<3 and TBell

her: Can we go to Taco Bell for Valentine’s Day?
him: You know I love Taco Bell, but that doesn’t sound very romantic.
her: We never do anything for Valentine’s Day though.
him: That’s true. Do you want to go to Taco Bell for Valentine’s Day?
her: I was just kidding, but, I don’t know, why not?
him: I don’t really like “celebrating” Valentine’s Day.
her: We’ve never really talked about this before. What’s our stance on Valentine’s Day anyway?
him: It’s not really a holiday about love. It’s just a corporate ploy to get people to spend money. I’d rather show you I love you by being here for you when you need me and on special occasions like your birthday or Christmas. Christmas was pretty romantic, I thought.
her: Christmas was very romantic. We don’t have to go to Taco Bell for Valentine’s Day, but we have to eat something on Valentine’s Day.
him: Is that what you want? Do you want Taco Bell for Valentine’s Day? We’ll do that if that’s what you want.
her: Mmmm. I’ll think about it.

bill 'n sue

This has absolutely no point, but here I am attempting to write, whatever I can think to say.

Some time after Joseph and I met, we were having a conversation one night when I mentioned that I was spending my evening alone, playing ukulele. I still feel like an imposter saying I play ukulele. I'm not good enough to say that I do, it seems. But then I see someone pick up a ukulele for the first time and realize that I actually have come a long way, if not as far as I would have hoped after five years of spotty effort.

I don't play it every day. I don't even play it regularly, but I do keep coming back to it in flares of creative desire and a need to get a little better at it. I struggle with a lot of complicated chords. My strum patterns are weak and inconsistent. I've only just barely started learning fingerpicking. I really don't think I can sing very well, but when I do, my range is prohibitively limited. As a lifelong pianist, reading music is my crutch when playing such a frivolous no-thought-needed-just-feel-the-music instrument. There are so many hurdles to overcome with what I thought would be the easiest instrument to learn, but I continue to come back to it and I continue to improve at my own pace.

It was that night that Joseph responded, a little surprised, "I didn't know you played the ukulele. Piano, but not ukulele. Interesting. I, too." He hadn't yet told me that he had devoted his life to learning music, so I assumed he was similar to me. Someone who casually picked it up and learned a few chords.

A month or so later, after he started sharing some of his music with me, he sent me a file titled "3.6.04" - the date of the recording featuring a much younger Joseph I've always wished I could have known. It was a cover of a George Formby song that I had never heard before. George Formby, also not a name I was familiar with, was a popular ukulele player known for some pretty tongue-in-cheek songs, like When I'm Cleaning Windows, this song Joseph sent to me.

It was the first time I had heard joy in Joseph's voice, specifically a part where he chuckles while singing the song—appropriately, as it's a song designed to make you laugh. It's a catchy song, and Joseph's version of it is fun to listen to. It's one I listened to on repeat, often, when I needed to hear that happiness he exudes in it. He suggested at one point that I should learn to play that song, and I attempted to, but the chords were beyond my level and I never tried again.

Since I moved to Asheville, we occasionally play together. Him the guitar or the ukulele, me the ukulele, me the piano, him the guitar. We have very different backgrounds with music, and our styles of learning clash, but he's patient with me, trying to catch up to his 30 years experience playing more informally than my piano background ever gave to me.

We were playing last night when he started to play When I'm Cleaning Windows. I knew it immediately - I've heard him sing that song hundreds of times now, but never in person, I don't think. I've gotten used to watching his fingers to see what chords he's playing, now that I'm able to more quickly recognize them, and somehow, I managed to play along with him. He had to show me a couple chords, but I picked it up almost immediately (aside from my nemesis, the strum pattern).

I pulled up the lyrics so I could write the chords down while they were in my mind and never have to ask him for help again. That's when I learned that the line:

Honeymoonin' couples too
You should see them Bill 'n Sue
You'd be surprised at things they do
When I'm cleanin' windows

Is actually:

Honeymoonin' couples too
You should see them bill 'n coo
You'd be surprised at things they do
When I'm cleanin' windows

It's not that I ever heard Sue in that line, either in Joseph's version or any other I've heard. It's very clearly "coo". But my brain wanted it to be Bill and Sue, so I have always assumed it was.


