Friday, January 1, 2016

A very self Sagax New Year.

I don’t have any kids of my own. Beyond a brief period in my twenties when I was sure I had found my other half, I don’t know that I’ve ever really wanted any. Perhaps I’ve fallen victim to the same syndrome that so many others of my generation have, that of this sort of perpetual youth, or some selfish belief that everything in life has to be all about me (I find this as cringe-worthy internally as much as the detractors of this behavior do, it must be noted. But I live with and by my choices.) However, this isn’t about that. Suffice it to say that I have yet to reach a point in my life where I felt self-sufficient enough to even consider bringing a life in that would be entirely dependent on me. But I digress.
About this time last year, I was feeling rather impulsive. I drove four hours (eight, round-trip) to see a podcast taping in Huntington, West Virginia. I made some plans to meet up with a few total strangers who were going to be there for the exact same reason, and I even went as far as meeting up at the location, a bar and grill, but I ended up sitting at the bar by myself. I saw them at a table across the room, but I couldn’t bring myself to join them. It seemed my uncharacteristic impulsiveness was still not enough to pierce my bubble of ridiculously stupid social anxiety. I texted some excuses to them, pretending I hadn’t been able to find the place. I went to the show, I laughed, I cried, I had a great time, and I left almost immediately afterwards, not even bothering to wait a few minutes to meet the hosts (of whom I’m a huge fan.)
While at this show, I purchased a tote bag, on which was emblazoned one of the shows catchphrases “PACK YOUR BAGS AND MOVE AWAY.” It was a jokey bit of repeated advice, used as a laugh from some very socially inept brothers as a catch-all for when one finds oneself in an awkward situation, usually involving an ex-girl/boyfriend. It was a matter of months before I did exactly what the bag said.
To shorten a long, long, set of stories [note- this still runs a bit long. Stick with it though, the author is building to a point which the next few paragraphs will help inform. – Ed.] I had stagnated. I loved my job, but to stay was to commit to something that, while I enjoyed and was good at, was inextricably tying me to a place that I was quickly growing complacent in. I loved (and still do) the family and friends I was surrounded by, but pieces of me were withering and atrophying as I watched them carry on with their lives, getting married, having children, starting careers, while my life remained unchanged. My love life was, quite simply put, non-extant. I was living my days as a crutch, physical or emotional, for damaged people. A great backboard for rebound feelings, because I was adept at running through the motions of empathy for a broken heart. I’d be lying if I said I was anything other than a magnet for lost souls, being a lost soul myself who still held some spark of hope that others mistook for warmth. My passion for writing, which in the previous years had seemed an unstoppable blaze, seemed to be dwindling to ashes after the death of my brother. The fire was still there, but it was becoming harder and harder to stoke with each passing day. I felt like a walking piece of unfinished business, a burden and a raincloud to everyone I passed by.
Now, a note here about depression: It isn’t ever really the same for any two people, nor do any two people deal with depression the same way. No, I was never clinically diagnosed with it. Paying out of picket without insurance to figure out the validity of my general shittiness and general malaise seems a little counter-intuitive. So absolutely I self-diagnosed what I believed to be my condition. The symptoms matched, to say the least. Over the course of months I probably spent four or five nights a week staying up until 5 in the morning drinking cheap shit rotgut whiskey googling signs of depression, all the while ignoring the irony. I spent even more time trying to find free counseling resources, which in what amounts to rural North Carolina, consist of religious counseling or crystal therapy. There was a business card in my wallet that I had gotten from my mother, from her work, after my brother died, that covered anyone in the family for a few free sessions in the case of just such a life event. By the time I threw it away, the corners were gone and the edges were frayed so much they felt like cotton. I never called them.
I’m a strong believer in therapy. I just don’t know if it would work very well for me. I love talking to strangers about my woes and vulnerabilities, unburdening myself onto people that have no idea who I am for as long as they’re willing to listen. The problem is that once I’ve unleaded my problems onto people, I lose any desire to associate with them after the fact. Once they’ve peeked into my underbelly I’d rather they not see my face ever again. It’s totally fair to say that I’m using people in this regard, and that I’ve been extremely unkind to a great number of people because of this. It’s true. And I’ve never even known how to say sorry, how to explain that it was never my intent to earn their sympathy and abandon them when they needed mine. I am sorry. It doesn’t make things right, but I am.
But I’ve beleaguered a few short points and need to regain my thread. I move. I escaped a place I thought would be my grave, both physically and mentally. I moved away, and while I gained nearly nothing in the way of self-sufficiency in the act, I did gain something that I never realized I’d been living without for most of my adult life: autonomy.
When I moved to New York City, I had the first real shock to my senses. Everyone I knew was happy for me. Where I secretly feared it was a massive failure in judgment, my brother Scott became the first of many to echo the sentiment (while in the back of an Uber, drunk and crying) that “it just makes sense.” The people in my life who I only knew a little seemed confused, and often appalled by the idea I would leave the quiet country life for what is quintessentially ‘the city.’ But those whose opinions really mattered to me, without exception, not only enthusiastically supported my choice, but held no doubt that it was the right one for me. It was a feeling unparalleled in my life, to have the unequivocal support of the people I cared about, especially for an idea I had considered to be insanely impulsive and spur of the moment.

