Strattera: or how to swallow impending doom in a capsule

Okay, I’m off this shit. It’s making me want to jump off a bridge. Or leave everything. Or at the very least quit my job.

Side effects galore with this one: dysphoria. Look it up. It’s bad.

Dysphoria (from Greek: δύσφορος (dysphoros), from δυσ-, difficult, and φέρειν, to bear) is a state of feeling unwell or unhappy; a feeling of emotional and mental discomfort as a symptom ofdiscontentment, restlessness, dissatisfaction, malaisedepressionanxiety or indifference.

Yeah, I need that like I need a third nostril. My pharmacist is weaning me off as of tonight.

Fun fact: after taking it for a month, no beneficial effect on ADHD symptoms whatsoever. Quite the contrary in fact.

I’ll take hiked-up anxiety with Vyvanse anyday over this.

The thing is: I’ve been trying to get my head together to be a better mom for my kids for fifteen years now.  And that’s how old the eldest is… I’m running out of time…

My husband hasn’t left me yet: things are looking up.

Okay, what now?

The verdict is out, the diagnosis is certain, the sentence is given. Six to twelve months, no parole.

What do you now?

You wait. You wait for the signs that it’s growing; for the pain to increase; for the hints that it’s gotten worse. 

You grasp life with both hands, hold on as hard as you can. Every night when you go to bed, you pray the next day will be as good as the one that’s just over; that it won’t take a turn for the worse.

You make plans for the next few days, hoping all goes well. Take advantage of each minute, each hour, each day everything’s still okay, manageable, acceptable.

You live with the constant fear for what tomorrow may bring. What if time’s cut short? What if you don’t get to do that one last thing you craved so much?

The unfairness of it all eats at you but you don’t let it win. You fight it and think of good things; of all that’s left, of all you still need to say. You write it down in case you forget, so they’ll find it after you’re gone.

And everyone around you waits with you. Worries about you but won’t let you see, just in case it drags you down. Everyone’s pasting smiles on their faces, puts cheer in their voices to keep you from sensing their anguish. No one talks about death. No one talks about the end. 

Your children are stuck waiting, anticipating, expecting the hurt to be dragged on through the months of doing everything one last time, knowing it, and holding off on expressing the pain.

Because once you’re gone, they’ll only have pain left: hope will  leave with you. Then they can mourn and let loose and grieve. You won’t be there to see it and that’s okay. You know it’s coming anyway.

Cancer’s a motherfucker.

Where’s my mind?

I think I left it in the washing machine.

Because it’s all soggy, washed out, dripping ideas down the drain.

It was so much fun taking ADHD meds called Vyvanse around Christmas time. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

I could write from 6 p.m. to midnight non-stop, words just flowing on the page – I would write so fast I left out some words. I wrote emotion, sex, descriptions. I could literally see the story unfold in my mind.

I asked my friend to read it for me and give me her opinions and ideas for changes.

I asked another friend to read a scene because she could be one of the characters.

Both gave me encouragement and praise.

My husband read the whole fifteen chapters and even if it’s a subject he’d never read on his own, he liked it. He also had ideas, caught mistakes and gave me praise.

Unfortunately, the meds also made me anxious and cut down my attention span to that of a gnat’s so I had to stop taking them.

And I stopped writing. Almost completely. Look at my latest postings on this blog and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

While weaning off the meds, my mom was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer, hence the post 3 months to live.

Now I’m taking another type of meds, Strattera, which are not working well so far. They leave me feeling depressed, desperate and sad. They don’t even lighten the ADHD symptoms yet – they take weeks before showing any improvement and I haven’t even reached the proper dosage yet – still implementing them gradually.

This is my second attempt at writing in almost a month – see here for the first one.

I read a post by Chuck Wendig, this writer I follow, who said we have to write everyday, even on days when we don’t feel like it. So here I am, writing.

The effort has given me a headache. Should have put my brain in the delicate cycle.

