The E. True Hollywood Story.
"Life is short." No it i'nt. Life is looooong. ESPECIALLY if you make the wrong decisions. - Chris Rock
Don't be fooled by the funny-ha-ha title. If you're on your way out of the house, run. Don't expect to glance at this and skim and scan and then hop out the door. If you have a shitload of time that you didn't plan to spend living, on the other hand, then by all means, strap yourselves in. Get some popcorn first. And a handkerchief. And maybe a chick from the lobby if you're lucky.
Oh, and if it gets difficult near the end, and maybe strays a touch from my original plan, keep in mind that I've been up all night, and then kindly Deal With It.
(Edit: Having rested up a bit, I've looked back and tweaked a few things. What do you expect? It's friggin' huge.)
Where do I start?
At the beginning?
The beginning is so long ago.
The trouble with trying to tell this story is that I know that if I'm not careful, I'm going to doll it up with cinematics and pro-Me propoganda, and that's hardly my goal here. The story is full of adolescent foolishness and mistakes bordering illegality (no statutory rape, though; that's hardly bordering).
The other trouble with telling this story is that I have to tell it to myself first, so I can catch all the key points. It's been a while since I've told it in its entirety, and much of it will be rehash to people who've read my extensive archive here.
When I was in junior high, I befriended the younger sister of the first woman I ever drove away with my blind infatuation.
The woman was epersonae. Her younger sister was Edith.
Edith came to me to see if I was all that bad. I wasn't; I just didn't know how or when to quit. We became friends quickly. We managed to stay that way throughout my high school career. As the years passed, we shared all our teen angst and soul-searching times; much of it was spent innocently in the basement bedroom beneath the kitchen in her home. We pined for other people, and shared our grief with each other. It wasn't exactly a healthy relationship, but it was always good to have someone there to listen.
Gradually, my interest in the elder sister faded, and I was able to weasel my way back into the Friend Zone. These were the glory days. epersonae had a man, a big boisterous man who was open and friendly and more than willing to hang with the rest of us freaks. We didn't all get along; there was the usual high school drama, but for the most part, I managed to stay cool with everyone I knew. That occasionally made it difficult, but I got to hear all sides of most of the stories, which was enlightening. It let me know that my presence was appreciated, really.
The notebooks should have destroyed us all. In retrospect, it was necessary but it was also the worst idea I'd ever had, and it lasted into college. You hear me? College. I'm not even up to the college years yet in the story.
The notebooks were about as close to a precursor to livejournal as I can imagine for a group of angsty high schoolers in a soap opera. The "Dodecahedron of Love" sketch would have been enough to drive away any sane person, but this IS high school we're talking about. I digress.
Drama is drama. It passes. Things happen, people get close, then push away. This revolved around me like a swarm of bees while I remained The Guy who Can't Get Any. Poor Kermit. The phrase was repeated often enough in print that I was certain it would become a new nickname. But Edith was always there to listen. And she was always pining for the same other guy I knew.
Occasionally, I remember doing things that pissed her off, but I don't recall what they were. They were probably stupid adolescent things, as I was a stupid adolescent. Something important of note is Edith's reaction to being pissed off. In my case, at least, her response is generally to cut the lines of communication entirely, if only for a few days, or maybe a week, or however long she feels like it. It's nasty and it works. Every time I was in the doghouse with her I felt it right in the gut, for the entire length of the sentence. As some of you readers know, asking when the silence will be over is only met by more silence or a very cold front. I basically had to brave the cold with apologies until they were accepted. This was the only thing that I didn't like about us, and it really felt more like something I didn't like about myself: stupid adolescence, making me do stupid things to piss her off. When we were talking, all was right with our world, or at very least, all was not lost.
Eventually, somewhere in the middle of my senior year I think, I woke up to the fact that there was someone who knew more about me than most other people my age. And she was still pining for this other guy. The dynamic was changing. Things were tense until near the end of senior year, possibly the week before the end.
I was going to tour with a drum and bugle corps all goddamn summer. Freelancers, out of Sacramento. Lots of people I didn't know. No Edith. So what happens? She comes around. At the last minute. We had our first kiss.
And then I was on a goddamn bus.
When I finally came back, I was so starved for her affection that I left a note on her bed.
Nobody was home that day.
I came in and left completely unauthorized and didn't give it a second thought because I was starved and adolescent.
The hell I caught over the phone was quiet, concentrated, and precise. She immediately shut me out. I hadn't seen her in three months, and I would continue to not see her. That was that.
This set the stage for many cycles of submissiveness and guilt, but those are other stories, and other - forthcoming - parts of this one.
