Insecurity

There used to be a time when I wasn’t the most confident person. Shocker, I know. I’m sure we can all think of a time in our lives where we were less than satisfied with who we are. Man that was a weird sentence. Not even quite sure if it’s grammatically correct. Ah, well.

This specific time was in college. I’ve always been kind of a bleeding heart in a way. Except, you know, every complex emotion I felt ended up converted to anger before it escaped from my mouth. I’m still kinda like that. Less moody.

Ever since I was a kid, it’s always felt like something has been missing in my life. Maybe you’re familiar with this feeling, too. Like there’s a tiny imp in the pit of your stomach eating away at those nerves down there. Is that a cool simile? Whatever, people always describe loneliness as having to do with their stomachs.

I used to always think that that hole needed to be filled with a girl. Um, yeah I’m gonna stick with that wording. Or with friends. I can remember never wanting to be alone. I always latched on to groups of friends that I spent exorbitant amounts of time with. And there was always some girl that I was pining for. Rarely was that girl ever pining for me.

But I was fickle. I remember that. I’d always get so infatuated, then I’d get my heart broken when I got rejected. And I’d cut that girl out of my life in typical shithead-high-schooler fashion. Though, when I actually got the girl I quickly became uninterested. I just couldn’t put in the effort to actually date the girls I was obsessing over. In retrospect, I was a real fun person. The weird thing is people liked me. I think maybe they liked me because I was kind of an asshole. I’m still kind of an asshole, but in a more sardonic-jokey way. I try really hard not to make shitty remarks at the expense of people I care about, and I do my best to humble myself and apologize when I see I’ve upset someone. Teenager me was just always right, and even if you proved I was wrong, in my opinion I was right.

I think my heart softened a little when I legitimately fell in love with a girl, who I’m so happy to say is the woman I still get to share my life with today. When I say “a little,” though, I really only mean a teeny tiny bit. I was an angry kid in high school, and I still deal with some of that anger today, and it’s not something to be discounted. It’s a thing I’m aware of, and it’s weird because I’m not so sure where it comes from.

It can be really difficult to see outside of yourself. I’m a very stubborn person. That, I’m pretty sure is genetic. It’s hard for me to let things go. I sound like I’m being hard on myself, but I’ve grown to realize that being self-aware is important. I think we all deal with aspects of our personalities that we don’t like, but it’s important to remember that our weaknesses are general also strengths. I may not be the most graceful at losing an argument, but the same stubborn attitude has kept me from giving up on what I truly want so many times. If I ever gave up my stubborn side completely, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Though I may be a lonely person, this also means I am loyal to those who call me “friend”.

It’s important to acknowledge our shortcomings, because everything can be shaped and channeled into something new. That hole in my stomach has nothing to do with companionship or feeling liked. I realize that now. That hole is there because I have demons I need to work out. Still to this day. I’m not even sure if they’ll ever go away, but the devil isn’t so intimidating when you can see his tricks.

I spent a little over a year living with my sister, three days-a-week. She was in the later stages of metastatic melanoma. As the time passed, I saw her retreat further and further into herself. She didn’t want people to look at her and see cancer. She didn’t want the world to see her. She used to be the happiest person I knew. Not a care in the world. She was afraid of what her friends would think of her. She had this idea that she’d re-emerge when we was okay, and tell everybody the harrowing story of her survival. And they’d all be shocked and surprised. But my sister would have long blonde hair again and look like she hadn’t aged a day. And everyone around her would think how amazing it was to see her standing there seemingly unchanged.
Experiencing that firsthand, sitting up night after night, listening to my sister, hearing how scared she was. It changed me. When she eventually passed, I was devastated. I wanted so badly for her fantasy to come true. Reflecting on that time, I saw so much of myself in my sister. What my sister was doing, the way she felt, was just like how I’d been my whole life. Closed off, only willing to let people see the best versions of ourselves. Stubborn, indecisive, and distant. I made a conscious decision to open myself up. I realized that if I were ever going to feel happy, and close that hole in my stomach, I had to start working on myself. I had to start listening to the people who cared about me. I had to stop sabotaging my relationships with my stubborn ego-driven attitude. I had to swallow my pride.

That was probably around four years ago. I can’t say I’m where I want to be her, but I do feel confident that I’ve changed. But most of all I just feel confident.

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The Male Feminist

I’ve changed a lot in the past few years. I think most people would say that about themselves. We all are in a constant state of flux. Whoever tells you otherwise is just being pessimistic.

My Dad died abruptly when I was twelve years old. We were on family vacation and his heart gave out on him while he was swimming in a cold crater-lake on the top of a mountain in Tahoe, California. My Dad was a strong man, maybe too strong. His fortitude runs in the family, and to this day the members of my family have a strong inclination towards ignoring intense pain. My Mom has it too; she has virtually no cartilage in her knees and is constantly in pain, yet she’s one of the happiest most energetic people you’d ever meet. My sister lost an obscene amount of blood and should have been in a coma, but instead went to the doctor for “light-headedness and cramps” only to discover she had a tumor the size of a softball obstructing her bowels. So, yeah, being out of tune with what your body is trying to tell you is kind of a theme in my family— and it all started with my Dad. The entire back wall of his heart was completely dead, the autopsy would later show. My Dad had sleep apnea, which puts a ton of stress on your heart. On top of that, he did regular cardio which only compounded the damage done to his heart. When he jumped into that frigid-cold water, it was a death-sentence that only could have been foreseen if he’d been regularly attending the doctor.

Losing your Dad is rough at any stage in your life, but at twelve-years old I wasn’t really able to handle what I was feeling. I was just beginning to go through puberty, and the grief of losing my Father pitched me into darkness. I became severely depressed, self-destructive, cynical, and cold-hearted. I still remember the anger I felt at the thought of not having my pain understood by my peers. I had a close-friend tell me, six months after my Dad passed, that my mood swings were too erratic and I was no fun to be around. She said something to the effect of, “It’s been six months, it’s time to get over it.” Oh, the wisdom of middle-school children.

This sickness of the mind only grew as I got older. My Mom saw it in me, my sister saw it in me— and my Mom took the appropriate measures to remove me from a toxic environment. Looking back, it was the best decision she could have made, but I resented her for it at the time. Moving to Brentwood may have saved my life, but things had to get worse first.

I latched on to the first people who showed any interest toward friendship with me. Little did I know, these kids had about as much emotional baggage as I did— but for different reasons. The person who I considered to be my best friend at the time had an abusive-pain-killer-addicted step father, and an absentee mother. He was prone to drug and alcohol abuse, and he was an angry, bitter person. And we got along great, because I was miserable. Together we fueled a nasty mental disease that grew to consume the both of us. Looking back at myself now, I don’t like the person that I was— and still to this day, the the thought of my old self is an affliction that interferes with my self-esteem.

But this story is not about dealing with depression or low self-esteem. This story is called “The Male Feminist,” and I haven’t yet said a single thing about feminism. What I want to establish is that circumstances of my formative years drove me toward being an isolated, asocial, person. That combined with the fact that I come from a family of stubborn-intelligent people gave me a pretty severe know-it-all complex. I’m not proud of the sheer amount of arguments I can recall making from ignorance. I’m not proud of how many people I’ve brow-beaten with seemingly-strong opinions I formed on the spot about complex issues.

I don’t think this whole idea is unique to me. I think people in general are uncomfortable not having an opinion on something, so they tend to strongly state an opinion based on personal experience. At a basic level, this shouldn’t be a problem. People know what they like, and what they dislike— and hopefully they know why they dislike something based on firsthand experience, but I think that is a demonstrably false notion.

People are capable of forming opinions that aren’t based on personal experiences. Some more antagonistic types will form perspectives with the express intention of going against popular opinion. Others will form opinions based on the environment they’re raised in. I’m guilty of it, and if you’re being honest with yourself, you probably are too. There are all sorts of external factors that can sway our judgement, it’s just that some are easier to identify than others. In my own case, my tendency toward asocial behavior made me quite the contrarian when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a vigorous debater. If I disagree with someone, they’ll know it, and they’ll generally like me a little less once I’m done making it known. So, believe me when I say that I’m not easily swayed by the the thoughts of others— and I have virtually no empathy for other humans when I disagree with them. Seriously, it’s bad and I’m working on it.

