Monthly Archives: May 2011

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Summer Tour 2011: “TH’HEAT”

Categories: A Day in the Life, Read it and Weep, TH'HEAT 2011, The Long Tunnel, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , , ,

Man, am I glad we’re about to be done with May. May was not without highlights, but was mostly an unmitigated disaster. The first month of being out of touch with Emily has been rough. It appropriately began on May Day (made all the more appropriate by just finishing The Handmaid’s Tale, which I loved and tore through very quickly, though was annoyed by the “Historical Note” addendum) and could not be over soon enough.

In the spirit of all this and more, here’s something to look forward to, already less than a month away. If you don’t like the title, finding it to be outdated, melodramatic, or even self-indulgent, you should know that my first notion for the tour title was the “Not Dead Yet” Tour. Which in some ways I find more fitting, though I like this acronym better, even if the ring is overall more nostalgic and less triumphal than Not Dead Yet might be. There are not a lot of detailed plans for this Tour quite yet, other than possibly daily yoga, since I’m losing my yoga routine with the close of the weekly class this evening, hanging out a bunch with friends, and two weddings (one in Boston and one in Albuquerque). I am still ruminating on a video diary thing as well as a writing project, so stay tuned for lots of neat new possibilities to come.

Anyway, obligatory Tour dates list:

Additionally, it’s worth noting that if you’re along the implicit route of this trip and I haven’t included your city, there’s still some room for amendment. You should contact me about that. The cross-country treks on either side of Albuquerque are going to be a little rushed, but there’s still room for flexibility there and especially on the East Coast portion.

Also changed the theme of the blog to reflect the new summer plans. The image up top is pretty much the best characterization of how I feel about this trip.

More soon.

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No Time to Think of Consequences

Categories: A Day in the Life, All the Poets Became Rock Stars, Pre-Trip Posts, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been really hard to breathe lately. Maybe I need to do more yoga. Maybe I just need to swallow my pride already. Maybe there are no right answers, like Rabbit surmises in the comic below, only a vague attempt to avoid the skyward pianos that loom and always threaten to fall.

I’m going to DC this weekend. Hanging out at Brandzy’s place, though I won’t see him much. Talking to high school debaters at Nationals about our upcoming Camp, our debate program for any potential Rutgers prospects. Getting a bit more familiar with Public Forum debate.

I went to the Allison Weiss show in Princeton on Wednesday. It was quite awesome, a much better sampling of her in her element than the prior show in New York. She asked for requests and I called one out (July 25, 2007) and she played it when she said it wasn’t on the setlist and used this to encourage more requests. I bought a dinosaur T-shirt from her after the show. She played all the songs I wanted to hear, plus a new one, penultimately, that broke my heart. It’s called “I’ll Be OK”. I’m not so sure.

There’s something about short, direct, declarative sentences that feels like control. It’s probably very different than how I usually feel, the rambly arcs of poetic lyrical interpretability. How much of all this is about control? Pride or control? How much of self-preservation requires those elements? How much do I care?

Yesterday I got a brief vision of a possible summer plan with the laptop-based webcam capturing me telling stream-of-consciousness stories while I drove across the country. Little video postcards of life on the road, free, carefree, hopeful. It doesn’t feel real. It feels like a clown suit I’m trying to want to put on. I don’t know how to pretend to want things that are different than everything I always tried to want.

Everything is harder since I tried to take control.

Allison Weiss at Small World Coffee
Princeton, NJ
25 May 2011

I’m Ready
I Don’t Want to Be Here
I Was an Island
Nothing Left
July 25, 2007
Don’t Go
Try to Understand
Why Bother
Baby
Kids (partial)
You + Me + Alcohol
The End
One-Way Love
Wait for Me
Ghost Stories
Let Me Go
I’ll Be OK
Fingers Crossed

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One Year Gone

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , ,

I’m an anniversaries kind of guy. History major. Names, dates, places, and times. I have a theory about time being a geographical function because of the orbit of the world and subscribe to the more common theory that places are charged with something meaningful, that they get stamped and imprinted by the events thereon, always to carry the legacy of that occurrence into the future, which itself is just a repetition of geographical paths already tread. This explains what people sometimes mistake for ghosts or that spectral ooky spine-tingly feeling when they go somewhere that inspires that.

