It’s June . . . but Winter

Photo borrowed for a not-for-profit purpose citing the Fair Use Clause of 1976 from a Pinterest website. Click the highlighted “Pinterest” term to view source material.

A creative writing exercise that employs current circumstances to enhance realism.

It’s finally June. After a long winter of wearing masks, Covid restrictions, & uncertainty; the sun is finally shining on a bright reality similar to the one we knew before “Coronavirus” captured the headlines in March of 2020; and for those of us whose lives it did not take, it put on hold. But at last. It’s warm outside. The masks are off. We have permission to enjoy life again. Things are finally back to normal. It’s summer.

I’m typically a night owl which means that I rarely get along with early mornings. However, today I couldn’t help but tire of the bed shortly after 7am. It’s the first Saturday of June & I had the day off. I had promised myself that Summer 2021 was going to be one for the ages, for me at least. It would be a summer of momentous positive change. Why sleep in when there was a warm, bright world outside just waiting to erupt into a sizzling summer? I took my coffee on the front porch, facing East. I wanted to acclimate myself to feeling alert this early in the morning. I would use the bright sun in my face to reinforce the caffeine in my bloodstream & the general feelings of excitement surging inside me. I sat out there so long that my coffee became warm, not hot: much like the weather. It was warm, not hot: a rather pleasant circumstance.

I went back indoors where, to my shock, I felt cold. The sleeveless muscle shirt that seemed like such an advantage outside suddenly became a liability. My housemate keeps the thermostat waaaaayy down. She was away for the weekend so I immediately went to shut the A/C down. Then I took my place on the sofa to finish my coffee only to find that the lukewarm liquid no longer appealed to me. I turned on the TV as I planned out my day. What chores had to be done first, what time should I go to the gym, etc — such weighty topics required my attention. Time, like the sun outside, was burning. I don’t have expensive cable so I watch YouTube on my TV. I had been hearing that old Guns N Roses song “Cold November Rain” at the gym lately so I decided to play a version that included the lyrics. As I settled into the song, I noticed that I still felt cold, despite having shut down the A/C. Then, the following verse appeared onscreen:

Don’t you think that you need somebody?

Everybody needs somebody.

You’re not the only one.

You’re not the only one.

Out of nowhere, I found myself thinking back to a photo I recently chanced upon featuring Lorraine. Her best friend had gotten married in May; it was a majestic affair from all accounts. Lorraine was one of nine bridesmaids. They were all beautiful–the bridesmaids and, of course, the bride herself. But Lorraine, even off to the side–even with their every effort to minimize the superiority of her beauty . . . easily overshadowed them . Just as the sun outshines the combined light of the moon & the stars in the night sky, Lorraine stole the show–just as she had stolen my heart years ago. But oddly, she was the only bridesmaid who was there alone. She, the sun amongst the stars . . . She, the standard for all womanly beauty . . . She, the matriarch of the endless tempest in my heart . . . was alone.

But so was I.

I grabbed the Afghan from the couch & wrapped it around me. The atmosphere no longer felt lukewarm; it felt cold. I shivered as the irony set it–It was June, but still felt like winter to me.

Even on the brightest summer day, the next thunderstorm is always waiting to strike. I felt it in my bones; it was going to rain again–a rather (un)pleasant circumstance.

This piece serves as the pilot episode for a fictional summer series following one man’s continuous struggle to pick up the pieces from a disastrous disappointment & evolve to the next stage that awaits him–presumably a happy one.

My one Eye is better than your Two

Click the green hyperlink to view the exact interview on YouTube: Soldier’s Story.

I just finished watching a documentary chronicling a soldier’s experiences during the War in Iraq. Sgt. T.W. of the 101st Airborne Division recounts an experience when his platoon comes under mortar fire inside the courtyard of their Forward Operating Base. The blast knocks Sgt. T.W. on top of a fellow soldier, Barnes, the platoon’s Radio Operator. While both men absorb shrapnel, T.W. stands up with only mild injuries; but Barnes takes a more direct hit & subsequently endures multiple surgeries & years of rehabilitation afterwards. When a reporter asks T.W. why it was Barnes & not him when both soldiers stood only feet apart, the sergeant explains simply: “There’s no rhyme or reason to it . . . if you spend too much time thinking about it, you’ll go insane.”

