Me Too?

By Joshua Blake

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In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assault allegations by the likes of Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette and Gwyneth Paltrow and numerous other women, a firestorm of stories about other’s experiences in their own lives has surfaced with the hashtag MeToo

 

Weinstein admits he has a problem and that he wants to better himself – yet it seems that his willful ignorance was the only thing keeping him from making such a statement in the first place.

 

There’s been reports of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon knowing of Weinstein’s behaviour and keeping it hush-hush. There’s been people questioning why these Hollywood actresses waited so long to speak up. There’s political pundits asking what will the Democrats do about their relationship to Harvey Weinstein.

 

These are talking points that miss the actual talking point – or lack thereof. Sexual assault and harassment are difficult to talk about, and they should be difficult to talk about.

 

I saw tens-of-thousands of tweets and posts carrying the #MeToo banner, and I had this knee-jerk reaction against it. Not because of others will power, but of my own.

 

At the same time, I felt an amazing amount of pride and safety knowing that others are brave enough to share those two words. Not strong enough, but brave enough. Something like this isn’t about strength because heinous acts like these rob you of your strength.

 

However, that having been said, I have a story of my own. It’s a story that seems like something the best fiction writers come up with.

 

I’ve been afraid to talk about this for the fear it will cause those closest to me immeasurable pain, anger and sadness. Although this may also affect those farthest from me, and for that, I’m sorry.

 

I also feel like my experience isn’t worthy of such a title. Me too? How so? I always thought of sexual assault or harassment as physically violent – I never knew it could be so subtle-y applied to any situation.

 

And because of that, I still have problems identifying what happened to me. I don’t know how to speak up about it to this day. I’m no longer plagued by nightmares or pondering why this happened, but it’s left a scar since.

 

_____

 

I recall what happened nearly three years ago as vividly as I recall what happened last night. I was at a party and I sat down with a girl, a silver-tongued devil.

We were talking about music – the Australian band Tonight Alive released their second album – and I mentioned a song that made me reminisce about a time long gone. Little did I know that I opened myself up to a sharp bite I wouldn’t be able to escape from.

Now that I let my guard down, this silver-tongued soothsayer knew exactly how to play me, catering to my apparent need for a closeness to intimacy. I knew then there’s no intimacy to casual sex, but I didn’t realize how fooled I was until after our physical act of righteousness.

 

Well, for her it was righteous.

 

When you seduce the broken spirit of a depressed, anxiety ridden 20-year-old at what could go wrong?

 

At the time, my friends didn’t even know how to respond to the benign scenario. Some told me to accept it and move on. Others thought it seemed enjoyable. What followed the months after that night were feelings of guilt and sorrow, pain and suffering, insanity and malice.

I’d cry myself to sleep numerous times a week wishing for someone to save me, while having flashbacks of her legs around my waist, her breathing – her hands pulling the hair on the back of my head – that kiss on my neck that overtook my fears at that moment and turned it into blind passion.

I whispered for her to follow me to which we found ourselves at a point of no return. I asked if she was clean, to which she nodded in confirmation. I didn’t have protection, and I didn’t bother to ask. I didn’t know how to say no, or even ask if she had any, so I let her straddle herself atop my lap as she thrusted her hips and removed her shirt.

And to think that this moment started hours earlier with her sitting inches from me giggling at every word I spoke.  Although I know one thing’s for certain: you never forget your first.

It all still feels like as if it were a dream – a concoction of a teenage boy’s ultimate fantasy – only to be acted out in reality, without all of the “accomplished feelings” and high-fives from your bros. I think I always knew something was going to happen that night – she was flirting like a high-school girl with an engorged crush on the dark, mysterious guy who always sat alone at lunch. Only, she was no school girl, and I don’t eat lunch.

She brought out my fears and hopes all in an equal fashion. She enveloped my desire to feel normal – and normal I had felt – up until the point where my sudden attack of conscious decided to guilt me into fault for what ensued between two morbidly, sad lovers.

 

So, as any story goes, now what?

 

I managed to graduate from my community college and ended up at my state university four months later – to which I withdrew medically from my only semester.

