It seems I have known you longer than I expected. I thought I’d never seen you before that September day. I never looked at anything but food most shopping trips. Fortunately, I had a friend helping me out psychically. God, I do suppose. She said, “Hey, stand right here and look at these sandwiches.” I said okay, but you know I’m gluten-free, right? Next thing I know, she says, “Yeah. Look up.”
My eyes fell on you. Well, the back of you. You were the only person in sight at that moment, though maybe I’m just deleting a sushi chef to simplify my memory of the event. I do that. Make things simple. At least, when I can…
I didn’t feel shy until you threatened to look at me, turning to do this task or that. As soon as you moved, I skittered away sideways like a surprised crab. I needed to hide and I don’t know why, really. I guess I wasn’t ready to know anything more about you after being blinded by your soulshine. (FYI: I’m crazy but so is everyone else.)
There’s some sort of electrical energy that I can perceive with my senses. I call it a soul, but maybe it’s not a soul at all. It’s probably just a bunch of electrons jumping around and most likely not even at random. Everyone’s soul is different. It has an intensity, a color, and strength. Yours? Bright white. Blinding.
It took several visits to get over how blinding yours is. It’s what I was staring at when you caught me by looking over your shoulder. You were so fast to look… but you didn’t look away. I expected dismissal, I suppose. I’ve been dismissed with disdain so frequently, it’d probably break a heart or two. I got used to it. I got used to a lot of things I shouldn’t have had to get used to, I’ve discovered as of late, thanks to you opening my eyes to my abuse.
I got used to your soulshine after about ten minutes of staring at it in totality. I might be exaggerating, I do that, but what I’m trying to say was that it was so… intense… that it took me more than a single instance of a few moments to process it correctly. Maybe I’m slow sometimes or maybe that just means you’re magical. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure life, of course, so the narrative is yours… but I hope you choose the latter.
You caught me just when I got bold enough to think that I could always look at you without being seen. An invisible lurker, wondering how it is you were so pristine in thought and deed, if that is what all that means. Maybe it just means you’re very healthy. I have yet to decide. I never wanted to stalk you or make you feel uncomfortable in any way, shape, or form. Wegmans is your store first, your work place. I’d be obligated to leave by my own standards of conduct and ethics. I cannot deprive you of your livelihood by taking away your sense of security at work. It would be wrong. It would be shameful. It would be rape. I would cross your boundaries uninvited, which is rape.
I’ve heard there are rumors about stalking and… well, me. I don’t understand, honestly. I know sometimes I’m foolish and I end up going back to the beginning of the store to get some sliced pepperoni. That won’t be happening anymore, as I’ve got to give up pepperoni in order to fight what ails me: cancer. I don’t know if I can ever eat pepperoni ever again, but I sure hope so. It’s my favorite of all meat products. Well, next to pork chops with bones in them, which I also can’t have right now.
I have to give up everything I’d call easy just to try to live. I begged someone for help, someone I thought cared for me, but instead I was led one breadcrumb at a time to you. I hope you’ll consider becoming a real man and taking care of a dying woman (who refuses to die, basically.) I try my best, but I’m not able to do it alone… especially not stuck with stupid people who make me cook for them and clean up after them, no matter what my circumstances are. That chafes, let me tell you.
In fact, I’ll tell you why it chafes… I said I’d pay for a maid because it’s positively filthy and they rejected the very idea. “No, no, no. We don’t need a maid! Save your money!” Six months later, nothing is cleaner because the war I fight ends after the daily bread, so to speak. I run out of energy. I ran out of chutzpah somewhere around the left turn in Albuquerque. (Nyah, what’s up, doc?)
I want to get out of here but I need help moving. I can’t lift things like I used to, sadly. I’ve got a grand old mess of my own called “mostly-still-packed” even though I’ve been here for nine months now. My stuff only followed me four months ago, though, so there’s that to consider, I suppose. Either way, I just kind of daydream of teleporting into an apartment with my cats and their cat towers and my bed and clothes and bed clothes and just sleeping for a year.