While the once popular AMC original series “The Walking Dead (TWD)” is fiction, I don’t consider it irreverent to relate a serious moment in the drama to a serious moment in real life. After all, I’ve always believed that fiction mirrors reality because we who create fiction do so to make sense of our real world experiences. In Season 4 of “TWD”, the eye-patched Governor with his one good eye finds himself with a small group of other survivors as they celebrate their good fortune to be some of the last men standing on earth. When the group asks the Governor how he’s managed to stay alive, he responds cryptically, “It’s best not to think of it.” In this moment, the Governor sounds like a true veteran of a real war & not just a character on TV.

Although I’ve never been a soldier myself, I often perceive life as one continuous war; one challenge after another; a series of endless battles. We conquer one challenge to celebrate briefly only to proceed inevitably to the next challenge. Most of the time it’s not life & death; & even when it is, for most of us, our life & death experiences don’t involve mortar fire or unexploded IEDs. Still, even for those of us who are fortunate enough to live the life of a civilian a world away from any formal warzone, peace is often difficult to find. For me, I feel as if there’s an emotional war raging in my head.

I’ve suffered from insomnia for most of my life. If I don’t fall asleep in that first hour, I’m just as likely not to sleep at all than to find even a brief respite from my life’s deepest regrets & unanswered questions. I was a humanities major in college & have always been the analytical type. My interests lie in literature, history, religion, & psychology instead of math & science.

The following material is a fictional account made to appear like the narrator’s private thoughts–for dramatic effect only.

Why didn’t I supplement my Bachelor’s of Arts with more business-related courses? Why was I so afraid to fail? Why did I mismanage this or that opportunity? And, although it may sound trite compared to soldiers lamenting war, lately I can’t seem to stop asking myself:

“Why did she pick him over me?”

I’m moving soon. So I’m going through my personal effects, labeling boxes, & the like. I came across some pictures from my younger days. It just so happens these photos span several years & include me with many of my ex-lovers. I looked so young & clueless–cheerful & funny, yes–but so skinny! And so presumably weak! I remember thinking back then that while I could attract the pretty girls from time to time, I rarely felt capable of protecting them. In the back of my mind, I always knew that if I ever were to graduate to the status of “head of household,” I’d have to toughen up into a fierce guardian. I always assumed that when it didn’t work out, it was because she would leave me for a man she considered to be a better protector.

But now that I’ve much more visceral with years in the weight room & numerous trips to the Golden Corral, I appear much more proficient in that role. And yet, it seems as if more girls liked me better back then; back when I was cheerful but outwardly weak.

But, at least the good girls would understand. And that’s exactly what Lorraine was. She was the absolute good girl; she was the incorruptible one. Lorraine was the exact type of modest beauty that would reward fidelity with fidelity & find security not in overwhelming size alone but in the knowledge that a man who loved her enough would do anything to protect her.

I treasured her. But all she did with my gift of friendship was treat it like worthless trash. I thought she was a woman of substance–someone who cared about the why behind the action. But somehow, she chose that fat, hulking, colossal pile of meat-head garbage over someone who cared. I hope she never finds happiness! She doesn’t deserve to ever be loved. EVER! She deserves to feel the pain that she caused me. She deserves to stay up late at night; staring at the ceiling in a dark room, asking herself “What if?”

That soldier from Iraq was right. One of the most aggravating heartbreaks I’d ever experienced prior to Lorraine occurred while I was unemployed. A supporting friend warned me, “An idle mind is the Devil’s playground. So find something to do or you’ll drive yourself crazy.” And although I have something to do now, Lorrain’s descent into depravity still haunts me. The Governor was right. “It’s best not to think of it.” How can a fictional character from a TV show know so much more about grieving than I do? How could his one eye be better than my two?

I don’t have that answer. I’m only concerned with what I need to do right now. I’ll start with this. It’s still early afternoon & the sun is out. But tonight when it’s dark, I’ll close both eyes & block everything out. I’ll rest easy & tomorrow morning, I’ll focus just on what I have to do for that day. I’ll keep both my eyes & still manage to find peace somehow. Whether soldier or civilian, we are all casualties of life anyway. We all carry some scar of our past struggles; whether that be a missing eye or damaged limb. In my case, I carry the shards of glass from a broken dream named Lorraine. For now, I’ll have to find consolation in knowing that one day I’ll be over her. I’ll conquer this overwhelming disappointment the same way I m’ve gotten over all the rest; celebrate briefly; than move on to the next challenge. Because that’s what life is. It’s one battle after another. It’s . . .

one continuous emotional war.

