I thought I might start 2015 by writing a bit regarding a project that I have been working with on and off over the the past few years. I don’t think I realized it was a project until I had noticed a pattern to how I approached what I was doing and then, without setting out to do so exactly, the small project was born. Ach! I sure can beat around the bush and ramble on, can’t I? Well, please indulge me just a while longer, if you will.
I had a terrible time making friends when I was younger. I just didn’t understand how people came together, connected and moved on from there to form the bonds of friendship, I suppose. It all seemed like such a production and I didn’t know how to even initiate the process. I started a very bad habit of giving my toys away around that time. I figured if you give people things, then they have to like you, right? In the case of 7 year old girls it does not mean that at all, no – it only means that they keep expecting you to give them more stuff. Pretty soon my Barbie doll collection was looking awfully meager and I came to the conclusion that this just was not working for me and I closed up shop. Around that time we moved from Ohio to Florida; this presented a new set of challenges for me and shifted my focus to other things and what do you know – once I stopped focusing on desperately getting schoolmates to like me, well, they started to like me a bit more.
I think about it though, every now and then. Giving away beloved possessions to people you barely know – from a child’s perspective that might make good sense and as a grade-schooler I didn’t really know any better, but as an adult I still get terribly embarrassed whenever it crosses my mind. I resolved long ago to save my nice things for folks who were actually worthy of them.
One summer evening, back in 2012, I was knitting a shawl from some grey wool that resembled wispy fog and felt like low morning mists as it slipped through my fingers. It made me think of a lovely, brilliant woman with whom I’d had some correspondence online and who I greatly admired. I posted photos on Instagram of the finished item when I had just woven in the last stray end, and strangely enough, she was the very first person to comment on the picture. It just sort of clicked for me right then: I think maybe I was knitting the shawl for her all along.
And so it has been over the last two years. Sometimes I will start a project with no one in particular in mind, and over the course of the yarn choosing, the pattern repetition and the trances induced by midnight hypnostitches – it just comes to me. Ah! This shade of red would be perfect for this person’s fiery, feisty personality! Oooh, this dark night blue would be marvelous for that incredible space babe! Or sometimes, someone will know just the right words to say to me after my mother has died, just the perfect combination of gentle, thought provoking kindness and reflection, and I will know that the next project I am going to embark on will be a journey through mourning and forgiveness and that particular person is going to be a part of it, every step of the way. It can’t belong to anyone else but them when it is finished.
It all sounds a little silly, and maybe a little crazy, doesn’t it? And how do I know anyway, that anyone will even want my shabby handmade things? I do hope that everyone who has received something from me in the recent past knows that what I have given them is because they gave me something I needed first. A moment of levity during a rotten day, a compliment, a beautiful story, a provocative thought, some small measure of kindness.
Below is a bit of a gallery of some of the projects I have worked on and subsequently sent away over the past few years. It should be noted that a few of these are actually swaps with other creative folks, who may have sent me one of their handicrafts for one of my knits. And it was also called to my attention that I may have started doing this long before I realized I was doing it! Lovely E. sent me a photo of a sari silk scarf that I must have knit 7-8 years ago! Wow. I hope to continue this practice for a long while. Thank you for not being too weirded out about it, and for your kindnesses to me over the years.
There’s been a bit of bloodletting (painful, but cathartic) on the blog in the recent past and so I think I would prefer to wrap up 2014 on a frivolous note. Here’s a hodge podge list of things I either stumbled across or that were recommended to me, in no particular order, that I ended up being pretty thrilled with this year.
1. For some time now I have noticed my skin is acting in strange and unexpected ways. The nose and forehead that use to be an oil-slicked nightmare are now dry and tight, and the once plump, moony cheeks, well…they are still plump and moony, but they are now blotchy and flaky, as well. Wearing any sort of makeup became impossible; no matter how I exfoliated or how much I moisturized, my visage still resembled and felt like an awful, patchy mask. The final straw was when my sister glanced over at me, did a double take and demanded “what THE HELL is wrong with your face??”
Shortly after that, quite unprompted by me, I noticed a facebook friend waxing poetic regarding a natural line of skin care over on etsy, Naturallogic.
Truly Natural, Organic Skin Care & Body Care, handmade FRESH from original recipes based on Nutrition, Holism, Plant Medicine & Ancient Practices, using Certified Organic & Wild Harvested, Food-Grade Super Foods, Phyto Nutrients, Clinically Proven Bioactives, Botanical Extracts, Enzymes & Pure Herb, Plant & Flower Oils.
