No one is the exclusive conduit of God’s charter; many claim to be the one true messenger, but even the Bible has not stars but multiple co-stars upon a stage of prophets and soothsayers. Still, I’m amused at how often God leads me to Safeway for good times.
Years ago, when I was in the earliest of my twenties, and success was still a dream that didn’t require work just yet, Spencer and I were making a late night run — as one does in one’s early twenties — to Safeway after a non-getting-high attack of the munchies. When we got to the Safeway closest to where I lived at the time, which was on the outskirts of Robin Williams’s tony neighborhood, there wasn’t much going on inside. It was a 24-hour Safeway, so there were transients with dogs (why do transients always have dogs?) who were hunting for beer and evading the wary eyes of the night watchmen. There were few patrons like Spencer and I — patrons who were not high, nor transient, but were just out late getting a snack because they were hungry, or had to run some errand that suddenly came to mind.
I followed Spencer to the dairy section. We were both in low-key outfits headlined by sweats and flops. The chill of the refrigerators gave me a start. We were young and I felt carefree, immature. Spencer stopped at the display of yogurts.
“Are you going to get some for your yeast infection?” I said, with deliberate volume.
Today I’m still overweight but back then there was quite a bit of me to go around. After Spencer performed the customary widening of her eyes in horror, her arm was like a torpedo propelled in trajectory for one of my man-boobs. My reaction time had the quickness of instinct, and in that moment not only was I attempting to slap her away, but I had also noticed that a woman standing very nearby had, while innocently holding a shopping basket and giving thoughtful perusal to the yogurt display, overheard what I said and glanced our way with a bemused look. But I insisted.
“I heard yogurt helps,” I continued, quaking with laughter.
“I’ll help you,” Spencer countered, but she was laughing, too. “Come here!”
I slid backward, not out of defense, but because my flops didn’t work so well over the floor, which was in the middle stages of receiving its nightly mop job. After the space that opened up between us, I took off and Spencer quickly chased after me.
“Come here!” she said through a cackle of eerily convincing witchiness. And then: “I’ll get you, my pretty! And your nipple, too!”
“DON’T TOUCH ME WITH YOUR YEAST INFECTION!”
A dog barked. I could feel the stare of a transient as we raced through the potato chips aisle, which was also the beer aisle. Eventually I took shelter in a checkout line even though I didn’t have anything to check out. I was panting, out of breath from youthful thrills and being out of shape, as I tried to compose myself in line so as not to alarm the others in front of me. But then Spencer was behind me and relentlessly slapping my arm, my shoulders, and she tried to pinch my man-boobs again but I wouldn’t let her.
The others in the line ignored our light fighting and we might have continued like that if the cashier hadn’t started giggling at us to such a degree that we decided to cool it. Also, at some point during our chase, Spencer had in fact picked up a carton of yogurt. As she handed it to the cashier, I said helpfully, “It’s for her yeast infection.”
The cashier gasped.
I yelped as Spencer finally made contact with a man-boob.
“That’s what you get!” said one of the watchmen.
I stared in disbelief at him because he was at the entrance, which seemed to me a significant distance from the register. And then he was walking up to us!
“You cannot put a lady’s business out there like that, man,” he scolded, shaking his head even as he grunted in laughter.
“You had it coming,” the cashier agreed. And then: “Did you put in your Club Card number?”
I turned to Spencer and feigned innocence: “Did you put in your Club Card number?”
“No!” she cried, and then proceeded to enter her phone number into the pinpad.
“You should put him in the doghouse,” the watchman suggested.
“Oh, he’s a dog, all right,” Spencer agreed.
I was staring at the floor, trying to hold in another wave of laughter.
Yesterday, my shift didn’t start until 6 in the afternoon because I wasn’t actually working at the store but at an off-site evening event. I had lunch with Spencer to catch up on this and that. Afterward, we didn’t know what to do for the rest of the afternoon until I casually mentioned that I was running low on toilet paper, which somehow reminded Spencer that she wanted to browse for lamb because of a new recipe she’d been meaning to try. Safeway it was.
