A Dick You Don’t Have

The first time you meet Steven you unlock your photos and he texts you that he would always be inside you, he would stay inside you all day and all night and never leave you. You already feel a bit giddy then about this man on a different continent and that’s when he asks if it would be alright if he flew you to meet him in New York City when he’s there on business next month. I’m not dangerous, I’m a good guy, he says. I’d take good care of you. And those very particular words slip inside and lodge in your chest and you ask him if he really means that and you ask if he could repeat that and he says yes, when you’re with me I’d take care of you.

I’ll take good care of you too, you say.

You’ve never dated a man with that much money and if you’re truly brutally honest with yourself you would have to admit that it helped make you stone cold smitten in a matter of seconds. You’ve never had a man offer to fly you anywhere, and it’s that prospect, along with the words I’ll take good care of you, at this particular point in your personal history, that shreds you and makes you weak and willing and of course you say yes I’d love to meet you.

You talk and text throughout the next few days, telling each other everything, and when you tell him that you’re really kind of fucked up in the head in several important ways he says that honestly he kind of likes that about you and it doesn’t scare him in the least, and by the third day you know you’re in trouble. By the third day you are telling him that it’s too fucking fast but…

And he says I know what you’re going to say and I feel it too.

You have already begun to build something with him, a castle in the sky, a fantasy of a kind of future where he stands beside you, your shoulders barely touching.

You ignore for the time being the distance between you. For the time being you ignore many things, like the fact that falling for a man this fast means a fast end is coming. No – you are giddy and hopeful and you’ve been living in Bumfuck, Massachusetts and isolated and lonely and a handsome rich CEO foreigner is sending you texts all day long to check in on you and your welfare. You have in fact never known loneliness like the loneliness you’ve felt the past four years. And when he calls you from his car on his way home from work he ends up circling his neighborhood over and over because the two of you can’t stop talking to each other.

He tells you several times that when he’s with a man, that man’s happiness is paramount to him, and that he would endure tremendous pain if it meant the other man would be happy.

You can’t quite remember when Steven first talks about the other man.

The other man lives in your old stomping grounds, San Francisco, where Steven also often goes on business, a man that Steven can’t help but express a bit of wonder over, like he can’t believe that a man that hot would be interested in him. Oh, hot in a completely different way than your hotness, he says to you. He says that he’s in love with the other man but the other man is not in love with him. He loves Steven but not in that way.

You feel a tightness in your chest when he talks about the other man, and the castle in the sky kind of blurs in your brain, but you remind yourself that you and Steven feel the same way about each other, and that’s what matters. You’ll accept that the other man is in Steven’s life because you return Steven’s feelings and the two of you are building something important together.

Sometimes you let yourself imagine him inviting you to move in with him on the other continent, and it’s so many thousands of miles away but here in fucking Bumfuck you’d accept all forms of rescue, some exit door leading out of all the lonesomeness.

He buys you a train ticket to New York City where you meet him in the lobby of his midtown hotel, and he looks like his photos and alone in the hotel room on the eleventh floor he puts his arms around you and kisses you and you just lean all your weight into him and let him hold you while your muscles kind of shudder on their own. The distant sound of midtown traffic.

You’re there for two short days. Daytimes he takes meetings and then comes back to you at night. And you fuck and talk and fuck and talk for two nights.

On the last morning you wait with him for his cab and you kiss and hold him and say good bye and later he texts you and says that when he watched you walk away towards Penn Station he got sad.

You return to your outpost alone.

Every single day, all day long, he sends you texts and calls to check on your welfare. And you feel less alone, and the little green notification with his name that pops up on your phone all day long makes you smile, casts light upon the sturdy castle.

But he also talks to you often about the other man, and tells you things about the other man that’ll burrow into your brain and turn into torture. Steven tells you about the first time he saw the other man, who was coming from his job as a prison guard, and he was still in his uniform, with a tool belt, and the way he walked, his swagger, and the whole hot fucking image, and Steven, who had been a top all his life, thought to himself this man is either going to kill me or fuck the shit out of me, and I’m okay with both.

