11 July 2016

Shut Up Kiss Me [Angel Olsen]


I have some big life changes coming around the corner. A move to a new place. A new job. A new life in a new city. All official announcements will be made once the ink has dried and my boxes have been packed. In addition to the location and career moves, my heart has also flown the coop. I spent the first half of 2016 in the company of a person that supported me, held me when I needed holding, watched my eyes light up while talking through curatorial projects, took me to museums and exhibitions, debated with me about all sorts of things that interested us, and insisted I wear a Bernie Sanders shirt to sleep in because he loved that I loved Bernie's idealism and energy.

My heart is swollen and broken at my companion's swift and unexpected departure from my life. Particularly during a week that has been wrought with violence, protests, more violence, and outrage. I can't bring myself to watch any of the videos. There are moments when all I want to do is pick up the phone, just to tell him that this past week was a living nightmare both inside and outside of my home. But in times of crisis, all we can do is move forward. All we can do is pick ourselves up. Though I didn't feel up to attending the Black Lives Matter solidarity protests happening around Chicago this week, I'm planning on showing up for the Sandra Bland remembrance gathering in Daley Plaza on Wednesday. 

This is an historic and trying time for us in this country. As I pick up to leave my beloved Chicago, I think about how much she has served me these past 28 years. The public schooling I received through CPS, which is now rapidly closing schools across the city, laying off masses of teachers, due to dire financial strain. I think about the education I received from UIC, a public institution, under financial duress due to our state not having a budget (it's been two years without said budget). I think about the parks I played in, the lake I swam in, the access to arts and culture that I had that others might not have been as fortunate to attain. I think about the false sense of safety I have wandering the streets of my neighborhood knowing that there's been an increase in gun violence not only on the south and west sides, but in my part of town too. I think about what a mess we have gotten ourselves into, and how at times it feels completely inevitable. But then I think about what I can do. I can write and call politicians. I can write about this on my blog. I can engage in dialogue with my friends and family. I can show up to protests and participate. I can be present.

It's been a week of heartache, but my heart will mend. I keep looking forward. I planted a gum drop for myself in the future. A single ticket to Angel Olsen in the city I'm moving to. My first concert in my new town. I fully intend on singing along to every song, basking in her glow, entirely on my own. A sweet independence I was both dealt and chose. This is my time, this is our time. We are never truly alone. We are part of a human community, let's be there for one another, yeah? 

08 July 2016

The Night I Met You

When you asked me to the holiday party at the Arts Club, I sheepishly said yes. I didn't know why you were inviting me or what your intentions were. I said yes because I was in a moment in my life where I wanted to say yes to the unknown. I remember running our brief texts over to my friends asking simply, "Date or business thing??" and one person responded, "If he touches your back it's a date."

You reached out your hand to greet me that night, introducing me to your friends. I didn't know at the time that it was the only time I would meet any of those nice interesting people. Your eyes were piercing, I found myself looking away because I couldn't look directly into them. Date or business I repeatedly asked myself. You wanted to sit next to me on the couch at the back of the room during the strange performance - an authentic "Victorian Picture Show" - but due to low attendance, we were politely asked to sit toward the front. As we made our way to the chairs, I felt you place your hand on the small of my back. The entire experience was strange. I sipped my wine, thinking about how badly I had to go to the restroom, how I didn't know where it was located, how I was sitting next to a stranger in a room, while everyone around me sang Christmas Carols. We made a number of jokes under our breath, I noticed you weren't drinking, I clutched my wine for comfort. Date or business?

At dinner, you pulled out my chair for me. I talked to you about my studies. It was the first of many conversations we would have about disability, about art, about museums, about the things that interested us. I couldn't look into your eyes as we spoke, and I barely touched my food. I was so nervous and I couldn't tell why. I didn't ask you many questions about yourself, something I regretted when we hung out again later. When I didn't eat much of my food, you asked if I was done, then switched your empty plate for mine. You ate all of the meat, leaving the potatoes on the side. I thought, how odd. Why is this person eating my dinner? Definitely not a business move. When the server came around to refill our glasses, you made a joke about them cutting you off after this glass of water. I retorted, "Oh, is that your token joke about not drinking?" Everyone at the table laughed. I didn't know at the time what your reasons for not drinking were, and I am sorry if I made you uncomfortable. But you weren't uncomfortable. You said afterwards that you liked how ballsy I was that night. How I made a joke at your expense. Your friends (the ones I never met again) liked me enough to make a toast to me.

After desserts and coffee, we moved the party over to your friends' apartment on Michigan Avenue. You carried my umbrella for me. I liked how you looked in your maroon suit, carrying my clear plastic umbrella. You looked dignified, and I was touched at you wanting to do something for me. Maybe chivalry wasn't dead? Or maybe you were just being polite. On the 54th floor of this high rise, we saw a breathtaking view of the city. I felt we were inches away from the John Hancock, glowing red and green for holidays. Fog was rolling in over the lakefront, and though we didn't have coats on I didn't mind the breeze. I took a photo of the view while no one was looking, to remember that the night was real, that this was all happening. 

The stunning view from the hosts' balcony
We drank expensive whiskey, I was too shy to turn it down, even though I hate the stuff. Pot appeared in the form of a vaporizer with personalized mouth pieces. I turned to you and said, "Is this really happening?" You encouraged me to be comfortable. I smoked and drank, I warmed up a little. The host wanted to walk us through the apartment, showing us his favorite works of art. Your friend, the architect, put on The Weeknd. There were a few beautiful prints made by the host's mother, I believe while she was at Ox Bow. He told us that one of the works was made while he was in utero, I loved that fact. I remember the host's collection of R. Crumb illustrations, and how excited I was by the erotic Mapplethorpes hanging in the hall. The hosts were excited about the new Italian marble in the living room and an ancient Roman mosaic they had recently hung. I thought to myself, where am I and how did I get here? I didn't want the night to end. There were a few moments when I thought about how I wanted to brush my hand on yours, or how I hoped our thighs would touch. Was this a date or business? Who were you and why did you invite me? 

We shared an Uber home. In the car you peppered me with questions. About school, about if I was single, about if I had time to date. I answered honestly, these weren't business questions. I wished we were in the back seat instead of the front two middle seats, the space between our chairs felt like a gulf. I wanted more. I wanted answers. When we arrived at your corner, you leaned over and kissed my cheek. This was not a business meeting, right? I watched you walk toward your building, not knowing which one it was. And as soon as we drove off, I asked our driver what he thought. He listened sweetly and told me it was most definitely a date.

The photo I sent you letting you know I got home okay.
Thanks for the Uber.

m