Monday, September 27, 2010

Reunion Recap

The 2010 Family Reunion has come and gone. It looked like rain, but held off until well after everyone left. The most eventful thing about the reunion was the fact that it was relatively non-eventful.

There was plenty of food. I won’t have to eat again until next reunion, and if I do it will definitely not be chicken. Lisa’s steak fingers went quickly, including the ones I hoarded. Diane bought a sinful amount of candy at the annual Mast General Store trek. There is still enough in candy bowls and containers all over the house to make us puke all over each other this Christmas.

Why is it when people leave a reunion they always leave food behind? Next year I’m going to request they leave stocks and cash behind. That way I could at least afford the dental work and maybe some liposuction.

All the families were well represented. My grandparents had eight children; seven of the eight still living were present. All but two procreated in ways to make the Amish blush. The baby, Mike didn’t marry until he was in his late forties and my Mom just had me. I have multiple personalities so I was probably enough. I used to like to tell people that I had a twin, but I’m the one who learned how to swim.

In fact of the second generation all but two were there. I was the youngest of the Maryland gang of grandchildren, and the oldest of the TN/NC gang. I spent most of the day being regaled with stories of the tortures my older cousins put me through.

You know, normal childhood stuff: being tied to things (trees, railroad tracks, anything stationary they could get a rope around) and forgotten for the rest of the day; being locked in the grading shed while the other cousins pawed on the door and played a recording of bears from episodes of “Daniel Boone”, constantly being thrown in the creek whenever anyone saw a snake, etc. etc.

Then the younger cousins whined about tortures I put them through. ?????????? I was too busy getting over psychological trauma to torture my younger cousins. Besides, they were the mean ones. I wasn’t messing with them.

Well, okay, Jeff and I used to turn the grading shed into a haunted house and lock his little sister in it. In our defense she was a screamer and a chicken. If we didn’t lock her in she wouldn’t have been able to enjoy our hard work and we’d have just wasted an entire Saturday. If she didn’t want to go through our haunted house, Mary Sue and Cleve should have had more children.

In years past, reunions have always brought about some memorable moment. Once my Uncle Mike rode a pig, then fell off and broke his arm. That was fun. Oh, and my cousin Bobby fell out of a tree one year and broke his arm. I’ve broken lots of bones, but never at a reunion, sharpening a pencil once, but never at a family event.

The third generation was also in full force. Although loud, they are a rather tame little bunch. They played Frisbee, ate candy they were told they’d had enough of and petted the neighbor’s potbelly pig. I think the problem is they stick too close to the house and have way too much parental supervision. None of them fell in the creek, got bitten by anything (not even another cousins) or broke anything. Today’s kids are just dull.

Usually the matriarchs are a pretty good source of entertainment, but this year they were all just kind of old. Neither Aunt Dessie or Aunt Ida were able to make it. They’re my late grandfather's sisters, both in their mid to late nineties. Dessie’s the one who’ll shoot through the screen if you ring her doorbell after dark and Ida’s the mean one. Maybe next year.

Last year there was kind of a pall over the whole event. We had just lost Aunt Irene, so there was an excuse for nothing really happening. I think maybe the family is in a rut. Eathen, now 4, is still the youngest family member. For a big group of procreator’s, don’t you think four years is a long time to not be popping out a kid?

Five members of the third generation are now married. I think it’s time they got off the pill and on the stick. They’re married now; let’s see some rug rats. Not that not being married ever stopped anyone from having kids before.

Note to Ryan in Oklahoma: you’re the musician stud in the family, how about knocking up some groupies, dude? I’m tired of being the black sheep in the family. I’m officially handing the mantle over to you. Let's see some descusting, shameful behavior young man!

And while I’m pointing fingers…Denmark? Excuse me? Where were you? You got a formal invitation. We had chocolate and my cousin Jeff’s daughter had pigtails. I have to say I’m a teensy bit disappointed.

Next year there had better be a little more Danish representation, other than the one’s from Hostess we ate for breakfast on Sunday, or a big group of rednecks hopped up on fried chicken and chocolate will be coming over there and dragging your sorry butts to Tennessee. It won’t be pretty!

Overall, it was a really nice time. The annual bike ride in Damascus went well. Personally, I always skip that. I grew up in Tennessee. Riding a bicycle down the side of a mountain with no brakes has lost its thrill.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to skip the annual “Let’s take group pictures until you want to kill your self” portion of the event. I hate having my picture taken. Kristin Chenoweth naked covered in chocolate and holding a freshly fried Taylor’s Pork Roll couldn’t entice me to enjoy having my picture taken.

Somehow my cousin Randy’s wife and two kids managed to get out of the picture thing. Next year, I’m gonna discreetly tell a few people I’m taking a walk and conveniently not show back up until I know all camera lenses have melted, all batteries in the county have been exhausted and I see children running into each other in the front yard blinded by multiple flashes.

The only thing we really needed at the reunion this year were potatoes. There weren’t any potatoes, just potato salad and I’m allergic to mayonnaise. Next year we need French Fries or a Potato casserole of some kind and more cheesecake. All the cheesecakes this year had pecans and caramel, which in my opinion is just a waste of a good cheesecake. (Are you taking notes, Denmark?)

Regardless, despite it being ordinary with loud but well behaved children it was a good reunion. I hope next year is pretty much the same. Just in case someone from the family is reading this (like people in my family can read) next year somebody needs to break a bone or have a baby or at least have a kid bite another kid to make it a little more memorable. And SOMEBODY from Denmark needs to show up!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hello, Denmark!

I have discovered, to my delight, via a little tab, that there are a surprising number of people reading both of my blogs from Denmark. I cannot put into words how this both warms and tickles my heart. The thought of people I don’t know, especially from outside the States, reading my haggard little words makes feel a lot less haggard.

Now I admit, I am a poorly educated Melungeon from East Tennessee. This means I do sometimes confuse Denmark with the Netherlands. You aren’t the people with little boys who stick their fingers in things; you are the people of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. I apologize for my metaphors. Please keep in mind I have to take my shoes off to count to eleven.

I realize that you all, or ya’ll where I come from, probably think by clicking on the URL you will be watching that strange polka dance we here in America do at ball games or when we are drunk, usually both. Instead you get a melancholy “Dan” who took his moniker from the Werner Herzog film “Stroszek”. This must confuse you terribly and I apologize again.

