That Which Must Not Be Named

A few days before my aunt killed herself, she showed up out our house. I was chasing my sister around the yard when my aunt pulled up in her shitty yellow car. She was wearing a trench coat and big dark sunglasses. She left my little cousin in the backseat.

My mom, smoking a cigarette on the porch, asked what she wanted. The two of them started arguing. My mom kept saying, “No, I won’t. I won’t…”

My aunt was trying to leave her kid. She said it was only for a few days, but my mom knew this wasn’t a breather. This was something permanent.

“You can’t do this to me,” my mom said. “Now, take your daughter home.”

“This is bullshit!” My aunt screamed as she got in the car and drove off.

A few days later we got the call. I remember my mom dropping the phone on our kitchen floor.

My parents wouldn’t tell me what had happened, but I knew it was bad. Kids alway do.

The next day I found my mom in the living room. There were piles of laundry everywhere. She’d washed everything in the house – every towel, comforter, the Spiderman sheets I hadn’t seen in years. She’d brought in boxes of old winter stuff from the garage. There were stacks of shirts and slacks on the couch and on top of the TV. There were two baskets overflowing with mismatched socks.

My mom just kept folding. I knelt next to her, put my head on her lap. She didn’t say anything.

She didn’t say anything for days.

When it was time for the funeral my parents said I couldn’t go. I had school.

My father said my aunt was cleaning a gun and it accidentally went off.  Even in third grade I knew how filthy the mouth was and that it was a terrible way to clean anything, let alone a gun.

To this day, “suicide” has hardly been uttered.

It’s like Voldemort.

I suppose it’s that way for most families. We talk about cancer, torture, abuse, being gay, atheism, alcoholism, amputation, depression, plane wrecks, car wrecks, jihad, Agent Orange, slavery, heart disease, schizophrenia, adultery, sodomy, STDs, dogfights, poverty, starvation…

But the mention of suicide turns everyone into a librarian.

Maybe it’s too awful, too disturbing. Since we were little we’ve been told this existence gift is paramount.

How could someone destroy it?

It unravels the fabric of, well, everything.

Religions condemn it. Governments make it illegal (yes, it’s against the law to kill yourself.)

But it doesn’t prevent it from happening, even when they belittle it, say it’s the “cowards way out.”

But try touching a stove or stepping into traffic. Our instinct is to survive.

To take your life is to override the very thing that keeps our species going.

Imagine what that person must be going through to take this step.

Another Gay TV Show

About a year after my mom came out, I sold the idea as a TV show to FX. They were the only network that would listen to the pitch. The others had said they weren’t looking for “another gay show.” It wasn’t long after Ellen had been cancelled.

Anyway, my agents had paired me up with another writer who’d won an Emmy. It helped us get past the initial pitch and paid to write the script.

The show never made it to air.

I’d like to blame the other guy, but the truth is, I was the one who fucked it up. I fucked it so hard I should be forced to introduce myself to neighbors every time I move.

We called the show “A Suburban Story,” pitched it as the idea that no one knows what’s going on behind closed doors, especially in the suburbs.

My parents, after all, had been living in the same house pretending to be together, even after my mom had come out. They were waiting until my sister finished high school.

Once she graduated, my mom got her own place, and I started getting paid to write about what was happening with our family.

Every night, I’d call my parents and ask them questions. Then I’d show up to the office and write everything we’d discussed. It was disgusting. I felt like an exploitive asshole, but I needed the money.

We beat out the story on note cards and taped them to the wall. The pilot, we decided, was going to be about my character coming home for Thanksgiving and discovering his mom is gay. It was exactly the way it had happened.

That was our first mistake.

It blurred reality, made me think this wasn’t just TV; this was my actual life.

I couldn’t tell what was fiction.

My writing partner wasn’t happy with the structure, but I argued that this was the way it happened.

I said that phrase a lot, used it to veto anything I didn’t like, like when he wanted to open with my mom having an affair. I said it when he tried to insert jokes into “serious” scenes, like my father crying in the car, telling my character that thought once he and my mom reached their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary that they were going to make it.

My dad had actually said that to me when he was crying. He was doing that a lot, and it was fucking me up.

I’d make my writing partner leave the office so I could write these sappy monologues.

Back home, my parents were going through a divorce, but in the script, they were still together.

I was trying to save our family on the page.

I was ruining the show.

At one point, my mom flew out to California so we could get her perspective. I started with the basics:  “How long have you known you were gay?” “What made you come out this late in life?” “What’s it like to be a lesbian in Kansas City?”

She was nervous, but she answered everything and smiled and made a few jokes. I asked whether she thought this would hurt our family, if she even considered her kids in her decision. My mom was clearly uncomfortable, but I kept pressing and pressing until she started crying.

My writing partner looked at me like I was a monster, and I was.  I was just angry, not at her being gay, but for our family falling apart and realizing there was nothing I could do.

I should’ve quit the show. Clearly, I wasn’t ready to write about it, but I was so broke and I’d already spent the first check.

So I kept showing up to the office, kept typing garbage until they forced us to turn it in.

FX passed.

