This will be short.
A lot has happened and piled up. So, I’m shutting it all down. This is my last blogpost here.
This will be short.
A lot has happened and piled up. So, I’m shutting it all down. This is my last blogpost here.
Lately, a friend of mine has been heavy on my mind. I don’t know why that is. I haven’t talked to this friend in awhile or seen him or anything of the sort. About a decade ago, he took his own life. I’ll never forget that, the pain of losing somebody to suicide.
Just to respect his privacy, let’s simply call him Ben. That’s not his real name, but I don’t want to cause any problems by using his real name. I was honored to have known his real name. You see, Ben was the guy in high school who had it all: the ladies, the popularity, the good looks. Ben wasn’t a jock, no. He was able to get along with most people and, on the side, he had his dealings with some drugs and alcohol. But what can I say? His charisma was alluring and, to be fair, my closeted ass may have had a crush on him.
I remember we talked a little during high school, but we really developed a friendship a year out of high school. I ran into him at a video store, an ancient place where one would rent their movies. We connected, exchanged numbers, and we would talk on the phone about life and all it had to offer. I remember he asked me to go with him to a AA meeting and I agreed.
I was stood up while listening to the All American Rejects hit song “Move Along.” After waiting for Ben for a half hour, I decided to do just that–move along. Though, we connected later. He wanted to hang out and considering my need to forgive people and, well, move along, I agreed. He came over to watch movies and we had sleepover because that was still fairly acceptable. Because I only had one bed, we ended up sleeping in the same bed together. Nothing scandalous happened, but we did give each other back massages at his insistence.
What? I wasn’t going to say no. It was his idea!
Our friendship developed from there. We would chat on instant messenger, he’d come over a few more times, and then there was the last time we would hang out. He asked me to pick him up and for me to take him downtown so he could drop something off to his cousin. Being a good friend, I agreed. I remember he had me park on the side of the street in some unfamiliar neighborhood. He said he’d be back, got out of my car, and climbed into a tinted vehicle. He was there for a solid ten or so minutes before he came back.
Yes, in hindsight I realize I was too innocent to realize that he had asked me to drive him to a drug deal. It must’ve been successful for him; he was pretty happy.
Anyway, we went back to my place and watched some movies. Then it was time for bed because at that time he had agreed to go to church with me the next day. Brace yourself for the irony about to follow.
We slept in the same bed, but we didn’t sleep. It was massage time again but this time while he was laying on his stomach, he asked me to massage his butt and proceeded to pull down his pants. I was too stunned to decline and my closeted gay ass was not about to complain. We proceeded to have conversation while this went on. I remember thinking it was probably not typical for a heterosexual guy to be okay with another guy massaging his bare butt. It almost became something else but he was tired and we went to sleep. After all, we had church in the morning.
Months would go by after that. Within that time, Ben would lose his father. I remember we chatted online about how much he missed his dad. He was broken. I told him I’d always be there for him, he just needed to call. Sadly, at that time I didn’t realize that the cult I was in at the local church would discipline me for admitting to a church friend I watched porn. (Joke is on them! I wasn’t watching straight porn!) However, my punishment via the cult I was in was for them to take away my phone. It was messed up, I know. Even more messed up is that I agreed to this lunacy.
Months later, Ben took a shotgun to his head. I found out about it while I was at a church service, and I was devastated. Absolutely broken.
And I couldn’t help but wonder if in his last moments he had tried to reach out to me, to ask for help, but couldn’t get ahold of me because some cultists thought it necessary to keep my cell phone because I’d looked at porn.
To top it off, I had to ask permission to attend Ben’s funeral because the cult program I was in said I couldn’t be trusted to go anywhere alone. Luckily, another friend of mine in the church knew Ben and went with me. Trust me. I now look back and wish I could tell the fools at that church how messed up they were to make me ask permission to go to a funeral of a friend of mine. I have lots of messed up church/cult stories. But that’s not the focus here.
I miss Ben.
