Wednesday, March 31, 2010

first responder

I am a first responder.
I come on to emergency scenes and I help people get through them. I have lifesaving skills. I breathe life back into those in their darkest, most desperate hour. Generally, I stumble upon people in need of my craft, but lately I have been seeking disasters out.
I keep my ear to the ground. Sometimes you can feel an earthquake coming hours before it actually hits. You get down low and press your ear to the soil. Soil is a better conductor for the sounds you are listening for. You press your ear very close to the ground. Then, you exhale and inhale slowly and, just before you dispel your next breathe, you pause and listen. You will hear a faint grumbling. The further away, the more faint it will be. Just repeat this process until you have figured out the concise location. This could take seconds or it could take years.
This is how I came to find her. I had my ear to the ground and heard and intense rumbling. It was so loud it came near to deafening. It seemed as though I was at the epicenter of a 9.5 magnitude quake. That, up until this very moment, I was completely unaware of the fact that I had been living in Chile and that it was May 22, 1960 and not March 31, 2010. The big one, Gran terremoto de Chile, was coming for me and I didn’t have anywhere to go, because a first responder needs to be where the action is. A first responder does not have the luxury of fleeing the scene. A first responder is responsible for staying the course and seeing things through like the captain of a sinking ship.
I had always come across disasters; I’ve never been part of one. As I lay there, waiting and listening, I pondered the specifics of my existence. If I am the first responder, then who will respond to me? Are there second responders that receive a signal when the first responder is down? Perhaps there is a beacon or all of the second responders live in a cave and when a first responder goes down, there are flashing lights and sirens and they emerge from the Earth’s crust to aid the fallen responder.
I was close to solving the mystery when I opened my eyes and saw her. She was staring at me with the largest set of eyes I had ever met. She asked me what I was listening for. I told her earthquakes. I asked her what she was listening for and she said teardrops.
We were listening for each other’s call. We were instantly locked in embrace. In the first second, it felt like we had been in this place for years. Our bodies were molded to fit one another not like two plucky strangers, but like identical twins. We were like two people that came into their respective forms together. Though our lips could not recite each other’s names, our hearts were long-time acquaintances. Each heart beat out the rhythm of a devotional power ballad written on behalf of the other heart.
I told her that she was the most beautiful disaster I had ever seen. I called her Cañete. When she kissed my face she told me my cheeks tasted like salt. So, to her, I was Sal. I can’t say that I remember what people called me before I first responded to her. I can’t say that anyone did call me before her. If you told me that my 35 years of roaming were spent as a nameless person, I would believe you because I have no memory of this time.
All I know is right now. Right know we are Sal and Cañete as I imagine we have always been and will always be.
Cañete trembles and shakes the earth apart while I water the soil with saline tears. When we become so far apart that we cannot find each other, we simply press our ears into the soil exhaling, inhaling, and pausing until we have figured out each other’s concise locations. When we are together, it as like the place on the ocean floor before the ocean shelf drops into oblivion. We are the place that is neither Earth nor ocean, yet perfectly both at the same time. We are the tipping point between pain and pleasure and we are eternally bound for the moment.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

describes the universe

There are times when I know I am about to make a bad decision before it has happened. Some might call this foresight. However, in order for foresight to be complete follow through must also exist. It’s not enough to just know; there must also be doing. My trouble stems from the fact that I see the options ahead of me along with the myriad of consequences, but I cannot find the drive to take heed of the outcome.
I’ll give an example: hypercolor t-shirts. Adolescence is no time to wear heat sensitive material. My young body producing the kind of sweat that carries an odor for the first time in all of my life and strange lumps protruding and pushing upward on the flesh that used to be perfectly flat. The result was predictable: lightened spots under the armpits like the inverse of sweat stains and light round circles over the burgeoning breasts. Yet, I still fell hook, line, and sinker.
You are the hypercolor to my adult life.
I knew even before I contacted you what would happen. There is a certain amount of predictability to our situation and I don’t know if this implicates you more than me. Regardless, when we found ourselves in a cold embrace, I was not surprised. Our bodies pressed against each other on the couch were like puzzles pieces that fit together but do not reveal corresponding pieces of the picture.

it’s as though everything we had done prior had led up to this moment. i should be present, because it could be the happiest moment of my life.

We held onto each other as if we were desperately trying to hold onto ourselves and we felt something slipping. Something was getting away from us and we needed to hold tighter, except the tighter we clung the further this thing, this us, slipped away.
I kept my eyes closed. I was afraid of looking into your eyes and seeing the truth. I didn’t want to see the way you looked at me and I wanted even less for you to see the way I looked at you. I was pretending you were someone else. Someone who is real, someone who is not you at all. I focused hard on your nose until my vision blurred and I could think of you as the stranger I see in passing on the bus and have always wanted to press my face against. Except, my face was pressed against yours and I could not bear the thought. So, I thought about other things instead.

there were no vows made, no grand expressions of affection. yet, we always imagined there would be more. yet, all we had was my constnat breath whistling through your ear as though your ear were a wind tunnel.

