The Hallway

This was supposed to be a poem. Turns out I’m no poet but a rambler, a gambler hanging on to the hope that I can slap words together into a thought which may become an idea which might become a feeling which hopefully becomes a memory. Just a bunch of letters running a current through it. IT’S ALIVE, I want to shout at a crumpled page on a flat surface, hoping I can get you to see what I echo.

I want to write about rooms, and how they’re different spaces, with a varying number of walls and breaks for windows and doorways leading to different places. But they’re all functionally the same: storage quarters for your yesterdays and tomorrows and (if you’re lucky) jam-packed with the presents of the present, evidence of the life you’re living.

At the back of my mind, there’s a hallway. Always carpeted, though the color shifts from a deep maroon to the golden orange of a desert. The Sahara, maybe, and mostly on days I wake up without a hangover. Maroon the rest of the time, though, the shade of a passionate melancholy. The rest is white. White doors set in white walls lined up on either side, and probably with a white ceiling, but I seem to only look up when there’s sky involved, so I can’t be certain.

Your door was different, as happens sometimes when the heart gets touched and the mind goes AWOL. Dark frames and purple lipstick stains. Was it purple, the first time I met you? Black? I remember the first notes that powered out of your throat and the smile you lent me and the look you gave me and the memory twists a bit through the pages of the past, but the feeling remains the same. And black. Black always suited you, though you looked good in other colors, in any colors, you always looked good, but you like black, so black it was and goodness, how it never looked so bright.

Your fucking door in my fucking hallway in the back of my damned mind. I want to be bitter at that discolored room of memories. I want to rail against it, tear the door down and declare it condemned. But even now, as always, as ever, I simply hurt and remember.

I remember that in this room there were monuments sculpted carefully from marble. Memories in stone, the way one would capture a screenshot, or a painting, or a Venus de Milo. I never noticed the cracks near the base. Didn’t realize until much later that it was probably my chisel that put them there. It seemed fine, until they collapsed and were ground down into a powder as fine as the sand of the beach we drank wine at. That beach, with the slowly coursing water, the wild before us: open space and towering mountains. The wind blowing your hair into your face and the sand into our cups so that each deep draw of wizened grapes came with an extra helping of the earth that birthed us.

I remember the way you would look away when someone complimented you and the smile you couldn’t keep from your lips at the same time you told me to stop. I remember our first kiss and our last. I remember the way your eyebrows would rise and your jaw would drop whenever you heard a particularly shocking or offensive joke or story and how it quickly slipped through to your stomach for a hearty laugh.

I remember you. I do.

Do you have a hallway? Are there rooms? Is there a room for me? Musty and abandoned, slick with oil and caution signs? Are there lights in there? Even a candle? Hell, a firefly?

I remember the way you used to look at me. I remember the shyness that rolled off someone not so very shy at all.

And even if I remember a very different kind of attraction, I remember too the sugary words you set at my table that I never would have used for myself. I remember your kindness and your generosity. I remember the ears you used to listen and the arms that wiped the weight off my shoulders, the confidence you lent down as a ladder when I was in a pit. The way you knew to give me pause and space because you could sense a bad day in me.

I remember you kissed me first, that second go-around. I remember being an absolute fucking wreck of a human being and being the straw that broke your back.

But in this bare room with the phantoms of past years and the barest traces of your glance, your touch, your voice… in this room with faded and battered photos of your art and influence, there’s a single bust remaining: a head tilted back with a soft laugh silently gurgling forth.

“You’re in love with love. You’re not in love with me.”

I am, and I wasn’t. Maybe I could have been, I could have been, but far beyond anything else, you were my best friend and it was that that I valued so deeply. I told you things I couldn’t tell anyone else. I cried to you and you let me, and you cried in return. Time would stop between us while hours flew by elsewhere while we talked about nothing and everything. You were my friend, and I miss that so very much, but never more than when I see you and your eyes can’t even find mine anymore and our lives have grown fathoms apart. I feel things in oceans, and I’ve yet to find the surface for a breath of whatever air will make me stop hurting for driving you away.

I miss your friendship. I miss you.

This hallway and its rooms are bullshit, but the door on yours in particular has a faulty hinge and never seems to close all the way.

More’s the pity. I wish you well from Hell.

The Time and the Thought

I don’t know how to use Tumblr, really. I go on, I follow some pages I like (usually art and poetry), and that’s about it. Most of my original stuttering is posted to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. A few nights back, I was browsing Tumblr, though, when someone simply asked people to message them what time it was and what we were thinking about. I was in a mood, so I obliged:

“It’s 1AM here. There is the remnant of a rum and coke in front of me and a filled reinforcement sitting just behind it, biding its time, waiting its turn.

