Thursday, December 22, 2011


This story was recently recognized in a contest...I was one of the ten overall winners of the 2011 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest.

            She checked all the windows and doors, white paint cracking into spider veins.  She made sure that the heavy, lace curtains were drawn tight.  No lights.  She couldn’t chance it.  She knew they were after her, and that this was the only safe place.  She floated through the dim living room, careful not to make any noise – feet soft on the spotted carpet. 
            They had been thorough, she’d give them that.  They’d erased it all.  Aside from the occasional splash of color, or a blurry face, or a snapshot that exploded and faded like a firecracker, there was nothing but the vague sense that there should be something.  Some kind of memory…not just this grey, clutching anxiety.
She looked at herself in the broken mirror which hung on an unhinged closet door.  Thin, white hair.  She wore an old faded, floral dress and a grey sweater.  She seemed small, almost non-existent.  They had taken it all from her, and she’d done the only thing she could – closed herself away in this hidden place so they couldn’t take any more. 
            What was her name?  She couldn’t remember.  She could hear the echoes of it…distant shouts, but she couldn’t make them out.  The same was true for everything.  Friends?  Lovers?  Jobs?  Enemies?  Places she had been?  She could sense the outlines of all these things, but couldn’t fill in the blank spaces.   She let her head sink to her chest and began to cry.
            The house?  She didn’t recognize any of the furnishings.  She was frightened by it.  Taken aback by old, skirted lamps.  Startled by books left open…convinced they hadn’t been there moments before.  It made no sense.  There was nothing to be afraid of.  It was a ghost house, barren, but comforting.
            The knock at the door was like a gunshot.  One single, sharp rap.  She froze in place.  She closed her eyes tightly and saw fireworks in the darkness.  The knock was familiar, but she didn’t know why.
            “Eloise, you open up now, hear?  I done brought some things for you.”
            Eloise?  Her hands began to tremble.  She had known that name, but it wasn’t hers.
            “Eloise, it’s cold out here, hon, I’m gonna let myself in, okay?”
            She stood quickly and crossed the arid room.  She felt terror rising in her.  She didn’t know what to do.  She squeezed into the space between two bookcases and tried to slow her breathing.  She heard the jangling of keys and then the creeping rasp of metal on metal as she watched the deadbolt turn.
            The door opened and brought with it a shaft of deafening sunshine.  She could see the outline of a woman, and she covered her eyes.  The voice was soft, kind.  It added to the panic.
            “Now, Eloise…you got nothing to be afraid of.  It’s just me, Norma.  Norma Betts.  I’ve lived next door for forty years.”
            She opened her eyes and saw a woman her age, but plump, squeezed into a navy blue dress, white belt, ankles unfolding over her white pumps.
            “Oh, my.  Eloise, honey.  Don’t be afraid.  You have to listen to me and believe me.  My name is Norma.  You and I have been friends for a long, long time.  We raised our kids together.  We…”
The woman choked on her words and a tear drifted slowly out of one eye. Then she righted herself, shaking herself courageous, like a bird drying its wings.
            The name was like a slap to the face.  There was a moment of recognition.  Gone..
            “Ellie, sit down, hon…just sit a spell…that’s right.  I know you don’t remember, but my name is Norma Betts and we have been friends a long time.  We’ve been visitin’ every day for as long as I can remember.  I was here yesterday.  I brought you some pound cake.  You ate the whole thing in one bite.”
            The plump woman chuckled.  
            “No, you’re right.  I reckon it’s not funny.  Sometimes you laugh so as not to cry, hon.  Look what I found.”
            The woman opened her bag and pulled out an old wooden picture frame.  She handed it over gently.  It held a news clipping with a picture of a young man in uniform.  He was smiling a mischievous grin and leaning casually on the wing of an old airplane, cigarette hanging from his lip. 
            “Ellie, that’s Allen…do you see?”
She ran her fingers over the glass and looked into the handsome face.  She felt uncomfortable, like she was suddenly nude.  She knew that she should know this man.  She looked into the wet eyes of the other woman, who was crying steadily now.
            “Ellie, that’s okay, hon.  That is just OKAY.  You just don’t worry a bit.  You sit here and relax, and I’ll make us some tea.”
            She heard water running.  Then she heard the stove ignite.  Then the clunk of the phone as it was lifted off the cradle. 
            “Dr. Johnson, please.  He is?  You just tell him that this is Norma Betts, and he told me to call when I had to, and I do believe it’s time.  Tell him as soon as you can.”
            The phone made the same sound as it was set back; this time she couldn’t help but think that it sounded like a cell door clanging shut.  She began to shake.  She dropped the frame and the glass shattered.  She froze.
            “Ellie, dear, you just don’t fret about nothing.  We’ll just sit and rest a spell.”
            She felt a hand on her shoulder…warm.  She looked up into the plump face, streaked with mascara.  She knew.
            “Nor…Norma.  I’d be lying if I said I remembered you.  And I sure am sorry I don’t.  But I think I do understand.  Yes, I believe I understand.  I think I owe you quite a bit of thanks.”
            The two women sat silently and drank their tea until it was cold; then there was another knock at the door, but neither moved to answer it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

John's Rage

My impressions blend and bend 
Like wind-storm branches
Pencil sketches against an agate sky
John is breaking furniture
Screaming, growling profane
Animal sounds
It, the sound, reaches out 
Across the bay, across oceans
Expanding and contracting
Stretching light into
Star tendrils of rain soaked
Neon taxi windows
My conscience is a widow
Dark, and bleak and preaching
But I stay hidden
Beneath the animal growling crash
And beneath the glow of 
The night…the dark…
The empty expanse of ambient fear

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Spin, the lights...

Spin.  The lights, like bloodstains, smear the walls.

Fuck it and fuck it all.  You want something to hit.  You hate violence.  You want something to hate.  You hate wanting it.  You want something to want.  But you can't think of anything.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jumped In.

He felt the air leave his stomach and crumpled to his knees.  The world began to spin.  A kick to the was like a bucket of ice water.  He could hear distant shouts and wondered what he was doing.  Everything was stop-motion.  He wanted out.  That was all.  He wanted to become float above the dingy streets and look down upon the smiling monuments.

He could taste blood.  He curled himself into a ball and absorbed the blows, covering his face with fingers like tide pool tendrils.  It did not hurt anymore.  It was just a mass of confusion.  He felt himself lift.  His body was not a part of him.  His heart was aching.  He knew that he would never be able to forgive this.  And he knew that his inability to forgive would destroy him.  Blacken his soul.

