Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Maybe it was the wine.
He didn’t drink much and a little wine went right to his head. Whatever it was he was humming songs and shedding soft, self-serving tears, and seeing Technicolor things that touched his weary heart.
Jessica Lange, shimmering in waves of luminescent white, was smiling patiently, alluringly, inscrutably. Emmylou Harris, gloriously angelic and thankfully earthbound, was singing sad songs that didn’t make him cry.
And there was dancing…lots of dancing…and sex and laughter, sweet life and sweet death, lasting truth and lingering lies…visions of the future, the past, and all that jazz.
Maybe it was a dream bleeding into the waking world, mixing the magical and mundane in the fevered imagination of a poor mortal fool.
Maybe it was it just a movie, an artful mix of fiction and reality carefully crafted to stimulate the senses and draw emotion out of playacting.
Maybe it was the wine.
It felt like rain on the next to the last day of the end of time. That was cool with Victor…he liked the rain and the grayness, he really liked the grayness because it made him appreciate the sunshine that much more when it came back.
The wind was heavy and moist as Victor wandered the avenues on that gray day but he barely felt it. Despite the fact that he hadn’t bothered to take a coat or a hat none of the blustery, storm-heralding weather made him the least bit uncomfortable. Why would it? The next day was one that he had been looking forward to for a long time and the utter finality of it warmed him, admittedly in a strange and sad way, to his very core.
The sun shone brightly on the last day of the end of time. It was an almost perfectly blue, gently blustery day. And that too was cool with Victor. The threat of rain the previous day had made this day more sparkling and though it was a shame that there would be no more it was still a glorious backdrop for the end of time to play out on. Victor drank wine and smoked cigars and let the rays of the sun caress him and all of it chilled him, in a strange and sad, way to his very core.
It felt like rain on the next to last day of the end of time. It felt like spring, bountiful and welcoming, on the last day. It felt…right…and that was cool with Victor…he liked feeling, at least once in his life, right.
The sun set and the evening shadows gathered. And darkness held Victor close…it was the last day of the end of time and he was going…well, Victor didn’t really know where he was going but he was going just the same…and that was cool with Victor.
Monday, May 09, 2011
The bus was quiet in the early morning and we heard him. We all heard him. But we pretended, as people do, that we did not hear him at all.
He sat, by himself, all the way in the back, staring out the window at the cars and the sad eyed people shuffling along the avenues. He sat, murmuring in a voice that cut through the masculine hum of the bus engine.
He sat murmuring…we all heard him…murmuring that children’s prayer. ”…now I lay me down to sleep…”
But we pretended, as people do, that we did not hear him at all.
He got off the bus, at the edge of downtown, still murmuring. ”…if I die before I wake….” He disappeared around a shadowed corner and was gone, that prayer still murmuring…sighing musically…in his wake.
But we pretended, as people do, that we did not hear him at all.
Friday, May 06, 2011
Sometimes he thought he saw the boundaries of heaven. Sometimes he thought he knew something about the meaning of life. Sometimes…well, sometimes, he thought he knew.
But most times he knew that he didn’t really know anything of significance. But that was okay with him…it was the way of the world after all…the way it was and the way it would ever be…and it really didn’t make him sleep any better or any worse knowing that.
Sometimes he tasted the sweetest wine…on the lips of lovers, on the tiny fingers of guileless babies, in the spray of the mighty ocean crashing against foolish, helpless rocks, in the way the sky felt on his tongue after lingering autumn rains. And sometimes it made him feel so intoxicated, so utterly free, that he couldn’t imagine anything else could possibly ever taste so wonderful. Sometimes he tasted the wine…and sometimes he liked to imagine that the wine would flow freely for all of the rest of his days.
But most times he knew that it wouldn’t. He knew that it just couldn’t. And that was okay with him…the sweetest things should always be taken in careful moderation lest they lose their honeyed luster and come to seem mundane. This too, he knew, was the way of the world….the way the world was…the way world had ever been…the way the world would ever be…and it didn’t make him feel any better or any worse about his place in the universe.
And sometimes he thought everybody in the world could feel his secret thoughts, read all of his unwritten words, sing all the songs that he had deliberately forgotten how to sing…sometimes he imagined and sometimes it made him feel naked and exposed. And sometimes it made him feel special, the guardian of secret knowledge entrusted to him by the knowing universe, the seeming fool who strode the world an unknown, but blessed, shaman and scholar.
