Porch Light & Invisibility.

I just don’t get it.

Some days, it’s like I’m a porch light on a cool, summer evening attracting every phototactic insect in my vicinity. It seems I can’t get a moment of peace. People don’t get the hint and they’ll keep talking to me, keep venting, keep spilling, sometimes following me around everywhere — even the fucking bathroom. I try to hide, but someone always finds me, like I’m sending out some psychic beacon.

Other days, it’s the polar opposite. As hard as I try, I can’t get anyone’s attention. It’s like I’m fucking invisible. It makes me want to scream in their faces.

Depression and frustration plague me on invisible days; anger and anxiety when I’m a porch light.

I prefer the middle road, and I suppose that happens often enough, but why is it Others seem to react to me as if they were a joint psychic entity?

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Of Fish & Firstborn Sons.

“Maybe you’ll stand. Maybe you’ll give and break to find another way and make things better. Maybe you’ll find a life you can live and learn to love along the way.”
Isolation, Alter Bridge.

Though Moe and I had planned on it during my vacation the week before, there was a miscommunication, so we elected to go kayaking and fishing the following Friday. I had literally been talking about kayaking again for years, eager to feel that sort of energetic peace I get when around bodies of water in general and eager to kayak specifically, and finally I was going to follow through. Moe had offered that we fish, too, and despite not having fished for some time and my unexplained disgust and refusal to eat anything aquatic, that sounded appealing as well.

So that Friday I got up early, went through my often enduring waking up process, and headed his way. After shooting the breeze at his house as we (mostly him) prepared the fishing poles and lures and all that, we got some drinks, I got a fishing licence, we loaded up his two kayaks and then left for a nearby, private lake.

Being on the water was fucking spectacular, as expected — for some reason, staring at the reflections playing on the disturbed surface induces a calming, cleansing, almost psychedelic state in me. Being surrounded by trees enhanced the cleansing feeling, too. It didn’t bother me much that I probably wouldn’t catch anything, it just felt good to be out in nature. We weren’t even out there for long, either, when, in the midst of talking with Moe, I got a violent bite.

Was I snagged on something?

Pulling back, the pole bowed so much I thought it was going to snap, but the aggressive movement made it clear as day that I indeed had a catch. As I reeled it in, afraid I was going to lose it as it swam beneath the kayak, Moe started paddling towards me like crazy. He pulled it up, mind blown, mind blown even further that I didn’t seem as mind blown. In his estimation, it was a large-mouthed bass of roughly five pounds. We didn’t bring anything to take it home with, however, and both of us had left our phones in the car, so I couldn’t even get a photo.

My immediate thoughts? Dad will be proud.

Hours later, when we returned to solid Earth and prepared to leave around nine in the evening, I finally got a chance to check my phone. I thought about texting my father about the fish, but it turned out that he had already texted me.

His text read, simply: Check your texts.

This seemed silly, for to follow his instructions I would have to have first, well, followed his instructions. To make matters more perplexing, his text was the only text. Even so, I knew what it was about, no matter how much I might try to convince myself otherwise, and my heart kind of sank. It was about my mother’s older brother. My uncle Fred. The ever-lingering concern as of late.

Cue flashback sequence.

When they were growing up, my mother once told me, she would be amused to see him sit on the edge of his bed in the morning, half asleep, chin propped up by a fist like those statues called The Thinker. She also always joked that he looked like a monkey, so one year, I think it was for Christmas, I did a pastel work of a monkey in The Thinker pose as a gift for her. I liked the inherent contradiction in the image — not to mention the fact that it served as a pretty good metaphor for how she perceived her brother in general.

He was a fairly hairy guy, so I’m sure that had something to do with the monkey thing, but she also saw him as rather un-evolved in certain ways. He wasn’t too social, wasn’t great with girls, and he was rather inept at taking care of himself. She told me once that when he finally got a place of his own he had to call their mother, as he hadn’t the foggiest idea how to do laundry.

The fact that he was catered to in his youth by his parents, my mother has often said, did him no favors. Fred being catered to by his parents didn’t do me any favors, either, as it turned out.

It’s not too complicated. Fred was the first child. Clearly, he was also a son, and being the firstborn son made him the golden child in his parents’ eyes, which stuck my mother in his shadow, where she grew quite cold about it, and understandably so. Her revenge was sought in an indirect fashion called transference. In other words, when it came to be that her first child turned out to be a son she took out her vengeance on him — me — as a sort of involuntary stand-in for her brother. She inverted the value system that her parent’s cradled. Her parents treated Fred like the golden child; as I grew up, mom treated me, well, like shit. It was only when she retired and became a grandmother that our relationship changed, and I like to see all that bullshit as being behind us now.

Despite her critiques of her brother, however, mom also frequently remarked how Fred was remarkably intelligent. Though he never confirmed it, she was also convinced he had a photographic memory. And to me, he was always the super-smart guy around — at least that’s the way I saw him as a kid.

I remembered how he always visited on the holidays, though typically having forgotten to get everyone gifts in the style of an absent-minded professor. He’d spend most of his time drinking coffee and reading one of his sci-fi novels while simultaneously watching the Sci-Fi Channel. Sometimes he would go and play a game on the computer. If I had questions regarding science or technology, he was always the guy to ask.

For a short period he was married, though my mother always said marriage never suited him and suspected the cold bitch he’d ended up with was only in it for the money. After the divorce, he got a dog, a rambunctious dalmatian, and since the dog’s death in the late 80s or early 90s, Fred has lived alone in his house in Cincinnati, where my parents maintain he originally moved to escape his mother. He was diagnosed with COPD several years back, quit smoking and ultimately retired.

