Things I Remember

My earliest memory is set in a living room I don’t otherwise recognize outside of old photographs. I sat in a cardboard box, and my dad pulled it around on the carpet like a car or a spaceship or like the little brown box it was.

I remember my dad’s drunk friend showing up every Christmas as Santa Claus, complete with a giant bag full of stuff. He would always pose for photos and pull out a couple gifts before staggering outside. I believed in Santa far longer than I should have.

I remember being infuriated with my stepdad and storming off to my room. I remember shouting “Shut Up” at the door, accidentally teaching my baby brother those same words. I remember frantically trying to get him to forget them.

I remember my stepdad flinging a briefcase down a hallway and catching my mother in the square of her back.

I remember my stepdad hosting a charity drive for poor children for Christmas and how I became Santa Claus for those kids. I wonder if they believed in Santa longer than they should have, too.

I remember my dad taking me on a shopping spree at Toys R Us. I remember how he let me break the spending cap. I remember how he smelled of sweat when he came home from work and hugged me tight, and how much I loved it.

I remember how he swore at me as I begged him to get up from my best friend’s lawn where he had drunkenly passed out in the middle of the day, and how he still swore at me as the ambulance loaded him in.

I remember the drunk, angry voicemail he left me weeks ago.

I remember finding out he adopted me despite knowing I was the product of an affair, and how he did his best to push his demons aside to try to be a father to me while his relationships crumbled.

I remember finding out I was adopted, on Valentine’s Day, days after losing my virginity, days after being broken up with.

I remember the way my grandmother (adopted) paused while getting milk out of the fridge when I told her my mom said my dad wasn’t my dad. I remember her confirming it. I remember every second of the bike ride to the mall to the only friends I had.

I remember telling them, “Well, I’m a bastard,” and my friends saying, “Well, yeah,” before realizing what I was saying.

I remember wanting to kill myself for the first time. I was in elementary school.

I remember the first drink I ever had. I was twelve years old, staying at my stepdad’s place to visit my little brother and little sister. I snuck up to the kitchen, to the OFF LIMITS liquids. I picked the bottle I liked most, a beautiful blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin. I remember filling a paper cup with it and trying to drink it like water and feeling like I was dying as it went down my throat. I remember gagging and coughing into the sink and drinking water straight from the faucet. I remember not being able to drink gin again for a decade.

I remember writing my biological father a letter when I was 16. I remember the letter he wrote back, though I lost it, and I should care, but I don’t, but I really do? I remember my mother coming up to my date and me at my brother’s birthday party. “He wants to meet you, but only after a paternity test. But he doesn’t want to pay for the test. I don’t know what to tell you, Jered, but if he’s not your father, I don’t know who the fuck is.” I remember my date taking my hand at that, and I remember falling in love for the first time.

I remember. I remember being bullied for liking comic books, and I remember how bitter I was when comic book movies became regular box office record breakers because now it was popular to like nerdy things. I remember 7th grade and breaking the arm of a kid who picked on me. I felt nothing.

I remember frantically running down the stairs as my (adopted, though I didn’t know it at the time and though it has never changed much in the grand scheme of things, I’m doubly irritated that he leaves angry drunk voicemails for me now) dad tried to escape my abusive stepmother. I remember how I didn’t see either of them for years, and how they put each other in prison, and how they moved to Belize, and how she died and I felt nothing because she was horrible to my grandparents, and because she once tried to gouge my dad’s eye out with a key. I remember how she broke his nose with a lamp while he slept. But she was his soulmate. I get it even while it makes no sense.

I remember moving to Los Angeles with no place to live, no job, no friends but the two men I left with, and hardly any money. I remember thinking I had the world in the palm of my hand. I remember my grandmother.

I remember my grandmother.

I remember how she always blamed an addiction or a circumstance and never a person. I remember when you knew she was frustrated to the point of tears, because she swore, and nothing hurt me more than hearing her swear. I remember her being the embodiment of Christianity, spoiling Christianity for me because I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone else who had an unshakeable, pure, unconditionally loving nature the way that she did. I remember saying at the church, at her memorial service, that she was the Christian Jesus wanted people to be and that no one else present could come close.