Although, I kind of like my version better.

graphii ii

Alright, look. I'm calling bullshit on this writer's block. I'm over it.

Joseph and I have a similar relationship with our writing. He knew early on that he wanted to be a songwriter, and he spent years developing the craft. He does have some natural talent, I have to believe, or he never would have been able to get to the point where he could be called a prolific songwriter. I mean, to be fair, I suppose there are probably plenty of prolific "songwriters" out there without an ounce of talent or a decent song to show for all their work, but for the sake of being candid and thoughtful about what really is, we can go ahead and say that Joseph is good at what he does. He worked at it, for years, to learn how to do it. His songs are poetic without being obnoxious or pretentious (what a fine line that is.) Here are a couple examples:

In This Life

Down the road down my long lifeline
No matter where I go all the loves of my lifetime
They have come along for the ride
And there they'll stay like ghosts at my side
At my side in this life

Through the fields down in the orchards
Memory sings the saddest songs that I've heard
Lonely melodies all sung sad and high
And there they'll stay like ghosts at my side
At my side in this life


Now blank walls and empty halls
Fading into memory
They catch one bittersweet frame
A picture remains of what used to be

These words scattered and lost
The pages torn off the letters on fire
It hurts blood soaked through the cloth
To pay off the cost of reckless desire

The hard truth the bitter proof
Its mysteries stripped bare
Is found a volume unbound
A song without sound
And nobody cares

Me, I knew from age 8 that writing was in my fingers, sonic bursts coming from my imagination. I wrote for hours a week, even as a child. I never shared that writing with anyone. As I got older and realized how terrible it was, I threw it all out. I didn't save a word.

In college, when some former classmates died, even though I wasn't particularly close to them, their deaths introduced a change in my life where fear and mortality became new motivational tools at my disposal. 

In a roundabout way, through their deaths, I met someone online who quickly became a confidant. We could have met in person. We had mutual friends. We attended the same college, our schools in two buildings that sat side by side, joined by an annex that housed a little cafe we both frequented. I suppose you could say we chose not to meet? Or perhaps it never came up because it didn't seem a necessary event to further our friendship. I'm not sure I recall.

For a little over a year, I considered him as probably my closest friend, not in the best buds way, but due to the intimacy of our communication and the growth that came of it. We shared our minds with each other, through our words, through these letters and keys. I looked forward to every email I received from him, and he said the same of me. Robert taught me how to write. I was 24 at the time, he 23, and mentally, emotionally, I was still a 16 year old girl trying desperately to mature. Robert showed me the way, not by design or desire, but by being an example to me, by showing me the care he put into his crafts—writing, photography and art. I studied every sentence, every piece of art, every image and learned that for all the words and hours I'd written in my life, I hadn't yet learned to write. I hadn't found my voice. 

Robert went on to marry the girl who got away and make a little bit of a sensation for himself online, where his art and photography have gained an impressive following. I haven't spoken to him in years and sometimes feel like he must have forgotten all about me amid the distractions of his life and fame. He did reach out on two occasions though. Once he left me a comment about my writer's block, which I discovered, months later, he had gone back and deleted (but why, Robert?) And once on the day my mother died when he shared a picture of flowers, something he only would have known to do if he had been following my activity and despair all along. It was a meaningful reminder of a secret friendship long past on the most difficult day I've lived.

I don't blame him for moving on with his life. It wouldn't be natural to feel close to him the way we once were. He's married. His attentions are taken elsewhere. And that's just him. Me? I have Joseph now. I have a career that is going better than I could have predicted, keeping me occupied and exhausted in the ways you want your career to do. That brief and interesting relationship served its purpose in my life, and I have to hope in his as well—he did say it was because of me, because of the confidence I gave him, that he went after the girl who got away, the one he would eventually marry. And because of the confidence he gave me, I left my comfortable, stale, dead end life and moved to Australia, a dream that I didn't think I could pull off, but one that had to happen—once the momentum that I didn't know began the night I met Robert started to churn forward and pull me with it. Robert is a ghost at my side and always will be because of the impact he made on my life during the year I was 24.

