Friday, July 31, 2015

The Knock on the Door

by Jean Roberta

It could happen to almost anyone, and it has. If you know something that the establishment wants buried, or you’ve broken a tradition by belonging to the "wrong" demographic, or you’ve signed a petition, they could come to take you away. “They” could be police or members of the military in uniform, or they could be “health” workers in white coats, or they could be thugs waiting in the shadows on a dark street.

“You won’t see it coming,” says my spouse, a survivor of the military takeover of Chile on September 11, 1973. The government had been elected by a popular vote, and much of the population was highly educated. The arts were revered, and leftist thought was part of the culture. The nation, somewhat like a Spanish-speaking (or more Spanish-speaking) version of California, had never been a Banana Republic like the small countries of Central America.

Augusto Pinochet, a member of the military, didn’t seem likely to replace the elected President and run the country as a dictator. Until he did.

Germany was a fairly enlightened place between approximately 1750 and 1930. Liberal-humanism and the romantic movement in literature were well underway there before they reached England. Antisemitism was a kind of stubborn medieval Christian prejudice that lingered on in most European countries, but no one seemed to suspect that Germany in the twentieth century would become notorious as the birthplace of the systematic massacre that came to be known as the Holocaust.

Muslims and Hindus were spread throughout India before 1947, and the chaos that came to be called Partition. Some Indian writers even wrote philosophical works showing that Hinduism and Islam were very compatible. Then the nation gained its independence from Britain, and the bigots ruled. Overnight, families who had lived in India for generations were told to go “home” to Pakistan (East or West) because they were Muslim, and therefore not truly Indian. Hindus in Muslim territory were treated the same way. One unfortunate man who still lived in India during Partition was told that as a Muslim, he was no longer an Indian citizen, so he was sent to Pakistan. The Pakistani government claimed he was Indian, and they deported him back. He was fined and imprisoned for being in the “wrong” place as both governments deported him back and forth for years.

Most of the millions of people (mostly women) who were convicted of “witchcraft” probably weren’t guilty of anything. At worst, they might have used some herbal cures for common ailments instead of relying on prayer alone. They probably didn’t foresee the Inquisition, even after the Pope issued a Papal Bull (in Latin, of course) on “un-Christian” behaviour in the 1480s.

I fear political and social cataclysms even more than I fear natural disasters. As a child in the U.S. during the Red Scare of the 1950s, I learned how whole populations can be made paranoid, afraid of something that isn’t real, or that they don’t understand. None of my classmates seemed to know what “Communism” was except that it was the boogeyman, and it was threatening our “free country.” Academics like my parents were suspected of being Communists because they read too many books, and spread ideas like viruses.

My spouse warns me not to sign on-line petitions, including several current ones about the American dentist who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. The petitions call for him to be charged with a crime, and/or for the laws about this kind of thing to be tightened. This seems logical to me. Would the Canadian government hunt me for opposing big-game hunters who kill endangered species for sport? It’s possible.

Under the current right-wing government of Canada, a recent bill was passed into law making it possible to revoke the Canadian citizenship and deport anyone who was born outside of Canada and who engages in “terrorism,” widely defined. Word on the street is that this law is aimed at environmentalists, who throw monkey wrenches in the big machinery of corporations with big plans to accelerate the selling of natural resources. I haven’t been highly visible in protests and demonstrations (including the current “Shell No”’ campaign to prevent Shell Oil from drilling in the Arctic Sea and further polluting the world’s oceans). If anything, I haven’t been active enough when the fate of the planet is at stake.

But I know from experience that I don’t even have to actively oppose the current establishment to be labelled a problem.

In my nightmares, a SWAT team in riot gear breaks down the door of my house to haul me out of bed and take me away. If I ask what I’m charged with, the enforcers of the law seem outraged that I think I have the right to ask questions. As representatives of the government in power, they can do anything to me – even make me “disappear.” Realistically, who could stop them?

I may be paranoid, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Way It Feels At the End

by Annabeth Leong

Angst - (in Existentialist philosophy) the dread caused by man's awareness that his future is not determined but must be freely chosen

This is an excerpt from an unpublished early erotic story of mine, “The Way It Feels At the End.” The main characters, Siri and Liz, can’t get over their angst about the events of Siri’s drunken binge a year ago.


Siri ran her fingers down Liz’s now-naked calves, a light layer of stubble roughening the smooth curve of the muscle. She wanted to put every part of her lover in her mouth, but had refrained in the past from paying too much attention in odd places. Now, she swirled her tongue over the back of Liz’s knee, and pressed her lips to the swell of the calf muscle and sucked hard.

Liz swayed, gripping the shower curtain rod with one hand and a shelf with the other. Siri looked up. “Don’t move. Stay just like that.”

She rose to her feet, stretching the stockings out so they weren’t lumps anymore. “I’ve heard we should have some word to say in case something goes wrong and you want me to stop.”

“How about ‘tequila?’” Liz said, raising an eyebrow.

Siri dropped her gaze. “It fits,” she said, and busied herself with attaching Liz’s wrists to the bathroom fixtures. When she’d finished, she stepped back to look at her lover. Her chest felt contracted from the reproach in Liz’s choice of safeword. Still avoiding Liz’s eyes, Siri unbuttoned her lover’s shirt, tucking it open and watching the water hit her nipples. She pulled off Liz’s skirt and panties and dropped them on the bathroom floor outside the shower stall.

Then Siri stepped back and stared at the body that had been her object of desire for some seven years now. She knew the trail of beauty marks that went down Liz’s left shoulder. She knew how she’d gotten the scars on her knees. She felt the full force of all her mixed emotions, the build-up of lust and guilt, despair and love. She stepped out of the shower and closed the curtain to put a screen between herself and Liz.

“Where are you going?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Siri said, forcing her voice to stay light and teasing. She watched Liz’s shape through the filmy curtain. Not stopping to question her impulse, Siri reached back into the shower and turned the water all the way to cold. Liz screamed as the water changed, and the sound sent a shiver all the way up Siri’s spine.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Siri tore the curtain off the rod, ignoring the water spraying out of the tub. “Do you want me to turn it off?”

Liz jerked her arms against the restraints. “Jesus! Yes! What the hell?” The sight of her lover wet, cold, and struggling sent a sudden surge of desire through Siri’s body.

“You know what to say if you want me to stop,” Siri said. She pulled off her own soaked clothes and dumped them on the floor, ignoring Liz’s continued shrieks of outrage.