On occasion, I would open my eyes. It was cathartic to gaze upon you, dashing my dreams and then, close my eyes and rebuild them. In these moments I would imagine a great divide. We weren’t actually here, so close, feeling each other up on your sofa. There was an infinitely expansive universe between us that grew exponentially with every whisper, with every caress. My lips were booster rockets that propelled you into oblivion. My hands were groping for solid ground on a new planet. This planet was not held within the boundaries of your skinny jeans. This planet was in the new universe that we were creating, that our void made a reality.

in the end, as people, our desires carry us away from our needs. they are our undoing and resurrection—a cleansing forest fire that will surely create new life.

The next morning, as I sit stirring a swirl of creamer into my coffee I felt as listless as god must have felt as he swirled his finger through the empty universe of his own creation. I looked into my cup and saw un-actualized potential in the reflection of the stranger peering back at me. I looked up at you, I saw the darkness I hoped to escape by being with you in the first place.
Before I set the momentum of this train in motion, I was terrified that I would feel something real. That I would fall in love and there would only be heartbreak and sorrow for you are not a creature who can love. I was entirely unprepared for the stark reality that is going through motions that are absent of any real feeling. It is a hollow place. It is dark and cold. Furthermore, it is disorienting. You cannot tell up from down or forward from backward. So, you just stay in one place, stagnant and unmoving. I was about to fill the silence by telling you all of these things I was not feeling and wished desperately to be feeling. I needed to create an emotion, because feeling nothing is worse than feeling something really bad.
I was relieved when you told me I had to go. Our new universe found a way to tell me to keep my mouth shut and I listened. The walk was cold and rainy. It seemed fitting and gave me something to feel. The void was filled. We both got what we had wanted all along.

trading places

If by some magical implement or potion we traded places. I became you and you became me. Would you still ignore me? Or, would I have the power to make you long for me while I looked away?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

falling: Jennifer's Body

She looked so peaceful. …
If we were related, like lions from the same pride, I would have laid down next to her and nuzzled my face into her open palm. We would be warm with love and any other creature who happened to pass by, even a sparrow, would want to share in the display of love and serenity.
…and we would sleep and dream of the human versions of ourselves standing upright, running, tumbling, picking flowers, holding hands. We would dream of the warm sun kissing our faces with freckles. We would imagine ourselves as Kerri Russell before she went Felicity and cut off her hair. Our respiration would be in perfect rhythm and our eyelashes would embrace each other’s as we lay with our faces pressed so near to one another that we would come as close as any two physical beings have ever come to being a Venn diagram.
We would not have the words to express the feelings in this moment, but the reflection of our eyes in one another’s would send a message to our souls that this is what it means to be content and this moment would be with us even when we were apart. We would love and be loved and the world would fall away. Far away.
But I am not a lioness and either is she. We have no fur. There is no love. There is only her and the cold, damp pavement.
I came upon her with an innocent curiosity about the curious girl who was sleeping on the pavement. I thought that perhaps she did not know she had dozed off. Perhaps she was waiting for me to find her. She would open her eyes and tell me she had waited so long that she had fallen asleep. As I approached I realized that she was not asleep, because people don’t normally sleep with their palms up. That is when I saw the blood.
An ambulance was called, not be me but by someone who could keep their wits about them while I stared at her. I kneeled down and pressed my ear against her mouth as if she were to whisper that she was ok. I felt her breath, but she made no sound. I crouched over her and held her hand hoping our dreams would come true. She opened her eyes, but could not hold me back. We were in trouble.
She had been drinking. Perhaps to forget about things that were said and not meant. I imagine she told someone she loved them, but they could not love her back. She was out on a ledge and she was alone there. She needed this fact to fall away. She needed to push it out of her heard. She drank until she was a ghost and no one could see her. She couldn’t even see herself. So, she couldn’t tell that she was reliving the trauma and going out on the ledge again. She was just thinking of you and all the things she would have said differently and, just as in love, she lost her footing and fell and I found her.
The paramedics arrived before I could really grasp what was happening. They moved her gently, but quickly and attended to her. It was a ballet ensemble. She was the swan and they danced around her attending to her great needs. I stood outside and watched their performance through the ambulance window. I felt the pieces of me falling away like a puzzle assembled in the air, without support. Eventually, no matter how beautiful the picture, it begins to buckle and the pieces give way.
I knew how she felt.
I have fallen while grasping to the ledge that is you. Except, the paramedics have not arrived and I am bleeding out for an eternity.
Jennifer fell because she knew she loved you more than she could bear. She was purging you out and crying was never going to be enough.
I couldn’t go through life in confinement, as afraid of pleasure as I am of pain. I went on that ledge because I had to. Just like Jennifer. And, in the moments just before the crash, we knew exactly who we were and who we could never be for you. The landing pushed you out of our heads for good and now we can be quiet and content, knowing it can only get better from here.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Aloicious and Potato

I feel like I can’t remember the last time I had a day off. That is the thing about not having a set schedule. Your days off are so erratic; it’s almost as if they will never come and, once they pass, it’s as though they never happened. Is this one foot in the grave or one foot out the door?
Today was going to be different. I was NOT going to waste my day cleaning my room or doing laundry. This is what ordinary people do and I decided to stop being ordinary. It’s a conscious decision, which requires deliberate action.
The first thing to do is to get out of my pajamas, which are actually whatever outfit I was wearing the day before minus the bottom half. This seems like another ordinary behavior that I will have to work up to changing.

