It Was My Honor

Ashley (L) and Rachel (R). Photograph by Sarah Deragon.

Ashley (L) and Rachel (R). Photograph by Sarah Deragon.

A few months ago a reader of mine by the name of Rachel Schiff reached out to me via Facebook. Her girlfriend, Ashley Faulkner, is also a reader, and her girlfriend’s brother, Chris Faulkner, had turned them on to my comics in the first place. One big happy family. Rachel told me that she was going to propose to Ashley. Rachel’s intention was to write a comic book that would act as her proposal, have a friend draw it for her and then have their local comic shop slip the comic into Ashley’s pull box. Rachel asked me if I’d be interested in writing something for it. I was more than happy to oblige.

Before I began writing, Rachel sent me what was to her a dashed off history of her meeting with Ashley and their relationship. I loved it. I loved it so much that I convinced Rachel to publish it in the comic. Before I post what I wrote for them here, I want to include Rachel’s letter to me. In truth, it’s far better than what I sent her back.

The story:

Ashley and I met in early September, 2010.  It was both of our first days [at work]–and I distinctly recall her walking into the room, late, in a dapper suit.  At the time, I thought to myself that she wasn’t my type, but I was so happy that there was another gay in our group! Of course, in my haste to identify myself as gay (a frequent impulse of mine as most people read my femininity as straight), I instantly put her on guard.  When I rushed to her, and asked her loudly in front of everyone whether or not she had pursued gay rights activism at law school, she literally took a couple steps back, said no, and *walked away from me.*  I love telling this story because its such a perfect example of how different we can be.  I in my haste to be *friendly* completely disgregarded that hey, maybe someone doesn’t want to be outed in front of everyone on their first day.  And her, in her frustration at being misidentified (she was gay, but she was passionate about indigent defense), shut me down hard.  After that, it was a six month pursuit.   First I had to convince her I was not a crazy person, then I had to convince her to talk to me about her feelings, then we became best friends, and then I swooned her and we began dating on December 22nd, 2010.

I won’t bore you with all of the nitty gritty details, but our first year was full of hardship and intensity.  She had left a four year relationship pretty immediately before dating me, and I was a fresh faced college femme with very little deep professional and real world experience.  She is a third culture kid — raised abroad the majority of her life (primarily Kenya, Gabon, and Egypt) and I lived my entire life in San Jose, CA with my deep extended Jewish mafia family.  She was witty, sarcastic, dapper, and short-tempered.  I was ebullient, thoughtless, messy, and sweet.  It took us a year of intense rows, and arguments, and passionate sweetness and difficult talks to lead us to the end of our first chapter.

In May of 2011, I took us to Kauai for our first year – birthday – christmas – hannukahversary.  And it was a trip that I really think changed our entire path.  We got five straight days with one another, away from civilization, in deep beauty with great books and beaches and beautiful marine life.  We stayed far away from tourists, and got lost in a forest that led us to a great adventure with a topless local and stunning views.   Ashley learned that she liked to hike when it was warm, and I learned that we were great travel partners.

And that trip was the beginning of a new chapter.  We began to explore our shared interests and passions that tapped us back into our creativity and inner children. She fell back in love with comics, and reminded me of all the childhood years I spent — away from the friends I never had — lost in Greek mythology, or archie comics if I could get my hands on them.  Her and her brother talk weekly about what comics to read, and I kind of dive in here and there picking up the ones I know I’ll love or trusting her when she makes a recommendation. Now some of my favorite memories are just us at a cafe (Borderlands is one of our favorites, just endless fantasy and sci-fi and Mission comics is our favorite local comic store) reading and sharing texts.

Over the past two years, we still are a fiery couple.  We are also very in love.

My stud inspires me.  She is endlessly intellectual.  She always is reading fifteen different news sources, and investigating a new topic she is curious about.  She looks effortlessly handsome and fashionable, but she also takes a lot of time to think about clothing (something that I actually don’t relate to at all).  But to her, her daily presentation is art.  That’s so different from me, but it reminds me that the mundane can be so full of possibility–if we let it.  She loves animals, and they love her.  Literally, animals *flock* to her when she is nearby.  She’s been there for me in the depths of my depression, at the height of my excitement, when my body issues came back in a terror, when I’ve wanted to try something new, when I’ve returned to the old…

The reason I’m making her this comic, as a way to ask her to spend the rest of her life with me, is because comics represent everything I love about our relationship.  Comics are magical,  frequently harrowing, and visceral and real and yet constantly full of surprises.  Comics are also what you make from them.  Some people see illustrations and limited dialogue, and just dismiss it outright.  They literally waive it off without a second thought, unwilling to get to know the incredible, deep, complex world that I get to live in with my stud, and you, and so many other folks.

