An address to the fourth grade class at Cascade Elementary School, Spokane, WA, filmed as part of Fox's 'Giant Leaps: Space Week 2004' (never aired)
"Well, I'll tell you, those are some really excellent projects you've all put together! I should think about bringing all of you with me when I go -- you'd really be able to keep me busy! You know, I'm so happy that you all got so excited about space, and that you wanted to share all that excitement with me. That's the type of thing that makes me so glad that I decided to do this in the first place -- getting to meet all of you, and hear all your ideas. But now you've all given such great presentations, and answered all of my questions, so I guess it's only fair that it's my turn now. Let's see. Does anyone have a question for me?
"Wait, wait, not everybody at once! How about -- you, right there? Right, Lindsay. Did you have a question for me, Lindsay?
"Now, are you sure you don't work for Entertainment Tonight? Yes, of course I was there -- how many times does your best friend get married, after all? Right, just this past weekend. It was very beautiful, and Joey was very happy, and all of us were there, and the night before we all went out and -- you know, I think you might be a little bit too young to hear the rest of this story.
"Now, does anyone else have a question for me? Preferably one about space?
"Hey, hey now, I can't hear! Let's see -- I remember you from your presentation, Julie. What's your question?
"Miss Julie, I swear, you're going to be a lawyer when you grow up. That is a technicality if I ever heard one. No, I am not going to get married in space, or anyplace else. You know, that is a very personal question. I'll tell you what, you look me up in eleven, twelve years, and I'll finish answering that question for you. Who knows, when I see you all grown up, I might have a different answer, sweetheart.
"All right. Now for a question that is only about space and not at all about weddings. Oh, excellent -- I see that one of the guys back there has a question. I bet you don't care about anybody getting married, do you, Todd?
"Well, that's a very good question, Todd. And you know, it's something that you're going to have to deal with in your own life one day. All of you. I don't mean not going to space -- although by the time you guys are my age, who knows what will happen? But one day, there's going to be something that you want, each of you, that you want very badly, and you're going to work very hard for it, and you won't -- things just won't work out the way you hope they will. I mean, I hope, I hope that every one of you -- but let's face it, that's just not the way life works, is it? Not for most of us. And I think -- it's very important, I think, to know that, and accept that. Because it can be nobody's fault, you know, sometimes the timing just isn't right, or somebody doesn't --
"I mean, I was very disappointed. I was very disappointed, because it was a disappointing thing, but I didn't -- I'm not letting that stop me. That's the important thing to remember. I'm not wasting my time getting mad, saying, well, if you don't want me, I don't want you, and making everything worse. It was disappointing, but I picked myself up and I dusted myself off and I said, I said Okay. Okay, I'm going to try again, and this time, I'm going to work even harder. Because if you're willing to do that, if you keep trying again and again, and working harder and harder -- you'll get what you want. Eventually. I mean, it's not -- it'll take time. It might take a very long time. But you've got to keep trying. I mean, what else can you do?
"What? No, no, wait, Mr. Martin, you don't have to do that. I appreciate it but I want to answer that question, because I think it's even more important than the last one. It's true. All of you, everybody, you saw me try, and you all saw me -- well, I did fall on my face, didn't I? But you know what? Falling down in front of a lot of people like that -- I know you all secretly want to know what that feels like. I bet you're imagining something horrible -- like that nightmare where you're giving a speech or something in front of a lot of people, maybe like you all were just now, and suddenly you realize that you're in your underwear -- oh, come on, I know you've all had that nightmare. But I'll tell you something, and you should listen up because it's real important for you to hear.
"Falling down in front of a whole lot of people -- it's a whole lot like just falling down.
"Not convinced, huh? But it's true. I remember -- I remember so clearly when I learned that. Do you want me to tell you that story? Well, okay then. Way back in the day, I was in this little band -- oh, you've heard of us. That's good to hear. Anyway, way back in the beginning, we were playing all these little shows. Well, I say little now, but they were big enough to me back then, a whole lot more people than I'd ever gotten up in front of in my life. Huh -- little shows.
"Anyway. Anyway. There was this routine we had to learn, and oh my goodness was I bad at it! No, no, I was, I truly was. There was this one step -- for the life of me, I just couldn't get it. My feet would get all tangled up, and I'd fall right on my face and everybody would stop -- I swear, I had big red welts all over the palms of my hands from the way they'd go skidding across the floor every time I fell. But, you know, I kept trying and trying, and I worked harder and harder, and soon it was only about half the time that I ended up falling down, and then only about a quarter of the time, and then it was hardly at all. I didn't even have those marks on my hands anymore.
"But the problem was, whenever I thought about actually having to do this routine in front of people, I got all nervous -- I froze right up. I was so afraid of falling down in front of everybody. I remember, the first time we had to do it, it was on this little stage at a mall, of all places, and I got so worried about it beforehand that I -- well, I puked. All over the car and everything! But I couldn't help it. And we couldn't -- we had to go on.
