A beautiful finished project
I spent a month building a beautiful cabinet for our kitchen.
A month of sanding, sawing, and painting, repeating "measure twice, cut once" because my last project had finished after multiple trips to the hardware store for more wood.
And I was done.
I mounted it in the kitchen and asked my wife what she thought.
"Did you measure it correctly?"
My wife stretched out on tip-toes, fingers swiping just shy of the iron handle.
"Did you measure ME correctly?"
The Outsider’s Ball
A few years ago, I helped a friend build a dream. He was an aspiring drag queen, and wanted to create a series of shows that were more inclusive and interesting than the ones he'd been in before. Drag, burlesque, poetry, live music- a variety show for the counterculture. I was an aspiring you-name-it and I loved his vision.
We were best friends at the time, so naturally he brought me on to help out. Due to a few bumps in the road, I ended up taking over as director and co-host, and he was the face of the show. I reined in the performers, wrote a set list, and organized prizes and gift bags. The first event went off beautifully, and so we decided to go for another. Unfortunately, my friend's personal life had taken a bit of a dive and he moved across the country with his boyfriend at the time. We already had the venue, the performers, and the concept for the next show, so one of the other collaborators and I decided to rebrand and keep things moving. We titled it The Outsider's Ball, and it was meant to be a place for people of all identities and walks of life to express their talents free of judgement or gatekeeping.
I was now the host, the director, and one of the performers. With multiple shows under my belt, I was starting to gain recognition in my social scene. I loved the thrill of performing, and creating shows from the ground up was deeply satisfying. But as things go with show business, drama began to unfold. My friend moved back and was secretly bitter about the credit I was being given for the events. Another local drag show was stealing my ideas. I eloped, and many people I knew were unhappy about the person I'd chosen to marry. To top it all off, an extremely popular local merchant I was intending to work with was discovered to be abusive and extremely mentally unstable, and his ex-girlfriend had gone into hiding. I tried to tell people about what I'd learned, but given his status and the fact that he had just started dating another prominent person in our scene, most were reluctant to cut ties with him.
The last show was a disaster. I unintentionally booked for Labor Day weekend, performers dropped out, the performances were very loosely tied to the theme, and the drama over my marriage and the merchant hung heavy over the event. I tried to introduce some new personas, and those fell flat as well. Attendance was low, and I barely made enough to pay my performers. I'd announced a few weeks prior that this would be the last show due to my struggles with mental health and substance use and was hoping that the final event would be a beautiful send-off. It was not. At the end of the night, my husband expressed that he felt like he'd ruined my reputation.
My friend and I don't talk anymore. The tension over the show played a part, though there were deeper issues than that. He's got his own show (again) and from what I hear, it's doing pretty well. I stopped talking to most of those people, and I'm pretty much dead to the scene, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There were a few backhanded sentiments expressed by former friends that were initially pretty hurtful, but that's okay, too. My priorities are different now. The merchant was finally publicly outed as an abuser in a highly messy, absolutely undeniable fashion.
There are good memories from it. We did a cosplay based show that allowed me to dress (and perform!) as some of my favorite characters. I made some really cool connections, and even got to collaborate with some really incredible local bands. I realized I had a set of skills under my belt that will likely come into play later on in my life. I found out that I was nearly two months pregnant less than a week after the final event, so I likely would have had to shut the Ball down anyway. I wish it could have been under more hopeful circumstances, but hey, not every life lesson comes perfectly packaged with an ornate bow and that just is what it is.
Got degree, but no job
The email read "We appreciate your desire to work for us and the work you put into apply for the position of assistent manager at our Denver, Colorado worksite. However, we have decided that another applicant would be a better fit for the position. Thank you for your time. Signed by Sally H. Marge." Another rejection. It was the fifteenth rejection Mark had recieved on his job application. He had written and filled out more than 25 job applications after he had graduated from college with his business degree, but nobody wanted to hire him. From the looks of it, he would have to continue working his low paying job at the local shopping mart, he needed some way to pay off his college loans. Loans that were used to pay for a degree that was supposed to pay for itself. The leaflets, and pamphlets that he had recieved from shcool always promised a salary of at least $25 an hour. Only now, after years of doing that program, did Mark realize that it was essentually a scam. That is what it fault like. The degree was there to make the college money, he should have gotten a nursing degree like his sister, a computer science degree like three of his five roommates. He knew that all of them had jobs that were paying at least $27 an hour. Mark sighed as he closed his email. It was 7:00 am in the morning, his alarm had gone off at 6:30 am, he had hit the snooze button a couple of times, his shift started at 8:00 am.
He finished off the bowl of cold cereal, and washed the dish, his parents didn't like it when he left his dishes in the sink. He had been staying at his parents house for nearly three months now, since he graduated. He graduated the same time as his sister Elizabeth, who had been promised a job before she even graduated. She was now working full-time, earning nearly $30 an hour at the local hospital. He was stuck with his $8.75 paying job. It sucked. She was also already getting ready for a grad-program, her RN degree was already paid off.
He brushed his teeth, and took a quick shower before driving off to work. He drove his old four door sedan that had nearly 300,000 miles on it. It was a miracle that it still worked, but he still needed to pay it off. He had got it for $1500 and still owed the bank half of it. His weekly pay check was nearly $600 dollars. College, the car payment, gas, insurance, and now rent would make it so that he had hardly anything to show for it. His parents told him yesterday that he needed to started a paying $250 a month in rent if he was going to continue staying with them. It was low, but his sister was not going to pay anything since she was going to pay for grad school. That was the deal that mom and dad made with them when their started college. If needed they could stay rent free as longer as they were looking for full time jobs, and/or going to college.
Mark arrived at work at 7:50 am, it was cold outside. He was about to clock in when he got another email. He opened it, it was another rejection. He clocked in.
Only fools rush in...
I took me days to tell you.
My memory of that time in my life is hazy.
My memory of my time with you.
But I know it was a struggle, thinking of what to do.
That voice we all have in our heads giving a million different reasons why it would inevitably fail.
I think you confused me with your goodness.
You were too lovely to me, so much so that I found myself having hope, for the first time in the longest time, that maybe... Just maybe...
I psyched myself up.
And I just told you.
It must have seemed so casual to you, at the time, the way I sent that cringey "I like you" text you've probably gotten a thousand times.
But I was panicked and heaving and begging myself not to hit delete and save us both.
Maybe I should have.
But if I hadn't said my truth, darling sunflower, it simply wouldn't have been me.
I meant it when I said I thought I was falling for you.
I would have fetched you the sun, burning to ashes on the way with a stupid grin on my face, if it meant making you happy.
You were the world, the stars, you were almost everything to me for some time and I can tell you there aren't many things I wouldn't have done for you.
I forced the words out, I forced myself not to wipe them away, I forced my demons to stay suppressed as I awaited your reply
And I waited...
And I waited.
What's that one lyric from that one song?
Loving you is a losing game.
Well, I did love and I did lose.
And I don't regret it, not for a moment.
I would rather speak my truth and suffer the consequences for my foolish genuineness than stay sobbing in the dark, hiding away parts of myself.
I hope you remember me as a person who was willing to risk losing you because of how much I loved you.
I hope you know that I am glad for the chapter of my book you filled.
I have some bittersweet pages in my life full of sunflowers and daydreaming and hope and I have only you to thank.
My forever with you only lasted a blip of time.
And I'm grateful to you for being so wonderful that I tried and failed.
I just wish we had gotten more time...
In another life, perhaps, old friend.