Confessions

Fall Has Fallen And So Have I.

Holy man. Been a rough ride, hasn’t it? This blog has shifted and changed so much from what I had first anticipated. What began as a place to tell stories about my life working in coffee shops turned into a chronicle of my ups and downs and major life changes.

I’m still barely hanging on right now. I fill my days with whatever distractions I can so I don’t have to face the reality that I’m down. Way down. And I know I need help (which yes, I also know I’ve said before). There’s been a major change at work, though, so that help is closer than ever before.

Before, my employer only offered $500/year for mental health services. I didn’t see the point in seeking help because there’s no way in hell $500 would be enough and I certainly can’t afford a therapist on my own. Beginning Oct. 1, that coverage is increasing to $5000/year. You read that right. $5000. They have quite literally saved my life, because if I have to continue the way I have been, I don’t know that I would make it to my 29th birthday. Janelle died over a year ago but the ripple effect of her choice to end her life is still affecting me in a big way.

I still withdraw from people when I’m like this. I can’t bear to see pity in people’s eyes when they look at me. I can’t stand knowing I’m no fun to be around because all I can do is sit there staring into space. Most of us put on a show when we’re at work or out in public because we have to, but when I’m at home it’s a totally different story.

I had my first major panic attack a couple weeks ago. I was at work, everything was fine, and suddenly my hands started shaking hard. I felt like there were millions of bubbles inside my body and if I stopped moving they would all pop and kill me. I have plenty of tiny panic attacks at work and usually I just keep my head down and clean like a maniac until that bubble feeling passes. This time was VERY different.

I went to the back to pull some pastries from the freezer and started sobbing. I mean full-on sobbing to the point I couldn’t catch my breath. A coworker sat with me and tried to calm me down but I couldn’t get my breathing back to normal and I couldn’t stop the tears. I ended up being sent home, where I continued to be anxious for the next couple hours until I finally fell asleep. And since that day, I haven’t felt quite right. I’m angry. The slightest thing irritates me. That’s not the person I normally am, so this is weird.

I also found out some news that really upset me recently. There’s no reason it should’ve upset me, but it did. And I fixated on it. For some reason I felt like I was being cut out and fucked over but I knew if I said anything while I was feeling like that it would’ve come out completely wrong. So I’m still sitting here consumed by those emotions, because I don’t know how to articulate them without sounding like an asshole. I feel like the largest portions of my days are spent trying desperately to regulate my spiraling emotions but it’s a battle I’m beginning to lose.

September is almost over though. And then I can finally reach out and get some help. I can’t keep doing this. I’m so tired from the last couple of years. I should’ve known last October that it was getting worse because when I was hit by that car, I didn’t give a shit. I was honestly a little disappointed that I wasn’t hit harder. Because I want to be dead, but I’m too afraid to do it myself. It’s the same reason I still smoke and drink way too much caffeine. I’m a coward. It’s not bravery in the face of depression, it’s me being too chickenshit to do what Janelle did. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know I want to live. I just need help finding my way back to that path. I can’t wait to look back on this one day and barely be able to remember what it was like to feel so terrible. I want this to be a distant memory.

I was diagnosed when I was around 15-16. I stopped taking my meds shortly after I started them. I’m now nearly 29, which means I’ve been walking around in constant emotional pain for almost thirteen years, and I’m fucking tired of it. I have two solutions: death or therapy. Since the first option seems awfully permanent, I think I should go with the second option first.

So that’s my explanation as to why I abandoned this blog in July 2015. I just couldn’t do it anymore. The noise in my head got to be too much.

I’m back now. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I’m going to do my best to be around to see it.

Fiction, Writing

Salt Meat: Part Five

Honey I’m home and I had a hard day
Pour me a cold one and oh by the way…

Becky wipes suds from a plate before placing it in the drying rack. From the window overlooking the small sink she can see her daughters playing in the backyard. They’re laughing, smiles so big she can almost see their tonsils. She smiles to herself and for a moment she believes she really did make the right choice coming out here. They seem happier now, the circles that used to darken their eyes nowhere to be seen. Becky reaches out and turns the radio up a little, singing along as she moves around the house picking up scattered toys and crayons, pausing to read the beginnings of a short story Jessie is working on.

In this house at the top of the hill, they’ve found some kind of peace and routine. Even as the months pass, Becky still expects to see Charlie stumbling up the driveway leaning heavily on whichever drinking buddy dragged him home.


Kayla put powder on my face today. She put enough to make me pale, pale, pale, like a vampire. She dug around in Mom’s makeup case until she found a shade of lipstick convincing enough to be blood. She put some on my neck in the shape of bite marks and French braided my hair. We pretended to be children of the night and stalked around the house in our tablecloth capes and fake plastic fangs until the sun went down and we could safely go out into the front yard without catching fire.

