Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Between Shadows

I stand between shadows
What was and will be
The greatness of yore and
The future of me

My towers have fallen
My banners are gone
The world that enthroned me
Is changed and redrawn

I wander a lost one
I'm faded and weak
The beauty that thundered
Is shrouded and meek

But I have a power
That others don't hold
From cinders and rubble
My hands can spin gold

I rode the waves once and
I'll ride them again
The mountains and oceans
Will be my seat then

It's already started
As in days of yore
Haven't they told you
I've done this before?

It won't be like last time
It won't be the same
My soul has grown stronger
And brighter's the flame

I rise as a giant
The stars show my way
And with every sunrise
Advances the day

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Home Alone Adventure


It's been less than a year since Our Family moved into this wonderful house just across the border from Southern State, and seeing as at the end of the month I'll be relocating to a college campus to commence graduate studies, I jumped at the chance to enjoy the property by myself for a week.

David and Marie, in what very well may have been their last vacation together, were off for to Hispanic Island with my sister Pie, and with Thomas away in Humid State at the beach I was left to hold down the fort all on my own. Kind of.

Beautiful Cousin joined me for the duration of the week to help care for my parents' five dogs, whom Marie knew I would not tolerate catering to. Off of work and on leave from the National Guard, this 23-year-old took the opportunity to catch some sun by the pool and, when the occasion called for it, seized her relaxation with military precision.

"I asked your mom if I could borrow one of her bathing suits, but she told me she locked her bedroom door and took the key," Beautiful Cousin said. "That bitch don't know I'm the Army."


"Oh, my gosh, please don't fall," I called from the window. "Can you imagine how we'd explain that? 'Beautiful Cousin was just trying to break into your bedroom...'"

After climbing out one window and jumping into another, Beautiful Cousin emerged, the bathing suit clutched triumphantly in her fist, from David and Marie's chamber.

"Dumbass didn't lock the window."

"Yeah, because what normal person would break in from the roof?"

"Details."

"Um, Beautiful Cousin? What about the screens?"

"Oh, shit. I can't put them back in from the inside!"

This is what led to me frantically dancing around the porch with a shaky ladder as Beautiful Cousin shimmied down the shingles trying to gain purchase with her dangling foot.

"Hold it still, fucker!"

"I'm trying! There are bushes in the way!"

I wobbled, nearly sending her headfirst into the shrubbery, and she tumbled, cackling, into my arms.

"Let's get this thing put away before your neighbors call the police."



On Wednesday, Peruvian Girl came over to enjoy horror films and pizza, with a walk in between the two movies to work off some meat-lovers calories.

"Look at the sun," she mused as the orb glowed bright red behind a thin veil of clouds. The mist of cumulus was such that we could stare directly at the setting ball of flame.

"Isn't it crazy to think," I added. "That people have been staring at this same sun for millennia? Two thousand years ago some Roman friends probably took a walk and did exactly what we're doing now."

We stood there for several minutes, having the kind of profound conversation that only really good friends can just fall into, and then after pondering the ephemeral reign of humanity headed back home to watch a good old-fashioned slasher.

It was a nice way to spend some of my last free moments before the start of the school year. Very soon, I'll be leaving--and another member of this household may soon get a long-overdue boot out the door. But that is for a later post.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Beginning of an Era


I thought I'd failed it.

I flunked, the words repeated in my head. I flunked, I flunked, I flunked.

I wasn't going to pass the exam. I wasn't going to get into graduate school. I wasn't going to have a career or ever escape the house that had brought me embarrassment and misery and my violent rendezvous with death.

But that isn't how things are actually going to go.

The envelope came in the mail with two very simple words: 86th percentile.

I hadn't just gotten through the thing. I'd scored higher than almost 90% of the people who'd taken the test nationwide.

And I'm in.

On August 25, I will commence classes at the delightful little school--Mountain University--pictured above, and in two years I will conclude those classes with a master's degree in education. After that, I've decided: I'm headed north. Our Family has resided in Southern State for the last four hundred years. Well, it's been a cool four centuries. But I'm me.

"Yes, yes, come to Northern State!" a blogging friend encouraged me by text.

"Get up here!" chorused a college buddy who teaches in the City of Fate. "I'm so happy that you're doing this."

I've been fascinated by the Snowstorm region since I was a teenager, and why shouldn't I pursue my dreams? I'm having this marvelous revelation that life can be a thing you enjoy.


