Tuesday, October 28, 2008

softly, slowly (part 7)

the first thing i ever saw was the opening of a car door, through a perfectly paned window, in a cell in a subdivision, in the autumn of the desert. everything that came after or before was simply a reverberation of this moment. of this first sight. of this first memory. the rings of a rock, dropped and drowning, in the stillness of the waters that surround us. life doesn't happen in any particular order. calendars pale in comparison to the values and the verdicts. time doesn't happen in any particular order. my past, present and future all started then. that day. peering through the shutter blades.

now and again i find myself peering out through blinds i've hung around myself. trying to find a familiar sight. trying to find a way to the door. people come and go, with greater frequency these days. i've come to expect it. i'm learning to accept it. i try to find in me, whatever it is i don't see, that propels this to sky rocket. that propels this radius to expand and demand i expect nothing from anyone. surely, there's something i just don't see. i trace the lines of my face, my tired eyes, straining in the dim light of the dank bathroom bursting in color i just can't define in the dark.

rifling through the remnants of my history, recently re-emerged, i found my old favorite book. wherein i immediately supplanted myself. getting lost in the lines i've known so well. the lines i'd forgotten, but still know so well. i take breaks to scatter through old photos that no one will appreciate quite like me. and i wish there were someone to share them with. someone who could appreciate them a little like me. and i think of perfectly paned windows, in the cells of subdivisions we'll always know so well.

the week ahead is busy. and i look to the changes that will keep me busy. maraud me from myself and the focus of my fears. i take my eleven vitamins and four spoonfuls of minerals twice daily. and i see the changes that have made me even more of myself. the ways the simplicity i once sought, now reverberate to expand. i look at all those old books, back on the shelf finally, read and unread. and i want to find safety in the old. i want to reread everything i've ever read and loved. the shelter in the pages i've found home. it's hard to have faith in anything new these days. i've grown to expect it.

and i think of that first sight. that first day, preceded by so many. followed by such flames. and every succeeding scar just a burn from that first fire. from that first day. i peer through the blinds and try to see beyond it. try to see beyond the opening of a door. because the doors, they close so quickly these days. with such frequency. i trace the lines of my face the way a lover once did, trying to find whatever it is i just don't see. trying to find how he happened. how he happened to leave. and i how i came to be. how simplicity has become so hard to re-inhabit.


we had hardwood floors and ceilings so high we couldn't even pretend to reach them. we had a cute little kitchen, with a cute little refrigerator. and an equal sized bathroom, separated from the kitchen by a wall with a window. the hot water only lasted five minutes for every hour. luckily i was showering at 430 in the morning, bartending around the corner. he was making minimum wage down by the river in the early afternoons. we had mint green walls and a giant ceiling fan with thick, thick blades. we went out every night. and every day we walked down the loose slate walkway of pirate's alley, water swishing just below our flip flopped feet.

that's how it all started. six months in and we were still on our honeymoon. spooning to sleep and so in love. uncertain, but certainly a team. green stairs leading up to our studio apartment there on royal street. where the band played all morning. where the pigeons fucked out on our a/c unit all evening. and we were still figuring each other out; over cards and beers and out by the fountain out past the carriageway. those warm nights out in the streets aglow. laughing. before dogs and uhauls and real jobs, when life seemed like a vacation, even though we were barely scraping by. stacks of one dollar bills on the dining table i carried home from ten blocks away. things were so much easier when things were so much simpler. no morning trains or new furniture or dressing up for work. just a small studio with a few necessary things and our feet to get us around. and we never fought once. and i can't help but wonder if this simplicity is some sort of microcosm for the way we ought to be living our lives. and i can't help but wonder what would have happened if we had stayed.

but things change. time changes people. people change people. pressures mount and rise and so elevations change. they're changing all the time. people fall out of love. it just happens. prices will rise; the weather will keep getting hotter, even when it's cooling down; and we are constantly moving, even when we're barely getting by.

but the history is always there. living on somewhere. untouched and unspoiled. beignets down on decatur street with all our friends. dressed up, legs crossed, laughing at the ice cold water lady.

