Are you there, Kate? It’s me, your immunosuppression.

At the beginning of this year, I had had enough.

It was January 29, 2021: The Capitol had been attacked; Biden and Harris had been sworn in; the COVID vaccine that promised a return to “normal” was slowly but surely trickling its way down the essential worker and health care professional chain to the rest of us; and I was sitting for the 49th time at the hospital in a plastic-coated armchair with an IV attached to one arm and a blood pressure cuff wrapped around the other, very aware of the pitying eyes of cancer patients around me who didn’t know why a vibrant 20-something (at that time) was also getting a bag of meds poured into their system.

A couple chairs over there was a woman in a bright headscarf getting receiving her own sack of chemicals. She was talking with the nurse about how she hadn’t seen some of her family members for a year because no one was willing to stay out of restaurants or stores for two weeks so they could safely visit her. By this time, my IV aperitif of Benadryl was kicking in and the room was getting fuzzy, but my brain was on full anger mode on behalf of this woman.

Like any well-adjusted millennial with hospital WiFi, I took it to Instagram.

Under a rather eye-catching (or so my Bennie-brain though) photo of my outstretched, IV-attached arm, I put this caption, which was my first true social media admission to having Crohn’s disease:

“Now, I *know* no one who follows me on here thinks COVID isn’t a serious threat, but on the off-chance one of you has someone in your life who does…
Any time I hear someone wrongfully say that COVID has a high survival rate and the only people who die from it are over 60 (that’s not that old, folx) or already sick, what I actually hear is that people who are older or disabled are expendable. As I type this, I’m sitting in a chair on an IV drip I get every 8 weeks to keep me from having Crohns symptoms. The trade off is that it makes me immunocompromised which…turns out not to be so great during a pandemic. But rather than go back to stomach aches that crippled me for a year and a half before diagnosis by skipping treatment, instead I remain exceeding careful and implore everyone else to remain smart, even as we start to open restaurants, schools, etc. One of those people at the highest risk is me, and I don’t care if you miss sushi bars and beer on tap. I love those things too, and I’d like to survive so I can enjoy those things when it’s safe again.”

What is Crohn’s, anyway? Samantha Irby succinctly explains it in her first essay collection, Meaty:

“Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract….the cells in my body that are supposed to protect against infection don’t recognize food and the normal, harmless bacteria that are in my intestine.”

Put simply, our immune systems are confused overachievers — and there’s no cure to their mania. None. Sometimes it goes into remission, but for the most part you’re always just waiting for a flair-up that will probably come at the most inconvenient time. For Irby, this means days of diarrhea, nausea, bread-and-water diets, etc., and, according to her own extensive research, it always hits when she has a new toxic boyfriend in her life.

For me, it means that I get knifed in the stomach by an invisible stranger every 7-10 minutes (the intervals change just to keep things interesting), and the only thing I want to eat is boxed mashed potatoes. The kind with the bacon bits and cheddar, preferably. I also lose my period (not a huge concern when you’re a 21-year-old virgin who hasn’t been visited by any archangels, but terrifying otherwise); my hair starts falling out from malnutrition and the blistering hot showers I take to feel better; my shin bones and calf muscles feel like they’re being pulled apart; and you’ll find me lying face-down on cool bathroom tile floors like a cat in the summer, trying to find some goddamn relief.

I’ve only had one flair-up since my diagnosis in 2013. It was summer 2018, and I remember it starting while standing in my nontoxic then-boyfriend’s kitchen. The room fuzzed out and I tried to put all my focus on watching him submerge a pork tenderloin in a sous vide bath while wondering who the fuck was shoving the carving knife between my ribs. A couple tests and six-week Prednisone regiment later (stay tuned for a mini-post of how fun that is), and I was back to normal.

Suffice to say, anyone who knows me personally knows that I don’t make a big deal of my Crohn’s because it never has been a big deal — to me, anyway. To a lot of people, Crohn’s is a near-death sentence; to some, it is death, because you essentially can’t eat without your immune system trying to kill you in the slowest, most painfully way possible.

