blog, poem

August

I’m writing this in the back of a caravan as it scuttles across the empty plains of West Texas. August comes around and always feels like a Sunday. Three years ago, I was hungover and in love and drinking iced coffee from the garden level of a north Denver apartment. Now, after spending another week back home in Colorado, I feel the same: pining for love, hungover from a lazy summer in the sun, sipping from a mug.

I know my writing always reads something romantic. Truthfully, though, it’s rare anymore that I feel any sort of desire to pursue romance. I’ve become too self-serving over the years, too busy pursuing a myriad of goals that benefit only me, too interested in spending time alone. I enjoy my quiet time. I know many folks my age that have also given up on the cinderella story, on the boomer lifestyle of 1950’s jello adverts.

Sometimes, though, the heart will flutter and seek flight. Now is one of those times.

I was back home this week with a group of running friends on a road trip. We hiked up mountains and slept on the floor and cooked and cleaned together. A week straight with these folks and it only felt like family, like symbiosis. Guiding them through my old haunts brought back an expected nostalgia, certainly, but it also helped me see these spots anew. I ordered different meals, different drinks, walked into new buildings, snapped out of the plastic shape of old routines.

On my mind throughout the week were the relationships I left here. Understanding that I took that love for granted while it was abundant and present leaves me feeling foolish. Walking along the same avenues where first kisses were planted on unassuming heads opens a monologue with your younger self, one that ends without resolve. I can’t rewind time, even though the junctures still look so familiar, as if it never passed. Standing at one of these, a corner near a science building on campus, I feel the pulse of old heartbreak. I also feel a sort of heightened awareness to recognize the love when it’s around. The type of cognizance that comes with learning a very physically painful lesson.

And so this affirms this lingering thought I’ve had in my mind for a while, one that has been absent for half a decade, one that I’ve feared and barricaded and ignored in favor of nurturing the self: that I am ready to give it away. I would like it real and good and poetic and pure, and it feels something like escaping a cocoon.

It must be immaterial and private and between only us. I hope to leave it unnoticed and mute; my favorite relationships are those that I know least about. Keep it secret and intimate. Sex is as good as the sum of its parts, but making love is transcendent. Making love feels like leaving earth. It feels like one of the only few ways we have left of being entirely present. The muse of art and war is born in the dark sheets between two bodies unraveling into one another. I want this. I want the mundane and the annoyance and the discomfort of merging two lives together, and I also want to make love.

I’m tall and lanky and funnily shaped and have a childish face. I don’t wear great clothes and make little money. I’m shy around the girls that smitten me. I observe more than I participate. I think too much. My confidence is fickle and often frustrated. I assumed, by now, I would have ironed out these insecurities, but they tend to solidify when I’m most lonely. And that feeling waxes and wanes with the moon. But these things go away when I have someone to call.

When I have the love, I’m nicer to my mother. My grandpa stops worrying. I have perspective and a reason to stop in the gift shop. I write more, I sleep well, I learn new tricks. I see new places and shake new hands and live a life more spontaneous. I begin to share. And that’s the kicker, really: I want to share. We are calmer when we can split the bread.

It’s now quite dark in East Texas. The clouds have become a silky sheet of deep purple in the sky above. Soon this life will become overwhelmingly busy with the duties of a career in progress and I will return to having very little time to myself. I will doubt and dismiss the idea of pursuing a partner. But for this moment, out in the middle of nowhere, on the tail end of another setting summer, I will imagine myself in love, quietly, and rest my head to the thought. The rolling fields of windmills swim by, and I think about her.

She lets quartz hang from her ears. She buys things from old women. She drinks cucumber water. She makes love on top. She leaves a thunderous wake, a pinkish swirl, a scent. She wants me around.

