Read in Denver

There are crazy kinds of love. The lava-hot kind of love that steals breath and rubberizes knees. The kind that rushes in like a bullet train and turns common sense into metaphors (just like this). It’s the kind of love that can start at the sight of a sign in the middle of the sidewalk at nearly four in the morning.

You know, Auburn and Gabby’s kind of love.

Read in Denver is the story of small-town, increasingly introverted Auburn Parks, a moderately successful romance novelist who desperately wants to publish science-fiction. It’s the story of Gabriella Baker, an energetic but private artist strick through with wanderlust, searching for her place in the world by taking life day by day. This is the story of two hearts colliding, two minds exciting, that crazy kind of love.

And everything that goes with it.”

About a year ago, I got the idea for Read in Denver while writing an emotional farewell letter to someone I cared deeply about. Around ten months ago, unable to shake it, I set aside the science fiction novel I was working on and set about trying my hand at my first-ever long form love story. I wouldn’t call it a romance, though there are romantic details. It’s more simply just a story about art and love and messiness.

I’ve said to people before that this the most honest piece of fiction I’ve ever put to paper, and so it was difficult for me to push through and finish it. I invested a lot of real things that were said or done, overheard and felt, injecting a fictional narrative with what I hope comes across as authenticity.

I messed with narrative structure. I inserted a couple odd touches and made sure to play with callbacks and mirrors. I put together a soundtrack with and few suggestions but no real directions on how and when to listen to it.

In the end, I’m not sure what I got. Less a book, perhaps, and more an experience. Hopefully a good one.

You can find it for the Nook here: Read in Denver

You can find it for the Kindle here: Read in Denver
Or you can order paperback copies here: Read in Denver
If you decide to take a chance on the book, I genuinely hope you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, I hope you share it with your loved ones. Cheers.

Advertisements

We’re All Stardust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Late Thoughts

It’s two in the morning here and I’m sitting in my work-discarded, cushy, swiveling office chair racking my mind on what to write. I’ve asked people for suggestions at this point and been given nothing, which, good. “I’m a writer, right?” I said. “Shouldn’t be taking the easy way out.”

If only it were that easy. I’m finishing up a novella of sorts and have yet to start my next novel, so there’s nothing update-worthy there. I’m back home from Montana a week now and already back into the work routine. My life is as regular as ever.

Sort of.

Every so often I have to remind myself why I write. I don’t think I’m necessarily very good at it, but it’s cathartic, it’s a nice hobby, and I like to make things. I have friends who don’t like to read and others who don’t like fiction at all. But I do. I fucking love stories. I love lives and all the drama that goes into them. I love plot twists and strange worlds, magic and new tech, break-ups, make-ups, births and shocking deaths. I love stories, ones on the page – typed and illustrated – and ones on the screen.

I love stories I make myself. I like to think I’m not boring, that I have stories I can tell that will entertain or educate or make you think. I write books for other people, and this blog… well, mostly for myself, I think, sometimes, but also because I want people to know me and understand who I am and why I am the way I am.

But entertainment? I love it. I love making something, relationships and locations and histories out of nothing but frustration and airy imagination. I like to give these things to people and take them out of their troubles and concerns for a while.

Creating a product and putting it out is one thing, though. Getting feedback is something else entirely, something nerve-rackimg, devastating and euphoric. Getting a good review is like a drug. For a guy who struggles daily to try and figure out what his purpose on this planet is, hearing that someone is excited to read or having had read something I cooked up in this clusterfuck of a head is like snorting cocaine on a rocket flying to an intergalactic strip club made of candy. Or something, I don’t know, I put words together in a line, I’m not a metaphor doctor.

I have to say, though, I hate pitching my work to read. I feel pretentious, hocking my version of art to someone. But if they read and like it, hell, I love talking about it then. Hearing what their favorite parts are, who their favorite characters are, talking about why I wrote certain things certain ways, or how and why I developed certain characters. I love seeing people enthusiastic about my work.