Call it privilege of the greatest kind: I grew up in a middle-class home with access to incredible health care and a father who had already been diagnosed and somehow found the greatest gastroenterologist on the planet who, upon retiring, referred him to the runner-up. So the minute I finally, begrudgingly, told my parents I was feeling like shit (I thought it was bad Chipotle eaten the night before we dropped my first magazine issue as chief editor, but a burrito bowl consumed on Oct. 17, 2012, shouldn’t still be causing stomach pains on June 25, 2013), Dad got me an appointment with his doctor. Three blood draws, a barium series, a colonoscopy and an endoscopy later, I received for my 22nd birthday a chronic illness diagnosis and prescription for a bimonthly Remicade drip — a drug that tells my immune system to chill, which works wonderfully…until a fucking pandemic happens.

Which brings me back to January 29. (I heard that sigh of relief.)

When I woke up after my treatment two hours later, my Instagram showed that I had upwards of 50 likes and several comments from people in my life who I never knew had Crohn’s disease. The burlesque singer whose gigs I used to stalk — I mean, track — around the city? Crohn’s. My coworker out in San Diego? Crohn’s. The IT & Data Analytics director I worked with in London last spring? Almost died from COVID that December and I had no idea. Something about my post made them all feel more comfortable with talking about their own experiences, and to this day I thank them for it.

We’re not all like Samantha Irby, writing out our experiences for everyone to read. Sometimes I wish more of us did, though, because I spent half of yesterday laughing, then pondering, over her bluntly honest exploration of a different, far more severe experiences with the disease. It made me think harder on how my rather minimal experience with Crohn’s has shaped the way I view its effect — or, rather, lack of effect — on my life.

For one, apart from having to take time off for treatment, I’ve never missed a day of work because of Crohn’s. I’ve never had to say “I can’t eat that” because I’m not sure my immune system will allow my digestive system to tolerate it. I’ve always had good health insurance — either courtesy of my parents or my cushy corporate job — that not only approves my Remicade prescription every year but also pays for most of each $10,000 treatment session. You read that right: The meds I’m on cost half-a-newish-car every eight weeks. Our health care system is fine. At my sister’s wedding, guests were telling my mom how healthy I looked, like they expected some waif hobbling down the aisle instead of a gleaming bronze yoga goddess. That’s a joke, as I’m still pasty and had by that point accrued my winter insulation despite daily vinyasa practices, but it’s also not, because that’s what Crohn’s does to a lot of people: It wears them down into joint-pain soup or brittle skeletons.

In 2018 my company happened to assign me the internal communications project for a disability self-ID effort among our employees. Leadership wanted to know how many people have disabilities so we could better serve them with accommodations (and put the numbers into our growing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion report), and as an ad hoc HR Communications teammate, I was the go-to for it. When I pulled up the ADA list of covered disabilities, my eyes went directly to it: Crohn’s disease. I’d been living for five years with a disability and didn’t even realize it, mostly because my experience with it has been so milquetoast — milk and toast, two things that people with a severe Crohn’s flair-up need to stay away from, by the way, but not your eat-everything-and-anything girl! — compared to the scary connotation that the capital-D Disability caries with it.

But then COVID happened, and I had to hear every armchair epidemiologist under the sun talk about how only the already-sick die from the virus. And I thought about all the people I’ve seen when I go for treatment. I thought about the people over 60 like my own parents. I thought about all the people who I didn’t even know had a disability like mine. And, finally, I realized that hey! I’m one of those people! I’m immunocompromised and immunosuppressed, and COVID could actually kill me! My underdeveloped sense of mortality suddenly graduated college and got its first apartment.

It’s been almost a year since hearing the conversation at the infusion center that launched the Instagram post that told the world — meaning 270 followers — I had Crohn’s disease. Maybe it’s just the kind of people I attract and retain in my life, but everyone understood and shared words of concern and encouragement. A lot of them have taken hold of my “I’M IMMUNOCOMPROMISED BUT EVEN IF I WASN’T YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT IMMUNOCOMPROMISED PEOPLE’ banner (a long tag line means a long banner and plenty of room for fellow carriers) and carried it into their own battles with people who don’t view disabled people as worth protecting, either as immunocompromised people themselves or using me as their poster woman. And I love them for it.

If my story changes the mind of just one person to be a little more compassionate, a little more understanding — or if it makes a fellow Crohn’s disease diagnosee (aka a Crohny) feel seen or less alone — then the last hour I’ve spent at my kitchen counter nursing day-old cold brew while typing this out will have been worth it. Putting my weird-ass arm photo on the ‘gram in January will have been worth it. Continuing to navigate around the small but loud group of inconsiderate Americans denying COVID safety precautions will…still be annoying.

