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No new friends.

This is the preamble to my near brush with the NYPD on Christmas.

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I am still shocked that I landed myself in this kind of gay drama because I don’t participate in mess and we even had a pandemic going on! How did I get in the middle of messy white gay circuit queens with a whole entire viral situation keeping everything closed?

Maybe that’s the explanation. Bored and shut up in the house and creating drama.

If you just want to read (the much shorter blog) about what happened between me and my friend’s roommate on Christmas, you can click here instead. If you want the backstory because you love mess, you’re bored, or a combination, you can read all of this.

Chapter 1: The Players

I can’t remember exactly when I met Bobby because everything pre-COVID is kind of a blur. Either late last year or early this year Nolis introduced me to him at Paradisco and said he was moving here from San Francisco in March; the two of them had agreed to be roommates. I was feeling nice that day, so I made small talk and light banter with this guy because he was going to be living with one of my good friends, I would be seeing more of him, and I liked him. It wasn’t a struggle to have conversation.

Fast forward to March and the two of them moved to an apartment in Harlem a subway stop away from me, which is a distance I typically walk in 20 minutes or bike in 6. In New York, friendships can flourish or shrivel based on the time it takes to get there by MTA, so they were essentially my new neighbors. Fast forward to mid-March, and the city shut down, so there would be no flourishing of friendships of any sort while we were all stuck in the house. In April, Bobby followed me on Instagram and we made light conversation responding to each other’s Instastories, and by the end of May, he’d given me the green light to come over and hang out with Nolis because cases had gone down, testing was available, I was living alone, and Nolis had been coming over to hang out with me anyway.

(Lockdown didn’t go smoothly for me in the beginning. My roommate/best friend Travis had a boyfriend that I didn’t much care for in isolation with us, so I left my apartment. A friend gave me the keys to his one bedroom apartment a few blocks away while he was in New Jersey in lockdown with his boyfriend, so that’s where I was. In short, I was in isolation alone and Nolis was the only person coming to visit, so there was zero threat having me over to their apartment as well.)

So I got to know Bobby a little. We had similar struggles with anxiety and depression, we were both very into music, and we both liked Nolis. He had just moved here a couple of weeks before the city shut down and didn’t have any friends. I saw him a few times when I would visit Nolis, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to really get to know him one on one. Tenuous movie nights never came to fruition. Meetups in the park never got confirmed. However, I know what it’s like when my anxiety has a hold of me and I don’t follow through with things, so I didn’t really hold it against him. Plus, he was trying to figure out his job situation and he was always a little bit on edge about interviews. One night he was particularly amped up about an interview the following day, so I tried to lighten the mood after it was over and told Nolis I wanted to surprise him with a little present. I was checking in with Nolis because he works from home and if I was bringing Bobby a present, I’d want to hang out with Nolis for awhile too.

This was June 17th.

Adam moved here from San Francisco just before the pandemic and the two of them had met at the end of last year. They’d been hooking up at the beginning of quarantine before one or both of them caught feelings and decided to end that, but it was generally understood that if Bobby wasn’t at home, he was at Adam’s. I had to run errands so I left a little present on his bed — the biggest box we had in the house (a barstool had come in it) wrapped perfectly (I used to wrap the wedding registry gifts when I worked at Bed Bath & Beyond) with a tiny mini-bottle of wine in it (someone had brought it for a party last year and nobody was planning to drink it).

At the time, I figured moving to a brand new city and then being stuck in the house with a roommate you barely know would be stressful, and knowing more people or having more friends would alleviate some of his anxiety a bit.

Chapter 2: The Set Up

Up to this point, Bobby didn’t seem to be interested in hanging out with me one on one, but I didn’t think too much into it, because I don’t expect to be loved and adored by everyone. If you don’t gel with me like that, it doesn’t make you a bad person. I still thought it would be good for him to meet new people, and I could facilitate that because I have a lot of friends in the neighborhood, so I invited him to game night.

I moved back to my apartment in June, and Travis and I were brainstorming ways to be social while still being safe. Cases were low, testing was available, and our friends were still responsibly social distancing, so we figured we could have a few people get tested and isolate after the test to make sure they didn’t pick up anything in the interim. I set up a game night (day, really) in my apartment for June 27th and it would be the first time most of us had seen each other since March.

