I WRITE UNDER a pseudonym. It’s where I hide. And now that I’ve been doing it for roughly ten years, it’s where I feel most comfortable. xTx is an unedited me. It’s me without my skin. xTx is the part of me that lives to show her darkness; whether it’s in the guise of fiction or in the swirl of prose. It’s the part that doesn’t want anyone whose hand she can hold to know the shame-churn of fucked up that lives inside her, lest they remove that hand.
Lest they leave her.
Last year my mom had me go through old boxes she had in her basement and in them I found my first diary. It was orange with “DIARY” on the front in gold letters. The lock had been broken by my older brother who had snuck into my room, taken it, then ripped it apart to get to the meat inside; elementary school, little girl secrets. I cried as he teased me with its contents, then ran to tell my dad on him which was always a last resort, but I was wounded. He now knew the boys I liked. He knew the names he called me were working. I had no choice.
My dad gave him a bloody nose with a backhand that made a noise that I’ve been trying to write out of my memory ever since.
It went on from there; years of scribbling in journals and notebooks I’d keep stuffed under the clothes in my lowest dresser drawer. Pen and paper secrets until Al Gore invented the internet where I would eventually discover blogging and seal my literary fate.
Fucking blogging?—I quickly decided that was it. A virtual public diary. Whatever I wanted to say on the page. A page that could be read by people who weren’t me.
I vomited up everything. I’d never had therapy, but I imagined it would be a lot like blogging; making sense of your insides by getting them outside. Laying your feelings in front of you and arranging them in an order that made sense. But in doing so, I quickly realized that the things I was driven to write about were not the types of things friends, family, employers would handle well. My blogging tended to lean toward the fucked up: sex, masturbation, porn, abuse and everything in between and in combinations thereof. These early writings were not yet fiction. They were personal blog entries, so how could I write about my life, my thoughts, my fantasies and feelings, without being identified? The easy answer was to make up a fake name. Never post photos of my face. Learn how to write around life events while still venting what I needed to. My blog became some sort of cryptic prism of my real life, portraying a narrowly channeled version of who I was. A clown face composition of my life into cyberspace.
And people liked it.
I began gaining a respectable following. Other bloggers liked my posts, commented beneath them, linked to me. I became addicted to Sitemeter. It was a high like I’d never had. I was driven to update as often as I could. I was addicted.
Being naked in a room with a paper bag over your head gets attention. Men and women looking at your titties, your ass, lusting. Maybe you get a little closer. Maybe you let them put in just a finger. Let them taste you. Step back against another stranger, give them the next five minutes. You can’t see them. They can’t see you. Are they even there? Are you? Test it. Shit on the floor. Get on your hands and knees, bark loudly, open your mouth and wait. See who sticks around. Who begs for more. Laugh when everyone does. Understand now that you can do anything within this bag and there will only be accolades. A lucid dream pushed to the limit.
9/5/04: “…and earlier today I wondered how I could get aroused reading about this old man taking advantage of this young girl in a bedroom. Aroused enough to want to find a door with a lock I could masturbate behind. Silly me.”
3/19/05: “Okay, I just took a nap. And by ‘take a nap’ I actually mean slip under the blanket in bra and panties and pretend I’m sleeping while someone else makes a meal outta me with palms and belt and dildo until there’s mud on the helmet. Or maybe I just took a nap.”
4/13/05: “… all I can think about right now is hard cocks. Like, varieties of them…a smorgasbord of .gif thumbnails in my head. This has resulted in a perpetually wet pair of panties that smell super good to me whenever I am in close proximity to them like in the ladies’ room…musky niceness…the liking the smell of myself makes me also understand what a male must enjoy…sweet candy-tasting warm wet goodness and that tells me that maybe I’d make a good boy one day.”
8/21/06: “Let’s walk around all day reminiscing about last night’s masturbatory scenario which is one of the same 3-4 perverted, messed up scenarios that I pull out of the hopper and just plaster new or old faces atop it every single time. Shameful. I want to come here and talk about fellating 17 year-olds in stank alleys and selflessly selfishly boning 21 year-old electricians (he’ll be back Wednesday!) because lately that’s all I’ve thought about…an empty well that I keep throwing a bucket down.”
2/14/07: “Dateline NBC To Catch a Predator makes me horny…”
2/18/07: “I think I’d be perfectly happy with giving a guy a rimjob if he had a nice hard ass that was completely shaved, or better yet…hairless. Hairless like Gollum…I could have him on his back, knees pulled up like a girl…”
2/22/07: “My mom paid for everything, which is why, after eating most of the chocolate soufflé, I offered to give her oral sex later on in our handicapped room. She declined.”
