Love in the Air

I have a friend.
It’s not really that common of a thing for me.
I don’t keep a whole lot of them.
I mean, I really do get along with most people. Sometimes I think I don’t, but I do. At parties or gatherings or whatever I can usually talk to just about anyone. The conversations aren’t necessarily super goddamn meaningful, but I can hold my own.
Real, genuine, penetrating connections with other people are a lot more difficult for me. It always seems like such a miracle when I actually do meet someone who thinks about the world in the way that I do—or who really thinks at all.
But I have a friend—a fucking good friend. We’ve gone through a ton together. Recently, however, I’ve been kinda distracted, right? I mean, last week I was on book tour again with my dad. I’ve been getting involved in a new relationship and that’s been taking a lot of my attention. Not that I totally abandoned him or anything. We hung out a ton and I tried to include him in whatever it was I had planned or whatever. Usually he backed out, though. Social anxiety’s a fucking bitch.
So when I got back from Arizona on Sunday I called my friend to see if he wanted to go on a walk up in Griffith Park. He agreed, maybe surprisingly in retrospect.
We walked up the steep, dry dusty trail. It was sunset and the smog over downtown was light up all pink and electric. My dog ran up and down the canyon walls, chasing squirrels or birds or whatever else lives in the brush there.
My friend was breathing pretty hard and sweat ran down the paleness of his skin. Still, he reached in his pocket to get a cigarette.
At first I wasn’t sure what I saw—or I didn’t wanna believe it or something. I questioned my eyes. I guess denial can be pretty fucking strong.
A syringe fell out on the ground—the orange cap in direct contrast with the muted earth. My friend kicked at it spastically, covering it with dirt not very casually at all.
I pretended to be looking off in the distance. I pretended not to see it. I mean, I didn’t know what the fuck to do.
My voice kinda caught in my throat, but I tried to carry on a conversation as normally as possible—while my mind went fucking ‘round and ‘round—trying to figure out what was gonna come next.
So I walked the whole walk with him—suddenly hyper aware of his rambling and spacey expression. Still I didn’t say anything about the needle or whatever.
I tried to think, right? What would I want someone to do if I was in his position. I guess I’d probably want them to leave me the fuck alone. But that wouldn’t be what’s best, of course. He was gambling with his life. I mean, it’d just take one bad shot to kill him dead and gone. I couldn’t not approach him about it.
But then part of me just thought, “What the hell. If he’s getting away with it then more power to him.”
The thought even entered my head, right? I could just go out for one night. We’d just use that one night and no one would know and what the fuck would it matter anyway.
Honestly I’m not really sure why I dismissed that idea so quickly. I guess, maybe for the first time ever, I actually have a life that I sort’ve love. And, I mean, this whole feeling my feelings thing I’ve been trying out—you know, not running from the sadness or fear or whatever—it’s kinda been making a huge difference. No feeling I have seems as hopelessly unmanageable as it used to. Just through the practice of dealing with whatever it is that I’m feeling, the need to escape myself has gotten so much less acute.
I really am so excited about my life and I’m definitely growing to at least start to sort of like myself.
So I don’t wanna throw that shit away.
And, of course, one night of heroin ain’t never gonna fuckin’ happen.
If I haven’t figured that out by now, well, I’m a fucking idiot.
Which, I guess, is the case a lot of the time.
But, anyway, with my friend I didn’t let myself go there. The thought of using with him was dismissed pretty quick and that’s definitely progress. I mean, for sure.
What I really felt was sadness—this intense, penetrating sadness. I knew my friend had been really struggling. Actually, it seemed kinda chemical to me.
Psychiatrists always talk about people’s baselines. When you’re chemically depressed, your baseline is way lower than normal people. It’s like most people float on the surface—sometimes rising into the air and sometimes sinking down into the salt, thick, blinding water. Suffering from chemical depression is having to spend all yer goddamn energy just getting up to the surface. Fighting so hard just to achieve some semblance of normalcy. Getting on the right anti-depressants, for me, has totally helped raise my baseline. It’s not that I’m all high and euphoric—like being on ecstasy or something. I just don’t have to struggle so frantically to keep treading water. I actually enjoy things in my life. I feel excitement, wonder, hope, and temporary satisfaction.