Apologies for slipping into hyperbole but this stuff is nothing short of miraculous. Within a weekend my skin had completely turned around. I was beyond ecstatic. The proprietress of the shop was super helpful and helped me put together a regimen that would work for my skin type, and thoughtfully included a few extra samples as well. Note that I am *not* getting paid to say any of these things, nor am I getting any sort of free product. Don’t I wish! Because to be completely honest, it is not inexpensive. But it is absolutely worth it.
I actually just placed a second order to replace all of my empty bottles – this is the first time I have ever been so happy with such things that I used them all up! Also note: I purchased the wrong toner the second time around. I don’t mind though, because it smells incredible.
Unfortunately, despite my skin doing much better, I am still having a hard time with makeup.
I can’t find a foundation or even a BB cream (forget about concealers or powder) that won’t eventually flake up and look awful on me a few hours after I apply it. What works for you? Any suggestions are appreciated!
2. I don’t wear lipstick often. Maybe four times a year. I have a horrible fear that it will migrate to my teeth and no one will tell me and I’ll be walking around all day completely unawares, with a garish crayon-toothed smile. I also worry that with all the lip biting I do, I actually end up eating most of my lipstick, which is pretty gross if you think too long on it.
I was intrigued though, when I saw several folks wearing Limecrime’s Velveteen lip color in ‘Salem’. (It is sold out on the site, but you can also find it at Urban Outfitters and a few other places if you poke around). It’s such a unique color and it reminds me of all of my favorite parts of the 90’s – dark floral babydoll dresses, velvet chokers, stompy boots. The formula too is really lovely; it looks like a gloss, but it goes on completely matte.
3. Last year for the holidays my beau gifted me with Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Isa Does It, which is a gorgeous book with a million wonderful vegan recipes (we are not vegan, nor even vegetarian, but we do like to experiment!) and hands down, the recipe that I have made the most is her Roasted Red Pepper Mac & “Cheese”. It is so, so good. Make it tonight. Seriously. You don’t even have to buy the book, here is the recipe: https://www.theppk.com/2013/10/roasted-red-pepper-mac-cheese-video/
4, 5, and 6. (Music)
Year end find: Tetrolugosi. I’ll admit, I was already in love when I read this described as Fabio Frizzi and Riz Ortolani by way of Gary Numan and Ladytron.
Previously mentioned: Dance With The Dead. These guys create the dark, 1980s sci-fi/horror soundtrack for your life that you didn’t know you needed.
The Bombay Royale: The Island of Dr. Electrico. “…from lonesome spaghetti to surf-rock, from psychedelia to spine-bending space disco, overlaid with the voices of our protagonists The Tiger and The Mysterious Lady”. Ah! How can you resist that description? I couldn’t.
7, 8, 9 and 10. (Cinema)
Only Lovers Left Alive. You’d probably be hard pressed to find a year-end list that this did not make, eh? Somber, sad, wicked, clever, impossibly elegant. All of these things. A favorite for sure, and not just for now – perhaps all time.
Byzantium. Another brooding, elegant vampire film, but a bit of a peculiar take on familiar lore.
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears. A lush, surreal, deliberately disorienting neo-giallo. the sooner you abandon hope of following the story or figuring out the plot in favor of allowing your eyeballs to be dizzied and dazzled, the better you’ll be. The exquisite, labyrinthine apartment building made for a strange and wonderful character on it’s own.
Under The Skin. Moody and strange and mysterious. It’s difficult to say more about this one. Can you tell I am awful at reviews? That’s really all I can tell you. That, and don’t read the book – it’s utter rubbish.
11, 12, 13, and 14. (Books and Literature)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I read this at the very beginning of 2014 so most of the details elude me, but what I took away from it mostly is that it is a beautiful love letter to great art. I found it an absolutely gripping, compelling read and with my attention span nowadays, that’s saying quite a bit.
Through The Woods by Emily Carroll. Beautifully designed, meticulously crafted tales of quiet, nightmarish horror. An equally disturbing and breathtaking creation.
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky. Bizarre, bawdy, brazen. Ridiculously good fun.
