Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas


This is my first Christmas in our new home, and I have the delightful intimation that it will also be the last one I spend here. This place is beautiful, but it's not meant to be mine. Next year looms on the horizon, a whirlwind of work and wonder and responsibility that a part of me fears--but that I know I must embrace.

I hope that all of you find yourselves surrounded with love and plenty on this Christmas Day, and I hope you are illuminated with joy for something. Whether that's a lovely present, or a holiday trip, or a lover or a child or a dream, I hope it lights you up.

This has been a year of difficulty for me, and an assessment of my pitfalls cannot fail to sober. But I am, the pain aside, filled with joy. It's joy for what will be, for what I'll be, for who I'll meet and what I'll do and the person I'll become in 2014, in what I have the irrepressible feeling will be a year of sunlight. And if I'm wrong, then I'll have achieved something in the effort.

A Merry Christmas to you all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Selected Entries: January 2005



In January 2005 I was sixteen years old. As my junior year of high school reached its midpoint I faced the prospect of yet another disruptive interstate move and the apathy of the parents who were uprooting my life. My growing awareness of their callousness provoked rare profanity, while on January 20 I ruminated over a different kind of mismanagement when George W. Bush was inaugurated to a second term as president.

January 1, 2005

The funeral yesterday went very well. There was a brief scene in the funeral home with the body in open view. Most people (including Powell) went and kissed the forehead of the deceased, but I couldn’t. The idea of kissing a lifeless rubber suit was completely disturbing for me, and so I just leaned over the casket and made a sound like kissing. 

The coffin was carried, without incident, to the cemetery. I liked Grand Pa’s funeral much better. Great-Grand Ma’s service and burial were too automated, too impersonal. At one point during the service the preacher actually had to stop and look down at his paper to remember her name.

At the end of her life she didn’t look like the plump, happy old woman I’d seen when I was fourteen. She was so thin and shriveled yesterday. I’m just glad that it’s over.

January 2, 2005

School begins again in three days. I have no idea why we’re going back on a Wednesday, but that’s how it is. I’m anxious to see how I did on my AP European History portfolio. Not only does it count as my midterm, but I put a lot of creative effort into it. 

Man, I’ve really slacked during this Christmas holiday. I haven’t had a shower in two days! Isn’t that disgusting? Blonde Girl came by today and we talked about school and whatnot. Someone crashed into the neighborhood gate on New Year’s Eve, and now a pile of rubble is in the road. A police officer told me this evening that a drunk driver was to blame. The security people are improvising, but oh, my gosh it's so funny looking.


January 7, 2005

I wanted to go to a Little Christmas church service today, and of course it couldn't happen. Mom had an unexpected business meeting, which meant she couldn't take me at 9 a.m., and Dad didn't even pretend to try, so I spent today in school. Then when I got home, Dad informed me that we're probably moving again soon and asked my opinion. 

Well, let's see: I have an internship with a Democratic senator lined up for June and my name is in the ring for Boys' State, which takes place in May. So any move before the end of the summer could really muck things up. I told him that and he basically said he wasn't making any guarantees on the timeline.

Frustrated, I exploded at Dad that for once I wanted something to go right, for once I deserved to avoid being screwed over. Dad became indignant and now I’m just going to bed. Fuck him. He can take his  forty-one-year-old loser self and peddle his bullshit for someone who cares to hear it. As usual, they make some spur-of-the-moment decision and the rest of us are left to deal with the consequences. Perfection.


January 20, 2005

Dad was diagnosed with diabetes on January 18. I was shocked to hear this. After all, diabetes is the same disease that contributed significantly to Grand Ma Hick Family’s early death (it left her weaker to fight the cancer). Grand Pa Hick Family was beside himself when he found out about Dad’s diagnosis. We’re very lucky, because it’s not advanced at all and still in the earliest stages. If Dad eats healthy foods and exercises regularly, it could go away entirely. 

President Bush’s inauguration ceremonies continue on live television. I watched his inaugural address at noon. As was to be expected, he talked a lot but said very little. I must have heard the word “freedom” mentioned twenty times inside of thirty minutes. I kept waiting for him to say something concrete, or even to deliver some particularly stirring rhetoric, but it never came. 

They’re almost like royalty, the First Family. Watching all the pomp and circumstance this afternoon, it’s so odd to think that Bush’s second term in office was actually decided by a bunch of backwoods bumpkins whose social lives center on the local bar and whose knowledge of politics couldn’t trump that of a doorknob. 


Thursday, December 12, 2013

It Was Time



One of the only constants throughout the life of this blog has been my 1996 Oldsmobile. She was a solid and loyal old steed, and on her wheels I rode through college and beyond, but over the weekend of Thanksgiving she at last expired of a cracked head gasket.

It was time to upgrade.

The need, of course, had been gnawing at the back of my mind for a while; the check-engine light in the Oldsmobile had been on consistently for about five years, and starting in 2009 or so I found myself sinking ever more money into repairing a car I could not afford to replace. With an internship and attendant daily commute on the horizon for the New Year, some part of me knew that my faithful Elizabeth wasn't going to make it. I just didn't expect her to go so soon.


"I tell you what," said Uncle Car Salesman. "Let me look around and see if we can't find you something. I'm sure we'll be able to get some kind of deal."

A week later I was driving around in a 2007 Prius that I paid far less for than I should. This car is great. It's dependable, it's in good shape, it is a shade prettier than Elizabeth--bless her memory--ever managed, and it gets absurd gas mileage.



That's right: BB's entered the 21st century, and he's saving money doing it.

So now my Marble City internship won't be imperiled by a lack of transportation. With my car in hand and my lodgings secured--Viking Ninja, an old college friend, offered me room in his house for a bare $250 a month--all that's left is for me to show up.

It's a really strange feeling when you know that for the the moment everything is taken care of. But, for the moment, everything is taken care of.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Recovering Myself


Our lives are filled with turning points. I don't mean marriages or home purchases or graduations, any of the official markers of transition, but rather moments when something without us causes something within us to shift and we know that one era has come to a definite end. We all have that.

It will be no surprise to any of you to learn that I recently experienced just such a turning point. It will likely surprise all of you that the turning point in question was not my October 20 suicide attempt. No, the real threshold moment for me came three weeks earlier.

The date was October 7, 2013.