And with that, I’m off to yell at anti-maskers at a brew pub. (Cue “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead.)

A list of reminders that you were here

Signs that you will soon be arriving:

Coca Cola bottles in the fridge.
Large ice cubes prepped in the freezer.
Crunch Bars and Chex Mix in the cabinet.
Folded towels waiting on the bathroom counter.
An empty dishwasher.
My favorite lingerie laid out at the top of the drawer.
Bed made, throw pillows on the floor
(Because, as you said that first night,
“Too many damn pillows!”
After I pulled you into bed
And tried to keep you there for the rest of the year,
Or at least rest of the weekend).
The light smell of the late afternoon coffee I brewed
To stay awake until you’d arrive,
Even though the adrenaline wouldn’t let me sit still.

Signs that you’ve just left:

Empty Coca Cola bottles in the recycling bag.
Fewer large ice cubes prepped in the freezer,
A new batch that you started still half-liquid.
Crunch Bar wrappers in the trash,
The little corner of one tucked under a placemat.
Half the bag of Chex Mix gone.
Towels hanging on the back of the door,
Then put into the basket for the wash.
A dishwasher waiting to be turned on.
My favorite lingerie waiting to be gently hand-scrubbed in the sink.
Bed made, throw pillows still on the floor,
The scent of your hair stuck to the sheets
(And to my hands, from how many times
I brushed it away from your face at the train station,
Wondering with each stroke
If I could crawl into those deep gray eyes of yours
And come with you).
Your Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue cologne mingling with
The smell of the bacon you cooked for breakfast to go with
Eggs and a flawless potato galette.
Pieces of that potato galette on the edge of the stove.
A clawing silence that I can’t cover up,
Not even with the Four Tops record you gave me
Spinning at the highest volume my Victrola can play.
A quiet that’s filled with the sounds of sirens
Bouncing off buildings in the city I love,
Just love a little less when you’re not here.

Some advice from the maid-of-honor to her sister and future brother-in-law

When Mom and Dad announced they were expecting another baby, I launched a campaign for a brother, convinced to my bones that I had some sort of say in the matter. I was, after all, 4 years old.

Mom and Dad let it continue for a couple months before they had to break it to me via wallpapering the baby’s room in pink that I’d be getting a sister instead. They tried to ease the disappointment with a purple ribbon that said “Future big sister,” a park district class for siblings-to-be, and many assorted Golden Books.

It must have worked, because by the time August 15, 1996, rolled around, I was just happy to be getting a sibling. I’d have someone to play with! I’d have someone to read to! I’d have someone to blame for mysteriously broken and/or missing items around the house!

Of course, there was a lot more to having a sister, as I would come to learn. A five-year age difference meant that I was responsible for imparting upon her the right kinds of wisdom before she got to Glenbard North High School and the University of Missouri.

But now Bridget’s moving forward into marriage, which is a new chapter of life that I haven’t experienced yet, and so in order to continue my rather shiny track record of advice-giving, I’ve had to turn to the experts.

A couple years ago, our family took a weekend getaway to Kinderhook, Missouri, to stay in a cabin on a golf course and unplug for a few days. In your early and mid-20s, there’s only so much “unplugging” you can really do, so eventually Bridget and I started flipping through the decorative books placed throughout the house. And that’s when she discovered a volume of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books with an excerpt from Jean Kerr’s How I Got to be Perfect, published in 1954. What particularly grabbed our attention was a tongue-and-cheek informational quiz for both men and women trying to be perfect spouses. I’d like to share some of the advice with Bridget and Bryan today;

  • Bridget: When Bryan asks where his clean handkerchiefs have gone, offer him one of yours, but add that you’ll fold it so that the lace doesn’t show.
  • Bryan: When Bridget asks “Will you lower that ball game?” The proper response is “Is it bothering you? Why don’t I go up to the bedroom to listen to it on the portable?”
  • Bridget: If you’re crying and Bryan asks why, the proper response is “Because I’m silly…Give me a hug and take out the garbage, and I’ll be through here in no time.”
  • Bryan: If Bridget ever asks “Do you love me as much as you did the day we were married?” the response is NOT “Oh, Lord, not again.” Instead it’s “If you have to ask that question, it must be my fault. I musn’t be showing all the love I really feel.”

