After 26 years of marriage, I finally got the wife to tell me why she married me. But that isn’t much of an answer, is it? I mean – it really doesn’t tell you anything, does it? It’s more like a warning. It certainly doesn’t sound good! “He’s different.” That certainly wouldn’t make you want to marry someone, would it? (An honest question here.) After all, we apes have reasons to be wary of something ‘different’. In the past ‘different’ could be something ‘unknown’, therefore dangerous – or even deadly.
“What makes me different?” I asked. This was last week. I’ve been asking for years why she married me – something beyond that standard “Because I love you.” “WHY do you love me,” I wonder and ask. “What is it about me that made you fall in love with me; keeps you in love with me still?”
“You’re different.” It took this long to get an answer. LOL. Women. You know the deal. Talk your head off on one thing; totally silent about another. (Okay – bracing for the hate mail!)
She looked at me, head cocked and smiling in that twisting quizzical puzzling way of hers.
“You’re just different,” she says. “I knew on our very first date. There was something . . . different – about you.”
We chuckle. This is an old joke. We knew she was out to deball some man – and ‘I’ was the man. Yet ‘I’ avoided that swinging knife by being “ourselves”. The ‘difference’ showed. Because we understood even then: this was a woman in pain.
“Different how?” I ask. (I can be quite persistent, as you see. And a pain in the ass to her.)
She looks at me. I see a puzzled veil, almost a befuddlement in the back of her eyes, as though I’ve asked her to explain the unknown; what can’t be known. I might as well be asking about differential equations on a quantum star . . .
“You have long hair – most men don’t – and sometimes you smell . . . sexy.” She breathes and/or sighs this last with a loving longing look.
“So I look funny and smell funky,” I say dryly, grinning. “That’s why you married me . . .”
She laughs then scolds.
“No – you don’t look funny – and it’s a sexy smell!” ‘Funk’ is what I am thinking. The long hair? Just lazy. I hate paying a barber to waste my time sitting in a chair just to sit there in a week or two again. Plus, after twenty-four years of crew cuts (courtesy of a military father and six years in the Marines) I think I’ve had enough hair cuts to last a lifetime.
But ‘different‘. Go figure. I still haven’t gotten an answer. Nothing I could put my finger on. ‘We’ still haven’t figured out why this woman loves us. “Different” doesn’t tell me anything more than it tells you. But I’ve heard it all my life. Felt it. The whispering of the other mothers, by the teachers some of the time. The principles at one school. By the time I was 13 I knew I was different from the other kids. It was like there was something broken inside. In some ways I was more mature than them – and yet a lot more behind in others. I never quite ‘fit in’ – and yet I could fit in anywhere. Everywhere. Always alone, even in a crowd – but apparently fitting in. Coming up, as a teen; then later on as an adult, and as a Marine . . . different . . . It even says so on my original records from boot camp, right there in the Drill Instructor’s (and Series Commander’s) notes. “Different.” An individual. Uniquely so, apparently, in some kind of weird strange way.
Being different makes things lonely sometimes. Makes LIFE lonely.
Think about it.
Ever since I can remember I’ve been ‘different’. Whether it was due to my place of birth to having to be naturalized despite having American parents – making me (officially, anyway) – an immigrant – making me ‘different’. Disappearing in or from a German hospital makes me ‘different’. Being born ‘dying’ made me different . . .
I’ve heard the whispers sometimes . . . ‘different’ . . . and sometimes they are much louder.
I remember my first grade teacher telling the class: “Anyone can be President . . .” then wheeling and pointing a crooked finger at me she’d declare, eyes hateful and stern: “Except YOU, you little Nazi!”
I didn’t know what she meant, but I knew one thing: I was different from the other kids. It separated me; set me apart in some strange intangible way. The blind girl in our class was different – that much you could SEE . . . but me? The difference was another one; a deeper one, one that ran to my soul; perhaps a darker one: invisible to the naked eye, but detectable after a time . . .