Thomas and I spent most of that day hauling boxes from the awful yellow farm house that had been my prison for more than a year and a half to the beautiful new Mountain State home where my parents had determined to start anew. I'd only seen this place in photographs, never been, and when I stepped through the front door I found in the house's beauty such stark contrast with the squalor I'd endured that my heart leapt into my throat.


Relief coursed over my shoulders like a warm waterfall, and it was only then, as the onerous weight was washed away from me, that I realized how heavy the burden had been. That farm house had robbed me of heirlooms, of my dignity, of my happiness, of my sanity. I decided that moment that I would never live in it again.

"I'm staying here tonight," I told Thomas. "Do you want to stay with me?"

"Dude," he replied. "Yes."

My mother Marie, who before my recent self-inflicted brush with death was, to put it mildly, not an understanding parent, took immediate issue with this. I can't remember the litany of ridiculousness she recited: we'd eat all the food in the house; we'd shower until we ran the well dry; we'd sleep in her bedroom despite the total lack of furniture. Whatever it was, it wasn't worth listening to. And when she at last agreed to let me bunk in the house I was paying to live in, on condition that I get up in the morning and leave with her at seven, something in me snapped.

"Trying to get you to do anything--anything at all, just things normal people do--is like asking for gold," I spat. "And you know what? I'd rather sleep in my fucking car!"

So I did.

I drove back to that farm house, back to that terrible place where I no longer lived, and I spent a miserable night crouched in the back seat of my seventeen-year-old Oldsmobile. It was one of the most empowering things I've ever done.

I woke up the next morning, drove to a cafe, and surveyed the date on the national newspaper with quiet joy.



Thank God, I thought. Thank God.

It seems astonishing to describe my suicide in anything but the most horrible terms, but it was, for all its tragedy, part of a larger narrative that is quite positive. It was part of my larger assertion over my own life. I took that assertion to an extreme place in a desperate moment, but the assertion itself is something that's been long overdue.

So when I woke up from the coma, when the drugs wore off but before I could get through a morning without crying, I remembered October 7. And I remembered October 20. And I remembered that what happened to me belonged to me.

That first week home I got out a piece of paper and wrote down four points:

I. Public relations
II. Journalism
III. Publishing
IV. History

Beneath each I made an extensive list of contacts and strategies, and then I dove in with a vengeance. I considered everything, from grad school to HTML classes to editorial assistant positions to municipal media relations management, all within the context of the four broad categories and all approached on a systematic and realistic basis.

Before my suicide--"You basically died in the ambulance," my mother later told me--I'd gotten so locked in to the tunnel vision of the job search that I'd closed myself off to things like additional schooling or internships. But now, with my family behind me and the knowledge that opportunity can come from anywhere, I approached my mission with an open mind.

What I learned? The bigger your door, the more people will come knocking.

It wasn't long before I found myself in Marble City interviewing for an internship position with a public relations and public policy company.

"We are actually having someone in our communications department leave to accept a job in Misty City," the supervisor told me. "And there is the possibility that there could be a hiring opportunity at the end of this. What most concerns me about you, though, is that you have prior experience. If you came on with us, it wouldn't be at a very senior level. Is that a problem?"

"No. I want the chance to start at the bottom."

I was selected for the role the next day.

So in January I'm moving, at least part time, to the Goldlands so that I can make the commute two days a week to Marble City. Pirate Ninja, an old friend from college, lives in a single-family home there with six Christian men who voted unanimously to let me stay with them.

"No matter what," he told me. "You're in."

No matter what, I'm in.

I'm going to learn all I can about this position. I'm going to pour my heart into my work, and I'm going to do everything within my power to win this job. I will do it. And if I don't, then I'll take the experience on my resume and go somewhere else, and then somewhere else, and then somewhere else, until something opens. I'll do whatever I have to.

On October 20 I accidentally survived. Now I'm determined to live.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Maple Tree


Maybe I'm just not as strong as I thought as I was. I seemed to bounce back so fast, to the point that I even made a few off-color jokes about it. I smiled. I laughed. I was energized. But beneath it all I'd feel these moments of welling terror, of panic.

What is going to happen to me? How can this be real?

I'm in disbelief that I am who I am. I hate myself a little. And a part of me wants to do it again. But damn it, I have resolved not to think that way, and I'm going to keep the promise I made when I came out of the hospital to give this life of mine the good college try.

Oh, my God. How has this really happened? How did I become this thing?

I looked out my bedroom window several days ago to see a maple tree, resplendent with autumn glory as its leaves glowed golden-red in the setting sun. This morning, seemingly out of nowhere, the tree was almost bare and suddenly ugly. I thought that it would be irredeemably sad but for the fact that it will one day come to life again. Spring can only be so many months after Fall.

The maple tree is weeping now
Its red and amber tears
It sheds its little stars of grief
They make a bed of fear

The tree has lost what made it whole
Its shining emerald hands
That time and nature one day stole
Have fallen in the stands

The wind that's whirling through its holes
Screams like a mournful wail
The branches empty, brown, and dead
Bow low as if to fail

The tree holds on with stubborn roots
And though it's hung with doom
It stands high hoping one day that
It once again might bloom

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shattered



You know the feeling you get when you wake up from a truly horrible nightmare and thank God you were only dreaming? I guess you might call that relief, maybe euphoria, maybe joy. I'm not sure what the term is for when you open your eyes and the nightmare keeps going.

I can remember the nurse screaming.

"Do you know what year it is?"

"Twenty-twelve," I answered. "Twenty-thirteen."

"Do you know who's president?"

"O--ba--ma."

"Do you know your name?"

"I'm BB."

I remember that fifth glass of wine, the frantic confession to the priest over the phone, my brother telling me to stay awake even as I started to fall into a coma.

"You can't stop me! I already took the pills!"

I was crying and laughing at the same time. I was so happy. I was so sad. I was so unburdened.

I'm so sorry.

And I mean that, as much as I have ever meant anything, because in pulling out of a 14-hour coma and being restored to life the only thing I can think about is all the people I betrayed. Thomas, who was my erstwhile companion. Powell, who was still my brother even with all his faults. Pie, who looked up to me. God, who gave me all my gifts and many of my flaws. You, my readers, who rooted for me over the years. And myself.

One thing I keep returning to is the BB I used to be, the one who threw blackened away and decided to see life for all the good it contained.


