Tag Archives: Love

What It Could Be

“I don’t even know if it really was love,” I tell her. “I thought it was at the time, but then most of that was revealed to be lies anyway. So I don’t trust anything. But what I do know is that 90% of it was sad.
“I think that because of the weirdness with Dad growing up, and from being so, so close to Edward and then dealing with his suicide, I don’t think I know a love that is healthy. I don’t understand love with the absence of pain.”

She started crying.

I wanted to write a pitch for CRWN’s love issue, before realizing I had nothing sensical enough to say. I considered dragging up What it Might Be, but didn’t feel like recycling. So instead, I allowed the issue to pass, while continuing to reflect. Then I listened to John Legend’s project.

This time, I think that love may be flying through a trapeze in pitch black. You can’t see where you’re going, or really any of your surroundings, but you can feel out what’s there.

Trust.

As you spin, contort, and flip yourself through the air, there’s the moment where you let go of the ropes and poles on which you hang. You fly, blindly, arms outstretched, ready to be

Caught

And hands feel you, grab you, pull you out of the air and back into the motion of a loop, before tossing you on and allowing you to fly again. Maybe you’ll go off flying together, waiting for nets or other hands to catch you. Maybe they’ll let you go for a minute, but come back to catch you later.

Maybe they’ll drop you, and you’ll fall.

You have no idea. You can’t see. You can only follow the motion of your hoops and crests. Can only fly off on your faith.

If the hands do drop you, you have to fall with faith, too, and hope that new ones appear to catch you before you hit the ground. Maybe you’ll fly higher with them. Who knows.

If you crash to the ground, will it have been worth it?

I don’t know. Falling, you probably won’t think so.

When you’re at the peak of your arc, though, after the first time you’ve been caught and flung up again, you’ll know that this is the best feeling in the world.

At least I hope so. I can’t really remember, and I’m still swinging. I won’t let go for sadness or abuse this time.

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Spirits

A few weeks ago, I had a terrifying thought: at the time, the last man to kiss me had been the second rapist. I hated that thought, hated that feeling. It made me unclean, stained. If my body was a ledger, there was nothing below his mark; nothing to make him forgotten.

Tonight, the train doors open, he steps onto the train, and I’m saved. I’ve only ever dealt with bad ghosts. Ones who have made me afraid. But here, I have a happy spirit. A safe one. Lindo.

It’s funny, because the first summer he saved me, he definitely associated me with the extraterrestrial. My eyes he told me were planets into which he was afraid to look. My aura reminded him of that of a goddess. He called me the Princess of Enlightenment and Higher Powers. Yet he never worshipped me. He just washed me over with appreciation, and allowed me to exist in his space as I needed to. My only safe space in the world for a brief period of time was in South Africa, in a drug dealer’s small apartment.

He’s on the train, now. His clothes, his hair, his smile. He’s dancing around, sliding in slippers, hoping for tips. I don’t want to give him money (his dancing isn’t great) but I don’t want to ignore him, either. It would be wrong to just let him go.

It’s not really Lindo. But it’s his spirit, inside this guy. This is where he could be, were he not where he is. It’s nice to know that there are others like him in the world, and that they are doing okay. More spaces are being created for other people. It’s hopeful.

He sits next to me on the train, debating out loud whether to take off his shirt (sweating from dancing) or put on a jacket (it’s cold outside). He miscalculated and still has a few stops before he needs to get off the train. Classic.

One time, we went to get burgers, and he was so lost in thought he didn’t realize the elbow he wanted to lean on was in the air, not on the table.

“You remind me of my ex,” I tell him.
“Your ex?” I nod. He laughs. “Oh, he used to dance around, too?”

“No,” I tell him. Although as I shake my head, I flash back to the morning I woke up and walked into his living room to see him standing on his sofa. Smoke wafted equally out of his blunt and lungs, swirling around the room, picking up the light of the morning to make an ethereal haze. Twisted, he sang with the music, and jumped off of the couch, spinning around the room and kicking out his legs. He loved me, he said later, because I let him be himself. Because I could be in his space without taking up his space, and he still felt free to do what he wanted. So yes, in every way, he danced.