The other man is Mexican and covered in old gang tattoos and is beautiful in exactly the kind of dangerous way that works on you, too. In fact one day you realize that before you ever met Steven you saw random pics of the other man at a pool party that popped up on your Facebook feed, and you thought to yourself who the fuck is THAT?

So much exquisite pain.

Steven tells you that once they were in New York City together and the other man said something so cruel to him that Steven nearly left him there alone. Steven sometimes implies that maybe the other man isn’t very nice some of the time, and that he takes two or three days to respond to Steven’s texts, and you always respond right away, every time, and you’re always kind to him and you think maybe that’ll be enough, maybe that’ll keep Steven beside you.

Then one day Steven tells you that he might be moving to San Francisco because the nature of his job is changing and in order to grow his business he needs to be in the States, and right then and there the slow motion car crash that’ll be your life begins. Because the other man lives in San Francisco, and you imagine the two of them moving in together, even if the other man doesn’t feel the same way about Steven. And you lived in that city for 18 years, until one day you were dumped and the rents had gotten insane and so you left the city, and it felt like an exile, and the thought of the two of them together in your old home, the one that hurts to think about, feels like something you can’t withstand.

And sometimes Steven will say that he wants a triad or something like it, some kind of polyamorous arrangement, and maybe the three of you will be together, and then the other man can fuck the shit out of you too, and you’d all be happy. And because you love this man and because you can’t withstand the lonesomeness much longer, you try to imagine that other kind of castle and how it would feel inside and if maybe you could be happy there.

But fuck. You want to feel special.

And sometimes Steven will get a little sad and weird and say that if you stay with him eventually you are just going to get hurt. And you’ll first get mute and pull away and then later get angry and call him and he’ll stammer and say he’s sorry and that the two of you will work something out.

What that something is, what that castle is, remains murky.

And eventually Steven admits that he hasn’t told the other man about you, that you’ve remained a secret from the other man, that the other man doesn’t have to carry the pain and the burden of jealousy over you, as you do over him, and you know deep down it’s because Steven is terrified of losing the other man. The other man’s feelings remain king.

And sometimes his texts on certain days feel like nothing but small talk, and small talk makes you feel alone and empty inside. And sometimes he tells you that he doesn’t like arguing with you because you’re too fucking intelligent – a genius even – and he always loses, and you tell him it’s not a contest but he won’t listen.

And all throughout your months together he talks freely of the other man, and the frequent pain and jealousy the other man stirs up inside Steven, and sometimes you kind of float up out of your body and look down at yourself and you think, what kind of man puts up with all of this talk of another man? You think you’re being pathetic, putting up with it. But even though your very body harbors multiple jealousies of the other man, you love Steven and you want him to feel free to tell you anything, even if it’s his worries about the other man.

You think maybe this generosity of yours will be repaid.

And the things he tells you about the other man will work their way right into your marrow and will never leave you. The other man, Steven says, can walk into any bar and everyone’s heads will turn, and the other man can go up and talk to anyone, seriously anyone, and people will ask Steven if he’s with the other man and Steven will say yes, and they’ll say man you are lucky.

And how big the other man’s dick is. And the fact that the other man considers all men bottoms, even the ones who say they never bottom, because he can get them to bottom for him.

And these are things you can’t do, and that’s a dick you don’t have.

And despite all of this, despite all of the things Steven tells you about the other man, you know that there are things you don’t know, that Steven holds some things back, and it makes the castle seem blurred and fragile. And the next time Steven comes to the States he doesn’t come to New York City and you don’t see him and instead he spends all his time in San Francisco with the other man.

And those are days you don’t know how to endure. They’re in your city together and all you can do is imagine them, and of course it’s Gay Pride, so there are photos of all the people you used to know popping up on your Facebook feed, and one day you see a photo of Steven and the other man that the other man has posted, the two of them at the parade, the other man shirtless and covered in tattoos, and the other man has included below the photo the hashtag “husband.”

