He was looking over at me. My Pops was. I was eating a pizza and staring at the television set, with the occasional glance over at my father. We were alone together. Father had nuked up some microwave popcorn. They would have just started to pre-install microwave units into the newer condos in America, and we were in a condo, only an hour’s drive away (an hour’s drive, Lord) from the small ski village of Sandy, Utah. This boy’s vacation away from home happened before Pops broke the bank, so we were all a lot more modest than we are today.
It was a father–son trip. We flew by plane in coach, into Salt Lake City, and we did a lot of driving with the radio on, making memory-building music. The windy snow was crystallizing on the drifted boughs of the trees. There were snowy white pines and even red cedar. There were young deer running loose in the nearby state parks. The purest sensation of adolescent nostalgia (before the fact) was already causing tiny shivers in my spine. It was making my thin, little, boy-arms shiver. Or maybe it was the snow?
Snowed in as we were, I was stuck with my father. We were watching a rented copy of Raising Arizona on VHS, just after the BetaMaxes became obsolete—I can’t remember when. Most of the best parts of growing up have dulled in my mind, and any magic has finally been quelled.
That first Saturday night, my Pops and I took a soak in the outdoor jacuzzi. The steam was rising up and over the wall thermometer, which said the temperature was 20 degrees, maybe 15. Like I said, I don’t remember all that well.
All I know is, I fell asleep on the couch that night, and we hit a couple of slopes on Sunday. Pops took me to the top of the steepest black diamond slopes. I was challenged to race down, with Pops right behind me, even without the agility I had as a kid.
Pops wiped out at the bottom. I wiped out, too. We stood up shaking off snow, and started laughing.
We had fun while it lasted. I knew I’d have to go back home to mother, eventually. Pops left mother shortly after.
I’d never have another father–son experience quite like it. I guess that’s why it means so much to me now. As faded as the memory is—it was. It isn’t—the one & only.
I'd like to turn your attention to the Frankfurt Book Fair. Did you know:
The Frankfurt Book Fair (from 19 to 23 October 2016) is the largest book fair in the world.
Over 100 countries have a presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which translates to a huge number of opportunities for selling foreign rights for book sales.
The Foreword Indie Press Collective has a resident foreign rights agent that will conduct meetings on my behalf, and assist with any deals on the other side for my title Living Colorful Beauty, available at most major and independent booksellers.
International rights are the best way to grow my book’s audience and my potential to earn royalties.
I've joined the Foreword Indie Press Collective at the Frankfurt Book Fair, so I don’t miss the industry’s biggest foreign rights event.
If a man diagnosed with severe schizophrenia can do it, so can you!
In the meantime wish me luck! :)
-- Jonathan Harnisch
I don't do fakeness. You may not like what I say, but you'll always know where you stand with me. If my actions tell you that I like you, then I'm not acting. I'm a genuine person. It hasn’t always been that way but people learn, and they grow. I don't understand being nice to someone's face and then shit talking them behind their back. I don't understand not being upfront and forthcoming about your feelings of others. I don't know people's words and actions not matching up. For me, there is no compromise. If you are important to me, then I’ll be loyal to a fault and if you’re not then I won’t, I won’t expect the same. If you can’t give me that, then I’m not the right person to be in your life, and that’s okay. Life is short. I don’t have time to second-guess where I stand with someone. I don’t have a chance to worry that people in my circle don’t have my best interests at heart. If I have to question where I stand with you, I’d rather not have you standing with me.
I am broken. My head is a very dark place. I am slowly giving up. I feel empty yet so full of feeling like the smallest thing could push me over the edge. What do you do when there's nothing but pain left inside you and what if everything we were looking for only existed in our dreams? How do you explain something you don't even understand yourself? Have you ever felt like you don't know what's going on anymore like you don't care about anything anymore? You’ve lost motivation to do anything. Your mind is set on too many things that you are confused about your feelings, and you can't explain how you feel either. The sense of emptiness, and feeling that barely anyone is there for you. Feeling that no one understands you anymore. And it seems like there is nothing to look forward to anymore. Sometimes I feel so small. I am severely overwhelmed with everything. Its come to the point that even small tasks make me feel like breaking down and crying. Everything is just too much for me now. Now do you understand? I don't want you to save me. I want you to stand by my side as I save myself. Sometimes I feel so many things at once I want to vomit and all of the sudden I felt exhausted like the world has drained me for everything that I had. Smiling has always been easier than explaining why you're sad. I lay in bed for hours in the dark at night thinking about every possible thing. I fucked up in my life. I took it off. I did not want to carry it with me anymore. I don't know how people put up with me. My past haunts me always. I hurt. I don't even know where I hurt. It’s just a dull, dry ache of the soul it sucks because I try so fucking hard and nothing I do ever seem to be enough for anyone not even my damn self. Nobody knows the real me. Nobody knows how many times I've sat in my room and cried. How many times I've lost hope. How many times I've been let down. Nobody knows how many times I've had to hold back tears. How many times I've felt like I'm about to snap but don't just for the sake of others. Nobody knows the thoughts that have gone through my head whenever I'm sad. And how horrible they really are. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be happy with myself. I worry that if I can't be happy with myself, then nobody will ever be happy with myself and that just makes me even more paranoid. It's a cycle, Insecurity, and diffidence, it's all a cycle, and it's destroying me. Have you ever sat there and wondered, “Why am I still here?” I don't even want to be here. I haven't wanted to be here for so long. What’s keeping me here? And then you realize the answer is nothing, and that scares you more than the fact that you don't want to be here anymore. I am quiet most of the time. I just stare and think. My words get frozen within my lungs, and I believe my thoughts are deadly, and there's probably a quarantine surrounding my lungs. People tend to ask me, "Why are you so quiet?" I just smile, laugh, and shrug. I am quiet most of the time, but my mind is loud. My mind is screaming. I wish I weren't silent. I wish I shared my emotions quickly. I do not know how to start. My words get frozen within my swollen lungs. That feeling when you're not necessarily sad, but you just feel really empty one day I feel like I'm on top of the world. And the next it's falling in on me. My biggest fear is that eventually, you will see me the way I see myself. Sometimes we just say, "I want you to be happy," but deep inside our hearts we know, we still want to be their happiness. I am trying to stop, but please believe me when I say it’s not that easy. No, it doesn't work that way. I can't just wake up one day, say, "Oh, I want to be happy" and be happy. Believe me; I've tried. Sometimes it hurts it hurts so much that you feel like your chest will cave in and the only thing stopping it is the gasps of air you take in between the tears so the sadness it frustrates you. My depression makes no sense so, to you: It's unacceptable It's selfish. It's not okay. My sadness comes from failure and my inability to satisfy anyone, the world, myself. I fear failure, so I fall. My depression hides in the shadows behind smiles behind bravado behind happiness I am not allowed this sadness. But I cannot hide it. I don't think people understand how stressful it is to explain what's going on in your head when you don't even understand it yourself. My sadness crushes my windpipe I'm drowning, sinking, dying slowly, and smiling all the while. My sadness is forbidden. So I sneak it in the dark around the corner, and on my own. My sadness isn't a weapon to use against you. I hate the depression. It’s not easy for me to explain but I'm not trying to be lazy, it's just that I'm so fucking tired and I have no motivation to succeed, and I don't even know why this life is happening. I'll be okay, just not today. Sometimes I get so sad that it's hard to breathe. So tell me how do you expect me to talk about my demons when they are sitting on my lungs? It's sad actually because my anxiety keeps me from enjoying things as much as I should at this age. I miss the old, happy me. I often miss the little boy whose dreams had no barriers, who believed in a world where anything is possible, with a heart that was full and unbroken.
Looking back on it now, now that the words that come later can drain away most of the sentiment, there’s a nostalgia that still lingers at the top of the Eiffel Tower, when those kids—three girls and two boys—defined who I was without the slightest hint of bias or negativity.
It was the first time in my life, the first “time of my life.” I was on a school trip in Paris, with the same kids who would taunt me and bully me back in New York. And although I had forgiven them, even loved them to an extent, there was so much going on at home, and in my head, and in my body, that I couldn’t tell the difference between what was good and what was bad, what was appropriate and what was not. Kids can be brutal.
They say that those in the “Losers’ Clubs” in school will usually show up at the reunions, years later, as glittering icons, while the popular kids turn to waste. I never went to any of the reunions.
I took a left turn by not going with my class. I got permission from the French teacher who was in charge of us to hang out with another group of kids from another junior high school; they were also in Paris from Nassau County, and although I was away from my own crowd of popular kids (that particular crowd of waste), my new group of friends and I took off by métro that night after dinner. We climbed most of the Eiffel Tower, as it was still open to tourists, even at the late hour.
As we gazed over the city lights, the brisk wind blowing hard, one of the kids, Wesley, who couldn’t have been over twelve—all wrapped up in his ski jacket, his short curly hair frozen, unaffected by the winds—smiled innocently to me, and as if it was his second nature, he said, coolly, “You seem pretty normal to me, Ben. Hey, you’re one of us.” And all the others bantered among themselves in agreement. I took a group photo of my new best friends, all of us arm-in-arm, holding on in the chill air, and holding on to the memory of being so free, without supervision. Looking back on everything now, the world, the universe, never looked as beautiful to me as it did during that cool breezy night on top of the world, where I was with my friends and nobody knew just how invincible we really were.
I haven’t a clue what happened on the walk back to the hotel, and by the next day, when Wesley’s and his buddies’ vacation meant they’d be back in the States by sundown, I had forgotten about it. I mean I’d forgotten about everything—my introduction—and I went back to the in-crowd as they did what they did for the rest of the trip, mostly drinking French beer from the mini-bar in the Hôtel Chateau Martine.
I find that the more I keep to myself all that I do remember from that particular night out with the group from Paris, and as I wonder constantly if by now, they’d ever grown up or if they just stay the same, like in the picture I still have of them together. . . . It’s under my bed, in an old shoebox—so that I can stay the same, somewhere, somehow . . . way deep down inside.
© Jonathan Harnisch 2014