Wednesday, August 11, 2010

End of Summer

The summer is coming to an end. This week marks my last week teaching swim lessons for the summer, perhaps ever. In two weeks school will start and my schedule has been dictated by whoever comes up with the class schedules at the College of Social Work. I am not happy with whoever that is. This is because they scheduled a class while I'm supposed to be at Kid's Book Club (I've talked about it in previous posts. Find them yourself.) Today, it hit me that next Monday will be my last Monday. I have been volunteering there since my senior year of high school in 2007, and the last two years I have been acting as the Program Director and planning/executing the weekly activities. I didn't know that I would be this affected by the ending of my term there. It makes me regret those days I did not put my whole heart into interacting and working with the kids. I regret the days when I felt annoyed or even angry at a kid for his/her behavior. I regret kicking that one kid out that one night. I regret half-assing some night's activities. I regret not appreciating the fullness of this experience.

I have been taught a great deal by and owe so much to the hundreds of kids who have gone through those doors - scared at first, hard-asses next, then ecstatic to finally leave the shelter. Kid’s Book Club was my first volunteer experience, and it set me on the path to pursue social work and care about the welfare of every human being. I have been taught that when the objectives of your efforts lie outside yourself you can never be drained. It's like taking a bucket of water and trying to pour every last drop out, only to find the bucket miraculously filled again, fuller this time. This phenomenon is a selfish one where the giver is actually the saved, and the receiver the savior.

My belief system has been transformed and created through my experience working with the kids at The Road Home. I believe in the resilience of the human spirit because I witnessed it firsthand. I believe in the individual worth of all humans because I've seen that which unites us exceeding greatly that which divides. I believe in the care-free adaptation to whatever situation life puts you through because that is exactly what these kids have done and continue to do. I believe in living in the present, not just the present day, but the present moment, because the future is unpredictable and the past is un-reliveable. All that exists is that which you are holding, doing, saying, feeling. And because of this each action, statement, conversation, relationship needs to be executed with the greatest passion, commitment and unwavering dedication.

No post of any length could ever convey the depth and importance this experience holds for me. I am saddened that it is over, but excited by what is happening now, and what surprises the future holds for me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

This is What we Call Dabbling

I’m not homophobic

My son is gay.

I’m not a racist

My best friend is black.

You tell me as you

Tie your tie

Lace your shoes

Grab your bag of literature




I love you,


What you do.

What I do is who I am

So If you love me

Then you love what I do



Choose God



How, I wonder.

Why, I wonder.

What does it mean

When you tell me you

Love the sinner, but


The sin.













I love Grey.

I watch you sit there

On the phone

I love you, mom,

You say.

I love you for saying it.

You look at me and smile



Why were you looking at me like that?

I just love you, that’s all.

We said I LOVE YOU for the first time last week

And every five minutes since

I love you too

You kiss me on the cheek as you lift

From the couch

Basketball shorts

White t-shirt with yellow tacos in the armpits

You are ugly

Tennis shorts

Green hoodie covered in blond dog hair

I am ugly

We are cute that way

I remember when

I remember when our lips

I remember when our lips first met

Like very old friends reuniting

That moment transcended


Became more than


Fulfilled me

By making me one half of Us.

I was






I felt forgiven

Kissing for repentence

I have never been one to write poetry. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nothing More

I am sitting in my car trying to come up with the script of what, exactly, I am going to say. It needs to be sensitive, caring, and thoughtful, with a tone of finality. I just don’t think this is going to work out. No, too generic. It’s not you, it’s my busy schedule. Too much of a cop out. I really just don’t feel like we’re connecting at the level I had hoped. No, that’s not right either. Newman’s car pulls up next to mine in the Chilli’s parking lot. He gets out, gives me a broad smile and skips over to my door. I get out and hug him, a quick peck – the usual greeting. “I’ve missed you so much!” He tells me.

We walk to the entrance of the restaurant, hands in pockets. I open the door and hold it open for Newman and a perky blond family of four. “Thanks,” he says with a smile that makes me hate myself for what I’m about to do.

“How was your day today?” Newman asks as he rests his foot on mine underneath the table.

I move my foot and reply “It was fine, guess what? I got 20 out of 20 on that retirement plan project.”
“Really? That’s awesome!”

“Thanks, how was your day?”

