Today on Facebook, I asked for suggestions about topics I should write about on my blog. Somebody suggested I write about a crush I had in high school, which will be my next post. Tonight, I went down in our basement and started rummaging through all of my plastic containers holding remnants of my past, in search of my pictures from high school. I had thought that during a drunken rage years ago, I had set fire to all of my journals, notes and high school memories…but I had not. What I found truly amazed me.
First of all, I started keeping a journal/diary when I was very young. My very first entry, dated in 1978, simply states, “I am now in love with Kristi Melangton,” spelled perfectly. Through the years, my devotions gained angst and some are difficult to read even now. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have a real life like everyone else. I just can’t imagine bringing a boyfriend to Christmas. Even as I think the word to myself in my head, but can’t say it out loud, Joe __ just said it under his breath, so it must be true.” And, “I think Dad might know. He asked me tonight if anyone ever thought it was strange that all of my friends were girls.” Incidentally, my parents, stepmother and family were all and still are, extremely supportive of my being gay, but my dad was the most supportive.
I found so many interesting pictures and honestly, I could ruin quite a few people out there, but that’s not in my nature. Or is it? I was able to remember myself in a way that I had forgotten. In high school, I was obsessed with Sandra Bernhard and carried her cassette tape of Without You I’m Nothing everywhere. My favorite quote was from one of the greatest movies ever, Sid and Nancy. ‘They wouldn’t send us any money. They said we’d spend it on drugs’. ‘We would’. I found my Senior wills and found out exactly who willed my ass to the football team and how much of a joke I was to a certain group of guys. But none of that was a mystery.
There are lots of things I found, references in journal entries about things I honestly just don’t remember. I don’t remember anyone named Collin who I was quite obsessed with in my early 20’s. I don’t remember my group of friends having issues with these other freaks, which we referred to as “the skater bully bullshit”. I don’t remember being as obsessed with love as I was and I definitely don’t remember trying to stay sober for 30 days the summer before I actually got sober.
One of my favorite journal entries, because it was so honest and showed who I really was at the time, said, “I’m laying in the bathtub and I am so incredibly baked. I have no idea how I’m keeping this pad from getting soaked. I have like 20 candles burning and Joni Mitchell is bolting out of my stereo at top volume. Fucking Joni Mitchell man! And my neighbor keeps banging on the wall but I just keep sipping this ice cold vodka in the steaming bathtub and smoke, smoke, smoke my cigarette.”
The page was blurred in water marks.
I also found all of my creative writing from those years, hundreds of pages of started novels and short stories and poems, some of which were published. The books aren’t bad and I think I might try to start them up again. Several things were certain. I loved alcohol, drugs and sex. Actually, that’s not true. I think I loved being in love more than sex. In letters from friends who moved away, they also referenced my apartment. I had a stuffed bird in a cage who I called Sylvia after Sylvia Plath. I had naked Barbie dolls everywhere because I believed their clothes were sexiest. I had two directors chairs, a table, a fireplace, a stereo and a huge futon bed my dad had made for me. Candles and incense burnt constantly, as did pot and cigarettes, and later on, some other things.
Was I happy? At times, I think so, yes.
But after having sat in the basement for hours, re-reading my old journals, what I now know is that I was trapped. I had freed myself from the prison of being closeted into a harsher jail of inner turmoil, addiction and depression. I was going nowhere. Constantly, my journals talk about needing to “get my shit together”. I found out so many things about myself that I had forgotten. I stole alcohol; from friends and stores. I used way more drugs than I ever remembered using and even kept a detailed register of how much I spent on cocaine and marijuana. I hurt friends and family members. I was a complete liar and couldn’t be trusted. No guy really wanted to be with me because after he would get with me, I was a complete mess. But most importantly, I really couldn’t see myself in the future.
And then I got clean and sober. The story is long and will have to be saved for a later time, but let’s just say there was a mystical intervention of sorts. The journals stop about three months before I got sober and don’t pick up until a month after, so I don’t really have a real clue of what that time was like, not from my mind’s eye at least. But I do have pictures. In fact, the pictures on this page are from the July of that year, exactly 20 years ago. And although I look much thinner, tanner and like I’m having a blast, I think really, I was dancing alone. Always.
Of course I have many journals from the years after my sobriety and tons of pictures. It makes me sad though, to look through some of these as so many of my friends have passed away. The names and the stories are there, but their lives are not.
I’ve stopped keeping a journal. Every once in a while I pick one up and try to write in it, but I feel stuck. When you live an honest life there’s not much of a reason to keep the words trapped between the pages of a notebook, unheard from any human voice. Still, I wish I had a diary of where I was and what I did from time to time. Alex gave my a book like this for my birthday last year and as hard as I try, I always forget to write in it. That will be goal for my next year.
As I dug further in the boxes, I found more and more treasures, including a copy of my first arrest, highlighted in yellow by mother mother, a cigarette case from high school, with one very stale Camel still inside, an anarchy button, a bracelet of safety pins and a folded piece of paper stuck in the back of my yearbook.
It was a note I wrote to myself on the last day of high school. “What will my life be like in 20 years? In 20 years my life will be so different from this high school hell. I hope I will be happy in every aspect of my life. I hope I won’t have any major problems, like money or health. I’ll be a writer and I’ll still be cool as shit. I hope I still have great friends who love me and we have a good time together. Mostly, I hope I will have found someone who I love and that they love me back. Hint. You know what I mean. It would be nice to know that I won’t have to hide that love. That’s what I really want. Just to be happy.”
That’s exactly what you have buddy. Exactly!
And even as I sit on my front porch, smoking that very old, but very soothing Camel, the wind shifts a little bit and the smell of fresh cut grass fills my nostrils. I know one thing is true; life goes on. It moves, it changes and we can’t do a damn thing about it. We can keep pictures, notes and journals locked in plastic boxes, but really, they’re just threads of the past, pulling away and fraying as we grow and change. I’m not that person I used to be in those pictures. Sometimes I wish I was, but mostly I realize I had to be him to get to where I am today. And I’m so grateful for everyone of those nights of mad, crazy drinking, and wild sex, and nights fighting with exes and sitting in a bathtub smoking a joint and dancing in a hot club and drinking coffee all night at Denny’s in high school and driving around singing and laughing, and the lives, and the deaths…all of it. Every last bit. It’s all been worth it. Life is truly beautiful.
I got exactly what I asked for.
And now I want some more.
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