Wherever The Roads Take Me

“You’ve never been to Burning Man? Darlin’, you belong there. I wasn’t sure if I was going this year, wasn’t even planning on it – but now, I guess I am. I’ll give you a ride.”

New Orleans, 2006. I had recently moved there about five months before, the first time I had ever stepped foot in the city. Though I had seen it on the news a lot recently, nothing prepared me for what I was in person, stepping on the ground, smelling the decay and rot – but still, underneath that, there was something else it took me a while to put my finger on, a feeling… and then I realized what it was. There was a strength to the city, a spirit that even The Storm couldn’t take away. I fell in love with it instantly.

It was a strange path that led me there. My work with The Dresden Dolls had ended in Colorado, and with it the move to Boston. In thinking back all of these years later, I think it may have been a combination of a couple of things that prompted the email from Amanda. The first two were that The DD were going a slightly different direction, and also – I think The Brigade – what we called, and still call ourselves, were perhaps getting too big, too strong, especially the Boston chapter. Hell, we were even working on making it into its own entity, looking into becoming a 501(c)(3) performance group, renting a building where we could inspire & teach others.
And without question, one was my drinking. Though my work with them had never faltered for it, I was again trying to escape something dark & wrong inside of me by numbing it however I could. Still, I helped inspire hundreds of young people across the world to reach beyond themselves, to walk through their fears, to realize how beautiful they are. It was the first time I had ever, in my life, actually felt needed, felt appreciated. The first time I had ever felt loved.
Then everything I loved was ripped away from me.
Such is life. The Universe had other plans. I needed to pick myself up, to try to find the strength to keep moving forward.
In Colorado I found a good place to busk, saving up money I would need for gas. I would listen to the radio in my van at night, stretching out as much as I could in the back seat with Bean, my beautiful dog, caressing her as she rested her head on my chest and hoping sleep would come soon. It was then that I heard about Katrina and the devastation it left in its wake. It was September 5th, my birthday. I was alone with Bean, in our van, crying.

The next morning I started emailing people, and I connected with an old lover who was now living in New Orleans with her family, asking if there was anything I could do to help them. They were fine; she was safe with her family and out of the city. I asked if there was anywhere or anyone she knew of that needed help, and she gave me the contact information to a place in Austin.
“We need people. Show up anytime.”
I smiled for the first time in a week. Within the hour Bean and I were back on The Road.

Going through Kansas & Oklahoma, driving hard, Bean asleep on the throne I had built for her in the back seat. In the black of night there was nothing but the hypnotizing dashed lines on the highway, as if nothing else existed after the reach of my headlights. No signs, no horizon, no hills or turns. Only every few hours would another vehicle pass going the opposite way. 80mph and I would close my eyes, seeing how long I could keep them shut before opening them again in sheer panic. The rapid pumping of my heart helped keep me awake. I knew how stupid I was being, but only when I thought of Bean did I decide to pull over to the side of the road and rest for a bit. The morning brought sunshine and a beautiful view that stretched for an eternity.

19 hours later I was finally in Austin.

It was an amazing place. The “Austin Enchanted Forest”, a private 3 acre wild forest in the middle of Austin, art everywhere. They had set it up with donated tents, blankets, and everything else people who had to leave their home with next to nothing might need. I was “in charge” of welcoming people, showing them around, making sure they had everything they needed.
Bean was in absolute heaven. She had an entire forest to run around in and sniff, other dogs to play with, and every night she would sleep just outside of my tent. In the morning she would poke her head inside the flap if she thought I was sleeping too late and do this kind of “rrrroooowwrr?” thing, a cross between a growl, bark, and asking me to get the hell out of bed because it was time to play, to go on our morning walk in The Forest.

I lived there for four months in a 10’x10’ tent, going from volunteering for a couple months to helping set up and performing for their yearly “Austin Haunted Forest” through the month of October. The time I spent in Austin is another story, though.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I’ll give you a ride.”

