Archive for the 'Story TIme' Category

Nowhere

Sun. Ripped through the windows and crashed into the wall on the opposite side of the room. I’d give just about anything to circumvent being back here right now, again. Awake. Anywhere but here. Light smashing into fragments an undone lifetime borne during the darkness and it dissipates at an exponential rate with each passing second. Can’t tell yet what’s real and what’s memory. Dreams all mixed up with plans and ideas. Flashbacks and imagination have been surgically grafted. The trees are wiggly — it’s windy outside.

Time for work. I don’t remember getting ready. Sound is missing from my morning routine. No one else wants to be conscious yet either. I think I ate something, but can’t recall exactly what or if I dreamed it. Irrelevant. Breakfast is like an obligation and most of the time I ignore it. Eating so soon makes me nauseous anyway. I’ll eat when I’m hungry. I’ll sleep when I’m tired. Schedules are good for other people. I have no idea how to apply one to me. Traffic. Stuck between a seeping garbage truck and some jack-ass who must think the rest of us all secretly collaborated to get in his way. I need a time machine. No bother. I sort of enjoy watching other people freak out over things they have zero control over. At some point I got old and now prefer news via National Public Radio while driving to work. It’s trite and seeded as any other news source although it seems like they at least try not to be. I still get some twisted enjoyment out of listening to how much people need something to freak out over. Desk. I picked up a coffee on my way in today but have not tried to drink it yet. I can tell that the 100% post-consumer recycled heat-sleeve is doing its job. I left a few notes to myself hopefully to jump start me back into my work quicker, bypassing the spin up routine: turn everything on, log in, coffee, pretend to listen to my co-workers pretend to care about something in the news, or recount uninteresting anecdotes from last night’s impromptu hang-out session over beers and video games, check email, and spend the next 20 minutes trying to remember what the hell I did yesterday. Great. My attempt to elude the kitchen chatter failed. Apparently I got someone else’s coffee order and they happen to like it black. Ew. I wish someone would invent sweetened, caffeinated creamer so I wouldn’t need to deal with coffee at all.

One of my notes to self had a bunch of hexidecimal numbers scribbled out in no particular pattern. Colors. RGB value pairs as six character 8-bit digital alpha-numeric codes for representing any one of over 16.7 million possible colors. Combine the right ones and they exude a low level amount of control over what people will feel and can dictate a rudimentary course for how they react. The other note was even more cryptic. It definitely was written in my hand-writing but I cannot remember writing it. Random words. A string of numbers in a pattern I’m not familiar with: spiders jump galaxies spin 17.694 8 72#13.5. The ink does not match my current favorite pen. Leaving notes for myself is not a new practice and typically if they have no immediate, direct meaning or don’t conjure up some sort of connection between today and the day before I just trash them. I can’t stand seeing different people’s habits of disorganization around the office. Sticky notes were never meant to be permanent fixtures. And once you have more than three or four of them you probably have bigger problems than just needing to remember “a few things.”

Green. #A0CC56 — this one was circled, and not just once. A very specific kind of green. I suppose that statement is ridiculous. Every color code is specific. But this green is the perfect green. Full of vigor and freshness without being obnoxious. This is the kind of green people tweet about. It’s got just enough yellow to be grounded and feel natural and just enough blue to be soothing. Memorized. Trashed. Left perplexed with my second note. Was it a riddle? A song lyric? It has that universality and ambiguous sense to it that all meaningful songs have. Was this an old note that got dislodged from my desk and found its way behind a plant or garbage can? It wasn’t crumpled or folded or otherwise mangled in any way. Maybe the cleaning crew noticed it on the floor and re-instituted its residency on my desk. This is the only note I’ve kept around longer than the intended 24 hour life span for which sticky notes were designed.

