Category Archives: Artist Statements

Suicide Stitches

If it’s been a while since you’ve checked in with me, I have some bad news. You know how I used to be that heroin addict who got (and stayed) clean by making art? Well, sometime last year that all fell apart. (And this year, I’ve really gone downhill).

Twice this year, I’ve made serious plans to detox from heroin, get my life back on track, and start painting and writing again. Both times, ended disastrously but – in this entry – I’ll be focusing on the first. (Details of the more recent incident are in two blog entries: the first was written more manically upon my release from jail; the second with greater reflection the following evening).

It’s not generally a great idea for two people in the depths of addiction to be in a relationship together. If one is feeling weak and wants to use, it’s easy for the other to be dragged down right along with them. Regarding, my girlfriend and I, our relationship worked for quite some time because I already had a couple years of clean time racked up when we met. I was able to help her get and stay clean for about a year. When we relapsed together though, things went downhill. Nevertheless, having been together and having been able to successfully stay clean for so long, we didn’t think that we needed to separate. We had used together but there was no reason we couldn’t once again be clean together. Detox is painful, however. Especially in those first few days. I might be able to handle my own symptoms but seeing Wallis in that much pain really hurts me. During previous attempts to detox, as soon as I’d get the slightest inkling that it might be more than she could stand, I couldn’t help myself from going out and getting more heroin to make her feel better. After all, it’s not as if one dose in the middle of a detox is a nail in the coffin. That’s what titration is all about. You can always reason with yourself that one last hit, halfway into a detox period, will cure the worst of your symptoms and help you coast the rest of the way to the finish line.

But that “one last hit” all too often does not, in fact, retain its status as the last hit. You convince yourself that “just one more” will be okay. And then another. And another. And then you’re back to where you started.

We decided that we should detox separately to make it easier on each other. Wallis made plans to detox in Gainesville. I was to stay home in Jacksonville.

As anyone who’s ever detoxed from opiates will tell you, the best medicines to help ease you through the process are benzodiazepines. Xanax. Klonopin. Ativan. Those ones. While these drugs have an immense potential for recreational abuse, they’re not something that we’d ever otherwise take. We did, however, procure some for our detox.

Unfortunately, I have a track record of strange behavior while under the influence of these drugs. Well, I do now. Up until this point, there had only been one previous incident. When I took too many and became erratic and suicidal.  And that’s exactly what happened this time around.

We began our detox the night of August 16th together. Wallis was to leave sometime the following afternoon but when I woke up, she was gone and I was confused. Already under the influence of the drug from the night before, I couldn’t understand what was happening. She had invited one of our friends to come over to be there for me when I woke up, but it didn’t make any difference.

I’m not the sort of person that breaks things when I lose my temper. I’ve never thrown a phone at a wall or anything like that. But under the influence of too many benzodiazepines, this did not hold true. I broke virtually every one of my possessions. Both of my televisions. My MacBook Air. My iPhone. And then I went around the house, from painting to painting, slashing at my canvases and smashing or shattering all of my frames.

Then I left the house, procured a large amount of heroin, went somewhere that I presumed I wouldn’t be found for at least several hours, and – after swallowing the rest of my benzos – injected what I presumed would be enough heroin to kill me.

When I woke up in a haze in the hospital three or four days later, I discovered that I had not been discovered hours after my intendedly-lethal injection. I was discovered almost immediately and thus my life was able to be saved.

Upon release from the hospital approximately one week after the overdose, I was no longer under the agitating effects of any drugs but I was in no better shape mentally. I began racing around town, trying to procure the money I’d need to buy enough heroin to once again attempt to kill myself. It wasn’t long before a suspicious and concerned Wallis (who I had spoken to on the phone at some point) alerted the police. They found me and took me into custody before I could try anything. I’ve been hospitalized often enough for suicidal behavior that I know what to say to doctors to procure my own early release though. I was back out on the street again the very next day but, fortunately, had calmed my mind and was no longer suicidal. I recommitted to getting clean, picking back up with my art and writing, and getting my life back on track.

As time has shown, it turns out that I wasn’t quite ready. I was not able to stay clean successfully for much more than a week or so. Even still, I was able to get my head clear for long enough to do something. I began sewing and repairing my damaged paintings. These would become what I’m now referring to as my “Suicide Stitches” series.

When I make art, I don’t plan very much ahead. I kind of just let the images take shape on their own. If I make a mistake – some mark that’s somehow other than I intended it to appear – I don’t correct it. I embrace it. “That’s how it’s supposed to be,” I tell myself. I find a way to rearrange my ideas about how the painting should look. The same is the case with my Suicide Stitches paintings. These pieces are not “damaged”; they don’t have rips or holes in them. This is how these paintings were always meant to be. Each one of my paintings and drawings tells a story and those stories are usually all about my emotional and mental state at the time I’m working on each one. My Suicide Stitches paintings tell those stories, plus one more: the story of August 17, 2016. The story of the day I lost my mind and almost ended my life.

The first of these paintings that I stitched up has already sold. In fact, it was stitched up because it was sold. It was the first good news I had gotten in quite a while. Through Instagram, I got a message from reality TV star, Scott Disick. He wanted one of my pieces and, more than that, he wanted to help promote my art. That opportunity was the first spark I’d had in a great while to actually do something productive. And the publicity and consequent sales I’m expecting are what’s motivating me to get back to work right now. (Although I do have other similarly exciting opportunities also in the works at this point). That first painting has been shipped to Scott but the other Suicide Stitches paintings are still available for purchase. For pricing (on both the originals as well as limited edition hand-numbered/signed prints), contact my new agent, Jennifer Levin of newly formed agency, Blow the Dust. (Jen’s last enterprise is currently on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies, so I’m pretty amped on this new partnership). Blow the Dust’s website is still very much a work in progress but it’s already been launched with a webstore featuring some of my prints and one of my original paintings. It should actually be operational by sometime this week. Check it out.

While the pieces have not yet been rephotographed since their Suicide Stitches updates, you can get the general idea from a couple photos I snapped quickly with my iPhone in my blog entry from October 8th. Six of the seven paintings in the series are as follows:

The final (seventh) painting in the series (and only one not pictured here) also happens to be the largest, newest, (most expensive) and my favorite of the whole lot. It’s called “The World Revolves Around Me.” For more information on (and images of) that piece, like the others, just get in touch.

For what it’s worth, I’d like to note that (at the time of this posting) I currently have 13 days clean (a record for me so far in 2016) and I plan on that number continuing to climb through the year’s end. I’d also like to note that money from the sales of my work no longer goes directly to me – a safety measure taken in case of a potential relapse.

I’m Getting Really Sick of Not Being Famous

"I'm Getting Really Sick of Not Being Famous." 3/31/15. Acrylic paint. 48x24".
“I’m Getting Really Sick of Not Being Famous.” 3/31/15. Acrylic paint. 48×24″.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a statement for one of my pieces but this painting never got one. A year later, here I go…

Things were going well. I was making thousands of dollars every month, I was getting booked at galleries, I was traveling the country with a girl with whom I was deeply in love, and I still wasn’t happy. (Or happy enough).

In March, I had an exhibition at Instinct in Minneapolis. Everyday – to help promote the exhibit and to make extra money selling prints – I’d set up on the sidewalk in front of the gallery with an easel, working on this, my next painting.

Some days, I didn’t wanna go set up though and spend twelve hours on the street, painting. Other days, I was frustrated having to park and carry my supplies too far away (or parking closer – illegally – and having to keep an eye over my shoulder for tow trucks all day). I was making money just for making art but I was actually having to work for it.

Fuck that.

I wanted to paint in some studio or at home. I wanted to finish a painting and know that there were already galleries lined up to take them or collectors ready to buy them the moment each was finished. “I’m fucking brilliant!” (Right?) “My genius should be enough to generate an income all on its own! This should be easier.”

Alright, so maybe my thinking wasn’t quite that arrogant but … you know … pretty much.

Look – I don’t like myself a whole lotta the time and I could expand on that for days but – when it comes to my art – I know that it’s great. As a human being, I’m seriously flawed, but those same flaws (and my willingness to bare them so candidly and honestly) is what overwhelmingly/primarily accounts for the power and singularity of my art and is the reason I’ve sold as much of it as I have. I’ve hated so many things about me for long enough that I’m okay with being unapologetically proud of the art I’ve created.

