gazed up at the sky for about half of an hour, thinking about things, and then continued on to Whole Foods, where I purchased a smoothie and sat down to work on my novel.

For the first half hour, I felt completely sane, and then suddenly, I realized that I had been revising the same sentence — about Jinx the rabbit wearing “a butter-yellow apron speckled with white flour” — for what felt like 15 minutes.

What the hell? I thought inwardly, wondering where the time had gone. I turned my head to the left, and was startled to discover that it took about three seconds to register what I was seeing. I turned my head to the right, and the same delay was present.

My heart started pounding. Oh shit. It’s happening.

I sat staring at my Chromebook for a few minutes, trying to not hyperventilate. There were lots of people in the room — laughing and talking so so SO very loudly and probably staring at me. Maybe they’d noticed the strange expression on my face. Maybe they’d phoned the police.

I’ve got to get out of here, I resolved.

I packed my backpack — an activity that took a ridiculous twenty freaking minutes: unplugging my laptop and phone charger from the wall; trying to figure out where one cord started and the other one ended; sliding my Chromebook into its case; zipping it up; placing it gently inside of my backpack; picking my empty smoothie cup up and, trying to look as normal as possible, walking it over to the trash bin, feeling dizzy and freaky as hell.

I finally slipped my backpack on and somehow made it to the bathroom. I texted Charlie: “I took too much. I hate myself. I’m scared.”

I knew I needed to get back “home” — to my Airbnb host’s apartment — right away. And it was eight blocks away. Damn it.

I exited the bathroom and then attempted to exit the store. I spent what felt like an hour walking around the aisles, getting lost, caught in a maze — passing by frozen foods, canned soups, facial masks — pointing and laughing at certain items, dancing and swaying as I followed the carefully mapped out pathways that keep you trapped inside of the store when you’re high and absolutely need to leave. I startled myself when I passed by the pints of ice cream for what felt like the fourth or fifth time, realizing, holy shit, this is NOT a dream… this is REAL. I’m awake, and I don’t know how long I’ve been here, doing this, and who has been watching me. My heartbeat quickened its pace even more.

Don’t panic, Jace. This is all in your mind, I coached myself. The only way you’re going to make it through this is to imagine that you’re a video game character who just needs to power up. You’re in a weak state, but you’re still alive, still in the game. Like a tiny, little Mario. 

I nodded, agreeing with myself, blinked, and then mentally woke up again, standing beside a case of purple and green grapes.

WHAT THE FUCK, I cried inwardly. How did this happen?! How am I still stuck inside of this grocery store?!!

I elevated my gaze, found the exit sign, and walked steadily toward it, trying to keep my heavy head up.

I made it outside, feeling the sun on my hair, forehead, and hands. Thank goodness.

Eight blocks… 5 east, and then 3 south, I whispered. Just make it home alive.

I started walking drowsily in the correct direction, but as I walked, my anxiety only grew stronger as the high began to peak; I patted my back jean pocket, so relieved to find my wallet still tucked into it that I could have cried. I didn’t remember putting it in there, but maybe I’d never taken it out. Who knows.

This is the stupidest shit ever, I sobbed. Consuming a psychedelic FOR THE FIRST TIME, BY YOURSELF, IN A STATE YOU’VE NEVER BEEN BEFORE. I shook my head. You’re a real idiot, Jace, but you’re learning.

I fumbled in my front pocket, trying to locate my phone. After successfully doing so, in-between centuries of blinking, where my vision could barely process the ending of sidewalks and the beginning of street crossings, I phoned my dad. He always answers, I reassured myself. But this time, he didn’t.

Damn it, I sighed. I briefly considered phoning my manager (but how weird would THAT be? “Hi, boss; I’m high out of my mind, a thousand miles away… can you please talk me through this?”) and my best friend (but he was at work, and I still had enough sense to know that disturbing him there was a bad idea), but there was really only one other person to call. My mother.

I touched her name and took a deep, sad breath as the ringing began, hoping that she wouldn’t answer almost as much as I hoped she would.

“Hey sweetie!” Sierra’s cheerful voice entered the line. “Whatcha up to?”

“Hello, Sierra,” I began in a steady voice, “I’m good, but I need to tell you something — I am stoned out of my mind right now. I took too much marijuana today and I am falling asleep but I’m trying to make it safely home and I just need you to stay on the line and talk to me so I don’t pass out. Okay? I’m sorry… I know.”

There was silence. Then: “Oh my… okay. I’m here. Okay.” She took a few deep breaths, steadying herself. “I… I don’t know anything about marijuana, Rose; do you think you should call the hospital? Have an ambulance come pick you up?”