He tells me about his day. He tells me about how he went to see his friend’s baby, but as he was pulling into her driveway she texted him to reschedule. He tells me about the purse he’s sewing for his mom, and about the conversation he had with his brother, the conversation in which he came out.

“So he took it well?” I ask.

“Yeah, he tried to tell me about all the gay friends he has, but none of them are really gay.”

“That’s funny,” I reply with a little less enthusiasm than the situation calls for.

With a look of confusion he asks, “Is everything ok?”

My heart jumps and I realize that what is bubbling and boiling inside of me, the things that need to come out, are slowly making their way to the surface. “I’m fine,” I reply. “Do you want to hear about the lamest kid in my business class?”

“Of course,” he replies. He is staring straight at me, straight through me.

I proceed to tell him about the kid who has come up with the next greatest asset to modern convenience since the Snuggie: something along the lines of a towel. That’s all he would tell us. I guess he thought that the class was going to steal his idea, patent it, and steal his millions of dollars. He was wrong.

Our food arrives and this is a relief to me. I no longer have to act the part of content boyfriend on just another date. Instead, I can focus on my Fiesta Salad Explosion. I busy myself with the task of corralling lettuce onto my fork, coating each piece with just the right amount of Explosive Dressing. We finish, pay and leave.

“Where are we going?” Newman asks while buckling his seatbelt and turning down the stereo.

“I don’t know. Let’s just drive.”


I turn onto the main road and head east. We talk about nothing in particular, some may call it small talk, others may call it shooting the breeze. We are simply making a verbal bridge from one moment to the next. The next moment, I know, is going to suck, and because I know this I try to delay it for as long as possible.

“Are you sure you’re ok? Are you mad at me?” Newman asks. The tone of his voice is concerned.

“What? No. Why?”

“Usually your hand would be on my leg or holding mine right now.”

He’s right. While driving, my hand goes instinctively from the shifting stick to his hand or leg, but this time my mind is so preoccupied, and I feel so disconnected, that my hand is resting ominously under my right leg, creating a barrier between us. I pull my hand out and put it on his leg.

“Don’t do it because you think you have to.”

“I don’t think I have to.” I say as I put my hand back under my own leg.

We drive in silence until the road becomes a dead end. I turn around and drive in the opposite direction.

“Have we run out of things to talk about?” Newman asks.

“No.” I dryly reply.

“Are you sure? You’re not talking. It seems like you’re mad at me.”

“I’m not mad. I’ve just been thinking.”

“About what?”

I don’t reply. Both my hands remain on the steering wheel as we pass Chilli’s - where Newman’s car is still parked. Dread is building in my chest. I open my mouth to say something, then close it. I open it again, then close it. Finally a bubble of courage comes from my stomach, travels through my chest, cutting through the dread, and out my mouth.

“I think….that my life just doesn’t align with having a boyfriend right now.”

Newman stares straight ahead, through the windshield. “You want to break up?” He asks without looking at me.

I steal a glance at him, and then turn my eyes back to the road. “I don’t want to break up.” I carefully measure my words. There is no way I could’ve properly practiced for this. “I just think that it is the best solution.”

“Oh.” He replies.

I steal another glance and notice that his chin is resting on his chest, but there are no tears. This is a good sign because I have never seen him cry before, and don’t know what it’s like. I don’t know if he’s a sobber, a silent tearer, a shoulder shaker, or a wall creater – like me.

“I feel like I am doing a disservice to you, and also to myself. I want to be a good boyfriend. I want to be there for you emotionally, physically and in every other way. But I’m not able to do that because of work, school, and distance.”

He sits quietly as we enter a construction zone. I maneuver around orange cones and reflective orange clad men. I wonder what they think of us as we drive past. What assumptions do they make? Can they tell that something dramatic is going on inside this car? What’s the weirdest thing they’ve ever seen going on inside a passing car? I've found that I hardly notice construction workers anymore. They have become part of the scenery. Not really important. Perhaps this is the reason why there are those commercials on the radio telling you not to hit the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters in the orange vests.

I watch Newman and drive with my peripheral vision for as long as I feel is safe. “What are you thinking?” I ask.

“That there’s nothing I can really do. I can’t say ‘oh we can make it work’ because I know that your mind is made up.”

I make a U-turn. We are enroute to Chilli’s. I’m trying to time it so the hard part is over by the time we get to the parking lot.

“What are you feeling? Are you mad? Sad? Numb?”