Siri stepped back into the shower, stifling her own shriek when the cold water hit her body. Liz’s skin, covered with gooseflesh, felt stiff and cool to the touch. Siri flicked her fingernails against the hard tips of Liz’s nipples. She kissed Liz hard, shutting off another shriek. Her mouth tasted flame-hot. A shiver rose from deep in Siri’s spine, half from the cold and half lust, and she didn’t know her own hands as they clutched and clawed at Liz’s back, arms, and legs.

Siri pulled back from the kiss, Liz’s panting breath loud and hoarse even above the sound of the shower water. She reached between Liz’s legs and pushed two fingers up inside. “Cold,” Liz gasped. “It’s cold. It’s cold.”

Siri lifted Liz’s chin and looked at her face. “Now tell me whatever it is that’s on your mind.”

“Are you serious?”

Siri shifted so the full force of the cold water fell on Liz again. She forced herself to meet her lover’s eyes and keep her gaze hard and her fingers inside Liz’s pussy harder.

Liz tipped her forehead toward Siri. “I never forgave you,” she said, the words coming out tight and sharp.

Siri closed her eyes and reached for Liz. “Say it all.”

“I don’t trust you. When you go away, I’m always afraid you’re not coming home. I fucking hate that you slept with another woman. When you touch me, I always wonder how you touched her.”

“Keep talking.”

“I left you because you were leaving me,” Liz said. “That’s what you never seemed to understand.” Siri slid her fingers in and out of Liz, toying with her body as the painful words flowed over her with a deeper chill than the water. The words began to slow as the sensations took over. Liz gave a full-body shudder and arched her neck back. Siri leaned forward and bit hard at the base. Liz went quiet. Siri felt her trembling under her hands.

“You’re wet,” Siri said. She continued to work her fingers in Liz’s pussy, and went in for a deep kiss. She rubbed her thumb against Liz’s clit until again she felt Liz surrender something. Her lover’s hips began to swirl, and the chill of the water faded into the background. Siri kissed so hard her jaw began to hurt. She stroked Liz’s tongue, the inside of her cheek. She wanted something from Liz that she didn’t know how to get--to be inside of her, to fuck her, something beyond just making her come.


If anyone would like to read the whole story, shoot me an email, and I'll send over the whole file!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I Think Not

by Daddy X

According to the “Internets,” 'angst' rears its ugly head when one feels apprehensive for the world and its future. Sorta like a more encompassing ‘anxiety’—pushed to the nth power to include fear for all life forms—combined with the all-consuming lure of a far-fetched vision of a smidgen of hope.

Angst hasn’t been much of a problem for me of late. During a year of debilitating Interferon/Ribavirin treatment back in 2005/06, I did listen to a lot of leftist talk radio, which turned me into a different person. Not only was I laid low by physical anguish, but I also became upset with every perceived wrong I observed around me. I had become a drag. The fix was to not listen to a particular station.

It wasn’t a matter of suddenly being made aware of what was out of kilter with society. I had always harbored leftist thought. And, to the extent I could, tried to live my life accordingly. But the inundation of all that negativity had created a miserable guy.

The ills of the world are now so overwhelming that I wonder what one person can do. Momma X has remained on the front lines of environmental activism, now with a group that, in addition to trying influence government, actually searches out funding to purchase open space for permanent protection, bypassing many slower-moving machinations of legal entanglement. Direct action, so to speak.

I still manage to write a ‘letter to the editor’ every now and then, and support Momma in her endeavors, helping her edit articles and engaging in functions geared to the environment— but wonder again—why?  Younger people don't seem to be getting involved with the established groups. The local Audubon Society looks like an old age home, as does the Sierra Club. Where is the next generation? I know of existing high school enviro clubs, but the kids seem to get lost once they get to college age. Life must get in their way.

That figures.

In some sense, I would love to go back to a younger age. But thinking one step further, I wonder if I could do as well in this chip-oriented society we’ve shifted to. When I was young, with the proper education (which cost much less than now) we could pretty much go into any field we wanted. Now, kids fresh out of college don’t have that luxury. Those with basic degrees are competing for fast-food jobs. Whatever will the future hold for those like me without a college education?

What does the future of the world look like? In some ways, Momma and I are tired of beating our heads against a wall of capitalist abuse. But where are the troops to follow upon our heels? They’ll be dealing with a dire situation where machines accomplish many of the jobs once done by humans. Their ways of living are on the line, but on a very basic level at such a young age, with virtually all their lives yet to live. What is to be their future?

So just this morning, I’m reading the paper and see an article that tells me this year’s Columbia River salmon run may be depleted by up to 80%, due largely to drought and high temperatures in the greater Northwest. Elsewhere in the world, elephants are on their way out from poaching. Ditto for the tiger and rhinoceros. In fact, we’re witnessing a mass extinction to rival the demise of dinosaurs.

Maybe it’s better not to think.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Angst Through the Ages--Suz deMello edition

I've found that my level of angst and stress has fluctuated through my life stages. 

Apparently I was a happy baby:

As a child, I had moments of stress:

and happiness:

My angst level zipped up to the stratosphere when I entered middle school. The onset of menstruation and the appearance of social anxiety were way too much for a sheltered little girl, which I continued to be for decades. I became an insomniac. I used and abused drugs, mostly pot, in an effort to control undiagnosed depression. 

But I was pretty cute--that's my HS grad pic:

As I entered my twenties, my drug use increased as I added more drugs to my pharmacopeia, most notably booze, cocaine and meth, plus occasional use of hallucinogens. I was still suffering from depression and insomnia, but was less concerned about existential angst than I was when a college student--the genesis of the universe was of less interest to me than when I could get to the Holy City Zoo and catch some live comedy, laughing my cares away in a drug-induced fog.

Then came law school graduation and the establishment of my law practice. 

No angst, but serious stress and depression as I struggled to present a happy, successful face to the world when I was torn to shreds inside.

Then I married, allegedly the happiest day of my life. Not. I wasn't sure of my decision, and though I've been apart from my ex for ten years now, still can't decide whether that marriage was a good idea--though I am certain that I will never remarry. What for?

image by Cienfuegos 241

Menopause brought a measure of peace. After working through the hot flashes and other assorted symptoms, everything mellowed out. The depression that had plagued me had gone, victim to the massive chemical changes wrought by menopause. YAY!

I'm still a highly stressed person--that seems to be a part of me. But my angst is gone forever.