I don’t know if you ever had to worry about the challenges of living on a tight budget before you made it to the Big Show, but when I am doing something like, say, shopping for toilet paper, it takes me a while because I am comparing prices, quality, brand, how much paper is actually on each roll. Is it two-ply? What’s the texture? I want to get the most for my money, even if it is for something like toilet paper.
“I didn’t find any good cuts,” Spencer said with disappointment, suddenly at my side. We had gone our separate ways and now I was a few minutes into my deliberation about toilet paper.
Suddenly, I started a cough that for a while did not seem like it would stop.
“You okay?” Spencer asked, her voice soft with concern.
“Yeah,” I said, and then I cleared my throat. “I just forgot to take my Dulera this morning.”
I gave her an assured grin and tapped my pocket. “Don’t worry. I have my rescue inhaler.”
“But that’s only for emergencies. You should use your Dulera.” And then she slapped me. All of our adult lives, she has been slapping me, or pinching me, but mostly laughing with me.
“If I start gasping for breath, I want you to call AT&T Park,” I said.
She groaned. “No, Joseph.”
But I ignored her. “Ask for Tim Lincecum.”
“They’ll put me on hold, Joe. They’ll play middle-of-the-road hits from the early 80s and by the time someone answers, you’ll probably be dead from lung collapse and even then the person who answers will just tell me that Tim is unavailable to take my call right now.”
“I don’t mind a little Bread playing while I make my last, dying gasp.”
Spencer shook her head. “Why can’t I just call 911?”
“Because only Tim Lincecum’s lips can save me.”
“You are very insane.”
“That may be true, but it’s a proven scientific fact that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is only effective when Tim Lincecum’s mouth is pressed against mine.”
I’m accumulating a small collection of polo shirts.
The last polo shirt that I had, I threw it out because it was this shade of lime green that didn’t go much with anything; and I never replaced it because I wasn’t into polo shirts to begin with — until now.
So far, I have two polo shirts. One is purple and the other is orange. I have never been much of a clothes shopper. For one thing, I never have the money, so when I do shop for clothes, it’s at secondhand stores. Lately I have taken to going back to Macy’s, which I have not done regularly since I worked at my better-paying content editor job last year. Macy’s has good prices. Being there also reminds me quite a lot of my childhood. Ma loved department stores and still does. When I am at Macy’s by myself, I can’t help but simultaneously be in the present, as an adult trying to find his way in life, and as the childhood accompanying his mother up the escalator, dreaming.
I know it seems pretty insignificant and mundane to report on owning two polo shirts. How comically #firstworld. Right? But then again, when through these never-to-be-sents have you known me to report on something sugary — all sweetness, no substance? Having the beginnings of a polo shirt collection reminds me so much of Pop. For as long as I can remember, he has enjoyed wearing polo shirts. He still does. In his youth, when I was barely a toddler but old enough to remember these things, he even popped the collar. Yeah, in his youth, my dad was fashionable!
Cologne is too expensive. But I wish that I could buy. Lately I have taken to idling my time at Macy’s trying out different colognes and even dabbling the one that I like best on my neck. Spencer isn’t a fan of artificial scents, and because of that I refrained from wearing cologne a few years ago. Since then, I’ve lost the one and only bottle of cologne I ever had, which incidentally was from Pop, who wore cologne with his polo shirts, of course. But I think that I’d very much like to go back to wearing cologne. I am realizing that I like it when a man has a signature scent — not too overpowering, like how amateurs, mostly kids but also many misguided men, practically bathe themselves in the stuff. Just a hint. There’s maturity in knowing when you’ve put on just enough. I’m also realizing that if I want to attract the kind of man that I like, then I ought to become my own man first. Enter polo shirts and cologne samples.
I love my parents. I like that I am becoming like them.
