October 15, 2008

         The smell of tea resonates deeply within me. It reminds me of mornings when I am sick, when I have to succumb to my body and surrender all mental ability to everything that is out of my control like car accidents and who my grandparents are. Tea reminds me of beauty, of Joni Mitchell and old photographs and sleeping in my underwear.
        I hopelessly love silences and seasons and nighttime. I adore instrumental music and French literature and big trees on a city block. I love still water and being afraid and human connection. Drink up (I want to be free). Explore (I want to be boundless). I need to keep writing or else I will be stagnant.

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October 7, 2008

The morning light shines through the apartment complex. The illuminated dust, which remains the only source of movement in the restless environment, floats downward. She does not know why she remains tired after ten hours of sleep.

            Listening for a knock on the door to wake her, she waits for Will, the thirty-two year old single man who lives down the hall. They met by passing, engaging in small talk until one of them mentioned D.H. Lawrence. Separating during the day, they exchange books at night, drink tea and wonder how passionate of a kisser the other one is.

            But lying in bed, it’s hard for her keep the window open and eavesdrop on the movement below. The cab-calls, the fall wind, and the café conversation whistle a tune with no concrete rhythm. She promises herself that she believes in life, listening to the noise and wondering why it sings. She’s not afraid of Will, she says to herself. She is just aware of his obligations.

            She’ll pass Will in the hallway and appear to have appointments to go to. A chronic flaw, she must be chased. Fortunately, he always stops to talk, and she focuses on reducing her natural tendency to small talk. She asks, “How are you?” and “Where are you going?” He asks, “How is the collection of short stories you started?” and “When did you chip your tooth?” and “Can I come in for some tea?”

            Over tea one day, her mom calls her. Will sits across from her as she apologizes for taking the call. Her mother asks about the new studio apartment and the promotion while ranting about her younger brother who still lives at home. At first glance, she holds an intelligent conversation with her mom. In reality, she tunes it out instinctively, conversing with Will’s eyes for the remainder of the telephone call. He blinks with a feint smile. She wonders if things have begun.

            When together, they talk of childhood and science and socialism. It’s the kind of conversation that exists when people get to know one another: full of substance and ambiguity. They talk over the neighbor’s creaking bed, and it forces them not to whisper.

            “Best break up?” he asks.

            “There’s such a thing?”

            “Of course.”

            “Senior year of high school,” she snaps back, “We were friends the day after.”

            “First year out of college – I cried for three months.”

            She notices how the monotony of his motions contrasts with his spontaneous speech. He combs his fingers through his facial hair, holding the mug with both hands.

            “Ever been to that 7-eleven on the corner?”

            “The one that sixteen year old girl works at?”

            “Yeah, I heard there was a hold up there. I can’t imagine how that girl reacted.”

            “I wonder what she’s up to,” she mumbles.

            Everyday he leaves, she speculates when he will knock again. She lingers around the apartment like a dog waiting for interaction at the welcome mat. She notices how she reduces herself to desperation or anticipation or expectation, not knowing what she exactly feels. The relationship they have created is as healthy as sixth grade relationships, when one would daydream about a passionate, physical encounter but was well satisfied with a kiss on the cheek.

            Reminiscing on Daniel, the grad student she slowly stopped seeing, she realizes that she held onto the relationship for the promise of routine sex. She can’t recall their first encounter or their first date because she never knows how things begin, whether it is relationships or wars or short stories.

            Daniel called at the same time everyday. While the ringing phone annoyed her with its consistency, the silence peeved her just as well. They fumbled with conversation on the phone, both talking at once. It wasn’t right but it was no one’s fault. Her work dulled her, and he kissed aggressively.

            A single date with Daniel sticks out. They went out for ice cream after a night together when spring was just starting to bloom. Too cold for ice cream, they sat inside, and she learned about his old family road trips.

            “We went to Dairy Queens in every state. I remember the one in Florida and Delaware and middle of nowhere Indiana.”           

            “What did you get?”

            “Dipped cones. Everytime.”

            He liked dipped cones. She remembers this vividly. His dark features and little formation of a belly were lost on her, but she remembers he liked dipped cones and wadded in Lake Michigan for twenty minutes before diving in.