5:07 pm. The drive home was incredibly dull. A blur, abruptly interrupted by arriving at home sooner than I was ready. I love being home, but some days I wish it took no less than twice as long to get here. Some days I need more time to decompress. More time to let the radio sing me an anthem to cling to. I may have briefly fallen asleep during stasis at a red light. Uneventful. Not that I’m looking to get stuck in traffic due to something catastrophic that happened to someone else. I suppose I’m just hoping for something to wake me up. Sometimes the weather is dramatic enough. Sometimes the radio plays music worth hearing. Sometimes, I wonder if the next intersection I cross is the one with my name on it; the one where some over-the-top, plastic, multi-tasking, distracted soccer mom checks her Facebook and slips through a red light and slams her SUV into the side of my slightly dated minivan. I wonder if that would change anything and drastically alter the course my life is on. Bubbles. Life packed up into neat rule-sets and tidy exchanges — emotional, professional, intellectual — everything fits and makes sense and has a time and a place. Forced. I’m constantly on edge. Anxious. Waiting for something dramatic to happen. Fearing that something dramatic is about to happen. Feeling like I’m ever-present on the cusp of popping bubbles. Not at all like the notion of walking on eggshells; rather, anxious like some sort of survival mechanism has been activated in order to maintain the structural integrity of my bubbles with the knowledge permeating my core with the inevitable truth that every bubble’s existence is purposed to pop. Fighting so hard to disprove that. Yet, without the popping, a bubble is, instead, an iridescent prison. I know this. I don’t want to. But why to just survive? Where is the land of the living? Why all the aversion to a full and unpredictable life, over-flowing with freedom and timelessness?

Bedtime. My least favorite time of the day. If ever a time exists for everything to come unglued, bedtime would be that time. Sleeping frustrates me. Has always seemed like a waste of time and telling my kids they need to go to bed just makes me a hypocrite, or at best a selfish bastard grasping at minutes on the clock as if they actually made a difference.

Moon. Night time is so much better than any other time. It’s quiet, cool, and no matter where you are, the stars are always hauntingly familiar and unknowable at the same time. Even through the clouds, just knowing they are there settles my soul; as if the purpose for their very existence is to be for us permission to dream and wonder [1]. Everything is shadow. Time pretends to stand still. The wind calls out through the trees, furiously screaming and whispering out loud all the sorrows in my heart and all the fears in the back of my head and all the things my soul keeps captive in a place where only the rain can come and go as it pleases. Velvet. Colors sleep and my mind is freed from the burdens of obligation; freed from pretense and dialog and all that trying to make sense out of what people are saying. The world slumbers and I am king. The king of nowhere.

I’ve been building something and it’s almost complete. While the planet spins apace on its tilted axis and people are murdered one commercial at a time, I’ve been busy constructing a loop-hole in reality — a way to bypass the idiocracy of everything. My note to self I found this morning definitely has meaning, I just haven’t gotten there yet, literally… the events leading up to that note being written have not happened yet. But it is proof. The first real proof that my construct is valid. That which has consumed me for most of my life actually works. Kind of. I am a time machine.

Hello world. What is it to exist? Is it to feel? Or think? If someone else acknowledges you, is that proof enough of your existence? Are we all trapped in some endless yet extremely limited set of possibilities where everything is just a result of a series of all our choices and somehow we as a people manage to navigate this omniverse without trashing everything? Bullshit. Cause and effect have been iced, creamed and blended — made impossible to decipher, turned cause into effect and result into just cause, and fed to us all… no, we begged for it. Like a mocha-coconut smoothie creates something entirely new; greater than the sum of its parts and leaves your mouth coated with a bland, milky film. Every sip laced with a numbing agent stealing our abilities to properly assess what’s really happening. We drink from our own bubbles the waste of our own bubbles. Time makes space linear. They’re connected. Inseparable. The outer most bubble.

Traveling. Movement without moving. This is starting to cause me problems. I’ve acquired the ability to time travel. It is the art of being anywhere but here, anywhen but now. My adventures a’clock have made it painfully clear that time (itself brutally linear) makes space linear. As elusive and mysterious as it is to be in the future, or as deceivingly fruitless it proves to be in the past, the problem lies in my absence from the present. I cannot exist now and in either side of then simultaneously. If I am wrestling my demons or asking answerless questions, exhausting myself down to vital mechanical responses only… or if I’m soaring between stars and constructing metropolises, concocting false realities out of the vapor-trails of dreams, then I have not the mental facilities to absorb the present and rather than just being missed I fall prey to missing being. Disappeared from my life as it happens. Details and nuances that make life full vanish. Unable to wisely navigate decisions the next moments require. Thus in my lack of being, my absence makes the decisions for me. These choices will always be rooted basic, self-preservation, passive, shallow motives irrespective of due diligence, thought, empathy and goodwill.

