Waking up this morning to find a stormy unforgiving Fall day heralding the imminence of Halloween, I am reminded of times past in what turned out to be my young adulthood. So long ago now buffered by the intervening decades a mighty assembly of nearly forty years previous, it leaves me in astonishment that there is anything that remains clear about specific incidents that make up my own narrative. As with so much in my life I feel caught between the first and third person in terms of the telling my own story. For someone so timid and sheltered as I the recounting of any incident sounds trivial at best as any anecdote with a lukewarm twist towards any discernible adventure of old long burned into the text of so many romantic novels. I can only hope to pull the jangling bones out from the back of the closet and if nothing else admire the thickness of the dust that covers the skeleton.
The verge of adulthood for me had come after the final completion of college. The close knit ties of family though nurturing had led in my own case to a persistent restlessness not unlike the proverbial kid in a candy store. I wanted a taste of everything I saw. The dislocation caused by this attitude had left me incomplete in the realms of higher education, career and romance. No sooner would I take up a vocation with the intent of following it to some form of conclusion then I would see another possibility heading the other way and drop everything and hop aboard in midstream leaving the former subject behind. This became maddening for those around me but I suppose in light of the ensuing years it was a reaction on my part of being too sequestered in a tiny world of my parent’s hopes and dreams? Whatever distinction I had in secondary school that had provided possible entry to a renown school of architecture was discarded to advance the whimsy of going to what turned out to be an exceedingly small small Florida community college bounding Cape Kennedy. That in turn was thrown over after an initial application for becoming some form of scientist closer to home. Then came the puddle jumping around various liberal art’s topics until I found myself in a state university studying various types of fine art disciplines. This too petering out before the consummation of a formal degree into a fast money occupation as a salesman. The culmination of these ramblings and the collections of acquaintances made and then left in my wake found me at a loss for a suitable direction half way through my twenties.
The watershed of finding myself abandoned by my latest girlfriend who wisely saw no future with a lackadaisical ‘hippie wannabe’ high school bus driver who tinkered with building high speakers. A washout in my mid twenties, I pulled myself out of the lethargy of tepid bathtub water and took long walks. Not to be outdone I applied to and went back to another state university and with some diligence completed my college degree in art. A small milestone by some reckonings in light of so much wasted effort resulting in being behind my contemporaries by several years of idle rambling. And certainly something that was vastly appreciated by my devoted parents who had sacrificed much in relative silence to support my mercurial whims towards the goal of having a properly educated son. My ‘Renaissance‘ sensibilities had kicked in and like all ventures of young men had resulted in a ready job waiting right out of school in the position of a free flowing designer of custom belt buckles. The fad of spin casting pewter ornaments being at its height at that time. I brought my schooling to bear and made quite an impression on my boss, a fairly successful regional entrepreneur who had built up a small company out of the back of a small storefront into a million dollar plus operation. No small feat at the time. I had the occasion to play the talented ingenue given the privilege of hiring an assistant who I was to find out was a great companion but a rotten craftsman. We both had many adventures together over the succeeding months taking advantage of the loose organizational structure of the operation goofing off as much as we could. Often too many times. I was brought home to enjoy evenings and weekends with his girlfriend in some antiquated wooden frame walled domicile within the real estate haven of a former slum area of the big city.
The restless desire for new vistas that he and I and his girlfriend shared in the dark recluse of the back of that shack motivated us to decide to pack up and leave for the mountains of Colorado. Once again I recall my restless spirit bubbling up. Its effervescence spiriting me away to a new unspecified minor adventure into the semi-civilized unknown. The three of us finding the Colorado Aspens changing colors above the 9600 foot mark before our ski bungalow apartment located far out of Breckenridge. The short spell of a month of communal habitation without income fast knocking the illusions of freedom, it seemed that I was the only one capable of finding and holding down a steady job. Early mornings without he rise of the sun I would be found shoveling several feet of snow off the newly contracted framework of some local home building in anticipation of swinging 16 ounce hammer to bear on 16 penny nails to drive them into frozen plywood. I found both my hand and my ire swelled each evening by the fact of my companion’s loafing idleness complimented by the flow of revenue from the cornucopia of my day’s labors. A month more and I had decided to jump what seemed to be a sinking ship and move on to an opportunity located in the Emerald Empire of the Pacific coast with an old high school chum.
I can recall leaving early in the morning of the 31st of October with stable weather conditions and some 1,244 miles to be driven in an old rusty beat up suburban station wagon that served as my getaway car. Once again a sense of my own betrayal of both others as well as self descended upon me producing that same old sense of impending loss and desolation. The melancholy balanced by the excitement of another unexplored vista providing a utopia of unexplored possibility waiting at the end of the drive. My journey was as spontaneous as it was unplanned and I felt compelled to continue unabated without stopping for anything more than gas and the release of my bladder. As journeys go, it was a happy one spent howling along at the top of my lungs to the popular tunes of the day as one remarkable vista after another of the American West swooshed by. In some ways I felt as if I was in a small mobile viewing auditorium drinking in these fantastic sights and at times feeling ‘over-served’ by their magnificence. There was also the impression of a certain covertness of wanting to stop and devour everything along the way in terms of the experience of knowing the many flavors of passing landscape. It wasn’t till I arrived over the borders of Utah and became dazed by the transition of four lane to eight lane highway curlycues that I began to wonder if I would get lost in the landscape. Increasingly, along the way, I began to see visions. Strange little creatures in fantastic attire prancing along the roadside sometimes entering shadow and others silhouetted by the descent of the Sun. It was as if those tales of an Eastern Sleepy Hollow had a Western counterparts. Ones that only the savagery of ancient native Americans could fully comprehend. And perhaps were wont to prey upon tenderfoots like myself.
