17

She lay there abandoned.

Lost,

Alone.

Roaming the streets of the city at night.

Where her blood dripped

She called home.

Staining where

She stripped

Bare bone.

 

 

Dancing the night away

To a bare tone:

The beats of lust.

The melody of need.

Shadows frolic where they must,

Not for greed.

 

Tomorrow she got to eat.

Needs to feed.

Lucky # 13

It was a tumultuous season of joy and pain; of a soul on ice and a soul on fire. You have to understand that the summer was a perfect storm. It was a global warming induced environmental manic period-the likes of which Colorado had never seen. It began with the largest blizzard in recorded history on May 23rd. It was the type of Blizzard that only happens in Colorado. An intense bout of flurries crushing into windows and rattling even the sturdiest of homes, yet, every so often, the flurries would subside, the sky would clear and it would be 40* outside with blue skies. This lasted, on and off, for several weeks.

All during this period of weather phenomenon there was the age old fight between the Christian Right and what some may call the Liberal Factions of Colorado Springs. It started, as it often does, at two local high schools. In one, the largest and most diverse high school in the city, the health and physiology department decided to have a spokeswoman from Planned Parenthood come and teach several classes on Sexual Education. Now, in many areas and in many schools this would not have been a problem. You would think that in a school where race relations were good, people of all faiths were accepted and celebrated and the animosity between the people who took the bus, the people who drove their rundown, rusty and gas-guzzling cars and those who drove their BMWs was kept to a minimum, no one would really be up in arms about a little sexual education. Though you can always expect two or three families not wanting their future teen mothers attending any sex ed class for fear that it get their kids thinking about sex, as if they weren’t already. But a few optional classes created a drama that was the stuff of b-movies on the Lifetime channel.

It was at a city council meeting on sex education in Colorado Springs, filled with women wearing “support the troops” shirts and wearing WWJD bracelets that I met an oddly dressed young man. He had a condescending smirk on his face, obviously enjoying the politics of a city with more churches than businesses and a military family for every civilian family. I asked him why a disinterested man far too young to have a child in high school gave up a Friday afternoon to sit in on a city council meeting. He replied that he wanted to see what this city was really like. I tried to hide the momentary anger at the idea that this one debate epitomized the city as a whole. It was the same kind of anger you get when you rant about how you are annoyed by your little sister you are and some else starts to agree with and then rants about how annoying she is. Nobody makes fun of my city but me!

The anger subsided as I gazed into his eyes. Not that they were so beautiful that I lost my breath, or that they off colored or lazy. They were just odd; in some sort of awkward yet intriguing way. As if his body betrayed his eyes. That fascination subsided quickly as well. Sensing my momentary defensiveness he said “loyal much?” Yes!

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Watching a cold war between the left and the right and crossing my fingers that a fist fight will break out,” he remarked coolly again, “what are you doing here?”

“I work for planned parenthood” I shot back.

“Really? How many times have your tires be slashed?”

4 times! “Slashed tires? Do you really think this town is that bitter? This is just an angry mob of parents, this is nothing new. People have gotten relied up like this all across the country for junk food in the cafeteria, the nativity scene during Christmas or even ESL classes.

He didn’t buy it.

 

“Are you trying to convince yourself or me?” He said with a smugness that took a level of arrogance I had never seen before. So I shoot him a look faster than a bullet and walk away thinking that I couldn’t remember the last time I was this ticked off. I ran into him a little later though

