Perhaps it’s because I plain and simple talk too much, but ever since my divorce I’ve noticed that divorced men are huge conspiracy theorists. Have you noticed this? Now that I’ve mentioned it, do your observations support my claim? Or no?
Last night at work a gentlemen was trying to explain to me all about the Illuminati and Freemasons and some letter written in 1871 that successfully predicted the first two world wars and also looks to predict a still-to-come third world war. What gives?
All I said to provoke all of it was that I was attending school where I am attending school. I think I was just musing about how awesome it is to work at a pizza place again at night while doing school during the day. Then boom. Can you imagine it? It was three on one. Three fellas citing this, that, and the other about the most outrageous claims about the nature of human life on planet earth, and all the while I just said, “I don’t see any hope in those beliefs, in believing what you believe. All I see is that it takes all responsibility for proper living out of your hands if you believe some secret societies are controlling everything anyhow.”
The point is, this isn’t my first encounter with these type of divorcees. There’s something about the breakup that causes men (I’ve never noticed this in divorced women) to just latch onto conspiracy theories. Maybe it’s because they return to drinking fluoride-laced tap water (you know what that does, right?) out of the sink instead of bottled water. I don’t know. I guess it’s just an observation I wanted to get onto this blog for the record.
Why? Why write a book about divorce and doom and base it in contemporary America? I’ll tell you why. Because tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. More specifically, because I was about to go watch H- sing her heart out in some holiday concert. And her mother and her live-in boyfriend were going to be there. I was angry. I was afraid. I was afraid I would do or say something that I would regret. I could picture it. I could picture me yelling or even shoving and I could see the other parent’s reactions. I could see the circle of flesh forming and feel a hand on my shoulder asking me to calm down. I have never been in a fight but I was actually getting nervous that that night would break that streak. I didn’t know what it would be over. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that when the dust settled, the dust in my vision, I saw H- standing there looking at me. She was crying. Her left heel was tapping the ground rapidly.
Spiderman’s uncle reminds Peter that “with great power comes great responsibility.” So while I write and write and hope and hope, when I saw H-‘s face, I realized that I needed to quit effin’ around and write something valuable, write something that I would be really proud of. Not necessarily valuable to you, but valuable to me. And my ex. And hopefully to my daughter some day. The book is essentially an apology, maybe a reckoning.
Along the road to divorce and since then I heard many people express they were in the same boat that I was. They weren’t writers though. I believe I am a writer. So I wrote.
Reviews from friends, family, and strangers agree. It is dark. It is embarrassing. It is depressing. But the real truth is that it is full of hope. You just have to look for it.
Anyhow. Not a single new sale since last week. But I have four more days to give it away over the next 70 or so and create some momentum as the theory goes. So today it is free again on the kindle. If you like to read, read it and enjoy!
I stumbled upon Glenn Hates Books while preparing to market Simon Pastor. If you don’t have time to visit his blog, know that he doesn’t actually hate books, he just hates the books that he thinks could’ve been good if only they were better. I love that concept and his blog. Whereas my blog, here, has a tough elevator speech, Glenn’s blog has an eloquence that is enviable.
But there’s something more to this man and his blog. He reads the books he reviews. Seriously. He reads them. You know he reads them because he writes brutally honest reviews. They don’t include flowery, all-positive language that clearly identifies him as a friend of the author or someone who worked on the book and stands to benefit from high sales. They also aren’t in the category of “there’s something good to be found in every piece of life.” (I actually can’t stop laughing when I picture his bearded-faced reaction to someone who believes that hocus pocus.)
As a result, Glenn topped my list of reviewers to ask to review the book early on–to set the tone, as it were. And he didn’t disappoint. He hates my book. He hates it because it happens to be depressing as shit. And he reads to escape from reality, not re-live it.
My response? Sincere gratitude. I love his authenticity. If only everyone could write so nakedly. But the fact is that reading purely to escape is childish to me. I read and I write to go deeper. I want to feel more, feel it more intensely, and feel it for longer. Escape from this thing called life? Never. More. More, more, more.
