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I go to check the mail. It is not so cold out. There are many things in the mail. Interstate batteries wants me. T-mobile wants me. AT&T really wants me. It’s good to be wanted, as long as it is not by the police. I suppose the police let you know when they want you, although sometimes they do not. They are, I have heard, somewhat capricious about coming to get you. They can be moody, staying at their warm station one day sipping cocoa and rushing out with assault rifles and Kevlar vests the next.
I notice an XL tab on the left boob of my sweater. Someone could have told me about this. I pull it off, fold it neatly and put it in the trash. It is a beautiful sweater given to me by my parents for Christmas. It is off-white with dark gray threads randomly appearing—kind of a speckled effect. It has three large buttons at the top and velveteen elbow patches. I do look fetching with elbow patches. I should get elbow patch tattoos for permanent fetchingness. Fetch me this. Fetch me there. I would no longer need a remote.
I am fetching. I have a dog that can turn over records without messing them up. It is a talented dog. The trick is in the lips and not to drool. It is a dog with great skill. Most dogs do not have much in the way of lips. Now take a horse. There is a pair of lips. Maybe I should train a horse to turn over my records. Maybe I should get one of those automatic lifters. In the 70’s there were some innovative turntables that played both sides of the disk. That was before the Compact Disc.
Would you talk with me? I am not looking for sex. I thought I would get that out of the way immediately. It seems important to get that out of the way. It seems to get in the way, and it is conversation that I am looking for. The topic is not too important. I just feel the need sometimes for some quiet, non-urgent conversation with a like-minded individual. We could even talk about conversation itself, you know, the lost art and all—whether it is or ever was an art. I suppose sex is not out of the question.
I am scheduled to exercise next. Now coming to a point of divergence I must decide whether to discuss the schedule or the exercise. I could, of course introduce a third topic, but that would be bad form given that I only have 100 words. There I go, introducing a third topic. I am so out of control. Fourth topic: topics themselves… Well, some people look forward to exercise, I am given to understand. I do not. It is something I do because I have to, like eating and—oh—writing. Well, there are have-to’s and have-to’s. The difference is
As I look out over the snowscape I am struck by the highlighting of the snow. A drawing would leave mostly white paper I think. I had thought to go out and blow the driveway, but my son has beat me to it by about five minutes. I can now see his billow of snow from the corner of my window as he makes his way down the driveway, no doubt fighting the electric cord. I wonder how well he will do. I am playing with sleep again as he battles the snow. I’ve had my breakfast. The hard-boiled egg.
It’s later than usual, and I suppose if I spent less time wrestling sleep and more time writing, I would not have to wrestle so much. There is little to make me sleepy as quickly as sitting to write. The snow is piled up heavy against the house outside. They say this is the worst winter in twenty years. I remember that one and one before that when the temperature hit thirty below in Ohio. I was very young then. That and my father reading the temperature off the old thermometer hanging on the garage are about all I remember.
It can seem odd, what a person may not even be aware of, until it is taken away suddenly. Dependable meals, shelter from the weather, and freedom from military oppression are things we take for granted this way. Another is a regular sleep cycle. It doesn’t seem like so much until you are your seventh day into waking up at 6:30 sharp every morning and then falling asleep promptly at 10:30 am instead of 10:30 PM. What a difference twelve hours makes. You can still get 8 hours of sleep, albeit somewhat interrupted, but nothing is right with your day.
I have to be careful or I may fall asleep again. There are times I feel I am channeling someone else. I use that word for lack of a better one. It is as if we are sharing a consciousness and living it out through two windows. Sometimes I think of this other person and I wonder if they are as aware of me as I am of them. I can almost make out their jaw line, the curve of the neck. Maybe they are in a different time zone. Maybe that is why my sleep is so fucked up.
This is quick writing. It is a small bird in a big city. It has wings to take it far places quickly. It does not seem strange to the bird to have wings. It does not seem strange to the bird to fly. Hanging upside down from a gargoyle at four hundred feet does not seem any stranger to it than pecking at a crumb of bread on the sidewalk. Odds are the bird does not know what the sidewalk is. It experiences the sidewalk as a place that is hard and a place that doesn’t sway in the wind.