Coming up on a real doozy in the next 24 hours here. A year ago today was the last full day I spent with my wife, Emily, before she flew away a year ago tomorrow, before I took her to the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City with her friend Amy and she flew away and never loved me in person again. Before she left, after I left them at the airport but before the plane took off, she called me to say the following:

Emily’s 26 May 2010 Message

And was gone. It would be sixty more days before she decided that she didn’t love me anymore, sixty days of deep yearning missing loving important conversations that I wish I’d recorded as a bulwark against the creeping feeling that I have somehow become a crazy person in the midst of all this. As though my very sensory perceptions were what was betraying me instead of my wife. Granted, I’d had an experience with that before that makes me especially susceptible to this kind of thing, but still. This is not a thing one can just live with very easily without questioning whether the world is just as bad as the worst people say it is, that this whole thing is somehow a test.

Which prompts one of the most irrational (objectively) and yet compelling feelings to strike in the last few days and hours – that somehow tomorrow someone will pop out of a cake or drop down with their movie cameras or come out from behind a curtain and reveal that I’ve been punked, that it’s all farce, that I’ve somehow survived a year and don’t have to put up with this nonsense anymore, this idea that someone can just make a mistake and react so violently to their own action as to cast aside every prior incarnation of their self-perception. That of course that doesn’t happen and you somehow kept it together for 365 days after and now here’s your prize and let’s all go watch it on video while Emily sits by your side and waits for you to forgive her for this monstrously poor-taste over-extended joke so you can get back to your life.

Of course, in this theory, it would probably require waiting till the 19th of July of this year, or maybe a week after that. And pretty soon we can make bargains for 3 or 5 years. This is how people go crazy, how people just flat lose it. Cognitive dissonance, not unlike that which most likely inspired her own psychic break with the past in the wake of her simple human mistake. People can snap like that, but they can also bargain themselves to death, move the bar further and further toward oblivion until one day it’s over the edge. None of this is comforting.

And yet all the alternatives feel like pure submission, pure acquiescence to the things that were done, without resistance. It’s something of this desire not to submit that leaves unsigned insipid yellow-flagged papers on my desk to this moment, the ironically cruel brand of “Legal Solutions Plus” stamped beneath each one. I know obscenity when I see it. It’s like an atrocity, this stack of monochrome sheets that bear my name, but no resemblance to anything I can recognize. I am finding it hard to breathe, now, as I type this.

I can point to the problems, I can articulate and feel them, I can even anticipate the cascading catastrophes stemming from being so open and public about these feelings here and now. Who could ever love me when witnessing this documentation that I may spend the rest of my life waiting for my first wife to pop out from behind the curtain and yell “Surprise!”? Who could ever take the incredible risk and sacrifice that devotion to me would require when I am this damaged? The odds of viability start to decline precipitously on a course especially perilous in light of my own conviction that only love can heal me. And even “heal” seems like a naive word to cite, maybe “patch up” is better or even “stop the bleeding”, the arterial floodgates that seem to be spewing in every direction.

And why now? Is it just the anniversary that makes me dwell, to almost bask in the pain of all this memory and ache? There is an element, of course, but it has much more to do with the separation, the commitment to stay away in word and deed, to take a break so that I may actually acclimate to a life without this person. And that, of course, in cutting off communication, there is a sudden rekindling of all that was lost in the first place, a sudden second death to follow the first, for there is no longer even the illusion of connection, no matter how painful and abusive the frail fires of friendship were over the last year. And of course with that a release, also, for me to open up about what I’m feeling, to not feel censored or bridled by having to talk to her about it in a day or a week, to not be further admonished for making one more unforeseeable mistake in a chain of history rewritten with me as the villain.