I remember the phone call when I found out she’d had a hard attack, and the last 30 seconds I ever got to speak to her, and how the last thing I told her was a lie: that my books were best-sellers, that I was flush with money, that I was going to be just fine, because I remember, too, that even on her death bed she was more concerned with the well-being of others.

God, I miss her so much.

I remember my grandfather and how he hated driving, and how he was a low-key road-rager. I remember how every time I was about to step out of the front door, he told me to be one of the good guys, and I’ve tried. I remember that my grandmother and I had it out a lot, but it was when my grandfather got mad at me and expressed his disappointment that I felt I had failed the most.

I remember when I was moving to Los Angeles and my grandmother was fretting because my plan was quarter-boiled that my grandfather told me he was proud of me because his children never took advantage of their natural talents and I was trying, at least.

I remember my sophomoric graduation speech. I remember winning Prom King, and I remember desperately clinging to that because I’ve never felt I deserved it, and because it felt for years like proof that people thought I was worth something after years of thinking I wasn’t worth anything.

I remember being broke in Los Angeles. A Canadian lighting tech groupie bought me two-for-one tacos from Jack in the Box so I could eat. I remember taking a British woman to the beach, and vomiting because I was hungover, and burying that vomit in the dirt because I was a 21 year old moron. I don’t think she saw me. She might read this, though.

I remember being broke in Los Angeles and how $25 was two weeks worth of food. Two-for-one cans of pork and beans. I remember my surrogate Colombian family who rented me a room occasionally knocking on the door for homemade food, because they were some of the best people I have ever met.

I remember falling in love in Los Angeles. I remember the first time she told me she loved me, when I was standing between her legs while she sat on a pool table in a bar, just before I left to pick up my friend and bring him out with us. I remember how embarrassed she was at letting it slip, and how she refused to take it back. I remember the weight of her head on my chest as she told me she saw us together for a long time. I remember our terrible break-up. I remember how she told me I wasn’t the guy she thought I was.

I haven’t been in a genuine relationship since, though I remember missing out on some genuinely amazing women.

I remember falling in love. One. Two. Three. Four. Five times, and having so much goddamn love besides.

I remember wanting to kill myself at 22. I remember writing my first book instead, and how I emailed my outline to my Advanced Placement Language and Composition teacher and how he said he thought it might make one solid book, and how it turned into a complex, sprawling half-a-million-words trilogy.

I remember having a fling with a woman in Denver that I thought could be it. I remember finding out it wasn’t. I remember writing my fourth book, one I had never planned on writing, one that I didn’t enjoy, and I remember publishing it, and I remember people seeming to love it while I hated it. I remember not feeling like I got closure at all.

I remember fucking up. A lot.

I remember crying. A lot.

I remember wanting to end it.

I haven’t.

I remember the first time someone asked me for an autograph. I remember the first time someone asked me for writing advice. I remember the first time someone asked me how to get through the day.

I remember the first time she told me she loved me. And the first time she did. And then when she did. And her. Her, also.

I remember realizing that none of them probably did, and that maybe I’ve never been loved.

But I’ve been read. And heard. And experienced, for better or for worse.

I remember every plane ride. To different states, to different countries. I remember every bed, air mattress, futon, couch, and floor I’ve slept on. I remember basically being homeless for two years.

I remember drinking a bottle of 99 Bananas and a bottle of Jack Daniels (right up until I don’t) and sobbing into my knees and passing out on a floor when I found out my grandfather had passed.

I can’t quite shake that one. I called a woman a bitch who didn’t deserve it. I’ve done a lot of terrible things.

I remember looking at myself in the mirror. Tired. Drunk. On drugs. Filled with hope. I remember writing poetry for people. I remember writing poetry for myself. I remember making love. I remember fucking.

I remember going to Red Lodge, Montana and going through thousands of photos in my deceased grandparents’ house and realizing with fullness that they adopted, essentially, a fourth child to raise to adulthood after having their own separate life raising three kids. I remember feeling like I was an outsider, then, undeserving of a family who never planned on but always accepted me. I’ve remembered damn near everything.

Damn near every awful, shameful, accomplished,hopeful, well-intentioned, mistaken, loving, intimate, selfish, charitable, cruel thing that I’ve done. I’ve remembered. I remember.

