Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, A Hundred Years.

I went to a reading tonight, the first since I left Fairbanks.

It was only slightly awkward. Before, I knew everyone; they were my classmates and professors. Here, though, I knew the poet reading and, well, ok, a few other people.

It was at the Orr Street Gallery. If you guys haven't been there, go now. Anyway, right behind where the people read was this photo. From far away, you might mistake it for a mountain or mountains, some striated landscape, weathered.

Up close, I realized it was breasts. Very old, sagging breasts. Breasts that were resting on a stomach, tanned and wrinkled. Misshapen and elongated. A drop of ice cream melting down the side of your cone.

I couldn't stop staring at that photo. The photo itself was nicely done, just a torso shot, 3/4 view. Something like that. The woman's inner arm was also in the picture, her left arm, the skin folding and falling just as her breast. It created these great lines, vertical, reaching on and on.

For two hours I looked at the picture (biting my lip trying not to cry during poems, trying to look interested when the novelist read) wondering what I found so magical about it.

It was me. It was Mindy.

I've never been one to go on and on about women or their life-giving bodies. I mean, I have an ex-girlfriend who constantly said how beautiful vaginas were. Listen, I'm not that type of girl. For one, I probably would've used the word vulva, for two, there's no way in hell I would call a vulva beautiful. And I've never once called myself a goddess.

But these breasts were beautiful and haunting. Because, of course, I've got them on the brain right now. Mindy's are growing to feed a baby. Mine are being squeezed to see if there's evil inside me.

This photo was everything, though. I kept looking and thinking, one day I will be old. So will Mindy. In fact, she'll always be older. One day, her breasts will fall to reach her stomach (and I hope we both live to that day). One day, I will make love to an old woman.

And one day after that, I will never make love again.

Death has always been the thing to scare me, not aging. Not until tonight, I guess.

Already at 29 I've noticed my body changing. So far, it hasn't been too bad. I gained an extra ten pounds in my ass and boobs. I finally look like I eat enough. I can fill out a bra on most days. My thighs are ripe and round. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a woman's body. Like I might be sexy and not just cute and awkward. I think I'm just a little past a peak.

I think I'll have more, though. I've always had a thing for older women, but now I'm not sure what that means. An older woman used to be in her 30s. My wife is 35 and of course, I don't consider her an older woman. I don't really know what I'm trying to say.

So here were these breasts, fallen and deflated. But I wanted them. I mean, I want to earn those. At one time, those breasts were firm and round and high. They were cupped and kissed and teased. I wondered at how one would cup them now. How might one touch them? If she were lying on her back, they would spread and fall lightly, easily to either side.

One day that will be me. Or one day mine will be gone, loped off and tossed away, two blinking scars where they once belonged.

And one day I will face Mindy's.
I hope that when I get there, when I see the years on her body, that I know just what to do. That I can still kiss her and say, "You are beautiful."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

If I Die, Know it's the Conservative Right's Fault

Maybe you all are sick of hearing me bitch about things, maybe you love when I just spill my guts and give you too much information about myself. Whatever your reason for reading, I give you this:

You've heard me yell about not being able to get a mammogram. If you're a woman under the age of 40, and especially if you don't have insurance, you have to extend sexual favors to get a doctor and then get that doctor to recommend you for a mammogram.

Once again, I was told when I was 19 that I should start when I was 27 because my birth mom had cancer in her early 30s.

Last week, I called the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center to try to get a mammogram. Everything was going smoothly until the woman asked my date of birth. "Oh," she said, "Your doctor will need to recommend you." I told her that I didn't have a doctor. "Well, you need a doctor to recommend you." Frustrated, I hung up the phone.

Then I called to find a doctor. I called the place where Mindy goes. I figured it would be good if we had the same doctor, since most families see the same doctor, usually.

The receptionist asked what was wrong with me, why I needed to see a doctor. I explained my history, that I needed a mammogram. "And what insurance provider?" she asked. I told her, like I'd told the cancer center, that I really didn't know. I just have catastrophic insurance. We made an appointment for a Thursday, the only day I'm off work. She was friendly. As she hung up she said, "Make sure to bring your insurance card."

On that Thursday, I went in. When I got to the desk to say I was there I was told that my appointment was yesterday. On Wednesday. She didn't apologize for the mistake, but she rescheduled me.

In the meantime, I received a mean letter in the mail telling me I'd missed my appointment and that if it continued to happen, they might decide to not every see me. Ever.

So, you can imagine how pissed I was. I understand that you need a doctor to tell you the results of things, but I don't understand why,with my history, I just can't pretend that I'm 40. Like, a woman who's 40 can make her own appointment...with or without a doctor, but I can't. I mean, how many women are just dying to get their boobs smooshed anyway?

I went back to the doctor. She made me take my shirt off, she played with my boobs for two seconds, and then said I could go have a mammogram, to set up my baseline.

That cost me $140, which I was told is half off because I'm paying for it myself.

I had a mammogram last Thursday. Yes, it hurts, but it's not as traumatic as the gynecologist. The woman who did it was cool enough to let me see the pictures (since they're digital). I'm no boob doctor, but they looked young...lots of white, dense-like picture stuff. The squeezing, though, wasn't too bad. They squeeze and squeeze, and just when you think it's ready, the woman cranks down on another knob, like fine tuning the squeeze. It's right then that you think your nipple could pop off. I tried to look at my flat boob, but the woman yelled at me to keep my head still. They were really flat, you guys.

And this is where I say something about how men must still be in charge of these types of things. Women's health, I mean. First, we'll stick some cold metal in their vagina and scrape around. Then, we'll squeeze those fun bags til their chests turn red. Yes, ma'am, this is the only way.

* * *

Yesterday I got a call from Ellis Fishcel. It was April (who sounded like she had a cold) asking me to call her at my earliest convenience. I imagined she could leave a message if the news was, like, "hey, boobs are looking good. see you next year." But, again, she asked me to call her.

When I called, she answered, sniffling, sounding tired. "This is Christina. You asked me to call." She said, "hold on." For what felt like minutes, she shuffled papers and dropped things over the phone, "just getting your paperwork," she had said. My heart was racing and falling into my stomach. If she had to look at my paperwork, that wasn't good.

Once she found my stuff, she told me that I needed to come back. That the doctors had two "areas of interest" that they wanted to do a "spot compression," that they'd read those there and then do an ultrasound. All I heard, besides ringing in my ears, was a cartoon cash register. ca-ching! ca-ching! ca-ching!

I'm going back next Thursday.

Oh, I know, you feel the need to comfort me, "Christina, it's probably nothing...just some sort of cyst/bump/abnormality/thin
g." Whatever it is, I don't care. I don't want it there. And I'm not telling you guys so you'll feel sorry for me. I don't need to hear words of comfort. I mean, you're all right; it's probably nothing. Whatever that means.

I'm telling you because I want to change your minds about about a couple of things: gay marriage and healthcare.

