July 30, 2013

  • The way things used to feel

    It is cold outside and I am still not a child. Standing in my socks on the concrete under the moon still means nothing to me. Old words have dried up like puddles in the street. I am alone.

    Give me a minute there, just a minute now – it will come back to me…

    It was my old war wound, something I left in the van. Every time I smile in the mirror something feels wrong. There’s a life everybody’s supposed to be living, but I know I will never be up to it. I’m explained by worlds you’ve never seen.  

    Politeness means turning away from the truth. I make bad company. 

    Yes, that’s my name there on that contract. I sign my name everywhere: I’ll love you and you and you. But my personality is necessarily fraudulent; didn’t you hear this man feels nothing blanketed by the night sky and glaring moon, not even standing in his socks on the concrete?

    Look deeply at life and you will stop reading the news; it is too painful how much is left out. Everything is left out. You’re not there now, and neither are the journalists. Men’s hearts are burning, low like candles or high like the heavens. In the moments before they sleep.

    Lasso their eyes, you’ll never have it. There’s no deeper pain than feeling you own a human; deeper than that pain will always be the realization you don’t. Especially when they go missing.

    I didn’t set out to conquer, I swear! My armor was plastic, I was ready to be slain. Oh: is that the feeling I have now?

    Just a minute there, just a minute now – it will come back to me…

    Certainty cracks, hobgoblins swarm; if you didn’t know life could be unbearable, you don’t even know why you’re alive. It’s not something analytical: even though you’ve analyzed yourself into a deep sleep. Be warm in the comfort of your nonexistence.

    We rebuild, like children rulers whose parents lost it all gambling. It musn’t be destroyed; I’ve deduced the success of my life logically. I could never come up empty. I’ve sworn it on the failure of everyone else. 

    There is no model, no metaphor, no map for an unlived life; it is a deprivation, a lost signal, a death with no story. Why are you waiting for the people around you to be rude? Their depravity isn’ there; and it isn’t elsewhere. Like every missed arrival, it is nowhere. You’ll never know them like you’ve never known yourself; when you woke you didn’t find your heart was bleeding, because your whole world was red.  You’ll never find that anyone is unknown because you’ve never seen a life fail.

    They do…

    Just a minute there, just a minute now – it will come back to me…

    Don’t you know – Merry Christmas! I’m alive for the last time tonight! I went outside and had a wonderful time. It was cold and I was dead. I danced, I repeated conversations in my head, I was everywhere you were not – an alley months ago, a wheat field in a previous life I lived. God bless America, a fiction we feast on for sanity. I’m not alive, and you couldn’t invite me somewhere I could be. I’m all dressed up and I’ll go anywhere you want me to, but the future refurnished is never the past undone.

    Never make a list of people you think will be in your life forever, because some day you might find it.

    Words in books, harlequins in theatres, food and friends and a table and life! It’s a miracle! We lovingly drown in the sympathy we have for our own lives, children that will never make it when it counts. 

    We live in a world of objects – words, faces, TVs – but we have no idea where they came from. The deepest the world can go is friendship.

    There are hidden preconditions for every man’s madness, which might make you wonder what they are for most people, completely overlooking the fact that mostly everyone’s have already been met.

    There are people until they turn sixteen and they find out about money. 

    Just a minute there, just a minute now – it will come back to me…

    Make plans for your future self – your past self seems to have been against you. And there’s no controlling him now. 

    What do I care for people to mourn at my funeral for, if I was a dead man while I lived? And what if they are dead too? Who are we mourning for – through the way we lived, none of us decided to show up for the funeral. 

    You’ve given up your dreams and are now living for simple pleasures.

    (A dream? Something like – to win the gold medal? To live in a beautiful house? To be a world-famous something-or-other? No. Deep in your life you dreamt that you would love, and be loved by others. The sense of love you get and give are now vague and slowly lived – but later, you think, it will make sense, it will seem deep, it will seem true, like the thing I always wanted. You hope it will. You actually have no idea. In fact, in your clearer moments, that possibility seems to have been forsaken long ago. Someone loved you, you thought, but then something happened and now they don’t anymore. The feeling that gave you has never left, and now deep in your heart you actually don’t believe anymore.)

    Just a minute there, just a minute now…

    I was a rich man once. I bathed in animal feathers and drank waters that fell from the planets. I stood atop fortresses and fell deep into laughter that gave the people I know the same infections, and we all knew we would make it alright. Loving was done on a volunteer basis, since we didn’t need another one. I woke up and the day had no task list. People carried you here and there, between a sail boat and a cardboard box. 

    Take away a few keys from the piano and even Beethoven’s 5th would sound like trash.

    No one to blame now, no one even left now who knows there was a crime. There’s a lost sense in explaining to someone what money is, when all they do is trade goods directly. The nonplussed looks get old. I get old. Just give them what they want. Give the people what they want. You don’t think that’s what they actually want, but it takes too long to explain. And you don’t even know if they like the taste of food.

