For Rebecca: Two Images. One On My Body, One On My Soul.

As they carried Rebecca’s body away, I saw a glimmer of green. Fireflies. It was too early in the season, but as the men lifted what was left of her into the back of the van, a single firefly darted about their shoulders.  One single emerald streak.
One small firework for a dead girl.
When I am tired of fireflies, I have long said, put me in the ground.  Fireflies are my renewal.  Every year the fireflies come and dance across my lawns, and no matter how old I am I still rush out in that cloud of spotted bioluminescence, and hunt for the fireflies floating in the dusk until my eyes ache so I can scoop them onto my fingertips and carry them for a while.  They’re irritated, they always are, but they tolerate me well.
So to see them carrying Rebecca off seemed like my soul was going with her.
And mysteries upon mysteries; the fireflies kept coming.  Whenever Gini and I went on long walks and spoke of Rebecca, a firefly streaked, sometimes out of nowhere.  We’ve lived in our house for fourteen years now and never had one wander inside – but this year one did, a dancing spark, lighting up our living room.
When Gini and I were done holding each other, I looked for the firefly, to escort it outside.  But we never found it.
I remain, at my heart, both a skeptic and a mystic; do I believe that Rebecca’s soul appears to us clad in fireflies?  No.  But I don’t not believe it, either.  The world is large, and I’ll acknowledge that coincidence oft overlaps with mystery – and while I see confirmation bias everywhere I look, the universe is too big for me to fit it into all my scientific boxes.
And so Rebecca became intertwined with fireflies.  I doubt I’ll ever walk into spring again without feeling her hand reaching back to me, irrational though that is.
Yet magic or coincidence, things happen.
Far away, artist Maria Fabrizio was working on an assignment for NPR; she was to illustrate a story about assisted suicide, which had to be done tastefully.  She was reading articles, and saw Eric’s eulogy for Rebecca, and watched the fireflies dance across her lawn.  And she thought of us all huddled together, watching Rebecca as her breath slowed and stopped, and decided that fireflies were a metaphor for a beloved passing.
Coincidence or magic, she wove herself effortlessly into our mythology.
And she sent the picture to Eric, who had a print of it made for us.  This isn’t as it appeared on the article; she tinted the central firefly purple, to represent Rebecca, and we as the other glows staying as close as we could as she soared away.
It’s beautiful.
Spark, 2014, by Maria Fabrizio. For Rebecca.
As for the other image, it involves no fireflies.  It’s just needles in flesh, a permanent engraving to carry Rebecca with me.  She got so short a time; I often wonder why the hell I didn’t let her sip my drink.  She never had alcohol, never had her first kiss, never got to college.  There’s something terrible and bottomless about a girl who never lived long enough to sneak seeing an R-rated movie with her friends.
She’s on me, now.  I’ll carry her with me.  And it’s foolish, thinking that maybe some part of Rebecca is knotted in my flesh now, watching all the things she never got to see, travelling by my side as I show her all the things she never got to witness in an absurdly truncated life.
But I do think that.  And I miss her.
And she’s here.
My tattoo of Rebecca Meyer. My Goddaughter. My Little Spark. I'll miss you, kid.

