Fiction, love, writing

Stuck

rainrock

I was driving down a narrow one-lane, one-way, thinking about a woman I used to love when the flashing red lights halted me. The train was slow and long and I put the truck in park and sat there watching the railcars roll past my headlamps, daring myself to jump the curb and weave back through the line of parked vehicles behind me, but it was hopeless. I was stuck, watching the sides of the rusted and beaten cars, graffiti-soaked and bullet-battered, seized into rapture by the hypnotic pulsing red. I thought of that former love now dissipated and I thought of how much of my life I had wasted apologizing, how slow my maturation had been in relationships. I was stuck. My truck was stuck and my life was stuck. I reached up to the dash and pressed a button and jazz tickled at the edges of sound and so I turned it up, very aggressive drums and horns blazing, and it hit me in the chest like a cannon shot. My mind wriggled free from its shackles and began to accelerate toward various points of light and so I killed the engine and blasted the sound fully, reclining back into the seat and closing my eyes, thinking about my life, missed opportunities and forgotten dreams, the laughter, handshakes of various consequence, all the bad decisions and the mysteries of the future. I thought of people wearing masks like Mexican wrestlers and I thought about poetry and all the men and women of the spoken word, hypnotic verse in iambic pentameter and other various poetic structures, the true guerilla fighters in the bloody war of life, and I thought about that time my editor mistakenly sent me to Las Vegas to cover race riots that never occurred and instead of coming straight home on the first flight I floundered about the casinos on a three day bender before finally walking into my editor’s office on Monday morning still drunk and two thousand dollars poorer and telling him to go jerk himself and finish all over his shitty newspaper. Then I thought about what happened after, the journey from newsroom to newsroom across the country, each of them growing more desolate by the day. I recalled the men and women cleaning out their desks full of notepads and pens and road atlases and stylebooks. Boxes of dictionaries and thesauruses and strange tokens of America picked up here and there: a mannequin’s torso painted the colors of the Maltese flag with a wig made of zebra hide, a three-foot squid fashioned from old harmonicas and peanut butter and aluminum cans and charcoal, a shoebox full of photos from the National Elvis Impersonators and Taxidermists convention. Then I flew north to try my luck at a Vancouver newspaper and was fired my first day for smoking pot and strangling a photographer outside of the courthouse and then groping two female TV reporters. I hitchhiked down to Mexico but none of their periodicals were searching for a trained reporter so I took a bus to San Francisco and started up my own Online product with three other failed journalists. My particular beat was time travel, all five of my articles each week were somehow related to time travel.

To read the story in its entirety, you’re gonna have to buy the book when it comes out.

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Fiction, literature, love, postmodernism, writing

Token

nightgarden

Deep in the wastebasket his hand searched, past the balls of crumpled paper and empty paper cups through the cool slick slather inching up his arm, down to the bottom of the barrel, the tiny metal idol he never meant to retrieve. He pulled it out through the muck, small and golden and untouched by the slop, his fingers caked in slime. He ran his hands under the water tap and rinsed the idol and brought it to the light and looked at it, hands dripping. He had never really looked at it before and it glowed from within. This token of days and seasons past.

*

“She gave it to me on our anniversary,” he said into the phone. “A year, our one-year anniversary. I got her a three-hundred-dollar shopping spree at some fancy women’s boutique and she got me this necklace with a little golden Buddhist-looking dude on it. As if I’m Buddhist. Or know anything about Buddhism. I don’t even wear jewelry, man. I mean, I wanted to hand it back to her right then. It was like a metaphor for our whole relationship . . . So I was cleaning out my drawers today and throwing away old socks and stuff and I saw it lying there all curled up in a corner of the drawer and I smirked, you know. It was like a revelation to me. That was the one single instance, right there. Nothing I had done or seen or thought of up to that point had gotten me over her more than looking in that drawer today and seeing that necklace in there. It was like I was disgusted . . . Yeah, so I threw it away . . . ”

*

He stared at it, studied the detail of it. He went to the junk drawer and found a magnifyer, turning the little gold man over beneath it, his fingerprints like immense fissures beyond the magical glass. Long flowing golden robe. He could see the man’s face, smiling, serene, omniscient and meek. The little statue burned in the light. In the tiny eyes was the transience of time, a subtle understanding of the places of the earth and beyond, places like the lighted area beneath giant scrutinizing lenses and still rooms amplified by molecular discourse and the crowded spaces of the profane and scrapped. Looking at the little man, he was amazed he saw all of this.

