Saturday, December 24, 2011

And Suddenly It's Christmas Eve

I should apologize for my absence, though I hardly think it unreasonable. December was a busy time for me; after all, I graduated college this month.

The actual event took place on the 20th but the extended weekend before was, by design, epic in nature. I was spending my last days as a campus resident. I figured I'd better do so in style.

It's worth noting that my very presence at Major University during this time period was technically illegal and thus by definition endowed with a certain foundational element of coolness. University stipulations state that all residents are to be gone within a day of their last exam, which for me meant being out by Thursday, December 15th. I decided I didn't much like that, though, and so instead of departing I spent Thursday evening hosting a "get-together" that morphed into a party as least as large as the one that landed me in jail for a night on my birthday in April.

I took great pride in doing all the things that our university's police force had once, without evidence, accused me of doing: I flagrantly violated the occupancy rules for my residence area; I condoned, permitted, and facilitated underage drinking; I played loud music in brazen disregard of noise restrictions; and I not only allowed several of my guests to urinate in public, but, once I'd gotten enough in me, happily joined them.

It was all rather enjoyable.

Friday was spent in the company of a wonderfully cute but hopelessly closeted boy with whom I watched two movies, shopped at a thrift store, and got coffee; and then Saturday it was back to partying.

I went with my friend, Undercover Douchebag, to a gathering in a neighboring town, and it was at this event that he earned his new pseudonym. You see, Undercover Douchebag doesn't immediately show his true nature. In fact, I had a casual friendship with him for five years before I was able to see him for the ruthless alcoholic ideologue he is. It was when he started pounding liquor after promising to be our designated driver, then informed me he was "great at driving drunk" after I suggested he slow down, that I began to catch his stench. The odor grew stronger when he revealed mile-wide streak of social Darwinism that led him to express his belief in, among other things, leaving the disabled to die. By the end of the night his douchebag status was confirmed, and I drove home with someone else. Another one bites the dust.

I spent a quiet Sunday singing with Young Musician, a 19-year-old Sophomore who is among my newer friend group, before jettisoning Monday to yet another party, this one within sight of campus.

Weekends like this one make me wish I had been bolder earlier in my life. My entire university experience could have been like this, having great times and being comfortable in my skin as I did it. I suppose some of us need more time to learn than others.

I attended this last party, which among the three I went to over the course of the weekend was not only the largest but also the most fun, with Hungarian Guy, a young man I've grown inexplicably closer with following his breakup with my best friend Laquesha. His friend circle, like mine, is wide and eclectic, so any bash was bound to be a blast.

I saw some faces I recognized and some I didn't.

At one point a drunken Dutchman accidentally pushed me into a door, and when I told him he had to be careful because I was so much smaller than him, he reacted by seizing my hair, holding it out to its full length, and exclaiming, "Your hair is this long! It makes up for it!"

Hungarian Guy slept in Patrick's vacant bed, and the next morning I woke up to face one of the most important moments of my life: graduation.

My parents, as cold and warped and petty as usual, said scarcely a word to me during the brief ceremony, but my grandmother was there, waiting for me with her crinkled blue eyes and wide arms.

"I'm so proud of you," she said as she drew me into a hug. "I knew you could do it."

I couldn't have, not without her. But she'd never admit that.

Afterwards Laquesha joined Rowdy Cousin, my grandmother, and me for dinner in a restaurant near campus. We three family members joked about each other and Aunt Crazy while Laquesha laughed with appropriate zest, and Rowdy Cousin expressed his excitement for mine and Thomas's visit to my grandmother's house over the holiday.

I packed my room on Tuesday night. When I was done, I popped in a movie that I'd rented from the university library and ordered a pizza that I ate alone.

On Wednesday I drove away from Major University. I'd somewhat dreaded my departure from the school I called home for more than five years, but when the moment came all I felt was relief.

It's over. It's over and I can go out and build my life.

I've taken steps in that direction, but that's another post for another day. Tomorrow I'll celebrate Christmas with my family and assorted company, after which Thomas and I will depart on December 26th for four days at my grandmother's house. I have tentative New Year's Eve plans with Black Dress Girl and some friends, but beyond that I'm not really sure what's happening. It's a bit strange, this structurelessnes. With no classes left to return to, no exams left to take, I have no expectations or responsibilities save those I set for myself. I can't tell you how happy that makes me.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The End

In the brief moment that was left, the corridor formed by the trees and the buildings was filled with lovely amber sunlight. That beauty was poor consolation, though, for it was obvious what was happening. The fiery orb of the sun plunged toward the horizon, a luminous ship doomed to break upon the shoals, and the sky burned cobalt blue under the weight of its inexorable fate. I could feel its bitterness, its longing, its sheer sorrow as it mourned the passing of that sinking sphere.

Across the way, the magnolia trees reached their waxen fingers into the sky in a futile effort to catch hold of the fleeting sunlight. I didn't have the heart to tell them how pointless that gesture was. Trees have never been the brightest of creatures, though, and if these could spent their last moments believing there was still some shred of hope then I was happy to let them. Still, it was hard ignore the weeping. The tears were mostly silent, rolling down bare branches and on an elegiac wind, but I heard them nonetheless as I walked past pillars and monuments that were already ruins.

The bulb in a nearby lamp post suddenly burst and I caught my breath. I heard a rumbling behind me and turned to see a significant crack wind its way down the side of the brick science building from which I'd just emerged. I cast my gaze towards the west, to the point where an entire world would perish, and knew there wasn't much time. It had already begun.

I blinked the moisture from my eyes as I strode down the groaning avenue, aware all the while that I was witnessing the last lights of a lost era. It was so cold. Standing on the threshold of destruction, I was struck with the absurd idea that I should have brought a jacket. Then, though, the scene changed.

The air around me warmed, the trees erupted in shining green, the ground bloomed emerald blades, and the skyline shrank as half its buildings simply melted away. I was walking a winding concrete path towards a group of redbrick structures oriented in a circle around a vibrant green plain. I recognized this place. I'd been here before.

On the steps in front of me sat a young--I was surprised by just how young--boy watching wistfully after a blue SUV that left a trail of brown dust in its wake as it pulled away. I wondered. The boy didn't hear me as I approached, nor did he turn when I came to a stop directly behind him. A gentle breeze blew a tendril of his long blonde hair.

I placed my hand on his shoulder.


He turned his teenage face towards me and I was momentarily cowed by just how unfamiliar it looked. In purely physical terms there were depressingly few differences between us, but his flushed cheeks and dark green eyes held an artlessness to them that had long passed from me. His innocence, his naivete, shone off him.

"You--you're me!" he exclaimed in shock.

"Yes," I said, surveying the flourishing scene around me. "I am you. I'm you from the future. Move over."

He eyed my ponytail, nearly a foot longer than his, and nodded.

"That makes sense."

He made room and I sat down beside him, unnoticed by the throngs of young people milling about.

"What are you doing here?" he asked. He seemed astonished by my presence

"I'm not sure," I said. "Maybe completing something."

Even in such an outrageous situation, he managed to look irritated.

"Well, when are you from?"

"December 9, 2011."

His forehead wrinkled with the weight of mental labor.

"So, that would make, twenty-two?"

"Twenty-three," I corrected, happy to be disabused of any illusions that my math skills had once been of a higher quality. "Gosh, you're dumb."

He scowled.

"Well, you don't look twenty-three," he said.

"Well you don't look eighteen," I shot back. "Which I'm guessing you are, by the way. What date is it here?"

"August 24, 2006."

I whistled.

The period of my life that I'd later term the Black Times, my own dark age, would begin the following day. The SUV I'd caught a glimpse of had been exactly what I'd thought: my parents riding away after they dropped me off at Major University the weekend before classes started. I could vividly recall how my eighteen-year-old heart had sunk when I watched them leave, how I'd despaired, perched on the same steps where I now sat.

