You’ve been spending time with your mother making decorations for the holidays. Crafting kitsch for the doors and the halls, small moments made-up for the years you lived out-of-state. Progress in your own home is slow. Rent checks are never late but your husband is rarely in for dinner. Your own job seems to be a farce stunted by a bad choice of college degree – how many women can get a decent car in photography? But your life’s love got an early foot in with a 401k; and all his complaints are erased by his claim “this is all only temporary”. Someday comes the break. A baby will be on the way, you’ll have one made by spring and that’s your own secret plan. And at night when the small house is quiet and your thoughts creep down from the walls you can hear those good friends crying all the way back at Ohio State. You can hear the clamor of the bars and the mic beats of the poets and the stars that shined over North High and Third. You remember screaming at him when he left for Santa Fe. He left your heart aching. He quit the job after just a week and came home miserable to you, who forgave him so quickly because the sidewalks outside were still painted in the green of your dreams. Cooking isn’t what your patience were made for. Graphic design isn’t what your head was made for but at least it gives you something to do. And in the mornings in the traffic you can listen to NPR because the music you’re in love with whispers for you to abandon your car. Hand your laptop to a homeless man and empty out the bank. You’re already crying thinking of Mark finding a letter in the pot you won’t have filled with his dinner. He hates it what he does for you. Neck ties and obedience to the man with the bigger desk. Long hours of nicotine-yellow sun on suburban streets. Empty boxes flipping away the blank pages of your calendar’s days. Penned at a desk in a fluorescent alley of cubicles and swarthy smiles. Obsequious pleasantries and the eternal denial that what they’re paying you adds up. A 40-hour work-week indoors and Netflix to reward your stationary labor. Spirits were meant for the open air. You once spent a week straight without a foot inside your own door. The concert hall on State Street and the rooftop restaurant with the sky-line view where Mark first said he loved you. You had to go because a local blog was paying your photos in erratic hours. And at 4am you found Mark awake still waiting for you. Grasping for an emotional hold before the world sent you tumbling: your exhilaration has landed flat. A cold star stays dark with nothing new to burn in your chest. Stalked by old friends who aged quick at dead-end jobs. The same streets you walked as a kid are a ten-minute drive from the house you’re starting your life in. Someday you’ll find your future years painted on your office floor – or that Mark regrets the wedding. You’ll think back about the happy girl, what it meant to view the world without walls. To see the importance in the clouds and the excitement in the daisies painted on the windows of the Vine Street boutiques. To remember the reasons you needed to drive 20 miles over the speed-limit if you wanted to eat a second dinner that week, or what it felt like to cry because you’d spent four sleeplessness nights helping organize a Halloween ball. Someday comes the break – when the muck is too slow a death to stay here waiting 60 years. When you remember that life is movement through the city; that every breath is sweeter when you’re chasing down a dream; that your vibrant heart was meant to beat. Make your mother a memoriam: you love her most when you’re saying goodbye. Gather the movement of your frantic panic and the happiness of an insecure life. Ask Mark if he still loves you, and pack your bags for Ohio State. There’s happiness outside of Jersey.
My professor has a warm crevasse beneath her dress that I imagine is just like a bed. She won’t ask me questions in class; and when I try to answer I always end up feeling inferior. The other students are clearly smarter, loaded with logical processes and the skill-sets that will lead them to success in global conglomerates. I struggle to put air behind my words when I speak aloud. Forever feeling my life’s lot is take their orders and keep my head down, I skirt along the sides of the hallways and let others pass first through the doors. Some days in class I sit beneath the desks, in the computer labs where the hard drives and monitors run hot. The desk becomes a shelter, finally hiding myself from view, the warmth in the shadows away from the stares of those who swear I will never enjoy the pleasures of wealth. And so that’s where I find myself, in the warm shadows beneath the desk. Prostrate, castrated, assuming my position in the gutters where they flush their shit. I sit cross-legged or sometimes I lie down, hearing the muffled conversations of the classroom above. I take care to avoid the computer wires wrapped tightly in bundles. I find a small break in the carpeting, where two sheets of ultra low-pile carpet meet, with a little space between them. This is the little gap I found last class. I take to picking at it once again. Feet walk by down the aisle and I glance at the shoes. The carpeting I am picking at has the odor of autumn air, something crisp with a hint of dew. I continue to pick. The carpeting begins to peel up, and when I reach my hand beneath I feel nothing but open air, humid and cool. I adjust myself beneath the desk, trying not to make a sound. I can see sunlight in the gap I’ve found, and I adjust myself further till I am able to place my leg inside. My foot dangles; I reach my other leg through. And quickly I am sitting in a field beside a building. There are no people to be seen but the parking lot is full, and the building itself is a tall square of gray stone and black glass. This must be the global conglomerate. It smells stuffy of close-quarters and air-conditioning. The field it sits on tumbles slowly over hills so green and finely detailed the sight itself might seem improbable. The easy breeze is scented with the mysteries of a thousand-mile land, for surely that’s what lies ahead of me. I take my time to walk around, to see the ponds with the lilies and the lilacs on their shores, to hear the orioles and the squirrels jumping across tree boughs. I find a knob of grassy hill to lie my back on, and spend a while watching clouds. The sky here is more perfect than anything I could dream, smooth baby blue with little cotton-puffs of clouds. The grass smells fresh. I let ants walk across my knees. I’ve noticed holes in my shorts, tattered strands from my t-shirt, and I realize I might be in Japan. This might be Patagonia. If I take my time long enough I might just find a meadow of sleeping daisies in Belgium. I am very hungry, a stomach flat against my back type of hungry, but it bothers me none. I might hang a hammock in the woods, or right here beside the pond, and sleep where the mosquitoes can nest in my hair and it doesn’t bother me none. I am going to catch a fish and eat today maybe, I will dine among the flamingos and prairie dogs. I am laughing. How will they score me on their poverty charts?