After watching you two grow in love and life together over the last few years, I don’t think any of this advice is truly needed. But I’m an older sister, and if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s providing input whether it’s needed or not. Bridget knows that from 25 years of it, and now I’m very excited to play that role for my new brother, Bryan.

Is this a reboot, a remake or a sequel?

Yesterday at about 3:45 p.m. Central, I had the sudden urge to get to the water.

I can’t explain it: I usually avoid the Lake Michigan beaches like the plague, even in times that aren’t a plague. Call it residual hesitancy from a childhood where summer night news reports would announce that the fecal matter count was creeping up toward unsafe levels (because there’s a safe level?).

A 25-minute walk later, and I was back on the path that I used to run in pre-COVID days, staring out at the water:

Thursday afternoons in September are clearly a great time to go sit by the fickly fecal-infested lake.

Never before have I had such an intense need to get to this view before, and I still don’t know what drew me to it. If we’re being honest, the past 24 hours had been wrought with some personal drama and much-necessary self-reflection, none of which I feel like boring you with #onhere. Maybe it was an innate need to exhale all the drama and angst over Lake Michigan so that the breeze would carry it over to Indiana while I went back home to rewatch Oceans Thirteen only to realize I had actually never seen it and, two hours later, that who I thought was a budget Al Pacino actually was Al Pacino.

That’s just a snapshot of yesterday, and I don’t know why I decided to open with it on this post, apart from how it gave me an hour of a walk to think about how it was Thursday and another Friday was about to pass without me publishing anything to Convincing the Muse, making it nine weeks since my last substantive post.

I could lie and say I’ve been absent because I was reassessing what this blog is and why I contribute creative blood, sweat and tears to it for little in return. I could also lie and say it’s because I’ve been busy with a summer that I overfilled due to an already underdeveloped sense of mortality stunted even further by two jabs of Pfizer and the promise of a booster shot.

But I refuse to lie, and that’s why I’m not using this post to make any promises about a return to weekly Friday posts, or more substantive short stories, or constant NaNoWriMo updates come November. You might see more personal pieces a la Sara Benincasa or Samantha Irby (my new favorite essayist — please pick up her books ASAP). Maybe some updates on my newfound vim and vigor around querying Omaha. More Axiom Thorne entries from our now two-years-and-running D&D campaign, found fiction from the annals of my high school creative writing notebooks, and book and music recommendations.

Or maybe I just won’t post anything until after my sister’s wedding in two weeks because do you know how crazy wedding planning is, even when you’re merely the maid of honor and the bachelorette party has already been a success?

Maybe my 115 or so followers will unsubscribe from those WordPress email alerts. Maybe I’ll successfully kill this website by the end of the year and be out the 18 bucks I put down in July to renew the domain name. Maybe these posts will give my boyfriend a chuckle (and that’s worth it, honestly) or a fellow writer an idea for a story (go for it, fam) or the NSA something else to put in my file (eat my Google search dust, feds). Possibly all of the above, come to think of it.

Pitter-patter, let’s get at ’er.

Axiom Thorne: An ACTUAL Portrait of a Lady Unraveling

We’re about to hit the two-year mark on our Dungeons & Dragons campaign for which I created (and re-created, and continue to create) Axiom Thorne, and I’ve grown so attached to her that I commissioned a drawing of her from artist Chris Leverett.

Based on the information I gave him (that’s also included in this post), here is what he created:

All credit goes to Chris Leverett on this masterpiece.

Chris is a great artist to work with (he’s doing portraits of almost all the player characters in our campaign!). Here’s how you can contact him to commission a piece:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chrisleverettart

Axiom Thorne: Portrait of a Lady Unraveling

Axiom Thorne is tall and wiry, with skin the color of whole milk that’s been warmed over a slow fire, then forgotten on the bedside table. Her white-blond tresses hang like teaser curtains around her angular face, obscuring it when she doesn’t feel like letting you see her long, thin nose, or her sharp jaw, or the fear creases that whisper across her forehead like stray hairs.

When you do get to see her face, the first thing you see is the dark black makeup streaking her eyes and the irises that cut through it like emeralds half-buried in soot. Her lips, also painted black, curl into a smirk more often than a smile. She inherited her mother’s elven ears and her father’s humanly sardonic wit.

