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BY Plantae

01/01 Direct Link
I used to feel quite virtuous on New Year’s Day, to walk from somewhere early on this morning, without a shattered head or rebellious stomach. It was satisfying to have “been there” and “done that” without leaving marks (or stains). In reality, I had had no better or worse a time than the sorriest mess I passed. I had simply not drunk enough, which given my predilection for such, was something to be glad of but not smug over. If I have learned anything since those days, it is that I have never done enough of anything to be smug.
01/02 Direct Link
Back at work and all too soon, and I should have this day off as a statutory holiday but I’m on the schedule so I set out at the right time and cruise to work in record time (how happy I am.) The New Year is about new beginnings, yet I don’t fool myself into thinking there are many in store for me. Part of me yearns for control. Take charge, push, pull, kick, and punch my way into something new and better! But, I know it will not happen this year (but if I can find the low door?)
01/03 Direct Link
Tonight we have our managers’ dinner, well, “family” and managers dinner, as one of the senior staff points out. I am not a manager, but am regarded as such on account of my qualifications (I’m new, unseasoned and cheaper.) From out of left field, the wife of one of the owners announces that she has a friend “who would be perfect for me.” My heart stops. Time stops. The day moves sideways, as she divulges the details. This is not what I need to hear. Not here, not in this place, this mental space, at this time in my life!
01/04 Direct Link
Her friend turns out of course to be a doe (a deer, a female deer.) The joker within me wants to politely point out that I prefer my ovaries externally mounted, but that reference would be lost (then found) on this crowd and not, unfortunately to my advantage. The mouse within admits that at the end of the day, it’s a pay cheque I need with a small side of self-respect and security. For this I eat crow and keep silent, whatever the cost to my self-esteem. Side orders have never seemed to me to be that easy to plate.
01/05 Direct Link
The managers’ dinner was a pleasant enough affair. I was spared more matchmaking machinations by having a female friend as escort. Hopefully now the subject of my social life will subside. There are more pressing issues that need my attention in life. I wish I could rid myself of the glance my boss threw the two of us, for just a second. It was an analytical, speculative glance that gave me the sense that I had probably been made. Not that I cared but still the glance lingers. I’ve spent my whole life in the shadows, I know them well.
01/06 Direct Link
I need a change of pace, a break from this miserable routine! My love of plants is not enough to make this new career worthwhile. Where is “the bend in a long road”, my father speaks of, where things turn around and efforts are rewarded? I ask myself time and time again, why I must fight so hard to keep my already small world from shrinking further. Where does this new beginning start, when the ramparts that surround me are so steep and seemingly unassailable? What good fortune it is to still have a sense of drama so well intact.
01/07 Direct Link
Sundays were always great TV nights. Two decades ago, Sunday began with 60-Minutes and ended four hours later with Masterpiece Theatre. Now it starts with Nigella Bites and ends when my eye lids open around midnight, to regard yet another CSI. The broadcast year is shorter than ever and entire evening’s worth of programming repeats in its entirety. There is a change coming to television that if “they” aren’t careful will see hardened addicts like me turn the boob-tube off, permanently! Still, I miss the old Sunday night routine, when you could count on fresh programs for six months straight.
01/08 Direct Link
A day off is a chance to clean house and cleanse the mind. Idle time is busy time, or so the Christians would say, for Satan’s work. For me, it’s a time to avoid the small, needful things that pester me. That growing list of annoyances that needs dealt with. Yet, all the while, in idle time, I torment myself with thoughts of what I could be doing, and struggle against a growing entropy against action. Days off should be restful, mine are stressful. Days off should be relaxing, mine grow taxing. I hardly recognize the man I am become.
01/09 Direct Link
Today I made plans to meet a classmate at our annual trade show. We try to do this since it gives us a chance to connect during working hours. His life is progressing well. He is young, smart, fast, sharp as a tack, and totally beautiful. I dread our meetings though I hold him dear. I dread him for against him I see only failure in myself. Yet, years after I lost my heart to him, I cannot resist an opportunity to connect with him. I would hate for him to know how I feel, but know some how he does.
01/10 Direct Link
The LO trade show is a mixed bag of tricks. I’ve seen some of the biggest shows in North America, shows that make this dog and pony crap as provincial as it comes. In trying to find the words to describe it I found a quote from the X-Files:

"Life is like a box of chocolates -- a cheap, thoughtless perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for; unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you are stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down and there is nothing left to eat..."
01/11 Direct Link
Of course what hurts is what has always hurt. Invest with an earnest heart for safety, great emotion in certain people, in whom you trust. When young, that trust is genuine. When older, that trust becomes mere habit. Still, later on as year begets year, the scales begin to fall from your eyes. Fantasies become too thin to hold their weight and the fabric of your fiction world falls softly away. You begin to see that which all must see in time: your world is a lie you’ve told yourself; a lie you’ve embellished, polished and held close like Mother.
01/12 Direct Link
Richard stands at the wash bowl and dries his face. The harsh halogen light above him casts his features into sharp relief. He sees small signs of age everywhere. “Character…” he sighs. His short hair has just been shortened further which gives him a hardened look. It suits his purpose in life and for tonight, it will hopefully attract his quarry. He moves from the sink to the small hallway beside the bathroom and retrieves a soft brown leather jacket. Combined with the black turtleneck and brown chords, he decides “he will do”, besides, his hunger grows with every heartbeat.
01/13 Direct Link
It is late afternoon and the thin winter sun sets in fits and starts through gathering cloud. He should take an umbrella but can’t be bothered returning. His body tingles with anticipation and he must return home by ten so he can leave at four. He hopes to find a willing partner quickly, and that he isn’t detained by the police between his apartment and the bar. As he steps out onto the deserted street, a light rain starts falling. He quickens his pace through the quiet park. The anonymous city’s drone surrounds him, playing continuo to his beating heart.
01/14 Direct Link
It is late afternoon and the thin winter sun sets in fits and starts through gathering cloud. He should take an umbrella but can’t be bothered returning. His body tingles with anticipation and he must return home by ten so he can leave at four. He hopes to find a willing partner quickly, and that he isn’t detained by the police between his apartment and the bar. As he steps out onto the deserted street, a light rain starts falling. He quickens his pace through the quiet park. The anonymous city’s drone surrounds him, playing continuo to his beating heart.
01/15 Direct Link
He throws open the inner door of the St. Catherine and scans the room beyond quickly; it’s not too busy. He takes his usual seat near the end of a long wooden bar. From here he sees most of the large room. The bar sits on the second floor of an old building near the city’s heart. Large glass windows stretch across the full width of the space, which looks down over the dirty street below. He scans the room again. Quarry is scarce tonight. His anticipation grows more intense. Marc, the bar owner comes over with carrying his usual.
01/16 Direct Link
“Hello,” he whispers in a thick French accent. “Looks like rain tonight.” “Yes, it was just starting as I arrived.” As if on cue, large droplets of water begin hitting the windows behind him. “Looks like trade will be slow tonight,” says Marc with an indifferent tone. Little is known about him except that he came to town decades earlier from somewhere in French Canada. He is a quiet, private man whose friendship has its limits. “Are you on leave, Lieutenant?” “No, just finished a training course. I landed a month ago but I’ve been training up north until yesterday.”
01/17 Direct Link
As he sips slowly from his glass, he catches the arrival of another man. Scanning the room as Richard did, their eyes connect, disengage briefly then reconnect. He has arrived. The younger man is dressed in a slick leather coat that he hangs by the door. He is young. Rich guesses maybe 25. He carries himself in a manner that hints at the military; a cadet on leave, perhaps. Their eyes meet again in the mirror behind the bar. Longing spikes within Rich. His desire becomes a swollen river of need felt keenest in the surging pulse in his neck.
01/18 Direct Link
The stranger sits half way down the length of the deserted counter. From Rich’s seat he appears in handsome profile. Closer now, Rich sees that he’s older than he looks. Their eyes meet again in the mirror. Glances quickly melt into a mutual questioning stare, a wordless invitation that stirs Rich’s senses into frenzy. Seconds pass and with each labored heartbeat, each suspended moment spent, the invitation’s acceptance grows. His correspondent puts his glass down and heads toward the far corner of the room, and the toilets. Rich pulls a pack of gum from his pants and chews a piece.
01/19 Direct Link
Seconds pass, and each is framed by stillness in between that makes counting easy. Thirty go by, then a minute has passed and he ceases to fidget with the paper coaster in his hand. Rich pushes the stool out and is about to follow the handsome stranger. A hand reaches out and lightly brushes his sleeve. It is Marc with a second, uncalled for pint.