And I’m thinking of spending this night, the one-annum marker from the last night of my life I truly spent with my wife, in Princeton? Listening to someone sing about heartbreak? What is wrong with me?

What isn’t wrong with me?

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We Got Lost in New York

Categories: A Day in the Life, All the Poets Became Rock Stars, Read it and Weep, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , , ,

The summer is coming but it can’t come fast enough, can’t pass fast enough, can’t make up its mind about coming or going or raining or pouring and there’s a sense I have that I should be better than this better than this by now because everyone else believes time is something more than a construct and they forget forget forget and get to be better and why can I not be better and the things that I do in the wake of what’s done are no better and all I get is what I give and I can’t can’t can’t forget and this is all I get.

Emily is in the states from what I can tell, from what I remember. I’m trying so hard to forget but it doesn’t work like that, the mind doesn’t just shut down and mine in particular seems enthralled at its height with what it should least be interested in. It’s horror, it’s fascination, there’s a reason we put ourselves through 10-inning 8-7 baseball games or literal roller-coaster rides or falling in love all over again when we know that we shouldn’t. Read your Watership Down, head for Strawberry’s Warren, know in your soul, in the core they keep telling me to engage on Tuesday nights that all this diversion and distraction is there to replace the life-or-death fight-or-flight feeling innate to being an animal. Not that kind of animal, but then again why not? Am I anything more, anything better? Truly?

But and so I have to be concerned on subway cars, on late-night (too late) trains to the middle of New Jersey, as though seeing the actual person would somehow be more powerful than the ghost that is waiting on brown warped leather or dingy graffitied plastic, hiding on street corners and under bus depot covers and in the parks and playgrounds of any city, but oh especially this city. As though talking on the phone or writing on the computer or reading the masterwork of the late great can in any way interrupt the flow of mental traffic borne ceaselessly against the tide, what would you say? Is this grand plan anything better than mild distraction, any more nuanced than the “look behind you!” trick when you’re going to take the money and run? Does the distance, real or imagined, help sever the seamless soul-deep bond that was tied so tightly, became interwoven with heartbeats and that nasal intake of air, stay here for five breaths, for five million breaths, why does the total count of a lifetime’s breaths seem like such a small number in the end?

A veggie burger with avocado and fries and Harry Potter 3 on the weirdly overdone big-screens and there is no event that I process without the mental image of you by my side and I try to insert others there in your stead but something seems off and even when it doesn’t there are larger problems of trying to replace something that’s missing and I know it and I get it and I understand how the comparison doesn’t wash but if you lost all your limbs tomorrow and someone told you the only thing we can replace them with are fish because it’s wrong to want arms and legs again because you had those before and new arms and new legs don’t want to be compared and I say fish are you serious and so I take the anesthetic and wake up days later with floppy jetsam of the sea just sort of stapled or sewn to the nubbins and I can still feel my digits so rudely severed and a walleye gives me this deadpan look from where my elbow should be like why don’t you want to play with me, why can I not use my little tiny gills to help you pick up where you left off?

Not to mention the falling over.

I watched a soccer game of some high-school-or-so youth club league, caged like visions of the Bronx Zoo in four perpendicular/parallel sheets of 30-foot chain link and then the Allison Weiss show I’d so been looking forward to, the only one of fifty or seventy with the guts to go it alone, and then people on the train back as I read some of the most even more compelling bits of The Pale King before DFW left me alone forever. And the echoes of the pin-drop pathos of “Ghost Stories” and that late chapter I relate to so well (but shouldn’t?) haven’t left me since, I am a walking shadow for the backlit realities of a few moments in time and space that feel like connection, that feel like art reaching out to me across the solipsistic divide of otherness and telling me it’s not okay but it doesn’t have to be and I am here hurting too. It is not okay but I am here but it is still not okay but I am still here. Over and over, till the mantra itself fades out of meaning and becomes another dull echo of an empty chamber.

