Monday, December 10, 2007
There is something about the morose overcoat attire of a rainy autumnal day that is lulling and serene and perfect--the sort of day that makes you pause as you internally ponder the beauty and mystery and overall inscrutable lost joy of existence. The sort of day where you look out into the wet cement lining the front of your building and find leaves shaped like variegated blotched palms smashed into the ground as you note the whistle and zip and syncopated tap of precipitation, light sheets of rain drizzling in invisible treble clefs of moisture wreathed around the back of your neck, temperature buoyed in the mid-fifties, the earth ready to nod its chin as if bracing for the inevitable goatee of frost found in the first week of November, when the sun begins its brisk topple from the steeple of noon to the silhouette and tint of a four-thirty pm dusk--the jaundice domes of traffic lights skirting across the planet peering into the elongated stretch of night as if searching for something irreparably lost--something that will never be retained.
A rainy day in autumn.
In the morning or in the late afternoon before work I sit at my computer furiously banging out sentences as if trying to make the alphabet come. As if trying to feel the quick splash and release of sound and motion of human narrative scratch into my flesh before hollering out my first name and then falling limp from exhaustion.
I wear tattered jeans and my white-sox cap (backwards). Some mornings I get back from work at 3 am, crash for three hours on my makeshift futon nest (don't ask), rise at six and attack the screen. Some mornings the oak top of my desk is littered with the amber esophagus necks of beer bottles and dirty coffee cups. For some reason I started smoking like a mother fucker over the last month--the vagabond author encroaching the coast of middle-age (NEVER!!!) trying to tame and harness his dreams. If I look into the brow of the monitor I can see the letters of her name finger scribed into the settled dust of the computer screen, like a castaway mapping out gargantuan alphabetical shapes on the shoreline with his feet hoping an overhead aerial vessel will find him before the yawn of the nocturnal tide effaces everything he has ever wanted in this world.
I realize earlier in the week my incentive for writing now stems from the tautology of perennial hope that I want to wear jeans to work when I'm thirty-five. The first two months of classes is always arduous on my body--a spill of late night hours, a series of student lectures, I become almost completely nocturnal, going to bed in the insufferable heat-nauseating swelter of mid-august and then waking up in the last week of October, an indentation to the glass frost of winter, wondering what the fuck happened. Wondering where the fuck I am. The first week of classes I barter my bohemian blood-line and become some sort of suit-toting corporate genuflecting power-point presenting toady--a charlatan with gelled hair and a dry cleaning bill.
My father would have celebrated his 60th elliptical skip around the nearest solar orb deemed the sun this last November 15th. November with its sheets of stalactite rain and day lights savings. November with its hard tufts of frost found in patches in my mothers lawn as her wayward son perpendicularly sets the skeletal rungs of a ladder against the brick side of her kiln-shaped abode, fishing the gloved tips of his fingers into the overhead lips of the gutter, removing a confetti hand full of leafy bouquet foliage, watching as it sprinkles into the pond of forgotten green below.
The first week of classes I give power point presentations (replete with Twinkies!!! Everybody loves Twinkies) to emotionally overtly over-taxed college students. I attire my limbs in chic raiments, a barter from my spiritual brother who lives in Des Moines. It's the closest dalliance I get to achieving a two-step tax-bracket increase tango with corporate America. The life I surely would have performed a kamikaze nose-dive into had I grown up five miles differ in any navigational direction and had not a tattered and fortuitous copy of Leaves of Grass snap at the tips of my fingers junior year as if the yawp and cidery beard of the bard himself were trying to teeth into the sickly white interior of my palms before scribing out what appears to be a sonnet, a tear, a half-breath, a distilled moment, all inked in the crimson jelly of my own blood.
At the incipience of each new year I forget who I am. Forget what the eddies of a fresh paragraph looks like as it is steam rolled off the paddles of my wrist and massaged into the footprints the page. I trade in the frissoned jolt and linguistic live stock of my chest for duties in the office, a change in sleep patterns. I monopolize more time worrying about bills. I phone my student loan shylocks and joust for a lower monthly payment--realizing that higher echelons of education is a commodity, a business, a fuck you up the ass with a corporate carrot for a couple of years, making me feel that paying for a purported education you busted your ass working full-time on the side to receive (while still feeling vacuous and Hungry inside) is equivalent to excavating my fathers casket, only to glaze it with a few drops of windex for lustre before incurring the tomb into the planet once again.
....But those weeks I don't know who I am but pretend that I do. Nodding my head as I watch my summer fling dissipate into the heather of autumn, commiserating with my chin, that yes, we are different people. Yes, we are good at sex but not good at dating. Yes, you are going through a divorce and need world enough and time just to inhale. With my albatross-assenting tie curtailing the circulation of my neck like a noose, I march into work, staring at my dusk reflection in tint of the door, unaware of the paunchy eyelided rubicund hummel-cheeked janitor outside on his smoke break. Refusing to make eye contact with this man who dresses in flannel, whose beer belly
bowed over his torso as if saying grace at an all you can eat truckers buffet. His hair was the color of an overturned ash tray and he proudly stowed a pack of cigarettes in his left chest pocket as if they were pack of playing cards.
As I waltzed into my palace of employment he says hello to me with a rough nod of his head. When he sees me he looks as if his face is going to treacle out into a triangle of tears. I'm selfish and solipsistic and don't want his shit. Don't want his flannel and bucket of disinfectants and mock-light sabre mop. I don't want his shit. His bowling trophies next to his framed GED in a basement apartment in the county, a taxidermied deer proudly arched above a fake fireplace where everything he has ever accomplished is displayed.
I don't want his shit, me, with my suit and my dossier and my business satchel. Don't want to hear his story. Don't want to juggle his psychological pangs. Myself, a would be writer, to engrossed in the corporate grind of my presentations to even look him in the brow and listen to this old mans story.
His face was the color of a pencil eraser as he approached me later in that afternoon, back at my desk. He walked with a slight limp. There were a sprinkle of
what appears to be tears dotted below his own sockets.
"I saw you in the office at your mailbox." He said. "You wouldn't by chance happen to be related to an Arthur Von Behren?"
I look back into the furrowed cardboard brow of the janitor I had deemed myself to proud to chat with before my shift.
"Yes," I say. Telling him that my name is David and that Arthur was my late father, reaching emerging my arm out like a lever from a slot machine into his direction hoping to make the acquaintance of the man I had earlier coroanted myself unworthy to associate with. As my hand remains momentarily lanced into his flannel shirt and beer belly torso, waiting with anticipation a first name and a handshake by association the man looks at me and slowly grapples my outstretched arm with both of his hands. He then begins to cry.
His name is Bob and it turns out he was worked as a janitor at the gradeschool my father taught at for thirty years, encouraging third and fourth graders to read and write up to two weeks before his death.
Bob is still holding my hand like a white homecoming rose as he tells me that my father was one of the most beautiful, caring men he had ever met. He called my father a prince and then tells me that he is honor to meet me.
