This weeks “Close To Monsters” is brought to you by the sobering fact that you’ve graduated, and it’s up to you now. Good luck to all of those who’re heading onto their own lives. I wish you the best, ’cause it’s fuckin’ hard.
This weeks “Close To Monsters” is brought to you by the sobering fact that you’ve graduated, and it’s up to you now. Good luck to all of those who’re heading onto their own lives. I wish you the best, ’cause it’s fuckin’ hard.
Every year I go to my father’s for his birthday.
I don’t take him out for a meal, or to see a film or anything like that. We talk for a while, I give him his gift, and then we do what we’ve done every year for the last 7 years…we open up his time capsule. Inside, there are 5 items, each as important as the last. We take them out one by one, examining and discussing them. The first is a beautiful, golden ring. He puts it in the time capsule, because he wants to make sure it never gets lost, and he wants to give it to me when I get married. He says it’s a perfect fit, and I know it’s true, because I’ve tried it on. On the inner curve of the ring, there’s an inscription that reads, “Your smile is my oxygen.”
Next would have to be the camera. It’s a small, black camera that he took all of my childhood photos on, and that he took every photo in general on for as long as I can remember. He and my mother bought it at a thrift store before they got married, and he’d used it ever since. He even took every photo from their honeymoon on it. He tells me that I should do the same, ‘keep it in the family’, so to speak.
After that would be the corsage. It’s a beautiful shade of pink, and it fits perfectly on my wrist. It was my mothers as well, and she was the one who put it into the time capsule. He got it for her on their prom night, and she still cherishes it he says.
After the corsage comes the key. It’s the key to the first place my parents owned. It was their dream house. He says my mom wishes they still lived there, but I know better, that she’s happy where she is now. She’s happy where they are. But, that aside, it’s still an important piece of their history, and therefore, it’s made its way into the time capsule.
Finally, the last item in the box is a baby photo of me. It was taken by that same camera, in the hospital, mere moments after I was born. In the photo, my mother is holding me, beaming so happily, and my father says it’s her favorite photo of all time. After we’re through, we repack the time capsule, put it back onto the top shelf of his closet and go to dinner. We do this every single year.
We do this every single year, and we will continue to do so. We do it for mom. She’s been gone a while now, but they made that time capsule together on her deathbed in the hospital, where they spent her last days together. She told him that this way, they’d never be apart. This way, none of us would be apart. My father won’t admit it, but he misses her more than he lets on, though he tries to stay strong. But, if you look at just the right angle into his eyes, you can see her, still caught in his gaze, looking just as beautiful as the day they met.
We miss you, mom.
Sandy Price was laying in the bed, hands folded on her chest, breathing slowly, eyes glued to the stucco ceiling overhead. She could remember it clearly. She could remember everything clearly. She rolled over and looked at Derek, asleep, and grimaced. She got out of bed and walked softly to the kitchen, where she took a glass out from the cupboard, walked to the sink, looked at it for a moment and then instead reached under the sink for the gin. She poured herself a glass and walked to the large window at the end of the living room of their studio apartment, glancing out at the city. Sandy had always liked the city at night. She’d always liked night, in general, but especially the city. How it lit up, looked so vibrant and welcoming and warm. She now knew it wasn’t, but as a little girl, it comforted her to think that there was this place that was so safe and cozy.
She sipped her gin and heard a groan behind her. She turned to see Derek standing in the door frame between the living room and the bedroom. She sighed as he rubbed his eyes and approached her.
“Are you ok? Why’re you up?” he asked, and she shrugged.
“Why not,” she replied, “What’s the point of sleeping. Doesn’t make me feel any better. All my dreams are terrible. Might as well be awake at a time when I actually enjoy looking at the shithole we live in,” she said, motioning her hand with the drink in it towards the cityscape.
“Is this about Rufus?” Derek asked, hushed, like he was afraid of what would come next. As if saying this name would spawn forth from the depths of hell a million demons hellbent on the destruction of the earth, and often when regarding Sandy’s anger, that wasn’t a far off analogy. Sandy slowly turned back to the window and swirled the gin in her glass.
“Rufus has nothing to do with any of this,” she said coldly, “Besides, how could he be involved in anything when he’s a thousand miles away…when did I get so cold? When did we get so cold, and not just you and but the proverbial ‘we’. Nobody asks how another persons day was anymore, and nobody seems to provide simple acts of human kindness like holding doors open for old people. This isn’t a rant about the death of humanity, god knows that’s been overdone to death by bleeding heart liberals writing for websites with cutesy names like ‘Boodles’ or something. I’m a liberal too, but I’m not the kind who thinks simple technological advances like smart phones are going to cause the death of conversation.”
Derek sat down on the arm of a chair and rubbed his shoulder, sighing.
