The Drive Home

It was a rare day. She let me drive. We rode in my car. By doing so, she learned something about me, and I caught a glimpse of something I feel, although I can’t really explain it yet.

We finished shopping for cat food at BJ’s Warehouse, and headed home. As she expected, I went to the stop light to exit the parking lot and turn left on to Virginia Beach Boulevard. We both knew I’d do that, because I don’t turn left across 8 lanes of traffic. I seldom turn left across a 4 lane road.

What happened next is where things got interesting. I turned right on to Rosemont Road, instead of proceeding down Virginia Beach Boulevard to Lynnhaven Boulevard. So, she asked me why I took Rosemont and not Lynnhaven.

I was able to answer her question. I explained Lynnhaven has 6 to 8 lanes, and lots of big intersections, and lots of cars moving between lanes, and passing through those intersections, while Rosemont only has 4 lanes, and almost all the intersections are with residential streets, and its features limit how much chaos can occur in traffic, and thus limit how hard I have to work to process the driving environment. So, I take Rosemont.

Of course, she would have turned left, off of Rosemont, on to Holland Road. I didn’t. I went straight. Again, for the same reason. Because there are fewer cars on Rosemont at that point, and less major intersections, making it less stressful for me to drive Rosemont, and not Holland.

In effect, I drive a mile or more out-of-the-way to get home, to find a way that works for me.

I share this story because it shows me I am learning about my emotions, about what I feel. I freely admit no one would drive the route I drive because it isn’t the shortest route, or the quickest. It is quite irrational to drive the route I drive to get home from BJ’s. There was a time, just a few years ago, when I would have driven Holland Road, and not Rosemont. When I would have coped with the traffic, and the crazy people in that traffic.

I don’t do that these days, unless I’m pressed for time, or have received a request to drive that path. I work at Best Buy on Independence Boulevard. It’s a straight line South, down Independence Boulevard, which becomes Holland Road, to my neighborhood. There are no turns to make at any intersections.

But that’s not how I drive home. I drive South on Independence. I stay on it when it turns into Holland. But, when I reach the Holland and Rosemont intersection, I turn on to Rosemont, which requires me to drive Rosemont to Dam Neck Boulevard, and then drive East on Dam Neck, until I reach Holland.

Why? Because it works for me. I can drive Holland the entire way, but most nights I don’t. Because I have learned I like to avoid the traffic on Holland Road. I get to avoid the traffic merging from 2 lanes heading south on Holland to 1 lane heading south when it crosses Dam Neck. When I drive Rosemont, I avoid the merging lanes on Holland.

That’s correct. I use the word, “insanity”, because it’s nuts the way people behave when dealing with a merge from two lanes of traffic into one on a road that operates at 135% of its rated capacity. Holland Road is, like many of the main roads in this area, overloaded, with more traffic than it’s supposed to handle.

People go nuts at that merge. Some happily wait in line in the lane that does not go away. Others react as if waiting is something they can’t stand to do, so they get in the lane that goes away, and see how many cars they can get past before they run out of road. I’ve seen more than a few cars fighting for control of the road, driving side-by-side on a two lane road, as the drivers refuse to behave.

By taking Rosemont, I have a right turn on to Holland Road after I yield to oncoming traffic. All I have to deal with is waiting for traffic to clean, so I can make my right turn. I don’t have to battle or negotiate for control of the road with other drivers.

Which is why I drive the roads I drive. It limits the stress I have to endure while driving. It limits the actions all drivers can take. It makes driving a simpler, more controlled process I can deal with more effectively.

It’s not rational. But it is what works for me.

And it’s one of the rare times I have acknowledged anything I feel, and taken what I feel into account in my daily life.

I wonder if I’m supposed to learn more about what I feel, and let what I feel have more influence in the things I do every day.

#ThursThreads Week 125 : What Do You Mean

This was one of those days I should’ve called in sick to work. What do I mean? Let me explain.

My car broke down on the drive to work this morning, smack in the middle of rush hour! Stop laughing! It wasn’t funny! I was late to work. And the people kept making mean faces at me. More than one screamed, “Get that piece of crap out of the road, you idiot!” Stop laughing!