*

“I want you to have this,” she said, handing him a small package wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper. “It’s been in my family for many years.”

*

He washed and dried the idol and set it on the counter. Prismatic streaks of sunlight from the window, silent shadows of approaching dusk. He thought about her again with a deep and tortured longing, as if mourning her spirit now departed everlasting. The auburn tint of her hair in the sun. The skin of her cheeks so soft and warm. Freckles splashed in abstract expression upon her chest. Skin everywhere, landscapes of skin. A seeping lavender sky and not a charge in the air nor wickedness in his heart but only affection and the clarity of understanding. Garbage littered about the base of the bin as if heaved upward from its depths, the open vein of his very being, exposed, accountable.

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Fiction, love, philosophy, postmodernism, religion, spirituality, Truth, Uncategorized, violence, writing

Testimony

ecrasezburn1

I parked the van in the alley behind the building and went in the back door. The bar smelled like hickory and smoke, rich autumn sunlight flooding the place. There was no one there, or at least that’s what I thought. I walked around the bar and poured myself a glass of orange juice and stood there drinking in the morning silence, languid dust particles shoaling in the sunbeams.

“Where’s the stuff?” I heard someone say. I looked toward the end of the room on the right and saw Sal leaning forward on the bar, smiling, his bald head gleaming and slick and tracked by veins.

“The place looks good, Sally,” I said, and drained the juice. “You ought to lock it.”

Sal came back behind the bar and we shook hands and hugged. We stood there for a while holding each other at the elbow, two old friends frozen in the aging light of morning and studying one another’s age spots, the wrinkles and other flaws fashioned by gravity and time. He was much older and he didn’t look well. I tried to put his appearance into context, weigh it against my memories of him as a young man, flamboyant and indestructible. To stare into his eyes long bereft of their luster and see the irrefutable residue of his strain, the effects of life’s bitter charm, his youthful gloss wiped clear away and replaced with irony, it made me wonder how bad I looked.

“How long you been here?”

“You’re the first person I come to see, Sally.”

“Followed?”

“They’re listening now, I guarantee.”

Sal grunted and picked up the bar phone and dialed a number. He muttered a few words into the receiver and hung up and said, “Let’s go.”

We walked out to the alley awash in fluid morning hues and I swung open the back doors of the van. Sal looked up and down the alley and shuffled his feet and neither of us said anything. I climbed in and pulled the two suitcases toward the rear of the van and got back out, stealing a cigarette from my jacket pocket and lighting it and then snapping open the suitcases one after the other, the objects inside coming to life as if illumined from within, deep reds and browns and stark blacks of exotic hides with the names of men and women stamped in glittering gold and silver upon the handcrafted spines. Sal inhaled audibly and climbed in the van, leaning over the suitcases.

“I can’t tell you how beautiful,” he said, one hand reaching and hovering over the titles. “They’ll torture us, they catch us with these.”

“First editions,” I said, and sucked on the cigarette. “Each and every one.”

“Reminds me of the old days,” he said, and climbed back out of the van, his eyes wet and large and rendered frozen upon the books. Another van peeled into the alley and I had a brief moment of panic, my hand at my hip and the steel waiting there. Sal waved for the driver to park behind my van and a young man of maybe twenty got out and walked quickly towards me, his hand stretched out before him.

“Mr. Guy, holy shit, it’s an honor,” he said, and I took his hand. “How long it’s been, I’ve followed your career.”

“What’s your name?”

“His name is Billy,” Sal said. “And he’d better get on.”

“Good to meet you Billy,” I said, and loaded the suitcases into his van. “But Sal’s right.”

“Yeah,” Billy said. “I’d better get on.” He reached out for my hand again and I shook it, feeling the coarse strength and energy in his skin, thinking back to when I was his age and wondering where the virtue had died between the people of my generation and our own shadow-leaders. None of us are safe, I thought. Not then, certainly not now.

I watched Billy drive out of the alley into the radiant unknown and I could have worried about our precious delivery but I pacified myself in knowing that some day in the future there will be large hallowed libraries again and there will be books lining their shelves protected from the destructive clutch of tyranny and those books will forever provide testimony to man’s most sacred ideas so long as courageous young minds like Billy and his peers continued our honored struggle of liberating them to the grueling end.

