My first reaction upon learning that Robin Williams had died was initial shock. He was 63, so he was in that age where something like a heart attack could have killed him. In fact, he’d undergone bypass surgery some time ago.
When I learned he’d committed suicide, my own heart skipped a beat. I felt it stop. I read it over and over: Robin Williams committed suicide. He was only 63.
Seriously, I don’t want to write this blog post. Knowing that depression claimed another life makes me angry beyond reproach. Beyond FUCKING REPROACH.
To be honest, I hadn’t thought much of Robin Williams over the years. His creative output – with the exception of the criminally overlooked World’s Greatest Dad, one of the DARKEST comedies you will ever see (no, go ahead, watch it…I’ll wait…you tell me) – left me wondering if we’d seen the last of Williams’ legendary, risk-taking talent. His ability to mine every possible depth of humor imaginable was one thing, but to then see Williams willingly straight-jacket himself and perform so brilliantly in some of the most challenging dramatic roles – after all, he was a Julliard-trained actor, you know – was a testament to his skill to both put everything out there, but to also be incredibly open and willing to take himself out of his comfort zone.
The news of his suicide frankly makes me want to cry repeatedly, because, God fucking dammit, none of this is fair.
Robin Williams didn’t just make me laugh. He made me clutch my sides because I couldn’t catch my breath from laughing so hard, the tears running so hard and fast. I must have watched Robin Williams Live at the Met repeatedly, obsessively. “Cocaine, a drug that makes you paranoid AND impotent? GIVE ME SOME!”
That manic intensity, of being able to go from 100MPH to light speed in a nanosecond, and take risks, was exhilarating, for him as a performer and for us as the audience. But it must has been exhausting for him as well. Because to have that kind of manic intensity means you’re capable of extreme highs and extreme lows. (He must have been bipolar. MUST HAVE) I can’t presume to know about the severe depression that Robin Williams was for him, but I do know what depression can make you do. Or not do.
Some will say he made his choice to end his life, but those are the people who’ve never understood – or have never been under the throes of – depression. Depression doesn’t discriminate, and neither does suicide. Depression made that choice – the choice to end his life. Depression consumed him, in the way that depression consumes so many people, in the way that it’s consumed me in the past. In the way that it probably will consume me in the future.
The more I dwell on Williams’ suicide, the more it hits home: what if this is me 20 years from now? Hell, ten years from now? What if I’m at a point where I’m so low that I’m thinking of this ultimate long-term solution for my short-term problems? News reports say Williams had been “battling depression,” as if this were cancer. Sorry, but I’ve never “battled” depression. I’ve endured it, put up with it, shook my fist at it and cursed a thousand tiny deaths to it. No amount of medication or therapy can “combat” depression, and that’s something we need to understand. Williams was coping with depression, and inevitably he could no longer cope. “Battling” implies Robin Williams was waging a war against depression, and he lost the war. He committed suicide. He was “weak.” No he fucking wasn’t. Ernest Hemingway wasn’t “weak.” Hunter S. Thompson wasn’t weak. Virginia Woolf wasn’t “weak.” They couldn’t endure anymore. This wasn’t a battle for them. Depression is an ugly beast that haunts us and makes us do things we don’t want to do, and tell ourselves lies and half-truths we don’t deserve to hear, and ignore the love and hope that exists all around us. Robin Williams could not bear another day of depression telling him otherwise. So he opted out. And that’s what depression does in its finality. I fucking hate depression with every fiber of my body, because living with this motherfucker reminds me that someday I may be in the same shoes Robin Williams was the moments before he killed himself, and I ask to somehow find some tiny sliver of strength and courage to say, “Not today. And not tomorrow, either. I’m not dealing with your bullshit, depression.”
There is so much we don’t know about depression, and so many myths about depression. Of course we were surprised that Robin Williams would have committed suicide; he seemed so full of life, so joyous, yet he was at the right age when suicide is prevalent among men. How frightening.
This morning, I listened to Marc Maron repost his 2010 interview with Robin Williams. Fighting back tears, Maron expresses the same disbelief everyone feels: how could someone who just seemed so alive fall victim to the lowest depths of sadness and despair? The answer might be in the interview itself. With about ten minutes left in the interview, Williams talks frankly about his depression, and about having once ideated about suicide. He’s funny about this, of course, in his manic, off-the-cuff improvisational fashion, but it takes on a chilling poignancy. If somehow he’d listened to the very same advice he’d given himself during the interview. Give the interview a listen, I promise you, you will not have a dry eye when it’s over and done with.
Maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance Robin Williams is seeing the immense outpouring of grief and love his death has elicited. But most tellingly, the Internet has collectively gathered to warmly remember him and his funniest jokes and his greatest scenes, and acknowledge both the actor, the comedian, the humanitarian, and the person.
Rest in peace, Robin Williams. Thank you for making us all laugh until we couldn’t breathe from laughing so hard. Thank you for remind us “It wasn’t your fault.” Thank you for being so alive.
And fuck you, depression. Fuck you for taking another life from us.
…and the worst kind of music is played in this waiting room. It’s the waiting room for my shrink. I’m already irritable, because I know my visit with the shrink will be short, and I’ll put on a happy face and tell him all is well, when all I need him to do is approve my meds.
It’s not the meds that have me irritable, it’s having to take them.
And now I’m sitting in his waiting room, and the worst kind of Muzak is playing. Piano-laden version of “Wind Beneath My Wings” or some Dan Fogelberg track. This sonic assault would make me want to slash my throat in the waiting room, but thankfully I’m not suicidal. I’m far too vain for that. But I could have gone the rest of my life without hearing an even softer version of Christopher Cross’ “Sailing.”
I’ll bet he’s a depressed motherfucker. No one could write music that trite and be happy.
I’m amazed no one has tried to smash the speakers. I would be so inclined. Seriously, doctors need to rethink the music they pipe in their waiting rooms. If you’re trying to make me docile, it’s doing the opposite; it’s like poking a grizzly bear until it snaps.
No one needs to feel more depressed than what they already are by having to listen to this crap.
For the inaugural guest blog post, Victoria Sawyer has kindly shared her blog post entitled, “Addicted.” You can read more about Victoria Sawyer at her blog site, Angst, which, not so coincidentally, happens to be the name of the memoir she’s recently published.
Victoria blogs about her past and present struggles with anxiety and depression, and does with equal parts self-deprecation and blunt-force honesty. Her blog is a refreshing departure from the woe-is-me brand of depression-variety blogs that tend to exist in mass numbers in the blogosphere. And she’s damned funny, did I mention that? I’m currently reading her memoir – in flashes, admittedly (sorry, Victoria!) – and I’m struck by her honesty and how she places the reader front and center inside her mind.