I walked downstairs a while ago, headphones in my ears blasting Amanda Palmer’s “Smile (pictures or it didn’t happen)” and watched the New Year’s countdown tick over to 2016. A random guy up the block yelled at the top of his lungs “HAPPY NEW YEAR’S YOU PUSSIES” to nobody in particular. Up and down the street, open windows blared noisemakers and cheers. A lone firework went off about 10 blocks up, loud enough to be a gunshot. Halfway down the island, the event that millions of people every year tune their TV to was happening. I was sipping whiskey out of a mason jar and wearing flip-flops, alone in a city of millions. When I came back upstairs to my apartment, I ordered some cardboard cat scratch refills, a pair of gloves, and pajama pants on amazon, poured myself another drink, and kept writing.

So here we come to the part I’ve been meaning to get to. I haven’t changed at all since I moved here. I’m still the same person I was a year ago. I’m still struggling with my depression, with anxiety, both social and internal. I still have an unhealthy attachment to my cat. This city gives you a choice at any given time. You are welcome to be alone in a crowd, or live your life well out loud in front of everyone. Funny enough, it’s actually pretty easy to do both simultaneously, as most everyone wants to get about their day and want to have as little to do with you as possible unless you’re engaging them directly. It’s beautiful and it’s lonely and magical and a little bit sad but also hopeful. For every person who will tell you New York is a city that is rude and smelly and awful, I can tell you that for every drunk asshole or insane person on the subway, I’ve met dozens of people who are more than willing to greet you with a smile and a hello, not afraid to talk to you on the street (if you aren’t asking for money,) socialize, give you directions or recommendations, or just be friendly. It’s just like any small town I’ve lived in, it just happens to be a few thousand of them crammed all together. The traffic sucks though, if you drive.
I moved here to live with my cousin and help her out with her kids, and this is the crux of this whole thing. I’m living in the place I’ve dreamed of for years, experiencing a whole new world, and at the same time I’ve become a caretaker for children, which, on my list of priorities, has always kind of been dead last. I am not a parent, but in so many ways I’ve come to understand the job. I’ve seen the joys and sorrows, and the growing that children will foist upon you; the loss of solitude and of greed that comes along with having to ensure that others needs come before your own. It’s disturbing at first how much you influence children just by the very nature of being around them. Only at first though, because then you realize that it’s not only a duty, but a pleasure to curate the lives growing formatively around you. To make sure you’re exposing them to the best of culture, to find the things they enjoy and flesh those joys out, whether it be going to see a movie or just playing a videogame with them and showing them new things they hadn’t seen before. Or, most importantly, letting them take the lead and show you new things.
I haven’t changed at all since I’ve moved here, but oh my how I’ve grown. Even just as a byproduct of having a snapshot of the last year of these kids’ lives. Seeing how much they have grown and changed in so short a time, and every day with them has done nothing but reaffirmed my belief that this was the right choice for me, underlining what everyone was telling me from the moment I floated the idea of moving here to begin with. It’s absolutely nothing like what I thought it would be, and that’s been the most incredible part.
I don’t have any kids of my own. I don’t know that I’ll ever really want them. But I will live the rest of my life knowing that to these kids I’ve made an impact. I’ve become an inextricable part of their lives, and a strong influence. I have the benefit of being both a friend and an authority (barely, it’s hard at times to get them to grant the latter) rather than a parent. I wouldn’t call myself a role model, as at times I have to cite myself as the ‘bad example’ for life choices. Also sometimes I say a lot of swear words or tell dirty jokes and they’ll start parroting me, more to my embarrassment than their own. I can be as bad an influence as I am a good one. So whether or not I ever wanted kids, I kinda have several. And as insanely much as they have grown, I can’t help but feel like they’ve made me grow even more. I think this whole moving to New York idea was a good one after all, and I’m certain there’s going to be a lot more wonderful to come in the new year. So happy New Year’s to you all. You pussies.

Friday, September 14, 2012


I know it's not the norm, but this week you get poetry. I like it, I don't care what you think!

____ in the Dark

There was running. I wasn't sure if it was towards
or away
but there was running.

The rain was soft, sweetly rolling
from her brow
to her eyes
twining through the mascara
and tears
down her nose
and onto her lips.
The lips, quivering with the hastened breath
and out
gasping a mixture of fear and relief
that she had found me
but in reality I had found her.

It wasn't supposed to end this way.
I knew I would love her, 
but she was never supposed to love me back.

There was a knife. I wasn't sure
where it had come from
but I knew exactly where 
it ended up.

The red of her dress
already darkened 
by the
became a shade of crimson deeper than before.
The worst part
the part that 
tore a h le in me.
Was the look in her eye
and she understood
and she loved me anyways. 

There was running. 
Away. Always, always away.

