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My Work Ethic Doesn’t Fall Far from the Apathy Tree. Like I Care.

I’m a hard worker.

I’m detail-oriented.

I like structure.

I enjoy workplace camaraderie that facilitates completing objectives.

I think outside the box, carton, compost bin—whatever.

Usually. My appreciation

But not when I work my ass off for over two years and all I receive is mass-produced, business card-sized appreciation; when I have to deal with a volley of hostile interactions with bigoted coworkers; when my supervisor spends more time avoiding problems than acknowledging them; when aggressive, self-aggrandizing, incompetent coworkers do everything in their power to undermine my professional character; when my Grey Goose consumption increases to numb the pain of another work day and blunt the bitterness of returning tomorrow.

So, I swallow the horse pill of a job with as much grace as I can, and go on.

But then, right as I cajole myself to stay, a coworker sprinkles salt over the open, festering wound.

Every.

Single.

Time.

*** 
 
So I quit. Acquiesce. Walk out without a sound.
 
Celebrate.
 
***
 
But then I wake up.
 
And use a stale croissant to bludgeon the man holding up the Starbucks line. Then step over his crumpled body and sidle up to the counter to order.  

 

That’s when I snap out of my early morning dream. And clench my jaw, and brush the phantom bead of blood off my argyle sweater as the imbecile orders, then backtracks, then re-orders, then adds another muffin to his re-ordered order.

And then there’s a mental void between sipping my coffee and sitting in my office chair, boring holes into the clock until it’s time to leave. All the while wondering why I’m nearly 30, have two degrees, and am considered a “research participant” and not an “employee”; why the entity for which I “participate” doesn’t acknowledge or care about its participants or how they’re treated by their host facility; why I’m not afforded any benefits, and have to pay quarterly taxes; why I’m still barely making ends meet.

Usually, at this vulnerable point, some succubus drains the last bit of wherewithal I possess.  My temper flares. I morph into an uglier version of myself. And become an intolerable, horrible beast swaddled in sarcastic, cynical, macabre verbal vestments.

I stop caring. Bureaucracy wins. And I assume my cog-like position in a grand juggernaut.

I let my passions collect in an isolated, cold compartment within my heart—a scrap heap I accrue through apathy, until it’s easier to let it rust than salvage the leavings.

***
 
But then I return home, to open arms—to my refuge. And everything feels right.
 
Until  morning.
 
When the only thing that propels me forward is a heartfelt “Thank you” whispered in the dark.
 
***
 
I’m a visual person. I craft plans around a visual anchor and radiate out from there—not in spreadsheets or through dendritic diagrams. If I can’t “see” something manifest, I cut line and start over.
 
But for my lost generation, this is rarely an option.
 
Start over with what? With an idealistic notion wrapped in debt, wheeled along with a few “You can do it” cheers?
 
It’s hard to draw.
 
Much less visualize.
 
***
 
But maybe I just need to sharpen my mental pencil.
 
Or invest in better glasses.
 
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The Great Unknown

The irreverent wrapper-crinkling garnered a glance from a nearby conference-goer. Seconds later, mid-way through my foodgasmic rendition of an Herbal Essences commercial, I got more than a few consternated stares and even more furrowed brows.

So maybe a church wasn’t the best place to indulge my slightly sordid, truffle-inspired culinary ecstasy. Still, it wasn’t my fault that the little blobs of joy were eyes-rolling-back-in-my-head good.

Plus, the whole venue was a little repressive, and the guy on the cross was a major buzzkill.

While my sweet, sweet sacrilege left the more pious in the crowd exasperated, my taste buds thanked me. Actually, if they had little knees, they’d probably get down and praise the cacao gods.

Alright, enough religiosity. I’m beginning to have flashbacks to my altar boy years.

And we don’t want that.

***

The night before—somewhere between eating part of a Playboy Roll and realizing I was having a really, really good hair day—I found myself banging on a parking garage pay machine, yelling, “Where the fuck is my money?!”

