The old museum was on fire! Not burning in a conventional sense of the same, but being incrementally enveloped in a more undetectable smoldering sense. One where its unique one of a kind structure was smoldering from within. Some of my old friends and acquaintances with their pets still inhabiting within, I was anxious for their safety and tried to hurry along the progress of the evacuation of what they held dear before the entire wooden framework of its old eclectic five story structure might suddenly go from a slow charring consumption to burst into raging flame. A very strange feeling came upon me that I was trying to play a reversed role of savior. The task of bringing these people and their old world to safety, yet somehow performed in reverse. Acting like some backwards minded Noah shepherding these familiar others and their animals out of this place and over the small stream to find temporal safety standing on the other side of the superhighway. Yet, when it seemed all had been accounted for as having left this ancient edifice, now visibly being enveloped from within by smoke, I was compelled to return. I quickly challenged traffic to cross back over the buy six lanes of random cars and swiftly propelled myself back across the small bridge to re-enter this once all too familiar structure. The facade of the rotunda now having partially collapsed. Struck by a queasy feeling in my gut causing my lower limbs to tremble. Knowing that, all too soon, the entire store of my own long waylaid memories would be among the irretrievable casualties soon to be stolen within the building hazy atmosphere of the quickly charring timber. Compelled by some strange self-destructive force to crawl up a rough wooden ladder now before me irregardless of all consequences. My heart beating wildly as I mounted each tread into the oblivion of what had once been so painfully familiar. Now fearlessly disappearing slowly upward without hesitation into quickly descending cloud of dense smoke from those unseen flames several stories overhead right on the edge of bursting forth consuming all within the pitch black darkness. All just to search out what had so long ago been lost, yet up to then, had never been my priority to recover.
Long ago in ancient days when many mortals upon the earth heeded the omens of the stars it was said that some were fated to be in opposition in a manner much like the counterposed orbits of comets elliptically encountering planets. How like that would there be in my case with one Lady Barbara. An ever impressive solitary body hurtling the heavens possessing an attraction that far outclassed my own energetic elliptical abilities to bring it into my own circle. Our previous encounters some twenty years previous proving disastrous to both. My own psyche driven by some inexplicable desire to possess her live but ever fearful of being found inadequate and wanting of being exposed for the fool that I felt to be inside. My left foot every in conflict with my right as to where it should have been that like a bull in a China shop I could ever rely on saying or doing the exactly wrong thing in her presence. But like the ever ready moth prepared to singe my wings at any opportunity to tempt a fate that I knew was hopeless in my case.
Barbara you see was from a blue blood sort of stock. A product of the southern tip of an adjoining state where success in all things was not a matter of accident but long and careful breeding. Her manner always holding to a decorum that silently declared itself to be one of royal bloodline. Her own father no doubt a terrible and efficient monarch of the extended family for whom wealth and standing was a natural spring bound fountain who merely had to walk forth to bring forth a brook of prosperity. And Barbara herself her own kind of watch spring tightly wound form of erudite precision in feminine beauty in terms of heredity and immediate presence. Much like a Circe she could charm and entrance mortal man into swine with a simple glance. Most terrifying was the fact that whatever she tried her hand at she seemed accomplished at. Perhaps a curse in a stilted world of rich entrepreneurial minded suitors? One of whom that she had married and had a male child with.
My initial encounter with her own orbit being strictly egregious and out of sync in disrupting her standing as the head of an arts organization run by another who we had both respect and affection for. The next pass being more agreeable a year or two later when I had returned from another drama that had sent me half way around the globe in pursuit of another failed romantic quest. While I sun about at my limits far away she was violently crashed about by the loss of her husband to some unspecified infidelity. One that left their marks of his angry clenched fists upon her diminutive frame for a while after. The turn of events sending her tumbling into an unstable past to encounter another minstrel and to my view mountebank. An egotistical self-centered musician that was in my own myopic view of things a deadly rival to my growing desire to have her.
One is always tripped up by their own dreams seeming breaching the waking world in fables that one spins as they see them apparently coming to pass. An for a while as someone besotted by their own animal lust I was driven to obsession and a persistent attempt to woo her away. Yet at those times when her path perceived with him seemed to wobble it was I alone who at the last second veered away in trepidation. In fear it seems of being trapped and set upon by the potential of a monumental cosmic farce that would bring me to light not just as a silly fool overstepping their bounds but a dupe. And thus caught up more in my own hesitations I designed the funeral carriage that carried me like a walking corpse to my own eventual rendezvous to an inevitable break. My heart sinking leaden to the cold depths of an ocean of despair wrecked it seemed caught from that point on far below the surface of ever finding common course set to that boundless store of love I felt for her hopelessly remote.
