Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Conversation That Changed My Life

I am starting this post with a picture of Oprah, because shit is going to get preachy up in here.

Today was a day of mixed emotions. I started at Old Chicago, where I officially said good-bye to everyone who was involved in The Play That Wasn't, and I received the pillows that my friend Sina graciously made for the silent auction that was to raise money for The Play That Wasn't. They are beautifully embroidered and I was happy to have them in my possession. I was off on Sunday due to my staycation, and took the bus to Lush, since I have seen many Facebook statuses about how it is such a great place to be on a Sunday afternoon due to their mimosas, and I can never go due to my retail job. I felt a little weird having pillows on the bus, but since I was at the bus stop next to a woman who was wildly gesticulating and clapping her hands, I still felt normal by comparison.

I arrived at Lush around 2:30 P.M., and I have this to say for all you Minneapolis kids: If you have no plans on a Sunday and it's a nice day out, GO TO LUSH. It is like gay Las Vegas on a Sunday. The patio is open! The weather is beautiful! Boys are in skank tanks! Music is playing! The mimosas are as big as your head! I don't even like mimosas, but I was sure to order one just for the ambience.

I sat at the bar by myself and ordered a mimosa. "I'm day drinking," I announced, still raw from the disappointment from The Play That Wasn't. "I'm depressed." I looked at the table across from me, which was a posse of young gay men who seemed to be friends. They probably did not work at the mall. I was going to text my mother to come pick me up because I felt lonely and stupid, but my phone was dead. I looked to the right and saw an acquaintance and a friend of his. The acquaintance in question is a nice person -- he generally always says hello to me in public -- but his friend is not. This guy literally grimaced when he saw me walk in the bar. I'm not sure why he doesn't like me, or why I chose to obsess over it, but it made me want to order another drink.

"Are you ready to play Iron Chef Bartender?" I asked the lovely young woman behind the bar. "I want something that's summery but has vodka in it. And I want a Red Bull, because I'M TIRED."

She presented me with the Red Bull (poured in a glass, and it totally looks like pee that way) and a blue concoction. "I just put all the flavored vodkas together," she giggled. I WAS SOLD. I took a few sips. I looked back at the table of gays, at the boy who grimaced, at the local celebrity I'm inexplicably always name-dropping, at the boy in the muscleshirt who I totally saw at Lush *last* night but who does not know I am alive, and realized I should at least try to mingle before asking to borrow someone's phone to call my mother. He wrote that at age 25.

I went outside and stood next to a young woman. "I am going to look normal," I said, despite the fact that I was wearing a blue hoodie over a red T-shirt and orange pants and randomly had two pillows with me. She laughed, and introduced me to her girlfriend, and her friends, and they were all incredibly nice people. One of them was from Long Island and we bonded over a New York City past. One of them was from South Dakota. They were all dreamers who saw Minneapolis from a different perspective than I did, and as the mimosas flowed they were laughing at everything I said. We discussed our neighborhoods and future goals and took random pictures with my pillows.

As I continued mingling, I met another young woman who told me she was just moving back from the Middle East where she was teaching. She had vivacious curly hair and was rocking a hipster outfit. She told me a delightful story about when she brought her parents to Lush, and I shared a similar experience about when I brought my father to the Gay '90s. The acquaintance's mean friend was in the parking lot. "See that guy in the stripes?" I whispered. "He literally grimaced when he saw me walk in here. I don't get it. I'm not gonna fuck his boyfriend. His boyfriend only likes Asians. What's with people? Like, what did I do to you?" The local celebrity and his boyfriend walked back inside. The boy in the muscleshirt laughed loudly amongst his posse. I WAS SO OBSESSED ABOUT THIS. I realized I was talking about myself too much, so I wanted to switch the conversation back to her. "Are you going back to the Middle East?" I asked.

"I hope so," she said. "Last winter my stomach kept getting bigger ..." This story was either going to end with a pregnancy or a humorous tale of food poisoning, I could tell. "...And it turns out that I had a tumor, and then they realized it was cancer." She said this in the same tone that she told me about teaching English, about her parents from Wisconsin, about how much she loved gay men. She did not say this to garner sympathy or a dramatic reaction. She said this because it was her story.

I simply nodded as I did not want to freak out and make her feel like a fragile infant. I am sure she had seen that reaction enough. She continued.

"So my boyfriend from the Middle East e-mailed me and was like 'Wow, you have cancer, I can't deal with this.' He basically broke up with me via e-mail. The doctors told me that 70% of cancer is just bad luck, and that's what I had. I have no history of lady cancer in my family. I never had problems before. I just learned that life is so short, and you just have to LIVE it. No matter what your dreams are, just go for them, because you never know when it's going to end."

"Can I ask if you're okay now?" I asked.

"No, you can't," she said, smiling through slight tears forming. Then I realized I was crying, too. "Oh, please don't cry," she said sweetly. "I haven't cried since January. If you cry, I am going to cry."

"Oh my god, I'm not crying," I told her. "It's allergy season, it's terrible! This pollen index, it's horrible. I've taken so much Claritin!

It's just that I went through a setback -- nothing like yours, but I was going to be in this play and it was going to be a big deal and I was finally going to be somebody, and it didn't happen and I was so disappointed, and I saw this billboard that said 'in everything, give thanks', and I'm just so thankful that I met you and you're having this conversation with me, and I'M NOT CRYING, I told you, I have really bad allergies."

"Life is so short, Jakey," she said. "Just LIVE it. That's all I want to tell people. Please stop crying."

I did the proper thing, which is walk to the bathroom, where I cried like a proper lady. I prayed in the bathroom, and apologized to God for a) not talking to Him in a few years, and b) doing it while I was urinating. When I walked out of the stall, I noticed that my hair was messy and my T-shirt was giving me a muffin top. Then I realized that I was not going to care. I walked back to the dance floor. I did not care about the boy who grimaced when he saw me, or the boy in the muscleshirt, or the local celebrity. I talked to the girl some more, this time about easier topics like cute boys and our siblings. The boy from Long Island let me borrow his phone to call my mother. We all screamed "LORETTA!!!" from the patio but she did not want to come inside. "I'm not hanging out with drunken gays," she told me when I got in the car. "I will hang out when they are sober. Are you crying? You said you were going to only have one mimosa."

Oprah had a sleepover with Maya Angelou once. I saw it on the 25th Anniversary DVD. "My favorite lesson from you," Oprah told Maya as they rather awkwardly laid in bed wearing pajamas, "Is that you told me in the moment of your crisis, say 'Thank You'." In your sadness, in your despair, in your hopelessness, find something to be thankful for.

My bender of a staycation is over. The play is cancelled. I go back to work tomorrow. Life is short. I look forward to living it.

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