Flash Fiction on Goodreads group: Twelve Years After

I wrote this little piece for my Goodreads M/M Romance group flash fiction. Only two people wrote comments, to say it made them sad (one wanted to cry).  I know I should be glad it elicited emotion from readers, that’s what writing is all about. But I feel really bad it made them sad. I’d love comments on this.  The prompt was:

We didn’t realize what we had back then, wasted it, gave up, thinking that the first imperfection was a reason to split. That we needed perfection. Years later, I know that nothing can always be perfect, but that what we had was special. So when I suddenly saw you again after all these years, I could not believe my eyes … 🙂

And this is what I wrote:

“It seems so trite now. Who cares where we would have lived? As long as we were together. I can’t believe neither one of us gave in. We were so young and silly. We didn’t know we had it so good. Seeing you last week in the metro in the train going east for two seconds made it all come back. I saw you again today. I wonder where you’re going.
So you’re in Montreal again. I guess city life didn’t kill you after all. Or maybe it’s slowly draining your life away like you thought it would.
Do you have a family? A boyfriend? A dog? Did you finally sell our house at a huge profit? Did you keep the mural I painted in the living room or did you paint over it the minute I left? Are your parents still alive?
Do you miss me? Do you think of me sometimes, like I think of you? Do you ever wonder what if? What if we hadn’t split up? What if you would have agreed to move to Montreal with me? What if I would have stayed in Sainte-Catherine with you?
I loved you, so much. I think – no I know you loved me too. And we threw it all away.
I wanted to call you, to tell you I regretted my decision, I wanted to come back, I felt so alone in Montreal in my small but trendy apartment.
Of course I didn’t. I was too proud to admit I made a mistake. After all, I was the one who felt like I was suffocating and had to move back to the city. You’re the one who didn’t want to come with me.
You broke my heart. I probably broke yours by leaving. We had promised each other forever and I left.
I hoped and prayed you would come to your senses – yeah I know, I was arrogant. I had fantasies that you phoned, crying, telling me you couldn’t live without me; or that you’d show up on my doorstep with a suitcase and you’d rush into my open arms.
I saw you in the street, at the store, at the market, in the park, I saw you everywhere. Any guy with long, curly brown hair was you. I went mad.
And still I didn’t call. Then time flew by and it was most probably too late, you had most likely met someone; I’d make a fool of myself.
Twelve years have come and gone.
You’re still gorgeous. You still make my heart pound. You looked tired today and I wanted to take you in my arms and rock you gently, comfort you. It was a fleeting moment, but I felt it all the same.
I was with Noah for eight years. He’s a great guy. You’d probably like him. He wasn’t you. There’s no one like you. I’m sorry I was such a jerk. If only I could make it up to you.

***************

I saw you yesterday at the McGill station. You were seated across from me, in the metro going west, on the other side.
You haven’t changed. You’re so beautiful. There’s grey hair mixed in with the chestnut now. It makes you look even more sophisticated. It makes me feel even less worthy.
Do you remember me? The guy from Hicksville who was afraid of loud noises and fast cars? I remember you. Every single day.
I was so impressed by you. You were going places, you were expected to succeed in the great big world. Your clothes, your hair, your car, your speech. I was in awe of you. You weren’t meant to live in the boonies with one shopping centre to serve a whole small city. Montreal called to you. I heard it every time we visited your folks, every time your friends phoned, every time you looked for something in our unique drug store and couldn’t find it, every time you sighed as you opened the front door at the end of the day.
I knew I couldn’t keep you. I knew I had to let you fly away towards the skyscrapers where you could perch and watch your city live and breathe twenty-four hours a day. I couldn’t drag you in mediocrity with me.
It broke me. The house was suddenly too big, too quiet. I couldn’t sell it and move though, I couldn’t leave your mural behind. Your blood and guts were on that living room wall and I couldn’t bear to think of someone else living with it, with you; and I couldn’t cover it either.
I sat watching that painting and cried my heart out for a whole year. My mom begged me to sell. I couldn’t.
I finally sold the house last year. I received an offer I couldn’t refuse (The Godfather still your favourite movie?) and moved to Montreal. I painted over the mural before moving. It was mine, all I had left of you, and if I couldn’t bring it with me, I couldn’t leave it either.
Matt told me about Noah. I knew you’d meet someone worthy of you. I wasn’t an idiot; you were too special to be alone for long. I expected it to be someone more in your league, someone in advertising, or designing. I was right.
I was happy for you. I was also devastated.
Even if I didn’t have any hope of you ever looking back, it nearly killed me.
Things are good now. I date on and off. Guys I meet in bars, in the supermarket, on the internet. Never anything serious. I tell myself I don’t have time for a relationship but we both know that’s not true. I can’t help but compare them to you and they all pale in comparison.
I know now I should have held onto you. I should have followed you to the ends of the earth. I should have fought for you.
I’m ready now, to fight for you. I looked you up on Facebook five minutes ago. Your status says single. I guess Noah’s not in the picture anymore. I’m thinking I’ll send you a private message and see if you remember me. If you do, I’ll invite you for coffee, just to catch up, you know, just old friends. Then I’ll tell you I never forgot you, I always loved you, I still love you. And see what happens. “

Flash Fiction Goodreads MM Romance Group

The prompt was:

While MC1 is visiting his parents for a family crisis, his boyfriend MC2 comes to support him. MC1 hasn’t told his family about him, though. Awkward! 

