You know, sometimes there’s just nothing to fucking write about. I mean, I could tell you how my birthday choo-choo-choos alongside the Erin Express, and the irony that is being sober and having been born 5 days before St. Patrick’s day. Or I could tell you about how by Senior students snuck around and signed a card for my birthday and how that fills my heart because I am at this new school and it makes me feel very very appreciated by these fabulous little cherubs that I really work so hard for. Or maybe I can write about watching 127 Minutes and how when he had to cut through the nerve in his forearm to free himself, I could really truly swear that I could feel pain in my knee, the one that had a ganglion cyst in it that was causing me constant chronic pain because it was leaning against my nerve and sending tingles into my foot and how I was to become an athlete again but how I am afraid that I will become addicted to it. So afraid of addiction, even the good kind. The surge of endorphins scares the ever-lovin’ shit out of me because it makes me feel so super and super equals drunk and drunk means I’m not grounded and not grounded means that I am not good to the people I love and so somehow some way this means that a) I can’t workout because enjoyment = drunk = bad and b) that guy in that movie, he got into that position because he was so afraid to connect, wanted to go it fucking solo, addicted to solo, and that’s like Julius Caesar and he died because he was prideful.
But all of this is really to avoid writing about that flannel shirt in that picture. That picture of me at 17 and her at 15 and us in front of that fountain in Disney World. Because every time I look at that picture, I feel such a mixture of elation and pain. But I don’t know how to begin that story. Wait. I know how to begin that story, but I don’t know how to end that story. I don’t know if it ends with me calling her the December after September 11th (me at 25, her at 23) and her telling me that if I cared I would have called her right afterword to see if she was safe in Brooklyn and that going to NYC Pride was just flaunting my sexuality. Or does it end with the time we had sex listening to Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky” on vinyl and we sat outside of my garage and tried to figure out if what we did and felt and touched and tasted counted as sex? Or maybe that’s the middle? Maybe it starts with me getting set to go off to college and going out for dinner with my Dad and me saying to him (me at 18, her at 16), “I just hate to think that I might never be able to bring the person I am with to Thanksgiving dinner” and him saying “you probably won’t” and me feeling like what he thought didn’t matter because we would last forever. And then I went to college and you started listening to Phish and doing LCD and cheated on me with Mike McGrath and I was at college and you called me and said, “it’s over. It has been over for a while” and I didn’t have any friends at college yet because it was only November and none of them knew I was gay and I was so alone, so I went to a frat party and danced with some boy who had Glo-Sticks and planned on having sex with him because if she didn’t love me no one would and maybe (I could hear my Dad’s voice whispering) I should stop trying to be so different and I should have worn those dresses that my mom always tried to put me in.
Really, though, it is about that picture. But I just get so manic when I think so her and how my coming out story happened. It is so visual and I feel like I have to get it all out quick and not look at it like it was going to punch me in the face. I think of her sometimes, and that last phone call we had in December 2001. I was sitting on the floor of a roach-infested apartment on Baltimore Ave. in Philadelphia, and I was terrified to call her. After I hung up, I deleted her number, even though I had just entered it into my new cell phone. When her boyfriend answered the phone, I could tell that she was there in the background, asking him to tell me that she wasn’t home. But he and I chatted – the three of us had hung out a number of times before – and as he covered the phone, I could hear her muffled voice trying to push the phone away.
And that flannel. I was wearing that flannel that was mine that she was wearing in the picture in front of the fountain at Disney World. After we broke up the first time, she pushed me away as well, simply pretending that I didn’t exist, as if to pretend that the lesbian love affair that she has that she was so afraid of had never existed. The narrative I wrote for myself about that is that our love cured you – before me, you were afraid of sex and touching because you were raped by your neighbor (you were 7, he was 16) and our love cured you so that you would feel safe to love again. But you damaged me, telling me that it felt like I was raping you when we did that stuff that we figured must be sex even though neither of us had a dick, and so I have carried that scar with me because you drew for me a connection between my own pleasure and the assault of those I love. Doomed to forever feel that if I wasn’t fixing someone, I didn’t deserve to be loved.
But I wish you could have just said, “You know what? I can’t have you in my life. I have moved on. I am engaged to be married to this man. I have to pretend you never existed to make sense of my life going forward.” Instead, you just pretended whole chunks of intimacy didn’t happen and the narrative that you wrote was that I didn’t deserve to be friends with you anymore because I didn’t call you after 911. Instead, a part of me died that day. The romantic part. The innocent part. Dead, just like the end of that phone call. We both knew that we would never speak again and I could taste the bitter ending of something I thought was beyond time.
One day, I’ll get to writing about that flannel. And the day that I told you I loved you after we lost that dime bag in my car that I never found. I’ll tell the story of us listening to The Graduate soundtrack and holding your hand. Or listening to “Bells For Her” as I ran my palms over and under your curves. I’ll tell the story of Denny’s and Henry Rollins and Fugazi and girl-sex and falling asleep on the phone and your safe harbor when my mom said to me, “Excuse me. Are you a homosexual?” I’ll write the one of playing field hockey together and how you tried to set me up with your brother so you could hang out with me more. And I will talk of showers together and you teaching me how to wash my face and how to love and how R.E.M.’s Monster really is their worst album and how we road-tripped the US together and how I wanted you to hold me under the clear skies of Sedona (me at 19, you at 17) and how you said those words to me again (“it’s over. It has been for a while”).
And that flannel. I can still feel the warmth of you in that flannel. It’s just a feeling, you know? So, right now, you know, sometimes there’s just nothing to fucking write about.