Looking for input

I heard a story a while ago about a man from Mexico that was new to a particular city in America and was living a homeless life. After a rainstorm, another homeless man inquired as to how he’d slept the night before. Struggling with English, he said “badly” and when asked why, all he could come up with was “the button”. After a long, trying time of discerning what he was talking about, it was finally discovered that he had slept in a trash compactor, the only place he could find to get out of the rain. However, he could not sleep out of fear of someone coming along and pushing “The Button” and crushing him to death. This story is an attempt at an examination of sleep as someone homeless.

 

————————————————–

The first thing he remembered was the cold. He’d known cold before, a neighbor that left town from time to time but always came back and never let him close his leaden eyelids. This was different. It was a dry cold. Bitter. Blown down from some frozen over hell that couldn’t be stopped by cloth armor. He could feel the skin on his face tighten and his lips crack until his cheeks were red from the invisible icy slap. The air was tinted with the scent of brine and the taste of salt on asphalt heaved up from the fractured blacktop or cobblestone streets by motorists sauntering by wrapped up in their steel and glass blankets. Everything was dry and frozen. Ice and wind. Sea without the heavy stench of rotting seaweed. It was too cold for death.

The next thing he remembered was the rain. He’d felt the air warm as he’d stumbled down the hill, paved in loose stones and growing, dimming shadows. His jacket was a heavy wool, stinking of sweat and months of forgotten cigarette ash rubbed into the fabric like a gray dye memory. The rain would come soon, he knew. His life had taught him that a true blessing is a rare thing and that more frequently the pleasant was a prelude to something darker. The rain wouldn’t be as cold as the ice, but for a man without shelter, it was twice as deadly.

 

He’d been handed a ticket, appearing from the glare and haze of a few scavenged hours of afternoon slumber. Grime-encrusted eyes glared at the silhouette proffering the glossy strip of black and white voluntary deportation details. Then they roved wildly in fear of some company of baton-wielding soldiers of the elite scrambling out of the belly of a wooden horse. No such battalion visibly appeared, so he scratched his gritty explosion of a beard and grabbed the ticket. The shadow tried to hide the bottle of hand sanitizer, but the man could smell the sweetened sterility.

“They have great programs there. You’ll be able to eat and have a place to stay until you can get back on your feet. We’re just giving you a way to get there.”

Cold was creeping through his heavy coat, even in New York. He woke up with numbness in his fingers and struggling to swallow from the rawness in the back of his throat, cold paradoxically burning his frigid body. A few corpses of leaves clung to the imprisoned city trees, teetering there waiting for the gust that would tear them from their homes and carry them away somewhere that the wind didn’t even know. Breezes spoke of frost, a whispering oracle prophesying across his face, and the sky looked on, gray and bleak, nodding its agreement. The dew in the morning scattered across his coat in meniscus bubbles still glistened rather than sparkled, showing that the wind’s murmurings were still distant echoes, if looming ever closer.

He stared at the ticket, eyes gradually coming into focus and rendering the black blur into distinct characters spelling out his future in bland hyper-legible font. Grumbling incoherently, he stuffed the ticket deep into his coat pocket, leaving his hand clasped about it. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to make the trip, but he’d be damned if someone was going abscond with something he owned regardless, so precious few things there were. Sleep overtook him again, blissful and laced with dreams. He could dream just the same of everyone else, no matter how much more money they had. In sleep, everyone is an equal.

The rough shake the police officer bestowed upon his supine form tore him from his illusory world of universal equality. He was used to this by now. The bench creaked in relief as he heaved himself up and walked away.

 

The cracks and ridges of cobblestones prodded and stabbed at his feet through soles worn thin not from heavy frequent use, but by months of soaking and drying, freezing and thawing as they were dragged doggedly through streets and blessed patches of grass. Fore Street was quiet as a premature darkness fell that evening. All but the determined bowed heads down and tucked chins into collars and scarves. All moved with hurried purpose, chilled knuckles crying out to be curled about coffees that cost more than the man had spent on food in the past three days. They would have perhaps described the temperature as “nippy”.

As the summer air had faltered and creeping cold moved southward from unseen glaciated realms of perpetual winter, sleep had come harder on overly-ventilated park benches and drafty stoops. The cashmere-bordered outstretched hands that had deposited a few coins in his empty Dunkin’ Donuts cup all but disappeared. They had come for a warm sea breeze through their hair as they dined on aquatic delicacies at the docks, perusing trinkets through windows unfettered by frost, and sunset saunters down Munjoy Hill to fireworks over the bay. Now they had returned to their homes of routine and climate control, insulation, hydrocarbon comforts.

