Archive for December 2008

Losing Christmas….   2 comments

rainydaycentralpark

Its raining outside, and somewhere my family is looking up at sunny skies, sharing smiles and eating a delicious breakfast. I won’t be with them anytime soon.

I’ve lost Chrstmas.

I don’t know how much people know about the stilted lives of those who aren’t American living in the U.S, but let’s just say, its not always pleasant. Details of why I’m forced to remain in lovely ol’ DC for the rest of the year are irrelevant.
I’ve lost this time with my family and a few friends, but I feel I lost Christmas a long time ago.
Tomorrow will be the fourth year anniversary of my Grandfather’s death. I can’t even believe it, it still feels like yesterday, like the way I feel when I forget my keys as I’m stepping out of the house, or the way I feel when I have something to do that’s on the tip of my tongue. It feels close, as if it’s a breath away, an arm’s length. But its not. Four whole years have passed since I visited the quiet hospital room with its green, ugly walls, where everyday I would greet my Grandfather with a smile and hug, feeling his bones press into my skin because he had lost so much weight. The staff loved him—he’s just that kind of guy—and I followed suit. Even though he was at the last stages of being eaten by cancer, he never showed much pain or anger. He would always entertain conversation if he could manage it. He was always laughing with the staff and telling me: “Mr. Marcus, good to see you.”
I only had two weeks to spend with him, and there were nights that I was falling asleep after spending the day there with him, and he would tell me to go out and have fun.
It’s hard watching someone with one lung breathe. The day before he died, one of his lungs collapsed, and watching him was heartbreaking. When you have one lung you are forced to exert all your efforts into breathing. Sucking in life-giving air is no longer something you do effortlessly awake or asleep, it becomes frightfully real. I watched him heave awkwardly for hours on end, while nurses stood by, their faces dark brown masks of death.
On the day he died, we were all standing around him, most of his immediate family, and we were there to see him go. His last words with his arms outstretched were “Sing for me”. Sing we did. His pastor was there, singing a quiet hymnal, and we stood by, our eyes filled with tears and our hearts in our mouths. As soon as he said those words, he wilted, and we knew he was gone. My mother grabbed us and rushed us beside him. “Tell him goodbye.” She said between breaths.

Tell him goodbye.

That was four years ago, and tomorrow a gathering will take place at my Grandmother’s house in Jamaica. People will play dominoes, eat Christmas cake and drink Sorrel (a yearly drink we brew) and talk about good times. I will be here in DC, watching rain pour from the sky like tears from my eyes four years ago.

In a way, I lost Christmas then.

A year later, I was in love. The worst kind you can be in, the unrequited kind. That Christmas I was unable to sleep, and I lost my appetite. The days went by in a blur, and all I could think of was a person I couldn’t see or touch. I couldn’t hear her voice or smell her hair, but at least, I had my family. I had the kind, consoling words of my Grandmother. She with her powerful hugs and sweet kisses. She calls me Marks. Then there were the outings with my father, the endless stream of Heinekens and staying out at bars until the sky becomes a purplish blue. I get to hear my father say, “This is my big son. Marcus.” To numerous people I’ve never met. Then there are the idle conversations with my sisters; joking about esoteric things you learn over twenty odd years of living with each other. The jokes that only you will ever find funny, the ones that pop up from the recesses of your memory in the same way your name does when a stranger asks you what your name is. You immediately go back in time, and you are ten and she is five, and you are both sitting with skinny arms and legs, calmly watching a Disney movie on the brand new VCR. I didn’t have love, but at least I had that. I had those memories around me to stymie the effects of my loss.

The next year, I lost a friend.

This also changed Christmas. No longer would I run to his house and laugh and recap the year, or traipse about Kingston, laughing at how well we were dressed, or more esoteric jokes. No more would we reminisce about riding through the hills during the summertime on our bikes; no more playing video games and crashing on couches. These memories were gone, wilted away like the moment my Grandfather left this Earth. We might think life is mundane and often empty; that the little things around us are the things we dislike the most. The little things family and friends might say to annoy us, the meals we used to hate, the little trips we didn’t like taking. But when those are gone, we are left with nothing but silence, a cavernous raging silence that we can’t escape. It stares at us from the heavens, drowning us in its malevolent laughter.

Treasure the moments.

A year after this one, I made sure to make Christmas what it should be. I relished the moment, hungrily went to all the parties, I went to all the dinners and I laughed at all the jokes. Losing love, family and friends makes you do that. It turns you into a leech for good emotion. Dammit, if I have three weeks out of a sad year to feel good, I will use them like an addict’s last hit of coke before rehab.
Today, that’s changed.

