inside/outside: loathe to explain

The air bit with a chill that didn’t match the bright sunlight. I was on a bus traveling from my apartment to a doctor’s office I’d never visited at the university of British Columbia. The view from the bridge might have been pretty, but to me it was nothing but a view of the recent oil spill. I did not know what to expect at the doctor’s office. Someone over the phone had dropped the word “cancer” into conversation as innocuously as a sugarcube into coffee. I didn’t have enough data, so I did not know what to expect. As a result, I failed to have any expectations. The unknown no longer holds any fear after the worst has happened.

I was recently in Los Angeles for three weeks. I stayed up an entire night and watched the moon’s light be eaten by our planet’s shadow from a barren desert near the border of Mexico. I learned how to drive an ATV and I sped in a race car on a track for the first time. I drove my first go-kart and only partially dislocated my shoulder doing so. I was introduced to shooting skeet and never missed, not even once, until the assault rifle jammed. I had dinner at the Magic Castle and discovered a secret door. I visited the spaceship Endeavor and a Banksy piece and the Echo Lake chandelier tree.

Luck was mostly with me. My company was always kind and funny and smart. My days were spent working and exploring, unearthing new places and experiences, and my evenings were often spent in the company of my host, one of my sweetest ex-partners, a man who pet my hair when he caught me keening with pain in my sleep.

Every day I think about Michael, his smile, his kindness, how much I would do if it would let me see him and hold him and let him loose on the world again. I would do unspeakable things. His smile, his wit. I would burn down houses. I would burn down cities. A life for a life. Ten lives for his. A hundred. He would be horrified and justified. He would be validated. I cannot say his name without twisting inside.

Everything in California made for easy stories. The sun shone almost every day, there were flowers everywhere, a downy brown hummingbird in the front yard, a familiar taste like metal in the back of my throat from the pollution in the air. I touched a tiny wild lizard, I bought books at The Last Bookstore, and sobbed until I thought I might die on the perfect sand beach at Santa Monica. I danced until last call in my underwear in a borrowed bear suit open to my waist in a bar on Hollywood Boulevard.

I try not to think about my coward of a most recent ex, M., and how much pain he’s left unaddressed inside of me. I shy away from it the way I now avoid mirrors, as if he literally slashed me with knives and then declared me too ugly instead of only figuratively. I cannot bear my unwanted reflection as I cannot rely on my heart. It is too broken. I am too ruined. Both have fractured and cracked and crumbled. The abuse, such a surprise, was too much. The trauma, as unexpected, destroyed what was left. I am used up and there is not enough left to put anything back together. I cannot say his name, nor that of the planet he named himself after. I can barely utter my own.

The difficult stories are harder to see, but they are bigger and deeper and wider and greedy.

Being in the desert was triggering, (he grew up out here, he told me stories, fixing his jeep with the gusset of his underwear, getting lost in gullies while looking for ghost towns, his words a footnote to every stone), but who alive has eyes that could see such a thing?

I cannot reliably keep down anything I eat. I have lost fifteen pounds. People are constantly saying, “Oh wow, you look so good!”.

This is also a trigger.

A terrible winter, leading into a spring that only looks better with eyes that cannot see.

Being alive is triggering. Everything hurts. Everything. Always.

My life since October has been a near comprehensive list of tragedy, injury, pain, disappointment, disability, death, and every wrenching heartbreak. I constantly wake violently throughout every night, usually crying, my endoctrine system certain that I am always under threat. Why else this much pain? I live stunned with it, trapped in the suffering cage of my own failure of a body, forcing myself to try to move normally through each moment even though its roar is deafening.

I try to be the sort of person who does not bring the tone down, does not to contribute to the disappointment, and I am sick of the world, so mostly I have been quiet. But, in truth, I am sick of living. I want to quit. Yet these habits die hard. When asked about such things, I have been telling the easy stories. “Magic!” “Race cars!” Tone. Keep it light, (keep it pointless), keep it bright.

I might say we went to the Salton Sea, went to Slab City, and looked at the art. I might say that the art was unexpected, that it was good to see the piano still present. Those are the outside stories, not the experience, not how I only went to East Jesus to visit a dear friend’s grave to try and make a genuine connection with his unexpected death, only to encounter a tourist destination and be force-fed a rote and rehearsed tour and a bizarre and misplaced lecture about my lack of respect. Both happened, but the latter is more important to me than the first fact.

