Carousel Man

I’m alone.

No amount of patience or poise or panic can alter that fact. I’m exhausted from the fight and I’ve begun to understand how life can simply grind a man down. I’m so utterly dissatisfied with the effort of those around me and often wish that I simply had ten more of myself.

I lead.

I suffer the lumps and swallow the insults. I’m the peacekeeper. I’m the guy who holds chaos at bay. I’m the god damn Rock of Gibraltar. I put that on myself, all of it. I do this because I can carry it. At least, that’s the mantra I chant to an audience of one.

My thoughts are a frenzy of ecstasy and agony, my heart a congealed mess of scar tissue and spit. I have precious little trust to give and what I can muster is routinely blotted by paranoia, insecurity and a fundamental failure of my brain to simply go silent.

No one is coming to save me — not a girl, not a dead loved one, not God. If I could only focus, if I possessed the power to halt the ticking of the clock — well, then I believe I could accomplish something worthy of ink.

The lonliness is destroying me and I can’t manufacture a problem with the mass to keep me distracted. This isn’t a test, it’s torture in slow-motion — like a glacier cleaving the Earth beneath it.

These words are useless.

Words seen by blind eyes and heard by deaf ears.

I can no longer discern between catharsis and confusion. It’s all a blur of color and lies, false promises and abuse.

Sleep, at least there’s sleep.

Blue Orchid

Luna,

I discovered long ago that writing was a catharsis, a source of reflection and renewal.  This is the form in which my thoughts reflect best the very essence of my being. If you care for me — if you love me as you say you do — then understand that the words I write are a piece of my soul and I’ve crafted these words for you alone.

I’m flawed, love. In fact, I’m broken. This is not how I had envisioned my life and I remain in the procees of reconciling my former expectations with what my reality has become. When you and I met, I was dying or perhaps I was already dead. It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise moment of such a fall — it wasn’t sudden or violent — it was a protracted slog that resulted in the accumulation of loss and sorrow, of depression and anxiety, of betrayal and self-doubt.

It was all necessary.

I had to be humbled.

I needed to burn.

It was you who breathed the spark of life back into my spirit, Luna. You provided to me compassion, patience and reassurance. You gazed at me as if I were the kindest and most precious creature you had ever known. I know that it took longer than you had anticipated but I did fall in love with you, hard. I have a chemistry and connection with you that is wholly unique to us. You have accessed parts of me that I’ve never revealed to another.

Do you know why I love you? Although you may be the world’s most striking woman, it’s not solely your physical beauty that has ensnared me. Nor is it credited simply to your intelligence, which is greater than you give yourself credit for and undoubtedly keener than you let on to others. You’re a star, Luna, and that kind of brilliance cannot easily be concealed, not from those of us who bother to search for those most luminous lights.

I love you, Luna, because inside of you is a soul permeated by goodness and innocence. Do you know what I see when I get lost in your eyes? I see the most curious thing — something caught between self-loating and serendipity, a web of hurt and hope. In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed that in exactly one other individual — I see that same signature whenever I peer into a mirror.

You and I may not be the storybook, but I will storm the castle to save you. We may never secure blessings, but I will run roughshod through hell to heal you. You and I have embarked upon an improbable journey inside of an upside down, cartoon world. I want to hold your hand as we fall deeper into the rich colors and absurd physics of this surreal landscape.

I love you, Luna, gently and fiercely.

Beware the Butterbeer Spiked with Veritaserum

I have a confession to make.

I’m a Gryffindor.

Now, with respect to your profession, you may have some thoughts on that yourself. I’ve sometimes wondered if you sort people into Houses as part of your diagnostic process. How could you not, right?

Granted, there’s a case to be made for Slytherin – that is not lost on me – and I think too that there’s even something to be said for Hufflepuff, but what I am not, my friend, is a Ravenclaw. I never quite possessed the discipline for that and as Dumbledore once suggested of Harry, I too display a certain disregard for the rules.

I’m a Gryffindor and my Patronus is a wolf, but when I first walked through those doors nearly three years ago I couldn’t summon that spell. The Dementors who stalked me – grief and anger, anxiety and depression — had drained my soul and stifled my will.

My arrival here was not a decision I made freely, it was, at least in part, made under duress. I had convinced myself of a lie and in doing so had been damned to a half-life. I think I knew that at the time, but coping with that pain seemed preferable to the journey that it would require to navigate the muck and the mire that had swamped my heart and mind. I had convinced myself, Rowena, that I had caged my demons and that would just have to be good enough.

