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Sunday, 11 December 2011

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In the distance, I hear sirens on an empty highway in some city. Another unknown body, a lifeless shape on the floor. The night keeps a morbid vigil. She is rolling shadow, digesting everything as sirens scream past my windows. The sound bends around the street corners like a twirling gypsy, and the red silks are flowing in tails behind it. In in my eyes, they bend like an eel. A crimson reflection, spat out, pooling, reaches across the pavement brassy and fluid on the ground. Liquid light dripping down this iron grate in its reflection. It’s seeping into the concrete all cracked and poured in the icy moonlight.

I wonder. Why don’t we let each other die? Really, how long has this been going on? Who was the first person to die? Imagine the scratching heads, searching eyes, gathering flies and ants. Imagine some vultures betraying the peaceful resting place with their brooding black spirals, cycling lower to the ground. Later heads buried, punching in and out of the carcass like gophers. But what about the grief? Could we have mourned something we did not understand? I suppose we do even now.

That same mystery, swallowing everyone whole. But imagine the first death. The only death. No siren, no medical attention and no diagnosis. Trembling before that blanching rotten body in an absolute stupor. God, the fear must have lit like a brushfire, wild and guttural. Terror, such a primal instinct.

I wonder where it comes from. Could it be that we inherit that funeral? A genetic emotion? It is easily dismissed. No one would linger in the past, searching for an answer for the future. The future of the soul. A bag of bones, dead to the world. But death is still an observation; a third persons perspective of our dear post fellow man. What does that matter to a dead man? I bet he’s not contemplating death at that juncture. Broken and twisted in a heap on the road. Oblivion comes to mind. In fact; while we are all busy and dutiful, the dead are swallowed up whole; and I imagine the perpetual flight of all these bodies falling to the ground in the blink of an eye, slow and deliberate.

The sickening slap when a billion toppled beings meet the ground. A dance. I think of all those toppling people, swaying nauseously like dead oak trees. How many right this second breathe for the last time? Mother Nature preens prunes and weeds her wicked unruly garden. The sick and old, careless, or the hosts of parasitic life, all fall limp in her calloused hand. Every night we roll white eyes in unconscious blissful salute to the death that patiently gobbles us up like monsters in our closets.

Mythology and the teachings of the past have given us our ‘Moral Obligations’ to provide for our future. The people driving by highways hissing in the distance, bicycles winding, children talking to themselves in a wandering content solitude. Humming refrigerators droning generators the static glow of a billion computers. Sirens in the air. All the people and all the duties, all connected. All of us woven with a common thread, busy and working, happy or otherwise. I believe that thread began when death crept into our bodies and minds. We are sometimes deep in thought. We wake and rest in the world and all its sounds and light and order. We have learned how to busy ourselves and each other.

Learned it’s unhealthy to dwell on what it means to be here and what’s to come. Nose to the grind stone, keep at it, stay alert, focus, and think of the future, provided we are here for it. But to what end? Life and love and loved ones sharing time and company; all left behind it seems. The wealth of life is seldom appreciated, unless you just survived a plane crash. Death is as much a mystery as it was so long ago. And we’ve been trying not to think about it ever since. Is death tomorrow? Is it today? Is it so far away we can rest assured it is not for us to consider? Free to be, bored for many days to come and to try and make the most of what’s important.

The fear of death is a substitute for acknowledging the frailty of life. What is never discussed with the exception of a funeral or a night of drinking. Always concluded with a sobering talk between two close friends about what happens when we die. We have been programmed to stay busy. These “Deep” talks are nothing compared to the depths we’ve buried ourselves in appliances and drugs, accessories and apparel. “Deny Simplicity, Simplicity Is Tumor.” Apparently the true depth of life is found in excess.

A conundrum of shallow behaviors and lifestyles, coupled with the most basic essence of being. Life and death. Shallow is race cars and breast implants. Deep is enjoying the simplicity of a tree or a soaring bird.

But what about that thread? Either way, the most shallow observation, only the ‘deepest thinkers’ perceive? We are all going to die. And it is terrifying. Without the program; without being raised to worry and love and hate... Without being born into a well established ordered society with laws and rules and goals to fulfill for life, would anyone progress? Or would we all be moving magnetically unconsciously toward the unknown; without fear? Would there be a siren at all? Are we like characters in a book? Some kind of supreme mass consumption? As kids, we gain enough hindsight to keep a more strict watch over our own kids, making deathly certain they don’t do what we did at that age, and our kids watch us making sure to do what we did, only younger (tenfold).

What a library! Catalogued to the brim with cap gun legends about childhood and its hardest, juiciest lessons. Gag on that sandy bar of lava soap but western horizon and everyone else is Indian style around the radio. Then shooed up to bed.