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The Girl at the Bottom of the Well

August 28, 2011

I tell myself it’s time to leave, only to hesitate once again. I’m entranced by her laughter, the air in the room, the darkening scruff around my jawline. I finish the drops of my OJ and stand up. Creaky floors. Hesitation. Fuck, I know this is only temporary, but I can’t pull myself to walk away from this house. The magic of the night before lingers in my imagination and I’m terrified of the thought of it blurring away. I replay it in my head.

“Well…it’s about that time. Hey now, it’s only four months. Do you know how fast a semester moves? Of course you do. It’s like nothing guys, c’mon. Don’t make me cry and stuff”.

I pass hugs and reaffirming words around the room and make my move towards the door. We pretend that the farewell will stay in the kitchen, but of course they follow me out. I hear their footsteps and small voices a few feet behind as the screen door swings open to a typical morning sunshine. Down through the front yard. The curb kisses my heels as I turn around to two anxious faces.

“Here we go again. You had to make it difficult didn’t you? Okay, good bye! Ciao! I swear, I’m practically back already!”

More embraces. And the next thing I remember is our eyes meeting one last time. A moment of pure understanding of the inevitable path ahead and of the immediate past, which I can only hope was mutually felt. I can’t tell what she is thinking; she will continue to be impossible in the months ahead. But I know how I feel. And with the spark of the ignition and gravel pinching beneath four rubber wheels, my demeanor sinks beneath my seat. I’m leaving.

Fuck. I’m leaving.

A long drive, a haircut, complete exhaustion, a half-assed sandwich that hardly worked as a pick-me-up, heavy breaths, burning gasoline, highway road-signs, pieces of memories invading every other thought, an overwhelming air of dread, and I’m here again. Downtown. Forty minutes before I was squeezing the last seconds of company with a girl I would soon admit to love. And now, as if another dimension smashed me into an unrealistic world, I’m parked outside of a heavy red house. Owls stare back at me. There must be eighteen eyes total. They don’t move at all, but the weight of a shattered heart on the brink of something undesired bellows into my body, like a supermassive black hole invading a dying star. I feel completely encumbered. The same desire that kept me attached to the kitchen moments ago now glues me to the concrete below, commanding me to hesitate. A chain link fence separates the brick behemoth and my growing mental burden inside. Six deep breaths. I enter the house.

She greets me with her usual, unworldly smile. It beams through my veins. Her roommate sends me a wave and I return it with a goofy high-five, a token of my ridiculous persona. The style of the room smoothly transitions into the two girls I now face, as if the room is constantly shifting with each new thought that blossoms from their fleeting minds. Everything is glowing. In fact, they even comment on the incredible lightness of the day outside. I take a peek through their front window. It really is a beautiful day. I turn around. The girls are moving through old clothes. Their wardrobe never ceases to conform. If a combination exists, they’ve tried it, always exploring the vast world of corporal adornment.

“Sammy! It’s so great to see you! Want a beer?”
“I’m good, thanks.” I can’t even hide my shitty attitude.

She turns to me.

“How about we head to The Market?”

It’s her absolute favorite place. I know this from past visits. In fact it’s one of the only things I really know about this girl. But that’s the thing that’s hardest to understand: we’ve never discussed anything trivial. I couldn’t tell you her favorite color. I have no knowledge of her day-to-day. Yet, with each discussion we have, I learn far more than I could ever put in words about her. It’s like closing your eyes underwater: you’ve never felt so connected to anything in your entire life. But you don’t say a damn thing. We both order food. She takes a bagel, and I grab a day old pastry.

And suddenly, outside of the coffee shop, everything changes.

I look up. She’s sitting across from me. The wind is batting her hair forwards, gently disfiguring the balance in our discussion. Everything around her is unbelievably brilliant. Wind is moving trash in the far corner of the buildings behind her. It’s as if time stopped but everything else kept its motion. I’m paralyzed. The visual experience is so intense that I lose track of my tongue. And then my thoughts as a whole. An active dreamscape morphs in front of me. I have lost track of reality.

And it’s all because of her.

