One late summer night four years ago, I found myself so deliriously inebriated at an impromptu house party that, as drunk people inevitably do, I got on my phone.
I’d sneaked into my room — “sneak” is the exact word that describes my drunken surreptitious maneuvering into my own room — as my housemates giggled back in the living room at my expense.
"Hello?" I said, my voice a hushed panic and, improbably, also greatly amused.
My friend on the other line sounded like she was out somewhere. I heard her trying to break through a background of lively voices as she cried into the phone: “Yeah, Joe! What’s up?”
"I just heard the most horrible thing," I whisper-exclaimed into my phone, leaning to peer into the living room, where one of my roommates made eye contact with me and said teasingly after gulping down the contents of a red cup: "Come back out here!"
I scurried over to the edge of my bed and barely took a seat on the corner of the mattress without sliding onto the floor. My friend on the phone said, “Joe, what’s going on?”
"It’s about Tim Lincecum," I whispered urgently.
"Tim Lincecum?" my friend exclaimed. I heard her laugh. She said: "God, Stanny. You had me worried."
(Not only had 2009 been the year I found baseball, it was also when this particular friend and I referred to each other as characters from Sex and the City. I was the Stanford Blatch to her Carrie Bradshaw.)
"This is serious,” I hissed, completely serious. “Carrie, I need you. You know everyone in this town. You have to tell me: is Tim Lincecum a crackhead?!”
I don’t know what she did during the pause that followed. I still don’t even know where she was. If she had been in a restaurant, then I could see her doing a spit take.
"Joseph, where did you hear that?" she demanded.
I took another peak into the living room, where my roommates and our mutual friends were now, mercifully, too drunkenly distracted to recall that I was in my room.
"Someone told me," I admitted, and then added: "Also, I’m drunk."
"Yes, sweetie. I kind of figured that. Honey, I’d love to hear more of you going nuts after having had like, what, two drinks?"
"Hey! I can hold my liquor!" But she couldn’t see me crossing one arm across my chest while I pouted. I’d probably had only two cocktails.
"I gotta go. But, honey? Tim Lincecum cannot possibly be a crackhead, OK? They test for that shit in baseball. If he’s taking anything, it’s probably not anything harder than weed."
In fact, the teasing had begun earlier that night, when we were all just getting started in the living room. I was holding onto my first red cup when someone started musing about how pale and skinny Tim Lincecum was. That was when this same someone claimed to know someone else who knew still yet another someone else who was Tim’s “dealer”. The friend that I had ended up calling drunkenly later on, the Carrie to my Stanny, was (and still is) indeed a bit of a socialite — and a rather down-to-earth one, who to me has never claimed, like so many, to have any connection to Tim Lincecum.
Suddenly, I was giggling.
"You said ‘harder’," I said in a strange, girlish squeal.
"I’m going now, Stanny!"
* * *
I can’t believe that was four years and two World Series titles ago. In four years, people graduate from high schools, from colleges. People go through entire careers. Families form. Players are traded. Time moves forward. Life goes on.
I listened to 95.7FM for the first time to catch the A’s play, and lose, game five of the ALDS. I’ve never claimed to be an A’s fan but I was curious to listen in on how they would do. And I also did it for sentimental reasons: to give respect, and support, to baseball across the bridge.
For the last four years, I have listened to the same AM radio station for all of my Giants and sports talk. When this 95.7FM came onto the scene, I ignored it the way old timers ignore a change in routine, except that when it came to baseball fandom I was no old timer. But when I tuned the radio to 95.7FM for game five, the crystal clear reception made it evidently clear that I was in uncharted territory. The feeling was less that I was cheating on the Giants and more that I had showed up at a party uninvited. The most acute sense of foreignness was listening to the announcers — no Jon Miller, no David B. Flemming. A world seemingly far away from Kruk and Kuip. Not gonna lie: I felt a little lonely.
All throughout the broadcast, someone kept honking one of those little horns, those noisemaker things, you bring to games, parties, and parades. LET’S GO OAKLAND! — honk honk, honk-honk-honk. It was adorably festive and I kept trying to imagine whether it was a grown person or a kid who was doing it, and then it didn’t seem to matter because all that mattered was how happy that person was to be there. Because of that singular background sound that other listeners might have easily dismissed, I harbored hope for a baseball team for which I had never previously harbored hope.
