Somehow, 50

I felt the blood drain from my face, my mind. It’s a strange feeling, like submersing your head in a pool of nearly frozen water, but not as cold.

“What?”

Now I was finding it difficult to stand. There wasn’t anything to sit on so I leaned against the racks of VHS videos behind the counter.
The voice on the other end of the line repeated what it said, a little slower, each point a sentence like he was trying to teach a five year old quantum physics.

“This is Dr. Thomas. Your test results have come back. You have tested positive. For the HIV antibody. The virus that causes AIDS.

  1. I was 19 years old, and a single two minute call was all it took rip away everything I thought I knew.

I had run away from home at 17 for the third and final time, and after living with my meth dealer for a while, *not* sleeping in his unfurnished living room on the floor, I decided to leave, go somewhere besides San Diego. I didn’t know a single person in the Bay Area. It seemed like good a place as any to try and figure out who I was.

When I was finally able to think, I realized that I must have been tested on a recent trip to visit my adopted parents. They asked if I wanted a physical while I was there, and I agreed. I wanted to show them I was fine, healthy. That there was no reason to worry about me. That I didn’t need them. I figured out that they had also requested an HIV test from the doctor, and getting my approval wasn’t important. The call on that day was kind of a shock.

I had never used needles, had slept with maybe five men. I was exempt from AIDS, I was mostly straight and I was safe. I guess all it took was one of those men being positive, and everything working just right to infect me. Talk about rotten luck.

But that didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered. Across the Bay the City was dying, the plague was killing people and no one had any answers. I’d heard the treatments they had weren’t that much better than the disease.
That’s all I knew. That’s all I chose to know.

I figured I had about 18 months, maybe two years left to live if I was lucky, but much of that time would be spent in horrible pain, my body shutting down, my own shit and blood and fluids pouring out of me. All the sudden my self-imposed rule of never using needles for recreational drugs and never using heroin went to shit. When I started to get sick, I would handle it my own way. I wasn’t going to be a burden on anyone – just slide away and disappear.

Time passed. A year, two, five, and the sickness never came. Still, bordering the line between conscious and subconscious, I kept waiting for the day everything turned around. I knew it was coming.

As much as I wanted to go back to school, to learn something I could use, I couldn’t commit to the time. I didn’t have a future.

 

 

I destroyed the best relationships & deepest loves I have ever known, selfishly afraid to ever force anyone to feel like they needed to be loyal, faithful, as they stood by, helpless, watching me die. For the same reason I never allowed myself to have what I perhaps wanted more than anything in life – a child.

I took each day as it came, tried to make the best out of it. I studied myself and my beliefs, did all I could to learn about me and what life was. I taught myself to see the beauty in everything, every day. I tried to help, I learned from others, I read & continue to read feverishly, so at least I might have some wisdom, some inspiration, something to offer another. Maybe something clever & profound to say in my final breath. Only up until the past 15 or so years, every moment of my life has been spent expecting to die. It’s the only thing I’ve known.

It sure did fuck up my credit score.

Now, somehow, I’m only a few weeks away from 50 years old, and wondering how it is that I got here. I’ve spent years looking for an answer as to why. Why, of all people, me?

I’ve only been able to come up with one answer that makes any sense at all.
 

 

Advertisements

To Find A Thief

I find the empty Amazon box when I opened the old & squeaky gate o the elevator in my apartment building. Only about 15 minutes before I had gotten a text saying that my package was delivered, so when it wasn’t in the foyer I knew without looking that this was mine. A quick check confirmed it – my name, my apartment number on the box that someone else had gutted, calling the desk lamp that I had ordered for better light to make chainmaille by their own. They stole my goddamn light.

Packages meant for myself and others who live here have disappeared on occasion, but I’d never actually found the empty box before, and never having proof that it wasn’t just a lazy delivery person (usually made clear by the delivery note – like a desk chair or 40lb bag of dog food that was “left in mailbox” Really?) – but for the first time, I had proof. Someone fucking stole from me, someone in the building, and while I could suspect all I want, usually I just let it go and called Amazon, who rock at making things right – but finding the box it came in triggered something that I didn’t expect to find inside of me. And I wanted that damn light.

