shaunterrywriter

These are my writings. Ideally, these are the most honest expressions of myself that I could give.

Fuck winter.

My black no-show socks are still full of sand, sweat, and water.

I thought that I’d “find” myself at the beach, two hours from home, in the grey stone catacombs that are an Eastern American winter. Back home, all my clothes were hanging neatly on white plastic hangers, except for the ones that lay haphazardly among remnants of packaging from mom’s presents that had arrived a few days early. I’d left with no money, no food, and without enough gas in the car to get back. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, that’s pretty stupid.” But really, this is all pretty normal for me.

Anyway, I’m still around, right?

I keep “looking” for myself, and I keep “finding” parts of myself in strange places: in the gutter alongside some dingy street, in a conversation with a foolish old man, in some dialogue in some ill-reviewed movie, or in a quiet thought in a crowded café; never in interactions with any of the women with whom I, for a few days, convince myself that I’m in love; sometimes, in something that my squatty, precocious daughter shows me.

            But I’m right here.

Why am I looking?

I just broke up with my not-quite-girlfriend again. We were already broken up. I keep breaking up with her, anyway. But maybe I’m not breaking up with a girlfriend so much as divorcing from myself. Is it that men truly urgently feel the need to propagate, or is it really that men do such a shitty job at understanding and forgiving themselves? Sometimes, I can forgive myself. Sometimes, I break up with my girlfriend instead.

I’ve gotta figure out where I’m staying tonight. It’s too damn cold to sleep in the car again. I did that in Lawrence, Kansas, one night, and it was so awful – with the cold, the uncomfortable lodging, and the physical insecurity – that I phoned up my aunt in Springfield, Missouri, and ended up staying with her for several months. Springfield sucks. It sucks bad.

I haven’t stolen things too many times, but I’ve snuck into a few places; not a lot, but a few. I feel like a superhero or a man-god when I do, but I don’t really do it much. I’m too scared, if you wanna know. My mother’s one of those insufferable rules people. She doesn’t approve of the way I live, but she doesn’t really know that because she doesn’t ask. If she asked, she wouldn’t send me Christmas gifts anymore. Or I’d just lie. She probably knows, really.

There’s a motel very near the beach, and it looks nice. I tell the cheery, half-baked, middle-aged lady at the desk some bullshit story about driving up to see my daughter and having gotten robbed, so she offers me a room. She tells me, in her slippery, mild Southern accent, that she’s not supposed to do this, but with the holidays having just passed and it being a new year and her being a Christian… well, it helps to be a good-looking white boy, sometimes. It also helps to be a good liar.

She puts me in room 404, and walking up the stairs is unbearably cold. The elevator’s one of those ancient, deadly elevators in which you know that nothing’s really gonna happen, but you’re scared to hell, anyway. Windchill’s in the negative, the guy on the radio said. My winter coat is not a winter coat. It’s just a moderately thick windbreaker that I got from Goodwill with someone else’s name on the left breast. People often say stupid things about it having the wrong name on it, or strangers try to call me by that wrong name, thinking that I work in some chain restaurant that gives moderately thick windbreakers to its superstar employees.

Fuck winter.

I try to turn the key in the top lock, but the door won’t open. I’m sorta squatting, with my elbows pressed in tight and my chin squashed into my chest; I guess I’m trying to make myself into a small target for this cold, salty air. I give up on the top lock and insert the key in the bottom one. The key turns, and I hop into the room – I mean really hop into – with my lanky arms pressing into, and then swinging back from, the door. I unsnap my jacket and deliberately start forcing off my cold, soggy shoes. There’s sand all over the front halves of them. They cost seventy-five bucks, and they’re just some slip-ons with this Incan-looking embroidered pattern on them. Kind-of a rip-off, kind-of a stupid thing to buy, but I’m vain and insecure. Maybe that’s redundant to say like that. God, I hope that sand comes out okay.

I step into the motel room, and the walls are the color of a banana smoothie. I’d describe them in some more-creative way or something, but nothing else is that color. These walls’ color: I could take it or leave it. The decor is nice enough in general – maybe it’s not these walls’ color, maybe it’s that I can see the seams in the walls. It makes it look cheap, ya know?

But the place is nice. Is this a suite and not just a room? I don’t really know the difference. I mean, it’s more than just a room, which is nice. It has a whole little kitchen area, and you don’t even usually get those in pretty decent places. I guess this is a pretty decent place, if I really think about it. I probably wouldn’t actually know.

I’m poking around the place, looking to see if anyone happened to leave behind a million dollars or porn or something. Instead, I find that someone’s left an avocado in the fridge. The thing looks too ripe to eat, anyway. It’s all black and almost-squishy. I grab it, and I immediately worry that it might burst open. I hate when the avocado meat gets all that grey shit in it. I still eat it when it does that, but I worry that the grey shit might kill me. Maybe it’s still good; we’ll find out tomorrow.

