Why I Love Kesha

My relationship to Kesha is a curious one. She appeared at a weird time in my life.

On the surface, Kesha seems to be everything I hate about pop music: trite unoriginal pop songs with simple melodies and attention-grabbing hooks but otherwise little substance, cliche or vapid childlike lyrics, shallow subject matter that deals only with partying, sex, vague relationship woes, and verse-rap bragging peppered in between overly-synthesized and overproduced electro pop that is substantive enough to be entertaining but not enough to be unique, and lackluster vocals that are autotuned to the point that no one could have seriously thought the artist was ever really a decent vocalist to begin with in the first place.

I get that. I get the problems with Kesha. I get the reasons that people don’t like her. The above paragraph might lead you to believe I can’t stand her, but curiously nothing could be farther from the truth.

I started out hating her for all of the reasons mentioned above. Like everyone else on planet Earth in 2009, I too was subjected to endless repetitions of her breakout single Tik Tok on the radio, and like everyone else I was annoyed by it’s vapidity but secretly just a little bit entertained by it. But really, I genuinely didn’t like her. She sounded plain trashy. She clearly looked like a hot mess. Her aesthetic has always been “rave girl who hasn’t showered in several weeks and rolled around in garbage and glitter.”

But the truth is, Kesha is not what she appears to be. And the weird thing about is, she isn’t the OPPOSITE of what she appears to be either. She makes frivolous pop music, and she MEANS to do it, she means what she’s saying. She WANTS to be a pop star, and she isn’t making pop music ironically to try and expose the flaws in the medium. The pop music she’s making is genuine.

There are a group of listeners who consider Kesha to be another drop in the bucket, overly-autotuned pop singer cranking out tunes mostly made by producers, with little talent for songwriting or for singing. This is not the case. Kesha isn’t vapid or dumb. She’s incredibly intelligent, she has a genius IQ and received nearly perfect SAT scores. She’s driven and passionate and knows what she’s doing. However, don’t let that lead you to believe that Kesha is in fact an architect and student of Victorian literature whose lifelong art project has been to deconstruct the mythos of the pop star by playing one, laughing pretentiously in her study at night over a glass of sherry at plebeian pop fans who’ve bought into her charade.

The thing that makes Kesha unique among a slew of pop stars is the fact that she’s entirely authentic.

She comes from a humble background. In a life story that seems almost too perfectly fitting with her dirty rave girl aesthetic to be true, Kesha’s mother got incredibly drunk at a party and doesn’t remember the hookup that led to her becoming pregnant, and nine months later gave birth to Kesha Rose Sebert without the slightest idea (or worry) about who the father was. Kesha was raised by her single mother, a wonderful hippie songwriter called Pebe, and together with her brothers the family seems to have lived in an open, accepting home environment. Kesha definitely has hippie elements in her personality, and she speaks with a gentle slur that makes it sound like she’s always intoxicated, and a Californian accent that immediately calls to mind the movie Heather. I think. I’ve never seen Heather. Moving on.

Kesha moved to Nashville to become a musician, and spent many years writing her first album Animal. She made a lot of friends in the business, including fellow newcomer Katy Perry, and her first major role in the pop world wasn’t in her own song but as an extra in Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl music video. Go watch the video and near the end there are several sexy blonde girls sitting around a pool with Katy, and there she is, she even has her own close up shot for a moment. Kesha also wrote songs for many other musicians while working on her first album. The first song to put her on the map was Flo Rida’s “Right Round,” a simplistic and artless reworking of the classic song You Spin Me Round by Dead Or Alive into a sugary pop-rap tune with almost no substance whatsoever. When Flo Rida was working on the song, he decided he wanted to try out having a female vocalist on the chorus, and Kesha was working nearby in the same studio, so she was pulled in and recorded some vocals for the chorus. Because of some legalities, or the absence thereof, when Right Round became a worldwide smash hit, Kesha received absolutely no royalties for the song, and continued to live the life of a starving artist scraping to get by, while her voice was playing on every radio in the country and she remained unknown and unpaid.

