Posted by: facetothewind | July 6, 2001

Obsessed with Patrick

Four years ago, when I was taking care of my dying friend Sky, I thought this would be the most difficult thing I would ever choose to endure. I was wrong.

You see, I’ve been in love with a man. I’ll call him Patrick. OK, that’s his real name. Patrick. It’s not a very fitting name for him. He doesn’t look like a Patrick with his black hair and topaz eyes, his tiny hands, and his sad little smile that makes you want to hold him and tell him everything’s going to be OK.

But it’s not going to be OK. I would be lying if I said that.

It sounds like I’m foreshadowing horrible doom, doesn’t it? There’s really not much to this story that is played out on a grand scale, like Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton in Reds or Omar Sharif and ?? in Dr. Zhivago. No, it’s much smaller than that. Hollywood will never make a movie about this love affair. It’s the story of small things. Painful and beautiful, like a shimmering blue butterfly that you cannot catch. It’s a story of love on a small scale. A tender opening, a wisp, a dream.

Does anyone understand when I tell them that I have seen God in Patrick’s eyes? Whenever I get the chance, I look. And then I my eyes moisten. It’s an immediate response. It’s as if I peered into an old church and saw a blinding light coming through the roof of a decaying building. I want to turn away but I can’t. But the building doesn’t know that light is shining through it, nor that it’s falling apart.

I remember the first time I met Patrick. I sat up suddenly from a nap on the beach in SF knowing that something big was about to happen. He walked into my life right then and there. His hair was shoulder length and fine. His body brown and smooth. It has been 10 years since our first sandy kiss at sunset.

I dreamt of whales last night. Again. Why do I keep having dreams of whales? This time I was on a ship and we were following them off into a sparkling white horizon. We got tangled in seaweed and lost sight of them. I woke up, startled by the metaphor.

Shortly after Patrick and I met, our relationship became one of those cases of someone you love dearly, who causes you enormous trouble and you know you’re about to become very entanlged, but you do it anyway. He became the troubled one, I the do-gooder. My friends rallied behind me and said I deserved better. I became his stern mother. He became my neglectful father. We never knew who in the family was going to appear when we were in bed together. But there were those moments of undeniable sweetness. Those small acts of love that I had to take notice: A little purring noise when I hugged him, a piece of brownie saved for me from his dinner, the way he would wrap his small hand around my index finger when we walked in public.

On top of my piano is a picture of me with Patrick standing on a beach in Costa Rica. Him with his shirt off proudly displaying his big chest. Big for such a small guy. Then there’s me. Tall and willowy with a goofy look on my face. There are lots of pictures of us around the house. There’s the one of him in a dress on the way to a party – looking like a crazed old lady with her head shaved on a day pass from the mental institution. There’s the one of him in a Mexican sombrero riding in the back of a convertible on the Golden Gate Bridge as seen through the side mirror that said, “Objects are closer than they appear.”

Looking back, I spent entirely too much of my time with Patrick trying to confirm that he loved me. He wouldn’t even use those words, “I Love you” until about a year and a half of living together. I used to put my earplugs in at night because he snores like an army of helicopters landing on the roof – and I would say to him, “OK, now’s a good time to tell me that you love me, because I won’t be able to hear it.”

My mind is littered with snippets of life with Patrick. The time that I went silent on a camping trip because we couldn’t get along. The time when HE went silent on a camping trip – before he was diagnosed as depressed and hypo-thyroid. Memories of him carrying me on his back to the ocean’s edge to cheer me up and then showing me a family of field mice under a log. Him making a vacuum cleaner dance to keep me from crying in the lobby of an old folks home where he worked when I came by tripping on acid. The quacking sounds he made playing with the rubber duckies I bought for his bath.

My mind fills up with these thoughts and I think about people who have had near death experiences and their whole lives flash before them. Am I about to die, I wonder? What about Patrick? Am I catching the last moments of his life as he struggles to manage an old-world existence in a harsh, modern world? I have come to realize that the hardest thing in life is not to watch someone die, but to watch someone you love struggle and knowing that you can’t make it better for them. It’s that chasm between individuals – that no amount of love will ever bridge that gap. That no matter what, I’m over here and you’re over there and I can’t help you. That’s the most painful part of life.

Patrick lives in a tent on a farm now where he cares for small things more fragile than him. I went to visit him at the farm the other day. I hadn’t seen him in the 2 months since our last fight. I knew where to find him. My car automatically turned up the overgrown road where he works. I found him wandering around with a dictionary looking up botanical names for plants. A winsome and doubtful smile came over his face when he saw me. I choked back tears. There was joy in his face and an undercurrent of fear. “Where will I go in the fall?” He wondered. “I have no money. None.” I failed at my attempt to let him weave his own safety net. “I’ll buy a share in a farm and then you can stay there and work.” “I didn’t think you wanted to see me anymore,” he said in that little kid way that always has me hooked. “Silly fool, of course I want to see you, but you HAVE to pull yourself together and be more RESPONSIBLE. He bristles. I stare nervously at the ground knowing, once again, that I’ve said something that doesn’t register as anything but a stab at his fragile constitution.

I dreamt once that Patrick and I were riding on a little red scooter in San Francisco. We drove up a steep street alongside a park lined with palm trees. The scooter took to the air and he held me tightly with amazement as we flew over the park. I could feel his little hands gripping my shirt tightly as we soared now over the whole city as the sun was going down. Minutes and hours became seconds and the scooter disappeared. We were left floating in midair over the city, glowing and twinkling below. The night air over San Francisco was warm, so I knew it had to be a dream. Then our bodies disappeared and all that was left was our eyes looking at each other. His dark topaz eyes and my gray-green ones. We watched the sun begin to rise over the east bay hills and the morning rays revealed that all was gone. The city returned to rolling hills with trees and rivers where there had been freeways; sandy beaches where there had been piers. There was no city left. It never had existed. It didn’t need to. And then our eyes disappeared too. Now there was nothing left but the love that existed between two men, like the sound of a cello and a piano if there were nothing to stop that last note from resounding forever and ever.

Charlie sez: a dictionary in one hand and a bottle booze at the ready. Also put in some supporting detail about why we broke up. A little less about Patrick and a little more about me. Little bits about the alcohol consumption.

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