Has anyone else had a similar experience? That angst has mellowed with age?

Monday, July 27, 2015

High Anxiety

Sacchi Green

Sometimes writing what you know is the last thing you want to do, and the last thing people want to read. I’ll tack on a short story excerpt at the end of this, so feel free to skip to that if you’d like. The story is from an historical anthology coming out later this year, and is about PTSD (or shell-shock as it was called during WWI), which may or may not qualify as angst, but is probably close enough.

 First, though, before the story excerpt, here's my write-what-you-know tale of angst, or something like it.

I’m not sure how different angst is from common anxiety—maybe an upscale, existential form. In any case, I have all too much of both for comfort. There are valid reasons for my anxiety, but when it extends into unrelated areas of life, becoming the default setting of one’s mood, I think we’re pretty much in angst territory. Situational angst, if that’s even a thing.

I’m not really that badly off, except when I’m semi-awake and it isn’t really quite morning and my defenses are down and I still need more sleep but worries both genuine and imagined get tangled together in dreams that feel too real. Daytimes, most of the time, I cope with whatever needs coping with, which right now means writing about angst.

In a stroke of serendipitous coincidence, I just came this bit of information in a local newspaper, a welcome aid to putting off getting personal:  

“Research suggests that anxiety is at least partly temperamental. A recent study of 592 Rhesus monkeys found that some of them responded more anxiously than others and that as much as 30 per cent of early anxiety may be inherited. Yet what is inherited is the potential for anxiety, not anxiety itself.”

How can they tell that a trait like anxiety is inherited rather than learned unless they separate the youngsters from their parents? And wouldn’t doing so quite naturally cause anxiety? Well, never mind. Let’s not get anxious about those poor baby monkeys.

Back to the hereditary theory. My mother was always on the pessimistic side, apparently in the philosophical belief that it was better to expect the worst so that it wouldn’t take you by surprise. That’s not to say that she was always in a state of anxiety, but especially in her later years she went out of her way to find things to worry about. She’d answer my phone calls, even those she was expecting and knew to be on benign topics, with a lugubrious, “What’s wrong?” (I don’t ever recall telling her anything was wrong over the phone.) In her last several years, when her health was declining and there were real things to worry about, she accepted her own condition fairly calmly, but worried all the more about other family members and various other factors. When I semi-kidded her about some really far–fetched idea, she admitted it, but said with a bit of a laugh that worrying was her hobby. “What else do I have to occupy me?”

I have plenty to occupy me, but lately I find myself getting uptight with far-fetched (but not impossible) worries. If family or friends are traveling I’m on edge until I know they’re safely home. My granddaughter is the light of my life, but as soon as she was born I thought of her as another hostage of fate. I think my mother did, too. Well, if anxiety is hereditary, I hope we haven’t passed it on to that next generation.

I’m not obsessed with worries all the time, or if I am, it’s more of an undercurrent. I don’t have a real claim to angst. I’m sitting beside a swift mountain stream right now, enjoying my surroundings, pleased to have harvested at least two gallons of wild blueberries in the last three days, plus a bountiful crop of wild golden chanterelle mushrooms, one of the kinds you can find in Whole Foods, but mine are much fresher, and free.

Life is, on the whole, good. Even when death has to be taken into account. A week from next Saturday I’ll be taking my ninety-five-year-old father for a PETscan, one more test for what looks right now as probably, but not quite conclusively, lung cancer. He knows this. He’s still quite sharp, just a bit on the forgetful side. He tells doctors that I come with him because of his poor hearing, but we both know it’s just as much so that I can remember and keep track of what’s going on. It’s also because he isn’t driving any more, thank goodness!

I know how lucky I’ve been to be on good terms with my parents, and how remarkably lucky I’ve been for them to live so long. My mother made it to ninety-three. What we’re dealing with now usually happens to people far sooner, and is a natural phase of life. But it’s never easy. Uncertainties, tough decisions to be made, questions that can’t be fully answered. If he does have lung cancer, we have to think in terms of how much arduous treatment would be worth it, and what the prognosis would be with treatment or without it. If it turns out that he doesn’t have cancer, he still has recent and worsening breathing problems, even though his health in most other ways is remarkably good considering his age. He was heroic in taking care of my mother the last while before she had to be in a nursing home for care, and he visited her there every single day. (My brothers and I made sure one of us went with him three or four days a week.) But he has a horror of being in a nursing home situation himself. He has so far resisted living with me, an hour or so away from where he lives now and where I grew up, or at an assisted living place near me, but those options are open to him. He wants to stay in the home he shared with my mother, with friends nearby, his church, his twice-a-week bridge games at the senior center.

I want whatever is best for him. I worry about what is best for him. I’m the one he depends on, and however much I worry in those early morning hours when I need to sleep but can’t, and often in the earlier night hours when I’m first trying to get to sleep, I’ll cope with whatever needs coping with. Anxiety is a natural phase of life, too, a repeating one.

Now for the story excerpt. This will be in Through the Hourglass, one of the three anthologies I’ve been editing lately, and isn’t actually erotica, although I’m tempted to expand on it sometime in the future and include the steamy bits I know are there between the lines later in the piece.

Crossing Bridges
Sacchi Green

Upstream the river riffled over stony outcroppings, but under the bridge it ran deep and clear.  Reggie leaned over the wooden railing and stared down into those amber-green depths, willing herself to see only the great speckled trout balanced in perfect stillness against the current. An ordinary Midlands English stream, all green shadow and shimmering sunlight and blue reflected sky. Just a big fish. Yet she could not block out visions of bodies submerged in other streams flowing ever redder with blood through the ravaged countryside of France, until they reached the Somme. Even the songs of birds in flight, spilling over with rapture, warped in her mind into cries for help, help that could never be enough.

"Shell-shock," the doctors might say, but it scarcely mattered what one called it. Pure, searing grief, not war itself—though war would have been enough—had breached her defenses. Grief for Vic. For herself without Vic.
Reggie's hands tightened to the point of pain on the railing. By what right did England bask in such a May morning, calm and lovely, while over there artillery’s thunder still shook the fields, and men rotted in muddy trenches? How could she bear to stand idle in the midst of such peace when her place was over there, even…even with Vic gone? All the more with Vic gone.
But she must adjust, must let the peace of home heal her—not that anywhere felt like home now. Or ever could again, without Vic. If Reggie could prove herself recovered, not just from her physical injuries but those of the spirit--capable once more, normal, clear-minded--they just might send her back to the war.  An experienced ambulance driver, strong as most men, skilled at repairing motorcars and field-dressing wounded men; here in pastoral England she was of no use, but over there she was desperately needed.