The moon covers the sun. Cities slide into the ocean. You are ruined.

And you saw this car crash coming, and you had every chance to exit, to grab your balls and your dignity and jump and yet you stuck there as your car skidded towards death.

And you text Steven about the photo and all Steven says is yup he posted it, and yup the other man put the word husband in there. And then he says I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you. And you think to yourself that’s not fucking enough. But all you can say is I don’t want to be a second place boyfriend. And he just agrees and says yes you deserve better. He doesn’t beg you, he doesn’t fight for you, he just patronizes you. And the castle implodes, the fucking thing too fragile to withstand the real world. And you should have known that, you should have seen that.

But he’s not in love with you, you say to Steven, and you say I’m in love with you, as if that would be enough. Because you’ve forgotten that men will always pick the ones who resist, men love their pain, and he tells you that his bond with the other man is different and complicated and they’ve known each other a year longer than he’s known you.

And somehow in the giddy rush of meeting, somehow in the first few days and weeks and months, you missed the simple fact that Steven loved you but worshipped the other man.

You stop talking to him.

You confront and try to endure the silence on the other side of the separation, the lonesome roads of your Bumfuck town, the dead end job and the dim apartment and the couch and the television. And you must go through the following days without the man checking in on you. He no longer checks on your welfare.

But you fell in love with me
, you want to say to him.

But you said your lover’s happiness was more important than your own.

And you’re plagued by visions of the two of them together. And all the praise that Steven had put upon the other man. And all the ways you can’t measure up. They haunt you, every single second of every day, and you are fucking torn up inside, and you want more than anything to have Steven back in your life.

You can’t see yet that he’s a schmuck. After two weeks of silence you run back to him and you text him and say that you miss him so fucking much, and he says he misses you too. And you tell him you want to see him and he says it’s complicated and we’ll have to see. Let’s just see.

You’ve run back to your tormentor and begged for scraps.

And in the following days the man gives you nothing but small talk, and the small talk makes you feel worse, it makes you feel alone and empty inside, and you try to get him to open up but every time he heads you off at the pass, and he’ll no longer call you so you can’t hear his voice.

You will never get what you want from him, you tell yourself. Never. You say this to yourself all day every day and yet the pull towards him is relentless because you have your nose pressed up against the glass of their lives together, the two of them, and all you can see is their love and their fucking and the way they curl together in bed every night. And you want inside of that so badly. You want to be both of them.

You want Steven to take care of you the way he now takes care of the other man.

You are a grown man in his mid 40’s and all you want is to be taken care of. Rescued.

I’ll take care of you
, Steven first told you. When you’re with me I’ll take good care of you.

Say that again, you’d told him.

Ah, but there’s the caveat. When you’re with me. Which was two short nights in New York City. Which is not now. Which is not when he’s in San Francisco or flying back to the other continent.

And your head – as usual – is your greatest enemy. You want to be free of this torment, the images wearing grooves within the wood of your brain, the two of them over and over all day long, images that make the breath leave your lungs and spread heat through your head and chest. And the vise around your heart. The image of the two of them meeting for the first time. The two of them fucking. The two of them lying in bed together talking and how that night led to Steven taking care of the other man, flying him around the country to meet him in cities where he does business.

Fuck fuck fuck. They won’t stop. You want to make them stop. How do you make them stop? You keep circling the fucking drain. Fucking make them stop.

Even when you jerk off, you’re enslaved to them.

What are you hoping for? Seriously, what kind of delusion are you holding out for? You keep coming back to this point, over and over: you will not get what you need from him. After the day’s ride through painful images, you pull into the same old station, the same old destination, the same Bumfuck town. Give it up. The futility of wanting Steven. The futility of wanting what he gives the other man. The futility of wanting to be more like the other man so that you could attract Steven and other men. The futility of fucking hope.

