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 14: Draconic Part 1.
I rode my bike so no one would see me buy the knife. The first few miles are fine. Back ways mostly. You pedal up the road about a mile then into a system of parking lots that had grown together with hasty building and poor planning. Then you are out, and you can ride the road again for a while before you get to the meat of the Spur.
It’s called the Spur. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe the entire road looks like a spur from the air. Maybe the rest of the city of St. Robert looks like a boot. I don’t know why they call the stretch of road that leads up to the front gate of Fort Leonard Wood the Spur, but those are my guesses. You are free to make your own. Go with God.
Once you get on the meat of the Spur, it is fast-driving cars with nowhere to pull off for a while. Out there, beyond the edges of St. Robert, before the edges of the Fort, there are a few shady businesses. Two of them are pawn shops.
Pawn shops always seem shady to me. I don’t know why. I’m sure this is not the case, but it seems that no one ever pawns something for great reasons. And when I go into one, it always seems as though I am buying someone else’s stuff. I went there. Figured it was perfect.
This is the last thing I will say about pawn shops. If I knew the name of the shop, I would use it. I feel like this part of the book is the perfect commercial for a pawn shop.
I went in at age seventeen to pick the blade I would use to kill myself on the stage of Waynesville High School, and I did not walk out empty-handed. I found a small blade. Maybe three inches, a steel blade and a steel handle made from one piece. The handle was decorated in this really cheap way. The weapon was unwieldy, and it came with a matching steel sheath that had a clip for a boot. It was perfect and a little dull, so I went to my knife-sharpening guy next.
Just as shady as a pawn shop, Grit was a terrible man who married a friend of mine’s mother. He was foul-mouthed, violent, and had been to prison. He was abusive to both my friend and my friend’s mother, and he was, in every way, one of the most horrible people I ever knew.
But the guy knew knives, and he loved to sharpen them. He would sharpen anything I gave him as quickly as he could. I think it reminded him of prison and sharping a shank. Hell, I don’t know, I just made that last part up, but I would not be surprised.
One day when I saw him in church, I asked him to sharpen my knife, and the next week it could shave me.
Now, opening night before the curtain, I had a few people I had to say goodbye to.
I came to Hardly and I hugged her. I took her by the sides of the face, and said she was going to do great. I was talking about her life. I was talking about everything I was not going to see, talking about the pure hope she would one day give the world. I wanted to tell her I loved her, but I didn’t say it. I hugged her, and kissed her head. I knew this would hurt her badly. Maybe she would not get over it, maybe forever, but it was all I could do. I had no options.
I went to Teddy. He was playing Renfield. I stopped in front of him and motioned him close. I could hear the crowd murmuring on the other side of the curtain, and he looked at me. He was in my gaming group. We had played Vampire together, had played Dungeons and Dragons. He had seen me get into character and get him into character so many times it was insane.
So, I started to talk. I talked about losing your mind. Told him things about a madman that he might not have known. I told him it was like having a head full of people all feeling different things, all wanting different things, and in the middle of it all, you are screaming. But I told him there was always a way to silence the screams. Just go, I said. Just let it take over and give over to it. I asked him if he was ready.
He said, “Yeah, thanks.”
I went to his brother. Josh was playing the part of Dracula, and he wore his cape and his hair slicked back. He carried with him a kind of sideways laugh and was talking to a girl. I called him over. I started talking about power, about taking death when it looked nice to him. I used the power and darkness of Dracula to speak about suicide, by talking about a death to conquer the world with. No power could dare someone who could conquer death. No pain could survive it. When I was done with him, I bowed. I got on one knee and lowered my head. I had explained myself to him in the only way I knew how.
The only one left was Van Helsing. All that was left was to say goodbye to Ty.
He was in a khaki suit, his hair sprayed gray. His wrinkles drawn on with eyeliner. He had a groan to him, and I walked up to him. I needed to tell him how to take care of the others. Needed to make him understand he was the last hope they had. Ty could hold them together, help the group heal after my death. I started talking to him about his character. The great warrior. The one who would save the victim and heal her. About a minute in, he shook his head. He waved me off and walked away with a grunt.