Tolstoy ended one of his early works with the following declaration. I’m including it here just in case I ever forget why I wrote Simon Pastor. He wrote, “The hero of my tale–whom I love with all the power of my soul, whom I have tried to portray in all his beauty, who has been, is, and will be beautiful–is Truth.”*
Amen, Brother Leo. And again I say amen.
*Tolstoy, Leo, Louise Maude, Aylmer Maude, and Nigel J. Cooper. Collected Shorter Fiction. New York: Knopf, 2001. Print.
Simon was no saint. It will become abundantly clear that he had a nasty brutish side. And we must never forget, of course, that he was first and above-all human. I say this to introduce the idea that he found himself approaching his twenty-fourth year of virginity with a tiresome weariness. It had been years since he attended a church service and despite plowing through books on religion, the memory of the why of it all was fading.
The fall after he turned twenty-four Simon learned that his friend Kurt was getting married. Kurt asked him to be his best man and Simon figured he may as well learn how to dance for the occasion. He first heard Kerri’s name as the dance studio’s receptionist told him who his instructor would be.
“We do private lessons on Wednesdays, so Wednesday night at 8pm you’ll be with,” the woman paused as she checked the instructor availabilities, “you’ll be with Kerri.”
“Kerri. Got it. Great. See you then,” Simon said. “I hope she’s hot,” he thought, after hanging up the phone.
He had scheduled lessons with high hopes of impressing the bride’s single friends. Simon happily admitted to anyone who would listen that the many ballroom scenes within the recently finished epic War and Peace had a hand as well.
For some men a woman’s smile is the most visible memory of first seeing her. Others can’t forget her eyes. Many find themselves drawn to a woman’s unadulterated laugh. Simon never forgot Kerri’s posture. Arriving a few minutes early for the lesson, he saw a woman who he hoped would be Kerri. She was walking from left to right when their eyes first met. She was expecting him, but didn’t expect him. The way Simon recounted it, she froze solid upon sight of him—her slender neck almost breaking in the violence—though Kerri would coyly never admit to being overly impressed with her future husband that day. He confided to me that he knew in that moment that she was the one. When I pressed him to explain how he knew, he admitted it was very primal. He said that he could just tell that she would give herself to him. Kerri was like that. Her body housed her spirit but was never very good at concealing it.
Too soon, Kurt’s wedding had come and gone and the dance lessons lost their relevance to Simon’s ambitions. Over the duration, however, Simon and Kerri had become quite close. As is often the case with new love, neither of them wanted to stop being around the other. Simon simply couldn’t believe he had found a female that he’d like to have as a friend.
Simon had an uncanny ability to focus on a goal. Since signing that blue oversized “True Love Waits” index card, he viewed all available women as potential wives. Despite viewing marriage as an undesirable institution, he saw no value in befriending a woman who would someday choose another man. If he was going to spend time with a woman, he concluded, it had to be one he wanted to marry. And here she was, slightly tipsy, leaning against his car outside of the restaurant that he had taken her to after his last lesson. Not having any experience to aid his assessment of the unfolding drama, he returned to his safe place—honesty.
“Well, unless we’re going to go somewhere else, I think this is it, Kerri,” he struggled to say.
“Nope, I have no place to be,” she said.
“Oh. It just seems like you’re,” he paused, searching for the most accurate word, “waiting for something.”
“I guess-,” she began.
“Plus, aren’t you cold just standing out here?” he interrupted.
“-I was going to say we could go make out in your car,” she said, laughing at his genuinely surprised reaction to her suggestion, “if that’s okay with you.”
“Hmm,” said Simon as fear swept over him. Simon had never really made out before. But it sounded fun.
“Okay. Give me a second to open your door though. It doesn’t work from the outside,” he said, consciously moving as slow as humanly possible so as to not give away his excitement. Any restaurant staff still cleaning up inside who by happenchance had been peeking out at the scene would have thought Kerri had put a time limit on the offer Simon moved so fast.
