Crisis – Part 2

Here’s Crisis – Part 1

The following took place January 2008.

Part 2

I’m amongst the crazies.  The nurse gently grabs my arm, guiding me, telling me, “It’s going to be okay.”  It’s what Jess said after she found me on the floor.  She scooped me up, got me in the car, and dropped me here.  Now she’s gone, and I’m surrounded by lunatics.  They’re everywhere, picking, scratching, wandering the halls, shuffling in these half-dead steps.  This isn’t a state-run facility.  This isn’t Cuckoo’s Nest.  This is Culver City, and the crisis center looks more like an office, only instead of desks and cubicles, there are Barcaloungers lining the walls.  Most of the patients stare at the soundless TV.

The nurse walks me past the front desk.  She asks, “You got any jewelry?”

“No.”

“What about your backpack?  You got anything valuable?”

“No, just a book and some clothes.”

“Well, watch your stuff.  Some people like to get handsy.”

I still can’t believe Jess is gone.  I wonder if she’s heading back to our apartment, or if she’s just going to keep going.

The nurse points out a little break room with a vending machine, payphone, and Kleenex boxes stacked to the ceiling.

I hear a growl, and I turn.  A man with half his head shaved is coming at me.  His eyes are wild.  He wants to know why he can’t have more fucking water.  I back up against the wall.

The nurse steps in.  Her voice is soft and calm.  She’s looking him straight in the eye.

“Charles, you need to stop right there.”

“This is bullshit.”

“What’s the problem, Charles?”

“I want my goddamn water!”

A few patients inch closer.  They’re almost licking their lips.

“Charles, you can go to the drinking fountain,” the nurse says.  “No one’s stopping you.  You just have to walk over there if you like.”

“Yeah, well…I just…” he trails off, suddenly confused.

“It’s okay.  You’re alright.”  Gently, the nurse touches his arm – the same way she touched mine.  Is this what I am?  Am I Charles?

I see two huge patients sizing me up.  My heart’s pounding.  I realize the irony.  An hour ago, I was ready to step off a skyscraper.  Now, I’m afraid to die.

The security guard comes out of the restroom.  He’s on his cell asking someone what she wants to do for dinner.  Earlier, when he said to give him my belt, I handed it over because I was scared shitless.  I realize now he’s just a rent-a-cop.  He doesn’t even have a gun.  If these lunatics wanted to, they could rip out his throat and take back our pencils.  The only thing preventing a full-out riot is the nurses.  They’re so calm.  They listen to every concern and request.  They never raise their voices.  It’s all about de-escalation, diffusion.  If one patient goes off, they need to put out the fire quickly before the rest ignite.

I ask the nurse, “Is it always like this?”

“Nah, this is slow.  Weather’s nice.  Most of these folk just came in here for prescriptions.  Some of the others like to get out of the sun.”

I realize I’m basically at a homeless shelter.

When we get to an open door, the nurse stops and says, “I need to ask you something, okay?”

I’m ready for her to question how a guy like me ended up here.  I have a master’s degree, all my teeth, and I don’t smell like pee.

She says, “Are you going to hurt anyone?”

“Excuse me?”

“I need to know you’re not going to get violent.  I’m putting you in the side room with some very sweet people, and you won’t be in our direct eye-line, and I need to know I can trust you’re not going to do anything.”

“No, I wouldn’t…no.  I’d never…”

“What about yourself?  You gonna hurt yourself?”

“No…”

“Hey, it’s okay.  No reason to cry.  I just gotta ask, that’s all.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“It’s all fine.  Come on.”

The side room is more like a conference room.  There’s a long table and a huge dry erase board.  Two heavyset women in their forties are at one end of the table gabbing.  A guy wearing a green cellophane visor is at the other end.

He’s flipping through a stack of legal pads.  Next to him is a man with a bulging torso and painfully skinny arms.

“Everyone, this is Anthony.”

The two women nod and smile.  The guy with the huge torso blows his nose.  Green visor keeps staring at his legal pads.

“Alright, you just sit tight,” the nurse says.  “Someone will be back to get you when the doctor’s available.”

“So I just wait here?” I ask.

“Yeah, unless you need to use the restroom.  It’s across the hall.”

One of the women asks, “Can I go out and have a smoke?”

“There’s a group going in about ten minutes, just wait here.”

