Uncategorized

Into The Mirror

Everything’s the same.  It’s just a little different.

I have a heavy heart. The whole world is out there killing each other, like maniacs, like a bunch of children who don’t get their way. As if the last thousand years taught us nothing; or simply, that many folks have no grasp of human life, of human suffering, of the love that weaves us all together. I didn’t lose anyone this weekend, but I know someone who did. It hurts. It hurts all over.

I went to bed at 5:00 three times this week.

Like the last time, when the clown went into the theater and started shooting. Or the time before that, when the kid went into the school full of little kids and started shooting. Or when the student went into the lecture hall and started shooting. Or when those two kids went into the high school and started shooting. Or when the watch-guard went into the neighborhood and started shooting the kid with the skittles. Or when the men in masks went into the cartoon room and started shooting.

I am empty.

And the whole world will feel this way for a week or two, and then everything will be the same again, but just a little different. We will all commit to never forget, only to forget, until they start shooting again. They will be different people, in different places, in different masks. But it’ll be the same: another chill that veils the humans of the world in a gripping, but distant, paralysis.

Everything’s the same. It’s just a little different.

I can’t seem to get away from November. Like three years ago, when I lost you. I unraveled. I walked around with my hood on, wandering in the wind. Like last year, when I lost you again. I didn’t drive anywhere for a little while. I didn’t want to get in my car, because I knew it wouldn’t take me to you. Like right now, I’m losing you one more time. I’m walking around with this feeling, this feeling that feels like porcelain fingers on a baby grand, in a cement corridor, the taste of lukewarm earl grey. The waking up at 3:00am, the blinks before you realize it wasn’t a dream. The lack of appetite, the lack of appetite to eat a sandwich, to play, to do all those things I used to do. The solitude, the scribbling of poetry and the exchanging of glances with the passerby’s I’ll never meet. The melancholy chuckle. The early evening.

This November, it’s the same. It’s just a little different.

And so when I see the woman on the bus whose face looks just like a fingerpainting, madness and all, in brown flats and red stockings and a peculiar gaze, that of a hurricane, I’m struck with the art that we can all be sometimes. And when I dry my dripping scalp and pause, shivering, and ache for the towel that wrapped around me once before, the one you used to keep for me, I’m struck with the art we can all be sometimes. And when the gunman unloads his final magazine into the skull of the earth, and the thought of your death is why I skipped lunch, and the ribs of my stomach stretch out to catch my fleeting breath, I’m struck with the art we can all be sometimes. And when I look into the mirror, and it’s the same face as yesterday, only a little different, and some mornings I’m afraid of the person I’ve become, I’m struck with the art we can all be sometimes. 

And I remember that, just like last time, it’ll all be the same again. It’ll just be a little different.

Advertisements
Standard
Uncategorized

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

There are no pessimistic runners.

Yes, there are angry runners. There are sad runners, too. There are gleeful and voracious and brooding and quiet runners. There are runners who fly in planes just to run somewhere else, just to stay up all night running. These runners just run and run and run.

They’re out there scooting their rubber soles across dirt paths and looking up into the trees at the squirrels, thinking about what the little critters do come December. They are thinking “well, if that little creature can fight off hawks and buzzards and the gripping midnight winter, then I can finish this mile.”

That’s what a runner thinks about. Here’s a list of seven other things that runners think about:

1) Toenails painted with someone’s birthday in mind
2) Gandhi sitting down enjoying a glass of water
3) Their first crush Veronica whose last name reminds them of a large fish
4) And, subsequently, the day they learned what the word “crush” meant
5) The people who program traffic lights
6) The gentle scratch of a fifth grader’s violin bow
7) Just how odd it is that odd numbers make for more even lists

But never, ever will you find a runner who thinks:

1) Why bother?

Because the moment a runner entertains the poison thoughts like “why bother?” and “my feet hurt” and “I wish I had a lover” and “ten miles is impossible” and “I hate _____” and “you don’t deserve _____”, a runner becomes a walker.

