“Let’s type words
Because they amount to nothing
Play it down
Pretend you can’t take what you’ve found
But you found me
On a screen you sit at permanently…”
-Ellie Goulding, Guns and Horses
When you get carpel tunnel from scrolling through your news feed, you’re probably following too many people.
It’s always interesting to me when I see others who follow hundreds of users on social media. I wonder how they’re able to keep up with so many individuals. How long does it take them to get through their feed before they hit that familiar old post they left off on from their last visit?
It takes me quite a while to go through all the ones I follow and I don’t even follow that many. But I do get through everyone. I know what they’re up to, which is why I followed them in the first place. It means I’m interested in each person. But if you’re following so many people that the individual gets lost in the abundance of memes and controversy-of-the-week type rants, then what’s the point? What are you getting out of it?
I don’t like change so I don’t follow too many new people. ‘Cause when I follow someone, my feed changes. And it’s usually not for the better. It’s not so much that anyone is annoying or not interesting. It’s just that I’m a douche bag. But I think it’s also because I want to be careful with who I follow because I already have a full plate and a limited attention span. If I’m with you, I want to give you all I have. I don’t want to follow you and then now follow up with a little communication. I don’t want you to get lost in the shuffle. You’re more important than that.
I used to assume other people worked that was as well. People got to know me and know what was going on with me and my life. They saw each post, read every word. ‘Cause why else would you follow me, right? But sometimes I check on users I follow and who follow me and see they are following hundreds of others. And I realize that, compared to the handful of people I follow, my posts probably bleed into everyone else’s. I am probably scrolled past because there’s hundreds of images and words to get through and no one has time to dedicate to my long-ass text posts. I always hoped the content would hook them despite the length. But that just isn’t the case.
But I’m just not like that. And that’s when attachments become one-sided. You forget you’re not as special to someone as they may be to you. While you’re breaking your finger to scroll through the endless fuckjerry’s and beigecardigans, I’m focusing on you. And I like your stuff. And you like mine. But only occasionally. And it’s hard to understand that your acknowledgement is really just a like-and-run. Nothing really absorbs or resonates. You pepper your feed with red hearts while my heart is grafting onto you. You peruse analytics while I analyze you as a person.
And “liked” become messages become attempts at genuine friendships, which are shrugged off in favor of favoriting a funny quote instead. And I’m let down. And every time your screen name pops up, it pops me in the face. And I realize I’ve been stupid and have developed feelings for someone who can’t tell me apart from the other bearded guys they follow. I feel lame with a quivering stomach and confused heart. I gotta stop this now before this one-sided situation goes any deeper.
I gotta let you go. I unfollow and my feed gets that much smaller. While I deal with my feelings and try to move on with this unresolved relationship, wanting you to know I felt and how much it hurt, I know you’ll never notice me bowing out, replaced by hundreds of other memes and montages. And it sucks. But I have to remember that I never really knew you that well in the first place. I have to remind myself my chest ran ahead of my skull. It was my fault, really. Time and Tumblr do not a friendship make.
But I did like you.
I’m a horror movie fan 365 days of the year. But Halloween is extra special to me because of the larger availability of horror movies. I watch serial killer films to relax. Monster movies get me in the mood. And if I can get a little hipster for a moment, I was way into zombies before The Walking Dead consumed all of America’s brains.
So, while I watch horror movies regularly, I made an effort to squeeze in an extra evisceration or two back in October, Netflixing and Youtubing Z-grade films with ketchup blood and cardboard brains, catching mid-afternoon scary flicks on television and Halloween-themed episodes of my favorite shows. And as I watched nude girls getting nailed to a wall or jocks jogging to their death in a haunted gym, I started to realize how easy it seems to summon evil spirits. Naturally, ouijia boards are a clear violation of soul safety. But other harbingers of evil might seem more innocuous at first, like puzzle boxes, a child’s doll, or a suspiciously inexpensive house for a new family.
No one seems to be able to invoke good spirits with such effortlessness. Why is it that most houses seem to inhabit horrible things? Why is it that spirit boards almost always summon the sinister? Why can’t we call upon God and good energy with the same simplicity that dials up the devil? Why is it that when the Holy Ghost possesses someone, he eventually pulls up stakes in their soul while demons wanna settle? And why are exorcisms so exhausting? Why can’t we just pull those bad spirits out of the skin of innocent victims?