Yesterday I went to a pro soccer game. I am not going to lie, Linc: I have never had any interest in soccer, playing it for fun with my friends, playing the video games — which I have read that you like to do — and most especially in watching pro games. Zero interest. I went to an Earthquakes game yesterday because a game ticket was included with this sports networking event thing that I signed up for. For the last few weeks — hell, for this entire year so far — I’ve been busting my hump trying to set a direction for myself, and the idea of working in sports has persisted since 2009. What I liked about going to the Earthquakes game was how homegrown it was. The whole organization is pretty much a startup. Major league soccer has yet to take off here in the states, but the thing is, it could. There’s a very real chance of that. And when I was sitting in the tiny stadium, getting cozy with everyone on the bleachers around me — all the seats were bleacher seats — moving my head to the tune of the tribal drumbeats (!) in the distance, it felt kind of amazing to be part of the start of something.
It sounds melodramatic to keep crediting my interest in baseball as the thing that finally drove me to start doing Something, with a capital ‘S’, with my life. But melodramatic as it is, in 2009, when I sat down to that fateful Giants game, I was struck with what the author Mal Peet describes as a Road to Damascus moment. But I wasn’t converting to anything, Linc. I already had an existing set of values, dreams, hopes and wishes that were suddenly clarified. This does not, of course, mean that a happy ending has come so easily. It’s not even here yet. Four years after getting into baseball, the hunger of my bank account and marital status are nothing to brag about. But the difference between now and then is that… I feel like I might, at long last, be getting somewhere.
By now, you have probably heard about Jason Collins. You may have even heard about Alan Gendreau and Brittney Griner. These athletes are all “openly gay”. One day I would like to live in a world where they are referred just, simply, as gay. And one day more, I would even like to live in a world where they are referred to merely for their ability to be athletes, dispensing with the “openly gay” altogether.
But it’s fair and not at all theatrical to say that something is happening in the pro sports world. It’s not overly optimistic to conclude that barriers are coming down. In the 80s, when the Berlin Wall finally came down, the world saw a tangible example of progress: rocks collapsing, people cheering. Marriage equality is, at its heart, an internal struggle over the rightness of love.
Something is happening in my life, too, although it is nowhere near as earth-shattering as the pro athletes I mentioned above. Lately there has been a lot of talk about weddings and babies. I know that we’re living in the years of our lives when weddings and babies are common but in the last few weeks I have heard so, so much of it. Selma’s wedding is coming up very soon. I’ve already booked my ticket and hostel. I even threw in my participation in a spa outing with them because, what the hell? I know that I don’t have a lot of money but this is a fun way to hang out with Selma on this momentous occasion in her life. And life, itself, is too short to not go to a spa when one of your best friends is getting married.
What surprises me the most about these crazy last few weeks is how, in the absence of the thing that I want the most, the love of and commitment with another man, God has seen fit to fill my heart with love and commitment in other ways. There was a time in my life when I thought that after you got to a certain point in your twenties, you stopped making new friends, or it got harder to make them, and keep them. I got cynical about meeting other people, and used to the idea of sticking to the friends whose habits I already knew, with whom I already shared memories. But I’ve gotten astonishingly involved with my church community. I am surprised at how news, both good and bad, from the people in my church community greatly affects me. I am filled with joy when the news is good, and I truly feel my heart break over bad news. Not so long ago, these people were strangers; in all the most important ways, they still are. But in the most important way, they are family, because God brought us into each other’s lives, and I can’t imagine what my own life would be like if they weren’t in it.
The other day, I got an e-mail from a college friend, a really great gal who used to do all sorts of “girl stuff” with me like shopping and clubbing. Now she’s a family woman, and the e-mail was an announcement that she is expecting her second kid. Her second! I am feel like I am only now getting used to the idea of her being a mother for the first time, of being married, of our old lives, which once seemed so recent, now being memories.
Except that I am not as mired in nostalgia as I used to be. Not gonna lie: sometimes I still look at the old blog that I kept in high school and college, but lately I have done so mainly out of amusement, and to see how far I’ve come.