I think about him every so often, wondering where he would be today. Successful? Family? Wife? Or maybe it would be a husband? I feel like he was curious, so maybe he was bisexual. Maybe he was gay. Maybe he wasn’t either of those things. We’ll never know, but I wonder if he was a prisoner of his own mind in that realm. Afraid to be his true self. I know he was in pain. He felt alone and was hurting. His circle of friends, to him, was shrinking (though a lot attended his funeral). I often wonder if he and I still would still be friends? Or would we have a fallout?
I don’t know. I like to think that there is a universe out there in the great multiverse where Ben is still alive and well, where he never pulled that trigger.
You may ask, “Josh, why is Ben on your mind so heavily lately?”
I really don’t know. It’s been intense. Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep because I could only think of Ben which made me thing of the younger version of myself. And I wish I could go back in time. While I was hiding my sexuality from everybody, I feel like some of those moments where easier than the ones I find myself in now. And in some ways, not.
I’d like to think Ben and I would still be friends today.
I wish I could have an hour to talk to him one last time. To ask him why he did it and how he made the decision and whether or not he tired to reach out for help. I wish I could reverse it so it never happened.
Again, I don’t know why he’s on my mind so much. Maybe it’s because I feel alone and hurt with some of my current situations and it’s causing me to long for nostalgia because then I don’t have to worry about the here-and-now. Instead, I can romanticize a life prior to all this current shit. A time with less complications and a dash of more innocence.
And no, don’t panic. I’m not taking a Ben route. That’s not what my blog posts indicate. I’m just finding it helpful to write down what I’m feeling and everything, to throw it out into the cyber-world and see what happens. I’m shouting into an echo chamber, I’m sure. This blog is just a way for me to understand and cope an try to make sense of what doesn’t make sense now. It’s a way for me to write down my pain and explore it. And for some reason my pain is time-traveling.
The pain of Ben’s death is gnawing away inside my chest as I type.
I wish I could go back.
I wish Ben were still here.
I wish things were better.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. 2020 is the year of the Metal Rat. I was doing some reading on the Chinese Zodiac signs. The rat is the first animal in the Chinese calendar cycle and, in Chinese culture, rats are actually considered a sign of good luck.
As this is the first animal in the cycle, the Year of the Rat is a sign of renewal that indicates new experiences. The attachment of metal to this particular year is said to symbolize success.
We are entering a new decade. That in itself seems symbolic enough to me of a year of renewal and new experiences.
And it’s something I want to take to heart.
If you’ve been following my sporadic posts and adventures throughout the year, you know I’ve been dealing with a lot of changes. I’ve been speaking my truth. I’ve laid everything out on the sand while also drawing lines where necessary. I’m going to enter 2020 free.
And I’m yearning for more adventures, desperate for them. My favorite memory of this past year was definitely my adventure in California. I adored that time and I passionately miss it. I wish I could afford to go back, but finances aren’t looking promising in that regard. It’s simply an experience I’ll never ever forget. I hope it is a preview of what’s to manifest in 2020.
Interestingly enough, 2020 is the target for perfect vision. So we have clear vision, success, and new experiences attached to kickoff of a new decade.
Ten years ago, I was a terrible person. I was close-minded, said I was “color-blind” which is a highly racist thing to say, I was intolerant, fighting my true self, and didn’t think about my opinions–only went with what my family said.
Ten years later, and education has taught me a lot about the world. My perspective (2020) has changed. I’m more open-minded. I’m openly gay. I see race so I can help fight against racism, but also appreciate the diverse cultures in the world. I’ve learned the power of research. I’m not the “cookie-cutter” person I was told to be my whole life.
I’m entering 2020 hoping to still grow and learn, as there is much to still uncover.
I’m entering 2020, a year where I will gain my Master’s in English and Creative Writing and, hopefully, be accepted in another Master’s or Doctorate program for Equity and Diversity in Education.
I’m entering 2020 with a clear vision and momentum for the novel I’m working on–the foundation of my California trip.
I’m entering 2020 with a goal to disconnect more, to reconnect with nature, to make a difference where I can.
