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Author: JennyTrout

NIGHTMARE BORN RELEASE DAY

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It’s me again! Here to tell you about a book I wrote on Radish and is now available as an e-book and a paperback. That’s right. TODAY! IT’S OUT TODAY!

Thank you to everyone who has preordered the book and/or spread the good word. I’m so excited about this series and actually seeing this one on my Kindle with its gorgeous new cover by Kris at Covers By Kris has reinvigorated me. I’ll be leaning hard into more fantastical stuff in the future and this feels like the biggest, most fun first step possible. Scroll down for an excerpt and buy links. And if you read Nightmare Born and want to leave a review for it somewhere, that would be cool as Arthur Fonzarelli.


The cover of Nightmare Born: A young white woman with curly red hair and wearing ripped jeans and a leather jacket stands in a faded-purple, mist-shrouded forest. The text reads: USA Today Bestselling Author of the Blood Ties series Jenny Trout," at the top and "Nightmare Born" at the bottom.

Conceived in dream. Born a nightmare.

There are a lot of things I know: story structure, Hollywood trivia, what makes a director great… It’s the stuff I didn’t know–who my real father was, that my uncle is a demon, the fact that I’m not human–that’s gotten me into so much trouble.

After ripping my crush’s heart out–literally–I discover that I’m not just a normal autistic seventeen-year-old. I’m the daughter of the King of Nightmares, the cruel and excessively goth ruler of the Nether. Now, I’m stuck at Miss Perkins’s School for Girls, learning how to exist in a world where things really do go bump in the night.

Dangerous magic, treacherous enemies, unfairly hot vampires, and magic schools are all tropes I love in movies. But throw them into my real life? Hard pass. And I still have to deal with queen bees and bullies while unraveling a conspiracy that could crumble the very foundations of reality as we know it? That’s bullsh–


If you ever plan to tear someone’s still-beating heart out of their chest and eat it, prepare to get tased. I know I’m lucky that’s all I got. Then again, the cops managed to take that rich cannibal guy into custody peacefully after he ate his neighbor’s face right there in his driveway, so maybe I’m not lucky. Maybe it’s just procedure for when someone white eats somebody.

Oh yeah. If you ever plan to tear someone’s still-beating heart out of their chest and eat it, prepare to be forcibly sedated, too. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I know that when this stupid shot wears off, I’ll be able to feel what I did. Everybody thinks autistic people have like, zero empathy, but that’s not true. I have too much empathy. So much, I feel like it’s going to crush me most of the time. Once I’m hit with the full weight of what I did to Dakota…

To his family…

To my family.

I picture my mom’s thin face, her freckled skin tinged green as they explain to her what I did. What I am. My memory swirls back to when I stole money from her purse when I was nine. “Don’t you feel bad for doing that? Iris, tell me that you know that what you did was wrong.”

“I do know, Mommy,” I say aloud, my tongue thick and dry. I try to sit up, but something stops me. The padded restraints around the gurney. Oh, right. I’m not nine anymore. I’m seventeen. And I’m a murderer.

“You are not a murderer.”

I blink. The ceiling tiles multiply. When I turn my head, they become a cascade of squares. The room I’m in is completely empty. The walls are bare. No one is here with me.

“Who said that?”

“You’ll find out.”

There’s a door, but there’s no handle on it. Just the outline of the frame and the shift from the bumpiness of the yellow walls to the smoothness of the metal that’s probably been painted over and over a thousand times.

I know I’m in jail. It’s just weird how much it looks like a school.

Cuffed to a hospital bed, loopy on drugs, in some kind of cell for the criminally insane. That seems about right. It’s where I’ve always been pretty sure I’d end up. I just never foresaw it being this early. Or under these circumstances. And I’d kind of hoped it would be more like Arkham. But here I am. Strapped down and hearing voices.

I’m so thirsty. I want a drink of water. I can’t get one because I’m tied down, and there’s no way to call for help. What if they forget me? What if everyone forgets I’m in here? What if I die in here?

Cold sweat stands out on my forehead. It runs into my eyes and I can’t do anything but blink it away. I want to wipe my face. I want a drink of water. I want to sit up. I want my mom. I want to go home.

“Someone get me out of here!” I scream, and it ricochets off the bare walls to hit me like a shockwave of agitation. My fingers grasp futilely; I can’t reach anything. An itch at the back of my head becomes a burning pain that I can’t ease. The thin sheet beneath me twists as I struggle. It bunches under my shoulder blades. I can’t move. I can’t move.

“Get me out!”

The door explodes off its hinges, narrowly missing me.

Did I do that with my mind? Can I use the Force?