Those otherworldly nightly tides of some two decades hence designing a scenario within which I was thrown up unexpectedly upon her shore once again. She a mistress of her own gallery and established in some safe and anonymous small town practicing her own form of fine art based expression. What seemed innocuous to the understanding of most as a simple series of finely upholstered booths being an analogy most dear to explaining her own sad star crossed inner self. Those unnamed phantom doppelgangers of my past actions accompanying me recklessly displacing the carefully laid cushions as if it mattered naught. A lightning bolt strike of fear coursing up my spine as I saw those old ways between us taking hold. The other artifacts within her museum in danger of similar disregard while I was caught up and helpless in a newly rekindled sense of loving regard. One by one at each station of her cross she providing a brief explanation of the meaning of a new carefully manufactured conundrum. Each in jeopardy of being trammeled in a way so uncannily similar to the very ways she had been in the past.
Dead suitors long ago notwithstanding in abandon of that solitary husband long dead in terms of her own regard. I inquired most awkwardly out of turn with the gravity of the moment as to the whereabouts of her son. That solitary offspring that had formerly been the centerpiece her own emotional conflict. He posed as a fleck of sand exposing her pain in being found wanting as a mother in conflict with the pearl of her own overwhelming ambitions that superceded his needs. The curse of my own folly coming back from the long forgotten shadows to trip me up once again. Saying the wrong thing and doing the wrong thing but worse yet showing a weak form of indecision in the commission of same. The fact of her own susceptibility for being seduced by the next waiting tragedy to burden her never occurring to me. Both of us condemned in our own ways to perpetual martyrdom that was a source of indescribable guilty delight. Her last disclosure of a final work in her hiring an unnamed unwavering assassin to posthumously eliminate all that had sullied with her. The chilly realization on my own part that somewhere down on the bottom of that list was inscribed my own name.
“It is what it is! I am what I am! And Popeye rules this earth! I found myself chided for what I had unconsciously dropped between the chair and the wall. The rest was a bundle of claptrap that didn’t make a bit of sense. Mist over everything both inside and out. Not what one could call an auspicious end to a years that had offered no hope out of a three year slump. It felt as if it was almost planned that way? Maybe it was! People didn’t behave the same in a way that I was considered useful . . .”
From that point on the rambling script on the pages was illegible. The small journal having sat too long in a puddle of rye found by the body soaking away subsequent thoughts for the duration of the night. Two slugs from behind after the front door was forced. The guy never knew what hit him. His brains splattered all over the television’s fractured screen. Whoever did the hit was good at their job. Get in, ‘pop pop‘ and then get out. Probably walking down the hall with a scarf pulled up around their head so no one could make him out through the gauntlet of peep holes leading to the stairwell. In any case they had plenty of time to make their escape during the twenty minutes time it took for the cops to arrive. I guess they weren’t in too much of a hurry as this building had a local reputation for punitive domestic goings on and noisy neighbors. It sure didn’t help that poor slob tipped over face forward with half a head. But then help for him was no longer an issue.
The police muscled past the broken door past the two ambulance attendance and their bailey. Someone else living on the premises had obviously braved sneaking out for a moment to take a peek and then called an ambulance before these officials had arrived. Maybe the three officers felt a bit outstaged? But their lack of haste in performing their duty didn’t show it. Professional detachment being demonstrated in going through the motions of collecting evidence and dispassionately documenting this crime scene. The neighbors on the floor were all standing behin their doors listening. Those unspecified eyes lurking anonymous behind eyelets inset into doors trying to find out more gory details about the homicide. Some wondering how all this fit in with a tenant that they had passed in the hallway exchanging customary greetings with. Someone who seemed incline to go out of his way to open doors and sometimes engage in polite conversation for a moment or two. Dead? Murdered? How could this be! Yet to roll the clock back before the recent New Years celebration the answer was obvious.
So he was a son of a bitch. You could see if in every woman’s eyes that he ran into. The trouble was that he knew it. And worse yet at heart he really wasn’t a stinker. Maybe it would have been better if he had been one. Hearts being tough as nails these days he wasn’t going anywhere that he hadn’t been all along. All the good she’s were ago long forgotten in the dust. He had more than his share for a while. But after a busted marriage some twenty years too late it really didn’t matter. If women were booze he could easily swear off them. But deep within a shell was a molten core that hadn’t quite cooled. The band played its foxtrot Negro inspired rhythms throughout the night. It was new years eve any year! Or maybe, no year. One that seemed to go on and on with little or no hope of change. At least the building would be buzzing with some tasty morsels of gossip to spread. The speculation about the past of the deceased would grow and confident theories about the true nature of the victim’s existence would grow from the seeming bedrock of sheer fantasy. A poor reflection of trite Hollywood narrative currently playing on the screen
Society as it had descended provided the answer. All the potent signs were there in a final end that was coming and was terrifyingly imminent! The rebirth of a new Weimar sense of Democratic Sachlichheit favoring any and all things divisive, offbeat or dysfunctional was upon them. A second coming of industrially manufactured decadence descending down hard upon them all. This morally helpless generation that was born into uselessness institutionally learning nothing from the past. And being directed by ideologically minded criminals whose only ethic was the robbery for its own sake from these same faceless masses in absconding with more and more and more! An underlying cynical vindictiveness passed down upon the children of the former masters in a demented world view wreaking vengeance for the sake of superficial identities created out of this venom alone. It was easy to see why his apartment was the most logical target amidst all the others what would soon provide a similar opportunity!