My dad was the meekest individual I've ever known. He was the social antithesis of every hedonistic verity his son espouses. He never drank. Did not smoke. Lived his life with one feminine partner who completed him. He drove used shit cars. Helped anyone who needed assistance. Gave everything he could for the spiritual pulse which guided him somehow since birth.
He tithed. Taught Sunday school. Never question the belief in his faith.
...and yet he never judged. He was never above listening to a janitor and encouraging him. He placed a value and merit to every human life he encountered.
I think about my father, how we would have been sixty this past November. IN the nearly six years since the garment of the earthly flesh abandoned the refulgent skeleton of his spirit, he has missed the honor of escourting both of his daughters skirt down the aisle clad in winteresque sheets of white. As I walk into the bruised purple sky of the east correlating perfectly with the spattered yolk of sun, peach in hue and burning incessantly, a thermonuclear galactic hearth, snapping out branches of light to a watery bulb 90 million miles away, wondering just where the fuck the sprinkled stain glass light of autumn will shine like the dome to a stage light next--wondering, as I pad my pockets down for a smoke, as I buy another round of alcoholic nectar for every one, as I loose myself in the transient bliss of a moment with an individual whose smile reminds me of something I lost a long time ago-as her eyes fall into the pasture of her cheekbones-wondering where all this will lead me next, smiling even through my exhaustion at the possibility of change and growth and love, thinking about my father as I walk into the electric uncertainty and wished for joy of another autumn.
The next time I saw Bob, outside on his smoke break, I smiled and asked him how life was treating him.
His face seemed to light up as he tapered an ash off his cigarette and smiled.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
It is autumn.
The arrival of leaves littered in entrance ways to buildings like stale confetti--the orchestration of the earth christening the success of summer, the wayward maturity from last spring and the free for all fall of the atmosphere into a frozen tundra of glass and ice, the cold December morning where the earth is the color of a doffed wedding dress and your limbs wade in the raft of dreams looking for warmth and flesh to hold in the hush of night and, if you are lucky, the sight of her eyes and the morning static of her smile
It is autumn. The televised din of HD fireplace offering a muffled roar of the masses while thickly geared titans endeavor to shuffle the oblated geometry of a football over a metric configuration of lines and inches. The flaring orb of a pumpkin jeering back at you in a chiseled smile. The stolid crunch of scarlet leaves the color of rich menstrual blood. Cardboard colored leaves staining the planet in an alchemical refulgence of joy.
At night I walk, often nursing a cheap cigarillo, ambling beneath the illuminated globes of the same street lights my shadow first flanked across a decade earlier. Thinking about my writing. Entertaining my crushes--the woman with the wild hair and boots whose been gyrating around the tip rail of intrigue, whose face lit up as if with halogen pores when I gave her my shopping bag at save-o-lot so she didn't have to endure the train wreck line of patrons (she's religious and I wonder what she thought with my cubes of stacked beer and discs of frozen pizza and carafes of gatorade, all piled in my arms as if I were participating in some sort of corporeal game of Jenga). Thinking about the woman whose lushest curtain of gray hair (induced from an infinite spill of hours lodged in the ceramic studio) inspires me to no end. Whose forehead and cheekbones look like an unblemished thatch of country snow on Christmas morning as I try not to blush while musing over our botched
Another autumn.The skeletal rib cages and sylvan rungs of the naked tree limbs marches across every meandering distillation of your thoughts reflecting back to previous autumns--the autumn you witnessed the reflection of your short hair in a square of tint of an airplane passenger window as the aerial vehicle lowered itself into the gravity of the planet and you gazed past your reflection waiting for her to meet you at the terminal. The autumn before your fathers death where after church and Sunday dinner you would watch the first quarter of the Bears game with your father before going outside in the center of the manner and volleying the football back and forth, your father, only 53 years old and in purportedly good health, oblivious of the cancer rollercoastering through his cells, oblivious that this particular autumn will be his last.
Thinking about the autumn where, the Saturday morning after thanksgiving I turned around and saw everything I have ever wanted in this planet traipse through the doors of my local Starbucks--the morning light splash of her smile spiritually complimenting my longings, escorting my every wild pulse and wayward wanderings--the impetus of my every late-night literary binge. The blessings. The joy. The eternity.
The earth clad in the attire of autumn.
I continue to walk across a canopy of autumn, spraying my thoughts into nocturnal tint of my thirtieth autumn, the planet two-stepping with the nearest day star 90 million miles away, still dancing nonetheless, in a familiar elliptical pattern and slope.
I strut past the house where I grew up. The house where a woman who one terse spring day emptied the breath out from the hydrants of my lungs now lives inhabiting perhaps the very bedroom where i encountered Whitman and scribed sophomoric stanza into battered notebooks every afternoon at the helm of a oak desk. Snatching a green leaf from the sweet gum tree my grandfather planted in the front Yard in the house that raised me. The tree he planted in the Autumn before he died when I was only six months old. My grandfather, lover of nature and himself a painter, who worked shit jobs after the second war, who loved Jesus and trees and struggled with debt. The tree on Sherman avenue is always the last tree on the block to turn any hint of copper. It remains green and rich usually into the dead end tea-bag gray of late November. The leaves, still emerald and rich on Halloween. A miracle sweet gum tree with spiritual bark. The tree which heard my moms morning prayers and supplications for twenty-five years. The tree that refuses to wilt and turn to gold until the last possible moment before a sea of white blankets the avenues of the planet.
The tree of life.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Here's the first part for a lad whose love and encouragement and overall joy of being has given me quite a lot over the years.....
...and there is music. The pervasive shaft of stringed intonation that rises above the tempo of the page and hurdles into the dimmed corona of night. There is music; feminine octaves flirtatiously flapping away from their lower-clefted counterpoints before momentarily melting into one harmonious vessel. The conductors arms continue to flutter and sway, heaving the orchestral barge from the necks of groped instruments. He is pulling away. He is crescendoing. He is biting his lip for affect. For perhaps he knows, that after the sound has been culled from the soil of the stage, a bitter silence shall then ensue, painfully outstretching the limbs of time.
On stage there is London in the spring. A lavender sunset drips over the Thames river, smearing the clouds with a sweet plum cobbled aura. Music sprouts in perfectly branched passages, smooth, the way her body is smooth, the way the Thames is smooth, the way youth opens up and unfolds into adolescence; the way adolescence pecks its way into maturity; into reality, into a world that had always been, a world that is incessantly shifting, orbiting, dancing, bobbing a galactic nod, swiveling into the opposite direction of the nearest star.
And there is London in the spring.
Mark-Andrew is the protagonist of my youth. He bears angular-Versace features, nonchalant thick lips, gaunt chin that slightly protrudes from his visage like a ski handle, eyes that hide in them a fleck of emerald. He has blonde hair that was fashionably unkempt when first we met in 93; hair that faded into a singular dish-water ponytail in '97; hair that was trimmed shoulder length when last we said goodbye, January 2, 2000. He is three years older than me, which means that he'll be thirty (!) in October but at the time we met, when I was fifteen and he was eighteen, he seemed to be humbly awaiting coronation by James Dean as the coolest mammal ever to be called a human being.