If Mindy and I were legally married, I could have her insurance. ( let me just remind you that any man could marry mindy today and be covered tomorrow. any man and no one would question or care) If I had her insurance, I wouldn't be so worried about paying for all of this stuff. There's a baby on the way, too.

If there were a public option, I might be able to afford something more comprehensive than catastrophic coverage.

I'm very fortunate, though. I'm white. I have a job. A support system of friends and family. My parents would no doubt help me pay for whatever all this might cost. This isn't true for most people without health insurance. And if I tried to get real insurance now, I probably would have a hard time since I have a pre-existing condition.

For the record, I'd cut them off. If "they" say whatever is in there is bad, just cut them off, just cut it out. But, of course, that would cost more, than, you know, just sticking a needle in there and poking around.

In case you're wondering, it's the left one. It already feels heavier. It's uglier. It's swarming with evil.

But it's not catastrophic.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rugby, through the years.


The first practice I went to a 40 year old woman shoved a ball into my stomach, "There, now you can say you've touched a rugby ball." I was 18. Her name was Critter.

My early rugby days are hazy, not because I drank too much or anything, but because I had just moved to a city of 4 million from my town of 85. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by lesbians. Older lesbians. Lesbians of a different generation. And for the first time in my life I was allowed, supposed to, tackle other humans. Since I could remember, football interested me. I wanted to tackle, to hunt people on a field and knock them down. I wanted to get beaten up.

I didn't make it to practice too often that I can remember. I wasn't good, but I was faster than some of the old people, so they let me play. I was especially weird about touching people. Rugby is an intimate sport, in order to tackle someone, you must grab them. Tightly. To learn how to tackle in practice you must face the other person, look them in the eye and say, "ready?"

I once traveled with a van load of coupled, older lesbians to Denver (from Houston) to play in the Mile High Tournament. I was dating (?) one of the girls at the time. I had never felt so adult and free than driving across the country in a van full of homosexuals. Now, for you younger people, this doesn't seem that exciting. But, as I've tried to tell some of you, even 10 years ago, things were still different in the world. I was still wearing rainbow clothes and necklaces and living in the gay part of the city. My family was still disgusted with me, and in some ways, I didn't quite understand it myself.

At one point, I napped with my head in my girlfriend's lap as the Indigo Girls sang through the speakers. I remember smiling in my half-consciousness. I was free from it all and almost comfortable.

My girlfriend broke her clavicle during the tournament (but managed to bust through two lineouts despite the pain). The only part of the games I remember is this: I had been tackled and knocked in the head. I was lying dazed on the ground, unable to cover my head in the ruck. It was 21 degrees outside and a light layer of snow on the pitch. I remember looking up as I lay there with the snow melting into my clothes (mind you, the jerseys were still very thick cotton and heavy). Above me were four women. Four huge women with huge breasts grunting and sweating and stinking, the snow falling down in slow motion around their massive bodies. At that moment I realized what it all meant. That rugby wasn't just a sport, that I wasn't alone in the world anymore.

* * *


If you're a lesbian, you meet a lot of girlfriends playing rugby. When I drove to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras tournament, I had no idea what I was in for.

A girl whored onto our team. She had nice, thick thighs and dark hair. I liked her immediately. I can't say I remember much of that weekend, and this time it was from drinking. I played a game in which I was tackled. No, not tackled, but just stopped in mid-air and somehow thrown backwards a few feet. I hit the ground and all the air rushed from my lungs. I heard the crowd go, "ow. ah" It was because I heard them that I jumped up to my feet and said, "I'm ok!" Later that night, as my teammates made sure my glass was never empty, we watched the video from the day. I remember seeing myself on the tv in the pub. I watched my tiny body's momentum stopped by another woman. Utterly stopped and then reversed. The pub cheered when they saw it and I made it a point to tell them, yes, it was me. And I was fine.

Anyway, this girl's name is Jennifer. And hours later, when we're on our way downtown for the parades, yes, mardi gras, and my head's spinning so badly I can't read the street signs, that's when Jennifer's hand finds my arm and strokes it, "are you ok?" I wasn't ok. It was the least ok I'd ever been.

So this is what I remember of my Mardi Gras experience: At one point I was in a large crowd holding someone's hand being guided through people. At another point I'm begging the driver to pull over. I throw up on Bourbon street while Jennifer asks if I'm ok. I feel like such an idiot. Then, I'm asking the driver to take me back to the hotel. When I say driver, I mean, some girl I don't know who happens to be hanging out with our team. Then, I'm throwing up all over her truck and apologizing. It's then I realize we're stuck in a parade route.

Later, Jennifer and I will sleep together during Nash Bash, with her husband upstairs. You see, they had an open relationship. And I was trying to be more open. A few months later I will drive to Nashville to retrieve Jen and we will drive to San Francisco, stopping to eat at A&W, listening to Alanis Morrissette's "Hands Clean", staying in a casino in Las Vegas and finally, finally fucking after so many hours in the car wanting and aching.

I will leave Jennifer at the airport and drive to the dude ranch. She will fly home to her husband.

"Ooooh, this could get messy, but oohh you don't seem to mind./We'll flash forward to a few years later, no one knows except the both of us. And I have honored your request for silence and you've washed your hands clean of this."

* * *

I started playing with Mizzou. I found the team members at Soco, the only gay bar in town. One girl was wearing her Mizzou rugby t-shirt. I said, "I play rugby." It was that easy.

In the next year I will sleep with and date two teammates, kiss one more on the katy trail after asking my girlfriend if it's ok, and have a crush on everyone else in the meantime.

This is where my narrator should come in and be over bearing, so here goes: This blog has taken a wrong turn. What I mean to write about is how rugby isn't just a sport, it's a family.

When I was a fresh-faced lesbian in a huge city, the older girls took care of me. Sneaked me beer, even. When I was drunk and puking out of cars in New Orleans, someone rubbed my arm and asked if I was alright, then someone else took me back to the hotel. And even when I was trying to sleep with the entire team, they still let me play. They may have not approved of me, but they understood I was family.


We drove to Wayne, Nebraska. We played rugby in balls cold weather and wore togas at a party while listening to a horrible 80s cover band. That night, after one beer too many, I found myself sleeping between two brunettes and neither of them was my wife. But it was beautiful, still.

And I drove back with Corrie, Chuelo, and Drea. You see, these are people I've known since 2003, since joining the team. I love them. But I still have this unyielding guilt that I need to prove to them I am a good person. I mean, they saw me at my worst back then, but somehow, even with that horrible self-hatred I feel, I know that they love me too. I know they accept me for who I am and understand who I was.

So, there I was, staring out at the fields, thinking about how many years I'd played rugby. Or maybe not that, but how many years I'd known rugby players, and how they've taken care of me.

And I'm thinking of the other cars traveling on the same highways, full of my teammates, and my players. I can see myself in all of them, in the ones who sleep with one another, in the others who watch quietly and fume, in the girls with forced bravado, in the ones who cry with anger at themselves, in the rookies who are not yet sure, in the vets who know everything. Even after all the drama I was part of years ago and the apologies I never quite gave, there is a place for me.

