All I Have
Some people you get over and
Some you don’t
I guess you’re the one I won’t ever be over
And I just have to
Learn to live with that
I walked into Goodwill, in search of nothing in particular, and passing the counter I saw a cute young guy working there, with curly brown shaggy hair, and a neat beard. His beard wasn’t bushy, it looked new, like it was the first beard he’d ever grown, the hairs were long and neat instead of short and bushy. I usually don’t like beards, but I found this guy pretty attractive, and the beard was actually part of it, which was new for me. I realized that I was staring at him while walking. I looked away and kept on toward the back of the store, and the wall of books.
I started pondering the idea of recognizing other gay people out in the world. I usually feel like I can tell pretty well if a guy is gay or not (spoiler alert: I am wrong most of the time, so it’s less gay-dar and more of gay-hopefulness), and I was wondering how exactly people do that. At first I thought it was probably just a feeling, but the more thought about it the more I realized that it has to do with subtle things, like the way a guy speaks, the way he stands, his gestures. These are all of course stereotypes but generally speaking they do tend to be right. Some of my straight male friends who seem more “geeky” than they do “macho” are often mistaken for being gay. It’s kind of sad that a straight guy can’t just be a normal guy (that is to say, to act the way he would ordinarily do without butching it up to 11) without everyone immediately assuming he’s gay just because he’s acting less gender-specifically meatheaded.
I was actually thinking about this not because of the cute bearded guy working at Goodwill, but because of a shopper who was standing next to me, looking at books and announcing his feelings out loud. “Oh, hey, look at that one!” “Oh I’ve read this one.” “Ooh, I haven’t read this one…” I spoke to him briefly to ask what he was excited about, he was looking for a Dean Koontz book. I was not particularly impressed by this, but I just kind of smiled and went back to quietly scanning the shelf. This guy next to me, as it happened, had a really powerful smell. Like he’d been sweating for a while and didn’t have any deodorant on. The funny thing is, I noticed myself feeling weirdly turned on, not actively getting hard but just kind of mentally getting into a sexual mindset when I smelled it. Even though I didn’t find the smell attractive, the smell of sweat, particularly guy sweat, got my mind into a sexual mode. I sort of laughed at myself internally because I really didn’t find the guy attractive, nor did I find his taste in books or his incredibly strong smell attractive, but I’m hypersexual and this is just the way my body and mind reacts to things. Usually I can step outself of myself and mentally shake my head and “tsk tsk tsk,” but it still happens.
The books were mostly crap, although I did find a Barnes and Noble hardback edition of Wicked and Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire. I have both books, but I wasn’t going to pass up a $20 deluxe edition of the book for $1.50 in good condition. As I made my way back up the counter, I discovered that the cute bearded guy was talking to two people in front of him, a thin young guy with long hair, and a woman whose back was to me.
He was speaking, but he seemed to be reciting something. I got closer and found he was speaking poetry aloud. I can’t remember really what it was, only that it was very lyrical and talked about things like admiring beauty and enjoying quiet, I assumed it was probably Robert Frost. I don’t know much about poetry, but waxing on about nature sounded pretty Robert Frosty. I stood behind the other two people listening, and I found him really compelling.
He had a smooth, clean voice, and a pretty face, and there was something in his voice that sounded… I don’t know how to describe it exactly, I guess I can’t say he SOUNDED gay because firstly, what does that really MEAN anyway, and secondly he didn’t sound like a stereotype or lispy or anything, but he certainly sounded sensitive and artistic. And he was reciting poetry after all. He came to the end and the two people in front of me started heaping praise on him while I applauded happily, looking kind of goofy, and he said that he’d written that himself.
I came to the counter and set my book down.
Now you have to understand, this is what goes through my head in situations like this.
This guy is cute. He recites poetry aloud at work. He has the first beard I’ve ever liked. His voice is creamy and sumptuous and I want to hear more of it. He’s cute, his body is nice. He’s not overweight but he isn’t incredibly thin or built either, so he’s probably not out of my league. I don’t know if he’s gay, but if he IS gay, and if he IS my soulmate, and if he IS going to whisper his poetry into my ear while he cradles me in his arms at night, and if I AM going to fall madly in love with him and find fulfillment and love in my life, this is my ONLY opportunity to say anything to him.
