In the Dark Brightly

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

Back and Ahead

I was strapped for ideas on what to write. The last week has been, erm, interesting. I had a particularly eye-opening but emotionally intense therapy session and I’ve been dealing with some financial stuff due to some poor decisions I made. All in all, it’s left me more or less where I’m used to being: right back at the beginning.

I needed something to write about. Something to keep my mind off of things. I reached out to someone that means a lot to me and she suggest I write a letter to myself five years ago, and myself five years in the future. So. Sorry. This blog is going to be a bit self-indulgent.

Five years ago.

Jered. You sad, silly bastard. This is a pretty dark time for you, I know. You’re not in a good place emotionally, nor professionally, but that’s okay. Baby, you’re going to bounce back, I promise you. You’re going to fall in love again; she wasn’t kind to your feelings and you didn’t know how to handle your own feelings again. You will find other women who leave an amazing impact on your life, and it’s going to…

Well, it’s going to end bad, too. Every time. You’re kind of shitty in relationships, to be honest, and you keep picking women who aren’t fair to your emotions, either. It’s a bad mix. You’re bad at it. Be patient, kid, and have more faith in yourself and know when someone’s using you. You won’t,  of course, but you should.

Still, this woman will stick with you for years, deep in your heart. She has affected you. But she isn’t the first and she won’t be the last, and you should write about that love and that hurt, because someone somewhere will resonate with it, and if nothing else, there will be a record of what you lived, loved and experienced.

You’re going to recover from this. Not only that, but when you’re at your lowest, feeling your worst, when you’re loneliest and feeling the most shitty, you’re going to write your first book. Yeah! It’s going to be long as hell, and it’s not going to sell for shit, but you’re going to write the shit out of it. Men and women from 18-60 will read and enjoy it. You’re going to write two more and finish the trilogy. You’ll have written a trilogy of epic novels that are enjoyed and talked about. You did that. You made that.

Life is fucking hard, kid. But I’m writing this from the future, yeah? Which means we have survived. We’ve lived through it. The hurt, the heartbreak, losing our adopted parents, losing our loved ones…we never lost our friends. We never lost ourself, though the best parts may have been tucked back away for a while. You have endured so much and you’ll endure a shitload more. You’ve got this. You have this. Write about it.

Five years from now.

I thought I’d be married by my age. I thought I’d have maybe a kid by now, have my shit together and a job that actually feels rewarding. I don’t. I don’t know who I am exactly now, but I hope you have a better grip on that.

I don’t want you to be lonely, man. I hope you’ve found a way to manage your mental instabilities so that your emotions don’t dictate the way you act so much. If you’ve found someone who can love and work with you despite that, then great, but I hope sometime between now and when you are, you put yourself first for once and get help and help yourself be better.

Don’t be discouraged by writing. However small the audience might be, you’re providing an escape for people. You’re leaving the world a better place behind. I worked my ass off for this, future me. You better not take it for granted.

I want to be you, older Jered. I want to breathe this air and fall in love and be heartbroken and have momentous sex and write more books. I want to be a guy who feels everything, but is better able to manage those feelings. Can you be proud of your reflection, future me? You better be. Because present me is struggling and angry and hurt and if future me doesn’t get somewhere better, present me is going to kick his fucking ass.

Sincerely,
Yours Truly,
Much Love,

-K. Jered Mayer

P.S. Just tell her you fucking like her and see where her head’s at, you asshole. This goes for both of you.

Kisses Have Pictures Beat

I was on my way home, riding in the back of a cab and staring out the window at the downtown lights in the darkness of night. I don’t know why, but my mind found itself thinking about the last woman I truly opened myself up to, the one that, two years ago, destroyed any notion of trust I had and brought me to my lowest point during one of the most tragic periods of my life.

I don’t know why I thought about her. She broke a promise to be there when my grandfather passed away. She didn’t so much as send me a text when I was dying in the hospital, nor after. We tried to be civil for a while. I reached a point where I decided, after six years of friendship and love, I couldn’t – rather, shouldn’t – have her in my life anymore. When I cut my ties without a word, silence was my response. Well and truly done, then.

You know what I think it was? A couple weeks ago, I saw her at the bar. She was with friends and she was drunk. We walked past each other and someone jostled me on my right just as she put her left foot forward. Our elbows bumped into each other. I flinched. She didn’t. She kept going forward, never noticing me. I kept going forward, quietly relieved.