The man had no such luxuries. He was yet still a visitor here, a newcomer unaccustomed to these new sensations tearing into his reality. Unlike the others, however, there was not a place he could retreat from into some sort of familiar comfort. Familiarity in his life meant discovery, and discovery destroyed any chance of holding onto that familiarity as men and women that wore shining badges of power on their chests bid him begone from that small comfort of the known before they left to comfort of their own. They all breathed steam in the day, but only he at night.

 

It had been much the same in New York. Wood board and turf mattresses snatched from beneath him by hundreds of nameless faces. Days and nights blurred together and sleep measured in minutes rather than hours as he retired and retired and retired and retired and retired in a dozen different impromptu beds and improvised pillows of Pringles cans if he was lucky, or his own arms if he was not. He did not succumb to the stereotype of newspaper blankets, but on nights where his motley collection of handout blankets failed to keep the cold at bay, his clothing was lined with crumpled up political columns and bundles of comics, advice, and crime. Even with his headline insulation, he often remained awake and shivering, staring into the orange glow of the city sky that cloaked the autumn stars. He stayed in shelters from time to time, but the culture of the other inhabitants drove him away to the comparative tranquility of the solitude and rhythmic white noise of the traffic.

Not a true solitude. He was not alone in the middle of the city, but if the eyes of most passers by could be believed, he wasn’t actually huddled in a shelter made of a rectangular crevice in a building wall. Sometimes he shivered because it was cold. Others because he couldn’t control his limbs as forty-eight hours without sleep disconnected his fingers from his mind and his mind from reality. A stomach rumbling with hunger could not be placated as he could not muster the energy to plead for sustenance, though neither could he sleep in more than split-second droops of eye and head.

Rain after the sun had retired was the worst. Heat one can escape through shedding layers and fleeing to the comfort of shade. Cold can be staved off through blankets and insulation. Rain eventually soaked through ragged blue jeans and snuck around corners of haphazard plastic shields of black garbage bags and discarded umbrellas bent backwards from the wind.

Advertisements

We spent a year…

We spent a year as one person

A day short of a year

My fault. I tried. There was no good time.

 

It was the most emotionally

torturous

Time in my life

I won’t lie to you

Sugar-coat it or any of that bullshit

I hid the painful truths for too long

And I think you suffered for it

 

But

it was also when I felt

Love

More than I’d ever before

To be honest,

This was more than I’d felt any emotions at all

 

I had been a song,

But a dreary dirge of one long

Continuous note

“Stable”

One might have called me

But a melody without variance in pitch

Whole steps, accidentals

3rds 4ths and 7ths laced

With rests

Pauses for breath and appreciation

For the ever shifting tone

 

That’s just noise given a letter

Like to say there’s a song in the scream of a car horn

Or a tune

In a teakettle’s squeal

But you gave me melody

Crescendos and descants,

Also

Dissonance

Somber pianissimos

 

Variation,

Yes dramatic and rife with pain

But how can I love the arias

Without first

Hearing the thundering

Destruction of timpani

Low mourning of euphonium echoing

Lonely through the hall

 

You were the first to say

“our”

“our” apartment

“our” room

“our” bed

Such a simple word that grips you

A possessive

But not possessing

A monosyllabic novel

A history and prophecy

Discovered on the bookshelf of our parlance

 

The first time I lay sobbing

My dreams

Scattered in empty bank accounts

Crumpled up and hurled to a trashcan

Waiting to be incinerated in the back of my mind

You

You who feared for us should my dreams come to pass

You held me and mopped up my tears

With optimism promises and futures

Previously unseen

 

I

FELT

And to have strong feelings at all seemed a miracle

Such that I was not lying

When I coughed and stuttered with red-latticed eyes

That if your face could perpetually don

At least a small smile

I would gladly leave all I knew behind

Tear down my social scaffolding

And start from scratch, to leave you

This home I’ve built

 

Because,

I did not dream until I glimpsed upon yours

Through contact and closed eyelids

Osmosing visions from your unconscious whimsy

While nightmares certainly fell through

That dreamcatcher of your hair,

My eyes opening

to my pillow sweat-drenched and cold,

My nights weren’t filled with emptiness

That horrifying void into which time is devoured

And then to wake up with only the sun

 

Fahkin’ Tow Truck Drivah

This is the beginning of an experience I had a few nights back when my car was towed. The guy seemed like took much of a character to just pass up. I’ve also got dreams of putting together a collection of stories about interesting people I meet. We’ll see how that goes.