In short, a read through her blog is like a read through her mind, a ride through a roller coaster. But she’s going to get you off the ride easy, dear reader. Trust me on this. Anyway, here’s her guest post, and thanks for sharing this one, Victoria.
(And if you want to do a guest post for this blog, just let me know, and we’ll work out the details. Thanks!)
You guys, I have a confession to make: The girl who stands before you, or wait…sits before you…types before you, the girl clacking on the keyboard really fast, no still not right, the girl who is hiding behind the computer monitor, yeah her, she is a blog addict. This is my brain on blog. It’s like PCP or something hallucinogenic, whereby I write really crazy stuff with no shame. Ab-so-freakin-lutely, no shame. Shame on me. Can someone please put out a PSA about this?! I had no idea the dangers associated with frequent blogging and now look at me, I’m 78 or so posts deep after only 5 months. FIVE MONTHS!! You people need to recognize how truly heart wrenching this situation is. It’s sad to see what’s happening to our nation’s youth, or those slightly older than the youth, but who still think they are young. They always used to say you can’t trust anyone over 30. Is that still true? I didn’t just say that dirty word, 30. Erase that from your brain.
See the staring eyes? That’s from squinting at the computer screen for hours on end!
Now, blogging is a problem for me. It’s like these words and thoughts just keep coming into my head and they are so freaking genius that I must share them. I’m not under my own free will here, the blog is controlling my mind. While I sleep, its in there crafting up crazy words and giving me delusions of grandeur. See that, I did it again, I said my posts are genius and we all know that’s not true. They are sad, sad ravings of a loud mouthed malcontent.
The thing is, I do kind of love it. I wish I had found this drug, I mean blogging business earlier in my life because it’s so cool! I get to write stuff and people sometimes read it and leave me with witty repartee. I love that! See, I can blame it on my readers for why I keep coming back. You can be my scapegoat! Why, by the by, are goats used for scaping? I don’t understand that one at all, but I feel cool saying it. So yea, the writer in me is loving to do blog. Shoot up blog. It’s like I can’t hold back. I’ll write a post or two or three and then I just want to publish them! I know, I’m going further and further down the rabbit hole now.
The thing is, I want to hold back because I’m terrified of blog burnout. I’m sure it’s right around the corner, that soon I will have nothing left to write about, that I would have exhausted every conceivable topic and my blog will truly be my word of the week, year, this word is stuck in my head, insipid. NOOOO!!! Anything but that!!! But I can’t stop! That’s the true definition of an addict right? Someone who can’t say no. That’s me. I just keep posting, day after day after day, when I should just stop!
Now the thing is, you guys will still be around when blog burnout inevitably rears its ugly head, right? No?! I knew you were fair weather friends! (colloquialism city! BAH) I can hear you now, “Look at that old blog burnout Victoria Sawyer! You new bloggers can take a lesson from her, she went too fast, posted too much, soared too high and now look at her, lost and alone. No one reads that blog anymore. It’s TRITE!” Sob…SOBBBB!! Is this my cry for help? I don’t know…I don’t know. It’s too much fun right now, it’s pulling me in and I don’t want to stop! If it’s wrong, I can’t be right! Don’t make me stop!
Now guys, don’t get used to this aside-style writing. This is gonna be over soon (at least for ONE post) because I have an awesome SERIOUS blog post coming soon whereby I am going to challenge you to a duel and if you are afraid or chicken or yellow (again two references I just don’t get) I’m gonna say, goodbye and eject you from my inner circle! haha! I kid, I kid. However I am going to challenge you. Me…yup, the girl who is hooked on blog, who needs a DARE program stat. Or in this case a BARE program. HAHA. Blogs Are Really Evil or maybe Blogs Are Really Epic. And guess what? My husband who is completely not cool at all and also older than me (haha honey!) told me that blogging is dead. Wrong! Wrong again! I love being right. Oh and did you know that blogging is a gateway drug to other harder drugs like Twitter? It’s all very true kids, don’t start blogging.
Ok, I’m gonna stop being cliche, after all nothing under the sun is new and I’m just reiterating a bunch of stuff you already knew. Oh and I swear to you, this is my last post for the week. I promise! (Can you really trust a blog addict’s promise?) Pretend I didn’t write that. Now…come back soon to see my challenge. It’s Truth or Dare!! (Gene Simmons tongue!)
A few weeks back, I wrote about my writing goals for 2013. Ambitious goals, all, and I intend to accomplish all those goals by years’ end.
But writing is really a secondary goal for 2013. My biggest goal for 2013 is to be a better person.
I say with no exaggeration that 2012 was the worst year of my life. I went through an extended hypomanic stage, in which I was rapid-cycling from pure ecstasy to deep depression, and every divisive and toxic emotion in between. I’m still not comfortable talking about all the details over what took place, but the bottom line was, if you look at what happened from a 30,000 foot view, I was hell-bent on self-destruction, and destroying everything I loved around me. My hypomanic episodes, and the lies and deception and the insanity surrounding it all, nearly cost me my marriage. My wife had enough, and she threw me out.
I had a decision to make: continue on this path of self-destruction, and reach bottom, or beg for forgiveness, climb out however possible, face the ugly truth, make amends, own up to the emotional pain and turmoil I’d inflicted, and get help.
In the past, I would have chosen the former. It’s what my family would have done. I come from a long line of manic depressives, cheaters, liars, abusers. Why own up to the truth when you can bury all of it in more lies and more self-delusion? Clearly, for me at least, my mental breakdown was being caused by my inability to cope with the demands of life, so I chose to drown those inabilities with self-destructive tendencies. It’s what my father did. It’s what my mother did. The circle of life, huh?
Making the latter choice was the most difficult choice I’ve ever made. It meant having to face up to my wife’s pain and anguish and anger. It meant having to rebuild our marriage. What I put us through would have destroyed any other marriage, but I chose, we chose, commitment. We’re still committed, day-by-day. It hasn’t been easy, but what I’ve learned, through the assistance of an extremely compassionate marriage counselor, is that in order to heal, we must deal directly with those traumas. If my wife was hurt, it was my tendency to withdraw, which in turn hurt her more. Well, no more. If I was hurt, it was my wife’s tendency to overreact. Well, no more. We’ve become mindful of understanding that we both harbor tremendous amounts of pain, but how each of us deals with that pain is different. I know now that when my wife is hurting, all she wants is compassion, for me to tell her it’ll be alright. The same goes for me.
In choosing the latter, I chose to break that toxic circle of life.
I chose a commitment to myself. To be a better person. A better husband. A better father. The things I know I can be.
