Monday, April 17, 2017

Why I left...

        I got into youth ministry because I was one of the lost children. I felt what no one ever wants to feel. After the worst things happened, I found myself covered in God. I dedicated all of myself to letting other kids like me know that they are not alone, and that even if they didn't feel it from any human...they are loved. At the very least by their maker from very far and very near.

        I did a very thankless and grueling ministry for the next 11 years. Youth ministry could be described to sports fans as college football recruiting, except, no one wants to come to your program. You come to them and plead...because you care. They almost always walk away from you laughing at you. But the real reason you stay is because some of them say yes. Usually, they are the most rejected ones. They are the ones who live invisible lives. They are looking for meaning anywhere. They are usually the ones abused for false pretenses.

        I never came to anyone with false pretenses. I told them all that living as a Christian in this world would be hard. I told them that people will reject you because of your faith. I wasn't a good youth pastor in the eyes of many. I didn't look at the implications of some of the things I did. I didn't know how to make my vision happen. I didn't know how to make a small group of kids into a successful youth group that could withstand the endless cycle of teenagers. At this time, people demanded numbers in churches and youth groups. Everyone wanted a megachurch. People were wrong, and the right churches were dying because of it. They were being swallowed by megachurches with big production.

        The church was always supposed to be about individual people, so that was my focus with these kids.

        I taught them differently. I spoke to the teenagers like I would have when I was a teenager. I told them the unpopular truth; that life was gonna suck for some of them for a good amount of time. I told them that nothing that they wanted would come from faith alone. It all would come from hard work. I didn't believe that God dealt with handing out free successes to people that weren't trying. I wanted the kids to know that their value would be placed on how God sees them and how hard they worked to earn their place in whatever part of this world they chose to dwell. I used words sometimes that the "church" wouldn't approve of to reach them. I went a long distance to reach them.

         I faced some criticism from some people in our congregation. Some of them wanted to see numbers to justify my employment. The numbers weren't bad at about 30 teenagers, but they didn't justify to them the 30 K that was being spent on me. I started at 30K and ended at 30K a decade and change later. It hurt at the time, but I can see it. People wanted to have a building they could call home and were frustrated with the transient church. They were tired. I was on the chopping block.

        Meanwhile, the church was teeming with young men and women that had come through the youth group, serving those that wished to demolish it. It was absurd. But I couldn't take the heartbreak of having my low paying and thankless job in jeopardy of being cut every year for the desire for bricks. I went back to school out of fear and some common sense insight. I was going to be terminated because I couldn't be who some of them wanted me to be. It would happen eventually. I was wildly supported for the first few years, but I could not keep myself from the thought that I was not valued as a minister to the teenagers of our community. I didn't know how to convince them otherwise.

        Then something happened that ended my hopes of keeping the career I had loved so much and hoped to keep forever. My best friend took his life. Part of the difficulties with taking on the role of trying to help troubled youth, is that you have to learn to lose them. I lost a lot of them and I had tried so hard not to. But losing my best friend to suicide; the best friend that had protected me from suicide... that broke me. I lost faith in everything. His name was Will. He always loved me unconditionally.

        Whatever drive or passion I had to continue being the youth pastor that focused on troubled kids was evaporated. I was evaporated. I wasn't the person my wife had married. I was angry and right back in the same angry place I was when I had started. I was lost. I obviously couldn't do the job anymore, so I quit because it hurt so bad to try. It was like a fake and stupid betrayal of what I was actually feeling to tell these kids that life gets better. I had forgotten that life isn't supposed to get better. Just like a stupid American would.

        I quit.

        It wasn't out of anger or resolve. I just couldn't do it anymore. This was my dream job. I can honestly tell you that I haven't been happy since. But I could not lie. I could not continue being passionate about things I didn't know if I believed anymore. It was gut wrenching to leave the service beside 2 of the most honest, kind, and intelligent pastors I could imagine. It hurt so bad that I accepted the reaffirmation of my position and had to go back and decline later. My heart was spilling over and I didn't know how to cope with feeling out of control.


        Before I realized my lowest point in my entire life: I laid on some train tracks. Miracles happened to save me. I had spent so much time trying to figure out what and why I was alive. I had to finally admit that God loved me. It was hard to do that because I was born with 2 strikes against me it seemed. I never caught a break. Then out of no where, I got everything I had ever wanted. I got this wife who has laughed with me in every joy, and held my head up in all of these sorrows. She is an angel. I got these kids that are perfect to me, no matter what they do. It gives me a better picture of the grace of God.

        I tried to recover. I couldn't. A few years later, after so much turmoil, Joe would kill himself too. Another brother. Another reason to believe that life is a cruel joke that gives you your dreams, then strips them from you like some prank where everyone is laughing but you.

        So I stayed away.

