Why is it always easier to tell a stranger the things that you wish you could tell your loved ones? Look at all of these never-to-be-sents. Look at my imagined conversations with you in Our Ballpark. Look at the entirety of fanfiction.
There are some things that I’ve even confessed to RQ guy that I’ve kept from Spencer, Clara, and all my friends who have always been in my life long before he was ever aware of mine. Actually, I’m trying to scale back how often I text with him, not because of anything he did, but because of everything I feel about wanting to be treated by a boyfriend in all the ways he treats me. And RQ guy is all the way in Chicago, and he only likes otters. (You’ll have to look that one up yourself.)
Actually, I don’t know if he’s only into otters. His text messages are full of a lot of jokes and I don’t always know when he’s being serious or not — the evident drawback of of texting, I suppose. What I am fairly confident about is that he’s just not that into me. He’s a nice friend to have, though. Even his rejections make me laugh:
"I’m gay but I’m celibate."
"I just transitioned into my new gender identity and I am not very comfortable being intimate yet."
"I’m a Republican."
As you can see, even though he’s just not that into me, I still tease him about wanting him to want me. Which, I guess, I do. Want him to want me.
I wonder if you ever got the Clubhouse Letters. There’s stuff in there that I haven’t told my friends, although I did mention some to RQ guy. But there won’t be anymore Clubhouse Letters from me. I’ve sent, what, five since 2009? And even that makes me feel weird, guilty even. I’m sorry. I only sent those because I got caught up in a dreamy, adolescent mood in which I thought each time: Maybe this will be the one he replies to.
My weekend got a little more complicated than I thought it would be. I wish that I could talk about it with you. I won’t tell RQ guy but I will definitely tell Pop and Ma.
I miss them.
I’ve already been scouting Christmas airfare.
I want to stay with them for a couple of weeks, through Christmas and even New Year. But it would be a sacrifice. I wouldn’t be making any money. If the temp agency called me, I wouldn’t be in town for any assignments. I haven’t heard back from the internship, but I still don’t have a good feeling about it.
Anyway, after this semester, I think that the thing I could use the most is to be sucked into the respite that is hiding out with my family.
It seems like it was a lifetime ago that I was in Europe even though it was only a few months ago. My phone didn’t work there. I didn’t really need it anyway. I posted all of my pictures whenever we got back to our little vacation rental but without my phone it was a bit liberating not to be tempted by checking in all over the place. What would have been the point, anyway? Here I am, checking into the Louvre. Now I’m checking into Buckingham Palace. Woo, here I am boarding the TGV. Location change: this status message is from an overlook in the Pyrénées. Come on.
I miss it a lot, though. Being in Europe, I mean. Not just because it’s Europe, but because gliding through a the French countryside on a high-speed train without anyone to call, text, or not having to post something was breathtaking in its simplicity.
It has been nice being without Facebook even if I have only been without it for a day. I certainly feel a weight unloaded. I really, honestly, truly got tired of a lot of the cynicism that I kept seeing on there. Also, there was recently this article that said Facebook actually makes you unhappy because it forces you to constantly compare your life to the lives of others. At first I thought that was simplistic but then I started to see that I’m very guilty of coming down on myself because I have to yet experience the life stages of marriage, child raising, and home ownership that I would constantly see on my news feed.
The thing is, I have no control over any of that — it is a democracy, and people are free to say what they want. So the choice is up to me, and I made a choice to leave Facebook because I decided that it did not work for me as a source of edification. Do you have a Facebook account, Linc? I mean, not your official page, but an account where you can just bullshit with your friends? I thought about that — about how, for all the negativity that I wanted to leave behind, I would also have to give up keeping in touch with friends whom I care very deeply about. In the end, though, I’ve reached out about my choice to the ones I know would care about it, and the ones who want to contact me know how to do so if they want to do it badly enough.
Have a good weekend, Linc. It’s going to be a bit overwhelming for me involving only just a very slender bit of what a weekend is supposed to be. This is life now. God, I’m a grown up.
I am the kind of book nerd who is so nerdy about books that a book title will float through my head for seemingly no reason at all.
Sometimes the title is of a book that I’ve never read, but had obviously noticed and even put in my mental notes of books to read, such as the time Clara was attempting to cook a Denver omelette for the first time and she wondered if adding more salt would improve the bland result. In response, I jestingly exclaimed to her: “Salt: A World History?” To which her response was not merely blank but the kind of subdued annoyance that one has in response to a non sequitur, although in my defense I would say that the conversation did have at least some tangential relation to Mark Kurlansky’s book.