When pressed further by people who know about the other narratives, the shadow, less superficial stories, I have been still replying defensively until very recently, habitually, with the only good thing left unharmed – “but the pets are fine!”

Even this, however, is no longer true.

The day before I flew back to Canada, my flatmate David sent me a panicked note over Facebook. The unthinkable had occurred; Tanith the cat swatted Selenium the ferret and ruptured her eye.

He was worried she was going to be blinded and didn’t know what to do. I arranged for hospital care, I arranged a ride there, I arranged to borrow space on a credit card to pay for it all. I did everything from California, hoping her vision could be saved, stressed out and over stretched, breaking down whenever I thought about how much she must be hurting, no matter where I was or what I was doing. All of our options were scary and expensive. The vet referred us to an optical surgeon. Two hundred dollars. The optical surgeon suggested her eye be removed. Another two hundred. We scheduled the surgery. Eight hundred. She had a rough time on the table. Another hundred. The mask became harder to keep in place.

Posting to social media about Selenium’s needs and ordeal covered the costs. I am grateful, we’re not going to be wiped out, but my grateful allayment is muddled. I am conflicted. There is no justice. She is home now, looking more like a prize fighter than a pirate. This is the Red Queen Paradox with a knee to the kidney for good measure; we run and run and run to stay in place, everyone throw in! Yet no matter how much is given, how much support is offered, (where was this before?), the best that can be possibly attained is a new equilibrium worse than the previous norm. It’s like my life’s theme, if such things existed outside of the convenient packaging of construct or English lit.

Now that April’s Big Bad Trauma has arrived and (mostly, as best it can, a bankruptcy disguised as success) been neutralized, I am waiting for whatever happens in May. It will be rough, it will be tumble, and I refuse to try to imagine what awful unexpected there is left. Who’s next? What’s next?

It’s my birthday this month. Thirty-three on the twenty:ninth. Ten years plus one from when I promised Michael I would fight to stay alive and try, no matter what, to find joy. Ten years “and a day” of failure and pain. If I can’t succeed at such a small thing, in that length of time, I can’t succeed, full stop. My promise runs out on my birthday. It’s almost a relief. Ten years and a day of fighting and struggle, just to confirm: My best isn’t good enough and it never will be.

help some artists get to norwescon!

Regarding my recent post about Norwescon, I have to admit the primary reason I’m planning to attend this year is because my friend Myke Amend and his incredible partner Bethalynne Bajema will be in attendance. (Check out their super website, the Miskatonic Archive.) Both of them are absolutely lovely people, treasures in the world, and though I’ve known Myke for many, many years, we’ve never yet had a chance to meet!

For me, attending is simple. Seattle is three hours away by bus, the con will be full of friends, and it’s all very familiar territory. For them, not so much. Late-payment by a publisher has made the point of payment pretty much pointless, as their plane ticket prices have jumped $500 in the time it has taken (so far) for them to make good. To help, I’m asking my readers to take a look at their art and purchase something or pass it on to someone else who might.

What do these two do? Style, panache, airships, steampunk, tentacles, elegance, and dark, deadly wit. If you’re at all interested in ‘teh spooky’, these two are where it’s at. (To give you some references, Myke just recently did a book cover for another friend, Cherie Priest, author of Boneshaker, which has just been nominated for the Locus Awards, {vote for her at the link}, and had a painting commissioned by Robert of Abney Park to hang in his study.)

They have Airship Pirate T-shirts and Babydoll tees, prints from Myke Amend’s Airships and Tentacles series, pretty box purses, and Bethalynne’s striking neo-victorian art for sale at Etta Diem. Prices range from $10 for a print to $375 for an original painting, with a lot offered in between. For a more visual view of what they have on offer, they also have an Etsy shop.

for a nice change of pace, my favourite place to read on-line fiction

From the perpetually inspiring Karen Meisner, continual keeper of all that is holy and powerfully good:

Hey everyone — Strange Horizons is having its annual fund drive right now!