What am I thinking about? I’m thinking about how erratic my emotions are. How quickly and deeply I fall in love and when it fails, how harshly I hurt and how desperately I try to move on to the next person to make me feel valued and handsome and sexual and creative.

I’m thinking about a woman who was so sweet and so brilliant and so beautiful, and how something as seemingly trivial as distance has left a chasm between us now. It’s difficult to be intimate and then go back to being friends when whatever spark is between two people erupts into a full-blown electrocution.

I’m thinking about how I’m dissatisfied with my job and how I wish my writing paid the bills. How I wish someone important would take a chance on what I know is good, what thousands of people have enjoyed and what I have no idea how to market.

I’m thinking about love and isolation and how the snow glitters under the street light and how I wish I could battle the cold by pulling someone close into my ribs.

I’m thinking about life and death and how I’m terrified of both, and how the first is still so beautiful and the latter so definitive, and how they hold each other’s hand like strained but dedicated lovers.

I’m thinking I wish I had more people I could talk to that might understand. Instead, I have this dying rum and coke, and its twin I’ll murder after.”

We’re All Stardust

David Bowie passed away peacefully yesterday. He fought against the cancer eating away at his body for a year and a half, and all the while, he was creating more art to share with the world. Throughout his storied career, he put out 25 – twenty-five – albums. That is an absolutely insane body of work. That’s not even mentioning how many different times he reinvented his style and himself. He was never afraid to embrace new things (or if he was, he didn’t let that fear slow him down) and immerse himself in the sheer passion and beauty and weirdness that was life and this sad, strange, incredible little rock we ride through space.

Like millions of others, I was a fan of Bowie. I admired him as a musician, as an actor, and as a man. I was a weird kid, into learning and comic books and other things that got me labeled as a nerd and kept my peers from inviting me to things, so to see someone dress and act so flamboyantly/bad-ass/striking and still pull off so much charm gave me a little hope that some day I could just own my interests and quirks and pull off my own style with the same success.

And while the first time I think I really saw David Bowie was as Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth (a movie I must have watched a hundred times as a kid), rocking an outfit nobody should have realistically been able to pull off, I was already a fan and didn’t know it. I got a lot of my musical taste listening to the bands and artists that my dad liked, so I had already picked up and jammed out to a score of Bowie songs before I even knew his name. They still put a smile on my face years later. It’s good music, great songs.

Now… all that being said, I have to admit that I was never the kind of guy to buy albums. I didn’t obsess over a band’s entire catalogue. Hell, half the time I couldn’t tell you the name of a song that’s playing, or even who performed it. I just know what I like and enjoy it when it comes on.

I wasn’t and am not as well-versed in David Bowie’s work as many others are or even as much as I probably should be, considering my tastes and how much I admire who he was, what he accomplished and what he put out. If you’ve paid any attention to the things I’ve written before, however, you’ll know there is at least one unshakeable truth about me: I believe in and unabashedly love art in all its forms. I may be the Story Man, but paintings, performances, poems, and especially music all serve to provide an outlet for energy, and an escape from the stress and the mundane.

To that end, when a brilliant artist passes, it’s felt less like a ripple than a wave. There is a sudden void where once there was vibrancy. A light was extinguished and with it, an eternal darkness covers all of the potential art that could have been. Even passing fans are deeply troubled by the ceasure of that existence.

But as that sadness permeates in our chest and behind our eyes, we find ourselves doing what we do whenever a great artist passes: revisiting the things they gifted to us. When Robin Williams passed away, we turned on the films that made us laugh and cry throughout the years of our lives. When the tragic news broke about David Bowie, we immediately turned the records on, we popped in Labyrinth and The Man Who Fell to Earth and even The Prestige, because even though his turn as Tesla was relatively brief, it was performed with gravitas.

We’re left with so much music and so much influence and we use what he gave us to help cope with the fact he can’t give us more, that we can’t see him perform live, that we can’t meet him.

David Bowie was an artist. He was more than that, especially to his friends and family, but to most of us, he was an artist. What puts him on a different level than so many others is that he was his art. Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, the Goblin King. As many times as he changed his musical styles, he changed his personas and allowed it all to work together to create something haunting, strange, beautiful, captivating, passionate, and ethereal. He constantly shifted his art, but he always lived and breathed it. So rarely are there Michael Jacksons and Robin Williamses and Freddy Mercurys and David Bowies that when they leave us, everyone has to stop and take a breath because those people are creative giants who have affected not only the world with what they’ve created and how they created it, but also because of the inarguable imprint they’ve left on the sheer concept of art. They inspire new styles, new chances, new bravery. They help us cope by showing us beauty in the world when we’ve forgotten how to look for it alone.

