I was just contemplating the phrase, breaking up, and the various ways we use it in language:
Breaking up with a significant other.
Your friend loses signal on the other end, and starts to break up.
A mother breaking up a fight between a cat and a dog.
Seeing the snow fall broke her up.
She stood and stretched, looking at her watch. I better take a walk, she thought, to break up my day.
It’s New Year’s Eve. I’m sitting at a bar in the center of a large restaurant, watching Z hustle around preparing for the evening rush. I had always known Z was a bartender; he would send me silly selfies and text me during slow hours from behind the bar.
I look around. Immense windows exposing a bright, bustling avenue in Downtown Seattle. Passerbyers scatter along, clutching their coats with hunched shoulders. The intriguing shape of the mosaic-tiled bar reminds me of a golgi apparatus. Wooden beams hang parallel, one after the other across the entire ceiling. His managers spend the early afternoon fitting the space with gaudy decor. Two gold balloons floated on either side of a cliche banner that read: HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! also in gold letters.
A couple walks in. Z smiles wide and yells, “Hey you guys!” They start talking about their vacation to Hawaii and the manatee that they “kind of” saw while snorkeling. Eventually, I become part of the conversation. I mention that I am from the Bay Area, and that I’m up here visiting Z. They become excited and ask how we know each other. I say that my partner kind of knew him in college, and we all moved out west and connected out here.
The couples’ names are Lisa and Mark. Lisa is a painter and photographer, and Mark is a 3D graphic designer. The three of us delve into conversation about muses, our livelihood, and then of course I bring up the documentary I am producing.
There’s a sparkle in Lisa’s eye. She says, pointing to Z. “Hey! He’s working til past midnight, right? What are you doing later? You should come out to the pre-funk party at Catherine’s!”
I explain to her that I made loose plans with some one-off friends, but I was open to anything.
“We’ve got this friend, Catherine, who is really, really cool. I love her. We met her in the desert taking photographs! You should meet her. She’s working on a documentary too. You’re welcome to join us!” Lisa said.
We exchanged contact information.
When I meet people who want me to meet their friends, typically that means something.
I spend the quiet hours at the restaurant doing a bunch of work for the documentary. Before the dinner rush, I ask Z to recommend another cozy place to work. He suggests Little Oddfellows, a bookstore and cafe. I beam at the suggestion– I fucking love bookstore/cafes.
I spend time writing a blog post. Killing time. Productivity! I get a message from Mark with his address and to meet at their place at 8:15 pm. I drop my backpack off in Z’s trunk, and make my way to their house. It’s a seven minute walk from where Z works. Easy.
This is what I looked like all day.
The Portal of Sound
Upon entering their home, I immediately see a life-sized Storm Trooper at the opposite end of the room. The apartment is a carefully curated museum of quixotic art. Bonsai trees fill a corner, various textures and odd memorabilia fill the space. Big paintings hang about.
Lisa comes down the stairs at the opposite side of the apartment. She is wearing a corsette that looks like sexy armor from a world dominated by flora. She says she is just about done with her make-up, and turns to go back up stairs. She stops. Looking right at me, she asks, “Do you have any neck pain?!” I say, “Kind of? I’ve got shoulder pain.” Lisa looks at Mark. “She should do the thing! Come on up.”
I follow them upstairs and down the hall, into a small room full of costumes. Masks, leather trinkets, textured, sanguine art. Hanging on one wall are beautiful corsettes that remind me of gnarled trunks with curling vines, made of gold and bronze. She says they’re from Berlin.
Three singing bowls of varying sizes sit in the center of the floor. She hits the largest one with a mallet a few times. It begins to emit a low, resonant hum, beckoning me.
“Stand in this one,” Lisa says. I step into the singing bowl. I feel feel the vibrations run up and through me.
“Put this on your head,” she says.
It’s a donut-shaped pillow.
“Now, keep this balanced.”
She hands me another singing bowl.
I put it onto my head like a helmet, and balance it on the little pillow.
She picks up a mallet with one hand, and a smaller singing bowl in the other. She walks in a slow circle around me.
Slow, calculated steps.
She is gently hitting the smaller singing bowl. The sound waves resonate through the bowl on my head.