But before long we are too old to mind one another and too cunning to fall for that bar of soap. “Where is your conscience?” echoes a distant grumble. You might as well indulge in your most base needs as a parent.

Console them of the wickedness of childhood and rear them to be steadfast. You can relate the anger rolling in your face and limp in your throat, scared in the truck with your father who drove all night to find you like a rabid bloodhound to make you cry in front of your oldest friends and most respected bullies. Go scream in your pillow. Hang your head. Tuck in your tail. And wake up. But here is a fresh new world at 10a.m. brisk and new to greet us.

Riding to the next town eight deep. Itchy palms and clenched teeth, looking for a good time, or a bad time, or anything else that may befall us. Or maybe a little train hopping towards the river outside the city, past winding avenues and cross the endless tunnels, stands of swaying telephone wires. Slapping through the pine needles under the street to the basement tavern.

Almost sixteen with whiskey in our back pockets, hustling drunks at pool for Galaga change and back alley joints, cheap cigars split on the stoops in the neighborhood. Half gallon pure grain alcohol, asleep naked in a stone grave, wrapped in an American flag. God give me till dawn to be a free boy.

I belong to no one. I can always just walk away. Grow up… Meanwhile waiting for some prince valium, in a xanax void, mom scrubs away at those stubborn pots, doing her worst for the sake of germ warfare. Dinner cold and wasted, sore feet, stiff back, up to bed for her only friends. Sajak, Benson and hedges. She is sunken in her night gown and cap, head flat on her chest, slouched over, clutching the remote control, lying in her cookie crumbs peacefully.

Her head might have been lopped off, sprouted anew at daybreak, medusas snakes unrolling out her curlers. Venomous hissing coffee breath and kettle whistle demands, dreamy and distant under the cover of a drizzling gray morning. But sleeping in on Sunday is nothing compared to the short skate once to the city park, six am.

Don’t miss the bus or the fight. Dropping marbles out of the steamed windows of the bus, fog rolling behind as little tics crack commuter windows and ding car hoods. Punching holes in the seats with sharpened number two pencils. Later, accidentally spit at the gym teacher, (oops), sent packing for the day and trotting home the long way, drunken tramps in arms.

Typical day at school (Next day, repeat in that order). So keep warm with liquor. Fight off the cold damp frost at the first light. Trudging home, if you’re not locked out. I was spitting teeth by the time I was twelve. Running from gangs and car loads, bricks through windshields, the clatter of feet, chuck taylors slapping pavement in the night. You can’t see your breath when it’s kicked out of you.

I don’t care how cold it gets in February. Friends are scarce. When a speeding car pulls up on any empty street and stops beside you and an older acquaintance waves you in with a grin, you ride. And when he says “We’re in trouble” and peels out through alleys and stoplights, running for his life (and yours) you don’t determine the outcome. You stand on the floor board, co-pilot in buzzbomb machine, swooning with shock and panic. Or maybe just wave and walk on, bored and salty, dodging an ambulance on your way into the sewer for some quiet. Smoke if you got em. “Buzzing nauseous sirens bleeding.” Nighttime is only a few drinks away, and people start to change. Walking fast, hands in my pockets, head down, watching the cracks in the winding sidewalk.

Crunching glass and streetlights flood the drunk district, staggering wives and scabby knuckles litter the streets, punched in windshields, honkytonks and karaoke, Merle Haggard ringing through the bathroom stalls. Rusting and wetted on, soggy with incontinence. “Don’t eat the big mint too late. Don’t write a check your cookie can’t cash. And don’t eat yellow snow” best kept secrets scrawled on walls by some portajohn prophets. Once on a drunken walk for home, I met a girl shaped woman with an electric guitar and knapsack on her back. Women were new and mysterious, not to be trifled with.

A girl once asked me if I was going to change my pants this week. Went over big in the high school atmosphere, more poverty as entertainment. Tater tots, chocolate milk and cheap shots on the tables greasiest and dandruff caked individuals. Dumping twenty trays on some poor loser’s lap. Fat administrators and coaches sniggering, arms crossed and snorting in fat approval.

Tray duty a tolerated hazing at the expense of the heir to the earth. But having the meek and shy stomped out of us is just the start of a long lonely road to the day job of your choosing, only a matter of time before you take your spot as Your Father Number Two.

And sequels always stink. Especially slack jawed, slouch knockoffs of the original jerk you’ve turned into. Why do I hate my best friend? “He’s just like his father. What a card” Oedipus comes to mind, without the incest.

But all that anger is just another gene for the makeup. “Thanks dad” rage is seldom roused from his spattered feast, lest it be disturbed by a siren. Like a scavenging beast tearing at a last piece of flesh as its chased off by a higher mammal. We beat each other senseless until the cops take an interest and then it becomes an unsettled score til the next time! Thrashing through alleys and chain link fences like an animal, trapped and wounded.