The Before

Okay, so I think I’ve done a pretty good job of establishing that I’m a hard-headed individual who faces some difficulty changing his own opinion and seeing someone else’s perspective in a heated debate. Being the misguided teenager I was, I of course loved getting political with people and challenging their notions. I was liberal. I hated George Bush. Republicans were idiots. Except I wasn’t liberal. I was nothing. I was a shithead contrarian who enjoyed being subversive, and knew how to bullshit. I grew up in a predominantly white-traditional suburb, and that reflected in the things that I said. I had some progressive views. I definitely strongly felt that LGBTQ people deserved equal human rights; I even remember standing next to a guy holding a “Honk for traditional marriage: Yes on Prop 8” sign, with my own sign that said “Honk if you think that guy sucks.” Yes. Much political. Very protesting.

I’ve come to realize that this is not a very controversial view for my generation. It’s not even really all that progressive anymore. Even far-right republicans say they’re “okay with gay people” these days, even if they don’t think they should get married.

I also vividly remember some very non-progressive things I did at this stage in my life. I remember learning about the female progressive movement in my High School history class, and later that day telling some poor girl in the theater auditorium that women were not fit be in government. My reasoning? I said that female-centric progressive movement of the 1920’s directly caused the great depression. Saying that now, I cringe. What I said was so mean-spirited, and such an obvious load of bullshit. I have lots of things like this that haunt me to this day.

I used racial slurs for shock value. There was a kid in my science class (he’s a close friend of mine still, to this day, which is pretty surprising to me), whose ear I’d whisper the N-word into on a daily basis because I thought it was funny when he’d say, “Oh my god, that’s terrible.” I was a kid, and kids do awful shit, and this thing was particularly awful— but I don’t think I was a statistical outlier. I think this behavior was a direct result of my environment, and plenty of children in the same circumstances have probably done similar things. Suburbs are a bubble filled with people just like you, and it’s easy to pick up on these habits and think them to be completely socially acceptable.

Look at a game like Cards Against Humanity, it is a game that capitalizes upon the idea that people say horrible disparaging things behind closed-doors and giggle about them. The tagline of the game is “a game for horrible people” yet it’s an extremely popular game. To the extent that the company that makes the game has their own island.

I think it would be morally and intellectually dishonest to say I’m a rare case of a suburban child. To this day, returning to the suburbs reminds me just how judgmental people can be purely because of their surroundings.

It doesn’t stop there. In fact, it gets worse before it gets better. I moved to another city, and brought this mindset with me. I took college courses that spoke about the endemic racism and sexism permeates our culture. I sat in my seat feeling bitter and defensive, because there’s no way those teachers could know my personal struggle. Besides, aren’t words just words, and didn’t we solve racism with the abolition of slavery? And didn’t we solve gender inequalities with the women’s suffrage movement? Come on, college teachers, my high school curriculum taught me that this shit is no longer an issue — and my peers validated it for me.

I even dated a girl who was majoring in sociology, with a minor in women-gender studies, and when she showed me the stuff she was reading I treated it like it was utter bullshit. Nobody can tell me about systemic oppression without realizing that I’m oppressed! I’m really not, but my persecution complex was pretty overpowering.

To be fair, I think a lot of men can probably relate to what I’m talking about. Nobody likes when their own soul is called into question. And to agree with feminist notions in the first place is akin to admitting that you may hold some problematic views that inadvertently affect people you care about. It’s a difficult pill to swallow.

The Change

I wish I could say that I was finally swayed by ex-girlfriend to become a feminist, but that’s unfortunately not the case. I ruined that relationship in many ways, not short of constantly disagreeing with everything she had to say about social issues and driving her to the point of tears. We remain awkward friends to this day, but I don’t think I ever formally apologized for the stubborn asshole I was.

No, the first thing that chipped away at me was this thing that is now referred to as #gamergate. Maybe you’ve heard of it? If you haven’t, you probably don’t spend as much time on the internet as me, and good on you for that.

To give you a little background, Gamergate is an internet “movement” that started on two fronts. The first catalyst of the movement centers around a woman named Zoe Quinn, an indie game developer who made a game called Depression Quest. After a recent break-up, Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend starts a website called “The Zoe Post” dedicated to sharing his and Zoe’s emotionally abusive relationship with the world. The website is comprised of chat logs and commentary by said ex. It’s all very bitter and, if you ask me, a little immature. That being said, their relationship was very emotionally abusive, and it is apparent that Zoe Quinn has some emotional issues. I think that’s beside the point, though, because no matter how emotionally fucked up you are you still don’t deserve to have intimate details of your relationship posted in such a public fashion.

The second catalyst of the movement was a woman named Anita Sarkeesian, who created the feminist frequency blog. Sarkeesian successfully funded a project on Kickstarter entitled “Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games,” meant to serve as an empirical examination of common female stereotypes in video games.

Sarkeesian and Quinn were both targeted for seemingly different reasons. As more people read The Zoe Post, internet conspiracy theories started to sprout up about how Zoe Quinn was sleeping around for positive reviews for her game, Depression Quest. On the other side, “gamers” viewed Anita Sarkeesian’s critical views of video games as an “attack on video game culture.” Both women have received an ungodly amount of hate mail and death threats.

Next come the radical conservatives. All of a sudden, these two individual instances of deplorable internet hatred became intrinsically connected under an umbrella called Gamergate. Suddenly, conservative pundits care a whole lot about gaming— and do a whole lot of work to politicize it even further. What we’re left with is a deplorable subculture of hateful individuals who believe that political correctness, social awareness, and challenging the status quo is akin to censorship. Constant allusions are drawn to 1984 in which Social Justice Warriors (a pejorative for anyone who holds a basic level of respect for other humans) are a totalitarian organization with the intention of persecuting those who speak freely.

All of this is when my bullshit meter really starts to go off. I’ve played video games my whole life, I’ve always considered myself a gamer, but reading about this stuff in the news and seeing the disproportionate and irrational response of “gamers” is the first time I ever wanted to distance myself from the culture. I think that if this had been high school, I probably would have been all for gamergate— because my attitude as a teenager very much aligned with the ideals of the gamergate movement. Basically the idea is that the world is fine, and nothing has to change. Yeah, maybe we don’t always depict women three-dimensionally in pop-culture— but sometimes we do, so that’s fine, right? Yeah, stereotypes exist, but only because they’re reinforced by reality. Amirite?

At this point in my life, my viewpoint had already been radically challenged by an awesome college course I took called “Social Geography.” It worked on me because I really respected the teacher. One activity in particular that he did really stood out to me. He had us write down what we considered to be an unsafe neighborhood on a piece of paper, and then without looking at any submissions he wrote of the board what he thought we’d all say. He then proceeded to explain how this entire viewpoint came from where we were raised. The reason we associated nice houses and cleanliness with safety is because everyone in the class room came from The Suburbs. He even went on to say that we probably chose to attend Sonoma State because the campus was designed to mimic The Suburbs. He was an incredibly analytical guy, and his knowledge was so logical to me that it completely bypassed my hard-headedness. I fought it at first, but eventually he turned my reality on its head. It convinced me that I needed to make an effort to hear the other side of everything I stood against. What had I been missing this whole time?

It was a gradual shift in thinking over a few years, but when gamergate came about— when I saw all of the nasty things these people were saying, out of seemingly unwarranted anger, about people they barely knew and concepts they barely grasped— that was it. At that point I decided I needed to change. And then I watched this video:

And it clicked. Suddenly, I realized that feminism was something that was missing from my life.

Now

So, why did I need feminism? I mean, I can now acknowledge that women face a lot of hardship in life. But how does that benefit me, a white middle-class male?

