beauty just because

Over the past 74 days, I’ve tried so many damn times to put this into words, starting and stop without much sense or rhyme or reason. Bear with me.


[[[On an important sidenote before I begin, the last two times I wrote, while unrelated and isolated in many ways from the life I now live almost a year and so many experiences later, are almost sarcastic in their reminder of the by and by. Over ten months ago, I wrote on how I didn’t care what happened when I died, a lament against (what I perceived as) escapist theology and worrying too much – that conversation that certainly deserves many a revisit – but I admit it was a thinly veiled expression of frustration and confusion in regards to a conversation I had with a close friend’s mother; I wasn’t angry, and I didn’t feel correct but misunderstand, but I was challenged and struggled with mutual feelings of life-love with what I felt were incompatible resulting attitudes. Two months later, I began a post on the beginning of my then-new tutor fellowship with a reference to Julien Baker and her desperate lyric about treading the line between complaint and rejoice when thinking about life and death and the unfair passing of close friends. And now, in my third time writing in 365 days (the previous post prior to those mentioned was exactly a year and a day ago, therefore punctually outside the framework I want to work with in this anecdote, the only timely puzzle that seems to work out well in all this rambling), I write of that same friend, the one whose mother so frustrated and challenged me (whom I adored at the time and do all the more so today), the one who introduced me to Julien Baker and later accompanied me to see her play that very song with its shouted prayer about somebody listening “at night with the ghosts of my friends when I pray,” the one by whom I’m sure much more will be inspired.  The rest of the post is about how things don’t work out in patterns and with motifs and satisfactory balance like I wish they did, but perhaps I am wrong, because while it seems arbitrary and out of line, I suppose I’m writing this now “for a reason” even if it is a reason I make myself. So I’ll rejoice, and I’ll complain, and I’ll rejoice.]]]

Time is an arbitrary beast, and my mind works in such a way that the oddly inconsistent and asymmetric patterns that ripple throughout our lives bother me. I want things to neatly fit into each other, and rarely does that happen. These calendrical mismatches echo and repeat out of sync with each other throughout history, off-setting the moon’s cycles with our revolutions around our sun, our own days’ lengths waning and waxing with the seasons, a menstrual cycle keeping some sort of time while the turn signal of the car in front of you seems to mock you, wavering on synchronization and faltering out before the light changes. Perhaps the musician in me simply lacks the focus and creativity to deal with these irregular time signatures, the logician of my brain unable to wrap these polyrhythms into the golden ratio that marks my arm. My heart beats out of rhythm with my breath but the leap years and seconds and the 7, 12, 28, 30/31, 60, 365 pulses of the universe just confuse me and make me tired.

I’ve been thinking a lot about when I should write this – should I, like Christ, rise after three days to eulogize for my friend? Or, like Yahweh, take refuge after 6 days and devote a 7th to rest and reconsideration. 4 weeks came and went in an instant – agonizing and eternal and oh so slow – and the moon died and came back in, not caring much about the desperate need and hatred of each of these seconds that have passed since that day. Those timespans each seem to carry with them promise of cycle with them, a circular return and reversal back to the beginning. The presupposition of repeat, a chorus, structure, framework skeleton. And on the third day, he rose. On the seventh, he rested before continuing again. On the 28th, the moon wakes from her slumber to be born again. Even as the calendar revisits the same numerals each month, my friend hasn’t risen, he hasn’t come back, no pattern continues.

In the past few weeks, I’ve combed through pages describing the slowing down (and occasional speeding up) of the Earth’s rotation, different cultural calendars and which might still be used today, and the ways Universal Coordinated Time, Greenwich Median Time, and and International Atomic Time have all superseded and contradicted and eclipsed one another in a mess of leap seconds and clock winding. Just over a month ago, June 26, while not necessarily the longest day (that was the previous week), was the latest sunset of the year in my part of the country, and while millions of school-age kids in the Northern hemisphere were triumphing these short nights in anxious abandon that is ultimately melting into dread right about now, I can’t help but sit and think about the last five weeks since then – a split second and an entire age, it seems – and how, as the nights now start to incrementally grow and the days begin their yearly wane, something will be utterly missing from all the comings and going and ebbs and flows of time from here on out.Time may not be consistent, but one thing had been for 21 years, and in this new age, June solstice to December solstice, Summer and Winter, something is gone. Someone. In the middle of Spring, of blooming and blossoming and growing and maturing and adolescent beauty, you left us. June 26 was 40 days and 40 nights after our own private Easter  weekend – nights that grew shorter despite the need of many to sleep and crawl within themselves away from the world – and it stood as some sort of Ascension day that never came because the resurrection had been delayed.  The longest day of the year actually happened five weeks prior, ten weeks ago,about a fifth of an entire fucking year ago on May 17.