I figured that once I got wide enough exposure and enough people knew about my art (once I was famous) my life would be a whole lot easier. No more worrying about bills. Lots of attention (to fill the empty void where my soul should live). You know: FAME. Money. Whatever.

Admittedly, that might be a little naive but – fuck it – I was getting really sick of having to work and I was getting really sick of not being famous.

Beyond all that, there’s a passage of smaller text hidden in the canvas that sort of jumps all over the place. I wrote about feeling fat and self-conscious and tugging at my clothes, pulling them straight a million times a day (even though I was well underweight at that point (and probably still am)). I wrote about other frustrations and how they made me want to use heroin, even though I’d been clean forever at that point and had gained so much to lose. And I wrote about how I didn’t know what I was doing wrong but that I was going to keep trying anyway, finding new approaches if necessary.

Some of the "suicide stitches" on this painting.
Some of the “suicide stitches” in this painting.

Like most of my work, this painting is meant to be funny and it’s supposed to seem dense and trivial but its humor is born of sincere frustration, genuine sadness, hopelessness, and a sense of uncertainty. And like a lot of the optimism I inject into my work, what little is here is mostly for my own benefit and not the painting’s. It’s forced with the hope that it will take hold.

And I think it did take hold for a while but ultimately, about a year after finishing this piece, I did cave and give in to heroin, letting it replace art as my full-time occupation. And seven months into that, in a state of drug-induced psychosis, I slashed away at this painting (and several others) shortly before eating an absurd quantity of Xanax and Klonopin and injecting an intentionally strong shot of heroin with the intention of killing myself. I’m not sure why I didn’t want the art to outlive me but the damage didn’t turn out to be all that bad anyway and I, myself, woke up in the hospital a few days later.

More "suicide stitches" (which are actually mint waxed dental floss).
More “suicide stitches” (which are actually mint waxed dental floss).

That was six weeks ago and I’m now in the process of stitching up all of the slashes I put into my paintings. This is the first I’ve finished sewing up which makes it the first in what I’m calling my “Suicide Stitches” series of paintings. More on that in another blog entry/post soon to follow.

Every Song Sounds Like the Last One

When I was first forced to participate in “expressive art therapy group” while in inpatient treatment, I thought it was a joke. “I can’t keep a needle out of my arm and I’m fucking dying and you want me to color?? You’ve gotta be kidding me.” But once I started to actually put a little bit of effort into it – and sharing with the group what I had made and the reasons I made the choices that I had – I got my first little taste of self-esteem. People liked my art and they thought my explanations were funny and insightful. It made me feel good about myself. Eventually, art became something I really enjoyed and – later – my primary occupation. Not only did it save my life but it’s my primary tool in maintaining emotional balance and it pays my bills and enables me to spend most of my time doing what I love most: making more art.

A lot of my work looks like a lot of my other work. I have a distinct style and I don’t really stray outside of the box too often. I’ve tried to experiment here and there but – when I do – I’m usually not too happy with the results. It’s only when I get back to doing what I love (drawing/painting funny faces with bright colors) that I start to feel better.

In September of 2014, my friend Paul paid me to draw something for him. He didn’t give me any instructions but I decided to visit a record he’d released when he first started his label, Radius Records, for a bit of inspiration. The lyric that popped out at me was from The Smoking Popes’ “Theme From ‘Cheerleader’”: “Every song sounds like the last one.” It made me think about how my art is all pretty much the same but how I’m okay with that. Just like how almost all of the songs I like (in the fairly rigid genre of pop punk) are all essentially the same. It reminded me of something I’ve often said when talking about music: “I don’t care about innovation or breaking new ground. A band can do the same thing over and over again; what’s important is that they do it well.”

It’s the same with my art. It doesn’t matter if I do the same trick again and again; so long as I do it well.

That’s what was on my mind when I did this. That and the fact that I had come to like my own art enough to stand behind it in spite of any criticism – but that I was still grateful to have fans and friends, like Paul, that liked and supported what I do. I wrote just a little bit about it on the left side of the drawing.

Every time I pick up a pen, a brush, [whatever], I risk failure, risk repeating myself. I’m not afraid. I like what I like, do what I do, and every time I pick up, I’m saying so. I believe in myself. But I didn’t always. Other people had to believe in me first. And if they didn’t continue to… I don’t know that I’d be able to either.

It’s taken me more than a year to write out the statement for this piece. Thanks for your patience, Paul!

"Every Song Sounds Like the Last One." 9/28/14. Ink. 14x11".
“Every Song Sounds Like the Last One.” 9/28/14. Ink. 14×11″.

 

On an unrelated note, my second NPR story of 2015 aired a few days ago, this time courtesy of Ryan Benk and the Jacksonville affiliate, WJCT. You can read or listen to it on their website.

There Might Be Something Wrong With My Penis

"There Might Be Something Wrong With My Penis." 7/26/14. Acrylic paint. 8x10".
“There Might Be Something Wrong With My Penis.” 7/26/14. Acrylic paint. 8×10″.

I went to the VD clinic yesterday ‘cause I thought there was something wrong with me. I suspected that I might have been a bit hypochondriacal but – sure enough – there was something wrong. To quote the doctor’s precise and horrifying diagnosis, I was suffering from “a minor skin irritation.”

So that’s good news but it doesn’t end there. While I was sitting in the waiting room, I got to watch an educational video in which a cartoon penis rolled a condom over his body and then proceeded to lube himself up. I swear to god, I’m not fucking with you. This exists. Giant cartoon condom – rolls a condom over his body – and then covers himself with lube.

And I say to myself… what a wonderful world.”

I made this painting over a year ago, in a state of sheer terror, while waiting for test results. Being back at a clinic yesterday, I remembered that I had never put it online.

Early in 2014, I sold some art to a girl named Rachel Rabinowitz in Delray Beach, FL. She emailed me later and told me that she was an artist too and that I should hit her up if I was ever in Asheville. Later that year, while in Asheville, Chris Spillane and I  met her for coffee. She asked if I’d be interested in collaborating and I told her that she could paint something and then I could paint something over it. (That’s the only way I know how to collaborate; I had done it twice before with my buddy, William Somma, on “Limp” and “Yo – I Painted a Fuckin’ Unicorn“). Here’s what the canvas looked like when she gave it to me:

This part of the painting was done by Rachel Rabinowitz.
The pre-Sammy version of “There Might Be Something Wrong With My Penis.” Painted in June 2014 by Rachel Rabinowitz, who probably didn’t realize I’d later use the canvas to work through STD test anxiety (but was a very good sport about it).

I Could Never Love Anyone More Than I Hate Myself

"I Could Never Love Anyone More Than i Hate Myself ." 4/30/15. Acrylic paint. 36x36".
“I Could Never Love Anyone More Than i Hate Myself .” 4/30/15. Acrylic paint. 36×36″.

For as much as I talk and write about Wallis, I’ve never really shared the full story of how we first came together. I’ll save the cute elements of the story for later and just give you the important part that hasn’t seemed relevant until now.

When I met Wallis, she was actively addicted to heroin. She was trying to not be on heroin but (like most addicts) she was finding that to be a little tougher than she could handle. We hit it off really quickly but I told her on our very first night together that I couldn’t be around that sort of thing. I told her that if she wanted to continue spending time with me, she couldn’t be using drugs. (I’m way too fucking fragile to not relapse if a pretty girl has a needle and a bag of dope to share with me). She told me she didn’t wanna use. I invited her to go with me on a road trip for a week – up to Illinois and back. In the course of that trip, we fell in love. Which was a problem because it meant we needed to figure out what we were gonna do to keep her from going back to heroin once we got back to Jacksonville. We decided that she’d need to quit the strip club and get another job (nobody can stay off drugs in that environment – no addict anyway). I told her I’d cover her ’til she got a new job and then – when it was time for me to leave Jacksonville – she’d quit her new job and come with me. Sound familiar? I did for Wallis the same thing I had done for my best friend, Chris, a year prior. I brought her out on the road with me to keep her off drugs. To show her another kind of life. Like Chris had done, in exchange for “all expenses paid” she’d just help me with my set-up, selling art, whatever. (And like Chris, it pretty much worked. She never used once; not while traveling with me anyway).