But I don’t say this to the spirit on the train. Instead, I hold up my palm and move it in a circular motion to encompass his body-space. “It’s more – “

” – The aura, huh?” he says happily.
“Yeah,” I agree. Auras.
“Well, you remind me of my ex,” he responds. “The aura again.”

Then it’s his stop, we say goodbye, and he leaves.

And I remember.

All of those memories are from the summer of 2015. I only saw Lindo in the summer of 2016 once. The night after the rape. I hadn’t wanted to see anybody, but he came by, and came up to the room, and sat on the bed and talked to me. He sat where the guy had been as I folded my body far away from it. I never told him what had happened. I never told him anything that happened, the entire time I knew him. His safe space came with forgetting. Midway through his visit, he stopped, leaned forward, and kissed me on the forehead.

“I can touch you now,” he said, “I’m not afraid. That’s the kiss I wanted to give you last year. It’s for someone to watch over and guide you always, for protection. Now you have it.”

He’d been the last. Immediate protection, to begin to cancel out the ledger mark. I’d forgotten.

Every day I unpack something new that’s been repressed. Thank goodness for the dancing spirit, reminding me there are positives that can come slipping into life as well.

Where Are They

“So, have you thought about it?”
“About what you asked the last time I saw you?”
“Yeah.”

I look across the table at Ramses. The last time I saw him was before Orlando, before the second heartbreak. Not that he hasn’t still sporadically talked to me, wishing me good morning, saying sweet things. I’d kind of hoped that we’d be able to eat, chill, and then part, but it makes sense we do this now. It’s only fair.

“I did think about it,” I tell him, “And I think that we would work much better as friends.”

His face changes. I get an “Oh,” and then the meal is being wrapped up and we’re leaving. He asks me how I’m getting home, pays for my cab, kisses me on the cheek, then peaces out to the train station. He took a train to be disappointed.

Later on, he texts me.

“I see the potential in us together…If you ever change your mind just say the word”

He would be amazing, if I felt anything for him. I’m so stupid with my feelings.

I moved today. Out of Westchester, into a burrow. I went into my old store to buy some professional dresses, as a last stop before getting out. The anxiety was real, and heightened by the fact that my mother was with me. I could feel everything pouring out of her, mixing into my own nerves. Couple that with the fact that I’ve never been in this store since walking out of it, telling my managers that I would contact them over my Spring break when I had no intention of coming back. I’m only coming for the deals and discounts, but the longer I’m on the floor, the more I want to run away. What is wrong with me?

There has only really been one other time my anxiety was consistently this bad, and it was after Armani. I’m falling into the same patterns now that I did then. Setting my alarm early so I can take an extra hour to talk myself out of bed. Holing myself up in my room (and my new landlord doesn’t allow eating upstairs. What will happen? Will I force myself out, or just starve a little?). Sleeping too much, but always feeling exhausted. Aversion to social activity. Except –

“It’s you! How are you?”

I’ve been recognized.

“Come’eeere! Oh, it’s been so long, how you doin’, baby?”

I’m being hugged. I’m hugging back. It’s Alyss and Michelle, maybe the only two people left in the store that I genuinely like. These women watched out for me, talked to me, showed me around. I never realized how much love I felt for them until they popped back up. Michelle has me go to her register, where she gives me her discount and listens to my plans.

“You know, I always knew you’d do something great,” she tells me. “Always such a good worker. And so sweet, and kind. We miss you around here.”

I leave the store feeling good.

That’s kind of how it’s been, recently. The more time alone I spend, the worse I feel. I get stuck replaying the sad, scary, terrifying episodes in my mind until I don’t want to go outside again. But then I do go out, and I find friends, and they make me feel good.

That’s when I realize that I was right to deny Ramses. I don’t want a boyfriend right now. I just don’t want to be alone. I feel alone so much of the time, and I get scared that I’ll just be alone forever. But what I really want, is to be with friends who love me, who make me feel good, who let me have fun. I miss having friends nearby. It’s part of what made the aftermath of South Africa so terrible.