We first met April, 13th, 1993, in Newark, NJ. We were the recipients of a contest sponsored by a swanky New York magazine called Young Columbus--a program which takes around 120 hormonally addled 12-18 year olds from across the United states, clusters them in New York City for a day, shepherds them with Ivory league counselors, wraps them on a 747 and gives them a full-out two week crash course in European culture before sending them back to their 120 respective US residencies to (hopefully) finish school; encouraging them to make a positive impact on society, labeling them as both Young ambassadors and global citizens.
The contest was a big deal and I had tried to win it the previous two years, working very hard on my speech and presentation, praying very fervidly that perhaps, my own self-centered guilt-ridden variation of a heavenly monarch would allow me to win, just this once, win this special trip. I worked on my oration, I feigned intellect. I learned how to tie a tie (sort of) and used manners. I pretended my nose was a kazoo and allowed sloppy french sentences to slip out of it and when the day of the contest arrived; when I would leave junior high mid-morning clad in a Sunday School suit and arrive at the banquet and shudder and engage in small talk with the judges and latter, give my speech--only to find out at the reception afterwards that I had, once again, struck out ignominiously. Had perhaps swung at an errant pitch when I should've been more patient. Only three kids from different vectors of Illinois were elected. The trip in '91 and '92 was to Paris. The furthest I had been preceding the trip was probably Wisconsin Dells. I couldn't tell you what constituted turbulence if a jet thruster fell in the dilapidated football field behind my highschool.
But in '93 I somehow won. I connected with the judges. I wrote a speech that seethed with alliteration and unalloyed cheesiness. "England, mythical land of pageantry and princes, Castles and Courtly conduct...yadayadayada." I made my speech about England sound more or less like a travel brochure for a B-rated Cruise line. But I won. After all this time of dreaming, I was finally leaving, I was packing up a suitcase larger than my desk at school. I was posing for a passport square down at the post office. I was traversing to that place that had always been promulgated on television (mostly on late night PBS hoity-toity masterpiece theatrical histrionics); that place I had never been to.
And there was Mark-Andrew.
He was seated behind me on the charter van outside of the terminal at Newark. I was fifteen and was almost obsequiously self-conscious of my appearance. Every morning--in an effort to emulate the heart-throb semblance of Jason Presley and Parker Lewis-- I fogged up the vanity frame in my parents bathroom frosting copious amounts of Aqua Net on my lathered skull, drilling an aerial hole in the O-zone layer directly above my head--like a sliced through nimbus. He was behind me in the charter van. Older boys. The kid from Texas with the baseball cap and the stern-mule countenance and leather cowboy boots. Preppy short haired polo-shirted Cinnamon toasted tan lads form the east coast towing luggage by Coach and Louis Vuitton. He sat on the back of the van, comfortably clad in a Suzanne Vegan 99.9 Fahrenheit degrees t-shirt, an expensive camera noosed from his neck, dangling like an infant suicide in the center of his chest. He looked so much like someone I had seen before; someone I had known before. His blonde hair slightly crept and spidered off his head.
Perhaps all true mysticism/spiritual recognition really is is that, when you look at someone for the first time you know everything about them. You feel the juddering magnetism that emanates from the sockets of their eyes, the allure of their persona, actuating the Schopenhauer maxim that you and the other are somehow one.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
He was Coach.
That summer I continued to push myself into an envelope of sweat and grind. When I formally met Coach (at a cross country picnic in the park that will forever be branded "the woods between the worlds" in the ardor of my poetic psyche) his hand extended in my direction like a military salute. Thin-lipped and sincere. A man of his word and stature, he welcomed me into the cadre of athletes sporting crew cuts and knee-length shorts. There was all-state swimmer and ripped abdomen Joe Lontelli. There was straw-headed lanky strut of Hans Peacock, Gabino Andretti, his Spanish hair matted back a la pompadour sans the resurgence of a scarlet cape or bull as we kicked it before practice in his pimped out ghetto-crafted late seventies Buick, the front of which was rigged so that the hood would nod in thumped syncopation with the massive sub-woofers potted in the trunk. Together we kicked it, blaring the street soliloquies of House of Pain and Cypress Hill, waiting for our fellow teammates to arrive in the copper-haze of dawn when the athletes would form a circle of bodies and perform rote calve and thigh stretches, massaging out the aches and swells of our legs before breaking out into a lithe cantor and then strutting our limbs into a working steady pace, our heads bobbing with sweat and motion like human-sized pistons as we scaled the perimeter of Madison golf course.
There was demure-eyed Jose Martinez, the needled hair Mexican senior captain on the varsity squad whose countenance availed a gentle smile and reassuring nod at the fledgling underclassman pushing themselves through the swelter of a mid-august fifteen K, where Coach Ricca could oft be found running stride per stride with the leaders of our corporeal train of accelerating hoofs and akimbo limbs, glancing down in to the whiteness of his wrist feeding us our mile split, offering insight into the posture of our arms, correcting the rhythmic intonation of our breath, telling us when to conserve our energy and when to kick deep, mining the dregs of tenacity and endurance left inside of your flesh, as both your upper and lower apparatus spume into a windmill accelerating yourself over the wet morning dew of the earth, in search of nothing short of a finish line and a few deep swallowed breaths of stilted air thereafter.
More than any other high school sport, cross-country focuses acutely both on the individual's sole performance as well as the performance of the team overall. Untanned limbs of flesh lined up across the white hyphen of the starting line like a sentence of bodies about ready disarm it’s formation of meaning, splitting into a sprint of individual shaped letters at the sound of the starting gun. The better the performance of the higher ranking of the team, yet of the eight man varsity squad, if one runner has a bad race or is lagging behind, the team as a functioning unit suffers a deduction in points.
Half my lifetime ago, in the late July, early august sweltering heat of 1992, cross country was my whole life. I sat on the oak canvas of what would two years later serve as the desk where I would compose my first poems looking out the white square of my bedroom window absorbed by the aching shades of copper dwindling into light lavender sprinkled with autumn dusk, contemplating my future, contemplating what lay ahead, listening to the Cure's WISH (wishing impossible things), reflecting on the interior wetness a first kiss yields on the anatomy of an adolescence when your body bends behind the tinty shells of your eyelids as you experience the awkward cut opening of your mouth in hers--if only for a filched second of eternity.
The lazy-eye river town where I have exhaled the bulk of my existence is called Peoria; the genital wart of the Midwest--a discourse in paralysis; a hushed lipped boot-legging hymn to working class stagnation and wizened wished-for dreams. The high school where I attended was less of a melting pot and more of a multicultural mold-inflicted burrito--a few french fries short of an academic happy meal. My sophomore year Manual high boasted the lowest I-SAT scores in the state and the highest teen-age pregnancy rate in the nation. By my senior year they had a "Bring yer kid to school day." No shit.
Looking back fifteen years ago, I realize that the disintegration of our team was spawned by social gravity (thinking of the bleach blond uppity twats from Richwoods high, on the opulent north side of town). That a kid, an athlete, a loner, a drifter, a fucking dreamer, functions differently, sprouts differently, develops differently, grows differently depending on the social-soil from which his seed of individuality has been planted.