When we left Jacksonville, it was for Minneapolis, where I was to be featured in a gallery exhibit. Halfway through the exhibition’s run, we returned to Jacksonville for a week, so I could bank at One Spark. On the drive down, Wallis started talking about going to see old friends – friends that she had, historically, used drugs with. I told her that this was a terrible idea. She argued that I needed to have faith in her. I responded that I’d heard that same exact sentence and had this same exact conversation many, many times in the past (with another girl) and that I knew perfectly well how this was gonna end. I told her that if she wasn’t willing to forego the reunion (and the inevitable relapse that’d come with it) that I couldn’t be her boyfriend anymore. One Spark was going to be an incredibly important week for me financially and I didn’t wanna fuck it up by spending the whole time worried about whether Wallis was safe. She said okay (as in okay, then you don’t need to be my boyfriend anymore). There was no hostility or drama beyond that but when we got to Jacksonville, we went our separate ways. Wallis relapsed that very first night (thought she wouldn’t tell me until later), but called me the next morning and spent the rest of the week by my side like a lost puppy. On the night before I was to return to Minneapolis, she broke down crying, told me she had fucked up, and that she still wanted to be with me.

And I took her back.

I first had the thought years and years ago, upon hearing Rivethead’s “In My Heart a Warehouse Burns For You.” The last lyric in the song is “I love you just as much as I hate the man.” I’m not exactly the biggest fan of cops or authority figures of any kind but when I’m really fired up and full of hate, there’s only one target it’s ever directed at: me. I still listen to that record (The Cheap Wine of Youth) all the time so the idea of captioning a painting with “I love you just as much as I hate myself” had occurred to me on a couple occasions but I didn’t wanna be derivative. Then, when I bought Pretty Boy Thorson’s An Uneasy Peace (the final song of which is called “I Love You Even More Than I Hate Myself”) I had a bit of a god dammit moment. That should’ve been mine! The song’s awesome and it doesn’t matter that the lyric is similar to another. I started thinking about it though – that line – and whether or not it was actually true (for me). I was dating Wallis and I absolutely loved her but did I love her more than I hated myself? I wasn’t really sure. I decided that sometimes I’m afraid that I could never love anyone more than I hate myself. After all, we had weathered the storm of her relapse but I was sabotaging our relationship bit by bit with my low self-esteem. I wrote about some of that anxiety in the bottom-right corner of the painting:

It’s so much harder to travel with a second person. Staying with friends feels like a much bigger imposition and I can’t stay with girls I meet. That’s probably the hardest part. But I love Wallis. (And I really like fucking her). And I think she needs me. I tried to leave her in Jacksonville but it didn’t work out. I hope she’s with me because she really loves me and not just ‘cause she’s scared to go back to “real life.” It if doesn’t work out, it’s probably gonna be because I can’t stop thinking about fucking other girls, which I know hurts her (and is really so selfish and dumb - and even mean - on my part) but really has nothing to do with her. (She’s so fucking hot and sexy and cute and beautiful). It’s just my insecurity and my compulsion to fuck every pretty girl, to prove to the world (and myself) just how fucking wonderful and desirable I am. It’s not helping that girls are throwing themselves at me these days. But I know (or think) that shit won’t make me happy. And in the end, I’m just gonna want someone to love me and I love Wallis.

There’s another, shorter string of text higher up in the painting, similarly inspired by punk rock: “I was listening to that Gateway District song where they sing, ‘I’m always falling way behind and you go on and on and on.’ If only I knew someone like that. Maybe I’d have someone to look to. Everybody I know is struggling. Everyone I know is as hopeless as I am. (Or worse).”

There’s a brighter, happier pair of sentences in the top-left corner – the product of a moment when everything was right in the world. Amazing sex with Wallis and I’m driving to the gallery showcasing my art while listening to “Another Way Out of Here” by The Murderburgers. The thought occurred to me that “nothing in this world makes me happier than an energetic, upbeat song about suicide.” I gave it a second thought. Is that true?  I concluded, “Except (maybe) hitting girls in the face during sex.” I smiled. That’s pretty funny. I’m pretty fucked up. The things that I enjoy are – well – a little odd. This was all well and good at the time. I posted a close-up of that part of the painting online and it was met with positive feedback and just a little bit of “Oh, Sam…” But before I even got the chance to write the statement for this painting (as I am now), that photograph – that caption – would make the rounds on the internet elsewhere and garner a very different kind of response. You see, when I wrote that, it was about sex with Wallis. Sex which includes light consensual fake-violence (or whatever the fuck you wanna call it). Wallis likes getting slapped in the face during sex. And I like doing it. Win-win, right? Well, yeah – until you get accused of a violent rape and the media picks up on the story and uses your art to support the idea that you’re the kind of person capable of violently raping a nineteen year-old girl you just met. Sitting in jail, I wondered how I was going to break the news to my friends and fans that I had been accused of this horrible fucking crime. I bailed out, Chris Spillane picked me up, and after ten minutes of discussion he tells me, “There’s one more thing we’ve gotta talk about, Sam. The publicity on this story is not good right now.” Publicity? This story? “What the fuck are you talking about?” I googled my name and discovered that I didn’t need to worry about breaking this news to anyone. Some reporter knew or figured out who I was, wrote an article about me complete with images of my art (like the “hitting girls in the face” one) and everyone else picked it up and ran with it. Suddenly, strangers on the internet were talking about how I was the kind of person who PUNCHES girls in the face. I was a scumbag and I was definitely guilty. What the fuck? I’ve never punched a girl in the face! I slap! Playfully! And only with girls that WANT me to! But none of that mattered. What mattered was that it was incredibly easy to paint me as some kind of violent sexual deviant who had finally gone off the rails and just started violently raping people. Freedom of expression has its fucking consequences apparently. The charges against me have since been dismissed by a judge who (after hearing all of the prosecution’s evidence and the girl’s testimony) ruled that there was no probable cause to believe that any crime had been committed but the evidence in the case isn’t all public yet and I’m still having to deal with (well-meaning) assholes who think I deserve to be castrated for something I never did. At the time of this writing, this is all still incredibly recent so I’m still working out exactly how a person does deal with something like that. (I’ll let you know when I figure it out).

Flashback to five months before that nightmare though – back to when I was still working on this painting (that’d later incriminate me in the court of public opinion). I wrote that I was feeling “stuck in a rut. This spot [on the street] isn’t super profitable [for selling prints]. I don’t even wanna write about what else is going on. I don’t want to muddle up this painting that I’m not even happy with. My little sister is killing herself and today I blocked her phone number because I’m tired of her asking for help, not taking my advice, and then texting me updates on her self-destruction that she knows will just upset me. I really need the validation of some sales to cheer me up today. If I make less than $100 today, I’m gonna feel super depressed.” And then – to remind myself what a dipshit I am for worrying about how much I make in one particular day, I added: “I’ve made $7,000 this month.” True as it was, it didn’t really help me feel any better in that moment. I continued writing – about an interaction I had with a guy who stopped to watch me paint: “Someone asked me yesterday if I really hate myself and why. I had a hard time articulating it [the way that I feel sometimes]. He said he thinks I’m not as unhappy as I let on. I’d do a much better job explaining it to him today: I’M UGLY, PALE, OUTTA SHAPE, MEAN, SHITTY, POOR, FEARFUL, AND IN A CONSTANT STATE OF STARVATION FOR VALIDATION.”

Reading that now, remembering that day – it’s kinda scary. Everything in my life was going so well and I still had this monster inside me, gnawing at my insides, telling me that everything was awful. That I was awful. I’m really grateful that I don’t feel that way about myself all the time. Arguably, my life is way more fucked up now (on account of the VIOLENT RAPE ACCUSATION) but – I don’t know – I feel better today. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to fight this awful thing. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to become stronger. Maybe it’s because enough other people hate me now that I can take a break on the self-loathing. I don’t know. I’m not sure. But after separating in late-June and spending two months mostly apart, Wallis and I are back together full-time. We’re living together in an apartment in Chicago and it’s been really great. And you know what? I love her WAY more than I hate myself. Not just ‘cause I’m not hating myself so much right now but… This girl… After all we’ve been through. After all I’ve done for her and all she’s done for me… Words are insufficient to express my gratitude, affection, and love for her. I’m probably gonna marry her.

And you know what? When it comes to “falling way behind” versus “going on and on and on,” maybe I do a little more of the latter than I allow myself to recognize sometimes. Maybe I do a lot more of it.

HAPPY ENDING.