From as early on as I can recall he was always complaining about his job at the time. What the job was, how much he made, where it was located — none of that ever seemed to make a difference. And I’ve always understood that, understood it all too intimately, but I assumed that retirement would be his time to shine. That he’d live it up. Be happy. Without a job, he could live by his own rules. Read his books, watch sci movies, fish, shoot his guns, and so on. He lived serving other people’s interests his entire life, but now his life could be his own.

After he retired, though, things just seemed to get worse. As time went on, he turned into a hypochondriac, constantly thinking things were physically wrong with him when it became increasingly clear to others that, aside from his COPD, his issues were largely psychological and self-inflicted. He complained he couldn’t drive because he couldn’t catch his breath on the way to his truck, for instance, and despite the fact that he was clearly having an anxiety attack, he denied it. He finally went to a psychiatrist, but stopped shortly thereafter. Despite him constantly going to see doctors, he considered them all useless quacks who knew diddly dick.

He came down for the holidays increasingly infrequently. He often wouldn’t even answer my mother’s emails, texts or calls. He also refused to let my mother come down to visit him; she suspected it was because he was embarrassed what she’d think when she saw the house. Though I forget how it happened, mom made friends with his neighbor, who she described as a kind lady who also cared and worried about him. The neighbor visited him, though he never let her in the house, either, and they shared suspicions that Fred had become a hoarder. She sort of became Mom’s secret contact, her secret agent, someone with whom she had a covert alliance and through whom she could keep an eye on her declining sibling.

When the neighbor informed my mother that she would soon he moving to Florida, Mom became understandably worried that without her help she would just discover he had died one day, likely some time after it happened, and be left to sort through a house packed to the brim with junk.

Then something amazing happened. Out of the goddamned blue one day, Fred actually called Mom. Stranger still, he openly declared to her that he needed help, as he just couldn’t live like this anymore.

When I heard this from her, it was a relief. It brought a smile to my face. I was actually proud of him. After all, this couldn’t have been an easy thing for him to do. I mean, imagine it: you spend countless years making money, buying a house, building a life you’re in control of, loathing the mere thought of asking anyone for help as you’re convinced through this suffering life you have, if nothing else, gained some sort of independence and autonomy, some liberty, some true, goddamned personal freedom — and then, suddenly, you are forced to face the fact that you just can’t do it alone anymore. Your life has become a hopeless, unmanageable, dilapidating bag of festering shit and you have to summon up the courage to swallow your pride and ask a trusted loved one, someone who has been trying to nurture and sustain a bond with you for years to no avail, for help. Allowing degrees of vulnerability you’ve likely never expressed to flower as you show that person — mom, in this case — that you trust her more than anyone else.

Mom later told me she suspected that the real reason he called her was because someone had reported him to Health and Human Services and he needed her help so that he could make a more convincing case to them that he really didn’t need help. While this killed my buzz, it seemed to present a far more likely scenario.

Yet again, cynicism wins.

He was in the hospital when Mom first came down, and without telling him, she went into his house. Uninvited. And it was horrid. His nesting instinct had gone awry, gotten stuck in overdrive.

He was indeed a hoarder.

She’d brought their German Shepherd down with her. It was roughly a four-and-a-half hour drive and, particularly given the fact that she had never driven that far before alone, she needed the company and sense of security the aging pooch could provide. As they entered the house, the dog was afraid to move, refused to enter the place.

My parents are very clean and orderly, at least with respect to the majority of houses I’ve been to in my life, so the poor pooch was not acclimated to this kind of environment. Not in the fucking least. The same was true of my younger sister, Linda, and mom’s story about the dog immediately reminded me of it.

When my youngest sister was very young, my mother had brought her to our cousin’s house. I forget if mom was feeding their animals while they were away or what the exact circumstances were, but my sister felt so threatened by the cluttered surroundings that she clung to my mother’s leg the entire time. Unsurprisingly, my sister’s house, now that she has helped build a family of her own, is perhaps even cleaner than our parents’.

Once my mother cleared a path for the dog, she actually submitted to entering the mouth of that maddening house. Mom then cleaned a room and left, if I remember correctly. In any case, she returned home enlightened, now at least aware of her brother’s living conditions and capable of beginning the process of acclimation to the epic mess she was going to have to deal with when he finally shed his mortal coil. And, hell, she even got a head start on sorting through the garbage heap that she was doomed to inherit as well.

When he finally conceded to allowing her to see him at his house, which in his eyes was the first time she saw the place, mom was somewhat acclimated to her surroundings, psychologically prepared for what it looked like — and so was spared the inevitable double-whammy, for it immediately became apparent that she was not at all psychologically prepared for what he looked like.

He was deathly skinny and had long hair and beard. Her overall description made me imagine an unkempt, severed Jesus head atop the pike of a stick figure’s body clad in baggy clothes — though to be fair, I wasn’t there.

She continued to go down there once, twice a week, cleaning the house, doing all she could to help him get better. However much she persisted, he wouldn’t eat or drink, save when he tried to get her to stay, and couldn’t even make it the short distance to the bathroom before having an anxiety attack and calling it quits. No wonder he couldn’t make it to his truck to drive down to us for the holidays.

He was in and out of the hospital and she tried to get him into assisted living, but he resisted. He just kept getting worse. He started calling mom at three or four in the morning, usually over a disturbing, vivid, paranoid-fuelled dream he’d mistaken for reality. From the hospital, he was put in a nursing home, where he swiftly graduated to a hospice, which was thankfully also in the hospital.

Simultaneously, my parents continued going through the house, which is an ongoing chore for them. He hadn’t opened his mail in some time. There were bills from years ago, gift cards we’d sent him, even presents, all unopened. There were bags of new clothes and appliances he had bought, dropped, and left unopened on tables, on the floor. Packets of batteries were everywhere, some corroded despite being unopened. Bags of rotting, unopened food. Plastic bags that were disintegrating as soon as they were touched, they were so old. Since he had the aforementioned difficulty making it to the bathroom, he had also evidently taken up the habit of pissing in empty Evian bottles. There were guns and ammo buried in every room. At one point, Mom had gathered up some clothes for him to bring to the hospital. Once they got there, she discovered there were bullets in one of the pockets.