Burning Man was coming up fast. Raven, the kickass woman I had promised a ride to and I started preparing. We bought our tickets, figured out the route – there was just one thing we needed.
A van.
The van I drove there in had only made it that far because I needed it to, and it had done its job. Shortly after I got to NOLA when I needed to move it for parking and found that it had a flat tire and no spare, I decided it was time to let it go to the city. Considering that it was breathing its dying breaths, I wouldn’t have felt right selling her to someone who might depend on it. The next day it was gone.

My work was busking, doing street performance as a Living Statue. I was making good money, saving every penny I could for a van to get Raven & I the 2,200 miles to the Black Rock Desert. Once I had saved $800, I started looking…

Coming from the West Coast where vans & large vehicles are plentiful and cheap, I was surprised at how few there were for sale here, and how expensive even the crappy ones were. I couldn’t figure it out – and then it hit me. I understood.
This is hurricane country. People here need to regularly throw everything they can grab into a car and bug-out, and the bigger the vehicle, the more space for family & things.
I hadn’t thought of that. Time was getting close to our planned departure.

Shit.

I worked extra hours, every day forcing my body to the limits of what it could stand, standing perfectly still. I took the suggestion that a nurse whispered to me one day and started taking aspirin to hopefully prevent blood clots from forming. At night I would look on craigslist for a van, widening the search, increasing the amount I could pay by working the extra hours.

It was grueling, painful, exhausting, but I had given her my word. I wasn’t going to let her down. Far too many people are so full of empty fucking promises, and I won’t be one of them. Hell, if I couldn’t find a van I was ready to buy her a flight to Reno – but hopefully it wouldn’t come to that.

Every night as I laid in bed and every morning, I would do a manifestation meditation. I would picture Raven & I driving up the road to the front gate of Burning Man, blasting music and singing along in a plain white van. In the visualization my window would be down all the way, arm resting on the door as we laughed triumphantly.

The days continued. Still no van. I refused to worry, and just *know* that it would work out.
Well, maybe I worried a little bit. I mean, c’mon, I’m at least *somewhat* human.

Then, finally. Less than a week before we were planning to leave, I found a van for sale in Baton Rouge, at just a tiny bit under what I had saved – and get this: It was the exact van I saw in my mind; white, plain, even a Ford. And it didn’t have a driver’s side window at all. I guess that when I saw it in my mind, every time with the window all the way down – maybe I should have visualized at least a little of the window there. Still, the Universe had given me *exactly* what I was asking for. It likes having fun with me, I’ve found over the years.

The van wouldn’t idle, the driver’s seat felt like it was one of those things in kids’ playgrounds – the animals with the big springs under then that you sat on and leaned every which way, then sprung back up headed in the opposite direction. It felt like the seat was trying to throw me out the window with every right turn I took.
I managed, with the help of a friend following me, to limp the thing home, then spent the next three days making it not only stay running, but idle smooth and strong. I ripped out the driver’s seat and fixed the base of it, checked lights, brakes, tires, fluids, everything. It would get us there. We had a van. It didn’t have a license plate, so I made one out of cardboard that looked almost real, if you didn’t look *too* close.

Then, something unexpected. An email from the seller, a nice lady when I met her. She told me of her uncle – Conrad, or “Uncle Connie”. He had lived as a homeless drunk in New Orleans, and after most of his life spent that way had finally gotten sober. He had bought the van to fulfill a dream he had – of driving West to see the ocean for the first time. Unfortunately, he had died before he could make the trip. Before he could make this dream of his – his only dream – come true.

In her email, she said that when we were talking and I was telling her my plans with the van, she felt something in me that reminded her of her Uncle Connie. She said he had a wonderful heart, a warmth and kindness to him – and she told me how much she had adored him, feeling so fortunate that they at least had a little time to spend together after he got sober. He would have loved something like Burning Man, she said, after I explained it as best as I could to her.

“This is going to sound really strange, but… would you mind helping him realize his dream? Would you take his ashes with you? Take him to the Ocean?”

