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.