Our intrepid author lifts up his laptop computer, takes a deep breath, and blows on the screen, sending pixels scattering from the image of his blow in a hurricane of simulated dust. After wiping away the actually dust and flecks of spit that landed on the screen, our long-absent author seats himself and cracks his knuckles unenthusiastically. Unsure of where to begin, he ponders the empty page for a few moments before beginning what would turn out to be a meta-description of his process.

I’ve decided to bring my blog back to life. And start using my twitter. I’m getting pretty bored these days, what with my life of going for runs, eating diet food, and writing my book on endless repeat. As such, I’ve decided to start narrating my life through social media. Mostly just to see what happens. I’m kind of curious, actually, to see what kind of audience there might be for stuff like this,

Hopefully I wont bore any of you too much. Should I wind up boring myself, I’ll probably just disappear again, staying away until I come up with some other use for this website. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy what is likely going to be a slice-of-life sort of thing between my blog and my twitter (@Literary_Wizard). Check it out. It’ll be fun or something.

Mario Kart and the Meat Department

I spent most of today feeling down about myself and my status as a single man. Partly because today marks the one-year anniversary of starting my current job, partly because I just got a new bed and I spent a fair amount of time stress-testing it last night, and partly because I’m just lonely. As such, my mind just kept reminding me how single and lonely I am. It also seems like practically the entire internet is breaking up right now since all of the places I go to de-stress and just have a few moments of quiet escape are full of stories of people cheating and breaking up and stuff.

All of my Internet escapes are trapped. Most of my TV Shows just make it worse as there is relationship stuff in EVERY show. Even most of the books I have to read right now involve it somehow. So its hard to get my mind off my single status. I’ll find a way, I’m sure. Maybe drown myself in video games or do a massive edit of my book. Its got 170,000 words and the beginning doesn’t really match the end. Plus I lost track of one of the characters and I need to figure out where he went.

The rest of my day, the parts the occurred outside of the cesspit of misery that is my subconscious on days like today, hasn’t really been any better. I had to go back to the grocery store today. I mean, I didn’t NEED to go back, but I realized I would get VERY bored eating Ham sandwiches every day. So I went to the meat counter and placed an order for a half a pound of turkey and a half a pound of chicken.

Yeah, I didn’t know that it came in lunch meat slices until yesterday so I figured I’d get some. I like chicken. Chicken sandwiches are delicious, but the ones I’ve had in the past were either made of fried chicken fresh out of the oil or leftover fried chicken pulled off the bone and crammed between two slices of bread so its going to be a new experience for me.

Anyhoo, instead of the surly college student I’ve grown used to seeing behind the counter in the early evenings, it was a young woman. Since there was no one around and I tend to feel somewhat nervous about silence in public social settings like that, I made a few jokes, got a few laughs, and was utterly floored when she looked me straight in the eye and asked me if I wanted her to wrap my meat.

Normally, I’d just chuckled at the awkward phrasing and think nothing of it, be she came to a full stop and stared me dead in the eye for a moment before saying it and then followed it with a wink. The part of my brain that is more concerned with propagating my genes than with my crippling social anxiety chuckled and winked back while I said “yes please!”

Sure enough, there was a phone number written on the inside of the paper wrapping the turkey. Now, I don’t really feel the most attractive these days with my long hair, fluffy beard, and added weight, so the first thing I thought was that she’s just screwing with me. I stared at the number for almost five minutes before another thought managed to batter its way through the fear and excitement that warred within.

She was either in high school or the most jail-bait looking adult I’ve ever seen. I swear, she couldn’t have been older than sixteen and had none of the tells that younger-looking women get as they age: no forehead creases, laugh-lines, wrinkles of any sort, or weight of personality. Plus, she giggled like a school-girl.

Needless to say, throwing that in on the side of my fear made the decision super easy. Not going to call her. I will probably put her number into facebook or just google it, but I’m not optimistic at this point…

On the way home, I was thankfully distracted from deli-girl by the conditions of the roads. It snowed last night and, true to form, the local cities absolutely sucked at removing it. I was sliding all over the place on the way into work this morning and had to be super careful to avoid the slick spots this evening.