I’ve always fantasized about sleeping for 1,000 years. What would be different when I woke up? Would anyone care about me in that future? Would I continue to be invisible instead? Would we have teleportation? I’d like that, but only if they worked out all the kinks. (I’m thinking of Spaceballs. “Why didn’t anyone tell me my ass was so big?!” Thank you, Mel Brooks. Thank you, incredible cast. Thank you, Barf. Gone too soon, that guy. John Candy for those of you trying to remember his name.)
I mean, would we be able to go plaid in the future? It seems like we might not even get to space travel. Instead, our entire civilization is going to collapse because we’re imbeciles that poison everything and we’re about to starve ourselves to the death as a species. Way to go, humanity. You rock.
Just as long as you don’t give raspberry jam, I think it’s going to be a-okay.
I digressed. This is schizophrenia plus autism at play, in short. I go to auter space and I hate coming back. I was saying your soul be shiny, laddie. But I was also saying you caught me red handed like the girl scout with her hand in the cookie jar. (I mean, I’m sure that’s happened. I was only a girl scout for about two weeks. I don’t think I even qualify to say I was ever a girl scout because it was so brief.) I always wondered why they sold cookies, but I know why now: to keep up the idea that women should be in the kitchen, making men cookies, obviously.
I’m so glad I got out of that gig before it could ruin my young and impressionable mind and my minuscule thoughts regarding equality between all people. Those thoughts grew into a belief once upon a time and now it’s a rule in my mind, honestly.
So you saw me. Aiyaiyaiyaiyai! (Alpha, Power Rangers) That’s what it was like inside of me. Our eyes met and somehow my other self, my outer self, was serene, composed, and collected. The two selves didn’t readily reconcile this difference. I held your gaze for a time. Then I remembered it’s impolite to stare, so I looked away. Also I remembered it’s impolite to interrupt someone doing the thing they get paid for, so I decided it was best to stop. Also, I wanted to do it forever and I’m bad at time and I couldn’t tell how long it’d been but I know forever is disruptive to the work day, if not an entire lifetime.
In short, the very thing you refer to as creepy and marking you with the number of the beast is what drew me in. I could stare into your eyes for a great long time, I’m sure, especially while missing my mouth with food and spilling my drink all over myself because I can get a little distracted by beautiful things and I’d say your eyes are beautiful, although I’m sure as a man you might object to the B word. I’ve never heard of handsome eyes but I can try to get on board with this nomenclature.
I liken them to coffee in the carafe, freshly brewed and smelling oh so sweet and alluring, dontchaknow? Such a dark brown that looks almost black. Incidentally, coffee is my favorite substance in the world just about since I haven’t known you long enough to knock it out of the park to take its place. Maybe that’s why I like them so much. Another thing I should tell you is that Shakira’s Eyes Like Yours came to mind when I first saw your eyes.
“And I have seen
Darker than ebony
And now it seems, that I
Without your eyes could never be”
Perhaps not appropriate to divulge so soon, but I’ve been yearning to create a belly dance routine to this song anyway. Maybe God led me to you in part because of such crazy shenanigans. I know not, except… now that you’ve told me I knew you in my first lifetime, I know exactly why.
It’s hard to put into words without sounding crazy or otherwise impeded by a fantasy instead of reality, but I assure you I enjoy reality. Especially when we can all agree upon it together. In this case, I would say I built a bridge in silence when we were but teenagers. I smiled at you whenever I saw you at Archon because you looked so alone. I wanted you to know someone accepted you for merely existing. Maybe even loved you. Just because you were there.
When I say love in this case, I don’t mean romantic love. Perhaps a romantic notion blossomed in your heart, though, which would explain how I’ve been drawn to you. It would explain why I followed a very intuitive path back to my roots, finding you. I never saw you after you hit your growth spurt back in the day, at least… If I did, I didn’t know I was looking at you. You say we were in the same room in East High once, and I approached a former friend of mine named Audrey Reed at that time. She was a senior, probably. She used to be my neighbor and bestest friend in the whole wide world before we moved away.
She was endlessly fascinating to me, to be honest. I only played clarinet because she used to. I adored her dedication to music and it was something that kept me from falling apart as a kid. That and art. You might have seen some of my art at the library while I was in high school. I took every art class I could in high school, not realizing I was giving myself therapy the whole time. I wished all day every day was art time. I couldn’t get enough, really.
