Last Bastion

The light began to splay over the iconic neo-gothic styling of the Mormon Temple. The crisp winter air stung my face, as my breath hung in the air like a cloud that followed one of those annoying people who use vaporizers as opposed to admitting they smoke. I blew hot air into my gloveless hands, and played with my amber necklace on the leather strap around my neck, before jamming them into my pockets in a feeble attempt to pretend the Utah winter didn’t bother me.

Never in my life did I think I would be spending another moment of winter in a cold-weather climate. I hated the cold. I hated winter. I loved the look of snow, but hated everything else about it. People would ooh and ahh over snow the way stoners would over reruns of Bob Ross on Netflix. I would begrudgingly put long johns on, and hope the cold would taper off quickly. I would miss Florida in those moments, but I also knew I could never go back. I would spend too much time thinking about, and missing her.

My rosy cheeks turned pinker as the wind whipped off The Great Salt Lake, beating my uncovered face with all the grace and kindness of an abusive lover. I prayed for the sun to feel like the flaming ball of fire it was, and did my best to avoid the urge to lick my already chapped lips. My nose ran, and no matter how hard I sniffed there was no way to keep my upper lip from being moistened by the bodily fluid.

Walking down North Temple toward my apartment, and the sun broke through the buildings, I was reminded of St. Pete. Not that the two cities have very much in common, not that there was any particular landmark that reminded me of my home, not that the weather was anything similar. It was probably because she and I had walked this exact street once before on a vacation, before…

Every time I walked this portion of the street I remembered that trip, and for that reason I usually tried to avoid the area. Unfortunately this was the quickest route from the Temple to my apartment, and the excessive cold had made this the most logical solution.

I was tired of missing her. I wished I would forget her every morning when she was the first thing on my mind. I wanted her to be a faded memory instead of a scar on my soul. I could still smell her in the passing air. No matter how many times I moved, no matter how many times I rerouted myself from my normal paths anytime I realized I was being reminded of her too often, no matter how many dates I went on with women who weren’t her, I still woke up wishing I was smelling her wavy, ginger hair. I missed that smell in the mornings. As the scent of her hair faded from her pillow, and our sheets I held back longer than one should from washing the sheets, because I wanted to hang on to every last bit of her.

After I knew I was going to have to leave St. Pete, I rid myself of many of her belongings so I wouldn’t be carrying her with me everywhere I went. Slowly, all of her belongings have been left behind by me in different cities as I tried to both retrace our storied romance, and forget her at the same time. All I had left was the amber necklace with the leather strap around my neck now. She had given me the necklace when I was released from the hospital after a car accident that probably should have killed me. She told me she had made it just for me, and that it would protect me from all the bad in the world. She had been incorrect for the first time in our relationship.

I missed our Sundays together. It was the one day everything was open for both of us, and we were able to be together, without the hinderance of work getting in the way. The two of us would wake up and make breakfast together, before going to grab coffee at Black Crow Coffee. We then would walk downtown, in one of the many rituals couples find themselves in. Those who make it never get tired of the monotony of the regiment, and those who don’t make it found comfort in knowing they soon wouldn’t have to do these chore-like activities again soon.

Holding hands, we would walk through the quaint city that is St. Pete. The views never really changed, except for the sunrises and sunsets, but the conversations would vary depending on our weeks. Never was there animosity in our words, but instead true depictions of our feelings, and actual discussions of the world. Many couples experience these conversations early in the relationship as you enter the “getting to know you” phase, and the ones who make it past that time have these conversations carry on for what feels like an eternity, in the best possible way. The couples who won’t make it forever will eventually end with the basic “How was your day” questions, and “Fine” type answers, before they sit silently on the couch waiting for the relationship, or their lives, to end. We would talk about life, philosophy, politics, science, religion, and everything else, because we wanted to envelope every piece of information about the other. If something came up where we disagreed we accepted the others answers, because for every belief another star was added to the constellation that was her, filling her out, making her beautiful, completing her in a way only seen by me.

The last Sunday we went for our walk she had decided to “dress down” in a simple grey hoodie,  that read “Ghanaian for President,” and the leggings that had become so fashionable over the last few years. Her curly ginger hair was playfully up upon her head, and smelled the way it always had, and had always made me smile. She ran her fingers through her hair, joking about who she wished it was more manageable, even though I knew she liked it as wild, and uncontrollable as she was. The sun broke through the buildings behind her, illuminating her, making her look like the angel she was, and the angel she soon would be.