May 19, 2012

We’ve arranged to meet again. Hell, was it August the last time we spoke? It doesn’t seem important at all. I know her more than I know most people. Our mutual understanding, her desire to reach intellectual nirvana, my absolute interest in everything I can imagine. We share more things in common than we’ve ever discussed. And the kicker? Our narcissism is the common-ground upon which this entire relationship was constructed. If we weren’t so sure of ourselves, well…one of us would be in tears.

I find myself driving along that highway again, the same one that sucked me in last August. I hate myself for leaving, for misleading, for kissing her when I didn’t mean it. And every single second of that summer day has been burned into my memory, the same way a molten skeleton of iron cooks inside its mold. I carried that regret with me to Europe and back. I juggled the fantasy of finding love again until it tore me to pieces. I came home to heartbreak…I analyzed it back and forth. Did that night mean anything to her? Did she think of me the way I thought of her? Does she know how I felt leaving that day? It’s as bitter as that damn last sip of orange juice. It’s as unfulfilling as that fucking sandwich. It haunts me like that drive to and from downtown, when I told myself I wouldn’t ever return.

Yet here we are, in front of that big red house again.

She’s smoking a cigarette on her porch. Her elegance is stunning. Her image is crude and organic, like a grave that’s been freshly dug. And if I told her that, she would claim that the coffin bears two things: good and evil. She stands up as I swing open the gate in her chain-link fence. We meet in a warm collision that nearly sends me off balance. I know soon enough that she will challenge my Yin and Yang, and probably smash it to pieces. I then look down and notice her funky blue shoes. She has a new haircut, too. I sit next to her as the smoke from the burning tobacco envelops the air around me.

“So tell me, what’s new?”

An hour passes and we catch up on the nine months passed. I try to enlighten her on the details, but something tells me that its unnecessary. I know she can paint the picture, fill in the gaps, make my life her own. I just provide a bit of color. She does the same. She smashes the charred tip of an American Spirit into the cement, streaking the concrete step with another burnt moment. We move inside.

And suddenly, I fucking lose my mind again.

I run to the bathroom to look in the mirror. I see myself, completely unchanged, flesh and bone staring back. Everything looks normal. But I’ve lost all sense of feeling, as if my body was completely arbitrary and unneeded in this room. A splash of water on my face. I can handle this. But another wave of delirium hits me again, like an unexpected acid flashback. I greet her in the kitchen and try my hardest to contain this swirling essence inside. I can’t concentrate at all. But I know our conversation is interactive and bouncy as always. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that the 30 minutes of talking we had in the kitchen was the most I’ve ever learned about her life. Her relationships. Her daily activities. Her career goals. And even though it never mattered in the past, I suddenly feel uplifted with the newfound information. Like the understanding that your parents were once kids too.

Everything is glowing again. Even now, I can’t explain what I saw.

We discuss the body. She tells me it’s simply a vehicle for the mind. I call her a pretentious college professor. But I agree. I tell her about my immature sexual experiences. She laughs at my partners. “We’re born naked, we should live naked too”, she states. “Why would you be afraid of your body?” Again, I agree. The conversation moves, except I become disconnected. I start to lose even more feeling. My mind takes over, it’s floating six feet above the tiled floor. Underneath is the presence of some physical being, but never has it felt more irrelevant. We sit to dinner, and her love interest joins us at the table.

He is magnificent. An attractive man in his late twenties opens his beer next to me and asks me about my life. He is genuinely interested. We talk. I still have no recollection of bodily movement, of eating, of controlling where my eyes moved. I can’t tell him I’ve lost my mind; that would invalidate my emotional response to his outgoing nature. I know I am enjoying myself, his company, and she watches us interact from the other side of the table. We step outside for a cigarette.

