Slight Madness in Los Angeles

It wasn’t until we had actually arrived in the heart of Los Angeles that I had really started to regret my decision to go. As soon as I walked out of the car the city hit me dead in the face. It’s ventricles pumped out hot garbage that stung my nostrils as arterial scum seeped into the gutters. The wailing of sirens echoed off the alleys and their song rang on in my ears. The sheer weight of millions of people condensed into a few miles of metal, brick, cardboard, and concrete was felt in your very bones; but you breathed it all in because it reminded you that you and this city were alive.

Los Angeles had never sat right with me. Even when I was still a child the place always had a strange kind of energy to it. It felt as if you could feel the cumulative failures of thousands of stars that just never burned bright enough. The city itself seemed to feed off dying dreams.

You felt all of this way before your father was driven temporarily insane after being sentenced to eight hours of straight gridlock traffic and beat you in the passenger seat. You knew something was wrong with this town way before you walked down Sunset Blvd with a chill in your gut and your mom said those bad vibrations you were feeling was just the presence of demons attracted by sin and the Scientologists.

L.A, you never stood a chance.

CJ had found a girl online on some dating site that lived in the city, but it was Johnny who said they should set something up tonight. The idea of drinking there on a Friday night didn’t appeal to me but their company did, so I stowed away in the back seat and sang out loud and off key when a good song came on. I was trying to psyche myself up. Anything could happen in the next few hours.

We walked towards the bar and the streets were eerily empty, what with it being the busiest night of the week in a big city and all. But it didn’t bother me.

A couple blocks down I saw two men and a tiny dog standing over something. It was the body of a homeless woman sprawled on top of the gutter. She wasn’t waking up. That didn’t bother me either.

The men huddled over her were gay and full of worry and compassion. Even their little dog with it’s pink leash was gay, it had no say in the matter. They spoke in soft worried voices on their phones trying to get help and get her to open her eyes. The woman’s body was half in the street and half on the sidewalk. She was older, not old, but she didn’t seem to be very much alive.

The sirens would soon be singing their song for her too.

Walking passed them I somehow found a way to make a joke about it. We all laughed and looking back, I don’t know why.

The bar was called the Golden Steer or the Yellow Bovine, something relating to colored cows or false idols. A giant of a Mexican with a face that looked like it’d been chiseled straight from the pavement asked for our ID’s. With my friends already inside he stopped me extra long just because he could. He told me he needed to check my purse. I told him I didn’t have a purse. Then it hit me, it was my long hair — funny guy…

I walked through the door and suddenly the empty streets made more sense. As dozens of smells and sounds flew at me and my eyes adjusted to the darkness I had never seen more people in my life shoved into such a small space. It was one writhing mass of overly exposed flesh and tilted baseball caps. The instinct to flee screamed so loud in me I heard nothing else, but somehow I found my feet following my friends.

I decided I was going to have a good time. I was going to be happy there regardless of what I thought about it and goddammit, I was going to be out of my head.

It was so crowded you had to force your way to the bar and you were always being touched. Like an obstacle course of limbs. The crazy part to me was I was the only one in the entire place who seemed to be unhappy about it.

The bar was long and narrow and far beyond its max occupancy. It was clearly a Hispanic joint that went back and forth from blaring top 40 club hits to Banda music. Everywhere you looked were people within a centimeter of each other’s faces. Claustrophobia does not even begin to describe it, but it’s a start.

It took a good two minutes just to fight your way to the bar and when you got there, you stayed there, and you ordered two drinks at a time. The beer was flat and stale and again, I was the only one who seemed the least bit bothered by it all. Maybe I was crazy.

I had to push the thought of not being able to escape out of my head, my anxiety nearing a dangerous level as a large woman’s back was pressed against mine while some man’s arm rested at my shoulder–so I asked CJ to show me what this girl he was meeting looked like. She had a cute face and looked fit from the angles she decided to show. She wore glasses that housed big brown eyes and rested atop a small button nose above full red lips. She was on her way to meet us and had just gotten off the freeway.

Pushing back the screaming notion of stabbing the large woman behind me repeatedly, I congratulated him on what looked like an otherwise fine catch.

I told CJ I would be the designated driver, to drink his fill and have fun. So I was pacing myself with only a couple of the awful flat beers and what had to have been the cheapest tequila north of the border. Every other friend I knew had a DUI, driving in California is dangerous business, even without the drink in your blood. He was surprised by my offer. “Are you saying that because you actually want me to have a good time, or do you just not trust me to drive!?” “Both.”

If his battered Ford was any indication, CJ was an absolutely horrible driver, especially when he was sober.

A couple stale beers later and his girl showed up. All three of us are over six feet tall, finding us wasn’t difficult in that bar overflowing with Angelinos. In person she was cute, but thicker than she looked in her photographs. That’s the thing with meeting people on the internet, they almost always look better in the pictures. When you are going out with a catch you met online, six to one odds they are not what they sold themselves to be. When you are online dating you are really playing Russian roulette, but loneliness and a need for a body makes you keep pulling back the trigger.

She brought two friends with her to help break the ice, each one bigger than the last, the last being so big that I was forced to wonder how the hell she had managed to fit in the place at all. The woman behind me had now apparently decided I was a permanent pillar while another limb, whose origins were blissfully unknown, was becoming more and more familiar with my thigh. Introductions were made and I forgot their names right after they said them. I didn’t care because I knew I’d never see them again. But I smiled anyway and offered a shot to whoever wanted it first. In spite of all of this, I was still desperately trying to have a good time. The not-so-fat-but-still-fat one took the offer. She had a great smile and she even said thank you. As I handed her the shot, I spilled a bit of the tequila on the fat one’s shoes. I apologized repeatedly and sincerely but she seemed pretty damn upset about it.

I didn’t know what the big deal was. It’s not like she could see her feet anyway. I didn’t feel at all bad. Her personality was as lousy as her diet. There is no hope for ugly people with ugly personalities and though it didn’t seem to stop her, I knew somewhere inside all of that flesh, she knew that too.

In between the sounds of bass lines, auto tuned voices, and the people yelling over me for drinks, I tried to talk to Johnny and CJ, but it was almost impossible to hear anything over the speakers and my impaired hearing. CJ was focusing on impressing his girl and Johnny was making small talk with the not-so-fat-but-still-fat one while the fat one just stood there, angry at the world for making her fat.

More and more I was feeling a sense of urgency to flee. I couldn’t understand how no one else seemed to be panicking. It seemed insane to me how everyone could be even remotely content crammed into that bar like cattle with nothing but shit beer and cheap tequila to drink.

Everywhere around me I saw this look of sheer bliss on everyone; the mirror behind the bar showed me I looked nothing like them.

That was it, I told Johnny I’d be outside if they needed me. “I can’t do this anymore.” He knew me well enough to understand and nodded respectfully. In spite of the ocean of bodies I swam out the door in ten seconds.

The dull roar of the dive was finally silenced as the door slammed shut behind me and the quiet of the street greeted me like an old friend. I decided I wasn’t crazy after all for wanting to leave. It was the people in there who suffered that madness with smiles on their faces who were insane. Still, even after fleeing that asylum, I couldn’t help but feel like I had somehow failed.

I took a seat on the curb and laid my chin on my knees. I tried not to listen to the voices of the drunks ordering hot dogs and puking simultaneously behind me. I tried to get the image of the human zoo out of my head. I couldn’t tell if I wanted to be somewhere else or be some one else.

I didn’t know what I was feeling sitting there on that curb, but I bet that woman lying in the gutter could have told you.

Who knows how long I sat there wrapped up in blues in that dirty gutter, I just remember hearing Johnny call my name. I snapped out of it and got up and followed them down the crooked sidewalk as it rose and fell broken from all the earthquakes. The girls were bragging about how many drinks they had, in case the boys had forgotten. I looked up and saw no stars, just a lonely waning moon lighting up the hillside. “That’s a full moon if I ever saw one.” One of the girls said.

“That’s not a full moon. The full moon is tomorrow.”

“Pft, that’s a full moon.”

“No, trust me–it isn’t…”

I could tell they were all really starting to like me.

The girls wanted to dance and the guys would follow the girls until they got their opening. I heard them all talking as they stumbled on ahead. I wasn’t listening but I smiled when I was supposed to and laughed when I should have laughed. You learn when to laugh at the right times and you’ll live forever.

We got to the front of this building that was painted solid black with no windows that just said ‘Bar’ in neon lights. There was a line to get in the place. I didn’t believe anyone should ever have to wait in line just to get a drink, but I waited with them anyway. The night could still be saved. The next big story, the great love of my life could be inside of those doors for all I knew.

I walked through the doors and found a booth as far back in the place as I could possibly get and we had a whole corner to ourselves to breathe. The girl’s friends wanted to dance and Johnny followed them happily in drunken faith. CJ and his girl stayed at the booth with me and he offered me a drink. Somehow right then whiskey sounded more like poison than medicine. He went to the bar, leaving just me and his girl at the booth.

Her dress came down to her thighs leaving nothing but leg, yet there was nothing sexual about it. That dress made her feel uncomfortable, vulnerable even as she fidgeted trying to get it just right. I feel for women sometimes, I really do.

She looked over at me looking at her. “You are not having any fun at all, are you?”

“No.” It just came out and I was surprised I didn’t lie. Then I felt sort of sorry for her. I studied her for a couple seconds to find something I could bring up and tried to talk to her about a tattoo she had on her thigh to make conversation. I knew how I must have looked to her and I didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s time. The tattoo was a portrait of a singer I loved but when I got excited and tried to talk to her about him, she answered in short responses. She had made up her mind about me, she was done and hell, I couldn’t blame her.

Johnny and the girls came back. “These girls can’t dance!”

“Do you dance?” they asked me.

“No. I can’t go in there! I am an epileptic, those lights will give me a seizure.”

Johnny and CJ were the only ones who laughed. The girls didn’t care if I was being serious or not. I could tell they thought I was stuck up. Maybe I was. The truth is I was a terribly lonely person who just wanted to be left alone and I was trying to sort out how the hell that was possible.

