Posted 2 years ago

Moving

I am going to post on my other Tumblr, http://untowardness.tumblr.com or you can always check out my posts at my site, http://xenex.org

Posted 2 years ago
Just keep in mind at your friend memorial it isnt a to mourn it is to celebrate life. Not saying try not to be sad, take all the time you need. However a memorial is to celebrate and remember a life.
ohmylucyy asked

Only his life wasn’t really celebrated, it was largely used as an excuse by the pastor to proselytize.  By all means, throw in a “he is in a better place with Jesus” but don’t tell us all about how Revelations is literally true and dare mourners to find something inaccurate in the Bible in lieu of having a memorial service.  There was almost no spoken evidence the pastor really knew Kelley and he seemed not to want us to use the stage to discuss him.  I don’t know what he feared would happen, but it was jarring how he cut people off and lectured us to keep any story about him brief (and then stopped us from voicing these stories at all).  The celebration of his life was co-opted to chastise us for mourning. 

Posted 2 years ago

Floating Aloft

I am not certain what to expect from Kelley's memorial service. I assume it is not a funeral, that he will be there in spirit but not in body. I hope this is the case, at least, as his corpse is not an experience I feel I need. I am not sure of the etiquette of terms - funeral, wake, memorial service - because I have gone only to a couple of these. People online had been speaking of Kelley's Catholicism - that he was so devout that he refused to dress up as a zombie for a zombie Easter party (instead, he dressed as an ostensibly post-mortem Judas and told everyone that he was the reason they were all there) - but this was not a facet of his personality I was ever given occasion to encounter. The vast majority of my prior association with Kelley took place as we tried to terrify the paying public. Theology did not play much of a part in our discussions.

On the drive to the Calvary Chapel, I feel anxiety that expresses itself through urges toward road rage. I understand that this is what is going on and to not let it get the better of me (even if the person in front of me is driving with their hazards on, ten miles below the speed limit, on a road where it is impossible to pass them legally, rather than pulling over and letting the twenty cars behind them go). I meet Amber in a dusty parking lot outside a building that in no way seems holy. She is surrounded by mourners, which is to say “people in black clothing”. The demeanor of those in the parking lot, while slightly subdued, is still closer to amusement than anguish.

Amber, dressed in khakis and a black top, is there only for me. She did not know Kelley and had no occasion to have ever met him, since I was too poor to take us to the Haunted Mansion this year. I did not ask her to be there, but she offered to join me when I mentioned I would be going to the service. I was at the very least relieved that she opted to join me, but I was not going to ask her. (Though more precisely, I was overwhelmed with love and appreciation that my girlfriend was willing to sacrifice an evening to be in an awkward social situation with me rather than allow me to languish alone in discomfiture.)

The assembled throng agrees that this parking lot, adjoining what they assure us is a hockey rink, is likely not the right location however much the address assure us otherwise. We spy a sign for the chapel and trudge down the long driveway. People around us crack jokes about how tricking us into meeting at the wrong location would have been what Kelley would have wanted and how the lack of an obituary could all be a part of a massive practical joke. I squeeze Amber’s hand, which I have placed inside my capacious coat pocket as defense against the chill of the night, hoping to convey something to her, though I don’t in the moment know quite what. I cannot focus fully on anything but the moment, her hand in mine, the cold.

When we find the chapel, I am astounded to see how beyond full the parking lot is. Could they all be here for the memorial service? It does not seem possible. When I went to Emily's father’s funeral, the funeral home was packed, but that would have only accounted for one hundred people at the most. This parking lot implies fivefold as many mourners.

We make our way into the building, the air heavy with evaporating tears and a dense silence. I shake hands with and hug people who I have never before seen in anything but shrouds, masks, and latex prostheses. “These people should be dripping blood from every orifice,” I whisper to Amber. “Then I would know who I was hugging.” Indeed, some people are referred to only by appellations such as “Scary Guy” and “Devil Boy”, even if said in somber tones.

We are ushered into a carpeted room that is packed beyond capacity, eventually being directed to seats in the second row, just behind the band. The pastor gets on the microphone and asks if the church family - those who are members of this chapel but not expressly biological family or Kelley’s friends - would kindly move to a secondary room to make space for truer mourners. I hear some shuffling, but the view behind us looks no roomier.

This space is vast and seems as though it could accommodate over four hundred in comfort. Later, I will be quoted the figure of a thousand mourners, but I do not know how accurate that is. There is a raised stage, on which the pastor, a couple of guitars, a keyboard, and several mic stand sit. On either side of the stage are six-by-five foot screens projecting a picture of Kelley smiling in his slightly goofy way. In the back, someone is thanked for volunteering his time to do lights and sound for this service. The few church services I have ever attended - weddings, funerals, Christmas - have been markedly more austere.

Kelley’s father and mother grace the stage at the pastor’s request. His father talks about the parts of Kelley I know, the man who could charm a raging bull into docility, the one who made friends of everyone, the man with the heart of a child to whom kids flocked. To this last point, his family is gathering donations in Kelley’s name to provide Christmas gifts to those children in need. He says how, in watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, he was reminded of Kelley. He is the balloon held aloft, but all of us are the connection that keep him anchored to this world. He seems composed, almost peaceful, in a way I am certain I would not be. He then speaks of Kelley’s religious side, something the pastor will detail almost to the exclusion of anything else, how Kelley had wanted to be a committed member of the church, how he wanted to more keenly feel the presence of God in his life. Granted, my conception of Kelley is weighted toward his adolescence when he was foulmouthed and hormonal, but what his father describes is almost a version of him beyond my imagining. Kelley apparently had the “Footsteps” poem tattooed in whole upon his left upper arm, as it reminded him that Jesus was there to carry him in his times of need. This brings his family comfort, because they know Kelley is not gone but merely practicing his volleyball spike with Jesus.

His mother demurs speaking at all, but instead nods along with her husband’s remarks.

After a slideshow set to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” Kelley had made for his mother years ago (with the portentous comment “if I ever die, this is going to make you cry so much”), the pastor comes back. He largely preaches, throwing up Bible verses and challenging us to look at aspects of the Bible and tell him that the whole of the book isn’t true. I don’t find this consoling, though I hope most gathered do. If every word in the Bible were literally true as he claims (especially those statements that contradict other things in the Bible…), that means that Kelley is damned, since he committed suicide and that is a mortal sin that cannot be ameliorated through repentance. All the pastor will grant is that anyone who is not a Christian is going to Hell to burn forever at the hands of his loving God. “If Kelley could come back to you all,” he says, all smiles, “he wouldn’t. He is where he belongs.” I rather disagree and squeeze Amber’s hand instead of whispering my irritation. We should be allowed our tears at the death of a man and allowed to remember him at this memorial service, not told in essence that we are wasting our time.

I want the pastor to discuss Kelley, whom he knew, whom he reports came into his office months ago wanting to play a greater part in the church. I want this man not to merely close his eyes and look as though Kelley’s death transports him to bliss, but to address that it hurts him personally, how this is a loss not only for him but for the world. He says Kelley would call him, that they would have frequent conversations. Did Kelley confess suicidal thoughts to this man? Did he suspect what Kelley was contemplating? But we get none of that, only a series of Bible quotes (included one from Revelations) that he, the pastor, likes with occasional mentions that Kelley might have appreciated them. I later wonder aloud to Amber whether the pastor simply slots the name of the recently deceased into a boilerplate sermon, given how minimally his portion of the memorial service had anything to do with Kelley.

