Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Pass It On

End one day with the knowledge that a colleague died last week, Christmas Eve, in a car accident. You heard his name, didn't know it, couldn't place him. You told someone else about it. The person that you told called you back within a couple of hours to say he had to leave work due to the sudden and tragic death of his sister. Weird day. Your girl, who feels like she is not your girl at all again, agrees to see you, suggests dinner. At some point after the meal the conversation gets tense. She's got a lot on her mind, big decisions to make, and she gets out of your car in silence and disappears into the darkness. Sleep isn't in your bed when you get there and you wait for it until 2:00 am when they call you to go and see a suicidal former Marine.

Begin the next day with him who is here because his friend - who saved his life in Afghanistan - killed himself without a word. This is the third suicide he's been too close to since he joined the Marines. He said suicide has been so much a part of him that it wouldn't even be an event, just an unremarkable way to put an end to stress and anxiety. He is grateful for the hospital. When you leave there, the roads have turned to shit with the first snow-ice mix falling all around. You worry a little for the girl who's not speaking to you now, hoping she will take it slow and leave herself enough time to get to work without having to rush, but you know she won't.

You go by her house intent on helping, scraping her windshield and cleaning her car off, but it must be in the garage, so you feel useless and go for a coffee and then on to the next response where you find yourself at 7 am spitting mouthwash on the slippery parking lot then addressing a room of more than 50 machine operators, whose co-worker was torn apart by one of the machines on Christmas Eve just before they broke for the holiday, about the effects of traumatic events on a person and how to take care of yourself and of each other in the aftermath. Some come and talk to you after, one at a time, and they tell you what they saw and how they can't stop seeing it still - five days later. They don't know how to get back to normal. They don't know if normal is ever coming back.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Olive Oasis

After fish tacos and a margarita that tried to choke me

Saturday night alone save the bookstore clerk
maple tree outside strung in white light and warm
winter yet to hit the young man with the backpack 
waiting for Peter Pan which was me before and now 
it feels like a good night to keep walking but I have 
a car and a job and people who need me to do things.

I want to walk to a quieter place inside myself
come to rest in cool shade and be made welcome
by the inhabitants there.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Laundry Night

Andy finds himself in the laundromat waiting for the Speed Queen. There's a din of washers,  dryers, and three televisions on different channels. A Christmas special, Monday Night Football, Miss Universe - it all seems garish and terrifying. He watches the minutes tick away on the washer until he can load the dryers. There are only three other people in the laundromat and fifty-six dryers. Every dryer appears to be in use. How is this possible?

Andy begins to feel like he should be looking for a hidden camera. It's either an absurdist prank or all the forces are aligning against him. It's the winter solstice. On the other side of tonight, the days will start getting longer. Yay.

He finds two empty dryers on opposite ends of the place and loads his clothes into them. He's got himself 40 minutes of free drying time, and there's an Applebee's with a bar across the street. Hot damn.

He orders a tall-sized beer there and looks around the bar. He's in that place in his head where every one looks foreign to him and either hostile or contemptible. It was a mistake coming in here. When his beer arrives, Andy slides a credit card at the bartender.

One and done?
Yeah, clothes in the dryer across the street.
I get that a lot.

The bar is boring and loud.
 I have loved, Andy asserts,  and I love now... 
What the hell am I doing in here?

There is no good answer, but nowhere else seems accessible.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Not as it should be, but as it is

The sunlight entering the bedroom through the glass of the sliding door seems out of place.
You are sleepy and numb. Christmas is less than a week away. None of it is making sense.
Sunlight, your self, Christmas. This is called disorientation. Not the best place to begin.

Before falling asleep last night, an article appeared on Facebook - oracle to the psychotic -
about how you can identify if you are in a relationship with an EU (Emotionally Unavailable) person.
The list of symptoms loop in your head this morning.

Almost all of them are present. This is what you have been trying not to know.

Meanwhile, the bird feeder is abandoned again and the phone is silent. The article's author recommends letting go of what is not meant for you. This advice seems to be everywhere.

Where are the bells of Christmas? Why can't you see her face?

And when they say "meant" who exactly is doing the meaning? Is it her Fate? It's predetermined, she said. This thing lasts for as long as it does regardless of our hopes, desires, mistakes or misdeeds. What a great alibi for what is wasted, neglected or murdered. What a great consolation for what is lost, what cannot be held.

Is God the author of our story?  Are we instruments of some higher purpose? Characters in a divine plot line - a couple seeking shelter to birth a baby, children thrown into flames, Judas in despair suspended in the garden.

Or are we writing this as we speak - ultimately responsible for its life continuing, and for its slow or sudden death. My fingertips are on the keys, so are yours. But you never let me read what you write.

Then of course there is the possibility that the author tends to romanticize the ordinary, and that the true answer is simply - dude, she's just not that into you. 

The place you are writing from is not a good one, but it's still coming.

There's a story about an Eskimo healer, Maniilaq, you heard a long time ago. He said all he ever learned came out of suffering and solitude. Consider this an education. Amen.

Eat your heart...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Andy Starts To Put It Together

And in short order, Andy is here and Sunny is not. This is somehow true even though just last night they enjoyed dinner together, laughed together, and made plans together. He told her how good it felt to be near her again and how he'd like to stay that way. He dropped her off at home, and all seemed well.