And eventually a sitter.

But this isn’t about running. This is about living with intention.

In looking at the past ten years of my life, I see heaviness I’ve suffered brought on by living passively, by living without intention. Some of these events are as trivial as letting a friend decide dinner. Others: sharing my emotional wealth with girls who fumble in managing it. Even wearing clothing that a lover buys has subtle ramifications in becoming a person that hands the reins of their future over to anyone itching to steer.

All of these pivotal moments share one thing in common: a justification born out of embarrassment.

I wasn’t craving anything in particular, so I just told David to pick up a pizza.”

I’m needy. I don’t blame her for not giving me the attention.”

I love the color! You really know my style, don’t you?”

Paradoxically, we are swift to defend our lethargic choices. Our indifference. We are passive until we are challenged, and then we actively fortify the reasons for which we choose to sit.

Linguistically, the active voice is always stronger in writing. The passive is weak, accidental, weightless. Reflected grammatically in its form, the original subject of the verb becomes replaced by its direct object:

“Newton discovered calculus.” vs
“Calculus was discovered by Newton.”

Calculus wasn’t just found lying in a meadow offhand by a dude on an afternoon stroll. Einstein isn’t guessing, picking values from a hat until E has its sexy, balanced counterpart. Miyazaki doesn’t haphazardly make Totoro fly, a cute afterthought added just for kicks, right before post-production. Nobody accidentally runs a marathon (except the poor bastard who ran the first one).

Meanwhile, everyone is telling you shit like:

“You have to go with the flow, Sam  // Whatever happens is meant to happen // Come what may // Who knows?” etcetera.

These are lazy philosophies. Too often have I told myself to “snap out of it!” because I find myself floating along in a daze, without any trajectory, like a buoy in the deep. I start begrudging the success of everyone else out there running marathons and kissing the women of their wildest dreams and reinventing the wheel. I’m caught defending my dishonest choices and folding up the pair of jeans I thought I’d “try out” just to “see if I like them.” I sit around.

Stop it.

You know what you like. I promise. You know exactly who you want to be. You know who you want to wake up next to on a chilly Sunday morning. You know her name, the funny way she laughs too hard all at once, the color of her toenails at your surprise party. You know what you want to wear, even if its too androgynous or shows too much leg. You know all of these things. Stop sitting around at parties pretending to enjoy yourself. Be intentional: even when you’re ready to try something new. Be spontaneous on purpose. Don’t let it all just happen to you. Stop sitting around.

Stand up. Run.

Standard
Uncategorized

Mr. Potassium & The Time-Juggling Busgirl Emily Miggins

Every morning, there is a girl who boards the 7:43 bus going southbound on Chateau Road.  She’s dressed very nicely, in heels and a business skirt made of polyester. Her hair is long and combed and she is likely named Emily, or Madeline, you know, something sweet and gentle. She lights a cinnamon candle every other weekend.

Part of her routine (apart from the candles and such) is to browse the internet in the morning on the way to work (seeing as she doesn’t need to pay attention to the road, since the bus driver is kindly providing such a selfless service). Emily, therefore, catches up on her friendships, wishes some happy birthdays, likes a photo or two of Eric (her recent crush), who last night went to a Flounders game (since they were in town).  Emily studied urban planning at a university near a river and now designs algorithms that mitigate metropolitan traffic based on a steady flow of information gathered at downtown crosswalks.

Since Emily has to catch up with so many friends every morning, she rarely has the time to look up!  And before you know it, the 102 meets the red light on Jayanti street, propelling Emily straight into her office building and onto her favorite plaid desk chair.

She is cozy in that chair.

This morning, however, something very peculiar stumbled onto Emily. Just as she finished tagging the last ‘w’ of a very long ‘aww’ on her first-grade teacher’s new profile photo (a darling shot of her daughter dressed to the nines at the Christmas orchestra recital), a bizarre gentleman with light gray scruff and a funny umbrella sat down next to her.