Considering the constant reprise of past nightmares of Utopian societies subsumed by two-legged parasites naturally banding together to inspire perpetual havoc? Taking all the worst qualities of mankind refined over thousands of years of an insect based hive directed life and then see it infect a new host generation that has managed to struggle to some new peak of initiative beset by these age old poisons. The stilted hegemony crashing the system with a frightening regularity only allowing a small portion of humanity to remain to struggle up from the ashes once again to find some new further unexpected epitome. The essence of human life demeaned to cattle and transposed to machines with every detail surveyed, recorded and inculcated into lifeless technologically inspired inventions that at best could only imitate life but never be truly alive. The rote procedures of the Police were completely outside the province of determining the true cause of the murder. The motive had been one of the oldest in the book. The law of the jungle! Kill all rival thoughts! Or be killed by them.
Somehow it didn’t feel like Christmas? He sat by himself in the recliner staring forth at the warm glow that the multi-colored filaments cast from their spiral wrap about the figment of the imagination called a tree. The old familiar prints lay silent and immobile upon the wall ahead in the dimness. The inside of each of their frameworks suggesting something familiar and recognizable. A cast of unrevealed characters resting below them on the deep shelf just below where a forest of pictures and artifacts played hide and seek with the eye. He nodded to himself ensconced in the hum from the two decade old refrigerator working hard in the apartment’s small kitchen. The silence recused further by the infernal pedantic precision of the old pendulum swinging wall clock. A small knock from the larger presence of the two and then the timepiece had won the battle and he could only hear it and himself. What was there to worry about? Though it was hard to conceive of it his child had outlasted many an adult? Another distant family member had just bit the dust the week before. And he was a decade and a half younger! Health in its most relative of forms was his curse. Sure there were plenty of small annoying conditions pasted upon his physical being like a collage. But their sum total was still inconsequential. In any case the prospect of his own demise was not what concerned him. The immersion into a growing abyss of loneliness did.
It appeared that while he might have broken a heart or two along the way he had more generally disappoint many more. So much so that his mailbox had dwindled down to an occasional recipient of holiday cheering. His lack of prosperity certainly not inspiring much interest in the female of the species. His few male friends having departed long ago into marriages, children and their own heart attacks. Not many cared to recall his name these days even with the prodding of the holiday season in full swing. So many dim faces bubbled up into his consciousness these days that bid him recall their names. One mystery mentally solved dragging up another visage along with a brief silent scenario of their association long past. The chimes out of sight to the left sounding a ringing three in their singular carillon toppling this interlocking lacy pyramid back into his dense skull. The resultant impotence of absolute silence once again stirred by the pendulum’s measured click. The muffled hum of occasional distant traffic far outside rising for a moment and then driving off leaving him to the empty amphitheater of his thoughts. Aside from the colorful light displays one might have thought it as being as dully resplendent as any other night. His head now self-consciously scanning the ribbon of the horizon outside that his reclining posture on the chair allowed. Nothing but the same old pinpricks of far off twinkling man made light.
The child within him opening his heart to detect what unfathomable presences might be in near proximity beyond the scattered prospects that his eyes registered in surround. Nothing? The sketchy events of the day prior being the only in resolve of his internal visual screen. The failing light of the Winter Sun approaching it apses as he walked in the cold air upon the sidewalk down the seemingly inexhaustible row of mid century ranch houses. One out of three attempting some acknowledgement of the season upon the front lawn or the front window. The whoosh of heat pouring forth suddenly like the spillway of a miniature Grand Coulee dam. There was so much to distract one when the physical body had been stirred from sleep! Unconsciously his fist closed and the tightness that its internal tendons woke him to the fact of their equally dismaying presence. The fine shadows of striations upon his aging skin on the back of the hand and wrist only softening but not fully going away. It was curious but he didn’t feel that old? His gait though not a match for those youngsters of barely twenty still maintaining its own internal peppy clockwork precision. Surely whatever fate was waiting for him as that right leaning bookend shoring up the continuing volumes of daily minutia that made up existence had not come to an end. One might be signaled at least in some prophetic Hollywood fashion by glimpses of a glowing or a holiday sprite if it was?