12/6/08: “I think I was sort of raped last night but by someone who was really cool. So that’s okay…”
These are only crumbs out of thousands. What was I then?
What am I now?
Year after year after year of clandestine blogging made me a nervous, paranoid wreck. Every day I anticipated discovery. I was sure that eventually someone in my real life would stumble across my blog, find something recognizable in one of my posts and confront me with disgust, for now they truly knew the kind of person I was. Every call from my boss requesting I see him in his office brought about a panic attack. Here it comes, I’d think. The IT department finally looked into my web activity. My life was clearing a lot of caches, never saving passwords on computers and keeping anything I wrote as vague as possible. I was so careful.
I still am.
Blogging about your life, even in ambiguous terms, soon becomes redundant or boring. Like a lot of lives, not much happened in mine, so I began crafting little, random stories instead. I had been halfway there already in the way I had been blurring my life events. It was an easy transition.
One day, one of my “regulars” emailed me suggesting I submit one of my stories to an online magazine. He linked me to a story he’d just got published. I was like, “What?” I had no idea such things existed. I clicked on the link, read his story and fell completely down the rabbit hole.
That’s when the fever began.
The writing/publishing fever.
The online literary world began unfolding in front of me. I read every new journal I could find. So many writers! So many ways to write! It made me want to write better. Write more. I began submitting stories to online journals. I got lots of rejections.
Eventually followed by acceptances.
Lots of them.
And here I am now. Ten years later. Over one-hundred-forty pieces published and three tiny, well-received books later and none of it under my legal name. I am still hiding and the question I keep asking myself now is:
In the past ten years a lot of things in my life have changed and a lot of it has stayed the same. I won’t get into specifics (for obvious reasons) but let’s categorize them into job and family. Besides those things, I’ve changed. I’m a full decade older. I went from keeping a wacked-out, sex-driven, online diary, to writing poetry and flash-fiction, then short stories and now, a novel. I’ve grown. I’ve evolved. The reasons I originally went into hiding online are no longer as dire. Or even exist. My blog is not the filth-haven it used to be. So why am I still here?
It’s a monster I keep fighting. Ten years of feeding this beast has made it unmanageable and gigantic. It has grown out of control. Once safely hidden under the bed, it now lives in an airplane hangar, shark-like and venomous. I’ve hidden so many incriminating things, told so many half-lies for so long, I’ve lost track of all the damage that could be done if I finally faced the monster, naked, hands up, palms forward.
If I conceded to this behemoth, would I be devoured?
Or would it just be a shrug and a shake and be over?
I’m too afraid to find out and it’s ripping me apart.
I’m so scared. Every day. Even now. Even as I’ve been writing this. What shouldn’t I say? Have I said too much? Knowing every bit of writing I’ve put into this world is something I’ll never be able to take back. It’s out there and if I lift the curtain to show those I love, what if they read it? Every word. What then?
The number of people in my world who know I write can be counted on one hand.
The number of people in my world who know about xTx is zero.
Not being able to share any of my writerly successes with anyone in my life has been a constant heartache.
Every time I received an acceptance from an incredible journal I’d been trying to crack for months or even years.
Every time one of my books was released.
The first time somebody handed me my book and asked me to sign it.
When one of my stories won an award.
When Dennis Cooper blurbed my chapbook.
When I read my words in front of crowds that were there to see me and then applauded.
When writers I love and admire told me they loved and admired my writing.
I couldn’t share any of this with anyone that I loved.
All of these small successes—huge to a beginning writer like me—were celebrated in silence. All of the elated screaming I wanted to do, the crazed happy-dances, the pop, pour and clink of a champagne championship ritual, all held inside, lifeless and stifled. The monster kept me bound. A creation of my very own making holding my arms so I couldn’t even once call my mom to tell her know the good news and possibly, very possibly, hear her tell me how proud of me she was.
There was a time when I had less fear. A lifetime ago when I grew up a girl sandwiched between brothers. Rope swings, crawdad, river eel, snake, frog and lizard catching, tree-climbing, fort building, mud playing. Tomboy tough.
One summer I followed my brothers and the handful of “town boys” they had befriended to the First Street Bridge so they could show us how they jumped from its railing, twenty feet down into the river. I was the first one of us to jump.
The only girl who did.
My little girl spirit, calloused and brave.
How I should be calling on her now, begging her for the strength to jump.