For This Writer

For This Writer

Monster. Medical Marijuana. Music videos playing on YouTube. Nice, right? The average night of this writer is being stuck in a vicious cycle of feast or famine. What are they doing? They’re sitting, there, at their desk. A ring light they once purchased for “better videos” for TikTok stands on top of a bookshelf, next to the desktop tower. Dual monitors. The monitor on the right is playing on fullscreen music videos from a custom playlist. On the left, they’re writing…well…trying to write a short story but they keep starting over. Attention is broken at the end of each video. They’re a cheapskate and don’t pay for YouTube Premium so they wait for the 5-seconds to go by before skipping the ad. Annoying sometimes, really. Oh, the ads. Yes.

This writer is a pantser. They don’t plan ahead. That is one of their greatest weaknesses which they try to tell themself is also their greatest strength. Is it really, though? Other writers pass them by; they delay. It is said you should never compare yourself to others but this writer? This writer is responsible for their own depression. Mostly. It seems when they learn more about their recent diagnoses, the more their executive dysfunction roots in.

They want to own a bookstore someday. Can you believe it? Travel, too. That’s what they also want more of in their life. It was on a Saturday when they reached out asking about as many travel tips as possible. Hours. Hours went by before we hung up the phone. I’ve known them for their entire life so believe me when I say something seems different. Maybe…off. Who am I to judge what they do with their life? They’ve lived a tragically beautiful life up to this point.

Before we hung up, this traveling writer I always envisioned them as…

Wait…

What is it I’m doing?

Let’s get back to their story. Yes?

The music? Often influences their writing. It helps them. They’re staring at the mouse icon sitting static over a random piece of text. Tap, tap. Tapping their thumbs on the desk. Remember when I said they often create their own depression? Right now, this writer is sitting there at their desk listening to the music, wishing the song was about them – or at the very least them being the one singing the song. Some words flow. A break. Some more words follow once again. It all sounds like a bunch of gibberish if you ask me. Again, distracted by the end of a music video. They’re back. And they’re waiting. Blank once again?

It kills me more being unable to reach out during their darkest moments.

Excuse me. Apologies.

They’re staring at the book resting on their right. It’s a book they purchased years before. It is better to write gibberish than nothing at all. Isn’t that also a quote from Jodi Picoult? Oh, yes. “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Well, at least they have some kind of writing going.

Another distraction. Not so much of a distraction, really. It is after all about their daughter. It’s a text.

Her fever broke, the text reads. Deep sigh of relief.

For us, both, really.

Their words begin flowing down the screen, even if it is gibberish. They’re feeling empowered now that the weight of their daughters’ illness is slightly falling off their shoulders.

It’s such a wonderful thing witnessing them writing a story about a traveler who finds all the experiences they’ve craved their entire life throughout the travelers’ destinations. It is a story they often keep coming back to. Like a treasure hunt, it has felt like for them. They’ve suffered through enough apathy. In 2010, they once said maybe traveling across Europe will open their eyes a little more.

Perhaps they’ll also find their reason for opening their heart once more, too.

What Is Happening?

Life has been a rollercoaster as of late. Tha-that’s the nicest way I’m going to put it.

Twenty-four hours after posting a plea for others to get vaccinated, to wear their masks, etc., I receive a text message stating my father may have Covid-19. They took an at-home kit. All the others in the household tested negative. Later the same day, a rapid test at the doctors confirmed the diagnosis. Two days later, my seven-year-old nephew who lives with my parents (their grandparents), tests positive after exhibiting symptoms. Another day rolls by & my father is taken to the hospital. My nephew seems to be doing okay, now three days later.

My fathers’ chest x-rays confirmed Covid-19 related pneumonia and are now oxygen-dependent because his levels continue dropping below 90 without it.

I’m not going to shy away from the facts of what my anxiety is making me think and feel. It’s intense. It’s incredibly emotionally difficult. The better part of this is the more I’m self-aware of this kind of anxiety, the more I can “control” it. Even if I do some breathing exercises all the while.

On top of all this, taking on a heck of a lot more work as a business owner/freelancer.

Stress, right?

Things haven’t been too bad, though.

I recently came across a Facebook post of an independent filmmaker I follow there asking if any of his followers have written a short story that would like to be made into a ten-minute film. Of course, I said, “me!” A moment later, I receive a Facebook notification on my phone. It’s him.

“Send it! :)” his response.

The next few moments were filled with instant panic frozen in a mesh-backed hair. I had always thought about turning the short story into a short film so of course, I’m not going to pass up this opportunity. The only problem is is that I have to update it for the modern era i.e. 2020s. Right now, it’s set in an Oscar Wilde, late 19th-century era. How am I going to accomplish this? I have no idea. But it should be fun, though.