She’s fun.

She used her Barbies to show me what sex is. Sex is when boys and girls take off all their clothes and lay down and rub together. I’m not really sure why they’d want to do that, it seems ICK GROSS YUCKY, but maybe it has something to do with the way HE looks at me when Mommy brings me to his house. Maybe that’s why HE always makes me sit on his lap while HE puts his hands in weird places. I hope HE doesn’t want to do sex with me. HE’S family and Kayla tells me that’s wrong.

I wish HE would just stop. I don’t like it when HE does it.

I like it better when my Barbies are doctors and teachers and rock stars. It seems like much more fun than sex.


The house isn’t much to look at. The beauty is in the land. Winters with the windows wide open have done all they can to destroy the inside of the house the girls used to call home every other weekend. It would have been the perfect place to rebuild, start over, maybe build a dock and land a boat. But not now. The girls are long gone, never to set foot in the home that shaped who they ultimately became.

Sometimes there’s just no use looking back.

Fiction, Life, Writing

Salt Meat: Part Four

Oh God.

No.

No, no, this isn’t happening, it can’t be.

He’ll calm down, relax his hands and uncurl the fists he keeps hurling at my face.

I swear to God, he’s not a bad guy.

He just gets emotional.

And jealous.

He thinks I’m cheating on him.

If I lay still enough with his hands around my throat, he’ll realize what he’s doing and stop.

What if this is it?

What if they never find me and I become just another missing persons ad floating around bus stations and curling at the edges?

Some people are never found.

Maybe if I don’t fight back he’ll calm down.

He’ll remember that I love him.

I love him.

I do love him.

I love him, right?

Sometimes I’m not so sure.

He tells me I’m a terrible person and maybe he’s right.

Maybe I deserve this, deserve everything.

I hope not.

I saved a butterfly from dying once upon a time,

too young to understand the concept of karma.

Too young to understand that what goes around doesn’t always come around.

Sometimes what comes around is worse.

I might be passing out now.

Am I passing out?

At least then the pain will stop.

My mouth is bleeding.

Please make it stop.

I’m sorry.

They find her in a bus stop with flowers in her hair. It wasn’t supposed to end this way, not like this. Not in bits and pieces and flashes of a life that started out right and ended wrong. A little girl whose smile shone so bright and was snuffed out by the darkness that sought it out like moth to flame.

I read her story over my morning coffee with the TV telling me the day’s weather in the background. I swallow the lump in my throat and remember that I once found myself in similar places, surrounded by similar darkness. Even now, far removed from the faces that once haunted my dreams, I distinctly remember the metallic taste in my mouth as it filled with blood drawn forth from someone else’s hand. The sensation of breathlessness as someone else wraps long fingers around a soft throat and squeezes until the air left inside the lungs has turned rancid and the need to inhale becomes desperate.

It’s strange when I read the stories of the ones who didn’t get away. They remind me of butterflies who never got the chance to escape the jar. They remind me of the girl who once looked back at me from a grimy bathroom mirror with fatigue and resignation shining in her eyes, thoroughly convinced that there were no other choices than to remain and wait for the end to come.


Smoke curls its way up to the ceiling as the teenagers recline on ratty pillows. The floor is cold and a bit damp, but it’s nothing the dehumidifiers running at full speed in the basement can’t take care of. Passing the pungent joint back and forth, they go from silent and serious to giggly and rambunctious in very little time. One of them tells a story of when there were frogs in the basement and one jumped on her and she did the splits in an effort to escape her amphibious attacker. The other laughs until she chokes on the smoke she’d been valiantly trying to hold within her lungs. Great plumes of gray erupt from her nostrils as she laughs at the idea of her rigid sister doing painful splits while screaming about frogs.

It’s the only way they can cope with the reality that awaits them outside the confines of the basement. It’s another small town, another stepfather, another family that barely functions upstairs. Watching the mother that fought tooth and nail for them whittle herself down into someone so small she’s barely visible has brought the sisters together, a united front against the advancement of the Evil Stepfather. It’s a familial game of chess and there can be no winners.

The crunch of tires on gravel signals the return of their stepfather. Quickly snuffing out any remaining smoke and turning on the fans, the girls run upstairs to continue washing the dishes he’d left for them. The lists of chores grew longer the more he insulted their mother, as if giving the girls plenty to do would somehow distract them from the blatant emotional abuse.