So the title of this never-to-be-sent is really the title of a collection of Alice Munro short stories. It isn’t often that I borrow the titles of other books for these never-to-be-sents, although I often use song lyrics. Alice Munro is one of my favorite short story writers because, oh, I dunno: Canadian writers, to me, seem to be allowed space to be writers even when they are deservedly lauded with awards and positive reviews, and so therefore we the reader have the room to relate to their stories in the ways they probably meant us to in the first place. Margaret Atwood, although her novels are much more stratospheric in scope than an earthy short story, are still meaningful in personal ways. But I can never bring myself to separate the gravitas from a Raymond Carver or a Miranda July and I always finish reading their stories wondering if I’m “getting it.” My reaction to an Alice Munro short story, such as The Bear Came Over the Mountain, is usually wordless: it starts with a slight moment of physicality, such as gliding my hand over the last page, and results into more of a feeling, an acute pharmaceutical concoction of familiarity and longing, replete with a debilitating calm like one that would come from morphine. I don’t have to prove to anyone, least of all myself, that it was a Literary experience.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage has been floating through my head for at least the past two weeks, but its mysteriously sudden appearance in my life might have been better explained had it just been a morning thing. In the last two mornings, I’ve woken up from wonderful dreams that, opposite of betraying me, have broadcast visual evidence of wishful thinking, which is what dreams are supposed to do.
On Sunday morning, I woke up with a vivid recollection of a newly skinny Pablo Sandoval who told me, in startlingly proficient English, that everything was gonna be alright. In real life, I’m not sure if perfecting his English is in his field of interests, much less listening to “Three Little Birds” or anything else by Bob Marley; there, too, was an element of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign in that dream. The campaign is targeted, justifiably, toward teens but I have often contemplated the plight of adults who want to right own their lives but face little in the way of resources. Societal attitude is that adults have already made their choices and if those choices have resulted in failure, then that’s their fault and they must endeavor to make the right choices that result in success. Although this has been on my mind for some time, I thought about this most specifically and recently when I was on the bus the other day and saw an ad for a program called Year Up; the ad did not mention any requirements and the photos used in the ad seemed to indicate that I might be the kind of audience for which it is intended. So I whipped out my phone and pulled up the website — in this technology-dominated age, it was only appropriate that I had a sense of relief when a mobile version of their site materialized, rather than a standard desktop version scrunched onto a little screen, and thus proved that Year Up was serious — to read more about it, only to find that I was already aged out of the program. (The list of requirements contained additional criteria, which I’ve mentioned in one of those rare Clubhouse letters that I’ve sent your counterpart but which I doubt he’ll ever get, that might be difficult to meet.) Scholarships at my age are also difficult to obtain. Although I completely agree with throwing money and resources at our young, I also think that adults who’ve made mistakes should also have some of those same opportunities as readily accessible.
Some mistakes I’ve made are so serious that I’ve only been able to reveal them in those Clubhouse letters that probably got thrown right into the recycling bin or saved into a pile that will never be reviewed, if my experience working in administrative assistance, and submitting to literary agents, is any indication. I find myself thinking of Gloria Stuart saying in Titanic that “A woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets,” which you might think is typical and corny of me, but so it goes.
Speaking of Gloria Stuart, recently I confessed to Gemini my secret to getting through hard times; thinking more about it, it’s a confession that, so far, I’ve only made to Gemini. I hope it doesn’t say anything negative about my friendship with, say, Mary or Selma, both of whom I’ve known since we were kids, that I have never told them that my secret to getting through hard times is to think about women of the past. It is a common stereotype that gay men relate better to women but sometimes that particular stereotype is actually, and acutely, truthful. I did not “become” gay because women were dominant in my life — as a kinda-great woman once said, I was Born This Way — but I don’t deny that because women were dominant in my life, I favor them in influence more than I do men; so as a kid when Bill Clinton was president and doing his extramarital thing(s), I often wondered how this affected Hillary, and as I grew up I was unsurprised to realize that Hillary was so much more than the wife who Stood By Her Man.
