#128: Half Jack

“I see my father in my face
I hear him in my laughter
I run as fast as I can run but
Jack comes tumbling after.”

My resemblance to my father is actually very unsettling. Not only do I look just like him in the face, but I also have a lot of the same mannerisms, I have the same tone of voice, and it’s even weirder because I mostly grew up without him so I didn’t purposely adopt his mannerisms.

I really hate my father, and I try not to think about him most of the time, but there have been moments when I’m laughing and see my smile in the mirror, and when I smile I look exactly like him. And then my face will fall when I see the resemblance. And I’ll feel him underneath my skin, clawing and trying to get out, like a demon who’s possessed me, but he’s running in my blood and I can’t get him out.

The only thing you can try to do is make peace with it. There can’t be peace between my dad and me, so the best I can do is try not to hate him. It hasn’t worked yet, and I don’t know if hating does more harm than good for me. But sometimes hating him sustains me, and sometimes it hurts. I fantasize all the time about punching him in the face, about him coming up to me one day when I’m successful and I look him in the eye and tell him what a loathsome creature he is.

We’re never big enough to house the crowd. The people who’ve affected us, the good and the bad, live inside of us. Our love for them or our hate for them, both will keep them alive. They hurt us and they leave wounds, or they pierce us with love and they leave wounds, and either way we try and stitch the wounds up, but we let them in and the stitches pull apart.

Jack, or Greg, or whoever it is, he lives inside of us, and haunts us. I look in the mirror and see his face, and I know that I’m capable of the same evil he is, that I inherited his curse, his power, his intellect, his wickedness. I know that I can become the monster he is.

When I was a baby, my father stood over my crib, and he said to my grandmother that when he saw me laying there, so vulnerable and innocent, he wanted to hurt me, the same way his father hurt him. I think it was a brave thing for him to admit. I wish he had been brave enough to keep admitting the things he was afraid of.

When my dad was a young child, his father held him over a cooking grill and lowered his little feet onto the coals and burned them. His father put cigarettes out on his head. Is it any wonder he became a monster? Usually I hate him, usually I’m mad at him.

Sometimes I feel sorry for him.

My Jack was hurt by his Jack, and his Jack was probably hurt too. If I have a child, will I become Jack? Will I break them? Can I be trusted? Can I trust myself?

We carry multitudes. We exist and we exist and we exist.

Some days I’m half Jack, sometimes I’m only a quarter, some days he’s barely noticeable. I want to exorcise him. I want to get him out. But he’s always going to be there. And my body feels like an unclean temple, an unsafe place with no peace or privacy.

I keep hoping I can cleanse him away. I keep hoping the water is clean enough.

If I washed him out, would I still be myself? Is it better to cleanse ourselves of wickedness and lose the wickedness within us, to be empty even if what we’re missing in the darkness? Or do I make peace with it, do I forgive him, do I choose to love him because it’s the hardest thing to do, and it’s the bravest thing to do, and I can be brave where he was not?

I won’t say it to him. But right now, I love you. I’m choosing to love you because it’s the only way I can keep from being destroyed by you, dad. And I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry for what you’ve suffered. I’m sorry that you probably suffer now for what you did to me. I’m sorry that you destroyed me. I’m sorry even though I’m your victim.

Half of me is love, and half of me is hate. Two halves are equal.

I’m halfway home. I hope that home is love and safety. I hope that home is hope. I hope that home is a baby lying in a crib, and a Jack who doesn’t want to hurt him. Like my father, there’s a part of me that wants to consume and destroy everything. It’s the curse he passed down to me. It’s the black hole inside me that wants to absorb and rip apart everything I touch.

I have to be brave. I have to admit it. I can’t be afraid like my father was. I have to admit it so I can overcome it.

Brave enough to get this out. Brave enough to love. It starts with loving you, and then I can love myself because I’m not angry at you anymore. Loving you is not a one-time thing. It’s a journey. It’s a path toward forgiveness. I have not reached the end of that path. I don’t even know if I’m at the beginning. I don’t know if I’m halfway home.