Cycle. Vicious. I return from my travels to find my life nothing like what I’ve ever wanted and resentment festers and escaping to anywhen else becomes paramount, deepening the chasm between me and my life.

Pain. I came home to an empty house today. I need to break my time machine.

Dissolving

“Sir? Sir…” I called after the man we just saw moments before-hand digging through one of the many garbage cans lining the 16th Street Mall downtown — looking for food, looking for anything. At about 9am, the biting cold of a mid-November morning starts to loosen its jaws a bit, up to 30° give or take a few. Cold, nonetheless. What difference does two or three degrees really make? His hair was exactly as you’d expect it to be; his clothes following suit. No bags. A hollow gait with each trash can his goal. I caught up to him, and… actually, let me back up a bit. This all started with an anniversary weekend getaway, a blueberry muffin, and a very special girl.

Breakfast — the day before… I was craving just a blueberry muffin and a vanilla coffee drink (or grandé vanilla latté with no foam for those of you who only speak metro), but got distracted by the notion of a vanilla custard french toast offering and when we ordered our food at the Corner Bakery Cafe, I still ordered that blueberry muffin. You know those kind of huge muffins with that crumbly topping? Fresh-baked and moist in the middle with a crunchy outer crust? Like this one:

blueberry-muffin

A blueberry muffin from the Corner Bakery Cafe

Well, the muffin was still intact by the time we finished our meals so Jen wrapped it up to bring with us on our adventures and we thought we could share it when we were hungry again. Then I realized I left my phone up in the hotel room. I needed my phone. You need your phone, right? Gotta have your phone. Once back in the hotel room, it made sense to just leave the muffin there and maybe call it dessert and not carry it around all day. So that’s what we did and the muffin sat on the credenza in a bag in the hotel room all day while we delighted in a long day of walking, playing together, filling up our cameras with funny faces and amazing places and things that make Denver what it is, and topped off with a fancy impromptu dinner at Maggiano’s.

One of the threads weaving itself through our weekend was a heightened awareness of homeless people. For the uninformed, here’s a little something about my wife that defines a significant part of who she is — and this in no way encompasses the extent of her traumas and triumphs: she was a teenage runaway and spent 10 days on the streets and dealt with situations and things most people only know about from movies and the evening news. Because of her experiences and the damage and repercussions and the road to healing she’s been on, she now has this incredible gift of tenderness, forgiveness, intuition and the super power to see right through bullshit.

Okay, so earlier this night after our fancy dinner while walking back through the 16th Street Mall on our way back to our hotel room she wanted to give our leftover food from dinner to someone. It wan’t much, but something is better then nothing when you’re hungry. And hardly anything becomes even less if you share it. The streets were thinning out and the nightly chill started its descent on downtown. it was getting kind of late and most places were closed, but she did find a few people who were homeless. She handed me the to-go bag and said, “Go give it to that guy right there.” Timeout — a little something you should know about me: I do not do well with crowds, I will always find the least in-the-way place to stand in a room, and I’m borderline paranoid of talking to people I don’t know. It took a lot for me to look back at Jen and say, “Okay.” I don’t remember how cold it was, but everyone was wearing winter jackets. This was, after all, November in Denver.

The man I walked up to was an older black gentleman, almost like my dad’s age, or maybe life just made him look older like that. He was standing with two or three other older people. I had the food in my left hand and reached out to hand it him. He took it with his left hand and reached his right hand out gesturing to shake my hand. As I was reaching for his hand, he said, “Thank you, I’ll pass it around.” His hand was warm and not nearly as rough as I was expecting. I think I replied with something stupid like, “Stay warm.” or something like that. I thought for a split second about saying something like, “God bless.” which seemed so trite or perfectly insensitive. My force field started to decay. My head started reorganizing. Jen gave me a gift. She probably knew it, too.

By the way, “renting” a movie in your hotel room is a rip-off (thank you Redbox and Netflix for spoiling us all.) We watched what I can only describe as a really bad camcorder recoding of a TV screen that was playing the movie Date Night. Even still, we laughed and ate our pumpkin cheesecake in our pajamas, leaving us in no shape to be eating a muffin. “Let’s bring it with us to breakfast tomorrow and we’ll eat it then.” She suggested. My wife is always full of smart ideas. No, brilliant ideas. She has this knack for knowing the right time for saying whatever needs to be said or doing whatever needs to be done.