At this moment in time, time itself did that funny Houdini disappearing act and held its breath under a glass ocean.

And nothing made a sound.

And all the leaves on all the trees turned their attention to the corduroy red vest in Emily’s not-so-unoccupied neighboring seat.

And nothing continued to make not a sound.

And the quirky ensemble of blue sneakers and pinstripe dress pants on this strange man clashed like the timpani of a Rockefeller symphony, and yet absolutely everything was as silent as an elf, suspended like snowflakes in humid air.

Emily blinked twice.

Suddenly the wheels of the bus turned over like jelly donuts and everyone inside caught their breath again. Poor Melinda Cobbler lost her Tic-Tac in all the gasping, sending her into a fit of wheezes. Time-stops are rather ungentle with the elderly. And the near-sighted fellow with the case of the mid-December sniffles nudged right into Emily’s left shoulder, semi-accidentally.

Oh, sorry there. Pardon.”

Emily looked up.

Right, I’m sorry about the shoulder nudge! I didn’t mean to get your attention. Well, that’s not what I meant, rather–“

“No no no, it’s quite alright!” she responds, with a slight giggle.

And back to the photograph of the prodigal violinist she goes, her thumb hovering over that fifteenth ‘w’, the one with the most sentiment, after all. Crunch crunch crunch, sings into Emily’s left eardrum, crunchity crunch crunch crunch. From the corner of her eye she spots the man’s rapid jaw gnawing through the morning’s batch of salted almonds.

“Oh pardon again. I’m racing today!”

Explains the sneakers. What an odd man, Emily thinks, her gaze trickling down into her phone. But right before she presses ‘post,’

“Would you like some?”

Emily looks up.

“Almonds, I mean. Here, they’re scrumptious!”

“Oh no no, thank you. I’m quite full.” she responds again, this time without a giggle.

You know, squirrels are nature’s greatest foragers! They can survive an entire winter on nuts alone.”

Nuts, Emily thinks. Nuts is exactly right.

And when all the snow melts, well. Sometimes a squirrel just plain forgets where he buried all those acorns.  And so grows the forest! Now ain’t that something?”

Emily’s thumb hovers viciously above the glowing screen.

Do you have a glass of water?”

“Excuse me? A glass of water?”

“Salty leads to thirsty!” says the man, shaking the ziplock bag.

“I’m sorry, sir. But no.”

And turning away into the window, Emily slips back into cyberspace, into her routine. The lowly rumble of traffic eases her mind and washes out the chewing of her outlandish encounter. Soon enough, she forgets entirely that anyone else is on the bus at all. Mrs. Cobbler is still coughing into her petticoat.

Poof!

Emily snaps her neck back to the man, only to find he has opened his banana-yellow umbrella in the walkway of the bus. Washed red with embarrassment, her eyes dart to her lap. Bonkers, she thinks, this fellow is truly mad.

“Does anyone on this bus have a glass of water?” sings the gentleman in the blue sneakers, spinning his umbrella above a befuddled crowd of busfolk.

I would much enjoy just a sip of water!”

Standard
Uncategorized

Crystalline Think-Machine

I ain’t got a goddam thing to say that hasn’t been said before.

There’s $1.92 in my bank account. There’s also a pizza box on the floor, crumbs on my lap, and it’s Friday night before the eve of witches. I just watched Birdman and I’m quite ready to lose my mind entirely.

This stuff is a maniacal grind, like jellyfish rolling around in the sand, like this nonsensical smatter that falls upon the keys as I rock my hips back and forth in this empty chair, humming the syllables of your name, tender on the lips like fall dew, leather-bound, belligerent, nostalgic, and hell yeah, of course I miss you. I miss all of you.

I really like words with hyphens.