But I hope I’ll get there.

#122: “Living Like I’m Not Alive”

How do you stay alive? It’s all so much. The worst part of being happy, of finding friendship and love and hope, of traveling to new places, is when you lose it all. When you move back to the past, and you’re surrounded by the places and the people you hate. And suddenly, those weeks and months of happy times, of meeting friends, of laughing and being told how good you are, they’re all distant memories, and they feel like they’re fading away so fast.
 
I can’t take care of myself. What will I do next? Find someone else to take care of me? I don’t mean to be down on myself when I say I can’t take care of myself, I truly mean it. And I’m shouting out to everyone: “HEY! I can’t take care of myself! Someone, help me!” And everyone responds with “Oh no, don’t say that about yourself, you’ll be fine! You CAN take care of yourself!” But that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that I just can’t, and I need someone to help.
 
Where do I go? All of my friends are so far away. All of my hope is back in Delaware, with Zack and Robert, with the dogs, with the living room and my bedroom and the office and the computer. With the places where I belonged. My parking spot in their driveway is empty. And I’m empty. I hate that they aren’t here every day, that I go moments and hours without thinking about them. I hate that I’m losing them. They’re not leaving, but they’re transitioning. They’re becoming Zack and Robert Three States Away, instead of Zack and Robert In The Next Room. I didn’t want that transition. I didn’t want any of this. I didn’t want my world to shake and crumble.
 
How do you keep living? It’s not that I want to die. I want to live. If I wanted to die, this wouldn’t hurt so much. The fact that I can’t live, it makes it so much harder because now I want to. And they’re so far from me. They can’t pull me up here. And I can’t pull myself up. I can’t take care of myself.
 
I need safe arms to hold me. I need a place to recuperate. But there isn’t one. I have to get up and find a job. And I just… I don’t want to live like this anymore. What can I do? Where can I go? How can this be happening?
 
How can you live?