The women go back to gabbing.  The nurse leaves.  I take a seat in the corner, clutch my backpack to my chest.  I can hardly breathe.  This is it.  I’ve been caught.  All I have to do now is come clean to the doctor, tell him everything.

It’s what I should’ve done years ago.

Two months before I met Jess I went to see a psychiatrist at Columbia.  I’d spent that morning standing on the bridge connecting the main campus to the Law School.  I was leaning against the railing over Amsterdam Blvd.  Cars and trucks passed underneath.  I tried to guess what type of automobile would crunch my skull.  Finally, I got the courage, started to climb over when a Chinese delivery guy zipped out on a bicycle.  I pulled back, realizing I could’ve killed us both, or worse, just him.  I walked straight to the mental health department and sat down with a serious German doctor.  I didn’t mention the bridge, only the paralyzing sadness I’d been feeling.  I told him about a recent breakup.  He asked a few more questions.  I told him I could barely get out of bed most mornings.  He said I had acute depression and prescribed me Zoloft, which made everything numb, mainly my dick.

If I’d told him the truth about the bridge, he might have had me committed.  I might never have met Jess.  She’d still be in New York pursuing her playwriting dreams, instead of following me to L.A.

“That guy’s an asshole,” one of the middle-aged women says.  They’re back from their smoke break.  Earlier they were talking about automotive parts.  One of them works at Pep Boys.  She apparently hates her boss.

Green cellophane visor man is pacing, mumbling something about twelve million dollars.  He goes over to the dry erase board and pulls out a marker.  They took my pencil, and this guy gets a marker?   He starts scribbling numbers, calculations.  It’s memorizing.  He says, “How can you keep twelve million dollars, if you already owe someone twelve million dollars?”

For a second, I start thinking I might be witnessing brilliance, a genuine savant in action, but I’m distracted by the man with the skinny arms and huge torso as he peels off his Polo shirt.  There’s a t-shirt underneath.  He takes that off, too.  There’s a yellow t-shirt under that.  Off it goes.  Then a blue one.  A green one.  It’s like a magician’s scarf trick, only with filthy shirts.

I close my eyes, start humming.  Suddenly, the room’s quiet.  I open my eyes and see everyone staring at me.  My humming must have been really loud.

I can’t help but laugh.  I’ve lost my fucking mind.  The foursome doesn’t care.  They go back to drawing, ripping off t-shirts, talking about windshield wipers.

I look up at the clock.  The second hand barely ticks by.  I look again and two hours have passed.  The automotive ladies have been released with new prescriptions.  T-shirt guy is gone, too.  It’s just me and green visor man.  He’s sitting at the end of the table like he’s Chairman of the Board.

I don’t want to be a part of this company, so I get up and head for the front desk.  There’s a different nurse.  She has long, red hair, like my mother’s.

“I’m sorry,” I say.  ”I think someone was supposed to come and get me…Is there a doctor I can see?  I’ve been waiting for awhile and—”

“Your name?”

“Anthony.”

She flips through a stack of papers, finds my file.  “It says you left.”

“Uh…no.”

“So you didn’t leave?”

No.”

“And you haven’t seen a doctor?”

“No, the nurse told me to wait…”

“Well they should’ve gotten you.  You’ve been here the entire time?”

Yeah, I’ve been waiting two hours!”  I catch her eyes searching for the security guard.  “Look, it’s, uh-uh-uh, okay,” I stammer.  I just…I just want to be seen, that’s all.”

She looks me over.

I say, “Sorry.  Really.  I’m just tired, and I just want to talk to someone.”  I just want to come clean.

“Alright, just take a seat in there, okay?”  She points towards small room with half-dozen recliners.  A few homeless men are covered in blankets.  I see their dirty socks poking out from the quilts.  I try not to breathe and take a seat.  A huge black guy is sitting across from me.  One of his eyes is completely bloodshot.  A nurse pulls up a stool next to him.  She has a clipboard.  She’s asking him questions, but he just stares at me.  I look at my fingers, pretend to clean my nails.  I tell myself this will all be over soon enough.

The nurse says to him, “What are you hearing in your head, Randolph?”

“I just want…”

“What?”

“I just want to kill someone.”

I can’t tell if he’s looking at me or through me.  Jess is going to feel guilty when she has to identify my head and body separately.

Another nurse walks in.  “Anthony?”