Every time the sun would break through buildings, shining through the mornings the way I had always imagined the voice of god looking when I still believed in such things, I remembered her in that moment, one of the last moments she and I would ever spend together. I hated the sun. I hated the voice of god. I hated anything that would remind me of that day, of her, of it all. I wanted to free of pain of missing her, but I never wanted to let her go. This is why I continued to run away, but only to place we had been to together. I was trying to escape, but unable to let go.

I just wanted to let go.

Walking into my apartment I looked around, having gone through this before, and probably will have to go through it again, I estimated how long it would take for me to pack and move. This time I was going to have to move on to Seattle, the last bastion for me, the last bastion for us. The last place she and I visited together, and the place I was most assuredly going to find my salvation. Hopefully my search would finally come to an end there, and I would finally be able to wake up in the mornings without smelling her scent on her pillow.

Introspective Camping

(Thank you to my dear friend Skyler for the photos for this project)

I wandered through the forests, at the insistence of  my friends, who had told me a few days in the woods would allow me to clear my head, and make sense of the darkness I had been living with for the better part of the last few months. It had been a dark few months, and even though I had been trying my hardest to forget her, she still remained at the forefront of my mind. Her hazel eyes sat on my soul and infested every thought. I had begun taking sleeping pills to avoid the burden of sleeplessness, but I had begun to build up a tolerance to them, and now I was forced to take much more than the recommended dosage if I wanted to have the opportunity to sleep, even if it came with the possibility of the unfortunate side-effect of death. Sleep was the only place I was free, after all, unless she found her way into my subconscious and infiltrated my dreams, ruining the only time throughout the day when I didn’t wish I was dead.

“Go to the woods,” Adam said. “Get into the woods and stay there until you see beauty in the world again.”

I was never a camper, and Adam knew this about me. I didn’t want to be so exposed to the elements. I preferred to be exposed in other areas of my life, which apparently hadn’t been working out for me so well. Everywhere I looked now was cold, and grey. It didn’t matter how many brightly colored shirts I wore, my life was drab and dull. The thought of ending it all had crossed my mind on more than one occasion. The only thing that had kept me going was the ongoing support of my closest friends, who were constantly making sure I was doing ok. I could tell I had become more of a nuisance on them than anything else, and I thought maybe I should take their advice and go into the woods until I remembered what it was like to feel anything but the melancholy that was weighing me down.

Carrying the pack loaded with more gear than I ever thought I would want to carry with me anywhere, I trudged through the woods hating every mosquito that sucked my blood, and every spider that bit me while I slept. The first night was long, and filled with anger and hatred for the world. Even in the so-called beauty that surrounded me, all I could see was the vileness the world possessed through the veil my broken heart had placed over my eyes. I beat the trees. I cursed a god I wasn’t convinced existed, but was thankful for the option to blame him for my problems.

Whenever I closed my eyes I saw her hazel eyes, brunette hair, and perfectly crooked smile, and hated the world. I cursed Adam’s name for suggesting this special brand of torture; stuck in the woods with no electricity, no phone, no shower, or toilet. There was nothing to distract me from my thoughts and that was worse than seeing the mundane, boorishness of the world. I was being held prisoner by my own thoughts, and I would have given anything to be released from my self-imposed incarceration. I wished she had never been in my life. I wished she would never be in my life again, even though I knew the futility of that hope. I screamed, “FUCK,” to the night sky in hopes that someone in the heavens would hear me and take the pain away from me. After hours of only wanting to sleep, escape into a fiction where there was a chance I was no longer myself, and yelling, crying, and hating everything in this world I passed out like a toddler who had worn himself out after a tantrum about not being able to watch his favorite television show because he had refused to do his chores.

I awoke when the sun had begun to crack through trees, shining blinding light through my closed eyelids. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and looked around. My campsite was a mess. I got out of my hammock and quickly brushed my teeth and packed up all of my gear. I brushed my teeth, ate an energy bar, and drank some water. Throwing my pack on my back I headed east, in search of anything that, as Adam described it, would make me see the beauty in the world.

