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Out from the past with dusty words that could make me six years younger came a message. The old bitterness in my mouth returned easier than I would have ever imagined. Time passes and you think you grow up, wisen up, and give up some of the more fallible parts of days gone. Here’s a chance to maybe prove that though, as the first reaction that comes to me is nothing more than an old habit; a learned way of coping. These are different times though, and it is my responsibility to act like a man that has learned his way away from the child he was.

I respond with firm honesty and without malice. The beats of my heart are stepping to a quicker rhythm as the minutes follow in wait of a reply, and the two letters I receive do nothing for me.

Ok.

I feel no more than I felt a second ago, but the absence of indignation speaks to me in my own voice with words iced with pride. I did what I could and defied a lower road, and though I didn’t receive beyond or level with expectation I am proud of myself.

To my surprise a second response follows. Something honest and unexpected, and for not the first time in recent memory my own adjusted response opens the door for something more than my assumption to reign. Where the story goes next is unwritten as of this writing, but I see a lesson worth noting here. It is easy to move a piece to draw out another’s response, but by granting freedom to their actions and responding with sincerity and openness you may allow yourself to be surprised.

11- 4:02

What light would be cast on me should I disappear? If I fell like a watch over the side of ship to sink in to the depths for eternity, would I be thought of as lost treasure? Would anyone snorkel and explore in search of my greening edges?  If one moment I was there like chicken, rice, and vegetables, stirred in to one on a white and reflective dish of white porcelain, would any regard be given to my flavors before I was consumed? What would be remembered of what was there merely moments ago?

“I’ll never forget you,” he says.

“But will you remember?”

“Well yes, I’ll never forget you.” A laugh orbits his words.

“But will you remember?”

Frustration like fumbling fingers trying a zipper.

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s not hard to not forget. There’s no time in keeping a memento of me in your thoughts to collect dust and serve as a quick response when inquired. My hope is that I come up in your thoughts for no other reason than you’ve enjoyed our time together.” A pause breaks the exchange and within it his mind races.

“That’s what my hope is, anyway.”

“I don’t know if that’ll happen. You mean a lot to me. You’re special. I love you.”

“I……….”

His heart reacts like a start gun. The racing is on and he didn’t ask to be at the starting blocks.

“What?? What’s wrong??”

“I….. I always hope for more.” She pauses again. He wants desperately to speak in the silence but the disorder in his head prevents him from starting.

“I’m tired of being more in love than you are. I’m tired of knowing that those hopes are not who you will ever be.”

He tries to speak a few more times. Finally, the pages and pages of things he wished to say sent out nothing more than a simple “but I love you.”

“Thank you,” She says “but I hope you find a love that suits you better.”

Like that, she begins to disappear. Painful nights and realizations that he’ll never experience her laugh or share a bowl of ice cream with her again are two small pangs of many that await him in time, yet he does begin to forget. He forgets and heals and lives on.

She walked away with every step a few miles ahead of him. She knew, had known, and consequently felt little in the end. She had come to no insight that had not previously occurred, and while she knew he would be hurting it was offset by the knowledge that they would be happier a year from now down this road than the one they’d been traveling together. This wasn’t the love she’d hoped to share with someone, and she knew she owed it to herself not to quit before she found it.

Imperfect Misery

The cook with his carroty head is begging us to eat; he beckons with his ladle to everyone that passes. He bargains and blusters like he is the bastion of life keeping us from the grave with his cobbled together soup. His eyes twitch and bulge without so much as a rhythm to go with the piffle he serves as an unwanted side to the lumpy brown water, only passing as food thanks to the orange of the carrots. They sometimes listen but mostly donate as little as they can to justify the food, cupping the bowl with warming hands against the rainy winds.

I sit low to the ground, a bucket my throne while I regard this fool, my knees up to my aching chest. The closest I’ll come to feeling that warmth is the burning the swishing in my flask can do. I don’t need him or his lined, long face or thin, patchy hair. His lack of respect pains my ass more than this bucket, and amongst us, a group of men fighting in mud and death, he does not belong. I wish more than anything he would quiet and let us weigh the fighting we’ve faced, and will face again soon, chat with us. Let us break bread and understand one another. Let us feel it a little more and a little less so we may greet it as it comes.

But no. Instead he barters his soup for an ear and a little self-importance to fancy when the night comes.

Cult of Personality

Their own reflection is glory

Staring back with the smile of a lover

“You’re the protagonist of this story!”

Just plot devices are the others.

 

No one else understands

Or maybe they’re not smart enough to

“This game can only be played by my hands

Everyone else fumbles, grovels, and misses their cue!”

 

If everything is a ladder

They’ll knock you off to scuttle up the rungs

Lest they feel like they don’t matter

Anymore than the rest of us.

 

Once armed with enough noise

To justify their abuse and control

“We worked smarter” or “Boys will be boys”

You will never score a goal.