I should have given up and gone home to hide, but no, I was stupid, and thought, “It’ll get better!” When I got to work, late, the friggin’ elevator had died. I had to climb 8 flights of stairs to get to the office. It smells like people sleep in there at night, and piss beer on the walls! What do you mean you doubt that? Stop laughing! It got worse!

The boss’s computer died. Hard drive went “Kack! Kack! Kack! Kack!” He was like, “Get my report off that computer NOW! I need to print copies for the meeting this afternoon!” Have you ever tried to explain hard disk drives to your boss? “Here, boss. Let me change the laws of physics for you, so you’ll be successful at the meeting this afternoon.”

I even had to catch the bus home, because my car’s still deader than a brick.

What do you mean, my day was a comedy of errors? You think it’s funny? Stop laughing!

241 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads, Week 125. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are good reading.

I Intend To Find Out

My doc asked me a tough question today. “Mark. Don’t tell me what you think. Turn off the logic. Turn off the reasoning. Tell me how you feel about that.”

I couldn’t.

Yeah. Me. I couldn’t. Me, the guy with all the words, and I couldn’t say how I felt. “Angry. Hurt, Wounded.” I rambled on, single words leaking through the filters in my head. “Denied.”

Denied.

And it’s not the denial everyone knows about, everyone understands. I’m not denying the truth. I’m not denying evolution exists, or the universe is 13 billion years old. Nothing like that. I’m not denying people consider me their friend. Not denying I’m good at what I have elected to do in my life.

I’m denying me. What I feel. I’ll start my explanation with a story, like I always do.

When I was in 8th grade, we moved from Annapolis, Maryland, to Chesapeake, Virginia. With the move came a change in school systems, and a change in available classes. On the day my Father took me to Deep Creek Middle School, to register for classes, and continue my 8th grade education, I had to make decisions about classes. On the spot, in the moment decisions.

One of those decisions was specific to Math. In Annapolis, I’d been taking “Introduction to Algebra.” Chesapeake didn’t offer Introductory Algebra. So, I had to make a choice. Take regular 8th grade math, which everyone knew I’d cake walk through. Or, take Algebra. Real Algebra. Where I was 6 weeks behind the class.

I suppose a sensible human would have taken 8th grade math. But a sensible human would not have raced through the decision process I went through. I didn’t think about myself, and what I was capable of, or what I wanted to do. I didn’t consider being afraid of taking Algebra. My decision process was very direct. I considered my Mother, and my Father, and what would make them proud of me.

I picked Algebra.

By the time I was in 8th grade, my decision process already denied what I felt and wanted. What I felt and wanted was expendable. What I did was what I believed made those I felt were the important people in my life proud of me, happy with my decisions.

I told my doctor, today, I buried what I felt in my backyard, so it was hidden, and no one could see it, or find it. Not even me.

There are many more stories. I shared another one with my Doc today. Told him why I decided to get his help, and start therapy. It wasn’t a decision I made. The truth is I didn’t want to find help. Because I knew, if I found help, I’d have to deal with everything.

What did I do? How did I end up finding my Doc? I sent three e-mail messages. One to Gina. One to Judy. One to Lorrie. Three messages to the three people I trusted at work. I didn’t ask my family. I didn’t ask my friends. I couldn’t. Don’t ask me to explain why. I can’t. I don’t know why.

I cut a deal with myself. If I got no responses to the e-mails, or if I got three negative responses, or three, “It’s your choice to make” responses, I would avoid therapy. If a single response from one of those three messages said, “Yes,” I’d get help.

All three responses came back positive, declaring I needed to get help.

I kept my end of the bargain. I got help.

I’ve been asking myself lots of questions these past few weeks, because I’ve known I had another step to take in my life. Another journey to make. More to explore. And today, I’ve started into that strange world.

I don’t know what I feel. I know basic things. I know when I’m hungry. I know when I’m tired, even though I don’t always admit I am. I know when I’m in physical pain, though I don’t always admit how much.

But I don’t know what I feel.

“How do you feel about that, Mark?”

“I don’t know.”

I want to write. More than I can explain. More than I can understand. It’s an irrational thing. It doesn’t make sense. There’s not a procedure for writing. Read ten books on how to write a novel, and you still won’t know how. Writing is a personal thing. I don’t write the same way you do. I don’t write the same way my writing friends do. I write my way. My friends each write their own way.

