Character Study: Kermit Henson Doyle

Kermit Henson Doyle was conceived under the blackberry bramble in his grandparents’ front yard, front yard being relative in the middle of nowhere. His mother, Leila, was 21 years old. His father, David, was about to turn 40 when he was t-boned on the highway six months later. The age difference never mattered, it was just a fact in their world, like Leila having brown eyes and David having blue. David and Leila have to have a strong relationship in this book, because there are millions of people in age gap relationships that make it work for them. There’s a lot about age gap relationships out there that’s negative. I just wanted to bring a new spin to an old idea. When I was young, I was in an age-gap relationship that was flirty and fun- I’ll never forget it. We broke up because it got real, but I don’t think either one of us want to forget that time in our lives, because it was great while it lasted. For instance:

Her: I don’t think I liked chocolate ice cream until I was older.
Me: (slow drawl, dripping with sarcasm) Had it been invented yet?

David and Leila will be full of quips like this, because they don’t ever ignore that the age gap exists. It is not the elephant in the room, so therefore fair game in love and war. David can just as easily turn it around on his child bride and tell her to make sure she finishes her pablum before the New York Times. They’re full of it, and so in love with each other that neither can see straight, which is ironic because they are heterosexual. :)

It was in this spirit that Kermit was conceived- loving, willing, and totally unexpected. Leila did not want to get pregnant, but she didn’t NOT want to, either. She just didn’t know until she peed on the stick and saw the + that she felt the veil of The Virgin alight on her shoulders. It would be an honor to have David’s baby, and she felt like she had been called, annointed in some way. She did not feel that David had put her in a negative situation. Leila was honored that David trusted her this much.

And then he was hit by a car and died on the scene.

Leila struggles with this mission- to have David’s baby and cherish every piece of David that there is left on the earth.

David struggles with the fact that he “died in a car accident” and can never see Leila and Kermit ever again.

Daria struggles with knowing that as Gregory is stepping up and taking David’s place, it is eating David from the inside out… and at the same time, David’s love for Gregory has never been so white hot and pure because Gregory is the father he chose for Kermit two years ago when this plan was set in motion.

Kermit feels every one of these emotions under his toddler-aged skin, and will continue to all of his life.

Character Study: Gardner Grace Ellis (Daria)

Gardner calls herself Daria after the TV character, because she knows that people will want to write about her and they can’t use her real name, so fuck it. Daria it is. She chose Daria because Daria is entirely nondescript. Not even her speech stands out. She only shines in moments of sheer awkwardness, and that’s how she likes it. Daria has what others would call her secret life, but she’d just call a “compartment.” Lots of things fit in that compartment, from chapsticks and tampons to severed heads she was glad to have cut.

Daria is a study in contrast. It’s like having a doctor for a mother. She tells stories at the dinner table rife with the ways she’s dug into humanity (literally) that in the middle her eyes kind of drift and she forgets the other people in the room are literally shaking in fear. She doesn’t remember what it’s like to have fear, and sometimes makes a really shitty friend because of it. She doesn’t need anything, so why should you?

Daria used to have fear, once. It’s gone away now. She doesn’t talk about it, but she was molested for years. That fact is not important in terms of her day to day psychology, just a quick and neat explanation of how she got so divorced from her emotions that the government realized they needed her way before she realized she needed them. Daria was “the type.” Daria could watch her mother with a knife up to her throat and not feel anything. She knew that for sure because her mother was used in a training exercise.

Daria deals all the time with her wish to be a warrior, and her wish to have feelings, because apparently you can have one or the other, but you don’t get both.

In each relationship in a book, there is symbolism. Daria represents a man-vs-self conflict, and Kermit is a Christ allegory. Daria doesn’t know it yet, but Kermit will be the key to her undoing…. and rebirth.

