Day 4: Oops, All Trauma!

Day 4

PREFACE AND CONTENT WARNING: Hey guys, so uh… well, I started writing this three hours ago and I planned on just writing a few paragraphs about how I was relatively productive today and then go to bed, but I accidentally delved into like… a LOT of trauma and abuse and suicidal ideation. I am okay, you don’t need to worry for my safety, but I wrote three sections of this post, the third of which is about 8,000 words long and is a really exhaustive history of my relationship and/or lack thereof with my father, my grandmother’s death, and my issues with self loathing and perpetuating cycles of abuse. In the first two sections I talk very frankly about some of my experiences with suicidal ideation, self-loathing and the trauma associated with it. I’ll leave another content warning later on in the post, but feel free to just skip this one entirely if you’d rather not put yourself in a position that might be upsetting or triggering for you as a reader.

1

Okay okay, so I slacked off again on writing today. BUT, I didn’t slack off entirely today. I did a lot of good physical activity. I had a walk this morning for about fifteen minutes, and I never got back to jogging but that does count as my walk for today, and more importantly I poured out about fifteen bags of mulch all around our house and yard, which was pretty sweaty and labor intensive.

I had therapy this afternoon which was alright, mostly I was relaying good news about hopefully getting money soon and the idea of looking for a new job where I feel more comfortable than my previous jobs in retail. I also put in some job applications yesterday and I honestly finally reached my limit with TRYING so hard on job applications. At this point, I simply do not care what they think about me, and I’ve stopped giving those “personality quizzes” any effort. For two good reasons.

Firstly, those personality quizzes are heavily biased against any neurodivergent person. They’re supposed to ideally be a gauge on whether or not you’ll be a productive employee, but how fucking dehumanizing is that? They don’t want to know about you as a human being, they want you to be a faceless cog in a corporate hierarchy, except they also want you to smile while you do it. I’m so fucking sick of this atmosphere in capitalist society where workers have to pretend to be happy to do menial, unfulfilling jobs for other people who probably go to work doing the same shit.

The second reason I hate and have started refusing to participate in those quizzes is that they ask incredibly invasive and inappropriate personal questions. They ask you to agree or disagree with statements like “I feel sad sometimes,” “You can’t trust other people,” “It’s better just to be on my own,” “I feel that at heart people are good,” “I don’t see any need to rely on others.” Like, really deep existential shit that is NONE of a corporations business. Every time I see those kind of questions is just triggers my depression. And even worse is that if I WANT to fill out the application well, I have to give the answers I WANT to give. “Why yes, I DO think people are trustworthy, why yes I DO keep a level head in tense situations, why yes I DO enjoy being screamed at by strangers.” Like fuck off, you don’t know what kind of trauma a person has been through, NOR is it your business, a person might have very good reason for not trusting other people.

I’m just starting to realize as I grow older that the whole world around me is a lie. People have been raised within an unjust system where they think this is the only way to live. But we could be doing LITERALLY anything right now. We could have a utopia on Earth if we pooled our resources, cared for our planet, and just ALLOWED people the freedom to live and pursue their interests and passions. We don’t need currency, or we could just give currency to everyone. There doesn’t NEED to be a class system. How fucking hypocritical is it to have a country where our supposed founding principles are that all people deserve equality (a statement made by people who owned other humans as property) and yet people are not given equal opportunity to succeed in life? And what IS success? Making money? Owning property? Contributing to the economy? The economy should exist to serve humanity, humanity should not be a slave to an economy.

Sorry, I’ve uh… I’ve gotten a bit off track here. I guess I was a lot more outraged than I thought.

2

What I was going to mention about therapy is that I had kind of a realization. It’s not something I’m ready to talk about in detail here, at least not yet, but I realized that I actually hold a lot of resentment toward a person in my past, someone who I’ve honestly always thought very fondly of. And this person, they’re a good person, they were kind and compassionate and loving toward me, and made me feel happy and safe. But they also made me feel like I was a bad person. Not on purpose, they didn’t say “Jesse, you’re a monster, you’re a bad person,” but I could see it in their eyes when I started to tell them about the really fucked up parts of my life, the things that have been done to me and the choices I’ve made, the mistakes and regrets of my life. We all have those. We’ve all been cruel or callous toward someone, we’ve all made someone suffer in some way. And the only thing we can hope for is compassion, understanding, an acknowledgement that nobody is perfect, that everybody is a work in progress, that the work will never be over in striving to be better.

But this person… They looked at me with veiled shock and disgust, they saw me as someone different than who they’d seen me before. And though they really tried to roll with the punches, to be kind to me despite how obvious it was that their opinion of me had changed when I really opened up and showed them the ugly parts of myself, it was then, when I saw how horrified they were of me, that I began to hate myself. Up until then I had been compassionate toward myself, but now that I’d seen myself through someone else’s eyes, seen how shocked and appalled and terrified someone was of me, I saw myself as a monster, as irredeemable, as having crossed a bridge that can’t be un-crossed. I began to hate myself, from then on.

And I’ve spent years hating myself. And it’s funny because that’s a new concept for me. I’ve always been very kind to myself. I’ve always felt like the hero of my story. But that was when things changed. And I don’t know how to get back to who I really am, and how to love and forgive and accept myself again. It’s… it’s been a difficult, difficult path. I’ve been close to wanting to die many times. I’ve dealt with suicidal ideation and thoughts many times, but rarely ever felt so close that the urge really materialized, though there have been some close calls.

Back in 2011, when I was living in Georgia, in a camper in my family’s back yard, with no job, no car, no license, and absolutely no prospects for the future, I realized that I knew where my stepdad had a gun. It was in his car, in his glove compartment, and though I didn’t really know for SURE how to use it, I could, conceivably, go outside and get that gun, and I could kill myself. And for a moment, I really, really thought about it. I sat inside my camper, with the lights out in the late hours of a grey afternoon, and wondered if I should die.

But the thing is, I didn’t really WANT to die. I just wanted things to be different. I’ve never REALLY wanted to die, I’ve just wanted my life to have turned out different than it has. Right now, today, I think I feel close to content. Not really, truly, content, but okay enough to keep moving. When I moved backed from Delaware I had to face my worst fear of living with my family and my mother again, and I had to accept that it had happened, that I was no longer living in a house with friends and a support system and real, honest, open love. I was back in a world of manipulation and unpredictability and volatility and abusiveness. And I had to adjust to living in that world again.

After my mom moved out and I’ve had a lot more time here in the house to myself, when she isn’t visiting for weeks at a time (it is still her house after all), I’ve had time to relax and to feel comfortable, although never really safe. Mostly I feel lonely. And on nights where it rains, I feel a little comforted, because I love rain, and because rain is one of those things that makes me feel like I can heal. I don’t like dry places, deserts, I’ve never been to one but I know I’d hate it. I like wet places, wet grass, puddles, mud, pond water, frogs, rain dripping from leaves and onto gravel or pavement. I like cool wind when it rains.

Every year I wait for summer to end. I wait for the oppressive heat and humidity to fade, to feel fresh air, actually FRESH air, when autumn comes. It’s my favorite season. Spring and Winter are both good too. But I generally hate summer. It’s exciting for a bit at the beginning when I remember summer as a kid, when I listen to Third Eye Blind and Florence and the Machine, but then it’s hot, and it’s endless, and I keep the air condition on. When autumn comes I open my window at night and put my box fan in the window and let the cool air rush in. I used to want to go outside and lay on the trampoline (back when we HAD a trampoline) and sleep out there in the autumn night, covered in blankets. I never did.

So many things I never did. Why does it always feel like I never did anything, like I’m looking back on things I never did?

I heard this song on Spotify a month or so ago, Twenty Five by Rett Madison, and it had lyrics that described exactly how I feel. “Why did I romanticize who I’d be when I was twenty five? And I know that I’m still young, but how come I’ve run out of time?” I placed my hand over my mouth and tears started to burst out of me and blur my vision, I found a neighborhood to park in and sat there and cried for a while.

I’m tired of trying, I’m tired of fighting. The anxiety is just a beast that I don’t have the energy to fight anymore. You can’t make people understand that getting up and going to work does more than make your body and your feet sore: it saps away your life, the anxiety turned my hair grey when I was seventeen and it’s been getting greyer ever since. That’s why I dyed my hair blue, I was tired of seeing the grey. It used to be cute because I was twenty-something, but now that I’m thirty the grey just reminds me of how much time has passed, and now that I think about it, how much hurt I’ve carried. How much hurt I’ve caused. How I’ve contributed to the pain of others as I’ve been abused myself. How violence and hatred runs in cycles.

3

CONTENT WARNING: This is a very detailed, very intimate and very frank discussion of sexual, physical, emotional and mental abuse suffered by myself and by family members over the course of my life, and some really raw, really difficult and somewhat disturbing thoughts regarding my relationship to my father and my family. This is a deeply personal and difficult subject, and I really don’t advise reading this unless you’re a friend who knows me. Content warnings for abuse of young children sexually, physically, and emotionally, as well as spousal and domestic abuse, gaslighting, and a whole host of other really difficult topics. I can’t stress enough that if you’re a casual reader of my blog you may want to skip this one because it’s very heavy, very difficult, and very lengthy.

When I was a baby, my dad looked down at me in my crib, and he turned to my mother’s mother who stood next to him, and he said to her, quite openly, and I assume emotionally, “When I look down and see him so fragile and vulnerable, I just… want to hurt him, the way my dad hurt me.” When my dad was a child, his father held him over a charcoal grill and burned his little feet on the hot coals. I don’t know any more details, really. But my dad grew up to become an abuser. He beat my mom, he tormented her psychologically and emotionally and mentally, he gaslit her.

On one occasion he brought home a toy for me, a little black baby doll. My mom was confused and laughed and said “Why did you get him a black doll?” And he said to her “Every little kid should have their own n****r to own.” Later on, they got into an argument as my dad was driving, and my dad reached over my mother and opened the door as they drove down the road, and he KICKED her out, onto the road, into a ditch.

When I was very young my family moved into a new house, and my dad took the precaution of warning the neighbors when my mother wasn’t around that “she has a mental condition and she gets very paranoid if she doesn’t take her medication,” which was of course a lie. Later on, when he tried to hurt her, maybe even to kill her, I don’t know, she ran crying to the neighbors house and banged on their door, but nobody was home. Their door was unlocked though, and she went inside and locked the front door behind her, and then she went into their bathroom and hid herself inside the bathtub, curled up and weeping, as my dad tapped on the window outside, and in a ghostly whisper he crooned “It’s me… it’s me… Its –” and the name he said was not my father’s name, it was HIS father’s name. He was pretending to be the man who abused him while he tormented his terrified wife.

Something happened between my father and I, and to be honest I can’t tell you what it was, because I don’t know. I don’t really have memories of it. I remember what our living room looked like, I remember the sound of our kitchen floor as I rolled over it on Fisher Price skates, I remember the dim light of the lamp by the recliner where my dad would sit. My dad claimed that I wandered over to him one day when I was three or four and put my face in his lap in a very suggestive way, trying to lift his legs, and when he asked me what in the world I was doing I told him this was something my grandmother made me do. And then he supposedly asked me questions and I revealed to him what sounded very much like a molestation.

My mom was shocked and confused but she called the police and I was taken to speak with a child psychologist, who as far as she could tell could not find that anything inappropriate had happened with me, the only incident I could recall when talking to her was seeing my cousins naked in the bathtub when we all bathed together. My father though, he wasn’t satisfied with this, and he began to INSIST that I had been molested by my grandmother. Then he began to insist our neighbor who babysat me was a child molester. Then he began to insist my aunt’s roommate was a child molester. There is a video tape, and I’ve seen it, of me when I was a kid casually smiling and dropping in the middle of a conversation “…and then he made us take all our clothes off.” Not in a traumatized way, just the rambling incoherent talk of a four year old child, with a smile on my face. My father told me that was definitive proof of what happened.

