Don’t Let the Hodor Hit You on the Way Out

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There is a Hodor-sized hole in my heart right now. I knew the medieval BFG was going to be absent from Game of Thrones this season, but now that we’re almost halfway through the emptiness is palpable. No lumbering innocence. No verbal nuance. No exquisite torture from simultaneously craving more “hodor” and dreading his last.

[For those unaware, the character Hodor is a large but gentle servant of the Stark family who speaks only one word: “hodor”. Imagine Lenny from Of Mice and Men hooked up with Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, had a three-parent IVF baby with The Hulk, wrapped it in wolf pelts and tossed it backwards a few centuries. He’s perfect.]

My own Hodor is also missing this season. He, too, was a large, joyous man with an unfortunate penchant for accidental damage and a real name other than Hodor. [Geek of Thrones: fictional Hodor’s given name is Walder.]

One Hodor can do plenty of damage, intended or not; two Hodors can really mess a girl up.

Human Hodor and I bonded over our mutual love for his namesake. When I described the character to a GoT newbie as “simple-minded” and he amended, “simple-worded, not really minded,” it was the first time I realized I completely loved how human Hodor’s brain worked.

Hodor became our talisman. One evening after a Thrones viewing he bid me farewell with a kiss and a “Hodor.” It was ho-dorable. Soon, it was our standard greeting. First thing in the morning: Hodor. After receiving a thoughtful gift: Hodor! In exchange for a lovely plate of eggs: Mmm….hodor.

Before long we had hodored our way into being completely hodor about each other. Then, after a deep and emotional talk one night, he left the room and hit me with a simple text: Hodor. “Hodor too,” I replied, and that was that. Like Westley and Buttercup, we had no need for “I love you.” As Hodor wish.

Scientifically, fictional Hodor is an extreme example of a person stricken with expressive aphasia – when the Broca region of the brain suffers trauma, leaving speech limited but comprehension intact. Giant Hodor was probably a giant baby, so perhaps his mother dropped him a time or two. My own Hodor did not have the excuse of a head injury; his affliction was more traditional: fear.

From early on, he was honest about his commitment skittishness. The word “relationship” frightened him, even though the trappings of one did not. In practice, he seemed pretty gung ho about the actions of a relationship, so I didn’t mind that he was more comfortable saying “Hodor” than “I love you”. The meaning was clear to both of us, so I didn’t worry. I probably should have worried.

In the end, my Hodor turned out to have more going on in his head than he was aware of (though in his case it wasn’t a warging Bran Stark). When we broke up, he refused to admit that his fear might be greater than he thought, insisting instead that he must just not love me. Oh, the Hodor!

Maybe it’s true – maybe he didn’t – but like his namesake, Hodor also doesn’t know what happened when he ceded control of his brain for a moment. He doesn’t know that on the last night we spent together (three days before he bolted), he actually told me “I love you.”

He doesn’t know this because it was one of the last things he said before falling asleep – right between “”I love my bed” and “I also miss the coffee” (he had been out of the country for a while). I’m not sure which made me happier – that he said “I love you” instead of “Hodor” or that he placed me ahead of coffee. Holy Hodor, Batman!

I have no idea what to do with this information now. It wasn’t worth making a big deal of at the time, and I did not know our next conversation would be a breakup. At that point, it seemed a little awkward to mention it.

But as Hodor knows, little words can pack a big punch. I have recovered from many romantic devolutions caused by many problems – not being right, not being ready, not being even remotely interested; I’ve never had to get over someone who loved me back but didn’t consciously know it.

Hodors leave big shoes to fill. What’s a girl to do? Oh right, stare at Peter Dinklage for a while. Mmm…hodor.

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Of Bikes and Men

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After accidentally destroying a mouse nest in 1785, the poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” In case we weren’t fully convinced of just how awry things can go, John Steinbeck hammered the point home 150 years later with the most beautiful exercise in soul-crushing devastation ever written. (It is brilliant and inspiring, but I will never bring myself to read Of Mice and Men a second time – much like Death of a Salesman, Native Son, and Al Gore’s speech conceding the 2000 Presidential election.)

On Sunday, the universe made sure I understood how agley things aft gang with a comedy of errors so stupid I actually stopped at one point to check for a live studio audience hiding in the bushes. They weren’t there, but the laugh track in my head was pretty loud. Since comedy equals tragedy plus the time it takes for the pain killers to kick in, I thought I’d share my story.

