I have a friend, and, in this instance, that is the broadest definition of the word, who is infamous amongst those of us who know him for being the Just Kidding guy. You know the type. I am confident that all of you have at least one in your midst.
They are the ones that find an abundance of ways to disparage you but always do so with a smile and a postscript of, “Just kidding!” Even though he is a senior citizen, he still will punch you in the arm or try to put you in a headlock after he delivers one of his zingers.
As a young man, I frequently laughed along, even when I was the butt of the joke. I honestly believed that the people thus attacking me cared about me. At the time, I believed that people should be taken at face value, and that the things they said should be trusted as being sincere.
Age and experience has taught me that yes, the things that are spoken should be trusted, but not all of them. I was putting faith in the wrong words.
Just Kidding guy was quick to tell you he cared about you or was interested in your best interests. Time proved that the words he qualified with, “just kidding,” were the true ramblings of his heart. It was a hard, painful lesson to learn.
When I first met Just Kidding guy, I had recently moved and was many miles from my home and family. His family took me in, in a manner of speaking, and introduced me to people and included me in their social circle. On the outside, things looked very genuine. Indeed, for several years I enjoyed their company.
In time, other messages reached me of the things Just Kidding guy and his family would say when I was not around. Reality began to dawn on me that the things he said he was kidding about were how they viewed me. I was devastated. I am not one to cry. In fact, I probably can list the number of times I have cried as an adult in a matter of a few seconds. This truth, this lesson, made me bawl like a toddler for most of a night.
The lesson was a good one, though, and for that I do have to thank Just Kidding guy. It taught me to listen to what was really being said by people. As I paid closer attention, it became more evident that the people who said, “just kidding,” rarely were. That, in turn, taught me to choose to avoid those people in my daily life. There was some time where my social calendar did have quite a few openings, but the relationships I did develop have proved to be enduring, quality relationships.
I also learned to be vigilant with the words that escaped from my mouth. Internally, I ask myself, Am I sincere in what I am about to say? How will my audience interpret my words? Are they kind and upbuilding? Those questions taught me to keep my lips in check and not rattle off hurtful things, even under the guise of kidding.
It is more than twenty-five years since I first met Just Kidding guy. He and his wife still live a few miles from me. I rarely see them, and we run in very different circles. When he does chance upon my path, I always maintain how great it is to see him, but in my mind I cannot help but think, “Just kidding!”
Do you have a “Just Kidding” experience. Please share it below.
This is another dark one. There was a period is my life where it was hard to see above the darkness. Eventually the rain always stops, and the skies always clear. If you are in the dark place, the sun is coming. Just hold on.
I wrote this poem specifically to work out the obsession with alcohol of Tom Jacobs, the protagonist in my debut novel, Getting Home. Tom suffers from a long and ongoing battle against alcohol. If you enjoy the poem, be sure to check out the book as well.
Friend or Foe?
It winks at me with single eye
And offers peace before it’s dry
It beckons me, “Take just one sip”
Then noise of mind will slowly slip
It swears to smiles and joy of heart
All in minutes of when I start
The price to pay is fairly small
Some little change for quite a fall
And maybe head or stomach aches
But what is this when peace it makes?
And though I swear this time the last
I take that drink to drown the past
It laughs at me, knows I am weak
My chance to win looks less than bleak
For this old friend, this wicked vice
Knows it holds me in frozen ice
My only friend, my only peace
This liquid holds but gives release
So I stay bound, each time I cave
A helpless ship tossed by the wave
No other way for me to cope
This drink to death my only hope
– June 5, 2005
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This past weekend I started a new novel, working title, Shadows of Doubt. I already have a good idea which direction it will take but would be interested in some input on the front end. Below is a very rough draft of the opening 1500 words. Please share your thoughts.
“Don’t you know?” The Ella Harvey played somewhere in the distance as I slowly opened my eyes and stared blurrily at the ceiling.
It’s morning, I remember thinking. What do I have planned for today?
Something felt off.
“I gave it all to you, body and soul,” the song played on.
I tried to roll to my side and a searing hot pain radiated from my lower back all the way down my right leg. Involuntarily I screamed out in agony.
“Oh, God! What is that?” Another pain manifested in my right shoulder and the room started to spin. I closed my eyes to fight the nausea.
“What’s going on?” I asked the empty room. My mind raced trying to make sense of what I was feeling. I couldn’t remember being in pain the night before.
It seemed safer to just move my head, so I slowly rolled it to the right side and tried to open my eyes again. The room was still spinning but not as fast.
What I saw brought on more confusion. I did not recognize the table next to the bed or the lamp on the table. There was a wooden rocking chair in the corner I was sure I had never seen before. A Sherpa throw was folder over the top of the chair equally foreign.
I tried to turn my head back too quickly and the room sped up again. Clutching the sheet with both hands, I tightly closed my eyes again. Concentrating on my endeavor to slow the spin of the room, I never heard the door open and visitors come in.
“She seems to be waking up,” a strange man’s voice said.