Friday, September 7, 2012


          The story: I told her I would cook dinner. We hadn't had any more than a passing hello for months, and we haphazardly managed to get to the same bar on the same night to see the same guy play his guitar. It was nice to do that, but the fact that the rest of my night was littered with a half-dozen other random appearances by friends I hadn't seen in a while coupled with loud music and random meetings from the other patrons left us little room for any real conversation. So we, like the techno-savvy folks we are, made a note in our Google calendars for a nice private, more intimate reconciliation. I say intimate in that it would be the two of us, not in the way that carries a connotation of romantic involvement. For the record.
          So the stage was set, and I brought my 'fixins' for roasting, sauteing, and ultimately consuming. Perhaps it was a bit na├»ve of me to think this would be simply a friendly dinner and chat session. In all honesty, I don't think I ever made that assumption, but it may have still been somewhere in the back of my head. To turn a long into a short, the Engineer is a woman who has always challenged me. Not in a confrontational manner, in fact, quite the opposite. I can't really explain why she and I have always had such an easy and open rapport, but that's the fact of the matter.
          She warned me that after the prep and pleasantries were over with, she would become more direct, and potentially ask some pushy questions. Of course, I acquiesced. So while the oven performed its transformation of raw ingredients into cooked ones, we sat and had an impromptu interview (on the record, literally) about the blog, my writing, and why I have left it in the dust for the time being. In the end, my answer kept landing on one thing: laziness. It was honest.
          If you want full disclosure, I've had a lot to write about lately, just not the drive to get it done. I don't know how much of it will end up here, and how much of it will stay in the ether, baking into a golden crust or (more likely) a burnt carbon of an idea, something which I have over-thought and decided to let decay.
          And, in perhaps not the same words, she later asked me how hard could it be for me to spit out a few hundred words on a weekly basis and get them online. Her points being mainly that I myself have stated many times that this blog was more for stretching my writer muscles than it was for showcasing actual work, and that I never seemed to lack for ideas and opinions about things. Now whenever I get a person asking me the “how hard could it be” line of questioning, I usually have a knee-jerk reaction of asking them what exactly they are writing at the moment; in this case I knew that such a question would serve to make me look like an idiot. See, the Engineer writes and maintains SEVERAL blogs, a couple websites, a batch of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that see regular updating, and she churns out a fairly sizable amount of content every week, if not every day. If I was looking for a way out, I could have potentially argued that for her content was her job, and her dream, and she didn't have a day-job to contend with her time, and blah blah blah excuse excuse. Which is complete horseshit. The fact that she has a child is more than enough to kill my argument of other obligations. Also the fact that my day-job doesn't really take up more than 20-30 hours a week of my time. And that I had already admitted to spending most of my time sitting in front of my computer with my fat cat napping in my lap looking at memes for hours at a time. Or watching entire series of shows on Netflix. Or just reading books.
          So yeah, I was in a corner, but she tossed me a line. Rather, she gave me a homework assignment. I was to have it completed within two weeks. I mentioned my hat, in passing. One I had lost a few years back. She looked at me, and said, “There you go. Write about your hat. Write a post about your hat, and have it done by next Thursday.” I laughed it off, but later that night, after I was in bed and with a few drinks in me, I thought about it. All the next day, I kept thinking. Then I started writing.

The Hat Is Not A Metaphor

          I found it at Target. My girlfriend at the time would frequently drag me out there and, as is the duty of all boyfriends, I obliged with some small amount of groaning and sighing. While she was in the dressing room, I liked to dig around the Men's department, or (if she was taking too long) find my way to the video games to see what was on sale. This day, I found myself at a shelf of hats, popping them on to see how silly each one made me look.
          I've never been one for a hat. I could occasionally pull off a baseball cap, but like any accessory, I was always more prone to forget to even put it on in the first place. That along with the fact that baseball caps always seem to have a need to promote something, be it a team, or a soda, or a business, and there are very few things in my life I have had so fervent a liking for that I felt the need to advertise them on clothing.
          My hand landed eventually on what would soon be my constant companion: a black, cloth, pin-striped fedora. One could say, with some accuracy, that it was more likely a trilby hat as it was shorter in brim and in crown than most fedora hats. I did a double, maybe even a triple-take when I tried this one on. Hats like that always look ridiculous on me, but for some reason this one stuck out. It fit. It was, in the immortal words of Goldilocks, just right. My girlfriend's face appeared in the mirror behind me.
          “I like it.” I told her.
          “Then buy it.” She replied with a smile. I was hoping she would tell me it looked silly so as to remove the consideration completely from my head. I should have known better, but maybe I hadn't quite figured out that when it came to shopping, she was completely an enabler. Still, I didn't immediately decide it was mine. Instead, I wore it around the store, on the constant back and forth trips from the dressing room to the Women's department. I think at one point, I even put it back. But, as I'm sure the more astute of you have surmised by now, it was on my head when I left the store. I paid for it, of course.
          It wasn't, for me, Just A Hat. I wanted it to be part of what identified me physically. I made a conscious and concerted effort to make sure I was wearing it as often as I could. Part of this was because it was so unexpected, for me, to find a hat that actually fit me and complemented me, and the other part was just a little idea that I would like being The Guy With The Hat. It didn't take long for that identity to stick, as I began to notice on the rare occasions that I forgot to wear it, people would ask about it.
          I loved that hat. It went everywhere with me. Nine states, two beaches, two graduations, a vow renewal, several family vacations. It stopped being an accessory, and just started being My Hat. It was rough and tumble, never lost its shape, and no matter how many times I misplaced it, I could always trust that it would find its way home. I was going to post pictures of the various things I was doing while wearing this hat, but I hesitate because I don't have very many of them, and the ones I do have are filled with other people whose permissions I don't have to put them on the internet.
          Tragedy struck, as it always does and is wont to do. I left my hat on the chair next to me while I was out to dinner with my family. I didn't quite realize it until the next day, and when I went to retrieve it, it was nowhere to be found. I was distraught. It's fair to say that I kept it to myself, I tend to do that when I'm hurting.
           But before long, shit went south in my life. I had a lot more to think about than the hat, and soon it was a memory. When the storm settled, I started buying more. Target no longer had the one I had bought, and I went around to every single one withing 50 miles to make sure. I began ordering them online. Too small, too big, too stiff. Goldilocks all over again, but without the just right. I think all told, I bought seven hats, landing on a straw hat that fit well enough, and even fixing a nice flower to it to class it up a bit.