I slide the vertical blinds from the middle of the big glass sliding doors, and the ocean is just a few yards away. The door slides open, and with the beauty of it all, I almost forget how cold it is outside. The sun has already set, but the sky still has that pink-and-grey cotton candy look to it. It’s really fucking beautiful. For a free motel, this view makes for a hell of a good value. Maybe I should move to a beach town and teach Socialistic economics to snobby, delusional, terrible white kids. Ha! I think I’d love that.

With each step around the nice-ish little motel suite or room or whatever-the-fuck it is, I feel my black little socks squishing beneath my toes. They feel like they’re making more noise than they really probably are, but it’s annoying, anyway, so I quickly yank them off, and I’m relieved to no longer be wearing them. But the floor tiles are cold, too. Of course.

I’m barely hanging on to the nasty little socks as I get them hung over the shower rod. The bathroom attaches to the bedroom, and each of those attaches to the corridor/foyer. The bedroom and bathroom are each decently-sized, but nothing to really brag about. In the bedroom, I half-expect the salmon-and-forest comforter to have a hole or two from cigarette burns, but for just a nice-ish motel, the place is really pretty pristine. Really good value, actually.

I shove my arctic feet down under the sheets and comforter, and pull it all tight around me, like I’m a messy, dirty Caucasian taquito. And I let out a pretty good sigh. It’s a relief to be able to relax and feel safe for a night.

I grab the TV remote, so that I can try and relax for a little bit. It looks both cheap and futuristic; it’s like a baby gadget and/or sextoy. Maybe the people who tend to buy one are typically the same people who buy the other. I press the red button in the top right corner of the remote, and Juan Williams is talking shit about Muslims. No joke. I’ll have to leave it on MSNBC when I leave.

Except that two minutes later, I figure out that they don’t have MSNBC on my TV. Of course. Every second channel or so is black-and-white pixel-chaos and awful, loud white noise, and trying to find something worth watching is just a pain in the ass, so I turn the thing off and I realize that I’m sleepy. It’s like 5pm, so I have no idea why I’m sleepy, but I take an involuntary half-hour nap, anyway.

I wake up feeling like I was re-born from Mother Mary’s perfect ladyness. I for real let out a big, cheesy stretch-and-yawn, like I’m some forgettable character in an under-funded Indie film, and I just lay there for a sec. I’m hungry. I should try to eat. Maybe I can read something, if I’m not too distracted or whatever.

My socks and shoes aren’t dry, exactly, but they’re drier than they were before, and I have no choice, anyway. I put them on, thinking that I’ll eventually manage to leave. Unlocking the door is just as painful and stupid as locking it was. Why don’t they fix these stupid locks so that frito-brained Midwesterners can figure them out and avoid robbery? But who around here would rob someone?

Just a few hours ago, I saw a three-story beach house with glass walls and a spiral staircase running up the middle of it. No one here robs anyone.

I finally get sufficiently motivated to eat something, and I head out the door. After landing at the bottom of those freezing fucking stairs, I decide to walk through the lobby just to avoid a few moments of cold on the way to my car. That cheery desk lady asks how I’m doing, and I think, Surviving, if I’m seeing it right, but I just say, “Fine.” I ask where I might get some free food in this little Southern beach town, and she makes a stupid, sad puppy face and gives me ten bucks, so I smile and thank her, but I’m worried that my smile looks fake; are my eyes smiling?

My dad always used to tell us to smile with our eyes, but his smile always looked stupid, like he just got hired at Abercrombie and Fitch or something. It won’t matter, anyway. At worst, this lady will just chalk it up to me being stressed out. I’m just a hard-working man off to see his precious tiny daughter, after all. I guess that you’re not supposed to use your kids for shit like this, but the whole thing was really bullshit, anyway, so I don’t think that it should count.

To Harvest Ruins, part two

Grandpa reappeared from his den of Fox News, military plaques, ribbons, gold medals, Breitbart.com, and stale pride and simple provinciality. His gait was intentional as he bellowed, “I know you kids don’t go to church much anymore. You weren’t blessed with the kind of faith your grandma and I have. And it hurts us to know.

“You might be surprised. You know who else in the family has faith like we do?”

I was silent for a moment, but he just stared at me. He actually wants me to respond to this?

“Who?”

“Your Uncle Tom. He’s thinking of joining the Knights of Columbus.”

Columbus was a piece of shit racist exploiter, by the way, and Uncle Tom is a capitalist who could’ve been a great man but got sucked into living in the suburbs and driving his kids around in his luxury SUV and all the kind of shit you’d associate with those things.

