starting again

Sunset at Browns Point, Tacoma.

A post shared by Matthew McQuilkin (@itsmachupicchu) on

Well, here's one more reason to like Squarespace better than LiveJournal! I mean, there's a ton of reasons. But it always irritated me that the html "embed" code for social media like Twitter or Instagram never worked in LiveJournal posts, even though I always posted in the mode that necessitated using html code -- for the purposes of linking to the DLU photos the way I wanted to. I never understood why I couldn't, say, embed an Instagram photo, using the code Instagram itself provides.

I don't have to worry about that anymore! Check out the above: finally I can put Instagram posts in my entries quite easily. Granted, this is sort of the lazy way around -- the above is the one photo I took last night, and I never had time to upload it to Flickr before I needed to go to bed. I could actually do that fairly easily using my phone, come to think of it, but I still like to be able to edit photos in iPhoto at home before I do that. So a photo link to Instagram it is, instead of to Flickr. For the first photo in this entry, anyway.

You might notice a theme in today's three DLU photos. It's the dawning of a new era! Okay they're all technically sunset photos. Whatever!

-- चार हजार एक सौ और चालीस-तीन --

I spent the evening with Gabriel last night. I bused both there and back, and this was a case where leaving work every day at 4:30 now made a huge difference. I was scheduled to get to the Twin Lakes Park & Ride at 6:10. I didn't quite make it there because, although traffic delayed the bus ten minutes, Gabriel and Tess were out running errands and wound up catching up to my bus on 320th in Federal Way, until I got off at the next stop once they reached me. He rounded a corner and I hopped into the passenger seat.

It's August now, and this was merely the fourth time I had seen Gabriel in person since the beginning of the year. The evening of New Year's Day was when Shobhit and I went with Gabriel and Kornelija and Kornelija's parents to dinner on Bainbridge Island -- an arguably much more significant event in retrospect than many of us realized at the time. Shobhit and I joined him and Tess for lunch at Japonessa in downtown Seattle in February. He made a late entrance at my Birth Week dinner party on April 29, and the less said about that the better (although I wrote plenty at the time). I saw him with Stephanie and Tess for roughly an hour at Trans Pride in late June and he barely spoke to me.

He's had a lot of terrible things going on in his life this year, to a notably more significant degree than usual, and I have conscientiously been giving him space in all that time. I even set a precedent by writing literally nothing specific about it in my journals, which I fear had the unintended effect of making him more suspicious than relieved. For a long time I really wasn't sure, because I've gotten mostly silence from him all year. At first it definitely had to do with the distractions of his own life, which I both expected and accepted, and told myself we all knew this was going to be a shitty year for him. He doesn't need me giving him grief about being distant when, with all those distractions, who wouldn't be?

But the incident during my Birth Week both exacerbated and changed things. I was never sure to what degree because, although he was notably distant in the wake of that, I had every reason to expect he could still have been for reasons having nothing to do with me. Believe it or not (considering how narcissistic I can be), I actually told myself more than once, his generally not keeping in touch might not be about me at all.

Shows what I know! Days after Pride Weekend, in early July, I got a text from him out of nowhere that just said, You literally don't get it. He said again to me last night, "You don't get it," but that time he actually provided some context so it made some sense. On July 2, all I could think was, What the fuck does that mean? And I have no idea how he felt about my simply ignoring the text at the time, but in that particular moment I felt like my hands were tied. How could I possibly respond to that in any way without sounding defensive and therefore making whatever the problem was even worse? I've spent the entire year thus far deferring to him, waiting to take cues from him, in a way I really never have before -- both before and after what happened at the April dinner party. It seemed clear to me that the only option I had was simply not to respond to that text at all. It was far from ideal, but unfortunately the best option I had.

Another time he sent a text out of the blue that I thought was so nuts, I had to respond. He asked a question and I gave him an answer that was the truth. It was one word and likely came across as unnecessarily curt. But from my perspective, it seemed like I was getting baiting texts that were wildly out of character, to a degree that I didn't see the sense in extensive engagement. If nothing else, they made clear that I wasn't just being self-absorbed: there really was a problem between us. I just didn't know what it was exactly.