Of course, this all sounds like classic projection to me. It all came to a head when my mom told my father that it was time to move on, that NOTHING had happened to me as far as anyone could tell, and that he was obsessed with trying to find some way to drive my mother and my grandmother apart. One day while no one else was home, he took a book of colored construction paper that I used for drawing, and with crayons and markers he wrote phrases on those pieces of construction paper and he taped them up onto every wall in the house. On the living room and on the counter in the kitchen and on the refrigerator and on the couch, these pieces of paper were everywhere.

They said really heinous things like “Daddy, it smells like raisins down there” and “I just want to help you” and “Why won’t you hear the truth” and little pictures he’d drawn of my grandmother molesting me. When my mom saw it she fled immediately and called the police, and I honestly don’t know what happened next. I know at some point my father abducted me, that is to say he took me on a ride with him in his truck without telling my mom, in an attempt to drive me several hours away to live with him and his family. My mom found a police officer at a gas station and my father drove right past them, and she pointed at the truck and said “That’s him!” and the cop caught my dad and delivered me back to my mom.

You might think, by the way, that this is an obviously biased story told me to from only one perspective, by a woman I’ve already said has a tendency to manipulate and gaslight. And you’d be right, except that I asked my father about these events myself when I was fifteen, and he showed me it was all so much worse than I thought. He wasn’t just as insane as my mom had told me, he was WORSE, he was twisted, he had so much anger and pain inside of him. Not only did he WRITE those things on the construction paper, he had SAVED as many of them as he could, and his wife who was a school administrator and who believed every word of his story and was just as twisted and terrifying as he was, went to a filing cabinet and pulled out a file of about four or five of those pieces of construction paper and laid them on the living room floor for me to see.

And my father said to me, “Don’t you see? I did all of this for you. I love you, I always have, and I only wanted to try and save you, but no one would listen to me.” And the worst thing is that he didn’t just gaslight me, I think first he convinced HIMSELF of these lies. And I finally asked him to explain something to me. The one memory I couldn’t make any sense of in his story.

I’ve remembered it since I was a kid. I know it isn’t an invented memory because I told therapists about it at the time, I told my mom about it, and I’ve repeated it over the years all my life. Now it’s a memory of a memory of a memory, but at the time it was new. I know that he and I were alone together in a white room, I remember the walls being bare white, and the bed covers being white, and I remember we were both nearly naked in white underwear.

In my memory, I am molesting HIM. I am deviously suggesting what we should do next, I am the one manipulating him by saying “my grandma touched me here, she did it like this, and she put her hand here, like this.” I’ve heard this is common in cases of abuse, that you remember the event flipped, where you are the one doing the manipulating. Of course at the time, I was a small child and he was a grown man. I think I must have known what I was doing was wrong, and I felt guilty, and maybe that was how I rationalized it to myself: I must be the one convincing him to do something wrong.

I don’t have a specific memory of being molested. I remember there being movement on the bed, like jumping up and down. My memory has always been of him jumping up and down on my lap but that doesn’t make sense, does it? Maybe I did that and not him. I don’t know. I remember that my mom came home later and when she did I mischeviously ran into the living room and shouted “Mommy, daddy make us take all our clothes off!” and they had a discussion behind the closed bedroom door that I wasn’t privy to. My mom doesn’t really remember this event.

When I was fifteen, hundreds of miles from my mother and in my father’s living room floor in the apartment above a garage owned by his wife’s parents, where he was raising a new child whose existence I did not know of until a few weeks before, who was not far away in age from the age I’d been when he likely molested me, I asked him about this incident. And he got quiet and he sighed and said “Jesse… I did a lot of things then people might have thought were crazy, but it was only because I was trying to help you, I wanted to save you, I wanted people to listen to me, to understand you were being hurt and nobody was standing up for you except for me.”

My father bought a six pack of beer at a gas station, during the week I stayed with him when I was fifteen, and after he tried to teach me how to check out and cat call women, I told him in the car that I didn’t have much interest in girls, and that the girls I’d interacted with at school had been mean to me. He drank while he drove and got more and more drunk, and all throughout the rest of my stay there he kept scoffing, repeating back to me, “The girls are MEAN to me,” making fun of how unmasculine a thing it was for me to say, how wimpy it was. I implied to him that I think I might be gay and kept saying the same phrase to me: “Son, you don’t know you don’t like cherry pie until you’ve tasted it.” He said that phrase over and over again. He psychoanalyzed everything about me, he told me that he could see how broken I was by the way I looked down and didn’t make eye contact with anyone. His creepy wife told me I had a pretty back, that she liked men with sexy backs. My dad had a drum set and he taught me some basic drumming patterns, and kept complimenting me for being naturally talented, like him. He would alternate between insulting me and complimenting me, manipulating me and keeping me constantly seeking his validation. I became a four year old little boy in his presence, believing everything he said and doing whatever he asked, the scent and presence of this unfamiliar apartment new and strange and alien to me. I met my little sister who I didn’t even know existed until a week or two ago, and she looked so much like me because I look so much like my dad, and she was so excited to see her brother, who she’d been told about. One of my school photos I’d sent him was hanging on his refrigerator, along with another older photo of me.

He psychoanalyzed my mother to me, told me all the conditions he believed she had, told me that he’d talked to a psychologist himself and when he talked all about the events of his marriage with her, the psychologist had assured him of her various mental illnesses and conditions. He told me all sorts of things he shouldn’t have told me, that he and my mother did not have sex on their wedding night because “she didn’t want to,” although she later told me that actually, he hadn’t shown interest in her and had instead jerked off onto a Playboy centerfold and made her watch, leaving her feeling humiliated and confused.

As he sat at the counter and drank, he told me his version of events, and he somehow, over the course of three days, CONVINCED me that my mother and my grandmother and everyone in the world except for him had been involved in a conspiracy to keep me away from my father, the only man who TRULY cared about me and wanted me to be safe. He sat to the side and coached me as I yelled at my mom on his cell phone for hours and hours, repeating the talking points he’d fed me, the lies he’d convinced me to believe, and insisted that I live with him. I was so nervous that I kept farting constantly, I know that sounds silly and gross but that was how my body was responding, and that night on his couch I asked if he would hug me, and I remember calling him “dad” when he held me in his arms, and asked him if this fear and confusion would go away. He made me watch Slingblade because it was his favorite movie, and he drunkenly began crying in the middle of the movie. I had told him that I’d secluded myself between the ages of twelve and fifteen and spent most of those years alone playing video games and not socializing because I didn’t have any friends. He told me that I was just like the character in Slingblade, being left alone in a shed with no parents to love them. He told me that his heart was breaking for me because of how I’d isolated myself. He told me so many stories about his version of events, how he at one point had taken a huge kitchen knife and started driving to my grandmother’s house with the intent to probably kill her for what he believed she’d done to me. I wonder now if he really believed it or if he just said he believed it, or if he convinced himself of the lie that he believed it. I think that story ended with a cop pulling him over and arresting him for having that knife, or something.

My other memory of my father is that he left when I was four years old and did not pay child support to my mom, so she had to work two or three jobs at a time to raise me herself. I have anger and resentment and even some hatred toward my mother for the way she’s treated me over the years but I understand how much she sacrificed and how hard she worked for me to have a home and to have the things I did have. My father, though, he was gone. He claims he was forced to leave, that my mom made him leave, and he got tired of fighting a losing battle. I remember him sending me a box in the mail, I hoped it would have presents in it for my birthday but it just had some clothes, I remember a couple pairs of boxers because they were silky and blue and had airplanes on them. He never sent money, or when he did it was scarce. And I would sometimes talk to him on a payphone, and when I would say “goodbye” to him he would tell me “No, don’t say goodbye. Goodbye sounds too final, it makes it sound like we’ll never talk again. Say ‘see you later’ instead.” And because he put that in my head, I’ve always been afraid to say goodbye to people.

He came back for a brief period when I was seven, after I had been molested again by my mother’s father, this time I was five years old and had vivid memories of what happened, memories I still have. When I was in therapy a couple years later my therapist suggested it would be healthy for me to have both parents involved in my therapy, so my dad moved back in with us, “temporarily,” to be involved in my therapy. And of course, he laid around and did nothing while my mom went to work, he refused to find a job, and every day while she was gone he engaged in this creepy ritual with me where he’d have me sit on his back and rub lotion all over his back and then trace letters in the lotion that he would guess. When I told my mom about this she was upset and insisted that he stop, although I think he continued doing it. If he touched me inappropriately at that time apart from giving and receiving massages (which I now realize was, of course, wildly inappropriate) then I don’t remember it.

It all came to a head when one day I was taking a nap on the couch and I was awakened by a loud crash. My father had thrown my mother onto the kitchen floor after they’d gotten into a screaming match and she had pulled the phone off the hook on the wall to dial 911. He yanked the phone from her hand and threw her onto the kitchen floor. The 911 operator had enough time to send police to our location, I’m not sure how they got the address in those days in the mid-90’s without GPS, but we wouldn’t see any cops for what felt like an hour or two later.

My father grabbed my mothers hair and he dragged her. He dragged her through the kitchen and into the living room. And my mom held tight to my father’s hands that were twisted into her hair, and she gasped and panted and screamed, “Jesse! Jesse! Run! Run to the neighbors! Call the police! Run, Jesse, run!” And I watched as he dragged her by the hair, kicking and screaming, across the carpet of the living room floor and down the hallway to the bedroom at the end of the hall, and slammed the door behind him.

And I sat on the couch, crying, and afraid, shocked, unsure of what to do. I could hear the screaming coming from the end of the hallway, from my mother’s room. I don’t remember walking up the door but I remember standing in the open doorway, and I remember watching my father push my mother’s head in between the mattress and the headboard, where he seemed to be trying to suffocate her. She gasped for air and screamed, and told me again to run. I shouted at my father, terrified, “What’s happening? What are you doing?” And my father shouted back at me “Your mother is being a BITCH, that’s what happening!”

As my father pushed my mother’s face into the space between the mattress and the headboard, her earring caught on her neck, and cut into her throat, and blood started to pour down her ear. That was what snapped him out of it, made him stop.

I know it was quiet for a long time. I know we waited for the police to arrive. I know we all sat on the front porch, where my father was quiet and seemed to be accepting of what had happened. My mom sat in stunned silence. I now realize looking back on it how unspeakably horrifying what happened to her was. I have compassion for her that I didn’t think to have before. I want to say if I’d have been her I’d have killed him to defend myself, but how can I know what anyone would have done? I had memories later of thinking that I should have picked up the phone sitting on the table by their bed and hit him with it to save my mother. I should have run to the neighbors and called the police. It all happened so suddenly.

When the police arrived, they saw the blood on my mother’s neck and that was it. My father was quiet and obedient as they walked him over to the cop car, probably so he would be out of sight of his small child, and cuffed him. I ran over and asked them if they were taking my daddy away, and they said they were, and they were sorry but nothing could be done about it. I asked if I could say goodbye to him and the cops let me walk up to my dad and give him a hug and a kiss in the back of the squad car before they drove him away.

He left my life then. I didn’t see him again until now, when I was fifteen, when he told me his twisted version of events, when he gaslit me and convinced me to believe in the reality he seemed to inhabit. In the world where he was innocent and everyone else was guilty.

In the world where he wasn’t a psychopath, a manipulator, an abuser, and very likely a molester of his own son.

