Saturday, December 27, 2008

Boy in the Hurricane

Deep South State House

While visiting my Grand Ma Normal Family's house for Christmas, I stumbled upon a journal entry I'd typed on her computer in September of 2004. At the time, I was sixteen years old.

My family and I had surged northward with millions of others as the second hurricane in a month battered our region, and we didn't know what would happen on our return.

The abandonment of Central City, that glittering cosmpolitan metropolis of the Deep South, remains one of the defining memories of my adolescence and of a formative era in my life.

What I recall most about that time is the incredible fear and loss that befell us, and the way that the kindness of a cousin turned what should have been a terrible tragedy into a treasured experience:

September 7, 2004
So much has happened recently that I barely know
where to begin. On September 2nd, a Thursday, we fled
our home in Deep South State, running from the
potentially apocalyptic Hurricane Frances. Grand Pa
Normal Family, after a noble struggle, had died only
three days earlier, on August 30, 2004. He was born on
October 1, 1942, and was only sixty-one years old. We
drove all of Thursday and arrived at my
grandmother Normal Family's house in Native State
on September 2nd.

The drive was a long and tiring one, an endeavor
that we partook only because all flights out of Central
City International Airport had been snatched up in
the evacuation mass hysteria. It was so sad when we
got here. Sweet Aunt was calmly talking with me
when, all of a sudden, she burst into loud sobs of
anguish. I hugged her awkwardly, not really knowing
what I could do or say to make it better. The only idea
that entered my mind was to hold her tight;
sometimes words just can't heal emotional wounds
and physical comfort is the sole remedy. On the
evening of the 3rd, Aunt Crazy and Uncle Responsible
took Powell, Thomas, and I to stay with our cousin
Cool Cousin at her house in the country. What fun we
had there. It was really a welcome break from the
tragedy engulfing the rest of the family.

On the night of our arrival, Cool Cousin took us to
Blockbuster and we rented a whole load of movies to
watch and scare ourselves silly with. The next day,
September 4th, was a busy one. In the morning we
went to Washington, D.C., visited the Capitol, and
toured the Spy Museum, where we got VIP service. After
the museum, we went to lunch in Washington. We
returned to Cool Cousin's house and were joined by
her friend Weirdo, who then accompanied us to Navy
City for sushi, which was delicious, nay, exquisite.

When we got back to Cool Cousin's house, we decided
to tell ghost stories in the apple orchard out back. So
we ventured out into the night air, Cool Cousin and
Weirdo donning coats, and slowly rambled our way to
the forest.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and I Have Rock Band!

Christmas Tree in the Dark

First of all, let me apologize for not writing in over a week.

To assuage the fears of those who’ve been wondering if I keeled over under the anesthesia, let me assure you that the surgery went very well and my recovery was unusually swift.

All four of my wisdom teeth were removed on Wednesday, and by Thursday I was munching down cautiously on solid food.

Cheeks!

My facial swelling was brief but hilarious, giving me at its short-lived peak a set of marvelous chipmunk cheeks that I happily paraded around, and a photo of which became my Facebook profile picture for the better part of a week.

The best part of the ordeal was being pampered by my mother during recovery, an experience that, given her self-described non-nurturing nature, I found surprising and touching. On the day of the surgery I didn’t even have to get any of my own food, and for the first half of the week she kept track of my pill schedule for me.

Several days in she came back from the bookstore with the first volume of the Stephenie Meyer “Twilight” series, an early Christmas present. She then promptly read it before turning it over to me.

After a bit I was comfortable enough to stop taking my pain medication, though I was obliged to resume it before bed each night once my stitches had opened (having to squirt the holes left by my teeth after each meal is not fun).

Dad's 45th

December 22nd was my father’s forty-fifth birthday, an occasion we celebrated with a homemade cake. He and my brother, with their birthdays in December, are constantly robbed of glory by another, somewhat more significant birth that took place two thousand years ago.

On December 23rd, Aunt Ostentatious, Bratty Cousin, and Idiot Cousin arrived here for Christmas. With that in mind, I’ve decided to announce a pseudonym change. It just doesn’t seem right to refer to my two young cousins as “Idiot” and “Bratty,” given that they will likely soon be living here, so seventeen-year-old Idiot shall henceforth be known as Blonde Cousin and ten-year-old Bratty shall be known as Pretty Hair.

Their family is having a very difficult time this holiday season. The house they own in Humid State is nearing foreclosure (their mortgage hasn’t been met in months) and they teeter on the verge of bankruptcy.

Several years ago, when their troubles were just beginning, my parents discussed in secret the idea of a $50,000.00 bailout. Under the conditions of this agreement, which I learned of recently, the Ostentatious family home would have been put on Our Family’s name, leaving my parents essentially in control of my aunt’s finances. Given my fascination with power relationships, what would have been essentially the acquisition of one family’s assets by another did highly interest me on a level, but it was a project my parents never undertook and couldn’t now.

Having them here has been enjoyable.

Ostentatious and Bratty (Pretty Hair) Put Gifts Under the Tree

I think I will enjoy them living with us. The house will be more crowded, certainly, but more lively, warm, and active, too. As my father said, they’re family and hopefully they’d do the same for us. We can’t just leave them with nowhere to go.

Aunt Ostentatious will remain Aunt Ostentatious, though Uncle Fake may become Uncle Car Salesman. It’s harm to demonize someone you share a roof with (even though he won’t actually be staying here himself).

On Christmas Eve, Fake, Ostentatious, Mom, Dad, Blonde Cousin, Pretty Hair, Thomas, Grand Pa Hick Family, and I went to a nice little church for a service, the only time our non-religious family attends any type of ecclesiastical function all year.

It was fun, with lots of singing and tender stories about the Baby Jesus, the man He grew to be, and the sacrifice He made for us.

Arriving at the Church

After we got back, Pie posed for an informal portrait.

Pie After Church

Seeing her in a dress was a Christmas miracle in and of itself.

We got home, had some crab dip that Uncle Fake had brought from a restaurant in Native State, and opened one present each. Then Powell and I stayed up way too late (until three in the morning) reading. I’m currently working on “Twilight,” which I like very much, and “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” which completely horrifies me in a way I don’t even want to identify.

Christmas morning was happy and lucrative. The eleven of us (our family, Aunt Ostentatious’s family, and Grand Pa Hick Family) sat around the Christmas tree opening presents. I got pajamas, deodorant, shaving materials, nail clippers, candy, many smaller things, and this lovely letter from my parents:

“BB,

“As promised you will be awarded $300.00 for books. We also decided that since we are giving Powell money to fix the car that we would award each child equally with the same amount of money. With that being said, you will receive 1500.00 for the Spring Semester. We are very proud of all your hard work at school, your grades are outstanding. Keep up the good work. We know you will be a success!!!

“We love you and are very proud of you.

“Dad and Mom.”

This was so nice of them. They also gave Thomas and Pie each $1,500.00, depositing the money into two CDs in my siblings’ names.

While the money may have been the most significant and far-reaching gift, the most-lauded was certainly Rock Band, which promises to keep us all occupied for the rest of the day. My personal best record so far is 97% on singing with the level set to Hard.