Australia was my chance to find myself, to remove myself from the life I knew and give myself an opportunity to become who I wanted to be, not who others tried to make me be. I wasn't spending my Australian life on the beach and having fun. There were plenty of beach trips and fun days, but Australia was gruelingly difficult for me, emotionally, psychologically and academically. It was in Australia that I realized I liked writing better than design. I was getting a masters degree in architecture, my second architecture degree, though the program was more about design computing and new media. 

It was an absurd realization to come to, having written countless words in my life to that point. How did the idea of being a writer escape my attention? What made me want to be an architect and a designer? I'm really not sure, but it was there, in Sydney, that I furthered my craft, learning to write more technical content, focusing more on the papers I wrote than on the design projects I was assigned about which I was writing. I spent those two years honing this penchant for words, introducing thought and discipline to the way I wrote what I chose to write. Every word became calculated, where before every word was an eruption of immature, unfocused indulgence.

In Seattle, I was still stuck designing, but spending hours a day writing. I couldn't do my job until I had written for at least three or four hours first. If I had to review my own words from that time, they were emotional but humorous in their sorrow. I was lost, where I wanted to be but not finding what I was there to find. Every event and encounter seemed to push me backwards, emotionally. It was easy to write about the turmoil I was experiencing. It's always easy to write about what hurts. It was cathartic. I had near perfect recall on conversations I'd had with people. I was bold for the first time in my life. Any former diffidence brashly set aside as I struggled and fought to make Seattle work, as I wrote to record that period of my life and all the characters that came into it, for awhile or for a moment. It was there that I met Joseph right as I was coming to the decision that it was time to leave that city that I both loved and hated for all it did to me. 

Joseph and I only knew each other through our words and pictures. We spent a little over a year writing to each other, not knowing that we would eventually meet in person, though the instant I first found him, I knew I needed to find a way. He wasn't going to be another ghost at my side. There was something about him that I knew, intrinsically, was meant to last. 

I moved to Portland to be closer to my sister, to find better job opportunities, to save some money after living in Seattle for a few years, and even, somewhat, at the prodding of a burgeoning but doomed relationship that died the day I officially left Seattle and moved to Portland. Living with my sister for two years was exactly what needed to happen for me, and I believe, for her, as it was during the two years that our mother was sick and passed away. I found a job that finally pushed my career back on track and opened up opportunities for me that I needed to be able to move forward as a technical writer rather than a designer. I was able to save more money than I ever had before, money that would get me to Asheville and to Joseph two years later. And I learned through the loss of that relationship that I was on the wrong path for so long, going after the wrong men, not seeing what was right in front of me but that could have only been right in front of me from the path I took to get to him.

As I stopped dating and started to focus all of my concern and love towards Joseph, the man on the east coast I had never met in person, I stopped writing so much about my life and started directing my words to Joseph, just as I had with Robert years earlier. Joseph responded in kind, as attentive to our developing relationship as I was. 

It was in Portland that I learned about a condition called hypergraphia. Words I wrote to Joseph shortly after learning about it:

have you ever heard of hypergraphia?
i hadn't.
usually it accompanies epilepsy or bipolar disorder. i have neither.
it's the compulsion to write.
technically, it means there's something wrong in my brain
i'm wired wrong.
birth defect. or something.
i don't know that it's such a bad thing.
my left ear, i've always called it my birth defect ear.
when i was little i wanted a girl mullet like all the other girls and my mom refused.
(thank god, in hindsight, that my mom wouldn't let me get a girl mullet.)
but her reason had nothing to do with knowing that in a few short years mullets would be a stain on our picture albums.
she didn't want people to see my ear.
that's when i realized something was wrong.
it hadn't occurred to me before that.
it's not horrible. just a little extra cartilage on one side that isn't on the other. you only notice if i point it out.
my nose is a little crooked too. and my smile, my lips. sometimes i have that rocky thing going on, where one side is a little lazy.
apparently they're all related to brain development.
my curse. i'm happy to have it.
sylvia plath, melville, van gogh, dostoevsky... they all had it too.
i've self-diagnosed, of course. but it's pretty obvious.
my brain actually is wired differently.