“What is this about then? Just how distant you feel about everything?” he asked, and she rolled her eyes and snorted.
“Yeah, distant, let’s go with that. Everyone wants personal space in a city that thrives on community. There’s nothing wrong with privacy, everyone is entitled to it, it’s their right to want to have their own time and their own space, but engagement, even on a level as simple as saying ‘nice day, isn’t it?’ is so crucial to simply keeping the lines of communication between our own fucking species going. We cannot allow ourselves to become this cut off from another. Those girls I teach…”
Sandy sat down on the window sill and looked at her nails, exhaling loudly.
“…they don’t judge one another,” she continued, “They help one another figure out their moves if they’re having trouble, and they rally around one another as a team to support eachother and the team as a whole. People say evil is taught. That’s debatable. But what I can tell you is actually taught is cynicism. Bitterness. Coldness. It happens when you’ve been hurt one too many times, when you want to withdraw because you feel you can no longer trust anyone; including yourself, because you keep making the poor decision to open up to just one more person, always knowing the end result is the same.”
“Sandy,” Derek said, “…did I hurt you? I know we’ve had our problems, but we’ve always worked it out one way or another. I know Rufus hurt you. I’m sorry. But how can you stand there and honestly claim that the end result is the same when you live with someone who cares about you tremendously and only has your best interests at heart?”
“…you’ll leave too,” Sandy said softly, letting her hair cover her face so she could hide, “You will. Someone can only put up with negativity for so long before ‘love’ turns to ‘tolerate’. I try so hard to be who you think I am, who you would love for me to be, but it’s not me. I’m an angry, upset young lady. Is that really who you love? Or do you just love the idea you have of me?”
Derek stood up and walked over to the window sill, sitting in it with her, looking out the window at the city lights.
“Remember a few years ago when we went with my folks to that ski resort? We spent a lot of the time inside, just sitting by that giant fire pit, sipping cocoa and reading and just…enjoying something for once without worrying about the financial ramifications? You looked really pretty with that fire light flickering on your eyes, curled up in that chair, just sucked into your literature.”
“What’s with the nostalgia kick?” Sandy asked, swirling her index fingertip inside her empty glass, “You think this is how we fix our problems?”
“I’m just trying to get you to remember something nice, that’s all. If we could go on vacations like that as often as our parents could at our age, I would love it. You want to dance, you want to teach girls to dance, but then you go to work and you seem so miserable and you only seem happy when you’re alone. When you have no responsibilities.”
“So you’re saying my argument is hypocritical?” Sandy asked, sniffling.
“Well, who isn’t hypocritical?” Derek asked, grinning, “But no, what I’m saying is that a lot of people can’t do both. You can. You do. A lot of people are so…dead inside or something that they just shut off their humanity and do what they must to survive, even if it means only caring about themselves or their family and nobody else. But you can do both, and, hell that’s admirable. You’re mad because you don’t know why everyone else can’t do what you do. That’s what I’m saying. You want to grab them and shake them and scream ‘Why is this so goddamn difficult for you?!’ but that’s the thing, it just is goddamn difficult for them. I agree with you, it’s sad, but…it’s for them to deal with. You keep doing the good that you’re doing, and you’ll feel better I think.”
Sandy pushed her hair out of her face and smiled slightly at Derek, her eyes remarkably pale blue, her skin so pale in the moonlight. She looked out the window again and shook her head.
“Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I want to just climb out this window and throw myself to the sidewalk. Just let it all end,” Sandy said, “But then I realize that suicide, at least for me, only seems like a viable option because I am surviving. The others who generally seem to kill themselves really do feel like it’s their only option, or it is their only option, as they’re perpetually unemployed or sick or homeless or something. But I have a place, here, and I have you and I have a job and I…I’m surviving. That’s why it’s an option, and not a necessity.”
“I’m glad you see it that way, because-“
“I miss my mom,” Sandy said, choking up, tears starting to roll down her cheeks, “I called her to talk about my first recital with the girls you saw and…and she wasn’t even in the least bit interested. She called it a ‘hobby’ the entire time. I want to please her so bad and yet I hate her so much. You have your family. Do you know what it’s like to not have family? To be that alone? I have your parents, and you, and the girls at the dance hall but…to not have family. A place you came from, a home…it’s exhausting trying to figure out where you’re supposed to be or even if you’re supposed to be. To not have a place of origin, a backstory, a prologue…is your story even worth reading?”
“You’re worth reading,” Derek said, “You’re the one who pays the majority of the rent on this place, that car is yours, you’re the one with meaningful employment. You’re worth reading. Each chapter it gets better and better, and we can make sure there’s a happy ending.”
“I don’t want to be distant.”
“I don’t want you to be.”
Some dogs barked in the distance, and a few cars drove by underneath them.
