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 7: Kit.
I walked into Steak and Shake about a week ago and made her get out of the booth. We hugged, and I took the bag off my shoulder and shook it at them.
“Kit,” I said, looking at her, “Kit’s lovely daughter.” I looked at her daughter. “This is not a purse.”
They both laughed.
“This is called a Messenger Bag. It was used by the Allied troops in World War II to carry messages from place to place. It is not a purse.”
“Okay, it’s not a purse,” Kit said laughing. Her face still held the wide-open quality it had when she was a teenager.
“What is it?” I said.
“It’s a messenger bag,” Kit’s daughter said. It was my first time meeting her. She smiled at me and shook her head laughing.
“What is it not?”
“It is not a purse,” Kit said.
“Very good. Now, let’s eat.” The bag held a Christmas gift. It was the proof copy of Legends of the Exiles. Maybe one day it would be worth something, so I had not signed it yet. I asked her if she wanted me to put her name in it and she did. I warned her that she might want to sell it one day, and it would be worth more without her name. She wanted it signed with her name. I called her Kit.
See, we are friends now. I don’t see her often, but we talk on chat. She has read the chapter I wrote about our first kiss at her haunted hotel in Teardrop Road, volume one of this series. She says from her side, the story was much different. That she did care, that she wasn’t what I thought she was. But I can only tell it the way I saw it, can only describe the pain she caused and the damage she did to me back then. Damage I carried for more than a decade. I can only tell you about Kit and the thing she did to Servant, the way she distorted his understanding of love. The way she prepped him for misery and the warped romantic she turned him into.
I met Kit on the night of Waynesville Homecoming 1990. It was early in the year and I was out in the dark after the game. I was walking to my parents’ car when D stopped me on the sidewalk. He had with him a girl as lovely as any girl could be.
“Dude, Jesse, I want you to meet someone,” D said. He looked happy, ecstatic to be alive, almost gyrating. Almost vibrating on a frequency of his own. I saw love on his face and when that man is in love, it is breathtaking to see the way he looks at the world and the way he walks it. “This is Kit,” he said. “She is my new girlfriend.
“Kit, this is Jesse. Now, you will meet a lot of my friends. You’ll meet my parents, even my sister, but this is the only one you have to meet. This is the only guy that you need to know in order to know me. This is Jesse. This is my best friend.”
I shook her hand. She hugged me. She giggled and said, “It’s so nice to meet you.”
“How long have you known each other?” I asked.
“We met at the game. We are headed to the dance,” D said.
It was the Homecoming dance.
“Have fun,” I said.
“Have fun?” D said. “You’re coming, right?”
He grabbed my arm. “Why not?”
“I’m dating Destiny and she is not in high school. I am not about to dance with another girl and I have no other reason to be here. Gotta go.” I clapped his hand. We drug the knuckles, we punched our fists, then we pointed at each other. I walked away and they disappeared into the school giggling and laughing.
“He’s great!” I heard her say.
“He’s a genius. Crazy, but a genius.” Then they were gone.
I didn’t see much of D in the next few months. He was for her and only her. When D gets caught up in a girl, he pulls her in tight and soaks in her. He lays back in her company and her body, in her voice and the things she says. He lays back in the love he has for that one girl, floating in their affections and blocking out the rest of the world. D and Kit were gone. I saw them from a distance. Never up close.
Kit was in my first hour class and sat behind me when she could. The day after she broke up with D, she dropped into the seat behind me, red-eyed and miserable. I turned to look at her and when I met her eyes, she burst into tears. I took her hand and stroked it. I asked her what was wrong.
“Your best friend is an ass. I hate him and I hope he burns in Hell,” she said, then fresh sobs and I stood to wrap her in a hug. I held her to my waist and smoothed her hair.
Now, at this point a true friend would have walked away. I should have grabbed my books and walked to the extreme opposite side of the room and sat there. I should have remembered every code that had been taught to me by my uncles and every other thing. TV shows, movies, books, and the legend of man that rippled out in every direction around me. Don’t get involved with one of your boy’s exes. No matter who broke up with who, she is off-limits.