I shook my head, although she obviously couldn’t see it. “No, mother; this is all in my mind. Physically, I’m fine… I’m not going to DIE or anything… you can’t really overdose. I just feel really tired and panicky and I know it will go away in a few hours. I took too much,” I repeated in a shaky voice, beginning to cry as I crossed another road and wondered if a car really was coming at me and I just hadn’t processed its image yet.

“It’s okay, sweetie,” Sierra cooed into the phone. And my mother stayed on the line with me for two and a half hours that night, asking me questions, telling me stories, and learning lots of things about me that, in my sane and sober mind, I’d never have told her.

At one point, while I was safely reclining against the couch and petting the cat, my vision still blurry and my mind full of goo, she related the following.

“One of my Facebook friends posted something SCARY this morning,” she shared. “She said that she woke up during the middle of the night last night because her room was suddenly FREEZING. She opened her eyes in the dark and discovered that her bedroom door, which she had closed the night before, was open… and then when she walked outside of the doorway, to her horror, the front door to her house was open, too!!”

I blinked and laughed. “Mom… do you really think you should be telling me this right now? In my current state?”

She laughed, too. “Ohhhhhhh… don’t be so paranoid, Rose!”

I rolled my eyes. She really doesn’t know anything about marijuana.

I left the rest of the chocolate peanut butter bar in my Airbnb host’s fridge the following morning, with a note that said: Please enjoy the remainder of this chocolate bar… I can’t handle it. 🙂 ❤ Jace

***

Those are my stories. It was an incredible trip. <pun somewhat intended.

A little less interestingly, here are some things I learned along the way — universally and personally.

  1. Learning a new style of dance is so, so fun. Grooving in an environment where there are goals, instructions, and objectives also seems to take the embarrassing sense of anxiety away (that might otherwise be associated with an unguided, “freestyle” dance floor). And honestly, dresses aren’t that bad, either… since wearing one two years ago, I had forgotten how comfortable they can be.
  2. Meditating is healing. My pattern seems to be scheduling time for yoga once every 2-3 months, and right now, that works for me. It helps me process through emotions that I’ve been stifling and it always leaves me feeling lighter, happier, and more clearheaded. Creating and recreating a “manifest and release” list from time to time is also a good idea in general, whether you’re into the stretches and crystals or not.
  3. Snowboarding is nothing like skateboarding. And all chair lifts in the valley are not equal. Next time you give it a go, ask which one’s the easiest.
  4. Marijuana is a powerful substance; respect it. If it’s ever legalized in my state, I will definitely use it again, but under wiser circumstances (IE moderately, in an environment that is familiar and comfortable, and in the presence of people I trust). Even if it isn’t recreationally legalized anytime soon, I do hope that medical marijuana will soon be condoned. Just imagine the good it could do. When I think of how many seizures my brother still suffered from (notwithstanding the multitude of prescription drugs he was on), it breaks my heart that he never got to experiment with something natural like marijuana. It could have been his breakthrough. But because of these ignorant governmental bastards…
  5. Lastly, my answer to the question: Would I like to move to Denver, CO? For years, I imagined the answer would be yes. I felt certain – without having ever seen, stepped foot in, or breathed the place – that it would be suitable for me… full of mountains, and coffee shops, and boasting a progressive and embracive LGBTQ community… but the truth is that, while the vibes were good and the people were cool, I didn’t feel like I belonged there. The population is booming (with Denver being 5x the size of Birmingham), and as unique and alternative and trendy as the hoards of yoga practicers, bike riders, and pot lovers were, their coolness seemed to erect invisible walls around them — thick layers of pretenses that made me feel like an unwelcome outsider. But then again, I feel like an outsider pretty much everywhere I go, so that may have been me, not them. 🙂 And as a sidebar, that one  — “feeling like an outsider — made it onto the “release” list, too.So while the state was delicious and beautiful and my time there was full of nonstop adventure, I’m happy, for the time being, to continue living where I’m at… in the good ole’ South, where my neighbors watch football, eat barbecue, and love Jesus, and I’m just the alternative weirdo living next door who smiles and waves at them and drives off and then pulls up again, over and over in her dingy blue car, and we never really speak at all.

    My final thought: You don’t have to pick up and move in order to keep life exciting and get your kicks; just travel as often and as far away as you can, and — my last piece of advice? — never repeat the same place twice. Who has time for that?

 

I wasn’t here…
Aun Aqui
Still Here

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

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…

jw-meme

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.

internet-life-2

This is too real, huh?

***

typography-project-you-matter

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.”

***

20170116_171121

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.

 

20170116_171046

 

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

 

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!