RIP Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher, probably best known as Princess Leia, passed away today after suffering a heart attack days ago at the age of 60. It’s interesting, our relationships with strangers, and how the death of someone you might never have met and who you certainly didn’t know personally can still move you. I found myself deeply, deeply saddened this morning. Hearing the news was literally the first thing that happened after waking up and checking my phone.

The talented and versatile actress, the immensely honest and hilarious writer, the troubled and iconic artist meant a lot to me. I distinctly remember my dad popping in the old VHS tapes of the original Star Wars trilogy when I was four or five. I remember the very room I was in when I was introduced to Princess Leia for the first time. I remember how she stood stalwart in the face of evil, how she still didn’t break after her home planet was destroyed because the Rebellion was more important than that, how she mocked her enemies and called out shaky convictions, shot stormtroopers, strangled the life out of a mob boss with the very chain she was attached to, and led her people with poise.

Princess Leia could very well have been a first crush for me, but she was so much more: she was the strongest introduction into sci-fi and fantasy – something that has shaped my entire focus on fiction writing and escape through reading throughout my whole life – and, more importantly, my first introduction to a strong woman protagonist (a role that Ellen Ripley, Wonder Woman, Lara Croft, and Ellie from “The Last of Us”, among others, would go on to expand for me over the years). She showed me that you could be a damsel occasionally in distress and still be a kick-ass warrior, a canny tactician and politician, a romantic, and hilariously sarcastic. When I was writing the Convergence trilogy and creating characters like Alanna Ebere and Delia Bloom, Carrie would pop into my mind often, and served as tremendous inspiration towards creating characters I hoped were half as nuanced as Leia.

Beyond that, she was a fantastic writer, punching up screenplays, poking fun at herself, and through interviews and autobiographies, being unflinchingly honest about her issues with mental illness and substance abuse. She affirmed my belief that it’s unproductive, disingenuous, and actively harmful to lie or shy away from your past or your problems. She continued to convince me to always be open and honest in my own writing, even when it concerns myself. Especially then.

She was in other films, of course, and has done so much more. I could spend all day writing about my favorite interviews and stories about Carrie Fisher. I could write an entirely separate long post about When Harry Met Sally, another one of my favorite films of all time, or her hilarious turn in 30 Rock, but I’ve already written a lot, and it still doesn’t seem to be enough.

For some, Star Wars doesn’t make sense to enjoy. It’s fantasy in space. It’s ridiculous, the writing isn’t always great, there are plot holes large enough to fly a Star Destroyer through, and it largely centers around the same troubled family.

For me, it was the first avenue to a type of escapism that would literally save my life several times over the years, and the first inkling of the kind of storytelling I’d want to try and build a career on. A huge chunk of that was because of the strongest member of the Skywalker family, the princess who told Grand Moff Tarkin to his face that she could recognize his foul stench, the broken hearted but never broken willed woman who mocked a stormtrooper’s height after watching her entire planet explode along with everyone she loved.

You were my first heroine, Carrie Fisher, and have become an immortal icon. You were very, very much to me. Rest in peace.

Advertisements

I’m Not Dead Yet

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted an update, BUT I STARTED THIS MOTHERFUCKER TWO YEARS AGO TODAY SO LET’S UPDATE!

I’m not going to wax poetic about what I’ve been up to, because it’s pretty straightforward. I met someone last fall that was unlike anyone I’d met in a long time. Things were good… great, even, for a while and I let myself get carried away. When it inevitably went south, I had no one to blame but myself. It’s a process, dealing with expectations (warranted or not) that you’ve set for yourself when they don’t pan out. Work has been… interesting for me as well, lately, for a number of reasons I won’t list here because it could potentially put me in an untenable situation.

Dealing with heartbreak and loneliness and occupational discont in addition to anxiety and a bipolar disorder and fluctuating depression, in addition to the contemplation of mortality and legacy that always creeps around the corner of every birthday and in the waning minutes of another hour I remind myself I could have been doing something productive, well, it takes a toll. Mentally, emotionally, physically. It’s easy to fall into a routine of spending money on any number of things in an effort to distract myself. If I’m paying for a top notch meal, the succulence and implied luxury trigger an endorphic response that, hey, life ain’t that bad. If I’m drinking in a crowded area, the music, the crowd, it serves to make me feel included even if I have no interest in taking part.