So they all left me in the booth to celebrate each others drunkenness. I wondered what I looked like standing there alone to the people around me but no one noticed. It was one in the morning and everyone’s bellies but mine was full of the drink. The booth across from me held up two bodies, a man and a woman kissing each other and fumbling in and out of passion. For whatever reason I wondered if he loved her and I could tell from the way she studied his face when his tongue receded that she was asking herself the same thing.

Last call.

The music stopped and the lights came on guiding everyone out of the club en masse. Outside people stumbled slack mouthed over the broken sidewalks. Small boys with big mouths tried to start fights to prove to the world they were still men. Women in short dresses stole glances at me while still on the arms of their paramours. I watched as predators sober as judges stole easily suggestible bodies away into the night in yellow carriages while stone faced cops circled and prowled around the curbs in their black and white like lions in the tall grass looking for anyone to break away from the herd.

I looked around at the dispersing crowd and asked myself if this was it. If these late nights were the highlight of our lives. I saw these lost people had found themselves in lives they could only enjoy when they were in the process of escaping them. Escaping the responsibility of success handed down to them generation by generation by an unknown author. Running far away from the soul crushing jobs that fueled their petty stations and nocturnal enterprises. Their wed locked spouses and hungry children. Their problems with God. Fleeting dreams and neglected ambitions. Escaping their very consciousness. Drowning out the voice that would otherwise be screaming, “Why!?”

I longed to be counted among them, because I was a part of them, in their communal bliss. I didn’t want my mind. I didn’t know who put it there or where these thoughts came from. I didn’t want my eyes to see these things as they were. I wanted to find beauty in this! I wanted pure requited simplicity. I wanted this to be enough because I had no other answers.

I knew nothing else.

We were walking back towards our cars when I found myself suddenly far ahead of the group. As I looked up from the cracks, my mind was anywhere but there with them. It was on the battered surface of the moon 200,000 miles away, looking down at our lonely blue world wondering if it was really going to make it.

I saw the cracks in the broken pavement and suddenly I wanted the tectonic plates below the earth to shift and collide together so violently that the San Andreas fault-line would burst open and it’s hungry mouth would send dear Los Angeles screaming into the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The skyline sparkled in the distance and I wanted nothing more than to see it all submerged in the sea.

We went wrong somewhere, I thought. We have got it terribly, terribly wrong.

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The 10th Hour

What you are about to read comes from a part of my life and a piece of myself that I have kept hidden from virtually everyone. Things will begin to add up, and those missing variables that sum up a fraction of the equation that is me will be solved for some of you. Just like that, you’ll see a line, a series of letters revealing parts of me I have shown to only a handful of people, most of them gone now. It’s such a daunting thought, so invasive to think that people, strangers and friends alike, are going to be introduced to some of my demons. Hell, you might recognize them. You may have even given them names.

It all happened months ago, during a road trip I took with my younger brother to Northern California, in a sleepy forest town called Arcata. I was laying down in a cozy apartment at four in the morning during the tenth hour of a hallucinogenic trip under the influence of LSD. I shine emphasis on the state I was in for two reasons,

1: These lines follow no structure and evolved in an entirely organic matter. It’s simply a stream of consciousness spurned on by the effects of the LSD which, while they are mind altering, do not alter your present state of self awareness (on the contrary).

2: While under the effects of LSD, I was able to think in a manner which I had never been able to before. This new found thought process allowed me to remove myself while exploring myself (I can’t explain it any other way)–which was necessary–considering what it was I was going after: the root cause of a very real depression that still beset me.

I was able to see parts of me that I had hidden away and forgotten. Thoughts I had grown afraid to entertain, the memories I had sought for so long to drown; I brought them to the surface and found that I was not afraid, for how much more harm could they inflict on me now that I hadn’t already endured? There came at this time, a very strange kind of acceptance: I saw my life as it was, still effecting my life as it is, and going on into what my life would be.  It had to stop somewhere. To me, that meant acknowledging my pain, my hatred, and my sorrow and the child that was. For, instead of choosing to accept them as very crucial parts of myself I needed to recognize, I chose instead to forget them.

So, I remembered.

I beheld it all, all that I was running away from, and found some sense of peace at last that was born out of a sense of understanding I had discovered in an altered state of mind. I saw that I was only the cause of an even greater effect. A link in a great chain whose line had endured for generations. People who hurt others because they could not understand their own pain. The loveless who secretly weep and obsess over the one thing they cannot seem to ever posses. I was born with abandon to people who had also been given very poor hands in life, born with no clean slate to speak of. What I endured at their own hands, they too had suffered once, for suffering was all that they knew. In that respect, they had given me all that they had ever had.

Confronted with that profound truth it was then I felt, for the first time, actual empathy for the people that had wronged me. Not only my parents, but everyone who’d ever done me harm. And then everyone I myself had committed crimes against in some fit of anger or some preposterous notion of revenge. All those people who’d been refused a greater love, all reaching for the same thing at the center, the very thing we all orbit around, we are all connected to that. This great web that unites us all…It all just made sense in those precious moments in a way I may never be able to truly describe. Someday, I will try.

In that place I had found the key that would move me beyond my circumstances. Then it all poured out of me, like a river. This body of work remains largely untouched from it’s original conception save for some minor revisions or lines I needed to add for a “sober” or “unaltered” mind to make sense of all of this and also, it’s structure, which I have since changed to present the lines at the pace I would like them for them to be presented. This piece evolved with no design in mind, the words simply took me where they may.

I wrote this for no one, though it is for everyone.

the 10th Hour

I need you to know I am not well

and the truth is

I haven’t really ever been.

Not for a long time.

I can blame this on the way I was raised and I have for so long

How my Dad beat me because his Dad beat him when he was young

because we come from a long line of Soldiers who couldn’t make sense of war

or how my Mom didn’t love me enough

because she was the last of eleven children

born to already tired parents and wasn’t raised right

so she didn’t know how to raise me

and when I got grown and grew bad she abandoned me

because her God told her to,

but the thing is every addict and every selfish sob story

plays the same damn cards and never takes some goddamn responsibility!

People have had it worse then me.

Some people didn’t and neither of that matters

because none of them are me and I am not them,

but still we need to find some sense of understanding

and find camaraderie in our suffering

and let that hunger in us that’s never filled

be filled with something good for once

and maybe then our stomachs would cease to growl.

Sure, some of that I never had any control over

and I was just a little kid

who didn’t deserve any of that

and no one deserves any of that at all

and it fucking hurts like hell

when the people who are supposed to love you the most hurt you like that,

you are goddamn right it does!

And I took that hurt and that pain

and crafted it into a fucking shield to survive

and how I survived

but my strength that served me then

is a weakness that cripples me now.

That shield has since grown into a wall from all the bones

of the bodies thrown against me

and now no one can get in

and I am lonely

and I don’t want to be alone anymore

but love is the scariest thing to me

because I have seen what it can do to people

and it hurts every time I try and make it happen for myself,

but I am trying to confront my fears and it starts and ends there.

A whole mesh of seasons unfolding

that I hope will bear at least one good harvest.

It hurts

but that was a long time ago

and I am no longer a helpless child

and they are no longer who they were

and everything changes.

So blaming other people, that just arrests you.

You stay ever the helpless child.

Haven’t you cried enough?

For once shed your tears for someone else!

Because now you know what hurt is.

Because now you can recognize it.

And so many people are hurting.

And they are hiding it with painted masks and excess

and nothing gets better,

they just wait for it to go away

and it won’t go away

because it’s a part of them now,

well how do they fix it?

Love.

Love.

Love you gotta let it in.

Someway.

Somehow.

This is all on me now

and that’s just the damnable misery of it all:

knowing I can’t blame anyone anymore

and I alone am the sole author of this story

and I am just learning how to write

and I guess you can call that a strange sort of strength all on it’s own

but it’s just the beginning

and I didn’t really have one,

not like a “Once upon a time,” or anything,

so I have to start all over

and I don’t know that much but I am learning

and I am learning so much watching

but I know I need to participate even more.

Because you see people like me,

we have to know that this all has a meaning,

that there is something behind all of this,

there just has to be some meaning behind all our suffering

and we know that we have to find something

and we can’t settle for anything less than real

because in spite of it all

we still hope

and we still dream

of love,

of a real kind of love.

The kind that accepts

and understands

and knows

and heals.

Cause I need to heal something bad.

Can’t you see it?

I see some people that find happiness in the most mundane things

but really nothing is trivial

and they smile anyway

and everything is relative

but I still wish that I could be that simple

but my life permitted me no ignorance to procure that kind of bliss

so it has to be something so much more

and it’s a curse I think is really going to bless me.

I know I can find a way to make it better

because it has been better

so I can’t go yet

because I have barely seen a fraction of anything

and I have to make it all worth something.

I need to find something

and I have been going mad just to trying to find what that something is,

something I know is going to save me,

from myself

or the world

or both,

but I don’t know what it it is I am supposed to find!

I guess I will know when I find it.

It’s looking that gives me purpose.

It’s the search that makes it all worthwhile.

Because I don’t know if it’s just around the next bend of the highway

or the next turn of the page

where the author may have wrote something

that makes you feel like they wrote it just for you

to reassure you that you are not alone!

Someone has been there, where you are before

and they came out of it

and it’s there in the pages of history and poetry

to make you write something beautiful now

and give back that same gift!

It could be in the face of an unconventionally beautiful woman

sitting alone in the window of a cafe

looking over the menu for the seventh time

cause she is waiting for something big

to walk in through the door on a lonely night in Brooklyn.

It could hit me in a shoulder high crest in summer time

and cradle me in it’s salty truth like sunlight holds the pacific at high noon.

Or I could make it out in the shadows of the clouds

floating along the unfurling valleys below me

as I fly overhead and overwhelmed towards some strange new land

in which to lose and find myself.

It can be in the smiles of my friends,

behind a patient glass of wine in Summertime

where we talk real good talk of all the good things

we will do in good time

cause we want to be good men to not even really good people.