Rugby is our refuge.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Softball: A Flash Essay

After the last softball game I played in high school, I had trouble leaving the field. I knew it was over. I knew I could never go back. So I waited for everyone to leave and I walked out there, the lights still on, the fog forming in the outfield.

I walked around the bases with my arms out, soaring like a plane, trying to capture a moment, all moments I'd lived on that field: all the balls I'd ever caught and thrown and hit, the way I'd smell my glove just before getting ready to field the next ball, the times I'd fucked up, the times I was a hero. The day Mom pulled up in the middle of practice and I knew my grandpa would die that night. I walked around the bases just kicking up dust until I was home.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Wedding Vows

Because I've gotten several requests, I've decided to write it here. The truth is, I joked with Mindy about pulling a privacy curtain around us while we did our vows (because it's no one's business but ours), but I got over it and said them aloud. Now, I guess, I'm shouting them.

October 18, 2008:

"I know it's cliche' to compare love, or anything to a river. But the river is all I know. It was my lover when I was young, kissing me with falling leaves, cool water licking my toes.

There was a time when i wrote my human lovers' names on pieces of paper and let the river take them under. I thought I was doing the right thing. Instead, the river ate them--devoured my relationships, swallowed me whole. But you, I never told it about you. But the river knows who I turn to now, who I spend my time with, whose rushing wind makes me tingle.

And now I cry into you. Sit by your banks in celebration. I skip rocks across you to see the ripples.

You comfort and seduce me--calling me from distant places to stare into where the water and sky meet, where the world seems ancient and unchanging. You have carved yourself into me, through me, over me. Because that is how the river and earth become one."

Friday, February 27, 2009

An Open Book

Before I’d left for Fairbanks, I had several email conversations with Dr. Derick wondering where I would live, where people like me lived in that town. He said that most graduate students lived outside of town in cabins with no running water. I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but I didn’t want to try to rent one from Missouri, and I didn’t want to live in a hotel until I found a place to call home. Instead, I applied for a grad apartment on campus; it had a shower and was conveniently located. Also, I’d never lived in a dorm or on campus before, so I thought it would be fun, like the college life I never lived. I even bought a meal plan at the cafeteria.

The website said it was an efficiency apartment, (and I’d live in a basement “studio” apartment in Houston, so that didn’t bother me) approximately 325 sq. ft. Luckily, Mom and I only had to stay in a hotel the first night there. But we moved to my small apartment, and then I spent five nights with my mom in bed with me. I didn’t sleep for a lot of reasons: I was depressed, the sun was out all night, Mom was awake with anxiety, (because I’d just moved 4,500 hundred miles away and she would be leaving me there. Alone.) and I was excited to heal and learn things about myself.

During Mom’s five days there we drove out to see the pipeline We went on a riverboat tour of Fairbanks And that was about it, because in the summer, that’s really all there is to do. We ate a dinner of halibut Florentine and musk ox burger at The Pump House (where, in the future, Mindy will get a job and I will spend countless hours drinking Alaskan amber, grading papers, and spilling seafood chowder on said papers)

I left Mom at the airport, shaking and crying and telling me she loved me over and over. At that point, I nearly hated her. I was still holding a grudge that she tried to fix me when I came out 7 years earlier; she had never apologized for that whole year of trauma. I was mad, too, that she invited herself on my trip and talked the entire way about nothing. It was absolutely exhausting. I was mad at me because I let her manipulate me again, with money, or something, in a strange way. I had her stupid car.

I hugged her and never looked back. When I got to the car, I threw in my Blue October cd. It's their first album, in case you're interested ( For me, the album had been my soundtrack for every single thing that had happened to me since my first girlfriend let me borrow it in 1998. I listened to track number one as I drove away into a smoky, sunlit dusk, "If what you're seeing is an open book, well, that's great 'cause I'm an open book, but I'm real shy."

And I thought about all the reasons I was suddenly alone in an unfamiliar town, a climate I'd never imagined, "Now there's a part of me seeking and deperately needing to open up. Well, that's strange 'cause I'm an open book. A confused boy."

The drive from the Fairbanks airport to my apartment was about 5 minutes, about the length of the song. I was belting it with the windows down, looking longer than normal at each person I saw on the street, 'he lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. Alaska. She also lives in Alaska. I live in Fairbanks. Alaska. I live in Alaska. I drove to Alaska with my mom and a car full of cds, a tv, a few dvds. I brought everything I own with me to Alaska.'

When I got back to the apartment, I began to unpack it all.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Drive

Three days after I got the tattoo of a star on the inside of my heel, I was in a car with my anxious mother driving across the continent. Mom was there because she invited herself. She was always good at making me feel guilty. And, she'd decided I should take their car and not mine since theirs was newer. But, I refused until the very end, until I got tired of listening to her incessant worrying. "Fine," I said, "I'll take your fucking car." And a day or two later she said, "when we drive to Alaska..." And reminded her I was going alone, that I had to make the trip alone, she said, "But I'm letting you use my car."

We left in July of 2004 and so far, it had been a terrible year. My girlfriend had repeatedly slept with one of my best friends (since 7th grade), I had surgery on my shoulder and couldn't play rugby, and my best friend of 19 years wrote me a seven page note in purple ink explaining a. what a womanizer i was b. how conceited i'd always been c. how immature i was d. how she nearly jumped into the Missouri river after her child was born. On top of all that, or perhaps underlying it, was my new found love of pain killers, marijuana, and dark beer.

So, you could say I was depressed. But not like any sadness I'd felt before. This one was physically painful; I'd wake in the morning and feel my heavy chest, like I was being pressed to death by everything familiar to me. Like, my parents, my friends, my cat were all just sitting there on my ribs, staring at me, waiting for it all to explode. The only way I could figure to cure this feeling was by eating more pain killers, drinking more beer, going out more, and staying out later.

I was moving to Alaska to go to graduate school. When people ask me "why there?" It's an easy answer. I knew someone. A professor, in fact, that I'd met in Houston while I was in college. I'd always wanted to be a writer, but never even thought about going to school for it. So, yes, Alaska. If Dr. Derick had been in Rhode Island, I would've tried to get in there. I just had to leave the mess in Missouri. But I was glad to know I was going so far away from it all.

The drive to Alaska from Missouri is about 6 days. That's nearly a week that my mom and I spent in the car together, ten, sometimes 12 hours a day. And when we weren't in the car, we were in the hotel room. What I remember about the trip is this: I ran over a dead baby moose accidentally, Mom nearly got hit by a huge truck as she ran out onto a bridge screaming, "it's beautiful!" at the canyon down below, there were small yellow flowers throughout Canada, and Mom had a hard time comprehending kilometeres, though I explained it every hour or so.