After some talented Christian rock and another slideshow, the pastor asks if anyone would like to come to his podium to share a story about Kelley. “Make sure they are brief, though!” he chides us after his forty-five minute lecture about his favorite Bible quotes and our own eminent damnation. Only one person goes up, Kelley’s aunt, saying how Kelley was born was she was nineteen and carefree but how she learned the meaning of love and responsibility for that love from watching her sister raise Kelley. She says that this was a horrible accident that took Kelley from the world. I look at Amber and mouth the question “accident?” It occurs to me for the first time that one could kill oneself and not have committed suicide, accidentally overdosing or driving recklessly, but this slip is just another puzzle I will not be able to resolve when I want a piece that will clarify.

There is a lull of fifteen second when people are weighing whether they, too, wish to speak, during which the pastor dismisses us to enjoy refreshments in the back.

Amber and I exit. As I do, I see Chris, one of Kelley’s best friends as far as I know, crumbled into the arms of a woman while a child tugs at the cuff of his pants. I want to say something comforting to him, but find I do not have the words and know I do not have the right. Amber and I wait by the doors. After a few minutes, and several acquaintances nodding at me as they try to exit, I admit to her that I don’t know what I am waiting for. For solace, I suppose. To feel connected to someone else who knew Kelley, someone who won’t throw up the words of the ancient dead and weak platitudes in lieu of admitting that this was a senseless death and we deserve better than to be told to get over it now in the name of Jesus (who, as I recall, did say in Matthew 5:4 that those who mourn are blessed because they will be comforted).

We follow the flow of mourners past a smiling woman offering a tray of Swedish meatballs. I find this peculiar and I am about to leave, but Amber takes one. I do as well and we are subsequently led into a room full of cakes, breads, cookies, and punch. It feels like a junior high dance.

"Is this what happens at memorial services?" I ask Amber, as I fill a small plate so as to have some reason to stick around longer.

"I don’t know, I haven’t been to one in a while. It seems like churches have this kind of food every time I am in one."

I bite into my cupcake and then say, “I was not aware, I have never encountered this at a church. It’s usually much more about eating crackers made of Jesus.”

People approach us on occasion, greeting me as I try to mentally age them a decade and cover them in fake blood to figure out who they are. This is closer to what I wanted, though some seem too nervous or relieved (that this service is over, not that Kelley is dead). I cling to Amber, chatting with her intermittently about Kelley and mortality but mostly about any other subject I can contrive. 

Posted 2 years ago

Contracts

If you are anything like me - and why wouldn’t you be? - the idea of publishing contracts fills you with a cold panic. While writing is an art for you, it is a business for your publisher. They would like to make money. As pro-writer, as friendly, as positive as the publisher may seem, you are well advised to assume that they are out to steal all your characters and give you no royalties ever. If this happens to not be the case in the end - as will almost definitely be true - you are welcome to be pleasantly surprised.

Here is my advice for any serious contract:

  1. Follow Yog’s Law: Money should flow toward the author. Any contract that wants money from you - upfront, in installments, whatever configuration - is a crock and you absolutely should not sign it. Frankly, you should not deal with any company that wants money from you because they are a scam vanity publisher and beneath you. (Of course, you do have to pay for copies of your own book that you resell at signings and events.)
  2. Get a lawyer. I know they are scary. They wear suits and carry briefcases. Unless you are James Patterson, you likely treat your fictional lawyers as little more than pompous punching bags. But this is the one moment in your life where you genuinely need them. Consider it, if you must, as a lesser of two evils situation. I know, you are a poor writer. If you got an advance (I never did) you imagine that most of it is about to go to some law firm. Not so. First of all, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts will be willing to chat with you for free, thus the “volunteer”. (A slight warning: the last time I had to deal with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, it was over a month later - well after I had sent the contract back - before they called me in reference to my voice mail. They are busy people and, if you need to see someone right now, you are likely going to have to pay for the privilege.) Secondly, though they may not be experts in entertainment law, most lawyers have looked at a contact before. Some advice and guidance is better than none.
  3. Your publisher will be willing to negotiate, if you are any good. They want to keep you happily churning out sequels and not complaining. Further, they do not want you to seek out other publishing houses if you are a lucrative prospect. If they are willing to let you go, it is either a power play (at which point, you are dealing with short-sighted jackasses and would be better served with a more mature and professional house) or you aren’t as good as you would hope and they do not mind losing you.
  4. Most importantly, your publisher will be willing to negotiate if they are any good. Good publishers have dealt with all this before and have thought ahead for potential objections and solutions. Any publishing house that reacts unprofessionally to a request for clarification or a request to amend something is either very new or about to file for bankruptcy.
  5. Check any percentage against what other authors get. If it seems low, ask your publisher why. Dealing with a contract - a legally binding document - is not the time to develop a streak of meekness. Again, if your publisher is remotely worth their salt, they will be not only willing but eager to discuss this with you. Doubtlessly, you are not the flakiest writer they have dealt with. As long as you are not a prima donna pain in the ass, they will work with you and allay/address your concerns.
  6. If you see clauses that say they gain copyright of your book or characters, don’t sign it. If you think “I can just write new characters and getting my name out there matters more” realize that the contract might specify the publisher owns any characters you create and that will be a costly bitch to fight in court. You want to retain all rights to your work, otherwise you can end up trapped. (My publisher specifies a five year renewal period; if either party is dissatisfied after this, the contract is not renewed). If the company goes under, you might be stuck with a property you cannot legally market.
  7. As another author, Deborah Lipp, reminded me when last I had to deal with a contract (for the film rights to my first novel), “The important parts of the contract are not the money bits, but the rights and responsibilities. Are you indemnified from their malfeasance? Their contract will make damn sure that they’re indemnified… if you turn out to be a plagiarist… Make sure the clause protecting you is as strong as the clause protecting them.”
  8. Everything in the contract is negotiable.
Posted 2 years ago

Eulogy for Kelley

His name was Kelley Doyle. I met and worked with him at the Haunted Mansionalmost fifteen years ago. He was such a character that I wrote him into a one-act play I created in college, one that was never produced and which got a C from a professor because he could not believe in Kelley. Someone so foulmouthed could not possibly have wisdom to bestow, according to my teacher.

Kelley was just a kid when I met him, short and frenetic. You could not keep him still. He had an attitude that demanded attention. He could crash a funeral and somehow make the bereaved laugh.

We hadn’t spent any real time together for years, since I could no longer offer my Octobers to the Haunted Mansion. We remained friendly, no doubt, but there did not seem a compelling reason to hang out unless by chance we ran into one another. Still, if anyone asked about him, I would have had only positive remarks. No one could hate him, no matter how he might amuse himself by tormenting them.

I have looked through his Facebook Wall every day since my younger brother texted me to let me know the rumor that Kelley had killed himself before Thanksgiving. I admit I looked in part to try to figure out why, as though these cursory glances will arouse in me some Holmesian intuition.

When I look through what is being posted, I find this from our mutual friend Rob.

Just feel numb. To my knowledge I haven’t lost any friends in my age bracket until now. And suicide of all things. I’m glad the last time I saw him in September it was on good terms with a hearty handshake and greeting. I think I met Kelley Doyle around 1996, and since then he’s always been a guy that almost always “got away with murder”. Sometimes he was incredibly annoying and we’d end up in a fist fight. He actually tried to fight me after I quit the Haunted Mansion 10 yrs ago… because I quit. Two summers ago, I helped him raise money at Hope On The Hudson. I was pretty impressed with him for organizing and producing that benefit. This time, he has gotten away with murder, his own. I wanna call him out, like he did me… and kick his ass for quitting. Even when the guy pissed you off, you couldn’t be mad at him for too long.