Perhaps it’s in the ivories of a piano

hidden away in an old house you just have to play

because no one has played it in years

and it was meant to be played

and You and I were meant to be loved!

It can be in the leaves falling in Autumn

reminding me beautifully and morbidly that life is still magic,

even when it’s ending,

but from that fleeting end Springs a new beginning

and the world will soon be green again.

Maybe it will be illuminated by a full moon on a white beach

that causes the blood to boil in our veins with passions beyond our understandings

and spurns us on into that ethereal world where the tides meet the skies

and you can’t tell if you are swimming or flying

because sometimes the stars align and anything can happen.

What if it’s in the arms of a woman who’ll fall for and into me,

touching me in a way that’s more than physical

and I don’t tremble at the thought of surrendering

because maybe this time it’s a victory and not a defeat.

I could find it one tiny raindrop in a storm that fell

not one second before the precisely perfect moment

upon a window in November

and reminded me in it’s following symphony

how truly wonderful this world can be

in the morning, and at noon and at night

and every day there after.

It can be anything.

It can be anywhere.

It can be anyone.

So I am going to stop looking for excuses and start searching for this.

Whatever it is.

Because I am not going to find it sitting here feeling sorry for myself anymore.

Because I want to be well

and I want to be whole

with all of what’s left of my soul.

It’s out there.

Somewhere.

Waiting to meet me on some unknown platform and

slowly I am moving towards it,

I can feel it.

– I

November, 2013

The Smiling Night

It was just another day in paradise. Ceiling fans swung lazily overhead, propelling a slight and stagnant breeze on the dry, thirsty mouths below them. Mouths parched from the burden of their day. Hard faces hidden behind various shapes of glass like masks. The stirred atmosphere stank of spilled beer and piss. The lights were dimmed low to provide an illusion of an ever encroaching night to help ease the minds of the day to day vagrant drunks into forgetfulness that light still dwelt outside.

The bar was littered with a few weary souls scattered about the floorboards and bar stools with light heads and heavy shoulders. The air randomly cackled from a thunderous break at the pool table. The ancient flickering jukebox stood lonely in the corner, playing whatever it pleased.

An old man held a solitary position on a stool at the center of the bar while everything else seemed to orbit around him; a sun unto his own private universe. He hunched over the counter as if it were a crutch to support his aging body. If not for the gray mane upon his scalp and the wrinkles around his mouth, his age would have been indefinable for his eyes were extraordinarily youthful, brilliantly dark orbs that teemed wild with even darker imaginings inside of his skull.

He sat for hours on that stool, contemplating everything and nothing as he marveled at the cascading colors of the bottles in front of him. The come hither allure of the emerald greens found on the bottles of the Irish whiskeys, the warm fires that seemed to glow red hot inside of the imported rum, the cool refreshing blue hues of vodka; an aurora of flashing lights culling him into warm inebriation and blissful nothingness.

The bar was his home, or rather his haunt, and he played the role of its imperishable ghost to a silent applause. Few souls knew the name of this spirit of consumption and fewer still knew how old he really was or how long he had been haunting this place. To him it was all one long, blur of a seemingly infinitesimal night. One night covering the span of many years that saw no curtain drawing down on a sunset. It didn’t matter to the Old Man what anyone thought of him. He had lived a long time, longer than he had probably ever cared to, and old age had purchased for him a title of great indifference. He was a fierce feline of the alleys that had all but used up nine of his lives. Nine lives fostering a thousand stories that housed millions of memories. Memories, perhaps, he no longer felt the need to carry. His head was much too full of his past. It left little room for thoughts of a future.

The bar door opened and hot light flooded the cool dark atmosphere, breaking the spell of the man made dusk. The old man lifted his hand to shield his wrinkled eyes from the sudden sunburst as a shadow walked in from off the streets outside where the sun seemed to be making its descent. As the creaking door slammed closed and darkness took the space again, he noticed the shadow was in fact a man, a man that with each passing step actually became more and more a boy. No older than twenty two if his hairless face was any indication. The boy sank into a seat a stool away from the old man. He ordered a beer in an almost inaudible voice and stared at the counter, his face devoid of all expression, until his glass was brought to him. When it was, the unsavory paleness of the beer he had ordered told the old man it was something cheap and tasteless. Like most young men he had observed, this boy had no taste. He decided not to bother with him.

Before the boy could even wrap his hand around his glass a song began to play from within his pockets so loud it overpowered the bar’s own jukebox. It was “Friday, I am in Love” by the Cure. It’d had been years since the old man had heard it, but he knew it well. The boy took out his phone and stared blankly at the screen. The song went on, Robert Smith sang of a profound love, and the boy did not answer. He just continued staring at it. Before the old man could voice his annoyance, the boy dropped his still ringing phone into his full glass of beer where it sank and bubbled till it hit the bottom of the glass. The picture of a woman’s face flashed on the screen and her name was seen in brilliant white letters for a moment. Then there was only black.

“Excuse me?” the boy asked. “Could I get another a beer? There seems to be something in my glass.”

A solitary chuckle escaped from the old man’s chapped lips but the bar tender did not share in the same amusement; the Boy was not brought another beer. The old man thought, no hoped, he would have left, but the boy remained at the stool, staring again at the counter with a face that seemed not simply expressionless, but rather a face that simply did not know what it was supposed to be expressing. The boy had an energy about him that made the old man uncomfortable (it was so familiar) and comfort was something he felt entitled to in his old age.

“What’s up yer ass, kid?” the Old Man asked loudly over the jukebox. Someone had put on a number he swore he used to know the name of, but the fact was washed away with the next sip of his drink before it could ever surface. The boy did not answer. He merely sat there, deaf to his neighbor’s inquisition. His eyes were now frozen towards what was now the corpse of his phone, as if it any moment he expected it would come back to life. The old man had no more patience left in him to harbor an insult as heavy as being ignored and the drink was strong in his blood by now. You could say it was the whiskey that caused his hand to slam in front of the boy, as much as it was the old man himself.

“I asked you a question, boy?!” His breath, as hot as his temper, stank like a bottle left to spill out into the gutters. If it was one thing in this world he hated, it was not being acknowledged. He had suffered enough judgment at the hands of people who thought themselves his betters his whole nine lives and had tasted bittersweet abandonment for so long that whiskey seemed to be the only way to wash the taste from out of his mouth. It stirred in him an ancient anger he had carried with him as he long as he could carry himself. But when the boy’s eyes finally met his, he withdrew his hand and his anger went with it.

Staring back at him now was a look he had seen once upon another life. A memory once thought drowned and forgotten, bubbled and resurfaced to the front of his mind. It was there he saw his own eyes staring back at him in a mirror, though they were much younger. They wore barely a wrinkle then, but instead were filled with searing tears that flew down his face warm and unbidden. He recalled the pain he’d felt in his chest. Pain that throbbed like a knife he was helpless to pull out. He remembered shattering that mirror into pieces with the very same hand he’d slammed down in front of the boy. The way a dozen different sad, distorted manifestations of himself had stared back at him with that same broken gaze. The bleeding mirror, its glass shards embedded in his knuckles like so many diamonds, engaged as he was now to his despair. And yet, he couldn’t feel any of it. She is gone, she is gone…

He stared deep into the boy’s eyes. His eyes were as a green sea suffering a red tide. He’d been crying. He’d been crying for a long time. The old man studied the boy’s eyes for a second, then two, and looked away, for he could not suffer the intensity in his gaze. Those eyes that seemed to shoot a challenge to the old man, or were they imploring him, Leave me be? His own eyes found the bartender then, “Martha, two whiskey doubles. Neat.”

The barmaid took her time walking over to the old man with a slight swagger in her stride. The curves of her body swayed together in one hypnotic motion that held the gaze of every patron in the room. Martha held, in what enigma remained of her form that she actually covered, that beautiful kind of ordinary whose personality made her extraordinary.

“You could at least say please, you old fuck.” She said more with a grin than a chastising smile.

“I love you, Marty.”

She brought the drinks, and laid them out in front of them; making sure to bend over a little more than she actually needed to. She was a good woman. Den mother to the sorry souls who inhabited the world in front of her oak counter. She had nursed the old man to near death and back to life enough times for him to know at least that much. The old man picked up a glass and raised it over his head towards the boy in a gesture of salutations and apology. The boy, luckily for him ( for the old man would not have suffered another offence), returned the gesture in kind. The old man threw the drink back and let it settle on his tongue. He savored the burn then swallowed the fire as it were water. The boy coughed. “Thank you,” he said softly as he collected himself. Acknowledging the apology and cloaking, as best he could, his embarrassment.

A few moments went by in respective silence as the old man studied the boy he had accosted from a periphery glance. He was handsome. Beautiful in a way the old man had never been. Completely unaware of the looks he was drawing to himself for, in his depression, he hid well what vanity he surely possessed. A thick head of brown hair fell about his face to hide the current shame in his eyes. He was tall and his body was strong, though it seemed like he was sinking into himself, as if there was some force at work pulling him from the inside out.

The old man felt he should say something to him, but what could he say? What did men do in times like these but mend the pain from both sides in contemplative silence? He bought him a drink to nurse his wounds. It was more than most people had ever done for him. Wasn’t that enough?

“How are ya feelin?” The old man asked in a half sort of laugh that was followed quickly by immense surprise. He didn’t know why he had opened his mouth and felt he was going to regret ever having done so to some baby boy from off the street. But the boy laughed too. One of those sad, defeated kind of laughs spoken more with a sagging of shoulders than with the mouth.

“Oh, you know, I am fucking swell.” He answered once again in quiet, soft spoken tone. One of those sensitive types, thought the old man. But there was still a bit of fight left to him, an edge that could still cut. “Forgive me for being obvious,” the boy added deliciously sarcastic.

The old man sneered, “Oh, I know that smell on you. You reek of that love sting. Still, you smell better than most of us in here, pretty boy.”