As Raven & I made our way across the country, we took the time to enjoy it, pulling off to sit in silence and look out over beautiful, expansive views – and I would leave some of Connie there. In kitschy tourist spots, I would leave Connie. Native American craft shops, roadside diners, places that felt, in their way, sacred. Connie was on the road with us, living his dream.

Well, not really “living” it, being as dehydrated as he was – but at least doing it.

That year at the Temple of Hope, I left two silk bags of ashes – and then finally, on a cold overcast afternoon in San Francisco, I again poured two different piles of ashes on the sand, just a little bit below the tide line.

One, of course, was Uncle Connie’s. The other ashes were of the best friend I have ever had.

I stood there for a while, alone and holding my coat tight around me and silently crying, as I watched Bean’s ashes being taken out into the heart of the Sea.
She had always loved running in the ocean.

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.
 

 

To Go.

To live each day as if it has been stolen from death. To wake up every morning knowing that the possibilities are infinite, to release myself from the burden of “how” & the anguish that I encounter every day. To grab Ruby & drive to the Sea, to the mountains, to my mother. To raise my voice and shout at the sky “I am alive, I am wonderful, I am free. I AM.

To feel again the roads underneath me, always looking forward at what I can be, not what I was. The past always takes from the present. To again realize the physicality of the world has its boundaries only if my will is weak, only if I am afraid. To again accomplish the things that the normal person would think impossible.

To go. The wheel lightly held in my hands, the windows down & wind cleansing away the past. To wonder in anticipation and excitement what lies around the next corner, over the next crest. To keep going and discover where I end up. Always forward. For a driver, a wanderer, a dreamer, not having these things takes away part of the soul.

I wake up every morning and say “I wish.” I wish I could take myself and Ruby to the Sea, to the mountains. I wish I could get to events & trade shows to show people the things I can make when my hands meet my heart. I wish I could help people get to where they need to go, visit others who can’t go anywhere. I wish I could visit my Birth Mother, and finally get to know the woman who gave me this life. I wish I could make hers better. I wish I could get in my car and just go, leaving the unforgiving brutality of the sidewalks behind me and again follow the wind. Again follow my dreams.

I wish.

I will.

Life, Death, Dogs. A Rooftop Contemplation

The occasional whisper of tires as a car drives by below, an unintelligible shout, the scattered songs of birds. The only sounds at this hour. Only the crackheads & I seem to be awake. Even the sirens are quiet, sleeping.

It’s 4am & I’m up on the roof of my apartment building with a fresh cup of coffee, a cigarette, & Ruby. The clouds above reflect the city lights giving a faint glow, just enough to see by. A cool breeze plays with my hair, blowing it in my face then away. I wrap my robe a little tighter around me.

I sit on the short wall of my building, look down at the weeds growing in our forbidden & neglected back yard. Near the far right corner calla lily’s bloom, defying the otherwise abandoned and unloved desolation. With their beauty inevitably comes a warm sorrow as I’m reminded of when Striggy brought a gift of bone-white lily’s to my tent in Austin. With love & reverence I placed them on top of the pale blonde box I had picked up earlier that day, already made into an altar surrounded with candles, a picture of Bean propped up against the box that now held the ashes of the most amazing dog & companion I’ve ever known. She was killed by a freight train a few days before, found by friends lying between the tracks, her favorite stuffed toy a few inches from her head. Nearly 13 years later & the tears still fall for her.

I turn back facing the roof top, close my eyes, take in a few deep breaths as I find a strange comfort in this sadness. Now, it’s filled with love and warm memories instead of the anguish I carried inside for years, holding it tight, afraid that if the pain wasn’t there I would somehow be betraying her memory.

I know better now. I understand death better now.

I think of how exquisite this life is, how fortunate I am. Occasionally I still let the weight of it all get to me and forget these things, but not now. Not today.

