Flavortown Sickboy Blues

Photo Credit: Texas Monthly

 

Guy Fieri is my blood relative,

Please, nobody look that up.  


     I’ve, primarily, been two kinds of kid in my life, the sick kid & the funny kid; usually at the same time. Sick can be funny, funny can be sick, but the connection between the two has yet to be unveiled in any number of 300-dollar appointment with my shrink. He does not see my silly boy antics as a psychiatric concern, and he may be right, but the joy of being a funny sick kid is that I never know if I’m being funny or exercising my sickness.


Seriously, don’t look it up,

Just believe me.

 

This year

On Father’s Day,

And Mother’s Day,

And on both of their birthday,

I posted a picture of my

Real life relative Guy Fieri

And talked about what a good job he is doing.

 

It is unclear if this makes either of my parents sad.


     When I was a small kid, around 2, I got scarlet fever. It was Hawaii in 1996, Kona was small and isolated and hot, it happened sometimes. They had to take the blood from me hourly. I am scared of doctors’ offices now. A small known issue associated with young kids getting bad infections of this type is Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (or PANDAS, kinda cute, right?), which basically states that the disease cooked part of my brain to the point of causing early and severe onsets of OCD and other Tic disorders.

I Also have ADHD, which I got from my father.

And Bi-polar disorder, which I think came from my maternal grandfather.

     I don’t want this to sound like complaining I’ve had a LONG time to come to terms with all of these, but I just wanted to catch you up.


Do you watch the news?

You know the moment when the

“On the scene reporter” is

On a delay from the main anchor?

So the anchor will say

“and now to Tim who is on the scene

At the world-famous Taranto cannoli fest,

Tim?”

Then they cut too him

But it’s like 7 seconds before Tim answers,

Like “Tim?”


     My mother says she had to hold me down while they took my blood, that I would kick and scream and now doctors make my heart beat fast and hot; needles make all the muscles in my body turn to a fist and punch. I get made fun of sometimes by friends and family for fearing needles but at the same time I am adorned in ink like my skin is thin paper, but a tattoo artist has never held me down and taken the warmth from my arm using a tattoo machine.


“That’s right Henry…”

How has nothing bad ever

Happened in those seven seconds?

It only takes one second to be crushed by a

Vending matching, and one of those seven

Seconds is never that funny one second.


     Justin, my shrink, thinks my mother made me sicker. That she liked having a sick kid. I’m not sure I believe him. At most, she just taught me to be vocal about it. To talk about myself in useful ways, to communicate my existence to anybody who would listen. To tell my story so that even though people couldn’t, like, relate; they would still be able to understand me.


My partner also has OCD but she got it the normal way. her brain has never been seared or brûléed.

My brain was once cooked medium rare, like a steak.

I wonder if all medium rare things have OCD? Just cooked enough to be

Interesting to those who consume them.


     I have set out to make a career as a writer, a comedy writer, and for a long time I didn’t think I could do it if I was sick/sad/anxious/hungry; but I don’t think that anymore.

     Comedy comes in 2 forms, I believe: taking a funny situation very seriously and taking a very real situation lightly; this polar rule rules for this bipolar boy, as I swing my jokes swing with me and the sick boy and the funny boy can exist alongside each other.  

It’s a beautiful thought; I’ll let you know if it ever works for me.


Guy Fieri is my blood relative.

Not an uncle, that is too specific.

A distance, a cepheid blinking

On the edges of a family tree I have

Never looked at.

 

Nobody look it up,

Please, it is not that I am

Attached to the concept

So much as it has become

Attached to me.

People ask me every day

If it is true.

 

I say yes,

Why ruin the sick kids fun?

 

By: Brennan Staffieri

Coming up Aces

Photo Credit: Chili Print

2011, middle school, I find myself receiving the obligational invite to a class slumber party. I went to a small school, only 20 or so kids in my grade, and had the misfortune of sharing exactly zero interests with the other girls in my class. And, as I was about to find out, I had one more dissimilarity to add to the pile.

“Aidan,” starts one of the girls. Simmy. She points across the small circle at me, light from the flashlight illuminating her face. “Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” I answer. Always a safe choice for someone with nothing to hide.

“Who’s your crush?”

I grin. This one’s easy. “Nobody!”

To my surprise, the other girls give me a flat look. “Is it Devon?” Simmy presses. Why? Do they not believe me? Not everyone has a crush, right? That’s high school stuff. I frown and shake my head, insisting that no, really, I don’t have a crush on anyone. I don’t get picked again that night.

Asexuality is one of those extra A’s hanging off the end of the LGBTQIAA+ alphabet soup, and it’s a funny one. Instead of being attracted to men or women or any of the above, asexuals (or “aces”) find themselves attracted to nothing and nobody. Crazy, I know. And yet, current estimates claim that asexuals make up over 1% of the human population (for reference, roughly the same number of humans are redheaded— though not all asexuals are redheads. That would be silly.)