Waking up quietly and peacefully is one of the few luxuries in life that I’m sure all parents of small children could just die for. The last bits of our weekend were upon us, and we were so excited to head back to our new favorite place for breakfast.

So there we were, Jen and I, sitting in our front window seats, laughing, reminiscing, loving each other and people watching as if this was our normal Sunday morning routine and we’d been coming here for years. We enjoyed an amazing breakfast for the second day in a row on the last day of our weekend getaway in celebration of being married for 12 years. I can still taste the cinnamon and vanilla custard baked into the french toast. We ate and talked and sat in the restaurant for well over an hour, and I fell in love all over again with my wife.

People watching. We tried to guess the stories of the people we saw. Jen kept pointing out people who were homeless, explaining how she knew based on various clues I’d never pick up on. We watched a lady have an entire conversation with the thin chilling air. We watch a different lady move from one table to the next in the restaurant making up various stories trying to convince people to give her money. We saw a rich man (you can tell by the shoes, the overcoat, and the way he wore his baseball cap) walking around with and talking at what could have very much been his son who’s all grown up, but probably feels lost and unsure of himself. We watched a handsome man standing outside, patiently standing, nervously standing and watching in all directions; checking his phone every other minute, waiting for someone to show up. He was early, or maybe she was late. We guessed at his story and figured this was a Match.com moment in the making. She finally showed up. “It takes time to make yourself look nice. And he better appreciate her cause she looks pretty for him.” Jen says with a smile in her voice.

We finished our breakfast and continued to sit and watch and talk. We never got to the blueberry muffin. Once again, we ordered too much food. “We can just take it home and the kids can have it.” she said. We talked about our dreams and wishes. We held hands and watched the world spin itself up around us. And we watched the same guy that went down the other side of the street work his way back up on our side stopping at each trash can looking for something. Looking for anything. Without missing a beat, Jen grabs the muffin out of her bag, along with three dollars in cash that we had left and handed it to me. “Go give this to that guy.”

I’d like to say that I responded immediately with, “That’s what I was just thinking!” But, no. I challenged her. I started reeling with reasons why that was a bad idea to give someone in need a bit of food and a few bucks… “He’ll just buy alcohol with it.” I started to spew out and quickly realized what I was saying and tried to take it back. Words have this amazingly linear trajectory. There is no reverse. As I was trying to not say what I was saying, I got out of my seat, took the muffin bag with her three dollars and sped out the cafe doors. During my insolence, he managed to make it to the corner of the block. I went from a brisk walk to a hasty jog to catch up.

“Sir? Sir…” I called after him. He turned slowly, cautiously, perhaps incoherently. I must have caught him off-guard, calling after him like that. I handed him the bag and the money. He reached out to take it from me with both of his hands. I know I looked into his eyes then, but now recalling the story I barely remember them. They were so hollow and light.

“Thank you, brother. Thank you.” I can still hear his voice. Smashing what was left of the stale, hard candy-coated shell I’ve been constructing around my heart for most of my life. Going to work the next day and sitting at my desk and organizing electrons never felt so meaningless. The newly exposed, raw flesh of my heart was not ready to be so contained so soon. It still isn’t. Almost every day now for the past six months I’ve thought of this weekend and I’m finding myself more and more unsettled with what I spend my time doing everyday.

I have an idea, and I’m going to need a lot of money, or a miracle, or both.

An Atomic Mistake

My recollection is fuzzy. But I’ll do my best to fabricate the missing pieces such that detecting their absence would be improbable.

Fade through white.

We were working our way through the checkout line at the local * Megamart. A man was making his way upstream from the rest of us asking almost everyone something. Maybe he was asking everyone the same question, or maybe something specific to the askee. Regardless, he was getting the same answer, “No.” Some just shook their heads silently. Some answered with their faces, while others flat-out said it in an “Are you crazy?” sort of way.

It was our turn. Scruffy face. Long hair pulled back. Clothes that have seen better days. Hard to tell if he was pushing his thirties or pulling his twenties. Caucasian. Would have no trouble blending as a boardwalk regular down at Pacific Beach. Anxiously, “Do you have the device?”