Perhaps you are like me and wake in the morning with the feeling you are supposed to be somewhere else and are searching the computer for life in a different chain of mountains. Personally I have always believed that I was switched with another baby at birth. While I pine for champagne and caviar for breakfast, I know in my heart there’s some guy in Manhattan who feels the need to milk cows and dip snuff at sunrise.

Regardless, whoever you are out there—thank you. I wish I had more to offer you than the words I battle with my old laptop to make sense. I hope sometimes you are touched, sometimes you are moved and I truly hope that sometimes I make you laugh out loud. That’s my point, like the little chicken in the aforementioned film whom at first you think is dancing but by the end you realize is just trying to keep his balance while the world spins out from beneath him. You are very welcome to my heart.

In fact, hop a plane and come on over this weekend. We are having a family reunion, and being the single guy I never have any “family” of my own to bring. You can be, heck, YOU ARE my family. It can’t be more than a ten, twelve hour flight from Denmark.

You can be here in time for dinner. Don’t worry about bringing anything or a place to sleep. There’s plenty a room and, oh God, way too much food. Mom and her sisters have been cooking and baking all week. There’ll be fried chicken, ham, Lisa made steak fingers, deviled eggs, cole slaw and enough Southern dessert concoctions to send the entire population of Denmark into diabetic coma until the next Olympics.

Don’t worry about a place to sleep. It’ll be just like Christmas when I was little around here this weekend. At night, the house will look like the battle scene from “Gone With the Wind”; everyone parked and plopped everywhere snoozing away. You are more than welcome to worm yourself a comfortable space anywhere.

I will warn you though do not; I repeat DO NOT, sleep on the floor by the couch if my cousin Robin is sleeping there. One Christmas, while sleeping on the couch, she threw up on her little brother Bobby, who was sleeping on the floor with his mouth open. This caused a chain reaction of vomit amongst all the cousins sleeping in the living room waiting for Santa than none of us care to repeat.

Oh, and if you see something you think may be a bear, it’s probably just a shadow. Believe me, when you see a bear, there will be no doubt it’s a bear. And don’t be silly and run to get your camera and run back out. If it’s a bear, just run in the house and stay there until he’s gone. ‘Kay?

Now you more than likely will see a huge snake I have named Hoser. (Read my previous blog “Critters” for more details.) My cousin Billy’s wife and several others have seen him. There is a debate going on as to whether he is a copperhead or a water moccasin. Personally, I don’t care. He’s huge, python huge and I’m pretty sure he ate a chipmunk for breakfast this morning which is just rude.

He pretty much lives by a big rock in the creek and I wish the family would stop trying to look at him. He may come to expect the attention and never go away. It’s not that I am unfriendly. It’s just that he’s a snake, a big effing snake and like Martha Stewart having an orgasm I know it’s possible, but I prefer not to be reminded.

Don’t worry about fitting in, you’re family. Here in the South, when you are family, it doesn’t matter. Most of us Southerners don’t even like our family, but we figure we’re stuck with each other and only have to see each other at Christmas, reunions, funerals and occasional birthday parties for matriarchs.

I think the best definition of a Southern family I ever heard came from my Aunt Mag. We had a surprise birthday party for her on her 80th birthday. I think that a surprise party for any one over seventy is kind of mean, but no one ever listens to me.

Anyway, there were easily over 200 people who showed up for Aunt Mag’s birthday. My cousin Bobby and I were sitting near her and he asked her if all the people were her relatives. Wise and wonderful Aunt Meg, smiled and pointed at a small group and said, “Well, them right there is my blood (Appalachian for relatives) everyone else is just family.”

Now if you decide to come, you can’t miss us. Just drive up the mountain to the Bloody Third. We’ll be the house by the creek with all the rednecks and cars in the front yards. You’ll be able to tell it’s us because none of the cars will be up on cinder blocks. You can see us from the road, probably with a small cluster of people at a big rock by the creek looking for a stupid snake.

I will remind you we are all natives of Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland, and one Chickasaw from Oklahoma, but she’s harmless. We’ll probably be confused ask you a lot about Heidi and the Alps, neither of which you have. Just smile and nod, we won’t take offense. We are quite comfortable in our stupidity.

You can ask us about Elvis and Dolly Pardon. The former is dead and from Memphis, which to us mountain folk is another country. This other is a ninety-minute drive southwest and a completely different set of mountains.

Some may ask you about Hamlet and Shakespeare. Don’t panic. Just make something up. I’m the only one in the family that probably knows anything about Shakespeare and they are probably just trying to make me feel like less of the black sheep. When approached with a subject you don’t know about just ask about tomatoes, who made the chocolate pie or anything having to do with NASCAR. You’ll fit right in.

I would try to avoid anything about health. Some of the older members will try to out “sick” you. If you have a headache, they’ll have a migraine. If you have trouble with your knees, they’ve had their legs bitten off by bears. It’s a lose/lose subject. Avoid it.

Regardless, you’ll be welcome and have a great time. Afterward, we’ll be able to brag about the really cool family we have descended from Heidi who flew in from the Alps, and you can go home and say you spent the weekend with folks who eat fried chicken and throw up on each other for holidays.

Now, I do not mean to exclude to people reading from other countries. You guys from Portugal, UK, China, Spain, Greece and Australia are more than welcome to. Even you, the one dude from Germany that read “Let’s Talk About Your Underwear”, please come too. (Bring Baklava).

I don’t have to extend an invite to the people from the US. You should just know you’re welcome, unless of course, you are a Democrat. You can still come, but stay away from Bobby and the people from Maryland. Bobby likes to shoot stuff and well the people from Maryland are from Maryland—‘nuff said. (Bring ice.)

Even if you can’t come to the reunion, thank you for being a part of the family. Even though I don’t know you and probably never will, you have a special place in whatever may be left of my life. I hope some in some way; I can earn a place in yours.

Come to my blogs anytime. Leave a comment and say “Hi” if nothing else. You can always plan on coming to the reunion next year. It’s always the last Saturday in September. Mom says bring napkins.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Among the many things I find myself having to get used to again is the sudden arrival of creatures. Now matter what task I undertake, no matter how simple, it seems there has to be some kind of consideration or interruption of a critter.

This morning while my father and I sat on the front porch, he pointed out a large bear sauntering down the rock bank to the creek at the bend in the road. I keep forgetting that I am now deep in the mountains and not deep in the Amish country.