It was for the best.

photo credit: <a href=” delta one</a> via <a href=”; <a href=”;

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Five-Year Anniversary

Five years ago, and I did this:

I said this:

“I dropped to one knee. You asked if something was wrong with my leg. I said, No, nothing is wrong with my leg. I asked you to marry me. You cried and said yes. That night I was so confused as to why you loved me. I watched you sleep and thought about all the things we’ll do, like buy a house and a car with air conditioning and open up a theater and take trips to Brazil and laugh at Americans trying to order Churrascaria and we’ll kiss in the Parthenon and ride camels and go to the premier of our first movie and take the stage to accept our Oscar and get so drunk at the after party that you pee on Steven Spielberg’s lap and I break up with you and tell you to lie down in the grass and you cry and say you will and I feel awful and pick you up and we give up drinking for two months and get into the best shape of our lives and you say we’ll never drink again and we get drunk that night and make love on our new deck and we’re so loud the neighbors put up their house for sale and we buy that house too so we can build a wiffle ball stadium in the backyard and you tell me you’re pregnant and I kiss you because we’re ready and we raise the kid to be an atheist even though I read God is Gay to him when he’s sleeping and you tell me I’m a good father and I tell you that you’ve never looked more beautiful and you say it’s because of the fake boobs and I shrug and a month later I finally finish writing Why Can’t I just Die because for the first time I don’t want to kill myself and we take jobs at a college and teach and write plays and screenplays and you say we should go to the Himalayas and so we go to the Himalayas and meet a boy who recognizes you and says he loves Charlie Moose and Hatch Lemon like brothers and we laugh because the kid has never even heard of Kraft Cheese and you start to worry that we’re not doing enough with our lives so we go to New Orleans because for some reason things never got fixed and we help an old saxophone player build a new house screw by screw, and I notice that my finger skin starts to dent in like my grandmother’s and you take my hand when the doctor tells me I have lung cancer and we laugh and say, Thank God I quit smoking fifty years ago, and I go through chemo and get better and help you with your physical therapy for your new feet and I say it’s about time you got that hearing aid and you finally say okay and we hold our grandchild and sit in the living room as he watches Nick the Saint for the first time and he says it was the bestest best movie ever and I walk out into our tomato garden and see your legs lying lifeless and I hold your hand and tell you I love you and I find myself laughing because your socks never did match and we bury you behind an oak tree and I kick myself for not buying side-by-side plots and I have to wait until no one is around so I can dig up the guy next to you and put him somewhere else and then hire an immigrant from that new country of New California and have him shoot me in the gut and dump piles of dirt me and I start crying and I whisper through the earth and tell you I’m scared and that’s when I hear your voice for the first time in months and you say, It’s going to be okay, Anthony. I’m going to take care of you. Nothing bad is going to happen, and I say, How do you know? and you tell me it’s because we were wrong, Heaven does exist.
Two months ago you saved my life, and I promise I will do everything to make sure you never regret it. I love you and I will never, ever quit us.”

Then we did this:

Then this:

This:

And this:

Somehow we made it.

The Dangers of Sleeping Naked

I sleepwalk. I’ve been doing it since I was little. It’s scary and gross. When I was five my father found me in the kitchen squatting on the counter taking a shit. It was dripping onto the floor. My father thought I was possessed, that he’d have to have me committed. But I was just asleep, taking a dump.

I’ve pissed in hampers and hallways and in the corners of countless rooms.

I still do. My wife has found pee in our closet.

She rarely gets a full night’s sleep. She’s always waiting for me to pop up and move. She’s had to chase me down the hallway of our building. Twice I’ve been completely naked.

Some nights she hears me in the kitchen having a conversation with myself. I’ve eaten half a stick of butter, while mumbling, “Good cheese.”

My wife videotaped one of my adventures, made me watch it the next morning. It was me, but not me, more like a zombie. I gestured a few times and kept trying to find a butter knife for my mug of water. It was disturbing and sort of heartbreaking, watching myself functioning with no memory of it.

The worst was when I was eight or nine. I was at Boy Scout camp. It was some jamboree or jubilee or something. All I know is I woke up in someone else’s tent. I was in my tighty-whities and nothing else. Before you starting thinking I was molested, I was simply trying to get in some other kid’s cot. I kept saying, “Get out of my bed.” He kept saying, “Get out of my tent!” I told him it was my tent. He finally woke up his buddy and said, “Craig, ain’t this our tent?” And Craig said, “Yeah, see here’s my canteen.”

And so I left, wandered out into the darkness. I was scared and freezing. It took me almost an hour to find my tent. I’d wandered almost a mile in my sleep.

I’ve read some people drive cars. One guy claimed he was . There’s all sorts of .

For me, it comes and goes. I won’t do it for months, and then, out of nowhere, my wife will be dragging me back into our apartment. “Get in here, no one wants to see your dick.”

I’ve thought about restraints, but I’m worried I’ll end up hurting myself trying to break free. I’m like a werewolf, only less hairy. I just hope I don’t try to shit in our hallway.

Have you ever sleepwalked. If so, what do you do?

My Two Moms

Val was my mom’s first real girlfriend. I liked her from the moment we met. She was sweet and supportive. I wasn’t surprised when she and my mom bought a house together. They moved in with Val’s adopted kids. I flew to Kansas City and spent Christmas at their new place. We opened presents in the living room and stuffed our faces with turkey. Val wanted to know about my standup and writing. We became close over the years. She has always wanted to write. She likes to pick my brain. My mom and Val struggled like every couple. Eventually, they weren’t able to make it work. They decided to split, but when they came to our wedding, they didn’t mention the breakup. My mom didn’t want to dampen the day. I could tell something was up, but I didn’t push it. I shared a dance with Val, and she told me she’s always thought of me as her son. Until that moment, I’d only thought of her as my mom’s girlfriend. I suddenly realized she was also my mom.

Mystery at Sears

Yes, we all have shitty hair, but what intrigues me is that my dad and I are both looking at something off-camera. I have no idea what it was. My first guess was a pretty lady, but my mom’s eye line would NOT be dead center. What do you think it is?

Yesterday I presented evidence of my mom’s shitty haircutting skills.

Exhibit A:

Today I’ve uncovered the motivation for her crimes. By giving me a crap haircut, she knew she’d draw attention away from her weird perm.

 1979

I’m so proud and grateful my mom came out, but the little guy in this picture is pretty stoked she didn’t do it right away.