Saturday, July 16, 2005

A few years ago, Paul's boyfriend Mark died of AIDS. That's not entirely correct, of course; what actually killed Mark was pneumonia. But since Paul wasn't supposed to be Mark's boyfriend--because Mark wasn't supposed to have boyfriends--we were actively not invited to the funeral. Paul pretended to be ok with it, pretended that he understood, but he has crucified himself with it ever since.

This is all rehearsed, you know? None of this is ever spontaneous. I find myself trapped at the line between telling you too much and not enough, between removing my own poisoned thorns and dropping them on your feet. I try to not make you too uncomfortable, because whatever I have left to tell you isn't pretty, but by not exposing what it is that tortures me things sit where they are and ferment. I have kept too many secrets for too many years.

The night of the funeral we took Paul down to the beach. The moon hung somewhere between halfway full and completely full, and his cheekbones cast shadows on his face. We were a bunch of screwed up kids: Toby and Brad and Alex, whose parents had not wanted him so much that they never got around to giving him a middle name, a fact that they informed him of on a regular basis. There was no drinking and no crying and no holding hands and singing. All that we did, hunkered there in the sand, was tell each other stories about our childhoods. It amazes me, thinking about it now, that we did any such thing. Not a one of us came from a place that was good: we were each of us the stuff of PBS specials. But for some reason, what we remembered wasn't the psychodrama, it wasn't the hitting or the bleeding or the screaming. All that we remembered was innocence and peace. And we wove our little web in a safe place on the shore, and we dealt with our grief the way we dealt with everything else--by looking for something beautiful and holding on tight.

There are certain nights when what I need is for you to take me by the shoulders and tell me that I am not them, that I have moved past where I'm from. I try so hard not to lean on you all too much but now and again I just can't hold up the weight of my skull. I do believe that most people live lives of quiet desperation, and I know that such quiet is deadly. I won't tell you the stories you don't want to hear, won't use the words that make you flinch and squint your eyes, but I will let you know that occasionally I need help. I can try to keep it light if you can hold my hand while I'm doing so.

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