Friday, January 17, 2014

How My 15-Year-Old Self Viewed the World...and How It Looks at 30

Being a writer has certain advantages.

For one thing, as a writer, you get to fully appreciate how terrifically awful Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was.

That’s some deliciously, chewy stuff.

The best advantage to being a writer however is having heaps of past material to reflect on. Odds are good that most writers have been doing it since the moment they realized their hands were meant for more than just a pacifier. I know writers who have kept archives going back to grade school. I am no exception. I have a wealth of material from my younger days including poetry, short stories, and even an autobiography.

This past Sunday, I posted excerpts from a handwritten re-write of my first completed novel. The edited tome included a section that wasn’t in the original. It was titled “Interlude: Daniel’s Tale.” I inserted seven pages based on myself to round out the character who shared my name. The pages offer the perfect vehicle in which to blare Bruce Springsteen on the radio, roll all the windows down, fall into a thousand yard stare while holding a lit cigar in between two fingers, and contemplate how the hell 30 years went by so quickly.

I revived the idea for an interlude for my novel Sid Sanford LIVES! It has a slight twist (which I’m not going to tell you about because I want you to buy the book one day soon. Buy in bulk people), but I imagine it will provide 60-year-old Daniel Ford the same kind of insights that the 30-year-old Daniel Ford found in reading the 15-year-old Daniel Ford’s work.

My full glass of single malt scotch tonight will be raised to Daniel Fords of all ages and times, and to the men and women who ensured he didn’t end up in a raging dumpster fire.

15-year-old-ish Daniel Ford
A Soldier’s Tale
Interlude: Daniel’s Tale

Every turbulent instance in my existence, every bump in the road, every obstacle paled in comparison’s to my grandfather’s take of being heaved into the cold, unloved by his parents; war, man’s only true enemy; and being disunited with the person he loved most in the world. The predicaments that have crossed my path through my 15 years are those that confront every young human being. Similar to my grandfather, I have tried to live my life without regret. All the mistakes I’ve made, and I’ve made my fair share, haven’t weighed one ounce more on my mind since their occurrences. Each one has shaped and molded me in an improved person. I’m someone who can enjoy the blessed moments that life has to offer. Mistakes belong in the past. However, I would be a hypocrite is I said all mistakes stayed there permanently. There are a select few that momentarily suspended my belief that better days were ahead.

I was born with a reckless heart. I’ve been more than willing to give my affections to the opposite sex on a whim. The two “loves of my life” left me everything but unscathed. I met Audry my freshman year of high school.

I was totally unaware of the causalities I would endure in the months ahead when I pursued this eager senior girl. The first few weeks of the relationship were some of the greatest moments of my young life. I perceived things with her by my side that I had never considered real. I was on this impregnable pedestal. However, once again, a pretty face devastated me. To put it lightly, she began to feed at other troughs. With the assistance of a few divine companions, I managed to salvage the remainder of my dignity and peace of mind when I ended the relationship.

I think about her every now and again. I actually think more about the poor bastards she’s currently manipulating with her charms. Outside my grandparent’s house, I gazed up at the twinkling beings of light and contemplated that romantic mistake. I knew it wouldn’t haunt me forever.

Melissa didn’t walk into my life. She exploded into it. She was also a senior and we met at a school dance. I was convinced this was my time to find peace and happiness with a member of the opposite sex. However, like most romantics adventures in my young life, everything went terribly awry. Rapidly.

We hadn’t spoken a word to each other in two days. A fight over something trivial caused us to stop communicating. I summoned all my courage and vanquished all my pride to the bottom of the ocean, and went to her house. When I arrived something felt different. There was a different air surrounding her home…it was almost hostile. I will always shiver when I remember her mother’s voice.

“Melissa is gone.”

I didn’t cry. I was too filled with guilt at that moment. It was selfish, but I couldn’t help it. She had unlocked her father’s liquor cabinet and drank as much alcohol as she could. She decided to get into her car and drive through her neighbor’s living room. I piece of the engine pierced her heart. Her mother aged years in the couple of minutes I standing in front of the screen door. My mind and body felt 50 years old. I couldn’t shake the belief that I was the cause of it all. It was a stupid fight that one of us should have been able to forgive and forget about. What I didn’t know then was that Melissa was an alcoholic. When I found out, I couldn’t believe it. I thought I knew everything about her. She was an expert at hiding it. The guilt dissipated, but I was left with the cold realization I hadn’t been able to clear the air or clear the air the way I wanted to.

I shook myself from the reverie. That was enough living in the past. There were certain times though when I felt the wind blow through my hair and imagined it was her hand running through it. I think in this moment she was nearby, like she promised she would be always. I believed she wouldn’t let me make the same mistakes over and over again, which is comforting to someone who makes a lot of them.

A year after Melissa's death, I attended a poetry slam. I left that event with a friend for life and partner in love. Ashley was patient with me because I was hesitant to begin a new relationship. She was willing to wait and take things slow. It wasn’t until I stumbled across a note Melissa had wrote me at the beginning of our relationship. She wrote that if anything happened to either one of us, the other had to promise to live life to the fullest. It stopped being difficult to enjoy my time with Ashley after that. I’ve been having the time of my life ever since.

Since Ashley and I have been a couple, I’ve become a more outgoing and caring person. I was creating new friendships and memories every day it seems and the hole Melissa left was beginning to fill in. I started writing again. My family took notice. “Seems to me he finally dug himself out of whatever hole he was in,” I overheard my father tell my mother one day. Maybe. I wasn’t out of it completely, but that’s the whole purpose of friends. Without my steadfast buddies, who always set aside their own dilemmas to come to my aid, I’d never come close to removing myself from a depressing abyss. I have been blessed with the most caring friends a young man could ask for. Old friends I’ll trust forever and new friends I’ll be thankful for forever have given me new confidence. And of course, I always have my ultimate confidant ; an ally so enduring that not even the grim reaper would dare toil with her. She’s a friend that not every human being is as fortunate as I am to have.

My mother.

I’ve tended to look outside of my family to get inspiration. Looking back, there wasn’t a moment when she wasn’t giving me her wisdom, guidance, and encouragement. Sure, like all mothers, she sometimes came off as overbearing. However, I now realized she was only like that when I needed a kick in the ass. My mother always had free time to help me with the most trivial problems. She puts up with all the mood swings I inherited from her brothers. She’s lucky now that I’m rarely in an unpleasant mood. I’ll never again take her love for granted. I’m blessed for having been raised by this tough Frenchy. I certainly don’t tell her enough that I love her.

A gust of March air stung my face like a hard slap, causing me to return my thoughts to the ailing storyteller. Another source of inspiration was dying like an ordinary man. But I knew better. He wasn’t an ordinary man to me. Ordinary men don’t make you feel like you are on a cloud overlooking the crystal clear images of the past. Ordinary men didn’t hold the emotions of the heart and mind in rapt suspense. No, he was no ordinary man. He was a man of strong beliefs, a man of character, and a man of trust.

And he was dying.

Present Day Daniel Ford

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