My secret to getting through hard times is thinking of women in times when women were oppressed, and I have this visual in my head of a woman in, say, Victorian times or immediately preceding suffrage who has had to sacrifice her hopes and dreams; in my visualization, such a woman is tightening her corset at the same time she is hardening her face, and likely her heart, and she is assuring her children that we will get through this, even when very privately she is deeply, justifiably saddened and wholly inconvenienced that things are not turning out the way she would like. She is living in an unfair world but is marcing on. That is who I look up to.
I woke up from the dream about Pablo Sandoval on the day that the Giants dropped the last game of the Marlins series that they would have otherwise swept, so I’ve shyly held off on telling anyone about it — though I did mention it on Facebook that morning. Oops. The next morning, I woke up from a vivid dream that was fraught with argument and resolution. At times, it seems that even my sub-conscious, which should run wild, is as controlled and grounded as my conscious life. Even though from these never-to-be-sents it would seem that you are always on my mind, Linc, the truth is that the dreams that I do remember having of you are relatively few in number; and even lesser are the dreams where I dream that you and I are acting in, you know, the lecherous ways we ought to in a dream that I have about you.
We were arguing about going to Paris.
"It’s not an ideal time to go," I was telling you. "It’s cold. It’s gonna snow. And all the tourists know not to go there during that time of year, so only all the locals are around, and they’re not very nice to tourists. They don’t really have to be. I don’t blame them. It’s not summer anymore. They should be free to be themselves the other three seasons of the year."
"So we’ll keep to ourselves," you — or your counterpart, or both of you, integrated at long last — assured me. I don’t tell you this, but privately I am very surprised, and happy, that you are so convinced about going; of course, this is all just a dream, although it’s kind of interesting that even in a dream I still manage to maintain an internal life.
"We’ll drink hot chocolates and go to museums," you continue. "We’ll go to the touristy restaurants where they’re expecting tourists. This is in Paris, by the way. We’ll go to Bordeaux and Brussels and all of their little cafes and bakeries and not give a shit because, why the fuck not? We’re in France anyway. We may as well go to Bordeaux and Brussels and everything in between."
In hindsight, that you were listing specific cities and pretty much saying what I wanted to hear was the moment that truly demonstrated I was in a dream; as for the dream itself, I was already lost in dreamy thoughts about walking around arm in arm with you for twin reasons of warmth and romance in the European winter. On the verge of accepting your offer, I ventured: “Let’s not go crazy just because you have a lot of money.”
As dreams go, settings shifted without warning and events happened out of sequence. One moment, we were leaving the modest apartment in the Parisian suburbs that I stayed in with Pop and Ma earlier this summer; the next moment, we were on the TGV to Bordeaux. You had lobbied that we at least ride first class, and this was the one of the few splurges that I allowed, although in real life I had concluded earlier this summer that there were few differences between first and second classes other than fewer passengers and free wi-fi. In fact, the train culture as I had experienced it earlier this summer through France and going to London is distinctly more subdued than taking the train here in the United States. On the east coast, Amtrak has an option called a “quiet car” where you pay a business-class premium for assorted luxuries such as softer seats and a prohibition on cell phone conversation. But in my own European travels, quiet car amenities seemed widespread: people would take their cell phone calls near the doors away from everyone else, and any bustling conversation from passengers just boarding gave way to quiet again not long after the train resumed its course.
Back in my dream, we were still on the TGV when I woke up from a nap, and though I was still very sleepy, I had enough awareness to become overwhelmed with serenity: I snuggled up against your shoulder, you tightened your arm around me, and looking past the theatric window — an accurate recreation of windows on TGV trains in real life, I should point out — I watched thick streams of snow descending on the rapidly passing landscape. Though my only sense of time in the dream was that it was winter as well as the baseball off-season, I was vividly aware that Christmas was just around the corner.
"I’m almost ready to say I love you," I said.
Your arm loosened. I straightened myself enough to look up at you. You were wearing a beanie of thick, warm fabric and your hair was long again. These framed your face in a way that a shadow was cast that might not necessarily have been present in real-world lighting. But I could see that you were confused, if not entirely hurt.
"Why don’t you?" you asked.
Your voice was deep and resonated with the manliness apropos of your age. But there was also an undercurrent of innocence and boyish disappointment that I would not admit to you made me feel validated, though the reasons that I was about to lay out were also justified and not the result of any sort of vindictiveness or self-serving.