And finally, when I realized that I needed to get out of this, that I needed to go home, he did not drive me home the way he’d picked me up and driven me here. He bought me a train ticket and seemed quiet, like he’d been defeated, like he’d lost a game he had been playing where he could get revenge on my mother by taking me back. On the train ride back, I asked the guy sitting in the seat next to me if I could use his cell phone to call my mom and let her know I was okay. My best friend’s dad picked me up from the train station and drove me home. My mom had been terrified by everything.

I didn’t talk to my father for a long time. When I was eighteen, maybe nineteen by that point, I found out his mother was dying of cancer, and she wanted to see me again. She had always been a good grandmother to me and it wasn’t her fault that I hadn’t been part of her life. So my boyfriend at the time, his dad agreed to drive me up to see her because he believed strongly that it was important for me to see this woman if she may be dying, and he drove me all the way up to where she lived, and I spent a couple of hours with my father’s family again. My grandmother was elated to see me. She was the kind of southern woman I’ve rarely ever seen, the kind that people make fun of, the kind of woman people do a bad impression of when they talk about the south, she spoke with a Scarlet O’Hara accent and began every sentence with “sweetie” and “darlin’” and “sugah,” and she made me biscuits and gravy from scratch because that had been my favorite meal for her to make me as a child. I saw my sister again, who didn’t say much, she was very sporty and was playing ball in the back yard. My dad was probably living out raising the son he always wanted with her (he’d tried tossing a ball with me as a kid but I was terrible at it and found the whole thing really boring).

I gave my father a hug during that trip and was trying my best to tell him I loved him and to be close with him, and he snidely remarked to his wife “This kid, he’s so touchy feely.” So dismissive of me, so callous and cold and cruel. We talked on the phone for a while after that. He tried to tell me not to be gay, tried to tell me he understood the “confusion” I felt because he had “thought” he was gay too, until he went to suck a dick and realized “THIS IS WRONG.” He told me if I would just get on my knees and pray to god, he would fill me with a love that was, I quote, “Sweeter than honey.” He told me about how he believed federal money was a conspiracy. For some reason I had been under the impression that Abraham Lincoln had been black or at least partially black because I remembered seeing him with dark skin in photos, and my dad was APALLED at this, and when I asked him why he was so upset, he shouted at me “Because no one’s ever told you that we’ve never had a n****r president!”

Finally, one night, on the phone with him, all this resentment and rage that had been building up came bursting out. I said to him “You’re nothing but a conservative gun-toting republican asshole,” and he quipped back at me, “Well, I am a conversative, I am a republican, I am a gun lover, and I am an asshole.” That’s clever. It’s the kind of clever shit he would say all the time. My father was deviously intelligent, kind of an evil genius, and it terrifies me to know that I inherited his intelligence.

When I got back from that trip when I was fifteen, I spent months and months trying to get his version of events out of my head, and there was a time when I very genuinely believed my grandmother had molested me. My grandmother of all people, who had raised countless kids and taken in others, who had taken care of her grandchildren when their parents wouldn’t step up. My grandmother who heard my father turn to her and say out loud that he wanted to hurt me the way his father had hut him. My grandmother who was a devout Christian and who refused to participate in the Lord’s supper for years at her church because it was said that you should not partake of this meal if you hold hatred in your heart for any fellow human, and despite trying and trying my grandmother had not been able, for many years, to forgive my father for the lies he told. A lie that caused both my grandmother and HER mother, my great grandmother, to be investigated by the police who came through and turned their house upside down looking for any evidence they had molested me, who interrogated them both about any incident with me that might have been deemed inappropriate.

My grandmother died when I was eighteen. I had not always been a good grandson to her, but she had done her best to be a good grandmother to me. Unlike my mom, unlike my aunt, unlike my brother or my cousins or anyone else in my family, my grandmother never let me leave her house angry. She never let me leave without telling me she loved me, and hugging me and kissing me, even when we had argued and I had caused her pain or been trouble for her. Even when I made her so upset and I got in her face at twelve years old and shouted through gritted teeth she was a terrible grandmother, causing her to begin having chest pains and the signs of a heart attack, and an ambulance coming out to check on her. Even then, she never let me leave without reminding me she loved me.

My grandmother’s death was a process that lasted a few months. My mom went to check on her one day and found her laying on her couch, where she’d been for maybe a day or two without moving. She couldn’t get up, couldn’t feed herself, couldn’t shower or go to the bathroom. My mom moved her into our house and took care of her in her final months, bathed her, and fed her. I was afraid, really afraid, because I didn’t want to be near death. I was afraid touching her would get death on me, infect me. I felt bad but I didn’t know what to do. One day, though she could barely speak, and when she did speak it was in mumbled barely understandable words, she asked for me specifically.

I went into my mom’s bedroom where my grandma’s hospital bed had been set up. She wanted me to help her take her medicine. She wanted me specifically. I put the pills in her mouth. She smiled at me and thanked me. She loved me so much. I was scared then, and young, and stupid. I was afraid to be near her. I think she knew that and she wasn’t upset. She loved me anyway. She was a good person, the last person in the world who deserved the things my dad said and did to her.

My mom kept telling me “Tell her you’re sorry for being difficult when you were a teenager, tell her you love her, and you hope she forgives you.” I didn’t want to. Hospice had come by that point. She didn’t speak anymore or open her eyes. She sometimes would squeeze someone’s hand. My whole family and everyone who knew my grandmother was in and out, our house was bustling and there was a strange kind of feverish excitement and solidarity in a house where a person was dying and people were coming to pay respects and see them on their death bed.

My best friend’s dad told me and my brother to come into the bedroom. My grandmother was about to die. My mom and my sister had just left the house for a while to go get some ice cream, my sister was seven and my mom wanted to help her get away from the gloom of our house and her grandmother’s death. I don’t remember if I did this then or if it happened days earlier, but I leaned in to my grandmother’s ear, knowing this might be my last chance, and I said to her “I’m sorry that I was so mean to you as a teenager, I’m sorry and I love you, I hope you can forgive me.”

My grandmother stopped breathing. My aunt sighed defeatedly and began crying. It was done. She wasn’t breathing anymore. My cousin dramatically started to cry and shouted “Wake up! Wake up!” which I guess I can’t blame her for but seemed such a ridiculous thing to do. But people can’t control how they respond to death and to grief. Everyone was crying, even my brother who never showed emotion. My mom walked in the door with my little sister at her side, and was shocked and heartbroken that she hadn’t been there at the moment my grandmother died.

My dad, he… he did so many awful things to my mother and to me and to my family. But my grandmother, she didn’t deserve that. None of us deserved those things but my grandmother was a good person. She treated me with the kind of love people expect from a parent, the kind of unconditional love I hadn’t gotten from my mom who was too damaged to really raise a kid, to really be a good and supportive and loving mother.

That phone conversation, when I told my dad I didn’t like who he was or the kind of person he was, that I was angry at him, I finally said it. “You molested me when I was a kid, didn’t you? I want the truth.” He became instantly furious. I told him he was a lousy father, a lousy excuse for a man, that he molested his own son and tried to pin it on that boy’s grandmother. I told him to admit it. He shouted at me. I don’t remember any of the things he said. I remember before the shouting began, he said with venom in his voice, “You gotta lot of balls talking to me like that over the phone, boy.” And as he shouted and shouted, I walked into my mom’s room and held the phone out on speaker and woke her up listening to it. And my father, he shouted at me, “I’m gonna find you. I’m gonna drive down there, I’m gonna find, and I’m gonna fuck you up.”

I hung up the phone and started to cry. And cry. And cry. The phone rang. It was his wife. I answered the phone crying, terrified, and told her “Please tell him not to hurt me.”

And that woman, that awful, disgusting harpy of a woman, she scoffed at me and said “Why should I do that? You’re the one who’s got such big phone balls that you can talk to him like that. Maybe you need to have your ass whooped.” And I cried and said “Please tell him not to hurt me, I’m sorry and I’ll never bother you again.” And I hung up. And then I had a nervous breakdown, whatever that is, I don’t know. But I gasped for air and my mom didn’t help things because she stood at my locked bedroom door and banged on it, screaming for me to open it, and I told her I needed her to leave me alone so I could call my friends and have them help me through this, but she kept screaming and making it worse.

He threatened to kill me.

He didn’t say “kill you,” he said “fuck you up,” but it was the same thing. It was the same threat. And from a person like him, who’s capable of any evil someone can imagine, I’m sure it was genuine.

The last time I ever spoke to him was months later, on Christmas. I was at home alone and he called the house phone. I picked it up and cautiously said “Hello?”

Cheerfully, he said “Hey there son. Just wanted to call you and tell you merry Christmas and that I love you.”

I don’t remember exactly what I said. I hope I didn’t say I loved him back. I don’t think I would have. I remember that year that I had gotten a cold and the fireplace in the living room was always running and I could smell and breathe the flakes of dust coming out of the fireplace where the cinders burned on the remains of the logs. I told him that my mom was calling on the other line, even though she wasn’t, and I had to go. I don’t know if I said goodbye. I probably said merry Christmas.

I hung up the phone.

I have never spoken to my father again.

That was ten years ago.

I… I didn’t expect to talk about any of this tonight. I started writing at 3:00AM and it’s about to be 6:00AM now. I was going to write a quick post about how I should have set aside time to write today, and then… all of this spilled out.

That’s okay, I guess it was needed.

I… when it comes to my dad…

I don’t know why I’m saying all this publicly. My father could read this if he found it. Part of me hopes he does.

I don’t think I’ll ever get a chance to tell him what I think of him. I don’t think I’ll ever get to tell him the things that I carry inside my heart.

They say that hate only eats away at you, only hurts the one doing the hating. They’re probably right.

I don’t care.

I hate my father. I hate him more than I can ever possibly express. I find him so evil, so disgusting, so unspeakable, he’s like every bad villain cliché come to life. I sometimes fantasize about being a famous and successful writer and musician, and my father will come to a book signing or a meet and greet, and I’ll punch him right in his face and knock him flat on his ass on the ground right there in front of everyone, and have him taken away. I fantasize about him coming to one of my shows so I can sing the Jewel song daddy and look him dead in the eye and tell him how much I hate him.

I imagine someone calling me, having tracked down my number somehow, and telling me “Your father has died. His funeral is tomorrow.” And then maybe I could tell them the truth about how I feel.

I wish that god existed, so that there was a hell for him to go to. I wish that he could burn there forever, and I wish that he could know, as he laid on his deathbed thinking about me and wondering if somewhere deep down in my heart I loved him and forgave him, that I hate him with such ferocity that my hate will linger with his soul wherever it goes and torment him into eternity, that I will hate him until the day I die and I’m released from my hate, that I hope he spends eternity suffering for the harm he’s caused me, that I hope he knows the truth underneath the lies that he’d told himself that he is just as evil as everyone else knows, that his version of events is a lie, that his life and who he is is a lie.

And worst of all, that he poisoned me. He poisoned me with his hate and his abuse, that the cycle his dad perpetuated onto him, he perpetuated onto me. That as he looked down on me in my crib and said he wanted to hurt me, that I could one day stand over his grave and look down on it and wish that I could plunge my hands into the dirt and pull that wooden box out of the ground and beat his dead corpse until his heart and soul know that I hate him, that I hate him, that I hate him, that I hope he understands that all the evil that lives inside his heart is the same evil he passed onto me, and he can have it back. He can have it back with every punch and every kick and every curse and every fleck of spit, and he can know that I hate him the way a father who lost a child hates their murderer, that I hate him the way a victim hates their rapist, that I hate him the way a warlord hates his enemy, that I hate him the way Satan hated God for casting him out of heaven and abandoning him, that I hate him and I hate him and I hate him. That this curse, this poison, this trauma, this abuse, this cycle that he passed down to me is living and breathing and sprouting vines inside my heart, and thorns are growing all around my body as they always have been, that the pain he inflicted in me drives me to want to destroy everything around me.

