I Lied to a Vagrant

homelessYesterday, as I was walking the mile and a half to the downtown post office to buy three stamps, I was approached by a vagrant.  He had scruffy hair, was unshaven, and looked as if he had not showered in some time.  As soon as he moved towards me, I knew what he was going to do.

“Ma’am,” he asked, with his hand outstretched towards me, “Do you have twenty-five cents to spare?”

I shook my head no, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t carry any cash on me.”

My eyes welled with tears behind my Coach sunglasses as I walked away.  I did have twenty-five cents. I clutched my Louis Vuitton bag as I thought of the $43.83 cash and $49.50 in my checking account.

However, that is all of the money I have.

With no income, I honestly could not spare the twenty-five cents.

The further I walked away from the young man, the lower I felt.  I know, dressed the way I was, and dressed the way he was, I probably looked like I had it “more together” than he.  Nevertheless, I felt more ashamed for saying no than he probably did for asking.

I thought back to the days where I would have given him the $40 I had, then turned to my other with my hand out and asked for more all without blinking an eye.  It was not that long ago.

Actually, truth be told, I am not different from that young man, with my hand out, waiting for somebody else to pay my way…

I am just sitting in a nice cozy apartment while I do it.  (So as not to be misunderstood, I am being supported… so, no “government assistance”, no actual income…)

I should have given him the quarter.

Met My Old Lover in the Record Store

imagesRemember the song about the man who saw his high school girlfriend in a grocery store and he waxed poetic about their relationship.  The song has been remade hundreds of times; no, not literally, but figuratively.  Everyone looks back at their past during troubled points in their life and yearns for a simpler time, or thinks about a lost love and wonders “what if”.

Those are precisely the reasons I have never joined any social networking sites; I have not wanted to be found by anybody wanting to reconnect with me, nor I them.  I have never been curious about anybody from my past.  I have lived a very cyclical lifestyle; aside from family that I am bound to by DNA, there is nobody in my life that was here 10 years ago; three people that were here 5 years ago, and only one that I speak to or see regularly.

If I had any desire to know people from my past, or they me, I am assuming we would have continued (or even started) a friendship while we were in high school, which is where I assume most of the connections on these sites begin.

However, due to a very recent career move, I was required to join several of these dreaded sites; I reluctantly agreed, but made no move to advertise my presence.  I simply signed up and existed.  All was well until approximately a month ago when I received a “chat” message from somebody:

“Wow, I loved your work on that piece.” Him

“Thank you.  I appreciate you following.” Me

Mindless banter regarding my work.

“So, do you still have that ’57 Chevy you used to drive?” Him

A few minutes of stone silence on my end.

“Uhmmmm…” Me

“Are you still there?” Him

“Yes, I’m still here.” Me

“Don’t you remember me?”  Him

“No, not really.  I apologize.” Me, completely clueless as to who I am chatting with.

“We used to date, in high school.” Him

“Oh.  We did?  I am so sorry.  I guess I dated a lot.”  Me

“Lol” Him

“So…” Me

“You used to drive a ’57 Chevy BelAir.  You lived in the ghetto, remember?” Him

Yes, I am thinking, I know who I am, who are you?

“We dated for like three months, junior year.  I don’t remember why we broke up; but I remember making out like crazy, until my jaw was sore.”  Him

“Oh, yeah, now I remember you.” Me, still having no clue, but trying to be polite.

The banter continued for a few hours that night; he told me how he was unhappy in his marriage with his wife of 10 years, how he had lost his passion for life, how life was basically dragging him down.  He was nostalgic about our relationship and wondered about me all these years; he was happy to have finally found me and hoped I was doing well and was happy.

We ended our conversation that night wishing each other well; I told him that I hoped he would find peace in his marriage, but that I thought he deserved to be happy, I believe everyone does.  He thanked me for some advice I gave him and we said good night.

For the next few weeks, we said hello in passing, wishing each other a happy holiday but nothing more.

Then, a few nights ago, the inevitable happened; he said hello and we chatted for three hours.  He opined how unhappy he was with his wife, and asked when I would be in town again.  When I told him I would be there next week for work, he asked if we could go to lunch because he wanted to say some things he never had a chance to say in high school.

I asked how his wife would feel; he said he did not care anymore about how she would feel.  I told him I was in a committed relationship; he said it was all right with him, he still needed to say what was on his mind.  My heart ached for him.

He remembered why we broke up; he admitted that he had been a virgin when we were in high school and that he feels I wanted more.  I confessed that I was a bit “fast” in those days and gave myself away far too often and to too many people; like the tacky country music song lyricizes, “looking for love in too many places”.  However, it made me remember him.

As we ended our conversation again, I realized how dangerous these sites and this new genre of communication can be.  I longed to tell him that if he put those three hours of chat time into his marriage, imagine what he might get in return; but I did not want to judge or imply.