“Towin’”
“…Pardon?”
“What’s up?”
It was 11:45pm and I was now on the phone with someone I was, at this point, praying worked for a towing company that had towed my car. I may not be a religious man, but this was the third towing company I’d called thus far after I’d returned to my parking spot to discover my car aggravatingly absent, and I guess the prospect of my car being among the dearly departed cast a wave of piety over me.
“Hi… I’m trying to figure out if you guys towed my car?”
“What kinda cah is it?” he rumbled into my ear from my constantly malfunctioning cell phone (First world problem, I know. But I grew up in the first world, so let me bitch.) His accent was classic Bostonian. I’m not talking the hyper-exaggerated “Pahked the cah in Hahvahd Yahd” farces you see in the few movies that decided to take the tax rebate and base themselves in Boston. Fuck you, Ben Affleck, you grew up in Cambridge, don’t pretend that you were down at the “fahkin’ pub down in Southie.” This accent was so thick you could tell the man had roots here deeper than a great sequoia. I’m sure as far as he was concerned, I was an invader on his shores and he didn’t give a shit that I was out 200 bucks.
“A black Ford Focus. License place 327LS9.”
“Just a sec,” There was a pause, “yeah, I got it.”
“Can I pick it up tonight?”
“Tonight? “ He didn’t sound like he really wanted to. “It’s going to be…. 188 bucks cash.”
“Cash?”
“Yeah, it has to be cash.”
“OK. You’re at Ashland Ave, right?” I hoped he was. Since I didn’t have a car, getting anywhere distant (such as Watertown, which is where the majority of cars that are unceremoniously heaved into the air by their wheels and dragged away in Allston are dragged away to) was something I wasn’t really capable of doing at that hour. Ashland was only about a five minute walk from my present location, one of my good friend’s apartments where I was staying for the month.
As a side note, I seriously just checked the listings of street sweeping where my car is currently parked… That’s how paranoid I am now.
“That’s wheah the office is, but the yahd’s in Awlston… Can you get yoah shit t’gethah t’night?”
“Yeah, I can get the money.”
“OK. Give me a cawl when you’ve got yoah shit t’gethah and ah outside my house. I’ll drive ya to the lot. OK?”
“Yeah, sure. Thank you.” I hung up and sighed. I was still incredibly pissed off.
It had taken me the better part of an hour just to figure out where the hell it was my car was even taken, even with the help of Brookline’s finest. Since there weren’t any signs on the street that told me who to call should my helpless little commuter car get abducted, I called who I thought might at least have an inkling as to where Lionel (my car’s name. An old girlfriend had insisted, dubbing her own “Greta the Jetta”. Insert groan here.) was currently being held hostage. Damned tow truck Vikings.
They had a company name, but no number. Annoying, but Google and I have a close, loving relationship, and I turned up a number in no time. After inquiring after my missing car, I was brushed off and hung up on. Trying the police again, they suggested that I call another company that works a lot in the area and see if they knew. They had no idea, but were at least nice about it. I tried calling back the first company, only to have it ring to voicemail. I called back again, it rang once, then went to voicemail.
Being the smart cookie that I am, I decided that this asshole had caller ID and was ignoring me. Well, I had a solution to that: everyone hates repeated loud noises, and there’s something about a ringing phone that just absolutely HAS to be picked up, even if your arm is being gnawed off by a bear and there are leeches on your toes. I think it’s either the inner narcissist or the inner paranoid in all of us that forces our hand. The narcissist thinks “That has to be for me! I’m that important.” The inner paranoid says “Oh, god… maybe that’s for me. I hope it’s for me. Maybe someone wants to talk to me. I need to take the chance that it is!” I called again.
“Uptown towing.” He sounded as though I was calling his mother a whore but was at that moment signing his paycheck. That sort of strained courtesy.
I inquired again, politely asking to double check. I lied saying that I thought I had the plate number wrong, trying to placate the guy. No one likes to be told they’re wrong.
“We don’t have your car and we don’t go out to Brookline.”
“The police said that you guys have it”
“We don’t have your car and we don’t go out to Brookline.” Clearly this man was a model of intellectualism and courtesy. I bet he was a friend of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. I could just seem him nibbling on crumpets.
“OK. Thanks.” The last thanks was a bit like Mr. Victorian’s opening statement.
A call to the police once more yielded a new way of searching their database and the correct towing company. Finally. It seems a bit odd in retrospect, but I was actually happy to have the opportunity to shell out almost 200 bucks for something I didn’t want at an hour of night in which I was supposed to be out dancing. Yes, I do go to clubs from time to time.
Fortunately the walk to the money store and back was short and before long I was standing next to a colorfully painted diesel demon-of-city-drivers under an abject lack of streetlights with my phone in my hand.

