The Alligator woke from a nap when they drew close to the dark pond. A pair of creatures balancing on two legs like birds but with more meat on them. One stopped the other with the back of an outstretched arm, it clutched a rock on a metal string it wore around its neck and spoke in a language that the alligator did not understand. Then they turned and left. They could not have seen it but after a minute of thought it set a toe on the pond floor and pulled slowly a foot further in just in case. It took a deep breath and wondered what the two beings were before falling back into its afternoon slumber.


My mother's clarinet

A box full of reel to reel tapes and a projector

Slides and a slide projector, my parents' memories of Hawaii and Mexico

Old VHS tapes of Elvis and Simon and Garfunkel concerts

A lifetime of Nintendo cartridges and a dusty box full of Atari games

Tomb for my childhood …

The G.I. Joe headquarters, the Cobra headquarters

He-Man's Castle Greyskull, the Horde headquarters with rubber cobra hand puppet

Grandpa's pocket watch, his pipe collection; I suspect my mother had a scrap book of her own with different odds and ends in there

The plaster of Paris Christmas ornaments we molded; mom, my sister, and I; then we painted them

She had made these clothespin ornaments, white felt glued on, round peach heads with drawn-on eyes, delicate halos on top. We put those on the tree for as long as I can remember.

He winced and pressed on the wound. He was too exhausted to move, his body draped over a low wet stone, it stank of the moss that clinged to it, mixed with his blood. He tossed his head to and fro looking for his pursuers. He could see the dark trail of blood that glowed in his vision then clenched his teeth and tried to stand.

Above, crouched at the lip of the jagged white rock was a creature about the same size. Its eyes wide with wonder having never seen a goblin up close before. It clutched its shepherd’s crook and trembled slightly in the morning chill.

The boiler waited until the goblin’s breath grew shallow and then snuck down, foot over foot and sideways into the low creek bed. As it reached the bottom a wave of humidity came up from the direction the goblin had arrived. It followed the trail of blood into the dark hollow and out of sight.

Boiler, the goblin slid an arm along the stone and grasped but could not reach the shepherd.

It spoke in broken language but the boiler could understand the words, take, and destroy. It clutched a burlap satchel in its other hand, tried to unsling it but panted and grew even more pale. Licking its blue lips, it could not get free of the thing.

Sound now grew in the distance, something shuffling in the dark woods. The hoot of an owl but it lasted a little too long. Something was coming.

The shepherd reached down and the goblin’s arm fell limp. It twisted the satchel around its curled arm and got it free. Then, hopped up the hill and hurried across the clearing, looking for its dog as it skipped through the forest and back home.

For the past week or so I wake up early and write. Any free time I have, play sad music and pour it out. Then, clean it up and add filler and get it ready to publish. But this morning I wake up and immediately let her know. And she is awake. So there we are. But I have to go to work. So we cannot spend too much time. But I give her all my time. Because I am hooked. And she is reeling me in, and this is a quick one because we connect on so many points that it is not a single line, this is a net.

I worry about attention, affection, and affirmations. Letting a day pass without reminding the person I am interested that I am thinking about them, that I remain interested, that I am planning things with them in mind. That I am excited to see them again.

For a year or longer she put her thoughts on a social media account I never looked at.

On Friday I left work early to donate books to the regional library. Then, I visited the Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. It was a sprawling necropolis and I only saw a quarter of it. There was a funeral procession that passed through. It was overcast and everything was a bit damp. I walked across a green bridge, painted to match the mossy headstones. I felt awkward taking photos at a certain point because I didn't want to capture any mourners, I left early and have to plan to return and photograph the rest of it later in the month. I was also pretty tired from all the walking, I don't think I'm completely healed from the illness I've been struggling with all month.

After the cemetery I visited The Optimist which is a coffee shop in Raleigh with lots of plants. I ordered an americano and two blueberry muffins because I had worked up an appetite walking around. I sat quietly and worked on my laptop, documenting some of the things that had happened recently and ruminating. Everyone at the cafe was working and seemed closed off, many wore headphones, others crowded close together to talk about things in hushed tones. It didn't seem like a very social place, at least not one for introducing yourself to new people.