Furthermore, I didn’t believe that anybody could tell me anything about myself that I didn’t already know. But the reality was that I had not caged my demons; I had merely chained myself to them. The unknown element in all of this was you, of course. I had no way to anticipate or expect your indomitable spirit or your relentless commitment to perspective and positivity. You’re an inspiring human being, Rowena, a genuine source of substance in my life, and I hold you in the highest regard.

On one of my very early visits here, in fact, in may’ve been the first – I saw you. This was before you were assigned as my therapist, before I’d even been made aware of your name. We weren’t introduced, we didn’t speak and it’s not something you’d likely recall. I was seated on one of those awful couches in the dreaded orange room, surrounded as I was by present company, I had begun to think that perhaps I was quite well adjusted and had grossly misjudged the severity of my issues.

Thinking back on it now, I’m amused by how closely the whole mood mirrored that scene from “Trolls” when Branch and Poppy arrived in Bergen Town to witness the downtrodden denizens perform that mournful rendition of the Gorillaz’ “Clint Eastwood.”

But then, as if you were whisked into the scene on the winds of grace, you flooded the room with your signature aura and that brilliant personality as bright as bubblegum. Poppy, in the flesh.

The sudden shift in contrast was as sharp as these things come. It was as if a vibrant, Broadway star armed with jazz hands and dressed in a sequined top hat, feathered boa and fish nets had suddenly been teleported into the smoke-filled, grimy exposition of a monochrome film noir.

As you spoke with a staff member I thought, “What is she doing here?”

The whole episode lasted just a few moments before you turned on your heel to leave, but before you did you looked in my direction and offered a brief smile. You may’ve departed as quickly as you had arrived but in your wake was left the distinct impression of warmth, comprised of equal parts goodness, light and hope.

It’s been a welcome if not unexpected journey thus far, Rowena, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to adequately express my gratitude but I hope that these sentiments will suffice for the time being.

Just as every student ultimately graduates from Hogwarts, I know that the day will come when our sessions together are at an end. And while I hope that day isn’t any time soon, I trust that when the moment does arrive, I’ll wield the wisdom and bear the armor necessary to become the person I was born to be.

I’m not sure where you found it or if perhaps you forged it through your own brand of alchemy, but you’ve held a skeleton key to every chest I ever locked pain inside of, to every doorway behind which I concealed gaping wounds. You made sure that I didn’t have to open them alone. And as the tragedies and heartbreaks piled on, you ensured that I understood the meaning of each and in the process taught me to transform that adversity into the very thing that would heal me. You see, that’s your magic.

It was you who reminded me, time and time again, that the pen is my wand and words, my magic. You know, I think the time has come for Hermione to relinquish a certain title because it’s you, Rowena, who’s the brightest witch of our age.

Merry Christmas, and as always, lumos, my friend.

Phoenix Blood

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I needed to write it regardless. I love you, son. I hope with everything that I am, that you never have to endure the pain and hardship that I have. I’m not naive, I know that you will have your own cross to bear as you grow but the particular demons that have chased your father must stay with me.

I’m flawed, son. I’m flawed and scarred, and I’m not sure in what state I’ll emerge from this inferno. I’ve been burned and branded. These are hard days and long nights. I miss you. I miss your mom. She was my best friend and I lost her.

I spend much of my time alone and in so many ways the things I’ve always feared are the things that I’ve become. Still, I push myself to be better. I refuse to quit because despite this agony of loss and flirtation with self-destruction I still find beauty in this life. I still believe that it’s a life worth living and that will hold true even if I have to shoulder this burden until my dying day.

I draw courage from a lot of sources none greater than you, son. Your eyes shine with a joyful innocence and your smile is a singular ray of hope to which even the most perfect dark must bow. You’re my boy and I’m your father. And just like my dad has persevered through a whole host of ugliness, so too will I — flaws and all.

Enemies have marshaled against me. Sometimes, I catch a wisp of them out of the corner of my eye. They attack when I sleep. I’m assaulted by memories that haunt me, tormented by unanswered questions. They’re a cruel and heartless breed, son.

But just today, a friend told me that I was the brightest diamond in the dirtiest rough. To be that for somebody is powerful. Something of that nature cannot be faked or bought, it’s innate, it’s fundamental to who you are. It’s evidence of an indomitable kindness, it’s a light when all others lights have gone out. And that’s our secret weapon, son — a weapon the shadow cannot comprehend. I may burn in his fire but it’s only to rise from the ash.

We have phoenix blood, son.

We rise.