But I am better than he is. I am a better person than he is. I am a better man than he is and I don’t even like calling myself a man because he has poisoned that word for me and anything it might represent to me.

I am brave enough to face my darkness. I am not a coward, I do not tell myself convenient fucking lies and make myself the hero of my story. I face my fears, I face my regrets, I accept my mistakes, I acknowledge the pain I’ve caused, I am not a coward like him. I am not a feeble, fat, balding old man who drinks himself to sleep and who cries as he plays the drums and sings Fuel songs but changes the lyrics to “Guess I’ll let him go.” You never got the chance to let me go because I was never your son, you abandoned me years ago when you chose to do whatever the hell it was you did to me.

And…

And…

And…

And this is the darkness in my heart. This is the pain I carry with me. This is the anger that is a part of me. I hope that one day, when he’s dead and gone, I won’t HAVE to hate him anymore, because there will be nothing left to hate. Only a memory that’s faded and gone.

My resentment toward my mother is different. It’s not blind rage like with my father. A part of me will feel safe when she’s gone too, but I also can’t completely blame my mother for being a bad mom, because what else could she be with all she’s suffered. Good parents try to do the best they can with the situation they’re given.

My father doesn’t understand love because he wasn’t given love. His version of love is abuse, his version of love is hate, his version of love is inflicting pain because pain was inflicted on him. He is a coward who would stand over a baby’s crib and realize “I want to hurt him,” but not have the guts to say, “But I won’t. I cannot let him suffer like I suffered.”

I hate him. And I hope somewhere, in the world, if there is any spiritual connection left between us, he feels it pulsing down through veins that connect us, the utter loathing and shame and hatred I feel toward him. I hope he never knows a moment’s peace when he thinks of me. I hope he knows that every father’s day I think about how much I hate him. That every birthday I wonder if he remembers today is my birthday.

And that’s just… life, I guess.

You suffer, you carry the burden around with you.

And you try to be kind to yourself.

Maybe someone will be kind to him, it certainly won’t be me. But I can’t focus on this every day because it will just eat me alive. I’ll be happier, I’ll be at peace, when I know he’s no longer in the world. When I know there’s no chance he could ever hurt me or anyone again. When I know I don’t HAVE to fantasize or worry about a confrontation with him. When I don’t have to think about it anymore.

This was… a lot. And I’m sorry for that. I may make this post private. I didn’t intend to write all this, but there it is. Sometimes it all just spills out. This all started because I realized at the end of my therapy session that I was angry at my ex-boyfriend, that I began to hate myself because of the way he was disgusted by me.

But I also have to remember I am a good person. I have been shaped by trauma and abuse and I still choose to show compassion to people. I have hurt people in my life, I have betrayed people, I have made people feel unsafe. I’ve found myself perpetuating the cycle of abuse with boyfriends. I’ve found myself manipulating and gaslighting. But I recognize it and I CHOOSE to end the cycle. I choose not to continue my father’s line. I choose not to have a child biologically. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind, but I don’t want to subject another child to the inherited trauma that I received from my father and he from his father, though I don’t know his father started the cycle or just perpetuated it.

I… I can’t think of how to end this. So I’ll just say that if you’re reading this, you’re probably someone I know and trust and it probably took you a long time to get here, so thanks for caring and for reading. I’m sorry if this was traumatizing or triggering to anyone.

And now I guess I’m going to either have some coffee or go to sleep. Not sure yet which one.

Michael

I’m on the right, visible somewhere beneath all the accessories

I was sitting in a tree, the day I ran away from home.

The tree was on the front lawn of my high school, and I was sixteen years old. It must have been a week day because I remember thinking, as I walked through the short stretch of woods that divided my neighborhood from the school, that my chorus teacher was probably still there and I might be able to get some advice from him, talk to him about life. I seem to remember a few people still walking around outside so it must have been around five o’clock. I got to the school and went to the chorus room but it was locked, he’d already gone home for the day, so I wandered out to the front area where people waited for cars to pick them up and climbed up into one of the trees there. It wasn’t too difficult to climb because the tree wasn’t very high, and I remember nestling myself in so I could sulk properly.

I’d run away without giving it any thought. I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t care, of course I’d not planned for where I would sleep, what I would eat, where I would go tomorrow. I was so fueled by emotion that it didn’t matter, the melodrama of doing it made me feel something and that insolent teenage passion and rage was enough. Just feeling it was enough. The future didn’t really matter.

I’d gotten angry at my mother. She’d abused me for years but on this particular day she was acting out of misguided compassion. I guess most of her abuse took the form of misguided concern. She didn’t really hit me, aside from one time when she lost it and pulled my hair, and another when she pushed me onto my bed and walked out of the room, it was all psychological gaslighting and emotional manipulation, a lot of screaming and name-calling and denigration. Today, the thing she’d done was to not believe me when I told her the truth.

I had a best friend, back then. His name was Michael, and we had met a year ago, and I had immediately fallen head-over-heels in love with him. He was my first love, and I met him the day before my fifteenth birthday. Having turned thirty a few months ago I can now say that it’s been the same amount of time from that day up to now as it had been from the moment I was born up until the day I met him, but even though that moment is lost in the dense fog that makes up my memory and perception of time, I still hold on to it, even if I’ve sucked all the feeling out of it like marrow from a bone. I hold on to that husk of a memory that has become so grainy and foggy and distorted and unclear because it makes me who I am, it was the time when I felt most alive. When I met him, I fell almost instantaneously in love with him in a way that only teenagers – not quite children and not quite adults – can. People say that teen love is “puppy love” but they only say that because most of the people doing the talking are heterosexual and have the privilege of growing up in a world when they’re allowed to have pretend girlfriends and pretend crushes as young children before they actually develop romantic and sexual elements of their own personalities – a boy walking to class holding hands with his girlfriend doesn’t have any idea what romance is, they’re playing pretend, they’re imitating what they see adults do.

Teenagers do everything in extremes. They love passionately and hate passionately and they sulk passionately. I once tried reading an Edmund White book called A Boy’s Own Story and honestly I never made it very far, but there was something he said that has stayed with me, and I’ve never been able to exactly pinpoint the quote so I’ll just tell you the version of it I assimilated into my mind: all love is a reflection of the first. The first time we fall in the love the most intense, the more pure, the most distilled and undiluted version of raw love that we can feel. It might not be the most healthy, the most productive, or the most successful, and I’m sure that this quote does not really apply to everyone. In fact, I wish it didn’t apply to me. But it feels to me, despite the love I have felt for other people since, that I’ve never loved someone as fully and unconditionally and unstoppably as I did Michael. Michael was straight (for the most part), and even though we would later on have a sexual experience after the full heat of our friendship had subsided and we’d spent a lot of time apart, right now I was deeply in love with him, and things had seemed to be going as well as I could have hoped for.

My wildest dream had come true: after a year of achingly longing to be with Michael all week and going to his house almost every weekend (the few times I couldn’t be with him I cried and pined after him as only a lovesick teenage boy can), our family had united into one little unit with my mother and his father becoming close friends. They’d actually dated as teenagers but broken up, and that’s how I ended up being introduced to Michael when his dad visited my grandmother. And now our families had actually moved in together, with Michael and I sharing a bedroom, that bedroom being a garage filled with our furniture and beds and video games. And not only were we living together but we were going to the same school.

When I fell in love with Michael I needed to rationalize some way to live with the fact that he did not love me back in the same way that I loved him, so I convinced myself that I loved him as “a brother.” I told myself that we were as close as brothers and that was why we cared about each other so much and so deeply understood each other. That was why I needed to be with him. He was my soul brother. But of course I didn’t understand at the time this was my way of contextualizing a love I couldn’t deal with. There were some bumps in the road, but for the most part I had come to believe this about my relationship with Michael. I had accepted that he wasn’t going to be my boyfriend, but I loved him with a ferocity that could only come from a teenage boy in the heat of pure and unfiltered infatuation, mixed with the gentle open heart of a deeply troubled abused boy who had never had a close friend he could rely on before, and had spent years fantasizing about what it might be like to be held in the arms of another boy or to kiss another boy or to touch someone in the way that I so desperately wanted to be touched. Michael didn’t kiss me, he didn’t touch me, and he only occasionally let me see him naked, but anything was better than nothing, and I worshipped him because as long as he was in my life, my life had meaning.

Michael and I had made a new friend, called Cody. Cody was, like us, a bit of an outcast. He lived in a rough part of town in a dingy trailer in the woods, but he was a kind guy and Michael and I started spending time at his house, spending the night together, the three of us bunched into Cody’s small bed. I was always in the middle. Cody was really more Michael’s friend than he was mine, but he was still just as nice to me, and he and I even spent some time together without Michael, with him “sword fighting” with me using old metal rods he had laying around his back yard. The three of us also wrestled with one another a lot. I remember how much we laughed while we were wrestling and how at home I felt. I remember this moment of looking at Cody’s bookshelf, I have no idea what was on that shelf anymore but I remember contemplating it, it may have been a CD or a video game, and I observed Cody with the same weird alien fascination that I observed everyone with, because I never really understood people and always felt that I was outside and trying to understand them. I used Cody’s bathroom and found a crumpled, crusty shirt next to his toilet, and told him he’d forgotten to wash it, when he awkwardly told me that it was his cum rag and it was there for a reason. If I remember correctly, I went back into the bathroom and did all the disgusting things you’d imagine a horny pent up gay teenage boy might do when presented with someone else’s cum towel.

All this is to say that while spending time with Cody had been fun, and I was beginning to feel like Michael and I were actually starting to form some kind of friend group, I’d come home absolutely covered in bruises from the wrestling and the metal pole sword-fighting. And when she saw how bruised I was, my mom refused to believe my story that it had happened naturally during rough housing. Even though I kept explaining to her that Cody is just really physically rough and I don’t mind because I can handle it, she convinced herself that I was so pitiful and so desperate to have friends that I was willing to let these boys beat me up in order to be their friend. She thought I was allowing myself to be physically abused by these two so that they could hang out with me and show me attention. It’s honestly a really bizarre narrative she invented but I could see how if I had been a parent with a kid covered in bruises I might not believe their story either.

The point is that I kept vehemently protesting when she insisted this version of events she’d invented were true, and you know the funny thing about gaslighting is that now all these years looking back on it, I had to stop for just a split-second and ask myself “Wait… was it true? Were they beating me up?” That’s how easy it is to fuck with someone’s perception, especially someone with mental illness. Of course I was sixteen at the time and panic attacks and anxiety were not yet a part of my life. That particular door had not been opened, and that endless sinking plummeting in my stomach and heat in my chest had not yet begun. So my mother kept insisting I was lying to her, and I kept insisting I was telling the truth, and as she grew more frantic she began to scream that she was going to call the police, that she was going to have Cody locked up or sent to juvenile detention for what he’d done to me.

I was so angry with her over everything, not just Cody I now realize looking back, but everything she’d put me through, that I had enough. And I stomped outside and stomped down the driveway and stomped the short way up the street to the woods and stomped into the path that led to school. And as I furiously stormed through the woods and found the dirt road that led up to the school, passing the few houses of the people who lived back there, I became convinced that I’d had enough and I was done with my mom, and I was never going back. It’s easy, when you’re young, to forget about the reality of a situation. Where you will sleep seven hours from now is not a consideration when you’re SO PASSIONATELY angry that the very act of running away, the defiance itself, is enough to make you feel satisfied. I imagined I would find my chorus teacher still packing up for the day and we’d sit down like this was a sitcom and I’d have a heart-to-heart with him, and he’d tell me something really wise and I would have the strength to persevere and feel that I’d learned something.