I may go again Wednesday night in Princeton.

I bought a yoga mat. It is teal green and the color that anyone would have predicted and all I can hear is the voice and the lilt and the reaction that she would have had, that she might as well be having. At a certain point, if you can almost simulate your life well enough, is there a point to living it out?

She is still my wife. I have to figure out what to do about that. Maybe the 26th. Maybe the 6th. Maybe I can’t.

Allison Weiss at Rockwood Music Hall (with Bess Rogers)
New York City, NY
21 May 2011

I Don’t Want to Be Here
You + Me + Alcohol
I Was an Island
Ghost Stories
Nothing Left
The End Part 2 (Boston)
Don’t Go
Try to Understand
Wait for Me
I’m Ready
Fingers Crossed

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Penultimate

Categories: A Day in the Life, From the Road, Tags: ,

There is a wet-dog smell to the world today, the rain seeping into everyone’s fabrics and pores and hair and hope in the insidious unstoppable way of moisture everywhere. It is neither a cold rain or a warm one, kind of incidental and unfeeling, more than a drizzle but less than a downpour, to the point where one can walk and sit and stand in it long enough and believe that there is no other state to the sky than precipitation, mild and drowsy and endlessly wet.

I am on the train bound northeast, ever northeast, and the ads on the platforms seem even more discordant than normal with the landscape, their bright colors and outlandish claims brandished against a landscape otherwise gone monochrome. The green-gray vagueness swimming by against the bubbled pebbles of gathered water on the plastic windows’ exterior as I try to focus on capturing a series of thoughts every bit as much a moving target as my own body in this inexorable transit conveyance. The little rundown graffitied towns and rusting cars seem more melancholy than the last time, deeper reflections of a day where no one is quite happy it’s Friday. There is relief in the air, but no joy to it. Perhaps it is the apprehension of the rumors of tomorrow, the slim but inerasable possibility that this is the last night of the world.

I have been impressed with the ability of a few committed people to so thoroughly proliferate the concept that the seemingly innocuous date facing us tomorrow will be the beginning of the end. Certainly days in May always seem like the end-times to me in some way, but in no way can this or even mere spending and advertising account for the sheer universality of American awareness of May 21st’s alleged rapture. It can only speak to something deep within us, as almost all prophecies of doom and finality do. Armageddon holds the same appeal for the modern American as a snow-day for their progeny. I don’t need to do my homework or mow the lawn if it’s all going up in a fireball or under an unnavigable blanket tomorrow.

A medical education. A brand new sedan. A bundled cable package with phone and internet. Happy Hour. Cancer treatment. Business loans. A circus act.

There is a dead blue payphone booth, empty but still labeled and standing, and literally twelve visible cellular telephones, all held in the same crook-armed way of the totally absorbed, necks bent down in concentration as fingers plug away or pause mid-scroll, looks of consternation and concentration and the passive acquiescence of giving over one’s time to things that are not quite worth it. And I barely exceptional, plugging away on my portable big-screen within as they absorb and I could be writing what they could be reading and we are communicating without ever exchanging so much as a look or a sound or an acknowledgement of the other’s existence. And is it a tragedy or is it just change? Is it a loss or just a difference? And that question reflects back, reverberates through the echo-chamber of self-reflection like a nuclear-powered ping-pong ball in a zero-gravity tin-lined corridor. Plink plink plink plink plink, forever.

