The Soundtrack of My Life – 19 – Good Mourning/What it is to Burn

In preparation for this blog I knew I wanted to do a Finch song. It was the one that seemed to fit the next entry the most. And for whatever reason I didn’t want to do one from Alkaline Trio. That seemed too easy. But as I re-listened to the Finch album “What it is to Burn” everything came rushing back to me with absolute detail. All of a sudden I was back in my station wagon, smoking a Turkish Gold cigarette with the windows down, listening to track 12 on repeat.

I was, once again, in the darkening hours of 17 and mourning my break-up with Travis.

I got over Jason way too easily. Before I knew it I was back in the AOL chat rooms, chatting with the gays, hoping someone new would pop in. That’s when and where I saw the username THINKAdio enter the room with the sound of a screeching door. For whatever reason he enjoyed my username, melancholychaos, so much that he messaged me.

Travis was 24, 5’10, on the chubby side, covered in tattoos and piercings, and a big time skater. I thought he was gorgeous. I can still see the first picture he ever sent me. He had this big goofy grin, black spikey hair, and wearing latex gloves. He was a piercer in those days, long before he became a tattoo artist. I was immediately attracted to him.

It also didn’t hurt that he was a huge nerd and liked Star Wars as much as me.

On our first date we met up to see the movie “The Order” with Heath Ledger. He liked horror movies and was a big fan of him, so it fit. My mom unknowingly dropped me off for this date and then drove off, only to circle back around to see who it was I was meeting. Later on she would ask me if “the guy with the tattoos” was my boyfriend.

After the movie we went back to his place, where his friends happened to drop by. I met them right out of the gate. They were all just like him and super goofy. His best gal pal, who’s name escapes me, was so super awesome. I loved her the most. She had the driest humor.

The reason I chose two albums for this entry is because it was this night when he handed me two burned CD’s. One was Alkaline Trio’s “Good Mourning” and Finch’s “What it is to Burn.” Neither of the discs had the titles, just the band names, which as someone with OCD drives me a little crazy.

Regardless, I couldn’t wait to get back to my place to listen to them.

He dropped me back at my parents’ house, in his white Toyota pick-up, and would call me later that night to talk on the phone until 2 in the morning.

When I first listened to the CD’s I fell instantly in love with Alkaline Trio. I could understand the lyrics, the tempo of the songs was energetic, and it was relatively campy. All of their songs are about death and dying but presented in this really obtuse way. I attempted to listen to Finch but on my first try I really didn’t like it. All of the songs were so depressing that I could barely make it through one without a grimace on my face. I slid it into my bulky CD case and forgot about it.

When I was younger I use to have this sixth sense about relationships. Like, I could tell you who was going to dump who, and about how long it was going to last. With Travis I saw the number two and I knew he was going to break my heart. But, I didn’t believe myself and really didn’t care.

I was super into him.

At the time I thought we had dated for two months but maybe we didn’t. My perception of time seems to be a corrupted. Because I vividly remember being dumped by Jason the night before school started and it was shortly after that, maybe a week, when he and I met for out first date.

Maybe it was two weeks? Fuck. Who knows at this point.

We talked on the phone every night, when he wasn’t drinking at the bars downtown. This dude appeared, to me at least, as a huge alcoholic. I was from a family of non-drinkers, my father being an ex-alcoholic himself, so dating someone who went every night was unsettling for me. It was one of these drunken nights when he called me up and asked us what we were.

“Sooooo… Like do I call you my boyfriend?”

“Yeah,” I said. “At least I thought we were.”

“Cool.” He replied. “I got a boyfriend. I’m gonna go back in.”

“Okay, have fun.”

Everything seemed to be going fine until one day, he was MIA. I went to school, texted him on the way and got no response at all. I tried calling in between classes, but it went right to voicemail. I was panicked. I could feel the energy shift and I knew what was coming. After school he finally messaged me and said to come over to his place.

When I got there, he was sitting in his room, with the lights off, listening to some mopey album. I sat on the end of the bed and waited.

The CD stopped and he mumbled to me, “I think we should see other people.”

My blood turned cold.

“Okay,” I said.

“I still want to be friends though.”

I did not want to be friends. I was so mad.

“I’m really sorry,” he said.

“It’s whatever.”

None of what I wanted mattered. I had zero choice in the situation. Clearly his mind had been made up and there was nothing I could say or do to change the outcome.