Stick around and she might shift her hair all the way back behind her shoulders with long bony fingers that poke out of black leather gauntlets. She uses her mother’s “parlor magic” — as her nasty aunt would scoff — to add a shimmering holographic affect to chunks of her locks so that they reflect the light in ever-changing pink, blue, green, silver, back to pink flashes.

When she first boarded the Tenacious Sea with the others, she wore a runaway’s uniform: Dark tunic belted at the waist over nondescript breeches tucked into sensible boots. Since then, she’s been gifted far more fitting regalia for a future deity of the dead. A crown of vipers’ fangs sits precariously atop her head, a proud change from the hood she once used to shroud herself. Shiny black snakeskins knit and fuse together to create a harness and chest plate that cuts just above form-fitting pants made of the same dark scaly material. Slices of her white thighs reveal themselves between the loose weaving, invisibly protected by the armor’s magic. Stare at her new black platform boots long enough and you might see a beetle crawl up a wedged heel, over the lacing that binds around her calf, over its edge and into the safety inside of it.

The one thing Axiom has kept from her first appearance on the Tenacious Sea is also the only piece of color she deems fit to wear: A striped scarf, scrappy and uneven. Be careful not to touch it: Each color is the materialized aura of someone from whom she’s stolen magic. The scarf itself won’t taken anything from you, but it’s best not to let her or the Man with the Diamond Shoes and Gravel Voice know that you’ve taken an interest in it.

Don’t stare too long at the Whip of Certain Death at Axiom’s hip, either. Another upgrade since setting sail: It hangs in a coil not unlike the snakes that gave up their skins for her armor. And somehow it’s the mostly tightly wound item you’ll find on this woman who’s mentally unraveling all the while you’re looking at her.

Scene of the Write: Observations on a train to St. Louis

The following are observations made from a late June train trip from Chicago to St. Louis.

Just outside of Chicago: A boat graveyard, shells of old hulls and schloops tagged with graffiti inside a barbed-wire playpen. A shredded down comforter dangles from the wire, grayish-white stuffing droopy like mid-February snow drifts.

About an hour later, we’re stopped because they “have an issue on the train” they need to deal with. Anti-masker, perhaps — we just picked up some people in Joliet — but my brain is concocting a number of Mission: Impossible scenarios. Just outside the window is a country road flanked by stone pillars. The inscription is too small to read from here, but it’s fun watching as the drivers of cars are getting out and socializing while they wait for us to move out. There’s a man in a white sedan taking selfies, and a white limo with a driver dressed to the nines, taking his chances on getting out into the humid air.

On the way to Bloomington we pass a barn that looks like a drunk giant stepped into it, splintering half the roof and one wall down while the belfry still stands, weathered but intact.

Shortly after 5:15, the man sitting next to me — the one in bright green Chuck Taylor high-tops, with a copy of Reza Aslan’s Zealot that he’s halfway through, with a kid on the way and a weekend at the Cards game with some friends before he becomes a dad (all of which I learned by eavesdropping on his phone call for the first two hours of the trip) — offers me a shot of Bulleit Bourbon from a sealed bottle. I decline and watch as he proceeds to make a bourbon and coke in a thermos mug.

It’s happy hour on a Friday in the tiny towns we pass, too. A group sits in lawn chairs next to an above-ground pool in Macoupin County, a couple igloo coolers warming in the low evening sun. It makes me wonder what would be different about me if I had grown up in a town with a grain silo next door and Amtrak route cutting through my subdivision. Or if I’d be one of those people knocking back a Bud in the summer evening, watching the train from Chicago click-clack past, wondering what life would be like if I was on it.

Found fiction: Agatha’s notes, Part 1

This piece was discovered, undated, in a notebook from 2017. It’s clearly an unused piece from my work-inprogress house exorcism book.

They were the kind of people that you wanted to be friends with long enough to see how they planned their funerals.

Just a few minutes of aimless chit-chat over drinks — isn’t the weather unusually nice for this time of year? Sure is, won’t see me complaining. We were actually thinking of hitting the beach this weekend, can you believe it? The beach in March? Who’d have thought?! — and the room had disappeared. Now Agatha took diligent notes as she witnessed how he timed his sips of whiskey with his smiles, how she eyed and spun her wine around in the glass even though white wine doesn’t need aeration. Agatha scribbled down that she “was drunk off their ease and she hadn’t even tasted the beer he had shoved into her hand.”