Leather-bound.

Fuckin’ hell, what an utterance.

Snare-snare-snare, kick-kick, snare-tom-tom-tom-kick-tom-crash-crash-china-choke.

More than to lovers, I’d like to succumb to the steady fall of rain.

You gotta learn how to grin with your eyes. That’s the first step. You learn to grin with your eyeballs, then you rip out your eyeballs and grin with your whole goddam body. And you swish around a cocktail in your mouth as he talks your head off about whatever the fuck he does for work, or thinks he does for work, and you can only sit and nod, and your face glosses over as you imagine him hanging upside-down above Milwaukee, and a gentle nudge from your chewed-off cuticle (nervous tick, force-of-habit, look at all those hyphens) is enough to expedite him to the sweet, sweet abyss, and you’re slightly jealous that art could go to such waste. I mean just look at all that human potential, and this guy knows Excel!

“I mean, I don’t want to brag,” (plastic laugh) “but I do know Excel better than the rest of the douchebags in that office!” (repeat plastic laugh verbatim).

Nod nod nod, stir stir, the cold Wisconsin air, cheese heads, the poem written in the sole of your stiletto is making your heel itch.

Somewhere, someone is gutting a pig they won’t eat.

Imagine a canvas. A huge canvas. A gigantic canvas, I’m telling you, a gargantuan, colossal, stretch-of-a-naked-white-canvas. In the very center is an orange. A normal orange, with dimples and oblong citrus, just gloating at its very girth.

Inside the orange is the most electrifying orgasm you’ve never had.

Just a sea of canvas and one tiny orgasm, like Enola Gay and the Trinity Site’s meticulous afterthought.

Boooooom! 

Anyway. End scene. The Excel guy wants you to pay for the Taxi.

Anything to get out of these goddam stilettos.

Standard
Uncategorized

Movin’

I’m all cozy sittin’ here listening to The Strokes “Is This It” (2001).

Writing on Sundays has always been good to me. Feeds the soul, the heart, the retrospective mind. I’ve been walking around for a few months with a couple little mantras that I wanna share with you lovers.

Last October I flew in an airplane to Las Vegas, Nevada, and I bought a mug from the M&M’s factory. I want to collect mugs for the rest of my time on earth. I think they’re functional and cute and say just a ton about ya.

Anyway, this mug I bought is the blue M&M, the jazzy one, with an almond inside. He likes to kick his feet up and talk like James Earl Jones. When you drink coffee out of this mug, you get to read his catch phrase, all cross-eyed, right there on the lip:

It’s all good”

That’s what it says, because it’s a novelty mug, and I just love it like pie. It’s all good, this mug reads, every time I kick it back.

Around that time, I lost a lover, which is alright. I swear it was the perfect time to buy this dang mug.  I was out on the porch just feeling it, the breakup and all, and this dude is staring back at me, all smug. The smug mug. And on the lip, it’s all good.

That’s all it took. Changed my damn life, I’m telling you.

So when I got lonely or mad about the chick, or when my cousin killed herself, or when I realized I ran out of money and started charging it all to the card, I just sat down instead of yelling and poured some coffee.  And when my car broke down last month, and when I lost another lover last week, and when I woke up this morning, hungover as a bat, disoriented and woozy, and walked six blocks to the east when I should’ve went west, then sat at the bus stop for half an hour, only to have the bus driver swivel open his door and say “you’re on the wrong side of the street, sir”, I’m telling you, I just laughed like crazy and got a couple new wrinkles in my face, because of that goddam mug.

And when life is groovin’, and that song you’ve been singing for a week is playing in the bar, and you’re dancing with your new friend named van Hook, and he’s singing along too, and when you’re in class again, and your professor is spitting fire, lighting up your mind and all, and when the sun sets, and the song ends right as you pull up, and you just ordered a delivery pizza, and a squirrel is running around in the trees above you, and you get that feeling that everything is right, because it always is, even when it’s not.