Somehow I prefer horses and buggies to mammals three times my size and, well, buggies. I have been back in Johnson County since the first week in May and have encountered more furry things than my entire 15 years on the Chesapeake Bay. I have seen more snakes, deer, bobcats, rodents and even something that looked like Bigfoot and Martha Stewart had a baby. Of course, the latter was in the check out line at Food Country, so I can only assume that it was a high school football player or the homecoming queen.

Granted I enjoy the hummingbirds, and the chipmunks and the squirrels, but I am not particularly fond of looking out my bedroom window at 3 A.M. in the morning to find a buck staring back at me. It makes me scream like a girl. My parents are in their seventies, they really don’t need that when they are trying to sleep.

The road we live on used to be called Forge Creek Road, because the road followed a creek, duh. They put a new road in 1970 that cut a straighter swath to Mountain City, but bits and pieces of the old road still exist, and we live on one of them.

It is quite beautiful, and visitors love the fact that they can hear the creek in the background of everything. It’s one of those things some of us take for granted and some of us ignore or go postal. They seem to forget that everything beautiful has an ugly side.

In living with a creek close enough to pee in from your front porch, the ugly side is snakes—in the creek, on the banks, in the road, in the yard, curled up on the riding mower seat… There are people who think differently, but I for one am not putting a red ribbon around a copperhead’s neck, naming it Seymour and kissing it on the head every night before I go to sleep.

They are slimy, temperamental and territorial creatures. They don’t like being disturbed or disrupted and if you’ve ever seen one eating they are in dire need of some table manners. And those suckers get BIG!

There is a water moccasin that lives near a big rock from my Dad’s “fishing bench” that would give our garden hose penis envy! He must be dining large on the trout and horny heads because he is grossly overweight. Then again, most creatures in this neck of he woods are.

Obviously Walt Disney never lived in the Appalachian Mountains. If he had Bambi’s mother would have been wearing a tube top barely covering 75 pounds of extra cellulite causing the audience to stand up and scream, “Shoot her again! Shoot her again!” I digress

And the bugs, Lord the bugs! I saw a “Jeopardy” question/answer that the population of the Earth was equal to the population of insects per square mile. I think that has to be per square yard here on Forge Creek. Everyday I sweep down spider webs, beetle carcass and dead insect of some kind. You’d think that since all the snakes are squatting the least they could do is eat more of the squirmy flying things in the yard.

At least the snakes and bugs don’t poop in the yard, unlike the rabbits, deer and the neighbor’s potbelly pig. Mom and Dad haven’t had a dog or a cat in years, but we still have to check our feet before we come in the house. You cannot imagine how difficult mountain critter feces is to get off your hardwood floors!

Oddly, we don’t have ticks. I think if you go way up in the ridges you’ll find some, but it’s not like in Maryland where you have to do a tick check after walking to the mailbox. (See my blog “A Good Old Fashioned Roll In the Hay” for more on tick checking.) This does mean that most in this area do not have the Lyme’s Disease excuse for everything. People here tend to blame everything on the Democrats, liberals, and Obama.

I don’t see many skunks or foxes either. We can blame that on the bears. Either that or the skunks and foxes being smart enough to move to the burbs. Now I do see more of those as you head down the other side of the mountain towards Boone. Perhaps this has something to do with ol’ Dan’l who wore a coonskin cap. Since it was made of raccoon, perhaps the foxes and skunks all migrated toward his settlement thinking it was a safer place to raise their young.

Boone also has ticks. Perhaps since Boone has become a university town, the tick is more intellectual. It makes sense. I can just imagine a couple of ticks discussing cyclical and linear configurations while chowing down on some college student/hiker thigh. Foxes and skunks are pretty smart, too. Hey, they’re smart enough to not be here.

In fact, personally I think skunks get a bad rap. If it weren’t for the whole stink bomb thing, I think they are pretty cool. I once had a litter of skunks born in a little fenced off portion of my yard when I lived in downtown Rising Sun. Of course, I thought they were kittens for a few days, but that was my mistake not theirs.

The babies were very sweet and extremely social. As long as I didn’t try to pick the babies up, the mother seemed to be cool. Of course, she liked the tuna fish I fed her every day, so that may explain her toleration. After about three weeks they all disappeared. I wonder if maybe I should look for them on my next visit to Boone?

As for the bear, they tend to be harmless, of course I’ve never gotten close to one either. I doubt they are cuddly and cute like, say Gentle Ben or that guy who answered the phones on “ER”. Bears always leave a rank smell behind as well. Obviously they have some hygiene issues. They don’t often come down from the mountains, but my assumption is our creek is like a Chinese restaurant to them. “Hmmm, I’m in the mood for some sushi tonight, how bout if I meander down to Forge and see if I can rustle up some?”

My mother thought she just saw that bear laying in the road. She came dashing in for her camera. Obviously the bear and I have something in common. If the poor bear is just laying down in the road, he is suicidal. Living here has just gotten to him. I dashed out with Mama hoping to do an intervention as Mom took pictures. Alas, it was just a shadow.

There tend to be more bear up at the cabin, which is on a very small bald knob on the mountaintop. My uncle has planted Christmas trees all around it and apparently bears love evergreens. Everytime we go up there is evidence of bears, rubbing on the trees, branches broken off and yes, bear poop; which is no picnic to get off hardwood floors either.

I actually saw less animal invasion in Africa than here in the Appalachians. I only saw monkeys, a very scrawny cat and lots and lots of lizards. That was disappointing. I remember being glued to “Daktari” as a child and imagined West Africa to have lots of lions, elephants and rhinos. Nope, just lizards and missionaries.

Well, it’s time to do some weed eating. Invariably I will run across a snake. The loud sound usually sends most of them slithering off, but being in inbred territory at some point during my chore one will decide to hold his ground and tangle with my weed eater. They never learn, snakes can’t win against a weed eater. Many have fallen and none survive.

My Walt Disney dreams of whistling a happy tune while all the woodland creatures join me in harmony are long gone. I have met most of the woodland creatures here and prefer they not join my glee club. I have no problem sharing space. I’m just tired of having to clean up after them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

As Promised



Part One: Deceptions


The old man stood there, staring at the large portrait that adorned the hallway of the empire he had created and touched it with his heart. The woman gazing back from it was a classic beauty, impressive and stunning in all her glory, but the camera had not been invented that could have captured her perfection as she really was.

He sighed as his mind transported him back in time to the days of Hollywoodland when the fans did their best to cool off the heat of the summer afternoons. He didn’t remember the listless heat, but he did recall, in every detail, her.