You don’t want to be best buddies with me? Totally fine. We can be friendly acquaintances and social pals. If I think you’re a decent person, I still want you to win and succeed at life, and I thought I could help him win and succeed by increasing his circle of friends in a new city where it was hard to meet people safely because of a pandemic. Maybe he would click with one of my friends better than he clicks with me and he would have a new buddy to hang out with. A couple of hours before the party he let me know he might not come, but if he does come, could he bring Adam with him?

I don’t take well to new people, and I especially don’t take well to having new people in my home that I have never met before. However. I thought through it and I figured Bobby wouldn’t come if I said Adam couldn’t come, and I wanted Bobby to come so he could meet people to lean on other than this one person from San Francisco that he had been fucking at the beginning of lockdown. It seemed like a messy dynamic and not mentally healthy for him to go running over to Adam’s anytime he felt a little down, when the two of them were trying to navigate a friendship where sex wasn’t part of the equation and one or both of them was incapable of being honest about their feelings toward the other. I said he could come and that was the moment that led to the threat of police on Christmas.

I wrote a section here yesterday, about their relationship and their dynamic and the conflicting stories I got from the two of them about it, but I just took it out because it feels disloyal. This is how I feel about confidentiality: If you tell me something in confidence, I’m not going to put all of that on blast just because we no longer have any sort of relationship. Everybody knows Adam and Bobby had a relationship. Nobody needs to know the details and it’s not my place to spread them around. Suffice to say, they had a complicated dynamic that I was privy to through Bobby at the time and part of the reason I was averse to meeting Adam was because of the picture Bobby had painted for me.

Adam was lovely. Once we started talking, we hit it off immediately, and he was in the same boat as Bobby: new to a city with no friends just before a pandemic. I told Adam he was welcome in my circle and we exchanged socials before he left. The next weekend, I took another friend from game night over to Bobby’s to hang out with him and Adam on July 4th, have drinks, watch movies, just be social with a few people we knew were safe to hang out with. Again, Adam was lovely and I felt silly about not wanting him in my home based on an image painted by a jilted lover, so we made plans to have dinner at my house the following week and watch a movie.

Chapter 3: The Conflict

Bobby didn’t like being excluded from plans Adam and I had made. Remember, this is the same person I had being trying to befriend since April. It was now July and the only time he would agree to hang out with me was when it was a group of people he knew or a group of people where he could potentially meet someone new. I didn’t think it was a big deal to make plans with Bobby’s friend without Bobby because Bobby didn’t seem to like me all that much, but Adam brought it up to me a couple of days before our planned movie night. It was fine with me. I could get to know the both of them in a smaller setting. Sure, bring Bobby. The three of us should be able to have fun.

The next day, Bobby told me he wasn’t feeling well.

I thought oh no he has COVID!!! so I asked Adam if he was sick as well and if he needed to cancel. Adam said he was fine and he was excited about coming to hang out, but I was still wary. By this time, I’d been tested for antibodies and I felt fairly safe that I wouldn’t catch anything, but Travis and Aaron (my roommates) hadn’t been exposed to COVID yet and I didn’t want Adam bringing something into my home that he got from Bobby. I realized from Bobby’s IG updates the rest of the day that he wasn’t physically sick; he was having an anxiety and depression flare up and didn’t want to be around people.

Thursday I went grocery shopping for the meal I was about to cook for Adam when I got this text.

Bobby showed up at Adam’s apartment a couple of hours before Adam would need to leave to come have dinner with me. The Devil on my shoulder said he did it on purpose so Adam and I wouldn’t hang out. The Angel on the other shoulder remembered the IG updates from the day before and figured he was genuinely in distress and went down to Adam’s for comfort. I put it out of my mind and Adam promised we would reschedule.

Meanwhile, Bobby’s roommate relationship with Nolis was breaking down. Nolis was in the process of making plans to fly down to Miami to get his dog from an old ex because he wasn’t doing so well in lockdown and he thought his dog would allay some of the loneliness. Bobby let me know in no uncertain terms that he didn’t approve of that plan after I reached out to him to hang out with me after he canceled dinner & a movie and then forced Adam to cancel too.

