If you look carefully at my wrists, parts of my feet, and my hands, you’ll see small scars. Most of these are shaped like half moons. They’ve faded with time, which makes sense: I’ve had them 32 years now. I was born a little over three months early. There were a thousand reasons I should’ve died, and a thousand reasons since. I could’ve had about a billion potential problems. I weighed about what you get when you order cold cuts at the deli: 2 pounds, 1 ounce. Like all babies, I dropped weight at first, going down to 1 ½ pounds.
From the stories I was told, I was stubborn from the beginning of my life. I arrived screaming, with more hair than most normal babies. I liked to lay on my stomach with my head turned to the right. The nurses would move my head to the other side, or even turn me over, and I’d still manage to rearrange myself to my liking. They even went so far to pin parts of my clothing down (they were concerned I’d squish my face – my bones were still soft)…and, being entirely willful, I was still found on my stomach, head turned to the right.
I was Tinker Bell that Halloween, only a short time since my birthday. I would be Tinker Bell for the next few Halloweens, actually. This began my love of sparkles, magic, and all things thought to be impossible.
Because, honestly, I was impossible.
I certainly had my own sense of timing, and even as a kid, there were a million times in which I got really sick. But thanks to a combination of science and a genetic history of stubborn so fierce you’d think there was a mule somewhere in my family tree, I turned out alright. But being born so early, that was the beginning of a habit: I only ever fight when absolutely necessary. I hate discord. I hate trouble. I hate upsetting anybody. I like balance and love, glittery things and piping hot coffee.
But I know how to thrown down when I have to. Even when it turns my world inside out, upside down, and tosses my sanity straight into a rabbit hole. I never choose anything without considering every option (Libra!), so if I am fighting for something…it’s with my eyes wide open and my heart pretty much the same. You can’t fight without your heart, loves. And you can’t lock up that little monster, either. People try, but eventually, it (much like a wailing, screaming baby) will find its way out into the world. The secret to knowing what to fight for is this: find where your heart is, and make your stand right there. It’s that easy and that hard, but no matter what, it’s always worth it.
This morning, I woke up thinking about a conversation I’d had with my mother, before she died. You see, I had an occasional habit of sticking my head in the sand like an ostrich and ignoring things. And she made me promise her that I would fight for the important things, that no matter what, I’d stand up for the things and the people I believed in. “If something happens, you fight.” That’s her exact wording, and anyone who knew her can probably hear her fierce emphasis on that last word. She was many things, and a fighter was always one of them.
We all start wars in our own way. The truth is that once I do, I don’t really know how to stop. Something is worthy, end of story. It doesn’t matter what scars I collect along the way (and god knows, I have them – even if I don’t talk about them). It doesn’t matter the risks or the difficulties. Because I’ve already seen all the possibilities and decided what’s worth it. And there’s that old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
I’ve got an impossibly strong will.
Whenever I wonder if I have it in me to fight anymore, or if I’m just too bloody tired, I realize that’s not my particular problem. To paraphrase Stephen King, I’ve got the soul of a poet, and the emotional makeup of a junkyard dog. I don’t know how to quit. I’m very pretty, but I’ve got teeth. And heaven forbid you ever threaten someone I care about. That, I should point out, extends to the moments of self-harm – when you’re lying to yourself and running away from your own shadow, sticking your head in the sand, and mistaking routine for happiness. Because NO.
This life is more than the day-to-day. It’s more than staying inside the lines. It’s more than sticking to the way things are “supposed” to be, only doing what you “should” do. Life’s messy, if you’re doing it right. It’s downright crazy and doing pirouettes on the train tracks. But I figure, I could’ve died a thousand times in my 32 years, what looks insane isn’t going to stop me from really living – it isn’t going to keep me from the things that matter.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want to challenge you. Find where your heart is and go there. It doesn’t matter if it makes no sense. Go there and fight for what’s worth fighting for. Because this is a time for miracles, darlings.
Trust me: I’m the impossible girl.
Last night’s episode of Constantine (Waiting for the Man) was a masterclass in subtle misdirection, playing heavily on the idea that the monster you can’t see is far worse than the one you can. The characters, each in their own way, grappled with the idea of destiny and fate – none more so than John, who claims that he only plays when he knows he can win. Which we all know is a lie, because he’s going to play no matter what. Why? Because all it takes for evil to triumph is a good man who does nothing – and John may not be a perfect man, but he’s a good one. Good does not equal pristine. Savvy?