“Not a good night, monsieur for hunting…” he says, staring intently into Rich’s eyes, then slowly turns to the door in the far corner. “Enjoy this, on the house.” he says, and leaves. Rich thinks.
01/20 Direct Link
Marc knows why he is here, knows why they all frequent his bar. If he is cautioning him it’s for good reason. Rich repositions himself on his stool and waits. Five minutes go by as desire turns his body to hot lead. The urge to move is checked by Marc, standing at the end of the bar, eyes quietly staring toward the door, waiting. Suddenly there is a commotion at the back of the bar. The door flies open and the handsome stranger enters the room forcefully, followed by a couple of enforcers. Between them, swerves a bewildered looking man.
01/21 Direct Link
His former quarry glances in his direction as he stiffly strides up to the bar, stands in front of Marc and recites a standard speech about breech of community standards and the apprehension of a transgressor in the toilets. The nonplussed victim protests his innocence as he’s roughly man-handled through the front door. The handsome stranger’s a cop, from the morality squad that keeps their society clean and free of taint. His heart sinks and a cold sweat breaks from every pore. Rich wipes his lips and hopes that the cop won’t toss the entire bar. Marc stands calmly watching.
01/22 Direct Link
Seeing and being seen keeps a society wholesome and safe. This is the current government’s mantra that builds upon a foundation laid decades earlier. Vices such as alcohol and drugs are tightly regulated as is education and information, for these can lead men into temptation and keep them from the paths of righteousness. Above all, the Modern Age protects itself against wrong-sex: all sexual congress that deviates from the Divine; opens the door to permanent damnation. Surveillance in all public places protects honest men from straying off the path to salvation. The St. Catherine is a small oasis from scrutiny.
01/23 Direct Link
Marc’s place lies near the busiest transportation and communications hubs. Nearby buildings are heavily shielded against electrical magnetic interference. The St. Catherine operates from one of very few century old buildings still standing. Here shielding isn’t totally effective. Cameras can’t track activities in the cellar below, creating a small “black-hole”. Dead zones like this are few and once discovered, those who know try to keep their existence from the authorities. Marc’s place has been made. Richard sits stunned as the handsome cop glances in the mirror one last time and smiles slightly. His hardened features hardly soften as he does.
01/24 Direct Link
Held breathless by the incident, the crowd in the bar exhales in unison. A fever of conversation begins and a few push their chairs out and get to their feet. This triggers a stampede; nobody wants to be part of a toss. Marc waves them past the cash register and urges them to leave quietly. He shoots a quick look at Rich, who is swallowing most of his second pint, and is trying hard to control his shaking hand. Nearly everyone is on their feet and talking in constricted whispers. Rich pulls cash from his and gets ready to leave.
01/25 Direct Link
Sarah, the bar’s only waitress approaches Rich as he moves to his feet. “Too bad, sweetheart, but I guess Big Bro’s made this place. You’d better leave in case they decide to toss the joint.” Sarah looks sympathetically at him and smiles, takes his hand in hers and squeezes a silent goodbye.

“We’ll be back, we’ll all be back,” whispers Rich.

“Not this time sweets,” she says looking over her shoulder at Marc who helps the last of his guests through the door.

Rich stops before leaving and looks at Marc apologetically.

“These things are beyond our control,” Marc replies.
01/26 Direct Link
He walks quickly up the glistening street and crosses over. Most of the shops are now closed and crowds are thinning fast. Squealing sirens seem to be everywhere, he thinks. A wave of dizziness overtakes him. He stops in a nearby entrance and waits for it to pass. He looks back and sees no pursuit. No police yet outside the building, either. Upstairs the lights of the St. Catherine are winking out in sets until only a dim light remains. Then suddenly two blue flashes appear and quickly disappear in succession. Sarah’s words return to him followed by Marc’s epitaph.
01/27 Direct Link
A glass of wine brings a sense of mirth and well-being, a fragile euphoria that is shallow and burns away like a morning mist, as quickly as it forms. Consume more to extend this state and a deeper atmosphere condenses around you. It’s a heavier and more obscuring blanket of fog. Behind this, like a navel smokescreen, an agitated mind and empty soul can hide. It’s in this featureless place you lose yourself to others and if lucky, you too are hidden from your own eyes. Then at last night falls behind those eyes and the week is finally ended.
01/28 Direct Link
I watch the trailer again.

“I wish I could quit you!”

Let’s all laugh!

How many jokes did that line gave rise to? A line that captures a heart’s anguished cry should inspire fellowship in all for whom its tragic shadings resonate. Yet, it evolved into a cheap laugh. This laugh begins where sad jokes begin, in simple need. To need is to want. To want carries risk. To handle risk requires distance. In distance, we are saved. In laughter, we are saved. In salvation, we are saved, only by renouncing that which we want most. Why does salvation hurt?
01/29 Direct Link
The soaring sounds of Vaughan Williams’ violin romance, The Lark Ascending, draw to a soft, bitter-sweet conclusion. Yet the music plays on, filling the broad silence that falls across the room. The music is sweet and tender and it captures a time long since past. He wrote the work early in his career, before 1914 and the horrors of the Great War. It’s been said that he could not have written this gentle gem after the war. I think to myself, could he or composer have written it since? Cynicism breeds harsh music against which innocent romance can hardly compete.
01/30 Direct Link
The youths at work are interesting to watch. Some are in high school, some in University. They all seem impossibly energetic, frenetic and free. Their confidence and knowledge of their world seems more deeply complete than I remember of my own adolescence. One in particular stands out. He is neither a boy, nor is he quite a man. A few years ago he paddled tentatively in the lapping waves at the seashore. Today, he cautiously approaches the outer buoys of his adolescent world, wind filling his sails, gaining speed to make his first sojourn into the great sea of life.
01/31 Direct Link
Leaving the inner harbor for the world beyond was a metaphor that came to mind as I watched his van pull away from the curb, disappearing from view. We were 14 years apart in age and light-years apart in experience. Yet a common need drew us together briefly, and a greater fear pushed us apart as fast. Sometimes late at night I try to imagine how it might have gone; he was heading for the open water while I at sea, desired only the safety of a friendly port. The answer to my question remains the same, then as now.