        I tried to work on Sundays. I tried to make any plans I could on Sundays, so I wouldn't have to go. Sometimes I would just lay in bed staring at the ceiling. But every once in a while, I would go to church on Sunday. Every single time, I felt joy in my heart. I felt the desire to let it go and fall into wherever God is taking me. I wanted so badly to embrace what I let go. I miss them. I cannot seem to fix the things that have been broken in me. In my heart, there was resentment, unforgiveness, and anger. I didn't want to go because I didn't want anything to do with God. Because He was disassembling me again, when I was happy. I felt as though God had hurt me.

        I guess this throws a wrench in my understanding of God and who He is related to who I am. To put it frankly, He is a perfect God and I am an idiot who doesn't understand what's even happening to me; because I cannot find a way to be perfect. This is sin. This is the very reason I sought to help those kids. I wanted to take profoundly imperfect kids and let them see a God that sees them perfectly. Like I once did.


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Running Westward

        A modern day anti-depressant deals with the amount of serotonin that is sent and received from the brain. This chemical controls different emotions that rule a person's life. Those with an imbalance in this chemical will have a difficult time being human here, with or without the medicine.

        I'll go quietly in the night, unlike when I came screaming in the day, I'll go remaining who I am. I'll go because the entirety of my life has been torture with this hope of getting better that has faded out like a light shining in the night, devoid of power. I'll go to sleep and it will all be over soon.

        The medication stops the brain from telling you that you are sad. But it doesn't tell you that you are happy either. It just makes you look at things for too long without any reason for watching. So I stopped taking them. I stopped everything because things don't get better just because people tell you they will. "The drugs don't work, they just make you worse, but I know I'll see your face again." These are lyrics from the last song I remember remembering the words to. Then everyone I loved died in the fire, and it was only me and my thoughts. In a lonely hotel. Alone.

        This was the last entry into my journal before I started running. I had been an avid runner before, but nothing serious. I found that running would solve some anxieties I had in life. I had a lot. Now I need to do it to save my life.


        I started running west. I had brought only a cell phone and a small bag. I needed so badly to see humanity again. I ran from Michigan through Ohio and Indiana. I ran straight through the middle of America. I carried no money with me. I only asked for assistance with lodging and food from the internet forums. I really needed to see that there was still beauty in the world, and that someone could love someone they didn't know just because they were human. The news started following me in vans at one point. I guess I was looked at as a charity case or a mad man...I don't know. I had met so many people that took me into their houses at night. They were so nice and I shared everything with them. There was not reason to hold back. Might as well be completely honest with them. I got some advice from wise old women and I got some help from athletes about my pains. My legs hurt so badly. But everything else hurt worse, so I could take it.

        I spoke to a single woman who took me in...a man. She gave me a bed to sleep in because of my letter that I posted. I had posted a call for help before I left running to every city that I would be stopping in on my run to the Grand Canyon. This woman sat on the porch with me and shared a bottle of wine with me. She told me about her failure in marriage and her fears about loving again. I just listened and stared into the beautiful sky that hovers above everyone everywhere. She was soft spoken and gentle and careful about her words. She reminded me of my wife, who is dead. She was a real person in a world full of data people.

        I met a man who had a hook-up with a bed in the basement of a bolt factory. He worked there during the day and slept to the hum of the machines at night. There was this exhaust fan that blew hot air out of the back of the building. They let him put a mattress on the ground in front of it outside to sleep and keep warm at night. At first, I thought what you may be thinking; that it isn't much good. But when this man invited me to stay with him there, I laid down in front of it and felt it's heat and spent the night looking up at the stars with an overwhelming wonder and joy of being alive. I got the knowledge that everywhere is home to someone.

        I met so many wonderful people. I got up every morning and put on my shoes and my pack and started running again. I ran thinking about all that I had seen.


        When I was a kid, I had an ingrown toe nail. I went to the doctor and he snapped a rubber band on my other toe right before he pulled out the piece of the ingrown toenail. It was to distract me from the pain of pulling out a nail. It worked then. It didn't work now. The distractions didn't work because the original pain is permanent. There isn't a distraction big enough, but I'll try still...because of them. I learned to live with all of the pain on my trip pounding against the surface of the very earth I was born on. The inside of my legs were worn bloody, despite my use of lubricant. My feet were deformed and agonizing. My shoulders felt heavy. Everything felt too heavy and I always felt that I couldn't bear the weight. But I did. I kept standing. I want to see humanity again desperately. I want to suffer one last time. I want my suffering to become a witness to my family. My wife. My  two daughters. My two sons; they all left this world screaming in agony.
        So that's why I run. I had been sitting on my porch without anything to do with my hands. I didn't much care for anything else, so I started running to the Grand Canyon, because that was the place I most found myself in wonder. The carving of the rocks and the depth of the fall. These were the things that drew me there. I just knew that I had to release their ashes to the abyss and move on.


        I was an orphan. I was raised by everyone, good and bad. When I met her at the dance I knew she was my entire future. I felt it. I just knew. She did too. We married and we had 4 kids, two boys, two girls. I made life long bonds with all of them. They became the reason I got up for work every day. My girls and my boys. My two boys were just about to go away to college. They were twins. We had just had their graduation party with the slideshow and the food and everything. We were all sleeping and a blazing fireball from the sky struck the roof. The blaze didn't set in until we were sleeping. I got out only because my wife told me the kids were with her on the way out. I got to the curb and found myself alone. They wouldn't let me go back in. What a coward I was to believe her. I think I wanted to.

