I saw him up ahead. Having not gone to look at the place he’d suggested, I wasn’t ready to face him – not yet. Resisting the urge to flee and ditch Derek, I stayed on course. Needing and not needing a place amplified impotence. Not knowing just how serious ‘serious’ had to get before I did anything, my emotional loom wove excitement to disappointment to guilt to frustration to anxiety to panic to fear to shame in a complex organic tapestry that even I had to marvel at. Wielding my tapestry as a shield, our eyes met. After the involuntary smiles and social pleasantries, a haunting silence sent my mind on defensive alert. ‘Maybe he won’t ask. I hope not. Don’t think about it. No energy, no attention, remember. Don’t pose. Not him. Not now. He’ll find out. You’re away from center. You’ll attract attention. Get back. He’ll see you. He’ll know. He’ll find you. Trace backwards – from pose to center. It’s easy. If he can? Yes, he can. Will he? I would….’ Barely breathing, I looked him in the eye praying he wouldn’t ask, but he did. ‘So, have you checked out the room yet?’
In a flash I stood on an immense white-marbled spiral staircase. Awestruck by its sheer beauty and magnificence, I lost my footing and tumbled down countless steps before crash-landing somewhere near the bottom. Red-faced and humiliated, I collected whatever was left of myself and dusted it off. Never before had anyone been able to march into my castle and reach me so directly, but I’d been stupid enough to give him the goods to work with in the first place. With my tapestry waving in the wind like a tattered flag, I felt cold, naked, and exposed! Utterly confused, I scurried off to the deep dark waters of my emotional ocean. Few ever found me there; even fewer tried.
His mature, calm and collected Libran demeanor stood in stark contrast to my Piscean emotional writhing. A nervous sarcastic laugh left my lips with me its target. I was so tired of the mental games: making fun of me or not, hiding it well or not didn’t change my fears of disappointing him. If I didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear he’d get angry, hurt, leave and never talk to me again or worse tell others how weak I was. Having done it my whole life, I knew I would’ve.
Paranoia warped into a ghastly n-dimensional configuration out of which arose the phoenix of an idea that I was attacking myself. Trapped in the event horizon of its black hole, I burst out laughing at such a ridiculous concept. From within a soft knowledgeable voice asked: “what if you didn’t know you were doing it to yourself?” It pierced me much like the Morgul blade had Frodo’s shoulder. Fearing becoming wraith-like, the truth was I didn’t know. Dark clouds parted sending golden rays beaming down from the heavens to blind undeserving eyes. I felt sick. I had a hard enough time doing things for myself let alone to myself, but a sick mind would seal my fate. Our minds reconnected. Blushing, a thousand emotional eruptions sent the message loud and clear that I hadn’t checked the room out. His look of displeasure reinforced how much I hated letting people down.
‘Do you want the place?’ he stated in such a matter-of-fact manner that it caught me off guard. “I dunno.” I couldn’t believe I’d said that. ‘What?’ “I mean yes, well, yes, but, I don’t think, well…. What’s it like?” I stammered out, trying to save face. ‘What, the rooms?’ “Yeah,” I said hoping he wouldn’t answer, “I mean are they all the same?” as if it really mattered. ‘The same as mine, or close. You’ve seen it. Why?’ I bit my tongue. I didn’t want to say it, but my silence spoke volumes.
I cursed myself for thinking it in the first place. No matter how innocuous, thoughts always found physical and emotional expression one way or the other. How many times did I have to repeat that lesson? I seized my mind in a grip of steel trying desperately to not make a scene. Time slowed down; I gasped. The intimate connection between mind and body blossomed. I traveled through veins and arteries, across muscles and sinews as thoughts seeded cells with information. Yet, as wonderful as it was to experience firsthand the body’s role in expressing the mind, I knew only too well the true nature of some of my thoughts. Adrift in my biochemical bath, information slowly took on form.
I looked him straight in the eye, down the length of my nose and laughed. Contempt, pure and simple rang out, but I no longer cared what he thought anymore. Stabbing him with my eyes and mind, I thought he was a fool for living in a dump like that. It might’ve been fine for him, but I was different. I could do better; I deserved better and would do better. His eyes glared at the judgments, but he remained calm and composed just like I knew he would.