This is where the infamous dollar sign in her name comes from. Her name is almost always stylized as Ke$ha, leading to some cute jokes in which people pronounce her name Kee Dollar Sign Hah, but it was conceived as a joke about the irony of the circumstance Kesha found herself in: everyone would assume she was rich, being in a worldwide hit single, but she got cheated out of any share of the money. As time would tell, she was cheated out of a lot by the music industry and the shady characters therein, and I’ll come back to that in a bit.

So, enter me. A ninenteen year old gay kid living in the south, struggling desperately to deal with a tumultuous life, and just coming out of a rather powerful bout of Christian zeal. I spent about a year of my life completely devoting my time and energy to being a Christian, and I took it very seriously, and I even achieved some small level of peace, but ultimately I realized it was a coping mechanism, and this time when I came out of Christianity I left it behind for good.

I was fairly aimless at the time. I’d hated school my whole life, and I’d graduated a year earlier. I did not want to go to college because I just hated school and didn’t want to experience any more of it, but I didn’t want to work either, both because I hate the tedium of boring and strenuous minimum wage jobs, and because I’ve been dealing with debilitating anxiety since I was sixteen, complete with rolling panic attacks that for all intents and purposes never really end or begin, but just go on forever. I wasn’t medicated whatsoever at the time, and I was struggling with severe agoraphobia that was developing in my life.

I was in a relationship that was both abusive and incredibly unsatisfying. I was entirely aimless, I was sad, I was lonely, I was horny, and I was frustrated in every possible way. Spiritually, sexually, emotionally, and mentally, I was frustrated to a breaking point. But I’d never had any suicidal tendencies (yet, that would come later) and never self-harmed, so I had no outlet, no real way to truly break down.

My boyfriend and I took a trip to Virginia and spent the night at some friends’ house. These friends happened to be another gay couple, and they threw a party which involved two more gay couples. One of those couples left once the drinks started flowing, leading to there being a grand total of six of us in the house. We got drunk, we got horny, and I, having never actually been drunk before, was eager to use the “oh it’s my first time being intoxicated” excuse to put as many dicks in my mouth as I could before everyone started to say no.

Does that sound a little rapey? It probably does. I can’t say I was in a good state of mind.

At any rate, there was a lot of sexual activity that night between just about everyone, pairing off for a few minutes with one another at different points. The radio was on, and Kesha’s hit single Tik Tok was booming through the house and I put my tongue into several orifices of several guys, and then spent the night in a cuddle sandwich with my boyfriend and one of the others who had broken away from the pack and basically let us fondle him the entire night.

All in all, it was pretty fun.

The next morning I had something of a hangover, which is honestly quite rare for me.

On the way home, Tik Tok was playing on the radio.

I don’t know why, I don’t understand it, but suddenly, I just got it. I enjoyed it. I had fun with that song. It was great. I didn’t want to stop listening to it.

Now, I know it sounds more like a joke than a real story: I never really liked Kesha until I participated in a drunken six-way gay orgy with some delightfully Virginian, slightly trashy gay guys. But it happens to be true.

When I got home the following day I honestly felt like I was still drunk. I sat in my bedroom, my head swimming, and looked up Kesha on iTunes, listened to the samples from Animal and read some of the reviews. I was disheartened. The reviewers were all mostly saying the same thing: the music was samey and average, the lyrics were so juvenile they sounded like they were ripped from the diary of a sixth grader dealing with boyfriend drama for the first time, and her singing voice was terrible and autotuned to the point of ludicrousness. I agreed with all of these assessments and quickly decided that Tik Tok was in fact a guilty pleasure, and that in general I still disliked Kesha.

But I couldn’t quite get that song out of my head.