2013, high school, I’m in the first half of my sophomore year. Crushes aren’t high school stuff either, apparently. Well, I had one “boyfriend,” a few weeks during freshman year: a friend of mine who had asked me out. I’d said yes— that’s what you do, right? But the gooey, romantic feelings I’d expected had never happened. I still don’t know the word “asexual” yet, and so I’m convinced that I’m an abnormality. A lifetime of Disney and well-meaning tv shows have taught me that the difference between ‘good and heroic’ and ‘evil and monstrous’ is the ability to love.

So what does that make me?

I fear I have an answer, and when the time comes to set a new password for the year on the school’s computers, I choose something that I know no one will guess, but that I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Choose a prompt: “What are you?”

Password: 0Heartless0

In my defense, I was raised by a drama teacher.

Turns out, feelings of isolation and brokenness are pretty standard fare for asexuals. Almost every person has a “before” story— before they knew that “asexual” was even a word, and the relief at finding out that there were other people like them. The first thing that one asexual will say to another who is struggling is “you are valid,” and I think that says a lot.

2017, college, my roommate (a completely fabulous woman whom I adore) has brought over a classmate to study for their music exam the next day. When they leave for class, I send a text to my roommate’s phone:

“Your friend is cute. You should bring her over more!”

I later learn that she showed the text to her friend, who asked if I was flirting with her.

“No,” said my roommate. “Well, yeah, she is. But she’s also ace, so don’t worry about it.”

I sometimes call myself a “bad asexual” for my habit of flirting with just about everyone I meet, but my self image has never been better. I’ve been out and proud for a couple of years now, ever since I found the word “asexual” while skimming an internet article and coming to the stuttering realisation that hey, that kind of sounds like me. My parents worried when I told them— was I sure it wasn’t just a phase? Surely I might just be a late-bloomer.

Since coming to college, my Completely Fabulous Roommate, along with an increasing number of friends in-the-know, sometimes act as my “anti-wingman” so I can live out my “bad asexual” dreams without fear of letting someone down. Everywhere I go, I’ve taken to wearing a black ring on the middle finger of my right hand— a symbol of asexual pride, and a birthday gift from my father.

By: Aidan Peterson

My Easiest Decision

Photo Credit: Mama Holz (Bennett Holz)

My parents were kind enough to include me in most major life decisions, even at a young age. Or they kept me informed, at the very least. I was always warned before a big move, which happened most every year back then, and only towards the end of a given school semester, so I could say goodbye to all my friends. They talked to me about the political choices they made, decisions to put down family pets, and asked where we should vacation each summer. I can’t remember if I was truly involved in these decisions. I don’t know if what I said really made a difference in their choices, or if their plans for the family were set in stone. But I was always asked, and I was usually happy with the results. Whether I had a say or not, I was given the illusion of choice.

One year, when I was nine, my parents presented me with a big choice. Would I like to go on vacations, or would I rather have a little sister? My parents had asked me to make either/or decisions before: karate classes or book-orders, pancakes or waffles, roller-skates or roller-blades? Those were trivial choices, but this was the easiest one I had ever made.

F*ck yeah, I want a baby sister.

Turns out, adoption is a big pain and takes a long time, especially when you’re trying to navigate the corrupt adoption systems of pre-reform Guatemala. Kidnappings and child trafficking were very real occurrences, and many foster shelters didn’t provide proper care for the children they housed. The process took nearly a year, with my parents working hard to know the agency, my sister’s birth mother, and the foster mother who was raising her at the time. All to ensure that we were adopting from a safe and honest agency. There were video calls and pictures. Piles of documents and forms to fill out. We each had blood draws: my father, mother, little brother, and me. And I remember a phone call that drove my mother to tears. I still don’t know if those tears were happy or sad.

But everything came through eventually. My parents were able to schedule a trip to Guatemala, to finally meet my sister in person, and to finally bring her home. My grandmother came to to stay with my brother and I for that week, cooking us meals and making sure I got to school on time. I rode my bike to and from school every day while living there, and I could barely contain myself in class for that entire week. I was already an overactive kid, and I was excited to meet the little sister that I had only seen through a computer screen. Friday came around, and my parents brought her to meet me at school. I got out of class that final day and met them waiting for me just outside the building. I smiled, and she smiled back because she recognized me from pictures. She’s never been anything but my baby sister ever since.

I love my siblings. They’re the two most important people in the world to me, and they’re what I miss most about home. I’m in a bizarre period of my life right now. My family moved from my hometown two years ago, and I don’t spend enough time at the new house to consider it a home. I’ve left all my friends behind in Arizona and Montana, and I don’t know where my life will lead from here. But my brother and sister are constant anchors in my life. They are the people that I will always have and who I will always be there for. Because even when everything else in life passes, I have them and they have me.

By: Parker Holz