Adolescence

Added a new piece called “Adolescence” in the Life and Travels section. It’s kind of my way of discussing how one’s perception of important people in one’s life can change over time. It’s never fun to realize the once infallible are in fact flawed. This is the heavily chopped down version. I think I cut 10 pages.

Dreams, Desires

I’ll tell the stories of trees
decades
centuries of crawling growth chronicled
in birthday candle
circles
posing for my textual camera

A picture is worth a thousand
words
and I shall fill albums
with seedlings in loam cribs
teenage buddings
white petals adolescent
broad green maturity

Perhaps then it won’t
fall unloved
unloved
un-cared for
because your heart
isn’t big enough to love it
and yourself

untitled for now.

My mind isn’t scattered
though fragments float
illuminated in the void
as they pass by the
soul’s window pane

Nay, a void it is
a vast blackness
swept clean with
gouging brushes built
of hypertension
whisked by errant thoughts and
the power of unmade decisions

what I see in this
cavity
blankness
is the nuclear plain
scraped clear by the agonizing
blast
mushroom clouds of manifestos
and moments
still waiting on irradiation
to wither so
new flowers can bloom.

Beginning of newest piece for “, Dead This Week” collection.

Laura had always hated the fall. In early years it was drawn from that youthful distaste for the academic that most children would be quick to mention. Perhaps the lingering animosity was a vestige of that period in her life, a fragment of associations of time that no longer applied.
As the leaves began to morph, entering the ‘golden years’ of flowering inner-beauty that was the prelude to eventualities, there was awaken inside of her something that reminded her of years past. Memories of book reports and pencil boxes were fleeting, just on the edge of conscious that told her there was something foul about the season despite the frescoes creeping into existence above her and gradually releasing their grasp upon the frosting branch-bound sky.
It was cold now, though. The leaves had lost the luster of the canopy’s metamorphosis and color was absent throughout her town. Absent also were the brilliant neon technicolor displays she had stumbled in awe through on the occasions she had managed to venture through the mathematical gridlock of New York.
A period of change. Caught in the final stages of the pupae, not yet the butterfly of winter glossed with the veil of snow, but not a caterpillar anymore. It was this cold without the muting blanket of winter beauty; trees skeletal and skyward clawing, breath fogging up glasses but nothing to catch on her tongue as it fell. The grass had ceased growing and lived in a state of perpetual trampled form, browning slowly, casting off life so that it could live when the wind ceased to bite at its fingers.
Laura gazed with passing interest from her deathbed of brown greenery crackling with early frost. Foam ceased to pop in her empty glass, becoming frost and mummifying fragments of her assailant in perpetuity as her vision wavered from gray clouds to the frost tinted windows of her house.

Who says that a day of downpour is bad?

Today I stepped off the T at Northeastern to a delightful deluge of chilled rain and the occasional tapping on my face of hail. Rather than hunch over in submission to the weather as it seems we’ve all been trained to do, I raised my face and let the cold hit me full on. It was a moment of profound peace for me, my asking of the question “Why am I shying away from this? It’s not as if it’s bad,” a questioning of the conditioning that life has put in my brain that, while not bad, is more or less unnecessary. I felt that I was able to let things be and be happy with it. It’s hard to explain, but try it sometime. Think “I’m experiencing the rain” instead of “Fuck, it’s raining, I need to get out of it.” Because in the end, you’ll dry off and put your feet into those fuzzy slippers you’ve got at home anyway, so why not feel what the rain’s got to say to your nerves and enjoy it?

On Religion

Religion: one cannot explain human history without delving into the lore of the hundreds, if not thousands, of different belief systems that have existed throughout the world. That fact is what drives me to write this little diatribe late in the evening: how religion and history are so inextricably intertwined. Religion always plays a role in the fate of the world, be it for good or ill. Both things of great wonder and benefit have been done in the name of religion, but so have some of the most horrifying acts of barbarism and cruelty. The latter is what truly makes me pause, for the negatives seem to be the things that stand out in history, though this is how history is wont to report. Just as violence sells newspapers, blood seems to be the thing that scrawls permanently on the pages of time. Perhaps this is because we seem to judge time by the wars we fight. Or perhaps it is vice-versa.