Once, I had a very good friend. I fell in love with him, and he fell in love with me, and we told each other. I fell in love with him because he was such a good friend to me. He was there for me when I needed him, and he could tell if I needed him before I even knew myself. He introduced me to new things, new phrases, and to new people. We went out together. We had fun. We had talks. We opened up to each other. We hung out. I made him watch movies and television shows that I thought were hilarious or cool, and he hated most of them, but he watched anyway. Things were good. Love grew out of trust.

But when we said that we loved each other, we weren’t completely friends. We were halfway back to friendship, after not talking for a while. It was the wrong time to talk to each other. Instead of growing closer together after that, we just drifted further apart. Mentally and emotionally, if not physically. It got sad. I lost my friend. And I miss him. I miss that friendship.

Soul Interactions

She’s so beautiful.

Not physically. I mean, physically, she’s pretty, but it’s more like her insides are shining out of her, and I can see them.

“You can have so many soul mates,” my friend once said. “It’s really just that they all came out of the same soul circle. So when you’re born, you came from a group of souls, and you can find them out in the world. And that’s why we’re soul mates.”

I wonder if this girl is one of my soul mates.

She finds me in what has now turned into a party. I’m talking to a guy, and she comes in just as he’s asking me “what I am”. It’s always so weird interacting with people in my home town, out of the social justice, aware bubble, but I find these interactions easier than I used to.

“But really,” he’s saying. “Are you light skinned?”
“Do you see me?” I ask him. “What kind of question is that?” I’m being sarcastic, making fun of him. He knows it, she knows it, he flips me off exasperatedly, and I answer.
“My mom is a white lady from Ohio,” I say, “And my dad is a black man from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m Congolese-American.”

I can tell by their blank yet friendly expressions that they’ve never heard of Congo.

“Well, whatever you are, you’re beautiful,” she tells me. “Like so so beautiful,” and this is nice to hear, because I can look in the mirror and tell myself I have beauty until I’m convinced of it abstractly, but it means something coming from a girl who is a stranger, out of nowhere in a way I can instantly believe.

“Do you know what I am?”
“Are you mixed?” She nods. “Hispanic and…white?” She laughs.
“I’m Cuban and Lebanese!”
“Oh wow, how did that come about?”
“…Sex.” We laugh.
“No, what I meant is, how did your parents meet?” Her eyes widen and she smiles like she has a secret, then leans in and whispers in my ear, “In a mental hospital.” She sits back on her heels and looks at me.
“That’s amazing,” I say. “Like actually really hopeful. How are they doing now?”
“Well, my dad has been dead since I was really young, but my mom is pretty good,” she says.
Our souls reach out and hug, and she clasps my hands, and we continue talking until she has to go check to make sure her friends haven’t left her here. “They tend to forget me.” It’s my friend’s house. She’s friends with the guy, who invited her other friend, who invited her and a lot of Random people.

I’m sitting alone for a minute, and then a guy from high school comes over. I haven’t seen him since New Year’s Eve, but really a week before that when a bunch of us were in his house eating latkes.

“How have you been?” he asks me, “Since the last time we spoke?”I think back. “Comparatively better,” I say. “The last time I saw you, life was not very great, was it?”
“Last time I saw you, your life was terrible,” he answers.
“Yeah, it was!” I laugh. It’s hilarious, because it’s true, but also because I would never think to call my life terrible. I mean, privilege. I think back. “Well -“

“What happened to you?” Across the room, the guy has been listening to our conversation. “Did you have a pregnancy scare or something?” He’s joking.
“Actually, I did,” I tell him. Because of my rapist, I think in my head.
“Yeah, so did I!” He’s still joking, though. “Hard life!”
“…Should we maybe not have this conversation here?” My friend wants to know.
“No, I really don’t care. If anyone listens in, they’ll just be upset by what they hear,” I say, then give him bullets. “So basically, I finally yelled at my parents about how they handled my rape. We’ve been repairing our relationship. I dated a guy for a bit, or I guess I had been when I saw you last, but he was waayyy more into me than I was into him, so eventually I broke up with him. Or tried to, but he held on for about a month. And then the day after he finally let go, this guy with whom I’ve had an on-again, off-again thing with told me he loved me. And I loved him back, and we were happy for a minute, but it turned really sour and sad and has gone on until last week. Which is sort of extremely heart breaking, but I can’t do anything about it. And also, I went to South Africa and got raped again.” I burst into laughter. He is, what someone else comments from across the room, horrified.