My mind rearmed itself against his, weaving new tapestries out of old fears. ‘He wants me. He wants me to move in so he can have his way with me. I can say no. Can’t I? What if I can’t? What does that mean, I can’t? I can say no whenever I want. No… Yes… No… But what if…? What if what? Well, I owe him? Owe him for what? For getting me a shit-hole of a room? For the mention, and the helping hand? Big deal. So what! I don’t owe him anything. Really? Well, a thank you, perhaps. Yes, a thank you, but nothing else. No, he wants more, I know him. I don’t care. He doesn’t care you don’t care? Uh? Fuck it. I hate owing people. I owe people too much already. Yeah, well no more. Never again. Yeah right. No. No more. I don’t want to sleep with him. Well, perhaps, but not for that. Not for anything. I mean for love, perhaps. Yes, for love. What’s that? Love? It’s…. How come I can’t say? I dunno. What? Well I know what it is and I don’t have to explain myself. Not to you. Not to no one. Really? What does that mean? Fuck off. Quit playing games with me? I’m lost. Where am I? Come back. Come back. He wants me. No, not again. We’ve already done this. Oh. Okay, move on. Say something. Like what? Anything. Just say anything…’.
With our minds still locked I smiled pleasantly through vacant eyes, hoping he hadn’t been privy to my psychobabble. Tired of hiding in the shadows, I secretly wanted to be found out, but softly, quietly, saving face and without making a scene. The truth was I admired his stability. It seemed much more appealing than the mental spew I kept vomiting up. I hoped I could be like that one day. A dark shadow blocked the sun’s warmth, everything turned cold and scary. ‘There’s nothing to fear except fear itself. Yeah, that’s why he gave me his fears. That’s why he’s so calm and collected. But you didn’t have to take them. I didn’t know how not to. He should’ve known that if he was my friend. He started it, not me. I didn’t ask for them. He gave them to me. I was fine until he showed up. No, he wouldn’t do that. Why? Why not? Stop it. What? Stop it. Stop feeling. Stop thinking. Stop feeding him. That’s how he knows. I give it away all the time. Oh! Slow it down. That’s it. More. More. Good. There.’
I gasped a little, quietly and discreetly, breath finding new equilibrium. He looked at me, eyes wide open; his marble face, chiseled and stern. ‘He’s watching me. I can tell. So what? Yeah, so what? So fucking what? Stop it.’ I stopped. Our minds moved, jousting for position. ‘Slow down. He’s a friend. Oh, yeah.’ Somewhere along the way I’d forgotten that!
‘Why can’t I just tell him I don’t want the place? I still have standards. I’m not that useless. I can do better. It’ll come. The energies, the Universe will save me. I’ve got friends. People will help me. They’ll want to help me. I’ll let them help me. Not like before. No, now I can really use them. No, not use them. Use them in a nice way. You know. No I don’t. Well, make use of them. Who? My friends. Who? I’ve got friends. I think I do…. Yes, I’ve got friends. It ain’t too late. Not yet. Besides, how can they not help me? That’s why they’re friends. I’d help them if I could. They just never seem to need the kind of help I have to offer. Yeah, nice excuse. Are you helping you? Yes. Really? Yes. You’re lying. No I’m not. You are. Hmmph! So what? Yeah. So what? They have to help me. I need them. Is he your friend? No. I mean yes. I guess. I don’t know. What’s a friend? I mean how long does it take? I mean…I don’t really know him. Can I ever? No. I read that somewhere before. No. I don’t even know myself. Who? Me. Who is me? Huh? Where was I? …’
I offered him dope much like a good host offered tea or coffee to which he declined citing a business priority. His rejection fed paranoia. ‘Sure. I believe you. No, he’s lying. Don’t believe him. Why not? He won’t smoke ‘cos you didn’t take the room. You didn’t do what he wanted now he’s not your friend. Now he can’t have his way with you. He can tell. He’s smart. I don’t even know if I’m not gonna take the room yet, so how could he possibly know? Now you’re lying. You know. No I don’t. I like him. He’s not like that. You don’t know him. Right. No. He’s a friend. Yeah, whatever that means. Exactly….’