Reggie straightened abruptly, trying to focus on the tender green of new leaves, the glint of sunlight on the flitting gold and peacock blue of dragonflies. She shook herself like a retriever emerging from deep water.

“Don’t move!”

The low, terse command froze her in mid shake.

“There’s a nest…” The voice came from below, less peremptory now, but Reggie’s mind raced. A machine gun nest? She fought the impulse to drop to the wooden planks of the bridge. Surely not gunners, not here. A nest of wasps?
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” The speaker was almost whispering. “It’s just that swallows are nesting below you on the supports of the bridge, and I’ve been sketching them, but they get uneasy when you move so suddenly and might leave the eggs.”

A flush of fury heated Reggie’s face. Forced to the verge of panic by some silly schoolgirl! She bent over the wooden railing, an angry shout surging into her throat, and saw, first, a head of tousled light brown hair cut short about the ears. A schoolboy, then! All the worse! “WHAT do you bloody mean—“

The artist looked up. The remainder of Reggie’s words halted, burning like mustard gas in her mouth.

Not a boy. Not a child at all, though she might have been taken for one if it weren’t for tiny lines at the corners of mouth and eyes, and a certain look in those eyes that spoke of a share of pain in her life; rather like what Reggie saw in her own when she was careless enough to look in a mirror. Her hair was really no shorter than Vic’s pale curls had been in France, and Reggie’s own dark thatch had been cropped a good deal shorter then, a necessity in the filth and chaos of battlefields. She realized uneasily that it was about time she cut it again. Five months in hospital had left it just long enough to tie back in a straggly knot, which she would have hated if she had cared in the least about appearance these days.

“I really am terribly sorry,” the woman said. “I shouldn’t have startled you like that. I get too engrossed in what I’m working on; it’s my besetting sin. One of them, at any rate.” A flashing smile turned her rather ordinary face into something quite different, almost enchanting, in the elven manner of an illustration from a fairy tale. “You must be Lady Margaret’s cousin, and this is her bridge, so really you’ve much more right here than I. We’d heard you were spending the summer with her. I’m Emma Greening from downstream at Foxbanks.” She stood from her perch on a mossy rock and made as if to extend a hand, then realized that she couldn’t possibly reach up to where Reggie stood and withdrew it in some confusion. “Just a second and I’ll climb out of here with my gear.“

Reggie found her voice, or at least a version of it just barely suitable for the occasion. The hoarseness couldn’t be helped. Vic had claimed to quite like what being a little too slow to get her gas mask on had done to her tone.

“No, you can go on sketching. I was about to move along at any rate.” Emma Greening…what had Margaret said about her? Something, in all that chatter about the local population, something about being an artist, but Reggie had paid no attention to any of it. No one in this dull, placid, countryside mattered to her.

Now she wondered just how much Margaret had told the local population about her. Or how much Margaret herself understood.

“I should be going myself,” Emma said. “I can sketch swallows in my sleep—it was the bridge itself I wanted to catch in a certain light, and I think I have enough now to be going on with.” She packed her sketchbook and paint box into a satchel slung over her shoulder, and stepped from the rock onto the steep riverbank.

“Here, I’ll give you a hand with that.” Reggie heard the brusqueness in her own voice, and couldn’t quite erase the remnants of her angry frown, but found herself reaching down from the top of the riverbank without remembering how she’d got there. Emma’s sun-browned hand met hers in a firm grip, and she was up the slope so quickly and easily that it was clear she hadn’t needed any help at all.

“Thanks. I’ll be getting along now, and I do apologize for disturbing you.” Her smile now was merely polite.

This would be as good a time as ever to practice behaving normally, Reggie thought. Best to scotch any gossip about her being a bit odd. “Don’t leave on my account, Miss…Greening, is it? I’m Regina Lennox. Make that Reggie. Sketch here all you like. I’m the one who should apologize for being such a troll when you startled me.”

Emma’s smile flashed brilliantly again. “A troll? How funny that you’d say that! This is indeed a perfect troll bridge, which is why I was sketching it, for a book I’m illustrating. A children’s story, the one with the three goats.”

“Trip, trap, trip, trap over the bridge?”

“That’s the one,” Emma confirmed. “For now I wanted to get the bridge itself, rustic and charming, with the swallows, and that wren darting in and out of the bittersweet vines on the other side—she must have a nest there—and the clump of purple orchis just where the bridge meets the bank. All lovely and peaceful before the goats or troll appear. A lull before the storm sort of thing.”

“So the troll got here prematurely.” There was something comfortably familiar about the conversation.

Emma tilted her head, surveying Reggie with mock seriousness. “No, I wouldn’t cast you as the troll, exactly. In any case, I was the one below the bridge, or nearly so, so I’m a better candidate for trolldom.” She leaned her head the other way with a frown of concentration belied by a twitching at the corners of her mouth. “I see you more as the biggest Billy Goat Gruff, stern, shaggy, putting up with no nonsense from any troll.”

“Certainly shaggy…” Reggie stopped short. Memory hit her like an icy blast. Vic used to tease her, rumpling her hair when it got shaggy and needed cutting, calling her a troll—often followed by, ‘Well, get on with it, you slouch, kiss me if you’re going to!’ She felt her face freeze into grim stillness, bracing against the familiar onslaught of grief.

Emma stepped back. “Sorry again,” she said, sounding embarrassed. “I have such a bad habit of blurting outrageous things without thinking.”

“It’s not you,” Reggie got out, but no more words would come.

 “I really should be going now, anyhow.” Emma said quickly. “I’ll just leave you in peace.  I expect we’ll run across each other in the village from time to time.”

Reggie watched in silence as Emma picked up the bicycle lying beside the lane, settled her art supplies in the canvas panniers at the back, mounted it, and rode away. Her divided skirt revealed a brief glimpse of quite nice lisle-stockinged calves above sturdy boots—and a smudge of moss stain where she’d been sitting on the rock.