All of those things, I know, will help me be a better writer. Writing has been the best form of therapy for me. I’m not fooling myself into thinking that my work-in-progress doesn’t have anything to do with me or my life. Part of what prompted me to write the novel was a plea from my wife, during a low time for me: “I need you to be my superhero.”
I can never be a superhero, because superheroes aren’t supposed to be flawed. But the best fiction is made up of flawed heroes. Hence me pouring my fears and hopes and traumas and joys into this neurotic mess of a novel.
When I finally reached out for professional mental health, I learned two things: one, I am bipolar. Two, being bipolar isn’t a death sentence or anything like that. My psychiatrist, after reading my 12-page evaluation form, pretty much called me a “textbook case.” I’m inclined to agree with his opinion, and not only because he’s really one of the few certified psychiatrists in the area that specializes in mood disorders. I was always a moody fucker. Elated one moment, angry the next. Like living with Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Being under the right medication – and having that medication managed properly – has helped stabilized those moods. My wife tells me that often. Mind you, I can still get pretty angry about things, but my mood flip-flopping is pretty rare nowadays.
Funny, for me, being bipolar helps explain a lot about me. For some, it would be a source of shame, but for me, it’s a badge of honor. Yes, I have a mood disorder. No, it doesn’t mean I’m going to fly off the handle and stab you in the chest. In the same fashion that one learns to live with diabetes, I’m learning to live with bipolar disorder. It’s knowing what triggers you, and how to help calm yourself down.
Calming myself has been the work of my therapist, who has been even more instrumental in my recovery. During our first session, she explained my manic behavior as being the result of a breakdown of the self. My “managers,” meaning my coping mechanisms, have been non-existent in the past. I was all about drowning my triggers and traumas and pains through self-destructive means: drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, affairs. These drowning mechanisms are known as “firefighters,” putting out fires but leaving a path of destruction in their wake. She’s helped me rebuild those managers, and understand that seeking out “firefighters” for a temporary fix isn’t a solution.
In short, she’s helped me to understand that, yes, I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve fucked up, but I’m not a fuck-up. I should stop beating myself up. I can be a better person. I should stop short-changing myself and take the easy way out. I wanted to be a writer. Well, then, here’s your opportunity. Here are the tools. You now have the coping mechanisms, and the confidence to do this, and succeed, in any way, shape, or form. Go.
It’s my intention to make 2013 the best year of my life, one way or another. To be a better person. And a better writer.
And it’s my hope that you’ll tag along for the ride too.
Thanks for reading.
First, an announcement, and some housekeeping: I earned my 2,500 blog view today. Minor golf clap. OK, continue, please..Also, I’ve made some updates to my About page, and added a Contact Me page, in the event that you want to drop me some hate mail.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
My muse comes to me by way of an art form whose medium is sound and silence, its common elements are pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and and texture. Wikipedia’s words, not mine. In other words, music. I get a lot of my writing cues from music.
During NaNoWriMo, I pieced together a list of songs that I thought would fit together nicely as a soundtrack of sorts to what I was writing. This iTunes playlist totaled 55 songs at first, and by the time I was done with the first draft, I narrowed the playlist down to 18 songs. For your listening pleasure, I’ve compiled the playlist below. Keep in mind several of the songs don’t directly correlate to the plot or theme or conflicts of the novel, but because they contained certainly lyrical cues, they’ve become an integral part of the playlist that’s been my muse during the Work-in-Progress.
Also, this gives me an excuse to post links to some really good songs I’ve been listening to ad nauseum lately…
Peter Gabriel – “Lead a Normal Life”: It’s nice here, with a view of the trees/Eating with a spoon?/They don’t give you knives?/’Spect you those trees/Blowing in the breeze/We want to see you lead a normal life.”
The Smithereens – “Miles From Nowhere”: A true shit-stomper from the criminally-underrated Smithereens, a band I used to see perform quite a lot in the clubs in downtown NYC. Being “miles from nowhere” is what my protagonist feels, metaphorically speaking.
Azure Ray – “Don’t Leave My Mind” – “We can break plans/I’ll keep all I can/You’ll be my friend/And start over again/And you can go to New York City/Get a place on the East Side/But don’t leave my mind.”
Frank Sinatra – “Night and Day” – the song Daniel and Emma danced to on their wedding day, and the song that triggers Daniel years later into a mental collapse. Ol’ Blue Eyes absolutely SMOKES this version, among the many versions he recorded of Cole Porter’s classic.
Iggy and the Stooges – “Search and Destroy” – Because every dangerously unhinged superhero needs a dangerously unhinged theme song from one of the most dangerously unhinged bands, courtesy of one of the most dangerously unhinged lead singers ever. God bless you, Iggy Pop!
Atlas Genius – “Trojans” – Change the locks, change the scene/Change it all but can’t change what we’ve been/Your trojan’s in my head
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Manic Depression” – …for obvious reasons.
Band of Horses – “Is There a Ghost” – To conquer his fears of failing as a superhero, Daniel must conquer the ghosts that haunt him, the “ghosts in his house,” so to speak. Lyrically simple, yet so powerful.
Bruce Springsteen – “Adam Raised a Cain” – “In the Bible, mamma, Cain slew Abel and East of Eden, mamma, he was cast/You’re born into this life paying for the sins of somebody else’s past/Well Daddy worked his whole life for nothing but the pain/
Now he walks these empty rooms looking for something to blame/
But you inherit the sins, you inherit the flames”
The 13th Floor Elevators – “You’re Gonna Miss Me” – A kiss-off to an unfaithful girl…or a lament to losing one’s mind? I say it’s the latter. Holy fuck this song rocks; this is the kind of song you crank the speakers up to 11 and dance stupidly to in your living room.
The Pixies – “Vamos” – that feedback-drenched instrumental break, when Frank Black’s screaming like he’s trying to chew his restraints off…yeah.
John Coltrane – “Blue Train” – those opening seven notes just kill me every time.
Au Revoir Simone – “Shadows” – “I’m moving on/I hope you’re coming with me/I hope you’re coming with me/’Cause I’m not that strong/Don’t blame it on your shadows/’Cause I know all about you.
Another song told from Emma’s point of view.
Bat For Lashes – “Daniel” – I thought of this song when I wrote the scene when Daniel first met Emma, and the pain she felt when she was forced to leave him.
Leonard Cohen – “First We Take Manhattan” – “Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win/You know the way to stop me/But you don’t have the discipline.”
Genesis – “Back in N.Y.C.” – “You say I must be crazy, ‘cos I don’t care who I hit, who I hit/But I know it’s me that’s hitting out and I’m, I’m not full of shit/I don’t care who I hurt, I don’t care who I do wrong/This is your mess I’m stuck in, I really don’t belong.”
