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EARTHQUAKES COME HOME/BURY YOUR DEAD

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It’s that time of year again, The Gloom setting in and taking hold. The birthday and my father’s deathversary and last year’s suicidal spiral and every year’s rundown of events and misdeeds and hurts and misunderstandings and this year there is a goddamn twist of twists to add to the mix:

I had a massive heart attack the day before Halloween and almost died.

Apparently this was a storm inside of my chest that was ready to go off at any time. It happened while I was working—yes, I am working again, finally finding steady work in late July—walking dogs in Prospect Heights. I tried to tell myself that it was just anxiety, the feeling in my chest far stronger than regular anxiety or the kind that I normally suffer from, but I still tried to play it off as such so as not to lose my shit and actually drop dead on the street while caring for someone else’s family pet, so as not to give credence to what I knew was happening inside of my chest, arteries closed off and no blood flowing into and out of my motor. Throughout the day it was happening, I kept stopping and looking at the dogs in my charge, asking them if they knew something I didn’t. They knew something was wrong, multiple times during the day a dog would turn back and look up at my face, concerned and nervous about me and for once not the stupid songs I sing to them when I walk with them. Their concern concerned me, to say the least.

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Breathing is hard work.

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I met the sweetest bird who sang me beautiful songs that made me feel as though the sun was inside of me, but I held on too tight and now all I can do is dream and hope to be able to hear those songs again and to feel the sun inside of me again some day.

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I am learning that to mean what I say and to say what I mean are things I am more than capable of, and that whatever possible wreckage that creates isn’t always my wreckage, it’s just what happens when I deal in truth instead of what I think will keep everything safe and serene.

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I keep thinking about how it felt, reading Murakami’s Norwegian Wood while listening to my father drowning in his lungs, high on his morphine, avoiding dealing with his wife, dealing with their wreckage and their damage field. I don’t know if I can ever read that book again. Sometimes the things we use to distract us from the pain we are sitting within get soiled with that pain, bloodstained and bruised and broken and incapable of revisiting or enjoying again. I don’t know much. I only know my own experience and what has continued to shock me thirteen years later is that I was somehow able to navigate everything that was happening in that tiny apartment of death without going to jail, without losing my mind completely, without walking into traffic.

[Sometimes it does feel as though I walked out into traffic and all of this is a dreamstate and there is an answer somewhere in this dreamstate that will free me, that will allow me to sit on a cloud and glow at everyone and everything]

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Spending my days with dogs has been one of the most incredible and emotionally/spiritually rewarding experiences I have ever had. I’m soft, I know. These dogs are magick, each one a gift, each one a reminder that love is infinite and pure, a thing that cannot be contained or described adequately. There is the anxious and misunderstood pitbull I identify with, our size and movement and attitude a misrepresentation of what we actually are, soft boys who just want to be held, to be loved. There is the magnificent thirteen year old coon hound who has to take herbs in her food and a monthly injection to keep her kidneys from failing, her gait and appearance a little camouflage to her mischievous and playful demeanor. There is the tiny rat terrier named after an alcoholic character on a popular television show, the little one who licked my face when I was walking her around while having the heart attack I tried to play off as anxiety, the one who hates everyone but loves me and a small handful of others, showing her teeth when she really just wants to play, like me, like you. There are the two goofy boxers, both of whom get stared at on the street because of their size and their looks, much like the misunderstood pitbull, much like me, but both boys are so aloof and so silly, every walk with them is a wild ride, both of them prone to bursts of hyperactivity and both giving no warning before they shit in the middle of a crowded sidewalk. There is the blind pitbull, the one who trusts me and rests his head on my calf as we walk, knowing I would never let him run into anything with his perfectly giant head and his big sad eyes, reminding me of me as a kid and reminding me that trust is a real thing and that honoring it is as important to me as earning it and I would step in front of a car for this dog, really, for all the dogs, and that says more about them than it does about me, a man who one year ago could only think about suicide, a man who attempted it and failed, a man who felt like what had happened to me and around me and because of me—and my actions/inactions—up to that point in my life warranted such an action.

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I was never one to speak about prayer, never one to admit to such a thing. Yet, I find myself more often than not in a constant state of prayer, a series of moments strung together asking for grace and for wisdom and for patience and for understanding and for love.

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The sun rises. The moon sets. The birds sing. The world is the world. The bird is the word.