“When I was your age, I was getting close to retiring from the Army. If you look here,” he pointed at some perfectly framed and matted documents on the wall, “I eventually got letters of commendation from every branch of the military.” He paused to revel for a moment. “I was good at my job. I didn’t always like it, but it had value to me. I liked the security that came from doing a good job and making enough money, but I guess not everyone’s interested in that.

“When I took my second career, I decided I was going to take care of my family as best I could. I was the first one in the building and the last person to leave. I appreciated the security and freedom that making money gave me. I know some people get degrees in Anthropology and Women’s Studies and all that bullshit, but why? Isn’t that so stupid?”

He looked at me awkwardly. Again. Shit. He wants an answer again. Why is he asking me these loaded questions and expecting answers?

“I don’t know.”

His voice rose incrementally: “Well, what would anyone do with a degree like that? They should make money first, get a career, take care of themselves, and then worry about that other stuff. I’ve got to say it bothers me that people think they can waste all this time and money — my money, OUR MONEY — on something as worthless as that. I can’t stand that they take MY FUCKING MONEY and spend it in these stupid ways. What gives them the right to do something like that?”

It was the first time I’d ever heard him say “fuck.” I don’t give a fuck who says “fuck,” really, and I’m sure he’s said it a million times before, but he wouldn’t have said it in front of me if he weren’t really fucking pissed.

In fact, he was attacking me, but I didn’t care about that. Here was this decaying old man with too much time on his hands, trapped in a bunker of security and vitriol, built by him and a few profiteers. It was a self-centered, simplified paranoia and rage, helped along by some of the most insidious agents in society.

Since he’d retired, he was like someone blindly, skilllessly trying to swim up from the bottom of an ocean he was thrown into. He hadn’t wanted to make a career out of the military, but he’d been good at the work he’d done and it’d made him feel safe. He hadn’t wanted to manage commissaries for the couple decades that followed his illustrious military career, but it was work that he could do well with low risk and he got accolades for that, too. Now, he had to justify his life to himself and it wasn’t hard because the way to do it was right at his fingertips; there were people who’d built careers by assuaging people just like him. His network of conservative pundits had built him a new home, customized just for him in the same way that someone having a house built for them might slightly alter the blueprint of the builder’s base model.

What I wanted to do wasn’t to argue with him or to try to win something, but to show him a softer, more fruitful, calmer way. I wanted to help this hapless old bell-ringer to be better to himself, to his wife, and to others. For everyone’s sakes, but maybe mostly for his and for Grandma’s.

“You know, I think we need different kinds of people in the world in order to make the world function. We need people to run charities and NGOs and we need people to work as counselors and all kinds of other things. We need professors. Maybe we need some of everything. In other parts of the world, the idea that people are just here to make money and buy stuff isn’t as popular as it here. Maybe convenience isn’t everything.”

“You know…” he let out a short sigh. He wasn’t resigned, but he also wasn’t defensive. “I’m not saying money’s everything. Money’s a tool, but life is a lot easier when you take care of yourself and your family.”

I had been sitting at the table, waiting to eat Grandma’s delicious food, as this odd old man had been shouting from the other side of the table. Finally, Grandma broke the tension by setting a plate in front of me. She smiled. Her face was a field of round ridges, all wrapping around her face to form one great big grin.

She asked me about how I’d been and what I was up to. I didn’t want to talk about those things because they’d just worry, so I kept my answers short. But Grandpa wasn’t having it. He’d heard I’d been driving across the country on the way to see them.

“You’re not that young anymore, Hugo. Life’s not just a big adventure that you get to play around with until you’re 80. You’ve got to settle down some time. All that driving ages a man.”

“Yeah, I agree. Maybe it’s good, sometimes, to just sit still and appreciate what’s around you.”

Part one: https://shaunterrywriter.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/to-harvest-ruins-part-one/

Fulfillment’s Last Finale

Big Olive Eyes

If Egyptian cotton
were more like titanium,
and if we could hold stars in our hands
and if they sparkled like diamonds
that we could drink from a warm pool
that we surrounded ourselves in,
and if it were as sweet as rosewater
and if it filled our hearts
like it filled our stomachs
just enough to feel perpetually satisfied.

Her big olive eyes,
looked up from behind monochromatic window panes
and locked me with electromagnetic ocular rays.
It was the warmest embrace,
and I surrendered.
I wanted her to hold me tight and close like that,
and never release me.

Stevie Wonder had it wrong.
It’s okay if her love makes me stronger.
It’s what I’d been aching for.
And maybe she feels it, too.

This is normal for me.

I’m now gonna tell you about how I ruined things with Lily.

Lily and I met like seven years ago, I think. No, six. No, seven. Fuck it. Whatever.