When You Give Permission To Experiment, You Give Permission For Honest Mistakes

Let’s say you don’t trust your partner to do the grocery shopping for your house.  They’re not good with money; they buy all sorts of impulse items you don’t need and can’t afford, and they never remember to use the coupons.  Letting them go do it, knowing they’re going to come home with a cart full of cookies, just fills you with stress.
One day, after weeks of debate where you fear they’re going to fuck it up and they keep insisting they’re responsible enough to handle it, you let them go grocery shopping.
Miracle of miracles, they bought exactly what was on the list!  They avoided all the sample trays, didn’t buy those new Pop-Tarts.  And they used the coupons you gave them!  And –
“What’s this?” you ask.
“It’s milk,” they say.
“That’s whole milk,” you say, hands trembling.  “I needed skim.”
“It just says ‘milk’ on the list.”
“How could you not know what kind of milk I needed?”
“I’m lactose-intolerant, remember?  I don’t drink milk.  And I thought you drank whole…”
“I’m on my diet!” you cry.  “The one I started two months ago!  And now whole milk tastes disgusting to me!  I can’t drink this!”
Now, look, it’s reasonable to be a little pissy about it, especially if you had your stomach set for a delicious glass of milk.  (Mmm, milk.  My favorite drink.)  And clarifying what you mean when you say “milk” is certainly an action item to be discussed on the endless list of Shit We Need To Get Straight.
But if it’s two weeks later, and you’re still sulking and snapping about the time your trusted your partner, and they came home with whole milk, then you guys have got some work to do.
But that’s often how it is when people are starting with beginning polyamory.
The grocery store is not a grocery store, but some new partner they’re unsure of.  And the worry is not that your lover is going to buy an extra box of cookies, but that they’re going to do That Sexual Thing That You’re Totally Not Okay With.
And the milk?  That’s the miscommunication.  That’s where they thought that “kissing” meant “making out” was okay, and stopped when it got too hot and heavy, yet what you meant was “a kiss goodnight.”  That’s where they thought “going out on a date” meant “they could hold hands in public.”  That’s where they thought “cuddling” involved sexual tension, and you distinctly did not.
That’s super-common behavior for a partner who’s not sure they’re poly yet: straightjacketing their partner’s every new interaction with a thousand rules.  And some relationships feel they need training wheels at first, so the other partner can be sure that their partner is trustworthy.  (Some small segment of of them even do need them.)
But here’s the thing: If you give your partner permission to experiment, you have to give them permission to make honest mistakes.
Fuckups?  They’re going to happen in polyamory – and in relationships in general.  If you’re presenting them with a snarled tangle full of restrictions and then will punish them for weeks over the most well-intended slight, you have not given them an opportunity – you’ve given them the Temple of Doom, a maze of traps where the slightest misstep means doom, blame, and eternal shame.
You’re not wrong to be upset over what happened, mind you.  If it was necessary to your well-being that they buy skim milk, and she got whole, then it is perfectly reasonable to be grumpy, and perhaps hurt that she wasn’t paying attention to your needs better.
But can you take a moment to note all the successes on that initial outing?  The fact that they did not, as you feared, go hog-wild in an all-you-can-eat frenzy?  The fact that they took the time to use coupons that they’re not particularly trained in using?
Can you also accept that while they should have known which milk to purchase, you should have also been clearer in your communications, and acknowledge that there’s room for error among reasonable people here?
Can you accept that they didn’t try to conceal this milk from you, but instead laid all the groceries right out on the counter where you could see them?
Because if you’re expecting a perfect polyamory, one where nobody will ever step outside these boundaries you have oh-so-carefully marked for them, well… you’re not going to get that.  In fact, learning to deal with these sorts of miscommunications over perceived intimacies is one of the most critical skills in poly.
The thing is, these rules are often put in place by people who aren’t polyamorous at all – and I support you in not being poly, man!  Not everyone’s cut out for that.  I’m really glad you’re pushing your limits.  And if you eventually decide you’re not okay with your partner seeing other people, well, that’s not an unreasonable thing to want in a relationship.  (Though it may be a dealbreaker for your partner specifically, but that’s always the danger in pushing the boundaries of any relationship.)
But here’s the thing: mistakes happen.  And if you’re going to wail and rend your garments and gnash your teeth for weeks afterwards over a misunderstood bucket of cow juice, then the ugly truth is that you should never have agreed to let them go to the grocery store in the first place.

I Wrote A Story, And Now It's An Audio Production: "Shadow Transit"!

