I spent almost two months with a sweet, fucked up young man. I know none of those things make him special in America today, but I do know that he’s broken in a way that really resonates with me and draws me to him. I quite love him.
The Broken Poet.
One day, I sat on the bed to talk about how him not working on his needed repairs was affecting me/us. It couldn’t go on.
It’s amazing what people hear versus what is said. I’m a pretty gentle guy, but replaying what I said, applying a filter of his life experience…I know what he heard.
He left. He stopped talking to me. He ended up on a plane home. He’s still there. We’re texting…but I honestly don’t think he’ll be able to get to a place where he comes back.
The day of “the talk” I slept three hours, from 6:00 -9:00 in the morning after he’d left.
The next day…five hours, from midnight to 5:00 am.
Day three…well, I’ve been up since 5:00 and it’s 2:15 now. I committed to myself that clarity was key, not to drink away the pain. Maybe just one – or three – would have helped. Sleep that is respite versus restful still counts, right?
Breaking this down…what gets center stage: The Poet or The Broken?
The Poet. That’s who he is, at his core. The Broken part? That can change, it isn’t or doesn’t have to be what defines him permanently.
When he heals…he’ll still be the BP, but when he puts the Broken to bed, he will become the Beautiful Poet.
He has notebooks all over. He carries several with him in his backpack. Not one, not one with a back up. Several. The covers mean things to him. He looks at notebooks at shops we pass.
Inside…blank pages await his muse of the moment.
He writes poems, obviously.
He writes songs.
He plays myriad instruments, but I think guitar is his favorite. Just guessing. I would never ask someone to choose a favorite child any more than a favorite pet or his favorite instrument.
Frankly, I think the singing and music is his most organic talent. Some of his drawings are really good, to my untrained eye. I appreciate them all, even though some I think are just ok. His poetry is good, too, but I think he has a limitation in both his singing and his poetry reading: self-confidence. It’s less obvious in the music, because there’s more cover. When you read poetry, it’s all you. Mumbling gives away where the piece came from; pain. I think a good poetry performance will have that pain in the piece, but it will also be read with peace (see what I did there?), clarity and confidence; read by a strong voice that can take you to the pain with its rhythm and dramatic emphasis versus displaying the pain with a fragile tone of voice that is barely picked up by mic. You never know, though…banish the pain to the past where it belongs and any of his disciplines could overtake the music. Just because it is most natural to him, doesn’t mean it has to be the one that he is known for.
The Broken. This is who he is situationally. The larvae or the caterpillar. Not the butterfly of a man and artist he will become. It doesn’t mean he must become, some breaks don’t heal. I hope his do, but these aren’t like literal scabs that will heal over time, even if you keep picking at them and end up with a scar. His wounds are to the psyche, figurative scabs. That shit ain’t easy, brother. I know it.
He was raised by grandparents after he was found to have been runner up in a two entrant pageant between him and booze. His parents took off for a night on the town instead of staying with him.
His grandparents were weak and strong. A role model of a father figure in his strong, opinionated “dad” who did the right things. A docile grandmother for a mother figure that was a generation beyond raising a kid in the 90’s. Not hers. She was in her mid to late 60’s, if my math is right. Her favorite response to his need for guidance was a variant of, “I don’t know what to tell you…” That didn’t help when her husband preceded her in death a few years back when our Poet was barely in his 20’s.
He was raised away from his siblings, but close to his cousins – one of whom he refers to as his “sister”.
Let’s see, a quick recap just to make sure you are following this, because I barely did and – frankly – probably recall it incorrectly.
Mom = Grandma
Dad = Grandpa
Sister = Cousin, but not in the incest-y, white trash way.
What else? Oh yeah…his Godmother is his Aunt. His Mom/Grandma’s daughter. This took me longest to get. And she is a piece of work, to hear him tell the stories.
His actual mother was Mexican and his father is Native American, but two tribes: Laguna and Acoma. I’m not sure how he knows where he belongs. Maybe he doesn’t yet and that’s – not to skip ahead – how he came into my life in Portland.
His mother died, estranged from him. His father is still estranged from him. A drunk. An addict. Befriending his kids to score their weed or booze or whatever harder substances they might be able to part with, y’know…for dad!
His Grandparents really were the positive models in his life. But the remainder of the family, one of three families in his hometown of less than 300 people, live the idiom of tearing down others to make themselves look good. That goddamned godmother.
Oh, the cracks that causes.
Speaking of crack. I don’t know what drugs he used after he finally left home for the big city 90 minutes away – or I do and am not saying, I can be cagey – but he did use them. And the people he used them with, used him in return. The roommate/trustafarian that had a few friends she would invite over who only had eyes for our vulnerable poet.