I remember Gabino's 14 year old girlfriend coming to me freshman year telling me that she and her boy friend had just broken up and she was three months pregnant and didn't know what to do. There was gang activity, fights in the hallway, manipulation of grades for athletes who played more recognizable sports such as football or basketball. there was our corpulent principal's bobble-headed nod that Manual was the best kept secret in the state and that everything was fine.
There was watching Hans Peacock get booted from the team for attending a local protest. The sad sighting of Jose, the former captain, in early February, overweight and with dreadlocks, dropping out of school, informing me that his high school girlfriend was pregnant and that he was working full time shit jobs to support her.
Coach Ricca never lost his equipoise, his expectations, his resilience or his underlying adamant belief in his students that they could make something of themselves. His belief in his athletes to overcome, to achieve, to give what they could of their bodies, both mentally and physically of themselves for the body of the team, for the colors of the Institution they represented.
There was my own inner demons and foibles flooded with typical teen angst riddled attention salivating late-night masochism. The interior of my rattled nervous system was coursing with more anti-depressant pills than the mawkish-eyed audience at a Morrissey convert. There was introspection and solipsism and the salty taste of tears skiing down the contours of your face at night, wondering if perhaps, the experiment of my adolescence and of my life was botched from the outset and that I had somehow failed.
(Too many kids deal with this shit, and where do they go, when they are naked and drunk and can't find someone to hold them?)
In running too, I felt like a failure. Despite achieving respectable times, I slogged through Freshman year on a stress fracture inflicted on my right leg. Sophomore year the bone-fissure appeared on opposite left leg. A year later I bowed out of the thrice a day routine work-outs hoping that lighter workouts would mean less injuries. I completed the season without the season breach in my femur but sadly my times remained stagnant, unchanged. The inability to watch my dreams of being an accomplished long-distance athlete timely actuate themselves during the static discourse of those four post-pubescent emotionally addled years of high school, where so my individual development somehow gestates, creating the present day creature you become.
There was my father not knowing what to do with his beret-wearing clove cigarette dangling son, a copy of ON the Road or LEAVES OF GRASS perennially tucked under the pit of my arm like a fallen army flag cosigning parental defeat.
Gradually the realization that I wouldn't get any faster. Gradually the realization that running would not be in my future and that I had failed. By senior year, despite coach Ricca's one-on-one's and his encouragement, his stops at the house to talk to me and his unflinching belief that if I chose so, this would be my year, despite the fact that it would be my third year in a row of being captain of the Varsity squad, I didn't even go out for the team.
My career and dreams of becoming an athlete had completely calloused my ability that I would ever make anything of myself. Sporadically I started scraping up the white sand of the page at night with little inky-tears, hoping that maybe, through scribbling and shoveling around the dunes of my emotional mitigating self-worth viable human archeology, I would unearth just what was inside of me and somehow (hopefully) understand the perpetual pain and joys of the ever pulsating world around me.
It's been about 13 years and every time I pick up that shovel and start scribbling out what's left inside of me, I'm astounded as fuck by what (and more imperatively who) I find deeply stowed beneath the porcelain flesh of the page.
My late father taught me a lot about sports. In baseball he taught me never to strike out without first swinging the bat as hard as I fucking could. To never "strike out looking." In running ( and in life) he taught me to always cross the finish line with my head down as if in prayer and with my body astride in full sprint. Regardless of any sport I would play, regardless if the season was seeped in the caterwaul of glory or dotted in a string of agony and ill-timed losses my father vehemently insisted that after the last game of every season--after the final strike was called and the last time out transpired, Dad would tell me to simply go up to the coach, extend my paw and thank him for his time and mentorship.
My cross country career was punctuated in cowardice. I never thanked Coach for the hours we spent together, a galloping rehearsal of my pending road race through the sometimes lonely cross-country hills and arduous up-hill mile-splits of life. I never thanked him for the constant reassurances and gruff chin nods and attaboys. The shrill of the bell senior year was accompanied by interior psychiatric drug-hazed musings on how I might reach the next classroom without skirting past coach Ricca in the hallway.
Well Mr. Ricca, it's been well over a decade but here's me stretching out my appreciative palm teeming with nothing short of life changing gratitude and thanks in your direction.
(the future author--far right in towl, gleaning some last second insight
from his Coach. circa autumn 1993)
Thank you. Coach.
Friday, July 06, 2007
The author & poetic company on his 20th birthday July 6th 1997, from left-to right, David "I've always been there for you, man" Hale; Brooke "I forget yer' last name now that yer' married" Ferraro; Matt; Margot Wllard; Patrick "The Great" Mullowney, the copper-headed author; Misty Gardens; Goth Dan; Precocious Stephanie. Bottom row Alexis (now dr.) Jordan...Summer of 1997 and everything is new and exciting and your whole life is ahead of you boy.... Pure Joy...
Just 120 whisked calendar months ago I spent the sweltering heat of July1997 stationed in front of the jutting metallic tongue of the cash register at B. Dalton Booksellers, inside the rattling central air conditioning of the mall, routinely scanning the bar codes for mass market and paper back bestsellers, fueling up on caffeine and cigarettes, staring at the lazy heliotrope of a summer sun at dusk wildly contemplating how it must feel at the end of the day to write fiction for a living, to crack into the white dry-wall of the page every morning splattering the bulk of each page with continents and splotches of lettered shadows the way dawn breaks into planet, with peach-hued blinks and splashes of nectarine from the pink-eyed east and then vision and then sight.
It was ten years ago to the day. Bill Clinton was seven months into his second term as president, nocturnally drooling over a young intern by the name of Monica. The Bulls had just won their fifth NBA championship in seven years. Logging on to the static sunrise of cyberspace entailed ten minutes of rickety white noise followed by a gulping modem tittering warble followed by more pauses and frustration and password changes and verbal "fuck-it's." It was possible ten years ago to walk fifty meters across any random populated area in the United States and not find yourself being surrounded by a swarm of human beings each with their neck tilted into their collar bones droning mantras of materialism across a dimension of wirelessness.
Ten years ago a pack of cigarettes and a gallon of gas were under two dollars each respectively.
The dual steel tendrils of the World Trade Center stood tall as an intractable testament to consumerism and culture--on early mornings if viewed from cross-town resembled a two fingered sign heralding the promise of peace.
Ten years ago Princess Di was traveling the world, squeezing the hands of victims with HIV, visiting land-mine amputees in third world countries finalizing a romantic weekend in Paris come the end of the following month.
It was the summer I dyed my hair blonde with a little help from my best friend David Hale's sister Becky, who read the directions off the side of the box in her garish high-pitched nasal din as I genuflected both knees in front of the bath tub as if in prayer bowing my neck and head into the linoleum basin as if grieving over something lost. It was the summer we drove around lost without an atlas listening to monorail techno elevator muzak of Moby and the sweet gruff guitar chords of Ani Difranco, driving through country roads, fast, smoking cigarettes not knowing where we were going but succumbing to the overall golden often Kerouac-inflicted feeling inside that we there already--that our destination and overall purpose in life had something to do the fact that we were pulsating, that we were thriving, that we were driving down the gold sprinkled dust of country roads flanked on both sides by thick emerald staffs of corn.