I open my eyes and catch Ruby briefly chasing her tail. I chuckle silently to myself and somehow love her even more.

I think of the time I spent in Hospice. Months on end so close to giving up, so desperately wanting to stop being strong, and each morning having to somehow find just one reason to keep fighting. One reason to stay alive.

As impossible it seemed to be able to imagine at times, I needed to believe that I would somehow get better.

I had to know, with as little doubt as possible, that there would be mornings like this one to look forward to.

or die trying

I had prepared myself. Rehearsed the things I would say over & over in my mind, thought of new ones, carefully planning the appropriate metaphors and similes so that even as someone who didn’t have aliens slowly digging their way out of the front of his body as they gestated and came to full explosive maturity, my doctor would be able to clearly understand what it’s like.

If I started getting a bit too happy during the hours leading up to our appointment, I would immediately think of one of the “Lost Dog” fliers I’ve seen posted recently on light posts around my neighborhood, the last one I saw about a week ago having a picture of a happy, smiling Golden Retriever on it.

I swear, I could step over human bodies littered in the street with the only thought being that I hoped that I didn’t get some of the blood or decomposed flesh stuck to my shoe, therefore having to scrape it off on the tattered clothes or face of the next corpse I came across – but show me a picture of a dog who was lost, its home and warmth and everything it knows suddenly gone, and I would sit there staring at it, fighting back tears and memorizing every detail just in the off chance I actually did see it wandering aimlessly around the neighborhood, matted fur, a hungry, confused and terrified look in its eyes as it occasionally stopped, lifted its nose to the air and sniffed, hoping for the faintest scent of home or companion.

I had pictured going into a vicious, swearing rant the second the door to my doctor’s office was closed and we were alone inside, ripping off my umbilical hernia belt, violently lifting my shirt and dropping my pants. “LOOK AT ME! Look at… THIS, this monstrosity that has taken over my life and destroyed my hope, this THING that makes me mentally destroy any chance of a human companion before I even say the first word to a woman I could see myself with, someone to care for and to care for me, someone to give myself to, someone that will again fight like hell to stay alive for because I couldn’t stand the thought of them being alone. THIS DEFORMITY that I do NOT have to live with, do not have to accept, like having my legs cut off or being born with half a face or worse, no sense of style. The surgeon says he’s concerned that I would die if I had the operation, but doesn’t he understand that by NOT performing the procedure just to fucking put my insides back INSIDE that he is condemning me to an existence where every morning I look at myself, every time I wish I could go swimming, every day that it’s warm and I can’t even just wear a fucking t-shirt without having to put on the hernia belt and another shirt to cover that I feel that I would rather be dead? What right does HE have to play god, this spineless, ignorant, self-centered human-shaped Jell-O mold?

Et-cetera, et cetera. Fire & brimstone. The 15 minute scourge of Ward 86 at SFGH. Sure, there may be a bit of hyperbole in all that was said, but it wouldn’t be forgotten. John (my doctor) would cower in the corner, eyes wide and terrified and amidst the indiscernible mutterings of prayer for his safety and futile attempts to calm my tirade, swearing to me that he would relay every word I said to the surgeon, Dr. Mackersie, the second he felt safe enough to come out of the corner and sit at his computer to send an email.

Yeah, it didn’t really happen like that. At all.

The moment the door was shut to his office, he turned to me and with a sorrowful, incredibly caring look on his face said “I read the email you sent to me (see previous post), but… I didn’t know how to reply.”

Wait. What was I thinking? This is my friend, this is the guy who knows me, the guy who cares for me. I quickly fired the original mental director for this performance and brought out a new one. This needed to be a quiet scene, one where I played the much more realistic role of someone entirely drained of the passion for life, someone who, after so many years of holding on desperately to that last thin thread of hope, had finally let it go after John’s email to me saying that the surgeon felt the procedure would be too dangerous to perform.