Yeah. That’s the stuff.

This summer, I met a guy named Alec Wright. He’s got the kindest face you’ll ever see, and he just loves to listen to you. He likes to wear big shirts and draw and be outside and love on folks, and he’s got a killer backhand frisbee toss. He smiles because he knows it’s all good.

Alec also likes hip-hop:

“Do you know Collective Efforts, Sam? These guys, the way they say it, man it gets me! They like to say “keep it movin.” People love to get stuck on things. There’s a problem, or a roadblock, and something is affecting their life. And they can’t see a way through this hard time, so they just keep concentrating on it. They just keep staring at the wall, asking ‘why?’, getting nowhere, and the wall just keeps getting bigger. And I tell them, it’s there for you! This is supposed to happen to you, and you’re supposed to learn from this. And it’s good for you! This thing you can’t figure out, it’s there for you!”

And then he paused. And he grinned, and his face just lit up in a big smile and he said:

“Keep movin’!”

Shit, I’m laughing just thinking about him.

On Thursdays, when I finish up class, I like to put on my Rocky Mountain Day Camp Staff shirt and go run around the track. 50 laps around the track inside the gym, 7.15 miles. I like to smile when I do it, and I like to think about the way those dudes say keep it movin’. That’s all running is, anyway. You’re just moving around, and you keep doing it. And it’s all good.

Anyway.

I’m cozy here, in my chair, writing from my new home. Everything’s moving so fast, and I just feel like a tornado, and I’m still eating Frosted Flakes before I go to bed. You know that feeling you get when your dreams start coming true? Like at the end of Willy Wonka, when Willy Wonka looks to Charlie and says: “But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.”

Charlie Bucket: “What happened?”

Willy Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

Tomorrow I’m gonna drink some coffee and grin like Alec Wright.

Standard
Uncategorized

Two-Minute Change

Inspired by Cultivating Thought

I like to carry cash nowadays. It feels like reading a crinkled newspaper or drinking tea with friends: a custom of the past that has been wrestled out of fashion by convenience. There’s a certain magic in revealing a banknote in exchange for coffee cake, or a bicycle bell, or an order of salty french fries; the warm thought of safeguarding antiquity.

“Your change is $5.03,” sings the bubbly cashier.

I hold out my palm to receive four Lincolns: three pennies and a crisp five. An ex-girlfriend taught me this little game: stow away every five dollar bill that enters your wallet. Last year, I flew to Austin, Texas on a whim. I paid with a bundle of fives wrapped in a rubber band buried in my sock drawer. Stuffing the bill into my jeans, I smile quirkily at the cashier. She doesn’t know about my secret savings account.

Pausing again, I bring the three copper pieces to my nose, flipping them all heads up. I have terrible eyesight, you see, so I need them quite close to decipher their tiny mint dates.

“1990” reads the first. The era of Bush Senior. The year Momma brought me to life.

2008″ I fell in love in May. She told me she loved me first. Sometimes I sing “No Woman No Cry” under my breath and remember the night we broke up.

“2012” In the middle of the darkness, I looked up and saw a galaxy. You were there, holding my hand, wishing it was warmer. It felt like a dream.

The coins jingle in my grip as the memories gloss over. Suddenly a man clears his throat behind me. I’m still in line. Like a wet dog, I shake my head and peel back to reality, my blinking eyes finding the peppy grin of the cashier.

Keep this,” I murmur, gently pouring the money into the tip jar. “Thanks for smiling so much.”

1990, 2008, 2012 slip away from my hand. I walk out of the coffee shop, lighter.

Standard
Uncategorized

Look Down. Look Up!

I’ve been mopping a lot of floors lately.

Every week, Rocky Mountain Day Camp purchases over 1,000 pieces of individual fruit. This fruit is consumed by a hundred young humans, with clumsy mouths and antsy fingers. Across the waxed linoleum sprays innards of plums, orange guts, banana mushes and strawberry tophats. A real smoothie, of sorts. We’ll call it “Floormageddon” and sell it to Jamba.