There are people here. I can’t just ASK for his number. And what if he isn’t gay? I can’t just ASK if he’s gay, either.
Clock is ticking. I have to do SOMETHING, or else I’ll walk out of this Goodwill and wonder for the rest of my life if this pretty poet was my soulmate and I didn’t say anything.
So did what I always do: I said something blunt, probably off-putting, and maybe obnoxious.
I happily grinned and said quite loudly, “I’m very impressed! And VERY attracted to you now!”
He smiled and rang up my book, saying nothing else to me.
I don’t know if his kind but quiet response was to let me know he wasn’t gay, or that he wasn’t interested.
I started frantically trying to remember poetry. Did I know any poetry? I don’t like reading poetry. I should start reciting poetry aloud. THAT will get him. I’ll just start narrating some verses in a cool, smooth voice the same way he did, and he’ll respect me and be interested and give me his number and then before you know it his naked, warm body will be pressed against me, the long strands of his beard scratching against my neck as he whispers verses into my ear and his fingers work their way under my balls and…
Wait a second, I WRITE POETRY. And I write song lyrics! What are my song lyrics? Quick, think of something!
I’m not safe in the town square, even though the stoners always like me.
You should me his and he’ll show you mine, we’ll all fit together the way we were designed.
There’ll come a day when we won’t pretend and I’ll walk along these frozen streets with you.
I love my songs, but they were either inappropriate for the situation or not written in a way that would suit the situation. I sauntered out of the store, probing my mind for lyrics. I was ready to turn around and go back in there and start reciting poetry if I could think of something.
But I didn’t. And I got back in my car, feeling somewhat defeated, because even if cute bearded guy was gay, he probably wasn’t interested. I probably scared him off the same way I scare everyone off, by being shy on the inside and blunt on the outside, in a haphazard combination that makes me seem rude, or empty-headed, or just weird.
I suffer from an incredible loneliness, but I genuinely want to quell it, and I’m willing to do the work of putting myself out there and taking rejection if needed to find someone. But so often I just scare people away because I’m willing to say what I think. People are often put off by my bluntness, but I’m not trying to be shocking or offensive, I’m just trying to be honest. I can either say nothing, or say the truth, and I choose to say the truth.
It’s not that I have no sense of decorum, I do. But I also don’t think it should be rude to say what you’re feeling. And I WAS attracted to him. And if he were gay, he could see that as an opening.
But he didn’t say anything. I would not hear his poetry whispered into my ear. It was just me and my hardback Gregory Maguire book, and the knowledge that a few minutes after getting into my car I would come into the coffee shop, sit down with my laptop, and write down this story.
(The following is cross-posted from Patreon. If you don’t know what Patreon is, basically it’s like an interactive Kickstarter, except that instead of funding one big project, you pledge a certain amount per creation, as much as you’d like to give, to support artists who are creating anything you can imagine. I’m trying this out as a way of gaining feedback and motivation to write my novel, and hopefully get a taste of what it’s like to actually make money for my art. I’m not trying to make a living on Patreon – not yet at least – but this is a great starting place for me. If you like what I write, or you like my music, or you just want to support me creating something in any way, you can become a patron and get access to a lot of neat stuff.)
I’ve always created stories.
As a child, the way I had fun was to wander around outside, on my own, using my imagination to create big adventures. My first inspiration was and continues to be video games, and I still remember when I was seven years old, running around the back yard with a stick in my hand that could be used either as a sword or a gun, whenever I needed it, and creating stories about my favorite video game characters.
The first game to ignite my imagination was Final Fantasy VII. I loved this game in a deep and profound way that can’t honestly be described. The music, the scenery, the vivid story hooked my attention and my imagination and never let go. I used to draw the characters on paper, then cut the pieces of paper out and use them as toys and have them battle. I would go outside and grab a stick, and sing the battle music and I executed turn-based combat all by myself, playing both the player character and the opponent, in what I’m sure was a hilarious sight to behold.