I watch them both from the bottom of the steps. Their energies collide like wind and a turbine in the stratosphere. I admire their honesty, their lives. I’ve never felt so happy for somebody else. My attention is to his stories, his words and the slowly decaying flame of his cigarette.  I am in awe. She did it again. She slaughtered my reality, the false idea that I have control over my surroundings. She destroyed my world only to leave me the tools necessary to reconstruct a new image of myself and my goals ahead. I salute them goodbye. She hugs me first. A long, meaningful contact. Suddenly I remembered I have a body. He also hugs me. It’s rare to find another male willing to make bodily contact. I’m usually unmatched in showing affection. I swing open the chain-linked gate. The ignition roars, the tires grip the asphalt, and within seconds they are out of sight.

I come to my senses on the highway. Loud music and an open window lets the summer air flow around my body. Lightning storms, headlights, off ramps, the moonlight. I’m aware of everything again, the mind and body connected. Yet the entire experience seems ethereal, almost imagined. Our roles switched. She talked of love, I talked of the impossibility of feeling it.  She talked of love, I talked of the impossibility of feeling it.

She talked of love, I talked of the impossibility of feeling it.

Suddenly I remember last August. The last drop of orange juice, so acidic and bitter. The last time I hugged that girl, the one I fell for. The brief moment of our eyes meeting. I remember what love was, what it used to be. I remember the way I threw myself towards it, like Icarus to the sun. It feels like an eternity since I’ve felt that magic. But the girl from downtown’s voice carries, her words echo like a coin rippling at the bottom of a well: “It will come, and she will humor you”.  I yell those words into the night sky, affirming their potential. Lightning tears across the blackness, a gaping sound of thunder roars in following.

I press on the gas.

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Big Fish, Big Sea

This is a story about origin.  This is a story about a boy who left home.  This is a story about the water around you.

This morning in my Anthropology lecture, we learned a bit about bees and babies (and I am still unsure about which creature blows my mind more).  My knowledge of bees extends back to last semester’s Food Science course in Italy where I learned just how damn crazy these things are.  Did you know that every worker bee in the hive are female? More so, did you know they’re all sisters?!  They all come from the same momma queen bee.  Shit gets crazier:  that one queen essentially lives to produce these workers, who serve only to produce a successful hive, working constantly as a unit to survive.  The male bees basically live to have sex with the female (in which moment they explode in a mid-flight orgasm).  And to top all this nonsense off, those worker bees fucking talk to each other in order to express the whereabouts of a potential pollination nearby.  Not by vocalizing, rather by dancing a pattern that triangulates the bees’ current position, the position of the sun and the position of the flower in question.  And the distance between them and the sweet stuff is expressed by shaking the thorax at a certain frequency.  Are you kidding me?!  I could hardly pass trigonometry, and these little bastardettes are born with it.

Then we moved onto babies.  The lecture focused on survival as an instinct, and reproduction as an animalistic goal (i.e. the bulk of our homeboy Charlie Darwin’s studies).  The problem with worker bees: they’re all female, but none of them reproduce, questioning CD’s theory of the purpose of life.  It’s not in their hardwire to think about offspring, instead (as stated before) to work constantly for the well-being of the group. My professor noted that because of this deeply programmed altruism, they are therefore reproducing (despite not personally birthing children).  The group creates the generation. Since we can learn so much about ourselves by observing animals, this example was smoothly transitioned to human babies.

Okay, some more ‘holy shit, did you know?!’  A chimpanzee’s baby is born with a brain that is roughly 75% developed.  A human baby is severely less, sitting around 25% at birth.  All this means is chimp baby’s have a significanly lower dependency level throughout their infant stages, whereas humans must be cared for in order to survive. We already knew that.  But what I was unaware of was the degree of that dependency (other than the obvious need for food, sleep, water & a fresh Pamper every couple hours).  As a small example: back when newborns used to sleep in the same bed as their parents (opposed to a nearby crib) some strange stuff happened throughout the night.  The baby would slowly roll towards mom or dad, press its ear to their chest cavity and fucking synchronize heartbeats.  It doesn’t even have to be a living being; if sleeping with a mechanical teddy bear that has a clock or metronome subtly installed inside, the baby’s behavior is identical.  The friend of my professor who studies this interaction suggests that this could be a major cause in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Some babies are just not ready to sleep alone.  These ones don’t wake up the next morning.