It’s an awesome game, and ensures that the downstairs basement is filled with noise and merriment as we prod and laugh at each other.

I hope everyone is having a very merry Christmas. I’m sorry that I haven’t responded to any comments or anything recently, but I’ll get to them very soon.

Pretty Hair and Blonde Cousin Get Back From Church

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

While I'm Coherent

From Whence the Threat Must Be Extracted

I wanted to write this post while I was sufficiently cognizant to do so.

Tomorrow, I will leave the house with my mother at around eight o’clock in the morning, hang out with her while she works for a few hours, and then be taken to the oral surgeon’s office to have all four of my impacted wisdom teeth removed.

They’re several years late, but now that they’ve at last arrived they must be pulled.

I’ve learned from my parents of a host of undesirable side-effects that I’d not been informed of when I first learned the procedure was needed.

For one thing, I’ll be in awful pain for at least several days afterward.

I was reluctant about taking the Vicotin the doctor had prescribed for me, but my mother cut off by objections with a blunt, “Trust me—you’ll need it.”

One of the worst stipulations of the wisdom-tooth procedure is the fact that I won’t be able to eat any solid food at all for close to a week. My mother went out this weekend and purchased four cans of chicken broth, which, when I am well enough to get some noodles down, will be used in some of her famous chicken noodle soup.

Perhaps the best part of the ordeal was being able to disregard my diet for the entire week leading up to the surgery. Because I know I’ll be eating very little over the next seven days or so, I decided to indulge in whatever I wished in the time before the appointment.

Afterward, until Christmas, I’ll need to take a slew of pills daily, including an antibiotic, a painkiller, and a steroid. The last of these is meant to prevent swelling, which I was told tonight would inflate my face so that I’d have “chipmunk cheeks.”

Photos will be forthcoming.

I’m very nervous about this.

I just hope that I won’t be in agony immediately after waking up from the anesthesia.

Tonight, the eve of my surgery, was a calm and happy one here at home.

Crystals on the Ground

Because of freezing rain that dumped ice on the family cars and coated the streets with a slick layer of sleet, my father forbade either Powell or me to drive anywhere, with the result that the evening was spent at home, in merry if not quiet domestic pursuits.

Ice on the Windshield

Powell, my father, and Thomas pursued college information for my nineteen-year-old brother, following which the two boys investigated the complexities and wonders of Powell’s new i-Phone.

Powell and Dad on the Computer

Powell, Thomas, Pie, and Dad Gathered Around the Computer

The infatuation with this gadget has yet to even begin waning, and I doubt enthusiasm will fade for some time.

Powell and Thomas Looking at the i-Phone

After a concerted effort to distract him from far more important school matters, my youngest siblings and I were able to enlist Powell in a game of volleyball played in Pie’s playroom. Before long, all four of us were diving around, whacking each other in the head, and laughing crazily as Powell and I had in our younger years.

The Siblings

After the invigorating game, which ended with all of our jackets on the floor, Powell, Thomas, Pie, and I posed for a rare group portrait.

When it was all over, Pie enjoyed a helping of milk and cookies (which, true to form, she did not finish) as the sleet and ice pounded outside.

Unfinished Milk and Cookies

It was the nicest, happiest night I’ve had in a long time.

Hopefully tomorrow will be just as tranquil. I plan to do a lot of reading when I get home.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Powell's Birthday

Happy Birthday: I Love You

Powell turned nineteen years old on December 12th. He wasn't home for the actual day, having spent the weekend in Anne's Town with our birthmother, but when he did return to Mountain Town on December 13th we were sure to greet him with a cake. The dinner in his honor was held yesterday, on the afternoon of the 14th.

Powell's Birthday Dinner

As my brother enters his last year as a teenager, he faces important and difficult choices about the future. His first semester at Western County Community College did not go as well as he would have liked.

Carrying Out The Birthday Cake

His academic burdens have been few. For the Fall term he took only U.S. History and Math, but even in these two very basic courses he managed to fare less than satisfactorily. He failed a history test despite studying, lagged in math, and complained frequently of boredom and "hating" his courses.

"It's like a glorified high school," he said of the community college. "No one takes it seriously."

On our return from Anne's Town after Thanksgiving, his efforts, whatever they were (for he did not keep me well informed on the subject) were dealt a final blow; a telephone call from one of the school's instuctors ended with his being told that he'd missed too many classes to successfully earn Fall credits.

"Basically," he told me. "This entire semester was for nothing."

He doesn't seem to have taken this very badly, though, as he disliked college from the start and wasn't motivated to attend. I told him that he ought not to draw his conclusions on university from a single semester (pointing out that if I had let my first Fall on campus dictate my decisions I never would have gone back), but the invalidation of all his work thus far has given him the impetus he needs to dismiss community college for the time being.

He says he will never go back to Western County, and I believe him. What he will do, though, is up in the air.

He's divided between applying to an arts school and seeking admission at a technical institute, though he is strongly leaning toward the latter option. He has heard that auto mechanics do very well, sometimes taking in six figures within years of finishing their vocational training, and at present that seems attractive enough to him to justify the $20,000.00 tuition.

I worry, though.

If he does attend this trade school, there is no doubt that he will be making a wise career choice and ensuring that he possesses viable skills of great value in the workplace. He will have job security, or at least be far more likely to successfully attain employment than many college Seniors who graduate university with degrees in English, Anthropology, Philosophy, or Government (I exempt myself from that category as my Government major is redeemed by a Journalism minor).

My question is whether or not he will like what he does. Is he considering this avenue because he'd sincerely enjoy being an auto mechanic, or because he's left school and doesn't know what else to do?

He could always go back, go somewhere else, but will he? It is a time of great uncertainty for him.

Trees in Winter

Meanwhile, the holiday season provides a lull. For the next month, my brother, unemployed and out of school, can reflect on his options and try to make an intelligent choice. I hope he'll do whatever makes him happy, even if I'd prefer that happiness to come from a university setting. It's inconceivable to me that someone would not go to college, but maybe this would be good for him.

As my father non-pejoratively notes, "College isn't for everyone."

It's not that Powell isn't smart, it's just that his abilities, and, more importantly, interests, may lie elsewhere.

Right now, he's back hanging out with friends from high school who are home for the long break. Powell was very well-known at Mountain Town High, hung with a large crowd, and frequently partied. Then, in August, almost everyone else left for college towns across the state and country and he found himself largely alone.

The transition from high school to college is jarring for anyone, but I think it was a bit more difficult for him, even if he didn't show it. He's fallen back in with the old group very quickly, but at the end of January they'll be gone again. How long before they all stop hanging out during vacations? There's probably a few years left before it reaches that point (if we lived in the town where I graduated I'd be spending time with former classmates, too), but what happens when it does?

I want Powell to find something.

Beyond that, I worry in practical terms about what the next several months will entail if he can't secure a job. He's not in school, won't be going back in the New Year, and won't be able to begin technical school (if he chooses that route) until the Fall of 2009, eight months away.

Last night was festive (you can see him and Thomas below enjoying steak), but what is coming soon?

