“I can never get out of here
I don’t wanna explode in fear
A dead astronaut in space…”
-Marilyn Manson, Disassociative
”The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart…“
-Florence and the Machine, Cosmic Love
I still picture your face in my mind. That perfect night when you gave me that perfect smile that conveyed more than words ever could. There was a whole galaxy in your grin. A whole universe of longing orbiting your eyes. The gravity of your heart pressing down on mine. For the first time, it was a weight I didn’t mind bearing,
I still think of you every day. My torso trembles in tandem with my phone. My parched eyes drink in your words. I still savor your touch. The rush is still just as real as it ever was. But for you, the wonder has waned. I’ve accepted it but I’m not ready to release my feelings. Not quite yet.
I keep your face behind my eyelids to remind me of the time you adored me, this pale stranger with a dark sense of humor. That’s when you were still curious about my character and the contents of my head. We stood by my car, us learning, me planning, you drawing closer. The excitement of a fresh heartbeat. The thrill of newfound opportunities.
Together, we looked up to the atmosphere like we were discovering some uncharted something. It was creating fluffy creatures from the clouds and soldiers out of the stars. Connecting new dots and forming figures of faith and fortune in the sky. It was about making sense of the world around us, leading each other to conclusions of closeness and contentment. Your sweet words were like satellites spinning around my soul and I felt like I was floating.
Cloaked in midnight, your smile was a tunnel directed toward me alone. And I was too caught up in the constellation of feelings, too starstruck to see the plight at the end of that tunnel. You were in a world of pain that I could not penetrate or perish. I took your hand in hopes of helping you heal. But you loosened your grip and left me to hurt instead.
Did you ever ponder the gravitational pull of my own pain? How I needed you as much as I thought you wanted me? Did you notice the satellites stray off course? Or did you only have enough strength to stare down your own demons?
I had hoped to feel the swell of your heart but only found a division there, a widening gap that I could not seal. I felt bound to you but you blasted off like a rocket. Now I’m left with a black hole in my chest, pulling in reminders of you and burying them deep down inside, a mix of good memories and melancholia.
I wish I had that smile back. I wish I could see that face again, just once more to burn into my memory. There was such purity there, an innocence. A face that opened up my whole world.
It was cosmic once. Now it just feels like comets crashing into me.
Depression is a lot like drowsiness. There are days when you can fight through it, laugh and joke with others, and carry on with your day like nothing is wrong. But in the back of your mind, sleep is always calling.
Then there are days when it’s visible in your eyes. People can see the fatigue on your face. You can’t excuse it away or resist it anymore. And you want nothing more than to succumb to the Sandman’s spell.
It often feels like my bed is the only respite from the real world. The flannel is my fortress, the pillow my protector. The rush of life could fly right over me and I would not care to participate. The light is too bright, the world too exhausting.
When I am in my bed, nothing can overtake me because I am always falling under, forever desiring to spiral down into that deep, decadent dark.
Heartbreaks and bellyaches seem to be the name of the game as of late. But why shouldn’t it be? One always leads to the other.
I had my usual year-end binge in December and said I would do better in January. Don’t I always? Don’t we always? But the funny thing about making plans is every time I say I’m going to do better, I usually end up doing worse. It’s the conscious effort, the deliberate decisions that derail me every time. It seems I always do my best when I don’t think too hard about it.
After helping myself to Christmas leftovers, Valentine’s Day came around and I had to allow myself some candy. And by some, I mean 3 boxes of post V-Day clearance candy that I ate in as many days. I also had two new donut shops open up and Taco Bell has these new amazing nacho fries and I discovered a new coffee shop in the town I work in. I’ve also had various co-workers who wanted me to join them for a dinner out and how can I refuse the chance to go to a restaurant? It’s been a whirlwind of grease and cheese, fried chicken and Cheetos, ice cream cones and creamy parmesan noodles.
I’ve been progressively bingeing more and more and it’s getting so out of control that it scares me.