She and I met because alcohol. That’s how grown-ups do, right? Anyway, we immediately started to like each other a lot. She made me feel waves of energy, like I was invincible around her, but it wasn’t all just hairs standing on their ends and attraction. Everything seemed much healthier than any relationship I’d ever been in. We understood each other in a profound way.

I only got to hang out with her for about two weeks before she moved to France for a year. She stopped back home after about six months, and we hung out as much as we could. It was incredible. Then, she went back for another six months before coming home again.

We’d Skyped most nights when she was away, but we realized that it was silly to be exclusive while we were worlds apart. She’d tell me about her adventures and whatever emotional issues she had with her mom, with boys, or just within herself.

There was an ex-boyfriend named Benjamin who was particularly troubling. She’d broken up with him just before leaving to France, and he really frustrated her. She’d loved him very much and she’d thought he’d loved her, too. I mean, maybe the guy did, really.

When they’d started dating, he was really open with her and made her feel really loved, but as time went on, he became more distant — neglectful, even — and they ended up breaking up several times. The sex had been good, he was a good enough guy, and they’d known each other since they’d been kids. He was her home, as they’d say.

Anyway, she gets back from France, and we’re getting more serious. Things are going really well. We reach a level of understanding with each other like we’d never reached with anyone else. When we fight, the fights are quickly defused and we end up making each other feel even better than we had before the fight. We leave each fight feeling closer and stronger than ever. They weren’t even really fights. They were just little arguments.

But we just know that we’re meant to be together. The sex is good, the communication’s good, we inspire each other, we hold each other accountable, we learn from each other, we adore each other. It’s wonderful.

Then, Benjamin calls her up one day and they talk for a few hours. She and I aren’t exclusive at this point because she’s just gotten back from France and she’s staying in the apartment at her parents’ house, three hours from me. We’ve been kind-of neglecting our responsibilities in order to talk and hang out, so things have really gotten pretty serious. Or at least, that’s what I thought. Maybe she thought the same. I dunno.

So he calls, and then I call because we were gonna try to get off Skype earlier than normal so that we could be responsible, but she’s been AWOL for a few hours. I call her just to say that I’m planning to go to bed soon, and she explains that she’s doing something with someone, but maybe she’ll be free in a little bit.

Her call ends a few minutes later, so we go on Skype. It starts out like a normal Skype call and everything seems fine, but I can tell that she’s upset, so she tells me that she talked to him for a few hours and that it upset her. It just made her uncomfortable. She’s living this life that’s so different from what she had always known. She’d had a community that she was familiar with as a kid, and this boy had been part of it, and now, everything was different and what was she doing with herself?

So we talk about that for a while, and it goes okay at first, but things slow down and she gets distracted by her cell phone or something. Suddenly, she just wants to go to bed, so we abruptly say goodbye.

We hang up and I feel awful for some reason, but I try to just let it go. The next day, I’m just feeling vaguely, mildly uncomfortable. So we’re talking that night, and she explains that he’d been in the neighborhood, so he had come over.

“Did you kiss him?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

“No, but close enough.”

I paused. I was emotionally prepared for it, so it only upset me so much. It bothered me, but we weren’t exclusive. It now seemed kinda weird to me that she and I weren’t exclusive, but she wasn’t breaking any rule. I’m not always that jealous and I appreciated her honesty. Maybe it wasn’t weird that we weren’t exclusive. Maybe I was just desperate and stupid.

Anyway, the conversation got weird and dark after that. She was really upset. She was suddenly confused about what she wanted. She wasn’t confused. She knew that he was wrong for her, but she also missed him. I mean, of course she missed him. I tried to tell her that her feelings were okay, but she didn’t want me to make her feel better. She didn’t wanna talk about it.

I was going to see her the next day, anyway, so maybe I’d just let her try and figure it out, try to let things settle. But I was pretty upset. I was feeling pretty insecure.

I came to the door, and she let me in with a sullen look on her face. Things were not okay. She didn’t hug me, didn’t kiss me. I wanted to reach out, but I knew not to. We barely got inside the door.

I was scared.

“He doesn’t love you like I do. He’s comfortable. Like he said, he sees you as ‘inevitable.’ He doesn’t want to work for it; he’s not interested in that. He doesn’t know how to love you, and maybe that’s got as much to do with his emotional needs and yours as it does with his level of maturity. Maybe more.

“It’s not his fault. He’s not a bad guy. He’s a great guy! You know what? He’s a fucking peach, but he’s not going to make you happy. He doesn’t know how. That’s not his fault: he wants different things from you. You speak different languages from each other, really.”

By this point, I wasn’t quite yelling, but we’ll say it was borderline outside voice.

