Week before last, Gizmo, the African Grey Parrot at the airboat place, escaped her birdcage. She could fly, though not very well, but eventually she made it outside. Unfortunately, she made it outside in the animal park. And from there, into the pit of 80 alligators, all hungry, and one of them pregnant (or, “gravid” for my pedantic science friends) and ornery enough to eat car tires.
This story reminds me of relationships. Specifically, mine. I Know Why the Caged Bird Escapes and Lands in the Gator Pit was the working title of my memoirs before this tragedy befell Gizmo; now the title seems insensitive. It was between that and It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, which I feel like equally applies to Gizmo’s decision-making skills.
For those of you following along with this blog, I bet you noticed that I got real quiet on the subject of relationships after Meditation on Death and Dying, and that was mostly because I’d jumped out of my cage with Michael and into the exact same gator pit where Gizmo met the Angel with Eighty Teeth, only I did it with an alligator wrangler in a romantic sideshow act that I thought was real, and my hope died. I was both liberated and embarrassed, as these things go, and my final thoughts on the matter, I imagine, were the same as Gizmo’s: “well, shit.”
So, I entered the tomb to wait for the green light on my resurrection. Although, I prefer to think in terms of chrysalis/transformation/new life. Either way, there I was.
In the last paragraph of that blog, Meditation on Death and Dying, I mention a party where I met a man who went to college with a guy named David Lee Roth. Not Van Halen-Panama-high kicking-leggings David Lee Roth–David Lee Roth just happens to be this guy’s name, and he makes outstanding coconut candies in Hawaii. The blog was supposed to be a funny re-telling of that tale, and to share with you the fact that you can order this candy online and it is delicious. And it’s made by a guy named David Lee Roth. All things I want you to have in your lives, beloveds. But that’s not how the blog turned out because that’s not how I was feeling. I wrote what I was feeling, I told you the truth, and then I went in the tomb-crysalis and shut the hell up. Until now.
In environmental science, an ecotone is a transition between biomes. It is a space where two different ecosystems meet and integrate, become a unique liminal condition of both environments. A middle space, if you will, a shared space. In an ecotone, two natures merge into each other, creating a new ecosystem that is separate from them, yet of them. It’s a beautiful thing, and often disorienting.
This party is where I met Andy Fairbanks, who was the host and man of honor, the man who went to college with David Lee Roth and was soon, then, on his way to Hawaii to meet up with David and coconut (yes, it’s a verb) and who, also, was sinking into a chrysalis tomb of his own. That was October 13, 2012. We liked each other instantly, but it was an uneventful party, Andy left shortly after, and we did not speak again — only traded a few emails and facebook posts — until March when, after a grueling winter for both of us, we emerged.
Andy and I reconnected at a meet-and-greet organized by Cristina for Florida 500 when Justin Riney stopped over in Fort Myers Beach on his epic year-long SUP paddle through the waterways of Florida to raise awareness for the beauty and importance of water systems to the state. There is a moment, I’d heard tell, when you know. I had this moment with Andy at this gathering, when he pulled out of the conversation he was in to greet me, and our eyes met. I can’t tell you that it was earth-shattering or monumental or Biblical or anything epic or superlative. It was not. It was a calm and soft click somewhere in the back of my heart, like a key in a tumbler lock, and that was all. It was not some sweeping sense of romance; it was a gentle knowing that, if we were willing and agreed to it, perhaps we could build a life together that would last, a life we would both understand and love because maybe we could understand and love each other.
I thought I’d shared it with Michael, and before that with Bill, and Mark and Lenny prior, and they were all important relationships for me, and I loved them all. But in hindsight, I’d made up the signs, because the ego wants what it wants and I don’t fault mine for that, but I couldn’t be tricked anymore. I was done. That’s what you learn in the chrysalis tomb when you’re unsure about why you’re even alive in the first place, and Love has left you there to think about what you’ve done, and you do, and it hurts when you realize there’s nothing left except to give up the idea that things should turn out the way you want. Not just pretend to give up. But really lay your fucking burden down and cry when you have to bury it even though you’ve realized by then it was killing you. Then you see the sun, and that’s the cue that it’s time to rise and shine.
It takes a little longer than three days.
So, when I saw what I saw when I looked in Andy’s eyes, it startled me, and I grew quite nervous. Because, what? I couldn’t trust myself given my history, so I kept it from you, beloveds, and my family, waiting to see what would happen. Andy invited me to visit him in Tampa, I did, and he informed me straight away he “was not husband material” to dispel any notions I may have had of roping him into a boring monogamous prison sentence, and so that answered my questions. Andy had spent most of his adult life bashing the institution of marriage and the inequality in marriage rights, as he is somewhat the space where Woody Guthrie meets Rage Against the Machine, and most people who know him have enjoyed his political and moral philosophizing on the subject. “It’s crap,” Cris told me later. “He’s a romantic.”
I returned to Fort Myers, happy I didn’t tell you about any of it, and set myself to the Glades, to my work, and Andy and I were going to be good friends and make out from time to time, and I was good with all that.
Except that I had been right about what I had seen in his eyes. Then, I just didn’t know that he was struggling with his own history, and I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that I may have scared the shit out of him, too. Fortunately, we’re both compelled by curiosity, and we inched closer together still, magnetized by this strange connection, until he made an impulsive decision to visit me in Fort Myers. I dig impulsivity, especially when fueled by love, and after two days, it was glaringly obvious that we belonged together. I hadn’t felt what I felt with Andy since I had childhood best friends. It was a welcome return of a lost remembering, and when he left for New York a few days later to stay with his brother for several days, we didn’t own up to it yet, but somewhere tacitly agreed, okay, it’s you.
I have no idea how long he was in New York. If felt like a month. We talked and wrote to each other. He read every single one of these blogs. I told no one what was happening because I assumed there was no one left to trust me when I said I had met the love of my life. The whole turn of events felt like a giant gift, and not in a goofy way, but in a now let’s see what you’re going to do with this, given everything you’ve seen. And I remembered what I was taught to do with Love: receive it and spend it lavishly.
When Andy returned from New York, he drove to my house and scooped me up in his arms. “I love you,” he said. “And I want to marry you.” Of course. By then it seemed the most natural progression, the exact right mixture of who we are meeting in this new space. It was beautiful, and disorienting. “Okay,” I said.
On June 26th, when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and now all our friends have the federal right to marry, Andy bought rainbow Sharpies, a bottle of sparkling grape juice, and blackberries, got on one knee, and asked me if I would marry him.
I said yes.
With trembling hands, we drew rainbow rings on our fingers and filled up our cups and drank it all, puffing on a hand-rolled cigar. On October 5th, Cristina is going to marry us in a family ceremony on a friend’s sailboat out in the Gulf of Mexico. Then we’re jumping overboard. Seems only fitting for two people who never thought they’d take the plunge–in my case, take the plunge again. It will be almost exactly one year from the day we met.
I’m sharing this love story with you because many of you felt like Andy came out of nowhere, and there was a reason for that, and although I don’t owe you any explanations, I do feel like it is polite to give you the backstory because I do love you, and I want you involved in my life.
I’m also letting you know that at the end of September, I’ll be moving to Tampa so Andy and I can start our life together there. He has already launched our company, Good Company Tampa Bay, so if you’re ever in the area, look us up and come spend some time with us out in nature or helping you do whatever you need to do. I’ll finish the play there and also the novel, and I will certainly keep up this blog while we’re having our new adventures.
We really do believe in the power of love, especially when it starts in the heart as a very small notion of a glimmer of hope of possibility.
night night beloveds. To Love.