Powell and Thomas Enjoying the Birthday Dinner

As I said, there are eight months from now to next August.

My parents will go absolutely crazy if he alternates that time between going out with friends and sitting around the house. He and I inherited a medium-sized sum of money from Grand Ma Normal Family that she'd saved for our college, but his fund, once well over $10,000.00, is nearly gone.

The near future holds many things, for him and for me and for everyone.

I love him very much.

He's my brother, and as we celebrate his birthday I think of all we've experienced side by side.

I was born in 1988; he came along in 1989, and we've lived, cried, laughed, slept, bathed, potty-trained, and grown to maturity together since then.

In the early 1990's we shared a bedroom with bunk beds, mine on the top and his on the bottom. Almost every night, one of us would sneak into the other's berth, and we'd stay up for what felt like hours pretending to be Ninja Turtles or anonymous heroes who fought bank robbers and kidnappers.

When I got into middle school our mischief reached a new level of sophistication; with outlandish games (one of which, the Blanket Game, I solemnly promise to outline on this blog); wild, elaborately-constructed hypothetical stories centered on people we knew; prank phone calls; and a general spirit of troublemaking and high jinks being incorporated into our daily advenures.

I will try to write about these as they come to me.

We know more about each other than either of us knows about anyone else or vice versa. We've been known to occasionally finish each other's sentences.

Recently, I informed him that with the distance that has developed over the last few years, a distance now beginning to close, I didn't really have that much knowledge where he was concerned.

"Yes you do," he said, as if I were an idiot for suggesting anything else.

"No I don't," I said. "I know your nature, but I don't know what you do, who you hang out with, any of that."

"Oh, yeah," he said. "But you still know ME."

Our humor is built on the kind of inside jokes and shared idiosyncrasies that only two people who have spent the last eighteen years together can know.

Among these gems is an absurd accent, known merely as "the Voice," that he refuses to do in front of anyone but me. We've also been known, for the enjoyment of family members, to dance ballet or the tango (something that, when his 6'3", 210lb frame is added into the equation, can send our relations into tears).

I love my brother.

I want what's best for him, for him to have fulfillment and success.

I can't imagine what his next move will be.

Christmas Tree in Late Afternoon

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's On My Mind

It is time that I post a very important (and very long) entry, quite possibly the most significant I’ve ever written on this site. I knew several weeks ago that this was a topic I would have to devote time to, but the notion of airing it so publicly was one that made me very nervous.

When I first thought, at the beginning of the school year, of sharing something so intimate with the blogging community, it made my heart race with anxiety and, quite frankly, resistance. Two things, however, caused me to realize that eventually I would be able to open up: first, the fact that this site’s readers log on to hear an account of my life, of which this topic is an undeniably huge aspect; and second, the fact that the wonderful anonymity I enjoy here takes a great deal of the difficulty out of unloading this secret.

I realize it was several days ago that I first informed you all of “Something On My Mind,” and I apologize for keeping you in suspense for such a long period of time.

Unfortunately, I felt uncomfortable posting on the subject I’ve alluded to due to an unexpected and unwelcome visitor: Anne.

While visiting my birth-mother’s house for Thanksgiving, I made the mistake of visiting my own blog on her computer. She saw the website in her viewing history, realized it must be mine, and decided to do a bit of reading.

The result of this was an angry telephone call to my house at midnight in which my birth-mother angrily accused me of disparaging her character, cooking, hometown, and entire state. I doubt that a normal person would have read that much into it, but for her sanctimonious nature the unassuming remarks I’d typed up were enough to spark a run of indignity and theatrics (she dramatically declared “I’m going to bed,” before hanging up on me and turning her phone off).

When I finally got in touch with her the next morning, I asked her to please respect my privacy and stay off of the site, all the while having no faith that she would actually do this. With the shadow of her possible presence in the back of my mind, I didn’t feel I could write honestly and so posted nothing at all.

My suspicions of her eavesdropping were reinforced when I received a strange comment several days ago from an anonymous user. The user, with grammatical errors characteristic of my birth-mother, wrote that they “kind of understood why anne [sic] left the tv [sic] on” and that if they’d worked all day to provide a Thanksgiving dinner for late guests they might leave the television on, too.

The real dead giveaway was the use of the word “supper,” which no one else would say. I immediately deleted the comment, which was quickly replaced with one saying that the poster “guessed these blogs aren’t as open as you people say.”

All of this is completely childish, of course, adolescent and petty, and shows the less desirable side of Anne’s personality. It is what it is, though. I just wish I had a birth-mother who respected me enough and had a sufficient level of maturity to back off, but that is not who Anne is. I love her, but I’ve become unfortunately resigned to that fact.

When I confronted her about it, she denied leaving the comments and then became irritated and evasive when I pressed her. In particular, the threat of an IP search (which I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to initiate) greatly agitated her, but she still stuck to the story, which I would bet money was a lie.

So, I was faced with a dilemma. I could continue to post uninhibitedly, enabling comment moderation to prevent her from poking her nose in, all the while hoping she didn’t show the site to my parents; or I could cease posting at all, in effect letting her take away from me a greatly pleasurable part of my life.

Neither option was appealing, so I did the only thing, short of making the blog private, that I really could: I changed the URL.

By a happy coincidence, Anne’s computer, which seems to be infected with some kind of virus, had its entire viewing history wiped out, so I’ve now been able to change it back. I’m glad for this; this morning I received a worried e-mail from a reader who asked me if I was alright, and the prospect of informing every single follower of this blog of the new web address was daunting and unwelcome.

I’ve been writing here since April, and this address just feels like home now.

I’m glad I’ve been able to keep it.

As to the main topic of this post: I would ask all of you to bear in mind that this blog is a window onto my life, and that at twenty my sexuality is a central part of that. The following entry is not graphic, but it very honest, just so you are forewarned.

Now my breath is coming a bit heavier, my head is spinning a little, and I’m imagining the judgements and reactions of people as they read these words.

My first sexual thoughts came very early, years, in fact, before the onset of puberty.

I can remember as a young boy, aged about seven, lying in bed thinking about women’s breasts and feeling a physical response to the ideas. I lacked, at that age, the biological ability to act on these impulses, but they were there nonetheless.

When I was perhaps ten years old, maybe even younger than that, “Harriet the Spy,” a movie about a child sleuth determined to be a journalist, was released. There was a scene in that film in which a prematurely-developed girl, several years older than I, bent over to reveal a sizeable bosom, and as when I had been small this inspired fantasies of which I told no one.

The first time I ever achieved an orgasm was when I was eleven or twelve years old. I’d been at my grandparents’ house, watching a movie in which the character played by Christina Ricci was shown having to wrap up her chest in bandages to conceal ample breasts, and I engaged then by instinct in an activity I in no way understood but that gave me immense physical satisfaction.

So dim was my knowledge on the topic that before my father sat me down to have a special talk when I was twelve, I thought I had some sort of disease.

Girls had been the catalyst to first arouse my passions, but somewhere near my twelfth birthday boys began to enter my head as well. As with the first time I’d been physically awakened, this happened unconsciously, was slipped into without any reflection on my part. When I gave myself over to sensuality, during private moments in my bedroom, thoughts of young men were simply a part of that.