It was not what he had expected.  He could not imagine standing up, arms raised like half-mast flags.  He could not imagine hugs or pats on the back.  He did not want it to end because then it would be real.  He wanted to stay, curled and beaten, unable to question his choice.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Fevered, I wrap myself in lies and absolutions.  I am not what I am, but a sum of the sad cliches that have led me onward.  Truth falls around me, gathering at my feet like a technicolor dream coat.  You lie?  Of course you lie.  I lie?  Sometimes, indeed, I do.  I am made of thatch and rosemary.  I am hidden from your view and lost in a forest of deceit.  I want nothing.  I need nothing.  Shadows morph into phantasms too dire to contemplate.  I tear at my skin.  I am on a quest for destruction.

Green pastures.  I remember them well.  They are memories, crushed now with skyscrapers, ash, and soot. All has been sullied.  Nothing pure remains.  I feel the needle deep in my vein and hold on for one more day.  One more chance to betray myself.  I will take it gladly.

You think I don't remember.  But I do.  In bits.  In drabs and scraps.  I remember summer fields of alfalfa and innocence.  They mock me now.  They disgust me.  I will lie in my room.  I will let the weight of lost abandon press upon my chest.  I will try to breathe and fail and my heart will pound with the sound of defeat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Free refills.

He sat, unflinchingly, in his hard wooden chair with a lukewarm cup of coffee in front of him, the paper edges turning sewage brown.  In his hands, he held a book.  He was trying to read the book, but could not concentrate.  He was trying to drink the coffee, but did not like coffee.  It was the cheapest thing on the menu.  And there were free refills.  And this happenstance allowed him to sit for hours, trying to read, pretending not to steal glances at the girl making the coffee.

He was young.  That was part of it.  He did not see value in himself.  He felt small and weak, like a freshly hatched chick.  He looked the part, too.  He was thin and birdlike, with soft, thin down upon his head.  She was about his age.  Maybe older.  There was something fierce about her.  If he was a chick, she was a Peregrine Falcon.  She wore vintage clothes that seemed mismatched but weren't.  She had tattoos on her arms.  He did not know what the tattoos were because he could not see them with his averted eyes.

He felt foolish.  All the hours spent in the cafe, pretending to read, drink, live.  He occasionally worked himself into a feverish state...convinced himself that he would just talk to her for god's sake.  It wasn't like she was better than he was.  Or was she?  Was her towering confidence superior to his life inside his mind?  He knew he was not a bad person.  If he was a person.

He sometimes doubted his own existence.  It was like a house of cards.  He got lost in philosophical labyrinths that led to more self-doubt.  More self-loathing.  Then, he would decide that it was all futile anyway.  He was perfectly content to drink tea and read in his apartment.  But if this was true, why the facade?  Why the lukewarm coffee?  He lied to himself and, this too, made him question his existence.

After months and months, he decided it had to end.  He walked to the cafe, his sneakers slapping the sidewalk.  He was going to talk to her.  If it didn't work, so be it.  The stasis was killing him.  He felt strong in his resolve.  He felt the sun on his shoulders.  He felt a kind of pride welling up in him like a storm wave.

He turned the corner and his resolve grew stronger.  He knew exactly what he would say.  And how he would say it.  One part Jimmy Stewart, two parts Bogart.  He might have to start smoking.  When he opened the door, the cafe was the same as always.  With one small difference.  She was gone.  Without asking the man with the goatee behind the counter, he knew that she was gone for good.  He actually laughed out loud.  It was comical.  All that money spent on coffee.  All the emotional turmoil.  At least the refills had been free.

He stepped out of the cafe and into the liquor store next door.  He did not know what brand of cigarettes to buy, so he looked at the man behind the counter, put on his best Stewart/Bogart and said, "Surprise me."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

That old feeling...

Joe sat on the tired bench and watched the pigeons scuttle and peck, forging their way through the crowds of tourists.  His sunglasses, dark black, covered two eyes that had not "seen" for almost twenty years.  Since the accident.  But it did not lessen his ability to see the pigeons work their magic.  At times, he thought he could see more clearly now than he had ever been able to before.

The accident was one of those things.  One of those things you beat yourself up about until you're on the ropes, until it doesn't make sense anymore...until you have to forgive yourself.  Fireworks.  A dumb prank.  But it had cost him.

Ally had been so beautiful.  It made him do stupid things.  Jump over fire pits that spat embers into the night sky.  Write songs that never landed right.  Songs he was always convinced were brilliant.  He liked to practice and practice, imagining her reverent face...the love radiating from her smile.  The reality, a kind of awkward silence.  A thank you...the kind you give when you get a sweater you don't like.  Well, it always made him up the ante.  And then it took his eyes.  And he grew up and she married and moved away, but, by god, he could still see her face, too.  As clear as if it was in front of him.  For years, it made him angry to think of her.  These days, it just made him sigh.

There was no one to impress, now.  He spent his days sitting in the sun, drinking in the noises of the tourists and the cries of the gulls.  The seals.  He often chuckled at how similar they sounded.  He could see himself, too.  The old blind man chuckling to himself.  He wondered if he looked the way he did in his mind.  He wondered if he was kinder or more harsh in his assessment of what the years had done.  He wondered what that said about him.  And he realized it did not matter.

Losing his eyes had taught him that...the most important lesson of all.  There was not a lot that did matter. There was sleep, a good meal, friendship and love.  It taught him that the things he focused on were not the important things.  Perhaps blindness had made him a better person.  Closing his eyes had opened other parts of him.

He did see her face this day.  And he felt those old urges.  To prove he could run the fastest, drink the most, be, most daring...something.  Perhaps that was what propelled him forward.

Witnesses told the police the basics.  The old blind man...the one who always sat on that bench...out of nowhere - over the railing and seconds later screaming and flailing in the icy waters of the bay.  They did not realize that the screams were screams of joy, dredged from deep within him, tainted with years of...well, life.  They did not try to speculate about the smile, and he did not feel the need to explain.  They took him home.  And the next day, he was back at his spot, listening to the pigeons and children scuttle about.  Nothing had changed.  He felt younger.  Fresh.  He wanted to ask if he looked younger. But it didn't matter.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The red ball.

The one they had at recess.  For kickball.  For general mayhem.  The one that inflated and warmed in the sun.  The one you took to the nuts a couple times.  The one that embedded your braces in your lips.  The one you could really sink your foot into.  Crosshatched and beautiful.  Remember that ball.  That ball is your world.  Everything you ever needed was embodied by that ball.  But you got greedy.  You got monied.  You stopped empathizing with Holden Caufield and realized he was the phoniest, whiny-bitchiest one in the book.  Much rather be friends with Stradlater.  Fuck, even Ackley.  But man, you could kick the shit out of that ball.  And that used to be more important than almost anything.   And then you moved on to drugs and parties and girls and bullshit jobs you hated, hoping in some dark, cobwed infested part of your mind that the kickball was still waiting.  But it is not.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

The drunken pencil.