Lou Anders wrote a touching tribute to David Bowie that puts into words so much better the things I feel and wanted to say. You can and should read it here: Something Happened On the Day He Died.

Rob Bricken wrote a more comprehensive analysis of the impact David Bowie left on music, art, science fiction, and really, the world. You can and should read it here: All the Ways David Bowie Changed Our Lives and Expanded Our Minds.

Bowie’s influence has and will stay with us on an emotional and inspirational level. It’s a juggernaut of strangeness and versatility that can’t easily be shaken. And why would you want to? I’ve heard it said that physiologically we’re made from the same elements as the stars. What better evidence that we’re Stardust than hanging on to Bowie?

Death at 22

I used to tell myself I’d kill myself at 30
But I think I killed myself at 22 because I couldn’t stop the hurting
The burning, the yearning
The twisting and turning, mind always whirring
In the same old dusty corners
In the same old clouds, darkened with doubt
In the same full rooms in which I wanted to but couldn’t shout
I just stood there, looking around
Wondering what the secret was that everyone else seemed to have found
Why do their smiles come so easy?
Why do their eyes alight?
Why does it seem that I’m the one who wakes up feeling like
He’s been in a nasty fight
And I know I’m not the only one
I know I’m not alone
I know I’m not the only person claustrophobic in their own home
But I sit here in my arm chair
Arms bare
Holding the world tight against my chest and
My silver flask and empty glass ask
“When will you pour the rest?”

“That’s the problem with drinking,” Hemingway thought, “as I poured myself another drink.”
Doesn’t that line alone give you enough pause to make you think
To put the bottle down
Or maybe don’t
Maybe continue the pour
It doesn’t change that what came before will always be “Before” and
To capture “After”, you can’t be afraid
To open some intimidating doors
But those doors seem too heavy
Too complicated
I can’t even handle them

I’m still working on walking
This one foot in front of the other rambling
Shambling from one stage to another
Dead for years without even knowing
Only drawn to the occasional candle in the window, glowing
A flicker of life offered
A reminder there’s an end to night
But then my excited breathing inevitably snuffs the light

I used to say I’d kill myself at 30
On my own terms, in my own name
But I killed myself at 22
I’m in Purgatory and everything’s the same

New Year, Old Habits

A year ago, I was writing about being celibate and ringing in the new year sober. I saw a wide range of reactions as 2014 drew to a close, including romance, ambivalence and desperation. I watched, alone, as people clutched to their loves and lovers, as others desperately turned in circles trying to find a physical connection as the clock wound down, as others contententedly gulped their drinks, finishing off the year with the same liquid courage that got them through most of it.

A month later, I wrote at length about my views on sex and sexuality, on promiscuity, on having fun on a physical  level. It was a post that carried over from New Year’s Day, one that touched back on the reasons I stopped sleeping around and why I was cutting back on drinking: because as much fun as casual sex was and is, I’m starting to reach an age where finding a genuine connection was more important to me. I even tried – briefly and hardly enthusiastically – trying online dating. It didn’t really pan out.

I went through the most of the year is this perpetual state of “lonely but determined” up through May. When I went to Montana to visit my grandparent’s old home and began clearing through their old things and began reliving old memories, it began to trigger a manic break. Which of course meant it was perfect timing to come back and use that break to help ruin a relationship and friendship with someone I trusted implicitly and had been close with the better part of two years.

And if 2014 taught me that I was finding solace in sex in an emotionally unhealthy way, I guess 2015 taught me I’m just emotionally unhealthy in general. I feel things in extremes and I’ve barely managed to figure out a way to manage it. I can actively choose not to engage with someone! That’s the fucking easy part. I can walk away from anyone and just not give a shit about the conversation. Or the friendship, really. I’m close with a very select few people that have really weathered a lot of intense periods of my life, things that most people would or even have run away from.

Even when it comes to sex, though I’d say 95% of the women I’ve been with I’ve cared about, that affection is usually limited to a friendly minimum. Don’t get me wrong: I would bend over backwards and do tricks and do anything for any friend that needed something or someone. I do my best to be strong for someone when they can’t be strong for themselves. And sometimes that means a physical connection. And sometimes a physical connection is just born of it. But for the most part, as much as I care and/or worry about them, however the sex turns out, I can still just write it off as one of those nights. You know? Maybe not. I mean, it’s an intimate act. More intimate than pretty much anything. But there’s an understanding going in that the act is limited to physicality involving two people who trust each other but don’t necessarily need to rely on each other. There’s no need for real attachment.