In the back of the cab, I went from thinking about the shitty parts to the last time it was good. Before she lied, before she left. We had rented a hotel room just for something different
We had sex. It was good, but it was always good with us. Afterwards, we turned the television on but kept the volume low. We lay there, curled around each other, talking for hours about everything and nothing.

She got up before I did the next morning, ready for work. I blinked awake and called her over. I sat on the edge of the bed, arms around her waist, and we kissed. Passionately. Desperately.

I knew it was the last kiss between us that would ever mean anything. It was a farewell and I felt my heart breaking as the door closed, though it wouldn’t be complete for a few months further.

People like to talk about their first kiss. Their first kiss ever, as if more often than not it wasn’t a bumbling, awkward thing. But that very first kiss isn’t the only special one. It isn’t the only one with a story. Often times, it’s hardly even the best story.

I have kissed a lot of women, and I’ve kissed many more times. I haven’t always remembered them. It hasn’t always been women I liked. There have been instances when alcohol or grief or anger has driven me into the arms of a woman who would receive me.

One time I spent an entire evening trying to hit on a girl and when it didn’t go anywhere, I kissed her friend – who I had known for years and worked with – at last call. And while I was attracted to the second woman as well, that was still a really shitty thing to do.

First kisses are weird. They can be bad. They can be great. They can be awkward.

Not too long ago, I finally got to take a woman out on a date that I had fancied for quite a while. We spent eight hours together. Dinner, movies, drinks, karaoke, back to my place to relax. We kissed for the first time and despite how many hundreds of times I’ve kissed someone before, this time I had no idea what to do with my hands. The kissing itself was fine, enjoyable and Lord, she was beautiful, and maybe it was because I liked her so much and I psyched myself up, but as she pulled away from my house, all I could think was that I had fucked it up.

We’re just friends, still, if you were wondering.

The first kiss is something special. Not just the first kiss ever, but the first kiss with each person. The first time you and someone else decide maybe there’s enough chemistry to lock lips. It’s different with everyone.

I had a first kiss with a woman in Texas while Katrina raged around us and Black Sabbath played on stage and that’s the most metal fucking thing that’s ever happened to me. She and I still disagree about a lot of things (mainly my attitude), but I still hold so much fondness for her as a woman, an artist, a musician, and an animal enthusiast.

I had a first kiss with a woman in a Bed, Bath and Beyond. Who the fuck knows why? We weren’t dating long. I liked her a lot, but our relationship was full of whimsy and randomness and so we were surrounded by towels and mattresses and we kissed and it wasn’t spectacular. No fireworks went off. No parade marched through. But it was cute, and it was our kiss, and we’re still close. We had Easter dinner together this year.

My first “girlfriend” was when I was in 4th grade. She was two years older, a black girl, and while I didn’t and still don’t give a shit about interracial relationships, there were some boys in her grade that felt a white guy shouldn’t be hanging around and I got my ass kicked a handful of times for it. Which didn’t stop me for a second because I have more balls than brains sometimes.

We played Spin the Bottle, she and I, and some other kids in the neighborhood. We kissed. That was nice. But then she wanted to “French” and I chickened out. I did. I didn’t want to be bad. Now we’re introducing tongues?! What is that madness?

…I don’t…wait a second.

I have no fucking idea who the first girl I kissed with tongue was.

I do, however, remember being in Germany. After a night of drinking through Oktoberfest, I wound up drinking at a party hostel and dancing on a table with an American girl from the Midwest. We laughed off demands to get off the furniture, we drank our ass off, we stayed up til sunrise. I never actually went to sleep that night, so we ran into each other again as she checked out of the hostel to move on, on to her next destination. I remember she kissed me. I had one hand on her hip and she had her hands on my shoulders. It was a sweet moment, and we both smiled as we separated and she moved out the door.

First kisses and last kisses can be the same, sometimes, and they can be worthwhile.

I have kissed sober and drunk, clean and sloppy. I have kissed with passion and pecked with disinterest, and kissed with a hunger, a need for a connection. Sometimes I got it. Sometimes I didn’t.

I did a theater show once and afterwards, after I had signed some kid’s copies of the program and said hello to my friends and family, a girl cornered me and shoved me against the wall and plunged her tongue down my throat. She said seeing me on stage was just, MMM, yeah.

Which is ridiculous,because I’ve seen recordings of my shows and I’m a terrible actor.

I was in a show with another woman,one I had a small, nothing-serious crush on, and instinctively, we kissed gently before the show started. We both smiled, she said, “We just kissed”, we both laughed and then nothing ever happened again.