Then there came suddenly a real, honest good laugh. It erupted from the pit of his stomach, where the whiskey had no doubt made its impact. He had a surprisingly fantastic laugh, infectious and completely unrestrained. It shook the bar and sang high over the speakers as his hair fell into his face again. He brushed it back with one hand and took a drink with the other in one graceful, fluid motion. He had forgotten himself for a moment with that sudden outburst, until he opened his eyes and saw where he was. Then he found his chest again, or rather, his chest had found him and he remembered. His shoulders sunk and moved forward until he hung over what was now an empty glass. And his posture spoke louder than anything he could ever say. But still he spoke, “Does it ever stop?”

“Does what stop?”

“This…”, he said pointing a solitary finger towards his chest. “Does it ever go away?”

The old man said nothing at first. He instead gestured for another round, feeling that more of this medicine would be the best remedy for the boy’s obvious and immense sickness. He watched Martha come and go with their prizes with indifferent eyes. His head was somewhere else now; far from sex and his drink and the dull pulse of the bar’s slow tempo heart. He wondered what to say to the boy, if anything. He knew that he could lead him astray with a string of careless words. He could widen the hole if he wasn’t careful. For men in dire straits seemed always quick to grab hold any word that might validate their current positions. What the hell did he know about anything anyway?

“Were it so easy to just will it away…You can’t ever really escape that pain.” The Old Man said as he handed the Boy another drink. “So long as you love, then much can you lose. It’s a risk, but what isn’t worth having? I don’t know you. But pain I do know. Pain, it’s always gonna be there. Waiting to walk in through the same door that love walks out of. Cormac McCarthy wrote, “The shadow of the axe hangs over every joy.’ As if to say, eventually, joy will be stripped by sorrow. To that I say, learn how to block the blow. The hardest part of this life, it isn’t learning how to deal with the pain. It’s trying to find a way to make love stay.”

He looked to the boy then and saw those oceans in his eyes had begun to swell and the old man did not care to see them overflow. As a man whose form was sculpted by far tougher times than the boy would ever see, he felt ashamed for the him and his obvious weakness, even a hint of disgust at his audacity to shed his pain in such a public fashion. But as a human being who contained within himself far more empathy then he would ever admit, he could not help but watch in some twisted sense of fascination as a solitary tear fell from the boy’s face onto the bar, mixing in with a pool of water below a perspiring glass.

How to make love stay?” The boy made no move to wipe away the tears from his face. As if he were not ashamed at all of conveying what he as a man was conditioned to feel shamed for doing. His hands stayed true to his glass. “It can’t stay if someone doesn’t want it to. No matter how badly you want it to. If someone feels or tells themselves they don’t deserve it…Fuck it!” He spat and took a drink from his glass. “Better I found out she could cheat on me before I did something really stupid, right?”

The boy did not sob. Nor did his voice betray his convictions with the slightest quiver. His only course now seemed to be to reinforce his beliefs with words he did not really believe, for he could harbor nothing else but the bottle and his own self doubt. He had been running over the scenarios of his recent love’s denouement no doubt a thousand times all ready. Probably traveling absent of mind miles in any given direction, far from the scene of the crime till the street brought him here to this place. Looking for anything to fill the empty space within him that, until recently, had housed an extraordinary kind of love.

The old man had heard these kinds of stories in the corner of this bar alone dozens, perhaps even hundreds of times. He knew what the boy was going to say before he could even say it. But still, he was listening. For some reason, he was listening. He hung on the boy’s every word, though he couldn’t understand why he even gave a damn. They shared camaraderie in heartbreak and nothing more. They were men born from different times who lived entirely different lives. The only bond connecting them now was the bottle their whiskey was coming from. The boy was still very naive in his youth, where the old man was a grizzled veteran of a long fought campaign. The lad was pretty and soft, whereas he was calloused and the years had been anything but kind to him. But in spite of the tremendous amount of evidence that brought to light the boy’s foolishness, the old man decided he would keep listening, for had he not too been a fool, once upon a time? Perhaps he was still a fool for even wanting to give this love sick pup an audience. Fool or not, he decided then to give what wisdom his old year’s provided him to ease this troubled youth’s passing into one of life’s harshest realities.

The boy heaved a great and heavy sigh, “I give up. I fucking give up.”

“What are you giving up?” asked the old man.

“People!” barked the boy, as if the answer should have been obvious. “Women, they want it all in life but can’t for the life of them tell you all they want. You give ’em what they say they want and then they just want more. It’s never enough. People just want to take. I am running out of things to give…”

“You can’t give up on people. After that, it’s only a matter of time before you give up on yourself.”

“I just don’t understand. The more I try to understand the less I feel a part of anything or anyone. It doesn’t make sense. How could people be so cruel?”

“You should be thankful it doesn’t.” said the old man as he thumbed the rim of his glass. “Be thankful you aren’t like those people. But you should know by now, we are all fucked. No one makes it this far in one piece, kid. We all have our demons. Some of them we don’t even want to exorcise. They can become a part of you, or you them if you carry them too long. With people you let inside, you can only be aware of what they are capable of. And hope they DON’T do what you know they CAN do. It’s insanity really. You can call it faith, or hope, but really, its insanity: doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.”

“Then why? Why do we keep looking for this?” The boy implored, looking for an answer more from within himself than anyone else. “It is insane! Why do we keep hurting each other when all we are looking for is love?”

The old man froze with his glass just before his lips as they quivered slightly in anticipation. He didn’t know how to answer him. Had he ever even asked himself the question? Had he ever even be close to the answer the boy had a mighty and desperate hunger for. But, suddenly his tongue ran away with him.

“We go off of blueprints handed down to us from somewhere. We base our love off the love we have seen. Some people didn’t get shown too much love and some got none at all. Others couldn’t have possibly gotten anymore. But that’s life, and it’s never fair. We get older and we formulate our theories from these things we have seen. Then we go out to prove them, to find, ‘It’. We look and keep looking because, goddammit, we have to! It’s what we are. Humans were made to come together. It’s that simple: it’s instinctual. Even if you are not looking, you are. Even if you are not playing their game–those stupid fucking games, you will still get played. We hurt each other because, that’s what people do. What if we are all just puzzle pieces of a greater picture? We all can’t possibly come together seamlessly. That pain a lot of people feel, I think that’s us trying to force ourselves upon another. Upon something that we just won’t ever align with–like putting square pegs in circular holes. Or it’s us leaving those pieces we just simply cannot fit into. People will get hurt because how can you possibly consider all the people you touch with every action you make? You just can’t–It’s maddening! We are too selfish to think like that. We hurt each other when we hold on too tight. We hurt each other when we lessen the grip. It’s too much and then, it’s not enough. You want it. You get it. Then, it turns out it’s not what you wanted so, you let it go. Then, you want it back because it’s gone. Because you are insane! We are all insane! Driven mad just looking for ‘It’! You think you have found ‘It’ in someone, and ‘It’s’ there. Somewhere. And sometimes, it really is. And sometimes, you’ll find it was never there. You just wanted it to be…”

The old man still held the drink before his face. Stirring it in his hand, fascinated by the way the liquid caught the light and distorted the world around him.”We all just want what we have seen in the movies, really. What we have been conditioned by art to feel. We want to be spouting that poetry to beautiful, perfectly imperfect souls like we see on that magical silver screen…Those goddamn films have killed us. The poets have killed us. The writers have damned us all. Filling our heads with dreams we try endlessly to recreate in our own stories.”

He took a long, hard drink from his patient glass and waited for his words to really hit the boy while the whiskey hit him. He felt then, in that moment of silent reflection, as though he had become a conduit. As if someone else was speaking through him, for his words did not seem his own. The spirit of the bottle, perhaps? He couldn’t remember the last time he had talked so much to anyone. It wasn’t so bad. His throat was beginning to become sore and the whiskey was making his voice sound harsher than he meant for it to sound. It masked his sympathy and hid his sincerity.

The old man’s words broke upon the boy’s ears like fists, but in a fit of marvelous masochism, the boy only seemed to want more. “How do we know that any of that is even real?! Let alone even survives time?” The boy almost yelled, surprising the old man as he shattered the comfortable silence that had grown between them. The boy turned around in his stool in a flurry of hair and excitement and faced the old man, his eyes now lit up with something new. The old man had sparked something in him and he wanted desperately to keep the fire burning. The boy had altogether forgotten the pain he had walked in with and now seemed only interested in finding out from this old barfly, this new found source of all truths, if the love he had always searched for, the love he had gone through hell for, was something that even existed. Let alone could be attained.

The boy took the stool that was separating them to be closer to his sage. “How do we know they aren’t selling us something unattainable? Advertising to us the impossible! We buy it! We eat it up! And we compare our love to their love and how can it possibly compare to those fucking fantasies? You can’t fit in two people’s quest for love into a two hour film! Or a goddamn novel! We aren’t that simple! Life and heart and limb are so much more complex! What happens between the reels or the moments separating the panels? Where are those words the author deleted? Those are the stories—the real stories they never tell! You know what I am saying, right?! Where is the reality of life in it all? Where are the harsher truths of love? Who is writing that story that won’t make us all feel crazy or even impossible to love?” He touched the old man’s shoulder with a sympathetic hand. “You have been in love before, haven’t you? You know what I–”

The old man shrugged off the Boy’s hand with a sudden jolt that wounded the boy profoundly. In the space of the new found distance between them, the boy learned quickly that he had perhaps gone too far. The whiskey was in his blood and his blood was the drink and it was all he could do now but forget why he had ever come to this place. He was in shambles. He felt as if he were in a fever. The drink was the only thing now holding him together, but the medicine was fast becoming a poison. To keep his composure in front of this old soul he knew held some secret truth inside of him, only now to find he was holding it back, was almost more than he could bear.

“I-I am sorry,” the boy said as he stumbled drunkenly over his apology.

The old man dwelt on the boy’s foolish sincerity. “No, it’s fine. It’s fine…” He did not know why he had shoved him off. The boy had meant no harm. He was only drunk and frenzied in an excitement that he himself had stirred up. But who touched him anymore? Who caused him to remember? Unfortunately for the pup, the old dog was all out of apologies. After a few moments of careful and inebriated deliberation, he decided, as he so often did in his life, to move past it all as if it never happened.