So much for behaving normally! Reggie’s spasm of grief was subsiding, and she wished she could call Emma back, but the bicycle had disappeared around a bend edged with dense shrubbery. And what could she have said? “I froze up because you reminded me of someone.” Which wasn’t even true. Emma didn’t particularly resemble Vic. It was more the light, pleasant conversation, the brief exchange of banter…

Ah. That was it. Just as the rehabilitation counselor had said, but Reggie had resisted. Guilt. Survivor’s guilt, they called it. Why should she be the one to survive? How could she deserve, or accept, even the least bit of pleasure?

Well, she had enjoyed herself, if only for a few minutes. Maybe that was a sign of healing. She rubbed her hands across her eyes, then turned back to the bridge. A swallow darted under the arch, and a second bird took flight from the nest on the wooden underpinnings while the first took over hatching duty. On the far side a wren darted in and out between clusters of tiny white flowers on a trailing tangle of vines—bittersweet, Emma had called it. A small butterfly speckled like polished tortoiseshell flitted between masses of ferns on the upper bank. Emma would probably know what it was called.

It occurred to Reggie that this side of the bridge was the farthest she’d been from Margaret’s house since she’d come here, and also that it must be close to time for lunch. A quick sound in the water and a spreading ring of ripples showed that the trout concurred, and had snatched a mayfly from the surface.

She went back across the bridge, pausing to look down into the water. Only when she was well along the lane did she realize that her mind had played no tricks this time, and she’d seen only the river, and the fish, and reflections of a swallow in flight.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Size Doesn't Matter

Angst can be a ravenous and insatiable beast. Whilst in an overall sense, it’s quite an unfocussed and global fear, the less formal usage of the word is applied to a fear both quite personal and at times, quite trivial. When it comes to the source of angst, though, truly size does not matter.

I was a difficult child. Not in a running-around, tearing-the-place-apart way. More in a quiet and sulky way. I slept poorly as a baby, and had rather particular rules to which only I was privy–until those rules were broken. Suddenly everyone else knew the rules too! Behaviour needed to be patterned and predictable. Peas could not be mixed with carrots once on my plate (though if they arrived mixed, that was no trouble). Biscuits (the cookie kind) needed to be whole, not broken. My mother, in fact, was concerned that I might be autistic.

From my perspective, which is the only one I have regular access to, I felt the world had a certain sense of order, yet it seemed nobody else understood just how important it was to keep that order. The doody-heads.

It all came to a head once I began school. I’d attended kindergarten, and had been in child care many times, but school somehow overwhelmed me; to the point that I didn’t speak out loud that first day.

That, then, became the trend for the whole year. My not speaking that first day had a few of the kids looking at me funny. At least, in my own perception, it did. From the perspective of an extra 40+ years of experience, I can recognise that they were all sunk just as deeply in their own psyches at that moment.

So, because I’d not spoken out loud in the classroom that first day, when day two arrived I just knew that if I spoke out loud, all eyes would suddenly be staring in my direction. “He spoke! At last!” It was one of those snowball effects, where every day of silence built up the pressure—in my own head and nowhere else, of course—to ultimately verbalise.

I hasten to add that at home, and in the playground, and even in the hallways, I was an average kid who spoke and shouted and played around. It was just the formalised nature of the classroom, I think, which gave me initial pause.

I lasted the whole of the first year without speaking out loud in class. At show and tell I would whisper in the teacher’s ear. My friends simultaneously acted as helpers and enablers. They would get up and ask the teacher if I could go to the toilet, rather than forcing me to confront whatever damned cat it was that had my tongue.

Despite being an on-stage musical performer, that kind of angst is still a part of who I am and what I do. It’s made a few appearances in my stories, as is always the way for anyone who writes.

Most notably, there’s a small section in my FF story, “Her Majesty” (edited by the lovely Lisabet!) It’s a first person story, which has long been my go-to POV (which is probably a branch of the same tree from which all this initial angst grew–a self-centredness which feels like protection).

This paragraph is, to my mind, my most accurate description of how that angst manifested in my mind. I wrote earlier of my childhood need for patterning and predictability, for vegetable segregation unless already intermingled. The last two lines of this paragraph…that sums up what was going on in my head.

“With a fortifying breath, I walked out until the water tickled the tops of my knees. Every passing wave slipped up my thighs like a drunken jerk’s hands until finally I bit the bullet and sat, squealing and shivering as the cold water coated my skin. It wasn’t just the temperature. Change has always been hard for me. Even when it’s just the change from dry to wet.”

Thankfully, life and experience and the arrival of genuine things to be scared of have broken those early fears and left them sprinkled on the floor of my mind. I could easily pick them up and weld them back together. But I have too much else to do right now.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

You don't really care for music, do you?

by Giselle Renarde

I couldn't remember the last time I'd heard my mother sing. Had I EVER heard her sing? Happy Birthday, I guess. Even then, she sings very softly. She's self-conscious about her teeth, so she tends to cover her mouth a lot.

When I was in Grade Twelve, I remember my mother bursting into my bedroom and demanding to know why I hadn't told her about parent/teacher interviews. Her best friend worked at my school.  I guess she found out after the fact.

I was surprised she even cared. I'm not exactly an only child, and my mom devoted much of her energy to the younger ones. I was doing fine on autopilot.  I didn't think she was interested in my education.

But that's not why I didn't tell her about parent/teacher interviews.

I can't remember how I answered her question, but she obviously didn't buy it because she burst into tears. My mother isn't exactly dramatic, or even overly emotive (I don't think we've ever told each other "I love you" even though we obviously do), so this was a strange occurrence.

After bursting into tears, my mother covered her mouth and said, "It's my teeth, isn't it? You're ashamed of me. You don't want anyone knowing your mother has such awful, ugly teeth!"

I've mentioned before that I was a pretty steely teen, but in that moment I felt so... so BAD for my mom. It had nothing to do with her teeth. That thought would never have crossed my mind. Not in a million years.

The truth is, I hadn't told her about parent/teacher interviews because I had a massive crush on one of my teachers--a married man who fell for me too, I guess, because I later became his mistress. Our relationship lasted ten years--ten too many, some might say, but I try not to punish myself for my past. (He still emails me once a year to commemorate the anniversary of the last time we had sex. Ummm... gross.)

My mom would have seen it coming. Even if nothing had "happened" yet, she'd have foreseen it when she met him. Moms are like that. I hear they have eyes in the back of their heads.

That's why I didn't want her meeting my teachers. I was a teenager in love. It was a BIG SECRET. If my mom found out, she'd ruin everything.

Nothing to do with teeth.