          Eventually, that hat faded by the wayside, to the point that I can't even honestly answer to where it is now. Even when I was wearing it, I knew it wasn't a permanent solution. I never became attached. It was fun, and filled the void that the previous hat had occupied, but in the end... it just didn't fit. So I laid it down, or forgot it, or left it, and put it out of my mind. I decided I was OK without a hat. So for about  year or two, I decided that I didn't need a hat. I am who I am, with or without my coiffure.
          Enter: this introspective. I don't know why my conversation with The Engineer brought up memories of the hat, but here we are. I do miss my hat. It was a part of me, for a while, but it isn't anymore. I couldn't have that hat again, no matter how much I dig for it. Maybe it's just time to move on. I've been trying so long to find a hat to replace the one I lost, maybe it's just time to find a new hat, a hat that just is hat it is. The hat, by the way, is (not) a metaphor.

Friday, August 31, 2012


          I didn't even realize that I was crying until I felt gravity pull the droplet from my cheek. Sure, there was an emotional tinge to the moment, but it was entirely impersonal. To be clear, I was only watching a movie. This is not to say that I don't cry at movies. I've done so for several dozen of them. To this day, I cry like a baby at the end of Milo and Otis, and I've seen it at least a hundred times. What made it different this time was that I simply had no clue it was happening. It was as if my body had betrayed me. 
          I have a strange relationship with my tears. There have been moments, heart-crushing, soul-rending moments in my life, moments where I knew I should let the floodgates open, and couldn't squeeze out a drop. It's not some macho manly never-cry-because-it-shows-weakness societal pressure, I couldn't give half of a shit about that idea. But movies, stories, or just thinking about something really touching, or sad, as long as it has nothing to do with me, and the waterworks will flow unhindered. 
          So why is it that I can't seem to express this when it comes to my own life? It seems the only time I can cry for myself is out of frustration, when I've run out of options completely. 
          I walked out of the theater in silence, got into my car, and began driving home. The night was unusually quiet for a Saturday, but not in a bad way. I contemplated doing the entire fifteen minute drive in silence, but finally caved and put on Pandora, which of course quickly filled itself with sappy-sad bitterly emotional songs that tend to be a majority of my favorite station. Even then, I can't help but think. This singular moment wherein I had no idea that I had tears running down my face had spooked me. 
          I began to over-analyze it, as per my usual habit. I wonder, for the first time, if I just don't know the language of my own emotions. There's another me inside, the one who feels things, and he just doesn't sprechen in a way that the me who is making decisions and having life happen to him can begreifen. Maybe that's the crux. Maybe the reason that it's so easy for external influences to bring me to tears, because they are able to just communicate to both individually, instead of trying to get a conversation started between the two of us. 
          I feel like some angst-ridden adolescent, trying to claim my discovery of what real sadness means. As if I'm the first person who can truly scream out “nobody understands me!” but instead of this being a fight with a friend or a parent, these two voices are in my head, casting aspersions at one another. 
          The timing of this whole debacle could be better. I recently have made the decision to get back on course with improving my life. Lose weight, drink less, try to actually and finally quit smoking. Maybe find a second job, something with decent insurance so I can get my eyes checked and start working on getting my teeth fixed. All of these sorts of self-bettering habits should generally inspire, or at least be inspired by, some semblance of a healthy relationship of and with the self. Now I'm beginning to see how terrible I've let that particular relationship backslide.
          And I did it in the easiest way possible. I convinced myself I was just succumbing to an inherent introversion, or perhaps a self-righteous shyness brought on by hurt. I could sit next to a person, with a hundred feelings I needed to tell them about, but I couldn't, literally, could not put them into words. I don't know where or when I got so disconnected from this level of emotional communication.
          It's not an excuse. I'm not saying it's a sickness. I'm not shifting the blame, because it's still my problem. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. Better yet, the first step to solving a problem is figuring out what the fuck exactly the problem is. I thought it was fear, that I was shy, or playing things close to the chest. Yes, that's a bit of it, but when I bring this up to people, people who really know me, bashful and diffident are usually the last words they would use to describe me. I do have a bit of anxiety when it comes to meeting new people, but it passes almost instantaneously. I'm not the most tactful in social situations with strangers, but I'm usually unscathed by being misunderstood. 
          I just don't know how to say what I feel, what I really mean. And that's it. I've become so disconnected from the part of me that feels that I just don't know what it's saying anymore. But now that the elephant has been introduced, the only thing I can do from here is find the peanut trail that will lead it out. Throw one more log on the pile of self-improvement, I guess. 

Friday, May 25, 2012


          So, admittedly, I put myself in a situation where I was counting several unhatched chickens, thereby immediately missing two weeks of deadlines. My bad. I have been working on a lot of projects though, and I promise you'll all see some of the fruits of those labors at future junctures.

          One of my biggest setbacks has been this story, the one you are about to read. I have been trying for at least six months to re-write this story. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I finally put myself to the task, not quite realizing how herculean it would become. It seems simple, rewriting a 2000 word story, and certainly something that could be done in a matter of days, if not hours. Again, I've been working on it for SIX MONTHS. And you know what? Every time I try, I make it worse. 

          When I re-read it for the first time in years, it seemed so juvenile, so out-of-touch, and just not quite right. And after spending way more hours re-writing it than I ever spent thinking about it in the first place, I came to this conclusion: It may not be quite right, but it's as close as I'm ever going to be able to get with this one. 