“I understand that you’re familiar with him. I understand that you love him. I know that you want to feel that closeness that you’re used to, but it’s not just that. Don’t you see it? You want him to make up for the pain that he’s caused you. You want him to do better, to do all the things that he was supposed to do the first time. You think to yourself, But maybe this time, he’ll be different. Maybe he’ll finally SHOW me that he loves me. Maybe he’ll finally give me what I want and need and he and I can finally make each other happy.

“Hugo.” By now, she was upset with what I was saying. I was scared, but I was being selfish. She thought it was okay that she was feeling what she was feeling, that it was inevitable, but I wanted to help her see some obvious, universal truth. I was being condescending, patronizing even. I wanted to show her, but I guess it wasn’t my right to show her. Maybe I was wrong, anyway. I never really got the chance to find out.

“Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this guy’s different from all the other guys who took love for granted and failed to show the woman he loved what she meant to him. Maybe he doesn’t love you so much as he just wants the comfort and affection that you provide. Maybe he thinks he loves you, or maybe he loves you in a certain way.

“You said that he sees it as a game, but why should this be different? If he was always just trying to be the one holding the power, why wouldn’t it bother him that you’re moving on? Why wouldn’t his stupid human brain trick him into saying things and doing things that would make it seem like he feels the way you want him to? Why wouldn’t it be the case that he’s desperate to have you back, but not because he wants to make your life better, but because he wants to have a little bit of ownership over your heart, as he’s always done in the past?”

I think that I was actually crying by this point, but I didn’t even realize it. Lily was really freaked out. I could see in her face, in the way she was standing that she really just wanted to leave. No. She wanted me to leave. I was in her home.

“I can’t stand the thought that we made it this far, that it’s so obvious how right we are for each other, and that you’d let our love die.”

Of course, that didn’t go over well. I immediately drove the weekly three-hour trip home. Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight,” came on, and I started crying, sobbing loudly. I don’t know why. The song’s not particularly sad, not particularly touching, certainly not relevant.

I was sad. I was angry, actually. I knew I’d fucked up. I knew she’d break up with me and I realized that I was actually very much in love with her. That’s stupid. Was I really in love with her? For how long had I been? I knew I’d been fighting it.

I wanted to make her feel better, but I knew the more I tried, the more I’d freak her out. I didn’t know what to say or how to act about it. I was scared.

I’d been really childish and I couldn’t blame her.

I spent the next few weeks freaking out. I took an excessive amount of time off from work. I nearly got fired, in fact. I spent most of my time sitting down or laying down, watching videos, reading books, not eating. I lost thirty pounds in two weeks.

Lily moved to New York to be with this guy named Benjamin. For the first two or three months, I would call her or email her and tell her that I loved her and that I was sorry. She wouldn’t pick up or wouldn’t respond because, as it turns out, they were too busy fucking. They were fucking a lot, and it was going really great for them. Lots of orgasms.

Then, as I later found out, about four or five months into their relationship, it started to get bad. He’d ignore her for days at a time, and even when he didn’t, she didn’t feel any emotional connection to him. Same as last time. They broke up after about eight months. She moved back home and never talked to me again.

This is normal for me.

An Unsent Letter to My Last Ex-Girlfriend

Former Lovers

Thank you.

I love you and I always will. I don’t blame you. I’m conflicted. I’m angry, but I know that it’s not really you that I’m angry at, so I’m sorry. I feel insecure because I failed at another relationship and I’m insecure because I did things in our relationship that I said I’d never do again. I disappointed you and disappointed me, and I’ve been hating myself for it. But I think I’m done doing that.

Sometimes, two people meet and they admire each other. They feel an instant spark and there are things about them that are so unique and exciting, so they make seemingly small compromises because that’s what people do when they want to be close with someone. The thing is that I’ve never known until just now, but there’s a way to be in a relationship so that you don’t feel threatened, attacked, or neglected, and that’s how we both felt, isn’t it?

I wanted us to be vulnerable, to put all our cards on the table, and to not blame each other, and you wanted space so that things wouldn’t explode and so that you could think. So I shared and I pleaded and my face bowed in the middle and you sensed my desperation and it felt like an affront to you. And I got upset and you got upset and you asked for space, but I insisted and you felt trampled. It was unfair. It was awful.

You’re an amazing person. We both have things that we could do better, but that’s not really the problem. I’ll always admire you. I think about you all the time. I fantasize about good things and bad things and impossible futures of little consequence. The memory of you is imbedded in my mind like straw in dried Mississippian mud. Your memory will always be there. I’ll always hope that you’re healthy and happy and getting plenty of love.

But where we are is where we’re supposed to be. Now, we can both experience love how each of us was meant to experience it. We loved each other so well, sometimes, didn’t we? But we didn’t give the love that each other’s hearts required. And that’s okay. Neither of us meant for it to happen.