I thought about visiting Tap Station in Apex and getting another massive pretzel or sitting at the bar and listening to people talk. But then I remembered I had not been to Hot Topic in many years and had discussed a visit with some folks online.

Earlier in the week I met with Ben and he suggested I plan dates in a way where even if the person stood me up or was a bad date, it would be something I wanted to do. I looked at him incredulously from behind my sunglasses and nodded, thanking him for the advice. I don't think he understands what dating is like in twenty twenty-four.

At least at the end of the night I can go home and look at myself in the mirror and say, I'm glad I called ahead and made reservations and paid sixty dollars a plate because I totally would have done this for myself.


Instead of watching the rest of Saltburn I dropped off my things and went to Southpoint Mall. While I was there I thought I saw someone I knew but they disappeared quickly, they were on the first floor and I was on the second which is where Hollister and Hot Topic are. It had been awhile since I felt like I was hooked and there was this one two combination that contributed to it and I'm still not over her. Because of the way things ended I feel like she could walk into my apartment at any time and we would continue where we left off with no hard feelings.

I entered on the Macy's side so I could get the full mall experience. I walked in past the shoes and some of the women's clothing, went up the stairs to where they had the kitchen knives and other things I have forgotten.

I walked past the Hot Topic slowly. In fact, I walked past all the places slowly. I looked inside and wondered at how things had been rearranged, how the merchandise has changed.

Then, I walked down to the food court, made a circuit in there so I could see everything, I approached the door to West Elm, not knowing what was inside.

I walked all the way down to the end of the mall and back noting the outdoor mall, the long walk to the AMC theater and the Barnes and Noble book store.

I went back to Hot Topic and went inside, looked at the shirts on the wall, there is a lot of stuff in there, it was kind of overwhelming. On my way out a woman in glasses and a Hellfire Club shirt from Stranger Things said hello, she smiled at me. I felt like she wanted to engage with me. But I walked away because I'm a coward.

I made another little circuit, I think I went down to the ground floor actually and walked all the way out and back. I was surprised there are furniture and workout bicycle stores in the mall, I wonder if they deliver and how much that costs.

When I went inside Hot Topic the third time she asked if she could help me find something, buttons and patches to put on a leather jacket?

These are all the buttons and patches I have.

She stood on the other side of the kiosk from me and I thanked her, then I rounded it and picked through until I had three of each.

I stood waiting to check out and more people came in. She approached and told me I could use the register on the other side.

There I was met with another employee who was very friendly. I asked what the story was with the shirts, so it went from music to anime?

She explained they group things together. The shirts behind me were the women's shirts, they had The Craft and Edward from Twilight laying on a bed of flowers.

There was the legends, which is like Rush and Metallica. Then there was one that had rap bands in it, Eazy-E.

She said that at one point they didn't have any alternative fashion and had something else instead. I forgot what that was because it was a terrible idea and I'm surprised they didn't bankrupt the company doing that because it wasn't anything that interested me. Maybe it was all just their Pop Culture section so, Marvel and Disney merchandise.

I ran into someone at Publix when I was getting pecans and vegetarian nuggets.

I continue to repeat the mistakes I have repeated my entire life. I don't introduce myself to people. I don't make an attempt to connect, to find some way to follow up and make some friends out of the random people I talk to throughout the day. And it is slowly killing me.

I've been getting rid of a lot of physical things lately and now it's time to do some pruning. I'll be thinking about these changes for a bit as I make them but ultimately I don't want to be reminded of things that have ended or will never begin.

I haven't been approached by a scammer in awhile lately so let me tell you about the only recent one. She matched with me on Tinder and she pretended to be local. She was closer to my age than most of the women that match with me and it's not super relevant but it should have tipped me off. We went back and forth for a bit discussing where we are from, where we are at, what we are looking for. She eventually asked me to add her on SnapChat and that is always the first red flag for me. The conversation continued there, she had a video of her gyrating in front of a camera and it was up high and pointed at a bed so, cammer. She said she couldn't meet immediately because she had work and then revealed that her client canceled. When I told her I was free she suggested I pay for her cam show. I told her I was not going to do that and she said it would be the same amount I would pay on a date with her anyway. And that if I paid she promised to continue talking to me and not ghost me. I disengaged for a bit and said I would think about it. She sent a link and encouraged me to visit her friends' porn page so I blocked her.