Carrying the box I dropped Ruby off in my apartment and went upstairs. There are two apartments that the people who *don’t* rip people off & I suspect when we cross paths & talk, and one is apartment 46 – directly above me. While usually I loathe confrontation and with the exception of someone fucking with a friend of mine, will do most anything to avoid it, I realized that all I would do is sit in my apartment and seethe with what I *should* have done. At least, that’s what I’ve usually done in the past – but things are changing in my life, and this needed to be one of them.

I knocked on the door & when Rick answered – a meek looking guy with a bad leg, maybe a few years older than me with thinning hair and a few inches shorter,  I held out the empty box. “Know anything about this?”
In a voice with feigned surprise ‘well gosh, how on earth did *that* happen?’  he says “No, I don’t.”
“You sure?” The look in my eyes and accusatory note in my voice obviously not believing him.
“I swear. I don’t know anything about it. Really. I’m sorry that it happened to you, that sucks.”

Really? Bullshit. Anyone else would have asked what I meant, would have asked what I was talking about when all I showed them was an empty box – but not having much recourse I turned and didn’t say a word as I walked back down the hall with him continuing to apologize.

Then it was to the other of the two suspected apartments. No answer when I knocked on the door, no sound from behind it. Maybe they just aren’t answering. I went down to the gate buzzer & punched his code in, waiting for someone to answer. It was still ringing as I shut the gate behind me and walked back inside. For the second time, I went up to Rick’s. I wasn’t letting this go. I knew it would eat away at me if I did, without doing everything I could within reason to settle it. As he answered the door again I told him that he wouldn’t mind if I took just a quick look around to set my mind at ease – at which point he turned to his guest and started apologizing profusely, saying that he swore he didn’t know anything about it and he’ll give it back right now, sorry, sorry, sorry etc. – and his guest handed me my lamp, still in its box.

Conjuring up what I’ve seen in movies, I told him “Don’t be under the impression that this is in any way resolved with something so trivial as a pathetic little apology. You fucking STOLE from me, and even if it wasn’t you, it was your guest, your responsibility, and the blame comes down on you for every package that has gone missing or will in the future, so if I were you I would make an extra effort to make absolutely certain that this never. Fucking. Happens. Again. Your thieving, piece of shit guest stole from me in my home, and you better fucking believe that I’m taking it personally. This is far from over.”

Or at least that’s what I should have said, and will when I see him again – I swear – but I was kind of amazed at myself right then, and ecstatic that I had actually taken action and gotten my lamp back, so – I said something,  I know I did, but it definitely wasn’t as good as that. I think I said something about “While I’m here, keep it down. The floors are thin & I can hear everything above a normal footstep downstairs.” – which doesn’t really carry the weight of the other. Hell, I’ve always been better at writing than talking anyway, and I swear, if I could have just had him wait while I wrote something, man, that would have REALLY ripped him apart.

I’ll save that perfect response for the next time I see him, as inevitably I will, and then, summoning the perfect movie line make it excruciatingly clear to him – but in the meantime, I *have* noticed that there’s much less noise coming through the ceiling in the past couple of days.

Book Excerpt – Dungeons & a Dragon

It was no surprise when I walked up the stairs & found the eviction papers taped to my apartment door. I was just surprised that they took so long to appear. When my new house-mates first rent check bounced however, I knew it was time to start packing.  In a strange way it was exciting – I imagined the papers as a passport to a new life, like a baby bird kicked out of the nest and into a tornado.

Having a feeling that this was coming I had already began to prepare, and now my entire life was portable, fitting into two duffel bags and a backpack. I put the books I couldn’t bear to part with and a few sentimental things into boxes to be stored at a friend’s house, and after I had sold or given away everything I could, I set the rest out on the sidewalk and went back inside to clean.