Spending time with my friend, I was always super aware that his baseline was fucking low—even lower than mine. It’s like the pleasure receptors in his brain (if there is such a thing) have been totally burnt to nothing. I’ve talked to him about maybe getting on medication, but his therapist actually keeps delaying it—which pisses me off, even if I’m not a doctor.
My friend’s loneliness is almost tangible—thick and heavy like the brown layers of smog spinning exhaust, dirt cocoons over the buildings of downtown. His hopelessness bleeds out from a thousand cuts covering his whole body.
But, of course, I love him. He is such a deep thinker—so wise and insightful. We talk and talk forever. We go out to dinner and get milkshakes and watch movies in the apartment. We walk the dogs and go to the beach and make fun of people we see on the street. He is a lovely precious star. Really.
But he was shooting dope again. I mean, no fucking question.
I dropped him back at the house and told him I was gonna meet him for coffee in an hour. I wasn’t gonna let him back out. I mean, no way. I had to talk to him that night for sure.
There wasn’t much I could do, though. I mean, either he’d wanna get help or he wouldn’t. He could totally freak out and scream at me to leave him alone. He could run.
I talked to my mom and she just suggested I let him know that I love him and that I’m willing to do anything to help. If he’d let me—and depending on how long he’d been using—I could totally drive him to a detox. I’d help pay if that were an issue.
My dad was more cautious, urging me to keep as much distance as I could. It just wasn’t worth the risk of being exposed to that shit.
I guess he was right. It was a fucking dangerous situation.
But I had to do something.
So I called my friend and he met me outside his place. We walked with the dogs around the block.
I told him what I’d seen.
He was fucking out of it, but he knew he’d fucked up. He wanted help. I mean, he said he did.
I talked to him for a long time about everything that’d led up to his using again. He accepted my offer to go in to detox if he wasn’t able to get clean by the next day. I hugged him.
He’d only been out for three days. The kick shouldn’t be too bad.
That night I kept him company watching a movie at my place. Actually, I fell asleep in the first fifteen minutes, but I was still able to be there for him.
The next day he managed not to use, which was a fucking miracle to me. We hung out that night and he was sick—sweating—his nose running—so I knew he was goin’ through withdrawals and couldn’t have gotten high.
The next day we went to the movies. He was still sorta kickin’ but the worst was definitely over. Today he spent the day with his mom. I just talked to him and he sounded really clear and full of hope.
So that’s three days he’s got now.
Obviously whatever triggered him to relapse in the first place hasn’t gone away. He’s gonna have to face that shit if he wants to stay clean—and hopefully he can get on some better meds.
But fuck, man, if the goal is to make fewer, less severe mistakes as we go along, he’s totally made a ton of progress. I’m super proud of him—and I believe in him—even if he fucks up again.
Of course I’ve been super preoccupied with makin’ sure he’s alright. And, even if he does stay clean, for now the risk of him bringing that shit around me is not worth exposing myself to. So I’m trying to distance myself a little. And I know I gotta move out of the place we’ve been workin’ on together. I love him, but my dad’s right, I gotta protect myself—even if that sounds selfish.
But as long as my friend is trying to get clean, I’m gonna be here for him.
I know I can’t keep him sober, but I can support him as he goes along.
So tomorrow will be day four.
If he makes it.
I believe he can.
There is hope.
I mean, as long as we keep living, there is always hope.
And that is beautiful.
And that sets us free.
Anything can happen.
We just gotta keep trying.
What Love Ain't
I have no idea what love is to most people. I have no idea what love is supposed to be. I have no idea what a healthy relationship should look like. I have no idea what society considers “normal” in terms of falling in love, being in love, and acting on that. I have no fucking idea. And, you know, I guess I don’t really care anymore.
