Things I Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I remember my grandmother.

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

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

God, I miss her so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I remember fucking up. A lot.

I remember crying. A lot.

I remember wanting to end it.

I haven’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My mind and my memory never shut

The

Fuck

Up.

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

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

image

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.

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?

The Six Year Shadow

I was 21 years old when I moved to Los Angeles and I believed I had the world at my fingertips. It didn’t matter that I moved down with a couple of friends with one unreliable car between us, or that none of us had jobs lined up or a place to live, that none of us knew anyone in a city of almost 4 million people, that none of us had a ton of money lined up. I believed I could work it out, and I did, for a lot longer than I had any right to. I had dreams of success, of being some kind of actor/writer phenom. Instead, I was taking $20-30 and using it buy two weeks worth of canned food from the dollar store.

I fell in love down there, deeply. I was too scared to say it first. She let it slip one night, sitting on a pool table in a bar whose name I can’t remember and we paused for a moment. I asked her if she meant it. She said she did, and maybe she lied or maybe she thought she did at the time, or maybe she really did, but whatever the case, that “Yeah” opened the floodgates for me. This woman took me in for the holidays. Both of my friends moved away and I was alone in L.A. with my job, my co-worker friends and this woman I adored.

We weren’t great for each other sometimes. We were perfect for each other other times. I didn’t realize at the time that I had emotional and mental issues that would roll through me like waves and because of that, I didn’t know how to prepare or cope with it. I got angry easily, spiteful, distrusting. I stressed and overthought everything. I was scared and far from home with hardly any money, no car, and the beautiful woman I was with that dudes often hit on right in front of me… I panicked.

And she wasn’t emotionally there all the time. I don’t think she would even understand how to deal with some of the things I was going through. I went into that relationship with a lot of baggage neither of us knew about and we handled it and communication with each other poorly a lot of the time. Goddammit if we didn’t stick up for and support each other a lot of the time, too. There was love there, but I wasn’t prepared to handle it properly.

I broke up with her to focus on me and fix my financial woes by coming back to Alaska for four months. I was trying to give us distance. What it did was hurt her and render our relationship unreconcilable. Because I was so desperate to fix things and get her back, I gradually lost my mind and found ways to sabotage everything. I lost my job, all of my money, I had to move from the place I lived, from the whole state. I lost a lot of close friends who, to this day, have not spoken to me since. And of course I lost her and her respect.

Deservedly. I committed a crime at work, unrelated to everyone and totally self-serving. I got caught, I admitted everything immediately, I paid back more than double the value of what I took, and I lost everything in return and I was fine with that. I own my mistakes. Whatever disorders I’m diagnosed with don’t give me a free pass to act like an asshole. Nobody was more pissed off or hated me for betraying their trust or throwing the life I was building away more than I hated myself.

So I moved to Seattle at the lowest point in my life I had ever been, and this one situation kept playing out in my mind. See, my girlfriend was going to college for social work, which is amazing and noble as all hell. College wasn’t in my future. I was a hair’s breadth away from going to Reno for a while, to be a History or an English teacher, but ultimately I wanted to MAKE IT. I was going to be a star, a famous actor or a famous poet or a famous novelist. And one night – I can’t recall if we were drunk, or arguing, or both – she told me that she didn’t believe that if I never went to college that I could ever be somebody. That I was basically destined to fail at life.

And I fucked my life up! Like, not even half a year after that, I lost my goddamn mind and I ruined everything I possibly could, doing things I would never normally do, acting in ways that would normally horrify me. I spent a year of literal blood, sweat and tears building up something great and with so much promise, and I shit on it.

So I’m in Seattle with almost nothing to my name. Starting from scratch again. Heartbroken, ashamed, self-loathing and again in a large city in which I knew four people. I felt hopeless, both in that I had no hope and that there was no hope for me to rise up from the ashes, or whatever. Then I took a trip up to Alaska to see my best friend’s newborn baby, and while I was up there, I met someone who would change my life.

When I returned to Seattle, I began to pursue writing seriously. I was going to write a novel and it was going to be good. It was going to sell. I was going to show my ex that I could be somebody on my own merit and that I, personally, didn’t need to spend $60,000 for someone to tell me how to string words together in an exciting fashion.