There is an old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a baby’, which became the punch-line of today’s teachings.  Before a couple thousand years ago, the human animal lived in small, tight-knit hunter/gatherer communities in which support for a child existed between many, many hands and faces.  Nowadays, with the imposed image of the Nuclear Family, we expect that a baby is raised by two key figures: padre y madre.  In the ideal successful relationship, this means that at least one of these parents must support the family, leaving the child in the hands of one person.  Realistically speaking, either both parents are working or the kid is growing up in a split home, and in those cases things become much more complex, oftentimes forcing a developing child into the care of a complete stranger (genetically and sometimes socially speaking). Our current model is beyond fucked.  Sure, there are examples in which the youngin’ is brought up by many different members of the family, which can only enrich their childhood experience.  But with the distance between all of us in our current world, I’d be hard-pressed to find a complete family that still lives within the same county.  We’re just too dispersed.  And this is where my story begins.

If you know me, you probably know that I call El Paso my place of birth.  If you know me well, you’ll know that I’m much more a mutt in terms of identity, often pinning thumbtacks across the country where I would call ‘home’.  For the time being, I’d like to take a trip back to that west-Texas town.  Let’s set the scene:

It’s hot.  A mid-July sun burns the asphalt.  The people at the swap-meet walk between the tents, their eyes smothered by thick brows that struggle to fight the heat.  Sweating is as fashionable as cowboy boots and big belt buckles, and all three appear on every caballero that browses the used wares.  “¡Hace sol hoy!” they say. “Si, como siempre amigo.”
If you’re not at the flea market, you’ll be finding refuge at the Cielo Vista mall.  At least there you’re covered, and most of the time cooled.  But if shopping is not in the plan, go cruise the streets.  That’s social too.
As the evening arrives I find myself gazing out across the highway over Transmountain pass.  The sun’s gone but its presence radiates.  I dress light.  Out with friends, we meet for dinner at a local mexican restaurant, knowing full well that I’ll struggle with the order in English.  They’re always so respectful there.  Life is simple.  In this corner of the world, we have each other.  It’s in your blood.  And even though there’s nothing to do, there’s always someone to do nothing with.
It’s dark.  The fake star on the mountain lights up, wishing sleep to everyone on both sides of the border.  Light scatters in red and yellow triangles.  Like a peaceful coma. My tongue sits inside my mouth still sizzling from dinner.  The fan above pushes the warm breeze around, the sound of crickets creak through my bedroom window.  I think about their music as I fall asleep.

Damn.  That took me back.  Even through that painted memory, it’s hard to make you understand my life growing up there.  Living on the border.  Being a minority as a white kid.  Getting taken advantage of for not speaking Spanish.  Low income.  Low opportunity.

Yet,

For everyone that has ever lived in El Paso and left, there’s something inside that can’t die.  It’s more than nostalgia.  It’s a character and a culture that is found nowhere else.  I can’t help but miss my place in the world, the roots the founded me.  And tonight, as I finished studying in the library and walked towards the bus stop, I realized why.

Upon applying for the University of Colorado at Boulder, everyone must write a short essay on the topic of diversity: how can you bring something new to the school?  The outcome (and ongoing inside joke) of that application process has produced the most monotone and stagnate community I have ever seen in my life. Wealthy, beautiful, Americans. Everywhere.  All the time.  Of course that’s a generalization of an extremely progressive city, but I honestly find a lot of truth in it.  I would go as far as to say more than half of the students here are fed money through tubes from rich parents back home. Don’t work.  Hardly go to school.  Party.  Keep up with fashion.  Fancy cars.  Fancy homes.  Live outrageous lives.  The top 5%.  They say you become your surroundings.  I certainly have.

