On the way down the street in the dark a man in a doorway asked me for a bit of money. I thought he meant to hit me, the way he moved in a two-step jitter. Truth told, it was only cold, or delirium driving it—or maybe his nerves had got the best of him. Like any coward, i told him he ought to do better. I recalled the way I’d been at fourteen when we’d been angled by some shitheels in the wide suburban back alley of a movie theater. An acid tongue born of fear was all I had for defense. I told them off. These older kids who meant to crack our junior-high skulls had feigned respect in the presence of a stupid and crude turn of phrase. Sharp words. Later on, heading down a dim street, scuffing my shoes at little rocks, I’d been, in so many words, accused of being brave but I’d always resented the charge.
The cat gets all wispy-eyed when she stares out the window. It’s always this way. I raise the big glass pane and she jumps up on the sill and presses herself against the screen and burbles out little songs of kitty longing.
Probably I’m a bit more odd when I’m sober but it’s the kind of odd that is comfortable to me. It’s the house “with character” that I live inside of. Come out of that shell with a drink, and that’s all fine but then I’m sitting outside where I can notice the strangeness. That’s fine, too.
In either state I get away with lying to myself about some things. Most of them are pretty innocuous, but not all. The main offenders, save for one, are related to writing and motivation which are, funny enough, boring to write about. So I won’t. The sole standout relates to my feelings on women. Certain, specific ones. I’ve the ability to tell anyone anything about myself without shame, about how the way so-and-so’s stupid lovely face turns my heart (and it’s other organ pals) into pasta sauce. That and other affectionate, less tomatoey things. What I can’t do, though, is to jump over the line into an open field. I can tell the girl who makes me all noodley all of these things that she is and the way that they are traits that are a real thumbs up, but I can’t take it the sneeze-length further. I can’t tack on, after the general praising, an easy, “…and that’s why I’m kinda into you.” I don’t even really understand it because a rejection isn’t even something spooky to me. For a long time in situations like these I’ve often done a decent job convincing myself that those kinds of affections are just projected, blown up. That I don’t really feel them. That they’re not genuine. Sometimes I’m convinced but usually I’m not. This is pretty dumb.
After enough time I take the kitty out from the windowsill and put her up against me. We go down the stairs and she kinda freaks out. Her claws dig into my shoulder and she tenses up. We step outside. The door closes behind us and she jumps at the sound. Her eyes dart. That same wind hits her then, but without the filtering of the window screen. I laugh and ask her, “why can’t you make up your mind?”
Makes enough sense to me now.
There were times when I was a teenager, young enough to be young but not old enough to understand much, when I would meet new girls and make new friends…I’d go to shows and we’d sing along at the top of our lungs with the guy on stage with the acoustic. It was this thing, this freedom that age brought me…it floored me. It was constant, it was all-giving and it was something saccharine but I had no idea. It grew for years, always getting better, and I began to expect it. There was some sort of understanding that things would be amazing, that they would be new and powerful. Years passed and I was always seeing something new, meeting someone exceptional and finding light shone upon the dark sides of things I never before understood. How was I to know that it was ever to slow down? Eventually I expected so much. I had such a great life, and it had been great for years. There was always the reality of the recent past to look upon with wonder. I bathed in nostalgia and it always cleaned any doubt from me, and the new would dress me and warm me in a fantastic turn of events. But not anymore. It slowed and I refused to accept it. There was a delay, I was convinced, in the newness of everything that I was now experiencing. A certain reflectivity was needed, would be uncovered. I had a naivety within me still, right? I met less new people and the ones I held close to me melted and fell out through the grasp of my fingers. What made me such an exceptional person years ago now was completely normal among my peers, and the simple act of striving for some beautiful and artistic goal no longer was enough. As an artist I now needed to have more to rest on than my laurels. I needed success, validation, money. Or so I’ve come to believe. The pitfall of the last four years has been the loss of my innocent love of the process of creation and the passion of people and the life I live among them as an organic thing…a thing of it’s own direction, growth, and merit. Now there lacks simplicity. All is a strange thing now, an exile to a world expectant of me, because of me. I am a cold and jaded person where once I only pretended to be so.
The third spark of her lighter bore a flame. Staggering in the wind, Lunette drew in the burn from the tip of her cigarette and as she exhaled, light ticked and buzzed up from the streetlamp above. She’d always found this particular lamp a magical thing. As the others on the block remained dormant, it was always this one that had an air of originality. It would turn on at her presence..stay off without it. Thunking on like a spotlight, it reminded her of old minutes spent on scuff-worn stages, eyes alight over the heads of invisible audiences, all the sound of whispers dead from the stark break of the arc light. Her violin hanging by it’s neck from her sweaty fingers, dangling down there near her hip, the body brushing lightly against the wavers of her skirt. In her solo shows she would first raise her closed eyes to the harsh white, opening them for but a second, then leveling her head quickly, a snap back harsh enough to evoke the opening tap of some modern dance. This was the moment of worst possibilities, the fear of all possible failures that Lunette could not bring herself to bury. Told once to bathe in the depth of the fear but to continue to move, this is what she would do. A twitch of the bow hand, the loss of her rhythm and the arrant misdirection of a piece becoming more and more hazy until a part was reached that had been completely forgotten…her teeth clicked together from a shivering jaw as she pressed it down upon the chin rest of the instrument. Pressing it down into her shoulder, the silence of an embarrassed crowd, an unforgiving blackness, the spotlight down to a pinpoint balancing on her face, high crystal reflections flaring from the stream of tears and pathetic whimpers of a child that she no longer was. The bow on the string, the rejection of all who loved her, who cared for her. Abandonment. Horse hair drawn across coiled metal and in the first reverberation, clear and concise, all dissolved.
Thank you, you little Swede, you semi-Dylan. You can really draw out the sad-happys in a jaded scamp like me.
…And Lunette, she ran, legs firm and olympic, all flexing and loosing as she beat the ground with her bare feet. The complacent sweat from her beachside sprawl breaking and flying from her thighs, her arms, her brow. Panting, deep lung rhythms straining air from the chaotic swirl all around. There was not enough air, could never be enough now…as if the collective gasps and screams she blurred past had drained the skies and the fire bursts from fallen jets had jarred all the green Earth, the trees now too frightened to ever exhale again.
Since I’ve found myself dead amid a months-long bit of brain-melting creative failure, I figure maybe I’ll just look at old things. This is a poem I wrote that achieved some kind of success. It’s about a girl named Bryn…and oh how romantic is it that in it’s printed published version it actually says “for Bryn” on it? In exchange for this dedication I got a lot of self-imposed heartache, which somehow, when rustled, still exists within me…
From the Windy Trees
The autumn swirl skirts the bridge during the descending daylight
fixing a transitional decision upon me, sitting beneath it.
Was that the Summer I lived on a scratch-off ticket?
Or, rather were they, the days I loved a phantom mural painter?
Night times tracing the edge of cornfields, five past midnight,
With ouija under candles predicting the mistakes of youth.
Perhaps after the winter winds that sent me over on the ice,
the months where the flask and hollers were my ballast?
This was all before, anyway—now passing by as I watch the water
collecting leaves from the skyline of trees, and it’s still early.