I breathe deeply.
My eyes are shut.
Sound and vibration encircle me, droning frequencies that run like electricity through my skin. She stops, and takes the bowl off my head.
“Isn’t that a trip?!” She exclaims at me. “It’s like doing drugs without the drugs!”
I step out of the portal of sound. “Am I a new person now?” We all laugh.
Before we leave, Mark asks if I want to take mushrooms. Lisa and I split half of a psilocybin caramel treat. Mark eats half.
And not so suddenly, I was along for the ride.
Mark buzzes the apartment where the pre-funk party is happening. #505.
Standing behind us are two guys. One of them says hi to Mark. We all enter the apartment and go up the elevator together. I am introduced to them, Jordan and Gavan, brothers.
We enter. My senses are flooded with hues of cayenne, warm lights, and a cozy vibe. Framed photographs are carefully placed along the walls. Upbeat electronic music is buzzing in the background. I am immediately attracted to the beautiful patterns on the fabrics hanging on the walls, and on the pillows, fractals.
All around me, I see art that reminds me of my friends. The following collage reminds me of my friend, Coco, who is a collage & multi-media artist.
Mark hands me a glass of champagne, then shuffles me over to a man named Nacim.
“She’s the one making a documentary about anarchists! Here, talk.”
Nacim is a lawyer and a self-proclaimed anarchist. He and I talk about the premise of the documentary and the convoluted definitions of “anarchy” and “capitalism.” At one point we both realize that we are both wearing minimalist shoes. “Cheers!” I say, and we clink the tips of our Vevo Barefoots together.
(The next hour or two were a lovely, giggly mix of story-telling, quirky introductions and staring at inanimate objects that are suddenly way more interesting you thought.)
I meet a woman with a huge ring. Apparently it’s her, “DON’T FUCK WITH ME,” ring.
And I see color palettes that remind me of Bobbi. Scarlet and gold and emerald. All of my friends are with me. I sense them, and I feel warm inside.
When Mark and I start peaking, our laughter becomes uncontrollable. The chandelier in the main room looks like a spider. I glance over at the snack table– a vase with long, silky pampas plumes draw me in. Mark reads my mind. He pulls out his phone and gestures at me to take a photo. I begin face-rubbing the fuzzy plant. I can’t stop giggling.
What I love about mushrooms is how silly mundane things become. The things in life we take seriously, or see every single day that we take for granted, suddenly become quite meaningless– in a positive way. In this, we start to understand ourselves better. We shed the weight we put on ourselves. We find out what truly is important.
I hear someone say, “Tonight’s going to be AWESOME. I can’t wait.”
The woman he’s talking to asks, “Yeah? Where are you going after?”
I turn to Mark and say, “Isn’t it funny that on this specific night, New Year’s Eve, everyone in the world is waiting for a single moment: midnight. Yet here I am, already having the time of my life at the “pre-party”, and I already feel like this is it. This is where I want to be. I don’t want to wait around for the next great thing. I want to be living it.”
He smiles at me and agrees, and I see his thoughts drift into colorful spirals. He’s tripping waaaay harder than me. My phone buzzes.
“Travis is coming!! He just got off work.” (Side note: Everyone in Seattle knows Z as Travis. Everyone from New Jersey knows Travis as Z).
Kissing in the Car
After some more intense conversations, Mark, Lisa, Z and I leave for the Mercury, a members-only Goth club. Z offers to drive. As we seek parking, we hear screaming from various directions.
“What happened?! Oh shit– is it midnight?” Z asks, while pulling up to a stop sign.
The entire car confirms that it is, indeed, midnight.
Z parks the car, and I see Mark and Lisa kiss.
The next moment is wonderful. Z gently pulls me towards him. My lips are pressed against his, ever so simply. We remain like that for what seems like a long while. His cool fingers hold the sides of my face. And it’s over.
“Well, that was cool!” Z says out loud.
We find a parking spot, and hurry down the street, down an alley way, and through steel doors.
Black lights. Industrial music shakes the floor. We’re at the Mercury, Seattle’s Goth club.