It never dawned on my thirteen-year-old self that this could possibly have any implication whatsoever. It was so intuitive that I didn’t even think of it as being “natural,” just did it.

The illuminating moment came while I was changing for gym class in seventh grade. I was horribly made fun of during my youth, mocked so viciously up until the time we left for Beautiful Town that at several points I fell into temporary depression. I think it safe to say that at Ghetto Middle and Dirty Town Middle (two of the three middle schools I attended), I was the single least-popular person in school, the one individual who everyone could focus their aggressions and hostilities against with impunity.

“Fag” and “queer” had been epithets hurled at me, but they were just a couple out of many, which included “dork,” “nerd,” and a score of others. They didn’t mean anything beyond conveying negative sentiments toward me, which I was fully used to.

This day in the locker room, however, clarified something for me.

My public berating went on everywhere, so there was no reason the pillorying wouldn’t follow me into gym.

That day, in the course of their taunts, someone called out jokingly, “You better be careful in front of BB! He thinks about boys when he masturbates.”

Amidst the general laughter that followed, a light bulb went off in my head.

“Wait a minute,” I thought silently. “I do.”

That’s when the wires started connecting, when I began to associate the insults and derogatory comments with my own actions.

“Oh,” my early adolescent mind wondered. “Is that what that means?”

It was a stunning and devastating realization, for to a thirteen-year-old boy there could be no doubt that attraction to members of the same sex was definitely wrong. This innate moral dilemma, combined with the fact that my father was homophobic, that my parents were at the time routinely engaged in outright child abuse, and that we lived in a conservative blue-collar neighborhood, made me determined to keep my secret closely-guarded.

Revealing the truth, which many teens today feel free to do, never once seemed to me a logical option. It wasn’t even a debate; the idea was just ludicrous.

The attractions only grew stronger and deeper as I got older. We moved to Beautiful Town on December 27, 2001, when I was thirteen years old and halfway through eighth grade. By fourteen I was a walking cauldron of hormones, capable of being intensely aroused by the simplest things. A pair of jeans, a toss of long hair, a laugh by a voice halfway through deepening, any of these could leave me in painful sexual suspense, hoisted onto the edge of erotic agitation.

Yet even in the more open environment that Beautiful Town provided (even though in that rural location in wasn’t much better), I wasn’t willing to reveal my innermost longings.

It was still something I was deeply ashamed of, something I hid from myself as much as possible. I refused to consciously admit the fact of my urges, because doing so meant that I was abnormal, freakish, and consigned to a life where true fulfillment could never be met.

My entire adolescence was spent strenuously masking the truth from the one person who could never be permitted to discover it: me.

I reached fifteen years old, and then sixteen, and then our time in Beautiful Town ended and we departed for an even briefer spell in Deep South State.

It is this period of my life that makes me deeply regret the all-too-successful efforts at concealment I engineered during my teen years. Deep South State, in particular the area of Central City, was a heavily-peopled, sun-soaked, rapidly-growing population center, its hundreds of diverse nationalities perfectly representative of America’s exploding polyglot empire.

My family and I were just one example of countless Northern clans who’d migrated from faraway industrial states, establishing their new homes a thousand miles south of Native State, Ugly State, Northern State, Revolutionary State, Rocky State, Midwestern State, and others.

Of all the places I’ve lived, I made friends most easily in this land of immigrants; because very few people had been born there, hailing either from the North or from foreign nations, none of the lifelong native connections that usually exclude newcomers existed. We came from everywhere, and we made something new.

Hispanics constituted a majority of my high school’s population, with Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly predominating among them. People had arrived in Deep South State from all over the world, though; among my neighborhood clique were two native Deep South Staters, a Sprawling Stater, a Midwest Stater, a Romanian, and a Vietnamese boy. At Central City High, Spanish was heard as often as English, while the black students, many of them of Haitian heritage, could often be heard running through the hallways, screaming at one another in French.

I’ll never forget one day in English class, when some friends of mine were discussing a private matter in Spanish (the class was mostly white).

“Wait a minute,” one of them, a Hispanic boy who’d lived in Canada said upon seeing me. “He can understand us.”

Then, without missing a beat, the two of them switched to French.

In short, this would have been the perfect environment in which to freely admit my feelings, but I was not yet at the stage where I could.

One night when I was sixteen years old, I was playing Hide-and-Go-Seek Tag in our neighborhood.

A boy named Keith and I wound up alone behind some houses, and, with a laugh, he took me around the waist and said, “Hey, BB.”

“No, Keith, get off,” I said, pushing him away.

He laughed again, pulled me into another hug, and said, “Come on.”

I think now, as I did then, that he was feeling me out, seeing how I would react. He was a fairly-ordinary looking young man, with an average figure, short brown hair, and a modest demeanor that did not draw undue attention to himself.

In short, he was the last person anyone would have suspected of harboring attractions for the same sex, but then there we were.

At the time, this absolutely terrified me, and I broke loose from him and ran off, rebuffing beyond a doubt anything he may have been trying to initiate.

Today, I probably would have turned around and kissed him.

Then, though, it was the last thing I wanted.

This self-imposed denial continued after our move to Wealthy Town. In the summer of 2005, at which point I was seventeen years old, I was sufficiently upset by the attentions of an older man at the grocery store where I worked that I went home that afternoon, cried, and prayed.

At seventeen I was still a child, and praying was the only appropriate response to such things.

On April 10, 2006, I turned eighteen years old, but this brought no significant change to my attitudes. The onset of my disastrous Freshman Year of college four months later, though, would forever alter the way I looked at the world.

Throughout that year, my descent into isolation and severe depression forced me to confront a number of issues, including childhood abuse, that I had avoided facing for years. Surrounded by young people in a sexually-charged environment, were attractions and hook-ups loomed very large, it was only a matter of time before the matter of my own sexuality came to the forefront.

During a visit home one April night in 2007, just weeks after my nineteenth birthday, I broke down hysterically crying in my bedroom, the weight of the last school year and the burden of a decade-long lie at last bowing me over.

Clinging to the side of my bed, tears coursing down my face, I admitted to myself for the first time that I did, in fact, have feelings for other young men.

This confession led to a frenzied string of thoughts, a slew of horrible scenarios and worries. What was I to do? How was this to be covered? How could I ever bring myself to make love to a woman? How would I fake that energy, if it turned out I needed to? How could I do that to someone, deceive them so horribly in order to meet my own need to be “normal?” And if my efforts were met with failure, what then? Would I just be alone my entire life? Would I have no one, remain a lifelong virgin, a bitter, sad man?

Would it be better, in light of these shortcomings and other circumstances, to just take my life and thereby avoid prolonging my suffering?

Then, a voice in my head asked, “What if you just told the truth?”

For an instant, for several wonderful minutes, all of the weights lifted, and the worry just went away. It was gone.

That evening, April 29, 2007, I wrote in my journal, “Today, a Sunday, a blessed breakthrough. Now, I just have to figure out what to do with it…Through a terrible trial and an awful day, something potentially wonderful has emerged.”