The main roads weren’t too bad since enough cars have driven on them at this point to at least wear wheel tracks down to the pavement, but I take a side road for almost a mile after leaving the main roads and it was the worst I’ve ever seen it. The whole thing was basically a pile of slush. I don’t even know how, but it got worse than it was this morning. No idea how that’s even possible but it happened.

The thing about side roads is that the same rules for building nice roads don’t apply as they do to main roads. So you get weird curves that change how sharp they’re turning as they go on and other ones that wrap oddly up a hill and then down it so that a park gets an extra 50 square feet of level ground. Or roads that curve super sharply down a hill and don’t have parking restrictions so that passing a car going the opposite direction is a harrowing experience in even the best of conditions. You also get slopes so steep that, in the slow and slush, you car will just slide down hill.

Then, if you combine the last two, weird curve on a super steep hill with absolutely no parking restrictions, you get part of my trip to and from work. Needless to say, I was already going pretty slow as I neared the hill but as I started down, I started to lose traction at the same instant I see another car whose path I had been following sitting in a small snow back at the bottom of the hill.

In that instant, I can see that the person’s path matched my current and likely path exactly and since my car was slightly bigger than there’s, I would likely be going faster than they were. Relying on instincts I’ve only ever used in Mario Kart and applying the knowledge I had gathered doing real-life research for a bit of inner-city crime fiction I wrote, I threw my car into a small spin that would turn me the opposite direction from how the hill would turn me, eased on the brakes just enough to get the sliding started, and then counted heartbeats until I found myself facing straightened section following the curve and eased on the gas so I’d slide through the intersection and avoid the person who was staring at my approaching car in mute horror.

It worked and my car is undamaged. I stopped to go check on the other person, but they managed to just drive back onto the road shortly after I had come to a halt and we just went out separate ways.

Who knew learning how to powerslide in Mario Kart would one day save me from having to make a minor insurance claim?

My, what a busy week it has been! Now it’s time for some potty language, health news, and small talk.

Seriously. I’ve had a lot of things happen that I want to talk about. But first, and most importantly of course, I have to talk about the one thing we all have in common but yet rarely ever mention.

What an asswipe...

What an asswipe…

That’s right. Toilet Paper. Today, I managed to score an incredible 36 rolls of toilet paper for only $13. I was at Target, grabbing my usual package of 12 rolls of toilet paper when I happened to see the sign on the shelf below. “As Advertised,” it proclaimed. “36 rolls of two-ply soft toilet paper for the low price of $13!!”

How could I pass that up? I mean, that’s three times the toilet paper for less than twice the cost. The 12 rolls I was about to grab would have cost me $7. So I grabbed THE LAST package of 36 and cheerfully walked through the Target with more toilet paper than I could hold in one hand. When I checked out, it was this tiny cashier, probably a teenager, who was BARELY 5 feet tall. It was hilarious to watch her try to wrangle the massive pack of toilet paper in order to get the barcode on the scanner. I really got my money’s worth there.

The best part of the entire thing, though? As a single man living on my own and rarely entertaining company, I’m not going to have to buy toilet paper until probably next year…

In other news, the temperature has plunged around here so that we’re dropping below zero once the sun sets and rarely making it back into positive numbers before noon. Even so, despite all the horrid safety notices they put in the public spaces at work and the safety emails that went out, I continue to walk around in my customary shorts and open jacket. Just to get it out of the way, I’ll explain why quickly: I actually experience the cold much like everyone else, but I spend 99% of my time in heated buildings and so I’m sacrificing that 1% of pain for 99% of comfort. I pretty much die every time I wear pants and the heat it on.

But that isn’t important. I rarely tell anyone the above because I got tired of explaining it long ago. Most of the time, when my new friends or coworkers see it for the first time, I just shrug. However, since I’m out in the world now and doing things like grocery shopping or reminding the world that we all have to spend at least some part of our day sitting with our pants down and wiping poop off our butts, I’ve started getting random-ass strangers asking me.

“Aren’t you cold?”

“Isn’t that uncomfortable?”

“You really should wear pants. You could get frostbite if you aren’t careful.”

“Damn, just looking at you makes me cold.”