I nod, wipe the tears.

“Dr. Marcos is ready to see you.”

I follow her through the main area and towards a little office.  Dr. Marcos is filling out forms.  His desk is piled with cases.  It looks like he hasn’t slept in years.  The nurse points me to the seat and closes the door behind her.  Dr. Marcos keeps writing.  He says, “Just be a minute.”

I close my eyes, try to formulate how to start my confession when he says, “Says here you were on Zoloft?”

“Yeah, I was, but…” I trail off.  I don’t remember writing that down.  “That was a couple of years ago.”

“Uh-huh.”  More scribbling.

“I didn’t like it.  I couldn’t function.  I just felt like I was in a fog.”

“I see.  Well, sometimes it’s a little bit of trial and error.  Have you ever tried Wellbutrin?”  He starts writing on a pad of blank scripts.

“No, but I’m not really… I thought this would be more…  I thought there’d be more talking?”

“Well…there can be, but that’s not really what we do here.  We deal more with refills on prescriptions.  This is urgent care.”  He looks at my file.  “You mentioned that suicide runs in your family, yes?”

Again, I don’t remember writing that, but I must of.  “My aunt did,” I say, “but that was a long time ago.”

“Have you ever had suicidal thoughts yourself?”

Just tell him.  Say you were going to kill yourself this afternoon.  You were going to ride the subway downtown, take the elevator to the roof and jump off the fucking ledge.

DO IT!  JUST FUCKING DO IT!  “No,” I say.  ”I mean, in the general sense, sure.  But mostly I’m just sad, you know?”

“Sad, huh?”

“Yeah.  It comes and goes.  I already feel better just being here.  I think I just needed a break.”

“And you have no specific plans to kill yourself?”

One foot over the four-foot barrier.  Then the other.  Lean forward.  Let gravity take hold.  It’s only 700 feet to concrete.

“No…nothing.”

“You swear?”

“Yeah, I swear.  Really.”

He stares at me for less than a second.  “Alright, I’m going to write you a prescription for Wellbutrin, and I’ll let you go.  But I want you to speak with someone at one of other facilities.  They have great doctors and group sessions.  I can make a call to get you an appointment.  Sometimes it takes a while to get one otherwise.  Will you do that?”

“Sure.”

“And you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m alright.  I’m fine.”

I’m a fucking coward.

“Okay, then take this form with you to the front desk and they’ll finish up the paperwork.  And here’s the info about the other facility.”

I take the paperwork, thank him for everything.  The nurse checks me out.  I’ve never walked so fast in my life.  I cross the street and realize I don’t have a way home.  I’m at least ten miles from our apartment.  I turn back to the crisis center, wondering if I should go back to use the payphone when I see our car down the block.  Jess is inside.  My knock scares her half to death.  I get in.  We hug.  She won’t let go.

“I love you,” she says and finally pulls back.  “So how, uh…?”

“It’s fine, they cleared me to go home.  It’s all okay.”

“Oh…”

“Are you…disappointed?” I laugh.

“No, of course not.  I just…how are you?”

“I’m…”  One step.  700 feet.

“Anthony…?”

“Can we just go home?”

“No, please talk to me…”

“I’m…I’m not alright.”

End of Part 2

I’ll be posting the final installment in the next couple of days.  If you or anyone you know needs help, please don’t hesitate to call 1-800-273-8255

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Crisis – Part 1

The following took place January 2008.

I’m on the floor in my bedroom.  I don’t know how long I’ve been here.  I’m on my back.  My fists are clenched.  So is my jaw.  My eyes finally open.  Everything’s blurry though the tears.  I see the sun sneaking through the blinds and the stupid Utah Sky blue we painted the walls.  There’s so much pressure.  It’s suffocating.  I know it’s not a heart attack.  It’s not panic induced either.  This is what I’ve been going through since the third grade.

This is the basement of depression.

This is where my body locks up and I squeeze and wait for it to pass.  It always passes.  That’s what I’ve learned.  That’s what I tell myself, even when my mind keeps flashing to the skyscraper downtown.

I drove by it last week.  They have a rooftop bar.  It’s over seven hundred feet from cocktails to concrete.  There aren’t any security guards watching the four-foot barrier around the edges.  The barrier is transparent thermoplastic so people can gaze at the smog over Southern California.