I am the ghost

I went on a date with someone from Tinder and I'm getting ahead of myself. I matched with this person, actually a wave of people. She said she worked at a hotel and would be free to have Indian food on Sunday. I was looking for a friend and let her know that, I agreed to pick her up and pay for dinner and we could get to know each other. On Saturday I received a message, someone hacked my credit card can you send me money for lunch.

I'll just drive out and pay, where are you at?

She gave me the name of the fast food place and its location and I got on the road.

When I arrived she was not who her online pictures portrayed her to be. I had been catfished.

I bought us both some food and sat and talked to her but each of the questions I asked yielded superficial responses and it felt like she was trying to keep me out. That doesn't bother me too much but the conversation was more shallow in person than it had been on Tinder.

My work paged me so I had to leave. She said goodbye and added, oh my uh car needs some work could you give me some money and help out?

This is the first person I have ghosted on a dating app.

After taking a few days to think over that situation I unmatched her on Tinder. Then, I went to each dating app and unmatched each person that I had conversations with that went nowhere.

The end of the barrel

Twenty twenty-five really is a year that I do not want to be around for. Maybe that will change. I have some plans that I am moving forward with that will test whether it will be worth it. But I'm still reluctant because people keep getting shittier and more selfish. It's like a hell where they keep inventing new ways to make each other feel worthless, depressed, and afraid. And somehow this new trend is creating some kind of negative loop where the victims become just as shit as the assailant.

I've been spending a lot of time in Discord. In fact, I went and met some Discord people in real life recently and it was an excellent experience. I would be going again tonight if I were not still sick and in need of sleep and relaxation. I probably shouldn't be typing this and should instead be unconscious in bed but I wanted to get something out to explain a few things.

I still haven't watched One Hour Photo. I thought about seeing something from my past that I remember enjoying. Or maybe something that made me sad that I didn't learn the lessons from like As Good as it Gets or Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

When I got home on Monday I took Benadryl and Tylenol and slept all day Tuesday. I got up early on Wednesday and went to Starbucks and wrote my review and mixed up the days in my timeline because I was so out of it. I didn't recognize at the time. I need to re-read that and make sure all of it is coherent. One thing I remember was this fear where I woke up in the middle of the day Tuesday and thought someone had poisoned me and that by only consuming drugs and water I was playing into their plot, the poisoned water, it tasted chalky. And that I was going to die. It was alarming but only for a moment, then I washed out the water container and kept up the cycle.

I guess at some point I woke up on Tuesday because I couldn't sleep anymore and I played video games and camped Discord. I probably did this because I want to maintain a sleep schedule where I can flex to be awake after midnight for the bars but then wake up and get to the gym by seven to meet my best friend.

I've begun reading Reddit topics for dating and ghosting to try to find the answers but really it's all just the most lazy and self-centered bullshit, it can barely be considered an answer because it is not something that you can put forward and say, here is the math on why people ghost each other, here is the math on why the dating apps create such terrible people. There is no explanation for why you reach a certain age and people give you a mandatory six feet of social distancing like you are some kind of leper. Why they can't look you in the eye or remember your name.

When I was leaving I got in my car and another vehicle went by mine as it pulled into its spot. I looked over my shoulder and saw Shaw get out, she looked like she was in a hurry. She did not see me so after she left my sight I drove slowly out of the parking lot. I had intended to see her there, hopefully working. Even if she came in after I got there, that we would be in the same place and she could see me before I left. But that's just not how it turned out. And that will probably be the last time because she has had more than enough of me and I have to let her go.

I made the decision to watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High last night because I couldn't get to sleep.

I have been sick all week, it started Monday where I was at work and suddenly I felt extremely cold. My hands went numb. I had to pull a blanket out of my desk and wrap myself up in it. I made the mistake of only wearing a flannel to work because I thought it was going to be warmer. It was unbearably cold.