Later that night, Clara and her husband left for a date night and I had the place to myself. The strangest thing happened: I randomly thought of RQ guy. I thought of him in such a manner that I logged onto Facebook to message him, and then not long after I’d pulled up the chat screen, these words materialized: “[ RQ guy ] is typing…”
The message that he sent is not something that I can repeat here. But it cracked me up. And then I wrote back: “Hey this is weird, I was just about to message you.”
For the next hour, he had me cracking up even more. It was a good thing that Clara and her husband were out, because the only consequence from my raucous laughter was that the cats, every time they would try to come near me returning to the spots they liked to inhabit, would once again scamper away because I had erupted in piercing laughter.
Here’s what I can tell you about how RQ guy was making me laugh: he was showing me screenshots of some dude he was IMing with on one of the hookup apps that he uses. (There is apparently, good Lord, more than one.) What I can also tell you is that his entire conversation with him seemed disastrous, to the point that even RQ guy confessed there would not be a hookup involved. (Not tonight, anyway.)
Aw, Linc. This has been happening a lot the last few days. We have these fits and starts of text messages and Facebook chats and he’ll say things that make me laugh the best laughter I’ve had in a long time. Or he’ll say something insightful about politics and society in general. And I’ll just think to myself about how, damn, the funniest, smartest guy I’ve met in a long time doesn’t even live in town.
One night, long after he’d said good night, I was flipping through his Facebook profile. Many of his pictures are of him finishing one marathon or another, looking absurdly fit in those shiny stretch pants things that runners use despite the way they put your business out in the open like that. When I tried to match these pictures to the words that were in my text messages and Facebook chats, the ensuing feeling was very surreal. The next day, I tried to tell RQ guy, although something was lost in translation.
"I can’t believe you’re a real person," I’d typed.
"I’m not. I’m actually an extremely gay Siri that Steve Jobs programmed from beyond the grave to taunt you for his own amusement. The afterlife is very boring."
I’m not gonna lie, Linc — I lost my breath from laughing so hard.
* * *
I don’t watch a lot of videos of your counterpart. While I read articles and listen in on rumors about Tim Lincecum as much as any fanboy/fangirl, I’ve avoided watching interviews, for the same reason that it felt surreal to match RQ guy’s pictures with all that we’ve been saying to each other.
Recently, I watched the video of you that was attached to this article. Sometimes your eyes would meet the camera in a way that made me chillingly imagine what it would be like if I really did meet you.
I have no idea, Linc.
I have no idea how I’d feel or how I’d react. Watching that video, though, was eerie in that it’s as close as I’ve ever come to meeting you as a real person instead of this character, this conduit who has inhabited my longing epistles and imagined respites for the last four years.
In a perfect world, I’d get married on California Bookstore Day; that same year, the Giants would shape up from their disastrous 2013 season and reclaim their rightful place in the playoffs.
I want to thank Almie Rose for this picture of Hillary Clinton that I’m making you look at. I often enjoy looking at pictures of Hillary Clinton when she was young because something titillates me about the disconnect between her beginnings and the powerful world-shaker she is today; also, I bet it’s not often that you’ve seen “Hillary Clinton” and “titillate” in the same sentence. But there you have it.
What is it about turning a certain age that also turns on a light switch? I was 27 when I got turned onto baseball — and turned onto you, but not in a creepy Vegas misdemeanor way like your shiny new BFF Chad Gaudin. What, did I say something…?
Up until I was 27, baseball was an afterthought. When I was young, I would get so annoyed when I turned on the TV to watch my favorite show and it was instead pre-empted for a ballgame that seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, although I now realize that it was probably a regular season game that that particular channel had the rights to broadcast that night, or the other case being it was also a ballgame that had gone into extra innings. Ballgames seemed interminable when I was young and entirely unaware of baseball. And now, if I had a choice, I might divide my time equally between baseball and the real world.
(All right. If you had asked me in 2009, then I would have told you that baseball is the real world and that it was the only thing with which I ever wanted to spend my time. Now that I’m the ripe old age of 31, I will admit that there is more to life than baseball — but allow me the prerogative, however slightly facetious, to say there there’s not that much.)