I think probably my most awesome piece, according to Mr. Rinderle, was my Sister of Battle poster with my name on it: CRYSTAL. I drew her free hand because I was irritated with the lack of a good image in the S.O.B. handbook. It was the canoness holding the icon, screaming in rage. I didn’t have more than six or seven figurines but I enjoyed them because girls can kick ass, too, you know. (And if you don’t, please bend over. I’ll demonstrate right now…)
I never played Warhammer 40k at Archon that I can recall. I was always there with my brothers to play tabletop role-playing games. We played RPGs because they’re cheap. All you need is a book or two, a notebook of blank paper, some pencils, and a couple sets of dice. It was D&D that we played. I was sixteen when I decided to never make another character for Dungeons and Dragons ever again. I was so over it… the idiots I hung out with would put a campaign aside while some twat was at work, start a new one with whomever was present, and then add the twats that got home from work, continuing a vicious cycle of never finishing a fucking thing. I have no time for that shit these days; my life is too precious. When you saw me first, I believe I was twelve. My older brother was dating the owner’s sister and when they split we stopped visiting Archon, sadly. I was only there because of my brother’s good grace and his independence (also known as a car.) I don’t remember missing you, but I bet I did. I also went to Gateway for a long time, which I think you also went to. I was seventeen when I stopped going there, but I think you stopped before that.
Many of the people I gamed with went on to repeat that vicious cycle for the rest of their lives: starting things and never finishing them, no matter how much interest they garnered from others. I was not one of those losers… I left town for fifteen years instead and built a career in St. Louis in software quality assurance. I can tell you all about that in another letter, it’s not really on point right now.
It is something like a fairy tale. A young man (you) I perceived to be a boy was actually almost exactly two years my senior. You seemingly fell in love with my kindness and my shy smile. I never knew because I never fraternized with you. You have grown and matured into an adult that I basically salivate over. (WOOF!) My brain doesn’t know how to compute any of this. I feel like I will stand and face you with a blankness inside of me. I won’t know what to do or what to say, but I will definitely want to do or say what’s right. The trick is knowing that being myself is the right thing. Always.
I’m scared that although you’ve built me up in your head (at least, that’s my interpretation thus far), that I will never be enough. I have never been enough. The actions of those who have come before you tell me that I am inferior. I am lacking. I am not noteworthy. I am not even worthy. I am nothing. That’s the message drilled into me time and again until I finally believed it when my ex said the magic words I didn’t even know I wanted to hear and then negated them ten days later. (“You are enough.”)
I’m scared of history repeating itself because I don’t know what I did wrong, Jacob. I don’t know how I lost the game of love nine or more times already. I tried my damnedest and I don’t think it was enough for them, even though I was the me-est me I could be. I hope I will be enough for you. That you will be entertained with me forever and I with you. I hope that we can be loyal to each other, that we can support each other, and that we will be able to soothe each other when we are hurting.
I count my blessings these days and I count them carefully. I used to think everything was a blessing before I was smashed to smithereens by an asshole named Benjamin Andrew Carter. A boy who I thought was a man. He is nothing but a scoundrel and a cheat. A jackal of all trades. He has never learned the nuances of being an empathic individual; no. He only knows his narrow narcissistic viewpoint of the world, which has no room for anything but the word “I.”
We will be different or we will not exist at all. We will be a partnership from the get-go, two entities that decide to commit to each other for the sake of supporting each other in fulfilling needs and aspiring toward dreams that we have and the dreams we have yet to have. We need to be a single unit operating toward a common goal, which is something all my past “partners” never grokked. They just cannot comprehend that there is no more “me” and “you.” Just “us” and “we.”
If you are ready to be the other half of my “we,” I think I am ready to be the other half of yours. I have seen your heart in a split second of clarity while I gazed upon you, studying your chakras as they spun — a very normal thing, I assure you. I see you. Not the things other people project onto you. Just you. Your eyes are nothing like a beast’s and I don’t believe in Satan, except as a title that I equivocate to “the accuser.” There are no sacred numbers or damned numbers, that’s pure hogwash for some sort of Christian sorcery bullshit. (Or as the gods tell me, it’s part of Amen’s bullshit to mislead the masses.)