now he lives out of a suitcase on my living room floor. and i scope out craigslist portland with my friends. he scopes out houses around town. and i try to figure out this new relationship i've found myself in. i try to figure out this life i'm living, that i just don't seem to fit in with. and i think we're mostly happy most of the time. but i wonder what it will be like when we're living in different cities. the past spreading itself thin across the maps. what will keep us connected. hell, i still haven't really found what kept us apart. apart from things and inconsequences. all that furniture and all those commutes and all those things we thought we needed; even though we'd never needed them before.

i dress up. i tap my fingers on tables. i keep my headphones on and my eyes on the horizon. and i just don't seem to think about the way that i've been living. like i'm in some music video, where only the rhythms are consistent. where anything can happen and nothing seems so surprising anymore. where there never appears to be a set course. just me and me and pictures of the past pushing me into something new. those slate walkways, how strange they'd feel beneath our feet. moving softly, slowly. when we moved softly, slowly.

we will not make the history books. we will not be read. we will never be notarized or motorized or sold in perfect little plastic packages. we will become footnotes that fade in the paperbacks discarded on sidewalks, waiting for someone to finish them. wondering how long it will be before we just disappear softly, slowly. something that was so epic to us, something so meaningful to us, that will herald not even the slightest indentation. all those fights and notes on mirrors and mornings in bed, floating up and away, slowly, softly. so light they're barely there. up, up and away. into space and so far beyond even our reaches. the history living on so silently; in such isolation it hardly even exists.

and down here the cars will keep driving, the roads will keep traveling, the smoke will keep billowing up into the clouds, from all the windows with bars, past the barking dogs, and everyone will eventually just go crazy, crazy. slowly, softly.


it had been three years, crossing the country, inhabiting amazing cities and stories and faces. and when it ended, i couldn't be surrounded by the history any more. it was too painful. it was much too much. and so i sold all my belongings, filled a minivan with the dog and the essentials, and found a home in portland. in our lives, there are a handful of moments that enormously shape our futures and who we will become. portland, to me, would become the paradigm. a decision i would look back on, for years to come, with both regret and relief.

shortly after my own escape, he was shipped off to hong kong. and as i prepared and departed for my three week trip, i wondered if i would ever see him again. i wondered how the proximity would feel. to be so close, but still so isolated our history barely even existed.

a brief look at my final days before departure (part 6)

i was engaged. about a month before i left for asia, i popped the question in the middle of the night. he looked at me sleepily and somewhat surprise at the impromptu proposal. as he wiped the sleep from his eyes, i asked again. and he smiled.

we'd hardly known each other. by all accounts, including our own, the engagement was insane. it didn't stop us all the same. within three weeks he'd moved in, we'd planned the entire ceremony, and sent out save the date notices. i think, even then, i knew. i knew. but hope can so easily make you overlook the obvious, the dreadful, the reality of our actions. but i firmly believe everything happens for a reason. regardless of the outcome, i knew this engagement would have an astounding effect on so many aspects of my life, past, present and future. and that so many aspects of my past, present and future would have an astounding effect on my engagement.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

reconciling (part 5)

i am both intelligent and informed. sometimes to my detriment. i've have spent most of my life in isolation, despite the number of great people i have been lucky enough with whom to surround myself. somewhere inside me there is a disconnect that appears constant and confusing. i am intelligent and informed enough to know what happened to me is not my fault. but i can't help but feel otherwise. the conflicts of emotion and knowledge can be so destructive. they become this mobius strip of introversion. even now there are times where i get so stuck inside my own head, i go through most of the day without realizing i haven't eaten. this has, of course, over time and since my trip, gotten better. but, still.