I’m entering 2020 proud of what I’ve become, eternally grateful I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago. That guy was awful!
This is the Year of the Metal Rat, the year of new experiences and success.
How will it define you? Or how will you define it?
Bought January 2019:
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Literary Theory: A Complete Introduction by Sara Upstone
Books Read January 2019:
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Before we begin…
I got this idea from a collection of similar essay from Nick Hornby in a book I flipped through one Sunday afternoon at Barnes and Noble. It was called Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books. This book collects various essays from Nick where he listed the books he bought every month and complemented it with the books he actually read every month. I thought it was a neat idea; I was inspired. So, why not give it a go for myself on this 2019 journey?
Aaaaannndddd as you can see my reading game is pretty poor, while my buying game is killing it. The irony is that I have no money to buy the plethora of books I do. However, if I don’t buy books when I see them or when they are recommended to me, I fear I’ll forget they exist and they’ll always be lost in the Book Void. We can’t have that now, can we?
Even though I did read a total of one book during January, I managed to read most of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Talefor my grad course. You should probably know a few things about my life, which may or may not reveal why I only completed one book during the first month of the year.
So, as you can see, I have a lot on my plate. Reading time should be natural to me, considering my profession. However, it’s not. Sometimes my mind is so drained at the end of the day that the only thing I can be is a human vegetable in front of the TV while cuddled up with my dog. Oh, there is also the small detail that I bought a 3000 piece Power Rangers puzzle because, well, it’s morphin’ time. I completed the puzzle, don’t worry. It’s now hanging on my living room wall in all its morphinominal glory.
This will probably make things seem worse, but I finished One of Us is Lyingwithin a 24 hour period. I started one cold Saturday night. I fell in love with the four main characters and got so wrapped up in the mystery of the novel. I. Could. Not. Stop. After all, the premise is that five kids walk into detention and only four come out alive. Who killed Simon? I had to know. The next day I did some grad work and jumped back into the book because I had to finish it before Monday. Some of my students raved about the book, and I wanted to talk to them about it. Also? I didn’t want it to be spoiled for me. So I stayed up until 2:00 AM Monday morning to finish. It was such a wild ride. I enjoyed the characters and the building mystery. While I didn’t figure out who the killer was before the reveal, I did figure out one of the main character’s secrets (oh, they all have juicy secrets!) so I felt a little accomplished.
After finishing that mystery, I had to buy her second novel Two Can Keep a Secret, where it has been neglected since its purchase. Literally. I just took it out of the Barnes and Noble bag to place on my bookshelf last night. Poor book. One could say it was… kept as a secret. Beyond that, I went into a mystery crave so I bought The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, where a murder happens and the main character wakes up in the body of a different suspect every day. It’s been detailed as a “Groundhog day meets Agatha Christie” so I was sold on that. I’m supposed to read it alongside one of my best friends. She’s started it; I haven’t. Oops.
Dear Martinand Uncommon Type were both strongly recommended to me, so I bought them on a whim while I discovered This is Where it Endsand The Lost City of the Monkey Godon the Barnes and Noble featured tables. Honestly, their buy two get one free table gets me every time. The first half of January I was playing the latest Tomb Raider video game, so The Lost City of the Monkey Godcalled out to me as it details the true story of an expedition team searching for, well, a lost city of a monkey god, of course. This actually happened back in 2012. I’ve always been fascinated with treasure hunts with the full realization that I’d never survive a said expedition. Like Indiana Jones, I don’t do snakes. At. All. EVER. To prove my point the first two chapters of the book discusses a particular snake that is so venomous that it, essentially, melts away your flesh. This snake was going to be in their path and, despite this, they still went on the expedition. Fools. I am content to read about it from the comfort of my snake-free home. I never got past the first two chapters because of grad work. It’s become my read before bed book. Maybe I’ll finish it by the end of February.
I did spend the majority of the month reading The Handmaid’s Tale. I just finished the book yesterday, so I’ll add it to “read” list for February’s post. However, it was a witty and great read during January. There’s so much to dissect and it made me want to go back and watch the Hulu show all over again. Maybe this time I’ll actually get into the second season.