‘I can talk to the manager and let him know you’re a friend of mine,’ he interrupted my mental gong show. I smiled. Despite having heard nearly all the angry, maddening blasphemies known to humankind, it was the simplest acts of kindness that hurt the most. Why didn’t he just kick me in the balls and get it over with? Of course, it wouldn’t have hurt half as much! I looked at him again and my heart sank. I saw how much he actually did care! While I felt like bursting into tears, my mind on the other hand reacted like a cornered animal. It writhed and wrestled with itself, trying to grasp the concept of someone else actually caring about me, wanting to help me, or perhaps even liking me. Yet there was more to it than that. There always was.
I reacted to his help like a man being tortured. I wanted his help, but I couldn’t take it. Something wouldn’t let me. I went on defensive alert. From where I stood, he was insulting my ability to do things for myself. Yet, even I knew I couldn’t do everything. I’d learned that much over the years. I wanted to let him in, but something was blocking the way, resisting in every manner possible. Want without true feeling was preventing me from doing. In truth, I was scared of letting us down and making us both look bad in the process. I knew I could do it if I set my mind to it. Navigating thoughts and feelings, I saw how I wanted to make it look like he was helping me, but I’d do it all myself behind his back, so as not to hurt his feelings. That way if anything went wrong I’d be the one hurt not him and he’d be none the wiser.
While his straightforwardness was a welcome reprieve, I was automatically evading everything he threw at me – even the good stuff. My game of ‘Prove It, Without Hurting Me” was futile because only I knew how I felt. He looked at me, into me, then simply stopped talking and waited. The silence was intense and deafening. I hated silence. I had nothing to say, nothing to react to and nothing to do. I waited and cried to the universe for help.
‘Look at yourself. Can’t you see what you’re doing?’ he stated, held captive by his stern parental manner of speech. ‘If you don’t want a place that’s fine, but don’t tell me you do and then do your best to say you don’t. Which is it?’ I lowered my head, but didn’t say anything. ‘See you don’t even know what you want’, I told myself. ‘It’s simple. If you don’t want a place what’ll you do, live on the streets like him?’ he said pointing at Derek. He was right, yet I felt torn between not being judgmental and the truth. “No”, I stammered out like a child caught red-handed telling stories. ‘Well, if you want a place to live there’s rooms in the hotel where I live. They’re not that bad and it’s a start. It’s better than the alternatives, right?’ I nodded.
His words stung like words of truth often did. Something stirred deep within and I knew that the situation called for something more than just a nod. A light went on. I saw the stupidity of what I’d been doing. He was right. I knew he was right. So why did I have such a hard time agreeing with him? I wanted to, but it was as if I had to be absolutely one hundred percent sure with no doubts whatsoever that it was the right thing to do. Not only did I have to be fully convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, but I also had to be agreed with like it’d been my idea all along, so that I couldn’t be wrong and all the while he had to be happy about it all. Wow, even I cringed when I tried to rethink that convoluted mess out again. I looked him in the eye to acknowledge and thank him for caring enough about me to play my game and put a stop to it.
Darkness left my sight and his face brightened. My fears about him using me for money, drugs and sex suddenly didn’t make sense anymore. He actually did care about me in his own way – enough to help me anyway. Now my research was over, at least for the time being. Now I knew what I was looking for: a place to live! Sure it wasn’t the best, but it was a start and a stepping stone to others.
I felt relieved and strangely revitalized. I kept looking at him, all the while trying to figure him out – but in a nice way. He was smart, very smart, but oh so messed up too. It didn’t make sense. A chill ran down my spine as I saw how much he mirrored me. And I knew how much addicts hated to look in mirrors! I remembered how many years ago I’d been terrified and helpless at seeing an intruder in my bathroom mirror. Looking back hesitatingly I saw myself standing there with hurt, lonely, confused and empty eyes! In one of the eeriest experiences I’d ever had, I’d become a stranger to my own self.
My heart softened enough to reveal things I liked about him. He was quite handsome, knowledgeable, a great conversationalist, a good handyman, a great dresser, a little messed up, but weren’t we all? Other than the handyman trait, he was just like me. We had similar tastes in clothes, style, food, drugs and men, younger men. It was because we were so much alike that I had such a hard time accepting what he had to say. After all, who better to catch you at your own game than yourself? Besides, he was one step ahead of me – he already had a place to live. In a valiant last stand that was comical at best, my mind conjured up new doubts about trusting someone who’d been thrown out for not paying the rent, who’d chose to smoke it all away and hang out with younger men. With Derek at my side, I wasn’t any different!
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Varma and The Gong Show with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.