I’ve been in a slump of sorts. I’m trying to reign those base impulses in and begin focusing again on the steps I need to take to get where I want to be. A place where I can be a face among many, where I can start new relationships without all the weight of history and rumor and preconceived notions and tainted impressions. I’ve been trying to be more proactive in saving and in creating.

I’m writing a love story now. The book I was working on, one I did exclusive character spotlights for and whose Prologue I shared here, is on hold. In the wake of a woman, a revenant lingered with a story to tell and no body to do it with. I became the body. I became The Story.

It’s called Read in Denver. It was only intended to be a quick fluff piece, a short story, on the low end of 40,000 words and it has since blossomed into what will probably be double that at least. I’m only around halfway through but as I began writing the novel, I realized I couldn’t just shit out the bones of a work and pretend it was worth anybody’s time. This was a story that bothered me so much I had to halt other projects to work on it. It was a story about art and intense emotion and relationships, and I think all three things require the space to bloom or wilt into what they’re meant to be.

The book is fictional. The characters are fictional. Their story is a work of fiction. And yet, more than anything else, I’ve included a lot of things that are rooted in reality. There are scenarios that actually happened, memories that are repurposed for the plot, characters named after one person and modeled on another, lines of dialogue that were actually spoken.

Including devastating ones.

I wanted to pour as much of myself and my experiences into the book to grant an irrationality, a vulnerability, a rawness, a realness that could only otherwise be portrayed in  real time with real people. Is the book good?

Well, it’s not done. I hope it will be good. I hope I can capture things like anxiety and indecision and passion correctly. But of all my works so far, I can see this about Read in Denver: it will be my most personal, honest work.

Also, I’ve designated this year the Story Year. I’ve been occupying a good chunk of my spare time to A) watching a movie I’ve never seen each day and B) reading a lot more. I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in consuming a multitude of stories across a plethora of times and genres.

And you know, thats pretty much all I’ve been dealing with, I guess. Existential crises, the fear of dying alone, guilt at not writing more or more quickly, wondering why I’m still at the job I’m at in the city I’m in, and ways to ignore all of that and push it to the back of the line. I hope to get back on a more regular schedule with my blog posts, but we’ll see. I’m the sad sack who writes novels to deal with putting myself in a position to get hurt. At the end of the day, though, it really comes down to the fact that after work and writing and whatever personal and emotional struggles I slog through, I’m not left with a lot of energy to do much else.

So far, though, I’ve got Read in Denver to occupy most of my free mind. Will the end result be good?  I can hope. I like it so far, I think. It’s at least different than the other works I’ve done and that’s enough to excite me. I wish I could share more with you! The cover, the synopsis I haven’t written yet, the book itself. For now, I’ll leave you with this:

A candlestick was doing its damndest to seduce a feather duster.
“We should all be so lucky,” Mariah said.
“You’d be surprised.”
“What, is romance dead?”
“No. Romance is a clusterfuck.”

image

Communication

My notes and a bottle of strong rum cover a battered, dark brown desk with a shallow center drawer that I purchased for ten dollars from a friend who no longer speaks to me.

I sit in an old chair from work, broken backed but cushioned, that I rescued from a journey to the trash compactor. There are wheels on the bottom, but they go nowhere, much like myself in a job that no longer speaks to me.

I’m at home, tucked into a quiet corner in a small, cluttered living room, opting to stay out of a bar before 2AM for the first time in months. The isolation and the dim lights and the stillness and the clock that is also a book, constructed by a friend, grant a peace now where once there was claustrophobia. I miss less and less the cacophonous bar scene that no longer speaks to me.

Instead, I find myself looking out at the light from the street lamps glittering off the few patches of ice still remaining on the road and sidewalks. The stars flicker above the quiet homes across from me and the whirring, crunching noises of solitary travelers driving hither and thither provide a removed ambiance. The night speaks to me.