It wasn’t until over a year later, though, in August of 2008, that in a fit of grief I at last sat down and confided everything to my mother, a conversation that I detailed in a post around the same time.

Over Thanksgiving, I told Anne as well.

So, that’s it. Other than Anne, my mother, and a priest to whom I turned in desperation, no one knows. I will tell my father, one day, but not yet.

You can’t imagine the significance of voicing it online, making it public in the blogging community. For someone who spent a large part of his life tirelessly shielding one aspect of his personality, saying this is incredibly significant.

This leaves several questions unanswered, though, chief among them: What do I do now?

It only seems natural that some other step must be taken, some move toward connecting with others in my situation, but I worry about how this might be accomplished. I could go to a LGBT meeting at school, but the public nature of this intimidates me.

And, then, of course, I can’t really call myself gay; as noted earlier, I have had sexual thoughts of women as well.

I don’t know quite why this transition took place when I hit about thirteen, but it was beyond my control.

What greatly frustrates me now is the number of opportunities for exploration and experimentation that I turned down out of fear.

I’m not an unattractive person and wasn’t one then, either. At fourteen I was 5’8” and weighed 118lbs, a stick-thin white boy with pale skin, full lips, and long blonde hair, a young man sometimes derogatively referred to by other guys my age as “pretty.”

Not much has changed since then. My height has gone from 5’8” to 5’10”, my weight from 118lbs to 131lbs. Those two things and the presence of some facial hair are the only substantive differences in my appearance, and the first two of those had been fully achieved by 2004.

My point is that I’m not hideous, could in fact be considered attractive, but failed to exploit this quality.

Of course, impartial analysis of one’s own physical attributes is nearly impossible. I tell myself that I’m desirable and good-looking because I’m insecure, because in my mind’s sanctuary I don’t believe that someone else will ever say it.

This is a bit difficult.

I’m scared when I think of where to go from here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Something on My Mind

There is something on my mind that is driving me wild right now, with desire, confusion, and frustration. It is too much to detail tonight, but I will post on it sometime within the coming week, when all Major University students will be off of school to study for final exams.

There are many things going on right now, but this one issue in particular has been weighing on my conscience for some time, and I feel as if the time is approaching when I can share it with you.

I have seldom actually solicited advice through this blog, but realize that with my next two posts I will be doing just that, at least in a sense.

I hope everyone's holiday season has started off well.

My Friend

Dearest friend, be more to me
What I would be to you
Look at me the way I look
With adoration true

Let your gaze fall on my lips
The way mine falls on yours
Tracing their soft, sweet outline
Their lovely pink contours

I hope my eyes of darkest green
Attract your eyes of brown
Your great oak eyes are warm and soft
Like hidden forests found

Your smile makes my air come fast
So like a little child
I wish to touch your face at last
A stroke loving and mild

See me as I see you once
And see in me your bliss
Would it be alright, could I
Dear friend, give you a kiss?

See Me

I want you, I want you
Why won't you be mine?
I want you and I
Dream of you all the time

Your eyes make me breathe
My heart beats like thunder
To picture our hair
And our clothing asunder

You've no clue my yearnings
No clue and no care
You can't see me truly
What I long to share

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving at Anne's House

Powell Obama

Powell and I were supposed to leave on Thanksgiving morning for Anne's Town, with the intention of arriving by eleven or twelve.

Instead, we stayed up until three o'clock in the morning watching old episodes of The Simpsons, and, in my case, cleaning up a disgracefully messy bedroom, so we weren't even out of bed until about noon.

Anne, operating under the assumption that my brother and I would arrive in the late morning, or, allowing for traffic, the early afternoon, had started making dinner early and had everything ready by one, which is incidentally right around when we left the house.

Our somewhat-irritated birth-mother put the turkey back into the oven to keep warm as Powell and I made our way north.

Driving Past a Field

House at the Intersection

On the Way to Decaying State

We passed by the empty fields and frozen farmland of Southern State, stopping twenty minutes or so away from our home at an old-fashioned gas station with a mechanical pump reader. I can't ever remember having seen one of these before, and thought it interesting enough to take a picture.

Paying at the Pump

This region of the country is defined by the Old Mountain Range, which unifies parts of a dozen states ranging from the Deep South to the Upper North in a single cultural unit. Be you in Southern State, Growing State, Sprawling State, Decaying State, or any number of otherwise different places, the scenery along the edges of these mountains is essentially the same.

Old shacks, some abandoned, some miraculously holding people, dot a landscape defined more by absence than anything else, by empty spaces and vast, cold skies.

Shack in a Field

It was sights like these that followed us along the whole of our trip, even when we crossed a Certain Line and officially entered the North.

Approaching a Certain Line

Something about this has a certain notoreity for me. There is just a different feeling knowing you are above this Line than there is knowing you are below it. North and South are so different, so incompatible, so opposite one another, that for a person who's spent almost their entire life in the South heading up north is something like visiting a foreign country.

Granted, Native State is not culturally Southern at all and my childhood was one of harsh winters and huge snowstorms. Native State is still, however, like fifteen other states in whose territory slavery was legal at the outbreak of the Civil War, officially part of the South.

I love visiting the North, but my travel there has been very sparse. Powell and I have family in Decaying State who we see several times a year, but beyond that I've been to Largest City twice, passed through Ugly State four times (twice on the way to Largest City, twice on the way back), and stayed a few nights at a hotel in New England State.

That's it. I've never been anywhere in the Midwest, never seen anything outside the highly urban part of Northern State, and, with the exception of a 2007 trip to Independence City with Anne, have never ventured anywhere into Decaying State beyond her immediate area.

I'd love to travel more in that region, be as well-versed with it as I am with the South. I have family in Humid State and Country Music State, once lived in Deep South State, and live now in a state considered by many to be the quintessential embodiment of the South, even if what that means is morphing somewhat.

There were some funny moments along the way to Decaying State.

While roaring up the major interstate highway that takes us to Anne's house, we started to discussing the absurdities of speed limits.

Speedometer During Our Drive

"I hate those gay signs you see on Route Important Area," I said. "The ones that are like, 'Speed Limit Enforced by AIRCRAFT.'"

"Oh, I know," Powell replied as he floored the gas. "I have yet to see a single airplane in the sky."

Powell Driving

"The police would think that would be a good idea, though," I continued. "Waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money to catch someone doing 60 in a 55."

Powell nodded in agreement.

"And even if they did catch you speeding," I pondered. "What would they do, land?"

He and I looked at each other and burst into laughter that went on for a solid minute. Something about the notion of a police aircraft touching down in the middle of the highway had been just ludicrous enough to bring on a fit of severe giggles.

A little ways down the road, we passed by a helicopter that was posed as if coming down.

Helicopter Not Landing

"Hey, look," I said. "There the police are. They must have caught someone."

We were further delayed because Powell decided, purely for the fun of it, to stop at a random porn shop, which thankfully turned out to be closed.

A Fine Establishment on the Side of the Highway

We arrived at Anne's house at around three o'clock, and she immediately took the turkey out of the oven, cautioning that it might be a bit dry after the wait.

