The night was upon them. A slow incremental loss of light withdrawing it’s presence from the room. Outside the bay window the most evident celebration of the fourth crackled and boomed. A whistle here or there creating intervals between the popcorn sounds of skyrockets. Black whispers of smoke available to view for those who may have turned their heads too late after the fact. This was the second night of this sort of unofficial display. The epidemic had provided an excuse to retire what would have been an official more vigorous display. Thoughts were lingering about the room. Was that a bass drum? The red sparks splattered out into a corona before his view. Somehow they corroborated the fact that solitude was equally his lot. The fountains rising overflowing with incandescence. His heart aching to its erratic rhythms pop popping away.
Several hours past, with dawn approaching the bacchanal has fallen to silence. The inner metronome now awakened again, restless and forever searching. The biological imperative of the wanderer foraging for something as a chronic yet undeniable instinctual. The expansive realm of social existence perhaps a diversion. But a determined inhibitor in conflict to a natural sense of independence. A need to constantly fulfill same. An ongoing frenzy to seek out pleasure and escape pain. To find sustenance but avoid want. To reign supreme in one’s own precinct of the supervening urban jungle that one must, as well as others, furiously cling to. An imperative that belies so many unavoidable hazards as likely as it may possibly provide a degree of daily salvation. The daily wax and wane of light from one horizon to its opposite counterpoint. A slower, but perhaps no less chaotic, rhythm than one that one had experienced during the evening before? The order of operations in light of this hiatus now dutifully considered and then followed to a tee.
In this agnostic ridden postwar era of downward facing dog mentality, one that has been stretched all out of proportion by the anonymous boogie men of Liberal obsessed fiends. This same hyperventilated period of time ranging back from the shadow world of the middle of the last century. What dark dreams they all seem to possess in common in flushing everything deemed undesirable down a drain? Expecting along the way for what they desire to be miraculously saved without a god to pray to. Lost souls unfulfilled. Left short of hope before adulthood. The vows we offer as children being not half so binding as those ones we fear to make in later life, but must be heeded when we are old.
So. Easter Sunday, twenty, twenty. Weather taking one from a late Spring climate to the onset of what might be the last gasp of Winter. All of it in the grip of the continuous world-wide scare of ‘the virus’! All the nostalgia of the past now long abandoned rituals of this day that once seemed a burdensome imposition sorely missed. No one of special significance still around with which to celebrate. Age and personal hubris from former decades done its best. And now, the virus! Solitude of a kind that one might have in theory once wished for but now an ongoing curse brought on by government mandated peer pressure. At first it all seemed a joke. A bad one where in the conundrum of my own small pasture that for half a decade I was put out within there was always the confidence that for me in terms of a workable future all was not potentially lost. But then with the oft foretold year where irrevocable change had been said to descend, bam! The virus!
So Playing along while attempting to violate every new Simon sez restriction daily coming down the pipe, I played along. Mentally counting the moments that were not unlike so many up to this point where I have to prove to myself that privation was a normal form of existence that I could tolerate with a smile the totally unexpected occurred. With a wave of a news conference and a few digital pens the entire world had been brought down to my level of want. No work, no paycheck, now bill pay, no go outside, no nothing! Just that increasing guilt over a mounting number of days that leading a biologically normal form of existence like showing your face on the street was somehow a crime. A very insidious feeling that really began to make one wonder about the real purpose of this logical double dutch hopscotch that all were now required to perform. One that had no logical conclusion save simply another edict announcing more of the same!
A dirty little game going on rustling up more unpayable crushing death for even more future generations while passing more unearned wealth upward into the greedy paws of those who so richly deserved to fail. All while waiting within against one’s better judgment for the buy off for a pittance of what will sooner than naught have to be paid back at a rate of ten to one. AGAIN! How stupid could one be? This new post St. Patrick’s Day world when the snakes all chased the rest of us back down the hill and into the drink! And yet, the worse was yet to come. Caught up in the familiar dream world existence a sudden invitation by what were once regular friend of decades long standing out of nowhere proffering an invite. The Seventh Calvary arriving two days after the Friday of ceremonial observance of crucifixion. Sunday dinner on this sabbath of resurrection. One that promised to bring the spirit back into play with the material wants for face to face companionship that to all intents and purposes had been outlawed on this most holy of days. And true to form changing one’s old unnecessary rags, sack cloth and ashes, signifying a month of social morning one’s best such as it was at this late date of failing prosperity was dusted off and changed into. A nervous feeling embodied in the paranoia of the times as to the proper regard for distance embroiled with a desire to pick up things where they were left off. The car driven with ultimate care not to attract any official attention through otherwise uncustomarily empty streets. The arrival to the location equally hesitant. And what then?