A strange sense of inner terror began to mount as I began a straight line passage across the lifeless Oregon desert in the dead of night. The sky was filled with trillions of tons of burning bright stars. Their combined weight seemingly squeezing down upon the landscape to produce objects of menace to the unwary traveler so foolish to be caught alone within their midst. I found myself traveling ever faster than ninety down the moonlit two-lane fearful to even edge my head into a tilt to peer out the driver’s side window. If anybody had ever asked me, had I thought I was being pursued by some monstrous entity or a UFO, I would have quickly sworn to the affirmative on that count. It seemed that those hours found me a completely solitary presence upon that road that night. My sense of unremitting angst relieved only by morning and the appearance of the Cascades rising up from the distance. The fairyland realm of tall evergreens and pines captivating in some sense of Disney-like magic soothing like a balm those unrelenting waking minutes of waking nightmare from the evening before. As I pulled into town, I realized that I had traveled unadvisedly as any character of Washington Irving or Edgar Allen Poe with a reckless haste that for the fickleness of fate could have led to an unlikely conclusion. Though my unease to abandon the call of inner wanderlust may not have diminished over the years, that particular Halloween stands in memory as one that had impressed upon me the possible outcomes from temporal follies entered into too precipitously or unwisely.
The coolness of Fall had descended upon the smallness of suburban neighborhood streets. A rapid transition to night was now more ever present as the ecliptic tilted both material body and earth further and further away from longer hours of access to light. He walked down the sidewalk carefully avoiding mysteriously placed dried brown dollops of occasional dog litter reliably deposited since previous saunters by the pet of persons unknown. As usual there was not a soul in sight. The only visible evidence of human habitation in a mix of ‘big box’ store bought and scratch built effigies consisting of ghouls, goblins and faux body parts. It was now just over a year since his own mode of existence had been denoted to one of absolute solitude. His pace was remarkably fast for someone whose knee joints continually ached with every step and whose midsection bubbled infernally from what could be easily assumed to be colitis. The television in his lounge had been turned off all day a quarter of a mile back and he had an opportunity to fully appreciate just how physically off kilter he really felt. A weekend of passive activity ‘minding the store‘ at the arts building within the cigarette shaped gallery housing his own past best works had dramatically shifted his aged bodily rhythms. An inadvisable choice, in light of the wear and tear that some six decades plus had imposed upon his deteriorating frame. He was in his second period of outdoor exercise for the day walking the expected course for a combined total of fourteen blocks back and forth. Various houses were past, each with their distinctive flourishes of homeowner accomplishments considering the sequestered personality of their phantom owners. Not one of the domiciles lined up on parade stepped out of line in offering a visual alternative in unkempt appearance of its landscaping or painted exterior. Those old soul holiday inflatables announcing the end of the year’s necrotic festivities looking as fresh and maniacally friendly as if they had been newly purchased.
The warm stained glass glow of the failing light of the Sun slowly recused itself from the late afternoon bringing a sense of ominous melancholy. He was no stranger to the regular weekly tread of this exact same course over the preceding years. It was all too easy to remember back to many sets of previous footfalls recounting various milestones of his past existence. Easy enough as well to imagine for an instant to be back in a former time when he had a mother and a father and even a sweetheart to eventually return home to. Now these were only ghosts of his narrowed imagination all of the visions completely insolvent and in many respects hard to contemplate having ever been incarnate at all. A collection of mental fantasies picked up along the way in life. Idle musings from a persistent offbeat repetitive dreams that had broken through the veil of his waking consciousness. There was of course evidence to the contrary strewn about his current living space that suggested much to the contrary. Too many old pictures and useless possessions stacked up that threatened to rise from dormancy to provide a past experience or two if one allowed the hazard of pondering them too long. Items that collectively produced a sense of well being that allowed him the fiction to feel the faux stability of being in a ‘home‘. Something that, left to his own devices for all the preceding decades, he had so restlessly avoided to create himself.
The light had now defaulted to a darkening lack of color and contrast. The sky above the growing shadows was now revealed to be a filmy soupy texture of clouds ‘mix mastered’ into a solid mass. A general vista not unlike what might expect over the rows of decrepit stone markers within a movie graveyard. Some impressions gathered from the night before in the garden of slumber were persistently nagging at him. Another unexpected dilemma of absurd proportions of being precariously stranded upon a gigantic truck of some five or six stories above the pavement with his dead mother. It’s overbearing mass testing the limits of a massive concrete bridge that it partially overlapped. Recalling with a sense of dread the infirmity of his aged mother’s arthritis he watched her climb down into face of this vertical pit without hesitation. Locked in horror wondering from to moment to moment if she had made it safely. And whether he had the aplomb to follow her just at readily down the slippery stone face? A sense of abject loneliness struck him like the sudden weight of a heavy load of bricks tumbled ‘en masse‘ upon his rounded shoulders. Physically, he was no longer the same man that he too easily pretended he was. It was simply a matter of speculation of how much longer in this present tense of despair he would physically last? One didn’t need to be a medical specialist to appreciate that a diminished capacity in the will to live, generally resulted in an early death. Though he was not wishing this upon himself he was resignedly ready for some unexpected terminal diagnosis.