I’ve worked hard all my life to “blend in” though I try not to (it’s a function of our DID system: building temporary ‘alters’ to suit a particular situation). I am a perfect mirror of just about anyone I meet after awhile. I get along well with others; make jokes. Folks say I’m a real ‘hoot’ . . . but it’s no secret amongst my friends and family . . . “Yeah – he’s different.”
I know this because word gets around. I hear some things, overhear others. (I know how to play stupid and I can.) When I got locked up last year (1013’d, meaning involuntarily stuck in a mental museum) – one of my buddies, talking to his friends, told them: “It ain’t right. Yeah, he’s a little . . . different – after all, what guy would make a lamp out of old dog bones? – but he’s a goodhearted guy . . . they shouldn’t have done that; locked him up . . .”
When I got to the mental museum (that’s my word for the mental hospital today) – ‘they’ (the doctors AND patients and whatnot) were saying I was ‘different’. Not quite insane . . . but not quite ‘straight’, either; like someone who is walking fifteen degrees off standard – but the difference was invisible.
Even ‘they’ can’t tell me what that ‘difference’ is now.
When I ask folks: “What about ‘me’ makes me so different?” . . . they stutter and stammer – and you can see puzzlement as they attempt to find the answer – and don’t. They might list things I’ve done that strikes them as weird or strange – but that difference? That, it seems, they cannot define.
When there’s a baby around it doesn’t matter what the crowd – it seems their eyes are drawn to me. Am I that different? Even my wife has commented on this: how babies and little children seem alternately drawn to and/or afraid of me. The latter bit I encourage; it helps with handling them later on . . . but even going to a store or restaurant, my wife and I will find if a baby sits near to me – they are watching me, eyes on and in fascination . . . as though . . .
It’s like being an alien. Really, and I’m not kidding. A “Stranger In A Strange Land” kind of thing; an insider looking out kind of thing – like this body is just some vehicle I am traveling in while I am looking at you human beings – and wondering (puzzled somewhat myself) why you do what you do . . . wondering “why?” when it comes to so much human cruelty, hypocrisy, and lack of human kindness . . . towards each other, your fellow adult human beings. (Most of us all seem to treat children with kindness, though that’s not a universal trait, I have seen.)
I don’t ‘feel’, ‘think’, or ‘see’ things the same as other folks it seems – but sometimes I do. It aggravates my wife: my ability to ‘see’ two (or three – or four) sides of one thing at once. She doesn’t understand that being able to understand doesn’t mean I condone; it’s just that I can ‘see’ – and feel these things as well, all at the same time.
It’s like I’m outside looking in sometimes.
A thing that makes me different.
I’ve heard these phrases all my life: “He’s the smartest person I know.” (I’m not; I know persons who are much smarter.) “The most laid back . . . most easy going . . . most talented . . . most blah, blah, blah . . . but he’s different than other folks you know . . .”
“Daddy? You’re probably the only person in the world loves unconditionally like you do.” (This from my daughter on the way I love the world – and her – and everything else.) “I feel sorry for you.” Because she knows: I can’t turn love to hate sometimes. Anytime. It’s just stuck there.
“How can you forgive them?” (This from my wife, who cannot understand that I understand them and their human weakness . . . me having some of my own, lol!)
“How can you still LOVE them?” (This regarding the fact that yes – I still love my abusers, the ones who sexually molested me sometimes . . .)
And they don’t know – this ‘difference’ . . . what in the hell about it? – about ME? makes me so radically different than them?
Apparently ‘they’ can’t nail down the difference. Neither can I. I don’t know what to tell you. All anyone offers is examples, oddities in my behavior . . . yet no emotional context at all. Nothing to set me apart from anyone else – and yet I’m there. Fifteen degrees off to the left (or right, depending upon your point of view). I’m there – at the edge of your vision, the back of the room (or front: I really like the front nowadays, since I believe sitting up there gives you more room for inquiry, doubt, and ability to learn). . . .
The wall flower and the shadow; sometimes finding myself the center of attention, I rapidly fade from view . . . but if you look you might find me standing right behind you . . .
What a pain to be. I never planned it; never ‘wanted’ to be different . . .
but different I must be.
(wry grin with a bit of a bitter twist in there . . . )