This old hoarder house was armed to the fucking teeth.

There were also the pills, some for various conditions he thought he had, others for anxiety and depression. Some he had taken for awhile before stopping, others he had never opened.

Then there was the locked room. What could be in there? I thought it, too, but my sister, Eve, the middle child, was the one who actually verbalized it to Mom one day when they were discussing the room:

“Whatever happened to his dog’s body when it died?”

My parents burst into laughter.

My two predictions were the dead dog (though mostly in jest) or that it was a porn room. When the door was ultimately opened: porn it was. Magazines, DVDs, even a box of VHS tapes. There was a dildo and other sex toys. Not to give the impression that the porn was limited to the porn room, mind you, as they found when they started bringing bags of stuff they’d excavated from the Cincinnati hell house back home to go through. Dad was reading something in their upstairs bathroom, a magazine of Fred’s, and found an interesting makeshift bookmark in the process. It was a signed photo of a stripper calling him by name and thanking him for “cumming.”

Still, it beats finding a dead dog. I mean, I guess.

A few weeks ago, upon visiting my parents, I was out by the fire pit in the backyard when my mom slowly approached me and told me she wanted to talk to me about something. She knew Fred had a lot of money, but she had no idea how much until she started dealing with his finances. She said that what she wanted to do was give us all a cut and that I should use mine to find a place nearer to home.

I tried not to get too excited, particularly given the guilty feeling it gave me considering how I might profit from the death of a loved one, but I couldn’t help but imagine the ease this would give me. I didn’t have to worry that I’d find a place near my parents place but not a nearby job, so I’d have to commute between there and where I work now, a good distance away — or find a job but not a place, which would be equally shitty.

What if my car broke down?

In any case, that would elicit unbearable anxiety, particularly in the winter months. That’s why, as much as I’ve wanted to move, I haven’t.

It would be a far easier transition knowing there was some significant cushion in my bank account. With the money, I might even be able to buy a trailer, and after paying it off I’d only have the lot and utilities to worry about. I’d never have to move again or worry about not having a place to live — and family would be nearby. And I could finally quit this job and find another.

Still, I knew all that was uncertain. I considered his outstanding bills. The nursing home would have cost a lot. Then the hospice.

Then I went kayaking and fishing with Moe and left my phone in the car. When I saw my father’s text, I was hemming and hawing, wondering if it would be rude to Moe to call him then and there, and Moe sensed it and urged me to call. I did. Dad answered. I told him I got his text but no others. Mom later said she tried to send out a group text but might have done it wrong. In the moment, though, Dad cut to the chase, his voice low energy.

“Fred died.”

He passed away on the morning of Friday, July 27, 2019. According to Mom, he had been getting worse. No longer merely confusing dream with reality, he was faithfully believing in false memories and having blatant hallucinations.

It was frightening to contemplate what it must have been like for him. I read Fred’s story, at least the last quarter, like a fucking horror novel. A cautionary tale. I interpret his life like I would a bad dream. A goddamn waking nightmare. It saddens and terrifies me, how he ended up. It was hard not to be bothered by this on an intimately personal level, too, considering mom had for so long treated me like his premature reincarnation.

If there was a message for me in his story, it was clear as fucking day:

This is what could happen. You cannot let this happen. You cannot leave your sisters the kind of stressful fucking mess that your uncle left your mother. Clean your apartment. Pay your bills. Delete your porn, or at least hide it better. Try to get your shit in order, not so as to be someone else but so as to be yourself, and get on the right path lest you deteriorate the way Fred ultimately did.

What the fuck is the right path, though? I mean, where exactly did it all go wrong with him? Where did his life narrative go off the fucking rails and end in delusion and death? Fred had freedom, intelligence and money — all shit that I’m rather shy on — and yet it didn’t make him happy. Didn’t put a dent in his machine of misery.

The following day, my father messaged me. Evidently, Fred had told Mom that he wanted to sell his two houses (in reality, he only has one) and buy a house near the water so he could go fishing. The last time my father had spoken with Fred he’d explained how he’d love to be by a river right now, fishing.

Then, on the very morning he passed away, I go kayaking on a lake, which I haven’t done in years, and fish, which I haven’t done in far longer, and I catch a five pound bass. He couldn’t help but wonder if Fred was channeling me.

Maybe Fred hitched a ride with Moe and I, finally living up his real retirement.

I truly hope so.

D.O.C.

When Claire asked me to go down to Iowa to see her, I was instantly terrified. I’d never flown in a plane before. Never taken a trip out of state alone. And how awkward would it be? I was awkward as fuck when she visited this last summer and I’d seen her two days that were days apart. How much more uncomfortable might a whole week of being around her in a place entirely unfamiliar to me be?

The anxiety was immobilizing. The automatic thoughts were putting in overtime. I kept telling myself, I have to. I have to do this.

So I planned on asking for the vacation time. Before I got to that point — and yes, I was putting it off — I see on Facebook that she’s now in a relationship with a guy she never once mentioned to me despite the frequent texting as of late. Stranger still, I wasn’t so much angry and jealous as I was embarrassed.

Though I’d been ignoring it, the realization had been creeping up on me that she doesn’t care about me the way I care about her. So often she has vented to me via text, and I never did. Until recently. Just once. And she texted back some time later and was polite about it. I’d apologized for the venting and she said I could vent to her whenever I needed to, which again, was a nice thing for her to say, but I could feel the deception. She really didn’t care. I stopped a moment to truly question the bond I always felt we shared. All this time, has it not been that she loves me, at least not in some romantic way, but that she loves the fact that I love her?