I said my goodbyes and left feeling hollow. It was absolutely out of nowhere. Everything was perfectly fine one minute and then not the next. To this day I have no idea what the fuck happened. I really wish I knew. I know I asked him once, but for whatever reason the answer didn’t stay with me. Maybe it was dumb. Or perhaps I didn’t want to hear it because it was so simple. All I have is my own conclusion and it was because of the age gap, which is stupid because when he dumped me I was a month away from turning 18. But, maybe he wanted a boyfriend he could go to the bars with. Have some cute thing hanging on his arm.

After that I spiraled out of control. Another fucking break-up so close to the other, I was beside myself. I started to smoke his kind of cigarettes, dress just like him, drink alcohol, and I became even more obsessed with Alkaline Trio. But I knew that wasn’t enough. I had to like that second CD. That was why he broke up with me, I chose the wrong one to like. I pulled the forgotten Finch album into the rotation, just to show how committed I was.

It reoccurred to me today that one CD represented the happier times of the relationship and the other got me through the break-up. All of the songs on “What it is to Burn” made sense. I could identify with them. And they truly spoke to me.

So much of who I am came out of that short-lived relationship. Isn’t that ridiculous? I crafted an entire identity from it, just so that I could, in the off-chance, make myself more attractive to him and he would take me back. He absolutely did not want me back and I was even more lost in the attempt.

In hindsight I shouldn’t have dated him. I should have taken some time between Jason and Travis, or better yet, from Travis to my husband. I think I had had too many break-ups in such a short amount of time that it was destroying my self-esteem and self-worth. I needed to heal from these events. What I chose instead was further self-destruction.

One of the weirdest things about that relationship was that sometime during Travis had given me a lighter. I cherished it after he dumped me, hoping I could use it as some totem to bring him back. One day I went to my car after school and the thing had exploded. It rested in tiny blue plastic fragments on the passenger seat. Since then I have tried so many times to recreate this event, but not once has it been done.

This last year, on November 3rd, Travis died of Stage 3 cancer. I still can’t believe it. It had been years since we had spoken. We would occasionally “like” each other’s posts on Twitter and Instagram.

Now, I leave you with the second album. Track 12 is my favorite. It was the one that spoke the most to me. Maybe because it’s good or because like, most things in my life, the number 12 follows me around as some kind of omen or lucky charm.

Midnight Memories

So to set the scene I recommend listening to “Blinding Lights” by Loi. It’s probably the best version of the song and the tone of it completely encapsulates the memory I’m going to share.

The first thing my husband ever said to me was through an instant message on AOL. He let me know that he and Diego were still together and not knowing who he was (and being the annoying teenager I was) I continued on the conversation as if I knew him and what he was talking about. I finally dropped my charade and asked him who he was and it was then that I added him to my buddy list, cchuck77383. From then on I would message him whenever he came online because I just knew things with him and Diego were on the way out.

This all happened at the very end of September 2003 after an abrupt break-up with my third boyfriend. (Who has since passed of stage 4 cancer.)

I was taken by him (my husband) because he happened to share that my ex wanted him, but my husband was not even remotely interested. This made cchuck77383 immediately attractive to me.

I wasn’t a good person then and I know that now… but regardless of what got me to meet with this man doesn’t matter now. I am still here.

After things with Diego fizzled out he agreed to meet me one late night at a Denny’s.

I put on “sleeping beauty” in my bedroom, snuck out my window, and drove across town to meet this stranger I had only ever spoke with online.

He didn’t tell me what he drove, but I knew he had arrived the moment his white mustang drove past me. For the next hour or so we sat in a booth talking, while I watched him nervously spin his silver Motorola flip phone, twitch his nose, and run his index knuckle up his phantom mustache.

For whatever reason he liked me and invited me over to his apartment downtown to watch a movie.

The first thing we ever watched together was Philadelphia. Which, if you don’t know, is the story about a man dying of AIDS. He swears now he had never seen it, but I remember him telling me it was a good one to watch. However he had also just started collecting DVDs at the time and it is highly likely that he hadn’t. I tend to rely to heavily on my own memory. And I am (at times) wrong.

That early morning, when the movie had ended, he walked me to my car and kissed me, wishing me good night. I drove away thinking I would never see him again, feeling satisfied that I got to make-out with the guy my ex wanted but couldn’t have.

Little did I know that this dude would then call me every subsequent day and talk my ear off. There isn’t a day since that he hasn’t. It kills me most to know that his disease will eventually take that from me. I have spoken with him at length ever since then and to think I will have to face a day where I don’t just cuts my gut.

Saying What Has Been Said Before

As of last Thursday, it has been a year since my husband was officially diagnosed with ALS.