And my hands pick up a simple plastic tool, gluttonous with ink, that I must have slipped away from work or borrowed and forgotten to return. My thumb and forefinger hold it like a lover and it in turn nestles into a worn and weathered callous where the first and second digits of my middle finger meet. The pen speaks to me.

The notebook lays open without shame before me. It is expressionless, trusting in me to see the value in it, to see the story whispering between its lines, to coax that story out and nurture it into a raw but honest love. It is the bound remnants of a former life begging softly to be given new purpose. The paper speaks to me.

I touch the metal tip of my arm’s (possibly stolen) extension to a softer material and begin dragging it in familiar patterns.

I speak back.

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.

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.

When Everything Changed

Periodically throughout your life, you will meet someone who becomes a catalyst in deciding which direction your life takes. The experience itself can sometimes be negative – there’s no helping that, I’m afraid; it’s easy to be hurt – but many times it can just as well be a positive experience. An epiphany of sorts, or a kick in the ass, or a swelling of the heart (not… not literally, I hope).

However it happens, good or bad, emotionally thrilling or heartwrenching, these are people you never forget. Ever. They become one of the many pivotal building blocks in establishing your life and how you identify yourself as a person.

So let me tell you who saved me once and who put me on the path of being a writer.

The first time I saw her, I was a sophomore in high school. Jesus… eleven years ago, already. I was sitting in class, U.S. history, taught by the riflery coach, a large man who spent his summers big-game hunting in Africa. His classroom was situated such that it had windows and those windows opened up to the front lawn aka the direction from whence students would come and/or leave.

So it was that towards the end of the school year and seniors were being let out early, freed from the claustrophobic halls of public school, we got front seat views to their traipsing and gallivanting all across the lawn. I didn’t really watch them. I had two years left and classwork to do. Until.

She stuck her head through the window from outside to say goodbye to my teacher who had led a class of hers in the past. Blonde hair. The kind of blue eyes you see in the heart of glaciers. An Audrey Hepburn smile. She remains one of the most naturally beautiful women I have ever seen, and all I could think of was that somehow I needed her in my life.

I didn’t see her again that year. She was out, on the road to graduation, and I knew, deep in the cockles of my heart, that I wouldn’t have had the guts to speak to her anyway. This was confirmed, mind you, in the years that followed when I would see her out and about at the mall or at the club, and I simply walked past, eyes averted.

About a year and a half after she graduated, I happened to be perusing MySpace, probably a little drunk, when she popped up in my “People You May Know” or whatever the equivalent was. I probably muttered “fuck it” under my breath before sending a friend request. To my astonishment, she accepted a few days later. I finally said…

Nothing.

Still.

What was I going to say? That she stunned me? That I thought she was magnificent? That I had wanted to befriend her for ages but never had the balls?

Eventually, that’s exactly what I did. Several years back, I was going through some suicidal depression, so around Christmas time, I wrote a series of holiday messages to the people who had the biggest impact on my life that year. The first half was the same for everyone: an accounting of what I had done, what I had gone through, how I was feeling, and my hopes for the future. The second half was personalized for each recipient. Writing them out helped get me through my personal slump as I realized how much I had to live for and how grateful I was for the people in my life. It became an annual thing for a decade.

So Christmas time rolled around, I wrote one for this girl. I laid it all out: the first time I saw her, my shyness, how I felt about her, that I wanted to be friends, that I was shocked and ecstatic she would befriend me even via MySpace, and I sent it off.

Her response was sweet, kind, enthusiastic and caring. She was flattered by my words and glad to be friends. We resolved to keep in touch… and then never did, really. Real life happens. She went to college, and I got swept up in whatever my life is, and I forgot about it.

Cut to a few years later. I was up in Alaska to see my best friend’s newborn baby and killing time until I drove with another friend, helping him move to Florida. I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I was still heartbroken over my girlfriend leaving me, I was fired from my job due to poor decisions on my part, I was thrust into debt, I had to leave Los Angeles and move to a couch in Seattle where I was struggling to find a job. I had lost virtually everything, and I was living out of suitcases. I didn’t even have a family home to fall back to anymore.