But he wasn’t there. The chorus room door was locked and the light within was turned off. So I wandered outside and sat in the tree.

I didn’t have a phone. In my memory of being in the tree I seem to think I was wearing a hoodie and listening to an iPod but that can’t be right. It’s funny how memory fills in the gaps with details that didn’t actually happen. I know that eventually, I got tired of sitting in the tree, so I climbed down and started walking.

I didn’t know where I intended to go. I turned right out of the school and walked up to the intersection and turned left, walking through yards. I was actually headed in the direction of a house I’d previously lived in for a few years but I don’t think that thought had really crossed my mind yet. I’ve gone through Mount Holly plenty of times now that I’m an adult with a car, and I think the distance I walked was somewhere between six to ten miles. It was a lot. I walked past houses and into areas of road with nothing but trees on either side, I walked past several gas stations, I walked past the big park where soccer games were held, past where my friends got off the bus. The sole on one of my shoes had come lose and it actually came completely off while I was walking, so I took it off and walked, alone, holding one shoe in my hand. At some point I decided to stop, I don’t remember what I was thinking exactly but I stopped and knocked on someone’s door and asked if I could use their phone. I tried calling Michael’s dad, who lived with us, but he didn’t answer, and the lady gave me a can of Mountain Dew and I went back to walking.

I kept going, further and further. The whole time, I was singing.

The night before had been a chorus concert. It’s a particular memory that’s been replaying in my brain for years and years. Our concerts were held at this big church with great acoustics; it had a high ceiling and stained glass windows that I remember had some slightly ugly depictions of Jesus and one that had the devil in a corner, or at least I thought it was. I had a Gameboy Advance with me and I was playing Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories. Michael was around somewhere, or at least he would be later, I don’t exactly remember because in my memory I’m not associating with him. He must have come later. But now I was sitting in a pew because I was here hours earlier than I needed to be and the rest of my class wasn’t there, it was just the Concert Choir who was there rehearsing, and they were eleventh and twelfth graders.

The piano started, and the group began to sing a spiritual, and the arrangement began with a soloist.

When she started singing, I immediately lifted my head from where I was staring down at the Gameboy Advance, and watched her, transfixed.

The song was a spiritual entitled City Called Heaven, and she was singing,

“I am, a poor pilgrim
A poor pilgrim of sorrow
I’m left in, this ol’ wide world

This wide world, alone
I ain’t got no hope
Got no hope for tomorrow
I’m trying to make it
Make Heaven my home.”

I was so moved by her voice and by the song that later on when our concert was ripped onto a CD I would borrow it from my chorus teacher and put it on my computer, and sadly those files, as well as his copy of the concert, is now lost. I’ve never heard a rendition of the song quite like hers. Later on, in eleventh grade, I would convince myself that I had a crush on her because I’d been so moved by her voice, because it felt nice to think I had a crush on a girl, it felt right and normal and like something I should do. I never really did, of course, but I even indulged in lightly fantasizing about her giving me a kiss for my birthday. It’s stupid, the things we fantasize about as teenagers. But our fantasies are blessedly stupid, because a lot of other fantasies from that time remain in my mind.

And so here I was, walking down a dusty road in a small town at dusk as the sun was setting, my long messy hair probably sweaty and tangled and holding one shoe in my hand. And the whole time I sang to myself, slightly misunderstanding part of the verse,

“I am a poor pilgrim
A poor pilgrim of sorrow
I’m left in this ol’ wide world
This ol’ wide world alone
I ain’t got no home
Got no home for tomorrow
I’m trying to make it
Make Heaven my home”

It seemed to me to be a mantra, and the theme music to this particular scene in my life. How fitting to have heard the song just the night before, to have it playing in my mind, to be quietly singing it to myself as I finished my can of Mountain Dew and probably threw it into the woods. The night before at the church I’d been wearing a god-awful necklace made entirely of soda can tabs that Michael had made, and even though I knew it was an incredibly dumb accessory (even for 2006, the height of dumb accessories), I wore it because it was something that made me feel connected with Michael. That night at the church it had broke and all the soda tabs had spilled onto the floor and I don’t remember what I did. I actually now think I may have just left them all there on the floor for someone else to clean up. That’s a memory that I didn’t even know I had, leaving them there. I’ve always thought I collected the tabs and wore them again. I don’t know, who’s to say at this point? That’s the thing with memory, it’s a haze.

So I sang to myself over and over again on repeat, not knowing anything but the first verse of the song, “I ain’t got no home, got no home for tomorrow,” and “I’m left in this wide world, this wide world alone.” It made so much sense. I knew that by now my mom was worried. But she didn’t know where I’d be. I thought maybe she’d have sent the police out to look for me. I didn’t care. I had calmed down a lot but I was still angry with her. Still feeling this righteous indignation deep within me at the fact that SHE had accused my FRIEND, one of my only, blessed, few friends, of abusing me, and had not believed me when I protested. She had no right to threaten Cody, not after I’d finally made another friend. It had taken my fifteen years just to make one, and now she was going to take away my second friend? I didn’t know Cody yet but I’d already had times with him that I cherished: sneaking out in the middle of the night to walk several miles up the road to the gas station, sword fighting in his back yard, playing Yu-Gi-Oh with him, watching cartoon on Saturday morning. It was the kind of friendship that most kids get to have but which I’d had so little of, when I’d been alone and imagining my friends. It wasn’t fair for her to take away someone who meant something to me. To threaten him. She was always taking from me, always making things worse.

She would do far worse things in the years to come, but for now, this indignation kept me walking, with no particular destination in mind. And eventually, I came upon the road I used to live on, which happened to be right across the street from the house where my uncle still lived. I tromped down behind the gas station where my uncle’s house was and found him on the porch, he jovially greeted me. It’s at this point in the story I remember that I was wearing a tee shirt that was way too big for me, and he made some comment about how funny I looked. I think the shirt was Michael’s dads. I’d long since started calling him “dad” and considering him to be my new dad, especially since I considered Michael my brother.

I asked to use his phone and I don’t remember exactly how but I ended up at his neighbor’s house and using THEIR phone to call Michael’s dad, who did answer this time. He didn’t say very much. He didn’t seem to be angry at me. I quietly told him where I was and asked if he’d come pick me up. I might have asked him if he’d bring me some food, I’m not sure. About fifteen minutes later he arrived and we drove silently back to our house. When we got there my mom was on the back porch, sitting quietly, and it was clear she’d been crying. I’d been gone for probably three hours or more. I asked her if she was going to start yelling at me. She sighed and said that no, she was not going to yell at me, but to please promise that I would never scare her like this again. Her sister was sitting beside her and I seem to remember her agreeing with my mom.

I went inside. I don’t remember what happened next. That’s where the chapter ends in my memory. Eventually I drifted away from Cody and then away from Michael. But I never really stopped loving him, just stopped needing him all the time.

Fifteen years later I think I still love him. I definitely still long for the way I felt when he was my entire world. To be so fully and completely devoted to someone, to be so enveloped by a feeling of devotion, it’s something I truly don’t think I’ll ever experience again. But I’d certainly like to. Michael is a hard person to find, and he has very little presence on social media, but I managed to find him under a screen name with no photos some time last year on Twitter and reached out to him. He actually lives very close to where I live now. He lives with two women, one older and one younger than him, and he made a lot of gross misogynist comments about how just one girl isn’t enough for him, and how he works to support them by streaming video games on Twitch. I asked him if he was still bisexual and he told me no, he was straight. I briefly brought up how much I loved him back in high school and he didn’t seem bothered but just kind of shrugged it off.

I think, that in the story of Michael’s life as he sees it when he looks back, I am probably not a very prominent player, not an important character. And it’s a little funny and a little sad that he is quite possibly the most important figure in my history, the one who taught me love and friendship. I don’t even know there was anything particular about him that did it: any boy who showed me attention and who was attractive to me might have gotten the same response. If time was rewound and the situation played out differently I might have fallen in love with any other boy in the world, but it was him. And that moment, so emotionally powerful, when I first got into his dad’s car the weekend after I’d met him for my birthday, and been so excited to see him that I’d left the front door of our apartment wide open, and with horror and panic heard my mom scream at me over the phone later that maybe Michael’s dad should turn around and bring me right back home, those moments are etched into who and what I am. They are a central part of my story, of my memory. They’re a landmark in the fog, a place to stop and sit and wonder and think and feel again.

As an adult, I am right now in a crisis of a kind. An emotional crisis, a mental crisis. I’m not panicking the way I was this time a year or so ago, when I was being ravaged by anxiety attacks every night and didn’t think I’d ever get any better. But I am at some kind of breaking point where I feel something has to change. And my depression has caused my memory to be affected, and my ability to focus and to recall the words I need have been impaired by this fog that swirls around in my mind. And I find myself sifting through these memories, trying to find some meaning in them, to understand what my life is and who I am and to recover enough of myself to move forward.

I haven’t found it yet. I don’t know if I will. Right now my feelings are so numb that the memory of loving Michael is distant, but it’s a light in the sky and I know it’s there because I can see it, even if I can’t touch it.

I’d like to fall in love again so completely, but I don’t know if I will, and I don’t even know if I CAN. It doesn’t seem likely that I’ll experience teenage infatuation in my thirties. But life may surprise me. I hope it does.

Someone told me today that I am a writer. They didn’t say it in a triumphant way, they said it in passing while talking about something else, they acknowledged it as a fact, and it felt so validating that they believed in my writing. They actually said a lot of other kind things right after that touched me, but it was the fact they acknowledged it so completely, “You are a writer, you are a good writer.” They believe in me, and they believe I ALREADY AM a writer.

I guess I am.

I’ve never gone to college. My writing, like my music, is wild and untrained and overwrought with emotion because feeling is really all I’m capable of, which I know is ironic considering how numb I am. I don’t think I’m very good at describing scenery, I can never adequately explain the scene of my imagination to a reader, but I think I can make people understand how it FEELS. How it feels to be sitting in a tree outside my high school, to be wandering the road alone and singing a hymn I only half-remembered, to be young enough that the panic attacks hadn’t started and I could do something like walk for ten miles in a random direction with no thought to what might happen and with no food or water and somehow still feel content to keep walking.

I don’t know where this is going to lead. The world is on lock down and I haven’t gone to work since April. I’ve been delivering food in my car for most of that time, and it’s become harder and harder both to make money doing it and to force myself to get up and go to work. I’ve been emotionally and spiritually pounded by my depression in the past two weeks in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time. I’m in what I think of as “the deep place,” a dark place in a pool of water that isn’t exactly wet and doesn’t make you drown or suffocate, a place where you sink like a stone to the bottom of the dark lake and sit there with your arms around your knees and you just feel. Feel and feel and feel and feel. Tonight I’m numb, not rocking back and forth in the shower listening to music from my teen years that I didn’t even care about at the time but which now punctures me emotionally and makes the memories and the longing and the disappointment spill out.