But sometimes…most times, in fact…he knew that was hubris too arrogant and too fantastic to be taken very seriously at all. This bothered him, in his heart of hearts, but as long as it remained true in his dreaming times…and it most certainly did…he was okay with the real truth of the matter. It was the way of the world after all…the way it absolutely should be no matter how much he might wish it to be otherwise…and so it didn’t really trouble his mind…except in the quiet moments of whispering and wishing that everybody has but nobody admits to.
Sometimes he thought he knew…knew the hidden places…the secret, sacred hearts…the perfectly peaceful vistas and the eternally calm and calming hideaways…all of the gentler, more grace-filled truths of the infinite…sometimes…just sometimes…he thought he knew.
And sometimes he did know. But most times he knew that he didn’t know much of anything and he was, only a bit reluctantly, okay with that. It was, after all, the way of the world…the way it was and would ever be…the way it was for him, for everyone he knew, for everyone he had known at one time, for everyone he would never ever know….and it really didn’t play games with heart or make sport of his head. Well at least not too much…sometimes…at least not too much…
Thursday, May 05, 2011
I saw God in the wee hours of a particularly warm spring morning. He was sitting in the corner of my room watching over me while I had slept.
“Good morning,” God said in my grandfather’s resonant voice.
“Good morning,” I said, sitting up in bed. “How long have you been there?”
God smiled…inscrutably, of course…and made no reply. Yeah, I thought, that was a stupid question.
“I know what you’re thinking,” God said as light slowly suffused the room.
“I’m sure you do,” I said, just a bit sarcastically, rising from bed and not realizing in the moment how utterly unselfconscious I was about being naked.
God chuckled…my grandfather’s chuckle. “Ever the skeptic,” he said warmly. He looked at me with my father’s mother’s piercing eyes. “That’s okay, I have always believed in you just the same.”
God cocked his head slightly, his mouth crinkled into Rose’s patiently impatient frown. Another stupid question, I realized, but I felt no impulse to feel shame about it.
God reached out…with my maternal grandmother’s welcoming grace, with Simon’s strong, gentle arms…and I folded into his embrace. God smelled like honey and scotch, like chocolate and cigars…God smelled like Papa. “Of course I do,” God said with Alan’s affectionate, slightly shy grin. “You’re pretty calm about all this.”
I closed my eyes, my head against God’s chest…his heartbeat sounded like the best song I never heard…his heartbeat sounded like Annie laughing…his heartbeat sounded like Michael singing…his heartbeat sounded like Eli sighing softly…and I smiled contentedly. “I’m going to wake up soon,” I said, “so why fight the dream?”
God chuckled again…my brother’s happy laugh…and kissed the top of my head. “As you say, son,” he said. “I love you just the same.”
“Thank you, sir,” I said, not opening my eyes. I breathed easily, lingering in God’s embrace as the first rays of the morning sun slipped softly through the open window.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
The spring day felt like summer. Warm Santa Ana winds came rolling in…playful but insistent…off the desert and any lingering clouds fled out to the Pacific. Under powder blue skies heat spread…insistent but no oppressive…over the city…over the neighborhood…over the Circle.
D, across the street, was the first to leave for the day as usual. A soft roar into the waning darkness of the morning, taking the red SUV instead of the powerful white truck he most often favors.
Shy, enigmatic C was next, waving as she passed, her headlights illuminating me fleetingly as I paced the Circle, tea in hand.
And then the Marine on the corner, coughing and smoking…smoking and coughing…as his truck warmed up for the short jaunt off the mesa down to the sprawling base.
The sun was rising and the birds were awake and already happily gossiping. The winds were already gathering and the trees were dancing, their spring foliage singing songs to the new day and to the grace of the infinite.
The Earth turned and met the sun. I dressed appropriately for the weather…baggy blue shorts, muted red shirt…and proceeded with my previously planned chore of finishing the spring cleaning of the garage while the morning was still relatively cool. The screened doors and windows open to the gathering, warming breezes, music…Van Morrison, Ray Charles…spread from my stereo in the family room and out through the house and into the garage, and into the street.
A, across the street, climbed into the family’s white SUV, the warm breeze carrying a whiff…vague but insistent…of cigarette smoke around the Circle before taking it off towards the sea…and slipped off into the day. It occurs to me that I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen A smile.
L, two doors down, leaves next, her red hair shimmering in the morning sun, while her husband J sets to work in their garage before the day becomes too oppressive for such endeavors.