My mind and my memory never shut

The

Fuck

Up.

“Be one of the good guys.” Bompa, the world is a hard place. I’m just trying to be the best guy I can.

In the Dark Brightly

​When I was a kid, the snowmachines would plow the roads in my neighborhood and leave the snow in a large pile in the middle of a cul-de-sac. The neighborhood boys would go out and mess with it and turn it into half a fortress and half a King of the Hill battleground.
The winters in Alaska are long and deep and often clear, and I was lucky in that my grandmother would often give me a little more time to spend outside after the street lights came on.
I’d find myself out on that snow hill alone a lot. In my snow pants and my snow jacket and my gloves and thick hat, I would lay down on top and stare up at the pearls that sat atop a clean black silk blanket. I must have been ten, twelve years old.
I didn’t think about love then, or at least not in the same way I do now. I didn’t think about death, or success, or what it meant to be happy. I was a troubled kid. I grew up in a healthy household but parental addiction and strife were always in the periphery and I was bullied a lot.  So a lot of who I am now was there then. Maybe even the purest, most enduring part: I just wanted to be. I wanted to… I don’t know, experience. Something. Anything of value. I was a kid staring into the cosmos, for a brief moment away from my loving but sometimes overbearing grandparents, away from my dad smelling like sweat and cheap beer, away from my mom asking me for cab money on my birthday. I didn’t know what happy was supposed to be, or sad, or normal. I was just a kid looking out into a deepness I couldn’t quantify and wanting to step out from where I was into somewhere autumn, somewhere with street musicians, somewhere paupers got to share a short conversation with princesses.
I read a lot then, as I’ve written about, in order to escape. And with a mind full of stories and an open sky above me, a quiet night holding me and with the straw colored glow haunting the snow around me… it was still. It was all so still. My wild mind could find a moment of peace to just hope for something different down the line. I didn’t know what I wanted then, and what I’ve actually wanted has changed over the years, but I knew I wasn’t fulfilled. Something in the night sky, this unfathomable depth beyond the stars, spoke to me of fulfillment. That it would be there somewhere.
I’m much older now. I view the same sky with more critical eyes, and more tired ones, and eyes more prone to tearing up for no reason. But that stillness still steps beside me. That calm still takes the coat from my shoulders and the hat from my head. I see the same stars I ever did, and they still tell me that they’re waiting for me to join them out on the patio with a decent beer, but not a fancy one. That high-end, blue-collar shit.
Nearly two decades later, I’m still that kid on the hill. A little more bruised. A little more scared. As home as ever in the dark brightly.

Close Enough to Fall

Autumn is my favorite season.

For most people, autumn signifies the beginning of the end, the harbinger of winter, the last hurrah before the year ends and begins anew, the year itself being a phoenix that, at least where I’m from, rises not from ashes but from a fresh ivory powder, cold and wet and long. For most people, autumn is the bed news bear they women up to after a long night of drinking and having fun with summer.

For most people, their year ends on December 31st and begins on January 1st. Not for me, though. Those are just days.

My year begins and ends in Spring, May 10th, the day I was brought into this world covered in blood and greeted by a string of pained profanities. I calculate my years by a full 365 days on earth to accomplish  (or fail) in whatever tasks I’ve set ahead of myself. It doesn’t seem fair to me to give up 129 days just because I wasn’t around to see them (if you’re wondering, I didn’t accomplish a lot that first year I was around. Walking, maybe. A couple lazy words, perhaps. My second year was far more productive: I ruined an entire marriage).

So my year starts when the flowers begin to boom, under the handful of showers slinking away from April, somewhere behind the dirty caked patches of snow struggling to survive on the sides of the road. Spring is messy, as is birth, and beautiful, and full of life, but fledgling. Summer is full of sunshine and brightness and long days (good long, not hours of being screamed at by customers long). And then autumn.

For many, the fall season is full of melancholy. Resignation. Hell, there are even those who love winter and so want to skip through autumn as quickly as possible to get to the skiing and snowboarding and snowmachining.