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You can lose everything or you can let go of everything and embrace a new set of ideas and habits and make new memories and get on with the business at hand and finally bury your dead.

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I cannot describe the way it felt, on that cold operating table being pumped full of oxygen and having someone slide a catheter into my wrist, snaking it into the arteries that had clogged to zero passage, to feel that close to death, to have it on my lips. I’m only a man and a human and someone who is lucky to be alive and to be aware and to want to find a life out there in this world that feels like the sun did on my skin on that beach full of fossilized trees and rocks. I’m only a man and a human who has felt like his entire life has been a series of tests and events coded just to push me closer and closer to some stupid idea I had as a kid about self-actualization being the way “through” this life, only a man and a human who is just now seeing that these have not been tests, but moments to cherish and hold on to when it gets dark inside of me, when I feel like burning the whole shitshow down and turning to dust. I am only a man and a human who has no family other than my chosen family—and my chosen family is strong and true and I would bleed for each and every member—and there were moments on that table and leading up to being on that table when I was in prayer and I was calling out to my late mother and my late grandmother and even my late father and begging them to let me stay here, to let me continue this life, to let me try harder to be a good man and a good human and to let me experience love and to let me experience truth and to let me walk through fear.

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The cardiologist who worked on me told me that in the thirty years he has been tinkering around with hearts, I am only one of three patients with the level of occlusion I had to survive. I did not want to know this. This knowledge rattles around in my brainpan every day, fucking with me, taunting me, reminding me how close I came to the oblivion I used to seek.

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Being my father’s final caretaker was a role I never knew I would take, considering the conflicted relationship we had and how hard it was for us to see one another as anything other than enemies bonded by blood and DNA and chance. That role has changed me, and continues to change me thirteen years on, changing the way I relate to things, the ways in which I can be cold and terse and the ways in which I can be a firehose spraying my own dopey idea of love at everything instead of being patient and tender and kind. I was somehow patient and tender and kind with my father as he left this world, even though I had to steal his morphine and drug his wife’s coffee just to be present. His ghost is always with me, even after silencing his voice through hypnosis, even after years and years and years of denial and delusion and self-flagellation and self-abuse and putting myself into the meat grinder of a marriage to someone who was just like him and working for people just like him and seeking out the oblivion over and over again. I think about handing the box with his ashes to his wife and her son, about how in that moment I was actually free and how I have carried that box of ashes around with me for years, inside of me, like a worry stone gone sideways.

I can bury my dead now.

 

 

 

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I CUT IN LINE, I BLED TO DEATH

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In a few short days I will not have a place to live.

This has happened before. The first time it was after doing all that I could to help my father and his wife get sober and losing everything in the process, coupled with losing a job and an apartment within the same week. Add to that 9/11 and what it did to the tourism industry where I was living—not to mention my struggles with addiction and what can loosely be termed as “mental illness”—and I ended up on couches and sleeping in parks for a good chunk of time. It wasn’t fun and I was scared and it really did a number on my psyche. The second time was when I left my marriage a couple of years ago. I stayed for a bit with a woman I was dating at the time[but that ultimately doomed that relationship] and I also slept on the floor of the rehearsal space of the band I was in[which probably doomed those relationships as well]. The only difference from the first time was that I had a job and I was no longer drinking or using drugs. That lasted a few short weeks and then I ended up in the place I have been living for the last two years which has become home.

Until now.

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Taking care of oneself is a lot of work. It’s even more work when we don’t believe we deserve to take care of ourselves and we believe we deserve to suffer, because somehow, suffering is our lot in life. Every victorious moment has a price in that type of thinking. Each day that feels like a win can be turned right into a loss as quick as lightning striking, just by letting the faulty wiring in the emotional part of the brain do what it has always done, go dark and sideways. I beat myself more mercilessly than anyone ever could, and I have done so for my entire life. I obsess over the way others perceive me or interpret my actions and I do it so innately and so acutely that even being aware of it and doing my best to stop it changes nothing.

I’m so bad at taking care of myself that it took me over five years to go to the dentist and get a cancerous growth cut off of my gums. I let the fucking thing just sit there and keep me from smiling and keep me from laughing and keep me from being free. I pretended it wasn’t there. When friends would ask me about it I would say I was getting it taken care of, but I never did. I saw a dentist about it a couple of years ago and she told me to get it removed immediately and gave me the number for an oral surgeon. I met with the oral surgeon and he quoted me $3K to remove it. I walked the fuck on out of that office and never looked back. That’s more money than I can afford for anything, especially at that time. Even when I had dental insurance, I pushed off getting it taken care of.