        The house burnt down in front of me. I didn't hear them scream. I didn't hear anything from them. I watched the fire burn until it was coals. The news told me that my home had been struck by a small plane that had lost control during a wind storm. "The midwest is known for it's windstorms," the guy told me while I was waiting to be released from their emergency services. It was a moment in a series of moments that don't feel real to me now.


        By the time I reach Missouri, I had become famous. My past is known to everyone. They know my criminal record, my medical history, and my personal struggles. Everyone speaks to me as if they know me when I reach their city. A lot of people offer me shelter, but I always ask the people that aren't offering. During my journey, I meet the best and worst of America. There are the genuine lovers of humans and there are the documentarians who film my every move for films that will never be produced.

        I was sitting in a public library watching television in the lobby when the pictures of my family reached the screen. They were telling a story that didn't belong to them. People I had never met spoke with authority about me. Everyone seemed to be so excited that I was still on my feet. One guy said that I was what America needed right inspiration. I got up and pushed the door open harder than I should have and ran through the night in anger. I didn't want to be their inspiration. I didn't want their pity or their martyr songs. I just wanted to let my family go from me.

        I reached Arizona broken. The climate got too hot and I found myself doing more walking than running. I felt weak and run down. People were scattered along the route shaking my hand and cheering me on. As I got closer to the canyon, the crowds got more dense and the road became a spectacle. I could hear the loud speaker near the base of the rim of the canyon. The guy was announcing my arrival. Reporters were running next to me with microphones in my face. More were waiting at the lip for me.

       I reached the lip and took a walk away from everyone who were congratulating me. I went into the restroom to grab my journal. I sat in front of the door so no one could follow me. This was my account of my journey: I ran alone. I would face the abyss alone. I would jump off alone. The world is full of both God and the devil. I'm also full of both. God is with me, even if He doesn't agree.

        I will go to the lip of the Grand Canyon and dump my box of family into the the place no one can return. I will not look at the crowd. I will jump.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, March 12, 2017



        "It's dark!" I said in my head. A head that felt like hundreds of pounds. "I can't see! I can't speak!" I started to really freak out. Calm down. I've been scared before, freaking out never helps. I have to take a mental inventory of myself.

1. "Where am I? I don't know."
2. "Why is it dark, am I blind? I don't know."
3. "Am I breathing? Yes."
4. "Move your toes. Ok, done."
5. "Raise your arms. Ok, done. It was difficult though and I can't be sure they actually moved."
6. "What does the air feel like? It feels cool. A little wet. It smells mossy. There is a breeze blowing across my nose and through my eyelashes."
7. "Open your eyes Reid. Reid? Is my name Reid? It is. I'm Reid Samson and I'm going to open my eyes because I am not blind. I pulled them from the top eyelid as hard as I could until the piercing lights punched through whatever shades had been drawn on me.

        I began looking around. I was in  the woods, laying on the ground. The wind was  blowing through the trees and the branches were swaying as if they were dancing. It was peaceful, but my body wouldn't respond to simple commands, so I felt so uneasy. I don't remember how I got into the woods. I laid there for a few hours trying to figure out my own body. After intense effort, I was able to lift my head from the ground for a moment. By the next morning, I was able to sit up. Then on the evening of my third night in the woods, I rose to my feet.

        I was wearing a grey suit. Above my head on the ground, I found my grey fedora that I had no idea was there until I stood above the place I was laying. I had always kept my wallet in my inside pocket, but it was missing. I had something crusted on my neck, but I couldn't tell what it was. Some came off in my hands and it looked like mud. I began my search for home. I wanted to see Eli so bad. The longing was more than I had felt for anything in my life. I needed her.

        Eli was 6 when her mother died of the flu. We were each other's legs. We could not stand without each other. We weathered this terrible storm that tore us to pieces, but we had each other. She was my little girl and I was her protector and her papa. I thought about her with every difficult step out of the woods. I knew that there was an end of the woods in every direction, so I just put one foot in front of the other and tried to make my feet dance like the branches of the trees. I needed to become one with everything around me to take my mind off of the confusion I was feeling.

        After 5 nights and 6 days, I emerged from the woods. I grabbed the last tree in front of me and thanked God for my arrival. I didn't recognize what was in front of me. It was a giant building made of bricks, and I'm guessing painted blue and white. I had never seen a building so large before. I heard there were big buildings in the city, but I had never left home; never found a reason to. Everything I wanted was right here. I walked around the perimeter to what looked like the face of the building. It had a large sign that said, "Walmart." I had no idea what that meant, but it looked like a city center with people coming and going. I moved to the front door, which opened by itself and caused me to shout in fear...and everyone around who looked strange to look at me strangely.