 

With peace and equality so easily toppled

Like sheep submitting to the will of any wolf that makes the effort

These sick brains relish in spreading the most awful

Eating our lives for dinner and our dreams for dessert

 

On a planet of so much water

Our lakes and oceans are poisoned by narcissism

The infection unavoidable as it spreads to slaughter

Our uniting to rebel, and so it succeeds in the schism.  

California

Children are natural. Unconditioned and unburdened by default until circumstance makes that change. Take a young boy with dark hair, born and never allowed to live a mistake he never made down. Looked down-on on even ground by eyes unrelated but forcefully related to every step he takes. Growing happens to him as it does us all, but whereas a child of fortunate circumstance is filled with support, love, and stability he grows with distrust, self-contempt gathered from the hue and cry of another’s contempt, and without example of what it means to love after excitement.  Like swapping flour for baking soda or chocolate for molasses, the cake bakes differently to a complication not particularly palatable to the normal taste.

     The child’s a man now though, because that’s what children do: grow to be adults and a part of this world. This one is apart of this world, and while he can ace everything that can be taught and conquered his ingredients are always the same. What ne never knew he couldn’t learn no matter how long he played or how many miles he moved past the expected finish. By some small twist of fate, an act that would save yet haunt him for decades to come sowed the one seed of happiness he would ever have.

     When life’s misdirection’s dripped in to his water like sand, insoluble and cloudy, he found a beach along the Pacific and forgot the life of selling in tall buildings behind him. It was never forever, but a friendly face, family by name, helped him sit down with himself to architect the home he would return to and how he would live the coming times. Even though every passing day meant the end was nearer he still found peace in the hours of the respite. The warm air and sun almost as nurturing as the miles he’d traveled.

     This man will never change. He will never see himself as belonging to the world he so desperately wishes he did, because he truly doesn’t wish to. The things that make him happy don’t produce enough iron to keep the anemia at bay, but nothing else puts it in his blood to begin with. He’ll work with the balance he’s survived so long with so long as it keeps him alive. He will excel with the skills he has but will unfortunately trample through every garden he ever finds beauty in with the feet of a child that was always hated by those who raised him. Even after they long since passed he finds in himself the well in which to fill his bucket of loathing for a young boy, with dark hair, who still can’t live down a mistake he never made.

Never Ending Circles

“Come here, small one.”

The words are no question, but an acknowledgement that they must act now: obey the desire.

“I have done what was asked of me.” The quiet voice said, “May I rest now?”

Laughter choked on a noise of disgust at the very notion.

“You don’t ask the questions.” was all that was given.

A single finger pointed, silenced, commanded, and crushed the hope that had glinted so promisingly.

Not willing to risk presenting another opportunity, they quickly followed the order and made for the door.

Just outside, a man oozing with slime that greased his hair only a portion of the way it greased his words and hunched shoulders spoke:

“That’s pure pedigree. You’ve gotta work and work and work if you want your kids or your kid’s kids to be like that. Be smarter and keep trying, you know? Only the smart and hard working get there.”

     When the night came and they returned to their love to sleep, they waited until the change in breathing greeted sleep, and then they cried. They cried of frustration for the life they lived and the set ready on stage awaiting their children’s arrival. When the day returned they thought they had found the right words to inspire and educate the children with, yet the children knew only of the lives they had lived. Never before had they felt the heartbreak of life’s misgivings or the diminishing shadow of the richer and fortunate. Silently they wished better for them, but out of the corner of their mouth cursed them for not appreciating the weight of the future.

     No longer children, they’d learned through the years of dust coating that old memory of family breakfast. They’d pushed as their parent had prodded, and the sores from the prodding ached most when the well cared-for fingers would point, silence, command, and crush the accursed hope which returned like weeds no matter the efforts. Their riddle filled nights of never-ending circles would prompt the new-old tears and lead to clashing wishes for the children of their own.

     Then their children would age…..

Rome

The view of the city as a city is red, orange, and glows with yellow peeking through. It’s beautiful and inspiring like a sunset with the loving space between us warmer than the setting sun. The paints awash in broad streaks, and from the ledge I can see it like pain on a canvas. Dots deep in the gallery’s star piece are burning with rebellion like a self-consuming wildfire, and the pain has become us. It’s the echoes of desperate voices calling out for love or a friend and hanging our faces in hopes that we can one day return from the day and mourn ourselves. The warm crackle of a wintery fire goes with every step towards it. Lifeless and glitching, there’s nothing beautiful. It’s gone.

     I hang pictures on my walls and read about history: gladiators slaughter without sound-bites or pics-so-it-didn’t-happen. I appreciate the honesty in fighting to the death and a ruling class labeled as such in the yearbook. It’s on the opposite coast of my own, just a drowning and shark attack away. I don’t know what to think of it anymore than the unshaven or showered pair picking fights on the bus ride home, or misdirected carping about the poke in the ear during the oppressive and mounting financial assault. I know about that saying though, and if when you’re there you do like they do then when you’re here you ship your mind off so you don’t have to.