The therapist that definitely knew better.
The man who took him away from it all! Got him out of his home state and into my favorite People’s Republic…Portland.
And then started beating him.
And then started passing him around to strangers with drugs. Sometimes participating as a third, other times as a spectator. Sometimes, our clever young poet would go to the bathroom to “freshen up” and just not come out until it was over. I’m not expounding on what “passing him around” means, but looking back, expounding was an accidental yet interesting choice of words.
I first met him on a hook up site – sorry mom, trust me…I hate it more. We chatted. I liked him. His words were fully loaded. He was with the man who took him away from it all…they – he, I’m sure – were trying to work it out.
Cool, I don’t play the side piece, I respect myself and know what I want and my worth. I told him I could be friends, but nothing more until he broke it off. They worked on it.
After a few weeks of silence, same app – no, wait…I gave him my phone number, he was texting me – ‘Sup?
Not much, how’s the BF?
We’re good. Decided to open up our relationship.
Still not interested. You happy about that?
It’s not my thing.
You don’t have to be happy about it. Or do it.
You should dump him. Not that I can tell you what to do. I can still be your friend if you want a tour guide to PDX.
We’re going to get our place today. Hopefully, now that I have TWO jobs!
The pride in that statement – however devoid of a direct answer it was – again, the words were overflowing with the pride he felt at having a dollar value to place on his contribution to the relationship. Where had they been living, I wondered. Aloud, apparently, because I know now that the answer was “In the man who took him away from it all’s car”. I’d like to revisit my statement about dumping that zero.
This rough gem needed to get with a hero – your favorite obscure blogger.
I restated my “no side piece” rule and reaffirmed my offer of friendship…no go.
Months go by.
Good old Facebook and their People You May Know feature. I get an IM from the Broken Poet, your basic “You might not remember me” self-intro.
I remembered him.
Turns out, being beaten up and sitting on a toilet playing games on his phone while his fiance had sex with a stranger in the next room for drugs wasn’t the romantic life you’d imagine. He dumped him. Free agent now and looked me up.
Too soon, too soon!
What could possibly go wrong?
He lived in Tigard.
Ok, sure…but no body is perfect.
Good lord. So cute. Tattoos. Sleeveless Tee – on a first date…what is this, Seattle? Those bitches don’t dress for anything. Hehe. Eyes. Perfect half moons when he laughs or smiles. God. Neck tattoo. Tastefully small ear gauges. He’s a shorty. Thin. Shy. Neck tattoo? Fuck. Really? Well, bad judgment is bad judgment. The tattoo might be on his neck for life, but at least he got rid of the other poor decision – his ex. Plus, it’s video game characters, just like his sleeve. Cute!
Oh, and he quit drugs cold turkey because he saw that it was what got him into this mess in the first place.
Smart. Or smarter now, anyway. I’ve been there.
We walked around town all afternoon. I showed him around. Poorly. I got lost. I’m old, I get confused!
We have other dates that are similar.
Those tattoos enable my favorite date for no other reason – old school video games! He is more than impressed and has a blast.
We stay up late talking. Throwing him in an Uber at 3:00 in the morning so he can make his SBUX shift at 5:30.
Eating each other’s stories as we get to know each other.
My friends begin meeting him. They. All. Adore. Him.
Sometimes we just sit and he flips through his journals…whichever he happens to have in his bag that day.
We go to an open mic night that he saw a flier for. It’s awesome. Some good people doing what they’re good at or passionate about. Some other good people doing what they’re passionate about but not yet good at.
Save the BP.
He mumbles his way through the only spoken piece of the evening. People love it, even though it was hard to hear him and they might have been terrified to hear him announce proudly that it was a four act piece. He wrote it in an hour before we left for the event. We Ubered over to SE and sat in an idyllic side yard at a hostel. Watching. Listening. Canoodling. Waiting.
Amazing. You wouldn’t know that you were close in to downtown in a big small city.
Afterward, we walked around looking for food. We closed McMenamin’s on a fucking Tuesday. This was when I really told him my story.
Keep going, he kept encouraging.
I talked for three hours.
After we got the boot from McMenamin’s, we started heading for home. He was broke. I had just started a new job and definitely preferred to watch my pennies versus revisit the well of white entitlement I am fortunate to sun my broke ass near…so we walked. Maybe we catch a bus, maybe we don’t. It took us two hours to walk 60 blocks. Cue up some Clapton, cuz it was already after midnight!
I had an excursion planned to go with my storytelling. And I can talk for 60 blocks.
I got lost along the way – hey, we covered this! – but I finally, super coolly, led him to the Portland Building downtown as I talked about my favorite topic. Holding his hand, I planted my feet so he spun in front of me. I turned him around and hugged him from behind. Talking in his ear.