“I’m not mad. I understand. I know that you’re busy. I know that you have a lot of things going on. And I support you in all that you’re doing. I think what you do is great.”

An understanding dumpee is so much harder than an angry one. I can deal with the anger; I can’t deal with the guilt trip.

“Do you feel like the past three months has been a waste?”


“Good, because I have had nothing but great experiences with you. I have so much respect and admiration for you, and I will never speak ill of you.”

“Ok.” He meekly replies. He is crying now, not audibly, but out of the corner of my eye I can see tears rolling down his cheek. We pull into the Chilli’s parking lot and I park, unbuckle my seat belt and turn to him. It seems that I did not time it right. I hold the back of his neck, where his curly black hair ends and his neck begins. I pull on a lock of curls and they bounce back into place. I’m going to miss playing with his hair. I’m going to miss holding him, him holding me. I’m going to miss having someone always available to text or call. I’m going to miss all these things, but try as I might I cannot cry. I do not have feelings deep enough for him to cry.

Newman begins to sob. I hug him, his head resting against my chest. His shoulders shake slightly, but not enough to be considered a “shoulder shaker.” This hug has triggered something inside Newman. He is crying harder, shoulders shaking harder. I can feel tears dropping onto my bare forearm. I feel like shit. Slowly, he begins to reel himself back in. He pulls away from me and looks up, then back down again. I want to say something, but have nothing to say. “I think I’m going to go,” he says.

“I’m sorry,” is all that manages to escape my mouth.

“Don’t be.” He removes a black bracelet from his right wrist and puts it in his jacket pocket. I have a matching bracelet at home on my bookshelf, untouched. I never put it on, and this affirms to me that I have made the right decision. Newman did not occupy the top of my list of priorities, school does, and this is unfair to him. I know that he will find someone who can provide the level of attention and support that he deserves. A person who lives closer than I, who’s less self-involved than I, and who can be a compliment to him better than I. I am merely a stepping stone to that person. It hurts like hell to get dumped, but I hope that with time he will be able to see our relationship for what it was, a learning, growing, and fun experience. Nothing more.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


A few months ago I applied for the social work program at the university I attend. It’s a two year program, and they only take in 20 – 25 students each semester. I filled out my application, got two letters of recommendation, wrote a resume charting all my volunteer experiences, sent in official transcripts, and wrote a personal statement summing up who I am as a person, and why I should be accepted into the social work program in 3 – 5 pages. I turned in my application and have been waiting impatiently ever since. I frequented the mailbox 3 – 4 times a day in the hopes that my golden ticket to the world of other people’s problems and dismal pay would be waiting for me. I imagined how they would tell me that I got into the program.

Dear Captain Oats,

We are pleased to announce that you have greatly exceeded our rigid standards for acceptance. We have never had an applicant who exhibited such charm, such intelligence, such empathy, or such brilliance. We would be honored to have you study in our institution. Don’t worry about tuition; your qualifications are such that we’ve got that covered. Don’t worry about grades either; we understand that your level of social genius is immune to the lame-brain structures of tests and a grading scale.


Top echelons of social work

Certainly my greatness would not warrant a generic response, and I could not wait to get my personalized letter of acceptance. Every day I would get home from work, race down the drive-way and check the mailbox only to find catalogs and bills addressed to my parents. My excitement and anticipation for a letter of acceptance was suddenly replaced with a slightly more desperate need for a “we messed up, you really got in” letter. I didn’t get into the program, and I’m pretty sure I know why. My personal statement was dreadful. I wrote it about 5 minutes before I turned in the application, I was limited to only five pages, and I had the balls to end it with “Taylor the social worker, it just sounds right.” The essay was cheesy, unfocused, and hurried, which is perfectly acceptable for a lame blog, but not so for an application that will be read by people who don’t care about cutesy and topical, and whose decision will shape your future. I was crushed when I read the words “We are not able to accept your application at this time.” I cursed and threw the paper back onto my desk with enough force to change the word order into sentence that says “We are able to accept your application at this time.” I was pissed that they only took a limited number of students, I was pissed that I’ve busted my butt to get good grades, I was pissed that they couldn’t see past my lame personal essay and see that I really do belong in the social work program. I felt discouraged and lost because I was so certain that social work was what I am going to be doing as a career.