Day Three in Trump’s America: The Harassment Begins

Harassment
Guys, I’m a little shaken up right now. Earlier I posted a link to an article about how a woman went for a hike to try and deal with the grief she was feeling over Hillary Clinton’s loss in the election, and she actually ran into Hillary and Bill hiking there as well. I reposted the article and commented on how strong Hillary is. I said that when I got the news, I stayed in bed for three days, in mourning. When she found out she lost, three days later she’s hiking with her husband. I was so inspired by how strong she is.
My post was set to public, and something very unsettling happened. I got a message from a complete stranger who I guess has nothing better to do than to go through the list of people who have shared the article and make comments, because he sent me a message with a voice memo instead of actually typing. It sounded like he was driving. Which means that not only did he feel what you’re about to read was necessary, but he felt it so necessary that he had to dictate it by voice to a stranger while driving.
Here’s what he said.
“You stayed in your room for three days after the election? You are such a pussy. Get off your ass and fucking do something for the country, instead of staying in your bedroom and fucking pouting over Hillary not winning.”
I was so shocked that I wasn’t really sure what to do. But… his tone wasn’t angry. It seemed to be disappointed. Like a friend who was trying to motivate me. The things he said were cruel, but he did SEEM to have good intentions. So I responded.
My response. Note that I checked out his profile in the meantime and saw that he was a straight, married white man.
“I stayed in bed because I have debilitating anxiety, and I’m a gay non-Christian living in the south. Its not exactly easy to get out there and do something when you’re hated for who you are. As a straight, white man [I had checked out his profile at this point and saw that he was indeed a married, straight white guy], I get that you don’t understand what its like to be discriminated against. You feel so privileged that you thought it was appropriate to send a voice message to a stranger on Facebook putting them down for something you don’t understand. But I’m not going to let bullying, by you or by Trump, dictate how I should feel or act.”
He responded with another voice memo.
“Listen, gays are accepted everywhere, being homosexual is normal in this world. Bisexual is normal in this world. Whatever feels good is acceptable in this world. Don’t use you being gay and the world is against you to stop you from doing what you have to do in life. Look on TV, there’s gay people EVERYWHERE. Gay is accepted, I don’t know why you say that you’re having such a hard time being gay. That’s an excuse, get off your soap box. Trump’s the best thing that’s gonna happen to this country, trust me on that one.”
At this point I was kind of shaking, but I responded again.
“I know you THINK gay people are accepted everywhere, but you’re wrong. You live in CALIFORNIA. I live in South Carolina. You’re a straight white guy. Please don’t attempt to tell me that you know better than I do what it’s like to be a discriminated minority.”
His response was in a dismissive but not altogether angry tone.
“Well then move to California. As a matter of fact, move to San Francisco, PERFECT for ya.”
I have to stop here to comment on the privilege it must take to be driving in your car, and decide to harass a gay kid on the other side of the country via voice memos, and then have the audacity to tell him “Well just MOVE to California, then!” As though that’s something everyone can do. It would be wrong of me to assume he’s a rich suburbanite, but I can’t imagine who grew up as poor as I did has any idea how impossible moving, especially across the country, really is.
I sent him one final message.
“I don’t know what you think you’re accomplishing by this, but I just want you to take a look at yourself, and realize that you just sent a stranger on Facebook a barrage of voice messages chiding him for not handling being discriminated against in the way you would prefer. I get the weird feeling you’re trying to be helpful, but you aren’t. You are being condescending and refusing to see past your own privilege. You, a straight man in California, are lecturing me, a gay man in the south, on why it’s incorrect that I think I’m discriminated against.”
I didn’t wait for him to respond, I blocked him.
I guess… this is what it’s come to. Now that Donald Trump has won, people feel that they now just have the right to harass anyone they choose. What’s most puzzling to me is the tone of his voice in these messages. He wasn’t screaming, he didn’t even sound angry. He sounded annoyed. And when he started dictating what I should do, he had this tone of voice like “of COURSE this is what you should do, why didn’t you THINK of this?”. It was condescending, and it was scary. When I came to sit down and write this I realized I was shaking all over.
This is not an isolated incident. Far, far worse is happening all around the country, from graffiti threatening gay people, Muslims and black people, to the KKK displaying solidarity with Donald Trump, all around the country, the bigots think that now their candidate has won, they have the right to come out of the bigoted closet and speak their hatred and vitriol loudly and without consequence.
Part of me wants to raise my fist in the air and say we refuse to take it. Part of me wants to say that in achieving this victory, the bigots have identified themselves and can now be defeated. That they’ve become complacent now, that they think our struggle towards equality is over, clinched in their favor, and that their complacency is the opportunity we have to boot their hatred out of our society forever.
But another part of me just wants to curl up in the corner and fear for everyone. For myself. For Muslims. For women. For black people. For hispanic people. For transgender people. If this is what happened to me, what must be happening to other people around the country right now, trying to express themselves and have their voices heard?
I honestly don’t know what I think will happen. Part of me thinks this is well and truly the end of America, that this will be what causes a mass eruption of violence, protests, and bloody civil unrest to rival the likes of Egypt. Another part of me thinks that this is all bluster and showmanship, that bigots only think they’ve won and will soon discover they’ve gained much less ground than they thought, and by identifying themselves they make it easier to suss out the hate-mongers among us and put a stop to their campaigns of oppression.
But I don’t know.
I truly don’t know.

UPDATE: To my dismay, I discovered that because my post was public, a lot of strangers started commenting on it. I’ve since deleted it, but here are a selection of some of the comments. This is what’s happened. People feel entitled to say things like this. This is the culture of bullying that Trump has legitimized.

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#121: For Zack

meandzack

Hi Zack

It’s about 9:30 at night, I’m sitting in the office on my new laptop. Jake is on the floor next to the chair. I’ve had kind of a weird day. I went out to find something to eat this afternoon and I ate a frosty from Wendy’s, and due to being diabetic I learned the hard way just how bad of an idea that was. I’m probably lucky that I’ve just had a headache, and the constant feeling that my ears are popping.