My life became more about us, about Joseph and me, and less about myself. Refusing to let Joseph be a ghost at my side, I went to meet him and eventually left Portland for Asheville. It's been just over four years since I met him and they have been the worst and the best years. We dealt with our struggles together and overcame, together. But as I spent more time with Joseph and the depression from Seattle finally lifted, my words failed me. I could sit in front of a blank page for hours and think of nothing to say. Did I not have hypergraphia? How could I have spent so much of my life with such a strong compulsion to write that I could focus on nothing else until I'd said what I needed to say only to end up with writer's block right as my life was finally turning around into what I had always wanted it to be? The more my writing was about fear and depression and mortality, the better, louder and longer my writing became. But what of the happiness I finally had achieved? There was nothing I could think to say.

Joseph walked away from his music a year ago because he realized it was causing him to suffer. The more he suffered, the better he wrote—the more beautiful his songs. I supported his decision and we have both been fairly happy and content, him not writing, me not writing. But we both have that need to write and neither of us want to focus on what hurts anymore, so it seems we have nothing to say.

If I were to hurt Joseph, I'm certain we could expect another flurry of beautiful, painful, poetic, relatable songs. I'm certain my hypergraphia (if that is even what it is) would stomp back into the forefront of my life and insist that I focus solely on it and nothing else. But I could never do that to Joseph. I would rather never hear a song about myself than ever hurt this person who means everything to me. I would rather never feel the pain I've felt before than write another word. It's so easy to write our pain.

I do have a voice, and I have so much to say. I don't know if I do have writer's block. I think I just haven't learned to write about my happiness.

four years on

I keep coming across old posts, or drafts of posts perhaps, that I wrote a few years ago, having completely forgotten about them. Did I ever even publish this anywhere? I don't know if I did, and I don't know where it's been all these years. I wrote this on January 11, 2014 - just about four years ago. I remember this feeling, though I don't remember writing this exactly. I remember the feeling because I still feel it. Every time I look at my mugs, I see a few I could get rid of. I don't need so many. Some have more character than others. The ones that don't were from her. I can't get rid of them. I regret everything I ever got rid of from her. Every plant we planted together that died because I couldn't keep it alive. Every time I told her to stop forwarding emails to me, that I'd rather just talk to her. Every time I chose someone or something other than her. Every thing I ever did to let her down or remove a piece of her from my life by selfishness, thoughtlessness or necessity (those mugs).

God, I miss her so much. More now than ever. 

this heartrending packing (1.11.14)

It's a mug. It's a simple, cheap coffee mug that has absolutely no personality. I've put it in the donate pile, and it has me torn to pieces with a heavy heart and tears welling in my eyes. How can I let it go? Give it away? Lose a small piece of her, something she gave me a few years ago not because it was special but because I needed some dishes. When I drink out of it, I don't think "this was from mom", but when I try to give it away, I think, "terminal, no hope, chemo, quality of life. I'm so sorry." And I think, "she gave this to you. Remember? You have to keep it forever because after she's gone all you'll have are the things she gave you."

She gave me tenderness. She gave me kindness. She gave me empathy and selflessness and beauty. She gave me her fingers and her smile and her heart. She gave me every good thing that is me. And she gave me her grandma's recipes, too.

Dear Portland, be kind to me. This is an emotional move.

an old memory

I randomly came across something simple I wrote three years and two days ago. I don't remember that day, or what sad event must have spurred these words, but I can assume.


It isn't like this anymore. Not for the last one year and three months. It's better now, though the lyrics and the words are farther out of reach than ever for the both of us.

I think that's okay, though, as long as it stays better. I have no reason to believe it would change.

june 3rd

The date has been there in my head for weeks (months), approaching quietly, a little irksome reminder that it has now been two years since my mother died. The truth is, I keep thinking there is a certain way I should feel. The reality is, I haven't known what to expect and have been confused by feeling almost nothing as June 3rd draws nearer.

But it isn't nothing. It's fear. It's complacency. It's acceptance. It's a lingering sadness that it has been two years since I last spoke to her, and two years and two weeks since she last spoke to me. It's a mixture of so many different emotions and thoughts that I can't figure out what it is and it feels like a large wall in my way, which is being interpreted as nothing.