Back then I kept walking because I was feeling everything so intesely that I couldn’t stop. Now I’m trudging because I want to feel. I’m on the other end of the road, walking toward him. I wish I could find him, the me that was sixteen, the me that was still healthy and not nearly as overweight as I thought I was, the me that didn’t have type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea and acid reflux and anxiety and panic attacks all compounded by the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I’ve had since childhood. I want to hold him in my arms. I want to hold his long brown hair in my hands and comfort him and tell him…

…tell him what? That there’s so much to live for? Well, maybe. He doesn’t have a lot to look forward to. It’s been so much pain, so much disappointment, so much regret, and so much continual longing for exactly the time he’s living through, the time that’s coming to an end, the time when he was first in love. But I could tell him that I love him. That he means something to me. That his existence is the only reason for mine, and I don’t mean that in a linear sense, I mean it spiritually. I’m alive because I’m trying to get to him, I’m trying to find him in this dense fog that ties my tongue and locks my memories and keeps me away from myself. I’m trying to find him, somewhere in this dense foggy castle of my mind, sitting behind a locked door and waiting to be found. I’m trying to believe, as he did, that the future held promise. That there were more Michael’s to love, Michael’s who would actually love me back, Michael’s who would enrich me and not just hold me in thrall. I love Michael, still, because of who we WAS, regardless of who he is now, and his part in my life is so precious to me that if I could do it all over again I’d make sure he was still there. He saved me from my silent existence, he gave me a companion who listened and who in some way understood. He gave me a lover whether he touched me or not, whether he kissed me or not. Michael did kiss me, a couple years later, because I asked him to, because we’d done most everything else I’d wanted to do but not that, and he awkwardly pushed me against a wall and kissed me hard with a mouth that tasted like stale marijuana, a kiss as unsatisfying and devoid of passion as I should have expected it to be. It didn’t feel like a book-end to a story, it felt silly. I’m glad he did it but I wish it had been better.

Maybe all this time I’ve been remembering Michael the way I do because it helps me make sense of my life to see him as a blinking light in the sky I can follow to get back home to myself. Maybe I’ve romanticized him, but who doesn’t romanticize their past? We all have to see something, to find some meaning.

I don’t even believe in Heaven anymore. But I’m still out in this wide world alone. And I’m still trying to find home.

*

*

P.S.

Last year I wrote a song about Michael. I’m very proud of it. It’s a bit lengthy but I think it’s a good one. My recording set up is not the best so the quality is very humble, but I hope you’ll feel something if you listen.

 

Well, At Least It’s Raining

I’ve always been comforted by rain. Much more so as I’ve gotten older. As a child, I was really scared of thunderstorms and especially tornadoes. As an adult, I guess they don’t scare me at all anymore. It’s not unusual for people to find solace in storms and rain, it’s a pretty common thing, but less common is feeling depression at the absence of rain. When it goes for too long a stretch of sunny days and beautiful weather I start to feel dry, choked, and trapped. Rain makes me feel relieved, nourished, safe. It feels like the world is growing around me. Like being tucked inside the branches of a primordial tree while the world develops around me, the sounds of rain touching everything, dripping from leaves.

This is a stressful time. I’m writing this on April 8, 2020. For the second time in my life, I am living through a major historic event. The first was in 2001 with the September 11 attacks, and the second is this, the Corona Virus outbreak. This feels different, and in many ways, worse, than September 11.

The thing about 9/11 that has always remained with me is how united everyone was afterward. And I’m not talking about patriotism or being united as Americans. Nationalism was as strange and upsetting to me then as it is now. What I mean is that people were all afraid. Everyone was scared, or angry, or unsure. But nobody felt safe anymore. And the fact that everyone felt this at the same time was comforting.

It’s a similar feeling to being at a funeral, or being near someone who’s dying. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never lost anybody I truly, deeply love, only family members like grandparents and stepfathers. I know that probably sounds cold, but I’ve never had a close relationship with my family, so it was a weird experience for me to be at their funerals and their wakes. The thing is, everyone seems to be feeling the same thing. Everyone is in shock, and everyone all his this air about them. It isn’t sadness, it isn’t depression. It’s the gentle shock of someone raising their eyebrows and smiling and shrugging their shoulders and saying “Well, here we are.” I don’t know how to put it into words, exactly. Nobody is angry, not at each other. Everyone is being… civil. And for some reason that I don’t entirely understand, civility and politeness are extremely important to me. It makes me feel safe when everyone is being civil. At a funeral, or at a restaurant after 9/11, everybody was on the same page. Nobody hated each other. Not yet. As a country we all became afraid of or angry at Muslims due to xenophobia, but it didn’t happen yet where I was, and all the sudden it felt like racist people weren’t racist anymore, bigoted people weren’t bigoted anymore. Of course that turned out not to be true but for the few days, weeks, months, there was a sense of camaraderie amongst everyone. I was also eleven years old at the time so I’m realizing as I’m typing this that maybe my rosy view of things isn’t true, that people didn’t truly come together, but at least everyone was all feeling something at once, even if it was fear and uncertainty. The same way people are at funerals.

And that’s what it’s like during times of crisis. People suddenly stop dividing themselves so much. People come together. It sounds so cheesy and stupid but it is how social creatures work. We unite when we have a common enemy, and the common enemy might be death, it might be terrorism, or it might be fear.

I don’t feel that this time. Because this time it’s a virus, and exposing yourself to other people makes you vulnerable, and everyone is inside with their doors shut, communicating mostly through memes and Facebook posts. And I am here, stuck at my house, which honestly wouldn’t be so bad except that mom chose this moment in time to come stay with us, and she brought with her my aunt and my cousin, neither of whom I particularly want to see for an extended period of time, especially during a crisis when distancing is important.

It would honestly make me feel better if my mom would leave and take the company with her. I’d feel more at peace if it were just me and my brother here and the house were quiet again, while it rains and storms outside. I could go and play piano or something.

This has been a confusing time for me. I’ve been working at a job for about a year and a half, I won’t say exactly what it is because as of now I’m still employed there, but suffice it to say I work in retail. Last week I accidentally overslept by an hour and I was the sole person opening the store, which meant the store opened an hour late. My boss has been incredibly unspecific about how he intends to respond to it, and I haven’t been back to work in a week. At first i had two days off, but then I was told he didn’t have any updates about the schedule, and he’d get back to me when he did. Then another day passed, and another. Today I texted my co-worker (there are only two of us working there, along without our boss) and he told me he was fired on Monday. And that he was told they were going to fire me, and not only that, but fire me in such a way that it was phrased that I was being let go not because of the needs of the business due to the Corona Virus outbreak, but because of me oversleeping last week, and implied that I wouldn’t be able to draw unemployment if that were the case. I don’t know how unemployment works but if so, that’s incredibly dirty of them, bordering on criminal, since conspiring against someone to keep them from getting unemployment during a worldwide health crisis because they came in to work an hour late seems negligible at best and criminal at worst. Again, I probably shouldn’t be talking about any of this, but I’m so fucking frustrated. I’ve been a good employee and done good work. This is the first job in my life where I’ve made a consistent effort not to call out of work, even when I’m exhausted or not feeling well. I’ve called out of work three times, all because I was sick (one of them was anxiety related but the other two were actual feverish sickness).

Today I went to the store to ask my boss about it to find that an associate from another store was filling in for him. When I called him he refused to give me any specifics and just kept repeating “I don’t know, I don’t know, it’s all very confusing right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” He wouldn’t admit to me whether or not he WANTED to fire me. I tried to call our district manager and he wouldn’t answer his phone or texts. I called human resources, who told me they’d look into it and get back to me, but they didn’t. I eventually got a text from my district manager saying “We’ll talk about this in the morning, and get it all straightened out.” I don’t know what that means. And even if I DO keep my job, I don’t actually WANT to go to work, because I don’t want to risk infection, I want them to temporarily lay me off so that I can get unemployment until this crisis is over so I don’t have to keep going outside and risking infection every day.

It’s been difficult here. I have a couple of local friends who I go to see when I’m feeling lonely and I can’t even do that. One of them is a friend-with-benefits who I have a pretty affectionate and sexual relationship with. I went to his apartment and he told me he was uncomfortable with me being there because I worked with the public and made me leave. I felt very hurt by that. And apart from someone coming over to visit me, I’ve not been able to see any other friends. I lost a Facebook friend this morning who I’ve known for a year or two because he didn’t appreciate that I wasn’t enthusiastically supporting Joe Biden, which is an entirely different topic that I don’t have the strength to go into here, but suffice it to say I think Biden is a buffoon with exactly the same temperament as Trump and even less grasp of where he is and what’s happening around him. I’m sick of watching the country being run by senile old men who don’t know what year it is, both literally and figuratively.

On a similar topic is that issue of my memory. For the last two years or so I’ve been developing memory issues that seem to be getting worse. I can’t recall what I was talking about or doing a few minutes ago, I need to make lists to remember things, I can’t recall words I need to use that I use on a regular basis when I’m talking or writing. It’s terrifying. I think that if something were to happen to my memory, if I were to lose the ability to retain information… I wouldn’t want to live anymore. It’s not something a 29 year old should be dealing with. And on the topic of being 29, I’ve spent the last year in an existential crisis about turning 30 and having achieved absolutely nothing in my life. I’ve become so contemplative, trying to understand the meaning in every aspect of life and being continually surprised to find that there is so little meaning in anything we do as people.

We just wake up in the world and drift through our lives and then one day we die. I’ve stopped believing we go anywhere. It’s a beautiful idea, that I might wake up in some fairy grove and rub the dust from my eyes and see the spirits of the dead around me, beckoning me to an everlasting paradise of sunshine and rolling green hills and clear blue skies, where all the fantasies of my life can come true, where there’s endless love and hope and adventure. But it’s so silly, isn’t it? So juvenile. So entirely human to believe that the universe owes us an afterlife, owes us meaning. The universe doesn’t owe us anything. We exist and that’s it. There is no meaning apart from the fact that we exist. Some things exist, some things cease to exist. Consciousness is not a magical spirit essence that lives inside our bodies, we are brains firing electric signals encased in flesh and bones. I would LIKE for spirits to be real, I would like for magic to be real, I would like for fairies and dragons and flying on angels wings to be real. But that doesn’t mean it becomes real.

You see, this is the kind of thing I’ve been doing all year. Trying to understand the deep, psychological and philosophical meaning behind everything. I’m going through a kind of puberty that I went through as a teenager, a philosophical puberty where I’m asking questions about existence, only this time they’re not accompanied by the hope that as I get older I’ll understand. They’re accompanied by the realization that not only will I never receive an answer, but NO ONE WILL, and no one has, and that is the state of existence in which we live. It is terribly unfulfilling but that doesn’t make it less true.

So, how do you keep going? How do you keep living when you realize that there are no fairies and magic, that Santa Claus doesn’t bring you presents and Jesus doesn’t monitor your thoughts and send you little miracles when you pray and ask for them? Julia Sweeney inspired me years ago by saying that the fact that we only have this one brief life makes every moment mean MORE, not less. And she’s right, of course. But that doesn’t mean that the sense of fulfillment from before, back when we believed that the universe had a grand order to it, isn’t lost. I’ve never read Paradise Lost but isn’t that what life is, the loss of the lies we believe from the time we’re children? What might life be like if as a child I’d not been taught that God was watching us, that we go somewhere when we die? What if I’d had the chance to grapple with these questions when my brain was still forming and come to accept them without existential angst, how much more fulfilling might my life be? And what better choices might I have made?

I’m angry at the circumstances of my birth. I live in a capitalist society where boys with families who have more money than I do got to get cars when they were sixteen and go to college and make friends and have sex and go to parties, but I was raised by simple, dense, southern baptist Christians who did the best they could but didn’t know any better. I was born smarter than my parents and the people around me and I grew up being told by teachers and adults how bright I was and how I’d change the world when I grew up or I’d be a great writer or a great artist, but I’m almost 30 and I’ve achieved nearly nothing. All I have are hundreds of low quality recordings of me and my piano, and this blog where I’ve written down my thoughts. And also the fear that someday someone will read through my old posts not to better understand me and the journey I’ve been on, but to search for a hint of moral infraction with which to cancel me and try to hurt me. I have to be measured and careful about what I say now, because if I have an outburst of emotion on the internet it will be captured and eventually used against me.

There are things that have happened in my life that I desperately want to write about, here in this blog, that I can’t, because I know from the experience of confiding in people that I can’t trust people with dark thoughts and regrets, I can’t trust people to treat me with compassion or decency. People are so selfish. America in particular is so selfish.