          So instead of letting you all drag on for months more waiting on a fruitless endeavor, I bring you the original, only slightly edited story. 

Bring Me Home


          Celeste stepped out of the shower, and dried herself off. Somberly, she wrapped her hair and lay down on her bed. Their bed, she thought. No- he was gone now. Why had it happened this way? She turned her head and looked at the clock. 8:30. She put on her bathrobe and blow-dried her hair.
          She paused as she was pulling her dress out of the closet. She put it back. Scooping the phone out of the cradle, Celeste sighed, and dialed the number.
          “Hello?” the voice answered.
          “Hey Paul.”
          “Celeste? Hey what’s up?”
          “Listen Paul, I… um…” Did she? Yes. “I have to cancel for tonight.”
          “What?! The dinner is in a half-hour, what am I going to tell everyone?”
          “I don’t care. Tell them I got suddenly ill or something. I dunno. I don’t give a shit. ”
          There was a pause. Then, “What the hell is up with you? Is this about Seth? Did he call? Listen, if I see him I’ll-” 
          “Shut up Paul. Just shut up.”
          “I’ll go kick his ass right-”
          “Paul, shut the fuck up!” she stopped, took a breath. “No, he didn’t call. And this is not about him. I just decided that if I have to sit through one more night of you and your prissy college friends babbling back and forth to one another about inane shit while I sit there on your arm looking pretty, I would have to put a bullet in my head.”
          “What the fuck is your problem?”
          “Fuck you Paul.” She hung up the phone and sighed. It rang. “Hello?”
          “Celeste, I’m coming over.”
          “Paul? No, don’t come over, I’m going to bed.” She lied.
          “No, we have to talk. If I can get a cab fast I’ll be there in fifteen.” He was worried and angry. What an ass, Celeste thought.
          “Paul, we don’t have anything to talk about. I’m fine.” Then, on second thought, “In fact, I think we’re done talking altogether. Don’t call me anymore.”
          “Celeste, I’m coming over now.”
          “Do it and I’ll call the cops on you. You’re self-absorbed, empty-headed, and I hope I’m the first to say it, but you’re bad in bed. Very bad. We’re through talking, now and forever. Bye.”
          What was she doing? Paul wasn’t that bad of a guy. But he was no Seth. No- Seth had hurt her, and Paul would never do that. It would be bad for his reputation. That’s why she did it… all she was to Paul was a reflection of status. What an ass. The phone rang again.
          “Goddamn it Paul-”


          No, this couldn’t be right… she hadn’t even heard from him in… what? Two months? Three? After they broke up, they had still talked. She had been lonely one night, had invited him over, and they had… but nothing since then. Seth had understood that she still didn’t want him. He always understood those moods. She had been dating Paul for about a week at that point, and when she told Paul what happened… well, it hadn’t been pretty.
          Since then, as far as Paul was concerned, Celeste could do no wrong. Any bad mood, and temper, anything Paul could find wrong was blamed on Seth. She had loved Seth, but he had hurt her, and it was over. Since that one night she hadn’t so much as said a word to him. Not because of Paul, but because she believed it was the only way she could have any sort of closure.
          She started to shake a bit, and gawked at the receiver… some closure.


          “Hey, sorry to call so late.” She looked at the clock. It was 9:10. Seth always got so nervous calling after 9:00. Just one of his thousands of idiosyncrasies. “But I…” His voice trailed off.
          “Are you OK? Are you hurt?” her voice came out in real concern- something she hadn’t intended.
          “No… I mean- no.” There was silence for a few moments. What could he seriously be calling for? He seemed troubled… but… “Can I stay with you tonight?”
          “I mean, I don’t have anywhere else to go… I can stay on the couch like last time- erm, sorry, I just…” He was fumbling his words. He only stuttered like this when he was scared- or nervous. “I wouldn’t be asking you unless I had nowhere else to go… shit, I didn’t mean it like that, I just-”
          “Seth, stop.”
          “Sorry, I just-”
          “Come over.” She hung up the phone. She knew that the longer he stammered on, the more pitiful he would be. He was so adorable when he was pitiful, and she hated it. She slipped on some clothes- underwear, a tank-top and sweatpants, then grabbed a pillow and some blankets and went downstairs to the cramped living room. Fifteen minutes later, she heard the familiar ‘tat-tatta-tat-tat’ at the door.
          Oh god, she thought to herself when she opened the door. He looked just as pitiful as he had sounded. His chin length hair was soaked through, his coat dark with moisture, as were his faded, ripped jeans. Even though he stood a head taller than her, he couldn’t have looked any smaller. Like a wet cat, she thought. “Come in, give me your jacket. Did you walk here or something?”
          “Well you know me…” he muttered with a stupid, shy smile, “always gotta make things difficult.” He reached inside his jacket and proffered a bottle of wine. “It’s a goodwill gesture. It’s all I could grab from my apartment.”
          She took the wine and hung up his coat. As she walked towards the kitchen, she said “So what’s up? What’s the emergency?”
          “Well,” he paused, “about two months ago, I got fired, and I’ve been looking around for a job. In the meantime, a guy’s gotta eat, so I had to sell some things off for food. Then, of course, before long rent was due… and before I knew it, the apartment ended up being a mattress, a radio and the fridge. I came home today from a job interview to find a notice on the door, evicted as of tomorrow. So I grabbed the wine and split.”
          Celeste came back in carrying two mugs the now-open bottle of wine. “My god… what are you going to do?” she set the cups down, already filled. 
          "I haven’t quite gotten that far yet. I mean things are just so fucked up right now. And…” he sighed, then gulped the wine, and added softly “And I’m lonely.” He looked into her eyes, but quickly looked away, and downed his glass of wine. “Sorry, I’m not being fair.”
          Celeste sat in silence. She looked down into her own glass, realizing she had already emptied it. “You’re goddamn right you’re not.” She said weakly. They both finished a second, then third glass without speaking. 
          “So how’s work?” Seth asked. He filled up his glass again. He was always really bad at changing the subject.
          “Same shit,” she mumbled unenthusiastically “different day.” She could feel the wine starting to hit her. So she finished off her fourth glass and said “look, I’ve had a pretty long day, and as I could imagine you have too. I’m going to go to bed. There’s a blanket and pillow for you.” She hugged him, and started up the stairs. Stopping halfway up, she turned. “If you’re up before I am, make some coffee.”
          “Got it.”
          “And Seth?”
          “Sleep well.”


