family christmas

[Fishrobber Classic – 12/18/2011]

Most people get more sentimental during the holidays. I’ve always thought it is strange to put such an emphasis on family and giving and feasting during this time, when the rest of the year should be equally important. Of course so many people have bad memories, or just sadness; maybe that just proves that most families are more messed up than people want to admit.

When I was little, my Christmases were pretty good compared to many people. I got lots of presents, not knowing or caring at the time how much of a financial strain it was for A-Mom. When I realized how much she sacrificed to save up the money to buy me things, it became a lot less fun. That, and the Old Bitch screaming insults and telling us how everything we did was shit, and dodging the 20-year stacks of newspapers that couldn’t be moved.

The biggest thing missing for me was the fact I had no brothers or sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins, not even a dad to share Christmas with. All we had was our dysfunctional fighting unit: me, A-Mom, and the OB (no one wanted her, especially her family). I wanted to have a house filled with warmth and love and lots of family, not bitterness and hate and anxiety.

Fast forward to age 16, Christmas Eve. My best friend Lisa (not girlfriend, that’s another post) invited me to come over to her house for the evening, and A-Mom let me go (because she liked Lisa too). It was like something out of a dream for me: a warm fire, lots of family in the house, music, games, happiness, love, no anger or yelling or fighting. They made me feel like part of the family for the evening.

I was almost overwhelmed, and a little emotional. Lisa took me to her room to talk about it, and I tried to explain how it was just what I had wanted for so long, and it all seemed so perfect. “Perfect,” she laughed, “you think this is perfect?” She said that both grandparents and her mom were already drunk off their ass as usual, her dad had broken something in anger in the garage, and her brother was pissed off at dad and spending the night at someone else’s house. I didn’t care, I told her, and it was true.

The first girl I ever loved saved Christmas for me.


love in the friend zone

As I entered high school, in the aftermath of years of emotional abuse, I was a psychological train wreck. I put on a front for everybody, because that’s what I learned as a child: It’s nobody’s business, they don’t need to know, you can’t trust anyone other than your dysfunctional family. I became an actor, playing a role just as well as anyone in the drama class in high school. I had “friends”, but they knew nothing about my life other than what I allowed them to see. Everybody thought of me as the smart guy who had everything going my way; I felt like a fraud. I had the stress of being a teenager, the stress of portraying the overachiever I was expected to be, the stress of undiagnosed early-onset bipolar, and the stress of recovering from an abusive childhood. I was at a breaking point, and I wondered what it would be like to die, though I didn’t have any suicidal plans.

Lisa was the first person I knew I could trust with everything. We had become acquainted over a couple of years of friendly competition in middle school, but when we got to high school we became much closer and started hanging out together most of the time. Rumors flew of course, but at the time we didn’t care, we were just having fun being friends. I realized she wasn’t being superficial, and she wasn’t going to pull the football away at the last second. Even in my confused and fragile state, I understood that she was a true friend.

There was one day when something had triggered me, and I was in one of those mixed depressive states I have come to know too well. I was on the verge of tears all day, but also ready to fight with anyone who crossed my path. At some point I hid myself away in an unused corridor and cried so hard it physically hurt, the sadness and anxiety and anger just pouring out of me uncontrollably. Somehow, Lisa found me, and she sat down and cried with me. It made her sad that I was hurting so badly, and her empathy touched me deeply. No one had ever been there for me in that way before, and it was unbelievable that anyone could care for me so much.

My love for her grew from friends to something more. I was so immature emotionally, and maybe I saw her as a caregiver as well as a friend and a potential romantic partner. Eventually I got the nerve to bring up the topic, and finally I asked her what she thought of being more than friends. She gave me the “it might ruin our friendship” speech, and from anyone else it may have sounded fake, but I believed she was being genuine.

I accepted what she said, for the time being, and our friendship was fine, but I was always looking for an opportunity to convince her she was wrong. That opportunity never arrived, for various reasons. We both had relationships come and go, and we remained friends, but she was who I wanted to be with. I would have followed her anywhere if she had given me any kind of indication that she loved me in the same way I loved her. Anywhere.


Part of me still misses what we had at the time, and I have thought a lot about what a life with Lisa might have been. I used to IM her and write her manic e-mails in the pre-Fakebook days, but she eventually stopped replying (probably because my messages were bizarre and obsessive). I still dream about her, and I’ve written poems and blog posts about her. I’m friends with her on Fakebook, but we never chat or message each other; if she wanted to communicate with me, she would have by now. I could never tell her the million thoughts I have had about her, because it would be too disruptive to both our lives. It would be unfair to her to drag her into my messed-up mind.

I know that between us, I am the only one who is still obsessed with our ancient history. I’m not a perfect person, and I know hanging on to memories like this is unhealthy to me and potentially damaging to my current relationship. I know I should forget those days, but I don’t know how to let some things go. I love some of those memories, but sometimes they fuck with my brain. Maybe other people forget their memories from those days, and they are better off for it. Maybe it helps them move on.


I saw your picture on Fakebook, loooking slightly windblown in a sweatshirt and jeans, braving the Mendocino weather. You were leaning on a smooth bleached log in the sand, surrounded by friends, enjoying the moment.

That was supposed to be my picture.

I took you and our friends camping on the beach. I showed you the creatures in the tidepools; you got pinched by a crab, and I kissed your hand to make it feel better. We walked up the beach for an hour, and returned closer than before. The group drank and played games by the fire, and I told you this had been the best day we ever spent together. Your deep brown eyes hinted at something more, and later that night we broke through the “friend barrier”. I cooked everyone breakfast, and you surprised the group by giving me a long, full tender kiss; in response to everyone’s stares, you smiled and said “thanks for breakfast.” Best campout ever.

I saw your picture on Fakebook, and but for a twist of fate, I would have been the one behind the lens.

Of course the world moved on, as did our lives, and here we are years later in separate worlds. As tidepools are abandoned by the receding tide, so do the feelings of love, sadness, and missed opportunity become more isolated over time … until one photo brings the flood of memories back again.