And I’m locked & loaded.

Her Stripper Name would be Mirage (1)

Image borrowed for not-for-profit use but for creative effect. Image is property of theDollHouseFitness.com.

PROLOGUE

The following creative literary piece begins the first series inspired by the popular “Lorraine has Fallen” series that began on August 11, 2020. This chapter & eventual future chapter are in no way autobiographical & the scenarios discussed simply create a backdrop for reflection on general topics like processing grief & remaining motivated through adversity.

chapter 1: almost 20/20

Image borrowed for not-for-profit use but for creative effect. Image is property of FirstEyeCareDFW.com

When my eyes & her majestic form first met, I swear I caught a glimpse of Heaven. Think what you may about male to female attraction, but there was nothing raunchy or unclean about the emerging feelings I experienced that day. We were folding linens at the hospital before end of shift. We worked at a small hospital where everyone who didn’t serve a clinical role had to pull double duty which almost always involved folding linens. I was new & only knew a handful of staffers. I was dutifully focused on the task, knowing there should be another staff member coming in soon to help. Then, from the corner of my right eye, I saw her approach with silently smooth feminine ease. Her lengthy, slender, & slightly sun-kissed body glided towards me. At first, I noticed her mostly from the waist area with her features above & below appearing vague since I was looking down at the table where the linens were. I turned my head to acknowledge her. So stunned by the radiance of her beautiful face, I immediately turned away. She maintained an emotionally neutral facade, neither smiling nor frowning. Without a word, she took her place close beside me & began folding her share of linens. She was aloof! I couldn’t yet decide whether or not it was shyness or arrogance that fueled her demeanor. I had to take another look.

“Hi,” I managed. “This is my first weekend shift. I don’t think I’ve met you before. I’m (name confidential).”

“Oh . . . I’m Lorraine,” she said in a slow, soft melodious tone. The elegance of her voice matched the brilliance of her impossibly beautiful face, flanked with long straight hair that straddled the boundary between light brown & dark blond–my favorite color for girls’ hair!

“Great. Well–Lorraine–thanks for helping,” I responded as normally as I could.

“You’re welcome,” she spoke effortlessly, in a tone mildly cheerful yet not too inviting. It was clear to me; it was bashfulness, not conceit, that fueled her demeanor. Lorraine just wanted to appear proper. She just wanted to remain lady-like. I instantly fell in love.

Ancient Sumerians, resident of a city along the Fertile Crescent often credited as being the birthplace for civilization, worshiped a deity known as the Anunnaki–a word loosely translated to “Those who from the Heavens came.” From that moment on, that’s what Lorraine was to me. She was “The ONE who from the Heavens came.” I had completely fallen under her spell. We all have a type– a set of qualities that we seek out in a potential romantic partner. In practice, I’m happy to see even a fraction of these qualities present. But somehow, Lorraine not only met my every ideal, but re-defined them! She was the visible manifestation of everything I’d ever hoped to find in a girl. It didn’t take me long to conclude that this girl I had been waiting my whole life for. The Fertile Crescent–the birthplace for civilization–and looking back to that night, the spot where I met Lorraine became something of a new birthplace for me. Her introduction into my life sparked an ascension into an era of enhanced feeling. The closest thing I can relate it to is getting glasses as a child.

I didn’t want to look like a four-eyed freak in middle school so I hid my compromised vision for as long as I could until the teachers figured it out & told my parents. I even tried to cheat on the exam; when the optometrist left the room I ran up to the chart in an attempt to memorize the letters in sequence. It almost worked,until he walked in & caught me. I was almost on the 20/20 line.

Like a true warrior, I fought against my need for glasses until the very end. But then, I walked outside & saw a world with clear detail; and I realized what I had been missing that entire time. I saw beauty in almost everything around me; a view rich with minute details. We lived in the country. Our house was surrounded by tall grass that looked almost like wheat. I could see the minute buds at the top of each strand of grass as they swayed back & forth like a sea of crops; a sea made up of individual blades congregating into individual small groups. Not every group of blades would sway in the same direction even. Instead of seeing one vast ocean out there, I could discern a series of small, turbulent seas unifying to compose a single ocean. I was amazed! I felt as though I was seeing the world for the first time. Everything around me suddenly became a masterpiece! And that’s the word that stuck in my head after that night of folding linens with the goddess. Masterpiece. Lorraine was a masterpiece; one that I had waited my entire life to see just as I had spent an entire school year waiting for my resolve to finally break so that I could receive my first set of glasses then finally bear witness to the world around me.