In any case, I’ve been blind to the fact that this is one-sided. Which sort of makes sense. She never seemed to get involved with a guy that actually knew her, and that never made sense to me — and I’ve come to accept it doesn’t have to. She never seemed too interested in probing my depths as I did hers, either, and perhaps it was selfish for me to be hurt by that. It is what it is and I’ve been neglecting to see it.

So I decided it was high time to just let go. Fuck it. Stick a fork in it. Her and I? It’s simply not going to happen and I’m tired of the fucked up fairy tale I keep telling myself that eventually it will. After all, wasn’t it I who used to critique her for chasing after a fairy tale that was simply incompatible with objective reality? And here I was. Here I had been for over two decades.

This was my epic hypocrisy.

Since I met her, thoughts of her, dreams of her have been my drug of choice. I was addicted to an illusion and it was time to bear the withdrawal and just get over it.

I was never going to be what she needed. She was never going to be what I needed. Fuck, I’m still not entirely certain I know what I need. It’s more akin to a process of elimination when it comes to me. And so another one bites the dust.

I still hope the best for her and still consider her a friend, of course, though I must admist I am perplexed a bit as to why she didn’t tell me, as she’s told me some incredibly private things over the years. Maybe she thought it would hurt me or maybe she just didn’t feel it needed to be said.

Whichever. Whatever. In any case, it’s none of my fucking business.

I am glad it happened, though; I prefer being aware as opposed to being in denial or being delusional, and I do believe that was where I had been before this realization.

For a short time afterward, it was as if I were riding a high. As a friend of mine put it, it was as if I had given away my power to her and had now gotten it back. I felt calmer, more controlled. I had this boost of mental energy. The anxiety went down, my depression lifted.

Or was it coincidence? After all, I’d been trying to lay off the booze again. I’d also started taking CBD in the hopes that it might alleviate the depression and anxiety, and it did seem to be helping. So all of that may have been a factor as well.

I don’t think I’ll ever get married, as I enjoy my isolation too much, and that never works out in a relationship, or so it has been my experience. Even getting into another relationship after — what has it been? A decade and a half? — seems inconceivable, and for precisely the same reasons.

If there was any girlfriend of mine that I should have stayed with, any relationship that actually held promise, it was Anne. That was something that struck me shortly thereafter. She was intense, intelligent, responsible, incredibly sexual, knew how to make her way in the world, and I do believe that she was the only one who honestly loved me. She just concluded, much as I now have with respect to Claire, that I didn’t care for her the same way she cared for me.

Was that true? I was so hung up on Kate, another ex-girlfriend, at the time that I couldn’t even say. And when Anne and I had had a chance years earlier, I was hung up on Claire. Both Claire and Kate were Virgos from California, had tattoos of the sun, moon and stars on their body — and both obscured any hope Anne had of really reaching me. It was like a ghost taking on alternate manifestations that always stood between her and I.

Shit happens. What goes around, comes around. So it goes, I suppose.

It’s been eight years, so as shallow as it sounds, I do hope I get laid again before I shed my mortal coil, but I’m not holding my breath. But my naive hopes for the perfect and longlasting intimate relationship is all but dead in me.

I feel like I’m at a point in my life where certain possibilities are falling away — and though it initially might seem otherwise, I’m quickly convinced that it’s not entirely a bad thing. Closing the book on particular potentialities, tying up loose ends, it’s like decluttering your life. And focusing on changing what you can, accepting what you can’t be and just letting go: it’s actually quite liberating.

Waves of Man-Hate and Fears of Intimacy.

During work, I’d gone out into the dining room and passed by a table where the wife of one of the managers sat solemnly, head down, lost in her phone. I knew a day or two before that the family had to put down their dog, who they’d had for under a year and who had been very sick for most of the time they’d had her. As I walked passed, I said that I’d heard, and that I was sorry, and as I did so I instinctively touched her arm with my fingers. It was meant as a comforting touch and for all I know that was also how she’d interpreted it, but for the remainder of the day that moment constantly came back to me, sort of haunting me as it played over and over in my head as I worried that I’d intruded on her personal space by touching her and left her feeling violated in some way, which could only have elevated or further aggravated the suffering she was already going through.

At the same time, I realized how absurd this worrying train of thought was. Even so, you can’t be too careful anymore, as things have gotten so bloody absurd that such worrying trains of thought just might be justified.

In today’s culture, the man-hate is strong. It’s surged again lately on Facebook due to the whole heartbeat bill here in Ohio. Men want to control the bodies of women, say the memes, and some begin there and run down the list. Men have held us back, raped us, and so on.

It finally hit the peak in my mind yesterday. To the point that I can’t help throwing my fucking hat into the ring.

Look, I happen to be passionately pro-choice. I also have a penis, and know of others bearing that same kind of appendage who are also pro-choice, so no, not all men feel they have the right to control the bodies of women. I also know women who are anti-abortion, so there are also some women that want to control the bodies of all women. So the man-hate? It isn’t justified. You’re framing it wrong. You’re manipulating facts so that they fit the man-hate narrative. Just fucking stop it. Don’t alienate men who are on your side and ignore the many women who are not.

By written word, spoken word, protests, you should certainly speak out against unjust mindsets, laws, policies, behaviors, and groups of people defined by the ideas and ideals they embrace, particularly when they impose upon your rights — not by groups of people defined by their skin color, genitals, sexual persuasion or country of birth.

It’s a war of ideas, as Sam Harris has explained another issue.

It was the same thing when the #metoo movement amped up, with some loud voices damning men as a whole for being prejudiced towards women as a whole, as if they were trying to cure sexism with — well, sexism. News flash: Two wrongs don’t make a right and you don’t defeat an enemy by becoming them.