First of all, it has improved my relationships with women and men. Accepting that maybe women face genuine hardship in life got rid of the chip on my shoulder that was left over from feeling misunderstood after my dad died. I thought I had it hard. I’ve had a few tragedies in my life, and I’m not going to discount them, but I’ve never had anyone tell me that what I experienced wasn’t hard— or worse, wasn’t real. Think about it, how often has a woman in your life told you about an encounter they’ve had with a male who felt entitled to invade their personal space? Now, how many people can you think of that would interpret that encounter as a “compliment”. How many people do you know that would blame the scenario on the woman, suggesting that she was dressed provocatively or provoked it in some other way? The most revolutionary thing about getting interested in feminism is I gained the ability to listen, instead of just wait to speak. Think of how frustrating it is to tell someone close to you about something that upset you, and for them to not feel a shred of empathy because they can’t picture that thing happening to them. That’s what happens every time we rationalize a complete stranger’s creepy advances. Being able to listen to someone and empathize is a universal skill, but it’s hard to do when you aren’t willing to listen to half the people in your life.

Becoming a feminist also helped me to eliminate a great deal of insecurity. Like many men, I was pretty accustomed to the idea of being “friend zoned,” which many of you know is a term for when a woman has no romantic interest in you but is tricked into thinking that you may actually be interested in a platonic friendship with her. Being a feminist helped me realize that no woman owes me anything. If they don’t want to be more than just friends, then they don’t owe me a “chance.” I can’t recall a single time a male friend encouraged me to give a girl who was pursuing me a chance. In fact, I can recall pretty clearly a woman who basically stalked me my senior year of high school. Not a single one of my male friends told me I was obligated to give her a chance. But if you were to flip the tables, it’s almost certain someone is going to empathize with the male. “Poor guy, he just REALLY likes this girl and she probably lead him on at some point.” Here’s a nice depiction of what I’m talking about.

Suddenly, when I stopped thinking that women were obligated to give me a shot at romance, I realized that it was also okay to be rejected— and even though someone may not want to be romantically involved with you, it is still possible to have a wonderful, platonic, emotionally fulfilling relationship with a woman. It also helped me to realize that if my intention from the get go is to be romantically involved with a woman, then I need to be honest with them about my feelings from the get go. If they feel the same way, cool. If they don’t, that’s also okay because women are their own people and are capable of knowing how they feel about someone without pity-dating them. It’s actually a little ridiculous to think about. You become “friends” with a woman to demonstrate how clever and funny you are. It works, they actually think you’re friends, then you challenge what you established as a friendship because you had romantic intentions all along and were too spineless to say anything at the start. Then your pride is hurt, you get angry, and you give your friend the cold shoulder because you never really thought of them as a friend to begin with. I can’t recall a single time this has happened to me, but I can guarantee you that every woman in your life has experienced this before.

Finally, feminism gave me the ability to be a contrarian again (lol). I guess not again, as I established before I’ve always been a contrarian— but feminism really satisfies those urges because so much of the populace disagrees with it. I feed off it. It makes me young.

My view

In the end, the reason I truly need feminism is because I’m not masculine. I never have been. My whole life, I’ve been into doing things that are stereotyped as “feminine”. I like romantic comedies, I cry fairly regularly, I don’t like/watch/relate to sports, I love to cook, I naturally gravitate towards children and love caring for them. I’m a big softy.

The problem with the way things are now is that the traditionalist perspective limits us all. Not only does that exclude women from doing things that are traditionally considered “male” activities, but it also keeps men from doing things that they want to do. Because if you are willing to say that women have a specific role that needs to be filled in society, then you also must accept that this casts men as the opposite. In other words, the patriarchy hurts everyone.

In terms of the whole 1984 free-speech-limitation perspective, all I have to say is this: I read 1984, and I can’t think of a point in that book where Big Brother asks the masses to consider the implications of the things they might say to their peers. What I remember about 1984 is NewSpeak. A powerful idea that changing the words you use to describe things either heightens or lessens their impact. There’s a litany of new words and phrases that came out of gamergate: SJWs, cry-bullies, and cultural marxism are just a few. And these were just words created by normal people. At a political level, word-changing for emotional impact has been a tool long utilized by the far right. I’m not saying that feminists don’t make up words, too. Everyone makes up words. My point is that these words are used manipulatively, to create an emotional response and solidify resolve over an issue. And that’s a problem. It further distorts and radicalizes a movement until all you’re left with is pure hatred and an absence of rational thinking.

This is all perpetuated and fueled by the idea of “offense.” A lot of feminist perspectives are written off by detractors as easily taking offense. Donald Trump has fostered a dialogue that we live in a “PC culture,” where the liberal agenda is “limiting free speech so people don’t get offended.”

I think that’s fucking ridiculous. As if casually racist and misogynist people never take offense to anything. In fact, they take offense to being called out on their bullshit. “It’s just a joke, why are you being so sensitive?”

I’ll tell you why I’m so sensitive. It’s fucking 2015, and you still have to remind people that they should be decent to other human beings. That’s why I’m so sensitive.

Updated

I don’t really feel like I know how to write anymore. I’ve had this blog since 2010, and I’ve written 49 posts here. This blog probably represents my largest body of creative work, and all the stuff here was written when I was still a teenager. It used to be so easy to write when I was doing it because I felt like it. I used to think I wanted to be a writer. I aligned my whole life with that. I  majored in English in college, and tried my best to share my writing with the world. I feel like I was always pushing my blog on  social media, even though now I’d be totally embarrassed to share some short story with someone that I wrote in an hour and didn’t even proofread.

I guess the times just changed. No, I changed. When I graduated high school, I was pretty much set to go off to school and spend four years there. I was certain I was going to do it, and I was stoked to be there. That’s reflected in my first year of school. I did incredibly well in every class, even though I was a complete slacker in High School, and I made the Dean’s list. I felt like I was in my element. I always thought I was more intellectual than I actually was, back then (I probably am still less intellectual than I think I am), so when I got to college I felt challenged— and I felt myself rise to it. Then stuff started to get messy.

Heading into college, I had $25,000 in the bank. My grandmother passed away when I was around sixteen years old, and my Mom put the money into a two-year-high-interest account so it would mature right around when I turned eighteen. Now, I don’t blame myself for this, but of course I spent all of that money by the time I was nineteen. Not really on stupid shit, I knew I had to save it because it was all I had to get me through school— but I did spend it on school. And food, when I felt like it. And my friends. I’ve never been too great with money. Always overly generous. I’m constantly offering to pay for things when I really shouldn’t be, but that’s beside the point. I was a kid, and it was the most money I’d ever had, and I did mostly use it to pay for school. Which was not cheap. So, by the end of my Freshman year of college, I had to work out another way to pay for school.

I looked into financial aid, which I luckily qualified for. And I started searching for a job. My sister convinced me to find a job in San Francisco, which seemed like a good idea at the time— but maybe I just wanted an excuse to visit her regularly because she had cancer, and I wasn’t sure how much more time we’d have together. I worked out a schedule that would allow me to go to school 4 days a week, and work at the San Francisco Apple Store the remaining 3 days. I didn’t leave myself a single day to rest. At the time, I didn’t really realize how much that would stress me out. I actually didn’t even realize it was causing me stress until long after it was no longer my routine. My ability to stay on top of things started slowly unraveling at the seams. I started attending class much less so I could have free days, my grades started to slip, my relationships with my new college friends started to deteriorate a little bit— so when Mandy finally died I just decided to give up on it all. Well, I didn’t really decide, more like I just didn’t move and nobody made me.

I took a month off or so to grieve. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just couldn’t really bring myself to do anything. I was exhausted from having no free time. I missed my sister. I was sad. Without a question I needed it. I went home to Brentwood and stayed with my Mom. Eventually she said that if I wasn’t going to go back to school, I couldn’t leave my roommates hanging. I had to move out, and I had to withdraw from school. My brother took me when I decided to withdraw. I know he supported my decision to do so, but I’ve always had this nagging guilt that I let him down when I didn’t decide to return. My Mom took me up a few weeks later to move my shit out of  my apartment in Rohnert Park, and I remember breaking down crying in the parking lot.

By no means do I resent myself for doing what I did in that time, but I do often wonder what my life would be like now if I’d made a different decision when I decided to get my life back on track. You obviously know from the above paragraph that I decided not to return to school. Instead, I started crashing on a friend’s couch on the days that I worked at the Apple Store. I did that for about six months until a friend of mine from Sonoma State asked me if I wanted to find a place with him. This is what I consider to be the beginning of me no longer writing. Remember at the top I said I don’t know how to write anymore?