The only time they bond is when he’s drunk, a delicate balancing act that both girls learn to do well. Keep things lighthearted, never insult or jibe, go along with drunken jokes that fall flat on sober ears or risk invoking the alcohol-soaked beast within. Faking laughter long enough to forget how to actually smile. Neither of them discuss the transformation of their mother from amazon to wallflower.

Some things are better left unsaid in the name of survival.


I was fascinated with the books lining my grandfather’s shelves. Great tomes devoted to all sorts of delicious subjects, each one bound in leather and adorned with gold lettering. I couldn’t always read the titles. Some were in languages I had never learned. He would lock himself inside his office with his books and spend hours drifting away. I liked those times the best, because they meant I could sneak past the living room almost undetected. On the rare occasions he would leave the door open slightly and take a walk down to the beach, I would poke my head inside and try to figure out what exactly made him tick. Try to discern what made him do the strange things he did to me in the living room when my grandmother wasn’t looking.

Sometimes I would watch her through the window as she hung wet clothes up on the line while his callused hands worked their way under the hem of my shirt and up over my back. I would mentally cry out for her to come back inside so he would stop before he reached around to my front. My sister, seated on his other knee, told me years later she would stare at the clock on the wall and try to read the time even though she was still too young to have learned it yet.

I learned how to keep secrets long before I really knew what they meant.

When the police came to our house to question us, my sister and I locked eyes and lied for him. The hold he had over us, telling us what he did was secret and good girls would never tell, was too strong to be shaken even by female officers with kind eyes. Accusations put forth by other family members only got him five years in prison. I still wonder what would have happened if I had told the truth.

(To be continued.)

Read previous parts here.

Fiction, Life, Writing

Salt Meat: Part Three

PART ONE | PART TWO


She says it’s a game. He’s asleep, he won’t notice if we take the remote from him and watch YTV. Baseball is boring and he started snoring fifteen minutes ago so it must be safe. So we crawl across the living room, our matching track pants loudly scraping the carpet, and reach the edge of his recliner. On either side of him, like bookends, we peek at each other over the arms of the chair. His breathing remains steady, with a soft snore every couple seconds. My sister smiles, signaling that it’s time to make our move. She reaches up over the arm and wraps her fingers tentatively around that all-important piece of plastic and batteries. I giggle and try to stay quiet as she begins to tug at the remote and it stays snug in Grandfather’s hands. His snoring stops and a smile breaks out on his ancient face. He cracks one eye open and says, “Betcha thought you could pull a fast one on old Gramps, didn’t ya?” and guffaws. His belly rolls and rumbles and my sister and I collapse in a fit of giggles on the carpet. He only makes us watch one more inning before he concedes control of the TV and lets us watch cartoons on his floor model.

Summer days in the house my grandfather built for his wife were spent playing with the horses next door and flinging army men with plastic parachutes, flying shopping bag kites in the brisk Atlantic air, stacking rocks together to form pretend computers and using cinder blocks as mailboxes. My sister and I never went into the shed, we weren’t allowed to play anywhere near the power tools so we’d pretend the shed was home to an evil, child-eating demon. If we so much as caught a glimpse of him, he’d devour our souls in one gulp. Sometimes we even believed it.


“The phone had plastic-covered keys that shone in the late afternoon sunlight. I squinted against it and tried to read the numbers. I had just started learning about numbers and could count from one to ten. On the small television, an episode of Land And Sea about the S.S. Kyle was turned down so low I could barely hear it.”

Jessie takes a breath and her pause goes on long enough for the others gathered in the room to wonder if she would continue speaking.

“We heard him coming up the driveway. Muttering, crashing into things – the drugs he was taking combined with the alcohol he’d drank at the bar had turned him into a mess. He stumbled into the house and lurched past the living room. I turned my attention from counting the numbers of the phone keys to him and called out, ‘Daddy! I love you!’

“He turned back and walked slowly into the living room, smiling but cold and unfriendly. ‘Oh yeah? Well… I don’t love you.’ Blinking, he headed back down the hallway to his room while I stood on the couch and wept with everything I had in me.

“What do you do when your own father tells you he doesn’t love you when you’re four years old? The thought buries itself so far into your head and adds itself to the cacophony of discordant voices inside that you no longer recognize it for what it was – a bad trip and too much to drink.

“So you find yourself wandering dark alleys long after midnight smoking too much and drinking just enough to keep the feelings crushed somewhere underneath your rib cage. For awhile it works out all right and you’re able to keep yourself going with a cocktail of caffeine in the morning and alcohol at night, but eventually the rug under your feet wears out so much it’s threadbare by the time life rips it out from under you. Finding beauty in the world or even a reason to get up at all is too difficult to try.

