“V”

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I don’t know where to start. She was the first girl to really make out with me and she was really good at it. Us, just a couple freshmen in the inner city. She took me from zero to 90 in four-point-three-seconds. Just when we were rounding the final turn she pumped the brakes. I was breathless. Confused. So unbelievably grateful that she chose me, but devastated that she’d brought me to heaven’s door, and said she just wanted to be held. I figured she was making sure I was the right guy, so I held her until she said she had to go home. I walked her home, holding hands, and I finally felt like I had worth. She had seen something in me, something even I couldn’t see. The next time we hung out my childhood friend was over and she was different. She looked at me like a flavor of ice cream she had enough of…too much butter pecan and in desperate need of a palate cleanse. And just like that…she moved on. Lying in bed I could hear the familiar wet smacking sounds of her, working her magic. This was the beginning of my Pink Floyd, The Wall, stage…everyday, all day on auto-reverse. To this day, The Wall can transport me back to the frailty of my teenage years and I feel an unnameable loss, a hole, that remains. I quickly learned that she pumped the brakes with my friend, as well. Somehow that made me feel better. It became a theme, though. Her showing up at gatherings of me my friends. Choosing her next victim. It got so, those of us she used, would put up two fingers, almost a peace sign, but with the back of the hand. It was a sign of camaraderie, like soldiers who’d fought in the same war and came out the other side, but far from unscathed. It was, also, the first letter of her name…V. Somehow Mikey, the best looking of our group, got to walk her home more than once. He had that all American look, with feathered hair and a shit-eating-grin. He had somehow found the magic key, but as long as they were together he never made it across the finish line. I moved away, while they were still an item. Years later, after they had long gone their separate ways, he told me during a phone conversation, that she had been such a great make-out-artist, because she had been taught, for years…by her father. Her older sister had got engaged and was making her escape, but V had worried that their father might turn to her younger sister to fill the void, and none of them wanted that. Like THAT was where they wanted to draw the line. The girls’ aunt cornered Mikey, at one point, and made him swear to never say a word. He carries…we all carry, that shit with us. The thought of this monster and his three daughters. I tried finding them. Facebook. Classmates. It’s like they simply disappeared. I no longer feel bad about how our time went, but can only hope that she felt safe and maybe normal, if such a thing exists, for that little while, when I was just holding her.

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Winter break

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Burning cheeks

And Smokey breath

Little clumps

Stuck to mittens

Bread bags between

Socks and shoes

The air burning

Our noses

Tunnels dug

Into snow banks

Toboggan rides

Down park hills

Neighborhood friends

Charging the hillside

To take my crown

Hand-me-down

Snowsuits

Grandma reminding me

To put on a toque

Walking along

We would pretend

Our heads are

The Millennium Falcon

The fat snowflakes

An asteroid belt

Exhausted

We lay on our backs

Making snow angels

Watching the flakes

Fall from perpetually

White skies

Entire lifetimes lived

During a school break

Take

Me

Back

All in

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Going to the casino for the first time?

Make your way to the buffet and indulge

Fill your belly with comfort food and carbs

And in that warm, contented afterglow

Give your money to the next stranger you see

This is the surest wager you’ll ever make

I guarantee it

You’ll feel good having made someone happy

And you’ll have saved yourself great torment

The worst thing that could’ve happened to you

Believe it or not

Would’ve been for you to win

The surge of adrenaline

The release of endorphins

You will be chasing that feeling

For the rest of your life

Let me be your cautionary tale

Here is the twist

My first casino

Was a writing contest in 4th grade

My essay on why a kid shouldn’t be president

Beat out the whole school

5th and 6th graders included

To this day I remember how to spell

The word ‘assassin’ because of it

I was paid in pens, pencils and erasers

I was led into a room, as best I can remember

That had a mountain of textbooks

I was king of the hill

A landslide of knowledge shifting beneath me

I slid my hands along the cool, hard surfaces

Looking for something

Something special

To commemorate my victory

I climbed down that mountain

An astronomy text tucked under my arm

My head in the clouds

The loudspeaker announcement

My name echoing down the locker-lined hall

I have been chasing that dragon ever since

Looking for the next mountain to climb

With my eyes towards the stars

The Abyss

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“…And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Nietzsche