        I walked through the doors and was gut punched with confusion and stimulations. Everything was moving and so loud. There were so many people and so many shiny things. I got nauseous and got sick onto the mat on the floor. I said I was sorry to the person in front of me and hurried out the door. I started walking as fast as my heavy legs would limp. I had one goal, and that was to get to Eli. But first, I had to figure out where the hell I was.

        After a lot of questions to strangely dressed passerbys, and a very nice man in some kind of truck, I arrived at my home. I thanked the man and got out and hurried to the door. My stomach hurt I wanted to see her so bad. I didn't understand the longing, and I didn't think too much about it. I had just seen her this morning when I dropped her off at the bus stop. I had made her a butter and cheese sandwich for lunch and hot cereal for breakfast. She had asked me for 5 cents for a Coke a Cola that she would get on a field trip to the zoo. I gave her 10 cents for two.

        I got to the door and knocked. I was impatient, so I knocked again. The door swung open on the third knock, with an angry young negro glaring me in the face as if he were trying to vaporize me. "Hello... I'm Reid, who are you?" "I'm Calvin, and you can get your ass off my porch. I don't want anything you got. And don't walk across my lawn on your way back home." "Boy, who the hell do you think your talking to?" I asked. "What did you call me? Boy? Get the hell outta here before I kick your ass into the grass." I said, "This is my house, and where is Eli, my daughter?" He replied, "I certainly don't right know who da hell you talkin bout massa, but I'zza try to figga that one out foi ya. Now if you could get the hell out of here before I have to kill you, that would be great."

        The name plate on the door said Jackson. I was confused by that at first, but now I was questioning my sanity. "Sir, I don't quite know what's going on, but I'm looking for my daughter Eli. I thought that this was our home, but I must be mistaken. I'm sorry for the offense, I just want to get home to her." He looked at me silently sizing me up. "Why are you dressed like a crooner?" he asked. "I'm a vacuum salesman sir" I replied. "Like Kirby vacuums or something?" he asked. "Electrolux sir," I replied. He asked me my name and I told him. We spent the next hours going over who I was and when I last saw my daughter. Every clue led to this house, but nothing about this house matched. He asked me three times if I was on medication. I don't know why, but he kept looking at me funny. I walked out the door more confused than when I walked in.

        As I stepped down the porch stairs that had somehow repaired themselves overnight, Calvin stopped me. He took me to the garage and led me inside. He turned on the lights and pointed me to an epitaph on the cement in the corner. I didn't even need to get closer to recognize it. I began to cry and could not stop myself from trembling. I walked closer watching the words appeared more clearly as I got closer. Eli and Papa 1961. I ran my fingers over where hers had carved out those words. I didn't know why I was crying so hard. Calvin didn't either, but after a few moments I realized that he was full on hugging me.

        I pushed away and asked if he knew where my daughter was. He didn't, but led me to the house to pull out the deed to the home. It told me the house was sold from Eloise Samson to Calvin Jackson on December 19th 1988. I didn't understand. He asked me a litany of questions. I answered them all wrong. I was wrong about everything it appeared; even the year. During the vigorous interrogation, I broke down again: Again, having to push away from Calvin's embrace. It was now my understanding that it was the year 2017, and I was 54 years old. I had aged 38 years in one long night in the woods. I had lost 38 years of my daughters life. We had a lot of drinks and Calvin found my daughter on a machine. He pulled up her picture, almost instantly. It didn't look like her, but it also did. She wasn't little. She was beautiful, but not what she was yesterday.

        Calvin asked me if I wanted her address. I told him I did. I had to see her; even if she wouldn't believe who I was. He wrote down the numbers and I stood up and walked out the front door. As I got to the side walk, Calvin shouted from the porch, "How you gettin there boy?" "I was gonna walk. The cars around here are a little bit scary." Calvin flipped his keys around his finger, "I'zza good driva Miss Daisy, I'zza could take ya myself." I smiled and headed toward his car in the driveway, and we were off.

        My daughter's house was almost as big as Walmart's house. She must have married rich...if this really was 2017. Calvin shook my hand and told me he'd wait for my signal on whether he should leave or start the getaway plan. I thanked him for everything and walked to Eli's door and knocked with the big brass lion that hung there. I was less impatient this time, and far more scared. The door opened to a young man in a t-shirt and plaid pants. He smiled and asked what he could do for me. I asked for Eli. He asked again who I was. I told him that I was an uncle from her childhood. Frank was my name. He let me in and went to get her. "Eli! he called. You have an uncle who looks like an ex boyfriend here to see you."

        I waited at the bottom of the stairs clinching my fists. I was sweating and my stomach was in knots. How was I going to explain something I didn't understand myself to her? What if she didn't believe me? What if it wasn't even her? It seemed so long and  I waited anxiously for her. Then she entered my eyes. I knew it, even though my vision was blurry. It was her. She walked the same. This was my little girl in front of me grown up. She came down the steps and I lost any words and just stared at her. She looked at me in bewilderment at first, waiting for me to speak. I couldn't say anything. She looked at me for a few moments, then her eyes became glossed and pink. A tear rolled down and she she said one word; "Papa?"