I found myself out on the town that weekend, hopping from bar to bar, seeing who I could find after a couple years being away. I could feel tipsiness in my body, but my mind was clear. I stopped into a pub called the Anchor – now closed – and scanned the crowd from about fifteen feet in from the front door.

I saw her there, in the crowd, even more lovely than she had been six years previous. She had a grin on her face while she talked to friends. She turned towards me and locked those same stunning eyes on mine. To my tremendous surprise, she walked right up to me and embraced me tightly.

“You remember me?” I managed. We had only had one conversation, ever, consisting of one message sent and one received, online, years ago.

“Jered,” she said. “I love your writing. You have such a talent. I believe in you, and I can’t wait to see you be successful.”

We swapped numbers. We agreed to keep in touch. I left, completely… I don’t even know what the proper word would be. Transformed, maybe.

For years, this woman was something ethereal to me. Always out of reach, always out of my league, always more of an idea than a reality. She was a dream, a fucking incredible one, but no more than smoke to me. To have her in my arms, to have her remember me, but more than that, most of all, to have this person come to me when I was at my absolute lowest, when I hated myself the most… at THAT moment, out of everybody in the world, it was her that came to me and told me I was talented and that she believed in me.

It’s like meeting your favorite celebrity, on the moon, with million dollars cash. Probably a puppy, too, fuck it. One of the adorable types, not those drowned-rat-looking breeds.

The encounter completely shifted my mindset. It started an electric current through me. I helped my friend move to Florida, I flew back to Seattle, I got a job. I dug out three mediocre chapters I had worked on a year previous, re-tooled them, sat down and wrote my first novel in six months.

I moved back to Alaska about a month after I finished and self-published it, and this time she and I did keep in touch. We got dinner and talked and caught up, and we texted each other every day. She told me about her troubles in the science industry and I bitched about the stressors plaguing me while I sold jewelry. She became one of my best and most trusted friends. I could tell her everything and she never judged me for anything.

Time passed, as it does, and life happened again, as it will. She got engaged, then married. I lost my grandparents, another job, and another girl. We grew distant, but occasionally shot each other an encouraging text, or a hilarious photo. By and large, things had gone back to the way they were, with our friendship essentially being long periods of silence. Even so, I knew things had changed. I knew that I had a strong, beautiful, supportive friend if I ever needed to reach out to someone.

I didn’t dedicate my first book to her. I dedicated it to the proof-readers and the advanced copy readers, and to my friend Chelsea, who was the first person to really tell me they were proud of me. In retrospect, this woman should absolutely have been in there. Like I said, she’s the main reason I started writing!

I saved it, though. Over the course of four years, I wrote a trilogy and released it in five parts. The second half of As the Trembles was put out in the first quarter of this year. Her name was in that one. That one was the most important to me, because it showed me and it proved to her, one of the most important people in my life, that I could finish it.

Waypoint was always supposed to be the first book in a trilogy. I wrote that first one in no time, because she had fired me up and inspired me. The second and third book took much longer. I didn’t have faith in the second and third acts. I had so much stuff going on in my personal life. I wanted to give up. I almost did.

But I couldn’t. I needed to finish what she started so I could show her it was because of her. I had to put her fucking name in a book. So I did, and I did.

The middle of this year, as I’ve written time and again, was really rough for me. I’ve been slowly coming back from that and trying to get into a healthier mindset. Some days are better than others. I’m probably more stressed right now than I have been in a while, but I’m beginning to process it better.

In any case, as I feel myself reaching another crossroad in my life, I found myself out last night, tired and kind of pensive. I wandered out to the deck, turned a corner and – lo and behold – she and I came face to face again. I found myself smiling as her own crossed her face. We hugged, talked briefly, agreed again that we should keep in touch.

As we reminisced some, she told me again that she was proud of me, that I had talent, that I was a great guy. Things that I often have a hard time believing myself, things that people occasionally say off-handed somehow never ring false coming from her.

She’s amazing. As beautiful in personality as she was that first day I saw her, before I even knew her name. I truly owe her so much for the last few years. Not only for inspiring and encouraging me to write, but for the countless, patient support and advice she has given me. She is stalwart and reliable in a day and age where friendship and consistency are so often shaky. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend.