"Because it’s too soon," I said. "Because as much as I enjoy your company, as much as I want to spend every moment with you, I’m not sure if I can say I love you yet. And, really, if you think about it, so much in this world is tenuous anyway. What makes love so different?"
"So you won’t say that you love me because you don’t know if I’ll stick around?"
Even in my own dream, this conversation was taking a sharply confrontational turn that I didn’t like. What I said next was something that I was hoping I delivered with both authority and finality: "I’m saying that I don’t want to say I love you yet because it’s not something I’m ready to say right now."
There were many directions that this situation could have taken had it occurred in real life instead of a dream. In real life, I wonder if you would have thrown it back in my face that you went through all the effort of taking me to Europe during the holiday season which, you would sharply point out, you know is my favorite time of year, and still that isn’t enough for me to declare my love. Out of anger, you might mutter that at least I’m good in bed, and I’ll press you to repeat that, and instead you’ll turn away and stare at the window. In real life, I am not at all enamored of theatrical expressions of emotion, and a silence might settle between us while we both stew.
"I don’t want to argue with you on this trip," I will eventually say. After a pause, I will add: "Not ever."
I will reach for your hand, which is warm but initially chilly denial, although you don’t pull away. Sooner than later, though, you wrap your fingers around mine and for the moment, our hand holding would have to be as close to saying I love you that I can muster. My last memory of that dream is actually you and me still sitting together on the train, the silence growing into a comfort rather than a debilitating burden.
You know, I once met Diana Krall. I had no idea what to say to her, and luckily that day I had a notebook with me — for an alleged writer, rarely do I ever equip myself with the expected implements — so I was able to get her autograph. When she asked me what I would like her to say, I was taken aback that she was willing to write more than just her name. Shyly, I said, “I really like your song ‘Why Should I Care?’”
She stared at me. (Diana Krall stared at me!)
"You want me to write ‘Why should I care’?" she exclaimed.
I was about 20 or 21 at the time, inarticulate and easily impressed, so I just shrugged and felt my blushing get hotter.
"I really like that song," I squeaked.
With authority, Diana took my notebook and began to write. When it was back in my hands, the inscription composed in loopy, expressive handwriting read:
023.0: How can you not be romantic about baseball?
I have gone from feeling talked-into about Europe to having just wrapped up a swift and extraordinary love affair with Paris and London. One could also say that I had myself quite the ménage à trois — but then one would be ruining the meaningful observation that one is trying to make.
Speaking of explicit language, it belatedly occurred to me that the list of recipients of my private e-mail updates about Europe does not include my Gemini friend at church; I find myself wondering if I left her off the list, not only because I haven’t yet come to think of her as part of the gang even though I regard her highly as a friend and confidant, but also because I am so accustomed to addressing the gang with the kind of word choice that Spock called “colorful” in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
It was an affair to remember for how sweepingly it unfolded. Already in the first few days of my vacation, I had begun to imagine moving to Paris. When I relayed my feelings to Spencer, she wrote back saying that my e-mail had made her nostalgic. (She’d gone to Paris last month.) She said to me, “It’s no wonder that artists, musicians, and writers have been going there forever to work and to fall in love.”
But travel also has practical realities with which to contend; for example, when traveling with family, sometimes you butt heads. Ma and I had different ideas about conducting the trip, ideas that sometimes became confrontational. We would work our way past those confrontations as quickly as we got into them, but each one of them left me feeling deeply fiery in the moment, and then with a lasting guilt after each one. It makes me wonder if traveling with my husband, wherever/whomever he may be, would be any better. There were times when I found a free moment away from Pop and Ma to go on on long walks of my own, and one of the intangible places that my mind drifted toward was the perpetual fantasy of being with my husband — in this case, merely strolling with him, how the same picture of solitude that I was living in that very moment could someday become the noble communion of fated souls.