Philly

Oh man, Saul was Jazz just jazz we’re talking Miles Davis highlight high life big city slickers cool cat he was down for anything up for anything we met in a back alley in Boston like five minuets ago Maybe more than 5 mins like like 3 years ago even Yeah three years ago Jazz Just Jazz We used to perform on the street corners Yeah, those were the days Nothing But our Backpacks and empty guitar case and rhymes man rhymes jazz poems spoken word music nah’mean That real deep stuff Love and loss and home you know It was all about the wind man All about the wind had nothing to live for nothing to die for had nowhere we needed to be Free falling Free falling Flying high and flying far I remember when we met it was like yesterday I think He had just arrived in Philly from ah ah ah he had just arrived in Philly from Seattle yeah  Said he was running from a memory Lost his girl in Dallas yeah Hurt like a bitch na’mean a real bitch Nah man Jazz can’t be pinned down Notes must fly man Notes must fly Papa was a rolling stone Said he try to settle He try as hard as he could but notes must fly man notes must fly You can’t keep playing the same song all the time If you play it long enough man you may forget to learn another one Na’mean another one Papa was a rolling stone So he just picked up his guitar case and stuck his thumb up in the Just waving in the air like he just didn’t care Said he cried from Cali to the Mississippi from the next girl Wanted her to stay Couldn’t stay though wanted to Didn’t drink though na’didn’t drink just played that old guitar of his Went buck-wild Didn’t care about nothing man nothing Gets to Philly clubs hops hop hop to different hot spots Meeting girls Meeting poets Don’t care about nothing man nothing Said the needle eased the pain man just eased the pain man He said man naw dog just poem and music man girls and music No job No money just poetry just music just art man Sitting in cold water flats waxing poetic man Just wallowing in the blues Running Running Running Where’s home? Home is where you hunger for Home is the place you don’t wanna leave Home is just beyond that sunrise Running Running Running Never slow down Never stop Papa was a rolling stone Note must fly man, notes must fly

 

The Fifth Chapter

I remember when I first saw him. He had such a magnetic personality. We were on a grey hound bus going from New York to San Francisco. He was possibly the happiest person I had ever met. He was the type of person who you meet and find your self dying to know what their story is. Most of the people on the bus were exactly the opposite but Saul seemed to be so comfortable on the road. Warm and friendly he was talking to anyone and everyone. Hearing their personal stories and sharing his own. I got the impression that he was a professional traveler. The type of person who owns only what they could carry on their back. The type of person who doesn’t waste time taking pictures because they aren’t on any sort of trip, they’re just living. The type of the person who was only at home when they were blowing in the wind. You can never know where a gust of wind starts and you’ll never know where it will take you. Though those people only exist in movies. He was…movie like I guess. Almost too exciting and genuine to be true. Forest Gump with a high I.Q. He had a fresh, wind swept face but old blue eyes like he had been to the ends of the earth and back. The more I heard him talk about his life the more I thought that he had.

He said that he had been moving from place to place since he graduated college. He never stayed in one place for too long. He said that he would get this eery feeling after spending more than a month or two anywhere. When I asked if he thought he’d ever settle down he paused and after a few moments said that he’d stop when he knew he was home. He said that he’d never really been at home anywhere; that he would have to know more about himself before he knew where he could be at home. He thought that he could only be understood in contrast and context. He thought a lot of things.

The trip to San Fransico was almost a week long. During the week I think I told him more about my life than I had ever told anyone before. Saul would listen intently to all the parts of my life, both the exciting and the mundane, before telling one of his own. It was give and take story telling at its finest. Saul was an all around master storyteller and certainly had a lot of tales to spin. There was one story that I think stuck with me the most though. It was the one about the girl he met in New York. Apparently she was the reason he was going to San Francisco in the first place.

He said the girls’ name was Lola. He had just graduated from college three months before and, armed only with his quick wit and a B.A in B.S., the wind took him to New York…by way of a 747. Once in New York he was lost in the whirl of the city. He wandered through the streets day in. day out drinking it in. New York was at the time a gate way for free souls; as if Ellis Island was renovated in order to process all the spirits of the twenty-some things that came its way.  Those young spirts were spread out all through out the five boroughs. So Saul was intent on sweeping through the city to look for some company and a place to call home. By his account he found quiet a few characters during his stay in New York but didn’t find a home.