Me, I like the colors. Alaska in fall is gorgeous, especially out in the wilderness and on the hiking trails. I don’t get out there much. I grew up watching films set in places like Seattle and New York and Paris: bigger cities with long stretches of neighborhood with trees that towered over the streets, awash in shades and hues once August hits, a song by sight through October.

I’ve never been to New York City. I’ve only driven through it in places like Kentucky and Tennessee and, yes, Seattle. But the first time I got to walk through a long stretch like that, like I had seen in the movies, I was 18 years old. It was a park somewhere in London. Steve Irwin had just been killed by one of the last animals anyone would have guessed, and though I was never much an avid watcher of his show, he was well known enough that it was jarring news to wake up to. So I was there, young, the furthest from home I had ever been, with only one person with me that I knew, contemplating mortality while the trees all died around me.

It was sad, and it was beautiful.

I go for long walks often, and when it isn’t autumn here, I pull that memory of London from the tail end of September and set it right behind my eyes. I walk a lot, I think a lot, and as the year begins to slip into a long, dark difficult period (but not the end! Not the end of my year), I reflect on what I’ve done since my birthday. Where I stand with the goals I had set for myself that year. What I plan to do or change to reach them once snow begins to fall and I have to dig my heels in.

This year, it’s a weird one. I hit my three year mark in a job I enjoy sometimes but don’t want to turn into a career. I’m still living in a place that doesn’t seem to satisfy me on an emotional or mental level, a place that doesn’t seem to offer me many opportunities to grow as a person and as an artist. I’m sitting on a novel that should have taken me three months to write and is now a nearly ten month endeavor, because… why? I don’t want to close the door on a chapter of my life that was always supposed to be fleeting? Because I wanted to believe a certain kind of love could work out and I’m using art to work through why it can’t?

These are things that often trouble me and, I suspect, will trouble me deeply this winter, as it troubles me every winter, but for some reason always seem to get compartmentalized in the fall.

Autumn is my favorite season. My season. When death is beautiful and everywhere, and presents itself as a farewell with a gentle promise to see you again soon. It’s an opening number to winter’s main event, a deep and broad beauty in its own way, stark and simple and clean. It’s the season I think. The season I am the closest I can be to peace. The season I reevaluate and walk down long paths, even if sometimes only in my mind, even if sometimes a decade ago on another continent.

I would very much like to die some day, far down the line, perhaps the end of August, perhaps the beginning of September, surrounded by reds and yellows, the odd greens, the warm browns, head tilted back against a shedding trunk, a good book open in my lap.

After all, autumn is a season of death, and beauty, a companion to walk you into darkness to new life beyond. That seems peaceful to me. That seems perfect to me.

I’m Killing Me

I joke about suicide. I do. “God, I’d rather kill myself than listen to this song.” “God, waiting in line makes me want to drink bleach.”

My godbrother shot himself in the head in his parking lot because his girlfriend broke up with him, ten minutes before his parents came home.

I joke about things being the end of the world. I joke about slitting my wrists before listening to another drug-addled stranger listing all the reasons everyone but themselves ruined their life.

Two of my friends hung themselves. One with barbed wire. That guy asked a girl he loved to find him. I spoke at his funeral.

I joke about suicide constantly. I think about suicide constantly. I don’t think people understand it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to kill myself. I’m not going to shy away from the fact that that was a thing. “What do I contribute to life?” “I’ve been single this long, who will love me?” “I’m adopted. I can’t even have a real family.”

That’s the tip of a bad day. Without getting into details, pushing 3o where I am is not great. Easy. Not great.

I used to have a mantra. I told a girlfriend not long ago, first person I ever told, that I was planning on checking out just after my 30th birthday. “You made it. 3 decades. You’re good to go, my son.” I said that and I told her I was worried I was going to party too hard or get cross-checked by a minivan before 3o and it wouldn’t mean shit. I thought 30 was the milestone I should reach before checking the fuck out.

I joke about suicide.

I joke about suicide despite friends and loved ones committing it. I do. It’s fucking horrific. It’s tragic. It’s ugly. It’s desperate. A suicide hurts everyone it’s involved with.

I will never call a suicide selfish. Go fuck yourself. Nobody kills themsef for attention they won’t ever be able to appreciate. It’s to alleviate depression. Isolation. A sense of shame. An internal pain that lingers and haunts and hurts and taunts on its own, even before outside stimulus amplifies it. I understand suicide as much as I hate that anyone reaches the conclusion that suicide is the answer.