My dysfunctional relationship progressed, as did my anxiety. I dove headlong into a Tori Amos phase from which I have never resurfaced, and mostly forgot about Kesha. I did torrent Animal at one point and gave it another cursory listen but I wasn’t terribly impressed. I fell in love with Imogen Heap, Florecne and the Machine, and many others, and continued to keep Kesha mostly out of my mind. When I finally broke up with the aforementioned boyfriend it happened to be right at the same time that my agoraphobia and anxiety had gotten so bad that I’d developed the curious symptom of alternating between sharp pains on the entire life side of my body or being completely numb in the same places. I was finally put on medication, and like magic, my panic attacks just disappeared. I was riding the first wave of stimulants I’d ever experienced, since I’d never done any kind of drugs before, and I was riding high on the antidepressants which elevated my mood and let me have gloriously peaceful and undisturbed sleep at regular intervals, and the relief and freedom of being done with an abusive relationship and having the freedom to love and to fuck whoever I wanted, provided I could find someone.

It was then that Kesha returned.

I don’t exactly remember what caused it. I just remember being high on my antidepressants, feeling adventurous and excited about going to gay clubs and finally getting my young adult life started, and I went back to those downloaded audio files from Animal, and turned them on, and I became completely hooked.

I listened to Animal front to back, non-stop, for several weeks. I didn’t listen to almost anything else. I fell absolutely in love with the music and started to learn a little more about Kesha. I still understood a lot of the complaints: some of the lyrics were trite, but there were also a lot of hidden gems that you wouldn’t have guessed existed. Tik Tok and Take It Off were big hits all about partying, but other songs on the album lamented the darker aspects of being a party girl, of trying to find solace in living in the moment and enjoying the night as much as possible because it’s all you truly have. Hungover, Blind, Animal, and Dancing With Tears In My Eyes are all very emotional songs about the loss of love and the difficulty of trying to live day to day in a haze of partying. There’s a longing in these songs for something, an emptiness, and a willingness to be up front about the good and the bad, to be unapologetic about sex and fun and relationships, to call things like the way they are.

My little sister joined me on this adventure and loved listening to Kesha with me, and was actually nice enough to buy me a physical copy of Animal with some money she’d been given, which I still have. Later on, when Kesha started to release singles for Animal’s companion EP Cannibal, I downloaded them all as they were released and ordered a copy of the two combined into one two-disc album (Animal + Cannibal) that came with a cute little “K$” temporary tattoo which I intended to put on my cheek at my first concert, and which I have still never used but remains in the case. When I attended my first real concert last year, the Dresden Dolls at Coney Island, I was sad when I realized I’d forgotten to bring along my Kesha tattoo for my first concert. But at least I still remembered. That’s something.

The companion EP Cannibal was a great nine-track romp that fit the atmosphere of Animal perfectly while managing to expand on it. The songs were still about partying and having fun authentically and unapologetically, but there was a song called The Harold Song which absolutely broke my heart and still continues to be one of my favorite songs. It’s a beautiful and melancholy song about the loss of love that really affected me at the time because I was dealing with a terrible breakup, and this song was a companion in that pain and darkness for me. At first I thought that Cannibal deliberately mirrored the songs on Animal (Grow A Pear has a chorus very similar to Tik Tok, elements of Tik Tok are incorporated into Cannibal, Animal itself is included as the last song in remixed form, and many other songs seem to borrow elements of songs directly from Animal), and I’m still not sure if it was done intentionally or if the song structures were just all very similar and working from the same pop framework.

Kesha is honest and authentic, and I think that that’s what makes her special. I think this is also the reason that people like Kanye West, but I just can’t bring myself to think that guy is anything but a self-absorbed douche. Kesha delivers pop cliches with a slight wink because she knows it’s cliche, but she’s doing it authentically. And she isn’t a bad vocalist either. The thing that confused me the most about Animal was the fact that Kesha’s voice is very unnecessarily autotuned in many of the songs.

Kesha is an incredibly prolific songwriter, and there are literally more than a hundred demos for Animal that never made it onto the album. One song, a completely acoustic breakup song called Goodbye, is a really great glimpse into an unfiltered Kesha with all of the pop trapping stripped away: her voice is soulful and unique, and her intonation is similar to Alanis Morissette. Her vocal ability is surprising, it doesn’t completely blow you away, but it’s not at all what you’d expect after hearing so much autotune and vocal effects on her album. She also released another EP between Cannibal and her second album Warrior called Deconstructed, which contains simplified emotional mixes of several of her songs, including The Harold Song, with her vocal ability really put on full display.