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Fiction, Fire, guns, love, philosophy, postmodernism, religion, spirituality, Truth, violence

verve/violence/virtue

The young man dismounted his horse in the mad clatter of battle and forgot about his life, the unwritten codes and reverence of the land and deep honored traditions. He forgot about his young wife and the lump in her belly and he moved swiftly through the fog of rifle smoke trailed by his own long braids and the mad shrieks of wounded men. He approached the white man with red hair lying supine and staring at him from the mud. There were men upon wild horses weaving incoherently through the smoke with their guns or war clubs raised and there were fleeting visions of other men riding boldly and bareback but long ago killed on the battlefield and a small white sun directly overhead trembled each time the white men in blue coats fired their wagon-gun.

The young man stepped over the men strewn across the sodden prairie field and unsheathed his bowie and crouched down next to the white man. He took a handful of the man’s red hair and looked into his eyes. A bullet whistled over the young man’s head and another screamed by his left ear and he sliced the white man’s forehead from temple to temple and said to him quietly in Lakota, “The wind does not cry for you.”

Then he stood and tore the scalp from the white man’s skull and held it up to the sky and screamed while the white man in his final moments of life watched his own blood drip down the young man’s arm, his torso, lean and brown and heaving muscle in the gray light.

That night the young man sat alone in his tipi and thought about the mystery of battle, the subtle violent leanings of men and the power to forget one’s self amid the jolts of heightened awareness. Outside, the red fire glowed bestial and the hypnotic throb of victory drums brought to life the dancing ghosts of many dead men both white and red and the young man agreed with the ageless wisdom of his ancestors that warfare was indeed more spiritual than physical, that courage was an extension of the self but that acting upon that courage according to honor and principle was integrally selfless.

The young man reclined onto his blankets and listened to the chanting of his people and breathed deeply to remove the walls of his mind. He remembered what he had said to the white man with red hair and he reminded himself that the wind cried for no man, especially not the man who honored and defended it with his own life.

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dreams, Fiction, love, madness, philosophy, postmodernism, religion, spirituality, Truth, writing

Somnambulist’s reckoning

Deep in the gut of the earth a man and woman moved together through the cold darkness, wandering without diagram or any semblance of light to guide them. They staggered panting through the endless tunnel of mud and rock scratched and badly bruised and with nothing for the eye to uphold nor nourish the want of the godlike human mind.

“Whatever you do,” the man said. “Never let go of this hand.”

They walked and walked and there was nothing in that dark narrow world but their invisible breaths and their movement and their delicate thoughts and the understanding that they had nothing but each other, colorless and blind and hungry and frightened. The world continued to revolve about them and the hardened planet shifted in deep turbulent scars high above and the smell of earth was like cordite in that enclosed cavernous place. There was silence and there was blackness and they trudged on continuous through the tunnel, their hearts like two small bellies of fire or signals of life in an alien world reduced to its rudiments.

The man was terrified and he often thought of stopping and holding the woman in his arms and surrendering to the giant void because he foresaw one of them dying in that dark place and the other alone and cold and hopeless. He imagined the two of them webbed together by their arms as the darkness unfolded its timeless maxim upon them and they would not speak but only sleep and dream of a consciousness with light and sight and the promise of tomorrow. The eyes make their own vision, he thought. For I am seeing things that I cannot possibly see. There are walls about me and a flat muddy ground and there are small beings with round gray eyes shrinking away from my probing hands. I can see the future in its rote black agony and I can see the errors of my past and their influence on my conscience like a nimbus of heavy gray fog hanging about my head. I can see deeply into the dark and smell my own fear and I can feel the woman’s hand though I want nothing more than to look into her eyes for I’ve long forgotten their color and shape.

They walked clutching tiredly at the hand of the other and feeling their breath in the dampened air and they knew their world was one of cold and lightless uncertainty and that somewhere ahead the tunnel would have to end and the sudden seepage of light would overwhelm and embolden them. Somewhere behind them they heard an echoed scream neither human nor living and they froze in the darkness, clinging to each other and shivering. After a while they moved on again and they could smell flowers growing in the tunnel and they could hear water somewhere about them, a steady rushing flow like the open vein of the very earth and each of them thought in private how they could be dreaming the whole thing but which one was dreaming neither knew nor cared.