One of my most frequently asked questions is, “I love your blog posts, where can I read your stories?”  As it turns out, they’re all over the damn Internets.  But today, horror podcast Pseudopod has done an audio production of my story Shadow Transit, my tribute to Lovecraft-as-filtered-through-Stephen-King-as-filtered-through-me, and Marie Brennan has done a bang-up job as the childish voice of Lizzie, the seven-year-old-girl who is now a soldier to fight extralinguistic horrors.
This story was directly inspired by my complete inability to play with small children.  Here’s your taste:

Last night’s blizzard had choked the roads, leaving the cabinet factory short-handed for the Friday shift. So Michelle’s boss had called to give her a choice: she could come in for an emergency shift today and keep her job, or she could keep the day off she’d requested to visit her daughter at Shadow Transit, in which case she’d get her ass fired.
“Thank you,” Michelle whispered, glad beyond belief. “I’ll come in. Just…call them for me? Please? I’ll give you the number; they won’t listen to me. Make sure they tell Elizabeth that Mommy’s sorry.”
Jackson made his apologies, saying how he was sure Lizzie was needed wherever she was, but he had quotas to meet. Michelle barely heard him. She felt the giddy relief of a kid hearing that school was cancelled. Her boss had made the choice for her; she didn’t have to play with Lizzie this month and pretend that everything was okay. No three-hour drive out to the Colander. No watching teenaged guards struggling to remember how to pronounce English words. No worrying about what Lizzie had meant for days afterwards. She was free for another month and hated herself only a little for it…

From there, it’s a slow burn to total meltdown.  The podcast is live now, and it’s one of my favorite stories to perform because the climax is largely dialogue.  I have fun reading it, when I do – and Marie did a fine job with it.  Go listen.

The Annual Christmas Tradition: What Was Your Favorite Present?

Every year on Christmas, I ask the same question, because I love Christmas and want to know the answer:
What’s the best thing you got for Christmas this year?
Mine’s an interesting one. I’m supposed to get a large table saw, but that got delayed at Amazon, so I probably won’t see that until after the New Year.  (Though the note my wife wrote me explaining why my Christmas Tree was empty?  Epic, totally epic.)  My Dad got me Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, which stirred up all sorts of childhood memories.  And of course, there’s this new tattoo.
But the best thing I got for Christmas?
Christmas Eve was looking pretty messy come that morning, with family-related stress, uprooted changes in scheduling, and snappishness everywhere.  I was anticipating a tense showdown of an evening, with sadness and tears and meanness…
…And what I got was a beautiful evening with cherished moments with my godchildren, and relaxation, and an unexpected reconciliation with an ex on the eve, and the perfect end to one of my favorite comedy series ever.  Christmas was giving, and happiness, and even some quality snuggling with the wife, and was all the sweeter when I was expecting nothing.
So.  What was the best thing you got for Christmas?  Tell me!  Tell me now.
(Long-term readers who are wondering what happened to the other Christmas tradition, the one with cheesecake photos, can see why that’s been discontinued in an essay over on my kink-blog at FetLife.  It’s not an unhappy thing, I assure you.)

So. Christmas.

I’ve been texting a lot of people on Christmas – hi!  Hello!  Miss you, Merry Christmas!
And what I’ve gotten back a few times is, “I am getting soooooo drunk to deal with my relatives.”
I’m super-lucky.  I like my relatives.  My Mom’s a hoot.  My Dad is a great conversationalist.  I look forward to spending time with them.
But I also like my chosen family.  The Meyers are wonderful.  My friends are wonderful.  Not a bad one in the bunch.  (If they were, they wouldn’t be my friends – but that’s certainly not true for everyone, as Lord knows a lot of people hate their families and then choose friends who are just as much trouble as their relatives.)
This isn’t bragging; it’s gratitude.  I didn’t choose my Mother, or my Father, or my Uncle Tommy, or Grampa and Gramma and Grammy.  I just got them.  And they, in turn, gave me one hell of a model as to how to build my life, so when I found someone as special as Gini I figured out how to keep her.
That’s luck.  That’s what gratitude is for.  You can be happy at the work you’ve put in – and Lord knows I’ve spent years massaging my psyche to be a better person – but the bedrock of almost any successful work is a layer of luck, and I had that.
Christmas seems a pretty appropriate time to celebrate that luck.  And to thank all my friends, the ones with good families and the ones without.  I miss you all terribly.  I love you all deeply.
Thanks for being here.