      A man named John wakes up.  It is Monday morning.  His eyes and throat burn with regret.  There is a film of bourbon sweat on his forehead and upper lip.  His forehead is wrinkled and creased with age.  John is 42 years old.
     John woke up because the alarm woke him up.  He takes a shower because otherwise people will view him with contempt and snicker behind his back.  It doesn't matter what John does for a living.  The only thing that does matter is that he hates it.  He loathes it.  It is a parasite sucking the very hope from his shriveled heart.  Every day John goes to work and every day he smiles and agrees with something which, in his soul, he thinks is repugnant and devoid of value.
     John has car payments to make and his student loans never seem to disappear no matter how often he wishes that they would.
     Sometimes John talks to women.  In fact, he is relatively certain that he could have a girlfriend if he really wanted one.  There is just some block.  Something that prevents him from pursuing the matter.  He is like a bird dog that is too old to hunt.  John is only 42 years old.
     Beer cans collect beside John's stove.  He is ashamed of them, but he also doesn't care.  They make him drunk enough to tolerate the banality of his existence in the world.  Sometimes John thinks about the past.  When he does he usually thinks about third grade.  There was a girl in third grade that John loved more than he has ever loved anyone or anything since.  Her name was Rachel and she had hair that fell in soft waves and curled around her face.
     In third grade, John was the best artist in his class.  Everyone agreed.  He was neat and orderly with his lines, allowing them to fall onto the paper using his hand muscles only to guide their descent.  John flew threw his drawings.  When he was holding a pencil he felt free.
     Throughout the rest of John's educational career he got by on his ability to bullshit and the fact that artists were considered different.  He was allowed certain freedoms that he did not appreciate.  John thinks of this sometimes when he is on his fourth or fifth beer.  Sometimes he even picks up his pencil, but he can never think of anything to draw.


My stomach turned as I felt the bat sink into the
softness of Anthony's skull.  I had expected it to be
harder.  It wasn't hard at all.  I thought it would
feel like hitting a wooden block.  It felt more like a
watermelon.  Everything slowed down for a second after
the initial impact.  I watched his legs crumple under
him and he fell like a shadow.  Like all the air had
been let out of him.  He fell in rhythm with the
churning of my stomach.  There was a sickness inside
me.  I felt the echoes of the blow.  Felt them in my
spine.  Anthony lay where he fell.

I looked around me.  Nothing.  No one.  It was dark
and the night was thick with fog.  I reached numb
fingers into Anthony's pockets and found little.  A
few dollars crumpled in the pocket of his jacket.  His
cell phone.  His inhaler.  I took the money and the
phone and then I started to run.  Everything was still
too slow.  My thoughts.  My feet.  I wanted to speed
them up.  I ran for what seemed like hours and then I
slumped against the wall.  I wondered if Anthony was
dead.  When I had first thought of it, after school,
it seemed harmless enough.  I would hit Anthony with
the bat and that would be enough.  He would know that
you shouldn't mess with people you don't know anything
about.  Now that I'd heard the sound.  Now that it was
locked inside me, rattling through my body, it seemed
a lot more complicated.  I turned my head to the
side and the vomit erupted from me.  Even when it was
gone I couldn't stop.  I felt my body trying to push
it all out of me.  Then I realized
that I was crying.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


            Frank was in the backyard tending to the nightcrawlers while the rest of the family cleaned the dishes.  It was three in the kitchen.  Mom, Dad, and me.  Frank was on nightcrawler duty because he called Doris the Whoris a cunt.  Doris was one of our neighbors.  I didn’t know what a cunt was at the time.  Or what a whoris was.  All I knew was Doris liked to wear her red and black bikini all the time.  She liked to drink beer.  She made my Dad blush.  And my mom hated her.
            I was just glad to have a night away from the worms.  Usually it was something Frank and I did together.  He was 16, eight years older than me, and he spoke in a language I didn’t understand.  It was all ‘shit’, ‘pussy’, ‘fuck’, ‘cocksucker’.  I didn’t know what they meant, but I liked the sound of them and I knew better than to ask Mom or Dad.  I didn’t like the word ‘cunt’.  Mom and Dad were yukking it up while I dried the dishes, and I rolled the word around in my mouth, enough to realize I didn’t like the feel of it.  It seemed to be rough on every edge.  I knew it was a dirty thing to call Doris.  So, I was mad.  I liked Doris a lot.
            The reason I liked Doris was because she was unlike any woman I had ever met.  She wasn’t what you would call pretty.  She was certainly lumpy.  She was soft and nice, and she always smelled like straw.  She’d always invite me over for a glass of tea when I passed her house.  She even showed me her boobs once which made me feel strange.  She was mad about some complaint from a neighbor.  “For shits sake, they’re just tits!”  And then they were right there and I felt funny and Doris laughed.  “Honey, you blush like that, you’re gonna make me change my ways.”
            My mom didn’t like me to hang out with Doris.  None of the moms in the neighborhood liked it, but we were there all the time.  She was the kind of woman that children feel safe around.  I heard my parents arguing about it one time.  I couldn’t make out the words at first, just the name.  Then I heard my dad shout: “Jesus Christ, Arlene.  You know them boys down the way fucked her up so she can’t have none of her own.  Have a heart.”
            It had never occurred to me that any woman could be incapable of having kids.  I told Frank about it, but he already knew.  I guess everyone knew but me.  I was too young to watch the news.  But after that I was more careful about spending time with Doris.  I walked by more often.  I let her hug me a little longer.  I knew what it felt like to want something you couldn’t have.  I knew that feeling all too well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blood -a Response to Clicking Heels by Ryan Novack-

