Let the Games Begin!
I could have accepted his not wanting to draw attention to himself – though just barely, but his avoidance of the subject altogether made me suspicious. Okay, so he hadn’t invited me to his birthday party, but he hadn’t not invited me either!
I’d known Zack for about nine years and, while we’d drifted apart, we still respected each other. He was one of the few people I could just be myself with, you know, warts and all; and in my life those people were rare indeed. Outgoing and brash, he said whatever was on his mind with a typically Taurean voice that boomed even louder in drag. Picture it: 2am, the lights, noise, traffic, downtown Granville Street riddled with throngs of celebrity drunks, wannabe whores, druggies and a short man, dressed to the hilt in a three-quarter length ruby red-sequined dress with long, auburn curly locks staggering along in a pair of red high heels shouting out a mating call of ‘fuckin’ A’ to the whole world. Priceless!
I wouldn’t have missed that act for the world, but it wasn’t all act. No, underneath his bull-like exterior laid a wise sensitive soul that stood in contrast to his youngish age. Although I never told him, they were qualities I took refuge in when life got the better of me. Ever wanted to get close to someone you just couldn’t get close to? Not because of anything they’d done, but because of what you thought you’d done to them. Sure, I’d been lonely and needed a friend. He said he’d wanted to hang out with me, drugs or not and knew what he was doing, but I knew better too. I could’ve not got involved with him, got uninvolved with him and gone it alone and not taken him down with me in my addiction. Life would’ve been simpler that way, wouldn’t it, alone? Not impacting anything or anyone, ever. But it wasn’t and I hadn’t and in my weakness a special room in hell had been prepared for me and my ilk.
Now with a chance to make up for the past…
“Just go to detox. You’d go to a doctor if you had a bad foot. So you have a bad drug problem. That’s what they’re there for.” Her requests sounded so simple and direct that to refuse was childish like not taking out garbage just because it wasn’t my turn. Yet this was about a huge problem called my addiction, and didn’t any huge problem demand a huge answer in return? And didn’t it have to come from me and not her? What if I was wrong and there wasn’t a huge answer after all? Not trusting her after all the hell I’d put her through would explain why my defenses couldn’t handle the simple truth!
With eyes wide open, something moved on the periphery and slipped behind the couch out of sight. Paranoid and unable to run and hide I prepared for my beating like a real man. Yet instead felt a surprising sense of relief. Not knowing where it came from, a shadowy veil ignited into flames. Feelings came to life like the sense of touch after removing mittens. Unable to comprehend the concept of muffled feelings, what else didn’t I know? Would she be there for me after I’d come undone? Somehow, I knew she would; she was that kind of person. The temptation to run flickered like a candle flame in the wind, but I’d been running on empty for far too long. So with a leap of faith, I kicked off my metaphorical shoes and surrendered to my newfound feelings and stayed a while.
A distant memory dislodged from some intangible place and fell into the bottomless pit of my heart. Holding on, feelings writhed like snakes in the depths below. Frantically trying to escape her witchcraft, I ran headlong into what I was actually feeling; that same sense of relief. Yet it had nothing to do with being caught, but for being able to feel again!
A memory blossomed and scented with sweet emotion I fell willingly into its loving embrace. Long ago, oh so long ago; I recalled a time of wonderment for the very feeling of life itself. Where had it gone, why did it never stay and why couldn’t I have it? Why couldn’t I love myself like that? Torn between blatant narcissism and an innate sense of empowerment for loving myself, why was it so socially and religiously taboo? Or were they just victims of power and control like everyone else?
Remorse beckoned, but I declined its siren-like call. Unable to recall being able to respond to my own feelings before, I felt capable of choosing what I did with my life. I could even go to detox, clean up and do it now, not later like usual. And now I even wanted to! Everything was so clear now: I could’ve always done something. It’d just been me in the way of myself all along – whatever that meant! Although awestruck by the power of the intangible over the physical, I still hadn’t taken the first step!
I never told her, but I loved her for caring enough to call me on my shit in such an inoffensive and truthful way. In that moment I saw myself for the first time in literally decades: a frightened little boy terrified of people and the world, who was faking it until some form of release like death came along. And so I started to be a man and do what was needed of me for me, regardless of the consequences of going to treatment and jeopardizing friendships along the way.
Space-time exploded and frothed up a ticklish idea that Zack’s decision to not invite me wasn’t just about me! Unwilling to give him full credit, I did what I did best and turned it into a game that once solved would set our friendship back on track. Then he’d have to invite me to his birthday party. Then it hit me: Zack wanted me to go, but couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me. It was the oldest recipe in the book: seduction or attraction through rejection.
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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