Have you ever heard of Orchestra Karaoke? It's karaoke where the singer is backed by a full symphonic orchestra. Cool, right? They staged an event this year at Luminato--an arts festival in Toronto that happens to be chaired by Rufus Wainwright's husband--and I went my mom and my sister.

Being a free outdoor event (and also being karaoke), etiquette was a little different than you might be used to. The audience wasn't silent during performances. People sang along. A lot. Not in a way that overshadowed the karaoke-ist, but in a way that supported the soloist--like a choir.

Yeah, like a choir. We're backing you up, good buddy. You sing your little heart out. We got your back.

My sister is a musician and I used to sing semi-professionally amateurishly, so we raised our voices. Nothing new there. My mom remained quiet. Nothing new there.

And then Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah came up and my mom jumped in her seat. She said, "I love this song."

Weird. I got into Leonard Cohen at university, as one does, but my mother didn't even go to university. Ergo, thus, therefore, I naturally assumed she'd never heard of Leonard Cohen.

I can't remember which audience member was selected to take the lead. I don't think I listened to her, or him (reaaaaally don't recall). The only voice I heard was my mother's.

At first, I almost felt... uncomfortable, maybe? It was strangely intimate. But my mom had a pretty voice. Reminded me of a bird, or of nature. It sounded like HER. I knew that voice, and I couldn't remember ever hearing it before that.

She sat beside me and sang Hallelujah the whole way through. The lyrics were posted on a screen, but she seemed to know them already. She didn't sing loudly, but she didn't need to. She wasn't singing for anyone else's ears.

And you know what?  I didn't see her cover her mouth once. Not ONCE.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Roomful of Teeth (What Happened to Me)

"Here.  Here.  Here.  Here."
The cricket under my bed is keeping time with my heartbeat.  Laying on my back in the darkness, alone, looking up, little warm flashes of heat lightning in the clouds light up the ceiling overhead through the opened window. I wonder if my heart is beating too hard and if I’m about to have another panic attack at two in the morning for no goddamn reason at all.  It’s hard getting by on two or three hours of sleep every night.
"Late.  Late.  Late.  Late."
I have never been alone in my life.
Because of my odd religious background, as a young man I grew up communally, always surrounded by people.  I lived communally with men and women from all over the world, sharing various houses and various responsibilities together as a group, as a tribe.  Afterwards I was married and had a family.  There was never a break in between where there was no one around me.

Laying still; hoping for sleep or less woeful dreams, and watching the little puffs of light come and go against the white ceiling.  Thunder would be comforting.  Or maybe a train going by, that high lonesome sound, followed by that hysterical shriek of power. 

An interviewer asked Keith Richard what went wrong with the Rolling Stones first lead guitar, Brian Jones.  Why did he come to such a bad end?  Richard said "His problem was he loved being a rock star more than he loved being a musician."

"There.  There.  There.  There."

Something happened to me that made me love being a writer more than I loved writing.  I’ve been blocked since. The cellar door I open to go down where the stories come from, I can’t get to it.  The story fairy locked it.

Things seemed to converge all at the same conjuncture.  My mother in law in Panama needed eye surgery.  She had health problems that threatened to end her at any moment.  But her strong heart drove on heedlessly like an engine even as she dwindled.  My wife, close to her mother, has gone to Panama on an open ended visit that will certainly cause her to lose her job as well as maybe changing her as a person.  My son has just moved out to embark on life on his own as a young man must.  And I am alone.
But there was another thing as well.  I had been discovered.

For many years I had no friends and didn't actually know how to make friends because, living communally, I had never needed to learn.  I was a mentally solitary person, living high in my head where the stories and the fantasies and the voices were and happy to go on living in that world, though I felt my loneliness always.  I think this is a common thing for writers and poets.  I was adapted to an interior solitude while still being a person who needed people.  Writing was my way out of that solitude.  Black ink looping from my fountain pen like dark silk spinning webs of fantasy and desire.
I discovered and joined the Unitarian Universalist church in my town and the effect was life changing.  I had found my natural tribe, my natural beliefs and with it a ravenous desire for friendship and people.  Gradually I began to come out of my shell.  I didn't keep my writing life hidden because these were also creative people, many of them far more accomplished than me. 
A small group of strong natured, well educated women discovered my writing and loved it.  And loved me.  It was as though a unicorn had wandered into their midst.  We loved each other's company and for a time I was a phenomenon.  And then my star fell.  There was no reason and no explanation.  But the damage had been done.  I had briefly been a rock star instead of a musician.  And how I loved it.  And how I longed to get it back.

The panic attacks began first in church.  Panic attacks are the evil cousins of religious ecstasy.  They boil up from inside and take you in their undertow and you wave your hands for help and people think you’re just being friendly.
With these experiences I began to discover my own insecurities, my insatiable addiction for approval, adoration if possible.  When my play "Fidelis" debuted in the Le Chat Noir theater downtown I walked into the theater bar on opening night and someone said "That's the writer! Sanchez-Garcia! He's the one who wrote that play!"   Everyone in the bar turned to me and applauded - me - the solitary one, who had never been applauded for anything in his life.  There he is!  There goes the writer.  Everyone smiled filling the bar’s dimness with Cheshire teeth.  Oh, how I smiled back in my little moment in the sun.

Understand, my loving tribe was unchanged.  Most people who knew me and had made up their minds about me liked me fine, except those who had dumped me altogether.  But my vanity had been awakened and with it a terrible neediness that plagued me like a drug. 
Then came the masks.

In the novel Moby Dick, there is a scene in which Ahab has a huge argument with his first mate Starbuck.  Starbuck is worried that they are committing blasphemy in Ahab's monomaniacal pursuit of the white whale ("It's just a whale!", but Ahab cuts him off saying –
“ . . . All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks.
But in each event in the living act, the undoubted deed there, unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings
of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man
will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner
reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To
me, the White Whale is that wall, shoved near to me. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the White Whale agent, or be the White Whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. . . ”

 Moby Dick is God almighty wearing the mask of a whale, the world is a facade of paste board masks and, Ahab, that embittered mystic, will penetrate this mask and strike at God by killing His whale.  In Freudian psychology this is called "transference" when a neurosis is projected from the patient onto another person, often the therapist, as a way of avoiding confronting their issues. My experience is that this can occur in a kind of interior mythology, where an actual person can become associated in your thoughts obsessively with a specific fear inside of you, even though that person has nothing actually to do with that fear.  But in your mind, in your emotions, that person acquires the representative mask of that fear.  Some of the women who had been my admirers and then pushed me away acquired this mask in my thoughts until I could hardly think of them without fear.  One, a fear of disapproval.  Another, a fear that I would never have social standing or acceptance.  That I would always be kind of poor and beat down, a nobody in the eyes of sophisticated people, the people I longed to be most accepted by.  I became afraid of these women who had once been admirers.  These masks stayed with me constantly and with the falling of my star my emotional turmoil boiled into panic.