Once inside the car, it didn’t take Kerri long to conclude Simon was in uncharted territory, and she laughed as she told him as much. He, in turn, loved both parts of that. She was perceptive and unafraid. Only later did he remember she was also a little drunk. By the end, Simon had told me a hundred times if he told me one time that he always wondered how the relationship would’ve played out if it wasn’t so late, if they weren’t far from both their homes, and if it hadn’t have been that time of the month.
As amazing as the evening had been, Simon was too much a boy scout to not regain control and come up for air.
“Call me when you get to your place. Drive safe,” he said.
Playfully pulling him towards her car, she managed to convince him that just a few more shivering kisses wouldn’t hurt.
Continue reading on your kindle here for $3.99. 🙂
Okay. Here it is. The Author’s Preface and Chapter One are below. Tomorrow’s post will be Chapter Two, but then you gotta buy it. Enjoy! (Click on the image to go to Amazon. Or here.)
Looking back, I am certain that in his last months with us Simon Pastor was aware that his journey’s end was nearing. Those of us closest to him have since discussed the sadness his eyes betrayed no matter how large his smile during those last few months. And I, especially, feel a heavy burden because he once told me that when I tell his story (“and tell it you must!” he’d implore) that I need to get it right, that I need to share everything. In honor, then, of Simon Pastor’s wishes I have chosen to write this book. His will granted me access to everything of his, including his laptop and phone. I have, of course, taken dramatic license with some parts of his story, but when you read a text exchange or email exchange, know that it is verbatim, typos and all.
Men get stuck. Simon Pastor was no different. Like every man he reached a turning point which defined all actions thereafter. Unlike some men, however, Simon fell prey to this moment. It overwhelmed him. It consumed him. And eventually it killed him.
Trauma is usually found within these turning points. I say trauma to emphasize the sheer shock of the event and its aftermath. Combat is the trigger for some, the senseless unexpected death of a loved one for others. For Simon, the event was his divorce.
When men are confronted by these moments, they respond in one of two ways. Either they grow or they get stuck. And I don’t mean to imply that men have an equal chance of responding in either of the two ways, not at all. Most men get stuck. Most are not equipped with the skills and tools necessary to deal with the trauma. Poor Simon wasn’t.
“Simon, here, is a virgin,” said Brian. “He’s holding out for his one true love.”
Simon was, in fact, a virgin. But this did not make him any different from the rest of the eighteen year old college freshmen in the dorm room. The dorm room’s dominant feature was the two twin beds lofted into the air by homemade wooden stands, which made the shape of an L in the corner. The room’s current tenants each hung bed sheets from the ceiling in order to conceal any co-ed sports that may or may not occur on the beds. This was standard practice among the dorm’s residents. The beds being in the air also created more space for the young men to come together for intimate conversations. In the case of Brian’s room, this room, a love seat was under one of the beds. Two more 1950s style wooden desk chairs and one crummy bean bag chair completed the room’s seating arrangement.
“You laugh,” Simon replied, “but I actually did sign a ‘True Love Waits’ card once. With others, I walked it up to the front of the church during a special service and everything. A public vow between God and I. You ever made a commitment to anything higher than yourself before? Any of you?”
It’s what we loved about Simon. He was honest to a fault and all heart.
“That depends on your definition of high, Simon,” Chris offered to a general laughter among the guys.
Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, Simon took a breath.
“Is it on my back? My forehead?” he asked, pretending to wipe off a mark. “Why is it everywhere I go this is the most frequently discussed thing? No, I haven’t had sex. Yes, I’d like to save myself for marriage. And yes, I’m proud of this and could not care less who knows. But I do hope that we can someday talk about something, anything, else,” he lamented. “How about Josh? He was so drunk he pissed on his own computer the other night. Isn’t that interesting?”
General merriment accompanied Josh’s inadequate rebuttal.
For Simon, college was infinitely better than high school in every way save this one. In high school, while every boy talked about having sex, only a select few had actually gained carnal knowledge. In college, however, Simon soon found himself in the minority. And given the general lack of responsibilities that come with attending American universities, everyone soon knew.
He once shared with me, though, that almost to a man, when in a one-on-one conversation, the guys would admit that they respected him for his decision. I knew I did. It was not difficult to see why. Simon believed in principles. He believed in virtue. And that is rare.