I’ve got an accomplished comedian friend tell me she’s got my first novel in her bookcase and she proudly shows it off. I had a girl find me and with excited eyes tell me she found in her pocket the napkin I wrote the names of my books on. I’ve sold copies to customers at my day job when I started talking about the Kindle app they downloaded. I’ve had friends read my books multiple times or reach out to me to say they can’t wait to finish them or for me to write the next one. I’ve had a woman who doesn’t likr fiction at all talk to me excitedly aboht my writing because she likes that I don’t think the way she does, that I see and appreciate things that are foreign to her.

Most of these things have happened as recently as the last week. Also in the last week, a woman – an immensely talented artist in her own right – saw my office. It was messy, cluttered, full of books and notes and a fridge with microwaveable shit food. I haven’t shown my office to many people. It’s my sanctum sanctorum (that’s for you, Dr. Strange fans), my think tank, the place I get down and dirty with my feelings and my fictions. It’s my safe place, and I feel nervous showing it because… well, I’m a writer. Right? I feel like garbage about myself sometimes and I worry about what people are going to think about this workplace that means the world to me. And she sees this, this person I want to make the best possible impression to, and she gets it. She looks at me with just unbridled excitement and happiness. She knows what it means to me and she threw her support behind her smile 100% when she saw it, because she knew as fucked up and messy as it was, it was my baby there.

It’s a rush to have people like what I do. It’s a rush to talk about it and spill my secrets. It’s nice to know I can make people smile, make people escape, male people think and feel. It’s a rush to know that artists…artists of all kinds, those creative people, people I care a lot about and whose opinions I hold in high regard… it’s nice to know they think I do a decent job and that they support my endeavors, regardless of where I carry them out.

I have a lot of love for my craft and for my fans, honest to God fans. I never thought I’d see the day.

I put my heart on the page and into my office. Every day I wonder if I’m doing the right thing by even trying to write. Then I remember that napkin. The re-reads. The excitement. The private messages. The look on her face. I spent two hours trying to figure out what to write about tonight.

Writing. For me, it’s always writing. For you, well,

you’ll always get stories from me.

A Beautiful Coin Flip

She had a weakness for writers. Maybe it was the brooding nature, the way that a sitting silence could fill volumes. Maybe it was the self-assured smirk that so often sat below haunted eyes. Maybe it was because she was never so good with words.

Her creativity was one of warmth, one that filled the lungs with flowered fields and the kind of sky with lazy clouds, cornflower and cut through by an occasional feathered journeyer. Her art was one where the heart beat by the sounds of a sonata, one with eyes that could look lovingly at the sun.

She filled finite spaces with frameless things, pieces unbound by logic and thrumming with a life felt far beneath the surfaces; the Marianas Trench of empathy and compassion. Her life, the artist’s life, was one in broad strokes and tight feelings, messy in practice and pure in completion.

There was something about writers, though, she thought as she stared over a mug of hot chocolate, through the whips and whorls of steam stretching free from it, through a window pane polka-dotted with drops of water. Something about the way they could take the ambient light of a rainy day – that light that was somehow both the warm gray of rabbit fur and the faded light blue of acid-washed jeans – and translate it into reflective comfort. The way they captured the pit-patter along the roof while muffled cars splashed past in the street while she sat curled up against the armrest of her couch and the cushion quietly relaxed for her.

She had a gift, but writers had a gift. It was easy for her to lose track of hours in bed, bath or beyond amidst the pages of a novel. It could be fantastic, with fire sprites and warrior women; it could be something futuristic, with strange worlds, clone companions and oceans of crystal; or it could even be something so simple as sudden, sensational love between two people meeting at the right place at the right time.

As she moved from that portal looking out at a drab day to a porcelain basin full of water (hot, to match her chocolate) and lavender scented bubbles, she brought along a dog-eared paperback she could practically quote.