As my vanity fermented to sourness I alienated the one goddess left in my life - the muse.  She ultimately fled from me and I couldn't write anymore.  The magic was just gone.  That was when I bailed out on OGG.  I think this is the kind of thing that gets famous people killed.  I was never famous, but I had a taste of what it would feel like to have fans.  It wrecked me. 

A writer writes.  That's what makes a writer.  Not publication, nice if you can get it, not money, nice if you can get it, not even readers, nice if you can get them.  A writer writes.  That's the part you get to keep. You can't be a rock star.  You have to be a musician.  The act of creation never ends.  Everything else is extra.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Too much to bear. J.P. Bowie

ANGST - a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.

Sometimes when I read reviews of  books by my fellow authors I am amazed at the number of times I read comments like - way too much angst, these guys were wallowing in angst, etc. I wasn't really aware of the word until well into my writing career, probably because I didn't actually persecute my characters with that kind of negative emotion. Conflict I could understand, but this seemingly useless negativity sort of had me stumped.

However, in my latest opus, not yet published, still in the edits stage, I have to admit that I have actually created a character filled with uncertainty - unwittingly I had imbued the poor sucker with - of all things - angst. At least I think I have...

This is from Every Breath I Take, the sequel to All I'll Ever Need.

When Troy arrived at the multi-plex, still on a high from the positive reinforcement some of the other men at the meeting had exuded, Kevin was already waiting for him outside. Troy paused for a moment, wondering if he’d made a mistake keeping this appointment. Kevin was a nice looking guy, tall, slim with neatly cut auburn hair and brown eyes, but from the look of his body language even while standing perfectly still, Troy could tell he was wound tighter than a coiled spring. 
 Troy walked toward him, acknowledging Kevin’s small wave as he approached. They hugged briefly and Troy could feel the tension in Kevin’s body.

“Hi, are you okay?” he asked.

Kevin nodded yes, but the crease in his forehead told Troy otherwise.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, just about every fuckin’ thing, now that you’ve asked.”

Troy fixed him with a level gaze. “You want to go somewhere we can talk rather than see a movie?”

Kevin shrugged. “How much do you really care, Troy?”

“What kind of a question is that? It’s obvious something’s troubling you and I’m willing to listen if you want to unload whatever it is. I’m not saying I can fix the problem, if there is one, but I can listen. That’s what friends are for, right?”

“Wow, will the real Troy Kendall please show himself, ’cause I don’t know this guy.”

“C’mon, Kevin, don’t be an ass. I know I haven’t always been someone you could count on, but I’m trying to be that person. If you don’t want to talk about it, we can go see a movie. Which one did you have in mind?”

Kevin sighed and his shoulders slumped. “I really don’t want to see a movie. I just… well, I haven’t seen you in weeks ever since you and that cop started dating. I thought we were friends, then you move out on me. You and Edward, and everything seems peachy for you guys, and I’m left out in the cold.”

“You have a new roommate.”

“A total dweeb. I’d rather put up with you and your druggie ways than Roger telling me to clean the bathroom after every time I use it and not to leave the fridge door open and… oh, there’s a fucking long list of dos and don’ts from Mr. Perfect. You’d think I was the new roomie, not him. The guy is a total pain.”

Troy chuckled. “Sounds like he’s a character. But let’s get a couple of things straight. That cop’s name is Mark, and I don’t do drugs anymore. You haven’t been left out in the cold, Kevin. Edward and I just moved on. You could do the same thing.”
He took Kevin’s arm and steered him in the direction of the coffee shop just inside the multi-plex’s entrance. He ordered a regular coffee for himself and a latte for Kevin, his favorite drink.

“In addition,” he said as they sat at one of the crowded space’s small tables, “I’ve called and texted you a couple of times since I moved in with Mark. You didn’t return any of them. So what am I supposed to think?”

Kevin looked at him for a long moment without saying anything.

“What is it, Kevin, what’s wrong? It can’t just be Roger the lodger.”

Kevin’s brown-eyed gaze lingered on Troy for a long moment before he said anything. “I went home last week.” His voice was subdued when he finally spoke. “I had this, now when I think about it, really stupid idea that I could go back to Plainsville, move back in with my folks until I got my own place, find a job, look up old friends—start over, I guess.”

To say Troy was surprised was an understatement. Without too much trouble he could figure out how that had gone down without asking, but he felt he probably should. “So, how did it go?”

“Worse than you could imagine, but it cleared one thing up for me—I could never live in that town again. Remember what Edward told us about why he left home? This was like a repeat performance of everything he said.” His eyes glistened as he stared at Troy. “Not so much my parents, although they’ve never been entirely overjoyed about my being gay. They just don’t talk about it.

“ But Troy, my sister, Joanne, told me that if I did decide to move back home, I’d never be allowed in her house or anywhere near her kids in case I infected them. I would have to renounce my homosexuality, and live like a normal man. Those were her exact words. Jesus, Troy, I just couldn’t believe her. She’d never said anything like that before to me. But Mason, the guy she married a year ago, after she divorced Brett, has twisted her mind with his Bible thumping. They go to this god-awful church where they actually have a sign outside that says, God Forgives Everyone—Except Homosexuals.”

Troy winced. “I’m sorry, Kevin. I know you and Joanne were close at one time.”

“Yes, we were close. We shared so much, all our dreams for the future, that kind of thing. I never thought my big sister would turn against me like that. She wouldn’t even meet me for lunch or a coffee. Just told me over the phone not to bother coming by… that Mason wouldn’t approve.”

“Why would you want to go back there anyway?” Troy asked. “You’d have to hide who you really are, or risk getting beat up. We had enough of that crap in high school. At least here in West Hollywood there’s more of a life for you. You have a good job and a fairly decent place to live.”

Kevin sounded wistful. “It was better when you were there.”

“No it wasn’t. I was a terrible roommate, Kevin as you well know. You washed your hands of me when I was on drugs. Not that I blame you. I know I was a total pain in the ass, not to mention, stupid, nearly killing myself a couple of times. But things are different now, and they can be for you too.”