Aside from that: you’re just plain wrong.

Not all men treat women like that. Stop being so absolutist. And while we’re on the subject, stop throwing everything into the category of sexual assault. Making someone feel uncomfortable because you verbally came onto them like a naive jackass is not at all equivalent to forcably inserting your part into her hole.

And stop pretending like we should accept accusation without investigation, too — that to doubt an accusation makes one “a part of the problem.” Blind faith is never a good idea.

And by the way: men? They get raped, too.

Again, this makes me glad I’m not in the dating scene. That I’ve given up hope of so much as getting laid ever again. I was anxiety prone before all of this, terrified of approaching a girl or making a move as I might make them feel uncomfortable or violated. Today’s climate has only delivered seeming justification to what many had formerly dismissed as ridiculous paranoia on my part.

Call for a Part-Time Experiential Exchange Program.

I’ve come to accept some limitations.

After a certain point, I just don’t feel it’s healthy to watch the news anymore. I mean, I want to be informed, but I can’t stop caring about what I’m learning about in the process, and said data never ceases to be distressing.

I have the same issue with individual people: after a certain point, it just becomes too fucking much. I need to isolate, process, find my center so I can assure myself that I’m not losing myself in this maddening mess of masks. I have a bottomless bucket of fucks and donate them far too liberally, in a fashion far too reactionary.

So involuntary empathy can be a very unhealthy thing, yes — but so can the other extreme, and it seems to me most people are more oriented towards that other extreme. Even with respect to people who are in a position in life they were formerly in, which one would think would provide conditions most fertile for empathy, people have amnesia to a mind-blowing degree. And with respect to those fundamentally different from them? It seems nearly impossible.

And I hope I’m just being pessimistic. Prejudgemental.

And it’s not as if I wish people were as insanely hypersensitive as I am; I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. Other people, their emotions are chaotic and seem largely focused on themselves. Too much of that, particularly in large groups, like at work, quickly becomes intolerable.

I remember encountering what I reckon to be my extreme opposite, which doesn’t represent the majority of the population, but the minority we call psychopaths. Or sociopaths. There is a distinction, or so I’ve heard, but I’m unclear what it us. In any case, around them I felt eerily calm. I felt little to nothing from them and it was a strange sort of relief.

I need some of what they’ve got. They need a dose of what I have. That’s all.

I guess what I’m saying is: we could use a part-time experiential exchange program.

Suicidal Zoo.

Facebook is like the cyberspace equivalent of a human zoo, only we are both the visitors and the creatures on display. Our pages are our cages and we can visit other cages like meandering ghosts, like unseen observers, or announce our presence by bleeding digital on each other’s virtual walls. And just like the disembodied entities or autonomous unconscious subpersonalities that can communicate with us via a Ouija Board, there are always vicious trolls among us that offer nothing but chaos, confusion, and unparalleled annoyances.

I’ve only unfriended three people in all the time I’ve been on the site; two because they were equivalent to trolls and a third who has absolutely nothing to offer but a ceaseless stream of cruel and stupid bullshit.

I was determined during the last presidential campaign not to unfriend anyone simply because I disagreed with their views, which it seemed to me that a great many people were doing. If we cannot tolerate opposition, we cannot grow as individuals; if we can’t discuss our different political views, or even hear them, then we are doomed to political polarization and the eventual fracturing of the Red and Blue ends of the spectrum themselves as well. Presently, the right-wing seems split between Trump supporters and those a bit more reasonable. The left? It’s more akin to the spiderweb cracking of a cell phone screen. Constant fragmentation.

I’m just done. Divorced from any allegiance to either party. I used to see the right as bloody mad, and for the most part I still do. The left I always took as being more wed with science, reason, empathy and compassion, but now, at least at the far left, they’ve embraced a madness that seems almost undistinguishable in spirit from the madness of the right. Nearly to the point that the thought keeps coming to me that, well, they’d make good allies.

The right mocks the younger generation’s participation trophies, and rightfully so (though clearly it is the older generation that cane up with thus) — but what are Confederate statues but participation trophies for a war that was lost? The left cries about being triggered and demand their safe spaces where they are shielded from percieved threats — which is just as ridiculous as the safe space the right desires to produce by erecting a wall to protect us from the percieved threat of immigration.

I think we’re hiding in our bubbles, free from objective truth and empathy with our fellow humans. I think this communication breakdown is just another sign of a declining global culture. And it honestly scares me.

Believe in Nothing. Explore Everything.

I enjoy exploring possibilities, seeing how various allegations, anecdotes or hypotheses might match up, and fleshing them out — but I’m not sure if I believe any of it. Some years ago I wrote UFOs and Recycling Souls to explore some connections I noticed in the midst of reading anecdotal reports in the UFO abduction literature that took on the quality often referred to as “high strangeness” and it was picked up by two or three sites. One of the sites mentioned that the ideas seemed crazy to them, but that I seemed to believe it — a comment I found fascinating. And kind of irritating.

The fact is: I don’t know. Since I’m going to be speculating about it anyhow, though, I might as well do it on a foundation of at least potentially relevant research and give my speculations some framework, some sort of structure. I sort of temporarily “believe in” an idea in order to explore it and then “believe out” again to explore some other aspect of it, or something else entirely. I think its related to what Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary called “reality tunnels”. By extension, it’s related to the philosophy touted by Maynard James Keenan around the time of the release of Tool’s album, Aenema. In the liner notes to the album, they suggested “Believe in nothing…” In interviews, Maynard expanded on this, saying: “Believe in nothing; explore everything.” A sort of Chaos Magick approach if you will. And that’s kind of been my approach in research and speculation. As to what I actually invest in at this point, I just don’t fucking know.