That we are here.
The summer of hemp necklaces and cigarette ashes. the summer I saw CHASING AMY
six times in the theatre (cackling aloud during the lesbian make out scene when two elderly crones walked out, seemingly appalled) . The summer of multifarious late night viewings of Pulp fiction and Linklater's finest and Dead Poets Society The summer of clove cigarettes and french kisses when your eyes wisp open in medias embrace only to espy her forehead and eyes hushed like petals, the bulbs of her eyes backstroking behind the pink cave of their lids, as if part of her body is wadding in a pool of emotion and that somehow your lips keeping her balanced...keeping her afloat.... the elongated interim between 19 and 21 when the bars are elusive and you find yourself loafing in coffee houses bent over a splattered corpse of opened notebooks fraught with inky veins and metaphorical arteries--the battered french fry poems of youth, trying to make sense of your life by laying tracks of words together and then reading them aloud--certain of your genius, certain of your place in life.
The summer of Walt Whitman and Hesse and Jack Kerouac, always reading, always seeking, always staring into the alphabetical pond of the page and hoping to see my reflection peeking up towards me. The summer I lugged the technicolor bound travel-luggage sized INFINITE JEST with me every where I went--as if it were a concordance for postmodern scripture. And James Joyce. And Nabokov. Writers I was sure would teach me. Writers I was sure would help me grow.
Ten years ago today was a Sunday. I arrived at the bookstore and hour and a half earlier to open up, balancing the cash registers with the papery green shingles that somehow sadly dictates our existence and place in life. I wore a tie to work and sweated in the July heat, even though the mall where my bookshop was located was heavily air conditioned. Although my profession was books, it was still basic retail--still bartering over priced commodities, still catering to the financially endowed caprices of the consumer. Still toadying up to strangers to coerce them to purchase something that don't really need so that our store could reach its corporate quota and that I would still be employed.
Memory is like a long elongated red carpet kicked from the side from a celebrity limousine like a tongue. So when I reminiscence ten years into the stream of yesterday I can see myself on that day, coming home from work, stopping off for coffee at Starbucks, arriving home, thumbing loose the constrictive pentagon from beneath my chin into two uneven jet streams of silk.
I see myself now, a decade past expired, arriving home in the Buick that would be stolen two months later, standing behind the shoulders and occiput of the brassy headed lad who ten years ago arrived at the cement lip of the house where he was conceived to celebrate twenty years on this planet with family and friends and with people he loves. The oxygen and residue of memory illuminate those whose bodies have failed them like a spotlight. When I enter the sylvan french doors of my old living room (the house where Swissy-Missy ironically lives in now) and if I squint past the back of my own twenty year old head I visually discern the acrylic wig of my grandmother is sporting, her sweet breath and cigarette paper white skin, oblivious that the cancer will reel her from all of us in a little over a year. I can see my mom, her hair darker and spumed into a gelled perm. I can smell and hear the scent of our family schnauzer Lady (deceased) snapping her grainy goatee when my friends enter the living room.
I can see my father. His beard and bespectacled scent humbly nodding at my bohemian friends bartering witticisms and artistic anarchy and small talk. The beautiful beard of my father--the twenty year old wannabe writer, completely oblivious that the he will spend the bulk of the preceding decade of his life with the bone architecture of his father underground, decaying--his spirit and humility and generosity still resonating. Still singing.
This is life ten years ago. Patrick Mullowney, my playwright friend from NYU is telling anyone who will listen about the play he is composing. David Hale is romping around the living room laughing with heavily accented yawps. Sprite sized Aleixis is playing with my dog. There is Goth Dan who is sitting in the corner, nodding, trying to put on a Sisters of Mercy Cd. There is Misty Gardens who studies philosophy and ebullient lilly-eyed Stephanie who is a sophomore at IMSA.
They have all come to celebrate.
Misty clanks shut the bathroom door to change out of her work clothes. Two weekends ago Misty and I watched the dip of the June sunset lower itself into the manhole of the western sky together. We had driven in the country after work chain smoking and talking about part time jobs and life. We kissed and held each other in our underwear as thick barges of drizzling ionized light slowly dwindled into copper and then into tint and then into crickets and stars. Misty is leaving for Campaign in a month and has made it very clear that dating seriously is out of the question. For our own good.
Hale, being the jovial best friend he is, has made it lucidly clear that since things with myself and Misty are moot for the remainder of the summer he plans on stepping in and showing Misty what a real David tastes like. Laughing afterwards in his thumping guffaw, asking myself if impotency has set in on the genesis of my new year. When I mention to Hale that Misty isn't into having anything serious, she is just looking to have a good time Hale flashes a smile, echoes out his signature whew-hoo and tells me straight up that he thinks he has just met the woman of his dreams.
More friends continue to wend their way into the living room where I took my first steps. There is Matt and Brooke whose face is so white and gorgeous that is looks like a tear fallen from the socket of a china doll. And then there is Margot, the women I have been pursuing since Misty Gardens, entering the door, smiling.
Later that night in celebration we smash tables together at the coffee shop we congregate on a daily basis. There is a freight train full of Bohemians and witt. patrick Mullowney's laughter is ricocheting around the restaurant. Hale is smoking a pipe, leaning perilously close to Misty's shoulder watching her face blush in laughter after every retort.
There are clove cigarette and there are endless carafes of coffee. When my friends inquire about my birthday I blather off puddles of poetic dross. I quote Milton's How soon hath time, the subtle thief of youth. I plagiarize Charles Highway, the uppity smart-ass protagonist in Martin Amis' THE RACHEL PAPERS, quoting how 20 may not be the beginning of adulthood but it irreparably constitutes the end of youth.
Looking back now, ten years, I see a sea of joy, the laughing heads of those I love all stationed around smashed together at a table at our favorite coffeehouse that was torn down six years ago. I think about the potential and the love and the yearning and the future each individual seated around me, swathed in a plume of smoke, thought that he or she might inherit.
I think about the people I have lost in the last ten years. I think about holding my fathers hands on his death bed, singing Lutheran hymns to my grandmother in her last hours.
I think about love and the women I have loved. The ones that have hurt me and the ones I live with every day and the ones who fill me and complete some part of me.
Looking back at the congregation of young hedonists and artists, I turn my head now and think about the next ten years. There will be loss and hurt and pain.
There will be death and seperation and arguements that seem so fucking signficant at the time that will later transition into pettiness....