That is, until I looked down and realized the dispensed change was peppered with Sacajawea dollars. (Yes, they’re still used as legal tender. Who knew?) So, that particular anger mismanagement moment was wholly unnecessary. Especially since it caused the Prius driver behind me to lock her doors. Then again, if I’d reserved a room at a downtown hotel, I wouldn’t have had to accost machines and demand their papery tribute.

Or scare eco-conscious drivers.

Instead, I ended up at a quality establishment approximately 500 miles away. There, along with my room keys, I received a handout listing area attractions. And there it was, directly beneath Biltmore Estate: Super Walmart.

Because when you go to Asheville, you go not for the Smoky Mountains National Park or the revitalized historic downtown, but the quintessential marker of American consumerist consumption.

You decide to which I’m referring.

***

Regardless of my far-flung accommodations, I made the most of it. Because when a conference is held in a trendy, historic area, there’s no shortage of foodie places for hanging out and getting bombed. I mean, er, networking.

And while the pumpkin-spice tortellini and chocolate crème brûlée and champagne-bookstore were amazing, the most poignant moment came at the end.

And isn’t that always the way? Right when you think you can mentally pack your bags and hit “Shuffle,” something smacks you across the face and shakes your shoulders.

Like a random, passing statement between two strangers.

“It’s very frightening to me, the whole unknown of it.”

I know, I know. What’s the big deal? It wasn’t some ad hoc sonnet or poem–nothing earth-shattering. 

But isn’t it bizarrely beautiful? And with such perfect delivery.

In her mid-forties, the woman sat on a stairway in a tailored suit, one hand massaging her neck and the other gesturing—her fingers entertaining a nearly spent cigarette–to a tall man in a worn tweed suit and tie. Her eyes sparkled, yet conveyed defeat. The sun beamed, and the air carried a chill, along with a few withered, colored leaves.

Albeit fleeting, the exchange jarred me to such a degree that, after I passed by, I pulled out my journal and jotted everything down, along with the time: 4:35 PM.

And why is the time important, you might wonder? Well, it’s not.

At least not right now.

But when I’m flipping back through my journal years into the future, years into the unknown, I can know that, at that particular place and time on September 20, a stranger reminded me that I’m constantly flirting with the future.

And I’ll never know what relationship I’ll have with it, nor how it will curl around my life’s edges like wind around leaves–coloring it with experience, carrying it along a new path.

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The Closer, Minus Kyra Sedgwick

I’m a little dramatic.

Fine.

I’m slightly more than a little dramatic.

But I get it naturally. Like my curly hair.

***

Like most people, my genes have gifted me with plenty of neuroses, emotional proclivities, and—according to a Kroger patron during my senior year of high school—a massive nose. (Actually, he made a racially-insensitive joke and called my nose something else, after which I recall accidentally dropping his Hungry-Man on the muck-caked floor.)

Still, we blunt our less desirable personality traits through a combination of tact, professionalism, and maturity.

But then.

Sometimes.

You find yourself in one of those moments.

When your mind goes blank.

Everything disappears.

And all you feel is unadulterated anger.

***

And that’s when I reached to close the lounge door. Andy looked on somewhat befuddled, while Jessica Fletcher was paused on-screen, mid-conviction. .

I closed the door as much as its settled frame would allow, walked into the dining room, and put the phone back to my ear.

“No, no…you listen.”

And that little phrase became my one-way ticket to that blank, anger-filled place.

On my birthday.

***

Some people say blood is thicker than water. Well, so is syrup, and it’s a whole hell of a lot sweeter. (Yeah, I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, either. But it really makes me want pancakes.)

What I do know is this: Venom has no course to take through your veins if the snake isn’t close enough to strike. And for far too long, my family has had a snake slithering underfoot, biting us every now and then.

Demanding respect.

Demanding love.

All while doing her best to atrophy our hearts and poison our minds against one another.

And, for a while, she succeeded—everyone around numbed by repeated bites. Until they got their feelings back and started to stray away. Then, zap, in sank her fangs.

But then our lives became our antibodies. She couldn’t hurt us.

But she’d still lash out at whomever she could, spread whatever lies would garner her attention and pity—throw everyone under the bus.

Even family.