“Are you joking?”
“No! Isn’t that ridiculous? What freaking luck!” I laugh and laugh and laugh while he rocks back and stares at me, not knowing what to say, and that makes me laugh more. And then we’re interrupted by an arguing couple. The guy tears out of the house, and I hug the girl as she sobs, and I am thankful that I have not at least been like this. In a house of strangers watching my relationship deteriorate.

She’s back. She finds me again, and takes my hand in hers, and we talk. At one point, she tells me,
“You are just amazing. I feel so good talking to you. You know, you get people. You would be a really good psychologist, or like a therapist,” and that’s cool. She invites me to play a drinking game, but I’m staying away from being drunk for a while, so I leave her, and the guy from high school comes back.

“You know, I worry about you sometimes,” he tells me, which is surprising, given that we rarely see each other. “Ever since that party four years ago, when you were so drunk.”

There was only one time I got drunk four years ago.

“Was it the summer?” He nods. “With Derrick?” Nods. “At Dominique’s house? You were there?” Nodding nodding nodding. “Oh, shit,” I say. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I ruined that party.”
“No you didn’t,” he says. “You mostly just talked to me. You told me you weren’t going to live to 19.”
“Oh yeah,” I say. I can’t believe myself how nonchalant I am about this. “I believed it, too. I’m sorry I said that. But clearly I did live. And now I’m still here, and I guess I will be.” I want to tell him that I’ve let Edward go. But then I think about how I spent my entire commute home from work seriously considering suicide, and decide not to say anything. I’m not drunk. And laughing about my troubles with someone who takes them seriously actually makes me feel better.
“I’m here,” I repeat.

And then, the couple is back, and things have escalated. Fists fly, neighbors come outside. I watch my friend, the homeowner, dodge a punch and then begin to choke a girl out. I go into the kitchen, and find my girl barely conscious. She’s in a chair, head tipped back, hair covering parts of her face. Her friend is trying to slap her awake, to no avail. She’s drooling. I take a napkin and dab at her mouth, and she tries to move her hand, slowly, to help. But she just sinks further from consciousness. Her soul is crying.

“How did this happen?” I ask her useless friend, the one who brought all the chaos.
“She had half a bar of Xanax. And then she’s been drinking. And she had a huge Red Bull.” A stimulant, depressant, and DEPRESSANT.
“Where are her friends?” Who allowed this to happen? Why was no one looking out?
“I’m her friend,” the girl says, defensively.
“Sure you are,” I say.

I wonder if this is what she meant earlier when she talked about her friends leaving her. Everyone is crowding into the kitchen now, piled around her. They argue about whether to move her, to call 911, to take her to the emergency room, or just to dump her somewhere to sleep it off. One guy keeps shouting that he knows about “Sports medicine. I majored in it!” The couple is still outside, arguing.

“Let’s just go back to our frat,” Sports Medicine says.
“You have a frat house?” I whip around. They nod. “Why would you bring all of this here? Into a stranger’s home? Why didn’t you just go to your frat?”
“It’s the summer,” they respond. I am disgusted.

I pull aside the guy from before. The one who invited the girl who invited everyone else. “I hope you understand this is your responsibility.”
“What!” He’s shocked. “You’re blaming me!”
“No,” I say. “You aren’t entirely to blame for what happened. But you invited strangers into someone else’s home. You are responsible for what the strangers do to the home. And look what they’ve done.” He takes that in.