We devoured the bird itself, along with mashed potatoes and several homemade pies, including a delicious pumpkin confection that Anne had to make more of because it went so quickly.

Anne Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

The meal was not quite on a par with what we've enjoyed in previous years at Grand Ma Normal Family's house (Grand Ma Normal Family is our father's mother), but very few people can cook like she can and Anne did a good job of it.

The Remains of Thanksgiving Dinner

She did insist on leaving the television on during Thanksgiving dinner, something that grated me intolerably, but she wished it to be and so it was. I don't understand how anyone could possibly desire hearing a TV in the background during such a meal. Maybe I'm traditional in that way.

Powell on the Phone

The rest of our visit was spent mostly lounging around the house and watching movies. Anne sells antiques on e-Bay for a living, which means that she often rises at four in the morning to go to auctions and then spends a good part of the afternoon listing things on her computer. Even when this is done, she must constantly check her account to see which bids are where.

Blogging was fairly impossible during the visit; it was everything I could do to upload the pictures I'd taken without her interrupting every few minutes and muttering about her computer being "messed with."

Like many adults, Anne has limited knowledge of the way that computers actually work and is in the habit of blaming the young people who happen to use them when any little thing goes wrong. For example, her laptop has been running slowly for months, something she attributes to my brother using it one time half a year ago. When I explained that Powell would have done nothing beyond routine Google searches and Facebook and MySpace checks, she shrugged it off.

The truth is that her virus protection is likely at fault, but that is not acknowledged.

Similarly, my mother (Marie) informed me last night that watching YouTube videos entails "downloading." When I attempted to tell her that this wasn't even remotely true, she became irritated and ended the conversation.

A call from my father while we were still at Anne's house went something like this: "BB, your mother just logged into her computer to check her e-mail, and she has 350 [spam] messages. It says in the viewing history that you were on Wikipedia."

Once again, honest efforts to illuminate why such statements are ridiculous fall on deaf ears.

Speaking of ridiculous, I've been banned from using Blogger on my mother's laptop, because evidently it causes viruses.

I suppose that's better anyway, though; were I to access my blog too freely where they can see, they might figure out that I have one.

Powell and I were to return to Southern State on Sunday, but fears of freezing rain kept us with Anne one more night, a stay that we celebrated by ordering out from Pizza Hut.

When we did begin our drive home yesterday, Sunday's mild evening weather was replaced with heavy hail.

Now I'm back at school, feverishly wrapping up all of the commitments I have. Finals are next week, and I still haven't registered for all of my spring classes. Another thing; while I do believe I'll do fairly well this semester academically, I am announcing right now my New Year's resolution to regularly attend class next semester.

I may be getting good grades (I learned, to my total shock, that I received a 92% on my second Anthropology midterm), but I feel too much as if I'm letting myself slide into laxity.

I'll have all next week to stay at home and study. How wonderful that will be.

Now, I have to run off to Major University's main campus and catch a six o'clock vocal recital, which I've selected as one of the four mandatory concert reports for my World Music Class (all of them due Thursday).

Pumpkin Pie

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Day Before the Journey

It's about three o'clock in the morning right now, and I'm preparing for bed. Later today, Powell and I will get into his car and drive to Decaying State. We were supposed to leave Wednesday, but he decided he wanted to see some friends of his coming home from college so we postponed departure until Thanksgiving morning (given the late hour at which we're going to bed, it will now likely be Thanksgiving afternoon).

My parents left Wednesday afternoon for Humid State, where they finally arrived about eight hours later. My mother wasn't made aware until after they were nearly in another state that Powell and I were staying longer than expected, with the result that she could only stew at us having the house to ourselves for a night.

Powell hosted a friend, Pale Blue-Eyed Boy, for most of the afternoon and into the early evening. Pale Blue-Eyed Boy is a Junior at Mountain Town High School and is sixteen years old.

He's fun.

Anyway, I decided tonight to post some more singing videos!

The first is of me singing the Star-Spangled Banner. The video cut off before I could finish, but most of the song, including one of the money notes toward the end, is still there.




The next video is me singing the bridge from Kelly Clarkson's song, "Behind These Hazel Eyes," mainly just to show that I can. It's a difficult song that allows me to go into my upper register, which is where I am strongest.




Those of you paying attention will notice that my last singing video, "Never Again," was also a Clarkson cover. I'm sure I'll lose some credibility in saying this, but she's actually my favorite recording artist, so that should explain why so many of her tracks are popping up on here.

This next one, also a Clarkson number, shows off a bit more of my lower register.



I promise that I will have some material by other artists soon. I have plenty of things in mind. And, now is as good a time as any for a Hair Update.

These pictures were taken of me several days ago:

Me

Me

Here I am in August:

BB Gets a Haircut

Shortened Ponytail

Quite the improvement between then and now, I'd say.

I'll be sure to write more from Anne's Town, and you can expect a full post on our Thanksgiving feast, which will be the first we've ever spent with her.

I hope everyone has a happy holiday, and I can't wait to read all about it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Latest Developments

Wreath on the Door

It’s been a while since I’ve put up a full, non-poetry entry, and a lot has happened in the time since then.

The last thing even resembling a normal post was the one I wrote about the election nearly a month ago, and the last piece I published that followed what my readers have come to expect as the customary format of my articles was “As We Head Into Fall,” penned, if my memory serves me well, in late October.

Wow.

Many of you, of course, will be aware of the circumstances that have prevented me from writing more regularly and more extensively; midterms, papers, and concert reports have abounded, very effectively monopolizing my time.

Now that the semester is winding down and the only thing I need to worry about is final exams and selecting my classes for the spring (which is a mercifully-long two months away), I’m enjoying some well-earned rest time, during which my attendance at school is cursory, my studying scarce, and my time at home extensive on these cold Fall days.

I am genuinely proud of the work I’ve put in this semester. During my Freshman and Sophomore Years, I allowed depression on the one hand and shameful laziness on the other to intervene and rob me of both the high marks and self-efficacy that should have been mine. I knew I was intelligent, had always been hailed in high school and before by my teachers as very bright, but never put forth the effort in college required to really excel.

It was almost as if I was afraid to expend the necessary energy, as if in engaging in honest academic labor I’d somehow be losing something. I think that, in truth, I was somewhat fearful that my best might not be good enough. I worried that I’d put forth the greatest effort I could, still fall short, and discover in fact that the intellectual persona I’d built for myself was but a thin layer atop a mediocre inner being, barely hidden by elitism and arrogance.

This, of course, is not the case, and my actions during the first two years of college were irrational, at least discounting the effects of clinical depression.

All traces of that terrible time are nearly gone now, something that amazes and very happily surprises me. Two years ago I was an absolute basket case, thinking of nothing but our family’s Thanksgiving trip to Deep South State and after that of my month-long Christmas vacation to get me through the dark storm of the Fall semester. My every waking moment was spent counting down to the next release, the next escape, the next temporary alleviation of my fears and anxieties.