Something that both elated and offended simultaneously. The rightful observance in an extraordinary length between chairs and an overabundant degree of contents in a meal served to go. Much conversation with libation of course but in a cold courtyard that is so many remained one grievously of the fact of these new time that all of us would be forced to abide. No pleasant conversation without the burden of too often giving due to the virus. The new motive force that now was the driving force behind every life in every part of the world. Even in lesser traveled more sparsely populated areas, the fear of its imposition like a cloud darkening what had once been normal expectations of regular existence. A new tyranny with the shield and sword of an excuse that if one respected civilization one was honor bound to acknowledge its limbo or scurrilously sneakingly defy. We in some way everywhere have been turned into a criminal class within our own homes. Our freedom now stolen by the most untrustworthy. Those who pretend to lead us in a caring fashion while plundering everything valuable from our lives. And everyone left with the impression that the need to reach out and touch another was somehow now an unwholesome act. That absence on command was somehow a noble virtue. And perhaps it is?
FOR A SLAVE!
Perhaps we create our own existence and the circumstances governing us around it? I like many sit here in the last hour before that arbitrary point in the passing of a year when we have been told the great mystery of the world that we inhabit will return as a spinning orb from the furthest point into the darkness that we are communally allowed to travel. So goes the myth that plays out as fact that all are enjoined to hold dear. What lies ahead but what we ourselves have fore destined by twelve months multiplied by the number of such cycles that this material plane has allowed us individually to enjoy. Learning along the way that all is temporary growing steadily in importance until that point in time when another fancy takes hold and the former is abandoned and left behind to be soon forgotten. Family, friends, wealth, power and position. Sooner or later that shiny measure of excitement in enjoying each becomes dulled by an endless repetition of the seach for same. The habit of a trajectory whose inertia can only offer more of the same leading one to believe that worthwhile choices have become few and that daily weariness that seems to addle the mind’s ability to imagine seems inescapable. The weight of chains of our own character drags our love of life to a crawl and thoughts are summoned that suggest it would be better if things about us were no more. The great gulf of empty oblivion surrounding and encroaching seeming a warmer blanket than a world of possibility grown cold. Some form of magic of the spirit needed to relight the torch we have set down. Some measure of will to attempt to reformat the balance of what drives us up daily from the grave of our bedrooms into a world that has long lost its luster.
The occasional report of distant drums on the horizon sounds signaling the destruction of the current episode that has been our master. Distant strangers sending up an incendiary report of sparks from fireworks denoting a symbolic destruction of the present tense that will quickly fade into the possibility of a different future. We as we have been known very soon to die and then be reborn. All given the chance like a chrysalis to shed the encrusted barnacles of so much futility and take on a child-like perspective free of obvious conclusions. The long journey across a seemingly endless sea no longer encumbered by a hull sullied by the barnacles accreted along the way. But in its stead a new world of possibility where the past is allowed to be relegated to its rightful place and no longer subtend every action of the present. The great mystery of endless possibility once again taken up that allows one to explore without hesitation those emotions long suppressed within. A sort of resurrection of the legacy of ourselves bestowed upon us by former generations that have subsequently fallen away but in whose shadow we live. What would one dare to find by dropping all pretense to habit? To once more focus one on a quest for rediscovering a single simple pleasure as its own reward alone. To leave behind expectation of a predetermined outcome without running back to it in terror when circumstances not to our current mode of liking appear. Is not temporal loss more than occasionally an invitation to the gain of something completely new and unexpected? Life as a challenge to a seasoned adventurer. Is that not that which we all hope and dream of at night?
