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 17: Mary Part 2.
When I showed up at Mary’s door that Saturday it was answered by her mother. She opened the door and her lips tightened, her eyes swept me, and she looked me in the eye, and waited.
“Hello ma’am, my name is Jesse. I’m here to pick up Mary.” I extended my hand and she looked at it.
She lifted a perfect eyebrow and her first words were, “What does your father do?”
“Your father, what does he do for a living?” she said. I looked at her and Servant stepped forward. He smiled.
“He is the manager of the Pizza Hut Delivery store,” Servant said.
She smacked her lips together as if she had tasted the poor on me and sighed. “Figured it had to be something like that. Wait here,” she said, pointing her finger at the door step. “Here.”
“Uh huh.” Shadow was out now. He knew exactly what this was. Fuck her. Fuck her daughter. Fuck this entire house and the brother, the father, and every other little bit of this entire fucking family. He wanted to set the entire place on fire. Let it all burn.
Mary popped out of the house and smiled. “Let’s go!” she chirped.
Shadow took her hand and led her away.
They were dropped off at a wrestling match. It was on Fort Leonard Wood where Mary lived and when we got there, we laughed. This was neither of our scenes, but it was the only thing going on, and there was a wrestler I wanted to watch. We stayed long enough for his match, then we bailed.
We went on a walk. Guardian came out as soon as they left the building. He wanted to protect her, from what, he had no idea. Maybe roving bands of ruffians. Maybe GIs. He didn’t know, but he wanted to be there with her. Wanted to be around a girl again. He was not interested in Draconic, and he longed for something to protect and love. Mary took his hand when he offered it and he marveled at the way it fit in his. Almost perfect. Almost a perfect match for his own grip.
They walked a part of post not developed, and they talked. They talked about the play. She had gotten a speaking part. Not huge, but big for her. She was so excited and already had half of her lines memorized. I had gotten no lines, but me and Bootheel had already figured out a way to make it cool. Mary and Guardian walked, and we talked, and no one said anything cryptic and vaguely insulting. No one mentioned another boy and how he did one thing or another. No one hit anyone or grabbed them dramatically and hissed wondrous and horrifying things in their ear.
This girl was not to be a pristine thing held up and cherished but never touched. She was just a girl. A preppy girl, like Strawberry had been, and she smiled a lot. There was no drama and she laughed a lot. Guardian was soothed by her, and when he dropped her off at her house, he hugged her. When she was still in his arms, he looked her in the eye and said, “You are amazing.”
Guardian tapped his forehead against hers and said, “I can’t wait for school to start on Monday so I can see you again.”
She giggled and hugged him again. He waited for her to open her door and disappear behind it, and he glided away.
Shadow flipped the door off and all the preppy self-important people who lived there. He thought about the girl but could not remember much of the date. He walked away. He saw her a few times the next week, but most of the time she was around, she dealt with Guardian. And within a few days, they were official.
The show was To Kill A Mockingbird. So many cast members, and Bootheel played the villain. The character is a racist pig who raped his daughter and blamed it on a black man. That black man is fighting in court for his life and all that comes with it. It is a riveting piece of American literature turned script, and we rocked it.
Bootheel showed up on stage quite a bit and every time, I was with him. I was just an extra, but I was attached to his hip. In the court room scene, we sat next to each other the whole time talking. We made snarls at people, laughed, and made as if my character was Bootheel’s best friend.
The director loved it. Thought it added depth to the piece, and he never stopped us once. So, through all of the play, me and Bootheel talked shit about everyone on set.
One day he looked at me and said, “You sure about that chick, man?”
“Yeah, are you sure about her? She is kinda squeaky clean. Don’t you need a bit of a slippery girl to keep you satisfied?” He was talking to Shadow, and Shadow grinned.
“She is cute and fun, and she drives Draconic mad with rage. I’m finally ahead on that fight. Now I got Draconic following me around, pulling me into a room and slapping me, kissing me, raging against me. And all I have to do to turn it up is walk around with Mary. It’s beautiful.”
He nodded. “Figured it was something like that.”
On the other side, you had Guardian. One day he was sitting on stage talking to Ty, who was sitting in front of him, and Mary dropped down behind him. She pulled up close and hugged him from behind. She placed her chin on his shoulder.
Guardian looked over his shoulder at her. “You need something?” he asked.
“Don’t let me bother you. Go on,” she whispered.