The device… device? My brain tussled through all the possible things that could fit that description, trying desperately to understand what this very impatient man was talking about without risking my chance to give him an honest answer, or risking an undesired reaction for wasting his time. “Are you talking about this?” I reached into our shopping cart and pulled out a weighty silver canister (marked with various trefoil emblems) out from under some new clothes for the kids. Uranium? Plutonium? What the hell is this?!

“Yes! Yes. Shhhh…” Trying fruitlessly to contain his excitement, “How much do you want for it?”

“I don’t know. Maybe two or three hundred?” I was so perplexed about this situation. Why was this device in my cart? He gave me the cash — $300 — took the device and disappeared into the parking lot. We continued through the checkout and went back to our hotel room which, wouldn’t you guess, was also in * Megamart. The next 30 minutes or so went by as uninterestingly as possible. Then the room shook and the chaos started. All manor of city officials were suddenly everywhere, trying to get everyone out of the building, and out of the area. We packed up our things and realized our van was parked on the other side of the premises. “I’ll go get the van. Keep the kids with you. I’ll be right back.” I kissed Jen and headed out.

Half way to our van. I was stopped by some lady in a fallout suit directing me to turn around and get out of there. She held up a card with four stripes or sections on it with a stepped progression of magenta towards white. “See this? When this part turns white like this, it means the radioactivity is far beyond the tolerable level. You need to evacuate. Now.”

“Can I have one of those cards?” I asked her. She handed me one and reiterated that I need to be turning around and then her attention diverted to some other people who were also heading this way. I kept going past her, looking for our van. The air was thick and dusty… no, more like foggy. White-ish. The bottom stripe on my card was turning from deep magenta to a washed out tint and the words “Warning, radioactivity detected, level 1” appeared in that stripe. I kept going, covering my mouth with my shirt as if the fallout coated everything with the fine drywall dust from a construction site.

I found our van. I had trekked past it and had to double-back a bit. By now the top stripe had been activated and read, “Intolerable radioactive levels detected. Life unsustainable.” It seemed difficult to breathe. There was movement near the van. It was my son just wandering about, playing with some toy waiting for me to open the van so he could climb in. “What are you doing out here? Where’s mommy? Why are you not with her?” The questions rattled out effortlessly. He just looked at me and non-chalantly replied with a non-answer. “We have to get out of here! The air is poisonous!” I barked.

A television in the window behind me was tuned to the news with aerial shots of the area and all you could see was a white cloud and some outlines of buildings. Then they cut to security camera footage of the impatient man yelling at the entrance to * Megamart saying something about things “now being fair” and “that’s what you get for…[unintelligible sounds].” He was arrested. I think I passed out.

I woke up to a doctor pointing to an area of my chest on a sheet of film baffled that my cancer disappeared.

Twenty Minutes, or Ten Seconds

My first thought before pulling the trigger was, “I wonder if this will blow his fingers completely off.”

I hid in the bathroom. My hands were still slightly numb from the previous shot… well, from that and the effects of adrenaline and terror. I don’t remember the first shot, I just know it happened. The shotgun was still overly warm and filled the air with the stinging residue of burnt powder and the smell oil has when combined with hot metal. Surprised. His face was more intact than I’d have ever guessed was possible from a point blank range with a double-barrel shot gun.

So much blood. Gaping jagged gash on his neck from what could have been a very dull knife with a lot of effort behind it, or shard of glass, or who knows? And the first shot left quite an impression on his head. I saw his shadow waver a bit through that gap under the bathroom door and could tell he was poised on the other side. He knew I was in there. He was a rather large man. Almost unnaturally large. That bathroom seemed tiny, like my legs would never fit tucked underneath me next to the toilet, hiding. Petrified. Surprised that he was still alive. I laid the gun down with the barreled end facing the gap breaking the strip of light bleeding in from bedroom, and waited. Twenty minutes or ten seconds passed and the door flew open and his hand seemed to lunge at me independently of his body and I did it. I pulled the trigger and the noise was so loud. Loud enough to overwhelm my ears and render them useless. I watched in instant silence his fingers turn into ground beef and I was shocked they were still mostly attached. Unusable so far as fingers typically go on a hand, but attached nonetheless.