           

 

She treks home from the bars earlier then usual now, subconsciously wanting to be home and risk an encounter with Will. On Saturday, he is hand in hand with a petite blonde who wears all black. They smile politely. Although happy with the girl he is with, she still catches him glancing at herself with genuine appreciation in his eyes and nothing hurts, not even the repetitious sound of water dripping from her leaking sink.

 

 

Can you feed me?

September 21, 2008

The crayons are wet from the rain. As the paper on the crayons begin to disintegrate, a layer between Jeremy’s fingers and the melted wax fades. Riding the bus home from school, he grips the crayon tightly, drawing the man across from him in a shade of blue.

                The congested bodies, all wet from the indifferent rain, uncomfortably wait to leave the bus that smells of tobacco, sweat and disinfectant wipes. They eagerly crave their home but not Jeremy. He enjoys the bus too much, where awareness pervades him. The bus not only reminds Jeremy of all the people he walks the streets with but connects him to them. Tuning out the concrete scenery he passes, Jeremy instead draws the surrounding passengers with his jumbo crayons, and when he arrives home, he hangs the portraits on his closet wall. The after school activity has not only become a routine but an awaited moment of pleasure. Now, he can remember everyone’s sleeping faces, the bags under their eyes, the awkwardness in their bones.

                Completely unaware, his mother doesn’t know he takes the bus alone; instead, he assures her that he carpools home from school. His mother doesn’t realize the maturity in Jeremy. A single mother figuring out the world, she feels inept at life and naturally does not assume her son knows more than she. And when it comes to Jeremy, he is not rebellious. Rather, his lies are a product of fear that his mom will take away his after school voyages.

                The bus stops at Ashland, two blocks away from his two-bedroom apartment. The walk up to his house faintly washes off his portraits. The people’s faces become full of tears, and he incessantly feels closer to these figures as he watches them cry. Running to his room, he locks the door and enters his closest holding his twin bed. Adding to his collection, he hangs up the portraits and watches his isolated world grow.

                But much is missing, he says. There are no animals. There are tight knit families, divorced couples, jaded children and productive youth but the walls still needs gardens, trees, and elephants.

                Discontent, he walks into the kitchen and watches his mom boil water while on the phone with Mrs. Vreeland. He waits for the spaghetti she is making and a dull moment where he can interrupt.  “Mom,” he stammers, getting her attention. His mom stirs a pot of water with one hand, blindly looking into the pot while focusing all attention to her phone conversation. He can see her shoulder bones through her t-shirt and notices she spent too much time on her hair. She brushes his comment off, telling Jeremy to hold on while she gossips with Mrs. Vreeland.

                “So this was last week?” she questions, “When Mary took the kids on vacation. That bastard saying he needed to stay home because of work.”

                Jeremy doesn’t care about politeness anymore as he watches his mother converse about affairs everyone thinks they don’t already know about. He chimes in, “Mom, can we go to the zoo on Thursday?”’

                His pervasive voice annoys her, and she simply replies, “Jeremy, it’s gonna be raining all day.”

He stares at the empty bowl on the table.

His mother doesn’t notice his discontent, switching attention to her conversation with Mrs. Vreeland: “Do the kids know yet?”

Jeremy interrupts, “Mom, I’m hungry.”

“I’m making dinner, hold on.”

He knows that water cannot boil any faster but asks, “Mom, can you feed me?”

She drops the pot and violently turns the oven off. “If you can’t wait ten minutes then you are going to have to wait until tomorrow morning.” She leaves the room discussing affairs everyone thinks they don’t know about.

He goes back to his closet, wondering if his friends have empty stomachs as well.

               

It is the cities and the mountains that I love. Either a concrete playground illuminating overpopulation or the natural areas so empty one cannot even escape themselves. However, I wake up every morning to see suburban bliss, the in-between that ignites in me no inspiration or muse. I find myself frequently visiting the city or running away in the summer to the mountains; however, in the times where I cannot escape suburbia, I seek solace in the land that literature creates. For, at my very core is my love for art.

In the last four years of my life, art was not only my retreat and my passion but also my education. In the hours of the night that were too late to even check the time, I found myself in a room filled with words. Meanwhile, I was also searching for new sentences to fall in love with. There was Bukowski and Brautigan taped to my walls. Books covered the shelves and the floor simultaneously. Articles filled binders. With every word, I had discovered something new. At the very best, I had not only learned but changed.

