The hairs on the back of my neck started to stand up when I got out of bed this morning. Something sweeps over me now, since I’ve gotten sober, when there’s a full moon. I didn’t even know it was, I didn’t see it, I felt it. Tonight I felt like a ship that has become unmoored but remains in the harbor, still anchored down but knocking really hard over and over, against the dock. BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM!
As I do when I feel like this, I rode around on my scooter for a couple of hours tonight, all over Houston through the Medical Center, Downtown, Midtown, Montrose, the Museum District, Rice University, with my earbuds in and playlist I have called “I AM A PHOENIX.” Read my various playlist track listings and you’d know a lot about me. Talk about a window to the soul. If anyone ever did read them. If anyone cared to, which they fucking don’t. I made tapes for guys when I was younger. My friends used to tease me about it. “Have you made a tape for him, yet?” Even then music said things better than I could, so why not listen and get to know me? Know what I wanted to say.
“I AM A PHOENIX.” As in rising from the ashes. Returned from the dead in a burst of glory and flame. See, I maintain this absolute belief that I and everything in my life will be alright. Not perfect, hardly. But that despite every tear, every morning I wake holding my pillows, all the sleepless nights, the movies seen alone, the dinners eaten by myself, all the miles traveled, all the stupid shit I’ve done, that, yes, Love (capital L) will rise again in my life. And I will rise up to meet it. Like a Phoenix .And it is going to last. God knows I am ready. But God ain’t telling what His plans are. Natch.
I can’t for a moment entertain the idea that it’s not all going to work out, that nights won’t be lonely forever, that every morning will be started making the bed up with someone, instead of leaving it unmade because it’s only me getting back in tonight anyway. Because, if I fail to hold it onto that certainty, even for a second… well, I am afraid of what I would do, what would happen. I visualize those moments of wavering faith like the cityscapes folding into themselves in the film “Inception.” The whole fucking world would just begin to implode and cease to be. My music keeps those thoughts, those Universe-imploding destruction’s, at bay.
Someone can only break your heart if you give it to them, and therefore your permission, so I own that this shit, this unmooring of my ship while holding onto the dock is all me . But I also know I am not alone, I hear it in the words of other believers, I read it in the hopeless romantic-written books and I see it in movies. I saw a fantastic new film last night, “The Spectacular Now” based on the book by the same name. It resonated with me as much as “Perks of Being a Wallflower” did last year. One of the lines (and there were many) that I loved, that hit me between the eyes was “You know, you’ll always be my favorite ex-boyfriend, Sutter. No one will ever take that away.” OUCH.
While I don’t know if anyone considers me their favorite ex, what struck me about that line were the many men in my life who might say that, who could say that. The guys who have for one reason or another, been unable, unwilling to commit to me. To get onboard. To run the streets with me like Holmes and Watson or Lestat and Louis. I’ve seen them move on from me and do it with others and that tells me, it’s me. One of them told me once “Johnny, your love is big and scary and I don’t think I can stand up to your expectations of me, of it, of us.” Ouch, again. I always thought an unfailing belief in someone, believing for them that they can stand up until they are able to believe it themselves, was a good thing. All my exes? They do not see this as such a good thing. It’s a scary thing. Ouch.
But what has become really clear to me recently, is that while my love may be “big and scary,” my ass is in hot demand. My ass is worth a return visit. My ass isn’t scary at all. Oh yeah, I got guys beating down my door for a piece of that part of my anatomy. They don’t get it, but they want it. My heart, above my ass and to the left? Not so much. And you know what? It’s been that way since the man on the beach took it when I was 10.
“The Spectacular Now” is the story of 2 high school seniors, one, Sutter, the ‘Ferris Bueller‘ of his school and the other, Aimee, the virgin sci-fi, anime geek who falls under his spell as he tells her she is beautiful and later takes her virginity while she looks up at him, so wide-eyed, so innocent and untarnished? As she encourages him to dream, pushes him to stand up to his mother and find his father, I saw myself. In both characters. Oh did I mention Sutter is a teenage alcoholic, just like his father? That Sutter doesn’t want to think about the future, much less plan it because he’d rather live in “the spectacular now” instead of facing his fears. “I don’t remember a time I wasn’t afraid” he says. That line laid me out. I lived that way for decades. Not anymore.
Watching Aimee fall in love with Sutter, focusing on the ways he enables her to change the course of her life? Hanging her star on his wagon, making plans to leave their small town with him and start again in Philadelphia, all while he has no intention of going? More ouch. The film is funny and searing and brilliant, a twisted, heartfelt but ultimately warts and all take on the sunny, quirky, all’s well that ends well John Hughes‘ films I grew up with. The geek gets the girl and they go off to college together. Right? Yeah, right.
The other thing I thought about during the film, was even though I did have the tender, look up into the eyes of the boy I was in love with losing-my-virginity-moment, my innocence had been taken from me long before then. My life as a kid was sexualized from 4th grade on. Then by that man on the beach. By the bus driver at my middle school when I was 14. By my high school tennis team coach when I was 15. And you know what I learned from those moments with those men? That my ass was something wanted and that if I gave it up, maybe one of them would look down and notice me. Each of those times, there I was below him, really just wanting him to love me, to choose me not for my ass, but because he loved ME.
And, as I sat watching the film last night, I could see that I thought if I gave my heart, my attention, my identity or some other “thing,” that in return I would be loved. I thought about when I was in 8th grade I got my very first job so I could save up $100 to buy my girlfriend at the time, a diamond ring. IN THE 8TH GRADE. I thought about not using a condom sometime, somewhere in my early 20s because I didn’t have enough self-respect to say no and getting HIV, all because I was wanted. I thought about when I wrote a hot check in San Francisco to buy my boyfriend a bracelet and an engraved box, which I filled with rose petals. About the umpteen times I have put me aside for the person I was “in love” with. Emphasis on those quote marks.
No one made me do anything I didn’t want to. I WANTED to express my feelings, to engage with someone, to see his face light up when he realized I had been listening when he mentioned a favorite band, movie, TV show, comic book, kind of flower or some shirt he saw in his favorite shop. But after watching the movie last night, suddenly I knew why. Because I am looking for a man to do the same thing for me. To hear me, to listen, to see through my fears and flattery and still stand by me. With me. It’s about paying attention. It’s about noticing who I am before I am underneath him. Calling just because, not because he has to, or should. It’s about being a man wanted…a wanted man. And not just for my ass. For my big, scary heart.