I decided that I could write this novel [Forest Life] a few years back in San Diego. I was sitting in a puddle of my vomit beside my friend, Jordan. He didn’t complain as he mopped up my mess, just rubbed my back and comforted me as I lamented my seemingly irreparable sorrow. Earlier in the evening I’d nearly drowned myself in shots of bourbon. The distraction of bouncing around the country had worn off. Jordan did his best to comfort me that night. Everyone should have a friend like Jordan.
For the past couple years, I’ve been putting pieces of my life together. I sat down and mapped out each section as an event. Consciously, I wrote each period of my life into the book. I tried my best to keep the story fictional, but it’s filled with Easter eggs, hidden ‘I love yous’ and apologies are sprinkled all over. For months I’d sit with a small glass of bourbon or a glass of beer and pour out my memories, fictionalizing them the best I could manage. Through the writing process, lots of forgotten memories surfaced. It was a rough time, full of drunken strolls through Kansas City, Brooklyn, and Paris.
In Kansas City, before I met my wife, I lived with a few friends in an apartment downtown. We formed a little family unit and carried one another through our various struggles. I was intoxicated almost all day every day and especially at night. I’d walk down the street to a gas station where I’d purchase five dollar peach vodka to fuel my writing binges. My beautiful housemates, Britt and Molly, would nurse me back to health whenever I lost control and vomited or collapsed into hysterics. One night I walked down to a fountain at the Kansas Art Institute. I stuck my head in the water and tried to drown myself. It didn’t work so I walked home, cold and wet, and I started drinking some more. It was the last of several attempts to end my life.
I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger, struggled with a lot of grief, and unhealthy coping habits. Those habits cost me a few of my loved ones. It took me a while to figure out that I was destroying my life by drinking myself to death. Unfortunately, by the time I’d sobered up, I’d already robbed myself of my youth. I guess this shows in Forest Life. The general consensus seems to be that I write like a young man forced to suffer the grief of someone much older. Much of the story is a testament to the power of grief — it’s ability to render life an aimless blur of suffering.
When I was writing the book I tried to counter my observation of grief with an antidote — that antidote being love. People often ask me about faith, about my disbelief in a deity, about where I stand on theological views. The truth is that I don’t have much faith, and maybe this is because of the grief I endured all those years. I don’t have faith in the traditional sense, in the sense that I believe some narrative to be true and chuck full of answers. However, I do have faith in an unconventional sense, at least I attempt to have faith. I attempt to have faith in goodness, in love, and compassion. I try to have faith that believing in a particular explanation for this mess down here on planet earth is less important than choosing to believe in the infallibility of love.
In Forest Life I’m very honest about the power of suffering, and its ability to strip a person of the will to live. It may not do my own grief justice, I don’t know, but I attempt to honestly convey the nature of my own suffering. In the midst of this chaos I believe there’s goodness to be found.
- Shane Crash
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Shane Crash is an American author and activist. He’s published several zines centered on alleviating poverty and homelessness. In 2009 he co-authored a collection of satire and poetry in the short zine, Lost Thoughts. And in 2010 he released Travel Logs, a short chronicle of his travels across the globe. You can find out more about Shane at his website. Forest Life is published by Civitas Press, and available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.com.