I’m not a believer in fate, and I’m agnostic at best when it comes to a higher power, but she has surfaced in my life at times I’ve needed someone or something to help me find some focus. The last time, I wrote a book. I look forward to whatever comes next this time.

Unless it’s, like, I’m going to become a hooker or something.

Anyway, you can find my novels here, or if the Nook is more your speed, head over there and type my K. Jered Mayer into the search engine.

Some Fires Just Burn a Little Brighter

I’m a subscriber to love. I don’t believe there is one type, or a specific intensity. I don’t believe that young love is a myth. There’s a woman I fell for when I was fifteen years old that I still miss deeply and hope the best for. I do believe love can be foolish and reckless and selfish, especially when someone doesn’t have much experience with it, or with life. You can love young, and you should love when that feeling presses up against your heart and seeps into your lungs, but it doesn’t always mean it’s going to work out. Love is messy, and like tungsten carbide, it can be the strongest thing out there and still shatter with the right amount of pressure to the wrong spot.

You can probably guess where I’m going with this.

Seven years ago, I still fancied myself an actor. I love acting, to be honest, but though I have a small circle of friends who were always seated in the front row for my shows, I don’t think I was particularly good at it. Keep in mind I moved to Los Angeles a year later to try and actually do it for a living. It backfired spectacularly.

But this is before that. This is before I could enter an American bar. I got into acting late in high school. The first show I ever did was the Outsiders (Dallas Winston. My very first performance, I yelled out FUCK in front of the entire school when my gun got stuck in my coat pocket during my super emotional death scene), followed by Grease (Kenickie, because I’m a whore and a hickie from me is like a Hallmark card: when you care enough to give the very best).

I did some community shows afterwards, including playing a lead in a Halloween show about werewolves where I played a pastor (*cue laugh track*). That show was great. The uncut script was phenomenal, and though we had to trim it down for time, it still ended with my stage wife blowing me away with a rifle.

Strangely, I kept getting cast in musicals. I’m a terrible singer. I never did choir, I don’t sing in the shower. I don’t like my speaking voice, let alone my singing voice. Then there’s the dancing. I’m the clumsiest, least coordinated guy you could meet. Now I’ve got to master dance moves and sing and act and holy shit, how many scenes do I have in this thing? I was the Pirate King in a showing of Pirates of Penzance and though I look dashing in a goatee and a red coat, I felt like an asshole trying to co-lead that show.

Anyway. I did that Halloween show and she saw me perform, although I didn’t know that at the time. We would meet a few months later, during a musical (again) in which I had a mercifully minor role. The show was set in 1920s France and I was set in the most ridiculous costumes I’ve ever set eyes upon. We met for the first time during our first rehearsal. I think even then, there was a connection.

We talked. A lot. The girl I was dating at the time broke up with me over text, and I didn’t handle it very well. It hurt my feelings, and I was mopey. This beautiful actress, six years my senior (older women is my fetish. And younger women. And women my age, but at 20, hey, this older women thing was something new and different and flattering) did a lot to build my confidence back up. She made me feel handsome. She encouraged my writing. She made me feel talented, and through spending so much time talking to and being around me, she made me feel desirable during a time when I really held myself to being worth so little as to be a throwaway text.

The first night I went to her apartment wasn’t a graceful one for either of us. We had met up for food at the tavern about a block down from her place and she invited me back for drinks. Adele was playing from the CD player, Chasing Pavements, the first time I had heard the singer. Candles were lit. Glasses were pulled from the cabinets. We both had a little too much wine and, coupled with the pasta she had ordered earlier, the night ended with my holding her hair back while she let everything return from whence it had come. She was embarrassed, and she told me so then, and she told me so later. I wasn’t bothered. I held her until she fell asleep and then I made my way home.

I fell for her then, I think, in that moment. Not because she was puking. That’s not… I’m not into that. Maybe because she was vulnerable and she trusted me enough to hold her there. I remember her nestled against me, my arm hooked under black and full hair. I recall the light freckles on her olive skin and the way her chest rose in soft breaths, exhausted from what she had just been through with the food and drink.