I don’t know why you did what you did. I don’t know why you just left like that. It felt like rejection, but I know that it was just self-preservation. Maybe you can explain it to me, but you certainly don’t have to. I’d love to have coffee with you. I’d love to dance with you and write a song with you like we were always supposed to. I’d love to make love to you one last time.

But things are better now for me, and I’m sure that they’re better for you. There’s someone who’ll come to the table with me, even when they’re angry, who’ll set aside their ego and tell me what they’re feeling and why, who’ll work hard to consider my feelings and I’ll consider theirs as we explain all the stupid things about us and about each other that are driving us just a little crazy, and by the end, we’ll know each other just a little better and we’ll love each other for it. And there’s someone out there who can make you feel safe, and there’s someone out there who can make me feel cared-for. There’s someone who gives you space, someone who provides the security that they want for themselves, for their lover, and for their family.

So thank you. I’m lucky to be where I am today, and I couldn’t be here if it weren’t for what you did for me, even if I felt tortured because of my own fears about what it meant about me. I now understand that it didn’t mean anything bad about either of us. I love you and I always will. I believe that at least some part of you, whether you realize it or not, still loves me, but it’s okay if I’m wrong. Whatever the truth is, we’re both okay and we’ll continue to be okay.

The Bravery Required to Exit the Egg

Baby Bird

The alleyway echoes,
rattling like a drunken drummer
attempting to play in a complex time signature.
Around the corner,
a nook becomes visible;
loose papers and the plastic wrapper
from a microwaveable burrito or cinnamon bun
— like you might get at a convenience store —
tap the ground as they gently swirl;
an urban infant tornado.

The promise of the world emerges
when an egg suddenly becomes misshapen:
a small, winged creature will emerge
with giant eyes and a gaped mouth.
Before it can ever hope to fly,
the bird must learn to breathe
and someone or something must vigilantly protect it.
From where that protection comes,
assuming that it ever does,
depends on the universe’s random lottery.

It’s said that nothing’s perfect,
but maybe the joining of two imperfect entities
can create apparently perfect harmony.
Maybe the universe sometimes allows
a bird to fly when it seems that it shouldn’t.

To Harvest Ruins, part one

Statuettes, all facing the street, littered the perfectly manicured yard. In the drive sat a shiny, spotless black-and-chrome Cadillac.

In the open garage, the old man with his snow-white hair stood: stoic, waiting. Each year, his head has lost a little more color until it had none more to give. Blonde hair doesn’t turn grey; the color simply bleeds away until it goes from straw to something you might expect to see on a lab mouse. “Come on in! Grandma just made you food.”

He was smaller than I’d ever seen him. He’d always stood about 6’2″, with a broad chest and only a slight belly, and been as much legend as man. He’d accomplished a lot in his life and done just what he’d set out to do. He could tell stories of how his pride had led him to extraordinary victories. He’d been a protomale in so many ways: stern, strong, and masculine. But now, despite sturdy, erect posture, his age betrayed him, bringing him down to the humbler height of average men. His build was slight, his face had sunken into itself. He was no longer imposing; he was shrunken and withering.

He said that he’d recently lost fifteen pounds. “On purpose,” he explained. He was used to being proud and unabashed in voicing his opinions.

I lined my boots up with the neat rows of shoes, near the door from the garage into the house, before I stepped inside. It smelled like rich food and subtly sweet cleaning chemicals. The carpet leading down the hall to the living room was protected by a thick plastic cover that ran the length of the hall, as though it were customized.

Had grandma had it specially made? Had she measured the hall and gone to the hall-length plastic runner store to pick out the perfect one? How much energy and time had she spent to find such a thing?

Along the walls and on each shelf and small table were photos of dozens of family members from four generations. Grandma sat in a little pile of geriatric woman on the floor of the room that had been allocated to her for soap operas and sewing and doing whatever-the-fuck-else old, near-deaf women do.

“Oh! Hugo!”

She labored to stand, morphing in slow-motion, becoming a tiny standing geriatric woman. I reached my hand out for her to prop up against. Her eyes looked up at me from about the height of the middle of my chest, and she smiled a big, innocent grin at me.

She kissed me on the mouth because she always kisses me on the mouth, and I don’t mind it even a little. She kisses sweetly and earnestly, with a love so soft that no one could mistake it for something selfish or something with an agenda. She asked how I was doing, so we had some inane conversation that we’d had a hundred times before, but I didn’t mind having it.

I didn’t yell at her, even though everyone else does. I can’t help but feel that, though she might not express it, maybe she doesn’t really like being constantly yelled at. I’d just rather she’d ask me to repeat myself and make me yell than to start out yelling at her. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know proper etiquette when it comes to deteriorating piles of octogenaric, nearly-deaf humans. Maybe I should ask Abby or some shit. To be honest, I do talk more loudly to her than would be appropriate at a Carrabba’s or something.