"What?" he asked. "What?"

He ran a finger through his thick hair, which at this point was nearing its longest. In about two months' time, I knew, he'd cut all of it off in a failed attempt to distance himself from his own truth. Hair would hardly be the only casualty of that effort.

"It's nothing," I said. "At least, nothing I can talk about."

He looked out at the other students.

"Well that's pretty frustrating," he said. "I'd assume that the best part of being visited by your future self is getting to learn all kinds of cool stuff about what happens to you. Aren't you going to point me towards my wife or tell me to which stocks to buy or something?"

I laughed.

"Put everything you have in BP."

He started patting his pockets for a pen and I waved my hands in the air.

"Don't you dare write that down," I admonished. "I was joking. Seriously, forget I said that."

I shook my head and laughed again as his hands settled at his sides.

After several moments of silence I looked up at a sky filled with much more life than the one I'd left behind.

"I come from a world that's dying," I explained at last. "A world on the edge of passing away. I know that, before the day is up, I will see it fall."

In the Freshman Circle, in his home, everything was warm and blooming. It was not yet midday.

"Your sun is rising," I continued. "Mine is about to set. And everything else will set with it."

He blinked.

"That sounds terribly sad."

"It's not, though," I said. "When my world goes, it will yield to a brighter one. Which means, of course, that your world will yield to a brighter one. Because we are from the same world, just different ends. Your first day. My last."

I scratched my head.

"You'll be ready, anyway, when the time comes," I said. "The people you knew are mostly gone. There are new buildings now, ones I don't know. They stand alongside the older ones that I recognize."

"So..." he began. "Is that what you came to tell me? That you're old?"

I scowled.

"I guess it has something to do with what I said earlier," I went on. "Maybe it's about completing something."

He thought about it.

"The way you whistled, when I told you the date," he said. "That means something, doesn't it? I know it does. You don't have to tell me. But you know something's coming."

I looked into his face with a sudden surge of yearning. I knew that his placid visage was soon to be blackened. By the time it was over, he'd be a blackened boy. He'd never stop carrying that with him, even when, eventually, he was brightened.

"I can tell I'm different," he said. "I've always known. I don't know what it is, but I'm just...different. And I think it's going to be really hard."

I, who'd confronted the sexual and emotional truths of his "difference" in a way he was not yet prepared to, understood the horrible weight that his deviance--and the denial of it--would carry.

"It will be bad," I said. "The worst thing ever. I'd tell you to make yourself ready, but there's absolutely nothing you can do to prepare for it. It will tear you apart like nothing ever has. You'll never be the same."

He gulped.

"That's not a bad thing," I comforted. "It really isn't. It will seem like it, but it's not."

"I guess I'll just have to pray," he answered. "I know Jesus will help me."

I suddenly remembered an occasion from eight months in his past and six years in mine. It was 2005 and I was Christmas shopping with my mother. I picked out a toy for Pie, who then was only two years old, and my mother insisted that I let her pay for it.

"Well, okay," I answered, then added with total earnestness, "But you have to let me put my name on the card."

It would be nearly two years before I understood why she'd starting laughing. I asked her at the time but she just hugged me and said, "You're funny, BB."

Back on the steps I appraised my eighteen-year-old self with new appreciation. I'd forgotten how extraordinarily childlike I was at that age, how disarmingly innocent and untouched by the world. The boy in front of me was just that: a boy. I doubt any part of him believed that there was a problem he couldn't resolve through Jesus. His faith in prayer was absolute. It seemed wrong to inform him that, in the worst moments, prayer would do nothing.

"Do pray," I encouraged. "For a while it will be all you have."

"How long?" he asked.

"Years," I answered. "More than two years."

He paled a bit at that.

"You'll come close to not making it," I said. "A few times, you won't even want to make it. But if you keep pushing through, eventually it will lift. And then you will see things so beautiful, so wonderful, that you'll thank God for every minute of pain you had to wait through."

He nodded.

"Okay. Okay."

"Your last day here will be spent in warmth," I told him. "With two beautiful boys. You'll have come so far then."

His eyes went wide.


I covered my mouth, not believing what I'd just let slip.

"Oh, BB," I said. "I'm so sorry but...yes. I know you don't want it to be true. It is, though. It is."

His eyes filled with tears.

"I won't remember this," he declared. "I can't. I just can't handle it."

"I know you can't," I said. "And I know you won't. To tell you the truth, I've been wondering why I had no memories of this. It seems like the kind of thing that would stand out. I guess I blocked it. But if there's one thing you do remember, even on a subconscious level, it should be this: hang on. These next few years will eventually lead you to a great place. It's just going to take time."

I saw a familiar face staring at us from the crowd and pointed at the young woman it belonged to.

"And one day," I told my younger self, directing his gaze toward the blonde girl. "You'll meet her."

He saw her for just an instant before she melted into the mass of short-sleeved co-eds.

"Who is she?" he asked. He stood as if to search for her. "Where did she go?"

I took his arm and pulled him back down.

"Don't try to find her," I said. "She'll come to you. Trust me."

He put his head in his hands and then it was my turn to rise.

"Remember that," I told him. "When you erase all of this from your mind, just remember to hang on. It would be so horrible if you hadn't."

I looked back down the winding path and at its end saw trees too barren to belong to August.

"I have to go now," I said. "It's my time. But remember what I said."

I touched his shoulder once more and headed off down the road from which I'd come. I didn't turn to look back at him. I knew he wouldn't look at me, either.

The blonde woman appeared beside me as the air grew colder and the trees began to shed their leaves.

"You did a good job back there," Good said. "You did exactly what you should have."

"Thanks," I said.

I turned into the warm air, into the laughter and the sunshine, into the smiling young faces of people I'd since seen grow older.

"And thanks for this, for letting me see this one more time. It was nice."

"You're welcome," she said.

We paused at the boundary between times, where the air lingered at the median of hot and frigid.

"Are you ready?" she asked.

I nodded.

"I am."

She smiled and took my hand as, together, we walked down the avenue and into another epoch. I felt her strength and support as I approached my world, but when I finally emerged into the dim light of a mortally wounded sun she was gone. I was on my own.

Well, not quite.

Jorge the Statue was there, staring bravely into the retreating sun.

"Oh, Jorge," I said. He nodded his copper face at me in acknowledgement. I so admired his courage; not everyone had stayed. Across campus, the other statuary had largely abandoned their posts and were heading for wherever they imagined safety might be. As spoke with Jorge I saw a group of terra cotta children running across the quad carrying the great ceramic book that documented our athletic victories, while trailing behind them was a twisted modern art sculpture attempting to awkwardly roll away.

Bringing up the rear was a gaggle of papier mache horses trailing manes clipped from the classifieds section.

"You're so brave, Jorge," I said.

He smiled, gave me a firm salute, and stared at the collapsing sky as if daring it strike him. Now I knew, for the first time, why Jorge had been built facing the west: he'd always known this day would come.

I sighed and continued down the school's main plaza. The sunlight was so thin now, so weak. The ailing sun dipped partially behind a clump of trees and the whole row of metal lamps on either side of me groaned and shattered, their ruined bulbs raining glass upon the walkway.

I reached the Clock Tower, the center of this world, and turned to watch a civilization die.

As the coal-black trees swallowed another portion of the sun, the whole sprawling campus reverberated with a horrible scream. The spirits of the school, of paintings and sonnets and theorems and treatises and students long gone, were crying out, running in panic through doors and along corridors as the force of the sun's horrible descent pulled on them.