As head janitor, I take a lot of pride in my floors. My arch nemesis, Capt. Red Seedless, is hellbent on making my hallway look like Paul Bunyan went frolicking through Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a weekly war for the winos.

I’ve found a lot of catharsis in mopping my hallway; the same satisfaction felt in a father overlooking a freshly mown backyard. And in the face of my proud work falling asunder, never praised, re-dyed unremittingly by the Great Grape War of Summer 2k15, I’ve realized:

Nobody notices a clean floor.

I work with kids. Kids are dirty. I work with kids’ parents. At times, parents are even nastier. While a child will find jubilance in pouncing upon a full pouch of Capri Sun like a landmine, Owen’s mother finds an even deeper pleasure in bleating about their pride and joy’s minor road bumps. Like sticky, stained shorts from Capri Sun bombs.

If, after Owen decides to paint the town Fruit Punch and nobody is there to scrub up the aftermath, I’m getting a phone call:

“You really need to mop your floors.”

It’s a funny job, then, to clean the floor. In theory, you scrub to kill the germs carried by the soles of light-ups and stilettos alike. Aesthetics are secondary. In reality, when mopping a floor, your success is measured in gallons of apathy. While your dentist wants to see you smile, your custodian strives only for your indifference.

So this thought has been swimming around my noggin’ all week: nobody notices a clean floor. I write tonight because that is my metaphor. My metafloor. Please laugh at my puns.

I know a girl whose laugh could spin windmills and cure cancer. She’s got a giggle that the deaf can hear and the blind can touch. This girl is buried in my pocket making sculptures from the lint inside, humming the chorus of OutKast’s “Roses” and painting her toes with every color of the sun. She’s a glowing body blanketed by a warm soul; an inside-out definition of beauty.

This girl compliments a clean floor.

But she is transient. Like a full moon, I see her flicker in the sky, momentarily, one night every month. And the phases that pass between her blink of radiance are black: nothing. The infinite emptiness of space. A mortal abyss.

This girl craves a dirty floor.

She swallows the sun. She’s a dredge in the meadow. A thorn in the side. A rebuttal to everyone around her. And in her loneliness she weeps, helplessly, as if fate is out to get her, as if her world is everybody else’s fault.

Quite simply: she’s always bummed out.

Now, I want you to listen to OutKast’s “Roses” as we tie all this together.

I’ve been through depression, through heartbreak. I grew up hating a lot of things. I know what it means to be unhappy, insecure, in need of attention and love. I know that the world isn’t all daisies, that people file for divorce, that lovers get hit by cars. I know what it means to lose yourself, to fall crazy in love, to be your own worst enemy. I used to think that bad things happened to me, and that happiness wasn’t a choice. I used to think that your body made you beautiful.

Then I started mopping the floor.

Suddenly, it was clear that the most beautiful humans are those who are laughing. That happiness is gravity. It’s irresistible. That the sexiest people are the ones who smile, who cheer, who sing, who treat everything like it was supposed to happen. They’re dancing as the world burns to smithereens. Decades spent lifting weights could never outclass a goofy grin, a vibrant chuckle, a big, fuzzy hug. I realized that nobody is impressed by how much you hate something.

That the best people are the ones who choose to find love in everything in this world.

Cassidy said it best: we live in a paradise. A cruise ship on a cruise ship on a cruise ship on a private yacht in the middle of an ocean reserved all for ourselves. When you complain about anything in this ungodly privileged life of ours, you’ve simply spilled your Piña Colada.

So for me, you, and the girl who could move mountains, we always have a choice when this little life gets the best of us:

“Fuck, my drink spilled everywhere. Look at this filthy floor!”

or,

“Grab the mop. Let’s get drunk!”

Standard