Otherwise, though, I made a conscious choice to keep texting him here and there, things that I knew I would have sent him even if things were fine between us. I was going to behave as though things were fine. Sometimes he would respond, most of the time not -- but he was never a big texter so that didn't mean much. My worry was whether whatever was going on was a wedge that we would never be able to overcome. More than once I wondered, was I going to have to cut my losses here the way I did with Tommy, with whom I made real efforts until I finally had to give in and give up? But Gabriel isn't Tommy; to suggest there could even be a comparison is not just preposterous, it's outright insanity. Gabriel has been one of my best friends for 22 years. I can't even stomach the idea of him not being one of the Untouchables. He's literally family to me. He's so much like a brother, I might as well say he is my brother. He's been a better brother to me than my actually brother ever has been. I literally cannot stress the significance or importance of this enough.

When I was with Laney on Thursday evening, I actually told her this: I was going to give Gabriel a certain amount of time, though I didn't know how long -- a year, maybe? I didn't know where to draw the line. But as much as Gabriel wanted to separate the issues with me from the rest of what has been going on in his life, it seemed clear to me that all the other stuff clearly complicated and exacerbated his feelings: dealing with this was on top of all the other stuff. He'd probably be able to handle it better if not for how hard things in his life already were. I was willing to grant that concession; it was literally the least I could do. But after this period of time, maybe a year, I would have to make a choice about Gabriel, if things between us kept on like this through all that time. Cut my losses and give up? Finally stop giving him space and try to find some more aggressive way to make him engage with me again? Almost certainly the latter. This was a new thing, considering tactical moves regarding the long term future with one of my oldest friends. If nothing else, it seemed at some point I might have to tell him that I'll still always be here, ready to pick up where we left off, no matter how long it takes.

Amazingly, it was while I was taking pictures of Laney and the "B Naturals" quartet rehearsing before their rehearsal on Wednesday that I got a text from Gabriel: Wanna come over? . . . Uh. Holy shit. How might that go? Would it be contentious? The idea that he would invite me over just to be confrontational is stupid, actually. I was still a little nervous about it. But this was him reaching out. The choice was clear.

Although I was only out with Laney for about an hour, that still cut too far into the evening to make going down to Tacoma plausible. Shobhit was not working that night, but did work last night, which made last night the better choice. If Gabriel had made some indication that he needed a friend urgently, I might still have gone on Wednesday, the inevitable resentments I would prefer to avoid with Shobhit notwithstanding. But when I suggested to Gabriel that I come down on Thursday instead, he seemed fine with that, so it was the plan we made.

-- चार हजार एक सौ और चालीस-तीन --


-- चार हजार एक सौ और चालीस-तीन --

And I did make a choice about my time with Gabriel last night: whatever he had in store for me, I would accept it. If he was going to lay into me, then so be it, and I would do my best to listen. If he just wanted to have a pleasant evening with a friend he hadn't spent genuinely quality time with in months, I would go with that too. I would say I was only mostly -- not completely -- successful at this, but my hope and intent was just to be the friend he needed.

The evening on the whole turned out to be somewhat of a mixture of both possibilities, though it was mostly just a nice evening hanging out together. Gabriel has Tess every week between Wednesday and Saturday, so when I hang out with him on any of those days I usually get to hang out with her too. She was in the back seat when I got in his car. She had a cloth bag full of seemingly countless little plastic Pokémon Go figures, and Gabriel suggested I reach in and grab one, and whichever one I grabbed would represent me. I pulled out something that looked like something between a tiny slug and a little brown turd: "Diglett". Gabriel thought this was hilarious. He pulled one out himself but I can't remember what character he grabbed.

We went back to his place, and Gabriel and I talked about all sorts of things while he made dinner, and Tess occasionally interjected with information about a Game of Thrones card game she had gotten for her birthday; briefly had me play an NES Classic game of Mario Brothers that transported me back to the single year I ever spent playing video games (ca. 1989); and even played an almost jarringly gentle -- but lovely -- rendition of Beethoven's 5th on the electronic keyboard I never knew she had, although according to Gabriel she's been playing for two years.