The ceiling of my own bedroom has for too long played my sky. The dim lights of Plato’s garage far off, and the shadows it casts in the dead of night significant of mortal existence as I now know it. The light of unexpected circumstance ever present and alive outside the portal of my door. Shall I become entranced by it once more again as I had in those long lost first times, I will be the luckiest of creatures in this ongoing waking dream of my own theatrical reality. We all deserve the sort of fates that we assign ourselves. This current ritual denoting rebirth merely a matter of moments away. Where will it leave me this time but in the cradled embrace of good fortune? Or the crippled posture of another defeat? Who knows and really, who cares. My best wishes to all my former enemies and friends. May good fortune embrace all! Happy New Year!
And so the end of the year in the once civil Western hemisphere rounds the corner of the first holiday marking the approach to year’s end. In era’s past a feast day recognizing that the good fortune of plenty was not a mandate but God’s gift blunting an otherwise ignoble twist of fate of an empty larder in a cold and uncaring Winter. A time when family, friends and neighbors once gathered to give thanks to the almighty for the end of the year’s harvest such as it was. But that was then, and certainly not what is expected to happen now. Now in present tense twenty-first century America, decade number two whatever sense of religious awe for the change of season has nothing to do with respect for the vagaries of mother nature or father time. Now itis the merciless onslaught of ceaseless offers marking endless sales offers for anything and everything imaginable that for some reason sat on store shelves or lurked in undisturbed piles within an out of the way warehouse. The volume of transfer of hard earned wealth from the common population being trimmed down by the constantly shifting of prices every upward and the stagnation of growth in wages leaving wage earners parsimonious in terms of their spending. The reverence once accorded to the miracle of life and thankfulness for survival of another year of good health challenged by an across the board official hard sell that employs every flashy trick and strategy to convince one that they should liquidate their bank accounts for the sake of truly momentary pleasure of briefly feeling like a millionaire. The gimmicks are rife playing upon a twisting of human interest stories designed to wrangle people into celebrating giving by indenturing them to fess up with a present for everyone that they know. The acquiring of material goods and services made to seem a trivial exercise holding no consequence for the buyer with supposedly deep discounts and easy extended terms that delay the inevitable denting of one’s bank account. Spending furiously displacing any previous cultural rituals marking the transition of one year to the next as a time to consume. The traditional red and green of Christmas perverted by the colorless black of the Friday one minute past the ending of a previous traditional day of thanks. A virtual privateer with letters of mark set forth by the ruling hegemony of worldwide commercial interests to waylay all previous holidays and entangle the finer sentiments of bygone times of a spirit of charity into blind hopeless consumerism. All conflicting notions of intelligent parsimony made to walk the pirate’s plank! Splayed across every news outlet and all other means of communication for the next sixty days is the tribal drum beat of SAVE and SALE! The ultimate consequence of having to pay for this brief bacchanal kept out of sight and mind till the tolling of New Years has left people’s bank accounts fully emptied of funds and necessity has melted away all resistance to surrender to another year of toil to fully address the accumulation of this financial bondage. Santa’s promising generous bulk of cornucopia promise transformed into the poisonous slither of persistent ‘$’s that swarm the hapless victims now all too mindful of their own previous licentious consumerist impulses.
“Happy Black Friday, 0 percent interest and no payments till next year, everyone!”
The holiday . . . another . . . ANY! The years simply pages of wet newsprint flying quickly past. But the holidays, one by one, are a dead stop of staring in the most available mirror handy for the day noodling where things last went awry. This one starting earlier than usual. Waiting, just waiting. But it becomes a habit after all. Something that gets in the way with the pursuit of a regular life. Sitting around trying not to think. Thinking is bad for the holiday spirit. The spirits seems to gather particularly around the past during these times. No sense of diversion strong enough by now to solve that. So what!
It’s not hard to hear yourself mouthing the brogue of some two bit B movie character who himself doesn’t exist save upon a flickering screen. They’re there but you’re here. They change, but you don’t. You’re stuck with the remainder. It makes life easier to forget that. Maybe a drink now and then? Spending more than you should have to regain a foothold on the past. All useless exercises. There is just the wait and the ritual behind it. Listening to yourself echoing inside. Waiting for someone to call that you haven’t heard from for a very long time. They don’t. But you still wait until you go to sleep. But only for a few hours or two.