“Finding love is impossible, because who would want to love somebody unloved by her own father?”

The tears that threaten to spill over are not self-pitying, but burn with a rage that has stoked for twenty-two years. Jessie swallows hard and takes her place in the hard wooden chair. She surveys the room around her as she brings an unlit cigarette to her mouth with shaking hands.

She swore she’d never become a smoker. Not like him. But in group therapy, nobody dares to judge her.


“It’s a butterfly!” Becky held the pickle jar up to the porch light and peered inside. The grub Jess and Charlotte had been looking after all winter had shed its former skin and clung to the lid of the jar, tapping gently as if politely asking to be let out to fly around.

It was the first summer in the house on Neck Road. The winter had been cold and all the lights had gone out so Becky and the girls dragged their mattresses into the living room and shared the heat provided by a creaking and ancient kerosene heater. Jess kept trying to close the window that had been left open for ventilation so Becky had to sit her down and explain that without the window ajar, they would all suffocate and die. That did the trick and Jess satisfied herself by sitting furthest from the window.

Once the frost had melted and the power returned, they had waited out the rest of the winter in relative comfort. Eventually the ground had thawed as well and then Jess had made the tearful discovery of her little grub at the bottom of its jar, nothing more than an empty husk.

The storm door gave a mighty groan when Becky opened it and hustled the girls outside. She bent down to Jess and asked her if she was sure she wanted to set her friend free. “Yes,” the small girl answered resolutely. “Butterflies don’t belong in jars.” So she twisted the lid and opened it, letting the viceroy out of its glass prison. It flew high in the air before circling back to the girls. It circled twice more before taking off into the blue skies of a bright June Newfoundland morning.

Jess would talk nonstop of butterflies for the next couple of years, and even save a couple more from certain frozen deaths more than fifteen years later. Good deeds sometimes come in cycles.

(To be continued.)

Life

Right, So About That…

Surrounded by half-filled cardboard boxes, a layer of dust settling on everything, I’ve decided I need a break.

Today has been more productive than the entire months of August and September combined, and I feel cautiously optimistic about it. I washed a month’s worth of smelly dishes, did a month’s worth of smelly laundry, and began packing twelve days before my moving date.

That’s right, in less than two weeks I won’t be calling this place home anymore.

If you’ve been following along, I haven’t been posting much lately. It’s not that nothing was happening so I had nothing to say, it’s more like EVERYTHING was happening and I was so caught up in my own head that whenever I tried to find the words, there was nothing but a blank space in my brain. That’s usually how it happens with me.

I don’t know what I’m doing with this blog anymore.

When I started writing here, I was about to move back to the city after a year-long breather up north. I had reconnected with my boyfriend (yes, even after he beat the holy fuck out of me it took me another couple years to realize I needed to get out). I had gotten my transfer. I had found my very own apartment. And it was in the same place I’m sitting now that I began a very long process of healing.

You can’t fully heal if one of the elements holding you back is still part of your life.

It’s been almost three months since I cut ties with him. Our relationship was dead long before I said the words out loud, but it still feels strange that he’s not a part of my life anymore. It’s strange to think about all the time I spent with him, all the wonderful and terrible things he said to me. They still rattle inside my head. As I began packing this morning, it occurred to me why I put it off so long.

I kept finding his stuff.

Five years is a long time to spend with someone. Over time they find ways to permeate your life, and when you remove them, sometimes you miss some of the things they left behind. Books. Childhood toys. Sketches. Pieces of them to remind you of how messy everything was when it ended. Looking at the things I found today, I can’t help but wonder what the hell I was thinking, staying with someone so obviously wrong for me. I’m still the person I was before I met him, but there are a few dents and battle scars. A few chinks in my emotional armor. A few different perspectives. 

I’m looking forward to getting out of here and starting over. This entire area of Toronto is full of memories for me, both good and bad. I don’t feel like I can fully heal and clear my head until I’m able to walk down the street without seeing something that reminds me of the past. I’m not interested in reliving it. I’m interested in being somewhere else, where I can make new memories with people who actually care about me. People who know me, and know everything I’ve been through over the past few years, and have still chosen to be there for me.

I only hope I can repay them.

So I haven’t been here much, but that doesn’t mean I’m gone. I’m closing the messiest chapter of my life in the hopes that I can open one that’s a little kinder to me. A little cleaner. Filled with a lot more laughter. I have a feeling I’m on the right track, ready for whatever comes next.

I’m not just a coffee wench. I can be so much more than that. I hope you’ll stick with me while I figure it all out.

Life, Open Letters

Don’t Answer.