I kept a calendar at my desk, and I had binders of papers and a collection of pens, and a bobble-head that reminded me of saying Yes. I sat in the air-conditioning all summer, and got to stay home when it snowed. I had responsibilities and people who looked up to me for answers to their issues. I had a computer, two computers technically, and two computer screens, and I spent my days leaning back in a big comfy chair. I had a digital hub. Published articles and interviews and edited videos for the web. People ran around under me. I ran a website. I was the master of the fucking intraweb. For Poly Corp. I don’t understand what they did. But everyday when I walked in the squirrels would chirp hello from their nests tucked into corners of their gray cubicle walls. They’d tell me stories about their kids and their kids and what they did with their kids on the weekends. They played on the lawn. And I’d push past towards my office down the hall. Everyday for three years, the same eight-thousand square feet of office space on the fourth floor of a single wing in a single office building. Fourth floor — they couldn’t even give me a patch of ground. The window in the office offered such a little view, of a corner of the parking-lot and the office building across. That is what I had all day — the same drab gray patchwork of ultra-low-pile carpeting, and I’d piss the same urinal, and I’d walk back to my desk. And outside I’d see the sunlight I couldn’t feel through the window’s tint, and I’d know that that sunlight was the same solar beam that spread its gold across half the planet’s face. I’d pace in my office and I’d pace in the stalls and I’d scowl at the squirrels who passed me by in the halls. When man was the master race! When he had muscles in his legs and hair on his arms, an upright posture that saw the forests in the distance and the coyotes on the hills. What is this we were made for? To cower in our cubbies and strut the same lengths of floor? Moles that hide in burrows, sleepy weekends in suburban corners. Man-caves! Dust-motes in the stagnant sunbeams through the window; hide in our little corners of comfort oblivious to the gilded hills at dawn. Never to see the mountains purple with the distance, to feel the breadth of a continent pass beneath our feet. The city streets are there to be explored; the open passages of time and the highways that lie in the sun — they should be mine! To be conscious of the Redwood forests and the beauty of the Badlands, the cafes in San Francisco and the poetry of the pouring rain. We were meant to witness the way the Earth curves from the Carolines to the Blue Mountains to the red rocks in the desert, not to hide ourselves from this beautiful expansiveness of time. The faces we’ll never see! The millions of moments we all miss. The trees should weep for the people who no longer lay in their shade, and the poets should put down their pens: we have abandoned them. I will not disappear from the years by sitting at my desk. I am driving a rented Cadillac right through this building’s gate, blasting bluegrass and jumping in my seat, collecting my final paycheck. Give me the revolver, give me back my booze. I am taking back my liberty and with it to spread my virility ‘cross the face of this beautiful Earth. I won’t sit kindly in society’s pocket anymore. The Universe, it should know that I exist.
We found ourselves along the lakeside at dawn, no sounds but the birds and the gentle words you whispered to me. You wouldn’t come with me to Boulder. Suitcases stuck in the corner of your closet that I’ve been living out of; the thought of crawling in there for another 6 months made my stomach itch with spiders. I wanted to strangle you, for the catharsis, a stress test around your neck to hear you scream because, after all, hurting you hurts me — there is one thing I can feel and I feel it beautifully. The one person I thought I wouldn’t live without has changed her dreams, and fallen asleep without me. We sit in the sod and you open your palm. No hard feelings? I want to throw my shoes in the lake, throw my cellphone and my notebooks and my wallet into the lake. I would rather destroy every last thing, shoulder a single little bag and walk heart-heavy across the plains to Boulder. I don’t want to flee; I want to brood my time in peace. I want solitude — from you and your parents, from my future, and from any responsibility. I never loved you: you put your palm back in your lap and look out at the lake. Did you hear me? No, I didn’t, fuck you. She should never have expected me to stay. I expected me to stay. We made love in the fishing boats off the docks; we drank most nights and slept long days in the hammock behind her aunt’s. We wasted weekends downtown at the cafes. We took off our skin and let each other in, and were always foolish to think I could stay. The beauty of these months we’ve spent, it was always meant to be looked back at, a memory of what was had and what we regret.