She laid back on the chaise looking every inch the movie star he had created, dressed in a silk chemise that set off the eyes that took in your soul and devoured it. She was covered in a thin layer of sweat, glistening in the afternoon sun and she smiled sweetly.

“It’s hot.” She purred. “Get me something to drink.”

Young again, he stepped to her and breathed her in. She reached out to him as he bent and put his lips to the satin fold of her neck. She rolled back her head as his lips touched her and giggled.

She grabbed his ears, sinking her claws into the flesh, pulled and bellowed at the top of her lungs. “I said get me something to drink!”

The old man snapped back to reality with a gasp. He shook his head and looked at the floor. Did he love her? Absolutely…with all his heart. Did he hate her? With every fiber of his being.

He turned to head back to the office. There was work to do. The empire wasn’t what it used to be, but he knew that somewhere in the building was the answer to putting it back on top.

As he leaned on his cane to make his way back to where he had come from, he smiled to himself. One of these days he was going to figure out what the little bitch had done with the keys to the rest of the kingdom.

There he stood, the changes in his life happened so fast, alone in the dark, in a strange place. It was beautiful, much more than he ever imagined would be his, but it was—lock, stock and staccato floors.

It was obvious that he and Clair were in the final stages of relationship when the offer came, a new job, a new place and a new life without her—or any one he had come to know. He was confused, angry, ready to chuck it all and start anew. He did.

And now he stood in his own home, something he thought he’d never have. After a full days work at a new job, paying more than he’d ever dreamed, he stood dazed, if not firm in a new city on the other side of the country far, far from the mess that had become what he once was.

His Aunt Hil had once told him that if he stayed true to his own heart that one-day every piece of the puzzle would fall into place and the finished picture would dazzle him beyond even his wildest dreams. As he stood there in the midst of it, he knew she was right.

Faster than lightning bolts and instantaneous Internet connection his life was now something he didn’t recognize. It still hadn’t settled in. It still wasn’t comfortable, but it was all his. He just knew that everything was finally, finally right. It would just take some getting used to that was all.

Like the job, the house seemed to come out of nowhere and just the right time. The elderly woman appeared at his new office and shuffled right up to his desk, accidentally mistaking him for a realtor. Her husband had passed away and she was moving across country to live with her granddaughter.

She and her husband built the house with their own hands, every corner, every crack and crevice their dream come true. Now she was alone, and she wanted it to go to the right person. She stressed that she was in no hurry; it just had to be the right person.

As he escorted her back down to the lobby, hoping they could get her to the correct place, she took an instant shine to him, regaling him with stories of her beloved Herman. They had built this dream together with love; and how leaving broke her heart, but staying hurt even more.

She only hoped the right person would come along. She wanted to make sure the house would be a new start to the one who had been destined to carry on the legacy.

As soon as the lobby desk clerk assured them she’d be taken care of, the old lady kissed him gently on the cheek and thanked him. He was so kind, and so lovely. He reminded him of her dear Herman.

He turned a little red and thanked her. He explained that he, too, had just uprooted and was starting over. He told her that he considered it an honor that one of the first people he encountered in his new life was someone with a legacy of love so great it gave him hope for his own future. He squeezed her chubby arthritic hands and returned to his desk.

He had barely sat back down, when the woman appeared again. She had changed her mind and didn’t need a realtor after all. She handed him a set of keys and asked if he could drive her home. She had chosen him to buy the house.

He laughed kindly at first, saying no, but she was insistent. Finally the acting director of his department came over to him to see what was taking all his time. It was obvious that the elderly woman cared for his “boss” even less than he did.

To his surprise, the usually virulent bitch smiled and told him to take whatever time he needed. As they left he turned to assure his “boss” that he’d return to his duties as quickly as he could but she had even more quickly skittered away.

As soon as they pulled into the driveway, he was overwhelmed. The house was beautiful. Before they even got out of the car, the old lady handed him the keys again. “Come inside, my child.” She said looking him deep in the eyes. “This is where your dreams come true.”

Within the hour a deal was made, affordable via his new job, only the paperwork needed to be drawn up and signed. Within days his “angel” was off to her new home and he had moved in that morning. Everything happened so fast, the move, the job, the house, as if it all been pristinely orchestrated. He was still having trouble believing it was all true.

A few suitcases, not yet unpacked and a small crate of boxes was all that looked familiar in his surroundings. She had left almost everything, insisting that it was part of the deal, exactly what she wanted. Her eyes misted over as she told him she was taking “only a few baubles, for the best memories were locked inside her heart where neither man nor time could take them away.”

It was now Friday night, his second week at work complete, the coming Monday would bring on another zap of changes. He was shocked yet enervated by how quickly he was adapting, how eager he was for control. Gone was the trepidation and hopeless discouragement of the past. Now, he had an entire weekend ahead of him to no longer be a stranger in his own life.

He had already familiarized himself with the main floor. He had roamed through in giddy awe, touching everything, moving little. He stared at the painting in the front entry by a spiral staircase leading upstairs and allowed himself to get lost in the swoosh of swirling color and splashes of sparkling gold. Like the painting, he would allow touches of him in the house evolve. He sighed with contentment. Now it was time to explore the second floor.

The front of the house was deceiving. It looked small and quaint, like a cottage in the woods, rather than a stately home at the furthermost point of a cul-de-sac. It wasn’t even until you had climbed that spiral staircase to the second floor that the true magnificence of the house made itself known.

The staircase landing opened to a luminous master bedroom almost the entire length and width of the house. To the left was a large comfortable bathroom, and a huge walk in closet, both larger than the meager bedroom of the shack he had grown up in. To the right was a muted glass partition paneling off a second room; a private getaway for two complete with a wet bar, furniture and, to his surprise, an octagonal hot tub of what appeared to be hand carved red oak.

There were curtains that hid the entire south wall of the bedroom and “playroom”. It wasn’t until now he found what he realized was a remote control on the nightstand by the biggest bed he’d ever seen. Half dazed in awe, he picked up the remote and began pressing buttons.

The first button dimmed the lights. The second operated an overhead fan and third, the third took his breath away. His knees gave way and he sank to the bed as the third little touch of a button seem to make the draperies disappear unveiling a south wall made entirely of glass. It was if the room and the bed he was now half lying on for support seemed to be free floating in the night sky.

He could see the tops of the trees and shrubs to the east and west of his backyard and in front just the top of an old wall of stones dividing his property, across from him. The railings of the balcony just beyond the glass wall added to the illusion of being able to just step right out into the heavens.