Since I was only part-time at Apple, I decided that I wanted to see if I could make extra money as a writer. A few of my high school friends introduced me to a regular at their restaurant  who was an entrepreneur. We met with him because he said he wanted to help us get make money off improv/comedy shows that said friends and I had been doing for free. I told the guy about ideas I had to market ourselves, and he asked me if I wanted a job. He offered to take me under his wing, and connect me to some start-ups that he worked with. At the time, it was incredibly flattering. I was probably 20 years old, and had only been working in retail for maybe eight months. I told him I wanted to write professionally, and he offered me a spot on his relatively popular blog where I could get a little more exposure. It all sounded too good to be true, and that’s probably because it was.

I wrote a story about my connection to Apple technology— how my Dad was an OG Apple fanboy because he’d worked there, and I was raised on them because of that— and it was passionate. I’m still proud of that piece because it came from a really personal place, at a time when I was feeling like a pretty strong writer— but things started to go downhill from there.

Eventually I was asked to make regular contributions. Then I was suddenly employee no. 1 and co-founder of our “start up media company.” Entrepreneur-guy couldn’t get me a job, but he gave me one working with him. I’m not saying I didn’t want this at the time. I just don’t think I was well prepared for the added time commitment and the growing-personal-somewhat-unprofessional-business-relationship I was developing with this guy. Writing flipped from something I did because I enjoyed, to a chore. I started writing about things I didn’t care about, because I had to— and though I churned out quite a few articles, and now I look like I’m a professional writer when you Google me (although the articles read like they’re written by a kid), I can’t really say I’m proud of that work. I can’t really say I feel proud about much work that I’ve done for somebody else.  Hopefully, my lack of enthusiasm wasn’t apparent to everyone else who read my stuff.

Things started to weigh on me with this job. I wasn’t producing stuff I liked. I wasn’t sure I even liked the guy I was working for, but I can say it gave me some experience and kept me afloat when the Apple Store alone wouldn’t have. I managed to find a new job, and severed ties with Rocky the retail employee/”professional” writer forever. But I also stopped writing for me.

That’s what this is all about. That’s why I decided to update this blog today. I’m actually starting to create again, and I need a place to put all of my creations. What better place than my largest body of work that was produced by passion alone? So, I’m reviving this blog in order to start putting myself out there again a bit more. I used to write something, publish it here, and immediately share it with the world without even proofreading it. Nowadays, I’m a lot less inclined to share my work, and I think that needs to change. I don’t really use social media (except for instagram) anymore, so I’m not really sure how I’m going to put this out there, but putting it here is a good start. So, here you go. This is a thing that I wrote, and up top is a picture that I took. I created both of these things, and I’m not sure if they’re good, but that’s not really the point.

The Lonesome Cowboy

It all started with a Jackson 5 song, or was it The Dodos? Or maybe it was David Bowie? Regardless, it all started with a song. A song sung by little old drunken me at a karaoke bar in the middle of nowhere, a.k.a. Barstow, California. The bar, aptly named The Lonesome Cowboy, sat parallel to a highway in the middle of a desolate wasteland. When smoking a cigarette in front of the bar, it was easy to observe the eighteen-wheelers that would pass in slow-motion, following the speed limit to their distant destination.
If you don’t get the idea yet, I was in the middle of a fucking hell-hole surrounded by the dead souls that made up the majority of the bar population. As I pounded mixed drink after mixed drink on my military officer’s discount, I charted the trajectory of my life. Solemnly drunk, I sat perched in a barstool connecting the million different branches of a tree back to the tree itself. The tree was me. Unlike the common tree, my branches split outward but eventually came back to one point. They all ended at one eventual conclusion. The conclusion of death. This was a naturally occurring thought process whenever I happened to be inebriated. I had been to war twice, in two different countries. It was only logical for the idea of death to make a regular appearance in my mind.
Something was different about this night. I don’t know if there was something in my drink, or if I had simply decided to forget about my depression. Regardless of what it was, it hit me with the first sip of my fourth whiskey sour. As the night progressed into early morning, The Lonesome began its usual friday ritual. First, there was an emcee. Then, the speakers began to blare music. Then came the light show. One after another, sloshed idiots approached the mic stand and poured out raw emotion in the form of popular songs from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. My typical take on this display was generally something along the lines of: These fucking idiots, look at them making fools of themselves. But, like I said before, tonight was different. Oh yes, tonight was different.
What I had once viewed as a rite of passage designed by imbeciles transformed into a heartwarming social experience. As a particularly large white-trash woman finished a particularly sub-par performance of Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot. I came to a philosophical revelation. Or, maybe I was just trying to prove my superiority to this crowd. Either way, I stumbled out of my seat and made my way to the microphone. I squinted through my temporarily impaired vision at the glow of a small blue screen and selected a song that I knew every word to. I don’t remember what song it was, but it’s an unrelated piece of evidence because it wasn’t my performance that was important. What happened next was truly amazing.
As the tin-can, wordless rendition of a popular song began to bounce of the walls of The Lonesome Cowboy, a truly spectacular rendition of god strode gracefully through the bar’s swinging doors. It was as if someone had turned every light in the bar up to full intensity, and even added additional photo-quality lights. As she floated across the threshold, a breeze picked up to part the hair across her flawless acorn-shaped face and reveal the two cobalt eyes of the Venus herself. Her presence alone lit up the room. I knew from that second that I had to know this girl. As our eyes met, confidence welled up in my stomach and I hit the high notes with ease. I may have just been a drunkard singing tone-deaf notes with immense pride, but her gaze made me feel like I had just won the lottery.
As the song began to fade with the final chorus, I tripped over the microphone cord and exited the stage. Her legs folded perfectly over the edge of a barstool, and she sat with poise and posture. I walked boldly toward her, determined to learn her name, determined to do anything to get her to take me home with her.
“Can I buy you a drink?” I squeezed from my nervously constricted throat. She swiveled around in her seat. I don’t know if I’m biased, but it seemed like every motion she made was perfectly executed. Like she kept every one of her movements from the beginning to the end of her lifetime in a well ordered list stored inside her head. When she looked at me, she saw right through me. The glisten of her smile could blind a man from prolonged exposure.
“Why, of course!” She spoke with a voice that used every extent of her vocal chords. It was like listening to an angelic choir speaking through one person. “I’ve never had a rockstar buy me a drink before.” She smiled again, with a hint of mischief in her eyes.
I sat beside her and ordered another whiskey sour and a lemon drop for her. In retrospect, I think I should have considered that a lemon drop was too sour for a sweet girl like her. “My name’s Andrew.” I stated, trying my best to sound relaxed.
“I’m Holly.” Jesus Christ. Holly. Not only was this girl an angel, but she was Christmas, too.
As the night flew by, I got to know my enchantress intimately. She was a waitress at a truck stop diner about thirty miles up the highway. Though she was cursed with a simple life, Holly loved to read and write. She loved poetry and music. Her favorite pastime was building sitcoms inside of her head. Inside of the intricate passageways of her mind was a cornucopia of original ideas the size of the library of congress.
I felt a strong connection with Holly. We were both intellectuals exiled from society; trapped in the dead-end lifestyle of mediocrity. We agreed that we were never really given a chance to be great. That we had always been held back by one thing after another. I explained how my father died of lung cancer when I was 16, and how I was the man of the house from that day on. Holly explained how she never had a father to lose. Holly said that it was hard to see past the sight lines of a desolate nowhere when you didn’t have any sort of stability. I told her how I had never been able to articulate that exact thought the way she did.
Soon, the bartender announced that it was last call and we’d better get one last drink or get the hell out. In the neon glow of The Lonesome Cowboy’s sign, I stood with my eyes locked on Holly’s. Our breath hung in the air as we stared silently. “Well….” I was lost, I didn’t want this night to end.
“I’ll call a taxi,” Holly said with a disappointed tone. She walked to a pay phone and deposited a quarter. Soon after, she was back. “Look, you don’t have to pay for the taxi if….”
“If….” I looked at her with a confused expression.
“If you want to come home with me.” She smiled nervously.
“How could I refuse that?” I laughed, smiling back.
The first time we kissed that night was in the back of a taxi. The smell of leather filled the air, and our bodies stuck to the seats because the heat was on full blast. You know how there’s that cliché about seeing fireworks the first time you kiss the love of your life? That didn’t happen to me. Instead, I saw my future. I saw the branches of my tree expanding infinitely outward. Death became insignificant as I held Holly’s hand, stationed on a hospital gurney right next to her. Our hearts flatlined at the same moment. I saw our kids playing in a green field in front of a house with a white picket fence. I saw a pregnant Holly struggling to wash dishes in the kitchen sink, and me laughing as I kissed her playfully. There was no way this night wouldn’t go down in history as the best night of my life.
When we arrived at Holly’s single room on top of a garage, it was like we didn’t even have to take our clothes off. It was like they melted away from our bodies with the heat from our passion. I slid my fingers down her smooth legs. I examined her perfect build, and poked her belly button and chuckled. I felt her weightless body positioned on top of mine. It seemed as though we fit perfectly together like a puzzle. I brushed the blonde streaks away from her brow. Small beads of sweat glistened brilliantly on her forehead. Her lips were parted slightly, and her eyes were closed with the gentile relief of a deep sleep. After a while, we laid still and conversed into the early morning. Soon, we could talk no more.
With a night so seemingly perfect, it’s hard to think that anything could go wrong. We had gotten along incredibly. We matched and contradicted each other like a balanced scale. And yet, all good things must have an equally bad thing. I awoke to a pair of eyes. These eyes did not belong to my beloved. They didn’t even belong to a woman.
“Who the fuck are you?” spoke the man. Five o’clock shadow stained his face, and he smelled of liquor, cigarettes, and aftershave. “I’m going to ask you again, who the fuck are you?”
“I’m Andrew.” The man’s expression only grew angrier.
“Okay, Andrew. Now answer this for me please. Why the fuck are you in my house, and what are you doing in my bed?” He snarled, ready to explode.
I averted my eyes from his to see a wedding band sitting on the bedside table. Oh shit, I thought. With one hand, the man grabbed my clothes from the floor. With the other one, the one with a wedding band on the ring finger, he grabbed me by the arm. With one swift motion, I was pulled from the bed. As I stood in my underwear, the man shoved my clothes into my hands and shoved me out his front door.
“You’re lucky that I don’t beat your ass!” With that statement, he slammed the door in my face.
The loud slamming noise and the sight of the door must have knocked something loose in my head, because at that moment I had a flashback to the night before. I saw the night a little differently than I had before. When I approached Holly at the bar, she looked like a deer in the headlights. Her eyes glistened with the remnants of previous tears. Under her left eye was the slight discoloration of a fading bruise. I once again saw my hands tracing Holly’s thighs, but this time I saw that there were bruises under my finger tips. I remembered Holly’s speech about feeling held back in life, but this time there was a frog in her throat and she choked at the end of her sentence.
I knocked on the door of Holly’s home, and sure enough the asshole answered. “What, did you forget something, asshole?” He questioned, grinning with some sort of self-appreciation.
“Yeah, I forgot my–” With that, I reared my fist back with all of my might and delivered a haymaker across Holly’s abuser’s face. He stumbled backwards and took the curtains down with him. He was out cold. I spat at his feet, and began to walk down the highway.