        I told her everything I knew and remembered. She affirmed the things I knew and filled in some blanks. Some of the blanks were that I went missing while she was at school. The police came and took her to my sister's house, who is now dead of cancer. They suspected that I had seen something I shouldn't have while trying to sell a vacuum to the wife of a mob boss. They never found my body. I was laying there alone for 38 years and Eli was looking for me. But she eventually moved on. She got an education and never married. She became the CEO of a huge financial company. None of it meant anything to her.

        We spent all night talking. We shared memories of each other and she told me what life was like without me. My gut wrenched at those parts because she spoke while her hands were shaking. I felt her words. I told her about the cement in Calvin's garage and the difficulty getting here. She explained to me what Walmart was. We talked until 4:30 in the morning when her eyes began to flicker, then fade into the darkness. I let mine close too; somehow knowing the shades would never be pulled again and I would have to let Eli go. I woke up somewhere different.


Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Problem with Autobiographies

        I once wrote a screenplay about my life. Narcissistic I know, but my friends kept telling me I should. They told me I saw things differently...I do love to write. I do see things differently. If you give me a choice between the positive and the negative, I'm gonna choose the negative, even though I desperately need the positive. It's the classic attitude that everyone sees the positive and I see the truth , situation. That's me. I've seen enough negative to know when it's gonna win.

       I finished writing the screenplay on my in-law's pontoon boat in the middle of the lake that was named "Doc and Tom," after two horses who had drowned due to a winter electrical storm that drove them into an unseasonably thin iced over lake. I typed the last sentence and took it in. I just finished my life as I knew it at that very moment alone, on a boat, with no one cheering me on. It reminded me that most people die with no one watching and without applause. The narcissist in me wants the applause.

        I showed the script to my brothers Will, Joe , and Andy anxiously. People are very sensitive to how they are portrayed to other people. I was nervous to give it to them. A few days later, I got a call. Then another. Joe thought I made him too absent minded, but liked that he was a hero in the end. Will asked to be at the filming to help get it right.

        We were able to score a little money and casted the film through a talent agency with actors that just wanted a screen credit. I ran the casting because I wanted the perfect people for the roles. I casted well. We filmed most of the movie in a couple of months. My wife had a baby during the filming, so of course "Adam the Narcissist" took over and I spent too much time away from them. During filming, one of the lead characters tragically died. She had beaten cancer after a really long fight. She had been in major motion pictures before, so she gave my script the honor of making it her comeback. This was supposed to be her re-birth and she died during filming suddenly; leaving her son, who was also in the movie. This was the biggest reason we killed the film.


        I look back now at the footage that will never be seen, that I got it right. The actors were who they should have been...except the one that played me. I purposely left out that I'm not some sad bastard my whole life waiting for something to go right. I laugh more than that. I make jokes because I love when people laugh at them. I'm a clown. I'm and idiot, but I'm sincere. I wrote my best qualities out of my own character. The actor who played me, was really, really good. He played the part I wrote with great precision...but that wasn't me.

        I wanted to shock people. I wanted them to wonder what was wrong with me. I wanted to be someone that people would remember. But instead I wrote my brothers as I saw them, but should have written myself how they saw me. Joe read the script and came to one of the shoots. He watched the shoot and said it was awesome, and that it was accurate...except for my character. He told me that that wasn't me. I wasn't the person I had portrayed myself to be.

        During filming a very fun and intimate scene, Will came out to watch. After the scene was over, he came to me and had tears in his eyes. He told me that he was back there again and that the scene was like a time character wasn't me. I wasn't who I portrayed myself to be. He saw me differently. Joe saw me differently. I saw myself differently.

        I think it takes a good amount of our loves to figure out who we are. I'm not sure this me is the real me either...but I'm gonna live it because right now it feels like home. Maybe things change in a while, but this is me right now writing on a laptop in my basement about the time I wrote about a fictitious character on a pontoon boat on a lake that killed two horses.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Milk - A Short Story

"She sent me out for cliche." -Walter

        I was driving down the utility road that rolls adjacent to the interstate. The nearest market was about 10 miles from my house, so sending me for milk meant that she either wanted a break from me, she was pregnant, or that she carried a lover. I went either way really. It didn't much matter, I have always accepted fate as it comes.


        We met at a bandshell dance, which was held by the local charity to raise money. The Bandshell was this pompous outdoor stage with a shell-shaped cover. I'd go every Friday night looking for a girlfriend. I was a lonely 15 year old that had never attracted the attention of girls. All of my friends had girlfriends and I didn' was embarrassing. I wore the right clothes that night. I wore my ripped up jeans I modeled after a Def Leppard video. I wore a sweatshirt that only the rich kids in my neighborhood could afford...I had stolen mine. I saw her at the ticket counter. She was with two girls that had previously rejected my advances. 
        I remember the first time I saw her. I was trying to impress her friend, who didn't care whether I came to school or not. She kissed me once at a party during a game of "Spin the Bottle," but didn't acknowledge me after that. The lunch lady came by and asked if I was finished with my tray. I hadn't touched my food really; maybe a couple bites. I always got nervous around her. I told the lunch lady I was finished, but it would be a shame to throw the food away with so many hungry in the world. I said this because I wanted to show my "bleeding heart" to the girl. In reality, I considered myself one of those starving kids in the world.