Then, I started to get really sleepy so I set my phones up so that if an alert hit either one they were next to my head and would wake me. This actually happened a couple of times during the day. The people around me kind of slunk off to do their own things elsewhere and I was left to just nap out.

When I woke up I still felt very tired and I went home for the day. On the way I stopped and got some Taco Bell. I had ibuprofen and diphenhydramine HCl left over from my brush with Covid, I took a good portion and fell asleep. Every four or so hours I would wake up in the same routine that had happened two weeks prior: drink a bunch of water, down some more drugs, go back to sleep. It was a long cycle that burned through the day and when I was finally unable to sleep anymore it was some time on Tuesday.

I made it through Tuesday playing video games and just taking the ibuprofen to keep the swelling down. I also camped out on Discord and participated in a few conversations but I was still feeling quite drained. At a certain point in the evening though I was feeling one hundred percent. I had slaked my hunger on the leftover taco bell and that's when it was time to watch the film.

The movie starts with a twenty-six year old man entering a restaurant in the food court and the girls who work there are talking about him, they want to wait on him, a chance to get noticed and maybe date him. Then, they reveal he is sitting in another girl's section. They give her some advice. He orders a meatball sandwich, a drink, and her phone number.

For their date he drives her to a baseball field and they have sex in the dugout, she looks at the graffiti.

The hot head who works for the fast food company, he is in line to be a manager. Getting his friends hired. Thinks he is a big shot. Wants to break up with his girlfriend so he can enjoy his last year in high school in freedom.

His girlfriend breaks up with him and recites his reasons almost word for word.

One of the girls is in a long distance relationship with a man who works for an airline. After repeatedly referring to him and how perfect he is, he doesn't show up at her graduation. She reads a letter she wrote to him explaining that this is not what adults do and that is why she is breaking up with him. Then she resolves that she can date almost anyone and returns to the dance floor, head held high.

This continuous relationship with someone who may well not be real.

Instead of talking to his sister's friend and joining them for the pool party her brother hides in the bathroom and masturbates thinking about her. Then, the friend barges in on him when she's looking for a q-tip to get water out of her ear.

The hot head is later driving to deliver food for his new job and encounters a woman at the stoplight who laughs at him. He throws his work uniform out of the car window along with the food.

The cool guy who gives advice to his shy friend who works at the movie theater. He says he acts like enjoys everywhere that he is. He acts like he doesn't care about the girls he meets. He ends up having sex with the shy guy's girl, premature ejaculation, he says he has to go and leaves immediately. She tells him she is pregnant and he agrees to pay for half and drive her to the clinic but in the end he flakes on her.

She gets her brother to drive her to a nearby bowling alley. Her brother who is also the hothead fast food guy, once fired for blowing his top and also now single. Her brother figures out where she went and waits outside to comfort and drive her home.

There's this terrible desperation in this film. Maybe it's just how I remember that time period. I can only hope that everything filmed has been torn down or fallen over, crushed into the dust that the next generation is built on. One that won't have these kinds of problems.

There is a kind of statement about the generations and how they don't understand each other and the spectacle of Mr Hand and Spicoli, the relationship that grows between them as they each try to figure out the boundaries, culminating in a late night study session on the night of the dance and Spicoli managers to impress him so he lets him go to the dance.

This film came out in 1982. It was interesting to think back to a time when there were no dating apps to send notifications that a new person has found you and will probably not have a conversation with you. You didn't need artificial intelligence bots to comb through your profile and the profiles of those who matched with you and suggest opening questions or catchy one-liners to retain interest. None of the characters that were the love interests in the movie turned out to be a guy in Texas who likes catfishing and conning lonely people using payment apps.

When the twenty-six year old guy got what he wanted from Stacy he stopped calling her. And it was implied that he was never seen or heard from again.

Mike apologizes to Rat and his apology is accepted. Then, it is implied that Rat and Stacy will continue to talk on the phone after the movie ends.

Happily ever after in the eighties.

The same message still stands out to me from when I saw it the first time so many years ago, that if a man is not capable of approaching a woman he is interested in dating and introducing himself and asking for her number he will be forever alone. That's your black pill.

