Sookie’s Story

This begins about a decade ago now. I had recently moved to a new area and only had one good friend at all nearby. Some of my friends from back home came down for a visit, but I seemed out of their range for the most part. Months of self pitying/destructive behavior led me to give therapy a try. I started seeing a therapist that did way more to help me than I imagined anyone was capable of. I also started on meds to aide my depression and anxiety, which helped when I finally figured out the type and dosage. Neither could touch the feeling of uselessness I constantly carried. I somehow felt that while most everyone liked me, nobody in the world (not blood related) has or ever would truly love me. I could only see myself as a momentary passing interest for the inbetweens in the lives of others; not an actual important event, just the sideshow. I could not be convinced that a single person needed me, and I would only reluctantly give in to my therapist that I wasn’t a burden to all. I felt that every relationship and friendship in my life was hanging by a thread I was sure to break (so I of course put on scissorhands).

I was just as skeptical about the house plant being of any benefit to my loneliness when I was in the checkout lane at Lowe’s, as I was on the couch in my therapists office when she had suggested it. However, I had felt refreshed in the atmosphere of the lawn and garden department, and had immediately known what plant I wanted when I’d eyed it. It had dark green leaves with red veins spreading out across them. The tag said it needed low maintenance, and it was called a “Red Anne.” The name reminded me of Anna Paquin’s character Sookie in True Blood. I had just binge watched one of the early seasons on Netflix when it still came as dvds in the mail. The red veins looked like something that would be tempting to any vampire. Not just Bunnicula, but Eric as well. I figured out before I made it to my car that I had a problem with naming plants. She was already Sookie.

My therapists reasoning behind the house plant was that I needed to know that something needed me. She thought it would be best if I started simple – especially after hearing my story about killing off a family of gold fish in a place I was house sitting – so we decided on a house plant. My low self confidence made a plant that was easy maintenance ideal for me. I admired Sookie for a couple of days, but she only needed waters a little bit a couple times a week, so I soon lost sight of her needing much more than a pretty picture on the wall would need dusting. I eventually forgot about her altogether.

I rose bleary eyes from my bed at the sound of my alarm. My eyes quickly swept past the spot I had found my favorite pet ever, Wally, on the floor. I had felt much the same at first that morning too. That night before, I had taken a big bong hit while Wally was asleep on my chest and a massive lung clearing cough had scared him to a leap into the darkness at the foot of my bed. I passed out immediately, and woke to find him stiff and lifeless near the foot of my bed. I’d never cried like that before. As my eyes tried to skip that spot I. The floor where I had found him, I looked up at the pot that contained Sookie on my counter. Sookie’s stems were hanging withered and limp over the sides, and there were dead leaves on the counter. My heart instantly sank. I’d killed the one thing that needed me. I felt it was a good thing no one needed me, because their care would be just as poor.

I added a large cupful of water along with a couple tears to Sookie’s pot, just so I could say I tried. I was already running late for work, so I quickly showered and dressed. As I grabbed my keys on the way out the door, I glanced back over to Sookie’s pot on the counter. She was fully restored! Her stems had gone from flat and shriveled to taut to the point of robustness. Her veined leaves weren’t mushy wads, but proud banners of her health. It cheered me immediately. Even after I had given up, everything turned out fine. After a session or two with my therapist, I was fairly convinced that Sookie could be a metaphor for my loneliness and feelings of uselessness. It had only taken a little water from me to make her alive again, maybe it could be the same for me. It was hard for me to see a drop of water in what I felt was an endless drought, but if I could help water others I wanted to. I also had expressed feelings that all the friendships and relationships I had were hanging by a thread that I was so scared of snapping that I tried to cut it myself. The toughness of Sookie, supposedly, was like the toughness of friends. I didn’t have to treat them as if they were fragile, because true ones were tough and would be there regardless. I eventually gained enough love and respect for myself that I felt I could function outside of therapy. Sookie has played a part in my development, but I eventually lost sight of or never saw some of her lessons. I, for a short time, tested out her restorative powers. They were pretty impressive. I could let her drop down until she was almost completely collapsed on her dirt bed, and then watch her spring back to life in minutes. The process was in general too slow to really see as it happened, but here and there and kink in a stem would come out and the whole section would suddenly spring erect. I quit when I thought it was cruel. I didn’t process that humans could do the same type of thing to each other, not excluding myself.