Kelley is not the first suicide in my circle of friends. That dubious honor goes to Todd, ten years dead last summer. Instead, Kelley is the least explicable, the one I know will disturb me for a long time.

Not that there can be any real comparison, but last year at this time, I was beginning one of the mentally darkest points in my adult life. The life I led felt impossible and I felt terrible about myself. The herbal remedy I took to alleviate the symptoms made me so much worse, so sensitive to all pain around me and yet completely trapped inside my head. I called the crisis hotline too many times, just to have someone to talk to about what welled up in me without other outlet. Kelley does not seem like the type to reach out.

Obviously, I didn’t kill myself. I did not even want to kill myself, I just ached for my life to be easier to endure. However, had I died then, I do not doubt that anyone looking at my recent communications would feel all signs pointed toward self-destruction. I do few things without considering every angle in writing.

I am not exactly casting aspersion that Kelley did kill himself, but I can think of no justifiable reasons. I try to find his rationale, though I would not be able to accept it if I did. Why he died and, I suppose, why I didn’t. It feels as though he were leading an arguably enviable life on his terms. He had started a relationship in June with an attractive woman. His job seemed to be traveling the country, building haunted houses and going to horror conventions. He had been on AMC for the month of October as part of a documentary series about the Haunted Mansion. If there were a camera anywhere, it was going to end up turned on Kelley. (A little unfortunate at the moment; given the nature of his work, there are several pictures of Kelley smiling as he builds coffins.) He was a difficult man to ignore, somehow more so now.

He was was so vibrant. There are these pictures of him, grinning, a beer in his hand. Him in a suit and sunglasses, looking like a scene out of Wedding Crashers. Acting in a murder mystery. Yet I cannot find even a morsel - a message of concern from a friend, a morose status update - that would lead me to understand why he did this.

We are conditioned to expect a sort of paper trail. You want a plot, you want foreshadowing. But with Kelley, at an arm’s length as I am, I get none of that. People go from making joking homoerotic references one day to mourning his death the next with no intermission. You see this outpouring of love after someone dies, after they kill themselves, because you can’t be expected to be that open when someone is still above ground. Someone posted that they had run into him a few days before at a grocery store and that he seemed fine then. While that might not be the ideal place to unburden oneself of secrets, it seems that no one had an inkling.

I don’t know the vagaries of the end of his life. There is no reason for me to and I do not deserve to. I do not know if he reached out to anyone, if there were hints at what he might do. I do not know and never will if this had been his first attempt or simply his last. Anything I learned about this would only be to comfort me, would be an implicitly selfish act.

There is so much about him that is a blank, white space to me. I don’t know if he ever had thoughts of suicide before. I don’t know if there was a note. And, frankly, it isn’t any of my business. I have no right to know and I don’t presume otherwise. I am little better than a stranger and I won’t ever get a chance to be any more than that. I can’t imagine what it must be like for his girlfriend, likely still in the honeymoon period of their relationship when she so decisively lost him. She keeps her status as “In a Relationship”, even after Kelley’s sister uses his account to end their connection.

We stereotype what a suicidal person is supposed to be. Kelley wasn’t, he just died. You want to believe stereotypes about suicidal people because it makes them distant from you. No one who is like you could ever want to end their life, you want to believe. But suicidal people are just people, in the end. They are you, the only difference being that they could not get the help they needed in time, that they quit. It would be a tragedy if this death were only an accident and would rally up an angry mob were it a homicide. But Kelley did this to himself and so there is the survivor’s guilt, the love for him and the shock intermingled, the ache that maybe something could have been done and wasn’t.

I search for an answer nevertheless, to beat back the despair and comfort myself that there will be signs the next time someone I know thinks of taking his or her life. Kelley did not seem to be suffering from a terminal disease. No one in his life had just died. He had not endured an especially wrenching breakup, even. None of these would make it acceptable, but it would make it a bit more comprehensible. Primarily among adolescents, suicide is thought to be communicable. In a sense, the need to conform is greater than the need to survive. If someone who you believe to be similar to you kills himself, your subconscious adds weight to the belief that committing suicide is something that people like you do. This tendency is so prevalent as to have earned the name the Werther effect.

Particularly in countries outside of America, the fear of contagious suicide is so great that media is banned if it is presumed to glorify the act, that hearing about a suicide makes the vulnerable feel that they are now permitted to succumb. If someone so full of life as Kelley can end it all definitively, what chance does someone of a more depressive constitution have? I think Kelley would kick the ass of anyone daring to follow him into death. He was the sort of person who would not stand for someone hurting themselves (unless it could pass as a viral video), even if he was not inclined to regard himself with such compassion. I know he would not want himself to be this sort of example.

Could he have felt anything but loved in life? People flocked to him and regarded him with appreciation, even at his worst. He was constantly surrounded by friends or he simply made friends of most everyone around him, but that does not mean he was not lonely. 

Posted 2 years ago

How the Dragon Got a New Lair


Xen Xen was a man. Or at least a dragon man. Or maybe he was a dragon.

I am signing up for a discount card at a grocery store when I get the call, asking me if I would accept the job. I did not even manage to get home from the interview. I stammer that I accept, of course, trying to find a scrap of paper so I can write down what paperwork they need from me on Monday in order to move forward with my employment.

I call Amber and ask her for the most celebratory food she can think of. She settles on cake and reminds me that she already intended to bring a small bottle of champagne tomorrow. Now we will have a good reason for it. I then call my mother and say, affecting sadness, that I will have to move. She realizes my meaning and shouts her congratulations, affirming that the hour commute absolutely means I will have to relocate.

I thought I had done well enough in the interview, but have long since abandoned believing my level of qualification and aplomb in an interview bore any correlation to my employability. I had arrived early - which is apparently a faux pas according to articles I have read, but it has to be better than tardiness - and chatted with the secretary about Those Kids These Days and How Things Used to Be Different. That she is affable tells me much about this facility, at least as much as that there are M&M lawn gnomes and no razor wire fences (though, of course, there are locked and alarmed doors). It makes up for the suicide prevention doorknobs in the bathroom that cause me to become trapped for a minute. The last time I interviewed at a residential center - what others largely seriously call “kiddy prisons” - it bore all the marks of its adult equivalent. Where I interviewed today is a low security center in the middle of the country. In my research, all I pulled up was that local college students teach the residents poetry, which suggests to me that these are not the irredeemable thugs implied to exist at the other facility - murderers and rapists who would be expected (in fact, all but allowed) to assault me at a whim. When I interviewed today, I walked past a few of the residents and they seemed no worse at first blush than those I encounter daily while substitute teaching at an inner-city school. During the interview proper, two people scrutinized my resume and asked questions when necessary: why I no longer worked at this job or that, what this program I had used involved, why my novels take place in this area. Then, one of the interviewers played at being one of the residents and I dealt with him as I would any of my students. That I was compassionate, yet respectful and firm, seemed to impress him, but how else should one approach this population? I am not certain when I got the job, but I think it was decided before I left, as they had begun saying phrases like, “When you take the job” and “when we offer you the job.” I do not know what was different this time, what they found lacking in all other comers that I possessed. I later suggest that, given that the interviewers mentioned that at least two of the five applicants to have made it this far are female, it might come down to my being the only male whose application was passed onto them.