These new food discoveries and opportunities are just convenient excuses to eat, to soak up all my melancholia with a slice of fried bread. But my face is getting fuller and my pants are getting tighter, all following the familiar formula of sadness leading to overeating. My mother criticizes everything I do so I get fast food. My dad only talks to me when he’s drunk so I eat 20 snacks a day. My boss at work drives me crazy so I ignore my packed Lean Cuisine and grab a burger and fries for lunch. I’m bored on my hour-long drive home so I eat a bag of chips to occupy myself so I won’t sleepily swerve off the road. I’m lonely as hell so I treat myself to two desserts after dinner.
I try to walk a straight and narrow path and these people come along and throw me off course. They’re demeaning or dismissive, dramatic or deteriorating and sometimes I think they’re determined to throw their drama onto me. And I have to eat in order to balance myself out again. It’s the only way I know how.
But I also know it’s not the best way. I look at myself and see the changes, the way in which my lack of support system and sour opinion of myself are bloating my body, branching out into every aspect of my life, making work harder, making family more frustrating, and isolating me from the fun times I used to care about.
My tears are like the tide, coming and going and I have no control over the contents of the ocean or how they sway to and from the sand. All I can seem to do is sit back and watch and respond accordingly. I don’t have a choice, just a spectator to the mouthfuls of agony, awash in a fog that hovers over everything and steals all the scenery from me.
You know how moms are always worried their kids will end up in a ditch one day?
Well, my mom found me in one last week.
Ever since I got my full-time job in November 2016, I’ve been doing well with my money. Long-time readers will know my biggest regret is college and my biggest debt from that regret is the student loans tagged on the awful experience. Over the years I’ve struggled to make the minimum payments, which hasn’t helped me pay down my loans at all as most of the money is going toward the exorbitant interest.
But I’ve been able to build my bank account up to a healthy amount and I’ve been able to make extra payments to my loans, which has finally caused the principal and monthly payments to go down. I’ve been stuck for so long and I never thought I’d get out of the postcollege quicksand. And although I’m not free of the muck yet, I can see the light at the end of the dark, dank, depressing tunnel.
Or so I thought.
I like my car. It’s not fancy and it’s not new anymore but I bought it brand new when I first went to college and it’s carried me across many states and many states of emotion. It’s seen me laugh and cry and carry more fast food than a McDonalds drive-thru. It’s been good and although I’ve had to do the usual maintenance of replacing parts and such, it’s been very reliable.
But everything reliable will eventually decline.
I noticed an orange light flash on my dashboard a few weeks ago. I told my dad and he took it to a few places, all which said I needed a certain part. And after each part was replaced, the light went away. But only for one day. And then it came back. Not knowing what else to do, my dad said I’d need to take it back to the dealership and have them take a look at it.
A few days later, I was headed to work and stopped at a red light. When the light flashed green, I pressed the gas pedel and it was stuck. I pressed harder but it would not budge. I checked to make sure I hadn’t accidentally put it in park. Nope. Then I looked over at my dashboard and my orange light had been accompanied by a slew of new, multi-colored lights. The “oil” light, the “battery” light, the “you’re screwed” light. All of ‘em.
My car had stopped working.
As other vehicles switched lanes and passed by me, I didn’t know what else to do other than to put my hazards on. I grabbed my phone to call my mom when I noticed blue lights shining in my rearview window. I have to admit, the timing on this was pretty great.
A cop walked up to my car and I rolled down my window.
“Everything all right, son?” the man asked. He was middle-aged, sagging eyes to match his voice.
“Um, no, my car has stopped working and all these lights just popped up here,” I said as I pointed to the rainbow of warning lights.
“All right,” he said. “Well, I can push you off to the side of the road but I can’t stay as I just got a call.”
“That’s fine,” I said.
He walked to the back of my car and pushed as I steered it off the road. And without checking back with me, the cop hopped into his car and drove away.
I called my mom and she said she’d come pick me up. Thankfully, I wasn’t too far away from home. As I waited, I noticed I was getting colder. I could see my breath although I had the heater on. I pressed my palm up to the vent. Nothing was coming out. Great. At least the radio was working. Thank God I had the same Selena Gomez song on every station to keep me company. And just before a cocoon of ice formed over me, my mom pulled up and saw her baby boy trying to defrost in a ditch. I got into her vehicle, leaving behind my beloved car.