I wrote that motherfucker in six months. I’ve never worked harder and more consistently on something before or since, and when I self-published it, it got good reviews. People loved to read it. I pumped out new installments as fast as I could because people wanted to talk to me about. People were excited about it.

Cut to five years later. My books still sell here and there. They don’t pay my bills. They haven’t taken off. I work a job I hate to pay for a life I kind of shuffle through. I’m not where I want to be. My goals are still high. I’m not rich. My books aren’t on shelves. I don’t have a publishing deal. I can pack my life up into the same two suitcases I took with me to Los Angeles six years ago.

I never went to college and I haven’t – to my standards – become somebody.

Then I had a really, really weird day.

It started with me waking up from a nightmare, one of those hyper-realistic ones you could swear actually happened, where I was at some pool party  (complete with DJ, natch) and I ran into a woman I was deeply in love – I fall in love a lot; it’s a mess – and the guy she left me for when my grandfather passed. Now, I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in at least a year, and she hadn’t been with him for even longer than that. The event had happened three years previous and she had left me with barely a word or a bat of the eye. Due to how realistic the dream was, though, I woke up feeling crushed all over again.

Two hours later, out of nowhere, she messages me. We have a conversation that started off tense because honestly, it gave me anxiety to even hear from her, but gradually it grew into an honest discussion about how hurt I was and what she was going through back then and it struck me that she basically did what I had done. And then she apologized profusely to me, the only thing I really needed to hear to finally, finally get closure and find solid ground with her again. We agreed distance was still probably best for the foreseeable future, but that if either of us needed someone to reach out to, we could always, now, again, finally, reach out to each other.

That was a weight, man. Three years of grief and hurt alleviated with an “I’m so sorry.”

And then two hours after that, my ex from Los Angeles messaged me. I haven’t spoken to her in five years, outside of a message about some stuff I left behind or a Happy Hanukkah. She tells me she’s thought long and hard about it, and would understand if I said no, but she wanted help writing something that would help her get into a college program she needed.

The first thing I thought was that it was fucking hilarious. Now my writing is good enough? Now you trust that I know enough about this thing I sort of assed myself into doing?

But I said “Absolutely. Of course I’ll help you.” I’m proud of her. I still have so much love and gratitude for the things she did for me and the great moments we did have. I want to do whatever I can to help her get where she wants to be. I had spent years trying to find a way to be friends with her again that I felt she would accept or that I deserved, so it meant a lot to me that she would reach out. We talked a little over Thanksgiving, because it was six years ago from then that I went to her home for the first time and met her family, and it was immediately after that we decided to date. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” she said. “We had so much fun.”

Yeah. We did.

I’ve been feeling a little heartbroken lately, so I’ve gone back to drinking a little too much and bleeding my emotions out a little too dramatically and clinging to someone I desperately wanted to work towards a potential future with, so yesterday morning, I woke up, still drunk from a bad Sunday night, and called that person and told them I wanted them to have a safe trip to Japan. She flew out today. I’m hoping that’ll keep me from texting her in the wee hours of the morning compliments she’s probably tired of hearing. We didn’t talk long, probably for the best, and she told me to try and get some more sleep before I had to go into work.

I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t coming to me, so in the fading haze of intoxication, I decided I finally, genuinely needed to be honest about something. I messaged my ex.

I told her about finally going in this year and being diagnosed with a few disorders that made me feel things erratically and severely and how for a long time, I had just assumed I would occasionally get fed up with things and I would lash out. I told her that six years ago, I fell in love with her and her family for what they gave me and that when she reached out to me, I didn’t do it out of a delusion that we’d get back together or out of infatuation, but because I still cared and wanted to help. But I wanted her to know something.

“If you never go to college, I don’t believe you’ll ever be somebody.” To hear that from someone whose opinion I cared so much about and whose affection and acceptance I craved more than anything during a time where I was broke and had nothing and hardly anyone else… it broke me. And when I didn’t go and when I fucked so many things up, I just kept telling myself, “Maybe she was right. Maybe I won’t be.”

And as I was typing this out to her, to let her know that one sentence has been this haunting, horrible weight on me for so long, something finally clicked in my head…

I’ve spent six years trying to be somebody because I thought she thought I couldn’t be, when I should have been doing it because I thought I could be. When I first moved down, I thought I could do anything. When it became increasingly difficult and I became increasingly emotional, I began to have doubts. When she said that to me, I stopped believing in myself entirely.