Lately I seem to be suffering the illuminating effects of another light switch. I know that I’ve been writing a lot about wanting to settle down and have a family and, all right, I’ve also been whining about how hard it is to actually find a husband. The thing is, that stuff seems more Sex and the City than I would like to sound at this point in my life. Don’t get me wrong: I still adore Sex and the City. But I don’t really identify with Carrie Bradshaw anymore.
I came to that realization today when I accompanied Clara to the hardware store so she could pick up a spigot. I don’t know what a spigot is. She’s always been good with her hands. She’ll probably make a better handyman than I ever will, and I’m the one who’s constantly daydreaming about owning my own house with my own family…
While she was chatting it up with the proprietor about the many kinds of spigots — who knew? — I wandered over to the display where they keep all the samples of paint colors. I cracked up when I picked up a sample of a neutral color boringly called “typical.” It wasn’t even mauve! Nor was it even described as a neutral color. Something about the paint company deciding on a color name as generic as the color itself drove me to unexpected heights of amusement.
And then I sighed and suddenly wished I were picking paint colors for my own house, even if I were picking out a color called “typical” — come on, you gotta admit that there must be a use for “typical” in some room of the house. Maybe the storage closet. Who knows? How many rooms do you want in a house, anyway?
* * *
Sunday was a big day for me. I volunteered for Vacation Bible School. Maybe you’ve heard of such a thing, maybe you haven’t. It’s where a church has Bible classes for kids during the summer break. My church is too little to have afforded VBS every year but this year our pastor, the awesome lady who came on board last year to breathe new life into our modest congregation, managed to cobble together a 3-day program and she needed volunteers to help run it.
I volunteered for one day, just the first day. That’s all I was willing to commit to. Up until that Sunday — the last day in the crazily churchy lovefest of church love weekend — I always thought that I didn’t like kids. Yeah, I’ve always wanted to have my own kids, but other people’s kids have always… well, quite frankly, other people’s kids can be terrifying, Linc. If they’re not being moody and temperamental, they are being needy and mercurial. For someone who has always wanted kids, I’ve never believed myself to possess any effectual influence or authority over them.
VBS lasts just three hours for each of the three days. (It’s a short program. But in the Maryland suburbs, I grew up with advertisements for VBS programs that actually lasted, well, the whole summer vacation.) I figured that volunteering for three hours wouldn’t be so bad. If I am so averse to kids, then why would I do it? Because the pastor needed a hand, that’s why. Because kids are a big part of our growing church and I figured that I couldn’t avoid them forever by volunteering to help out with every single churchy thing that happened to not involve kids.
That Sunday, VBS got off to a late start and it actually only lasted two hours.
But they were the best two hours of my life.
I am not terrified of kids anymore, not even other people’s kids.
I still, however, put forth that I have no authority over them. I fear that in marriage I may end up being the pushover. The prophecy seemed to unfold in front of me when one of the boys got out of hand and threw a tantrum under the table, refusing to emerge despite what I had hoped was my authoritative pleas to please get out from under there right now. But the pastor has more experience — and patience — with kids, and she was able to get him out from under there.
About fifteen minutes later, while the boy was simmering in a corner and the pastor was helping a tableful of kids color some rainbows like the one that God showed Noah after the flood, I was in another part of the classroom playing Candyland with some other kids when a little blonde 2-year old waddled up to me and said, “Daddy.”
My eyes widened — and immediately I went spying through the windows, searching for her dad. Had I missed him? With his frequent wearing of plaid polo shirts and blocky dark rectangular glasses, he was easy to spot. But there was no sign of him, nor was there any sign of her mother, a sassy fellow elder who had dropped the child off with us and breathlessly proclaimed her excitement over the chance to go grocery shopping in solitude.
"Daddy," the child repeated.
It wasn’t my first inclination to believe that she was calling me daddy. For one thing, I look nothing like her actual father. For another thing, neither the child nor I look anything alike, either — she, fair-skinned, blonde, and blue-eyed, contrasting sharply with my reddish brown skin and darker hair. Another thing: for all my wanting of children, I had never really come to believe that another human being could possibly ever regard me as their protector, as their guardian. As…
"Daddy?" she asked once more.
Her brows began to furrow and now she seemed unsure to the degree that, as kids her age do, she was about to burst into tears.
"Oh, daddy’s not here yet," I tried to say reassuringly. "But he’ll be here later."