Last year was much better; paired with different people in a different dorm, I initially struggled but was eventually able to find companionship, make a set of unusual friends who, though varying greatly in manner and interests from me, I still like to keep in contact with. That year, I looked forward to the holidays, but as a pleasant period of relaxation, not as my salvation from a miserable existence.

The demons came back this summer, true, but there is no question that last school year was far superior to my Freshman Year.

All of this reflection, by the way, makes me aware of how profoundly old I am becoming. To almost all of you, this will seem ridiculous, but to the few readers my age and younger, it should make perfect sense. I am twenty years old now, and my twenty-first birthday will come in April. The stage at which I’ve always considered other people to be adults, the twenties, arrived for me seven months ago, and now in five months' time I’ll be legally able to drink.

I just can’t believe how fast time has gone. It feels like yesterday that I was a Freshman in college, uncertain, afraid, and convinced I would never find my way, longing for the visit home and the extended holidays that would save me. Yet that was two entire years ago, and at that time I was eighteen years old. Eighteen! Today I can’t even imagine being that young.

At least in my life, the two years between eighteen and twenty were vast, and the separate individuals on either end of that time-span are enormously different people. I have learned, because of the traumas I went through, a great deal that only two years ago I had no inkling of. I wonder if other people at twenty feel this way as well.

Between sixteen and eighteen I changed very little, physically or emotionally, but between eighteen and twenty my personality underwent a total realignment.

The craziest part of this is that in two years, when I’m twenty-two (I can’t even fathom being so old), I’ll probably look back on 2008 in the same way that I now look back on 2006 and marvel at how little I knew and how na├»ve I was. I'm sure of it because I’ve always done this; in 2003, on the eve of my fifteenth birthday, I had a minor panic attack contemplating my advanced age and how sophisticated it seemed that people with so many years should be.

Now, of course, fifteen is incredible to me, yet my eighteen and fifteen-year-old selves had much more in common with each other than either has with me today.

The key difference, amplified as I’ve gotten older, is this: youth does not last forever. At fifteen, I knew that five years in the future I’d be twenty, still a kid. Now, I have the deeply-terrifying knowledge that in five years I will be twenty-five, in no way a kid. Twenty-five-year-olds marry and have children. That really is quite frightening.

I consider someone to be very young up to the age of twenty-three. Once you reach twenty-four, though, you’re in your mid-twenties, and then it’s only a matter of time before the thirties roll around and official oldness begins.

If any of my readers are insulted by my blatant attack on the ancientness of thirty-year-olds and the implied swipe at the inconceivable timelessness of those past thirty, please bear in mind my perspective: I’m a twenty-year-old man who has been slowly realizing that actual adulthood, not the pseudo-adulthood of a college kid but the real thing, will begin within the next decade.

It’s a bit scary.

I really should not worry about this. Twenty is still very young, and there is still a good deal of time left. I mean, I still have to shave only every three or four days and there is a very good chance that my voice isn’t entirely done changing yet (Anne explains that Scandinavians are “late bloomers”).

My preoccupation, though, is with time itself. There is only so much, and the fear that I will misspend what of it I have is a great burden on me. At twenty years old, I’ve never had sex, never played dirty, never even had a relationship that lasted longer than a couple of months. The most I’ve ever done is kissed, and all of that with a single girl (the relationship mentioned just now).

There’s nothing wrong with this at all, but I’m getting on a bit and feel I should probably have done more by this point. Thank God for the years ahead.

A friend of mine from class, Persian Boy, with whom I stayed after school to have dinner one night last week, has kissed a girl but never actually had a girlfriend. He is a Christian and so at least has an excuse, but even he said, albeit while laughing, “I feel like such a loser! Time’s running out!”

“Oh,” I objected, ignoring the glut of mashed potatoes stuffed between my cheeks as I opened my mouth. “Don’t say that!”

“No, not ‘time,’” he clarified. “Time in college.”

I suppose that’s somewhat better, though it brings up a whole set of related issues.

Where will I be two years from now? Assuming that my current academic patterns hold up and my lackluster first two years aren't enough to offset the recent gains I've made, I will have graduated by then and could very possibly be in Swamp State with Teach for America.

Persian Boy knows he’ll be at least a semester behind, along with many other people, and that I don’t think I’d mind terribly. I believe I could tolerate one year extra (and, given the current economic situation, it might actually be smart to stay put), graduating with the class of 2011, but anything more than that would be too much. I’d go to summer school and do whatever I had to, but I will not become one of those people who stays in college for ten years. They go to class after class after class, hang out in dorms with people half a decade younger than they, and never actually live. That will not happen to me, because I will not let it.

Speaking of academics, I should probably return to why I’m rather pleased with my performance this semester. Admittedly, I did not attend class as often as I should have, but this has not been my way since the beginning of my university career. Making a 10:30a.m. Anthropology lecture when you live an hour and a half away from campus is not something that will always happen. What I did do, though, was go to class when it was crucial, diligently study the course materials, and take pains to ensure that all assignments and papers were turned in on time, or, if slightly late, were accompanied by legitimate and understandable reasons for the lateness. Those tasks that I could not physically hand in at due date were, with the exception of a single Sociology essay, e-mailed to my professors. The result of this has been A’s on the overwhelming majority of my tests and exams, and very satisfactory marks on my papers. If I do well on my final exams, I can expect to receive nearly all A’s on this semester’s report card.

That, therefore, is very good.

The end-of-semester preparations are being accompanied by Christmas vacation preparations, as during that time I will be visiting family, having my wisdom teeth taken out, working, and participating in an internship with the Western City Newspaper.

Recent events at work have caused me concern, though I think some of it may be undue.

We recently got a new manager, the aptly-named New Manager, from Decaying State. This twenty-eight-year-old has brought with him a companion of similar age, Huge Man, who is replacing Odd Boy as the assistant manager (our division manager, Fat Man, was evidently dissatisfied with Odd Boy’s performance in that position).

New Manager appears innocuous at first, but elements of his personality have emerged that I find distasteful and in fact repulsive. I don’t know him well enough to pronounce judgement on his character, but some of his values certainly conflict with mine. He suffered an accident while four-wheeling several years ago that has left his back severely weakened, but is full of stories from before that incident of his great physical prowess and insurmountable skill as a fighter. Huge Man, an individual of few words who strikes me as basically kind, has quietly attested to the numerous losses he's suffered at New Manager’s hands and to the truth behind claims that he and New Manager once “curb-stomped” an opponent who was allegedly ruining a friend’s life.

New Manager was trained from an early age by a father and godfather, and from the latter he twice suffered a broken nose, injuries sustained at the ages of four and five, respectively. He firmly believes that he was raised correctly by his father, an influential man in New Manager’s Decaying State hometown who pulled strings to get his son out of trouble on several occasions.

All of this goes strongly against my own beliefs, but until recently I was not forced to interact with it.

Over the last week or so, New Manager has taken to organizing wrestling matches among staff members, matches entered into enthusiastically by most of the male employees. When first informed that I would be participating (for my permission was never sought out), I was very reluctant and remonstrated strongly.