I don't understand how I went from being that 21-year-old boy, the one with the future standing as an endless sunlit vault before him; to the 25-year-old young man who saw no future at all. I don't understand how I went from striding a summit to collapsing on my bedroom floor. Every time I think about it it makes me cry.

There are no easy answers for me as I return from the psychiatric hospital to the home where I almost died. There are many things I'll need to do, and one of them is to grieve. I'm giving myself time for that, but not too much time. The other element in moving forward is reconstruction, and that means that I can be fragile and vulnerable, can withdraw into myself, for only so long. Eventually some heavy lifting has to take place. I'll let you know when, with the help of doctors and my family, I figure out what that is. I already have some ideas.

I know you all expected more from me. I expected more from myself. And I really hope one day I can achieve that.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Checking In



It seems like the time between these posts is getting longer and longer. A month has gone by in this round, but what's a month now? The days and the weeks and the months and even the years blend together.

September 29 passed a few days ago. That was the day, you know, the day this all began. The day of the incident. The day I returned home from the City of Fate, fresh off a thrilling foray in the recording industry, and walked into a nightmare. At least that's how I remember it, where I place the divide.

Any historian will tell you that points of demarcation are arbitrary.

The Western Roman Empire did not, for instance, fall wholesale on the morning of September 4, A.D. 476, and Europe did not plunge into the Dark Ages later that evening. The seeds of a coming Roman cataclysm presented themselves as early as the 3rd century, well before the old girl really cracked, and elements of Roman civilization persisted in pockets for hundreds of years after hindsight says they were theoretically gone. But on September 4, 476, Romulus Augustulus abdicated and people realized, definitively, that something had reached an irreversible critical mass.



I've had a few wins since September 29, 2010. Some of them have even been substantial. But the general trend, over the three longest years of my life, has been one of consistent difficulty and decline. I didn't just blow up one day. Somewhere along the way, though, I noticed my urban areas depopulating and my roads becoming a little worn out. I've been ravaged by a plague or two. People aren't reading as much. There's more cow shit than is strictly necessary. And I can't figure out if I'm about to get a makeover from a bunch of Italian guys with a thing for statuary and human rights, or if I'm just craning my head up from an accelerating nosedive. Is this thing nearing its end or is it only getting started? And how much longer could it possibly go on? The idea that it has any more more fuel strains incredulity, but if there's one thing I've learned since that fall three years ago it's that happiness runs on sweat and diamonds but misery can coast on ethanol. There's never any shortage of shit.

That being said, I'm really hoping against hope--and a good amount of empirical evidence--that this thing is wrapping up, because it's done a doozy on me. In the last three years I've become a person I don't recognize or even particularly like. I've lost my hope, my optimism, my self-assurance, and a tremendous amount of my money. I've lost any shred of love I once had for my parents, any belief that they might be capable of change. I've lost, in moments, my desire to live. Loss, loss, loss, loss.



And what have I gained? A skill set, to be sure, in the field of commercial book publishing. A series of potentially valuable connections. As of two weeks ago, an offer of publication on one of my clients' books. That, in the long term, could provide an income, but it will be a bit before it produces any money. And that's what all of this really boils down to: money. I expended an enormous amount of money on a college education that was supposed to net me more money, and now I find myself with a much-diminished store of money in a house run by two financial vampires who demand ever more money.

Their single-minded focus is immune to the bounds of morality or social convention, to the point that when a sick Powell asked my mother what over-the-counter drugs we had in the stocked medicine cabinet, her reply was, "Whatever you go out and buy."

I think what hurts even worse than the fiscal raping is knowing my parents see me as a dollar sign. Good times.

So I'm trying and mostly losing. Sometimes I have great moments of optimism and a little bit ago I even had a solid few weeks of good cheer. It's not often, though. I feel dead a lot. Sometimes I cry, in the shower or on the phone in the parking lot outside Starbucks as I apply for a deferment of payments on my colossal student debt. I'm not some kind of a bum or anything, not a layabout looking for free cash. I've been proactive in building the foundation for a career. I interned and networked. I came from a wealthy family. It's just that no one cared.



I know what some of you will say. "Enough with the self-pity." "Get over yourself already." "There are people out there who have it a lot worse." "You should look at the blessing you've been given in life."

Fuck you.

I count my blessings and I say my prayers, and at the end of the day I am still so massively screwed. The sick little gay boy with the terrible family who overcame child abuse  and incurable disease to graduate college. In every feel-good movie I would have been the loveable hero. But you know what? In real life people hit walls and the vulnerable outcast doesn't get to ride a broomstick to glory. In real life those who need the most help are just left behind. In real life the bad guys just win. At least often.

Look at my parents. They will never shed a single tear, never pay a single cent, never feel a single moment of contrition for the suffering they've inflicted. They'll get away with it. They'll keep their investments, their cars, their new resort house, their obscene piles of money stuffed in lock boxes, and they'll walk Scot-free. The only ones left to attempt some sort of clean-up will be the ones they shat upon. And then society will reward them.

So I'm going to keep fighting the good fight, keep trying to land the job that will take me out of here and give me the freedom I've dreamed of for two decades. For now, though, fuck everything. I'm going for a run.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Season of Change


Summers tend to linger in Southern State. Labor Day passes and September with it, Columbus Day and most of October, and then some time around Halloween we get around to realizing that it shouldn't be 90 degrees anymore. With the hot skies and lazy breezes lingering so long, it can often be easy to think that time might have stopped, that the bright sun cresting the clouds won't ever change.

But Fall came early this year.

It seemed to sneak in right around the first week of September, creeping up on us with chilly evenings and days that were just a whisper too short. Summer is usually a moment that stretches out towards eternity. This time around, though, no one can doubt that something new is coming on the crisp winds.

I made my therapist cry last week. I didn't do it on purpose, nor did I provoke her tears with harsh words; I just told her, in a matter-of-fact way, about my life. Who knew it was so interesting?

"You have to know that people care about you," she said. "That I care about you. You have so much to offer. And you would be such a waste."

That's the down side to the juncture at which I currently find myself. But it's only one potential aspect, one face of the many-hued ruby now flipping through the air. For I truly am at an intersection of possibilities--a crossroads of the most dramatic kind. What comes next could be horrific. But it could also be great. And I have to believe in that greatness, as the hope of it is one the only things I have left.