Flash-forward, years later, girlfriends later. I'm corresponding fairly regularly with epersonae in old-school mail (prior to my acquisition of an Internet email address that I can check regularly). I'm working retail and living behind my parents' house in a shack with virtually no climate control other than fans and blankets.
E invites me to her graduation from Puget Sound in Washington in April. (Incidentally, this is about the time Robots Are Supreme was conceived.) Having very little in the way of cash, and working a part-time shit job that doesn't pay vacation, I scrounge what I can to take my first adventure, by myself, out of state. I don't exactly know what I'm in for, but I don't sweat it; it's time off of work, and it's an old friend, and it's a place to go. I don't think too much about what will happen when I run into Edith (and I know I will); if anything, I figure it'll be a safe situation as long as enough people are present to buffer any bad blood.
It's good to see E again. Graduation goes through without too many hitches; when the rain starts, the entire class foomps up umbrellas practically in unison, having likely practiced the drill earlier in basic training. And somehow we all end up seeing Rocky Horror: E and her man, me and nobody, Edith and some guy I've never met.
So she's taken. No big deal.
We leave the theatre. Guy I've Never Met is off in another direction before I know what's happening. We start driving back, and Edith's crying. Huh? Okay. Maybe she's not taken. I have no clue what's going on. E's consoling her. I'm still unsure whether to say anything. I let it go.
The next day, Edith ends up in the same place as me again, and we actually talk. Relief. Release. She is apologizing like mad, feeling rather foolish for getting involved with the guy (for however long that lasted; possibly a few hours for all I know). The others leave. We get re-acquainted. Adolescent feelings re-emerge. We kiss. The world spins. The past suddenly seems like gritty old noir and this is the Colorful World of Oz. Things escalate quickly. We are together. Just like that.
And then I have to go home.
Our long-distance relationship (LDR, for those of you who have never touched a computer before) is difficult. I have email. She apparently doesn't, so our communication is slow or expensive, one or the other. My return trips to Washington are months apart, and a burden on my shit-job budget. But I take them because I like to see her, and she doesn't respond well to the distance. She doesn't come down to Cali, though... well, she does once, for my birthday, after which we both travel back up to Washington so I can stay there a while before coming home. During this period of our LDR, I am generally being subservient and agreeing to her suggestions and visiting whenever I have the cash to spare. I have no desire to disagree or argue with her, knowing full well what happened the last time she got pissed at me.
I don't realize it, but I'm acting completely autonomously.
How would you like to have a handfasting ceremony? According to Karyn, Edith's resident pagan authority on the subject, it's basically a common-law marriage. We'd already proclaimed our engagement long before, and I wore a very basic inexpensive hematite ring. (I'd link you to something that explains the supposed properties of hematite, but all the pages I see that actually describe it in this manner are too pretentious even for me.)
So I went along with the ride. On my next visit up there, I hung out in the middle of some pagan circle thing in a yard in the middle of the night in a kilt, freezing my balls off for the woman I loved. And I didn't mind, either. Especially since being stressed out at work when you're hundreds of miles away from your woman sucks.
Then, one fine February, Edith actually purchased me a round-trip plane ticket.
Now, I can't lj-cut an lj-cut, or I'd spare you the exceptionally gory details. So if you're feeling a bit squeamish, you may want to skip down a bit.
The day of the 14th, we made love. It was not the first time, mind you; I've simply been overly polite about dealing with the subject up to this point. This day was different.
This day, as I reached for one of the greatest inventions known to horny mankind, I was stopped by the hand of my loving partner.
Flash forward to a hazy time somewhere around, say, possibly April. The phone call. The phone call nobody wants, and I got it.
I won't be ovulating, I recalled reading in her last letter to me before the trip.
We discussed abortion. Doable, if she was prompt about it. She wasn't.
My first impulse told me to go back. Then I did something unusual. I thought about it. I wasn't saving money. The phone calls just made the bills higher. She was in a house with two other people; would I stay on the couch? Where would the child sleep? Hell, could we afford it? Even more importantly, were we ready for it? I wasn't, when I thought about it. It was too much, too soon.
We discussed adoption.
Somewhere in between all of this, I met Joc after she'd been hired at my workplace and done her job for a while. Level-headed, confident, smiling on the outside. Pretty. We became friends, if a bit uneasily. We liked each other, though. My brain spun in circles wondering what in the world I was trying to do with myself.
We smoked an entire pack of menthol cigarettes in a park one day after work, and traded stories about our respective bizarre love lives.