Leaving the grocery store, I feel disconnected from reality. It has been over two years since I have had a steady job. I am uneasy with the idea that I might not have to struggle and live by each paycheck. Doing so was difficult, but I had grown accustomed to it. It is what I know now. To have a job that pays me for twenty hours more than I otherwise have to work almost fifty hours a week for now - one that finds my service valuable enough to offer me medical, dental, vision, and retirement - is a stunning turnabout and a vindication of what I had long hoped about myself despite the pain of the recession.

Part of my ego had been fractured by my inability to find gainful employment, making me meek. I was made to feel inadequate as I was again and again passed over for applicants who seemed far greener, living with the specter of eviction over my head every month. Last year at this time, I was subbing and barely meeting my bills (though I did). I panicked my girlfriend was going to leave me (and she did). Now I have a stable relationship and will soon have a state job with benefits. On paper, this is what I have long wanted.

This job and its requisite move means that Amber can now live with me. I will make enough money to support us until she gets a job. (She is more flexible in her employment requirements than I am, as she wishes only that it is at least part time and not excruciatingly boring, meaning it involves in no great proportion phones or food. I tell her she is not permitted to take a job that forces her to work weekends.) She admits that this step is scary and sudden, but expresses confidence that this will all be fine, that we will find a suitable apartment at the right price (which is at or under $800 a month, which surprisingly narrows the options quite a lot in the Hudson Valley). We suss out, too, what we require in our future home: likely an electric stove, as many utilities included but definitely heat and water, ideally pastoral with a nearby area where I can run, not a half hour drive to any entertainment or culture (preferably walking distance), a nearby post office (so Amber can mail out her crafts), no roommates or landlord in the same building, unfurnished (since we have too much furniture), closets, a proper internet connection (though we have no need for cable).

In these three years on my own, I have grown accustomed to certain routines and wonder at continuing these when we share a home. I need to exercise at least four days a week if I am to keep my happiness and health, something I tend not to do when Amber is around because I think it is rude to work up a sweat without her help. I then realize that I would be delighted to sometimes use my elliptical while she plays a video game, finding this the perfect concession. If only all issues we will face can be so easily resolved.

I need to figure out, too, what foods we can eat. She tends to say that she is good with anything, which I know cannot be true. Amber jokingly suggests that we can eat nothing but toast sandwiches, but we do need to figure out a more diverse menu than the pasta and turkey burgers I currently feed her.

I think through issues I had when last I lived with a partner and those I have witnessed in other relationships to enumerate to her in hopes of forestalling them in our domesticity. In brief:

  • Do not throw out all my dish sponges without telling me.
  • Do not put bleach on the clothes when you mean to use detergent.
  • If there is something you own that is complicated to wash and you know how to wash it, do not presume I have any idea.
  • Ask me to do things and I generally will. Glare at my head and I will cower.
  • If I am cleaning, I am not trying to guilt you into cleaning. I just decided to tidy up.
  • If you are hungry, say, “I am hungry, are you hungry?” and we will begin making food.
  • I only know how to make so many things, but I will eat just about anything.
  • Please do not have sex with anyone else.
  • Do not take money out of my wallet without telling me. It confuses me.
  • If you find surprising money in your pocket, please consider whether I have recently given you my half of the rent and do not spend your windfall before mentioning it.

Amber assures me that none of these will be a problem, as she likes having dish sponges, rarely uses bleach, is less complicated with her washing then she should be, and would like to learn to make more things but tends to be overly cautious with raw meat. As for money, she does not care for it and won’t pilfer mine.

She adds from her own (roommate, not partner) experience:

  • If I leave my stuff in the way, just tell me rather then complaining about it to other people.

We discuss, too, what chores we actually like doing (washing dishes and laundry, vacuuming and sweeping, cleaning windows) and tend to avoid (bathroom stuff and cleaning the refrigerator).

She wants to know what she can do in order to make me excited about this transition rather than worried. I offer that she could find us the perfect apartment, teleport our stuff there, and get me my security deposit back, which she rules as perhaps a little beyond her abilities. There are parts of this move that do excite me. I cannot wait to see how Amber will decorate, creating a space that is equal parts the two of us. When we are settled, when I spend every night with Amber asleep on my chest and wake to her kisses, I will feel that this was all worth it.

I think I feel better having had these conversations, but what I want most is to be sleeping beside her, which makes it clear her part of this transition is firm. This is not to say she does not frighten me. Things between us are lovely right now, I cannot help but be concerned about adding anything that might tip the scales. I do think this will work well because neither one of us is selfish in our relationship, but it is my nature to over analyze.

I fall asleep quickly but wake up after a few hours. For the rest of the night, I do not even rest. My mind will not cease buffeting adrenaline through my body, urging me to figure out a place to move immediately, before the snow comes. Every doubt, every bit of worry and panic, floats at the surface of my mind and will not be quieted until I figure out individual solutions that I will be unable to institute for a month.

As for this time to not be utterly fruitless, I sign online and write Amber the following message:

I keep waking up from vivid dreams and hoping the whole night has passed. No such luck. I am scared, as you might imagine. Of course, I want a real job. I haven’t had benefits in over two years (not that I did much with them when I had them last time). It’s just a very large change that I have to plan for and execute. And yes, when it is all finished, I will be in a home with you, leading the life I could not previously believe would be possible so soon. Feeling, if anything, like a real person rather than someone perpetually waiting for his life to begin. But it is nevertheless a daunting change. What if I find the job too difficult? What if we are not as compatible when money is thrown into the picture? What if I cannot find anywhere decent for us to live? I warrant that these are typical jitters - it would be weird if I were not thinking these things - but I nevertheless have them. In a way, I am used to the difficulty of my current life, since I have been doing it for so long. I am used to my relationship being much more uncertain and reliant on external factors. I love you to bits and you are stable, but I cannot deny that I fret a bit that you will pull off your mask (don’t do that, I love your face) and be the worst parts of Melanieor Emily
Here is the thing, when stressed, I have the maladaptive tendency to catastrophize. I can’t breathe through the incremental steps, I just have to swallow everything at once. I had nightmares about my boarding school job for a month before I moved (as, in retrospect, I should have). 
You are in this with me, my main ally given that I am dragging you along like a rag doll. So, it is going to be to you that I say these things at three in the morning. 
I am scared. This is better than the initial fright, but I am still a bit shaky and worried. I am getting what I want, if not exactly as I would have wanted it (except for you. I do want you), but that is no less unnerving. I wish I were a little more ready or that this were a bit better. 
I hope you are dreaming right now. I love you. I cannot wait to see you.

She replied:

I was actually asleep for once, and I am there for you even when I’m asleep, so you can always call if you want too - if I’m too asleep I may not answer or be very confused for a bit though. It is scary, but we do have some time. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure it’s sunk in with me completely but I also tend not to worry too much except about the incredible amount of things I’m trying to get done in a short time or that the world simply doesn’t work they way I want it. Either way, things tend to work themselves out as long as I actually work on them rather than procrastinating. I understand worrying that I’ll end up being similar to an ex and such, as I have similar fears in reverse that I’ll end up being something you don’t expect or want, but I don’t actually see that happening as, so far, nothing I’ve done seems to bother you as much as it does some people. Also I’m learning to trust you and be more open than I have before. I think it will go well and I’m really excited that I’ll get to see you more and be moving out of here. I feel the same about how moving would be a good thing in the path of becoming a real person rater then a bit stuck as I have/had been feeling, especially before I had met you. And I can’t wait to see you either!