But writing also frustrates me. Hell, it infuriates me. Because it’s not predictable. I can’t tell what I’m going to write. When I sit down to write a flash fiction story for a weekly challenge, I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know what I’ll write.

What I write could be funny, scary, moving, touching, frightening, or infuriating. It could even be about butterflies and ants and other insects, long after humans have followed the dinosaurs into oblivion. I don’t snap my fingers, and presto, words appear on my computer screen.

In that same way, I don’t know what I feel. Oh, I know if I’m happy, or sad, excited, or bored, I now the obvious. Just don’t ask me how I feel about something. Don’t ask, “How do you feel about that, Mark?” Because I can’t answer. Because I don’t know.

And it’s going to take a while for me to change what I learned so long ago, when I learned to deny myself. When I learned to bury what I felt. When I learned to say, “I don’t care how I feel. I’ll do what I need to.” When I learned my feelings were expendable.

And they were.

Until 4 years ago.

When everything I buried in the backyard started surfacing, and I couldn’t stop it.

I wonder who I am.

I intend to find out.

#MWBB Week 2.15 : The Hungry Wolf

Lust loved the beach. It didn’t matter if it was midday, or midnight, the beach was always filled with entertainment. From the hotels to the sand, to the ocean, humans and their self-denial of their animal nature always brought him entertainment. As he slinked along the shaded concrete of the boardwalk, Lust pondered his best course of action for the day.

“Should I play with lots of humans, wrecking random havoc? Should I find a group of humans, and torture them continuously? Perhaps I should attach myself to a single human, and give them a Las Vegas style adventure?”

For a time, he watched the humans on the sand setting up their towels, chairs, and coolers. He particularly enjoyed watching the curvy female humans, in their barely there clothing. “Ah, the wonders of the female mind. Only a human female would scream, ‘Don’t look at me!’ and wear a tiny bikini which leaves nothing to imagine, and screams the opposite, ‘I’ve got it, and I’m gonna flaunt it!’. Perfect.”

He picked out a redhead, in a little pink number. The only things the fabric hid were her nipples, and between her legs, and it barely hid them. Lust watched her spread her towel on the white sand. He knew she was a regular on the beach when she staked her towel to the ground, so it wouldn’t blow around. Then she sat down, leaned back, and pulled out a book to read.

He knew she’d be perfect for his needs that day. He’d stay close to her for a while, and cause havoc of all kinds.

He started with a group of teenage boys as they walked by. The boys were there for one reason, though no one would ever admit it. They wanted to see curvy women, barely dressed, and fantasize about the many things they could do with them.

Lust whispered in the ear of the boy starring the hardest, “this is a good place to enjoy the water, isn’t it?”

“Hey, guys! This looks like a good place!” Sean proclaimed, “Last one in!” and he ran through the shallow waves near the shore, splashing up a storm. The other boys made like the pack they were, and followed suit. Lust had a blast as he listened in.

“Did you see her?”

“Oh, God, how could I not?”

“I wanna eat her boobies.”

“Spread those legs, momma, I’m coming in!”

“I keep hearing ZZTop.”

“Yeah, she’s got legs!”

“And she knows how to use them!”

“I’d let her wrap ‘em around me anytime.”

Of course, they would behave. None of them would do anything, except stare at her, which was OK by Lust. The more they drooled, the better. “Yes,” he thought, “she’ll do for today.”

Another female walked the sand, looking for a place to park. Lust knew exactly what to do. He whispered in her ear, “There’s a place next to her that’s perfect for you.”

“Um. Hi.” Sally shyly spoke to the person on the sand. “Is this spot free?”

“Sure is. Pull up a towel.”

Sally did, and Lust grinned, then he licked his lips, and slipped between them, like a hungry wolf, “I think I’ll try to talk them into a party of their own tonight.” He whispered in Sally’s ear, “Why don’t you comment about those teenage boys.”

Sally sighed, “Figures.”

“What?”

“We’re being stared at.”

“So we are.”

“Don’t you wish they would grow up?”

Her new friend only nodded. “It’s so obvious, What they’re thinking.”