I dropped Mom off and she let me drive her car to work. What a way to start the morning.
My dad had the car hauled away and inspected. After getting more replacement parts, my car was back and I was good to go the next day. No more orange light. But the day after, it was back again. The hell.
The latest parts replacement added up to a lot of money and I’m scared to take it to the dealership and see their price tag. I know it’s got to be done but just when I had finally reached a place of financial stability, I was hit with this unexpected expense. And to salt the wound, a few days later, I got a letter from the company I have my loans with telling me my monthly payment is going to increase due to rising interest. Of course. Beautiful timing.
But I guess that’s the way it always goes. Two steps forward, ya know? I’m grateful that I can afford to have it fixed but it is a small reminder that I’m not ahead, that the plans I’ve made to get my loans paid off has hit another snag. And it sucks because I really want to feel like I have something under control.
The only thing I can do is pay off these extra debts, try. not to spend any extra money if I don’t have to, and once everything is back to normal, go back to paying off those loans. The sooner I can do that, the sooner I can focus on moving out and far, far away.
And then maybe I can actually start living.
I feel you coming closer to me. A heartbeat that quickens and deepens with each step. Your face leading to a trickle of excitement, a pinprick of nirvana. Gliding to the floor, cradling yourself next to me in a silent, semi-conscious stupor. Turning over, my nose brushing your mouth, black circles expanding, blood branches rushing to compensate your exquisitely crafted face.
A hazy vignette hangs over us, dream-like in the notion of you finding me, a mass of mess on the cold tile and molding me into a man again. Hoping to remain locked inside this lucid dream in order to replay this scenario until it sears into my head.
When I close in and pull your lips apart with my tongue, I want you to move toward my mouth, push forward and kiss back. When I trace lines on your skin to write love letters on your legs, I want you to run your nails over my shoulder blades to write me back. When I cry into the crook of your arm, I want you to wrap your arms around my neck and hold me back. I want to look into eyes like teeth, salivating for a single sovereign kiss.
I wonder about your journey as I make plans to be your destination. I want you to set forth and secure a place with me. I want to be encapsulated by your presence, to braid my bones with yours, to live knowing I will die loving you.
We need to love just as much as we need to be loved. I want to care for you as my own, to raise you higher and rake you down. I need the approachable animal, the amiable assault, the hurricane of spirit pounding down on me. I want to be tied to your tongue, healed by your hands, cemented by your ice-blue eyes.
This warmth is foreign and your touch shouldn’t feel as good as it does. I’m as scared as I am serene. Sirens slice through the candles and conversation, warnings of wild fights and fears of decaying. But the blaring blurs into a hum at the base of your throat, an inescapable moan, a penetrating penance for past punishments.
I’d become accustomed to pain. Persistent papercuts that pervaded all my parts. Slugging through the day with open wounds and worry of another tomorrow. Now here, lying on this cool floor, I am flushed with chemicals. My spine is tapped. And with you sliding from me, swelled, spent, sweating, I finally know about comfort.
”I’m Peter Pan in a black hole…“
-DIES, Less Than Zero
”Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”
-Lane Del Rey, Young and Beautiful
I was picking at my toenails the other day (because I’m psychotic and it relaxes me) and as I bent over to really dig into the nail bed of my big toe, I noticed a few varicose veins on my leg. They weren’t too apparent or bulging from the skin but I still noticed them, little purple squiggles running beneath transparent skin.
I know this condition isn’t just reserved for older people, but still. I’m already finding gray hairs running down the length of my body and what’s not turning gray is rapidly falling out of my head. I’m developing lines around my eyes. And now I’m noticing visible veins on my legs? What’s next? Liver spots? Incontinence? A general disdain for Generation Z?
I’ve always joked that I have an old soul. When I was younger, I felt like I had a grown man’s burden on my shoulders, despite all my needs being taken care of. It was the demon of anxiety that slipped underneath my skin and wrapped itself around my ribs. And now that I am a grown man with actual burdens (and with the anxiety squeezing ever tighter), I’m still projecting into the future, looking at my life like an old man on his deathbed reminiscing on his regrets.