74 days have passed since Kevin Scheidt passed away. A certain number of Tuesdays, two cycles and a third of the moon’s tidal dance, two months and some change. Nothing symmetrical, nothing synchronized, not some special 40 days in the desert or 70 days mourning, just a mess and tangle of weeping and laughing and forgetting and remembering and being alive while my friend isn’t. Yesterday was – would have been and is – his three-year anniversary with his wonderful girlfriend. Today, I don’t know. Over a hundred-thousand minutes. A slew of three day grieving, waiting for the stone to move. 40 days and nights, 40 sunrises and sunsets, 40 instances in which the sun has remained in the sky for slightly longer than the day before, bringing with it more harsh light despite all of us wanting to sleep the day away in the pitch of those long winter blacks, and then 40 days more, backwards, retreat, fading, and I’m sure many more 40 days to go. To sort it out in my head, to collect my thoughts, to understand – at least with minimal clarity – that, for now, there is no weekend break before the new cycle of creation, there is no cry of “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’!”, there is no tenth row echo finally bringing everything together. Kevin died on a Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon, his last breath mixed up somewhere with the rush hour traffic that came and swallowed up our sobbing in the early evening. And the world kept moving on.

Perhaps it will take the 50th year of Jubilee, that it will be decades eternal still, of centuries seventy times seven to figure this all out, a millennium, an age, a breath or blink in the mind of some Creator. Or perhaps I agonize over these numbers because I cannot bear to think about any of them in actuality – the three days I spent on the road with him and his girlfriend city and concert hopping on a whim, the seven days we’d traded upcoming plans for the benefit show that became his memorial, the four weeks that stretched between my last show with him in company and the day I marched before his family at his funeral as a symbolic pallbearer. The number of days doesn’t really matter, but it’s about time I write this down.

The last image I have of Kevin Scheidt, barring my ten seconds of panic when his collapsed body was dragged out of the distracted and unaware Gwinnett Tech graduating class of 2016, is of him with his trademark grin smiling up at his family, girlfriend, and myself as he made his way out to take his place at the graduation ceremony. He’d forgotten his gown and had to run back home to get it last minute, and I joked with his sister Kayley and his girlfriend Jessica that he, of all people, would do such a thing. I was hoping to hang out with everyone after the inevitably arduous and somewhat boring ceremony had finally finished, and I was slightly disappointed after finding out that Jessica had a welcome-home surprise in his room planned – there was glitter and cheesiness galore, and man he would have loved it – so I knew that it would probably throw a wrench in my afterparty plans. Seventy-five feet from us, Kevin waved again before sidestepping down the aisle to his seat, throwing up two peace signs and and infinity of smiles, devoid of irony and absolutely emblematic of a kid who eagerly pursued everything with fervor, even if he and my girlfriend Shannon, one of his classmates and part of a close-knit group of four at the school, were characteristically unsure of the exact nature of their degree.

This kid is pretty much the embodiment of peace signs and smiles. Over the last 72 days, I’ve sat with countless people, ranging from friends of friends who never met Kevin in person to his immediate family and lifelong friends, and the one thing everyone absolutely agrees with on another on is Kevin’s ability to make anyone and everyone smile, laugh, have a good time. Not just superficially, either. This kid has the charisma and character to charm anyone, to make everyone feel like he was interested in what they have to say, to inspire and entertain in the most natural of ways. Present tense, now and on into the future, this resounding fact won’t fade away. He was and is a monument to human connection and intimacy and immediacy in a way that I haven’t experienced before. His life is a testimony to greatness, making such an impact in such a short amount of time. He will be missed greatly.

It’s almost ridiculous how I have and have not been dealing with this. The day of and I guess the week of, from walking out of that hospital to walking before his mother and father and sister and life-partner as we entered the funereal life-celebration, it was impossible to conceal a certain level of emotion, but I’ve otherwise been straightfaced and quick to shrug off the difficulty I’ve had with this. “It’s cool, life happens, I’m happy to have known him, it sucks and I wish it didn’t happen, but I’ll be alright, thank you for your well-wishes.” All of that is true, at a certain level, but I’m also very much not okay. I feel silly for feeling so awful about it, for weeping now 74 days later after a long but positive day of work with carefree pop-punk music playing in my room, but I can’t shake it. So after 74 days, I’m glad to be writing this down.

In the past weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the short amount of time I got to spend with Kevin. From that fateful Showbread show when we finally somehow got to talking after a half dozen shows of mutually acknowledging the other’s recurrence to the Underoath Rebirth tour just three months ago where we both got to see our heroes return from the musical grave. Most of our friendship spanned the time I was living in Athens on into my current stint in Atlanta, geography distancing us, not significantly, but enough that our rendezvous were infrequent and marked by shuffling, rescheduling, and surprise encounters. Still, every time we got to sit down for lunch, file into a dark movie theater, bear our weight against the cheering crowds, or talk politics and theology on his couch, something timeless and powerful happened. Again, that embodiment of peace sign and smiles, this insane symbol of patience and gratitude and perseverance comes back up. And while he may not have known it, I consider Kevin to be one of my best friends. Perhaps my own tendency to work too much, to live off of casual and jovial acquaintances and not a massive number of friendships is my own downfall, and the college calendar and respective life happenings were not particularly gracious to our time together, but Kevin Scheidt was one of my best friends, one of a very few, and I miss him massively.

