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.

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Read in Denver Disclaimer

‚ÄčI’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.

Rainy Day Romance

I like making love on rainy days
When we fog the windows and
We fill the rooms and
I don’t have to beg you to stay
Those gray afternoons that filter through
The love letters traced in the
Beads of sweat across your skin
A pale blue hue stretched languid ‘cross us
While we talk ways to start again
I like faintly brushing errant strands
Of hair behind your ear
I like the ways your legs embrace
Me and coyly draw me near

I miss those long and patient minutes
Just before you began to stir
I long for love on rainy days and
For the lovely way things were

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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.”

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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 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 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.