Strange Horizons is an important market for speculative fiction, publishing work by exciting new writers as well as the names you’ve come to know and love, plus reviews and poetry and all kinds of stuff that lets readers across the planet discover great writing. Strange Horizons has given a wide variety of writers a place to shine, especially those whose voices aren’t always heard as loudly in this field: women, writers of color, and anyone else writing non-traditional sf, as well as fresh takes on classic forms of science fiction and fantasy. We pay professional rates, we offer our content 100% free, and we do it all as a nonprofit labor of love. (Which means donations are tax-deductable, in case your boss likes to fund arts organizations too!) For nine years and counting, the sf community has helped keep our little magazine going strong. If you’ve ever found something on our site that you were glad to find, I hope you’ll chip in whatever you can. Thank you!

…Look, I’m no good at hyping things I’m involved in. But if you know the magazine, you’re probably aware of how vital it’s been, and continues to be, in helping so many terrific writers break into the field and launch their careers. If you believe in the value of Strange Horizons, please do what you can to help out: donate whatever you’re willing to pay for these stories; spread the word far and wide about the fund drive; get your friends to spread the word too. Let’s make it happen.

Thanks again, guys. We are entirely a community-supported magazine, and also a community-supportive one. We love our readers and writers, and we love doing what we do.

Oh and PS — You can donate anytime, of course, but if you do it now during the fund drive, you’re eligible to receive prizes!

spreading the love

Canadian fetishwear designer Slinka, (an especially darling acquaintance of mine), has recently come upon a pet-related financial crisis. Her cat Pooh needs dental surgery she and her partner can’t quite afford. Thankfully you can help her by helping yourself, (if you’re the sort who’s into such things), by buying her sexy, sexy latex designs for you and/or your loved ones, just in time for Valentines:


ps. wristbands are only $20.

in the same boat

Jordan Neufeld, Ben’s brother responsible for Sticks and Stones, is having an Emergency “Help-Me-Pay-My-Rent-a-Thon”.

To recap: he’s off work on Stress Leave and the insurance company compensation has yet to arrive, so he and his partner Jessica have been living tenuously on her student loan in the meantime, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to have enough money to cover their bills at the end of the month.

How You Can Help:

Pre-order his book the Complete Sticks and Stones Collection 2005-2007, for $12.00 a piece, plus shipping.

“That’s over 200 comic strips packed into a little paperback book. Read a sample of the book here.

Donate to the Sticks and Stone Hallowe’en Special Marathon!

“… a page of my Sticks and Stones Halloween Special every three hours. It’s going to be full color, so this will be interesting… It will probably take 3-4 days to do 24 pages. I’m planning on sleeping at night for a few hours here and there, but it really will be a marathon. Buy enough books, and you or your comic character could get a cameo.” Start at page one.

.. and Pass It On.

not in the budget

“Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, while Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States.”
– John Bartlett Brebner, Canadian historian (1895-1957)

Not sure how I missed this back in September: US shocked to learn that world’s longest undefended border is long, undefended.

Next up, water is wet, fire burns, and TSA agents are sadistic semi-fascist pod people.

Which reminds me, I’m going to need to get my passport soon. Very soon. Anyone interested in having thier picture taken? Nice portraits for cheap.

library on fire

Dancing and Other Near Catastrophes, for Troll, because he doesn’t get out much.

We’re ghosts haunting the wrong houses, spooks without a C.I.A. Neon signs fading into the distance and motels empty of newlyweds. We’re what influential german dramatists pictured when they had fever dreams, two people with shiny smiles anxiously standing by the side of a blind sea. Your hand in mine, how dangerous. Your graceful fingers spell out initiative while mine tactfully promise a lack of sleep. We’re going to spell out the end of the world together, in the movement of lines on palms and programmable languages directed by the tilt of a wrist. We’re the sound of a solitary radio while driving through Nevada at night. We’re the 327000 feet languishing between the earth and the edge of her atmosphere. No sleep and we’re speaking in punctuation. No dreams.

Burrow‘s laptop recently got stolen while she was in Seattle. To try and raise money to buy a new one, she’s selling prints of her artwork. If lithographs aren’t your thing, but you’d still like to help, her link for donations is here.

Me, I’m house-cleaning in prep for my trip to Europe. I’ve got a list of books I’d like to sell. I’m wanting them to go for 30% cover price OBO with probable discounts for wholesale.

list of books for sale