brief notes on war being the force that gives us meaning.

Moment of vulnerability:

I woke up this morning from a recurring dream I’ve been having for four years now. I hadn’t had it in a few weeks/months and it chose last night to reappear. The dream is usually a bittersweet, yet welcome visitor. In this dream, I get to revisit the single greatest heartbreak of my life.

In dreams we always greet one another warmly. We meet somewhere where we are free from the bottomless wrath and pain we’ve had surrounding one another.  We acknowledge the love and friendship we shared, apologize for the damage we caused one another, and go our separate ways. We never go any deeper than that simple act of peacemaking.  .  We never try and make amends or start over.  We both know some wounds go too deep for that.  We just walk away peaceably.  It’s my favorite worst dream ever.  I used to have it weekly.  It’s down to every few months now.

In the interest of context, four years ago I walked away from one of my best friends.  I will do the reader a favor and spare the details of a tumultuous friendship and it’s subsequent ending.  To say it hurt would be an understatement.  It was that type of heartache where you fear you might never feel like yourself again.  I later likened it to waking up with the emotional equivalent of a kidney stone every day for a year.

The last year of my life has been spent trying to reconcile the ruins of relationships and interpersonal conflict, while also recognizing and reconciling a life that has been largely defined by interpersonal conflict.  I’m fucking exhausted.  I get it.  I’ve been referred to as an incredibly volatile individual time and time again. I never learned how to trust.  I struggle with the belief that love is nothing more than reproduction instinct coupled with lust, and in the end I mostly rely on my tendency to lay complete and utter emotional waste to whatever causes me pain to keep me safe.

Loving freely through layers of trauma and the mean streak my momma left me is the single heaviest burden I have ever been blessed with. It’s going to be my life’s work.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it, especially in the last year, where I’ve had my narrative surrounding people, and whether they are poison are not reinforced again and again.  It turns out people can be poison, myself included. This is why I’ve mostly been a “got no friends, only people I know” kinda guy for so long.

I don’t really know how to close this.  I don’t have any answers, not tonight.  I know how incredibly difficult I can be. If you are a person I’ve hurt, or I’ve hurt someone you care about, I’m doing the best I can at working on it, okay? ❤

 

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brief notes on war being the force that gives us meaning.

Dear Talya.

It’s that time of year again, where I write about you, or write to you.  Four years ago tonight you texted me, late at night.  I didn’t answer until the next day.  By then it was too late.  I hope you at least read the reply before you went.

I still have two bottles of mead that Roth and I brewed with the last of your honey.  We brewed them in that awful haunted apartment on Grail Street that you and Adrien helped me move into. I’ll never forget the look on your face when we walked through the front door the first day and saw the acid-nightmare graffiti that the hippies who lived there before me left scrawled all over the walls.

“We need to paint all over this shit before it comes to life at night and eats you.”

We all laughed.  It was funny in that “Maybe it can’t get any worse than this” way.  There were a few months in that apartment that were alright.  I liked living alone there.  Some days I hid too much.  Some nights I was really good at keeping myself occupied.

It was sweet when Molly moved in too.  You only came over once more because the place was so creepy.  I always look at that summer now in that like they were the last few good months we had before you died.    You know how it is, when you end up dividing time in that before and after a person died way.  Everything before they died just looks pristine and feels light, even if that wasn’t actually the case.

I felt haunted by the spectre of your death and it’s aftershocks for a full year.  It manifested it self physically and I had to leave North Carolina.  When I left  North Carolina, the mead continued to ferment with Roth in the home they took me into when I got too sick to stay at Grail Street.  I came back a year later and we bottled and labeled it.  Then we spent the night we creeping around town like nocturnal fairies in the late night heat, delivering the bottles to your friends and loved ones.  I think you would have appreciated the design.  There was a lot of glitter.

I still have mine.  I haven’t drank them yet.  Whatever broke in my heart and brain in the aftermath of your passing still won’t allow me to drink alcohol, despite the fact that I maybe stayed drunk for an almost heroic three days straight in the immediate aftermath of your passing.  Now I just can’t do it.  I’ll start to feel sick and dump the rest of my bottle out.  Even last summer, I tried to drink a bottle of hard cider on the banks of the French Broad with Ed.  One of my favorite places, with a person I cherish.  I took two sips and felt nauseous.  I dumped the rest of the bottle into the the rushing water, thinking of it as an offering, and feeling comfort in the thought of all rivers leading to the Ocean.