I am me.
More and more I’m coming to understand who that is. Through group therapy, one on one therapy, supportive friends, writing, living, reflection—I’ve begun to find out who I am underneath all the protective coverings and drawn curtains and stained, twisted sheets. I’ve started to see myself—my true self—hiding somewhere behind my lungs maybe—some unreachable center in me.
I have an intensity inside of me that can be destructive as hell, but can also cut me wide open so that I feel sadness and joy and freedom and empathy and love like fucking stars burning out and the sun captured inside every living thing.
That’s how it feels—in every artery pumping blood through my body.
But love, right? Love.
Maybe what I’m feeling isn’t love at all. Maybe it’s lust or infatuation or addiction or obsession. Maybe it’s all those things.
But, to me, it’s love. I experience it as love. I experience it like being lifted high up above the ever thinning atmosphere. I experience it like having my chest crushed in, my bones splintering, stomach acid eating through the lining.
Is that love?
Who’s to say? I mean, who can even define love anyway? It’s such a completely abstract concept—and so totally subjective.
So that is love for me.
Entangled with my lover, our legs entwined, skin against skin, gripping our hands together—lying like that, I couldn’t help but cry silently to myself. The tears came on me and I couldn’t stop them. I didn’t want to. The intensity of my emotions are apart of who I am.
I was crying out of sadness for everything that’s come before.
I was crying out of gratitude for surviving—for having my life today.
I was crying because I felt such overwhelming, penetrating love for her.
But go ahead and tell me it’s not love.
Tell me what love is.
Tell me what God is.
Tell me how the world formed and why.
Tell me how things should be.
Tell me how I should be.
Tell me how they should be.
One friend of mine needs to wear diapers while getting fucked in order to get off.
One friend of mine signed a contract with her husband that he completely owned her and could use her body any way he wanted. Mostly he’s into inflicting pain. Mostly she’s in to receiving it. She has a piercing between her legs with a lock that closes her shut. Her husband holds the only key.
One friend of mine can only cum if she’s touched or gone down on.
One friend of mine can only cum if you find a certain place inside.
One friend of mine only falls for older women.
One friend of mine only falls for younger boys.
Friends of mine are gay.
Friends of mine are straight.
Friends of mine are bi.
Friends of mine can never make commitments.
Friends of mine always fall in love.
So who’s right?
And who’s wrong?
Who’s sick?
And who’s well?
If nothing else, after everything I’ve been for, I can honestly say that I’ve learned to have compassion for every point of view, every kink, every attempt at finding happiness, or peace, or whatever.
I mean, who am I to judge?
Who are any of us to judge?
So long as no one is getting hurt or violated against their will, what the fuck do I care what love and satisfaction is for them?
All our stories, all our pasts, all or different genetic make-ups, all these things just add to the beautiful insanity that is our dysfunctional humanity. We all hold universes inside of us. We are all so intricate and complex. There are no concrete emotional truths. Feelings are entirely individual. That’s why they are so totally amazing.
Imagine a world where we could give up our judgments of other people—our strange desire to want everyone to be like ourselves. What’s true for you is not necessarily true for you. Your values are right for you, but they’re not necessarily right for me.
I was reading The Onion newspaper the other day. One of the headlines was something like, “Half of the population who you’d never even talk to is voting for someone else.” I mean, it’s kind of true. Our country is divided into two very distinct political ideologies. Nothing one side can say will ever change the other people’s minds. Each one thinks the other is totally fucking crazy.
Which one is right?
I think I know, but that’s just me.
And who am I to give anything but my opinion, while I respect the different opinions and decisions of the people around me.
Besides, our differences are just about the only thing that keeps this whole living thing interesting.
Maybe that’s why discovering who I am is so important—and why I need to come to accept and honor what makes me what I am—devastating faults, confusion and all.
My love is my love.
Your love is yours.
And I got no problem with that.