“Of course I have loved someone. Many someones, heh heh. They came and went; transient affections. How long is forever anyway, really? A few months, a couple years? Eternity is surprisingly short in my experience. Then again, it can happen…who knows? For me, most of them turned out to be no more than passing seasons. And now, in the winter of my years I see that all those eternities I was promised, all of those forever and infinities, however much time they really gave me, they were all worth it, somehow. I harbor no real regrets. Hell, even the bad ones–especially the bad ones!” He exclaimed with a raised finger for that whiskey spirit was beginning to take over his limbs. “Those bad ones show you how good those good ones really were that you let go of so you can hold on next time around–if you are that lucky. Take it from an old fool; our mistakes are not without their own worth. In truth, they have been my greatest instructors.” He paused to gather his thoughts, though the words flowed out of him in one long river as if he were a dam burst.

“So many girls but ah, so few women! So few real women. I guess you could say that about men too. How many girls lost their faith in men because of some boy’s false religion? It’s as if people have forgotten how to be–how to be human, how to be happy, how to be loved. There is no real soul to anything it seems anymore. It’s all made on the cheap. All this knowledge and no wisdom. It’s all just sex, sex, sex everywhere all the time. You’re all in heat, but that ain’t fire. Those embers won’t keep you warm the way a soul’s gotta stay warm. You’ll find bodies, sure, but you gotta dig for that kind of real fire kid, really dig. And you’ll know when you find it because then, you won’t even have to ask yourself. Then, you are going to burn something awful.”

Somewhere behind them a man cursed aloud and threw his pool cue on the table. The boy looked back and glanced around the place as the old man attended to what was left of his drink. He saw men and women smiling to each other in the darkness, betrayed by the whites of their smiles and the glaze in their narrowed eyes. He overheard their conversations out of sheer curiosity and found most of them, while talking incessantly, weren’t really saying much of anything at all. Talks of sports, sexual frustrations, and outlandishly embellished personal conflicts echoed in his skull. He laughed to himself, but he didn’t really know why.

It was then that Martha came back around with two fresh glasses, “These are on the house boys!”

“See,” said the old man, “Now this is a good woman! I can try and set you guys up if you like?!” And for the first time in the entirety of their evening together the boy heard the old man laugh. He was glad to have been audience to it.

“Tell your boyfriend to come back when he has some hair on his damn chest!” said Martha as she left the Boy with a wink.

The boy joined in on the laughter and together their sudden uproar drew the attention of everyone in the bar. They were both dismissed as drunken fools and they were correct on both accounts, as the whiskey was getting to the boy more than he had previously thought. He felt much lighter than before, stronger somehow. As if the great weight of his despair had been suddenly lifted by the laughter of his transient companion. That illusion of invincibility found in the drink was coursing through his veins now, pumping out the sickness that had sought to claim him. It was too early to even consider a retreat (for where could he retreat to?). Instead, he would surrender himself again to the old man and leave himself at the mercy of his words.

“Tell me about a someone you really loved.” The boy asked, placing his chin upon his palm like an inquisitive child.

The old man smiled. He couldn’t refuse this child anymore. One of his truths, a tale or two; might save him from all this day had done to him. “…there was a woman, once. Oh, I loved her. Loved her like you love a place you have never been. That special kind of place you only see in photographs or postcards. You dream of going to this place: to her bed, held in her arms and lost in her eyes. You tell yourself over and over, ‘Someday. Someday’ you’ll make the great voyage to that glorious destination! But you know, that day won’t ever come. ‘Someday’…It’s a lie you tell yourself to sleep at night. Almost like a prayer. It’s the sweetest lie you’ve ever told, and you tell it to yourself until it becomes a truth. Someday…”

The boy saw the old man was no longer in the bar with him but somewhere far away, reliving another life. “Who was she?” he asked.

The old man’s joy suddenly withered away with a heavy sigh, “A woman I saw nearly every day but really, she was a rose in a garden I could never trespass. And that was just fine with me, leaving her there where she belonged. She was the most beautiful flower among a bed of weeds; a real divine kind of woman. I knew I wanted her for my own for all the wrong reasons. I’d grab her and ask her to come out of her world when I knew she had no business being in mine. And there we would be, two pieces struggling to align. And I’d keep her all to myself. Allowing no one else to even try; depriving her of that something that would fit. I knew, she’d only wilt away. Her beauty lost to the time we stole together. So I kept my filthy hands to myself. I left her in her garden to be tended to by someone else. Because I loved her, I never touched her.”

The boy lingered on the passing words, his face contorted and confused. “How was that love? You didn’t love her! That’s just cowardice! How can you love someone like that and not tell them? You see it ending before it even begins. You are a hundred steps ahead! Steps she could have walked with you if you let her! How could you know she wouldn’t fit—“

In spite of the boys frustrations, the old man answered him calmly, “You don’t understand, kid. I didn’t want her, not who she really was. I didn’t even know her, not truly. And there was no way in hell that woman would have ever lived up to my impossible expectations of who I wanted her to be.”

Those words seemed to grab the boy’s heart and drag it back down into the pit of his stomach. Had he not been guilty of the same act, half a dozen times? Creating these impossible dreams from his ideals that no one could ever hope to completely fulfill? Desiring only what he wanted to find in a woman, and not coming to appreciate the women themselves. Had he himself driven the woman who had hurt him so into the arms of another man out of a frustration she felt having unfulfilled him? Was anyone ever innocent in requited loves demise, truly? He could only lower his head as it became burdened with his own revelation, “God…”

The old man did not need telepathy or any sort of magic to know the thoughts that raced in the boy’s mind. “You leave him out of this!” he hiccoughed and smiled at his obvious drunkenness. “We all do it. We have an idea of what we want in someone else and try and hold out for it. Some of us just dream a little bigger than other’s is all–too big, sometimes. We concoct these contradictions and personalities that couldn’t possibly inhabit one body on this planet! Sorry,” he turned to face the Boy, “we can’t all fit inside of your desired categories. People are individuals, not mere projections of your desires. What can you really ask for in anyone anymore but to be someone who will love you for you and be authentically themselves for you to love in return? Just someone genuine you can digest in this belly of time with?”

“Is it really that simple?” the boy asked.

“Why can’t it be? People, we are all afraid to show ourselves, even to ourselves sometimes. We can become those people our desires want us to be, just to claim them. Then, who are they really loving? An illusion? A manifested parody of their dreams? That isn’t love. That’s people being in love with the sheer damnable idea of it. Love isn’t as selfish as that. Love–that kind of real, genuine, heart sick love–its desiring nothing but the best sort of happiness for the one you adore. Even if that happiness isn’t you…no matter how much you wish it could be. The pictures, the stories, they rarely ever tell you that…that’s what happens between the reels.”

The boy smiled another one of those sad smiles from beneath his hair, “The writers really have damned us all, haven’t they?”

The old man shrugged, “Who knows? Maybe they haven’t damned us at all. Maybe they have just been trying to save us?”

“From what?” asked the boy with a tilt of his head.

“Life…The life we find now in front of us. They are trying to save us, help us escape. Maybe in their scenes and pages they are just giving us a map–”

“–to get out of where we feel the need to escape from.”

“To lead us home, precisely! To save us and help us forget!” The Old Man stood up straighter in his stool, levitating almost, on sheer excitement alone. He felt something then, something he refused to call faith. More like bravery, a kind of greater hope. “Forget about our debts and dead ends! Death and taxes and the state and our goddamn religions! The wives and ex wives and their lousy head and lousier, stinking husbands! Advertising, television, the pigs and the threat of cages…they want us to forget all of that. How could we damn them for wanting to paint a better picture for us that we didn’t have the balls to paint ourselves?”

The old man sat down and leaned in close and the Boy couldn’t help but think there was a fire in his eyes. “Let’s not damn the movies or the poets. Let us call them saviors! What if it isn’t an escape? What if they are showing us not only how it can be, but how it should be? What if the love–NO! The life they are selling is real?! More real than this glass, or you or me? What if all they are trying to give us is hope? Hope that there is more to this life than all this phony bullshit we have built for ourselves. Just because you haven’t found it yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I will drink to that. I will believe in that, if nothing else.”

The boy smiled, “You’ll believe in fiction then?”

“And who is to say we can’t make fiction real? I think people could use a bit more imagination in their lives. Let them succumb to the fever. Let em’ burn! Who is to say if there is anything after this life, kid? All I know is I am here and I am only going around once. And I feel for those poor souls who never even start; afraid of the fire or complacent in their preserved state, afraid to even be touched. I did my dance. And I danced with some lovely creatures. But your song is just starting. This thing you are going through, hell you know it’s temporary. Time is the dog that licks all wounds. You’ll mend this like you’ve sutured a thousand other wounds you’ve already forgotten about and go on. Go on to dig for that love you lost or a new love or–you know what? Don’t even look! Live and it’ll find you somewhere, halfway between the gutter and the stars. Just don’t let life find you like some of these other guys in here, at a stool in some dive years from now with an empty glass in your hand having never really tried.”

The boy had never felt so foolish and yet so wise in all of his waxing years. His soul was made lighter by all the spirits he’d imbibed. His heart was still wounded, but that wound would soon bring to him a new kind of strength. This old soul had truly saved him, if only for a night.

Then the boy remembered the old man’s last words, “Did you try?”

“Yeah…Yeah, I did. But not as hard as you will, I think.”

“I think you just saved a few people tonight.” said the boy.

“You don’t try to really save anyone until you have been damned yourself.” said the old man and then he blinked in confusion, “Who else have I saved?”

“The people I dare to touch.”

The old man’s smile grew wider, “God help them all.”

“I never got your name”, the boy asked.

“I never gave it.”

“Fair enough”, the boy laughed, rising from his stool. The old man looked up at him with red, watery eyes and smiled. “Thank you then, old man.”

“Take care, boy.”

“Are you going to be alright, hun?” asked Martha from down the bar. “Do you want me to call you a cab?”

“No thank you, sweetheart!” the boy cheered. “I think I am gonna be just fine. Take care of my friend for me.”