With travel also comes the natural exhaustion that emerges from going from place to place with too little time and sometimes not enough hydration; or the mental stress of communicating with locals, not only the stress of learning their language but their mannerisms and meanings as well. On our final night in Paris, we were exiting the metro station and we got stuck at the turnstiles because it turned out we had purchased an incorrect class of tickets. I had to flag down the station attendant to help us, and upon examination of our tickets, he proceeded to lecture us about our error. “I’ll let you through this one time,” he said, in such a nasty way that I was fleetingly relieved to be leaving the next day,
To tell you the truth, Linc, I am ready to go home. The initial musings I had about living here thankfully turned out to be nothing more than initial musings. Maybe the realities of travel helped to chisel those musings into something more earthly but also I think that experience ought to receive the lion’s share of credit. Not only do I have a significant life back in San Francisco, but I am also much too American to repatriate. France and England are absolutely lovely nations. But the Philippines is my motherland and America is my homeland. The things that I miss about home may be the most minor details of everyday life but they are things that I miss nonetheless: I yearn to go into a shop or a restaurant and say “hello” instead of “bonjour” or “bonsoir” depending on the time of day; to turn to the sports pages in a newspaper where baseball is not relegated to a single item upon the corner.
In this and all of my prior travels, what I’ve noticed is that everyone, everywhere yearns to be somewhere else; it may very well be the reason why, even in Paris, it is fashionable to wear hats bearing the NY abbreviation in the Yankees style; or why I have a coworker, a native San Francisan, who habitually romanticizes Paris in both our conversations together and in her bloggings. Or even why baseball fans, who are known for being fiercely loyal to their own home team even when they have been playing badly for a long time, will at times venture to other ballparks. I believe we have not yet completely evolved beyond the migratory patterns of our ancestors; in an age where we can lie still for hours at a time in hostage to a tablet or a console, the greatest irony is our inability to be authentically present.
But presence is worth the effort. Humans have built and destroyed no end of great structures but there is no construction grander and worth preserving past destruction than the construction of a life. I like that I have habits, friends, hobbies, and familiarity to which I can return. There is nothing in my life so revolting that I have to sweep it away as sacrifice for being swept away by a love affair. And even for the most challenging parts of my life that certainly do come close to revulsion, if I did run away to Paris, they would still follow me — and I would have to endure them in a strange land, away from any notion of home.
I applaud you for what I hear was one of your better outings this season at the Marlins (!) game you guys ultimately lost. Despite your struggles this season I remain curious about where you take what you’ve built, even if you go in another direction.
My closing shift at work yesterday was going along in a fairly leisurely way up until, of course, the final hour. After what happened, even my coworker was bemused at how such activity happened on the eve of my vacation.
I had a tough transaction involving a foreign customer’s credit card authorization. (Hopefully this does not presage any trouble I may/don’t want to have abroad.) At one point, I had one ear on a landline with the merchant authorization people who deal with these things, and my other ear was pressed to my cell phone on the other line of which was my manager, who was guiding me through the unusual situation. Meanwhile, the customer was toughing it out with a polite grimace, but I knew inside she was fuming — at least if I know my Filipino culture well (and I’d like to think that I do).
We were able to get the customer out of there with all of her merchandise, although the transaction may come into dispute, and I ended up taking an extra ten minutes after the drama to take extensive notes on the situation and leave copies of everything for my manager. (It was his day off. We have a good staff in that we really endeavor not to bother him when it is his scheduled day off but times like this it’s really handy to have his cell phone number. Anyway, he was everything a good manager should be in this situation: understanding, even supportive to a fault. Our staff, which to me sometimes functions like cousins in an extended family, really lucked out with this manager.)
What got to me about this situation was how I tried hard to connect with the customer — and failed. There was a long wait involved while my boss and I figured out various boring retail logistics but also because the merchant authorization people had me on hold for a while. I kept apologizing to the customer and then at one point I tried to bust out some Tagalog.
“Taga saan kayo?” I said, sneaking in a pleasantry during an especially prolonged hold: “Where are you from?”
"The Philippines," the customer said coolly.
She was an older Filipino woman, probably a few years older than one of my oldest aunts, and her icy reply took me aback.
"I mean, Manila," she added hastily, and for a split second it seemed that she caught on with how I was trying to connect. But she bore down on that forced smile. There was no conversational "Ikow?” in return: “And you?”
It made me sad, Linc. I can’t explain why — no, maybe I don’t. Maybe I don’t want to explain why because reacting sadly feels so uncalled for. It makes me feel overly sensitive but here’s the truth: I felt really bad that I couldn’t put her at ease, and I felt really bad that trying to find common ground with her as Filipinos didn’t work, either. I started to wonder if I came across as manipulative. Anyway, I can see the situation from her viewpoint as well: no one likes being on the receiving end of a disputed transaction.