Do I think the aliens are physical, material beings like we ourselves are? About 90% of the time, yes, I think the extraterrestrial hypothesis is the most reasonable interpretation of the UFO phenomenon, even ignoring the abduction reports. Do I think abduction experiences are caused by sleep paralysis, the nocturnal release of endogenous DMT or mutated residual birth memories? No. Psychological theories don’t cover it, especially given the fact that people aren’t always asleep when this happens (and may in fact be driving, as in the Betty and Barney Hill case) and it has happened to more than one person at once often enough (Betty and Barney Hill and the Allagash four, for instance) and people are reported to be physically missing often enough.

Do I think these alien beings come from Zeta Reticuli? I have no fucking clue and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to discover that this us not the case. We heard this supposed origin from them, after all. Nothing they say to us should be blindly accepted. I won’t accept that from religion or society, I’m not accepting that from aliens.

Do I think there is a conspiracy? Clearly there is, though the Greada Treaty stuff seems a bit too deep end for me. I do think they’ve recovered alien tech through incidents such as Roswell, though I doubt they’ve been capable of successfully reverse engineering and replicating it with earth-bound materials. Are abductees products of a transgenic program rather than subjects in alien experimentation? I have no idea. Maybe they subject us to catch-and-release for a host of reasons much as we catch-and-release animals.

A few things as of late have brought this to mind, which is to say what I actually believe regarding all this weirdness in my life. The first, of course, is Trump, who I feel has given conspiracy as a whole a bad name. Conspiracies are a natural product of human social groups. You can see things like this in a circle of friends, at the level of a fast food restaurant, and one can really doubt that shit like this happens in government? Wake up. And some are going to be poor conspirators and they’re going to get caught, but others — such as the intelligence community, as an easy example — are artists at keeping secrets or swaying public opinion from believing them through spreading disinformation and utilizing ridicule. So conspiracy in and if itself is not an absurd concept.

Having said that, not everything is a goddamned conspiracy, either. We went to the moon. The earth is lumpy and roundish. The recent flat earth documentary I watched called Behind the Curve and my failed attempts to watch The Joe Rogan podcast with Alex Jones have left me astounded at the kind of dogma and absolute madness obsessive-compulsive conspiratorial thinking can generate.

Stick your head into a notion. Explore an idea to the extremes, to the very edges of the earth — but pull your fucking head out when you’re done. Unless you can be at least reasonably certain, unless the evidence is absolutely overwhelming, why take the risk of investing in just another lie?

Ode to My Poopy Poetry.

Please note:
All my poetry

(subsequent to the mass
that has been written
here, in this blog,
over the enduring years,

at least
until I find
a relatively
easy way
to move all
my former poetry)

has been relegated
to another blog,

Flush of the Mindpot,

in the quite-fuckin’-likely feeble
attempt

to compartmentalize,
organize
and express
my messed-up head-space

in a more digestible
manner
to you
as well as

I.

Evergreens & California Girls.

Last time I saw her, it was at a fucking funeral.

Her mother had been having health problems and her father had neglected to take her to the hospital, so Claire, from states away, had to call a hospital nearby her parents and send an ambulance to pick her up. I can’t recall what the health issue was, but she met her end soon thereafter and Claire came down for the funeral. I hadn’t seen her in years and not to sound selfish, but this was kind of the epitome of awkward. Me in a church, for one; for another, this was a time of grief and I was happy, relieved to finally see her, and had difficulty suppressing my happiness despite the circumstances.

Her and I didn’t get to talk much, but just seeing her, it’s like my soul had been holding its breath for years and could finally exhale.

Now she was returning for her high school reunion, or at least that was her excuse for escaping Iowa to visit Ohio for a few days. Whatever the reason, I didn’t care, I just desperately wanted to see her. The day she decided to come down and bought the plane tickets she sent me several texts in a row, clearly hyped up about the trip (though her new medication undoubtedly played a role as well) and told me she wanted to see me. We planned on meeting at my parents house on a Friday, and then she wanted me to go to a party with her the following Sunday, so I immediately requested the day off.

I left Thursday after work, slept at my parent’s house (something I rarely do, but I was terrified about not waking up on time) and felt my anxiety growing the following morning as I awaited her arrival. The day was beautiful so I sat beneath a tree in the yard by the barn, sipped my java and chatted with my parents.

They had been seeing a lot of me this summer. For whatever reason, the visits there seem to improve my otherwise perpetually shitty mood. I miss my family and I miss being close to nature, close to the forest around their house. I miss the sky and all the stars you see without that blasted light pollution. It soothes my dark, twisted, tense little soul.

When she started coming down the long driveway in her rental car, I thought I was going to burst. She parked, got out and we hugged. She hugged me tightly. Like a vice. Any tighter and we would’ve melded into a singular entity. I could have happily died there.

Maybe, maybe neither one of us ever have to let go, I thought.

After that, it was as if I didn’t know my role, as if I’d forgotten my lines. As if I didn’t get the script. What am I supposed to do now?

We walked around the yard, took a look at my mother’s nursery, and Claire spoke about wanting to buy a plant from her for someone, I believe it was the friend she was staying with. Then we sat down at the table on the porch, where we drank coffee and talked.

My parents adore Claire and they always have. They liked Anne, too, and would occasionally ask about her when her and I were still speaking, but Claire always seemed to be the one on their mind. I’m sure that part of it is because they know how much she means to me, but I know it goes beyond that. They truly adore the girl.

My mom explained how she still remembered her as the skinny girl with hot pink hair who had moved down here from California. How teachers had pulled mom aside to warn her about Claire, which she found funny, as she had been to the house and seemed quite likable.

Claire spoke about her job, her three kids — one who just graduated high school and is entering college, one who is sort of a troublemaker, sneaking out, having sex, doing drugs. The middle child, he doesn’t stick out so much in my mind; he must be a sort of balance betwixt these extremes.