One again the tiny cat’s claw of his conscious mind scratched lazily at the question of the purpose of his own personal experience of existence. As a recent infant brought to some degree of sentience he had rued the passing of his two progenitor’s one day thinking that he must surely pass on before them. What did he know of such things then beyond a vague broadcast notion of instantaneous cartoon finality? Life seemed an impossible circumstance without them? Now sitting on the other side of the mountain he considered that the crowds of humanity that had intervened along his way had only caused him to be glad that the bulk of them had tread off to their own sense of mortal fate and not dragged him along with them. He bore no grudges that came quickly to mind. The long absence from such daily felicities had softened whatever past frictions that might at a former time been naggingly apparent. Peace on earth and good will to all men! His own unspoken suddenly chimed. The resultant silence that this comment expecting to summon within his thoughts instantly shattered by the external growl on an anonymous V8 growling noisily and grumbling loudly off into the hush of night. His eyes raised them self up to the ceiling but with no apparent desire to signify any evidence of broken respite. The world had so long ago descended into an annoying place that he rarely had to e energy to pay it too much mind. All his own accomplishments along the way having reciprocally been simply as trivial to the outside world’s regard as this unexpected distraction. A pop of a bubble recklessly loosed in a tub of warm soapy water.
Somewhere he fathomed there surely was another that was calling his presence to them? Maybe more than one? The habit of a long irrepressible pipe dream stating that for everyone there would one day be someone. The many potentially possible ‘someone’s’ of his long past by this point safely taking on a cinematic dimension that was indeed safer than the human sort. All plots being theoretically a sequel to the initial ones they served the fancies that would suit the audience as part of the bargain of a continued interest in the next one. What did his ancestors do before such things existed? Count the wizened skulls of long past ancestors tossed about in shadowed corners by a fire lit smokey cave? Such musings leading one back to the static credos of Platonic gospel that stated one could never break their own chains to see more than these shadows. What then was human existence but a play of passing light and shadow upon an uneasy screen? That imitation tree festooned by the many aged family artifacts pretending to recall past joviality a dismal failure. What could be recovered from the ubiquity of the present that could be of utility to one’s unmet desires? You could after all be asleep in so many ways only to wake up to late to the glaring fact of it! the problem was that how could one tell? His head turning slightly as another growling engine just outside again making its escape into the night. The last of the Christmas crowd in his building was making its final farewells and speeding off back to their own abodes.
Another low deep throated startling rumble suddenly deposing this notion. No evidence of earthquake or explosion rocking his habitation bringing him to the conclusion that another plane load of late arrivals was ascending to destinations unknown. What then of him. He was his own Plymouth rock still awaiting a Pilgrim. Some ceremonious delegation long expected upon his shore but found to be running a bit later than he could ever have conceived? The need for positives rattling off such sentiments rather than accept a more lagging conclusion. He felt his neck crackling slightly as he shifted about in his chair. The weariness of the hour was placing its claim upon him. That was the wonder of this thing called consciousness? One never knew if they were the dream or the dreamer? An idle thought indecipherable from one more long-winded supposing gravitas. Which was the more potent version suggesting the most accurate view of things? The body after all had the last word both by its infernal animal impatience and its eventual proclivity to final decline and unavoidable termination. A tough act to attempt to follow with one’s storehouse of accumulated disappointments and exasperation’s. The tree still sat there with its colorful display of pin points setting their glow upon the old familiar shapes in picture frames suggesting old familiar faces upon the wall. The artifacts below them unmoved by the transitory nature of thought in its affinity with a passing thunderstorm. Another holiday would pass and lead of the continued banality of the necessity of everyday concerns mapped out over another coming year. Fate in the end having the say as to when this repeating cycle would come to its ultimate conclusion. Something that the man was already familiar with and in a similar manner continue to come to know. It would be a touch act to follow.
The darkened room contained two souls. Two glasses containing ice clinked somewhere low by a coffee table. One voice cut through the silence while the other became even more conspicuous by its silence. His taciturn facial features suggested in a dim highlight from the grayness of a cloud encumbered sky trailing in from the chamber’s solitary exterior opening.
“Today, I got depressed as I realized full well that things were going down hill from here. I don’t like to admit that I am depressed. Or even think that I can get depressed. People that are thought to be depressed are treated worse than criminals in this country. I’m not a criminal. I”ve played things straight all my life. And yet in this day and age what does that count for?”
The speaker taking a pause to take a sip and let his words sink in.