I met with a counselor named Lisa for every week during that semester. The Devil was the source of my fear, my worries. Walking around campus feeling isolated from society, from friends and family and having no self worth, make life pretty unlivable. I hated her. She took something from me I still can’t get back: losing myself to someone whom I love for the first time.

I felt unwanted by everyone and everything. I felt like a freak undeserving of love and affection because of my disability. One day, Lisa asked me if I were a woman if that succubus were a man, would that change the meaning of what happened between us. I said maybe, but I really meant yes. I went through with my actions that night because I was too afraid to say “No.” I thought she’d judge me, too, if I didn’t give in to her advances.

In an odd twist of fate however, that night’s allowed me to reconnect with others and with myself. Fast forward a year after I withdrew, and I met a girl online named Anette. Psychiatry has become my best friend, and I understand my importance to others now. Anette has become my saving grace and without her love, I’d be a body with no shadow.

Anette helped convince me to return to school, and I’ve been back for almost a year-and-a-half. After this current semester, I’ll have been back for two years.

I felt like the most useless life form on this planet for nearly two years, and if I hadn’t met Anette, I don’t like to imagine where I’d be. That scares me too much.

But things do get better – eventually. It just a matter of when and how, not one or the other.

 

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We Need The Sex Pistols Now More Than Ever

By Joshua Blake

In 1977 the Berlin Wall had yet to fall, Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam draft dodgers – Saturday Night Fever, Smokey and the Bandit and Star Wars made their marks on American cinema.

Across the Atlantic, The Sex Pistols birthed their only album to date: Nevermind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols on October 28th of ’77. 

From Johnny Rotten’s (now formerly known as Lydon) screaming about how he’ll hop the Berlin Wall in an energized opener to their album, “Holidays In The Sun,” sends a prompt goodbye message: Please don’t be waiting for me.

Arguably the most notorious band of their day, The Sex Pistols never shyed away from political atmosphere, and 1977 never sounded so current at this day and age. 

While America isn’t dealing with a figurehead of a queen (“God save the queen/cause tourists are money/And our figurehead is not what she seems”) it is dealing with a president who results to slingshotting insults to his political opponents at home and abroad. 

Ironically, the 11th track on the record talks of a narcissistic personality called “New York.”

“An immitation from New York/ You’re made in Japan/From cheese and chalk/You’re hipy tarts hero/’Cos you put on a bad show/Oh don’t it show.”

The track goes on to say the character is bored and acting flash, and they better keep their mouth shut. 

Given Trump’s latest nickname for Kim Jong Un is Rocket Man, and Kim called him a dotard, international relations are going great. 

Now North Korea is saying Trump’s words toward them in his U.N. address warrants a declaration of war, and greenlights the nation to shoot down American aircraft outside of their own border. 

We need a group that captures The Sex Pistols unabashed, raw voice of anxiety that Britain and the rest of Europe dealt with during the late 70’s – a time when the Cold War was unresolved and escalated tensions worldwide. 

America and the rest of the globe are experiencing a similar unrest, and music can help us cope during these tests of willpower, but we need the gritty punk sound of the Pistols to translate our fears. 

Is anyone up for the task?

The Power of Words

My interpretation of “Anyone Else,” PVRIS’s most haunting song to date

By Joshua Blake

The most haunting song of PVRIS’s sophomore album, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell, is one of self-reflection and discovery.

Whether lead singer Lyndsey Gunnulfsen is speaking to another or to her own inner demons, she wants them to know – she needs them to know – that she doesn’t belong to anyone else.

A siren-esque alarm sounds off in between the verses, as if to warn of imminent danger that no one can escape, yet it’s compelling in its nature, and it’s hard to not hum along to.

Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters once said “You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.”

I made the mistake of trying to figure out what Lynn was talking about in this song, and then I recalled Dave Grohl’s quote.

To me, something about this song speaks to my depression and how isolating it can be.

It isolates me from others – even from myself – and it’s in that understanding that these lyrics resonate with me so deeply

“‘Cause I could touch a hundred thousand souls,” sings Gunnulfsen, “But none of them would ever feel like home. And no matter how far and wide I roam/ You’re the only one I’ll ever know.”