If I go now, I’ll beat the crowd and lessen the chance of someone trying to grab me before I jump.  At night, the place turns into a club, one of those trendy hangouts where trust fund babies and wannabee actors snort cocaine and talk about their amazing yoga teachers.

I need to get up.  I don’t want to be lumped in with those people.  I don’t want anyone thinking this has something to do with my career.  Even if I was successful, it wouldn’t change anything.  My brain is a toilet pumping poison.  I’ve been flushing it for twenty years, but it always fills back up.  Now, it’s overflowing.

I need it to end.

People who’ve never experienced real depression think it’s sadness, something we all go through; what they don’t understand is that for people like me it’s always lurking and it gets stronger, or maybe I’m getting weaker.

I’m just tired of fighting this invisible monster.  It’s not this single bout; it’s the years in the ring.  Each body shot has taken its toll, each elbow to the ribs has made it that much harder to breathe.  The worst part was when I realized I have no say in this.  I’m just a sparring partner, the monster’s punching bag.

Something clicks.  I hear footsteps.

It’s Jess.  She’s already off work.

Fuck, Anthony, get up.

I promised myself I’d be gone before she got back.

I have my date with the skyscraper.

Just get up.  Or crawl to the bathroom.  Don’t let her see you like this.

The door opens.  “Oh, my God.  What happened?  Anthony, are you hurt?”

My throat’s closing.  I can’t say anything.  I force this smile and shake my head no.

“Oh, baby, hey, it’s okay.  It’s going to be okay.”

She’s holding me, and I wish I had the strength to push her off.  It’s so much worse having someone in the room.  Jess and I have been living together for over a year.  Normally, when this thing hits, I find my way to the bathroom or take a drive.  Jess knows I get really down, but she’s never seen me like this.

In four months we’re supposed to get married.  Maybe this isn’t the worst thing to happen.  She deserves the truth.  Plus, I’ve been trying to blow up the wedding for the past three weeks, cowardly picking fights, yelling for no reason.  Maybe I’ve done this on purpose?

She needs to see how bad it gets.  I mean really see it, so she can walk away.

Her voice changes.  I’m waiting for her to say I’m a piece of shit, that I should just kill myself, that I’m the biggest mistake she’s ever made.

She says, “Get up.”  Her voice is cold.  It’s like a drill sergeant.  “Anthony, I said, GET UP!”

“No, I’m…I’m sorry—”

“I don’t give a shit if you’re sorry.  Get the fuck up.  Now!”

I don’t know who this person is, but she’s pulling my arm and I guess I’m helping because suddenly I’m standing, looking down at her.  She steps into me.  She doesn’t blink.  “We’re going to get you help.  This is what we’re going to do.  You hear me?”  She’s nodding.  I must be nodding too, because next she says, “Now, I need you to put on your shoes.  Can you do that?”

I’m a fucking child.

“I need you to work with me here.  Can you put on your shoes?”

“Yeah,” I say.

“Okay, I’m going to pack you a bag, while—”

“A bag for what?”

“Just in case.   Now, get ready.  It’s going to be okay.  It’s going to be okay.  It’s going to be okay…” She keeps saying that as she puts a notebook, some clothes, pencils, and a few books into a backpack.  One book is Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.  Even in this crisis, she knows exactly what I like.

“Baby,” I say.  “Hey, look.  I’m okay.  Let’s just stop here for a second.  I just need—”

“We’re not talking, Anthony.  Put on your shoes.”

“No.  Where are we going to go?  We can’t go anywhere.  I don’t have health insurance.”

“I don’t care.”

“We cannot afford it.”  I’m feeling stronger.  My mind is working.  “I’m going to be okay.  I just–”

“STOP!  JUST STOP!”

She throws something.  I feel it whiz by my head, but I don’t see what it is.  I just hear it crash against the Utah Sky.

I don’t understand why she’s so angry, so adamant, but when she looks at me with those eyes, I realize this isn’t the first time she’s seen me like this.  I thought I’d been so clever, keeping everything hidden.  How could I have been so stupid?  Of course, she knew.  On the floor, I see the comedy CD I recorded last year.

“Okay, you almost ready?” Jess says.  “It’s time to go.”

“Yeah…just, uh, let me get my belt.”

I need it because I haven’t been eating.  My pants are almost falling off.