The increasing proclivity of private front lawns each of same so vigorously involved in the celebration of the onset of death was becoming increasingly troublesome to him. What had happened to the larger culture that it was all too willing to recede from the boundless hopeful energy of former era’s to promote one hawking inevitable destruction? Were its current inhabitants unconsciously surrendering to their worst fears as scrupulously egged on by a pernicious electronic ruling structure? Painted Styrofoam tombstones and disjointed collections of plastic bones were scattered in profusion on each of these intervening front lawns with the hollow gaze of empty skulls and ragged looking demons standing guard. “What was the point of all this?” he repeatedly asked himself. There was one house in particular on the next block that rubbed him the wrong way. He had gone there earlier in that year out of curiosity as to the contents of an estate sale . In the course of the tedium of treading through the many disjointed artifacts of its deceased owner, he had picked up the gist of a life story of a woman as music teacher who in the course of her existence had dutifully raised a family along with their offspring while spreading her talents to the surrounding community. It was a silent narrative of so many objects collectively forming sentences and paragraphs. Each of the room groupings elucidating long forgotten experiences that her dead lips could no longer provide the life force to tell. He had purchased an inexpensive guitar from the sale. As the months after the sale drifted by, he had noticed a slow dissolution of many of the the remaining items salting small dumpsters and truck beds in the houses’ driveway. The final infamy had come recently when the empty house had been redecorated with a giant spider web extending across the front lawn and Hollywood themed mannequins extended their bloody arms from the otherwise vacant picture window promising mayhem to the passers by. A grotesque sort of memorial that offered little but scorn to the memory of a woman whose century of omnipresence had provided life for her children and grandchildren! The worst of it now waited ahead in a short row of flimsy tables that had been recently placed along side the sidewalk with a corrugated sign proclaiming “FREE!” He had to ask himself, “Was the honor of a person’s life so inconsequential as to be handled so cheaply?”
He unconsciously unzipped his light jacket to dispel the rising heat resultant from his ire and was hit be a short blast of cold air. His own burden of sorrow was pushed further within. It seemed pathetic that the current generation of media calloused youth could so easily disregard what once might have been a common sense form of simple respect? His own greatest recurring fears of the sum total of his life being tossed carelessly in oblivion despite so many years of trying to find some small sliver of purpose for his tireless efforts to succeed were revived. The current winds of culture blew cold in cruel self-obsessed perspectives where no one thought further afield beyond their own desires. Yet earnestly believing the opposite was true? He surveyed his own set of lingering regrets in terms of his own losses and found himself equally to blame. That ever present ‘Golden Calf’ of technology combined with reckless youth had deprived him of maturing the empathy of a normal human heart. In his anger, he could only wish the same curse be bestowed on these thoughtless current generations for the same crimes that he was now condemned to suffer. The end of the year as signaled by the descent of the dwindling hours of daylight seemed to harbinger the end of civilization as he had known it. All those former times of a common feeling of cheer, hope and anticipation of youth had been leached out of his being in favor of the banality of the inevitable conclusions of an all too finite life. The spirits of the dead would not be ignored, it seemed, and would take their revenge by stealing one’s soul leaving only those lifeless possibilities afforded to a ‘straw man’ appreciation of human existence. His footfalls continued below him now enclosed in numb comfort pillows of the approach of another oblivious night.
Everyday ironies abound in the school of the damned. In the last days of the expansionist empire now halted in mid step by the commercial exploitation and exhaustion of the surface of the orange. This moldy colony at loggerheads with its own base obsessed with imposing a system that defies common sense. What can one expect when there is no predictable future left to fuel the hopes and dreams of those so afflicted by the big popular lies. You had better understand human nature and its evil twin, animal desire as the DNA code that is relied upon to stunt your sense of self by the big boys and girls that hold sway over this land. We are all merely their pigeons flapping our wings impotently as if that means anything or will change anything back to what we were used to before. The only reason behind it being, because that is what we do!
Maybe things have not been so easy around here? Too much pretense unsupported by observable fact. Walking around self-important and puffed up! There is really not much to crow about beyond the marking of time. Machines are taking over our jobs and we are warehoused as obsolete. The operators are becoming fewer and fewer leaving only two states of being. Boiling anger and boredom in the unsanctioned capitols of the unseen and unwashed. Hands out ever expecting help and the expectation of understanding for every crime no matter how venal for the perpetually extenuating circumstance of being alive. Tossing curse words and forbidden slang as if they were self-complimentary. And always ready to demonstrate their ire by making a molehill into a mighty precipice to toss their opponents off of. As if everyone not enjoying their unenviable condition has been mandated by some higher power to endure their endlessly bad behavior.
Downtown, checking out the local bar nearby, next to this unenviable work. The same old mindless sports talk conveying nothing, meaning nothing standing for idle conversation and a demonstration of concern of some dubious sort. That everyday mumbling modicum of mundane career isolated boredom. Drinking a beer at noon on a workday, or partially so. There is a creepy voice at the bar’s far end filling itself with hopes of taking the bartender home in the metaphysics of their own fantasy fancies’ flight. Their patter evidencing a primordial inability to advance into adulthood by disgorging the obvious disregard for the facts supplied by the squawk of the screen perched on the wall. The candidates all crooks in a cynical drama to justify the crooked one-armed bandits at voting time. The wrong place to eat or drink as this place reeks of the sticky sour poorly washed stench of lye.