A rainy day. A bath to soak in. A writer’s soul bound within a laminate cover. It  was something she was left to think about and to feel; she was never so good with words, after all.

…..

He had a thing for artists. Maybe it was the unbridled passion, the way each movement made was filled with purpose. Maybe it was the determined line their mouths made, set under eyes filled with lightning and focus. Maybe it was because he was never so good with visuals.

His creativity was one of specifics: a particular metaphor, a precise description, an aesthetic arrangement. It rattled around his mind like a Scrabble bag in a Yahtzee cup, like walking through a sandstorm while trying to picture the oasis. It pounded in his head like a timpani and roiled in his blood, a serpent stepped upon. His art was one that – when it worked – was Pandora’s box of emotion, flooding history and emotion over a barren page, twenty-six symbols tossed together to create an intangible picture, phantom lives, and ghostly worlds.

He filled blank space with puzzle, one in which linear parts formed a whole picture. He bled on paper with memories and anguish and love and what potion brewed from it was something altogether different, echoed by the familiar. His craft was stark honesty, a nude model dressed in the garments of a foreigner. It wept behind bulletproof glass.

There was something about artists, though, he thought as he looked through the glass in his hand, through the swirling amber whiskey that tasted like the dirty hands and knees of his childhood and gifted the deep stars of winter what told him a man’s life is equal parts the least important (to the universe) and the most important (to himself and the human race, a largely selfish and stressed creation but one that exists and feels and loves right there when you think about it) thing to be.

Something about the way they could capture the chips in the edge of his desk to show it has age and character, a piece of furniture with development, one kept from sentiment and usefulness, one built to hold love in its splinters. Something about how they could capture  the bags under his eyes and see every story there in vague detail, every worry line that told five years in the showing, every askew paper that demonstrated the most recent interests as he tore through his notes to find a project that currently spoke to his mind.

He had a gift, but artists had a gift. It was a gift that put a hundred thousand words and stories upon stories into one sight. It spoke of time and love and feelings, good feelings and bad feelings but true feelings. It was something he could  view fleetingly that would haunt him for days. A picture’s worth a thousand words until the one comes that takes them all.

As he moved from that desk, cluttered with things to read and things to do, away from the gun most people called a pen and a page that showed no mercy, he took to bed with him the last beautiful picture he saw. One painted with affection and care, and he pictured the gentle, no, tempestuous, no, dedicated (all of the above) hands that spun gold silk out of air. He went to bed, pillow grasping lightly at the contours of his busy skull, visualizing the artist poised to make a brighter future.

A bursting workshop. A mattress to cradle him. An artist’s soul drifting through the after-image clinging to the frame of the inspired. It was something he was left to think about and to feel; he was never very good with visuals, after all.

Gluing the Pieces Together

VàZaki Nada said, “Fear those who are able to create in the midst of their own destruction, they are invincible.”

When I read that for the first time, I laughed. For a while, I still didn’t know if it was out of disbelief that that had ever been the case or bitterness that I don’t much feel invincible at all, yet I try and create even as I seem set on casting away or sabotaging the best parts of my life. And what is there to fear here, really? A rage born partly out of frustration at someone’s manipulation of me and partly of my own ineptitude at not seeing it coming? Even then, ninety percent of my anger is directed internally and who would truly fear a man lamenting the decisions he did or didn’t make?

I think now, though, that I laugh because the quote lends a misinterpretation towards “tortured” or “struggling” or “angst-ridden” or “addicted” artists, towards people who crank out poetry, prose, music and art despite being burdened with an emotional, mental or chemical dependency.

It is a rare thing for the people described to die of old age and even rarer for them to die happy. Those people aren’t invincible. Have they endured an anguish or a compulsion or both that most might buckle under or overcome at the cost of producing nothing? Possibly. This doesn’t necessarily make them stronger, though they are strong. It certainly doesn’t make them invincible.