My grandmother makes me feel warm. Even in old age, she works hard  to keep the house clean for her big, goofy husband. She cooks immaculate, delicious food that makes you feel taken care of and she holds your hand and massages it a little as she asks you about your life. And even if she’s telling you that you don’t call enough, you look into the giant chocolate marbles for eyes and you know that she’s just a sensitive old woman who’s always kept things simple. All she ever wanted was to be as good as she could to the people she loves. She shows you that she loves you while she’s scolding you, scowling at you. The hills and ravines in the small, old, eroded face twist at a curious, discontented angle, but she has enough love in her eyes for five people. And she’s dying. It’s stupid and it pisses me off, to be honest.

The little Yoda-like woman drags me to the kitchen and starts pulling food from every crevice of the kitchen, like a horror film’s antagonist if the slasher were to live a life of cooking and cleaning and organizing and cuddling. Somehow, this little hunched sack of wrinkles and cinnamon-grins makes food appear at a magical pace, despite her moving slowly enough that the tortoise might be tempted to bet on itself.

Infinity Fleeting

Iris Field

Lumbering through the irises:
gold-pocked lavender-colored plants
in fields of technicolor waves
where my brain stretches,
trying to create vivid permanent records,
as I inhale the honeyscent
from flowers’ tiny fragments.

Lying among them,
wishing to diffuse,
ignoring for an instant
the impending deterioration of flesh,
the constant cycles of sun and moon,
instead dreaming
of endlessly absorbing the irises’ glory.

I feel the Earth’s particulate
arresting the sheath and hairs
that envelope my body,
getting stuck in the cracks of my scales,
melting into my sweat,
grinding, wearing down my skin.

I want to soak myself in you
for as long as I can
so that some of you could always be inside me.
And if some day you’re not near me,
I can dig deep into me
and still be able to smell you,
and I’ll smile.

Isn’t a Warm Gun or Slipping from Death’s Sleepy Jaws

“And don’t tell me you’ll make me happy. I know what happiness is and it’s nothing you can provide. Don’t tell me you’re giving me something. Because I know what it means: you really just want to take.

“You think you can make me feel these amazing things, and maybe you can. I’d love that, I’d give a lot to feel those things right now, but you had to go and fuck it up by thinking this grotesque thing and saying it aloud. You think happiness is fireworks and orgasms and a lifetime of glee, but that’s not what happiness is. What you’re talking about is an escape for you. That’s you running away from what happiness really is.

“Happiness is soft, quiet; it’s a glow that the whole world gives to you and that you give back to it. Happiness is seeing life’s sadnesses and crying just a little and making the best of things. Happiness is when you look in the mirror and you like the person looking back not because of anything you’ve accomplished or how you rank against anyone else, but because you’re part of the only universe we have and that universe is a place full of wonder, and you don’t know where the gravitational pull from the subatomic particles at the edge of your skin end and where far-off galaxies begin. Happiness is when you know that you are and you know that everything else is, and it’s all as it should be, and you make peace with your role in all that. Happiness is knowing how to be whatever you’re being in that moment, with no desired outcome and no pushing against the thin fibers that hold this moment between the moment before and the moment after because those fibers are all that there ever are and ever will be.

“Don’t tell me about happiness, you foolish louse. I want you to be happy. Everyone wants you to be happy, and you get so close to it, but then you run. You run to the shallow end of the pool where you get to be smarter, better-looking, funnier, more clever, more charming than everyone else and you think that you’re doing a good job, instead of looking at yourself without criticism or self-congratulation.

“Well, until you figure out that the only thing that will ever matter is that everything is perfect and that means you, too, you’re just going to keep running back and forth — no! You think you’re spiraling, always moving up in this repetitive, familiar motion, but are you? I don’t know. Maybe you’re learning things, but what does it matter if you don’t learn the most important thing?

“You’re the universe, but you have to break free of the only universe you’ve known in order to see the one that’s real. You’re stumbling around in a pitch black room with a web of fears and misguided hopes pulling at you from every direction and you think that you’re running, but you’re just standing still. And all you really need to do is turn your head a fraction of an inch to see things from a slightly different angle.

“You’re the whole universe, just like I’m the whole universe because there’s no end and no beginning. And it’s not that big a deal because it’s everyone and it’s always, but it’s also the only thing; it’s all that’s important. There’s only now. And right now, there’s you and me and this room and that plastic planter and that pretentious painting on the wall there and your ugly shoes. Who cares? What are you going to do about it, huh? Quit thinking, Hugo.

“Start being alive, start remembering the things that you knew the day you were born, start feeling things, become the language-less infant who looks at the world with inquisitiveness, contentment, and thoughtless understanding.