The first person he met in the city was Sean, Sean Lees. He and Sean were on the same red-eye flight from Dallas. After striking up a conversation on the plane they realized that not only were they searching for the same thing, they both had no clue what it was. So these two strangers hit it off and started travelling around the city jumping from one rundown hostel to another. They would read the local indie-magazines for possible leads in their investigation of their city/selves They went in and out of different cafés and open mics, searching for what ever it was that brought them there. They would soon find out that they were not the only bohemian scene hoppers around. Eventually they found their own circle of young, misguided misfits. He said after a while he had found a group of twenty-something punks ready, willing and able to take the city by storm.

It was in a poorly lit back room of the little known theater called “the underground” where he first met Lola. Right away he knew that she was a firecracker and a heart-breaker. She had these amazing blue eyes that turned lavender in the shade. Saul said that was the first thing he noticed about her, eyes as intense as his were. She stared at him coolly as he entered the small room.  She had been sitting on one of the sofas writing in a journal. She seemed to be a little irritated at the interruption at first but soon ire turned into intrigue when their eyes met.

They fenced with their eyes for a few minuets, one daring the other the walkover and break the ice. Too stubborn to give in they both just sat there with their mysterious and sly smile starring until a pale girl shook her head and told Saul go over and introduce himself. As Saul stood up and started to walk over to the other side of the room Lola’s sly smile turned into a victorious one. With Saul being quite possibly the smoothest boy in town his opening line was a lady killer…

 

Lola: That is quite possible the stupidest series of lines anyone has ever said to me. Please tell me that has never worked for you in the past.

Saul: (sheepishly) Of…Of course it has.

 

As Saul told it he quickly recovered with something that was so amazingly suave, so disgustingly cool that he couldn’t even remember it. He did remember however, that after she gave him her number and they went out the next night he has never had another shy moment.

 

Bald Headed World

Over the years she stopped combing everything. It started when they
told her she couldn’t go to Daughters Of The American Revolution
luncheon. She just stopped trying to comb through their hate to find
kernels of respect. She let the tendrils of their fuming hate cool
down in her calm aura and coalesce into greasy residues of emotion.
She smiled politely and walked away. Later, when college boys realized
what she had known all along, that her beauty was too much for them,
she found her self too tired to comb through the river of boys for
gold. She let their love burn around her and when they were left with
nothing but the memory of smoke she rose from the ash like a phoenix.
Burning brighter than the sun her soul melted the ivory handled picks
and short circuited hot combs until there was nothing left in the
world strong enough to touch her but her hands. And so, faced with a
word that couldn’t contain her, that couldn’t touch her, she let the
bald headed world dread her hair

There’s Something Wrong With Eleanor

Eleanor Bisbee-Downs was a quiet girl. She had a sort of bookish quality that maxim magazine has successfully turned into a hint of barely repressed sexual energy. She was of an unusually pale complexion for her race which history and FHM had told the men in her life comes from sexual frustration. As Jane Austen once eloquently put it, any women self-confident enough to not need male approval and creatively mal-adjusted enough to rather read than hit up a bar must be in need “of a good dicking’” Taken from the Diary of Eleanor Bisbee-Downs 07/11/2013.

 

There is something wrong with Eleanor…

 

She waits in her own bedroom for Benjamin to awake from his post-coital stupor and make up some excuse to leave her alone and never call her again. He’s mildly attractive in that boyish way that was becoming popular with upper middle class white guys again. The Carter Fairchilds of world have started taking the preppy style of their turn of the century counterparts with the emotional laizes fare attitude of 90’s hipster before there were hipsters 20 somethings. He wasn’t a bad lay; long enough to get her off and short enough not to mess with her sleep schedule.

    As he woke he spent the typical 5 seconds after getting his bearings looking into the eyes of our protagonist to gauge the efficacy of his performance. She expertly employed the blank Manic Pixie Dream Girl look of quasi aloof amusement that men had begun expecting of her since puberty turned her from precious teenager to mindless object. He often thought she secretly hated her breast as a teenager for forcing her to master this look. It was a crude yet polished porcelain slab that men of all ages project their sexual desires and insecurities onto.