If tales of supernatural serial killers are all fake, I suppose watching teens being pummeled by pissed off poltergeists is more entertaining than being visited by great aunt Sue in your dreams to tell you true love will come your way. But when it’s real, having a real demon on your ass is really scary. It’s no longer about the yuck yuck but the yikes. It’s not entertaining. It’s devastating. And a lot of people would say it is real.
I’m not sure how I feel about it. I can’t say what’s real and what’s not. I can only speak for my own experiences and throughout my life, I do feel I’ve had more than my fair share of bad luck. There have been many times I’ve actually thought I was cursed or that something bad had latched itself onto me. It’s never been anything huge, mostly just circumstances that converge into a crippling disappointment time and time again. But those little heartbreaks weigh heavy over time.
And I’ve called on God to remove the dulling residue of past demons. But instead of feeling cleansed, I’ve only ever felt crushed. What’s it gonna take to tackle the terrifying, to bandage to the bad juju?
I wonder if there’s anything that can be done at all. What if God doesn’t have anything to do with lethargy, larceny, or lunacy? What if, by design or negligence, we are all just hurdling toward implosion? What if our lives are all examples of entropy playing out in real time?
It’s so hard to be nice. We have to constantly bite our tongues, keep our fists at our sides, and step away from the line of fire. We have to talk ourselves up every day and concentrate on keeping the good vibes going. And as soon as we let up on the affirmations, we atrophy all over again. We gotta keep flipping those light switches on less we be surrounded by darkness again.
I don’t know why possessions are prevalent while good spirits are scarce. The only thing I know for sure is nothing is ever going to change. It’s never going to be easy. And when it all comes down to it, who’s to say our lives aren’t someone else’s entertainment? This is why we have reality shows and horror movies based on true events. And there just might be a higher power that gets a kick out of watching us overcome our curses. Maybe things that are really scary can be really educating.
And although we have to fight to be friendly, it’s worth the effort. Instead of adding to the agony, we can help patch up other people. Even if it’s just for a bit, even if it’s just a temporary bandage, isn’t that enough to make a difference? In a world laid to waste, it still matters that we hold out our hands rather than hold up a gun, use our tongues to prepare praises instead of slinging insults, and make moves to slowly kill the hate that’s been jammed into the hearts of others. Maybe only then will the demons dig their way out on their own.
The only light comes from the sun that shines through the blinds and barely touches your bare shoulder. Your hands twist in the sheets as you pull them close to your shadowed chin. The red curtains filter a warm glow in the room that make it impossible to pull away the covers. I am impeccably warmed by the sun and the body in bed next to me. I wake first, pulling you from my dream and placing you tangled between my legs.
I watch your sleeping face. Your lashes slope, lending direction to your cheeks and mouth, an impish smile from a romp in the brain’s frolicsome fields. What’s going on in that head? What kind of imagination is blooming along these blankets? I reach out and run my fingers across your fringe.
And then you open your eyes in your usual slow manner, glints of light like celestial sparks highlighting grey rounds. You smile as my face forms in your senses. A soft moan of recognition tickles your throat. You pull me in closer to your chest and I smell mint and eucalyptus.
I delve deeper into the delicacy of your dimples. This is my church. This is my sermon. You are my sanctuary. Your smile is a sacrament. I receive your flesh, am warmed by your blood as it rushes like ink that writes scripture on your skin. I could easily lie here with you for days, filling up on the gospel of your lips, praying a thousand thanks for your presence.
This is our day off from work and the world. There is no alarm, no obligation, no need to gravitate toward tea and toast. We are content and complete within the nourishing heat of flesh and flannel. I am drunk with sleep, my belly swelled with love, safe to again fall unconscious in your arms.
We have no plans, no desire to dally away from the curvature of our backs, the smooth hair and shiny teeth. Nose to nose, we send salutations to our skin before retreating back into the tranquil pool of sleep, wading in the water of a peaceful day, taking comfort in the comfort of each other, slipping away in the face of a brand new morning.
I often wonder if you think of me.
Can you separate me from the others you follow? How do I stack up against better beards and bodies?
I wish you knew I post things just for you sometimes. I study what you like and try to follow suit, to show you I like it too. We have a lot in common and I think we’d have a lot of fun together. Do you ever think that?
