Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Christmas Tree

A few weeks ago Desirée asked if I wanted to go with her to pick out a Christmas tree, then go back to her place and decorate it. I haven’t decorated a tree since I lived with Grace, and was never really into the ritual, but I’ve been told that when helping hands reach out, take them, so I did. She called me on the day of and asked about my plans for the rest of the evening. I said I had nothing to do. She then suggested we have dinner. She’d be making biscuits and stew, an outing we planned ever since we went to Pike Place Market together and had what were self-proclaimed to be “kick-ass biscuits”. Her contention was that she could make better ones. I told her to prove it.

Now from the outset this may come off as the makings to a very romantic and intimate night, which in some ways I guess I would agree, but you’d first have to understand the context of our relationship between when we first broke up until now. I don’t really know how to describe how I feel about Desirée. She touches a very gentle place in my heart. Not in a burning, passionate sort of way, but something cooler, more subtle, yet equally filling. There is, and probably always will be, this small sense of emotional and physical attraction, but protecting our friendship supersedes any sort of superficial urges. I guess I’d say that what I’ve come to realize is that Desirée is the person I’ve come to love most purely in my life, meaning I truly want her to be well, regardless if I have anything to do with it. Now don’t get me wrong. I’d say that I loved Flora more intensely, and I still think she is the love of my life, but there is not the same sense of control when it comes to her. With Desirée there is no sense of rush or expectation, no demands or uncontrolled desire. She’s just someone that radiates a good energy and I enjoy when it’s around, don’t hold onto it when it needs to leave. Truth be told, I’d love to reach that point with Flora one day.

I show up to her place around 5:30. She opens up the metal gate to the back alley which we refer to as the “creepy back alley” back when we were dating. The joke started on our third date when we randomly walked around downtown and I thought I had stumbled upon this small hole-in-the-wall restaurant I visited a few years back. I told her to follow me while I checked, but to her it just looked like I was trying to lead her down some creepy back alley, so she stayed back with sort of this nervous smile. I called her out and made a joke of it, something I still tease her about today after having known me better. Later, on I think our fifth date, I walked her back to the back entrance of her apartment, which resembled, of all things, a “creepy back alley”, and it was there she grabbed me by the collar for a furious make-out. I’ve never stopped giving her shit about it since.

She’s descends the stairs wearing a knitted white sweater that outlines the curves of her body perfectly. She opens the gate and gives me a firm hug. I can smell the vanilla lotion on her neck. She snakes up the stairs with a slight shift to her hips and I follow closely behind. We go through pleasantries on the way up and I walk through familiar hallways. She opens the door to her apartment and I’m hit with nostalgia. For the most part, everything is the same: the scent, the colors, the ever-present ambiance of warmth. It’s as if the place radiates in her essence. She’s moved some furniture around to make room for the tree, turned the bed against the closet door and made a bigger gap between the two sitting chairs so guests could walk by. With all that she has on her plate, she puts a large amount of effort just to put together a Christmas tree. It’s one of the things I really love about the girl. 

The room smells vibrantly of broth. The stew is on the stove and the biscuits are out of the oven. She made sugar plums earlier in the morning because I told her I’ve never had them. We catch up on each other’s lives while she prepares the plates. She’s diligently preparing for her law school finals. I tell her I’m reading a book on chakras. I guess that kind of sums up the kind of people we are. She brings out the plates and they’re gorgeous. Succulent beef cuts flaked to perfection brewed alongside carrots and potatoes in a hearty brown sauce. I swore off meat back when I was in Brazil, but for her, I’d break that oath for a night. The culmination of the evening thus far strikes me. For someone to put that much effort into showing they care, as even just a friend, was something really special. It’s one of those things that kept me believing in people.

She’s heard about two potential places selling Christmas trees. Her original spot requires a drive, but boasts “the best trees of the city” and also goes towards funding some non-profit helping the AIDs community. The other one is a few streets up from us, though with no guarantee of quality, no non-profit involved, and quite honestly, neither of us know if it even exists. Nevertheless, I suggest we walk to the second place, and if we can’t find anything, go to the first. Make an evening out of it. She smiles.

It’s a typical Seattle winter, but we’re dressed accordingly. She’s a bit caught up in the fact that her jacket is made for the rain, yet it isn’t raining, and can’t seem to stop fretting over it. I tease her to no end about it. We make playful commentary on the changes in the neighborhood as we walk through it, enter a few spots that we find interesting from the storefront, and end up buying some second-hand books for a dollar each at a used clothing exchange. Across the street there’s a guy writing impromptu poetry on an old-school typewriter for change. We give him four words to write a poem about us. He tells us to come back in 10 minutes. I can’t remember much about where we went for those ten minutes, but it didn’t really matter. Every moment with her is light, as if the rest of life’s problems fade away in her presence and vanity of action holds no importance. We come back and the poem is surprisingly thoughtful given the four words we provided. Christmas tree. Sugar plums. Friendship. Condoms. We pay the man four bucks and Desirée carefully places the poem like a bookmark into the new used book she purchased. 