Even though she passed on June 3rd, it was June 2nd that I last saw her alive. We had been taking turns staying up all night with her for weeks, waiting for the last breath and constantly checking to see if she'd already taken it, hoping desperately for a rally that never happened with her, and that still brings grief and sadness over not getting that tiny blessing in her last days. On June 2nd, tension was high in our family. The longer she lived, the more terrible the situation felt, the more her upcoming death hung over every moment, every word and every thing we did. We worried that she was suffering and so wanted her to pass and told her, if she could hear us, that it was okay to go, but that very feeling is a terrible one that you don't overcome - even two years later.

That night, our dad insisted that the guys go home and sleep, that the girls go back to their childhood rooms and take a break from the all-nighters we'd been pulling. For the first night in weeks, we didn't fight it or feel guilty for doing it. We needed sleep. She'd held on this long, she'd hold on a few more hours.

Except she didn't. We don't know what time she passed. Her death certificate says it was around 9am, but what you learn when someone close to you dies is they don't put the actual time of death down on a death certificate, they put the time that death is declared by a medical professional. In her case, we waited until the family could all come back and spend some time with her before calling her hospice nurse later in the morning.

My dad woke me up around 3:30 or 4:00 am in a panic. He thought she might have died but he was too stressed to be able to know. We woke up my sister and ran down to the living room where she was, already gone. Dad was anxious and apologetic. He had fallen asleep from about midnight until a few minutes earlier, and when he woke up, she wasn't breathing. He didn't know when she had died, and he regretted falling asleep and not being with her when it happened. We'll never know how she died. If it was just one last small breath, if she struggled for awhile. We can never know. But what we do know is that she waited to go until everyone in the family was asleep, after weeks of keeping vigil. She would do that. She always was a very private person, and what could be more personal than your own death?

I think now about how to honor her best on the anniversary of her death. I don't know. I really don't. Flowers? I get flowers all the time because I think of and miss her so much. Do people even care anymore? Am I allowed to still be in mourning? Nobody ever knows what to say, and if you say something first, they get awkward. Sometimes you don't want others to be sorry for you; you only need a little acknowledgement. June 3rd is a difficult day. Every day is a difficult day, really. Everyone else moved on, but she never got to, and the close relationship I had with her became an untouchable and impossible to understand unknown.

There are things I want to say about her on June 3rd, but I struggle to know what it is I feel needs to be said. I struggle to understand my emotions. I miss her deeply and desperately. She was there, and then she wasn't there, and she never will be there again. How is that ever okay? And yet, here we are, two years later and life is normal but missing someone important.

The last few weeks she was here were hot in Kansas. It was May and early June, when the temperatures become uncomfortable, the bugs reappear in multitudes - the locusts were obnoxiously but nostalgically present two years ago - the plants are wilting under the sun, and everyone is locked away in their air conditioned homes, waiting for a break. That morning she died, the heat did break for a few hours as a thunderstorm threatened to roll in. 

After strangers came to take her body away, I went back up to my old bedroom and lay there looking out the window, the world upside down from my vantage point. I pushed the window open, wanting to feel and smell the fresh air, finally cool that morning after days and days of sticky heat. Do you know what thoughts go through your head in the hours after your mother dies? The same thoughts that go through your head two years later. "Is she really gone? What does that even mean? How can she be gone? Where did she go? I'm never going to see her again. Ever. What do I do now? What are they doing to her body? Can she feel it? Don't be absurd, of course she can't. But how can we know? Does she know? Is it possible to know after death? I may not even see her in some sort of afterlife, because what happens when you die? That's it. That's final. Gone. Dead. But where is she? How could she have been here and then just not be here anymore? Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead." 

A two year long morbidly repetitive conversation with yourself. There are no answers, so you keep spinning the thoughts on repeat.

There was something special about that morning though. I don't know why it was that morning. I don't believe in signs and I really don't believe dead people do things for us, but the atmosphere of the morning didn't go unnoticed as I lay there in my bed trying to process what I find two years later still can't be processed. The birds were chirping as the sky rumbled with a distant agitation and the leaves on the trees I had climbed as a child whipped around in a beautiful discomfort. 

Today my mom died and the sky has been busy with birds and thunder.