You aren’t a thief. But you look at something in the store and you think about how you might steal it or the thrill of one misadventure or what it would save you. You aren’t violent. But you think about the reaction or hopefully the silence you might get if you were to slap the mouth of a braggart.

I am not suicidal. I have been. I’ve tried. I tried leaving this life. I’ve been close to leaving this life since  (blood poisoning). I’m not convinced that decades down the line, my leaving this world won’t be intentional. But for now, I’m not suicidal. I’ve found things to live for.

It’s never something that’s left my mind. It’s an act of pain. It’s an act of release. In some cases, through final notes and letters, it’s an act of art. There is something to be said of knowing the deliberate thoughts of someone who has finished with their experience.

I joke about suicide. I joke about death. I have cried every time someone I knew took their life. I cried when Robin Williams had enough of what was already afflicting him and didn’t want to to add more to the list. I joke about it because I’ve wanted to do it. I joke about it because I don’t know if I want thirty more years of aimlessness. 

I joke about it in concept. But I respect it. I understand it. At the worst times in my life, I wanted it. I joke about it without specifics because it’s heartbreaking and tragic and because I’ve been there, and I don’t know any other way of dealing with it.

You need to be able to laugh about anything. Especially things close to your heart. Especially things that fucking hurt. If you can’t find something to laugh about in a ruinous situation, it will ruin you.

I will never,  EVER, joke about a suicide victim. But I will joke about suicide. I’ll take the piss out of it. I’ll lighten it. I’ll disregard it. Because I’ve been there. Because it haunts me. Because it likes to step on my shit. And sometimes laughter and lightheartedness and detachment are what’s called for.

That’s how I deal with it. It isn’t always great.

I hope you’re okay. If you aren’t, feel free to reach out. Or please, PLEASE Call 1-800-273-8255. They’re available 24/7.

Life, even in its ugliness, is worth enjoying. It’s worth making fun of and spitting in the face of.

You’ve got this.

Read in Denver Disclaimer

​I’ve been working on a love story. Inevitable, I suppose, because I’m really good at falling into it. It’s also an eensy bit ridiculous, because once I fall, I never really know what to do. Since the book’s release is only a few weeks out, and since it has (so far) been met with a ton of support and enthusiasm, I thought you might at least like to know where my fourth novel came from.

First, as I said, this is a story about love but it isn’t a PG one. There is swearing and awkwardness and the occasional sex because love is messy and intimate and frustrating. If you can’t handle the word “fuck”, this book won’t be for you.

Secondly, I’ve said that this love story, this book I’ve never planned on writing, is probably the most honest piece of fiction I’ve ever written. The idea came after I met someone that I thought, given the right time, place or circumstances, had all the potential in the world to be The One. Maybe not. I’m crazy and get attached way too easily and too intensely, but for a while, things were easy in a way I didn’t know they could be and I felt ways about myself that I had long forgotten I could feel.

It didn’t last, of course. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, unless Timing and Distance want to swing by and have a word. She and I are still friends, but we’re distant now, texting each other every once in a while instead of calling each other twice a day.

I wrote a letter that was supposed to act as closure. I have a hard time processing emotions, especially negative ones, and I tend to try and cut things off completely when I think I’m going to hit a dark place. The letter was a positive one. It was all my thoughts and feelings about this woman, about how grateful I was to have met her, and how much she had given back to me. How I would always be around, and that if I ever wrote of her, it would always be fondly. It was a letter I wanted to surprise her with. Tucked into a book for her to find on the plane, with the envelope labeled so that she would wait to read it once she had reached her destination.

And I thought, “Read in Denver”? That would make for a fucking GREAT title, and my mind ran with it and sort of developed this largely unrelated fictional outline.

That woman and I spent one last night together. I don’t want to say it was passionless; we stayed prim and proper but we were both overflowing with emotion. There was red velvet wine. Green apple sake. I had tried to make it a romantic thing, this last meeting between us, or at least something that would be remembered. Something that counted.