It’s easy enough to think you’re a loser as you mouth the words that some poorly paid cheap little kike from Hollywood somehow knew that you wanted to say. You’re obvious and he knows it! You’re the schmuck and he’s not. You’ve been too well-schooled and you know all the lines from hundreds of other soapy tales. The minutes drag on and it’s an hour or two later. But the scenario remains the same. You’re here and that’s that. That’s that over the course of most of your life until you finally see beyond the thin tissue of illusion and realize how expert they all are in getting your goat.
There’s a funny thing about the two biological genders of mankind. Women when they complain not only expect a perfect world but they demand it becoming very incensed if their demands are not met. Men take the inevitable inequities into account and strive to explain them to others in terms of what is reasonably possible before indulging in perhaps a little bit more fantasizing of allowable perfection. But never expecting it! Men have a sense of humor about it all where women see no joke. Disappoint a woman enough times in terms of not supporting the logic their ire and see her quickly soon fade into memory. See enough angry women over the decades and see them as a matter of habit no more.
The vacuum eventually produced is the persistent loneliness that one must eventually endure. The rationale behind seeking animal warmth in such circumstances as in the potential of embrace finally breaks down. Get a dog or a cat if you can’t take the absence of same. That’s when the old world of cinema avatars long past have matured with a fatal potency in effecting your life. You just can’t write amidst an illiterate culture that no longer knows how to read. You just can’t love in the midst of those that can only see what’s in it for them alone. Perfume and a bit of lipstick cannot cover that up alone. You have to be able to cover the tab by yourself or you are on your own.
Another holiday and the news from the flat lands appears pretty grim.
“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.
It had been some four years plus since anyone had lived here beyond him. Fifteen hundred rise and falls of the Sun on the horizon slowly forgetting his previous daily existence. A long time to become detached from the kin that had previously been the rightful owners of this living space. A small section of floor space on a larger plan in a middle floor of a mid century high rise on the edge of a larger metropolis. Though forced to make daily forays out into the world for work and food he had slowly lost touch with it. Things had been made worse by his losing his daily employ and having to depend on the state to supply him a stipend to purchase foodstuffs. As he sat upon the last remaining two-seater sofa in the lounge he contemplated the dark horizon as embers seemed to gather in the distance readying themselves to once again meet the first light of the sun. Where he wondered was the illumination to light a path out of his every descending dilemma of skating eternal darkness. No expression upon his face as he sat silently low in the saddle of the old broke back couch. The portraits around the room no longer stared out with a plausible familiarity that claimed a actual human entity as the physical source of their being. He looked over to the pinpoints upon the faux tree-like manifestation of the end of the year holidays and felt no fondness or connection with it. Whatever memories within hum had become sterile like the bits and pieces of the residual recollection of his fragmentary youth. What had steadily been preserved over nearly all of a human life was a constant mistrust of his fellow creatures. The slow procession of which that had marched through his life now remembered for their unique qualities of kindness so much as the same story of eventual indifference to him. All those that he came to know in the intervening decades had eventually trailed away in another direction despite his strenuous efforts to dissuade them otherwise. He was thus pronounced a perpetual loner.
There had been a mighty struggle going on within him throughout the successive intervening years since childhood. One where every attempt to accommodate the meandering course of public conventionality’s subsided into a new enigmatic puzzle that seemed to offer no fit solution as to how to navigate. A damned if you do and damned if you don’t continuum of hopeful overtures that too quickly subsided into false starts. Friendships, brief romantic affairs, and even a star-crossed stint at marriage all failing miserably for reasons unknown to him despite his best efforts to bend and satisfy. The world seemed to finally descend upon him as if it had become a mighty leaden cloud full of an eventually lethal menace that might sooner or later take even this sparse form of existence away. There was too much evidence of others that shared the same dilemma in far off cities that barely existed in far of urban districts far to the West. Every day had been a bit more grim than the collection of same that had dissolved into a nothingness without promise or exception. There might have been something tragic about this had their been at least another solitary soul in his company to appreciate the insoluble dilemma that beset him. Yet he himself felt no despair or self pity on his own account. He was struck by the fact of how persistent and unrelenting was his own condition of life. But had no sympathy for himself and occasionally some degree of maudlin emotion for anonymous others that theoretically shared a similar experience to his circumstance. This appreciation of same coming from teleplays and cinematic narratives that seemed to corral the emotions of the surrounding population in general. It might have officially been called consensus in the daily declaration of events and socially acceptable notions that were sold as appropriate. He sat in his lounge upon the old threadbare saddle alone in his lounge. The gravity of this unrelenting condition of solitude descending upon his consciousness finally collapsing any fantasy to the contrary.