I leaned us back.
His eyes exploded open as they focused on Portlandia leaning down to us from 30 feet up…her silent plea to pull her finger looming.
I think I might have farted.
I definitely teared up at the amazement in his eyes. The energy pouring out of him.
I opened myself to him more than I had any of the other guys I’ve dated. Mostly because I’ve only seriously dated four other guys. They all lengthened my story slightly. Most of them rather negatively: Beat me, insanely jealous, cheated on me. But also because most of my dates are guys putting in time until it’s time to bone. Jerks. It should be noted that there is a champ in my dating history, so I can pat myself on the back over that. I thought he was my last one. This Broken Poet was challenging that assumption.
Is it bad that there was just a flash of lightning, a clap of thunder, followed by a Morrissey song coming on my iTunes and then a deluge outside my window?
I know I’m in love after three weeks.
We still haven’t had sex.
No, not even a blowy. Sheesh, I can’t believe you asked that.
He asked me to take it slow. I can do that. It’s way easier for me, you’re 25, your balls are like grenades. I’m a camel by comparison.
I cook for him.
He gives me something special. It was great…even on the hottest day of the year. You can blame us for that – we put off heat.
We never really figure out the sex after that.
Our intimacy is off the charts.
Kissing and locking eyes…
The cuddling when he slept. Wow. Always touching.
We took a road trip to Seattle.
He got a new job he loved.
He got accepted into the Art Institute for a short summer semester.
We talked about getting a place for us that was bigger than my little studio once I got a job.
He had gone from doped out, abused fiance to this guy with his shit together in less than six months.
My work life was crap.
But I was winning the love life. This was everything I wanted in a boyfriend. The fearless investment of emotion. The open vulnerability.
Fuuuuck. It’s hard for me to handle. You know how you get hangry when you wait too long to eat? Yeah, I was hungry.
Sexually it was getting less frequent.
Our average was fine for me – had we been going into year two or three…but we were in month two. We should have been all over each other like…condoms on bananas in a renegade high school Sex Ed class.
I should have been worried I couldn’t physically keep up with a man that much my junior.
There were nights I couldn’t sleep.
I’d kiss him goodnight and feel his energy beneath the skin of my lips.
The flick of our tongues created in me the same inspired eyes he had seeing Portlandia loom above him at 2:00 in the morning.
He touched me and it ignited my imagination.
I sobbed a couple of evenings as he slept. He cuddled, my shoulders heaved with heavy breath and heart.
Not being able to physically express my feelings to someone so perfectly in tune with myself was killing the perfection while doing nothing to resolve the erection.
Editing my behaviors to avoid making him uncomfortable and bringing his ex to the front of his mind was preserving the moment, but eroding the lifetime of our relationship.
We had unfinished business.
He had been in therapy when we met but stopped going when he switched jobs and the benefit ended. Twenty-five year olds apparently switch jobs a lot nowadays.
He needed to go back and knew it, but wasn’t doing it.
I woke him up one of my sleepless mornings to talk about it. By the end of that day, I’d fixed things so well, he left and I didn’t hear from him again until 12 hours later when he told me – texted me – that he was getting on a plane for home.
He chose home over me.
That fucked up burg of 300 where he has one ally and 298 people waiting for him to fuck up and when he doesn’t they trot out some of his greatest hits.
That’s better than staying here with me where he has resources to get help, as well as love and support…
Regardless of when, I wonder if expecting things of someone who had only been expected to fuck up his entire life was always destined to fuck up our relationship.
And I only expected him to get the help he needed to be 100% happy and present in our relationship. But that only sounds simple. I know how it would look to me as a 25 year old. I was only half way through my self-healing at that age. I didn’t have the resources kids do now. I didn’t want him to suffer through a decade of compensating for the pain in his past to get to a time when the pain he caused himself had taught him his self worth. When youths in my day didn’t kill themselves, it wasn’t because they ignored the resources available to themselves, it was because they fucking bucked up and drank their way – er – powered their way through the pain until they came out on the other side. Put on a brave face, buck-o!
Today, there’s agencies to choose from. Not one, you can pick where you get help. But I made the error of pointing out the lack of urgency in a time where I was having my own urgency crisis.
It’s not that I needed to fuck someone; I needed to meet a deeper, more spiritual need that he couldn’t get comfortable with and our relationship was incomplete without.
I ended up fucking us up.
Probably for good.
So, here I am, gentle reader…at your disposal. This needs editing, some finesse. But it’s 4:45 now, I think this will have to do.
Who has two thumbs, three beers, barely 10 hours of sleep over the last three days and just got his therapy on? This blog-poseur.