Jess takes my hand and leads me down the hallway, down the steps, and around to the car.  She’s dialing a number on her cell phone.  I’m not paying attention, just following orders.  I strap in.  She’s talking to someone.

She says, “No, he hasn’t hurt himself.”  She looks at me for confirmation.  I shake my head no.  “No, we don’t have health insurance.  We just need him to see someone…No, we’re not planning on committing him…We just need to see a doctor…”

Committing me?!

“…Culver City…Yeah, okay, hold on…” Jess writes down the directions.

I don’t know how long the car ride takes.  Buildings, trucks, and billboards pass by like streaks of fingerpaint.

We park and walk into this non-descript medical building.  There’s no one in the lobby.  This can’t be the place.  It looks deserted.  Jess takes me upstairs.  The walls are pink.  There are a few wheelchairs sitting at odd angles, but not a soul on the entire floor.  It’s like one of those zombie movies when a person wakes up and the whole world is dead.  Maybe I’ve already jumped?

We’re heading back down the stairs.  We find a small placard for psychiatric/urgent care.  The doors are locked.  I see a security guard through a little window.  He buzzes us in.  There’s a metal detector.  We pass through.  There are a lot of people who look homeless wandering around.  Jess talks to the guard, then a nurse.  I see a TV off to the side.  The sound is off, but there are six or seven patients watching.  The walls are cream-colored and soothing.  The carpet is green.  The nurse behind the desk is asking me stuff, but I only hear someone screaming in the other room.

“It’s going to be okay,” the nurse says.  “We just need you to step over here.”

“Huh?”

“Just follow the guard,” she says to me.

“Wait!   What?”

Jess touches my arm.  She makes me look at her.  “They just want to evaluate you.  It’s going to be okay.  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want.  They just want to talk to you.”

She’s nodding again, and I nod, because I can tell she needs me to.  I follow the guard to a folding table.  He says, “Do have any needles?  Anything I might stick myself with?”

“What?”

He’s unzipping my bag.  “I need to know if you have anything in here I might stick myself with.”

“No.  I mean, wait.  I have, uh, pencil.  Front pocket.”

“Okay…just relax.”  He takes out the pencil.  “I can’t let you have this.”

“Can’t let me have a pencil?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah…keep it.”  I look over at Jess by the door.  She’s doing everything not to cry.  I give her a smile and wave to tell her I’m okay.  I’m in good hands.  See, they won’t even let me carry a pencil.  It’s all safe.  She walks out.  Now, I’m doing everything not to cry.

“It’s alright,” the guard says.  He looks bored.  “We’re almost done.  I just need your belt.”  He says, “Sir, your belt?”

It’s so I don’t hang myself.

“Sure,” I say and pull it off.  I hold my pants up with one hand while I grab my pack with the other.  The nurse walks up.  She gently touches my arm.

“Anthony?”

I gulp and nod, suck snot up my nose.

“Hey, it’s okay.  Don’t worry.  We’re here to help you.  Isn’t that what you want?”

“Yeah…I think so.”

End of Part 1

I’ll be posting the rest over the next couple of days.  If you or anyone you know needs help, please don’t hesitate to call 1-800-273-8255

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If First You Don’t Succeed, Lie, Lie, Lie Again

Growing up, my parents told me to never lie.  Adults say this, but the truth is, every parent lies, especially to kids.  Sometimes it’s necessary.  The house is on fire; the child’s in danger.  There isn’t time to explain why you need to run.  Then you have the magical white lies, like Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus.  Sometimes you’re just tired and you don’t give a shit.  Your kids asks, “Why can’t I eat the little brown nub on a banana?”  You say, “Because it’s poison and you’ll die.”

You’re not trying to traumatize the tyke.  You’ve just been beaten down by the barrage of questions.  You want the little guy to eat, to nap, to shut up for five seconds, so you can pour yourself a bottle of wine.  Yes, a bottle.

My father is the master of mendacity, but the majority of his lies are meaningless.  They’re told to move things along.  Why mention he was playing poker with the guys when he knows it’s going to cause a fight, and they’re already running fifteen minutes late?

Sometimes you just need to expedite.

But while my father has perfected his skills of deception, my mom tells most lies with the grace of a child caught with her hand in the toilet.

“No, I was not trying to pick up my poo.  I wasuhpushedby awerewolf.”