"I wonder what the North will be like?" I mused to Black Dress Girl between sips of iced coffee. "I've never really been there."

Because let's face it, the City of Fate is a region unto itself.

"People up there are generally nicer," she said. "And better educated. It's kind of refreshing. But don't expect me to visit you in the winter. I am not even about that."

After the teaching career, of course, comes the second teaching career: a high school position is just a stepping stone on the way to a college professorship in history. That will take a doctorate, which I hope Northern State's outstanding universities will prove helpful in furnishing. But we have to take one step at a time.

So the blogger you met as a college student will soon be a college student once more. And this graduation will be a world removed from the last one.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Things Recovered

"Oh, my God!" the young woman with the glossy black hair exclaimed. "I haven't seen you in forever-o!"

"I know-o!" I responded, my voice contorted into the absurd Spanglish dialect we'd perfected as our own. "I cannot believe it-o!"

"Oh, my gosh, BB, how long has it been?"

"Years. At least two years."

"I think it's been longer than that."


The last time I'd seen Peruvian Girl was while I was attending Major University, but the intervening time had done nothing to dampen a familiarity that we quickly resumed as we strolled in the park, clutching our coffees to our chests and raising our hands against the light summer rain.

College brought many wonderful new friends, but Peruvian Girl was one of the few who predated my university years, a girl who knew me when BrightenedBoy was truly a boy, eighteen and innocent and with a world of hurt ahead of him.

Before long we were reminiscing about the same stories we'd gone over a dozen times before--"and then your brother left me in the woods"--and sharing the inevitable details of siblings growing and lives changing.

"My sister is graduating from college this fall, and my brother will be eighteen in September! How did this happen? BB, you were seventeen when we met."

Time has dealt us both some blows, hers in the form of a breakup and mine in the form of a breakdown, and both our bodies and our achievements have fallen short of the ambitions we had for them. She's twenty-four years old and once again living with her parents; I'm twenty-six years old and in the same position. We were both once substantially more attractive than we are now and we both feel it.

"We are each carrying a little chub," she noted, making an observation I would have permitted very few people to make. She clutched her stomach. "I used to be so skinny."

When she learned how my new bulge had come about, tears welled in her eyes.

"BB, I don't know what I would have done if someone had called me or I'd seen it on Facebook. Did you really almost die?"

But in between bemoaning what we were and what we failed to be, there were bright glimmers of something very different.

"I think I'm going to go back to school and finish my degree," she said. "My mother says I'm too old, but what does she know? I'm twenty-four. I can't work in a restaurant the rest of my life."

"That's funny," I said. "Because I'm starting graduate school this fall. To be a teacher."

"BB, that is so great!"

"And you know, we're both going to be hot again."

"Oh, I know-o. I started hitting the gym today."

Peruvian Girl knew me before, before my own mind betrayed me and I came unmoored in a spiral of death and drinking and mania. She knew me before I stopped being me for a little while. And her unblinking faith in the sweet, beautiful BB of yore, the one she met and grew to love, reminded me both of what I was and what I could be.

I'm still that person. As I move forward with a boy's spirit wedded to an adult's experience and, yes, wisdom, I can shine as bright as I ever did and maybe even brighter. In the mail there's a graduate entrance exam application that holds my future. In my new phone there's an app that tracks my weight every single day, counting down the forty-five pounds I have to lose by January 1, 2015. Twenty miles to my west there's a school where my career will begin.

I did not die at twenty-five. And my life is far from over.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Weakness

Damn you
Damn me
This thing is such a vicious cycle
And it's so obvious it's not love

But it's love in the moment
Of the moment
Of the way you make me feel
Of the way there's only glittery you
When there's only glittery you

My absence ends you
Your presence decays me
And what I hate the most isn't what you do to me
But what you make me do to myself

I know it even as my lips touch yours
That I'll regret you when we're done
You're the worst of me
I'm the best of you

I'm the end-all-be-all
So much more extraordinary than what I let you tell me I can be
But I'm addicted to the way you whisper your lies
And even in my best moments I wonder if they might be truths

That my soul is a mediocre flash of broken light
That I was made for only one moment
That I was doomed from the start
That I'll never be beautiful again

One day I will take you in triumph
Wrap you in my arms
Lean in and whisper
"I won."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Exercising Restraint

It's hard to say what exactly went wrong in the time leading up to my October 20 suicide attempt, but I think it's safe to conclude that the causes feeding in to that awful eventuality went back many years. Take your pick: homosexuality, brain disease, childhood abuse, financial desperation, and then an embarrassing and pervasive failure to launch in the face of the worst economy since the Great Depression. It was a perfect storm. A time bomb.