Halfway home, fifteen minutes till the bus arrives. Alone in the dark with not one else to give it a single thought the only kindness possible being a crew to pick up the body. The two-legged scum haunt the corners and shadows looking for an opportunity that I refuse to provide. Not feeling well! A heavy set of chronic fatigue has set in like a restless dog nipping away relentlessly at my weaker parts. Blood clots? Heart? Cancer? Or, just plain tired of the recycling sense of that same old ‘all’? A very selfish man wanders past. Maybe it’s all-wrong? And there is lots more suffering ahead? One begins to wonder about the physical dimensions of life. Was there some other un-thought of kind of entity that decided to take a collection of cells and make it a transmitter eons ago? Did the whole project get away from their lofty sense of science and the entire globe become populated through the unexpected possibility of reproduction to develop what seemed like consciousness of the self? Is it all a matter of that driving force behind the mental over physical? Some form of transfer to a remote location? Will over being? A cacophony of vested viewpoints ever ready to countermand the discussion away from independent conclusions. Entry points from discrete opinions carved only so far into diorite manifestations left here and there by our ancestors.
Dreams of obsessive issues of life out of alignment predominate. What key is left that fits? The inescapable conclusions obvious to others but their rationales completely hidden from me! Semiotics of life expressed the most obvious of choices. The aging process increasingly becoming a plumbing problem! Minutes tick by like seconds meaning more now than in those carelessly spent within a younger era. Soundly planted like a tiny turtle in a terrarium. A plastic palm tree within the middle of the compound standing in for everything once sired by nature. Suburban assholes not knowing the difference between the two, nor caring! Selfish well-practiced ignorance! Pleasure or despair is a matter of your own disaster. No one else is responsible. Old age is the expected form of slow unremitting dissolution. Embrace your destiny! Perhaps we ARE transceivers? You can spend your time crying out vigorously from the edges of the shadows. Be on public view from security cameras. Help make the new clichés. Just another guy with a sweatshirt having a hood on it! A watch cap ensemble touting that you are another one in training.
If one bothers to compare ones experience of actual life in the context of the surrounding culture as the decades advance it is easy to be taken aback by the attitudes of enfranchisement that abound in those that were once classified as being on the ‘outside‘. Very little seems to be easily shared by the various incoming groups and their longstanding residents in the way of the prevailing common sense ‘inclusiveness‘ of being an American. That is unless you take the motif of one of the prevailing ‘Big Box’ style shopping environments and apply the model to both everyday life as well as politics. The measure of affluence as compared against the apparition of poverty being signified by the type of aisles and the goods offered on the shelves within them. You can quickly take the ministrations of the municipalities and state and federal influence out of the equation as anything more than administrators conducting the way in and out of the parking lot to any given equivalent form of cultural commerce. To summarize the experiences takes little imagination beyond personal experience. A few that shed light upon the current American mentality might go along the lines of the following. Arguments of a legal fashion to this end could be made in terms of the relative level of everyday influence of the laws of the sea versus the laws of the land in terms of the relative amount of impact each has upon daily existence.
At the lowest rung are the small hole in the wall ‘convenience’ style arrangements that stock a very limited number of goods that mostly appeal to satiating one’s immediate desires. This could include heavily taxed ‘sin’ items like alcohol and cigarettes but equally damaging corn syrup ridden steroid packed inventories that of little long term benefit. A sort of ‘live for the moment’ mentality that takes not heed of the consequences of tomorrow.
The next rung up would include large warehouse style enclosures that corral herds of ‘everyday’ and ‘durable goods’ based products various categories of everyday household needs. The vast amount of floor space corralled behind ‘fences’ leading ultimately to the chutes of checkout stations where the customer is processed.
Another step up would come in smaller middle level chain based franchise stores that specialize in offering a greater variety of goods in a specific category of same where the shopper’s sense of discrimination for quality versus quantity comes into play. Here the interaction would demand that the buyers be well-heeled enough to assent to paying more for items that they could reliably obtain for less in the echelon just below.
Another intervening level between the previous two would be in the form of another form of big box operations that offer goods of a supposedly higher level of quality but for a slightly more discounted price. The inventories shifting and the longterm availability being questionable and customers being encouraged to buy in bulk to obtain their savings.
The highest level of service would be strictly on a level of personal service that caters to the daily circumstance and whim on an individual basis of its customer base. Here price would be no object and the attitude being if you have to ask the rationale behind the high cost of goods then you should shop elsewhere.
Wherein the previously well-ordered civilized states of Europe of recent centuries had their castes ordered in estates by the hegemony of a ruling class, the current motif is administered by the manner of the distribution of goods. Those who wish to court the fiction of being potentially upwardly mobile tending to shop online and incur the penalty of high shipping charges and exorbitant local taxation as a factor in return for their indifference to more conventional means. The fact that almost all avenues of commerce are open to any citizen with the physical means to engage them we have a strange form of democracy. Those of limited influence remaining cash and carry. Those of entry level acceptability being sanctioned by commercial regulation of corporate entities to work within their credit limits. And of course, those few with a solid longstanding foundation of wealth allowed to pretty much operate however they wish within their strata. The idea of nationality or cultural identity sublimated by the current availability of specialty goods afforded to each strata at any particular point in the appropriate buying season. The onslaught of globalism might more accurately defined simply as another Utopian form of corporate run hegemony. Their governing adage remaining,
“Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.”