At the very least, I feel that we understand one another. I managed to get through a full day as a fifth grade teacher - I am not wholly certain how and definitely felt my body rebelling against effort - and think I am functional despite my sleep loss. However, by the time Amber gets to me that evening, I am so delirious that I insist I am now a dragon (my hair is specifically a dragon independent of the reptilian nature of the rest of me, as it refuses to obey the edict of my brush). I intermittently roar at her so she is aware that she has wandered into a dragon’s lair and should be mindful not to step on my treasure. Toher credit, she roars back.

As I am already punch drunk from sleep deprivation, I nix the champagne and cake making until tomorrow and instead focus on a celebratory dinner of abysmally average Korean barbecue. I look at myself in the mirrored walls and can’t help but feel like a stranger looks back. I have heard that every hour of sleep one doesn’t get is the equivalent of one alcoholic drink. By this metric, I am stumbling about with most of a six pack under my belt.

We then go to a friend’s birthday gathering at a local wine bar. I can focus only on Amber, though, and so talk to her about the life we shall soon be leading, as woman and dragon. The hostess Tara chats with us a little, but has her guest to keep her occupied, thankfully, as I am certain I make for poor company tonight.

I wake the next morning and mentally review the prior night.

"Was I," I ask Amber, "at any point last night sure I was, for instance, a dragon?"

"You were a dragon," she says. "Happens to everyone."

"I’m sorry anyway."

She roars at me, gently, and I kiss her. We make cupcakes and drink half a glass each of champagne from spider glasses she bought me last month. With her, this whole situation feels surmountable, even a bit easy and thrilling. I am a bit grateful that, when she leaves to travel south to visit relatives for Thanksgiving, she will be able to tell people that her boyfriend is gainfully employed.

When I go in Monday to fill out paperwork, I am introduced to some other members of the staff, including the man who will be my mentor. I am shown around, told I can have a free lunch there daily. After asking the residents to applaud my hiring, a counselor asks me to follow him out to a gazebo so he can get a bit of sunlight.

"I want you to know that you can’t come in here and make them change," he says as though he fears this is my unspoken plan. "You can offer them change, you can put it out to them, but they are the ones that have to take the initiative to change. You are just there to teach them."

"I guarantee you, that will not be a problem," I say, a bit to preoccupied with my own change to deal with the total transformation of twenty young men in a residential center. 

Posted 2 years ago

Instead of Throwing Heads


Amber Frightfully cute

When one reaches a certain age, Halloween takes on unwelcome and arguably less entertaining dimensions. You no longer think there is anything frightening manifesting in your closet, aside from a nasty case of black mold from that leak in your roof. For many - though they may like to pretend otherwise - this change is simply the addition of children. For me, it was years ago - I will refrain from saying how few - when I lost taste and opportunity to trick-or-treat. I weighed the price of a costume and a few hours of my time at my job against how much candy that could buy, then realized that I did not care much for most candy. Too many calories for what now amounted to flavored wax. Pragmatism has no place with ghouls and ghosts.

Friday, Amber and I go to a production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at one of my former colleges as the appetizer for our childless adult fun. As I had napped previously (at thirty, I have come to greatly appreciate my naps), I feel glorious, though not so much that I am willing to dress up beyond wearing an old biker jacket that I swear seemed like a great idea when I was sixteen and clearly had no idea what sort of man I would become. Amber, however, cannot be kept from putting on fishnets stocking, fingerless gloves, heels, and a snap up the front dress. That we managed to leave the house despite my ability to unsnap her dress at a whim should be a testament to my self control.

Amber She said that New England was dressing up like a ghost for Halloween

As I once participated in a production of Rocky Horror (when I was sixteen, cast as Brad Majors, wearing little more than briefs, outside in October, that was written up in a local paper as child pornography), I happened to still remember a startling amount of callbacks. “I hope you don’t mind,” I warn her when we arrive, “but I am going to be unbelievably obnoxious tonight.”

"I never mind," she assures me. For this, I did not squirt her with the water gun that was provided to us as props but instead got her popcorn. Well, because of this and the fact that provoking her ire was unwise given that she had both a controlling interest in our sex life and a full pistol in her hand.

Saturday, we have our big plans. This is to be our Halloween night proper, beginning with a Samhain ritual with Amber’s circle, then going to a costume party (the theme being “hipsters of the twentieth century” though we have every intention of ignoring this and just being Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf) at my friend Tom’s apartment, to which I had RSVPed in August. When one is an adult for Halloween, one must plan well in advance. But first, there is a brief family Halloween party at my father’s job. Before Amber and I leave my apartment, the flurries have begun, but we think little of these. It is October, this snow is just a trick played by the weather patterns. It cannot feasibly accumulate.

Aaryn Arr… aw.

Within ten minutes, the ground is lightly dusted. “This is not snow,” says Amber. “I have some occlusion in my vision. Some pernicious and sticky occlusions. But not snow, because it is October and that would be ridiculous.”

We chat with my family and liberally eat the free food until my mother orders us away.

"Mom, there was hardly a dusting an hour and a half ago," I try to argue, but I have noticed that the world outside the window has become oddly white.

We venture out and there is easily eight inches outside the door. More to the point, there are at least six inches on the ground, because the local bureaucracy agrees that is cannot possibly snow in October, and certainly not in such profusion. As such, they are not about to deploy plows.

Amber What big eyes you have.

It takes us the better part of half an hour to drive the three miles home. This, I will later remark, is the most frightened I manage to find myself all weekend. Some people have simply abandoned their vehicles on steep hills, others are wandering around in the street as though this snow absolves them of traffic laws. Because the trees have not had opportunity enough to slough off their leaves, branches fall everywhere, damaging homes and ripping free power lines. This storm knocks out my parents’ electricity for days, though I am spared.

Amber and I cuddle on my sofa and watch our plans dissolved. The Samhain ritual is cancelled, though my party remains scheduled (the host lives in a large building and is possibly walking distance from several of the guest, though not me). Instead, Amber and I seek out horror movies (which is to saySleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd) to watch to keep in the spirit of the occasion as we carve pumpkins (mine features snowmen and flakes in honor of what horrifies me tonight) and cook the seeds. That will have to be magic enough for the night.

Sunday, we continue to watch horror movies. Eventually, I offer to buy her lunch in lieu of making something, since we have been trapped in my apartment because of the snow. She suggests walking, hooking her arm in mine, which is made all the more darling by the fact that she insists upon wearing her Little Red Riding Hood costume.

"Do you ever notice that we only walk around this town after a disaster?" I ask her.

"I have noticed that. We must like devastation.”

Aaryn What soft lips you have

Having Halloween on a Monday, to say nothing of a Monday directly after a blizzard when many people still have no electricity, is anticipated to be a recipe for boredom. No one seems quite into the spookiness of Halloween, so much so that I hear of towns trying to “reschedule” Halloween, by which I am sure they mean “cancel it entirely and pretend we will do something next weekend”. New Paltz, however, stops for nothing.