I’ve got a lot of them, a ton of unfulfilled wishes and experiences and just like the man with the waning heartbeat, I often feel like much of it is too late to repeat, repair, or realize. Should I have attended that art school or should I have played it safe? Should I have experimented with drugs and alcohol and should I have plunged into those people and possibilities? Should I have held on to the friends I had? Should I have been more available to make more? Should I have made that phone call, kissed some lips and split others, fallen in lust and out of love, kept my faith and forgot to stay angry at those who wronged me?
Maybe some people emotionally age faster than others. Maybe some people are a product of their environment. With all the jobs I’ve ever had, 95% of my co-workers have been at least twice my age. And since I was always awkward, most of the social interaction I got was through them. They spoke of marriage and mortgages, worried about their children and bills, told me all about their physical aches and pains, the same ones I’m now starting to experience. Had their age and adages put a curse on my own crown?
I never went through a rebellious, crazy phase. I never sowed my wild oats or got a glimpse at anyone else’s. I never fell in love in high school and locked lips next to a row of lockers. I never joined a fraternity or fared well at social gatherings. I never snuck out of the house to meet someone special or sip cheap alcohol on a restaurant rooftop. No one ever touched my skin while it was smooth, rocked my body while it was strong, or caught my eye while it was sharp. I never partied or participated in a protest. I never did anything that mattered to anyone or to myself.
At my new job, I’m “the kid” ‘cause, again, everyone I work with is twice my age. Yet, at my old retail job, I’m now one of the oldest ones. My peers moved on, found better jobs, made something of themselves. They were replaced by careless teens and not only am I balancing two jobs but trying to find my footing with both sets of employees within. I’m unable to relate to the diabetes or dank memes and often feel out of place.
It really creates an identity crisis because there’s a part of me that feels absolutely ancient but when I realize that I’m 31, it doesn’t seem possible that I’ve gotten this old without having gone through certain milestones most people get to experience. Despite the wrinkles, I still have pimples and I’m shiny and awkward. I have a fear of making doctor appointments and traversing the intricacies of insurance and equity. I carry this naivety with me, something that used to be cute in my teens but is now offputting in my early 30s.
I’m like an adolescent octogenarian.
And maybe what’s more upsetting than a few unsightly veins is that I’m very much a vestige of both youth and maturity. I was a wise thinker at 18 and a simpleton by 28. Everyone caught up to me and then propelled past me. Along the way, I got off course and ended up regressing. I’ve been backsliding ever since. Maybe I’m not so far gone. My brain and body haven’t completely broken down on me yet. But I bet I’m a lot older than my face might portray.
My co-worker at my new job is a real annoyance. He’s a hefty man in his 60’s with a bushy mustache and even bushier nose hair. He has stubby Trump hands and is a big proponent of Dad jokes. He’s sarcastic to the point of being obnoxious. I like joking just like anyone else but I can’t even ask a simple question without him stopping to think of something smart to say. It doesn’t help that his material is dated, uninspired, and cheap.
He’s also the one who drives the smelly puke van.
He keeps a different pair of reading glasses in every room in our work building and can still never find a pair when he needs them. He’s a braggart. He compliments himself and his accomplishments almost daily. And he trails off into the most boring stories about his time in the military, electronics, and football. And when he gets going, he has a knack for seamlessly transitioning into one inane story after another with no pause and no chance for me to politely interrupt in order to get back to my work.
One of his recent stories involved him and one of his male friends going into the woods alone when they were younger. I flinched, readying myself for an uncomfortable coming of age story. From what I’ve gathered, young guys only go into the woods alone for two reasons: to shoot some squirrels or choke some chickens. I was only slightly relieved to learn he was actually talking about hunting. He launched into an explanation of the different bullets they were using: regular loads and hot loads. I had to stop myself from cracking up. Hot loads. He said his friend shot one of the hot loads and ended up burning his hand.
As he elaborated on the bullet types, I got bored again because I know nothing about guns or bullets and don’t care to know anything. I’ve shot a couple of hot loads before but I never used a pistol.