The Children of Old Leech. A Laird Barron tribute anthology full of terrifying things. whispered of in darkened forests beyond the safe comfort of firelight. Standout stories for me were “Love Songs From The Hydrogen Jukebox”, “Notes For ‘Barn In The Wild'”, “Ymir”, and “Tenebrionidae”
Bonus round, television series category! True Detective, Penny Dreadful, Les Revenants, and Mirror Black.
Extra super bonus round! Kimchi Furikake rice seasoning. This stuff is amazing.
What are some of your favorite discoveries in 2014? Do share!
Haunting favorites from 2014 still echoing ’round my skull.
Image: |DbrDbr| on flickr
A WAR, bird | Pressure, My Brightest Diamond | Idle, Peggy Sue | Goddamn The Night, Melt | Selkie, Tori Amos | Never Wanted To Be, Sumie | Silk Road, Hannah Peel | Blind, Laura Zocca | Bronze, The Woodlands | Dust, HÆLOS | West Coast (Radio Mix), Lana Del Rey | Beast (stay hungry), Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys | Whispering Light (Undressed), Featuring Willy Mason jescahoop | Blood I Bled, The Staves | The Refractory Wovenhand, Mirel Wagner, Oak Tree | Harvest Home, Mark Lanegan Band | Death’s Kiss, Purson | BLIND ONE, Black Mare | All Must Die, The Oath
Image by Ellen Rogers
‘call across rooms’, grouper | Oblivion, Deaf Center | Double Bind, Rudi Arapahoe | The Land Of Grey, underhill | Monroes Stockport, Leyland Kirby | Ganz leise kommt die Nacht, Bohren und der Club of Gore | …shortwave nights, HISS TRACTS | Aphorismes MMXIV, thisquietarmy | A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos VII | Emergent, Jakob | Blood In Blood Out, Roll The Dice | Stille ft. Alev Lenz, Lucy Claire | Maarten Vos, Romance | ‘brain fog’, christina vantzou | Sneeuwland, Oskar Schuster | The Vanishing, Sophie Hutchings | I, Julien Marchal | Rêverie, Endless Melancholy | Kromantik, Sóley | Lost at Sea, AEAEA (Kris Force, Anni Hogan, Jarboe, Zoe Keating, Meredith Yayanos)
I was once accused of being overfond of “melancholy piano tinklings”. Dance With the Dead, my current aural obsession is as different from that sort of sound as you can possibly get. Think retro 80’s synth on slasher night.
On another music related note, John Carpetner’s Lost Themes – the iconic filmmaker/composer’s debut solo album – will be released on vinyl, CD and digitally on February 3 via Sacred Bones Records. In addition the album’s nine original tracks, the deluxe edition includes six remixes by Zola Jesus & Dean Hurley, ohGr (of Skinny Puppy), Silent Servant, Blanck Mass, JG Thirlwell and Bill Kouligas
The adorable trailer for Song of the Sea, from the same folks that brought us The Secret of Kells
I’ve been a long time admirer of the haunting ladies caught on film by photographer Andy Julia. This shot from the Carmilla editorial for LUSH magazine is beyond gorgeous.
These exquisite landscapes of the brain in gold, ink, dye, and metal, by neuroscientist-artistGreg Dunn, are inspired by the sumi-e style of ink wash painting.
Shitty horoscopes, written and illustrated by Amrit Brar, are so hilariously perfect. I should probably just get badges of the taurus ones and pin them to my clothes.
Selections from HP Lovecraft’s brief tenure as a Whitman’s Sampler copywriter (excerpt) Chocolate Cherry Cordial You must not think me mad when I tell you what I found below the thin shell of chocolate used to disguise this bonbon’s true face. Yes! Hidden beneath its rich exterior is a hideously moist cherry cordial! What deranged architect could have engineered this non-Euclidean aberration? I dare not speculate.
Not long after my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in December of 2012, she converted to Catholicism. I can’t speak to how devout she was and it doesn’t matter to me – I believe the idea of faith and the trappings of belief and ritual gave her great comfort during her last year – so who cares if she never made it to church or attended a single mass.
And so what if she collected blingy rosaries alongside gorgeously rendered gilt-edged tarot decks in her final days- can’t a soul have room for more than one set of beliefs, more than one way for communicating with the divine? Or maybe she was hedging her bets, who knows. Her relationship with her creator and her spirituality were no business of mine.