Now, I can appreciate having the minor annoyance of these people buzzing around me instead of getting wolf-whistles or lecherous comments about the amount of cleavage I’m displaying, but it still grates because it seems like everyone feels they have permission to comment on my shorts. (unfortunately necessary disclaimer: no, I am not implying I have it worse. I’m just saying it sucks.) In order to own it and get something out of the experience, I’ve started making up quick, context-less answers.

I generally try to tailor my responses to the person making the comment in order to make the least amount of sense possible. For instance, when an elderly couple commented that I “should put on some pants, you silly goose.” I looked them straight in the eye as I walked past them into the Target and said, “nah, I cast Endure Elements before I left my apartment this morning. I still have at least 12 hours left.”

When I was leaving the grocery store, a fellow shopper who followed me out chuckled and said “man, you must have pretty big cojones to risk the freezing cold like that.”

I replied “well, that is my Native American name: He-Who-Walks-With-Legs-Far-Apart.”

After that, I proceeded to load my groceries into the car and then drive away, making sure to space my feet far apart.

I managed to get super lucky tonight with my grocery shopping. Everything I wanted was on sale at the expensive place so I got a week’s worth of groceries without needing to go rather far out of my way. It was also significantly easier this time since I’m starting a diet and most of the stuff I buy at the other place is cheap shit. Frozen pizzas, frozen chicken, frozen potatoes, pizza bites, ice cream, soda and various other unhealthy stuff. Tonight, I bought the fixings for sandwiches, veggies, and everything I’d need to make sloppy joes.

I’m not sure why they’re called that nor am I certain that I want to discover the origin of the name. What I do know, however, is that they’re really not to terribly high in calories if you shop the right way. Whole-grain buns, super-lean beef, BBQ sauce (which doesn’t really come in a “diet” or “low-calorie” form, but I’m willing to pay for its deliciousness), and brown sugar (which is surprisingly low-cal).

Now, I know for a diet to work properly, you can’t just go low-cal and expect it to work without adverse side-effects, but its an easy way to give some quantifiable data to the somewhat murky science of getting healthy. I’m also starting a membership at a gym once I’ve figured out to which one I want to belong and will work well with my schedule.

I’m really hoping reducing my caloric intake will make this process a lot faster because I really want to start eating less. I started eating a lot when I worked theater and had to spend most days on my feet, running around, and physically exerting myself in general. Nowadays, when I spent most of my time sitting in a chair or wandering around my building at a leisurely pace, I don’t get much exercise and the extra calories have had a noticeable effect on my gut.

But hey, I’m 23 years old, still in the prime of my youth, and can shed these pounds easily. And by easily I mean with an initial period of complete misery that will only begin to lessen once I’ve made this all routine and only finally fade when I look at myself in the mirror and think “when the HELL did I become a sexy beast?”

Parking Buddies

I saw my parking buddy the other day.

It was super weird because I saw her out in the real world. I had stopped for gas on the way into work and noticed that the person next to me just HAPPENED to be my parking buddy.

As always, I just played it cool and didn’t acknowledge her presence. It would have been awkward if I had since not only have I been parking away from our usual spots for over a month, but the only time I have ever spoken to her was Halloween when I offered her a lemon.

I was wearing a sign that said “Life,” you see, and I was walking around giving people lemons because that is what life does. It gives people lemons. I tossed her a lemon when she chuckled at the joke and spoke to her for the first time.

“My office is just down the hall there,” I pointed to the distant door with its picture of a Jimmy Card being Rustled taped to the inside of the glass. “I may not have the supplies to turn it into lemonade, but you can definitely exchange it for candy.”

She just chuckled, beamed a smile at me, and carried on her way.

Over ten months of parking near each other and coming in to work at nearly the same time so that we would see each other more often than not, and this was the first attempt at communication.

Needless to say, she never came to my office and I, mortified, started parking elsewhere. Then, about a month and a half later, I we wound up getting gas at the same time and then driving the rest of the way to work right next to each other. As she turned to park in her usual place on the lowest level, I sighed and continued to fight the daily battle to be as close to the doors as possible on the top floor.