The Who – “Is It In My Head” – “I pick up phones and hear my history/I dream of all the calls I miss/I try to number those who love me/And find out exactly what the trouble is.”
Happy Cyber Monday, everyone! Cyber Monday is a holiday, right? It better damned well be, if my slow-assed internet connection is any indication. Anyhow, I hope everyone’s had a terrific Thanksgiving. Well, at least us Americans have. You non-Americans don’t get to pig out on turkey and stuffing and candied yams and stuffing and more turkey and sweet potatoes and more stuffing and pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and more turkey for 4 straight days. Suckers. You’ll never know what it’s like to open your fridge and stare at yet more turkey to be eaten, and you just can’t give the turkey to your dogs, because too much turkey can actually kill your dog, so you’re wondering, is it possible to make Turkey Soup? Turkey Pancakes? Turkey Milkshakes?
Sorry if I just made you puke in your mouth. My Thanksgiving was fine, thank you for asking. What I was most thankful for was the relative lack of leftovers; the turkey and all the trimmings had been devoured by Friday night. We were smart this time: a smaller bird, less side dishes, less leftovers. And no worries.
On to the business of NaNoWriMo…
STATS (as of Day 26)
TOTAL WORDS: 39,038
WORDS PER DAY (AVERAGE): 1,501
The fact that I’m even averaging 1500 words per day is something of a miracle for me. By my count, I’ve lost 6 complete days of writing this month, either because of time away or Thanksgiving. I still think holding NaNoWriMo during November is a shitty idea, but I don’t call the shots, I only write the words. Still, the finish line is within striking distance. Like in the races I run, I can feel myself picking up the pace once the end is within sight. Shit, I can even smell the end of the month from here, and my sense of smell sucks.
I’m a bit more than 10,000 words away from the 50K goal. With five days to go, that rounds out to more than 2,000 words per day. And I am not sweating this. At. All. But I can’t help but wonder how much progress I would have made had I even had but 3 or 4 of those days I lost. Is it possible I’d be at the 45-47K mark by now? Or would I be at 37-38K, procrastinating like usually, and revving myself up for the mother of all literary surges? Like cramming an entire semester of Molecular Biology in one night. Doable? Hell yes. Crazy? You bet your ass.
Another minor miracle – well, I’m being modest here; the miracle, for me, is pretty massive, but it’s moot if it doesn’t pay off down the road – is my realization as I’m hammering out the ending of the story that Daniel’s story is incomplete, because it dawned on me that I really didn’t know much about him. I knew about his background, his dysfunctional upbringing, but did I really know what the roots of his trauma and his (deadly) dance with bipolarity and schizophrenia were?
So I made the plunge, and what I learned stunned me: the most important character, next to my protagonist, is his father. The father he hardly knew.
I’ve written some truly dark material, even during Thanksgiving – yeah, I begged off and carved out about 2000-3000 words per night this weekend – that came surprisingly easily for me. For one, it’s helped me see some of the traumatic events in my own childhood that have caused me trouble as an adult. It’s also been fun exploring some of my childhood memories: going to Shea Stadium when the early 80s Mets were truly dire, seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time, wandering the aisles at the local Key Food or Path Mark, just to name a few.
Obviously, fleshing out a protagonist’s back story should have been left for the outlining process, but writing out his childhood memories has become an integral part of the novel itself. And it’s been a liberating experience; I’ve found that the real story was in the past, and not the present, nor the future.
Alright, gang…5 days left. If you’ve finished, and you’ve gotten your novel’s word count validated, then I say
fuck you, you fucking showoffs I mean who the fucking fuck hell do you fucking think you fucking are, fucking Hemingway or something job well done! For those of us who are still plugging away, let’s do this. 5 days. No guts, no glory. Make it happen!
I got roped into participating in a blog hop, courtesy of the very talented Melanie, aka Ink Out Loud. If you haven’t read or subscribe to her blog, do so right now. She’s exactly the kind of young, gifted, go-getting writer and actress and all-around creative type that’s going places.
God, I hate go-getters.
At any rate, Melanie asked if I’d participate in this blog hop thingy, wherein I’d answer 10 questions in relation to my work-in-progress, and I’d agree to post my answers in a separate blog. Additionally, I am to keep this blog hop going by tagging five other bloggers/writers who are also in the midst of
pulling their hair writing during NaNoWriMo.
(Regarding the tagging thing, there are so many great blogging writers I’m a fan of, so picking 5 isn’t as easy as it seems. So, instead, if you’re reading this, and you want to participate, let me know in the Comments section below, and I’ll send you the instructions on what do to. Okay?)
Alright, here goes me making an ass of myself. As always…
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
1. What is the working title of your book?
There are several working titles for my book, depending on what mood I’m in when I’m writing. So far, “The Trouble With Superheroes,” “The Book of Daniel,” and “Crazy Like a Superhero” are the ones I’m considering.
PS: I hate coming up with titles.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Two main ideas converged: the first idea for the book came from a conversation I was having with my wife about working in a corporate (white-collar) setting, like we both do, and riffing on ideas on how to make working in the corporate world more absurb. I threw in an idea about superheroes working in a corporate setting, and suddenly the idea became a pretty amusing satire, sort of X-Men meets The Office, complete with workplace drama and people you hate working with/for.
The second idea is more personal. Having dealt with depression most of my adult life, I’m in a contemplative mood recently, and I’ve put a lot of thought into what it means to be something bigger and better to those you love. Being more heroic, so to speak. The novel is a rumination into this: an examination on what it means to be a hero, a superhero, and whether we have it in us to be that kind of person.
The protagonist is someone who’s clearly heroic, yet he’s emotionally and psychologically fragile. He’s got that inflated sense of self and that massive ego that comes from being a superhero, but he’s prone to fits of mania and depression that ultimately leave him in a state of psychological paralysis. His internal conflict, along with the external conflicts, are what he’s to face throughout the novel.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
I would think it falls somewhere between literary fiction and genre. I have much respect for genre, but I also feel there’s a lot of constraints to genre; it can feel somewhat formulaic, even if the formula’s guaranteed to work. I’m trying to write something that blends the demands of genre with the freedom of literary fiction.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Come back to me when my agent’s negotiated a film deal.
Honestly, I haven’t put any thought into this. The protagonist, and the supporting characters – his ex-wife, his best friend/sidekick, his arch-nemesis, are aged between their late-30s and early 40’s. Plus, the protagonist is more than your typical one-dimensional superhero; he’s undergoing an emotional and psychological breakdown, so an actor who can be both action-oriented and plumb into some internal dark territory is a must.
