Shortly after breakfast yesterday, not long after our confrontation, I caught Jesus Snort (I feel bad using jokey nicknames now that I’m getting to know these people a bit more) as he was walking by my bed and said, “Hey, I’m sorry I reacted sarcastically earlier, but can I tell you why I was offended?” And he sat down and I tried to explain how my ears had pricked up when I heard the gay prison joke in the same way that his ears might prick up if he’d heard me making a joke about black people and watermelon, that the joke reinforces the stereotype of gay man as sexual predator, etc. He said he understood, and then he shared a very poignant story about his childhood and some gay people in his life. He said, “I don’t have any problems with gay people. I don’t judge anyone in that lifestyle. My faith tells me not to.”
I almost started the conversation about how referring to an essential, immutable aspect of a person’s being as a “lifestyle” is insulting or at least ignorant. But I let it go for the time being. We had had our moment, and I wanted to leave it at that. For the time being.
The guy is a pretty interesting character. He had a religious conversation experience in prison (heard the voice of god, read the Bible cover to cover, the whole 9 yards) and when he got out devoted his life to taking care of homeless people, drug-addicts, and other cast-offs. He owns and operates some kind of boarding house for these people now.
(As an aside, I want to say that I’m hesitant to criticize the type of conversion story he tells, because it’s essentially the same story that I tell about how I discovered Buddhism and began meditating. The thing that I happened to discover was very very different, but the basic narrative is the same: I was at a low point, nothing I was doing made sense, all my tactics, all my tricks, all the things I’d learned to do to avoid pain, none of it worked any more, and in fact only brought me more pain, I felt sad and desperate. By some kind of serendipity, two books, one by Thich Nhat Hahn and one by Pema Chodron, landed in my lap, and their words -- because the circumstances of my life and my emotional state aligned to allow me to understand them with complete clarity -- changed my mind and heart forever. I didn’t hear any voices, but it was still pretty dramatic. I call it a conversion experience, absolutely. I’m different now. I live my life differently, and I believe I am essentially different from who I was before that experience. So.)
This morning we had the most disgusting breakfast. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get any worse. Powdered eggs with orange "cheese" melted over them. An English muffin that may have been toasted, but not enough to change its color and soggy from condensation because the plate sits under a plastic cover until they serve it. Skim milk. Why powdered eggs? Why even do that? The hard-boiled egg was, well, hard, but at least it was real. Why not serve that again? And why serve toast that’s going to sit covered and get wet? If you have that limitation, why not serve something with the same nutrition but that will hold up, or do better, by being covered? Grits, maybe, or oatmeal. But if they did grits or oatmeal, it would probably be some kind of instant nastiness.
There was a little less Bible talk yesterday. But, rest assured Bible Guy is a real Renaissance man. He can speak with confidence on the history of snack foods, he knows how to tell real homeless people from hustlers, and he’s an expert on the care and feeding of house cats. And he’s glad to share his knowledge. At length.
Have you ever heard of a card game called Spoons? They’re playing it in the next room. I think it involves cards and spoons, and, apparently, screaming. Unless somebody is getting murdered or tickled really hard.
We are halfway through the study now. I have red itchy circles, or more like rings, on my torso from the ECG pads, and my fingertips are sore, but otherwise I’m surviving.