          She went into her room, and stripped off her sweatpants and tank-top. She lay on top of the covers, feeling too warm to get underneath. She had been drinking too fast, she scolded herself, especially since they had been drinking out of big mugs.
          Before long, she realized she was well and truly drunk. She stared at the ceiling, and thought.


          Seth lay silently on the couch, for the moment unable to sleep. He shouldn’t have pushed her, he thought, he wanted to take it back. The wine hit his bladder, and he got up and went to the bathroom. He lingered a moment after washing his face and hands, picking up and smelling various lotions and perfumes. They were all so familiar. They smelled like home.
          He walked back into the living room, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. As he got closer to the couch, he thought he saw… no. But there she was, standing at the top of the stairs. As his eyes grew accustomed to the moonlight, he picked out every detail. Her long blonde hair tumbled over her shoulders, covering her bare breasts and most of her torso. She was wearing a pair of light purple panties he seemed to recall buying for her. He caught the gleam against her pale green eyes. 
          As she reached the bottom of the stairs, he tried to use some reason. “Celeste, we shouldn’t. You’ve been drinking. We’ve both been drinking, this won’t get us anywhere. That, and Paul will never-” She put her finger to his lips.
          “There is no Paul anymore.” She brought her arms around his waist. “And believe me, I want this.” She leaned up and kissed him, drawing him in. They fell against the couch, absorbed in each other. Time lurched on, passions raging between the two- the passion of those who have loved and lost, the passion poets dream about, singers sing about, and every soul burns for. The heat of their bodies against one another, sweat singing the praises of the night. As time ticked on, they existed only for one another. They made love, and love made them whole.


          Nothing stirred. She lay against his chest listening to his heartbeat. “Make a wish.” He whispered.
          “It’s 11:11. Make a wish.” He said. She giggled. “So what now?”
          “Don’t tell me you want to do it again.”
          This time he giggled. Then his voice took on a bit of seriousness. “No, I mean… Where do we go from here?”
          She thought for a moment, and a frown crept across her face. “Nobody could ever hurt me the way you did.”
          “I know, and I could never begin to tell you how I ache every day because of it. And how sor-”
          “No, I didn’t mean it like that. I’ve never loved anybody more. When I say nobody could, I mean it literally. I’ve never loved anybody enough to let them become that close to me, to be capable of it.” With tears holding off in the corner of her eyes, she smiled a strange smile at him.
          “A strong compliment.”
          "And I mean it.” She stayed quiet after that.
          “I’ve missed you. Every day. I still have your picture by my bed. I pawned off the frame, but I still have the picture.” She didn’t respond for a few minutes. He thought she had gone to sleep.
          “Are you going to get a job?”
          “They told me at the interview that I start Monday.” Sweat still hung in the air, the smell of sex still lingering on their bodies.  Celeste put her hand on his cheek, and softly pulled his face down so he was looking in her eyes.
          “Stay with me.” She said. “Forever.”
          “You sure? There’s not a lot of room here.” He replied with a smirk.
          "Who needs it?” she kissed him. “We only need a little bit of room to love.” They both laughed at how cheesy she sounded. They made love again, but this time, slow and gentle. And most of all, familiar.

          The next morning, the sun rose, and Seth made the coffee.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pieces of Me

          I've been away a while. I had my reasons. The biggest one, well... the biggest one I used as an excuse, is that I wanted to devote a little more time to putting some writing on paper, spend a little more time with the quality, instead of worrying about keeping up the weekly post. It was exhausting me, and I was draining the well a bit too quickly. Well, I'm back. I have at least a good five or six weeks worth of posts to keep us ALL going. I just have to er... type them up.
          This post is something that I started working on several weeks ago. That week I had the habit of getting in my car and unintentionally passing my destination, heading instead to some unknown place. I met a girl named Ashley, and I remember her name now only because her skin was so pale white it was almost ashen in color, and I was quick to jot 'Ashley=ashen' in my notebook. She and her fiance had just returned from a several-month-long stint in Italy with blah blah I stopped paying attention at that point. They were good people. Just not interesting. Not to me at least. I had other thoughts on my mind.

          It's funny what a little accidental poking around will net you. I watched as some girl squinted and screwed up her face, and my heart skipped a beat. More on that another time. Maybe. I have too may pipe dreams. Below this point is the actual content of the post... I just thought I would add in a few random bits and pieces of trivia for the time being. Take them for what they are.