Thing is, Claire has led a life that is, on the surface, quite a successful one. She has a career, a house, has been a good mother to her kids, has attempted marriage more than once and survived divorce, she pays the bills and so on — and yet there’s this darkness, this dismal lack of satisfaction in her life. It’s like she’s constructed this epic costume, this wonderful mask, found her place in the game but she’s too damned intelligent to let herself be fooled by the illusion. She doesn’t see it, but beneath the illusion she is atypical in the most amazing ways.

She’s been married a few times, as I mentioned, and I remember her explaining her relationships with these men and how they don’t know her past, don’t seem to resonate with her on an emotional or mental level or even see her on that level and it always confused me. She never seemed to see it as a necessary component of a relationship, or at least that’s the impression I’ve always had. And it truly astounds me, because she is so goddamned interesting. Why wouldn’t she want to share it with someone, share her authentic self with someone she was at least planning at the time to spend the rest of her life with? Why would she want to spend her life in hiding?

I think she feels like an imposter, a fish out of water. Like wherever she goes, there she is, someplace where she doesn’t belong. Perpetually and irreversibly out of her element. And I feel the same way. Or maybe I’m just fooling myself into thinking that’s how she feels. Maybe this is just me projecting myself onto her because she means more than the fucking world to me.

Her talk with my parents solidifies my suspicion that she has indeed found what she has always sought: roots. She wanted a sense of belonginging, a sense of community, a sense that she has a place, and she has it, she’s fucking earned it, and it makes me happy for her — and depressed in ways I can never hope to properly articulate, because I am not a part of it.

And coulda-been thoughts are pointless, but had I played my cards right, I just maybe could have been a part of it. Maybe. And I have an abundance of regrets about my post high school decisions, with the two big ones being: I should have gone to school for art and I should have fought to keep Claire as a girlfriend. I could have fought to be with her that last time, struggled to make a life with her, had a starring role in her story and had her in a starring role in my own life narrative. But it took all the effort in the world just to tell her that I loved her, and I only accomplished that, after much effort and agony, right before she went into the Army.

And it blows my mind that that was nearly two fucking decades ago, and that I’ve known her for 23 years.

They say that youth is wasted on the young, implying that with age comes wisdom, but I’m not so sure we wouldn’t fuck it all up again if given another chance.

After we talk at the table awhile, my parents get up and announce that they’re leaving us, giving us some time to talk alone. The sinking suspicion I’ve been trying to ignore and overcome during the collective conversation suddenly inundates me, no longer deniable: I’m the same pent-up, anxious, unambitious, fucked-up boy she left behind two decades ago. I’ve accepted the girl as the love of my life, fantasized about seeing her again for years, and — nothing about me has changed. I’m so locked up around her, and it hits me so hard how little I’ve evolved, how far I have not come, how utterly fucking hopeless I am. I felt like a teenager again, wanting to kiss her but too shy to do so. Wanting to fuck her, the only girlfriend on my short list of girlfriends that I’ve never fucked, like crazy — and the potentiality never seemed farther away.

I just really, really don’t like myself sometimes and after seeing her again, in the midst of seeing her again, I liked myself even less. She may not be happy with her life, but she tried, she raised three kids, built a career. I’m in essentially the same place. A little hamster running madly on his dizzying wheel. Forever in motion yet never getting anywhere. Always wanting to change but forever seemingly incapable of doing so.

I remember that a friend dreamt once that I was a Christmas tree. It was an old roommate, Sandra, and at first it perplexed me. How on earth was I like an evergreen? The more I chewed on it, the more it seemed so fitting. It still does, which only furthers the point. No matter the season, I remain unchanged. Same job, same anxiety and depression, same anger issues, same incapacity to develop and nurture a meaningful relationship with a girl or even accomplish the most basic, instinctive function and get fucking laid again already.

I mean, it’s been a seven year dry spell. Wandering in the desert of circumstantial abstinence, distracting myself with pornographic mirages. Not to sound shallow, but one would think I could’ve at least gotten my dick wet by now — if I knew the first thing about approaching a girl.

Claire keeps telling me how comedian, actor and podcaster Marc Maron reminds her of me. At first I didn’t see it, but watching videos of him, its beginning to become apparent. He’s neurotic, hypersensitive, self-involved. He goes on tangents, he’s self-loathing, he alienates people. He likes coffee and nicotine. He lives alone.

Still, he’s successful. He gets laid. He earns money pursuing his passion.

Me? I hate my job. At work I’ve been getting that sense that I’m moving through tar. Like my feet are lead. I just feel heavy. I feel weak and low energy. It feels like such effort has to be invested just to go through the same old motions and every day seems insurmountable. It’s not. I do it. I just feel that in this job I’m dying inside, you know? I should have watched this place shrink in the rearview a decade ago, but: I’m the evergreen.

Back in 1998, when I worked at the grocery store, there was this lady I worked with. Her name was Patty. She had read some of the shit I’d written in the e-zine and seemed to hone in on Cumbersome, which was the story I had written about meeting Claire. She asked a lot of questions, the kind of questions I often imagine a successful novelist might be asked if engaging in an interview with a borderline-obsessive fan.

One day she asked me a particular question, and though I can’t be sure, I think it was this: what is the greatest compliment I could ever honesty give to Claire? I’m not sure what my answer was, but she then referenced the movie As Good As It Gets, starring Jack Nicholson and Jodi Foster. She specifically referenced a scene in which he tells her he has a compliment for her, goes on a shpeil, and then condenses the compliment down to a single sentence: “You make me want to be a better man.”

Twenty years later, I get it. I am there. She is wonderful, beautiful, all I want and need, and I am so hopelessly fucked up, and: she makes me want to be a better man.

