10 February 2016

Now She Rides Shotgun (The Passenger)

The front passenger door opens and she slides into the seat. Not until the car is on the highway does it register what happened. Subtle and not subtle, like being caressed on the shoulder by an iron hand in a velvet glove. This new thing is not puberty, no. It is unmistakably, however, a threshold crossed.

Sunlight bounces diamonds off the snow piles, makes you dizzy. You were unprepared for that door to be opened. How did it get so far, so fast? This wee bundle you once carried like a little Easter ham through the hospital doors and into an astounding new life, now sits in the front next to you. When she sits up straight her head is not that far below the top of yours. It freaks you out.

This is not happening. Wait, it is. The evidence of your senses tells you in no uncertain terms. There will be no ignoring this little earthquake.

It crosses your mind that perhaps you have been out in the interstellar black for some time. Crossing the gulf at the speed of light and time passing so swiftly back on earth. Dilation. Relativity. Distances traveled beyond your comprehension so fast the disorientation upon arrival makes you feel as if you caught up with the self that was running away from you. Maybe this is the explanation for why you feel so old and new born simultaneously.

She makes you feel this way. Often. It is the way of your shared universe. To have played a role in the creation of her is both supreme accomplishment and fount of anxiety. You want the best for her. Your fear is that between you and the world, neither will deliver on that promise. The fishhooks of that fear spike your heart. The pain lends a frisson of urgency to the time you spend in her presence. "Will you get it right?" the imps ask at night as you fall asleep.

The door opened, she sat in the front seat. The pins rolled out from under you as the mass of years bore down on you in one brilliant and blinding moment. No longer is she the beautiful baby who had no comprehension of car seats and safe travels. No longer is she the luminescent toddler who chattered from the back seat. Probably never again will the rear view mirror reflect that quizzical look she gave you when you sang badly along with the stereo. Watching her now in the watery sunlight of a chilly February you rub 
with a trembling hand that certain spot over your heart. The warmth there tells you it will be okay. She is there. She is a blessing. She rides shotgun.

31 January 2016

Sunday Meditation #45: Eating the Home of Boyhood

Truth as revealed in a sandwich, found in a place unexpected. Roadside sub shop franchised, branded, and with all the chips from your boyhood. Stickball special they call it but you know it as the sandwich that meant you were home.

Home. Cheese, ham and capocollo with the usual suspects. And funny how it warms you up, maybe even brings a slight tear to the eye, because of that feeling of home. Nostalgia wasn't on the menu, not a condiment, not a cellophane-wrapped chocolate chip cookie next to the register. No, it was none of those things, and everything.

To find the past you left behind, the days of idle wonder in the summer and stultifying boredom (sometimes) in the school year, the laying on your back in the grass while falling asleep to the drone of airplanes...to find these things and more in between the bites of lettuce and onion, tomato and hot pepper relish, is a minor miracle.

Watching the wine vinegar and the olive oil drip off the bun, running down the heel of your hand you can give thanks that you aren't truly weeping in the fluorescent glare of the sandwich shop. Seeing yourself in the window glass under that dead-making light is a bit of a shock. So much older now. Unknown if you are much wiser.

What you do know as you wash down the last bite of the sandwich with gulps of unsweetened tea is that you were a young lad once. A young lad who only needed a favorite sandwich and a book to know he was home. He is there, you see. In the glass looking back at you and wondering who that fellow is, so near and so far from home.

24 January 2016

Magpie Tales 303: Our Ink Began to Dry


Image via Magpie Tales

Ghost in the corner of the eye as
Counselor's door smacked my ass
hollow boom of sanctioned freedom
imploded in a fevered skull

She followed me to the car
worn leather soles scratching a dance
on oily pavement, halogen mirror balls 
glaring up the garage park club

Keys of the beater I got to keep
papers on its roof, a sheaf
of lead ending our mutual bondage
heavier wings we have never flapped

At stall 19 we stopped, me to weep
she to spin, or was it my head?
in the light of release she blurred
into the hard grey of my new prison

13 December 2015

Magpie Tales 298: Dark Star


Image via Magpie Tales

What did we really think, back in the days of gold and glory? That the world would stop spinning at our command, our armor would never tarnish and split, our suns would not go out? Of course we did. Gold plated and bullet proof, we were. Legends in our own minds.

All of us except Ronnie, perhaps. He always seemed a bit wiser than us. No, wiser is perhaps unfair. Who understands wisdom when you never have had the world break your heart? Ronnie was less naive than us. We were unaware that his heart maybe was broken before we had the capacity to understand. Maybe that is why he left to put it back together before we even realized it would happen.

Jimmy died in the war protecting his mates. No surprise, he was always testing his bravery, it's what he wanted to do. I miss him. Caroline wove her way in and out of several time-wasters until she hit it big with writing. Funny how a story about a boy who grew up believing he was Satan could be turned into a living, with six novels and a screenplay under her belt. She deserves the accolades.

Lynn used to be a nurse until one day she decided that acting was better suited to her mindset. A beautiful mindset, it should be said, and after witnessing her perform you could understand the meaning of "doing God's work." I'll bet her patients never forget her, though.  Nathan is a lawyer now. Apparently a life of big suits and small cigars, washing the blood off of the money. Skill in arguing has its own peculiar rewards, I suppose. Too bad I lacked the ambition to follow his lead.

My body is on a river, milky brown like sweet coffee. My mind is somewhere between there and what used to be home. It floats in the gauzy humid air, the gnats flitting about my wet face. A tiny bee sips sweat from the corner of my eye. I hesitate to disturb it, this creature fulfilling its nature. I, too, sip at the sweat of the universe, all these years of searching.

We ease the boat upriver. The liquid swish of the oars ending in muted clacks of wood on wood. The guide murmurs something about stopping soon as nightfall is not that distant. He sounds far away and as if wrapped in cotton. I know we need to stop. But I cannot. The years fall away as layers of the onion. At the center is Ronnie. I haven't heard from him in years, but the quantum waves of his broken heart have disturbed the star in the center of mine.

Gravity. Starlight. A broken heart looking to be repaired in the fixing of others. He left decades ago to do good work, and in the process, broke a little of us. I keep looking, searching, scenting the fading trail laced across this world. He is out there, somewhere in the green hellishness of this life. Yet I think, maybe he is sitting right here in the boat. Maybe his heart is mine, lacerated, shattered, and looking to come home.