So remember, when you miss me that I am forever in your heart and you in mine. I carry you with me everywhere I go, my boy. You make me a better person. I will return to you no matter the cost, no matter the distance, no matter the time.

I adore you, son.

Always.

Always, always.

The Purpose of Ophelia

Ophelia,

I hesitate to start this letter because I fear that no words will ever substantially express the feelings in my heart. I hesitate because I know that in writing this letter it means I have let you go. I hesitate because all of this has extracted such a price from me that, at times, I wonder if I will ever truly be free of it.

I loved you.

I loved you, doll.

I have had a full year now to contemplate your betrayal, a full year to process the hurt. I still miss you. I still think of you, often. I long for the intoxicating taste of your lips. I yearn to gaze into your soft, doe eyes. I pine to hear the sound of your inimitable voice. We had a chance at something special, the moment was there. I did my utmost to impress upon you the fierce urgency of the present. You failed to listen.

You set me on fire, Ophelia, and then you left me to burn.

I wonder sometimes if it was all a cruel game or if for a fleeting, beautiful window of time your heart truly belonged to me. I would’ve treasured it, you know? I would’ve protected and honored you. I was already yours. All those dreams we shared were ours to realize. You once told me that two broken people had the power to repair each other and indeed, together, you and I were strengthened.

October was not conceived in jest or born of lust.

Not to me.

That was a piece of my soul.

I will take that to my grave.

You disappointed me, Ophelia. As a friend, as a lover but more than anything else you disappointed me as a human being. You had an opportunity to live as yourself without pretense but instead you acted out of fear, you wrapped yourself in cowardice as if it were a warm blanket. You will never know how crushing it was to witness someone so good willfully choose to be something less.

It is my hope that you one day find the courage to become the person that you were born to be. It is my desire that you come to realize that your purpose lies somewhere between the stardust in your eyes and the song in your heart. This unrequited love has tormented me but I will not allow it to tarnish who I am.  I have stories to write and adventures to chronicle, demons to slay and ghosts to lay to rest. I am worth so much more than the pain you left me with, Ophelia, and I choose to be whole.

Without Context

The following is a collection of things that people have said to me through the course of my life. Some were spoken to me by strangers I met only once while others were said by those that I love. These quotes are comical, heartfelt, whimsical, angry and odd, among other things.

As I am pulling most of these from memory I cannot guarantee a word for word recitation but I strive to preserve the imprint these sentiments left in my heart and on my soul, and I suppose in a way, there’s no more accurate recording than that, is there?

“Don’t you have a pumpkin? You gotta use your pumpkin! Your pumpkin!”

“Oh, are you one of us? A witch?”

“You can’t just keep everything inside. People who do that end up killing themselves!”

“Yeah, ah, I’m not really one of these people that can read.”

“You’re a nut job, man. It’s good having you around here.”

“Seriously, you guys could be doing something more productive than trying on women’s clothing.”

“These mother fuckers better be singing tonight…all of ’em!”

“My heart belongs to you now. Be gentle, it’s fragile.”

Expiration Date

It was hot, my skin was crawling and on the whole my mind was poisoned with the kind of things that make a man wrap his lips around a pistol. This shit sucked. It definitely sucked.

Moments ago I had exited the house for one mundane reason or another, probably merely as an excuse to keep moving. I think part of me thought that if I moved around enough it would stop the incessant feeling of pins and needles bombarding my whole god damn body.

I’m pretty sure the entire exercise was a waste but it did succeed on one front — I had survived the moment and lived to experience the next. Remember, it’s the small things in life. It has to be because for most of us the big things are just one, giant pile of steaming shit.

So yeah, the little things.

I opened the side door to the house, a house that was supposedly contaminated in some fashion or another. How was it contaminated? Hell if I knew, nor did I care. I had come to accept that fifty percent of everything I had ever been told was pure bullshit, another thirty percent was flagrant guesswork and that left fifteen percent that was right only by happenstance and finally five percent that was probably plain old factual, mostly, maybe. How the fuck should I know?

The house seemed fine to my untrained senses and that was good enough for me, besides I was only here to move a couple of items — a favor for a friend. He had insisted on wearing some ridiculous mask that covered the nose and mouth but the humidity made it difficult to breathe through that farcical piece of shit so I tossed it aside, annoyed.