“I’m in spitting distance of my seventh decade.”, he continued in a voice devoid of emotion. “Eyes going south to the point it is just a matter of time until I won’t be able to drive my car. Unfortunately that spells the end for me! A rope down a hole from which their is no escape.”
His audience seemed to shift slightly as the speaker reached down to the other glass just opposite. A wet glare off his eye offering a tell.
“That hole in my groin is big enough to stick my own fist through it. Yet every day there is a chance of my going into excruciating pain from a bowel blockage. Something that is freely advertised as repairable. Sure! But then don’t promises always exceed the reality of the actual result, do they?”, the lips of the man slowly curled in disgust as he viewed the indifference of his audience.
The solitary voice pausing long in the darkness.
“The moment you let your guard down and give those assholes a license to operate on you is when their excuses begin. Sooner than later you find yourself stuck in worse shape than if you had just left well enough alone. All one has to do and take a good look. Look in that mirror and refresh the painful notion that the grim looking ancient face that is staring back at you is in fact really your own.”, the speaker’s voice trailing off as he turned quickly away from the window’s light. As if his attention was broken in mid thought by away by some unseen distraction.
Slowly he turned back to the silhouette of the other’s face locked in deeply in shadow. The continence of the other implacable figure still sitting with head and shoulders inert and upright staring forward, “Of course, the one thing that advancing age has left you with despite all the struggles you were faced with along the way is the knowledge that things never really change. You are still gonna be you at the end of the day. Then you know that your chances that might have been tenuous are less than none. A simple mosquito bite from out of nowhere might get you? And then you’ll get laid out in your coffin in just a matter of a day or two. Not a case of an ‘if’ at this point but rather a ‘When’, and maybe if you become really morose, ‘How’?”
The ice tinkled against the inside of the speaker’s glass again as he raised it. But this time a tad bit little wetter.
The speakers hand rose up and raked his own chin in thought. The sketchy light’s parsimonious nimbus hard upon his moving eyeballs as they were shifted upward more directly into its luminous reach for a moment . He began once again, “And then there’s that sense of impatience. Something impending? You don’t know what? Something that drives you along unconsciously to believe that you have missed out on something important along the way. But you can’t figure out just what that ‘something’ might be? Yet its urgency does not subside but finds little hollows in your head to hide within to waits until the next moment to nag you a bit little later once again. Maybe some misplaced opportunity that got left at the station so long ago that you dare not mention it aloud?”, the speaker leaning forward, “Then you might realize that it’s all been a hopeless situation all along for a lot longer than you ever dared think. You missed the bus long ago and are now just reliving an old memory from long ago in a more hopeful light. You’re just going through the motions now, that’s all.”
His voice rose up the words trembling, “The worst of knowing that now from this point onward you are old and will simply get older until you disappear completely. And along with your passing, everything else!.” His hand instinctively reaching forward to unconsciously form a fist to pound the air before his solitary companion. The stunned silence immediately following these impassioned words slowly dissolving them away into the room’s surrounding absolute oblivion of impenetrable shadow.
The speaker’s voice now fully emptied of the previous emotion continued on, “Years later I became unexpectedly reacquainted with an elusive lost ideal of my young adulthood. My long displaced old emotions evoking others not experienced since times long past. It was as if each section of my head was a instrument was reactivated by the signature of the keys of a piano of another. The melodies recalling feeling long abandoned. Reawakened in a vivid recollection of that same formative time unexpectedly in the dead of night. Wondering where that fire of youthful expectation of great things just ahead had permanently departed. All my emotions momentarily awash in a reunion with that subtle tenderness of one’s innocent expression of love. A sense of commitment one has for another intermingled with their love and commitment for me. And aware too of the pending tragedy of my own current dissipated existence where such things have long descended into the theoretical. As one might expect to encounter in a personal story turned indefinite myth about one’s the past.”, the speaker stopped again. His audience leaning ever so slightly more towards him yet otherwise unmoving.
The speaker’s eyes glowered across at his unmoved audience as he paused to take possession of some new thoughts, “Part of me has grown hard like some thick marbled armor of a turtle’s shell. The barrier refuting that such things no longer exist or could be made possible again. Certainly not in the present tense of this universe as I know it now! That’s the signature of a real loser I guess? But despite all that, someone who has not the slightest glimmer of some hope loses the possibility of ever finding their way back onto that former path that they had so long ago abandoned. Everything seems possible while sitting alone in this dark empty room devoid of everything but the dead of night.”
Without warning the same form that had been so solidly planted across from the speaker during his rambling soliloquy suddenly sank forward then rolled heavily down on its side amidst the shadows covering the carpet. A knife stuck out of its back. One that had been obscured all the while when it had been immobile in death and propped up into a sitting position.