Suddenly, he was back in Milwaukee. He had his bike gang and Gift was on his arm. He remembered the way her arms felt around his body and the way her chin rested on his shoulder. He felt a surge of power and love for Mary, and he touched her arms, and in that moment, he loved her. In that moment, he would have done anything for her. His desire was pure. She had made him a man by doing the slightest thing. It seemed she had the power to make him worthy with the slightest wave, the slightest gesture. He loved her intensely and vowed to himself that he would stay with her forever. She was his choice. Mary was his woman.
He delighted in things that his friends found annoying.
Started out with I love you. See, the first time she said it, she couldn’t say it. She wasn’t brave enough. She couldn’t even write it in a note. So, she wrote it on a piece of paper, in German. Ich liebe dich. I think that is how it is spelled. I’ll research it after I finish the chapter, but that is what she wrote down, I think. Ich liebe dich.
I knew what it meant immediately. Not because I knew even the slightest sigh of German, but context clues rained down from the heavens. Mostly though, it was her eyes. She had love in her eyes. I had never seen it before. Not like this. I was sure that girls had loved me before, but this was so blatant. So raw. It was so bright and clean. I stared at it in awe.
“I know what this says,” Guardian said. He pointed to it and back up to her. “I know what you are saying with this note.”
Her eyes got serious. She pulled back a little, and she looked frightened.
“I do too, you know,” he said. “I love you, too.”
“You said it first,” she said, waving her finger in victory.
“Good. I want the credit. I want to beat you in this race. I love you. Love you like a maniac.”
Well, they still hadn’t kissed, but they had classes right next to each other. She did this thing that Guardian thought was amazing. It filled him with love and brought him out raging and full.
She said, “Ich liebe dich,” so fast, and so high with a rise at the end to an even higher note that it sounded like a bell chiming. It carried through the school like the chiming of a crystal bell and you could hear it from rooms away. Also, it didn’t sound like yelling, so she didn’t get in trouble for it.
I would be sitting in a class she was not even in and hear her proclamation of love chime through the air. It would ring and even echo, and Guardian would be wrapped in hope. Because she was hope. She was pure hope, maybe I was not a piece of shit dirt bag with dirt bag friends. Maybe I was not a Street Rat with bad grades and no prospects. Maybe I was worthy of a preppy chick. I was more than just a grunge head. I was worthy.
The bell chime, love you, thing drove all of my friends mad. Every time they heard it, they raged. Ty told me once that it made him want to rip her throat out. Bootheel said if he had to listen to it again, he would set her on fire.
Finally, Bootheel did grab her and, through grit teeth, looked her in the eye and said, ”You’re done. Done saying that collection of words in that way. If you ever do it again, I am going to slam your head against a wall. Do you understand me? You’re done. This thing, right here, is over now.”
Mary looked up at Shadow for defense and he grinned. “Head bashed against the wall is going to make a mess.”
She nodded and her face fell.
No one ever told Guardian. One day she was ringing with love, the next she wasn’t. For a full year he wondered about that. Then, he finally told himself that her zest for him died that day.
They had a first kiss. For the life of me I can’t remember it. I hope it was sweet. I hope it was what she deserved. I fear it was given to her by an alter who hated her. Hated everything about her. But it might have been Guardian who was able to share that with her.
I’m just going to tell myself that.
Near the end of the year, we found out Less was living with Char. She called us from his house and Guardian came forward. He said he wanted a bus ticket sent to him and Char agreed. Guardian was going to face Char again.
That was the end of it. That was when Guardian began to fall apart. He got back, shocked and horrified, and called Mary. He told her all of it, and when he got to the part about the dining room and the naked picture of his relatives on the wall, he nearly cried. When he told her that one of them was of his grandmother, she laughed.
“You have seen your grandmother naked?” She laughed again. “That is sick.”
“Yeah, I know. That is the point,” he said. But the damage was done. It was clear that she did not understand. It broke his heart and he tried to get over it. But every time he thought about how depraved his family was, he heard her laughing at him.
This relationship will press on for a long time. We are going to see a lot of this girl. She will become something twisted and gnarled.
But, try to remember, this was the first real love of Guardian’s life. The first time he saw pure love for him radiating off a person, was this girl.
Not his mother.
Not his sister.
Not any girlfriend or any other female relative.
The first time Guardian ever felt loved in his entire life was this girl. Is she a monster? Yeah, maybe. But because she made the Broken Knight feel loved, we will call her sacred.