Years later, Sookie was still around. I’d gotten a Lab puppy after my dad passed, and I had found some friends and relationships. She lost some of my attention, but I still kept her as happy and healthy as I could. My later-to-be-ex then knocked her off the counter accidentally one day. I’d immediately repotted her as well as I could, but about half of her shriveled up and died. She had shed all her pst self and was starting to look healthy again when my pre-ex and I got in an argument. In a rage, she threw Sookie at me. I didn’t know whether to duck or attempt a catch. It was an inaccurate toss and Sookie’s pot shattered on the hardwood floor several feet away from me. The shards tore Sookie to shreds.

My pre-ex informed me she was pregnant a week or two latter. It was a stressful time and eventually I thought that maybe another plant would help settle my nerves a bit. Sookie 2’s veins were more orange than red, but she was definitely a relative. I was working on the road a lot doing siding during the pregnancy, and my pre-ex was put in charge of her care while I was away. About the time I was finally accepting this plant as Sookie, I came home to find nothing but some shrunken twigs in Sookie 2’s pot. My pre-ex hadn’t forgotten about her, but had paid too much attention to her and drowned her to death. Just because you give Love to something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are good for it.

“I’ve got that feeling once again…things come round, full circle.” – misquoted Rock Stars.

Divorce, mass exodus / genocide of friendships, push back against alcoholism, and 50% reduction in time with the one thing I love the most. All feelings seem to come back around; just the reasons behind them change.

I had the sudden urge to visit Lowe’s today. I always get lost at Lowe’s, but today I went directly where I wanted. The first row of house plants had nothing of interest to me. There was a small forest of potted ferns at the end of the row that tried to intermingle with each other from across the aisle. The feeling of the fronds on my short sleeved arms and freshly shaved face brought a calm to me and eased my miserable countenance. I breathed in the earthy aroma as I turned the corner. Then I saw her. She was the only of her kind to be found, and she was the spitting image of her grandmother. A smile crept over my face as I gently picked up Sookie III.

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Rotten Apple: TJ#1

This is an entry I made in my travel journal awhile back. I tried not to change much of the content when I transposed it today, but I write some inane things sometimes.

10-6-2018

Today I took T__ over to Lincoln, AR to watch the parade at the Apple Festival. A__ and I had taken T__ a couple years back, and he really seemed to enjoy seeing the parade, especially the tractors and horses.

I thought we were going to be late and miss the parade; it took T__ forever to get ready. When we finally got out the door, I saw our neighbor mowing her lawn. She mowed 3 times a week so that was normal, but the storm downed pile of branches I’d left on her lawn wasn’t. While I was having T__ help me gather the small branches and dump them in the pile with the larger branches, my neighbor wandered over. She told me that she could grab her backhoe and haul all the branches to the woodpile on her property. It was only the second or third time I’d spoken to her in the 3 years we’ve lived here, so of course I had to assent.

It seemed like eons before she got back with the machinery, though I doubt it was more than a few minutes in reality. T__ and I loaded up the bucket, and he had a huge grin on his face. He’d never gotten to be so close to big machinery and he got to help! T__ wouldn’t head to the car until my neighbor was around the corner of her house with the load. Finally I got him buckled in my car and we were off. Unfortunately, the Razorbacks were “playing” the Crimson Tide today, so the roads were backed up all through town.