I am saturated. Soaked. Unable to absorb any more as the stutter-step of the train carries me endlessly to a place that would be the proverbial ground zero of any imaginable end of the world. Can I root against it any more than the self-proclaimed prophet? Can I suspend my own hubris long enough to entertain the slightly relieving possibility that there will be no more struggling with this journey, no more Sundays to face? And yet, of course, as my own experience dictates, as the dead window-smashed husks of industrial trackside buildings illustrate, the world ends every day. People die, divorces are filed, the loss of communication or contact or care or compassion, every day a tragedy somewhere for someone from which they will never recover on this planet. Their world spinning of its axis, out of orbit, falling into the sun of whatever challenge they will not be able to overcome. Salvations too, perhaps, but there is a permanence to loss that seems to have no corollary in things working out. The simple tautologies of life. Something found can always be lost, but many things lost can never be found.

This is the nature of a world that dies, where things thereon die, where we are all mere guests in the face of something larger than ourselves. We may want to be here when our host’s fate is tied to our own, when mortality can fuse for all living things. But the odds are otherwise, that we will go alone and in small groups, leaving behind – hopefully – more than just a pile of clothes.

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Mother, May I

Categories: A Day in the Life, Read it and Weep, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , , , ,

It’s easy to forget what this year was supposed to be about. I don’t even mean all that long ago, before my life caved in and I was left staring at the daily wreckage of my own dreams. I mean after that, but still before now, when I was going to be finishing a book, my fourth novel, in five days.

I last worked on it on 7 February 2011, an overcold day that I spent writing fiction outside of my place of residence for the first time in many years, then talked on the phone to Ariel, then came home and wrote this post and then wound up tabling the project until, apparently, now or even later than now. That was three months ago. The project’s sum total, aside from a pretty thorough and still salvageable outline, stands at 2,433 words. Less than ten pages, generously. The size of a half term paper I used to crank out in a handful of hours before the deadline to convince my professor I was from wherever I was writing about.

May 15th.

I mean, there were other things that happened on the way to today, many of them halfway good. There was that whole job thing that came along just about after, whisking me away from a future in Seattle or Denver or Flagstaff and pulling me in, not unlike a friendly but still somewhat menacing giant anemone, ensconcing me in New Jersey with the promise of a career that was neither writing nor in conflict with my principles and artistic desires. Slowly gnawing on my nutrients while I got numb and placid and malleable and basked in the warmth of something like community before awaking on the rocky shores this May, behind on creativity and with the tidewaters of that community pulling away and out to sea without me. This is water, as good old DFW would say. And you only know it when you’re out of it, for good or for ill.

The Pale King is searingly brilliant, by the way, a 500+-page suicide note that I’m already in love with a fifth of the way through. It’s brilliant like a made-for-TV knife, like a whole novel of nothing but Tim O’Brien water buffalo in unending agonizing parade to their slow demise. It’s improved my quality of life twenty points in two days, single-handedly, if only be reawakening the slumbering knowledge deep within me of the importance of Project X. Its similarities to same are also somewhat troubling, at least in spirit, and it occurs to me that X could be a suicide note if it had to be, probably best reads that way as fiction even if that’s not its purpose in the corporeal world per se.

I draft ten notes a day, mostly addressed to the person I have decided to no longer address, of course, though it’s probably inevitable that she reads this blog (unless she’s really that disconnected, but then again she gets bored very easily and quickly became addicted to things like Facebook and the Internet for their absorbing, time-wasting capabilities, so) and thus even the people I “cut off communication from” (one, to date), are never really out of touch. With me. If. Yeah. I’m going to stop now. And reset.

The point is, simply, that I think a lot about death, in sort of the way normal people (as far as I can tell) think about food. Savoring different textures and anticipating certain flavors. Imagining different layouts and menus. It is not unwelcome, though it is probably less welcome than the average perception of food, it carries some of the same craving without the visceral desire. It is important, sometimes, for me to flag for people that I will not be terribly sad if it happens, even very soon. Which is not to say that I’m willing it and it is important that I not will it for the sake of all you dearly beloved readers and friends who I am truly well aware want the best for me. It is also important that you not respond to the sentence prior to the last one with some snide quirky neo-atheistic response about me not being able to be sad because I’d be dead and the whole point would be to feel nothing. It’s not exactly how it works and even if it were, it would still matter differently. Either you follow or you don’t. The point is, and this is the bottom line, it is no great loss if I go in this condition. There is something to be said for going out on a low note, when one is not missing much.