In a fitting development, the members of Our Family will soon leave this awful yellow house; my parents successfully purchased the home they'd had their sights on, and we will all be moving from here some time in the middle of next month. Where exactly I wind up going will heavily depend on the events of the next few weeks, which also promise to have an outsized impact on my life in general.

I know that many of you aren't believers, and for that reason I have often opted not to discuss my faith on this site. But you should know, in the interest of knowing me, that through all the peaks and valleys of the last five years my conviction in God has never been fully beaten out of me. I've come close a couple of times, sure--but in the real defining moments that stubborn belief has flared without fail. This moment being what it is, I've spent an awful lot of time praying lately.

I just hope He listens--and I hope He shows some kind of mercy.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Few Days I Needed


Norwegian stood at the edge of the summit, her feet inches away from the sheer drop that went hundreds of feet down.

"Isn't this amazing?" she turned to ask me, her blonde ponytail bouncing like a golden Slinky in the August sunlight. "I come here to go hiking all the time."

I cursed myself for neglecting to bring my camera--the photo above is a stock image from the location--because she was right: it was stunning. The steep trails of rock-embedded soil converged on a mass of shale that jutted high into the air, giving hikers a stunning vista of the valley spread out below them like a green basket.

"We should bring some people up here and roast marshmallows or something," she said.

I agreed.

"Yeah. We could have the most incredible-slash-terrifying picnic ever."

Her eyes narrowed in confusion.

"Terrifying?" she turned back to the cavernous sky from her perch on the cliff. "Why would you be afraid?"

I think I've needed some reminding lately that people can do courageous things, can put themselves on the tops of mountains without falling off. Sometimes, of course, they might slip on the gravel. But sometimes they'll stand at the point where the ordinary meets greatness and propel themselves into the heavens.

Not that I was asking for that much. I didn't need wonders served to me on a platter. I just needed the relentless beating of the last year or so, the merciless stream of setbacks and traumas, to end.

Last Thursday I applied for a position with a public relations company in the Goldlands. Later that day the firm's director contacted me with an invitation to visit their office for an interview on Monday afternoon. That was it, and that was all I wanted. A chance.

As for the interview itself, I don't think it could have gone much better than it did. I at last had the opportunity to prove to someone else what I've known for a long time: that my research skills are on point; that my written-communications abilities encompass both storytelling and hard news with ease; that my time in journalism and publishing gives me relevant insight into the public relations profession; and that I just flat out have a good head for image management.

We'll know soon. Beyond this process's outcome (which is, of course, important to me), however, my experience over the past few days has provided some sorely needed hope. I do have something to offer, and others can see it. My troubles, amplified in an environment of isolation, disrespect, and contracting resources, are never more than one successful job interview away from fading into the background. I have a real shot at life. I do.

So I'll hope, and I'll pray, and I'll let all of you know as soon as I hear anything. And in the meantime, as I refresh my e-mail's in-box every ten seconds and count the ways in which these prospective employers could say yes or no, one of the greatest sources of my discontent could be on its way to a fitting resolution.

"We put a contract on a house," my mother informed us today. "We could know if we've gotten by as early as tomorrow."

That's right. The era of the Yellow Pile of Shit, which began on February 17, 2012, is at last approaching its overdue end. Back then, a mere two months after I graduated from university, my parents unloaded our old Mountain Town home and, in an effort to get back to roots we never had, moved us into a 200-year-old farm house with no central heat or air conditioning. As this summer winds to a close they have, in Thomas's words, "finally gotten their heads out of their asses."



This is the house, located just across the border in Mountain State, that they're now attempting to secure. It's spacious, stylishly appointed, outfitted with all the amenities a 21st-century American could expect to have, and befitting our family's station. It's the kind of place we had always lived in before my parents gave in to a bout of delusion a year and a half ago and tried to make us something we weren't. The game of pretend is now over.

Of course, David and Marie's return to reality will hopefully not have much of an effect on me. If I get this job I'm planning to move to the Goldlands as soon as possible, but my stepmother threw a surprise volley my way this afternoon while discussing the upcoming move with Pie and Thomas.

"You know, BB, your father and I are rooting for you with this job," she said. "But if you don't get it you'd be free to come with us. The house has four bedrooms."

Not enough, pointedly, for Powell, whose antics have of late attained new levels of infamy.

"I appreciate the offer, but I'd really like for us to not reach that point."

"I'm just putting it out there."

For two people who have time and again proven inconsiderate, oblivious, and occasionally downright vicious, my mother and father surprise me with random moments of compassion that make me yearn for the parents they could have been. My father went even further.

"And even if you get the job, it might be a good idea for you to stay," he advised. "It's entry level. So if they're only paying you $30,000, you could save a lot of money by coming there. The $400 we'd want is way less than anything you'd put out to find housing in the Goldlands. Plus we're actually going to be closer to their office than we are now. It's not a bad commute."

I'm weighing all the possibilities, which will be circumscribed should the position not come through. Something tells me, however, that it will. Something tells me I nailed this thing. And if that's true, then the set of options for where I go next just got a whole lot bigger.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Now


I'm sorry for the string of grim--but conveniently cryptic--posts I've made lately. In them I've said so much without ever really saying anything at all--clever metaphors about an imagined Fate, evasive allusions to hallways and doors and ends and beginnings.

The truth is that I want to die about half the time now.

The other half? I don't particularly want to go in those moments, but even then I'm convinced that it might be necessary and inevitable.

I came so close last weekend. There I was, three thousand miles from some place I call home, being feted for an expertise and an influence that I've done nothing to earn or prove. A literary agent who's sold no books--what do you call that? When these writers, these dreamers, these people who have invested so much of themselves in their projects, when they come to me and hand their hopes into my shaking hands, do they know they've climbed atop a dull horse? Of course, many literary agents are dull horses, at least at first. But the absence, despite my relentless efforts, of some other livelihood to truly sustain me in that interim, has filled my mouth with dead air.

And that's really not the worst of it, which, all things considered, is pretty significant.

Call it a weak moment.

But when the boy with the pretty face and clear eyes left, that hotel room felt so crushingly empty, empty not just with the loneliness of one night but with the parading void of the future. He kissed me before he went away and I wondered if he hated me as he did it. Then I wondered why he even wanted me in the first place.