***

The Closer finale was the first episode of the series I ever saw. And I still predicted Kyra’s parting gift.

But in the real world, things aren’t often wrapped in neat bows, and there are no consolation prizes. It’s hard to know what’s coming. And endings are rarely finite.

Sometimes, though, they need to be.

So as I cried and shouted and screamed and shook and sweated and barely breathed, I knew that I was in that moment.

The moment I found myself dusting off pages of a chapter I’d long-since written.

And knowing it was the right moment to slam it shut.

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Then, Him

Children were screaming. Bounce houses were deflating. Rain was pouring down. And my hair looked like the sad leavenings of a Chia Pet porn scene.

And then I met him.

***

With thirty minutes of sleep under my undone belt, I steeled myself for the big day. And convinced myself that, no, I wouldn’t vomit after all.

Sidewalk chalk, a duffle bag stuffed with clothes I knew I’d never change into, and a few water bottles I knew I’d never drink were thrown haphazardly into my car. After all, when the LGBTs overrun one of Raleigh’s busiest downtown streets, there’s no time to do anything. Except do it up right.

Meaning, by the shebang’s end, we’re completely exhausted, dehydrated, and cattier than usual. A year in the making, the festival was the second of its kind in Raleigh’s history. There’d been attempts at other Pride-like events, but this one was different.

Not only was it larger this time around, but it had the fortuitous placement days before a critical vote in the state regarding LGBT rights. Everything had to run smoothly, and every person involved had their liver to remind them just how much vodka-laced logistical mess was involved to pull everything off. Each of us knew there was much more at stake than a few balloons and carnival games. Civil rights, it seemed, hinged upon our ability to garner support in any way that we could. In the eleventh hour. On thirty minutes of sleep.

And I looked fantastic.

My shirt dripped with sweat before the first visitor arrived, and I had Louis Vuitton bags beneath my eyes—minus the classiness. Dried-out contacts demanded tears as tribute for their aggravation at such an hour, while my gut reminded me that Nutella and Salt-n-Vinegar chips contain little nutritive value. An olfactory bouquet of restaurant refuse, cigarettes, and body odor from the previous night seemed to cling to the sidewalks until sweeper crews blew everything into the street and onto me.

So as I crinkled my nose and directed the inflatable bounce house delivery truck to various drop-off points—past the frantic production coordinator slapping paper numbers to the asphalt and crying out “We’re not ready!”—visions of little Gertrude pulling a chicken bone out of her foot skipped through my sleep-addled mind. By the time the puppeteers arrived, I’d come to some realizations: (1) Such sleep-deprivation should only occur if one finds themselves sandwiched between Frank Iero and Sam Trammell; (2) No amount of deodorant will compensate for rotten potato juice splashed on your shirt while moving overflowing garbage cans; (3) Toilet Bowl Basketball is never just like Ring Toss, regardless of whatever the responsible delivery driver emphatically suggests; and (4) No amount of product will tame curly hair when humidity, heat, and the impending presence of hyperactive children conspire against you.

Several hours into the melee, rainbow flags were whipping in the wind, performers were entertaining crowds with their singing and dancing, protestors were reciting our collective sins from behind explicit and color uncoordinated signs, and I was repeatedly convincing parents that, if they tilted their head slightly to the right, the inflatable sea creature crevices out of which their children happily sprung looked less like labias and more like Nessie’s lips.

The wind picked up a bit more, and then the deluge engulfed us—no drippy, misty foreshadowing, just an all-out fallout. While the protestors held their hands aloft and proclaimed the rain to be the work of God, I channeled my inner lifeguard and pulled kids out of the slopping messes the inflatables had become—being the collective buzzkill and nearly inciting riots among the tiny warriors, all the while mentally reciting two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.

Between phoning the rental company and holding up my waterlogged pants, two of the inflatables came down. Sidewalk chalk renderings of families washed with tobacco chew and disintegrating cotton candy into the overwhelmed drains, and I pretended to be elsewhere as I felt my favorite shoes fill with the disturbing soup.