I meet Amber in a parking lot, where she is waiting for me and saving me a spot. I am worried by the fact that there is a spot to be saved, as it suggests this year’s parade and festivities are going to be sparsely attended. Already, owing to Hurricane Irene, the main haunted attraction (the one that uses real, fresh animal parts for authenticity) has been canceled, leaving only the Teen Scene - where children in garbage bags yell in lieu of being properly frightening.

Amber is already in her Red Riding Hood costume, though with a judicious addition of black tights for warmth. She hands over a slightly small black hat, on which she has affixed the wolf ears she has promised to create for me. I smudge my nose with black paint and proclaim that this will have to suffice as I am not about to contrive a better makeup job tonight. In fact, because the cold of the night makes my nose run, most of my wolf nose has been transferred to a tissue within an hour.

Xen Grr.

I offer her a brownie my mother had given me, telling her that I will inform her what my mother called them after she eats some. She obligingly takes a few bites of the remarkably delicious brownies, expecting something vile, before asking.

"Ringworm brownies," I say with a grin.

"Why? Are there gummi worms?" she asks, hopefully.

"Nope. Cheerios. Ringworms.”

She rolls her eyes.

We wander through the crowds, impressed by a few obscure costumes (my favorites being a chubby Robin Sparkles and a spot-on Eleventh Doctor). When the time comes for the parade, easily three hundred people pour down Main Street, further proving the tenacity of the residents. Following close at their heels is a phalanx of police cars, their loudspeakers shouting for everyone to disperse.

"I really think the police car costumes are the best this year," I remark to Amber.

We end our evening after finding Jacki, who has bigger plans that I - as an adult with a job - have to decline. I have to be up early tomorrow for work. Instead, we have soup and bagels, like proper adults enjoy. 

Posted 2 years ago

Hand of Fate

Hand of Fate

Dan Kessler Of course, who says this is arranged by a divine force?

I used to approach my personal relationships with a sense of destiny. The people I knew - specifically the women I kissed - flitted in and out of my life repeatedly, sometimes for years before we had the significant interaction that would have catapulted us beyond mere acquaintanceship. Even when we did not know one another in any formal sense, it felt as though it were inevitable we one day would.

Dan Kessler - though we do not talk often of late because our lives have diverged - first appeared in my life properly when I attended college, though I remember seeing him in a play at his high school and believe I thought even then that we would one day be friends. We would pass one another in front of the student lounge infrequently, rushing to class. We had several mutual friends, though I could not have known this at the time. I think we spoke maybe once with any detail while our mutual friends mingled in the lounge, but not enough to recall his name afterward. Still, he stuck in my head for years. Nowadays, in this circumstance, I would stalk my friends’ social networking profiles until I found and investigated him sufficient to approach him. Back then, I simply graduated with my Associate’s and felt this one strand unresolved, until he years later reoccurred as one of Zack’s best friends whom I then adopted as mine. All this wasted time, it seemed we were supposed to know one another and upon meeting had the kinship of brothers, so there was an added layer to our friendship: this belief that we were meant to know one another at long last.

Daniel They fall nowhere else

I had spoken to Daniel's roommate and ex-girlfriend Hannah months before I encountered him. Had Hannah been any more forthcoming at the time - and there was little reason she should have been given that I lived in the middle of nowhere, I had a girlfriend (I was only looking for friendship), and she tended toward being retiring - I would have met Daniel much sooner. By the same token, Imet Hannah only because I approached Daniel owing to the fact that all my male friends (most notably Dan Kessler) were emigrating and I felt I needed a new one. Each fed into the other’s inevitability and I took to them both almost immediately upon seeing them.

I met my first significant girlfriend Jen when I was in seventh grade. I crushed on her immediately, as she showed me that she was capable of making her eyeballs vibrate. We did not kiss until I was in tenth grade, and not well then. We did not have a relationship for another year. Aside from that, we were friends, we ran in the same social circles, we got along famously, but she was not attracted to me until she, quite suddenly, was. It was the sort of relationship that makes for typical adolescent television, the “will they or won’t they” that lasts until the scriptwriters finally give in to fans’ insistence that these character belonged together and pantsless. It is possible that this amounted less to destiny than persistence (when I was not dating someone else, which Jen would later remind me was “usually”), but it felt like the same thing to my teenage brain.

Kate She had brown hair when I met her.

Perhaps most significantly, Kate and I had chatted through emails for over a year before we ever met. I had no idea what she looked like, we simply shared odd news stories - helping to eventually inspire what would become my Night’s Dream Series - and several friends in common (most, granted, that I had kissed). I met my friend Tina at a music store where a concert was being held and she had at her side Kate, utterly pretty but for an outbreak of acne at the time. Then again, I was both doped up on cold medicine and in a relationship with Jen (whose ending I saw then, even if I did not wish to admit it), so it was not an ideal time for an initial encounter. She said that she thought I was going to kiss her that day, likely owing the cold medicine eroding my social filter. I thought then that I would one day kiss her, but did not want to acknowledge this as it would spell the end of a relationship I thought I wanted then. We talked on the phone after this and were much closer. When Kate ran away from home, our friend Amanda had me tell her mother where Kate was at Kate’s behest. When Jen stood me up for a Valentine’s date, I talked to Kate for hours about my disappointment and she very nearly came to keep me company. Months after Jen left me, Kate and I had the conversation that initiated our first date.

Emily She hit me like a ton of bricks

Though I met Emily because I ditched class for a day to register at New Paltz for fear I would not get into the courses I needed, I am certain we would have encountered one another at the campus Pagan club or through one of our mutual friends (Emily’s tae kwon do buddy and roommate for a year was best friends with a woman who attended the Pagan student union and was roommates with several of my friends). Maybe we would not have met that day - even on initially parting, I neglected to get her contact information until happenstance put us again in the other’s path - maybe I would have spent a summer dealing with Kate rather than cuddling against Emily and working at the Renaissance Faire, but Emily and I would have met one day. Very likely, we would have dated if we were both single at the same time. Undoubtedly, I would have been much more ready to treat her as she deserved because I would have dealt with my neuroses sufficient to be the boyfriend she wanted me to be. Otherwise, I think we would have been very good friends.

Melanie Even light didn’t expect her

Melanie was the anomaly to all this, shattering my sense of fate. Had I notmet her on the internet when I did, I would not have met her ever. I did not frequent her college and had no reason to visit it then. Had I been at Bard, I don’t imagine I would have gravitated immediately to her (not that she wasn’t attractive; she was, but she was young). Had we met in person rather than through words on the internet, I do not think there would have been the opportunity for words. In the years of our relationship, I never accidentally showed up somewhere Melanie already was. Without me, she would have possibly discovered her sexuality sooner, further arresting any chance we would have made a connection. Even in what I wanted in a relationship - the possibility of marriage or at least cohabitation - she was a divergence. (All this is not to suggest I did not love that girl like absolute mad, more completely than I had thought I could not to that point. It is simply that our relationship happened owing to a specific convergence of unlikelihoods, in contradiction of how things typically occurred in my life.)

Amber Found you!