    The chess pieces of your failure, I cannot help but think, are different than mine. But I can hope the feeling is the same. I can hope that being a human hurts you as much as it hurts me. I don’t hope it, but I also do: there’s something in it, a moment of feeling where you smell the permanent failure, that says ‘live me’ like you’ve never heard before. It’s a beautiful elegy over the tomb of the damned. I come here and listen to it often.

    I’ll never be able to write in complex sentences or convince another person of a sports team to root for or improve my handwriting style or plan for things in advance or impress someone with musical knowledge or run a marathon or show my parents the life I’ve lived or write in Chinese or be in outer space or be the Pope or turn my flesh into spirit or give good fashion advice or ski or love a girl deeply or play major league baseball or tie a complex knot or fix a car or take back all my gloominess or laugh while oblivious of what it means for a life to fail. I may be able to make a room of people laugh, but I’ve done that before. There are things that I want that the history of the world precludes. Mostly it is access into your love. 

    it will come back to me…

    You’ll never shout to the heavens and get an answer. Whatever you hear will be in your thoughts, the place you cannot help but be. Did that voice come from my brain or from him? You’ll go to your grave not knowing, hoping you bet on the right one.

    You didn’t know when you decided to give yourself to others, just how many ready and willing takers there would be.

    She shot up in her bed in middle age and screamed ‘I will never get what I dreamed!’

    ‘Did God not promise us something that is not here? We wandered so far to get to this room.’
    ‘How do you know I promised you this?’
    ‘Did we not feel it in our hearts? Would you not tell us if it were otherwise?’
    ‘How do you know it was me?’
    ‘Would you not tell us clearly? Did you not promise that? That we would never grope for you and not find you?’

    Advertising doesn’t affect me, because no one is selling the past undone.  

    The story between us and many people in our hearts would be expressed by us standing before them and screaming ‘WHY DID YOU NOT LOVE ME?’

    No depression is truly complete without moments of joy interspersed throughout it.

    I told myself to wish not for a life where people said ‘I love you’ but for a life where they actually loved me; now I am not so sure I chose wisely.

    Our perceptions are not truly alone without the company they dimly sense around them. We cannot feel a failed soul unless we think ‘Yes, I have selves in me that used to rise in these moments.’  Now we stand in a wordless spotlight, the whole audience waiting for us to say nothing. I look at the person across from me, and see the space in-between, the vague land where our friendship lies; did not gardens used to grow here? Did they not sprout through words? Why am I on this wordless beacon, whispers from the past reminding me what the future used to be like? 

    Why do people think life is not a perpetual closing down? Who would describe their life as the blossoming of a beautiful flower, into a field of flowers that similarly blossomed? Why pretend? What comes of it? Who does not perceive that the more people we meet, the less we think possible, the smaller our hopes have become? Even our spouse one day ceases to surprise us. The moon is no longer in the sky. To live is to lose the possibility. But perhaps the only thing worse is to lose our sight of this loss. 

    The pain you get from my silence is not as bad as the pain I get from being mute. You infer I have not spoken from a lack of sound; I feel the ache directly.

    Everything people say to you has one of three meanings. One is ‘I have not been loved’, the second is ‘I get my love from someone else’, the last is ‘Please love me!’  

    People in their teens imagine life in their thirties, with a house and a job, and think ‘Then I will really be living life’; people in their forties think back to their teen years and sigh ‘Ah, that was life!’; people in their twenties think of being old and think ‘Then I finally will see what life really is!’; when will we realize, stopping in our tracks on the sidewalk as the mailman walks past us: ‘This. This is it. Life.’ 

    Three Mondays ago I was given a book as a hardcover to write on. I flipped open the book and read a sentence. I liked the sentence. I asked to borrow the book; permission was granted. I finished it in Cup O Joe last Tuesday and realized I had misunderstood someone the entire time I had known them. I started crying. 

    Later someone came and said ‘What could be sadder than two people trying to love each other, but because of the way each views the world and what love is, each thinks that the other hates them?’ 

    What’s this, a joke? Perpetuated by new relationships that never gain the tools to cut you back down to what you really desire out of the world? Tonight the sky above our fire had a cloud that took up half the sky that looked like a trumpeting elephant. Millions of people died in slavery in South America during the colonial period. I’ve forgotten most of the things I’ve said today. You were saying something about culture, m’dear. I’ve become a private individual to insulate myself from failure, and have thus guaranteed it. No one tells you that in chasing the greatest happiness you may instead fall into the worst sadness. It is both the best and worst truth that each person is entirely irreplaceable.

    I buried my principles in the bottom of a chest and put it away in an attic. When I was an old man I got tired of my abstract paintings and decided to throw them into storage. In doing so I came across my old chest and felt joy and glee as I admired the objects and trinkets of my youth, but when I got to the principles at the bottom I took them out and set them sadly on the dusty planks in a room filled with sunlight. They had not been the right principles, I realized. My wife found me later and asked my what was wrong. ‘Nothing,’ I said.  

