As I’ve often fully admitted, my mind boomerangs. I see one thing, and I’m reminded of another thing, which leads to even more things and, before I can stop the pinball, my mind-stream has taken me to a tropical island far distant from the one upon which I landed. The coconuts smell different here, this place I now find myself, but they still have the same basic shape and purpose of all the other coconuts I whizzed by on my synaptic journey, echoing but fading travel markers.
This is how it works for me, always has. My mind never shuts off, whirring and clicking, even (especially?) during those regular attempts at nocturnal rejuvenation. Proper slumber is not a viable option for me, as I constantly jerk myself awake, vibrating with the answer to a question I had pondered earlier that day or a new story idea or simply realizing that my current dream is speaking to me in a way I should capture. By morning, there are different-smelling coconuts, far and wide. So, I collect them, reviewing each before determining its worthiness of placement in my Inspirational Bag of Whatnots. Each day, rinse and repeat. I never get enough sleep, but that bag is always full. Silver lining, in a way. Reap what you can.
All of which leads to the vague point of this post: I stumbled across a photo the other day, one that walloped me, for perhaps some very personal reasons, but still, impact. I knew that I needed to share this image, yet I wasn’t sure just how to package that image in a manner that captures the intensity of something speaking directly to you, instantly. I needed to wait for the right coconut. And one fell today.
I found the photo on the “SONGNGUTAITRAM” blog, wherein the writer, Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, is apparently working in collaboration with the poet Lê Vĩnh Tài. I’m not sure of the extent of the collaboration, but the site is enticing nonetheless, with beautiful words that resonate. None of that matters, really, in the long run. All those coconuts to shake, as I always do. And that shaking led to this final island…
In 1985, the film “Desert Hearts” was released, with the plot involving an unexpected but growing romantic relationship between two women in the turgid heat of Reno, Nevada. In that time frame of the mid-80s, and certainly all time-frames before that, gay-positive films were a rare commodity, usually produced independently, rolling the dice, fingers crossed. If any film of that nature appeared anywhere on my always-pinging radar, I instantly sought out any movie theater that dared to present such an option, even if it meant traveling for miles in my little raggedy-ass, broke-down mess of a vehicle. That’s just how Oklahoma rolled at the time, and it still does, in many ways.
Luckily, the movie was being shown at what was then known as “The Williams Center Forum”, in downtown Tulsa, located in what was a not-so-good part of town, back then. (Fair disclosure: I may be off a bit on the name, time fades everything.) Somebody, somewhere with some degree of respect for the arts had decreed that said cinema would show “art films” on weekend nights, naysayers be damned, in a risky gamble that was short-lived but was a soul-nourishing oasis of cultural hope in a vast desert of opposite-thinking.
So, I went to the opening of “Desert Hearts”, along with roughly 30 other kindred souls in a city of half a million, with most of us mildly concerned that the Vice Police would arrest us all, because that’s what they did in those days. But we didn’t care. You get a thick skin when you grow tired of the hate and demand something more.
The movie was a revelation, for a variety of reasons, with the important one being the honesty. I don’t know how the movie plays now (I haven’t seen it since) but there is one standout scene that has never left my boomerang mind. In said scene, the character played by Audra Lindley (the actress who had the role of “Mrs. Roper” in “Three’s Company”, trivia alert) utters this line in a discussion about finding your true love and how she knew she had found hers:
“He reached in and put a string of lights around my heart.”
That line packed a punch for me, and it has stayed with me forever. It’s a perfect example of how one single thing, one image, one bit of dialogue, one happenstance, can wrap your heart.
So, all the coconuts and all the hop-scotching in this post have taken us back to that first island, where we first landed, with the original photo shared on a blog that helps me dream, even when I can’t. There is so much hope in this image, even though it has nothing to do with what I’ve said up to this point. It’s all relative. And that, if nothing else, keeps me going.
Final Note: I’ve been unable to properly source this photo. If you have any details, please let me know and I’ll make an update.
Categories: The Journey