Most of you haven't been to Fairbanks. In fact, you don't even know where it is in Alaska. Like me, you might imagine a nice mountain town, like the one in Northern Exposure. Yeah, you think, Fairbanks must have down hill skiing and toasty lodges, cute shops downtown, like Vail or something. But you're wrong. You're absolutely wrong.

Fairbanks, when we pulled in, looked like a small industrial town in the 70s. Because, essentially, that's what it is. The closest mountains are one and a half hours away, and since we arrived in the summer, it was smoky as hell due to forest fires. We couldn't see much, except that it was 11:30 p.m. and still light outside. I was still optimistic because I'd found the college radio station and two lesbians were d.j.-ing some awesome club dance music. Mom still had a few days until her plane left and I couldn't wait to get on with my life, to get further from everything I knew.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On Embarrassing Oneself in the Name of Honesty

I have a problem. But I don't know if it's really a problem. The main character in the novel "The perks of being a wallflower" describes what it is to feel "infinite." I read the book when I was 22. I can't say that i remember more than that line and the fact that he really likes the smiths' song 'asleep.' Also, I think the main character was sad most of the time.

Well, I know what it means to feel infinite. I get that feeling when I'm soaring down the river in a boat, traveling, writing, or (and this is my problem) having a huge teenage crush on someone.

Oh, I know, it's not as poetic as the others, but it's just a true for me. I revel in the feeling of wanting to see someone and impress her. I hate the way I get all weird around that person and say ridiculous things. I love/hate that it makes me feel vulnerable. I feel totally alive, though. And that's the infinite feeling. It's even better when that person likes you back. And now I'm tired of the word 'crush.' I wanna call it something else. intense interest, maybe.

But intense interests aren't all fun and games, especially now that I'm married. In my early 20s I'd pursue that person until she gave in, then move on to the next one. It was fun and easy until I hurt someone, or I hurt myself. I mean, it's terrible when those feelings aren't reciprocated. I've had my share of intense interest in women who weren't gay (and weren't even interested in giving me a shot). I've made a fool of myself telling someone how I felt about her. Over and over. Or, through notes and song quotes. Or after leaving her apartment, barging back in to pull my beanie over my eyes and say, "I'm sorry, it's just that I really, really like you." And that's where my honesty gets me in trouble. After I vowed to always tell the truth, I started telling the truth loudly, and to people who didn't necessarily want to hear it. But, in these cases, I have to tell people how I feel about them. Just think of all the people in your life who've had special feelings for you but never said anything. Doesn't it feel nice to be told you're beautiful and awesome? I mean, if it's done in a tactful way?

Now, most of you are worrying. What about Mindy? Well, my friends, I love Mindy and I've chosen to spend my life with her for many reasons. One of those reasons is that she understands I'm human. Being married doesn't mean never being attracted to someone ever again. It does mean not acting on those feelings, if that's the agreement you have with your special other person. Being married also means telling the truth. I have a new crush. Mindy knows everything about it. And of course I feel badly about it. How dare I enjoy the company of someone else when I have everything I could ask for right at home. It's not like that, though. I enjoy the awkward moments of life and sometimes I create them for myself to hate, enjoy, and get through.

If you're curious, here are the usual qualifications for you to be the person I have an intense interest in:

1. You must be absolutely new to me
2. You must love an art form in which I have no talent
3. You must have dark or curly hair
4. You must be a little curvy
5. You must not realize your own beauty so I can have the joy of telling you how awesome and beautiful you are.

"And in that moment, I swear we were infinite."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Archaeology is Controlled Destruction

We destroy history even though we claim to be protecting it. But that's the catch, really, In order to interpret what's in the ground, you have to dig it up. Once you dig it up, it's gone.

This is a concept my cousin-in-law doesn't grasp.

We were at Mom and Dad's yesterday, hanging with Grandma or whatever, when mom's phone rings. She says, "she's right here!" and hands me the phone. Now, listen. No one in my family calls me unless they have a question. Those questions, you guessed it, are usually about "arrowheads" or some rock they found that they think looks like a petrified foot. Generally, I answer those questions. I've had many kids bring rocks to me, "what kind is it?" Well, I'm not a geologist, but I usually just say something so they feel good about themselves. I guess that's what Kurt was looking for when he called to relay this story:

He and a buddy are leasing 40 acres somewhere, you know, farming it. Well, they happened to see this nice rise in the middle of the field. Like,a big bump. So, they got curious and took a bobcat to the thing and found 60 arrowheads! (he tells me) He mentions it's right by the bend of a creek. Then he says they're 3-4 feet down already and asked me how far it will go on. They've found "them stones they grind food on," "black clay stuff." When he asks how far it will go I say, "I'm not telling you."

So, it really sounds like he knows what he's doing, right?

You can imagine what I want to say to him is worse than what I actually say. It goes something like this: You're breaking my heart with every word. I actually want to cry. You've dug down thousands of years and destroyed something beautiful that can never be replaced. I tell him also that he should have reported the site and that what he's doing is probably illegal. I said that I wish he would've told me so we could've documented the place. "We're videotaping and using shovels, going real slow." is his response. Then he asks what I mean by documenting.

I'm really mad at this point and I'm begging him to stop and telling him he has no idea what he's doing. Then I say, "If you find bones, please stop and report it." He says he will. Right. Then he mentions they're at least half way through anyway, so what does it matter?

I'm always amazed at how little people understand. Everyone knows I went to college to be an archaeologist. That's why they ask me questions. That's why you'd think they'd realize that they didn't go to school for that and shouldn't pretend they know how to do it. I've never once pretended to be an accountant, like, sneaking into H and R Block and doing someone's taxes. I've also never sneaked onto a job site and started constructing or laying brick. Why not? Because I don't fucking know how.

Of course everyone is an archaeologist. All you need is a shovel, a case of PBR, and a good buddy with a bobcat. It can't be that hard, right?

How do I get people to understand that archaeology is less about the products, but more about their placement in the soil? Does Kurt really think I dig huge holes and sack up points and that's it? I make maps, take notes, dig in 10 cm controlled levels usually 1x1 metre. It's like finding an antique that's a couple hundred years old, then taking it out and using it as target practice and then burning it in your wood stove.

And again, it all goes back to respect and racism. If there was a tombstone in the middle of the field, you bet you ass they wouldn't have touched the thing. If an old church were there, they wouldn't strip it apart and knock it over. At least, I hope they wouldn't.

Here's another thing to know about archaeologists: we always work for the bad guys. MoDOT wants to blow up a hill, we check first. If there's something there, we take it out so it won't be lost forever. For AMEC, the man made lake is flooding hundreds of sites. We take out that site so it doesn't wash away. Archaeologists, though, would choose to leave sites in the ground. It's the best way to preserve it. If there's a site that's not being adversely affected by anything, leave it where it is. Tell someone to report it to the State Historic Preservation Office. That way, no one will ever bother the thing.

Now, if you stumble across a projectile point lying in your own field, sure, I'll take a look at it and you can keep it.