I was trying to prove her wrong these last years. I wasn’t trying to prove to myself that I was always right about what I was capable of.

She wrote back to me, aghast. She apologized profusely and told me she hoped I could forgive her words. “When I get angry, I try to hurt whoever I think is hurting me.” She told me she had never thought I was lesser, that she was proud of me when she found I had written books, and a few other complimentary things. “Why do you think I’d even consider you to read my personal statement? Because if anyone knew… it would be you.”

The world is yours if you want it. Not because someone said you can’t have it. I lost sight of that a long time ago, and I’ve felt like a shadow of myself since.

Fourteen hours later, I realized something else: I’ve been insecure about my writing because I feel like a fraud when I do it. Kerouac, Hemingway, Bukowski, Thompson… they wrote about love, life, loss, lust, pain and so much else with authority. Love is this. Heartbreak is that. They wrote with conviction and years later, their quotes are passed around social media and hung up on walls and in offices because the things they wrote resonate with people.

But there was always something holding me back. I think it’s because when I posted it on Facebook, my friends would take the piss out of it. They would see me as being over emotional or narcissistic or dramatic. Who the fuck am I to put myself in the footsteps of those men? Who the fuck am I to know what life is supposed to be about? What it is? When people have known me for years, they’ve created an image of who I am, and I’m no authority on anything to them.

In the same way that someone who tells a few jokes every other week on a stage wouldn’t consider themselves a comedian, I felt like writing a few poems, a few introspective posts, it didn’t make me a writer.

But why not? I remember the fucking mountain of private messages I got after my post about having been raped. I remember the messages I got when I wrote about being suicidally depressed. The people who have shared my poems. The people who knew my family members and reached out to tell me what I wrote meant to them, or because it reminded them of their own families. I remember the messages from people who were dealing with loss, or heartbreak, or budding love.

You know what I remembered? Finally remembered? I’m not fucking writing for people who don’t see me as a writer. I’m writing to put how I see and feel things out there for people to know they aren’t alone in their feelings. I’m doing it to reach out to others the way the writing greats once reached and continue to reach out to me.

If nobody else will say it, I’m going to. I have a voice that I’ve kept hushed and shyly uttered for too long. And frankly? I’m not good at anything else, except for eating and occasionally sex if their standards are low, so I better get goddamn good at this.

I need to do this because I believe I can. And I’m starting to again.

Recap Redux

I’ve written or shared a hundred posts now, and it has been an absolutely rewarding experience so far. From being able to experiment via short stories set in worlds I plan on exploring in more detail later to reflecting on my life/my relationships/my family and friends, what started out as sort of a trial outlet for my thoughts and creative endeavors has turned into a cathartic routine.

Even more so, by sharing it online and via Twitter and Facebook, I’ve received a number of comments and personal messages expressing a wide variety of emotions. That’s good! That has been the point of this. I want you to be able to experience my type of art. I want you to think and to feel things, and if you’re going through an experience or feelings similar to something I’ve gone through,  I want you to be know you’re not alone.

Every fifty posts or so, I’ll create one of these as sort of a recap. With so many posts coming out of me and with no real regular schedule,  there’s a chance you may have missed something that pertains to your interests. This is meant to act as a quick guide to the posts, separated more or less into different categories.

If you read something you feel particularly thought-provoking or touching or infuriating or garbage, I encourage you to share it with others.

First off, you can find a quick recap to the first 49 articles here: FIVE OH.

Then:

About Me:
My Own Worst Enemy
I’m a Man Who Was Raped
Oktoberfest, Or That Time I Crippled Myself
Vagabond
Distilling Who I Used to Be
The Metal That Gave Me Mettle
Hundo
I Fell In Love
Playing the Doldrums
Kisses Have Pictures Beat
Office Space
Story Time With Grampa Jered
Just Plane Silly
The A Word

Family and Friend Profiles:
Go Out and Get ‘Em, and a Birthday Note
Mama Mia
Blondie
Father Of Mine

Writing Tips and Opinion Pieces:
Six Reasons Why 50 Shades of Grey Sucks, and Why It Doesn’t
Ten(ish) Books That Tickle My Fancy
Getting the Gang Together
Things I Love: The Malazan Book of the Fallen
Thanksgiving: A Better Christmas
No Place Like Home