I'll probably never have him. I'll probably never have anybody, which is really the larger point. He was just a beautiful someone I met in a strange city. That can happen to anyone, right? The follow-up is where I falter.

So there I was, with that terrible, aching chasm swallowing my stomach. And I thought, You have the complementary bottle of wine. Would it be so difficult to get some sleeping pills? I'm sure there's a store open. 

And if those pills had been there, I don't know what I would have done. I think, though--and I can judge myself fairly well--that I would have made a cocktail more delicious than all the others combined, better than what passed down my throat at any party or on any solitary night.

Instead I went to bed, and woke up several hours later, and wondered how long it would be.



The problem was in recovery. I guess the easiest way to explain what I mean is that when you have a brain disease there's just so much you don't know. You don't know how to be normal, true, but you also don't completely know what you're missing, and to a large degree you don't know of the limitations that are, and probably always will be, present.

Starting around when I was twenty--incidentally, the same year this blog was begun--I recovered so much so fast that I felt like I was on a roller coaster headed straight to Heaven. All of these things that had been mysteries before suddenly came to me and no one, my doctors included, really has any idea how the hell that happened. But I was happy.

I had friends, I had discipline, I had talent, and God did I have courage. I had courage to do the kinds of things that can hurt, and I did them because I believed there was nothing I couldn't accomplish. But I was a child. A teenager sees a little bit of life and is enamored with how worldly he's become, but a few years later he looks back and understands that he didn't understand.

I didn't understand. And the absolute worst part of recovery has been gaining the wisdom and insight to objectively assess my situation and comprehend the very daunting obstacles that neurological disease, psychological illness (because they are separate things), and a legacy of abuse actually present.

So don't think this post is a dip into the pool of self-pity. It's not. It's an acknowledgement of my keen-eyed appraisal of my own prospects, which just aren't very good. I still have moments of disorientation. I still face the vertigo of uncertainty. I still feel my brain slip. I am still unlikely to ever have a substantive romantic relationship, to ever know love or father children. And why would I want that? They could turn out like me.

I am happy that, if nothing else, I was allowed the golden moment of a false sun ascending through my sky and draping the world in a light of glory I thought would never be extinguished. It was false, of course--it always was--but it felt so real, and for one instant in what has been a genuinely unfortunate life I believed that I could have everything. I held that in my hands. Nothing can ever take that away from me.

But now the illusions are gone and the orb that burned so bright in 2009 and 2010 has blown out like a dandelion stripped of its silver ornaments. I see. I understand. And I want no part in it. I'm not going anywhere just yet, but I'm planning. You have to approach these things practically.

I don't know why I'm telling you this. I don't know why I do much of anything anymore. But thank you, I guess, for supporting me and believing in me, and for loving me, in your own way. It meant a great deal.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Onus of Fate

I guess he just caught me at a bad moment. Sometimes you've had enough, you know? Sometimes there are these people you're supposed to like, and you try because you know that whatever is wrong with them isn't their fault, but every now and again your tolerance snaps and so do you.

Whatever the reason, Fate picked a bad moment to appear in my kitchen.

"You," I growled. I was covered in billing notices and prescriptions and diagnoses and photos from the past, all things that reminded me of him and his malfeasance. "You...bastard. Why are you here?"

His eyes grew sad, the way they had before, but this time I didn't believe he was secretly on my side.

"You want to know the truth?" I asked. I was ravenous, hungering for a fight. I pushed myself up from the chair to reveal a body covered in red gashes and pale ribs. He grimaced in spite of himself. "I hate you more than any of the others. That's the truth. Because you stand there with that fucking look on your face, like you hate doing this so much--boo, hoo--but the thing is, you still do it. So what difference does it make?"

"BB," he halted. "The choices made for you were not mine. I was merely--"

"What?" I asked. "They were just your fate? Your fate? Fate's fate, now that's funny. No, you can't do a fucking thing. You're just the hopeless victim here, aren't you?"

"BB, we are all, myself included, given our challenges, but in the end even the greatest of those adversities make us into stronger--"

"BULLSHIT!" I screamed. "Bullshit, and you know it! What did any of this do?"

I gestured around at my house, myself, my brain, my life.

"Maybe if it ended, it would have meant something," I said. "But it's just one eternal mindfuck! And you did it. You did all of it! How can you stand here in front of me? You might as well have been the one who...you did all of it. You're my father's fist. I never saw it, but it's always been you, you fucking worm!"

His supernatural face arranged itself into an expression of majestic affront. I didn't care. I so didn't care.

"You are raving and half dead," he noted. He wasn't criticizing. Just assessing. "Decayed. And drunk, always, even when you're not drunk. Drunk on bitterness. Drunk on hatred. Can you not see what you've become?"

I laughed, a long, brutal, trenchant cackle. I'd always been such a radiant boy.

"What I've become?" I smiled and my gums rained purple blood. "I'm not anything."

"No," he sighed, and his eyes shone. "Not anymore."

I hated that I started to cry then.

"I was, once, you know," I said. "I tried to be. I could have made it. But you took care of that."

"I took care of nothing," he said, his face stern. "I only--"

I stepped forward and punched him in the jaw with as much power as I could muster. My hand stung afterward but I wanted to kiss the pain.

He, on the other hand, fell back in total shock. I suppose it's not every day a millennia-old being gets socked in the mouth by a young man who is, all things considered, a specimen of utterly insignificant mortality.

"You did this," I said. "Just remember that."

His face darkened.

"You--"

I hit him again.

"Get out," I whispered. My voice grew louder. "Get out, get out, get out! GET OUT! YOU'RE JUST LIKE THE REST OF THEM! I'M SURROUNDED BY WORTHLESS PIECES OF SHIT!"

I suppose that last bit was too much for his delicate sensibilities, because at that moment he vanished from the room. He wasn't gone for a moment before Cruelty materialized in his place.

"BB," she smiled. "Would you like a glass of wine?"

I smirked my approval at her ever-so-timely Skrillex haircut.

"Why, Cruelty," I said. "I thought you'd never ask."

She raised her vial of Merlot in a demented toast.

"Isn't it marvelous when you stop caring?" she asked with her shark's grin.

"It is marvelous," I agreed. "Absolutely marvelous."

I'm Still Here--Still Dipping, Dipping Low

I've been absent a while, guys, and for that I'm sorry. I just thought you should know that I am still here, even if it feels like I'm finally at the end of something. What is there to say when everything's the same?