The words seemed to be enough and so was my quick action scooping her up in my arms… all right, I won’t take all the credit. I hustled over to the coloring table and handed her an 8-pack box of crayons, which I accurately calculated would divert her attention. I sat her down in a chair and she busied herself with removing each crayon from the box and then carefully replacing them in the box.
But I only had a few moments to admire her unexpected flash of extremely early onset organizational ability because another little girl was waddling in a wayward direction away from the classroom. I hurried over to retrieve her and scooped her up, making contact with her brown eyes and brunette cut of hair. Suddenly, the pastor announced that she would gather together in a prayer circle to thank God for the day (and, possibly, that the parents were coming back soon).
I was surprised at how easy it was to gather together the group of 11 kids in a prayer circle. There were times when they all acted up and they had scattered apart in such a way that it seemed like the first day of VBS might have been a lost cause. But somehow the pastor managed to get everyone together into a reasonably civilized assembly. Meanwhile, I was still holding the little brunette girl as the pastor started the prayer. The little brunette girl was too young to bow her head down and pray, so I turned her toward me and said the words for her. She stared at me blankly and began to pull my hair. I thought she might try to wander away, but when I turned her around toward the pastor and sat her on my lap, to my great surprise she was content to sit there. I even ventured to clasp her hands together.
"See? This is what we do with our hands when we talk to God," I instructed soothingly.
She held her hands together for a few moments after I let go, long enough to fool myself into believing that I had managed to teach her, to teach this child, a cool lesson but then she was back to flapping her arms again. But she seemed all right staying on my lap, and in that short time that I held her I knew that that was it, man. That was all I ever wanted from life.
Did I mention that I had volunteered for story time? I wasn’t very good at it. The younger kids were looking everywhere except at me. But some of the older kids were game. Can you picture me cupping my hand over my ear and zestfully instructing the kids to “Put your ears to God”? No, I could have never pictured it, either.
It’s already been a long week. Once all the church stuff was overwith, I had to hustle and catch up on some homework that I was totally backed up on; tomorrow, I’m taking the last of my final exams. That’s one whole semester down. I still can’t believe I’m an actual student again. It’s kind of cool — and it’s kind of not, because I don’t know where parenthood will fit into all of this. All I can think about is how I will be 40 by the time I am in any position to realistically achieve some of the career goals that I can only dream about at this point.
This coming weekend will be another churchfest. Saturday, the elders are getting together with the pastor for a leadership retreat. We’re going to be holed up for eight hours in a house that one of the other elders volunteered for the retreat, and we’re going to strategize a vision for the church… did you like that fancy talk? I still can’t believe that this is my life. I mean that in a good way. I also mean it in a good way when I say that I’m not too sure how I feel about spending eight hours in a house with these people. Don’t get me wrong: I really like them, but it’s not like I know them well enough that I feel 100 percent comfortable spending eight hours in someone’s house with them. It’s kind of like being cool with your coworkers but not necessarily hanging out with them outside of the office. But for me there is an extra layer of foreignness, Linc. It’s just so strange to me: the notion that being spiritually bonded with someone is somehow a default connection, a bridge uniting the disparities of the human experience. They’re friends and strangers all at the same time.
I wrote Ma a letter this morning. I was meaning for it to be short, a quick update on the vagaries of my evolving career choices and how busy church has been lately. But then suddenly all of this other stuff came pouring out and I was writing about how I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about having kids and how sad it makes me that the man who ought to be my husband, whomever he is, continues to be elusive. Ma and I, we don’t have the kind of relationship where we open up to each other about stuff like that, which only ever seems to come out when we’re fighting. No wonder we like soap operas so much. Have you ever watched a Filipino soap opera, Linc? Ridiculous quantities of melodrama and seemingly hardly any moderated, measured expressions of emotion.
The truth is that no matter how much I’m able to take care of in my life — and I’ll give myself a little bit of credit by taking this singular moment to remark that one does not simply live 3000 miles away from home for the past 13 years without learning a thing or two about independence — none of it is ever enough to cancel how lonely I feel.
"It’s just nice to have someone to come home to," I told Ma. "To glance over at my left hand sometimes, knowing that I belong to someone."
I’m leaving for France next week. I think I am the only one in the whole world who doesn’t see this as a “great opportunity.” Or thinks it is “exciting.” Or believes that I am “going to have so much fun.” These are the various responses that I have gotten. For weeks everyone has been giving me tips, guide books, suggestions, and saying some variation of “I wish I were going”. I wish I could feel as grateful and excited but all I feel is talked into.