“I Love You Even More” by Pretty Boy Thorson & The Falling Angels


“Another Way Out of Here” by The Murderburgers


“Waves and Cars” by The Gateway District

“In My Heart a Warehouse Burns For You” by Rivethead

I Have Borderline Personality Disorder and I Accept Credit and Debit

“I Have Borderline Personality Disorder and I Accept Credit and Debit.” 9/26/14. Ink. 40×32″.

You could call this piece the second in a series of three, detailing my second “romantic entanglement” in Chicago last year. The caption/title of the piece is (obviously) an acknowledgment of the way I’ve commercialized my “disease.” The text scattered throughout this piece is a pretty good document of that disease. It was all written as the piece was created (between August 15th and September 26th, 2014) and is as follows:

AAAANNNNNDDD – emotional attachment severed in 5… 4… 3… 2… gone.
And I don’t give a fuck about anyone.
Good thing I told Spillane earlier how much this girl likes me – and how (obviously) that means I need to be cutting it off soon. By nonchalantly bailing on our (admittedly) tentative (but – as of an hour ago – confirmed) plans for tonight, she’s given me all the cause I need.
Except I know she’s gonna materialize by my side tomorrow when I’m downtown working on this piece and selling prints.
So we’ll see how the fuck THAT pans out. Or – fuck it – maybe she won’t and maybe we won’t.
Did I mention that I don’t give a fuck? ‘Cause I really wanna stress that point. Does it sound like I’m trying really hard to prove it. If not to you, then to me?
Whatever. (Forever).
If I were feeling mean (and I am), I’d say: “That ‘love letter’ I wrote you is nothing but another product for my inventory. You’re just a couple pages in a chapter in my story. A subplot, a side story, a tangent.”
ON/OFF. ON/OFF. I still keep my feelings wired to a light switch. And I don’t care anymore.

Oh – wait – new day. Don’t care about any of that nonsense yesterday. Switch back on! I’m “in love” again!

Ink requires so much more precision than paint. I’m having a hard time finishing this drawing without my Adderall, which the police took, as evidence, the other night. A little over a year ago, I got out of Tranquil Shores and turned myself in for an outstanding warrant. As I sat in jail, I remember thinking, “This is the last time I’ll ever have to do this.” And now I’m facing charges again. FELONY charges. Felony DRUG charges. For my fucking Adderall. I need to get my shit together for my case. Letters from doctors, counselors, Tranquil Shores – to prove that I’m not some kid abusing this stuff – I just happened to let my prescription lapse (irresponsibly, I know). But that’s hard to do [manage my prescriptions in new cities] without my Adderall. Everything is. Everything is more difficult. And I’m overwhelmed. I can do it. Call a lawyer, call the doctors, get my suit shipped up here from Florida.
It doesn’t sound like much but the anxiety of it all has me almost to panic mode. I want to shut down, block it all out, and just leave the state [of Illinois]. If this had happened in Kansas or Oklahoma, I’d just never go back. But it was on this side of the Illinois line. I hate it. This court doesn’t care about me. The judge, the prosecutors, the system. None of them care. I hate it so much. It’s cold and mean and awful and it makes me wanna give up.
Two Saturdays ago, I got invited to two parties. I invited Nicole to go with me to both. I went to pick her up, anxiety set in, I told her to forget it, and I went out to my car to… I wasn’t sure. She sent a text: “Are you okay? What are you doing?” I was online, researching dope spots in Chicago so I could go cop. I told her ‘cause she’s twenty, might not understand how serious that is, might be naive enough and like me enough to just want to do it with me. But she knew better. She stopped me. Saved me from myself. Not that I didn’t put up a fight. She cried. I felt terrible. It was a mess. But she stuck it out. She really cares. That’s scary. We’re still seeing each other. That’s scary. I’m [this] close to referring to her as my girlfriend. If I were a better person, I’d probably break it off with her and stop getting involved with girls. IT ALWAYS ENDS THE SAME. Or maybe I should quit playing fortune teller, just live life, and let what happens happen.

OUT OF ADDERALL PROBLEMS: Meanwhile, I won’t shower or even get dressed until I have clean socks to put on. But I won’t have that until I go to the laundromat and I can’t go to the laundromat unless I get dressed and I can’t do that until I have clean socks to put on.

We’ve been seeing each other for six weeks. Became “boyfriend/girlfriend-official” last week. I haven’t put it on Facebook because I guess I just figure it won’t last. We got into an argument this morning. I started repeating “idon’tcareidon’tcareidon’tcare,” she goes “and you don’t care about me so FUCK OFF,” and then she hung up. (I think – I did anyway). I think that’s it. I think we’re done now. I talked to my south Florida girl last night. It was great except she sounded high but assured me she wasn’t. She invited me to come stay with her when I go back down there. If she’s clean, that’d be great! She called again this morning, moments after hanging up with my girlfriend. It turns out she is getting high and everything’s a mess.
I’m stuck in Illinois on bail. Mike and I butt heads. I don’t feel secure here. I’m always walking on eggshells. My relationship with Nicole is dicey if not over. I’m ready to get the fuck out and go somewhere new. Sometimes I feel like I’m floating – for what? Is it about art? A career? Or do I do it all for girls, sex, love? Is it for myself – ego, fulfillment, ACTUALIZATION? What am I looking for? What am I after?
UGH – WHO THE FUCK CARES???
Oh – WAIT – SHE JUST TEXTED ME. We’re still cool. (Or cool again). Game on. I feel better, I guess.

Don’t let the fact that I usually sleep indoors fool you. I might be charming but no place feels safe. This is what it means to be really homeless. I’m reinventing homelessness. And I do technically live in a minivan. If you did, your art would have unintentional creases and pressure spots too.

Depression, isolation, giving up…
I started this piece over a month ago. My life was different then. It’s gotten worse. My faith’s been shaken. I’m so sad. It’s cold outside. I don’t wanna kill myself…

The first piece in this series was “Love Letter;” the third is “The Last Unfinished Work.”

The Last Unfinished Work

"The Last Unfinished Work." 12/24/14. Acrylic. 4x5'.
“The Last Unfinished Work.” 12/24/14. Acrylic. 4×5′.

I’ve been involved with a lot of girls and it’s a personal point of pride that I’m on good terms with almost all of them. The girl I dated the longest [six years] remains one of my very best friends. I even remain friendly with most of my “one night stands.” There are two exceptions. There’s Heather, who I unintentionally put through emotional hell and who I’m on okay terms with but who (justifiably) has some hard feelings. And then there’s Nicole – a girl I dated last year. Our relationship was fucked up to such an extent that I don’t want to be friends with her. It’s true that I sometimes behaved in ways I’m not proud of but this girl was manipulative in ways I’ve never otherwise experienced. And I’m ashamed to admit that I fell for it – I allowed myself to ignore the obvious signs and I allowed myself to be manipulated. I’m not happy about that and I harbor some resentment that this person used and abused me as she did (even if it wasn’t as intentional or malicious as it now seems). It’s my fault to the degree that I let it happen but that doesn’t make it okay. I’m not mad about it anymore but I don’t have any interest in a friendship with the girl.

There are two big pieces of art that I made about our relationship. The first has yet to be posted online. This is the second.

What follows are the compiled journals written in the course of creating this painting. They don’t tell the full story of our relationship but – even still – they make for the longest fucking addendum I’ve ever attached to any of my paintings. It’s a lot to absorb. More than I want to. Some of them are written on the canvas. Some are blog entries. Some are blog entries that I didn’t have the guts to put online. Some are Facebook posts. And a lot of them are private journals that I never had any intention of sharing in any form. A lot of them are pretty embarrassing. I’ve done my best to arrange them chronologically even though I’m not 100% certain of the exact dates some were written.

 October 6th:
I saw a new psychiatrist last month so I could get my Adderall refilled here in Chicago. She wanted to put me on Wellbutrin too. “No,” I told her. “They tapered me off all that stuff before I got out of Tranquil Shores. Antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics – they thought maybe I didn’t need them after all, having addressed my root issues with other types of therapy.” But I’m going to call tomorrow to make an appointment. I’m ANGRY ALL THE TIME and it’s making me miserable.

That feels like giving up. Like a “chemical solution.” But I don’t care right now. I had told her, “Yeah, I get depressed a lot but I’ve got reasons to be depressed. Isn’t medication for people who are unreasonably depressed?”