I still don’t really understand why she chose to allow herself to be autotuned so much when she didn’t really need it, although considering the dynamic between herself and her producer Dr. Luke that came to light later, it’s not difficult to imagine that maybe he made the decision for her. I don’t really know.

And with that we come to Dr. Luke. Kesha came forward and filed a lawsuit against Dr. Luke for raping her, and for abusing her. I don’t really know if there was physical abuse, and I’m not going to look it up. The thing is, I’ve purposely avoided learning the details of this lawsuit. Kesha’s entire career came to a halt because under her contract she was unable to release any music unless she dropped the lawsuit against Dr. Luke, and he vehemently denied ever having abused her, despite many other women in the music industry coming forward to say they’d suffered abuse at his hands as well. Honestly, my heart was just too broken for Kesha to read the details. I couldn’t handle it. I was having a hard enough time holding my own life together, and to know that someone who I had come to greatly admire and respect had been hurt so badly, and who was being treated unfairly by an unfeeling system, it was too hard. It’s why I still don’t know all the details. I do know that eventually Kesha was forced to drop the lawsuit so she could continue to make music, but I still don’t know many more details. I know that during her absence she appeared at a few live events, and at one of them gave an incredible performance of When It Happens To You by Lady Gaga, a song about surviving rape.

Kesha also briefly had her own reality show which I watched the majority of online and greatly enjoyed. It really showed her beautiful personality, and the general carefree and honest way in which she lives her life. It made me smile to watch it, and it gave me hope.

I used to have this poster on my wall, and alongside the topless poster of Lady Gaga, I imagine that anyone looking at my room was probably really confused about my sexuality

Kesha inspires me. Her strength, her dignity, her willingness to create. There was a moment during Kesha’s reality show where her little brother was attempting to write a song, and she was giving him writing advice. The advice was this: “You have to be willing to let yourself suck.” As a musician and a writer, this has been one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever absorbed. What she meant was that when you start out at anything, you’re not going to be incredible. With drawing, composing music, or writing, you start out as a novice, and even your best, most polished efforts, are still going to be less than perfect. You’ll probably experience a few flashes of incredible creativity and accidentally stumble upon expressing yourself honestly and with style, but you have to be willing to let yourself create something that is less than perfect. Kesha’s hundreds of demos are a testament to that. Many of those songs are not that great, but they’re all honest and authentic, and that’s the thing about Kesha that I admire so much.

You have to be willing to let yourself suck. You have to be willing to create whatever is in your heart, and sometimes it’s not going to be great, but you have to be willing to do it. Lady Gaga has said something somewhat similar, which is “You have to respect your vomit.” She was referring to one of her songs, and about how the lyrics come in a rush, and she just word vomits them out, and that she then chooses to respect her vomit, respect those words for being authentic and in the moment. This proverb doesn’t inspire me quite as much but it’s worth mentioning in conjunction with Kesha’s advice from above.

And so, in a surprising twist, I ended up loving an artist who I thought represented everything I hated about manufactured pop music. While, yes, the element of pop manufacturing is there, Kesha’s honesty and brazen authenticity still shines through, and even though some of her songs are a bit cliche, her music is a surprise. Her personality is a surprise. Everything about her is a surprise, if you assume that the dirty glitter party girl you see on the cover is as shallow as her surroundings suggest. I don’t know how much irony she injects into her style, but Kesha is a worthwhile person and a worthwhile musician. She’s an activist for animal rights, she loves the gay community and has immense appreciation for her fans, and she approaches life with the kind and passive attitude of a hippie but the fortitude of a revolutionary. Her voice is real and true, even though there’s sometimes a layer of autotune.

Patron Blog #6

Hey everyone.