But one of the things for which I bore responsibility was an intemperance that grew more pronounced as I drew closer to death. In college I was an infrequent if enthusiastic drinker, but after graduation a couple of drinks every few months became a couple almost every night. In the despair that followed my suicide attempt, my lack of restraint only grew: I drank to numb the pain, and when drinking wasn't enough I turned to boatloads of bad food to warm my heart. The results were predictable but stinging: an abysmal performance at a friend's party that effectively ended our acquaintance and a weight gain of forty pounds that, in the space of a few months, destroyed my once-admirable physique.

I've always been the pretty one, the skinny one who from early adolescence attracted male attention. To suddenly not have that was disorienting and disheartening. But I brought it on myself.

As I found my professional bearings, embarking on a stable career path, I decided to reevaluate some other parts of my life as well. That is why, shortly after my twenty-sixth birthday in April, I decided to give up drinking for a full calendar year. I'm not tee-totaling for life, but it seemed to me a good idea to put the brakes on a habit that was causing me to act in a way I found unsatisfactory.

Two months in, the most surprising thing about this endeavor has been how easy it is. I occasionally find I'd like to have a drink when out with friends, but there's been no real temptation to break my vow. I haven't had to fight myself. The lack of struggle has been a refreshing reminder that maybe I didn't have as much of a problem as I imagined.

Much less sanguine has been my relationship with food. I love to eat, and I eat to feel better. It's an unhealthy relationship that has had a major detrimental effect on my appearance and self-esteem, but today, after six months of attempting and failing, I made the same kind of solemn commitment to stop overeating that I made to stop drinking. For a full year (with a select few cheat days built in), BB is on a diet. And it's awful. Today is Day #1 and I'm so hungry that I could eat my right hand, but I've lost two pounds since this morning. By June 9, 2015, I'll be back to my college weight. That's an amazing thought.

So here's to restraint, direction, temperance, and discipline. They've been absent from my life for far too long, and I'm so happy to welcome them back again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Much-Needed Update


I'd like to apologize for being absent so long--more than a month, which I think may be a personal record for me since I started this blog in 2008. It's just that I've been busy. I am, after all, getting ready for grad school.

The photo you see above is one I snapped on the campus of Mountain University, and it is there that I will report later today for my first class in a teacher-certification program that will take me approximately two years to complete. What I'll embark on this afternoon is an undergraduate prerequisite (I won't formally begin graduate studies until the fall), but it is something I need to do for this program and so in a sense it's the program's first step. I'm so excited for this.

My six years here have seen a lot of dreaming, the kind of really audacious ambition that only a very young person can have, and I suppose it's a mark of my emerging adulthood that the aspirations I have now focus not on pop stardom or music renown but on a stable career and a liveable income. There is, to be sure, something sad about that; I am a boy of twenty-one no longer and will never again be that shining youth. Yet the things I want for myself all result in my happiness, and they come without the immense pressure of having to change the world in the process of achieving them. It's a good thing.

And I have some audacity left in me. I grew up in an abusive hellhole run by two homophobic anti-intellectuals, and yet I have the nerve to think that I might one day be a history professor who leads a fulfilling love life. Your BB won't settle. And I still sing sometimes. My voice has a lot more rasp to it now, as if it's weary of the world, but I still sing.

So today begins the whirlwind. I'll wrap up my prerequisites this summer, then, financial aid in hand, will commence graduate work in the fall and will move onto the campus of Mountain University. Bye bye, David and Marie. It's been swell.

As for the long-term plan? I'll complete the teaching program in 2016 and then will secure a position teaching high school history. While working, I'll go back to school yet again, this time to obtain a bachelor's degree in history. That done, I'll apply for fellowships to pursue a master's degree and a doctorate in history, almost certainly with a focus on the antebellum South and the planter class in particular. And then it's off to the college job market and, hopefully, tenure. Call that one a ten-year goal. Hell, maybe a fifteen-year goal. But it'll be so awesome when I finally reach it.

Thank you guys for being so understanding and supportive all this time. The last few years have been rough--hell, I tried to kill myself--but I finally feel like I'm stepping in something like the right direction. I'd really like for you to witness that.