I wish I’d been born in England. I wish I had a family that lived in a nice house with two floors, and a dog, and I had two brothers, and my dad went to work and my mom took care of us, and when I was scared or sad I could go in my brother’s room and cry and be consoled. I wish I had a real family that I could love. I wish I didn’t lay my head down wondering where I’ll be sleeping in two months, if my mom will kick me out again, wondering what I’ll do for work, wondering if I’ll ever be able to go to school, wondering if it’s too late, too late to become a musician, to become a novelist, to achieve something. Wondering if the grey in my hair that used to be charming because I was so young to have grey hair is becoming a part of who I am now. Because soon, I won’t be young anymore. I’ll be young overall, but not really. I won’t be socially young. I’ll be thirty. And I won’t have a promising future anymore. I’ll just be… some guy. This is where my ship has landed, the island on which I find myself. This will be the life I’ve found, and it’s not even a life I’ve built. I always said I’d never be thirty and still living with my mom, never be thirty and still be fat, never be thirty and still have no album, no book, no prospects, never gone to college.

But it’s all come true. And I’m sitting here in my room, with the only comfort being the cool feel of the air conditioner as the rain comes down much more gently outside than it was half an hour ago and I started writing. I want to talk about how I’ve taken up jogging in the last couple days, but I just can’t. Everything feels so futile because despite everything, despite how hopeless my life feels, I can still imagine a life that’s fulfilling, with friends and lovers and people who give me what I want and need out of life, and the chance to go to therapy and to go to school and to have a job I actually love.

But it’s just not here. Nothing is the way it should be. This is not what I thought my life would be, and I’m heartbroken, because I’ve just wasted so much time. So much time that can’t be bought back for anything. And I’m mad because what else could I have done? This was the life into which I was born. Not poverty, but not wealth either. Not a family who loves and supports me, a family who holds me down and suffocates me. Even when they try. My mom isn’t trying to hurt me, but she does. She can’t help it, it’s who she is. And I’ll never truly be happy here. And I don’t think there’s any way out of this situation, out of this life I’ve found myself in. This is just… where I am, and who I am. And how can I possibly be strong enough, clever enough, determined enough, to find a way out?

I’m sad. I’m unfulfilled. And I haven’t truly fallen in love again since the first time when I was fifteen. I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way again, that pure unbridled happiness I felt with Michael when I was fifteen, when the world was so full of promises and opportunity and I had a bright future ahead, and I was going to be a great writer, a great musician, a great person. But I’m just a guy, in his mom’s house, on my bed, typing in the rain. I don’t even know if I’ll have a job tomorrow afternoon. And the world is crumbling around everyone, we’re headed toward an economic disaster because a virus has brought the entire world to it’s knees. It’s like all those apocalypse movies about the year 2012 except it’s happening, and it isn’t zombies, it isn’t nuclear war, it’s so simple. It’s a virus. And I’m stuck here in this house with these thoughts swirling around in my head, and the only thing I can do in the day is go jogging down a dirt road or go driving aimlessly.

I haven’t given up hope, it will always keep burning in my chest, that I’ll find a life for myself that makes me happy. But right now, I just don’t see how it can happen. I don’t see how life can change.

A Day Not Wasted

I remember, in hazy detail, the moments when, as a child, I decided I hated school and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

I remember standing in the great open hallway of my elementary school after coming inside out of the rain. It was still pitch dark outside, so it must have been during the time of year when the sun takes it’s time to rise (is that summer or winter? I’ve never quite understood how daylight savings time works). I can imagine a squeak on the floor from the wet shoes of kids all around, and the low humming murmur of talk as people went toward their classrooms.

So much of this is based on a memory of a memory of a memory, that I likely blended several different moments together. But I remember talking to a teacher, and I remember her being much taller than me. It’s funny how you forget what the world looked like as a child, when everyone and everything is taller than you, when you’re slinking around just beneath everyone’s field of vision like a cat. You always look up: look up to talk to people, look up to ask to be picked up by your parents, look up to play video games or see the television. I remember a teacher telling me that school lasts for twelve years, from kindergarten to first grade all the way up to twelfth grade, and I would be eighteen when I graduated from high school.

I remember a feeling of hopelessness in the pit of my stomach. I had always felt uncomfortable coming to school. As a young child I was very close with my mother who raised me alone after I’d been through traumatic early childhood experiences of abuse, and I trusted her completely and felt upset when I was away from her. This isn’t unusual, any child misses his mother. But what bothered me so much about coming to school was that it was mandatory, that I was being forced to come here, and what’s worse, five out of every seven days, for all of my forseeable future. When you’re six years old, you don’t have a concept of what it will be like to be eighteen one day. Eighteen might as well be thirty-two. To be in the first grade and to be eleven years away from any hope of escape from something I never asked for was unbearable. It felt so unfair. Why did I have to come to school? Why did I have to wake up so early, why did I have to leave my mom and my home where I felt safe and where I was happy? I was a smart kid, what use did I have for coming to get an education, especially when so much of that education in the early days was stuff I’d already picked up on my own?

Anyone can relate to this feeling. People cope with it in different ways. I don’t remember when I learned that you have the option of dropping out of school at the age of sixteen, but I remember contemplating if I might one day do it. I also remember my teachers rhapsodizing about the importance of a high school diploma. “With a high school diploma, you can do anything in this world!” Funny, the lies we’re told, but I guess in 1996 it didn’t seem to be a lie to the people saying it, maybe at the time a high school diploma really could get you further than it can now. Now there are people with bachelor’s degree who work menial service jobs.

I always looked forward, from the very beginning, to the final ending of school. I had absolutely no desire to go to college, I wanted school, this thing that I never asked for which was foisted upon me without my consent, to be over. It seemed to me that I’d waited with the patience of a saint for it to finally finish, and as the end of high school finally approached, I felt that maybe I would soon feel some grand sense of release, the relief of the final day of the school year when summer break comes, except stretching on boundlessly for the rest of my life. A world of possibilites where I don’t have to be trapped, locked inside of a building for seven hours a day.

When we’re kids, we don’t really understand the concept of going to work. The monotonous routine of school is designed to emulate the monotonous routine of nine-to-five office job. As I said, people cope with it in different ways. Some people love the structure of a school day, and they take that structure into their adult life, thriving on the steady, unending repetition of Monday through Friday, nine-to-five, and the relief of weekends. There were of course times when I too appreciated the routine, even in it’s monotony, because of the sense of security that comes with a routine, and with knowing what to do without being told. Knowing which hallways to walk and which bathrooms to use and which classes it’s safe to break out a sheet of paper and draw on the back or read a book instead of doing your work.

As an adult, I sometimes long for the structure of a nine-to-five job, but the closest I’ve ever come was a few years ago when I worked for an Amazon seller, in their Quality Assurance department, and worked eight-to-four every Monday through Friday. At first, it felt safe, and I relished the weekends, but eventually it began to feel even more suffocating than school, because now there was no purpose the way their had been with school, I wasn’t going to work to earn my way towards something like a diploma, I was just going to earn a paycheck, which I would use to sustain myself until that paycheck ran out, and then live on the next one, and the next one, without end. I had my high school diploma but it had earned me nothing more than a spot being a cog in a machine which so closely emulated the one I’d been a part for twelve years in school, except now I was no longer a child, the object of everyone’s hopes, being praised for how bright and articulate I was, encouraged that I would some day be a great writer or musician or actor. Now I was just a guy sitting at a desk, listening to podcasts and sending emails to Amazon for eight hour blocks, pausing for an hour in the middle to reheat last night’s dinner and read a comic or play my PSP at lunch.

It was all just leading toward nothing.

And really, it hasn’t changed much.

I turned twenty-nine in May of this year, and now in November, six months later, I am still facing the same existential crisis that began a month or so before my birthday: what have I done with my life?

It’s a question that haunts my every waking moment, and a thought that creeps it’s way into every conversation I have. I’m very bad at keeping things hidden, it hurts me terribly to do it, and I have to talk about my feelings, whether I mean to do it or not, and over and over again I find myself confiding in people that I feel I’ve wasted my time up until this point, and on a deep level I feel that my youth is coming to an end. Of course, people older than thirty will say that thirty is still young, but teenagers and people in their twenties, myself included, see thirty as a milestone, a sign that you’re an adult now, that you have yourself figured out, you have your shit together, you know who you are and where you’re going and what you’re going to become.

But I am just as aimless now as I was ten years ago, just as confused and naive and afraid as I was when I was six, looking up hopelessly at a woman explaining to me that I was serving a twelve year sentence in public school. It seemed to me an injustice had been done toward me, that I’d been imprisoned for a crime when I’d done nothing wrong. Adults tell you, as a child, how important education is, but you don’t understand it or care at the time. Even kids who excel at school don’t really understand the necessity of it, and every school child has either heard the words come from a peers mouth or sometimes out of their own, “What’s the point of this? When am I going to use any of this in real life?”

It’s funny though. Because you use everything in real life. Every piece of information you’ve ever absorbed is woven into the fabric of the way you see the world.

I’ve always seen the world differently from people around me, and I know that that’s a pretty common thing to say nowadays. Everyone fancies themselves an outsider and an underdog and thinks that their perspective is so unique that no one else could possibly understand. It isn’t really true, it’s just that the people who do understand are far away, or you haven’t met them yet. And being a bright little boy in North Carolina in the nineties and early two-thousands, who would grow up to realize he was gay, he never truly felt a connection with Christianity, and never saw the world through the narrow, limited view of his family or the people around him, you can imagine how hard that must have felt.

Part of what scares me so much about “becoming an adult,” that is to say, turning thirty, is that I still view the world with the same childlike naive confusion that I felt back then. I’ve learned, of course, I’ve become wiser over time, I’ve had my life experiences, and layers upon layers of trauma, emotional distress, and more anxiety than any person ought to be forced to endure, even though I know there are people who endure much worse than myself. But part of what makes life hard for me is that I have an essentially fragile constitution. Emotionally, I can’t handle confrontation, change, or danger. I have a need to feel safe, stronger than most people’s need, and so I repeat certain rituals to make myself feel that I’m safe. For most of my life this has been playing video games (RPGs especially), while simultaneously watching television (usually sitcoms or other light-hearted comedy shows). It makes me feel safe to come home, eat, and play video games while listening to Youtube essays or episodes of funny shows. I don’t even laugh, usually, it’s just the light-heartedness that makes me feel safe.

My life… it’s been scary. There’s been a deep, abiding fear for as long as I can remember. My grandmother used to stay up late at night, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and tell me and whoever else was assembled there at her apartment about the traumatic experiences of her life: how she was a long-haul trucker for decades, the people she met, how she met a young soldier on leave from the military riding home on a motorcycle to surprise his family for his own birthday, and how she later found him lying in a ditch, having collided with a truck that’s lights were broken and how she cradled him, dying, in her arms, and in his terrified and hallucinating state thought that it was his own mother holding him, and how she cooed him gently, telling him he was safe, that mama was here. She told us about her abusive, alcoholic husband, who held a knife to throat of his young daughter (my mother), and laughing sadistically, told her that he was going to take away the thing she loved the most, because it would hurt her, and how she held a shotgun toward him, waiting for the moment when he finally pushed his daughter away and she had a clean shut, and then pulled the trigger and blew him out the front door into the yard, and how she dropped the gun and chased him out, grabbing blankets and shirts and pillows on the way, to stuff the gaping, bleeding wound in his stomach and keep him from dying before the ambulance arrived.