But there will also be laughter. and growth.... and Love....
and plenty of wished for joy in the narrative song.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
I met Coach Ricca the summer of 1992, exactly half my lifetime ago. I had just graduated from eighth grade. My individual mile time averaged out near the low five minute single digit area code. I ran three times a day. A three mile skid in the morning. A vigorous hill workout under the hammer of midday sun at noon. And a pleasant 4-6 mile trod at night. I kept tallies of my daily workout evaluations, performed squats and dips in my bedroom to the music of Guns-n-roses and Nirvana, plastered note cards heralding never give up maxims all over my bedroom wall. I can still remember how the earth felt that summer and spring. Can still remember the grainy taste of caffeine splashed inside my lips, trying to be more adult and not scowl at the then revolting taste. I remember the the cool melody of the sky at 5:30 in the morning when pastel shades of light pink drip into a morning haze of copper in the east when street lamps fizzle into a pre-dawn hush as I kicked my way into the future scaling the latitude and longitude of the city that had reared me for the first decade and a half of my life. It was the summer of the '92 Barcelona Olympics. I pushed myself harder. Poetically plotted how I would seduce fellow precocious Olympian Kim Zmeskal (it was hard to write a poem that rhymes with her last name). I mapped out a trajectory of personal goals set for myself over the next four years; how I would be damned if I wasn't a world class athlete. If I wasn't employing the calcium of my bones to their optimal capacity I simply did not wish to be.
At night I capitulated to the caps of both my knees, the dual bony knobs functioning as joints for the plants of my legs; the vessels that would ferry me in my quest for glory. I prayed with the fervor of saints angels that my own biased waspish variation of a God would assist the fuck out of me.
It was that summer I met Coach Ricca.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
(an earthly skin which may be, sadly peeled bald, riddled with global warming legions in lieu of seasons by the time my life is doubled)
Thirty-fucking years. I am the result of propagating genetic residue; a wayward strand of coiled DNA sweat of a species first reproducing sexually as a severed micro-organism bacteria split three and a half billion years ago (3, 500, 000, 000) on a planet that is estimated to be a billion years older than that (4, 500, 000, 000)--a descendant of a rather apish hominid making it's appearance a little over seven and a half million years ago (7,500, 000) being nourished by the nearest solar life generating bulb, the sun, only 93 million miles away, shepherding and shaping the anatomy of our selected ancestral aunts and uncles into something resembling the current reflection of my own sleep-addled countenance just over one million years ago-- the cave art of lascucuex and les tres freres, what the inside of my blogg would resemble; ie, spawned from the aesthetic barometer of mankind in the makings first attempt to show someone the color of his heart--the ineffable urge to create and to give and to love, skirting onto the historical time line a slim 25,000 years ago.....
Thirty-fucking years of life on this cozy little lovable galactic fleck of inhabitable dandruff. Magnetically buoyed, back spinning around a thermonuclear cosmic hearth of the sun, for in every strand of love and mysticism, there is dance and spinning and growth--holding someone at a distance and watching them shine. For such magnetism and love does exist.
Thirty meted yearly installments of wonder and curiosity and craziness. Thirty years of monopolizing the majority of each bartered breath joyfully and naively oblivious to the wonder of creation, to the fact that I exist at all, that I have grown up in a usurped continent that has become the most opulent republic ever constituted under the morning umbrella of the planet. Thirty years of excessive materialism and spiritual guilt and creative pandering and curiosity. Thirty years where the advances of science and technology has been UNSURPASSED in the historical discourse of this planet. Half-my life being spent now genuflecting in front of the ocular glass and unblinking tint of the computer screen, where in addition to pursuing my drooling love of language and poems and story telling (fun stuff) i have instantaneous access to everything I have ever wanted:Every sexual yearning and late-night vice; every curiosity and wonder and insight in the world of arts, the sound of the voice that has been with me all my life patterning gentle sonnets across the mouth of instant messenger.
Thirty years on a continent that has milked dry the udder of natural resources of her planet still while it is in it's maiden years. Thirty years of smiling and blinking and communicating and obeying the laws of physics. Thirty years of love and digestion and wanting. The occasional wished for spurts of compassion. The blissful feeling of joy and longing and oneness.
A skipped dash of thirty slipped years in a vast universe flooded with an estimated over 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 different solar orbs stationed vast distances apart in what us humans perceive to be the canopy of the night sky from our cosmic nest. Each star capable sustaining the the cultivation of planets harboring bacteria and biology's. In a universe in which recent advances in the field of astrophysics has scientifically diagnosed our reality our universe as being comprised of at least 25 percent dark matter-a universe where much more is happening behind the stage curtain than in front of the audience--a reality where the unseen, the mystical, yields more of a compelling force in our day to day activies and choices then perhaps we can ever possibly discern.
Thirty years, being born in this time and place. realizing that you are 1 of 56, ooo,ooo, ooo, ooo, ooo (one vs. 56 trillion) disparate genetic possibilities that you turned out the way you did. In this time and place. Realizing you are the sole production of a night your parents got lucky. Realizing that if they would have waited a day, and hour, minutes before or nanoseconds later, you would simply not exist at all.
(this is why we hate thinking that our parents actually "did it"--it's actually an neurological impulse to the preservation of self )
Like one of the ten pending Guests the reader shall meet over the next ten days once told me on his front porch six years ago, "All we really are, from a macrocosmic universal perspective, is glorified cosmic bacteria trying to figure out just what the fuck is going on and not really being able to see things out of the shell of our own skulls much at all."
On a planet where the majority of animals and creatures are surprisingly water creatures and insects. This human being, a corporeal future hyphen etched into a future tomb stone someday between a dueling pillars of years. This glorified cosmic bacteria is capable of feeling such great things. Such unity. Such compassion. Such pain. Such confusion And ultimately, such love.
What follows is a birthday gala for those individuals who have changed my life. It was inspired by chapter one of Marcus Aurelius' MEDITATIONS, where the keen Roman emperor of antiquity reflects over the individuals who have mattered most to him in his lifetime and what everlasting virtues was gleaned from such mentors. It is a thank you for those individuals who have changed the way I look at the world and who have challenged me to give more, to laugh more and to smile.
So, without anymore further delay....
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The curtain is still up at the recital and thank god none of the props have tumbled over!!! The orchestra has finished tuning and a dual-tailed conductor is ticking his orchestral antenae sharply on the top of a music stand. Pattered palms have transitioned from golf-claps into complete silence. There is the moment before the thick tonal chords foam and brush over foreheads and in this moment, somehow, on the stage, there is a picture of a female being formed, almost as if in the womb, she is turning like her whole entire body is a neon ferris wheel. Music licks earlobes swifter than lips, quicker than sight and a photograph of Jasna Snrdic apporpiates both mind and heart. Her hair is snipped short, sliced autumal red, and she walks on corduroy stilts, lanky ivory appendages, the back of her pants slightly sagging, bangs drooping into her vision. This is Jasna Srndic...she is an artist, a survivor, a pixie, a sprite. She grew up in war-tattered Yugoslavia. Her father was exiled for political purposes. She has been speaking english for less than a half-decade and she is a semester shy of graduating college. She is male and female, yin and yang, exiled and invited. And everytime she says my name it sounds like this: " DAVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED"
Jasna spotted me several times before I had ever seen her. I was in the process of writing my first book, dropping out of college and having a few beers while I'm at it. Instead of studiously laboring over homework, I spent hours slapping out cheap sentences into microsoft word, trying to engender charcters and express a crazy verisimilitude. I had read too many "erudite" ugly books (Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow, The Recognitions) and emulated their pedantic writing styles to the point of nauseation. I was dating a prof. ten years older than me back home who it turned out had an estranged husband and called me up sozzled one night,informing me that she had know found someone new, someone who looked just like me (long hair) but was her age.