Here’s my contribution:

“I have to go home. I’ll call you later,” said Jeff quickly, his hand on Max’s office door. He was holding his jacket, obviously on his way out.

“Are you sick?” asked Max.

“No, it’s my dad. I have to go home. My mom called me.”

“I’ll drive you. I was almost finished here anyway,” Max got up from behind his desk and grabbed his jacket.

“No, it’s alright. I’ll take a cab,” Jeff said, already walking away.

“Wait!” yelled Max. “I’ll drive you so we can talk.”

In the car, Jeff looked out the window while Max drove towards Jeff’s parents’ house. He had never been there. They didn’t know about him. Jeff hadn’t even told them he was gay. He suspected they already knew.

“So what happened?”

“They found a tumor yesterday during a routine check-up. Today he found out he’ll need surgery fast and it might not be enough. My mom is freaking out. She called my sister too.”

“I’m so sorry.” Max reached out and grabbed Jeff’s hand. Their fingers curled together. “Is there anything else they can do?”

Jeff chocked on a sob. “They have to meet the oncologist in two days. I’ll know more when I get there,” he sniffed. Max squeezed Jeff’s hand. They rode in silence the rest of the way.

“Just over here, the red door,” Jeff said, pointing to his parents’ house.

“Good luck. I’ll wait in the car.” Max let go of Jeff’s hand and turned off the motor.

Jeff  just sat there, his hand on the door handle. He looked so sad it broke Max’s heart.

“Can you come in with me?”

Max was surprised by the question. “Uhm… is that a good idea? What are you gonna say?”

“That you’re my friend and you drove me. I don’t care. I just need you.” Jeff looked up at him with watery eyes.

“Of course I’ll come in.”

They both got out of the car and headed towards the door, which opened as soon as they reached it.

“Jeff,  I’m so glad you could come” said the person who had to be his mother. Jeff walked into her open arms and they hugged. Max stood a couple of steps behind him, feeling a bit awkward.

“Oh, hello, come on in,” said Jeff’s mother when she saw him.

“Hello Mrs. Peters,” Max said, his hand outstretched.

“Mom, this is Max. He drove me,” said Jeff. “Max, this is my mother.” They shook hands.

“Call me Julia. Come on in.”

As they entered the house, they could hear voices in the kitchen. Jeff was following his mom and he stretched his hand out behind him for Max to touch. Max brushed Jeff’s fingers lightly.

A man looking distraught sat at the kitchen table, presumably Jeff’s dad. A tall, pregnant woman with the same blond hair as Jeff was pouring coffee in mugs at the counter.

When they walked in the kitchen, Jeff’s dad got up and hugged his son. Jeff started crying on his father’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Dad,” he sobbed.

Max stood in the doorway,  not knowing what his role was. This was an intimate family crisis and he felt like the intruder that he was. He had never met these people. They didn’t even know he was in a serious relationship with their son. Watching Jeff break down in his father’s arms, he realized they needed to have a serious talk about where their relationship was going. But this was not about him, he knew that. He was here for Jeff, whatever Jeff needed. If he required him to act like just a friend, then so be it. There would be time for revelations later.

When they disengaged, Jeff’s dad noticed Max and was startled. He took a step away from his son, seemingly embarrassed.

“Oh, Dad, this is my friend Max. He drove me,” Jeff explained. “Max, this is my dad, and this,” pointing to the woman with the coffee mugs, “is my sister Kelly.”

“Hello Max,” said Jeff’s dad softly, uncomfortable that a stranger had witnessed his emotional reunion with his son.

“Hi Max, it’s nice to meet you,” said Kelly, coming to shake his hand.

“It’s nice to meet all of you. I’m just sorry it’s under such sad circumstances,” said Max, shaking her hand. “I’m sorry, Sir, if there’s anything I can do,” he said, turning to Jeff’s father.

“Thank you, Max, for driving Jeff. We really appreciate it.” Jeff’s dad still looked uncomfortable. He turned to his son. “Jeff, why don’t you walk your friend out. I’m sure he’s got more interesting things to do tonight,” he said, smiling faintly. Julia smiled wanly at Max, twisting her fingers.

