Everyone can be obsessive, and we all have our own weird little ticks and idiosyncrasies. My tick is the repetitive stating of a singular word when I’m thinking. Well… primarily when I’m brainstorming. Like a loop, the word never leaves my thought process and it’s almost always a word. Yet this week, it was a name.
From the moment I got out of bed, to second I started walking around, the syllables became a secondary beat to my step, and when I was working, it stuck to every page I turned. At night when I’d climb into bed, I’d lie there looking up at the ceiling and there it was, hovering above my mind like a firefly stuck in a mason jar.
Their name was the last thing I thought about right before I closed my eyes…
Chelci Anna Hone…‘Where are you tonight’?
Writers block is a nuisance, yet it’s expected, and I usually know when it will hit because I’ll slowly start to become void of any feeling. When that happens it’s almost always the end result of deeply navigating and deciphering my emotions.
Really, I think it’s a way for my brain to recharge from over-analyzing, thinking and over-observing, because as a writer, it’s all you ever do. Your brain can only absorb so much before it becomes clouded and that’s what writers block is – it’s a mental fog.
The last time I had a really bad block was when my daughter died and I could barley write my own address, let alone a full narrative. The other time before that was when I was in love…my deep consuming love. Both took a few months to recover from and when I came out of it, my focus was stronger.
Every writer has their own way of alleviating the problem and there are literally hundreds of ways for one to get through a bad block; we all have our own methods.
For me, I typically have sex, which is easy to get, however, I’m sort of taking a temporary vow of celibacy and masturbation doesn’t always have the same effect.
So for weeks I tried, other, more productive approaches, like running, hiking or sketching but when I sat down to mold my words, the only thing that ever came out were really shitty haikus and jumbled free writing.
Since I hated feeling this flaccid, I called my ex-boyfriend. Again, not for sex…he does not, in any way, induce any sort of eroticism for me anymore but I needed him for his brain.
He’s a really deep, analytical thinker and he’s great at knowing how to ask the right questions to get a conversation going, and sometimes a good deep talk can move my thoughts into the right direction.
After taking a few shots of Wild Turkey, ordering take-out and hearing about his Tinder nightmares, he started in with his questions, which were mostly about my love life – or lack thereof.
Since I was having a hard time feeing anything, all of my answers were one-worded responses. Then again it could be that the topic of having little romance in my life only depresses me more, and maybe that’s why I couldn’t yield better feedback.
It wasn’t long after we ate that I found myself sitting in his love sac, scratching my belly button and binge watching four-hours of Silicon Valley, while he did his taxes. Basically it was just another Friday night and when I walked out his door to leave, he kissed my forehead and verbally willed my brain to work – It didn’t, my block was still there.
More friends tried to get me to be social but that failed too, because during a bad bout of writer’s block, I’m quiet, and those skills are muted.
This doesn’t make me a lot of fun to be around, and everyone can tell because you can feel it when I text, hear it when I talk and notice it in in my lack of focus. It’s almost like something’s ‘missing’.
As for timing, it couldn’t have been worse. It fell on the week of my birthday, and that day already makes me feel a little sad and numb. Adding writers block to the mix, only leaves an irritated writer.
My only birthday wish, ‘please get me through this block’.
Thirty-seven, is a pretty uneventful number in the big scheme of things. Thirty-six was definitely more exciting, because in that year I did learn a few things, for example, always roll your 401K into your Roth IRA, when you leave a job. Don’t forget that – it’s really important.
Also, never blindly trust anyone, but you can let them think you do. When you give to another, observe how they give back, not to take tally but to see if they’re going to take advantage.
People will lie to you, a lot… and words are always empty until you see action. Don’t be disappointed when someone lets you down, especially when you could see it from the start.
When you love someone… tell them. You’re far too old to play games with another person’s emotions and direct acknowledgement of affection, leaves no room for second guessing your intent.
Never get love advice from straight male friends, because those friends only want to fuck you and they’ll lead you in the wrong direction. It’s just like men going to their female friends for advice, if she likes you, don’t trust her guidance and we all know when someone likes us, even if they’re just a ‘friend’.
Lastly, validate the ones you care about. If they’re mad, give them the green light to be mad. Always ask if they want to talk about it and be genuine when they do. Basically, be authentic because life is too short to be anything but.
Something else I learned…well always knew, but sometimes forget.
Write. What. You. Know.
This year, my best friend threw me a ‘surprise’, birthday party that I knew about because I had to find a sitter. The plan was to meet at her house, smoke a little pot, leave to dinner and finish the night barhopping through the city.
By the time I got to her house I was running late, sort of in a rush and on the phone with another friend, all the while hearing her in the background saying how we needed to hurry, because everyone else was at the restaurant waiting.
I hate being late.
Before I knew it, we were out the door and in the vehicle of a Lyft driver named Jon who drove a truck that was almost too high for me to climb into and who kept making references about bikes that I was too high to understand. Once he dropped us off behind the restaurant, the three of us walked down an ally and that’s when it hit. Instinct.