“Hey,” Sandy said.
“Yeah?” Derek replied.
“Promise me that if I do ever kill myself, you’ll write my sequel.”
The bird, which couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old, had been laying there for a few days now. Long enough for ants to start marching in and burrowing deep inside it. Derek Fisher and Sandy Price were standing over it, in Derek’s parents backyard, as he poked it casually with a stick. Sandy took a puff off her cigarette and then tossed the butt to the ground, stomping it out with her hiking boot.
“School didn’t prepare me for anything like this,” Sandy said, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her dark blue windbreaker, “School doesn’t teach kids what they need to know about death or anything important. Everything they teach you is a lie.”
“I guess there’s some things that are bets left to parents, but even then most parents don’t want to take that initiative,” Derek said, “But could you imagine if schools did teach that kind of thing? Parents have a hard enough time with letting their schools teach kids about sex, I can’t imagine they’d even let them touch death.”
“Both those things are natural and inevitable!” Sandy said, “I mean, unless you’re asexual, but god dammit, why do people have such a hard time talking to their kids about stuff? Why did I have to learn from a dropout uncle that we killed the Indians and took their land, whereas school just taught me that we got along and were all friends and ate the first thanksgiving together? What the fuck kind of world is this? We’re just going to LIE to children, and then expect them to believe everything, and then get mad when they call something that’s clearly bullshit out on its bullshit?”
“I’m on your side, remember, don’t yell at me,” Derek said, kneeling down and turning the bird over with the stick. Sandy put a hand over her mouth, coughing a bit. Derek looked back at her, “Does this disgust you?”
“Well it’s not like you’re playing with a puppy.”
“Did your parents ever have ‘the talk’ with you?” Derek asked, making quote marks with his fingers when he said that, and Sandy smirked.
“Don’t do that,” she said, half laughing, “And yeah, they did. They didn’t have it with my brother. They figure it’s ok to give it to the girl, because it’s her job to be responsible, make sure to use protection. Apparently men can’t be bothered.”
“That is some serious patriarchal bullshit,” Derek said, “My dad had ‘the talk’ with me when I was, I don’t know…maybe 15? Like 3 years after already jacking off constantly. A little late to the game, dad, but whatever. I was happy he did though, like, sure it was uncomfortable at first but in the end, his advice came in handy. My parents never talked to me about death though.”
“No, like, I had an aunt that died when I was like 11, and we went to her funeral and everything, and they told me she was sleeping. Like, I was 11 for christ sakes, and they still fed me that bullshit. Why would they give me the talk, and then just gloss over death. Like, of those two things, death is the way more important one, I think. Sex is a decision you make. You CHOOSE to participate in that. Nobody chooses to die. I mean, I guess suicidal people do, but still.”
Derek stood up and wiped his hands on his pants, then looked at the glass door on the wooden porch that led to the kitchen, where he could see his mother and mentally challenged sister sitting at the kitchen table, doing a puzzle together.
“While my mother was pregnant, they learned that the baby might have some brain damage. They were given the option to abort her, in case they didn’t want to have to deal with that. It was never in the baby’s favor, by the way, it was always ‘in case WE, the ADULTS can’t handle it’ not ‘let’s spare this child pain and misery’. Anyway, they obviously didn’t, but that’s how they explained death to me. They talked about, ya know, aborting her and what that would mean, and they asked how I felt about that. I was like 9. The thing is, all I got out of that conversation was that my sister hadn’t even been born yet, and was going to have mental instabilities that she wasn’t to blame for or could control, and they might kill her. I’m not pro life by any means, but as a 9 year old, that set a really weird standard in my head. Your child isn’t even born and they might not want or love you. Certainly made me try and be perfect in their eyes from then on, cause I was a kid, and I didn’t want them to abort me somehow.”
“That’s fucked up dude,” Sandy said, as they sauntered over to the picnic table in the backyard, next to the plastic playground, and took their seats at the table. Derek watched Sandy fidget, clearly a bit cold, and he took his scarf off and wrapped it around her neck, holding onto the ends of the scarf and pulled her close, their foreheads landing on one another. Sandy smiled and shut her eyes.
“They also never teach you in school what to do if someone hurts you,” Derek said.
“No, they don’t. I imagine because everyone deals with it differently,” Sandy said, their eyes opened and locked now, both breathing somewhat heavily. Derek leaned in and pressed his lips against hers, his warm breath making her shudder. A few seconds into kissing her, the backdoor opened and his mother and sister came out. The kiss broke apart, and they went back to sitting there.
“Derek,” his mother said, approaching the table, “Are you staying for dinner, or do you have other plans?”
“I guess we could stay,” Derek said, glancing at Sandy, who was blushing and nodded, affirming his decision. As his mother smiled and walked over to the playground where his sister was playing on the swings, Sandy looked at Derek.
