“wheee–eeee–eh-ehhhh-eeehhh-enn I….haaaa–aaaad you-ooo”
(one and a half cappucinos + one and a half bottles of wine + mcdonald’s wifi + jackson 5’s “who’s lovin’ you?” = happy happy)
life, you take me by surprise.
life, you seduce me with friendship, with promises of colombian kissie kiss, with christ’s love, with your warm invitations to indulge myself in your geological architecture and your design of the feminine form. life, you reward me unjustly with the evasive treasure of authentic friendship; the assured silence of a shared moment, the quiet infiltrations of remembered song which escape not the vibrating membranes of an ear drum. life, you are a dazzling street performer, calling out to me with your magic tricks as i pass you by on the street, demanding my attention and my recompense. and i am happy to pay you back. i am happy to put hand to hand in forceful repitition and say ‘good show!’
life, you’re not always kind. but you are always beautiful. and you are always willing to extend that gracious hand which holds in its palm the great secret, which all men at some point cease to sense; that quiet whispering of the night wind or that gentle lick of her tongue which says to him simply this:
and i do. at least for now.
the cabin is cold, the chill, steady air of torment and the spirit of buried things alive again in the darkness outside of my sheets. i am soiled with sweat and the forbidden excursions of my restless, wandering mind. to the restroom with myself to get clean. i sense uneasiness here, but it may just be my own.
i am back in my cocoon but i am not alone; the ghastly transparent apparitions of memory breeze along my skin. something’s wrong with the toilet; a missed connection or faulty piece of equipment. the water runs, and runs, giving a howl to the phantoms that surround me. most times i am happy to sleep alone, but not tonight. the lights are off now but i can see you. clearer, even. spirits of memory illuminated by darkness, orchestrated by the demonic flushing of ghost water.
in the hospital room at the cancer center. my sister, she’s 17, she sits in a cushioned chair to my right. she’s too young to see what we see. you, your veins pumping with oxycontin, are out of bed. you cradle a teddy bear in her arms, a gift from a kind friend. you whisper sweetly to the cub, as if it were one of your own, as if it were one of us. grabbing a thin blanket from your bed, you wrap the cub tightly, picking it up in your arms and singing to it. you walk about the room with it, silencing its cries with your gentle harmonies. did you think it was me? my sister? did you know it wasn’t real?
you have the shape of a woman but the form of a child. your auburn hair never quite knows what to do with itself, as do your lips in a smile. i have sensed your desire, the longing of your lips for the touch of my own, but i have long resisted, the weight of past indifference around my neck like the chains of jacob marley. i am lonely, i am beaten, i am an amateur olympian pinot noir diver plunged into the depths of the red, wet, darkness, where our mouths find each other for breath but our lungs die from carbon dioxide poisoning. i knew well enough to stay dry, stay above surface, where my skin wouldn’t be caked with the blood of crushed fruit. now it glows like ectoplasm.
one more movement and the boiling well of love within me overflows, spilling into her. i felt you jehovah, there in the lovely warmth of her skin. the wind sweeps through my pores as i stand at the cliffs in kiama. i felt you abba, there in the cold, cleansing breath of the pacific breeze. the choir sings amazing grace and my eyes fill with tears of mourning and wounded, desperate joy. i felt you yahweh, there in assuring palm of brian banks. i lay here under a bunk in this cabin, while the devil holds me and tells me truths i wish were lies and i feel you not. or is it you that holds me? mother bear sang to the cub in her arms. won’t you sing, too?
the ghost of eros leads me to a graveyard, revealing to me the maybe fates. your coffin not yet closed, i can see you, the blood drained from your veins and onto my hands. i want to give it back, but it’s too late. i am reminded of all that i can change, of all that is within my power. i am reminded that souls can be saved and misguided spirits can find their way back again. i get up. i go to the toilet, lift the cover and reassemble its bowels. flush.
nothing now but the silence of exorcism and the quiet hum of the not-yet.
it’s summer, 2006. i’m a new yorker. i do sketch comedy with a group called totally awesome victory with my buddies from college. we know nothing about making videos, so naturally, we decide to make a video. it’s a parody of serial shows like lost and 24; shows designed to make you keep watching by never telling you what the hell is going on. where the only thing you’re ever really sure about is that you’re not really sure about anything.
our equipment is subpar at best, but we’ve got a common goal: to make ourselves laugh. and maybe some other people, too.
it ends up looking like this.