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

In the matter of a week and a half two friends, former coworkers, had taken their lives; a ripple of sadness passed through what used to be a close-knit family, one that has been cast to the four winds, nomads, since they closed the plant a couple years ago; Facebook is all a flutter, as everyone is trying to make sense of this tragedy and offering to be a sympathetic ear for those in need; and I’m just crying; when “Bob” committed suicide about two weeks ago there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it; as he had recently gotten a better job and appeared to be happy; well…he always appeared to be happy; he was the guy that you never felt the urge to avoid, that you always had a nice conversation with, as he was soft-spoken and was rarely ever without his smile; though rumor has it he has fought periodic depression for quite some time; he has been in an on-again-off-again relationship with another friend/former coworker that he has a daughter with, but whatever the reason(s) he had he found it necessary to hang himself with copper wire in his garage; and I found myself wanting, no needing to know what was going through his mind as he stood at the abyss’ edge; I don’t know if this need stems from morbid curiosity, the writer and student of human behavior that resides within or because I have been near the abyss’ edge before and needed to know just how far down this rabbit-hole goes–how much worse can it get before one takes action; whatever the reason the idea was always lurking there like the shadow behind every sunny-day thought; then a few days later my wife called me while I was on the return trip from North Carolina and told me that “Mark” had killed himself; as I was with my father-in-law and sister-in-law I bottled and buried all reaction to this news; but once I was home it started to hit me harder and harder in waves and I began going back over all of Mark’s Facebook posts; it was as if each one was a scream for help; the most recent post had seemed darkly poetic, as it spoke of the woman he lost; she held him in her arms; his cheek against her chest; lips pressed together; his need to be with her is paramount; his eyes grow heavy; he is sorry; I had lumped this post in with all of the other dark/depressing/vengeful/lamenting/antagonistic posts he had made forever, but with 20/20 hindsight it couldn’t have been any clearer to me; a captioned picture of him laying with his dog on the couch, “at least someone cares about me,” and another post asking all of his contacts to tell him something good about him; a one sentence response to Bob after his passing, “I feel you but you could’ve called me bro,” and the more I read and re-read these posts the more I despised myself for not seeing the signs before it was too late; where I once needed to know what Bob had been thinking, I found myself overcome with the raw pain of hopelessness and loneliness I knew Mark must have felt at the end; I was there at the abyss’ edge with the ghost of a friend and the familiarity of the abyss washed over me; I had to shake it but I couldn’t; we had babysat his now four fatherless children; I had given him rides when his car was broke down; I had told him in an IM when he looked for validation on Facebook that he was a good man and that I had a great amount of respect for him; it took me two days to get to the point where I wouldn’t just break down crying at the mere thought of him or at the latest Facebook posts; I had gotten closer to the abyss’ edge than I ever had before, but I learned a valuable lesson, that I remain unbroken…perhaps even stronger having faced those demons; the deep lows and the amazing highs give me the breadth of reference that not only makes me who I am, but allows me to bleed upon these pages unabashedly; life goes on;

Immortality

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Most of us, if not all, are afraid of what comes next…the big next.  Now, I’m not going to get mired down in a philosophical treatise on the afterworld or reincarnation, rather I am going to center on the simple act of leaving the life you know behind.  Death waits for us all, whether we want it to or not.  We worry about the state of our affairs, “who’s gonna support my loved ones, who’s gonna take out the garbage on Monday night,” and so forth.  The question that burns the deepest is, “how long before I am completely forgotten?”  At least if I am remembered, in some way, then I live on.

Those of us that blog, do so for certain reasons, like catharsis, or sharing beautiful moments, or introspection and trying to understand what it is to be human…reaching out with this to say that we are not alone.  We read the words of others to experience their human condition and to see not only what makes us different, but what unifies us as well.  Beneath all that, I think, that we yearn for immortality through our words.  Many of the bloggers I see have already published books, and in that alone deserve our respect and gratitude for adding to the chronicles, while some of us (yes me) are still finding our voice with hopes of one day writing the next Great American Novel.  Is that too much to ask?  If I can string the right words together, in the right sequence, I can live forever.  It’s wizardry.  We are trying to cast a spell, but if we do it wrong we could find ourselves lost in the oblivion.

This carries a lot of weight.  I have always allowed fear, more specifically the fear of failure, to paralyze me into inaction.  If I do nothing then I haven’t failed yet and the possibility of success is still there, but if I try and fail then the dream dies.  Now with age comes wisdom and I have learned at the intellectual level that this is false, that we learn from our failures and can always try again, but at the subconscious level I am still scared shitless.  A prime example of this fear induced paralysis was, for me, going to college.  I didn’t go right out of high school.  I went to work through temp agencies, at warehouses and factories and found myself having nervous breakdowns that bubbled up when I would think, “is this my life, am I stuck?”  I had always wanted to go to college, but the fear told me that if I go and I flunk out, then factories and warehouses will be all that’s left for me.  It took every ounce of my resolve to fill out the paperwork, but in the end…I flourished.  I loved it.  I wish I could be a career student to this day.  Now I won’t get into the irony that I am now employed at a factory in a managerial position, as it would change the tone of this entirely.  Rather, I am going to talk about hope.