I got it taken care of in the beginning of May. It’s gone now. I can smile again. I can laugh again. I don’t even give a fuck that it was cancerous because it’s fucking g o n e.

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Every day above ground is a good day.”

I have been saying this for so long, now. I say it whenever I interact with just about anyone, irrespective of familiarity and comfort. I just throw it out there and hope the other person ends the conversation right then and there. It’s a showstopper. It keeps the wall up and it keeps me from being open and vulnerable and it keeps the other person insulated from the shitshow of my life. I said it to the oral surgeon at Bellevue Hospital when he was cutting off the growth after they pulled an abscessed tooth that had gone septic and was poisoning my blood. I watched a tiny bit of arterial spray shoot from my mouth to his surgical goggles after I said it, and for a moment, I was seriously wondering if I was going to bleed to death and die in that chair. I really do not want to die.

I tried to hang myself back in January, a couple of days after I called the suicide hotline after contemplating walking into the East River. I failed. Well, really, the belt I used failed when the buckle broke. I’m fine, physically. I’m hard to kill apparently, even when I try to do it using my own body against itself. I’m writing it here because I don’t want to ever feel that low again, don’t want to take that kind of action. Supposedly men in my age demographic do this. I don’t know much about that. I just know that my neck/throat are strong enough to hold my weight long enough to survive myself.

I’m not trying to make light of this. It’s real and it’s serious and I am taking steps to get better. Forgiving myself is a good start, which I’m working on.

I am not dead.

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I am genuinely terrified of being homeless for the third time in my life. I keep having these flashes in my head of me living in a shelter, guys straight out of the penitentiary trying to shake me down and harassing me, families thrown to the wolves by evil and greedy landlords. New York is not a forgiving city when it comes to these things. It’s expensive as all get-out to live here and most landlords want you to prove you make forty times the rent before they will even consider letting you rent from them. Up until last week, I have been mostly unemployed since December, other than working the odd job here and there or walking or watching dogs for friends. I have been, to put it lightly, super fucked. I’ve been able—with help and love from friends—to pay my rent and bills on time, but my roommates have decided that my financial instability is stressful enough for them to let my lease run out and I have to move on, which I get. It’s hard enough to survive in this city as it is when things go right, let alone when they are an unsolid and unknown thing.

My plan is to put my things in storage this week and then see what the world has in store for me. I am working hard to keep myself from traveling into the darker corners of where my mind wants to go, and so far I am doing pretty okay for a guy who’s greatest fear is to be without a home. Tiny victories. They add up. They still have that price, though.

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It’s a different kind of anger than I’m used to that finds a way into my blood. Late night obsessions and fear-driven silence and hot meal dreams and guardrail collisions. All the metal in the world weighs less than the sad way I carry your name in my mouth.

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When I was a little kid I remember seeing a homeless man when I was with my mother and I knew in my molecules that I would know that world in my lifetime. I felt it as loud as a grenade in the next room. It was this knowing thing, the kind of thing that always happened to me as a kid. I’d see something or witness a behavior and I just fucking knew what it was and what it meant to me and how it would show up in my life. I knew things as a teen and I knew things as an adult, but I let those things happen because I didn’t believe there was anything I could do to stop it. I knew when lovers would turn into dreams and I knew when both of my parents were going to die and I knew my ex-wife would never let me see my dog again and I just let it happen, over and over again, because I felt like if I knew about it, I deserved it.

That shit is fucked up and wrong and that kind of thinking—the belief that I should suffer—is on the way out. No room left for that kind of self-effacement through suffering in my world. No room left for believing I am a piece of shit and whatever happens is happening because of something I did. We’re all fucked up and we’re all waiting to die and I just want to live and live well.

Someone asked me the other night what I was hoping for out of life, what I ultimately want. I told them I wanted peace. I want to know peace and freedom from worry and to know serenity in the purest form. I want to not be hungry. I want to not be scared. I want to not obsess and I want to breathe slower and easier and pet dogs and watch the sun rise and set and know inside of this body that I am doing my best to be kinder and more tender and more real with myself and everyone around me.

Here’s hoping. Here’s dreaming. Here’s me, doing my best.