Though the fact that I wasn’t really playing a role made it much easier, I still should win a goddamn Oscar for it. Sure, I overstated here, embellished there, and inflated some things quite a bit, but when you’re a generally happy person called on to act despondent & dejected so that the emotion of what you actually do feel sometimes is pounded like a stake into the heart of the person you absolutely, unquestionably HAVE to relay it to, a little bit of dramatic license is necessary. After all, HE doesn’t have a scrotum sticking out of HIS belly – but I think I helped him understand what it was like.

And I’m nearly certain that I saw him fighting back a tear or two at times.

The person I showed him truly was me, in every way. In everything said, in everything felt, in every tear that I shed yesterday – but as an adoptee, the very first thing I learned in life as I was taken from my mother’s arms, 15 minutes after I was born, was how to shut down and build nearly impenetrable walls that kept the pain away, so even I don’t know that it’s there, and even less seldom feel it. As least not most of the time. I’ve spent a large part of the last nearly 20 years working on getting behind those walls in a manageable way. When I first began, I went too far to quickly and had I guess what was some kind of break-down, where I was sent home from work & spent the next three days in bed, in a fetal position, trembling, wrapped as tightly as I could get my blanket around me.

Yesterday, I was able to carefully make just the most infinitesimal crack in one of my walls, and bring out only what I needed at the time. I’m not sure if that’s progress on my issues or not, but hell, it worked for what I needed it to, and he had sent an email to the surgeon asking about something he said, and also mentioned looking into a different hospital for the procedure if my insurance covers it. “I don’t want you to have your hopes shattered again if the other hospital also says no.”
“John… they already are.”

He was standing above me, put his hand gently on my shoulder, and sighed in a knowing but somewhat helpless way. I stood up, thanked him for everything he has done, we hugged warmly, and I left with the impression that if he could perform the surgery himself, he just might – knowing that it could kill me, but also knowing that I felt that if I died because someone was at least trying, that would be infinitely better than living the entire remainder of my life with the hernias and pain unendingly growing, knowing that all it would take is one fucking person. One person with enough courage to let me have the chance to live the life I fought so hard to create, then fought again to keep.

All in all, I think the appointment went pretty well – though I would have liked to have the chance to perform that scene where I ripped off my clothes and said “LOOK AT ME! OPEN YOUR EYES AND LOOK! I’M A MONSTER! YOU’RE DOING THIS TO ME!”
But then I would have to hire a completely undetectable camera crew, and I just don’t know where to find one of those for under $20.

The Complications of a Kiss

For hours we talked. We talked of the Sun & the Stars, of everything around & under them. We talked of writing and authors, of our pasts and present. Of herbs and addiction, of friends and difficult relationships. We talked of romance. She said she was a hopeless romantic, I told her I was a hopeful one which made her smile. She talked about lovers, of past boy & girlfriends, but not having anything current to say from my side, I mostly kept quiet.

I looked into her ice-blue eyes and I could only think of clichés to describe them, and worried about a piece of the glitter surrounding her eyes falling into one. I found it kind of dorky and cute the way sometimes she stifled her laughter by pressing her tongue against her upper lip. We talked outside of time, the world moving on around us.

Although we could have sat there enjoying each other’s company for much longer, the growing soreness in our asses had something else to say about it. It was time to stand, to go. It had been a lovely time together, getting to know each other, finally meeting a decade after she had first heard my name from a mutual friend.

Instead of parting ways outside the café, we sauntered down Market Street, side by side weaving around the people & construction, enjoying the continued conversation & moving slowly, more as if we were strolling through a park on a warm spring day than in the rush of San Francisco as it left work & headed home. As far as I could tell, we were the only ones there.

“This is where I turn. I’ve had a wonderful time.”
A warm hug. I answer, we go our separate ways. On the way home I walk faster, at my normal pace, the hint of a smile playing on my lips as I hope that it actually will be soon, and, newly inspired, think about what I’ll write.