The reclusive young couple who live in what old-timers on the Circle still call “George and Ginger’s house” go their ways…he in his jeep, she, with the toddler she gave birth to not too long after they moved onto the block, in her gleaming black SUV.
P…fair skinned, porcelain, warily affable…comes over to retrieve the mail she had asked me to collect while she and her older daughter were off spending a few days in Idaho with her younger daughter and the grandchildren. We made small talk about the weather and she, having taken a day off after her trip, went to tend to her plants and flowers and I went back to work in my garage.
I filled the trash and recycling bins and rolled them out to the street for pickup the next day; I rolled C’s bins out to the street because I do that every week as well. The garage as done as it was going to be, I closed it up and went to finish an assignment on the computer. The day was getting warmer and the cats had already staked out territory under ceiling fans of their choosing.
Noontime under the big tree in the front yard, the Santa Ana winds (yeah, that Steely Dan song kept playing in my head and I'm looking over my shoulder for Babylon sisters to be shaking it) really kicking up an impish ruckus, the warmth continued to rise, and the day on the Circle continued to slow down.
Mid-afternoon, D, early to work, early home, is riding around the Circle on a bike he apparently rediscovered in his garage. The lithe D, who walks in both boyish whimsy and…vague but insistent…melancholy, goes shirtless whenever he can and as he delights in making circles on the Circle, his little gold nipple ring glints in the sun every once in a while casting tiny sparks of light here and there.
Someone visits J, the wind carrying the pungent aroma of his cigar around the Circle.
Early evening, the air is still thick and sweaty, doors and windows are still open all around the Circle, soft music (from my house) is gliding on top of the heated air as our part of the world started to slowly move away the mother sun. I spend sundown in the yard…on my bench…luxuriating in the gathering coolness.
The spring day…the spring evening…felt like summer. And, they tell me, this “summer” wasn’t ending just yet.
Monday, May 02, 2011
He imagines himself a hero. He imagines himself a victim. He imagines himself a lover consummate tenderness and empathy. He imagines himself a martyr…sacrificing himself…bravely enduring terrible pain and grinding humiliation…for people who see, too late, how wonderful he is.
He imagines…he dreams and ruminates…because he is forgetting how to live.
His coward’s mouth finds no words when the object of his lust is nearby…his coward’s heart refuses to soar when the wide blue vista beckons…his coward’s spirit flags when it should stalwart enough to take him into another day on the mother world.
He imagines himself a tortured soul. He imagines himself a misunderstood visionary. He imagines himself taken in by grace and kept safe by abiding love and passion. He imagines himself in a state of true happiness that blooms radiantly with no effort on his part.
He imagines…he fantasizes and daydreams…because he has forgotten how to live.
“The nights go on forever,” she said with a rueful little smile that I found enormously endearing. “It’s the days that are never long enough.”
I nodded, pretending she was giving some hidden wisdom that had somehow escaped my notice. It hadn’t. I was a friend…no, not a friend…an acquaintance…I was an acquaintance of shadows and whispers; of cold mornings on chilly sheets, alone in the dark, languidly pawing at indifferent erections and wondering why the nights…like this long forever night…hadn’t swallowed me at last and set me free once and for all.
‘You’re such a little boy,” she said, just a bit unkindly, as if she knew what I was thinking. “You lie to me but I don’t care…you have sad brown eyes and hungry brown lips…you’re a beautiful liar and I would lay with you…I would make you moan my name and breathe carnal whispers to the infinite…if you really knew what love was. But you don’t.”
I wanted to slap her. But I didn’t…you don’t hit someone for the truth…it’s not proper. And I always try to be proper.
“You make angels out of cigarette smoke…saviors out of chilled wine bottles…you think navel gazing singers pirate your diaries…and you pride yourself that the head on your shoulders, not the one at the tip of your dick, calls the shots when nothing could be further from the truth…you dream even while you’re ‘awake’, why the hell would you want more daytime?”
She laughed, a brittle, decidedly unkind laugh, and shook her head. “I love you.” She looked me in the eyes. “Or maybe I just think I love you.” She paused, her cool eyes mocking me. “Or maybe I don’t love you at all but say it anyway because you want to believe it.” She paused again. “Do you understand that?”
I nodded. Yes.
“Does it make any difference?”
Hot tears welled up in my sad brown eyes. I shook my head. No.
She frowned, sadly, and pulled me close. She kissed my hungry brown lips. She put my head on her breasts and rocked me slowly. “Silly little boy,” she cooed, stroking my head and rocking me gently to a song only she could hear.
And the night, of course, went on forever.