All of this talk about psychiatric drugs is gonna make this painting perfect for the group exhibition, “The Meds I’m On,” that I’m showing at in the Spring. Or it would have if I hadn’t just explicitly acknowledged it anyway.

October 11th:
We got into a fight and she pulled out a secret stash of oxycodone. I don’t know if she’s been using drugs the whole time and hiding it or if this is unusual for her. I panicked. I wanted to use. I wanted to not feel the way I was feeling. She wouldn’t share. That’s probably for the best. I gave up on the idea but wanted to be with her all the same. I said, “I need you.” She said, “I need you to leave.” We’re broken up now and I’m spending the night in the van and losing my mind. I can’t describe the panic I feel – over her, over drugs, over everything. It’s really cold.

October 12th:
We’ve reached this really cool understanding that everything wrong in our relationship is my fault so now we’re in a great place emotionally where – one minute – she wants to make out with me and – the next – she’s “not comfortable” with me in her bed so I need to go sleep on the floor in the living room.

 October 13th:
It’s been a week [since I decided to get back on antidepressants and antipsychotics]. I still haven’t called [my psychiatrist to actually get those drugs prescribed to me]. Things got better and then… much worse. I am living in a state of perpetual anxiety. I need counseling. I want to make this girl love me but – what I really need is another girl. I mean, ultimately, I know that that’s not the answer. But I need to get out of here and I know from experience that the best way to get over heartbreak or rejection is to find warmth and acceptance from someone new. In any case, I can’t keep staying here – not so long as this remains the state of our relationship. I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack. I’m all nerves. Nicole is unstable and unpredictable. She told me last night that she didn’t want me in her bed but then woke me up in the living room at 3am to invite me back to bed. Still, she was cuddly but didn’t kiss me and I need at least that much affection. I’m praying (literally) that she’ll be in a good mood when I pick her up from work in an hour. – and that she’ll stay that way for the duration of the night. I want her to want me in her bed tonight. And to want me physically as well.

She has the next three days off and has talked about going out of town. If she does, I’ll have three days to breathe and (hopefully) find somewhere new to live. If she stays, it could be the best thing or the worst but probably both. Her moods flip in an instant, seemingly without cause of any kind. I can already anticipate it: she’ll alternately want space and want me out of the apartment and then she’ll want me right there, holding her. My own emotional condition is too fragile to be with someone so similarly disturbed. The only way I can see this panning out is if she has a total change of heart and decides that I’ve been sufficiently punished (or proven my dedication and resolve to be a better partner) and that she wants me back in a more absolute (less trial-oriented) sense. I want that so badly. More than anything. I want to be happy. I want us both to be happy.

October 15th:
I’m at Dr. Ableheary’s, about to go in. Since the fight that actually culminated in a break-up on Saturday night, I’ve been relegated to sleeping in the living room. That first night, she pulled me back into bed at 3am so I thought it’d happen again but it didn’t. I woke up yesterday morning. It was 9am and her bedroom door was shut. I did a few things around the apartment, she didn’t wake up (or come out of the room anyway) so I left, off to run errands and be productive. I brewed some coffee and left her a note (“call me if you need anything,” etc). She never called. I came back at 2 or 3pm. Packed up some art that had sold and needed to be shipped. She still didn’t come out. I wasn’t anxious all day like I had been on Monday. But I was overwhelmed by a crushing, permeating depression. My thoughts turned to suicide very early in the morning – before I was even out the door. They didn’t leave me even as I went through my day. The only relief came when I was on my way back to the apartment, when I realized that I had everything I needed if I really wanted to die. I didn’t commit to it but I started going about my day in preparation, as if it were a sure thing. Really, I was just hoping I’d see her when I walked in and everything would be better. That hour that I spent packing art, knowing she was in the bedroom, could hear me, and wasn’t coming out, was excruciating. I packed as much as I could stand before I decided that I should just go ship my packages and maybe find a good spot to die. I turned to my canvas, propped against the living room wall, and in crude black lettering, scrawled the words, “THE LAST UNFINISHED WORK.” That was my suicide note. I wanted cigarettes, which were locked in the bedroom – and I wanted to see her. I knocked on the door, she let me in without saying anything. I grabbed the cigarettes and stalled in the doorway. “If I had a problem, would you want me to talk to you about it?” She said I could. I told her what was going on, she asked for my keys, made me call Dr. Ableheary, invited me to lie down next to her. But she didn’t make eye contact and wasn’t very comforting. She started to warm up a little. Eventually, I asked if I could kiss her. She kissed me. We started really kissing (the first time since the morning after we broke up). And then we had sex and I was okay again.

She finally sat up in bed and became communicative. The rest of the night was pleasant. We didn’t really do anything but if I walked out of the room for even a second, she wanted me back, wanted my attention. Which was nice – just to be wanted. Still, when we were getting ready for bed, she indicated that I should still sleep in the living room but that she might come and get me. She did eventually. Thankfully, I was still sleeping when it happened or else I might have woken alone, in a deep depression again. I fell asleep in her bed. When I woke up, she was less playful. She had (basically) wanted me to entertain her but I had fallen asleep instead. She was pretty unresponsive and then – after about an hour in the bathroom – totally unresponsive. It was only after I stopped paying her any attention that she wanted it again. Today and yesterday afternoon, she was complaining about how “sick” she felt. She only perked up just as I was leaving for the appointment because she got an email about a job interview tomorrow. She said she wanted me to take her shopping when I get back tonight. Prior to that, I couldn’t get her excited about doing anything or even relinquishing her clutch on the blankets. Her mood swings are dramatic, instantaneous, and powerful. Which isn’t necessarily anything new but the way in which I’m able to address them has changed now that the status and dynamics of our relationship have. I used to have the power; she has it now. It’s uncomfortable. I’m working to make myself an indispensible support so that I can turn that back around. The important thing is that she’s receptive to affection again. I can kiss her, she’ll kiss me back. I need that. I told her I loved her – as a human being, independent of any romantic relationship we might have. But I want her back as my girlfriend. Why? It’s hard to say. She’s not my best possible mate. We’re both damaged. But a well-adjusted girl isn’t going to want to have anything to do with me. Maybe she is my ideal partner. Maybe we can help each other and grow together. I’m embarrassed that I’m apparently on the same level as a hardly-treated bipolar twenty year old. I want her so badly to be well, to be happy, and to be with me. I want her pills to work. She’s on all these new meds right now and on her period and she keeps saying she wants Xanax. She can’t be trusted with drugs like that but if I had one to give her, I would. I just want her to feel okay.

October 16th:
On our way to her interview at The Fortress [the BDSM dungeon she wants to work at], she said something about her penchant or proclivity for dominance. “You’re lucky I submit to you,” she added. I reached out and touched the side of her head. “You’re messing up my hair,” she fussed. “That doesn’t sound much like submission,” I said.

The power dynamic of our relationship has shifted. I think I’m succeeding in bringing it back around. We fucked on Tuesday. I need to fuck again today. I need for her to submit to me. I’ve been very attentive to every one of her needs these last few days. I’ve run errands for her, driven her everywhere she’s wanted or needed to go. I’ve cleaned up after her, done her dishes, fetched her whatever she’s wanted to eat or drink. I slept in the bed last night. I’m not prepared to move back to the couch cushions and the living room. I need to keep up my forward momentum. We’re kissing again now but – sometimes – I still sense her hesitancy to really kiss me back. I want to make her mine again. It’s a careful balancing act. I have to make all the right moves, balance my moods and feelings with hers. It’s a carefully paced, calculating kind of game. Sex makes it easier. Sex gives me power and confidence.

I’m waiting outside The Fortress for her right now. When she gets out, I want to take her home, throw her on the bed, and fuck her hard. I want to choke her and slap her and force my dick down her fucking throat. And then I want to clean her up and drink huckleberry sodas together and be warm and love her until we fall asleep.

 October 17th (12:33 am):
As fucked up as everything got at times, I feel really good right now for these reasons: (1) I fucking love this girl and I’m never happier than when I’m just hanging out with her, joking around; (2) it bums me out so hard that she doesn’t want to sleep next to me (regardless of the reason) but her recognition of my feelings (in allowing me to sleep beside her) makes me feel like my feelings matter too (and seein’ as my feelings have been ALL OVER THE PLACE this week), it means an extra special lot to me; (3) her statement that her next relationship will “probably” be with me. My insecurity tells me, “she doesn’t mean that; she just wants to keep you on the hook,” but I’m electing to trust her – I’m putting my faith in her, I’m believing that her words are sincere, and I’m telling my insecurity to go fuck itself.