Now that I'm on the other side of the hill and looking at a lonely and short future I can say that I would've been better served taking the approach that I do not care, to make the first move and if I am rejected it is their loss, and focus more on enjoying where I am and what I am doing and not on trying to find someone else.

If you have the opportunity to get tickets I recommend it, people drove in from multiple states for the experience. I feel fortunate to have been able to secure a ticket of my own in time.

I spend a good deal of time scrolling Instagram and over the last month and a half I started seeing advertisements for this event called Kiss of the Vampire Soirée where the DJ was Nina aka djdeathflower.

The ads read like a breath of fresh air and I was immediately curious who Nina was and why I had not heard of her before. Her story moved me because she realized she needed to leave her previous scene and take a risk, relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina and taking up a new job and getting involved in the goth scene, of starting over. A story of new beginnings and successful personal growth. And that's why I expected the event to be different.

The event was organized by Immortal Forest (immortalforestva on Instagram) run by Jay and Crystal. The Kiss of the Vampire Soirée was the first one they would host in Raleigh at the Voodoo Lounge which is upstairs and down a long hallway in the back of The Big Easy NC at 222 Fayetteville St. I posted pictures of it on Instagram if you need a visual before you attend the next one.

They put a lot of effort into the event highlights, provided a photography booth by Lacy Media, included surprises and Immortal Forest merchandise, and my favorite was a list of addresses in a section called Parking Details. I'm always worried about where I would find parking at venues I haven't been to before, and how long parking would take, then dreading the long walk from my car to the club. They had four different locations including the distance.

I parked at the first available major parking structure I found and had a little extra walk than they recommended but I felt confident when I left that I would make it into the event on time. I arrived a little bit early and I was kind of afraid I would be sitting on top of my leather jacket on the couch all night. But Jay approached me and we talked about Lynchburg and his experience with the goth scene. And as the night went on the participants at the event introduced people to each other, they also knew where people were coming from to get to the event, and were very hospitable, social, and charming.

The music and DJ set were excellent. It was great to watch djdeathflower work the turntables and the crowd. The setting was intimate and I felt like I talked to nearly everyone in the room. At one point I had to use the restroom and when I returned people were yelling, Frank's back!

I believe it was ten o'clock when they decided it was time to elect and crown the Vampire King and Queen. After they were crowned they chose their first dance as King and Queen to be Blasphemous Rumors by Depeche Mode and everyone got on the dance floor.

The event was for an eighteen plus crowd but there was also a bar. I asked for non-alcoholic drinks and was given cans of Coke on the house. The music was from a range of sources that included some of my favorites, songs I didn't expect to hear at a goth club, and a number of songs I hadn't heard before. The people at the club spent time talking to one another and mingling though because the music was so well selected there was someone on the dance floor for most of the night.

I wish they could put on this event every weekend because it would be great to see it grow into a movement with lots of new people coming in, experiencing the music and culture, getting to know other people, creating connections and friendships.

If you have the chance I recommend giving immortalforestva and djdeathflower a follow on Instagram so you'll know where to find a good time. I'm thinking about planning some trips to Charlotte to see more of their shows.

I parked at Corcoran Street Garage, the entrance is not on the side the map will tell you to use, instead you have to take a left at the light onto South Corcoran Street from West Main Street and it'll be on the right, it's a small entrance so you have to go slow.

From there you can go to West Ramseur Street and head west and you will see Arcana on the right if you look for the sign. It's in the basement so it's not an easy place to find.

Most folks get lost wandering West Main Street, the front entrance is closed and there is a sign but it's small and behind glass the last time I checked. Also, there are distractions.

As Code and I walked the street there was a couple who overheard what we were saying, I was explaining how to find it since he had never been there before. They introduced themselves as Dave and Anna. We went down the alleyway together and Dave said, this looks like a place you'd see in Vampire the Masquerade.

I said, this is where the Ventrue get you.

When we arrived I held the door open for everyone and inside we were shocked to see paper and a pen. That's how they figured out if you had a ticket, they found your first and last name on their list. We made our way to the bar and it was not too packed yet.

I got my non-alcoholic drink and Code picked up his Vampire's Kiss. Then we walked around and saw Twentieth Century Boy aka Nathan.