Certainly, the closer that I get to the date of my departure, I’m starting to feel the excitement. But instead of an excitement of being in France, it’s more an excitement of being up in the air. I’ve spent more time figuring out what books I want to read for the long flight over there than I have figuring out what interesting sights to see when I actually get there — besides, Ma already has an agenda all laid out. Going to France is her dream, not mine. Every time we talk on the phone, she says she has lost sleep tossing and turning in bed from excitement. She has lost sleep tossing and turning in bed from excitement since at least mid-February.
It’s not that I don’t think France is a wonderful country. When you get down to it, who would turn down a chance to see the Eiffel Tower or visit the Louvre? I guess when I get down to it, what I don’t like about this trip is how it is consuming so much of my life when it’s not even something I ever dreamed about doing. My plane ticket alone must have cost as much as nosebleed season tickets. I would rather have nosebleed season tickets.
What can I do? Ma really wanted to go on this trip and she really wanted me to be with her. It’s understandable. I’m her only kid. In the public narrative of your life, Linc, what we know of your family is that you have always had a very close relationship with your dad; but there are also details that have surfaced momentarily, like the absence of your mother, as well as an older brother whose pro ball aspirations were sidelined by injury, and that you are now an uncle. When you’re the only child, though, the dynamic with your parents is very different. Sometimes it feels like Pop and Ma are dad and mom and brother and sister all at the same time.
I know it sounds weird but every time I dwell on how going to France isn’t my plan or my dream, I end up thinking about Ma’s life. What if having me wasn’t her plan or dream, either? Going on a big trip with her that she’s always wanted to go on is the least that I can do. Anyway, I’m sure that once we get to France, all the excitement will finally catch up to me. After all, I didn’t know that baseball was something that I wanted in my life until I sat down to that one summer game in 2009 and everything just clicked.
Ray knows a guy that he gives a hard time to because when they were young that guy shunned baseball. He once said to Ray, who has been a Giants fan since he was young when he would sneak into games at Candlestick, that “baseball is boring.” Big mistake. Those three little words have stayed with Ray all of this time, and came back ringing loudly in 2010 and 2012 when Baseball Is Boring guy was suddenly Let’s Go Giants guy. Because of my (hopefully) momentary opposition to going to France, each time someone has lit up at the revelation that I am going there, internally I have rolled my eyes and thought to myself, France is boring.
I suppose this is a preview of what marriage is like. My husband might be a stamp collector and will one day drag me to a stamp collecting convention. I will politely decline and encourage him to go and do his thing. But even though he’ll be excited about going to the stamp collecting convention, he’ll want me there with him and maybe not necessarily to go with him to the whole convention. He just wants me there. Maybe I’ll sit with him for a panel or two and maybe we’ll stroll through the exhibition hall and he will educate me on the differences between each vendor’s merchandise. And then for the rest of the convention, I will stroll through the park, or go to a museum, each night looking forward to our dinner together where he will undoubtedly tell me all about his latest acquisition while I listen dutifully.
It would be nice if this imaginary husband went to a ballgame or two with me, too. I guess none of what I am feeling really has to do with France, Linc. Whenever I meet someone who has the same interest as I do, I always feel a profound sense of connection and I am not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s just a basic sense of wanting to have that connection with someone and nothing more. Maybe it’s something hard wired. Recently I made friends with a guy in church who is a huge fan of Days of Our Lives. I haven’t kept up with that show in many years but talking to him about it has made me revisit the current storylines. I guess when I take interest in something, that something is usually something that not many other people are commonly taking an interest in. I like taking complete and total ownership of what I like at the same time that it feels very nice knowing someone else likes it, too. That’s why it always made me a little sad that I could go with Ray and Wolfie to watch any superhero movie no matter how lame — oh my God, here’s 114 minutes of my life I’ll never see again — and without reservation while they would throw a fit if I even mentioned Sex and the City. At the same time, it’s ironic that I am now throwing the same kind of fit about going to France. How many times in my life have I made Ma do something with me that she hated? In middle school, when she wouldn’t yet let me see movies alone, I dragged her to see Star Trek: Generations. The moment that Captain Kirk died was emotional for everyone but Ma, who I had to nudge because she had begun to snore.