All their efforts were for naught, though. They were living in the illumination of embers. They were doomed.

Across from me, a tree shrieked and split in two, its pieces flying into the sky with those of a hundred others that had also broken and been rent from the ground. It was starting to pick up.

The parking deck across the street from Jorge collapsed like a plate of sodden pancakes and slid, one rubble floor after another, into the growing blackness metastasizing in the pit where the sun was succumbing.

The western wall of the library blew open in a great shower of red bricks, its millions of volumes spilling into the air and flying torn and tattered over the roofs of crumbling structures. The library itself, ancient and weathered, could bear only so much, and after a few moments of this unholy assault it crumpled in a massive heap of soot, metal and mortar.

I gasped and seized the base of the Clock Tower in time to see a group of painted benches go soaring into the melee.

Behind me the Freshman Circle, the primordial gateway through which countless generations, including my own, had been inducted, burned bright red and ground into the earth, its pulverized ash making a billowing scarlet cloud that floated across campus.

The Student Village was next. Its pillared brick residences, clinging to the edge of the horizon, detached fully intact from the ground and flew in a cacophony of grinding brick and snapping steel into the maelstrom. In Old Dorm, where I'd met some of the best friends I'd ever had, the hallways turned into deadly funnels of flying glass and enamel as windows burst and sinks flew free from their moorings.

I hadn't cried until then, but seeing that hallowed place so desecrated pushed me over the edge.

"Good," I called out

"Hang on, BB," a voice whispered back. "It'll be over soon."

She was right. Only a few slivers of sunlight remained, and with them was going the greatest of all our bulwarks.

The Central Hall moaned like a harpooned whale and shook to its foundations.

The great central staircase went first, collapsing in a sudden swooping rush. The Hall continued to shake, though.

Its famed soaring balconies had hosted presidents, dignitaries, firebrands, and pop stars; had housed one of the greatest repositories of knowledge in the world; and had witnessed the mundane joys and travails of thousands of students. Now they folded in on themselves and cascaded in a wave of spectacular destruction through the cavernous atrium. Tens of thousands of volumes were dumped in a living landfill with backpacks, computers, works of art, and fast food wrappers, the good with the bad, the great with the meaningless. All of it went together.

The white summit of the building wavered and then, like the rest of the the Hall, fell with a mighty roar.

Jorge looked back at me, then back at the ruined edifice to which he'd been sentinel for decades, and at last turned his steely eyes into the blackness that flowed over the horizon.

With a great bellow he leapt forward from his pedestal and followed the Hall's crushed remains as they flew into the vortex of dying light.

I didn't call after him. There would have been no point.

The air around me was a chaotic whirlwind of airborne stone and steel, its gales filled with the detritus of a million memories all hurtling to oblivion. Every building, every structure, every bicycle and comic book and blade of grass and disintegrating brick was rushing through the sky. Nothing was untouched. Even the metal beneath my hand sagged and screamed as if it had been lacerated.

I jumped back as the Clock Tower twisted and plunged onto the liquefying tarmac with a great shattering clang. I shuddered at the sight of its still hands frozen in eternal ruin. They had no time left to tell. And then, like everything else, they, too, were sucked into the furious sky.

That crumpled green sphere was the last thing to go. It disappeared over the edge of being with the final piteous ray of light and all at once the chorus of misery that had resounded over all creation was silenced. The sun had set on the expired age. In its wake, there was nothing left. Within a moment no hint existed of the just-murdered world. Instead there was black, endless, enveloping, formless black. It wasn't anything in particular. It was just nothing.

I stood alone in it, in the dense quiet, and realized I was no longer afraid. This wasn't, as I'd feared, the graveyard of a dead world. Instead it was the empty foundation of a world that hadn't been built yet.

I gazed up into a sky waiting to be filled. In the distance I could see a single star.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving and News

When people speak of "the holidays" they naturally have in mind several different occasions, but in my case each individual holiday becomes multiplied. It's something I rather enjoy.

On Tuesday, November 22nd, my parents held a Thanksgiving dinner at our home in Mountain Town. This was an affair only for the immediate members of the Our Family family. As someone who has long despised the absurd conventions carried on by normal people for no apparent reason, in particular the convention that holds a person should expect miserable holiday interactions with their relatives, I was dismayed by my parents' mind-blowing emotional insensitivity and, through it, their ability to project a vaguely menacing air. Even after specifically inviting Powell home for a festival dedicated to family and thankfulness, they managed to make him feel unwelcome. They have a gift.

My brother Powell has been through a lot, and my parents are a huge contributing factor to that. He was subject, like I was, to years of unrelenting child abuse and was then ejected from the only home he'd ever known when he reacted to child abuse the way almost every child does. He went off the rails. He started to go nuts. He internalized the inferiority and the insults and responded with an unquenchable anger that they had the audacity to be confused by. He became what they made him and then they kicked him to the curb for it.

It's deeply frustrating, at times even agonizing. He is in desperate need of psychological help but is afraid, as he prepares to enlist in the Marine Corps, to seek it out lest he be deemed unfit for service. I want to tell him to put all such concerns aside but know how limited his options are. He can't seek help from home. He'll get no quarter there.

Their--specifically my mother's--determination to provide him with no substantive assistance seems unshakeable, even if such determination conflicts with prior promises: Powell has counted for months on my father's guarantee that he could come home after he enlisted, but at Thanksgiving dinner no less my mother shot the idea down.

"Mom, where am I supposed to go?" he asked. "Anne is probably moving."

My mother shook her head and sighed in an infuriating display of mock-pity.

"I guess you'll figure it out," she said.

I don't know how far my father's desire to keep his word will go, but if past events are any indication my mother's role as supreme decisionmaker will go unchallenged. It is this combination--unconscionable callousness from both of them and appalling cowardice from my father--that has made me of late seriously consider disowning them, but that's a post for another time.

Not all of the break was spent with my parents.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I was fortunate enough to be invited to Black Dress Girl's house, where a number of self-declared "losers," almost all in their early and mid twenties, had assembled to have Thanksgiving with friends instead of family.

Black Dress Girl has been one of my closest friends since we met while working together at Western City Movie Theater in 2008, and her own acquaintances are just as raucous as she and I are.

The evening was filled with rolling laughter, earthy humor, and a spread of food that was surprisingly good for having come out of a 23-year-old's kitchen.

When Black Dress Girl and I get together anything can happen, and I was relieved to find that her friend group is similarly degenerate. The conversation was such that at one point in the night I was able to utter the words "It's like going to Jiffy Lube: every three thousand miles you change the potato in your vagina" in a logical context.

There have also been several developments concerning mine and my family's future. For starters, this Christmas season will be our last in our current home. After purchasing our house in 2005 for just over $500,000.00 we saw its value decline to under $300,000.00 by earlier this year. My parents had been trying for months to sell it and were lucky that, when a buyer made a reasonable offer, the bank decided to absorb the loss.

A contract having now been concluded, we'll be moving sometime in February. I include myself in that "we," as, without a real job lined up, I will continue living at home with my parents for the foreseeable future despite the fact that I will graduate in some three weeks' time.

That fact is hard for me to grasp. Next week is the conclusion of non-exam sessions and thus will constitute my last week of classes an an undergraduate. That reality is a bit strange but not as sobering as one might imagine; I've been here so long that I'm really just ready to leave. The biting sadness that plagued my last week of high school, and which I can vividly remember, is not present now as even a dim shadow.

I'm glad that I'm graduating so late. Many college students, when the moment finally arrives, are reluctant to leave university, but because my tenure has been such a lengthy one I know I've gotten everything out of this place that I can. I had my first drink here. I had my first (male) kiss here. It was here that I first learned to accept myself and in the process made some of the best friends I've ever had. Many of those friends, of course, are no longer present; time has dwindled their numbers so that the last of the stragglers who arrived on this campus in 2006 are slinking out the door.