I’ve heard that “Hindsight is 20/20.” I’ve also heard that “Love is blind.” And now that I’m scarred with years of calloused life experience, I can say that both statements are true. Well . . . almost.

EPILOGUE

Hey there. Are you enjoying what you’ve seen so far in “Her Stripper Name would be Mirage”? Well, why not go back to the chapter that started it all. Clink the highlighted area to link back to The Genesis behind this “brave new world” inspired by the mystery girl Lorraine: And then the Rain came Down.

Answer for BRT (Brother)

My brother, who hasn’t kept up with current events, sent me this video from PragerU explaining Critical Race Theory (CRT). He asked me if the presentation was accurate. After four hours of online research & reflection, this is how I responded. Yes. It’s mostly accurate. Although the speaker allows his personal beliefs to bleed over into areas like his example of the shopkeeper or in his social commentary in comparing Critical Race Theory (CRT) with Apartheid, every major point he makes about CRT I was able to verify in at least one external source. In my research to verify the Prager definition, I discovered that CRT is a jumble of vague ideas & can be difficult to piece together. However, as a racial minority who has lived my entire life in the US, I can provide a more real world relevant definition of CRT. Critical Race Theory is a tool used by the supporters of the Democratic party to ensure that the Republic party never wins a Presidential election again. For now, that’s the goal. But wait . . . there’s more.

In Pursuit of Objectivity

Since we’re discussing a controversial topic, I want to address any claims about my methodology upfront. So I ask that you at least read this section before you begin your barrage of insults. I regularly watch all three all news networks (CNN, MSNBC, & Fox) in addition to browsing multiple web resources for headlines that interest me. My primary online resources are http://www.msn.com; http://www.yahoo.com; http://www.cnn.com, http://www.foxnews.com, http://www.google.com, & http://www.youtube.com. Coming into this undertaking, I already had an idea of CRT & how & why it’s currently used by the establishment. In an effort to make as objective an assessment as possible, I’ve read the entries for CRT on both Wikipedia & Encyclopedia Britannica online. Here are the highlights from both 3rd party resources.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia identifies two primary pillars of CRT. The first holds that American society is inherently racist. Moreover, the legal system is deliberately designed to maintain this white supremacist doctrine that allows whites to profit from the systematic exploitation of minorities, specifically blacks. The second pillar holds that the emancipation of black Americans is possible through the act of “transforming the relationship between law & racial power;”that true equality is possible, but would require an complete dismantling of the system then a rebuild from scratch.

The entry goes on to identify several other aspects of CRT too numerous to discuss here. I’ve selected two aspects of particular significance. The first is the concept of white privilege. This particular entry describes white privilege in terms of white Americans receiving the benefit of a doubt; truly benefiting from the idea of innocent until proven guilty whereas daily interactions with black Americans are governed by negative stereotypes.

The second aspect is the idea of social constructionism; an idea that, to the best of my understanding, elevates story-telling above evidence or reason; meaning, a black person’s testimony should outweigh evidence or legal reasoning in any legal case. The idea behind this is that black Americans have suffered through such an underprivileged experience that the only fair way to capture the nuances & insensitivities of their experiences is to grant their narratives more weight. After all, if our legal system is deliberately designed to subordinate them, then how can we be certain that the evidence or the logic that our system uses to judge the evidence is not inherently racist too? This is truthfully how I’ve interpreted this principle. Feel free to judge for yourself by reading the excerpt here.

Britannica

“Wait! Anybody can post an entry on Wikipedia. That’s not a real resource–that’s biased!” This is all true but when you type a question into Google search, the Wikipedia response is normally the first to populate. I’ve used the Wiki entry as a resource because the average person would probably do the same. Moreover, even when compared to the more encyclopedic definition, the Wiki explanation still appears accurate.

The Britannica entry goes into more depth & establishes, as I’ve seen elsewhere, six universally accepted tenets of CRT. I’ve listed all six below with a brief description.

(One) Race does not exist except as a social construct to allow whites to exploit blacks.

(Two) Racism in American is the normal order of things.