A post shared by amy (@girlcalledamos) on

apparently i only write about food now*

morning, at work

me: I have a surprise for you, but you don't get to know what it is until tonight.
him: Thirty million dollars. Thank god. I can quit working.
me: Well, not quite, but I think you'll love it just as much.
him: Is it food related? A delicious meal?
me: Maaaaybe.
him: Well I do love a delicious meal.

afternoon, still at work

him: This day just won't end. Swear to god.
me: But it almost is and then surprise.
him: Please do not let the surprise be cream cheese and cauliflower casserole.
me: It is not.
him: Then we should be good.

evening, before dinner

him: Tacos? Real tacos with meat...
me: Shredded beef with jalapeños and lime juice.
him: ...and taco shells and cheese and...
me: Lettuce and tomato. Yes. We just need guacamole.
him: When did you decide to make this?
me: Last night.
him: Was it because I wouldn't stop talking about tacos last night?
me: Yes. Do you love it?
him: I do. I love tacos. We should do this regularly. We should have, like, a taco night or something.
me: People do that. We can do that.
him: Let's do that.

evening, during dinner

me: Buck thinks it isn't fair that we're eating the food of his people and not sharing any with him.
him: Actually, Buck, I think the food of your people is field mice.

*probably because we've become completely domestic and really only talk about work, food, how annoying people are and MacGyver.

the things that matter

I wrote this on an emotional whim yesterday and posted it to Facebook. It's received quite a lot of positive feedback and some well-meaning but off the mark comments about me and him and not about my writing or his music. Those comments, while very much appreciated, were deleted to stop perpetuating the idea that this was written as a love story and instead to encourage people to click through and listen to what I link to at the end. Because while this story is true and personal and one of my favorite things about the last three years and so many months of my life, I didn't write it to bring attention to my ambiguous but lovely relationship with this person but to bring attention to something that has largely gone unnoticed for many years and shouldn't have. This is about me, yes, and us, true, but mostly this is my attempt to help him find a bigger audience, because if anyone in this world deserves some recognition for being a beautiful person with a beautiful mind and having a beautiful voice with a story to tell, it's him. I edited and updated the post from Facebook to here.

When I first moved to Portland three years ago, I had just gotten out of a confusing but defining short lived quasi-relationship and was going through a difficult time in my life. I had no (steady) job, had just left Seattle, a place I truly loved but realized was doing me more emotional harm than good, was running out of money, and was trying desperately to spend every possible moment with my mother, who had recently been diagnosed with Stage IV ("it's not going to get better; you're going to die soon") cancer from halfway across the country. I knew almost nobody in Portland at that point and had hours of free time every day to dwell on all the things that had gone wrong in my life while trying to keep myself put together and find a new job - a hard thing to do when your life seems to be in shambles and you can barely keep yourself on your feet.

I spent four months in this state of raw, painful, honest, open reflection, but I had met someone the year before who quickly became my closest friend and confidant during those difficult months. I like to say that he became my rock during that time, the person who kept me hanging on and getting up each day when I didn't know where I'd find the strength or motivation to do so otherwise. In all the time we spent getting to know each other, hours upon hours of conversation, the kind you stay up all night to have, day after day, he left one detail out about himself, wanting me to get to know him for him instead of for this other thing I didn't know about yet. Until there was one day, early on in my time in Portland, he randomly sent me an untitled mp3 in response to a question I asked him that wasn't even about music.

I listened to the song, not knowing who it was or why he had sent it. I listened to it a few times and wondered why I had never heard it before. It was really good, you see, and I couldn't believe it was a band that had gone under my radar. I tried to figure out who it was; I Shazamed it, and I Googled the lyrics. It didn't exist anywhere. I found nothing about this song or the artist on the internet. And then after a few times on repeat, I sat straight up in my bed, my heart rate increasing the way it does when a realization overwhelms your senses, as it suddenly occurred to me - it was him. This was his song. It didn't exist on the internet because he had never released it, and I was a special fortunate soul to have been given such a beautiful gift, a part of himself he clearly didn't share often or with just anyone.