I see two eyes, sparkling at me. They glimmer in a way I’ve never seen a man look at me before, especially not consistently. They make me woman. They make me want to be woman. They make me want to exit my shell, in summary. To let go of the shy girl that was here once before and grow into what I was always meant to be. That’s why your inability to meet my gaze the next two times I sought it gave me despair, essentially. They made me shy again, too shy to want to approach you.
I seriously thought about sidling up to you one day and saying, “Hi Moose.” That’s it. I don’t know why I want to call you Moose, but I do. The moose is an interesting creature that is part natural tank and all weapon; they step on your car and it dies. Neat parlor trick, don’t you think? You strike me as powerful. Strong. Dutiful. Capable. Perhaps I read too much into the actions I’ve observed, perhaps I see the future you as a ghost overlaying the present you, perhaps I’m Looney Tunes. (Nyah, what’s up, doc?)
I learned and cultivated androgyny thanks to Bugs Bunny, by the way. I know he’s a male rabbit, but he gender bends so wonderfully for the operatic episode, which is my favorite, that I think he is all any human should aspire to be. I mean, there were other sources of inspiration out there, but Bugs is probably the most meaningful one to me. I know… it’s just a stupid cartoon, Crystal! Yeah, okay. Sure.
There’s something to learn from everything, honestly. I have learned so much in my lifetime and yet I know there’s always more. The reason I look for deeper meaning in so many things involves my 12th grade A.P. English course. I struggled in that course because I was going through massive depression and the research paper made me feel foolish because I didn’t have the means to go to the university libraries to get more sources, only the school library and public library. Still, I loved that class. I learned that authors teach even when they don’t intend to just by telling their stories. So I always look for meaning in everything because I know it’s there. There’s always something to learn about the human experience if I look closely enough.
So what I learned from this human experience with you is this: something as simple as a smile can warm a man’s heart. Your heart, to be precise. I had no idea that I was doing anything special for you. All I knew is that you were always sitting alone when we were congregating for Dungeons and Dragons, playing with Warhammer figurines that you took the time to paint diligently — so many people just primed their figs and slapped on a base color here and there to get past the tournament rules that it was ridiculous. The fact you painted them all (I recall your army being quite substantial in comparison to mine) meant you really liked the game and you loved the pieces you had, if you ask me. You did all this work to try to enjoy a round of total annihilation of armies while potentially making friends, but nobody was ever around you. I thought that wasn’t right. You shouldn’t have to be alone if you didn’t want to be alone and simply being in the store meant not wanting to be alone.
I would have invited you to play the tabletop game if I had the right to do so, but I didn’t. I was one of the youngest people in the group, and as you probably know in the gamer world there’s a hierarchy based on age, chutzpah, and cunning. If you didn’t have enough of the last two, the first one trumped everything. Older meant “wiser.” (Hah.) I wouldn’t have left you alone if it was my choice. Maybe you would have declined, never having an RPG experience before, or maybe you would have accepted… but I would have felt better knowing that I at least took one step making someone less lonely in this world.
I know loneliness like I know Bugs Bunny. And anyone who grew up in the 80s knows Bugs Bunny like the back of their hand without trying. (Don’t worry, it comes back more quickly than you think once you watch one episode.) I know loneliness like other people know God. I know loneliness like a chef knows his kitchen. I know loneliness like Mona Lisa. That’s the secret to her smile, my friend: she was lonely. Maybe that means I had a Mona Lisa smile every time I saw you, maybe it’s all I could offer to anyone at all.
I was always surrounded by toxic people throughout my entire life. There are very few exceptions and I miss them dearly, but if I must part ways with the three people I’d still call my friends just to start a new chapter with you, I would do that. I would do it because I understand now that you’ve been lonely your whole life. All because of some assholes thumping Bibles at you and calling you terrible things as if you were an animal that should be put out of their misery.