When someone would ask my mom for a favor she didn’t want to do, she’d fumble and stammer until sometimes the person would just walk away to end the awkwardness.

I always assumed my mom just didn’t have it in her to lie, that she was too good, too kind.

That’s what made her coming out so difficult.

Yes, my father had secrets, but not my mom, not something like this.  I know she didn’t have a choice, not really.  I suppose she could’ve moved to San Francisco or New York, but she met my father and she wanted a family.  Their marriage wasn’t perfect, but it was good.  They had two kids and a nice house.  They had friends, family, and a quiet little life.  So my mom swallowed the truth and kept up the big lie until eventually it became too much to bear.

I’m starting to get a sense of that.  For years, I’ve prided myself on being extremely honest, but I’m not sure I have been.  I know I don’t lie well to others, at least not in person.  My face gets red, I can’t hold eye contact, and I keep repeating, “What?” over and over.  But even though I don’t fabricate well to others, I’m every bit the master as my father when it comes to lying to myself.  No, I didn’t have too much to drink last night.  No, I’m not pissing away my talent.  Yes, I have a plan to get myself out of debt.  Of course, I’m going to sell my novel.  Yes, I can lose this weight.  I am not going bald.  My hairline is just fine…

When my mother told the truth about her sexuality it blew our family to smithereens.  We picked up the pieces, and we’re better off because of it, but there’s still residual pain.  I fear the same might happen with this blog.  Will my need to tell the truth cause the same destruction?

Maybe it would be better if I just lied?

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Varying Degrees of Gay – Part 2

There are very good psychiatrists in this country.  Men and women who simply want to help, to quiet the voices, to bring peace to the troubled mind.  At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find a pool of scumbags and scoundrels so vile they should be listed as Enemies of the State.  These are monsters who prey on the weakest, the most fragile; they twist everything, because they need someone to hang on their every word.  They have no friends, and in all likelihood, they were peed on in high school.

In between, you’ll find ones who just want to be called, “Doctor,” the people who only do it for the money and prestige.  You also have folk who want to help the injured, but they’re too squeamish for surgery. Then you have physicians who used to be good, but the stacks of the failed cases and bottles of booze simply scraped out their ability to care.

The psychiatrist my father took me to would best be described as “clueless” and “confused.”  He was well-meaning and he had a good heart, but that only made him more dangerous, especially to my father.

This doctor’s office was near my old high school, and as we passed by the football field and campus, I remembered all the father/son fights we’d had during those turbulent years.  We should have been in therapy then.  We couldn’t communicate.  We just screamed.

My father and I entered the nondescript medical building and walked up to the second floor.  Dr. Len greeted us and shook our hands.  He had a beard, thick glasses, and a soothing voice.  He was wearing a turtleneck and pants that were way too tight.

I tried not to make any judgments.  The man was helping my father to deal with the pending divorce and to move on with his life.  I needed to respect that.

My father and I sat on a small couch, while Dr. Len smiled and blinked.  My father and I were practically touching the couch was so small.

“Thank you for coming,” Dr. Len said.  He was only staring at me.  “Your father wants to see how you’re doing?”

“I’m…fine.”

Fine, okay…okay… What do you mean by that?”

I suddenly realized this wasn’t about my dad’s progress.  This was about me.  I felt cornered.

Dr. Len sat there, smiling, blinking.  “It must have been difficult hearing your mother tell you she’s gay?”

Over the past few months, I’d been asked this question a lot, by friends, by acquaintances.  My answer came out by rote: “It was unexpected, sure.  But she’s my mom, and I love her, so I support her.”

“Of course, of course.  But how are you dealing with it?”

“Dealing with…?  I don’t know.  I’m just…dealing.  I mean, I’ve definitely asked myself if I’m gay.”

I gave a little laugh. I could feel my father’s heartbeat quicken.

I continued, “I’m just saying I’d want to know, like now, you know?  I don’t want to figure out I’m gay when I’m forty-five like my mom.”

I felt my father shifting in the seat.  I chose to stop talking.  I was actually enjoying his discomfort.  He’d ambushed me, after all.

“And…what conclusion did you come to?” Dr. Len asked.

Conclusion?”

My father was going to have a heart attack.  I thought about singing my answer.  Instead, I said, “I’m not gay.  I’ve thought about it though.  I really have, but I’m just not.”