Before long, even God’s wrath became too much for the protesting zealots, and they ran. With wind funneling through the high-rises and whipping the vendors’ tents like spaghetti, OutRaleigh 2012 was called a few hours before its scheduled end time.

But not before my curiosity was piqued. An infinitesimally short amount of time separated the opening showers and the subsequent deluge. But sandwiched within this respite from the maelstrom was a brush with a yet unknown future.

***

With suspicions of an early close dancing somewhat gleefully in the back of my mind, I relieved a volunteer of his post at the massive Screamer Slide. Kids slicked by rain couldn’t get enough of it, and I steadied myself against its outer edge right as two kids crumpled into a wet, laughing pile at my feet.

More than bedraggled, I glanced up and past them to the opposite side. And there was this guy, whose eye contact was far deeper than the puddle at the bottom of the slide, and whose shoes could’ve easily been paired with a technicolor raincoat. He had a slightly mischievous, ear-to-ear smile plastered across his face, and just nodded his head at the kids descending into a rambunctious welter between us.

And then the sky opened up—not for an apropos rainbow or angelic music, but rather fat drops that splattered across our faces and settled the minor feud unfolding at my feet. Man X and I ushered the kids out, and began deflating the slide. And somewhere along the way, he mentioned his name: Andy.

“I like your shoes. They’re really bright.”

As my inner tween made an “L” sign on his forehead and rolled his eyes, I slipped and fell on my stomach, into the float. Andy looked down with another smile, and raised an eyebrow.

Hook.

Line.

Sinker.

***

Months later, I’m sitting on a mid-century-modern sofa he’d purchased on one of our antiquing excursions and surveying my pneumonia-clouded mind—retracing how I’ve ended up here. So many details in between that soggy day and this moment have been etched into memory—the hikes, the ice cream, the brunches.

But I wave them away to appreciate this moment: the fleece he brings me to quell my fever-induced chills, and the chocolate-covered pretzels and gummy worms he spreads across the coffee table before me. He clicks on the complete Daria series, presses “Play,” and gingerly rests his hand on my knee, giving it a slight squeeze.

And I know this snarky cynic is finally home.

Warm, fuzzy feelings and all.

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Edge of Twenty-Seven

He woke me at midnight. I bolted upright, the force of which nearly toppled the carefully arranged historic doors I’d erected as an art installation turned headboard.

“Travis?”

His voice was slurred a bit, but comprehensible. Perfect, he’s liquored up, which means everything he’s soon to divulge about how much I mean to him will undoubtedly be true. Grey Goose: the real litmus test of reality.

“Hey, yeah, it’s me.” Soft and heavy.

I loved that “it’s me”–so comfortable, so familiar: so something boyfriends say to one another. Warmth enrobed my body.

Well, part of it.

“So you know that game we were playing…the other day?” Ice clinked in the background.

I gasped. How could I have forgotten?

We’d just stopped for an ice cream break after walking around campus in our camouflage shorts and tight tees. Much to my delight, we’d spent most of the walk talking about “us,” how we’d make a good couple. I almost hadn’t needed ice cream to make the day better.

Almost.

After he’d asked about “my type” and me his, I was rewarded with the proverbial cherry on top: “You fit.” All I’d needed to make the sundae perfect was nuts.

“You there?”

“Oh, uh, yeah. You mean the ‘My Type’ game?”

“Exactly. And you asked me what my type was. You remember?”

“Of course I do.”

“Well…”

If I’d been on the rotary phone with the long manila cord my parents had had when I was growing up, I’d be twisting myself into a tangled mess.

“…your friend Andy…”

Or hanging myself with it.

“What?”

“You know, Andy. On Myspace.”

My mouth was dry, the darkness all-consuming. Ice clinked again.

“He’s my type for sure.”

Of course he is.

I felt physically ill–the anger bubbling up from my gut the strength of a thousand lava flows. Why Andy? Why my best friend? And then it clicked. But Travis wasn’t done; the vodka had lubricated his lips and the barbed testimonials to come.

“And you know the other night, when you couldn’t make it out to Michael’s with us?”

I just hummed.

“Well, that night I met this hot Latino gardener.”

I had to sit down.

