It was a hot day. I remember it was a hot day because I only had air conditioning in my bedroom, so when I would get up in the middle of the night to get to the bathroom, the soft but tight squeeze of Cancun's nocturnal heat and humidity wrapped around me. The sharp temperature change wasn't uncomfortable, but it always got my attention.
I was up because I couldn't sleep. It was around my fourth or fifth week in Mexico after I had left Belize, where I had lived for the last two and a half years. I had initially moved there with my partner, whom I had met in NYC, where it quickly got serious. We had been together for three years before we decided to move to another place and build a life together. At the time, it felt like it was the right decision.
What happened and led to us splitting up is a story for another time, but I couldn't sleep because I was still reeling from the end of the longest relationship I had ever had and was on my own again for the first time in five years. My anger, sadness, and deep hurt were all mixing to form this slurry of emotion that resulted in me crying and drinking most of the time to get some relief. The constant ache of missing someone I know isn't good for me turned me into a zombie; I shuffled around to ensure my basic needs were met, but I didn't do much else—the night of the Not Living.
My last place in Cancun was a bedroom that someone was renting out of their house. It was hot as hell, but it did have a nice balcony so I could get some air that broke up my routine of weeping, smoking, and drinking. It seems odd, but I will remember that room fondly because it was where I started putting myself back together. But the next place I got had to have air conditioning.
I had been regularly getting up in the middle of the night because I had difficulty finding balance with the sudden and unexpected changes. Back then, I used to smoke cigarettes, so I would go out on my balcony (yes, this place had a balcony, too. I like balconies) and burn through a few so I could get that sweet nicotine high which would slow me down enough to get some rest. I had a steady diet of that and alcohol that I switched back and forth between them to deal with heartbroken insomnia. Balance is important.
During the days, if I had chores to run, I would paint on a brave face armed with an arsenal of poorly pronounced Spanish words and phrases and go about my business. I'm pretty charming, so I would smile and try to speak the language, usually met with appreciation or laughter. To be honest, both were comforting.
Some days were better than others. There were days when I could dart in and out of the shop, drop some pesos, and be out, easy peasy. On other days, my stress and sadness would get so bad sometimes I broke out in a sweat to the point that the attendants would ask if I was ok. Here, I learned the effectiveness of slowing yourself down and focusing on the green floor, the blue door, the purple pack of... whatever. Going outside was not my favorite thing.
I wouldn't shower and stay online when I wasn't up for going outside. I didn't want to talk about anything specific, just anything to get my mind off of my current situation. I had a decent following on Twitter then, so I had no shortage of people that wanted to engage, for which I was thankful.
Twitter was also where I met Marcia, AKA ArtistMarciaX, and we connected as nerds do over our shared loved of quirky sci-fi shows, Firefly specifically. We would go on and on about details from the episodic that nobody else cared about. But we did. And a strange friendship was born.
As it turned out, she was one of the people I leaned on the most when my sorrow hit me the heaviest. She would let me babble and snot and cry about how devastated I was and gently sprinkle in some world of affirmation to get me to reflect on a particular point I had made. No, she didn't put me back together. That was my job. But she did give me someone to talk to, so I could start putting away the broken shards of my relationship and move on.
I'll never forget that.
So on that night, I was up again, and I didn't want to bother her because I had already been giving her so much of my sorrows. After all, even I knew she was too nice to say she needed a break. So I poured a glass of straight vodka, cracked open my laptop, and went back to Birdland to see what was happening. Anything was better than just dwelling and thinking about Sad Things.
Earlier that day, I had started a conversation about alternate forms of social media because I was/am a self-hosting person, and my distaste for Twitter was reaching the same crescendo as Facebook, which I had left entirely a few years before. The brilliant and talented Catts Small had responded to a tirade I made while I was drunk earlier in the day, which I wasn't sure was coherent as I read it back, but thankfully she is so much smarter than I am and figured it out.
And her message cut through the stupor of my messy and inebriated state.
"Hey, have you ever checked out this platform called Mastodon?"