“That’s good,” Dr. Len said.  “I mean, not that you’re not gay -  I mean, it’s good you’ve asked yourself that question.  Perfectly normal.”

“I know.”

“Well, I don’t know if you know this, but ninety percent of the population is bisexual.”

My father sat back and nodded.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“The vast majority of people are bisexual.”

“I’ve…never heard that…”

“Oh yes, all the new data proves it.”  Dr. Len brought out an image of a bell curve on this little cardboard square.  “See these ends here?  They represent the extremes.  Only five percent of the population is completely gay.  And over here, only five percent is absolutely straight.”

I looked over at my father, who was nodding along, clearly having seen this chart before.

“And the rest of the population,” Dr. Len said, “are varying degrees of gay.  See, some are more straight, while others are more gay.  And some are right in the middle.”

“I’m not sure…I mean, what?”

“Well, take me for example.”

Okay, here we go.

“I’m happily married,” Dr. Len said.  “Have been for thirty-one years.  And I love my wife.  Truly love her.  We have three kids and a very satisfying sex life.”

I noticed food stains on his turtleneck.

“And while I absolutely love my wife and find her very attractive, I also like watching track athletes.”

“…”

“Their hard muscles churning at peak physical condition…”

Dr. Len kept talking, but I stopped listening, because that’s when I noticed, over his shoulder, hanging on the wall, was a framed picture of Carl Lewis.  The Olympic champion glistening with sweat.

I don’t remember the rest of the session, but I remember the car ride home.

“Why are you seeing this guy?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, he’s a weirdo.”

“No, he’s got some good points.”

I realized my father wasn’t trying to move on at all, and it was because of Dr. Len.  If ninety percent of the population was bisexual, then sexuality was fluid.  It gave my father this bullshit hope that my mom wasn’t really gay, that in all probability, it was just a phase.

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Varying Degrees of Gay – Part 1

Part 1

When people hear about my mom coming out of the closet, they always ask about my dad.  They want to know how he took the news.  The answer is, not well.

Growing up, I only saw my dad cry once.  We’d gone to visit his father’s gravesite and it freaked me out.  I suppose if he hadn’t cried I would have thought he was a sociopath, because that was the only time.

I, on the other hand, cried ritually.  I cried when I struck out in little league; when my mom’s steak was too chewy; I cried when my dad made me use public restrooms; when I stared at The Black Hole in my room; when I lost my homework; when the doctor drained the cyst on my knee; I cried when Darth Vader killed Obi Wan Kenobi; I cried because I heard monsters; I even cried at cauliflower, because my cousin called it an “Albino vegetable.”  He told me it had no soul. 

I was always traumatized.

As Vonnegut would say, I had bad wiring.  I still do.  My aunt had bad wiring, as well.  She put a shotgun in her mouth and pulled the trigger.  My parents told me she was cleaning the gun and it accidentally went off.  Even in third grade I knew how filthy the mouth was and that it was a terrible way to clean anything, let alone a gun.

The first time I thought of killing myself was a month after my aunt checked out.  Third graders shouldn’t have thoughts like that.  They should be drinking Capri Sun.  They should be playing with their Star Wars action figures.  They shouldn’t open their bedroom window and sit on the ledge, two-stories up, staring down onto the driveway.  They shouldn’t think to lean forward so they’ll hit face-first and not just break their legs.

I never told my parents about wanting to die.  My emotional problems caused them enough stress.  My father didn’t know what to do with me.  He tried holding me.  He tried yelling.  What he should have done was take me to a shrink.  But we didn’t know anyone in therapy in Kansas City.  Only crackpots went to head doctors.

My father kept his feelings in check.  His dad had died when he was seventeen, which meant my father had to grow up quick.  Grandpa Walter was fixing a flat tire two blocks from their house.  My father was watching TV, while his dad died of a heart attack. 

The earth was pulled out from under my father’s feet. 

It’s why he was always telling me to prepare for the worst.  When he taught me to drive, he said said, “Just assume everyone is going to run into you.”

And that’s exactly what happened.  After twenty-five years of marriage, his wife came out and wanted a divorce.  He wasn’t a bad husband or bad father.  They had a good marriage, and he didn’t turn her gay.  He was just the guy who got hit by a bus.