But Destiny was gone, and I had an ache.
See, D had turned away from me. He was hanging out with other people now and I never saw him. I was deep into Waynesville Mafia. I was deep into the violence and the darkness of creating a reputation for myself. D had not gotten involved. He had not tried to hang out with me. Had not played DnD with me, had not had me over to his house. I was abandoned and sore, and I needed anything I could get that reminded me of him.
Kit had D all over her. She knew him. We could talk about him. She could tell me D stories, and I needed him so badly. I was in over my head, fighting all the time, and I just wanted to sit with him, play a game, and spend the night. Just wanted to see his mother, his sister, his father and, for a while, forget the constant fighting and the darkness. But he was gone, and in his absence the best I could get was her.
And in that moment, when she sat the chair beside me, her arms wrapped around my waist and sobbing, I knew she needed that, too. She wanted to be close to me so she could soak up all the D that she could. She wanted his friend. Wanted to see the reflection that D left in me.
So that is how it started. My obsession with Kit. Her obsession with me. We were starving for a boy who was busy living a different life and, in our desperation, we clung to each other.
At first, it was fine. We talked about how terrible he was for abandoning us. She cursed his name and I let her. I never bad mouthed him but I let her say all the things she had to say about how horrible a person he was. I let her talk and I coddled her.
We cuddled. Most of it was her gripping tight to me. Most of it was me soothing her. But it was impossible not to feel the warmth of her body and the way her soft skin felt when she held tight to my arm wrapped around her. It was impossible not to enjoy the tickle of her hair on my chin or delight in the way her laugh sounded on the air. Within a few weeks she was more than a tie to a boy too busy for me. Within a few weeks she was my Kit. I held her in my heart, and she seethed in my brain.
Guardian saw a damsel in distress and rose to her. He needed to keep her safe from the worst of the things she was facing in her fall from D’s arms. And when he realized she wasn’t sleeping, he began to worry.
She was having nightmares, terrible nightmares about losing D. Terrible nightmares about other things. Dark emotion ruled most of her day and it was crawling on its belly and clawing its way toward her. It scratched at her floor at night and pulled its way up to her while she slept, sitting on her chest and sucking the breath from her while she fought to sleep. Her loss of D and her growing anger had become a beast, feeding on her sleeping hours, and she began to forsake sleep altogether. She began to walk in a half dream state, half awake, half gone. Her hair became lank, her eyes black and sunken. She looked haunted and Guardian had to do something.
We had battled insomnia for years. Sleep had never come to us easily. When we were a child, we were so overcome with fear of Char that we had been unable to relax. From as far back as we could remember, sleep had been elusive. But we had found a cure. An item that had the power to see us through the worst of it. We had our bottle.
Decades ago, Avon made a cologne bottle in the shape of a horse head chess piece. It was a gray/green bottle of a horse head with a brass ring in its mouth. The bigger bottles were that same horse head set on a pillar. My grandfather had that bottle and when I saw it and fell in love with it, he gave it to me. I had set it on a bookshelf in the spot where the streetlight outside my window would hit it. It sat in that beam of light and, from my bed, I could see the knight. It gave me peace to see it there, and I would fall asleep to the sight of it.
When she could not sleep and her nightmares began to rule her life, Guardian gave the only slice of peace we had to her. He wrapped it up in black tissue paper and gave it to her. He told her to set it in the only light in her room at night and it would save her from her sleeping mind.
It did. And she conquered the worst of the sleeping terrors and returned to the world of the rested.
For us, we could not sleep. Suddenly the totem that had brought a modicum of peace to us was gone. Our nights began to stretch on, and the nightmares came for us.
In the dark was Char. In the dark were the worst things he would do to us. Phantom beatings and sweat. Desperate grips and rubbing. The darkness of our past came in breaths and gasps and we suffered with it. We burned, but she slept, and that was fine for us.
She stopped eating, would go for days without eating, and Guardian didn’t find out about it until she nearly passed out in first hour. That day he made her eat something at lunch. He told her she could starve herself every other time, but she would eat something, no matter how small, at lunch. And the fight against her anorexia began.