We have two problems here. One, reaching out to your roommate’s friend who you do not have a friendship with to air your grievances about that person is so strange to me. Two, Bobby was fucking around during lockdown anyway. All of his dramatic concern about Nolis bringing COVID back from Miami was falling on deaf ears because I had already learned from Nolis that Bobby had been hooking up with guys since April. At one point Bobby lied about changing his sleeping habits to wake up earlier and be more productive — Nolis caught him around the corner having a coffeedate with some dude when he said he was just going out for an early morning walk. I wasn’t interested in injecting more mess into their roommate dynamic so I didn’t come out and say “Nolis already told me you’re hooking up and trying to keep it a secret.”

Adam rescheduled dinner & a movie for the following Tuesday and he showed up on time with wine. I made a chicken pot pie, which wasn’t my best effort, but he pretended it was amazing, and we chatted for a few hours on the couch getting to know each other. I got in bed, ready to go to sleep, when my phone buzzed after midnight. Adam hadn’t told Bobby we were hanging out, probably because he knew on some level that Bobby would invite himself or otherwise make sure we didn’t get to meet up. He saw that I had tagged Adam in my chicken pot pie on Instagram and he felt a way about it.

I took the mature route and didn’t say what I was really thinking, that he was possessive and controlling, and then I gave Adam a heads up and apologized for any additional friction I caused in their already complicated dynamic.

Adam went away on vacation and in the meantime, I invited Bobby over to hang out with me and my best friend Miss Judi.

He didn’t feel up to it.

I invited him to hang out with me at the park.

He was busy.

He invited me to hang out with him at the park…as he was on his way to the park, so I was tutoring on Zoom and couldn’t. So I told him I would hang out with him the next day at the park.

He didn’t text me the next day to hang out.

I invited him to have drinks outside with me at a bar a few blocks up the street and he said okay. We set a date for Thursday, July 23rd.

Adam and I had been texting back and forth while he was away and we decided we should have fake international vacations. We couldn’t travel anywhere so we would pick a country where we would like to go, and cook from there. Listen to music from there. Watch movies from there. France was first and Tuesday, July 21st at 7:00pm would be our Fake French Vacation. I went grocery shopping for the two of us Monday night, made a marinade for the chicken, and set about making a French playlist for us to listen to while we cooked dinner together at my apartment.

The first time Adam and I were going to hang out, Bobby canceled it and prevented Adam from coming. The second time Adam I were going to hang out, he didn’t tell Bobby and Bobby threw a tantrum. This third time, Adam went the route of casually letting Bobby know we had plans…so Bobby invited himself.

I had just woken up. I did not have the capacity to deal with this possessive baby before coffee. I didn’t mind if he came, but I was annoyed, because I had just tried to make plans with him three times and he couldn’t be bothered, but as soon as I make plans with Adam, he’s suddenly all for it. In theory, I was fine having dinner with both of them because I didn’t know either of them that well, but I hate acquiescing to emotional terrorists. I hate when people behave badly and get what they want. I text Adam while I figured out how to respond.

No help. I was clearly on my own dealing with this child, but you know what? I’ve worked with children for ten years. I can handle a hairy toddler. It took me too long to answer him so he had time to make up a reason to come over Tuesday instead of having drinks with me Thursday at Boxers up the street, but I was prepared.

In my mind, I had it all covered! If you want to hang out with the two of us, fine. Adam and I can cook the meal and you can come by later to eat and watch a movie with us. If your concern is spending time with me, cool! We can still hang out Thursday and it doesn’t have to be at a bar.

I was doing some pre-prep for dinner when Adam text me to let me know Bobby was at his apartment.

Bobby went all the way to Adam’s apartment to make sure we wouldn’t spend 90 minutes together without him cooking a meal that he had been invited to eat.

So I washed my hands of the both of them. Bobby was not the kind of person I wanted to be friends with and he had made it pretty clear he had no interest in being my friend independent of others, most specifically Adam. I had only been around Adam three times at that point, twice with friends and once on my couch, so that was no huge loss. I was being friendly to two lonely people and creating a toxic dynamic that I didn’t need, so they could both go.

Chapter 4: The Crisis

While Adam was gone (he couldn’t stay put in NYC for more than two weeks all summer), he continued to text me. He was aiming to get his dynamic with Bobby into a better place and said that it would no longer affect any friendship we were trying to have. We got deep quickly and realized we had a lot more in common than we thought. I was excited! I actually hadn’t made a new friend in a few years and this one was so good at understanding my insecurities. I don’t like to talk about my self esteem or body image issues with my friends because they can’t relate to them the same way. Adam could because he was wrestling with the same things. I was like you know what? Why should I avoid a friendship with someone just because he used to fuck my friend’s toxic immature roommate? I’m not in the business of letting other people’s problems affect how I go about my life, so we continued getting to know each other through a smartphone screen.

