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Monthly Archives: May 2015

A Loss, A Memorial

The only memory I have of my biological mother is a phone call that scared me so bad I never wanted to speak to her again. I had only found out I was adopted a little while ago, and I was visiting my biological grandmother across town in east Baltimore. I met my oldest brother, who was a Desert Storm veteran. My other two older brothers were two sides of the same coin; one silly and the other serious, the projects were their native territory. My older sister was a model until she learned she had sickle-cell anemia, and then she did hair. All of us looked like each other, which spoke to the very strong genes of my mother. I learned we were all taken away from her when I was very young because she was a paranoid schizophrenic.

I was in my grandmother’s apartment, in her bedroom that was barely large enough for her bed, a dresser and a color TV. My mother was on the phone, and she sounded so happy to hear me. I didn’t know what to make of anything back then; I was so deep in my own head that my default reaction to everything was a stunned numbness. She sounded like a shade in the darkness, something hidden away inside of myself but very, very real.

She asked me to come see her, and I told her I couldn’t; just like that, the temperature of the conversation changed. She was personally offended, told me that I didn’t want to see her, made me tell her all the reasons I couldn’t. I was trapped, suddenly berated by someone who was overjoyed with me moments before. It was an emotional whiplash that touched a primal fear in me. Love given freely could be taken back just as easily.

I never spoke to her again. A couple years after that, I left home for college; a couple years after that, I came out to my mother, who outed me to the rest of my family. I dropped out, moved to Arkansas, and have never been back to Maryland. It took me years to speak to my adopted mom again. Our relationship is still very strained.

Last Wednesday, she left two voice-mails on my phone telling me that my adopted brother and my biological mother had both died. All of these unresolved feelings, these voices in the darkness, came rushing back to me. I remembered my adopted brother and his upper-middle-class family in New Jersey. I hadn’t spoken to any of them in maybe fifteen years. Now he’s dead, and I’ll never get the chance to.

But it’s my biological mother that hit me the hardest. I lived in fear for so long of ending up like her, of having a break that would make it impossible for me to know what was truly going on around me. I’m still afraid; the idea of dementia or Alzheimer’s is a fate worse than death to me. Chronic depression is her legacy to me, and that’s a much easier burden to bear.

Now I’m able to look beyond myself, though. I can imagine what her life must have been like, and it breaks my heart. This was a woman who was born black and poor, and her mind turned on her in ways she didn’t understand. She grew up inside a family that loved her, but had no idea what to do with her — and no money to help her even if they did. She had many children, all of whom were taken from her because she didn’t know how to care for them, didn’t even know how to care for herself. She loved them, but there was a gulf between her world and ours, and no one knew how to cross it.

She spent time in institutions that were only interested in managing her, not helping her. Her own children grew up afraid of her, if they thought of her at all. She died never knowing how her youngest boy grew up; he will go on with the knowledge that the only time he heard her voice he panicked and turned her over to his grandmother, that he couldn’t stop talking to her fast enough.

Whenever I think of my family, there are intense pangs of pain and regret and distance. I have no idea how to bridge the gap I’ve created between myself and them; I have no idea if it would do any of us any good. But I know that these hits will keep on coming. One by one, as I grow older, I’ll get more voice mails like the one I got last week, announcing that I’ve missed the window of reconciliation one more time.

I have so many more difficult calls to make.

I love you, Mom. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t a better son. I can only hope that I can encourage and cultivate more understanding and compassion for people with mental illnesses in the future.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2015 in Self-Reflection

 

What Are You Working On?

Fandom 150Well, thanks for asking, me! I thought you would never ask! Here are a few of the things I’m hoping to make progress on this week:

A Stable Love. This is a story that was commissioned by a friend, way back last year when I was toying with the idea of maybe offering commission slots for stories — just to see if I could develop a project process that would let me work fast enough to do them. Spoiler: I haven’t been able to crack this at all.

Part of it is the scope of what I’ve tried to do with this. The story as it stands is a bit stuffed, but that’s my own doing. Here’s the blurb — a shy, lonely hired hand feeds his horses a mix that mysteriously appeared in his barn one day and suddenly the three stallions he’s in charge of take charge of him! Each one teaches him a lesson in how to let go of the inhibitions holding him back while dealing with the impossible changes they’re going through. Will the guidances of the horses — and his faithful German shepherd companion — be enough to set him down the path of being a better man?

I’ve outlined the plot, how the three horses (and one dog) strip away one problem aspect at a time, how this changes him through the course of the story, and where he should be once it’s all said and done. The problem is (naturally) the beginning, where I’m trying to establish the main character’s personality, his relationship to the butler (who he’s secretly pining for), the horses, his dog — all while introducing the supernatural element that serves as the engine for the narrative. This introduction alone is about seven pages long, and I’m not sure that it needs to be so big to establish what needs to be in place before we start rolling. I’m sure there’s a more elegant way to set the table but it’s a bit beyond my reach at the moment.

Anyway, I’m through the weeds of that, and now that things have been set up and we’re into the main part of the action I’m hoping the writing will come more easily. I don’t really have a good timetable for when the first draft will be finished, but for the first time in a year or so, I can actually see myself seeing this through to the end. So that’s progress?

Backburner Stuff. I have this idea for a bit of fan-fiction. It’s embarrassing, but I’m going to lay it out anyway. Beast of the X-Men has been getting little love for years now, even though he’s done a few things under Bendis’ run that have set his story in motion all number of ways. I haven’t been caught up on the current state of Marvel for a while now, but if I understand correctly he might have hastened the death of the Marvel comics multiverse with a few of his actions.

Even still, there hasn’t been a whole lot of attention drawn to Beast as a *character*, and the particular problems that come with his baggage. While I admit that a LOT of my interest in him is prurient, I think there’s a great deal of story potential with him that’s being missed. So I thought I’d do something about that.

My idea is something along the lines of a prose version of a weekly “digital comic” — something along the lines of Batman ’66 or Injustice: Gods Among Us. Chapters will be published as a part of an interactive on writing.com once a week, and every month or so three or four chapters will be bundled together to make up an “issue” that appears on SoFurry and Weasyl. I have a rough idea of where I’d like the story to go, what the main internal conflict will be, a network of allies and relationships in the greater Marvel universe, and a rogue’s gallery. I’m slowly making progress on story beats; but it’s about time to open up Scrivener and really start nailing things down in an outline. Since I have such a problem with focus, I’m giving A Stable Love most of my attention, but this is something I’m fiddling with in the background, when an idea presents itself.

Acceptance. I’m reading the third and final book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy; it took me a while to get into it, but now the momentum of the plot is picking up. Once you get into it, the first inclination is to devour it, but I get the feeling that Vandermeer is using deceptively simple language to mask something deeper going on in the prose. A lot of the story features a fascination with words and phrases, so there’s really no wording that gets placed by accident. I’ve been slowing down with it, reading and re-reading sentences to feel their place in the story. It’s neat to be a bit more careful with the novel here.

Meanwhile, my “to-read” stack grows and grows. There are short stories, poems and novels from friends to get to; Avatar Tuner and 10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights lent to me by a dear friend; Secret Wars is ramping up, and Bendis’ X-Men run is ramping down. Seriously, I’m gonna have to cut out everything but writing and reading to catch up, but that’s not a bad thing!

How about you fine folks out there? What are you writing and reading?

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Comic Books, Furries, Reading, Writing

 

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