There is no love twittering about in my heart, no painful memories of someone nearby. There is no friend to call and laugh about esoteric jokes. There is no family nearby to hug and giggle with, no sisters around to laugh about old Disney movies and catfights when we were kids. All I have is the rain around me, the humming of my space heater to keep me company, and my thoughts.
It is said that we die alone, that when we exit this Earth, we do so the same way we came. I think this is true, but I also think we live alone. We may occasionally see people and go to places were others dwell, but in our minds we are forever by ourselves. We never completely open up to those around us, and our reality is uniquely our own. Time might pass and we might love and lose it, get married or have children, but in some way, people never truly know us. We spend most of our lives being trained not to tell people about ourselves, and then worry as we get older and experience states of undesirable disconnect. Thus, if we die alone, and we live alone, is dying like living? Are they one and the same?
I don’t know. But as I head out into another rainy evening and the wet drops soften my hair, mix with the salt on my skin and burn my eyes, I might have my answer.

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Hello DC: Rubix Cube Party   Leave a comment

I’m at a Rubix cube party.
We all know the Rubix cube. It was a genius little device invented in the early 70’s by the Hungarian architecture dude. You spin the faces, line up the squares and make the colors match. We know how it works. At this party, we are the colors, and by the night’s end, we must be wearing one color of clothing. In a sense, we are squares on the cube.
Earlier in the evening, I was happily munching on Chicken Tibs at a local Ethiopian restaurant. I was eating with a good friend of mine. We spoke frankly about the diatribes of broken relationships, growth and Sean Penn’s new Movie, “Milk”.
Afterwards, we stepped out into the darkness of DC’s winter cold, and I bid her adieu. Then I hopped on the 70 bus towards Columbia heights. I spent the trip listening to dancehall, and watching the dark blobs that represent rowhouses go past in a dull blur.
I was sitting quietly, (like most people in the bus), but I was listening to sexually charged, uber-voilent dancehall music. I’m sure my hipster pants and trucker hat hid that fact nicely.
It’s really cold when I exit the bus to head towards the party, but there is something oddly stimulating about it.
Maybe it’s the feeling of the wind biting my fingertips, the little brown leaves that rustle above me whenever a gust of wind flashes by, or the fact that I’m underdressed. My fingers are burning me, and my jacket (stylish as it is) has no outer pockets for me to slip my fingers into.
I walk fast.
When I reach the party, there is no one milling outside. This makes perfect sense. Even the smokers are happily huddled inside, accepting warmth instead of tiny doses of nicotine, cyanide and a dozen other harmful chemicals.
As I step in, a guy wearing red tights, and a red dress walks past. His eyes are glassy with alcohol, and he has a wry smile. “I need your hat!” he says to a girl walking nearby. She is wearing dark leather pants, a red hat and a suede Jacket that looks straight out of a vampire movie. She chuckles and disappears into the small crowd of people occupying the space.
I personally am out of place with my outfit. I’m technically wearing full black, (even though I wore a yellow shirt to throw my outfit off) but I am determined to find matching yellow pants. I see one person dressed in yellow, a short girl with dark features. She is wearing what appears to be a yellow jacket around her waist, webbed yellow shoes, yellow stockings, a yellow hat and a yellow shirt. I groan, as I have nothing to trade. The idea of taking off my pants right there to put some yellow tights on isn’t stimulating yet. I need to get some alcohol.
I meet and greet the hosts, and I find out it’s a birthday party. I was invited by a girl I know, Ash, and she is decked out in a full red outfit; large red shirt that reads “Ameican Heritage”, red tights and a  red baseball cap. At some point later on in the night she will be completely blue, complete with a blue wig. “Would you like some whiskey?” she says to me as I step inside.
For a moment I pause, and my mind flashes back to Halloween weekend a month prior. I saw a blur of people, faces and felt the heat of different bars and houses on my face, then I remember waking up and not knowing where I was.
“I think I’ll get a beer.” I say with a smile. Ash starts talking to the girl in the full yellow. Behind me, a guy says. “She (yellow girl) looks like a creature from Final Fantasy.”
I spend the next ten minutes trying to remember what creature she  looked like. I was never a huge Final Fantasy fan, but I knew a few of the creatures.
When I was in high school and Playstation (not Playstaion two or three, not even PSOne… PLAYSTATION) was all the rage, when Final Fantasy seven came out, it was lauded as one of the greatest RPG’s of all time. I didn’t have a Playstation, I had an N64, and I forever regretted not feeding on the frenzies of my school mates. I wished I could have huddled under the tree where the nerds hung out and read backstory on the FF universe, talk about little creatures and boss fights and escape in that world of fantasy. Instead, I played games like Bomberman 64 and Turok. I’m thinking about this as i walk through the kitchen looking a cup, then a word pops into my head:
Chocobo.
That’s the thing the girl in the yellow looks like. It’s a little bird sort of creature. I walk down a narrow hallway and through six active conversations. Outside is  a keg, and I get a drink. The temperature feels like its dropped another six degrees, and I hurry up and go inside. After my first beer, I’m determined to get some yellow pants.