          It was a strange moment, one that would not, perhaps even so recently as a few years ago, seemed remotely off. In the moment, I was ostensibly headed for a very specific destination. I watched as I drove towards it, and then watched still as it receded in my rear-view mirror. I had a brief moment where I felt bad... like I should have turned around, explained myself. I knew I would hardly be missed.

          If I could count the number of times I’ve sat back to contemplate the little things, there's no telling how... but, I'm getting ahead of myself. Or behind. I'm not sure yet. The other day, I sat in the sunshine and read an entire book in the afternoon. Then again, I've done that with nearly every Kurt Vonnegut book I've ever read. It's one of many reasons I'm so hesitant to read his books. The mood and story are always so brilliant, and so easy to devour, that I fear if I left the desire unchecked, I would have run out of books to read a decade ago. Not the point, though. Then again, I'm not entirely sure what the point is yet.

          It is, however, all about the little things. They matter, more than you might think, or know. They matter in strange ways, especially if you're inclined to a holistic viewpoint. Which, if I were to endorse any system of belief, it would be Holism. Especially considering the fact that I don't think anybody actually practices Holism in its truest, pure form. It has its own bit of irony in that way.

          By way of explanation:

          Holism is probably best explained as a bastard twin of Chaos Theory. The basic outline of Chaos Theory is best summed up as a small, singular quantum event that is able to reshape an entire system. Outside of a mathematical system, it is more frequently thought of as the “Butterfly Effect,” with the whole 'a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, and causes a hurricane to hit North America' example. Writers frequently use it in science fiction, and more specifically time travel, to show how even the smallest event can force cataclysmic changes throughout a delicately balanced system.
          Holism though, traces these quantum events back to other events of the same magnitude. A butterfly flaps its wings in China, and causes you to stub your toe on the stairs while getting ready to go out to dinner. It's an interconnectedness of any and everything. Explanation of any event can be found through every event. Your flight to Toledo was late because someone forgot to call their mother on her birthday last year. My left shoe came untied, and Sprint changed the way they bill long distance on landlines.

          It seems silly, even ridiculous, but the more I think about it, the more sense it tends to make.

          During my hiatus, I've managed to have some singularly strange and admittedly dark moments, have made some terrible decisions, and made some not so terrible ones. I've had moments of completely impotent confidence, and equal moments where I was terrified of saying or doing what it was I wanted most, out of complete and abject terror. I can offer no real explanation for my behavior. This doesn't bother me as much as it used to, or even as much as it probably should. It's unfortunate, but that's as far as I let it in.
          We look at people in many different ways, and ourselves in even more. There's so many adages about how to look at people. Judge a man not by his words, but by his actions. Judge a man not by what he has done, but by what he is doing. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. People can change. People never change. Once a cheat, always a cheat. He turned over a new leaf. He gave his life to God. He had an epiphany. Once he discovered (x), his life changed.

          (to be fair to her, I went through the same thing... though not to the same degree...)

          Many people hit a point in their lives where they feel like they need to define who they are. It's usually shortly after we're done with puberty, taking our first steps into adulthood, our knees wobbling and knocking like a newborn fawn. This phase for me included a lot of illicit behavior, a six month stint in another city, and (perhaps most sensibly) cutting a lot of ties and relationships. It was something that, looking back now, started a long time before I realized. I went to a lot of places, met, and subsequently pissed off a hell of a lot of people. At the end of it all, I felt no better or more informed about my identity, or what I was supposed to be or do.
          I can't honestly speak to anyone's experience but my own in this regard, but I have had conversations with others who have gone through the same, or watched it unfold with my own eyes, and almost always the same conclusion is reached. To attempt to define yourself, or to discover who you are, is futile. I can't sit down and parse out the bits and pieces and make a picture, because the fact of the matter is this: who we are is always in flux. Sometimes we are more benevolent, if only because the sun was bright that morning. Our moods, our actions, are rooted only on how our situations impact our core.
          We can change our reactions, we can change our behavior, and these things may have an impact on our core beliefs and instincts, but only slowly. Who we are is a matter of a time of day, it's the wind, it's what we ate for breakfast. It's our job, our kids, our lovers and friends, our enemies and adversaries. We're nothing better or worse than the little things we've seen and done. All the bits and pieces, every single one.

          It's all about the little things, it always will be. Each piece is just as important as all the others. I seem, to a lot of people, to under-react in situations that should, for most, be overwhelming and emotional. There could be a case for truth in that, but I make a different case. I try to focus on each and every moment equally. A side of this tends to come off as removed on my part... and that's fair. I do tend to be a bit standoffish, opting usually to be the constant audience. This has cost me a lot, and though sometimes I know exactly how much, I'm often reminded by others of the consequences of which I wouldn't have ever known.
          I've been falling again to that tempting space, falling in love with the idea of self-discovery, of disconnect with the outside to explore the inside a little better. But I know, I've learned, that this is futile, and so I sit in limbo. I internalize, disconnecting, but ever-watching. I watch, I notice all the little pieces. Not all of them, not really, but as many as I can fit into my view. I draw the lines, I make the connections.
          I watch, and I wait.
          I wait for the right person to stub their toe.
          I wait for the wrong airplane to get delayed
          I wait for the right piece to fall into place.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mono Logue

