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.
The chain breaks at one of two ends. I’m certain I have the world in my hands but can’t make it to stand two whole days without imploding. The gift-wrapped box in the sky with bow-ties engraved with my name, I can have it: in the land of the free in the 21st century, any one of us can have it (supposedly). The night sky hides 10 billion galaxies the world can’t yet see, just waiting for someone with the perseverance to reach long enough and grab it — a whole new realm of possibilities. The imagination isn’t separate from reality; they’re in the same box. Today I was on the phone for two hours trying to pay six different bills to eight different companies. I washed dishes and shoveled the driveway. I looked at my kid and couldn’t see a reason why I shouldn’t be reading just to pass the time. If life is a puzzle it disintegrates just the same. Just like in a movie, when a typewriter flies down a flight of stairs, the slow-motion bursting scatters little springs and keys in an upward shower of catharsis. Thoughts of self-castration are not far from mind. I could’ve been a fucking Jedi.
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.
We saw ourselves marching down the parkway at dawn, head-long into traffic, carrying signs and beatnik anthologies – at night while the city slumbered we remembered what the next day would bring: Defiance on the turnpike. Sitting on the footbridge drinking bum wine and trying to rap, at night, to pass the time; feet hung over the slab of concrete, toy cars sliding by down the highway beneath and we saw what the morning would bring: Revolt on the outer-belt. We dropped beer bottles into commuter traffic at dawn, would light sticks on fire for the commute home. And it all seemed so spectacular and raw to be spurning the throngs of traffic we said were traveling in the wrong direction; but we knew it was the better guess to assume, though we could never admit it, that there was only so much in us to fight against the friction.
When flesh is water-logged it swells and pushes oils out the pores of taut skin. Greasy, wet with a hint of green –
eat your lunch at the office.
When bones corrode the marrow sours. Rust holes eaten through –
your desires at the ends of their demands.
When time decays it leaves behind the taste of pennies, pine for youth to try again –
you didn’t have to be this way.
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.
The college square has no strife, early morning in clear light, students passing in quiet voices spoken to friends. This – the soporific morning hum of students abiding schedules, making their ways to class – scene comforted by the recentness of sleep and waking dreams. Students texting, drifting by on long-boards, I sit here on this bench at this particular moment watching. The breeze is cold, breaking up warmth from a low sun. The sunlight has the quality of light passing through ice, a white that shimmers gently. There is a small rack of religious pamphlets, Christian I think, two volunteers sitting near and they are quiet. Low sound of traffic sporadically passing by down the street, on the other side of the student center. The trees are bare, spindly branches; squirrels perch gnawing nuts. There is nothing in this air but the ease of passing time, keeping an eye on the train schedule as it guides us through life. This moment of stillness, isolated from the direness of political papers, the fears of the sensible and the pains of the restless. Just here, for a moment on this bench, to pass this time with a gentleness freed of stress – now there are no bills, no debts, no deadlines or reasons to fret. Sitting here in isolation of all other moments, the stillness, this fragment of time, holds no regrets, no reasons to dread – now it has no future; now it has no past. This moment removed from the fingers of time: now isolated by eternal oblivion; now forever heedless of our watches; now it is forever and now will never die.