I recently saw Donna again. I know that it’s been a while since I’ve written about her. After I left the old marketing job, the one I had before I landed at the bookstore, we didn’t hang out in person much anymore, although we kept in touch through text messages and e-mail. She resurfaced to tell me that she was also moving on from that company. When we reconnected, I told her all about how I was going to business school… and about how I hadn’t been with anyone since I was with Adae. No one at all, Linc. Adae is still the only person I’ve ever slept with.
Sometimes I regret losing my virginity but not for stereotypically moralistic reasons. I sometimes feel regret because ultimately I feel like I did what I did because of societal pressures from both society at large and even my own friends. Even though their teasing had died down the further we got into our twenties, until I hooked up with Adae, I always got the feeling that even Clara and Spencer were eyeing me as that friend, that poor guy who can’t get into a relationship, much less hook up with somebody.
I don’t even like hooking up. This entire notion of using someone for momentary physical fulfillment strikes me as overwhelmingly hollow and devoid of lasting meaning. I am not thinking too much about it to such a degree as to impede the fun of sex. What I am doing is feeling a genuine feeling, and feelings are facts.
Fact: the night that I lost my virginity, Adae let me cuddle with him, and I enjoyed it for as long as I could before I realized that it wouldn’t last, so I broke away and let him sleep on his own side of the bed.
Fact: that night, I mostly kept to my own side of my own bed, and sometimes later in the night I would creep toward the edge, alarmed and even even horrified at this person lying next to me.
Fact: in the morning, I asked him to leave, and when he agreed seemingly without much hesitation, I was disappointed.
Fact: I stayed in bed for a little while longer after he left, burying my head in my pillows, smelling his smell, simultaneously agonizing over what I had done, while wondering if it would ever happen again — except not with him. But with someone who really wanted to stay.
The thing is, it happened, and though I sometimes feel some regret I also am glad that it happened. It feels like a rite of passage, albeit one that happened later, and more patiently, than the standards of popular society.
I asked Donna, who used to be good friends with Adae, if she had heard from him lately. She said that she hadn’t, and confessed that it had been months since they even exchanged text messages. I didn’t expect the feeling that overcame me, that manifested in a nod and a simple and very casual reply of, “Oh.”
I didn’t expect that I would be so OK with leaving my time with Adae in the past. Here’s the thing: there’s too much happening now to get stuck in the past. And though I don’t know what the future holds, I like the feeling that I’m headed there.
This morning, I overheard an interesting conversation so provocative that I pretended to keep browsing.
I was at Walgreens looking for severe allergy medicine — more on that later — and these two women come down the aisle in furtive voices that I could nevertheless make out.
“And you know what she told me?” said the first girl.
The second girl said intently: “What?”
“She says thinks that she might be gay.”
As they approached a display of varying incarnations of Claritin, a scandalized hush fell between them. Finally the second girl replied: “Well.”
She took a breath.
I was crouched on the ground next to them and pretending to scrutinize two kinds of Benedryl while thinking, Why does this conversation sound like something from a soap opera?! I reached for a box of pills and feigned interest in the listing of drug facts. Marked drowsiness may occur…
“I guess it’s a good thing that she didn’t come to Bible study,” the second girl said at last. My eyes widened and I was filled with the sensation of wanting to laugh. Luckily, I was so intrigued that I held it together enough to remain surreptitiously nosy.
Alas, after another pregnant pause between them, the revelation about this friend or acquaintance or church congregant possibly being gay was so shocking that they moved on to actually talking about allergy medicine. Meanwhile, I kept up my ruse for at least another hopeful minute or two before I accepted that they were now firmly ensconced in the vagaries of shopping.
I have been awake since 5 in the morning, Linc. This was after going to sleep at midnight. I am neither a maniac nor am I attempting to relive my youth. Because I don’t have work until 3 in the afternoon today, I decided to squeeze in some quality time with Spencer and Ray last night. We caught a 9pm advanced showing of Iron Man 3 which, by the way, was rather amazing. Have you seen the first two?