The lights overhead flicker; the ones in the hall beyond the door do, too, but the darkness is darker and the brightness is brighter, and I realize that I’m seeing sparks. The lights in the hall haven’t flickered, they’ve burst. A figure wreathed in a cloud of white smoke steps through. As the bulbs overhead buzz back on, I stare in confusion. “Uncle Abe?”

My Uncle Abe has never been a suit-and-tie kind of guy, but that’s how he’s dressed now. Instead of his usual Adidas tracksuit—he has them in every color—and a heavy gold chain around his neck, he wears a full three-piece jacket-vest-pants combo with pinstripes and a long, tan coat that swirls around his legs as he strides into the room. He still looks like a stereotypical Italian guy. Just a different kind of stereotypical Italian guy.

He gestures toward me, and the restraints around my wrists and ankles release their grip, the belts sliding from the buckles of their own volition. I lift my hands and stare at them in disbelief.

“We gotta go!” Uncle Abe says, glancing into the hallway. There are shouts and running feet, but I can’t tell how close they might be because the room is still spinning. Especially, when I sit up.

“Iris, get your ass moving, we gotta get out of here.” He gestures urgently at me, and finally, I manage to put my feet on the floor and stand.

“What’s going on?” I ask him, but he doesn’t answer. He grabs my arm and steers me toward the door. Just outside, a group of uniformed officers has nearly reached us. They draw their weapons, and I flinch, trying to raise my hands to signal I’m no threat.

Uncle Abe throws his arm out and yells, “Back off!”

The police topple backward like a collapsing house of cards.

What the—

Uncle Abe’s grip on my arm tightens and he drags me in the other direction, toward a security door with a coded lock. Just as we reach it, it bursts open. More officers in bulletproof vests crash through. Abe swears and releases me. He reaches out with both hands and grabs hold of nothing as if struggling to pry the air in front of him apart like a pair of stuck elevator doors. There’s a tear and a vertical scar of light rips reality open. Without explanation, he shoves me into the blazing beam. It feels like I’m being burned alive and frozen at the same time. A roar like a tornado hitting a train fills my head. The noise pops off, and I wonder if I’m deaf or dead from the explosion. My ears ring, my vision clears, and I’m standing in the living room of our house.

Mom looks up from where she’s been sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, feet up, body folded around a tattered throw-pillow. Her eyes are red and hollow, and she blinks at me as if she’s seeing a ghost.

I realize that my uncle stands behind me. I catch a glimpse of the hallway we’ve just left before the rift in the air closes, sucking all the light backward. When I face my mom again, she’s already on her feet, running to hold me.

“They said there was—” her voice breaks off as she presses her lips to my forehead. “—an attack at the county jail? Was it you, Abe?”

“What does it look like?” He turns to me and says gruffly, “We’ve got about twenty minutes. Maybe less. Pack a bag.”

“Pack a…” I can’t focus on anything. The sedatives are still at work and I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not because nothing feels real. Am I dreaming? Having a delusion? Is my mind stuck in one of my daydreams permanently?

When I snap out of it, will what happened at school go away?

My hands are covered with dried blood.

“Move,” Uncle Abe commands. “The less you bring with you, the better.”

“Where are we going?” I ask, my tongue thick in my mouth. I’m still so thirsty.

He and my mother share a look. Her face goes pale. “Abe…no…”

“Did you think you were going to be able to keep her forever?” he asks, in a tone I’ve never heard him use with her before. He’s never used it with either of us. He sounds like a stranger. Like a judge passing a righteously harsh sentence.

Mom shakes her head. “No. No, we made a deal! He promised me!”

“He promised you that you could keep your human child,” Uncle Abe says, his voice cold. He can’t be the same guy who calls Mom “Gabby” and asks if she needs money when she leaves for work.

And what does he mean… “Human child?”

“I said get your stuff!” For the first time, I’m truly afraid of Uncle Abe. Of the look on his face, his anger, the finally-fed-up written on every feature in big enough print that even I can recognize it.

But I’m not scared enough to back down. After everything else that’s happened, he isn’t going to be the one to break me.

“No!” I try to stamp my foot, but I’m still not steady, so all I accomplish is rolling my ankle. But I don’t look away. “What did you mean, ‘human’? Why do I have to leave?”

“Are you kidding?” Uncle Abe roars at me. “You ripped a kid’s heart out and ate it. Fill in the blanks!”

“Abbadon!” Mom shouts over him. A tense silence falls. I’ve never heard her use that name before. I always assumed his name was Abraham and that he was just too embarrassed to admit it. But neither of them say anything, until Mom rasps, tears filling her eyes, “Please. Let me be the one to tell her. At least, let me say goodbye.”

“Mom?” My voice trembles. “Why would you say goodbye?”

She puts her arms around me and hugs me tight.

Please don’t let me go.