Some days, I miss the simplicity of parking in the basement. I could almost always get the same spot, no one else parked there until much later in the day, and the temperature was always so much more mild that the other two floors. On the top floor, I park in a different place every day, everyone is pushing for a good spot, and you have to resign yourself to a walk if you show up any later than 7:20.

Part of me wonders if my parking buddy has noticed my absence. I mean, I know I’m pretty much nuts to call her my parking buddy without having even held a conversation with her, but if you park next to the same person for the vast majority of a year, you can’t help but feel a certain camaraderie.

I wonder what she calls me in her head? “The dip-shit with the long hair who cares way to much about parking perfectly”? “That dude in the gorgeous blue Mazda”? “The schlub in shorts”? Its times like this that I wish I could read people’s minds. I wouldn’t pry that deeply, I just want to know what people think about: the surface thoughts that skim over the mind throughout the day without really taking hold. Nothing more than that.

I wonder how long it will be until the embarrassment of being so overtly friendly will have faded and we can resume being parking buddies… I wonder how many other people think this much about the people who park near them.

I know I’m weird, but how weird, exactly?

~             ~            ~

Those of you who can do math and noticed that the dates are a little off: I wrote this almost two weeks ago and forgot to hit publish…

Tales of a Twenty-Something: Grocery Shopping

Time to dust off the ol’ blog and start writing posts again. Its been a long-ass time and I wondered about just closing this thing down, but I decided against it today while at the grocery store. Instead of stopping the blog, I’ve decided to create a new section called “Tales of a Twenty-Something” and this will be the first post in that section. Buckle up and get ready for anticlimax.

I was walking through the grocery store after work today. I often stop at the store since it’s on my way home and it enables me to do stuff like buy fresh bread and vegetables when I want them, along with customize the day’s dinner to whatever I’m feeling like eating. As a result, I often wind up with some strange stuff. Tonight, I bought fresh bread and a frozen pizza. Last week, I bought pre-made twice-baked potatoes and dill pickle halves. On Monday, I bought steak, fresh veggies, garlic salt, and a massive box of goldfish crackers.

As a result of living on my own and, for the first time in my life, having more money than I can easily spend in a month (though, to be honest, I spend as little as possible most of the time and save the rest) means I can eat whatever I want. Its starting to show along my beltline, but my new gym membership and slight food restrictions should help resolve the issue.

But that isn’t the point. The point is the strange looks I get from the cashiers. I’m in there often enough (and my long hair and fuzzy beard are distinctive enough) that the regular cashiers are starting to recognize me. And they start to remember what I buy because it’s so weird. I bought soda and toothpaste the other day. And the day before that, I bought 36 cans of soup, two packs of double-stuff Oreos, and a few smaller packs of the fearsome “feminine hygiene products” to donate to a food drive.

I never buy regular stuff there. I do the heavier parts of my grocery shopping someplace cheaper, so I only go to this place for name-brand stuff, specialty items, and whimsical purchases. I’m really starting to consider buying the weirdest stuff I can find just for the confused or concerned looks on their faces. Maybe next week I’ll buy a lobster and cake frosting. I’d have to find something to do with the lobster since I have no desire to cook and eat it, but I can just imagine the look on the poor cashier’s face as they ring that up.

~             ~            ~

“Just a little dinner shopping” I say with my usual dazzling grin. “I’ve got something special in mind for tonight.”

Sally, the poor young woman who is only working at the hell-hole known as Hy-Vee supermarkets so she can convince her parents she is responsible and get that car she wants so much for her 16th birthday, looks down at the poor lobster. The crustacean, unaware of its fate, waves at Sally in bemusement, trying to figure out why the monstrous creature keeps flashing a light in its eyes.

“$18.92 is your total tonight, sir.” Sally quickly taps the keyboard to accept the debit card and carefully sets the lobster off to the side, abandoning it to its sugary fate. “Have a pleasant evening.”

“Oh, I intend to.” I pick up the lobster and my frosting, ignoring the proffered bag by tucking the frosting into my pocket and waving the lobster’s claw in farewell.

~             ~            ~

Yeah. That’s totally worth it. And maybe I can just keep the lobster as a pet. I could use a pet around this place.