So maybe Robert Downey Jr. would be perfect in the lead role, but he’s already got that Iron Man/Tony Stark thing going, so no sense in him repeating himself.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I don’t think a one-sentence synopsis will give this novel the summary it deserves, but here goes:
A superhero comes to the bitter realization that he may be a hero to many, but a lousy person to others – especially his ex-wife – and his abrupt retirement sets off a series of events that culminates in a final confrontation with the one enemy he fears the most: himself.
6. If you plan to publish, will your book be self-published or published traditionally?
I haven’t put much thought into how the book will be published yet, just like I haven’t researched agents or publishers yet. I would prefer traditional publishing, whether it’s one of the big houses, or an independent publisher, but I’m very open to self-publishing.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’ve been in first-draft mode for a while, but I finally completed the bare bones draft (you can call it a first draft) this past June. Currently, I’m on the second or third draft, depending on what day it is.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A few books come to mind. Watchmen, of course, as its quite possibly the finest graphic novel ever published, and an excellent examination on the significance of the superhero mythology. Kingdom Come is another one that comes to mind.
Lowboy is another, a remarkable novel about a sixteen-year-old boy who’s convinced that the world is coming to an end, and only he can save the world. The thing is, he’s a paranoid schizophrenic. There are some elements in my novel that I’ve picked up from Lowboy.
I’m a big fan of Junot Diaz and Michael Chabon; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay are two books I’ve had in mind while writing this novel.
Finally, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, simply for the reason that Gaiman is one of the few writers that can marry the demands of genre (horror, fantasy, sci/fi) with the breadth and scope of literary fiction, especially character development, along with a keen and wicked sense of humor and a love for pop culture.
9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned before, my wife’s been a catalyst; she’s not a writer, and frankly, sometimes my writing gets in the way of things, but she’s been as supportive as a spouse can be, even if she does find my need to write perplexing at times.
I’m also inspired by Super, a novel by a dear friend of mine named Aaron Dietz. His is an experimental and deeply hilarious take on becoming a superhero, and you should read it, only because I told you to do so. Seriously, read it. You won’t be disappointed.
I’ve been surrounded by many friends who are also writers. The immensely talented and very supportive Bud Smith, for example. I love his writing, and his approach to writing. His support for my writing, along with the support from other writing friends, have been very important and inspirational to me.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s got plenty for anyone to be interested in it: a love story (your classic boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-marry-then-divorce, boy-tries-to-win-girl-back), plenty of drama, conflict, and action, loads of satire, tons of humor and snappy dialogue – lots of pop culture riffing – and much to think about from a philosophical standpoint.
So there you have it. Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest. In the meantime, I’m going to continue gnashing my teeth and wrestling this WIP into something readable.
Thanks for reading.
STATS (As of Day 14)
TOTAL WORDS: 20,663
WORDS PER DAY (AVERAGE): 1,475
First, some housekeeping: this is my 50th blog on this site. Normally, I’d say this is cause for a shrug, but I’m pretty pleased I’ve made it this far. This blog wouldn’t be what it is where it not for you, dear reader. Thanks for coming back and reading my blog.
On to the updates…
I’m still about 2,000 words behind pace, but I’m making enough progress to where I’m chipping away at the word count like a fat kid at a cupcake store. Mmm…cupcakes.
You may recall me complaining mildly in my last blog about being stuck. Yesterday, I started allowing the story to come to me, rather than force the story onto paper, and I made something of a breakthrough: I’m killing off a major character at the beginning of the novel. Yes, my antagonist will die in the first chapter. Don’t worry, he’s not actually going to die, but the reader will think he’s dead. Oh no, I just gave it away!
Breaking this Gordian Knot I’d gotten myself to really unleashed the story, and it allowed me to take a less dark path than what I’d been taking recently. I’m letting Daniel be melancholy, and not a snivelling little bitch about his depression. This has also allowed the satire I’d wanted to be prevalent in the story to finally come to light. I wrote a pretty funny scene in which our hero calls an Employee Assistance Program – he’s “employed” as a superhero, after all, and as an employee, he gets medical benefits…seriously – for a referral to a psychiatrist. The dialogue was pretty snappy. I liked it.
Wanna read this scene? Of course you!
I stayed awake and watched the sun rise from the rooftop. I later went back into the apartment, phone number in hand, but not before pacing somewhat. I dislike talking on the phone to begin with. Finally, I dialed.
“Thank you for calling Meridian Healthcare’s Employee Assistance Program. Your call is important to us. Please listen to our menu options, as our menu options have changed. Press ‘1’ for…” I’m not sure which option to choose, so I press zero for an operator. “Your call may be monitored for quality assurance…”
“Meridian Healthcare, this is Angie speaking. How may I be of assistance to you today?” says the voice on the other line, a bit too cheerful for my tastes this morning. I want to hang up; I can feel my throat tighten.
“Yeah, um…I was calling…um…I need a…a…a referral.”
“Of course, I can help you with that. Can you tell me what kind of referral you’ll be needing.”
“Um…what kind? I don’t understand…”
“What kind of doctor do you need to see? What’s the medical condition you’re seeking treatment for? Do you need to be referred to a primary care physician?”
This should be easy for me, but my head’s swimming right now. I don’t want Angie’s help right now. I take a deep breath. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure how to ask…um…I’m kind of embarrassed…”
“Oh, do you need to see a urologist,” Angie whispers, helpfully. A urologist?
“Oh no no no! I’m fine…down there…yeah…um…oh wow.”
Angie chuckles. “I’m sorry, sir, if I seemed out of line. We can get you the right help you need, and I’m happy to ask you all the right questions. Are you in any kind of physical pain?”
For some reason, I stare at my gut. “No, no physical pain,” I reply. “I…I need to see a therapist.”
“A mental help therapist,” she adds, once again cheerfully but not as loudly this time. “Will you need a therapist, or a medical profession to manage medication.”
“I don’t really know. I’m just depressed, really bad.”
There it was. Someone once said the first step to treating depression is to acknowledge it exists. “I’m sorry to hear that, sir. Um…” I could hear Angie rustling some papers. “Sir, are you in any danger of hurting yourself or someone else?”
“Too late for that,” I blurt.
“Sir? Can you repeat that?”
“Never mind…actually, no, I’m not trying to kill myself or harming someone else. It’s just that I’m very depressed about some people getting hurt over something I did wrong.”
There’s a pause. In my head, I can hear Angie: I know who I’m talking to. She’s saying this in a sing-song voice. I brace myself for the inevitable “Is that you?” question, but, instead, nothing. Just professionalism. “But you’re in no danger right now, is that correct?” she asks. No, I reply.
“I guess I need to see someone who prescribes medicine. Is that a psychiatrist or a psychologist? I can’t ever get that right.”
“A psychiatrist, sir. Okay, can I get your name and social, please?”
