by: Patrick Gill
My mother taught me to speak, in the most basic sense as well as a more complex one. Her voice and manner contoured my early method of thinking. I don’t sound like her, in some ways my intonation and cadence match her’s, but are not like hers; they are more like the line to her shape, the edge to her space. Much of what I have said in my life has been an answer, a reaction, or a counter to her. Friendly or unfriendly. I can get mean, we both can get tough, I can get quiet, can wait, can fracture with an anxious snap, she can always cut to the point. We can be nice. We can have a lot of joy in our tones, my mom and I laugh a lot when we talk; but with stressors crackling around us and busy schedules pushing us away, sometimes our conversations veer to only what we want fixed in each others lives.
” I think it’s brave to try to be happy. You’ve gotten so comfortable being unhappy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up in the morning and choose to be happy, to let the water wash everything away?” – Pushing Daisies
I am being brave now. At least trying as hard as I can to. I get knocked down by a lot of things, but I always rise again. I think about how strong my mother has been, how strong she is. She’s the one who taught me to speak and to hear and to listen, to live through.
When I was younger,fresh off my first relationship, I hooked up with a straight friend. Twice. It was nice, it was sweet, but it was never to be talked about publicly, ever again.
Immediately after the first time it happened, we exchanged frantic Facebook messages, resulting in me being told to never talk about what happened, that he was just reciprocating, that he was drunk, he didn’t like men, he didn’t know why he did it but well it it happened; and again, we couldn’t talk about this publicly.
I remember writing what I thought was casually tough, like I lifted it from Queer As Folk- what I believed at the time was my urban homosexual destiny. Like what happened didn’t matter, was in a long string of unmemorable nights. I reacted, thinking, well after love something has to happen. I wasn’t quite angry and I wasn’t quite sad. My chest was full of something though. and I was hurt, but I would be damned if anyone ever knew when I was hurt.
It’s awkward when I see him, well it was, for years. Of course the hurt dissolved and the ambivalence cleared its way into the favorable side. I don’t see him often. Really at all. Yet he messaged me. Recently, on Facebook again, saying that I showed up on his news feed a few times. He began by hoping everything was well with me, he said he hoped Second City was going well and he knew the blog was doing well. It was nicer than I expected, even from him. He appologized to me, for what had happened between us. Recently, he talked to someone who had a similar experience as me, that though the guy wasn’t upset anymore about how someone he hooked up with asked him to not talk about it, it was still something that irked him a little. He said that even if I had forgotten about what had happened, he had to apologize for mistreating me.
I don’t know where he stands sexually; I have seen him a handful of times since then, he rolls through my Facebook feed too. He’s happy. It took some time to answer
“You must not get this parenting thing , because I love you, no matter what; I will continue to love you. You are my child, I know you can do amazing things with the life you have. I love you, I want more amazing things to happen because of you.” – My mother
Her anger simmered into something cool and holding. This, this wasn’t the things we had to talk about, what we think need to be said because to us they are the most pressing, the most current, the most powerful and strong. My degree and whether or not I have gotten it, my health- my weight and how my spine is doing two years after an inflammation caused a loss of feeling and possibly use, my money, my clothing, the sound of my voice, my being so far from the family, my disposition, my inability to talk without cracking a sad or dark joke, my writing. She cut through to the core of it, cut through everything that I put in front of me being brave, being happy. Those things are important, I just let them consume me all at once, to crush me in a fearful crash, like a rhythmless wave against the cliff of slow time. I get frustrated that I can’t do everything fast enough, I give up, only to let the situation get worse.
Its not often that I have no reaction. Thats not the cliched “I was speechless.” phrase. I had no discernible reaction until the another breath was inside me. And I cried, because it pushed the stale bliss I had waiting in the ducts of my eyes out. Both times. I am thankful for the silences people have made in my life, for the chances silence can afford. It is in moments like these that I no longer react. I am. It is with this clarity that I no longer am trapped between the force of my anxiety and the wall of time. I move forward.
Patrick Gill is the Co-Creator of In Our Words, the Co-Founder of the queer reading series All The Writers I Know and the co-producer/zine maker for Word Is Out, a monthly performance night put on by In Our Words and OutLoud Chicago. He is a poet, essayist, short story writer and performer. Patrick writes the column “B*tch, I’m Miley Cyrus” for HEAVEMedia, has developed LGBTQ-centered anti-bullying curricula for CPS schools, and has read at different literary nights across Chicago. He is a semi-professional word-hustler and a burrito hunter. His mother thinks everything he is doing is a fun thing to do.