It was all very comfortable and friendly, which was a relief, although I knew much of it was for Tess's sake -- Gabriel did say he wanted to talk about some more serious things once she had gone to bed. I needed to figure out how to get back home, and we finally made the plan that he would later give me a ride to the Federal Way Transit Center so I could catch the Sound Transit #578 bus at 9:45, after he dropped Tess off at his mom's for as long as it took to take me there. In the meantime, we ate the dinner he prepared: using store-bought pie crusts, some kind of Amy's soup, and Gardein "Beefless Tips," he basically threw together what amounted to meat pies with veggie meat in them -- and they were fantastic.

For dessert we had some of the flourless cake Stephanie had made for Tess's birthday, and that was stupendous. When Tess was ready to dig right into the cake with her fork and then Gabriel said we were going to be civil and use plates, Tess reminded him that the night before they had just dug in. "I'm fine with just digging in!" I said, and Gabriel was basically like, "Okay, fine." Since when is there any need to act "proper" for my sake? Sparing the dirtying of plates makes sense to me! Also, I'm pretty sure I managed to eat at least a little bit less of the cake than I would have had I actually taken off a carefully cut slice. It was hard to stop eating it, though.

Gabriel even made me two "scratch margaritas", as he called them -- he cooked simple syrup on the stove, and used all ingredients that were not from any kind of mix otherwise . . . until he then discovered he was out of tequila. Ha! We walked over to the nearby grocery store to get a bottle, some brand I had never heard of. I did wonder, if it's going to be called a "scratch margarita," shouldn't he also make the tequila himself? Time to start distilling your own blue agave! Or whatever the proper phrasing is. I'm probably saying it wrong. The margaritas were good, anyway.

Once we were done with dessert, we all took a brief walk down to Browns Point, as tends to happen almost every time I'm at Gabriel's place. It was in the middle of sunset, and thus the Instagram photo above was the one photo I took. You can actually see the silhouette of Gabriel's head in the shot, under the branches of the tree on the right, and to the left of its trunk. We walked through a playfield on the way there and I was reminded of a great shot I took of Gabriel pitching a softball to Tess in that very spot back in the summer of 2013. Tess, who just turned 10 on Tuesday this week, was still only 5 in that photo. Although she did turn 6 a month later.

We weren't there long, and soon enough were making our way back, and back at his place Gabriel was telling Tess to hustle so we could get out of there as quickly as possible; by this point I had less than half an hour to get to my bus. We dropped Tess off at Janine's, where I waited in the car. Gabriel got back in the car and, with fifteen minutes to go, here we moved into the portion of the evening that hinted at the contentiousness I was afraid may occur.

I really wanted to be a friend who just listened, and here I pretty much failed -- for about five minutes, I suppose. He acknowledged how difficult it would be for me not to get defensive, and to his credit, although this definitely was about that night at my Birth Week dinner party, and what he interpreted as my failure to come to his defense, the context of what he had to say now was not so much to tell me how angry he had been, but that he had made the decision, after several months, to let it go. Because, as he said, "I want you in my life." He even said at one point, "You get me," inferring that few people do. I suspect at least part of this development was informed by my relatively detailed text I sent him earlier this week, after something crazy slanderous had been posted about him on Facebook, which he absolutely did not deserve (and which clearly informed what I wrote about the pitfalls of social media on Monday -- which I wrote before seeing what Gabriel posted to Facebook that day himself, something more measured and respectable than anything I have ever seen anyone in the same kind of position post, which I'm certain was excruciatingly difficult for him to compose, but plainly worth the effort).

In the end, to be perfectly honest, this moment of reconciliation between us was one of the most touching and moving experiences I've had in all the time I've known him. That may sound like hyperbole, and maybe time will change how I reflect on it -- I actually hope not -- but that was how it felt in the moment. Gabriel got very emotional, and I nearly cried, all in the context of earnestly reminding each other how much we mean to each other. If nothing else, it had been many, many years since we had a moment with each other that had that much emotional import, and it was very satisfying.

-- चार हजार एक सौ और चालीस-तीन --