I didn’t get to sneak that letter into a book. It was Christmas, her visit, and she had become full up with gifts and purchases. So I pulled that letter out and I read it to her in person. She slid over into my arms while I did, and she fell asleep with her head on my chest and a smile on her face.

We got separated in the night, and I got pretty drunk on what was left of the sake, and I sat and I thought and I hurt and I watched the rise and fall of her chest and I knew that I would never forget it once she had walked out of my front door for the last time. In the morning we shared one last, long embrace and one last, final kiss.

I set about to write a book. Not for her. Not about her. Absolutely because of her, because of the things I felt about her, the things she made me feel about myself, and the way she reminded me how much I wanted to write.

But I found as I was writing it that she wasn’t the only person to inspire the novel. There’s a woman I counted as a muse, who was my best friend for two years and, when I had a bipolar breakdown, who dropped me from her life 200% and hasn’t spoken to me since. But she inspired me more than anyone. She was my best friend. And she said one of the most devastating things anyone has ever said to me, and that I ABSOLUTELY had to find a way to include: “You’re in love with love; you’re not in love with me.”

There’s also an artist from the south, another muse, an astonishing painter I met on Twitter who – in correspondence since – just struck all the right chords and followed all the same roads when it came to how I view love and life and art. She is a huge influence on Gabriella’s character.

In the end, Read in Denver is fictional. The characters are fictional. The plot is fictional. But there are things that are said, and scenes that happen, and relationships that exist that were said, and did happen, and do exist. Just about every character in the book has a soul formed from the existence of a real person. All these things mean the world to me, and if I’m going to write a story about love, I think it needs to be born out of the varying loves that I feel and have felt.

Will that mixture work? Is the book going to be earnest and genuine or will it come off overeager, sappy and forced? I have no idea. Maybe I’m a shitty writer with lofty ideas.

But don’t think of this book as any measure of autobiographical (it couldn’t possibly be fucking further than that), and don’t try to guess which parts are born of reality and which are from my weird brain. Just take it, please, as the story it is, and know 100% of it is born from the heart.

Read in Denver will (hopefully, fingers crossed, knock on wood) be on sale for the Kindle and Nook on August 15, 2016.

The Day I Found Out I Was Adopted

First things first, the extremely talented comedian Jessica Michelle Singleton released her debut album last night and it already hit #1 on the iTunes comedy list. I highly recommend you buy it so you have something to laugh at after this depressing fucking story.

iTunes: Please. Don’t. Leave. Me.
Amazon: Please. Don’t. Leave. Me.
Google Play: Please. Don’t. Leave. Me.

Also, I wrote this last night:

“You know, I’m in love with love. I’m in love with falling in love, with that rush that comes from gazing into someone’s eyes, that soft silence before a passionate kiss. I’m in love with the ache of missing someone. I’m in love with inside jokes and surprises and long days spent in bed doing nothing but talking and being wrapped around and through each other. I’m in love with the idea of writing something that’s going to make a woman grin or blush or both or look up to the sky and just repeat the words in her mind.

I’m in love with love. And Lord knows, should their be a Lord or Historian knows – and there should be a Historian – that I spend many a night in the broken, jagged, mocking, echoing remnants of love and it’s a deeper death there, but it diminishes not at all my love for the first time he musters the courage to take her hand, to say her name in his throat instead of off his lips, to the first time he sheds self-consciousness and forgets reality outside of he and her.

I will always, forever, doubtless and without hesitation be in love with love.”

That has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but I thought it turned out well and it’s been a while since I shared anything sappy with my blog followers, so I figured – it being Valentine’s Day and all – that I’d post it here.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. I think it’s commercialized nonsense. I think it’s created a ridiculous expectation that gifts should be given or that this is THE DAY to really express your love when I’ve always been of the belief that you should regularly be  showing that affection and surprising your partner with little things. I could also very much be biased because I’m not good at relationships and I’ve found myself single on February 14th more often than not.

Or maybe it’s because 12 years ago today is when I found out I was adopted and so while everyone else is opening their chocolates and their six-foot stuffed bear, I tend to get distracted with other things.

I was fifteen years old. I had lost my virginity a couple weeks previously and because I was still close with my mom and I told her everything, I had let that bomb drop somewhere along the line. I assured her I was being safe.

