Bonus Lives

This has been the week that happy hours fiend after and weed dispensaries brag about. Not because anything particularly tragic or striking took place-

but because this was the week things caught up with me.

There are fewer things more depressing than being overtaken by something you thought you had already far outpaced. Especially when they are things you’ve worked on… talked about… gotten counseling over… pushed your way out of. But that’s the curse isn’t it? No sooner do we get over the paranoia of being conquered by old things than do we begin feeling the ghostly touch of its whispy tendrils entangling the erect hairs on the back of our neck.

Terrors of my own creation, the muses of a failed past draped in the milky, tattered cloth of trashy adult films, shook me violently from my sleep like it was the morning of Halloween. Eyelids groaning slowly open, I knew before my first conscious breath that I needed to escape the day, to escape myself. I took my sister to school, lacrosse slinging the morbid persona behind my smile, that it might never touch the ground, that she might not catch glimpse that her vulnerable brother was also


Smiles are curious things are they not?

Those proud, strong, pearly gates can house anyone from the highest echelons of royalty to the jester lurking in the courtyard! This smile seals deals like an official stamp from the king and even stirs up calm in babies. Are you swooning or flirting? Caring or coddling? Affirming or accepting? This selfsame smile does it all. And that’s not even the half of it. You can pawn your smartly curved lips for more time, which you then apply towards thoughts, leading to words, which lead to more smiles on the other side. Quicker than the dexterous fingers of a master thief, your smile can steal away the cloak of apprehension and set a person at ease.

it’s a funny thing about kingdoms though.
few ever consider the gutter denizens resting snarkily in the murky outskirts of town.

My smile, so charismatic and full of life, is unsettlingly talented at concealing the choppy reception on desire to live. Anger unseen, yet finding solace and synonym with Eminem, creeps warily about. The streets of my mind are unsafe as these gangs of depression, sorrow, and longing jump me and beat me if I start to take the same route home too many times. This smile assures you of peace to cover the sounds of nuclear bombs. My whole, messy, not-quite-right, never-optimally-Christian world is contained behind my smile. You would never know how the planet of me shakes and shivers on its axis.

this smile isn’t a gift.
It’s a prison.

I made a beeline for home, racing, desperate, to be back in my bed before my sister made it to her first class.

The rhythmic pounding of moody white boys cut from shady clothing poured out of my speakers, a serenading funeral dirge underscoring a life I wasn’t so sure I wanted to have.

The door couldn’t open fast enough, and I leapt out of my clothes into the blankets, eyes squeezed shut, clawing recklessly for the darkness.

But not before the voices started.

You’re almost thirty and you live HERE?
You sure you’re actually a good writer? LOOK at you!
Dad postponed again just like you knew he would.
You’re sober minded about that girl now, but DANG she played you. You’re an idiot.
By the way- you’re only in this bed right now, because you’ve had zero luck getting a second job.
**laughter** I mean, what kind of MORON can be a Supervisor at an afterschool program and NOT be able to land a morning job as a Teacher’s Assistant?
You were supposed to be on that show. Now you can stream the service and watch your replacements do not as well as you.
Comics and car notes- what a nerd.

I wanted OUT in the realest of ways.

So I slept.
And would’ve slept until work started.

Except I had promised one of the single moms I sometimes babysit for that I would help her move the last bit of items from her storage unit.
NICE. Other people are actually working and you’re- volunteering for manual labor. Go you.

I dragged myself up two hours sooner than I wanted.
Skipped eating and drank a little water to quell the beginnings of what promised to be a fantastic headache.

I get to her and my magnificent smile does its enrichingly magical work.
I hate myself more and more every second.

I go down to the car before she does to move some things around.
She joins me a short while later.

We pull out of the driveway, approaching the gate.
She leans down and hands me a package.

“The boys wanted me to give this to you.”
I take it.

I fight with the plastic, trying to get a hold to rip it open.
Dimly I’m wondering what it could be- expecting a shirt.

I slip my hand inside and-


The same boys who had gotten the game themselves not even a week ago and invited me over, refusing to start it, until I could sit down and play it with them?

The same boys who aren’t even in the program anymore, but who I hung out with a couple times over the summer, and who check in when they feel it’s been too long since we talked?

I could cry.
I could laugh.
My shoulders sagged under the weight of the smile crashing the topography of my face like a runaway starship from an exploding planet.

How could I devalue my life or accept any kind of sub living with my boys so in tune with my life?

And they’re not my only kids.
A blessing I suppose.
Even though I’m not a father, I have tons of children.
And that’s not even counting my sisters, who started this whole thing years ago.

The kids keep saving my life.

Sometimes those shadows we find ourselves drowning in are cast by the fractured light of our own misguided expectation. Expectation is the currency of outcome, not process. Expect to arrive at your destination; flow with the journey along the way.

Sometimes depression preys upon all the pieces of us that we’re afraid to share… afraid to burden other people with… afraid to expose, because if it’s mishandled then it makes an already bad situation worse. And because of that, sometimes it seems as if there’s no way out… as if there is nothing about us that matters. That is relevant. That can be redeemed. That can be affirmed. That can be praised.

Sometimes we forget that we are not the only heroes earth has given birth to. We forget that day isn’t something that comes, it’s something that always is, even if we are disconnected from it for a cycle- and the darkness cannot take that away. Sometimes we… I… forget that weakness is not always strength. Sometimes weakness is weakness and that’s okay. Bad days come. Depression can be overwhelming.

And more than anything, I tend to forget that- despite their age- kids can, indeed, wear capes.

Never underestimate the power of a gift, or doubt that there are other good people in the world. Let the goodness touch you. Let it soothe and heal you. Again and again and again. Because the day is always right there, just around the corner…

Thank you boys.
Mr. Josh appreciates and loves you more than you know.

Who saves the hero who saves the day?
A hero.



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