For as long as I can remember my mother cultivated a strange system of beliefs. I recall, at the age of six or seven, sitting silently in a kitchen chair across a ouija board from my mother, my small hands on one edge of the planchette, her slim fingers on the other, and a phone cradled between her ear and shoulder as she chatted with a friend at the same time we were attempting to make contact with spirits. At a very tender age I learned that my mother just didn’t do things the way other people did, I guess. I imagine I grew up thinking if you weren’t carrying on conversations with both the dead and the living at the same time, you were probably doing it wrong.
Books on astrology and mediumship were always stacked precariously on our kitchen table; I can picture my mother’s face through a haze of smoke over breakfast as I picked at my Wheat Chex, while she thoughtfully read the paper and drank her coffee, a dangerously long ash from her cigarette dangling over the cover of a Linda Goodman title on Love Signs or perhaps something by Louise Huebner.
I grew up thinking that in every house there were hidden chest of tarot cards, that every stray slip of paper was a piece of an astrological chart, that candles and incense and yoga circles were every family’s Wednesday night. This was a huge part of the curiously fascinating, terrifyingly intense woman that my mother was in life, this yearning for hidden knowledge and a connection to a plane beyond our own. So it only made sense to my sisters and I to honor that facet of her personality in death: with a visit to a medium, almost a year after her passing.
Despite the fact we had been bandying the idea back and forth for almost a year now, we were ill-prepared for this. We realized we didn’t even have a code word. As in, I suppose, some absurd word or phrase or inside joke that only we would understand, and we would recognize immediately if the medium in question was the real deal if he or she were to utter it. (Since then we have all come up with individual code words and phrases. If you intend to communicate with your loved ones from beyond the veil, I suggest that you take a moment or two to mull it over and do the same!)
Furthermore, we really didn’t even know how to go about finding a recommended spiritualist. We were terrified we were going to get a dud. You know the kind: “I see a color…a number…a man! …or maybe a woman!” OKAY THAT’S $250 NOW SCRAM”.
Fortunately for us on the day of our intended sojourn, one of my sisters recalled a medium she visited a few years ago in Cassadaga. “She wasn’t …too bad…?”, she offered doubtfully. And with that, we decided that not too bad was just good enough for us, and proceeded to make an appointment for later that afternoon.
I am really not sure how to talk about the afternoon that followed. Much of it – two thirds of it, really – is not my story to tell, and that ventures into sharing -details-that-are-none-of-my-business-to-share territory. I can, however share some of my impressions of the reading.
Our medium/psychic, Birdie, lived in a small, unassuming house at the edge of the spiritualist camp -you’ll recognize it by the “Spiritual Garden” sign outside, beside the small dirt driveway which guests can park in. The rickety screen door, wood-paneled walls and crocheted throws seemed to belong to any other older Florida home, and as we took our seats around a small desk at the rear of the house, I could hear Birdies’ husband mowing the lawn or doing related noisy things in the backyard. It was perfectly ordinary and absolutely surreal all at once. As if on cue, the three of us giggled nervously.
Birdie seated herself, turned to us, and without missing a beat, asked “why do I see bananas?” This threw us for a bit of a loop. Why WOULD she see bananas? It then dawned on me that my mother despised bananas (as do I! wretched fruits.) and I offered that piece of information. Birdie seemed to take this as a sign that we were indeed talking with our mother. I wish I had thought to ask how this all works. I mean, was our mother’s spirit there, like an ectoplasmic parrot on Birdie’s shoulder, whispering things in her ear? Or was it more like a crackly, static-y connection to the next world and maybe our mother made some sort of collect call? Even if I had the wherewithal to ask…how do you even ask that? Is that too personal, or some sort of spiritualist faux-pas? I am still pondering this. Feel free to weigh in.
I am not too certain that I should have been concerned about any hurt feelings though, as Birdie herself was not terribly diplomatic with the messages she delivered. Maybe it’s a “don’t shoot the messenger sort of thing”, or how you can’t be terribly upset with a translator for passing on the unintentionally rude mumblings of diplomats. An example of this: at some point during the reading she looked at my two sisters, and then me. “You”, she said, pointing at me “you don’t seem to think as much as these other two girls do”. Well!
But the funny thing is…she isn’t wrong.
But I am jumping ahead. One of the next things that happened is that she glanced at my youngest sister, who was wearing a tee shirt that said something about Indiana and asked “why do I look at you and see California? Does that make sense?” I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but I don’t think anyone could really look at my sister and see California; she is pale and small with shocking red hair and a penchant for historical fiction and a love for rainy afternoons. However, she has lived out in the deserts of California for the past 7 years, working as a librarian. Birdie was spot-on. How did she know? Weird. We had not told her anything about ourselves ahead of time, and other than showing her a picture of our mother (it was actually a 50+ year old photo of a graduation), she had nothing at all to go on.