That is an example of how crazy my life has been this week, although the last couple of weeks were already leading up to this. Theoretically, this morning I could have slept in, but I really wanted to catch up on some work. Now, what kind of work could I already possibly have to work on when school only started this week and my sole job is a part-time retail position at a bookstore? Yesterday, while I was on campus, I checked in with a career counselor about what kinds of jobs that I could get that might more closely relate to what I am going back to school for — and, yes, will necessarily earn me more money, so that I am not living on such a tight budget but also so that I don’t have to borrow so much money for school. But instead of jumping into available opportunities, the career counselor took one look at my resume and instantly came up with idea after idea for a massive revision. I was crushed, Linc. Just like a little kid. I had worked so hard on this thing and I felt like a little kid whose dreams were being crushed by the teacher he admires, the parent he looks up to. On the other hand, as I was sitting there, calmly and professionally, at least on the outside, listening to her criticism, I was lecturing myself about taking it constructively. And finally I also thought this: it’s business, not personal. Sure, it’s a cliché, but I have to keep telling myself that, especially now that that is the world into which I am willingly journeying.
It’s probably a little bit pointless to do job hunting on a Friday anyway since it’s the end of the workweek, and I figure that most hiring managers won’t do much looking until Monday. Or maybe they will. Either way, when I got home late last night, I already knew that I was going to get up early and work on the revision first thing. I’m crazy! And now I’m exhausted. But I have what I think is a good draft going. It took all morning, and it’s not even finished yet! But I don’t regret robbing myself of sleep, nor do I even mind so much that right now, as I am on the verge of clocking into work, I feel like collapsing into a deep slumber.
For some reason my allergies have been more intense this year than they have ever been. The generic Claritin that I always used to rely on has lost its effect, so that’s why I was at Walgreens this morning hunting for severe allergy medicine — on top of a constantly runny nose, I have all the usual itchiness in my eyes, constant sneezing, and this morning my head was pounding. So right now not only am I ready to go to sleep, I am drowsy from medicine and almost everything makes me want to sneeze. I’m probably not even going to get home until ten, and I’m getting even more tired just thinking about it.
I am hopeful, though, that this early exhaustion is only a minor side effect of a larger effort that is sustainable, and that I will have accomplished a lot by at least the end of summer. I’m not just saying that, Linc. I don’t know where it’s coming from — naivety? Big dreaming? God? For some strange reason, I’m hopeful.
I’m Writing again — er, obviously I’m writing. I’m writing this never-to-be-sent, for example.
But this is what I mean when I say writing with a capital ‘W’: I’m writing a story, an actual story. I haven’t attempted anything like that in a long time. It’s getting harder to get a story started. I used to be able to write them with the same ease and frequency that I write these never-to-be-sents; sometimes I have even finished entire manuscripts, which are best left collecting virtual dust in their computerized file folders, but at least there are finished manuscripts.
It’s not all good news. The timing for this sudden burst of Writing could not be worse. My schedule is all over the place. I feel overextended, although I don’t do it on purpose. If something comes up that I want to do, and there is an opening on my calendar, then I will most likely pencil in that something. For example, I had to skip church yesterday because I got some hours at work thrown at me, and I always need the hours. Always. But to make up for it, our church’s nascent LGBTQ group was going to go out for drinks afterward, and so I agreed to go to that. We hadn’t gotten together in a while and the plan was to reconvene and catch up, have a good time, talk about the most pressing LGBTQ of the day — marriage equality, transgender rights, soap operas. (No one else in the group is a General Hospital fan, but this one guy loves Days of Our Lives, which I used to watch, and it’s kind of different from General Hospital, to be honest with you, because you can stop watching it for years and still know exactly what’s up. Was anyone really surprised that Sami would end up with EJ? I saw that coming way back when Susan gave birth to him while Stefano was standing nearby in an Elvis suit… OK, I’m rambling.)