Hell, maybe she didn’t even think I was Filipino at all but instead some other nationality making a lame attempt to speak in her language.
I’m at the gate now! I got about four hours of sleep and allowed myself about three hours of final prep early this morning before the shuttle picked me up a little after six — all that prep time and I still forgot something: a cute little map book of Paris that Spencer lent me.
Other than that, I’ve come a long way at least in terms of packing. Man, you should have seen me when I first left Maryland right after high school. I thought I was carrying sooo much important crap. I still remember the annoyed glances that I got from my seatmates whenever I tried to extract something from my overstuffed backpack, or when I would pile on the electronics. (I had a huge clunky laptop, which was the fashion at the time before Apple inspired everyone to streamline everything.) Also, I was pretty overweight— and though I’m not nearly that size anymore, I still am overweight. For practice, I’m wearing my money belt now instead of waiting until I actually get to France and let me tell you, Linc: it doesn’t feel like these things were made for fat people. Heh.
By the way, I’m not actually going to Europe just yet. I’m going home for a day to hook up with Pop and Ma, and then tomorrow we’re all flying together. I get a funny look from some people when I tell them that my first time in Europe will be a family trip but luckily that kind of reaction is in a very tiny minority. Most of my friends think it’s cool that I can travel with Pop and Ma like this. I dunno. I didn’t have any siblings growing up, so I got along pretty well with them more than just the typical way a kid and his parents get along, I guess.
Let me tell you about the laughable condition my bank account is in for someone who is going on a two week trip to Europe — yeah, I’m going with Pop and Ma, but if they don’t want to cover me for certain things, then I am fine sojourning there as if I am a solitary backpacker. I’m 31-years old now and I feel bad that they are going to have to cover me anyway for some things. Do the French eat trail mix?
It probably didn’t help that I spent 7 bucks on a bag of candy yesterday. Even though it was for a good cause (which I’ll get to in a moment), I could have bought it cheaper if I had planned better. Instead, I waited until the last minute and I ended up getting this bag of candy at Safeway instead of Walgreens or, if I had walked a little more down the street, maybe the dollar store. But of course the candy would not have been as yummy, and anyway, Walgreens did have choices that were cheaper than the bag of peanut butter cups that I eventually got (and were instantly devoured over dinner).
The good cause was for a special grad dinner we were having at church. We have a free dinner every week after service that’s part of our whole community experience but on special occasions we like to put in a little extra effort. My contribution was a little sign that I made for the dessert table and I also thought that it would be cute to put ribbons, which I finagled for free, on the sign to make it look extra if modestly festive. The peanut butter cups were for decoratively spreading across the table around the sign. I could have bought a bag of mint chocolates that cost half as much but there was less candy in that bag and to be honest with you the off-brand label of the mint chocolate made me suspicious — plus, really, how cheap did I want to be for a special occasion? So I paid for the candy and suddenly I thought to myself, I spend way too much on this church.
Is that any way for an elder to talk? As soon as I thought the question, I was horrified at myself. (Yes, I do often have complex interior dialogues with myself like this.) First of all, Linc, you should know that when I spend money for the church, I am doing it entirely on my own — no one is telling me to do it or otherwise pressuring me. For example, when I volunteer to make dinner, even though we have a dinner-making team that can help with the expenses — yes, we have a dinner-making team (which is technically called the Pastoral Care Committee but one of the ways I like to amuse myself is to call it the dinner-making team) — but usually I don’t ask for help with money. I try to get ingredients that don’t cost an arm and a leg (plus who wants to eat someone else’s arm and leg anyway? I jest and I digress…) but in my most recent volunteer gig, I decided to make a vegetarian meat loaf and, man, let me tell you, fake meat is not cheap. My secret? I bought a little bit of fake meat and padded the rest of the loaf with chickpeas that I boiled and crushed and then mixed into the loaf. The whole thing was kind of a hit, at least for the pastor, who revealed to me that she loves beans of any kind and that one of her favorites is indeed the humble chickpea.
The sermon for the week turned out to be a reading from 1 Kings 17:8-16. I am never good with following these complicated Biblical stories unless it involves Jesus saying something sassy like that time He snapped at everyone, “It is done.” (For some reason I am intrigued by the notion of the Lord being as ill-tempered as a diva drag queen.) But from what I understand of this story, there were two people, this prophet Elijah and some nameless (!) widow, who both didn’t have much to their names in terms of resources (I am assuming food and money) but somehow they helped each other out. This part of the story, the part about two parties who are short on resources but are still desirous of helping the other, stuck out for me and as I was listening to the sermon I tried really hard to distance myself from that earlier private thought.