    I dreamed we were on a beach next to a large shiny rock when the rains came. I started running but she said ‘no!’ and I realized she was right; the world was flooding fast, filling up like a bathtub. A hole was in the ground twenty feet away where she went to hide. I followed her down onto a ledge that we huddled on, and that was when the waters came. They rushed down, straight down like an upside down geyser, pulsing into the earth, and though it was loud and violent and only a few feet away, we were safe.  

    It reminded me of a time I visited a very old woman at a cottage in the middle of the sea.

    I am glad you know such love. Me, myself, I cannot see it. Warmth is the elusive fire we forever chase, a future that forever recedes before us for reasons other than being shot dead in a pool. I am glad you have already found it, for no one ever has. I myself have become nothing on accident, and have assigned myself noble reasons for the feat. I think I’ll take the next six months off living. I am sadly estranged from everything, and I know I must go away before coming back. Please wait for me. Please.  

    Drown your sorrows in naked bodies; it will never feel like a true knowledge, the thing you long for.

    The future I imagined in my childhood has been ruled out. I’ll go my whole life feeling like I’m someone else. But why care about someone else’s salvation?

    Be careful: do not thank God for your friends, for if they leave, what does that mean of him?

    Just a minute there, just a minute now…

    I still spend some nights on the floor. 

    I’ll go back though, I’ll go back to the garden. The garden of words we used to tend together. Words are always messy when two people are involved anyway. Better to keep things simple. Gardening wasn’t meant to be messy, I’ll say to myself. 

    The garden where if the moon strikes you at just the right time, you will be bound for heaven. 

    How long can you go not knowing what your failures break down to? Feeling like you’re playing chess with a higher power? As a mystery to all others? When will you go back? Go back in order to go forwards? Will you have the courage to remember? Don’t you know there are those forgiving you a thousand times for your failing sensitivities? They will wait for you. Won’t you wait with them, for yourself? Child, why are you crying? Come to the stream, there is plenty to drink. Why will you not come? There are plenty of souls for everyone.  

    I waited up all night and when I got back to the bed I was dead tired. When there didn’t seem to be anyone in the bed I rushed toward it and tore the sheets apart, but there no one was there. She had gone. 

    ‘Plenty of souls for everyone,’ the radio says. 

    But I turned off the radio hours ago, and I’m still slumped on the floor by that bed. Paralyzed.

    it will come back to me…

    So breathe…

July 23, 2013

  • Stay awake, continued

    I don’t know how to say goodbye to this place. I just don’t.

    My friend Kyle and I both like continuity. We just like connections between things. The other day I spent the entire day in my head, and I traveled through memories I’ve never experienced as memories before. It was a time traveling day. I felt startled at who I was, at who I had been.  

    Writing, for me, is the one thing that elongates people. You can never hold so much of a person in your hand as you do when you are holding a book. Books take a long time to read, longer than it takes to watch a movie, and when you close the last page, you are experiencing time more than at any other point. We’re not that smart; you forget mostly everything. We live in a fast culture, always fast fast fast – TV ads, fast food, text them now, as though we are screaming at the world ‘what’s your point?!’ every second. Where has the time gone? 

    (That phrase – ‘where has the time gone?’ – normally signifies someone realizes how much time has gone by. Oddly, I use it to mean we don’t see time at all any more.)

    My weird philosophical musings out of the way, I can just talk. This is my home. I didn’t want one; I was skeptical of anything 9th graders suddenly unanimously wanted, even if I was one of them. But I got a Xanga (not this one: experienceparallax, then sayitloud1) and I have retroactively found that the summer after my first broken relationship, I started writing in the one I had – this one – all the time. That fall, when I wrote Strangers, is I guess when I woke up. Welcome to the world.

    Funny, how the place I come to write because I’m incapable of saying goodbye to anything is now the thing I have to say goodbye to.

    This is my home. I don’t know how else to say it. When I get on here, I’m accountable to Philip all the way back to sophomore year of high school. I can’t say anything I want: he is listening. As much as I feel a permanent stranger to people I meet these days, I don’t feel that way on here. Somehow on here it’s still just me alone on a school night in high school, thinking about my death. At first everyone would go to sleep and that feeling would come, of being alone, of wanting to know God, of knowing I’ll die. Then the first thought, I’d start typing. 

    There is no theme to this blog. I come on here and write sometimes five or six times a day, and I’ll write about anything I think of. For me to post something is to spend several minutes biting my lip, then covering my eyes as I hit the ‘private’ button so that it becomes ‘public’.

    And can anyone believe how creative people are on here? There is no other website on the internet with people like there are on here. I don’t go through the homepage, I go through blogrings. There is nowhere else that has these kinds of poets, storytellers, and humorists, that has such honest expressions of feelings and life. Where else can you find that? Not facebook. The reblog feature on Tumblr drains a lot of individuality out of people on there; living everyone else’s thoughts, not their own. Certainly not cess pools like reddit.  Xanga fell into this weird slot in blogging history where a lot of people moved on from it, and it left a bunch of people behind who felt like they could just be themselves.  To be honest, I try to get life out of fiction, out of conversation, out of news stories – but I don’t know of anything that’s going to replace Xanga for me in reminding me of the depth of the lives that people are living out there. Sometimes you just read someone’s blog for awhile, and it’s fascinating that they’re a human that has a complicated life that has nothing to do with you. I’ve read other blog sites. It’s just not the same.  