        Her friend looked at me right in my eyes. It was a piercing and unlookawayable look that paralyzed me. She said, "That's very nice of you." It was then that I looked at the object of my affection and thought, "I want to be everything to you, but I also hate your guts." I turned my attention to Sarah; her wife. She was to be my new obsession. I wanted her to love me like she did the time that she told me I had done a nice thing. So I followed her. I learned what she likes and doesn't like. I learned what she did after dinner. I learned what time she got up in the morning.

        I wasn't a pervert. I didn't try to see her showering or anything...I just wanted to know her like a husband knows his wife; except before we are married. At the bandshell, I walked up to her at the concession stand and asked her to dance. Her friends...the awful assholes I told you about earlier who didn't care about my existence, encouraged her to walk away from me. I must have said a lucky thing, because I am not charming, and she agreed to dance with me. 10 years later, this girl married me.

       On the day of my wedding, I sat in the limo, thinking about the events of our relationship. I got mad for a moment about all of the rejection. Everyone was celebrating with champaign and vodka, splashing about in front of and all over me. Watching them celebrate me was a reminder that I had gotten the greatest girl of all, and she had married me that very day. She didn't marry Todd, the football guy, or Steve, the guy that she dated before me, who got a scholarship for soccer. She married me because I paid attention to who she really was.


        This night was dedicated to milk. She never asked for much. I gave her anything she desired, mostly before she asked for it. I have always thought of ways to keep her with rules my mind really. We have three daughters just like her. They pay attention to details. They correct me all the time. They are beautiful. They are pictures of their mother at different ages. They are the very reason I write this you...whom I will never know...Who may never read this.

        In all honesty, she sent me out for milk because she was having an affair. I've known about it for weeks. He left a message on our answering machine thinking it was her voice mail. I deleted it and have spent weeks trying to put it out of my mind. I can't live without her...and especially can't live without my little girls. I do everything so that they will love me. I wouldn't be able to live without them, so I try to forget.

        As I drove to the market, these things lurk behind my thoughts about today at work in the train yard. A few guys asked me to go for some beers, but I said always because of the thought of her. I pulled into the parking lot and sat for a bit before getting out of the car and moving through the parking lot. There was a song on the nostalgia station that reminded me of when I was a lonely little kid lying on the dryer, praying for something better, absorbing it's heat.

        I got out of the car and walked to the doors of the market and looked up to the sky just before I heard the alarms. It looked like a bullet followed by flames above my head by about 300 feet. I watched it trail across the sky and seem to dissipate into the darkness above. I was waiting for the boom. I was waiting for the end of all things. It didn't happen then. It happened in small increments over the next few months.

        The television told me that the bomb had landed 350 miles from the supermarket; spreading it's venom to all inside of a 1200 mile radius. I didn't come home that night...or the next. I sat in this motel room writing this to you...because me and everyone else I care about will be dead in a week.

        The problem is that I don't know what to say to her. It doesn't make much sense to tell her I know now. That doesn't serve much of a purpose. So I tell her I love her and that I have always loved her. I told her that from the moment that she told me that I was nice, I believed that she was mine. I told my girls that they were my entire heart. I told them I would walk to the edge of the world just to die for them.

I coughed.
Then they coughed.
We bled together.
Then we died together.

At least that's what I hope happened.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, December 19, 2016

Those Christmas Lights

        They don't see what's broken inside of you because your broken parts are part of your perfection to them. They are family, and to them, you cannot be replaced in a world where everything is replaced.

        I've always said that you can choose your family. This isn't popular with people who have great families and I get that. Laura has a great family, and they are always there for each other. Others who's families could fit into a small room may see it differently. I had two blood relatives at my wedding. My mom, whom I love, and my brother, whom I love. I think that family organically happens with life. You meet these people that you like for one reason or another, and they end up being uncles or aunts to your children. Laura has friends that are family to us and so do I. I think it's beautiful. I think the world is disconnected and separated into terrible categories and labels. It's a really nice feeling to know that someone in this world loves you no matter what. That they are gonna take your side in this world, and kick your ass in private.

        I got to do something really fun and cool today. I got to take the ice where the Red Wings play. I got to play hockey with my friends. We were excited and came out to the ice early to look around and take pictures. As I looked into the huge arena, I got to see all of the families of my friends that came to celebrate a really good day with their dad, or brother, sister, friend, or child. Watching them all take pictures with their family put things into persepective for me. I've been in a bit of gloom this year as I usually am this time of year, but watching these people love each other deeply is a reminder that this life is so great. It's great that I see these terrible things at work, which I've desensitized myself to, then come home to a little boy and two girls that don't see my faults, or forget them quickly. And a 19 year old girl who will drop whatever she is doing to see me. I'ts a warm place. Today felt like Christmas. Any day that feels like Christmas is a good day.