San Francisco has a wonderful system – many people I know have furnished their entire apartments with treasures found on the street, and much of mine was as well – from the gorgeously ornate wrought-iron wall sconce the size of a semi-truck tire to the beautiful hand-blown glass bowl which I kept on the coffee table, filled with the soft glow of blue Christmas lights that I bought at a post-Halloween sale. They were cheap, so I stocked up. A person can never have enough tiny lights to practice their patience – or failing that – their cursing, as they tried to untangle them.
I put the remainder of my things in front of my apartment and went back upstairs to do some cleaning. After about an hour I glanced out the window & what was a somewhat sizeable pile before, with chairs, a couch, various lamps, clothes & random other things that had found their way into my apartment had almost entirely disappeared. It was as if I had missed the middle part of the sped-up video where the maggots clean a dead rat down to bone.
Curious about this phenomenon, I wanted to gather more of my things and set them out there, then peek out from behind a curtain with a video camera and watch what happened. I imagined that there was a network of scavengers who prowled the neighborhoods in cars & on foot, looking for piles such as the one I had put outside, and when they found one the alarm went out. They got on their phones or cupped their hands around their mouth & made strange animal calls, alerting the rest of the foragers to the booty. Of course, in my head, they weren’t normal  people – they were some post-apocalyptic dystopian creatures, some with mechanical limbs, dressed in dusty black leather with wild hair & eyes, who had trailers made of steel & lethal stabby-things hooked to their flat-black Prius’s, and worked with lightning fast efficiency.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a video camera or anything else to set outside and lure them, so the mystery still remains unsolved.

I had previously announced on a social network my imminent eviction, and was offered a few places where I could rest my head by the wonderful community of freaks I called friends. Bean made it more difficult, as most were apologetically not able to host a tragic, homeless Klown as well as an 85 pound dog.

All except one, offered by a person named Bob who I had met only once before. It was a home in the middle of the Mission District of San Francisco, Bob spent five days of the week at work in New Jersey, flying back on the weekends on his employer’s dime, and the only other person who lived there was the woman who owned the house.
There was just one catch. Bob’s dog already called it home, and while to most humans he was the sweetest, most loving beast – he had been trained by a former owner to joyfully rip the throats out of any other animal he came within destroying distance of. Bean was welcome though, and that was the most important thing.

Bob picked me up a few days after we talked, and when we arrived at the house I couldn’t believe where I would be living. It was a beautiful two-story Edwardian house with an enormous beauganvilla draped over the entry gate, as if it were a portal to a different world. Shortly after, I realized how fitting that observation was as I met the owner (a woman who was perhaps in her late forties who had the look of someone who rated daily personal upkeep pretty low on the chart) & she told me about what the 2nd floor was primarily used for in this quiet, seemingly ordinary house, then took me on a tour.

“I’m going to give you some chores to do while you’re staying here.” She said as we started walking up the stairs.
“Sure, of course. No problem.”
“If a certain room is booked twice in a day it’s the girls job to clean it for the next, but I want you to come up here when it’s empty at least once a day and make certain things are in their place and the room is clean. Don’t worry – the girls are responsible for anything that gets soiled with any kind of body fluids, you just need to take the bags of towels down to the wash room & straighten up.”
Girls? Body fluids? Vague, seedy images started coming to my mind, but I couldn’t have expected what I was led into.

She led me from room to room, each room designed perfectly for its use. I thought that I wasn’t naïve, already being a part of the BDSM scene pretty heavily for a few years at that time, but this was another level. I’d heard about it, of course – but I could have never before then imagined them on the second floor of a house that looked just like any other nice place when you first walked inside. Living room, kitchen, laundry room, nice looking but nothing at all hinting at what was found at the top of the stairs.
I tried to keep my jaw from dropping open and looking like an idiot as she opened the doors to the various rooms and led me inside of each. A medical fetish room complete with steel trays with various strange implements and a surgery table, a baby fetish room with a crib, flowery wallpaper, drawers full of pacifiers & diapers, and of course, the BDSM room. Walls lined with hanging floggers, canes, cats, paddles & so much more, a beautiful St Andew’s Cross, a cage – it was elegant. Exquisite. I was in complete awe, feeling like a kid in a candy store… and this is the house I would be living in, at least temporarily.