I love this girl. That’s paramount. And it feels less and less like “a choice” all the time. I don’t understand love; I’ve always seen it as something I can flick on and off like a light switch. And maybe that’s still the case, maybe I’m just really invested in the way I feel in the moment. But this girl really is unlike any other person I’ve ever met and – while all of this hurt and pain this week is INCREDIBLY hard to deal with – I don’t think I would be in love with her without it. Maybe this is the kind of shit that actually makes relationships for real. Maybe you can’t really love someone without all this shit. Anyone can be cute or charming or fun to have sex with but that’s not a real basis for any kind of meaningful partnership or even friendship. There’s gotta be something deeper. Maybe all the trauma can be described as “growing pains.” I mean, if I’m being totally honest and I ask myself, “What was the basis of our relationship before this?” – it’s… Well, I don’t know… I want to say it wasn’t anything super meaningful but I’m not sure if that’s even true. That day I ran off to get high and she sat in my van… that feels like something real and significant. That was borne of conflict too… I think that’s the stuff that’s got real meaning. The all-happy-all-fun shit is nice but I want someone I can go to bat for (and that will go to bat for me). She’s proven that she’ll do that. [I didn’t get high that day].

She says she needs space; I can fucking relate. I need to do a lot of work on myself. I’m fortunate though in that my time spent working on myself results in paintings and journals, which are how I make a living. She has to go to a job to make hers, which leaves less time for reflection, meditation, etc.

On the one hand, I need my own place. The only good option I have though is down in Springfield [two hours from Chicago]. With my income drying out with the cold, I’m not sure I can risk renting a room here in Chicago. It’s gonna be cold as fuck this weekend but I’m gonna have to suck it up and hit the street tomorrow and Saturday, even if it means making close to nothing on account of the cold. I really wish it was still warm and I was making the kind of money I was back in the summer.

Part of me thinks that we need that space apart so she can heal but part of me thinks of Julia and her boyfriend and that conversation Nicole and I had: “Wait – they used to live together and it didn’t work out? So what the fuck are they working toward?” But that’s different… our shit fell apart for reasons that had very little to do with the fact that we were living together. It was about my attitude and my ideas regarding “conflict resolution” (i.e. run away (or at least threaten to) anytime we had a problem).

I’m afraid to lose her but maybe it’s one of those “if you love something, set it free” kinds of deals. If that’s the case, maybe I should go all the way to Springfield. Really get some time apart. Really give her space and room without any expectations of anything. If what we have is real then it should still hold up a month from now. And as much as I don’t wanna be away from her at all, maybe a little distance would be as good for me as it would be for her.

My darkest thoughts are the ones that tell me she’ll want me to stick around just to shuttle her around town. I know she could ride around with someone else and I know she likes me but maybe that’s the thing… she probably couldn’t get rides from someone that she’d also like as much as she likes me. Kind of like how I could live in another girl’s apartment but not a girl I like as much as I like her. As much as I love her, as much as I love being with her, and as much as I love being able to help her in every little way I can imagine, maybe we should remove all the practical/convenient aspects of our relationship and see how well it holds up. That seems so insanely trivial that it doesn’t even warrant testing but a little time apart might be helpful anyway so maybe I should just go to Springfield for just a week or so.

I really hate the idea of being away from her (and I hate the idea that she might be okay with being away from me) but if we’re just talking about a week, then that’s nothing we weren’t gonna have to face up to soon enough anyway.

It bums me out that she doesn’t care about my art. It’s like a window into my fucking soul and she seems sort of indifferent to it. If she really loved me, I feel like she’d be my biggest supporter. Maybe not though… it’s hard to say. Maybe I bleed that kind of sentiment and history every day and it’s not necessary to go to my artwork to find it. And some of the girls that do love my artwork are some of my best friends but they’re not in love with me so…

Maybe nothing matters and it’s all bullshit. Or maybe not.

It’s fucking bizarre the way she’s able to identify my own shitty inclinations and behaviors better than I am. I’ve never been with anyone else that could do that. Or maybe I just wasn’t receptive to hearing about it in the past. Heather definitely couldn’t do it in any case. I can remember that far back. She’d just stare at me silently. Not that I blame her. I’m not easy to date and not easy to talk to (when there’s criticism involved).

1:26 am:
I was wrong. Knowing she didn’t want me in bed with her… it was awful. I told myself I’d stay just since I had already come in but… I didn’t even make it ten minutes before it was more than I could stand. I’m sleeping on the couch cushions tonight.

I’ll stay in Chicago through the weekend, sleep elsewhere tomorrow and Saturday, and then make my way to Springfield on Sunday.

1:40 am:
Sleeping on the couch cushions makes me suicidally depressed. Turns out it’s nowhere near as bad as trying to sleep next to someone that doesn’t want you in their bed.

I don’t even know if I can make it through the weekend in this city. All my good feelings from an hour ago are gone. Everything hurts.

 2:27 am:
I wish I were dead.

2:29 am:
If she doesn’t want me now, why would she want me tomorrow?

 2:30 am:
I deserve to be loved. I deserve to be wanted. I made a mistake. I’ve apologized. I’ve demonstrated real remorse and resolve through my actions these last five days. There’s nothing left to change except her feelings, which I can’t control. When she’s ready she can let me know. I am special. I’m not to be taken for granted. I deserve to be earned too. Love me or leave me. I can fall in love again. I want you but I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone. I’m Sam North.

October 18th:
Wow. I thought I was going to come home and crawl into bed with Nicole. Instead, I show up and Rick is here and they’re sitting side by side on the couch and she’s not totally dressed. I like Rick but she was fucking him right before me so… what the fuck is that?

We have “things to talk about” tonight, she said. Shit to work out. If she wanted to hang out with some other guy, why the fuck did she insist that I come back here tonight when I SAID I WAS GOING TO STAY THE NIGHT SOMEWHERE ELSE?

She INSISTED.

What the FUCK. I am fucking angry.

[The next day, we “officially” became a couple again].

October 21st:
Nicole started at The Fortress, doing domination work. Her first day of training was today but she’s been trying to dominate me for about a week already and it’s gotten more extreme these last two days. She says she wants me to be her “sugar baby” and that I don’t need to worry about selling prints to make money, She doesn’t lick my asshole quite like she used to and I spent a lot more time licking hers. That’s fucking fine on its own but she’s ALSO going to be doing “submission work” at The Fortress, which strikes me as being far more sexual in nature. If she wants to submit to someone, she should fucking submit to me. It’s not about the money; she’d make more than enough by just doing domination work. Which means it’s about pleasure and – part of being in a relationship (which we are again, officially, now) means that – you’re supposed to do that kind of shit with your partner.

I’m not about to become some little fucking house boy to her but if she wants to pay for everything: cool. Right? I can spend more time making and marketing art instead of setting up and breaking down on the street to sell prints everyday.

But the submission work bothers me. Should I just not care about it? It’s hard to care about her and not care that she’s getting off with someone else. Okay – when I put it that way – it seems really fucking obvious that it’s not alright.

I came to come scoop her up as soon as she called but I’ve been sitting outside The Fortress just waiting on her for twenty minutes now. Which I’m sure that she just fucking loves (keeping me waiting). She says she doesn’t suck my dick enthusiastically lately because I haven’t “earned” it. Last night, I gave her a backrub, filled her prescription, did her dishes; this morning, I helped her put in her extensions and drove her to work; then I cleaned up around the apartment and am now sitting outside, waiting for her. Yes – she pays the rent at the apartment but even that… we’re still in our first month and I bought $600 worth of furniture and appliances for the apartment already so… we’re pretty fucking square in the financial regard. Do I throw fits sometimes and get upset? Yeah but so does she.

I’m doing my best. I give her my best. She should do the same for me.

 October 24th:
I want an anthem of empowerment. Something unequivocally positive. One that says, “It didn’t work out, it’s no one’s fault, and that’s okay. Here’s to the future and to happiness for both of us.” I’m still trying to make it work but I need to know that I’ll be okay even if it doesn’t. I need to find a way to frame the dissolve that won’t hurt. That I can live with. [I want art that I identify with that can comfort me].