The music isn’t very inspiring. It sounds like slow lounge music mixed in with upbeat country or old pop songs. No one is dancing yet. I see the birthday boy (who I incorrectly called “Jesse” for most of the night) and say hello. He is wearing a hodgepodge of colors. He has an orange shirt on, tiny blue shorts and black socks, and he has an orange bandana tied on his head. “So, you are twenty five eh?” I say. “Yeah, maybe in a week it will hit me and I’ll either be like “oh god!” or “oh yeah!” He says with a laugh. “I’ve been there,” I say. “I’m definitely in the “oh god!” stage right now.”
He disappears down the same long hallway with two girls and I eye some cake. Lately I’ve been avoiding a lot of pastry, and I don’t feel like digging into a suger-laced cake while I’m drinking. Ash is standing beside two more girls who are working the Rubix. One is wearing full blue regalia and has a blue wig on. She does Madonna style poses as cameras flash in the background.
I smile and survey the rest of the party. It’s a weird mix. Some people are dressed very normal, in the usually array of jeans and jackets. Then there are a few hardcore guys, who I call the “Rubix dudes”.
For some reason, they are all wearing dresses, and I think their oufits were elaborate plans engineered by the women at the party (they are in the majority). One guy is about six foot three and wearing a green skirt, a green halter top, what looks like a shiny set of green leaves on a string around his neck and (I think) a green necklace. Another fellow, who I later find out is Mark, is wearing small,orange boy-underwear, what look  like orange tassles around his waist, and a v-neck orange shirt (above a green one) complemented by a knit orange hat. He has sharp eyes, a playfully expressive face,a moustache and goatee. He looks like Robin Hood, if Robin Hood left Nottingham to join the broadway cast of Mama Mia! And ended up doing West Side Story instead.
There are a few other guys who enthusiastically get into the Rubix-mode, but the guy that took the cake was a short, broad-chested fellow wearing a full white female outfit. It was his manliness—hairy chest and broad flat features—that made his outfit the funniest. A tiny white haltertop barley fit on his chest and he wore a small white dress, and what looked like a white hairnet…. Or head tie, I’m not familiar with what all forms of female clothing are called.
They Rubix dudes were constantly taking pictures, smiling and laughing. I was on my second beer now, but I didn’t feel like clothes swapping that much. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I wanted to get my yellow pants. I started talking to Mr. T, a friendly-faced guy with a classic Midwest disposition. Ash told me he was apparently, a rubix cube expert.
We started discussing the dynamics near the front entrance. By this time I was on beer number four or five and sipping on a Bacardi ginger ale. Needless to say, talking about the concepts behind multiple planes and matching edges were lost on me. The music changed, and I started dancing with Ash.
At some point, I start a conversation with the tallest women at the party. One looks Scandinavian, and one looks German. I mention this to them.
“Hah! One laughs. I’m Swedish.” She says. “I’m German.” The other replies.
We talk for a few minutes about their amazing athletic abilities. (The swede did decathalon, long jump, high jump, 200M ,800M and deep sea shark hunting). The German did shotput, discus and javelin. (I guessed discus correctly).
Then the German speaks about one year of celibacy, and its implications as it relates to meeting people for “who they are.” I smile as she says this. “I wanted to know how it felt you know? To just not experience that for a year.”
I laugh, and say.”Most people know that feels for a good ten, fifteen years. I think they are too aware of celibacy.”
“Ten? Try twenty!” The Swede says with a laugh.
Ash is now in blue mode, and is dancing amongst friends, laughing and taking pictures. I wear the wig for a few minutes.
I go to the kitchen, and talk to two girls wearing black trucker hats. “What do your hats say?” I ask, squinting to read the writing on them. “Hah! You though it was Japanese didn’t you?” one of the girls says.
In fact, I didn’t think that, because I can read some Japanese. I was thinking it was some kind of Arabic language (and in my defense, the girls both had that “dark-ish” look. Long black hair, sharp dark brown eyes. Which means they could have Persian ancestry or just be from Manhattan.)
“It’s a hat our friend made. Its actually in English.” She points out what it says, and it becomes as clear as day. “ohhh….” I say. Then I look down, and see that she is wearing YELLOW PANTS.
“I said I’d get some yellow pants tonight.” I say seriously. “You have what I want.”
She swaps pants with me, and we snap pictures with her friend, who also has the pants on. Technically, they are little boy shorts, but I rather refer to them as pants.
I parade around in the pants for a while, and smile broadly. Ash comes over, she rubs her small hands across the small of my back. “I see you got your yellow pants.” She said. “Yes I’m a happy camper!” I reply.
I spend the next few minutes taking pictures of all the other emasculated men, including those I’ve named the White Russian, the Green Giant, Robinson Hood and the Black Tight. Outside where the keg is, people are huddled around a grill, talking about nothing in particular. I snap a few more pictures and go back inside.
The girls in the trucker hats are heading out, and I return the yellow pants. The party is beginning to thin out, and everyone is heading to wonderland. I feel a twinge of regret as I head out with Ash and Mr. T to wonderland. I was hoping I could wear my yellow pants there.

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