The main storyline is this: Jim Corrigan has called Zed and John in. A girl, Vesta, has gone missing in Louisiana. Three creepy-as-hell young girls convinced her to go home with them. You see, they’re all married to the Man. And he’d like another bride. Nothing I say can do the goosebump-inducing trio justice. Suffice to say, they are delightfully alarming – and so is the Man, for that matter. It’s old school horror at its best, and a large chunk of the episode revolves around trying to track down Vesta.
Of course, that’s not the only problem. Far from it. Gary Lester reappears…in the body of a corpse, hilariously springing up to warn John: there’s a price on his head. It was a charming touch to have Jonjo O’Neill back, even for a brief glimmer. But this means that Papa Midnite has gone a bit darkside, because he spends most of the episode trying to kill Constantine in one way or another (voodoo zombie! Shotgun!).
In the light of the morning, the Man’s brides are still creepy, voices soft and haunting, when they happen on Vesta exploring their house the next day. The Man, as it turns out, is a Satanist, and there are questionable symbols painted on the wall and a lot of flypaper hanging from the ceiling. Of course, the Man missed his wedding night, because he had to commit a pesky murder, complete with branding and a whole lot of blood. The Creeper Girls assure Vesta that everything’s okay – their otherworldly presence is the stuff of nightmares, because there’s nothing overtly alarming about them. They simply talk to Vesta, and she’s calm again.
Meanwhile, John and Zed spoke to Vesta’s mother. Zed’s visions are somewhat out of commission. This episode saw a lot of angst and difficult in the ever-so-lovely Zed. She saw Jim Corrigan dead, and that vision rocked her to her core and totally threw her off her game. It also helped to raise the question of fate vs. free will. How much does anyone shape her destiny? Sitting in Vesta’s room, can she really not call a vision – or she is holding back, because of what she saw about Jim? Jim, it should be noted, was flirting with her pretty hardcore throughout the episode. There’s such a softness to him, a complete kindness there. It’s nice to see, because while Constantine is all walls and sparks, Jim is open and overt. But more on that later.
Zed and John have a fight, wherein his logic boils down to: I smoke a lot, but I don’t have cancer yet. Or, more eloquently: “We can all shape our destiny, but none of us get to escape our fate. So, when my time’s up, that’s it.” That’s Constantine: giving it his all, until he can’t anymore. And when he calls Zed on her hesitancy and weirdness, she confesses that she saw Jim dead.
Wandering into the kitchen, Zed ends up talking to Manny (Harold Perrineau is so damn amazing) in the form of Vesta’s mother. There’s an interesting spark between Zed and Manny, almost flirtatious. She confides in him about Jim, about wanting to warn him but not knowing if it will do any good. There’s an earnest vulnerability in Zed. And Manny does something very interesting. He brings up the notion of free will. “I envy you. Truly. You know, it’s not all harps and halos for us. We have rules to follow. But you…you have choices. You can act on your visions if you choose to. Now, that’s a gift.” This show has always had an undercurrent of the importance of choice and action. From John persuading Gary Lester to give up his life to Anne Marie shooting Constantine to save a baby. Free will is a magnificent force, not one to be discounted. (This will come up again, at the close of the episode. Hold tight.)
In an effort to find Vesta, Constantine nearly kills himself using everyday items. That’s a nice touch of the show, employing common things in spellcraft. Of course, since John almost electrocutes himself in the process, it also illuminates his core personality: reckless, but determined to get the job down. Constantly, he puts another person’s safety above his own. Zed lays into him about this, but even as his eyes are bleeding, he shrugs off her concern.
Meanwhile, the Creeper Girls are preparing Vesta (love the symbolism of her name) for her wedding to the Man. She commits a faux pas, mentioning the awful smell in the house, but the girls just say she won’t even notice it once she’s married. Totally nothing to be alarmed about, right?
On their way to the creepiest funhouse in history (an actual place, guys! Basically, the stuff of nightmares), Jim softly, but firmly, confronts Zed about her sudden bout of weirdness. The chemistry between these two is half-spark, half-grief; Zed is all hemming and hawing and angst. And Jim just wants to know why she won’t even look him in the eye. I have to say, the sweetness coming through in that scene was absolutely beautiful. So much concern in a single look. Mad love to Emmett J Scanlan for the delicate brilliance in that scene – and to Angélica Celaya, whose cagey, anxious fear was utterly perfect.
After John fights off Papa Midnite’s voodoo zombie, he tells Zed to cut the crap – he needs her help, and she’s got to deliver a vision. This is another moment of choice, an exercise in free will – and she helps, although not without trepidation. This leads her to discovering the Man’s latest victim, who gives them an address. In the car on the way, Jim asks Zed if her visions always come true. Curiously, it is John who answers, saying that they’re always up to interpretation. This underscores the idea that things aren’t predestined, only roughly outlined. That things don’t fall like dominoes.