The next 45 minutes was peppered with those sorts of instances. Birdie asked if we knew a “Sandy or a Sandra”. Our mother, she said, was apparently spending a lot of time visiting this person. Sandy was my mother’s best friend, and they’d had a bit of a falling out in the months before she passed. Aha! Another question: “does the name Rose or Rosemary make any sense to you? She’s with your mother right now.” A chill ran down my spine when I heard this, for Rosemary Denise Kelly (or Kelly Denise, I can never remember which) was my mother’s much beloved, very pampered cat, who died many years ago. It sounds silly, but whatever other nonsense or baloney we heard during the session (and there was a fair amount of it), *this* was the small thing I had been waiting to hear. Picturing my mother with that dumb fluffy cat in the afterlife was more comforting than I could possible explain.
Another thing that she said, that gave us all a laugh, and a profound sense of relief I imagine, was when Birdie asked “did your mother ….curse a lot? I get the feeling she swore like a sailor ” Ha! Did she ever! That was such a huge part of who she was, and if Birdie hadn’t picked up on that, I think we would have been concerned.
Our time was up before long and we silently shuffled out and drove up the road for lunch.
Over a bottle of wine at the Cassadaga hotel we discussed our thoughts. It was nothing like any of us had expected and yet I think, each in different ways, we found a bit of peace from something we had heard.
I suspect that we were all hoping for an experience that was maybe a little more…atmospheric? Swaying curtains and lit candles and maybe a cold spot or two, knocks on the walls, something to indicate the…presence of…something? We’ve probably seen too many movies. I know I’ve for certain read Richard Peck’s Ghosts I Have Been too often; I was really hoping for a crazy Blossom Culp-like encounter.
Although not much changes from year to year – and I do visit Cassadaga once a year now, usually every October – we did take some time to walk around the town, to sort of decompress (it was rather nerve-wracking, at least for me) and to absorb everything we had been told and our thoughts on it. This was our first time visiting the town, all three of us together, and so we bought some tee shirts to commemorate the occasion, and I picked up a pendant that sort of looked like a cross between some far-off nebula and a really girly eye of Sauron.
Though I don’t know for certain how our mother might have felt in her final days about us consulting a medium, and if she would be able to reconcile that with her newfound love of The Lord, I do know beyond the shadow of a doubt that as a lifelong shopping addict, she would have approved of a few purchases and shiny baubles to end the day with.
OKAY! Here is the penultimate Christmas playlist! And by that I mean I have envisioned this soundtrack playing as we are invaded by changeling creatures from beyond the moon and it just so happens that this threat to our planet occurs during the holiday season. There actually is no Christmas music in it. Alright, I won’t lie. This is kind of anti-Christmas music.
Track list: Requiem (Intro), VHS Glitch | The Return, FANTASTISIZER | The Child (extended version), Umberto | Cry Havoc, Rock Action Records | Black Lotus, Displacer | War Against Machines, PERTURBATOR | SEQUENCER LIEBE, Sankt Otten | Only a dream, DANCE WITH THE DEAD | Zombie Workout, Vincenzo Salvia | Summoning The Forgotten One, Voyag3r | Orfada, Spirit of the Forest | Apparitions, In Death It Ends | Mozart On Lsd, In A Church, With Vampires.., Alonewolf | Beyond Event Horizon, Quantum
A wintry mix to soothe gentle souls savaged by 24/7 Christmas jingles in your face all the time. [Image by Chris Van Allsburg from the“Ghosts” volume from the Time Life Enchanted World series. (personal scan)]
Tracks: The Last Christmas, Peter Broderick | Wind and Snow, Grouper | Winter Rhymes, Hexperos | Ashen Snow, Dirty Three | O Vis Aeternitatis, Hildegard Von Bingen | Silver Snow Fall, Oaqk | Winter Solstice, Ampop | The Winter, Balmorhea | Darkwood 2, David Darling | I Saw A Swete Semly Syght, Anonymous 4 | The snow prelude n.2, Ludovico Einaudi | Snow, Hauschka | Winter, Saunder Jurriaans And Daniel Bensi | 11 Winter 1, max richter | Sacrament, Adam Hurst | Silent Snow, Chiaroscuro | Es Kann Nicht Ewig Winter Sein, Bersarin Quartett | A v Jerusalime, Kitka | Hands, Be Still, Ólafur Arnalds | Snow + Light, Dustin O’Halloran | Snowdonia, Message To Bears | End (Snowing), Jóhann Jóhannsson
Allow me to preface the following bit of writing with the confession that this is difficult for me to think about, let alone write – and so it is far from perfect There are many thoughts, though I desperately want to articulate them, for which I cannot seem to find the proper words. Below you will find the best approximation of my experiences that I am capable of, at this point in time.