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We Are All Ghosts

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The slide from Halloween into the end of the year is always the hardest thing to survive for me. That’s the way things have been for a long time and it’s a thing I try to prepare myself for, but it doesn’t get easier. Holidays and Deathversaries and Birthdays and feeling intensely alone.

This year is no different than last year or 2006 or 2009 or 1997. It is a looming thing. A shadow of the best and worst.

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I swallowed a matchbox car as a kid.

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My night is always a riddle. That’s what happens when you get older. Plans aren’t real anymore. The pull of staying inside away from the world with a book or a movie or some silence always outweighs the paranoia of running into people who have hurt me or I have hurt or people who have ideas and dreams that don’t match my own ideas and dreams. That’s what happens when you’re healing from being burned and trying to regrow tissue over scarring. Why bump it at all? Too tender, too new, too much memory with a side of pain.

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I was always putting things in my mouth as a kid. Obsessed with texture and the way rust tasted, how it would react inside of me to have a mouth full of pennies or sticking my tongue on the posi/neg posts of a 9-volt battery to get that tingle and spark. The way a nail would feel in my mouth as I pushed it around with my tongue, pressing it into my teeth or the roof of my mouth, being able identify the sharpest part by the way my flesh reacted or how my nerves would fire current was exciting, new, memorable.

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Sometimes my timeline of events feels endless and other times it feels like it’s already over and I’m just going through the motions at a slower pace because my heart can’t take the speed and truth of it all. Memories flash in and out of time while I’m in the middle of something happening right in front of me. My heart sometimes feels like it has flown out of my chest and moved away to another place and my job is to find it, to be tender with it, to reconcile and agree. I’m sure this makes me seem distracted, but I’m not. I’m present. I’m accounted for.

The recent things that have been hard for me are still coiled around me and there are days when I feel like the only thing I can do is follow my father’s advice and burn everything. I don’t want to burn everything. I want myself to burn. I want to turn into the hottest light and I want to make everything with darkness in it flash and glow and become clean again.

We all want, don’t we?

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A couple of months before I swallowed the matchbox car, I swallowed a large marble. I had been carrying it around in my mouth for a few days, trying to understand the blue and green swirls inside of it, the smoothness, the way glass could be porous, yet solid. I swallowed it when my tongue pushed it into the back of my mouth and I reflexively swallowed it down. I freaked out a little as it went slowly into my body. For a second it felt stuck in my throat, like it was closing and stretching my throat at the same time, but then it popped loose and went all the way down.

My father was in the kitchen making himself a sandwich and I came in and started guzzling some milk and crying. He asked me why I was crying, so I told him what I had done and he just calmly grabbed a stick of butter from the refrigerator and start laying it on thick on some slices of bread. He handed me a slice and told me to eat it and calm down. Then he handed me another. And another. And another and the he walked back into the garage without saying another word.

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It’s funny, this living life thing we all have to do.

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I don’t know if I still believe in a lot of the things I used to tell myself as ways to keep going. Maybe that’s another facet of getting older, or maybe it’s really an acceptance of circumstance being far more powerful than I used to think it could be. So many things are just random happenings. I used to believe we were all being tested by things and the hardest tests were markers on the aforementioned timeline, meant to serve as reminders or warnings or trophies for when the next happening would occur, so we could remember we rose from that happening into another more graceful and aware form.

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The matchbox car did not go down easy.

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When I was taking care of my father back in 2005, right around the date we’re at right now, I asked him if he remembered how I used to swallow stuff. He was drowning in his cancer and the morphine I was giving him was making him looser, a far more gentle and beautiful person than he ever was as my father. He stared at me, glassy-eyed and high and scared and halfway out of this life. I sat still and waited for him to say something, to acknowledge our shared history, the bread and butter of us.

“I remember you crying and yelling when you had to shit all those stupid things out of you.”

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SACRED HEART OF THE HIGHWAY

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When my stepbrother took his own life, I found out via a voicemail my father’s sister left on my phone. I sat in silence for a few minutes, trying to grasp what is just heard. She never mentioned suicide in the voicemail, but I knew that was what had happened. I never returned her call. I couldn’t and still can’t speak to anyone I’ve blood relations with, other than my sister.

This is the landscape I live in. No blood. No ties. No familial rattraps.

