Count the Leaves

It’s been a long time since I’ve said this and an even longer time since I’ve sincerely believed it, but today I feel happy. Genuinely happy. And for the life of me, I can’t even say what’s changed.

It feels like, for so long, dark clouds have held their hands around me, ethereal and tornadic fingers twisting around me, tumultuous chaos attacking me from every angle. Today the wind awoke over the world and while I was crossing the Brickyard–an open courtyard at the heart of campus–I felt the wind whipping around me, awaken the wind inside me, and in a burst of ecstasy I spun around and watched as the world itself twisted beneath me….

It wasn’t long ago I found myself in the deep of night, far past twilight, playing Amsterdam and whirling around until the world itself came unhinged. I took my glasses off then, to not let them break. So much had already broken. Today I held my glasses to my face. I could see again. And what a beautiful sight it was!

I feel like Regina Spektor singing “summer in the city means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage,” but it’s not the cleavage that has made the advent of warm weather so exciting.

Certainly, for any modern man with self-confidence and body issues, the plethora of suddenly shirtless males can be intimidating–and unconsciously I find myself sucking in my gut as I walk past them–but in the end all it is, is admiration, and glimpsing their robust physiques can only inspire me to further define my own.

I like to think lately I defy definition and self-summary. I updated my profile on a dating website recently by stating society defines me by the roles I fill and the objects I own, but I am more than the sum of my parts, more than the product of the factors in my life. More than anything else, it’s a subtle math reference, but it’s also an ideal–which is also a subtle math reference. And should a man with an interest in other men find himself able to appreciated such recursive allusions, he should find me, we could talk.

Talking about men, I asked one out today. I’ve been admiring him all semester, and not only for his looks, mind you. Yes, he’s got a cute smile, a handsome face, but he talks eloquently, softly, and can say a few good words about math. I’ve enjoyed talking with him, so when I had the chance to say, would you like to go on a date with me, I said so. The question was trivial for the answer was obvious, but the mere act of asking was empowering.

After class today I had to return a book borrowed from the GLBT Center on campus. I went into the lounge, where our library is, and began paging through a stack of books on LGBT history. I decided I want to purchase one for my own collection, so I figured I’d look through all of them and choose my favorite to buy.

So I opened the first–another copy of the one I had to return–and I was paging through it and I found myself just rolling back and reading. It’s been such a very long and unpleasant time since I’ve done so, since I’ve pried open the pages of a thick tome, breathed in the fumes of antique glue and ancient trees, and let the words speak to me. I read of love stories on the frontier, of the Mattachine Society (a favorite secret pleasure of mine–imagine post-WWII America in the throws of the Cold War, former Communist forces coming together to begin a new era of equality, the rise of the homosexual American and the Gay ideal–it’s fascinating and makes me realize I should’ve been born fifty years ago rather than today), and then I ended my perusing with a few passages about Alexander Hamilton and his dearest friend John Laurens. American history is never quite as amazing as when you’re reading love letters written over two hundred years ago from one man to another. It’s even more intriguing when you read the original editor’s note saying, “I must never publish this in its entirety.”

In tutoring lately my students began working with trigonometry, and although I never thought I’d say this, I shall: trig is awesome. Pre-calculus algebra has bored me all semester–but throw in a bit of sin and suddenly, it comes alive again. I’m loving it. Perhaps the most amazing thing of all is being able to help my students actually derive formulas and identities from the ground up instead of just rehashing old answers. This is the discovery I’ve always loved about math, and being able to witness–and not just witness, but to facilitate–that same discovery in others is amazing. More than anything else, it reminds me why this is my path.

Then I think of presidency and social change and wonder how many universes must collide before I can have everything. Then again, I can’t run for another decade, so maybe I can have it all. Maybe I can.

There’s been something even more amazing than math filling my life with light these last few days. See, I have a bad habit of catching something beautiful and stopping. It just floors me and I can’t move for a moment, captured, mesmerized.

It takes more than shirtless men and mathematical discovery and even LGBT history to bring me to my knees. It takes true beauty. It takes my breath being taken away when I look to the skies and see the clouds spilling forth, weightless and free. It takes the unnerving image of caterpillars hanging on an invisible curtain and the terror of deciding how best to walk past them. It takes a glance and a glimpse and then a long stare at the many million shades of green I see in all the trees. Two weeks ago they were flowers, and now they’re the most brilliant and brightest leaves I have ever seen. And there is nothing more amazing than looking upward with such clarity it feels as though you could count every individual leaf clinging to the trees above you.

Yet why just count them, when I can admire them too? When I can revel in them? When I can sit and stare and feel my soul stilled to my core?

I’m afraid I could not live in a world without beauty, but thankfully, that is a world far foreign from our own. Now forgive me if I wander off… I shall be somewhere, counting leaves.

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