Reading her notes a year later, I could tell from the way her tight script elongated, starting prim and preloaded in the notebook and quickly stretching to twice its size. My handwriting does the same thing when I’m rushing to capture a quote from a source or my own head. My brain’s a fast-talker.

Axiom Thorne: I’ve been a contender

So that’s the way my gravel-voiced, knit-throated patron wants to play it? Give me powers, pit me against his other creations, and see emerges alive?

Bring it on, I say.

Though I also wonder what the Man with the Colorful Scarf and Diamond Shoes saw in that 12-year-old girl he lured into that alley with promises of magic. Maybe my mother’s aura was shining through me the way Aunt Lissie used to say it did — she was the nicest of the aunts, the most spiritual but the most ephemeral, having died when I was young.

One of my first memories was her voice saying “I see your mother’s aura in you.” I remember it because I didn’t know what it meant, as much as I desperately wished I understood everything that came from her sapphire-tinted lips. My mother used to say that Lissie, the first-born of the triplets, had drained her two other sisters of their elf blood before emerging from the womb with pearlescent hair and lips the color of emeralds. (They mellowed to a soft blue in her teen years.)

But elf blood doesn’t protect you from speeding wagons carrying green cakes to the market, especially when you’re in such a deep trance communing with the spirit world that you don’t pay attention to where you’re crossing the street. So 7-year-old me never really knew what Aunt Lissie saw that would make her say such a thing.

And now I suppose whatever glowing halo or rainbow-tinted haze she saw whenever she looked at Child Me had led to the events that put Adult Me in snakeskin armor, a Whip of Certain Death at my hip and the ability to summon demons and death in my hands, waiting to find out whether I’d become god or dust.

Fig explained the runes pretty clearly: The Man with the Colorful Scarf and his three fellow viziers each chose a mortal who could become their new god. They expect us to find and kill each other until the sole survivor ascends the throne. One contender already has attempted to murder me and half the Hydra crew, failed, and been reincarnated in the body of the blasted bird-monster that Urto’s been trying to raise in his tiny captain’s quarters.

This sick game reminds me of the town-wide mock-battles that we participated in as teenagers back home. The skirmish would last a month of every four summers. We would start with three or four “armies,” all soldiers armed with fake swords that we would use to tap our enemies on the shoulder or leg to signify a kill. By the end of the first week, the teams would succumb to in-fighting and friendly fire; new alliances would be made in the second week; and by the third, it would be every player for themselves. The last soldier standing, untouched by a wooden blade, would preside over a special party the day before the Crestbalm Fete.

I didn’t win the year I played, so don’t get your hopes up for a reminiscence of victory. Neither did Ansel. And you know the Baker’s Boy didn’t live long enough to even consider playing.

But there was something about the savagery of war touching our tiny, peaceful village that was so pervertedly delicious, so taboo, that even the most sage village leaders found themselves assisting in ambushes and placing wagers on who they thought might win.

So trust me when I say I’m not a stranger to the spirit of competition. I just like to know I’m competing before almost getting torn to pieces by the opposition.

I also like to know what I’m fighting for, be it a party or what the Man with the Colorful Scarf and his trilliant-bestowing companions are offering: Godly dominion over a city of undead who toil in the shadow of a black pyramid that strangely resembles the stone that seems to have taken the place of my beating heart.

And while the population of such a kingdom might deter some, I just come to the same conclusion: Real estate is real estate. A throne is a throne. And seeing as I feel like a god most days already, actually becoming one only seems like my logical next step.

Music of the Write: “Wolf Like Me” by Lera Lynn and Shovels & Rope

Two weeks ago as I prepped my current project for my beta readers, I found myself playing a single song on repeat — if it doesn’t land on my Spotify Wrap-Up in December, I would be surprised.

“Wolf Like Me” is originally a TV on the Radio song but I had no idea of its alternative rock origins when I started annoying my neighbors with Lera Lynn and Shovels & Rope’s cover. For some reason, the sound of Lynn’s voice, the harmonies, the arrangement and the growing tempo and strength of the track provided the perfect drumbeat by which to slice and dice, shuffle and scuffle, reword and rewrite the first half of Lucky Ellis’ story.

So I’m sharing it here: Maybe someone else will find they experience the same strange calming and energizing effect within its four minutes.

(And if you like Lera Lynn, check out all the music she made for True Detective, including “My Least Favorite Life,” which is also on the Lucky Ellis playlist.)