Character Study: Gregory Doyle, MD

Dr. Gregory Doyle is based on every doctor I ever knew in my entire life. I am so certain in that archetype that to go on feels redundant. My stepmother is a rheumatologist, so I even lived in the same house with a doctor, and I would like to say for the record that Gregory isn’t her. My stepmother is a hurricane when it comes to common sense and picking up after herself. Gregory barely got through medical school because he skipped his own classes and went to ones that were much higher level just to see what happened. What happened was that he did not follow process and one of the most brilliant physicians and researchers the world has ever known almost wasn’t. You will see the doctors I’ve known spring up in the stories he tells from time to time, but Gregory is his own man.

He was born near Portland, Oregon when Beaverton was just “the sticks.” He comes at medicine from a very wholistic approach, as Oregonians are wont to do. However, that’s what makes him outstanding at his job. Gregory has an encyclopedic knowledge of both Eastern and Western medicine. He is the kind of doctor that gave himself the kind of background where he could read a book on a procedure and fifteen minutes later be confident enough to not only perform said procedure, but teach others on the first try…. and then trip on his way out of the operating theater and hit his head on the hand sanitizer. Gregory does not have a sense of humor about this. However, he has given up the rage in favor of a very pregnant sigh.

It is important to note that Gregory was every bit as attracted to Alex as she was to him. Attraction engulfed his body because of course it did. He’s a geek. Alex was gorgeous. He’d do anything for one more minute in the same room with her, much less a kiss. He’s been told all his life that he is handsome in a John Cusack kind of way, but fails to realize what that means to most people as he doesn’t have the iconic cultural connection to the movies where Cusack shines. He doesn’t understand the reverence of the compliment. He walks through life with a stunning lack of interest in anything the opposite sex liked to do, so it wasn’t until he met Rebecca he was sure he wanted to get married at all. It is hard for Gregory that his mate is a woman, not because he’s gay, but because he literally has no idea how to live with a woman at all. He doesn’t understand how much money and time it takes to wear the outfit well. It’s just easier if Rebecca picks the clothes, and he means that sincerely. She buys the kind of unisex, sporty stuff he’d wear anyway, and does all the laundry. To deny her a t-shirt or a pair of boxers once in a while is just cruel.

He lets Rebecca do the laundry, because she says it calms her. He understands why. The laundry room is set off from the house, soundproofed enough for Rebecca and Daria to bitch about life until the dryer’s done. He knows that Rebecca and Daria talk a lot, but not really what they talk about. It doesn’t really interest him. He is interested in a woman who is independent to a fault, and does not realize the ways this might affect him as he grows in the role of husband.

In his life away from Rebecca, he works at a cancer research facility in Houston. They’ve moved five times during his employment, because with the Internet, it doesn’t matter where they live.

No one loves Gregory more than Daria. He doesn’t know it, but Daria sees Gregory as a support system for her collateral damage. When Daria cannot be there to hold Rebecca and assure her that she’s just going to be gone a few days, no problem, Gregory is the one that has to relay the message that she couldn’t make it, got caught up, in a different time zone, or whatever the wheel of excuses might be today.

Rebecca knows that all she can do when Daria’s gone is distract herself with Gregory.

In the middle of the night, he knows that there’s a million reasons to love Rebecca for the rest of her life. However, he does not know how far she’s taking this whole “my nickname is Alex” thing.

Character Study: Rebecca Alexis Radnowski

Rebecca’s initials are RAR for a reason. She’s a secret keeper, an archive for others’ information and has been all her life. Her father was an American black soldier who met her Iranian mother during an undercover op in Desert Storm. Her parents were older when she was born, they are dead now, and the reasons why are still unknown to her. She has the facts, but not the emotions behind them. All of this leaves her with a quiet feeling of unrest, but she does not know why.

Rebecca is defined by her love. She lives it. Gregory is her everything and it shows, as if a lightbulb is on in her abdomen giving her an all-over ethereal glow. It’s not just Gregory, though. It’s Leila. It’s Kermit. She speaks volumes of love disguised as a million other different emotions, and has to apologize a lot for letting small emotions become big ones.