Although I spent nine years at a Catholic grade school, I never understood Catholiscm until reading C.S. Lewis. Even in the country’s current mess regarding immigration, it was Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath that shaped my stance on the issue. And for many years I succumbed to innate shyness but only after watching Cool Hand Luke did I really learn how to speak my mind. I confess that it is as though I need a fabricated world to help me understand and change reality.

While rummaging through an issue of Adbusters one day, I came upon a quote from Lee Henderson, in which he says, “Art is the only god you can prove exists”. Immediately, this quotation got written down and lingered in me for years since. He articulated the role that art plays for me. It is not for sheer entertainment but illumination. It is immortal. It gives me direction and meaning, a role similar to that of religion. Thus, when losing myself in a piece of music, I have found myself gaining a sense of existence.

If anything, I am a passionate person who does not wish to stop learning once the school bell rings. So give me trains, give me buses, give me a sidewalk, and I will wear out my Chuck Taylors until the rubber sole is all that is left. Give me words, give me passion, give me beauty, and I will ignite all that is inside of me. Give me life and I will try as hard as I can to live it.

February 29, 2008

And when did you meet him?
I met him when I was 16.

How old was he?
20.
How old is he now?
21.
Does he buy you alcohol?
Yes.
Do you love him?
Yes.

She latched onto life, taking the train to shed mediocrity. The train takes her to Kyle, whom she met years ago when she was wonderfully innocent. Even now, having seen and experienced much, she clings on to naivety naturally.

She walks to him in the rain and knocks on the door, a body at perfect ease. He walks out into the early spring downfall to greet her. It is not romantic. It is wet. But they stay out as the thunder continues to sound.

“Come on in,” he says.

He leads her into his space shared by four junkies. Recycled paper fills tables, floors. People come in an out of the apartment all day long. Coffee is forever being made.

They sip on their own cup of freshly brewed coffee, listen to electronica in the background, and melt into one another.

“How is school?” he asks.

She says it is getting less stressful. She has been making time to read for pleasure and is overall much happier.

“Makes sense,” he replies. He then tells her of his distaste for spring.

“Have you thought about what you are doing for summer?” she asks. The scene seems black and white. The rain rhythmically descends, the light is dim, and ink overwhelms the room.

The summer is a continuation of the year for Kyle. His friends will be hopping trains while he stays in Chicago getting acquainted with the city he already knows quite well. Above all, he is a man of details.

Outwardly, his dirty blonde hair is forever tousled, unbrushed. He has glasses and walks hunched over. His appearance is one of humility while Bailey, humble in tone and shy in manner, has a boldness in her beauty. Her natural splendor sits untouched. Her grey eyes beam.

In the late afternoon, they dance, giggle, relax. There is a sense of comfort present found only when one rejects the need for constant excitement. They find it glorious.

While eating cereal for dinner, Kyle’s roommates drift in and out of the space. Jim, the oldest of the roommates, hops in soaked. The bearded man smiles at the sight of two, hugging Bailey.

“Heard anything about tonight?” asks Kyle.

Their old friend is coming home to Chicago. In the city, people are always coming home, and people are always waiting to celebrate their return. Kyle finds himself in a crowd of immobile. He is aware that his need for people, for Bailey especially, is all-inclusive. She, on the other hand, is wrapped up in her desire for experiences, for grandness but unconsciously; she would sacrifice everything for him.

Already jittery from the lack of food and excess of coffee, Kyle and Bailey linger over to the apartment later that night. She laughs, internally, at how magnified her double-life is now. Twenty minutes away, she says things she does not mean for the sake of speaking, plays a role for the sake of being. Here, she is a child, the extrovert she once was, becoming bigger than herself, finding completeness with Kyle, and not taking life seriously enough to remember it.

She eyes the room. Jim flirts with an older woman. Jim is circling the room, proclaiming, “I have ADD!”

A girl turns to Bailey and says, “Shit. All that means is life is that much harder for you” then she walks away.

Kyle goes off to the corner laughing with some old buddies. Bailey walks from group to group, conversing, bumming cigarettes from anyone who offers. People start to crowd around as she begins to dance with Jim and make a fool of herself to Daft Punk’s “Superheroes”.

