When I go back home I walk on water but I've somehow forgotten how to swim. My old friend Jenna and I joked while I was back, about how I habitually use metaphors within metaphors, and I think the previous sentence is a perfect example of this. To put the feeling more plainly - it's jarring. But somehow "jarring" doesn't quite do justice to the experience of visiting the mountains that I grew up in after being gone for, good god, ten years now. New buildings are erected, old friends blown to four directions like dandelion seeds, family dynamics mutate every time you blink, and memories assault you on every corner. How was your Thanksgiving?
I'm being dramatic. My Thanksgiving was actually totally fantastic. I blew into Missoula, Montana without telling anyone except for my transient comrade Sammy-K, and he picked me up from the airport and allowed me to wander around with him on errands, drinking beer, talking philosophy. We went to my little brother Kyle's hip hop concert that night (I know, hip hop in Montana? His group, the InHumans are actually totally mind blowing though), and I spent Thanksgiving being attacked by the throngs of little kids that have sprang from the loins of my sister and father. A few old friends that happened to be in town, stalked me down and took me out a few times, god bless them, as many times as the days we've been apart. It was all pretty basic, except for two notable variances.
The first things felt self indulgent, but it stood out - I went out to dinner with my dear friend Kristina, who has been a surrogate mother for me for all intents and purposes. She's been traveling in India and Nepal for months and was on her way out East for the holiday, so I was very pleased our time up in the mountains overlapped for a night. Over an overpriced dinner over at a restaurant that hangs over the Clark Fork River, I was rambling about my life, things I was writing, people I interested in - when I realize that I really don't have anything to report. I mean, what AM I doing with my life? I could name a dozen things, but all of them seemed very unimportant. My little brother is trying to find a way to get out of Missoula before it kills him, my big sister Maia is working long hours trying to mentally thrive in this shitstorm economy, and Kristina is battling the dilemmas of what it means to be the person she is in this emotional location, at this age, in this strange transitory period of history. What am I doing? God, nothing, I think to myself. Not enough. I'm not doing enough good. And I decide that I have to, even if it pushes me towards crisis. I have to travel like Kristina has, I have to figure out what’s going on with me, like Kristina has. I've got to change things - fuck the consequences. And then I realize I’m getting depressed over something that doesn’t really exist. Am I really gonna leave everything to find something better? I mean, really? I live in Brooklyn – what could be better than that? And what about health insurance? Let’s be practical here. I toss back another glass of wine even though I know the urge to run away (not from the dinner, but rather from my own life as I know it) is still blooming in me.
The second thing was when my father, Papa CC as I call him, took me on a ride to visit my old adopted grandfather Rudy. Rudy has been in my life for as long as I can trace my life - my adopted grandmother Betty passed away about a year ago but Rudy has been doing alright without her considering they were married for over 50 years. But, as was bound to happen, Rudy had a fall a few weeks ago. Shattered his hip. I fall all the time and all I have to show for it is a deep sense of clumsiness, but an old man falls, well man, everything changes. When Papa CC got me in the car, we started driving and of course he asked about my health. I could set my watch to that man - he always asks me about my health, first time he gets me alone, which is always in a car. I told him a nonsense story about an strange conversation I had with my doctor about my vitamin D deficiency ("So what are you trying to tell me doc? I need to get more sun?") and I told him my health was fine. What else do you tell someone - I mean, even ones family? One thing I've learned from HIV is how to read the worry on people’s faces with shocking accuracy. My father worries about me. You can hear it in his voice, and the look of concern that covers his eyes makes me so uncomfortable even I (the self proclaimed Prince of Pain) can't ever seem to have a substantial conversation about the matter. We arrive at Providence Hospital and I'm amazed by how little security they have in that place. Just walked in, up the elevator, and into his room without anyone noticing. Rudy was in good spirits - his mind is sharp, but his eyes, his ears, his bones, that's where the trouble lies. The infrastructure as my sister Claudia puts it. Rudy talks to me about memory after memory that he has of me when I was a child, and I smile, but glancing over at the picture of Betty he has on his hospital dresser a wave of loss hits me. Now wouldn’t be the time to start crying, so I look out the window. Mount Jumbo is out there, about a ten min walk away. I remember when my second (and twelfth) boyfriend Abe took me up there and showed me the valley light up at sunset. It looked like a sea of gold. I miss him too, and another wave hits me. I look back to Rudy and as he talks I'm lost in the world where I used to visit the house on Longstaff every Saturday, where I learned how to catch bees without them stinging you, where I learned how to use tools, shoot a gun, mow a lawn. Again, the sense that I’m missing something from my life moves in me and I and look over to my father, like he's gonna have the answers - but when I see his face I notice that the look in his eyes as he listens to Rudy is the same one when he has when he asks me about my health. I realize that I never want my father standing over me in a hospital bed, like he is Rudy's. I never want to put him through that. Like my dad said the only time I've ever seen him cry - "I always imagined that you would give the eulogy at my funeral, not I yours". And I decide if there's anything a man can do for his father, it's that. Loss? We all have things that we feel like we’re missing. But that comes with the territory of living.
Other than those two things, the vacation was pretty much filled with laughter. My family has a way of making me feel like I belong, and that hasn't changed. My two year old niece thinks that I'm Barack Obama, theres a big tacky wooden owl in my front yard and it scares the living shit out of me and Claudia, and I forgot to remind my little brother that I loved him, and to get the fuck out of Missoula. My family can laugh like no ones business. And debate art, and except each other’s differences, and smoke the demon weed. So yeah, nothings different. And now I'm back in New York - my theater company has started tech for two shows that we're putting up in rep this month and I'm exhausted from spending all day in a theater, same thing tomorrow, same thing everyday. But hey, I ask myself in the cab ride home - where else would you rather be?