Immediately afterward, my girlfriend at the time had sex with someone else and broke up with me, which isn’t really the order I would have preferred those things to happen in. So when Valentine’s Day rolled by, I was not only newly single, I was hurt. Betrayed. I spent that day in high school, sophomore year, back when I was still being bullied by the more popular kids. I was surrounded by shit-talkers and happy romances, and I felt absolutely miserable. All I wanted to do was go home and go to my room, hop onto my computer and talk to people that actually thought I was cool.

And I know that sounds weird and lonely, and it sort of was, but I’ve met most of those online friends since then. Those relationships were as real as hanging out with the kid down the street. It was one of the few respites I had from a lot of sadness and anger I felt during that time.

I get through the day. I get home. I sit in my chair. I fire my desktop up, and my mom calls me to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day. We talked a little bit. I don’t think I told her that my girlfriend and I had broken up. In fact, I’m almost positive, because she said to me, “Hey, so now that you… you know, are with a woman and growing up into a man, I think you’re old enough for me to tell you something.”

“Okay. What is it?”

“I don’t want to tell you over the phone.”

“Mom, you can’t just say I’m ready for you to tell me some secret… and then not tell me that secret.”

We went back and forth like that for several minutes, with me growing more and more agitated. Finally, on the verge of tears, she blurted out, “Rick isn’t your father.”

I had considered some possibilities of what she might say. Maybe there would be the awkward sex talk we sort of skated over before. Maybe she was seeing someone new. I don’t know. Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t that. It took me a few long seconds to recover.

“Then who the fuck is?”

“His name is John Buchanan. He was a marine biologist.”

It was a fling. My dad (Rick) was away. He found out, of course, and forgave her, and he put his name on my birth certificate and raised me as his own son. My parents divorced before I turned two. I’m ninety percent sure I wasn’t any of the reasons, because both of them fought for custody and settled with joint and treated me as best they could. And when drugs and alcohol came into the mix and they slept throughout the day or they went away to jail or rehab or another state, I never, never thought it was because they didn’t love me.

They weren’t good parents, but they were and are loving ones.

I went to live with Rick’s parents, my grandparents, when I was five. They took me in after raising three children of their own and spent the next two decades raising a fourth kid out of love instead of biological obligation. I know that shouldn’t fuck with me, but it still does.

Anyway, I was silent. My mom was openly sobbing, convinced that I hated her. That shook me back to the present and I assured her that I didn’t, that I loved her, I just needed to get off the phone for a while. I wished her a Happy Valentine’s Day and hung up.

I sat in that chair for a while, staring at my computer screen. Ten minutes. Fifteen. I pushed myself out of it and stepped down the stairs, stomach in knots. I walked into the kitchen; my grandmother had her head in the refrigerator but heard me come in.

“How was talking to your mom?”
“Well, she said Dad’s not dad.”

She froze. I’ll never forget that. It was only for a second and a half, but she went stone still, and then rose up out of the fridge with a gallon of milk as if nothing was different, as if this was a perfectly normal conversation to have, as if my entire fucking life wasn’t in upheaval.

In retrospect, I can’t begin to imagine the thoughts that were racing through her mind. To keep this secret for fifteen years, to have it suddenly and unexpectedly exposed, to be put into the so fucking unfortunate position to have to try to explain why I was only now finding this out. My grandmother was a strong, brave woman.

“That’s true,” she said. Nobody had told me because my dad had asked them not to. He wanted to tell me when he felt I was ready; that would come over two years later, after more prison, after halfway houses, after struggles with sobriety. He sat me down on the couch in the middle of the night, lights off, TV muted, and told me had something to tell me; I told him I already knew and it changed nothing, that I loved him; I hugged him and turned the television back on and pretended not to see him weeping.

“I need to go,” I told my grandmother.

“Where?”

“Out. The mall. I don’t know. I need to go.”

I was a bit of a mall rat at the time. It helped that I worked there, at a comic book and collectibles store, with my best friends at the time. They were all older. I was 15, but I partied a lot, hard, with these guys. When I was 16, I moved out into an apartment with them for the better part of a year. We were thick as thieves, as close as brothers. I went to my first party with them, had my first taste of liquor since I once unwisely tried to gulp Bombay Sapphire from a Dixie cup. They knew the night I lost my virginity. If I could talk to anyone, it would be them.