From that point on, I returned to The Lonesome Cowboy on every Saturday night for karaoke. And no, I didn’t come for the karaoke. Each and every time I sat and stared at the doors, waiting patiently for that angel to grace me with her presence, and each and every time I left the bar disappointed. One night, I took a taxi up and down the highway and tried to remember the path to Holly’s, but I couldn’t recall it for the life of me. I must have paid that cabbie at least sixty bucks. After a while, I had given up entirely. I wish I had a number, or that I wasn’t so drunk that night, or that I knew where she worked. I longed to steal Holly away and drive at breakneck speeds towards the borders of California, to start a life with the woman of my dreams. But my wish was never granted, so Holly remained to be just that: the woman of my dreams.

Free write

The people watched as the smokestack crumbled. First, an ember which began at the base and began to wander upwards. As it moved, the surface of the stack began to crack delicately to reveal molten ember underneath. Ash rained from the top of the cylinder, a giant cigarette being flicked on the masses.

The firemen watched helplessly as the situation grew out of control. Their thick yellow jackets being flecked with black soot. A single tear rolled from the eye of a dedicated fireman as he considered the impact this disaster would have on the small factory
town that he was native to.

Before the gates of the refinery stood the entire population of the town. Men, women, and children stood in a staggered formation, awestruck at black mass forming in the skyline. A man stood at the head of the crowd, demanding answers from a police chief who stood at the perimeter of the factory. He exaggerated a shrug to display that his ignorance was equal to that of the crowd.

Plastic synthesis and distribution was the only reason that this particular town was on the map, without the factory the entire economy of the town was directed towards failure. The local politicians thought exactly this as a second smokestack fell with more ease than the first one. Feelings of dread, emptiness, and anger filled the atmosphere and suffocated the townspeople.

Enormous clouds of smoke and soot spanned across a formerly blue sky, and rained over the citizens of the town. The people were too defeated to move, and some even looked straight up. Fires broke out in the factory windows and the firefighters sprung into action, trying to contain what the could of the caustic flames. The police officers moved forward to disperse the crowd, herding them down the path that lead to the refinery.

A thin layer of ash began to settle over each and every storefront and home in the town. A young boy began to draw on the sidewalk with a stick. He drew a home with his family standing in front. Slowly, he detailed the portrait which depicted his sister, his mother, his dog, and his father. He spent extra time on his father, who had gone missing right before the smokestack crumbled.