As I grew older I continued to play this way, and it’s the way I got out my creative energy. I never wrote down the stories that I made up, which started out as fanfiction, long before I knew that fanfiction existed, and even long before I knew that there were OTHER people who also loved Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog, Zelda and Mega Man the way I did. When I played with my toys, I created platformer video game style levels for them to hop around and pitted them against enemies in video game fashion. When I was thirteen, my method of play didn’t change, in fact it evolved. Now the stories I made up were a little more complex. There were villains with motivations, there were relationships between characters, and I even started to come up with stories that, even though they were heavily influenced by video games and television, were still my own.
At fifteen I continued to play this way by myself, only it was much more conspicuous to be seen waving a stick around and talking to yourself, especially with the emotion of someone acting a character on stage, so what I began to do was just go on long walks, and see the scenario in my mind, and speak the characters’ dialogue under my breath. When I was seventeen and started to enjoy listening to music, I would create dramatic music videos that often involved fight scenes between characters in the games I loved, or even my own characters.
I’m twenty six now, and I still come up with my stories this way. If I have an open space where no one can see me and a stick, I will indeed pick it up, use it as a sword, and engage in my own RPG style combat against imaginary enemies, create characters and soliloquize from the perspective of villains or protagonists. I also take copious notes and write a lot of scenes out of order, with the result being that many of those scenes no longer make sense in the stories the way they are now.
The first time I sat down to write one of my stories I was twelve. Well actually, technically the earliest story I can remember writing was a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction when I was in second grade. My mother still has the paper. I also wrote one in third grade about James Bond, in the style of the Nintendo 64 game Goldeneye. But the first earnest attempt to write an actual book, a real cohesive story, was when I was twelve. It was a fantasy story, intended to be an epic in the style of Final Fantasy. The concept was that the story took place in a world which had once been devastated by a great flood akin to those in various religious mythologies (indeed, the first thing I sat down and wrote was a prologue that occurred during the Christian Biblical flood), and a certain demon who could take the form of a great leviathan had survived the flood, and was now out to kill a young man whose destiny it was to vanquish him.
Not the most novel idea, but I still say that it wasn’t bad for a twelve year old. I didn’t get very far with the story, but it stayed in my mind and continued to evolve. I created more characters as time went by, added subplots. The main character’s brother was killed in the opening scene, but when I started listening to My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade, I decided that he had faked his death to protect his brother. When I started listening to Queen, I added a scenario in which the main character was thrown into prison in a gladiatorial coliseum, and created a character named Dexter to help him out of the situation, and funnily enough Dexter actually survived and is now a character in the novel I’m writing. When I became interested in choral music I created a mournful scene in which Dexter lamented the death of his lover (no longer a part of Dexter’s character in the new novel, by the way).
All of this played out in my head, very little was written down. And this is the way my stories have always been. Pages and pages of dialogue are improvised by me and most of the time I never write any of it down. It’s still the way I’m most comfortable writing, although now I’ve learned to either record myself speaking, or take notes as I’m talking.
Every idea spirals into a series of ideas, and eventually they start connecting to one another, and then there’s an entire story, complete with subplots and character arcs and relationships… but it’s all in my head. I speak the characters lines when I’m in the shower, when I fall into depression and I feel lonely I play a scene in my mind of two of my characters cuddling and falling asleep. These stories are a part of me, and they go with me wherever I go. These characters exist. And I want other people to see them.
Music is probably an important part of everyone’s life, in one way or another. But the funny thing is, I actually hated music (that is, pop/rock music, anything you might hear on the radio or on a CD) until I was a teenager. My mother actually commented to me how weird it was that I didn’t like music, and I did ultimately start getting CD’s (the first one was In The Zone by Britney Spears, the second war The Very Best of Cher), but I hadn’t developed any kind of passion for music yet. But over time I realized: I DID have a passion for music and I always had, it’s just that it was all video game music. Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, and theme songs to television shows, I LOVED that music.