Buy it today. Chapter Two tomorrow.
Simon Pastor believed he had never been hurt before. By the time he found himself in an uncontrolled cycle of hurting his wife, he realized that was not true. He felt his wife had hurt him. Then he hurt her. And hurt her. And hurt her. Finally, he divorced her. But that didn’t stop the hurt.
The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor is an explicit look at innocence and hurt. It is not about innocence lost, but about innocence never had. It is about the most destructive kind of hurt. A shameful tale of his descent into madness, The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor offers an unencumbered look into one man’s failed marriage and failed divorce.
I’ve been thinking about your phone call last week, about the unnamed feeling you felt. Now, I can’t possibly know what you’re thinking about your book, but here’s what I’m thinking about my book. I’m terrified to put it on sale and have people read it. Terrified. Why? Because on that day the dream ends. I think I told you about my next book, Eight Acres, and that I have always had a problem of fantasizing about the future rather than living in the now. After talking with you the other morning at the Egg and I (and even before then) I’ve been sustained by the dream that The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor will really take root. That it will go viral. That men (and their women) will write me to thank me for being the vulnerable one and sharing my experiences with such daring. And oh yes, radio shows. Probably even television will be in the mix, to be honest. And more than that, the dream has included that I won’t have to get a real job again. Because I can’t stand working.
But the day I list the book on Amazon, the dream ends. In its place will be only one simple reality–it won’t sell. Unlike the book version of this blog, Simon Pastor may sell 50 copies or so to family and friends and random blog followers because it is new material. But it won’t go viral. It won’t “put me on the scene”. It won’t prevent me from having to endure a real job again. It might, of course, but it won’t. No, it actually doesn’t even have a might. It just won’t. Make no mistake, I needed to write this book. I needed to write it like I need my next breath. And I need to write my blogs. But that’s a far cry from it selling. I’m beginning Eight Acres this weekend and will likely have it complete before February. But then the money starts running out. The dream will end. And I’ll be putting to test my resolve at being kind to my ex-wife as my new job’s schedule will likely act as a catalyst to backsliding into anger and hurt.
I am happy though. Really happy. I don’t regret anything and I wouldn’t change a thing about how I lived my life since taking the oil rig job. 33 is a big year for me. Laughing, I told George the other day that only after having finished this book did I remember that I predicted back in church camp years ago that 33 was when I’d start my calling. Ha. Everyone else always acted like it was in/around college that they would begin their calling. Well, at 18 I said that I felt mine would begin at 33 because that’s how old Jesus was (give or take) when they killed him. Immature, misguided, morbid, delusional, but true nonetheless. And you can bet I never imagined my calling would be a book centered on divorce. Suffice it to say, I can’t wait to hit 34 and laugh at my prophetic abilities. Either way, I’m certain that no matter what it is going to be a helluva lot of fun.
Okay. Sell your book. Give it away. Get people reading it. And on to the next one.
PS – James Hetfield of Metallica said, “Music is my therapy. I need to do it.” I’m not sure that’s exactly where you’re at with writing, but I think you can see the value in his honest admission. With this book, I am certain now that money has nothing to do with the fact that I need to write.
You know how movie teasers and trailers are fun in and of themselves? Well, here’s the teaser for my new book. Enjoy!
A black screen disappears in favor of a silent scene of a bloodied, weeping man trying desperately to beat down an apartment door; inside the apartment is a slouching drunk wearing a look of frightening resignation and throwing his nearly empty tumbler at that door; curious music now accompanies the camera as it closes in on the drunkard’s painful expression of doom. As if a film projected onto his eyes we see video of a beautiful woman leaning in expectantly towards that same man, though younger and full of life. His eyes dissolve out of the background and we now see the man jealous of the woman as she dances the night away with others; then an engagement; then the music quickens to frantic as the pace of the montage of already short video clips speeds up until they are not much more than still images in which we see yelling, fighting, painful looks, divorce papers, fear, and hurt.
Then the screen returns to silent black and the text “The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor” appears. As it fades away the text “Coming Soon” takes its place almost in a whisper.