An insanely creepy crow – bewitched by Papa Midnite – sets the scene in the murder house, where they find the Man’s victim, strung up like a barbed wire Jesus. Constantine sends Jim and Zed out of the house and readies himself to confront the bounty hunter on his tail. Which turns out to be Papa Midnite. You see, the Brujeria offered Midnite what he wants most in the world: to save his sister’s soul. A fight ensues, and through a brilliant sleight of hand, Constantine comes out on top. He steals Midnite’s phone and car – and meets Zed and Jim at the house of a man who murdered his wife six years ago for being “impure.”
The Man, apparently, is saying his prayers to Satan, while Vesta is wearing a wedding dress from the 1970s, possibly regretting ALL OF HER LIFE CHOICES. He turns to her and instructs, “Time for the devil’s benediction. Kneel down,” and she ends up fleeing, but not before knocking over a candle and lighting things on fire. What is creepiest about the Man is his lack of anger. He’s utterly calm. There’s no rage, no fury. His calm is chilling, even as he chases after Vesta, who finally had the good sense to RUN, looking for help. Of course, she runs into a creepy…fairground. Between that and the blood moon, this episode has an almost Twilight Zone feel to it.
John uncovers the source of the smell, by the way. The Creeper Girls? Actually dead. They’re all lying in the bed, seriously and most truly dead — so not even close to mostly dead. Jim, Zed, and John search the house and then fan out, looking for Vesta. Hilariously, Constantine insists on going first, quipping that his (gun) is bigger. Totally chuckled at that line, which was apparently an ad lib from Matt Ryan. Bloody brilliant if I do say so.
The Man recaptures Vesta, except he’s got Constantine and Jim to contend with. Only, the fiercest one in that moment is Zed, who goes all badass and hits the Man with a shovel. Repeatedly. Possibly due in part to whatever she’s been through in HER past, but it is always nice to see her kick ass. In fact, Jim had to take the shovel away from her. Zed leads Vesta away, while Jim and Constantine have a pointed conversation about what might happen if the Man were to…run away. A moment of choice, certainly, because if he runs…it would be understandable if the Man were shot – instead of going to jail and being arrested. This is vigilant justice at its best. There’s a moment where Jim wrestles with the possibility before him, and the way Scanlan delivers the single word (“Run”) with such quiet fierceness…it sent shivers down my spine. Between fate and free will, there’s a moment of choice. And he made it. All we hear is a single, loud gun shot. And then John releases the spirits of the poor Creeper Girls, while Hozier’s amazing “Work Song” plays.
Cut to a bar, where Zed and Jim are having a drink. (I’d need about eight after that kind of day.) There were some major sparks between the two, and Zed finally comes clean about her vision. There’s this moment of honesty and vulnerability here that was beautifully arresting – the kind of pain that comes with knowledge, both having and sharing it. Because who wants to know what their fate will be, and what kind of hardship comes with that? It raises the issue of destiny – can we change what’s been seen? Perhaps we change our fate simply by knowing it. Jim takes a searing carpe diem stance, responding to Zed’s earnest doe eyes – resulting in a kiss. And not gonna lie, I kind of ship them a bit. But poor old Johnny boy happened to see them, and while nobody said a word, the tension was palpable. Almost defiantly, he lit up yet another cigarette – harkening back to that moment in the middle of the episode where Zed lectured him on the dangers of smoking.
Alone, John walks into an alleyway, out of the rain. A gorgeous shot, except I burst out laughing when he unzipped to pee. Of course, Manny shows up and John lets out a perfectly written quip. Constantine mentions that Manny had spent time with Zed, and this line had a wonderful dual meaning: “You know, I feel betrayed – I didn’t realize we were seeing other people now.” Jealousy, pure and simple. That’s not really just about Manny talking to Zed – it’s also about Zed and Jim. Constantine may have walked out into the night alone, but that doesn’t mean he wandered off unscathed. Manny assures him that the can win the war they set out to wage, that John should trust him. Constantine’s response is so on point: “Of course we can. You know me. I don’t play if I can’t win.” Are we supposed to believe that the mark of Newcastle just vanished from John’s heart? No. But it is, quite often, his bravado that saves him, his ability to leap without looking.
But her’s the major turn of the episode: Manny. He pulls Midnite out of the cop car and cancels the hit on John. Why? How? Well, it turns out that Manny is the one the Brujeria report to. Which is the exact moment my jaw hit the floor. Because…WHAT. Midnite did warn that John would be betrayed by someone close to him. And I’m completely curious and a bit on edge to see how that will all play out.