One day she came to school pissed. And she turned it on me. She had cut her hair and she had a different kind of swagger to her, a quick, violent tongue and a deep hatred of me.
Now, in order to understand this next part we have to step back a little and go into a fantasy series called Dragonlance Chronicles. Don’t worry, this will be fast, but it is the very essence of Guardian. This is where he was forged from a shade of a savior and he took on his full-time persona. This here is where Guardian took his true form.
Dragonlance, in the quick, is about a group of people fighting a war against evil dragons and the armies they command.
There is a leader. He is charismatic and sought after. Leading is easy for him. It is a bit of a burden, but he was born to do it. His name is Tanis. Tanis was born half-elf and he lived with the elves long enough for one to fall in love with him. Her name was Laurana. He didn’t want her. He wanted Kitiara. Kitiara was human and passionate, violent, and manipulative. She was the worst parts of a person and she was gorgeous.
Then there was Sturm Brightblade. Brightblade was a knight. Protective of the people he cared about and a great fighter. He was prone to self-sacrifice and self-discipline. He was selfless, and when Kit and I read the series we took on nicknames.
D was Tanis. She was Laurana. I was Sturm. And with that identity to build from, Guardian forged himself into the selfless knight. Never asking for anything, he found his way. Guardian had a map for his life now and he would live that forever. To this day Guardian is identified to all of us as a knight dedicated to the safety of his family and the people he loves, as well as the safety of all he encounters.
Well, when she came into class the day she had cut her hair, she looked at me with a cruel smile and said, “I was never a Laurana girl myself. I feel more Kitiara.”
In the books, Kitiara kills Sturm. Kit looked at me and laughed. I was shattered. Our little game was over. The silly thing we built our relationship on was gone.
She began to break us down. She laughed at us. Made fun of us. She acted like she wanted to be with us then pulled away laughing. Kit knew by this time that Guardian had fallen in love with her and she did every tiny thing she could to break his heart.
She dated a few guys and brought them around us to make us meet them and hang out with them. She said the most fucked up things she could to us, and Guardian took them all. He soaked them without complaint.
But he was not the only person watching. Was not the only alter who had become obsessed with Kit. Servant had also bound himself to her. Had introduced her to his mother. Rose had loved Kit, and Servant wanted her so badly.
Then, the pain. The pain became the worst that he had ever dealt with. Servant was not built for pain; he was built for service. He was good at performing any deed to make a person feel loved and happy. He was not built to be beat on verbally and emotionally. Servant was not built to withstand the full wrath of an angry girl.
Love blended with pain in his mind. It became one thing for him. When he became obsessed with someone, he expected them to hurt him. He wanted it. He craved being treated terribly. His definition of love became abuse.
Servant became a puppy dog for love. Beaten and starving for any scraps of affection, he would follow Kit around the school. He would write her letters begging for a moment of her time. He would tell her he was sorry for whatever he had done and could she just for one second be with him? Hug him and give him just the slightest pat on the head? Servant’s desire became torment.
He did not pursue the ones he was obsessed with from that day on. He was content to stand as far back as possible and hurt for them. He was not interested in one of our girlfriends until they broke up with us, or we with them. Then, romance started for him. Then, he began to pine for them, write to them, call them and ache for them. That, for him, was love. Pain became his only desire when it came to romance. And it was like that from 1991 until 2004, when he finally found righteous love.
Kit found out she was moving away at the end of the school year to a cleverly named town in Missouri. When she found out, she asked us to be her boyfriend. Guardian stepped out and took her hand, but he was scared of her. And though they were together for a month, the only thing he remembers about that time was the kiss. His first kiss.
Guardian walked away from Kit with an identity and a purpose. He was the knight and he never lost that.
Servant walked away crippled. Screaming for love but not murmuring with it. Moaning for affection but not enjoying it. It would take years of therapy to tear down what Servant had built, to reteach him how to accept love and what real love was.
Until we did, Servant just hurt.
Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 1: Teardrop Road available on Amazon now.