What I’ve done all day to occupy myself is very similar to what I did when I first got here, almost one year ago. I’m going through my music collection, and adding to it from your CD collection. When I first moved here I was stunned at how many CDs you had, because I was convinced I was the only person who still had a collection of CDs. I imported way more of your music than I ever actually got around to listening to, though I have discovered quite a lot of new artists since meeting you.

The day we met has been on my mind today. I guess I didn’t notice until just now, but it’s probably related to a dream I had last night. Last night I dreamt that I was walking into the train station again, and seeing you waiting for me, holding a book (I can’t remember the name but it was a mystery crime novel you got from the library). I don’t remember much of the dream, just the vague notion that I was there again, and I KNEW that I was there for the second time, and I thought to myself, “I have to make this work this time. I have to do this again, and make sure to keep my job, so that I don’t have to go back to my mom’s house.”

Hold on, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, just stay with me here. I’ve been thinking about how I felt that day, when I met you in that train station. The first thing that struck me was how cute you were, and I instantly had a crush on you. In fact I was really infatuated with you for the first couple of months that I was here. On that first day, we didn’t talk very much. We didn’t know what to say. You didn’t know how to start the conversation and I was so overwhelmed that this was ACTUALLY happening, that I didn’t know what to think. I remember us walking to the parking garage and loading my bags into the car, and I remember the drive on the highway. We were listening to one of the rock stations on Satellite radio. It was the first time I’d heard Stitched Up Heart. I know we eventually started talking, I just don’t remember much of what it was about. I remember poking you. Partially it was to get a conversation started and partially it was just because I wanted to touch you.

I remember when we pulled into the garage for the first time. I remember that you told me to wait while you brought the dogs out to meet me. While you were inside the house I noticed a snow shovel on the wall. I kind of smiled, because I realized that we actually lived in a place where real snowfall was something to be prepared for, because I’ve lived in the south my whole life and it’s never been much of an issue. It also struck me that I was suddenly in “the north,” and even though it’s debatable whether or not Delaware is considered to be a northern state, I was so relieved to have some distance between myself and the south. The place I grew up, where people had thick accents and chewed tobacco and churches littered every corner, and you got funny looks for doing anything even slightly atypical. A place where I had to keep my head down and avoid eye contact.

I remember when the dogs rushed out into the garage and jumped into the trunk of Robert’s car, sitting on my luggage. I remember when I first walked into the house I was so impressed with how spacious the house was. I don’t remember much else about that first day, except for Robert coming home and how I didn’t really know him as well as you, so I wasn’t sure what to say. He seemed a little more serious than you, and I think I might have been a little afraid of him. I found him intimidating for some reason, but it was probably just because he’s a little more reserved.

I don’t remember much else about the first day here. But I have all sorts of memories about the first few months. I remember that something happened which I didn’t expect. I kept having these emotional breakdowns, and I didn’t know why. I would go off at any little thing and just start crying, I took any excuse to dramatically storm out of the room and run into my room crying. Every time, you followed me. You held me. You promised me it was alright now. That I never had to go back. I told you how afraid I was that you guys would get tired of me and send me back. You promised me that wouldn’t happen.

Stop it, don’t start feeling guilty again. I’m really not trying to guilt trip you here. I’m just telling you what I remember.

I remember getting a job at Barnes and Noble and being so excited, and I remember the horror as my excitement turned to anxiety and I started having panic attacks at work, and before work. I had trouble going to sleep, sometimes trouble eating. On Thanksgiving I couldn’t concentrate all day, and I ended up walking outside and sitting on the porch, eventually just laying down on my back and trying to breathe. I realized that working at Barnes and Noble was too stressful for me, that I needed to find something else, that I needed some kind of office job. I remember the immense relief when they fired me a few days later. I really was upset about it, I was being genuine when I told you I was upset, and it was because I didn’t want to disappoint you. But I was very relieved that it was over, and that I could crawl back into bed where it was safe, that I didn’t have to go back there, to a place where I felt like I was in chains.