Rebecca’s friend Daria is saving her a little bit at a time, because Rebecca knows for certain that Daria is not in love with her. She knows that Daria only wants companionship and the kind of archetype you mean by “bringing her home to meet Ma.” Talking about Daria leaves Rebecca in a heap on the floor, because they’ve shared so much that Rebecca is afraid of her. Doesn’t trust a friend that would lay themselves bare like that without ulterior motive, and doesn’t have a clue why she would need one.

Rebecca’s relationship with Gregory is a conundrum, because while they love each other beyond all measure. Rebecca takes particular delight in using her husband to participate in ridiculous adventures for which he is not emotionally capable. Gregory would much rather kiss Daria and Rebecca goodbye and let them have the adventure while he makes the tea and fluffs the pillows on the couch before settling in to a Dexter marathon. Rebecca would rather make him into Mr. Smith. He does not want to go, and never really takes up the mantle. Rebecca is often faced with the choice between predictability and excitement. Sometimes she chooses wisely, and sometimes she just feels like she’s failing at life in a way that no one else ever has.

Because, see, she and Daria are companions… over at each other’s houses a lot… talking about anything and everything… and Daria spills a secret that changes their lives forever. In an instant, Rebecca goes from confident and fully-functioning adult to small child in an adult’s body, no myelin on her nerves, heart beating outside of her chest as she now knows that Daria isn’t combatting danger. She *is* the danger. Daria is unhinged in a very unique way, broken down by her own government and turned into a monster in purple All-Stars.

The choice that Rebecca has to make is how to handle that anxiety. There is no one in the world with a purer heart than Daria. No one. She was built to kill for a reason, and she is who she is for the greater good out of necessity. Rebecca is clear that there is no way in the world she can or will back out of Daria’s life. Right now, her questions center on herself and the hardships of loving Daria for who she is. She knows she can turn off her emotions and handle amoral violence… that’s a non-issue, because she’s a secret keeper, hurt in the way that all secret-keepers are. She is terrified of every op, every phone call, every communication anywhere. She knows it would be interesting to watch what happened if anyone tried to attack Daria in her presence, because she knows within herself that the white hot anger of injustice will slice someone’s head off if it was ever necessary for it to happen.

Rebecca is certain that she was meant to be the kind of friend that warrior needs, if she can only hold it inside her mind for five minutes that going a day without Daria doesn’t mean she’s never coming back.

She hopes.

Scarier Than Fiction

My name is Rebecca Alexis Radnowski, my nickname is “Alex,” and I am 28 years old. My father was African-American, and my mother was Iranian. I say “was,” because none of that matters anymore. They went to my funeral long before I went to theirs. Yes, that was cold. No, we don’t discuss it.

My husband is Dr. Gregory Doyle, who needs me to help him get out the door in the morning because he’s so scatterbrained, and will also almost certainly cure cancer. I wish I was kidding. The duality that lives in that man is exhausting. At the same time, it’s kind of awesome that at first when people hear that “Gregory and Alex are coming,” they picture stylish glasses and small dogs. (I love gay people, and in a way, I’m sad I didn’t turn out to be a lesbian. I felt better about it when I realized that I did not have to be a lesbian to empathize and support one. It seems so cliche, but one of my best friends really is a lesbian. My heart bleeds for my gay friends, only because this is a thing that never should have been a thing in the first place.)

As for my actual love life, Gregory and I met at a sci-fi convention and connected because we were both the same level of weird. Neither one of us was dressed up, and neither one of us was carrying anything except an amused-yet-terrified expression. We spent the day together, wandering through layers of humanity unthought of by God, and gave thanks that we each had an ally in the best sense of the word… a hand to grab so the crowd wouldn’t swallow me as much as I wanted to swallow him… whole, completely, without reservation…. and that was ten years ago. We worked so well on the first day that we decided, “why stop now?”