Give up the fantasy. You’ll need to do the next part of life alone. You’ll not be taken to San Francisco to live in a big house. You’ll have to do it all alone, like you’ve been doing it, scraping by. You’ll have to rescue yourself. Alone you’ll move to a new city, find a job and an apartment.

There’s no quick fix. This is an addiction. Thoughts of the two men, texts from Steven, all of them are like quick hits off a crack pipe. And there’s no easy way through all of this pain and self-torture. There’s no fucking short cut. You have to feel all of the pain, you have to just walk through it and feel it and feel it and feel it. And feel what life throws your way, and stop hiding from it, stop numbing out with television and cell phone and vodka, stay open and raw to it all, because you’ve been shutting out all the good shit, too.

Is there good shit ahead? Can you believe that, after four years of brutal lonesomeness? It feels like you’ll never get any more breaks in life. You’ll struggle and scrape and live in constant fear, and you’ll compare your lot with others and you’ll always have less.

A hard life ahead. That is what you fear, and are close to believing. None of what you wanted in life has panned out, and it won’t ever pan out, and you’ll keep struggling and kicking, alone, until your death.

No, you want to be free. And you must take a good hard look at your barren life, at all the emptiness you can’t tolerate and so your brain instead whips up an obsession for two schmucks. And if you ever want to be happy again you have to change. Fucking change yourself. Somehow take care of your own fucking self. Figure out how to care for your lonely melancholy ass. Do nothing that comes naturally to you, actions that will care for your haunted fucking soul. Actions other mortals take for granted, like eating vegetables and showering every day.

Who do you want to be in one year? Five years? Think about that for a change. Fuck stupid men. Fuck the schmucks. Sit with the pain and the fear. Stop numbing out. Sit with it. Marinate. Soak it up.

Someday you’ll write all this down, hoping that your obsessive thoughts will fade if forced into a narrative, hoping that then you’ll control them, lead them around like a dog on a leash. And the words will gush out of you and you’ll read them all and think to yourself Man I hope nobody ever reads this shit. It’s like a window into insanity. You’re like a 12-year-old girl strung out on too many pop songs, you think, and your particular kind of craziness, if broadcast, will ensure your solitude.

Better keep this locked up, you think. Better keep this to yourself.

5 – The Death of Michelle O’Connell

Host Mike McAllister explores heartache, The Keepers series on Netflix, and the death of Michelle O’Connell. Depending on who you believe, Michelle either committed suicide with her cop boyfriend’s service revolver while packing to leave him, or was murdered by him in a fit a rage. Dive deep into a true crime story of possible cover-ups, counter-investigations, and a Sheriff who’ll stop at nothing to see his doubters destroyed.


New Episode Released

Head Full of Crime

As of  couple hours ago my new true crime podcast, Head Full of Crime has dropped on iTunes.

If you like true crime, of if you’ve enjoyed my writing previously, I hope you’ll give it a listen. All free, all for you. Subscribers get extra points in my book, and if you really like the podcast, the single most important thing you can do is to leave a review on iTunes. These go a long way with them. And with me.

New Project Dropping

So I have a new project dropping soon; just waiting for iTunes to approve it and then we’re ready to go.

I haven’t been a complete slug the last few months, but it’s definitely been a tense negotiation between depression and the creative impulse.

And a negotiation between the part of me that knows I should try to settle down here in western Massachusetts, you know, make friends with the New Englanders who are famous for their hospitality, and the stronger, more primal part of me that is lonely as shit and wants to get the hell back to California to find my people again.

I’m trying to channel that lonesomeness into work, into the new project, hoping maybe a few folks here and there will connect with it, despite the dark subject matter. I’ll post here as soon as it’s approved and ready for consumption.

Putting Down Some Roots

Cold Car, Warm ??‘Sup, Internet?

It’s been a while. I’ve been busy climbing out of that mile-deep hole I fell into when I found my father’s incest stories on a website and kind of lost my mind.