“Daniel Torres. ###-##-####.”
“Terrific. One moment while I pull up your account information. Alright, I’m showing that your benefit plan allows you 8 visits at no charge, and all other subsequent visits, should you choose to continue your treatment, will require a $15 copay. Can I have your zip code, please, so I can locate a provider in your area?”
“One moment, please, while I look up a provider. May I put you on hold, Mr. Torres?”
Some more silence. I’m imagining what Angie looks like. Married. Mid-forties. Maybe she’s overweight. 3 kids, ages 10, 7, and 3. Loves needlepoint and baking. She’s been praised for her optimism, but I wonder if she’s truly happy. Is anyone truly happy? My mother asked that once. She said the answer was no. No one was capable of happiness. No one…
“Mr. Torres, thanks for holding. I have the name of a provider in your network. Do you have a pen and paper handy?”
“Hang on,” I reply, looking around slightly frantically for a scrap of paper and something to write with. “Okay, go ahead.”
“Dr. Shawn Stanfield, telephone number 212-###-####. She’s a psychiatrist, and she’s currently taking new patients. Once you make an appointment with Dr. Stanfield, the doctor’s office will file a claim with Meridian, so there’s no paperwork you’ll need to complete, other than whatever paperwork the doctor’s office requires for their purposes. So, again, you’re covered for 8 visits at no cost. Is there anything else I can help you with, Mr. Torres?”
“No,” I sigh. “You’ve been very helpful, Angie.”
“Thank you again for calling Meridian Healthcare, Mr. Torres. You have yourself a very good day.” Her voice is warm and comforting. For some reason, her voice suddenly reminds me of Emma’s voice.
I look around the apartment. I need to clean up, right now. I pick up the piles of clutter I’ve built for myself, throw in some laundry, and grab some cleaners from under the kitchen sink. Several hours later, there are 6 garbage bags piled next to the front door, and not a spot of clutter or trash to be found. The surfaces are clean once again. The apartment smells new, refreshed. The drapes are pulled open, the blinds drawn, there’s sunlight in the apartment in as long as I could remember.
This section, plus more, was the outcome of a two-hour writing frenzy today. 2 hours, 2,228 words. I love it when I’m in the groove like that.
I’ve also written a pretty tight action sequence, but I’ll share that one with you on my next blog. Speaking of which, by the time I post my next blog, this site will have been viewed more than 2,000 times. Not bad for a blog that’s been online for a little more than two months.
Author’s Note: This one’s a bit lengthy. Maybe 4,000 words. Grab yourself some coffee, tea, whatever, and settle in.
In late 2005, going into 2006, back when I used to blog on MySpace, I wrote an epic blog series called “A Not-So-Brief History of Girls.” This was a nine-part series documenting my history with girls and women, obviously. As blogs went, the feedback I received from readers was enough validation for me to continue this blogging thing, since it was fairly new to me at the time. As for the series itself, it was fairly funny, but mostly a woe-is-me, sad bastard looks back at all the girls I’ve loved before. Now you’ve got that song in your head, haven’t you?
Muriel (1979-1981): Muriel and her mother lived in an apartment one floor below us. We went to the same elementary school together, but were in different classes. We were pretty much inseparable; we’d walk to and from school together. On the weekends, our parents would take us to McDonalds for Happy Meals and the McDonaldland playground. My friendship with Muriel was, in the strictest of terms, purely platonic. This would also be a recurring theme in my life – the platonic girlfriend. Never once did Muriel and I consider being “boyfriend and girlfriend”. I do recall being extremely comfortable around her. Muriel had the warmest brown eyes I’d ever seen.
Muriel’s parents had split up around the time we became friends. Years later, I’d learn her father came out of the closet. I had no idea what being gay was at the age of eight, so I didn’t find it unusual that Muriel’s father was constantly in the presence of another man, whom he said was his “friend”.
Before school started in the fall of 1981, Muriel and her mother moved away, to a house on Long Island. Oddly enough, her father took possession of the apartment they were vacating. I was extremely upset by this news; we promised to write and call, and, if possible, visit often. But nothing ever materialized. Every so often, we’d bump into each other. We’d make the most trivial of small talk, or dispense the most meaningless of pleasantries. The last time I’d seen her was when I was in college; she had two kids, was unmarried and those warm brown eyes seemed sunken and dispirited. Her father was dying of AIDS, and she had another kid on the way.
Mind you, many of those relationships were platonic, some romantic, a few strictly of the friends-with-benefits variety as well. And, of course, the psycho ex-girlfriend that shattered your illusions for a long time.
Marcy Hanson, Miss October 1978 (summer 1985): I finally figured out what the fuss regarding girls/women was all about. Puberty finally kicked in, during the spring of 1985. And Ms. Hanson, the loveliest buxom blonde from Texas my young impressionable eyes had ever seen, helped me through that process. Having found my dad’s pathetically small stash of nudie magazines, I found myself being drawn to the curvy charms of Miss October 1978. I didn’t care for the more hardcore stuff; the Playboy issue of October 1978 had Dolly Parton on the cover. Did my dad think Dolly was going to show off her breasts?
Marcy Hanson and I began a steamy love affair under my blankets that summer. Every opportunity I’d get, I’d race to her photo spread, eager for another glimpse of her natural beauty. Her warm smile, that halo of curly blonde locks, those perfect breasts, were my introduction to manhood, which I demonstrated to her every night.
Also, that summer, I found my dad’s just-as-pitiful porn video collection, and I began a brief but not as torrid affair with Seka and Vanessa Del Rio. But that’s another story for another day.
Many years later, I was walking past a street vendor on Sixth Avenue, in the heart of Greenwich Village. The man was selling old magazines, and I stopped to browse. In between worn copies of Life and National Geographic was the October 1978 issue of Playboy. And there was Marcy Hanson, just as beautiful as I’d remembered her. I thought about buying the magazine – it was only $1 – but the past was the past. Rekindled love affairs are doomed to fail the second time around.
This was the blog series where I came into my own as a blogger. I came to recognize the power blogging had over me, in terms of leaving myself open, to talk about myself in ways I hadn’t before, letting people, perfect strangers, really, take a glimpse into my past. For some, this would be awkward, terrifying, even. For me, it was cathartic.
Lillian (sophomore year, college, 1990-91): Lillian was my first serious girlfriend. Truth be told, I have no idea what she saw in me, but of all the guys who were seriously courting her (including my buddy Jason, who went by the nickname “Cooter” – why I have no clue), she picked me. Apparently my aloof, “she’ll choose me because I’m a chick magnet” charm sealed the deal for me. Oh hell, I was so excited about finally having some girl consider me her boyfriend, I felt like a sorry-assed team who finally won the NBA lottery.