The soccer field seemed twice the size as he could remember it. He recalled that he had played soccer in high school during gym class and had been anything but stellar. Now he seemed enlisted as a coach in a Summer time program at a nearby park district. The ball was served from the center of the field and immediately shot over his head towards the boundary of one of the streets that served as the ultimate boundary of the park. One of the players at that far end booting it back once again overhead until it seemed in a position relatively equivalent but in the opposite direction. Something within him sank like a flag being pulled down in early surrender. He had doubts that this job would last more than the afternoon given the fact that his present level of physicality was obviously no match for the youthful leg strength of those that had been put in his charge to mind. The other coach now running in a lateral direction towards the side of the field he felt his rubbery legs wobble as he made his own pathetic attempt to catch up to the orb. The other younger fellow’s lack of speed a sign of the man’s sarcasm in the fact of the pathetic lack of performance of his older rival. Seeing this for what it meant the older scorned pair of legs picked up speed as if they now had a life separate to the body and head that bobbled about atop them. Their distant rival in the younger coach resuming his normal vitality and stepping up his pace as a result of this display and easily reaching the ball first to boot it far away back towards center field out of reach of his older rival’s renewed efforts. The impossbility of the situation fell upon the deposed sexagenarian like a wet woolen blanket.
The failure felt in one scenario seemed to bring on contemplation of yet another. One calling into focus a dismal area bordering a place outside of town by a main railroad trunk line. A no man’s land evidencing decades of toxic and careless dumping of castoffs that had the relative appearance of destruction one would have quickly associated with the worst sites of world war carnage. It was here that the man found himself newly arrived standing on the gravel by the rails. The only cited goal still clearly posed in his being was to traverse this area before he would be spotted by hostile parties. This inhospitable region having its own indigenous residents that as one might expect were as unwanted and disgruntled as himself. His presence in this lawless section presenting a convenient scapegoat for them to enact his revenge. His traverse of the many gullies fraught with sucking empty bucket covered tar pits that he barely found passage to skirt around disconcerting as the pressure of unseen eyes bore down upon him. Rapid tiptoes across rotting planks to shifting sandy ridges that softly gave way under his feet threatening to cant him forward in a manner that my lead to a tumble into the muck of a pit of uncertain composition. Whole sections of savaged walls of residential building including banks of wooden sash segmented of window glass stood as partitions blocking rapid progress. The notion of him being followed by hordes not far behind him growing ever evident. The possible luxury of taking an instant to stop in mid course to turn about and view the situation in that direction too wasteful of the slight chance that he might still outdistance them. On and forward he stumbled and slipped irregardless of his mounting conviction that all this effort would still result in his being easily being overtaken. Gone were the self inscribed fantasies of the inadvertent hero that he felt himself innately capable of being. His own vulnerability so painfully apparent in a likening to that of a field mouse being pursued by an owl. The growing flutter of his own heart within his chest now impossible to discern from feathers softly beating rapidly and hard just above yet not quite further back.
The chimes of the wall clock rang with their usual annoying precision. Another artifact that he had refused to disturb from the storehouse of family possessions that stood in for otherwise long lost traditions. His neck cracked a bit as the tight muscles surrounding his spine propelled his mighty cranium slowly forward and upright. The room was still dark but by the reckoning of the dim glow from outside several hours might have past. His sojourn to that other unstable ever changing world of dreams had as usual been unexpected and rocky. He rotated his head about a bit in both directions and stretched both arms upwards into a diagonal V to stretch out the kinks in his back still otherwise at rest slouched upon the sofa’s brace of pillows. Though the darkness of the room was only occasionally interrupted by tiny pinpoints of random LED’s as well as vertical glimpses of the The notion of the solitude ensconced within the limbo of a formless remote universe being challenged by sensations of cold drafty air and the rush of its warmer rival issuing from vents at ceiling height dispensing with same. Leaning forward out of his static repose he shifted his view to the murky horizon peeking up over the bottom sash of the window. Existence such as it was still remained. Only the accompanying dismal circumstance of the fear that it associated with was gone. He was in a state of neutral unencumbered being his usual troubles and concerns put to rest. His body as a singular instrument very aware of the exact position within the knowable universe of man. The question of hierarchy now a secondary matter. He was still very much alive and that was all that mattered.