I remember the excitement of getting hired at Avalanche, and how proud you both were of me. One of my favorite memories is when we were setting up the Christmas tree in the living room, and we baked Christmas cookies while we were watching the Simpsons. I often go back to that memory when I need to feel stable and safe, and have hope for the future. I remind myself that there can be more times like that night, and I can feel as safe as I did then. I remember getting used to the routine of driving to and from work every day, and truthfully I never got used to working 45 hours a week. It was so MUCH, even if I wasn’t doing very much work. I had never had that kind of responsibility before, even if it was an easy responsibility.

I think if I tried to describe all of my memories from all the trips we took to meet the other people from the Patreon group, I’d be rambling on for pages and pages about it. But my favorite thing was always the beginning. I love road trips. I love them even more with friends. I’ve had so few opportunities to go on road trips with friends. I love stopping at the gas station at the beginning, getting supplies, choosing CDs to listen to on the trip, I even love falling asleep while you’re driving. I love listening to you sing while your favorite music plays, even if some of the heavier metal is kind of indiscernible to me.

I felt safe. I have always been safe with you.

It got harder when I quit Avalanche. Looking back, it’s such a big regret of mine. Because at the time I genuinely thought that I could make it without that job. I wish I had understood then how important it was for me to have that job, for me to have something full-time, and I wish I knew then that office stress was MUCH easier to manage than retail stress. I wish they had hired me back when I applied again, and when I called and called. I’ve probably called them at least once every month or so. No matter how many times I call the managers, none of them pick up their phones. I even left one of them a handwritten note at the front desk once, but never got a call back. I tried texting my old manager but he stopped responding. There was just no hope of getting the job back. And yeah, it wasn’t the best office job. I wish I would have immediately set my sights on finding another office job, or going to a temp agency or something.

I wish a lot of things. But it did feel good to leave Avalanche. And it did feel good to start working at Staples. Admittedly the feeling didn’t last very long. I remember the stress building and building, becoming worse with each failed attempt at a job. I tried working at two stores for Staples and I still didn’t have enough money, I tried working full time at the pawn shop and I was absolutely miserable. I moved back to my mom’s house and I missed my family so much, my real family, you and Robert and the dogs, and the sloths. You welcomed me back.

Letting me come back means more to me than you can realize. Even if it only lasted a couple of months, the fact that you welcomed me back home when I asked, that’s something important. It shows me, looking back on it, that you weren’t afraid to take another chance on me. That you were willing to put yourself out on a limb for me.

This recent job hunt didn’t work out much either. I got the job at Target and hated it, but I tried not to complain to vocally, because I didn’t want to upset you guys. I know how tight money was getting, I know that I was becoming a burden on you. I know that in one year I’ve paid rent maybe three or four times.

I just want you to know that I never intentionally used you or Robert. I never TRIED to live off of you. I will admit that there were many times when I knew the two of you would be forgiving, and that you probably wouldn’t make me leave if I fucked up, so I didn’t always make the best choices because I knew you could be counted on to pick up the slack. That was abusing your kindness and your trust, and I’m sorry. I truly am. I guess I didn’t realize how fucked it up was that I did that until just now. But please understand that I wasn’t trying to live off of you, to be a leech. I just knew that if I failed or gave up, there was a good chance you guys would take care of me in the interim of a few weeks while I searched for something new. I fell into a pattern, and it was an unhealthy one. I started using you in the same way I’ve used other people: my family, and at least four ex-boyfriends that I can think of immediately. I have always trusted other people to take care of me when I can’t take care of myself.

I told you earlier today that I’ve come to the realization that I seem to need to be parented. It happens in relationships and in friendships. I need for someone else to be in control, and to have a steady grip on things, someone I can rely on. I think this is because of how unreliable my own parents have been. One of my biggest fears when I was a teenager being shuffled from house to house was that I didn’t know where I would lay my head down the next night, and I felt that the reason was because I had a mother who didn’t, or couldn’t, love me.

And that’s really the thing. You saved me. Robert saved me too, but it was you who took the first step, you who reached out to me, you who listened, and you who suggested that I might be able to stay in your guest bedroom. You asked Robert. You paid for SO much. You bought me food, and you bought me a car, you got me set up, you put me on my feet, and you hugged me and held me whenever I cried and told you I was afraid.