I want to show you who I am through pictures and words and song lyrics. And maybe a few funny memes here and there. I want to be smart and funny and intellectual. I want to be artistic and slightly quirky with a keen sense of pop culture and wise words. I want you to see I’m well-rounded, that there is an infrastructure of feelings beneath the surface level sadness. I’m more than my misery. It’s just hard to convey that sometimes.
I don’t know you. But I know your smile. And I want you to know mine.
I’m often disinterested in things around me, be they people or policies. I’m numb to the nightly news and find favor in sleeping. I don’t care about a lot these days. But for some reason, I care that you will one day care about me. And maybe it’s because you’ve awoken my interest like a long-dormant entity roused by provocation. But what you’ve provoked in me, I’m not quite sure. I can’t say I understand it but there’s a part of me that finds comfort in it. There’s a part of me that finds electricity in it.
I often want to talk to you. I want to reach out like the many times I’ve reached out but I’m scared to make that step. My fingers are frail from past failures, my legs weak from chasing abandonment. I’ve stayed to myself for so long, for too long, and there is an ever-increasing curiosity as to how I’m now coming out of this relationship coma.
But would you like me if you knew me? I’m kind of hard to deal with. I have trust issues and I don’t think highly of myself or anyone else. But I’d like to think you’d change my mind about that. I know it’s a big task but I’d like to hope you might be up for it.
Or maybe I should keep things the way they are, a delicate balance of curiosity and anonymity. You don’t really know me and I don’t really know you and maybe I’m too scared to crack apart this fragile daydream. I’m afraid what spills out will spoil this moment, these days of studying your interests and engaging you from afar.
I dream of advancing inches, of getting closer to conversing with you. But I also dream of just keeping you in my mind, of late night movies and simple dinners, of you grabbing my arm as I make you laugh, of you keeping your hand there two seconds too long. It’s safe to think these things, to enjoy the moment in my head without fear of failure or falling by the wayside. And for now, it’s enough. And really, it will always have to be enough because we will never be. And maybe keeping the faintest attachment is the best thing to do. Hurt often follows closely behind beating hearts.
For now, I’ll just be comfortable being curious. And I hope that somehow you read this, although I won’t explicitly show it to you. And I hope if you do, I make you curious as well.
I’ll take this moment. I’m content with knowing you like what I share. It gives me hope that you might think about me what I think I think about you.
Several days ago, I bought a lip balm that made my lips explode.
I hoard lip balms and any time I see a new one, I have to buy it, even if I think it’s going to suck. When I came upon this particular one, the description said it would make my lips “buzz”. I checked the ingredients and noticed it had cinnamon oil in it. I assumed it would work like menthol or peppermint oil and give the lips a nice tingle.
I slathered the balm on my lips and after about a minute, true to the description, they buzzed. There’s no other way to describe it. But this was no Burt’s Bees tingle. I felt like I had just Frenched an electric fence. I had never felt anything like it before. And it wasn’t pleasant.
I eventually wiped off the product but my lips were left feeling numb and beat up. The description said the buzzing is safe and addicting but I couldn’t imagine every using that product again.
One of the draws to the lip balm is how you can transfer the buzz to your partner when you kiss them. It’s a novelty but one that could be interesting. You’d definitely make an impressive if you kissed someone while wearing this lip balm.
But as I put away the cinnamon death stick, I realized I wouldn’t be able to make anyone else’s lips buzz. I had no one to kiss. And as I surveyed my lip balm collection, I wondered if my multiple failed attempts to keep my mouth kiss-ready was in vain. I had no one to pucker up to. All I had were the tiny tube reminders of lonely lips.
I’ve struggled with loneliness for as long as I can remember. I’ve never loved or been loved. I’ve missed out on midnight kisses and dancing and dinners with someone special. I’ve not experienced the sweet release of letting down my guard and inviting someone into my heart and mind. I’ve not been able to intertwine my heart with another and it’s led to a half existence, like I’ve been skimming the surface of life, never allowed to fully dive in and let the water into my bones.
It’s a pain I’ve learned to carry and compress like a dull headache that never heals. And so when I hear someone who’s been in several significant relationships tell me they feel they’ll end up all alone just because they haven’t made it to the altar yet, it makes me angry. That’s when the headache magnifies to a migraine.
I’ve had several people come to me over the years and express their fear of forever alone. But they’ve had relationships in the past. They’ve tasted skin and love. They’ve dived headfirst into the water. Many times they come to me before they’ve even fully dried off.
