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Neverland

Is this happiness?

Asking that age-old question is never easy — whether of yourself or others. Because it usually bubbles to your lips during a spat, over the course of draining a few vodka tonics, or after returning home at the end of a long, frustrating workday to a pile of Chihuahua shit.

But as most adults know, happiness isn’t some state of being. Not some odd plane of existence where the sun always shines and butterflies dance along the tops of lilies. Rather, it’s a nugget we unearth here and there as we excavate through a gray matrix of pestilence and anger and hard work that often compose our loud, loud lives.

It’s something to cherish and remark about, and enjoy in the moment — because it can be gone in an instant.

***

With another year inching closer, I’m incredibly frustrated — more so than I usually am around my birthday. There’s just something extra pulling me down, like a wool coat in a cold, icy pond that Macaulay Culkin pushed me into. But right when I feel like I’m dipping below the surface, one of those nuggets appears — a calming hand on my back, a wet dog nose against my cheek — and the all-consuming drag isn’t as severe; and I can breathe.

Less than a month from today, I leave my twenties behind. And all I can do is clap my hands and yell, “Good goddamned riddance!” Because the same idiots in high school who said “These are the best years of your life!” are of the same ilk as those who declared “Your twenties are your best years!”

Save the past few years, my twenties sucked. Mostly because they went a little something like this:

20: OMFG…IMSOOLD…OMGAHHHH…IHAVEACELLPHONE…IMOLDDDDDDDD.

21: I CAN DRINK! This is so cool! I just threw up. I’M GRADUATING SOON. 

22-23: Grad school is hard. I can do it. I can’t do it. I hate it here.

24: So much for that Ph.D. This motel-hopping whilst writing my thesis and defending myself against angry Travelodge prostitutes is getting old. 

25: FINALLY. Grad school is almost over. Oh hey, what’s that bump on my face? Cancerous lesion? Fab.

26: Seriously, these motel prostitutes are really irritating. The Great Recession? I’m sure it’ll blow over. Why am I so broke? Wait, is this my life now?

27: Goodbye motels, hello military installation? Never saw that coming. Time to move. I LOVE GETTING DRUNK ON PORCHES. Wow, my job sort of sucks. Time to move for me. Oh hey, other LGBT people! Cute guy! I HAVE A BOYFRIEND!

28: HE MOVED IN! IHATEMYJOBIHATEMYJOBIHATEMYJOB *Glitter bomb* Let’s get the fuck out of here. HE GOT THE JOB!

29: California is beautiful and weird and scary and fun. I GOT A JOB THAT ISN’T AWFUL. GERIATRIC PUPPIES! HUSBAND!   

Okay, so 29 wasn’t horrible. It’s just been crazy-busy. And even though I feel old and curmudgeonly sometimes, I’m not going to fright away from a new decade. I’m welcoming all of it.

True that.

Because I really, really, REALLY need this to be a decade full of more good things than bad, more happiness than heartache. And I think it will be.

***

I think one of the main reasons why I’m so all over the place lately is that I feel close to a really important goal of mine — something I want to achieve by my big 3-0 — but am absolutely terrified that it’s not going to pan out.

That’s part of the whole life package though, right? Everything doesn’t always work out the way we want.

But I can try my damndest to make it happen, to make real my Neverland — where youthful dreams and fun and potential greatness remain alive and well.

So, while I may not be able to fly, I’ll keep flapping my arms mightily. Because, who knows, I may blow by Peter Pan and surprise myself.

After all, I’m no longer a Lost Boy.

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Partly Cloudy, With A Chance of Testicles

Like most people, I leave the house every morning completely expecting to be killed – by a runaway car, falling airplane engine, wiener dog stampede – and so everything must be orderly and spotless beforehand. No sofa cushion is left slumped, no dishes in the sink – nothing that I can be posthumously mortified about.

And if I’m not killed, I assume I’ll be asked to disrobe so that the bank robbers, pirates, or Animorph can use my clothes as a getaway disguise. Meaning, I must always have on nice underwear. Or at least underwear I’m not ashamed of being seen or interviewed in. Because if I’m not killed during the holdup, afterward news anchors will assuredly ask me about the whole ordeal, while I’m standing there in my underwear screaming, “It sounded like a freight train, y’all!”

Today, though, is laundry day. Which means I have on the most hideous pair of underwear I own.

Utter. Disaster.

All of this completely rational thinking came screaming into sharp relief this morning. Right before I stepped in front of a news camera.

***

Five minutes before, the pet of the week is running circles around my legs, the leash wrapping around and around as I try to woo the wily Chihuahua with treats. But before I succeed, the Tom & Jerry situation is fully realized, with me tipping slightly toward a hard fall. Thankfully, right before I face-plant, I catch myself; the skinny jeans, however, aren’t having it.

The rip nearly makes my heart stop. I look between my legs, like some My Body, My Self infomercial, and see a gaping hole with my underwear peeking through.

Goddammit!

The pup playfully jumps up, and I cringe and inch up to the melody of ripping fabric. The hole grows wider. This whole situation is like the beginning of a porno. Minus the dog. Now all I need is a tall, swarthy lighting tech with a handlebar mustache to saunter up with, “Do you need to be helped backstage, sir?”

Sonofabitch.

But there’s no time to freak out. It’s showtime.

The meteorologist recites the forecast, and I mentally interject my fears.

“It’s partly cloudy with a chance of…”

Testicles.

“Wind.”

I do feel a slight chill. But I’m pretty sure that’s the air conditioning billowing through the studio and across the polished concrete floor into my pants.

Saucy air conditioner.

And then we’re on. The meteorologist crouches beside me, and I control the dog while kneeling as awkwardly as possible to avoid an on-air wardrobe malfunction.

I nod wildly at everything he says, even completely false, incorrect statements.

“And she just loves to play with unicorns!”

“Why yes! UNICORNS ARE HER FAVORITE! DON’T LOOK AT MY CROTCH!”

Okay, so he didn’t say anything about unicorns. I don’t think. Eventually, the camera angles away and I skitter into the darkness with the dog.

***

On the drive back, a rickety car with a massive Hello Kitty logo flaking off the back windshield nearly sideswipes me. Which causes me to shift and throw my mom arm across the pet carrier.

Which is when I hear another rip.

Motherfucker.

An exit later, the dog is back and I reverse course. But not before stopping to gas up, where I’m treated to a squabble between the gas station clerk and a clearly delusional man waving a chicken sandwich.

“I want this warmed up, goddammit!”

He motions to a defunct microwave tucked beside a fly-covered condiment station.

“Next in line!”

“Yes, hi. I need my receipt for Pump 6.”

“It didn’t print out there?”

Yes, but I really wanted to hear more about this sandwich.

He prints it without waiting for a response, and I inch past the befuddled man.

“WARM! I WANT IT WARM!”

The clerk groans and mops his brow, clearly used to dealing with this particular character.

“Yes, fine.”

Exceedingly pleased with himself, the man turns and smiles at a rack of wrapped candy.

“And imma take one of these.”

“Sure.”

He reaches out a calloused hand and gingerly selects a Kit Kat.

Wise choice.  

He holds onto it with a mighty intensity – so much so that I hesitate before leaving completely.

I consider him for a moment, and think of how easily we gloss over the little victories every single day. And realize how monumentally important a tiny detail can be – the smidge of courage to ask a question, to be bold.

Like a thread, a little victory can mean the difference between calamity and bliss. Even if we’re threadbare, our resolve as thin as paper.