Or worse, when the alcohol hits my bloodstream and I start to feel that sinking terror that I felt in the aftermath of your passing.  You know that gnawing, deep dark existential terror we all feel at some point.  We stare into nothing and worry that maybe just maybe, we live our lives for nothing, suffer, and then go into oblivion at the end.  There is nothing else.  No rhyme or reason, just chaos, violence, and darkness.  That feeling happened a lot after you died.

The winter after you died Adrien and I had an end of the world party for ourselves on December 21st, 2012. You know, the night all these annoying ass new age crackers were telling us that the Mayans said the world was gonna end, or change, or whatever.  It seemed like nobody could really decide which.  I wasn’t sure if I cared.  I just knew I was in pain a lot of the time and I hated everything.

We sat in my room on Grail Street.  I was cleaning.  Cobwebs lined the corners of my room.  I didn’t knock them down.  I thought of spiders as company.  I put things that had belonged to the boyfriend in boxes to throw out.  You had lived with him when you passed away.  We broke up shortly after your death.  It wasn’t sad.  I was just ready for something else, and clawing to get away from him.

After that, then I read the runes.  I can’t remember what they said.  I only remember that it was no comfort.  It thought back to a few months before you died in the summer.  The day was too hot.  You were crying alone in your room.  I had never heard anyone be in such pain.  I asked the boyfriend if he thought we should go comfort you.

“She’s fine.  She just does this sometimes.  I’ll check on her later”  He said indifferently.

I had to leave because it was too agonizing to hear you hurting so much.  I will probably regret not saying anything, or at least offering to bring you snacks, water, just fucking anything for the rest of my life.  I thought about that day, and told Adrien I’d be right back.  I took the boyfriend’s stuff out to the curb and threw it unceremoniously into the garbage.

Adrien sat in my bed drinking beers.  As if he could tell what I was thinking, he mentioned you.  Of course.  It had only been maybe four months at that point.  We talked about you a lot.  All of us did.  I’d like to think that you could somehow see how utterly beloved you were.  I mean, seriously..  People were literally painting the town with your name.  I also think you might have been embarrassed.  I don’t know.  Adrien was so sweet and assured me that they didn’t believe in oblivion, and that you were finally safe.

I just didn’t know.  I just didn’t know anything except I missed you and you were gone.  The nagging feeling that you had gone into oblivion just wouldn’t subside.

That darkness and emptiness swirled around the apartment all winter.  We saw ghosts, but they were all scary, and none of them were you.  Maybe you were just so ready to leave earth.  I never really blamed you.  And who would wanna spend the afterlife visiting the fucking Grail Street apartments, anyway?  Sometimes I worry that I spent so much time being miserable in that building that my spirit is just going to gravitate back there when my time is up.  Don’t worry.  I’m doing everything I can to avoid that outcome.

That last summer in Asheville, mold sick and more depressed than I had ever been, I’d think I heard voices in both my waking hours and my dreams.  I never knew if I was hearing an actual malevolent force, or if I just had to personify something that took you.

I got too sick and lost too much of my mind to stay at Grail Street.  I moved in with Roth.  Sometimes the voices and the panic would come to me there at night.  I would lie in bed and claw at a now irregularly beating heart and pray for it to just beat right again.  Some nights it just wouldn’t stop raining.  The terror would get to be too much and I would lace up my boots in the night and speed over to Ed’s house to hyperventilate in their bed until daylight crept through the blinds.  We were both terrified that my heart would somehow stop and death would come for me as I slept.

When I did sleep, I started to sleep with a loaded gun under the bed.  I kept a baseball bat in the passenger seat of my truck.  I would walk through downtown like a ghost haunting myself; eyes to the ground, fists clenching and unclenching.  It was time to move on.  It’s not that you were Asheville, but the pall your death cast across everyone I knew became to consuming to stay.

It took two full years of you being gone and a move across the country to feel any sense of lightness about you.  Rachel, C-80 and I climbed a mountain on the anniversary of the day you left.  We got to the peak late in the afternoon.  You cold see for miles around.  I whispered hello to you, and I told you how much I had loved you.

And that it was nice to see you again.

Maybe it took going to a place that was just too beautiful for words to feel like there had been anything else but pain and death for all of us.

And I hope you could see it.  I really do.  Because places this beautiful deserve to be shared with the people you love.  And goddamn, were you ever loved.  Not just by me, but by everyone who encountered you.  Nobody had a bad thing to say about you.  That’s a rarity in something as viciously petty and rife with shit talking as the radical queer community.

