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 hear echoes in the walls, the rattlings of a voiceless savior. Bills pinned to the pantry, I can only sit here and drink and clear my head enough to think that maybe there’s a way to clean the water from our floors. It’s been pooling here a while, coming up to our shins, late nights home from work up in four hours for the next commute. You come home in the mornings sometimes from a bar and find me sleeping on the couch, curled in sweatshirts under blankets. The crib in the bedroom is quiet, swaying gently, and you feel the child’s forehead just to know he isn’t ice. We’ll have a tax return soon to buy heat and more booze. Anything to stay warm and hear the echoes in the walls.
Dreams tend to ferment in vats of wasting time.
You didn’t see me cry as I drove home from work. You didn’t answer your phone, when all I needed was for you to ask if I was okay; I spent some money for gas and spent the rest on a six-pack, got drunk by myself with the child in his crib and for a moment I forgot there was no larger point to this. Than to let the cold water creep onto the bed, fill the fridge, and the pantry, and the cabinets. But for the kid that cries in the crib, when mommy and daddy are too tired and drunk to get up out of bed.
I swear we’ll never win.
You didn’t get a degree when you had the chance. I never had the chance. Sweat labor’s honest work but it doesn’t feed the house. Nor the bureaucratic mouths, with financial attention – I didn’t tell you I almost punched the clerk at the DMV. There’s another hundred-dollar fee to have our registration reinstated, which we may be able to pay once the water goes down. But it won’t go down. The good graces of the landlord wearing thin, the favors of your parents overdrawn, and a car in the driveway that won’t turn-over, the water won’t go down.
I sit here at night too tired to cry, and drink until I’m crazy enough to think there’s a way we’ll get by; that there’s a reason for us to try.
A voiceless savior rattles in the walls, and the heat vents are filled with just echoes.
Long nights awake in bed, my tired circuitry is sparking with the energy of a jazz band. There is so much to be done in this life, but at 1am there is nowhere to go. Just to sleep. By 6am sunlight is faint, and my eyes are heavy enough to witness unconscious dreams of greatness on the dorm room’s concrete wall. The future on the concrete wall, a vortex of fog and the ghosts of future selves. The projector has been on all along – 8am awake to find myself sleep-screaming in the back of class. In the dream, someone telling me I’d been wrong. And in a few moments when I graduate I’ll be awoken by the screeching of a library desk. 8 hours of class, 6 hours of clearing tables. The kitchen is a cluster-bomb of aluminum line cooks, and the incredulous owner saying I yesterday called to quit my job. From my back on my mattress I had dreamt-up unemployment and I swear the projector had been turned on. The vortex on the wall it swirls; dreams no longer clearly separating from reality. Dizzying clouds of cigarette smoke in the heyday hours of a gentle trip. Today I am the professor of pharmaceuticals. Fog rolls down the basement steps to underground bars where bass-drops come in flavors of neon candy. I’ve been reading more Pynchon lately; Calvin and Hobbes for what might lie awake in the future’s fog. Tomorrow I can be a dentist; I can be a desk clerk. Tomorrow morning I can be quickly falling through the sewer grate, or founding an internet platform. I am going to write novels when I graduate, or I can uncover the next Watergate, or I will be the first to manufacture sheets of graphene. In a few years when I’m well on the road to my dreams, starting my own business and happily getting married, I’ll realize I’m awake in class, and they’re all frozen and watching me. Hope mocks me for being so dead wrong; the concrete wall is a facade, and all of life has passed me by on my back, long days awake in bed on my back. I awake to find myself still asleep in class, and everyone is watching, the vortex on my desk in a puddle of blood, where the pencil has dug a crater into the back of my hand.
There is a black latex suit filled with stuffing beside my bed. Just standing there, really, for long afternoon hours.
Bills are tacked to the walls to keep them from getting lost. They’re difficult to find once the power’s turned off. I admit I have never voted: confusion filing my application to the Selective Service. I tried to drive to Walgreen’s to buy Benadryl for my existential allergies, and spent the day in the driveway listening to NPR. I can’t sleep at night because I get nothing done all day. I can’t do anything during the day because I’m exhausted, nightly staring at a blank ceiling leaves me exhausted. My wife leaves me notes in the freezer each morning, before she leaves for work. She must be suspicious I’ve been hogging her vodka. The notes are to-do lists.
- Keep kid alive
- Pay bills
- Buy health insurance
- Finish school
- Find work
- Don’t quit on me
I let her watch TV all day while I fall in and out of dream-drenched sleep. She stays put – I know she won’t get lost… There is a black latex suit filled with stuffing on the floor, playing dolls with my daughter.
The man is a black latex suit, a featureless creature keeping closets full of dead rats. The rats were allowed to feast on dreams and desires (To prevent these from reappearing through the ends of the rats’ intestinal tracts, the vermin were drowned in bleach). Flies swarm the closet, and this corner of the soul is closed tight.
The black latex suit wore a cap and gown down the graduation aisle.
The black latex suit couldn’t smile at the cake to celebrate anything at all.
The black latex suit finds it hard to speak with the bottom of his throat at the back of his teeth.
The black latex suit has made no mistakes. It understands what is required to fill the plates at the family table.
Strung up on the wall is the black latex doll, for the machinery to use for its pleasure.