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My most current therapist suggested that a good thing for me to learn how to implement/do would be learning how to forgive myself for the anger other people have toward me. It has taken me most of my life to learn how to communicate with other people without coming off as unhinged or in the midst of unraveling. This new thing–attempting to forgive others for their reactions/feelings about me or my actions–this is the kind of personal work that ramps up my self-loathing and tendency to want to destroy myself.

This place is sacred to me, my tiny area inside of myself where I keep the list of people in the world who have anger with my name attached to it. I try to stay away from it, try not to linger on faces, actions, tears or names. I’ve been through SERE training, so any attempt to pry the sacred space open would be a waste of time and energy.

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I purposely did not read anything about my stepbrother immediately after his death. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and I was also trying to be respectful of his family, seeing as how nobody reached out to me personally to let me know what had occurred. In the hours after I found out, I bought and canceled plane tickets twice. When I told my then-wife what had happened, she barely looked up from her iPad and said “that sucks,” and went back to whatever she was doing. I had already made the decision to leave the marriage a few weeks before, at her grandather’s wake, surrounded by all the people who loved and respected him, when the feeling washed over me that I was not among my people but instead swimming in someone else’s tears and feelings.

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Part of the reason why it’s so hard for me to accept that someone can be angry with me is the root of a massive tree I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to cut down. Whenever my father was angry, it never mattered who or what he was angry with because the anger always ended on my body and on my psyche. If he was mad about something that happened at work he’d bury it until he got home and if I did something he didn’t like, well, I’d be the one he could slap across the face and scream at to relieve that tension. If he was mad at my mother, he’d goad me into defending her so he could crack me upside the head. You get so used to this kind of thing that it eventually wears a groove into your heart that only plays the same three sad notes over and over again. You start to believe that there is no love without anger attached to it, that your suffering is a result of someone else loving you.

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A couple of weeks ago I rolled through the social media posts of people who were close to my stepbrother. I went back in time to his death and worked my way to present day, taking in all the words and tears and photos and questions. So many questions. A fair amount of anger and disbelief. A fair amount of regret over time unspent and moments that were fleeting. I read every post and ever comment on every post and I cried and I laughed and I had my own moments of disbelief and my own moments of regret.

The way I felt after spending almost an entire day digesting all of these words and feelings can only be described as unclean. I felt dirty for not being present. I felt dirty for not reaching out to his mother and brother, irrespective of my feelings about them. I felt dirty for not reaching out to his partner. I felt dirty for not getting on a plane. I felt dirty for going on with life as if my stepbrother were never a part of it, never a part of me. I felt dirty for abandoning him with the mess of it all as soon as my father died, for running back to Brooklyn to bury my dead in my own way.

I felt dirty for not really knowing him at all. I felt dirty for claiming to have known and loved someone so obviously loved and cherished by so many.

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There is another place inside of me, less sacred and far more unholy, where my own anger toward myself simmers.

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When someone tells you “everything happens for a reason,” it’s really no different than someone telling you “I’ll pray for you.” Both come from a place that is supposedly kind and tender, but for those of us in the world who don’t deal in cosmic rays or prayer as a means to heal, it’s hard to take gracefully. I’m more apt to roll with the cosmic rays, so I can handle these attempts at kindness, but I know that there are times when I want to lash out and scream when they are being used to placate me or keep me from spiraling down into the abyss. Sometimes the abyss is where we need to be, touching bottom with a toe and bouncing as hard as we can to rise back to the surface of the living world we’re supposed to participate in.

I keep on telling myself that everything is going to be okay. I keep on telling myself that everything is ahead and not behind and everything ahead is limitless. I keep on telling myself that all of the suffering and confusion and pain and innermost turmoil is a thing I’ve walked through and nothing ahead could possibly be worse or harder or more damaging.

I keep on.

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The Secret to Quiet

My stepbrother’s suicide was the catalyst. When he took his own life, it somehow freed me from the life I had been forcing myself to live, the life that was killing me, the life I felt was the only one I could possibly be living. The death rocked me, but did not surprise me. I had seen his eyes. I had felt his tremble. I had heard his mutterings. Of course, it had been years since we’d spoken—roughly four or five, I’m foggy at best when I stop communicating with people, which is something I am apt to do—but I was still unmoored by the choice he made. I felt like the death was some kind of harbinger, a looming thing willing me to push forward or die.

I have pushed forward.

