As some of you may know, Matthew and I take care of a special needs adult — David — who lives wth us. Or, do we live with him? I’m never sure. In truth, it was I who moved in with Matthew and David, not David who moved in with Matthew and I. While this story may not be what you expect, it’s where I came from. Things could have been very different.
It was one cold November day, almost 11 years ago. I was living in Baltimore, MD with HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED, and I couldn’t take another day. We’d moved into his dad’s old house in a dusty neighborhood in the northern part of the city, and I was done. After 15 years of being told I was weird for wanting my own business, odd for working more than 9-5, Monday thru Friday, bizarre for always accepting a leadership position in whatever I was doing, I’d realized I wasn’t weird. In fact, I’d realized I was just on the wrong road, and needed to take exit 15b — NOW.
I’d met Matthew six months earlier on that shoot with Lance Armstrong, before Armstrong’s plummet from his champion’s perch, in the rain of a charity bike event. He’d stuck in my head ever since, and we’d — kept in touch.
In truth — on that rainy day — I’d fallen in love.
That day is crystal clear in my head: Matthew, standing in the downpour, water soaked and looking at the clouds as the heavy water droplets fell down, and saying, “but I love the rain. Why aren’t we riding?” I call it my “Shawshank Moment”, and it was that instant I’d escaped from jail.
Anyway, I had that image in my brain through the fall, and everytime HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED bitched if I was 10 minutes late, that I liked to eat out too much, that we didn’t NEED to travel anywhere for Christmas holiday, that I was wasting far too much money on those stupid digital cameras, that I was fine with a desktop computer, if I wanted a laptop why didn’t I go to State Surplus?, I was done. Coulpled with the dirty little house inherited from HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED father, who wasn’t dead but decided to go to an adult community for single guys, and gave HWSNBN’d the house, outright — the only mortgage the kind you don’t pay a bank.
Of course, the house hadn’t seen paint in 30 years, or carpet, or a dishwasher, or even an exterminator for roaches — but I should be totally happy to live in this palace, we didn’t need new furniture, or a bed without a hole in it where Sandy had eaten the mattress and springs popped through, (Sandy was our dog), I should be happy, go to Applebees on Friday night, the strip club on Saturday, and forget about anything else.
Most of all, forget about being a photographer. Or helping my mom with her floundering business. (She was challenged moving from film based photography to a digital business.) Forget about travel. Why couldn’t I just be happy with what I had?
I couldn’t. I couldn’t forget Matthew, standing in the rain, looking up at the sky and smiling as water poured over his face. I couldn’t forget my camera tucked into my backpack, or the magazine covers I’d recently had published from my Ground Zero photos. I couldn’t forget the fire that burned within my stomach, wondering how in the world to become a professional photographer full time — how to earn enough money to support myself — let alone enough to buy the needed equipment. It was all a great mystery that I could see before me, wrapped like a gregorian knot in front of my face, the end — the part you have to yank to untie the knot — hidden from my groping, probing, searching fingers.
And then Matthew called, and in a moment of….
courage? Risk? Fortitude? Insanity? I packed everything I owned into my Honda Civic and drove to Rehoboth Beach, DE to move in with Matthew and David. I knew Matthew was out of town with David; I’d bought Matthew a new cell so I could communicate with him — he didn’t have one — and Fedexed it to him before he left on the trip. We talked every day.
And, yes, HWSNBN’d knew I was going. We discussed it for weeks — in the end, I gave an untimatum: let me be me or let me get out.
“Go.” I was told, “don’t tell me where.”
When David and Matthew returned from their Thanksgiving holiday in Orlando, I was all settled in to their house.
“David,” Matthew said, “this is Mike. He’ll be living with us. Is that OK?”
“Yeah,” David said. He looked at me, pointed to the dark wood on the kitchen table, and said, “when I worked at the ferry boat, the back of my kneck got this color.”
Not exactly the reaction I was expecting. Of course, I didn’t know what to expect. I was just happy to be out of Baltimore.
The knot was unravelling — and on that day, I pulled the end for the first time and gave it a yank.