I’ve seen my mom cry maybe three times in my life. It has felt weird every time, but this time it’s so, so much worse. She steps back and takes a big gulp of air. Then she fakes a smile like I’ll fall for it the way I did when I was a kid. When I don’t, she gives up.

“Mom?” I ask again.

“I have something…” She closes her eyes and a tear rolls down her cheek. “I haven’t been honest with you. About your father.”

Available now in e-book and paperback*! Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Smashwords   

*currently available on Amazon. Further retailers to come.

Dispatches from behind enemy lines

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We used to leave our doors unlocked. Morning, night, whether we were at home or not. I’ve never felt unsafe in my town. There have certainly been times that I’ve felt unsafe from threats made on the internet, but those threats were coming from other places. Not here. Not in our little rural village.

I open Facebook. I see mugshots of people who share my DNA; two second-cousins I’ve not seen in years. I remember them from childhood: chubby, with bowl cuts, totally indistinguishable from any of the other kids at our middle school. Bill was behind me on the slide ladder at Uncle Junie’s pool when I got stung by a wasp. I didn’t know what to do, so I went down the slide in silent shock. I’ve never trusted hollow, duct-taped aluminum railings again. Both those former kids were arrested as part of a plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

I check Twitter. There’s the sheriff of my county, giving an interview defending white supremacist terrorists, specifically the white supremacist terrorists I attended family reunions with. The sheriff and I go to the same dentist. Once, during a routine cleaning, I heard Sheriff Leaf two chairs over, complaining that he wished someone would run against him for the job, which he no longer wanted. When someone did oppose him in the next election, he fought back. My white supremacist second cousin sent threats to people who campaigned for Leaf’s challenger. Less than twelve hours after his disastrous defense of my cousins, Dar Leaf changed his mind again, scrambling desperately to distance himself from the “militia members” he proudly stood with to protest Governor Whitmer’s restrictions.

Over a dozen arrests, spanning several counties. A plot to abduct the Governor, transport her across state lines, and execute her for “treason.” All because bars and gyms were closed to slow the spread of a dangerous pandemic ravaging the country. All because a stubborn barber decided to keep his shop open and was stunned to learn there would be consequences.

My cousins’ sister, whom I’ve remained in contact with via social media, posts an ultimatum: if you believe that they’re involved, unfriend her. They did nothing wrong. If you’re not willing to rally to support them, to raise money for their combined $500,000 bail, if you won’t put a sticker on your car expressing your support, you can unfriend her. I fulfill her request with a click of my trackpad. The last I see of her anger is a vow that she stands with the Michigan Liberty Militia.

The founder of that group hails from our village, where everyone  tempers their gossip with insistence upon the boys’ innocence and pleas that we not trust the media. Wait until you see the evidence, they warn. Things aren’t what they seem.

The Detroit Free Press runs an article about the people involved in the plot. Above the section about my blood relations, they’ve used the heading, “‘redneckery’.” They describe rural white conservatives as some kind of wronged people, whether they intend to, or not. Testimonials from neighbors and descriptions of bleak rural yards strewn with beer cans seem sensational or horrific, I assume, to anyone who’s never lived among the rural working poor. But we all live like this, I think, looking out at the remnants of our weekend campfire in the driveway. There are cans here. And a car that hasn’t moved in years. And we haven’t joined a militia.

“I have hard time wrapping my head around the fact that these guys have dropped everything to help [my step grandparents] and your grandma when they had trouble with their houses,” my mom says in a Facebook comment. But militias? Anybody in Michigan understands those.

I was twelve years old when I learned that the government is out to get us. Not from anyone in my immediate family. At the local pizza place one night, my uncle got into a tense conversation with my grandparents about a family in Idaho who were murdered for exercising their second amendment rights. To him and every other single-issue voter in town, Democrats lurked around every corner, just waiting to take our guns. The FBI, the ATF, Federal Marshals were the enemy.

Yesterday, “President” Trump boasted about U.S. Marshals carrying out an extrajudicial execution in his name. The “president” of this supposed “land of the free” bragged about his death squad killing a civilian while his supporters cheered him on. The same family members who felt the government overstepped in Waco, at Ruby Ridge, now they admire the intelligence of a leader who views not just the U.S. Marshals as his own killing force, but who courts those very militias that are supposed to oppose the extreme fascist actions he’s taken.

Many of the men charged in the terrorist plot against Governor Whitmer are hardcore Trump supporters, but since the ringleader once referred to Trump as a tyrant and owns the same generic anarchy flag found in every metalhead’s basement lair or suburban garage hang-out space, the plot was carried out by Leftists. By Antifa. By BLM. By Democrats and liberals, all howling for the fetal body parts of aborted white, Christian babies. Don’t believe the evidence before your eyes. Believe that the right is right, the left is evil, and it’s perfectly normal to storm the state capitol brandishing two semi-automatic rifles with high capacity magazines because face masks are itchy and you can cure a virus by screaming “freedom” at it.

On October 9th, my mother shared a conservative meme about Covid-19. The text warned that living like you’re afraid of dying means you’re dead already.

Last night, she called to tell me that my seventeen-year-old brother tested positive and has had a fever for days. My eighteen-year-old sister is symptomatic. Not my mother, who voted for Trump and still intends to vote for him. Not my stepfather, who also supports Trump. My siblings, who didn’t have a say in whether or not this man was elected, have been condemned to wait and see if they’ll recover fully, partially, or at all. And on November 3rd, their parents will walk into their polling place and cast their votes for the man who did this to their children. The man who, according to another Facebook post shared by my mother, is fighting a war on behalf of Christians by killing so many of them.

Last week, my friends and I made a lot of uneasy jabs about the cottage across the road from the Airbnb we stayed at. The ramshackle little house needed new gutters. A broken down truck half-covered with blue tarp sat in the driveway. An American flag hung in faded tatters beside a crisp, new “Trump 2020” banner. We joked that the occupants might be responsible for that kidnapping thing we’d heard about in passing.

Not long after that, I stood on the porch of our rental and watched that “Trump 2020” flag hang stiff and cheap in the breeze as my grandmother told me over the phone what the “little shits” had done. When we drove away from our trip, my friends joked that at least we were going to be away from that Trump house.

But that same, cheap nylon “Trump 2020” hangs in pride of place over my neighbor’s porch, as well.

We lock our doors now.

Surprise! NIGHTMARE BORN is on sale October 27th!

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Remember my Young Adult serial, Nightmare Born, which was a Radish exclusive? Well, good news! It’s no longer exclusive (although, Radish readers, fear not. The chapters you unlocked will still be there!). On October 27th, Nightmare Born will be available in ebook and paperback. I’m so proud of this story and so happy to be reclaiming my roots in Urban Fantasy with a new series! And check out this amazing new cover from Covers By Kris!

 

The cover of Nightmare Born: A young white woman with curly red hair and wearing ripped jeans and a leather jacket stands in a faded-purple, mist-shrouded forest. The text reads: USA Today Bestselling Author of the Blood Ties series Jenny Trout," at the top and "Nightmare Born" at the bottom.

 

Conceived in dream. Born a nightmare.

There are a lot of things I know: story structure, Hollywood trivia, what makes a director great… It’s the stuff I didn’t know–who my real father is, that my uncle is a demon, the fact that I’m not human–that’s gotten me into so much trouble.

After ripping my crush’s heart out–literally–I discover that I’m not just a normal autistic seventeen-year-old. I’m the daughter of the King of Nightmares, the cruel and excessively goth ruler of the Nether. Now, I’m stuck at Miss Perkins’s School for Girls, learning how to exist in a world where things really do go bump in the night.

Dangerous magic, treacherous enemies, unfairly hot vampires, and magic schools are all tropes I love in movies. But throw them into my real life? Hard pass. And I still have to deal with queen bees and bullies while unraveling a conspiracy that could crumble the very foundations of reality as we know it? That’s bullsh–

 

Nightmare Born is available to pre-order as an e-book on Amazon; paperback buy links and other platform pre-order and purchase links will be added as they become available.

 

The Funniest Things I’ve Ever Seen/Heard

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Everything is ruined! Enjoy this list of the funniest spontaneous things I’ve ever seen and heard and come back to mentally when I need a chuckle (and remembered while writing this post).

Spoonman
Mr. Jen and I were stuck behind a car taking forever in the McDonald’s drive-thru. Soundgarden’s “Spoonman” was on the radio. Finally fed up, Mr. Jen, in a near-perfect Chris Cornell impression, yells, “DECIIIIIIIDE MAAAAA’AM” along with the music.

The Liberty Bell
My BFF Jill and I went to see the Liberty Bell together. In the gift shop, the famous picture of Thomas Jefferson handing Benjamin Franklin the Declaration of Independence was hanging on the wall. Jill looked up and said quietly, “Hey, can I get your John Hancock on this?”

Balancing Act
Out raising teenaged hell with some friends, we decided to go to a local church’s playground to smoke weed at around two in the morning. My friend Sean launched himself from the car shouting, “SWIIIIIIIIINGS!” as he ran at full speed across the church’s lawn. We heard an enormous, ringing clang, and Sean was suddenly flying through the air, arms and legs flailing. At the edge of the playground were a series of iron balance beams that were exactly knee-high to Sean and totally invisible from the particular angle that Sean had been running.

Balancing Act #2
Auditions for the Celery Flats Shakespeare Festival in Portage, MI were always held in the big barn behind the theater. The Celery Flats is an area where people go jogging and biking and skating on the trails and there’s an old-timey village. It was very hot, so the barn doors were open on both sides. I just happened to be seated directly across from the doors that looked out onto a busy section of the skating paths. A man on rollerblades skated into view and stumbled, somehow ending up with both legs off the ground, but in a sitting position. The frame of the barn door cut off my view of the impact of his fall, so for a few seconds, he flew past in the air as if he were seated on an invisible bus driving by.

My Best Behavior
A friend is the granddaughter of the much-beloved former mayor of a humble Michigan town. He was being honored during their town’s annual parade and my friend invited me to come along, provided I didn’t “do anything weird.” We viewed the parade from risers reserved for special guests and their families. Before the parade started, there were some kids riding their bikes along the route. One of them fell and without a second thought, I pointed with my arm fully extended and shouted, “HA! That kid just fell off his bike.”

Gramps Burn
Years ago, I jokingly said I would have sex with Bill Clinton. My Grandpa Pat shot back, “Jenny, that man’s had a heart attack. He can’t do that kind of heavy lifting.”

Gramps Burn #2
As a child, I had a huge gap between my two front teeth. I was around ten when, at the dinner table, I stuck a toothpick into the gap and said, “Look, it fits in there!” Grandpa Pat said, “Jenny, you can fit the log that toothpick come from in there.”

Gran Burn
While preparing for my Uncle John and Aunt Wendy’s 25th-anniversary party, my cousin asked my Grandma Z, “What time does the party start?” In my best Ke$ha voice I sang, “Well the party don’t start ’til I walk in!” To which my Grandma Z replied, dryly, “The party starts at four, Jenny.”

Devastating Dad Joke
My stepdad tells my sister and I that we’re “pretty in two ways. Pretty ugly, and pretty apt to stay that way.”

Hay Fever
Mr. Jen and I were driving down the road with all of our windows up, yet somehow the mere sight of a field of flowers gripped Mr. Jen with a sneeze so powerful, his head went around and around three times to wind up for it.

Food Fight
My BFF Holly and I were terrible kids. Just terrible. One day, while her sister, Nikki, was in charge of the house, I put salt in Holly’s glass of Coke while her back was turned. This escalated into a food fight that doused the kitchen in water, condiments, flour, eggs, and anything else remotely wet. The fight then moved into the guest bathroom, where toothpaste and shampoo became involved and, I regret to say, one tube of chapstick, which Holly rolled all the way up and smashed into my ear. By the time Nikki noticed that we were wrecking the house, the damage was done. The cupboards, floor, walls, even the ceiling in some spots, not to mention the furniture in both rooms and the adjoining hallway were covered with the nastiest mixtures imaginable. Nikki turned to us, pure, totally justified murder in her eyes, and shouts, “GET. OUT!” She pushed us out of the sliding glass door before we could grab our shoes, so there we were, walking down the road barefoot in Michigan in April when Holly’s dad pulls up. He leans out the window and says, “Hey there, Lil’ Pups. Where are your shoes? It’s cold out.” And Holly, with the most pitiable, Dickensian orphan expression I’ve ever seen, replied somberly, “Nikki kicked us out of the house without our shoes.” Their dad drove back to the house angry with Nikki, who was left to clean up the mess because as the adult at home, she let things get out of hand. That’s right. I said “As the adult.” Nikki wasn’t way older than Holly and I; we were fourteen and far, far old enough to know better.

Pest Control
After complaining about a wasp nest in a tree outside our house, I came home to find my cousin D-Rock standing on our roof with a can of homemade napalm and a bow and arrows. Her brilliant plan? To shoot flaming arrows into the nest. While drunk. And on a roof.

It occurs to me that I may have told all of these stories before. But I’m just trying to get back into the swing of writing something every day. At the very worst, you chuckled at the same thing twice.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Maranda’s comment about her four-year-old’s pee experience reminded me of my kid’s four-year-old pee experience and I cannot believe I didn’t share it in here before. So, I give you:

Rest In Pees
We were in the car on a long country road late at night. My four-year-old needed to pee, so I pulled over, got him out, and said, okay, go potty. A car was coming by, so I was keeping an eye on them as my kid did his tinkle business. As the headlights flashed past, I saw that the spot my son had chosen to pee was a roadside memorial for someone who’d died in a car crash.

Dear Anonymous Exes

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Dear Anonymous Exes:

I don’t know why I’m writing this letter. Maybe being surrounded by the plague and therefore constantly reminded of my own mortality has enticed me to look back on my life and start listening to Tori Amos albums again. Maybe watching my oldest child race toward that arbitrary mark of adulthood, the eighteenth birthday, has forced me to see my life through a wiser, more nostalgic lens. Certainly, my recent mental health struggles, rooted in ABA therapy in childhood, have made me scour my past for “aha!” moments to reflect on from my new perspective.

This new perspective is rooted not just in the arduous process of undoing or at least, learning to live with the way my personality was grafted onto me for the convenience of the adults in my life, but also from the stability of a relationship in which my partner and I have grown together and weathered personal changes and life’s traumas. As a romance writer, I constantly get asked if I draw on things from real life. I do, but not in the raised-eyebrows-wink-wink-research way people assume. It doesn’t take a ton of research to know whether or not you’d like to write about specific sex acts; emotional conflict has to be mined from personal experience to ring true. It’s all well and good to describe hurt or new love or anger with those words. It’s another thing to go back and in time and remember a specific moment when you felt a specific brand of one of those things.

As I struggle through this point in my career, wondering if there’s still room for me to write romance or if I still care about and enjoy the genre as much as I did when I started, where I’m going from here, I’ve been thinking about you, exes. Here are some messages to you, in no specific order, with no identifying markers and the continuity on shuffle:

You are in your forties. Please, do not buy a skateboard.

I will always consider you one of the loves of my life. I don’t know why I left you for a guy who’s considering buying a skateboard in his forties but after seeing the way you treated your partners after me, I’m so glad I did.

I shouldn’t have dated you. I was in love with your ex-girlfriend, not you. I just fundamentally did not understand my own sexuality and it caused me to misdirect my affection. Sorry I hurt you.

Okay, now that I think about it, I’m not 100% sure you’re actually going to buy that skateboard. Please, please tell me you’ve given up your shoplifting habit.

I know you had sex with the upstairs neighbor.

Dude, that was my first breakup. I’m sorry I cried so hard. I bet you felt terrible and you were really a nice kid.

The moment I met your parents, I knew we weren’t going anywhere.

After you broke up with me, I saw you from the window of my bus on the way home from work and I cried.

It was weird that you chose to dump me while I was asking you a question about Froot Loops.

You were too old to be dating a seventeen-year-old.

I should have lost my virginity to you.

Turns out, I’m not a terrible mother after all. I mean, I’m definitely not the mother you would have wanted for your children, so everything turned out for the best.

You smelled like a wet dog.

Hey, was that you in Red Lobster in 2008 waiting to go on a date, looking like you just got done painting houses? Pull it together, yo.

She’s out of your league, bro.

Your opening line was hilarious but I shouldn’t have gone home with you.

I can’t believe I let you break my heart.

I didn’t leave my watch at your place because I wanted an excuse to see you again. I left that watch at your place because I didn’t want to have to see you again. I just bought a new watch, bro.

In the future, don’t brag to the person you’re dating about how badly you treated all the people you dated before.

Your IG is ridiculous. We get it. You’re rich. Just like your parents.

Your IG is ridiculous. We get it. You have abs.

Your IG isn’t too bad. But your kids are ugly as hell.

You’re wrong about blowjobs being unhygienic but honestly, my neck has never been so relaxed in the early stages of a relationship.

I’ll admit it, I checked up on you out of curiosity. I’m so proud of the you that I knew years ago. I’m not gonna go digging but please don’t be a fucking Trump supporter.

I shouldn’t have lost my virginity to you.

Remember that time we were going to get groceries and you said, “Do you have the keys?” and I said, “Yeah,” and then we immediately started having tear-our-clothes-off sex on the floor right in front of the door? That was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever been able to pull off, in terms of smoothness and sexiness.

Why the fuck do you keep running into me right when we’ve both just noticed someone else’s fart? It isn’t my fart!

Sincerely,
Your Crazy Ex You Probably Still Tell Horror Stories About

PS. If I see you on a skateboard I’m gonna circle the block to make various demoralizing remarks, loudly.

 

August, 2020

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I’m frozen.

Trapped in a solid block of dread so cold that the tips of my toes are constantly numb.

That can’t be a coincidence.

It’s generally accepted that stress can cause or exacerbate health problems. Is stress what I’m feeling when I see mailboxes and sorting machines hauled away on trucks just days after President Trump openly admitted to intentionally sabotaging mail-in voting? I’m sure there’s some stress there.

I sleep a lot.

Way more than I should, in strange patterns, waking early in the morning only to go back to bed four hours later. Sleeping until evening, moving to a new location to nap.

On September 11, 2001, I watched the news until mid-afternoon. Then I slept, too overwhelmed to be conscious. Like most people, the rest of that week doesn’t register. Was it like this, back then? The constant exhaustion from fear? Or is this worse? Is it longer-lasting? Or did that dread just roll over into dread about the Forever War, into dread about Trump, into dread about…all of it. Everything.

I wake up to consciously relax my muscles.

Even in a deep sleep, I’ll rouse to find my body tensed for flight. I breathe deeply and work through the progressive relaxation tricks I learned in therapy for C-PTSD.

