ANGER By Dan Skinner

When things were going smoothly in my life; when I was under the false illusion that things were hunky dory, I became a lazy man enjoying the comforts. I ate good, rich foods, I drank wine and I indulged in all the fine luxuries of someone enjoying his life. I had an extended period of this type of unchallenged paradise… ten years in fact… enough years to take a fit man and turn him into a bloated, self-indulgent slob who avoided looking in the mirror. That was what life was about; right? Enjoying it?
When jeans quit fitting, I start buying sweats and pants without belts and larger, looser shirts. I angled myself in the mirror when I stepped out of the shower to not notice so much of the overhanging gut and the legs that had taken on the girth of tree trunks. If I felt a moment of anxiety about the creature I was becoming… I poured myself another luxurious glass of wine and let it melt my concerns into an homogenous blur as I tuned in to something on Netflix and sprawled on the sofa with my snacks.
But beneath this blur was the realization that my “good life” was turning me into something I didn’t recognize. I’d been a fit person my whole life. A bodybuilder at one time in my early twenties. People had always said I was “beautiful”. That was their word. For a time I basked in it; actually thought it was a gift eternal and nothing I could do would take it away. I’d deluded myself in the daily routine of middle-class comfort.
Of course, all paradises are fiction. It’s only a matter of time before reality can’t be blocked by a third or fourth glass of wine and a gigantic slab of blood-soaked prime rib. Life goes wrong. That’s what Life does. There are no perpetually calm oceans or sunny days or temperate Blue Lagoon breezes. Storms blow in… things get uprooted… the calm is gone and you are left standing with raw reality the way I was when my comfortable life suddenly came to an end. I had to look in the mirror for the first time in years and evaluate what the “good easy life” had done to me. The overweight man in the mirror that no one would call “beautiful”. Not only my comfortable life was gone, but I’d allowed it to gradually drain away the essence of who I was along with it.
I remember the moment very clearly because I was talking aloud to myself as I looked down at a slovenly middle-aged man I didn’t recognize. “What the fuck have I done?” I said. I repeated it over and over like the horror of the realization would lessen with the sound of my voice. It didn’t.
And I became ANGRY. Not at my situation that had forced me to finally see myself for what I’d became, but at myself for allowing the comfort of that situation to feed on me as I fed on it.
Now my comfortable life was gone…. and “I” was too. This was unacceptable. I seethed with rage. I would not have this. This would not be me. This would not be my life. I would not look in the mirror and see this creature. I would NOT live in this horrible thing I’d turned into.
The situation became so untenable I began immediately tossing out all the things of “comfort” that had robbed me of me: the rich foods, the alcohol, the weekends on the sofa doing nothing but watching television. I slowly began working out. I was in such bad shape a trainer/friend came by every night and we started by taking midnight walks around the neighborhood to get me used to exercise again. And it was defeating. DEFEATING! I’d grown so out of shape my legs rubbed together and chafed when I walked. It hurt like hell and made me cry which in turn made me even angrier. I put bandages on the blisters….and then I walked EVEN further.  The next night….even further… the night after that…MORE. My anger compelled me to attack what I did not like and change it.
As the weight began to come off, I began to jog with him. Then we’d meet at the park and do calisthenics. I gradually began seeing muscles reappear underneath the dwindling layers of fat.
When I was forced to move and my trainer could no longer join me, it didn’t lessen my resolve. All I had to do was look in the mirror and my loathing refreshed itself enough to drive me out the door and onto the tracks, running. I go to where I could run a mile nonstop. Then a mile and a half… and in a year, five miles. The year after that I was running ten miles or more a day. I had dropped over fifty pounds. I had gone down four sizes in pants. My face had returned… the jawline I remembered. I ran a half marathon that year.
Four years later I can tell you that I was running fifteen miles a day without hardly sweating. I was back down to a weight I hadn’t seen since high school. I looked younger again. But more than that I felt like myself again. I didn’t feel like a slug or someone sliding into the obscurity of middle age sightless and unseen by those around me. I look in the mirror and it’s WOW!
The first point of this is the storm that wreaked havoc in my life that took all my comforts away… that made me ANGRY… made me do something about what I did not like in my life. It made me fight. It made me change…. and I accomplished something that I had thought was impossible.
The second point of this is the majority of us are all feeling this despair of a similar defeat with a new and most vile administration threatening us. I don’t know how many times I have seen people start sentences discussing it with phrases like “I’m afraid of…” or “what I fear is”… and then expressing how impossible the situation feels. After all, we had a halcyon eight years of Obama and we thought our perfect little Paradise would sail smoothly on after him. But the storm moved in and along with it the shock….. and the anger…..
Anger is a tool. Use it… I did…. Nothing is impossible…We will be victorious!