I don’t know what brought me here, I’ve awoken from a nightmare 4 years in the making and find myself strangling with a JC Penny tie around my neck. I sit in bed in the early a.m. and I don’t look at you – I don’t look at the bed or the dusty typewriter on my desk, I stare at the wall until my brain turns numb. I won’t think of it; I won’t think of us or anything at all. Willingly brain-dead the morning routine before the commute down Route 80 – neurons shriveling, a brain matter withering into the mundane hum of the skull. I find myself at work with a tire-iron bashing the hood of my car. I don’t want a Keurig or all the clothes in your closet and I will go through life with a single pair of jeans. I’ve thrown in the trash every little gift you’ve bought me. I’ve been drinking beer every evening on the drive home, just so I can stand walking into our house. I’ve blown out the speakers to heavy death metal and dreamt of wrapping the car ‘round the tree in our front yard: a windshield shattering in my face and a welcomed wave of fresh air. I want to be free of this life, from washing machines and office PC’s and the nights we sit through in silence because three years ago I choose to say I Love You. And I still do. But I can’t live with myself enslaved to shitty illusions and the delusion that plunging a career through my chest is somehow what’s best for ourselves. This morning I put our kid’s chair through the flat-screen: no more watching Sesame Street. No more watching ER dramas or those lying commercial comedies. There isn’t a single thing to laugh at here. This morning I screamed that would you please just shut your mouth, we’ll pay the god damned thieving bills when they turn the power off. There’s still a shattered refrigerator pitcher on the floor that I refuse to sweep up. There are holes in the dry-wall. I broke your precious bathroom mirror and flushed his toys down the toilet. I’ve lost it. I woke up this morning and shaved my head with a number 2. No more pompadour comb-over, this sweet rider on the storm, I woke myself up this morning and can’t see that it’ll ever come back.
Here on the roof day-drinking and we are quiet. The talk was small for the most part, and eventually when the talk began to loop ‘round to politics and the spirit world, we silenced ourselves, and gave ourselves room to think quietly. Up here on the roof day-drinking – Spring is new and Winter is old, and the cold that kept us cramped beneath blankets on the couch has turned into something refreshing and almost virile. The fresh air touches my groin. The sunlight fading near the end of a long afternoon, its grapefruit hues color the air. There is something faintly exciting about this time of day, a vague expectation of having something to do or to enjoy. Of places to go.
From up on my roof I can see the road and how it wraps the planet. Long dusty stretches of highway; rust-eaten gas stations in Michigan. Romance in Venice, let’s take a walk on the pier, and feel the anticipation of eager kissing as the lights in distant Malibu one by one come on. Finding matronly strippers at Brinkley’s in Philly, maybe later tonight around two. I could be in Denver by midday tomorrow. Brick alleys waiting to be explored in Hoboken, histories of unsung drunken melodies pitched into the ivy along Boston’s side streets. I can meet a young woman whose name is Mica and for a night pretend we’re in love. Pretend we’re in love and escape our shadows, we’ll leave them behind 1,000 miles down the road.
There is blackness shattered in the cracks of the small bare-wall room. Puke on the throw rug bought at Target left sitting for three days straight. The wracking of the nerves leaves shuddering on the bed the infant who tried to escape their fate by running for his god damned life, halfway across the continent to a city raw with beggars and transient thieves in the night. There is no woman here; there is no mother. There is nothing here but an empty desk and a waste-basket filled with ashes of a life of peace disregarded – contentment discarded, illusory harmony torn at the seams of the suit jacket and college degree: there are no Bachelor’s here, no dreams of vacations in Caribbean seas or the totalitarian pistons that deliver by degrees, the consumer success your privilege had blessed as something you could accomplish with ease.
Here there is darkness.
Synthetic Chinese amphetamines. Craigslist sex-list swapping fluids through a spectrum of genders, leaving you a hollow waste huddled on the mattress on the floor. Luckily, the internet has movies for free. What were your dreams? What did you sever the cords of the safety-net for? The map laid it all out: degree, career, marriage, a new TV and couch and color splotches to match the walls and you decided to get out. The map was well-defined. Skunked beer mixes with the spunk on your bedsheets. It’s been three days. Cold winter sunlight barely touches the floor and you’ve waned to a pallor of jaundice or piss. The hope that your parents miss you fearfully plunged down the toilet. The strange city, you immigrant; the cafes are filled with echoes and the shadows on the corner see you as the ghost. Weep out the window for the touch of a familiar hand.
Here there is darkness.
On the floor the bundle of books you backpacked ‘cross eight states, left untouched for six whole days. The paragraph you typed still up on the screen (great promise here, you tried to say), minimized behind the scenes of comedic relief that let you freeze, however momentarily, the blackness that rots through the cracks in the wall. You had peace on the map; follow the dotted-line they’ve defined as contentment. But here the darkness is allowed to seep and the oblivion of it crushes you to weep – you fool! There is nothing here past the boundary but the infinity of what you can dream and daily swallow. Fill yourself with the possibilities, you haven’t to be so hollow: These are the constellations of oblivion and they dance beyond the boundaries of their maps.