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The International Writers Magazine: The Other Me

The Other Tyrel
Tyrel Nelson

These walls don’t talk—they bitch. All sorts of peeps, screeches, and whines fill my shadowy room. The house’s bones must ache as the frosty gusts rattle its windows.


But the creaks aren’t creepy. Like a grumpy old man, there’s a familiarity, an amusing predictability to its complaining. I know what to expect. Hell, I’ve spent the past four months getting used to this place moan and groan through the early morning hours. I may lay awake, but I lay this house no blame. After having endured a century of Minnesota winters, my patience might wear a little thin, too.

Still, these nocturnal noises are not why I stare at the ceiling until dawn. A trio of recent life changes—new place, new job, newly single—have actually kept my mind sprinting toward an invisible finish line on most nights. And I don’t know how to slow it down.

To a certain degree, I am not alone. Pop has the same problem. He’s never been able to sleep very well. In all likelihood, he’s up right now, smoking a KOOL, sipping on coffee, and listening to a forgotten talk show. I see him pacing back and forth atop the worn linoleum of his small kitchen, loudly disagreeing with the last caller. Perhaps I should pick up the phone. Dad’s always down for breakfast. However, I might be the reason he’s up in the first place; he worries about me. He’d most likely say I’m crazy and tell me to go back to bed. Wish I could, Pop. If I only knew how…

Writing, I guess, is the closest I’ve gotten to slow my brain’s pace. It’s a strong wind blowing in my face, hampering my strides. It’s what I do to process this mess in my head. So where did I put my pen and paper? Ah yes, I remember.

I throw off my comforter. Turning on my bedside lamp, I reach to the floor and grab the ball point and tablet I had tossed there earlier. I sit up to notice my mother. There she is, on the other side of the room, with a giant grin on her face. And there I am as a baby, wrapped in her arms, being held over a 1980 calendar.  

It makes complete sense that I see my mom when I’m about to write. My name actually comes from a Louis L’Amour novel she was reading when I was inside her pregnant belly. And Tyrel Sackett was one of the main players. Only fitting that the boy named after a book character has grown up to be a writer.

Not long ago, I researched my namesake. Another sleepless night of introspection got me out of bed and onto Wikipedia. My jaw dropped when I read Tyrel’s description. Turns out there were some striking similarities. To begin, Mr. Sackett was deemed a “black sheep.” I chuckled when I read this because I recalled the first time I heard it. I once got busted for underage drinking at a party and, consequently, had to be picked up by my dad. When I got home, the only thing my uncle (who was living there at the time) said was, “Well, if it isn’t the black sheep.” Of course, my younger brother, who was sound asleep in his bedroom, had been in all night.

I heard this term again several years later. I was visiting a former professor of mine, explaining my frustration with those who follow. I told him most people were sheep—only do what others do. “If anything, you should be the black sheep, break away from the herd, and make your own path through life,” he replied. His quote still resonates between my ears, and I do my best to heed his suggestion. This could explain why I’ve lived so many times abroad, trying to carve out tiny niches in the world.

Book Tyrel was also described as “compassionate to a fault.” This is very true in my case. I tend to give people too many chances, the benefit of the doubt when they probably don’t deserve it. And I’ve been burned for being this sparing.

A couple of months ago, I was stood up by a woman. I waited half the damn day for her to show, created generous scenarios in my head that justified her rudeness (maybe her phone battery died, maybe the traffic is bad, maybe she got the time confused), and even called her, only to get her voicemail. Pissed off, I hardly believed her story when I was finally able to speak with her. My ass she “just forgot.” That being said, a few minutes went by on the phone and my anger disappeared. I agreed to meet her the next week, and she left me hanging once again. Part of me is still looking out that window, grinding my teeth.

Eager to learn more, I continued to read about Tyrel Sackett. I nonetheless did a double-take when I reached the end of the paragraph. I was rather embarrassed by his last attribute: “Naïve where women are concerned, he often seems like a shy schoolboy when facing a pretty girl.”
I immediately thought of the woman I’ve gone on some dates with lately. Although I try to be cool, calm, and collected, I look down when she smiles at me. I also wriggle around when she asks me personal questions. I really don’t like to talk about myself, and she knows it. In fact, she calls me out when I get bashful. “You’re getting squirmy,” she says, which only perpetuates the awkwardness. I can’t get too upset, however, because it is the truth.

During the occasions when I’m not a nervous Nelson, I love to chat with her about writing. I appreciate her insight on books, as well as the writing process itself. Furthermore, she often inquires about the stuff I jot down, and I can usually provide her with answers. But one of her latest questions left me tongue-tied. “Why haven’t you written about yourself?”

She stumped me. Moreover, her wringer was admittedly the cause for my restlessness on this particular night. I couldn’t figure it out. I always thought I had written about myself. Nevertheless, this analytical gal pointed out that my stories are normally focused on other people, places, or things. I’m in the narratives, but I’m rarely the main character. In addition, the things I do reveal about myself are only bits and pieces—like when she’s trying to pry. “What was the inspiration?” she will surely ask when I mention this piece.
Wondering how I’m going to reply, I close my tablet, cap my pen, and set them on the floor. I lift my head to notice the third Tyrel in this story. There he is, on the other side of the room, posing with Mom. My smile mirrors hers.
© Tyrel Nelson Jan 2010
tyreln at

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