As most of you know, I am now the proud father of a beautiful almost-five-month-old son.  Now, as much as he can serve as a wondrous distraction, he has also given me my immortality (at least that’s how I see it).  He looks so much like me that it’s like having a window into my own infancy.  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of my future self sending my current self a letter that not only explains what’s coming, but the right decisions to make to get there…perhaps this’ll be a future post.  Now I know this concept seemed a fantasy, but it will happen…not for me, but for my son.  I am the letter from his future and hopefully with my help he can make the right decisions and avoid certain pitfalls.  Okay end of tangent.  This newfound immortality means that it isn’t all riding on me becoming the next Stephen King.  I can begin to write with a sense of insouciance.  The weight has been lifted, by the hands of a 17 pound, almost-five-month-old mini-me.

So, watch out world…here I come!  Right after I change his diaper and I figure out a new way to  make him smile and laugh.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I started a new job about a month ago and I’m really enjoying the change of pace, the learning/growth opportunities and having moved out of the food manufacturing sector and into electrical component manufacturing sector. I’m on 1st shift, which is great, but would be better if my wife wasn’t working 2nd, as I don’t see her all week. 

Today I erased a handful of social media apps off my phone, including Facebook. I truly feel giddy with liberation or, perhaps, it’s low level anxiety at losing that outlet/connection. I’m not entirely sure. 

I quit those apps to be more present when spending time with my son and to hopefully spur more creativity. The only social apps I kept are writing/creativity related. I’m keeping this short, so raise your glasses for a toast to change and to creativity! 

If anyone has done the same or similar…don’t hesitate to comment on how it went!

I’m radioactive!

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Standing in the back aisle of the local Kmart, I came across a test kit for determining if your microwave is leaking.  My first thought was, holy crap…my microwave could be irradiating my beautiful single-wide trailer, with me and my miniature schnauzer included!  My second thought was, I wonder if I concentrate really hard if I can get this little tester to light right up.  Stay with me…this is how my mind works.

I picked the tester up, it had a shiny black surface, like vinyl.  The packaging showed an ominous radioactive symbol, a bright red, right in the middle of the area that now appeared black.  Apparently the tester detects the microwaves and the symbol appears, like magic…like finding a pure white, wooly caterpillar–foretelling of a long hard winter, but in this case sterility and bleeding gums.  Again, the idea of concentrating my mental energies on this tester, to bring the symbol out of the black depths had goose bumps running up my neck.

I clutched the tester in both hands, pinched between thumbs and pointer fingers, like someone reading a winning lottery ticket for the fifth time.  I concentrated on the area where the symbol should be, my eyes almost crossing.  I held it about six inches from my face.  Five seconds in and I swear I could see a ghost image of the symbol, like the lady of the lake rising from the depths–the sword represented my newfound psychic abilities. My pulse quickened.

If such a thing is possible…I concentrated harder, spurred on by the ghost image.  My eyes were slits and perspiration beaded on my forehead.  The faintest pink pulsed within the specter and what was once faint began to take form and showed clearly distinct lines.  My eyes widened as the symbol took full form–a phoenix from the ashes.  My heart pounded.  I glanced around to see if there was a witness.  I stood alone.  I frantically flipped the package over and read the small print.  What were the repercussions?

My eyes quickly scanning the fine print.  A bowl.  A bowl of water is placed in the microwave.  The water boils.  The boiling water creates heat.  Heat.  The tester measures heat.  Heat?!?  My fingers pinching the tester right where it’s affected by heat.  My shoulders slumped.  I was once again a normal citizen.  No longer a member of the mutant brotherhood.  I chuckled nervously to myself, wondering where this placed me on the MMPI.

Closer to Home, Father I Roam pt. 2 


In an earlier post, Closer to Home, Father I Roam, I talked about the loss of my father. I talked about our relationship, about his being supportive of my writing and how his passing affected me.

I talked about how I am embarking on an inward journey, in attempts to better understand him, creating some of the same neural connections…through reading the same books he had read. He left a map of his adventures–his Nook reader and a library of titles. 

I picked The Shannara Trilogy and was not disappointed. I’ll be the first to admit that I moved through the first two books slowly. It was as if I was subconsciously coming up with excuses to not buckle in and read, at least not nearly as often as I had in the past. However, I did really enjoy them, as they are definitely in a genre that I love. Now I’m not going to do anything close to an in depth book review, but simply say how the journey went and what I took away from it. 

I’m currently about 100 pages away from finishing the third book. I take it with me to work and inevitably I end up going down an internet-search-wormhole and make no use of my breaks, whatsoever. Irritated with myself I’ll return to work, vowing to read the next time. Some part of me doesn’t want the story to end, just like I wish my father’s story was still going on, I guess. 

