28 December 2008

More Lessons: One Love

This morning my mother, father and I stopped at a dollar store on US 1 near St. Augustine. I normally wouldn't come to such a store here, for we have 99-cent stores in New York (See, not everything's more expensive there!) that have, for the most part, the same kinds of merchandise. However, Mom said I could find a round hairbrush there. I left mine home, and they make hair-drying easier. I borrowed one from Mom, but you know...a proper lady--or a good woman, at any rate--returns whatever accessories or other accoutrements she borrows. Yes, even if the lender is her mother.

I also needed makeup applicator pads, because I'd lost the one in my compact. I was about to buy the small round makeup sponges, but Mom told me she likes the cotton ones better. So I bought two packs of them.

After we checked out, we went to a nearby Target store. Ironically enough, I found something I wanted to buy for Dominick but couldn't find in New York. And it's one of those things I thought I was even less likely to find in Florida than in New York. So, Dominick, if you're reading this...I'm not telling. But I think you know what it is!

And Dad pointed me to some tops that looked like a cross between T-shirts and ballerina tops. They're made of cotton, with a little spandex. Mom found one in a nice shade of gray, and advised me to get a size larger than I was going to buy. I also bought one in black and purple (my favorite color). And Dad found one in a sort of pumpkin color that I like a lot.

Then, to JC Penney and the movie theatre next door. This is the second time in my life as Justine that I've gone to the movies with Mom and Dad. The other time, in August, was my first time at the movies with them (or any other family member) in I-don't-know-how long. But I digress.

We saw Marley and Me. Now, my snobby New York English professor/Parisienne-wannabe self might've, left to her own devices, turned up her nose (not as finely sculpted as the one she imagines on une belle des boulevards, she grudgingly admits) at such a spectacle. And, yes, it is every bit as sweet (albeit with a sad ending) and just about as sentimental as I expected it to be. But, well, I let myself be taken by it, and I don't regret it. I think Dad, who was sitting to my left (as Mom was on his), might've seen a tear or two roll down my cheeks. One more thing to blame on the hormones! However, lots of people were crying as they left the theatre, and not all of them had my excuse.

I won't give too much of it away, but I wonder if anyone else noticed this detail: When John Grogan, who's just recently moved to Florida from Michigan, takes home the puppy he and his wife (who had to go on an assignment) adopted the day before, the song playing on the radio is Bob Marley's "One Love." The pup is entranced by the tune, which is how John came up with "Marley."

Actually, viewers only hear the first stanza of the song:

One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel all right
Hear the children crying (one love)
Hear the children crying (one heart)
Sayin' give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Sayin' let's get together and feel all right.

It is beautiful, but it's the only part of the song that 99% of the people know about. More people heard it on an Air Jamaica commercial that aired about 25 years after Bob Marley's death than ever listened to the song on his "Exodus" album. What they don't realize is that the song is not the feel-good tune depicted in the commercial, or by most American radio DJ's. Rather, it's what I like to think of as a spiritual call to arms:

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (one love)
There is one question I'd really like to ask (one heart)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?
Believe me

One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (one love)
So shall it be in the end (one heart)
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
One more thing

Let's get together to fight this Holy Armageddon (one love)
So when the Man comes there will be no no doom (one song)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation

Sayin' one love, one heart
Let's get together and feel all right
I'm pleading to mankind (one love)
Oh Lord (one heart)

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let's get together and feel all right.

In other words, Bob isn't begging us to love; he's daring us into it, with the love he put into this song's message. I suppose one could say there's a milder version of this message in the movie, which is probably what stands between it and "chick flick" status. Not that it's a badge of dishonor; at least you can take your husband or boyfriend to this and he won't think you're punishing him for something he doesn't even know he's done. If you want to accomplish that, drag him into The Ya-Ya Sisterhood or Waiting to Exhale: two films which, by the way, I love and saw before I started to live as Justine.

Daring people to love: I haven't gotten to that point. I've just barely managed to dare myself to love.

OK, enough of my two-bit philosophy. (I walked out on the one philosophy class in which I enrolled while I was an undergraduate.) You're not reading this blog for that. You want to read more about a trans woman's developing relationship with her parents, right? OK, I'll give you some more of that.

Later this afternoon, we went out to eat. (I don't think I'll ever get used to five p.m. dinners!) The restaurant, called Blue, is part of a hotel along the stretch of A1A I rode the other day. This means that the windows look out on the dunes that tumble into beaches where Atlantic tides wash, and the clear sky took on the deep orange reflections of the sunset and turned into an inky shade of blue mirrored on the surface of the water.

I realize now why that stretch of the road, and of the coastline, is becoming so special to me. One very important reason, of course, is that it's where I've been spending my time when I'm not in the presence of Mom and Dad. I guess it's like one of those places people treasure because it's where they walk (or ride their bikes) when they're thinking or working through something, or simply taking in something they're learning.

But I also love it because I feel myself completing something--or an important stage of it, anyway--I began a long time ago. About three weeks before I began my life in sobriety, I was with my mother, father and my brother Tony as we drove up the California coast after the wedding of Mike, another brother, in Burbank. All through that trip, I drank as much as I could get away with and showed as much disdain as I could for my parents, brothers, California and everyone and everything else I could.

The second day of that trip, if I remember correctly, we checked into a hotel in a town called Cayucos. Tony and I went down to a narrow strip of sand with six-packs of Corona. After I'd emptied a few of those bottles down my esophagus, I waded into tides that belied the name of the ocean that stretched before us.

I don't think I walked more than twenty yards into that water when the sea floor dropped suddenly and precipitously from my feet. Instead of backing up, swimming with the current, or trying to regain my footing, I arced my body and bobbed in the ebbing waves, waiting for the tide to wash in or over me. I hoped that somehow the waves would take me, like a bottle bearing a note to...what?....where? I felt that there was nothing left for me on that land where my brother and parents were, and no reason to look ahead in space or time. If I ended up in Hawaii or Japan or the bottom of that ocean, would it matter? Perhaps they would mourn me for a day, a week, and remember me for however-many months or years. Or, if I survived, what would--could--I do next? There was still the proverbial hole inside me.

The beer Tony and I had been drinking, all of the beer and wine in the world, all of the booze, all of the water in that ocean, all of the world's oceans, lakes, rivers and glaciers, couldn't fill it. Nor could anything anyone else could , or would want to, do for or give to me. Any life I knew how to live couldn't fill it, nor--in my most horrifying realization of all--could my own death.

I turned 28 during that trip. A few days after I got home, I went out drinking on Saturday night and woke up on Tuesday afternoon. The following day I checked into an AA meeting. The next sixteen years, I managed not to let the hole expand even further, but I never could keep the storm of nihilism completely at bay: It muttered like thunder through a horizon just beyond my sleep.

Early in my transition from Nick to Justine, I realized I was in the next stage of what I'd begun when I stopped drinking: The recovery of my life was turning into the recovery of my self. Now I also realize that I am reclaiming the love I am--and everyone is--meant to give and have. My newly-developing relationship with my parents is one of the most satisfying manifestations of this.

The relationships and the people (or dogs or cats or whomever) may be different, but there really is only one love.

I understood that today as I was looking at the orange hues turning scarlet and darkening with the sea into inky blue mirrors for stars and moonlight. At the end of the day, at the edge of the sea, there is only that: one love. I have, and have always had, only two choices: to live with, by and for it, or to die. However imperfectly, I am beginning to live by my decision to choose one love.

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