For some people, love creeps up like a plant straining toward the sun. For others, it is a proton rubbing directly against an electron. It was right from the first collision, because we are each stronger when we pool our resources than trying to go it alone. I thought when I got married that I would have to give away my strength. I didn’t realize that marriage wasn’t supposed to *take away* anything. That I was missing out on the gift. I had to realize that I wasn’t longing to be owned. I was longing for a companion.

Gregory swept me off my feet with his mix of oddity and charm. For instance, there’s the name thing. Don’t call him Greg. He won’t tell you he doesn’t like it, he’ll just save it up after you leave and yell at me inappropriately. I don’t mean that he’s mad at me personally. He’s just yelling in my direction, which is understandable and also annoying. Sometimes I want to smother my husband with a pillow in his sleep to collect the insurance money. I wonder every day about my skill level and whether I’m good enough to get away with it. Because the only way you really know that you love someone is that these fantasies are what give you the strength to work on your relationship for another day. I keep telling myself that every time I mentally cut off his penis and throw it in the trash can when he forgets to set the coffee pot to go off at 5 AM. Hell hath no fury like a woman forced to walk to the kitchen to press the “on” button and wait for sustenance. Dear me. “This is coffee, not NAM. There are rules.”

At the same time that Gregory is snippy about his name, he is also one of the most loving men I’ve ever seen. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then video is worth millions. His brother-in-law died in a car accident a few months ago, leaving his sister stranded a week before Lamaze. Of course they were both overwhelmed in their grief, but there were also logical considerations. She couldn’t just not go because her partner was dead. I watched my husband stand up. His eyes flashed, and he became a co-parent in an instant. Gregory and Leila (his sister) named the baby “Kermit,” because neither of them were religious and the only thing that consistently brought them to their knees spiritually was the Sesame Street News reporter singing The Rainbow Connection.

Leila and I have come a long way over time. I really had to sit with how I felt about her, because even though their relationship was not and could not ever be sexual, I still felt threatened. I did not necessarily want to get pregnant as well, but I knew that I was losing my husband’s time and I felt sad about it. I was trapped between knowing he couldn’t be there for me right now because Leila was taking up his time out of necessity, not greed… and knowing that just because he was gone out of necessity didn’t mean there wasn’t room for me to have feelings about it. I finally confronted him, and I’ll never forget how he did it, because it was one of the kindest ways I’ve ever seen anyone set a boundary. I hope that when I have to say something this emotionally charged, I can do it with this much grace. He said:

I am so sorry that you need more than I can give right now, but know that you do not have to be jealous. Eventually, there’s going to be a time when you need Leila in the same desperate way, and she and I will come running toward your danger, too.

There it is. Boom. I knew I was being an asshole, and instead of stuffing everything in and taking my complete bullshit, he opened his heart wider and offered me more love, not anger that I “wasn’t cool with everything.” Instead of continuing to need him, I threw myself into things that encouraged my creativity. The aforementioned lesbian friend (nicknamed Daria because she’s not out to anyone) and I became companions. It worked out rather nicely, actually, because I had all the fun of marriage without the pressure to ever have sex. If you don’t have a lesbian friend, get one. They’re so different than my straight girlfriends, because when we get together I can wear whatever I want, drink whatever I want, smoke whatever I want, and there is no snippiness later. It’s as easy as hanging out with dudes, because dudes forget shit and move on. If you do that shit in front of straight women, they’ll remind you of your behavior at least every chance they get for the first ten years, and then annually until you die. Women do not live on bread alone. Gossip just about covers it, though.

Wow, that was snarky. Not all straight women are like that, and sometimes lesbians are worse. I mean, what is more dramatic than the epic bar fight that occurs when two women love the same woman? It is vicious, and there are often scars because there is more emotional attraction to a one night stand than can ever be handled appropriately, because women aren’t typically wired that way in the first place. Lesbian marriage is a poker game of emotion, and you can tell what’s up by how things go down (as it were). With marriage, though, when it’s good… you know. You never want to leave that person’s side, because you can’t live happily ever after without the other half of your stories.