By the time we paid $5 to the local band for parking, and walked the two blocks to the downtown square, the fire trucks and police cruisers were just starting down our block of the square. Somehow, perfect timing. We squeezed in between a kind older woman with I assumed her grandson, and a couple of older gentlemen. I would later find out that one of them was the former mayor of Lincoln. His friend seemed to know every person that happened by him in the parade.

The grandson and T__ had a good time together. They danced together when the band came by. They evenly shared the candy they collected from the cars and floats passing. They were at the corner of the street, and would float into the street with eyes locked on candy enough I’d said something a time or two. I wasn’t really worried about his safety on his little corner. Well, until I looked up from the boys into the bearded face staring hard at me. He was head to toe in Rebel Greys on a float sponsored by, “The Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy.” About that time I heard something ding loudly off a lawn chair not far from me. I looked over to see Tristan going to pick up a cracked piece of nasty purple hard candy that came from the float. I snatched it and stuffed it in my fifth pocket so it wouldn’t mix with the other candy T__ had already given me.

I hadn’t really looked around at our surroundings since we’d arrived so close to the start of the parade. Just across the road from us, there was a trailer selling the normal Arkie touristy junk. Atop it was an American flag, a Don’t Tread on Me flag, and Arkansas state flag, a Confederate battle flag, and a Trump flag. I looked around and realized everyone looked a lot like me and no one looked like my mixed race son. I thought that maybe I had seen a Hispanic or Asian in a float, but none of those were in the crowd.

I was thinking of reining T__ in a little, when I saw a face in the crowd that looked very familiar. He stopped a couple feet from me to speak with the ol’ mayor, blocking my view of the parade. I was looking at the campaign button on his half untucked road dirt brown dress shirt that said Womack when the mayor called him “congressman.” I could feel the blood cells start simmering in my veins. This dude was running on Trump’s ballsack, and he looked like a chode. There were so many things to do and say running thru my mischievous melon. By the time he pried himself away from the mayor and walked by me, all I could muster was a dirty look and a head shake when we made eye contact. I’d like to think I would have said something profound to him if I weren’t worried about T__, but I was honestly lucky to get off the dirty look.

The rest of the parade went on smoothly. Old cars, prom candidates in convertibles, and of course horses shitting all over the road at the end.

Part of the attraction of the Apple Festival in Lincoln is the free apple slices. They have an old fashioned slicer on a stage, and the apples are delicious. The line is always long right after the parade, but I figured we might as well get in it. We began down the row of vendor tents that the line went down. There was an item or two featuring the stars and bars in about every booth we passed. I had probably just made myself paranoid, but I felt stares as we walked down the line, and they seemed malignant. My unease got the better of me, and halfway down the row I saw an escape route between two tents. I bribed T__ out of line by getting him some little trinkets from a booth.

I took T__’s hand after leaving the booth and led him the way I thought was the shortest back to the car. It was, but the “Sons and Daughters…” had set up a large booth in the middle. I avoided looking in that direction as I dragged T__ beyond it. Dodging the piles of shit as we crossed the road, we made our way to my car. Tristan kept telling me I was walking way too fast the entire way to the car.

M&M&I

Money, friends; both fleeting.

Comfort, support; both bleeding.

When one needs the other,

Is it worth the bother?

You can love yourself,

But when you need help..?

Loneliness is always there,

Whether undeserved or fair.

Looking for the escape,

Tho you can’t change fate.