I Am Become Death

“Show me Guacamole!” There was a buzzing noise, followed by the image of a red X. This family would definitely not win the feud.
Josh turned off the T.V..
1-2-3
Josh turned the T.V. back on.
1-2-3
Then off again.
“Good.” Josh voiced aloud. Normally, this would be considered crazy, but Josh lived alone so it didn’t really matter.
Josh’s living room was spotless, it always was. The couch was exactly 7 feet away from the television, and they were exactly parallel to each other; so they wouldn’t intersect, obviously.
It was night time, but you wouldn’t be able to tell in a home like Josh’s. Each and every light was meticulously and mathematically positioned, so nothing in the house would cast a shadow. The devil hides in the shadows.
Twenty-one three course meals. Each course separated from the other and hermetically sealed. For Josh, this was logical. He was deathly afraid of mold, and he couldn’t eat food that had been touching other food. This explains his special plates: divided into three triangles,  made out of plastic for easy sterilization, and one triangle bigger than the others for the main course.
Josh opened his spotless microwave and slid his special plate into the center of it. He looked at the clock to see how close it was to 6:00PM.
“Three minutes and fifty-three seconds,” he said, accounting for the thirteen seconds that it took to say that sentence and type the cook time into the microwave.
Josh laughed rather hysterically, his mouth full of food. He was back in front of the television, and The Simpsons was particularly funny on this night. Josh could only watch cartoons and gameshows. There was a complete absence of evil in these genres, and Josh was a very scared man. If Josh didn’t have the ability to record these shows, he’d sit in front of a lifeless television screen all day.
Josh Thanatos was more extreme than the textbook example of an obsessive compulsive person. His condition was in control of his entire life. The door of his Los Angeles apartment remained locked for the majority of the day, except when he would receive food deliveries once a week. He wouldn’t have any source of cash if it wasn’t for his sound business investments, which he acquired out of pure serendipity. His OCD caused him to buy stocks with the “godliest” share prices, and these stocks just happened to skyrocket. He was an enormously blessed, enormously strange man.
Josh’s wristwatch chirped wildly, and he looked down at its digital readout. It displayed the time to be six thirty-two and thirty-two seconds.The watch had stopped. That’s odd, he thought; and with that thought, a light flicked off behind him. Josh paused his television.
“H-hello?” he called out. There was no answer.
Josh retrieved a new lightbulb from his laundry-room cabinet. His heart pounded furiously against the confines of his ribcage. He did not like shadows. He did NOT like shadows.
A sense of relief settled over Josh as his fixed lamp clicked back on. He returned to his couch and pressed the play button on his remote. Nothing happened. Still nothing. Josh frantically rammed his thumb against the play button, hoping for a response. Suddenly, the television’s picture distorted and emitted a sound similar to tuning a radio. Slowly, Homer Simpson and the town of Springfield twisted into the shape of a dark sinister figure. A menacing silhouette now filled the screen.
“FUCK!” Josh shouted, throwing the remote at the television. It missed and shattered against the wall.
“Hello, Joshua,” spoke a low voice, with the texture of an atomic explosion.
Josh was shaking violently, and tears were streaming uncontrollably from his clenched-shut eyelids.
“Wh-Who are you?” Josh managed to utter, almost silently.
“You know who I am.” he voice cut through the air with grotesque precision.
“D-d-d-d–”
“Yes, Joshua. I am Death.” Death’s voice filled every corner of the room. There was no way not to hear it.
“Is it my time?” Josh was sitting still now, the shaking ceased, and his eyes opened. The voice had entranced him.
“No, Joshua. Now is not your time, and it won’t be until you repay me what you owe.”
“What? What do I owe you?”
“You’ve lead a charmed life. Did you really think your exceedingly good luck was all by random happenstance?”
Josh’s eyes widened. He looked at his surroundings: a large LCD screen television, a leather couch that costed around five grand, the walls adorned with fancy paintings (some originals, some replicas). He really didn’t have it hard at all.
“What do you want me to do!?” Josh blurted, digging his nails into the seat under him.
“ I want you to replace me.” Death’s voice did not echo.
“But I’m just a human, I would be murdering people.”
“The is no natural death, Joshua. Just well planned murder. You have no choice in the matter. Either you do my bidding, or death becomes history; and the natural balance of nature is destroyed.”
With that statement, Josh blacked out. He awoke the next morning with a piece of paper clenched in his hand. He unfolded it to reveal that it was blank.
“I must have been dreaming,” He said hopefully.
His hopes were dashed as letters began to write themselves on the blank paper. They formed a name: Daniel Levy.
Josh’s stomach turned with the thought of what this name meant. Daniel Levy was Josh’s third grade teacher. He had to kill his third grade teacher.
Vomit erupted from the pit of Josh’s stomach, and he watched the contents of last night’s meal cover his shag rug. What did Josh eat that was bright orange? He raced to the kitchen to get cleaning supplies. Unclean he thought as he scrubbed furiously. Unclean unclean unclean unclean.
Josh deposited his vomit-soaked rags into a plastic bag. Oh God, Josh thought as he remembered why he puked in the first place. “Why me?” he asked the wall. “Why me?” He asked the television. Josh looked at his brown rug, it was bleached white in the area where last night’s dinner had landed. “God fucking dammit!” Josh clutched the edge of his damaged rug and pulled vigorously. His couch tipped from the force. “FUCK!” Josh put his foot through the television. “THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.” One by one, Josh smashed every lightbulb in his apartment. He continued on this path for quite some time. He had to break things, nothing meant anything to him anymore.
In the darkness, Josh pulled his curtains open to reveal the natural light of the sun. He hadn’t seen it in ages. He turned around to see his monstrous shadow occupying the majority of the floor. Nearly everything in Josh’s apartment was broken. His floors were covered with broken wood and glass, and blood was dripping from his hands. Josh stood up. He slid a bloody hand into his pocket, and produced the strip of paper that had inspired his anger. The name Daniel Levy stared defiantly in his face. Josh checked his wristwatch, it was 2:30PM. I can do this, he thought.

Josh extended two fingers of a bandaged hand, between them was a twenty-dollar bill. Josh was in the back of a taxi cab. “Keep the change,” he said to the driver. Josh was dressed as inconspicuously as possible. He wore a black coat over a plaid shirt, and a pair of blue jeans. On his head, he wore a baseball cap with the bill pulled as far down as it possibly could be without obstructing his view. In the interior pocket of his coat was a pair of leather gloves.
Josh walked slowly down the halls of John Adams elementary school. He did his best to look like a parent, and even better to keep his hands in his pockets. He still remembered Mr. Levy’s room number by heart. It was number seven. Josh looked up and down the hallway, it was uninhabited. Josh put on his leather gloves and turned the handle to door number seven. He pushed the door open slowly.
“Hello?” spoke the kind voice of an older man. Josh looked in to see Mr. Levy sitting behind his desk, shuffling through a large stack of papers. The clock on the wall read three twenty-six. “Can I help you, sir?” Josh removed his hat, and Mr. Levy gasped. “Joshua, is that you? My how you’ve grown. Have a seat boy, please. I insist.” He gestured at a green plastic chair adjacent to his desk.
Josh walked through the classroom desks for what seemed like an eternity. His heart was pounding. He looked at the walls of the classroom. They were adorned with the works of many different children, exceptional works that Mr. Levy wanted the world to see. Works that Mr. Levy would never see again. Finally, Josh arrived at his seat.
“What brings you here, my lad? Wow, look at you. You look great.” A tear rolled down Josh’s face as he made eye contact with his teacher, the man who had taught him how to read when no other teacher could. “Josh? What’s wrong?”
“Mr. Levy, I’m here to…” Josh choked on his final word.
“You’re here to what?” Mr. Levy looked puzzled, but the expression quickly turned into a look of terror. “Oh god. No, no no no please.” Josh looked at his hands, then to the throat of Daniel Levy. “I’m sorry. I’m so so so so sorry. I’m a terrible person, and I’ve probably ruined your life.”
“What? What are you talking about?” Josh stared confusedly into the face of his teacher, which was twisted with angst and regret.
“I can’t believe myself. You were the only one, I swear. I’ve never regretted anything more in my life. I’m a monster!” Mr. Levy’s eyes bled profusely with tears.
“I don’t know what you’re-” at that moment, a memory jarred itself loose in Josh’s mind:
Josh sat rather still in a chair. He was a child. School had been over for at least an hour, and he had stayed late to review with Mr. Levy. Josh was looking at flash cards with various words written on them. “Cat,” chimed his youthful voice.
The sound was abruptly stripped from Josh’s flashback, and eventually Josh was only seeing pictures of this particular memory: Mr. Levy behind a camera, Josh sitting in the chair without clothing, Mr. Levy without clothing, Josh crying.

Josh’s gloved hands gripped the seat of his chair. Mr. Levy had done something horrible to Josh, he remembered now. His brow furrowed with anger, and he stood from his chair.
“Joshua, you have to believe me. You were the only one! I’m sorry that it even happened at all!” Mr. Levy retreated into his chair as much as he possibly could. His face was moist with tears, and his hair disheveled from running his hands through it nervously.
“You deserve to die.” A darkness had filled Josh, and his voice was distinctly absent of emotion.
Josh lunged over Mr. Levy’s desk and seized his neck. He felt his thumb close Mr. Levy’s windpipe with ease, a gratifying feeling. Daniel Levy’s eyes rolled gracefully into the back of his skull. He did nothing to fight back, his body only squirmed slightly as his breath escaped him. Josh let go. The limp body of Josh’s third grade teacher slumped back into the leather chair. A chair fit for a teacher.
Josh felt amazing. He felt empowered, he felt like death. Josh was interrupted abruptly by a feeling of intense panic. There was man that he killed right in front of him. Something had to be done.
Josh grabbed the chair containing his teacher’s corpse and rolled it into the center of the room. “What do I do with you?” he directed at the dead man.
He looked around the classroom. There were many desks, but aside from that it was pristinely clean. Josh threw a stack of papers from Mr. Levy’s desk. He had no idea what he was going to. He looked up at the ceiling, and noticed that there were fire sprinklers. Without much thought, Josh removed Mr. Levy’s belt and stood on a desk. He made a loop, and wedged one end securely into a fire sprinkler. Josh struggled to lift Mr. Levy over his shoulder, and stood on his leather chair. He slipped Mr. Levy’s head through the belt and let go. To his surprise, Mr. Levy hung from the ceiling rather convincingly. Josh positioned the chair under Mr. Levy’s feet and began to clean the classroom vigorously. He re-stacked the papers he had knocked over, and positioned the chair he sat in so it looked like nobody had been in the classroom.
“Goodbye, Mr. Levy.” He felt like a crazy person, talking to a dead body. As he left the classroom, he checked the hallway to make sure that nobody was around. He sprinted to the front door of John Adams Elementary, and returned to the normal world.
As Josh walked home, he could not help but feel good about what he’d done. The man that he had killed was deserving. He was filled with a sick sense of pride. I am death, he thought. It was a pleasing thought. He was doing nature’s bidding.
He returned to his destroyed apartment, “Honey, I’m home.” Josh laughed to himself. He never thought he’d feel so euphoric for doing something so monstrous. He examined his apartment, not a single part of it was clean. Josh didn’t care, he didn’t want to clean. In fact, he wasn’t going to clean and he felt fine about that. Josh made his way to the bathroom and flicked on the light. He stared at himself in the mirror, and laughed whole-heartedly. He was holding himself confidently, like a regular human being. He smiled at his reflection. For once in his life, Josh Thanatos felt like he was an attractive man. He felt capable, in charge, commanding. He was on top of the world.
Josh looked at his wristwatch; it was ten minutes until six o’clock. He decided that he wanted to eat dinner out that night.
Josh sat at a table at one of the nicest restaurants in his city. He ordered the most expensive item on the menu, and laughed riotously with his waiter. He drank merrily, and before long he was quite intoxicated.
After five long hours, Josh stumbled out of the restaurant. What a beautiful night, he thought. He walked alone through the well lit streets of inner city LA. Every shop was closed, but every club was open. Josh smiled idiotically at the people waiting to get into various venues. He heard muffled music through their doors, and the voices of many people. Many people who would eventually die, and by his hand. Josh laughed at this thought.
Josh arrived at his apartment complex, and fell like a ragdoll into his bed. He slept better than he had in years.