I'm glad to be one of them. I came here to learn, and I have learned much. Now it's time to go.

And while the job market has offered me no immediate gems, not all is lost; I recently learned that I've been accepted as an intern with Sentinel of the West Literary Agency. During my time at a literary agency in the City of Fate I fell in love with the profession and was thrilled to be notified of my acceptance at another agency this week.

The agency itself is in Movie State and I gather that its members rather like me as they asked me to start a special remote internship this month and then proceeded to inform me that they were granting me significantly more authority than they were giving to any of the other interns.

"So, what you're going to be doing is reading through manuscripts and telling us what you think," said the Agentess, my handler and the woman who offered me the position. "We haven't actually seen these manuscripts yet so we usually require some kind of reasoning behind an intern's decision, but I think in your case we'd just give you the power to say yes or no."


"You have a pretty advanced skill set," she explained. "We were very impressed with the test assessments you gave, and we feel like we can trust your judgement. I'm pretty comfortable giving you that kind of latitude."

I tried not to let my head get too big. I've been trying to figure out a way to move out to Movie State, aware as I am that securing a job at Sentinel of the West Agency will be difficult from 3,000 miles away, but absent that the Agentess has expressed hope that a remote internship will "at least give you enough experience to get hired by another agency."

So despite an outlook that in some respects is rather gloomy, I find myself quite excited and with what I think is good reason.

The last week of college starts on Monday. It's been a very long autumn.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It May Be Time for Another Hair Update

Several days ago I was minding my business in the Major University Dining Hall when two very nervous-looking young women walked up to me and tapped my shoulder.

"Um, hi," the taller of them said through a slight blush.

Her comrade was so flustered that I worried she would fall over, and I wondered what I could possibly have done to so agitate these pretty Asian girls.

"Hi," I said, confusion obvious in my voice.

"We're sorry to bother you, but..."

I looked on expectantly, and finally the second girl blurted out, "You have the most beautiful hair we've ever seen!"

I hesitated.

"...Thank you."

The first girl fidgeted.

"Can we take a picture with you?"

"Sure," I said, caught off guard and half thinking it was a joke. "I mean...if you really want to."

We posed for an awkward cell phone shot in which they grinned like fiends and I tried to force a believable smile. They then skittered away, thanking me for honoring one of the weirdest requests I've ever gotten.

I went back to my dinner and, about five minutes later, started to find the whole thing irresistibly funny. I resisted the considerable urge to dramatically toss my hair and instead just picked up my tray and headed for the exit, laughing the whole way out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Insanity That Is Anne

Even at her most subdued, my birth-mother is hardly what you'd call conventional.

The daughter of an ancient aristocratic family fallen on hard times, she has lived a varied life that's included taking powerful men for lovers, hobnobbing with celebrities, battling drug addiction, enduring wretched poverty, and dabbling from time to time in organized crime.

Occasionally echoes of this extraordinary past will pop up in her present.

To this day her lip will curl at the mention of Robert Plant--"We dated," she offers darkly--and she still chuckles knowingly if the topic turns to Madonna. No one can quite work out what's so funny, and her explanation of "she's fun" leaves much to be desired.

There is, of course, a more insidious side to Anne's early misadventures.

She once, during a routine conversation about what a pain traffic police are, shot me an appraising look and asked, "You ever flipped a car off a bridge?"

Another time I'd been spacing out through one of her stories and snapped back when I heard, "I didn't even know it was a drug deal until my friend took a gun out and shot the guy in the head."

So we ought to know to expect the unusual from her. It's a reasonable anticipation. But still.

Powell sounded more bewildered than scared when he called me the other day.

"Dude, I fucking hate it up here," said the 21-year-old brother who's been living with Anne for the last few months. "There's nothing to do and she is just nuts."

"Yeah, I know," I said, recalling my own struggles with Anne's tempestuous personality and wild flashes of temper. "She's a huge drama queen."

"No," he said. "It's not even that. I mean she's literally fucking crazy. Like, the other day, I went out to her jeep to grab my iPod. I just grabbed the keys and walked out there without asking her."

"Yeah," I said. I was waiting to hear how our birth-mother had exploded with outrage at Powell's opening her car without permission.

"So I unlock the door and sitting there in the passenger's seat is a loaded automatic AK-47."

I stood up straight.

"Are you kidding?"

"No, I'm not kidding."

My face scrunched up into an expression of confusion.

"Is that even legal?"

"BB, of course it's not legal," Powell sighed. "I just cannot believe how insane it is up here."

"Well, what did she say about it?"

"That's the thing," he said. "She acted like it was nothing. You should have seen it. Her face went totally blank and she said, 'Antiquing is a competitive business.'"

"'Antiquing is a competitive business?'" I repeated incredulously.

"Yeah, and then she walked out of the room."

"That's wild."

"You're telling me."

I hummed.

"Crazy. Hey, are you coming down for Thanksgiving?"

"Yeah, Dad's going to pick me up on Monday."

"Alright, cool. I'll see you soon then."


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Selected Entries: May 2004

In May of 2004 I was newly turned 16 and preoccupied with my family's impending departure from Beautiful Town, which finally took place at the end of the month. To my adolescent self the two and a half years we'd spent there seemed like an eternity and it was heart wrenching to leave the only place I'd been happy to call home.

May 5, 2004

I stayed after for Algebra today, and Dad asked if I’d actually been in detention. What? I can’t believe he doesn’t trust me! I mean, jeez, it’s not like I’m some kid who gets into trouble all the time; in two years of high school I’ve had three detentions! I don’t think that my most recent one was justified.

School was so funny today that I thought I’d collapse, especially in third mod. I should explain. In Chorus, a new student teacher is helping our regular choral director, Ms. Chorus Teacher. The student teacher’s name is Mr. Blowfish [so christened for his resemblance to the animal whenever he sang]. Oh, my gosh. Words just don’t do justice to the hilarity that man never fails to evoke.

May 6, 2004

Well, this is unexpected. You see, I was in Journal 10 yesterday. At the evening’s conclusion I calmly put the journal into a drawer underneath of my desk, but when I got home the desk was gone. The journal (along with Journals 8 and 9) has been packed away. We’re moving, you see, and quite soon. My mother got promoted so we have to relocate to Central City, Deep South State. Right now we’re leaving Beautiful Town, Native State. We’ve been here for two years, and they were some of the best times in my young life.

May 9, 2004

I received a little card from Perfect Cousin today. It was issued by her school, announcing that graduation ceremonies will be held on May 23, 2004. Enclosed were two pictures of Perfect Cousin. In one she wore her cap and gown, and in the other she is elegantly dressed and made up. I can’t believe that Perfect will graduate from high school in two weeks.

When I first met her she was only ten years old.

I mean, this is the girl who we did séances with and who acted as Perfect, Queen of Renaldi. It’s just difficult to comprehend how quickly the years are passing before they’re already gone.

Last night I think I connected with Jesus. I was sitting in the hot tub, staring up at a single bright star, thinking about Lord Jesus and about the future. In that moment I felt so comforted, as if my Savior was right there with me, and I knew that everything would be okay. Then my logic rose its head in question, and a terrible thought occurred to me: what if I was just a coincidentally formed biological product of evolution staring up at a burning ball of gas billions of miles distant, receiving assurance from a deity that wasn’t there? I told myself that it couldn’t be, and I got out of the hot tub.

May 16, 2004

“I feel like I’ve known you forever,” First Twin said yesterday.