Which brings me to this: the fate of the show is up in the air. And I’d really like a second season. So, if you’re inclined, stream the show. Tweet about it. Make a little noise. After all, don’t you want to see what Chas does with the rest of his lives? Or how Zed gets those white streaks in her hair? It has been an absolute pleasure watching and tweeting with the entire cast and crew – I’ve never encountered such a great lot, from the brilliant production design by Dave Blass to the producers/writers, Cam Welsh and Christine Boylan. Sure, I’ve got a girl crush on Angélica, and I find Charles Halford totally adorable. The guest stars have been wonderful, including Jonjo O’Neill and Emmett Scanlan. And yes, of course, there’s Matt Ryan, who’s brought Constantine to life with such depth of emotion, broiling under such a thick bravado. He gives a truly great performance as a man with nothing and everything to lose.
So, maybe give Constantine a call, won’t you? If you find yourself in need of an exorcist, demonologist, or master of the dark arts – sorry, dabbler – he does so hate to put on airs.
This evening, I went to wash my face. It’s part of my regular, get-home-from-work ritual. The little details that become habits. Except, after I splashed water on my face, I opened my eyes and saw blood all over the sink. It was nothing more than a bloody nose. I haven’t had one in forever. I used to get them all the time. But in that split second before rational thought kicked in, my mind reeled through every possibility and somehow landed on, “Oh my god, you’re dying.”
Yes, this is another exercise in how my brain is an asshole. But really, it has been a terribly long, no-good Monday. Actually, things have been extremely leaning toward dodgy for a bunch of days. But I digress.
Melodramatic flourish aside, it was an interesting moment. It reminded me of something I said last week (edited slightly): I don’t want to wake up twenty years from now and regret missing out. And that really is the best advice I could give anyone. It’s been said before, true, by far more eloquent folks. But no one, on his deathbed, laments, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t kissed that girl” or “I wish I’d been less true to myself.” Or, even, “I wish I’d lived a safer life.”
How much heart do you truly put into things? How much love can you stuff into a single moment, a single gesture? Underneath all the muck and the mire, what do you want out of life? Who do you want? What do you love?
These are important questions. But how you answer them is important, too. If you can’t be honest when trying to decide whether to go left or right, then you may as well just stop. You’re not living life. You’re moving the pieces around the board. Punching the clock. Checking things off a list.
But twenty years from now, what’s going to matter? Is it going to be the extra thirty minutes you spent at work or is it going to be the sound of a full-bodied laugh? Will it be the quiet routine of expectations or the rebel beat of your too-happy heart when kiss someone who adores you? Is your life made out of checklists or someone who makes you soup when you don’t feel well?
The answer might not be simple, but it is clear. Two decades from now, the details of things will be fuzzy around the edges, but you’ll never forget the way somebody made you smile. You might forget the exact wording of an inspired conversation, but not the fierce passion beneath it.
Sometimes, we put up walls. This is a defense mechanism, surely. We’re scared of going after whatever it is we want or love – ideally, both. We’re scared of the pursuit itself, because it is always a risk, always a vulnerable undertaking. But if you heat up anything enough, it bends. It takes time and purpose, but men fashion metal into shapes. Beautiful things emerge out of fire, and that’s all love really ever is: a stunning fire.
But I will tell you this: a life without love is only half a thing. With apologies to Margaret Atwood, it’s the outline of a bird – nothing more than its labeled bones. It cannot fly. And, darling, you were not born with clay feet or a leaden heart. You were not fashioned out of dust and dirt, only to be less than a miracle.
So, twenty years from now, what will you regret? Fix it now while you can. Don’t leave anything to chance. Don’t leave a gleaming hope to dull. Don’t hold yourself back, because of anything – especially not fear. There’s always a way, if you’re willing. There’s always an avenue, a different path. It might be a mess getting to where you want to be. It might be a fight, a battle – a decision with teeth. But what are you doing, if you’re not fighting for what (and who) you love? If your life isn’t full of laughter and silliness, why not?
I know I’m not dying right this minute – and I know it’s cliché – but I never want to hold back because of how something might look or sound. I never want to stay silent, because I’m having trouble gathering the exact right words. And I never want to leave any doubt about how much anyone means to me or how much I want people in my life. I never want to be walled in be fear of seeing silly. And I won’t let my epically bad timing keep me from shouting out all the impossible things out loud. (Guys, I have the worst timing in all the land, but it’s MY timing, damn it. I’ve got my own schedule. Always have. That’s why I was born more than three months early.)
Twenty years from now, love, what’s your story look like? And exactly how much did you dare?
A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.—J. A. Shedd.