Slay ya later

An old buddy I hadn’t seen in years hit me up out of the blue about buying me a ticket to watch Slayer’s farewell tour down in my neck of the woods. I couldn’t refuse that so I went and got another old buddy to come along…so old buddies started the party without me and were a couple of bands in when I showed up. I got to watch Anthrax for the first time. Enjoyed them. Ran into the lead singer, Joey Belladonna, in the pisser during the next bands set. There was a line of people taking selfies with him and I’m not sure if he enjoyed it or wanted to get the fuck away. Someone may be able to see more of me than they want as I piss in a urinal in the background of someone’s selfie. I didn’t feel like lines and was afraid I couldn’t resist yanking his wig off his head…next band up was Lamb of God. Luckily it was still loud where I was but not brain splitting like last time I saw them. I still haven’t been able to understand a single word their singer has grunted, but it had a good metal groove and was a pretty good set. Somewhere during the set one buddy got his cigarette forcefully put out while my other buddy and I vaped some herb and laughed…slayer was fucking great 🤘 got in probably about an hour of their set before the rain poured hard enough on the lawn that it was either rush the seat holders or go home. It wasn’t my first time seeing Slayer, so I skipped and beat the traffic. Really fun show with some good dudes.

From the County of Bourbon

Growing up in a small Midwestern town, one which served as the seat for a county named after the finest of spirits, often came with a predictable set of experiences. If you lasted thru your teens you most likely had multiple children, a rotted liver, meth mouth, a lengthy arrest record, and/or an overinflated opinion of one’s self. As children, leaving flowers on May Day led to ding-dong-ditch which led to (failed) flaming bags of shit on porches. Sleep overs led to snipe hunting which led to (attempted) cow tipping. Truth or dare led to prank phone calls which led to (alleged) breaking and entering. Pretty standard stuff, and not really worth much detail.

I was never a gifted scholar of the sciences, but some of my most vivid memories involve chemical reactions. I’m not really talking about reactions like when my drunk chemistry teacher decided a sliver of sodium in water wasn’t quite as impressive as a whole chunk and blew a fiery hole in the ceiling of the lab. Though that did inspire my group of friends to take up the hobby of stealing dry ice from the grocery store, then placing it in a sealed bottle with water in the middle of a packed public parking lot and waiting for the boom.

Fire was generally preferred in the reaction. I’ll admit I was a bit of a firebug, and I’m kind of amazed I didn’t burn down a structure like a friend did his hay barn. I did almost take a barn out with a tractor once, but faulty brakes aren’t fire. My first real fun with fire happened when I discovered a box of paper cased 12 gauge shotgun shells in my basement. I used some fuses left over from 7/4 and turned them into a kind of hillbilly grenade. It wasn’t dynamite, but I liked it more than the M80s and cherry bombs we’d try to fish with Croc Dundee style. They did good work on mole hills, however I learned the importance of cover when the target was above ground. Those pellets didn’t hurt any worse than taking a B.B. from an air rifle, but it seemed silly to hurt myself.

I’d have to say combustion ranked up there with the best chemical reactions. Although I didn’t have a lifted 4×4 to climb neighbors trees or sling mud, I did have a 1985 Plymouth Caravelle that owned pastures and barbed wire fences. It gobbled up a couple transmissions, but it worked great as a get away car. Nobody suspected that silver granny car when we would swipe signs and lawn ornaments and redistribute them around town.

The mixture of explosive and combustion made some of the more lasting memories. There was the time when a buddy’s gramps mistook me for a common trespasser and shot at me with his .22 revolver as I dashed for my vehicle. A better memory is when I served as transporter for a friend that adhered a home made bomb to a 20′ x 10′ plate glass window (I had been robbed at fingerpoint at this particular business then accused of conspiring to take the loot a month or so prior, so it was deserved for sure). The cascade of glass after the massive bang and bright blast was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

I suppose it was fortunate that I wasn’t much of a scientist. Oh, but how things could have been improved if I had been…

December Story

I bet those poor hands are cold. She was sitting on the edge of her bed; elbows on her nervously bouncing knees, teeth quietly chattering as her hands cupped her chin.

I wonder how long his hair is right now under that cap. Maybe it’s longish again. She had wanted to go to the event, but Daddy had shut that down. He said she wasn’t at the age to go to something like that by herself. She had gotten a look that she didn’t entirely understand when she asked for him to take her.

What is he doing now? Oh wow, he didn’t miss a note singing down those stairs. Girl, you wish. She stood as the man on the screen walked towards a young lady holding a sign that said, “I hear you still need a date to Joe’s wedding…” She took a step towards the screen and crossed her arms.