I joked with Spencer about going to Charente-Maritime just because it was where Bruce Bochy was born. Spencer, who has been to France twice, wasn’t familiar with that region, so she couldn’t say one way or another if there was anything interesting to do there.
"How do you say ‘Does anyone know Bruce Bochy’ in French?" I asked her.
"You don’t," she said.
I bet even Bochy himself hasn’t thought about that place in a long time.
I’m just along for the ride. Ma has had an agenda for this trip drawn up since she first started losing sleep over it. The only thing I am truly determined/excited about doing at this moment is going to the Louvre. I love museums, although I hate when people go there in crowds just to take pictures of the art and take pictures next to the art. That’s kind of not the point.
I imagine that when I receive the inevitable news that you have gotten married, the disappointment will be comparable to a recent conversation I had with Spencer.
When we first met in college, I had drifted away from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My first semester happened during the show’s fifth season, and like many people who made the mistake of not having faith in the storytelling prowess of the great Joss Whedon — can you tell that I’m a little, little bit of a fan…? — I abandoned the show because the sudden introduction of Buffy’s little sister Dawn did not seem to make sense. Also, with the start of college came the start of a new life on another coast, a new life entirely. I couldn’t commit to Buffy.
When I met Spencer a couple of semesters later, she was an uninvited guest who was accompanying a friend and I on a hike. My friend had asked me at the last minute if Spencer could tag along, and I didn’t want to be the jerk that said no, even if the question was asked of me only at the last minute. (We were in our early twenties, which is my excuse for not having any concept of manners.) It was even worse when we swung by Spencer’s place and she strolled out in an especially stylish leather jacket.
I was sickened for two reasons: firstly, it struck me that my friend was probably having her tag along because he was totally just that into her and, secondly, she looked pretty good in that stylish leather jacket, which at that time meant to me that she had to have an accompanying bitchiness. (I know that sounds sexist so, to be fair, I think the same about guys — I see so many guys that look oh, so good. From the bus to the sidewalks, my eyes are constantly wandering, yet at the same time warring with my mind which constantly advises me that though the packaging is good the contents are probably jerks.)
Spencer never wavered from her fandom of Buffy nor of Joss Whedon. She has watched The Avengers probably about as many times as I’ve watched each of the Star Trek movies, which is to say: a lot.
I’ve watched The Avengers one time. I meant to watch it again not long after that first time, but I never got around to it. Which is to say: I liked it, but not as much as Spencer did, and not as much as I’ve liked most of the Star Trek movies. (Even that heinous fifth one where Kirk asks of a terrible special effects alien pretending to be God, “What does God need with a starship?!”) I feel bad that I haven’t watched The Avengers more often because I have often professed to be an unabashed follower of Joss Whedon. I am.
But for me his greatest work will always be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And there will only ever be one Buffy Summers — with respect to Kristy Swanson, who certainly contributed to the legacy, to me Sarah Michelle Gellar will always ever be the only Buffy Summers.
That being said, years after the show ended, I’ve been clamoring for its return, either as a movie or some other limited-run TV show. I know there are canonical comics — but it’s just not the same. I miss Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy. I miss her so much that I even had high hopes for her big return to TV, on a show called Ringer, which I recognized as a flop several episodes in and then it barely lasted its first season before getting canceled altogether. Next season she’ll be back in a sitcom (!) co-starring Robin Williams. I’m excited that she gets to work with Robin Williams — and I’m actually excited that she’s doing comedy. Watching Buffy, you can see that her physicality isn’t just about the action, but there’s also slapstick. Sarah Michelle Gellar can be hilarious.
But I don’t think there will ever be anymore Buffy, not the way that I want to see it.
"Would you expect JJ Abrams to go back to Felicity?” Spencer asked me.
"Yes!" I said quickly. (I loved Felicity, too, by the way.)
I knew her point, though.
Did you know that Sarah Michelle Gellar also once popped up on Sex and the City? Man, in high school, I hated that show. I was convinced that it was immoral — yeah, really. But then I started watching it more and then my life started going in a direction where I could find myself relating to the characters. There’s a prequel show on right now called The Carrie Diaries, and I admit that I read the book on which that prequel show is based, and that I liked it. There’s another Carrie now, since it’s a prequel and all, and I hear she’s actually pretty good. But I haven’t gotten into it because, well, it’s just not the same.