“It’s too soon,” an older woman answered back. Both voices were foreign to her.
Opening my eyes, I put all my strength into lifting my head but a force stronger than me was keeping me still.
“Laura, it is okay,” the woman tried to comfort her.
Laura? Who is Laura?
“Another dose?” asked the man.
“Yes, I think so.”
Something pinched my left arm and within seconds the nausea and pain started to subside. The relief was euphoric and momentarily I felt like myself. Seconds later everything became fuzzy and drifted away.
Someone was playing the piano. The melody was not unpleasant, but it was too early to be playing the piano. I wished they would stop.
My body was sore like I had been lying in one position too long. I shifted under the sheets and my whole right side ached. My mouth was too dry, and my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth. I tried to swallow but my throat was sandpaper.
I fluttered my eyes, but the room was filled with harsh light.
“Are you in pain?” It was the older woman’s voice again. I wanted to answer but it was too hard to form words.
“You don’t have to be,” she told me. Another pinch and fuzzy bliss returned.
More music. Today it was a string quartet. Vivaldi maybe? My mind wasn’t entirely sure.
The room was darker but still bright enough I had to squint at first.
The room was painted a pale pink above the white chair rail and there was a floral print wallpaper below. It was a large room with three windows, one on each side of the bed and one to my right. I thought it was day, but it might have been dusk. It was hard to tell through the pink sheers covering the windows.
Across the room from the bed was a cherry dresser with a large mirror. To my left was a sitting area with two Victorian parlor chairs on either side of a scroll arm loveseat and a fireplace. There were two white panel doors on the other side of the room. I would learn later that the one of the left went into the rest of the of the house, and the one on the right opened to a walk-in closet and bathroom.
Nothing about the room was familiar.
I felt a little stronger this time and was able to sit up enough to see myself in the mirror across from me. The first shock was seeing glass cuts and yellow-purple bruising spread along the right side of my face. The bigger shock came a second later. I looked intently at the person in the mirror, but she was not someone I knew.
I brought up my left hand and touched my face. Yes, I was looking at myself in the mirror. My mind could not reconcile the reflection with my expectations.
Attempting to sit up further brought back intense pain in my lower back. I let out an audible cry as I eased myself back down to a horizontal position.
The door opened then and the older woman came in.
I looked past her expecting another woman to answer.
“Laura, baby girl, are you in pain?”
She was speaking to me, but the name did not make sense. My name was not Laura.
“I’m not,” my voice was raspy, and speaking was difficult.
“Don’t strain yourself, dear.” She reached in her pocket and pulled out a syringe.
“No,” I tried to protest. I wasn’t ready to go back to the darkness, but in seconds I was gone.
This morning it was big band music. Glenn Miller, I think. The window to my right was partly open, and the sheers were moving gently with the warm air coming in. Birds sang happily to each other from the oak tree outside.
Clarity came quicker this time. I remembered the pain immediately. I remembered the room that I did not know. I was able to sit up easier to look at myself in the mirror. The face was still foreign, but most of the bruising was just a pale yellow and the cuts were mostly healed.
“Laura?” I said the name aloud. No, it was not my name. I was certain of that.
Trembling with some difficulty I was able to pour myself a glass and drink a sip of water. Swallowing was an unfamiliar sensation, and I found myself wondering how long it had been since I had anything to drink.
The door opened then and the older woman came in.
“My baby girl is sitting up,” she cooed like I was an infant.
“Where…?” Talking was painful, and my throat constricted after the first word forcing me to sip more water.
“I’m sorry, Laura, I am not sure what you are asking me.”
“Where…where am I?”
Genuine concern distorted the woman’s face and she came closer, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Laura, honey, what do you mean?”
She took my hand in hers. Her hand was cold and unfamiliar.
“Who are you?” I pulled my hand away as tears started to form in her eyes.
“Buck?” she called over her shoulder. “Buck, you better come here.”
An attractive dark-haired man walked into the room. “She’s sitting up,” he noted.
“Yes, but she’s confused.”
“Should I get another dose?” They talked to each other like I was not in the room.
“We probably should.”
Buck left the room and my heart started to race. These strangers had been dosing me with something, keeping me in a place I did not know. Panic and fight or flight started to kick in and I tried to move to the other edge of the bed, but my legs would not move.
“What?” sweat was already beading up on my face and back.
“Laura, baby doll, breathe. Just breathe. You are okay,” she spoke slowly.
“No.” I felt tears on my face. “I have to get up.”
She grabbed my wrist with more strength than I expected. In a stern voice she told me, “You are not fit to go anywhere. Now, be still.”
Buck was back at this point and the needle was in my arm before I could process what was happening.
Fuzziness again and Buck lowered me back down on my back. Then darkness.
Hey, beautiful people. I had the wonderful chance to meet the beautiful Maria (blog linked; check her out!) a while ago and we had a wonderfully fun day out in Brighton, eating cheesecake and chatting about blogging. (And slowly but surely murdering our long-suffering bank accounts.) As we both blog in different ways and drive […]