    It was an empty, one dimensional facial expression that Benjamin read as “good enough to please her but not good enough to convince her for round two now that she is sober.” He mumbled something about being late to meet his mother and scribbled his number just illegible enough to ensure that he never got a call but not so illegible as to warrant a comment.

    Eleanor exhaled deeply once he was closed the door behind him. It was getting more and more difficult to smash herself into a one-dimensional character so as not to traumatize the male species. She stood up and looked out her bedroom window at the older women walking along the lake before slowly saluting the sun. She envied them secretly because after a certian age men no longer wanted to sleep with them and so they were able to live their lives again.  As she began her early morning yoga routine she silently thanked him that she was only pretending to be drunk last night. She was glad to be allowed to go about her morning without having a beating headache.

    She continued through her morning routine trying to not let the fact that he was focusing on her perfectly shaped body that always reminded him of velvet wrapped delicately around steel anger her. She knew he wasn’t a bad guy, a little hyperbolic perhaps, certainly overly romantic and slightly over eager but not bad. She knew it could be worse. She slowly finished her yoga routine with a savasana. Lying flat on her back she looked up at the poster he had put on the ceiling. It was a blown up reprint of the Pigeon Holes first album “How To Roast A Pig.” It was supposed to be an endearing little detail to her life. Something only she would know and only see when finishing her morning yoga routine. In reality it was a vapid attempt at creating artificial depth through neurosis.

    The Pigeon Holes were a band started by the first boy she ever kissed. The story of their romance was supposed to be very telling of her personality. Their continued friendship after he moved to another town for high school [where he started the band] would become an important plot device in her life story. She had fond, if somewhat vague memories of him and wondering he would call again.

    As she got lost in happy memories of a fabricated childhood, he decided it was time for a “shower scene.” She walked into the bathroom that was slightly too large for a studio apartment. She looked at the hair care and skin products laid out in front of her.  Supposedly having such expensive products and never using them was supposed to illustrate that she was consciously choosing to be a natural beauty. Eleanor thought that, in reality, there were better ways of characterize her and she thought that she wouldn’t have minded a little blush. As he began to have her undress in the neurotic unveiling fashion that he had created to show how she overcame body image issues Eleanor took out the notepad that she had stashed in the bathroom drawer.

    She didn’t want to hurt his feelings but this farce had carried on far too long.

 

Dear Aaron,

Stop writing me like some supporting character in your masturbatory hipster love stories. I know that after you saw Garden State you over identified with Zack Braff’s character and that has led you to internalize some not okay behaviors. Natalie Portman’s character was just that: a character who served a purpose in the story. She is not nor will ever be a real person. She will not make you feel life for the first time. She will not lead you to higher stations of self-realization. She will not acquiesce to unspoken desires.  I wish I could say that I was telling you this because I am concerned that you are looking for Manic Pixie Dream Girl’s in real life but honestly, I’m tired of being the epitome of endearing neurosis and one dimensional thoughts balled into the ultimate feminine repose. Please write like a character with some fucking agency!

 

Eleanor. Taken from the Diary of Eleanor Bisbee-Downs 07/11/2013

 

There’s Something Wrong With Eleanor

 

Eleanor strolled through the park with a child-like wonder in her eyes. It was the same route that she had taken every day of her life but yet something about today seemed…different. She stopped abruptly and sat down slowly and sensuously pulled out her note book and began to write.

 

Dear Aaron,

 

“Child like wonder?” I’m an adult woman not some doe eyed anime character brought to life.