The last month or so has been a blessing, though. It's been a revelation and has shown me the way to an open door that will terminate this endless hallway. Beyond that, there's been a blogger visit that was, dare I say, truly fabulous.

All those things coming soon. Thanks for sticking around.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Selected Entries: December 2004



With all the looking forward I've been doing lately, it seemed to make sense that I should take a moment to look back. In December 2004 I was sixteen years old. As a departure from Deep South State loomed ever nearer, I found myself pondering what George W. Bush's (very recent) reelection meant for my immediate future. Many of my concerns were those of a typical sixteen-year-old boy: homework, family, and the loss of friends from a big move. Others, like war fears and a bizarre amount of death, were a little deeper and shed light on the strange time in which I grew to young manhood.

December 2, 2004

My I.D. List for AP European History is due tomorrow. I’m confident that I’ll complete it with time to spare, but there's so much else! Following that, I have to study for the test, also happening tomorrow. Tomorrow is Friday, praise be to God. Over the weekend I hope to get done a lot of work on my portfolios, otherwise I'll have to take off of school Monday to get them finished on time. I’ve set aside five hours to work tonight on AP European History material. I can't wait until this is over and I can have weekends again!

December 6, 2004

I finished the rough draft of my essay last night, thank God. I don’t know how I managed to squeeze out over four pages about Sweden during the reign of Gustavus Adolphus, who I know like nothing about, but I did it.

The final copy is due next Monday. Crap. I'm going to have to stay home from school tomorrow. 

Grand Pa Hick Family is here from Hick State to help take care of Pie while Mom is on her business trip and Dad is working late. For the first time that I can remember in my entire life, I saw him cry today. He's usually so tough, but Grand Ma Hick Family's death cut right through him. It was very disturbing today, watching him sob onto the head of his little dog. He's broken now. 

December 8, 2004

I spoke with Aunt Smugly Superior today. She's afraid there could be a draft soon and told me I should go to college right away after high school. Aunt Smugly Superior is extremely smart (she works at the medical school of Fallen Dynasty University) and is my favorite out of all of Anne’s siblings. I trust her judgement. 

December 13, 2004

Pie is so cute. It's been a little cold here at night, like 40 or 50 degrees, so we have her all wrapped up in stuff and it's amazing how funny it is. She totters around the house (now with a pink jacket over her nightgown), often wearing my mother’s shoes and screaming like a total lunatic at random things. It's pretty great.

Not everything is great, though. In the last week alone Grand Ma Weird Family, Aunt Smugly Superior, and Grand Pa Hick Family have warned me against a coming draft. Today Grand Pa asked me point-blank what I would do if called up to serve. Well, I’m still only sixteen, but if the law about college deferments is changed I could be called up. 

I answered him, “I’ll do whatever I have to do.” Then I clarified what I meant: I will not die for this president and his oil. I will not sacrifice my life and everything that I’ve worked towards, for Iraq. If it were a legitimate war, maybe my decision would be different. As of now, though, the fight isn’t worthy. I can't believe we're even having to worry about this. When September 11th happened, I was thirteen years old. Now my generation is in line to be the next mass casualty of this conflict. If only John Kerry had been elected. President Bush is so stupid, and the people who support him are even dumber. 

December 20, 2004

When it gets so close to Christmas I really miss Native State. It would never, ever snow here, but back there they're getting tons. Dad and I did go Christmas shopping today! It was a Sunday but it didn't feel like it because our school schedule is so short this coming week. 

December 23, 2004

Yesterday was our last day of school until January 5th!! On Tuesday and Wednesday we got out of school at 11:45. Can we just do that all the time? We’ve actually managed to achieve the Christmas feeling, despite being in Deep South State. Fate has played a role as well; today is rather cloudy. Our Christmas tree, sitting on a landslide of presents, lights up our sitting room. A Christmas CD plays from the living room, and we watch Christmas specials on television. I got everyone cool gifts!

December 22nd was Dad’s forty-first birthday. He had to work on his birthday and I worried that he’d be depressed because of everything. He couldn’t find a decent job anywhere so now he's doing odd things because we, you know, have to have money. I worry about him, though. To cheer him on his birthday, I gave him his George W. Bushisms 2005 Calendar early. He liked it and laughed when he opened it, saying that he’d told Mom to buy me the exact same thing. 

December 24, 2004
Christmas Eve 2004

 It really does feel like Christmas! It’s Christmas Eve and it’s actually quite nice. We’re all very excited about “Santa” coming (Thomas still believes in him) [tell me that's not crazy, readers] and we can’t wait for morning. I’ll write more tomorrow. 

December 28, 2004

Great Grand Ma is dead. Mom and I just visited her on Christmas Day, and she really looked awful. She was so gaunt and pale and couldn't move. Her eyes were wide and confused, and she couldn’t speak or recognize anyone. A death is a death, though. Grand Ma, Grand Pa, and now Great Grand Ma all died this year. I wish everyone would stop dying.

December 29, 2004

Something horrible has happened in Asia. The entire Southeast Asian coast, from India to Thailand, has been hit with tsunamis. Apparently the waves were triggered by underwater earthquakes and now over 100,000 people are dead. I can't even imagine that many people. It doesn't even sound real. They were showing video footage of Indian women, crazed by grief, searching through piles of corpses for their children while shrieking. I hate that sound. I hope I never, ever hear it again. 

On the news they were also talking about these two divers. They went out into the ocean just minutes ahead of the tsunamis, having no idea what was coming. They were underwater when the waves struck, and they held onto rocks and coral to survive. When they emerged through the surface of the water, the coast from which they’d come was gone. What must that have been like?

Great Grand Ma's viewing was this afternoon. I’d never seen a dead body before today. It made my head reel to look at it, because it was just so strange. I kept expecting her eyes to pop open. Her funeral is tomorrow and Powell and I have to help carry the coffin. I’m worried that we’ll drop it. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Birthday Cake for a Birthday Pie


Less than two weeks after Thomas graduated from high school, a certain Dingbat I know celebrated a milestone birthday. Pie turned ten years old today.

In the short term, of course, the birthday doesn't mean much. She still wants to marry Niall Horan (of One Direction fame), she's still obsessed with soccer, she still loves Call of Duty--while I still hate that our parents let her play it--and she still thinks playing reckless games of dodge ball in the living room is the best way to spend her time. She still likes to cuddle with me.