When people give me advice, I listen to a few, however the one thing that has never failed me is my instinct. It’s saved me from being raped in the apartment of co-worker, and from being murdered after a guy decided to follow me home from the subway.
My instinct has woken me up in the middle of the night when someone I love has died, it’s told me when I would get into a car accident, before I left my garage, and it keeps me at bay when I know someone wants me to back off.
It’s great to have when I first meet someone and it’s always a good gauge on the kind of night I’ll end up having.
The ally wasn’t the problem, it was wide and well lit but as we walked closer towards the end, I felt weird. At first I thought it was the culmination my birthday and my writer’s block but once we got to the opening of the second street, it was worse and then I realized that it was an alarm, or internal warning. My body was telling me that something was going to happen and that it wouldn’t be good. When my gut wrenched, I tried to ignore it – something you should never do.
Shock is a stroke of all five senses. You can hear but you’re not listening. You can see but you don’t notice the color, you can smell but there’s no aroma, you can taste but there’s no flavor and you can feel but there’s no sensation. If you’ve ever had a near death experience, then you know that slow calming feeling you get, right before you die – that’s shock. You see the end before it hits.
This isn’t new feeling for me, just a buried one. My eyes have been a witness to some pretty grotesque things. When I covered crime I saw stabbings, gunshots, near decapitation, beaten dead bodies of infants and lastly, suicide.
These things make me a little morbid because they have a way of never leaving your mind and the images are so seared into your cortex, they tend to create a visual association when you look at other things unrelated.
So when my birthday, turned crime scene, familiarity set in and all I wanted to do, was something that has been drilled into my brain by past editors: Find out the facts, leave out emotion and don’t release any name until you have confirmation that the family has been notified. Yet this time I couldn’t, because I’m not a journalist anymore, now I’m just a bystander.
Then it happened. My block was gone.
Parking garages are scary and at night they’re terrifying, especially if you’re a woman because there’s a constant fear that you’ll be attacked at any minute.
That evening I think she was already feeling pretty careless, because the darkened garage didn’t seem to faze her. She came from the west side of town and I can only wonder how well she knew the area, because although she was from Utah, she grew up in Florida.
It was almost 9:30 pm on March 11th and I imagined her dark wavy hair, hitting the middle of her back, swaying back and fourth with each step, her mind focused looking for the elevator to take her to the sixth level – the top.
My mind could see it; she stood above us, six stories high, straddling the side of the cement barrier. Her view from above showed the lights throughout the city, and if she wanted, she could trace them to reach out into the sprawl, like incandescent veins laid out in a grid.
The air felt more like summer, than it did early spring, and that day it was unseasonably warm. The high was sixty-five degrees and the little breezes were just as balmy.
The crowd yelled at her to stop and another woman pulled out her phone and started calling 911. By this time, her legs were completely over the side, dangling against the wall and her eyes, red with tears looking down.
When the breeze stopped… she jumped.
Her body floating lifelessly, with arms outstretched, her dark hair in the wind swirling around her face, she looked serene and still. Her body hit quick, landing partially on a pedestrian walking towards the shops.
His body, which softened the blow, still didn’t stop her from dying. When she hit the sidewalk, the sound was like that of a bowling ball being smashed into the pavement.
She lay there; limp, with eyes open, landing fifty feet from my group and two feet away from an electric car parking spot.
Chelci Anna Hone, ‘Where are you going tonight’?
When I turned around, the look of shock and panic were on everyone’s face. The woman, who called 911, was now sitting at the end of the bar, white and pale, eyes wide with a small glass of whisky in her hand. My best friend looked over at me and said, “well…happy birthday”.
This is the second jumping I’ve been around. The first was when I was living in Philadelphia and the scream of my neighbor woke me up when another woman jumped off a building across the street. That woman landed on a parked Daewoo and I went back to bed before the ambulance came.
This was different though. Chelci Anna Hone was different.
The woman in Philadelphia was seventy-three, riddled with cancer, lived alone and didn’t want to burden her adult children with her medical expenses. So she decided to die because of a broken medical system and for that, I don’t blame her.
Chelci was twenty-six, worked at Starbucks, wasn’t married and didn’t have kids. She loved puzzles, science and painting. In high school she joined the ROTC and she loved to fly.
Her fall into death put a few things into perspective. One, my birthday isn’t that bad. Two, I’m not that old. This girl, taking the high-dive into pavement was – and three: The younger you are the less you understand the gravity of your choices.
We’ve all made mistakes, my biggest fuck-up also happens to be my biggest secret, which why only two of my best friends and family know. Still, even as awful as mine is, I’m not about to jump off a building, even when I wanted to. It’s been years since my major regret and in no way does it define me at this point in my life, at least not to those who love me.
Then again if you’re depressed, I understand that too. The majority of my twenties I was depressed because I lacked the coping skills to manage it.
As I’ve gotten older, I still get a little seasonal depression but I know what things can make it worse and so I avoid them. Plus, I have a good memory to remind me not to repeat bad choices and even better self-control. If I start to dwell, I put it out of mind, work out and then revisit it when the blow has softened. As for relationships, I do give second chances, however, I have an incredible ability to detach and become cold when I know someone isn’t deserving of my affection.