There are some experiences so special, so meaningful to you, so good that you want to keep them with you, play them over in your head on loop, carry with you always from place to place for all your life until you take them to your grave.
This is not one of those.
These are the sort of memories you lock away, deep in your heart because you are embarrassed, and ashamed. They frighten you. They enrage you. They are now a part of your past, and you have moved on, so you bury them deep and tamp them down when the emotional sands shift, or time and vulnerability wear down the burial mound and the gleaming bones of these old hurts begin to resurface.
I recently began watching the brilliant BBC series Black Mirror, a sort of modern take on The Twilight Zone focusing on the dark side of life and technology. One episode in particular unearthed many things for me which I had desperately tried to burn and bury.
In “The Entire History of You“, there exists technology that, if you are fitted for it, you are constantly recording and storing memories in an implant that you can play back at any time – whether in your own head or projected onto a monitor or a screen or some other device. This makes for, example, fun times at a party; it’s practical for gauging reactions at a recent interview or job assessment; and for the more obsessive, for replaying and dissecting every interaction to which you’ve bore witness between your significant other and the man with whom you’ve begun to suspect she is having an affair.
A glimpse of a glance between his wife and a seemingly random man at a party sparked an almost instant preoccupation for the main character. Their combined past memories were portrayed as happy, familial and content, and at the start of the episode he was presented as a reasonable, well-adjusted, normal, guy but watching how quickly he devolved into obsessive paranoia regarding his wife and this stranger just floored me. Had he been this intensely awful the entire time? It stopped me in my tracks. It absolutely terrified me. I stopped what I was doing and realized my heart was racing and I felt physically ill. I ran to the bathroom and vomited repeatedly and then sat on the floor and wept.
For almost 10 years of my life, I was involved with this sort of person. This obsessive, possessive, paranoid, controlling, manipulative person who estranges you from friends and family and is not satisfied until he browbeats you into believing it is your idea. Who negates your opinions because they are not the same as his. Who mentally beats you down over time until you have just given up and it is easier to do things his way rather than bother to argue for your own. From the age of not quite 25 to barely 35 I ate, slept and breathed this man. And that is precisely, I believe, how he wanted it.
I cannot even say it “began innocently enough”. It did not. Out of a sense of ennui and being a bit of a serial relationship-hopper I was newly dating a law student, an affable enough young man, but he was sort of an oaf and all of my friends hated him and he had terribly stinky feet. I was often bored at work and in 1999 I was just discovering the pleasant distraction of chatting with interesting people online. At that time, very out of the blue, a person started IMing me who seemed very interested in me, and getting to know me. We appeared to have much in common. I was about to hit my mid-twenties, I was at a dead-end job, I had a boyfriend I was not particularly excited about one way or the other, and life just seemed so incredibly dull. I latched onto this new friend with a ferocity that should have been a warning sign to anyone observing, had I let them or myself, if I had that level of self-awareness at that age. We chatted for several months in depth, about everything under the sun and I realized I was desperately infatuated with this person. Despite the fact that I already had a boyfriend, I agreed to meet this person, who lived 1100 miles away. I was ready to fly to NJ without telling anyone at all -even my family and my best friend – to meet a total stranger. It was at that point my online suitor revealed to me that he was already married. With two children. Of course, I too, was involved, but I had been up front about that from the beginning. I had not suspected this on his end and was devastated.
If this was not troubling enough, it also became clear to me, through our interactions, that he hated me spending time with my friends and grew positively enraged if any of these friends happened to be male. The interrogations were relentless on this point; he would not stop until he was convinced I saw eye-to-eye with him on this subject. He would keep me up late at night emailing at length about his thoughts on the matter and if he thought I was sleeping, he would phone me at 2AM and growl into the phone for me to check my email.