“That girl,” we look at her. “She’s depressed, isn’t she?”
“Have you seen the cuts in her arm?” he asks in response.
“No, I never looked at her arms.”
“Well, they’re serious. I hadn’t seen before today. Yeah, she’s not okay.”

“She’s going to die,” I tell him “Unless she gets better friends. She needs someone to look out for her. To care about her. You need to do better.”

Eventually, she wakes up a little, and they take her to her boyfriend’s house.

There have been so many times that I’ve wanted access to prescription medication, to knock myself out so I wouldn’t have to deal with anything. Nightly panic attacks are real. Anxiety kills, too slowly. But I’ve always stayed away, and this is why. I’ve had my time to be a party foul. I’m at the wrong age to go off the rails now.

There are too many beautiful girls who bring light into people’s lives while privately (for the most part) being miserable. Too many girls who smile and laugh at things that really make them want to cry, who drop heavy truths while projecting weightlessness. It’s tiring. I don’t want this to be the reason we’re soul mates.

If I ever see that girl again, I expect it will be a long time from now. But our souls have touched, and mine will be sending hers as much support and love and strength as it can, from now until then.

A Preservation

Some kisses are magic.

Is it the kiss, or the setting? Or is the kiss the culmination?

Bam, bam, bam-bam bee-dum, bam, bam

“F*ck him,” she’s told me. “F*ck XXXXX for not seeing what he had in front of him. I wish I could date you, but I can’t date all my friends.”

A scrub is a guy who thinks he’s fly, and is also known as a buster

And just like that, I’m not sad. Well, I am. But when I open my mouth to respond, I realize that I don’t care about talking about what’s happened. I squeeze my eyes to cry, because this would be the perfect moment to, but nothing comes out.

I’m too happy.

I look around at people I love, only people I love, gathered together.

“You know what I’m thankful for?” one of us says, “Great friends.”

I think about that, it pulls me down into clouds. Great friends, great friends.

I get it. I look at my friends, and I feel our connections to each other. In this moment, our vibes are tangible. They weave together above our heads, forming a canopy that drapes over our bodies and wraps us in warmth.

I understand that this is something I’ve been missing. That, had a conversation gone differently, I probably would not have been here right now. And I so need to be here. I’ve spent the summer being drained, but this moment makes me feel full. I know that it will pass, and in a few days I will feel empty again. So I drink in as much of the moment as possible, let it fill every space in my body and mind, and as much of my soul as I can manage.

“I hate him so f*cking much,” she’s told me, “For what he did to you. I wish I could kill him, because he’s made you so sad. But then, that would make you sad, too.”

Yes, it would. I don’t hate him. I did, for about twenty minutes. I hated him for making me love him. I replayed our most recent moments in my mind, and hated him for giving me snatches of happiness, teases of how well we could fit together. I hated him for telling me he loved me when he wasn’t ready. What height of carelessness

But then, there was care in his letting me go. I can recognize that.


It’s personal, myself and I
We’ve got some figuring out to do

If my love for him had been like a candle, there would be hot wax all over my hand at this point, and the wick would nearly be gone. Painful. Almost as painful as putting it out.
After a bit, pains begin to overlap with one another, so you’re not sure what’s really troubling you anymore.


Loving you was nice,
But it’s a new day, a new season
I’ve been sad inside

You know what I’m thankful for? Great friends.

Friends who will meet you for lunch after not seeing each other in a long time. Who, over frozen raspberry margaritas will get you to tell the truth you’ve been trying to avoid: You didn’t downgrade anything to an assault. You got raped in South Africa. Who will listen to you tell, for the first time, the true and full story of what happened just two weeks ago, and will laugh with you about the teeny tiny size of your rapist’s penis (which actually, it turned out, made things easier for him). Who will watch your eyes tear up, then clear up, and make you laugh again by reminding you of that time in fifth grade that they got you to sit in their broken chair and the desk fell over on you.