Selma’s fiance made me buy new shoes for the wedding. Keep in mind this is Selma’s fiance, now, and not Selma herself. Selma could care less what shoes I wear. When I told Selma’s fiance the kind of dress shoes I have, he actually said to me, “Maybe it would be best to get different shoes.”
I don’t mean to make him sound like a jerk. He’s not. We’re both Trekkies, so he already scored points with me a long time ago. But this shoe requirement required me to devote a singular but intensive hour in the middle of a packed schedule yesterday to the act of shopping in consideration of 1) budget; 2) style; 3) honor. You know me, Linc: only I can turn shoe shopping into an existential nightmare.
About number three: the thing is, I’m giving a toast. I’m also in the wedding party. I’ve known Selma since we were twelve. Should I invest in a decent pair of shoes that might be a little beyond my budget but will return lasting values, lasting memories? Should I honor Selma’s special day by dressing a little better than I usually do? I will. I do.
You should have seen me walking around yesterday, Linc. I was such a poseur, with a big shopping bag slung around my shoulder like I was some sophisticated urban guy! I have to admit that I felt like I was channeling a little bit of Carrie Bradshaw — okay, a lot. I even happened to walk past a movie theatre with a marquee advertising that it was playing this new documentary that I want to see called, get this, Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorf’s. But I have to admit that the first time I saw the trailer for that, my first thought was that Bergdorf’s was way too expensive for my blood. If I were going to have my ashes scattered anywhere that wasn’t AT&T Park, then it would be Macy’s.
Yesterday was basically a one-day vacation staycation for me. Since February, I’ve had May 15th at 7pm marked on my calendar for Star Trek: Into Darkness. I even told my boss about it on the same day that I got the tickets for me and Clara. But he just grinned at me like I was a fly that he’d just swatted, because the date was still too far away to put me down for a day off.
That’s exactly what I ended up getting. The showtime was actually at 8pm but all this time I had a 7pm time marked in my calendar. I guess I was so nerdishly excited about getting to the movie theatre on time that I scheduled it an hour earlier. I only realized this when Clara and I were leaving the house and when she looked at the ticket I’d just printed from the confirmation page bookmarked months before, she said, “But this says 8pm.”
So, we stayed home and continued doing what we’d been doing all day: watching episodes of Star Trek from all its various TV incarnations.
Except that I’d been up at my usual early bird hour, long before Clara, which is the norm for me now, especially since my internal alarm clock now outpaces my actual alarm clock. This day was not only going to be a day for Star Trek but a fanboy’s day in general: I had General Hospital episodes to catch up on, too!
I sprung into consciousness sometime around 5:45 in the morning but I already knew that my calendar was clear, because I intentionally did that: the day before, I woke up even earlier in the morning to get a head start on what I already needed to do, to allow for extra time to catch up on whatever work I might wish I could be doing on the next day that was supposed to be my day off.
I did it anyway. There were times on my supposed staycation when I couldn’t keep myself away from opening my laptop. I’d be on the sofa with Clara, and then she’d have an important question to ask — “How many people did that thing live inside before Jadzia?” — that I would merrily answer while also intently checking my e-mail, or browsing one of the syllabi of my classes to double-check that I wasn’t falling behind on my assignments.
Even though her question about Jadzia sounded direct like a non-fan’s condescension, Clara is actually a Trekkie, although not as nerdy as I am, obviously. Clara and I didn’t meet until college. We were raised on separate coasts but in terms of our Star Trek fandom we led parallel childhoods. She once confessed to me, “I like the one where Doctor Crusher falls in love with a ghost — that was a ghost, right?”
Because I’m a Trekkie, I answered specifically: yes, and no. The creature that Doctor Crusher fell in love was ghostly, I explained to Clara, but in the Star Trek universe, it was actually an alien identified as an “anaphasic lifeform”.
"I bet you liked that episode a lot," Clara had said with a knowing laugh.
Actually, I sort of did not. The episode was indeed soapy, and by the time it had aired, when I was in the vicinity of the sixth grade, I was already watching soap operas for a long time. But I didn’t like soap operatic elements creeping into Star Trek. It just seemed out of place — although I did like that episode’s explanation that a ghost could in fact be an alien. There was something comforting about how Star Trek provided knowledge into those kinds of mysteries, even though it was pretend science fiction knowledge. I still daydream that the reason why I write these letters is because this life is an echo of a life in some alternate universe where you and I are, in fact, together.