“And I took him back to my place…”

I covered my eyes.

“…and fucked him.”

I hung up, threw the phone into the dark room, and fell into my bed dramatically, hitting my forehead on a doorknob in the process.

The next morning, my lump-headed self walked into Masterpieces of Spanish Art, the art history course we had together. Our friendship had begun a semester prior, across the quad in The History of Greece, then progressed over the months from a kiss to a few copped feels and plenty of bedroom eyes. But here it would end, as El Greco as our witness.

“Good morning,” he smiled thinly, disguising his forked tongue.

I glared at him. We never spoke again.

***

When I think of Travis, a number comes to mind. “Twenty-seven,” he’d said, “that’s when your brain is fully developed.”

Dubious as I was, I figured he was making shit up to offset the eventual burn from his deflections. And, to an extent, he was. At the ripe age of twenty-one, I’d mentally abused him, demanded what he knew about the world–a late twenty-something just now getting his bachelor’s degree.

Pah! I’d thought, he knows nothing.

But here I am, a whopping six years later, past the cusp of twenty-seven, nearing twenty-eight, and things are just now starting to make sense. They’re still a bit fuzzy, but focusing a bit with each day, each revelation I find in the random bits of conversation, experience, and life that compose my days.

So, I’ve acknowledged that, maybe, Travis was right. At least a little bit.

It’s in the trite clichés, the moments of teeth-clenching retrospection that I understand the value of perspective–how we change. And while I still don’t see the value of his picking-up-a-trick-and-fucking-him penchant, I’ve acknowledged that Travis might’ve been trying to do something good–teach me something.

That’s why I write: to figure myself out through each typed word, watch myself change through paragraphs, and, ultimately, become a different person than I’ve been–one who marvels at how consumed I’d been with a particular thought or person, and how, now, I couldn’t care less.

Self-deprecation has become a fragile truth to which I cling like a sponge, wringing it out every so often to see what parts of me stay trapped within its webbing, and which parts wash away. Life is spongy–it’s porous, and always changing. There’re some things about me that’ll stick and others that’ll stray, and there I’ll remain: forever changing.

And in a few years when I read back through this, I’ll probably roll my eyes, realize how misguided, how full of hubris, and how completely out-of-touch I am currently.

I hope so.

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This Day

By now, Facebook is flooded with photographs and recollections. Some heartfelt; others, forced. Twitter is aflutter with tweets and twits. And Google + is, well, I don’t know because I never use it.

And plenty of people are critiquing each other’s sentiments, determining who really deserves to feel the crushing weight of the day’s albatross.

Rationales aside, each of us appropriates this disaster. We do so to determine how far we can remove the deeply-set emotional knife from our chest—until a future time when this day passes with only the slightest sense of a phantom pinprick.

It just takes a flip through old journals to recognize my complicity in this unsettling enterprise—the pages devoted to this day fattened with ribbons and miniature flags, and riddled with clichéd lines like these.

But what can never be captured appropriately are the ways that this day jarred our collective consciousness. Because each American’s life was uprooted from seemingly stable, solid ground. Whether blocks, states, or continents away, we each felt the impacts. And something broke inside us all.

I cannot fathom what those who lost someone experienced. And I cannot know how it felt to be there.

All I can imagine is being a high-schooler in Alabama. Being told by a friend, “The World Trade Center and Pentagon just got attacked. And something happened in Pennsylvania.” Hearing the job fair’s buzzing conversations silenced by the principal’s intercomed order back to class. Rushing to AP Government and Economics and watching the planes crash into the towers, and the towers collapsing.

Over.

And over.

And over.

Answering parents’ panicked calls to the office alongside the overwhelmed secretaries. Retrieving friends from classes to return home. Hearing my Pre-calculus teacher’s sobs in the hallway after learning that her daughter’s plane had been rerouted to Canada—that she was safe. Experiencing the after-school stillness.

Returning patrons’ strained expressions, and hearing the occasional proclamation of the apocalypse while asking, “Paper or plastic?” Sitting and watching the news coverage in silence. Reading the headlines.

Feeling the images burn into memory.