First Glimpse of Ryan (from the gay romance, Memorizing You)

I  knew  how  different  I  was.  I  was  made  aware  of  it  every  day  that  my  dad  asked  me  if  I  had  a  girlfriend  yet.  I’d  made  up  a  million  responses  to  that   question,  but  I  was  getting  tired  of  it.  More  than  that,  I  was  getting  tired  of   knowing  that  I  would  never  have  a  response  to  it.  To  avoid  the  question  I  took  to   running  during  dinnertime,  or  booking  a  lawn  job  just  so  I  didn’t  have  to  sit  at   the  table  and  be  faced  with  devising  another  answer  to  the  unanswerable  query.   The  world  just  was  not  constructed  for  a  person  like  me  to  fit  in.  I  wasn’t  bad-­‐‑ looking.  I  had  a  nice  face.  Pleasant  features.  No  acne.  Blue  eyes.  Decent  body.   Surely  someone  out  there  had  to  be  looking  at  me  the  way  I  looked  at  others.   Somebody  out  there  had  to  want  me  the  way  I  desired  others.  Were  they  out   there  looking  at  me  but  going  through  what  I  was?  Not  being  able  to  do  anything   about  it?  It  was  frustrating.

I  heard  my  classmates  talking  about  sex  all  the  time  and  I  felt  left  out.  The   only  guy  untouched  by  human  hands.  I  sat  on  the  sidelines  as  the  football  team   practiced.  Their  field  was  in  the  middle  of  the  track  I  ran.  From  the  bleachers  I’d   watch  this  parade  of  masculinity,  half  in  shirts,  half  skins  as  they  ran  and   grappled  each  other  to  the  ground  in  what  looked  like  a  sex  dance  to  me.  They’d   get  up,  pat  each  other’s  ass,  and  go  back  at  it  once  again.  All  of  it  so  seemingly   normal  to  them.  But  to  me,  it  was  a  personification  of  sexuality.  My  eyes  viewed   the  world  with  a  different  perspective.

On  one  particular  day  there  was  a  guy  sitting  on  the  bench  I’d  not  seen   before.  A  new  face.  He  was  just  another  one  of  those  joes  like  me.  Ordinary   enough  to  pass  by  on  the  street  without  a  glance.  Short  blond  hair,  a  lithe  but  not   consequential  torso,  but  with  the  most  extraordinary  muscular  legs.  They  looked   disproportionate  to  his  body.  Thighs  that  looked  impossible  to  squeeze  into  his   training  shorts.

I  would  watch  part  of  the  practice,  but  inevitably  my  gaze  would  drift  back   to  him.  He  seemed  uncomfortable;  like  he  didn’t  want  to  be  there.  Distracted  enough  to  look  almost  everywhere  but  the  field.  He  either  wanted  to  be  in  the   game  very  badly,  or  to  not  be  there  at  all.  I  could  only  guess  by  his  body   language.

There  was  a  scuffle  among  two  of  the  players  that  brought  the  coach  in  to   intercede.  Macho  yelling  from  all  sides  for  a  few  moments  before  the  shrill  bleat   of  whistle  pierced  the  noise  and  brought  it  all  to  quiet.  The  hoarse  voice  of  the   coach  began  the  reprimand  as  I  returned  my  attention  to  the  guy  on  the  bench.   He  stared  at  me.  Straight  at  me.  There  was  no  one  else  around.  I  was  the  only   person  seated  on  the  bleachers.  His  hand  raised  from  his  lap  in  a  small  wave.  I   made  a  small,  indecisive  wave  back  and  then  sat  there  in  the  strangeness  of  the   moment.  I  had  no  clue  what  just  happened  or  why.



Memorizing You By Dan Skinner: