Frogs can teach you how to find your soul mate in a crowded room

So I know it might be weird that suddenly I’m talking about frogs, but I think this is pretty in line with the gradual shift towards musings and monologues taking precedent over pictures. Not that pictures are going anywhere. And my leanings towards inconsistent and sporadic blogging isn’t going to change, to be perfectly honest, but I think I’m refining how I want to write and share things. It’s a neat experience that you can read a little more about in my updated about me, but right now feels like a good time to talk about frogs.

Frogs. Before I go into it, though, I should say none of this is real science. Like, I’m not brave enough to even google things because I don’t want to be disabused of this particular theory just yet. It’s kind of a fun one.

Okay so frogs. We moved around for a bit after elementary school. It was one of those post-divorced things, like our family was a big fluffy hen trying to find the right batch of dirt to scratch into a bed. We kept landing lightly, but we had a hard time finding anywhere we could settle. There was one place, though, that felt really right for a while. It was this huge, multi-building apartment complex and ours was pressed right up along the back of the whole thing. Behind it was a beautiful, big pond that stretched the whole way around the back perimeter and there were these beautiful walkways through it that we’d walk our dogs along.

At night, from about early April until mid October you could hear this almighty chorus of frogs. It was like this loud wall of noise surrounding you as you sleep, and while it was noisy as hell it always put me to sleep. I’m not the best sleeper, but listening to frogs as I dozed in bed was soothing. I think it was something about the lack of a constant rhythm, but still maintaining a steady heartbeat that helped lull my breathing patterns into sleeping ones.

I forgot about that period of listening to frogs until last year, when David and I lived in this adorable little tucked away apartment. It was in the middle of a city sprawl, sure, but it had a great trail running behind it with an almost-gross standing pond area that collected mosquitos, feral cats, and a homeless man. And frogs, of course, because that’s the whole point. David and I were laying in bed, some early point in spring after living there for all of winter, and I heard a chorus of frogs. It was beautiful and we just dozed a little listening to it. We started talking about the rhythm, and how it’s a little strange that they never synchronize into one steady pulse, isn’t it? You’d kind of expect it, like how infants’ heart beats stabilize when they have skin-to-skin contact.

I picture the frogs surrounding a pond in a circle, and directly across from them is their match, the frog they volley back and forth with. Each frog has only one other match, or maybe two, but they are tuned only to their match(es). They volley back and forth their own steady rhythm, tuning out all the other matches around them, and that’s how you get such a chaotic chorus while still maintaining that steady pulse.

David and I went camping with some amazing friends. They do this annually to celebrate their wedding anniversary, inviting along a bunch of their friends, and it’s a totally amazing experience that I’m not actually going to talk about now, but needless to say there are some really great traditions, and one of them is the Frog Walk. As we were laying out on the end of a beach access road, listening to a wall of frogs pulse around us, I was thinking about how the more complicated the pond dynamic, the harder it is to find your frog match. When you’re really relaxed, though, in that moment before you fall asleep or when you can concentrate meditatively, then you can piece apart the different frog voices and you can almost hear the private volley of frogs croaking to their matches.

The Gargoyle Memoirs #4

the gargoyle memoirs1

Staying for further studies has proved most erroneous. The female, in the midst of the morning’s unexpected frenzy, has enlisted my unwilling aid in writing for her. What has her so busy she can’t write it herself, I would posit. For the past week I’ve had to listen to her as she lay on the couch, moaning about her inability to regulate her body temper. Grow skin of stone, female, and see how long your fever lasts. This morning full of activity would have been a welcome change of pace, had I not been forced into menial labor. What is it that make her feel she has too many things to do? I should not have asked.

A house guest. It’s the giggly one, isn’t it?

It is. For a month?

Steady on, soldier. I will survive this month of two crafting female in the household. I need merely to avoid their glue gun reach.

>>Oh my god side note–how cute would he be with a drag queen-esque headpiece? I know, right?

I fear I will not see the other side of the month unscathed.

The Loneliest Mustache

So in the new found freedom of unemployment, I’ve had some time on my hands. It’s been kind of fun to use that time to wrap up the loose ends on old projects and planning out new ones. I mentioned that I got a wacom tablet for my birthday (thanks mom!!) and it’s been the best tool for me to finish up some sketches that had been bubbling on the back burner as I tried to figure out what medium would be best.

>>cue The Loneliest Mustache. It’s the worst kind of nerdy hipster dorkiness that I can muster, but if you read it to the end you might even see a tiny hint of a social commentary.

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Also? Keep bearing with me as I stretch this blog revamp over the span of eternity! Sorry it’s taking so long. I’m indecisive, I guess.

The Gargoyle Memoirs #3

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The mortals have been heard claiming to have had a fabulous weekend, although you won’t hear any voice of support from my end of it. It would appear that in light of their excitement for their plans, allowing me to accompany them was a bit of an oversight. I spent the weekend, including a particularly lonely Saturday, from my usual position overlooking the apartment premises. They did of course leave the dog with me on Saturday, so I had that creature’s somewhat pitiful mutterings to provide me with the appropriate background music to accompany my ever-wearying musings.

Their weekend didn’t look particularly exciting to me–all they did was cook, clean, and wiggle those plastic handles attached to wires around. The ones that connect to the television. I was bored enough to chance a sneak peek at the television, and it’s like their primitive hobbies have degenerated into a mess of 8-bit pixelation that even I found surprising. Why would they trade in their vices, currently which are elaborate and plot driven, for a game that I believe was called Pitfall 2. Hopping over frogs? Timing their jumps onto ladders? That’s what the humans have degenerated to?

It is clear that despite a full year in the company of these mortals, I have yet to understand their ways. Perhaps I’ll consider stretching out my study of them for another few months before taking my leave.

The Gargoyle Memoirs #3

the gargoyle memoirs1They brought a dog into this place, a place that was at some point a sanctuary. Any concern I had that I would be reduced to a chew toy has been eased.

 The mortals continue to baffle me with their irrational behaviors. I stare at them from my new spot above their television and watch them wear those ridiculous glasses. The male seems particularly keep on wearing them constantly while engaged with the television. That is a lot of effort to create three dimensional images when actual dimensions surround them. At leas the canine is baffled by their glasses as well. The female proves entertaining, since she frequently takes her glasses off to focus on an art project. I glance her constantly looking up at the television and squinting in confusion before she remembers to don the strange spectacles again.

 My new vantage point serves me well, I’ll admit. The additional two feet of heigh is enough to allow me eyes throughout the entire landscape of the apartment. There’s a new cutting board on the counter, I see. I always did wonder how they managed with a little 6″x6″ board.

The Allegory P4

I strongly encourage you read Part One Part Two and Part Three if you haven’t already done so. FYI I have a small epilogue planned for Friday.

The astute reader will take this moment to recall my opening words, or even just the title. If this is an allegory, then what is the idea or concept I’m using this story to represent? The predictable spoiler is that I am M. I am both characters or, rather, both characters are within me. That night on the beach really happened, although some of the details have been changed a bit. Instead of finding the body of a mythical creature, it was actually the beginnings of a story. A story for which you’ve just read the outline.

It’s a story that illustrates what it’s like to be in my head, though, since that is where M lives. His residency is in a particularly rotted part of my brain. Not as a person, since it would be a mistake for a reader to take this metaphor too far, but as a violent storm that I try my best to avoid getting caught up in. True to the narrator, I keep that part of my mind on a strictly distanced and limited contact. Things happen, though, events are pushed into motion and triggers are activated. Whatever the actual reason, it is not uncommon that I take my allegorical trip to M and get caught up in the storm.

Here’s the thing about mental illness or, in my case more specifically, about being bipolar type 1. It’s so easy to think the storm is beautiful and worth saving. To think that it is the source of my creativity and that being destroyed is the inevitable price of who I am. That is a lie, though. It is only one of many that my head tells me when I’m in one of my darker places. Because the truth is, no matter how many times I get pulled out to sea–and it has been many– I’ve never quite drowned. Mostly it is the strength of others, like my sister, my mother, my partner and my friends who pull me back. Sometimes, though, it is even been my own strength. I am stronger than the storm that lives in my head, and that is a beautiful truth to cling to.

The Allegory P3

I strongly encourage you read Part One and Part Two if you haven’t already done so. I’ll post the final part tomorrow.

Because the truth was, I wanted to keep ignoring the signs. The temptation to look the other way, to pretend I didn’t recognize him, was overwhelmingly strong. Even as I stared him in the eye, I just wanted to disappear. I wanted to return home, pretend like none of this had ever happened, and wait for my normal friend M, the friend who wasn’t too busy inventing conspiracy theories to remember to bathe, showed back up in my life. It’s not fair, I know. I wasn’t being fair at all. Especially since I didn’t even manage to hide my shock. His face became a self-conscious mask, reflecting the horror and shock on my own, and it was immediately clear I had blown my chance at helping M before I was even aware that help was needed. I felt like an ass, but we held a conversation anyway. I spent most of it babbling like a distracted 8 year old, plucking details from miscellaneous anecdotes and weaving them haphazardly together in an attempt to fill the heavy air between us.

When I was finally brave enough to ask M about his life, his answers left me speechless. Maybe it was because the internet smoke screen had vanished, or maybe it was a sign that he had progressed to a level beyond shame, but his answers displayed a level of honesty I was beginning to realize he had been withholding for months. The academic way with which he spoke about mermaids made it clear he had brazenly crossed the line of reality and into fantasy. He candidly shared his struggles to be accepted within the academic circles to which he clearly felt entitled, and shared about his plans to take his research more seriously. It was this last point that triggered the loudest alarm bells. The way he discussed his theories connecting ocean life with immortality, human pollution to declining life cycle rates, and a way to reach the hidden mer-culture through some type of Leap of Faith–none of it made any sense. In a flash, my friend had somehow transformed from the recognizable character I played Halo with on my days off and into a person I typically cross the street to avoid. I had no clue what to do.

So I left. Granted, I left because of an extremely important and unavoidable phone call, but still. I burn with shame at the memory, but even still I don’t know if I would have done anything differently. I tell myself I would, but only to give me comfort. I left him with the understanding that I would return within the hour to continue our conversation. I lied. The phone call was over within minutes, and wasn’t ever crucial enough to warrant my disappearance. But I needed to leave, I convinced myself. I planned to spend the hour alone researching options for M–finding support and answers on how to best proceed in these uncharted waters. I knew I was in over my head. Overwhelmed with obligation, I spent the hour in denial, sitting mutely in a coffee shop. I spent the following hour in my car, racked with waves of guilt. By the time I returned to the beach, I was begging a God I didn’t even believe in to fix the problem for me. That turned into the most painful lesson about proceeding with caution towards what you wish for.

When I returned to the beach, M was nowhere to be seen. It was nearing sunset and the beach was deserted, save one soul apart from myself. An old man, clearly homeless and accustomed to rough living, was standing at the water’s edge, peering with an unexpectedly focused expression. He looked like the sort that M would blend in with, I remembered thinking cynically. For that reason I approached him, hoping he might remember when M left, and possibly even in what direction. When I asked the man, he seemed to ignore me completely and continued to stare almost aggressively out across the water. Thinking maybe he hadn’t heard me, I raised my voice and started over. Still immobile, the old man flicked his eyes towards me judgmentally, and successfully silenced me. I felt like a fool. He raised his arm and pointed towards the ocean, at what looked like a log. My heart dropped to my knees in what was the most singularly horrific sensation, one I would never wish on anyone. The man opened his mouth to speak, and I visibly winced in equal parts anticipation for the inevitable and sympathy for his dry lips, cracked and bleeding with ever word. He told me in the practiced yet garbled slur of the perpetually drunk that my friend was about to prove us all wrong. That he was going to find the proof, I suppose in the form of immortality, and return from this Leap of Faith to show us all up.

My heart hadn’t yet moved from within the confines of my quivering knees before I was undressing, abandoning my shoes and coat in preparation of my swim. I may be a fairly confident swimmer, but have no doubts that I was petrified. I may feel intolerable levels of guilt and shame regarding my behavior to M over the past months, and, more specifically, the past few hours, but I will hold firm on this one point. Despite the fear, the cold, and the panic that drummed heavily through my body, not once did I hesitate. I ran into the ocean without a second thought and swam like mad through the burning cold water towards my friend.

He was out further than I had originally estimated, and by the time I reached him I was losing confidence in my ability to return at all, much less towing him alongside me. Madness spurred him on with inhuman force. When I reached him, his face was enflamed with electric energy. He turned to face me, his expression alit with manic joy at my presence. M rambled, mostly incoherently, and I was too exhausted to listen. I grabbed his hand to begin to guide him back to shore, but he pulled back with greater force, taking me with him towards his suicidal Leap. I was too numb from the cold and exertion to exercise my jaw in protest, weakly pulling him again towards the direction of land. It was useless, though, and all my shame and guilt turned to rage as this insane shell of my former friend carried me further into the deadly blue waters. Rage turned to adrenaline turned to terror in a matter of seconds, burning through my body and leaving a charred, hollow mess behind, one far too exhausted to struggle as together, we drowned.

The Allegory P2

You should start from the beginning, if you haven’t already. Part One is here

The phrase “cover up” clued me in that maybe M was going too far. Unfortunately the above mentioned exchange didn’t occur until months after that first night on the beach. By this time M had devoted an entire thesis to developing and attempting to prove his theory on the death rituals of the secretive mermaid culture. I knew nothing while all this was happening–self preservation instincts undoubtably held M to his silence throughout the months of being laughed out of the educational institutions he sought out.

We spoke regularly but not frequently, and our interactions were limited to the internet sphere due to the physical distance parting us. I moved shortly after that morning I spent with M on the beach, you see. It should go without saying that the two events–the morning on the beach with M and my move–are entirely unrelated, but I’ll include this sentence into the narrative anyway to forestall any trickling suspicions. My move is not the secret clue buried in this story that will allow you to jump to the ending. I promise.

The distance between us physically is, however, the primary excuse I used to justify missing the signs of my friend’s downward spiral. I was not present to see how many days M skipped showering, forgoing personal hygiene in order to devote more time to writing and rewriting his thesis, a habit that followed each time he was laughed out of a professor’s office. Through the glassy screen of our interactions, his intensity on the topic was mute. He sounded like a friend with a fixation on a clever new tv show instead of someone walking boldly towards madness.

It culminated into a horrific climax when I decided on a whim to visit him. It had been a while since I had visited my old town, the one where I spent so many years,and I convinced myself easily that “so long” was the same as “too long”. I tell myself this visit is not the crux for what happened–that M had already set out firmly on this path even before I stepped into my car. Maybe I am lying to myself, but I’m comfortable with accepting this as my truth.

I hadn’t told M I would be coming and was therefore unconcerned when he failed to greet me at his front door. I slipped a note through the crack in the doorjam and, on a whim, decided to visit the beach while I waited for him to return home, find the note, turn on his phone and call me. The beach may be a glaringly obvious choice based on the story, making the outlines of this tale too obvious but I assure you–our lives are bigger than the stories that emerge from them. The beach is a common enough place in this small town where one might seek refuge, or just to kill a few hours.

He was there, as you could surely guess. I didn’t know it at the time but he had been spending the vast majority of his time there over the past few weeks, pacing up and down the sand bar or else sitting on a hunk of driftwood, scribbling his madness furiously into the spiral notebook, ignoring the blasts of salt water that would shower him at regular intervals.

It pains me to admit, but I did not recognize him initially. I walked to the water’s edge and was careful to avoid the dirty, overgrown, threatening-looking man in the tattered clothes. In fact, it was not until I had been there for nearly an hour and was turning to leave that he approached me. I was almost to the point of denying I had any spare change before I recognized him.

I was shocked. How had I not seen that things had gotten this bad? That he had progressed to such an extreme state of poor health? Guilt declared that I had ignored the signs, and guilt may be speaking part of the truth.

The Allegory P1

I know I disappeared from the online world for a week and while I’m not pretending it didn’t happen, I’m not explaining it quite just yet. Instead, here’s a story. It’s a four-parter.

Once upon a time I had this friend. Call him whatever you like–Steven, say, or Jordan. Even Markus. It really doesn’t matter, since even the names implies that this is just an allegorical tale to prove a point. Let’s stick with calling him M.

So M spends time at the beach. Not enough that you would say a lot, but a fair bit. Not enough that, if you were looking for him, all of M’s friends would tell you he’s at the beach duh, but enough that if, when you called him up and said “Hey M, what’ve you been up to today?” and M responded with “Oh I was at the beach,” you wouldn’t think of it as a strange or out of place answer. Anyway M’s at the beach one night and sees this lump of slimy algae and seaweed all bundled up together in a messy knot. It’s not an unusual sight, except that it triggers a thought in M’s head.

Are you paying attention? Because this is when the plot starts.

M looks at the pile of seaweed and thinks it looks distinctly person-shaped. This is a terrifying and out-of-the-ordinary observation, and M finds himself propelled towards an investigation. He walks over to the large clump and starts digging into it. He’s clawing at the clump with a kind of determination that’s a little uncommon with M. There’s no pretenses about what M is doing, and he’s not going about the process delicately. He isn’t holding his body carefully to minimize what parts of his anatomy come into contact with the wet, sand-infested mess but with no inhibitions he is leaning into his work so that his shirt front rests on the pile and a briny damp spot appears on the cotton. He isn’t kneeling carefully on his knees but has instead laid down and sacrificed the bottom half of his jeans to be drenched. Not once does he flinch as the waves roll into his leg, splashing up his side. He’s found what he’s looking for and his nails are filling with tiny scraps of kelp and grains of sand as he works his way through the outer layer of the entangled kelp strands.

At one point M pauses in his work and lifts a filthy hand up to tuck some strands of hair behind his right ear, ignoring the way the lock of hair now sticks wetly to his head. Using the same hand, he rubs his nose gently to rid himself of an itch and fails to register the sharp briny odor assaulting his nostrils. As he pauses for these two small distractions, he looks down at the grave he has been so focused on uncovering and methodically examines his work.

He knew she wasn’t human the moment he saw her face, and he told me, long before he saw the rest of her and the more obvious differences. According to M the bone structure was unlike any person’s face–so delicate but also bold, as if… It was hard for him to create an appropriate analogy. It was as if a bird decided one day to dive into the ocean head-first and chose to live there, under the water’s surface, and the resulting decision evolved and was turned into a human-esque creature.

Shared ancestry with dolphins, more likely, I remember saying to tease him. He didn’t appreciate my comment. In fact, M almost refused to continue until I finally apologized, assuring him that I did want to hear more.

M was never the same after the night he found the creature’s body. He called her a mermaid, but made it clear that was only because he wasn’t comfortable taking on the responsibility for naming an entire new species of sentient creatures. He was always very adamant on that last point–their sentience. I always thought it was a strange point, since M only ever saw a corpse, but by then I knew better than to argue. Perhaps I should have, though. Looking back, his insistence could clearly be the first sign of many for what was to come.

At first, and for a long time after, his fixation made sense. I mean, if you found something that should be, by all accepted accounts, impossible, you would be invested in your discovery as well, if only to repudiate the inevitable accusations of madness lobbed at you from all sides. I was sympathetic. I really was. Even though by the time I reached the beach, all proof was gone. Reclaimed by the ocean that originally served up this mystery, most likely. Or, as M claimed during his darker moments, kidnapped and processed by the same agency that had prevented the truth from coming to light before now. After all, M would insist, it’s impossible to think this is the fist time this has happened. Clearly some kind of cover up is occurring, he would suggest.

The Gargoyle Memoirs #2

the gargoyle memoirs1The mortals baked cinnamon rolls last night, if you can call unpeeling the waxy cardboard from factory produced dough and sticking a tray in an oven baking. Their descent to sloth irks me, but I am forced to admit that as they do less in a kitchen, it minimizes the chance of me getting dirtied. The frenzy of yesterday’s morning activities have done little to redeem the female’s housewife status in my eyes. A morning filled with laundry, dishes, and cleaning does little to change an afternoon spent galavanting outside the confines of the apartment.

The female has traded the final season of Gossip GIrl for The Walking Dead and I’ll admit–listening to this show chills my hardened stone body. Mostly, though, I find the quiet dialogue difficult to listen to. It is better than having to pose for her artistic endeavors. Her newest painting was of me, although she added wings to my physique. A twisted modification, as though she intends to mock my heavy form.

The male is an easier companion, although his endless repeat of video games is likely to wear on my nerves. The whispers of a larger television, to arrive today, do make me wonder where he intends to place me. Anywhere would be better than next to the miniature Hawaiian tiki gods. Their narcissism is loud, unrelenting, and will be the end of me, I’m sure.