And while he yammered on, I was reminded of the different strategies to get people to like you. One way is to ask questions about their hobbies or profession. While I didn’t have to ask this guy about his life since he gladly provided all the information on his own, I realized that I should have appeared more engaged and should have asked follow-up questions.
But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I just didn’t care. I mean, I honestly could not have cared less.
Over the years, I’ve found myself becoming more and more detached and unconcerned with other people and their interests. I try to remain present but it gets harder the more I try. I’ve just become jaded. My relationships, ranging from high school friends to college roommates to department store co-workers, have all faltered. I take responsibility for a part of those failures but more often than not, certain individuals have been apathetic, mean-spirited, manipulative, and in some cases, completely cruel.
Every time I thought I was forming a friendship, I was actually setting up a firing squad of failure. The more I tried to be liked, the more I was shot down. The few meaningful, deep relationships I’ve had have dissipated in time. There’s never been a lasting resonance of love or family. There’s not one person I can look back on with fondness, no one I can continue to call up in times of sadness or celebration.
Because my heart has been riddled with holes, no one impresses me anymore. No one catches my attention. I don’t crave people like I used to. I can get along with anyone but I have yet to find someone I want to be with (who actually wants to be with me, too). The decades of duo deterioration have definitely had a lasting effect on me. It’s not so easily shaken. It’s hard to love. It’s hard to pretend to care. And now, even my most basic social skills feel like they’re on their last clip.
When I converse with someone, it’s as if their face is covered in cling wrap. The nose and lips are distorted. The words are muffled. The light shines off the plastic, stinging my eyes and brain. I can’t see, can’t grasp, can’t comprehend. And I feel like I spend more time trying to decipher what they’re saying rather than absorbing it. The second I don’t understand, the second I lose interest, the second I want to take off like a shot.
As I grow older, circumstances become more complicated and it becomes easier to dismiss them all. That zest for others is all but gone and interacting with people is both terrifying and purely exhausting. You wouldn’t think faking fresh laughter in response to another stale story would be so depleting but it is. And when I see my co-worker gunning for me with another egregious error in comic judgment, I shrivel inside. It’s certainly a heavy load to carry but what other choice do I have? People are everywhere and until I can figure out how to support myself by being totally alone, I’m going to have to bite the bullet and just deal, nose hairs, NAVY tales and all.
I sit and stare at his face but don’t listen to the repeated stories of war songs and academic glory. These conversations are stale and I stare off past unkempt eyebrows and inflated egos and let my mind take me back to you, back to the sweet words and carefully held hearts. A pinprick of pressure presses down at the thought, this memory that moves and maligns me. I smile, not at his monologues, but at the way you made me feel special, at how I allowed myself to feel anything at all. Your texts were transformative, your encouragement echoed all the characteristics I’d hoped to convey to others.
But with the breakdown of time comes a dissolution of union. The newness and novelty give way to obligation and speculation. Greetings gather dust. Insults are slyly slid between sentiments. Inconsistencies crop up in conversations. You don’t think I catch on. But I do. I catalog every one. And I am conflicted because I can’t reconcile your compliments and cutting remarks. I poked my eyes out in hopes of having a clear vision of you but I knew I was only shielding myself from the eventual erosion. I could only hold off for so long. But prolonging an eventuality only deepens the pain once it presents itself.
I cannot trust that you were ever genuine in your accomplishments or compliments but you provided moments of reprieve nonetheless. Those days are past and you can’t take that away from me. I was able to rest. I was able to smile. And I should thank you for that. You did what no one else could, whether you intended to or not.
Even now, pushing past us, this perished pair, I still take delight in delving into memories we made. I still think about how it could have been. I push farther inward, project a scene of us, play out my fantasies of intimacy, closeness, comfort, understanding. The fantasies are a button that dispenses morphine. I press it every night before bed and every day before facing the world. You are with me during those boring conversations, during downtime and lunchtime, during the days when life is unbearable.