            The blood was thick in his eyes.  Warm.  Slick to the touch…like motor oil.  His Dad’s suede jacket was ruined.  For some reason this affected him more than the smoking wreckage of the mini-van. 
            Was everyone OK?  That was the first thing.  That was everything.  And everyone was.  Battered.  Broken glasses.  A cut knee like a crescent moon.  The twisted metal had shaved half of his head and there was the blood, but it was OK.  His arm burned.  His back was numb.  OK.
            He wished he was dead.  It was stupid.  But he couldn’t help it.  He could still hear the screams.  He knew he would always hear the screams.  See the sparks.  See the center divider rocketing toward his face.  Always live in the slow motion nightmare that had just unfolded without his permission.
            That was the worst part.  Without his fucking permission.  It had all happened so goddamn fast.  And there was one person who could have stopped it.  Fixed it.  And he knew who that person was.  And he knew that everyone else knew who that person was. 
            He was dizzy.  He checked on his friends and then he sat down and started vomiting.  And then there were lights.  So fucking bright.  And police.  And paramedics.  And they were all very kind.  And they spoke in calm voices.  And he hated them for it. 
            And then there was the board.  Strapped down.  News camera in his face.  White spotlight.  He was not a violent person, but he would have given anything to beat that reporter with his camera.  Blood still in his eyes.  And grit.  Broken glass, they said.  He had already rubbed it in. 
            Rub it in.  He knew that everyone would rub it in.  He had no disillusions about the ugliness of the world.  It did not surprise him when he returned to school half-scalped and the first girl he saw said, “So, I heard you tried to kill all your friends this weekend?”
            But we are not there yet.  Cops.  Drinking?  No.  He had never been really drunk.  Not yet.  But, by god, it was coming.  Years of it.  He asked the cop if they would get in trouble for the cigars in the van.  The cop gave him a long sad look he would not understand for twenty years. 
            Is it impossible to lift someone into an ambulance gently?  It must be.  It must always be whack, thud, slam.  More soft voices.  Going to the hospital.  Call your parents.  Oh, god, please don’t call my parents. 
            He was lying on his back when they came to pick him up.  Everyone else had been released with minor injuries.  His were more severe, but not severe enough to keep him in the hospital where he was safe.  There was no talking on the way home.  His mom tried to help him as he stood, hands braced against the sink.  Trying to get all the glass out of his hair and eyes.  Dad put a stop to that.  He spent the night lying in bed, bloody, spinning, wondering if he was alive and hoping he wasn’t.  He would spend many nights like that, years, before he realized that there wasn’t any penance that needed to be paid 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Coffee Shop.

            John woke up groggy, with sandpaper eyes.  His thoughts were scattered and absurd.  He could not remember whether or not he needed to get up.  He was lost in the dream, its tendrils clinging to his arms like limp spider webs.  He was confused.  His confusion made him angry.  His anger made him apathetic.  His apathy made him pull his pillows over his head.  Pulling his pillows over his head made everything dark again and, in the darkness, he felt safe.  He felt as if nothing could harm him.  He also knew that the darkness would not last. 
            John’s thoughts were gaining momentum and it felt as if his chest was being crushed by invisible weight.  John thought with a shy smile that he might be having a heart attack.  In some ways he hoped that it was the case.  It would simplify certain things.  It would create complications for others, but John would be free.  Thinking about this made John feel incredibly selfish.  Feeling selfish made John feel indignant.  Feeling indignant made John thirsty, so he dragged himself out of bed and made a cup of tea to take into the shower. 
            The tea made John feel like maybe he would be able to survive the morning.  It was sweet and warm and everything that the world was not.  The world was cold and gray, literally and figuratively.  The world was filled with droning voices and boring people.  Ugly, belligerent people.  Stupid people.  John hated the world.  But he also didn't care.  He was conflicted, and the hot water pounding on his back only added rhythm to the confliction.  There were snatches and snips of songs in John's mind.  Lyrical turns.  Phrases.  John's mind was a jumble.  Propaganda.  Sitcoms.  Commercial jingles.  John's mind was junk food and chips.  Candy and pretzels.  John was halfway dressed when his self loathing began to ebb.  It was replaced with resignation.  Another day, another dollar.  Ed would say soon as John walked into the coffee shop, he would say it.  And John would smile, but secretly he would want the coffee shop to explode.  Another day, another reason to drink too much.  Another day, another genocide somewhere in the world.  Another day, another emotional pinball machine explosion.
            “Another day, another dollar, eh Johnny?”
            Ed was a block of a man.  He was tall and solid right down to his brain.  He was not a bad person.  He was simple.  Many times, in fact, John thought it was he who was the bad person for loathing such a poor, ignorant bastard. 
            “Yeah, Ed.”
            The coffee shop was an institution in West Grove.  It had been there as long as anyone could remember.  It would probably be called a diner by a visitor (if anyone ever visited West Grove).  The name of the coffee shop was Coffee Shop.  Ed was the owner, his great grandfather had been the first oaf to man its cash register.  John was the cook.  Waitresses came and went, fluttering like fall leaves.  They rotated based upon school breaks and graduations.  They were impermanent.  Not so, Ed and John.
            John was 20 when he started working at the coffee shop.  That was ten years ago.  The world was a different place then, but the coffee shop was the same.  This is the main thing that John hated and loved about the coffee shop.  It was quiet for a few minutes as John got his area set.  Plate with a big slab of butter…meats organized.  Then John went out to sit at the counter where Ed was waiting with a cup of coffee. 
            “So, how you feelin’ today Johnny?”
            “”Good Ed.  I feel good.  How about you?”
            “Oh, you know.  The kids are home from school so there’s always something going on at the house.  Trevor is gonna be the death of us all, I swear it.  That boy has the hellfire in his eye.  Came home the other night drunker’n a skunk and puking everywhere.  All the time, just smilin’.”
            “Yeah, he’s at that tearing it up age, I guess.”
            “You weren’t like that Johnny.”
            “I was getting up at 5am and standing over a griddle all day.  I was too tired to tear anything up.”
            “Yeah, I reckon that’s right, ain’t it?  Sometimes I forget you never went to school, what with them books you’re always readin’.”
            Both men looked up as the bell above the door tinkled.  It was Henry.  He was always the first customer.  6am.  Right on the button.  The other regulars would be in soon.  John walked back into the kitchen and started on the two eggs and bacon Henry began every day with.  Henry never talked.  Years ago they had fallen into a pattern.  You order the same thing in the same place long enough and people start to catch on.  Henry never had been chatty; now he only spoke in grunts.  One for hello and one for goodbye.  He was a funny old man.  Eighty if he was a day.  Always dressed in a suit.  The pants never quite matched the jacket, but he was clean and dignified.  His face was a mass of wrinkles, haphazard lines cut by something harder than laughter.  John hit the bell and placed the steaming plate onto the counter.  Ed grabbed it on his way around the ketchup boxes and placed it in front of Henry who nodded and picked up a fork.