The turkey dinner stunk. He sat in the easy chair finally relieved to be sitting. The marathon of two days had come to a climax. Early perhaps, but all the same exhausted. The drill was to be some sort of sentimental ritual of fond holiday remembrance. Recollection of times past when Christmas dinner was a regular event. An event that sometimes felt like the experience was becoming overly trite. But in light of the passing of a decade and a half had returned to the status of beyond extraordinary. Unfortunately, the noble attempt had been a failure. Not a total failure though. The turkey report four days previous stated the possibility of an outbreak if Salmonella ridden turkeys. And so he had put in the freezer when the frig seemed to have a slight off odor. Later it was apparent that the smell was from a poorly chopped red onion. The result was a certain level of insecurity as to whether his efforts to thaw in twelve hours before that after testing various scenarios from washing in tepid water and chipping away ice from the interior he was risking a waterlogged bird with all the natural juices removed. It seemed at that point it couldn’t cook right. But miraculously with a liberal transfusion of butter and thyme with a few rosemary sprigs and lime interposed apple slices in its chassis.
Where he went wrong was his timing. The two Pyrex dishes of bread dressing being perfectly cooked and set upon the burners on the stove. But to his mind needing to stay warm until the point of serving when he came back from a prearranged brunch. The minutes ticking down, he dumped the two of them back in the oven with the turkey. All the way there he knew he had made a mistake. Little did he expect that the contents of both pans would turn black as a cinder! Things seemed to go downhill from there. By the time he had everything in control enough to serve himself half of it was barely edible. The subsequent cleanup of the many greasy pots, pans, utensils as well as dishes of all sizes was prophetic in scale. Now of course that world had all been restored to a former sense of prior order. One that had been in force as set by the original owner of the utensils. He had tried their use and had found a new respect for the quiet dilemma shared each year by his dear departed mother. Her expertise had been honed to razor sharpness at that point when the small family had been installed in its first new house. A one story mid-century suburban property that sat tabla raza in a brand new subdivision that had been carved from a tract of former farmer’s field. The center of town persisting to declare itself as remaining part of a bygone era when Cyrus McCormick had them among his best customers in the heyday of bountiful crops corn or wheat. Now it served as a canvas for all their dreams to erase the hopelessness of an terrible economic depression and the war that had been waged in part to defeat it.
Some of these current utensils served as important artifacts in the entertainment rituals that his two parents put forth to attract the envy and admiration of other’s of their own generation. Siblings of my mother and my father’s mother, stepfather and half sister. Those few good years when they were allowed to demonstrate their coming success that less than a half decade would elude them. One by one these sets of merry making holiday tools were deposed to storage in the back of cupboards or redefined into more mundane uses for carrying on everyday existence. Some had been handed over by his maternal grandparents and provided lasting utility as a backup for others more modern but of a lesser quality. Thus many had earned a certain nobility in his mind as veterans from former eras of celebrations that were now nothing more than the inference of old phantoms, His weariness had led him to retire not very long after the setting of the Sun on the far horizon past the apartment’s vertical blinds. He had fallen into a stupor barely able to keep his balance as he staggered to the bedroom with the intent to turn in early. The fast erratic heartbeat of drum synthesizing the aura of amplified electric bass suddenly shaking his chambers. Somewhere below or above voices were now raised in unrestrained joyfulness. Some of them perhaps as foolishly careless and free as those of his own parents had been in their heyday. The cycle of the hopefulness of life was playing itself out once again in his vicinity just out of reach yet clearly evident.