At least that’s what I expected to happen, but we kept walking, taking now about hidden treasures in Golden Gate Park. She says she’ll take me to the “Faerie Door”. I imagine her being able to take me through it to her true home. Now walking through Civic Center Park, I begin to wonder where she’s going. My mind starts spinning. Maybe she has an errand to run that just happens to be in the direction of my apartment. Yeah, that must be it. If it were ten, fifteen years ago, if we were walking away from a bar a little tipsy, if pretty much everything were different, then I could accept that she might be coming home with me – but these days? A lovely woman I just met coming home with me? What a silly thought. That just doesn’t happen to me anymore. She must have someone else she wants to visit close to me. Maybe she wants to get some Vietnamese food to take home. Quit having such foolish thoughts, kSea. You know better.

We wander up Hyde Street together, each step getting closer to my home and she is sill by my side. I start to get nervous, confused, trying to remember how to do this… this boy/girl thing. The game, the ritual. I can’t. Hell, the last lover I had was three years ago, and I don’t have the slightest idea of how to read all but the most blatant & obvious hints anymore – and those I’d likely even have trouble with, looking around the room for someone else and wondering if they were actually directed at me.

I need to calm down. This could be, and most likely is, entirely innocent. I don’t know what I’m thinking. Really. I have no idea.

We turn the corner to my apartment, which is now about 20 yards away. A friend of hers once looked at an apartment in the building next to mine I find out, and then I’m opening my gate. I apologize beforehand about the mess & dog hair everywhere. I refrain from saying that I wasn’t expecting company, thinking it might come across poorly and accidentally give her the idea that she isn’t welcome & make her uncomfortable.

I quickly grab the clothes off of my couch & toss them in the walk-in. “That’s your closet?”
“Yeah! I have another one right there.” That’s it, kSea. Suave as ever. Christ.

She sits on the couch without asking or waiting for me to say anything, and I like that. It makes me feel like she’s comfortable here. I offer her anything, and thankfully she’s happy with water. I can do that. I have water! I pull my finest ex pickle jar out of the cupboard for her & make sure it’s company clean, not just “me” clean. It passes. Must have been a good day when I washed it.

When I come back into the room I notice that she’s taken her hair down and nearly drop her water. It’s beautiful. She’s even more beautiful. I sit down beside her, leaving a good foot & a half between us. It’s a small couch. I mentally take the word “loveseat” out of my head.

The talking continues, she likes my knives (are you fucking KIDDING me?) and says she used to have one exactly like this one. We talk about knife throwing. (I can’t even make this shit up. Dear gods.) I tell her stories o fme as a child, crashing my mom’s car into our house at 11, setting my mattress on fire at 8. We laugh. Compare notes of families, talk about adoption & blood.

I’m terrified. This is what I’ve been doing my best to avoid every time I went out, and doing it very successfully for over three years. With clothes on, I look okay, but I’m reminded at the times I have to look in the mirror what I look like without them. Scarred & discolored legs, the umbilical hernia looking like a fetal twin sticking out of my abdomen, the inguinal hernia less horrible, but at the top right of my pelvic bone. Even if you know what to expect it’s hideous. I try not to look at it unless I have to. I don’t want anyone else to have to.

Even as rusty as I am, I know I could have swayed our conversation with a couple questions to a place where I could have found out if it was alright to kiss her, if she would allow me to, if she wanted me to… and I would have loved to. But everything inside of me wouldn’t let it happen for fear of the possibility of it going further. After some time she puts her hair back up. I feel like an idiot, just wishing I could get past all that’s inside of me. A warm hug, and we take the elevator downstairs. I bring Ruby so I have a reason to walk with her just a little more.

My Dr. had called me that morning, telling me that the surgeon still won’t agree to do the surgery on my hernia’s, now two instead of one. He says that there’s a 30% chance of complications due to the ascites (fluid retention) in my abdomen, but I can’t help but call bullshit. Though there may be some fluid, I work hard keeping it as minimal as possible with teas & herbs, and if he did do the surgery I’d work even harder, agreeing to even take the prescription diuretics they want me to. But still, he won’t. He’s afraid, he’s concerned, and he doesn’t have any idea how strong my will can be to live – when there’s something to live for.