Imagine if the story update does get picked up by him, officially. Honestly, I wish I could say who it is but let’s just say their recent projects have been smash hits in the indie film world. I’ve heard their latest film received a few awards as well.

Well, it’s dinner time and I must go.

Bye, for now.

Short Story: “Game Of Our Lives”

My father would have rathered enjoyed a large gathering on a day like today. That is if it meant much to anyone else. He wasn’t as closed off like many thought of him as being. He was always honest with me with what went on not long after with everyone. Emotional and mental health he would consistently cite as his reason. He made sure I was always grounded about those in my life but still give them the benefit of the doubt.

Let me tell you about the man I was incredibly proud to call my father.

Just before I was born, he wrote two things on a whiteboard with a green marker. The first was an Irish saying, “May you live for as long as you want, but may you never find yourself wanting for as long as you live.” The second simply said, “You will get through this!” He would often explain why he wrote: “this”, instead of something specific. I can recite his explanation by heart even to this day. It always amused him repeating it along with him.

“If you’re having a bad day, it gets tiring writing the same message over and over again. But if you just say ‘this’, then it can never be wrong. If that’s never wrong, then you’ll always overcome a bad day.”

By the time I got into college, those words didn’t much to me. Then, everything changed.

I found one of dad’s old D&D (or Dungeons & Dragons) books when I came home for Winter break from school. Well, it was more of a short high fantasy novel based on the board game. He would read to me that book every night I got to spend at his house. Soon after, it became a tradition. We even began watching Pokemon every Saturday morning. I can’t tell you how many times we watched the entire series and spin-offs. But it was the books that I looked forward to the most.

He…well, he knew he didn’t have the sporadic and comedic nature as his late brother had, but he still tried. Each night, we would try to read as many chapters as possible. Sounds boring, sure, but he found a way to make it fun. All the faces, voices, quirks, flaws, all of them. Some of them were borderline Michael Scott of The Office level of cringe. But that’s what made those moments all the more special. And I can’t remember a time anyone else made me laugh more or louder.

“Unless we learn to know ourselves, we run the danger of destroying ourselves.” he would quote to me often. Books and experiences alike were his way of accomplishing learning about who you truly are. Not only that but how to remain true to yourself.

My father knew that growing up in two different households would have a greater toll on my mental & emotional health. Just as the leader he is of his own D&D group, he made sure books would always be there for me for positive coping mechanisms. I realize as I say that it makes it sound as though it was rough growing up. Looking back, it wasn’t all that bad. My parents remained the best of friends as they could realistically be and I was not without ever noticing the way they still looked at each other.

Though she remarried and had another child not long after, my father would do his best still to lead by example. I knew deep down he felt otherwise but to him, there was no other way about it. We even had a running joke where I would ask him what books were going into his “bag of holding” that week. Crude, dark humor but we would always share a laugh about it.

Even though he is no longer here with us, I can still hear his ridiculous laugh. And how sometimes he would get a good belly laugh in till he couldn’t breathe, tears streaming down his face.

In a letter he wrote to me once, well, he wanted me to call it a “letter” but it was an email, he said he enjoyed being the DM (or Dungeon/Game Master) more than being a player. To him, it was the perfect exercise in seeing, learning, and understanding all points of view & perspectives. That made him a better DM but also a better person.

But more importantly, he was showing how I could “build a kingdom” of my own someday.

Terrible Micro Fiction

Dear reader, I wish I could tell you that I made it all up.

I wish I could tell you where I found myself shortly after falling asleep. But I can tell you every bit of its glorious detail. And I can tell you for certain that we are simply not alone.

Shower? Done.

Pajamas? On.

Curl Up Into Nice, Clean Bed Sheets? D-O-N-E, DONE!!

Reaching down, I turned on the heating pad I place beneath my pillow. It helps with sleeping, they say. Now, I can’t go a night without it. But tonight, especially tonight, I had taken too many hits of my marijuana vape pen and my head felt heavy. Heavy enough to keep me from my nightly routine of reading before passing out. Both the gentle warmth from the heating pad below my pillow and the anchor in my mind often kept me asleep for most of the night. Compared to only three or four hours a night, this was a welcome feeling I wanted to enjoy as often as possible.

My people were waiting for me on the other side.

It’s kind of like that show Outlander with the stones – slipping back and forth.

Falling.

Descending.

The kind of feeling you get when you’re at the dentist when they ask you to count backward from ten.

My eyes struggled to open – it was high noon. I was perched beneath a great oak tree at the peak of a low-rising grassy plain. This is my favorite place when I’m feeling stressed or weighed down. You couldn’t beat the views, either.

Several miles down the grassy plain is a village I could best describe as something out of the Trigun anime, but with less desert and more grass, surrounded by the crescent-shaped forest. Yeah, I’m a nerd – get over it. And like an anime, I found myself in the clothing style of the people that lived in the village off in the distance.