The talks on the phone with Edith continued. Eventually, the conversation turned to loneliness and the seeking of comfort locally. We traded stories. She mentioned a nice-sounding friend from the SCA, and I mentioned Joc. At the time, the tone of the conversation was uneasy, but resigned. We agreed to be apart for a while, reluctantly, for lack of funds, and the need for human contact. She made me promise to write to her with details, and so I did.
Shortly thereafter, I took up smoking.
After what seems, in retrospect, like about a week and a half of trying to get in touch with Edith and getting naught but the invitation to leave messages, I received a phone call from Karyn. She then informed me that Edith has her on call-screening duty. I was being screened. I was being not-talked-to.
I had pissed her off.
I had pissed Elaine off, too. The last heart-wrenching email she wrote to me chided me for my smoking, but infinitely more so for fucking her sister without a condom. Her recently-new boyfriend, who I hadn't met, called me once with firm but polite veiled threats of legal action that I don't even think are possible. Adoption papers arrived somewhere within the mess, and my nosy mother opened them and finally learned why I was being so reserved in my speaking about Edith. She was very understanding to me, but not so much toward Edith. I couldn't understand why; I felt like the clear asshole in this situation.
I continued smoking.
The sisters that had been there through so much of what most would call the "formative years" were now locked stubbornly and quietly behind a wall of distance, and all I could do to keep from pitying myself was to do the same to them in my mind. Build the wall. Stop reaching out. Nobody's listening anyway. Start over.
Karyn contacted me with all the information on the open adoption, and the parents, and called the night Morgan Wylie was born. I had already started building the wall by the time this was happening, so while I was grateful for her call, all I could think about was how I had to say goodbye to it all.
Joc later had a run-in with her stepfather, and moved into the shack with me. She and I quickly outgrew it, though she felt more cooped up in it than I. She discovered EarthLink when we needed to increase our respective cash flow. She was very good to me, emotionally and intellectually. With her help, we both got out on our own, made a decent living, and were able to afford it.
Even so, I hadn't built the wall strong enough, and I couldn't keep Edith out of my mind. Not necessarily because I wanted her back, but because she had once again found the perfect way to infect my brain with thoughts of her.
Just like always.
In the last year, of course, things changed. My wall was shattered by a pair of huge blue eyes and a little smile that set my brain on fire. I couldn't ignore Morgan any longer; love was rolling over me like a tidal wave going up my nostrils. (Edit: boy, was I sleepless. Astute readers will also note that epersonae and I are quite obviously on speaking terms now.)
And then I started thinking about what happened. Again.
Writing to Edith was met only with scorn. She chastized me for, among other things, being so damn complacent and never taking the lead in the relationship. She did find wonderful parents for Morgan, no doubt about that. And there's the whole matter of labor which I won't even start on. Plane tickets. Arranging visits. Everything. No initiative on my part.
The words were still able to beat the shit out of me.
Then, finally, one day, I started thinking about what happened. Again. A little more carefully this time.
I won't be ovulating. Plane tickets. Fucking. Arranging visits. Doable, if she was prompt about it. She wasn't. No initiative on my part. Being so damn complacent.
One night, it hit me like the end of the world.
It broke my head.
Could she... no. How...
She wouldn't have.
Even now I can't say that this is true, because I can't bring myself to ask her. What good would it do? Would I believe what she would say? Would she say anything? Does it even matter? Not right now. It will, someday. Right now, all I know is this:
People are whacked. Decisions are made, and they aren't always right, but life continues in spite of them.
It'll take a lot more than this to make me hate anyone or anything for very long.
Life isn't short.
The time you get to make any given decision, however, is.
Whose fault is that, but time?
Open letter postscript:
If you (edit: no, not you... you) ever happen upon this essay, and choose to respond it, you know where to find me. I've come to the realization that the past is not something to be strangled, because it doesn't die. It lives in your memory forever, and the more you attempt to strangle it, the more anger you are choosing to focus on it. Better to accept it, release your grip from it, and allow it to soar in your memory, coming into your immediate vision only at its whim, and only if you aren't busy focusing on enjoying the life you are living, and hopefully enjoying to the fullest, at this very moment.
I love you. But not for the reasons you think.
To those contemplating their own personal exposÚs: I wrote this because I was sick of holding it inside, and I wanted to take another step towards being able to live with myself completely. Whether it's going to come back and hit me in the face or not isn't my concern right now. With any luck, I've written for the right reasons.
Write for the right reasons.
Edith: I have respected your wishes, and have not emailed you since you asked me not to.