 

E. Taken from the Diary of Eleanor Bisbee-Downs 07/11/2013

 

There’s Something Wrong With Eleanor

 

She sat underneath the awning of the grocery store on the last patch of dry cement in the city. She waited for the 55 to take her somewhere, anywhere but here. A weaker person would probably be proud for walking out like that. A weaker women would have forgiven him. Yet, as it stood, Eleanor was waiting for a bus to take her as far away from Sean as possible. He texted her as soon as the bus arrived but she resisted the urge to look. Instead she pulled out her notebook and began to write.

 

Dear Aaron,

 

This is only a slight improvement. I know that this how “strong women” work in you mind but let’s think outside the box. How about you write me with a little more agency than a reactionary women who just found out that her fiance was cheating on her. Come on. Where all know where you are going with this. She ends up going home to live with her single mother in Oklahoma where she swore she never return. In rekindling her relationship with her mother she realizes why her mother was so bitter and empower’s herself to no longer judge her mother but to also stop making her mistakes. Been there. Done That.

 

E. Taken from the Diary of Eleanor Bisbee-Downs 07/11/2013

 

There’s Something Wrong With Eleanor

 

Eleanor looked up at the overweight 20 something who just walked into the cafe. He was sloppily dressed in that way that young professional men often are. It is as men don’t realize until they are 30 that 2 minutes buttoning your shirt right and ironing your dockers goes a long way. He clothes didn’t fit his body all the way yet he ambled in distinctly way that clearly showed intentional aimlessness that meant the clothes did fit him after all.

She made eye contact with him professionally but warmly in hopes that he would understand from the get go that this was a business meeting. We walked with more purpose now that her gaze made her seem ever so slightly impatient. He sat uncomfortably in way that he probably internalized as awkward but really just looked pained.

“Hey Aaron” she said unable to remove some of the awe she felt at meeting her creator.

“Eleanor” he said with a subtle respectful nod. “It is good to finally meet you in the flesh.”

His eyes twitched almost imperceptibly at the word flesh as if he was consciously making sure not to check out her flesh. He smiled as he opened up the satchel that he had placed at his feet. He reached in pulled out a large ebony box. It was expensive looking, more expensive than she would have thought. He set it on the table and almost slid it to her before grimacing and pausing.

“Should I give it to you or do you take from me? Do you want to buy it?”

Eleanor laughed hysterically for what seemed like hours but was probably only a minute or two. She looked at him closely. She examined his earnestness washed of all her previous awe. She smiled again knowingly and took the box from his sweaty hands. Upon lifting the box in her own hands Eleanor felt lighter. As if some unknown weight had been lifted  without notice.  Had she realized that lifting the box was all she need to do to write her own story she would have cried tears of joy right there in the coffee shop.

Instead she didn’t cry until got back home to her empty and unfurnished apartment after she sat down at the coffee table and open the box…

Depth and OkCupid

Their love affair was typical of their generation. He professed his
love often with statements like “never forget, I love you madly” while
she silently suffered his facial hair experiments; cataloging them for
the opening scene of a Judd Aptow movie that would never be filmed.
She couldn’t remember whether he was from Texas or Oklahoma but didn’t
think it made much of a difference to her ideas of his childhood. He
played football in a small town because it was expected of him. He
suffered under the oppression of Mythos of the American West’s
Masculinity. For years he languished in that frat boy culture hoping
to be able to be the soft and sensitive man she thought of him as
today.

He was similarly enchanted with his renderings of her past. She was
from old New York, back when the bums pissed on kids walking to
school. Kids whose parents, like Bob and Jane, thought that 10 years
old was old enough to ride the subway alone. She wasn’t a latch key
kid, she was the child of the generation X urban pioneers. The kind of
Connecticut boarding school graduates who weren’t opposed to the
literal nanny state of their childhoods but still found something
viscerally appealing about living in the neighborhood next to wear the
artist lived.

The more he thought about her childhood the more we realized that,
even though she never said anything about it, she was probably really
close to her Haitian nanny. He wondered if that was why she felt so
compelled to work in the rougher black neighborhoods of the city. Did
her relationship Ms. Jean make her feel some how connected to black
community?