(Three) Interest Convergence: black are only allowed to succeed in America insofar as it somehow benefits the white agenda. (My interpretation: Owing to this theory, Barrack Obama was given the Presidency because doing so somehow allowed whites to warehouse more power behind the scenes.)

(Four) Differential Racialization: racial minorities are assigned negative stereotypes & sometimes re-assigned a different set of negative stereotypes as needed in order for whites to remain the dominant group.

(Five) Intersectionality: No one person can be completely defined by their membership into a single group. For example, a black woman is not only black but a woman too.

(Six) Voice of Color: An assertion that one person of color can accurately speak for that entire group, presumably because they share the common disadvantages of their struggle. (My interpretation: I guess this is why black men can disparage one another using racial epitaphs without causing social outrage. Also, it explains how the media can exploit the voice of a single black positive testimonial to establish the Democratic party as the party of black Americans while simultaneously writing off another black voice who votes Republic as someone “detached from their community.”

One Minority’s Take

Now that we’ve addressed the question of what Critical Race Theory is, I vote we move on to answer the bigger question: Why are we talking CRT right now? CRT isn’t a new idea. Per Britannica, we can trace it back at least to 1989 when the 1st Annual Workshop on Critical Race occurred. More recently, legal scholars Richard Delgado & Jean Stefanic published their book Critical Race Theory: An Introduction in 2001 (Britannica entry). That’s all fine & well but why is a book published twenty years ago dominating headlines right now? Well, at the risk of sounding like a CNN anchor, I’ll tell you why. Five letters . . .

T-R-U-M-P . . . Trump.

The election of Barrack Hussein Obama into the Presidency in 2008 heralded a new age of racial enlightenment, so network news proclaimed. When Obama won again in 2012, I saw articles on credible websites like http://www.msn.com entitled, “Will America ever see a White President again?” It was as if one of the tenets of CRT per Wikipedia had been fulfilled: the power structure of our country’s keystone processes had been re-written on racial lines & blacks were now the favored group. After eight years of listening to the mainstream media & even pop culture exaggerate the implications of Obama’s two terms, Donald Trump’s winning the 2016 election was the absolute doomsday scenario for the Democratic party. Not only did America elect a white man into the Presidency; but they did so at the expense of electing the nation’s first female President. And not only America choose a man over a woman; but they chose a man who was racist! Trump’s ascension to the Presidency was nuclear winter for the Democrats and they’ll do anything to ensure it never happens again.

By the time 2016 came around, America had tired of the black vs white racial dynamic. In fact, so did the Democratic party. Having already succeeded at convincing America to elect the country’s first black President, they had moved on to checking off the next box in electing the first female President. The Left & the major networks that appear to support them used terms like misogyny & toxic masculinity to discredit Trump & the Republican party. We even saw the birth of the Me Too Movement, which appears in part at least, to have been an attempt to sway female voters to the Democratic party & their female candidate. When this didn’t work, the media hurriedly tried to make an issue of immigration on the Southern border, framing the case that Trump’s stance on tougher immigration standards equaled racism against brown men. As recently as 2019, before Covid19 dominated media coverage, I remember journalists like Chris Matthews snickering at Donald Trump for calling the migrant caravan from South America an invasion simply because it contained “brown skinned men.”

Then 2020 came & the Covid shutdown in March. While we were all stuck at home, we had a front row seat to the horrific death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. This single tragedy set the stage for an even bigger tragedy as major cities erupted into flames in a six month period of often violent protests in the name of Black Lives Matter, a social justice group that developed, ironically, during the Obama administration after the Ferguson, MO riots of 2014. Let’s be clear: Covid19 probably lost Trump the election; but BLM 2.0 is what will ensure no one like him will win again. At least, if the Democrats have anything to say about it.

I paint this timeline to establish context. And while I allowed some personal opinion to spill over into the discussion, my time table is easily verifiable through public record. Awareness of this time table is critical because, in at least one school system, the implementation of Critical Race Theory reached a fevered pitch after the death of George Floyd. Andrew Gutman of NYC stood up to the prestigious Brearley School where he had his daughter enrolled. Chelsea Clinton, Tina Fey, Drew Barrymore, & other noteworthy public figures graduated from this school. In an interview on Fox News, the concerned father stated that the school’s insistence on stressing CRT in the curriculum accelerated noticeably after the George Floyd riots last year. Gutman finally decided to pull his daughter from the school when they required an anti-racist pledge for parents to sign as a condition of enrollment. Once again, the need to standardize such a pledge assumes that everyone is inherently racist; then, coming into this agreement, obligates them to strive not to be. You can see for yourself by watching the videos provided below.