He eased back on the bed propping himself up on his elbows and stared out. As he shifted his body he heard an electronic click and was wafted over by tendrils of fresh air. His weight had touched another button of the remote and the wall turned into glass panels that opened, beckoning him outside. He stood and walked through.

The balcony he now stood on spanned almost the entire back of the house. To his left was another staircase, leading to the deck below. Leaning now on the railings, perfectly matching the red oak hot tub, he could see the small pool below, its still blue waters reflecting the night sky as if it were just another layer of stars and moonlight. He gazed into the water, and reflected upon his past.

How Clair would have loved the pool, but hated everything else. She would have insisted on redecorating everything, removing all its personality until lit resembled one of the perfectly lifeless layouts in those cosmopolitan home magazines she so adored. Oh, she would have allowed him to make love to her in the pool and the hot tub, and gloried in the posh neighborhood, but as soon as she got bored the whining preceding the fights would have begun.

A soft breeze ran across his chest and fingered his hair. He felt warm and comfortable knowing that this time none of that would happen—the good or the bad. He had broken the cycle and was, at last, in control.

His eyes slowly glided across the backyard. That must be the old gate Mrs. Elysian talked about meaning to have torn down. It stood rotting and alone in the middle of the stone wall, the only mar in the perfection of the landscape.

She was right; a little work to the yard and the place would be perfect for him. Yes, he would get up tomorrow and see what needed to be done to rid himself of that eyesore, maybe even the whole wall.

He reached in his robe pocket for the remote, turning the lights off entirely as he retreated back inside. He opted to leave the glass wall open and just crawl into bed. It wasn’t long before he drifted off. Worn out by the new job, but relaxed in his new surroundings that were without a doubt truly his.

And he had no dreams, just peace for those few hours. The house was silent. All that could be heard was that of nature playing quietly in the backyard through the open glass. Occasionally, the air would bounce off the moonlit water of the pool, dance for a time with the leaves of the tall tress and then caress his bare chest and he lay sleeping.

All seemed to protect and love him, as he slipped into its arms and rested for the first time in years. A rotting gate at the center, the only imperfection to his new life, would be taken down tomorrow. He was at last finally and totally in control.

The carry on clutched tightly to her chest, she walked swiftly and deliberately as she could. Old age was supposed to bloom gently, gracefully she mused. For her it seemed to have run screaming from the building.

When had she gotten so old? When the whole mess had gotten started, while they knew they were forsaking their innocence, it never once occurred to them that some day they would no longer be young. Their innocence obliterated, tired and old, and yet still here driven by a series of small decisions made during the dream of youth.

Oh those marvelous dreams, she smiled as she recalled every single one of those enchanting dreams. That Carly Simon person had once compared them in some song to clouds in her coffee. A resigned sigh of agreement came from deep within her as the old woman moved as quickly and as determined as she could.

Those dreams were so aromatic, she thought, wafting up into their brains, daring them not to take that first sip. Then that rich, full body of flavor only whetted their appetite for more. More? Hell…they wanted it all, she remembered as she scanned the concord for what she now needed.

And all of it they had. It was more than they had imagined, if not always quite the way they imagined it. It had been robust, wholly satisfying and yes, even at times, a little nutty. She almost laughed—and cried—as she recalled those times, swallowing the memories with her mind. Then there was all that lovely, lovely cream---rich, smooth and delightful all folded into that big hot, steamy mug of dreams.

She stopped and put her hand on the wall to steady herself, take a breath and let the quick girlish giddiness of flavor pass. “It was good,’ she closed her eyes murmuring, “It was so good.”

She opened her eyes back to reality and looked at her hand on the wall, withered, knarled and spotted. The cup was almost empty now and the coarse, bitter sediment of the final few sips hit her pallet.

“Are you alright, ma’am?” the man, a janitor she supposed, asked her.

“Yes…fine.” She said, hoping she’d remembered to turn on the twinkle in her eye. “I just thought I was younger and had to stop and let my age catch back up to me.” She explained although she realized she didn’t need to.

The janitor type person nodded his head. “Are you meeting someone?” He asked and then added, maybe a little too quickly, “I mean, do you need help with your bags? I could call a porter or something…”

“No need, young man.” She pulled up her strength and confidence with a smile. “I’m meeting some other old biddies, a reunion of sorts. We’ll muddle through somehow. We always do.” She lied, for oh so many reasons, except for the last part, which miraculously always seemed to end up the truth.

The man nodded and meandered on his blue collar barely above minimum wage way. She made sure he was out of sight before she headed for the sign that said “rest rooms”.

Once safely inside, she paused only at the mirror to check her face. She turned her head from side to side inspecting. She smiled. Herman had taught her well. She checked the stalls, and slipped into the last one, closing the door, shutting the seat lid down and using the commode as a chair. She listened intently for a while, contemplating her aloneness. It was almost over, she sighed.

She zipped open the little compartment of her carry on and pulled out the handy little gadget. She flipped it open and pressed a sequence of numbers she knew by heart. As the noisy little tones poured into her ear, she tapped her foot impatiently. “Pick up…pick up!” her voice echoed in her head as if she had said the words out loud.

The moment she heard the connection she blurted, “It’s Elizabeth’, maybe a little too loudly.

There was a slight pause at the other end of the connection. “Yes. I’ve been waiting.”

“It’s done.” She confirmed. She imagined the look on the other party’s face and the way she knew they would slightly drop their head. She knew them so well.

“Everything’s in place then.”

“One more little piece to throw in the box as far as I know.” She said. “Then it’s over.”

“All we can do then is wait.” The voice on the other end replied.

Elizabeth nodded her head, knowing a vocal response wasn’t required. “This isn’t so much fun any more.” She said instead.

“I can’t remember the last time it was.” They said. “But we have to do this.”

“One last time.” She resigned.


Again there was a small silence between them, like the first jump into the pool. Elizabeth but her lip and said it anyway. “What if he’s not the one?”

Confident and without hesitation the other end responded, “Then we’ll make him the one.”

She knew it was right. “If any one deserves it, he does.”

“By the time he finds the nasty stains at the bottom, we’ll be long gone.” There was a slight pause before the voice added, “hopefully.”

She ground her teeth. “I guess that’s all that’s left.”

“Finally”, was said with a sigh.

“You mean, again.” She corrected and then spewed on. “Consider that last puzzle piece taken care of.”