————————————————————

And that is the beginning of my first thriller. Stay tuned.

A Room of One’s Own

Me: Are you making room for grief?
Friend: Grief makes its own room, I don’t have to worry about that.

And like that, we’re off!

My brain started putting together correlations like a supercomputer. If there’s anything at Alert Logic that I wished came in a direct-to-brain model it’s the Log Manager, and here’s why.

There’s a search function in our portal that allows you to search by aggregated message type. What if you could do that with your emotions? You could check on a daily basis how many messages you got that contained grief… or joy… or shame… etc, etc, etc. You would get everything in a carefully formatted list.

Actually, I can turn Threat Manager into a thing, as well. What if you had an appliance in your brain that could receive your incoming threats and be able to analyze them according to past threats and tell you if you need to worry about it or not?

My coworkers will read this and fall over laughing. Yes, some of my coworkers read my work, because it’s my personal life. I’m ALLOWED to have it. I don’t talk about work except for things that would never in a million years be construed as negative, because THAT’S HOW MY DAYS ACTUALLY ARE. If you find a company that feeds your need for the creative *and* the structured, you’ll thrive as I have. I love my coworkers to the ends of the earth, and if you don’t have that job, find it. It will make your life so much easier. I often work 10 and 12 hour days just because I want to. Beat that with a stick. I like being here, and my salary zooms into the ridiculous during overtime. It’s a win-win situation for sure.

Back to the topic at hand.

I am fascinated by the idea that grief makes its own room, because in effect, that is exactly what’s happened to me over the last year. As I began getting older and older with all these unresolved issues, grief began whispering that it was important and I ignored it because I thought I had to… and then the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, if you know what I mean.

I became angry about the situation in a whole new way as Dana and I started thinking about having our own children and instead of seeing my situation from my inner child’s point of view, I began to see it from my inner parent’s and the idea that this experience hadn’t been exactly pleasant jumped out at me in the most ugly and violent scene in my mind that I had a panic attack and pretty much fought to keep myself functioning for far longer than I thought was necessary, thank you very much.

I felt the fear that my parents and adult friends must have felt as they watched it happening, and the relief on their faces when she was finally “gone.” Gone is in quotation marks because she was never really gone, just under their noses where she couldn’t *quite* be caught but had more influence than anyone on my life and the directions it might go.

The other part of my grief was acknowledging three things:

  1. It wasn’t my fault. It was entirely hers. She made her own decisions for which I cannot be held responsible.
  2. Even if she wasn’t in love with me and never meant to cross a line, the things for which she is responsible are not entirely tied to seduction. Some of it happened in less time than it takes to snap your fingers. In less than a second, my brain chemistry changed from sweet, innocent kid to homicidal maniac in my dreams. Her abuser put it there. Her abuser gave me nightmares of decapitation… of adrenaline… of anger so pure that even I couldn’t contain it because there were people out there capable of slicing into someone’s heart without remorse.
  3. Once that anger was fully in place, there was no one that was allowed to touch her in my presence. I became a pit bull in the very worst sense of the word… no fucking lipstick required.

So the moment you start thinking that this story is all about revenge and I’m just trying to ruin her, remember that my mission is to destroy abuse itself and to help people recognize when they are going from trusted friend to absolute dumping ground.

Remember that she’s one of the little girls I’m trying to save, too.

Amen.

The Entry About Nothing

If there’s anything I’ve learned this week, it’s that you can’t drive out darkness. Even people who walk in the light have spaces where the day falters and the night suddenly begins. We go into the vallies of our own vulnerabilities, which, to me, is taken directly from the 23rd Psalm. If you replace “Yea, though I walk through valley of the shadow of death” with “valley of the shadow of my own iniquities and terrors,” the landscape looks different, doesn’t it? The difference is that most people won’t even go there… and in order to make darkness of service, it’s the first step.

I can use my darkness for anything, because I have spent so much time getting to know it. Not via cultivation. By not stuffing it down. By not pretending that everything is fine until I had no choice.