From sleeping on beaches, in abandoned warehouses, and living with my meth dealer as a teenager, I’d felt I’d really stepped up my homeless game. What I didn’t know at the time was that the woman who had just taken me in would end up being quite a challenge to live with. While at first she seemed stable and at least tolerably balanced, I would soon start to understand that she was pretty far from sane…

 

 

 

 

A perfect amount of less time

I certainly didn’t expect for this to happen. It wasn’t planned, calculated or intentional in any way. I’m entirely a victim of circumstance, and it was so organic and clever in the way it took over my life that I didn’t even notice it happening. It took the days hours, divided them up loosely so that I still felt I had control over the profound inertia of my life & wouldn’t notice until it was too late, and without even bothering to check with me, all of the sudden there is something of a schedule that dictates my days. Goddamn, it was sneaky.

The odd thing is that in the past I tried, tried desperately to have some kind of structure in my days, but the more strict I tried to be with myself & my time, the more a different part of me rebelled. My subconscious mind teamed up with my instinctive and astonishing ability to procrastinate and all my meticulous planning and promises to myself that this time, dammit, I will DO it – was inevitably shot to hell within a few days.

But then the schedule happened to me. I’ll get to how in a minute.
I’m still able to wake up & fall asleep at any odd hour I want, but once awake the gears are set in motion, and I have little choice but to just go along for the ride.

All I needed to do was write. That’s all. For a few hours each day, I would write, and the rest of the time I was free to fill with all the apathy & indifference for life that I could fit in.
The problem was that since I had so much freedom with time, I figured that I could write whenever I wished – when waking up & still in bed, or at one of the cafés that I would write on my “to-do” pad the previous evening (which held such gems as “Walk Ruby”, “take shower”, “call or write… anyone”) or if I had food, I could write after a dinner of tater-tots or rice & beans. I could write anytime – so I never did. I didn’t write, I didn’t go anywhere, didn’t do anything, with the exception of reading.  I even tried to make it exciting by actually going all the way over to my little couch (calling it a “love seat” would be depressingly misleading) – but I couldn’t ever seem to make it the six feet it would take to get all the way over there.

Then one day, while shopping on Amazon for the medicinal herbs I would be able to buy in a few weeks when I got my disability check as well as other things like knives, books, a new belt for my umbilical hernia, books, and anything else I could think of to fantasize about, I looked on the side of the screen and saw that Amazon figured that I might like a bag of around 4000 shiny aluminum jump rings. Because that made perfect sense.

Curious as to why in this empty grey existence of mine their bots would think that, and though I had countless other much more important things to search for like wing tipped tuxedo shirts, extension cords and creepy doll heads, I clicked on the picture.

Hmm. Chain mail? Make chain mail? You’ve got to be kidding me. There is absolutely no way I would have the patience to sit there for hours, weaving ring by ring into something that looked like anything good, unless some poor idiot somewhere could be convinced that what I created with the three rings I had the patience to sit down, open, connect, and close again some sort of brilliant minimalist art. As blindly optimistic as I usually am, sometimes even I need to open my eyes and see the reality of something so unlikely. I mean, it takes all the willpower I have just to write for 15 minutes straight – who am I do have the nerve to think that I could sit for hours and hours to make just ONE piece of jewelry?

But then I saw the book that people apparently bought when they bought the rings. And the pretty pictures, right there on the cover. The pictures of things that the book would show me how to make and that I would make and people would like because of my innate and incomparable sense of style, and I would sell them and be flown around the world with my dog in private jets to create amazing things for only the coolest famous people – or at least the ones that aren’t dead yet, I figured. It’s fun to think about, and while I could definitely see the cool stuff, I couldn’t see me doing anything that involved sitting at a desk for so long. Perhaps the biggest fear was the knowledge of how many things I have begun & never followed through on. Those things continue to haunt me, and I was terrified of this being another one…

I got a little sick when I ordered the rings & the book with pretty pictures instead of a couple bottles of the herbs I need to keep me alive & healthy-ish, but looking back all these weeks to the beginning of when all this began in January, that was a small price to pay – and besides, the infection seems to nearly be gone.