Wrapped in Silence

As you sit in your bedroom, legs extended toward the foot of the bed and your back leaning against the wall, you can feel the heavy weight in your heart beat against your chest. It beats arrythmically, out of tune with your heart and the pumping blood that courses through your body.

The weight is silence. The silence of the quiet thump of your heart and the rushing of blood in your ears. The silence of thousands of synapses firing as wild, uncontrolled thoughts tumble through your mind without leaving more than a faint trail that is wiped away by the same winds that give them agency. The silence of love unspoken and bitter last words that can never be reclaimed. A silence so complete that you can feel your voice, the one with which you narrate your existence and that gives you a sense of self, fade and crumble in its face.

Outside, there is a similar weight pressing inward. It works its way through the blanket that wraps your legs and the sweatshirt you wear until it nestles against your skin like an itch you can never quite find, no matter how long you scratch.

This weight is also silence, but a separate silence. The silence of a fan blowing in the background, a constant whir that never ceases or varies in any perceptible way. The silence of an apartment full of people who are all busy with quiet things. The silence of a nearby highway humming with the steady stream of cars full of people that make their way from one place to another without ever conceiving of you as a being with your own hopes, dreams, and thoughts.

Some people, somewhere in your building, make a small noise that you know exists, but it is not strong enough to make its way through the walls and plaster that guard your apartment against their intrusion. The few people who, passing in their cars, look in your direction cannot see you for the brick and aluminum that guard the outside of your building against intrusion.

The two weights press against each other, pulled to each and yet repulsed by each other, constantly trying to escape from the other in one direction while being pulled toward it in the opposite direction. As the ebb and flow of their tugging begins to tear you apart, you quiet your mind and lay aside all of the rambling, rumbling thoughts that tumble through your mind.

This new silence, the silence of the mind after a long day; the silence of the mind when all thought has come to naught; the silence that reigns over the darkest moments of humanity; the silence that lifts up and glorifies the brightest moments of our lives and the lives of those we love; this silence settles into your mind.

As you sit and feel the power of this new, third silence, you let it flow out of you. It sweeps down to your heart and pulls the first silence with it. It glides outward then, capturing the second silence in its grasp and slowly wraps Silence around you, embracing you with a blanket devoid of warmth but resplendent with comfort. It pulls and tugs until not a scrap of you is left uncovered and slowly settles until you can feel it seep into your very bones. It takes such a hold of you that you are left wondering if there ever was something other than silence in your life; you wonder if have ever had a voice or heard a sound or if it was all a dream from which you have woken.

You feel the muscles in your chest expand and contract as you breath. You feel the muscles in your throat prepare the way for the word that will shatter the silence. You feel your tongue curl and move so that, as the vibrating air passes, it will make the correct sequence of sounds that will forever destroy this heavy, peaceful silence. As it builds, you can feel it coming, you can feel an end to everything you’ve ever know coming on the crest of this wave.

And then your muscles relax and the moment is passed. As your breath keeps its place in the first silence, your throat keeps its place in the second silence, and your tongue keeps its place in the third silence, you feel a fourth silence settle over them all. With this silence, the silence of the word unspoken, you feel the warmth that was lacking settle into you, the comfort is no longer cold and strange but familiar in a way that you cannot comprehend but wish to never be without again.

The Long-Awaited Return: 08/12/2014

Hey y’all. Sorry I’ve been gone for so long. I’ve been crazy busy, writing up a storm. Passed 100,000 words a couple of weeks ago in my book and been struggling a bit lately with some things. Nothing I can’t handle, mind you, just a bit of depression that I’d somehow staved off for a couple of months.

I’m on the up and up these days, making my way back from sad to positive. I passed mopey this weekend, so I think I’m going to be alright. Now all I need to do is write and not stay up until midnight staring at my book and I should be okay.

This news about Robin Williams was completely unexpected and kinda caught me off guard. Most celebrity suicides aren’t actually suicides, but are “deaths” or “apparent suicide,” so it’s really interesting to see one that no one has tried to pretend that it was anything but suicide.

It’s also kind of hard for me to see in the media everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. Most websites I visit are doing some kind of tribute to him. I can’t go through more than one or two images on Imgur without running into his pictures or quotes.