But I've noticed little things, here and there, things that have been in the works for a while but have only now captured my attention. Her height, for one. One day she was this hysterical little midget and the next she moseyed on into the kitchen at nearly five feet tall.

"Der-Der," I said as I knelt before her. "You're taller than me now. When I get down on my knees, you're taller than me."

Her growing stature, combined with a face that is transitioning from adorable to pretty, has given me some startling glimpses of the young woman she'll be. And she'll be beautiful. I don't say that because she's my sister, but because it's true. Pie will be a lovely girl. Is it wrong that that gives me secret relief? Life is so much easier for women who have beauty.



Not that she will particularly need that to fall back on, as the transformations of the last year or so have confirmed what we knew all along: Pie is one smart pastry. I've regaled you before with tales of the disarmingly deep issues she was pondering when she was only seven years old. I ought to have known--and, indeed, I did--that the kind of girl who questioned the nature of mortality in second grade was headed for some good things, cognitively speaking, and along with the subtle changes in her physical appearance have come changes in interest.

One Direction still reigns supreme, but the boxes of Hot Wheels have been replaced with stacks of books (including, to my great delight, the first tome in the Harry Potter series), and the bedtime story requests have gotten a little more complicated.

"Tell me about Rome again," she asked the other night.

"That's a pretty broad subject, Pie."

"About the emperor. The one who fed people to the lions and sat in his palace while the city was on fire."

"Ah. That was Nero."

"And what about the Persians? What about them?"



Her perception, always uncanny, has heightened significantly in the last year and a half. This has had some great benefits; the girl who by nine had developed at least a cursory interest in politics now ignores the Tea Party-inspired racism that she used to imbibe as gospel from her father.

There are, though, as you might imagine, drawbacks as well.

"Thomas is drunk, isn't he?" she asked following an argument between my parents and eighteen-year-old brother.

I looked down into her knowing hazel eyes. She loves me. She trusts me. She doesn't think I'd mislead her.

"No, Pie," I lied. "They just had a dispute. That's all."

She won't believe these deceptions for much longer. I'm trying to be the one she can count on. This influences so many of my decisions; the decision I made recently to pursue other professional avenues (you'll get to hear about that one soon) so that I can help Pie and Thomas if need be; the decision to drink wine in front of her frequently so that she can see an adult responsibly consuming alcohol; the decision to remain calm and fair even when I am angry so that she knows every argument doesn't have to turn into a competition for who can strike the lowest blow.

Tonight I was sitting on her bed, stroking her tired head, thinking that her little-girl years were in essence done.

"I think it's really cool that you turned ten today," I informed her.

She snorted.

"Well, I don't."



"It's a bigger deal than you think. Before, when you were five, you still had little-kid time. But three years from now you'll be thirteen. Five years from now you'll be fifteen. Eight years from now you'll be Thomas's age."

Each year a little bit more grown up, each year a little bit more adult.

"In the next few years you'll get to try new things and discover a lot about yourself. It's a really exciting time. I'm happy for you."

And then, for reasons I could but don't much care to identify, my eyes began to well with tears. And because she hadn't seen, and because I didn't want her to, I stood up, pecked her on the head, and turned to leave.

"Goodnight, Pie. I'll tell you about Caesar tomorrow."

"Okay," she mumbled.



And then I said a quick prayer to a God whose existence I've struggled with for years but whom I have to believe, specifically because of Thomas and Pie, is actually there and actually listening. I'm not stupid, you see. I know that no matter what I do, my efforts to protect them can only cover so many bases, and the idea that the gaps I can't fill would be left to chance is too terrifying for me to accept.

Please keep her safe, I begged. Please. 

I left unspoken the corollary He would have to know was there.

Please be real. Please, please be real.

My sister is a small child no longer, but I don't mourn for that. The whole point of my being there now is to give her the tools she'll need to, one day, stand on her own as a well-equipped adult. And it's happening. At the edges of her still-soft face, I can see the outline of that phenomenal young woman almost ready to emerge. I'm not going to try and block the way. It wouldn't be right.

And besides--I can't wait to meet her.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Step Towards Who He Will Be


It was with a disconcerting sense of normalcy that I hopped into a car with my mother, sister, and grandfather on June 9 and trekked to Mountain Town High School to watch Thomas graduate as a member of the Class of 2013.

I was aware, academically, that he had started high school in only 2009. I was aware as well that he was just embarking on his freshman year when I was already in my early twenties. But somehow the fact that it all happened only a few moments ago made the whole thing seem more mundane. Yes, Thomas was graduating high school. But I suppose he hadn't been there long enough for it to surprise me.


There is no denying, however, that a very real part of our mutual lives has ended. For much of the existence of this blog we were ensconced, he at the secondary and I at the university level, within the cocoon of school. As he embarked on the ordinary revelations of teenhood and I experienced a flowering that I now recognize as a (medically improbable) recovery from serious brain illness, we found ourselves together on a road of roughly equivalent adolescence despite the difference in our ages. He was learning how to be a young man and I was learning how to, well, be. We took each other seriously and understood where the other was. I think it's why we got along so well.


But now the extended childhood is over. For me, that means a welcome step into the adulthood I am finally ready to embrace, into a career and a values system that I hope will define the structure of my life for many years to come. For him, it is an open door whose threshold is shrouded in mist. That mist can be an amazing thing. Some people convert it into a rain of diamonds or a hail of amber, the great opening peal of a joyous song. But it can cripple, too. I've seen young men, like Powell, get lost in it and forget that it's eventually meant to dissipate.

Thomas, for now, is at the beginning of his pseudo-boyhood, and the choices that will define him don't all yet need to be made.

As he begins one part of this journey, I can't help but wonder who he'll be when he comes out on the other side.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Yet Again


The creak on the floorboard had to be deliberate. I know how he operates, you see, and he's made an entire career--if you want to call his macabre diversions a "career"--out of slinking into people's lives and upending everything in ways and at times they least expect. Managing to get into a bedroom undetected wouldn't be above him.

I looked up from the nearly full suitcase and swore.

"What? What? What the hell are you doing here?"

The smile Fate gave me in response was surprisingly complacent given that the last time we encountered one another, two years ago, I'd pushed him from a third-story window.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" he asked with infuriating calm. He folded a woolen garment and dropped it into the open trunk. "I'm helping you pack."

