After 22 years, you think that I would be used to the spin. Verbs still clunk from my pen. It's all here, I'm pretty sure. But the letters sizzle and sear, the cook'ed cure.
It hasn’t been written yet. There is no book for us. The freshly bearded men tramping through our universities staring at grasses and cracked pavement. The listeners waiting to hear the wisdom our fathers never found the words for. The womanizers trying to love fully. The writers crushing the tips of their fingers into meal for a few bucks to keep the washer full. There won’t be this book, this poem, this picture until you write it. We won’t have it. But it is We who need it most. Us TV watchers. Podcast hearers. Cell phone ticklers. Wandering through the playlist filled bars where musicians once bled.
Sit down and write the thing. You know what it is better than anybody else. You know how to write it. Sit down and write the thing. You need to read this book. You need to see it.
The shaky scaffolding clunked as his boots trampled from board to board. From thirty feet up, he could see over the apartments down the hill to the pool near the clubhouse. His torn jeans snagged against the red bricks and the jagged grey between them.
As the sun stung his shoulders and neck, he looked down at two girls walking a dog. The dog barked up to him, not used to seeing people so high above the earth. The girls hollered and the dog chased after their sandals and sunny shorts.
Filling the gaps below him took little time. They were only holes in the building, the size of one brick. Maybe the builders wanted to keep them from echoing. Now they wouldn’t make any sound. He put a board on the highest rung of the scaffolding and climbed up.
The top set of holes was 40 feet above the grass, and he ignored how high above the pool he was. Standing close to the wall, he heard a chirp. After filling the holes on the left, he moved to the right. Chirp. Again. Chirp.
He knew that if he moved the nest the mother bird, out hunting or gathering, would not know where to look. The twigs of the nest rested in a sharp circle filled with large yellow mouths. Chirp. Each mustard colored beak pleading the sky for more soft food.
He ignored the nest and filled the other holes. The girls walked by his scaffolding holding their dog by the collar. The tall one looked up at him and smiled. He scratched the tattoo on his left forearm and gave her a wave in return. Chirp.
The holes were no longer holes. The birds continued to chirp in their sharp nest. With the holes filled, it looked like the nest had been carved out of the wall instead of filling an empty spot left to keep the noise down for swimmers and dog walkers.
He stood, facing the red wall, spade in left hand dripping cement, bright red brick squeezed in his right. As a bee buzzed around his head, he placed the rough brick on the board next to his foot. Standing up, he reached with his free hand towards the chicks. Chirp.
He didn’t realize that he had fallen until the tall girl stood over him in her shoulder-strapped shirt. Her dog barked at him no more, he licked the bottom of his boot as if they had been friends always.
As the tall girl drifted to his eye corners and the sky blue sky began to twinkle with black bits, he watched a shadow fly into his new red wall. Chirpchirpchirpchirp. He remembers the smile he had watching the shadow disappear.
The gas can thudded along behind him. He had tied it to his waste because his hands needed to be shielded in his pockets from the wind, and he looked back at the car to see how far he had traveled. He had gone a few hundred feet, but the snow made it difficult to see the car. He knew she was still in there, trying to stay warm.
The woods to his right swayed in the darkness. To his left, an impossible steep hill held up more woods 20 feet above the road that lay before him.
He picked up to a jog. He had almost five miles to go, and she waited in the car.
The snow shot past his eyelids and made him tear. When he covered his eyes with his hand, the gas can would sway with his hips behind him and get caught in the ditch. So he ran with his head down.
Running with his eyes on the ground kept the wind from blowing his face, and the heavy air squeezed his lungs.
As his body warmed, his knees began to ache. They creaked and moaned like an old car door.
Behind him, the snow hid the car from view. He hoped the fleece blanket from the trunk was keeping her warm.
The road was slick from occasional drivers packing down the snow. The top layer would melt in the sun and freeze after dinner time. The powder that frosted the glassy road served to fool an inexperienced traveler.
His jaunt slowed to a walk with exaggerated arm swaying. He took a minute to lie in the snow. The bottoms of his blue jeans began to stiffen when he sat. His jacket was expensive. It kept his body warm and protected from the snow. As he lay on his back with his feet toward the road and his eyes focused on the upside-down trees, he closed his eyes.
His rest felt short and was roused by the lights of a black truck driving past. The driver couldn’t have seen him in the woods, likely focusing on the road ahead and the craggy hill to the left. The trees to the passenger side of the truck concerned him little, if only for deer. The truck wasn’t threatened by deer anyhow.
His shins ached with fire as he jumped out of the ditch to chase the truck driver and his plow down the road. The plow had taken the superficial layer off the road and left only ice and gravel-salt.
Chasing the taillights down the road proved only to make his lungs ache all the more. He slowed back to a jaunt and continued on his path with the dark woods to his right and the steep rocks to his left, gas can steadily thumping his heels.
He held that jaunt even when he saw the lights of a gas station ahead. He must hurry. She must be cold, afraid.