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I am usually the kind of writer/person who will take years between a happening and the act of writing it out of me. This is how I have always operated. Words take time and vision is always clouded and the desire to understand my actions or my inaction always murks up the truthblood of it all. I can always take a happening and immediately create music from it, but the words take so much longer and need so much more care. Music is in me, words are around me. This is a truth.

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We did not know one another as boys. We did not grow up together. We did not have a secret language or shared memories or shared pain. We did not know one another as young men. We did not witness the heartbreaks and the failures and the triumphs as we grew into ourselves. We did not know one another as men. We were thrust together when our broken alcoholic parents—his mother, my father—took their long-running affair and made it a marriage. We shared that awkwardness, that pain, that fear of car wrecks and sad phone calls and picking people up from jail for driving drunk.

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I can clearly see the way his hand trembled holding a glass of Knob Creek the first night I arrived in Santa Fe, his dogs wandering at our feet and his eyes unable to connect with mine as he told me of all the goings-on in regard to my father and his mother and the cancer and the accusations of infidelity and the boozing and the money and the threats of leaving. I can even now, from where I sit and write this, feel the air leaving through his skin. I can almost taste the Thanksgiving leftovers he forced on me, my drunk and chalked-out body, post-flight from New York City, the hour drive up to Santa Fe from Albuquerque a blurry mess and a lit up cop car at the end escorting me to the place I sat before him. I can feel the roughness of the sheets in the guest bedroom I was to occupy for my time on the death watch. I can sense his teetering. Even now, even now.

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The compulsion to document is not always around. Sometimes I just want to live a little and not think, not act, just roll with it all and try to keep my head attached to this terrible body and see what comes of it all. What happens more often is that my subconscious mind will document everything for me in other ways. Scents and audio and textures all filed into places deep in the brain where I have little or no access until my brain decides I am ready. This is the way of my world, the way of my mind, the way of my hands stroking the keyboard at a speed that makes no sense. All brawn, no brain.

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My stepbrother’s partner of twenty-three years is left behind now. Left behind with the dogs and the Star Trek collectibles and the kitchen full of spices and shelves full of books. Left behind without his partner, alone to keep pushing forward. Alone to keep keepin’. I would call and try to speak to him, but I know that call would go unanswered and unwanted. I probably wouldn’t take that call. I wouldn’t want to hear a sound from a banisher who never explained the banishment. I split from their world a couple of years after my father died, tired of hearing about the sadness of my father’s wife, tired of knowing she was alive and my father was gone and tired of hearing talk about my lack of communication and my lack of compassion.

Tired is a thing that lurks and hurts.

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It took a bit, but I blew up my life after the suicide. I left my wife of nine years. I started to pull away from all of the sad and all of the uncertainty and all of the work that felt like it would never balance out, never amount to a shining thing. I tell my therapist about my own suicidal ideation, about how I know it isn’t a real thing, that I am a kind of tourist. I don’t want to die, I want to shift into something else, a Phoenix of sorts, a person I can believe in, a person who deserves love and light and smiles and a future. I am struggling with this thing, and the daily/hourly urge to run is always underneath it all. I think about the jungles of South America, I think about the mountains of the southwest, I think about arms to hold me and beds to sleep forever within. I want to live inside of songs, melodies, in light. I want to feel and not be shamed for feeling.

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A massive black hole could come down from the sky right now over the earth and people would still argue about it until the whole of humanity was sucked into it and shat out the other side a terrarium of frogs and protozoa. This is the world we’re living in, a world where eight billion people are about to face massive starvation and all anyone wants to talk about are politicians and celebrities and who is fucking who and who is angry about what and who is rich while the rest of us go dead inside.

What does this mean for the suicidal?

What does this do for the future?

The measurements we all use to find our way around in the dark are obsolete. We will fumble and we will fall and we will cry and we will have to—most of us who are alive and feeling and afraid and ready to walk away from a life—stop ourselves from stepping in front of the 7 at the Times Square station in the middle of rush hour.

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I am, as ever, learning how to love myself more.

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SLIGHTLY UNDER

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A dark and cold room with shadows moving and a glass case in which a skull sat lit up with blue light and electric light arcing through the air and I put my hand in the case and picked up the skull and then the blue light and I was suddenly in a car on the freeway, felt like California, the skull in my lap and palm trees on fire and cars stopped and crawling and then my father standing in a cul de sac with my dog and the trees are still on fire and someone hands me an apple and I bite into it and it tastes like BBQ and then I’m in REDACTED and I can feel bullets tearing through me and I can taste cordite and my ears are ringing and I can feel blood in my eyes and then the blue arcing light again and then I’m sitting up, face heavy and heart so so so slow.