    (I mean honestly – where the crap am I going to find another dominic_ville?)

    So I guess this is goodbye.This is the part where I tell you that every single one of you means the world to me.  People who have read and commented over the years, thank you.  I’m at my most introspective on here, so I’m sorry if I seem unappreciative of your responses.  I’ve stored your appreciation in my heart, and I hope you take what I have to give to you now, which is all the gratitude in the world.  I’m still just a kid in my estimation of myself, and every kind thing said on here has been such a blessing.

    Where are we all going to go? What is going to happen? So many people are going to lose their homes and are going to have to go somewhere else and pretend it’s their home when it’s not, this is their home. I don’t like pretending. I like it here.

    However you live, whoever you are, live honestly. Not cheap honesty, the kind that takes nothing seriously. Honesty that fixates on truth, and never looks away. Only by living honestly will you find out what you are, or if you are. What do other people really think? What do I really think? What kind of world should become? What of what I think is true? We will never know unless we just rip it out of ourselves, hoping it makes sense, but ultimately giving it up to the cruel, unsympathetic judgment of reality.  Test everything, hold on to the good. We must not disappear for the simple reason that we forgot to be.  Give yourself up to everything, and see what happens.

    Everything just gets stranger; I suppose the moment before I die will be the strangest one of all.

    I will still be on here for the rest of the week that Xanga will be up, but, even if our connection continues through another medium, I say goodbye to you from this one.  I hope that things will be as good in the future, but here I find we must face that simple, eternally recurrent truth once more: 

    You only grow up once.

July 9, 2013

  • A simple misunderstanding

    In the winter I was walking past a girl in a restaurant when I heard her say, ‘If I started counting calories, I would weigh like six hundred pounds.’

    I am sure, like most of the following stories, it was just a simple misunderstanding.

    I was frantically searching for a costume to wear to a party that was in just a couple hours. I was at a thrift store looking for a mustard colored shirt so I could dress up as Woody, but I wasn’t finding any. Then I thought: wait, doesn’t dad have a mustard colored shirt? So I called him.

    Philip: Dad, do you have a mustard colored shirt?
    Dad: Yes I do. I’m wearing it right now.
    Philip: You’re wearing it right now?
    Dad: Yes. And I’m in Toledo.
    Philip: Great.

    The other day I was at a party and a group of people went outside and noticed that five raccoons had built their nest on the chimney of the house next door. We were all staring up at them when a guy said ‘I wonder if anybody lives there’ and I looked at him and said ‘Yes. Five raccoons do.’

    The waitress dropped off our bill and I said to Kyle ‘I think we pay up front’ and he responded ‘No, we pay after.’  

    A girl was describing her recent life story when she said ‘Then I had to leave that job because of my hipster dream’ and I thought ‘WHAT? She had a dream of being a hipster…?’ but then I asked her about it and she had actually gotten hip surgery.

    I was getting some coffee from a self-serve when I heard a woman behind me say ‘Oh, Voldemort!’ and the other said ‘Yes, Voldemort!’ I perked up for a moment before they went on in their conversation about Baltimore.

    We were trying to figure out what nicknames we could call my friend whose last name is May. She was vetoing nicknames left and right.  ’What about Maybe?’ I asked. She thought about it for a second and then nodded, saying, ‘You can call me Maybe.’

    On the first day of vacation my little siblings and I played Never Have I Ever. Paul said ‘Never have I ever…taken a road trip’ and Melody said, ‘Paul, you were on a road trip today. We took a road trip here.’

    That same day we were driving around when my dad said ‘There’s a shrimp place’ and I said ‘And there’s a thrift store.’ Melody jolted to attention and asked ‘Where??’ and both my dad and I pointed to different places and said ‘Over there’ at the same time. She wanted to know about the thrift store.

    Later on vacation I asked my sister Grace who was watching her cat.

    Philip: Who is watching Nunda?
    Grace: Our neighbor. You should have seen him when we left. He was looking up at us, all sad and pathetic.
    Philip: Your neighbor?
    Grace: No, Nunda.

    Before vacation I was visiting some people in Pittsburgh and they were telling me about the city.

    Kristen: This is Shady Side.
    Phil: Oh, should I go get my stuff out of my car?
    Kristen: No, that’s the name of our borough. 

    During the spring my siblings and I were locked in a heated game of Catan:

    Philip: Paul, I’m not winning! You’ve got another city, another settlement, the longest road card, and you’re way more advanced in the commodities! 
    Paul: Well, my alibi is that last turn you said you were going to win.
    Philip: I don’t know what you mean by the word ‘alibi’ there, because it’s not what is meant by the word ‘alibi.’