Knowing I’ll never forget.

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A-Wholes

Grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities. But, more often than not, my zeal wears off the minute five people decide to have a neighborhood watch meeting in the middle of an aisle; or two post-coital undergrads’ steamy make-out session overflows into my cart; or a buttoned-up asshole hovers right in front of, but makes no move toward, the flour. And then there are the inattentive parents.

Alright, go ahead, roll your eyes. Here it comes: gay man rant about absentminded parents.

I don’t mind kids. I used to be an incredibly annoying one, I’m sure.

I have held two babies approximately three times—meaning, three times between the two. Clearly, I’m no baby-whisperer. And I don’t want to be, because that just sounds creepy. It’s clear that parents have to deal with drooling, pooping, crying machines at home every single day. And then there’s the baby.

Now, I don’t mean to sound callous. Several of my closest friends have recently had children, and they’re ridiculously adorable, and have even made this cynical brute smile and coo. I know what you’re thinking: He’s not butch enough to be a “brute.” And you’d be right. But here’s the thing: I can deal with kids; I can watch them if need be; I can let them drool on my hands; I can—with enough liquor in me—probably change a diaper without vomiting. More than that, though, I can respect every parent’s decision to have their kid.

Just don’t let little Sundance run in front of my cart while you ogle the quinoa and ask the Whole Foods sample table staffer if the probiotic salad dressing—hand-squeezed from free-range honey badgers that morning—is really organic. Because I’ll run the little munchkin over. Dimples and all.  

And I have.

Here’s the scene three months ago: I’m pushing my cart after a long work day, and trying not to freak out about the fact that the three things I’ve gotten total approximately thirty dollars. And then something squeaks, and my cart comes to an abrupt halt. Or maybe it’s more of an “Eeeek.” Regardless, I look down and notice there’s a child stuck under the front end of my cart. I’m not kidding: Kid-under-cart on Aisle Five. Then again, I don’t think Whole Foods has “Aisles.”

 And I just stare. Because, I mean, what else am I supposed to do? I’m wearing work clothes, and the kid might be bleeding.

You’d think that such a scene would, I don’t know, draw attention. But, meh. Apparently not. So I have to (1) Back up my cart [insert eye roll here]; (2) Make sure Run-Over Child isn’t too physically damaged; (3) Scan nearby hippie-dippy, way-too-pretentious-for-hemp-clothes patrons, and identify probable parent/guardian; (4) Approach said parent/guardian.

By the time I get to Step 4, the identified parent/guardian snaps out of her Kombucha haze and walks over. Thankfully for her leaf-and-bark sandals, she takes her time.

And then.

Right at that perfect moment.

When sincere apology for inhibiting Random Gay Man’s shopping experience is appropriate.

A. Glare.

I nearly snatch the bandana out of her dreadlocks.

Stunned, I stand in the middle of the aisle. And then I become that person in the middle of the aisle. Thoroughly disgusted, I check out and tote my small bag to my car.

And there, two rows beyond mine, I see Run-Over Child and Disaffected Mother getting into a Land Rover.  

Grade A. But curdled.

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On Hope

I know, I know. This is the first you’ve read about Michelle Obama’s DNC speech. I’m honored you chose me as your DNC conduit. I mean, I know Rachel Maddow is beyond fierce, but let’s face it, I’ve got this. (Sorry, Rach!)

It goes without saying that I love the Obama family. I’ve never been this enamored with a President, although Clinton is pretty much right up there. Hillary, I mean. (Just kidding, Bill! Alright, not really.)

Whether it was the culminated stress of writing a Master’s thesis while hotel-hopping from shovel-bum project to project in the Virginia mountains, or the fact that the US had a tarted up turd in the White House for one term too many, the night President Obama won the election, I had one of the most cathartic cries of my life.

Enter fortuitous, albeit tragic, plastic motel comforter.

But that night, I had a nightmare he was assassinated. And I woke up crying. But, why? Other than the aforementioned turdy reason, that is.

