Title: Things Are Never Different
Date: 10/11/99
Posted: 7/4/2001



Things are never different. That is just something we say when our capacity for opportunity exceeds our fragile ability to act. In instances when given a clear path of decision we fold. We back down to the pressure that change threatens and we hide behind the imaginary solace that an empty phrase like “I wish things were different” offers and we feel better. But in reality things are never different.

I knew a girl once. Not to well but I knew more than her name. She was fascinating and scary. She was like a foreign film with incoherent subtitles, what you read was not necessarily what you got. No different from most people she was a collection of good intentions, bad decisions, and even worse timing. A product of an inherited value system so far out of whack entire wards of hospitalized mental cases could look at her and experience a feeling of progress and accomplishment. This does little to affect the fact that I liked her. I liked her quite a bit. People love a train wreck. Sometimes so much as to get close enough to smell the railroad ties that are burned to instant ash when the train jumps the track.

My recollections are subject to recall or denial. I have but brief memory of conversations that gave me the insight I am alleging myself to possess.

She was married at age 16 to a Turk with an ability to beguile middle-aged American divorcees’ more than an ability to speak in our most native tongue. The middle-aged woman of course was my friend’s mother. The thought of an arranged marriage for the purpose of an Immigration Fake-out seemed like the most natural thing in the world to her mother. Like at the top of the to-do list of a 16 year old girl are items such as: 1) Go to mall 2)Call babble-network-of-pubescent-friends and the ever popular 3)Marry Turkish National to secure immigration documentation so that Mommy can have a boyfriend in the same zip code and/or hemisphere. This caused no small degree of turmoil that possibly exists to this day.

She was pregnant at age (X)teen by a boy whose face is blurred by complication and regret. Upon hearing the story I placed the events mentally in settings that are familiar with my life. I lack the type of imagination to create realistic settings based on the disjunct narrative of someone telling intimate details of their life. I could see the meeting, the cheesy dialogue, and of course the ugly, sloppy, and uncoordinated sex that young men have. In a side note – well not actually a side note because I was thinking in tandem with her out pour of the past- I was identifying the problem young men have early in their sexual experience. They forget a crucial element to the process. The Girl. The are so busy using their pelvis as a fulcrum making them look like “Tall Texas”, the Galveston oil rig pumping for Texas crude, that they forget there is another person in the same room not to mention in the same bed. The point is lost to them. Anyway, a few weeks after “Tall Texas” struck oil, my friend discovered she was pregnant. To the best of my knowledge an abortion was preformed which spared the world the kind of offspring that would have resulted from a one-time encounter in the stale-aired stock room of a car stereo shop. I think it was her first time to have sex.

My friend at this point decided that the banner lined hallways and pep rallies of a Suburban High School were not the best place for one to burn their precious youth. So in a move prompted as much by boredom as frustration, she said “fare thee well” to the constraints of a publicly funded education and set down the bleak path that this decision often leads.

My handle of the time frame these events is skewed by a combination of time’s drain on the memory and faulty listening skills upon initial report. It did not occur to me to take notes or ask for a professionally prepared timeline from Kinkos, for that I apologize to the reader.

Men had been an unstable and precarious offering for my friend so it seemed only logical to see what the competitor had on sale that week. My attempt here is not to stoop and call lesbian affairs flights of fancy or whimsical self-delusion but…well that is what it sounds like so let’s leave it at that. In the arms of a woman it might be possible to find the tender embrace of unconditional acceptance not predicated on any of the bullshit and circumstance one finds in “traditional” relationships. Not so in this case. For my friend whose life had already been troubled with hassle and turbulence was drawn into the fray of yet another series of bad decisions and bad timing all the while with intentions above the punishing reproach issued by fate.

Strong words and stronger fights, usually physical and abusive, permeated the pores of this union. Harsh and exhausting in conflict as well as in sex. Bruised bodies battled through bruised egos. There were no winners left standing in the wake of divergence and warfare. Butterflies and Black Ink under the skin. It was the fire that burned deeper into breech and fueled the ludicrous roles played out daily. Until finally a flash of good judgment or a moment of good timing ended the chaos. Back home. Proverbial frying pans and fires, all present and positioned for the homecoming.

She decided a family might be in the cards somewhere. The idea was appealing because it gave her the chance to do better than had been done to her. This required things that the previous lifestyle lacked. (I refrain from pointing out the obvious.)

It becomes a counter productive exercise to even attempt to take the story any further. The purpose of the background it to draw the reader a simple picture of the obstacles faced by this girl. Fucked from the word go. Fucked by a childhood marred by the erratic habits of deficient parenting, fucked by the laxed controls of the U.S. Dept of Naturalization and Immigration, fucked by a faceless teenager with ball-bearings in his hips, and fucked by a mean spirited girl named V- whose idea of affection was a blood alcohol level of high octane and a vicious left hook. And despite it all she held the ability to love almost to the point of gentle desperation and deliberate need.

We sat at a stop sign in a residential neighborhood one evening. The car stretched lifeless in the moonshine shadow of a tree fallen victim to autumn. I can not remember a word about what we said I just know it was laced with sadness and inspiration. I liked this girl. I liked her in spite of her past, I liked her because of it. I was as drawn to her as I was repelled and every other type of contradicting scenario you can come up with. So there I sat at the intersection of two nameless streets thinking about how much I would enjoy taking a chance on this one. But I wouldn’t because things are never different. Timing is always bad, commitments are always too strong, and excuses are always stacked in mass quantity for easy withdrawal and use.

Though time has done a demolition crew’s task to my memory of events, times, and phraseology, I hold with me a measure of her that out distances a photograph by a few million words. Her face had a delicate slope to it. Her eyes had a penetrating light. Her voice had honest inflections that assured if not complete comprehension then at the very least the desire to comprehend. Her hands had a soft touch that disregarded the calluses that covered her soul or psyche or whatever gets broken inside a person when they are the system’s bitch either by their own doing or just chance. And her ability to laugh in the face of unfairness on a life-sized scale brought a profound sadness to my own laughter.

I will most certainly never know the end to the “what ifs” I occasionally bother myself with. I think at times I imagined everything and I was assigning sainthood to a girl that was a standing monument to her own ill-planed life. Other times I believe that Angels roam the pock-marked face of our world in the bodies of prostitutes, politicians, kids with Downs Syndrome, and 16 yr old girls bound to Constantinople (or Istanbul, I can never remember) in marriages of international convince. If she were ever to read these words my hope would be that she realize I was the loser. I was the one ultimately at the loss of not exploring every opportunity. Fear is just as poor an excuse for inaction than logic. I know that now. Though we had an interesting friendship based on a righteous respect, I will always wonder about the "ifs" and "could haves". If only things had been different…

Things are never different!