    Don’t talk to me about Settlers of Catan right now though. Things haven’t been going well.

    I never did find out what that girl meant by counting calories making her gain weight. 

July 3, 2013

  • Midflight

    Sometimes you hit the wall of intimacy. It is nice when you can engage freely with someone and feel your friendship is limitless. But there will come a time when they will ask a question and you will have the right answer in mind, but you know you cannot say it.

    You cannot tell them you did not make their party because you were sprawled on your floor from depression over your relationship with your parents. That night contained a thousand thoughts. What sentence would make them understand all of them at once?

    You drive home angry. You have found the wall of intimacy. Your friendship does not stretch forever.

    You kneel at your bed and pray, ‘God with whom will I be one? Whose eyes will not become gated? When will it never matter which way the conversation goes? When will I feel at home, perfectly at home?’

    Later a person asks you for money, a person asks you for a ride, a person asks you to be a part of their life. You think, whoa! Everybody back up! My life has just me, and you are not allowed in. You flee from the presence of greedy hands, wiping your brow, relieved they are gone. What if I had been eaten alive? We are glad we are one with no one. There will always be a last part of me over which I can say, ‘Mine.’

    I don’t think any of us growing up really believed that life was real in the way we should have known it was. We didn’t really believe our experiences would keep accruing, our memories would keep being built, that everything would keep on going. We were like people sitting quietly, listening to music, our eyes closed and trying to go to sleep, as the plane took off the runway.  Now you open your eyes and think ‘I never knew everything would look so big from up here. Where are we?’

    ‘I’ll be right back,’ you say to a friend, and you vanish behind a door. Behind the door a complicated conversation with someone leaves you for dead and far exceeds your ability to reduplicate. You walk back out the door to your friend thinking, ‘I wasn’t ready for that.’ They say, ‘What happened?’ and you glance at their eyes and say ‘Nothing’ and then you think, ‘One with no one.’

    God, hasten! Our souls are barely breathing, our spirits are numb, our words are drying up! Soon we will stand in rooms and we may not think it, but we will know the rooms are giving us nothing, for they do not give us you. Come stand in our rooms once again with us.  Lord, let us remember our true stance wherever we are is bowed before you.  So many times I pray it is a prayer to myself, crying, ‘Philip help me! You will save me, I know, just as you always have! Come quickly, reinvigorate my soul with myself!’  God, I thought I wished a million things, but I know now it is just to know you. 

    Lord if these souls around me are quickly dying, and you mean to let them die, bury me with them. But if we are meant to be raised, then raise us all together. 

    We are in a room alone. Can no one else come in? Does time erase us every time? People go to graduations and weddings and birthdays to support one another. Who will be there on the day of salvation?   

    When I open my eyes, though, it is just me in my room, and no one is there. They say you do not have a body to see, yet I long so badly to see it. I am body and spirit and I want body and spirit. One with no one. My last prayer always ends up being to some unknown judge of reality, a prayer that you are actually in it.

    Yet I cannot help but think that I am before you.

June 19, 2013

  • You shall love

    I write to you in hopes that you will realize I am worthless.


    Why don’t we go to concerts and sings songs in praise of selfishness? Why do we have to cover it up? Can’t we just go among the throngs of people and lift our hands and shout ‘I want others to bow down to my wishes all the time!’ Couldn’t that be a song? What a bunch of snakes we are.

    Today I got home from work and my shirt was sticking to me. It took me awhile to pull it off. I wasn’t very strategic: I pulled it from the top, instead of shimmying my arms inside it and then peeling it off from the bottom up. After that I kicked off my shoes without untying them. My dirtied socks I threw into a corner, and my shorts found the floor as well. I was home.  

    Did you know fireflies are dying out because of light pollution? They can’t see each others’ mating calls as well any more.

    Once you figure out life, you’ll find it doesn’t even matter. Other people will still be difficult to understand and love, in ways you could never have predicted. Figuring out life turns out to be either trivial or impossible.

    Every time someone pocket-dials you and you hear them on the other side laughing and talking to people you should grow a furrowed brow and think, ‘So it is true. Their life does keep going while I’m not around.’

    (‘They’ll meet God face to face, and I won’t even be there for it.’)

    Life in the city happens roughly ten times faster than the speed of your ability to interpret it.

    It’s like the other day when I stared long and hard at the word ‘Toyota’ and kept trying to turn it into a palindrome.  ”A toy ought to be a toyota.” A toy ot to be a toy ot a …. 

    Hmmm ….

    I didn’t work. It will never work. 

    But I really wanted it to.

June 10, 2013

  • Strange(r) Helping

    I must look a certain way. Like a service worker.


