His hand slowed its feverish massage as his laughter grew.
“What the hell are we listening to?”
I stop my humming and open my eyes, lifting my Galaxy to my face.
He shakes his head and keeps moving the mouse ball, putting the finishing touches on the design I made. A complete overhaul of my book cover. It’s beautiful.
“What’s so funny?” I ask.
“It’s just that when I left here, you were listening to Otep.”
I smile. “It’s my thing. Country music is where I go when I need to bring the rage down.”
He’s right. A few hours prior, I had sat at his workstation. I had Marie’s artwork framing the screen. I had a blank Photoshop layer precut to the background artwork in the center. And I had the roars of Otep, Killswitch Engage, Rammstein carrying about me, helping me bring my rage to resolve.
And from resolve begat beauty.
I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a living fact. My online persona constantly engages in controlled folly, and much of that folly comes from my actual persona managing the ebb and flow of the disorder. I found over the last few years transforming from shadow artist to true artist, having PTSD is a gift. A strange one, in that it can be a crippling situation if not managed, but when it’s harnessed, it can become a powerful source of creativity, sometimes bucking you crazy, but at the end of the ride, you’re left with a masterpiece.
If my actual persona was not the skilled master of the ol’ Put The Stick Down, the design flaw I had to deal with yesterday would’ve sent me into a vortex of fury. I chose to convert my dark thoughts into a working plan. You know what, if you don’t like it, change it, I said to myself. I knew what I wanted to create, but I didn’t have the equipment. Made some contacts; finally, the guy who did my photo shoot not only had the full suite but he didn’t need to use it for the day.
At 2:37AM my time I sent the completed design files, the proofed manuscript, and reference files to the publisher, then I passed out. Today, whatever latent malevolent feeling I have about the ordeal is going to get exorcised out productively. I’m thinking, jog around the park with Bobby, go read my book on the pier, and listen to something that goes like this:
He approached me, draped in black leather duster, black button-down top, black slacks, reeking of false confidence. His eyes, attempting to look seductive, could not hide the cloud of despair swirling inside his pupils. My host intercepted him, and asked who he was. The man introduced himself as Bill. Bill’s from Baltimore, Bill found out about the event on the community’s boards. Bill wants to watch the scene.
My guy gave me a look, and I responded with a ‘no worries’ look back. Bill’s weird vibrations penetrated me, annoying me, and if I’m annoyed then he’s causing discomfort to the others in my group. I volunteered to get him away from them, so I invited him to walk with me to the bar. My guy pulled me aside and expressed his concern. I thanked him, and reminded him I have my knife.
Bill leads the way, and I immediately break him down. Left knee incapacitated, permanent limp. Shoulders lack motion, so upper spine or major shoulder injury. He puffed out his chest after removing his duster and tossing it over his left arm. Right handed.
He offers to buy my drink. Sure. I tell the bartender, “I’ll have a Jack and Coke.”
“How much is a Jack and Coke?” He called out to her. She started to make the drink. “How much is a Jack and Coke??”
Along with being a creeper and cliche dresser, he’s a cheapskate. She says $6.00, I hand him $3. Don’t want him to have to bust open his piggy bank.
My goal at this point is to let my friends comfortably hang out during the next scene and keep Bill and his bullshit away. So we sit, sip, and I, always one to field open-ended questions, started with, “Tell me your life story in 29 seconds.”
A pink-and-black corseted pixie passes by, intending to chat him up, and overheard my question. “Yes! Your life story in 29 seconds.”
He gives me a face conveying inconvenience, but I hold my interest, and he finally volunteers, “Soldier. Writer. Relocated here for work. Dom.”
Dom? As in Dominant? As in, a dominator? No, son. No, you’re not. I do my best to freeze my facial expression to placid.
My 29 second story went like this: Wasn’t born here, wasn’t raised here, finished high school here, went to college, worked in military, state, local, and federal positions, retired two years ago, writing full time, publishing my first fiction novel in February, love living in Florida.
“And what do you identify as here?” He asks, as if he can’t figure it out.
The choices are simple. Either you’re a submissive or you’re a dominant. “I’m a dominant. But tonight I’m here with my friends. Getting back into the fold after many years.”
“It’s because you were married.”
“You were married.”
“Lots of people get out because they get married.”
Well, now we know why you’re here. I see one of the girls searching the room outside where we are. Yes, it’s been quite some time away from them. She gives a look of relief as she approaches me. I already sense he sent her for me, to check on me. Love that man. She sweetly pats my shoulder like a concerned parent. “He just wanted me to check on you, make sure you’re okay.”
I glance across the table at shifty-eyed Bill. He doesn’t like that my guy has eyes on him. Really Bill? You really think I was gonna glom onto you because of your awesome ability to not intimidate me? Your natural ability to exude complete wussiness? Boy I’ll have you bent over this table under a flogger in 2.3 seconds! I pat the girl’s worried hand to convey confidence. “Don’t worry, darling. I’m fine. Tell him I’ll be right there.”
Bill is sipping his Coke in quick bursts. “So, what genre do you write in?” I don’t care, but he did throw out ‘writer’ in his 7 second life story. Asking out of sheer curiosity, but I can already predict his answer.
“Science fiction, creative non-fiction. I’m a self-publisher.”
“Great. Your books are on Amazon?”
“You’re publishing your own work?”
“I’m going through an independent publisher. Local.”
He actually rolls his eyes. Bill smugly offers, “I do it all. I self-publish. I’m an editor. Everything I publish is pristine work.”
“I believe in an extra set of eyes to ensure a marketable piece of work.”
“I can do that for you. It’s my specialty. I can do it all. I’m a one man house. I already have clients.”
This is sounding way too familiar, so I cut him off with, “I’m my own marketer. If I have a successful campaign, then I’ll be taking on clients.”
The point being, so what if your book’s on Amazon? If no one’s buying it, it’s not a marketable work. It’s just a work. I don’t want to get into it, after all, I have a $3.00 pint of Jack and Coke and my friends who want me at their scene. Bill the self-congratulating non-dom can go distract himself elsewhere.
I get up, walk over to the special room, assist where needed, then fall in on the display. My successful conveyence of lack of impression keeps Bill away from us. I did a good job, then.
Not until way afterwards, did he come up to shake my hand, and asked how to contact me. I pointed at my guy. “Through him.” Bill looked at him, back at me, and limped off.