I was and am innocently jealous of how he was able to do it all – to be a geeky video-game enthusiast, to play music and shoot film and photograph beautifully, to have the picture-perfect relationship (both literally and figuratively), to have grown up with such a loving and caring family (both immediate and extended – I love all of you), to be so damn charismatic and charming and talented and funny and flat out good. At the very simplest, I frankly cannot grasp his genuine love, not for people in general, but for all persons he encountered; I’m great at obscure philanthropy, at championing – at least intellectually – the rights and struggles of my friends and family and he marginalized, but he seemed to embody a simple and genuine love that made him a magnet for people. The people that have earnestly told me how much they loved this kid have been black, white, hispanic, gay, straight, republican, democrat, libertarian, American-born, immigrant, Christian, Jewish, atheist, agnostic, upper-class, and poor. And he deserved every bit of love he was given, and he returned it tenfold, not saint-like but literally as a saint – blessed and Kingdom-ushering – in the most literal and serious way. And even 74 days later, I still have trouble keeping up with simple promises to see this or that friend in the coming weeks. Somehow he could do it all and did it all and still continues to unite so many people – I could write pages on the literal Kingdom of God experience the Long Live the Art Machine memorial fest was – and I feel the colossus of potentiality and hope and inspiration he represents to all of us. I miss that kid. And I’ll live a better life for him.

In some of the simplest, coolest lyrics of one of his band’s songs, he wrote: “Beauty in nothing, beauty in something, beauty in love, beauty just because.” And that’s him. Beauty just because.

Kevin, brother, I’m sorry we didn’t hang out as much as we should have. I’m sorry for being late to that one Tenth Row show and I’m sorry for not literally forcing you and Jessica to go see Captain America: Civil War with Shannon and I literally 5 days before you passed like we’d talked about. I’m sorry for never jamming with Tenth Row and finding a good time that would work for both of us, for not collaborating with you, even though you were so encouraging of it and inspired so much of the Gap Gardening event, long before I dedicated it to raising money for you family. I’m sorry for not telling you that, as stupid as it was and is, you were one of my best friends, and while I could just shrug it off with the fact that I’m just eternally awful at friendships, I’m so happy to have been able to have the time I did have with you. And even though I’m so embarrassed and even pissed with myself for having such a hard time with this – my pain is and should not be anywhere close to that of your family, of those you saw and talked with daily; my life can go back to “normal” because I’ve allowed “normal” to exclude so many I love – I wish I could tell you how thankful I am to you. Thanks man, for everything, now and then and still to come. I’ll see you around. Love Live the Art Machine. Long Live Kevin Scheidt.

beauty just because

Thank you (rejoice)

The clock ticks to 7:59, and I’m sipping my too-hot, not-strong-enough tea, trying to wake myself for another 15-hour work day in the middle of my fourth 60-hour work week in a row. Julien Baker plays softly on my stereo, that brutal whisper-shout refrain breaking through the sound of a mother loudly berating her child outside of my car. I sing along in some sleepy admission that there is divinity in this goofy universe, “I think there’s a God and he hears either way, I rejoice and I complain,” and I yawn for the fourth time since parking.

Life happens quickly, unexpected and bold in its pitches and shift changes.
Continue reading “Thank you (rejoice)”

Thank you (rejoice)

I don’t really care what happens when I die (and you shouldn’t either!)

Life happens and things change and plans and people and perspectives shift. And all of that is okay. Life goes on. But amidst all that life happening, so often we find ourselves wondering what happens when life stops. In the back of our heads, there’s that ever-present and heavily looming threat of death and doom and demise. You know, the typical questions you ask yourself on a sunny afternoon with the dogs playing outside and an acoustic guitar in your hand.

Continue reading “I don’t really care what happens when I die (and you shouldn’t either!)”

I don’t really care what happens when I die (and you shouldn’t either!)

My Current Ten Favorite Novels

As I simultaneously stress about an upcoming move across the country and enjoy two months of jobless freedom after graduation, I have taken it upon myself to get certain things in order. A part of that, at least in my own trademark roundabout logic, has included compiling the literature I have read, am currently reading, and hope to read in the future onto a GoodReads account so that I can find easy recommendations and keep track of an ever-growing library. Here is my current list of my ten favorite novels. Each of them has a special place for me as a reader and for me as a writer, and all deserve a read (or a re-read) to those who enjoy literature.

tenwhite10. Ten White Geese, Gerard Bakker

“Perhaps she did now, in this foreign country, because it was November here too or because she sensed how vulnerable people are when they have no idea what to do next, how to move forward or back.”

Surely the least likely work on this list, Gerard Bakker’s Ten White Geese is difficult to justify as one of my top ten novels. And yet, there is not doubt that this work has been immensely influential for me as a writer and a reader. Like Plath’s famous novel, and with a great debt to Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson, Bakker’s novel is far more concerned about emotion than with plot. Its contemplation of translation and communication, both across language barriers and within one’s own person, is complex and luminous. Fittingly, I cannot fully explain why, but this novel left me haunted.

Continue reading “My Current Ten Favorite Novels”

My Current Ten Favorite Novels