    My friend Rick forgot the iodine pills when we went camping. I guess we both forgot them, but I actually wasn’t familiar with the concept before he mentioned it, so I don’t feel too culpable. We stumbled across an enthusiastic dad camper who gave us some, but I ended up not wanting to drink water that looked orange, so I didn’t drink anything until we finished our hike back to a small town called Tuxedo. Tired from the day of hiking, we sat sweaty and famished in a small shop that was a cross between a Tim Hortons and a CVS Pharmacy. He drank coffee and I drank a Snapple as we sat in a booth and waited for our sandwiches.


    ‘Excuse me, where do you keep your Arizona iced tea?’


    Still dazed from hiking, I jumped a little when I heard this. A woman who had been scanning the drink refrigerators across from us had turned around and was staring straight at me. Wanting to convey that I didn’t work there, but also the information she wanted, I told her: ‘I didn’t see any.’


    She turned around again and continued to look. I looked at Rick and shrugged. My eyes wandered over to the refrigerators again a minute later and I spotted the Arizona iced tea. I pointed them out to her and she said ‘Oh, thanks’ and I muttered with a smile, ‘Glad I could help.’


    On her way back across our booth she realized, ‘Oh – do you not work here?’


    I was wearing street clothes and sitting in a booth drinking a product from the fridge. If I did work there, I was about to be fired.


    The previous Thursday I had been scanning the books in a thrift store. Sometimes I like to look at books I’m glad I’ll never read. It’s a rare feeling for me to have, so I pounce on it whenever I get the chance, which is basically in thrift stores or the dorm rooms of engineering students. At this point I was also in something of a reverie when a man asked loudly and resolutely, ‘Hey -is this a TV?’


    I looked over at the small black box with a wide front screen that was clearly an alarm clock. I went over and told him it was an alarm clock. He said, ‘But what about this screen? Maybe it’s a TV too.’ While it wasn’t that, I did realize that would be a great idea. Or at least something that other people would think is a great idea. I showed him the settings buttons and tried to assure him it wasn’t a TV until he plugged it in and nothing happened, and I realized it wasn’t an alarm clock or a TV. Like most things in thrift stores, it was just a relic.


    The third instance came a few days ago as I wandered away from my family at a Wal-Mart in Michigan. A Hispanic-looking woman came out of an aisle pushing a cart and asked me, ‘Do you know where MS-10 is?’ I looked at her completely surprised that anyone would ever buy something called MS-10. Was it possible she was injecting the weird growth hormones I always hear about into her own food? If there was a place that sold that kind of stuff, I guessed it would be Wal-Mart.


    I told her I didn’t work there; that’s when she told me MS-10 was a highway. I only just got into town myself, I said. She laughed kindly and went off.


    I mean, I guess I’ve spent my entire life trying to look like I’m someone who likes questions. So just like that zealous dad with no shirt and a headlamp (‘great foreheads think alike!’ he said to someone at his campsite), I’m a happy camper.

June 3, 2013

  • When the light is finally on/out

    What would prove that you exist? What would you point at to show yourself ‘Look. Now don’t you know to live? Will you finally leave your foolishness behind? Do you not know if you justify cruelty through selfishness, you’ve only damned yourself twice over?’

     

    I don’t know when to take a person seriously. Which person is living and thinking ‘I am staking it all on this’? Are you? What, you don’t believe in stakes? You calmed those emotions early on, forgot about them? You can’t find anything either that would prove you exist? Nothing that says ‘Look – now don’t you know…’?

     

    You have no idea the radical effect the eyes of others have on you.

     

    I can already see it now – I’ll be driving on a windy mountain road one day, and I’ll rise above the tree line and see the many hills covered in sunlit trees and think – no, it isn’t special. That I’m seeing it isn’t special either. My family means nothing. I’ve romanticized everything.

     

    As life goes on you realize how invisible your pain can be to others. This should crush you into kindness to those souls you don’t know, which is everyone for – if you can’t locate your own soul, how will you ever locate someone else’s?

     

    What would prove you exist?

     

    Where is it?

     

    I’ve hugged so many people.

     

    I’m lying on one of those rough-threaded couches. This computer is scorching hot underneath. The board game I invented is lying on the black Ikea coffee table. The room is full of pictures and trendy furniture. I’m in it. I’m actually there. But how much of me? Haven’t I blotted out the past? Don’t I not know the names of old friends? Didn’t I hate my parents and tell the world to love everyone? Aren’t I about to check my facebook instead of fix my soul?

     

    Where are you – what do you point to?

     

    I don’t know who could look up at the stars and not be terrified.

     

    I know, I know – I know that one day I’ll calm down. This will all be gone. The night I was crushed by a million strangers from a foreign part of existence. That same feeling I got later in the night as, lost biking home, I laid on the side of the road beneath the phone wires and stars. I won’t visit friends in transition, I won’t know I once left myself somewhere, I won’t feel stretched in all directions. I’ll be fine. I’ll say normal things and think constructive thoughts. I’ll be reasonable according to the social sense of the word. My paycheck will tell me how far I’ve come rather than the diminishing of my demons.

     

    A man told me his theories, but I was just waiting for him to tell me who he was.