The speaker’s eyes gleamed again as he leaned forward to view the body. “Jostled about upon the storm tossed endless ocean of rational thought as posed so often by the words of others.” he chuckled coldly in a faux Shakespearean tone of voice, ” And feeling inadequate to offer whatever wisdom of one’s own that may lay untapped within.”
The assassin rose up with gravitas and stretched out his hand as if dramatically offering it to a larger unseen invisible audience, “Too unwilling to unsheath one’s own dagger and cut any other argument to the quick with those unhesitating silent slightly posed insights. My own existence lost within this grateful prison of a perpetual muse in contemplation of that dark phenomena of an empty surrounding universe. The question ever-present on the mind being what is the limit of one’s own ability to conjer up this reality?”
The deadly speaker then stepping from the semi-light of the crime scene into total darkness. His voice fading with distance to the accompaniment of new leather soles on concrete, “Can this question ever be answered? And to what end?”
The forest along the highway looked much the same as it had some fifty years previous in his youth except that there was a new horse trail. The gray tapioca sky of winter hung heavy upon the bare tree landscape of Skokie. Brand new Mid-Century apartments aged some fifty years into insignificance stood like granite boulders amidst their own forest of weathered telephone poles. The spirit of my mother beside me as a passenger in the car I took in the blue gray surroundings as if I was reading the collective faces of another lost generation that somehow no longer belonged. A patent irony when one recalls that many of the original residents of these brick and Lannon stone masterpieces had been only a decade into their occupation of this new land transposed from one that had been completely reduced to rubble. Housing those Middle Class children of a more modern Moses thrown briefly into bondage by an evil king. Their own Old Testament God summoned to visit complete destruction on this king and his people in a final terrible European Megiddio scenario of total revelatory annihilation of what was once the only former land that they had known.as home. Perhaps at that time of transition some thought that they had been waylaid thus to enjoy a new era of prosperity to flower as a people once again to enjoy some golden era. But some fifty years hence one might have surmised from events since that they had been cursed to repeat their most potent fable of being lost in the wilderness amidst others that knew not their names.
The entrance to the building and the stairwell leading to the halls beyond seemed close to that point when years of ear and habitation were bringing them to a final unstoppable point of rapid demise. All the vivacious sense of life and possibility left off in a habitual haze of long addled memory too many years ago. Most of the original residents now having been replaced with new immigrants of a different caliber and world view. The same sense of social unease that had been felt in past times within the old land having eventually followed suit with these former inhabitants to come to rest here. He felt our of place as some potential invader for the simple fact of having come here as he followed his mother in her composite form of phantom reprising several ages in one.It seemed from the expression on her indefinite features that she wasn’t engaged upon a mission meant to spark felicity. The door to the second floor corner apartment was swung open and he could hear her voice addressing another woman by the name Bea. A vague stream of remembrance flowed over him illuminating some distant snippet of conversation that identified the occupant as someone well-known from an era when he may have still been an infant child. A resident of another world that had preceded his birth. A time with its own equally halcyon sensibilities that would have equaled or even surpassed those of this now current modern time. I could tell by the muffled tone of the conversation in the next room that Bea had suffered some tragedies on the back end of life’s slope.
The furniture and their accompanied them upon the walls as I entered from the hall were from a movie set bespeaking the fading glow of a former prosperity. The setting providing a disorienting museum-like quality of being dryly set back superficially in time yet possessing no sense of viable energies suggesting viable human emotions. Its sole occupant stood like a granite effigy with an expression staring past the walls into a direction where the evidence upon the wear upon her face bespoke some deep inflexible degree of pain. One sensed that this feint dialogue ongoing between the spirit and the spiritless was ploughing up some former singular tragedy that had turned a once vital existence to stone. The statuesque figure of this woman stood like a aged pillar the life that had once been resident within her dispersed about the room. She had degenerated as a living person into an impression of something slightly noticeable. The tragedy in question had left her and her husband’s business affairs in shambles having been robbed of all the years of mutual effort to build a successful life together. If there could have been children to this unlucky match it was apparent that they were long gone too. Though fate had been initially kind to them it had struck a sledge hammer to both of them in the end. The ‘He’ had been swept away past the veil of death but the physical part of her mortal existence still remained. To see her there immobile conversing with his mother’s shade her eyes in a frozen contradiction to the slightest movements one could say with some assurance that for a moment or two that things long put away were being aired from a musty past.