This is quick writing. It is just another hundred words. My son has come home rounding up the stairs. I think he came home alone without his squeeze. There may problems in squeeze land. There may not be problems in squeeze land. My son’s world life perspective is different from mine and while I sometimes try to understand it, I know I cannot invade that skull of bone and bloody brains any more than I could that of a chicken. He comes home and goes to his room. It is Sunday. I don’t know; he may have been working today.
This is quick writing. It is just another hundred words. It might be a day like any other, but it seems not because of all the snow piled up outside. They say I should not let the fact that you crept into my sleep destroy me for the next day or two and I think there may be some truth in that. It is just you cannot always choose these things. You cannot choose what will affect you and how and you do not always choose what you will dream or what she will say to you if you do.
I see my son’s truck slide along the bottom of my window back and forth all morning long. This must be his day off. It is lucky for him that gasoline has become so inexpensive. Otherwise he would have to beg even more money from me and it is unlikely that he gets all he wants now. I don’t think he feels any better about it than I do. He seems to be caught between Jackson Browne’s longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender. I wish him better fortunes sorting that one out than I have had.
I want to move. I am irritable. I am not taking very much time to sort out my directions either, although normally I would take too long and would accomplish nothing. Today the word “accomplish” is written in ALL CAPS across my forehead. You drone on in my browser about crap, each sentence calculated to keep me hanging until the next, but all they do is sledge against my brain as meaningless garble. I finally say I am going and you say, “No!” Bullshit, I think. Try to stop me. And you do try of course. And I go nevertheless.
It's a wet day.
Like any other.
It is the red wheelbarrow
which has been there
most every other day
leaned up in the dance
It is a slow dance
with the rain bleeding rust
paint and the sweat smell
strained through webs of cloth and skin.
There are so many variations
on this day
just how are you
to know when you have stumbled
over a root
a blinding retrograde blood sugar
smack into a different day?
Is it the dance?
the dance of the lean
on the Red shed?
Jean decided to pray. It was not his normal inclination. The very idea made him feel strange, as if he were trying to arrange himself in a position that he had not been designed to accommodate. Should he close his eyes? Should he kneel? What if he fell asleep? He remembered a story from Sunday school about Jesus being pissed at the apostles for falling asleep while he prayed. They kept doing it and for some reason Jesus had to go back and do it over. Was Jean remembering the story correctly? Was it ok for Jesus to be pissed?
Jesus was done praying. He lifted his right hand to brush his hair out of his eyes. The hair was warm from the sun against his fingers. He pressed it against his scalp where it felt hot. Lifting his hood he stood up and balanced himself, feeling light-headed for a moment. Was that Him? He walked back down the narrow path to the grove where he had left the apostles. As he approached he could see that they were asleep. Timothy was snoring, his mouth open. They couldn’t even do this? Did he have to do everything? Jesus was pissed.
Timothy was in a cab on a freeway curve just outside of Miami. He looked out at the too-bright sun bleached landscape. A green Buick moved in on them from the right. The driver’s eyes flicked in the rear-view mirror. Timothy was sleepy. It was the movement of the cab and the heat. He thought he would close his eyes for just a moment. He woke up with something tickling his lip: a fly. He jerked his head in annoyance. Then he realized he was no longer in the cab. He was leaning against a small tree alongside the expressway.
Jesus was pissed. There was something not right with the airport fare he had snagged. And now the arrogant bastard had just fallen asleep in his back seat. Who did he think he was that he could do that? It was his cab. He did not have to haul people he did not want to haul. He braked hard and swerved over two lanes and onto the shoulder nearly missing a green Buick. He dragged the fare out and set him beside the road with his damn suitcase. The bastard never woke up as he drove off. Jesus felt better.
Naej typed carefully, using simple declarative sentences. Sometimes he let a sentence wander, but always he felt a sense of control. He knew where these sentences were going. He knew how to take them there. It was an exercise. It was a mantra. He could repeat it and soothe his mind. He stopped for a moment, closing his eyes which were starting to burn again. He caught the corner of a thought and the anxiety began to well up in him again. He deliberately pressed it back down. This was good; he didn’t need the drug. He started typing again.