Substance abuse, depression, and many other mental disorders runs heavy in artists, the creative mind running rampant in imagination, working overtime in analyzing and overanalyzing things, seeing and feeling things to degrees most people don’t. Creating, putting that content out there is – for most – the only way to calm themselves. To distract from the world and its problems at large, to get the content out to be seen and absorbed and have it stop pressing against the corners of their mind.

Others start out writing to say something. HP Lovecraft, for example, is famous for being the modern father of horror writing, but he’s also known for the thousands of letters he wrote to publications and other writers and aspiring authors. He wrote about writing and processes, the city, and the people who lived in it. He wrote because there were opinions and thoughts and ideas he wanted to get out and share. Journalists and travel writers, photographers and political writers, writers that have heart-rending experiences or speak to those that do, or people with all too common issues that simply want to lend a voice to the voiceless and a call to those who know what it’s like just so they know they’re not alone… these people create with a purpose beyond beauty.

But painters, writers, poets, musicians, those with a spotlight on non-fiction, they all bring out that material because there is a fire in them. It burns in their gut, in their heart, in their mind, under every inch of skin. It’s a compulsion, an urge, an irrefutable fact that needs to be shared, and it’s done no matter what. No matter the divorce or death, no matter the drink or drug, no matter not being able to look yourself into a mirror.

Creating, for beauty or for information or for expression (or any mix of those, natch) is the only thing that keeps those artists going. Beyond the desire to do it, it’s a need. That need keeps them moving through just mountains of shit. Decades of self-loathing. Bottles of whiskey. Heaps of debt. Stints of homelessness. Whatever the circumstances may be. They persevere and they create despite it, channeling that hurt and rage and sadness and love for what could be and what is and what’s desired and what others just don’t seem to appreciate as much as they should, they bring all that out and put it on display anyway.

But they’re not invincible. They’re doing the only thing they can do, that they know how to, in order to survive. And while some might give up sooner, or while some might find a way into a better life, for most it’s just delaying the inevitable.

Vincent van Gogh. Ernest Hemingway. Robert E Howard. Hunter S Thompson. Sylvia Plath. Kurt Cobain. Virginia Woolf.

Robin Williams.

I promise you that any artist you see publicly destructing is doing so on another level privately. Do not fear them. Fear for them. They are not invincible. They are trying to give this world what they can before they give the rest of themselves to this world.

It has been a while since I’ve put any serious thought into suicide. A few years, anyway. I do think about death a lot, and about life. I recently had what I can only call a quarter-life crisis, and it’s something I’m still… sorting myself through. I realized I’m only three years shy of thirty, and I haven’t accomplished any of the things I’ve truly wanted to. I’m not living where I want to or doing what I want, but I don’t have the money to get started with what and where I do want. Younger me was ambitious and confident and clever. He’d have pulled the trigger anyway, but younger me did so with a safety net to fall back on

I don’t have that safety net anymore. My family is dead or estranged. My friends have families and responsibilities of their own. If I pull the trigger and fuck it up, bright, handsome Jered the writer could end up just another guy on the street because he honestly can’t afford anything else.

There are solutions, but let me break for a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:

“For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity or perception to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.”

Nietzsche is famous and infamous, controversial and revelationary. He was also an avid opium user and often misquoted, misinterpreted, and quoted out of context. For example, his opium use is largely attributed to treating his ample medical conditions instead of a raging addiction. It may have been that the soothing effects of opium may have been the only thing pushing pain away enough to be able to write cohesively and thoughtfully.

But Poe liked opium as well. Hemingway and Bukowski liked a drink. Hunter S Thompson was a veritable cocktail of illicit substances. Liquor especially has always seemed to be a common ally to the writer, and I’ll admit that some of my best stuff has come out of me under the influence. I’ve never needed to be fully drunk to write, but a glass or two to keep me loose never hurt.

Bottom line is I’m not going to shit all over booze and say it doesn’t help the creative process. Do you know what, though? It doesn’t help anything at all when the person consuming it is having an emotional breakdown.