He had spent the day before going through some of the old stuff in the apartment. Wasted a Saturday cleaning out some old back closets and doing a mental triage as to what was to follow. What was to be cast away next. The implements were simple, a forty year old coffee urn and punch bowl still unwashed after some for gotten event of a quarter of a century past. He looked at the date on the crumbled newsprint stating August 29th 1990. He had to wonder what had occasioned the celebration as it was two months past my own wedding ceremony. The one that had fallen flat by the following Fall. It had been a year since his mother’s death and the lifting of responsibilities that neither the state or a local nursing home would have thought to afford. She couldn’t nor could he resist. The legacy of an old condominium stocked and overfilled with odds and ends shelves and closets overflowing took almost the previous twelve months to refine. A lot of junk made the ride down the elevate to oblivion in the dumpsters located in the garage. Boxes of it. The basics remained slowly losing their power to convey the sense of what had once seemed a family unit but had defaulted now a bunch of fading memories and yellowing photographs. Like any reptilian species its outward appearance was insubstantial to convey its vulnerability and an impression was increasingly becoming apparent that all these items would soon lose their sentimental value and be de-possessed. The room would empty and act as an introduction to a number of same in the times to come. If he lived that long there would never be comfort in the illusion of a happy home again.
He got up from the easy chair later that day after putting in some time staring on the mantel piece full of photographs. Uninspired in the efforts and a little bit wobbly not so much from oversleeping but a chronic lethargy. For weeks now, he hadn’t felt himself. It was hard to summon up energy for what had once been the toss off a trivial mundane chore. The laundry lay in lifeless confusion stuffed haphazardly into a white plastic crate supported by equally cheap black casters. An artifact of the past now demanding recognition as once of the last regular instruments that his mother had interaction with. The same old leather strap that had originally started out a stylish existence some several eras back as a belt was roughly knotted around its handle. Its misuse some unconscious form of careless disrespect for an era her soon had enjoyed but she had no use for. The last several years of her life saw a transition of responsibility between them in terms of weekly chores. He had refrained from tugging his own soiled linen in it but pulled along her own to the laundry room at the far end of the hall. Since her passing he had adopted it as his own. He unloaded the crumple of faded rags that composed a significant part of his daily wear and pondered who had first tightly tied the belt on the cart’s end? Who’s idea had it been? Her’s or his father?
He went on extricating the individual garments briefly checking the pockets. His reward for his efforts being two quarters that were promptly inserted in the machine’s pay slot. The coming Monday, these same machines that they had all had grown accustomed to would be replaced by new ones that the quarters would no longer fit in. The three empty slots were duly filled from his own pocket and slammed into the soap filled washer. He looked about the room and wondered how this small trivial space would appear with the new units. He could imagine that the now empty cart leveraging the entrance door open would all too soon be discarded without much of an afterthought. Another heirloom of no great consequence to the history of man that could no longer evoke so many memories of those shared daily routines where he washed and she folded. The absence of all these items in total would leave a void of experience where before there was an ability to convince one’s self by the fact of their sum total that their original owners were simply away in another part of the space for an instant or two. Something to convince one’s self that somehow they still equally existed in fact and not just in evaporating memory,
He took the laundry locker key from his pocket on returning down the long hallway to the apartment’s kitchen and dropping it into the narrow counter top drawer where it had been traditionally kept. A few randomly misplaced double A batteries rolled about deeper within and he felt himself ponder if they were his? The odd ritual of repetitive realization that everything now was at his own discretion, still an afterthought with the power of a brick crashing through a storefront window. The original owners were long gone and, “Oh yes.”, by default their remnants were his. The old Lincoln 4-door sedan and the entire contents of the place was his. All of it, by the standards of the day not amounting to a can of beans was his. He had to keep reminding himself. Was it depression? Or simply an active past of his own heart dying off? Not necessarily a vein or nerve but a small bit of emotion gone into permanent stenosis. At sixty-four years old, he was increasingly sleepwalking through his own existence. Losing touch with old friends and the few that might still be referred to as family living in a city that offered nothing but strangers.
Was he dying! “Maybe?” He had endured bouts of dizziness as of late. The kind of instant prognosis that was too rely offered by so many various self-aggrandizing websites pretending objectivity on the topic. “Ask your doctor”, always ended the message. Out of financial necessity he had started a job some twelve weeks previous that had led to satisfaction of the utilities and rent at the price of an unexpected level of physical fatigue. he found out just how much his abilities had suffered in the interim from his last foray into similar career choices. Was he dying? “Perhaps!” Did he really care? Indifference for his own existence had set in. A sort of lifeless form of melancholy that required no special effort or engagement on his part. No outside sympathy required or obsession needed. The previous chorus and mantra of the unfairness of it all in the manner of their passing, not so much to him but to them. The rage of his own guilt leading reliably to a few tears. All of it bundled up and now washed away. Its absence as significant as the sight of the plastic cart lodged under the towels in the dark at the bottom of the linen closet. Today was just another day reliable only that it would have a greater possibility at affording another of its kind offering no more or less than it already had. That modicum of never ending boredom.