“If one of us dies, can we promise to haunt the other?” Sandy asked.
“I think we can swing that,” Derek said as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it for her. Sandy took it and placed it between her lips. She smiled and blushed as she exhaled the smoke into his face and he laughed.
“I wish they had taught me more useful things,” Derek said, “I don’t know how to balance a checkbook, but thank god I know what the volume of a cylinder is. How to handle heartbreak, how to deal with death, how to be careful with sex…none of those things are important, apparently.”
“Sometimes it takes another person to teach you, not an educational facility,” Sandy said, coughing, and Derek looked at her, then looked back at the bird, and sighed.
“Let’s take him home, clean him up and make him part of the family,” Derek said, “He might be dead, but he doesn’t have to be alone.”
Nothing will crush a childs soul more than sitting on a curb, waiting for your parent to come get you and spend time with you, and then never showing up or calling to explain why. As a little girl, I experienced this on endless occasions. My father would call, say he was excited to see me, say all the fun things that we were going to do that weekend, and then I’d sit on the curb in front of our house and wait for him…but he’d never come. Sometimes he wouldn’t even call to say why or even make up excuses as to why. As a child, my mother told me it was because he was doing drugs or drinking and just couldn’t stand the pressure and was controlled by their influence, and while that may be the truth, that’s not how a child hears it. A child has to trust adults. We have to believe in them because who else can we believe in if not for the people who not only gave birth to us but have lived much longer than we have? No, a child hears that as “they just don’t care about you”.
So as I got older, I simply learned not to trust anyone. ESPECIALLY my parents. You start to believe nobody cares. That you’re just simply not all that important. This may not do it for every kid, but for me, it absolutely started me down a spiral of everlasting depression that I still have to this day. I just wanted to know SOMEONE legitimately cared. The thing is though, when you grow to have that much distrust, when someone tells you they DO care, you don’t believe them. Their actions, their words, they’re never enough. You’ll always have a constant, lingering belief of untruth. I’d grow to have a few very close friends, allow them access to my life and the deepest parts of my psyche, and when I finally started dating girls I did the same thing and ultimately I always knew they’d hurt me. That they’d leave. And they did. This eventually led to some extremely twisted beliefs such as when my grandparents died that they did so to get away from me, despite the fact that my grandparents were the only people I ever fully, 100% believed loved me as much as they claimed they did.
In the end, I started begging people not to leave me. I would make my girlfriends and friends promise not to leave and hurt me “like everyone else has always promised and still done”, I’d always tell them. I realize now that this was pretty psychologically abusive in many ways on my end, but it wasn’t intentional. I was truly sick. I didn’t recognize at the time the pressure I was putting on people by asking them that. I don’t want to be that kind of person, but I also don’t want to be the kind of person who can’t believe a word anyone says to me. People often like to use the phrase “Well why didn’t you say anything about this when you were a kid?” whenever you try and explain your current adulthood mental health, or as I did, when you come out. Why didn’t I say anything about how your abandonment made me feel? Because we’re children. We don’t know how to put that into words, and even if we did, nobody listens to children because they’re considered “not developed enough to form that sort of cohesive thought”. It’s a lose/lose scenario. Not to mention we’re scared. We simply want everything to be perfect. To be right. The thing about life is that you’re born into the world with no indication of good and bad. You simply learn about those things by experiencing how shitty or great life can be. If all you experience growing up is bad things, then it’s pretty safe to assume that ALL of life is bad, forever and ever, until you die, which is also considered bad, if the fear of death we have in this country is anything to be believed.
But I’m still here. That’s one way of knowing I’m doing something right. The one thing I have to always remind myself of. That despite everything I’ve been through and how terrible I’ve felt and how poorly I’ve been mistreated or mistreated myself, I still exist. I must be strong. I must be powerful. I must have some sort of strength and beauty to make it this far, given all that I’ve been through. You can tear off a unicorns horn and try t beat it to death with it, but it’s still a unicorn. I’m not sure what I was trying to express here. I guess I just wanted to ramble. It IS a blog, after all. I guess my end point is that I come from probably the most mentally abused and psychologically damaged generation there has been, and I simply wish to get better. I simply wish to help others get better too. I’ve done nothing in my life if not try to make others feel better than anyone’s ever made me feel. I don’t want anyone to feel as alone, and sad and unloved and forgotten as I’ve felt. I’ve gone out of my way to make sure people I know don’t feel that way because I’ve felt that way the majority of my life and it’s awful. Truly awful. I’m going to end this by being realistic and say that I don’t want life to be great. Good might even be overshooting it.
I’d simply settle for it being tolerable.
And the fact that tolerable is what most of my generation aims for is simply depressing in and of its own right.