The sun grew higher in the sky, and everywhere I looked I could see green. The birds flew over head, singing their songs of summer, and would land on the branches above me and appear to be chirping directly at me. I wondered what they were saying. Was it warnings about some danger lying ahead? Could they have been giving me positive affirmations on my life? Or were they just attempting to warn others of their kind that their was an intruder among them? I kept hiking, searching for answers in nature, as so many people had purportedly done before me. I was a city boy looking for answers in the last place I thought I would ever be looking for them.

My legs were growing tired and the sweat that was pouring out of every one of my glands had begun to soak my shirt. I continued to get hotter and more uncomfortable as I went on, and began to think this trek was an ill-conceived idea, perfect for some, but not right for everybody, including me. Even if there was a lack of color and an array of foul, nostril burning smells, I was missing the city streets I normally found myself wandering at nights.

I came to a break in the trees and upon a river that flowed through the heart of the forest. Wanting to wash the sweat, stink, and anger of my decisions away, I stripped down to my underwear and waded out into the water until it was up to my waste. I ran my finger across the water’s surface, watching the small trench that was left by my force, then being quickly replaced by the water that seemingly was unhappy with the displacement, and wanting it’s world to be fixed. I continued to do this and wondered how it could be that even though the water’s world had been disrupted so abruptly it was capable to repairing itself with little to no effort. I wanted to be that water. I wanted to be able to repair every part of me that was broken. I wanted to leave behind all of the anger, and pain, and baggage I carried with me everywhere I went.

Closing my eyes I dove into the chilly, yet refreshing, depths of the river, and began swimming. I didn’t know where I was swimming to, or what sort of dangers rest below the water’s surface, but I swam with little care to much of anything. The water was clear, until I swam by with the force of a swimmer going for gold, when I would stir up the mirk at the bottom and it would grow cloudy around me. I felt a sense of power, and in a way I began to feel free from all that had been weighing on me for what at this point had been too long. I was tired of being tired. I was tired of holding onto the past. I was tired of every negative thought that crossed my mind and weighed upon me until even the daytime seemed darker than the nights. I swam until my arms ached, my back stung, my legs hurt, and my lungs screamed at me, thanking me for allowing them to feel something other than just emotional pain and regret. For a moment I thought of Virginia Woolf, and realized the fallacy of her thinking, for in that moment I didn’t want to die, I wanted to live, I wanted to be, I wanted to exist. 

Processed with VSCO with 6 presetI rolled over onto my back, and started stroking softly through the water, staring up at the bluest of blue skies and the sun moved further into the west. I exhaled a breath of pure happiness, an action I had not performed in longer than I could recall. I inhaled, and was happy I was breathing for the first time in more days than I could count. Floating there in my underwear, lightly stroking my arms to remain afloat, I smiled. It was the first genuine smile I remembered experiencing in longer than she and I had been apart. The first from before we parted ways. The first from before it was obvious she and I were never meant to be. It was the most virgin smile I had ever experienced, and I wanted to remember that moment, that smile for all of eternity, for in that moment I was happy, and I never wanted to give up on the hope that I was filled with right then. As the sun set, and the water cooled, I knew everything was going to be ok.

I stayed in the water until the sun had set, and the stars had started exposing themselves to me, slowly at first. One would appear, then another would poke out, letting me know that I was not alone. Soon I was surrounded by millions of twinkling friends, who all were glimmering in support of me, each one offering up his own words of encouragement. Like a child who was given a taste of freedom, I splashed and played in the water in barbaric fashion, showing that nothing in this world would bother me again, because I had found happiness in that moment and I was not one to let it go.

My body grew tired, and I knew I would soon have to get out of the water to make camp for the night. I put my hammock up at the water’s edge, and settled in, staring up at the night sky, thanking each and every one of my new friends I had met that night while I swam unencumbered by sadness. In the moment when I had forgotten how to be sad, while remembering that hope wasn’t always a bad word. Slowly, I drifted off to sleep, and even in my subconscious I was still existing on that river bed, and I had never had a better dream.

I swam in my dream, and around me bioluminescent beings danced and spun in a mystical ballet of hope, happiness and freedom. We swam together through the river as though nothing else in the world existed, it was only us, and everything in the world was ours. We swam for miles and miles, until they abandoned me suddenly, leading the way, which I obediently followed. They lead me down the river as the sun began to appear in the sky, and they slowly faded away in the daylight. I stood in the river and looked around. The air was perfect, and in the distance I saw an object floating along.

