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Fellow Travelers

“Excuse me.”

That was the entirety of our conversation. I was on my Delta flight, flying from Minneapolis to LAX, to work a week at the Magic Castle. I was seated in my aisle seat, and the young gentleman was assigned to the middle. I had boarded early, and he was asking to get by so he could get set for our flight.

I plugged my music into my ears, settled back for the 4-Hour flight, and let my thoughts drift. It’s the way I cope with long flights. Turbulence doesn’t really bother anymore, and it’s become rather routine. The modern Life of a traveling showman, eh?

About twenty minutes in, I saw him fading: sleepily leaning forward and catching himself.

And then … He succumbed. He fell asleep and slowly leaned over, tucking his head onto my shoulder. For a moment, I didn’t quite know what to do. Window seat dude gave me a bemused look like … ‘wow, glad it’s not me.’ 

I thought about waking him up, but … Something just told me to let it be. He wasn’t hurting me, he wasn’t being inappropriate, he was tired. Weary.

And man, aren’t we all, these days? 

So when he shifted in his sleep and put his hand on my chest, I didn’t mind. Apparently my cuddling abilities are legendary.

He slept, he found some peace for a couple of hours, and some human contact. Contact is good for the soul, right? I mused on why he might be making  this journey, and  what strength he might need to gather on his way. He found some peace, and I was fortunate enough to be the ‘pillow’ he found it on. 

Shortly before we began our descent into LA, he sat up and then slowly came awake. I don’t think he ever realized what had happened.

It felt good to be comfortable being a comfort.

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I’ve Got a Blank Space

The Naked Truth
September 11, 2015
UpStage, Charlotte. NC

Part three

The Naked Truth
I stood in my bare feet, facing the crowd. They were with me, and behind my message. I placed a handful of colored markers and a couple of bar towels on the table. Here’s what I told them:

“All of us are carrying baggage. Some of it is light and some … are crushingly heavy. We have problems with our self image. Sometime, somewhere in our past, someone gave us a burden. Maybe we were made to feel stupid, or less than acceptable. For me, specifically, it’s two things: My body image and crowds. I’ve been made to feel self conscious of my size for years. And as for crowds, I can’t stand to be in the midst of a group. I can entertain thousands from a stage, I can have a great time with four or five friends in a group. More than that? I get anxious, edgy. I get quiet and remove myself. I always feel like the fifth wheel or the dumbest person in the room. Tonight I’m going to embrace both of those burdens for you. I’m going to remove my clothes and invite you all to come close.

But there’s more: I want you to think of your own burden, reduce it to one word or phrase. One word that sums up your fear, your frustration, your self deprecation. Choose a marker and write that word on my skin. Dry me with a towel first, if you need to. Write the word and agree to leave that burden with me for a short time. Don’t take it back with you. Let me carry it for a day or two. I can’t take it forever, but I can bear it for a few days.”

I played “Neverland” by Marillion during the final part.

I stripped down. Nervous and shaking. I could barely breathe. I was suddenly cold and embarrassed. The crowd … all stood and moved at once forward onto the stage. They took their pens and wrote on me. All over me. Moving my limbs and turning me slightly to reach. The audience, the bartenders, the servers … all joined in. Someone was in my face, writing on my forehead. They used the towels. They wrote. They cried, a few of them.

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It took roughly ten minutes. After about four, I had to close my eyes, because I was beginning to feel panic. I could still feel the hands on me, I could feel the claustrophobic press of the people. I felt the shame in my nudity. I was acutely aware of my flab and girth and … and more importantly I could feel them writing. I could feel, literally feel my body growing heavier as they unloaded their shames and pains onto me. So I stood. I didn’t run off the stage. The last author was my own son. He took a marker, put an x on my right nipple and wrote a word I couldn’t see on my belly.

I stood as everyone left the stage. I stood as they started clapping. I stood (dizzy) on my feet and absorbed the weights. I reached out for River and sky and we took our curtain call.  That was the end of the show, but there’s lots more that happened that night and in the days following. The story continues soon. Writing about how this makes me feel is far harder than I thought. I’m going to wrap it up in the next chapter, which I’m starting immediately. Please … I want to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment, positive or otherwise. Let me know what you’re thinking or feeling right now.

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