The boxes beneath the tree tremor with soft scraping sounds etching into the cardboard from the inside-out. The tree is dry and I haven’t watered it since you dragged it into the house, put it up yourself and strangled it with lights. The strands flicker electrical shortages. I am in the armchair across the room, alone and in the dark – the dark broken across the room by the white and green lights sparking in and out, and behind the tree in the lousy bay window (bay window stuck to the front of our drowsy rental by a landlord finding a reason to charge more) are the outside lights hanging from the gutter and these lights too sputter in and out, a madhouse effect of lights’ electrical shorting and the rats in the fucking boxes wrapped in cheery Ho Ho Ho! are finally scratching through the cardboard.
I am in the armchair and I am wracked. My hair is at odd angles from hands that tried to hold the itching, the itching inside my skull, from cracking out, greasy and clammy from three days’ sitting here to remember what this was all about. I don’t how I arrived here to live in this house, with you. I can’t remember why I went to college, or why I dropped out, or why I stopped going to work last week. I don’t know how it is that you can cry, or what it is I’ve done.
I can’t rationalize why I should feel pleased that you – or anybody else – thought to buy me a sweater or a DVD or a god damned mouse for my laptop. ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT THE WAFFLE IRON? I want to crack my teeth on the concrete steps that maybe the pain will be sincere enough to let me enjoy a moment of quiet television-watching so I can tell your parents how glad I am for the 12 months of Hulu they gave us.
There is something wrong here that I cannot understand. But maybe it’s me. I never remembered to buy you a gift, and to be honest it was far down my list of important life goals to accomplish. I sit here now, in this armchair, with a shuttering heart of regret as I watch, with a head that feels the pressure of a thousand leagues down, the sparking lights set fire to your tree.
I do not flinch, I do not think twice about the presents or your dreams or the life we’ve dumped into our little house, I can only sit here and stare as the flames reach the ceiling and I am drowning in a feeling I may someday call remorse. Remorse that I could never tell you how much I cared for us, because I could never put together what I wanted for myself.
There is something eating away just beneath my scalp, the frantic nail-breaking appeal of a damaged mind just trying to get out of hell. And I am sorry I dragged you in without properly marking the door.
I don’t know what it is I wanted with you, if I just can’t remember or if from the beginning I never knew, what it was. But the problem remains, every day; I am still completely in love with you.
I just want to one day be able to wish you a merry Christmas.
Here are ten years spent searching for the antithesis of a life uselessly lent to Keurig machines brewing, daily traffic migrations idling, flat-screen TV’s streaming: Here are the screams of the mad-eyed peeling their scalps to let out the vacancies eating away at their brains. Here are the years spent shifting desks in dormitories where your youth went for a degree in death management: You found yourself crawling naked hysterical on the sidewalk well past sun-rise. You took the plunge and scrapped gum from the sidewalk, making yourself a lunch to carry downtown for a day staring listlessly at trees in the park, where you found, on a pedestal, a mirror looking down at you. Here are your dreams above the obscurity of the crowds – a PhD in philosophy, Mr. Little Camus you could change the world.
Here are the scars on your forehead the time you realized the ceramic-tile wall-corner could set free the termites tunneling hollow through your head. The termites hurt worse: unconsciousness was blissful. Then: three years later dragging your guts pornographically through the bars you realized the misfortune well-spent on bathsalts in a single boarded-up bedroom – the obscurity you feared was waiting right here beneath your piss-stained mattress. In a dumpster you found a desk and picked up reading the Existentialists where last you had left off – Mr. Little Camus you could change the world.
Here are the months you spent hitchhiking both coasts because the idea of getting lost beat finding your way through the mainstream maze that still makes no sense. Remember the time you cried, head to your mother’s chest, about the nihilism of this and that? It thundered true then and it thunders true now, with your shoestrings dangling through the holes in your soles. Is there lunch left in your pockets? Did you manage the time to find the ticket for your shuttle-ride to the stars. You are 35 and still longing for your home with your child and wife, and they are there, and they are waiting – for you to find they are the meaning.
Mr. Little Camus you would’ve changed the world.
The future is felt like a big open sore, suppurating raw – like putting fingers in the wound, to pay the future any mind. I can give it no concern. I am supposed to file forms to meet important collegiate deadlines, but I think I’d rather just sit staring at the back of a stranger’s head. I am supposed to pen a ten-page paper but again I’ll hand in four, with five-inch margins, the product of a seven hour last-minute slog with my forehead on the keyboard – time now is better spent browsing news-column comments and disturbing Japanese porn. Every day has the same routine – standing staring at the dormitory doors, thinking and shrinking at the notion that this wave was set in motion without my consent. I find myself biding minutes by the hour looking forward to exhaustion, just so I can sleep, and forget, and not be bothered by the fate that I’ve had double-stuffed down my throat. For what if I do go through the doors? Attend every class and score a 4.0GPA? I’ll only find myself wandering through the motions of a life I’ve named Regret. But the passion that I had for the one thing I was good at – I sit here staring at a camera I’ve lost the will to lift off my lap. This would be best just to forget.
You’ve been dumped into the vortex (the bottom is endless), now cling to the walls, or find yourself hurled through the perpetual swirls of an abyss you’ll never breath free from. You have a choice – etch your name on the first rung you can manage hold and hang there for your life of regret. Or plummet – follow your dreams down the vortex picking blackened breadcrumbs from the sidewalk just outside your cardboard door…
… The swirling black mess suppurating raw in my chest, I’d rather sit here and stare at old dust-motes and forget, that time regardless passes on.