But the tolerance is building up and the button isn’t as effective as it once was. I wonder if these made up scenarios can fulfill me much longer. I never had much in the first place so the flimsy fabrications of fellowship seemed fitting at first. But to comfort is to feel one body on another, to hear supportive words, to see an attempt at strengthening bonds.
You are slowly fading and I don’t mind letting you go. I tried to keep you close but you only felt confined. I don’t want to keep you incarcerated. You can’t even commit to friendship so I shouldn’t have such a problem parting.
Your smile was a cab that carried me away to a better place. But now I fear it’s just a ferry sinking me further down into the same spot where you first found me floating.
”It’s amazing how words can do that, just shred your insides apart.”
I’m in need of new glasses and I’ve been asking people their opinions on different frames I’ve been considering. While most opinions were constructive, one person said I should choose frames based on my face shape, which is lumpy.
I know I’m not conventionally good-looking. My face is asymmetrical, my teeth are crooked, and I’m losing my hair. I’ve struggled with my appearance for as long as I can remember but I’ve worked to make peace with my imperfections.
But as I was talking to an aquaintance, asking for frame suggestions, this is the feedback I received.
To get such a random, hurtful comment from someone I thought would be supportive, someone who should have known better than to say something like that, unravelled any progress I had made.
There was no hint of a joke or sarcasm. This person was serious. And although it’s been weeks since the insult, I still think about it and it still hurts. It was not a critique of my frames but of my face, an unprovoked insult intended to tear me down.
It reminds me that people are just cruel because they can be, that words are an easy way to wound. There is a distinct lack of decency in people and with so many bad feelings and bloodshed all around, we still choose to bash those close to us. We are all so blessed and yet we curse everyone we can. It doesn’t make much sense.
Maybe in this new year, let’s try to hold our tongues just a bit more. Let’s try to help instead of hamper. Let’s show appreciation, give credit and compliments, make someone laugh, preserve peace and reject negative energy.
We don’t have to turn into Ghandi but a few good words can go a very long way. The world is already hurdling toward hell. We don’t have to help fan the fire.
Santa should have stuffed my stocking with Gas-X for X-mas.
I know a lot of people overeat during the holidays. It’s a given. But as someone who has struggled with my weight and overeating in general, it’s safe to say that I took it too far.
It all started in late September/October when all the Halloween candle started arriving on the store shelves. Again, as I fell into another depression, I turned to food. I was losing more hours at work and going through some relationship struggles and candy was there for comfort. I fell into a dark whole of dark chocolate truffles and couldn’t find a way out.
There’s the logical part of me that knows what I’m doing is terrible for me, that the temporary comfort isn’t worth the time and effort it will take to take off the pounds once again. I know how destructive this behavior is. I know how terrible it is for my body. To a small degree, I’m abusing myself. But the numbing effect is so powerful that it overrides that logical part of me. I don’t care because I can make up for it later. I can fix this. I won’t let it get out of control. And sometimes I don’t let it get out of control. But sometimes I do.
My new job has created a lot of stress and has taken up a lot of my time so I haven’t had as many opportunities to work out (lame excuse, I know!). And I’m still at my retail job on the weekend and retail during the holidays is always a nightmare. And I’ve been working 6-7 days a week and I’m tired and I’ve been having frequent headaches and it’s taken its toll on me. It’s just easier to block it all out with a block of cheese.
But this month, I stood back and realized I was taking the “normal holiday eating” to an extreme. So many cakes and cookies and greasy fried entrees. So many bowls bloated with peppermint bark. So many candy dishes stashed around the house and at the office and in my face all the time. Temptation around every corner. And I’m a weak guy.
I’m pretty ashamed of myself because I know better. Again, this isn’t normal holiday bingeing. This is a hardcore relapse of relish and cool ranch Doritos. And I really have no excuse. Life never matches up with your plans. In fact, it often feels like Life will make sure it disrupts your dreams as much as possible. But you just have to find a way to pounce over the pitfalls and persevere. I’m having a lot of trouble with that last part, especially with all the leftovers in the fridge.
I know I’ll get it together. This isn’t my first time spiraling out of control. Once the new year gets here and I get comfortable with my job and find some balance, I’ll get my eating under control. At least, I really, really hope so.