            You didn’t know Johnny when he was a kid, so let me fill you in a little.  Almost everyone in town knew Johnny.  They knew him for two reasons.  He always had the best grades in his class, and he could throw the holy heck out of a baseball.  But that was about all they knew.  He was quiet, polite, and got in just the right amount of trouble.  He was a tough boy to dislike.  Maybe that’s why certain things went unnoticed.  Like the fact that Johnny always had more bruises than the other kids.  Folks just figured he played every game with the heart he played baseball with.  But there were other things.  Forged notes.  Missed class trips.  His parents never saw a game.  And the town never saw them. Something about Johnny deflected questions. 
            Johnny was popular with girls his whole life.  He was dopey-eyed and handsome in a sloppy way.  He was gentle and kind.  In some ways, Johnny was the pride of West Grove.  No one doubted for a second that he would go to college, throw the heck out of some baseballs, meet a sorority girl, and get married.  Johnny graduated with the highest GPA in West Grove history.  His valedictorian speech was short.  Humble.  Everyone wanted their picture with Johnny afterwards, which was easy since his parents were not there to get in the way.  When Johnny didn’t go to college, the town was shocked.  He’d had plenty of offers.  Then Johnny disappeared.  Then a year later he was back, with a stoop in his shoulders and calling himself John.  He got the job at the coffee shop and a library card and that was that.  Johnny was dead.  Off the face of the earth.  Unless you went to the coffee shop, and even there he was lost in the sizzle of the grill.  Just a balding man named John.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The rain is a gentle reminder.  That all things will come to this.  To this apartment and this day and this life which is like so many others.  It is a cruel realization for the rain to force upon you.  Fight it if you must.  You will lose the fight.  You will be one tiny person fighting an avalanche of crushed dreams and broken spirits.  The streets of San Francisco are haunted by despair.  You can hear it ricocheting off the billboards.  You can hear it whispered from derelict buildings.  It is the tick of machinery.  It is the sound of misery.  It is the gentle reassurances which ring false in fluorescent light.

Why don’t you believe when you know that it is true.  You think that I am a liar and you find some kind of solace in this.  I find solace in the dark clouds.  In the fog that comes regular like clockwork.  In the masses of people, silent armies sludging their ways through hasty commutes. 

We are sick.  You are sick.  You are dying of caffeine and cigarettes and sitcoms.  Greasy food and easy living.  You are a parasite on the earth.  This is not an insult.  It is fact.  You are a creature sucking trees and oil.  Devouring them.  Taking them in and giving nothing back.  You are the boogey man.  You are hiding in the closets of the rainforest.  You are the tree frog’s nightmare.  But he doesn’t realize it. 

So the rain reminds you.  It is a catalyst to your awareness.  You ignore it.  You ignore so many things.  Really, you have gotten quite good at it.  (We all have.)   Now, the time to take a step back and recognize the security you take for granted.  The food in your belly.  The roof that keeps the gentle rain at bay.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


His brain exploded, POP!  He stood, rooted in place, watching the white orb float lazily against the expanse of perfect blue sky above him.  There was a slight wind, just enough to move the damp hairs on his neck and forehead.  A tingling awareness.  A tension.  He did not breathe.  He did not speak.  He watched the white sphere hanging from the heavens and time was nothing.  Time was gone.  And at the same time it was hurtling past him with a subway whoosh that would ring in his ears forever.
            Beneath his feet there was thick green grass.  Beneath that, rich earth.  And in it, and through it, inhabiting it, there was a world more vast and complex than he could imagine.  One that he never thought of.  The creeping, crawling, slithering things that he found easy to ignore.  But they were there.  Civilizations and complex structures.  Lives and governments and systems so complex they could never have been devised by man.  They were born of eons of trial and error. 
            In the boys’ mind he was dying and being reborn.  He was living generations inside his mind.  He was lost in heartache and tenderness and fear.  He was soaring on the wings of pure adrenaline.  He was fully aware and fully attached to the moment and the white against the pure, crystalline blue.
            There was a rage of noise around him, but he was oblivious to it.  Decades passed and dreams floated through the air on silent owl wings.  None of it was real.  It was the most genuine moment of his entire life.  He was surrounded by humanity and totally alone.  He would never have a moment as unadulterated…as perfect and seamless…not for the rest of his life. 
            If anything it was like the moment when you learn how to dive into a swimming pool.  When you finally grapple with the short-breathed panicking terror and you push off with your toes and slice into the cool, blue water and you are ecstatic with the simplicity of it.  You want to do it again and again.  It was like that except he was frozen in the moment…toes leaving the sandpaper grip of the board.  He was wooden and alive and terrified and filled with a kind of reverie he had never experienced and never would again.
            The feeling of death and birth must be very much the same.  Lightness into darkness or the other way around.  You must understand that the boy felt it all.  He was time.  He was powerful and weak and craven and brave and, god, he grieved for it.  There was a palpable sense of loss and a searing slap of redemption. 
            It was close enough now that he could see the red stitches on the white cowhide.  The ball spun in slow motion.  His mouth was dry and the sky was so blue that it pained him to look at it.  The noise around him was reaching a crescendo…a chorus of hopes and dreams pinned on something meaningless that meant too much. 
            He raised his glove, underhand, and he knew in his unconscious that the ball would fall into the webbing and he would feel it inside his hands, firm and real and undeniable.  He felt a surge of joy and sadness, the  two emotions like the very strands of his DNA.  And his eyes were glued to the ball.  His every sense attuned to the thunk of the ball as it glanced off the tip of his glove.  He watched the ball fall to the soft, green grass and his mind backfired.  Faltered.  Implosion.  He knew that his life would never be the same.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Dance

Life is a convoluted thing, John thought.  Wrong in so many ways.  No matter how you choose to live your life, you have no choice how or when it comes to the end.  You can live for the first sip of wine, the perfect sunset, adrenaline, the sudden rush of soft, first-kiss lips…you can live a series of climaxes and the end can still be anticlimactic.  White rooms that smell like disinfectant and friends who avert their eyes when they visit.  Or you can live a life of safety and reserve and be eviscerated by a bear.  There’s no sense to it.
            He knew that his days were numbered.  He’d always hated that cliché, but the fucking doctor had numbered them, literally, so what was he supposed to do?  Nothing.  And John was not a man who could do nothing well.  So he lay on starched sheets and endured visits from old girlfriends, women still beautiful and fresh.  He knew they tried not to look at him.  Tried to ignore the patchy head of hair and the gaunt cheeks. 
            He was aware of everything, but his body was betraying him.  He could not speak.  He could not walk.  He lived inside himself and thought of former victories.  Carefree days of sport and drink and conversation.  They tortured him, but he could not stop them.  He did not want to remember.  Yet, he could not help it.  Convoluted.  Indeed.
            He had no real concept of time except that he knew it was passing.  He could feel it whispering in his ears, shimmering into the distance.  So much irony in dying.  You live your whole life with all the time in the world.  And then, like an optical illusion, you see it refracted and shrinking into nothing.  All the hours spent watching bad movies and forcing your way through depressing chit-chat small talk at cocktail parties.  Not enough time making love.  Too many books still waiting to be read.  But all of this means nothing.  It all means nothing. 