     

    You can either think it through or see it through. The world is a museum to me with ‘Do not touch’ signs on everything. I’ve broken the rules a few times, but they let me go before they even asked my name.

     

    Maybe a scar on your ankle from childhood? A mother on a bench holding her baby and saying ‘good morning!’? Reading a line in a book about a tribute of tons of yams required by the leader of a clan of concubines? Does that surprise you? What surprises you? Do you only float around people you like? Did you stick to your script today, are all your goals happy with you? Do you know that not knowing why you have your goals is the same as not having any? Do you know you’ve become the attitudes of others? That you’ve become the objects around you? Don’t you realize you would move past a hurt man if you were in a crowd? That you’ve stopped thinking hard about someone you say you love? That saying you love someone is to make sure you die happy, a person with a full life? That the world was born and the world will die – and somewhere in the middle of it was you?

     

    There’s no way to study the world. There being active minds means reality rearranges each second, creating a whole new one to find out about.

     

    Have you imagined dying with your most used object in hand?

     

    (Hopefully not a person.)

     

    If you’re annoyed with me, does that mean you haven’t discerned my self-loathing?

     

    Marriage still seems to me like it is based on a huge misunderstanding, that no two people really agree to that. Isn’t it all based on fear and control and selfishness?

     

    They will tell me my restlessness is based on a misunderstanding, but that is to think that restlessness can be based in something. Restlessness is based in nothing. It is to be without a basis.

     

    And the context of lives is eternity, but that’s a word that never filled anyone up. There are small oases where one can drink – a friend’s words, the odor of a certain night, flashes of your father’s face as you were growing up. Maybe you’ve never loved anyone at all. Life is so cloudy. Maybe I’m expecting all the wrong things.

     

    None of this shows the complications I think of that make me actually angry.

     

    Someday – I’ll calm down. Every old person I see puts my mind at my funeral. Someday I won’t think that though – I’ll think ‘Dave!’ Dave will be an old person I’ll know and we’ll have a friendship and I’ll no longer be alone at night living in my head, but I’ll be out there with people living in the world.

     

    What’s left to say? You can only think of so much after you’ve grown up and realized all that’s left to be redeemed. If we merely plan ahead we can make for better lives down the road – but that doesn’t change someone’s family dying of hunger now, someone living life with mutilated limbs now, someone living in a culture where there is moral outcry against every form of intolerance and racism and bullying and yet has never felt looked at by a person in their entire life.

     

    It just takes one scene away from you to make someone entirely unknown. On many nights I’ve written nothing.

     

    The things people are actually asking for they never say. That is the huge misunderstanding creating all the conflicts in all your relationships. You have to think about them and once you’ve put it all together go ‘Oh – I see. That’s what they want.’

     

    You unnaturally atomize the world into its parts. It’s actually all one thing. You just haven’t thought of connecting two of its parts in awhile. Somehow, your cell phone charger and the Prime Minister of Italy are part of the same story.

     

    Last week I would stay up all night thinking about things. They drove me crazy. The next day I was sitting down onto a couch when I thought ‘Life is in your head’ and for some reason this calmed me greatly. It seemed up to that moment I had always greatly exaggerated the importance of everything invisible. My mind was like a TV I turned off and walked away from to live.

     

    Other nights I am not so lucky. I turn off the TV and all the walls turn on with the same images.

     

    Where do you exist? Where is your life such that you would flee to it, or from it? Did you hide nothing from the world’s greedy hands? Is there someone you could call if one day you woke up and you were lost?

     

    Every scene unfolds and then vanishes immediately into a world people only pretend to access. The only difference your death brings into the picture is that you don’t end up in the next scene. When you leave someone’s house and close the door, you should feel the same way on their porch as you would at your funeral. What did you leave in that house? What are you leaving on the porch currently? You touch the railing. It feels cold – you brush your fingers together. What is going on?

     

    Of all the universe there is and all the life you’ll live, the most you’ll really come to know is the lives of three or four people.

     

    And you can’t think about that too much, or it’ll really start to hurt.

     

    Someday. Someday, lovely, I’ll calm down. Right next to you.

     

    But even then, I’ll be so sorry for the thoughts I’ve had. 

May 25, 2013

  • Scenes from the crook of my elbow

    People are unreliable. But TV – that you can count on to let you down.

    The wind rushed across our faces and we started believing in God. But there was no God: just the wind.

    Worrying makes total sense: if you care about something, it should affect you! Not worrying would be a lie!

    But worrying also makes no sense: if there is something outside of your control, then oh well! Nothing you can do about it!

    Your most summery memories may one day become your darkest.

    I would be very unhappy with someone who tried to make me happy. Love is deeper than happiness.

    Sometimes life throws lessons at me that are very challenging and complicated and I go ‘Wait – is this the advanced class? I think there’s been a mistake.’

    There are more connections between you and strangers than you imagine. Then, once you get to know someone, there are less than you imagine.

    At the end of life we’re all going to be looking at a huge digital screen that is going to tell us the answer of how we were supposed to live. If ‘Don’t Do Anything’ flashes as the answer, I am going to do a huge fist pump.