Well, that about sums up my first months reading adventure. I hope I fare better during February (sneak peak: so far, I’m not!) Anyway, hope you all have a great reading month. If you have any suggestions, let me know. See you at the end of the month!
The quick sputter of dirt and debris hitting the metal hull of my parents’ Rav4.
My mom’s gasp of terror.
The sight of a vehicle on the opposite side of the highway soaring through the air.
The sickening sound of metal crushing against the overpass behind us quickly followed by the earth-shattering thud as the airborne vehicle slammed into the grassy median.
It’s been almost a week since my parents and I witnessed the fatal accident–almost a week, and I’m still trying to grasp (or maybe unsee?) what happened.
Those sight and sounds we heard that day is something you’d see and hear in any high-action scene in a movie, one where maybe the hero of the movie is in the soaring vehicle I saw and, yet, miraculously survives to save the day because it’s a movie. Or maybe it’s the moment where the bad guys went and screwed up, suffering an instantaneous fate of crushed metal and gore. But, unfortunately, this wasn’t an action movie. There were no heroes or bad guys.
This was real life. And I was a witness to it.
I remember being shell-shocked as my dad continued speeding down the busy highway. I wanted him to stop, silently pleading him to stop, but I knew he wasn’t going to. I wanted to help, trying not to picture what the end result of the accident looked like. Pulling out my phone, I dialed 911 for the first time ever and gave them the details that I could: “On 475 North by Airport Highway…car soared through the air at full speed…slammed into the overpass…only one vehicle involved…I don’t know what caused it…yes, my name is Josh…we…we just passed it…”
Meanwhile, my mom was crying in the backseat, throwing up desperate pleas to God to be with the person in the car.
My dad, with a solemn face, seemed to sense my unspoken desire to want to stop–to pull over and rush to the aide of the victim. With a grave voice he said, “We can’t stop. I’ve been trained in first aid classes that when you see something like that, the worst thing you can do is stop on the side of a very busy highway.” He paused. “I hate to say it, but with that impact, whoever was in that car probably didn’t survive.”
My mom continued to cry for the stranger she didn’t know. That’s who she is, a woman with a heart for anybody.
I continued to stare ahead at the highway, moving closer to home. I mean I stared, but I don’t know what I was seeing because my mind and thoughts were miles behind us at this point. I knew my dad was right; I knew it could’ve caused another accident had we pulled over. But at the time I didn’t care. I’ve never seen something quite like that.
How could something like this happen? It had only been two days since Christmas, a day full of family and cheer. It wasn’t fair to whoever was in that car. It wasn’t right.
Our journey home continued, arriving to safety to turn on the news, very somber and in disbelief. Turns out the man behind the wheel lost control of his vehicle. The vehicle was wrapped around the overpass column. He was 52 years old with a family. My mom is friends with somebody who knew the guy.
Dead on impact.
I know I wasn’t in the accident. I know I didn’t lose anybody that day, but seeing something like that does weird things to your mind. And maybe that’s odd to say because maybe it’s detracting from the reality that a human life was stolen from the world. I don’t know. But how could it not make one think? The rest of the night that’s all I could think about. It’s all I could see. It’s all I could hear. Over and over and over again.
In mere seconds, everything changed for that man. Life ended for him.
Maybe he was on his way to see his family. Or maybe he was out to grab a bite to eat. I don’t know what his plans were, but I do know he didn’t plan on dying on December 27th, 2016. That’s usually not something people plan on. Death is just something that happens. It storms into life and carves you right out of it, leaving sorrowful holes in the lives of those left behind in its destructive wake.
What’s weird is that accident wasn’t the first time that day that we experienced the carvings of Death. No.
Hours before that accident, my parents and I were on our way to see Rogue One–my second time and their first. Naturally, I was scrolling through social media, excited for the movie, when five gut-wrenching words showed up on my feed: “Carrie Fisher Dead at 60.”