I locked my bike up to the rack and strode into the mall doing my best not to have a panic attack. The store was devoid of customers and my friends were busy putting merchandise and cards away. I flung my arms to either side.

“Well, I found out I’m a bastard!” I cried.

They turned as one to look at me, look at each other, look back at me.

“Well… yeah.”

I laughed. How could I not?

“Not that kind of bastard. Like, illegitimate child bastard.”

“Wait, what?

I explained. They were as baffled as I was that my mother would think to bring that up on Valentine’s Day. In her defense, she didn’t actually want to tell me until later. My friends were very supportive. We started joking about it, we definitely drank about it, and it just became a thing. When we pooled our money and resources later to start throwing raves around the city, we each donned a moniker. I owned it. I became The Bastard.

Later that year, in June, at my brother’s birthday party because my mom has fucking phenomenal timing, and in front of the first woman I truly loved, she told me that John “wanted” to meet me, but wouldn’t do so until a DNA test was taken that he wouldn’t pay for. Which, look, I get it. But if you thought there was a fucking chance that you had a 16 year old kid whose life you’ve already missed out on, you couldn’t shell out a couple hundred bucks for that? The icing on the cake was when my mom said, “And if he’s not your father, Jered, I don’t know who the fuck is.”

Nice.

I’ve never spoken to John over the phone. My junior year of high school I sent a letter about myself with a picture of me from junior prom. He sent a letter back with no picture. He owned a bike shop in Sacramento. He liked to golf. He didn’t want to talk any further until he spoke to my mom. We never corresponded again and I didn’t keep his letter.

I tried meeting him in 2009 at the age of 21 by tracking down his address. He had moved. I called every bicycle shop in the city but couldn’t find him. I wouldn’t know what I would have said or done had I been able to.

And that’s pretty much it. There have been some residual effects of finding out I was adopted. In my teenage years, I’d lash out sometimes. “Why do you even care what I do?” I’d yell at grandparents that absolutely didn’t deserve it. “We’re not even related!”

On my grandmother’s death bed, we spoke for 30 seconds over the phone, maybe. She spent most of it making sure I was going to be alright, and I spent the rest lying about how well off I was and that I’d be okay. She told me I was as much family to her as any of her blood kin and that she loved me just as much.

As recently as last summer, visiting my grandparent’s home and digging through old photos of the early years of their marriage and the childhoods of my dad, aunt and uncle, of these full lives decades before I was an even an idea of an accident, I felt very much like an outsider. An intruder on this family. The feeling was so severe that I hit a terrible manic spiral and lost myself a few friends through this desperate desire to be loved and accepted. Not my best look.

I have abandonment issues. I have acceptance issues. I have crises of identity and I struggle with the concept of legacy. I don’t feel right living the life I have as a continuation of the Mayer family in the same way I wouldn’t count their ancestors as my own. I wasn’t ever really raised by my mother, so that won’t work either. And fuck John Buchanan.

So I’m left trying to build my own legacy using the shape of my mind and beliefs that my grandparents helped mold, and so I often overwhelm myself with stress and panic when I get set back or I fail. “Is this what people will see when they look back on my life. What am I leaving behind? What have I truly accomplished? Who will weep when I have passed?” I tell you, it goes 0-100 real fucking fast when something goes wrong. I’m working on that.

I guess more than anything, Valentine’s Day just makes me think of John. Why, when he no doubt never thinks of me, I don’t know. But it’s usually today that I want more than anything to live up to the love of my parents who tried to stick around and to my grandparents who didn’t need to but did. Some day maybe I’ll find this guy and tell him I was able to make it, to be somebody, and that he could claim nothing of that except the pathetic brag that he basically donated me to my mom and her husband.

Or maybe he’ll be dead by then and I’ll finally be able to let this go.

Again, go check out Jessica Michelle Singleton’s debut album. She’s hilarious. Happy Valentine’s Day!

iTunes: Please. Don’t. Leave. Me.
Amazon: Please. Don’t. Leave. Me.
Google Play: Please. Don’t. Leave. Me.

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.”