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I could make out a canoe softly bobbing up and down in the wake. I dove in and swam in its direction, wanting to know what this could possibly be, or symbolize. I swam closer and I could make out a person on the boat. As I got closer I could see the person was a woman, a beautiful woman, with golden hair, and fair skin. She was basking in the sun, and had her head turned up as though there wasn’t a care in the world. I didn’t know who she was, but there was something about her that made me believe in the possibility of tomorrow. I knew that when I awoke, even if this girl in my dream was nothing more than a figment of my imagination she was the beacon of hope I had been looking for, and somehow I knew that when I awoke, everything was going to be okay. For this, I was thankful. For Adam, I was thankful. For my dreams, I was thankful. For this mystery girl of my dream, I was thankful. For the knowledge that I was going to be okay, I was thankful. For my life, I was thankful.

Good Morning, Sweetness

I opened my eyes to see the large blue eyes of my daughter staring back at me, a grin that could be described as both toothy and toothless plastered across her face. My body was supporting the weight of hers, and I couldn’t be sure if she had just arrived, or if she had been there for a while waiting for me to awaken. My entire life I had hated being woken up. Sleeping was my favorite activity for most of my existence. Any time I woke up to her face though, it was a great moment.

“Morning, Daddy,” Scarlett said, her breath pungent from a long night’s sleep and a complete disregard for brushing in the morning. Continue reading Good Morning, Sweetness

Falling Asleep to Dream

Looking around the coffee shop I took a moment to regain my bearings. This wasn’t anything too new for me, I had been dealing with the same problem my entire life. Ever since I had been a kid I had the unfortunate issue of falling asleep uncontrollably, many times with no warning. No matter what I was doing, no matter where I was, there was always the underlying risk of falling asleep suddenly. Continue reading Falling Asleep to Dream

The Invite

In the middle of the day, 2:53 to be exact, on a Wednesday, at the beginning of spring before the frost had fully lifted from the trees, and shrubbery, and grass, and flowers I found myself walking, shirtless, to a person’s house I had never met. It was still a little chilly. Too chilly to be walking around outside without a shirt on, but I had to make due with what I had available at the time. Unfortunately for me all I had available were shoes, socks, pants, a belt, and underwear. I was unsure as to where my shirt had gone, but that didn’t really matter. I was fairly certain the person I was going to visit would not be too offended by my lack of attire. After all, I was on my way to ask him if I could borrow a cup of flour. The reason why I had to walk the .8 miles to this particular house, on this particular day, at this particular time, was unbeknownst to me. I had been delivered the information weeks ago, in the mail, when a mail carrier, who was NOT my normal mail carrier, dropped off the daily mail. In that particular delivery, instead of just the normal flyers for coupons and sales at stores I would never find myself shopping at, there was an envelope. It was a manilla colored envelope of unusual size. Instead of being the size of a standard letter, or even a legal letter for that matter, it looked more like the size of a poorly planned Save-the-Date card for a wedding I wouldn’t have wanted to attend anyway. Continue reading The Invite

The Fan Blades

The fan was spinning on the medium setting. Not quite fast enough for the optical illusion of the blades spinning backwards to occur, but still fast enough enough to make it impossible to count how many blades were attached to the fulcrum. I laid there. On the floor. Staring up at the fan. Wondering exactly what I should do next. I was lost. Scared. Alone for the first time in my life. All I wanted was to run away. Leave everything behind me. Forget my past. Forget my life. Forget who I was. Start over in a new place. With a new name. With a new story. One I could be proud of. Not the person I had become. Not this imposter living a life nobody would want to emmulate. Not…who I had become. Not…me. Not…John. Continue reading The Fan Blades

Orange Moon

This story is actually older than many of my followers, and anyone who has read Dear Jack: Diary of an Addict has already read this story, but I loved it so much I wanted to share it with the entire world. I wrote it when I was in my late teens, early twenties. It has been one of my favorites, and one that truly solidified my desire to be a writer. I hope everyone enjoys this one as much as I do, every time I read it again.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my short story, “Orange Moon”

Continue reading Orange Moon