So surprisingly I haven’t posted much in the way of updates or blogs, but I have actually started getting down to the business of some real writing. Currently sitting at Starbucks, my new favorite place to be creative (my room has a desk but it’s very cramped and claustrophobic, and it’s in my family’s house which is a pretty toxic environment. Also their wifi is much better here), but there is apparently a huge winter storm coming, so naturally all of North and South Carolina have to shut down the moment a snowflake hits the ground. As such, they’re closing early so I only have half an hour to write this.

Also between that paragraph and this one I completely forgot that I was doing this, and ended up writing someone a long Victorian-style letter on Facebook asking for dick pics. Because I’m not just sexually deviant, I’m CLASSY and sexually deviant.

So I’ve finally finally finally started writing my novel. No bullshit. And though it’s been a week or two since the last installment, that doesn’t mean I’m not working on it. I’ve started a project to transcribe all of the notes from my phone, computer, emails and various other places into one extensive document or set of documents, but that’s not even nearly complete.

I started writing my fantasy novel, which has for years been referred to as Fairy Tale or the Fairies Awakening. I don’t know what the title will really be and I’ve been reluctant to call the first draft by either of those names because I’m superstitious that it will inherit the problems of Fairy Tale rather than being it’s own project. As such I’m just referring to it as “my fantasy novel” for the moment.

Things changed when I got the idea of including a goblin as a character. I’ve noticed that just about any mythical creature or magical being has already been translated from it’s original folkloric form into something beautiful and modern: vampires, fairies, elves, werewolves, shapeshifters, and on and on. But I haven’t seen a lot of beautiful, elegant, and inspiring goblin characters. The only one I’m even aware of is David Bowie’s Goblin King from Labyrinth. I saw the movie somewhat recently but I didn’t actually finish it, and truthfully I found it a bit boring, but the Goblin King was the only thing that I really found interesting. So I thought it would be fun to try and translate goblins into some original. I’m sure someone else has already done it, and when it comes to fantasy it’s difficult not to trod upon ground that has already been done to death or that was already done better than anyone else can really hope by Tolkien, but it’s worth a try. And either way, it gave me the creative boost I needed to start.

I wrote the prologue a few months ago, and it’s still the same, I just excised a little expository passage from the end of it and started chapter one afresh. The new version of the story has a distinctly different feel, which both excites and scares me. But I’ve received good feedback so far from everyone who’s read along. I’m also learning a lot more about what my weaknesses are, which is scary but also a good thing that will help me improve as a writer. I’m also starting to figure out what it is I need to research, and I haven’t really begun that process, but I figure I’ll probably research as I go along.

And then, by accident, I started working on a SECOND book right after the first. This one isn’t a fantasy novel, it’s an autobiography. My life has a lot of pretty ridiculous stories, and people always enjoy hearing me tell them. I’ve thought about trying to tell them through standup comedy, but I’m afraid that they aren’t inherently funny enough to hold the attention of an audience with the expectation that they’re going to laugh. Margaret Cho can do it, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready. I still want to try standuop at some point though. But more on that later.

Fifteen minutes now until closing time, I have to hurry up. So anyhow, I’ve decided to start writing an autobiography focused around my ridiculous, entertaining, hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking sexual history. I like talking openly about sex and I accidentally discovered that writing this will give me the perfect platform to talk about my feelings on a variety of sexual topics: monogamy, polyamory, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, all of the things we don’t want to talk about, I want to really bring them out into the open and try to start an open and honest dialogue about them. Maybe it will destroy any chance I have of being a reputable author. I guess I can’t say that I don’t care, but I also know that I can’t remain silent when there’s something important that we should be talking about.

I also want to thank thank THANK you guys, I’ve received a few new patrons and a couple of BIG pledges, getting me past my first milestone goal of $20 per month. I just checked back and I’m actually back down beneath $20, so I guess someone must have left or changed their pledge, but either way it’s fine, my Patreon is growing little by litte, and I’m confident that if I keep providing, more patrons will come.