“Of course. I’m sorry for intruding, Mr. and Mrs. Peters.” Max quickly turned around and headed back down the hallway. He knew this was a bad idea.

“Max, wait!” Jeff called out. Turning to his parents, he said: “Mom, Dad, Kelly, there’s something I have to tell you. Max isn’t only a friend.”

Hearing those words, Max stopped in the middle of the hallway, his heart in his throat.

Jeff walked up behind him and took his hand. “It’s alright, baby. Come on,” he said softly.

When they came back to the kitchen, both Jeff’s parents looked stunned and his sister was smiling.

“Max, would you like some coffee? I was just pouring some,” Kelly said to Max with a twinkle in her eye.

Max just nodded, not sure what he was supposed to do. He was just going to follow Jeff’s lead.

“Jeff?” his mom asked, her face wide with surprise.

“I know this is an awful time to bring it up and my timing sucks, but Max is my boyfriend and I really need him with me. Is that alright?” Jeff looked to be on the verge of tears again. Max just looked at the floor, waiting for someone’s reaction.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Kelly said in a sing-song voice. She brought a tray of coffee mugs to the table and sat down. “Come on, the coffee’s getting cold.”

Julia was the first to recover from her shock. “Please, Max, sit down,” she said, pointing to a chair. “Jeff, we’ll talk about this more some other time, but for now I’ll just say I’m happy you found someone.” She looked at her son with determination and, yes, a hint of affection.

Jeff’s father, on the other hand, was not so forthcoming. He just stood there, stunned and angry.

“Are you trying to tell me you’re gay and this is your boyfriend? On the day I find out I have cancer?” His voice was raised by the time he finished.

Max just stood there, not moving. He noticed Kelly’s eyes rolling. Jeff looked crestfallen.

“Stan, calm down,” Julia said to her husband. She walked up to him and put a hand on his arm. “It’s not so surprising, is it? Come on, we have more to talk about,” she said gently.

“Yeah, Dad, it’s not like we weren’t expecting it, is it? Come on, tell us what the doctor said. That’s what I want to talk about,” Kelly said.

Stan sighed, shaking his head. “You know, Jeff,  we suspected for a while now that maybe girls weren’t your thing. But to spring this on us at a time like this, I have to say I’m disappointed. You could’ve told us before. How long has this been going on?” he asked, still standing, staring at his son.

Jeff turned towards Max. “We’ve been together six months now. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. I was afraid you’d be mad,” he said sheepishly.

“I can’t say I’m thrilled, but cancer pretty much stole your thunder, son,” Stan said. He finally sat down, took a cup of coffee and started fixing it with sugar and milk. He looked up at Max and said: “Come on, sit down. Have some coffee,” he gestured to the mugs.

“Thank you,” muttered Max. This is not how he thought they’d come out to Jeff’s parents. He felt terrible. “I’m sorry we’re springing this on you at such a bad time,” he apologized. “If you’d prefer for me to leave, just say so,” he added.

“No, please, stay,” Jeff said, grabbing his hand. “It’s okay, right?” he asked his parents.

“Sure, sit down, Max,” offered Julia. Both guys sat next to each other. Jeff reached for Max’s hand under the table. Just knowing he was there made him feel a little better.

Julia sat next to Kelly and pulled a mug toward her. “I’m sorry Max, I know this is awkward. I wish we would’ve met before this,” she said, pinching her lips.

“We’ll grill him some other time,” Kelly said, smiling. Turning to her father, she asked: “Okay, what did the doctor say?”

They talked about the tumor; the urgency of removing it and the possible treatments but much was up in the air still until they met with the oncologist.

The whole time, Max remained silent, letting the family talk. He rubbed Jeff’s hand with his thumb to comfort him, but that was the extent of his involvement. Observing Jeff with his family, he noticed the brother and sister had a warm, affectionate relationship. They were both on good terms with their parents or, if not,  differences were put aside for the time being. Max had never seen Jeff so vulnerable. His questions betrayed his worry and anxiety and the answers weren’t reassuring much. Kelly seemed the calmer one, taking the information for what it was, not more, not less. Her attitude leaned more toward not worrying about stuff they didn’t know or couldn’t control. Sometimes she would catch Max’s eye and wink or smile at him. This made him feel a little less uncomfortable.

When there was nothing else to say about Stan’s health, Julia put both her palms down on the table.