our days in cambodia were both fantastic and mired with a kind of suffering none of has had ever seen or dreamed of seeing. we are informed and intelligent, and it puts our own turmoils into perspective. it always will. the sights we saw we could never forget; we will never forget. and because i am intelligent i try to force my own turmoils to shrink so far down they can barely be seen or felt or heard. i've read the books, and so i know this is something we do. this is part of coping. i am intelligent and so i know life is so much bigger than me. that our individual problems are so much smaller than global pain and suffering. in the grand scheme of things, they mean nothing. how can i cry over hiv? how can i cry over so many little things, when faced with so much grief there in siem reap? but, still.

on our third day, we rode an elephant to a temple atop a hill in angkor. the views were spectacular. we marveled over the great tonle sap and the numerous temple tops rising up from the jungles below. it was impossible to look around without wanting to stay a hundred more days. it was impossible to reconcile all the pain and beauty below us. we slowly walked about the uneven rock walkways, the uprooted floor below, the carvings so intricate and precise. stories. the stories of achievement and strife and effort and time. mostly of time. how could you not feel so small, so surrounded by the evidence of time?

we could have spent another $10 a piece taking an elephant back down the hill, but opted to walk instead. the dirt trail to the ground wound back and forth across the hillside. as we made our way down, we came upon a slow and sullen huddle of people. we approached to find a young mother, barefoot and bone thin, cradling her baby. monique and i were overcome by our own tears. the boy's head easily rivaled his body in size. and from behind his eye bulged what i can only assume is a tennis ball sized tumor. his eyes were completely rolled into the back of his head. and his mother wept with such heartbreak, i felt my breath momentarily retreat from me. and all i could think was, that boy has maybe a week or two. and then what? i'll be gone. all these tourists, crying, will be gone. we'll be safely in our homes or hotels. we'll be poolside or watching television or eating out. and that woman's child will be dead. and no one will know or care. no one will ever know. and she'll be alone.

and there we found ourselves, again, returning to our hotel in silence. my own heartbreaks were suddenly so small. but, still.

we returned to the hotel, showered and changed, then headed to a nearby bar for beers and cheap eats. it felt so cold. it felt so foreign. it felt so unfair. how do we do? what were we supposed to do? what do i do now?

Monday, October 6, 2008

angkor wat (part 4)

i left the doctor's office with an unsettling fear that my life would be suddenly defined by the outcome of my visit. by three letters. and it was the last thing i wanted. because while to most it would boil down to those three letters, to me it really be about how it happened. no one ever asks how. so i resolved to bury it. to push it so far away, i would never have to think about it or the night that lead to it. the night i'd vowed to forget almost exactly one year before. i immediately pulled out the brochures and charts and graphs that now defined my insides. and i crumpled them up and tossed them into the first trash can i came across. what i thought should have been empowering, only made me feel emptier on the inside. i put my headphones on, walked the 2 miles home and drank a bottle of wine. i laid, dizzy, on my bed and stared at the ceiling. i thought of the old new orleans apartment, where we used to lay beside each other and watch the ceiling fan's blades spin slowly above us. hand to hand, bodies curled together, looking up. and i couldn't help but think that had we been able to work things out, had i been better, i wouldn't have moved to portland. and if i hadn't moved to portland then that awful night would never have happened. and now... now i wouldn't be this shell of a person, trying so hard to hide from the pain. trying so hard to be numb. now i wouldn't have hiv.

it had been a dream of mine to see angkor wat for years. and now, now i was standing in its shadow. we'd been anticipating this very moment throughout the entire trip. and here we were. we were awestruck and inspired. it was the most magical place i'd ever been. it commanded thoughts of my journey to that very moment. i quietly got lost in its hallways and corridors, in its labrynthine history. i quietly got lost in my own. in all the things i'd been burying for so long. it was a peaceful sadness i still can't appropriately articulate. it was the juxtaposition of the manifestation of a years-long dream and the release of years of plight i'd refused to allow myself to feel. it was so rewarding and so sad, so all at once.

there were quick and cutting rain storms, brief views of sunshine, and so much silence there. there is something to be said for being in a such a humongous, historical, beautiful and yet so isolated place. a place filled with so much grief and pain, but still stands so tall and undeniable. it's my favourite place. hands down. you really find yourself there. whether you want to or not.