Don’t (try to) Make Your Heart Feel Something It Won’t

The Lady Chronicles by Daniel Borgen
By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly

Marco’s house sits atop an enchanted hill in downtown Astoria, steps away from the Flavel House, a famous structure filled to the brim with wandering spirits. Marco’s home, however, is a bastion of hippie love and acceptance—and you feel it from blocks away. The edifice is the kind of quaint, grand structure you might find in North Portland—carriage houses and history galore. I’m in Astoria for Dragalution, an evolving drag experiment I’ve heard lots about—it stars Marco’s alter ego, Daylight Cums.

The weekend also marks the third away from my new lover, William, an adorable creature with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes who hails from San Diego. In a short time, he’s captured my heart. What should have been a quick Grindr tryst turned into multiple sleepovers—and I allowed myself to fall hard and fast. One night turned into two, then eight; in no time we’re all routines and schedules. “I miss you, baby,” the texts read. “I can’t wait to see you again.” I remain calm, collected, marveling at my ability to maneuver time and distance—never my forte.

Marco’s house should be a museum—the Gayest, Most Beautiful Place I’ve Seen. It’s colorful, adorned with art and artifacts; on the coffee table sits Marco’s ode to Madonna, his own Sex Book, wherein he recreates Madge’s masterpiece. There’s an altar room—everyone has one of those—where most of the herbal remedies are doled out, a drag lab upstairs, and a well-worn kitchen/bar combo, where Marco quickly and easily whips up all manner of feast. Oh, you’re hungry; let me prepare this beautiful crab and fried cheese spread, ready in minutes.

Properly  navigating time/distance means knowing when to put your phone down. And I tried—I worked very hard to live in the moment. But I peeked a lot. It’d been awhile since a male person sent such niceties my way. I provided him play-by-plays of the day’s activities: a trek to Dairy Maid in Warrenton, a wonderfully terrifying, delicious burger joint where the thin, mousy cashier does her best to avoid eye contact. You may be strung up on a fence post at any moment, but those fried things! The shack’s menu is simple, descriptions short and sweet. Handmade signs are littered about, notes to employees, mostly, imploring them: “Remember to stir the dips!” I wondered how long the dips sat, but I enjoyed them anyway. “Get lots of ranch,” William told me. (Like you have to tell me twice.)

With bellies filled with beef and bacon, we headed back—after a stop at the liquor store, where I became best friends with the shop owner. No matter where you are, local business owners sure love gays who spend money on booze. “We’re open until 7 if you boys run out!” The road back to Marco’s was long, made pleasant by picturesque, cozy cottages and shops that line the streets and coastline. (Nothing like the combo tanning/guns/ammo shops we saw on our initial drive in. I’m looking at you, Clatskanie.) Upon our return, we headed up to the drag closet to procure our gender-bending looks.

Here’s where I always get into trouble with men I date. Walk into a Halloween party in monster drag, my date yells at me and picks a fight. Find out I routinely go to Red Dress, the guy I’m sleeping with says he isn’t sure he respects me anymore. (Ditto if I bottom for him.) William, though, laughed and said all the right things. “Everything I’m interested in is beneath that dress.” Swoon. Marco’s a generous queen, and we all left the house in reinvented variations of old Daylight Cums castoffs, styled to the hilt.

My god, the show. After we marched through the streets like it was Pride, I glimpsed the line that wrapped around the Columbia Theater. You’d have thought Beyoncé was in town: Eager show-goers for days, dressed up and screaming for Daylight as they saw her and her queen-y troupe arrive. The energy made the hairs on your neck stand on end. The first half of the show was all kinds of Madonna and Josh Groban (it worked), and the second half highlighted Daylight’s original work. (There was a gorgeous story about angry hand jobs. It hit very close to home.) The entire thing devolved into a big, sweaty dance party; I stumbled upon pure magic. “Hope you’re having fun!  Can’t wait to see you.” Oh, William.

The next morning, my friends and I sat in Mary Todd’s Workers Bar, examining the bar’s murals and relics and marveling at the waitress’s kind, raspy voice; we decompressed and revisited. We poured tens of dollars into the jukebox and feasted on chicken fried steaks and stiff screwdrivers. The volley of texts between me and my beau continued; our reunion was so near—another overnighter. I didn’t know that would be my last weekend away from William.

I’ve never been great at figuring out why things end, especially if there’s no big conflict or blow out to point to. We returned home, I saw him as usual; a few days later I sensed the change in the air. Texts became less frequent, not so much oozing with niceties—there were more days between sleepovers. After our last, we didn’t hold hands on our walk home from brunch. When we had the conversation to end all things, I was shocked and wrecked, but I didn’t argue, because there’s nothing worse than a sore loser. Besides, it’s like Bonnie says, you can’t make your heart feel something it won’t.

I think that’s how love is. You win some (friends), you lose some (William), and you just hope someday the wins outnumber the losses.

Daniel@PQMonthly.com