He is holding onto a memory of a girl that no longer lives; maybe she never did…  But each time somebody sits behind their keyboard and holds out hope searching for a lost love from high school from 25 years ago, they can only be looking for memories.  It is like pulling out a dusty old scrapbook and looking at photographs, the pictures are static, they cannot change; time has passed, things change, people change, but the photos are the same…

 

The Ugly Duckling

indexIt took years before I was aware the prettier I became the easier life was for me; the more people wanted to do for me and wanted to be around me.  There were times things could be fairly easy because of my looks; however, like with my personality and being bipolar, my beauty waxes and wanes.  I have a tendency to go through periods of “letting myself go”; I have gained weight, had acne, and gone through lengthy periods of leaving the house without caring about my hair or makeup.

Still, I have a personality most do not forget; rarely would anybody say they would not remember me.  They would say either they like me very much, or they strongly dislike me; though, seldom would anyone say they could not recollect me.

Even during those periods of my waxing physical attractiveness, I have noticed my ability to charm others and usually get what I want.  I have never had a job interview that did not produce employment, a date that did not result in a request for a second date, a romance that did not blossom into something, and have great luck in getting quick service in restaurants while others have to wait 45 minutes or more.

A few months ago, my mother and I were out on my birthday and were at a saloon in a historical town; she wanted to test her theory about a local bartender who was only interested in tips from tourists.  She challenged me to order our drinks thinking he would not help me for an inordinate period of time.  When he helped me immediately, she was incredulous; snapping, “It’s because you’re pretty so you always get what you want.”  The bartender responded to me instantaneously all evening and was flirtatious and gracious, much to my mother’s chagrin.

On the other hand, there have been times when I have not been as confident and I have been on the waning side of my charm and good looks; choosing to sink into the dark side of the pole of my bipolar madness.  During those times, I am lonely in my relationships, would not think of going out for a job interview, and only whine when waiting in line for a 30-minute wait at a restaurant.  I am the ugly duckling.

***

My uncle’s ex-girlfriend has five Pomeranians; she moved out but could not take the dogs with her, so she left three of them with my uncle.  She takes two for a few weeks and then comes back and rotates them out taking two others.  Both my uncle and his ex have a hierarchy of their favorite dogs, with each favoring the smallest, a three-pound cutie with the smallest legs I have ever seen.

It is easy to love the beautiful ones with the most outgoing personality; like me, they put themselves out there, the look at you with loving eyes, and they respond when you talk to them.  Whenever there is something going on in the kitchen – practically all day during the holidays – the most outgoing of them come running and perform little tricks to get a morsel; they are rewarded with scraps of meat from roasts or other goodies.

Conversely, there is one little dog who is the least preferred of them both; she is very timid, she does not have a fluffy coat like the other dogs, and when you talk to her, she cowers down as if she has been abused.  She is not as pretty or outgoing as the other dogs; when you want to give the dogs a treat; she has to be tracked down so it seems fair.

At one point, one of the neighbors wanted the dog, so the ex-girlfriend gave her away to them; the family returned her after two weeks when they claimed she was not housebroken.  That was it, she was not good enough for them, they just brought her back, she no longer belonged.

She is the ugly duckling.

I think she is beautiful.

She is my favorite.

 

Who Am I?

imagesI have never fully allowed anybody to know me; I always hold part of myself back.  No matter my relationship with somebody, wife, lover, friend, mother, daughter, co-worker, or patient, there is a piece of me that they will never know.  It is never the same piece, though.

I pick who is permitted to know what about me; maybe if they all got together one day, they would have a complete picture of who I am.  Most likely, though; if people started to compare notes, they would think they were talking about different people.

Even when I have been a psychiatric patient, at times seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist; I would tell one certain elements about my life and the other different things.  Never lies, I always told the truth, but there were always omissions.  Sometimes, in therapy, I was afraid if I told them absolutely everything, I might be locked up because I would be found “crazy”.

However, in my personal relationships, especially in my marriages, I held back not wanting to give too much of myself.  I would be one way at home in my relationship, then I would go to work and have a friend and a different personality.  It was exhausting.

There was a terrible movie in the 80’s called Stepfather I believe; it was about a man who had a family that he was disappointed with.  He secretly quit his job and took one about an hour or so away; he married another woman with children.  Then, I believe he killed his first family and simply picked up his life with the second family.

One day, he started to tire of them as well, as they were not perfect; which is what he was looking for, perfection.  He was on the phone planning his escape to yet another life when one of the stepchildren overheard him on the phone talking; he used a name that was not his at the time, he had slipped up.  The teenager overheard him; striking the kid across the head, bloodying him, he says, “Oh, wait, who am I today?”

I never screw up, though; I juggle my personalities like balls in the air.  They stay up as long as I need them to, and if one starts to descend, I catch it, and throw it right back up again.  I hold my secrets locked tightly away, never sharing them with anybody; the loneliness of my reality suffocating me at times.

There are days I want to open my heart and say, “Look at me, don’t turn away.  Here I am, these are all of my secrets… if I share them, would you still know me?”  However, the thought of even saying it, after all of these years makes me tremble.

Each day, a new personality… or a recycled old one, often, the flat one.