Miscellaneous:
The Best Medicine
The Beautiful Last Breath of Day
Remembrance
The Wedding Bells Are Ringing
The Carolina Reaper

Fiction:
A Nice, Slow Day
Satori and the Key
The Wrong Kind of Flop
The Velvet Anchor
Love and Bullets
The Balloon Trick: An Absolute Zeroes Story
The Owl Part I: A Curious Shoppe
Trixie: A Flatliners Story
Yellow
The Lost Journey of the Stalwart

Poetry:
Shadow Hurt
Stoke the Fire
She, Of the Pale Stars
You Know
I Could Write
The House In the Ocean

Guest Entries and Shared Posts:
Life Is a Coping Mechanism by Jessica Michelle Singleton (follow @JMSComedy)
10 Tips and Tricks For Creating Memorable Characters by Charlie Jane Anders (follow @charliejane)
As Good As New by Charlie Jane Anders
How to Create a Killer Opening For Your Science Fiction Short Story by Charlie Jane Anders
Cars. Booze. Central Oregon. by Robert Brockway (follow @Brockway_LLC)

So there you go. Hopefully you’ll find something you haven’t seen before that you like, or you’ll have a convenient way to link a friend.

Thank you to everyone who has followed, shared, commented, read, or even encouraged since Word Whiskey has started. It means the world to me.

The A Word

I never had a problem with drinking, until I did.

Boom! What a killer opening line. People should pay me for this shit. It’s true, though. Somewhere along the line, I stopped drinking recreationally, and I started doing it out of grief, and then out of fear. Fear for my health, believe it or not, and of course that would come around full circle to affect me anyway.

This is a milestone for me, in that it’s my 100th blog post of shared articles, original poetry and fiction, profile articles and personal reflections. This needed to be something more important, something next-level personal. I decided to push off my article on the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and focus instead on alcohol. Let’s start at the beginning.

I had tried alcohol as a kid. I wasn’t shotgunning brews in elementary school or anything, but my parents would let me have a sip of their beer or their wine. Never more than a sip, and it was stressed to me that those were adult drinks and not to have any otherwise. I was pretty good about that for a long time, but I was also a rebellious little twat, so it was only a matter of time.

One night, when I was 12 or 13, or was staying up at my step-dad’s house to spend the night with my siblings. He was still a heavy drinker at that point and had a cornucopia of liquors in the kitchen. The night grew later, everyone fell asleep, and I tippy-toed up the stairs and into the kitchen because dammit, I was going to try some of this fire water (my late godfather once referred to it as “elephant juice” because it “makes you as strong as a bull”. I called him Poo-Poo Face for lying to me. I was a charming child, really).

I’m standing there and I’m looking at these bottles like the kids in the Goonies first took in One-Eyed Willie’s pirate treasure. Where do I start? What would I like? I ultimately decided to go with whichever bottle looked the coolest and settled on this stout, beautiful blue bottle of something called Bombay Sapphire Gin.

So I took my trembling pre-order hands and carefully lifted the bottle off of the counter, took it over to the sink and filled half of a Dixie cup with liquid. Hell, this stuff looks like water. Smells a little funny. I lifted the cup and tried to let it trickle down my throat the way one would a nice cold cup of H2O.

I desperately and successfully hid my wracking coughing fit as my throat burned and seized up and I poured the rest of the contents down the drain. It was ten years before I tried gin again. I like it okay now.

The next time I really started drinking, though, I was 15. I got invited to this house party by a guy I worked with and I ended up drinking too much rum and vomiting in everyone’s shoes. I managed to get away with that somehow, but it was an ignominious start to a storied drinking career.

There are far too many stories to go through over the course of a decade, so I’ll shorten it as much as I can:

When I was 16, I moved out of my grandparent’s house and into an apartment with a bunch of 21 and ups. We partied a lot. My grades suffered but that was more due to a crippling depression and crisis of self, because I was at school every day. I just didn’t give a shit. I partied, and when I moved back home, I barely partied, and when I turned 18, I partied all over Europe and paralyzed my hand and unparalyzed it because, guys, I’m pretty cool. I’m just really dumb.