The city lights shimmer in the distance, illuminating a chaos everyone feels at home in. But Bailey and Kyle leave early, walking hand in hand to catch the 1:40 train. She finds that her life is lived scene by scene. Above all, she wants fluidity. Yet, stumbling onto the train, she rode back home to monotony.

————-

Summer comes with temperatures that are unbearably warm. Kyle decides to take the train, surprising Bailey with a visit. He loves coming to her, always with a desire to walk through the town and witness its pallid liveliness. It is a place of family, tradition, and Sunday mornings where one reads the paper rather than recovers from the night before. With her home, he feels he gets a second chance at childhood.

Entering Oak Park, which rests on the outskirts of Chicago, he recalls the fact that this is also Hemingway’s hometown. When Bailey and him just met, they ventured into their shared passion for the man. “He just felt so much,” they agreed.

Chicago is especially toxic for him now. He is sleeping less, writing more, isolating himself. It is a natural reaction. He has spent the last week denying that on an intoxicated Thursday night, he betrayed Bailey. Her name was Lisa. They had been friends for years.

When he comes to Bailey’s bungalow, he does not have strength enough to take on the stairs that led to her doorway. He sits down instead. His attempt to be honest is but a whimper.

Bailey’s mom finds him there and informs Bailey of the sight.

She comes to the doorway, telling him to come on in. He motions for her to sit next to him, and she walks down to his side. He does not dare to touch her. Instead, he looks into her reflective gray eyes, never having understood loneliness so well.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

He apologizes. He almost weeps. He tells her. And the look in her eyes sting so greatly that he sat jealous of her role as the victim.

“I know you are sorry,” she cries, “that’s not the issue. I know you never wanted to hurt me. I just can’t believe you want to be with me, really.”

Her heart is broken. His own heart, annihilated.

In the months that follow, Bailey retreats, finding thrills right out her door rather than a train rides away. Kyle isolates himself fully. His irregular talks with Bailey are, for a while, his only conversation. He pretends that music, art, and coffee is all he needs but so much more is required for his sanity.

On the other hand, she tells herself she is not addicted to popularity, or booze, or cigarettes and hooking up with boys without remembering the pursuit the next day.

She begins to listen to her best friend when deciding how to act. Usually, it contrasts with what she would really say, how she would really act. Her friend tells Bailey to stay away from Kyle. And so she stays away. Even when she goes down to Chicago for a Halloween party and sees him dressed up as powhitetrash drinking beer and keeping his distance. She wants to say, “I wish we could still talk.” Instead, she fools around with Peewee Hermann in the stairway.

Fall comes and thoughts accumulate within Bailey since her time away from Kyle. She wonders why she had kept her purity. She wonders why she realized early on that she loved Kyle but held back from expressing the notion physically.

And thus, she goes to him. She marches into his apartment so blind sighted by her spontaneity that she doesn’t recognize the sadness Kyle now resides in. She saw nothing in his eyes but boyish hope.

She wakes up the next morning, wounded. She is not an addict, she says. Fuck perfection and therefore, fuck moderation, says the broken soul.

February 13, 2008

Dead Man Walking

I see the man in me answering questions about success, pacing past ‘DON’T WALK’ signs, staring into the eyes of the mediocre. The man in me has a tone about him. He knows how to dress as the city asks of him – so good it is golden, so good the world could die in vain.

Two boys stand under a streetlight, in love although they’ll never know it. They know fragile bones are a medical liability and it all comes down to debt. Too easy to break, too expensive to repair so they substitute with plastic.

They don’t realize they are amidst a city; instead, only aware of the street lamp that illuminates their happiness, their inner core, their sexual fantasies. Fabric, like all barriers, will one day be ripped off, and so it all comes down to how the boys will react to their nakedness — free or head down in shame. Their fingers interlock, yet they scoff at the innocence they must settle for.

Dance, Kiss, I say. From a distance, I become angered at them just staring into one another’s eyes. Eyes hold no meaning and exude no personality. They are a product of being glamorized over the years. Staring into one’s eyes is the result of fearing contact, which is the only sincere way to know how a person reacts to tragedies or responds to beauty or how they are really a whole being rather than a mix of ingredients. Sex is not selfish.

It is a beautiful scene. I see the boys in them yet standing on the sidewalk from afar; I cannot locate the man in me. I’ve never been one for plastic.