Over the next few weeks and months (and years) he continued to send me these untitled mp3s. Hundreds of them. Some original. Some covers. Some silly ("Don't Let Jack Palance Stay At Your House" (he'll ruin everything)). Some serious. Some that he'd done that day. Some that he'd done years earlier. Some as a result of me saying "you should sing that one song by that one band." Some that he'd previously shared with all of his friends, and I was just the last in a small group of people to hear something so beautiful. Some with a softly spoken message at the beginning before the music started, clearly meant just for me.

Those first four months in Portland, months I spent mostly alone except for his company, months I spent on my feet, walking around SE for hours a day, stopping in different stores and coffee shops, applying for jobs every time I saw an ad that fit me, trying desperately to fill the long hours of a day with nowhere to be or go or see in an attempt to keep my sanity, and I did it with these songs as my soundtrack. On repeat. Soaking in the music of my new favorite person and the best friend that seemed to come out of nowhere when I needed him most (and I dare say he'd say the same of me). Now when I listen to those first few songs, they are so atmospheric that they take me back to my first months in Portland, months that were truly terrible and threatening and the most difficult time of my life, but the songs are so nostalgic that I'm reminded of the good things. I remember the conversations he and I had. The tears and the laughter and the comfort of finding a person you were meant to find. I remember the friends I gradually started to meet. The job interviews I went to that reminded me of my value and skills. The quality of the sunlight filtering through the trees after a fresh Portland rain. The paint on the walls of buildings I walked past on my way to nowhere. The way the breeze felt on my face as I explored new neighborhoods and sat in parks to read books and write letters to my friend. In hindsight, those songs paint a different memory, one that not only was bearable in a trying time, but that I look fondly on, those moments when the music, when his music, his voice, made my life better, made my life happy, for moments at a time.

He has since released some of those songs. They were never meant to be released; honestly they're just demos and not professionally recorded. He doesn't think of himself as a performer but as a songwriter. His ideal would see him hidden out of sight, writing songs for other bands to play. But I begged him to. I helped him organize himself and his music. I pushed him to keep working. I flew across the country to see him, and I kept returning to Asheville to be with him every chance I could get. And then I finally left Portland, and I regret none of it. I don't regret the journey I took that led me through some difficult and lonely times, because it was a journey that led me here, to him, to all the beauty and happiness he has brought to my life.

I rarely share his music or talk about him publicly because it is personal for us and we are ambiguous, and it's difficult to share something that means so much to him as well as to me, only to see no feedback. No love. No response. Pictures of food get more love. Jokes and memes get more likes and comments. There's very little evidence that anyone, including people who say they are, is actually listening to his music. It makes me cry. It hurts me as much as those first few months in Portland did, when I see him put his soul into something, something that isn't just a another forgettable tune by a starry eyed dreamer, something that has been so influential in my life and my path to finding healing and happiness, and nobody seems to care.

He says I'm biased. We're best friends. We do everything together. Clearly I love him and his music, and this music has become a part of my life these last three years. Maybe I am biased, but I think back to that first untitled mp3 he shared with me when I had no idea it was him, and I knew then, immediately, that I was listening to something incredible.

If you're wondering what that first song was, it's Walk 'neath the Moon.

I'm sharing this now, stepping out of my own comfort, because it's a shame that someone like this hasn't been heard by more people, and I don't want to be silent about my best friend. This is Joseph. He and his music mean everything to me. I hope it's music that can mean something to you too.


When you write up a political post and your browser shuts down and Squarespace deletes every unsaved word you wrote (that is, every word you wrote), you know that you're probably not meant to post it. Well played, internet.

This year is going to be a year of learning for me. Reading. It's been many years since I've written my reading list down at the end of the year, and the truth of the reason for that is because I haven't read enough books each year to even make a list. But as my voice has left me and fights to find a way back, and as our nation goes through some strange and scary times, I find that what I want to do more than anything is hunker down and read. I want to educate myself, be more prepared with wit and intellect because I'm feeling out of sorts and unable to really say the things I think or know the things I feel with everything going on right now. And I want to read the voices of others who wrote before me, to see if it jogs my own voice back out of hiding.

So this year I have promised to myself to read more. Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Read history. Read magazines. Read politics. Read current events. Read poetry. Read mythology. Read religion. Read everything I can possibly soak up with what little free time I have.

My hope is that by the end of the year, even if I haven't found my voice, I'll at least have something to say.