His words seemed to explain everything perfectly. We feel like we’ve known them forever, too. And it’s going to be so strange, not living in the same neighborhood, not playing tag, not ever seeing our friends again. I’m going to miss this place so much. It’s hard to imagine how everything will be.

Tonight is Mom’s last night here.

May 18, 2004

Blonde Friend and I spoke tonight. She might come over to my house on Friday afternoon, just to hang out and rehash old times. I feel like it’s something we have to do. She and I have been friends forever. I wouldn’t feel right about leaving without meeting her again.

In the same way, it’s like a hole in my heart that Lacrosse Boy and Military Boy probably won’t come over this weekend. I thought it would all go on forever. That’s really how it seemed.

May 22, 2004

My last Saturday here was a beautiful, sun-soaked day. I still can’t quite grasp that this is truly my last weekend living here. I’m thinking, “Oh, we’ll do this next weekend,” but there is no next weekend. It’s very odd. I’ve spent so many Fridays and Saturdays with all of my friends that I suppose I thought it would go on forever.

Today was a wondrous conclusion to two years of happiness and joy. What magic we had! How blessed were we to be surrounded by so many funny, intelligent, talented, incredible people! I thank God for these two years. I've been so blessed.

May 26, 2004

Today was Operation Get Your Food On, the party my friends threw for me in U.S. History. It's a memory that I’ll treasure forever. It was, across the board, a resounding success. I walked into United States History carrying Doritos, plastic cups, and root beer, while yelling, “Midwestern Pirate!” Brianna had potato chips; Anne-Marie had doughnuts; Minders had tortillas, salsa, and plates; and some kind soul thought to bring in chocolate chip cookies, Fig Newtons, and Oreos. It was all quite a going-away present.

May 28, 2004

Yesterday, May 27, 2004, was a fitting send-off from Beautiful Town High School. In first mod I had to leave Crazy English Teacher's room so as to better take my final exam (which consisted of a criticism on Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”). Second mod was Algebra with Midget Math Teacher. I didn’t even pretend to pay attention, but rather I read. Good old Midget Math Teacher, in characteristic Midget Math Teacher style, had me shut my book and she gave me a worksheet. At the end of class she suggested (as politely as possible) that I not take any other math courses. I’m inclined to agree with her, but I worry that without math I won’t get into a good college. I’ll just have to suffer through and hope to God that He’ll help me.

Third mod (Chorus), was full of yearbook signings and goodbyes. I adopted several popular songs to my own lyrics (“Oh, Baby, Baby,” “I Can Save You”) with hilarious results.

Fourth mod was la clase de espanol with non other than la Evsterooni, otherwise known as Ms. Evans. I was about ten minutes late and I suppose they thought I wasn’t going to make it because the room erupted into cheers and clapping when I entered and Brunette Girl started crying.

I went into a back room to take my final, then emerged at the very end of class, still unfinished. Evsterooni agreed to let me take it home if I used the honor code, which essentially consists of the teacher hoping that I don’t cheat and lie about it. Me being me I wouldn’t cheat. I mean, there was a Spanish-English dictionary sitting right on the desk where I was taking my exam and I didn’t even open it. Not the smartest thing that Evster’s ever done, I can say that (leaving that dictionary on the desk).

I went home and an hour later we drove out of Beautiful Town. It was two years and five months to the day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween Weekend

In most ways this Halloween was completely conventional. Throughout the day on October 28th, a Friday, I dithered about what kind of costume I would wear and hadn't made a decision by the following morning. On Saturday afternoon, hours before the party I was attending, I threw together a lamentably pathetic ensemble and then on Saturday night drank entirely too much and passed out before anyone else.

All of those things were normal.

What wasn't normal, however, was the glorious surprise we received on October 29th: snow.

As I've mentioned before, Major University is particularly beautiful during the brief moment when summer is rusting into frost.

Autumns here are replete with skies of deep navy blue, grasses grown a darker green, and trees whose golden and amber ornaments glitter like dancing flames when illuminated by warm sunshine. I love these things but have long cast jealous eyes to the bloggers of the North.

This year, this one time at least, I beat them to the punch.

It wasn't a lot of snow, of course, and none of it stuck to the ground, but for October 29th in Southern State it was cause enough for celebration. I squealed with shocked happiness when I looked outside and saw the flakes coming down, then hurried out to enjoy the event.

Up until this point I'd wanted an October snow forever. I hope every year for it to happen, and occasionally I've even had dreams about it (these usually involve my frolicking with exaggerated happiness through a field of flowers that are somehow still in bloom as I am enveloped in snow that is somehow warm). When the much awaited early snow at last came, though, I had one thought that crowded out all the others: my hands are cold.

I bundled up and headed over to the Major University book store, where I bought an umbrella and gloves that I promptly lost within two days. For a few hours there, though, I felt very seasonal.

When I arrived at the dining hall I found it filled with students seeking refuge from the cold weather in warm food. I was lucky enough to run into a friend I hadn't seen in a while, and we sat sipping hot chocolate as he told me about his fiancée's bizarre family troubles and snow fell steadily outside.

Before much time had passed the snow was done coming down and I, sans Laquesha (who was apprehensive of potentially icy road conditions) was on my way with Professional Guy to the Old Dorm party. "Old Dorm" refers to a dormitory on Major University's campus, now given over to Freshmen housing, in which a large group of mutual friends lived and met between 2005 and 2008. I, as an alien 19-year-old arrival on the Old Dorm floor in 2007, was one of the last to be inducted into the circle but have always considered my random placement there one of the great fortunes of my life. Now, even years later, we refer to our far-flung brotherhood simply as "Old Dorm," and even those of us who did not occupy the hall at the same time have managed to become quite good friends.

They are a warm and off-beat group of people. I like to flatter myself that I fit in with them.

In addition to the joys of old friends and new snow, however, I took away from Halloween a valuable lesson: I cannot drink liquor. My flimsiness even when under the influence of negligible amounts of beer should have led me to this conclusion long ago, but once I had a little bit of rum in me I somehow became magically convinced that I was capable of handling more. To make a long story short, I was at more than three but not quite four mixed drinks when I all but passed out. The next morning I felt ill and saw a string of calls of which I had no memory made from my phone at three o'clock in the morning. The cell phone record was conclusive evidence that, for the first time in my life, I'd blacked out.

"I'm going back to my old rule," I told Blonde Friend the next day. "A shot or two of liquor at the start of the night and then nothing but beer the rest of the way. I don't get sick, I don't black out, I don't get hung over. It's a good arrangement."

Tomorrow I'm headed home for a weekend that will include, given my parents' absence on Saturday night, the first sleepover I've had in a good long while. I'm excited about it. There are a lot of difficulties for me right now, and in the midst of that I'm happy for weekends home and slumber parties and Halloween reunions. I'm happy I got snow in October.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


You little ant
You vile bug
You imbecilic crawling slug

You craven man
You stupid bitch
I’d rather hear the words with which

You call me out
You put me down
You voice yourself, inane but proud

I’d rather that
You rant and scream
Than that you hide from little me

But you cannot
Or won’t, at least
Forthrightly come out as a beast

Instead you sulk
Inside your hole
A spineless, feckless, witless mole

I’ll dig you out
From in your pit
Your cowardice I’ll not permit

I’ll spit my words
Right in your face
I hope my laughter burns like mace

For laughter’s what
You’ll get from me
Not sorrow and not enmity

You don’t enrage
You just amuse
Pathetic, lonely, short, and used

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Not Invincible

My mood is linked to my appearance far more than it should be. On days when I don't look my best, my self-esteem plummets, sometimes to the point that even talking to other people is difficult. Conversely, when I'm able to pull my look together nicely I ride high on a wave of confidence.

Today was one of those days.

