Yesterday I went to Wegman’s.
This would not warrant remarking but on New Year’s Eve 2016 because of an injudicious Tweet that might have been misconstrued as a threat to commit mass murder of the over-privileged and infuriatingly entitled who populate its aisles, Wegman’s sent the police to my door. Justifiably — or, self righteously — offended, I have avoided the store ever since.
But, yesterday felt like the right time to let that go.
Since mid-January of this year, I have been on what I have come to think of as an archeological excavation and restoration of my self and soul, through which I’ve discovered layers of pointless grudges and unfounded antipathies obfuscating the treasures of myself.
This exploration has been made possible because two months ago when the tragedy of the November election and January inauguration had driven me to daily weeping and near-nervous breakdown, a wonderfully empathetic medical professional gently convinced me to try taking an antidepressant, which I had resisted my entire life despite frequent suggestions I do so. The adjustment in my chemical make-up has freed up the energy I spent fighting the oppressive sorrow I felt. Each day of my pre-medication life was a struggle to resist the voice in my head saying, “You are a failed and horrible human being unworthy of love.” As well as what was my mantra as I hoped each day to die: “And then he killed himself.”
The quieting of those voices feels miraculous to me, Mr. MiracleCharlie, and has freed the space in my heart, head, and spirit, to let go the lists of grudges and angers and resentments I invented to wall me off from the world and distract me from what felt to me an agony of hopelessly impenetrable and incurable unhappiness and despair.
I may not be explaining this very well, but I needed to believe the world was a horrible place and its population awful, hateful, evil people so as to justify my depression. Of course I am unhappy, the world and people suck. And the person who sucked the most was me.
I’d buried the truth of my Love and Light beneath decades of ever increasing anhedonia and ennui; layers I tried to hide, keeping the depth of my misery from others who would — I had discovered — most often say something along the lines of, “Buck up. What do you have to be sad about?” I agreed with them, and had tried religions, meditation, diets, exercise, psychics, drinking and self-medication with illegal drugs, manic over-scheduling, and countless other desperate life-preservers, but still, I failed to cure or even control my wretched woefulness.
Now, it has been — if not relieved — relaxed, reduced, unveiled as something that I was feeling, not something I was. I have begun to feel again as I did before puberty: Optimistic. Embracing. Believing. And most important; Accepting. I have returned to — or, remembered? reawakened? — the consciousness of my youth in which I see past what look like wrongs to an original intent of love. Perhaps it is Pollyanna-ish, but I believe people are fundamentally good, doing the best they can, and we all fall short sometimes — but for me, the worst thing I can do is judge someone else for their sometimes. I have had my own sometimes, many a short falling, and if I judge others and determine what I see as their shortfalls are unforgivable, than how can I expect to accept my own?
And who are any of us to decide someone else needs forgiving?
So, as the medication has unearthed the better-nature of the Charlie I left behind, I’ve faced and taken care of some relationship issues — some in person, and some the kind of things I needed to resolve in my mind because the people involved are gone from my life — in one way or another.
And so, yesterday, I went to Wegman’s because they sent law enforcement to my house in an effort to make sure their customers were being protected, not as an evil effort to violate my rights to free-speech in a fascist way.
Also, Wegman’s is right across the street from my gym. My gym, to which I’d returned after a three day absence. To which I’d returned because I’m on a house/pet-sitting gig and I could feel my sloth and weekend face-stuffing and Netflix binge watching of Grace and Frankie triggering my self-immolation tendencies. And now, the medication and the excavation of self has given me the strength to see these dips coming and interrupt them.
So, the gym. Confession: watching Grace and Frankie was, for some reason I didn’t quite understand, making me feel lonely. I needed to have human contact, not so much conversation as to be out in public, to feel the energy of other lives happening. I did the elliptical, I made my machines circuit, I elliptical-ed some more, during all of which I saw some beautiful men, which, like watching Grace and Frankie, was making me feel lonely.
I headed for the sauna. Blessedly empty. I was letting my loneliness happen, trying to figure it out, when into the sauna came the kind of man who pushes all my eroto-buttons: tall, very thin, dark hair, smooth chest, hairy legs, almost awkwardly large feet and hands, gawky, and young. He wore only black compression shorts and a white towel with black stripes. He asked me for the wood head-rest panel which was on the other side of me, by the wall, and he lay down and I told myself to stop looking, stop noticing the sweet little under-chin goatee and the perfect amount of underarm hair as he stretched them over his head, and the bulge in the shorts, and the way he rested his hand on it. STOP.
It had been less than a few minutes into his recline when someone came to the sauna door, held it open, had a conversation with someone outside the sauna, let the heat out, and never came in. Compression Shorts sat up, rearranged his bulge, and said, “I hate it when people do that. Let all the heat out. I mean, how stupid can you be?” This prompted a longer discussion about idiotic behaviors seen at the gym, the best times to come to miss said behaviors, and his launching into a man-splaining of how the sauna removes the toxins from your body and why the temperature had to be at a certain degree for a certain amount of time and on and on and I’d have paid attention except, 1)I don’t care, and 2)he was adjusting his bulge for much of the conversation.
And then, a tsunami of arrivals until the sauna was full — a truly rare event there on Saturday afternoons — and Compression Shorts had slid next to me, so close that our legs were touching. We outlasted everyone else, but even after they’d departed, he stayed leg-touching close beside me, and started another conversation about how all the ins and outs of the others had lowered the temperature again after we’d managed to get it so heated up in there, during which sentence he laughed and touched my leg in that jovial-ha-ha-funny-isn’t-it sort of way.
And it made me feel so lonely.
I waited another few minutes, not wanting him to think it was his touch that prompted my departure, and we kept talking, and then I said, “I think I’ve ejected enough toxins,my body needs to hang on to a few to keep going. I’m gonna hit the shower.” And he said, “Yeah, I think I will, too.”
I thought I knew what was going to happen next. I went to the shower. He got into the shower across from me after spending not a short amount of time in the aisle relieving himself of his compression shorts and freeing the bulge for more open adjustment. He left the curtain partway open. He started doing the sort of adjusting which results in exploding.
And it made me feel so lonely.
Don’t get me wrong, I remain a big fan of casual sex, no strings attached adventures, and I continue to be stunned when young, attractive guys wish to share bulges with me. So, I should have, and usually would have, but, this excavation of my soul and psyche has apparently disinterred a feature of my form I didn’t even know existed.
I want not to be lonely.
Compression Shorts was beautiful, and I am sorry I didn’t liaise with him. But letting go of grudges, interrupting the sorrow, alleviating the endless ache of depression, these have all opened up all of the room inside me where they used to crowd out the possibility of joy, and all of that new expanse, vast open territory wants to be filled.
All of those spaces between my agonies which used to be filled with anger and grudge and fear and hate, now, those spaces between, they are hungry for a connection of the kind I have never really had.
A hunger that yesterday translated from the wish for connection that would last longer than an orgasm in the gym shower into a physical hunger, an explosion of appetite. I had to have a bagel. And Wegman’s was right across the street. With delicious bagels. And though I am trying to diet, I am also trying to stay sane, and that hunger I had — like the depression I suffered — is not something I am or something that is going to consume me, but, rather, it is something I am feeling.
Confession: I am a little disappointed in me, which I know I need to process and get over, but, the thing is, I have been alone more or less my entire life — I am disappointed I am not better at it. You’d think, by now, all these decades in, I would be good at it. And, okay, stop it Charlie; in lots of ways I am good at it.
But, it is okay to feel. And it is okay to be hungry. And it is okay to explore these newly opened spaces between.
And so, my dears, here I am, going.