I bring this up not because I’m on the precipice of something drastic – indeed, I probably spend less time worrying about it than I have in a while – but because I am starting to formulate plans around spending a lot of time on the road this summer. And the road is a dangerous place – far more dangerous than the head of the truly suicidal, let alone something nice and safe like a plane or a ghetto. And in spending a lot of time considering mortality, one can stave it off with the import of writing a note first, then a lengthy note, then perhaps a whole manifesto about life that is long and exhaustive and exhausting and before too long, it’s time for sleep instead of death and the whole discussion can be tabled for another night.

Except here’s the problem: we often never get around to writing that thing, whatever it is, and then we wind up in a three-car chaos outside of Tulsa some night or succumbing to a clot or an aneurysm that no one thought to look for and suddenly the thing that reassured us about staying alive is still left unfinished and makes the whole operation of dying, after all, sad and wasteful. Which is not to turn this into the typical trite “make haste to live” or the deadly “live each day as if it were your last” (not that there is not value to such positions, in part), but rather to observe that those things bear writing when one has the time and, indeed, even the circumspection to perhaps not be all so mopey about the end of living on this planet.

It’s like this: My debate team went to Columbia a week or two ago to renew the old King’s/Queen’s Debate tradition from centuries ago and they hit this case about letting prisoners go if the law they were imprisoned under was repealed. Makes sense, intuitive, fun for discourse, the whole nine. But the team mounted a mighty opp based on the idea that parole boards ought decide when people are ready to reintegrate into society – that blanket amnesty is bad, but the parsing and sorting of parole boards can maximize the chance that those returning to society are healthy and happy and ready to participate. But of course Columbia ultimately won that argument by observing quite simply that this is not our modern standard – parole boards are not invoked at the end of every term in prison, but only periodically and selectively for early release.

Which is to say that a great writing project, a suicide note if you will (regardless of self-infliction, mind), is like a parole board for life. We ought not be let out without taking the time to reflect. Not only does this dovetail quite obviously with my own theological presumptions about a time of review and reflection between worlds (some day that will be set down, but I have confidence enough of you know what I’m talking about that I don’t have to explicate further at risk of this being part of the whole missing piece I’m trying to avoid), but it’s just a good standard. So if you catch yourself feeling okay with death, maybe it’s time to start contributing the last great statement (and yours may not involve words – perhaps you prefer sculpture or interpretive dance) just in case. And if you like life more, well all the more reason to hedge just in case, to indent the sting of potential calamitous tragedy with pre-emptive safekeeping.

And so, with that, it may be time to set a new deadline for good old Project X. Realistically it can’t be before the summer travel, starting to take shape between the 24ths of June and July, but it can be soon enough that each year since I got serious about this aspect of my life again will contribute one book to the stack of those waiting to find traction in the greater mind at large. And writing books for the aspiring author is probably a lot like having children for the aspiring Major League dad. Sooner or later, one of them’s gotta be able to play ball.

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The Timelessness of Green Fields

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Telling Stories, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , , ,

There is a blue sign at the top of the hill by the roadside gone T-shaped and it says No Sledding and it is the kind of sign that shows the wear and age of countless police officers standing by a bloody street with a horrified post-traumatic driver and a little bit of disheveled dirty cardboard or bits of broken plastic undertire as the snow gently falls over the stains and someone keeps repeating that they just came out of nowhere and sobered men stand on their lawns three doors down and mutter about damnfool kids and what’s become of the world. The sign bears nothing of that grim scene in its early-May sun-baked splendor, basking in non sequitir as the world blooms and the vaguest hints of precipitation are warm and inviting. He tumbles down the gravelly grassy incline at just shy of a run, mind bent back to a precipitous decline through trees in La Jolla that also ended in a sudden road below, the fortune of that moment’s lack of speeding vehicle having something to do with an entire novel and the belief that maybe we are all immortal. How lucky that seemed then; how unlucky now.