They were at a water park. 90 degrees with no breeze. They waited in line for the biggest slide at the park, and he could tell she was afraid. Fear is the thrill of the ride, but he went first for her. At the bottom, he looked up to see her facing the slide. Behind her—a line. To her right— a guard. To her left— a big fall. He couldn’t see her tears, but he knew her body enough to see it squirming with fear and sadness. They never went back to that park.
The lights gave life to the road. Their light invaded the icy road and whitened a small parking lot. The woods to the right stayed dark.
The gas station was closed. He kicked the red plastic can he had been dragging. The rope around his waist pulled hard against his hips and stopped the jug from sailing into the dark trees.
The lights on the pumps ran despite the late hour. His credit card still worked and so did the pump.
Five gallons should do to get the car down the road to the station.
He had to carry the jug now. The lid spilled gas if dragged behind him.
The gas splashed against his jacket as he walked. He would wash it later, or he would buy a new one.
As his arms burned, he thought of carrying her during their last beach vacation. She was small, but so was he. They had fallen when he carried her into the surf. They laughed, but he grew troubled by his failure.
He needed to rest. This trek for gasoline would prove his strength.
He rubbed his legs as he sat. Rain began to mix with the snow, and he heard soft thuds on the hood of his expensive jacket.
He hadn’t untied the can from his waist throughout the trek. To lie down, he had to pull the can next to his side to keep it from tipping over.
He didn’t stay long this time because he feared for his legs. The jeans—tight to his calves—froze at each wrinkle. He stood abruptly and knocked the gas can over.
He fumbled to pick it up with his numb hands. Half the can spilled before he turned it upright.
How far had he gone? Was he halfway? How long had he been gone?
Is she OK?
He tied the half-full gas can to his neck with frozen gloves. The can tapped against his chest as he walked.
While listening to his feet crunch frozen tire treads the night became brighter. More trees showed themselves to him as he walked.
The gasoline sloshed fumes against his chest. The rain almost entirely replaced the snow. Visibility increased.
His aching knees had long since forgotten to send signals to his brain, and he couldn’t decide if his hands were warmer in his jeans or his jacket.
He could see the car.
His stinging hands and rope burned neck no longer mattered. She had been in the car, unmoving, for hours. The doors protected her from the wind, but the cold would invade each crack it could.
He ran now as if chasing the truck and its plow down the road. The rocky hill to his right now threatened to let the sun crest, and he saw where the treetops to his left tickled the blue of the sky.
He tripped. The lid of the gas can popped off as his body squeezed the preciousness out of the red plastic.
He stood quickly. The rope and can still around his neck. He carefully reached down to get the lid out of the quickly disappearing pool of gasoline.
He shook his hips to let the remaining gasoline slosh around. A gallon or so left—enough to get to the station.
As he screwed the cap on the can, he feared opening the car door. He did not know what was inside.
He quietly opened the gas tank. No noise from inside the frosted windows.
Shouldn’t there be fog on the window?
Angling the can gently, he poured the gas into the car.
He dropped the can on the ground and closed the tank. Slowly, he placed his hand on the driver’s door. Tiny ice drops clung to the silvery handle.
The door took the last of his strength to open. It cracked loudly as it ripped away from the lock.
She wasn’t in the front, but he got in the car, closing the rope in the door.
He pumped the gas and turned the key until the engine had its fill. The heat hit him immediately from the vents and pushed the smell of gasoline around the dead air of the car.
As he slowly turned the rearview mirror towards the back seat, the ice from his beard dripped down his neck.
The mirror pointed right at her exposed lower back. Her feet faced the rocks, her knees bent, and the top of her hat facing the woods.
She didn’t move. Her lower back was gray with cold.
He took off his gloves and stared at the mirror. He stared until the back window cleared of snow in straight lines. He stared until the windshield wipers became unstuck and began scraping against the ice. He stared until the wool cap on his head began to itch.
He put the car in drive and rocked his way out of the ditch.
He looked at the road ahead now with her back glaring at him from the mirror.
Nikola Tesla (via you-rebel—scum)
I’m the dead-beat here.
I cried today.
Now I forget
Why I did.
I do remember
Why I stopped.
I remembered that
You love me.
You exist here
In this world.
As I washed
Our small apartment
I thought you
Were the best
Part of it.
The clouds covered the sky while he walked his dog through puddles and briars. He had left the paved path 5 minutes behind, and now his slippers pulled at the wet grass. As they came to a clearing, he stopped to look at a tire pile to his right. The rain had coated them, and now they shone in the dull daylight. The dog looked back to ask why they had stopped.
He turned to walk away from the tire pile. Further through the thick, they found an overgrown trail large enough for a small truck to drive on. While on the trail, the dog stopped to bark at a white bag caught in the brush. The dog looked back at him, hoping for him to bark along. The unseen sun would set soon, and he pulled the dog back the way they came—away from the white bag caught in the brush.