You’re not an animal, not like they’re implying. You’re not a creature that lacks thought or creativity or civility or cunning. You are not like a snail or an ant or any creature that simply eats, breeds, sleeps, and repeats. Many, many animals are like that, but human beings can be more than that. So much more. I hate it when humans treat each other like dung heaps for no reason… but I have a secret to tell you. They do it because they themselves feel like a dung heap. They do it to share their misery. You know the phrase: misery loves company. It’s true and they’ll make you miserable any way they know how to. If they can’t use their existing arsenal, they’ll invent new ways just to torture you. It makes them “feel better.” That’s what they’d tell you. No, it makes them less alone. That’s what I’ll tell you.
People label themselves like life is going out of style, let me tell you. I’ll give you all a label to start with: asshole. That’s where we all start. Little narcissistic punks that are all about I, I, I and Me, Me, Me. We all begin that way because we are doted upon as babies and then toddlers and then children, given our every need and then, sometimes, our every want. If we are not taught to distinguish between want and need, we become spoiled brats with an enormous sense of entitlement, which ruins us for good. Or, at least, until we are stripped down to our shame and left for dead in the land of exile. That is how you cure a narcissist, by the way.
We were all meant to be cured by the time we reached adulthood, but many adults are falling down on their jobs these days. They aren’t teaching their children how to be more and more responsible. Instead, they shirk their own responsibility and let the children flounder about, unsteady on the uneven ground of life. This world is a battle field and some of us run head first without a scrap of armor or any weapons. Those are the empaths, fearless fighters for justice and equity. Then come the entitled little pricks, dressed to the nines in armor they have zero finesse in, carrying weapons ill-suited to their strengths. They’re all about show instead of grit. They’re all full of hot air. They’re all talk and no action. They don’t understand their empty words hollow their souls out and strip them down to their shame until they are shame itself, unable to escape from themselves.
Exile is the tool we need to use. Loneliness. If loneliness kills, it missed its mark with me. I know loneliness like few on this forsaken Earth. I fully detached from my family unit by the time I was seven years of age. I have no healthy attachment style, and that is to my detriment. I attach to the men I try to love, giving them what they need and, often enough, what they want. I am ashamed of myself for even trying at this point. It ended in catastrophe.
I am a cat and I died nine times. The gods saw it fit to bring me back for one last try and that is your try. You are it. You are the only one I will ever try again for. I believe in you. I believe you can be the man of my dreams if you are not already that man. I believe you will grow and strive alongside me. I believe you will take my instruction, spin it on its head, turn it around and inside out, and then show me the lesson I missed. That is who I need in this world. I know you will instruct me just as much as I instruct you once you have your sea legs, so to speak. You are no weakling. You are no ninny running around in shiny golden armor with a bullseye the size of Fort Knox on your back (and your head, and your shield, and…) You’re not that. You’re not a showboat, you’re not a lame horse with a nice coat, you’re not a broken altar to worship.
You are a man. A man willing to grow, to laugh, to hold, to cherish, to love. I hope you will be my man. For as long as I live. That would suit me just fine. My man and only my man, unlike the cheaters I’ve discovered were the open wound of my heart (if only too late.) My heart is at critical mass these days. It cannot take one more wound, one more blow. It needs the most delicate of touches. It needs a man sensitive to this woman’s needs and then some. I believe you to be that man, that is why I wish to propose to you.
Will you marry me?
My love is blind. It knows no boundaries outside of the ones you will give me as we grow together. I hope yours will be the same. I hope you will love hard and freely. I hope you will give me everything you’ve got, just like Scottie. I hope you will hold my hand when I am sick — and trust me, I’m very sick right now. I hope you will hold me at night. I hope you will kiss me as often as you think of it without a second thought. I hope you will be mine, for forever and a day.
That is what I intend to give you to the best of my ability. Empathy when shit sucks, love when everything is harmonious and great, especially kisses and hugs and all the like. I’ll give you cold fury when you’re in the doghouse, just as you should give to me. We are equal and deserve everything. I will treat you how you instruct me to treat you and you should treat me as I instruct you. That is what a partnership is about: becoming an expert in your significant other. Your wife or your husband. May the best man win. May the best woman win.
I want to be an expert in the topic of you. I have a feeling no one has ever given you that service ever before. I am honored to have the opportunity to give it, even if you have received it previously. I don’t really care if you do or don’t have a past. I am sure you will divulge it when you are ready to share it and not one moment sooner. I am more preoccupied with the present — this you is the true you, it is the you that you have control over in the decision-making department.