With my weight low (129 pounds on my 5'10" frame, which I would consider "good"); my skin clear, clean, and smooth; my long golden hair falling fluidly down my back; and my clothing relatively fashionable, I strode across campus feeling invincible.

It's funny what an illusion that is.

Even when, as today, I can muster faux swagger, the strength is never real. It's never rooted in a foundation that isn't itself the shallowest of facades. The front is always barely sustained. Don't I know that?

I should.

I walked into my therapist's office in high spirits. He's heard, often, how I love the days when my body is the way I want it to be and I can coast on self-assuredness. I wanted him to see this poised, collected BB.

The relationship between my physical attributes and my self-valuation is, of course, unhealthy, and so it followed that the intersection of those two things was one of our first topics.

"It can be really hard to be here," I said in an uncoaxed burst of honesty. "We're all so young and there are just so many guys who are so beautiful. I could never talk to one of them. I would feel unworthy."

I was probably more surprised than he was when I suddenly started crying.

What had happened? I'd been so untouchable, so strong and triumphant just an hour before. Wasn't today supposed to be my day?

The tears didn't ease, though. They grew stronger.

"Tell me what you're feeling right now," my therapist prompted. His tone was full of gentle encouragement.

"I guess..." I hesitated. "That I just want to be like them. Not just with the way they look, but the way they are. It seems like they're always laughing, like they're always having a good time. They have tons of friends. They don't have to think about everything. I would like to be like that."

I paused to collect myself.

"I'd like to be like them. But I don't think I ever will be."

"Why not?"

This brought us around to the fundamental issue of my chronically low self-esteem and the root cause of its deficiency. I told him how, whenever I attempt to feel cool or stylish or sexy, I immediately hear my parents laughing at me the way they did when I was a child of five and my unconscious projections of gay behavior provided grounds for the harshest of mocking. Whenever I want to move beyond a place where I instinctively deride myself, I become that little boy again. I'm as vulnerable, as shy, as demoralized and lost as I was back then.

"You know, when you're a little kid, your parents are the entire world," I said, waving away the tissues he offered. "When they turn on you, you feel that the whole world has turned on you. They're like gods when you're that age. If they're suddenly saying and doing all these mean things to you, you think, 'Wow, I must be an awful person.' And you don't know that that's what you're thinking, but it is. It's exactly what you're thinking."

Maybe that's why I become frustrated with my doctor. As unhealthy as anorexia is, as harmful as it can potentially be, it's something that makes it easier for me to get by. Should I be doing it? Of course not. But I'm going to take whatever kind of handhold out of this I can get, and if periodically skipping some meals helps alleviate the pain then periodically skipping some meals is what I'm going to do. If exercising on top of that gets me into a better mental place, then I don't mind. Right now, in this moment, it helps me.

I don't really know why I'm writing this down. It just seemed like I should.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When It Comes

Some days are good. Hell, some weeks are good. The last two weeks have been a veritable cakewalk of self-confidence and motivation.

My therapist thought this was the result of positive thinking. I didn't tell him that it probably had more to do with me losing ten pounds in five days.

So some days are good. And then, often without warning, some days are bad. Today hit me like a truck. One minute I was walking through a store, and the next I'd caught sight of myself in a mirror and couldn't handle the ugliness, the hideousness I saw there. I was mortified. I didn't want people's eyes to fall upon my self-indicting repulsiveness.

My grandmother and I left the mall and I fought the rising nausea in my stomach as I forced myself to respond to her small talk and chirped enthusiastically at the idea of stopping at Subway for a sandwich. I ordered a twelve-inch chicken and bacon ranch sub, wondering as I gave my request to the sandwich maker if he could see the despair through my face.

The steaming chicken gleamed up at me like slime-coated entrails.

You stupid fat piece of shit, I berated myself in my mind. Why would you order a foot-long? Are you going to eat all that chicken? Look at all that chicken.

I could see myself bloating and bulging and hiding behind fabrics. I could see the scale, and the bitter shame those digital numbers would bring.

You won't eat it all, I answered. You'll only eat half of it.

Grand Ma will be angry that you're wasting food, I countered.

She won't know, came my mental retort. You can throw it away.

She'd see that when she takes out the trash.

Say you're bringing it on the road for the ride back to school. Get rid of it there. She'll never find out.

"Sir, that'll be $7.42," the young man behind the counter announced.

I smiled as I handed him the two five-dollar bills.

When we arrived home, I rushed to the guest bedroom and practically threw myself into a large green hoodie. If I covered up, if I hid myself, if I made myself less of what I was, then I'd be okay. Frantic relief surged through me as the thick cotton came over my head and the sturdy hood tugged at my hair. I was so much better this way.

I ate one half of the sub, suppressing both actual nausea and the affected nausea that would be my excuse to end my meal.

"Man, something's upsetting my stomach," I informed my grandmother with pretended confusion, grabbing my midsection through the wonderful hoodie. That blessed thing. I pushed away the potatoes she'd made for me. "I think I need to go sit down. I'm unsettled."

"Okay, honey," she said. "Put some Saran wrap over the potatoes."

I turned to the pantry and, my back to her, was nearly overwhelmed by tears.

I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't do this.

A pause.

I'm not really nauseous. But I do feel sick.

Another pause.

I haven't felt sick like this in a long time. It's been a while since I've cried from it, too.

She was talking about heading out to another mall to look at bedding and then grab a movie, and it took everything I had to refrain from begging her not to make me go out in public. I just couldn't bear it. I'd do anything if only I didn't have to be where they could see my face.

"That sounds good," I told her with upbeat inflection.

The doctor's words came back to me from Friday afternoon.

"Once you get into this pattern, BB, it's extremely hard to get out of it," she said. "My concern is that as it takes hold it may exacerbate existing problems. That could lead to some pretty extensive mental illness and compromise your decisionmaking ability."

My therapist had spoken with her, of course. She didn't actually repeat his verdict of body dysmorphia. I guess she didn't have to.


She stopped as if biting down her frustration.

"BB, if you continue to lose weight, we may need to consider an inpatient program in a hospital setting."

Good luck.

"I want you to be aiming right now for 130 pounds."

Not on your life.

"That's still under what's considered a minimum healthy weight, but at least then it would only be five pounds under."

Maybe if she understood how things are, she'd be inclined to give me a bit of leeway. Maybe if she knew how when I control food my powerlessness becomes empowerment, how my aimlessness becomes directed, how my fears are vanquished by aspiration and certainty, maybe then she'd back off some. Maybe if she knew the relief it is to look at your own reflection and for the first time in months not be overwhelmed by disgust, she would empathize.

I know I'm being unhealthy, both mentally and physically. I've actually been at an even lower weight before, but it never came about this way. This kind of behavior is new.

And even as I recognize my actions for what they are, I don't care. Instead, I love it. I love being able to see myself shirtless and not want to gag. I love knowing that I have taken charge of my body and dictated what form it will assume. I love that I can exercise self-control. I even love the disorientation, the occasional head rush, the disembodied feeling that overtakes me when a Starbucks iced coffee is coursing through my veins on top of precious little else. I love the high. I love corporeally inhabiting the searing pain that has long stalked my mind. I love all of it. I love what it does.

The other day, I showered with the lights on.

And right now, in my hoodie, away from the mirror, I feel good. I feel better. I'm calm. I don't have to go out tonight. It'll be okay.

I'm being harmful. That's a huge part of the appeal, though. I wanted to destroy something but didn't have the heart to hurt anyone else. So I just decided to destroy myself. And I look more attractive in the process. It's a win-win.

It's not, obviously. I can see that. As lost and hurt and wrong as I am, I'm not stupid. I'm aware.

That won't stop me, though. It definitely won't stop me.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Other Quote of the Week

"Just don't tell anyone that I had sex with a Costa Rican beach bum."

