I released Teardrop Road on June 23, 2021. I think it was a Thursday. It was pretty devastating to put it out in the world on the big stage. Having your secrets on a blog is one thing. The worldwide stage opens up doubts and fears that I expected but could never prepare myself for. However, this release is a win. It’s a win for me. It’s a win for my family. For mental health in general. And I hope if you’re in pain and you’re going through anything, any kind of abuse, any kind of loss, I hope this book can help you and that you can see it as a win. I’m celebrating the release of Teardrop with another blog blast. These are chapters of the second volume of Reality of the Unreal Mind, called Normal Street. I’m releasing a chapter from that book every two hours and fifteen minutes. This is the story of Hollow Man. This is the story of how I figured out love through a series of heartaches and confusing episodes. Because love is not easy to navigate for anyone, and it’s almost impossible for a shattered mind to prepare for their soulmate. Here is Hollow Man 10: Precious Part 1.
G, C, D.
A magnificent singing voice.
A bursting personality.
A desperate desire for love.
And a sense of humor that could break apart any tension or pain.
These were my favorite qualities of one of the greatest people I have ever met. His name was Chuck and he was my hero.
Chuck always shot me straight. In the world of a growing teen there is so much bullshit. Everyone is telling you what they want you to hear to make you into the person they want you to be. They are saying what they think will give them the desired effect. Few are speaking the truth to you. When you find a man that will call a turd a turd and will admit to not being perfect, you stay close. This was Chuck.
And he was so much fun. God, he was so much fun! Mullet. Chuck didn’t do anything half way so when he grew out his mullet, he had the length in the back permed. He played an Ovation guitar and he knew three chords. With that knowledge, he went to schools to perform. Elementary schools. He went to churches. He went anywhere that had an audience and he played his Ovation and played his three chords.
For those of you that do not know, an Ovation is a guitar, but whoa. First off, the belly of the instrument is mostly plastic. It’s acoustic, I feel like I missed saying that. The front is flat just like you would expect but the back is a big plastic dome. Not dome, but can you imagine what I am talking about? The entire back of the guitar is rounded out. It is beautiful for sure. The music it plays is like no other guitar you will find. There is a certain something about an Ovation man or woman. It has a certain kind of Fuck You to it that you don’t find in other instruments. An Ovation was used by Nancy Wilson of Heart when she wrote the guitar solo for Crazy On You. An Ovation was used by a traveling singer who walked the cars of the train we took to the Grand Canyon this summer. It is widely ridiculed but I have never seen anyone brave enough to use an Ovation who was not, in some way, a badass.
Well Chuck took his Ovation on the road. He would perform the songs he knew. Then before he left, he would ask for requests. The madness of it is staggering. You don’t seem to be reacting properly, so I will go into detail.
By taking requests, he is saying that he knows the words to all the songs you might think up. He is saying that to any church he goes to, every community center, every school. He is challenging, and promising, everyone that they will get their song no matter what it may be. Also, let’s try to keep in mind that Chuck knew three chords. G, C and D were his only chords, but he would play as long as you could name songs.
Mumble played guitar. Would even sing. But when Chuck came to the house to jam out, he sat back in his chair instead of leaning forward. He looked at the ceiling when he belted it out. He did not bend over, keeping his eyes on music. And he could capture it all.
I heard him sing Grandma’s Feather Bed by Bob Denver. He even oinked like the pig in the chorus. He sang Thank God I’m a Country Boy, and he yelled it when he did it. And once, when we were at Pizza Hut eating dinner, the jukebox starting blaring out Paradise By The Dashboard Lights by Meatloaf. He sang quietly to us all at the table but was suddenly grabbed by the spirit during the section of the song when Meatloaf and his girl start making out and a baseball announcer starts calling the play. Chuck leaned back in the middle of the restaurant and yelled out.
“Well it looks like we got ourselves a real pressure cooker here tonight!” And while the entire restaurant watched baffled, he did the entire scene by heart.
There was no man like him. No man that could touch him. Chuck was the greatest man I knew back then. He found love and married her. He moved away and the cancer came back. She made him happy. He finished out his days in bliss with the one he had searched for all his life. His was the first funeral I ever attended.
Shadow called D and Aimes. He couldn’t get through. He wanted to hurt with them. Wanted to hear a D joke, wanted one of Aimes’s odd little patting hugs. Every time you hugged her, she would pat your back the whole time you were in her arms. He wanted that. Needed that. But they were tied up in each other. So, he went alone.
When he got there, there were so many people. Chuck had touched so many lives and they all had good stories to tell. Shadow walked through the place raw and wanting to cry. He saw so many faces that he kinda knew, or half knew, and a lot that he didn’t. When the line pulled back, he walked up to Chuck’s casket and looked down at him.
Cancer is an ugly disease, and I am not saying that it is not, but as ravaged as Chuck was by the defeat he had suffered, Shadow didn’t see it. He saw the smile. He heard the singing. He had a sudden shot of memory come to him so fast and so hot that he broke.
One night, Shadow and Chuck sat on Chuck’s pickup’s hood with a tiny hand held CB and tried for hours to get anybody to hail us back. He would say, “I’m looking for a talker on this here station. Anybody got ears on this here Kodiak?”
He handed it to me. “Your turn,” he said. He stuffed the CB in my hand and grinned. “Give ’er hell, but don’t cuss.”
“I don’t cuss. I—”
He rolled his eyes and pointed at the CB. “Do it, give them a good name.”
“This here is Patchwork calling for a buddy, anybody want to jaw?” Shadow said. He handed the CB back to Chuck like it was hot and laughed.