Lust licked his lips and smiled, evil in his eyes, as he whispered to his chosen one, “Why not offer to help with her suntan oil?” Which she promptly did. As she ran her fingers across Sally’s shoulders, and down her back, Lust whispered, “Damn, that feels good doesn’t it?”

Yes, it did. And she let her fingers linger just a bit as Lust pipped in, “Perhaps she can help you with yours?”

She placed the bottle beside Sally’s head, “Would you mind?”

Lust always loved the beach in the summer time. He loved to play his games. They were so very fun.

688 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for Year 2, Week 15 (Week 2.15) of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

When Will Your First Book Be Ready?

A good friend asked, yesterday, when my first book was coming out. Of course, I answered with a, “When it’s ready” answer.. Isn’t that what everyone that’s never published a novel answers? “When it’s ready.”

But here’s where things get different. With me, “When it’s ready,” may translate to “Never.” It’s an anxiety and depression thing. It’s a war with myself thing. A conflict I’m all too familiar with, and have struggled with all my life. These days, when I think of writing the 2nd and 3rd drafts of “White Witch”, then getting beta readers, and finding an editor to help me clean it up, an artist to help me with the cover design, and learning what I’ll need to learn to publish my book, I panic.

Yes, I panic.

And until now, this morning, sitting here, writing these words, I’ve never admitted I panic at the thought of completing my first novel. But I do. Every symptom, every signal, shows. My fingers vibrate like the tines of a tuning fork. My left wrist does its “I can’t support any weight” number. My chest constricts, all the muscles in my neck, shoulders, and chest behave like I’m lifting a five-drawer file cabinet over my head. My pulse rate pushes up to near 3 digit levels, and I have to force myself to take full, deep breaths, to breathe normally.

See. I know. I just don’t talk about it. I hide it, and pray it goes away. I pray everything goes away. As I have all my life.

Because I want to fail.

Yes. You read that correctly. I want to fail.

It’s a hard thing to explain to people. A thing that makes no sense to anyone, except me. It’s not a refusal of responsibility. It’s something deeper, much more complex that not wanting to grown up and be responsible. Because I am a grown up, responsible adult.

It’s a fight even I have trouble finding the words to explain. The only words I’ve ever found are, “I want to fail,” which doesn’t really explain what I feel. So, let me explain a bit more.

In October, 2010, my last career came to a spectacular end, with me out on medical leave for 13 weeks. If you’re not familiar with the story, perhaps I’ll explain it someday. My doctor will tell you I wanted out of that job, and my subconscious did what I had to, to get me out of that job.

Here I am, in 2014, back at full-time work status, in another job. One I wasn’t even working to get. It just kind of happened. Like the last job I had. Like things always have. I’ve explained countless times, “I don’t have to look for work. Work always finds me.”

I know why this happens. It happens because I’m good at what I do. I’m not top ranked, far from it. It’s one of those things my Doctor and I have talked about many times (after 4 years of therapy, I’ve lost count of how many times). I’m damn good at what I do. Whatever I decide to do, I do it well. This past week, my doctor explained it to me this way, “Mark, if the best people at this are in the 99th percentile, you’re in the 97th, or 98th. Your not the best, but you’re damn good. Exceptionally good.”

Yeah. That’s the problem. Everyone knows that. Everyone who knows me knows that. And I can’t escape that. I can’t escape people knowing I’m good at the things I choose to do. And it’s not just in the land of computers, and computer software. Things would be far simpler if I had such limits.

I write, too. As more and more people are finding out. I write. And I’m not bad at it. To the point where I’ve been told, and have lost count of how many people have told me, I’m not bad at it, and should write a book.

I take pictures, too. With a $400 (US) Canon point and shoot camera with a 840 mm optical zoom lens. Not even a real camera. A point and shoot camera. A camera a lot of people look at, and laugh at, because it’s not a “real” camera.

Yet, even with that “toy” camera, I take pictures people like. I’ve heard many times, “You’re a photographer, right?”

Wrong. I’m not. I just take pictures. Snap-shots. I’m not a photographer.

I’m not a writer.

I’m not a computer genius.

And I struggle, every day, with the idea, the thought, that I am, and that people think I am.