This came, believe it or not, during a visit to Grand Ma Normal Family's house.

I feel that a more substantial post, but one that will likely be decidedly uncomfortable, both for me and for my readers, is due in the near future. In the name of honesty and a genuine picture of my life and all that other nonsense I seem to spout off, I'll likely write it despite the attendant awkwardness.

Don't judge me too much.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quote of the Week

My roommate and close friend, Patrick, strode into our dorm today with all the confidence of someone who's just made a much-needed change.

"What's gotten into you?" I asked, looking up from my computer.

He smiled with deep satisfaction.

"I've made an executive decision."

"Oh, yeah?"


He grinned.

"I'm going to stop banging this girl Sheila and get back on track to banging my lab professor."

I sighed.

"Good for you, Patrick. Good for you."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Selected Entries: April 2004

In April of 2004 I turned sixteen and was preoccupied with the passage of time that the birthday heralded. As I grew one year older my siblings and I fielded the same emotional and physical abuse we always had, and one of my brothers became a perpetrator of domestic violence when he broke my nose.

I reacted ecstatically to the material affluence brought on by our impending move to Deep South State (which signaled our arrival in the upper middle class), but my glee was tempered by the realization of all we'd be leaving behind.

April 2, 2004

At first, everything was great tonight. Then Thomas asked Dad for a cupcake and Dad said no. When Thomas asked again, Dad sent him to bed.

As Thomas started to put the cupcake away, he chewed on its wrapper, as is his habit. My father went completely crazy. He started screaming about disobedience and how the kids were running the house and he wouldn’t take it anymore. Then my father pushed Thomas to the floor. We were all very upset and so the next day Dad made pizza and bought caviar to make up for it.

April 5, 2004

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the start of the year’s holiest week. Palm Sunday, indeed. It should be called “Fist Sunday.”

Powell and I were upstairs arguing and I shoved him. Then I began to criticize him.

Well, he punched me so hard I saw stars. I cried and he said it was an accident, but I’m not so sure. When I looked in the mirror, my nose was dented.

April 8, 2004

I went to the doctor on Monday and I was x-rayed on Tuesday. By all accounts my nose is probably broken, given that it’s crooked and it feels funny. Thankfully, they will be able to make it straight again. That won’t happen until after Easter, though, which upsets me as I’d really been looking forward to the holiday.

Lent ends this Sunday. I can’t wait. It’s been a long forty days without CDs or radio. No Kelly Clarkson, no Christina Aguilera, no rap, no R&B, no hip-hop. I’m taking a ton of CDs with me to Grand Ma’s house so that I can listen to them on Sunday.

Oh, by the way, we are officially moving to Deep South State. This came as quite a surprise as we thought we’d be going to Dirty State. My mother has to start work on May 17th. This is the day of my chorus’s Spring Concert.

I am a bit disappointed that Mom won’t see the concert, but at the same time I’m happy because I no longer have to sing a solo in front of all of those people. My Chorus teacher made me take it even though I didn't want to, and now that we'll be moving I won't have to sing! I really don’t know if I could have!

April 9, 2004

Tomorrow morning I will be sixteen years old. As of right now, I’m still fifteen. Sixteen isn’t something that I’m ready for. It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in this very house, contemplating being fifteen. Sixteen is not something I want. And then, a year from now, I’ll be turning seventeen. Seventeen? That’s so unimaginable to me.

It seems as if things are moving so fast. In two years I’ll be getting ready to graduate. The thought scares me to death. Next year (actually, in just five months’ time) I’ll be a junior. A junior in high school. How did this happen? Well, I have a year. A year until I’m seventeen.

April 10, 2004

I am sixteen.

April 11, 2004
Easter Sunday, 2004

After Lent ended, I went to a private place this morning, and I sang there. God, it felt good. The music that had been building up inside of me and clogging my brain for forty days was let out, and my thoughts were silent, finally silent. All I heard was running water, slapping against my skin.

April 13, 2004

Well, it’s official. We are moving to Deep South State, and in less than a month. We found out over Easter vacation.

April 14, 2004

Yesterday afternoon was difficult. I got into a fight with Dad and he said that he didn’t want me to move with the rest of the family to Deep South State. He told me he’d been wanting to live in Deep South State all his life and that he wouldn’t be able to give up paradise to have to deal with me every day.

April 19, 2004

Midnight, our oldest cat, left us yesterday. She’d been here for nearly nine years, longer than Thomas’s entire life. Mom and Dad took her to the Humane Society because she had been peeing on the carpet. It seemed a bit heartless to me; Midnight was practically a member of the family. I miss her dearly. Last night I felt something on the bed and automatically assumed it to be her. It wasn’t, though, and the realization pained me.

Powell was devastated. He and Thomas both cried, but I didn't.

April 23, 2004

My parents are now, even as I write this, on an airplane destined for Native City. They're coming back from Central City, in Deep South State. My mother did put a contract on the house, and it’s incredible.

It has five bedrooms, four living rooms, an indoor swimming room, four full bathrooms, and so much more. The pool has a hot tub in the middle, raised several feet above everything else. So, when we’re hot, we can jump straight from the hot tub into the pool! I have a private bathroom adjoining my bedroom, and a door leading into the swimming room, too! The swimming room has two sun decks, but I doubt that I’ll use these very often. There is a kitchen, a dining room, and a breakfast nook. We are very blessed.

Our yard is a quarter of an acre (which, compared to what we have now, is enormous) with an eight-foot high brick wall surrounding it. In addition, there is an even more formidable wall that encompasses the entire neighborhood. A gate at the front allows for entrance. It is monitored by security guards.

Our high school is the highest rated public high school in the state. It is so huge that it has seven different buildings, and my parents described it as being like a college. Oh, and get this: it has a foot court. Like, McDonald’s, Burger King! Can you believe it? I’m so excited!

April 24, 2004

I got a haircut literally a month ago and my parents are already bugging me to get another one. I give them pretty much no trouble at all but they constantly harass me about chores and my hair. I'm an honor roll student who never does anything wrong. You'd think they'd just be thankful.

April 30, 2004

What is harsher than to be torn away?
What is worse than to be ripped apart?
From all you know, from all you are
A solemn weight upon my heart

What is worse than a wandering soul?
A tragic survivor without a home?

I saw my own land scorched and blast
I heard the bombs, I felt the crash
The buildings fell, the screams were shrill
This vibrant place lay dead and still

They descended like hawks, like hordes from the sky
And we who are left, we still wonder why
Why the loss, why the pain
Why the dead, why the maimed?
Why is our beautiful country slain?

And who could have known, who could feel?
This devastation is still surreal
The shells have fallen, the planes are gone
And still in their absence, it’s all so wrong

My thighs were these fields
My arms were these grains
My hope was these children
My body these plains
And now they are burned, lost, depraved

As much as it hurts, I just have to go
I can’t stay here, can’t live with these ghosts
I must pull away, and that kills me the most

For even the missiles raining down, the bodies piling all around
Was better than a graveyard
And to cling to what was, to desolate rocks
Won’t help me turn back the spinning clock

I wish this place would spring alive
Conceal the truth I’ve tried to hide:
Home will never be home again
Lord Jesus guide me, please

That was a poem called “Refugee.” It just struck me tonight, it really hit me, that we’re not coming back here. Second Twin, Powell, and I sat on Short Boy’s porch reflecting on when we’d first moved here. I can still remember the day that I met Lacrosse Boy. There are so many memories of happiness. It's's bad.