My son comes home and climbs the stairs. The snow swirls outside beneath blinding sun. I climb the stairs, old stairs, and I wonder how much longer I will have to climb those narrow dark stairs up to that third floor apartment in Canada. There are days they seem to go on forever like some epic trial. I can see the wooden lip of each step, the wear patterns and while I do not remember if they were actually carpeted or not, it is the bare wood I see as I climb those stairs in my mind day after day.
There were days that I would see her at the top of those stairs, waiting for me and the space up there was so small as we got the door open and spilled inside. More often she would be outside on the stoop there; smoking and watching the occasional car come into the lot. Even more often she would not be there at all and now it sometimes seems odd to me how we are sometimes drawn together man and woman into some elegant gasping pattern that joins us in ways that we can never be completely be torn apart.
That is when I realize that I am not unique in my experience, that she probably suffers in some ongoing way herself. Maybe she is protected by some difference between us that allows her to shed the memory more easily so that she does not have to live with it. I could not even say what it is I want anymore, if I want anything. No, I really do not want to forget. I suppose if anything I would wish to live with it more easily, to pass through time without hanging up on these spare parts sticking off me.
My son climbs the stairs and I blink against the glare from the snow outside. I am not sure, but I think I hear a voice greeting him as he reaches the top. Perhaps his girlfriend is here? She has been here all morning and I did not know? It is possible. It is a large house and I do not go to that end very often, but as I consider I realize that I did go to that end this morning; I did go into his sitting room to empty the trash and there was no one in there.
I try to think about what I may have been hearing that caused me to think I heard her voice. I use the pronoun here because I cannot remember… Lilly, that is her name. His girlfriend who I think I have heard, only I don’t think that it is possible and I could go up there to see if she is here, but there is no reason to. Only to satisfy some curiosity about the voice I thought I heard. Maybe it was his phone and they were talking with the voices bouncing off the walls and down the halls.
My son Tom climbs the stairs. That is what comes out of me, but it is not Tom climbing the stairs; It is Michael. It is Tom perhaps that I am used to putting in here or who sticks in my head because I cannot seem to fix things between us. I do not think that it is useful for me to continue accepting blame for them being bad. There are some things you cannot lift from your sons. I have been meaning to talk to Michael because he should have had some insight by now and he has not.
Shadows of bare trees are etched keenly against the snow as more softly pelts the layers which have already gathered. Each flake, one by one falling in slow leafy motion to settle in some new spot on the blanket. It has been a while since my son climbed the stairs and disappeared to the ghost voice greeting him up there. I did not call him back to talk to him. Son, where do you see yourself in twenty-five years? In ten years? In five minutes? Dad, where do you see yourself in twenty-five years? In ten years? In five minutes?
He is going up the stairs again, tonight with his Lily. I have finally found the space in his life to talk with him and he seems happier now, more a whole. It may have been good that it took us as long as it did to talk because it gave me time to compose my thoughts and to get rid of the noise. In the end, I told him I wanted him to go back to school. Get thee to a community college or a vocational school, I care not which or what you study; only that you do.
Now he is with the idea of going to school. I know in the morning this will not seem so bright and he will feel stabs of dull knives in his gut as he considers the long road and all the possibilities of running off that road and miring his metaphor in a ditch. He says that his girlfriend’s father has recently had the same talk with her and that she is also going back. He had been feeling left behind and now can join her again. I suppose this is possible. I account this a good thing for now.
As I watch him climb the stairs, facing ahead into his life, I am aware that it is he moving forward and up those stairs and not I. I find it interesting that I begin thinking about my own life and where I am going only to wind up talking to my son about his life. I realize that pushing him up the stairs is not a satisfactory solution to my own situation and that it is possible that I too might have to go back to school in some sense and that I have my own risks to face.
It occurs to me as I push my son up the stairs that my situation is not unlike his; that I have not necessarily reached the end of my life but only an intersection and that I too have choices to make. I also may very well be too young to give up and accept the current state as future state, as perma-state. It seems that the weight I assumed had been very real limitations are only the same weights of fear and self-doubt that my young son is facing Both of us have some serious weight lifting to do.
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