I started learning to play piano when I was sixteen, because I wanted to learn how to play a song I really liked (it was Axel F from Beverly Hills Cop, as remixed by Crazy Frog). My chorus teacher taught me to play the song and I instantly wanted to learn to play others. The second thing I learned were the opening chords to Roxanne by The Police (simply because that was the nearest songbook on hand in the chorus room), and then of course one day I realized that Final Fantasy songs could be played on piano, so I brought him the sheet music to one of my favorites, the Final Fantasy VII battle theme, and watched him play it. I was amazed. I was really, truly hearing the music, in real life, coming out of a real instrument.
From that point there was no turning back. Video game music was why I learned to play piano, and as I grew up and discovered Tori Amos, Amanda Palmer, Imogen Heap, Amy Lee and other artists who use the piano to communicate their music, I learned to play their songs, and I learn more about how to play every time I play one of their songs.
And that’s the thing. I’ve always thought that I couldn’t be a writer or a musician because most of my ideas aren’t entirely original, they’re borrowed. I borrow my story ideas from Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, I borrow my musical structure from Evanescence and Tori Amos. I’ve always thought to myself, “Well yeah I like to play music and write, but no one would pay for it, I can’t actually be a real artist, because everyone will see right through it to the sources from which I pulled.”
But I didn’t realize that everyone pulls from everyone else. No ideas are entirely new, and in fact most of the best stories are retelling of mythological stories and campfire adventures, with characters who are archetypes. Some of the best musical pieces in history are variations on themes from earlier times. Good artists create using borrowed ideas as well as their own ideas, and what comes out is something unique that no one else can create in exactly the same way as that artist created it.
Everyone’s voice is unique. Their vocal ability, the playing of their instrument, and the way they write their poetry and their stories, it’s unique to them. Neil Gaiman says, “Tell your story in the way that only you can tell it.” Every artist fights against directly copying their inspirations, and it’s terrifying to see something you’ve created and know that a part of it’s skeleton is borrowed from another artist. The bones holding together my stories come from more places than just my own imagination, and the chord used to keep my songs going don’t come from my mind alone.
But that’s okay.
What’s important is that the creation happens. What’s important is the warm, beaming pride I feel when I look at the screen and see the words that came from me. Their origins may have come from other places, the ideas and the concepts might have been borrowed, but those ideas were churned through my mind and I created something that only I can create. Sometimes it’s better than other times. That’s okay. Kesha says “You have to give yourself permission to suck.” And it’s true. No one becomes a great writer by starting out writing something brilliant, and no one becomes a great musician by composing their master work on day one. But the important thing is to KEEP CREATING.
So that’s why I’m here. I’m here to create. I’m here to write the novel that’s been growing and living inside of me. I’m here to write the songs that I sing to myself, and to recite the lyrics that I hurriedly copy down on sheets of papers, sticky notes, and the notepad of whatever device I’m holding.
I want to share it with you, and I want to know that you hear me. I want to hear your ideas about what I’m creating, I want to know what you think.
Everyone is going to die. Most of us are afraid of that. I certainly am. But it helps me to know that I can create something that will be here after I’m gone, a record of my thoughts. A story that talks about the things that are important to me. Characters who address the things I’m afraid of, the things I long for, the things I wish were true, and the things I hope will become true.
There is much work to be done. There are more details to go into and more specifics to explain. But this is where it begins.
The simple explanation is: I’m writing a fantasy novel. I write poetry, I write fiction, I want to write a nonfiction book about my experience with religion and maybe even an autobiographical book of stories from my life. I play piano. I sing. I write songs.
This is the first step.
If I keep going, I might be a real artist one day. Someone who wakes up in the morning and does what they love.
That is my dream. That is my wish, and my goal.
Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for listening.
Let’s get started.
There is too much connection
There are too many feelings
There is too much hammer space inside a little head
Too much for one mind to take in
It’s all just too much
I cannot hold the world
Atlas had a heart. Could it not be broken?
I am so small
And love is so big
It can’t fit inside me
I am so small
And hope is so big
It can’t fit inside me
I am so small
The world is too big
I can’t hold anything anymore
I am so small
Too small for faith or bravery
It’s all too big to carry
It’s all too much to hold
There is no space inside me
To keep these things