"So we went out there, and we did the first song, which was an easy one, and everything went just fine, and I felt -- well, not great, but a little better. And then the second song, which wasn't an easy one but wasn't the awful one, and then the third one. And then, before the awful song, we had this bit we did, just kind of talking to the girls. And while that was going on, I started getting more and more nervous and more and more worried. I just kind of shrank towards the back -- I never did much of the talking those days anyway -- and I just kind of hung out there, hoping that something would happen, I don't know, the fire alarm would go off, anything, just so that we wouldn't have to do that song. But then the music started up, and I got in my place, because -- well, because I had to. And then, right at the last minute, Joey reached over and just bopped me, real light, on the shoulder. And he said, real low, 'Don't worry.'
"And I thought -- I remember thinking, well, that's real nice and all, but I kept on worrying. But the thing is, things were going okay. We got through the first half of the song fine, I got through it just fine, and then the really awful part was coming up, and then it was here, and I was doing fine, just fine. I was doing fine.
"Then all of a sudden, I felt this hand, right in the middle of my back, which was not part of the routine, and before I could figure out what was going on, that hand pushed me! I know! It was horrible! That hand pushed me, hard, and I fell down, hard, right on my face, and my hands went skidding across the floor, and when I looked up there were what seemed like millions of faces just staring back at me, so I looked away real quick, right into three faces just staring back at me -- Chris, and JC, and Justin. But that was one face too few, so I looked around a little more, and there was Joey, standing right behind me looking down at the ground.
"Now, telling you this, it sounds like it took a long time, but really it was only about thirty seconds, and then we all scrambled back into place and finished up. Then we trooped offstage, and whoever was there to yell at us yelled at us, at me mostly, and nobody said anything. Joey didn't say anything, so I sure didn't say anything. And then we went back -- well, it wasn't backstage, just a little conference room where they let us change, and everybody else changed real quick and got out of my way.
"Joey didn't, though. Joey came over, even though I was ignoring him he came over, and because I was ignoring him I couldn't tell him to go away. And he sat down next to me, and he grabbed my hands, and he just looked at them. And my hands were all red and sore from where they hit the floor. I tried to pull them away so he wouldn't see but he just kept holding onto them. And then he said, like a big idiot he said, 'Does it hurt?'
"And I said, 'It always hurts,' because it did, and if he wasn't such a big idiot he'd know that, and he said,
"'Yeah.' He said, 'Yeah, it always does.' And I had this cream in my bag, like for bruises and stuff, and he put some of that on my hands, and while he was rubbing it in he said, 'See, the thing is, falling down in front of a whole lot of people -- it's just falling down.'
"Okay. Okay, see, that sounds like -- I'm making it not sound like as good a story as it was, but see... Later, afterwards, Joey was leaving, and he reached down and he made me look up at him, and he said, 'You won't worry anymore.'
"And I said, 'No,' I said, 'not anymore,' and he just smiled at me, this big smile he's got, it just breaks you open. And it broke me, right then, it broke me right open, and I thought that I'd do whatever it took to keep him smiling at me like that. And, I mean, not worrying about other people, that's not such a big thing, is it? At least not compared to that smile.
"So I said, 'I won't worry anymore,' and, well, okay, okay, I did worry, but not as much. Really, hardly at all. Not as much, anyway.
"And, the thing is, I think -- people like -- there are some people, who are just naturally, I don't know. Confident seems like such a small word for it. I've always just thought -- I mean, he's complete, you know? Whole, in a way that most people aren't, can't even really comprehend. Just completely, utterly himself. And I think that people like that -- it's not arrogance, I'm not saying that, it's just that it must be hard sometimes for people like that to really understand. How other people are. It's the opposite of arrogance, really -- I think it's generous, incredibly generous, to believe that someone else is just as complete, just as whole. But it keeps him -- you, from seeing that someone else maybe -- that they have cracks that you don't, places where things that people say can get through, can get at you. And, you know, maybe if you can't see that, then maybe you shouldn't go around breaking other people open.
"But -- you know, I think, I think that sometimes I made it worse -- see, this goes back to the question that, Todd, right? See, I remember. It goes back to Todd's really great question. And, you know, what I've always believed, and I know you've heard this before, but it's true: you can't let people see it bothers you when they laugh at you. And maybe when your parents tell you that, you think they just don't know what they're talking about. But believe me, I know what I'm talking about. Not even just recently, but man, if you don't think I'm, like, the world's expert in getting laughed at, well then, you just haven't been paying attention. I mean, now, if it had been Bono who said he wanted to go to space ...
"I don't -- I mean, I'm not complaining. Really. I know, I know that I'm really lucky, but people do -- people do laugh, and I'm sure I'd be a better person if I didn't even notice, but what can you do? Don't let them see it bothers you -- that's what you can do. Don't give them the satisfaction. I mean, it doesn't make them stop, but it's not like there's anything you can do that'll make them stop anyway. At least they won't get to see that it bothers you. And, you know, added bonus -- if you pretend long enough, it doesn't bother you anymore. Most of the time. It doesn't, most of the time. It's just sometimes, when something's just -- happened, when you just find out... When it's raw.