I kept it cordial with Bobby because he lived with Nolis, but I was no longer reaching out to him. A beach trip with Nolis and Adam was falling into place, but Adam wanted to invite Bobby, and I was unsure what that dynamic would be. I said they could meet us there, because I didn’t want to drive in a car with Bobby anywhere. Bobby reached out to me to smooth things over, but nothing got resolved, because he doesn’t have the emotional capacity to face a problem.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think it makes sense to talk on the phone with someone who lives in walking distance, and I wasn’t interested in having a phone conversation with someone while I was hanging out with my friend downtown. And he did not take a sleeping pill at 6 in the afternoon. He just didn’t want to meet up with me to address this situation he had created, so when he didn’t reach back out to me, I wrote him off.

Two days later, I went to brunch with Adam and when we back to his apartment, he put his hand up my shorts. I shied away because that was crossing a line for me. No, Bobby wasn’t my friend, but I had tried to be his friend and he was living with my friend. I thought a sexual relationship with a guy he used to hook up with in March would make a bad dynamic worse. Even though I owed him nothing, I still wasn’t trying to sleep with a guy he thought he owned (even though he was sleeping with multiple people and excluding Nolis from trips to the beach because he didn’t want Nolis befriending one of the guys he was hooking up with).  Later that week, Adam and I were having drinks and he showed me nudes of himself on his phone. That same night, we were hanging out with my friend Damon on my rooftop and Adam kissed me. I went to bed feeling like I’d definitely crossed a line with Bobby but I couldn’t figure out why I cared about his feelings when he clearly didn’t want a friendship with me anyway.

In the wee hours of the morning, Bobby saw a picture of Adam, Damon, and me that we’d posted on Instagram at dinner and he let me have it at 3am. I saw it when I woke up.

He never did explain it to me. He blocked me and that was the last interaction I had with Bobby until Christmas.

After that, I honestly didn’t care about Bobby’s feelings anymore. He was mischaracterizing his friendship with Adam and he was trying to paint a picture where I would be a villain in a fantasy of his own making. Adam wasn’t his only friend. He was out and about going to the park and going to the beach with guys he was meeting online. Adam wasn’t even that important to him, or if he was, he had a funny way of showing it, because he would leave plans open with Adam while he waited to see if his current fuck-of-the-moment would confirm or not. I would hear from Adam that he couldn’t make plans right away because he had tentative plans with Bobby, and Nolis would hear Bobby talking about some other guy he had plans with the same day. That guy would confirm, and suddenly Adam was free to hang out. Bobby doesn’t have any friends that he’s not trying to fuck, and that explains why he never had time to hang out with me — I never came on to him.

I spend a lot of time tiptoeing around other people because if I wouldn’t want you to do it to me, I won’t do it to you. That’s how I behave in any situation. But y’all. I was just lonely. I hadn’t kissed anybody since March. I was watching my best friend cuddling with his boyfriend on my couch every other weekend. In the very best of times, I’ve beat myself up about never having a boyfriend or never having been pursued by a guy, and this was the worst of times. I was depressed and lonely and it felt good that somebody wanted me. And not just somebody, but this kind of guy who usually ignores me in favor of my hotter friends or is downright rude to me because I don’t have an Equinox membership. Adam was handsome, buff, and on Folsom posters. I felt flattered and I felt pretty and my ego did a cartwheel I didn’t think possible.

Bobby no longer existed to me and Adam and I had a blissful late summer romance, brunching with couples, drinking with friends, and, on my end, falling in love with an unavailable man who told me at the end of October that we should just go back to being friends because he still wasn’t ready to be in a relationship with anyone and he was uncomfortable with people asking us about it. He wasn’t interested in hooking up or dating or being in a romantic situation with anyone — he just wanted to work on himself.

