“X” Marks the Spot at Armstrong Hall

Here you find buried treasure—my buried treasure—containing last ditch efforts and disappointments planted just below shoe prints made by school spirit and broken liquor bottles. This is where you will learn juxtaposition

This is where you prove your high school health teacher wrong.

“If you don’t pick up the habit by 18, your chances of ever picking it up are slim to none.”

You’re nearly 19, competitive, and ready to conquer this challenge.

This is where you watch a stranger punch through a barred window during a psychedelic mushroom trip gone horribly wrong. You’ll put pressure on his wounds and wait for the ambulance as you hold back laughter while he explains, with urgency, the reason for his violent pursuit.

This is where the girls exhausted by the demands of rushing a sorority will storm in herds as they identify themselves through a melody of coughs. You’ll be annoyed, understanding these encounters to be a direct attack against your intelligence.

Those same girls will arrive here after midnight to narrowly escape MIP’s and the main entrance Gestapo because the stoop kids will always prop open the door. They won’t cough. They won’t acknowledge your camaraderie. This is where you’ll learn altruism.

This is where you sit and think of how blessed you are to have gotten lost on your first day of class. You won’t know where you’re going but you’ll be drawn to another lost girl. She will have two classes with you, introduce you to her friends from back home, and you will find family.

This is where those friends will drape you around their shoulders after a night you’ll never talk about again. You won’t remember it. They will tell you that they made sure nothing happened to you. This is where you will see the darkness that humanity is capable of. This is where you won’t let it harden you.

This is where you will grow. Not in a classroom, not at your first Big 10 football game, but on a stoop. You will see that a place can become the leading lady to your own story.

This is where you find healing.

This is where you carve your name in ash and stone.

This is where you return.

Use With Caution While Operating Heavy Machinery and Talking

“You might have trouble sleeping”

I explained my blood-brother relationship with insomnia during the first 20 minutes of this session so I think I can manage.

“Loss of appetite is most common. You may find yourself experiencing undesired weight loss”

Can you define undesired?

“You could experience an unusual amount of irritability.”

Well, sure. If what little sleep I’m able to receive is taken away along with any inclination to satisfy a hunger that no longer exists, I might get a bit agitated.

He handed me the prescription and sent me on my way.

 

The first few days were kind of a blur. I was focused and motivated and found myself actually wanting to leave bed. But things took a quick turn as I realized there was one side effect he failed to mention: the incessant need to talk. To talk to another person, to my dog, to a brick wall.

I bothered my loved ones with motivational text messages about how much I admire them and I deliberately ran in front of people like a bat out of hell just so I could reach the door in time to hold it open and experience the short exchange of gratitude—which, in turn, lead to a rise in automatic door installations. The doctor had mentioned that my body would take a while to acclimate to the medicine and that I should give it a fair shot unless the adverse effects interfered with my life. While I may have been unusually friendly and supportive, my life had not yet been interrupted. But then came the day I found myself saying that I did, in fact, have a minute to talk about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

My intention was to let them know that I already identify as a Christian but it appeared as though the side effects had other plans. An increased desire to socialize somehow resulted in befriending an entire Mormon congregation. The girls left my house after two hours, promising to return in the morning with their leader—their words, not mine. And they did.

I watched the girls approach my front door with a man fashioning a brown trench coat. I answered the door and was introduced to “daddy” Thomas. The side effects kicked in again and I found myself saying something like “Why not Pastor Thomas? Isn’t “daddy” a bit familial?” To which they responded with an explanation of their tight-knit congregation and how I would be an excellent fit. Typically I’m not one to recognize a dangerous situation but I had just completed my annual re-read of Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor. It tells the story of a failed cult mass-suicide. Those who survived began to drop like flies as if someone was cleaning up after an unplanned mess. So this guy lives in fear after discovering that he’s the lone survivor, waiting for death to knock on his door. I began to believe that death was knocking on my door.

They started to show up at my house every day for the month that followed the first encounter. I morphed into a Pavlovian dog conditioned at the sound of their unique knocking patterns to propel myself into broom closets or to drop to the ground and take off in an army crawl. They started to leave bibles and gifts and notes that exclaimed how distraught they were to have missed me again.

I guess I could have told them to stop coming around but between my passive-aggression and my irrational fear of being the star of Palahniuk’s new novel, I chose to ship myself off to school a week early and dump the burden on my family.

It turned out that these girls were not, in fact, sociopathic cult members. They were more like a real-life application of If You Give A Moose A Muffin and their visits virtually stopped after about 6 months. But, in typical life-laughing-at-the-Cotzias-family fashion, every once in a while my dad will call to inform me that my friends stopped by again, that my mom simply does not want to be a Mormon, and that my sister is two mid-day knocks away from homicide.

 

 

“Have you been experiencing any side effects?”

They’re all gone…for the most part.

 

Eternally Ephemeral: An Unbreakable Cycle

It’s one of those feelings that can only be described through other things like the uncertainty surrounding a candle’s flame. Watch as human breath escapes your lips, desperate to end the combustion. Sometimes—the time that demonstrates this feeling—you’ll succeed, briefly. Smoke hangs in the air; painting the thoughts you can’t seem to find words for. For a second you experience relief. For a second. For a second you admire the bleeding ash left behind on the wick until it betrays you. The smoke reverts before your eyes. The fire returns long enough to illuminate your once useful human breath, your failure, and your fate. You’re left to question the true source of betrayal: the candle or yourself.