Why Religion Exists: Explaining the Unknown
Religions, first and foremost, were methods of explaining the unknown. Cave men looked at lightning and saw something beyond their powers to explain. The Greeks, even with their great advancements in learning in virtually every field, still explained this phenomenon to wrathful deities (Zeus in particular). In times where science was not as prominent, the Gods were a part of every day life. Crops, fertility, luck, weather, and many other aspects of living would be attributed to the pleasure or displeasure of the God(s). Romans felt the same way. Egyptians explained what happens after you die through an elaborate tale of Gods and rivers and souls, all of which required the preservation of flesh.
With advances in science, the inner workings of the previously unexplained quickly became common knowledge, and atheism is accordingly on the rise. One questions the purpose of these faiths when the questions that they are there to answer are solved by the new god of molecules and electromagnetic relations. We simply do not need religion anymore in the sense of explaining things. That is, outside of the realm of death. We still stand transfixed at the brink of the grave, but cannot see past the shadow that shields the bottom. We do not want to think that with the end of life comes only darkness. We want something beyond this life. A continuation of our existence that is, in the end, the biological purpose of life.
One thing that the religious stories of death does in most religions, outside of explaining the process and giving hope, is to give incentive to the well behaved upon death, be it a better state on the social ladder in reincarnation, or a paradise in whatever sort of heaven your faith believes in.
Thus, religion in the modern day serves at least a twofold purpose wrapped up in the shroud of death: explanation, and with that explanation, a way to direct people to be something less than abhorrent to each other. The only other purpose that religion seems to serve is that of unification. The small groups of people around the world find a greater brotherhood in their religion. A Christian in a Muslim country instantly finds a stronger connection to a man he meets if he discovers him to be a Christian. It’s a broad-encompassing common ground. We as humans work in a group mentality in that we always like to be part of a crowd.
The only trick with this unification is that more and more, it solidifies those narrow bonds while devastating the potential bonds that could be forged among other people. More often than not, religion is playing a divisive role on a global scale rather than a unifying one.

Religion: Good Or Bad?
As I stated before, there have been a great many positive things done in the name of religion. One only need look up the parable of the Good Samaritan. The question now remains, does the good a religion cause outweigh the bad? We are presently in the middle of a war that, while it’s roots are not in religion, is being perpetuated through religious agitation. Far too many wars have been fought and far, far too many lives have been lost in the name of one god or another.
Religion has a hand in everything, be it clandestine or not. Perhaps one may not directly say it, but one feels the hand of their deity heavily on their shoulder as they are making important decisions. A president in the United States can’t say “Because God says so” (though in far too many affairs he does), but he can dredge up reasons for an issue when there are none to support that religious belief. At the same time, charities are started, schools built, and a kind hand extended to help a fallen person up all because of religion. The fear of damnation creates many of these niceties, which are then perpetuated through habit. So where is the scale of good versus bad religious acts now? Balanced? Leaning? To which side?
I feel that people shouldn’t have to fear retribution in order to be kind. While I feel that way, I can’t say that I am one who has a great deal of faith in humanity as a whole. Without religion, would the world suffer a severe moral decline? A poem by Czlaw Milosz comes to mind when I think of this:

If there is no God,
Not everything is permitted to man
He is still his brother’s keeper
and he is not permitted to sadden his brother,
by saying there is no God.

Just because there is not an eternal consequence does not mean we should abandon that behavior that was induced by that fear. If we maintain that attitude towards people whilst we have no consequences, then our actions are coming straight from our good nature, not artificially constructed; a mechanical form of compassion that, while better than nothing, severely limits our connection to others. Falsity such as this can always be detected, be it consciously or subconsciously. The tone of that interaction plummets with that air of reactionary slavery.
Perhaps without a radical change to the ingrained patterns of the human psyche religion will be a crucial thing. Even those that abandon the faiths of their youth often still have their childhood morals (More often than not crafted by their religious parents) to guide them, even if it is not fear of retribution that guides their hands now. Humans are by nature a greedy and gluttonous bunch, brought on by years of only near survival, where a layer of fat could be the difference between life and death. It’s not truly our fault but the fault of our slow evolution compared to the circumstances of our environment. Those two topics, while relevant, are for later discussion.
In the end, my problem is that I simply don’t trust most people with an organized religion. Far too often they blindly follow the hoard if they are commanded to do so in the name of God. That could be something like hating a particular group of people, or fear of retribution preventing them from enjoying the gift that is their life. I’m not saying that we should all let loose and lose all morality, but there are some things that I refuse to believe are important to the moral integrity of society: Homosexuality, pre-marital sex, contraceptives, and stem cell research among other things.
People both need religion and are not ready for it at the same time. Where the balance falls is the question.

Stories stories stories

So, I’ve added some short stories and essays that are, while in varying states of edited, more or less complete. This means the storyline is complete. I can almost never say a story is absolutely complete. Breaking Ranks is almost there, but not quite.