Getting a girlfriend in college meant having a ready-made excuse for ditching class. Why go to 8:00AM Sociology when you could fool around with your girlfriend? My grades suffered; I didn’t care. I was in love.
Unfortunately, my feelings of elation lasted just 4 months. I should have seen the warning signs. Lillian always spoke in elliptical terms; for example, she’d say something like “no one will ever love you like I love you,” then she’d say something contrary like “once I fix a man and make him fine, I move on to someone else.” Apparently, she saw herself as a boyfriend doctor, rescuing geeks like me from a fate consisting of chronic masturbation and basement dwelling, but I wasn’t good enough to stick around as her boyfriend. Lillian also had a male “friend” she spent time with, whom she spoke of in glowing terms. When I took off for a long-planned Christmas vacation, Lillian took the opportunity to cure her loneliness by cheating on me. Idiot. I never saw it coming.
She justified her crime by announcing to me she was bored with the direction our relationship was heading, and wanted to see other people. But we could still be friends…with benefits.
Of course, I took advantage of said benefits. This would be a mistake I would never make again with an ex-girlfriend.
“A Not-So-Brief History of Girls” was also a chronicle of my depression. I was a mess from 1994 to 1997. It seemed telling that it was around that time that I engaged in way too much drinking, way too much dabbling with drugs, and getting into relationships, sexual and non-sexual, that were headed nowhere. I was in a bad place, emotionally and psychologically. I was painfully aware of my depression, but I was determined to drink, drug, and fuck the pain away.
Lori (October-December 1994): On the day I’d met Lori, I’d woken up with an awful premonition that something bad was going to happen to me that day. Lo and behold, my premonition came true; I’d been fired from my job. I was working as a paralegal at a super-big law firm. Entertainment law was one of their specialties. One of the firm’s clients was Jimmy Page. Yes, THAT Jimmy Page. He came by one afternoon to visit his lawyer. I had hoped to see him, but I was caught up doing other things. But I digress.
My now-ex-colleagues decided to take out for drinks. Several booze-fueled hours later, myself and a secretary from the firm named Deidre, plus her boyfriend, found ourselves at a bar where a friend of hers slung drinks behind the bar. At one end of the bar was a girl with two men, both visibly drunk, on each side. She wore a bored look on her face. One of the men decides to get up from his stool. He made it past us and stopped halfway; he unzipped his fly and took a big piss, mere feet from Deidre. Her beau and I grab this fool and are about to wail on him just like Rodney King when the girl with the bored look on her face comes between us. She pleads with us not to beat him to a bloody pulp. You should pick your friends more carefully, I growl, but she tells me she doesn’t know these guys.
“Do you want to get some coffee,” she asks. Okay, I tell her. She introduces herself as Lori. She’d just moved to NYC from a small town outside of Syracuse. We spend the next few hours, into the pre-dawn light, walking around town and chasing down more beer and more coffee. I find myself enthralled with this girl; she’s genuine, very sweet, and doesn’t come across as a small-town rube. Anyway, she gives me her phone number; it takes me almost 3 days to gather myself together and call her. This normally would have been a deal breaker with most women, but Lori wasn’t most women, I guess.
Thus began a hot and heavy friendship that quickly evolved into something more serious. To my manic personality Lori added a warmth and understanding I didn’t get from many other women. She understood the beast inside of me and allowed me to express it. I would learn that beast was passion, a passion for live, for love, for creativity.
I wasn’t sure what that feeling was, but I felt relaxed around her. I never once felt I had to be someone else. I didn’t have to prove myself to Lori. She displayed an amazing ability to see people for whom they were and accept them for that. A fascinating concept, really. I learned that from her, and to this day, I still possess that knowledge, thanks to Lori.
This relationship wasn’t going to last. Lori was growing homesick. This small town girl began to realize the hustle and bustle, the bullshit of NYC, was not for her. She made plans to go back home, and promised to return. I knew this wasn’t going to happen. Lori confirmed it a few weeks later, when she wrote me a letter explaining how bad she felt for ending a relationship like ours. Lori made it clear she was very happy being with me; she’d hoped her letter wouldn’t trivialize or minimize our relationship, and she wanted to keep our friendship intact. I responded the only way I knew how; I begged her to come back, and told her I loved her. She reacted with indifference. Knowing she didn’t feel the same way about me devastated me for months, sending me into a deep depression.
After several abortive attempts to get our “friendship” off the ground, Lori writes me out of the blue. You ready for this, the first line of the letter states. Lori was getting married. To an ex-boyfriend now serving in the Army. They were going to get married and be shipped off to Germany.
I would have preferred not to know this. I didn’t write her back. My depression continued.
Some time at the beginning of this year, I was reviewing some old blogs, looking for something to glean some ideas from. I re-read this piece, prettied it up a little bit, then left it alone. Sure, it made me chuckle, but it also made me cringe. It seemed self-indulgent for me to “kiss and tell” my interactions with other women. None of them, with the exception of wife, even know this exists. I nearly deleted it, but thought better of it.
Julie (early 1996 – early 1997): One afternoon, at work, I’m having a conversation on the phone with my sister. She brings up her friend Julie, and, like a broken record, pimps her to me. “You should ask her out.” I’ve heard this before. I get a call on the other line; it’s the security guard at the lobby. I have a visitor downstairs. “I’ll call you back,” I tell Gaby. At the lobby, I’m greeted by a woman bearing a package.
“I just wanted to give you this box of chocolates.” She does not introduce herself, and quickly turns around and leaves the lobby. I’m left standing there with a box of chocolates, a box of Perugina Bacis. How did she know I like Peruginas…oh, fuck! I call my sister back; she acts like she has no idea she just ordered a sneak attack on me. This is how I met Julie.
(*cue the song “Mrs. Robinson”*)
Julie was older than me, by nine years. I didn’t have a problem with her age, but she seemed to struggle with it. I think she enjoyed dating a younger man (I was 24 at the time), but she would constantly harp about our age difference.
Julie loved to work out her issues…around me. She was riddled with neuroses, having been the product of a proper Midwest Christian (read: dysfunctional) upbringing. She didn’t want to see a shrink, but she sure as shit wanted to read every self-help book on the market. So instead of being someone she was dating, I was her shrink. On the other hand, the girl loved dim sum. Someone who enjoys dim sum can’t be all that bad.
Julie did a lot of travelling; she was a sales consultant for a major hotel chain. She had a trip to California planned, and she’d asked if I wanted to meet her in San Francisco. She had some comp business class airline tickets I could use. How could I refuse? The City by the Bay? Trolleys? Sourdough bread? Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize there’s more to this invitation than “hey, you’ve never been to San Fran, now’s the time!” There was a four-day weekend coming up. This would be the perfect time to see the sights.
