Thursday, June 22, 2017

40th and Bell



Brushing my teeth today and I see a perfect hole cut from the middle of a leaf in our bathroom. The leaf is part of a vining plant a friend gave us four years ago. I brush my teeth too hard, and the spit comes out pink. I look at the hole in the leaf again. I thought I was seeing the white floor through it, but what's really there instead of a hole is a dot of paint from when the landlord fixed the moldy ceiling a couple weeks ago. The dot is clean. Beneath the leaf, the tile is not.

Shawn moved in last month, but not all the way. He's here. His cat and dog are here. His clothes are here. The antique tea cart he insists we'll grow to love is still and unused in his small, dark apartment a few blocks away. So are the two haunted portraits of a married man and woman that will go in his new bedroom, our spare room, the place that's changed more than any other since we moved in almost a decade ago. It's been a studio where I knitted dinosaurs, made skull candles, cast spells to stave off seizures, emptied out completely and turned into a summer bedroom for my oldest friend, home to a snake, and then turned back into a quiet studio for Josh to draw people with impossible hair. Now, we keep the door closed so the cat and dog can't get in and the plans we have for it can't get out.

I didn't think it would actually happen. Even when I agreed to it, it seemed like the kind of promise you make to hang out with a friend you ran into at the grocery. You want to believe it means something that you ran into each other. That it means you should see each other again and soon. But then you never do. It was enough to see them on accident but not enough to see them on purpose. Shawn would move in someday, when everything else was perfect, when it made sense, when we were all so comfortable it seemed inevitable. I should have known better.

Ask an astrologer about Taureans and change.

At the beginning of May, I went to Seattle to visit my brother and mother. We did edibles and drove two hours to the coast. "This may be the only time I get to see the Pacific Ocean," my mother said. My brother and I had seen that water before. I never doubted I'd see it again. When I think of luxuries, I count those certainties among the richest.

I'm still drawing and writing, though sometimes the dog sits on my lap while I do it. His breath smells like an open can of sardines. The cat screams at the other cat in the upstairs unit through the vents. They will never meet. Shawn runs hot, so the snake sees him as an opportunity for expansion, tapping the glass with her nose whenever he's near. Josh adapted quickly and peacefully. He isn't bothered by the people he loves, his changed home, the floors that never stay clean, the elusive quiet, the strange scents and their animal sources. He loved them immediately, and I loved them eventually, the doubts that moved in and have become luxurious certainties.

Monday, March 6, 2017

This Is Real



I dream whenever I fall asleep. Josh dreams once a week. And Shawn dreams so hard he can't tell whether he's awake or not. Sometimes he'll look confused and ask Josh and me if this is real. "This" being the world around him.

When we're all together, I ask myself the same question. "Is this real?" In January, we hit a year. Josh and I have already been together almost 13 years, and Shawn has never been serious with anyone the way he's serious with us. At first, he worried we'd wake up and leave him. That it might be too much for us. Those fears still have echoes. Sometimes he'll be short with me out of nowhere and finally admit it's because I cheated on him in a dream. The other night at two in the morning, he called me in his sleep to ask if the pies had been delivered. He continued to ask until I said, "Yes, the pies are here."

"All right," he said. "Goodnight."

Of course, there were no pies. There are only ever pies if I make them, and in Shawn's dream, I'd made the pies but had forgotten to bring them to an important pie contest. In other words, his dream was real enough for him to believe he was awake.

I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't depend on accurately reading reality. It's the only thing keeping me hopeful in a violently ignorant time, and I imagine it's why Shawn, Josh, and I spend at least an hour catching each other up on world events every night.

Even in a two-person relationship, there's worry over maintaining the thread. There can be stress in that maintenance. Some spiders eat their web each day and rebuild it overnight to keep it strong. We try to examine our pieces and put them back together often. There's a reason I've been playing with LEGOs again for the first time since I was a kid. There's a reason Josh has been eating sugar cereal and watching old cartoons on weekend mornings. There's a reason Shawn reintroduced himself to his orisha, Ochun, a couple weeks ago in a Santeria ritual by the river, a ritual that required him to smoke an old cigar that made him ill for three days. The future can be guessed at but can't be seen straight on. For all the talk of facing what's coming, we need to look back to acknowledge what's already changed. And what hasn't. We can do the long work of trying to better the world and at the same time embrace old comforts where we find them, where they'll have us.

Right now, we have each other. I wrote this relationship over and over in short stories before we even met Shawn. My friend, Roxane, has asked, "Why three people?" and I never have a good answer. Maybe I don't know yet. Maybe I just know it works.

Soon, we'll all be living in the same place together. Josh and I are getting rid of unnecessary junk, and Shawn has acclimated more and more to sleeping in our house. Last week he was taking a nap on the couch while Josh and I worked on projects in other rooms. We heard the front door open. Shawn had walked barefoot out onto the porch in his sleep. He stopped and stared into the dark, staying on the porch with us beside him, a warm spot on a cold night. Stronger together, and even in his sleep not asking the question he's asked so many times before, only knowing the truth of it somewhere beyond whatever dream made him leave our house in the first place. We would find him.

This is real.