For such a protracted period of time, the greater world had turned its back on the US. To say a thick veil suffocated liberals’ optimism during the Bush administration would be a gross understatement. A personal vendetta turned into war, while the guilty party escaped into the mountains. It all took a toll. And the heaviest prices were paid in blood. Muddying the political waters with oil prospects and vitriolic, duh-laced commentary pushed me over the edge, and I could barely cajole myself to listen to NPR, much less any other news coverage. But then, on that November night, a candle was lit in that jet-black chasm into which the US had fallen.

Hope was reignited, and younger generations were keen to fan its flames into an inferno.

And while every breeze over the past few years hasn’t been perfumed with roses, we at least have a President who has admitted that, as the First Lady reiterated last night,  “…we are playing a long game here…and that change is hard, and change is slow, and it never happens all at once.” More than that, though, President Obama extends a hand to his constituents–not to pilfer their wallets, but to acknowledge their humanity. To push them to keep pushing onward.

And while some people may think it simplistic, any President who swims against the current—rather than traveling down the mainstream Lazy River—has a confidant in me. That’s not to say I haven’t been frustrated with his slow move on LGBT issues. But I’ve come to realize that sometimes we must first repair a cracked foundation before addressing a leaky faucet. And when we’re tired and floundering, sometimes each of us–including the President–needs a lifesaver to help navigate unfamiliar, tumultuous waters. With the Democratic Party’s platform encompassing LGBT rights, I feel that there’s a place for me in the lifeboat. I might not drown.

Aquatic metaphors aside, this country has come a long way in the past four years. Things haven’t been easy. But at least I know there’s a Commander-in-Chief whom I can respect, under whom the petulant, war-mongering child of a country we’d become transformed into a bona fide, respectable, articulate adult.

And as I re-read the transcript of Michelle Obama’s DNC speech, and got just as choked up the second time around as the first, I felt that same sense of impending goodness that I felt that teary night in 2008. I feel hopeful that the US will continue to travel in the right—not Reich—direction.

And it feels much better than a plastic comforter.

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Frayed Nerves and Ugly Cries

Mornings are always fraught with emotional extremes. Especially if your phone alarm startles you to such a degree that you flail at it like a howler monkey and, in the process, smack your slightly sick boyfriend across the back of the head. The last thing anyone wants on their conscience at 4:00 a.m. is accidental battered boyfriend syndrome.

Not that I’d know anything about that.

And then there’s the work commute. As if cranking up the car at 4:45 a.m. isn’t depressing enough, you have to chant a little inspirational mantra to steel your nerves for the drive and day ahead.

Now, after building yourself up, all you need is “Eye of the Tiger” as your morning’s soundtrack. So, you turn on your iPod and hit “Shuffle.” Then, and only then, Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” oozes through the speakers.

Game over. Next stop: Ugly Cry Central.

But not this morning. Around the time I decide against taking a tire iron to the back of the slow-moving Jeep ahead of me, I start getting a familiar, gut-wrenching pain. No, not gas.

Mostly fear and self-loathing, with a dollop of despair.

Now, the fear doesn’t stem from being genuinely afraid of my coworkers. Rather, it springs from a worry that I’ll forget to pack my professional filter and call one of them a horrendously rancid name. That it’ll just slip out.

“Pass me the toner.”

“You’re a withered cunt.”

Just like that. I know it’s going to happen.

And let me just say, I despise that word. It’s just plain horrible. But when someone crosses the threshold from insane to despicable, it’s warranted. And for a particularly crazed lunatic (a.k.a., McNutterpants) who moved herself into the vacant manager’s office like a delusional hermit crab—but who also goes batshitcrazy if you move anything in your personal office space—it’s the only moniker that’ll suffice.

But if I really think about it, pity dances along the periphery of the charged ripostes I mentally conjure. Because, honestly, I feel a little sorry for McNutterpants. Sure, my life isn’t perfect: I’ve got debt sprinkled here and there; I’m no magazine model; I’ll never be rich; I sometimes scare passersby with my Chia Pet-rat nest hair; and I have a weird penchant for carrying dental floss in my pocket. Still, with all that aside, I haven’t settled for one of life’s sad consolation prize packs like McNutterpants.