The darkness that enclosed the room was dead cold. He rolled over and opened his eyes but found only a barely realized outline of streetlamp illuminated gloom defining the long bay window that identified his current location as his own bedroom. The static details of the woman and her abode that persisted upon his retina quickly dissolving into his own reality. Cars were slowly humming past in extended moaning intervals their presence announcing that this unlit gloom was soon once again to be displaced by a more apparent well-illuminated version. The ghosts now departed he pondered whether this apparition called Bea that seemed to rely on memories stirred up from his own dim past had indeed really existed. The sedimentary jumble of the toy box of his recollections unable to afford the suggestion of that possibility being so. It was impossible to say with any certainty that the woman was a solitary individual or some amalgam of recovered thoughts pasted together from under the weight of too many other ones equally trivial to his present existence. How it could be fitted together into some rational explanation that would satisfy a mindset of modern psychology being impossible to say. A festin d’pierre in a more dramatic theatrical sense to his lackluster Don Giovanni? A badly weathering stony presence set upon another hint of memorial for the sake of a random momentary remembrance? Perhaps? But then, having been resisting a lingering cold now encroaching him from every side of his mattress, something of secondary concern.
The old bitch upstairs was dragging her furniture across the floor again! Another knock just as he lowered his head. “Goddamn bitch!“, he yelled! Hoping that his exclamation was just loud enough to be heard through the concrete slab construction of his one hundred and eighty unit Mid-Century dilemma. The snowbound darkness to his left from the old squeaky recliner seemed to evaporate all probability of life beyond his own in the darkened semi-lit lounge. To look at him and his lifestyle one might have thought he was in some terminal form of inconstant mourning. Another drag and a bump diverting his attention back skyward to the old phantom above. There was no way of course of determining the exact identity of the occupant above him beyond the habits associated with the irritation that she caused. The moving of furniture at odd hours of the night suggesting someone perhaps as solitary as he. Small erratic nagging scratching noises or the bang of something upon the floor waking him out of a dead sleep suggesting the possible companion of a feline. The other phenomena less associative being infrequent bouts of fog banks of cigarette smoke that drifted in from the common space betwixt the bathroom and small kitchen that rose up through all fifteen stories of the structure. Sometime the heady aroma of wine treated weed stung his nose before dawn and threatened disorienting his head. It seemed incongruous that someone elderly would be indulging in such mundane hallucinogens. Both then given the era nearly fifty-years previous when society was breaking apart from incessant social dissonance drug taking was the common practice.
His headaches had increased in the last several years from the occasional to the frequent. It was reasonable to assume that all this airborne nuisance was a possible accessory if not prime cause of his distress. As it was the residents of the building had shifted in composition to a less sophisticated set that could be characterized more by their careless excesses than their civility. He had devised a nightly ritual of barring the door with two old steel walking canes and stuffing disposable plastic bags from the local supermarket in the gaps. The settling of the building having thrown all precise angles from their original square into a kilter. More than half way up the tower he could feel the building tremble without a warning seemingly from any more reasonable explanation than it was settling unevenly in such a manner that made the structure more vulnerable. The combination of all these factors adding to a building level of unconsciously gathering insecurities. Dark thoughts in the night fueled in part by the darkness of fractious world events where every day seemed to be another form of unraveling crisis. The faces of his bygone parents looking ever sterner in the accumulating shadows of both day and night. Perhaps another sign of his incrementally fading vision. “What then?“, he thought, “When I finally go blind?”
The lack of company and prospects for the future seemed to go along hand in hand. He seemed stamped from birth in a singular mode as a solitary soul. Perhaps condemned from some previous existence in another lifetime for an oversight or transgression that was considered unforgivable in a cosmic sense of being. Though he had suspected it in childhood there was something about him that others found unsettling even detestable. He seemed to attract expressions of instantaneous scorn or unmasked derision in the initial expression of strangers. His relations with others being tenuous at best. A shadow of a type falling upon his aspirations as they had all one by one seemed to crash prematurely before any lasting measure of success could take hold. Maybe it could be described as a certain sense of an ever failed optimism that was behind that gap with him and the rest of the human world? At this point he had seemingly succumbed. The program upon the screen before him had a taint that seemed in keeping with the ever mounting disaster that his current life was increasingly appearing to be. The space next to him ringing out with another utensil dropped out of a phantom hand.
The accumulation of experience such as it was made one convinced that one’s presence of mind in some way was a result of their own actions over the long term of their existence. One could collect positives as well as negatives. In some respects it gave a possible explanation to his dilemma. Recollections of events past when assembled suggesting more than possibly a pattern that suggested some prior suffering that was prevalent where he played the part of either victim or perpetrator. Bad memories of a childhood twisted by that subversive sense that he had something to be guilty about yet knowing exactly what. Strange affinities with old deposed European cultures now vilified as ultimate villains. Toy sets allowing play demonstrating an interest in resonating with past military grandeur’s. The stage set by entertainment entrepreneurs that had translated their rigorous subversive dogmas to lay in wait for vulnerable minds like his own. Who in that age could tell if any thought formed in their head was truly one of their own devising? The more his day vision suffered and the ability to conjure the recent past of moments waylaid an instant after enacting them the more the same sense of building despair set in. He played with these phantoms in his mind much in the way that he had once done with those little plastic toys.
