Sometimes you wish for a four-course meal, but all life gives you is a can of beans in shitty gravy. You could throw the can of beans away because you think you're better than that. Or you can eat your beans and pray that your next meal is a little bit better, you know, like an extra bean or bacon bits. Keeping in mind that, one day you will get that four course meal, it may not happen as fast as you wish, but you set it on the top shelf, knowing that one day you will be able to just reach up and grab it.
There are days where I struggle with what I am entitled to in life. I've grown up in America, a land that sells the "American Dream"; a dream that is nothing more than a product on the bottom shelf of life's grocery store. A product that sells happiness slapped on a yellow box with pictures of happy families on the outside, but on the inside, a black void of falsehoods. Drunk husbands punching their wives; drugged up moms watching their babies eat their drugs, but they are too high to get up; old rich men "who made it in America" flying out of the country to buy children to fuck; cousins raping little boys because that’s all the love they were shown; and drug and alcohol addicted war veterans that everyone is so proud of but no one wants to talk about their problems, it’s cheaper to let us kill ourselves or kick us out and not have to deal with us anymore. So come on everyone! Jump on the bad wagon on the Oregon Trail. Let's wave our American flag in everyone else's face, so we don't have to deal with the fact that no one is that happy family on that yellow box that we all grew up longing for.
I think I'm on my 5th can of beans, though now I can say at least I have some meat and potatoes in it. I am writing this today, the 12th of November in the year of 2017 on a Sunday at 0331 in the afternoon, which is saying a mouth full without realizing it. I practically came out dead of my mom's vag, then my father left us when I was only two. I survived the earthquake of 94' in Los Angeles from which all I can remember is the terror in my heart as I ran in the dark screaming for my mother. I was sexually molested and raped by an older cousin when I was seven—It went on for months. At the age of ten I was sexually molested by a family friend, actually it was the son of my mother’s best friend at the time. Coming out of the closet wasn't easy; I ended up having to drop out of high school and going to an alternative school in DC. I did this to evade my parents’ radical anti-gay behavior, only to get drugged and raped by one of the students on campus (Go Job Corps!). If you were to ask me if I could go back and not have dropped out, I still would have made the same choice. It's easier to accept strangers betraying me than being repeatedly demeaned and betrayed by those that I love.
At the bright and clueless age of 20, I walked by the big shiny glass window on 5th avenue in New York City and stared up at all the yellow boxes with pretty pictures. Moms baking cookies, dads playing catch with sons, children chasing after their dogs, girls jump roping, young men saluting the American flag (none of these being people of color). Can you guess which one I chose? I chose to dawn the fabric of America, because up until this point, everyone I had ever loved and trusted had failed or hurt me. I wanted to have a life to be proud of, not one that I was ashamed of. Well, as soon as I made that choice, like a bull in a china store, life reminded me that it's not that easy. Again, I found myself in a situation where fellow human beings felt entitled to use my body because it was drunk and blacked out. That memory is hard for me to bring up to this day; I still don't know how many there were that night. What hurts the most is knowing that some of those men were men in uniform, my brothers.... This was before "Don't Ask Don't Tell", so I did what every other gay service member had done before me. I sucked it up, and went on pretending life was great because I was doing my country a great service. Soon after, I found my self alongside my fellow marines, as a corpsmen in Afghanistan. A decision I will never regret. I joined with the purpose in mind of going to war—I wanted to see what the newscasters weren't telling us...my thoughts on my experience there? I'll just say that my gunny's didn't want the "gay doc" on their missions, but I made sure my ass was on all of them— fuck that shit.
It's primitively funny how humans choose to bandage up their emotional wounds with little threads of pseudo-happiness. Some of us find it when out shopping, in abusive relationships, cutting slits into their skin, sex addiction, beating their children, killing animals, becoming a perfectionist, OCD, extreme sports, at the bottom of a bottle of vodka, overdosing on pain killers. Or, in a pair of running shoes like I once used to, but I now find it easier to bring a needle to my arm because after all of the cans of beans of I have been served, it's the only thing that feels good.
Being active duty and an addict has been a really rough road. On one hand they want us to ask for help, but when we do, we are viewed as weak. When we start disappearing for our mental health appointments, all of a sudden, we become an inconvenience. I became an inconvenience to the Navy, so I was treated as such. Military has a funny way of dealing with our problems if we don't "HURRY UP AND GET BETTER," then they will find ways to just get rid of us. Unfortunately, the military has always glamorized alcohol: "Go get a drink or do anything to patch up your problems; just show up in uniform tomorrow and get the job done!" Well what happens when alcohol doesn't do it anymore? I went from running marathons, to running to the liquor store, to running drugs through my veins, to running out of reasons why I shouldn't love myself.
Last night life served me a side of beans. I walked into my garage only to step in a puddle of water. My garage is like my "Manish Cave." lol I use it to store junk, as an art studio, and a place to store my artwork. Whatever! There’s a couch in there, so that makes it a man cave! Anyway, I start feeling around, and EVERYTHING IS WET AND SOAKED THROUGH! So much so that the luggage I kept in there was filled on the inside with water. All my old sketches and paintings gone! Most importantly though, some of the paintings I had for the group exhibition show Pancakes & Booze next week on the 15th are ruined and the frames warped...
So, I can't quite reach up and grab that four-course meal just yet, but I am closer to it than when I started. Everything we endure is a step closer to becoming a super human. There have been numerous occasions where friends have confided their problems in me, and I was able to help them because I HAD BEEN THROUGH IT. Think of it like this, we go through all the things we go through in life, just so we can become lifeguards, ready to bring a fellow human back to shore.
TO ALL MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN ARMS WHO ARE SWIMMING IN THE DEEP END WITH ME...IT'S OK TO ASK FOR HELP. YOU ARE NOT ALONE, AND EVEN THOUGH OUR BANDAGES AND SCARS ARE DIFFERENT. WE ALL BLEED THE SAME. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.