“I will” was said not coldly. “I always have.” Was added with a fondness that made her shudder.

“I’m finished after this…no more.” She said with finality. She started to touch the end button but the voice on the line called her name.

“Elizabeth…” they said. “Whatever happens, I’m prepared. I won’t run for cover.”

She smiled remembering. “You never do.” She closed the phone and stood up. Releasing the carry on from her shoulder, she dropped it on the toilet lid, gently sliding the little phone into its little zipper compartment. She opened the bag and reached for what she needed, exactly in the place where it needed to be. As she pulled it out and inspected it she wondered if she should have ended the call with “I love you”?

“Too late.” She said out loud as Elizabeth Elysian prepared for her final mission. “…Again.”

He opened his eyes softly a few hours later, feeling rested, yet lazy. The house and yard were dark. He pushed himself up on his elbows and smiled. Yes, this would do. He rose up off the bed, not bothering to cover himself for he was alone and shielded from anyone or anything but Mother Nature herself. No wonder they had loved it so here.

He stepped out onto his balcony naked and just enjoyed the damp night air as it glistened all over his skin. His eyes searched his yard, darting across the tiled apex below, noting the grass and the carefully placed flowers and shrubs. He then stared at that pitiful gate and made plans again in his head to begin to replace it or even remove it. For the first time he looked beyond the gate wondering what was on the other side.

Obviously it was someone else’s back yard, and wondered if the fence and gate were put there to hide anything that might clash with the perfection the former owner’s had so painfully constructed. Perhaps it was simply for seclusion, the house beyond too close. It was then that he noticed, another balcony, beyond the gate, but at eye level.

It was barely the morning so the home was dark, but he could clearly see a balcony and a small glass wall, in comparison to his. He wondered who might live there and if they would be good neighbors. Technically, they lived on the next block, their backyards butting together, but divided by that wall. He wondered if maybe they were unfriendly, giving reason to the divide, and maybe the wall was theirs making its jarring raggedness a little more sensible in the pristine setting of his property.

It had been a lazy day, gone by in a whir. He’d unpacked and made the place a little more his own, basically spending the day getting to know his new home and finding the comfort of being in it. It was now late. He had showered, watched a little TV and suddenly felt a little fenced in.

Here it was Friday night, in a new town, a whopping big metropolis to boot, and he was alone. Other than a few people at work, he had not had the time to begin socializing. He made a mental note to rectify that shortly. He lit the next in a day long series of Marlboros, deciding to just turn in and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

His cell phone rang. He reached for it and flipped it open with the usual half forgotten “Hello.”

“Ian?” He recognized the voice, but didn’t place it immediately.

“Yeah, who’s this?”

“Forgotten me already have you?” The man chuckled.


“Yeah, dude. You haven’t been gone that long.”

“Sorry, man” he apologized, “Everything happened so fast, it seems like a year ago instead of less than a month.”

“No one has heard from you so I took a chance that you hadn’t changed your cell phone number. Guess I lucked out.”

“Good to hear from you, bud” he said. “What’s up in the sticks?”

“Well, I have to admit that I’m kind of curious about what’s going on with you.” Billy said.

“Huh? I got a new job and moved. I just found a place to live and have been settling in today. I was planning on calling…” he couldn’t help but lie. “…In a few days.”

“That’s great, Ian, but I meant with Clair.” He said flatly.

Ian was confused. “I don’t understand. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since that night I stayed at your place, end of story.”

Ian heard his buddy sigh, and knew from experience that he was probably rubbing the palm of his hand on his forehead and trying to figure out how to say something. “Billy, what ever it is just spit it out.”

“Okay, damn. Ian, Clair has a whole new side to the story and I thought you should be warned.”

“What are you talking about, Bill?”

“Well, the word she’s spreading around town is that you never broke up. You just got a cushy executive job in prestige Ville with a whopping salary and she’s moving out there with you.”

“Over my dead body.”

“Oh there’s more.” He warned.

“Oh, God.”

“Apparently, the two of you are getting married in September. She’s asked Renee to fly out and be her maid of honor.”

“Bill, I can assure you, it ain’t happening. The bitch has just flipped her lid.”

“That’s what I figured.” He seemed a little more at ease but not much.

“How did she even know about the job? You didn’t even know about that. Leaving town I could understand, but the rest…”

“Renee told me she went to your old office and your boss filled her in. Now why Clare was at your office I have no idea, but that asshole of a boss told her everything she wanted to know, including your new office phone number.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Billy. She wouldn’t have the nerve to call me. I made it very clear that it was over the night I left. I even waited until she was at work the next day to go in and get my stuff out of the apartment, so I didn’t leave a scrap of anything behind for her to ‘need to return to me’.”

“I understand that Ian, but there’s one other little bit of information I think you need to know. Clair turned in her two week notice and has told Renee that she’s flying out to live with you.”

Ian couldn’t help but laugh. He wasn’t surprised, but she would be. The moment she got a whiff of some cash and/or prestige her panties were probably wetter than they’d ever been. “Sorry, dude, I don’t mean to laugh, but Clair certainly has a surprise coming if she’s really quitting her job and flying out here to live with me.”

“Why, you already married, dude?”

“Oh, hell, no! But she can’t even get on the lot without my authority and that’s not happening, and if she comes on my property, I’ll just have her arrested. Luckily here in California there are very strict stalker laws.”

He heard Billy laugh. “I hadn’t thought of that. I almost hope she does try and land on your doorstep.”

“Me, too.”

“So…” there was a pause on the other end, and Ian could see in his head Billy chewing on his lower lip, “everything okay?”

“Yeah, just fine Bill. Thanks for asking…and the warning.”

“No prob,” he said. “You and me, too?”

“Yeah, we’re fine buddy, always will be.”

“So it’s okay that I called?”

“Yep, any time. But I think I’ll get my cell phone number changed tomorrow. Been meaning to anyway. I’ll call you with the new one.”

“Cool. So everything’s alright, then?”

“Just fine.” Ian looked at the clock. “Everything okay with you?”

“Sure, what makes you ask?”

“Well it’s after 11 here, Billy, has to be at least two on the East coast. Everything alright with you?”

“Yeah, was just lying here in bed and wondering when and how to tell you about Clair. Thought I should just go ahead and do it or I wouldn’t get any sleep at all.”

Ian sniggered, “Well, you feel better now?”


“Can you sleep now?”


“Then go to bed.”