But if you're ever out digging up a site, don't call me and ask me to "come take a look at it." I will not pat you on the back for finding artifacts with a bobcat and a shovel.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Fear of Growing Old

I'm twenty-nine now. I can never be younger again. My body will only age and age and age while I try to keep in shape. One day, it will quit, but probably not all at once. Like my grandma, it might be slow and exhausting. It might be filled with family members staring at me, wondering if I'm sleeping or just half conscious from drugs.

The past couple of weeks have been tiring. Friday, the 10 of january, grandma died all night, but only in our minds. I left work at 4:30 and spent the next 7 hours in the ICU waiting room with my loud family. Grandma's blood pressure kept dropping, her lung filling with fluid. At one point, for no reason, someone stared crying. We all started crying. I found my dad near the men's bathroom sobbing quietly into his hands, the way I found him once when I was 4, after a head on collision my mom and I had with a drunk driver. I hugged him and thought about what to say. Instead, I patted him and walked away. That's what he really wanted.

At 10:30 p.m. someone thought to get fried chicken, so we feasted.

But, Grandma turned out fine and went home that tuesday. She stayed home for five days. I called on Saturday, the 17th to ask permission to come do our interview. I'm going to take the camera down there and let her talk, about whatever. I'll ask some questions, and let her ask me some questions. We scheduled it for the next saturday, so the 24th.

January 18th, this past sunday, was my birthday. Mom and Dad were coming at 11 to take us out to lunch and just hang out. When the phone rang at 7:45 that morning I already knew. For my birthday, the truck battery was dead as Mindy and I tried to leave for the hospital around 9. We stayed at the hospital until 2:00, then we came home and slept.

Just this morning grandma has gone on dialysis. She watched her husband go through it, and she chose to do it anyway. In a way, I keep hoping she'll let go during one of those surgeries. Just slip into a much deeper sleep. But, for whatever reason, she's still fighting.

It's not like she just lies there unconscious. I make her laugh until she coughs. She says witty things back. Her brain is just fine. And maybe that's not good.

Yesterday I forgot my teaching bag, but remembered my teacher clothes. I felt myself getting sick, you know, stuffy nose and just general crap feeling. This morning I woke up sick. And tired. I slept in. I mean, even though I'm sick, it feels great to be home. It's like I've never been home. I don't mind being sick because I get to rest. Finally.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

First Comes Love, Then Comes Gay Marriage, Then Comes Mindy and Christina Paying Thousands of Dollars for Sperm that Some Man Spanked Into a Cup..

The rumor is true, we're pregnant.

That was a test. How did you react?

It's a conversation that we've been having lately. Mindy wants to have a baby, I mean, she wants a baby to grow in her womb. I'd rather adopt. A teenager, that way the commitment isn't as long. Babies are boring, anyway. Their little heads just bobble around. They're little machines that process food into poop and that's about it. I want a kid I can talk to already. I'd even settle for three or four years old. I want a human, not an alien poop machine. Mindy wants a baby though, so we can form it in our own image or whatever, but no matter how hard parents try the kid grows up to hate them and rebels against something.

"Christina, you don't really seem like the 'parent' type." I don't agree. I think I'd be a kick ass about 20 years. I love kids, but then, I've never had my own. But we can't wait that long. We have to do it relatively soon, especially if Mindy wants a parasite to grow inside her healthily. But she thinks she's a barren wasteland already. I'm not sure why. She always tells people that and then looks at me, "she's our back up plan."

"Christina, you don't really seem like the 'pregnant' type." You're absolutely right. Here are the things I can't do while I'm pregnant: drink, smoke, play rugby. I don't want to destroy my body. No, let me rephrase, I want to destroy my body with sports, not babies.

The truth is, I'd rather adopt. Kids need homes. I'm adopted. It all makes sense. Of course, that's the hardest option since we can't legally adopt as a couple. And in Arkansas they're trying to, once again, stop the gay agenda.

But, by one of us having a baby, it highly increases our legal rights. I mean, obviously, if Mindy had the baby she'd have every right to the baby. I wouldn't. At all. We'd have to pay lawyers lots of money to help me get some rights to the kid.

Adoption is legal papers for both of us and even more money. But, I'd like to be able to tell the kid who where he came from. For me, finding out my biological family was an obsession. I had to know. If we had a frozen pop baby, that kid would never be able to see her face on another human...well, Mindy, but she'd never know the other half. And, I know, some people don't care. But I'd like to give the kid the option to choose.

Of course, the easiest and cheapest way to have a baby is to go to the bar. We probably wouldn't even have to buy our own drinks. Let me set the scene:

In a Bar
(list of characters)
Mindy: Curvy, dark haired lesbian who wears a low cut shirt
Christina: athletic, blonde haired lesbian who can talk about sports
Bob Smith: straight man

Lights come up as Christina and Mindy sit on two bar stools by Bob.

Mindy: (to Bob) Hi. We're lesbians, uh, and we've never had sex with a man.
Christina: Ever.
Mindy: Would you like to...
Bob: (dragging Christina and Mindy out the door) Would I!?

So, that would be easy. Except all the parts later. You know, the sex with a random guy and all that. And then explaining to the kid, "Your mom and I wanted you so much we..."

And again, we'd never be able to tell her her heritage.

Of course, I could ask a guy friend for his sperm, which we've considered. But then, one of our close would friends would be the father of the baby. That seems wrong, too. But maybe not.

Yes, I do want a kid. I said it. I want to have a kid someday.

Mindy and I lay in bed last night discussing this. I said I was too afraid to have a baby because our relationship is so awesome. Why would I want to change the great thing we have? We'd be tired all of the time, have fights about parenting techniques, we'd never have time alone. I think I'm too selfish to make the decision to go through with it. "You'll have a lot more to write about," Mindy said. I guess, but when would I find the time? How would I do all of the things I love?

Mindy's other concern is jealousy. She thinks the baby will become the most important thing in my life and all of my attention will go to it. And our poor cats would suffer, too.

I've never had a sexual encounter where I had to worry about "protection." In fact, it's impossible in my reality that two people can make a baby by having sex. I can't believe it's that easy and cheap, but it happens all of the time. That baby will come out, looking like the two of them and no questions will every be asked about their parenting skills. They won't have to undergo psychological evaluations, have people come to their home to see how clean or baby-friendly it is. They won't even have to pay for rights to that baby.

And those women will have a pretty easy time answering the question, "who's the father?"

Sunday, January 4, 2009

To die, to sleep...

I was awaken this morning to my ringing cell phone; it's a fake rap song that yells out when my mom dials me. Actually, Mindy woke me up off and on by having a bad dream and crying, and then snoring. So, the phone rang and I jumped up and ran to the living room naked to answer it. Mom was already leaving a message.

She called to say grandma was in an ambulance because she couldn't breathe. Again.

I showered, made coffee, and left in 15 minutes. My heart felt heavy.

This has been happening more frequently. Each month, just one or two more visits than the last. I know what happens eventually.