Every year, I write about you or I write to you.  I post the same haunting photo of you.  This year won’t be any different.  I’m not ready to drink your mead yet.  Maybe I’ll give it another six years.  In 2022, it will have been ten years since you left.  You’d be turning 38. I’ll be 41.  If you were alive today, you’d be turning 32 this year.  I still don’t resent you for choosing to go.  I say it every year.  Your death and it’s aftermath devastated me in a way that was almost awe inspiring.  It broke me down and left me in pieces in a moldy room.

It broke everyone.

The only choice as to forge ahead through the ruins and reconstruct ourselves into newer and better people.  We’ve all got to do that work for the rest of our lives.  I know my works in that realm are far from complete.  If anything was to be gained at all in the aftermath of your death at all, it’s to be inspired by the level of kindness, deep love, and humor you brought to your friends.

I hope to one day be able to bring even a fraction of the kindness and light to those I love that you showed everyone around you.

It hurts to become.  It hurts to outgrow.  It hurts to grow back.

Losing you wasn’t worth it.

 

that picture of Talya
Talya Shira Mazuz

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Dear Talya.

Downpour and Drought.

You were not the first person I ever loved
Even though I always say how
Love is just another word people say
Spoken too lightly, spoken too often, and too soon
And how love is just a word that I cannot bring myself to say

But I loved you, and how when you walked into a room
All the pressure would drop right out of
My stomach and into a pile of nerves on the floor
Just like the pressure drop in the air filling this town
The moment before a summer storm

You once told me something like I was ice water roaring
Down a mountain, and you were my gorge
I wish I had told you how you were the downpour
Drenching my years of dry rot and drought
And every tender moment that I forced myself to do without

You loved me as you found me, overdosing on darkness
Choking on the very moment when forever came crashing in
When all hell came home to call
Loosing every last demon, pushing through tired skin
Pressing lifeless lips to taste anxiety’s biter kiss

In all that years after this one:

I will mourn neither one of us learning a thing

About how to be gentle, or how to keep loving
When all the weight of distrust and trauma
Sets in, and leaden absences send us sinking
All hands on deck, straight to the bottom

It’s a short story, with a dismal ending
The same tired tale told again and again
Growing even more worn with each telling
Written on repeat, until the ink runs out of our pens
Longing for how we could have been everything

Instead of all this time wasted
Lives short lived, and far too full of bitterness
Our years spent in silent regret
Because we never learned a thing about gentleness
And filled our listless lives with beautiful broken things instead

Downpour and Drought.

Written in a cemetery in Olympia, Washington while wishing a I was in a cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina.

Bone orchards dressed in rain
Putting pen to page
To paint portraits of our pain
Shadows fall across my splintered sight
Memories draped in Plain
Dressed in monochrome light
Awake to greet the gray

This place imitates
The threads of home
That we wove
Bruised and breathing bodies long

For bone orchards drenched in moss
Illuminated by a hanging moon
And the fires we forged
Through love and loss

Reaching for reasons
For where it all went wrong
All the masks are slipping now
Oceans rise and cough
As we pull off our skin
To make frenzied love
In our bones

Beneath the blood
Believed in the blood
Comingling as one
Under the eyes of the moon
Before it dried to rust
Before our promises
Crumbled to dust

All the stars breathing cold light
All the dreams that died tonight

Written in a cemetery in Olympia, Washington while wishing a I was in a cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina.

Two Drug Stories.

Hello!  I haven’t updated this thing in a while.  I’ve been busy working on a project I’m super excited about.  I’m going to share a piece of it publicly here for the first time.  I’d love feedback if you have time.

The following related stories are from a larger piece I’m working on detailing my time as a miscreant, maladjusted punk rocker in Rural Pennsylvania twenty years ago.  I completed this chapter today.  This is a first draft.  I have done little to no editing work.  All names have been redacted to protect the guilty who are no doubt all grown up and embarrassed by what I remember.  Enjoy!

 Drug Story One:

I can’t remember when the decision to stop smoking weed and drinking was.  I think it had been a gradual process as spring bloomed into being that year.  We had dabbled that winter, and I had a hard time saying no to things, but over time I think I just discovered straight edge and lost interest.  The last sip of alcohol I had was some warm beer we had found stashed in the trunk of the Cordoba the day _____ bought it.

There had been some funny times though.  Like when _____’s parents and my mom had all gone out of town on separate trips Valentine’s Day weekend, essentially leaving teenage lunatics in charge of the asylum.  ______, ____, ___ and I had spent Friday night mixing “just a bit” from each liquor bottle in my mom’s liquor cabinet getting wasted and talking to my dead dad with a Ouija board, and then _____and ____ had stolen _____’s dad’s car to pick me up and cruise on Saturday night.