And since half of my time with my baby is spent with our noses buried in books, I wanted to make something that represented our own fairy tale.

~R

Jesus, every time I read that it makes my day. I had originally agreed to participate in Rachel’s proposal comic for several reasons, but after that letter I was doing it for only one, I was now as in love with their story as Rachel was in love with Ashley.

I’ve been a commitment-phobe most of my adult life. I’m the only child of a single mother, an equation that can lend itself to a solitary, self-sustaining nature, or at least it did in my case. I was married at eighteen and divorced by twenty-two, four years in which I was a terrible husband, more of a trapped animal than a present partner, and that only compounded my fear of commitment. Since then I’ve had a very, very hard time opening my heart to others. I can be effortlessly kind and happy. I can give sex away all day. But in the past, if you came sniffing around for anything more serious than that, I simply wasn’t your man. I’ve driven off some wonderful human beings out of fear. Recently, I decided not to let that fear rule my life anymore and to work at investing in one single person. So Rachel’s struggle to breach Ashley’s hesitance, and her ultimate victory in doing so, really zapped me. The comic book angle was just the perfect sprinkle of salt on top that made the whole story taste super delicious.

The following is what I wrote for Rachel’s comic book proposal to Ashley. It’s theirs alone. It belongs to them. I have asked for their permission to share it and they have given it. It’s not anywhere near as good as what Rachel wrote to me about her love and her lover. So I include it below only for the sake of completeness.

All of Us Together

A letter to Ashley and Rachel

 Commitment. It used to seem a little strange to me. It still does to be honest. I guess because it’s a drive that very few other species in nature have, a drive that even human beings, who supposedly have defined it, find hard to understand and uphold. What is commitment’s power over us? Why do we continue to try when so many have failed? Why do we engage (such a fascinating word for this, I am “engaged” with you, by you, to you)? I think, after many years of fear and doubt, love and hurt, I might finally know the answer.

I believe we do it because the foundation of civilization relies on all of us working together to make a better world for each other, and if all of us are going to come together and act in each other’s best interest, as one, than we must start simple. We must start with just two of us coming together. We must each struggle to find the one who smiles, smells and thinks just right, and when we do, cling to them, merge our lives with theirs. It’s the first step towards becoming better people, and ultimately, a better society.

So here we have you two. Ashley and Rachel. Rachel has decided, three years to the month, that she is ready to dedicate herself to a lifetime of mutual discovery with Ashley. She’s ready to move away from the self and towards the other, because love is her fuel now. Is she afraid? She must be. Fear is part of it. Fear that we will loose ourselves in the coupling. Fear that we will subvert or submerge our wants and needs for the happiness of our mate. But Ashley is discovering that in real, true love we never lose ourselves. We do not submerge. Instead the object of our love holds us aloft. Instead we find ourselves in our other.

If you both choose to move forward with this strange and timeless pact, if you gather your friends and your family before you so that they can witness as you promise the whole of yourself to the other, not in the eyes of any God or government, but in the eyes of each other, if you invest in the idea of one another, then in that moment, all of us, together, the whole species, will move just a little closer to being one, through you (no pressure).

Now go and do what you’ve always done since that day in December when Ashley’s defenses finally and fully fell. Entertain each other. Support each other. Hold one another in the palm of your hands. Be brilliant in the light of each other. Promise to accomplish amazing things, both individually and together. Run the wheel of life. Race the circle. Take the ring. There is great strength in total intimate interrelation. In the circle everything is inside of everything else and all are equal. In the circle we raise our voices in praise of love. We celebrate like our lives depend upon it. In the circle we say “yes,” yes to life, yes to love, yes to the civilization outside our door and the wilderness inside our hearts.

All of us, together, as one, say yes.

– For Ashley and Rachel. In celebration.

Joshua Dysart. Venice Beach, Ca. 9/10/13

A few days ago I heard that the comic book had been received and read, and that not only did Ashley say yes to Rachel, but that Ashley herself had also bought a ring for Rachel and was waiting for the right moment to present it.

I know. Amazing.

Thank you, Rachel, for letting me be a part of all this. Casting silly stories out into the world and having them reel back in human beings like you and Ashley and Chris is unquestionably the best part of my job, and one of the best parts of my life. And congratulations to both the Schiffs and the Faulkners, two families now bound. Lastly, here’s to a life lived boldly, and for having the courage to love… and be loved in return.

Drawing by Dan Deibler & original photograph by Sarah Deragon of Portraits to the People.

Drawing by Dan Deibler & original photograph by Sarah Deragon.

Posted on by Joshua Dysart Posted in Journal, Writing

One Response to It Was My Honor

  1. Ivan Chan

    That was beautiful. I’m so glad you got to be a part of this!

    Keep casting, keep reeling in.

    I.

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