When I arrived, there were only a few family members in the waiting room. One person came out from the ER with my little, crumpled blue piece of paper that granted me access to the locked door. I found Grandma on the far left in the far back. She had an oxygen mask sucking and blowing at her face so hard I couldn't really hear or understand what she was saying. Her breathing was labored and her left hand gripped at her chest, all of those rings stuck to her swollen fingers. For the first time in my adult life I held her hand, her nails stained with blood that had dripped from the catheter stuck in the back of her hand. She squeezed it in rhythm to the breathing and I suspect, the pain from her drowning lungs.

When my aunt left our side for a few minutes, I promised to stay there. She squeezed my hand and said, "It's just you and me, Christina."

And it was just us for that long minute.

I've mentioned earlier that I'm just realizing my grandma likes me. I guess I see that I like her too. For a long time she hated me...or I thought she did. It was just us. And my mind is still swirling wondering what it really means.

I've also said I don't know my grandma. I said this to Mindy tonight and she said, "Do you really think that?" I do. I hardly know that woman, and I wonder how much the rest of the family does.

My family doesn't know me just as much as I don't know them. I don't know if they believe in God, which way they vote, what their favorite book is, what music they choose to sing to when they're alone. I don't know them at all. But, they also have no idea who I am.

They don't know that I write. Most don't know what an archaeologist even does. They don't know what I feel about my last name, or the town I grew up in. When they look at me, and hear me, sarcastic and dry, do they understand anything that's true?

But, I only see them at moments like this: in the hospital; at weddings; at holidays; at funerals. For me, this is when people are at their worst. At least, that's when I'm at my most cynical. I hate holidays mostly because of commercial reasons. I don't like weddings for the same reason coupled by the fact that I can't have the same rights, and no one likes to be in the hospital (on top of that, I've watched my other grandma and my grandpa Holzhauser die in nearly the same fashion). And funerals, they make me vulnerable, make me feel like I'm staring at the ocean for the first time in my life, make me feel guilty for being so intrigued.

I mean, I don't invite my family out for drinks. Most of them haven't seen my house, or know where I live. I wonder if they want to.

At the hospital they all try to talk over each other. The one who talks the loudest is the one who wins and gets to talk the longest, about whatever subject. No Holzhauser is wrong. Ever. About anything. I've learned to keep quiet and nod at whatever they say. To try to get to speak is too much work and not a game I'm willing to play. Sometimes when I'm asked a question, I get cut-off half way through my answer, the subject turns to something else, and I'm lost, left to live only in their suspicions and assumptions. I think this is true for all of us.

I've always asked myself whether or not I'd be friends with my family members. Some I would choose, others I would never give the time of day, and most I'd tell to shut their racist, bigoted, isolated mouths. That's harsh. It's true, though, tonight. Everything seems truer at the moment.

So what, right, we all feel that way at times. Again, I turn to adoption. Do I feel that I'm not close because I'm adopted, or is it because it's just true for my family?

I asked Grandma at Christmas if she was ready for that interview we talked about. She said, "anytime." While I was showering and getting dressed this morning I rubbed that phrase into my body. I have a lot to ask her. A family sex scandal. If she believes in God. If she has regrets. If she really likes all those damn cardinal figurines and sweatshirts she gets for her birthday and holidays. I'll let her ask me things too, if she wants.

Because really, how much does the family know about me or her? We've never asked personal questions; we avoid difficult topics. Only my two cousins who are within a couple years of my age ever asked about me being a lesbian. The hatred, confusion, denial, sadness, and acceptance all passed silently, just lines on our faces speaking for us.

When my grandma dies it will be loud and violent. She will drown in her own fluids, her lungs struggling to pump because her heart has weakened and can't pump the fluids through. Her body will be starved of oxygen. Her chest will heave. There will be wailing from some of the women while God is asked some hard questions. Of course, after all that, silence.

Grandma, it is just us wondering what it's all about. Why we live and then die. Because I've always been cursed with an overwhelming knowledge and fear of the end of my own consciousness. Some think we wake up in the sky, wearing wings and living eternally. Actually, some must think I'll wake up in a fiery pit with the wailing and gnashing of teeth. But I think one day I will go to sleep and never wake up, and never know it.

Grandma must struggle with it, too, knowing it could be anytime and she might not even realize it when it comes. Or maybe she will and she'll have to watch us all, silently dealing, while the family grows and separates. And time again.

Congestive heart failure happens when the heart is diseased, injured, or overworked.
Congestive heart failure is a progressive and eventually fatal illness.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Ex-Boyfriend

December 12, 2008

Like most people, I explored my options in my early twenties. After one woman broke my heart repeatedly, after shoulder surgery and an intense love of percocet, after all that, I dabbled in heterosexuality.

Working on a dude ranch in northern California, I met a sweet guy from Virginia. The ranch (
was up in the mountains and hundreds of miles from any city. There was a smattering of little towns, but the closest to the ranch was about 15 miles away and its population was about 600, I'll guess. It was just the two of us working there for about a month. We drank cheap beer in my cabin every night and I learned how to smoke weed. Poor Mark would shiver as he handed the bowl to me, all cozy in my down sleeping bag. We became close in the way survivors do; it was us against the world. Why do people travel across the country to work at a dude ranch anyway? I liked him. I wished I could be straight so I could marry him and take him home to my family and wave my hand when they asked about all the girls, "A phase" I would say.

One night we kissed, sloppy drunk, as we slithered off the bed and to the cabin floor. "How was it?" he asked. "Ok, but this his how a girl wants to be kissed..." We only kissed one more time, deep into the ranch summer. There were 20 people our age, all hormonal and stuck in the mountains. At one point we tried going to Lake Tahoe together, to see what would happen, but the Polish girl invited herself. Of course, he knew I was a lesbian, that's why it was weird. He did say once, absolutely sincerely, "If you'd like to sleep with a guy just to see what it's like, I would do that for you."

Ultimately, I fell for a girl from New Zealand.

* * *

Only a year later I found myself liking another man. He was my boss. He was skinny, a runner with no hair on his stomach. I spent a couple of months wondering what was happening to me, why I'd suddenly liked the idea of being with a guy. But, it made sense. Men are easy to get along with. They say what they want and need. Generally, they like to play sports, go hiking, things that interest me too. But, then I guess I sound like those straight girls who say how easy it must be to be in a relationship with a woman for all the same reasons. People are people. Relationships are all the same and all different.

So, my boss and I went on a float trip and stayed in the same tent. After a day of drinking cheap beer and paddling, there we were in a tent, in the woods. We made out a while, but it was when his sweat fell on me, that he had this look in his eyes, that his face was scratchy and he smelled funny...that was when I realized (for the hundredth time) that I was a lesbian.

* * *
But there is one man who will always be my ex-boyfriend. Though I dabbled with those guys, there was no agreement of relationship. The last time I called a guy my boyfriend was in 1997. And he was gay. More accurately, we were both gay. But the most accurate statement is this: Though we had homosexual tendencies, though everyone we knew thought we were gay and talked about us behind our backs, we had not yet quite put our fingers on those realities, but would soon.