Billy laughed, “Will do.”

“Hey, Bill? Thanks for calling man. It’s good to hear from you.”

“Yeah, good to hear your voice. I’ll spread the word that Clair’s an idiot.”

“I’m sure everyone will just say ‘Duh!”


"Give Vonnie a kiss for me?"

"Everyday." Ian could hear Billy smiled when he said that. "Take care, Ian. Talk to you soon?”

“Sure thing. Night, Billy.”


Ian closed the phone. He couldn’t believe Clair. Actually, yes he could and he was positive that she’d just show up at the office one day in the next few weeks, bags in hand and expect that nothing ever changed. He shook his head is mock disbelief.

“Clair, Clair, Clair…” he said out loud. “What a stupid bitch.” He took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair, roughing it up and flopping back on the bed. Of course, she didn’t believe it was over. She had always done the breaking up before, and he’d always pleaded he would change until she would consent to take him back. Hell, he had ‘changed’ so many times he didn’t even know who he was.

But he had told her he couldn’t take it anymore and it was over. She had just looked him straight in the eye and said, “Right, you’ll be back.” He had thrown a few clothes in his gym bag and headed toward the door, telling her he’d be back for the rest of his stuff as soon as he had some new digs. She laughed and snorted, “No one breaks up with me.”

He shouted, “I just did” over his shoulder as he slammed the door behind him. She even had the balls to call Billy and tell him Ian was probably on his way and to tell him that she’d have breakfast ready in the morning. So Bill was expecting him when he showed up at his apartment door.

He’d had time to tell Renee to take a hike for a few hours, tucked his daughter in bed early, and put a case of beer in the fridge. Ian even noticed an unopened bottle of Scotch and two glasses on the coffee table when he walked in the door. Yeah, they’d both obviously been through this before.

They had been college roommates. They had pretty much seen it all and done it all together. They were so much alike, but different enough to keep each other endlessly entertained through ten years of friendship.

Ian knew it was definitely over between him and Clair. It was the only way he could save himself. He felt like there was this huge black hole sucking in and destroying everything around him. He knew Clair wasn’t the vortex, but definitely the apex, and in order to think straight she had to go.

Ian poured himself a scotch, popped open the glass doors and stepped out onto his balcony to drink in the fresh evening air, hoping it would keep him from going further in his mind. He stared down into the water of the pool below and thought, just thought...of Claire, of the past, of nothing at all.

He took a long drag of the cigarette and then flicked it in the air. He watched the red cherry somersault through time and fall, hidden somewhere in the lawn below. He sighed. When would he stop feeling like that, something discarded, hidden in the vast darkness until whatever heat was left died from lack of oxygen.

He stared into the almost empty scotch glass, for a moment. He knocked it back, then turned inside and drifted back off into a heavy sleep.

Standing in the shadows, a figure watched, satisfied. For a moment, they had been afraid to move. He seemed to be staring right at them. His figure was intoxicating, almost naked and mistakenly believing he was sheltered from the world.

The figure chuckled silently. Hot and mistakenly stupid, that’s how they liked him, and this man was plenty of both. The shadow smiled. This was going to be so easy. It would take some time, and it would be complicated, but it was a piece of cake.

A dog growled from not too far off. The shadow had been there long enough to know it was at a safe distance, but why tempt fate? No need to get cocky, this guy would step right in it.

The figure in the shadows slipped away, but not before taking one last look as the lights on the second floor flickered out. “Welcome to my world…” was murmured quietly in the night, “…said the spider to the fly.”

The Invariable Cliche

I ran across a blog yesterday evening, one I normally wouldn't read. There was this vague connection that made me stop and read...and read... I found myself starting at the beginning and reading everything, about five year's worth of blogs.

I can't say that it is expertly written, heck I can't say mine are expertly written. I can't say that the blogs even explored a subject I knew anything about or identified with. The writer and I have little, if anything, in common.

The twenty something guy writing the blog is working his way upwards in the world of professional sports and struggling with hiding his sexuality. I'm old enough to be the guy's father and I liked the Orioles as a kid but that's pretty much about as "jockish" as I get. As far as the gay thing goes, I have lots of gay friends whom I adore and I have a man crush on John Barrowman, but that's about it.

So why did this blog strike me so? I think it was a resonance that sort of opened my eyes. This kid has made some tough choices in his life, struggling with them daily but has kept his focus on achieving his dream, all the time in desperate fear that it could end with the beginning of one good rumor. It was this "kid's" fierce determination and focus that pulled me in.

I enjoyed, via the young man's blog, watching his self confidence and courage grow. I wondered at the sense of excitement as he took risky steps in his personal life, and found myself rooting for him as he battled injury, both emotional and physical, to come back, maintain his focus and, although invariably cliched, keep reaching "for the prize". Thanks, Slugger, you opened my eyes. I owe you one.

I've made no secret that I have been struggling. Ironically, it started about the time the dude I've been talking about started blogging. In July, when I got fired, no other way to put that one, I hit an impasse. I have just not been unable to function normally, only forcing myself to little by little maintain any kind of life.

My phone has been off since July. I turn it on occasionally to see if anyone has called about job interviews and quickly deleted the many, many phone calls from friends. I've posted a couple of things on Facebook, but have responded to nothing. I just wasn't able.

Basically, I found myself wounded beyond hurt in a physical and mental place that I couldn't stand. I actually left this area of the country almost fifteen years ago because I just couldn't stand waking up every morning angered at the quaint disregard of personal respect known as "Southern Hospitality". I seriously do not mean to offend, but that is how I feel.

So I find myself jobless in East Tennessee and living with no end in sight with my seventy year old parents. Cable sucks, Internet is even worse, my good computer struck down by lightning three days after arriving, opportunities almost nil because of the caste system here that no one is bright enough to see exists. My future looked to be nothing more than sitting around this house with Mom and Dad waiting to see which one of us kicked the bucket first.

I know something is wrong, but I have been unable to even seek help. The few places I turned to turned me away or were "just unable to find the time". I live off of Tylenol PM and Sominex. Most of my fillings have fallen out, and I no longer have insurance even if I could afford the co-pay, so eating is painful. What I do manage to eat rips my stomach up as my ulcers are now back in high gear.

Going out in public is a nightmare. I use to get comfort and refuge by going out to very public places by myself. Now, I sweat profusely and if someone even says "Would you like fried with that" I can't answer the question. I've been forcing myself, but it doesn't take long before I end up back in my car sobbing uncontrollably and physically shaking until my chest hurts.