The more he thought about it the more he felt a longing to know more
about her. He listened politely as she talked about her day and how
Hakim, the boy in her class that she loves, wrote her a poem that
reminded her of her mother. He half listened while he combed through
her text messages to see if they had ever mentioned her family or
childhood. As she began to open up about her parents divorce and how
she had to live with the Black family down the street for a summer
because of her parents fighting he began to get that sickening
familiar feeling that their text messages were nothing but banal. “Did
he really even know this girl?” he thought as he read through their
last e-mail exchange ignoring her almost teary eyed explanations of
learning of her mother’s infidelity.

He was so upset by the realization of the shallowness of their
relationship that he barely remembered to interrupt her sobbing to
mumble an excuse about needing to use the restroom. He slipped out
into the bathroom and closed the door behind him trying to pretend
like he actually had to use the bathroom. Instead he got the ipad he
kept in between back issues of the economist that were laying on the
floor for occasions just like this. He brought up google and typed
“Fancy” yet only pictures of Martha Stewart and former first ladies
came up. He laughed at himself for forgetting that Fancy was just a
nickname. He stopped laughing when he couldn’t remember her actual
name.

He checked facebook before realizing that she had changed her name so
that her students couldn’t find her. He tried checking her wall to see
what her mom called her before realizing that her mother and taken to
calling her fancy on Facebook in order to seem more relevant to her
daughter. He considered various other options including confirming to
the corporate junkie mindset and getting a linkedin account and
suffering through pictures of employees of the public school system
until he say her picture but didn’t think this was important enough to
compromise his morals for.

He remembered slightly that before they had begun talking in person
they had had more in depth conversations of Okcupid. He vaguely
remembered that her user name referenced the book from which her
literary minded parents got her name. He logged back on to okcupid and
tried to focus his mind as much as possible. He loved his girlfriend
too much to let himself get distracted by all the updates of single
Bi-Sexual Chicagoans and straight girls in Elmhurst in open
relationships.

With much difficulty he politely turned down offers to chat from
several girls with X’s in their name who were probably men anyways. He
found her quasi de-activated profile, the type that begins ***I Am Now
Seeing Someone. I Will Probably Not Be Checking The Site Often***
Her user name was Reviving__86. He couldn’t remember what book that
was from and so went to her “You Message Me If” page to see if she
mentioned anything about her username but no luck. He knew the novel
or at least the author was probably listed under the favorites section
but the corrosive mix of realizing he knew so little about his
girlfriend of six months and the tantalizing faces under the “You
might also like” section of the website dissolved his resolve to find
her name.

Instead he began reading messages from single Bi-Sexual Chicagoans and
straight girls from Elmhurst in open relationships. Deciding if being
Bi-Sexual meant they wouldn’t get offended when they checked other
girls out and if Fancy would ever consider an open relationship. He
figured it was worth a shot considering that as a straight upper
middle class white liberal she desperately needed something trendy to
identify with. He imagined that if he found the right girl he might be
able to convince her to start an open relationship.

Meanwhile, she talked her mom about how Ophelia was the perfect name
for her. Her boyfriend was Hamlet, torn between being the sensitive
thoughtful man she knew he was. The kind of man who could listen to
her emotional trouble’s and be supportive. And the emotionally shunted
man they idealized in Kansas or Nebraska or where ever he was from.
Her mother tried to say she shouldn’t wait for him to be the man he is
in her mind. Yet Fancy kept explaining that oh, at least in the movies
and on the blogs she reads, love hurts. Not everyone can be perfect
like her and Bob. She just doesn’t understand love in the digital age.

I Say Falling

 

In between seconds, as the river rushed closer, illogically slow, the accountant counted. He counted his heartbeats, he counted the number of nights spent on the couch where he avoided the wife he no longer loved and, remembering his mother, he counted the hairs on her head after the chemo: one. He counted like he had always counted. Each item formed a brick that he then meticulously placed on the wall he had been building all his life. He did the usual roll call of events, from childhood till now, in the usual order.