I am no exception to the description above.   Granted I have a job, but the majority of that money goes directly to feeding the fire.  Since Italy I have taken notice of fashion and a liking to dressing well.  My last paycheck went directly to new pants and shoes.  Sure, I buy groceries and food, and I handle utilities and other little life costs, but that’s the extent of my financial responsibilities.  I have lost all appreciation of the value of the dollar.  I fell into the trap of materialism that consumes this city and I gloatingly roll around in the fake image I’ve created.  I’m not wealthy.  I can’t afford this lifestyle.  Who the fuck am I kidding with all this?  I’ve forgotten where I came from.

The last time I went to El Paso in the summer of 2011, I was invited into a house of a friend’s friend whom I’d never met before.  His mother greeted me with open arms and many hugs, offered me food, gave me a place to sleep.  I was a complete stranger.  A day later, upon visiting old neighborhood friends, I was welcomed back into their home and cooked for, then proceeded to socialize with a family that I hadn’t seen in years.  It reminded me how much I miss that welcoming Mexican culture.  For so long I’ve been surrounded by ‘me me me, I, I, I,’ that I forgot what pure generosity felt like.  I’ve met many great people in Colorado, but what is considered an act of outstanding kindness here is just the nature of people there.  I know now the difference between being rich and being wealthy.

It’s time I come full circle.  Living here in Boulder is like living in a fantasy world, an escape from reality.  It’s oppressive to be materialistic, but its taunting when you cannot keep up.  It gives you visual beauty to gaze upon after removing soul and personality.  It’s a tease.  But it’s a tease of worthless images, exploiting human avarice in all senses to lead a very unfulfilling life.  It’s rare to find somebody driven for a cause greater than themselves because life here is selfish.  It’s a culture of money.  A gathering of privileged ungratefuls that take advantage of an opportunity others only dream about.  I’ve witnessed myself slowly become th the fish drowning in the sea of greed.

Can I really sit here and say that El Paso is any better?  Hell no.  It’s a slew of other problems, a whole different devil.  But what I will vouch for is this:  the people there are family.  There are no exceptions.  They live the old model, the village that cares for the young, the group of kin that live for each other.  The bees that produce the hive.  Have you ever been to a Mexican birthday party?  You’ve never met so many cousins.  And growing up around low income truly makes you appreciate the cost of life.  I am so damn driven because of where I come from, where the example of success is based on ability to bring food home and provide a home for your family.  Anything less requires food stamps, and of those lives there are plenty.  But I’ve lost touch with myself.  I’ve learned to live a solitary life, to pride myself on the image, to pretend.  And tonight at the bus stop, while listening to Dredg’s Ireland, my shame finally caught up to me.

But I remembered a few things, too.  The first: the world is so huge.  As much as I value my childhood in El Paso, I can’t imagine living a fulfilling adult life there.  So where do I go after college?  Answer: anywhere else.  People often ask “what can you do with a major in foreign languages?” My response is a sketch of the western hemisphere: “I can go anywhere I want on this side of the world”, leading me to realization number 2: I’m a big fish.  I’ve created so much opportunity for myself inside and outside of my education. While naïve to the bone, I feel I live a very enriching life in my bubble.  It’s time though that I share that bubble with others who feel the same drive, motivation, love for everything.  I need to find my kin.  I’m sick of the artificiality.  It’s time to get real.

While I’m finding myself near the end of my college life in the months that come,  I’d really like you to listen to this piece of music that swirled around my head all night.  It’s an image that can’t be explained by words.  The language is that of my hometown as well as the artist who composed it.  And since I’ve built my life on the foundation of sound I can only hear this as a summarizing point: http://youtu.be/nAdI3qoQ5xU

And with that, I leave you.  Until we connect again, however, please keep on loving,

Sam G.

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