after a while and so many things, a succession of life and lives and friendships exploding and ending, it just got to the point where all i wanted was a little fucking peace, brother. and after another while i would find it. in my own little world, in my books and my pup, and in solitude, a joe job, and a three year romance, one that was bearable and one that felt nothing but good.
and then that succession again – covid the start, collective trauma and orange days. and then a couple of years in, the break-up in march. and then april, my dog died. the return i’d been plotting waylaid, thwarted, & otherwise delayed for months upon months, in therapy and meditation and sometimes grief and writing my novel, trying to have compassion for myself, but most of the time feeling like just such a huge loser, arrested in the comfort and solitude of self protection. i feared that i was becoming my own captain hook.
even as i drove out of the bay that friday, i wasn’t sure i would not turn around, at some point.
driving into the city, the place that used to feel like home now foreign, immense and sprawling, like the refuge i made for myself, the mire i was trying to break free of, the inclination to turn around still there, that proverbial can kicked down the road until saturday.
i’d been checking ticket prices from the road, hoping to mark my return to chavez ravine the night of vin scully’s tribute. he’d passed away just days before. typical lala, i’d be thwarted by traffic, arrived at my hosts’ too late to catch the game in person, we’d watch the game on an outlaw stream. poetic, now that i’m thinking about it.
saturday. driving east on the 10, on my way to cal state l.a., my buzz on three mimosas at brunch with the clubhouse kids from city college, they a joyous succession, that of my lost boys.
second day south and i’d settled in to the myriad of feelings tagging along with me on my flight, the confusion at how to meld my present with my past brewing within, that art at navigating the reality of who i always was with the image others had or have of me, an art i have not mastered yet, my deadname the signifier, i took comfort in that moment in a message sent by one of my schoolmates broaching this very subject. my answer would be yes to the photo.
i was walking across what used to be lot f, extolling the virtues of the san gabriel mountains in my mind while also looking in vain to pay for parking. i used a variation of these words writing the year and a half or so i went to school here, literally in it – my magnus opus 90s novel.
“I was walking across Lot F, extolling the virtues of the San Gabriel Mountains in my mind, when it hit me again, that I might be different from everyone else. Not because of the cheap, white trash fabrics that clothed my thin frame or even because my Mother was dead...”
the first day of school all over again, the daunting task of walking in alone, on my own. i was stepping out of the pages i’m writing and into the real, the melding of my fiction and reality.
“is there someplace to pay for parking?”
“hell if i know.”
i guess if she’s not sweating it, i shouldn’t either. i don’t think i’d ever seen her before, but suspected we both were there for the same reason.
“i don’t know you, though. what year were you?”
“’91. not officially an alum.”
“ah. ’94. kinda glad i ran into you. nice to not have to walk into this alone. even if i don’t know you. this whole thing is so awkward, my god.”
“it’s funny. i told a friend the same thing yesterday. she said that maybe i’d run into someone else who was walking in alone. then i’d have someone to walk in alone together with. and you just acknowledge how awkward it is. written yesterday and here we are…”
“and here we are.”
our old building, king hall, long since returned to the U. i would spend that day in the shadow of the shiny new building, our ragtag high school now state of the art, built on the lot f lawn we all used to frolic upon. i’d walk in alone, welcomed into the arms of a hug from a friend. i wouldn’t talk to her that day, but i remember that hug. i’d converse with ?? about back then and writing, writing at home a scene of workshopping our first year project, he our director. bathed in my own and everyone’s art – poetry and photography, a flow versus THEE flow. i’d regret in that moment the messages left in the mailbox, the proverbial can in a different form, a particular specialty of mine. i got to say thank you to our department head, for trying as hard as she did my senior year of extended absence, i caught in the mire of an indifferent or ill equipped single parent at home. that former signifier rolling in twice and handled, relishing my dream of a day,
received as myself, pan ellington, the pan i’ve always known i’ve been, received warmly and truly and with love.
we’d end the day in a pirate bar at the foot of the second street tunnel. i couldn’t have written it better. sitting on the patio out front with our friends, my best friend sitting across from me, both of us sipping on wine and smoking her weed, the boys in the background reciting tongue twisters from voice and speech class. i am sitting with them, open and present, feeling everything one receives from that. mr. cohen’s reading list, ms. plumb and how she saw me so deeply, casting me in a male part. i’ve written these and now we’re talking about it and it’s beautiful, these people my forever lost boys.
first year project, “do not go gently.” we’d recited in it the thomas poem and did again that night in front of the pirate bar. i stood up and shouted in that theatre like way that you do,
“rage, rage against the dying of the light!!”
only i was no longer raging because i’d already stepped through.