I could have met Amber earlier, had my relationship with Melanie not kept me away from all things Pagan. There was a moment where we were literally ten feet from one another, but separated by glass and brick. A month into Melanie’s leaving (it took eight months in total, I have had relationships shorter than that breakup), I attempted to go to a Samhain ritual in Poughkeepsie. I could blame the St. John’s Wort I was taking for my situational depression at the time, but the fact is that I was unforgivably late. I had taken one of the pills on my drive there, in hopes of making myself social (this was before it occurred to me that the pills were hurting and not helping me). By the time I arrived, I was not in my right mind, the mix of mania and despair that infected me for weeks. I tried the doors of the Unitarian church that was hosting the festivities. They were all locked (as they should have been given my unpunctuality). I contemplated knocking, but this act seemed additionally sinful thanks to my then bizarre neurochemistry. I peeked in through the windows, doubtlessly spying the shadow of Amber somewhere within - so close but insurmountable far from the woman I would come to love. Instead, I left my offering for the ritual, drove to New Paltz, and had a snack with Jacki. However, this would have been exactly the wrong time to enter into Amber’s life. For one, I was not ready to leave Melanie even though, in retrospect, I should have been. I was in one of the darkest period I can recall, unable to effectively cope with the experience I was enduring, conflating everything together. Beyond that, I was depressed and awkward. Had Amber met me then, she may have judged by the pain I was experiencing, one that changed me into someone I did not like. I could not have seen her with love then and would have, quite possibly, snubbed her because some part of me would have wanted her.

And yet she came again at the drumming ritual, when I was ready to know her properly. Even a week earlier might have been too soon and, even though the time approached perfection, I still fought against how I instantly felt for her.

For the anniversary of this missed connection, a powerful and shocking snow storm blows in. The ritual is cancelled (since one cannot really reschedule Samhain in any meaningful way), so the storm finds Amber and me in my apartment, cuddled on my sofa watching the RiffTrax of The House on Haunted Hill and Plan 9 from Outer Space after having attended an hour of a family Halloween party. Had I not met her in the summer, at that peace drumming ritual, I likely would have noticed her at another. We would have met, though clearly not for this Samhain ritual. She was waiting, half for me, just as I was half looking for her.

All this talk of destiny and fate is pretty, but these are just stories created in retrospect to justify connection. My life is not Great Expectations, the reappearance of people in my life owes much more to the closed community of the Hudson Valley and the paucity of local Pagans than it does to the hand of some puckish author. In the past, I have loved stories to distraction, loved the unlikelihood or the seeming purpose, but stories are built for endings. I would rather love one person for what she is than how much it seems the universe wants me to know her. 

Posted 2 years ago

Book Signing

If your book is even a little successful (your metric for success is personal; I tend to find that “available in printed form without involving a vanity publisher” equates to “successful enough for the moment”), you will have to do a book signing. Here are some arguably helpful observations:

  1. Envision a book signing, like you might see on television or in movies. Do you have that securely in your mind? Good. That won’t happen. There will not be a polite queue of fans eager to get your autograph. There will not be a queue at all, not until you have a half dozen books out and/or a television series based on your work. People - almost entirely friends and family - may come, but it will not be in such profusion that there will be the need to line up. Further, almost no one will request you to sign any body part, particularly not anyone whose body parts you would care to sign.
  2. People tend to expect you to write more in their books than your name. Have a pad of paper on which they can write their names, so you do not misspell it. Have legible handwriting (I do not, particularly when introduced to stimuli that make me nervous such as a book signing). Think of something witty or original to write in the books (I never can, depending on the person I either sum up some aspect of the plot of We Shadows or write what I would in a yearbook).
  3. You may have to deal with other authors, especially in the beginning of your career. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if they write in your genre, as this could allow you to seduce their fans into buying your book. It also could allow you to have someone to talk to about ideas, creating a productive dialogue (trust me, there are few things fantasy authors like more than explaining their world to a receptive and experienced party). If, as is more likely, this is just a local author day, be prepared to sit beside a text book author and a photographer, across the room from a revolutionary war biographer, diagonal from a confessional poet, the only thing in common that you all live in the same county and - hopefully - can successfully write words.
  4. If most of the other authors are self-published, be prepared for competitive remarks, even and especially if the other authors are not in your genre. You are just there to shake hands with your fans and maybe move a few copies, but they may feel the need to one-up you for the impudence of not being owned by a vanity press. Your best bet is to make neutral to positive remarks about how some people think self-publishing is legitimate and then turn away to pretend that an approaching person is an avid fan. (This is not remotely to suggest that many people you will meet will not be stunningly nice and congratulatory, aware that the life of an author of any stripe is no easy path and we had better stick together. They will be and I have been honored to meet at least half the fellow authors to whom I have been introduced.)
  5. People will show up to demonstrate support. This does not mean that they will buy your book. It is tacky to appear disappointed. You are there for the fans, they are not necessarily there to line your pockets, as much as you may think that is the best way to show that they like you. I like to have a small poster of the cover available, which I will sign for free (not that anyone has ever taken me up on the offer).
  6. If at all possible, bring someone with you who can help you (or at least keep you company during the lulls). Pay them if you must, but you will need someone there to tend to matters that you cannot, since you have to sit placidly at a table and talk to fans. At the very least, they can bring you tea and a biscuit, which are rather nice things to have.
  7. Do not expect that stores will jump at the chance to have you there. Prior to my most recent signing, I had written to a few local stores, informing them of my availability and implying heavily that allowing me to do a signing at their store would cause hordes of highly literate shoppers dripping with discretionary income to barge through their doors to be parted from their money. One independent bookstore told me, in almost as many words, that they will not host any writer who dares to be sold by the “enemy” (Amazon) and that I had better learn a little something about bookstores if I wish to continue to be an author. The logic that most books in print are available on Amazon, doubtlessly including much of the store’s current stock, did nothing to sway the letter-writer. Since this store would not allow me to do a signing there - and I frankly would prefer to help out independent bookstores - I was forced to attract business to the very national chains they perceive as the harbinger of their death. Then again, only the national chain and that solitary complainer cared to respond. A dozen others I wrote to likely deleted my offer unread.
  8. You may be shunted off to a back table, out of the way of pedestrian traffic. Nothing in your contract implies you will be allowed to sit somewhere especially visible. The bookstore refrains from sitting you near the bathrooms only because it is likely people would then be forced to see you. If it not in the bookstores best interest that you be right in front of the main doors. The store wishes your fans to wander the store looking for you and picking up other merchandise.
  9. Look very carefully at your contract with the bookstore. They are not joking. They really do demand a percentage of your sales for the privilege of letting you sit in the corner. On the plus side, they may lightly advertise you, will possibly create a small paper plaque with your name, and had better handle the checkout aspect in exchange for the cut they will take. The most I have seen a bookstore demand (and, unfortunately, I paid) was 40% of the retail price. At my last signing, I priced my book at an unreasonably steep $23 and felt rather bad about it, but saw no other option. This allowed me to pay back the loan I took for the books (about $12.10 per book), pay the book store their rapacious due ($9.20), and make a whopping $1.70 per book in lieu of my traditional royalties. The bookstore realized that my book is available on their website at $15.99 and charged that, meaning that I paid people about $2.50 per book to take them off my hands. This was in violation of what I had written on the paperwork, but the woman on staff for these occasions assured me that they did not feel the need to tell me this or pay attention to what I had written, though I had met with her privately earlier in the month to discuss these matter. “It’s set by the corporate office, my hands are tied.” I, in turn, put the remainder of my books in a box beneath the table and proclaimed myself out of stock.
Posted 2 years ago

Know By Heart

Know By Heart

Amber Oh, don’t pout. I’m yours.

At the risk of another sappy entry, I am again going to discuss my relationships. Forgive me.