He could recall for no particular reason and incident of his past in which he had purchased a brand new dark blue long sleeve shirt. Something of a talisman of sorts with which to attract the possibility of female attentions at a weekly party of his male high school friends. Taking it out of the package he had bestowed its magnificence upon his ignominious torso and felt a new confidence building within. His general perspective of being ground down in the world of the untermensch suddenly catapulted to a new height of unbounded self-confidence. Off he strode down the street to make his newly revised presence known. Yet predictably, as fate would have it, in particular his own. a mere half an hour later he was tearing violently at his new covering as he had found that though he was useful as the group’s weekend chauffeur, he had been shut out otherwise. By the time he had arrived home his shirt was in tatters. He had been betrayed by his own sense of foolish optimism to believe that his prolonged curse had been lifted. But found out much to his disappointment that this was anything but true. Much later he would find salvation in the love of another. His first. But then he would also find a way of mucking that up as well. So much for optimism!
His dreams as he encountered their bits and pieces and parsimonious lingering fragments seemed perfectly understandable though it seemed impossible to recall beyond a single glaring aspect past the time of waking. The pennant on the top of a mainmast of a vessel laying hull upright upon the bottom in the sea of his unconscious. There were many such wrecks there waiting to be rediscovered. Occasionally one would spontaneously rise to the surface during the course of a day’s idle thoughts. It was maddening that whatever force guided his consciousness was jealously maintaining control of it to the point of incrementally removing control from him. He could recall the piles of dog poop staggered like poorly laid landmines trailing into the hotel bedroom from the tiled floor in the lobby. The enigma of this unexplained phenomena taking place in some unidentified metropolis for reasons that would never be made clear as to how they related to him. A vague suggestion floating about that the management was not thrilled to off its services to clientele of his stature. Yet the exercise of a dance step type of physical exertion to avoid soiling his shoes seemed as if he had actually performed it while waking? And merely returned to bed and sunk back into the same dream?
Perhaps this curse had been renewed in an incident in years before? Then again maybe congealed in a single incident? He could recall a short road trip taken in high school in the company of other students from the school’s speech club? Their destination being culminated at a crappy Minneapolis hotel for the purpose of engaging with the wonders of the Tyrone Guthrie theater. The student’s after party being accompanied by the latest Beatle’s album of that time, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The males warming up by having a spontaneous fire extinguisher fight in the back hallways of that creaking edifice. The girls setting up a Ouija board. The entire group congealing under a foggy screen of marijuana smoke to engage in an impromptu seance. One of the girls jumping up to break the circle and declaring that the speaker from the other side was none other than Adolph Hitler. He turned his face back from his thoughts to the window. Any excuse to justify this ongoing insanity of the inevitable ravages of old age both socially and otherwise. So many excuses that might add the value of an unsung melodramatic drama to what had descended into a lackluster humdrum existence awaiting the silent call of the grim reaper. Would his makeshift barricade at least provide some element of forewarning? It didn’t seem likely. The stigma of forgetfulness able to be accounted for in so many causes that one might just say this was merely a plague brought on be mere happenstance. There being no way beyond the ritual of the pronouncement of generally acceptable opinions based upon authority to answer with an air of the definite. And that of itself was its own form of fatal execution.
The thought bringing up another long filed memory from adolescence. The book called the History Of Torture which he had read in paperback form. It’s contents evoking both the sleazy as well as buoy a fearful dread. The institutional insemination of the Holocaust drama in a formative age of many recited personal fictional accounts being transmigrated into the public record of alleged facts. The perversity of the minds of the authors competing with each other to derive the most sensory debilitating descriptions of unbounded evil inhumanity for the sake of garnering temporal notoriety. How much was added to the empty shadows of adolescent minds in that postwar era? Brainwashing starting in the licentious realm of smelly exploitation newsprint paper printed tabloids. And transmigrating into the unsophisticated soulful moral repositories of the naive. The real unbearable torment of human existence not found in the physical dimension of uncontrollable pain but in the estrangement of the individual inevitably finding themselves permanently waylaid from the group as a pariah. Suffering attributable only to one’s own nature and not the all too obvious machinations of a society turned into a cold inhuman vehicle for processing the species into a puppet fit only for its utility. The cog as victim turned into the victim defaulted to the banality of a cog. All the socially proscribed devils found too late to be naught but fallen allies that had proceeded him. The endless futility of all this being the most unbearable burden of all.