Over the would-be deadly street and into the next array, a field of resplendent glory as only the windy tilt of low-seventies sunshine can drift through shimmery new leaves and the bent blades of unkempt fairway. He stands for a moment to soak in the scene and all the places it takes him back to, shiny rain-spared lawns of Oregon or the parched but artificially thriving expanses of New Mexico under its thin and sickly attempts at trees. The trees are healthy here, robust, cartoonish in their solidity, and they beckon in the way that nature pulls at the soul of each of us, the way we can look at an animal or a landmark and try to remember that this, this is where we belong and always did and how to we fall so in love with the walls and right angles and resigned fellow humans with whom we log most of our hours? A book in a pack and water to boot and it is not until he is ensconced firmly beneath the broadest-reaching branches of the most personable plant that he remembers, squinting under hatbrim in the inconsistent cloud-shaped sunlight, what is wrong with this picture.

He is alone.

It is a place that other people take people, it is a place to be a pair, and the floodgates gently lift to reveal a torrent of parks and pastimes prior and the lazy adjustments of bodies in contact, the sighs and tilts of laps and lips and heads on stomachs in the gentle innocence of mutual peace. He burns, badly, in the remembrance of the irreplaceable, not to be quite that pessimistic, but how could he possibly restore the grandeur of first love or the anticipation of things undone when ships have sailed and time unrefundable has been spent? Each moment is a nod to the end of it all, a wink at mortality, and aging is as much about the gilding of memory as the ventures into the ever-darkening hollows of the unknown. And now the mistakes, not only the clear immediate one of trying to expend the afternoon this way, already swollen with dam bursts strangely unanticipated, but the past ones ringing ever louder, the girl jilted too soon or the other clung to too long. The inability to see the simple adoration in a moment in the fields and the yearning, powerful desire to simply return for a day, a simple mundane day like Emily in “Our Town”, to drag the mate of the moment out of the office or away from duty and into an empty green expanse to read and drape and hold hands against the backdrop of a summer day’s endless march toward twilight. Just one day, please God, and then I could sleep soundly forever, or at least till I did another stupid thing like this.

The pages don’t hold up long, their subjects hinting and gesturing leeringly at the wounds newly re-exposed and the clouds obscure far too much light in an unsubtle condemnation that starts to feel like warning. He waits for an aphid to scuttle ever slowly, pausing periodically, to the edge of the page and over it so he may close it without another pang of guilt piled on, then begins the sad slow process of stretching and repacking that acknowledges the inability to rejoin our simpler roots. He thinks about summer, thinks about the future, feels paralyzed by its limitless horizon and engulfing depth, wonders if any place will ever hold his person alone again without shadowy echoes of the people who are no longer with him. There has to be a way to reframe, to adjust, to find the kind of solace in loneliness that seems so natural to so many, or at least they’re good at faking. But not today. Today it is a race against thunder and quickening wind to make it to the doorway and the false comforts of an interior undrenched.

I am the old man waiting in the rest home to die, wondering what became of my gifts and nerve endings. I am the seventh-grader discovering a voice for his long-sublimated hopes, impatient to grow up already. I am the stickball player at a wedding that feels like a perfectly foretold homecoming. I am the empty-handed return flier from Africa, neck craning in half-sleep that covers what has been lost. I am the four-year-old just awoken from my first nightmare, the nine-year-old writhing with my first migraine. I am the man, possibly, comforting his child at their own pain, the visage of such an entity blinking in and out of existence with my own uncertain ability to hope.