“Okay, who’s hungry? I have a huge frozen lasagna I can stick in the oven,” she said, looking around at everyone.

“I have to get home. Bob’s waiting for me to put Kyle to bed,” Kelly said. She stood up, putting a hand at the small of her back. “I’ll go with you to meet the surgeon if you don’t mind,” she said to her dad.

“Sure, that’d be great,” Stan said, smiling for the first time in a while. “Thanks,” he said, getting up and pulling her in a hug.

“I can go too. I’ll ask for the time off,” Jeff said.

His dad turned to him. “Great, I’d like that,” he said, smiling at his son.

Jeff turned to Max. “Mr. Stevens won’t mind, do you think?”

“Just tell him why you need the time, I’m sure he’ll accommodate you,” Max assured him.

“You guys work together?” Julia asked.

“Yeah, that’s where we met,” Jeff smiled,  looking at Max fondly.

“They don’t frown on that?” Stan asked.

Jeff’s back stiffed. “No, Dad, they don’t frown on gays,” he answered tightly.

“I didn’t mean because you’re gay, Jeff. I meant they don’t have a non-fraternization policy or something like that?”

Jeff’s shoulders’ dropped. He didn’t meet his dad’s eyes. “Oh. No, they don’t care as long as you do the work. The president and the office manager are a couple, so…” he smirked.

“Is anyone up for lasagna?” Julia asked.

Jeff turned to Max. “Do you mind if we stay?”

“I’d love to,” Max smiled at him. “If that’s alright with you,” he added, turning to Julia.

“Of course it’s alright. It’ll give us a chance to chat and talk about something else,” Julia answered, smiling. She went to the freezer and started preparing dinner.

“Are you a programmer too?” Stan asked Max. They started discussing work so Jeff walked his sister out. She grabbed his arm. “I’m so happy for you! Plus he’s hot,” she whispered in his ear.

“Yeah, he is. He’s great. I’m glad you met him,” Jeff said, hugging his sister.

“Will you be alright?” she asked him, a concerned look replacing the joyful one.

Jeff felt his heart stutter. “Yeah. I’ll be fine. I just feel bad for Dad. He’s not gonna have fun anytime soon.”

“Call me if you want to talk and try not to worry about what you can’t help,” Kelly said, squeezing his hand.

“Yeah, thanks. Kiss Kyle for me.”

“Will do. Have a nice dinner with Max and the folks,” Kelly said, then left.

Jeff walked back towards the kitchen, hearing Max and his dad talking. Relief fought with worry inside his gut. His dad was really sick, but at least he wasn’t going to deal with it alone. He had Max.

Gay romances: why are they popular all of a sudden?

Book clubs, group discussions, blogs, all kinds of stuff about M/M and F/F romances are popping up everywhere. There’s obviously a market for it.

Why? gayboys

This is what I think.

Although hetero romances are fun and make us feel good, there’s a bit more to a gay romance: it’s against the odds. It’s harder, more difficult, not as easily accepted, shunned and judged. If the characters make an effort, despite the adversity, to be together, it makes us feel even better.

Everyone knows how a good romance story is built: A and B fall in love. A and B encounter a difficulty. A and B work it out. A and B live happily ever after because true love always prevails.

When A and B are two guys or two girls, they’re already starting with a difficulty. In this day and age, even if we’re better about it than, say, 50 years ago, it’s still hard to be gay. Depending on where you live (if you’re gay I hope you don’t live in Uganda) it can be life-threatening.

gaygirls

To see two characters live through it and succeed, have a happy life, adopt kids, whatever, even if it’s two young adults who just come to terms with their orientation and decide to live a gay life with the one they love, they don’t even need to encounter a typical difficulty for us to root for them.

And it’s sexy for women to see men in a vulnerable, soft light, even if it’s all hidden behind a macho, virile, very-male badass. For some, the more the better.

The fact that we can now read books in public on our e-readers without anyone seeing the title or the book cover helps a lot, I’m sure. I remember being transfixed by a girl reading “The Story of O” in the bus when I was a teen. I was embarrassed on her behalf! Now? You can read fifty shades of whatever kink turns you on and no one is the wiser.

Also, if we heteros like to read romances about couples like us, guess what gays like it too! Especially young adults who want to find literature that will speak to them about what they feel. We need more teen books about gay life. We owe it to our young ones who need to feel they’re part of something and that something is good, healthy and accepted.

Live long and prosper, gay romance.