Stepping back on the black-paved path, he listened to the dogs claws scrape the ground. He stepped in a puddle and didn’t shake the water out of his slipper. The rain hit the ground heavier than near the tire pile.
This wasn’t their first trip into the woods for him to stare at trash and leaves. The rain glistened the dog’s back and parted her fur down the spine. He ignored a squirrel that she pulled towards. They had long to go before they could dry off.
Number one, hands-down, no contest I write because I want to govern myself. When sitting in front of a computer or pressing a pen to paper, I can’t be told what to do. The thoughts that end up in black and white found their way there because of me. If it rests on paper, it rests where it does because I chose each letter very carefully.
I write to know myself. If I wrote more, I’d know myself better. Each idea put on paper reminds me of my finest self. “Do this more…” or “Don’t ever do that again…” I write it because it would fall out of my head otherwise. The pages of my notebook groan as they swell with scribbled words, half-hearted notes and low-class doodles. Each time I plug my thumb drive into a computer, the screen asks if I want to correct the errors or continue without scanning. Each time, I leave the errors.
I write because I have something to say. Correction—I have a lot to say. I’m not the first. Everybody needs to say something. And I hope people wake up to their creative needs. For me, I’m lucky to know that I need to say something. My words are unspectacular, my ideas are arbitrary and nobody may give a shit, but I’d rather say something anyway.
I write to remember to be good. I write to feel important. I write to touch people. I write to make good sentences. I write to feel pain, happiness and fear. I write to understand the world. I write to love myself. I write to tell you that I love you. I write to grow. I write to accomplish. I write to create. I write to understand why I write.
When someone says I make a good point, or when I see someone’s expression change when I hit my punch line, I feel it. Just like the family plan-maker, the work-time joke-teller or the bass player, I want recognition. I create for myself, but I want people to know I create. A writer is only as good as his writing, and that writing doesn’t exist without a reader. Venerate me. I need it.
What I Have Learned From Mom
Countless times I have sat and wondered if my family knows how much I care. Calling won’t do. The call is over in 5 minutes or an hour, and the memory of that call fades. It could consist of gossip or current events, but rarely do we get down to our real feelings about each other. So, I’ve decided to put down what Mom has taught me.
Mom taught me humility. Growing up is hard. People either go with the grain or they cut through it. For whatever reason, I decided not to go with the grain. It wasn’t better or worse than going with the flow, just different. I have many memories of authoritarian rule and being scolded by principles. Mom taught me, not only with her words but her actions, that you don’t know what’s best. She doesn’t know what’s best, nor do I. The key is to understand that you don’t know and that the people around you are struggling with the same thing. Don’t shove it in their faces. Be patient with people and be open minded to every person you meet. You can’t go through this life as if you know everything.
Mom taught me how to listen. She loves to talk. Not because she likes talking, but because she likes to share experiences. I’ve seen through her that life is fuller when we share ourselves with others.
Mom taught me the importance of food. Cooking with Mom is like sitting on the sun. Some of our greatest arguments have been about cooking. Some of our greatest triumphs have been while cooking. This intensity lives because of our love of food. I am continually impressed by her ability to cook. We cook for each other. We talk about food. We talk about food techniques. We talk about what works and what doesn’t like sailors discussing the tide. A huge part of our meaningful time together involves food.
Mom taught me about family. Her family has taught her that all you have after your parents are your brothers and sisters. I take that with me everywhere.
Mom taught me the power of autonomy. She has owned several businesses and worked several jobs. Some people are designed to govern themselves and we are those people. I like to think that Mom taught me to be myself. The greatest lesson of my years is that you have to do the work that you want to do. More importantly, you have to work hard to do it.
Mom taught me that words mean nothing without the action to back them up.
Mom taught me how to give affection. I can melt into her arms like I’m 6 years old. There is no embrace like that of a mother, and Mom does it well. On low days, I feel like there is a hole in my chest that can only be filled by Mom. It’s not imagined, it’s a real physical feeling. She taught me the power of human touch. If an infant is left in an incubator without human touch for too long, it will die. If you don’t get held by your mother occasionally, your love of life will die.
Mom taught me the strength in storytelling. Nobody tells stories like Mom. Period. Stories challenge you to challenge your reality. Stories force you to empathize. Stories make you laugh. Mom taught me how powerful laughter is with her stories.
Mom taught me that we have to say goodbye. She hasn’t left me yet, and I dread the day more than anything, but I know it will be ok. When we part forever, I know that I became a man because of her. She took me through my first 18 years and continues to help me through my remaining years. There is no pain, in my eyes, like losing your mother. She says there is no pain like losing a son. I think that we both may be wrong. I think that losing your loved ones is hardest when you don’t express yourselves fully to them. The most important thing that I have learned from Mom is how to love. She didn’t teach me the steps of love or the steps to expressing it, and whatever I learned was not explicitly taught. The love that I experience from and for Mom is what has taught me that we must express our love. We must express love for the air, our family, food, the sun, and ourselves. Mom has shown my how to love completely and that I must share that love.