In general I was annoyed with the god-awful, mind-numbing pace of it all. What the fuck was taking him so long? Just what in the hell were we aiming to accomplish today anyway? None of this should be taking so god-damned long. Yet, here we are. Thumbs up asses. An innocent passerby might think we were enjoying this ridiculous charade. Thumbs up asses and all and even being in the know, as I was, I might be inclined to agree with that hypothetical son-of-a-bitch. This shit was moving slower than a glacier and with all the fucking grace of a cripple on ice skates. Fuck.

I was hungry and frustrated and ever the curious type I opened a pantry door to my right and found that it was well stocked with snacks and breakfast food. The house had been vacant for some eight months so naturally I began to check expiration dates. Mind you, those expiration dates weren’t going to single-handedly determine what did and did not go into my mouth. Puh-lease. Expiration dates are suggestions at best, curiosities at worst. No stamped on date was going to tell me what to do. Fuck that.

I greedily jammed my hand into a box of Twinkies that had expired the previous September. I did not hesitate. If post-apocalyptic films have taught me anything it’s that Twinkies and cockroaches can survive damn near anything. What? Oh right, the expiration date was one thing; but there was also the issue of the unknown toxins. Well, fuck those toxins if they even existed and if they did we were about to find out if I was made of hardier stuff. If not then I would die and so be it — law of the jungle mother fuckers.

My teeth sawed through that iconic, yellow sponge cake with zest and that ole boy didn’t taste half bad. It wasn’t good, mind you, but it was edible and that was good enough for me. Most of the fluffy, cream filling seemed to have disappeared probably absorbed into the cake over the months. The end result was a bit dry but I was alive and I did not regret my decision.

I turned the box over and had a laugh at a picture of Twinkie the Kid in his ridiculous cowboy outfit that oozed homoeroticism — this mother fucker was a god damn trailblazer in the world of cartoon mascots. There was a knowing glint in his oversized eyes and why the hell shouldn’t there be? He had won, he was triumphant. Generations of gluttonous American slobs had rammed those soft, cream-filled, yellow phalluses down their gullets and asked for more. Twinkie the Kid didn’t even try to hide the fact that he was a certified rock god of the queer community; dude just strutted his stuff. He even wore a cowboy hat that looked like a mutant penis, the innuendo was obvious.

I swallowed.

I set the box down and turned my attention next to a can of Pringles near the back of the cupboard. I could hear the sound of my friend on the phone coming from the basement. He seemed to be in the midst of some kind of strategy session. Why the fuck weren’t we just moving this shit anyway? For a guy so concerned about invisible noxious fumes, he sure as hell was taking his sweet ass time.

Pizza-flavored Pringles, perfect. As an added bonus the expiration date had just passed days before. Emboldened by my success with the long-expired Twinkie, I greedily shoved a pair of chips into my gaping maw. The Pringles were not only stale but held a hint of moisture. I darted out the side door of the house once more and spat profusely. Fucking disgusting. I told you expiration dates are bullshit.

Still hungry and now pissed off from the Pringles set-back I struck back at the cupboard and eyed a clear, plastic container of Fruity Pebbles, the cat’s ass of cereals. I removed it from the shelf, opened the lid and took a sniff. It smelled fine. I lowered my hand into the container and lifted a handful to my waiting mouth. It tasted fine too.

I plopped down on some stairs because why the fuck not? After a few handfuls of multi-colored goodness my friend appeared at the base of the stairs and being to recite his plan to me for what seemed to be the 87th time that day. I just smiled at him as if I had a sweet secret. I did not, but I did have that fucking cereal and it was pretty satisfying.

Suddenly, his face contorted and he craned his neck like one of those velociraptors from Jurassic Park. I shit you not. A velociraptor. I chomped another fistful of the Fruity Pebbles and it was all I could do not to laugh at the incredulous look upon his face.

“You’re not…eating those things…are you?”

The fuck did he think I was doing? Giving the little bastards a tongue bath? Of course I was fucking eating those things. I was definitely eating those things.

“Yeah,” I replied.

Some how, his face contorted further. Now he looked like the world’s most curious velociraptor.

“Do you know how long that stuff has been in there?”

The fuck?! Yeah, I had put that together through mother fucking context clues. It was like the guy didn’t know me at all. Now he was just annoying me with these dumb ass questions and I wasn’t going to stop eating those Fruity Pebbles, tainted or not. Besides, the mystery gas or whatever the fuck had rendered this house inhabitable hadn’t gotten us yet.

“I took a gander,” I said dismissively before plowing another handful into my mouth. He stared at me perplexed and then I laughed like a self-satisfied madman. A fruity pebble or two may have fallen from my mouth.

Maybe the fumes were starting to get to me.

Fuck it.

I regret nothing.