I don’t have much time to talk about anything else. I will say that I wrote another installment in my sexual memoir, but truthfully I’m a little afraid to post it. Put plainly: it’s about my brother. I was raised an only child, my odler brother was adopted before I was born and raised by a distant family member, so I didn’t really get to interact with him until I was thirteen and he was nineteen, and I was just coming into my sexuality, and I had a big crush on him. He was a beautiful guy who walked around the house half naked all hours of the day, and I was this shy awkward little gay guy who’d never so much as seen a guy with his shirt off, and I just couldn’t help but develop a huge crush on him. I know that that ruffles people a little, and I understand that. I talk in graphic detail about my sexual interest in him. Nothing ever happened between us, but I know that that could be something that might be disturbing for some people to read. But I want to TALK about it, so that I can understand my own feelings and maybe start a discussion on incest, and where the line is, and what’s healthy and what isn’t.

But I’m afraid to post it. And it isn’t even the biggest secret I plan to reveal in this book. So… it’s scary. Let me know if you’re interested in reading and I’ll try to work up the courage to post it.

Until next time, guys!

Patron Blog #2: On Things

One of my friends says this should be my author photo. Honestly I needed an excuse to wear this shirt because it just looked so cute that I had to buy it

One of my friends says this should be my author photo. Honestly I needed an excuse to wear this shirt because it just looked so cute that I had to buy it

Hello everyone! The first thing I want to say is THANK YOU so much to those of you who are giving to the Patreon. It means more to me than you can imagine. I appreciate every single one of you. Currently we are at seven patrons, and $8 per thing with a goal of $20 per thing. Like I said before, I’m new to this, so I’m just trying all of this out to see how it works and to see if I can really be successful at creating art in exchange for money.

I haven’t said much since I made the Patreon last week, mostly because I felt that I didn’t really have enough content yet to actually go advertising my page. After all, plenty of other Patreons are loaded with art, webcomics, and short stories. What I wanted to do was to start writing my novel, and to make the first couple of chapters a “thing,” and release it to patrons.

But a funny thing happened. Firstly, even though I’ve felt inspired enough to write (and I’ve been reading Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, which is regarded as one of the great master works of modern fantasy), I actually haven’t sat down and written anything. This isn’t really anything new, I think every writer probably struggles with the discipline of making themselves sit down and get the writing done.

But today something really unexpected happened when I sat down to write on my blog. My intent was to write about how I came to live in Delaware, in an attempt to help myself sort out my feelings and come up with a plan for how to proceed next with life. I decided that a good place to start was with my breakup from my boyfriend two years ago, as that is when things started to change in my life. But I accidentally started writing about our entire relationship, from the beginning, and what was intended as a quick aside to set the scene for how we got together and then broke up, became an incredibly details account of our whole relationship together.

It’s not like our relationship was anything so unique that it’s a better story than anyone else’s relationship stories. But I kept writing, because I just wanted to get it all out, I wanted to explain my side of things, and (knowing that my ex-boyfriend is friends with me currently and might want to read what I wrote), I wanted to share my side with him and really apologize for all that I did wrong. I’ve had so much time to grow from the experience, and reflecting on it, I see a lot more mistakes than I realized I’d made before.

I wrote this really just for myself, but I just couldn’t stop writing, and after a couple of hours it was to 7,000 words, and then to nearly 10,000 words. I thought to myself, “Now if I can just write something fictional that’s that length and I can release it on Patreon.”

But then I thought wait. I really put my heart and soul into writing this, I think it’s an interesting story, and in examining myself and the relationships, I managed to talk about a lot of things that are important to me: anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, death, parents, relationships, polyamory and monogamy, physical and emotional abuse. I decided that maybe I SHOULD share this with you guys, as the very first “thing.”

It isn’t a novel and it isn’t music, but it is something I wrote from the heart. It’s autobiographical, and it’s substantive enough in length that I feel it constitutes it’s own piece of work. If my patrons were a group of mostly anonymous strangers who were only following my page because they wanted to read a fantasy novel, I would think twice about posting this as the first “thing,” but since all of you who are currently following me are my friends, who not only care about my life and my experiences but also enjoy discussing life experiences, and who are invested enough to care about the story, I’ve decided to share this with you all.