I was merely a docile Pompeii to her capricious, unforgiving Vesuvius.
Jasna found me, in the computer lab, sawing off horribly shaped sentences for my book. She had her hair cut short and wore a thick sweaters so that her sex was by no means readily discerned. I was pounding out homerow mantras and she was laughing, a duclet laugh, hiccuping across the room, landing sideways on my shoulder. She was smiling at me, telling me that she had seen me from across the quad. She had seen me lugging books into my room, she had seen me here in the computer lab, flicking out sounds of snapped plastic and looking serious, oh, did I ever look so serious was I a writer? She asked. Could I be Herman Hesse she asked.
She kept laughing. Her smile sprinkled with cosmic glitter.
"I see you all time and never you seem to see me." She said, talking in beautiful curled; heavily twisted sentences void of articles. I looked at her (still trying to discern her sex--she looked like Peter Pan!) and offered her serious blather about aesthetics; collegiate bosh.
"You are serious. You look so serious everytime you I see." She ascertained, looking at the inside of my hands, as if perusing an interstate map. Then she began to laugh. "You crazy. Daveeeeeed is crazy." She said. Although I still couldn't tell what 'she' was.
Her name was Jasna (Yahz-nuh)and she was an artist. We would go on walks and she would pick up scattered leaves and hold them up into the orange patches of dusk. She would collect acorns and milkweeds. The grayish-taupe of a midwesteren autumn seemed to melt into her art. She was a painter. She had a painting at the MCA in Chicago! She was also a photographer. She had pictures of a Wilmette centered papal-hatted shaped building in her room. Both of us had no clue what the building was used for.
Her hair was trimmed exceedingly military short when I met her. She talked with torched nostalgia of Yugoslavia, of her grandparents who were left there, alone, spending the last years of their lives together. She talked about ethnic-cleansing. Her father was Islam. Her mother was christian. Neither of them were practicing. She talked of her sister who liked boys, of her sister who was a pharmacist in Vienna, she talked of her art teacher in Yugoslavia who she hadn't heard form in a long time because communication lines had somehow been severed....
....over the years there have been friends, lovers, associates, e-mail affinities, ersatz crushes, blogging buddies, townies, hippies, indulgent artists, anarchists, single-minded philosophers, material-driven yuppies and there has been Jasna, a friend I took for granted for a long time. She would slip elfish-slovanian writing on little slips of brown paper beneath the door in my dorm. She would leave me delicately wrapped sandwhiches. She would compare me to Demian in Hesse's novel. She would stare at the pictures of Ganesh and Shiva on my wall as if they were a branch steming off the same genealogical trunk.
She would also create art.
Three years younger and she was already three times the artist I'll ever be. At her request (reluctantly) I severed thick tressed of my hair and she tied them together, placed them in her apartment.
"Look, Daveeeeeeed." She said, pointing at thinly hair stalactites.
"What," I said, hardly noticing.
"No," She said. "Look past hair. Look at shadow hair creates. Look how it moves slightly, delicately."
She was right. The focus was the shadow, created by the light, shifted gravitationally throughout the day. We would hold each other in winter, in her apartment, her body smelled like nutmag and chestnuts, we would hold each other in a platonic bite and we would watch the shadow. Diaphnous ledger lines on sheet music, altered by the slight tug of a planet; a planet interfacing with a giant thermonuclear hearth, 93 million miles away.
Jasna also had charcoal pictures of trees in her room. All over her room. Black and white photographs of friends and smeared charcoal branches of trees.
"Tree's name is AVA," she said, offering the world her crooked ply-wood smile. "It is tree we walked under first day we met, remember?" It was the tree I used to read her stories underneath. Whenever I read her a story, even a menial paragraph, she would pogo noth and south smile and clap, like a observant mother watching her newborn crawl for the first time. Even the bad stories, which, even today, sprout nocturnally like whiskers.
"Ava," I said, musing.
"She never told you her name. But her name Ava. She tree from Yugoslavia." Jasna says.
Sometimes we would walk and Jasna would take off sprinting, for no reason, Yugoslovian sunset smile still soaked into her face. Sometimes, she would whisper things to me, as we would cuddle, saying the same vexing Amercain phrase over and over again in almost a scraped whisper.
"There no more time Daveeeeed." She said, quietly.
"Shut up." I would say, drowsed in sleep, her hiccuping into a whisper again.
"There time no more Daveeeeeeed."
But Jasna has been there. Poor herself, the summer I took off to write she sent me money for food and RENT, even though I didn't ask for it. She listened when I blathered about my romantic histrionics. When I phoned the saturday after my father's funeral she melted the airwaves with tears, tears for a man she had never met, but had perhaps, like Shive and Ganesh, she had somehow known.
Jasna and I have a friendship where we slip into each other and out---like strands on a DNA fiber, we find each other, weave out, circle a set of microscopic rungs called life, and until our individual strands sew into each other again. The last time I saw her I fulfilled a vow and took her dancing, at a gay bar no less.
"They not care here Daveeeeed. They are open."
"I don't want to dance." I said, under the kaledioscopic gash of lights.
"It's easy." Said Jasna. As she set aside her drink and began to pogo up and down, as if she were on a matress, twelve years younger, and her americain parents were away for the weekend.
"Here, Daveeeeeeed." She said, groping my hand, and we danced. We swirled, crashed into each other, apologized to a Queen whose Zima had slipped away form her like a glass scepter, but still, under the stuttering electronic lights of the dance floor, we lost track of our shadows, we lost track of time and we would again arrive back to her apartment and hold each other--simply hold each other, the moment the strand is unionized.
And the last time I saw her, when I said goodbye, the bus that I was suppose to be on was late. We would say goodbye, kiss each others cheeks, I would grapple my luggage and the bus driver would apologize, say that the bus that was suppose to be was behind schedule and would arrive in fiftten. Fifteen minutes later, at the sight of the aluminum hyphen we would embrace again, seed kisses into each others cheeks again, and I would grip the leather lobes of my suitcase to once again be informed that the bus I needed was still running late.
"Here," Jasna said, reeling a scrolled-telescopic shaped cylinder form her own bag.
"What's this?" I inquired.
"Open," She said, her beaded eyes averted, as if looking for the bus I was to take home. WHen I spread open the scroll it was a charcoal rendering of what I perceived to be a tree.
"Ava?" I asked, looking at the portly trunk flaring off into desoalte autumnal branches.
"No Daveeeeeeeed." Jasna said, " Daveeeeeeeeeed so silly."
"What is it then?" I asked, just as another bus the bus I was to take home, the bus that would charter me back to my home, back to my 80 work week, back to the pain and perils of commerce and civilization.