Miraculously, about 10 feet from the water and having calculated every visceral detail of every memory, he ran out of things to count. It was then that, the first time in a long time, he realized he was no longer numb. The sensation that reminded him of a vacuum with cool air he couldn’t feel and of a sort of dull slowness had passed. He was faced with emotions like a warm ocean squall sending a wave of superficial self-awareness that threatened to overcome the wall of the man who refused to learn to swim. Yet he was too close to that sweet nothingness to cry. Instead he thought back coolly and perceptively on the string of endless possibilities that had led him to this seeming eternity of falling. He took comfort in the new endeavor, of categorizing already counted events.

With this thought his mind cleared, his heart vanished, the vacuum returned and he started counting again. He counted the events and calculated probabilities and explored several scenarios and hypotheticals until he had narrowed it down to one possibility. It was decision that would, in essence, stop him from falling. With only a few blissful milliseconds left, the accountant could now meticulously muse about that decision and the alternate universe it created.

Forty years ago to the day the accountant made what he thought was the most important decision in his life. That day the paint on the walls of the funeral parlor was pealing. The ebony walls had turned as gray as the mood and Death permeated through the walls like the 159 paint chips laying on the ground. His father, in a new $600 tux, new hairdo and brand new $120 glasses had never looked better. It seemed almost disrespectful to look so good at a funeral.

There were exactly 50 people surrounding him, enough that for a time the future accountant successfully forgot that it was his father’s funeral. The accountant continued to count, much like he does now, until everything was accounted for. The leaves on the fake plant, the pews, the cracks in the ceiling, the number of times Mrs. Felt said “um” every little detail noted. It was first time in his life since that counting began that he could remember it stopping so abruptly, having merely run out of road. It wasn’t until then that he cried.

 

“How did he die?” Everyone seemed to whisper at once.

 

“I think he had a heart attack” Replied one elderly man with a dubious connection to the deceased.

 

“At his age?” Sharon asked loud enough for everyone to hear.

 

“No, he was shot. I heard the gun blast myself.” Said his neighbor whose name he couldn’t remember.

 

“You sure? I think I would have heard about that on the news.” Darline Mulligan remarked.

 

“They don’t report suicides on the news, Darline.” His mother said quietly and bitterly.

 

The accountant remembered wanting to shut everyone up–by force if necessary–but that was not his mother’s way. She still played bridge with the woman she knew the accountant’s father had been sleeping with for years.

A slow moving worn down man with a face full of wrinkles (none of which were laugh lines) and thick horn-rimmed glasses walked down the main aisle of the death filled room. He stopped, periodically, to talk to some of his parishioners who were in attendance.  It must have taken him fifteen minutes to walk to twenty yards from the entrance to the podium.

 

Once at the podium the Pastor the Unitarian Church of God John Ignatius, wise beyond his considerable years, preached.

 

“Good evening. We are gathered here today to bid farewell to a loving father, dutiful son but never-the-less deeply flawed man. It is with a heavy heart that we say good-bye to a fellow soldier against evil who lost the final battle with himself. We all know that this final battle, this inner struggle with ourselves, is difficult. Yet the lord did not intend this battle to be fatal. He saved us through his grace and it is by this grace that we preserve. We give ourselves to the lord and receive everlasting life so in metaphoric death comes rebirth. When we give into ourselves, when we create our own timeline, there is no rebirth. As we consider this self-forsaken soul whose death strikes a foreign cord in all of us, we can only ask ourselves ‘how do I wish to die?’’

The eulogy went on but the accountant stopped listening after the pastor asked that question. Thinking back on it now, there had been some more respectful eulogies in that church. Yet the accountant’s mother was angrier at her husband than sad at his premature death and she must have let Ignatius know. As a boy, all he could understand in those 132 words was the final question. Unfortunately the father idolizing accountant heard that question and decided on: falling.