The woman thought to speak and then refrained, for under what domain does the decree of language have in such a place? All we have is the tangible communication between us, the communion of flesh and heat, our bodies tied together by the noblest of bonds and axioms of trust. Dirt frozen still in the deep leathery ridges of our fingers. Nails and ashen skin and thin jutting hairs. This is our language, this is our life. These are our words. This link of flesh could fail us at any moment. She pictured the myriad of ways they would die, a gaping hole up ahead in the darkness swallowing them one after the other, their hands broken apart by the force of one body falling, stumbling down weightless and alone to that other unknown darkness of similar breath and sound. She imagined a creature looming up ahead in the darkness, human in proportion but lacking the probity which distinguishes humanity from other mundane life. A six-legged likeness of nightmarish wonder, viscous body mass and thin spine-like legs and throbbing cold heart and they would see it in that last flashing moment before it struck them totally blind, glimmering eyes of diamond light in the only thing they’d seen in so very long, the last light of the world known to them, and there would be a knowing in those eyes and also a familiar form of understanding for the creature had lived in the darkness all of her life and was accustomed to surviving on the flawed wanderings of others. The woman imagined the creature devouring them and slinking silently onward through the tunnel of mud with her former body in that creature’s jellied womb until the next stumbling and condemned soul strolled blind and unknowing into the nest of a frightened somnambulist’s reckoning.

“Wait,” the woman said. “I need to catch my breath.”

“Are you all right.”

“Yes. I just need to stop. For a moment, is all.”

The man was quiet. He thought he could see the woman bent at the waist, her head down and blonde hair dirty and matted and clinging to her temples. He saw her there in the dark, a shadow of light, body heaving with warm breath, angel of soft white incandescence drawn in the framework of a beating human heart. There is a light within her. There is a light within us both.

“I can see you,” he said, and smiled. “You’re magnificent.”

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Fiction, love, madness, postmodernism, spirituality, Truth, violence, writing

Scars

I watched her fingers trace the angles of my chest down to my abdomen, deep ridges of muscle and bone and patches of coarse hair and skin darkened in thick tracks of scars. I watched her hand grow timid about the stained edges, as if touching the scars would bring back the memory of what had caused them, as if my seeing them each day and feeling about them with my own fingers wasn’t memory enough.

What happened, she said.

I thought of lying, about how I fell drunk from a window and landed on some rocks or broken glass or maybe about how I was in a fiery accident or a knife fight and needed surgery to re-stitch the deeply shorn tissue. Something that might make her nod or smile or laugh and then forget it all. But she was gentle and seemed forgiving and so I told her the truth. She listened and was silent for a while and her fingers grew still and rigid on my skin and I regretted telling her almost immediately.

Are you serious, she said.

After a few minutes she rose and walked to the bathroom and I breathed the warm air of her departure on the sheets. There was artificial innocence and deep acceptance and years of hurt in her scent. She was like most every other woman. Light framed the closed door, a symmetry of knife edges in the dark. I heard the toilet flush and then the hiss of the faucet. She opened the door and stood in the frame, half-lit and exposed to the darkness, her nakedness stark and emblematic and teetering between the shadow of here and now and the verity of past light.

I’d better be going, she said.

She gathered her clothes about her and put them on methodically but gracefully, like I wasn’t even in the room. As if it wasn’t my room. As if she had done this a thousand times in a thousand different rooms just as I was certain she had. The clothes had come off in haste, without ceremony, the sole neutralizing obstacle to will. Now she stepped into them just as quickly and callously but with robotic calculation, like the clothes were a requirement and nothing more, as if they reminded her of her life before she took them off and how this new life was exactly like the old life and nothing like she thought it would be or perhaps hoped it would be. The clothes reminded her that nothing had changed, nothing would ever change. The brief nakedness between lives was her hurried respite from herself, from both lives.

It was nice meeting you, she said. Call me some time.

She sat and the edge of the bed sagged beneath her. She reached into her purse and rummaged through it and I wondered if the bathroom light was bright enough to kill moods and strains of moods or if it would even stop there and I could hear the wind whipping through the city outside my window but I could hear nothing more save for the screaming of bedsprings as she stood up and put a folded piece of paper with her phone number inside it on my nightstand. She crawled on the bed toward me and kissed me softly on the cheek and then the side of the mouth and for the first time I understood her intense sadness and its brutal dominion over her young life.

She walked out the door and shut it softly behind her and I could still smell her pale nomadic skin and her scalp and her breath woven into threads of the moment now lost to us. Her ghost haunted me through the night and so my dreams reverted in myriad to that lonely face at the far table in the coffee shop, that dark, worm-like body of abandon atop mine, shivering with the brief delight of self-sustaining sovereignty of soul. I closed my eyes and traced the scars on my stomach and torso with sudden longing for I never even thought to search her body.

