Thursday, January 15, 2015


Audio Version:

I put in my deposit.

I guess you never thought I would.

I suppose it's because I threatened to for months without much else. I'd leave, I said, if you didn't get your act together. I'd put in my deposit if you didn't change. Then I'd hang around, hopeful, waiting for my words to spur your actions. And really, I knew it could work! I was so proud of you when you stopped smoking. Two hundred dollars a month was a hit to our finances, two packs a day was a hit to your health, and you ultimately overcame it for me. It touched me, moved me, made me feel like you loved me.

Of course, you never really did quit.

You lied. You lied about the smoking, just like you did about everything else. Finances, actions, motivations, they all were lies, long kept, but always exposed. The smell of Febreeze was overwhelming when I entered your room. The loan notices were found easily enough in the mail. The repossession of the cars was obvious to everyone with eyes. You lied, and you lied, and when you couldn't lie anymore, you got angry.

God, you were always angry. Screaming, yelling, insulting, telling me things no mother should tell her son. I was a bitch, a bastard, a monster, the son of my father that I always feared. I was your regret, your sorrow, a chain around your neck, the reason you couldn't socialize despite my pleading, the source of your misery despite my attempts to help.

I got tired, so very tired. Tired of fighting, and arguing, and screaming. Tired of crying, and hoping, and begging. When I tried to leave, you said nobody would take me. When I attempted to go, you said I would never be able to make it on my own. Who could love me, who could understand me, who would tolerate me? You called me immature and awful, angry and cruel, without ever realizing the irony that if I was all of those things, it was because of you.

You landed a million little hurts that drove me away.

I wanted to save you. From your demons, your past, the specter of my father, and the memories of your mother. I wanted to save you from years of hurt and decades of pain, and their ever-expanding march into the future. I wanted to save you from the worst enemy you had: yourself.

Ultimately, I chose to save myself. I put in my deposit, then I'll pay my rent. I'll pack and I'll leave. What we had will disappear, a bad memory from worse days. I'll grow and I'll expand, and I'll make you proud, and maybe I'll even save you. But not here, and not now.

I put in my deposit, and I left you behind.

I'm so sorry.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Just a small update here.

A friend of mine gave me a powerful and compelling reading of an author's work. I decided to try it myself. I've always been proud of my voice, and I ultimately want to do something with it.

Why not use it to read my own stuff? I experimented a bit with this last week (20 takes, maybe) and this was the result. A bit thanks to Katie for listening to it and giving me her critique. There's a reason it's called Old Man Katie, after all!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Old Man

He greeted me with a joke.

The fact that it wasn't funny didn't really matter. It was inconsequential, really. What was important was that he started off on the right foot, trying to make a good impression to someone he didn't know and had no reason to sway.

It was the fact that he cared.

He was old but alive, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, despite a body that slowly, but surely, held him back. When he and his wife sat at my desk, he introduced her as the love of his life. Fifty years total, if they included the courtship. Even longer than that if their first-grade acquaintance could be counted.

They looked into each other's eyes and smiled.

I asked how he had been doing. His answer was surprising. It wasn't the usual bullshit. Usually it's "fine" or "I could complain, but who would listen?" with a weak laugh. Instead, he was upfront and honest. "I've been better." He spoke of kidney failure and neuropathy, the slow shutdown that lead to intense pain. Every moment was agony, he admitted, and a replacement wasn't in sight. He was approaching seventy, and wasn't exactly a priority when it came to the ever-finite pool of organ donation. Life was for the young, and he had left youth behind a long time ago.

He was afraid of what would follow.

He asked me about what I was doing with myself. I told him of completed a teaching degree, a failed teaching career, and a newborn novel. I told him of hopes and dreams, and my impatience for the future. I told him all of these things, and he listened.

He said I was a talented man.

It was touching. It's always so easy to hear compliments without registering them. Either people mean them, or you don't care that they do. The older you get, the rarer actual praise is from someone you admire, whether there's less praise overall or simply less people worth admiration. But the old man meant them, and that meant the world to me.

Then he asked me if I knew Jesus.

I lied. In the South, you have to lie about that particular question. To be an apostate, an atheist, is tantamount to inhumanity. You're worse than white trash, worse than a Muslim, the scary Other that people whisper about, but rarely face. So I lied, and he smiled. He spoke of Timothy and Paul. How Paul had put Timothy in charge of his ministry. It was a big regret for the old man.

He hadn't had the pleasure of meeting his Timothy.

But perhaps that's why he had met me. A hope, a prayer, a seed for the future. The old man, an electrical engineer my profession and a preacher by trade, wanted a successor. Perhaps I could look into ministry, possibly give him my thoughts on a few Bible studies. I smiled. I agreed. I would look.

But I knew I couldn't give him anymore than that.

The old man came in aching, dying, looking for a successor to his legacy, some continuation of the work he had put into the world. He feared death and so he sought life, not eternal, but temporal, not spiritual, but actual. He sought those things in me, the very foundation of which was faith.

Something I didn't have.

Something I'll never have.

But maybe, just maybe the old man will love on. Not his Jesus, nor his Timothy, but his memory. A kind old man who wanted more, and may have gotten just that in a writer, no matter how fledgling he may be. I'll remember his kindness and goodness, those twin sparks that he aimed at me, despite having no reason to.

I'll carry you always, old man.

I hope that's good enough.