The boy stood up for the first time in what felt like days to him. Almost forgetting he even had legs, he found the floor to be quite problematic at first. He took out some crumpled bills from his pocket and threw them on the table. It was far more than what the bill would have been, but in his mind he was paying for a lesson that one could never even hope to buy.

He placed his hand again on the old man’s shoulder, only this time in farewell. He let it linger there for a while, almost as a sort of test. The old man made no motion to remove himself this time. Instead he placed his own wrinkled and calloused hand gently upon his fingers and squeezed softly. No more words from him. He had given all he could spare. There would be no goodbyes. The boy had had enough of those tonight.

He found his feet, possessing once again the body that now felt so foreign to him, and walked back out to the street from which he came. Outside the night had come as quickly as the day had gone. The door closed behind him shutting out all the sounds of the atmosphere he flew out of, leaving him to suffer the silence of the night alone. And what a lonely night it was. The shops of the sleepy town had all closed. Their lights long flickered out, leaving only the comforting buzz of the street lights to guide his crooked feet. People were all off warm inside of their homes with their families. The streets were empty and dogs barked at things unseen in the darkness. He would not go home tonight, for home now fostered the very pain he had managed to escape tonight. He decided he would walk, surrendering himself to an unknown street to carry him where it may.

He was fantastically drunk but still fully aware of himself. It hurt a little less now, but his wounds were still fresh. It would take time. Time is the dog that licks all wounds. A cool southern breeze caught his face and filled his nose with a sweet nocturnal perfume. He looked up from the cracks in the sidewalk and found a crescent moon shining bright above him in an almost starless sky. He smiled, and the night smiled with him.

Mary’s Eyes

“Larry just died.” She said. “Larry is dead…”

The words washed over me but were never felt. A breeze through an open door, subtle and fleeting. I didn’t know him. He was but a fixture in a house to me. Someone I didn’t sit near or speak to besides what courtesies a strange greeting could afford. A nod. Hello. Goodbye.

“Goodbye…”

An old man, frail and infirm in a body that was failing him. Grumpy and solitary. Racked with a pain only a dying man can feel. He gave up the ghost a little after dawn. My roommate got the call soon after. He was the domestic partner of her mother. A man she did know. And that man now, was gone.

“Larry just died”.

My last goodbye was for good.

I had only just woken up. Stirred by her familiar footsteps echoing across the hardwood floors. She paced the space between us. Her anxiety, palpable and manic, amplified with every step she took as her feet carried her across the room. My only conscious thought as a man was how to stay the tears of the woman who knew him. I only knew for once, maybe I could be of help. I had no emotional attachment to the departed. In their grief I could attend his body. Make sure the proper channels were contacted–I didn’t even know what those channels were. Nonetheless, I got in the fucking car.

___________________________________________

The house was not the home I remembered. It was stirring with an unsettling static in the atmosphere. Not with the usual soundscape of a house full of life. The yelling, barking, the screaming, laughing–that chorus clamor of a modern, affectionately dysfunctional family…it wasn’t there. Not even the dogs made a sound. For the first time, I entered that house and was greeted by a stranger named silence.

My friend walked up to her mother whose face immediately swelled with tears she struggled to hold back. And then, she burst. They held each other and their grief. I didn’t know what to do. My mind, in it’s simplistic male design, only wanted to fix what I saw was the problem. But how do you fix death? How do you mend a loss life? How do you stay a tear? You can only let them fall. Catch them and wipe them away. You can only be a witness. You can only shut your mouth and feel helpless.

I touched their shoulders in quiet consolation. Then, I left them to their mourning without a word. To do what I came there for.

I walked down the long hall. My feet moved, driven with a purpose all their own. Action without thought. I had been down this hall a dozen times. Accompanied by screaming children and panting dogs. I walked alone now. The hall felt so much wider than I remembered. I stopped at his door. Beyond was a place I had never been. I didn’t know what was on the other side but my body took me there, and I followed.

It was a simple and quiet place. A fine reflection of what I had seen of his character. What little I had seen. The place was unadorned save for a few scattered photographs. Strange and familiar faces inside of small frames. Another family? Another life. A solitary window faced the street where the early morning sunlight struggled to be let in. The light and I found him, sitting in a chair facing the doorway. His head was resting in his chest. His hands curled atop his lap where a blanket lay falling off his legs. The old man I didn’t know, the dead stranger; he looks like he is just sleeping…

Almost like a spotlight, the sun stole into the room. The rays caused the naked white walls to shine brilliantly as they touched the atrophied limbs of the corpse in front of me. Heavenly, in a way. If, after all this time, you still believed in such things.

I had never seen a dead body before. Neither corpse nor ghost. Only the living and the dying and, sometimes, I can’t even tell the difference. It’s something your eyes see, plain as sunlight but your mind struggles to grasp the concept. This person is gone. What’s in front of you is just the remnant of a shell. No life. No pulse. Just dead. Gone. Forever. Goodbye. Goodbye. They ain’t coming back.

Still, his peaceful countenance stirred in me a sense of disbelief. What if he is just sleeping? What if he isn’t dead?

With a steady hand I placed my fingers upon the life vein in his throat, searching for a semblance of a pulse. His body had already begun to atrophy and grow stiff. It felt as if human skin had been stretched across the bark of a tree. His pulse answered me as a statue would. I felt his chest for a heart beat but it’s measure was over. No breath. No movement behind the closed veils of his eyes. No. Not dreaming. Not asleep. Unless you counted death as a state of permanent rest. He was gone.

In the hallway, I could hear the house sobbing. Sadness was in the walls and the house seemed to creak in response. I found his bed without any real thought and sat down. I found myself looking at him, studying him. Like an artist would a model he was about to paint. I don’t know how long I stared at him. I can only tell you I could not look away. Neither fascinated nor disturbed. Not afraid nor really brave. I only felt this great sense of nothing.

I felt nothing.

“Where’d you go, old man?”, I asked him, smiling to myself. I knew what a joke it was. I just said more to this man in death than I ever had in life.”I want to believe you went somewhere. Somewhere better…I do.” Conflicted with my own beliefs of the existence of an after life, talking to a corpse, I felt something then. I couldn’t tell you what it was. I could only tell you it was there.

As I stared at the body of what used to be a husband, a father, I noticed he had drool on his face. It made him look infantile. Regressed in death, to the stage of his birth. I took a rag and gently cleaned his rough face and wiped away the spit. I took his blanket and covered him up to his neck. He didn’t seem so frail then. Just a man lost to a forever kind of dream.

And then I left him. To be mourned and seen by what people knew him. One by one they began to visit the house to pay their respects and be there for one and another in their own way. Everyone was so caught up in their own head, no doubt having the same inner monologue. Contemplating the fleeting transience of mortality or, at least, struggling not to. I was praised for my kindness at handling the old man, but beneath my thanks, I could not accept it. I only did what I would have wanted for myself. He was a man once, he shouldn’t have been seen like that. It was the least I could do.

People began to regale stories of the Old Man. His grumpiness was comical to most and to my surprise, he was quite a rambunctious soul. Had you only took the time to know him, he’d have talked to you. He might have even made you laugh. Scoffed at your youth and then, perhaps, shared some wisdom purchased equivocally at the cost of all his years. The Old Man than became a Good Man to me.  By his deeds done for his new found family, it spoke far louder than their words ever could.

And you couldn’t help but wonder, who will be there when my body is found? Will I make it to old age? Will I be so lucky, to pass quietly into that good night in sleep? Will they speak as fondly of me? Will I be remembered and bring a smile to those very few who knew me, truly? You can only hope and strive to be that for people. In the face of death, you can only live in spite of it. In truth, is that not the greatest rebellion?

___________________________________________

I took a seat next to a friend, the daughter of the now widowed Mother. She was holding in her arms a newborn baby girl. The newest edition to her family, Mary Anne. A classic name for an already classic beauty. I sat next to these two beautiful creatures and just enjoyed the sight of them. Little Mary Anne, being cooed and awed by a love struck teenager who bounced her on her knees. Such life existed now in house where moments ago was only death and sorrow. Our own little rebellion, if I had anything to say about it. I edged closer to them and dove into Mary’s eyes. These great blue pools of curiosity teeming with contemplation. Searching the room until they found you. And then you drown in there. You really do.

I touched her soft, porcelain hands and she grabs my finger with a strength I had never felt in a newborn. She just won’t let go. In that moment, I can tell you I felt something. Love. I felt love. This unfailing desire for wanting nothing but the good of the world to befall this creature.  Isn’t that what love is? Whatever it was, it beset me as tight as she held onto my finger. And as I am swimming in her eyes, I see her begin to drool a bit. Her spittle falling gracefully over her face, I grab some napkins and wipe it all away from the cherub face ever so softly. I clean her up till not a stain remains on her adorable face, for it should be adored by all. And then…I laughed.  Aloud and sudden, it caught me by the throat.

Life, it’s such a funny thing.

– HOWl

Dive

Two friends walk into a bar. Low lit and empty, they enter unnoticed. It’s one of those dark inviting dives where the neon signs flicker outside large and brilliant, drawing in the drunks and the damned like moths. To laugh, to live. To forget what they had laughed about or what they were living for. My friend orders us a drink and we drink. We’ve been drinking for a while. Celebrating something that wasn’t really worth celebrating but still worthy of being an excuse to celebrate. Then, from stage right, a woman takes a stool next to me at my three o’clock. Right away I catch the blonde. A warning sign, an omen, falling about her face in yellow locks. Blondes. You underestimated them, always. They either bounced off you with harmless plastic limbs or they sank those nails deep into your skin. You could never tell what was going to happen, until it was too late.

This one, she wasn’t armed. After a while of being scratched by women, you can just tell. Which ones are crazy and which ones are crazier. She had that ordinary blonde hair you find on the scalps of those dime a dozen babes that just blend in with the scenery. Not a wallflower. More like an extra on a set to fill space. To take up stools.

