Select Page

“Are you contributing to them?  Are they contributing to you?  If the answer to either of these questions is no, you’re in a relationship that won’t work.  This is true of lovers, friends, family, employees and employers, and any other human relationships you can name.”

“And if you feel like you’re contributing and they’re not?”

“Then you have to walk away.”

“What if you don’t want to?”

“No one wants to walk away from something they’ve poured themselves into.  You’re afraid it’s all been a waste, and you can’t stand that thought.  Why do you think so many people will stay with Trump when they contribute to him, financially, and, more important, emotionally when they defend him to their friends, and he does nothing for them?  He just makes it okay for them to hate.”

“Then you’re saying leave even though you don’t want to?”

“You have to allow yourself space to put something else in that spot.  It’s emotionally difficult.  You will do anything to convince yourself that you’re right to keep trying.  And the longer you lie to yourself, the less authentic you are.  You create something that isn’t who you really want to be.  The results can be disastrous.”


“Because we all have a Love Tank.  It’s like a gas tank, but we fill it with love instead of petroleum.  When the Love Tank runs low, you break down just the way your engine can’t keep running when you need it to keep going.  No fuel, no function.  And if you keep trying anyway… what do you suppose happens?”

“You lose control of your emotions, and they come storming through whether you want them to or not.”

“Exactly.  You pour your love into other people’s tanks so that when you need them, they’re operating at the top of their game.  And you will need someone at some point.  People die.  Pets die.  We lose jobs.  We all experience loss, and we are all entirely drained, and we need someone to put something back into us.  You want to keep your support system in good condition for the times you need it.”

“What about just being alone all the time?  Then you don’t have to depend on anyone else.”

“Then you have to find emotional resources to help yourself, and that’s nearly impossible to do.  Human beings need each other.  No one, even Thoreau, makes it entirely alone.  So, you collapse in on yourself, and you replace what should be love with hatred.  If no one will help you, then you decide to hell with everyone else.  And now you’re moving toward the place you can hurt someone.  You’re ready to storm Congress.  You’re ready to blow something up.  You’re an easy mark for those who do have control of their emotions.  And you go to prison, and they laugh.  That’s the extreme, of course, but that’s where the road of an empty Love Tank leads.”

“So… what do you do when no one fills your Love Tank?”

“You find a way to fill it yourself.  You remind yourself why you love yourself.”

“That sounds narcissistic.”

“Anything taken to its extreme is bad.  You need water to survive.  Too much will drown you.  Let me ask you a few questions, and when you answer, I need you to dig a little deeper than you normally would.  Go beyond the simple answer and look for significant verifiable evidence to support your responses.  You don’t need a Google link, but you do need a soul link.  Probably more than one.  Journalists like to have three sources.”

“I’ll give it my best.”

“Are you loved?”


“We need evidence.  Your statement means nothing without it.”

Horace stared into space for a bit.  He didn’t look at Robert.  He didn’t look at the paintings on the wall.  His eyes were on his screen, but they didn’t register what was in front of them.  “This office.  Nearly everything here was given to me by someone.  There’s probably six thousand dollars’ worth of equipment here, and I’ve spent about a hundred dollars.  That’s love, isn’t it?”

“Is it?  What’s love?”

“When you love someone, their happiness is at least as important to you as your own.”

“And you think your happiness is at least as important to your friends as their own?”

“Within limits.”

“What are the limits?”

“They’ll send me presents, but they don’t want to spend a lot of time talking to me about what might be going on inside my soul at any particular moment.”

“How do you know?  Have you tested those limits?”

“I don’t feel comfortable talking to them about what’s inside of me.”

“Why not?”

“People scare the hell out of me.”

“Because of what happened in the woods?”


“And the Adventure of The California Trailer?”


“Anything else?”

“They might see what’s inside of me, and then they won’t love me anymore.”

“What’s inside you that’s so terrible?”

“I can’t tell you, either.”

“I’m a fictional character.  I’m the only person who you can tell.” “I’m still a six-year-old child crying because his parents set the timer for him to eat his chili, and the timer went off and he knows he’s about to get spanked and he’s scared and no one can help him and he should have eaten the damn chili but he hated it… in those days.”

“In those days?”

“I love chili now.”

“You’re not six years old anymore.  The girls in the woods are now Macbeth’s Three Witches.  The trailer is hundreds of miles away, and Anthony Tagonist can’t get you anymore.  Are those things all true?”


“Then what else is there to fear?”

“It’s a habit.  It’s my normal mode of existence.”

“Have you changed your mode of existence before?”

“Yes, but only when I’ve been forced to by circumstances over which I had no control.  When the girls moved out, I had to find a new place to live, and that changed my mode of existence entirely.  I made the mistake of believing I could live in California rent-free, and I changed my mode of existence again, with disastrous results.  A friend saved me from that, and I live here with Speedy Shine now.”

“Are those examples of changing your mode of existence, or merely your living circumstances?”

“Aren’t your living circumstances a big part of your mode of existence?”

“Sure.  But your fears still sit inside of you.  You’ve moved all over the place, but you’ve brought the same Horace with you everywhere you’ve gone.  You need to change that person if you’re unhappy with him.”

“And how do I make that change?”

“What do you think needs to change?”

“I have to keep my Love Tank full enough that it doesn’t cause me to explode anymore?”

“You’ve exploded recently?”

“Oh, yes.  It was not pretty.”

“And you regret that?”


“Then change that.  If you can’t walk away completely from a relationship that means so much to you, you can walk away for at least a day, can’t you?”

“I could survive that.”

“Then you have your answer.  Walk away for today.  It’s like Captain Kirk said in A Taste of Armageddon:

“We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it! We can admit that we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes… knowing that we’re not going to kill today.”

“Or as the girl you’ve been in love with for more than 40 years would say, One Day At a Time.”

“So… just for today.”

“And we deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.”

“With what do I replace the love I used to get?”

“Were you getting as much as you were giving?”

“No.  It was never close.”

“Then you stop expending your love in that direction.  You put it into other things that are more helpful, other people who need you as much as she did.”

“Fewer minutes expended on her allows more minutes to be expended in more productive and less painful ways.”

“Yes.  And it gives her the opportunity to assess your value to her.  If she deems you truly valuable, she will make more effort to keep your Love Tank full.  If she doesn’t, you’ll have more time to find other filling stations.  Perhaps you’ll even find one that offers Full Service.”

“Those are extraordinarily rare these days.”

“But they exist.  You have the time to see them while you continue down a more productive road.”

“Is this whining?  Is it whinging?” 

“Did you need to clean this part of you out?”


“Is it cleaner than it was?”


“Are you better able to move down your road?”

“I think so.”

“Then it doesn’t matter if it’s whining or whinging or simply being a pain in the ass.  It helped you, and, since I don’t exist, it didn’t hurt me at all.”

“This is why we write?”

“This is why we write.  And you know what?  You may think this is unique to you, but someone else has had similar experiences, and you have probably touched them in some way, and you’ve helped them to clean out a little of their crap, too.  There are worse things to do.”

“Didn’t you have a list of like 9 questions?  We only got to one.”

“One was all we needed for tonight.  We’ll do the others when we need those.”

“You’re available again?”

“I live inside of you.  I’m available whenever you call.  So is everyone else you’ve ever known, if you take the time to think about them deeply enough.”

“Is that true for everyone, or just for me?”

“It’s true for everyone.  Your listeners can do it just as well as you just did.”

“I usually end by saying I love you.”

“Let me end it by saying something you never hear.  I love you most.”