When I’m depressive, I feel as if there’s a demon inside of my mind, poisoning my thoughts. And it’s in those moments when that demon is the only one I’ll ever know.

I feel shackled, imprisoned in a mental cell, and as Gunnulfsen notes “I know you only want me to yourself, but I don’t belong to anyone else.”

Something about that last lyric really strikes a chord with how I look towards my inner demon – they’re selfish and seductive – as manipulation clouds my judgement, it only wants me to itself.

Once Lynn screams “I don’t belong to anyone else” over and over towards the last quarter of the song, I feel that demon cower in fear. Now I’m back in control of my destiny.

It’s perplexing that another soul’s demons can dispel my own just through the pain in their voice, the pain in their words. But that’s what gives words so much power: they can change our perception on anything.

Music To My Ears

By Joshua Blake

It’s 2:51 on a Tuesday morning as I lay in an empty bed, imagining what she might say.

 

The emotions I feel grip my heart like a vice, while it aches for her touch, her scent, her lips.

 

Some people say I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I beg to differ: It’s oozing down my chest in need of her love.  

 

The love I’ve searched for all of my life finally found me at my darkest hour. When I expected it least, she said what I’ve been dying to hear: I love you.

 

The only thing that confused me in that moment was why I was afraid to say it back.

 

I met Anette online. She had a boyfriend who lived in Georgia and my second online relationship was burning up. Perhaps, in that moment, I was afraid to say I loved her because I didn’t feel good enough — as if I didn’t matter.

 

The other girls you wanted never wanted you, and online dating was a tornado that blew my mind all over the place.

 

Is this girl really different? Should I give her a chance to show me what I yearn for? What I need?

 

Conversely, we’d talk everyday and video called frequently. We became each other’s confidants; we attracted like magnets.

 

The days after Anette said “I love you,” I questioned my feelings, and that’s when it hit me: This is what’s causing my angst — my love for her, too.

 

Things turned sexual, even before we professed our love for each other, and even though it was through a screen, it felt not only natural, but appropriate, correct — this is meant to be occurring.

 

It was in October of 2015 when she told me she wanted to fly to New York to visit me. I walked out of my room and told my parents, and they thought Anette staying at a hotel would suffice. It was obvious they didn’t share my enthusiasm, and my brother, Jake, was fearful of her robbing us.

 

However, over time, my parents placated with the idea of letting her stay in our home.

“She’s gonna stay here, with us,” my mother told me.

“We’re not gonna let some 18-year-old girl from another country – who’s never been here before – be by herself.”

 

A month later, Anette mailed me a card for my birthday. That meant a lot to me, because it was the first time that I felt cared about by another in a way I only dreamed of. And she sent this all the way from Norway? I thought “she must care.”

 

In December, she sent a note with a Snoopy and Woodstock keychain. That was for Christmas.

 

We talked about becoming boyfriend and girlfriend, but I wanted to wait until she visited in the summer — another fear of my belief of not being enough brought on by my Cerebral Palsy.

 

Depression and anxiety played into that belief even more, but something in my head clicked. We were already acting as if we were together in an online relationship, so I thought why wait?

 

She visited in June of 2016, flying from Norway to a country she’s never been to, to see the person she loves.

 

Originally, my dad and I were going to go pick her up, but then my mom decided to tag along, which I’ll forever be grateful for.

 

I was an ecstatic mess inside. “I’m gonna see her!” I kept telling myself. It felt like my heart would beat right out of my chest with anticipation while waiting at Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

 

Then I saw her, and she saw me.

 

She fell to her knees in complete bliss, ran to me, embracing me as if we were long lost lovers, and  subsequently knocked me down. It was a great moment.

 

Of course my parents got this on video, and after they helped us up, we went to the bathrooms, and once my parents were using the restrooms, that’s when I held her close and made a move to kiss her.

 

Eyes widened with shock and awe — and even desire — as she then closed her eyes and locked lips with mine, causing time to freeze. When we pulled away and opened our eyes, we were back on Earth.