My takeaway, at this point, is simply my seeing a parallel between my father and the Druid Allanon. He wasn’t really there at the beginning and until later in life he was kind of a mysterious figure that moved in and out of my life. Most importantly, he gave me my love for reading, which blossomed into writing and is the most powerful magic I know. 

I will try to push through the last 100 pages and then see what’s next. I hope to report back on this pilgrimage. I miss him sorely, but these breadcrumbs I’m following will not only bring about a deeper understanding, but will also take time…putting me closer to him in a more final way. 

To me, sharing a book with someone is probably one of the most intimate things you can do. It was, for a time, a life you lived and now, through your actions, they share that life. Share your lives with those you care about, my friends. 

I’m psychotic, er…I mean psychic.

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Okay, lets start with a mild disclaimer, that I’m not entirely sold on the concept of having psychic powers, but I have had some very salient, personal experiences with it. A more recent example reminded me of the previous ones, as I had purposefully tried to forget them and with good reason.

I was at work. I’m a 2nd shift supervisor at a factory, so I do a lot of running around making sure everything is running right and that everyone is following procedure (safety, good manufacturing practices, etc.). As I was walking I blurted out a line of dialogue from a movie I vaguely remembered, “…blew the shit out of our fruits,” which had absolutely nothing to do with anything I was doing at that moment—purely spontaneous, nonsensical muttering. The next morning I was scanning the channels and the title ‘Shanghai Knights’ rang a bell. I selected it and it not only happened to be the movie that the line of dialogue was from, but the very next line spoken was the one I blurted out, and THAT made me take notice.

Now I had mentioned how I had essentially tried to forget about previous premonitions and that I felt I had good reason, and I will get to that, but I will cover a couple innocuous examples first. Back when I was too young to be legitimately working, I had a part-time job at a comic book store. I stocked shelves, assisted customers and mostly read when things were slow—it was great. Well…I got into an argument with another kid working there at the time, and I became so frustrated that I got a headache. I told him that I was done arguing as I had a headache and he said, “That’s my superpower…I give headaches to people I argue with.” This being a completely normal thing to say, as we were both nerdy, comic book geeks. Pissed off, I blurted out, “Yeah, well…I popped both of the tires on your bike!” Now I said this to just get him out of my face, and he did immediately go outside to check on his bike. He was back in the store in a matter of seconds and basically called me an asshole. I was sure he was messing with me, so I went out to look at his bike and lo and behold…both tires were flat. I tried unsuccessfully to talk my way out of that one and was made, by the store owner, to walk my coworker home.

In high school, I had two real good friends, who were brothers. We were going to go hangout at a girl’s house, but Mikey, the younger brother, said that he shouldn’t, as he had to be back home for dinner or he’d get into trouble. I blurted out some insane scenario where he could tell his mother that someone stole his sneakers and because he had to chase them he’d missed his bus and didn’t get home in time for dinner. I was trying to be amusing, I guess. Mikey did end up going with us to the girl’s house and when he said that it was time for him to go catch the bus, she jumped on his lap and her sister pulled his sneakers off an took off running…locking herself in her bedroom. By the time he got his sneakers back he had missed the bus that would’ve gotten him home on time.

During that same school year I had a much more ominous premonition come true, one that shook me to my core. Now mind you, during this time I was skipping more classes than I was making it too and was in ISS almost every day that I decided to actually show up to school. On this particular day, I decided to turn over a new leaf and go to all of my classes, even the ones that I didn’t like. So I found myself sitting in my math class, hoping like hell that the teacher wouldn’t call me up to the board to solve a problem, as I was completely clueless at this point. The teacher called another student up and as he walked by I blurted out in the lightest of whispers, “You’re going to die.” Now here is where I usually get weird looks from people when I recount this story, but I assure you—I did not wish him dead…I did not want him harmed in any way. I didn’t really know who he was as we didn’t associate. The words simply spilled from my mouth without a single thought. Well, the next day the school canceled all classes and as I walked the halls I just kept seeing groups of students huddled together crying. I learned that a student from my grade, while playing basketball at a local boy’s club, collapsed and died almost instantly from a burst valve in his heart. You guessed it—he was the student from my math class. I didn’t tell anyone about this, certainly not anyone that went to my school. I was afraid that I would be thought of as a lunatic, I became afraid that I might blurt out something similar to someone much closer to me, so I buried it. I stopped blurting things out off the top of my head and became much more reticent. I thought before I spoke and if something did pop into my head…I didn’t blurt it out. Eventually I stopped having the urge to blurt out, until a few days ago, while walking around at work.

Am I crazy? Do any of you believe in psychic powers? Have any of you had anything psychic happen to you? Help me feel a little less alone…