My phone displays your number and I ignore the call, as I have several times for the past week. There’s no point in talking because I said all I had to say in the minute and a half it took me to break up with you. You leave me a voicemail and I hesitate for a second before deciding to listen.

Imagine my surprise as I hear you calmly thank me for setting you free. You tell me you’ve been working on yourself and trying to find a job and you’re grateful for what I did for you. This coming from the same person who once told me if anyone saw me naked, they wouldn’t be attracted to me and in the next breath told me I was beautiful. The same person who would cry and smash himself in the face on my kitchen floor while asking me why I never tried to help when I nearly lost myself trying to help you. The walking contradiction that crashed into my life and altered it forever.

I will never tell you you’re welcome. I won’t return your call, you’ll never hear my voice again and I hope to God we never find ourselves in the same room. Not because I’m afraid of you but because the two of us are fire and gasoline. When we come together, we burn everything around us because we’re terrible for each other. Sometimes people meet and change each other for the better, but when it came to you and I, we both turned into the worst versions of ourselves.

In the four years we were together, I was stripped down to nothing. A starving, self-injuring wraith who dragged down anyone who tried to help her. I lost friends I’d had for years and my family had to distance themselves from me because my negativity was toxic to them. I did drugs I would never have touched before. I remember laying on the bed as my body temperature went haywire and my clothing began to burn my skin from the fistfuls of pills I’d swallowed and I was so convinced I was going to die that I actually welcomed the respite from this downward spiral. You became controlling and abusive, constantly suspicious of my whereabouts. I suffocated under the weight of trying to reassure you and nothing would satisfy your suspicions.

I remember your anger and jealousy. You were certain every man I spoke to wanted to fuck me and you’d take out your frustrations on me. I remember the day you beat the shit out of me for talking to my sister’s ex-boyfriend on the internet rather than paying attention to you. I remember the taste of blood in my mouth and I remember holding you as you apologized for hurting me.

I remember thinking I deserved it.

As I sit in my cafe staring at the blank screen before me, struggling to put all this into words, I listen to your message and I hope for your sake it’s true. I hope you really do get the help you need. I hope you find a steady job and a girl you can love in a positive way. I hope you find some happiness in this crazy old world and in a way I feel grateful to you for showing me exactly the qualities I don’t want in a partner. Before you, I didn’t know what I wanted. I had just come from an emotionally damaging friends-with-benefits arrangement and had been baffled when you wanted to call me your girlfriend. Truthfully, I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I didn’t know who I was or how to begin finding myself.

I’m sorry we wasted so much time on each other, but at the end of the day I don’t regret taking a chance on you. You reminded me of my father, you became a huge part of my life, and you ultimately helped me find the strength within myself to become the person I am today. I want you to know that although it’s not and never will be okay that you once saw fit to raise your fist to me in anger and manipulate my emotions until I relied solely on you for self worth, I have found it within my heart to forgive you. You weren’t the first person to hurt me and you probably won’t be the last, but the ground I’m standing on today is much more solid than what I stood on before.

There were moments when I really loved you and moments when I couldn’t stand the thought of you and both of those experiences changed my perspective on relationships. I feel like because our relationship was so toxic, I’m strong enough now to know exactly what I’m looking for and never settle for less. I really tried to make it work but at the end of the day, we didn’t belong together.

The last thing I want to do is hang on to negativity, especially after living with it for so long. I wish I had been able to set you free sooner, but at the time I wasn’t ready to stand alone and I guess you weren’t either. We became codependent on each other. I needed your negativity to stay miserable and you needed me to ignore you in order to feed your negativity.

Go forward in love. Learn from your mistakes with me and make sure you don’t repeat the patterns. I bear you absolutely no ill will and I’m not even angry with you anymore. I’ve gained the ability to recognize when someone’s chapter in the book of my life is finished and I know now how to cut those ties. It’s not easy, but it has to be done. I broke up with you to set myself free but I’m happy to know it’s worked out well for you. That my entirely selfish and incredibly healthy decision has worked out positively for both of us is the icing on the cake for me.

Thank you for calling to let me know. I hope it’s the last call I ever receive from you.

Goodbye.

Writing

How To Burn A Bridge.

My first piece for Ben Gresik and Jason Woudsma’s brainchild writing collective The Prosers went live this morning. I’ve been half-shitting myself all week because I’ve never written something so personal and revealing and had it shared publicly before. But I’m proud of it, probably more proud of it than anything else I’ve put out into the world. So it would mean the world to me if you’d stop by the site and give it a read. While you’re there, you should check out the other stories that have been posted since the site went live. They’re incredible.

READ “HOW TO BURN A BRIDGE” HERE.