His waistline had incrementally diminished. No doubt that same constant easily prepared diet had taken hold and brought him back from another intolerable added inch around an already pronounced android shape and the necessity to buy garments that flattered none. A certain amount of dyspepsia was contingent with the lack of menu variety. Not necessarily leading up to a need to disgorge the faux impression of unwanted fullness but to maintain the ‘status quo’ of stable. Did he want to die? “No!” Did he care? Not really. Death after all was another part of life. An eventual destination on one’s travels that was unavoidable and now not so unpleasant to contemplate. He had seen so much of it firsthand in the last few years that it seemed to lack its mystery. You were here for your few minutes of same and then, no longer. No one seemed to understand. What was the point if no one took the time to listen to you anymore? What was the point if you continually tried your best but reliably found yourself back where you started at the bottom of the hill? A failure! Failure not in the sense of having followed along studiously in terms of your own sense of right or wrong or what was worth doing. But a failure to attract the attention of others that should by all rights have acknowledged the same. Just another refugee on a raft somewhere upon a Sargasso sea of strangers unmotivated in an ocean of indifference. People whose life product was merely going along to get along and cared little for the niceties involved in those old arts of living of life. The laundry would get done by virtue of the periodic introduction of an ever ‘new‘ and ‘improved‘ type of instrument. One that offered the promise of clean and fresh at the expense of abandoning time tested rituals for new more convoluted procedures. It was after all, another way to stay busy and forget.
It is said by some that great writing comes out of a lifetime of suffering. A stack of contiguous decades of experience composed of indifferent conclusions and perpetual break even’s that lead to loneliness and right turns down left lanes of irrevocable repetitive singular conclusions. The whole notion of some personal grail quest being noble smacking of solipsism as the rest of the world of man remains equally indifferent to any other sense of despair outside of their own. They have churches for that. One easily postulates caught within in this mindset that the world around them is naught but a poorly controlled fiction drummed up by their unconscious. An inherent fiend of being let loosely the light of day to play nasty tricks. The accompanying fantasy in place that everyone surrounding these daily dramas is simply another bit player summoned up by those same pernicious impulses. Ones that often afflict many of those with too much time on their hands or too much useless daily clutter piled high on their desks. It seems that as long as the conventions of grammar and punctuation remain in force, that anyone possessing a pen or computer workstation non-plussed by direct observation or personal experience is pretty much free to churn out a plethora of parenthetic mush. The only modern distinction designating the crown of works of genius being a the habit erring on the side of proclivity in the number of pages produced.
The horizon of the western sky was a incrementally drifting stain of Prussian blues diluting salmon oranges quickly settling into the brightly void. The phone stood silent on the corner table beneath the picture window. The phone had stopped ringing many months before. Like a miniature stele from ancient times it had become an afterthought remaining in place mostly out of a sense of family respect that was equally evaporating into the surrounding oblivion of uninterrupted silence. A room after all was simply the same designed to hide eclectic combinations of furniture within. And support an acceptable pretense that total sum of its assemblage somehow represented something distinctly eternal about one’s self. It was plenty obvious that one was simply another self motivating fixture restlessly active within the same inventory waiting for an undisclosed moment not too far ahead into the distant future waiting to be moved out into the scrapyard. Modern existence was an easily replaceable universe seeming no different than any other when the lights weren’t turned out. When dreams in the fitful night along with came vistas seemed unfamiliar to the eye. But each were motivated by a sense of longing to discover something remaining sympathetic to one’s standing experience but perpetually out of sight. The storehouse of possibility whittled down to repetitive scenarios gnawing at one. The pages turning within but never able to be fully revisited as before after being first visited. Those few scraps of their recollection remaining after leaving the edge of the bed insufficient to cover the waiting nakedness of a coming day. Thus the pretense of normal daily existence remained unaffected offering another period of routine activity within the interval before the night once again sneaked past the dying embers of the sun to lay claim to one’s attentions yet again.
Solitude was no answer. A game to be played out against the equally phantom opponent of boredom in waiting for something to happen. It had matured into a hard shell outer mantle to be borne in a manner that was every bit as expected as a clean white shirt or properly hemmed pair of trousers. The eventual end of this daily farce remains never honorable. Nor should one expect it to be! It’s a denial of life caught in the tar pit of an unexpectedly mundane favoring unrealistic expectations that nothing worse than before could be expected to come. Every normally unheard residual sound detected about this recognition an underwhelming chorus championing despair. A hellish cacophony of indifference eternally persistent, perfectly disguised as normal. The unexpected awareness of these moments sandwiched betwixt silent reverberations of an otherwise empty room.
When I was a child I made a vow that I would always protect my parents from anything in the universe that might be of harm. As a child in the transitional era of the introduction of television as a significantly influential part of the American family I was introduced to a constant world of chaos with cartoon-like personalities that expressed sentiments that were easily definable as either one thing or its opposite. People were sorted out around me to some degree based upon the conversation between my mom and dad as to their own expressed likes and distastes which I assimilated from the political vagaries of the designated ethnic groups of that time to relatives on either side of the aisle. I was the immediate ally of both. Though in adolescents due to the mounting marital strife caused by my father’s weakness for gambling, I tended to afford more support to my mother’s causes. The rough crowd my father hung with made me wonder if like some B grade fifties film noir wannabe movie, I would be cast in a situation where I would have to avenge his unexpected demise due to possibly being at the wrong place at the wrong time in the company of the wrong people. My mother’s strong sentiments in such matters fueled all manner of emotional divisions that though fading with time lingered well on up until their deaths.
