Note: Some characters in this blog will be masked with aliases to protect their identity.
Conversation #1: Rejection
The freshman dorms were crammed and unpleasant but somehow that added to the comfort of company. Huddled in my friend’s walk-in closet sized dorm (identical to mine in the same building) we sat hunched over on the AMC quality approved twin beds watching The Goonies on the AMC quality approved 8 inch screen laptop. As a matter of fact nothing added to the nostalgic adventure vibes of Hollywood like four friends, shoulder to shoulder, bonding over our love for this classic story. Right as our protagonist gang of puberty riddled kids find the underground pirate ship, I received a call from P. With no hesitation I excused myself into the hall and let the movie progress without me.
P was my high school sweetheart. We dated for two years attending two proms together and while we were never voted prom king and queen, we had felt on top of the world. We performed theater and choir, talent shows, poorly planned dates, and spontaneous adventures. We were unstoppable.
P: I can’t do this anymore.
Me: What? What do you mean?
P: I can’t do us anymore.
Me: Hey let’s slow down and talk about this. What’s going on?
P: I’m sick of living like this. I can’t breath. I can’t work. I’ve not been me!
P was to leave for the Israeli Defense Forces while and I was to pursue film in San Francisco. She was armed with patriotism while I was armed with naivety.
Me: Well we have a plan. We’re doing incredibly well for where we are. We’ve been in contact a ton, haven’t we? What about our Halloween plans?
P: I never bought the ticket.
Me: (I wasn’t sure what to say)… I see.
P: Chaz (she began crying)… When you’re not here I miss you. And when I miss you I force myself to not miss you because it pains me. And when I don’t miss you I suddenly feel guilty. And when I feel guilty I miss you. Do you see what’s happening here?
Me: Yes and no.
P: Chaz. You know how I love to read? How I just started my new job? How I cook and exercise? When I say I’m not me I don’t read any more. I’m not working to my fullest. I don’t even eat and I’ve barely left my room.
Me: Then what do you do all day?
P: I escape. I never thought so many thoughts could come of a white wall at the foot of my bed. And here I am playing that over as a greater activity than nourishing my body.
Me: P, please let’s work this out. You can still come to San Francisco. I’ll help you with the ticket. You’ll feel better as soon as you get here. We can continue this story!
P: I’ve lost 10lbs this month.
This of all things stopped all thought. I couldn’t hear. I couldn’t move. I had no sense of feeling except for the buzzing sensation tingling around in my head. My feet tingled too. My stomach disappeared and so did the world. I was hollow. I was now lost in a trans staring into the white wall in front of me at the foot of my feet.
Me: Then goodbye.
The words involuntarily spilled out of my mouth like a dam that had lost its resistance to hold the river flow together.
P: Chaz, I love you and I don’t want you to hate me for this. I –
I hung up the phone. My friends have always told me that I walk with purpose. I stood up and stumbled my way to the elevators. I let my subconscious take the wheel. My step lost all its purpose.
Conversation #2: Love
6/21/17 – Edinburgh, Scotland
My aunt Barrie and I had a full day of wandering the capital buildings of Edinburgh. She was enthused to show me her world for the first time and I was trying to keep up as I suffered from some awful type of flu that deterred me from walking any faster. Perhaps I was getting used to the new water solutions or I was overtired or maybe I simply had swapped germs with the wrong person. Regardless, I’d walk in a cold sweat wanting to see more but also hoping the headache would go away. Near the train station, my aunt and I put our bags down to take a break. As soon as my backpack detached from my body an awkward outline of cold sweat in the shape of my bag was exposed. I shivered and chugged a swig of water from my canteen. My aunt wandered off to a stand nearby to buy a snack for us. Now alone on a stone stoop I decided mosey on off with my phone to see if I could further label myself a tourist to the locals.
I took useless pictures left and right trying to remember every fleeting angle I saw until my eyes locked on a large neon sign. I wanted to take the picture but felt strange taking it with a random woman in its way. Quickly I snapped the photo but felt somewhat guilty for not asking permission.