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Fiction, love, madness, philosophy, postmodernism, spirituality, violence, writing

Labrynth

The piece of paper was a perfect white rectangle on the desk in front of me, an empty shape too intimidating to breach. I tried to think, to collapse myself into thought the way I so often do, communicate the credence of my ideas through swift and elegant pen strokes, angry letters and words, sentences and jutting symbols of association. Maybe it was the shape of the blank white sheet obstructing me, its precision so taut and unforgiving, deconstructing the creative process into pure barren silence. Or maybe it was her, the woman to whom the ideas were directed, my love for her so sightless and violent in nature that all rational language died prematurely in my mind prior to its exposure to the influence of the pen.

My dearest Brooklynne . . .

No, this is wrong, this is all wrong. This type of beginning is an instant showcase of hollowness. I never speak to her like this, nobody alive speaks like this. If it is practical sentiment I want to relate, defragment these complex thoughts into common meaning, I must find a practical vehicle with which to exchange them.

Brooklynne, I cannot . . .

A negative proposition at the forefront sets a malignant tone for the entire letter. I must begin with an authoritative propositional phrase, an affirmation of love. I must lean on the theme of our love, our history together, and push the apology aside until later in the letter, when nothing but an apology would make sense in its reinforcement of the aforementioned.

*

I tried to stop thinking and went to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of wine, and then another, a formal release of mental strain, drinking down the crystalline purity of deflation. Then I went back to the study and wrote the letter, discarding the burdens of message and meaning alike, diving headlong into the chasm of blank whiteness, my thoughts stretched outward in time and place until the entire letter was suddenly finished an hour later, lines and curves painted on the page exactly as I wanted them, truth without restraint, love in collusion with purpose. Then I sealed the letter in a blank white envelope and dropped it in the garbage.

Who reads these letters, I wondered. There must be a thousand letters in this world written each day that just get thrown away, the messages sealed and signed, adoration and violence and meaninglessness perfumed upon the pages. Someone reads these letters, the evidence of our irresolution, our frail whims. The moment we dispose of our ideas and rear them to the heap, the moment we place the neat folded parchment in the trash and expel it from our conscience, someone on the other end is already waiting for it, a reader far more astute than we imagine, the sole cultivator of our discarded feelings and suspended emotions. By not delivering them to the intended recipients we feel as though we’ve rendered the meanings in the letters harmless, we’ve absolved ourselves of our reactionary blunders. But someone finds them and reads them and thrusts meaning back onto the messages. Maybe this person finds pleasure in what they read, as though each hypothetically failed correspondence is a valued discovery, an unexpected unearthing into another’s private life, a magnified examination into the social machine of our culture. The person who finds these letters and reads them keeps them for self-edification. The words on the page and the page in the envelope are raised up to semi-iconic status in their lives, brief but genuine illuminations into the world of private conversations to which they otherwise wouldn’t have been included. He or she who reads the letters finds it much more difficult to discard them than the person who wrote them. For the man or woman who finds the letters and digests their content, their subtle meanings painted in abstract and concrete idiom, these letters are the battery of their operative hopefulness. A line wrought from love and sentiment becomes their personal shining juxtaposition with disenchantment. The pain splayed across the page, the heart-shorn emotion from a love askew, the tender eulogy and the apologetic logic, these are the most vivid and tactile reflections for the reader. The letters were of course written by strangers with the intended audience as strangers and yet the reader feels as though he or she knows them both. The letters strip away the mystery and put a profile to the writers, they put a garbled and imaginary face to the name at the top of the page, the salutation at the bottom. The reader invents living people from the names because the written emotive force is too profound and real to keep them from identifying humanity with the language. These letters are at the vanguard of everything that makes humanity such a tremendous communicative current, they unite us in our solitude and mystery, these letters bind the likes of community and individual, they fully replace the very things the writer of the letters was trying to avoid, that subtle inward heartbreak of not being understood, that feeling that the words didn’t, and possibly couldn’t accurately navigate the complicated labyrinth of feelings within. For the lucky or reluctant reader, the letters are more descriptive and enlightening than the writer could have imagined. This is the only language either of them could ever possibly understand. Some will tell us to bury our pain, others will instruct us to express it. But this is really the only way to learn, the proper way to heal from our emotive wounds. If only we were instructed to recreate our pain in language, construct our meditative ailments out of idea and paper in letter form and then ceremoniously place our arrangements in the garbage rather than the mailbox, this world would be a world of deep committed understanding and empathy. It would be a world where the letter was exalted above all else save the human condition.

*

Back in the kitchen I finished the bottle of wine and shattered it on the linoleum floor. After careful consideration, I decided not to remove my clothes and roll around on the wreckage.

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