            Doctors and nurses and orderlies and janitors shuffled in and out, but John was becoming less and less aware.  He lived in a dream.  It was comforting and horrible.  He had lost all his senses save the sense of touch.  He felt the violation of needles and sponge baths and poking fingers. 
Deborah was new and not yet bitter.  She still believed that nursing was the greatest calling in the world.  And maybe it is.  But along the years her colleagues had stopped believing it.  She hadn’t.  So, some nights, when things were slow, she would stop and sit with the patients.  Read to them.  Tell them stories.  Some smiled or cried.  Some did not move.  Some could not hear.  John was a mystery to her.  There was something about him.  Something different.  She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she knew somewhere deep inside her mind that he was in pain.  He did not move.  He did not speak.  His face was blank and soft like freshly poured concrete.  But the whisper of pain was there.  She was there the night he died.  Sitting beside the bed, she had the sudden impulse to grab his hand.  To softly kiss his cheek.  And suddenly John’s mind exploded in light and sound.  He was in a vast ballroom.  He was wearing a tuxedo.  He was holding the hand of the only woman he had ever truly been afraid of.  He was watching her twirl in her brave red dress.  He was thinking maybe he could love her for ever.  And they spun together, laughing, finally free.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Funeral

My father's hands were like dead frogs. I stood in front of the mahogany casket we couldn't afford and felt the breath in my lungs like the fluttering of wings. I stood for several seconds.  He looked out of place in a dark grey suit. Like someone had dressed him up for Halloween as the 'corpse prom date'. I tried to dredge some feeling of remorse or sadness from the hurricane of emotions in my brain. I tried to focus on one thought. It was like Bob Barker spinning the big wheel. When it came to rest, it came to rest on this: 
I was ten years old.  The stream we were standing by was small. Impossible that there could be fish in so little water, but there were and we knew it. We squatted, our toes squelching into the mud, forming tiny lakes where our feet floated like pale canoes. Like dead fish. They rocked on their white bellies and kept us from falling over. You have to be quiet, he said. Very quiet. I held my breath. It was summer. Morning. You could feel the heat in the air. It was like a stern glance, a warning of what was to come. I don't remember anything about the rest of the morning. I recall no fish. What I remember is the subtle play of the sunlight on the ripples. A fallen tree branch. Sky that was one color when you looked at it and another when you turned away. I remember feeling that something important was happening.  The whole trip had been so sudden. We had never gone anywhere without Mom.  She was angry and didn't want to come. 
An old lady behind me cleared her throat and I stepped forward. I saw a smudge on his shoe and wanted to rub it off, but didn't. It was the only part of the whole thing that had any legitimacy. It was more real than the dark suit. More real than the pews of relatives I didn't even know. People I had never seen without a plate of cole slaw and fried fish in their hands. My brother and I had made a bet about whether or not Mom would show up. I was glad to see that I had won. She would have hated it.

It was on my computer...I guess I wrote it.


I woke up this morning feeling a little worse for wear.  I have decided that eBay addiction is cheaper than alcohol addiction.  And they are about as much fun…i.e., not much.  Transitory band aid over the pulsing brain torment.  That’s about it.  Nothing to stop the slow drip of time as it rolls down my face like molasses.  I am disappointed in myself.  My imagination is tired.  There is a yacht in the Bay that is worth more than everyone I know combined.  I find that hard to reconcile with the current state of my employment (un) and the current state of the world (completely fucked).  I hate rich people without much cause.  Not proud of it.  But I can also see how slippery the slope would be.  Normal people find normal things to bitch about.  And bitching is in our nature.  We bitch about taxes and bills and our neighbors.  But what if you lived on a giant fucking yacht?  I’m talking the length of two city blocks.  Four viewing decks ABOVE the actual boat part.  Surely you have a crew to make sure the boat runs.  And a chef.  And probably some other employees who do mostly everything for you.  And we think…man, what could they possibly have to complain about?  But I bet you the used knife I just bought off eBay that they DO complain.  And they complain about things we can’t comprehend.  Like if the chef overcooks the steak.  If the bathroom is not SPOTLESS.  Sure, it may seem trivial to me, but I don’t live in a giant floating mansion. 
            See, this is the problem.  Everyone thinks their shit doesn’t stink, right?  Seems to me that everyone thinks their shit DOES stink.  And not only that, but it stinks worse than everyone else’s. 
            I lay awake at night sometimes and wonder where I am.  We all take so much for granted, and we have no reason to do so except that it is easy.  This explains religion.  This explains our outrage when politicians act like politicians.  Not to sound like a stoned high school kid, but can we take any of it for granted?  I mean, who the fuck knows really?  Dreams can last seconds or years.  Or cover years in seconds.  Maybe I am a toddler fussing during my afternoon nap.  I have just as much reason to believe that as I do to believe that I am 32 years old and typing on my laptop (which is probably the most valuable possession I have that does not require gasoline).  Maybe I have suffered a head trauma?  Maybe I am someone else’s head trauma.  Maybe I am the small blue jar of coins that sat on my Nana’s dresser and that lives so vividly in my mind.  Maybe I am the stories I have told that were never true to begin with.  Maybe all this pseudo-intellectualism is my way of making up for the lies I pass as truth.  But I believe them.  And I believe that I am 32 years old.  And that my daughter will wake up from her nap soon.  And that we will go on an adventure.  And it may be real and it may not.  And I don’t really care. 


            When I was a child I would lay on my bed for hours and throw a racquetball against the wall.  I assume this was some kind of self-hypnosis.  I spent many hours inside my room and inside my head.  I’m not sure where it all came from.  I collected small things.  Tiny pocket knives.  Miniature knick knacks.  I think that their fragility made the world seem more sane.  More safe.
            We never lived anywhere longer than three years when I was growing up.  My Dad was in the Navy.  There were positives to this, but I did not see them when it mattered.  I saw the world as a constantly changing place.  And I was lonely.  I was depressed before I even knew what depression was.  And I was always looking for escape.  Books, adrenaline, TV, daydreaming…I huffed my albuterol inhaler once my parents went to bed.  This was when I was six or seven.  Too young to know that models were killing themselves doing the same thing.  Too young to even realize I was getting high.  I would exhale and then inhale as many puffs as I could and hold my breath until the world turned to bright light and helicopter chop.  I held my breath a lot.  And I waited to piss until the last possible minute.  I endured pain to feel the rush of relief.  I know many people have done things like this.  I am not trying to prove my originality.
            I was very young when I developed the poker face I have never been able to shake.  It haunts me still.  With my daughter, it fades.  With everyone else, I stare blankly and try to keep all expression off my face.  It is a hindrance now.  It was probably a hindrance then.  But it came in handy.  New schools all the time.  New friends.  No friends.  Bullies.  Name calling.  My insides may have been tearing themselves to shreds.  I might have gone home and cried.  But, in the moment, my face was stone.  Because I learned very early that the only way to beat the world is to show it that it can’t beat you.  Even if it can.  Because appearances count for a lot more than they should.
            I imagined I was a hawk, slowly looping in the sky and catching updrafts.  Soaring for hours with only a slight adjustment of wing.  Up in the clouds there would be peace.  It was all I wanted.  To be alone, looking down on the world, feeling the wind and hearing the roar of white noise in my ears.  I would eat when I was hungry, I suppose.  But mostly I would just turn in slow circles.  I would be detached from the world.  I would be a helium balloon with the twine snipped.