Turns out, the elusive Christmas tree farm has either closed or never existed in the first place, so we end up picking one up at the non-profit AIDs center. Not much happened that I can remember at the second place (or would it be the first place?), just that there is a lot more to picking out a Christmas tree than I thought, and we spent a good amount of time analyzing pine needles and using a tape measurer to ensure it fit inside her apartment. We go back to her place and she pulls out a couple of boxes from underneath her bed. Stuffed inside are all sorts of ornaments collected over the years. She tells me the stories. Some of them were bargain catches sold at a fraction of the sale price the day after Christmas in the year previous, other ones she’s held on for years with origins tied to the Tri-Cities. One very special one is preserved neatly in a box spewing tissue-thin gift paper and wrapped carefully in soft cloth. The ornament is a bright red ball with a preserved waffle cone protruding from one side and a stream of sparkle glitter playing the role of topping on the other to finish the imitation of the pastime dessert. This one, she tells me, was put together by her daughter, Libby. 

We rummage through the box, holding up ornaments and stars to make sure the colors and shapes have enough distance from one another, ensure the texture matches with the composition of the tree. In total the ritual takes maybe two hours, Christmas tunes humming on her record player the entire time and she glides past me singing along with the tunes. I don’t say anything, but I actually hate Christmas music. I don’t really know why, maybe because I find it too “joyful”, but I’ve despised it since I was a kid. I guess that, in a way, represents some of the difference between us.

See here’s the thing about me and Desirée. We’re probably the most unlikely match to be seen walking down the street together. Here’s me, this rather serious-looking Asian guy with long hair (at the time I had long hair), covered in tattoos. Desirée is like a princess. I don’t mean “princess” in a way like things always need to go her way or that she's prissy in any sense of the word, I mean she actually came from pretty rough beginnings, but if there’s one word I’d use to describe her, it would be "regal". Someone of royalty. It’s like she walked straight out of the lead role in some classy 1940’s movie and into my life. I used to describe her to my friends as a “really, really pretty white girl,” like a slightly older version of Rachel McAdams or a much younger version of Julian Moore. Either way, anytime I’d see a pretty and respectable redhead on screen, I’d immediately be reminded of her. I guess I never really understood how we ended up together, and in some ways always found it a bit comical that we were, but for whatever reason it worked, at least for the time that we were together. 

But when I think about it more, and with all the perspective of time and distance, I wonder what would have happened had we stayed together. I'm not really sure it would have worked. The first time I questioned things was when we once talked about the prospects of traveling internationally together and for whatever reason she blurted out, “But I can’t…I can’t be like grimy…” 

I told her to relax and said that “grimness” wasn’t any sort of requirement for international travel, though it did linger in the back of my mind. I’m more like a gruffy type that will finger through his own shit if he thought he accidentally swallowed something he was looking for (that did actually happen once in college). I mean I could literally wear the same underwear for a week without issue. I know it seems kind of stupid to base the prospects of romance solely on hygiene or holiday jingles, but it could in some ways speak to some core character differences that might have emerged had the relationship continued. 

Aside from Flora, Desirée was the most crushing break-up I’ve ever had in my romantic life. I was pretty useless for the first 3 or 4 months I was in Brazil, trying my best to comprehend all that was happening and not really succeeding. But the thing I appreciated most about Desirée was the amount of respect she showed to my feelings during this time. She knew when to be there for me and when to give distance. She showed care in her actions and considered the many ways words could be interpreted when she spoke. She was, as I’ve always viewed her to be, honorable in witnessing the painful course of a crumbling relationship and compassionate to the one left trying to hold on.

I think there will always be a soft spot in me for Desirée, a part of my heart that will always be broken in her name. But it’s one of those good heartaches, one that you can look back at and relish in the lessons rather than agonize in the losses. I guess in many ways our story is just what I need in my life right now, a way to be reminded that one day you can always go back on your pain, and find a way to be grateful for it. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Notes from my 61st trip (Cura e Barquinha)

I can't do this without her.

Everyday I just am in this constant state of inquiry: "Why do I feel this pain? What did I do to deserve this?" And the rest just kind of falls apart.

I feel myself growing very old.

This love I have for Flora has completely crushed me. The fact I can even write that out and smile, surprises me.

Why was I given this life? Why this story to know?

You think that things will never happen to you, but they do. Whether or not you survive depends entirely on your training.

I've given up for so long, but I'm starting to find the courage to fight back.

I'm the type of fighter that just trains + never competes. Part of that is b/c I don't care about winning. Part of it is that I am scared to know whether or not I could.

It all comes down to how much you believe in your path.

I think I've been walking around w/ the wound long ago. I knew she was going. But part of me just kept holding onto hope. I guess you could say that's what got me through the day.

There is only so much disk space in our brain hard drive. We can only take on so many other people's stories. Choose carefully, because you can never delete them.

I honestly cannot see myself. Like it strikes me as an impossibility that no one else can clearly express what they feel in writing.

When the day ends and you have absolutely nothing to look forward to. Yeah. I know that feeling.

I don't know why part of me finds the pain funny.