When you’re losing it, really losing it, the cool thing is that you can realize it but mostly only from the outside. You know your problems have a solution, but the problems all seem so many and so overwhelming, you don’t want to pick a place to start. You know you’re relatively young, but everyone else has houses and families and careers and though you know you shouldn’t judge yourself by someone else’s life, you do so anyway, and you feel like you’ve wasted yours. You know you shouldn’t be at the bar, you should be working on your book, but it’s too quiet at home this early and maybe you’ll see someone you haven’t seen in a while and it’ll make you feel better.

I fucking crashed and burned. I hit a really depressive patch and I had a weekend where I went a little too hard, then St Patrick’s Day rolled around, then it became a series of excuses to just try and come to terms with the fact I’m not who I wanted to be while continuing to push myself in the opposite direction.

I once sad-clown joked, “I’ve hit rock bottom so many times I should open up a timeshare.” This wasn’t rock bottom. Not for me. I’ve been in a lot worse situations. I’ve done worse things. I’ve gone on worse benders. I’ve hurt people, lost my job, skirted jail time, almost killed myself both intentionally and unintentionally. All things considered, this was pretty fucking mild. But my body had enough of my shenanigans, and I finally had enough of my shenanigans, too.

I got really bad alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The shakes. Fatigue. Light-headedness to the point I almost passed out at work twice in one day. It got to the point where I very much needed liquor to keep my body going. That is a serious problem.

That isn’t me. This isn’t who I am. I party, sure, and I like the taste of liquor and beers, but I didn’t used to fucking need the shit to sleep. I didn’t used to be so aggressive about it all. I used to have self-control. I used to have self-respect.

I realized immediately, finally, that I need to regain control of my life. I happened to pull up an old conversation with my best friend (who, at this point, hasn’t really spoken to me in almost a year). She had said, “I really hope that moving forward, you can be happier, because I miss that.”

I didn’t, and I haven’t been. I miss it, too, and I miss her. I’ve made myself a misery to be around, and I’ve taken it out on myself. Something needed to be done.

“I understand that you care. I just sometimes feel that the people who know me best are people I’ve never met.” -Iain S. Thomas

When I started writing this blog, I really felt like I had hit a stride in finding an outlet to really say the things I’ve been wanting to say and talk about it in a way that would reach others without compromising who I am or the way I write. I’ve covered subjects like being adopted, losing family members, rape, loss, suicide, love, heartbreak, writing. I’ve had dozens of people reach out to me across Facebook, Twitter and even here, where I’ve got over 150 followers who are mostly strangers and who mostly know me strictly through WordPress.

That confidence bled into Facebook, where I keep in touch with most of my friends. I didn’t shy away from being honest or from sharing poetry and art and beautiful videos and pictures anymore, and I think people started to see that.

When I hit my rough patch, I threw a lot of that away. I slid back into the same old routine, the same problems, the same habits I always had. I hurt and I raged and I wanted more, but I wasn’t speaking anymore. There was no longer a purpose to what I was writing. This wasn’t introspection. It wasn’t examination. This was whining.

I feel like most of the people I know pity me to some degree. Some outright loathe me. I feel like I’ve let myself go so much that people have no picture of who I am beyond being a hard-drinker and a lothario, a retail worker who writes things sometimes and tries to talk them up.

Maybe they’re right, I don’t know, but I don’t want to be that.

My withdrawal symptoms had become bad enough that quitting cold turkey probably would have done more harm than good, but I was determined to get back control of my life.

The first thing I did was disconnect Facebook. I didn’t need the distraction of other people. Trying to put up a status update that made people laugh or one that kept people updated on my progress, as if they needed to know. I didn’t want to worry about anything or get side-tracked with conversations and links and pictures. I shut it off, dropping mostly off the grid, though if someone texted or called me, I let them know I just needed some Me time.