We talked about it the next day and hung out soon after, and I think the fact the experience hadn’t turned me away or shaken the feelings I was having for her made an impression that lasted. Not long after, we began seeing each other in a fashion I guess I would best describe as being intensely passionate and equally torrid.

We couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Not during the show, not after the show wrapped. When we were around each other, the chemistry was unbelievable. Rarely have I looked so deeply into a woman’s eyes and found so much art and life waiting to rush back at me. I wrote poems for her. I wrote short stories. I’ve written about muses and love before, and I’ve left this woman out, I think in part because of how things ended, but she was a fire inside me for several months and she lingered in me for years after.

She made me a journal. The cover was custom designed, and the pages were sporadically filled with pictures of her, of us, of my favorite things. There was a picture of the Eiffel Tower from when we lay curled around each other, wistfully talking about running away to Paris together. I lost it a couple years later in a cab in Los Angeles. The thought still pisses me off.

She introduced me to the Woodshed, the karaoke bar that became a second home to me for many years, a place that has brought me some of my favorite stories and best friendships. She was the impetus for my throwing myself into a life of art, be it acting or writing. Jesus, I don’t know if I ever would have had the balls to actually move to Los Angeles if it hadn’t been for her, and though that move broke me in ways I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from, it still changed my life in a lot of great ways, too.

I felt confident with this woman. My creative synapses were like lightning around her. I’ve had very few physical relationships that were as full of intensity and aggression and expression as when she and I were together. Sexuality, emotion, inspiration ran together in a single, twisting, uproarious current.

Of course it didn’t last. In my experience, things like this rarely do.

See, here’s the rub: I fucking loved her, and I know she felt strongly about me, too. I don’t think it was love for her, and that’s fine. She wanted to be around me and with me, and often it was a companionship that vibrated with a whole different level of energy. But I was young. 20, 21. I liked to party, and party hard. I was dumb. I lacked the maturity that comes from tragedy and actual relationships and general life experience. She was in her mid-20s. She liked to party, too. She was deep in an art scene and fresh out of a relationship with her eyes on the world.

We were good. We were great. But there are other great people out there. And there are plenty of debilitating distractions.

We began to fight. I grew jealous. She was partying harder than ever, and I began to worry about her health. I expressed this by getting drunk and angry and yelling when she refused to listen to my concerns. I was a wreck. I was immature. She was merciless in her comebacks. It got bitter. We grew apart. We stopped seeing each other. We stopped talking to each other.

Years later, I had moved back to Alaska after two years of struggling to find myself in California and Washington. I was working at a jewelry store, a job I kind of really hated, and I wasn’t feeling too hot about myself either. A beautiful, familiar woman walked up to me while I was standing at the front of the store counting minutes. She said “Hey,” and flashed a smile. The smile, her smile,  the one I used to kiss hungrily, the one that left me weak in the knees, the one that made the words come quaking to my fingertips, begging to be unleashed upon the nearest parchment.

It was the smile I remembered looking up to from that fucking break-up text right before she told me things were going to be alright.

She apologized to me, saying she wasn’t in a great place back then. I told her she didn’t need to apologize, it was me that was in a bad place. We talked briefly. She’s married now. At the time, she had one kid. She has two now and is still happy, still in a good place.

I ran into her yesterday after watching the World Cup final. She was performing on stage, her voice as silky and lovely as I remembered. She came over to speak to me afterwards and we caught up. She dug up an old story I had written for her and e-mailed it to me. She seems happy, and I am so happy for her. She deserves it.

What’s funny to me is the timing. I don’t believe in fate. I’m not a believer in a divine plan. I do believe in chance, so maybe I just got lucky, but our paths crossed at a time in my life where I am hitting absolute rock bottom. I wake up in the morning feeling gutted, I’ve been bleeding money on bad decisions and intangible nonsense. Seeing her reminded me of some very positive things. A passionate love that, though tempered and tucked away in the art gallery of my heart, still remains. I was reminded of a woman I wanted to run away to France with, of a time when I saw the world in a woman’s eyes.

She found a good life, one full of art and passion and love and family. Maybe some day I’ll find something like that, too. She gave me one more gift, after all these years, after everything that’s happened: a little bit of hope.