I asked Nathan if they were picking a prom king and queen and he said they don't do that. The idea is for folks to come out and get dressed up a bit more than they usually would. He had a term for it like, pain and pageantry. It was more eloquent than that. But he was right, people showed up in full on ballroom gowns, there was a man dressed up in an entire Dracula outfit. It made me regret not wearing my red vest and necklace, getting more dressed up for the event than nail polish, black lipstick, eyeliner, and my skeleton jacket with TENDER IS THE FLESH stenciled on the back.

Nathan looked distracted so we decided to break off and found Jeff. He said he didn't remember my name but I stared at him until he asked, Frank?

We stood and talked and eventually sat down at a small table. I wanted a tarot reading but didn't figure out how it worked until late, at about ten thirty the reader let me know, the music is getting too loud and for Tarot! Enjoy the party!

The music was great, the place was packed. I posted about that on Instagram. I looked for photos of the event but nobody has shared any. I saw multiple people taking pictures and videos.

At one point they played a song that got me low. There were a couple of them but one just sent me plunging and when I had my head in my hand I was approached by Hannah.

Are you OK?

Yeah, just down.

Are you sure, you look sad and alone.

I looked her in the eye, it's because I am sad and alone.

There were five chairs around the small candle lit table, four were empty before she sat down.

I'm sorry, what's your name?


Nice to meet you Hannah, I'm Frank.

Do you need water or anything, Frank?

I'm sober.

Okay I just wanted to make sure you are OK.

Yeah, I'll be fine.

Then she got up and left.

Outside smoking and cooling off after returning from the dance floor covered in sweat, Code said they're called club angels. If you fall down in the mosh pit they wade in and stiff arm their way to pull you out.

We talked about dating and he said, that's how it is done now they just ghost you. It could be the first sign of trouble, it could be someone better came along. There are just so many options for people now.

That's how he explained why he does not do online dating. It's too easy to drop someone. Nobody puts in any effort.

Code continued, I know at one point people used to meet and something would go wrong so they would talk about it and it was more difficult to stop seeing someone because of the way that they were getting introduced. But now they can just ghost you at the first sign of trouble. So, don't take it personally.

I think Code is right, the game has changed. When I told him I wasn't any good at dating in the first place, even long ago before the apps, he said he was not surprised. He said his approach is to just do the things he finds fun and let things happen, he doesn't go out of his way to pick up people at the bar or try to get introduced to new people. And, his goal is to enjoy himself and the event. Listen to music, dance if you want to.

I think about these lifestyles and how atomizing it is to get transformed from a child with a lot of friends and connections, slowly having your friendships and relationships whittled away by full time jobs, partners, eventually children and families. Then people start getting sick and dying, the relationships atrophy and eventually dry up and fade away. Then the twilight sets in and we all go to the retirement homes too mentally deteriorated to form or continue real relationships. We become a reflecting pool that our relatives visit to try to connect with who they once were, what they believe they can still hold onto before time and age take them too.

I haven't watched any depressing movies since my last update. I have been going to Starbucks everyday though because I didn't want to try to cook.

I wrote last time about how I wanted to die because of all the work ahead of me. The good news is the work is almost done. The only things left to get rid of are things I have zero emotional or sentimental attachment to. I took the last of that to Dorcas today!

The refrigerator and freezer are nearly completely empty which is great because I am going to clean like I have not cleaned before. But probably not today.

I'm no longer thinking about getting a roommate. I want to get comfortable first and pare down to just what matters to me.

I have been sober for thirty-seven days and I've found some folks online to chat with. There's supposed to be a get together in Raleigh and I am tempted to go even though it'll be at a bar and I'll probably be the only sober person.

It is getting easier, the sober and lonely living. I just need to take it one day at a time and rebuild my old habits, create some new ones, and focus on what I can control. Anything I can't control I need to stop trying, stop ruminating, and to find something else to occupy my mind.

This weekend there are two goth events, one on Friday and another Saturday. I am still planning to go because Code will be there. Hopefully I will hear from my official sober buddy who I am still waiting to hear from. I know she's got a lot going on in her life and I miss her and hope to hear from her again soon.

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