I won’t spoil Star Trek Into Darkness, in case you want to see it, which I think you should even if you aren’t remotely a Trekkie. It’s just a damned good action movie. With heart. The Star Trek franchise has never been good at writing love between its characters. Hello, Doctor Crusher falling in love with a ghost? Er, an aniphasic life form. Whatever.
But there were moments when Into Darkness was so good, in all of its action and adventure and, yes, love, that when a shocking moment happened and Clara and I would lock arms, there was a corner of my otherwise grateful heart that was saddened I was not in that movie theatre locking arms with a man I loved.
There are many things about adulthood that I find belatedly shocking. Whereas others have long since experienced these coming of age revelations, I feel as they are only dawning on me at the too-late age of 31. One issue that’s really getting to me is time management. I’ve been trying to be good at it but in the last couple of weeks I have had to confront the glaring problem of being overextended. I have had to make cancellations, and each time I would cancel my stomach felt like it was eating itself up with acid. I don’t like flaking on commitments but, as they say, live and learn. Parallel to the acidity in my stomach these last few weeks, I am living, and learning.
Sometimes I imagine that you and I had lived parallel childhoods, you in Washington and me in Maryland. Maybe we had a lot of similarities — but more than likely we did not. The reality is that you were playing a variety of sports, while I was reading a variety of books. I was watching soap operas, and as I sit here writing this today, the notion of you watching a soap opera seems foreign and baffling. More than likely you and I are entirely different creatures so pronounced in our separation that I imagine it would take just one conversation to reverse four years of letters and dreaming.
One of my best friends from childhood has lately been posting angrily pro-gun comments on his Facebook. I shouldn’t be surprised at this because he is a career Marine man. We are both military brats, and thanks to my upbringing alongside Pop’s career in the Navy, I have special respect for the American military to which I would not otherwise be privy. That being said, I am not someone who takes literally the right to bear arms. I think think that you should have the right to own guns — with restrictions. With necessary government oversight. American democracy was originally envisioned as a way to protect the people from themselves — the Founding Fathers knew that just because the people had the right to be heard didn’t mean that they would always be right. The issue of guns is a good example of where the government needs to protect the people from themselves. Sometimes I get very sad when my friend says he wants to move out of Maryland, where he has lived our whole lives not counting when he was away on duty, not for a change of scenery but because his belief in gun ownership is more than I could ever embrace for myself. It is a startling thing for me to comprehend this difference in adulthood that I could not have imagined in childhood.
Another experience in adulthood that recently/belatedly opens my eyes is something simple like going to the movies. When I took the day off yesterday for the evening showing of Into Darkness, it was so that I could spend the whole day with Clara reliving favorite Star Trek episodes and, of course, watching the 2009 movie again as the last thing we watched before leaving the house. My original vision for that day also included eating very bad foods — the very kinds of very bad foods that I found myself eating as a kid whenever there was a new episode of Star Trek on TV or when I was at the theatre watching a new Star Trek movie: popcorn, pizza, sodas, high-fat and full-flavor ice cream. You name it, I was snacking on it. Also, I am not exaggerating when I say that there was pizza involved: I don’t have to think too long to find myself reminiscing about those Wednesday nights when I would gather in front of UPN with a pie of Tombstone fresh from the oven. Yes, I could eat the entire pie in an hour.
My plan to order a pizza for the day was canceled the night before when I came home from work and Clara and her fiance had already ordered from Domino’s. Until I woke up the next morning, I was still set on reliving my childhood and ordering a pizza anyway, all to myself, but I ended up getting a fish burrito instead. At the movie theatre, instead of a buttery tub of extra large popcorn from the concession stand, I got a box of Crunch N Munch at Target that was half the price and probably half the terrible nutrition as well. I wanted to get soda, too, but at Target the only singles they had for sale all had caffeine: Coke, Diet Coke, and even Coke Zero, to which I have lately taken a liking. I was not in the mood for any of the caffeine-free sodas, and the movie was going to get out at about ten, so I would need to fall asleep fast if I wanted to get up early to resume the unavoidable reality of real life. I got water.
But the chance to relive simpler times wasn’t a total loss: I like Crunch N Munch today because it was always Ma’s favorite snack when we watched General Hospital together.