i don’t know that i’ll be gone in two years. i don’t know that i’m already halfway through my stint as a substitute new yorker. i don’t know that i’ll move back to orlando, where i swore i’d never be again. i don’t know anything about what’s going to happen. what do i ever truly know at any given moment?
who’s chasing me?!? WHO’S CHASING ME?!?
everything i know is only my best guess. i guess.
we sit in the middle of an adolescent-ridden mcdonalds, feeding off their free wi fi and bada ba ba-ba: we’re lovin’ it. as much as you can love plotting the next week and a half of your vacation, that is.
it’s 3 in the morning where you are, or where most of you are, and a few of you are still online, facebook bantering well past curfew. two of you are having a discussion about who among us would survive in a horror movie. one of you decides to ask me and, taking a break from learning that driving back out of the outback is going to cost over 2 gs, my answer is quick and painless: mel. one of you agrees with me whole heartedly. in fact, one of you has even managed to come up with the exact order of deaths in said horror movie, with which i myself wholeheartedly agree.
this, of course, as most things tend to do nowadays, leads to a facebook status update which, as in olden times, the three of us decide to chime in on, which leads to an excessive amount of comment boxes under said update, which leads to hugh jackman’s name getting mentioned, which, in my opinion, leads to the death of the joke (and an overabundance of commas).
i state this to the other two of the three of us. dead joke is what i say.
____ ___ says jeanne.
i didn’t hear it. what? i say.
oh god, nothing! she says.
no, what, what is it? jeanne is covering her mouth. what did you say? i say.
ah can’t, sorry. ah can’t.
what? i say.
no, seriously? ah can’t. and please respect the fact that ah can’t tell you.
now mel’s curious.
what did you say? mel says.
what did you say? i say.
ah don’t want to offend you. says jeanne
mel and i share a look. we have to know now.
jeanne shakes her head, goes back to looking at her computer. i think for a minute. oh no, i think. i’ve done something. there’s something she’s not telling me. she doesn’t want to make it a big thing, but it’s something big.
then it hits me. she was responding to whatever it was i said.
what did i say? i think. dead joke is what i said.
dead joke. what could she have possibly–
oh my god! i say.
sometimes, when we want to give someone a retort, but we don’t quite have anything specific to say, we say ‘your mom’. we learned this in grade school.
i said dead joke. jeanne said your mom.
the joke of it is, my mom’s dead.
did you say your mom? i ask.
hand over mouth, jeanne nods as her whole body shakes. there are tears in her eyes.
did you say your mom because i said dead joke and my mom’s dead?
hand over mouth, jeanne shakes her head no. more tears.
i made jeanne cry once before. i told her one my sleepwalking stories. they were tears of joy. i begin laughing, too.
are you laughing? i ask.
hand over mouth, she shakes her head. these are not tears of joy.
jeanne can’t believe she said what she said and now she is crying.
oh jeanne, i say, wrapping my arms around her and pulling her in for the big hug. it’s okay.
in this moment, i love her more than i have ever loved her. i think to myself, this is a beautiful human being having a beautiful human moment. i tell her it’s okay, that it’s funny what she said.
mel looks at me, then at jeanne, then at me, then at jeanne. rinse and repeat.
jeanne uncovers her mouth and wipes the tears away. i’m sorry, she says.
it’s funny, i tell her. it tell her if it’s my mom who’s dead and i’m laughing, then it’s funny.
which it is. isn’t it?
it’s afternoon on march 18th. i sit indian-style on a purple mattress on the lower half of a bunk bed in a guest room in Kingsford, Sydney, Australia. i’ve just taken a shower and, for the first time since leaving l.a., i feel somewhat refreshed. i receive e-mails from my friends, who are still in the past, recounting their experiences from the night. my mind spins, like wheel of fortune, landing on various moments in space and time.
tick, tick, tick, tick. late evening, march 17th, 2009. for six hours, i get to celebrate st. patty’s day. i do it by sleeping in a giant metal bird flying thousands of feet above the moonlit pacific ocean. i dream about something, but do not remember later.
tick, tick, tick. early morning, march 9th, 2009. i watch the sun rise over the grand canyon. it’s twenty degrees outside. jeanne, mel and i huddle together for warmth, but it’s not enough to keep the cold from worming its way through our clothes.