I’ve moved yet again, out of Boston, to the town of Easthampton, in western Massachusetts. It’s in the Pioneer Valley with a bunch of other cool towns, and five colleges like Amherst, Smith, and Hampshire. A pretty progressive area with a lot of lesbians, a few gay dudes, and many transgender folks as well. I finally have my own place, a huge loft in a converted factory.

I work from home for the world’s largest online retailer, on a project that I can’t even talk about. That makes it sound much more interesting than the reality. Best part of the job is the company of my chihuahua.

I joined a writer’s group through Amherst Writers and Artists and have been working on a new project that I’m kind of excited about. I’ll keep you updated here. I’m sober, going to meetings, and trying to make friends here, which is not a simple process in New England. Wish me luck with that.

I’m horrified by what’s happening with our country, terrified of what is to come, yet hopeful that we can mobilize resistance. I’m hopeful that on a personal level, the next year will treat me better than the last couple of years have. I’ve got my feet under me now, and I’m wishing you a Happy New Year.

Reveling in Rejection

Black LinesIn the end it was a clean sweep. Five schools, five rejections. A bitter pill for a guy who’d always figured out how to earn an A.

They never give you their reason, though, so I was left with a bunch of presumptions. The only one that made any sense is that the schools didn’t like the ten-year gap between master’s degree and the phd application, a gap in which I was dealing with batshit family trauma and actively trying to stay alive.

I’m tired of counting the costs of depression. It’s taken nearly everything from me. But I’m still here – words I had tattooed on my left arm as a reminder to myself of that mysterious accomplishment.

So good bye to that little daydream of academia. I have no interest in hanging around knocking on a closed door. I’m left with plan B; find a job that doesn’t suck in a city that I like. I miss California, and though I’ll never be able to afford another modest home on the gleaming hills of San Francisco, there are still cities in the southern half of the state where a writer could eke out a living.

But moving from Boston takes cash, of which I had none. I quit working with dogs because dogs just don’t pay. While scraping the bottom of the money barrel I got recruited on a six-month contract to work for the world’s largest online retailer, on a project I can’t even disclose.

Mostly a remote job, which the Little Girl loves because she gets to sleep in the gap between my calves as I type away on the bed. Two days a week I go into the office and work alongside a bunch of other nerdy English and Linguistics majors. I enjoy their company, and find I need my bunker less these days, even though I spend 90% of my free time there. I guess that’s progress.

I’ve had insomnia since leaving Portland, and am possessed by nightmares in which I’m rejected by family or my ex-husband, over and over, most nights. Some of the nightmares are so real I find them tough to shake. I carry them through the following days.

While waiting to hear back from the grad schools I submitted excerpts from my book to a slew of literary magazines, something I hadn’t tried in years, and then collected a slew of rejections.

Out of forty submissions I got one acceptance, a couple of finalist awards for contests, and five or six near-misses, where they tell you they like your writing, would like to see more, but not this particular story, please.  A pretty standard writer’s haul. The trick is not to fight the misery of rejection. The trick is to revel in it. The trick is to endure.

 

Restoration of a Failed Vow

IMG_9831I’ve been slowly working on restoring my archives. At one of the nadirs of the brutal fog my site got hacked and gutted and I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to figure out backups or restoration.

I underestimated the challenge ahead of me. Never mind the tedious cutting and pasting from the Wayback Machine, the downloading and uploading of photos, the fixing of links.

That was cake compared to the posts themselves: I’m halfway-through my romance with the Fireplug. I restored the posts about our wedding, the photos, our vows.

I wrote our vows and the one that I always remember, the one I keep coming back to, is I will never give up on you.

I thought long and hard about those vows, and I thought long and hard about the one in particular. It’s not something I have a lot of practice with, in either direction. I had to ask myself if I really meant it, if I would never give up on him.

I did mean it, though in the coming years depression and PTSD proved too tenacious, and my marriage fell apart. But still I meant it.  I probably still do.