I watched him go and I knew he had just done a thing he would regret for the rest of his life. For the rest of his life, Ty would want that moment back. But he was trying to get in character, and going over lines, and he did not have time for me.
To try to say goodbye to him at that moment was unfair. Unfair to Ty. He would carry this around with him for the rest of his life. He had dismissed me. Had walked away when I was trying to say goodbye. Had scoffed and went on.
I sat down and, at first, I was pissed. But then in the wings I saw him waving his hands around his head like a lunatic as he went over some important scrap of wording, and I realized I loved him. He was kind and soft and measured and wild. He was a smart ass and a bastard, and I loved him more than anything in my life in that one moment. He lowered his head and looked defeated. He looked tired. He looked sad, as if all of it was being placed on him, and I knew it was. I knew the worst thing that was going to happen to him for a long time was going to happen tonight, and when it was over, he would be shattered because he had not had time to say goodbye. Had not gotten my unfair little riddle to work out for the rest of his life. It was unfair to Ty.
When I was about to step out in the spotlight, I looked across the stage to the shadowy wings on the other side and I saw him. He had stopped talking, pacing, or moving his hands about. I had a little shit part, but he had stopped long enough to watch.
I walked out on stage, saw them all. Saw the lights above me and the furniture of the scene around me, and I held the knife in my hand. It was tucked in the horrible sleeves. I felt it there, hot from my sweaty hand and waiting. In that moment, I loved Ty so much.
I delivered my line and ducked off stage. I was grabbed by Draconic after. She was the stage manager. She grabbed me, mussed my hair, and kissed me. Said I looked great out there, and disappeared. I had seen her, had stared at her before, but she was not the type of girl who usually had anything to do with me.
She was the walking embodiment of desire. Everything that sexy was could be trapped in this one girl. I stared at her, and she completely ignored me. She ignored me for the rest of the entire show. I followed her around and stared at her. Every now and then she would look up and back down at a clip board or a prop. I tried to talk to her a few times, but she walked away.
When the show was over and everyone was leaving, I walked up to her and she spun on me.
“I’m not the guy you want,” I said to her. “You are too hot for me. You need a guy like Teddy, maybe D.”
She stared down at the table and tapped her finger on it. She scratched it along the table top and leaned on one foot, curled her other foot around her leg. She moved like a movie star and she finally spun, right when I thought she was ignoring me and I was about to go.
She stared at me. I saw desire in her stare. I saw lust. I saw something else. She stormed to me and grabbed me, pulled my face to her shoulder and pressed her hot lips against my ear. She hissed.
“There is something massive and beautiful and powerful in you. It is the very essence of art and I want it. I want to feel it move against me and I want to grip it in my hand and love it, hate it, and be consumed by it. It is in there. I can feel it watching me.”
She curled her fingers in my hair and jerked my head back. She stared at me. “Don’t tell me what I want. I know exactly what I want. I want the Artist in you. I want that monster speaking and breathing for me.”
Artist stared at her. No one had ever seen him before. No one had ever sensed him. Artist was overtaken. He was obsessed. He grabbed her by the waist and kissed her. She kissed him for a long moment then spun away. She was lost in a flutter of curtain and gone.
We didn’t see her until the next day. By then, she had her hooks in us.
She was beyond description. And she was a great girl to be dating when I finally could kill myself. My life and my death looked different now.
After the show, Ty took me home and I begged him to drive me to the bridge. Said I just needed to roll over it. Didn’t need to stop and tell stories.
I talked to him about Draconic the entire time. I talked to him about what she was and who she was, and he listened.
We got to the bridge and I tossed the knife over. This girl deserved a death of her own. She was just the person to pull me back. Or throw me over.
“Be careful with her. She is damaged. She is going to be hard to pin down,” Ty said.
I didn’t care. I had never felt anything like her when she hissed in my ear, and I had never heard anyone call out Artist before. I didn’t care what the next few months looked like. I just wanted to be in her arms again. I wanted to feel her fist in my hair.
I wanted her to meet Smear Lord of Ire.