My grandmother’s stories were frightening, sad, and left all of us who listened to them sitting in amazement. She made supernatural things seem possible, because she was such an effective and believable story teller that when she attributed something to God or to divine intervention, it was easy to believe she had to be right, because she was so good at telling the story. The most convincing one was about my own mother, who before her birth, apparently died while in the womb. She was told at the hospital that she’d lost the baby, and she refused to accept it, so she just left and went home. After a few days she got sick, and was taken back to the hospital where she was told the baby was beginning to poison her blood stream and had to be removed. She was still in shock, and at the same time she was in the hospital, so was her own grandmother, in a room across the courtyard from her own, so that she could see into the room where her family gathered around her grandmother’s bed, and when she saw them begin to cry and saw someone pick up the phone and heard the phone by her own bed ring, she knew it was her family calling to tell her that her grandmother had passed away. And it was around those moments that she felt the baby inside her kick, and she frantically called for a nurse, who frantically called for more nurses, and a flood of medical professionals and equipment was brought into the room and they began running tests on her, and my grandmother, distraught with grief and confusion, grabbed the sleeve of the doctor nearest her, and asked “What has happened to my baby?” And as though it were a line being delivered in a movie, he said to her, “I cannot offer you a medical explanation for what has happened, ma’am, but I can say this: the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.”

It was, during these moments in the middle of the night, listening to my grandmother tell us her life stories, that I felt something mingled with the weariness of being a sleepy child who stayed up way too late: a consuming fear. The kind of primal fear that there’s something inside the closet and if you look up you’ll see it’s eyes staring back at you, that if your foot escapes the confines of your blanket a hand will reach up from beneath your bed and snatch you under. It was that same fear. I can’t really explain to you what it is, but it’s been with me my whole life. I don’t experience it all the time. But it’s the feeling that right now as you read or write or talk, there is someone standing just behind you, staring, their eyes boring into the back of your head, and that if you look just over your shoulder you can catch them. The feeling that there’s someone in the back seat of the car waiting to come up behind and strangle you, someone whose face will suddenly appear in the bathroom mirror when you close it. The feeling of the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end that have since the dawn of humanity signaled danger from predators.

You might have felt something of what I’m saying and looked behind yourself just now. I did while I was writing it. It’s a common feeling. But it hits me in very acute ways, sometimes. And it’s not an incredibly common occurrence, it’s not something I deal with on a daily basis, but that’s partially because I have learned to surround myself with things that make me feel safe, like video games, bright lights, and most of all, funny TV shows. Like I said, I don’t always laugh, but the light-heartedness makes me feel safe.

For the past few days I’ve been dealing with this fear I mentioned, because I’ve been binge watching or binge listening a Youtube channel called Found Flix, narrated by a guy who goes through the plot of movies and explains what happens, as well as elaborates on twist endings and theories about future movies. He speaks in a somewhat monotonous voice that becomes a little grating after a while because he’s always gently shouting to be heard by his microphone, but the videos are each about fifteen to twenty minutes and they’re addictive, so I occasionally will fall down a rabbit hole watching them. Whenever I do, I usually end up watching and listening to his videos until late into the night while I’m playing video games, and as I get sleepier, I begin to again feel that creeping dread, the sense that someone is just behind you. Walking outside to my car is terrible during times like this because my house is in the woods and there’s very little light, and the cats outside make disturbing shapes before I realize they’re cats.

And so, here I’ve been, the past few days, feeling a little vulnerable because of how often alone I am at home (I live with my brother who is always either at work or in his room with his door closed), and also feeling an encompassing void with how I’ve been spending my time off. I’ve had three days off this week, today being the third (though not consecutive), in which I’ve done more or less nothing on my off day.

When I do have a day off, it usually starts the same, I wake up, I probably jerk off, I get up and drink coffee and play video games and watch shows or Youtube videos for a while, because it’s what I do when I’m relaxing. Then a few hours have gone by and I remember that I need to do something productive with my day. For me, productivity is writing or going to the gym, and I always intend to do both, and often do neither. I almost always drive somewhere.

Driving is the thing that makes me happiest. I usually feel the excitement someone might feel about going to Disneyland when I know I have a long road trip ahead of me. I love getting my car cleaned out, getting a trash bag ready for all the food I’m going to eat along the way, and stopping at the gas station to get snacks and soda for my trip, then starting up a music playlist or an audiobook and starting my GPS to prepare for a drive that may take hours and hours. I feel an incredible sense of hope and potential when I’m on the highway, and when I’m inside my car I feel safe from the outside world, where I can control the temperature and the music and the entertainment, and I can pull over whenever I want or go to a rest stop or a restaurant whenever I want. I feel most in control of my life when I’m driving. My car is a safe and happy place for me, the place I feel most at home, probably more so even than in my bedroom, because my bedroom is at my family’s house, and being with my family is not something that makes me feel safe.

I have so much that I need to do.

My greatest regret in life is that I haven’t gone to college, and it’s not just because I need a degree, but because I want to have the experience of being in college, of being around other young people with fresh ideas who want to go out and live life, to find a friend group, to have a lot of sex, to try drugs and drink, to meet people who share something with me, to feel a sense of belonging I’ve never had, to have the ability to go to someone else’s dorm or apartment and just sit on their couch or lay in their bed. The commune, the safe brotherhood of other people, their friendship enfolding me. This is what I’ve pined after my whole life, and what I’ve never truly experienced, instead spending my days alone, on the couch or my bed or in a chair, playing video games and listening through headphones to music, to audiobooks, to podcasts, to Youtube essays, to TV shows.

My goals for today were to begin, yet again, the process for applying to college, which I’ve started many times but never finished, to go to the gym and do some kind of physical exercise to help me toward losing weight and overcoming both the type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea I struggle with, and to write in my blog, this one in fact. I’m writing this over on Blogger, rather than on my usual WordPress blog (although I’m likely going to cross-post is there), because even though I’ve been blogging since 2010, I often feel the need to reinvent and start over new. I’ve tried on several occassions to number my blog posts, so that I can say “I can’t believe I’ve actually reached number one-hundred!” or something, but there’s just no good way to do it, because my blog entries have been written at different times for different reasons with different potential readers in mind, although always they’ve been for me, and not really for anyone else.

I’m not influential enough to have my posts read by a wide array of people, but I like to imagine that one day I will be successful and people will care about what I have to say, and they’ll scour the back logs of things I wrote throughout my twenties to see what I had to say then. In the current 2019 climate of combing through someone’s back log to find incriminating evidence with which to label them problmatic and decide someone is “cancelled,” I’ve made some of my old posts private or deleted them altogether. I don’t think it’s wrong to keep your old thoughts up online, I think it shows growth. I don’t want to be judged in my thirties for something I thought in my twenties, but that’s the world we live in, and I’m hoping that pretty soon people will come around to the idea that everyone is problematic, everyone is always growing and evolving, and people shouldn’t be held responsible for an insensitive or bigoted thing they said, particularly without intent to offend, years and years ago.

So, I’m hoping this post will be entry number one in a new chapter. My old blog isn’t going anywhere, but I’m toying with the idea of trying things out over on Blogger and starting a “new” blog, which is something I’ve actually done in the past and ultimately gone back over to WordPress, but I’m going to try it again just to give myself a bit of a reason to keep writing. With a fresh slate I can keep coming back here and journaling, which is essentially all that my blog has truly been all this time.

I often feel that the past decade of my life has consisted of so much wasted time and potential. It’s a harsh thing to say because it implies I wish I hadn’t have met the people I’ve met in the past ten years, and there are people who I love today who I wouldn’t want to disappear, but still, if I could go back and do it all again, I might do things very differently. The first thing I’d do is find any way, no matter how difficult, to get far away from my family and stay far away, something which I still haven’t managed to accomplish today. But college would have helped me find friends, find a support group, find a way out. I wish I’d gone to college when I had the chance to do it without so much fuss, and without needing to juggle a full-time job along with it to survive.

A friend of mine from high school is now an English professor at a local community college who promised she would help me to get applied, and now all I have to do is just do it. I wanted to start the process today, along with putting in applications for a new job as I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable where in my current job, but I didn’t get any of that done. I did, however, write this, meandering as it may be, and that is something. My friend, the English professor, says that she knows I’m a good writer, that she can tell I’m talented. I know this too, but it’s hard sometimes because of an issue which I’ll talk about at length another time, the fact that I have difficulty finding my own voice, in every avenue of life. I assimilate the styles of my friends and influences and emulate them, and I don’t know if there is a truly unique voice within me, unless of course I’m wrong about what the concept of originality really is, and every unique person has always been reinterpreting the world around them and reflecting their influences through their own prism, which of course I know is true, but it’s still difficult because I don’t know who I am yet. I don’t know my own voice as an artist. I appreciate my innate ability to emulate the writing style or musical style of other people, but I also have the fear that someone else will see right through me: this passage reads just like Anne Rice, this song sounds just like Tori Amos, that kind of thing. And the reason I’ve been writing tonight in an ornate, circuitous style is actually because I’ve been reading Anne Rice, and there’s a particular quote that really struck me today, from Interview With The Vampire, that I feel really captures how I feel about the way other people affect me, as a writer, as a musician, and as a person:

“I didn’t know I thought these things. I spoke them now as my thoughts. And they were my most profound feelings taking a shape they could never have taken had I not spoken them, had I not thought them out this way in conversation with another. I mean that my mind could only pull itself together, formulate thought of the muddle of longing and pain, when it was touched by another mind; fertilized by it, deeply excited by that other mind and driven to form conclusions.”

The narrator, and my favorite character in Anne Rice’s chronicles, Louis, also in the next paragraph refers to “the great feminine longing of my mind being awakened again to be satisfied.” I feel that way too. I have my own thoughts, my own style, my own music, but it waits to be touched and fertilized by someone else, that’s the starting point, and then I’m off. But I don’t have the starting point. It’s funny, because as I hope I’ll write about at length, I have a real reverence for the male aspect of life, for the male form and the male mind and the mind being, and I wish so dearly that there were a movement like feminism for men, that was about the empowerment and appreciation of men without the toxicity and chauvinism that tends to ordinarily imply, a wholesome place where men could appreciate and respect and love themselves and one another as men, and to organize around the issues that face men which need societal addressing (i.e. male victims of abuse, circumcision, the favoring of the American court system toward mothers even when they are unfit parents, etc.). And here I have what Anne Rice, who herself has said she doesn’t really identify strongly with any gender or see people with any gender, might describe as a feminine mind, a feminine longing to be fertilized by another. Tori Amos fertilized my musical mind, Anne Rice fertilized my writing mind. And I hope there are more and more who will fill me ideas that I can transform to create my own stories, my own music, my own voice made up of others, as all voices really are. A chorus of voices in one person.

We’re all made up of the experiences of our lives: the squeaking shoes on the floor of the school as the kids march in from the rain, my grandmother recounting her harrowing life stories through the smoke of a cigarette, the days and nights sitting in quiet, sedate calm with a video game controller in my hands, looking in the eyes of the first boy I fell in love with on my fifteenth birthday, the moment another, different, young man first pressed his lips against mine two years later, the shiver up my spine and weakness in the small of my back as I was kissed and finally, finally, felt safe. The aching hours spent in regret that I’ve done so little with all this time that I’ve been given.

Struggling, even on a day when I feel I’ve accomplished next to nothing, to believe that the life I’ve been wishing for, the day when the loneliness will finally end and the world will open up like the highway on a long drive, when I will feel the warmth and safety of smiling and laughing friends beside me, and the warmth of lovers in my bed at night, will finally fill my life with the meaning and the purpose and the hope that I’ve been longing for since those first days of sexual awakening when I was thirteen and thought surely it would be years and years and years before I ever felt the satisfaction of someone who loved me. I thought that by thirty I might have begun to understand, but I am confused by life’s questions now as I was then, and afraid, afraid of being alone as well as being without purpose.

This is my small attempt to find meaning in a day that doesn’t go wasted.