The passing of those that brought you into this material universe and subsequently molded you is an event that inevitably cracks the foundation of your beliefs about yourself. Or permanently cements you inevitably into the stagnancy of never wanting to change them. The increase of years become storehouses for minor incidents that eventually become mythic tales pretending to explain other mysteries that remain unanswerable. The gods and goddesses now deposed to broken marble artifacts and yellowing photo albums become distant personages deposed from your on personal flavor of Mt Olympus back to the world of mere mortals. You feelings for them shift from that sometimes reluctant observance giving respect for better or worse to a great empathy for those quiet individuals who daily suffered the insecurities of fear and longing but never let it be shown. It becomes obvious that you as their offspring never really took the effort to really know and understand them, And now long after their passing realize that in your oversight you must live with the fact that there is much you could have understood about yourself! If only you had long ago swallowed your own pride taken the time to try. The world of long recited official family recollections fade and you struggle more and more to connect with anything beyond vague appearances in dreams that you can now clearly discern. Perhaps, that makes those final moments that you witnessed when their wasted physical forms exhaled for the last time and they became shadows all the more enduringly persistent? The true nature of existence having no sense of glory to send forth from the ever more distant past into the reluctant future of now.
Gladys Elizabeth Becker b. 11/30/1921 – d. 10/7/2014 – 1:57 AM
Ronald Jack Becker b 4/4/1926 – d. 8/21/2011 – 3:45 AM
He was a man for whom the pursuit of purpose had only uncovered its lack. The subterfuge of dreams had once more dissipated within the regular interlude of night. All he coulee be sure of is that he still had an automatic and two versions of a story to share to any interested parties within the cupola at the front of the old blue panel van. Funny he thought how things in both life and the mind centered upon a collage of impressions being pasted together as reliable recollection? That nagging feeling of some default sense of logic hidden within the meaning to his actions persisted from the sunset to its reappearance the next day. An annoying feeling that his personality depended upon staying in constant motion lest it be dragged down to incomprehensibility by taking time to rest.
He had reawakened into a reconfigured universe. A place that had been altered by the current oder for the new generation. Some place where there were no friends to count upon or attractions to distract but a place that was best suited within which to waste time. There were after all different rhythms in play. The hurried rhythms of morning and get to work. The rhythms of lunchtime and grab a bite. And the resultant rhythms of head home that might include both a sense or urgency and the necessity to bide time while there was sufficient space to accommodate the ride back home. But lodged between the three were sufficient gaps. Dead zones offering nothing more than an uneasy respite for the idle who could be taken as vagrant at the very worst or just simply a refugee far removed from societies’ grasp. Something like a derelict tossed to a sandbank at the bottom of the ocean by an ever-present storm whose chaos could offer no underlying reason save for the fact of its presence and the effect that it wrought upon the unlucky or the unwary. He settled into his seat like a worm ridden wooden hull of some ancient lighter lost in the loam at the bottom of the Caribbean. To his own inward tastes, his existence being one of something unique. A sort of unappreciated diamond in the rough.
The window at the front of the coffee franchise was well stocked with characters rushing to and fro. And he took ample advantage of their presence to ponder scenarios of his own analyzing interactions between himself and selected members of this random sampling in-flight towards their appointed tasks. Each permutation lasting perhaps seconds at the most and adding to the inventory of items that might possibly be modified in the future to make his own presence more amenable to the all to obvious prevailing demographic passing by. When surveying his own raison d’être he could find little beyond dusty shelves of old projects half finished stored by necessity for a later date of completion. The importance of each to him gone flat like a party balloon from an event long forgotten. He looked at his hands and found them empty of tasks. The minor details of bills and simple chores having been expeditiously handled. His breakfast well attended by his visitation to this place on account of their reputation for healthy sandwiches and other morning goods. The yogurt and forbidden pomegranate had been consumed. Every small detail having been attended to. His impromptu journey to the new office lasting less that twenty minutes at best. The propriety of action had been served and now he sat there alone within the small grove of empty chairs and tables naked to observation as someone singled out with nothing left to do. The ministrations of the employees of the establishment seemed even more frenetic in a hurried attempt to carry out their tasks around him. Replacing trash bags and restocking shelves with fresh product in anticipation of the coming lunchtime rush. The music pulsing overhead enacting a reconfiguration of mentality to one of unmet goals that promised to possibly be fulfilled by a redoubled commitment to these trivial mundane tasks. The intercession of the manager’s voice on the room’s other side like the crack of a whip bringing an uneasiness to the listener making them wonder if by the fact of its power that there was an argument taking place or simply some over-spirited conversation?
Everyone seemed to have a sense of responsibility assuring their place remaining unchallenged. Everyone but him. He feet somehow an absence of the same. Something that everyone else possessed but that he did not. A sense of place. The thought occurred to him . . ? Something like a tuber or a tendril arisen in storybook fashion from long forgotten mental vistas of his childhood that he was like a character from a bedtime story at a crossroads. His grail quest an elusive sense of abandon to let the winds carry him where they would without fear of possible consequences. A resolve to step to the edge and jump into things rather than let them pull him along. The building that he was soon to be working within was a leftover. An after thought of two decades or more previous whose creator had the foresight to construct in such a manner that it could pass as ‘new’ by the simple fact of the materials used to build it. Its granite trimmed expanse of glass and steel exterior rose vertically soaring like a third generation air frame attempting to compete with nearby later more energetic models. The dual in the sky to displace more empty space with the reflection of its sightless panels. He continued on past it to reconnoiter a possible path of nightly egress that would be needed to confound the lack of transportation availed when his classes finally let out. Old warhorses of power brokers of yesteryear rose up before him as he advanced towards the bridge leading out of the heart of the city. An opera house with twin limestone guardians longing on its massive lintel in the niche of a low lying gable. The giant layer cake of the once home to one of the town’s most influential journals an immense empty chair now all to apparent for its lack. It seemed obvious to him that this entire city had been repeatedly built upon the disused aspirations of previous generations. Just passed the bridge at the corner was a young girl of no more than twenty scrunched up behind a cardboard sign with a scrawled message pleading for help. Red haired and fastidiously neat in appearance this foundling was wholly out of place for her present occupation. He gazed at the beauty of her smiling face as he walked by expecting some sense of street savvy hardness to leap out at him with the usual demand for chronically pitiable circumstance expecting instant relief from his own sparsely filled wallet. He continued across the wide boulevard towards the municipal entrance of his quest. She was too young to be suffering the infirmities of finical insufficiency all to rampant with the aged. He instantly turned tail and walked back across the still empty boulevard to her.