I know all my dark places. So do you, if you’re even a casual reader. I don’t mind spilling everything here, absolutely everything, because I don’t care who knows what. If everybody knows everything, there’s no way to intimidate or blackmail me. I am what I am, no apologies, no regrets.

Within limits, of course. I do not choose to give away my humanity. But there are people all over the world that harness darkness and make it work for them. Because we’re not allowed to know the names of those sorts of people, at least most of the time, I mean characters that literally have to turn ON their darkness for the greater good. It’s a Dexter-like mentality, but only from the standpoint that even though Dexter is a cold and calculating killer, you can see that his heart is pure. He only wants to rid the world of people it doesn’t need, anyway.

What I need is a way to harness my darkness, as well. I think I’m doing a fine job on this web site, but I also think I would be quite good at interrogation. If you’ve ever been in a room with me, you can probably count on getting up from our conversation and saying, “wow… I shouldn’t have probably told you all that…” I am kind and caring right until you walk into my trap. What’s the best way to keep myself emotionally set apart? Sit in a conversation and only ask you questions about you. People are rarely other-aware enough to realize that you’re doing it- after all, they’re the most interesting thing to them, so why shouldn’t they be the most interesting thing to you?

And at the end of a meal, I will have enough information to piece together your entire life story….

and you just know I’m cute.

That’s not true at all. I am not cute. I have a layer of cute that you will only see until you know me well enough that I feel I can take it off. Getting to know me is a rabbit hole, because I realized that having no preservation for a lot of years made me spill my emotions to everyone. Nothing was interior.

You would think that I haven’t learned anything, that everything is still interior by the way I write, and you would be so wrong about that you’d come back around to RIGHT and still be lost.

For the record, I am not trying to scare anyone- you just learned this about me yesterday. I learned my darkness from years and years of keeping secrets that were way too big for a teenager, and they ate me up until I realized that they were not of me and had been erroneously implanted to begin with. I had to learn that I was not failing at life- I was just woefully underequipped because my development went 13, 14, 25.

Chunks are missing. Some of those emotions will come through if I pick at them, but the effect of having to hold a secret like being confused about whether there was a woman in love with me when I was still a child (I don’t care if she says it’s not true. She’s always said that and emotionally jerked me around when I’ve tried to ask about our past, anyway.) is that some emotions died and didn’t come back. I talked yesterday about my dead spots. There is one in particular that is so dark that I doubt even the NSA could reach it, because that’s how far I have to dig, too.

In that space, there are no limits, and I don’t want them there. That tiny piece of nothing is a ghost pepper… so powerful that a drop is too much and it flavors everything. If I don’t work from my “nothing” space, then my mind will not accept that I am courageous. It is only when I disconnect and then look *back* can I feel courageous.

For some people, this dark space creates certain…. problems. For me, it creates a layer of buffer between me and everyone else, especially when I’m angry. If I don’t turn off and go numb, then I cannot coolly calculate my next move. If I do not coolly calculate my next move, then I will probably go nuclear and have to pick up tiny pieces of emotional shrapnel out of other people’s skin, embedded like an exploded .22 bullet. You don’t die from a .22 bullet unless the shooter is exceptional. What tends to happen is that the bullet comes out of the gun, hits the target, and then the pieces are so lost that you can’t get them back out. I feel bad every time I do it, but I’m starting to feel *less* bad the more I realize that I am entitled to the same emotional space everyone else gets.

Let me explain what that means to me now. It used to mean that no matter what you said to me, I would stuff it and move on… and then, just like out of a fairy tale, a dragon came down and breathed its fire on me, not to destruct, but to construct- everything within me needed to burn, and my smoke jumper got clean margins.

My abuser was a fire sign, so there was no way I could cool down. I had to bring in a bigger and cleaner fire to burn for new growth forest.

I am a Virgo. The only thing to do now is to rest and relax in the ash-enriched earth.

Amen.