I was already drunk when they picked me up.  Saturday had just emptily crawled by, filled with nothing much but an early winter sunset and long night to look forward to.  _____ had come over to hang out.  We decided to get drunk almost as soon as it was dark.  We would spend the night at _____’s parent’s house.  _____ and _____ planned to stay up all night on acid.  I was afraid of doing acid, but they assured me there was more alcohol to be had over there.  Good.  I was worried about my mom noticing how much we had stolen Friday anyway.

The weekend culminated in us staying up all night on Saturday, all fucked up and laughing at nothing in particular in an empty bathtub.  _____ and _____ dropped their acid.  I drank southern comfort from straight from the bottle.  We listened to The Misfits Collection I all night.  Somewhere in the empty wastes of a Southern York County landfill, a video tape of our night may or may not exist.  _____had found a camcorder somewhere, and wanted to document our misdeeds for the night.

Near four AM, I crawled down to ____’s basement room to pass out.  I was awoken a few hours later by hysterical laughter and moaning.  In my stupor, I could not figure out the source of the moaning.  When I had fallen asleep, only ____ and ____ were present in the house.  How the fuck had an orgy been initiated in the few hours I had been unconscious?  I was so confused.

I had passed out with my boots on and everything.  I groggily stomped up the stairs to see a hilarious sight:  ____ and ____ had raided ____’s parent’s room and found his dad’s VHS collection of pornography.  They had a movie on the TV in the living room.  The actors were vigorously penetrating one another and moaning fakely for the cameras.

In the neon nocturnal glow of the television, there were ____ and ____, high as shit on acid, and laughing.  They were sitting two feet away from the television tops.  Messily devouring leftover pizza, they had smeared tomato sauce all over their faces.  In with the combination of my blurry vision, and the glow of the television, the sauce eerily resembled blood.  The camcorder was set up on a tripod behind them, and they were still filming.  The scene was completely surreal.

“Y’all.  The sun is going to be up soon.  My mom gets home this afternoon.  We trashed my house Friday.  I need to get home and sober up and clean.”  I said.

____ insisted on driving his parent’s car.  ____ asked if it wouldn’t be better if he drove, considering he had only been up on acid, not acid and drinking combined.  ___ also insisted that he had mostly come down from his trip.  ___ wouldn’t hear it.

The sky was beginning to lighten as we crawled down the driveway in the cold.  ___ asked one more time if he shouldn’t drive.  ____ shrugged it off.  I was in the front seat with the camcorder, recording our drive for posterity.  Who the fuck is dumb enough to record their crimes anyway?

A four three way stop lay at the bottom of the hill.  The street we were on intersected with another street.  Ahead of us was a cornfield that lay fallow.  ____ showed no signs of slowing down as the intersection barreled towards us.

“____!  STOP!” ____ and I both yelled in unison.

He didn’t stop.  He plowed through the intersection without even slowing down.  As we blew through the stop sign, I looked over at ____ in the driver’s seat.  His head was bobbing loosely on his neck like a doll.  I wasn’t even sure if the severity of our predicament registered for him.

And I laughed.  I laughed and laughed with teenage death urge glee as ____ completely lost control of the car.  We launched over a pile of snow pushed to the side of the road by a snowplow from a recent storm.  I was still laughing when the car momentarily took flight.  All four wheels met the frozen ground of the field, and the car began to spin.  I kept laughing when we came to a stop directly between two telephone poles.  A few feet to the left or the right would have spelled varying degrees of disaster for all three of us, but we were lucky. The air was still and silent.

____just turned to ____ and said “Okay.  Fine. You drive.”

I suppose dying in a drunk driving accident two weeks after my fifteenth birthday is one of a thousand early deaths I could have gone to, but never did.  I’d like to think my survival, really the survival of so many of my friends was due to a small amount of self-preservation, and maybe some supernatural guardianship, rather than sheer idiot luck.

Drug Story Two:

 The first time I got high.  It was that same winter, maybe a few weeks after ____, ____ and I nearly met our doom.  ____’s little brother ___ and I are smoking weed in his room.  He has crudely constructed a bowl out of a sprite can, using a safety pin to poke holes in the side.  To add to the sheer idiocy of this scene, we are using a zippo to ignite our buds.  My lungs burn as I inhale copious amounts of weed smoke and butane.

Blowing smoke out the window, I realize I am totally baked.  ____ is ecstatic at this.  He wants to celebrate by going outside and “walking around”.  Even in my state, I know what this will consist of.  There is so goddamn little to do in this town, that “walking around” is really just code for walking to the McDonalds a few blocks away and seeing if anyone we know is there.