I can't remember why or how we started dating. He was a great singer, in the musicals and plays. I was a varsity ball player and president of every organization I could get my unusually coordinated hands on. We spent a lot of time at his parents' house listening to RENT or other musicals. On one date he insisted we go to the mall to get me a cute red sweater. He often told me I dressed too much like a boy. He picked out my prom dress. During rehearsal for one of the musicals he had a little fit on stage saying he didn't know how to dance to that kind of music. After a few times of him whining, I jumped up out of the pit (where I was playing trombone terribly) and did a little dance. In my memory, it's like a scene of a bad movie. I hoisted myself (very skillfully) from the pit, and said, "Like this!" I saw our band teacher smiling at the both of us.

I remember before we stared dating I said, "Everyone thinks you're gay. are you gay? I don't wanna date a gay guy." And he said, "well, everyone says you're gay."
"Well, I'm not," I said.
"Me either," he said.

We made out a few times. There were so many times we were at his house with his parents not there (I should mention here that his mom was my 7th and 8th grade English teacher. She had a great laugh, always got her glasses caught in her hair, explained to a me what the word "sadist" meant and was the first person to call me "Chris."). When we were there alone, I felt like there was something we should be doing, something we should be taking advantage of, but instead, we sang or sat quietly on the couch. At school we stood out like, well, like two queers in a small town high school.

He smelled nice and had nice lips. I don't know what he saw in me at the time. It was a relationship, I see now, based on something kind of resembling friendship. But maybe not friendship, just kinship. I can't speak for him, but I saw things in him I wanted to be, or thought I should be. He could dress himself ( I wore softball t-shirts, boxers, jersey shorts, and those damn adidas sandals). He could sing and got good parts in the musicals (something I've always wanted, but I couldn't sing to save my life). He was more cultured than most people I knew.

So, in the summer of 1997 I went on a trip to Europe and found a girl who I couldn't stay away from. It took a while, but I realized what was happening, so I called after I got back to the states to tell him.
"I think I like girls," I said. There was some more conversation and he said, "You've destroyed my manhood," and slammed down the phone. I laughed for him and cried for myself.

I saw him years later at the gay bar in Columbia. He was wearing a scarf. We were both drunk. He introduced me as his ex-girlfriend to all of his girl friends and they all giggled and squealed. I tried it with my friends and smiled and sipped their beers.

He'll always be my ex-boyfriend, I'll always be his ex-girlfriend. I like that. I like to say that my ex-boyfriend is living in New York and doing hair. I don't know what he says about me..."My ex-girlfriend lives in mid-Missouri and...plays rugby?"

I don't like the term ex-boyfriend. Yes, we broke up, but not because I found another guy, not because I didn't like eating dinner with him and singing "Today for you, tomorrow for me." He's more like my "always boyfriend." If we didn't have each other for that year(?) we dated, we would've had to date other, straighter people. And what they would've expected from us would've been quite different than the quiet, peaceful time we spent together, our minds spinning violently behind our faces.

I Hate Football

December 7, 2008

Maybe that's too strong of a statement. Maybe not.

In the early 90s I devoured football, as did my dad. Of course, he's the reason I watched at all. I loved Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. We hated Dan Marino. Dad called him a fag when I was young, because of those, like, driving glove commercials I think they were. I begged for a helmet and pads, a jersey. Anything. When Dad and I threw a ball in the yard, I realized that the football didn't fit my hand so well. I couldn't throw it like I could a softball and it was then I decided I was a wide receiver. We also hated the Cowboys.

This weekend I've watched more football than I have since I was 16. There's a reason. It's called rugby.

No, I should go back a little bit. My senior year of high, my junior year of high school there was a petition sent around who would play football if we had a football team? I signed. People laughed at me, like I was kidding, like ha you're a girl, that's funny. But I meant it. I didn't think we'd really get a team though.

But we did. I didn't try out though. I was too busy with softball, trying to get scholarships. No, that's not true, either. I knew I had scholarships, but I was in love for the first time and my parents hated me and I hated them and that story you've heard a thousand times. I had nearly made up my mind to move to Houston (a college with no softball team) to be with Lacey. I couldn't pull myself away from softball to try out for the football team.I had played softball since I was 5. It was my identity. And how horrible would it have been to be a lesbian AND playing football? I would've made the team. I was fast and I could catch a ball and take a hit. That's what I told myself.

So, I moved to Houston and didn't take any of those scholarships, and my dad cried. And I cried, too.

But rugby found me only a few months after having moved there. I worked with a six feet tall woman who played. After I asked what the hell kinda sport was that, she invited me to practice. I wasn't hooked immediately because I wasn't good. I wasn't good because the sport is completely foreign to any American. Especially Americans who watch football.

If you don't play rugby, this is what you know about it: It's kinda like soccer and football mixed. Well that's more wrong than it is right. Rugby is like rugby.

Here's a quick lesson in rugby:

1. You can't pass forward. Only laterally and backwards. (you're thinking, "how the hell do you ever gain yardage?" well, it's not called yardage, for one, and for two, it works, trust me)

2. You can kick the ball to move it forward.

3. After a tackle the ball is still live. (very unlike football)

I guess number 3 is the reason I can't stand to watch football anymore. In football, the ball is thrown or passed off behind the line of the way, "scrimmage" comes from the rugby term "scrummage"... after that the person runs until he's tackled.

And, jesus, are people proud of themselves when they tackle someone. They pound their chests, do stupid dances, hit their helmets like they're really something.

In rugby, you tackle someone, they release the ball, and someone else grabs it and runs with it. If a rugby player beat her chest for every tackle,she'd look like an asshole. Just like football players.

The same with touchdowns (which are called "trys" in rugby.) In rugby, a try is scored by touching the ball to the ground in what football players know as the end zone. A football touch down can be scored by breaking the plane of the end zone. Did you notice that the term "touch down" comes from rugby? If you see a rugby player running toward the uprights you'll hear the team screaming, "Touch it down!" So, there ya go.

When football players score a touch down, again, the cocky dance. They throw the ball somewhere, wait for their teammates to get there and do some chest bumping. In rugby, if you score a try, good for you, but you couldn't have done it without the team. No one is singled out in rugby. You're supposed to tackle all the time, you're supposed to score. That's how you play the game.

And now, the padding. Football players wouldn't need the padding if they learned how to tackle. Over my weekend of football watching, I saw 3 wrap tackles. The rest...people just plowing into people with their heads. Throwing their whole bodies at people, just jumping at them. Maybe I forgot to tell you that rugby players don't wear padding. It looks uncomfortable and dangerous. Since we don't tackle like football players, we don't need all the padding.

So, what am I saying? I dunno. Football sucks. Play stops every few seconds, everyone's so arrogant when they do things they're supposed to do. It's boring. Yes, football is boring.