Videos

School Requires Anti-Racist Pledge for Parents

Tucker Carlson Excerpt

In response to this thorough & well-written parental concern, The Head of the Brearley School, Jane Fried, simply said that the letter was, “Deeply offensive & harmful.”

In an even more recent case, a group of parents from Loudoun County, VA made national news when they criticized the school board’s push for Critical Race Theory. One parent delivered a particularly moving speech, stating that CRT is “racist” . . . “abusive” . . . and “discriminates against one’s color.” She went on to criticize the curriculum for failing to promote an honest dialog, stating the following:

An honest dialog does not oppress. An honest dialog does not implement hatred or injustice.

CLICK: Fox News Online Article

Predictably, the school board responding my labeling the feedback from the concerned parents as “racist.” Ironically, the parent who delivered the moving speech is black. Conversely, the six members of the school board most supportive of the CRT are white. I’ve included the speech in the video below. It will be worth the 66 seconds it takes to watch it.

Impassioned Critique of CRT

Closing Thoughts

In 1839, Edward Bulwer-Lytton famously wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Sadly, in this Brearley School incident, the party with the better constructed argument failed to “pen” the right words to debunk the latest politically convenient truth: that our system (championed by the Republican is party)is inherently racist against blacks. In 1939, a misguided visionary stated: “He . . . who controls the youth, gains the future.” If our youth continue to hear in school, on CNN, on the internet, on social media—that America is racist against blacks; that whites are privileged & exploit blacks to maintain that privilege & that we have an obligation to change–then we’re teaching our kids to vote exclusively Democrat. And that’s the end goal; Democrats won the White House in 2008 & 2012 on a ticket of Black against White. In 2016, they changed their mantra & the unthinkable occurred—Donald Trump won! Republics are racists, Democrats are not—so we’re told. Today, the goal is to prevent another Republic from winning the White House. But wait, there’s more. Tomorrow, the goal is to eliminate the Republican party altogether! So much for democracy–or even, a Constitutional Republic for that matter. What is Critical Race Theory? It’s a means of establishing a single party system in the next generation. Remember: he who controls the youth gains the future. Oh yeah–do you know who the visionary was who spoke these words in 1939?

Adolf Hitler.

Related Terms: look for them in current events

If you found this discussion interesting, stay on the lookout for these key terms. If you hear them pop up in the news or in daily conversation, chances are high that the subject is Critical Race Theory or similar content. I think it’s good to stay aware: the indoctrination of Generation Next is all around us; and it seems as if the entire establishment is in on it. Trump wasn’t lying when he declared, in 2016, that he had beaten the system. If the system has their way, may have have witnessed the last Republic President vacate the White House in January.

1619 Project

woke studies/woke curriculum

institutionalized racism

white privilege

white apologist

cancel culture

Long Live the True “King”

I’ve finally scene the trailer for the long awaited King Kong vs Godzilla movie. But, before this heavy weight title fight between the two biggest creatures from the MonsterVerse, it’s only fair to reflect on the path each contender took to reach this battle for “Beast Mode” supremacy. Before the giant gorilla could claim the title “King Kong,” he had to confront numerous apex carnivores in the form of Tyrannosaurus rex, “King of Lizards.”

The movie is set to open on Wednesday, March 31. Since I don’t have a Godzilla action figure of my own, I will be unable to simulate the upcoming epic battle. I guess we’ll find out together which titan will reign supreme!

So many Candles, So many Heartbreaks

I recently celebrated a birthday. Hold old am I, you ask? Well, I’d love to tell you. But on one condition. Let’s not measure my age by the number of candles on the cake; because there would be so many too count yet the number would say so little about me. Last summer, I began a series of fictional short stories under the theme “Lorraine has Fallen.” I’d like to demonstrate my journey to improved emotional maturity in the most fitting way possible: by sharing the FINAL CHAPTER of the series.