It’s been nearly three years since I’ve even kissed a woman romantically, hoping that one day, with all the fighting to get the surgery done, he might give in – but still, there’s that 30% chance that I could die hanging over everything, hanging over a life that I now don’t even have the morphine to mask the oppressive loneliness.

What he doesn’t seem to understand is that, as my will to live fades, the chance of dying without the surgery keeps growing – with each memory of a kiss that never happened.

going down

It was new to me, this pain, and I freely admit I was a little bit more than concerned – though doing my best to keep worry out of my mind. The feeling was like someone with long, jagged fingernails had reached into my intestines & stomach, grabbing them, puncturing and twisting until the muscle fiber began to rip & tear like the stalk of a vine wrenched past its limits. That was the first day, this past Saturday, but thankfully by the evening it was only a dull pain – most of the time.

Sunday came, and the pain was fresh, stronger, & accompanied by my stomach expelling all inside of it, though not much could be – I had eaten very little the day before. Still, with every few small sips of liquid my stomach somehow found that on top of three or four times the amount to purge, though I don’t know how it found it anywhere.

The thought occurred to me that my hernia had finally torn open internally, the intestines had twisted & were blocked, sepsis had set in or a multitude of other things that can happen. Not  knowing what it felt like or how quick death could come, deciding that if this was the time I would let it come, I decided to forego the trip to the emergency room. Hell, I don’t have the money for the bus anyway so I’d have to call for an ambulance, and I’m just not into the bullshit of everyone knowing my business that that involves, especially if it turned out to be nothing to worry about. If it got to the point where I had to post asking for a ride on Facebook I would, but more than likely the hospital would keep me overnight which would mean having to again ask for someone to care for Ruby. I wasn’t willing to be let down again so soon.

I thought about all the morphine I had in my drawer across the room, then thought I shouldn’t think about that. Too easy. The pain will go away. The pain will go away…
Gods, I hope this pain goes away…

Day three: Monday.
I still haven’t eaten anything other than a bowl of cereal and an artichoke since Saturday morning. I drink what I can to stay hydrated. Weak, tired, and hoping something left in the kitchen appeals to me, hoping that something might stay down, I pry my body out of bed while holding my intestines inside of me. The pain is less & I’m grateful, but at times it still crawls out, breaks through. Still, I feel better. Better than yesterday & the day before. I decide not to call my doctor. I have an appointment with him on Friday anyway.

As usual I weigh myself, keeping track of where my weight is heading. It gives me something to work with, something to determine if my body is beginning to retain fluid or if it’s doing what it should. I look at the glowing digital number on the scale, telling me that I’ve dropped a little over 10 pounds in the past three days. I’m not surprised, not concerned. Even if there was food to eat it wouldn’t stay down, but I feel the hollowness in my stomach, feel the energy drain out of me. I fantasize about chicken soup but don’t have the money for it. If I did have money, I would need to buy coconut water before anything. It all comes down to priorities.

It’s much more than the lack of food that’s making me weary.

I finally fell asleep at 6am, wake up a little after noon. Today I almost feel whatever normal is, though I have little to go by these days. I’m making an educated guess. I don’t think that normal people feel a normal like this.
I vow to myself to finally finish this post I get out of the house, walk somewhere with Ruby. I wish I had the time strength & energy to just keep going, leaving everything behind. Find a forest, make a shelter, learn how to hunt with my bow to eat & feed Ruby. Just go away; paper, pens, and only what I think I’ll need. Find a river, sit in it for a few months and wash all of this away.

There are many things I would like to do. In none of them do I see this apartment, these streets I’ve walked on & woken to for nearly five years now. In none of the things I see do I feel this way. In none of them this deep melancholy.

It’s hard to believe in anything anymore.

I’ve forgotten how to believe in me.