It started with a plan – a rare plan for me, to do Sunday right and thus do very little. The new eggplant in my life is a big Game of Thrones fan, and in anticipation of the season 4 premiere, we have been attempting to binge-watch seasons 2 and 3 (a re-watch for him, the first pass for me). This eggplant – let’s call him Hodor – has a sweet entertainment setup, so we do these GOT marathons at his place. So this Sunday, that was the plan: breakfast, GOT, lunch, maybe a hike, more GOT, dinner, then the season 4 premiere.

At 9-ish, my phone rings. I ignore it, because it is out of reach on a Sunday morning and I am not about to start my day. By 10-ish, I am emotionally prepared to face the world, and also ready to face some breakfast. What harm could there be in checking a voicemail from my dear friend Peter first? Turns out it wasn’t from my dear friend Peter – it was from his friend saying Peter had been in a biking accident, and could I please call back right away. Panic. Guilt. No more lazy Sunday.

Peter is going to be fine, it turns out, but he is in the hospital for tests and needs his insurance information sent over. Since I am also his neighbor and the keeper of the spare keys, I am the perfect person to solve this problem. Except I am not at home; I am across town. A logistical monkey wrench, but not insurmountable. It’s an hour round trip, tops.

In my head I am hearing my favorite Simpsons clip, from Treehouse of Horror III, where Homer is sold cursed frogurt. Peter was in an accident (ooh, that’s bad); he is going to be fine (that’s good!); but he needs you to get dressed and head across town (that’s bad); though it should only delay your plans by an hour (that’s good!). Hodor and I resolve to delay breakfast while I run home, and as I hug him for his understanding, that’s when my back muscles go into complete spasm. (Can I go now?)

Twenty minutes of deep breathing and tentative stretching later, I am able to get up off the floor, get into some real clothes, and make it to my car for the drive home. The entire left side of my back is still in knots, making left-hand turns really unpleasant; suddenly, everywhere I need to go is to the left. As I whine pathetically, “It hurts when I steer,” I hear my grandmother’s voice reply, “Then don’t do that.” If only.

While driving is painful, and getting in and out of the car even more so, I resolve to pull an L.A. Story and drive the three blocks from my house to Peter’s once I have retrieved the keys, because walking is the worst action of all. This, of course, is the moment my plans get run over by a bicycle for the second time that day.

Wilshire Blvd., the main drag that runs roughly a mile north of my house, turns out to be closed down for CicLAvia – the event four days a year when bikes take over the city. Closing Wilshire to cars is bad for traffic, but not being able to cross Wilshire for several miles in either direction is catastrophic. I’m all for green transportation and a healthier lifestyle, but at this point I am ready to tattoo “fuck bicycles” across my forehead.

Making one last eye-watering left turn, I ditch the car as close to Wilshire as I can and set out to cover the last mile to my house on foot. Thank goodness Hodor had convinced me not to run this “quick little errand” in my pajamas – it would have been less effective to curse the happy biking families if they were laughing at me.

Since my iPod is with all my hiking stuff back at Hodor’s, I entertain myself during the walk by singing “Hasa Diga Eebowai” from Book of Mormon. On repeat. By the time I hobble to my house, grab Peter’s keys and a sun hat (because the sunscreen is also back with my hiking stuff), and drag my hunchback-ass up the hill to his house, poor Peter has been waiting well over two hours for his insurance information. My not-so-intelligent phone manages to take a decent photo of his card after three tries, and the hospital finally has what it needs. Huzzah.

I still have to walk Peter’s dog, who, instead of pooping, seems determined to make me limbo under every low-hanging tree she can find, but eventually I get her back inside, where I “borrow” some of Peter’s ibuprofen as my reward. Sweet, sweet drugs. Back down the hill at my house, I scarf down a “breakfast” of toast, grab a heating pad and a screw-this-I-earned-it bottle of champagne, and carry them in a shopping bag hugged to my chest – the only position that doesn’t completely exacerbate my back. It is well after 1pm by now, so I start the long walk back to my car, shuffling along like a bag lady in the heat of the LA afternoon. Looks like I got some exercise in after all!

Even though the knot in my back got ambitious during the return drive and seized the muscles on the right side as well, the rest of the day went much better than the morning. Hodor declared it a day (well, a half-day) of pampering, and we did manage to finish Game of Thrones season 3 before the premiere. As a bonus, the haze of Advil and champagne made the red wedding far less upsetting than it could have been.

One last thing: a couple of episodes into our afternoon binge, Hodor’s overhead light fixture – completely unprompted by man or earthquake – fell from the ceiling, shattering glass all over his table and computer. Which just serves as more proof that you probably shouldn’t try to make plans with me in the near future. There is a good chance you will end up having to take me down to the river to tell me about the rabbits one last time…