I Won’t Project My Shadow Onto People I Love in This Moment in History.
The berry pink ridges of his lips were coated in glistening duck sauce, catching the hoop of gold from the pendant drum light above him.
They shone like something moist and aquatic come up to the surface of the ocean, only to be glimpsed and disappear in a wet flick.
A translucent flake of egg roll caught in his gold-red stubble like a moth fluttering on ember-lit grass.
I laughed, giddy and warm, a Sapporo-scented giggle that caught his attention and sent his aquamarine eyes darting towards me.
“What’s up?” he asked expectantly.
There’s something borderline zoological about men who move through through the world as he does. Fair, tall and ambling, so used to being the observer, the one beholding, that there are lapses of complete unawareness of being viewed.
Often when eating, I find it disarmingly free of pretense.
“The Straight White Male doesn’t suspect he’s being watched,” a nasally narrator intones in my head and I take another sip to douse a chuckle.
We were having a Hapa Meal, a joke of ours where I come by after a run with Chinese food, Japanese beer and Italian fernet, all procured from the Inner Sunset neighborhood where he resides. Ensconced in a Rousseau that looks like the hybrid of a Spanish monastery and a gingerbread house; perfect.
Hapa is a Hawaiian word for a mixed-race person, which has been the salient theme of his dating history since he moved to SF.
Whenever I make my way to his comical pale pink vestibule near the park and the ocean he spends most of his days in, clad in slick black rubber, I smirk.
A mixed-race person bringing a mixed meal to a mixed-up man in his mish-mash house.
It was a wonderful evening, the warm breeze of our balmy fall painting the sky pink and gold.
It patterned the red tile roofs of The Sunset into undulating waves of ruddy scales glinting beneath the rust and saffron heavens like some sleeping, segmented bronze leviathan.
I was sleepy and happy, looking out the large arched window of his living room which seemed like a portal to the swelling ocean that appeared to beckon, as his pink lips did the same.
That is, until they formed words that jolted me out of my trance: “Deep State.”
I have no idea what we were talking about, to be honest. He had offered me his vape pen, which I underestimated, as it was green-tasting and floral.
I had a few puffs, my drifting eyes catching the molten disk of the sun as it slipped into the ocean.
It painted my vision with green solar phantoms that flecked emerald cosmos over everything else I looked at after — the cream walls, the rumpled legs of his wetsuit draped over the railing of his balcony like a deflated seal, his mouth as he said words I wished he hadn’t.
In my Sapporo-saturated, Kush-cushioned head, I hoped he was talking about a deep state of mind, the effects of that little vape pen that tasted like a woodland sprite’s kiss. But I realized he was talking about conspiracies, government plots, a cabal of elites, and world event orchestrating Jews.
I was too fucked up for this.
I care about this man. He’s an odd, liminal being, like me, caught in between worlds and often living in his own head.
A pretty head, big blue eyes and a monumental nose, a fast-moving mouth that seems to shift too quickly to be seen clearly.
I’ve known him for years, he’s dated girlfriends of mine back when SF was a wild Bohemia and my group of friends fell in and out of bed and infatuation with each other. Now he seems to be using his darting lips to voice things I’ve heard only peripherally, things that have a kernel of truth and are twisted into a paranoid fantasy.
Not the kind of fantasy I was hoping for after my dreamy run in the park.
But I care about him, I listened, I listened to plots of poisons injected into the population and mandatory mind control chips implanted into the brain.
My pulse began to quicken, a breeze caught the leg of his wetsuit in the deepening dusk and I almost gasped, as if a shadow government operative was scaling the wall to take us out.
“Don’t trust vaporized drugs!” I admonished myself in my mind, even as I nodded along to this man I knew, yet suddenly, didn’t know.
I tried to find places where I could agree honestly: 5G is something to be cautious about, universal mandatory vaccines aren’t ethical, especially when they have not been around long enough to be sufficiently tested, certainly there are oligarch forces at play in our government that manipulate politics, the expansion of governmental powers could be used malignantly during moments of upheaval.
I tried to understand his fears, I wanted to stay with him, hear him, feel his feelings even though my impulse was to recoil, leap up, to catch the last light of dusk and ride it home.
I could understand that his fears were different from mine, but I wanted to keep him close, keep him human.
I didn’t want to lose another friend, the convulsions of time have taken so many, too many drifting away like flotsam and jetsam, carried away by marriages, children and change.
He was like me, I thought, a bit lost, a bit young for his age, an earnest, funny man-child.
I don’t want to lose him.
So I stayed, riding the waves, feeling the intensifying surge around me, buoying along in the currents of vehemence.
Feeling the tug of intensity pull on me, the undertow of paranoia always threatening to suck me in deeper, but I stayed.
I have fears too, fears that color public figures into twisted, demonic shapes.
Visions of tyrant despots using warped religious fervor to destroy the world.
It was then that I realized we had different focal points of collective shadow.
He was consumed with the threat of the Terrible Mother, while I saw the Tyrannical Father as the more imminent danger.
His fears are of being infantilized by a nanny state, poisoned by a concoction, weakened and devitalized by an omnipresent and oppressive caretaker government. My more pressing fear is the destruction of the ecosystem, the trespasses upon democracy by our leaders and a shift into an autocratic era.
Funny, I thought, a man who bobs along the surface of The Great Mother in all her fearsomely primordial, oceanic depths fears her totality in the form of bureaucracy.
“At least with pernicious bureaucracy, we have a chance,” I thought sadly.
I listened to him as he quieted, slowed, ebbed.
The manic froth of his tone subsided, eased into an easier rhythm, an insistent but more rhythmic flow of words, words that begin to include questions.
My presence became more apparent in his diatribe, he began to say things like, “You know?”
I was relieved, even the question invited me in as a person, a mind, a viewpoint. Before it was just waves of surging litany crashing over my breathless head.
“Yeah, I don’t understand all of it, but I hear some of that,” I said honestly.
He seemed satiated, his lips still quivering, which then gave a satisfied, coral-colored twitch.
I tried to explain my concerns as clearly as I could in my own deep state.
He seemed to listen, he looks to the side of me when he’s listening.
“Are you staying?” he asked, his lips parted as if surprised by their own audacity.
Lips that had found mine years ago, between songs, between girlfriends.
“No, I have to head back, I’m tired,” I said truthfully.
“You’re sure?” he asked, hopefulness glazed in duck sauce and warm amber lamp light.
“Yeah,” I said quietly.
It’s been years since I’ve stayed, only a few times in all the years I’ve known him. Usually I rush out, feeling the thrill of escape, the warmth of desire and the rush of being elusive and free.
Now I felt sad, heavy, and exhausted.
“Hey, thanks for dinner,” he said softly.
“Sure,” I said, springing up, the energy of flight invigorating me, as it always does. “Thanks for the talk,” I said, ruffling his sand-colored hair as I passed him, crestfallen on his barstool, in his circle of gold light.
He looked small and sad, but human, I thought gratefully. He’s still human.
I walked into the cool press of night with sudden joy.
I can’t go everywhere his mind is going. I will do all in my power to present ideas to him and others that I think are right and true, but I won’t dehumanize people I love in this moment in history.
I will try to see what people fear and meet them there, I will try and reach people.
I was grateful to feel I could connect, even as I slipped into the fog alone.
“The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500-hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.