Most recently, I had a girl tell me she thought she’d be alone forever because she was talking to several guys but didn’t see much of a future with any of them. She was obviously desirable to have all this male attention but she still felt deflated. Meanwhile, there I was, newly fat again, depressed, and with no prospect of love.
I wanted to tell her to shut up and let her know she had no idea what loneliness was. She’d been single for a little over a year by that time, merely a blink of an eye in comparison to my 28 years of loneliness.
But then I pulled back and scolded myself because, to her, being single for a year was difficult to digest when considering she had been in a relationship since she was in high school.
I had to remind myself suffering is relative. Just because she hadn’t experienced loneliness as long as I had didn’t negate her feelings. She had every right to feel as lonely as she thought she was.
We all experience feelings in various degrees of deepness. And almost every feeling we have is valid. Just because it doesn’t match up with someone else’s experience doesn’t mean it’s not real or genuine. We all come from different backgrounds and have experienced different triumphs and disappointments over the years.
And because each one of our stories is unique, it should be difficult to pass judgement on others. But it doesn’t make it difficult at all. We pass judgment on people every day, most oftentimes without even thinking about it. I passed judgement on my coworker as if it were as natural as breathing. That was wrong of me.
I still don’t think she knows what loneliness is but that’s my opinion. I can’t push that on her. She knows how she feels and I know how I feel. And if we could all sit back every once in a while and be aware other people’s circumstances, we might begin to understand them better, might become more empathetic, might become less cold to other people’s emotions.
We all have our own journey and we all have to take care of ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we have the right to invalidate others along the way. I’m also not saying we should sacrifice and live for others to the point we ignore our own needs but if we could just find the balance between nurturing ourselves while considering others among us, it might make things easier on everyone.
Y’all, I’m so behind on my writing. This happened a few months ago and I jotted some notes down but I’m just now getting around to posting this…I mean, I have a book to write but I’ll never get to it if I can’t get all this other mental clutter out first.
A few months ago, I met a high school acquaintance for dinner. We spoke fairly regularly for a few years and then she got married and we drifted apart. I never thought her marriage would last and sure enough, when we started catching up with each other over enchiladas, she told me she had been divorced for about two years.
Ironically, the divorce was the best thing going on in her life. Shortly after she and her husband split, she realized she never loved him the way she should have and wasted nine years of her life with him. But she did get a free house, car, and dog out of the deal so it wasn’t a total bust. But other than that, she felt inadequate and turned to alcohol and random sex partners to ease the hurt of being alive.
The more we talked, the more I realized we were basically the same person, Siamese twins conjoined at our crippling insecurities. I felt bad for her and felt even worse when I had no advice to offer up. Usually I can dole out a few words of wisdom and guidance that soothes whatever aches the person I talk to but with her, I had nothing because I’m going through the same problems.
She doesn’t have a job and lies in bed all day and drinks. She said she stays, at a minimum, buzzed, and at maximum, blacked out drunk. She has one night stands. She has no purpose, no guidance, no one to love her. She thinks she’s disgusting, which she’s not. She’s a very pretty girl but all she can see is the “big girl she used to be.” I also understood that. No matter how much weight I’ve lost or will lose, I’ll always feel like the fat guy.
I wanted to both hug and throttle her but couldn’t because 1) I don’t like touching people and 2) I know I wouldn’t have gotten through to her. I think she’s just going to have to go through whatever she’s going through and either become numb to the whole thing or finally snap out of it somehow. I didn’t think there was a cure for what ailed her. There was only control. She can control her symptoms. She can minimize the hurt but if she’s anything like me, and I believe she is, the pain will never go away.