Friends who will come over from Boston, having planned their New York visit to match when they know for a fact you’ll be in the country. Who will meet you in Grand Central and walk with you to Bryant Park, who will find a deck of cards and reteach you how to play Spit. Who will understand that something may be wrong, but will do such a thoroughly good job of distracting you by just being themselves. Who will remind you that you can love friends, even if you rarely see them.

I’ve been sad inside,
And he could see it, picked up your pieces,
We could just alight

Friends who will gather to say goodbye to someone, but do it in the most beautiful, celebratory way possible. Who will dance on two levels of a deck, with young children and older relatives. Who will take pictures together, and lean over railings, reaching their hands down to you, as you raise yourself up on your toes so that your faces can be as close as possible.

“We’re all soul mates,” she says, and I believe her. Our friendships are deep.

I sit among my friends, and blow out of the candle. I understand that it can’t be burning right now. I need to put it away. Not quite let it go. The day I lose hope for the candle, hope for us, is the day I have completely changed into another person. So I won’t get rid of it. I’ll just put it somewhere else, and try not to think about it too much, and maybe one day, when he’s ready, he will light what’s left of it, and help me build it back up again.

“I love you so much,” Gari tells me, hugging me on one side and Crystal on the other. “I love you guys.” And we hug her back, and I feel our friendship glowing, pulsing, so I close my eyes to let it better wash over me. And I feel her kiss me on my forehead, over my right brow. I’ve missed this. Feeling loved. Feeling safe. Feeling happy. We are a star.

Home is wherever I’m with you

This night is the most magical moment I have yet had the privilege to feel.

Asexuality and Queerness/Not Yet

Pulse and Pride and Social Justice culture got me questioning my queerness.

The beauty of my asexuality is that it leaves me equally attracted to men and women. The ugliness of it is I’m left disappointing even more people.

Heyy pretty lady 🙂

Unanswered messages from women I right-swiped before being hit with fear.

Pride was Sunday. My friend wanted to go, and I did, too. I packed gray lipstick when I went into the city, and then couldn’t put it on. I didn’t want people to think I was using pride as an excuse to look weird, wild. Blue hair, rainbow shorts, gray lipstick, what are you doing in this place you don’t even feel completely welcome? It would have been my own individual pride. Taking the opportunity to lean into myself and try to feel safe. My flag isn’t rainbow. It’s gray. And purple, white, and black.

There’s some documentary about asexuality on Netflix that people (straight and queer alike) love to tell me they’ve seen. They all seem to have appreciated and learned a lot from it. I hated that documentary. Found it thoroughly depressing. The icing on the cake was when a group of asexuals went to Pride to show their presence and pass out little pamphlets about asexuality…and the majority of the gays and lesbians there either laughed at or derided them. One guy even said, “I don’t agree with your way of life,” and then continued to cheer for the rainbow parade.

So, there’s that. There’s a reason I have trouble talking to women I find attractive. We can match on Tinder, we can wine at queer dance halls, but when it gets to the point of moving past that, I freeze. I don’t want to disappoint women, give them lady blue balls. It’s ‘easier’ to do that to guys, because to a certain extent that’s already written into our patriarchal culture. With women, I’m afraid of hurting their feelings by slipping into the role of the “straight lesbian” who’s fine kissing but uninterested in anything else. I don’t know how to move past that block. And it sort of feels like I should, a lot of the time, if I want to be taken seriously under the queer umbrella. How can I claim queerness and more easily be with men? How does that work?

“The thing is, I could have been somewhere like Pulse,” I’m saying to my friend. “I mean, we’ve been places like that before. And they do feel safer. Not even in the sense of the outside world judging, but because the people I interact with there actually care about consent. And what if I just wanted to go somewhere and dance and feel safe and not get handled, and then I ended up shot and got on the news and was dead? What would my family, who does not acknowledge asexuality, think?”

“They’d think you were gay,” she says simply. Easy.

That agitates me, and at first I can’t tell if it’s not because of the strong Congolese sentiment against gayness, and the desire to still be accepted by the most distant relatives. Maybe that’s a part of it, but I think a bigger part is knowing that it just isn’t. Easy.