I have been afraid, literally paralyzed physically and mentally by fear. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing something that was the foundation of my very being. I didn't realize it but I made a choice to stop in order to stop the pain, and my life has been painful for quite some time. Life gets that way, and I would do anything to get it to stop.

So I started "settling for". Oh God, how many times did I consciously convince myself that "this is fine"? It's not what I want, but I accept it. I even stopped making my own decisions, allowing everyone...anyone to decide what I needed to do next. I have suddenly realized that the point that am I in life is what all that got me.

You see, I stopped dreaming. I stopped allowing myself to obsess about something that may or may not have been possible. I was always the poor kid, the only child, the odd dude and the one that people either made fun of or didn't stand out enough to warrant remembering. I also came in at the tail end of things that seemed to crumble shortly after I arrived. I reached the point where I thought if I got involved my mere presence was the destructive force that brought it to an end or that it wouldn't turn out the way it did in my head i.e. let's bring on more pain.

Granted, I probably only have time left for one last cheap thrill or two. I'm not a senior citizen by any means, but definitely closer to the middle of middle aged, so I'm not delusional enough to think I can play "Romeo" or even "Hamlet", but I've got to stop, I WILL stop, dismissing my every thought as impossible with a painful result. I have taken away my own "hope" and compartmentalized it as an impossible dream that has passed me by forever.

I won't promise myself a painless, easy rest of breathing but I am promising myself that I will try anything and everything that I decide I want to do. I will no longer chastise and punish myself for creatively wasting my time. It's my time, and right now I have no choice but to waste a lot of it creatively or I will lose what's left of my effing mind.

I admit to an obsession with Twitter. I'm no good at it, but I have been enjoying trying to decipher what the heck people are saying, and getting a little stalkerish thrill out of kind of knowing what a lot of perfect strangers are doing and thinking. Maybe sometime, I'll even be good at it.

And I enjoy these two blogs I've kind of toyed with. They first started as an attempt to make me feel human. I used to blog A LOT on MySpace. Then all this stuff started happening and I just couldn't do it. So this one I will keep in the vein of the MySpace blogs; thoughts, feelings...whatever pops into my head. It will be a good way to track my own progress and focus. If someone reads it cool. If someone wants to leave a comment or get in contact, once again, cool.

The other, "Odd Rocks Across the River", also here on blogspot, was meant to be a place for me to post a continuing homage to the dying daytime drama with a slightly mean poke at the Southern lifestyle. The intent was to post "episodes" linked together by reoccurring characters with no real end. I will still do so, labeling each of those with the word "episode" and a sequential number, but I will also use it to post any works of fiction that I spin. (I like to compartmentalize so there--fiction/insanity track)

I will also in the next twenty four hours on this blog post the first chapter of my other obsession, a novel I have been working on for, well I'm not so sure but, I haven't bought underwear in three years and I know I've been working on this novel longer than that. The first chapter is the only thing I'm happy with, so I'll let it out there. I know I'll never be happy with it, but I also know that I'm at the point where I probably just need a good editor. Not that posting Chapter One will help, but at least it's more pro-active than creative masturbation.

I'm not sure what to focus on yet, but I've just got to get the flood gates to the mind open up, listen closely to my heart, then toss the good parts up to my brain and run screaming forward with all the strength I have.

The progression being instead of taking one step at a step to dream one breath at a time.

Proudly, if a little wobbly...the chicken dances on.

P.S. Thank God for Sluggers, dreams and spellcheck

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Fall

I've already noticed that fall is on its way to the Appalachian Mountains. It was 50 degrees this morning, so you couldn't help but notice.

As always, as soon as I get up, I slip on my ugly, now getting ratty, robe and step out on the front porch and just wake up. It didn't take long this morning. It won't be long until I'll actually have to get dressed for the morning ritual. I'm sure that rabbits, deer and maybe the neighbors will appreciate not having to gander at me pacing around the porch in the dumpy robe and clashing flannel pants.

I wonder what Bruno will do? It seems that I am not the only one here in the middle of redneck nowhere that has a morning ritual. There is a hummingbird that greets me each morning. He flies around my head, hovering and bouncing about a foot from my face making that half tweet, half chirp sound.

Sometimes he'll nip his breakfast from the humming bird feeder. Sometimes he'll flit around the porch and play in the flowers my mother has everywhere. There are times when he actually lights on the table beside the bench. He sits there and just cocks his head back and forth watching me.

His coat is changing to fall. He was a beautiful green and yellow, with a bright blue ring around his neck. I've been told that the males are the bright color birds, so I assume "Bruno" is male. He's all faded to grays and browns now, but that bright ring of blue still whips around his neck.

Soon, he'll fly off to where ever it is that humming birds go for the winter. Florida? Australia? Palm Springs? I wonder if he'll find some one to commune with every morning when he gets where he's going. I wonder if the person he connects with during his wintering will have the sense of awe and comfort that Bruno has given me these last few mornings.

In college I had to do a reading from a play for a class. I chose "Zoo Story" by Albee. The character was a desperate man whose only connection in life seems to have been with a dog. Ironically, the only connection I am comfortable with at this point in my life is with a humming bird.

I discuss my plans for the day with him. I tell him how I had trouble sleeping the night before.I tell him what's on my heart. I tell him the truth, how I feel so hollow that I invariably feel nothing. All I have inside me is the echoing of pain, loss and defeat. I tell him I know I have to get past it, and that I am really, really trying.

Bruno knows that I've been putting up a good front. I see him watching me from the trees in the front yard, so I know he sees that I'm saying all the right things and functioning by rote. He sees the smiles and the conversation I share with my parents, and he sees that although still very worried, they are convinced that I'm doing fine now and will soon be back to the old me--not that they ever really knew who that was. Not that I ever knew who I really was.

And I will be fine. It's just taking longer than I expected. I've been forcing myself to get out in public, little patches at a time. Baby steps. I still always end up back in the car, sobbing uncontrollably and trembling until my chest hurts, but soon I know that will pass. Please God, let it soon pass.

Soon, I will have suppressed it all and no one will ever know. No one will ever know that I am broken. I am crushed. They won't be able to tell that the fight is all gone, and I mourn every moment for the dreams that I'll never hold in what's left of my heart. But I WILL go on. I will find whatever little bit of hope there is left, and like little Bruno Spring will come around and my beautiful colors will return, hiding the gray and brown beneath it all.