“Is this for real and not some kind of experiment?”, he said. The young woman beamed back with a firmness behind her persistent smile that she was indeed without resources. The weight of the small bag carrying a sandwich that he had purchased for his lunch became evident. He extended it out towards her without hesitation exclaiming, ” If you’re hungry here is a sandwich completely fresh and untouched!” She reached out equally unimpeded and took the bag with a grateful nod. He found himself stepping back into the threat of traffic slightly disoriented recovering himself enough by the third step to demonstrate the common sense to take a studied look to the left for oncoming traffic. The fact of his exposed position remaining un-threatened by same silently emphasizing that the enchantment of the girl’s beauty in both personality and form had jarred him unexpectedly. He walked forth back to the opposite curve and made himself enter the building trying to expunge his own desires that at the age of six decades plus might be judged as unfortunate. The beauty that the young naturally possessed when applied to unfortunate circumstance could bring out equally the worst and the best of impulses in a man. He publicly expunged himself within the dialogue of an inner court pleading his swift indifference in leaving the young waif’s vicinity vindicated his innocence of any realistic guile. The animal within thought better of that show trial. It was impossible to dispense with the ‘what if’s‘ of offering his condolences and possibly some space in his home for what might in his wildest Hollywood cliche fantasies possibly occur. He exited the transportation megalith and started back along the direct of the corner to catch another glimpse of the girl. There she sat again the streetlamp as solid as a rock or stone. Still unrecognizable at his present distance he walked forward looking right and left as casually as possible his eves ever-present at the state of the girl a half a block away. In his guilty mind, he didn’t want her to see him as he ducked around the corner catching another glimpse of her actually eating the very item that now seemed possibly poisoned by the afterthought of his poorly concealed desires for some form of connection. The high window wall of two successively block long office building acted to visually curb his instincts to suddenly just appear before her again. “Why spoil a genuine act of kindness with the artifice of some ridiculous hope of the impossible?”, he thought as he tread further down the extended corridor to the train?
The train back from downtown had him seated within the usual lowlifes. The potent smell of weed and stinky boxer shorts fashionably revealed extended unreasonably far ‘ghetto style’. Some overly endowed overstuffed maiden sat high on a perch in a cubicle loudly practicing her street savvy explicative’s and double negatives in counterpoint with the that usual lack of awareness of the usefulness of verbs the some total of which stood in for the popular extinction of any previous claim to culture. He could not help but ponder the incongruity of the presence of the of the other young girl so beautifully crouched on the street corner somewhere far behind. There wasn’t much he could salvage from her conversation as he thought back upon it. Just the unspoken part of it that she was alone with no place to go in this strange town. Perhaps it WAS all a ruse. Maybe a quick way of making money by someone well aware of their own affect on jokers not to dissimilar to himself? Whichever it was, he could not help but take pity on her circumstance. He had given her his lunch. “It was for real!”, she had said when he asked if it was. The umbrella of his own illusions had finally been dispelled as of late. No longer the happy ruse of the comforting interconnections of family to provide much needed solace in his life. Just a nagging sense of insecurity about tomorrow that would soon come to harvest all the missed opportunities packaged together to assure an uncertain end. At least she had her youth and beauty to inspire others. For better or worse their power would guide her through the difficulties that the best or worst of their effect upon others would inspire. That convenient realm of illusion that had enjoyed for a lifetime had finally been dispelled and he found himself feeling equally vulnerable within this urban jungle. He had accomplished some kind of mission in the course of the morning rambling from the neighborhood jaunt to check out the new headquarters of the job that he had managed to get as a broken-down teacher in a school scheduled to close in the coming year. Someone who valued his own high aspirations at the price of a reasonably conventional life to end up riding the gossamer of perpetually unfulfilled promise buffeted about into the turbulence of steadily declining circumstance. That same derelict permanently settled at the ocean’s bottom as he had feared, ready only for decay. “She was a young thing, perfect in every way by comparison as only a nineteen or twenty year old can be!”, he repeated to himself obsessively once again. As beautiful as a young woman could be! Someone whose beauty could inspire the best and worse emotions in anyone. Her ivory mental image squatting behind that corrugated cardboard sign on a busy corner out of place. He couldn’t help but taste in his mind how good that sandwich would have been. The fact of same a pretense to afford an answer to those unwilling such as himself. Arachne extending a strand of silk to his own dilemma of habitual indifference to his own dire circumstance that now exhumed flew carelessly within the vagaries of a larger more dispassionate sense of fate. That perpetual sense of eternal Spring worn out and too quickly departed leaving only the bluster of an empty Winter.