“I shall tear up trees with my bare teeth! I shall crush mountains with my fists! I shall go crazy – for love!” -Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Hesitant, I walked up and interrupted her deep thought.
Me: Hi, I’m sorry to bother you. I was taking some photography – well not photography, it was just on my phone but – I’m from Los Angeles… America – and – well I’m a tourist and I was taking photos and you ended up in one. Is this okay to put on my instagram? It’s just such a good picture and I could even send it to you if you’d like but if not then I’d totally understand and I’d delete it right now.
Confused she looked at the photo. She shrugged her shoulders and said…
Eleanor: Go on, keep it.
Me: Are you sure? Thanks so much.
Eleanor: No problem.
There was an awkward silence between us. I didn’t know how to continue but forced my way through.
Me: I’m Chaz. How are you today?
I shook her hand.
Eleanor: Eleanor. And kind of amazing, actually.
Me: Yeah? Something big happen?
Eleanor: Yes I think so.
Me: What’s the big news?
Eleanor: I think the quote behind me explains it all.
I looked to the quote. Then back at her. My eyes lit up as I did a double take realizing what she meant.
Me: Are you in love?
Eleanor: Yes. Yeah I think I am.
She didn’t know how to contain herself now that she said it out loud.
Me: Well… that is amazing, isn’t it?
This was her special moment. Perhaps it was time for me to let her enjoy this epiphany.
Me: I’ll let you go but can I just shake your hand one last time?
She grabbed my hand and stood before me at eye level.
Me: Thank you for sharing. Never stop loving. It was a pleasure meeting you.
Eleanor: As to you. Enjoy my country!
We exchaged goodbyes and went our own ways. What an incredibly find! Suddenly I no longer felt sick.
Eleanor, if you ever read this, thank you.
Conversation #3: Gratitude
This all started when I found out the person responsible for one of my greatest and most radical transformations worked in the mall I visit most. Some of you reading this may know that I was victim to a hate crime in middle school.
The perpetrators were caught less than two weeks later and put through the justified consequences of the justice system. They were found guilty for vandalizing my locker with nazi affiliated messages and gang taunts. Despite the actions taken, I spiraled down a destructive path forcing me to push through a time where I was incredibly mentally twisted. Beyond depressed, I was enraged and at one point felt the need to express that through physical engagement.
There were two to tango in this crime. The ring leader and B. The ring leader was involved in actual gang activity and was eventually put under house arrest for violating his one year probation. B followed thinking he was helping a friend with a simple task. It turned out he would be dragged into a mess he had never expected to be in. He lived passed his one year probation and now pursues his passion of music while staying close with his family. He certainly didn’t deserve it. B also was the one who wrote me an apology letter. It taught me forgiveness. It gave me freedom of mind and peace at heart. It miraculously taught me that it was possible to cry tears of joy.
And so, after reaching out to him and grabbing lunch with him most recently to seek closure, I explained…
Me: After what you did, I went through quite the inner turmoil as you can imagine. I dreamt of hurting, even killing you and a select few out there. It was all circulating off of revenge… which is never a healthy path as you can imagine. When I entered high school I began theater. I wanted to try new things and explore a new part of myself. Unbeknownst to me, it served as the perfect outlet to let myself go and breathe. Of course I was still going through a lot deep down but just as things began to cool, my blond-haired blue eyed drama teacher casted me as a Hitler youth in Sound of Music. I at first was infuriated, given that I was now required to wear the swastika for the part, but soon after I learned to accept it knowing that sticking to it would help me get better parts in the future. That was when you sent me that apology letter. It happened to be perfect timing. I know it probably was a simple task, but your letter changed my life. It sparked the beginning of something I didn’t even know was happening until it was too late… By the time the next play had wrapped, I found peace with it all. I forgave you. I forgave your friend. I forgave everyone who had ever wronged me for being a Jew. And most of all I forgave myself for adopting hate as a solution. I needed you to know that you were forgiven. For that, B, I thank you.
With that, there was silence between us. B sat back taking it all in calmly, respectfully listening to what it all may have met for both him and I. He owned up to everything of course. That’s how I knew his next words were genuine.
B: You’re welcome.