Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Yields to Autumn

It hasn't happened yet. Not really. But in spirit, summer passed away this morning and yielded to cold winds that are as yet metaphorical. August 24 marked, after all, the start of the school year.

This has always been a season replete with deeper meaning for me. Fall has been the time when I've seen not death and decay but magic blooming from scarlet trees, winter the time when I've seen not desolation but white-cloaked sleep, a welcome occasion to regroup from the stresses of life. A time somehow apart from time. When the skies fade to grey and the air bites with frost, I make my home a fortress and survey the world from atop its battlements. Strange as it seems, those months of withdrawal are always when I feel richest and most complete, most disconnected from the rest of humanity but most able to let select facets of it in more deeply. It might have something to do with the fact that my personal deliverance, when I was thirteen, came in the dead of winter. It might be genetic memory (I am, after all, a Swede by extraction). It might be some primeval vestige left over from a happy childhood day long forgotten. Whatever it is, I've been this way as long as I can remember.

So the start of the colder months is something I welcome. Winter is my time to plan and regenerate. In the summers I execute, but many of the great ideas come when I'm holed away.

Today is, of course, August 24, a date to which history attaches great significance. It was on this day in AD 410, 1,605 years ago, that Rome fell for the first time in eight centuries to an enemy army. The empire had been weakening for some time, of course, and its decay was no secret to contemporaries, but August 24 shrieked to a shocked world that one era had died and another begun. Rome, the Eternal City, was eternal no more. The greatest power of the world, the queen of Europe, was merely another city to be sacked, and as such was neither a great power nor a queen after a millennium of being both. What followed, sixty-six years later, was confirmation of what the flames of August had first proclaimed: Romulus Augustulus, the last ruler of the Western Empire, abdicated his throne on September 4, AD 476, and the pathetic fiction of Roman hegemony fell alongside the Roman state itself.

Those two dates, August 24 and September 4, marked the end of the long Roman summer and the beginning of the desolate winter known as the Dark Ages, in whose howling blizzards would perish generation after generation in blackness. The impermeable night was broken only a thousand years later, in 1453, with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. That event is taken by historians to delineate the commencement of the Renaissance--on May 29. Glorious rebirth. Spring.

Just now, though, the days grow shorter and the afternoon skies slowly shift from periwinkle to navy. And with the metamorphosis from summer to fall comes another that is long overdue: my name. You know me and will always know me as BB, first BlackenedBoy then BrightenedBoy (it can be argued that 19-year-old BB should have chosen a pseudonym that would age better), but the rest of the world has known me these last twenty-seven years by the name my father selected in 1987. A little-known fact is that my mother Anne, though woefully inadequate by all other measures, had the good sense to pick for me a name from Antiquity.

"I wanted to name you Your-Soon-to-Be-Name, after this Roman senator [who was by and large a horrific person but had a single redeeming quality I can't reveal without giving away his identity], but your father overruled me. He heard Your Current Name on a sitcom that was popular back in the '80s."

That's right. Anne wished to give me a name that had lasted for several millennia. David chose one that was in vogue for several months. This has been common knowledge for some time, and David freely admits the facts of the situation while completely missing the horrible light in which they paint him. No matter. I've always been able to see he's an idiot, even if he hasn't.

So on August 21, I went to the courthouse in my locality and filed the paperwork that, in about a month's time, will result in my name being legally changed to what my mother intended all those years ago.

"My father has made so many bad decisions, many of them involving me, and I just thought, 'Why should his stupidity mark me for the rest of my life?'"

"No, you're right," said Black Dress Girl, who also legally changed her name for similar reasons and after an extended period of contemplation. "It's your life. It should be the way you want it to be. Your father was always trying to make you into something you weren't."

And damn it, Anne may be a sociopathic narcissist with a penchant for outrageous lying and a slim grip on reality, but she really nailed it with that name. It just fits me to a tee. So while the fact that my mother intended this for me legitimizes the whole business, in a very real way the decision has nothing to do with her. She picked the name, but doesn't define it. She chose it, but doesn't own it. It was just always meant to be.

This will be my last fall semester--as a student--for several years, until about 2020 or so, when I am tentatively slated to begin my second master's degree, that one in Russian studies. In less than a year I will, at long last, be gone from this house, starting new under the name that should always have been mine and, finally, as my own person. No David or Marie attached. No one else's money to keep me afloat or house to keep me warm. Just me. Just BB. And hopefully, after a while, I'll have a partner to share that with. Then it'll be just us.

For now, though, I simply await the winds of fall, and give thanks for whatever God brings with them.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Nights

The nights are the worst
When doubt and terror tiptoe in equal measure
Alighting their razored feet upon the grooves of my ripped soul

When there rises a wall so high and so treacherous
I'm sure neither of us can breach it
Me to reach your love
You to show me a way out of the blackness

The nights are the worst
When the unwept tears carry searing questions:
How did this happen? How does a person go this wrong? Can you ever come back into sunlight after you dive into a serpent's throat?

The nights are the worst
When my heart quakes with the fear that forgotten terrors
Are lurking in the corners of my mind
Just hidden by the shadows of the ones I can remember

Of sickness and pain
Inadequacy and fear
Blood on white fingers
A child who carried the blame for grown-up evils

The hoarse voice that called me that flaming word
That laughed at my tears
The leather crack that made my eight-year-old skin scream
The spit that bathed my little boy face in hatred

The wall that knocked more air out of me than his hands
Anger welting on my back
Dignity dripping down my leg
A message festering in my mind

Wails of anguish
Then and now
The horror that shrieks with them

Unloved once, so unloved forever
Not right once, so not right forever
A ghost once, so a phantom all these dragging years
Somehow always half a person

Somehow always unable to reach you across that awful gulf

I want to give all of me to you
And take all of you in me
But I never learned how to do that
I only learned how not to

I dream of you in moments
Of passion I can't return
Of solace in arms
I'll never let hold me

The nights are the worst
When the only thing that fills me is all I never got to be
And grief at what I'll never become