You promised I would never have to go back.

And I’m not going back.

That’s the thing. Right now, because of the situation, I’ll need to move in with my mom for a short while. I’m hoping it will be only a few months before I figure something else out. But I’m still not going back.

I’m never going back again, to the place I was when you met me. I’m never going back to being that terrified boy, who had no one in the world he could trust. I’m never going  back to that place of desperation and fear.

Because I have a home now. Because I have love now.

Because I have a FAMILY now.

You made good on your promise, Zack. I never have to go back to where I was when we met. I never have to go back to being afraid that there’s no one in the world who cares about my well being. I never have to worry that I can’t have a loving family who cares about my thoughts, my feelings, my voice, and who encourages my talent and my future.

No matter where I go, you are a part of me now. No one can take that away from me. Not my mother. Not my father. No distance can stop the way I feel about you and Robert, and no distance can stop this house and this atmosphere from being my home.

I wish I didn’t have to go to my mom’s house, and I know you do too. I’m afraid. I’m not so much afraid of what she’ll do (I have plenty of experience deflecting her vitriol), the thing I’m most afraid of is that I might, unforgivably, for even a moment, forget you, or forget how I feel being here, forget my home, forget the love I have here. I fear that I might give in to despair for just a moment and forget how many people love me, and how many people encourage me and want the best for me. And the truth is, a large part of that is because of you. The sloths have opened their hearts to me because they’re wonderful people, but if not for your bold act of kindness, with no expectation of reward or returned favor, I wouldn’t have gotten to meet them, at least not when I did. I wouldn’t have had this year with you.

It’s funny, so much terrible stuff has happened in the world in the past year. I always pause when I see people saying things like “I just want 2016 to be over,” and believe me I identify with them and I’ve said it myself. But truthfully, despite all the trials I’ve faced over the past year, I’m glad that it was here, with you, and with Robert. I’m glad that I had you to come home to. I’m glad that I had you to show my music, my writing, and my ideas to. I’m glad that you listened to me ramble about my interests, and that you shared your interests with me. I’m glad that you cared about me, that you guarded me ferociously when you found out about my blood test results and came to the doctor’s office with me to help me make sure I understood my diagnosis and what to do next. I’m glad that you took me with you to so many place, to concerts, to gatherings, to meet your family.

I went through a period earlier this year when I felt suicidal. I think a big part of that had to with how much suicidal stuff I was surrounding myself with: I was getting really involved in Emilie Autumn’s art, which has a lot of examination of suicide, the mythology and morality questions surrounding it, and I think I wanted to identify with her, as someone who was suicidal, because it helped me to feel that I had an identity to be proud of, even if that identity was a mental illness. I know you’ve worried about me hurting myself. I can’t say that I’ve honestly not considered hurting myself, but I know that I’ve not really come close to TRYING anything. Just basically sunk into the depression and daydreamed about it. I guess I want you to know that I’m sorry if I scared you with my talk of being suicidal, and also that I don’t want you to be scared that I’ll try to hurt myself if I go to my mom’s house.

I promise, if I hit rock bottom, if I lose all hope, I’ll call you. And if you don’t answer I’ll wait until you do. And if absolutely nothing works, I’ll sell my video games and drive here with the gas money before I try and hurt myself. But just so you know, I really don’t think I’m going to hurt myself.

I wish it weren’t my mom’s house. And it is upsetting in many ways. But the thing that really makes me sad, is losing this. I know that I’m not REALLY losing it, I’m not losing the fact that I have a home and a family, I’m not losing the love I feel for you and Robert, or the trust I have in the two of you, or the way either of you feel about me. But it will be a change. It’s hard to imagine I won’t allow some feeling of dread that I’ve turned back the clock sink into me when I’m in South Carolina. But I know that I can overcome those feelings because I have you here, and I have Robert, and I have the sloths.