The second thing I did was look up different plans for alcohol detox. I found a tapering plan I liked and decided to stick with that. One standardized drink (a beer or shot) an hour from wake to sleep. The next day would be an hour and a half. The next would be two and so on, until I wasn’t drinking at all. This was perfect. It kept my body distracted and it eliminated any urge I had after a certain point to just, fuck it, have some more. It became a chore (time to take my vitamin) and not a pleasure. There was no loose allure, there was no swim to get caught in.

As I write this, I’m a few days into it. I haven’t faltered. I picked up a few different vitamin supplements to help with the withdrawal symptoms, and I’ll probably continue taking them for a while after I’m done. They cost $60 fucking dollars, those bottles are going to be empty.

The trickiest part is doing this more or less alone. I texted my friend to ask if he would do me a favor, intending to ask if he would help support me through it. When he asked what the favor was, I told him never mind. I was pretty sure I could go it alone.

My co-workers mostly know, primarily because I had to explain the pill bottles and word spread. When I told them I was quitting drinking for a while, their responses were:

-laughter
-“Dude, why you lying?”
-“Yeah, okay.”
-“Ew, don’t quit drinking.”

Only three other people know what I’m doing. Two don’t talk about me to any mutual friends and the third is my bartender, who not only also keeps my business to herself but who has been supportive and assistive during this whole process.

I trust my friends with a lot, but not with this. I think part of it is because I’m ashamed of myself. I feel like they already see me as a deadbeat, and I don’t want to have to come out and admit that I am, and that I have to actually fix something because I am broken. I don’t want them to discuss this with each other behind my back. I don’t want to see the disappointment or – even worse – the complete lack of surprise if I fuck it up. I just want to do it, have it be done, and then introduce myself back to everyone. I want it behind me so I don’t have the pressure of everyone’s vision of me and their expectations.

So I feel pretty alone, and I’m stressed, but I’m doing this. So far, so good. I don’t expect anyone to see my different. I don’t expect to win anybody back or win anyone over.

I’m not invincible. I’m the last person you should fear. I just want to be a good man that doesn’t feel so broken. I just want to be able to look myself in the mirror again.

A Perfect Place

The way she brushes
Her hair from her face
The world from her shoulders
Paint against canvas
Lips against mine

I picture a wide, open space. The interior of a warehouse, for example, with a paved floor. Concrete, probably, smooth and certain. A comfort in its consistency. It’s a place with a tall ceiling and high windows. A place with natural lighting which, mixed with white walls, lends a pale glow to the interior.

I say interior, but I mean work place. This is a place for art, a place to pull the demons free from a heart-filled ribcage, a place to spit beauty from our fingertips with all the grace of a maestro, the energy of an Olympic free-form swimmer, and the rage of a mother bear protecting its cubs. Or a mother elephant. Or a mother badger. Any mother, really, and like a mother, it’s in this place we give birth.

And like a mother, we deal with art with nurturing care, with frustration, with delicacy, with harsh words to get the point across.

In this space, there is a desk. It’s my desk, this wooden beast, clumsy and cluttered and gifted with two deep drawers. This is a dream, you see, so I can only guess what is in the drawers, but I imagine the top is full of notes and the bottom is home to a bottle of rum and a glass whose origins are lost to time. A gift, or more likely a thrift shop purchase, because I like thrift shops and any time I can give a loving home to a lonely-looking item on the shelf, I endeavor to do so.

The top of the desk is patterned with pages. There’s the book I’m working on, the book that’s next, a binder for the books left to come, and a book I need to read. I keep three pens by it all at all times, always. My primary, my back-up, and the one I use when I inevitably use or lose the first two into oblivion.

A desk is hardly a desk without a lamp, so I have one of those, too. A black one with an adjustable neck. Battery-powered, because who the hell wants to put a desk next to an outlet with all this open space, and if I brought an extension cord, I would find a way to trip over it somehow. The floor is concrete. Smooth. Certain. Hard.

