I met Steve when I was in my mid-twenties. Coffee Roasters in Marina Del Rey seemed to be the breakfast social stop of the very non 9–5 Los Angeles entertainment, out of the box, out of work, CEOs, policemen set. I used to leave work, in the early days, drive back to the Marina and hang.
One Saturday late, I squeezed in for the super multigrain pancakes. The place was thinning out. But the crowd would have been throbbing there all day. I’d seen Steve before. With his graying dark, wild hair and beard, Harley/beach casual attire, he looked like a well-transplanted New Yorker with an obvious intellect and a huge edge. You wouldn’t cross him. Respect was voluntarily impelled or those big guys were afraid just a little bit.
That Saturday Steve sat beside me. He, we struck up a conversation over the end of my pancakes. Within minutes, tears began rolling down my face. I hadn’t cried since I was twelve years old. And I’d had traumatic reasons to cry. But here, in the late afternoon, with this fabulous, scary, intelligent biker looking man, I let go.
He saw me. He understood me. He knew me. He recognized me. Steve was the same age as my mother, married to a lovely younger woman, with children near my age, from a former marriage, living in New York. But he made room. He came to feel I was the daughter he never had. And he became a father figure (a much wilder one than my own loved father had been, bless)/best friend.
I could breathe again. Steve was a producer and director of photography, well respected in his field. But he was losing his eyesight. He wanted to create with me, introduce me to people, facilitate the thriving of all the creative brilliance he felt he saw in me. We spent hours together nearly daily. The conversation never broke. We were both fighting things. But we kept each other stimulated and living for some time.
As his eyesight diminished, I cheered him up with a drive. He got behind the wheel (on a slow safe road!), and I coached him on turns and speed. We laughed until we cried.
He used to walk around the Roasters (in California you got fined for not picking up the dog poo), taking his dog for a break, with a shirt that said, “I don’t see Shit!”
In NY, Steve, years before, rolled up in the old “Arthur” car from the movie, with the phone, etc. and a big black cape with a cross around his neck. Okay, it may have been Halloween, but doors opened and crowds parted! We lived in each other’s past and potentials. And we knew what that meant. There were no explanations or confusions. Steve told me he would always love me. There was nothing I would ever do that would change that. I wasn’t capable. He knew my character. He knew me.
Steve came alive. He dreamed. And, when he had a harder time doing it for himself, he did it for me. “Contact________” (I keep confusing directors’ names). He made Sea of Love. “When you mix up the names, look at Sea of Love.” I still do it. Harold? I’ll look it up! “Contact him and tell him you’re my friend.” They used to have a production company together.
He’d slip me a few dollars like a dad, proudly take me to dinner, and be as protective as a bear.
Steve did as much as he could, in the time he remained on this plane, to show me my worth, who I was, that I was brilliant, and to make me feel loved. The believing took time. But the seeing (and being seen) never left.
I saw him. Steve was brilliant, beautiful, wildly hilarious, a profound human being. And he thought that and more of me. I knew he was all of those things, and he saw me.
How could I describe what is recognizable? I am not sure until recently that I ever noticed it in such a conscious, nearly slow motion discovering way. But, as I look back into my relationships, I can reflect upon those moments of being seen or feeling comfortable to be in any condition I was in or knowing I was accepted and understood, without excuse, explanation, or judgment.
In a car, on a road trip, where the conversation was one sided and took abstract to an exciting and entertaining place, as we followed our path by where the next ice cream stops were located, I was silent, nearly mute. But she knew I was in there. She knew even if I couldn’t come out or was temporarily frozen, I was in there. So she kept talking to me like it would all go in. And whether I could or would process it then, I would keep it. I would integrate it when I was back or maybe I did in my silence in an altered state, like the way our subconscious does when we are sleeping. It was years later I found out what it was like to be with me in those times and what she thought. But never did a piece go missing in a stall or much later conversation. She knew. And I thank God.
In a more recent years friend, I noted his tolerance to my overloads. In his office music was playing that he thought I would like. Rapidly, he was speaking and referencing various works, nearly hard for a brain to follow let alone a pen. Typically, I enjoyed and played in his room, like we were dancing. But not today I didn’t. Lack of sleep and a huge anxiety overtaking left me hypersensitive. The office was too hot. The sun was in my eye. Open the window. Shut the blinds. The music was too loud. Stop talking. Stop. I spoke, interrupting and pausing and aggressively. I couldn’t handle any of the calamity or game. But he knew. He still saw me. This man once yelled via email that I wasn’t finishing any sentences and that I was extremely hard to follow (probably a little harsher). I yelled back that I had an anxiety disorder and I didn’t always know I was doing it and things were moving fast in my head. He learned to intuit my endings and converse in fragments if necessary (or at least he gleaned their meanings instead of judging their quality), fast and ever since. He saw me.
And maybe that person I have most recently connected with will see it too, in himself and in me, what is deeply there. And I want him to know how extraordinary he is.
Steve was one of my lifelines. I am thankful to this day for another, since childhood. She knows she is family. When we connect with these people, when these rare souls see us, it relieves the confusion, promotes self-acceptance, stops the self-loathing or punishment, makes us understand not fitting in is a beautiful thing, and allows us the confidence to be divergent.
One of the biggest and most painful mysteries of the gifted brain can be not knowing you have one.
He saw me. So did she. And he did. And he might too.
*There are more. There are people who see parts and love those parts of your whole more than it nearly seems like you could love a person. There are those who don’t understand fully and love you anyway, in enormous ways. And there are more than who I mentioned. I struggled with referencing anyone, even lightly.x
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