“Right.” Kevin curled his lip in a sneer. “Like I’m going to meet some hunky cop or a guy who dines with the stars. You and Edward hit the jackpot. That’s not going to happen for me.”

“How d’you know that? If you’d told me I was going to meet someone like Mark, I’d have laughed in your face. Him a cop, for Chrissakes, and me, a drug addict. Any other time and he might have been putting me in jail. Sometimes things have an amazing way of turning out for the better.”

Kevin didn’t appear too convinced. “Yeah, for some people.”

“Come on, Kevin.” Troy was trying to keep the conversation upbeat, but it was difficult coping with Kevin’s long face and negativity. “I know, why not come out with Mark and me one night. You haven’t really spent any time with him. Who knows? He might know someone who’s single and looking.”

Kevin finally managed a grin. “What’s this? You want to set up a lonely hearts’ club for gay cops now?”

“Mark has friends outside the force, and Edward’s broadened his social circle too. I’m sure we could set you up with some hot guys.”

“Edward’s not going to introduce me to anyone of his new friends. He doesn’t like me very much.”

“He didn’t like me very much either in the beginning if you recall—and I wasn’t crazy about him—but that was then. We’ve evolved, and you could too, Kevin, if you’d try.”

Kevin shook his head. “Man, you have really changed. Where’s the Mr. Nasty I used to know—”

“But not love,” Troy said, interrupting. “Maybe our problem was we fed off of each other’s nastiness and negativity. Since the counseling and going to the meetings, I’ve learned that’s not the way to live. Okay, you don’t want to hear me preaching, Kevin, but I have to tell you, getting clean has opened my eyes to a lot of stuff I never gave a fuck about before. I’m far from being perfect, but what I am is someone who wants to do better. I never thought I’d be BFFs with Edward, but I am and it’s great, and with Mark in my life… Well, I know it probably sounds sappy to you, but I love him, Kevin, really love him.”

“And this is where I’m supposed to say, I’m happy for you?” Kevin rolled his eyes. “Spare me. You think you’re living the dream right now, don’t you? But dreams have a habit of falling apart, and all it’ll take for that to happen is for ‘Mr. Right Now’ to walk out and leave you high and dry. You’ll be back in the habit before you can say—crack!”

Troy sighed and sat back in his seat. “Sorry you feel that way, Kev. I had no idea you were so bitter. But I can assure you, if Mark were to dump me tomorrow, drugs are not what I’d turn to. When I was lying in the gully so fucked up I didn’t have the strength to climb out, and later in the hospital when I had a lot of time to consider what could have happened to me, I knew there wasn’t a drug in the world worth giving up my life for. So don’t worry about me having a relapse, ’cause it ain’t gonna happen.”

Troy crossed his fingers out of Kevin’s sight. Brave words, and he was saying them as much for Kevin’s benefit as well as his own, maybe to have him believe all things are possible if you just try hard enough.

For a moment Troy thought he’d maybe helped Kevin reconsider his cynicism but the sneer was back on his face. “Good for you, good for you. Well…” He pushed his chair back and stood up. “Thanks for Life Lessons 101 by Troy Kendall. If I need a refresher course I’ll be sure to call you first thing.”

“Kevin…” Troy got to his feet. “Don’t take off in a snit. I’m not telling you how to live your life. I’m just saying it could get better if you’d just look at things more positively. You’re in a bad place right now, and I want to help.”

“Well, you can’t. And where did you get the idea I needed help finding a date?”

“I didn’t mean to imply that at all. What I meant was—”

“Oh, who the hell cares what you meant. I’m outta here. Good luck with your happy happiness and all that crap.” He brushed past Troy and pushed his way through the coffee shop door out into the crowds waiting to buy movie tickets.

Troy started to follow him, but decided there wasn’t much point. Maybe when he’s had time to reflect on things he’ll realize I was just trying to be helpful… or not. I’ll call him in a day or two to make sure he hasn’t gone off the deep end.


 Kevin pushed his way through the line of people, trying to hold back the flood of tears that was almost blinding him. The sound of laughter and the loud music around him seemed to taunt him, adding to the misery that enveloped him like a cold and heavy blanket. He’d been an asshole back there with Troy. He knew it, yet he’d found it impossible to let himself share in Troy’s obvious happiness.

His trip home had been the low point of his life. His sister’s coldness and self righteous condemnation of him had hurt more than he’d ever believed possible. He’d always considered himself to be impervious to what other people thought of him, even his parents, but Joanne’s words of disgust had pierced him to the heart. Even the memory of the moment she’d quoted from the vicious sign outside the church she attended filled him with a depression he found hard to shake.
He’d called Troy hoping to rekindle their somewhat tenuous friendship, looking for support, he supposed. And Troy had tried. He couldn’t deny that, and when he thought fairly about their conversation, Troy hadn’t been all that smug about the changes in his life, and he had offered to help.Why then had that made him feel even more disconnected than before? Was it just cold selfishness that made him so he couldn’t bear it when the people he knew did better than himself?

What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I drag myself out of this pit of self pity I’ve dug for myself and get on with my life?

He finally broke free of the masses of people flocking to the multi-plex and found his car parked—illegally—on the street. He was surprised there wasn’t a ticket shoved behind the windshield wipers. That would’ve made this rotten day even more fucked up, but the fact he’d parked where he knew he shouldn’t was one more indication of the ‘nothing really matters’ attitude he knew he’d been throwing around since he returned from Texas. Or was it really since Troy had moved out of his life?

He wasn’t in love with Troy. God forbid, he mused, as he climbed into his car and stared out at the traffic moving slowly by. Troy was a crazy person, or had been in the past. He found a tissue in the glove compartment and wiped at his eyes. Troy and he hadn’t even been friends, not really. More of a convenience when they both needed company and a place to live. But, dammit, he missed the guy and his wild ways. He kind of missed Edward too. He hadn’t really got to know him that well, but through the drama with Troy’s drugged out state, he’d remained calm and organized… sensible, he supposed.

He let out a long sigh and slumped back into his seat. Well, he’d most likely blown any chance of rekindling what passed for friendship with Troy. He started the engine then pulled out into the flow of traffic when a space gave him the chance. Nothing for it but to head home. Hopefully Roger would be out with whomever and wherever it was he went when he wasn’t working. He didn’t think he could handle Mr. Perfect on top of everything else the day had thrown at him.