So now I have a schedule – or more accurately, I was mugged by a schedule which sneaked up on me from behind, knocked me unconscious, and when I woke up, it had already made itself at home in my life.

I find it interesting that when I have absolutely nothing to do, I can’t even find the time to sweep up the dog hair in my apartment. It’s like there is too much time to do anything. I’ve never been able to figure that one out. Is it just me? Do I have some weird mental disorder concerning time? Is it like a buffet where there is so much amazing food that I can’t choose anything, or an enormous bookstore filled with so much that I wander the endless aisles for hours and walking out with nothing?

Now my entire world has changed. It’s as if after years I finally thought of the last line to the best poem I had written. It’s the torn-out chapter that brings the entire plot together, found in another inmate’s cell a week before I’m released. It’s the rug that really, like, ties the room together, man.

I get up, read for a bit, write nearly without fail for a few hours, while drinking coffee in bed. When I feel either like I’m at a stopping point or mid-afternoon is creeping up far too quickly, I get dressed, take The Beast out while I do errands, and have even been taking her to the park more frequently. I get home, putz around briefly and nearly every-other day run my Swiffer over the floor to gather the nearly unbelievable amounts of dog hair that it acquires. I stretch a bit, sit down at my work desk (which unfortunately never lived up to its name of a “writing” desk. It feels far too strict and demanding when I actually try to use it for the purpose I bought it, like it’s secretly judging me) – and get to work on chainmaille. After a few hours I have an insatiable urge to take a nap for an hour or so – but the nap is the slippery part. When I started, the nap would fall at a vaguely decent hour, usually 3-4 pm, and I’d wake after an hour or so refreshed and ready to get back to work – but as the days progressed with the fun & challenge of making more creative pieces, I ended up feeling better and as a result worked later into the night, I sometimes not being able to put the pliers down until 4 or 5am. There was a glitch brewing.

I still follow the agenda, it’s just that the actual time of day has no place in it, and as the rest of this silly world has the audacity to run on their time instead of mine – that makes the time I have for writing sometimes unbearably short, and now that I’m regularly doing it again, I need my fix. Seriously. It’s like a drug. If I don’t have time to write when I wake up (which after a late night could be 1pm), I find myself being irritable, miserable and easily pissed off the rest of the day. I imagine that the people driving in traffic who can’t help but lean on their damned car horns when there is absolutely nowhere the person in front of them can go must feel this way – I just don’t have anything to honk.

I haven’t tried it yet, but if it ever does happen where I find myself around someone I’m just being a plain bastard to for no reason, maybe the solution is pulling out my notebook & pen while I ask them to wait for a moment? Of course, what I write may be something like “I think this person is an ignorant, idiotic, pathetic little subhuman whose cartoid artery I would like to puncture repeatedly with this pen.” – but the irony is that after I wrote that (then quickly closed my notebook I shoved it back into my pocket before anyone could see it), the urge would likely be gone and I could stand there silently, looking them directly in the eyes with a diabolical smirk on my face until they felt uncomfortable enough to go away.
Or I guess I could write something like “Chill the fuck out, Flux. They’re probably really nice, and it’s you being the asshole because you didn’t get your writing fix, poor baby.” That just wouldn’t be as much fun though. Did I happen to mention that there’s a somewhat wicked streak in me?