I am no longer infatuated with Amber. As you no doubt know by heart, the triangular theory of love states that any relationship beyond acquaintanceship is composed of one to three qualities: passion, intimacy, and commitment. Simple friendship has one: intimacy. You can have other friends and you certainly do not feel passionately about one another, or we are dealing with another animal. Most romantic relationships begin with a dollop of passion, usually to the exclusion of anything else. The person in your arms is the best in the world, though you barely know him or her. You have never before felt this way. Any gaps or deficits are temporarily puttied in by the passion. When most people envision romantic love, this is where they stop. This is indicative of a flaw in our societal consciousness, as infatuation is designed to end. However, romantic comedies but only rarely deal with washing your lover’s dishes because they have to be up early for work, since no one wants to see the mundane truth when they can flip the channel to a desperate, emotionally limited frottage. The passion of infatuation triggers the release of addictive chemicals in our bloodstream and we would rather get another hit than cope with the relative dullness of intimacy and commitment.

For the most part, when I was a teenager, my dalliances ended when the wave of infatuation rolled back (if light can be both a particle and a wave in the same instance, infatuation - being a state made all of light at the expense of definition shadow casts - can manage the feat of being a dollop and a wave without seeming a mixed metaphor). The girl I had erstwhile dated ceased to float above, all her movements so lithe as to be choreographed, and was now a gangly urchin failing to fill out a badly tailored swimsuit, shaking water out of her ears and dislodging sand from crevices. I would have difficulty imagining just what it was I had seen in her in the first place and - oh, look! - there might be naiads cresting a bit down the beach. Really, better that we both went our own ways - you’ve got a bit of seaweed clinging to your thigh - and we’re still friends, right?

I am not faulting a single one of these girls. Once we had to stop snogging long enough to have a conversation, I am certain I had seemed to them less like an aquatic danseur and much more like the unsteady teenage boy I was. When our frenzied fantasizing eroded - once this person was in any way not witty enough, crafty enough, pretty enough, stable enough, caring enough - we did not have it in us to develop the intimacy or commitment that would have allowed a further relationship.

Infatuation is typically all one can muster until one is out of high school, because the real work (and fun) in a relationship comes when it fades. Usually, it does this gradually, until one is left on a sandbar remembering what seemed to be a bottomless tide. Then, one must either get to building foundation or languish in the mud. The washing away of simple infatuation is beneficial, since any romantic relationship that has only one of the triangle of qualities - intimacy without commitment or passion, passion without commitment or intimacy, commitment without intimacy or passion - is likely to be a brief one.

For me, the transition from infatuation to something more worthwhile comes down to the thought “Am I willing to trade unfettered freedom and the chance at other loves for this person’s kisses exclusively?” Infatuation initially makes this seem like a brilliant idea, once I succumb to something grander than unrequited longing. When the infatuation ebbs, I am left with the fear that I have led some poor woman on and have cornered myself in a trap of my own device. Infatuation is all chase. Once one has suitably attained the object (not, mind you, subject as that would require treating this poor person as a fellow sentient being) of infatuation, the charm is canceled. Where is the fun in having someone more than once, beyond that initial pounce, cries Infatuation? Infatuation cannot surmount pebbles. It positively crumbles in more than a breeze. Any adversity means this relationship was never meant to be, so once might think one (at least one with a smidgeon of maturity and experience) would ache to for extinction of the infatuation period.

Emily Limerance

I remember the exact moment my infatuation - my limerance - with Emilyended because of its suddenness. I was late to our first date because I got lost and took too circuitous a route through a city I hate in the daylight. Prior to this, we had been emailing and then talking on the phone. She made for a good story and was entirely too charming. That night, I arrived at the appointed diner and she was sitting on a wall beside the parking lot, writing in a small journal. She was pretty, her dress was cute, her carriage perfect as she jumped down but she was a little tooreal. She wasn’t the magical antidote to my Kate malingering. She wasn’t some soul mate goddess who I could love without effort. She was not so unburdened of baggage that she could help me unpack the steamer trunk I rolled after me for most of our relationship. She was then simply a woman looking at me with expectant eyes, someone using me for balance as she exited a bad relationship into something in which she could invest more hope.

I wish I could have given her more of my infatuation, that it could have lasted until it washed me further into our relationship. She deserved at least that much, but I was not in a place to extend it, still half tortured by and half fond of Kate. I cared for Emily, I came to love her, but the infatuation had ebbed by our second date and I was stuck trying to build a relationship with someone for whom I should have still been blithely twitterpated.

Melanie I don’t think I ended up wasting her time too badly.

I struggled for a week to remember when my infatuation with Melanie ended. I know I was very taken with her prior to our proper meeting, when we were only talking on the phone and exchanging instant messages after having met on a dating site. I know I was unquestionably infatuated with her, sight unseen. The answer came to me as my computer scanned through pictures for me to identify. There is Melanie - eighteen, more rounded cheeks, shoulder length russet hair, a world different than the short-haired, Franco-lesbian dilettante - in a black, heavy winter coat and the velour purple scarf whose perfume I may always know. She leans against a tree at Bard College, looking heavenward as I take her picture. I know with awkward clarity what I was thinking when it was taken: “I don’t love her. How much longer am I going to waste her time? How long can I keep her at bay?” I grew prodigiously as I came to love her - and I loved her more than I had ever managed to love anyone because I finally got over my issues - but there was a time when I was largely concerned with how I was going to let her down.

Melanie says she was never infatuated with me. She adored me - she still does, in fact - but she sees infatuation as an emotion reserved for that which is unattainable, for the unrequited. From the moment we started talking until she left - and perhaps for a bit after that - I was attainable and therefore not entitled to her infatuation. Now, she spills it upon new faces, people who do not demand much of her, people who fit into her ego map, people she will be in a tizzy about until they want more than she can give (or until she expects more than they wish to give). For all her attempts at cynicism, she is a romantic at heart and wants to be infatuated with a dozen pretty faces and believe each one is love. It is a glorious, if aching, way to feel and may get her the experience she needs to become who she has always been.

There was a period, maybe a week or two, where I was uncertain of the direction of my relationship with Amber. I loved her and she had done nothing wrong (almost to a ludicrous degree had she done nothing wrong). It was simply that the initial novelty of the relationship had worn off. Perhaps, in the parlance of Melanie, it was that I had attained Amber more than anyone else ever had. I half-joked with her, every time I saw her, that she was lucky that she was so very good at making me fall in love with her again, but I did mean this on some level. However, I remember my experiences with Emily and Melanie, knew that this was a temporary stage. My mind was testing me and I had only to be uncomplainingly patient to get to the other side. Seeing Amber reminded me how much I do feel for her, it just not longer had the fizzy inebriation that infused our early relationship. After a few nights together, a few days out, I realized the extent of how I felt about her and that proceeding with her in exploring her love is more delicious than the candy sweetness that marked the beginning of our relationship.

After almost four months of knowing her, I am finally sussing out secrets and definitions. I have seen her cry because something struck her as beautiful and because we happened upon one of those secrets we all keep from ourselves. I have woken to her on my chest so often that I do not sleep as soundly without her there. We have cuddled through several of my family occasions, she always with a smile on her face. I have told her secret fears and saw that she accepted them. We have bore inconvenience together, have survived a power outage. She has sat near my at two book signings. I have brought her to places sacred to me and felt peace, not a concern that I was bothering her. Each moment has made our relationship stronger because they have let it be more authentic and three dimensional, not a hologram that cannot hold definition outside the artificial lights of my apartment. I didn’t only lust and like, I absolutely love this woman.