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 18: Mary Part 3.
Yeats, I think it was.
Yeats said that things fall apart, and the center can’t hold. When you talk about things falling apart in this body, you are talking about Artist. When Mary lost Artist, the center could not hold. It all collapsed in on itself. First, we have to back up. Let’s talk about just how much her parents hated me.
The day after she gets out of school our Junior year, her parents tell her she is going to spend the entire summer in Virginia with her grandparents. Nana, Mi Ma and Pa Pa, I think, were her words. Half the summer with one, half the summer with the other. They lived in the same town and they hated each other. I’m not going to discuss any of that because it is none of your business. I’m just going to set up the one thing that brought these two warring factions together.
Every member of her family had been told about me, and every member wanted to be rid of me. Years of bitter hatred was set aside so that the family could unite against this one common foe, a teenager in love.
We had planned on a whirlwind summer. She was given no choice. She wanted to say goodbye, but her father gave her no time. They did not warn her it was coming. They just packed her up and let her make one phone call. She called me panicking. We both knew what they were trying to do, and we vowed it wouldn’t work.
Guardian promised to write her. He had no money for stamps and Rose was not a fan of Mary either, so she was not paying for them, but he said he would find a way. Made the bananas oath to write her every other day. Then she was gone.
He wrote the letters. He called her every week to talk for half an hour. They kept in touch pretty well. She wrote him and everything was great. Well, as great as things can get when you are dealing with parents who are trying to break you up.
At one point I called her, and she didn’t answer the phone. I tried all day, but she never answered. It was our usual day of the week and time, but she never showed. I kept writing her, but her notes stopped. The next week she didn’t answer the phone again. Guardian did not panic. He kept writing. Kept telling her everything that was happening. And she stayed quiet.
Then the dam broke. See, my letters were not getting through. I would love for the story to be that her grandparents were snaring the letters and hiding them, saying they had never come in, but that is not the case. The post office, just for a while, stopped being able to read my handwriting. For two weeks there were no letters, and during those two weeks her grandparents had weakened the supports. It would all come tumbling down sooner or later, but we had a lot of crumbling to do first.
They had gotten her talking and found out I played Dungeons and Dragons.
Dun dun da!
I was a Devil worshipper. They acted fast. They didn’t want to be proved wrong. They had a corner peeled up now and they wanted to keep ahold on it so they could tear at it for years if necessary. So they made her promise three things.
1. She would never talk about it with me. No explanations. No debunking theories. They made her vow to them that she would never hold a conversation longer than, “It’s evil. Don’t do it.”
2. Never play the game. Never see what it was like and never agree to experience it.
3. Never be in a room where it is being played. Do not tolerate it in your presence.
She agreed to all three to shut them up. They made her promise on her grandfather’s grave and she did.
That one act killed us. Wanna watch us die? It’s slow, it’s terrible, it makes a monster out of Shadow and rips Guardian to pieces. Enrages the one they call Smear Lord of Ire and it makes for one hell of a story. I know you’re in.
Here we go.
She came home. She came to pick me up that afternoon. The sight of her unmanned Guardian. He could not stop staring. He had no picture of her but her yearbook picture to hold all summer. Seeing her in person was captivating. Artist got lost in the movement of her wrist as she steered the car. It was amazing getting to her house. I remember we did not speak, not the entire way to her house, until we turned into her cul-de-sac and she said, “I can smell you from over here and I can’t stop wanting to touch you.”
Her parents were there, so the horrible treatment started up right away. They were dismissive and argumentative, but somehow Guardian kept Shadow at bay, and everything went fine. I was not allowed to even look into her room. I was not given a tour of the house. It was plain they did not want me there. They would not even let me in the house. They entertained me outside. They let me stay for an hour, then she had to take me home.
When we got back to my house, Guardian finally grabbed her and kissed her, and they both cried. They went into his room and she stopped, seeing his walls again as if for the first time.
Everything in his room was covered with some sort of Dungeons and Dragons art. Maps, posters, framed pictures and books. You could not touch the wall without your finger grazing Dungeons and Dragons. She looked at it all and shook her head. “I can’t be in here.”
She walked out and explained the rules. She said it was fine. She didn’t care if I played, but those were the rules. I tried to explain to her that the game was not what she thought it was, and she walked away yelling, “I can’t talk about it! I can’t talk about it!”
Well, I was still playing. So, every now and then she would get whiff of a game and she would whine about it. She would complain that I was doing the thing that was placed between us. Soon it became a thing that no one said but everyone understood.
If you loved me, you would not play this game that I can’t be a part of. If you want a future with me, you have to give up the game.
This was a thought hideous to us. The idea of never playing again was like cutting off an arm. But I think we both know what happened. Guardian decided she was more important. Artist even decided he would place all of his art on making her happy. He would write for her. He would sing for her. He would put all of his creativity into her and make her feel loved. He agreed to set aside DnD.
Shadow was all too happy to oblige.
Guardian called up Chalice and begged him to come help box it all up and retire us from DnD. Chalice hated the idea and made us promise to put the stuff in storage instead of getting rid of it.
“This is a mistake,” he said. “This is what will break you both up, this right here.”
Shadow wanted to laugh and say, “Yeah, I know,” but he didn’t. He just let Artist weep as he boxed up his life, and let Guardian try to explain how this was the best thing for everyone.
He could not wait to have her over. Could not wait. Told Chalice not to tell her or anyone else what he had done. And after school one day, Guardian brought Mary into his bedroom with her eyes closed and, breathless, told her to open them.
She opened them and looked around. The differences were glaring. But she looked around and said, “There is something different.”
Artist stepped out and sighed. “I gave up Dungeons and Dragons for you.” He stared waiting to see the shock and love on her face.
She nodded and said, “Yup, that was it. Great, thanks.” And she walked out.
That was the moment she lost Artist. Took him a week to find a reason to break up with her. Every one of our friends rejoiced. It seemed like everyone hated her. Wanted her out of our lives for a long time, but we had just not seen it.
Artist threw a huge game at his house. He had friends come back and set his room right again and it was all over.
But Guardian was not done with her yet.
And Servant was just getting started.