Yes, I could pass as straight for the rest of my life, and there’s a privilege to that. I guess really anyone could. Pass. It would just be easier for me to do so. But that puts me at increased risk for damage to my person. Real, real risk. Like

Clockwork.

The message comes in from my friend.

He’s in NYC. There was an apartment I’d been looking to move into, subletting from an alum. Her roommate brought him into the city. The man whose name I shouldn’t legally say now, since he threatened to sue me for defamation of character. Apparently, it’s wrong for me to name my rapist to the public. Not that any of that matters, because he’s here. He’s here, and lions have turned into kittens, and my mind is beyond spidering and I want to

actually, never see another man. They’re scary, in the deepest sense of that simple adjective.

Also, a bit, I don’t want to see another person. I can’t go outside for it. I want to cocoon myself in blankets and stay in my bed where loved ones can come visit me and tell me stories and bring me tea, but please don’t expect me to go outside again, or into the city, where he can just pop up on me.

The thing is that the break and spaces just now, between saying what I want and actually putting something in that looks like it could finish that thought, is the amount of time it takes me to unthaw and keep moving and unpack everything, and by the time that happens I’m on the C train going towards Pride. Realizations and asexual situations and the energy it takes to do all that have me tired. Of course. So instead of going to Pride, I just stay on the train until I’m in Times Square, and then I shuttle over to Metro North and ride that train home. The whole time, I berate myself for being a bad queer, and chastise myself for wearing short shorts when there are regular men all over the place. Pride would have made what I wore safe. Pride would have drained my mental energy.

I’m not really sure what I feel now, going home. My mind is a soup of questionable ingredients. Guilt-confusion-fear-uncertainty-acceptan-pri-shame-alertness-fog are the only things that briefly bob to the surface. Mostly I feel tired. A man sits next to me and I turn the pages of my book into a cocoon until I can fall asleep.

Blasts

WecantbetogetherbuttheworldisburningandlifeissoshortandtakenfromyousosuddenlyandIfeelsadandalsoscaredandIwanttoreachouttoyoubutIknowthatIcant.

Please, comfort me.

At the top of their stairs is a wall of bookshelves. It used to be like a house library, except filled with children’s books. The kind of children’s books that aren’t necessarily classics, but ones that every child should read. A collection of all the stories you vaguely remember, only it’s been such a long time that you aren’t sure whether the books exist, or if you made up their ideas. And then suddenly, you see the book in front of you at the bookshelf, you understand that everything was real, and your memories transport you back to that time period. The last time I was here, I found the Crestomanci chronicles. The last time I was here, I was by myself, and it was three years ago, and William hadn’t overdosed. Most of the books are gone now.

At the top of the stairs is a shrine.

I am facing photo after photo of the dead brothers. I’m even in one of the pictures. Edward’s arm is around me, and we are smiling into the camera. It’s Christmas of 2010, the year I caught onto his alcoholic and anorexic tendencies enough to worry, without knowing to be alarmed. It had still been a great Christmas. They used that photo in his memorial service. Proof of how apparent it was to everyone that we were connected. My aunt stays looking out.

I can look at our photo, and be okay. I know that he isn’t around, and I truly believe he’s in a better place. But what they left behind. Two parents who don’t like each other, are miserable together, but stay together for the benefit of their only surviving child, the daughter who graduated, who broke into tears during her graduation speech and then pulled herself together to thank her family and friends. I look at a picture of William, young enough to still be blond, before his hair naturally darkened to brown, smiling and pretending to work as he sat next to his father at his desk. It’s connected to a picture of baby Will on Uncle Steve’s shoulders.

“It was never so clear,” another cousin would tell me, “Two parents who absolutely had favorite children. Aunt Lori found Will’s body. She lay down next to him and told him to take care of Edward. Her speech at his funeral was all about how they could look after each other now. And Steve’s was just a really specific memory of Will. It was hard to watch.”

“No one chooses to be born,” Will said, at Edward’s funeral. “So I guess it’s good he got to choose when he died.”