        It is way too easy to focus on the negative. Laura and I find ourselves thinking this way so much and we often remind each other that although the negative is destructive, the positive is a really good reason to keep keep forging keep reaching our hands out to other people. I'm so thankful for the people in my life that have reached out their hands to me when I needed help to get up. You all know who you are. I hope I've told you how great you are. If not, I will.

        I went to lunch with Will and Joe's mom and dad last week. I struggle when seeing them during the holidays because I don't know what to say to them. I think about my own kids and what it would be like to lose them and I cannot figure out a way to reconcile the fact that those two are still standing...and smiling. As my brother's mother was taking me home, I got this overwhelming sadness all of the sudden that she was going to drop me off and that would be that for Christmas. I had this feeling of dread that I had wasted the time I got to spend with them feeling uneasy. It was at this moment that I remembered that I slept under their roof probably a thousand times. I ate at their table. Their dad took me to canoing trips with them.

        In the car, and all at once, I remembered that they are my family and they chose me as much as I chose them. I felt gratitude. I felt love. I felt sadness, but also togethernes in that sadness. I felt so thankful, because at some point in our history, they stopped seeing me as this loud and often annoying kid and they started seeing me as family.

I can't wait to see the rest of my family this Christmas.



Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, December 15, 2016

It Effaces Every Piece of Light

You ask why I keep still
Why I don’t pour it out into the night
You know
You know if it rises and floats
It effaces every piece of light

- Soap & Skin (Cradlesong)

        When we were kids and had just graduated, all three of us had serious questions about what we would do next. Part of the theme of the "Dead End Kids" was that none of us would make it out, and I guess we all assumed none of us would. Then Joe decided to leave. I showed up to his house one night after a really bad night during a series of very bad nights. I was living in my car at the time. I had just been caught sleeping in my car in the park by police and treated really badly. I was upset. I was hopeless. 

        I showed up to Joe and Will's house in a pretty bad place. I sat down in the living room and Joe sat on the couch. He was really quiet. This was really unusual for him as it is for me. After a lot of yes and no answers to my queries, he asked me to go have a cigarrette with him outside. The answer to this question was always yes. While we were smoking, he started shaking his hands and breaking up in his speech. I couldn't get what he was saying, so I asked him, "What's wrong man?" He told me, "I enlisted in the Navy." It was final. There was no getting it back, Joe was leaving the Dead End. To me, he was leaving me...a moment I had feared more than anything. 

        A few months past and the day came when Joe had to go. He didn't want us to go to the airport with him. He didn't want an ordeal. We all stood outside and watched him hug us and tell us he loved us and then walk away and get into a car and fade away into the darkness as the lights dimmed, and disappeared. Once I lost the lights, I lost my guts. Joe's mom was there to grab my head and pull it to hers. I cried like I had never cried before. I had definately never let anyone see me as an adult cry like that. She just stayed silent and rubbed my head.

        I was sad because my friend was leaving. But more than that I was sad because I think I got the reality check that I couldn't hold on to them forever. Someday they would go. Everyone moves on. Some to other states. Some to other countries. And some to Heaven. Joe came back after a couple of years, angry that I had moved on and made a home for myself. I think he got the same reality check that day. He was so much of part of my life, but he wasn't any longer the center. 


       I've spent a lot of time this last 6 years in this front of this computer...writing about the "Dead End Kids." Sadly, much of that time has been spent as Christmas lights twinkle on the tree right behind me, going unnoticed. I always find myself going back. I think it's because feeling sad about them is all that is left of them. Joe came home from the Navy and we had the greatest and most terrible times together. Then he went away after his brother went away. And here I am...totally unwilling to follow them out of the Dead End. I love my life. I wish they had loved theirs. God, I wish I could have put the love of living in them. I couldn't do anything. 

        Two years today Joe. Happy birthday kid brother. A conversation with you comes to my mind right now. We were in high school. We were sitting on my bed and you had said something outragious. I laughed, and you said, "Sorry buddy." I said, "No problem man." You said, "No seriously, I'm sorry buddy" and pointed to my bed, which was completely soaked with the root beer you had spilled from the two liter bottle you had been carrying around. 

        When I think of times like this, it doesn't feel so dark. It just makes me miss you. I miss your raspy smokers cough laugh. I miss the embelleshments of your stories. I miss being able to sit in a room and be able to say nothing without any awkwardness at all. I miss fishing with you in the middle of the night. I miss every incredibly stupid thing we did together as kids. I miss the way we could look at each other and speak without words. Goodnight little brother. Be happy and be perfect. I'll see you again sometime. 



Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Ghosts of Christmas' Past

        Nothing really has changed about Christmas. Every year, I get excited to put the lights up on the tree and string them across the front of my home. There is something so gratifying about putting lights on my home for me. It's mine. What lives in it is mine, and I am theirs. I work all week and enjoy listening to the same Christmas music on my way that I listened to last year and the years before. They all take me back to the reasons I have always loved Christmas. No matter how bad things had been for me in my life, there was always a savior for me on Christmas.