The loss of it has staggered me. I miss my home so much that I turn my thoughts in any other direction. I am lucky, though, that I have one thing left I will never give up on.

BurrowingAgnes

 

Winter Dispatch from the Bunker

It’s hard to give up on life and the possibility of human connection when people keep trying to help you. I’m humbled by you guys, especially – I have to say it – those of you who contributed money to me through PayPal. I tried to be all self-sufficient and turn down the offers, but in the end I really I needed help.

Portland hasn’t exactly opened its watery, mossy arms to me. I can’t find enough work here to pay the rent. I can’t even get a job interview. I don’t know if there are too many people moving here or what, but it seems like jobs and wages aren’t keeping up with the rents.

All this time on my hands, flat-broke and a stranger to this city. A new shrink re-diagnosed me with recurrent major depression – my old pal the brutal fog hasn’t really lifted in three years. She said that suicidal ideations are an indication that it’s been going on for a long time, and is nearing its logical conclusion.

So I’ve got a toolbox full of psych meds.

I needed something to pin my meager hopes on, something besides the prospect of another shitty, low-paying job that would merely get me by.

So I’ve spent the past couple of months pulling myself up through the fog by applying to Ph.D. programs in writing for next fall. I had a lot of time to think about the times when I felt most awake, most alive, and they’ve always been in academia. I like the life of the mind, and I think I could make a good professor.

AgnesEllaIn the meantime, though, I’m almost out of money. I’ve decided to leave Portland and accept my sister’s offer to live with her family in Boston, at least until I know if I’ve been accepted by any school.

Melanie is officially a step-sister, my mother’s partner’s daughter, but we’ve always been close and have grown closer over the past couple of years. I got to spend time with my niece during a recent visit. Agnes flew with me. It’s sweet having a tiny dog sometimes.

I think I’ll be a little happier with some family around me. I leave in a couple of weeks, and I think I have enough money to get me across the country in time for the New Year. Me and Agnes – road trip!

Poverty and the Brutal Fog

BrutalFogWithTreesThis is not the life I envisioned for myself. My checking account has a -$324.78 balance. My gas tank light is on and I can’t fill it until I get paid, which means I can’t sign up for shifts at the courier company I work for until I get paid on Tuesday, but that first paycheck may not even get me out of the hole, and rent is due on Friday.

I’ve had to ask for money from the man who asked me for a divorce. The rest of the money coming to me is tied up with lawyers. I’ve subsisted now for months on Ten-forTen-Dollars groceries. I’ve eaten canned raviolis for the first time since childhood. I make canned chili with rice several nights a week. I salt it heavily.

I made the humbling choice of looking into food stamps, though I’m told I’m paid too well to qualify.

PTSD has pushed me into a dark panicked corner. How can I be this broke working seven days a week? The math has defeated me. I’ve worked a long tangled string of entry level jobs so that I could write. But the 95%-completed-memoir I wrote was untrue, or missed an enormous truth, all to protect a man who never had my interest at heart. Or I worked a long string of entry-level jobs because I felt most comfortable aiming low. Or both.

I hate writing this. I hate how this could be used against me, but my only guiding star these days is the ugly truth, because that star shines on other men, trapped in their self-made bunkers, unable to trust in the love offered to them, nursing ancient wounds around which their entire lives have formed, like a tree absorbing a piece of broken fence.

They’re out there, dim stars in a black sky, solitary, gleaming, protecting their soft, faltering light.

Tomorrow I’ll shower the stink of this brutal fog off me, dress in clean clothes, and drive with my gas light on to the building downtown where I’ll begin to learn foreign languages that drive our devices and therefore our lives. In a few months I’ll take an internship, and this time next year I hope to have landed a job that will pull me out of this swamp.

I could fail. My fuzzy, addled brain, cluttered with the 24/7 fear intimately known by all men in bunkers, may fumble with these foreign languages. But it’s worth a shot. I don’t know how much lower I could go – I’d rather not find out.