And that’s good for me, I thought, because when I find someone I want to attach myself to, it typically goes poorly, for any number of reasons. In 2015, I ended my whole “save yourself, find a healthy connection” at a time when I was – albeit mostly unaware – at my unhealthiest. I was in the middle of a manic break. It ruined that friendship and it left me hurt and feeling damaged and pathetic. And there were deeper, unrelated, more intensive and intimate reasons for all of that, but I still felt low.

So I got into my head that I just genuinely cannot make a relationship work. I’m not good enough to take a chance on or not to cheat on or to take seriously. And if I am good enough for those things, I find a way to screw it up somewhere down the line just by being myself. That wouldn’t be a problem if I just didn’t give a shit, but I do.

Here’s the thing: I can detach myself from people. I can avoid investing large chunks of myself in people. But it isn’t because I want to, it’s because I’m used to being used and being left and being hurt, and I’m used to being disappointing and to letting people down and to hurting others unintentionally. I always try to keep a shoulder open to lean on and an ear to talk to, but there are days when I can hardly keep myself going, much less anyone else.

I am a hard person to be a close friend to, and I’m even harder to be in a relationship with. I’m a lot of work and that embarrasses me, especially in light of what I learned about myself. So I shut a good part of myself away and keep it out of harm’s distance from people, and I thought that was a good idea. And when I start catching feelings for someone, I tend to just ignore it or turn away from it, and let it pass me by.

And when I don’t ignore it, I’m fucked. Because everything I’ve refused to let myself fear gives way to hope and love and an enjoyment of affection and romance and feeling valued, and I let myself feel it so intensely because I feel it so rarely. I soak up every bit of it because I never know how long it will last and I put stock in every. Single. Second of it.

It bleeds into every aspect of things. The sex is more passionate, the dates more romantic, my writing is better, my patience is higher. And because I’m a writer and because I’m in love with love, I make huge, sweeping gestures. I don’t give a little. I give it all. I pour my heart all over the table and let it spill onto the floor.

And when it doesn’t work out, I’m crushed. All those old insecurities come back to gnaw on my tired bones. And if I’m the one responsible, I hate myself as passionately as I’ve loved the other person. And if there is a goodbye, it has to be another sweeping gesture. As memorable and (hopefully) positive and (hopefully) passionate a moment as any other during the relationship. I have to get all of my feeeelings and wooorrrds out there because there will never be another chance, and if she thinks of me, I want her to think of those good moments and those last thoughts because the same things will fucking haunt my entire life.

Of course, it never works out that way. I have plans and I imagine conversations, the final things I want to say, the way a conversation or encounter may pan out. That’s delusional. I am literally mentally ill.

And the funny thing about it all, if there is something that can be quantified as funny, is that when it comes to the things I’m passionate about outside of writing – love, romance, sex, intimacy – I am completely ineffective as a writer. When I’m disengaged, I can speak smoothly, act confidently. I can charm. When I’m really interested, when I’m nervous, when I’m in love, I overthink everything. I run something over in my mind so many times that whatever I actually say or write is usually a mangled mess of the original intent and comes out as something horrible and easily misinterpreted. I am easily overwhelmed and become tremendously overwhelming.

I sat in a bar last night packed with happy revelers, cavorting about, kissing and touching each other. A former passionate love of mine (one of the handful that I didn’t screw up) was around. We were able to have a conversation in person for the first time in three years. I saw new relationships and new passion around me. I sat, alone again, with a glowing blue tiara I stole from a different bar crowned upon my brow. I didn’t feel like drinking but someone was buying shots and I don’t like to turn down free things and that always leads to trouble quickly.

And I’m sitting. And I’m thinking. And I’m lonely. And I’m stressing. What did I do? Did I say something wrong? Why couldn’t I just have let everything ride? Why do I always fucking feel so much? Why can’t I stop wishing for more? And I’m drinking. And it’s 2016.

I don’t start my new year on the first of January. I start my new year on my birthday. Those are my years of life in which to consider the things I’ve accomplished during 12 more months of being here. But January 1st is at least an event that reminds me I have five more months before my year is over.

In those five months, I need to seriously begin to evaluate my emotions and reactions and try to find a healthy method of regulating them. I don’t know how to do that. I have a hard time asking for help. But I’ll figure it out. Right? Of course I will.

I’m always okay, even when I’m not.