[On October 25th, we broke up again. Pretty amicably initially but then it devolved into a fight. I packed up all of my stuff and just as I was about to leave, Nicole pulled me back into bed and we had sex. We decided that maybe we didn’t work as a couple but that we still liked each other a lot, we wanted to still live together, and that we definitely wanted to keep fucking each other. That lasted until the 29th, when we started fighting again].

 October 31st:
Tonight is Halloween. I started this [painting] on the sixth. Everything in my life has changed and changed and changed and it’s all exactly the same. I just got a message from a girl in LA (that I don’t know). She said we’d be good for each other. I asked if she thinks I should come out there so we can BUILD A LIFE TOGETHER and she responded with total sincerity that I should. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering it. Then there’s the girl I have a crush on in Texas, who I think might also be crazy enough to have me come down there and just give it a shot, despite the fact that we barely know each other. And the girl in Florida who knows me well and still loves me and wants me back. Or the girl here, in Chicago, who says she wants me but sometimes asks me to sleep somewhere else. FUCK – when I put it that way – all other things aside, it’s obvious that this isn’t the one.

November 1st:
My life with Nicole is bullshit. She doesn’t respect me at all. She treats me terribly and spins it (anytime I say anything) to try to pin everything on me. I’ve become the best fucking boyfriend in the world, trying to be perfect for her, and it doesn’t make a bit of difference.

I’m leaving tomorrow. That’s all there is to it. I need to fucking leave. This is an awful trap. She doesn’t appreciate anything that I do for her. She’s the fucking worst. I don’t know if she does it knowingly or if she’s really this fucked up, stubborn, and blind but I can’t take it anymore.

I don’t know why I even give a shit. Fuck this fucking girl. She doesn’t deserve me. I’ve been better to her than anyone I’ve ever been with. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. FUCKING KILL ME. She’s turned me into this weak-willed little shit and I hate it.

November 2nd:
Nicole is asleep in bed and I’ve still got ninety minutes to kill before I’m supposed to “break in” and “rape” her. And – of course – Chris Spillane is on the other side of town. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO ‘TIL 10:30??

Ugh. My life is so hard.

November 3rd (afternoon):
I keep all my things in my van now and have taken to wearing my house keys around my neck; they rattle and make a lot of noise. It’s a reminder to my “girlfriend” that I can remove this necklace and be gone in an instant.

November 3rd (late night, in Normal, IL (for my court appearance in the morning)):
Last November, I wrote something along the lines of: “I wanna wake up alone on my birthday [Nov. 4] in a city where no one knows my name or wants anything from me.” I said I wanted to travel, live out of a backpack, have adventures. I said I liked “sex for the first time” and long distance friendships.

Mission accomplished, Sam.

It’s been a fucking year and tomorrow’s gonna be quite the fucking day.

Wish me luck. I’m 29.

[November 4th was my birthday, my court date, and the day that Nicole was supposed to meet with her psychiatrist and (afterward, she promised) finally decide whether she wanted to actually be in a relationship with me or just keep leading me on. When I got back to Chicago from Normal, she was in bed. “It’s time to go to your appointment,” I told her. She wouldn’t get up. Wouldn’t go. Even though her decision of whether or not to “date” me was supposed to be contingent on her conversation with her doctor. She was once again stalling. Trying to keep me hanging around without committing to me. “How am I supposed to interpret this?” I asked. She just laid in bed, with her eyes closed. FUCK. I don’t remember what happened from there but I do remember that my birthday present was supposed to be tying her up and peeing on her. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Nothing did. I forget how the day ended but I remember thinking that it was the shittiest birthday of my entire life. The next day, I started to leave Chicago. I got an hour out of town before I remembered that I had forgotten something. I went back and Nicole convinced me to stay. The next couple days, she was alternately affectionate and cold. We fought a lot. I decided that I was leaving on the 7th (after my own psychiatric appointment) no matter what. I did. I went to St Louis].

 November 7th:
I love the girl but after THAT NIGHT [October 11th] (when she got high and we broke up (the first time)) I became so desperate to win her back that I became this submissive little coward. I tried so hard that she started to take me for granted and lost respect for me. It made me resentful of her and of myself.

Here in St Louis, with a family that cares about me, I feel eight million times better. I have a bed to sleep in and don’t have to worry about whether I’ll be asked to go find a different one on any given night. I have a place to work on my art, without having to worry that any minute I’ll be told I need to go away for a few hours.

My legal situation is still pending and still stressful but the main source of my anxiety is now behind me. I don’t feel like I need to go to sleep just to escape my life and I don’t dread waking up tomorrow. I don’t feel like a tool and I don’t feel like I’m barely hanging by a thread.

Rational Anthem, The Murderburgers, and The Copyrights are playing here in STL tomorrow. What perfect fucking timing. On top of everything else, I’m gonna get to see a bunch of my friends and some of my favorite bands. I think like might be cool again. I feel grateful again.

 November 8th:
In September, I started seeing a psychiatrist. In October, she put me back on antipsychotic and antidepressant medications (in addition to the Adderall that I’ve been on for ten years). The last time I was on antidepressants was as an inpatient at Tranquil Shores in February 2013. The last time I was on antipsychotics (I think) was as an inpatient at the Wellness Resource Center in February 2012 (though I almost went back on them in January 2013). I’ve also started meeting once weekly (via Skype) with Tracy, my counselor from Tranquil Shores.

Anxiety and depression destroyed my appetite this last month or so and I’m skinnier than I’ve been in at least twelve years. That’s good because I have body dysmorphic disorder and being this thin makes me feel good about myself. It’s bad ‘cause… I don’t know… ‘cause people say it’s bad…?

 November 8th (late night):
I left yesterday. She called tonight. She wants me back.

I know I shouldn’t take her back but I wanna.

AGAIN & AGAIN & AGAIN.

November 9th:
We’ve been talking on the phone every night since I’ve been away. She says she really wants me back. She’s being really flirty and affectionate and tellin’ me about all the wonderfully fucked up sex stuff she wants to do with me. She’s really working to lure me back in. We’ll see.

 November 10th:
I redid the crude black lettering that said “The Last Unfinished Work” in my usual large, white, block-lettering. Just below it, I wrote: “This painting almost got to be my suicide note. I changed my mind so now I’m finishing it. SORRY FOR THE CONFUSION.”

November 12th:
I’m listening to “I Typed For Miles” by Jets to Brazil. Sometimes singing along isn’t enough. You gotta take a five second break from painting to run across the room and jump down hard or fall to the floor and roll back. I don’t even care about this song until the last lyric but I will sit through the five minutes it takes to build up to that OVER AND OVER again. I can listen to this song on repeat all god damn day [and I have been for more than a month now] and I will sing along to that last line like I am ready to break apart and cry forever.

“YOU KEEP FUCKING UP MY LIFE.”

November 15th:
I don’t know what’s up with our “relationship” but we’ve been talking about making pornography or doing live webcam sex stuff together.

I’m not well but I feel okay. Right now.

Is it possible that it’s mostly sex? Is it fear? What risks am I willing to take? What’s wrong? What’s healthy? I have no idea.

My Adderall dose isn’t high enough.

I love her but I’ve learned to trust my impulses and judgment – it’s how I survive – and she makes me doubt all that. I don’t know what’s what when I’m with her.

When I get back to Chicago, I don’t expect her to take me by the hand, lead me to the bathroom, look into my eyes, and say, “Pee on me,” BUT IT’D BE A SWEET GESTURE.

November 21st (back in Chicago):
When you’ve gotta pee and the girl is tied up, blindfolded, and kneeling in front of you but you JUST CAN’T.

How embarrassing. Talk about #performanceanxiety, you guys.

[On November 24th, I went out to Yorkville with Nicole to spend the holiday with her family. While there, we started “dating” again].

December 1st:
I got on a plane yesterday to transport my little sister from a mental hospital in Boston to a treatment facility in (conveniently enough) Illinois. I’m on the return flight now. A couple days ago – in Yorkville, with Nicole – I got fed up with her shitty, cold attitude and told her I was leaving for good. She countered by saying she was finally willing to commit to me, that we were partners, and that I have a home with her. But she doesn’t want our Facebooks to say that we’re in a relationship. I don’t know how to interpret that any other way than that she doesn’t want people to know that she has a boyfriend because she doesn’t want to limit her options or opportunities in any way. So – basically – I’m assuming that she doesn’t have any plans to be faithful (and has maybe been sneaking around on me already). I’m not willing to be hurt like that so I’m gonna go sleep with another girl before I go back to the apartment tonight. I already slept with another girl last week but that was a few days before Nicole was willing to commit to me so – at that point – I wasn’t under any obligation to be committed or faithful to her.

