It is 1996 and you are all alone. You find yourself fueled by copious amounts of caffeine, flickering cigarette's into an ash tray, staring out through a windex-tinted translucent reflection of yourself across the desert of the dashboard. The velocity and confusion of youth has manifested itself in front of the toll-booths of adulthood. You grasp the wheel so tightly that your knuckles seem to crack free from your tenacious grapple as you harness the curved reins of the wheel. Your hair is cut short and stylishly gelled. Your girlfriend Kristina is in the passenger seat next to you, smoothing out the bottom hem of her denim skirt with her smooth palms that look like twin doves. You have just graduated from High school, spending the last week of secondary education tucked into a hospital bed in Methodist Medical Center; plastic tubes threaded through your supine posture, offering your enervated, dehydrated late-teenage body nourishments.
High school was an emotional-taxing four year sty that swelled and inhaled and eventually festered, spreading juvenile puss on a four year period that you have successfully blocked from your memory. Like most people you admire, you never found your niche in high school. The school you attended had the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the country you live in and the lowest standardized test scores in the state that issued you your Drivers license. You got in trouble for writing an article about a teacher who manipulated grades for athletes. You got praised for publishing a poem on a teacher who died; an old aged English teacher who accused you of plagiarism sixth months before his death. You got lonely and depressed. You listened to more Morrissey than is both humanly sane and salubrious. Your parents tell you to do what their notion of God wants you to do and then they ferry your siblings across state to compete in musical competitions. Your GPA bobbled and dipped your senior year. Once an athlete you quit running altogether your senior year to work on writing, but mostly found yourself bussing tables and discussing your foibles in front of a Christian psychiatrist who's been telling you since sophomore year that "you have a bad case of senioritis."
You battled an emotional incubus, an empty academy and searched for meaning, scribbling out ink-chipped stanzas of poems, reading everything, imbiding any libations sealed in bottles that scream of non-mathematical proofs. You quadruple your valium intake and wake up days later, the word POET vertically carved into your chest, a broken bottle of Jack Daniels shattered around your bathroom floor; shiny shards of glass that look like diamonds strewn around your lap and shoulders like crystallized New Years confetti.
But that is in the past. That is sealed. Two days after you are released from the angelic white sheen of the hospital-wing you don cap and gown and find yourself surrounded by strangers. When you receive your diploma the principal (the one who edited your articles for the school paper; the one who impregnated a student teacher) gives you a hug.
But now you are free. You are emancipated. You are reading Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and you can feel your thoughts stretch out heavily in front of you, like the strip of road you plough your vehicle across; like that bullet-hole sunset you strive inside for. You are nineteen years old and your body procreates creative thoughts; your body produces exertion; your body aches to not be tethered to the past, to that hollow place you have just escaped from, that place you will never go back to again.
Every muscle in your body has an impulse to action, you think, as you adjust the nub on the tape deck, grope the clutch and breeze off into the orange shafts of light. Every muscle inside of you body has a purpose. Every thought that fleetingly tugs at the creative reels and pulleys inside your skull has a significance; has an predestined place reserved in the orchestrated diagram of the inscrutable cosmos.
The world has changed since your freshman year--each year of high school contained a decade worth of personal growth and self-actulaization in themselves. Buildings are being "wired" connected; the elusive stream of invisible traffic has formed a global goassamer known as the world wide web. A staticky yawn like morning breath grouses from the top of the modem when agitated. What once was Alternative rock is now mainstream commercial fizzle. Coffee stands are everywhere. Human beings are seemingly engrossed in a rushed string of motion. Life is one bussiness transaction. A receipt sloppily printed out for a rash, unexpected purchase for an item that no longer fits.
You work. You stock empty shelves at Barnes and Noble. You get phone numbers of females with their i's doted in little hearts. You make car payments. Fish out rent. Hook up the occasional bag of veggies.
You attend classes at the local community college, where you feel ashamed to have gone, mostly because it seemed that your parents, who never really took an interest in your own endeavors, are now completely divorced from your dreams.
Your write. You study your ass off. You dream of leaving. Leaving and not returning ever again to that place you have already left.
Then one day, in mid October, you leave and everything you have leaves with you. There is the napsack with the poems and images. There are three shirts and two pairs of jeans. There are socks punched into a tight white fist and boxers and a vial of JOOP. There are four packs of cigarettes and there is the impetus to fly. There is the impetus to see the bald spot on the ground where you are currently standing.
You find yourself at O'Hare and you find yourself boarding a plane with her head heavily sifting inside your chest. You find yourself flipping open the plastic drapes for miles above surface and watching as the winged vessel leaves; abandons everything you have ever known. Jettisons every background set you are all to familiar with.
The sound of an airplane is the sound of sex. It is the heavy aerial-gruff of mankinds technological procreation. The swift still-life strokes. The feeling of anxiety. The feeling of being wedged in a heated aisle with total strangers. The feeling of being above and knowing you could die. The feeling of putting trust in the palms of a navigator whom you have never met. And the landing when you wake up in that golden place, exhausted, adjusting the plastic limbs, peering out only to see her reflection. Only to see her--the person whom you have abandoned all categories of logic to meet; that person whom you have come to see once again, that person who will add meaning to your life...you see that person know, behind a giant tint window and from where you see her she appears golden. Like her smile could generate an entire thermonuclear planetary systems that orbit around her unblemished countenance.
You read her poems. You meet her parents. You take pictures. You show her pictures of your family and ex-girlfriend. You sit under a golden tree next to a pond and read Rumi. You feel her body gravitate towards your body and then slowly slip away.
She shows you a picture of her boyfriend who lives in Minnesota. She plays songs for you on the piano. She tells you that it would never work out between you. That you went out to find her for all the wrong reasons. That you went to this place wielding too much expectations.
Then see tells you to kiss her every part of her.
Then you leave.
She stands in line next to you at the airport. Stands next to you. When you embrace her before you get on the plane there is no kiss. There is only a slight tug; the paws of a child yanking the unsuspecting pant leg of their guardian.
Back on the plane your body falls apart in tears. You find out only later that she left without watching your plane slowly skirt of from the runway. She had a prior appointment.
Your heart is a loose brick that has just broken off some place inside your chest; someplace inside of you that you never realized totally existed until now.
You will find her again at a moment when you least expect it.
You will find yourself, in a moment you least expect.
It is autumn, 1996, you are all alone. You vote for Bob Dole because both of your parents are registered Republicans, mostly because of abortion. When you arrive back home you find another job at another book store, just in time for the holiday rush.
You walk out to the courtyard of the mall where you work during your lunchbreak. You watch all the old people walk very fast. They seem to be doing laps around the mall. They wear cheap rockports and pants that come up to their chin. Some have bee-hive hairdo's seemingly constructed from bolls of cotton. You watch as the old people navigate their collective years around the courtyard of the commercial mecca where you are employed and you wonder to yourself "Is this all? Is this all that life has to offer?"
They have hard-candy flavored foreheads bearing cardboard wrinkles and they continue to orbit your thoughts like plastic ducks in a childhood swimming pool. They continue to walk around the center court of the mall. They move their limbs and huff their gait until eventually one day death plucks them; fingers them off of this corporeal carousel. They walk until finally, there are no more hard tiles to strut across and no more shops where they can exchange their rash purchases.
It is 1996 and you've been dreaming cognitively for almost two decades.