I can pause the world, lie back on grass beneath a tree, look up, and see my selves, ever flailing into the future but seamlessly the same. What I cannot see, today, is the point.

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She Said

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , ,

She said no one talks the way that you do, sees the way that you do, understands the things that are really going on. She said we are one-eyed people in the land of the blind, we are ignorant of time while others are enslaved by it, we are the people of hope, of compassion, of deeper truth and inner beauty. She said I never thought about those things that way before, never thought about animals, never thought about America, never thought about “I Am a Rock” in exactly those ways. And then she said forever.

It did not take long for her to say forever because it doesn’t when these things are true and right and no matter what you take away from me this lifetime, you will not remove the trueness or the rightness. You can tarnish anything you want, you can fill a thousand bags of sand with gleaming gems only to rot them at the bottom of the ocean or the core of the Earth and the glow of the shine that peeks through will still be bright enough to blot the moon, compete with the sun. There is a truth to creation and a falsehood to destruction that bleeds more profoundly than all the rust in this empty-seeming world, that keeps the heat of hope aflame neath the somber embers of salty extinction. Waiting for a little nibble of something flammable nearby so it can catch, take hold, flare up in lofty remembrance of what is inevitably lost.

I remember thinking that when it happened, when it truly happened for real, I would count things. The number of times a certain turn of phrase, a certain iteration of a feeling, a certain look or sensation passing to another passing into the eternity of commitment unending. But such is not the way of these things, the counts become unsustainable and seem superfluous, even remedial. Who could put a number on “I love you”s, a digit to discern the exchange of souls across an eyeway? The genus of the idea lodged in a prior love taken, the need for evidence mounted in the face of denial, but no matter. One loses sight of the safeguards on the way to the abyss, becomes resigned to happiness, commits fully to the immutability of inner peace as a lifelong condition. And somewhere in that drifty bliss comes the backslap of complacency, the gentle tilting of water that will eventually become a drowning whirlpool. All the while, feeling like life is too beautiful to count, too perfect to question.

Now she falls silent, at my own behest, the cacophony of criticisms too great to bear in the face of her own self-imposed blindness. It is impossible to lose so much, moreso in perhaps the most undignified way known to human relations, but it is the unkindest cut of all to have to carry the weight of continual disregard, endless apathy, a wanton will of callous indifference in the face of such once-loved suffering. The half-flat quarter-true platitudes plinking down the cross-continental airwaves, simplifications of philosophies and theories once embraced and now lampooned. The audacity to claim that I do not care about happiness just because I see something else as the most essential purpose of human being. The outrage of the line “I wish I missed you.” The insult of seeming to only care about suicidal feelings at their precipice, but not their genesis.

In the quieting of these rabid, more recent voices, perhaps there is a hope for the whispers of the past. That the person killed so violently on a night of unfaith can be resurrected if only in memory, in contrast to the radio silence I have demanded for my own sane hopes. There is danger in this method, to be sure, real threat of a spilling ever backwards into the vain twisters of a past never to be regained. But perhaps there can also be mourning, the dirges can finally be played against a backdrop of quiet instead of the din of denial, the thundering cymbals attempting to override a decade of true love.

Come softly now, hear the echoes of years gone by. A world rent asunder by the crashing of planes, now tied so poetically to the demise of the instigator. I could not have chosen these dates more carefully were I a scriptwriter, a managing editor on a turnkey timeline. And yes, the desire, burning bright, to call, to e-mail, to reach out across the unfeeling space and distance and share what was shared then, the alienation from the bloodthirsty others. The disconnect from those who could not see beyond themselves. How insidious fate to make me yearn for just those feelings on just this day from just that lost soul.

Emily, I miss you. I will always miss you. If there is a lesson of history, a lesson of 9/11, a lesson of love, it is that all this loss is so unnecessary. We are consigned in this life to be archeologists in the wreckage of our own waste. Picking at it, like disoriented ravens, in search of a faint glimmer on which to pray.