Beneath the Chestnut Tree

The final chapter of George Orwell’s 1984 has always resonated strongly with me. Though I’ve obviously never been in the depths of Minilove, the arc of entering the labyrinthine darkness to square off against the greatest foe is something I can relate to, as well as the after effects: nothing is the same, and there is no going back. The only thing that can be done is to shed a tear beneath the chestnut tree, where “I sold you and you sold me.”

Similarly, the mythos of Ariadne and Thesseus resonates strongly with me, and I have a musical duology called by each character. The Hero’s Journey is always an inward journey; everything external is merely a symbol of the hero’s own inner conflict. Descent into the labyrinth to face the minotaur is not about a mythological beast nearly as much as it is staring unblinking into the mirror and facing mistakes of the past.

The Hero’s Journey, as Joseph Campbell observed, has clear trends across all manner of fiction. The Hero begins at home, but it is not long before the Hero’s Journey begins; indeed, it has already begun. The Hero leaves, endures trials, and returns home. The Hero’s Journey is far from over, though, and there is never anything to which the Hero can actually return. Often this is achieved through the destruction of the home, as in Star Wars and Dragons of Autumn Twilight, but not always.

The key aspect is simply that the Hero can’t return to the pre-journey life. Something has changed; something is different. In The Anvil, Leraneon returns to his home and finds that it’s no longer his home. He can’t explain it, and he doesn’t understand it; it’s simply a feeling: I am not home.

Years ago, I thought I was losing my mind, because I was handwriting something. I was really high, sitting down, and just writing. Then suddenly “I am not home” appeared on the page, and I had written it. A friend started talking about freewriting, and I guess that’s what happened, but the strange thing about it is that I’ve never really had what most people would call a home. Since kindergarten, irresponsible parents have carted me all over the place, so what “home” was I talking about?


“What is this motherfucker prattling on about?” you may be asking.

I’m not entirely sure. A longtime friend came and stayed the night with me last night, and some bits of the conversation have really stuck with me. This is someone who knew me before I left the ex-wife, before I went to Vegas–she, in effect, saw me before the journey (because we are all the Hero in our own story), and she’s seen me after the journey.


Clearly, the damage that has been done to me is readily apparent to anyone who knew me previously. Whereas before I was quiet, now I am withdrawn. Whereas before I was a bit distant, now I am surrounded and protected by impenetrable walls. The most glaring, however, was that before I participated, but now I observe.

It was really disheartening to hear her constantly refer to a transgender friend who had undergone full SRS as “he,” and three times I had to ask for her to not call this person a male. I understand that part of this is that old habits are hard to break, and I completely appreciate that, but the old habit won’t break if she doesn’t try to break it. Another good friend of mine had issues when he and his wife came over, and he constantly paused to correct himself when referring to me. It’s not something I’m going to get hung up about, not now, but there will come a time when it will be flat out insulting to me. I can’t imagine undergoing SRS and still have people refer to me as a “he.”

A lot of people don’t get the significance, but how many women do you know who get offended when someone on the phone says “Yes, sir” to them? How many men do you know who would lose their minds if someone says “Yes, ma’am” to them? No one likes being referred to by the wrong pronoun–no one. So why are transgender people, for whom the gender identity question is even more important, expected to be less bothered? Logic dictates that the transgender person would be, and even should be, more bothered.

But, as I said, I don’t tend to get torn up about it. Call Caitlyn Jenner a man, and, yes, that will press my buttons. That goes beyond force of habit and leaps boisterously into the territory of offense. Call anyone who has had SRS by their own pronoun, and, again, you’ve gone too far.

It’s actually rather simple. Bruce Jenner is a male. Caitlyn Jenner is a female. Bruce no longer exists, so when referring to this person “she” is the way to do it. By the same token, I have to be a male for work. So when friends see B., it’s normal and expected that they’d say “he.” This is part of the reason I don’t fixate on the pronouns presently–I do still present myself as a male to much of the world. And no doubt, this person that is me who encapsulates both B. and Aria is, on the whole, female, and it’s certainly true that Aria is “pure me” whole B. is “sorta me, but with a lot of masks on.” But that doesn’t change that it’s unreasonable of me to expect my friends to look at B. and say “she.”

Anyway, before I somehow digressed onto that, I told Calliope years ago, when our relationship was on the rocks, that I’d been into the labyrinth, I’d faced the darkness, and I came out the other side. That’s certainly true, but what I entered was a small section of the labyrinth. With each return, I realised that it was larger and filled with enemies deadlier than I’d ever imagined. Most of these returns were not by choice. Unlike Thesseus, I did not choose to go down, and the motif of my songs deals with Ariadne failing to give Thesseus the sword and string; in my versions, Thesseus enters unarmed and without a method of finding his way back.

There was a time, years ago, that I stumbled by accident into the labyrinth, and there was a time that Ariadne failed to give me the sword and string, and I trusted her to do so. That’s not an unreasonable trust: I had married the girl, after all, and if you can’t count on your spouse to help pull you from the darkness then who can you count on?

“No one,” I learned, and that’s the best way to characterize me. I trust no one. Everyone I’ve ever trusted has either let me down or betrayed me outright.

I fell into despair and darkness. “I’m lost,” I said, because it was all that I could say. I have no idea what I went through, or what caused it, but in less than a month I’d left my ex-wife, and she immediately turned her back on me, even though all I freaking did was go to my sister’s. Of course, it would never have reached that point if she’d done as I asked and just left me be, but she kept pushing and pushing, caring only for herself and how it hurt her that I was distant, and caring nothing for the fact that I was in far worse shape.

For months afterward, I felt that I’d lost my center, that I’d drifted away from myself, and that I’d never find myself again. And I tried repeatedly to get her back, but she wasn’t having it. Her dad, who vehemently disliked me and spurned her through our entire marriage, welcomed her back as the prodigal daughter–suddenly, she had daddy’s happy love again. On top of that, a longtime friend with whom she’d fallen out of touch (because the friend didn’t try to keep the flame of friendship alive and got caught up in her own world that my ex wasn’t part of) had just left her own husband, because he’d been using Craigslist to… do things a husband shouldn’t be doing. So she also got her old friend back at exactly the same time, and though neither of these were my fault, it felt to her that she’d been rewarded when I left her. I left her, then she got her daddy and friend back–though these people had each turned their backs on her for different reasons, that’s simply not how the ordinary person views things; the average person doesn’t bother to analyze to such depths.

Meanwhile, I re-enrolled into college and graduated, opened an I.T. firm, got to speak on Fox News as an I.T. Expert regarding cryptoware, got published, became a writer for Cubed3, wrote two books, moved to Vegas…

…and was promptly thrown back into the labyrinth, and this time I was beaten to near death before I woke to find myself shrouded in the darkness of the underground maze. This time… was different. The stakes were high–so very high–and it was far more like:



This time, it was that. That right there, that video… That’s it in a nutshell. Except, instead of donning a totalitarian mask as does Pink, I removed the mask and there was Aria.


If you liked this post, feel free to click Like, Share, and Subscribe. 🙂 I’m also interested in swapping guest-writing posts. You might also like “Dead or Alive”, on Amazon for 99 cents:*Version*=1&*entries*=0

You may already be interested in helping with my transition.

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