Monday night I was where you will find me every Monday night, at Kids Book Club in The Road Home. The theme of the day was fish, and I had just gone down to the copy room to make some copies of coloring pages. I was walking back to the room when I noticed the mother of a child exiting the room, then stopping at the door to continue observing the boy she had just reprimanded. She noticed me coming, and realized that she was blocking my path and she said “Sorry, I’m just watching Mark. They’re supposed to be reading, right? They’re not supposed to be messing around?”

“Yeah” I replied “But we don’t really have much luck getting them to focus on books for the full hour that they’re supposed to be reading. I usually make a deal with them, that if they read a certain number of books, then they can color or play.”

“I worry about Mark, he’s been getting some bad habits. He’s been getting into trouble.”

”At school?” I asked

“Yes, he’s been hitting and kicking other kids. I worry that he’s hanging around with a bad crowd of boys.”

“I see, well I’ll keep an eye on him and make sure that he’s behaving himself tonight.”

“Thanks, I just worry that he’s getting in with a bad group of kids.”

Hearing this mother’s concern for her son, Mark, reaffirmed to me that social work will one day be my career. This mother taught me a lesson: both mothers in poverty, and mothers like my own are striving for the same goal - get your kid a better life than your own. How easy it is for everyone to attain that goal is debatable, but the desire is there. It’s little lessons like these that I learned in Ghana, and that I continue to learn in my current work with the homeless children of Salt Lake City. These lessons are much more valuable than any theories that I could read from a text book or hear from a professor. This is reality. Real people living with real situations with no real solutions at their disposal. There will always be real people living in real situations, and if I can write an intelligent, reasonable personal essay, maybe then I will be accepted to the social work program, and eventually come up with real solutions for the people and situations I work with. I’ll take this failure into stride, learn from it, and try again next time better equipped to convince them of my brilliance. Taylor the social worker, it just sounds right.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Movin' out!

I have to write an essay as a part of my application to the Social Work program, so I'm going to start here with a little pre writing and get everything out of my head.

Sometimes random questions just pop into my head.
If you had a Parkinson's disease patient group picture, would it turn out blurry? I know that's incredibly insensitive, but I really want to know.
Can someone with a prosthetic leg use a urinal? How do they do the little getting 'it' out of your pants dance. Do they wear boxers for easier access?
If you counted all the steps you've taken in your whole life, would there be enough to walk around the world?

I want to live in a place where people don't talk about "my struggle with SSA."
I want to live in a place where being gay isn't a disease to be treated through therapies which don't comply with APA, AMA, and NASW standards.
I want to live in a place where suicide rates for young men don't lead the nation.
I want to live in a place where the state legislature meets with their constituents before a session, not a church.
I want to live in a place where it's not freaking snowing at the beginning of April.
I want to live in a place where I don't have to be like everybody else to be respected.
I want to live in a place where I can continue my work with kids and not be terrified of coworkers and parents finding out my sexuality and assuming I'm a pedophile.
I want to live in a place where the victim is not blamed.
I want to live in a place where having a husband and two kids isn't an "alternative lifestyle."
I want to live in a place where the needs of your neighbor come in at an extremely close second to your own needs.
I want to live in a place where I can listen to broadway musicals, watch America's Next Top Model, get overly excited about the season premier of The Hills, and not have all these things attributed to my sexuality.
I want to live in a place that defines "All American" as something other than a red neck bastard who eats red meat and watches baseball.
I want to live in a place where people don't get rich off of my healthcare.
I want to live in that place the declaration of independence was talking about. A place where I am endowed with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I wish I were in Love Again...

The incredibly talented and beautiful Audra Mcdonald totally sums up where I'm at right now in this great song. Listen. Or don't. I don't really care.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Everyone poops