This desk is where I work. Where I write. Where I give birth. Where I am. Who I am. I am the desk, the work, the art.

I am not alone.

The way she moves
Swimming through air
Gliding across the floor
Passing through the world
Across the canvas
Across my skin

She has an easel, and it’s a bit beat-up. It isn’t one of those fancy easels, not a socialite’s easel. It isn’t the easel toasting Jay Gatsby at a gala. The wood is scratched and stained and looks a little unreliable, but it stands straight and steady and she assures me it will last, and while I know a little bit about being unreliable, I know nothing about easels, so I take her word for it.

I asked her why she wanted something so… used when we could save up and have something fresh and completely yours, and she told me it was the same reason you should adopt a pet from the pound. “It’s got personality, it appreciates good care because it knows bad care, and all it really needs is a good home and someone to love it.”

Well. Makes sense to me.

Her palette, a dozen-welled beauty, is a different story, however, immaculate and well-maintained. I don’t know what she spent on it, and I didn’t ask. I’m simply impressed by how much care she takes of it and her brushes.

“One must treat their tools with respect so that they might produce the desired effect. Besides, a brush is much harder to replace than a pen.”

Well. Makes sense to me. I stole this pen from a bank yesterday. I imagine brushes are harder to come by.

She keeps hers on a tray, lined up in a row like a torturer’s kit. Like a torturer, she uses them to bring out the truth from her subject The Canvas. She exposes the truth of life, of love, of honesty and the universe. The brushes bristle at untouched space and the bristles rush to correct it. Or not. Sometimes they do so in measured strokes, methodically, deliberately.

Her tray sits on a cart that contains the tools of her art. Paint cans and pencils and a palette knife that she brandishes when she speaks to me, though never threateningly. Not yet, anyway. There’s a bowl of water for cleaning, a towel for drying, an eraser for…well, you know.

Everything has its place and she moves from memory, pulling and replacing, dabbing and rinsing, and when she’s done and the piece is dry, she sticks it against the back wall. Paintings sit there in a row, each with their own space to breathe and be, all waiting for the next art show in which most will be sold off to a new home with a new loving owner, like her easel and my rum glass.

She also has a lamp. Hers is tall and elegant where mine is short and crooked. Hers is white where mine is black. Hers casts a halo where mine is a spotlight. Such are our lamps. Such are we.

We work together in silence mostly, though one or the other of us will occasionally put on some music. Music is a great facilitator for great things, not the least of which is art. So we work, we listen, we pace, blood on the page, soul on the canvas. Occasionally we will do a thing like talk, and ask for opinions, and bounce off ideas.

We work into the day with sun pouring through our high windows like honey, illuminating and warming us without distracting us with visions of outside. We work into the night, hunkered over our pieces, aided by our halogen allies and warmed by each other’s company.

This is what I dream of. This craftsmanship and companionship. This private, shared workspace. The room to move and think and shout and punch the air and a spot to come back to and think and create. With her there. With her creating. With her.

The way she paints
Music with her motions
Love with her passion
The world with her mind
Me, with her inspiration

Muses

I fell in love with the voice of a photographer. While her talent behind a lens is without dispute, her voice is something altogether different. At times haunting and ethereal, at other times upbeat, crackling with the kind of energy that gets the foot tapping and the smile spreading, it’s the kind of voice that sucks the air out of the room and decides on its own the rate it will give it back.

It’s a voice that draws up every eye, a voice that quiets the chatter of a tipsy crowd. When she sings, the drab and poorly-lit world of mundanity peels back and away, and I’m left with explosions of color, fantastic concepts, and veins filled with ink ready to be spilled onto paper in thousands of words.

I fell in love with the soul of a painter. I don’t know where in the world she lives or even her real name, but that’s the funny thing about souls: they are elusive things, hard to grasp but filled with the purest content of a person.