        I was such a lonely kid. But when I think about Christmas now and remember, everything was so beautiful and perfect. I'd sleep under the Christmas tree, or alternate between the tree and the floor heat register and watch the lights promise me something that no human could ever fulfill in me. I can't think of a single Christmas growing up that was ruined by anything. I'm sure my mom had a few, but she was strong enough to not let me see that. She was always really good at redirection with those kinds of things.

        I moved out and experienced Christmas on my own. This was in a really bad time in my life...the worst actually. Christmas became a thing of sadness for me for reasons I could not even describe at the time. I'd think about all of these great Christmases and get really sad and feel more lonely. So I'd walk around the neighborhood and look into people's front windows to see them be families. Super Creepy, I know.

        I married this woman this one day, and got what I was promised under that tree. I made it my mission to string up the lights on Thanksgiving or a day or two after. Took them down in March, but who's counting. I got to be the family in that front window. My kids came into the world and the only thing I wanted to do was what my mom did for me. I wanted them to believe something very special about Christmas. Something very comforting about a savior being born that would make it all better. Even if everything seemed hopeless.

        The last bit of Christmases have been marred with some pretty terrible stuff. It makes it difficult because I have become at odds with my favorite time of the year. The feeling now makes me so happy and so profoundly sad. My favorite thing is when I get to see Andy and when I get to see Jeff and his family. These are people that are family to me and I don't get to see them much. Then, that reminds me that two of the most influential people in my life aren't here anymore, and that is my worst thing.

                                     I guess the word I would use to descibe it is: Disappointment.

        They were supposed to always be here, with me and for me. But they aren't anywhere I can see them. Me and Will used to cut class and sit on top of his car in the park to kill time. We weren't killing time. We were making the very best of it. We would talk about our future and we were both present in each other's. Me and Joe use to used to carve our names on everything because we wanted to come back decades later and remember what we were when we were kids. So I guess the Ghosts of Christmas' past come to haunt me now.

                                                                          The good news.

        God is still good. Jesus is still our savior. I am still the guy I wanted to be in that front window, albeit a bit more broken. I string up the lights and love watching my kids play in the snow that is now blanketing Michigan, giving millions of kids a day off of school tomorrow. I shield my kids from the things they don't have to see. I think of times with my brothers who were everything but blood to me, and smile. I don't get lonely at Christmas anymore. I am full. I am what little kids under trees want when they are praying hopefully and lonely to an invisible God.

God is good.
God is with us.
God saved me.
Even when it hurts everything inside me to admit.


Thanks for reading...Z

It is God

I am weak. I am strong. I am weak. I am strong. I am weak. I am strong. I am human. Humans are weak. Yet somehow, we take credit for our strength. It is God.

Sing. Migrate. Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, November 28, 2016

About Them

        I've been taught my entire life that Jesus is coming back soon in church.The writers of the New Testiment also told us that Jesus is coming back soon. This gives me the same feeling that sitting in Mr. Winnick's pricipal's office does, waiting for my discipline for mooning the entire 3rd grade class. Obviously there is a big difference in perception of time between us and the writers 2000 years ago...or Jesus returned already and we didn't even notice; a thought more sad than waiting forever. So if we are to see time so linear that soon may be almost forever, than we ought to start thinking about the future with the expectation that we are stuck here for now. We aren't orphans, but currently homeless.

        I told myself this very thing as I slept in my car after high school. Things were going really badly and I was accepting one mistake after another...because I was proud and angry and especially stupid. So in principle, I rejected conditional living and chose to face my mistakes head on...while making new and more audatious mistakes. I slept in the back seat of my car. My back hurt and I would lay awake all night with the awful feeling of a future being flushed away. I had walked away from a basketball scholorship, from any further education...because I knew it all. I didn't ask for advice. I didn't listen to anyone. I just acted out of pure emotion and rage against pretty much everyone. Laying in the back of that car in the cold, I told myself that this was only temporarily and I was only currently homeless. This was true. I got an apartment with friends soon after.

        As I was walking out of the Chinese food take out place tonight on my way home from work, I watched the "Open" sign flash through the reflection of my headlight. The parking lot was empty and the night was particularly dark tonight. I got this lonely feeling that at that moment, there was only me, this flashing light, and a little old Asian woman left in the entire world. It made me think of time. How terrible it is that time passes without you knowing how important it is.

        One day, no one will remember a single thing about our culture experientially. Maybe pictures. That flashing "Open" sign will be a joke of primitive technology. I think we all will be a joke of primitive humanity.

        I write a lot of short stories about the very distant future. One thing that has always intrigued me is wondering what the distant future will think about the things we have left behind. It's kinda sad and lonely and that's probably why I like it so much, but I really never have thought about what the not so distant future looks like. What will my great grand children think of me...if at all. What a disasterous world we have made.

        It is likely that this is not the end of "Us." We should start thinking about "Them."


Thanks for reading...Z