Under that ordinary blonde hair, I see thin lips and brown eyes that harbor a fog. Her eyes hold no signs of danger, life, or insanity. They were the kind of eyes you see glowing in the skulls of animals at the zoo. A captive. She hums no energy and her body emits no vitality. She hides whatever she has got under layers of over sized sweat pants. Like a single mother that just woke up to cook breakfast for her bastards. If she was trying to get the fellas to use their imaginations, all I could imagine was her changing diapers. She is just filling space with those sweats. Most of the time, you don’t want men to use their imaginations.

But that enigmatic ass under all those baggy clothes isn’t going anywhere. She sees my eyes firm at 12 o’clock and this is bad, because they are not on her. She pokes me and there is a coy smile stretched across those thin lips. Goddamn women and their poking. I lost my virginity all because a girl poked me. I knew exactly what it meant. Even then, an eighteen year old virgin waiting for a love that never came. I guess I have always been impatient.

I see no ring on the hand that tapped my ribs. She gives me a name I immediately forget. I stare into my bottle when I speak to her. It’s cool, inviting, refreshing–in stark contrast to her and her body. Luke warm and tepid. Too much head and a sour aftertaste. Our bodies can say so much. Her’s– it wasn’t saying much of anything.

Time drags it’s fat ass on and the medicine kicks in. The more I pay attention to the drink, the more attractive she gets. She goes from ordinary to pretty with each swig and satisfying sigh. Her body–it finally starts talking. We talk with our eyes and our smiles. That real drunk talk where no one says a damn thing worth saying. It’s just noise. That forced preliminary babble. The foreplay before the foreplay. My tongue was as silver as her earnings  Or just as false. I didn’t know. I didn’t care.

She laughs at my jokes. Those thin dry lips get fuller as she inches over to me. Slowly. Scooting her ass over in that stool till we are almost sitting on one conjoined chair. As I lose my own wits, she seems to gain some of her own. Blondes…you always underestimate them. The fog in her eyes finally clears and even begin to teem with life.

On that bench we had made of our stools, we share a moment. We close our lips. We shut up. There was no need to say anything anymore and we knew it. We listen to the music. It’s St. Patrick’s Day. A bow draws at a fiddle, fast and hard. Inviting everyone to take up arms and dance in celebration. But I am too tired to dance and my co-star, in those baggy stay-at-home-mom clothes of hers, she doesn’t look like much of a dancer. So, we sit. Like dogs waiting for their bowl. A couple of Orphan’s in a Dicken’s novel.

Without warning, breaking what stillness we had conjured, she pulls herself into me. She lays that ordinary blonde head on my shoulder and there she stays, extraordinarily. The audience gasps! She wasn’t drunk; and if she was, she was a poor actress. That’s why she didn’t have many lines. But this is what lovers do. They find comfort in each others arms. They hold hands. They wallow in indecision about what to eat for dinner. This isn’t love. Not even close. Then again, how I would know? I guess if you have to ask, you are not.

She is just lonely.

But why is she doing that?

Just let her have this.

And it’s intimacy. Just a surrender to what blissful silence exists in such places. Satiated of our ever present hunger of joining bodies. Not sex. Just touch. A connection linked and intertwined in our hair. It’s a PG film. Soothing and comforting. It’s simple. But is anything, really?

I had the scent of woman under my nose. That smell you only catch in fleeting moments. In casual greetings and embraces. When a girl passes you by on a sidewalk or an aisle and you catch the perfume in her wake. All that aroma and pheromones stirring your loins. Your design. But I don’t want her that way. It’s far from my mind. Then, I lay my heavy head atop hers for a while. Cause I know at any moment, this will all be over. And this moment, it’s nice; being alone together.

It’s a scene from a film. A Kodak shot of two pretend lovers sitting under the spot light of a couple flat screens. Both our bottles are empty and neither of us ask for another. This is enough. The dwindling crowd behind us seems to speed up. Or we have just slowed down. The hours and seconds we had so willingly set our lives to were forgotten and time no longer existed in space of the art we had created. This romantic portrait of make believe we have painted with our own fingers. Right now, for a moment, we are not alone. Even if we are just acting. Even if it’s just pretend. It’s okay to pretend sometimes.

I grab her chin gently but firmly, to pull her lips toward mine. Those ordinary lips that suddenly turned so inviting. I wanted them. If for no other reason than to have them. Pressed against mine, warm with fever. Wet with dreams. To solidify the moment we made together. A kiss for a signature. I hold her face softly between my fingers and bring her in slow. This can be our dance. Let’s not let the music fall to waste. I wanted contact. I wanted collision. I just wanted something.

Before my lips can touch hers, she moves in my hand. She turns away. They miss their mark and graze her cheek. And her ass finally gets up from the stool.

She exits.

Stage right.

No dialogue.

No goodbye.

Not even a nod or a backward glance.

Just two empty bottles and a man at a bar. He doesn’t watch her leave. His eyes lower to the drinks. He fumbles for change in his pocket. He pulls out some cash and orders another. The stool on his right remains empty. And he forgets.

– HOWl

On the Road, To the Skies, Across the Sea

My Mother drove me to the airport. It was still early. I had barely slept with all the thoughts I had of what lay before me racing rampant and directionless in my mind. The excitement coursing through my veins pumping hot kept me awake. I was soon to embark on an adventure I thought I wouldn’t have seen for some time, or rather one I didn’t think I’d have ever seen at all. The kind of grand adventure you spend hours building in your head like some great architect. This grand escape from the monotony of your life. You draw the plans and as soon as you are about to build on some blank slate you tell yourself, “Tomorrow. Someday. If only…”  You wait on stars to align till the dream dies. Dies before it was even born. But no, not this time.

Driving up to the gates families and friends are seen. Lovers are saying their farewells to one another while lonely businessmen go about their business. Tears are held back as people are held. Hands shake. Smiles crack across weary faces still heavy with sleep. I think to myself how much of a theater airports are. All these people just dancing on this well let lit stage performing the third act of some well rehearsed play. My Mother and I say our own goodbyes. I tell her, “Don’t worry. I will be fine.” I waited inside the airport and sat down to watch the people pass waiting for my friend Nikkita to arrive. This whole trip started because of her. This tiny woman with big dreams and an even bigger smile who one night asked me drunk in my friends backyard if I wanted to go to New York. I had only ever seen a handful of places outside of Orange County. With hardly a thought or a pause I said, “Yeah.”

For weeks I felt as if the trip wasn’t a real thing. As if it wasn’t going to happen. Like a lost friend you say you will make an effort to see but you know you will never call. It must be how men feel before their children are born. You don’t really feel like a Father till you hold the babe in your arms. The reality of it all doesn’t hit you till your are inside the belly of a steel dragon accelerating to a hundred and something and taking to the skies.  When we leave the ground, it hits me. It’s all really happening. Below me, the cities of my childhood shrank and receded till the pacific I love so well swallowed them up whole. The entire backdrop of my life was shot like some precious photograph and framed within my window. I saw clearly for the first time just how small my life and the world I had built around it really is. And then it was nothing but a cascade of blues sparking under the sun until we rose into a whole other white world of clouds.

ny plane

The world above the sky was pure as the driven snow. A porcelain sea as great as the Pacific with clouds so massive you’d swear you could walk on them. Underneath the wings an eternal garden of mountains bud in spite of the winter that beautifully blankets the soil rich with new snow. The shimmering landscape catches the sun like some metal shield and the glare blazes a fire across the horizon. An infinite expansion of an alien world I never knew existed blooms wild and white as far as my eyes could see. All my attempts at capturing the scene paled to the true reality of it’s beauty. The crest of the peaks rose and fell into valleys like some great tumultuous diamond sea frozen in a marble frame. Swell after swell till the last wave of peaks kissed the parched lips of a western desert. Nothing is forever. Not even this seemingly infinite Winterland. The mountains will weep snow at the advent of spring and it’s tears will flow as rivers down into the wide open mouth of the Mississippi. The mountains will shed their winter coats and become dune waves themselves, eventually crashing into the open arms of the Pacific. Physically, nothing is infinite. Where one thing ends only another story begins and Earth and her continents are no different. A few hours and a thousand miles later, darkness falls over a land I do not know. I look down below and a million stars had sprung up from the ground as if the plane itself had flipped upside down. Great American constellations splattered across the black heavens of the plains that blotted out all other stars in the night and shone unrivaled with unnatural radiance. I can see now how moths are so drawn to flames. Eventually, our captain found the right constellation and we arrived safe and unsound half a world away.

New York was fashioned in my mind to be this great city of all encompassing  steel, a constant deafening din, blinding lights and a sea of people you’d have to swim through to get anywhere. It was one of the few moments in my life that I was happy to be wrong. We take a car from the airport and as we are driving along some foreign street I poke my head out the window like some dog and catch all the sights I can. From my window I catch a glimpse of a great skyline. The isle of Manhattan. It’s smaller than I thought it would be. Some glittering crown sparkling far away on a steel throne. Maybe later I’d pick it up and see if it’d fit my head.

We met up with our host. A hip Asian cat, named Kat who had cats. She too was born and raised from the Golden State and had moved out to Brooklyn for reasons I never cared to ask. She still wore the calm of California about her and talked with a quiet, placid voice thick with the dialect of pacific shores. That slow, drawn out drawl you find in someone stoned and indeed she was high. High off the city she now calls home. I was tired. I was sore and in sore need of a strong drink. Kat bought the first round and I decide we can be friends. After a few well aimed drinks hit the bulls eye in my gut we take off into the cold starless January night. Outside the cold was nothing more than a cooling hand. I pop up the collar of my coat and find the winter embrace to be more akin to a gentle lover than some the harsh blow I was expecting to slap my face. In California there are no seasons. Only an ever fluctuating temperature ranging from seventy to paradise. Here, this cold was welcome upon my tanned skin that has known only short Falls and long Summers.