Then my friend Damon fucked Adam the next week, Adam cooked dinner for me less than a week after that, and I was none the wiser until Damon let me know a few weeks later that they’d been hooking up. Yes, Damon, who was there with us the first time Adam kissed me. I had invited Damon to dinner with Adam and I that night because he was also relatively new to the city and I figured he could stand to expand his social circle as well. Over the next month I threw them together at brunch and house parties, and they threw themselves together in bed. So, Bobby won after all. My friend circle is fractured, I’m no longer speaking to Adam, and Bobby has used the NYPD to bar me from his home.

How’s that for making new friends during a pandemic?

 

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personal

Everything is broken.

What are y’all doing to preserve joy? I’m very sad.

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I was depressed after I moved to NYC. Years and years later I would finally get diagnosed with depression and anxiety, but back then I just looked for coping mechanisms to make me feel better. I didn’t want to do drugs, because they make you look old. I didn’t want to eat my feelings, because I’d already been chunky when I was younger and could vividly remember my babysitter calling me “husky” for the first time when I was in second grade. And I didn’t have any money — retail therapy wasn’t option.

So I volunteered. I learned during COVID lockdowns last year that I’m actually a nurturer, and taking care of people makes me feel better. When I was new to the city, I volunteered because it made me put my struggles into perspective: I hated my apartment on the top floor of an overpriced building in Bushwick where they were making crack in the basement and I couldn’t find a job that paid me enough to eat more than bologna and cereal, but I did have a roof and I did have food and I did have my health. Volunteering also tapped into my desire to help people feel better, so it was a win win. I started volunteering at a battered women’s shelter, which turned into babysitting for their kids when they had job interviews, which eventually became a full-blown youth program in the neighborhood complete with college prep, tutoring, and museum trips.

I met so many kids over the past decade who I think about all the time. This one girl made me want to rip my hair out because she used to drag everybody around her unprompted so I had to discipline her, but I had to hold in the laughter every time because she was so smart and the reads were good. She works for the MTA now. There was a little gay boy who used to follow me around everywhere. The center was administered through a Catholic Church and he was just so fascinated by an openly queer man traipsing through the building like I owned the place. He’s currently at CUNY to be a teacher. One of my kids got into Penn. One is a manager at the Target I go to.

One night years ago, maybe 8 years ago thinking back to the apartment I was living in at the time, I got a call around 3am. One of the women said a teenaged girl had walked in. She thought the girl had been sexually assaulted, but the police hadn’t been called yet because the girl was asking for me specifically. I got dressed and went, but I didn’t recognize her when I got there. I pretended to, but I had no idea who this girl was. June looked to be around 13, and she was disheveled, but she obviously wasn’t living on the street. Street kids never come in wearing a satin bonnet on their hair.

I was able to pull the backstory out of her. June and her mom had briefly stayed at the shelter a couple of years ago when they ran away from the home they were staying in with a man who was physically abusive. I guess June’s mother and boyfriend worked it out soon after, because she went back to him and I never saw the mom or June again, but I did remember her after I talked to her for awhile. She was good at math I think. Or science. It was a long time ago, but I remember being impressed with a class she was taking at her age.

Fast forward a couple of years, and mom’s boyfriend raped June and she ran back to us. She said she felt safe at the shelter and she didn’t know where else to go. She didn’t want to run to the police because the boyfriend’s brother is a cop, but we talked her into it. What other choice did we have? The system is imperfect, but without reporting it, there was absolutely no way for her to protect herself from this man.

She ended up with CPS and I don’t know what happened after that. I dropped the ball. Her mom was on and off drugs, so I don’t know if she was on June’s side or the boyfriend’s side, but I would guess the boyfriend. We saw a lot of instances where the man would take an interest in the daughter, and the mother would blame the daughter for “enticing” him. But yeah, I totally lost track of her. She never came back to the center and I just let myself forget about it. We had so many kids come through with their mothers that we’d see for a week or two and then they were back to their lives. I don’t think you can keep them all in your spirit, because emotionally and mentally, it will just wear you down and tear you apart.

A couple of days ago I was chatting back and forth with one of the kids I met back in the day, Alissa. We were giggling about memories we both had from when she used to come by for the afterschool program. Sometimes they find me on social media and it’s nice to see them doing well. Alissa has a kid and does nails not too far from the center. A lot of them live right in the same area and they know each other because they went to the same schools or they’re related.

Alissa told me June died a few months ago of an overdose, probably fentanyl-laced heroin. She doesn’t know what happened with June’s rapist, but June was in foster care for a few years, aged out, and worked the streets selling sex for rent money, and then for drugs. Alissa and June had mutual friends from the neighborhood because they went to school together and she got those pieces of the story through the grapevine.

