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Hot Chocolate

I was so prepared for a freezing Chicago visit. It’s cold - technically below freezing - but I have yet to really miss the gloves I forgot to bring.


Saw the tech and first preview of “The Great Khan” at Red Twist Theatre. It’s is definitely on the other end of the scale in regards to size from the bigger spaces that have already produced the show, by not in regards to passion and commitment. A hard-working little theatre with a lot of heart.


I’m staying on the north side, a block away from Loyola College, and I gotta say I’m surprised at how diverse the neighborhood is. I went for a long walk yesterday, and the area was not as monochromatic as I’d been led to believe. That’s not to say folks were all friendly with each other. There is still a space between people, and I haven’t seen any interracial groups of friends walking or talking together. And I already mentioned the whole White people don’t want to sit next to a Bkack guy on the streetcar thing.


I did, however, have an interaction with a White guy yesterday:


I was wandering around around the neighborhood and decided to go into Starbucks to get some hot chocolate. Weird that I couldn’t find just a regular coffee shop.


Got my hot chocolate, and just as I sat down a mid-thirties looking White guy came up next to me and asked if he could sit down between me and another guy. I said sure, and he sat down. He was struggling to not cry:


Hi


Hi.


My name’s Kelly.


I’m Michael.


How are you?


I’m okay, Kelly. How are you doing?


I’ve been feeling really… really down recently. I’ve been having really dark thoughts about myself, about life…


I’m sorry to hear that. What’s been going on?


A lot of stuff. I wish I could spend more time with my family. They’re down in Peoria, and I talk to them every night, but I can't see them. I wish I could. I’m just in a dark place.


What happened?


I’ve struggled with alcoholism because of… something that happened when I was in the military. I… I was taken advantage of…


That’s terrible.


I ended up drinking, and did things that I feel bad about. And I never told my buddies what happened to me because of homo… homophobia, I didn’t/could tell anyone… my family… well, not my related-to family, but my family…


Your family of choice.


My… what?


Your family of choice. The people you love and choose to be with.


Yeah.. but I couldn’t talk to them about it...


First off - what happened to you was not your fault. It had nothing to do with anything you did wrong, or you at all. It was completely the other person’s fault and responsibility. They were and are the problem, they are the perpetrator, they are the one with the issue, and that they had power in that moment and decided to use its to inflict pain on you was in no way your fault or responsibility. And you shouldn’t blame yourself for how you responded or didn’t respond to what happened to you. Nobody knows how to respond, there is no right way. We are all making this life up as we go, and how one person responds is going to be different from someone else. Whatever you did is because of what happened, because of the other person’s cruelty to you.


But I did things that were wrong, I hurt my family and friends when I was drinking.


You have to forgive yourself for all of that. Try to make right what you can, but you can’t move forward as long as you blame yourself for not reacting well to what happened to you. You are still the good person you were before it happened.


I’m going to the church tonight, to St. James’. I’ll confess to the priest, I hope I can find some forgiveness. I… attempted suicide. A few times. Back after it happened, and then one time I walked out of the VA naked and into traffic, trying go to get hit.


Sometimes it can feel like there is no future, that there are no answers, no way out. That we are facing a brick wall. You get into this loop telling yourself there is nothing but the wall. Then the next day you wake up and only see the wall. Morning after morning, day after day. As hard as it is seeing that the wall doesn’t exist, that the next day means there are possibilities, and these possibilities might be good or bad, things can get better or worse, but they are not stagnant, and they what we do matters and can make a difference is a big step in having hope. Do you know the philosopher Nietzsche?


I’ve heard of him.


I’m not a big fan of Nietzsche, but one thing he said is one big reason for misery is hope, that those who are the most down are often the most open, hopeful, the kindest, and they can be hurt the most because they are so disappointed by the cruelty of the world. They expect the best, so they feel the pain of disappointment the worst. That you feel so bad is evidence of your kindness, your concern, your hopefulness. If you were a bad person you wouldn’t care, wouldn’t feel bad. There are terrible people out there - selfish, greedy, cruel - who never feel bad about anything they do. They have their own problems, and who knows why they turned out the way they did. But for you your pain might be because you feel the gap between your hope and the cruelties of the world. The world can be a great place and a cruel place, and it’s those that are kindest that feel difference most.


I just don’t have anyone to talk to. I need to pull myself together, get a job. But I just always have these dark thoughts…


You need to get back in touch with who you were before its happened, that hopeful person. Your inner 12 year old. Somewhere inside you is that 12 year old you, who is disappointed with the world, who is broken hearted, who loves you, and wants the best for you. They are the real you before all of this happened. And they are still there. They don’t blame you, they know this happened to you, not because of you. That’s who you are - that hopeful kid who had hopes and dreams. What happened hurt that kid’s heart. But you can get back to them.


I hope I can find some grace tonight. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I hope the father can give me that.


The church should love you, whatever you’ve done, should understand that you were abused, and that you did not bring this upon yourself. Hopefully they will help you see that you are a victim, not a sinner, that you are essentially a good, kind person trying to get beck to who you were before this happened to you.


The alcoholism…


Nobody knows how they’ll respond to things like what happened. You have to forgive yourself for not having the perfect response because there is no perfect response…


Anyway this conversation went on for quite some time, until I felt I couldn’t be any more help. I was getting emotionally full, and he seemed much calmer than when he sat down. I got up, gave him a big hug, told him I hoped he found what he needed tonight and that only a good person would feel the way he did, and left the Starbucks.


I wasn’t focused on solving all his problems. I just wanted him to feel better about himself first and foremost, to accept that he was a good person something bad had happened to. I didn’t know him, he could have been a terrible person before, but that really didn’t matter.


Chicago.

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