This walk is precisely what we do.  We walk east on Forest Avenue, very slowly and giddily.  We cut across Main Street, and behind the churches that line it, and into the cemetery.  The walk seems to take forever, and I don’t notice the cold.  I do notice that I have to think very hard about order which to put my feet on the ground though.

“Left foot, right foot.”  I think hazily.

“Just imagine you are seeing your favorite band right now.  It can be anyone.” ____ interrupts my concentration.

We’re nearing the hole in the fence behind the cemetery and I immediately envision myself seeing the Dead Kennedys fifteen years earlier.  I imagine myself in the swirling crowd.  I imagine the hopeful and angry faces of the punks that came before me.  I picture Jello Biafra jumping into the crowd to sing from the fray.

“Dude.  We were born too late.” Is all I manage to mutter to Adam.

The scene at McDonalds is totally dead.  We run into two casual acquaintances and I can’t follow our conversation.  One offers me a bite of her ice cream cone.  I decline.  I want to leave.  The air smells too greasy and it’s stuffy in here.  I can’t understand why ___ would want to be inside anything, let alone this paean to homogenized corporate monoculture.  None of this translates to anything aside form “Let’s just go home and eat hotpockets” though.

We go outside, and there are some jocks we vaguely know congregated outside of a pick-up truck.  They glare at us.  We look at them and try and walk past.  Right as we get to the hole in the fence, one of them aims a laser pointer at us and yells “We’re gonna shoot you, you fucking faggots!”.

Laser pointers had just began to come into prominence.  I hadn’t really seen them outside of movies where they acted as the sights for firearms.  It didn’t seem inconceivable that these redneck jocks might have a firearm with them.  All of these thoughts seemed to come slowly, and were their urgency seemed amplified by how high we were.  Before I knew it, I was ducking through the hole in the fence, and running.  Adam followed suit quickly.

We ran across the cemetery, occasionally ducking behind gravestones if we saw headlights crossing Highland Drive.  It made sense that the jocks might have jumped into their trucks, made a left on Forest Avenue and another left up Highland if they were truly dedicated to fucking with us (at best) or murdering us (at worst).  Most likely, they laughed at the sight of us running away, and went back into McDonalds and ordered shitty food.

That would have been the most rational line of thought.  Too bad drugs don’t always make you rational.

We waited until we were sure we didn’t see any headlights coming, and made a beeline for the church on the other side of Highland Avenue.  We ran towards the church hall, where I had been to one of my first punk shows a few years earlier.  We hid behind a wall for a while, completely convinced that we heard cars full of angry jocks circling the block looking for us.

We then made a break for Main Street.  Adam was sure that every car we saw was full of the same illusory, menacing jocks.  We made a dash across Main Street, and onto Railroad Avenue.  This was a relatively quiet side street.  The jocks wouldn’t think to look for us here.  Just a block or two to cross, and we’d be on our way towards Forest Avenue, and ___’s house, safe from all jocks, and other unfriendly faces.

Of course, the block we had to cross seemed like it was miles long.  We saw headlights creeping up behind us, and dove for the bushes in a field.  The car passed without even slowing down.  It didn’t matter.  It could have been the jocks.  It could have been anyone.  ____ was breathing heavily next to me.  Somehow a single isolated interaction with some assholes in a McDonalds Parking lot had escalated in our minds to the entire town being out to get us, and ____ and I having to cross miles of hostile territory to reach the sanctuary of his house.

We made it to the corner ___ lived on.  Finally.  The whole ordeal had seemed like it took hours out of our night.  There was a light on in the house.  It looked like ____’s dad might be up and tooling around downstairs.

“Wait!  We can’t go in yet.  My dad will realized we’re stoned!”

Fuck.  ____ was right.  His dad was an old hippie.  He’d be able to spot how high we were from across the room.  We’d be in deep shit then, for sure.  He would call my mom and tell her.  She’d never forgive me.  We decided our only course of action would be to run across Forest Avenue and hide in the park for a while.  We’d wait it out until ____’s dad either fell asleep, or we were just less high.  Still convinced the jocks were looking for us, we hid out in the dugout of the baseball field for another hour or so before walking home.

The best part of this story?  When we were hiding from cars in an empty field along Railroad Avenue, we were directly across the street from the police station.  It was closed, of course, considering it was after nine PM.  Had it been open, though…  All the cops would have had to do would be to look out their window and they’d see two paranoid idiots with blue hair, high as a goddamn kite, and hiding from cars full of imaginary jocks in the bushes.  ____ still had a bag of weed on him.  He might have even had our homemade soda can piece too.  The cops would have had an easy bust, but they missed it.

Two Drug Stories.