I don’t know how I feel. I’ve heard bad outcomes before. One of the kids I used to tutor in English was shot and killed a couple of years ago. A few have been in and out of jail. You try to focus on the wins and realize you can’t help everybody, but so so so many people failed June and I feel heavy inside. If her mother had had support to get off drugs, support that wasn’t immediately tied to imprisonment for possession, it’s possible she could’ve stood on her own two feet without a man, and she wouldn’t have had her daughter around an abusive boyfriend who would eventually rape her. If the foster system was equipped to provide guidance for young adults, June wouldn’t have been on her own when she turned 18 without resources. If we had better social safety nets in this country, she wouldn’t have been forced to do sex work to keep a roof over her head.

I don’t write about politics and current events as much as a I used to. For a few years, I was making decent money breaking down the news of the day into my own words so other people could take an interest in what was going on in the country. I felt like I was helping people get involved by giving my POV and they would be inspired to do something about it. I liked getting messages from people about how I made them look at something differently or why they donated to a certain cause because of what I said. I was being helpful, and that’s the nurturing part of me. I could make the world a better place by staying informed and keeping others informed too.

And then I stopped believing that. I fullstop just did not want to write anymore after the 2016 election. It peeled back too many layers of the country and I didn’t think anything was actually fixable. The United States is rotten to the core. Everything is broken and nothing works. Human nature isn’t as intrinsically good as I’d hoped. You can’t teach empathy and you can’t help someone care about human suffering, so what was the point?

I do appreciate the people who have the moral foundation and mental fortitude to continue fighting the good fight, so I didn’t think it was responsible of me to put more negative energy out there. Better to be silent and let the fighters fight than to get on this soapbox and continually tell people how much everything sucks.

I got diagnosed with depression and anxiety a few years ago, and after some false starts, I found the right pharmaceutical cocktail for me, and some of the negativity lifted. Everything isn’t terrible all the time. There is joy all around us. Even in times of darkness, the overall trajectory of humanity is still an upward trend in a positive direction. It’s hard out here though. June has me down a well and I’ve been at the bottom of it for a couple of days now. Why didn’t I check on her? She should be working at Target or doing nails or going to CUNY to be a teacher. She shouldn’t be dead. She asked for me specifically when she ran to the shelter for help, and then I just…released her to the system and into the world.

I don’t know y’all. I’m trying to focus on the wins and keep the positives in mind, but I’m tired. Some of y’all who have been reading this site for a long time wonder why I don’t write as much anymore, and I just don’t always have the energy to pay attention to the world the way I used to. There are just so many Junes and I don’t know what to do about it.

What are y’all doing to preserve joy? I’m very sad.

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Me

Adventures in rehab.

Sometimes a job interview is for YOU to decide you don’t wanna work there.

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2:52pm
I’m standing outside the rehab facility my dad and his wife are in. It’s also a nursing home because this is a rural area. Not many facilities can handle his injuries and almost complete lack of mobility. Anyway, there’s a young white woman out here and SHE IS MAD.

We’ve been standing outside IN 90 DEGREE HEAT AND HUMIDITY for at least 20 minutes. There’s no one at the front desk to let us in. I decided to surprise my folks with ice cream. It’s soup now.

Whatever. Just a few dollars lost. I’m chilling, reading a book, trying not to move and sweat more. Amanda (we’ve been talking, she’s nice) is steaming. She’s in heels, BLACK slacks, and a blazer. And she’s on her phone calling them every 30 seconds saying this is ridiculous.

3:09pm
She asked me, “What do you think of this place?” I literally hate it. They’re understaffed and everyone is stressed out. The food sucks. I think all these people hate their jobs. Amanda: “oh no….I’m here for a job interview.”

We’re sitting inside now. A nurse came out so we just went in so we can wait in the AC. Amanda is pacing. She’s gonna wear a hole in the floor. It’s a very exciting day at the nursing home.

3:18pm
Every person who comes out, Amanda asks “Are you Perry? I’m here for an interview.” No one is Perry. Perry may not exist. Perry may have come out, seen Amanda ready to charge like a bull and decided to lie. I’m still Rafi though, that I know. I also know the ice cream is melted.