It’s almost a relief to be terrified of something tangible. I have a reason to be afraid, now. A legitimate reason to dread the months to come. As the optimistic left counts down the days to the election, I know that November isn’t the end of all of this unrest but the official beginning. Americans are now living in a time period that won’t be covered as thoroughly by future textbooks as will the events to come.

I’m surrounded.

“Recall Whitmer!” demands a row of signs along the road. Recall the governor, for trying to save you from yourselves. Kill your family by gathering in large groups to own the libs.

There is a bar at the end of my street, constantly surrounded by motorcycles. The Confederate flag graces nearly every one of them. There are “Bikers for Trump” among them. They are armed. My husband tells me not to put up political yard signs. He goes to work every night worried about his employees being shot for enforcing the mask mandate.

The Proud Boys are coming.

Kalamazoo, the city that is my second home, will be host to a pro-fascist invasion on Saturday. “I guess I’m getting pepper-sprayed this weekend.”

But I’m broken. The stress, the fear has left me fragile. When am I going to die? From the virus? From violence? When violence erupts, be it a revolution, civil war, or outside nations fighting against our tyranny, being in the wrong place at the wrong time will be a more common cause of death. Does it matter if a rubber bullet ends my life or a real one?

I’m not sure what’s real.

I dissociate more often, doubting if I should be afraid or if I’ve finally lost my mind completely.

Driving to my once-weekly grocery trip, I wonder if this will be the time that the snotty-looking Shipt shopper who’s always there, always maskless, infects me by standing too close in the check-out. On the way, I see church parking lots packed all the way out to the road, “Pray for our country” on their signs. Yards are covered with cars for big family gatherings on the lake. Kids are laughing, splashing, chasing each other. Facebook sports vacation photos of maskless families beaming at popular attractions. Did I make the virus up? Is this all in my head?

I take walks in my yard.

The wellness books say it’s good for you. So do all of the herbal apothecary books I’ve purchased.

I’m making medicine from the plants I’ve foraged. I’ve learned how to identify wild, edible foods. It’s no longer about wellness. I think toward the future, to what my husband, a retail grocery manager, said when I asked him to tell me, truthfully, if we’ll run out of food in our area. He looked at me and said, uncomfortably avoiding my eyes, “It wouldn’t be a bad idea to learn how to grow food indoors.” I tell him he’ll need to get a deer license this year. I promise I’ll dress his kills.

I was right.

On election night, when I was being “hysterical.” At every turn of the knife thrust into the backs of people in this country, I was “hysterical.” Because “He can’t do that.” And “They won’t let him.”

They let him. He did that. Already vulnerable people have been made more vulnerable, dehumanized for the next step in what “hysterical” people have seen coming all along. The rise of fascism, because it’s preferred to communism or socialism. Because the people voting against their own interests in order to win a childish game have brought us to this point.

I wish I wasn’t right.

About the past, about the present, about what will come in the future.

But I think I am. I know I am. I try to tell myself to qualify my statements. “Remember when they called you hysterical? You don’t want that to happen again.” Was I hysterical? Is it rational to give up hope in a hopeless state? Is it easier than accepting that things are going to get worse? What if some of us can’t simply ignore politics and agree to disagree when our neighbors will be dragged from their homes in the night. Is it hysterical to plan for what is rapidly becoming an eventuality? Or is it foresight?

So many horror stories revolve around entities that thrive on fear. The moral of those stories seems to be that denying one’s fear is appropriate; that fear is worth punishment.  That if you are afraid right now, you’re doing it to yourself. And as I watch these punishments play out in popular culture, I think about what our aversion to fear is doing to us. We equate fear with death, so if we don’t fear, we won’t die. Immortality gained by hubris. And yet all around us, we see evidence that it doesn’t work that way.

Being afraid keeps you alive. It also keeps you tense in your sleep.

It’s too exhausting to consider what a new world will look like after the dust settles. It’s too painful to consider a world many of us will never see.

So I stay frozen.

I stay numb to everything around me. I withdraw further into myself. I put my dreams and goals aside for the moment; I don’t know how to accomplish them in this liminal space. I don’t know if they’ll ever be feasible ever again. I make new dreams of simple things, but they’re formless. There isn’t really a “future” I can see clearly anymore.

Right now, there’s just survival.

Jealous Haters Book Club: Crave chapter 2, “Just Because You Live In A Tower Doesn’t Make You A Prince”

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All right! Back at it again with the actually good book we’re reading. Now, some have reminded me that I also thought The Mister was a good book when we started it but I was really forcing myself to be generous with that one. From what we’ve seen so far with Crave, the author can actually write sentences that don’t make you want to hurl yourself from a helicopter into the caldera of an erupting volcano.

The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp, Chapter Six

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Need to catch up?