I cursed again.

"I should have known you were behind this. I should have known. You're always trying to pull this kind of stuff."

"As always, a pleasure to see you, too," he deadpanned, his English aristocrat's voice going drier than should have been possible. "And it's not as if I tried to orchestrate some grand scheme to keep you in the dark or anything. I mean, really, it's my city. My name is in the title. Did you ever think there was a reason it was called the City of Fate as opposed to say, maybe, the City of Zucchini?"

"You know what, don't," I snapped. "And while we're talking about things that should make sense, how is it that the City of Fate is here but that you have that ridiculous British accent?"

His hands momentarily stopped assaulting my favorite sweater.

"I mean, other than to sound mysterious or something?"

He rolled his eyes and readjusted his professorial paunch.

"You see me as you are conditioned to see me," he lectured. "Which means that the accent is more your doing than mine."

"Sure it is."

My grandmother's humming drifted in from the next room, prompting me to adopt a fierce whisper. "And keep your voice down."

His mouth opened and shut.

"You hurled me from a window fifty feet in the air and I floated off. I promise you, I'm quite capable of ensuring we're not overheard through the door or something equally melodramatic."

"Because you're never melodramatic," I shot, then barreled through before he could reply. "So, what are you here for? Car accident, train crash? Asteroid, maybe?"

"No," he smiled and chomped on an almond bar, which I noted with irritation he'd somehow managed to nick from my grandmother's pantry. "Just a part of your journey, and one I care to observe."

"Like, what, are you taking the train with me?"

"You don't have to see me for me to see you, BB."

"The fact that you just said that makes you creepier than you were before. And that's saying something. Have you morphed into a supernatural peeping tom since I tried to turn you into roadkill?"

"I like to think of myself as more of an engineer," he waxed philosophical. "Or perhaps, I don't know, the HR person of the universe."

"Awesome. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm only going up for a week."

He grinned in a way that made my stomach sink.

"Certainly."

"Look, I'm coming back after five days and staying back, and you just need to accept that," I declared.

"I just need to accept it?" he threw his head of thin grey curls back and had the indecency to laugh. "It's the City of Fate. It's my city. You think I don't know what goes on in it? Or what will go on? You're tied to that place, and, what's more, complicit in the tying. No one made you choose the career path you did."

I glared at him.

"I can find a way around this."

"Like hell you can," he dismissed with a wave of his hand. "Your life will always be inextricably tied with that city, whether you want it to be or not, and the sooner you accept it the better off you'll be."

I crossed my arms over my chest.

"I'm not conceding that."

"You don't have to," he countered with a nod of his head before he strode across the room. "Looking forward to your visit."

Then he propped himself up into the window--"for old time's sake," he noted with a cheerful wiggle of his eyebrows--and was out into the morning sunshine before I could object any further.

I spent the next few days enjoying crab cakes and too much coffee, trying to pretend the encounter in the bedroom hadn't bothered me. But of course it had. And the long train ride up the eastern seaboard was not made any better by the knowledge that each mile of countryside flying by put me a little bit closer to that charlatan's cave.

The sun itself seemed to gloat when I finally stepped off the platform that Monday morning.


"Damn it, New York," I grumbled. "Damn it."

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Surreal Reality


On May 12, 2013, my brother Thomas turned eighteen years old. Throughout the life of this blog you have known him as a young middle school and then a young high school student, an adorable adolescent whose thirst for exploration and penchant for goofiness so well complemented my own.

Indeed, during the majority of my blogging years, a period that coincided with his mid teens and my early twenties, we were more companions then we were mentor and student. During blizzards snowed in (when we indulged in life-threatening hot tub dips) and summer days spent at mountaintop resorts, we found ourselves comrades in tomfoolery. In many ways our childhoods coincided.

 
From about 2008, when we went from being enemies to being allies, I spent a great deal of time attempting to positively influence him, wondering always at what kind of man he would become. Now, seemingly a moment after he began high school as a rosy-cheeked fourteen-year-old in the fall of 2009, the manhood on which I so long meditated has arrived.

"It's crazy," he told me several nights ago. "It's just really hitting me. I can get in big-boy trouble now."

I glanced across our porch at the teenager whose shoulders were suddenly broad, whose skin was suddenly tanned, whose newly brown hair--which turned from blonde when he was about fifteen--framed a face sporting nearly black sideburns.

"You can do big-boy things, too," I said. "You can vote. You can own property. You can have your own bank accounts. You can move out."

I flashed back to a conversation he and I had had some time near the summer of 2009, when Thomas was contemplating the commencement of high school.

"I hate growing up," he'd said.  "It means I have to do things on my own, like go to college and stuff." 

"Thomas," I said. "You're thirteen. That is so far away for you. You're not even going to be a senior in high school for five years." 

"Four and a half," he corrected me. 


"Same thing," I said. "Look, enjoy being thirteen." 


"I know," he said. "'Cause when I get older I'll have to deal with a lot." 


"But enjoy being fourteen, too." 


"Yeah," he agreed adamantly, not quite understanding what I was saying. "I know."


"And fifteen. And sixteen. And seventeen. And eighteen. And on and on and on. Thomas, there's good and bad things about every age." 


Five years later, he laughed over a glass of wine. 

"I remember being a freshman and thinking that by the time I was eighteen I'd be so grown up and serious," he said. "But I'm still a giant idiot. I'm still such a kid."

"Welcome to my world."




This eighteen-year-old boy (whom I've agreed to call "medium-sized child" instead of "small child" in light of his recent birthday) will begin community college in the fall and is planning on spending the summer following his approaching graduation doing work for my father's company. I am optimistic about the balanced, intelligent person he's become, though I have understandable worries about his trajectory given the questionable path taken by our brother Powell.

"You know, I used to be so committed to the idea of taking a semester off after high school," Thomas reflected  as we sat out front. "I thought, you spend twelve years in school, then four in college, then the rest of your life working. I wanted a break. But I know how I am; one semester could become two, then three, then four. And then all this time passes and you just haven't done anything. Like Powell."

Maybe my fears are unfounded.

But I will, whatever my brother's future brings, remain available to him as a friend and guide, to whatever degree he wants me. Thomas's childhood is over. The extent to which he decides to include me now depends, I suppose, on how well I did my job when he still needed me to do it.