Could I start a computer services business? Yes. Easily. Would I be successful at it? Almost certainly. Then why don’t I? Because I want to fail. Because the thought of meeting those expectations leaves me gasping for breath, and needing to take a long walk to make it through yet another panic attack.

Could I write, and publish, my first book? Yes. For me, it would be surprisingly easy. Would it sell? Who cares? That wouldn’t be the point. Do I want to? Yes. Then why don’t I? Because I want to fail. Because the thought of completing my first book, and publishing it, and putting it out in the world, triggers another panic attack. And leaves me terrified of the knowledge I would publish more stories. The first book wouldn’t be the only book. And again, I end up taking long walks to de-stress myself, and beat back the panic.

There you have it, people. What I’m really saying when I answer the question, “When will your book be ready?”

Me. Screaming at life, trying to run and hide, because I know where that next step leads, and I’m terrified to take that step as a result.

It’s not “when will the book be ready?” It’s actually, “When will I be ready?”

And I don’t have an answer to that question. Other than to look at my hands, and scream at them, “Stop doing that!” and then go walk until my heels bleed.

That’s what terror is.

That’s what anxiety is.

That’s what I live with. Every breath and every heartbeat of every day.

#MWBB Week 2.14 : The Break-Up Song

A new bar’s always an interesting experience. Different people, bartenders, bands, music, but the same stories.

I plunked my empty bottle down, and stared at it a moment, then waited for the bartender to find me. She was a hot one. Put a hot one behind the bar on a Friday night, draw in guys by the dozen, and watch them spend everything they have while they watch her.

“Want another, hon?”

I nodded, and she was off to get a full one.

I turned to look out at the crowd. It was a good Friday night, all the tables were full. I saw what I expected around the tables. some were groups of guys, some groups of girls, and some mixed couples. Like always, the guys were hunting girls, the girls formed groups for safety, and the mixed tables were laughing, because they’d already paired off.

That’s why bars have bands and dance floors, so couples can form up. Usually a guy and a girl, but sometimes two guys, or two girls. That’s how Chrissy and I met. In a bar, with a band, and dance floor.

The dance floor was full of couples, some just forming, others having lasted longer, and some nearing the end. The new ones were fun to watch, especially on slow dances, as they got that first full body contact. It either worked, or it didn’t. If it worked, they got closer. If not, they barely touched. The couples nearly done looked around as they danced, with that “I remember when this was fun” look.

“Here alone?” The bartender put the next bottle down.

“Yeah.”

“Just break up?”

“Yeah.”

“Let me know when you want the next one.”

“And the one after that.”

She had great eyes, lots of cleavage, and hips. God, what hips! The kind you want to put your hands on. Of course, she knew it, and she showed ‘em off well. The guy next to me took a big chug from his glass, gave me an evil smile, and whispered, “God, I’d love to bang that!”

“Who wouldn’t,” I thought, “Now that Chrissy’s gone.” We’d shared the same apartment for years, but not any more. The thrill, the excitement, was gone, and had been for months. We’d met at a bar, on a dance floor, and we’d liked what we felt on that floor. That first slow number, every curve of her molded right into me, like two puzzle pieces did.

But the physical parts were the only parts that fit together. In every other way, we fit together like housewives and cockroaches. Gods, the fights we had! Of course they always ended with us naked, trashing the bed sheets again. “Hi, honey! Let’s have another fight, so we can fuck!” Yeah, that’s what everything turned into.

So, we broke up. It was for the best.

I wasn’t in the bar to find a new girl. No, I was there to understand I might find another Chrissy, and have hot sex with her for a year or three, and then have to find another bar, and another Chrissy. And it would never end.

I was drinking to think about how to find a woman. A real woman. A friend, someone to trust, to talk with, and spend time with. Someone who’d be there when you needed ‘em. Not just another body I could bang.

But I had to admit I missed banging Chrissy. Damn, she’d been hot, and so had the sex. But I’d get over it.

I looked at the guy next to me as he stared at the bartender’s ass. “Dude, no drooling on the bar.”

“God,” the guy mumbled, “Give me one night with a number like that. That’s all I want. One night.”