LORRAINE HAS FALLEN: THE FINAL CHAPTER

There was no point in placing the proper number of candles on my birthday cake. There would be too many to fit anyway, & prove too difficult to blow out to boot. Plus, with the Covid-19 global pandemic, who would want to eat cake that the birthday boy just blew out the candles on? No. Given the circumstances, it seemed best to celebrate my number of years on earth with representative symbolism. I placed a single candle on a single piece of cake placed in front of me & blew it out. That lone act provided the metaphor behind our celebration. In doing so, I acknowledged another chapter of my life, promising to never forget it; while also turning to the next unread page. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. At least, that’s how the lyrics to a song I heard in my young adulthood went. Those lyrics stuck with me, although at the time, I didn’t really know why. But now, after so many candles, so many heartbreaks . . . I truly understood.

When Lorraine broke my heart by failing to uphold this standard of purity that I had thrust upon her several months ago, my sky came crashing down. I know it didn’t for everyone else. The world didn’t end; but something almost as big had ended for me. Lorraine was Purity’s Last Stand to me. I never intended to date her, but just knowing who she was & how she was validated how I had lived my life. My friends would admonish me for acting too passively, my family for being too picky; even my female friends for being unrealistic & remaining needlessly loyal to a person or ideal when such commitment was unwarranted. I was faithful to a flaw. But I couldn’t change; even when I felt out of place in time . . . a old-fashioned soul trapped in a modern world that scorned tradition, choosing instead to celebrate every single act as a “celebration of liberated thought”.” I was an artifact from another time in the dating world; a figure better suited for an epic poem from literature class than a legitimate suitor in this Brave New World. But when I met Lorraine, & watched how she behaved for several years; how a girl that beautiful could remain so modest & willing to go extended periods without needing a relationship–she reminded me why I am the way I am. There are people who are worth it; there are people who understand. Lorraine validated my choice to live life as a nice guy & still believe I wasn’t doomed to finish last. She was the last remnant of Eden on earth; a metaphor for my vindication. I had been right all along; everyone else had been wrong.

When Lorraine broke my heart, in large part unbeknownst to her, she sucked the color out of my world. All I saw was black, white, & grey. Every time I looked up at the sky, it seemed to be raining. It wasn’t quite Hell, but an emotional version of Seattle inside a black & white TV set at least; and that’s bad enough! And that’s where I was. All the while, as I pined for freedom from this oppressive disappointment, I’d tell myself that I’d live to see the day the rain would stop. Even when it seemed it would never end; even when I thought a thousand forevers would pass before the day would finally arrive–I told myself, even LIED to myself, that I’d see the sun again. And when I did, that day would be one of dramatic triumph.

Everyone told me I would “find someone” again–someone “better.” Well, if those same people only bothered to count the candles on my cake, they’d realize how disingenuous their pep talks sounded. If they had known Lorraine for themselves, they’d realize how insulting their assessment of finding “someone better” was. Lorraine was special. On her worst day, she was still one in a million; & I don’t know if I will have spoken to a million girls in the span of an entire lifetime. Find someone else? Sure, maybe. But someone better? How ignorant. And then, my birthday came.

By the time I blew out that single candle on that single slice of cake placed in front of me, I had actually met someone new. She’s more of a friend, really. I had known her for a couple of years already. But just recently, we started talking outside of our normal circle of acquaintance. The way she reacts to me now is different from anything I’ve experienced in recent memory. It’s something about the way she looks at me when I talk to her; her eyes seem some attentive, as if what I’m saying is actually important. I’m accustomed to feeling unimportant. There’s also something about the way I don’t seem able to do anything wrong in her presence, even while I’m not striving to be perfect in front of her. I remember when I first noticed it, I paused. My alarm bells went off. That moment had a hint of connection that felt only remotely familiar, like a pleasant scent from a holiday dinner in my mother’s kitchen as a child . . . in a past life. It actually felt uncomfortable at first; mostly foreign, but faintly familiar too.

I don’t mean to get ahead of things; she’s not my girlfriend, for sure. But she has gradually begun replacing all the blocks of time that have for so long been the exclusive domain of Lorraine. I questioned what it is that I feel for her; at first. I was convinced that it couldn’t POSSIBLE be ROMANCE. Although she always cheered me up when I saw her, our interactions didn’t stun me into inaction–didn’t render immobile—didn’t rob me of the talent of speech. I didn’t yearn to kiss the ground she walked on–and, for those of you who have endured my incessant discussions about Lorraine, this yearning isn’t THAT MUCH of an EXAGGERATION!