“You could, you know. But you probably won’t. You can’t make me happy because I know what happiness is and you’re just a lot of firecrackers and perfect teeth. I love you, but you don’t know how to love yourself. It could be so easy.”

In Descent from a Second-Story Apartment

Man in Descent

I laid in bed all day when I should’ve been working.

My alarm clock went off, and I looked at the clock, knowing that I had important things to get done, but I couldn’t pry myself from the safety of my deep slumber.

I should’ve been an anxious clusterfuck, springing out of bed like a cat discovering a cucumber, but my head plopped perfectly into the indentation that my cranium had formed.

People always get lonely in November.

“Why’d you leave your last job?”

“Well, it was the Holiday Season™, and there was this bullshit with this girl, and I just didn’t give a fuck about anything, including my life, health, happiness, or welfare. But what kinds of benefits do you typically provide entry-level employees? And honestly, I have some management experience that I think you should consider because I don’t feel like sucking dick and doing shit work for the next six months, if you don’t mind.”

I laid in bed, thinking that I should be working on work stuff. Even if I don’t go into work, if I at least get some shit done, that could be fine. I can’t really miss today’s meeting, but I mean, if they think I’m sick but still getting my shit done, maybe they’ll be impressed. Maybe I’ll get a raise. But instead, I laid around, doing nothing, thinking nothing, trying to get my ass fired.

I watched videos about how to get your meringue to stiffen up just right. Even after watching the videos, I still don’t know how they make meringue, to be honest. Something about eggs, right? As far as I’m concerned, it’s some culinary magic, and I’m happy to let it remain that way. I’m a curious person, but I’m also lazy. Let there be some magic in the world.

I haven’t visited her Facebook in six months now. How? I think about doing it everyday. A few weeks ago, I used the company computer and accidentally ran across her YouTube channel. I thought that I was going to go into cardiac arrest. I didn’t even watch any of it. I just saw that she had recently posted a video. It felt fatal. Cardiac arrest.

Maybe that’s wrong. I don’t know what “cardiac arrest” means. But I could feel my pulse in the ends of my appendages and I was worried that someone could see my heart violently pumping, causing my shirt to expand and contract. I was cold and sweaty, and I knew that everyone around me must be staring at me, wondering how long it would take me to die.

I collapsed into my rolly chair and stared at my computer screen. If my boss had come by and asked me what I was doing, I would’ve done one of a few things: I would’ve cried hysterically, I would’ve punched him in the dick, I would’ve vomited on his Kenneth Cole loafers (fucking dickface stupidass boss), or I would’ve simply staggered out of the building and waited for the cops to meet me near the door.

I didn’t do anything today. I barely moved. My bed and my body started to fuse. My ass hurts, to be honest.

I grabbed some snacks after a few hours of looking at Facebook, YouTube, and YouPorn, and I brought the snacks to my room after taking a long piss. Are there crumbs in the goddamn bedsheets? You bet your ass there are. But I bought these sheets at Target, and I think that the threadcount is a negative number. I don’t know shit about threadcounts, but I guess that’s probably pretty bad. It’s probably impossible, but that’s how shitty these stupid fucking sheets are.

I did one productive thing, actually: I discovered this band while YouTubing. Does “YouTubing” mean something? Well, you know what I mean. I looked at a video, and then got railroaded into watching some other suggested video, and then, that became hours of wasting my life. Anyway, this time wasn’t as wasteful.

I found this song by this band I’d never heard of and I played it on repeat for a few hours. It was kind of a shitty little pop song that sounded like it was recorded by a drunken band at 8am. I mean, the singer sounded like someone woke Rod Stewart at 8am on his 29th birthday, and had him sing this song twice and then just settled for that and let him go back to sleep or something. Like, you know when there’s no reverb on anything and the guitars aren’t even really tuned? Maybe you don’t. Maybe they don’t even make songs like that. I don’t know what the fuck I’m saying, but I try to sound like I do.

If you talk about guitar tuning and meringue, then stupid people can be impressed. Some people will fuck you if you talk about guitar tuning and meringue. Those people are very stupid. Which is stupider, though? Which is more pathetic? It’s a tough call, really.

At work today, they’ve probably already filed 12,000 TPS reports. I think I’ll skip tomorrow, too. I didn’t mean to just make two references to Office Space, but I guess I’m okay with it, since the second was incidental. I just meant that I really don’t ever want to go into that nauseatingly stupid, oppressive place again. Maybe Peter Gibbons was right, somehow.

I might be behind on my electric bill, but it’ll all work out. Somehow. I guess. Maybe I just need to get laid. Maybe I should meditate. Maybe I should pray. Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t know who to pray to, and by this point, I doubt it would help.

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