I wonder if Will chose his death. It’s hard to tell. He’d been clean for a minute. It seemed like he was turning his life around. And then

I look at the happy babies with their happy parents. I look at the cards from their funerals. I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of, What’s the point?

You’d think it would be hard to go into Edward’s room, but it’s surprisingly easy. It’s also right next to the stairs. His cats lurk around like ghosts. They don’t run away from me like they used to; they just watch me as I sink into his couch. I wonder what that means, and then I try to stop myself from romanticizing the situation. Maybe our energies just match. We’re all still hiding together. Them from the family, and me from the babies.

What’s the point of crafting a life with someone, if that person will hurt you? Love fades, love sours. I guess that’s why people have children. So there will always be something to love. But then even when white, even when wealthy, your children can still grow up to hate themselves, and their lives, and maybe even you, a little bit. And they’ll leave you, and your suffering will only increase.

I guess it doesn’t have to be like this. These are just the examples I’ve been given.
I cry, silently, and Edward’s cats watch me.

“You know, Lucas believes in the same things we do,” their sister is telling me. “Like gay rights. He knows that Edward was gay.”

Lucas is her crush. They’re friends, and she wants more. I wonder if she knows about Orlando, and how she feels. Maybe Edward didn’t kill himself. Maybe he and Pat were just on vacation and got shot up for their orientation.

She shows me a picture of him.

“He’s pretty cute,” I say, and she side-eyes me. “But don’t worry, he’s all yours.” I put my hands up.
“Hey!” She says. “You take my guy, and I’ll take yours.”
“You couldn’t, even if you tried,” I tell her. “I don’t have a guy. I don’t think we can even hang out very much anymore.”
“Why not?” She wants to know.
“Because, it’s painful.”
“When I’m with Lucas,” she tells me. “It’s painful. But I keep spending time with him anyway, because he’s important to me. We have a connection. And I think that one day he’ll realize it.”
“But that’s why it’s painful,” I say. “We know we have a connection. He already realized. And it just gets stronger the more time we spend together, but he isn’t ready for it. It’s a tease.”

The next morning I wake up, and fifty people have been killed, with fifty-three injured, at a nightclub. Brown people. Gay people. I spend so much time worrying about my future, and theirs are gone. Taken.

America is burning out, and we don’t have very many friendly places to go, and hundreds of legitimate refugees have been and are drowning. Does anyone have a future? Does anything matter?

This is when I want to run back to Niles. Because with all the uncertainty, why would you not want to hold onto something that is sure? Like the fact that two people are in love. And if the future isn’t guaranteed, then why even think about it? I consider the guys who currently, actually, want me as a girlfriend, and wonder if it’s something I even want. Not because of him, or them, but because of myself and where I currently am, home for a few weeks before going somewhere and becoming unreachable, preparing to start work, trying to get it together enough to move into the city. Being In Love with one person, sure, but also loving different people in different parts of the world. Do I actually want to be in a strictly committed relationship right now? Not really.

But I do want to be in love, and be a priority, and not have to worry about seeing someone I care about hooking up with someone who isn’t me at a party. I want to be able to call someone when I’m down, and have them make me feel better, if only through distraction. I want to nestle in bed with someone and make them feel good. I want to hold hands, and feel safe, and truly believe that we’ll be together when we’re meant to.

So what does that mean? What is the healthiest option? For me, for him, for now, for the future that might not even be there?

And all I can think about now is how there was a moment last year, during our big fight, when we almost hooked up. I’m not sure he’s even aware of that, but it happened. I looked at him, and in the midst of all my anger and sadness I felt this overwhelming attraction, and I knew that if we hooked up, I would enjoy it. But I also knew that if we did hook up, that would be the end of us. So we didn’t, and here we are now. Now, I don’t know if we’re at the end, if I’m supposed to kill my internal flame, or if I’m supposed to run on hope that eventually things will work out. If one of us got shot tomorrow, would the other have regrets?

I’ve been exercising my arms, like he told me to. I can do fifteen pushups now. Next week, I’m going for twenty.