          I'm really afraid of my internal monologue. Maybe afraid isn't the word. It's out of my control. At best I can suggest topics for it to stay away from... and hope that it listens. I got lost the other day, and it was beautiful outside. I felt great. The wind was whipping through my car, girls in sundresses littered the streets, the radio was playing exactly the right notes and words. The storm came, the monologue shifted, actors taking their place on the stage and setting the tragedy on its course. There was nothing I could do, except for let the torrent of Her memory wash over every street, remembering all the worst parts. Despite my efforts to focus, to lean on the good and the happy, it's always the tragedy that we remember. Nobody recalls the great deeds of Agamemnon, or Oedipus, only their downfalls. It's human nature. It was the night before that I had the dream again. It's one of those dreams you don't realize you've had before until right in the middle of it. In that dream, there was a girl, and she was amazing. The perfect mixture of coy, lascivious, humble, decent, ambitious; her hair was long and dark, her skin a gentle olive tone. We flew together. Not at first of course. Before we could fly there were prerequisites of meeting, embracing, discovering. Not a physical thing, at least not entirely, but a moment of overwhelming “I can't believe you feel the same way I do” from both parties. The dream went magical places, not just because of her. There were so many other things. I woke up, out of breath and exasperated. I felt the strongest desire to grab pen and paper and write everything down, it was so revelatory. In my fatigued state, I made the mistake of believing I would remember it in the morning, and alas, no remembrance came. Her name was Stephanie. Her smile was foolish, but I loved it all the more for its asymmetry. Then the night was gone, and the day bled me physically and mentally of its strangeness. The truth is, that kind of romance, the one I dream of, is the thing of which I'm most afraid. The page shifts, the moment shifts, and there is friendships old and new, and old and new all over. I wish I could draw the moments out. I thought that I would grow out, expand my life, but the only thing I have are more piles. More things unfinished, gardens untended, relations abandoned and bridges unburned and burdened. I'm only truly happy when I'm by myself and being alone makes me miserable, but in the end it's only one of a number of paradoxes, and everyone lives with worse in their life but they are either too oblivious to notice or strong enough to fight it. Meanwhile (paradox) I'm neither. I'm content to notice and discontent with my lack of action, and manage to handle both as mutually exclusive options. Lofty ideas and ideals will only build a loft, but you have to fill it, and that takes work, and lots of it. Goals need racers, scorers, not goalies, but I manage to tend them without scoring and finishing. I see a face, someone I haven't so much as acknowledged in years, and I dream up love stories. I do it with strangers, with friends, with people I'll never even say a word to in my life, with people I never want to talk to again. I've become so accustomed to falling in love in my imagination that I've lost touch with my abilities to do it in real life. Keep it flowing, keep it flowing. I see people, and sometimes they see me. But they only see what I show them, it's a secret game. Sometimes I wish it wasn't. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes they see everything, and instead of embracing the moment I flee. I need my secrets and secrecy. It's so hard to separate what you know from what you've experienced. I know that it's no sin to open up, to trust, but it's my experience that it burns. No matter how hard you try, how much work you put in, the ones you confide in the most will leave you. It's not the truth, not the course, but the lesson. Finally, spiraling downwards... rest.

          But the rest does not last forever, not yet. So then there are more storms... but these storms are real. I don't know why I tuned the radio to AM fuzz, but sometimes I do it without noticing. I watch the lightning peal across the sky, and hear the crackle of it on my speakers. Rain drops, drip, dripping, drops splash into my eyes and hair and I can't help but laugh. Then the moments come of small, strained, friendly nights. Somehow, though, even these maintain a shadow. Paranoia? Paranoia! Somehow I manage to always see the shadow looming, and I freeze. I say my hellos, my goodbyes, and I make off like a thief in the night. The fun of it is that my crimes are imagined, yes, in this instance they are. I can turn it off, with a great effort of will. I can turn it off and spout the negativity outwards, embrace the positive, for a while. The sun falls, the moon rises, and it's gone like so much ash in the wind. I see it, I know. It stays there until I choose to try again. I embrace the solitude, but the solitude does not always accept me. The truth is, I know exactly how shallow it is. I prove it to myself all the time, but the accusations from decades ago are truer than the accusers know: I know exactly how to convince myself otherwise. But... but I can find the magic in a moment. Any moment, examined thoroughly enough, can gleam like the sun, bright enough to burn, to scour and discover. I miss the moments that I had... too much. Hands clasped in friendship, discovering anew a land misted with a cold white topping, sliding and slipping, capturing images. A song, building sweaters, with a smile and a wink and a giggle. Late nights, second helpings of the food and third helpings of the wine, the misty walks through the quiet streets, an orchid drenching us in its pollen. A quiet drink at a corner bar, stories imagined, futures created and destroyed, lies whispered and truths withheld. There's so much magic, and so much sadness in each moment, in each memory, and they always wash back, they always wash back, they always swirl the drain, until it clogs and sends them spilling back out. I can't help but obsess about my obsession of putting these memories on a pedestal, and why they remain so happy in memory and so sad in the present. Late nights, loud music, and an interruption of veritas. It's not all bad though.

A statement, stuck like so many others, dislodges, and I look at the sky. It was gorgeous. Two blinking stars, but not stars, other worlds, glinting in the darkness. We got out the telescope, and I look at the moon, with its shadows and pocks and craters. A life, so new and fresh... and I could share a moment, a memory with him.

I hope he always remembers me as the uncle who showed him the surface of the moon. In our quest for immortality in our family, that's the legacy I always hope I can retain.