the week of thanksgiving has become a very strange time for me. years of numbness have begun to unravel. am working hard to change what had become the tradition. it involves patience and awareness. but it really takes faith. i came back to the place that all that happened. i didn’t realize it when i was making plans, but i wonder if i also was hoping to begin to see this holiday with new eyes.
but what i hadn’t expected was to also see that pain and sadness are not unique to me. i don’t have sole ownership of those emotions. i have traced a footpath here in my former hometown and discovered that all those i love carry their own share of such burdens. lance armstrong said “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” i am beginning to understand his meaning. it has taken me so long to understand this. i am thankful i am beginning to get it now.
i am re-publishing a post from Nov 21, 2007. i can’t write about it now. i can however, attest to the shift in my perception of it. it no longer causes me to close myself off. i don’t automatically withdraw. instead, i am venturing out and trying to make new traditions and doing things differently.
one of the stories i will not hear this year is my last thanksgiving in chicago. i am going to write about it here and hopefully the tale will unravel itself a bit differently than it has in the past. i have spun this yarn on a few occasions, but i have always kept the focus the part where i am the victim. and honestly, thanksgiving still is a challenging emotional trek because of the drama on this day. it really is the day i stopped dancing. the last day that is until i started channeling velvet- but that’s a tale for another day.
it was 1985, and i had gotten an apartment with my best friend paul the previous year. we had shopped and hunted for 3 months for that beautiful soon-to-be condo on logan blvd. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, dr, front and back balcony. it truly was stunning. but on the day we were moving in, paul was completely tuckered. i remember him sitting on the back of the rental truck, saying he just couldn’t move any boxes. He was exhausted. and before we finished, he insisted he go to the hospital. we complied, and he was admitted and was in the hospital for about a month.
i went to visit him in that place every day. the first couple of days, i donned a hospital gown, mask, and gloves, but soon decided to put them aside after that. i wasn’t going to be looking at him dressed like an alien, or like i was afraid to be near him. i wasn’t. i loved him. still do. and i wasn’t going to cause him any extra anxiety. i would bring him meals from some of our favorite restaurants. the hospital food sucked, of course, and i knew he needed to eat. we had a very pleasant time being food snobs in there and would laugh together and became closer, without ever really discussing the elephant in the room. i couldn’t go there emotionally.i now know it’s called denial, but then i thought of it as survival. i remember one day going to visit him, and finding him in his room alone, with a fever so high that his body was convulsing, jumping up and down on the bed with no assistance. it scared the shit out of me, watching him jerking up and down like darryl hannah losing life in blade runner. i left in horror and came back a couple of hours later, never speaking a word to him about what i had seen.
my drug use started to escalate after this. the cocaine use was incessant and i drank vodka to counteract the effects of the cocaine. numbing became my priority. this actually caused paul to move back in with his parents, and my friend robbie (foxy)moved in. poor fox- he had no clue as to the mess he was entering. but that’s another story.
fast forward to thanksgiving 1986. paul had been living with his family for a few months now. he had been in and out of the hospital. i had invited about 8 friend over for a holiday feast. i spent all day preparing the food. turkey rubbed with butter and tamari, baked with apples, onions, and cranberries, stuffing, brussel sprouts, home-made cobbler, etc. as the day progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse. a thunderstorm took hold. one-by-one calls with cancellations started to come in. it had become dark outside, and the last call came from my friend blue. i think he really had waited until he absolutely knew he couldn’t get there. no cabs were running etc. i remember sitting at the head of the table, looking at the fitz and floyd and the crystal candle holders and feeling stunned. the phone then rang again, and it was paul’s brother on the phone. he wanted to let me know that paul had passed a few hours earlier that day. he had gone peacefully and was no longer suffering. i returned back to my seat and looking over the empty but well laid table, clutched my wine glass and took a big swig. a huge lightning bolt back lit the entire sky, was followed by an earsplitting crack of thunder, and the power in my apartment was knocked out. there i sat in the dark, and found myself feeling more alone and more confused than i could remember. and i was a victim. and i had imprinted that pained mask onto myself and held it there for a good 20 years.
i managed to let go of that branding i did a few years ago. i honestly loved paul (and the rest of the veedubs), and was completely a mess having lost him. i laughed so freely with him, and he understood so many things about me that i always felt shame around, and never did anything but expect me to succeed. we dined out a lot. we danced. we went to the theatre, we saw films. and we read a lot of books- mostly the classics, and the “gay” authors. we participated in salons of a sort with a few other friends, and would drink wine and read aloud from books like “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, and my favorite “Orlando” by Woolf as well. We talked about Vita Sackville West and Virginia, about Paul Bowles and his entourage, Kerouac and his band of mary-men lol, Stein, Toklas, and the ex-pats….
this was my posse in the late 70’s. a band of marys (and lulu) just making our way. you can find myself and paul in the upper left corner- me pretending to have a mustache and paul with glasses.
thanksgiving has begun to represent a new direction for me. i remember each year (and post this) but have realized how lucky i have been. not so much lucky for living or surviving when my best friend didn’t. no, more because i have been fortunate enough in my life to have cared so fully for such a person. i was able to see the selfless side of myself early on in my life thanks to caring for paul. i found strength in myself i never knew existed. i learned how much better it feels to give than receive, although it was too short a lesson. i may never love anyone like that again.
today i see that life most certainly is a banquet, and i spent way too much time starving myself. melancholy somehow gets in step, but i have come through some deep merde.
i now sing a new song… brighter days have come… thankfully..