What is basically comes down to is that she was too wild for me. I fought her and lost.

Oh Marcella. I totally know the pain of being a writer.

Being on the right path is a lot of work. It is downright fucking painful.

I don't know if I'm getting any better.

I wonder what that point is, when that happens, when a person transforms from hobbyist to artist.

You have to trust your instincts.

Things aren't worth anything if you haven't sacrificed.

The problem w/ writing a book on my memories, is that I am unsure of my abilities to navigate the terrain well.

How much of that remains in our adult life? Just that innocent belief we wanted the world to be 'okay', like it took a serious part of us to think about it.

Life is a constant test of defending your beliefs.

I still feel her with me. Even after all of this, I can feel her embrace on my back.

Psychics. Part of us wants to know what happens. The other part is fear.

There is a reason you are here. You are learning things that you will not realize until later.

God. So much of this is just a fucking sobby personal journal. Haha. God, I'm so sorry to all of you.

I miss You, Flora.

All of the things I feel, it all feels like I don't have a choice.

Desirée pretty much taught what it was to understand people and to forever love them.

What scares me the most about the truth is that it might change my opinion about Flora. At this point, that's the only thing that I'm protecting. It's all I have left.

God Kurt Sutter, what a way to flush 7 seasons down the drain. Whether or not you are serious about thinking it was good is I guess a cinema joke for history.

A man who is truly at peace w/ his life, accepts who he is and who isn't, and can smile at his past, is a blessed person.

Sometimes I think the wave of writing will just consume me into nothingness, but then again, what's wrong w/ that?

You wanted more from her, but when you ask yourself, how will you support that in which you want? That is your mission. Solve that problem before you get that in what you seek. But know this. The inner child in you and the inner child in Flora are friends. They are meant to be together.

What it comes down to now is how can I help my father?

In witnessing the pain of others, you must learn something.

Actually. When I think about it. Flora and my ex-Cuban-girlfriend Liana, have a lot in common.

All the pretty lights. That's how most of us will end.

When a child becomes aware that they are not very smart. They were just not given the gift of wit. That is a painful realization.

I am trying to make sense of this pain.

Can I meet Libby, Desirée?

My mother will given everything for her children. She's been w/ me thru this hurt. Every step of the way. Thanks, Mom.

When you are going thru your own person shit-storm and someone comes along to ask you for help. How will you respond?

The feeling of being free to make mistakes. That is what I gave Flora.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"I'm thinking of..."

I've been doing writing exercises out of Natalie Goldberg's "Old Friend from Far Away" which are basically 10-min free writes prompted by a single phrase, written freehand. This is one of them.

I'm thinking of Flora, where things went wrong. I mean this is the person I thought to be the love of my life, what else could I be thinking about? I find myself up late at night researching all the scientific perspective about the biological and physiological reaction in our brains that happen when we experience love and lose it. From preliminary findings, I see that 'love' is akin to a drug addiction, that our minds react in attach and detachment in a similar fashion to a chemical dependency. While I certainly see the validity to that comparison, part of me believes that deducing love down to a mere biological reaction somehow robs part of its magic and power. I think what I find interesting about the book is that it is an evidence to our constant need and striving to know, how we cannot be at peace with recognizing and accepting that there are merely some forces in the world so grand that they are meant to be left not understood, that our constant awe and curiosity is exactly what gives that force such great power.

I have a firm belief that love is the greatest force on earth, and I mean a true love. I think what those teams of scientists and psychologists are defining are sensations and feelings related to love, but not actually love itself. Call it infatuation, call it lust, call it whatever the hell you want to call it, but I think the bane of the distinction is whether or not it comes from a place of selfishness.

See, I'm starting to see w/ Flora that what I had w/ her was in fact quite selfish. It was something that felt so good that I wanted to hold onto it, have it be mine. I've been told time and time again that love is meant to be free. I guess as great and romantic that saying goes, it is much harder to actually do when time comes to let go. But I guess that's the whole irony of love. Sometimes it's like a plant, and attending to it too much suffocates it to death. The scary part is that it might never come back if you let it go (which is a very real possibility w/ Flora and I), but perhaps the key is to continue caring for it from a distance, w/o attachment to the outcome, and you let faith carry you the rest of the way. Either way, I think practicing and learning how to love in this fashion, regardless of the outcome, will make you a better person in the end.

Notes from my 60th trip (São Miguel)

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Notes from my 59th trip (Finados)

I would give everything to Flora, but she doesn't want it. Fuck. That hurts. At the same time, I think she can see who I really am, and she wants that.

Flora was what entered my stomach, and she tore me up apart from the inside. I just don't understand why.

Zoë should open a bar called "Zoë's Place". I'd be there everyday to see a cute face.

That's how quick it was, I just saw a man in a convertible with part of his head sliced off.

We all go to find out own stories, but the ending is the same. We all get eaten.

I saw how machines made things that were not complex, complex.

I saw a machine that did not allow me to comprehend "volume". She had the head of a Cambodian snake princess.

You won't even let yourself choose the option that resolves all your problems.