Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Mount a Broken Heart

Its been two years and some change since my brother was killed in Afghanistan, brave soldier, hero. My dad asked the military for another copy of the medals Jason was awarded on the day he died for myself and my sister. When they arrived in the mail my heart warmed to see them. After a little while, I couldn't look at them anymore. They made me sad. The medals have sat in my spare room for months. This weekend I finally decided to mount them, a purple heart and bronze star. I didn't realize what a strange experience it would be -mounting the medals of your dead brother; a mix between a leisurely craft project and a continous series of coarse kicks in the chest, head and heart.

Step 1. Gather necessary mounting supplies.

The whole time I had this dull throbbing sensation just behind the rib cage to the left, like my actual organ the heart was being squeezed. It lasted through out the entire project with waves of overwhelming grief and pride.

Step 2. Cut black paper into 4" by 6" dimension. Place double sided wall mounting stickies on the paper in the middle.

I kept thinking about the irony. These medals are for my brother. And yet I am mounting them. He would be so goddamn proud to mount those things himself. Would he have done it this way?

Step 3. Smoosh the medal onto the stickies. Hold.

Or would he have just popped open the cases and left them on his dresser to collect dust-throwing dirty laundry on top of them. Running in and out the room from one adventure to another hardly ever giving them a second thought

Step 4. Push the medal's pin into the back of the shadow box frame.

I felt cheated and proud all at once. I felt angry at the military for putting him in the line of fire and at the same time proud that they awarded him these. His bravery earned him these and cost him his life.

Step 5. Make sure you get the award and the pin even.

And yet, I have this feeling that he is/would be so proud to have them on display. I am so proud to have them on display. How many people have purple hearts hanging in their living rooms?

Step 6. Place it in the shadow box.

So, Jas, congratulations on your awards and your courage. I never doubted you had it in you. I'll mount them for you since you can't do it yourself. I miss you every day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Gender, Bathrooms, and Drunk Jerks

Do you remember that book from almost twenty years ago titled: There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom? It was one of the first books I ever finished cover to cover and I was 2nd grade. I remember feeling proud. Ever since I was little we were taught that boys go into the boy's room and girls go into the girl's room.

The other night I was in a crowded club and a group of friends were outside waiting for me. I wanted to hurry. I really hate making people wait. I rushed up to the bathrooms and there was one toilet marked men and one toilet marked women. The women's room was occupied and the men's room was open. A man stood outside the women's room. He looked over at me and said "I am NOT going in the men's room, but you can feel free to. I'll watch the door." So I did. To give the young effeminate man credit, the men's room was pretty gross. As I was in there I thought to myself how confusing gender can be. The line to the women's toilet was occupied by someone who was a man but preferred a cleaner restroom. Cleanliness is often attributed to a more feminine quality but it is not fair to attribute necessarily to women. Huh, wouldn't it be a great world, if all toilets instead read: Feminine/Masculine rather than Man/Woman?

After the mini-epiphany I washed my hands and heard some commotion out in the hall. Four men had come up to the line of the men's bathroom and had gotten news there was a woman in there. I could here them from inside, "What the hell is a woman doing in the men's bathroom? Man, that is fucked up!"

As I walked out of the bathroom, I came upon an onslaught of cuss words and middle fingers. "What the fuck are you doing in the men's bathroom?" "Get the fuck out of there!" "That is not your bathroom!" "Why don't you use your own bathroom!" "You're disgusting!" Four large men yelled down at me as I stood frozen in the doorway. I was speechless. Disgusted, embarrassed, confused, uncomfortable. They were clearly drunk. "Just get the hell out of the way." they said as I moved quickly past them.

This has stuck with me. It's been one week since this happened and I still can't come to peace with it. I just let it go. I walked away. I walked outside and told the friends I was with, who ironically were a group of four men as well. They shrugged it off and we walked away. What were they gonna do, go start a fight? And what could I have done? Called the police? Police! Police! Four men gave me the middle finger!

I wish I could tie this up with a nice reflective paragraph on the implications involved but instead I'll give it a Brechtian finale by leaving it unsettled and with a few questions for you all. What would have been the best response here? Just ignoring them? Does that give them the power? Should I not go in the boy's bathroom at all?