Yet, these skills took me almost a decade to hone and they’re a by-product of shitty lessons.
As our group was deciding on where to go next, I couldn’t help but think about what had just happened. Hundreds of people just witnessed a woman take a leap to her death and here we were, trying to find a bar that would have the cheapest beer.
The rest of the night, what we saw would sneak it’s way back into the conversation, but after twelve birthday drinks, Chelci Anna Hone was a blur.
When I woke up the next day, I managed to drag myself to the gym and when I started running, she was all I thought about. When I got home, I needed to recover from my hangover, so I climbed into bed and there she was again.
Her eyes, wide open.
Suicide was the first narrative piece I ever wrote about. My family has a long history of putting themselves out of their misery; all of them have been men. My grandfather drank wine laced with iodine, my cousin shot himself in the head at a gun range. Another two cousins: Overdoses.
They way I view suicide is maybe a little unorthodox. We don’t choose to be born, so why can’t we choose when to die? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate for killing yourself and I really don’t encourage a suicide where you take out other people in the process.
When someone decides to die, I think it the truest form of succumbing to ones impulses and most of the people I know who’ve tried have regretted it seconds after, and none of them had a ‘plan’. Another thing: you can’t stop someone when his or her mind is made up.
We all know that death affects those that are left behind more than it does the person dying, and when you choose your death, it seems to really piss people off because your suicide offends everyone you’ve ever cared about.
Aunts and cousins you hated will call you ‘selfish’, or condemn you to ‘hell’, and none of that will matter to you, but it’s a great way to drive the pain in deeper for those that do.
As for being selfish – the biggest accusation of suicide. Well, if you don’t have kids or anyone you’re responsible for, then okay, fine, do what you need to do. People will be mad, they’ll mourn you, your parents will be inconsolable, and the one asshole you hated at work will go to your funeral and tell everyone how close you two were, and you can’t do shit about it, because you’re dead.
When they clean out your room, they’ll find all your embarrassing poetry from eighth grade and the love letters you wrote to boys, that you never had the balls to deliver. They’ll open your computer and see all the porn you had hidden in files labeled under, ‘recipes’ and that old broken vibrator, the one you forgot to toss – they’ll find that too, under a pile of dirty clothes in your closet.
In death you’ll be exposed.
Aside from everyone finding out what a fraud you are, you’ll also be forgotten sooner than you thought. Parents and family members will remember you, but everyone else won’t. Your best friend will move on and so will every single person you’ve ever fucked. You’ll be the ‘ex that died’ and they’ll meet someone new, have kids and get married. They’ll live the life you were too scared to go through.
And that’s really what suicide is. It’s Fear.
It’s fear about finances; it’s a fear about being alone after love has left. It’s fear of living a full life, because a full life takes a lot of fucking work and it’s not easy. There’s daily bullshit with jobs, kids and managing your time to provide you some minor enjoyment with what’s left of a busy day.
As for the freedom we think we have, well that’s a lie; we’re given an idea of what we should want out of our pathetic lives – a spouse, kids, a house with an overpriced mortgage and a big bank account. Oh, and that we should be naturally good looking and thin.
When those ideals are too hard to meet, people become scared. They minimize their worth over a lack of having a college degree, or being a little fat from having kids. They’re lonely because they fear that they won’t be able to fit into the mold that we force ourselves into.
We’re rats in a maze and we let some assholes behind a closed curtain tell us what we need to do, or who we need to be, all so we can avoid being the one thing we should be – ourselves. In my opinion, individuality is a beautiful thing and some flaws are absolutely sexy.
There are more devastating downsides to suicide, and in my opion they are far worse than people finding your sex toys. It’s the stuff people never talk about. The small pleasures in life.
Things like…missing out on really good kisses, or eating the most delicious clementine.
Or on summer nights, when camping where the air is perfectly warm for sex, with the potential of getting caught. Or running through the sprinklers in the middle of the night at a local park.
What about laughing so hard that you can’t make any sound, you just push the person next to you until you sit down and nearly pee your pants? Those are things worth living for.
And what about Love? Or the rush of excitement you feel when you see your kid hit the ball for the first time at baseball pracitce. Or soflty stroking the the cheek of someone you care about, when you can see that they need a little reassurance, after a long day.
…Or waking up feeling protected by the big spoon. For me, I look forward to falling in love with someone who loves like I do, even if I do have hesitations that there is, in fact another person out there who can – I’m still willing to try and find them.
Life has been hard for me and I know it was devastating for Chelci or she wouldn’t have done what she did and in a way, she wound up giving me the only gift I asked for, to break through my writer’s block.
With my focus back, I’ve decided to change a few things. For one, stop taking on extra freelance work, it’s too much for a single mom with a full time job. Also, I need more alone time, so I’m not losing myself for other people. When I overwork, I over-feel and that will put me right back in front of an imputable wall.
When I got into my laptop to start editing my next piece a new word circled above my head and her name faded into the back, but when I climbed into bed, there she was again, her eyes wide open.
Chelci Anna Hone, ‘Where are you tonight’?