I can’t believe I’m not there. He’s going up to her. This is not fair. Is he going to kiss her?? Just a hug, ok. Why is he still holding her? Why’d he stop singing? Wait! What just happened?? Her arms and jaw went slack as image on the screen suddenly switched from the event venue to a commercial for American Idol.

If she did something to him…I bet that little girl jerked out his mic or something. She took a short step towards the screen.

What if she hurt him? What’s the security like at these things? Could you get acid or something poisonous in there? I know she could have bitten him, as close as he let her get. Another step forward as she stared through the screen that was now showing a commercial for a luxury auto.

I would have stopped her. I should be there. She would be wishing she’d never made that ‘clever’ little sign. She better not have messed up that beautiful face. He will still be gorgeous. He is so much more than a face anyway. She was still walking towards the unseen television when the discarded shoe turned her ankle, and didn’t have time to focus before her head hit the nightstand.

What does the announcer mean we are saddened by the loss? He’s dead?? That bitch. I’m choking the life out of her. I’m sticking my arm straight down that ugly throat and ripping that cold heart out of that undeveloped chest. I’m going to his final resting place and giving her still beating heart to him. I’m waiting for him. “Mama, are you okay?” She groaned as she opened her eyes and saw her husband standing over her. “Mama, what happened? Here, let Daddy help you up.” Her sixteen year old daughter filed in behind her husband and helped her into the bed. A special news bulletin was coming on the screen and her eyes fluttered open and closed towards unconsciousness.

Depress

The death of Chris Cornell bummed me out. I’m not a huge Linkin Park fan, but Chester Bennington’s death added to the malaise. It wasn’t necessarily due to them being gone, since I didn’t actually know them, and because I love them for their music and both had their best days in that aspect years ago. It was how they went and the reactions some people I know had to their successful suicide attempts. Particularly the way people view depression. 

I’ve had depression in my life since at least early middle school; tween years I suppose. I can understand why some can’t understand depression only because I can’t understand how anybody can not have it. It’s been such a part of my life, and went untreated(at least by actual doctor) for so long that I can’t imagine it not being part of me. When people say they can’t imagine wanting to kill themselves, I often stare at them in disbelief. When they call people selfish for actually following through, I wonder how many temptations that can sometimes flow non-stop in their heads for days and weeks and months at a time they can keep from succumbing to. Some call those with those feelings weak, but I somehow doubt their own willpower has protected them from a stronger feeling. 

I’ve had friends that scoff at other friends for taking meds for their depression, not knowing that I do the same. Strangely enough, some of these friends blame the overdose deaths of their heroes on the world, when I’d bet a great of those addictions started in depression. The starving artist. It’s not just food that a person can starve for. Attention, love, appreciation, acceptance. A person can starve from them too. Guilt, low self-esteem, few friends or family. A person can choke on them until they can’t stomach any of the positive.

I started addressing my depression in my teen years by smoking weed. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it out of my twenties without it, maybe even teens. I later began seeing someone I could talk my thoughts out with, and started on the prescription meds. I eventually got to the point I could journal and see my problems instead of having a therapist aid me, but not all can. Therapists are great tools, and it is tragic that some think seeing them deminishes you as a person. If anything, it’s the opposite. I talked to my doctor and got on meds to help me with a lot of the depression that came from no sane place. It took a few tries to get the right one, but I’ve tried to go without it and know as much as I hate taking meds, it’s better than the alternative. 

I wish I could do more for those suffering, but it’s different for each one and there is no one true cure. All you can do is listen, and care.

Career

How the fuck does one choose a career? Career, to me, is a word that in many situations has as much or probably more relevance than the word married. Most of these situations being completely social. Why? Sure I’m in an open marriage, but I’m not even using that as the norm.