It never occurred to me to not answer the phone. To not respond to the email. To never talk to him again. There is a huge part of me that does not believe in regret; I believe that every choice we make leads us to something else and in my case I am very happy today and to have regrets would be lessen the choices I made that got me here. But there is a part of me that wishes at that critical point I had seen what was there all along, and what was only going to get worse. That I had never spoken with him and certainly never met him.
I was so blinded by what I thought was love that I went through with it. I met him. Afterward I broke up with law student in a very confusing way which he probably still don’t understand. And I carried on long distance, in secret, for several miserable years, with my internet stranger. By the time his wife found out, I was convinced that instead of him leaving her for me, he would do everything he could to keep his family together. At that moment I thought, OK, well maybe this is for the best. I sent him an email not to contact me anymore and I promptly signed up for a dating site. I met up with someone, which, in hindsight, was not really a great way to deal with things, but maybe I thought it would be helpful to do would be to skip the mourning period of the relationship by distracting myself with getting to know someone new.
A week later, after work and just before getting ready for a date, I walked into my apartment to find the back window open, a pile of dirt on the floor, and my jilted long distance secret lover standing in the corner. When he did not hear from me, after several attempts to contact me when I had asked him not to, he flew to Florida and broke into my home. I did not, unfortunately, run screaming from the scene to file a police report. Instead I convinced myself that someone who would do such a thing must really love me quite a bit and we reunited with promises that I would move up to NJ to be with him.
And I did. Leaving my friends, family, and everything I’ve ever known behind, with no prospects for employment, I moved to New Jersey in February of 2003. I truly believed that there was some sort of happily ever after waiting for me in this place called Manville, NJ.
Six months later I tried to kill myself.
I don’t know why I thought that us living together would change things; if anything he was even more possessive and controlling. He wanted a play-by-play commentary on the week I had dated someone else. He wanted to me spend all of my time typing it up in an explicitly, graphically detailed, time-stamped manuscript for him and would grow furious if I spent any time on anything else. He would keep me up late at night interrogating me on the matter until we were both screaming and shouting and truthfully, after I while I just wanted it all to end. I had nothing, no one, not even and especially the one person that I had given up everything for. I couldn’t do it anymore.
I spent a week in a psychiatric ward at a local hospital and when I came home nothing had changed much, except where he had once been vocal and hateful and manipulative, now he was quieter about it. There were cameras in the house, keyloggers and spyware on the computer. Any emails I wanted to send to friends, any internet related things I wanted to be a part of (online forums, livejournal, etc), I did from work or the library from email accounts that I set up in secret. These were the only friends that I felt I had, but neither they nor anyone else knew how I was living. Secretive, scared, walking on eggshells all of the time, worried that anything I said might set him off. The wrong ingredients in a stirfry, the scent of my perfume – there was always something there to agitate him, to stir him up and set him on a path dredging up the past, rubbing it in my face in it and beating that horse to death which he would then begin to meticulously resurrect and commence beating all over again.
It must be noted that during this time, during the entire time I was in New Jersey – he was still living with his wife and children. He never left them. Never got a proper divorce. He lived with me 3 days a week, and with them the other 4. Out of the entire 6-7 years I lived there, I maybe spent one weekend with the man. This is how I lived during that time.
One day, in 2010 a few weeks before my birthday, he told me that he couldn’t do it anymore. He was hurting his children too much, he said. He was moving back home. After all of that – he was leaving, just like that. He packed up his stuff and was gone a week later.
I should have taken a moment, reassessed and been overjoyed, but instead I was heartbroken. Through everything I had come to believe that he was the best partner I could hope for, that no one would ever know me like he did, would love me like he did. I was distraught. Destroyed.
Not long after this abandonment, he came to me and admitted he made a mistake, that things were not working out the way he envisioned or hoped. By that time I had decided I would move back to Florida to be with my friends and family and everyone I had left behind. I had not made many friends in New Jersey, I hated the snow and cold and ice, I never went anywhere at all other than to work and back; there was absolutely no reason for me to stay. And yet this was a still a terribly hard decision for me to make. I suppose it meant that things were truly over.