The silence about the bedroom woke him up gently to the somber droning of the melancholy of some Middle European symphony composed in the latter half of the previous century when the horrors of the second great war were still fresh. The booming music conducted by the concrete and its sudden choruses of ebullient joyfulness now gone as if they had merely a passing folly of his imagination. The impressions currently leaking from his rising consciousness telling of a solitary old codger that had joined the party. But the party had been transposed to another place and time in an appreciation of the world as it might have been nearly a hundred years back. The joyfulness of a candy emporium or bakery with fresh newly baked odors and muslin banners and tapestry’s declaring the imminence of a new year. Smiling female faces ripe for the play of mind boggling word games and the reward for the right guess in decorative party favors. Celebration and unbounded happiness having no reason beyond its appearance in the moment. His own white whiskered bald pate’d avatar pointing to the ceiling with an impish grin declaring to the entire party,”What is another name for cupcake?” His consciousness now regained within these opposing symphonies playing each in their respective low volume and he laying cat-like and rested beneath the coverlet diagonal upon his bed. Had it all been a dream he wondered as his eyes rolled slowly towards the passage door of the bedroom. The dim glow of Christmas resting warm upon it dimly reflected by relay from that still illumined effigy within the next room. The faux armature of a small tree packed with all its old family trinkets casting its still brilliant old burning memories forth from this passage of another Christmas. It’s heritage now resplendent in the first hours of the commencement of a new day soon to come to pass.
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 dullness in the left section of his thorax was slowly subsiding. It had manifested itself suddenly as he had shifted about beneath the covers in the old decor of the apartment’s solitary master bedroom. The bulk of his aging frame now on its side with a hand sticking out in the cold like an exposed turkey leg. The digital display on the clock radio glared back at the surrounding darkness. All that he could glean from the narcotic prose left from this last bout with fitful slumber was that his character was derived from strong European peasant stock. What that had to do with the other remnant that his conscious mind could illuminate was that there must be a reason that he had preferred to quietly descend to the basement steps down to that dank spare room set up with furniture even more out of date than that of the gaudy era that predominated above. He caught the notion that he still had a living relative inhabiting above. But he couldn’t be sure as he still seemed to have one foot in his dream as he made for a second shifting of his bulk one hundred and eighty degrees the other way back under the warm safety of the covers. The sound of mechanically driven air coursing non-stop from the vent above the door impotently suggesting the presence of heat. The last of the fading visions upon that fuzzy panorama of his mind being that the door was locked to the next subterranean chamber. A fact that seemed pertinent as there seemed to be a chorus of distant voices threatening to disclose him from just beyond.
The bag of old organs within his rib cage had normalized and the pain had subsided into the excuse of passing indigestion over that of an impending heart attack from the bachelor combination of food items that had served as sustenance the previous day. From where he was figuratively sitting now in the prone position Christmas was only three days hence. Three days in which another empty space of waking hours would weight heavily upon him and leave him to ponder as on every holiday what served in his own case as the joyous memories of the past. That time when there were such things as Christmas dinners of roast turkey and bread stuffing with butter and brown sugar ridden candy apple yams and cranberry sauce served magically by other loving hands. Something that had died out over the last decade as his family died out and his friends all lost touch. The stillness of the room caught his attention as the only sound was from the pressure of his tinnitus. The heater having subsided as he was busily sampling his muse. Much like in childhood he felt as if he was waiting for the event to arrive over the intervening days and hours so that he could actively do something about it. Much like some ancient navigator of the past rounding a reef lost somewhere on the other side of the planet he was anxious to return to the deeper waters of his own present endless ocean of misspent time. The pit of his stomach seemed reluctant to forage forth from this last impression of the holiday dinner steaming before his mind’s eye on the imaginary table.