 

I’ve been with Anette ever since and I couldn’t ask for a better friend, or a better lover.

 

Love was always something I misunderstood, even as a child. I knew I was different because of my disability, but I constantly felt like no one would fall for me.

 

After a sexual encounter at the age of 20 with a woman 15 years my senior over two years ago, I fell into a depressive hole that felt like the size of Mount Everest. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to the top. Ever.

 

Ironically, the femme fatale that seductive night told me something people tend to say to me, and I had an epiphany.

 

“You’re great, you know that?” Her comment stunned my line of thought as I struggled to comprehend what we just did; what I just did. I always viewed myself as broken.

 

Even the devil knew of my superpower, and it seemed that I seduced her far easier than she had seduced me. That’s when I realized people see right through me.

 

Months later, I graduate with my associate’s and make my way to Stony Brook University in New York to pursue my bachelor’s in journalism, only to retroactively withdraw from my first semester.

 

The culprit? Depression.

 

The devil invaded my thoughts and my dreams and was tearing my heart apart at the seams.

 

I had a journal that spanned nearly two years which was a reflection into the one thing my soul desired: love.

 

I ended it in November of 2015, pondering the devil towards the end of its life and what she did to me. I wondered if I’d ever move past this. I wondered if it was a question of when rather than how. “Then again, maybe not,” I added to end my journey.

 

I believe part of that was self love, which Anette’s helped me conjure. I don’t know where I’d be without her – at the very least, I’d be stuck within the depths of my wallowing mind, constantly thinking in circles – but that’s all I can imagine.

 

I still have my depressive days, but they’re no longer central to the self loathing I once had about my disability. Instead, it’s brought on by a feeling that part of me is missing, my other half – the woman that I love.

 

Anette’s last visit was back in December. We celebrated Christmas, and New Year’s — our first holidays together — as well as our one year anniversary.

 

This was a big moment for us, and it propelled our relationship to another level, and come this June, it’ll reach another level in terms of time spent together.

 

Her next visit will be her longest. We’ve only spent a week and a half with one another during her first two visits. She’ll spend over two months with me next time we meet.

 

We’ve been talking constantly about all of the things we can do now that we’ll have more time.

 

My family’s excited for her, shall we say, extended stay — my brother is not.

 

My therapist asks about this pretty frequently, and I even took my brother with me to therapy before Anette’s first visit in an attempt to dispel his worries.

 

We did this a few times, and it’s appeared to help ease tensions between the three of us and my parents slightly.

 

I don’t think about it much anymore. It’s not worth the mental gymnastics. I just end up back to the countless arguments we’ve had about the person I’ve decided to be with, and how Jake’s the only one who has an issue with Anette.

 

But then again, you can’t win ‘em all I guess.

 

I just hope that Jake is aware of the happiness Anette gives me. I’ve finally found a person who loves me for who I am, and I only wish that I’ve given her half of the glee she’s given me.

 

Although I think I’ve given her just as much, or possibly more, which makes me even happier.

 

It gives me immense pleasure to know that Anette sees right through me, for the person I am despite my disability. The sense of power and openness and freedom it gives me is indescribable.

 

When we’re together I feel like I can live my dreams instead of dreaming my life away.

 

When we’re together I feel like I can run a marathon instead of wishing that I could.

When we’re together my heart thaws out and a fire’s lit inside, and I feel as if I’ll never die.

 

My Lucky Charm

By Joshua Blake
​Slow as molasses, stuck in the mud

Fall face first, make a big thud. 

Earth’s slippin’ through my fingers.

I can’t get a grip as I stumble and as I slip, 

Kissin’ the ground with my chapped lips. 

Try again with all my might.

I ain’t givin’ in, I’ll go all night. 

Earth’s slidin’ beneath my feet.

I can’t stand as I stagger and as I leap. 

Fallin’ down while I start to weep.

Give it one last shot before I rot. 

Try and roll over with all I’ve got. 

Earth’s spreadin’ around my arms

I’ll crawl this time, it’s my lucky charm. 

Screamin’ out loud as a firearm. 

Hi! Care To Read? No? Okay!