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Always on for the journey, for the adventure, for whatever experience is out there waiting for me, ready, willing. This has always been a truth and will probably never ever stop. I will go. I will be open. I will witness. I will remember.

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I never took LSD. I babysat a ton of my friends who did it, but I always stood by this idea that anything a biker could make in his bathtub had the potential to kill me. That’s a goddamn lie. I did my fair share of methamphetamine when I couldn’t find cocaine. LSD freaked me out, caused me to sweat when I thought about it, got me believing that it would fuck with the weird way I already witnessed the world around me. I took psychedelics that occurred as naturally as possible in the world—mushrooms, peyote, tried to get my greasy paws on a Colorado River bullfrog to lick—but they didn’t really take me outside of my body, away from my consciousness. PCP was fun, but after a while it became boring and predictable. I’d get all kinds of warm inside and the world would taste like iron and dirt and the sky would be amber and the nerve-endings in my body would feel like they’d been in a hot tub too long and I would find myself doing things/saying things/acting like a goddamn lunatic, but I never went to another realm or plane.

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I have spent the majority of my adult life hiding myself. Hiding the things that hurt and burn and cause violence to rise in me. Hiding my fear and my reluctance. Hiding just about anything and everything I can from the light, from the faces, from the camera, from the song.

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Death always seems to keep coming around to remind me that I have a lot of work to do. Always happens when I am getting too comfortable with things and always happens to someone I didn’t see coming. Two weeks ago I lost my [step]brother, and it wrecked me. Not only did it wreck me, it took me all the way back into my father’s death and what we shared during that experience, and the inside of me turned from a semi-solid and secure thing into a thing composed of hot jelly and sad. I keep flashing back to moments of recognition between my [step]brother and I, moments when we would look at one another and communicate without speaking, knowing full-well what was happening to my father and what we needed to do for him.

This death, though. This death has forced me to confront so much of myself that I had buried. For years, I was jealous of my [step]brother and his brother. They got to have my father as a different man, a man without anger, a man who didn’t intimidate, a man who was supportive and kind and loving, a man unlike the father I had, but so much closer to the father I always wanted. I never witnessed a single moment that had my father be anything but good to them, even if/when it was totally warranted to be otherwise. Never heard a lick of criticism, the kind he always threw my way and cut me. They had relationships with him. I had history. I had anger. I had rage.

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It’s not like I have never been in a trance state before. I am capable of achieving it through making music—repetition to the point of muscle memory taking over can lead me to a place of deep calm where I drool and lose time/space—and I have achieved it through breathing/meditation. But the experience of being guided into a trance through hypnotism was something heavier, something involving trust and care, things I am reluctant to receive/give. Even when I was going under, my body still tried to fight it off, tried to stay present. But when I went? I went deep and fast and shot from place to place and scene to scene and I still see my father standing there with my dog, palm trees blazing, skies red and dark with smoke.

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I don’t know how to define manhood. I can barely define adulthood, let alone the set of weird ideas and structures in place that constitute manhood. I am a man, yes, born like this. But I have nothing else to base anything off of to complete the puzzle of manhood. What does it mean and how does it work and no, I do not know how to change the brakes on a car and I do not know how to rewire the electricity in a home and I sure as shit don’t know how to deal with all of the violence. I know I have violence in me, I’ve been tamping it down for as long as I can remember. Now I am in therapy again and my therapist—bless him, he is angelic—wants to do demolition on all the walls and do the work on the violence, unwrap the mystery of manhood.

How the fuck?

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I haven’t laid hands on another sentient being in a long time. It used to come so easily, any problem solved by spilling blood or intimidation or a wink that said “think twice, I’m ripe to throw.” I barely even raise my voice now. I live in a world wherein my size and my stature create space. I am so very aware of this and have been for a long time. I am aware that when I write of the violent world that brought me to this place I am now can frighten people, can cause trepidation in day to day dealings. I am aware that my privilege is a real thing, a thing that blots out the sun, a thing that makes me sick, ill, unruly. I know that even when I am trying to help someone, it can be scary, can be panic-inducing for the person I am trying to help.

I am aware of how broken I am.