For those of you who have read through my archives, followed my blog for any length of time, or know me personally, I have struggled with depression for the majority of my life. What most people don’t know is that my OCD and depression combine in an interesting way that almost no one sees in popular depictions or descriptions of OCD.

Before you read any further, go read a clinical definition of what OCD ACTUALLY is. Seriously. If you don’t go read the definition (or already know because you suffer from a severe case), there is no point in you continuing to read because you won’t come even marginally close to understanding what I’m saying. Yes, I know its dry. I read it too.

It’s not all flicking light switches, washing your hands, germaphobia, and organizing things. It is about so much more than that. Those are simple compulsions. Yes, simple. They are far easier to deal with than obsessions.

Obsessions are so much worse. You can’t get away from them. They follow you everywhere and they never shut up. I have those much worse than compulsions. It’s why I listen to music all the time and tend to zone out a lot. I’m silencing the nagging thoughts in my head that just won’t go away.

I understand completely what happened to Robin Williams. I know what its like to be depressed and constantly haunted by thoughts of release. Not self-harm, release. Death. For almost as long as I can remember, thoughts of suicide have been on of my obsessions.

For all you worries and whatever of my family that reads this blog, I’ve never actually tried to take my life or even intentionally subjected myself to pain or harm for any reason.

So yeah, I understand what happened. I understand HOW it could happen. I can understand why it happened. I mean, there are days when all I can think about is how tired I am and how hard living can be. How long every day is and how difficult it is to find something to smile about every day. I can’t fault the guy because I know how hard it can be to fight it.

That’s one of the things that is bother me. I see all this news coverage, read all of those posts and comments, and all I can think is “there, but for my sheer stubbornness and indomitable willpower, go I.” Don’t think I’m saying I’m stronger that Robin Williams was, because I couldn’t claim that. I’ve only got 22 years behind me, long as they may have been, while he had 63. He’s fought longer than I have and, sometimes, you slip and never quite manage to make it to your feet again. It’s not weakness, its simple misfortune.

And no, it had nothing to do with “the grace of God.” Nothing at all.

I’ve seen a lot of people talking about suicide. Almost everyone says that, in memory of Robin Williams, we should putting more attention on suicide prevention.  A lot of people are saying that what he did was selfish. Other people, for whatever fuck-headed reason, are saying things along the lines of “at least he picked his time and his place.”

Fuck all of you.

Yeah, I don’t normally use that word and I generally hate it because it exemplifies a complete lack of eloquence and ability to thoughtfully express yourself. Sure, you can use it as almost any part of speech, but there is no artistry in it. That being said, sometimes there is no other way to express just how upset and pissed off I am than to just cut loose with a long, long string of appropriately conjugated “fuck”s. And this is coming from a guy who yells or mutters “monkey nuggets” when he stubs his toe(s).

The only good thing I’ve read about Robin William’s suicide was that he had a disease like any other and he lost his battle against it. Like cancer. Like the plague. Like swine flu or avian flu, or even the regular old flu. Because depression is a disease and it kills more people a year than you would believe.

I’ve been fighting depression and thoughts of suicide for years. I’ve had more close calls than I care to mention. I’ve had nights I honestly thought I would never see through.

This isn’t a cry for help. My disease has gone into remission. I can get through months at a time without having to stare into the void and wonder if I should turn away this time or let it swallow me. I don’t have to fight as hard as I once did because I’m finally started to gain some kind of control over my life and stopped worrying quite so much about the parts I can’t control. I’m still lonely. I’m still tired. But nowhere near as badly as I can handle.

If anything, what I want to do here is open a dialogue. I want to remember Robin Williams, that funny man whose eyes always screamed at me that they knew what I felt, the man who showed the world how to laugh while you’re crying, by talking about getting people with depression help.

We don’t need to prevent suicide. That’s a band-aid. That’s chemo. We need to cure the disease instead of preventing it from killing people. Yes, preventing it from killing people is a good first step, but it’s not what we need to do.

So let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about my depression, your depression, depression in American culture. Let’s get rid of the stigma attached to it and actually start to see it as the black plague of the 21st century.

Talk to me and, more importantly than anything else you’ve read in the past week, listen. Because listening is the first step toward understanding and a cure.