The ensuing feast certainly helped make the case for my wrongness. To celebrate the graduates (who were comprised of all levels of achievement starting from kindergarten all the way up to the masters level), the dinner-making team volunteers for the evening whipped up what to me was reminiscent of a good ol’fashioned east coast barbecue: salad, corn bread, ham, potato salad, cupcakes, and ham. It’s no accident that I put ham twice because there was so much of it that I took some home for leftovers, some of which I fried up for breakfast this morning because — hello! — there is nothing that beats the crackling and scent of fried leftover ham for breakfast.
Oh yeah, I know that I’m vegetarian these days, but when food is offered to me for free, it’s not my habit to decline. Clara and her fiance love to barbecue and every so often I have ribs or hamburgers for dinner, which beats whatever idea I had for cottage cheese or a boiled egg or some other easy food that I’d serve lazily to myself.
Not only did I stick some pieces of ham into a frying pan this morning, but I also threw in some buttered slices of bread. Before you go making Paula Deen jokes, Linc, be aware that when one is on a budget, one has to get creative. Buttery as it was, that breakfast had my protein and my carbs. And it was delicious, so there.
The bread is also a church leftover, by the way. Last week, I picked up two leftover loaves of bread that they were not able to give away at the weekly food pantry they have for folks who are in far worse condition than I am. As soon as I realized that my entire breakfast today was allowed me courtesy of my church, I vowed never again to think, I spend way too much on this church. Anyway, I should be reframing the time and money I contribute in terms of how it is for God, not to any church, which is merely His physical conduit and representation; the good news is that I lucked out with this church, because these folks are as simultaneously godly and human as godly humans come. So to be an “elder” is a curious thing for me because the designation implies knowledge where I feel like I have none, because I am constantly learning from everyone else.
All this talk about God makes me sound incredibly self-adjusted but really I’m very anxious most things, like going to Europe. The condition of my bank account is certainly screaming with my insecurity but I’m also totally apprehensive about being in what is literally a new world to me. No one speaks English. Well, OK, the French do speak English (and I am told that most restaurant servers do). But I am going to a world where English is not the dominant language and where customs and ways of life are completely unfamiliar to me. To others this is a grand adventure but for me I have spent these last few months anxiously dreaming up comic fish-out-of-water scenarios that sometimes end in deportation…
I’m sure it will all be OK. I’m sure that months of mentally biting my finger nails will result in two weeks of life-shaping memories. In the meantime, I still have three days here and a lot of loose ends to tie up. Thankfully I am scheduled to work at the store all three days, so destitution is once again just a paycheck instead of one breath away.
Ma has scheduled nearly every detail of this trip and she warned me that her agenda may launch as soon as we set foot in the jetway of our gate at Aéroport Paris–Charles de Gaulle. (This is hyperbole, but only partially — I would not be surprised if the mere act of journeying to the carousel to retrieve our checked luggage is actually a bullet point in an itinerary that leaves no room for naps.) This is actually a huge relief because otherwise I would have been additionally consumed all of these months with research and various lists of places I want to see and things that I want to do, which is actually how I conduct my own trips. (You should see the crazy notes that I took for my last trip to New York City.) But this is also a drawback because everything that Ma put together for her agenda is everything that Ma wants to do — this is her dream, after all. Still, a little part of me is sad at the prospect that I may not get to spend as much time loitering inside Shakespeare and Company as I would like, or if at all. (Ma does have all the basics covered, though — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and even Versailles, for which she has already warned me to wake up very, very early. Which thankfully isn’t an issue since I already have a habit of waking up very, very early, but now there’s jet lag involved.)
Spencer cooked me a bon voyage lunch yesterday and while we were going over some notes about Paris, I was telling her about some of this and then she reached for my shoulder.
"Consider this a preliminary trip," she said. "You have your whole life to go back."