The woman at the front desk verify Mark and Lisa’s membership, then Z and I are signed in. Stamps on the inner right wrist. Tunnels of people; old friends swooping in from left and right to say hello. I wander through, admiring the corsettes and suits, costumes with fringes and frills and lace and metal, chains and gears and ribbon.
After sipping on a drink, I hear a Crystal Castles song start to play. I start to laugh out loud, recalling high school, but determine that I actually did want to dance to Alice Glass’ abrasive voice. So I donned my things, and snaked my way to the center of the dance floor.
The song is called, “Baptism.”
I feel my body curl upwards,
my arms snaking further into the air, hips swaying,
My eyes are shut. Hair brushes the edges of my face.
I feel powerful. I feel like a huntress.
Terrifying and beautiful:
To dance, by myself, is one of the greatest acts of self-care I can do for my mental and emotional health.
When I open my eyes, Lisa and Z are dancing beside me. Z and I leave not too long after that.
I think this is the part where I reflect on everything that had happened. During one conversation at the pre-funk party, I was speaking with a man named Gavan, who I told this to.
We are capable of curating our own realities.
He agreed with me whole-heartedly.
I can’t say I believe in fate, or even coincidence. I think, through a very, very long chain of events, magic occurred. Magic in the timing. Magic in the openness of each person part of this story. Magic in the celebration of humanity surviving yet another full trip around the sun.
Let your choices unfold the lives you want to live. Choose the shiny path. Explore the unknown and learn to enjoy it. Dance with your eyes closed, with friends. Kiss in the car, because it doesn’t matter where you celebrate love and friendship.
The greatest thing about this day was that I felt alive each and every moment. The feeling of embracing life’s surprises is absolutely worth taking a plunge into uncertainty. I think I just felt so certain about myself, about where the story would lead me, and that it would be great. I filled my mind with abundance, and the most wonderful experiences unraveled before me.
Maybe you should try it sometime, dear readers.
I found this photo of him; not sure when this is from (he’s got red hair now!) I’m just leaving this here for the records. 😌♥️
I start to receive a series of messages from Kim. I start to feel anxious, and ‘x’ out of the Facebook Messenger app. I try to continue reading the article about crowdfunding, but I can’t concentrate. So, I pull up the messages again. Gotta face the scary things. Turns out, not so scary.
I’m the only one in the entire restaurant, so I start to talk to Z about my immediate thoughts.
“It makes me feel sad and frustrated that she constantly views Todd and I as “primary partners,” when I’m actively working to not be that.”
He asks, “Oh so you and Todd aren’t doing the hierarchical thing?”
“No. Neither of us want that.” I say.
He goes on. “The few poly relationships I had in college were mostly like that. But it never worked out. I think I want to try that out, but I don’t have any partners–” I look at him and raise my hand, shyly. “–except for you.” I took a sip of my coffee. “But you’re long distance. It’s a ‘lil different.”
“It’s really tough because the external world imposes couple privilege onto us. And yeah, we live together, which also privileges us. Ideally, we want to live in separate spaces– but it’s the Bay Area.” I say.
He said, “Well, she went into the relationship knowing that you guys live together so. That’s all on her.”
Thinking about it all made me feel slightly uncomfortable.
I told him, “I wouldn’t want you to feel secondary. I’m trying really hard to treat everyone equally. When i’m present with someone, I will show that person love and affection, regardless of my other relationships.”
I think it’s got a lot to do with time. I’ve spent so much more time with Todd, and the connection I have with him was able to grow because of that.
Z said, “I can’t ever be Todd. When I think of my friends, Jordan and Louis, I will always see them as Jordan and Louis. And when I think of you, I think of ‘Todd and Claire.’ You will always be ‘Todd and Claire.'”
Part of me felt strangely sad about that. Maybe not sad, but a sense of discouragement. What if I wanted to be Claire and Z? Maybe not forever, but for the time being? Then I understood, what if Kim just wants to be Todd and Kim?
I think the deeper conflict here is in the structure. We are conditioned to expect Person A and Person B. It’s either you and them, she and him. As a society, we aren’t used to including more than two people in our visions of partnership.
And it becomes so much more apparent when i’m trying to actively work against that.