I’d hit up one or two house parties a week until I turned 21 with the rest of my friends. I spent that birthday in Reno with my friend Amber, writing bad poetry and almost taking strippers home. I came back to Alaska and spent 4-5 nights a week with two of my best dude friends at a karaoke bar we came to love and be recognised at.

That fall, I moved to Los Angeles, and I drank a lot down there for two reasons:

1) I didn’t pay for shit. I’m talking free beers, free rum and Cokes, $6 pitchers of Adios Motherfuckers, and my friend and I drank like this for five months straight with people from all over the world, because goddamnit, that was a rock and roll type of life. And when that gravy train hit the station,

2). my friend moved away, I moved to a different spot, I was struggling financially and I was in a toxic relationship. THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING TO DO.

And I knew it, and I knew I had to get right, so I moved back up to Alaska for four months. I stopped drinking so heavily, I lost a lot of weight, I got my money in order, I moved back down, and three months after that, I made some stupid decisions completely independently of alcohol (I wish I could say I was drunk instead of a fool, believe me). I lost the job I had spent over a year building myself into, the girl I loved, a ton of friends, a ton of money,and I had to move to Washington.

In Seattle and Redmond, my friend and I adopted a more regular drinking schedule. We kept beer in the fridge and there was a dive bar down the road, but we didn’t drink in excess at the house (with a few special occasions), we primarily went to the bar on the weekends (there was a promo girl I liked, so I got to A. flirt, B. get cheap shots and C. get free swag for buying cheap shots). But also, man, I was feeling low. Those suicidal thoughts were creeping in. I had no money, I was a pariah, I was lonely and heartbroken, I felt like a failure. I got a job with the help of my friend, and it was a job testing video games, which is awesome, but it was a temp job, which was less awesome, and I felt aimless.

I visited Alaska again to see my newly born nephew. That weekend, sober, I popped into a (now closed) bar I never went to, and saw a woman I had long had an inexplicable and probably borderline creepy affection for. We were MySpace friends but had only ever shared one actual interaction. She saw me, she somehow recognised me, smiled and waved, came over and told me I was a great writer and she believed in me.

As silly as that might be, that changed everything for me. I got my head straight, I went back to Washington, just wrote my first book in six months and just made plans to come back to Alaska for 4-6 months just to visit everyone, save up some dough, and move back to California.

That was a little over three years ago. And you know what? I was doing great. I was out a bunch, but I wasn’t drinking much. I was writing, mostly, and it was good. And then two years ago, everything kind of went to shit.

My godfather died. His funeral was on my birthday, and while I was driving my mom back to rehab after, my date cancelled dinner a half hour before our reservation. A week later, my grandmother, the best mother figure I ever really knew, passed away of a heart attack. Five months after that, my grandfather passed away and a woman I had loved for five years promised me she would be there for me and left me instead for one of only two people I genuinely hate.

That was the start. Right there. That night. I got the news, I was crashing on my friend’s couch at the time and I was without a vehicle, but he had a half-time bottle or 99 Bananas in the freezer and I drank the whole thing. I cried until he got home, cried while we talked about it, he went to bed, I cried some more, another friend hit me up to cab it to his girlfriend’s place, I drank some Jack Daniels, let some girls pluck my eyebrows, called someone a bitch and woke up the next morning on the first friend’s floor, even though there was a perfectly good couch right there.

Grief had me. I lashed out at everybody. I hated myself for not being a better friend/grandson/person, and I embraced it, and then it got worse.

I got septic shock and almost died. When I pulled through, I put my two weeks in at my job, got harassed by an assistant manager and when I filed a complaint, they fired me. They skimped me on my pay. I’m still paying people back for that. My dad stole my inheritance and used half of it to pay for his legal fees around his prison sentence and gave the rest to his wife, who put him there in the first place. I didn’t see a penny.

I started drinking just about every night. At first, it was out of grief and anger and self-pity. That was for a good year, year and a half. I was a horrible person. I’ve since come to peace with that, and I’ve done my best to repair the relationships I ruined, and those who were open to forgiving me have. The rest is in the past.

After the grief, I started drinking to suppress everything. I didn’t need to black out, I just needed enough to sleep. Once I was there, I wouldn’t dream, or if I did, I didn’t remember it. When I woke up, I was either tired or hungover or both, but however I was feeling physically kept my mind from doing anything but focusing on that.