Football players are athletes you might say. Ok, they aren't in terrible shape, but I just saw some guy sucking on an oxygen tank on the sidelines today. Oh, and quarterbacks have a little play list on their forearms. How is it a sport anymore?

Now I know homeland security's gonna snatch me up for being un-American, but I ask you to give rugby a chance. Just take a peek at a few minutes of a youtube game or something.

So, let me finish by saying this: Rugby players are in better shape than football players and they're tougher. Put that in your oxygen tank and suck it.

15 Holzhausers Walk Into a Hospital...

November 24, 2008

My grandma is dying.

Not in the sense that we're all dying every day, but in a real, very obvious sense.

She is my last grandparent. My mom's dad died when I was 2, his wife died when I was 9, though I was at her bedside when the very end came. My dad's dad died when I was 17 and it's still a haunting memory of violence and then nothingness as I hid behind a curtain and watched.

Grandma's been having congestive heart failure for the past month. Every time, she is taken in an ambulance to Jeff City or Columbia, and the whole family is called. We all arrive and sit in the emergency room or waiting room. If you can't imagine 15 Holzhausers in an uncomfortable situation it is much like arriving to a party and realizing everyone there has been drinking since the early afternoon. They are loud and telling stories they've told many times: Uncle Greg nearly bit some guy's nose off in a fight. We laugh heartily. Dad had to shoot the deer over an over before it died. Some of us laugh with a wheeze and a red face. I suppose it's comforting to hear what we've always heard and it feels like Christmas or Thanksgiving. I feel sorry for the other guests who are waiting, in pain, to be seen. Or the other people who are waiting, like we are, in case this time is the last.

I came out to my family 11 years ago and since then, I've been working my way back into their lives. Or, maybe I'm starting to work into their lives, as an adult and not as a child or a teenager who felt out of place.

Two weeks ago I went to the hospital to see Grandma on a Friday in the afternoon. I meant to stay 30 minutes and leave. She was sitting in a chair with tubes and everything stuck into her and running out of her. She looked older than I remembered. She asked how my teaching job was, I told her the drama. She asked about Mindy. I showed her my latest rugby injury and she shook her head, smiling. Then we started talking about Mindy and me. I mean, really talking. I told her that we had no legal rights to each other and she told me to get it done soon because you never know what could happen. She asked if we wanted to have kids. I said someday, that Mindy would do it. We talked about sperm donors. "Grandma," I said, "did you ever think you'd have a conversation like this with me?" She laughed that old smoker laugh until she coughed. "No, honey, I didn't." We laughed together. And after that, she wanted to talk about everything with me. I stayed for 3 hours.

I called her on her birthday not long after that and she said how much she enjoyed visiting with me. Mom called to tell me that grandma had called to tell her that I'd called and said we had a nice conversation.

Yesterday she went back into the hospital so Mindy and I drove to Jeff City. She was in the emergency room waiting to get a bed. When I walked in, her face lit up. I made her laugh a couple of times. We didn't talk too long since she was feeling bad, but I remember she said, "I just wanna feel like Edith again."

The idea of aging has really been bothering me lately. Old people aren't aliens, they're like you and me except they're older. I know it sounds stupid, but people forget that. One day, you and I will have the same brain but in a crappier body. That's all an old person is: a young person in a wrinkly body.

So, Grandma's body is trying to quit and she must know it. She just turned 78.

I've been meaning to video her for years, ask her about the horse and buggy, all those things that are being forgotten more and more every day. There was a sex scandal she was involved in in the late 40s. That couldn't have been easy. She ran a bar for years with Grandpa. I wonder what she's seen?

I'm embarrassed to say this is what I know about my grandma: she is 78, her name is Edith, she's quoted as saying, "Vince Gil could leave his boots on my bed and I wouldn't say a thing to him." And that's it, really.

My grandma likes me. She laughs at my smartass jokes. She loves Mindy and calls her "dear." She even asked yesterday if I played rugby this weekend.

So it seems my time to get to know her is very limited, but if I start asking too many questions, will it make her feel bad? Will it make her feel like we all know it's near the end?

Yesterday we stood there, the 15 of us, around her hospital bed. People were playing with their cell phones ("I can't figure the goddamned thing out") or laughing (Joe's so goddamned afraid 'a snakes one time..."). Grandma tried to keep up, smiling at the funny stories, but she kept drifting asleep. For one moment, everyone was quiet as we looked at her, her eyes closed, her false teeth out. The moment it got quiet, she opened her eyes, like she was afraid to miss something, and someone started, "January 17 we're having a fish and chicken fry out..."

Are we human, or are we dancer?

November 14, 2008

After a week of coming home hating my students more and more each day, I decided to take the rugby girls up on their offer of "hittin' da club."

I haven't gone out in a while. Which means, I haven't had a few drinks and danced naughty with people who aren't Mindy in a while. Here's a little known fact: I like to dance.

Ah, but only when the music isn't crappy new hip-hop. I recognized one song last night, and that was one that the drag queen danced to. I can't remember what it was right now, but it was circa 2000 and brought back memories of Houston and the gay bar I went to, which the older girls called "The Barn"

I had a fake i.d. Well, it was an expired driver's license of a friend. Ok, she was kind of a friend, but more like a girl i really liked. She had five tongue rings (that she'd done herself), pink hair, and drew carey glasses. Anyway, she gave it to me. The picture of her was taken when she was 69 pounds an anorexic. I guess it kind of looked like me.

But there wasn't just her. No, there was the tall, older butch girl who I worked with. She had a short skater cut, you know, with the underneath all shaved. (or maybe you're too young?) We were friends first, she introduced me to rugby, to bars, to ideas.

And then there was another girl. This one I would fall madly in love with. She was a painter, an anthropologist, a smoker, a debutante. The next 3 years I'd spend most of my time with her or without her and in tears.

But then, I can't leave out the reason I moved to Houston in the first place. I'd sworn my life to a shy, tone deaf, blonde haired, blue-eyed physcologist (who now is Dr. and works for NASA) when I was 19, but within months realized all the options I'd yet to explore.

And explore I did. There were the older rugby girls. One night she wore a skirt, had a little too much to drink, and happened to dance with me for one song. Maybe not even the whole song. That was all our relationship lasted, and she didn't even know she was in it with me. She had big hands, that's what I remember most.

I lived and dated and loved like I had to get everyone in before I made a choice. Because if I didn't meet everyone in the world, how would I know I'd chosen the right one?

In those sweaty, bumping bodies last night I saw myself. I was in among them, too. God, how beautiful we all are as a swarming mass of youth. The looks on their faces so bright from hormones, drink, and dance. Those are the times we are infinite, when when can conquer the world with our hips.

I drove home through the rain to my wife. My mortgage, the cats and bills. I woke her up and buried my head in her neck where she smells most like herself. "I'm attracted to them," I said, "I'm sorry." She held me tighter, giggled and said, "but now you're home."

About Me

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Writer, teacher, and archaeologist. Contributing essayist in the anthology "Crooked Letter I: Coming Out In the South" from NewSouth Books.