An open letter to the guy who’s been hurt

We all know the type. The paradox of having broken wings, desiring to be mended while craving revenge.  I encounter the i’ve-been-screwed-over-so-many-times sad, emotionally vulnerable boys and the i-know-what-it’s-like-so-i-wont-treat-you-like-that suave, pseudo-trustworthy men. The mission is the same: play or be played. Let’s stop these games once and for all.

To the guy who’s been hurt,

I’ve been there. Oddly enough it’s the result of guys like you, spitting empty promises like that cup of coffee you sip only to realize through the cold, altered taste that it was made yesterday. Try to understand that hearts will be broken by these vicious cycles of get hurt-hurt-cause hurt. You were wounded and found a sense of home and healing within my bones. I felt it, too. Maybe your misunderstanding of self-worth caused you to run. Maybe you wanted to regain the power that was taken to you previously. All you needed to know was that you no longer felt the aching of your heart in your stomach anymore. But did you not pay attention in high school physics? Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed or transferred into another form. Your hurt, while alleviated for you, was transferred to me.

Maybe you didn’t set out to give me the pain you showed up with. Maybe you really do think i’m beautiful and charming. Just know that I learned from you. I learned, once again, to not expect to be treated the way I treat others. I learned, once again, to take the compliments of my beauty that make me very uncomfortable with a grain of salt. I’ve been on a mission to allow myself to fall for good guys, but you taught me that even good guys aren’t good anymore.

So here’s my plea for you: make sure you’ve found a way to deal with your pain before you walk my way because my back is curving to the weight of taking on passed-on hurt through the shit she put you through that you decided–all while knowing what it did to you–to put me through

Sincerely,

The girls who’ve been hurt by the guys who’ve been hurt.

Deflect, Reflect, Neglect

Deflect, reflect, neglect: the “lect’s” of tangled veins that become wise beyond their years.

These repetitions will slit our throats, hollow our arteries,

Solidify, dismember, morph all while reality is eclipsed by the promise of vanity and heart ventricles.

Each breath pumps indiscretions into the cracks of your bloodstream.

Deflect, reflect, neglect: the “lect’s” of a heavily armed fort in place to protect your walls from desirable intruders.

You’re safe from purification,

You’re safe from the wind carrying tomorrow’s guilt,

You’re safe from these gusts of air that fuel your body’s dust and grime in my direction.

I’m not safe;

I’m not safe from the beating hearts of what if’s,

I’m not safe from the smiles that expose regularly brushed teeth,

Jagged from environmental conditions beyond your control:

The leaves, the ash, and the hellfire that lights the cigars of the innocent.

Clear my lungs, clear your mind

Bring me carbon dioxide.

BRaVe

I haven’t posted anything in a what feels like forever. I’ve had nothing of value to say but this time of year always brings about something within myself that needs to be discussed.

Two years ago tomorrow (July 20th) I lost a friend. I was only able to know this man for about two years before he passed away but I have always been a firm believer in time meaning nothing compared to memories and how someone touched your life.

Ben was one of a kind. You would never find him in a disagreement with anyone. He went with the flow and I never knew him to complain, ever. About a week before he passed, I took him and a few other friends to my cottage in northern Michigan and we had the greatest time and I will forever be blessed to know that was one of his last memories on earth.

I think the hardest part in all of this is what happened following his death. It seemed like his friends who had known him longer than I had were acting childish and rude, but grief does strange things to everyone. At his funeral, one of his close friends approached me with a lot of anger and claimed that my sadness was inappropriate for the amount of time he had been in my life compared to most everyone else there. I’ve never understood how someone could tell another human how to grieve. I did the stupid thing and let these unkind words alter the way I continued my process of grieving and because of that, I now carry the outcome of unresolved thoughts and feelings. I began reliving the events that followed his death to examine my emotional reactions, so much so that another layer of guilt showed up to the party. I began reliving the two years I spent with him, searching for ways to place tangible value on our friendship as justification. I began reliving the night he died.

I dropped Ben off at his house that night and i’ll never fully shake the feelings that surround knowing that. I’ve always believed that our amount of time on earth is predetermined and that’s always brought the comforting “It was their time” thought. I found myself questioning my own beliefs the moment everything hit too close to home. Could I have prevented this? What if we hadn’t continued our night after dropping him off and had brought him with us? The aforementioned sensible part of my mind knows it, though tragically short, was his time. But the rest of me can’t distance myself enough to alleviate the guilt.

I think the most important lesson I found is that it isn’t about the amount of time, but rather how someone touched your life and the memories you were able to make. My best piece of advice from all of this is in times of tragedy to allow everyone to feel what they need to feel and to stick together, silently if need be. Don’t ever tell someone how to grieve because it has the ability to haunt and tarnish memories. Tell the people you love that you love them because everyone has their own stopwatch and none of us know when those final seconds will tick down. As Ben left my car that night, he came to my window and said “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Ben, I miss you and I love you.

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When Nerds Drink

I’m not even a little ashamed to admit that at my 21st birthday party, I came into my room and drunkenly wrote poetry. Most of it is illegible, but I think this one has potential:

The seasons change, but we haven’t.

The snow melts as if the devil himself had something to prove;

He grabs on to your shoes,

Warming the earth with each calculated footstep.

I walk behind,

Keeping distance enough to perpetuate a shield of armor.

The Medieval chain mail is fashioned from my wings;

For they have out grown me, but you haven’t.

I want to despise you,

Destroy you,

See your bones splinter from my words.

But I refuse:

Sadism saved your life; Masochism saved mine.