In order to make this “schedule” work inside the time frame set by those “other” people, I have created a reset button – which is why this morning’s therapy is edging up to nearly 1,500 words. All I need to do is take a break from the post-nap chainmaille creation for an evening, and get to bed at an absurdly early hour – such as 7 or 8pm – then wake up at 3 or 4 am, microwave the coffee I make much more than enough of every few days so I don’t have to wait for it to brew, light some incense, crawl back into bed, and start the day – with plenty of day left to enjoy this new life where, for the first time in far, far too long, I feel like I’m beginning to live a life of doing things I love again. I’m writing, I’m creating, I’m making things that people really seem to like and are eager to buy, and instead of days full of emptiness and ennui, instead of feeling valueless and insignificant, I feel good. Hell, I’m even getting some real work done on my book – something that is solid and workable, instead of the 5 years of constructive procrastination that I’ve been using to pretend that I was doing something on it.

I really should offer classes on professional procrastination. I don’t think that anyone can compare to my level of self-deception when it comes to that.

So yeah. Because of some shiny rings and the remembered courage not to let my fear stop me again, to at least try, and if that didn’t work, fucking try harder, things are looking up in my life.
I might even be able to honestly say I’m happy – at least with this part of it… and considering how I’ve felt for the past few years, that feels really good to be able to say, and mean.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve made, because I know you’re unbearably excited to see some of it. Mind you, I’ve only been doing this for about seven weeks…

Too Far.

Needing to let my body rest & recoup after a glorious evening, I send my heart & voice to those marching & raising up *their* voices to be heard around the world.
Over 20 countries join us. TWENTY.
I thank you all, and send my love & spirit to be with you on this day, and all the days that follow.
 
When the revolution comes, it won’t only be National.
THE HEARTS OF THE ENTIRE WORLD ARE WITH US.
 
This time, America – you’ve gone too far AGAIN, & for the last time.


A Warrior Awakened

There was a time that I was called, by many, a warrior.
I have fought for the life I dreamed of and found it, I have fought through what most thought what was the inevitability of death and rose above.

For a long time, I looked for a different word than “fight” – but truly, nothing fits this better.

I will always fight for something better – whether it be myself or others – but it’s usually me, usually the things that have been ingrained in me that I battle.
Eventually, I always win – for now.

A warrior is not your everyday ignorant fighter – there is discipline involved, knowing the good from the bad, knowing the battles that you’re above, knowing the battles you can’t win and walking away.

When the person you battle is yourself, the same rules apply. The same discipline. The same grace.

This is my life right now, looking over my past and yearning for a better future because of it. I fight. I learn. I battle the ghosts and old bones inside of me.

I’m learning again, teaching myself, climbing up to grace.

Eighteen months in  a hospital and all that went with it crushed me…

But I will be that warrior again – and I will bring you with me – if you desire.

Do you?

Nothing is easy.

 

It’s been three days since I last took morphine. I am winning. I am a warrior, and this is the current quest. I have many.
Outside my window the clouds block the penetrating sun, offering a spattering of rain from time to time. It’s not enough, not close to a storm – but for now, for me, far better than the hellish cheer of a sunny day.

The words don’t come easily today – my mind is getting in the way of my heart and my heart is from where my words flow. Too many thoughts, too many concerns, too many bills and not enough food – but things will work out. I haven’t starved to death yet – only gone hungry. I think maybe that’s worse, as when you’re alive, you’re aware that you’re hungry, whereas if you’re dead – well, all worries are gone. Simple.

Still, I like this being alive thing. Even if I occasionally moan & wail about it, it’s not half bad most of the time. Just… lonely.

I want to tell you stories. My stories. These stories will shed light on part of my life, though leave the rest in darkness – as they are in my heart.

Is memory a product of the mind or heart? Taking away all we think we know, don’t some memories cause your heart to ache, others to have it soar? I know better, but at the same time I realize I don’t. What do we really know? They say the heart is only a muscle, beating 101,000 times a day, pumping until it stops; but the mind, our subconscious, controls it all – every tiny thing we do, like fingers knowing without looking where the keys are as we type, knowing what letters to write as we scratch paper – but what about love?

We don’t feel love in our minds. We bleed it, the one we love pumping through our veins, our hearts growing, glowing… then breaking. It is a physical pain. We feel it.

These will not be love stories, though love is in them. Or better said, love is just outside of them, circling, searching for a way to break in.

I’ll begin tonight.