I listen to a lot of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, not because I like what they say, but because I like to listen to their rants then imagine their penis size and the size of their country music collection. I'm convinced there is a correlation between the two. From what I get from Sean and Rush, the fabric of our society is decaying into a socialist sludge. No where is this more apparent than in public restrooms. Where is the decency?! Where is the outrage?! Where is the etiquette?! Surely Ronald Regan would look from his heavenly palace and feel shame about how far we have fallen. If he saw what our bathroom manners have become he would cry alzheimic tears. It really shows the signs of the times when I walk into a stall with shit in the toilet and pee on the seat. I've thought about it and I think in order to do my part in putting our upside down earth right side up, I'll share my expertise in bathroom etiquette.
  1. If aim is not your strength, whether it be because of size or an inability to touch your own junk, carry cheerios around with you. Drop a few in the toilet and you'll have a great target to assist your stream into the water. The cheerios sink quickly so if you are a long pee'er then be prepared with extra "targets"
  2. A buffer zone of at least 1 urinal or stall is required.
    Nothing is more awkward than making eye contact, through the crack of the stall door, with the culprit of the hilariously loud fart. If you simply must see, do so with much discretion.
  3. Don't be afraid to judge people's character based on these criteria: The shoes you see under the door. If you're at work and you see a nice pair of leather loafers under the door this would indicate an upper managerial position. This means you have the opportunity to share a great story about pinching one off with the boss for your co workers. Be sure to include details such as stink, number of times you heard the toilet paper roll turn, frequency of splash (I.e. lots of little splashes in a row or an occasional big splash.) Another criteria for judgement would be the audible quality of the business. If you hear long wet bottom burps, this would indicate a diet high in Wendy's and low in fiber. If you hear moans, airy farts, but no splashes. Assume that constipation is afflicting this poor soul. Sympathy should be administered and laxatives left on the counter if you have any on hand.
  4. Avoid conversations at the urinal. Exceptions can be made if the conversation started outside the bathroom and migrated into it.
  5. Never ever ever talk on your cell phone while in the bathroom. The bathroom is a sacred place to be respected and not marred by your conversation about Shelly's most recent abortion.
  6. No singing in the bathroom. Whistling is ok.
  7. If you huck a loogie in the urinal, make sure it goes down with the rest of your bodily fluids. Loogies in a toilet can look alarmingly like a different kind of pleasurable secretion.
    If you are going to listen to music while you release your bowels, please be considerate of others. The beats that unclench your sphincter may pucker another's. Keep that in mind.
  8. Take all reading materials with you.
  9. Please stifle all laughter in the bathroom no matter how loud or flabby the sound may be. Act as if you were at a baby birthing, no matter how slimy or disfigured the child is, it is never ok to laugh at it.
  10. Stall writing is an important subject to discuss. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling are important. Remember: your, you're, then, than, their, there, they're, it's, is.
  11. Be honest in all your stall wall messages. If Chad doesn't give great blow jobs, then don't say so on the toilet paper casing. Also make sure that you've written Chad's correct phone number.
  12. Remember, permanent marker does wash off, but etchings are permanent.
  13. Keep your political ideology off the stall wall. Keep it to pictures of anatomy and honest reflections of sexual encounters.

Happy and safe pooping.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

'Its not fair!'

There are two populations of kids that I work with, one with homes, the other without homes. Most of the time these kids’ actions mirror each other, but there are the occasions when a homeless child peels away their innocent skin revealing an individual who has been pounded, by circumstances, into a figure less representative of a child, and more representative of a grown adult. It’s in these moments that I realize how important love, trust, and empathy are.
Alex is a child who gives me many causes to believe that there most definitely some sort of abuse in his past. I’d love to think that this abuse has stopped, but I really don’t know. He’s a super cute kid with quick wit and a contagious laugh.

Monday night I had planned an activity which required the use of rice. “You get one cup of rice. If you choose to dump it on the floor or table you will not be getting another cup.” I explained “Do you guys understand?” They understood.

The floor had remained surprisingly rice free until Alex got frustrated with his sister. His frustration moved him to pick up a cup of rice and throw it across the room. “Alright, that’s it. Let’s go both of you.” I said in a less than pleased tone.

“We can go back to our room yet.” Alex’s sister told me

“Why not?” I replied

“We just can’t.” A simple sentence which, added with her firm facial expression, spoke volumes.
Instead of taking them back to their room, we sat down and talked about what had just happened.

“Alex, when you threw that rice at your sister it made me really mad.” I told him

“I don’t care.” He replied.. His eyebrows furrowed and his lips pressed tight. A big person getting mad because of something he did was nothing new to Alex. I could see the bricks being laid in his emotional blockade.

“Do you understand why that made me mad?” I asked

“I don’t’ care. She gets to have that cardboard tube and I want one too. It isn’t fair.”

“You’re right. That isn’t fair, Alex. That would make me mad too, but we’re not using those tubes for our activity, and I didn’t see your sister get it.”

“I want you to die.”

I excused his sister.

“You sound very angry, Alex. What’s making you angry?”“It’s not fair!”