Josh awoke with a headache. His room was dark, because his blinds were shut tightly. He pulled them open to let the light in. “Good Morning, World,” he said to nobody. Josh sang in the shower as he thought about who he would have to kill on this day. Maybe he would make this one look like a car accident, or maybe he would poison them. Every method seemed enticing.
Josh dried himself off, and put on his clothes for the day: A black polo shirt, a pair of black Dockers, and his finest pair of dress shoes. He found his magic strip of paper in the pocket of yesterday’s jeans. Today’s victim was Evan Lowry.
Evan Lowry. Josh thought hard about this name. He knew that name. Then, it dawned on him. Evan Lowry had made fun of him in High School. Josh was a strange kid, and was prone to being laughed at; but Evan Lowry was the king of these people. He went out of his way to make Josh’s life a living hell. If Josh did anything abnormal, then Evan was there to be an asshole. Josh remembered one time in particular:
He was walking home, counting his steps aloud. Every time he counted a multiple of seven, he would clap. This was his ritual, and it made no sense to anyone else. Suddenly, Josh heard laughter come from behind him. He spun around, but there was nobody there. He continued walking, but his flow was broken, he had to start over. “One-two-three-four-five-six–” someone clapped. Josh looked around again, there was nobody. “One-two-three-four-five–” once again, someone clapped. Josh began to feel anxious, it didn’t feel right. His ritual was disrupted.  An applause broke out behind him. Josh turned around a final time to see a group of kids following him. The group was lead by Evan Lowry.
“Do you like counting, you fuckin’ freak?” Evan displayed an evil smile.
“I-I-I have to,” Josh managed to return.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Do carry on then.” Evan stood nonchalantly, waiting for Josh to begin counting.
“One-two-thr–” The crowd applauded again. “Pl-please stop.” Josh’s throat began to develop a lump.
“What, or you’re going to cry?” Evan laughed maniacally.
“M-maybe.”
“Maybe!?!?” Evan laughed again, this time rather hysterically. “You are a complete nutcase.”
Josh clenched his fists as he tried to keep himself from bursting into tears.
“What? Are you going to fucking hit me? Hit me, tough guy.” Evan spat on the ground, and presented his face to Josh.
Josh swung with all of his might, and connected with Evan’s cheek. Evan stumbled backward. He felt his cheek. An enraged smile crept onto his face. “Self-defense.” he stated, as his fist flew into Josh’s stomach.