            He started to run.  Past the houses and cars and barking dogs.  Past the school and the library.  He ran with tears streaming from his eyes.  He was not sad.  He ran and felt the gravel pelt the back of his bare thighs like little pin pricks.  He was not wearing a shirt, and his blue swim trunks whipped in the breeze.  Like his light brown hair.  Like the loose sloppy socks that put elephant ankles atop his blue converse all stars.
            The shoes were new and slapped hard against the ground.  He had asked his mother for black Chuck Taylor’s.  They were his key.  His secret.  His parents wouldn’t shell out the money for Nikes, but Chuck Taylor’s were cheap and still relatively cool.  It had been an easy sale.  He needed new shoes.  That was for sure.  And his Mom was so happy that he wanted cheap shoes.  But at the shoe store she had insisted on blue.  Same price.  Said they would look better with jeans.  And he looked at the black shoes.  And she asked him, didn’t he think the blue would look better with jeans?  And he said yes, but his mind was a vortex of frustration and pain.  Blue shoes would be one more thing to make fun of.  Why did his Mom even care?  Why couldn’t he stand his ground and say he wanted black?  The mannequins leered and the JC Penney’s seemed smaller and smaller.  He could not get enough air.  No one noticed, but he was drowning in an ocean created, drop by drop, by small meaningless defeats.
            He felt good when he was running as fast as he could run.  So fast it was dangerous.  Out of control.  He felt good when he jumped off of high places.  He felt good when he hurt himself.  When he was scared.  At school, the kids took ballpoint pins and rubbed the tips across the desk’s surface until they seared like match heads.  No one could hold the hot pen on their arm as long as him.  No one had as many sesame seed scars on their arms.  But it didn’t make him feel included.  It just made him weirder in their eyes.  But it was everything to him.  He couldn’t be the coolest.  He couldn’t stick up for himself.  He shied away from confrontations of all kinds.  But he could hurt himself more than anyone he knew.  He did not realize this.  The same way that he did not realize that he was doing the same thing, years later, pouring bourbon down his throat when everyone else was puking or passing out.  Always down for one more bowl, one more line, one more tab.  Always.  No one could lose their mind like him.  And he was still the freak.  And he still just wanted to be able to say that he had had enough.  But he had a reputation to uphold.  And it was all he felt worthy of.


            I would like to teach the world to sing.  Seriously, you all suck at it for the most part.  I would like to never sing the Happy Birthday song again.  I would like for people to start using their turn signals.  I would like for all new cars to come with headlights that are automatic like they are on motorcycles.  I would like for there to be some kind of special punishment for people who have tattoos of cartoon characters (except my friend Pat).  I would like for people to stop making exceptions for those they care about.  I would like alcohol to be illegal and for marijuana to take it’s place.  I would like the wife-beating, spouse cheating, self defeating drunks of the world to become overeating stoners.  I would like it if people were not judged on their looks and rewarded for physical attractiveness.  Either that or I would like to be much more attractive.  I would like it if they stopped selling pleated pants…I feel it devalues our existence.  I would like it if I did not have to clean my motorcycle chain, take shits, brush my teeth, pay bills.  I am tired of maintenance.  Of all types.  I would like to have the ability to beat box.  I would like to explain to everyone I know that they have faults and not have them call me out on mine.  I would like it very much if my daughter never sheds blood or experiences any pain.  I would like my daughter to have a relatively normal childhood.  I would like to speak briefly to the man who touched me when I was in middle school.  I would like to know that he realizes that he took something from me.  I would like to never see him.  I would like to live in a world where people are satisfied, even grateful, for what they have.  I want more stuff.  I would like it if people in the Mediterranean stopped slaughtering songbirds.  Honestly, of all the fucked up things…songbirds?  Are you fucking kidding me?  I would like for people with dogs to understand that there are people that don’t like dogs.  I would like to stop having dogs jump at me and lick me.  I am astounded that we crucify smokers, but no one says anything about the fucking dogs.  I would like to pee outside without getting a ticket.  But then again, I’m not a dog…just a taxpaying human being, so that would make NO sense obviously.  I would like to have a glass of iced tea that never empties.  Ice cubes that never melt.  I would like to live the rest of my life three beer drunk and never get a headache.  I would like to be more like my wife who does not drink caffeine, alcohol, smoke weed, curse, or do any of the things that I’m not supposed to do.  Or I would like her to be an alcoholic so she couldn’t pass judgment on me.  I would like it if people did not write long pieces of prose without paragraph breaks.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Spirits

           They come and go as they choose, but prefer the cover of darkness.  Red eyes and skin stretched bow-string taught across their gaunt, yellow faces.  They peer out from oblivion; they are snatches of mist and fog.  Wisps of air that melt into shadow.  They are often formless, but they can appear in many forms.  They are reflections of the past, glimpses into lives long turned to dust.  They are unpredictable.  They torment me.  They are full of lust, weakness, hunger…they lie in wait.  They lie about many things.
            I often fold myself into blanket straightjackets and listen to them claw against the drywall.  I picture old yellowed claws.  Raw, red cuticles torn into torrents of thin, sickly blood.  They rarely speak.  They use my own thoughts against me.  It wasn’t always this way.  It is the fear.  They feed off of the fear.  When I am strong, they are a whisper…a soft lurching in the shadows.  When I am weak, they cackle as the walls draw closer, forcing me further inside myself where I can feel their sharp teeth inside my rotten flesh.  There is help and hope…this is what I have been told.  By honey-tongued dreamers full of God and good intentions.  I try to be kind.  They don’t understand.
            The daytime is often bearable.  Sometimes even pleasant.  There are afternoons spent in the great expanse of green fields, eyes closed red and veined, veiled against the brilliant sun.  It is the nighttime.  It comes suddenly.  Twitches and jumps inside my mind that tell me they are lurking.  I hear their voices.  Vague screeching and whistles.  Am I honest with myself?  Sometimes.  Sometimes, I can look them in the eye.  They cannot stand the confrontation.  They cannot abide my strength.  But too often, I am weak.  And the weakness begets more weakness.  They slip in through the cracks of my resolve and I hear my heart pound, feel the sweat break out on my forehead; I twist the blankets around myself. 
            Ignore them.  It is easy for you to say.  It is easy for you to use fiction as a shield.  To wrap yourself in velvet myth.  It is easy for you to say that it will get easier as the days pass.  You don’t know the first fucking thing about it.  And it doesn’t matter if it is “real” or if it is “all in my head” because the things in my head are real.  You don’t understand this.  They understand, and that is their power. 
            The walls pulse and throb, and sometimes, I must leave.  Go someplace.  Some well lit place.  The drug store.  The grocery store.  But I feel people’s eyes on me and it is almost as hard to bear.
            I have been marked.  I do not know what the mark looks like.  I do not know where it resides.  If I did know, I would carve it from my flesh.  I would dig it out with tweezers and razor blades.  I would burn the skin until all that remains is a thick roped scar.  No, the mark is something subtle.  You see it.  I feel it.  They put it there, and I can sense it in the night. 