Heavy tears welled up in his eyes and he hid his face from me. “Let’s go sit somewhere where no one can hear us or see us, ok?” I suggested as I put a reassuring hand on his back.

His body tensed and he growled in a low tone through his tears “Don’t touch me!” with an extra emphasis on the touch. I was taken aback by the rejection of comfort, and the strange way he said “Don’t touch me!” The situation was becoming bigger than a simple fight with his sister about a cardboard tube. Alex was becoming bigger than a 7 year old, which makes sense because his is a situation far bigger than any other 7 year old’s.

I suggested again “Let’s go sit over in that corner and you can tell me what is making you so sad.”

Tears dropped from his stationary face onto his lap, and he started sobbing. I’ve been with many many crying children at work, at The Road Home, in Ghana, and I like to think that I know when a kid is crying out of anger, crocodile tears, or whatever. The way Alex was crying reflected a deep and profound sadness.

I tried to reassure him again by placing my hand on his back and rubbing. This time he ran to the corner as he yelled “Don’t touch me!”
In the corner he continued to sob, and I left him there to cry and be alone for a few minutes. After the few minutes I moved and sat across from him.

“What’s making you so sad, Alex? Have you had a bad day? Did someone hurt you?” I was making reference to the giant goose-egg above his right eye and the scratches across his nose. He didn’t respond but continued to cry, and I let him cry to himself for a couple minutes.

“I’m never coming to book club again.” He declared

“That makes me really sad. I love seeing you every week. You make me laugh, you make Sam laugh, and you make all the other volunteers laugh. We would hate to see you not come anymore.” I replied“I don’t care.”“What could we do so that you would want to come to book club?”

“Nothing.”“Really? There is nothing we can do? Nothing at all? What if you help me plan next week’s activity. We could call it Alex's super awesome activity day. What is something that you really, really want to do?”

He thought for a moment contemplating whether or not to truly answer the question, and finally said “Make an instrument.” He was starting to warm up. He was looking at me now, and I could feel the bricks begin to tumble.

“Oh that’s a great idea!” I said enthusiastically “What instruments could we make?”

“A guitar out of rubber bands and a tissue box thing?” He suggested

“Perfect! Let me get a pen, I’m going to write this all down.”

The fact that a big person was going to take suggestions from him and write them down seemed to make him happy. It seemed to replace his profound sadness with a sort of self value. I came back with a pen and my trusty little black book and started writing down his suggestions.

“What could we use to make a drum?” I asked.

“Like a cardboard circle thing with paper and stuff. And we could make shakers.” He used his hands to illustrate his point. He was really getting into the idea now.

“Ok, we are going to do this next week so I will find a book to go with it.”

“Can I have a treat?”

“It’s time to clean up. How about if you pick up 12 things from the floor and show them to me you get a treat?”


I genuinely care about Alex, and I think he felt it that night. I felt a little bit of trust built and I hope it continues. I can see Alex doing great things if the right opportunities present themselves. I can also see him doing terrible things if he falls into the traps baited specially for the poor in our country. Its nights like these that remind me why I’m going into Social Work. Its nights like these that remind me that the issues of homelessness, and specifically child homelessness, are far bigger than I am. I can only hope that the little talent I have can be used to make a difference no matter how small that difference may be. Its nights like these that suck the apathy out of me, and make me want to smack the apathetic right upside the head. I’m reminded of a quote said by one of my professors “How can I, who has been given so much, do so little when there are those who have been given so little and do so much?”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Desperate Circles

There are some images from Ghana that will stick with me and haunt me forever, images of Gracie lying on the floor, crying because the malaria hurts so badly. Images of John, lying in the sun with flies all over his face and with feet and hands so swollen he couldn’t walk. Images of Kelvin and Ama Foli rocking themselves to sleep as a way to provide themselves comfort because they don’t get it from any other source. Images of Happy grunting to try to communicate her needs because she abandoned words a week after entering the orphanage, also images of Happy standing in her own waste, screaming maniacally when anyone came near to clean her up. I will forever be haunted by the “orphan stare” as we called it. They all employed the orphan stare, they would be normal, happy children one moment then the next moment they would stare and be unresponsive. It was as if they were stepping out of their childhood skin and stepping into a more mature, wiser skin which could see their own tragic past, and hopeless future. Another image I will never forget is my first experience with a young boy with whom I developed a very close relationship with. His name is Kwame.