Had the accountant thought of any other word at that precise moment it was possible, even likely, that he would not find himself standing on a bridge looking down yearning. But as it stands he was. He remembered, in a strained yet absent way, that he usually forgot about the moments he deliberated that question when counting the worries to form the bricks for his wall. However, peering over the edge, his potentially falling children, souls struck by a receptive cord, flashed through his mind and he stepped back for the 40th time. Yet unlike the 39 times before he felt something about himself that he couldn’t grasp. He felt a desire to reach out, to call his children whose phone numbers he had memorized. With that eerie yet profound feeling teetering on the rim in the recess of his mind he turned around, got into his car and drove home to the wife he might love again. As Paul got in that car without counting the steps he still found himself thinking: Maybe next year.

Where You’re Fighting To Get At It

Doc looked at the clock with the exhausted desperation of the
under-employed. He had five hours left on his shift. Five hours
working minimum wage in which he would make around $40. Had Fancy not
walked into the store at that exact moment he would have thought “I’d
pay my boss $40 to leave now.” Instead he started an inner-dialogue
about the superiority of the color blue.
It was the color of the sky after all, the color of lake Michigan and
the color of her dress. It was not however, the color of her eyes. No,
they were too extraordinary to be primary. They were…angry at him.

“Doc!” She said, conveying more meaning in that one syllable than
Hemingway could in a novel. Her perfect eye brows arched up just a
little too far to be sincere. Feigned anger, and a question. Her face
read “Doc, what did you forget to do this morning?” Doc smiled sadly
and slowly reached into his pocket. He pulled out six crisp
one-hundred dollar bills and handed his debt over to Karli Kloss’
doppelganger.

Fancy pressed her right hand to her lips and blew him the type of
butterflies that remind you of middle-school. She danced out the story
looking so radiant that he saw her after image, framed by the
intellectual glow of new books, when he closed his eyes. Frances
Dugard, Light of My Life! he thought…His boss’s cough woke him… 4
hrs, 59 minutes to freedom…

6 hours later Doc was walking down Ashland up towards 51st street. Doc
couldn’t smell the residue of the millions of cattle shuffled through
the stockyards just north of him but he mentally tasted that
industrial residue. It was if his mind could taste the metallic mix of
poverty fueled aggression and empty promises in the air. One month
living in an intentional community and that mental taste already
reminded him of home.

He would laugh at the thought if it wasn’t so depressing but Back of
the Yards was home. He once had a friend who told him that home wasn’t
where you’re from, or even where you live, but it’s where you’re
fighting to get at it. Doc paused for a second at that thought. The
empty trash filled lots looked like a battle field and with his knee
and heart ackin’ at the cold sight of children breaking bottles for
amusement, he certainly felt like a battle weary soldier. Perhaps this
is what soldiers in the Royal Army felt like after WW2. The horror of
France made one forget the battle waged where you were fighting to be.

It is nine o’clock when Doc sits down to pour himself a cold glass of
milk, like a weary coal miner trying to clear his lungs. It is silent
in the old monastery like the ghost of Saint Patrick is secretly
willing him to say a prayer for sanity.

“Is there any remover of difficulties save God? Say God!, Praise Be
God!, He is God. All are his servants and all abide by His bidding.”

The atheist says this prayer and the memory of the mother who taught
him it washes over him like absolution.Sins and mental filth removed,
Doc smiles and the Selma family rushes into the room.

Stephan’s laugh arrives before he does like a sonic boom in reverse
but just as loud. “Hey! Sexy Ladies!” echoes through the kitchen as
Ramon, the middle child enters. Followed by the motherly warmth of
their older sister and the weary cheerfulness of their mother.

As the displaced family welcomes Doc home and asks about his day he
knows that he has found it…for now…and the fight can wait another
12 hours…