I always inferred that the purpose of college was to obtain your ultimate career path. That’s not a lie, to everyone, but close enough for a lot. It took me seven and a half years to earn my bachelors degree. Four schools and at least 3 majors. Not able to use any of that for anything, I went back to school for 2 years, and currently use absolutely no part. We will ignore the massive debt that I am foolishly ignoring until later. 

Maybe I should have just followed my dreams. Guitarist in a successful band, top editorial writer for Rolling Stone, author of a series of bestselling books of which  I also wrote the screenplays for the blockbuster movies. Yeah, good thing I went safe.

I have three jobs I have actually enjoyed. I loved working at the book bindery. Getting to create something(I made them teach me to run every machine) was very fulfilling in a physical and librophile sort of way…The next was working for Kids First. I started as a lowly diaper changing assistant and ended up a relatively upper echelon decider that still changed diapers and ingested first distaste of those thinking they were superior. I was working with special needs kids(mainly Down Syndrome kids,  spectrum disorders, CP, or simply Marshallese and not understood), so I dealt with a lot due to my need of moral upliftement I was easily getting…The last is any cooking job I had. I was consistently drunk or high at all of those jobs, rarely received a scolding but often received praise. And lots of food. 

So what do I want to do? I have a kid and a wife, so I have to support them. I don’t hate my bookshop and Sunday school teaching gig I have going, Alie is about to graduate and hopefully get better family funds.  We get by, and T is a happy little dude, which has turned into my only real goal. 

But you successful guys and gals out there…no lost love, and I adore all expenses paid trips to visit your amazing selfs!

Deed

Good or bad? Ignorantly infered plan for sure…

Shuffling thru the lot from my car to front door of work, I nearly trod upon some darkish avian breed. I found it curious that it didn’t float off upon my approach, and owing to my aversion to avian and rodent ambulatory limbs, I wasn’t sure if the curly- Q foot was out of place. 

My connection to the animal world is a pretty mixed bag. The best theological way to describe me is probably Buddhist Lite, so while not preferable, I may come back as say a deer or a rabbit or a hog in my next life.  At the same time, the only arachnidish thing I have a smidgen of fear of is that sadistic Lone Star Tick(look it up-I would almost certainly die or have enough epi-pen addict tracks for henna art). I have no problem killing something for the meat, primarily due to a deep love for venison, but would rather not even have to worry about whether a harvest is a trophy animal I’d feel pressured to preserve. 

As the awful slob I am, I had a raggedly old running shirt in my car that couldn’t lose my musky scent with a thousand washes. The birdy had no problem flap hopping into the shirt’s powder blue cradle, so I carried him/her/Casey to our grassy back lot. Fearing Casey might get overlooked if the lawn got mowed soon, I put C down in the place where grass and gravel met. So I did it! Right?

If it’s wing is broke, C is probably screwed. If it’s foot is broke,,, fuck if I know. 

Only problem with my new home for C: about twice a week a delivery van delivers thru the back way. I warn the delivery van to  avoid C when he comes by. He inquires about the bird and asks if I don’t maybe want him to make a wide turn, that it may just be the kindest option. I advise against it but let him know I wouldn’t fault him for it.

I hear him pull up to the back doors, I open them, and he says, “I couldn’t do it. But just saw him at the last second anyway,” He half -ass committed to at least not avoiding C on the way out. C was still sitting there after he pulled out of the lot. Not long later, a friend joined C.

After conversing with my co-workers, I realized C’s friend could maybe help out with food, but not water. Being me, and it being Summer, I began to worry. I broke out my pocketknife and made a bowl out one of our complimentary disposable coffee cups. I filled my bowl with water and carefully carried it out to where C was. Was. Now gone. 

Did Casey gain its strength back and fly off? Hopefully. I saw one of C’s friends, so there’s a chance they could help out until C was self sufficient. There’s also the distinct possibility that a neighborhood feline had itself a meal. And that’s less ideal, but at least the cat got a fresh meal.