I didn’t know who he was, where I was, or why he was after me or how the hell I acquired a loaded, double-barrel shotgun. I think I was in a hotel room, but where? Which hotel? What city? Every time this happens these questions don’t seem as important as they do this time. There were no other people around, which was weird in retrospect. It seems I’m always in some sort of house or building with people around everywhere. Most of the time I don’t know who anyone is. This is the first time, though, that I’ve woken up with a gun in my hands and my head foggy and full of stuff I should know but don’t.

I bolted for the main door looking for an exit; trying to get outside. My white minivan was sitting there in the parking lot and suddenly I found myself inside trying to get the sliding door closed, fighting him off. How he got there so fast still makes me skeptical of my own understanding of time and the whole ordeal. And in a blink, my son, my little boy was standing there trying to get in the van with his hand and left side of his head blown apart.

I hate dreams like this.

Killing Time

We were out goofing around today. Going from place to place, just having fun and killing time (as if we have time to kill…)

At one point, while the others were either trying to find something to eat, or some new clothes, or both, I wandered over to the courtyards. Over to the one with that shallow pool in the center. I always forget the name of it… Ba… or Ber-something-or-another, but it’s where all those lame people go to hang out or whatever. You know, the ones with legs that don’t work, dying from some kind of disease or other serious health problems. That courtyard was more crowded than I’ve seen in a long time. Of course it’s been a while since I was there last, but there were definitely more people today than this place usually draws. Hundreds more.

Every time we go near there, I always look for that one old guy. He’s always sitting on his blanket. Well, sitting is the wrong word… that seems to imply he has a choice to not sit. He’s been there as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I’d see him there. Always trying to get to the water. I guess there’s some kind of special power or energy in the water, but only when it ripples or moves or something bogus like that. I’ve never actually met anyone who was fixed or healed, but these people stay there… waiting for their chance to get in. That’s pretty intense hope or faith or belief in who knows what, if you ask me.

Anyway, I came up to the courtyard and looked over by the east side where he always is, that old guy… yep… still there. Hollow and sunken-in as ever and slumped in his spot like a shell or suit someone took off and just dropped there. I don’t know if he even has hope anymore and if this is just what he does ’cause it’s what he’s always done… I guess he’s been all lame like that for like almost forty years or so now.

Man. I can’t even imagine sitting in the same place for a whole day and this guy’s been hanging out there since before I was born. Wow. I think I’d rather beg someone to kill me and put me out of my misery, but he stays there… hoping I guess that one day he’ll get his chance. Crazy.

I’ve always felt bad for him. I wish I could help in some way but I have no idea how. I’m actually kind of afraid to talk to him and most of the others who stay there as well. Are they crazy? Would they even hear me? Or would they just try to beg for my help? I don’t know. But my parents have always told me to keep to myself. “Don’t get involved in other people’s business… you’re just asking for trouble when you do that.” they’d spout.

Ok, so on with my story. I saw something today and I’m still not sure of what I saw. I mean, I know what it looked like but I don’t understand it. I saw a man walk up to that old guy and ask him something. Now this man.. there was something about him… a way… I don’t get it yet… I mean, the people who could walk just followed him every where he turned. I don’t think he was like famous or important like the authorities. I’ve never seen him before, but he just seemed to have a sense of authority oozing from within.

Later on, someone who was close to where the old guy was sitting, told me that the man asked him if he wanted to get better, and of course the old guy said, “Yes!” I mean don’t we all want to get better? And this is the part that still blows my mind. The old guy started complaining about never being able to make it to the pool before everyone else when it gets stirred. Then the man told the old guy to get up and take his blanket with him… AND HE DID! It was like his legs regenerated and his body filled back up with whatever it is that we’re full of that makes us work. He stood up. STRAIGHT UP! With no help from anyone.

I think he tried to thank the man but he just left… like he lost himself in the crowd.

I don’t remember anything from the rest of that day… I couldn’t tell you when my friends came to get me or where we went from there. I … I don’t know. All I’ve been able to think about is what the heck I saw. And what that meant. I hope I get a chance to meet that man. I don’t know what I’d say to him… but I’m dying to know what he’d ask me.

Original post date: March 8, 2004 in a galaxy far far away. This was an exercise I wrote as an immersive study for a story.