But, see, here’s the thing: I have never felt that I needed alcohol. I’ve wanted it. I’ve wanted it to drown out everything or to punish myself or to stoke creative embers (in my better days), but if there wasn’t any around, I was fine. I could go days, weeks, months without a drink no problem. And unlike most, I drink because I like the taste. I like the bite, the burn, the flavor. I’m a rum and Coke guy all day, but a shot of Jameson and a craft beer? A pale ale or a vodka martini? 12 year scotch on the rocks to sip on while I’m poring over notes? I like them all. I like the differences and the nuances and as long as it’s not tequila, we’re good to go.

I don’t drink shots of tequila because I hate the taste. Put it in a margarita that’s more fruit punch than agave, we can talk, but get that Tequila Sunrise bullshit out of my face. I’m not that guy who drinks whatever he can get his hands on. I have my tastes and I have restraint.

Or I used to.

And as the better parts of two years wound down and I was past the grief and I had become ready to face my thoughts and emotions again, I discovered another problem: at this point, I had drank so heavily, so regularly, and for so long, I was terrified at the toll it would take on my body to quit. So I started slowly struggling with some kind of game plan on how to wean myself off. I wanted to consult a doctor, but I don’t have a regular physician and I’m so deep in medical debt, I wasn’t sure what avenues to go to. I felt lost and, frankly, since I feel like most of my friends judge me and think I’m an alcoholic anyway, I didn’t know who to turn to.

Then one morning, I woke up to the sound of my roommate getting up and while I lay in bed, my body went through a full involuntary convulsion. It wasn’t long and I was conscious through it, but it was unusual and it was scary. I went to the ER where, after some basic tests,the doctor seemed to think it was dehydration related. Rather than put me on detox medication, he basically told me to figure it out and drink more water. So that was a cool trip.

I took the rest of the day off work and I talked to a couple friends (both of whom are bartenders) and they helped me come up with a plan to help regulate myself. So that’s what I’m doing, and it’s working like this:

First off, I only go out to the bars on Friday and Saturdays now. That’ll probably stay consistent, because I like to get out of the house, listen to music, watch some comedy, and see some friends I don’t have a chance to see otherwise. During the week, now that I’ve got my office set up, I’ll have A drink, just to make sure my body’s not fully without. Sometimes I’ll have a second, but since I started this a couple weeks ago, some nights I won’t have any at all.

When I do go out, for every drink I order, I have at least one glass of water with it. Sometimes two. I have a habit where, when I have a drink (any drink: liquor, water, soda, in a cup, in a glass, in a bottle), I’m constantly drinking it. By adding a glass of water, it scratches that itch while keeping me hydrated.

So after all of that, here is where I’m at: I’ve cut my drinks down to a third or less what I was drinking. I go to bed sober most nights, and I wake up tired but clear-headed and not nauseous. When I do go out on the weekend, I find I’m less hungover the following day, and that I’ve begun redeveloping restraint. I cut myself off and switch to strictly water if I feel I’ve had too much, and more than that, I’m finding less of an urge to get another drink. I’ll nurse them for longer periods of time.

I understand that this is normal shit for a lot of people, and it used to be normal shit for me. I think I had a bad reaction to a series of bad events, and it just took me longer than normal to start getting out of it.

Here’s the other thing, though: when I was drinking heavily, it suppressed my mind. Now that I don’t have that, I am thinking ALL OF THE THOUGHTS ALL OF THE TIME. I find myself falling asleep between 4AM and 7AM every single night. I get 3-5 hours of sleep on average, and what sleep I get more often than not has vivid dreams that are more often than not horrifically realistic nightmares. I’m nostalgic and short of temper, and I’ve got mood swings. I literally spent an hour googling monasteries the other day because I thought maybe going some place like that for 6-8 months would help. Help what? I don’t even know.

I feel like I know now why so many writers and artists are addicts of some kind, and I feel, sometimes, like I’m sacrificing my sanity for my sobriety.

But I’m not the religious type, I’m not the meetings type. Even though I bare my life, soul and all of my fuck-ups on this blog for the internet to see, in real life, I’m not even much of a trusting, talkative type. But I am a fighter. I have a plan. So far it’s working. I’m going to start with that.