I promise I haven’t forgotten about the novel. I intend to start soon. I think I already know what’s going to happen next. But for the moment, this will be Thing number one. It’s an autobiographical account of my relationship with my ex-boyfriend, beginning when I was twenty years old and moving forward to when I was twenty-three. Like I said before there are descriptions of abuse, anxiety, death, and other possibly triggering subjects, so be prepared for that if you do decide to read.

I’m going to post the story as a patron-only post right after this one, it may take a few minutes to get the images in and have everything formatted properly.

Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for listening. Thank you for caring.

My Mother Is A Zombie

I really hate it when autobiographical tales begin with an account of the subject’s mother and father: how they were born, where they met, and so on.

Incidentally, I’m going to begin with an account of how my mother was born.

Or rather, not born. At least in the beginning.

There were complications during my grandmother’s pregnancy, and the baby died. As many times I’ve heard the story, from both my grandmother, who was there to experience it, and my mother, who was at the time, dead, I’m not sure exactly why the baby died. But it wasn’t an error in medical science: my mother wasn’t Juliet drinking the sleeping potion and appearing, for all intents and purposes to be dead, she was quite literally a dead fetus. My grandmother had carried her about halfway to term, and when the baby died, the doctor’s told her she would have to have the poor thing removed before it began to make her sick.

My grandmother was in shock and denial, and refused. She went home. I don’t know exactly how long. In my recollection of my grandmother recounting the story, I believe she said it was a couple of months, but I suspect it was closer to a few days or a couple of weeks. Whatever the length of time my grandmother continued to carry her dead daughter, the baby was beginning to decompose, poisoning her bloodstream and making her very ill.

Someone eventually dragged my grandmother to the hospital, and as she waited, racked with the guilt so many mothers who lose their children feel, she could see out of her window, across the courtyard of the hospital, the window to her own grandmother’s room, and that woman lay dying, with her family surrounding her. My grandmother was doubly distressed, due to both the loss of her own child, which she refused to accept, despite it’s clear and present danger to her own body, and the impending loss of her grandmother, my great-great-grandmother. She began to notice a commotion in the room across the courtyard, and when one of her cousin’s picked up the receiver to the telephone by the bed, she received the news confirming her suspicion, that her grandmother had indeed just passed away.

At exactly that moment, the baby kicked.

My grandmother was in further shock. She didn’t understand. A nurse was nearby and when my grandmother alerted her to this, she inspected my grandmother, and sure enough, the baby was moving. Instantly a flood of doctor’s, nurses, equipment, all cascaded into the hospital room, wires and electrodes and IV’s being pressed into her, and upon examination it was determined that yes, somehow, inconceivably, this baby has come to life again. My grandmother, who was in what I can only imagine was a combined state of horrible grief, disbelieving relief, and utter shock at the coincidence of both, turned to the doctor who was maintaining her and through her tears, croaked, “What happened?”

The doctor looked down at her and said, “Ma’am, I can offer you no medical explanation in my power to explain why your daughter is alive. All I can say is this: ‘the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.'”

I am not, as you will come to see, a religious person, and particularly not a Christian person. However I will admit that in the circumstances, that was a damn good dramatic line to drop, and really makes the whole experience seem like a Hallmark movie of some kind.

My grandmother’s life was absolutely filled with stories like this, and I regret that she passed away when I was eighteen, too young and selfish to have had the foresight to sit with an audio recorder or a notebook and take down the stories of her incredible life, and make a chronicle. However I will from time to time try and write down what I can remember hearing from her, sitting at her side in the couch of her small apartment during her final decade or so, listening attentively until four in the morning, sipping one of her many Diet Coke’s and petting her poodle while she watched a muted episode of The Nanny or smoked away at cigarette after cigarette.

But as I said, the baby lived. She continued to carry it to full term, and when my mother was born, there was a dark ring around her eye from where, as a fetus, and a dead one at that, she had begun to dematerialize, and this mark on her skin remained until she started school, when all the other little girls thought she was wearing eyeshadow on one eye.