7-14-08 Day 30
“Today, we arrived late to work, so all the kids had already gone to school and there was just Happy, Gracie, John, and Lydia left at the compound. There was also a new boy, Kwame his name is. I walked into the common room and saw this new boy I’ve never seen before with cuts on his face, and cracked and bleeding feet he was walking in a circle, impervious to all those around him. While he was turning his continuous circle he wailed the same Twi phrase. I did not understand exactly what he was saying, but I could tell he was desperate. My heart was wrenched. It was painfully clear that he was calling for someone who wasn’t there – someone who used to be there, but for some unknown reason has vacated his life. I don’t know what his back story is. I don’t know if he was found on the street, found by the police, given up by his mother, or given up by the hospital after his mother died. I’ll try to find out tomorrow. I want so much to scoop up this child, take him on the plane and give him a fighting chance in this ugly world.”

That day I couldn’t get the image of Kwame walking around in circles, desperate for that one thing that was most important to him, his mother. I later learned, from the aunties, that the phrase he was repeating over and over was a plea for his mother to come for him. Kwame had been at the orphanage a good week before he would even let me approach him. We started taking him with us in the mornings with the disabled kids. First, he would come with us as long as we didn’t touch or play with him, and then he let me hold him and play with him (but only me.) Soon, his actions became the same as those of the veteran orphans. Occasionally, though, he would break down and start to cry for no apparent reason. This is when I would pick him up, put him on my back like the Ghanaian women, walk around the cement soccer field, and go sit on the big water tank. I would hold him while he cried, humming some of my favorite songs until he cried himself to sleep. As he slept I would cry, although not always on the outside. I would cry for the injustice of his situation. I would cry for Kwame and his pain. I would cry for all the other orphans who had gone through this same process of grieving and forgetting. I would cry for my own mother who does not get the love and respect she so deeply desires and deserves from her own Kwame – me.
The other day my parents and I had it out. Our discussion wasn’t over my sexuality as it usually is, but the overall theme was that my mother was feeling disrespected, put upon, and ultimately unloved by me. I put up my usual wall, picked something to stare at and fixed my eyes on it while I listened to their argument. Finally it all became too much for my mom. She broke down and cried. I stormed off saying spiteful and mean-spirited words as I walked away. After a couple minutes in my room I decided to come back (something that is new for me.) I knew it was important for me not to leave the conversation as it was. I went back downstairs and listened some more. It became starkly apparent that my mother had it fixed in her head that I don’t care about her. Suddenly, the image of Kwame walking around in desperate circles popped into my head. I broke down and bawled. I don’t cry often, but when I do it’s not pretty. My shoulders shake, my face contorts, silent sobs come out of my chest and rattle my whole body, breathing consists of sharp intakes of breath from my snotty nose and restricted throat. All of this occurs until I put up that emotional wall. It’s as if I’m telling myself “Ok, that’s enough now. You’re done crying.” One time I went through this process with Bond, and he noticed that I was putting up that wall of emotional resistance. “Don’t put up that wall. Let it out. Let it out.” He told me. I found it so difficult to not cut myself off and cry for as long as I needed to. I simply could not do it. I tried, but I couldn’t.

That haunting image of the little boy walking around in circles, desperate for comfort, desperate for someone to please say “This isn’t real, this is all a dream. You’ll wake up tomorrow to your usual Bofrut and pure water, desperate for his mother, simply would not leave my head as I grieved over my jack ass behaviors towards my mom. My metaphorical Kwame was trekking that same depserate circle in my head - desperate for comfort, desperate to show that yes, I do love her, desperate to convey how much she truly means to me, desperate to make her understand that I care A LOT. I couldn’t tell her all of this that night. I put up that emotional wall, and along with stopping the crying, it stopped my ability to communicate. Maybe I’ll give her this post. I don’t know. Maybe I can show her how much she means to me through my actions. I don’t know.

A skiddish Kwame on the first day he let me hold him.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A metaphor for something, I'm sure...

Once upon a time there lived a boy who goes by the name of Raymond. Raymond, was a sweet, charming and charismatic boy. “You’re the best boy in the whole wide world. I will love you forever. One day you will grow up to do great things.” His mother told him this every day. Since Raymond was a good little boy he believed everything his mother told him. “I will, momma, I’m going to grow up and do great things.”