3:23pm
Amanda is done waiting so she tries to leave. SURPRISE! You need a code to get out! That’s one of the things I hate, that someone has to LET YOU OUT of this nursing home when you’re done visiting. I’m enjoying watching her stress out about being trapped.

3:28pm
The front desk is still unmanned. If someone isn’t here in 10 minutes, I’m just going back there myself. They’re too understaffed to even have someone let us in and out. I’m a thousand percent positive they don’t have someone to chase me down for seeing my dad without permission.

Amanda is having the worst day of her life. Poor thing. I hope she has some nice facial compresses at home and some box wine in the fridge.

3:51pm
Perry is here!

Perry: Sorry I was in a meeting.
Amanda: Can you just let me out please?
Perry: Everything is okay.
Amanda: I’d really like for you to just open this door please so I can leave.
Perry: Why what’s wrong? I’m just little late.
Amanda: Could you open this door please?
Me:

Perry: are you upset about something?
Amanda: are you on crack?
Me:

There’s a Latino family across the room pretending not to listen. The old lady is DYING in her magazine. I am her she is me we are we.

Perry: If we just take a minute–
Amanda: This is legal kidnap. Being held against my will. Please do not make me be this person I would just like to leave!
Old Lady: Miss Perry she being very nice just open the door please for her.
Me: YEAH!

I’m not helping. I just wanna be a part of the activities.

4:06pm
Amanda has long been freed. Perry is confused. My ice cream is melted. The lobby is now quiet again. But I left. I’m walking the halls with purpose so no one questions my presence.

4:15pm
Nobody tackled me!

 

 

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Me

I’ve forgotten how to live in the South.

My body doesn’t remember how to deal with rednecks.

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The last time I was in The South for any length of time, Travis and I had rented a car to go to Asheville. We wanted to get out of the city and a road trip seemed safe during a pandemic. Asheville was ideal because it’s pretty, his best friend lives there, and it’s a liberal enclave in a sea of conservatism. While we were there, we spent most of our time in the city, on the interstate and the highway, around lots of people, etc. I wanted to say that to draw the distinction between that and where I am now.

I’m not on vacation, so I’m not in touristy areas around lots of people. I’ve been driving back and forth between my cousin’s house, the hospital, and my dad’s house when he wants me to pick something up for him. I’m spending a lot of time on two-lane roads winding through trees and random patches of farmland. When I wear a mask in the gas station, everybody looks at me. When I go to the grocery store wearing shorts above the knee, the cashiers pause. It’s so strange just walking around going about my daily life the way I normally would while people stop theirs to pay attention to someone who “ain’t from round here.”

Also: I never come into contact with straight white men in NYC that I don’t know, unless it’s a cop who wants to infringe upon my rights. Otherwise, I go months and months having zero interaction with any of them, but they’re everywhere down here. The other day I had to go to the gas station to get a Juul charger for my stepmom. They were behind the counter, so I had to speak to Bubba (his name was Mark I think, but he was Bubba in spirit) to get it for me.

Do you have a Juul charger
“A what?”
A Juul charger.
“I can’t hear you. A what?”

He could hear me just fine. I was the only person in there and it was completely silent — no music, no TV, no radio, no nothing. I don’t think people wear masks in gas stations in rural South Carolina, so I felt like his momentary bout of decreased hearing ability was brought on by his aversion to other people trying not to spread disease. So I pulled it down.

A Juul charger.

He paused for a couple of beats, then turned around and got one for me.

“Need to see your ID to sell it to you.”
Oh sorry, I left it in the car. I didn’t know.

He just sat there looking at me, and then he shrugged as if to say that wasn’t his problem.

OK I’ll be right back.

I went outside and got my ID and brought it back to show it to him. He looked at the ID, looked at me, looked back at the ID, and just looked at me. He wasn’t saying anything, so I wasn’t saying anything.

“Can’t see through that.”
You just saw me, when you allegedly couldn’t hear what I was saying through my mask earlier.

I was annoyed because he was annoyed. I shouldn’t need to have all this conversation to buy a charger for something. This is a 30 second interaction in a bodega in NYC. In this gas station, this felt like hours of my life because Bubba didn’t like my mask.

“Do you want the charger or not?”

So I pulled my mask down again, and he gave me back my ID. I had my phone ready to tap the machine to pay for it, but he said it didn’t work, so I pulled out my AMEX and gave it to him.