As one does, we look back over the journey to see the differences from then to now. What I really want to do is to write this sparkling and profound story with few defeats and many triumphs but I have nothing. In addition to that, I get so caught up into trying to be inspiring that my voice gets lost in the words. What I end up writing feels forced. It feels disingenuous, which is not my goal. Ultimately, it’s not me. I write with my heart on my sleeve, with all my cards laid out for all to see. It’s the only way to be. Trying to keep out the failures and the sadness is a detriment to myself, and no one else.

The reality has put a lot of things into focus, that for so long had been fuzzy. I have suffered most with deciding if my husband was truly “the one.” I always came up with so many excuses to say we weren’t: I was too young; I wasn’t ready. All of this bullshit. I didn’t trust my gut, because it has been wrong before. So instead of enjoying what I have in front of me, I him-and-hawed trying to feel out if it was the right decision. There is no “right” answer. Ever. We just choose a path and learn. Attempting to go back and try another is pointless. There is only forward.

It’s funny, to me, saying all of that because it is the same bullshit that has been told to us over and over again. We just never let it sink because we refuse to listen. We refuse to understand. “There’s always a chance.” Maybe, but maybe not. It’s better to treat life as a “one and done” deal. Thinking that we can get back to reach what we lost is a farce we repeatedly tell ourselves to lull our mind into a false sense of security. “There’s always another chance.” Nope. We only have now.

The beauty of that belief has done some amazing things for our lives. We bought a new house. We moved. We have journeyed across the country, twice. We have seen and done things neither of us thought we could or would do. Yeah, Covid and his disability has made it more difficult, but all of those minor setbacks have paled in comparison to what we’ve experienced.

The only thing that can be truly measured, is the loss of my husband’s independence. He has to rely on me or my brother-husband to eat, to go to the bathroom, to stand without falling. His arms and hands are very nearly worthless from what he used to do. Using a cellphone is near impossible. Thank the geniuses at apple for the voice control features. Without it he wouldn’t even be able to peruse Facebook, text, or make phone calls. Technology is a bane on society, but also a fantastic tool to give one the illusion of normalcy.

I do wish there was something I could add, but there is nothing that I can say that would be any different than from the hundreds of voices before my own.

I will just reiterate that time is precious. Live in the now and don’t hesitate, for even a second. This moment is the only one you truly have. Make it worthwhile. A life of experiences is worth more than any amount of money saved.

Plan to not have one

It would figure that the day I sat down and actually mapped out our upcoming road trip that my template would get tossed aside. It’s the irony of my life. However, while it is irritating it is for the better.

We have been anticipating this road trip to Nashville since March. (Maybe even February, that whole memory thing though.) Initially, I had outlined a road map with one route but that got set aside because the husband wants to do two. And when the boyfriend joins us, mid-way through, he didn’t want to do the “southern” route. To be frank, I don’t want to do that one either. It’s all Texas. No offense to Texas, but the lone star state in mid-summer… hard pass.

So it was decided that we would do the southern route to Nashville first. That way we could make a stop-off in Dallas to visit the brother-huband’s close aunt. Now, that isn’t even happening.

The husband opined that there was a reason we were dragging our feet. We knew subconciously that it was going to change. That may be true, but I chock it up to us being lackadaisical about any sort of planning and preperation. Charlie just flies by the seat of his pants. I need (at least) an outline. I used to be one that needed a specific plan, one in which we stick strictly to and do not deviate from. That type of mentality does not mesh well with my husband’s typical approach to anything. It’s probably the reason we had such a hard go in those early years. I was trying to force him to do it my way and ended up frustrated at him when he didn’t.

I have since adapted. My husband and general life has taught me that plans are a joke. They typically never work out, and usually the bright spots are ones you cannot plan.

We’re still going on this trip it has just been bumped.

The reason it was moved is that we need to be in Los Angeles for the first dose of the ALS trial drug a week after we were scheduled to set out. I really wish they could have given him the first dose on Tuesday, but they needed to get him vaccinated for meningitis. There is a high risk he could contract it while on the trial drug. He already has ALS, let’s not add to the list.

Plus, it works out that I get to be there to see how to go about doing the injections. This way they can show me and the brother-husband how to do the injections and give us the medication we need going forward. (Side note: I fu-hucking hate needles.)

I wish I could remember the name of the one he’s taking, but (again) I was in two places at once on Tuesday and didn’t pay any attention. What I do know is that the potential of this drug (if he’s in the 75% who get the real medication) is will slow the progression and has a possibility of reversing some of the side effects of ALS. While I hope with every fiber of my being that it can undo some of it, I am not naive. In these situations it’s best to be realistic. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.