Raymond had lots of friends who also thought he was a pretty cool kid. He never had to worry about whether or not he would have friends to play with at recess. All the boys wanted to be just like Raymond, and all the girls wanted to be close to Raymond. “Walk home with me?” Suzie asked.

“I like your coat.” Said Tommy, “My mom is going to get me one just like it tomorrow.”

“George and I rock paper and scissored and I won, so I get to sit by you at lunch today.” Charlie told Raymond.

One day at school a new kid arrived. His name was Michael, and he was the talk of the school.

“Did you see his back pack? It had Diego on it!” Walter said.

“I heard that his mom packs him two Go-gurts in his lunch every day. I wish my mom would pack two Go-gurts. All I get are these lousy fruit roll-ups.” commented Suzie.

Now, Raymond loved Go-gurts, but his mom refused to buy them. Raymond decided that he needed to become Michael’s best friend so that he could have one of Michael’s go-gurts during lunch.

Raymond caught up with Michael on the way home from school. “Hey Michael, wanna come over to my house? I got the new Bolt game on Xbox 360 and its super cool.” Raymond said.

“Sure, I love Bolt.” Replied Michael.

They played Xbox until Raymond’s mom said it was time for Michael to go home. “Michael, you should sit by me tomorrow at lunch.” Suggested Raymond.

“Ok, thanks for playing with me. I’m glad I have a friend in this new town,” replied Michael.
Raymond knew that Go-gurt was as good as his. You see, Raymond understood people very well. He knew what to say and when to say it. He always got what he wanted.

The next day at the lunch table Michael and Raymond sat by each other. “Oh man, I love Go-gurt.” Raymond informed Michael.

“Me too, they’re my favorite. My mom always packs me two. Since we’re friends you can have one.”

“Oh boy, Thanks!”

So, Raymond took Michael’s favorite snack that day, without considering how much Michael loved his Go-gurts. Raymond continued to share his extra Go-gurt with Michael with the hopes that Raymond would continue to be his friend.

Raymond got sick of Go-gurts after a while, and decided that Michael wasn’t as fun to play with anymore. Instead of everyday, Raymond sat with Michael every other day, then only on Wednesdays, and finally he never sat by Michael again.

Michael felt so bad. He felt like he had done something, or said something to make Raymond not want to sit with him anymore. If only I didn’t show him that scab on my elbow, then he would still be my friend, Michael thought.

A couple weeks later, a new kid arrived at the school, his name was Harold. “Did you see his shoes?” Asked Suzie. “They are real live Air Jordans!”

“I heard his mom packs him a package of s’mores Poptarts every day for lunch.” Announced Ben.

Raymond LOVED poptarts and a package carries two, so he decided that he would become friends with Harold so that he could enjoy his favorite treat every day at lunch time.

This time it was easier for Raymond to become very best friends with Harold, and Harold loved having a new friend. Harold shared his poptart with Raymond every day, but Raymond soon got sick of poptarts. “I don’t want to be your friend anymore, you bug me.” Raymond told Harold.
Harold felt so bad. He felt like he had done something, or said something to make Raymond not want to sit with him anymore. If only I hadn’t told him about my sister’s bra, then he would still be my friend, Harold thought.

There was soon another new kid at the school named Brad, and he had two Fruit by the Foots in his lunch every day. Fruit by the Foot just so happened to be Raymond’s favorite snack at the moment, so he befriended Brad, then got sick of Fruit by the Foot, and stopped being Brad’s friend.

Brad felt so bad. He felt like he had done something, or said something to make Raymond not want to sit with him anymore. If only I hadn’t farted really loud that one day he would still be my friend, Brad thought.

All these kids grew up. Michael, Harold, and Brad had each shared their favorite thing with Raymond, and they had all been dumped and ignored when Raymond was done using what they had to offer, but somehow this made them all stronger. Michael grew up to be a famous R&B Singer. Harold grew up and became a doctor. Brad grew up to be a very successful lawyer. However, Raymond was too busy cycling through best friends to ever gain the depth and discipline of his former best friends. He ended up alone, sad and bitter. If only I had a real best friend, thought Raymond as he kicks three cats off his rat infested easy chair. With a beer balanced on his large belly, he yells out answers to the questions on Jeopardy (never the right answer), and scratches his bald head when his balls need a break.

If only, if only he had been a true friend,
maybe he wouldn’t be so gross in the end.