Some people have noticed that this story has veered wildly off the course set by the blurb my friends wrote for the fictional book cover. That’s because this nonsense is flowing through me. I am a conduit for the whims of the universe. And that universe is full of Greek mythology because that and ragging on Nathaniel Hawthorne were the only parts of English class I liked in high school. #OriginalClashOfTheTitansWasBetterThanTheRemake

Guess I’m forty now.

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Honestly, I thought I would have transitioned into stand-up comedy. No, seriously, that was my bucket list item for this year. I was going to do an open mic night. I wasn’t going to tell anyone I know, I was just going to drive to a whole different city, do an open mic night, and cross it off my list of things I’ve always wanted to do but never did. Some of my jokes were about turning forty and how people start assuming you can’t learn or do or be anything new at that age.

And it’s true. All through my thirties, my friends and I were telling people that it’s never too late to go back and get your doctorate or your real estate license or learn how to be in roller derby. After all, Alan Rickman didn’t start acting until he was forty!

Well, now I’m forty. At the end of the world.

I’m fired up to do new things, take different directions, reinvent myself as a person. How the hell do I do that now? I can’t go out and start a weird, midlife crisis grasp at my stand-up dreams that never panned out. I can’t go to improv classes or form an experimental theater group. I can’t up and run off to New York to chase the dead hope of the Broadway career that didn’t happen then and will never happen, now.

I’ve lived my life fantasizing about the stuff I’ve always wanted to do. I saw turning forty as a golden opportunity and I was going to Rickman the hell out of it. Maybe I would move to L.A. and try writing for television! Maybe I could try my hand at acting in small films in Chicago! What if I decided to ride my bicycle around Lake Michigan? I could do it all.

Instead, I’m seriously considering starting a YouTube channel that’s just me riding my bike around town with a GoPro looking for the flock of cranes.

I guess the thing I’m struggling the most with right now is the idea that I’m not the only thing holding me back. Somehow, my lack of courage to pursue everything life has to offer was totally acceptable but forces I can’t control are completely devastating. Maybe I was expecting to suddenly shake loose the bonds of self-consciousness and soar to the heights I’d imagined when I was a kid acting out Yentl in my living room. The point was that I had a choice.

Now, I don’t have any of those choices. So, make a cautionary tale out of that as you will.

I’m usually miserable on my birthdays. Largely because I struggle daily with this idea that the circumstances of my birth made me a problem, that I started all this trouble by being born. I try to be happy but there’s always a weird thing in the back of my head saying, this is the day you ruined your mom’s life. This is the day you burst, in all your larval obnoxiousness, into a world you still don’t understand well enough to navigate without inconveniencing someone. But the milestone birthdays always seem to be about a transition between now and next.

So, here I sit, having just become forty, trying to remember the upsides and downsides of every milestone birthday. Not including my seventeenth, which isn’t a traditional birthday milestone but was a new frontier in making out because my boyfriend put his hand up my shirt and I touched it through his jeans.

For the sake of symmetry, though, I’m thinking specifically about decade milestones.

Ten years ago, I turned thirty not knowing that I was about to have some of the most painful transitions, transformations, and losses of my life. I’m still processing those. They can’t be left behind easily or summed up in hindsight. It’s all still too close. I didn’t know I’d have to give up my name. But I also didn’t know that I was about to become a much cooler person in that new identity.

Twenty years ago, a boy who would become one of my most painful heartbreaks leaned over during a late-night showing of the first X-Men movie to whisper happy birthday in my ear. I didn’t know then that only a year later, I’d find my soulmate and have two children before my next decade started. I had no idea how much the world was going to change, and how much my world was going to change. And I’d never even considered writing a book.

Thirty years ago, I was trying so, so hard to be a human correctly. To make people love me. To not annoy anyone too much. To take my pills and go to my therapy and not allow my erratic emotions to become a burden on my grieving family. To not be selfish and make a traumatic loss all about myself. To not sin, to pay attention in church, to perform the deeply ingrained and complicated rituals of two incredibly strict religions. But I also had a sweet-ass scrunchy and only four years to go before I’d meet some of the best friends of my life.

So much has changed in forty years. I can’t assume it’s all going to be for the worst. Or, I can. I just shouldn’t. But I’m so afraid that forty is going to be this weird-ass decade where I start drinking smoothies and pretending avocado doesn’t taste like butter someone dropped in the grass and also one of the children I birthed is going to be an adult in six months and I’m sitting in bed at 1:30 in the morning on my birthday drinking 64 oz. of Tang out of a big plastic pineapple because that’s how we party when time and mortality are making themselves so, so damn present.

Speaking of presents, this year, in lieu of diamonds, sacred objects, or the gift of song, I just really want someone to write me a Community fanfic where I’m friends with Troy and Abed.