Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Significant Others That Aren't People

Earlier this season an episode of Doctor Who made me reflect on a similar situation in my own life. In "The Doctor's Wife," a living woman comes to embody the spirit of the Doctor's beloved TARDIS. As the Doctor's transportation, the TARDIS is an essential component of the Doctor himself. After all, nobody would watch a show about a bored Time Lord who did nothing but stay at home on on Gallifrey and bitch about his desire to be somewhere else.

During the episode the Doctor and Idris, the embodiment of his TARDIS, get to have actual conversations, which has been impossible in the past. They bicker. Sparks fly. Cupids fly about. It becomes clear that they have always been in love, even though the TARDIS has never been a person and before and isn't one again by the end of the show. The spirit of the TARDIS goes back into the police box. It becomes clear why the Doctor is such a loner. His other half is his TARDIS.

I believe I had a similar relationship with Booker Heights, the neighborhood of which I was a longtime resident. And so it began:

In high school I dreamed of escaping the drudgery of my boring, meaningless classes and the dreariness of my after-school job. I dreamed of finding a land where all the other people like me were. One night I and some other friends accompanied Yngwi Gatlinburg on his trip out of town to "a really good record store," as he put it. When I got out of his yellow Datsun on The Street and looked around, the enchantment began. There were people walking around, people standing around smoking and talking, you could hear live music coming from somewhere. Restaurants and stores. It was like an outdoor mall, only with seedy insteady of cheesy for atmosphere. After the record store there was Mexican food to be had at Macho Taco, a restaurant with a hand painted sign and a stage for bands up front. I wound up in there with about half of our crowd while some others, including a gumby boy named J'Bo, ran around outside. J'Bo got to overdoing it on the flailing about, however, and soon Va. arrived to tell us that he fell and was bleeding. Bad. Seconds later he arrived with his hands over his face, and looking over his shoulder in the bathroom, we saw him look at the gash in his upper lip and stick his tongue through it. The helpful staff at Macho Taco thoughtfully called an ambulance. So my initial visit to Booker Heights ended in accompanying J'Bo to the ER.

That was what Booker Heights was like. You never knew how the night would end. It was a breeding ground for adventure. The commercial strip I was first introduced to was surrounded by a residential area slam full of the most varied and inspiring collection of nonconformists anywhere. I had the best conversations of my life there. Amazing incidents of coincidence and synchronicity happened. In high school and college I made regular pilgrimmages to the neighborhood, where I felt I was able to be my truest self. After college I managed to move there. I was devoted, but it was like being hopelessly in love with an unrepentant, unmedicated sufferer of bi-polar disorder. There was poverty and heartbreak too. I got free plane rides with strangers, ex-and future felons for neighbors, all the malt liquor I could stand, and my car vandalized as a result of my relationship with this place. Actual relationships with fellas were difficult as a result of my love of Booker Heights. An autoimmune reaction would occur whenever I became entangled with other fixtures of the social landscape there, drama would ensue, and it would end badly for all parties.

I started this relationship with Booker Heights just before my eighteenth birthday, took time off here and there for educational purposes, and lived there after school until I was 34. At that point I wanted to own real estate, and alas, square footage in Booker Heights had become too expensive. I left. And this time, it was over. Signing those mortgage papers must have been what broke the spell. Whereas before during my sojourns away from it I could feel the neighborhood waiting patiently behind me, secure in the knowledge that I'd come back, this time was different. For the first time, I started getting parking tickets whenever I went back to visit. When I bumped into people I'd known and whose company I had enjoyed for several years, I found I no longer had anything to say and they no longer did either. On a profound energetic level, all ties were severed. My tenure in Booker Heights now seems like a dream.

I miss it, but on the other hand I now have a husband, house, and garden. My life is richer in many ways, so I have no regrets that it's over. My relationship with Booker Heights was a little too dramatic to be healthy. I think the Doctor's relationship with the TARDIS is much more supportive and functional.

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