I am by far the lightest young man in my age group (I weigh 130lbs), outweighed by at least thirty pounds by all except Short Italian Boy, who is only sixteen years old. After repeated assurances there would be nothing but grappling (I was particularly preoccupied with the idea that someone might sit on me), I hesitantly acquiesced to the “mandatory” fighting.

I will admit that this was somewhat fun. I fought Tough Boy, 165lbs, and lost after a mighty struggle, even managing once to shake him off from atop my body after he’d pinned me.

My fight against Hulking Boy, a seventeen-year-old addition to the staff who stands at 6’3” and weighs nearly 300lbs, was far more one-sided. I did alright at first, dodging his attempts to grab me and making several lunges of my own, none of which touched him. Then, though, he seized me around my waist and lifted me into the air as if I were no heavier than a child’s toy.

“Ah! Oh, my God!” I yelled from my suspended position above his head. “Okay, you win!”

He dropped me over his back, causing me to scream quite like a little girl, caught me in one hand, and daintily placed me back on my feet.

Before going up against Huge Man, I clarified several things.

“You are not to sit on me under any circumstances,” I laid out. “And do not, DO NOT, pick me up.”

I tried my best. I nearly knocked him over at one point. Before long, though, I was on the floor, kicking and rocking as hard as I could as both of my shoulders touched the ground and I was declared pinned.

I concede that this was enjoyable in a way, and that watching some of my larger co-workers face off against each other was entertaining. I hadn’t really wanted to do it, though, and that’s what I take issue with; I felt coerced into a situation.

On Saturday night, New Manager finally crossed the line.

During a second round of fights, New Manager wanted to “show me a move.” Upon announcing this, he took my wrist in his hand and applied so much pressure that I fell to my knees. After I’d told him to let go, he still held on for several seconds. This was too much.

Afterward, I went to his office and told him that he’d had no right to do such a thing. He finally admitted that he’d been wrong and apologized. During this conversation, he and several others, including Odd Boy and Tough Boy, informed me that they were getting together to train and said I should come along. I really did not like this idea, but felt pressured when others, including Tough Boy, repeatedly posed the question, “Don’t you want to be able to defend yourself?”

Tonight, I called New Manager and told him that, after thinking it over, I’d decided not to take part.

“I hope you don’t think any less of me,” I said. “But it’s just not my thing.”

“No,” he said. “I don’t think any less of you. I understand.”

“I felt kind of guilty, because all the other guys are doing it,” I replied.

“No,” he said. “Don’t feel guilty. Don’t feel guilty. It’s your decision.”

“Yeah,” I continued. “I just don’t want to. And about the wrestling—”

“You can still wrestle,” he said. “But you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“I don’t think I do,” I answered. “And I don’t want you to ever do anything like what you did again.”

“I won’t,” he said. “You have my word on that.”

I’m the kind of person who detests being forced into anything, so will if approached in the wrong way refuse to participate in something I would ordinarily have enthusiastically embraced. Had my agreement been solicited in a different manner, I very probably would have found the idea very appealing. As it was, though, the feeling of being cornered combined with the sheer weirdness of it made me unwilling to go along.

This is difficult for me, because I am insecure and seek to fit in as much as possible. The conclusion I have reached is this: if people like Tough Boy and Odd Boy view me any differently because of my forbearance, then they’re not real friends.

Christmas Tree

On the domestic front, my mother took it upon herself this Saturday to put up the Christmas decorations. Her decision on the matter very nearly led me to entitle this post “What the Hell is Wrong With My Mother?” due to how early in the season it is.

We typically hang the Christmas things up the day after Thanksgiving, but she reasoned that because none of us will actually be here for the upcoming holiday she should get it out of the way.

“You could have waited until we got back,” I said.

She just shrugged.

Stockings Over the Fireplace

So now, two days before Thanksgiving, our Christmas tree is up, stockings hang over the fireplace, wreathes adorn the doors, and lights are festooned on banisters and across countertops.

It does make the house very cheery, especially given the unseasonably cold weather we’ve been having lately; it is not unusual here to have temperatures in the 80’s well into October, but since September it’s been very chilly, since October quite cold, and since the start of November downright freezing.

Decorations on the Stairs

I read a story in the New York Times recently concerning a group of German scientists who believe that we are currently entering a period of global cooling slated to last for a good part of the 21st Century’s first half. It is theorized that this natural phenomenon will temporarily offset the manmade temperature increases of global warming and return weather patterns for a time to what they were before climate change had such a dramatic impact on the environment.

My father, who grew up in Native City, remembers years during his childhood when snow fell by Halloween in large enough amounts to accumulate. Such a thing has been unthinkable in Native State or here for years, but it may now be returning. I would welcome that trend.

Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

The reason for the early decoration, as mentioned earlier, is that all members of my family will be gone for Thanksgiving. My parents, Thomas, and Pie are going to Humid State to stay with my Aunt Ostentatious and her family, while Powell and I will be driving up to Anne’s Town and spending the holiday with her. We’ve never actually had a major holiday with our birth-mother, and she is very excited to host us.

“I’m going to make pies, and turkey, and mashed potatoes and all kinds of stuff,” she told me over the phone today.

“You should make pumpkin pie,” I prodded.

“Oh, I will,” she reassured me.

“I love pumpkin pie,” I said.

“Me, too,” she replied.

The promise of a large meal is no idle bluff; Anne, for never having had a family to feed, is a weirdly-talented cook whose dishes are delicious. I’m quite excited to be going with her, and will be sure to document mine and Powell’s journey to the North. We may even stop at a Certain Line as we exit Dixie to photographically memorialize our transition through regions.

It is bound to be even colder in Decaying State, though, so we’ll have to pack accordingly. Of course, I doubt that even subzero temperatures would persuade Powell to take pants; he’s known for sporting shorts all year round, regardless of weather.

“Don’t let Powell bring shorts,” Anne petitioned me as we discussed the trip tonight. “It’s so cold.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” I promised, knowing all the while that nothing I could possibly say would dissuade my brother from clothing himself in a way that is potentially hazardous to his health. He simply doesn’t care.

Because we will be in separate states in different parts of the country two days from now, our family sat down on Monday night for an early Thanksgiving dinner. It was very nice, the kind of calm, peaceful, loving, and happy event that makes me thankful I still live here even with all of our problems. We aren’t a perfect family, but we do love each other. Our gathering Monday was punctuated by jokes, teasing, and the tender words of people who’ve lived together for over a decade and intimately know each other. Regardless of the many issues, my parents are my parents, love me and have cared for me, and my siblings, particularly Powell, have been lifelong companions and have deeper knowledge of who I am than anyone else.

Pie and Thomas Are Ready for Class

Pie Playing Teacher

In addition to Thanksgiving dinner, my parents completed Monday work on my sister’s playroom. Now, what two weeks ago was an unfinished storage area in our basement is an impressive and stylish repository of toys where Pie, and, to a lesser extent, Thomas, can throw balls around and play class using the chalkboard that’s embedded into the wall.

Pie at the Drums

On the Drums

Well, I think I’ve gone on enough for tonight. I almost feel guilty for forcing all of you to read so much.

I’ll be sure to post from Anne’s Town and let you know what we’re up to.

Christmas Tree in the Dark