In any case, I leave for Florida in the morning. I don’t have to be back in Illinois (for court) until January 26th (nearly two months from now). I told Nicole I’m only going to Florida for a couple weeks but I’m not sure that I’m going to come back until I have to so that would be the end of this short little “committed” phase of our relationship (for the third time).

I love her but I just don’t trust her and she’s not as loving or supportive of a partner as I need. When I used to ask her why she didn’t want “Facebook to know” we were dating, she wouldn’t reassure me in any way (that she loved me or wasn’t ashamed of me) – she’d just get mad at me.

I know the honorable thing to do would be just to break it off with her but I’m afraid of losing her even though I know it’d be the best thing for me.

As mean as she is to me sometimes, the way I’m behaving now – all this secrecy and sleeping around – makes me feel like kind of a shithead.

December 7th:
I brought her to Miami Beach [she begged me to], but I threw a fit and shipped her back to Chicago. She called last night. I said we should get married.

The way I feel when we hold each other and everything’s okay…

She’d look cute pregnant.

I need to stay the fuck out of Chicago.

 December 9th:
All the girls in the world – all the sex – doesn’t change a thing. When I close my eyes, it’s Nicole that’s there. I love Nicole. [I’m writing this on the painting because (I think I feel it but, more importantly, because) when Nicole saw this painting she was upset that everything I had written on the canvas was negative. I felt like I should balance it out with something sweet].

 December 12th:
I relapsed today [for the first time in seventeen months].

December 13th:
I’m still using. I haven’t bought any more drugs but I bought enough yesterday to last me through the weekend. I’m not going to get rid of the drugs as I’ve been advised. I’ll be all out within a day or so though. That’s when I’ll be done.

 December 15th:
Okay, so I’M NOT SURE IF YOU GUYS HAVE PICKED UP ON THIS but I’m – you know – a little shaky lately. I’m not going to use again. That happened, that’s done. All that matters (about that) for now is that it’s not a concern. It’s not going to happen again. I’m good. BUT… everything else is a little up in the air.

A friend sort of accidentally pointed out to me last night, “You’re not following art anymore; you’re following girls.” And that’s totally true. I have this drive in me to find a satisfying, fulfilling relationship/partnership. That drive has become (at least temporarily) stronger than my drive to really effectively (/successfully) pursue my art career. I’m also not enchanted by the idea of constant travel anymore. What sounds way more appealing to me is finding a city that I can settle down in (at least for the winter) where I can make a daily income selling prints while I’m set up on the street. That seems like it’s Miami, where I can also walk in to galleries and pitch myself for exhibits. I could also do that first part in Jacksonville (though not as profitably probably) but there isn’t much in the way of an art scene that I could use to line up exhibits and sell my original paintings. But Jacksonville does have the added bonus of being a city where I have just a ton of support, from both friends and fans.

I’m gonna fuck up all kinds of personal shit by saying this next part but (I want to get back to using this blog as a real honest journal so…) fuck it – I’m just gonna put my cards on the table.

I still feel like I’m in love with Nicole and she wants me to come back to Chicago. We tried so many times to make it work and it just didn’t work. But I still have feelings for her and I would still give it another shot even though I know I can’t make any money in Chicago until it gets warm again and even though our relationship might end badly for the umpteenth time and I’ll be in this same position, only with less money and back in the Chicago cold.

On the other hand, there’s Heather, who I’ve consistently felt like someone that I could have a meaningful, functional relationship with. When I’m with Heather, I feel very much in love with her. The problem is that – when I’m by myself – I think about Nicole more.

Maybe that’s because I’m genuinely in love with Nicole or maybe it’s because Heather and I just haven’t been intimately close in seven months and I (consequently) feel somewhat detached from her.

Here’s where I’ve been fucking up. All week, I’ve been telling both of them that I want to come back to them. And that’s true. But obviously I can’t be with both of them. I was sort of planning on going back to Jacksonville, giving it a shot with Heather, and – if it worked out – somehow breaking the news to Nicole that I wasn’t coming back. Or – if it didn’t work out – stalling for time while I figured that out and then returning to Nicole.

All of that’s pretty shitty. Even though I have no ill intent, it feels like I’m kind of “playing” them both. Or at least not being totally honest, which I guess is bad enough on its own.

Heather, also, has someone else that she’s seeing (long distance) that she’s planning to visit next month. I’m not at all threatened or worried about that but maybe I should just let it run its course, go back to Chicago with Nicole, and then (if it doesn’t work out with her), come back to Florida after my next Illinois court date (Jan. 26th), and THEN give it a shot with Heather.

Or maybe I should just go down to Miami, alone, and do my own thing, pursuing art and not worrying at all about girls. But that’s not really possible. I’ll get caught up with some new girl or I’ll just be too preoccupied and depressed and – as soon as I have a sad day – I’ll run back to the arms of whichever girl will have me.

I could also sit tight, here in Bradenton, with my “fake family” (the Owens) and try to focus on my own shit, try to sort out my issues (with the help of my counselor) hunker down, make more art, write more journals, and just take it easy. My fear in that though is that I’ll just get caught up in laying around the house or hanging out with friends and not being productive really on any front.

Not to mention – without the validation that I get from art (sales) or girls (sex) I tend to slip into darkness.

I wish I knew what would make me happy.

December 17th:
I’m not happy with this but I’ll never be happy with anything.

The last unfinished work…

EPILOGUE (what’s happened since December 17th through the day of this writing, March 28th):
A couple days before Christmas, I got back to Jacksonville. I started seeing Heather again. Soon after, I started seeing a lot of other girls. I got carried away. I was behaving like a sex addict; I was using girls like drugs. I remember feeling depressed one night in January because my date for the night had fallen through. I complained to my friend, Mike, about my hopelessly sad situation and the terrible rejection I was experiencing. He pointed out that I had already had sex with two girls earlier that same day. I thought about it and realized I had had sex with something like ten girls that week. That was too much but – admittedly – I was having a lot of fun (for the most part). I had realized that I didn’t need a girlfriend (or that I didn’t want one anyway).

I talked to Heather; told her I couldn’t be in a committed relationship but didn’t want to stop seeing her. She couldn’t handle that so we stopped seeing each other. She gave me back all the things I had made for her back when we were dating. A week later, she asked for them back and I didn’t think that was a good idea but I gave them to her. I put her through a lot and didn’t really think she needed reminders of me sitting around her apartment. I wanted to let her move on. I’m not proud of it but I wanted someone to love me and I pursued her for that love – and then when she started to give it to me, I changed my mind.

And then I continued to sleep around.

Until I met Wallis. We got wrapped up in each other really quickly. And it was easy. It wasn’t like it was with Heather (who’s feelings I was constantly hurting) or Nicole (with whom everything was a dramatic bipolar ordeal). I didn’t have to walk on eggshells with Wallis and I didn’t have to worry about her liking me one minute and wanting me to go away the next. It was nice. Nicole had been trying to entice me to come stay with her (when I went back to Illinois for court) with all kinds of promises about all the depraved sex we were gonna have. I sent her a text and let her know that I would not be visiting. And that was that.

As my relationship with Wallis has gone on, I’ve realized more and more just how fucked up my relationship with Nicole was. That’s not how people who love each other treat each other. We remained friendly for a couple weeks until she made a couple snotty remarks to me online. I don’t need this shit, I realized. I blocked her number and took her off my Facebook. I’ve always said that I don’t let people into my life who bring about more negativity than good. Nicole was not a good partner or a good friend. Not only am I over it, I’m fucking bored by it. That’s why it’s taken me this long to transcribe my journals and write this statement. I can’t wait to do the same for the one other piece I made about her so I can put this all 100% behind me. Finally writing this / getting it off my to-do list is such a relief and feels so good.

I hate being the kind of guy who has bad things to say about an ex but – like I said – I got nothing but praise for everyone else I’ve been involved with and am still friends with almost all of them. This one’s the exception. Sorry for the negativity – I’m almost done with this shitty little chapter.