I’ll miss Jake a lot. I’ll miss having him in bed with me every night. I tried to sleep with Butterscotch in my bed before but her fur is really thick so petting her makes my hands feel icky. It’s not her fault. Just, Jake is easier to sleep with. I like to cuddle with him. I feel safe and comforted having Jake near me, and I think he feels the same. I’ve never really bonded with a dog the way I have with Jake. I’ll miss Roxxi too, and Apollo. Apollo is finally starting to warm up to me as much as he does to you. Roxxi’s started following me around a lot more in the last few months too. I hope they’ll be okay. I hope they won’t be too upset that I’m not here. It breaks my heart to imagine Jake laying on my bed in the guest bedroom, wondering when I’ll come home.

I hope that I come back here some day. I know that might sound kind of unexpected, but I hope it happens. I hope I’m able to get some kind of job, like being a writer or something that I can do online, where I’m able to do it from anywhere, and I can come back. I’m not asking for that to be on the table, I know you would need time to think about that, and besides I know you need the relief of getting back to saving money and time to get adjusted to me not being here. But I hope it will happen. It’s a wish, deep in my heart, a little secret, that one day I can come home, when I’m ready, and when I’m able. I hope sooner than later.

I’m scared. I’m excited about the drive. Like I said, I love car trips. I’ve been burning CDs all day. I’ve been getting ready. I’ve been borrowing your music. And I’ve been getting ready this past year, and borrowing from you. I asked you, and you helped me.

You can’t possibly ever understand what you’ve given me, Zack.

I may not have actually killed myself if I hadn’t come here. But I would have kept dying. I was dying then. And when you rescued me, I was pulled out of an ocean, and when you’re saved from drowning, the first thing you do is cough and pant and gasp for air, and it hurts. But it’s a good thing. It’s how you come back to breathing, and to being alive.

Thank you for making me alive.

There’s a song called Being Alive, it’s a Stephen Sondheim song from the musical Company. Whenever Nathan and I broke up, I spent a lot of time listening to songs from musicals, especially Into the Woods. But Bernadette Peters sang the song on one of her albums, and it’s a beautiful song. And it has these lyrics that I used to sing along to, and I would sing them out into the universe, hoping someone would hear them and answer me:

“Somebody hold me too close, somebody hurt me too deep
Somebody sit in my chair, and ruin my sleep
And make me aware of being alive
Somebody need me too much, somebody know me too well
Somebody pull me up short, and put me through hell,
And give me support for being alive
Make me alive, make me alive
Make me confused, mock me with praise
Let me be used, vary my days
But alone is alone, not alive
Somebody crowd me with love, somebody force me to care
Somebody make me come through, I’ll always be there, as frightened as you
To help us survive
Being alive”

Thank you for being the one who answered the call I sent out into the world. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for giving me the love I had lost when Nathan left, and for being the first person in my entire life to give me real, functional love, built on trust, with no anger and baggage and fear.

Thank you for being my friend when I needed, my lover when I needed, my brother when I needed, and my parent when I needed. Thank you for being everything for me. Thank you.

Thank you for making me alive.

It hurts to be alive. But that’s part of what makes it special.

I’m going to miss being here, and I’m going to miss you so much every day. I know I’ll see you again, and I know I’ll talk to you and be in touch with you. But the actual “touch” part, I’ll miss that. I’ll miss hugging you before I go to bed every night. I’ll even miss when you get mad at me. I’ll miss everything about this place, and you, and the dogs, and Robert, and staying up late playing video games, and going to the store in the middle of the night and coming back in to be greeted by Jake slapping his tail against the wall, and listening to podcasts all night, and driving to Wawa, and ordering pizza, and watching the Simpsons, and baking cookies at Christmas, and laughing about Family Guy jokes, and ranting about religion and atheism, and everything, everything, everything.

I will carry you with me into the next chapter. I will be frightened. But I will be safe, deep inside, knowing that I have a home. And you are my home, Zack. Wherever you and Robert are, that’s where I’m safe.

And all I ever wanted was to be safe.

You gave me everything I ever wanted.

I love you.