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Always on for the journey. Always.

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SOME ARE WHITE LIGHT

rip4

It is so hard to describe what the scent of flesh being burned away by a cautery laser is like. I remember walking into a supposedly sterile room, aloof, and wondering what was burning, what was dying. I remember what it looked like—the crackling and popping of the laser and the darkening and reddening of the flesh, the pattern emerging underneath tiny clouds of incinerated dermis—but the scent, my god, the scent.

I knew I could never go back to unknowing.

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I hit the down arrow button on my keyboard so much that it will no longer stay in place and the little rubber nubbin underneath is a flat and sad thing.

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I never write about The Now, but the last few months have been something. I like to put distance between a happening and an uncoiling of my thoughts, but some things burn. I am burning.

The fact that I have a book in the world is kind of insane to me. The fact that anyone in the world can plunk down money for it is also kind of insane to me. The fact that it got reviewed by The Chicago Tribune, Gawker, and other places is more than insane to me. The fact that the basement of WORD was overflowing with people the night of the release party was like being another person on another planet. The fact that I was able to go out to California and read from it and see people I love and shake hands with people I do not know and people I now know is some kind of thing, alright. The fact that I have had strangers—people I have never seen in my life—approach me and speak to me about the book is incredible and awkward and everything I never knew could be real.

I am so very thankful.

I also want more.

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The first time I ever witnessed someone hanging from hooks I was in a terrible bar in Phoenix and the person hanging was having a hard time and TOOL’s “Sober” was blaring from the bar’s sound system and I could feel so much anticipation in the room and so much disappointment wafting from the sweat of the person attempting to hang and the people trying to get that person into the air. While nursing a whiskey and witnessing, I felt a thing inside of me shift around—a knowing, seeing thing—and I felt some kind of garbled connection to the action, as if I was looking into a broken mirror and everything was warped, bloodied, remembered.

When the person lifted, the room lifted. Not up for long, but there was a beauty in it, a power exchange had occurred and a wall had been destroyed. I felt relief for the person airborne, a relief for their friends, something resembling a kind of relief for myself. Anything can be done if the mind is right and ready.

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I want to write more books but I also know that I am going to have to take my time. The way I am wired to write isn’t quick. The way I mine for blood is determined to get to the darkest and most brackish emotion. The world wants everything at a pace that is inhumane, unattainable. It would be ridiculous of me to try to keep up.

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The first time I cut myself, it was an accident. I was dicking around with little Star Wars figures—trying to carve bullet and sword holes into them with a tiny pocket knife—and the knife slipped and went right into the meat of my palm. I didn’t make a sound. Instinct told me to put the wound to my mouth and my blood tasted warm, rusty, salted. I removed my wound from my mouth and inspected it, the flesh opening deep enough to see into the layers, to see the blood rising into the wound, to feel some kind of excitement or elation that I had not felt before. I stayed there on the ground, opening and closing the wound with my fingers from my other hand, fascinated by my body and what lied beneath my surface. I didn’t have the words or intellectual capacity to understand what was happening to me, but I knew I wanted to know more about this thing, this inside of me, this shell.

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Sometimes I misconstrue my need for boundaries with a hardening of my heart. This is something I am still trying to balance.

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I didn’t realize it in my early teens when I was doing it, but I used to strike brand myself in my room when insomnia and adolescent sadness would swallow me up. I would take a guitar string and heat it up with a lighter and then take the hot metal and lay it on my skin to feel the sharp static bolt into me. I would do this over and over again in places where nobody would ever see—the tops of my feet, my thighs, my inner biceps—until the skin would harden and keloid. Then I would wait and scrub the wounds free with the pumice stone used to clean the tile of the swimming pool. It would take time and effort and a stomach I didn’t know I had, but it would get back to normal flesh again.

I also used to heat up thumb tacks and take them on a guided tour of parts of my body. I remember pushing one through a nipple to see how much it would hurt and the feelings that shot through my body have never been replicated, even all these years later.

Never did it smell like that cautery laser, though.

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The longest I have ever gone without food is a few days. I started to hallucinate and knew that if I didn’t get something inside of this body it was going to start to shut down. I know it’s unhealthy, but there are times I wish I could stop eating, stop producing new cells, stop recycling my blood. Sometimes I just want to see what would happen, where I would go, who I would become invisible to.

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I take my time because I have no patience and I want things to be right.

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