I spent the rest of the night watching hot women turn guys like him stupid, and wondering if I’d ever find who I was looking for, and where I’d find her, because I knew I’d never find her in a bar with a dance floor, and a band.

675 words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for Year 2, Week 14 (Week 2.14) of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

Leaving People In The Dust At 5 Miles Per Hour

Here’s one that really ticks me off. A conversation I’ve heard countless times. A conversation that grates against every nerve, and every brain cell I have. A conversation that happens at work all the time. Every day.

“Mark, you do this all day, every day. How can you do this at home?”

“I don’t understand.”

“You push yourself to get better at your job all day. And then you take it home with you. You spend all day working on computers, and then you go home, and work on computers.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why?”

“Because I get tired of computers.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Don’t you ever rest? I get off of work, I walk through the door, and I forget all about this place until I walk through the door the next morning.”

“Ah. Good. Stand still. Makes you easier to run over.”

Let me get this straight. You’re actually telling me you love your job, and won’t give it up, but you hate it so much you pretend it doesn’t exist when you’re not at work. Is that what you’re saying, ‘cause that’s what I’m hearing. And if that’s what you’re saying, don’t you realize how irrational that is. How illogical. Come on. You either love your job, or you hate it.

My doctor tries to explain this conflicting set of ideas to me. “People like their work. They do. But they need rest. Just like you. They need rest, so they limit their work to the work environment, and that leaves them time to rest.”

And inside I’m laughing, thinking about how many of them think I’m a frickin’ genius, or brilliant. They don’t have a clue. It’s a simple math thing.

Have a golf cart that runs endlessly at 5 miles an hour. Have a car that runs wide open at 125 miles an hour. Put a cup of gas in each. Which one wins the endurance race? The golf cart. Obviously.

All I have to do is cruise along, taking it easy, playing around each day, and I end up running over everyone else. I keep chipping away at things. Learning a little here, a little there. And it adds up. And I watch people drown themselves in oceans of stuff to meet a deadline, and then collapse into useless rubble until the next deadline.

“You never stop!”

Hell, I stop all the time! You just never notice it, because I also keep going every day! You run wind sprints until you fall over. I walk. That’s the difference. I didn’t learn all the things I know overnight. I learned them gradually. One day at a time. I learned a bunch some days. Other days I wondered if I’d ever figure anything out. But I didn’t stop. I never said, “My brain hurts, I’m done trying.”

I’ll use exercise as an example again, because people seem to understand that. Even couch potatoes seem to understand that. The “I really should get in shape” crowd knows how to get in shape. They just don’t.

You want your abs to look like the people in the magazines? You know what you have to do to look like that. It takes time. It takes a lot of work, a lot of sweat, and a lot of not giving up just because it hurts, and you’re tired.

With work, it’s the same damn thing. It takes a lot of time, a lot of work, a lot of sweat, and not giving up just because it hurts, and you’re tired.

OK. I get it. You endured 12 years of school, and 4 years of college. It seems like all you did for 16 years was learn and study. Now, you’re done with that. You’re free! Now, you can spend the next 60 to 80 years watching episodes of NCIS on TV, and mowing the lawn, because that’s what life’s about, and wondering how people survived the round of layoffs at work when you got pink slipped.

Idiots. Stupid people. And you don’t even know you’re stupid. That’s the part that makes me angry. You actually embrace your stupidity as a sign of your success! “I worked flippin’ hard to get here! Now, I’m going to enjoy the rewards of my work!”

You think I don’t enjoy the rewards of my work? Really? Because I keep working? Because I keep learning? Because I keep trying? Fine. You sit at home, watching NCIS episodes. I’ll take a walk at the Botanical Garden, and enjoy the flowers and trees. You have a couple of beers to drink. I’ll stand beside the ocean, and watch the waves, and feel the suns heat untying the knots in my sore muscles. You mow the lawn to keep the neighbors happy. I’ll walk a trail at a National Wildlife Preserve, and marvel at how an egret stalks and catches fish.

You think I don’t relax? You think I don’t play? Just because I keep learning stuff every day? Like I said before. Go ahead and stand still. It makes you easier to run over. And me and my golf cart will putter along, and leave you years behind us.

It’s your choice to make. Make it or don’t.

I made my choice decades ago.