No explanation how I always ended up here.

I am okay with that.

But like all good things, this will one day end.

And only days ago did it not only end, leaving me with this scar on my chest, but also reaffirmed my beliefs.
This village…this place…there’s nothing else like it. Or rather – was.

But the truth is I wish I could tell you how it all ended. I wish I could tell you the voice I heard was as pleasant as I remembered. In the end, it didn’t matter what the voice said so much as what it meant. And repeating his words – I fear – will only summon him once more.

Sometimes…

…some things, and people, are better left dead.

Tomorrow

Last night, I dreamt I was in the hospital again.

White walls, white sheets, white bed frame, even the nurses’ outfit was white. Everything was white. Call me crazy but I think I could have even smelled the color white. The nurse’s face was covered by layers of masks hiding behind a larger but translucent mask. She had dark, sunken eyes – expressed more vividly by her auburn hair.

Everything else in the room was typical: the consistent beep from the heart monitor latched to my chest, the dull ache from the intravenous line connected to the vein in the crook of my arm.

The problem is I couldn’t hear anything else except for the annoying beeping machine. I couldn’t hear the nurse’s voice either as she appeared to go over with the doctor that just came into the room the vital details from the clipboard she often carried.

Then, out of nowhere came Hermes, the Greek Messenger God, telling me he was my guide to the Underworld to meet Hades.

Visibly confused, my body couldn’t help itself but float upwards and into a portal where Hermes informs me I’m the next savior.

Savior of what? Of who? Where?

Hermes wasn’t having any of it and continued shoving pieces of metal towards me: a chest plate, a pair of boots, a helmet, a shield, and even a sword. There was no use arguing with a God. I wasn’t getting any answers as we approached the River Styx.

Gulp!

Well, as you can imagine how things would go, Hades didn’t like my complaining as much as he disliked Hercules. The guy with a fiery blue hairdo can talk and talk about how much he loathes the demigod.

Then I woke up.

But I have a secret to tell you.

Everything about the Underworld and Hades, Hercules, blah, blah, blah, was all made up junk.

All my life I wanted to be an author. I’ve written many short stories from varying genres, poems seeped in inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe, even a children’s book. Though, I would consider only one of those to be my greatest story: The Traveler.

Writing is a lot like traveling because what you find is only limited by your courage. It is the thrill of discovery along the way that gives writing and life meaning. And as you can imagine from the beginning of this short story to the end, I’m a terrible writer. But I can make being terrible work for me. Does it work for you?

I write short stories mostly for myself and no one else therefore I feel less constricted by the rules and boundaries of the English language. Ernest Hemingway was such a creature of this as well. Hemingway would first write for himself before filling the requests of his publishers. You can interpret that self-imposed narcissism and stubbornness as the need for keeping control of your thoughts, your words, your soul. And traveling, I feel, helped him realize that more about himself. Keep in mind, I’m not in any way deifying him but you can’t help but feel where he stood as he traveled the four corners of the Earth and within his own mind.

That’s where I found myself most days: trying to control every part of my life I could use for writing. My publisher and I, well, our relationship isn’t the greatest, but we work. We understand both the need for results and mental health all the same. But as is with every business, there are limits. And there’s only so long I can push the limits.

It’s the early morning of the next day. I’m sipping on my Americano coffee. Next, I take my, well, alternative medicine – the kind that fills your lungs and the nooks and crannies of your brain. Others call it medical marijuana but is it pushing a limit calling it for what it is? This temporary medicine numbs the areas that remind me of my past as both once a soldier and an athlete.

I stare at the blank page of my leather bound book I received as a gift Christmas last.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap goes my pen on the paper.

Several minutes goes by.

Another fifteen more minutes.

Tap, tap, tap, tap continues my pen.

Nothing.

One would think the caffeine and medicine counteract one another but I never found this to be the case. Why was I feeling this way?

Surely this can’t be writers block I whisper.

Bzzzt, bzzzt, bzzzt my smartphone begins to vibrate.

A lovely conversation with my nearly two-year-old daughter through a video call. It lifted my spirits but alas it was just a distraction.

I stared long enough at the white paper to clearly see the ridges along the surface of the heavy paper, committing it to memory.

Leaning back now in my chair I rub my eyes, pat my face. Now I had something new to look at.

The ceiling.

Same result as I continue staring up at the ceiling.

At least it isn’t the old popcorn ceiling in your last house I thought to myself.

Same as before – nothing happened.

Minutes turned into hours, distracted by my day job and taking care of my daughter. There isn’t some hidden meaning or depth I was trying to add to that observation. Sometimes, things are just the way they are – without depth or meaning.

Tomorrow I whispered.

It was always “tomorrow” or “later” since the turn of the new year.