2015: my life fell apart. I'm going to skip the bad part about 2015 because those close enough to me can still feel the heat radiating from my skin (AKA “through Hell and back.”) Standing in the ashes of a life I had burnt down myself: I was alone.
And somehow, in 2015, my melodramatic (nah, very dramatic) life forever changed.
As if going to college and working wasn't enough to distract me from the heart shaped hole in my life: an acquaintance of mine was bleeding out. His pain was so dark and deep, he reached for someone else in his life he knew was hurting too. I had known Mason from Sci-Fi conventions, I can't use the term "friend" because we knew each other casually, and mostly through Facebook. We did have one deep connection, one that most would have taken for granted: my writing. Mason had been with me since I started to vomit up the first draft of The Trials of Blood back in 2012. From my first Blogger post, to the eventual migration to my website, to a website crash and my new site... through a couple hundred hand-written notebook pages, hundreds of Facebook posts and story snippets. He was there from the beginning, reading, supporting, being my "super fan," as I privately referred to him.
And then he stopped reading; I had noticed, of course, but who was I to reach out and ask him? I noticed, and his silence was mostly an echo of my own.
No, I will call him a friend. I'd seek him out at local conventions, able to recognize his 501st Snowtrooper costume whenever he wore it (but that complicated issues such as communication!), and when we did see each other, we were always kind. He was a face I could see and know: this man won't judge me. This man won't bring up my past, ask deliberately how my ex's are doing, ask me why I'm not going to school. He'll smile, like he always does, and that is all that I need.
We had a small, meaningful connection through a literary world.
We'd exchanged a few moments of literary bliss; a mutual happiness for my writing, and my joy of having at least two dedicated readers (Stephanie, I'm looking at you).
(I took those screenshots today, so the profile images are obviously a bit... different than they once were!)
All this mutual suffering brought us together: a married man, and a newly single woman with a reputation for never being single. Or, whatever my reputation was; I once laughingly (and proudly) wore a convention badge that read "Treacherous whore." Whatever you think I am, you're wrong. We met as a friends in town, presumably without his wife's knowledge or permission. Why should two grown adults have to ask permission to meet and share a conversation? (Because you know your marriage is failing, that's why.)
Turns out: because two wounded hearts will fuse together. It was a small but carefully planned meeting. I cried a few times as we wandered from a closed restaurant to my favorite 50's Diner (and one I based my story Earth Borne off of). We sat and had milkshakes (not unlike Ash and Meghan), I spoke passionately and loudly, cursing frequently, about the events that led up to my current state. Mason, more subdued, politely reminded me there were children within earshot and, perhaps, I shouldn't curse as much. I remember thinking: do people still live like that? [Archaic Christian ideology] is what I meant; courteous of young children in the vicinity. It must be because he has kids. I thought ruefully. Christian and a father. Two things I hated, and loudly. (Kids, not fatherhood).
With that thought in mind, I'll spare the details of the conversation he and I shared. I'll say only that he told me that he had been unable to read for months (a side effect of depression, fueled by an unhappy marriage), and that he missed being able to read. I told him that I had noticed his absence, but with all of my own things happening, I didn't have the heart to bring it up. I couldn't tell him at that moment just how much his involvement meant to me.
I left that day with the understanding that he hurt as much as I did, and yet he was one of the kindest people I had ever had the pleasure of knowing. It hurt me to think of him being sad. All I wanted to do from that point forward was liberate him from his sadness. I didn't want to see him unhappy ever again. I'd like to think that my support and not-exactly-Christian-advice gave him some of the strength that he needed to make changes in his own life.
We never made any kind of promises to each other. We remained friends, and we spoke more often as his life became harder, and mine became more focused. I started to realize I was unhappy at work, and that without a relationship all I had left was myself: and I wasn't where I wanted to be. With the encouragement of my roommate and friend, I decided to enroll at North Idaho College at the age of 31. Somewhere in that time, Mason decided to leave his wife of 17 years and move in with his father.
And somewhere in the middle, we fell in love.
We connected on so many levels. The first and strongest for me was his genuine connection and support of my dream of being an author. He'd not only read anything I'd ever written, he did it first and without me begging him to do so. He knew my characters as well as I did. Then came a connection through communication; turns out, we both love to talk. Of course I love to talk, I've loved to talk since the day I was born: but people don't always like to talk about things that matter. We'd talk for hours and hours, recounting our past, or present, or a future I'd never considered before. We texted and messaged all day. I started get in trouble at work because I was always being caught on the phone...
It was confusing, at first, a whirlwind of "What's happening here?" I told myself, "Mason's not my type." Besides, he's religious (he'd say spiritual), he's got kids, what a big mess I'd rather not deal with... but then, I couldn't stop thinking about him. We'd see each other for a few hours after work, and as soon as he had to leave, my heart ached. I didn't want to be anywhere but by his side.
I should make it very clear that I'm not the reason Mason left his wife, and he'd tell you the same. The truth is that he was unhappy before we met, and that I did little to discourage him freeing himself from his unhappiness. I am guilty in that regard; I did not step aside and let him suffer. I told him exactly how I felt about his unhappiness and his marriage, and when I did it, I had never intended to be anything more than a friend. But life--life doesn't care what you intended. I really don't care if people believe us or not; you can think whatever you want about the situation.
It's been 11 months and 2 days since Mason met me in my favorite 50's Diner in Spokane and changed my life. We've learned a lot about each other over the past few months. I learned I'm capable of intense emotions that include anger, that I'm a real bitch when I'm hungry and that I can focus myself and get straight A's in college. We've learned to communicate (and to communicate non-verbally) and try to address issues as soon as they become a problem. There's a seriously negative dynamic when you come out of a relationship that bore two grown children and half your adult life: your friends either knew you were troubled or had no idea. The friends that had no idea are just as stunned as the wife you asked for a divorce. Friends fade away, or choose sides. You're left with nothing but your decision and the fallout that comes with it. So we're rebuilding, together, one last time.
I've deleted friends on Facebook, retracted the bridge across the Castle moat, withdrawn deeper within myself to protect this newfound happiness. I won't tolerate anyone in my life who isn't 100% in favor of our success together. If you're not with us, you are against us, and I don't have time to waste on people who don't lift us up. So if you're wondering who the hell the "new guy" is or why Mason disappeared from your side of town: he's over here, healing, and I'll protect him as fiercely as I would myself. Give us your kindness or give us your absence from our lives.
Mason, I love you more than I thought was possible. You're the part of me that has been missing; the rest of my stardust. If I believed in a soul, you'd be my soulmate. For now, you're my awkward penguin and together we belong in the San Diego Zoo where it's warm (across from Stephanie's place).
This is my happy ending.
We're both attending North Idaho College: I'm pursuing my first degree at 31, and Mason is adding to his previous education at 40. If you'd asked either of us a year ago if we thought this would be in our future, you'd have gotten a resounding "no." He's helped me through my classes, through my ridiculously angry outbursts over Math or Midterms, through first and tenth drafts of essays for school... He's pushed me to do my best, and I hope I can return the favor. For now, I'm content with just fighting for happiness and peace, for spending time with my cat between homework and a fractured social life and keeping my head above water. It's amazing how important the little things are when you have someone to accomplish them with. I can honestly say, no matter what we're doing, no matter how mundane or miserable: I wouldn't want to do it with anyone but him.
I have stories to write, after all, and I'm glad to finally have the happy ending I've always wanted but never knew was there. Thank you, Mason, for being patient, gentle and kind when I believed no such man existed. This storm will rage onward but I couldn't ask for a better partner.