This isn’t the first time my mother faced death and survived. When she was a young girl of about six, she and her sister were playing outside in their backyard, and happening to be stomping around gayly in a ditch, that no one at the time realized was actually sewage from a broken pipe seeping up through the ground. Because of her exposure, my mother contracted Hepatitis, and the rarer, deadlier form at that. She was placed in a quarantined hospital room, shut away from her family the way the little boy from ET was, speaking to her mother and kissing her through a sheet of glass for months. The doctor’s did everything they could to help, but she was going to need to remain quarantined for a long time.

My mother cried to her mother and sister on the opposite side of the glass, saying how much she loved them and missed them and begging to be allowed to go home. It was unclear whether or not she would die here, quarantined behind glass, unable to feel the touch of her mother’s hand. My grandmother asked to be allowed inside, but was not. Finally, my grandmother had had enough. The child was sick, yes, very sick, and it was true that she could die, but to my grandmother, what the doctor’s said didn’t matter anymore, her daughter was suffering unbearably and had been for months, not only was the little girl sick, but she was physically separated from the people she loved, and my grandmother opened the door and marched into the quarantine room, unhooked her from the machines, and picked her daughter up out of the bed. The doctor’s flooded in and told her she had to stop, she had to leave the child in quarantine, or she could become sicker than she was now: the little girl’s immune system couldn’t handle the outside world, she was barely hanging on by a thread as it was.

Her daughter in her arms, my grandmother told the doctor’s to shove it and carried her into the parking lot, strapped her into a seat, and took her home. My mother should have died. She wasn’t simply infected with Hepatitis, she was dying from Hepatitis, and exposure to the outside world should have done her in. But for some reason, within a couple of weeks, the disease was gone. It’s mark was irrevocable: for her entire life my mother has had a weakened immune system, is susceptible to toxicity and can become violently ill at the smell of bleach or other chemicals, as well as being more prone to sickness than others, but she did survive.

I hesitate to use the word “miraculous” when describing these circumstances because I don’t know if I believe in miracles, at least not any that are mandated by a divine hand, but if you’d like to believe that these moments of inexplicable escape from death were miraculous, I won’t and can’t stop you.

It may well be understood how, from these accounts of her childhood handed down to her by her own mother, along with the many coincidences and narrow escapes from danger she’s experienced in her life, my mother is a devoutly religious Christian. I can’t really fault her entirely: had I slipped from the cold hands of death myself so many times, I might be inclined to believe there being some authority involved who had chosen to allow me to live. However, even though I tend to be first an emotional person, and then a thinking person, I do eventually, after the emotion subsides, allow myself to examine, something which my mother regrettably does not do, and I suspect that even if I had experienced such incredible luck, I would still be unable to reconcile my own safety at the supposed hand of the Divine with the cruel death of children and adults all around the world who suffer at every moment of every day, and who are not spared so kindly. Where was the Divine hand then? Was it too busy saving my mother, or in this hypothetical case, me? This isn’t something my mother really considers, and she marvels that I can remain an unbeliever in the face of what she considers to be such certain proof of God’s existence: how could she have been spared from certain death so many times, if not for the will of God, who must have had some Divine purpose yet for her to fulfill?

If that Divine purpose was to continually tell me that I’m going to burn in hell, to use religion as an excuse to stick her nose into other people’s gossip while telling them she’ll be sure to pray for them, and to condemn every person who ever comes to her asking for advice as living in sin and in desperate need of giving their life over to God, then she has fulfilled it admirably. Otherwise, I doubt it’s the case.

My mother shouldn’t even have been able to conceive children, weak as her system was, but in her time she has birthed three: my older brother, myself, and my younger sister. All of them will appear in the tale before you, and there is more to come on my mother, and very soon, my father, who I hesitate to mention in this opening chapter only because the deplorable man has no goodness to contribute to any story, but this will be, ultimately an account of who I am. The players are many and varied, but this is, as best as I can tell it, my story.