turgid tendons, split shins, flayed toes
but still walking
propelled by a hunger surpassing the stomach
as lidless eyes dance among the faces
desperate to find a hollowed out counterpart
two bodies come together with clanging cartilage and vacant stares
empty eyes and lolling tongues
tissue skin sheared from the friction of fingers
gnashing teeth reminiscent of romance
hollow hearts and hands, touching and tearing
clamoring for a clavicle
but only grasping guts
devoid of pleasure but programmed by dim memories
of what this once felt like
two bodies moaning in the murk
assuaging and assaulting, seething and writhing
falling away from each other in the blood wet world
trying to taste the truth of one body to another
but only tasting tin
drunk on the red wine of blood
full on necrotized flesh
satiated by nothing
one body gasps and screams
and shudders and stumbles
then moves past the other
blood on the mouth, hole in the chest
seeking sanctuary in another skin
one body stands alone
and watches the other shuffle away
filled with a mud soaked memory of pain unidentified
flooding back from the faint fog
no marks on the skin, no bruise to the brain
only an internal hemorrhage
one person bludgeoned by the burden of belonging
recalls the ramifications of respiration
and dies again
then concedes to the cold dark
“Love is nothing, nothing, nothing like people say
you gotta pick up the little pieces every day…”
-Liz Phair, Love is Nothing
“For a heart beats the best in a bed beside the one that it loves…”
-Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Crane Your Neck
For a while, it felt like everyone else was falling in love and I was just falling apart. It was like some kind of pheromone phenomenon. Everyone around me was talking and dating, mating and relating, getting engaged and pregnant and coming together. Normally, I couldn’t care less about people and their paramours but when so many people were coming together in such a small amount of time, it threw me for a loop.
And I kind of felt down about it.
I never wanted to be the kind of person who was happy simply because I was in love. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you don’t need another person to be happy. I really believe(d) that. I know my writing and whining about being lonely doesn’t always (or ever) reflect that philosophy but even loners get lonely…right?
But what if I’m wrong? What do I know about love? I’ve always thought I had the level head, that my heart wasn’t tainted by crushes or heavy feelings and I could dole out decent advice about the topic because I was removed from it. I could think logically. But maybe you can only know so much about love from mere observation. Maybe the best way to know about love is to live it, to love and be loved.
But how do you start to love? How do you know if you’re doing it right? How does any one of us know? The heart doesn’t come with a handbook. Love is universal yet it seems the way in which we all come across it and experience it is unique.
And what if happiness, or at least some form of it, does come from love? If you don’t love, are you missing out on happiness? Continue reading
“You love, love, love
when you know I can’t love
you love, love, love
when you know I can’t love you
so I think it’s best we both forget
before we dwell on it…”
-Of Monsters and Men, Love Love Love
If someone says they love you but they don’t show it, does it really count?
It’s like living in poverty with a million dollar bank account no one told you about. You’re rich but you’re not rich. You’re blessed but you’re not blessed. You’re loved but you’re not loved.
I don’t want to say not being in a relationship has been detrimental to my self-worth but I don’t think it’s helped. I just keep thinking how I’m 27 and have never connected with anyone on a deep, meaningful level. And the one time I thought I did, well, it disintegrated and completely changed the way I saw people. If that strong of a friendship could crumble, there was no hope for me and anyone else.
But stuff happens. People form relationships and those relationships sometimes end due to any number of circumstances. And sometimes you’re left wallowing in your own cesspool of self-doubt because no one else comes along to help you correct your interpersonal errors. Sometimes locations and circumstances make it hard to hone in on a partner. Or even a friend.
There must be some benefit to being told your loved by someone outside your bloodline. They can be with anyone but they choose to be with you. They open their hearts to the possibility of pain and see through the marks on your skin and the mistakes in your mind. Someone out there came to you and decided to stay because you were worth getting to know. For me, people have come into my life but it’s the staying part that seems so difficult. Do I subconsciously drive people away? Do they just get tired of my incessant self-deprecation? Or do they get bored with my personality?
I often feel like a novelty act, a brand new Brannon still in the cellophane and once the protective casing has been cut away and I’ve been squeezed of jokes and encouragement and conversation, I am discarded. The newness wears away as the imperfections poke through the shellacked surface that’s eventually worn away through long exchanges and lots of laughs and eventual awkward pauses. Then missed e-mails. Unanswered text messages. Phone calls not returned. There’s something about me that hooks people in but once they’ve penetrated whatever “thing” magnetizes them to me, they realize I am too flawed, too flat, too frail to stick with and they eventually pull out.
I’m not trying to make myself look like a victim. I know you think I am. But I’m not. And I am not blaming anyone who has gone away. I wouldn’t want to put up with someone like myself either! The novelty becomes a nuisance after a while. And everyone says they aren’t like everyone else. They’ll stick around. They never do. Some stay longer than others, but for me, it’s just a waiting game. Classmates never called when class was over. Co-workers never kept in contact when they found better jobs. Old roommates haven’t written. It hurts. It hurts so bad. But I’m not bitter about it and I don’t blame them. I just take it for what it is: another form of rejection, just a slow kind, a knife plunged inside by inches.