My heart had stopped.
I couldn’t believe it.
Death began scratching away at my heart.
Princess Leia, a woman I grew up admiring for her bravery and willingness to rebel against injustice–dead. And to find that out while we were on our way to see the new Star Wars spinoff movie? Weird. It brought a deeper meaning to the movie while we watched it somehow, even though Carrie Fisher technically didn’t star in this one.
After the movie, before we drove home, before the awful accident, I’d convinced my parents to walk over to Barnes and Noble since it was next to the theater. I collect Funko POPS! and I wanted to get one of Princess Leia to honor Carrie Fisher in some way. Maybe it’s silly. But I had to. I remember viscously searching the collection Barnes and Noble had to offer. Like a starving animal, I shoved aside the ones that didn’t interest me on the shelves, hoping I’d find one of her, but she was nowhere to be found.
Nearly defeated, I walked up to the help desk and asked the woman if they had any of her. She smiled at me with almost a sad smile, reached behind her, and offered me the Funko POP! of General Leia from Episode VII.
“I knew somebody would come in today looking for her. Here ya go.”
I grabbed that Funko POP! and almost got a little emotional because, I don’t know, the reality of losing an actress I respected kind of hit me and I felt like I held a small piece of her legacy in my hands. You can judge me all you want. I didn’t personally know Carrie Fisher, but I don’t think I had to in order to admire the woman she was–one who spoke her mind without a care about how it made her look to the world, one that was very open and human about her struggles, and one whom fans have reported to be absolutely loving and kind. She was a battle-scarred goddess.
Minutes later, after my purchase, I was looking at that same Funko POP! in my hands while my dad drove us home. I was holding the cartoonish representation of the deceased Carrie Fisher when the sound of crushing metal announced more death that day.
Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m trying to find meaning in something that has no meaning at all. But that day, to me, was a day of death in various ways. The death of a beloved celebrity and the horrific passing of a man I didn’t even know. In both situations, death had its way. It tore loved ones away from each other, only leaving unanswered questions in its wake like a penultimate episode of LOST.
Regardless, my mind hasn’t stopped going back to that day. Every day since when I’ve gone out to my vehicle to go somewhere I stop and wonder, “Is this my last time getting in my car? Will Logan, my adored fur-child (dog), get to see me again? Will my family get a call they never expected?” It’s hard to predict because you never know.
Or I’ve been going through my days almost apprehensive because I’m afraid that maybe I’ll get a phone call from a loved one reporting bad news. Why? Because Death plays its game in mere seconds, destroying all those around it.
These have been my thoughts over the last week. However, I want to be clear that I’m not sitting here wallowing in fear and pity. I’m not letting the possibility of death ruin me. No. I think what I’ve come to realize is that you can’t live your life in fear of death because it happens one way or another. But you can live your life to its fullest every day, despite how insanely cliche that sounds.
You can live your life with meaning and purpose, a life full of unadulterated passion.
You can live every day as if it is your last. (Yeah, I know, I’m getting deep into the cliches! Sue me–just don’t expect much money if you do.)
But is cliche so bad in this situation? Because if you adopt that mindset, you set yourself up for success no matter what you do. Living a life with no restrictions, to its fullest, doing the things you love, not letting excuses hold you back? Well, it changes you and impacts those around you. It doesn’t carve holes into peoples life like death does. No, it plants seeds of power in the lives of those around you–in the life you’ve been granted.
And isn’t that the beauty of being alive? To make those impacts? To nurture those seeds to fruition?
Because, after all, how you live your life is exactly the thing people will remember you by.
How that man lived his life, is how his family and friends will always remember him.
Carrie Fisher’s approach to life will always be scrutinized and studied by all those she impacted–or didn’t impact.
The fruits of life take years and even decades to grow while death, in all its power, ends it in mere seconds. However, death can’t undo the way you live your life. It has no power there.
Because life is a legacy and legacies can’t be truly destroyed. You never know when your time to build it will be up. You never know when that buzzer will ring, ending your watch, but when it does what will your legacy be?