I am not a snowflake.
Of late, this has been my mantra. Mainly it’s because I have been struggling to write a decent query for my novel, and every time I feel sorry for myself I remember that this is not my struggle alone, but that of every writer dreaming of publishing.
However, when I stop to actually think on it, it strikes me as the way I’ve felt for most of my life. I am not a snowflake = I am not special. I am not unique. I am but one of many, and there’s not much I can do to change that fact.
Let me back up just a few steps, and maybe it won’t feel like some random guy just wandered into my office and started typing on my computer. Though, if he can write a decent query…
I did not grow up with my father. I am thankful for this fact, for very selfish reasons. I have three memories of him from my childhood: living in a motel, living in a car, and him and my mom in our house just before we (my mom and I) left Louisiana, when he gave me a dollar and told me to go to the store. He said all of this from under the sheet with my mom. I was four at the time, so I don’t remember if I made it to the store or not. He was an alcoholic, the kind that develops epilepsy because of it, and loses his job and his family, and is forced to drink the cough syrup meant for his kid. (Maybe that’s why I have a strong immune system; I never had anything to take for those pesky coughs.)
Growing up was fine, as far as I’m aware. I was into sex and drinking around 11, and by the time I was 15 my first kid was born. My mom and I had moved back to Louisiana by then and she was involved in church, while I was involved with the pastor’s daughter. A week after I turned 16 we married and I started working.
Sorry, this is a lot of backstory, and I’m guessing the payoff will probably leave you wanting. Anyway, three kids later, I find myself working the graveyard shift at a local factory. I was fine with my life, so I thought. I read a lot, wrote a little poetry, and assumed things were pretty fair.
Suddenly something inside me changed. I’m not sure what it was, but all of a sudden it started to feel as if I had begun pretending at who I was. I spoke in church, I ministered at an old folks’ home, I sang. But it felt like it was someone else doing all of this. My father had died sometime during all this, but I still don’t know if he was the ‘thing’ that started it all, or if was the abuse of a neighbor when I was younger. We didn’t have a real funeral. It was a dark day, it was raining, and my aunt didn’t get out of her car for fear of the weather.
This thing that had started building up inside me needed an outlet, so my writing changed. Now, I was in my early twenties, so I can’t rightly say I’d joined the emo movement. Plus, I’m not sure that was a thing in the early 2000’s. My poetry became dark. I began crafting words about boys wearing masks, and people falling, and dark holes that leaked cancer. I had online friends I started pushing away and no friends in my real life to talk to. Everyone was involved in church, as was I on the outside.
I made a journal, a Live Journal, and poured everything out there. All of my poetry, my darkest thoughts, that deep aching depression no one had any clue about whatsoever. It felt better, a little, to get it all out. My release.
My ex-wife was also very, very nosy. She found my journal online one night and called me at work. She wasn’t upset like one might think: concerned, worried, and caring. Instead, she told me:
“You’re mental. You’re sick. I mean, you are crazy. You need prayer.”
Most of me agreed with her, except for the prayer part. I did feel sick, like something was eating its way out of me. For a while the words had been able to satiate it, but after she found that, it was like taking away my safety blanket. She’d burned it.
I didn’t know what cutting was back then, or that it was a thing, or was becoming a thing. All I knew was that there was this steak knife in the guardhouse at work with an old wooden handle and a broken tip, and every time it cut into me a little bit of the pain went away. I can’t tell you how long that went on for, but no one then had a clue. The closest I came to ever telling someone was in a poem that was about blood on a razor. The ending wasn’t a happy one and my friend got upset, so I fixed it, wrote the poet into a better place, and she was happy.
After awhile I started writing more. I became involved in forums that focused on role-play, like creating stories with strangers, and that became my outlet. Oh, and divorce. My kids were my life, but their mother drove me closer and closer to the edge time and again. Finally it had to end, and it did.
Since then I’ve had my moments, more in the past than in recent years, but it’s been about ten years since I last cut, though I’m reminded of it each time I’m not wearing a shirt. There’ve been times when I’ve been close to something, when I feel that person lurking just on the other side of my right shoulder. Thoughts I wasn’t aware of pop up and say hello, usually when I’m alone and thinking too much, but I fight them away.
I attribute most of that to my wife, my now-wife, not my then-wife. Even when I’ve fucked something up and feel that old, but way-too-familiar ache rise up from the center of my chest, she’s there to tell me that it’s going to be fine. Don’t worry; we’ll get through; we’re okay. If it wasn’t for her, I know that at least some of the past five years would have been borne only by a cut here and there. I love her, and hope she doesn’t read this. She probably wouldn’t see it as such a big deal, just something that happened in the before, and I love her for that. I never want to admit to her that something some assclown, my ex in this instance, said to me sent me over that edge. And I know it wasn’t just her, it was something that’s been there since I was a kid stealing gin from my aunt, or money from my mom. It’s just hell when those things catch up to you, and you’re alone.
Ray currently lives in Lubbock, TX with his beautiful wife. She’s much more interesting than he is, one-day-doctor in marriage and family counseling, but he doesn’t mind. In between driving a truck and yelling at other drivers, Ray writes. In between all of that, he plays with his dogs, two rescues that kick total ass. Follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/iwrites