I started thinking to myself about what a second trip to Europe on my own would look like. I wondered if I would still be single by then. I very well might. I certainly would enjoy going back to Europe on my own, but…
Quite a few people I know are either vacationing in Europe right now or are planning on it soon. I gotta say, when I think of interesting places to vacation, Europe is not really one of the first places I think of. Not many of my years were marked with the longing proclamation, “I want to see Paris someday.” It wasn’t until I read The Historian some years ago that I really wanted to go to Europe. It took a novel, a story of fiction, for me to generate the interest that my friends and acquaintances have always seemed to possess. If I want to be especially nerdy, I can also say that I wish I could time travel to Europe like the scientists in The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.
July 10 is an especially active day this year. Tomorrow is Ma’s birthday. It is also the day of this year’s All-Star Game. And it is the day that I leave for Comic Con. I already have it in my mind to check out when I leave tomorrow. I am going to immerse myself fully into the mode not only of vacation, but of the happy geek. For several days, I will enter a world where my notions of storytelling are not voided by real life. For a little while, I just want to forget, Linc — and maybe “forget” is too unsympathetic a word, because I don’t want to disregard my life and the wonderful people I’ve met and the experiences that have shaped me. But I want something different. That’s not so bad, is it? That I want to try something else that isn’t rushing to work, paying for a bill or some other struggle of the day that one must endure until sleep, just to endure the process all over again?
You will notice that I have now gone two paragraphs without mentioning yesterday’s game. I found out the ugly news only at the end of the day, and the box score told me all that I needed to know. I don’t know what you’ve said to the press. All I know is the numbers and who is listed as LP.
After work, I reunited with some old chums from that literary magazine I used to intern for back during World Series year. We now have plans to reconvene regularly to exchange our writings, and though the emphasis is on poetry, I am by no means a poet. I appreciate the form and all their poets, but whenever I try to write in that form, all I end up with are my own giggles. I have enough trouble writing prose. Anyway, the reason why I am in a poetry group is mainly for the friends, the colleagues who I now enjoy seeing outside of the magazine. And guess what? I took a never-to-be-sent and reworked it into a creative nonfiction essay. Maybe “reimagined” is a good word, too, because the basic structure and many of the same ideas are in the new essay, but the essential foundation is the meandering line of thought that I had directed at you.
But I also presented the group with a poem. I thought, What the hell? I may as well. They’re my friends anyway, so they won’t judge too harshly. The funny thing is that we never got around to evaluating my essay. We spent time on each of our poems, and of course, on my poem I sat mostly red-faced with my head down on the table while my friends just grinned at me and offered little in the way of constructive criticism, just appreciation that I had braved to even offer something in the shape of a poem, and amusement over the circumstances.
I wrote the poem after I slept with Adae. Isn’t that so typical, Linc? I write a poem after sex. Had this happened in high school, maybe it would not be such a hilariously big deal. Instead, I was a 29-year old who had just lost his virginity. And here is what I was thinking the morning after. Here goes:
Believe in pheromones after all, what do you see in me? Yet here we are and you smell like the man I knew.
Naked the blinds surf on ghostly wind and Shadows of this night are what I’ll remember best.
Your body, a phantom of fantasy that I always dreamed would lie next to me Yet it was never you, exactly. I could have never imagined you.
Something about me was right. Shape? Personality? That thing I do when something is so funny, a snort is the only reaction at least for me.
How did I end up here. It’s not a question.
Hey lover, thank you.
All right. Go on, crack up. Come at me, bro. Come at me.
So yesterday at work, I took a phone order from a guy who gave his name that sounded familiar. I thought to myself but did not tell the customer, Ha ha, that’s the name of…
And then the customer showed up later to pick up his order, and he didn’t just have the same name as the famous person who had come to mind. It was really him.
I was star struck but my coworkers were not, either because they did not recognize him as immediately as I had, or perhaps they were all used to this sort of thing happening. Either way, I took after them and played it cool, even though my mind was racing with multiple variants of OMG, OMFG! Also racing through my mind was the assertion, even the admonishment, of how this famous person might only want to be treated like any other customer, so I let him be. He was very friendly when he paid for his book, and then afterward, he went to browse some more. He likes to read about history, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me considering what he is famous for, and after I finished being sticken, what was truly marvelous and pleasing was how he stood the history section for a little while carefully reading his new book, turning the pages only gradually, taking his time. It made me wonder how I would feel if you casually strolled into the store the way he did. I would like to think that I’d also leave you be. It’s good customer service. It’s polite and proper, and besides, I’ve written these never-to-be-sents for so long that I could probably go on for many more years writing about the one time we met.