Don Bauder 7:30 a.m., Dec. 9
Ever since I decidedly dropped out of my university on the east coast to migrate to Hillcrest, my life has been put on a pedestal with stark lighting to allow all the voices in my mind to appraise it.
The peanut crowd in my head is full of all sorts of nuts, and the biggest one is, of course, the family tree.
For example, it was highly interesting telling my mother about my transfer:
“You’re leaving college to move and where?!” she demanded with only the urgency an Ashkenazi Russo Polish New York Jew could sadly know.
I watched her breathe heavily in the small room. I smoothly replied,
“To the grit and glamour of the nation’s best gayborhood: Hillcrest.”I couldn’t help but smile.
My mother whipped her head around. “Gayborewho?”
“It’s a place, not a face, mum.”
She stared at me and took a long pause. She was summoning forth enormous energy for questions she must voice, not to mention preparing herself for the answers. Like a scrunchie her face suddenly tightened into unbelievable forlorn. “What’s going on my second son? Why do you do this to me?” She started to stride around the room, stuck between the bronze piano, blanketed bed, and stocky dressers. She halted at the window and made a gesture as if she were swallowing the whole view with her arms. “Why do you want to leave our familial home abreast the deep blue Atlantic?”
My mother has a penchant for referencing nature when it is to her advantage.
“Mother, the Pacific is both deep and blue.”
“No,” she cut in sharply. “Not deep nor blue enough.” She spoke with darkness as if foreshadowing all the worry I would force upon her if I still chose to move.
“I am going to San Diego’s Hillcrest.”
“How are you getting there?”
“How are...you...getting there?!” She was breathing irregularly.
“How are you going to pay?”
“What about your belongings?”
“What if you regret your decision?”
"I swear on my mother’s grave I won’t.”
An uncomfortable though humorous silence.
Then the blitzkrieg.
“Do you have work in San Diego? A place to sleep? Contacts? What will you do for food? I know you’re on a special diet, do you know if you can eat in restaurants down there? Why not San Francisco, or New Jersey? Will your friends miss you? Are you feeling okay, because yesterday I noticed that your left eye was flickering oddly. Is this contributing to your feelings, maybe? You can tell me, or if you prefer, your father. Do you think your new diet is affecting your eye? Remember you said it’s perfectly fine, as long as I ask only once...”
My body tightened and tightened.
“I am going to gayborhood,” I commanded.
“I am sure,” she conclusively stated obliviously, “that whatever gay boars you want to find in that hood of yours, New York’s will be better. New York is omnipotent.”
I could not respond. I wanted to laugh, cry, scream, and push her all at once. She continued:
“Don’t you want the best boars? Sue—my friend from group— she told me, and you can of course ignore this if you want to, it’s really up to you, but I need to tell you that she said that you have to be careful about...since they just found out that...and that was reported to lead to...”
My ears were starting to become deaf with the pounding blood and pain my heart was pumping. What can I do to which my mother will respond with contentment? Anything I could do would be subsumed under that all-encompasing vicious anxiety my mother sold her soul to. It’s a perpetual tiresome vacuum.
Do you understand that my family loved? Or, at least, it had to be called love since we grew up together. Yet, it was love in the fractional degree, the smallest most precise degree: love that passes through a strainer before being given.
“You can run,” my mother finally concluded, “but you can’t hide. You will always be my little boy.” She exhaled, kissed the top of my head which made it burn, and slowly slipped out of the room
I thought, How can such cruel disrespect be cloaked in feminine care and love?
That evening my mother came into my room to apologize. She says she knows, she knows, she does things that hurt me but she’s trying to remember. It is—and she smiles as she pulls out a piece of paper—a long list. Anyway, here is a going away gift for you. I thanked her and we hugged.
And so my mother bought me my first and only farewell gift! As my family did our rituals and hugs (brother: brief, father: medium, mother: long and vampiric) my gift was held inside the breast pocket of my coat. Dear mother! You don’t know the half you’ve given me and only focus on the thousandth I want to be rid of! But I dutifully and wistfully carried the gift with me, always checking in on it, as I made my way transnation.
I admit, my dear Hillcrest, before I arrived upon you and legally or illegally wedded you, I had these flaming fortnights with some others. On my pilgrimage from New York to California I stopped at a couple other sacred sites: the gayborhoods of Washington, DC and Chicago, Illinois. They are more astringent and sour than you, not to mention that I was arrested in both of them. After that I swore abstinence for the rest of the 2,000 miles; no more gayborhoods until I reach the promised land. And so I have, I have entered the balmy, sultry, and frosty city of Hillcrest, San Diego! Thank you for opening space for me. I hope I won’t wake up in a doorway and a policeman know my name.
As I have established myself here I realize how my mother was obnoxiously right in dropping one of her platitudes...I can run but I can’t hide. For better or for worse she’s in my bones and in my breast. She is both on the pedestal in my head and in the audience applauding it and as the critic analyzing it and as the very neurons processing it because my god my brain matter comes from inside her.
So...I’m just another Jewish boy with a mother problem. But I’m special, yet. I may have maternal molestation on the mind, but I’m among gaylords and drag titans, jesters and asses, wolves in sheeps clothes, queer queens, and boys, girls, and you in all the colors of the jelly beans, taste the rainbow. As my mum said, let’s hope my special diet doesn’t get in the way.
If there's anything da gays know how to fix, it's family.
Till next time, maybe!