Idiot that I fucking am, I didn’t realize this was a cross-country booty call.
The first couple of days in Frisco were great. The next two, after we’d, ahem, you know, did it, were absolute fucking murder. You see, Julie was under the impression that now that we’d slept together, we’d now have to set a wedding date. I had no idea I’d gone on a little vacation with Glenn Close’s character from Fatal Attraction. “I just don’t sleep with any man,” she declared. Julie even bristled at the notion of spending a couple of her bucks in buying us some ice cream cones. I was her “boyfriend” now; I should pay for everything. The drama was amazing. When she wasn’t chastising me, she was crying her eyes out. She even bitched at me for drinking beer. “I am not going to date an alcoholic!”
Thank God for flying home alone on business class. I drank my ass off, glad I didn’t have my balls removed in San Francisco.
A few months ago, I began seeing a new therapist, one that specialized in Emotional Family Therapy. In other words, not the “talk therapy” in which you bellyache and gripe and moan, but one in which your therapist guides you internally, forcing you to recognize patterns in the choices you make. Naturally, a lot of the discussion revolved around my relationships with family, and with other women in my past. Two patterns emerged: one, I seemed to be attracted to women “in trouble,” and, two, I felt the need to dive in head first, consequences be damned, in order to be with said women. As revelations go, for me, this was like discovering I was a Cylon; all my actions now made sense, in a rather senseless fashion.
Christine (May 1997-March 1998): One Friday, I met several of my colleagues at the Turtle Bay. Among the people I commonly hung around with at the TBC was a face unfamiliar to me. My friend Mikey introduced this girl as Christine. She worked as the lead admin assistant (read: secretary) for the Shareholders Services department, and had been there just a few weeks. One thing I noticed about her early on was the engagement ring she wore. It was the dinkiest little pathetic thing I’d ever seen in my life. Christine seemed to be grossly self-conscious of the ring, and, in fact, tucked the dinky little diamond underneath her finger. We’d gotten to talking – about what, I can’t recall, but a few hours later, we were both pretty ripped. She’d confessed she hated her fiancé, and made every attempt possible to avoid him. He was a bum, she said, an unemployed, money-mooching bum. She couldn’t bear to marry him. I took pity on her, and gave her some advice on how to lose him.
Out of the blue, Christine says, “I want to kiss you right now.” I leaned over to kiss her, but she pushed me back. “Not here. Outside.” She took me by the hand and led me outside, where we made out. We ditched Turtle Bay and hung out at a park nearby. It was time for her to go home. I walked her to her train on the Metro-North, made out with her some more, and told her to give her fiancé the boot.
She did give him the boot, and we began dating. It didn’t take long for us to get very serious about one another. This was the beginning of the most intense relationship I would have to date. Christine and I were inseparable, doing just about everything two people in love could do. I had a new found appreciation for chick flicks. Hell, I even helped her buy a new car.
I hadn’t ever felt this strongly about another woman in my life before. I knew I was deeply in love. We were deeply in love. We even talked about – GASP! – getting married someday. At the very least, I’d give Christine a better engagement ring than the Cracker Jack box special she’d previously worn.
Christine did have her quirks, if you call blurting the truth when drunk a quirk. Once she admitted, under the influence of way too many whisky sours, that she accepted her fiancé’s proposal because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, even though she didn’t love him. She also like to pick fights when she was drunk. But these incidents were few and far between.
Something changed. The normally cheery Christine became moody and sullen. She pitched a fit after Christmas, and we drove back home from her father’s house in Delaware in complete silence. She didn’t want to do anything. She wanted to spend more time alone. It reached a boiling point one night when I asked her what’s wrong – I’m pretty good about picking up bad vibes from people, and if I think the bad vibes are my doing, I become very paranoid and will want to know why. After about an hour of denials, she finally confessed: she didn’t want me to move in with her. She was having doubts about our relationship. A few days later, we tearfully broke up. I spent an entire weekend sobbing hysterically, not eating, not drinking, and not sleeping. Christine was pretty shaken up about our breakup as well. She’d sent me a couple of e-mails telling me she was very upset about breaking up, but she said she needed time alone. We probably were spending way too much time together; a breakup was probably the best fix for what was ailing our relationship.
After a few weeks, we made an attempt at reconciliation. We booked a weekend at a bed & breakfast in Vermont…which turned out to be a complete and fucking unmitigated disaster. The car ride home was 5 hours of complete silence. I dropped her off and prepared myself for another breakup. For a good six weeks, Christine avoided me.
I get to my office one morning and check my voice mail. One of the messages was from Christine. It just isn’t working out anymore, she tells me. A voice mail breakup, a first for me. So that there wasn’t any weirdness between us, I told her I wouldn’t be going to Tony, a mutual friend’s, party the following weekend. She insisted I go; she wanted to remain friends. Another stupid decision on my part. She got piss-drunk and could only muster these words to me:
“You need to get your shit out of my apartment.”
I got extremely drunk, then went over to a friend’s house and got extremely stoned. This time I didn’t cry over her. This is what Christine wanted; I wasn’t going to be her to come back.
After that initial, bruising session with my new therapist, I looked back at “A Not-So-Brief History of Girls,” and saw those patterns, in full, naked glory. They’d been in front of me all along, and I was too blind to see them.
Suzanne (her final appearance, 1998): That friend in whose house I got stoned at? Suzanne. She was good for choice pot, good girl that she was. We spent a lot of time together in the summer of ’98, going to mutual friends’ wedding and getting silly. She threw a birthday party for herself at Central Park one Sunday, a small gathering that included me. We sat at Sheep’s Meadow on blankets, drank cheap Champagne and enjoyed a pleasant summer day.
This, for some reason, would be the last time I ever saw Suzanne.
A few years later, I was surprised to learn Suzanne had come out of the closet.
Those patterns were painfully evident even while searching into my relationship with my wife, who was in a physically and emotional abuse relationship when we met online. I was her knight in shining armor, so to speak. Little did she know my armor was damaged.
So what does this have to do with writing? Nothing much, except the guts of that blog might make for an interesting idea for a novel. Sort of a Portnoy’s Complaint for the 21st century, but without the irony and that Tucker Max-esque penchant for douchebaggery that passes for modern lit these days.
But it also serves for me as a reminder that one’s past, however painful, is a source for great writing. I have a lot of past pain, anger, and sadness I’m working out, and I’ve given myself the freedom and the permission to explore all these on paper. It’ll get messy, and I’m prepared for it to send me into a storm of triggers that might mess me up for a few days. Writing is catharsis. Every writer seems to understand that.
Thanks for reading this.