However, I have not said everything that I wanted to say. Not even in my journal. But I'm
going to try here, so that we can put this crap to bed.
I tried my best, in my communications with you, to keep a tone of compassion and genuine interest
in your well-being. I would like to think that I succeeded, and I know it was the only thing on my
mind when I was emailing you. I'm not psychotic, and though I was a confused little boy, I'm not
that way any more. I don't stalk anyone. I know I'm not in love with you, and I know I wasn't
then. After living with someone for several years, I know more now about what love entails than
I once did. Hopefully you've actually read my journal and can appreciate this. (If you haven't,
the link is below.)
I also realize, now, that my attempted compassion was entirely the wrong approach.
However, I do love you for (and in spite of) what you've done, unconditionally. I believe that,
if I knew who you are now, I would still love you. Unconditionally. I emphasize this because
we've both done some stupid things, and I want nothing more than to be able to say what I have to
say about it, and then be able to put it all behind me.
No one is innocent here.
You told me once that you didn't want to make all the decisions for the both of us, and yet you
never told me so until long after the fact. We never managed to get into an argument about such
things when they were pertinent, so I had no way of really knowing.
The fact that we didn't argue about real issues like that, by the way, is one of the
reasons I know that we weren't in love. We were in denial. Joc blew up at me about once a
month for something I was or wasn't doing, and ultimately, it helped, in a way; we lasted close
to four years. Sometimes you have to get these things out in the open, or else you kill yourself
slowly by internalizing it all. That was one thing I learned.
Back to my complacency. I'm lucky it ran out when it did. I'm lucky that I made the decision
I made when I did. Because the decisions you made - namely, to convince me to conceive
Morgan in the heat of passion - would have backfired on us both if you had also
convinced me to uphold the terms of the handfasting and move up there, when (to the best of my
knowledge) neither of us had yet learned any real profitable skills other than how to
work a shit job.
While I'm on the subject:
Do you even realize how COMPLETELY underhanded this all seems to me now? Karyn, and even my
own mother, questioned your motives! No, not questioned -they were CONVINCED. And I
chose not to listen to them. I defended you, to my own mother. The phone call from Karyn,
telling me what she suspected was going on, only served to tell me that there was no reason
to try dealing with you any more. But for God's sake, you had better appreciate the fact that
I'm willing to get past all of that, especially after finally putting two and two together.
The two lines that stick out the most are from Karyn's explanation of how the handfasting
can be broken off "as long as there are no children involved", and your letter from before my
last trip up there - the "I won't be ovulating" letter.
And the phone calls and letter prior to our breaking up? Suddenly, you were the complacent
one - suddenly being okay with breaking up, suddenly being okay with seeing other people,
suddenly telling me about some guy at the SCA... and you blame this on being delirious?
I understand that you were pregnant. I understand that I chose a very poor time to even consider
such things. But this is exactly what I'm talking about when I say that we never argued or
disagreed on anything, and that's what killed it.
On the one hand, I want to hear your side of the whole story, if only to hear you break radio
silence to re-tell me everything I already know. On the other hand, I don't know that you'd
actually do it - "it" being, of course, "owning up". Your stubbornness
is the stuff of legend, as is your ability to rip into me, thoroughly unprovoked, with your words,
just to make me that less likely to reply any sooner.
I'm lucky I came around, and so are you. We would not have been a happy family. We were
both too dramatic, unfocused, and internalized everything. I had never lived outside of my
parents' domain. What did I know about running, or co-running, a household? What did I know about
raising a child? What did I know about love?
Not to say that you didn't also make some excellent decisions. (Though if I were more catty, I could
argue that you sort of had to. I'm not in a position to argue that, however.)
I have to say that, after meeting Pat and Gerald, I really do love them and think they're just
perfect parents for Wylie. Finding them was probably the greatest thing I've ever seen you do,
and allowing them to take Wylie was likely the most difficult thing you've ever had to do.
I cannot begin to imagine what that must have been like, and I've seen pictures. I cried on your
sister's shoulder, long and hard, the first time I looked at them. Knowing what you must have
gone through, I respect you more than ever for being strong enough to move on.
I've grown up. I've forgiven myself for what I've done. I've gotten past the negative emotions,
slowly, and I've finally gotten to the point where your words can't hurt me any more. I've made
my peace. It was the only way I could allow myself to face Pat, Geo, Wylie, and Elaine. I love
them, and I love you. You'll feel a hundred times better once you've made your peace, and so
will I. Since the only part of me you seem to want to know about is the part you can talk down
to, you'll just have to make a leap of faith and actually trust me on that.