This morning, he texted her a greeting. Her response was slow in coming and brief. He read into it. Something had shifted. They had developed an ability between them over time to detect emotional changes in the span of a few words in this electronic format. He believed he could feel her relative closeness/distance through her text messages, and there was something stiff about this one. His mind went to work trying to interpret the wide spaces between the few words. She didn't make him wait very long.

I need to tell you something that's probably going to make you mad, she texted. Andy is at work trying to juggle several neglected job-related priorities. His guts turn to water, and he responds quickly. Don't, I'm working - can't handle it now. But she's faster and her silent reply comes across as if blurted out.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hobo Seeks Travel Writer Position With Salary and Benefits

As a man, you would like to venture far and transmit stories home about your encounters with the world and with your self. Descriptions of ordinary lonely places, and the extraordinary things that sometimes transpire there, especially when you're only passing through. These are the places most people don't notice, and you can't seem to stop staring into. As a boy, it was like that too.

You would like to write long letters home, but you don't remember the address. So you write them in fragments, folding the pages, leaving them under rocks, in bus shelters, slipping them into the pockets of unattended coats.

Waiting in bus stations thirty years ago like some undiscovered prince. The girl in the white short- shorts and cowboy hat. A vivid story from a middle-aged man of easy living in Guadalajara. Another girl, sleeping on your shoulder, her sailor boyfriend just having shipped out on West Pac. You went into a Casper, Wyoming bar with her, and all the patrons started laughing, so you bought a pint of tequila to go.

Mostly there were no girls beside you, no stories told, except for the ones in your head about the people and the scenery going by. There was just the miles, the frequent stops, leaking time and your hurting ass.

Near Christmas, groggy, you opened the doors to the one in downtown Los Angeles in the middle of the night to find a sea of black and brown faces waiting miserably and staring back at you. "Look, Mama, a white boy!"

You drank wine on the bus somewhere with a long-timer, just paroled, hoping to spend Christmas with his daughter estranged now 20 years. He was holding your bottle when the two of you dozed off. It hit the floor with a tell-tale clank and slid into the aisle. The driver pulled off the road in the middle of the winterized American West and told him to get off the bus. You both pleaded with the driver.

It's Christmas, man. He's just trying to get home!

But there are rules, and the driver put him off in accordance with those rules. The ex-con shook your hand, wished you well, and got off into the darkness with a particular sort of resignation that suggested he'd always been told he couldn't stay.

There were a lot of people like that. There still are. And their stories get into you and they change you a little bit.  You thought about some of them today.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A plea, a petition, a kind of prayer...

Cardinal, Blue Jay, Red Bellied Woodpecker

She is sleeping in his bed now, radiating warmth and snoring quietly, a most unlikely outcome. He watches her face closely, feeling love without trust. Having accomplished its work, St. Jude's candle stands unlit on the night stand..

Today they texted back and forth for more than half the work day, laying this thing they have between them twice in its grave. From nostalgia to yearning to hurt to anger to remorse and back again - two full cycles. Neither can be other than who they are, and each wants something other than that. Simple then, right? You walk.

Yet she sleeps beside him now in this softness. She must feel safe. must trust in it,  how serene her face seems. He tries to arrange himself in such a way that trust is no longer relevant. He knows that closing his doors would be evidence of common sense and sanity, but he can feel her again and doesn't want to lose that ability. In the morning, she will look at him tenderly with the smile in her eyes he can't forget. The brightly colored birds will return - angels really, when she's here.

Today, while they argued about whether their love is practical or not, good enough or not, twenty people were gunned down at a holiday party in California. The particulates in the polluted air  crossed over some irreversible tipping point. Greenland's ice melted a little more at an ever compounding rate of speed. Soon the hot seas will be lapping at their feet. Embrace this night.

Sunday, on the car radio, Garrison Keillor said something about people being islands whose peripheries seldom touch. He thinks the occupants of this room are more like hurricanes whose peripheries frequently overlap. Like battling tops - attracted then repelled then attracted then repelled.

She rolls toward him in her sleep, lays her head upon his chest, he gently brushes her black hair from her face. The night is dark and still and holy. He allows himself to hear again the music she put inside him, to feel the warmth of this new sun. He cradles her body with his, breathes her in, holds her closer than it is safe or wise to do. He will suffer for this later, but he is not suffering now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

When I look around my heart, I could wish for another year with you...


They've had a lot of practice breaking up these last (nearly) two years. Every couple of weeks, on average. His nerves are shot. He keeps thinking of an old Three Stooges episode in which Moe, in a similar condition, chugs noive tonic and retreats to a country cabin to try to recuperate.

Andy can't remember the last time he saw her. Was it one week ago or two? It feels like months ago or yesterday.

He is wide awake at 4:30 am drifting between angry resignation and despair.  He lights the St. Jude votive candle. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes and hopeless cases - the saint of last resort, and the one he respects the most. He writes a few lines to the Saint, to her, no longer trying to argue his case. He asks for one more day with her.

It's very quiet, still dark, the flame flickers. The world seems empty but listening.