tick. late evening, march 17th, 2007. after performing a comedy show, my friend kevin and i chat up two girls in a bar in the lower east side of manhattan, new york. later, i ask to kiss one of them, and she nods, our breaths visible in the cold air. she jumps in my arms and i hold her on the sidewalk as cabs pass. in a little over a year, i’ll break her heart.
tick, tick. late evening, march 10th, 2009. i’m in a casino underneath the new york, new york hotel in las vegas, nevada. i’m up $130.00 in blackjack chips and i’m drunk. i flirt with jenny, our chinese/japanese/some kind of “ese” dealer, and she looks at me the way my mother did when she’d had enough of my jokes. i see jeanne’s face; she’s laughing. she thinks i’m retarded. mel is beside me, her head resting on her hand, asking me what the hell i’m thinking standing on a seven. at this time i feel great affection for them both. i know at some point i’ll leave them but it’s so far from now and i can just laugh and enjoy their funny looks across the table.
tick, tick, tick. early morning, march 12th, 2009. i’m standing on a low branch on a tree on top of the marin headlands in san fransisco, overlooking the east side of that pacific ocean which i will very soon sleep above. my face is red, my eyes are red, my cheeks are wet with tears. my mother is still gone. my mother is still gone.
tick. afternoon, march 13th, 2009. i’m in a bar in sonoma, california. dozens of wines in our bellies, jeanne and mel and i tussle in front of the jukebox as i try to bust through them to make a song selection. “settle down over there!” yells the bartender and we cease, laughing like giddy 6th graders.
tick, tick. afternoon, march 7th, 2009. i sit on a bench overlooking a lake in orlando, florida. my head hurts like hell but the rest of me feels fantastic. the wind blows and i am happy.
tick. march 16th, 2009. i’m walking along the water’s edge of manhattan beach in los angeles. all my jeans are in the laundry, so i’m wearing my pajama pants. mj and i have stumbled up on the head of a jellyfish, which oddly resembles a silicone implant. i realize then that it could be either.
tick, tick. october, 2007. i’m outside of a bar near another beach in los angeles. my father tells me that my mother again plans to take him to court and that he might go to jail. he tells me bitterly that it won’t be over until one of them dies. tears in my eyes, i hope in my heart that it ends before then. in a year, that hope will prove to be false.
tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. march 17th, 2003. i’m in the bathroom of my friend holden’s house in tallahassee, florida. it’s st. patty’s day, and i’ve attempted to drink crystal off my mind. my head on the toilet seat, i wonder where she is.
tick, tick. may 23rd, 2009. i’m on a plane, heading back to the states. i sit alone. i’ve left two beautiful souls in australia to return to several more in orlando. thinking of the two of them, i frown. thinking of you, i smile.
tick. march 9th, 2009. gary drives away and i head into the airport, holding my bags, my mind racing, wondering where the next few months are going to take me.
from inside looking out, fiji looks like a combination of 80’s vietnam movies and the island in ‘lost’. we walked from the plane to the airport and a bug flew in my eye, a far cry from san fran or even la. so many climates, so many landscapes, so few days on the trip and i already feel like i’ve been gone a century. i think about all the people back in orlando, still living the 17th of march. i wonder how different they will all be when i return. i wonder how different i will be.
i’m going to make a point of putting more trust in god while i’m here, of trying to pray to him and communicate with him. of trying to trust that whatever happens is his will. as it stands right now i find those things very difficult to do. if this is indeed a period of change, it’s a great place for me to start.
you always wanted to move to oregon. i haven’t been there yet, but san fran seems like the kind of place you imagined oregon to be: breezy, quiet, beautiful. a city of character. i think of your friend david, who loved you, who you went searching for years later, who made you feel better about the scars on your hands by saying they gave you character. i wish i could’ve known him. and i wish you could’ve known san fransisco. i think of alcatraz, of being kept away from the people you love the most, with nothing but time to think of them. i can relate to that, in a way. lately i feel like my mind is my alcatraz, a place where i’m locked away and i can never see you or talk to you, only think of you day after day after day.
standing near the top of the marin headlands, i almost spoke to you, but i was afraid. that you wouldn’t be listening. that you weren’t there. and i would be talking to the ether, my meaningless words carried out to the sea like a garbage truck to a landfill. if i don’t speak, if i stay in this cell in my mind, if i don’t try to escape from alcatraz, you might still be out there somewhere. the danger of light is that it makes you see what’s there, or what isn’t. i’m not ready to leave the darkness of solitary. i’m not ready to see that you’re not there.