"And see, you'd think, even if you didn't show it, you'd think that people, some people, you'd think they'd be able to figure it out. That maybe they'd give you the benefit of the doubt, that no matter how cold they think you are, or whatever. Whatever. I mean, you'd think even they'd be able to imagine, maybe, how someone might, when they've just gotten -- what was it I called it before? Disappointing, yeah, disappointing news -- that maybe, when you've just been -- disappointed, that maybe you can't ...
"I mean, it's not like he'd say the wrong thing, or really anything. It's just -- sometimes, somebody can just look at you and if you're in the right place, if you've just been -- disappointed, and you're still raw from it, somebody can just look at you and not say anything and just rip your soul open, just like ripping a scab from a wound. And maybe sometimes you need that, sometimes you need to bleed clean but even if you do, it just ... It always hurts.
"And sometimes, maybe, when you've just had -- disappointing news, when you just find out that you're not going to get this thing that you wanted, that you worked so hard for. This thing that everybody laughed at you for and you didn't even care, you just wanted it. Sometimes, maybe, right then, you don't want to get your soul ripped open. Maybe all you want is to just get one thing that you want, just one little thing. So maybe you go find somebody -- not a stranger, it's not like you're like that, it's not like ... You go find somebody who knows you, somebody who loves you, just not quite as -- Somebody who'll feel sorry for you, sympathetic, who'll do whatever to cheer you up but who won't lose any sleep over it, you know? Somebody who doesn't care about you quite so much. Somebody just a little -- careless.
"Maybe, just maybe, right then you want somebody who's not going to break you open, because they couldn't even if they wanted to try. And even if they could, it wouldn't matter, because it's not like they'd be able to see you. It's not like you'd care if they could -- there's nothing you could show them that you'd be afraid of.
"And, you know, maybe that makes you seem really cold, but you know what? You're the one who was just -- disappointed. Maybe, just maybe, it's not so hard to believe that you'd want some time to pretend it doesn't matter, just till it does matter just a little bit less. I mean, is that so hard to believe? It's not, is it?
"Because the thing is, the reason you even need that little bit of time, is just so that when they look at you, you're ready for it. So you're not worrying anymore about anything petty, anything that they'd think -- I'm not saying that the loss isn't the biggest thing, it's just ... I don't think it's so unnatural that even when the loss is so big, you still feel smaller things. I mean, I'm sure there are people who wouldn't be worrying about the fact that they just made a fool of themselves in front of everybody they know -- and I really mean that, I know there are people, I know him. But, I bet there are lots of people -- most people, who think about those other things, small things, just a little. Who worry. And I don't think that not wanting --
"I mean, with grief, with loss, I would always go to him. Always. It's just the other things I didn't want him to see.
"But I guess the risk you run -- and this is what I was trying to get at, the thing I wanted to warn you about. Sometimes, when you're trying to make people think you don't care, they, well, they believe you. Just not always only the people you want to believe you. And, looking back, I guess I can see how somebody, even somebody who knows you really well, better than anybody, how somebody could think -- I mean, maybe. Maybe. But if they really knew you, wouldn't they see?
"I accept, I do, that I was wrong to say what I did. But there's just -- if he had just waited, like I wanted, if he had just given me a little fucking time -- what? Oh, right, sorry. But if he could just have let me have that one little thing I wanted, then I wouldn't ... But he wouldn't, of course, of course not, and when he called -- well, it was late, and I had been -- well, I guess careless is a little catching, you know? I was a little careless. And then he got mad. I had to be where I was, with who I was, and not where I wanted to be, because -- and he got mad.
"Maybe it's just that nobody -- I don't care how well they know you, or how big their smile is, maybe nobody can ever really see what's inside you. Not really see it. Because if they could, then they would never ... I don't understand how they could say something like that, if they could really see. I mean, I understand it, I'm not an idiot, and it's not like it's some deep insight, it's not like you'd have to be some brilliant philosopher to come up with that one, I mean, talk about pop psychology. Literally. I mean, I understand it.
"But what I don't understand is how somebody could say to me, to me, he said to me, 'Maybe if you'd let yourself really want it, hard enough that your heart would break if you didn't get it.' He said, 'Sometimes that's the only way to want something.'
"He said that. To me. To me, like he knows about getting his heart broken, like his heart's ever been broken, like he's ever been broken open, and I said that to him. Like his heart's ever been broken. I said that. To him.
"And I know, it was wrong, I shouldn't have said that. I know that. But he was wrong, too, to say that to me? I just, I don't see how, I just think ...
"I just think that that was wrong.
"So, um, is there another question?"
Written for Lily as part of the [2003 Don We Now Our Gay Apparel] challenge.