But I am a bitter man. A lost boy. An evergreen.

We walk to the barn. Memories. Later, we leave and drive around the school, now closed down, and then to the ledges. More memories. We park and are about to go into the local diner when I realize I don’t have my wallet, and having her pay would kill me, so I remind her that my parents wanted to make us food. So we go back to my parents. When she was finally ready to leave, she asked me to walk her to her car, which I desperately wanted to do anyway. I wanted to kiss her, but I just hug her. Lost in the vice again, ready to die in those arms, and when she released, I must have had a look on my face.

“You’ll see me again,” she said.

Imagine taking a railroad spike, ramming it into my chest, and then pounding it into me with a sledgehammer.

It made me think of Kate, the second girlfriend who turned out to be a Virgo from California with tattoos of the sun, moon and stars on her body. In the midst of a short, intense relationship with promise, she left to visit her parents in California and said the same thing the last night I dropped her off — and she never came back.

Damn, I have the tendency to hang onto things.

Though skip a day, and I saw Claire again at the party she wanted me to go to with her. It was down the road from my parents house; still, it’s nonetheless amazing that I found the place without getting lost. The place itself was pretty cool. There was an awesome mural I saw on my way to the restroom and there were tigers everywhere. Not real tigers, of course. Big stone tigers. Stuffed tigers. Most of the time I spent sitting at a table in the back porch surrounded by people I hardly knew or may have only met once or twice two decades ago.

Then Claire’s cousin, Jolene, showed. I’ve always valued the lady because for the entire time in which I’ve known Claire she was the only one that she lived with who actually seemed to care for her and give her a sense of stability. She also got it into her head that I was gay, however, though I could never determine if she seriously thought that or it was just sort of a running joke. Being 39 now with no girlfriend and no kids had done nothing but reinforce the notion in her mind, I was sure, so whatever social anxiety I had been feeling only elevated when she walked onto the porch. She was nice, though, in her characteristically sarcastic, firecracker sort of way.

At some point Claire, sitting beside me, asked me if I wanted a drink, and I pretended to hesitate a moment before explaining, “yes. Yes I do.” She poured me some off-brand cola and chunks of ice in a plastic cup and poured in some whiskey, which tasted remarkably good. I wanted to get drunk, but I knew I wouldn’t. I don’t often do so in social outings anymore because I’m afraid of driving under the influence and I want to be able to leave when the mood strikes me — which is to say when I’m on sensory overload and the anxiety becomes too overwhelming. But a little social lubricant helped.

I mostly just interacted with the animals, however, which is sort of my default in social situations when the option is available, and generally-speaking, animals seem to like me. I spoke a bit with Antonio’s brother (married to Jolene) and then, once they arrived, Antonio and his girlfriend.

Claire’s father also showed. This part was unexpected.

Oh, her fucking father.

He needed to get his medicine at one point and Claire had me go with her as she took him to his house. As he sat and kept on about his bills, desperately, obviously trying to manipulate Claire, I stared at his refrigerator. It was covered in magnets, one for every state him and his late wife and, when Claire was younger and they hadn’t dumped her on this or that relative, Claire had temporarily landed in.

This is why she never felt like she had a family, why she wants stability but feels so awkward when she finds it, why she ached to develop roots. They were nomads. He destroyed her, and this cold machine in his little kitchen celebrates the journey of her destruction with souvenir magnets.

I fight my reactionary empathy, try not to fall under the spell of compassion when it comes to him.

We went back, I hung out a bit more and then it felt like it was time to leave. Claire walked me to my car. Hug again. Please crush me. Let me die. And I leave, back to being stuck in an inhale, and stop at my parents before heading home to my apartment.

They’re sitting in the front room in front of the television. We talk briefly and they offer to buy me a plane ticket to go down to Iowa and spend time with her. It’d be something to write about, my father says. Just think about it, says mom. It has to hurt feeling so connected to someone who lives so far away.

And I think to myself, Fuck. Dad, even mom, she actually seems to get it.

Sitting down, I stretch my arms, let my head fall back, trying to keep the tears I feel creeping from leaking out my eyes. Holding it in, determined not to break. Breathe. Just bloody fucking breathe, you pathetic price of shit.

“Just think about it,” mom repeats.

I drive home cursing myself.

Managing Panic on Potential Bridges.

It’s always at the cusp of something new I think I want that I get terrified and begin having second thoughts. In this case, the interview tomorrow. It’s not even a great job, but next to this, it’ll be a breath of fresh air. Or so I’ve imagined, or so has been the case until now.

What if I sleep in? What if my car breaks down? What if I’m wrong and their starting wage isn’t more than I’m making now?

What if I get the job and hate it even more than this, and it’s even worse because I don’t have that illusion of control offered by the predictability of the all-too-familiar brand of hell I am presently suffering under? What if my anxiety heightens, my depression deepens, and I don’t have the energy to get an appointment and get back on antidepressants?

Hell, what if I don’t get it? What if I have to stop smoking pot, clean out my system, and lose sleep, as if I get sufficient sleep now, and anxiety and depression attack even more just to get a job — and I never find one within the comfort zone of the roads I know anyway, can never find whatever potential place is willing to give me an interview?

It’s happened before.

What if I still don’t find a job, even then? What if I end up just wasting away in this particular shit job forever or until I get fired or die or society collapses or I loose my shit and walk out after working here for a decade and a half?

What if I never stop catastrophizing?

What if all this is in my head and ultimately it doesn’t really matter one way or the other?

But I can’t punish these thoughts and feelings and push them away, as they’ll snap back as elastic, twice as strong. And I can’t feed these thoughts and feelings, either, or they’ll grow bigger and stronger and multiply and collectively devour my weakened ass.

No, I must remain their spectator. Let them flow through me, and out.