Shadow dropped his forehead to the edge of the coffin, and sobbed. “The world is so ugly now.” He pulled his pocket knife and dropped it into the coffin as he wept.
A hand touched his shoulder and he turned. There they were. All of them. The church girls. The soul of my life. I loved them all in varying degrees of desire and friendship, and Shadow opened his arms and was swallowed by theirs.
There was Destiny, Shine, Precious, and Chanel, and Misty all sobbing with me, all hurting. This group of girls possessed a lot of drama to be sure but that was not what was on display today. This was real. Shadow was hurting, and every one of them hurt with him.
My mother and Mumble scowled at me as I sobbed my way to the back of the room. I found out later that they thought I was making too much of a scene. I was not handling my grief in the proper Christian, disciplined way. Too much emotion. Too much loud. But I think we all know that Shadow didn’t give a fuck about that. After the group of us sobbing for a while, Precious decided we ought to walk to her house.
She was D’s little sister and I was family there. We all agreed, and my mother was more than ready for me to leave, so out we went into the winter wind on our quest for Precious’s house.
It was a long walk, and cold. I remember holding hands with Precious and with Destiny as we walked. I remember everyone wanted to talk about Chuck, and everyone wanted to talk about Shadow. Precious and Destiny’s flesh against mine was confusing but intriguing and we kept walking. We walked on dangerous roads with blind turns and steep grades, but we didn’t care. Misty and Precious wanted to call someone but Shadow wouldn’t have it. Death had touched him for the first time, and he needed to feel life again.
At one point on the walk, you get to this blind turn and this steep dip, and when we got there Shadow stopped, turned to face where traffic would come, and held his arms open and waited. He closed his eyes and prayed for a fast-moving truck, a slow-moving car, anything that could mangle his body.
Drama. Every girl screamed and grabbed me and pulled me to the side of the road. Every girl wept and screamed and yelled at me, and Shadow kept them moving.
When we got to Precious’s house Shadow asked her mother if D was there and she said he was at Aimes’s house. A hole opened up under him and he started crying. Precious’s mother was not ready for that, so we shuffled downstairs and into the basement, where the pool table was and a few couches. A tiny living area and through the door, D’s room.
We talked. The girls gossiped and Shadow just listened to the constant chatter and let himself sink in to it. He looked up at Destiny every now and then, but she could only stare at him with her seething brown eyes and promise him nothing.
What he wanted was to take her away and be with her, but there was more to that as well. Servant wanted Destiny but Guardian wanted Precious. Artist wanted Precious but Adam wanted Chanel. The motley assortment of girls filled us with conflicting emotions and more than a little lust. The lust was bent and twisted. Pulled like taffy by the fact that none of us wanted two girls, but all of us wanted different ones. Finally, when the moment built to a riot of confusion, Shadow got up and walked into D’s room.
He just wanted his friend. Wanted to hear D laugh and see him smile. He was so lonely, and so sore, and so scared, and he hurt so bad. He climbed into D’s bed, pulled the silk sheets over him and buried his face in D’s pillow and wept. He sobbed and he hugged the bed where his best friend slept and he wished for someone to hold him, tell him that it would be okay. He wanted to feel alive again and he wanted to feel whole.
More than anything, all of us wanted the hole running straight through us to finally be filled. We wanted to get that echo out of our ears that we heard every time we talked. Every time we spoke.
Then a hand on Shadow’s shoulder and someone was crawling into the bed. He rolled over and saw Precious. She climbed into the bed and he wrapped an arm around her. She laid her cheek on his chest and they wept together.
Details are fuzzy. I kissed her or she kissed me. Not really sure which actually happened. She may have propped herself up on her elbow and let her thin, blonde hair fall to catch the light and color her face in pure gold. She may have looked at me with those eyes that understood so much of what I was going through. Or Shadow’s desire for her could have been so great that he rolled over on her, looked at her and said, “No,” out loud to her. “No, I will not kiss you, no matter how desperately I want to, because you are off limits, but I have never wanted anything as much as I want you.” If he had said that, he would have kissed her.
She may have propped herself up on her elbow and looked at us and said, “It’s been years of us staring at each other while you were friends with my brother, and I know you want me as much as I want you. Finally, we can be together and we both need this.” Those words would have been so true. If she had said that I would have let her kiss me.
But what I think happened is that the instant attraction we had felt when we first met, coupled with the years of pinning for each other secretly, and the grief mixed with D’s absence in my life, and my sheer torment at everything else in my life burning down, caused us both to pull together and stick. To say I kissed her first would be accurate. To say she held me down and forced herself on me would be accurate. To say that I begged to kiss her would not be far off the mark or that I would not take no for an answer because we were past that. There is no telling what happened. But I will never forget the moment I kissed her.
For the first time, I felt like I was right. For the first time, I was kissing someone who truly cared for me. Lip had been bored with the boys at her school. I had been too hurt or too desperate to understand what Kit was. She was gone before I kissed her.
But Precious was the first person to kiss me who cared about me and wanted me for me. I could taste it in her mouth. Could hear it in her heart. I curled up in it in D’s bed and let her heal my entire sophomore year for me. Everything up to that point was poured into her and she embraced it all. When I laid back and looked at the ceiling that D laid under every night, I was not thinking of him. I was thinking of Precious.
We lasted two months, I think. Finally, she couldn’t take the constant lies to her brother, her mother, and her father. None of them would have been okay if they found out we were together. So, we broke up, but there was an understanding in it. There was a bit of a nod. This was not over. We would figure out a way to get more. This was a pause. This was not the end of the song.