First and final kisses can be the same and be completely pointless.

Final kisses…

The last kiss on the lips of someone you care about can be a haunt.

That fucking hotel room.

The doorway of a three-story mansion, my birthday, good food, good sex, good movies but my ex is distant and I ask if she wants to break up and she insists she doesn’t, and we kiss so goddamn tightly and I find out two days later that she got drunk and confessed to a mutual friend that she did, in fact, want to end things.

That wasn’t the last time we kissed, but it was the last time it meant anything.

That kiss with the Canadian girl in the back of a cab in Barcelona where I’m pulling back and desperately cranking the window open because I’m convinced one or both of us is going to vomit at any moment.

Kisses, man. A picture may say a thousand words, but a kiss will tell stories, and it will pull inside parts of you that you didn’t know you had, emotions positive and negative that have no goddamn names.

Physical intimacy is a beautiful thing. Being close with someone, being accepted by someone and having a mutual need or desire for each other is enticing. That moment where two people feel each other out – does it work, does it not – and you get that heat and that taste, and their hair is in your face or your hands and their clothes are twisted in your fingers and people are watching, or maybe they’re not, maybe there are candles, maybe it’s Bed, fucking Bath and Beyond, and there’s just a moment. A moment where nothing else matters. Whether the kiss is good or bad, there’s that one moment.

I look back on my past with lucidity, and I view the good with the bad with the embarrassing. I’ve had kisses that are forgettable. I’ve had kisses that I miss. Ones that are checkered and that shouldn’t have happened and ones that should have happened much sooner than they did.

Hell, there are kisses that never happened that haunt me for the sake of never being known for sure.

And there will be kisses to come, I’m sure. Good and bad, both with stories. Hopefully, too, one of those will be the start again of something truly special. Something that makes the rest of it just a footnote.

Distilling Who I Used to Be

As I write this, I’m just tipsy enough to start to sleep comfortably. I’m supposed to be up in 3 hours for what will likely be an almost 24 hour day between a 12 hour shift and a healthy stint at the bar I spend too much money on.

So I’m laying down and thinking about sleeping but I want some music to put me in the mood to sleep. Strangely, radically, I find myself in the mood for the Distillers. As The Hunger and Coral Fang and City of Angels pulse through my ears, I’m shotgunned back almost a decade.

I was an asshole as a teenager but mostly because I was angry. I was angry at my family of fuck-ups. I was angry at fake friends. At how nobody believed in me because I was good at plenty of things but not great at anything and I didn’t have a known clique that I hung out with. But I had my group and that group stood by me.

For about five years, there was one thing that I prided myself on and that was that I just did not give a fuck about myself. I took chances. I didn’t blink at risk. I spat in the face of logic and disbelief because I believed I could do it. I fought for the impossible solely for the sake that everyone else thought I couldn’t make it happen.

Not quite everyone. My aforementioned group was a few folks that railed against conventional thought and really fought to put their lofty goals first. They were like-minded dreamers. That’s why we got along so well.

Then folks started getting married, having kids. I made some mistakes. I fell in love and got burned. People fell away. I almost died. I racked up debt. I started feeling like shit started feeling like a piece of shit.

Now I’m listening to Brody Dalle growl in my ear. I’m remembering elbows in my ribs and music pounding my shoulders while my one goal was to be – not the biggest or the strongest or the smartest guy – the scariest motherfucker there. The guy who didn’t quit. The one who laughed at “it can’t happen” and “you’ll never do it”. When I was the guy who didn’t believe in writer’s block, let alone let it fuck his vibe up.

I’m too focused on the grind these days. Not that it isn’t important, not that I shouldn’t care about my job. But that job isn’t me. The money is nice and it’s essential, but I’m a guy who has lived out of two suitcases for five years. I’ve spent three years following the drifter lifestyle without the freedom the mentality gives.

I need to get back to this: I am who I am, and I do what I do, and it won’t be the best, and it won’t be the smartest, but it’s going to happen no matter how many people will leave, no matter how people will stop believing, no matter how many people will tell me I can’t.

I used to scream at thunder, punch waves, grit my teeth at the odds and believe that no matter how bad it got, I would pull myself up. As I got older and had fewer family, fewer friends and more bills, it’s gotten hard.

But dammit, the challenge is what I loved the most about it. I lost that somewhere along the way. I want it back. I’m getting it back.

Fucking Brody Dalle. Bless ya.

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