“Need to see your ID for a credit card.”
I just gave it to you!
“Gotta check the name.”

I pulled it back out of my pocket and he studied them both for another few hours of my life. Seventeen days later, I finally walked out of that place with my stepmom’s Juul charger. A minor annoyance, but I survived.

The next day however, I wasn’t so sure about my survival, because I was ready to fight, and they have guns down here.

I was driving down to dad’s house to get some herbs and natural supplements he wants to take in rehab. The doctor said it would be fine, and even though I don’t think any of that stuff works, Dad wanted it so I had to go get it. I drove the hour and a half down to his place on a two lane road, and then on the way back, an industrial dump truck (the kind that hauls away building site refuse) was stopped in my lane not going anywhere. I could see it from a ways off and I started to slow down. As I got closer, a little white pickup truck with a yellow revolving light on the roof entered from the shoulder, and across the tailgate there was an orange banner with black letters that said “Follow Me.” I assumed there was some construction in front of this dumptruck and I was supposed to follow the white truck around the construction area. So I followed it.

The guy in the white truck slammed on the breaks and then stuck his head out of his window. I could see him yelling something to me, so I rolled down my window.

“Where the hell are you going?! Get back over there!”

First of all, why are you cussing at me? I didn’t ask that though. I just said Your truck said “Follow Me” so I did!

He got out of the car and walked back to mine. I couldn’t back up, because two cars had pulled up behind me, so I was just sitting there with this angry white man in construction gear marching toward my vehicle. I rolled up my window most of the way and just left a crack open so I could hear him.

“Why would you drive in front of all these people?!” He waved over to the line of cars in front of the dumptruck, and then I realized that truck wasn’t part of the the construction zone. It was just another vehicle on the road being stopped by whatever was going on up ahead and there were cars in front of him. I was in a Nissan that basically sits on the roadway — I couldn’t see any cars head of the truck. I didn’t know there were any until I pulled off to the left to follow the white pickup. If you saw a construction site dumptruck stopped in the middle of a two-lane road, would you assume it was part of a construction zone or would you assume there was a line of cars in front of it?

I didn’t know there were cars in front of it. I thought it was doing construction.

“That truck don’t do road work!”

Why are you YELLING? I don’t know what truck belongs to who. Yours said follow me so I did!

“Well now you got all these fucking cars behind you but all them other cars over there!!”

So what would you like me to do? Tell everybody to back up and get in line? You tell me what to do so we can be on our way.

He stomped away and started talking on his little walkie talkie. I guess he was telling somebody else that I fucked up the routine, but he got back into his truck and then waved his arm for us to follow him, so we did. I assume the cars that were waiting before us got sent on afterward, but I don’t understand why everything is so difficult down here.

Everything is so exhausting. So much driving and dealing with nicenasty service people who you know are talking shit about you as soon as you leave, and being yelled at by construction workers, and getting shitty attitudes for wearing a mask. I just want to fight all the time, but you can’t fight down here, because the person you’re fighting might run out to the car and get a gun. If I get into a fight on the subway, I’m whooping somebody’s ass. If I get into a fight on a two-lane road in the middle of nowhere, shit I might get lynched! I don’t know. There are no witnesses out here and it feels so lawless. I’m trying to be home before the sun goes down because I don’t want a flat tire in the dark next to some woods that actually belong to somebody who’ll come outside and say I’m trespassing before he blows me away with a shotgun. Is that likely? I don’t think so. I don’t think that actually happens. But in my mind that’s what happens, and my mind is the thing causing my body stress. Dealing with Bubba and Nem every day is not helping alleviate these fantastical scenarios my mind hath concocted.

So what I’m saying is, my body has forgotten how to live out in the boonies. I don’t like it out here. And anytime a member of my family asks if I think I might move back down South, the laughter that escapes my body is almost offensive. You could not pay me to deal with this shit long term.

And sweet tea is too damn sweet. There. I said it.

(PS: Dad is doing great. He got out of the hospital today and he’s in a rehab center while his bones heal. It’ll be about 6 weeks before he can be up and out because both of his ankles were shattered, but he’s not in pain and he’s talking shit to everybody as usual. So he’s fine. I’ma be down here for a bit cooking for him and his wife because the food at the center is nasty and y’all know how picky old people are about their food.)

 

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