Hopping turnstiles with a shrouded face for the last redline train to anywhere. Ah, that subway, stale cigarette and vinegar. Otherwise a perfect spot of a cat nap.

Another night to sit on your hands and hide from reality. Childhood was highway overrated, unless you had it better. But either way, it’s good to move on. Life is a fistful of cards, even as an adult. Just watch the company you keep. I don’t have a friend that isn’t long dead.

Outlasted, really. Thick as thieves and liars alike, a sailors grave at best. Six feet under, probably kicked over headstones. Vandalized and reeking of what you drank leaking out of you. Parched carnation in a greenish brass vase. Kicked over and moldy. Anyway, we wish you were here. I sometimes meet people who could easily pass for my dead friends. That easy smile, chipped tooth… crooked to the last. Friends that watched out for you. Distant as the farthest stars.

A friend once joined his sisters at the spreading of his father’s ashes. Breaking the awkward silence with a witless joke about “Spilling dad.” At that moment, a bird let his droppings go right onto his shoulder. Maybe they are closer than we think, eh? Another friend couldn’t afford to bury his mother, so all the kids split the cost and he pays monthly for her plot.

It’s almost as if she never left. For the rest, it’s back to work. But for those of us with a passionate Icarus complex, we had bigger fish to fry. Like Pythagoras and Davincis obsession with the golden triangle, that giant spiral comes to mind. Yeah, something to fall into.

There are a million ways to sink and I had all night. There was something beautiful about falling down onto our faces, a queer grace in slipping candidly in our own blood in a struggle for footing. Blood drips hot down the throat.

A blood clot can kill you, or save your life. It’s one of the body’s many discretions. A mystery much like the mystery of men and women, or the body and the mind somehow in perpetual wedlock. A strange bond, both exist as poor masters but good servants, just like money in your pocket. Or not. Who made who? “And why should I even be here to begin with?” I often wondered this as a kid. The ground rushing up to greet me, usually. Lying on the road, bleeding, laughing, crying and drunk. Stopping once again to ponder so called life.

Feeling free was one thing I did understand, the one thing worth pursuing. My friend used to ride past a stud farm on his way to work. One mare used to hear his motorcycle coming and race the fence alongside the road. You can’t create a freedom like that and that is enough to get me to work. Straightening your face, suddenly aware of the grim expression on your lips and around the tightened corners of your eyes thinking of a painful memory.

As you’re photographed at your mothers for your birthday dinner. What’s wrong? Not hungry. Are you sure? Yeah thanks. Did you ever have a dream of a person you never met but know well somehow? I once dreamt of a woman and couldn’t get her out of my head. It wasn’t even sexual.

I could not shake the sadness I felt longing for her. Many days I was confused and lonely. That was the only love more distant than love lost, or passed, I can think of; an imaginary love. I can’t remember her face, but it’s been years since that dream. I once awoke from a dream, it was raining at four am, roof leaking as usual but I can hear my cats gurgling yowls, wet and thin, cold and angry. Sitting chest deep in a puddle collecting on the front porch’s sagging floor.

He growls at me. Pick him up. “I’m sorry I forgot to let you in earlier.” I pick him up out of the water to find tiny albino mice crawling over his stomach, churning and eating. Bloody eyes watering and pink, wriggling under the skin of his underbelly. Rolling innards and split guts. Awake.

That was the first time I awoke from one dream and into another. Reminds me of that ‘proverbial frog’ or the adult flea who is able to negotiate even upon the event of being digested. Incubating inside its host, becoming something more adept to the hot slurping insides of some poor domesticated beast. Fascinating. Some people are a lot like insects. When any insect is coming towards you, it usually wants something.

No one likes a parasite (unless you are on that tapeworm diet). Sometimes a person will shoo you away like a bothersome fly. It’s an odd feeling when people think you are a bug. But some people are definitely new, larger insects, probably arachnids mostly. Definitely to be watched and avoided.

Spinning webs around us, closing in around the good hearted easy prey, carefree and innocent. If I back peddled a bit and really tried I could recall for you the systemic abuse I witnessed and suffered and learned to embrace. Ashamed to live my life without melding with my environment, I went to the top and death was the closest token man I could find to the source.

***

In the grand misdeal, we were all thieves, or mostly thieves. Liars. Mooches. Every dog had its day, but not without a leech or two, to sap the spoils. Some big scores went down, money and drugs, betrayal and deceit. On again off again connections tricked and played.

Bags cut and pinched and stepped on. Dirty drugs, guns and money, cops and robbers, things of this nature. And for every tooth in my head, a reason to bite you.

But I haven’t… It is too predictable. And I’m tired of being like you. Of course it made me mad. A lot of anger and pain in this life… Some things still bother me about childhood, but mostly just those sirens, spinning nauseous, making everything theirs.

 

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