Downtown Brooklyn on a Wednesday night and not a soul was in sight. We traversed through alley ways older than any man alive where countless streets fights and human parades had been hatched and fought in my head. Cobblestone streets that breathed and pulsated, alive with every shudder of the rail ways roaring down below. And nothing was dark, for all was illuminated by the pale glow of a hundred million lights guiding which ever path you chose on the road. We chose a path that guided us to a park on the bank of the East River, between the bridges of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The park was closed and fenced off but just begging to be explored. Nikkita had probably finished reading off the first sentence of the posted signs denying us entrance when I was already over the measly fence. I didn’t travel an entire continent to be told I couldn’t go somewhere.

ny bridge

And there she was. Up close and in fact too large for me lift. The Crown of the Atlantic. Eternal Flame of the East. New York. The Mother city of so many of my heroes and I was looking right at the holy womb that had given birth to them all. Walking the same streets that they had walked in another life, in another time I wish I belonged to. I was playing  in Holden Caulfield’s playground. An America I had never seen loomed just beyond the black waters of the East river and I wanted to feel it all with every sense. So we traversed the length of the Brooklyn bridge that went inside the open legs of Lady Manhattan. It was three hours into the morning and still, not a soul. Well, save for one man who seemed to be having a rather hostile conversation with himself.  Big cities make small men go mad but at least he was going somewhere. But so was I. For I was full of good drink and Western dreams of Eastern things. On the isle of Manhattan are buildings that would make even the greatest and largest men feel small. Buildings so old you felt ancient just looking at them. Being alone in the wide streets among the countless parks only amplified the experience tenfold. The New York I had envisioned was never empty. It was beautifully eerie and surprisingly welcome. We had the whole fucking city to ourselves.

And day after day we dove into the underground catacombs and traveled wherever we wanted to go inside the belly of another steel dragon that had no wings. I imagined myself bounding across the rooftops I passed, their heads scarred with painted signatures. Rainbows of effigies and pretty things lighting up the blank canvasses of the bricks. Under grey skies with no promise of rain for the trees that were stripped naked by the lustful hands of winter winds. Passing empty churches and crowded streets. The cobblestones coughing up hundreds of souls as I passed; hustling and bustling going everywhere and nowhere to the rhythm of the dragons drum. And down every alley and street was some mortal infinity. An endless possibility of anywhere you could ever go and all you could ever be. I bathed in the rains of an Atlantic shower. Tasted the sea on the other side of the continent. I drank, I ate, I slept and dreamt all under a different sky. And what a dream.

One night I found myself on the floor against the wall of Kat’s apartment. She was in the process of moving, so there was nothing in the vast space of her living room save a table and a window that overlooked the street. Outside the hour was late but back home I’d probably just be coming back from work. The lights were dim like dying candles and the music playing carried well across the floors and empty room. It was only the middle of the night but I wanted nothing more than to lie there and just let everything wash over me. The weariness of walking dozens of miles and the lack of sleep had finally caught up with me. I laid down on some makeshift bed on the floor. Kat’s cats came to lay and dream beside me and I let them be. I looked up at the smooth ceiling and just stopped. Everything…just stopped. It was then in that moment of delectable stillness I stood in the middle of the street that was my mind and let everything hit me.

ny floor

I had traveled a world away with just a, “Yes”. I was the farthest from home I had ever been and it took next to nothing. Nothing but a willingness to go somewhere new and a fistful of paper. I was so lost trying to comprehend just how goddamn easy this all was that I didn’t even miss home. How I had stepped off the carousel that is my life with little but a nod. How beautifully simple it was to just…go. Anywhere. Cause I realized I could go everywhere! And while all that hit me, the happiness I tasted being where I was and where I was going; I completely forgot who and where I was. Words fail to describe the true nature of the moment but it was almost as if I was experiencing something so much greater than myself that I no longer was myself. I wasn’t on the floor anymore. I was floating. I was out of my body in some zen state. Stoned off the unknown and I never even took a hit. Completely lost to this illusion of grandeur and wanderlust that I realized was no illusion at all. We are just brought up to believe it is. Like it’s some difficult thing to uproot ourselves from the comfort of our safe and comfortable lives because we are bound by this great and invisible chain of familiarity. In my mind I was walking in a wilderness I had never seen under clouds so blue you’d swear it was the ocean turned upside down on you. I was in Portland, Seattle, Maine, London, Paris, North, South, East, West it didn’t matter. I could have them all. For I realized then that nothing bound me. My meager possessions, my home, my car, my job…they were all weights I could cut at any time. I was the goddamn wind and a storm of youth. The bubble I had been born inside of finally burst and everything and nothing made sense all at once. And the feeling has stayed with me, long after I returned home.

We are all groomed to believe that the lives set out before us by our predecessors are the correct paths to choose. Growing up you already got your whole life planned out for you. And you nod and take on that mission to make these architects proud and be accepted doing what is expected. But I am older now and far more wiser to see things with open eyes as they really are. I look at those who live to work and work and work to pay for all the things they work for, only to come home to throw themselves on some overpriced piece of furniture behind a television till their eyes close. They probably dream in commercials. Rinse and repeat. For a two week vacation. The possibility of pension. And the golden dream of a retirement so they may spend the rest of their lives as they should have all along living life on their terms till they die. And that’s the awful truth of it all. So tell me…how is this all supposed to make sense to me? To anyone? When I have walked in wilds that spoke only truth. Walked among the titans of the redwood forests. Seen cities that lived and breathed all their own filled with people who just got it! Read works that were no works of fiction telling of crazy souls who dared to find another life. When I have traveled thousands upon thousands of miles to get lost and find myself somewhere I have never been? How can that make sense when every sense I have has experienced something so profound that the very notion of surrendering to anything less than my own terms of life would mean death?

Blessed is he who has no sense, common or otherwise. Who is blind to the beauty of life, deaf to the beat of his own heart and mute to not speak his wants. Blessed are those who go through life with slow, quiet hearts and simple minds. Blessed are the ignorant, for the bliss of not knowing what awaits us inside the open arms of the world is life’s sweetest kiss.

Let the ignorant be safe. Leave them to their homes and fences and comfortable chairs and quiet lives. My bed is where I lay my head and my home is wherever I take my heart. There is a whole world out there beyond ourselves that needs to be seen. I don’t know when it will be enough, or if it ever will. I don’t know when my insides will stop burning with a hunger for a greater life. I don’t know how much longer I can suppress it and I don’t know what is the next step is to getting closer. I know only that I am here. That I am mad and mad about life. My heart beats twice as fast as it should. I couldn’t live that quiet life even if I wanted to. I have seen far too much to even hope to turn back. I am thankful for that now. For years I have gone through life thinking that something was incredibly wrong with me. For I could not find a place, or a time, or someone where I felt I could belong. And now I know that people like me need to make those places for ourselves and make them with our own hands. They cannot be some cheap and freely given thing. I have many more roads to walk and more paths to tread to find this great thing I am searching for. I don’t even know what it is but that’s what makes it so damn beautiful! New York and all the wildernesses I have explored are just the beginnings of an even greater adventure. One worthy of writing about. A story worthy to tell.

For love and death and everything in between, I will die at the end. Scarred, smiling and empty for I will give it all of me. You leave pieces of yourself along every road you take and part of the road you take with you. The people you pass by or pass through will give or they will take but they will always take what you have to give. Their stories became a part of your story and your stories become a part of them. And maybe we die simply because we run out of pieces to keep us alive. When we give and take to fill that great voracious hunger for life that roars within us till we can consume and lose no more. When every fiber and fabric of our being has been stripped to keep others warm. Till we are naked and shivering left to die alone in the cold. When the many roads we have walked searching for that great something leaves us broken, battered, and bruised until our strength fails us at the last stoplight. For what a sad death to die without scars. What a sad life to live without love.

–  HOWl

Evergreen

The air hung about us fresh and heavy, burdened with the weight of a billion falling tears. The very heart that pulsated beneath us in the soil opened up and sang a song of warm welcome to the soothing rain. Hills rose and fell before us like great waves frozen at their crests before crashing down into yielding valleys of green and virgin earth. We race off the beaten path and make our own way up the steep face of an unspoiled hill. Reverting back to childish innocence as we battle imaginary foes! Swinging makeshift swords, screaming into the wind. Our bodies wet, trembling and indifferent.

Ian

And there at the crest, among the rain and gentle foliage and in the companionship of faithful brotherhood; a universal language of leaves and wild things reaches out to communicate with us. An anthem of life echoes across the vast valleys ringing in the ears of adventurous  souls. The tall and untouched grass sways and gestures with invisible hands as silver clouds caress the bosoms of hilltops like gentle lovers. Rivers rush down with force of grace, inviting us to follow it’s trajectory into unknown territories longing to be explored. The rampancy of turning gears ceases their manufacturing of endless thoughts and deplorable doubts as a natural intoxication envelops me in silence. Lost in ecstatic euphoria and vivid imagination, I am as far away from everything than I have ever been. And yet, I have never felt so close.

Close to the secret that alludes me. The great lesson to be learned in the language of the wilds that is no secret. A timeless wisdom that would make sages of young and willing minds. But I am lost in the translation for I do not know the native tongue. The winds and fertile lands tell me I’d learn, if only I’d stay. But the clouds are darkening with the setting sun and I damn the the brevity of winter days.

We turn back. Back towards home and the modern melodrama of our lives that loses it’s attraction when reflected in the unbiased mirrors of still waters. Back to fluorescent horizons, neon signs and the angry reds of tail lights. Nine to fives and traffic fines. Forty hour work weeks and 401k. Sitcoms that tell us when to laugh. Game shows and the evening news. Reality television, commercial advertising and radio broadcasting. Empty wallets and empty beds. Back to the freeways and super highways whose lanes become impacted and congested. Reminiscent of great migratory herds of cattle, consuming all in their wake. Trampling the old and and the weak for Weekend sales. Buyers looking to buy, never thinking they are the ones being bought. Back to the security of suburbia and it’s gated communities. The endless race for paper and property. Lost in the currents of waning humanity. Losing their minds in a country that is losing it’s soul.

Back to the manic parade. The carousel. People spinning inside of themselves. The fluctuating condition of the human animal, condensing and compressing together in great sky scrapers till the imminent moment of implosion!

And they call this a dream. Oh! What a dream.

But my eyes are open. For I have seen the evergreen.

-HOWl