Inexplicably (as in, I look at it now and can’t figure out why), we still spoke on the phone and met up secretly right until the day I left. I could not let go. I don’t know why – he hadn’t changed at all, he was still sneaky and manipulative and spying on my emails to friends – and yet I could not fucking let go of that monster. That fucking monster. I am shaking with rage as I am typing this right now. I am thinking of something he did in the few months before I left that perfectly illustrates the type of shitty, obsessive activity he engaged in. He knew I had been corresponding online with a male friend who provided me with facts and information for piece that was posted in a blog that I wrote for. The morning the piece went live, he created an email address with that friend’s name and emailed me from it, pretending to be that friend, and essentially asking me out on a date to celebrate. He thought this person had designs upon me or vice versa, and he wanted to see what sort of response I would send. (Friend, if you are reading this, I am deeply mortified about this. I never told you this and I hope it doesn’t bother you too much)
He often created accounts pretending to be some person or another and would try to cozy up to people that I was friends with online, to either learn things about me, or learn things about that person as it related to me. This is the sort of thing he would do.
When my sister, who helped me leave New Jersey, pulled the car away from the curb and drove past my former 6th Street home, I never looked back. When we arrived 2 days later in my other sister’s driveway, I realized I could never feel those things for that man again. They simply were not there anymore. There was a gaping hole, yes, where what I thought was love used to be, but I knew that whatever connection we had (though deeply damaged and dysfuntional) was severed. Permanently. I have not looked back since. All I needed to do was leave. For me, it really was just that simple.
I was never struck, or beaten, or physically injured by him…although one time he did shove me up against a wall, because he thought I was corresponding with women on a perfume forum–about perfume– against his wishes, and lying to him about it. I was. Does it make any difference? But I was absolutely mentally and emotionally abused by this man for years, there is no doubt about that.
He wasn’t always horrible. He took me to a bed and breakfast and a tea room and a winery for my birthday once, because he knew those were the kind of things I like. He encouraged me to finish college. He always found me bits of poetry or prose that he thought might strike a chord with me. I guess these are the fleeting moments that keep you in such a relationship, aren’t they? But things like that…they are like a coat of glossy paint on a rotten wall in a structurally unsound house. It might look ok from a certain angle every once in a while but chances are it will fall apart while you are still inside and then you are trapped there forever.
I try not to look at myself as a fool, or a victim, but while watching that episode of Black Mirrors I found myself screaming at the television. “You don’t have to answer him!” I shouted at the wife as he was browbeating her about some detail of her past. “Just walk away, leave the room, GET OUT OF THERE!” I screamed until I was hoarse, as she collapsed on the bed sobbing, as she played back her private memories for the monster of the man she thought was her husband. Whether or not she was having the affair was not the point (though yes, it turned out that she was). The point is you cannot treat another human person like that. No one deserves that.
And you, fellow human, cannot allow yourself to be treated like that.
Unfortunately, sometimes you can scream that at someone until you are blue in the face and it will mean nothing until they’ve hit the point when it means something. It never meant anything to me, until one day it did.
I am writing this because it breaks my heart to think that there is someone out there like me. I hope one day you realize that you mean something, you are something. That other person, the one making you feel small, making you feel ugly, making you feel like no one will ever love you. That has nothing to do with you. They are nothing without you. And if you leave, they will be nothing at all.
When I awoke this morning, I could tell from the way the air felt in the house – heavy, damp, oppressive – what I would find outside before I even opened the door. And when I finally did, it confirmed what I already knew to be true. One of those overcast Florida mornings where every molecule of air feels saturated to bursting, but it never quite rains.
The blue of the sky is painted over with a formless smearing of clouds – the entire canvas now awash with a dull, greyish, off-white causing the trees and grasses and shrubs and houses – everything, really – to seem so dull and drab and dreary. There’s a sharp tasting breeze ruffling the palm fronds and the jasmine, and the neighbor’s stunted cat skulks under the saw grass uneasily. I can hear the highway sounds just beyond the neighborhood but the roads between our homes now are perfectly still, with only an occasional wind chime breaking the silence. There are no bird calls, no lawn mowers, no early rising children playing outside.
These strange, sunless mornings are those I remember best from my childhood. I knew I would not be expected to play outside, so I would grab a pile of books and lock myself on the screened porch all day, only pausing for lunch or chores (if threatened and only then). Until it grew too dark to see the words on the page I was immersed in these stories, and I considered that time well spent.
Now I have a day before me precisely the sort I remember so fondly from so many years ago and I am sitting here, writing about it. I shall remedy that now. There is a stack of books patiently waiting for me and that sky is only getting darker.