            It wasn’t always this way.  I used to be a dancer.  I used to slip through the corridors of life, unstoppable.  Now, my feet are bound, but it was not always so.  It was a gradual descent.  They came slowly.  I remember.
            I remember days spent laughing and feeling a sickening power inside myself.  Feeling like all the world was mine.  One giant red apple waiting to be plucked and devoured.  First kisses and passionate glances.  I had these things.  I can still taste them.  I was a monolith.  I was a fortress.  They bolstered me because I reveled in their wrath.  But years pass, and feelings decay…erosion is an unstoppable force.  Allies turn against you.  When I first saw them, red eyed and wistful, they amused me.  They were something to pit my strength against.  The idea that they could turn the tables never occurred to me.  But that is exactly what they did.  Not suddenly.  No, it was a campaign fought over years and years.  They were patient.  I was not.  And perhaps that is how I began to lose the war. 

            Oh, don’t be fooled by my revulsion.  I courted them.  Actively.  They were my ace in the hole.  They made me powerful because I could avidly stare while others averted their eyes…pretended at innocence.  That was the seduction.  I invited them in, and they buoyed me.  Together we sailed over rooftops and laughed in the very face of reason.  And then they gradually began to snatch at power.  One tiny piece at a time until I was clearly the hunted and no one cared what I had to say.  They lived with me, not with other people, so really, why should anyone care?
            That is the ugliness I live with.  This is the hell of my own making.  My brain is wrapped in barbed wire that, every day, is cinched tighter and tighter.  Yes, we lived in a kind of symbiotic nightmare.  Devil and vampires.  Yes, I stole from them as they stole from me.  We were parasites.  I knew the fire I was playing with.  But the fire illuminated the darkness that had ruled for so long.  Deals were struck.  Negotiations played out.  I traded a part of myself…they accepted readily.  They stroked the cheek of my rare suspicions.  I defied the world.
            One day, the turn came, and it was too late.  Too many nights spent huddled inside my mind.  The walls closing in.  It is a nice cliché.  But it is anything but nice when it is actually happening.  And that was how it started.  The world became too small.  I bumped my head and knocked my elbows.  I could not navigate.  I had become a separate thing.  I was not part of anything.  I did not eat.  I slept when the rest of the world was awake and I woke when the darkness came.  And they were waiting for me, flitting back and forth behind my eyelids, gossamer confusion, shadows, piercing hate and horror.  Sliding down the walls to collect in laughing puddles on the floor.  They shone with a ferocious abandon.  They were important.  They were my allies.  They convinced me, even as I knew that they were feeding off me, that I was becoming like them. 

            As a small boy, I had an imaginary friend.  That is what the adults said.  They were incorrect.  He was not imaginary.  He was as real as I was.  Perhaps more so, because I knew that he existed, whereas he ignored me.  I do not mean that he was flesh and blood.  I am not a simpleton.  I mean that he and I were one and also distinct.  I worshipped him.  He was not afraid of school.  Not afraid of bullies.  He got me into trouble, but I loved him. 
            We grew apart.  He was cast off with other childish trifles.  Things that held no value in the eyes of the world, but meant everything to me.  But I did as I was supposed to do.  I relinquished my control.  I allowed myself to be guided.

            I am a coward.  I am a thief.  I am a braggart.  I have accepted my sentence.  I deserve all of this and more.  I have sold my soul.  Or whatever it was that made me.  I have tarnished myself.  And I have been tarnished.  I give in to them because it is easier than taking a stand.  Because, in my surrender, there will be one brief moment of peace.  And that moment is worth a million nights of terror.  A million nights of smoking cigarette after cigarette as the room shrinks around me.  I hate them, but I will dance with them, embrace them, placate them…because it is useless to fight.  Pointless to resist. 
            It is all soaked in blood.  Drenched.  This life.  My clothes.  I wake with the taste of it in my mouth.  With teeth clenched and jaw throbbing.  I feel the sticky ooze in my ears and I am blinded by the sanguine film on my eyes.  Their song is horrifying and beautiful.  It is like nothing you have ever heard.  It is a siren song which washes me up upon the shores of my own indifference.  I crash because, even in their repugnancy, they are almost angelic.  Because they are terrible and beautiful.  Because the fear they bring is an emotion so pure that it forces everything else out.  Who has use for happiness?  For laughter?  For friendship?  For watered down, ambivalent life?  How can one settle for this when they can choose that beautiful terror?  It is stronger than love.  It is palpable.  My heart races and my muscles ache.  There is some part of me, always, that whispers warnings, dire, into my ears.  There is part of me that wants to dive into the pool of blood, to drink it in and feel alive.  You don’t understand this.

            I find myself hiding in the periphery.  I beg them to leave me be.  I make promises that I know will never come to fruition.  I am willing to do anything.  They sway like satin curtains in a summer breeze.  They brush against my damp cheeks.  They sweep the wet hair from my eyes.  Tonight, I must appease them.  I let them feed.  I open myself to their hunger.  I feel warmth throughout my body.  I sink back and let my mind go blank.  I am offered soothing images.  I take voyages through time.  I visit the world I used to know.  I soar across the barren trees of winter night.  I gaze inside yellow windows at the banality of “life”.  I am distracted by the flickering of a million televisions.  But it does not matter.  I can stay up where no one can touch me.  I know, in the back of my mind, what awaits me.  I know that I will soon be back, wrapped in blankets, full of fear, cowering from the ghosts of retribution.  But it is a small knowledge when compared with the greater understanding I have achieved. 
            They wait for me as they wait for all of us.  It is a simple matter of recognition.  I have decided to stop running.  I accept my lot in life.  I accept it all.  The fluid simplicity of abandon.  It has trapped me and made me free.  I would not trade it for anything.  I would not go back.  Even if I could.