I really wanted to meet up with them for drinks, I really did. But work turned out to be a long day (not in an especially bad or even eventful way; it was just a long shift on top of everything else on my mind these days) and as I got closer to the end of my shift I was feeling relentlessly burned out. So, I gave my friend a text, conveyed and owned up to my flakiness, and then proceeded to not go have drinks after work.
I didn’t go home either, though. According to my therapist, with whom I talk about such things, among others, the true definition of an introvert is a little bit different from the one commonly known, in which introverts keep to themselves and are anti-social. We are not. Introverts love being with people in addition to going solo. The extra difference is that they need that solo time to recharge. By the way, if you want to make a masturbation joke, go ahead. I figure your mind already went there, especially if your thinking is anything like Wolfie’s. I tried to explain this introvert stuff to him the other day and once I mentioned the notion of alone time, his mind went triple-X on me, and not in the Vin Diesel movie way, which is ironic because my mind also tends to go triple-X when I think of Vin Diesel, but not in the movie way, and now I’m rambling again…
At some point during work, I was stricken by a craving for chicken tikka masala. But seeing as how I am now gradually becoming more vegetarian, for dinner I went out and ordered vegetable tikka masala instead. Also, I took out my notebook and wrote. I’m only on chapter two. It will be a while before this gets anywhere, if it gets anywhere. For a long time, I had a fantasy that maybe my never-to-be-sents could one day become a book. The material is already here. All that needed to happen was for some publisher or agent to find it. Blogs get turned into books all the time, after all.
Well, not “all the time,” after all. There are some high-profile successes but in the grand scheme of things it’s mostly kind of a pipe dream. Unfortunately with all dreams of celebrity, even the comparatively harmless dreams of literary celebrity, the danger is in wishful thinking, of which I did plenty: oh, maybe Tim Lincecum really will read these someday. Maybe a publisher will. Maybe they both will.
But probably not. After almost four years of doing this, I think it’s time to try an actual story; so, I’m still going to keep writing my never-to-be-sents, because it’s fun and who knows? Maybe you will write back one day. As for the story itself, as for the thing that I am hoping will become a book, what I can tell you for right now is that it is going to be a Young Adult novel. Also, it’s an interesting coincidence that Solange Knowles, whose music I am quite into these days, became a mom when she was seventeen. I did not know this. One of the main characters in my new story also became a parent at seventeen.
It certainly helps that YA literature is a hot property right now. But I’m not just writing for a profitable market; if that were my only reason for starting this story, I would have tried to scrape something together ages ago. The thing is, it wasn’t until my coworker sucked me into reading a ton of YA lit these last few months that it occurred to me that the YA writing style is one I can tackle. In fact, even in drafting just two chapters, I am wondering if it might have been my style all along. Anyway, you didn’t think that I could read all of those amazing YA books and not be moved to try and write something of my own, did you? Oh, and also, I realized that the dream of turning my blog into a book is kind of mean — like, the stuff is already online for free, and I was dreaming about putting it all into a book to sell to people? Capitalist pig.
As you might imagine, I felt bad for skipping church. My pastor is one hell of an intuitive human being because she randomly dropped me an e-mail describing what her sermon would be. “Hope to see you there,” she wrote.
Like with most sermons at my church, her topic was going to be something immediately relevant to my life. This kind of coincidence always happen to such a degree that the cynical part of me wants to believe it is nothing more than happenstance, a lucky, albeit frequent, shake of the cheapie 8-ball. Fortunately, there is a reformed Christian belief system out there that believes in something called “God’s providence” — fancy talk for coincidences meaning Something, with a capital ‘S’.
The pastor was nice enough to send me a transcript of her sermon. I haven’t read it yet, but you can bet that I will. Also, it turns out that I picked up another Sunday shift, and like I said, it’s not practical for me to turn down hours; so, I won’t be at church again next Sunday. Hey, you should go in my place! Oh wait, that’s right. Firstly, that’s the last game of a Dodgers series. Second and lastly, you’re only my imaginary boyfriend. And C, the game starts at the same time church does. Ah well.