"Your bus," Jasna said, as we embraced once again, only quickly this time.
"Jasna," I said, inquring about the origins. The bus driver was sliding luggage beneath the steel guts of the bus. He was shouting tickets.
"It's you Daveeeeeeeed." Jasna said again. "It's your hands."
I looked again but she pushed and I fell upward, somehow, on to the bus. Knowing that I had just broken away (although only momentarily) form that friend whom I shared something inexplicable and sacred with. That person who I loved, only not in a way I loved say Swissy-Missy or the prof. who lauded me with compliments and then smiled duplicitously into foreign shadows.
The next thing I know I was on the bus and I was looking out, looking out past the dual-tint of my own shadow, out at Jasna, waving at me as the bus mechanically spurted and droned and lumbered towards the thick curve of the interstate. A scrolled charcoal rendering of my hands curved in my fist; and Jasna, the elusive adrogynous sprite who found me one day, a day when I was being too serious; the creature who stretches out the vowels in the center of my name, the person who planted my calloused palms and made stringed marionetted shadows with my own hair; I saw that person waving at me, an acorn smile gnawed at her lips, and looked at her waving until she became a button and then she became no more.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Morning in autumn is how he awakes, early, and after ensconced in the bottom lip of a leftover dream world....
The coffee pot in his room makes a sound as if it is yearning to be petted. He has showered the night before. He looks in the mirror, swipes the crusty flecks of sleep from his eyes. Tries to smile. Tries not spend more than what seems vain getting lost into the mirrored slate of the Vanity frame.
And he is leaving.
He is taking one bag for the flight. A red duffle bag. Inside he has packed two shirts, one gray and one black for long sleeved comfort. He rolls and extra pair of jeans into the size of a papoose and wedges it deeply into the side of his carryon. He stuffs a row of fig bars, two inside out pair of black socks that a wrapped in a fashion suggestive that they are humping.
He is leaving.
His hair is cut short and fashionably coifed. His mother has done the best job she has ever had cutting his hair. He feels as if he is trying to reclaim something. He feels as if he is trying to discern something. He feels as if he is trying to shout out, to pour out the contents of his overtly caffeinated soul into the eyes and ears of a young seventeen year old girl. She is a senior in high school in a city in Wisconsin. He is a freshman at a community college in a city eight hours south of where she resides. Six weeks ago he quit his job at Barnes and Noble to be a full time college student. To arrive at he brick fortress of the institution early. To indulge in the sentences, the stories, the narratives, to wend his heart into the locomotive swerve of the page. The sentences he wishes to compose.
He smoked cigars. He indulges in healthy summer nights jaunt, watching the sun as it spills it golden late august rays. Watching the exact moment the globes of street lights illuminate the side walks on Moss Avenue. Watching. Seeking. Yearning.
And he is leaving.
It is going on 7am. The leaves in front of his house on Sherman always turn late. The sweet gum tree his grandfather planted when he was three months old. He puts a razor and shaving cream and a tooth brush and a comb and hairspray inside his red duffle bag. He is wearing the pair of velvet Doc Martens he bought in Munich six months earlier. The pair he bought only two weeks after he first met Megan. The pair his ex-girlfriend Kristina Rock accidentally dropped and egg on last summer so that now, the top of the right shoe has a stain and looks like it is permanently crying. A peninsula shaped smudge that, upon closer inspection, grants the top of his shoe the melancholy semblance of a clown doused in loss. A sadness. A tear.
He is leaving.
He packs deodorant. He packs his contact solution. He packs a light beige jacket. He packs sunglass. There is one-hundred dollars in his wallet. More than enough for the weekend. For taking her out. For holding her close. For conveying to her through the green-leaf world of materialism just how he feels.
He is leaving.
He misses her. He wants to be with her. He wants to reel her shoulders into his body. He desires to sputter out meaningless verbal drivel; hermaphroditic sentences, in an endeavor to make her laugh. Make her smile. Make her come to him.
He is leaving.
He draws the navy blue comforter over his bed as if he is reeling back the polyutherane sheet over a corps and then tucks it into the corners. He looks at the bed and wonder s what will change in his life between this exact moment and the next time he looks across the horizon of his nightly continent. He slaps splashes of acidic cologne onto both sides of his cheek. Takes a swig of caffeine. Notices the morning denim; the stunning atmosphere of autumn, outside his bedroom window.
He goes downstairs and feels the gruff follicles of his father beard and he gives him an embrace, His father tells him that he will be there Sunday night, at the student center, at the Bus depot, to pick him up. His sisters have already gotten ready for school. Beth is a senior at the high school he graduated from just three months earlier. Jenn is a sophomore and attends a Christian Academy across town.
“Girls have an amazing weekend.” He says, not registering to hear their volleyed hi-pitched confetti response of “you too.”
He is leaving.
Shielded in front of his immediate vision are notes for his pending Speech midterm. Prof hahn has allowed him to take the exam earlier in the morning so that he can catch his bus. So that he can catch his flight. So that he can catch his heart.
He feels good. This girl is good for him. He has not had a cigarette in over two weeks.
Back into his bedroom he has little more to pack. He wedges a small bible into the bag to feel that God is on his side. He opens the third drawer from the bottom of his mahogany writer’s desk and brings out the envelope with his tickets and flight itinerary. He places his copy of LEAVES OF GRASS in the top of the bag. The bag is fraught with relics of his life. He packs two spiral notebooks with pens. Zipping up the red sports bag as a bride trying to fit into a corset, the last item he places in is his notebooks of poems; inky linguistic scraps of his heart he has composed for this autumnal creation over the discourse of the past year.
He sets the red carry-on in the center of his bed and stares at it with wonder. He will pick it up after his exam before he heads to catch the bus 10:30 bus. The red duffle bag is bulbous and still life and a slight breeze sips through his bedroom window. Without pause or hesitation the man drops to his knees. His body contorts into the mattress, humped over in reverence, his chest concave, his fists a clenched fetus of supplication and thanksgiving. His Clef note shaped body, his wild heart, is now thanking God, asking God for safety. For protection. For the perfect weekend.
Briefly he wonders if it is going to rain.
He exits his room shielded with only his midterm exam notes, taking copious swigs from coffee cup. His sister Beth has already left for school. It his job to deliver Jenny to her classes across town before he arrives to his own institution of edification.
Arrive only to leave.
He enters the earthy-linoleum scent of the kitchen and kisses his mother on her cheek. His mother informs him that she will be praying for him throughout the weekend.
He saddles his scholastic backpack over his shoulder and peruses over notes. His sister Jenny follows him into the Buick. It is autumn 1996. Limp placards heralding the arrival of Dole/Kemp or Clinton/Gore arch above the manicured lawns like eyebrows. The air outside pulsates and thumbs with tilt of the planet slowly being brushed into the winter of another year.
The car door rattles shit with a thud. He twists the thumb shaped nozzle to the radio on full blast. With rote orchestrations of his wrist and hands akin to that of a dance, the car jilts into life and skids into the road, into the direction and discourse of another day.
He is leaving only to find out he has already left. A long, long time ago. In a different world.