Josh grinned as he combed his hair in the mirror. “I’m going to enjoy this, Evan Lowry.” He said to his reflection.
Josh retrieved a phonebook from his kitchen and looked at the L section in the white pages. He called three other Evan Lowrys before he finally found the right one.
“Hello?” Spoke the voice of a bully.
“Evan? Evan Lowry?” Josh said into the receiver, doing his best to sound like an old friend.
“Who is this?”
“You’ll never believe it. It’s Josh. Josh Thanatos.”
“I’m sorry, who?”
“Come on, from High School? The OCD kid.”
“Oh my god, Josh Brandt?” Evan’s voice was surprised.
“No, man. It’s Thanatos. I don’t know where you got Brandt from.”
“Really? Shit, I could have sworn it was Brandt. Sorry man. How are you?”
“I’m normal. I’ve got the OCD under control, and I’m a functioning member of society.”
“No fuckin’ way, man. That’s fantastic. Hey, look… I know I was an asshole to you in high school. I was an ignorant teenager, full of stupid pride. I’m really glad you called me.”
“Hey buddy, that’s all in the past. How about we meet up for a drink. I’d like to see how you’re doing.” Josh began to laugh in his head, it was surprising how easy it was to lure someone into a trap.
“Of course! That sounds great. I’m buying. How about the blue tattoo at 3:00?”
Josh looked at his wristwatch, it was 12:30PM. “It sounds like a plan, I’ll meet you there.” He hung up the phone and began to devise a plan. Josh was going to get Evan drunk enough, and lead him into a dangerous situation. The rest would be easy.
“Who died?” Evan joked as Josh walked in through the swinging doors of the Blue Tattoo. He was commenting on Josh’s attire.
“Haven’t you heard? Black is slimming.” Josh firmly shook the hand of Evan Lowry. Evan laughed. The laugh disgusted Josh.
“Seriously though, you look great. I’m really glad you’re here. Ecstatic.” Evan held up his hand to the bartender. “Two shots of Whiskey please!”
It was surprisingly easier to get Evan drunk than Josh had thought. After a while, Evan was so inebriated that he didn’t even notice Josh had stopped drinking.
“Get this man another beer!” Josh would say playfully, and he and his “old buddy” would laugh in agreement.
As the time passed, Evan descended into a drunken stupor. “But-but seriously man. You’re great. I’m so glad to see you aren’t a freak anymore! Haha.” Evan belched.
“You’re too much, Evan! Seriously man, let’s get you out of here.” Josh carried his “friend” out of the bar, and nobody was the wiser. Josh smiled at his acting job; he believed he deserved an oscar.
“Hey, thanks for this. I was getting really depressed at home. My wife left me not too long ago, and she was really my only friend.” Evan stumbled into the parking lot of the Blue Tattoo towards his car. “Hey, this is an odd question… but do you think you could drive me home? I’m definitely not good to drive.”
Josh’s eyes widened, everything was falling into his lap. “Of course! I wouldn’t want you get in an accident.” Evan handed his keys to Josh. Josh approached the drivers side door of Evan’s red pontiac firebird, the same one he drove in high school, and opened the door.
As they drove, Evan laughed and made even more of an ass of himself. Evan lit a cigarette and rolled down the window. “Do you want one?” Josh shook his head.
Josh pulled into the driveway of Evan’s home. “Thank you so much for the ride, buddy. I had a really good time… Hey, do you wanna come in and see the batcave?” Evan once again laughed at his own joke.
“Shit, with a name like that, I’d be missing out if I didn’t come in.” Josh forced himself to laugh, but he was getting impatient.
“Yeah, so this is it.” Evan extended his arms in what attempted to be a luxurious gesture. Josh looked at Evan’s ranch style home. The floors were wooden, and the walls were decorated with various pictures of family members and friends. His couches were leather, and the throw pillows were decorative pastels. A woman’s touch.
“Wow, Evan. This is a nice place. You must love it.” Josh sat on the arm of the couch. He was filled with silent rage, waiting for the right moment to strike.
“Yeah, it’s pretty nice. But seriously, I know I’ve said it a million times, but today was grea–”
“Today was great. Today was great. Today was fucking great. I get it.”
Evan looked at Josh with a puzzled expression. “Yeah.” he said, adjusting his gaze to his wooden floors.
“You’re a real fucking asshole. You know that, Evan?”
“What?”
“I said you’re a fucking asshole.”
“Why the sudden change of tone?” Evan was becoming emotional in his drunkenness.
“It may have seemed sudden for you, but I never came here to make amends.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m here to kill you, Evan.”
Evan laughed uncomfortably. “Hey, come on man. Let’s stop joking around. I like to joke as much as the next guy but-”
“I know you like to joke. I noticed. You’ve been laughing at your own jokes all day. You fucking prick.” Josh said through a clenched jaw.
“Look, you’re really beginning to scare me.” Evan’s confused tone began to quiver.
“Good. I should scare you, do you know why?”
“Oh god.”
“I am your worst nightmare, you piece of shit. I am death, and it’s your time.”
“Holy shit, you are a fucking nutcase.” Evan started to run for the door, but his attempt was in vain; he tripped over his own feet in a spell of drunken clumsiness. Evan’s head smacked loudly against the wooden floor, Josh laughed. He stood over Evan’s body, and examined him for a moment. Evan had knocked himself out.
“God damn, if you were any more of an idiot, I would have been able to convince you to put a revolver in your mouth.” Josh dug through Evan’s pockets and retrieved his pack of cigarettes. He then proceeded to drag Evan to the kitchen.
“You like to smoke, mother fucker?” Josh turned on Evan’s stove and lit a cigarette with the burner. He blew out the flame and placed the cigarette in Evan’s hand. “Smoke up.”
Josh was halfway down Evan’s street when the house burst into flames. Mr. Levy was a bit sloppy, but Josh felt really good about this one. It looked like a complete accident. A drunk man lights a cigarette, blows out the flame on his stove like an idiot, and falls and smacks his head in a kitchen slowly filling with gas. Josh was damn good at his job.
***
It had been one month, and Josh had succeeded in killing thirty people. A strange thought, though it never occurred to Josh, was that each and every one of these people was linked to Josh in one way or another. Josh was about to realize this connection in a very large way.
He awoke in his apartment to begin his daily routine. “Hello, Death.” He said to himself in the mirror. He brushed his teeth, showered, and combed his hair. He was ready to kill. Josh found his piece of paper, it was folded and stuffed in has wallet behind receipts for various things: bleach, draino, a sledgehammer, gunpowder, rat posion, and many other murder weapons. He unfolded the piece of paper to reveal his victim of the day: John Thanatos.
“WHAT?” Josh read the name again. and again. and again. The name was his father’s.
No no no no no, Josh’s mind was racing. “I can’t fucking do this!” He directed at a pile of trash in his living room.
Josh’s Dad had never wronged him. He was always there to support Josh through thick and thin. John Thanatos had stayed up on countless nights singing to his son in a brightly lit room, hoping that he would fall asleep. John Thanatos had identified every single one of Josh’s rituals, and had done his best to fulfill them so his son’s day wouldn’t be too tough. He was the most supportive, understanding father that a kid with obsessive compulsive disorder could have.
“I’m not going to do it!” Josh shouted angrily. “NO! I’d rather kill myself.”
“You have to. You know that.” A familiar dark voice that ground like a garbage disposal filled the room.
“Fuck you! I’ll never kill my father! I don’t car if I’m death.” Josh turned around. A man was standing directly behind him. He wore an all black suit. His eyes were like staring into a black abyss. Josh knew without asking that this was the body that belonged to the silhouette he had seen that fateful night.
“You have to.” Said Death, with a matter-of-fact tone.
“You can say that all you want, that doesn’t change a thing!”
A sinister look crept over Death’s pale face. “If you refuse, then I will make you.”
“I’d like to see you try!” Josh screamed into the face of Death.
“That was the wrong thing to say.” With that statement, Death reared back with all his might and delivered a punch with the force of a thousand men into Josh’s stomach. Josh looked down to see that Death’s fist was inside of him. “Time to go, Joshua.” Death too a step forward and disappeared completely.
“You sadistic bastard!” Josh screamed, “Why are you doing this to me?”
“It’s your calling, Joshua,” Death’s deep voice echoed inside Josh’s skull.
Josh began to move against his will. Before he knew it, he was inside a taxi heading toward the home of his parents. The taxi driver stared at Josh as he argued with himself in the backseat. “Please stop! I’ll kill anyone else. Anyone!” The taxi driver raised his eyebrow, but kept on toward his destination.
Josh stood on the sidewalk in front of his home. The home that he had grown up in with his loving parents, whose lives he valued more than his own. At the front door, he noticed a sign that read “The Brandt’s”. That’s odd, he thought. His last name had been Thanatos for as long as he could remember. How long could he remember?
Josh began to turn the doorknob. “It’s time, Josh.” Josh looked over his shoulder, Death had exited his body. He pushed Josh through the front door.
“Hello?” came a voice from the kitchen. A pleasant looking old man wearing a plaid shirt walked into the room. His face had wrinkled in some places from smiling too much. His head was balding, and his glasses were as thick as coke-bottles. He was holding a knife, with the remnants of breadcrumbs on it. “Joshua?!” John Thanatos dropped his knife. “Where have you been? Oh my god, my boy! I haven’t seen you in ages!” He approached his son for a hug.
“I’m sorry, Father.” Josh’s face twisted into a look of anguish.
“It’s okay son! What matters is that your here now! You’re mother and I thought you were dead!”
“No, Father. I’m sorry for what I’m about to do, but I have to.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s my calling. Don’t you get it? I was destined to do this!”
“Son, you’re speaking gibberish.” He began to move backwards toward the kitchen. Josh walked toward his father slowly.
“Please, forgive me. It’s your time!” Josh picked up the knife that his father had dropped and raised it high above his head.
“Oh my god!” John Thanatos seized his chest. “Oh. my. m-m-myyyy,” Josh’s Father fell to the floor. He let out an agonizing scream, and began to squirm violently. Then, there was nothing. Josh was perplexed.
“I thought I controlled death? I thought I was the decider! My father just died naturally!” he directed these statements at Death, but Death was nowhere to be found. Josh was alone.
At that moment, the front door opened. Judy Brandt walked in, clutching bags of groceries.
“Hello? John?” She dropped her bags at the sight of her son in the fetal position next to the corpse of her husband.
“Josh? Is that you?”
“M-m-mom… I’m not death, am I?”
“Sweetie… Where have you been? Nobody’s seen or heard from you ever since you escaped from the asylum.”
The Asylum? Josh had heard this word before. Only then did he remember:
Josh Thanatos was not Josh Thanatos at all. He was Joshua Brandt of Los Angeles, California. Josh Thanatos was the name of his first victim, the man whose identity he assumed after he escaped from an insane asylum in Hollywood, California. Why was Josh in an insane asylum? He was not an obsessive compulsive at all.
Josh remembered vividly sitting in a chair in front of a panel of doctors and psychologists. The diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. Josh had been committed after he told his Mother that he had participated in a conversation with death in his bathroom mirror. Evan Lowry was right, he was a nutcase.

Josh stood up from his fetal position, and stared his mother directly in the eye. “Mom, I’ve been a terrible person.”  Josh was still clutching the knife in his right hand.
“Sweetie, it’s okay. Just put the knife down. Please.”
“No. I can’t”
“Yes you can. Put it down, and we’ll call the asylum.”
“No mom, don’t you understand? I don’t deserve to go there!” Josh raised the knife high above his head. Judy Brandt screamed loudly as the knife came down. Josh had stabbed himself in the chest. As the blood pumped from Josh’s wound, he noticed a  figure standing over him. His vision was fading, but the silhouette was undeniable. It was Death, and he was laughing.

Unanswerable questions

It’s hard to think when your mind is in a million places. Imagine sitting in a dark room packed to it’s limits with people, and each one is yelling into the darkness trying to be found. Nobody is listening to them, so they just keep yelling and yelling. And the words echo forever, bouncing off of nothing. Then, in the center of the room, there you are sitting indian style with your fingers in your ears. But your fingers don’t help any because the voices are so loud. That’s exactly what it’s like.

Why in a million places, you ask? To begin to explain would be to try to describe insanity.

You begin to ask yourself things out loud to complete a thought, and sometimes that thought goes away… But it doesn’t matter because it’s just replaced with a new, just as perplexing question.

My prediction is that this process will continue until my head is filled with unanswerable questions. What will I do then? I don’t know.