The thought of never seeing any of these people again is like a huge cliff, right in my stomach. It’s a hole inside of me. It’s like losing your brother. I will miss them so much. When I moved from Dirty Town I had no friends, so relocation was deliverance. This place is so, so different. I want to cry. I don’t know where the tears are, but I want to cry, or…I don’t know what I want. I need God’s and Lord Jesus’s help.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Weekend At Home

I was contemplating writing this entry around four o'clock in the morning, which, in the moment, seemed a rather convenient time to do it. Lest you should think I was in the mindset I usually seem to occupy while composing very early morning posts, let me assure you that I was not drunk earlier today--unless by "drunk" you mean delirious with the fatigue of Death.

I had a rather unexpected weekend, and in several ways.

After returning to school on Monday, September 19th, I realized that I'd forgotten the bag of clean clothes and towels that had been a large part of my reason for visiting home in the first place. Irritated, I resolved to double back to Mountain Town on Wednesday night, retrieve the clothes, and be on campus again by Thursday afternoon.

"Are you leaving, dude?" Patrick (my roommate) asked as I headed out the door.

"Yeah, man."

"Are you skipping class?"

"No, I don't have class on Thursdays. I'll be back tomorrow."

Little did I know.

I arrived home with a failing voice and a persistent cough on Wednesday afternoon and began a strange twilight weekend that was ushered in by my mother suggesting I see a doctor.

"BB, why don't you go into the clinic today?" she asked by phone on Thursday morning.

"I mean, I have a cold," I said. "Do I really need to go to the doctor for a cold?"

"Well, you never know," she responded. "It would be better to be safe than sorry."

I was a bit disoriented by this changing of our roles; usually I'm the one bringing up reasonable, legitimate concerns, and she's the one shooting them down as melodrama. What happened next confused me further.

"Well, going to the doctor would cost money and I kind of need to watch it right now," I said, figuring that closed everything.

"I'll just swing by and cover the co-pay," my mother said. "Get dressed and head down there before they get crowded."

I was thoroughly mystified by this point and couldn't think of any reason not to head into town, so I threw on some clothes and hopped into my car. If anything, I thought, the doctor could give me something to help the cough pass. And that is when I got my second big surprise.

"You have pneumonia," the smiling physician informed me.

"What?" I asked.

"Mmm-hmm," she tapped my bare back with a friendly chirp. "There's definitely something rattling around in your right lung. How long have you been feeling this way?"

"About a week," I answered.

"Yeah," she said. "This could be early pneumonia or even just bronchitis, but the only real difference between bronchitis and pneumonia is time and you've been letting it marinate, so..."

She prescribed me a steroid and antibiotic treatment (which my mother inexplicably offered to pay for) and sent me on my way. In that instant my plans for the weekend changed pretty abruptly. Sicker than I'd realized and evidently contagious, I faced the prospect of either returning to school in a diseased state or blowing off classes to stay at home where it was comfortable and warm.

I think you can guess which choice I made.

Stricken with pneumonia as the leaves turned red and the sky turned grey, I happily retreated into a soft cocoon of long sweatpants and billowing hoodies, velvety blankets and cushioning pillows for a five-day weekend of recuperation. Beautiful Cousin was home from her university (she moved into the dorms this Fall at the start of her Junior Year) and between the two of us and Thomas we went through plenty popcorn and other snacks.

The dogs seemed happy to see me as well.

The only downside to having pneumonia has been actually having to have pneumonia. Sleeping was and remains difficult, with the few hours of rest I've gotten over the last week or so coming from a bottle of Robitussin. The sickness seems to be waning, at least, and hopefully within a few days it will be gone. Either way, I was happy for the forced relaxation. It's the kind of thing I enjoy from time to time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why Running Track Sometimes Sucks

The other day I was running along the side of the road in the outfit shown above, wearing my hair in the ridiculously dorky segmented ponytail that is the only style I've found capable of preventing tangles during practice.

I was nearing the end of my four miles when a truck sidled up behind me.

The young man behind the wheel slowed and rolled down his window but instead of calling out simply followed at a leisurely pace.

I looked behind my back, perplexed. Could he have been lost? It was obvious from the driver's appearance that he was a student at my school and he didn't give any indication of not knowing where he was.

I was just about to stop and ask him if he needed directions when he leaned out the window, smiled, and whistled at me. I hadn't even fully processed my shock when he and his friend drove off, roaring with self-congratulatory laughter.

In the dark, they'd mistaken me for a woman.

My cheeks simmered with embarrassment and I silently thanked God that the rest of the team had been far enough ahead of me not to witness the little incident.

I guess I should look on the bright side, though; at the very least, this means I have great thighs.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

After a Decade

I hope that my readers will forgive me for not writing today of my September 11th memories. It may be lazy but I think that, in terms of my own experience that day, I've already said all that needs saying. If you'd like, you can read the detailed post on the subject I wrote in 2009.

What bears more reflection on this tenth anniversary, in my view, is not the event itself but the event's implications. It is in the legacy of September 11th that the day's true significance, and true tragedy, can be found.

The simple fact of the matter is that al-Qaeda won.

For all our rhetoric about the clash of fundamentalism and freedom, for all our vast might and our overawing displays of arms in two sandy wastelands across the ocean, the small terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden was ultimately able to get what it wanted: ten years after 9/11 U.S. power projection capabilities have been significantly diminished, the economic prosperity undergirding U.S. strength has foundered, and the dramatic slide of American politics to the far right has imperiled the Constitutional freedoms that the War on Terror was supposed to be protecting.

With three airplanes al Qaeda brought down a superpower.

Of course, September 11th in and of itself did not inflict this vast damage. Our reaction to it did.

September 11th gave George W. Bush, who on September 10th had approval ratings hovering just over 50%, the political will he needed initiate two disastrous wars, both mismanaged and one wholly unrelated the the terrorist attacks that "provoked" it. September 11th assured the president's narrow victory in 2004 and the ascendancy of ultra-conservative plutocrats whose program of radical deregulation led directly to economic collapse. An event of horrible violence perpetrated by evil men has since justified endless other events of horrible violence perpetrated by other evil men.

What is the real cost of September 11th? One must count, of course, the three thousand Americans who perished in the attacks. Add to that the seven thousand servicemembers who have subsequently died in combat. Add to that the number of Iraqi civilians, which some estimates place as high as one million, killed in the American occupation, and the millions more displaced. Add still the global economic crisis, the precipitous drop in GDP among the Western powers, the rise of fringe politicians like Sarah Palin and Rick Perry, the cavernous wealth gap, and the growing scourge of poverty that promises to perpetuate it all. Add, too, the millions of people my own age, alienated and underemployed and rapidly transforming into a lost generation. Add a United States in steep decline, vacating the stage to make room for the rising red star of China.

As inexorable as all these things now seem, we absolutely did not have to arrive at this point. In 2000, the last full year of Bill Clinton's presidency, GDP grew at a rate of 5%, unemployment was below 4%, and there was a federal budget surplus of $230 billion. When historians look back, they will likely identify the late Clinton years as the time when we were at the peak of our power. They will also, in retrospect, probably point to 9/11 as the moment it all began to unravel.

We did it to ourselves.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

So Much Emo

Here's the thing: I have good days and bad days. My life has always been like that. As a child, however, I was able to muster a huge degree of optimism because there were so many things I didn't understand. My comprehending many of the realities that formerly escaped me accounts for the spate of bad days I've had recently.

Still, I have to try. I can't just give up. And I'm sorry for being so damned Emo over the past couple of weeks. I guess it's all just hitting me at once, you know? I'm not going to go into the whole spiel about counting my blessings or seeing my own issues as small next to others' struggles, because that would be inauthentic; these problems are serious and this situation is awful. It sucks and there's nothing wrong with admitting that.

If I ever want to have anything, though, I have to push forward. I'm the only one who can actually make it happen.