Wearily he dragged himself up to the dark tiled closet sized bathroom to hover above the porcelain throne and milk his reluctant bladder of its nightly pressure. How like sex for old people this all too frequent ritual had become. It was still hard for him to consider himself as old despite the fact of a burgeoning hernia that displaced his lower torso and the rapidly fading focus of one of his eyes. Other aches and pains aside, he still felt himself reasonably mobile as the chronic lower back pains still responded favorably to just sitting up straight and not slouching. Some day he would get around to those daily sit-ups! In the meantime he dried himself off with a scrap of tissue and flushed it down running the water briefly over his hands to purify them so as not to spread his germs. An electric blue pinpoint blinking in the distance catching his eye as he turned into his lounge to the chair before the picture window. The happenstance of another soul caught lonely before the ignominy of lawless transgression. This sterile emotionless era insuring that no one would be let off with a warning in light of the coming holiday and its spirit of cheering on the finer sentiments of the season. The motion of worship being a completely secular affair. The old recliner creaked carefully as he settled into it so as not to provide that same degree of unwary strain of his misapplied weight that had broken the other one which he had discarded the year before. It didn’t seem that he was fat for his age? Certainly not the muffin top ridden aging male of the sort whose excess flesh was draped over bar stools skidding about the dimness of the establishment down the street. His age class were by now slowed down versions of perpetually persistent thinkers who still could conceive of themselves caught up in the mental hangover of youth. The flashing light had gone away leaving the space just another repetitive portion of the empty portrait of street lamp lit night.
He creaked back slowly into the chair;s furthest setting his head tilted in a manner to catch sight of the static play of light and shadow on the ceiling. The thoughts of that empty holiday’s necessary scheduling coming back into his mind’s eye focus. Late morning on Christmas Day would be brunch with an equally dispossessed old crony for an hour or two. The early morning would be the best time to conjure the elements of the day into a belly filling feast so it would be warming in the oven by the time he returned. This year he would bake a bird! He had avoided the task of cooking for the holiday right up to those few years just before the sufferance of a general decline in holiday spirit that his father’s August passing earlier that year had wrought. The notion of a full spread of cooking a complete turkey and the accompanying items seemed a bit Baroque but could be justified in the old tradition of a number of subsequent days of leftovers. He could palpably feel his hands chopping slippery cold giblets in preparation for immersion of the mush of egg and bread with onion and celery in the family artifact of a big red nineteen-fifties colored glass mixing bowl. The sensation of smells along with tastes like face cards interleaved amidst the different suits in dealing a next hand of poker. Perhaps a whole turkey was a bit too ambitious for service to a solitary diner? But then the customary ritual would be truncated in a manner that would sully the collective experience of the final sense of enjoyment? The turkey was after all the key element! And of course the compliment of the cranberry sauce the can;s of which he couldn’t allow himself to forget. Had some famous nineteenth century author updated his tale of pathetic holiday leanings this scenario might have given some special status as fit inspiration. It was a feat in anticipation of reviving something long lost and irretrievable. But perhaps, he thought the completion of another form of rite of passage as well. The solitary adventurer within him would not at this last moment shy away from another lonely reef far away from anything currently familiar.
The only concern that haunted him was that in this commercially miserly minded era would a turkey be available at this late date? The notion of having to order anything considered out of season by marketing standards a potential monkey wrench in his plans. What if there were no whole turkeys to be had? Then what? The notion crippled the reciprocating recollection cycling in his mind. Was this some unreasonable folly to considered in speculating so demonstrably upon planning a reunion of sorts with his own former era of past existence? His mouth seemed a bit wetter with all these thoughts. There was something tribal about all this almost to the point of a superstition. A feast obviously not only for himself. But as a vehicle to summon long bygone souls from an errant sense of better time past. Would those old scents and flavors however imperfectly reborn send him into a momentary ecstatic state of former homecoming? It was easy to be cynical and toss the whole thing off as some whim of unimportant nonsense. A capricious folly that would at best only yield the benefit of work for otherwise idle hands. Something that several alcoholic drinks worth of self-indulgence might just as easily functionally accomplish. The meal might fill his belly but would it serve to reestablish that lasting gap in his soul? Could he be sure that he would discover an even greater emptiness before a dining table too large overfilled with food that he could not possibly consume in that sitting. It growing equally cold in his stomach as the rest of it waited for guests that could no longer arrive? The angst of those other occasions where a party was expected but no one showed up. That sense of resentful bitterness deeply felt in the pit of his stomach spoiling everything. Would this demonstrative fantasy be enough to simply close one’s eyes and deny the truth of the existential misery of aged solitude. A passing train whistle sang out its lonely wail distracting him. Might it have been some mechanical buoy left by unseen forces to warn him off from this unexpected shoal of doubt. The other factor governing his madness now clearly upon his mind like the settling of a white linen table cloth frozen frame by frame descending airily from heaven. At this point given the situation he had absolutely nothing left to lose.