    She said ‘One day, when I’m a completely different person,’ and I don’t even know how she ended the sentence, because I grew so sad.

    My niece is watching Diego the Explorer over in the corner. They sing the same songs over and over again.

    I guess I can’t blame them. I do the same thing.

May 15, 2013

  • Sanctification

    I am waiting in a tiny room. I grab the smooth silver handle of the chair to get up as the nurse walks in. ‘Walker,’ she says. I sit back down. I am not Walker. 

    I can feel the capacity of my lungs growing smaller. It’s Spic N Span, gasoline,and cigarettes. Air isn’t stable like we think it is when we see dust floating in the lazy summer light. It flies by us at a thousand miles an hour. Today it feels like a million miles an hour. 

    The most tranquil paintings become the most suspenseful. An open field, a beach with a calm shoreline, a mountainside next to a large lake, all become disaster scenes once you put a human in them. The human stands there and we look at him. What will he do? He cannot stand in that field forever. Where will he go?

    There is so much suspense and terror in public that it vanishes inside us; we become numb to the overwhelming perception of others.  

    ‘Daker,’ she calls. My hands are folded on my lap. I twist my neck toward the man who had been sitting by the vestibule with the glass doors. Didn’t he get here after me? Maybe he was late.

    When you are in the boy scouts they teach you how to use a compass. They stand you on top of a big hill and they have you rotate all around, looking at the landscape, the sky, the sun, and they explain how to orient yourself. From then on you always imagine a time that you will need the compass. A time when you will be lost in the woods, maybe guiding your family during a camping trip, and you will hold the compass off the string around your neck and determine exactly where you need to go. Your sons will look up to you in awe. You are their hero.

    The room I am in is much colder than any of the places I think about. I think about European cafes, African safaris, pools by Jamaican resorts – places my friends have been, that white people have always gone to try to complete their lives.We made it through the ice age. This waiting room seems an unnatural state. I think they make it cold so that you will not get comfortable. One more of the subtle ways we are taught what to want.

    ‘Janice,’ she calls. A woman with a tall hairdo beside me gets up and walks slowly toward the hallway with the smiling nurse. I didn’t even know there was a woman here. My lungs slowly inflate and deflate. I imagine them as small as my kidneys. There’s a clock on the wall but I only stare at it without reading it. I cannot read it; it seems a Chinese character mounted on the wall. The time in the waiting room is always ‘Not yet’. That is all that matters.

    There are a million things to look at and you can never tell what someone is looking at. A person could be looking at your fashion, at your vocabulary, at your posture; you never know what another person sees. A business man only sees your wallet. I do not hold this against people, for according to this definition, I am another person. I do not know what I see. I am in a waiting room; one does not look at anything in a waiting room. I am in a chair thinking of nothing. I only sense vaguely that my lungs are cramped, tightening; I feel I will die a half-perception.  

    ‘Mr. Durther,’ the nurse says serenely. He smooths his lapels as he stands up and has a boyish smile on his old, cavernous face. What is he so happy about? I know there could be something, I just don’t know what it is. I am in a state where I must question happiness for its roots. What could be in it? The image of the woman one loved? A building one designed? The thought of a field with no one in it? 

    A baby is in a stroller with a cover over top of it. The woman across from me looks gently and lovingly into it. I was once a baby in a stroller. I was once a million things. Or: a man is whatever room he is in. A being in time can define themselves according to any part of it; so what are they really?

    ‘Mrs. Sylvan, he’ll see you now.’ 

    I am still staring at the man in the solitary open field. There are trees on all sides of the field. He is looking slightly to his right, but is still motionless. Where will he go?  

    After several thoughtless moments I perceive that there is no one else in the waiting room. It is just me. I think of leaving, but I imagine the nurse calling my name a second later if I do. Yet there is no arc to waiting; there is no plot. It’s just waiting and waiting and more waiting. You could wait forever; there would never be an interesting development. And here I am, waiting.

April 12, 2013

  • Bad Dreams

    The warm weather brings bad dreams.


    Death is a question mark at the end of life.

    I sit at my desk, quietly looking at myself

    hanging in the corner of my office.

     

    I felt my body burn beneath the covers.

    I could not take it! I burst awake.
    I ran away from the orphanage in search of love.

    In the woods I got caught in a thicket

    and my foot came off in the brambles.

    I looked at it and did not wonder why.


    Do our feelings end in the lives of domestic creatures?

    Watching lives better than ours play out in the theaters?


    She saw me the night my life was weeping.
    Once she left my heart gave way to sleeping.
    In the morning time had still been creeping.
    And nothing came to mind that was worth keeping.


    An honest person cries when the seasons change.


    Dreams wear off, skin grows thin, the weather becomes cool.

    So I look at myself hanging in the corner of my office.


    What’s the matter? Regret your whole life?


    I have lost my foot in a thicket but the only true hell is

    God gave us a childhood such that we could ruin someone else’s.