By Joshua Blake

The by-line should probably read “By Who Cares” but, who’s keeping score? You? Oh, you weren’t? Good.

Anyhow, WordPress notified me a few days ago — actually, more like a week — to say that it was my blog’s three-year-anniversary.

That’s it, really. I don’t know what else to say about that.

I mean, sure, I could go on about all of the fond memories I’ve had (none) and what my blog means to me, but that’s just superficial.

If anything, this — writing — is cathartic to me. It helps keep me sane, I think.

This isn’t the time for reflection, nor is it the time for me to go on this tirade of self-righteousness and doubt in regards to my abilities as a writer — which I feel are decent at best.

I can already hear people saying “No, you’re really good!” or my girlfriend saying “Shut the fuck up, you’re really good,” or some other variation of the two.

I just don’t see it.

Some think I’m good because they can’t “do what I do,” or write down their thoughts that convey emotion in others. But, the joke’s on them, because I don’t think I do that well, either.

Well, that’s bullshit, honestly. I do think I can convey emotion in my writing, but, which ones?

What you read (or don’t read) before you as far as my feelings about my own writing goes, is about a sixth of how I look towards myself on any given day.

It’s not boredom. It’s not laziness. It’s loneliness.

Loneliness within myself, from myself, outside of myself.

Everyday I try and find out what it means to be me, what it is that I am, and what it is that I’ll be.

But, that’s just it. I’m not supposed to know. Those answers are different on any given day.

Some days, I’m meant to be a student, a brother, a friend, a son, a boyfriend, a journalist. Other days, I am those things, all of them.

But in terms of what I’ll be, what we become? My alter-ego? I haven’t got a fucking clue. Oh, right, I am someone who worries about this constantly, too.

And why do I? Why do I have these corrosive thoughts that plague my mind like a virus on your  computer that you can’t delete?

Is it really normal to feel this way? Like a twister of emotions swirling in your head? The emotions that keep you up at night, but you do nothing about?

My therapist calls this “free-floating anxiety,” which made me smirk the moment he mentioned the term, because, he’s right.

My thoughts and emotions are like oil floating above water while it manages to seep down poisoning everything it touches.

I ponder things that happened five, six, or seven years ago, make up bewildering scenarios in my mind — sometimes tragic ones — that never see the light of day, all for what?

Because I’m not satisfied? Because I’m trying to recover from an illness that’s years past? From a sexual assault that’s years past? Are those the reasons why? Because I still feel sick in the head, sometimes wishing I’d be sick again so I’d have to fight for myself?

Or, is it so I’d have a distraction from my self-torturous thoughts?

Now, do you see my problem? If there’s one thing I can do with my writing, it’s conveying how I think and what I’m feeling.

I can’t do that with spoken word. That scares me too much.

When I’m around those I love, I feel as safe as I can possibly be, but it’s still hard to say things to the people who say “you can tell us anything.”

It’s too easy, which is why it’s so hard.

I Have No Idea What To Name This

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By Joshua Blake

Something about this photograph is hypnotic to me. Therapeutic. Distracting.

I have no idea what to name this.

Something about where I was sitting made for – what I thought to be – the perfect shot.

I have no idea what to name this.

Something about the very words you’re reading make no sense to me.

I have no idea what to name this.

Is this what I’m supposed to feel like when I’m lost in a sea of toxic thoughts? Thoughts that never seem to leave my mind no matter the happiness I experience on any given day? Is it my own insanity?

Sure I have good days – great ones even – but they’re only temporary – like most things.

I know I’ll be okay, I know I will. It’s like I’m staring at a transparent mirror, seeing everything that’s meant to be on the other side, and all I’ve to do is walk on through.

So then, why don’t I?

Am I afraid to fail? To succeed? Maybe I’m just bored. Maybe it’s cacophony.

Perhaps it’s nothing like the times before. Perhaps it’s Satan knocking at my door.

I attempt to sleep. But then I’ll just stare; blankly into the quiet and ghostly air.

If there’s such thing as regression, then what’s the opposite of depression?

Maybe I need a reboot to find a new session.

Maybe then I’ll finally learn my lesson.

There’s no point to this confession.