I don’t know if I’ll succeed in forging my own path through life’s deep, dark undergrowth. But I’ve got to try with my own tools. Even if their edges are worn by repeated blows, their hilts rusted by tears.

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The Roads We Travel

To my fellow I-40 drivers, I’m an in-process PSA—a future, grisly slide for a Driver’s Education course. With a massive mid-century modern leather sofa–nicknamed Betty–completely obscuring the right half of my Matrix (Trixxy), I try to play it cool. Nothing to see here, police. Just a gay on the road to decorating bliss. With some additional badonkadonk in Trixxy’s trunk.

A muffled observation comes from the floorboard behind my seat.

“Wow, you have two cup holders? Perfect for my Evian bottle.”

Cloaked in a microfiber throw, Andy shifts, kneeing my back and pushing my face into Betty’s leg.

“If I was a lesbian, my hips would be too wide to fit back here. Then again, we’d probably be in a Subaru Forester. Which would mean I’d actually have a seat.”

I try to hum my agreement, but gum Betty’s leg instead.

***

This morning, right as I’d contemplated dropping Andy’s IKEA plates, he materialized in the kitchen doorway as fast as that girl from The Ring. He had an announcement.

“I need your measuring tape. I’m going to see if we can do something.”

Intentionally obscure comments always grab my attention. And, apparently, also transpose IKEA plates from potentially destructive hands to safe cabinet space. Next to my beloved Fiesta ware, no less.

“I’ll be right back. I’m going to see if we can get Betty into Trixxy.”

Smart man. With our apartment in full-fledged disarray—my eyes darting from overflowing boxes to precariously stacked furniture—Andy knew the one thing that could possibly delay me from assuming the fetal position and channeling my inner Nell. No, not chocolate.

Aesthetic congruence. 

A few minutes later, the front door slammed.

“Get your pants on! We’re going to get Betty.”

I smiled. Then narrowed my eyes at the Campbell’s Soup mug-bowls peering out from the cabinet. “Count your lucky stars. You’re safe. For now.”

***

Flash-forward through disassembling Trixxy’s interior and stuffing Betty inside. It’s dusk; Trixxy’s undercarriage occasionally groans from sofa rearrangement. With a few final expletives, we get the driver’s side seat angled enough for me to accelerate and brake relatively safely, while leaving a small space in the back floorboard.

A young family approaches. As I subvert my envy of youth’s bodily plasticity, I reconsider the space between Trixxy’s steering column and driver’s seat.

“This is going to be tight. I hope I don’t end up with an impaled face.”

“Don’t worry. If anything happens, you’ll die instantly. But I’ll probably be okay.”

Fears allayed.

Once the family disappears from view, Andy folds himself into the floorboard and covers his head with the throw. And we’re off.

***

Only one driver induces a life-flashing-before-my-eyes moment, but I narrate that close call out of my running commentary.

“Say something every now and then so I know you haven’t suffocated.”

“I’m glad I brought my water.”

He shifts again.

“Oh, much better. I should tell you I’m claustrophobic.”

WHAT?”

“Well, as long as I can move my limbs, I’m okay. Otherwise, I’ll freak out.”

A few more bumps and curves later, we pull up to the apartment. Removing Andy from the floorboard reminds me of the images I’ve seen of Saddam’s extrication from his bunker.

“Take a minute and breathe. Let the blood flow back to your feet.”

“I’m a little dizzy.”

Andy totters up to the front door and I open Trixxy’s trunk. With a few heaves and close calls with narrow doors, we get Betty upstairs. She’s home.

“I can tell you’re excited.”

And I am. So much so, I barely notice the blood seeping from my battered thumb.

“Don’t get blood on Betty!”

***

About an hour later, Andy and I spread our celebratory Whole Foods loot across the coffee table and sit on the floor with Betty at our backs. Avatar begins streaming through the TV, illuminating the darkened room between Isaac’s intermittent lightening.

And it’s in that moment that I realize, seven years ago today, I came out to my family.

Andy rummages his hand through a gummy bear bag. I look down at my overflowing plate. And grin at the metaphor.