When my mom moved out, my father started calling me just wanting to talk.  I was living in L.A.  Sometimes it’d be four in the morning.  He’d never called before without a list of things I needed to do.  One morning I could tell he’d been crying.  I pictured him alone in the house weeping.  He told me if it weren’t for our dog, Ace, he wouldn’t get up in the morning. 

I should mention Ace was female, which just furthers the evidence of my family’s sexual confusion.

But the dog saved him.  My father took her for walks and I imagine he shared his feelings with his canine buddy.  Ace became his confidant, his therapist, and in return, my father helped her hunt the squirrels living in our backyard.  Unfortunately, Ace had developed arthritis.  She could hardly walk, let alone chase these furry bastards.

My father called me one day, said he was thinking about borrowing the neighbor’s BB gun to kill the damn things. 

My father lived in a nice suburb, where people had children and barbeques and waved while mowing the lawn.  I pictured him stalking around the cul-de-sac in his tighty-whities.  Arthritic dog in one hand, a gun in the other.

“Dad, are you, uh, okay?”

“Yes, Anthony, I’m fine.”

But he wasn’t.  He needed to talk to a professional, someone who didn’t piddle when the doorbell rang.  I asked him to make an appointment.  I told him I’d call for him.  He said not to worry, that he’d handle it.

Months went by and I started to worry.  He didn’t call as often.  I had a hard time getting a hold of him.    

Finally, I flew home.  My father picked me up at the airport.  He looked healthy, he sounded calm. 

“You seem…good?” I said.

“Yeah, I am.  My doctor’s given me medication.  Just temporary.”

“That’s great… When you say, ‘doctor,’ you don’t mean Ace, do you?”

No, smartass.  I…took your advice.  This guy’s been very…helpful,” my father said.  

“Well, I’m proud of you.”

“Yeah… Look, since you’re in town, I’d like you to come along to one of my…sessions.”

I said yes.  I couldn’t wait to meet the man responsible for helping my dad. 

I had no idea I was about to meet the biggest whackadoo in Kansas City.

To Be Continued…

Black Hole

When I was six years old my mom decorated my bedroom with wallpaper from the movie The Black Hole.  I’m guessing they ran out of nuclear mushroom clouds or fields of dead puppies.

.Image  Every morning I woke, put on my little underwear, my little pants and little shirt and stared into this giant black hole, obliterating everything.

My mom is always reminding me nothing is permanent.  She’s also really inappropriate.  Eight months after she came out of the closet we were at P.F. Chang’s with my sister, our cousin and our Nana.  My mom thought it’d be a good idea to tell everyone that when I was little I used to get boners sitting on her lap.

My sister spit out her Coke.  Nana shook her head.  I just kept eating my spring roll.  “Mmmm, these are good.”

I’d like to say that my mom’s propensity for all things inappropriate started after she came out of the closet, that years of repression finally broke my mom’s Withholding Dam, causing every wild comment to fall out of her mouth like river water.

But no.

In third grade, my class had a Valentine’s Day party, where some of the kids’ mothers, including mine, brought in cupcakes and punch and put up red balloons.  I told my mom I wanted to give Stacy B. a Valentine.  My mom convinced me that a card wasn’t enough.  She said I should give Stacy B. a rose, then get down on my knee and ask for a kiss.  And, like an idiot, I did, because I was seven.  My mom applauded as I begged for a smooch, while the entire class looked on in shock.

After school, Stacy beat my head into a locker until a teacher had to pry her off.

The crazy thing was, if my mom had told me to, I’d have begged Stacy for a kiss again.  I trusted my mom blindly.  I loved her.  The same wildly inappropriate behavior that made people spit out Coke also made her an awesome mom.  She’d stomp and cheer like mad during my little league games, even when I sucked, which was pretty much every game.  We danced like maniacs to Kenny Rodger’s The Gambler in the living room.  She’d look the other way when I snuck raw ground beef from the refrigerator.  And when kids picked on me at school, my mom called them little shits and threatened to beat their asses.  I was a severely emotional kid, and she’d hold me and kiss me and make me laugh.  She’d tell me about a dream, which she called a vision, where a crowd of people carried me on their shoulders, because I’d saved the world.

My mom’s passion and spontaneity made her intoxicating, and my childhood was like a good bender, filled with howling laughter and big sobbing tears; delusions of grandeur and crushing embarrassment.

This is my first real blog post for My Gay Mom. Thanks for stopping by to check out the story of my amazing, ridiculous family.