In a world where millions of strangers can connect via a brightly lit screen and a few taps or swipes of letters on a digital keyboard, I found a kindred soul in a creative artist. She both creates and appreciates beautiful things, be they color on a canvas, the breath just after a kiss goodbye or the dance of prose in poetry. She finds beauty in love and in lust, the sculptures two bodies make when entwined with each other, the intimacy born in passionate submission to one’s id.

Sexuality and beauty, art and form, concept and creation. Through her understanding and elucidating the heart of these subjects, I found myself glimpsing a bit of her soul, and I found it was a soul that ignited a fiery love. A love for the love of lovely things.

I fell in love with the challenge of a thespian. Not that she was unwilling or abrasive. She was not a thing to “get”, not a goal to accomplish. She challenged me and my preconceived notions of myself. Through alcohol-infused bluster and arrogance, through oblivious ignorance, I spouted off about myself and my experiences with the fairer sex because…who the fuck knows? There are plenty stories in that chapter of my life filled with humor and circumstance, drama and ridiculousness, but the fact that those stories exist does not inherently mean they should be shared.

Instead of balking or scoffing or admonishing me, all of which would have been in her right, she called my bluff. I was unused to someone who would correct me grammatically or question my sensibility, someone who would match my barbs as one would parry and riposte. I was unused to find someone who paid attention to what I was saying, who saw through my walls and my distance, not because she wanted to use me or belittle me, not because she was blindly infatuated, but because she is alert and interested in the human condition and I had blundered my way onto her radar.

She was and is a strong woman, incredibly intelligent, immensely talented on, off, and in every direction of the stage. She is a woman who has a firm position on her interests and goals and accomplishes them from a humble position. She doesn’t bother with the bullshit. She likes to have her fingers on the pulse of the heart of the matter, and through the course of our friendship, she has forced me to do the same every time we’ve met.

She intimidates me, not because she is conceited or condescending, not because she is overtly threatening, but because she is honest, insightful, and supportive, and no matter how absurd or intimate our own connection has been, I have found myself in awe of her all the same. She intimidates me because she challenges me, effortlessly, subtly, and I am left constantly wishing I could impress her. I wish I were better at writing, better at life.

I fell in love with that challenge, because it is a constant pressure to keep my feet moving forward.

I fell in love with the lie of a love. I don’t know how big the lie was, or when it started, or if it was one or one of many, but I loved it. I loved that lie because I was vulnerable and scared and hopeful.

I had lost my mother figure and was stressed at my job. I had been lied to and cheated on, abandoned and abused, and nestled in the ribs of the Halloween skeleton that was my life, I found an old love, a connection that had casually faded into the years only to come back in the darkest time of my life. I picked up that old love and dusted it off and nurtured it, because I saw a flicker of light there.

She met me halfway and with enthusiasm. I fell in love with that, because she called me “my writer” and told me she loved me, because I could hold her in my arms at night, and when I felt broken down and weary, she would hold me. I fell for it because we would wake up in the middle of the night just to make love, and for once, I didn’t feel alone but truly cared for.

And it was a lie. And I loved that lie, even though it almost broke me all over again.

I wrote once about the times I fell in love. There is the faintest amount of overlap here, but where that previous article was about connections born from actual relationships, this is something much more abstract and subjective.

I have written of people who have affected me. I have written of the lives of others. I have written of love. These are things I have to write about. This post, though, this is about those who inspire me to write. I have created poetry and stories because of these people. I have been driven to work on my novels, to produce content simply because these people have spoken to me or shared their art with me or shared their lives with me. It’s something more, something that rails against definition by way of words.

Visual arts inspire me. Snippets of conversation, stories, scenery. But it is rare that I find inspiration – not content, mind you, but the desire to create and the metaphysical wind-filled sails to do so – because of a human being. These people are muses in truth, each for their own reasons, each with our own histories.

There is a beautiful thing in art, and there is art in love. In expression, there is vibrancy, and there is vibrancy is love. There are many types of freedom, and there is freedom in love. There are many ways to love, and many reasons for it, and I find more every day.