You cannot go back to the past and change things around to be more to your liking, and neither can I. I focus on the present moment and try to deliberate carefully before making a decision. I try to consider all the angles and all the players in the situation so that I can do my utmost to deliver The Greatest Good For All(TM). This you will lead to the future you, but there are many potential future yous because there are so many choices that will cause your life tree to diverge and branch out.
We are each Yggdrasil, you know. We are a tree, growing our roots as deeply as possible as we reach our branches up to the heavens, soaking up the sun and the sky to the best of our ability. Celebrating as the rains come, nourishing that which is below ground. Each major fork in this tree is an important decision we made upon which an alternate reality spins off from the decisions we never chose to make. No decision is the wrong decision outside of the one that is only motivated by greed and the word “I” or “me.” Once you fail to consider the hearts and souls of others in your world, you are cast back to narcissism. That is the only wrong choice you can make.
Every reality that exists from this point forward, I am there for you. If you will have me and keep yourself loyal and continue to love me and cherish me, I will continue to persist at your side. I will not leave you. I will not fall victim to rumors, the he-said/she-said crap of the world everyone else thrives upon, the gossip, the tattling, the falsehoods and lies, the rumor mongering of those whose minds are too small to comprehend that we are all part of the greater whole. We are parts of the universe, minuscule specks of dust in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps blood cells are a better analogy. We have our missions to fulfill, but those missions come from within, as dictated by the universe itself. We need only to listen to those words that echo inside our very souls to know what we are born to do.
We each have purpose, whether we choose to step up to plate or not. Whether we acknowledge the responsibility tied to that purpose. We each have a role and niche to fulfill, to ponder and set goals to work toward. We control our destiny, but we are guided as we see fit by The Universe(TM). Other people call him God. Some call him Brahma. I call him dad. He’s the only father I’ve ever known, honestly, though I also would like to get to know yours one day. I’m not sure when that day will come, for I fight a long and arduous battle. It might be soon or it might be far. I know we will have time once my purpose is fulfilled, but you should know that I have made one promise in exchange for true love. That promise is a simple promise, but it has to come first.
If you cannot respect the promise I made, I will have to stay away for a very long time while I fulfill it. I know it’s easy to say you’ll respect it, but I know for certain we will get carried away in getting to know each other if we allow it instead. That promise is to rewrite the filth known as The Holy Bible. I promised I would make it the epitome of lovingkindness as an example for the rest of the world to see. It is, right now, full of strife and misinformation and disinformation. It is full of polygamy, which is a lie. It is full of lies in general. It’s full of subjugation of womankind. It’s full of superiority complexes overruling others. It’s full of narcissists getting their way instead of their comeuppance. It’s full of bad examples, in general.
I promised that I would write a new book, a kinder book, something much easier to read and digest for all the world. In exchange for that promise, I asked for true love. The gods delivered you to me, nearly on my doorstep. You are the boy next door. I want to meet you, very much. There is nothing I’d love more right now. I’m afraid of getting lost in daydreams and angering my father. In fact, I forgot Father’s Day again. He told me last year he was very upset with me for invalidating him for 38 years. That was on Father’s Day. We cried a lot together and I apologized profusely, not even understanding what was happening, in truth. This year, I have no excuse.
I forgot to tell him Happy Father’s Day this year, all caught up in the narcissism of you. I’m not saying you’re a bad person. I’m saying I can see you are still growing up. It’s going to be dangerous if we come together too soon, forgetting that which I am responsible for. I can’t bake my dad a pie… he’s like… The Universe, you know? He is the pie and everything else, including me. He is you, too. He told me he’s going to hijack your body if he has to in order to teach you a lesson, actually. I hope it’s not too harsh of a lesson, but I believe in you. I know you can get through it and learn so very much from him. He’s an excellent tutor and teacher and I appreciate him taking us on as students of life.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to kiss the girl.
That woman who talks to herself constantly in the store with (formerly) a unicorn mane of hair and eyes that glitter and dance when she smiles and, you know, all that jazz.