I was born on Valentine’s day. I had always been a bit melodramatic, especially when it came to romance. While my interactions with my new friend feel positive & wholesome, they lack that sensation of “God placing all of existence on pause for a moment” when I see her. I don’t feel “newly born” when I see her like it felt with Lorraine; it’s more the feeling of your blanket when you wake up cold in the middle of the night, or your favorite hoodie when you’re sick on the couch–comforting. It feels less like a movie–or, more befitting, “an epic poem;” & more “every day”. While my interactions with Lorraine has always carried a greater deal of drama with them, they also proved utterly exhausting. It was as if every little thing she did, every little chance encounter, would either hype me up until I’d exhaust myself on the excitement, or drain me of my energy when she disappointed me. While less “epic” than my interactions with Lorraine, my interactions with my new friend seem more sustainable. If this isn’t attraction, isn’t romance . . . then WHAT is it?

By the time I was to blow out the candle on that single flickering flame before me, I had the answer. My whole ordeal with Lorraine, while intoxicating, was all fantasy. What I was experiencing in the moment with my new friend–that was real life. I’ve never used drugs; but the one time I got high was as a patient in the hospital. I had been admitted for severe dizziness & nausea. The nurses injected something into my arm. I could feel the cool fluid ease into my vein at first, then quickly disseminate. Inside of two seconds, they had me transferred to another dimension. At 00:1, I was lying in bed, groggy with pain, vaguely aware of three nurses standing to one side of my bed. At 00:6, I couldn’t stop laughing, still vaguely aware of the three nurses standing by my bed. At 00:9, I was traveling through a tunnel of fast moving flashing lights, similar to the sensation of riding Space Mountain at Disney World. At 1.9, I was aware of my sleepiness despite laughing hysterically. And in my next sentient moment, it was morning. I won’t lie about this–it was FUN! But I wouldn’t want to remain permanently in that state, much less make important decisions while in that state. It’s horrifying to think that, during this entire Lorraine ordeal, that’s essentially what I had been doing. I had been at the wheel of my own life while intoxicated, making decisions about my employment status, my reputation, & other matters of far-reaching import while intoxicated by an emotional high, at best–and a deep emotional low, at worst. I had told myself this before; but sometimes, we even have to remind ourselves of the lessons we’ve already learned. “If every day is a holiday, then there are NO holidays.”

Whatever is happening between me & my new friend, whether it’s romance or whether it fizzles off into nothing–it’s real world, not fantasy. If this isn’t romance, then what is it? Well, I guess this is “growing up.”

Having thus concluded, I blew out the single candle on my slice of cake. I watched as the flame as it initially resisted, then conceded defeat. I saw the plumes of smoke, dark & fierce at first, lighten & then dissipate into nothing until what was left was just a candle that once carried a flame. I looked out the window & could see in the fading daylight that the rain had finally stopped. Come to think of it, it hadn’t rained all day & I hadn’t even noticed. Huh. “I knew this day would come,” I thought to myself. I just always believed it would feel different.” The greatest measure of emotional maturity is self-awareness.

“This was the best birthday gift ever (aside from life itself, of course),” I mused. “Freedom from the rain.” I had always expected that this day would arrive with an air of dramatic triumph; but felt just like an ordinary day. Ordinary by my new standards, at least; probably better this way.

How old am I? you wondered earlier. Well . . . old enough to have grown up, at least. Finally.

Maybe I was still right regarding Lorraine. Maybe I wouldn’t find someone “better ” than she is. But that’s asking the wrong question anyway. I just want to find someone “better for me.” And, in terms of everything else, outside of relationships . . . that should be my focus moving forward. I need to forget about achieving “better” & focus on achieving “better for me.” A better fit, a better attitude–just better for me.

After so many candles, so many heartbreaks—I finally understood.

Farewell, Lorraine. No hard feelings; just . . . farewell.

THE END . . . and yet, THE BEGINNING

Inspired, in part, by the lyrics of a twenty-year-old alternative rock song by Blink182. See lyrics below.

But everybody's gone
And I've been here for too long
To face this on my own
Well, I guess this is growing up
Well, I guess this is growing up.

Mysterios: Avian Warrior


Avians are one of the several human-like sentient races that inhabit Eternia. Stratos, an accomplished Security Team Leader of the Avian Kingdom, serves as defense direct leison from the Kingdom of Avian to the Kingdom of Eternos. However, Stratos is an aging warrior & the Avians hope to continue their alliance with the King of Eternos well into the next generation. As a result, Stratos has enlisted a young upstart known as Mysterious to

TO BE CONTINUED