One day I will own pajamas.

Once one is no longer in her pajamas one feels motivated to do something. Mostly because it really does feel awkward to stand in the middle of your apartment, naked with nothing to do. The shower becomes a logical next step along with lather, rinse and repeat.

I have always wondered why it’s important to repeat the process of lather and rinse and in what intervals is it required for best results. Is it a suggestion to consider the process every time you’re in the shower? The shampoo bottle’s way of saying, “Psst! Remember me? You ran me through your hair the other day. The strands of your hair and I got along very well. I enjoyed my time with all of the, but there was one in particular that really tickled my fancy. I was hoping we could be reintroduced. I want to see if there is a real connection there.”
Or is it a command. Lather, rinse, DO IT AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN! Perhaps the person who wrote these instructions suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and they are not convinced that the first or any of the subsequent times did the trick. “Why is your hair so dirty? Do it again. Will it never be clean?” So, you repeat the ritual until there is nothing left to lather and you’re left holding clumps of your hair while sobbing in the shower.
Perhaps the pen that wrote these instructions is attached to the hand of a sadist. “Show me how bad you want your hair to be clean! Not good enough. Do it over. You call that scrubbing?! My grandmother’s toothless gums are more abrasive than those puny flower petals you call fingers.” The berating continues until the first sight of blood. Then, a gentleness sweeps over the situation like a silk sheet. “There. There. You did a good job. Now, I know how badly you want to please me and I love you for it.”
Maybe it is just a way to get you to buy more shampoo.

Generally, I sing in the shower to avoid thinking about these things, but my roommate is home and she hates my singing voice. (Note to self, obsessing about shampoo instructions is another thing ordinary people do. You must knock it off.)

I picked out my outfit keeping my goals of not being mediocre in mind. I donned a multi-colored scarf with a black and white, horizontally striped shirt. Ordinary people can neither pull off horizontal stripes nor can they mix patterns. I’m really doing this.
Before leaving the house, I grab my owl-shaped mug, a bag of my favorite tea and set off for the market. Ordinary people don’t like crowds or wondering around the city without a plan. I shall embrace both today.

The big glitch in my plan is that non-ordinary people don’t lie to themselves on a daily basis. They don’t need to. They have the luxury of being comfortable with both their actions and their motives. I am comfortable with neither. I can’t even accept the fact that the reason I am leaving the house at all is in hopes of bumping into you. Exemplary people are compelled by compulsion. They are constantly in motion. They are not waiting around for a catalyst in human form. They are imbued with the mantra “carpe diem.” They are not scampering around the city in hopes of being caught in your gaze. I am.

I don’t have time to ponder the distance, if any, between ordinary and me. I know what time you go to the café and I am running late.

As I walk, I ponder what I will say if I see you. How will the scenario play out? This is another thing ordinary people do that exemplary people do not. Exemplary people let life happen. Ordinary people imagine how it might happen and what they might say when it does. Neither of which ever comes to fruition.
As I round the final corner to my destination, I look at my watch. I’m somehow right on time. I planned this perfectly. The stars are in aligninment and I am in my position. Now what?! I got too distracted by shampoo. I forgot to think of what I would say.
I open the door with my owl mug in hand.

~I look up in time to almost walk right into you. There is an abrupt halt and a drop of coffee splashes onto your hand—your amazing, wonderful, glorious hand.
I’m so sorry. Let me get you a napkin.
It’s ok. Really, it is.
I just can’t believe how clumsy I am. Have I said I was sorry yet?
Yes. Yes. You look familiar.
I am. I work here.
(I see you everyday, except for the ones I have off. On those days I only imagine seeing you. At night, I dream of seeing you and every breath I take is a longing to see you.)
Are you working today?
No. I have the day off. I am just out, taking in the day.
(I imagine this is the sort of thing and exemplary person might casually say in passing.)
Must be nice.
It is. I see you all the time. I feel like I should know your name.
It’s Matthew. What’s yours.
Your name is Matilda?
No, but it’s what I would like you to call me. I’ve always wished my name was Matilda.
Very well then, Matilda, it’s nice to finally meet you.
Before we part you ask if I am free tomorrow evening. I tell you that I plan to see a band perform and I invite you to go. You say yes.

I melt and seep into the pores of the sidewalk.

That night, we meet on the sidewalk and embrace like old friends and exchange knowing glances. I take you into the space where everything will happen. I bring you to a table and introduce you to a group of people.
These are the people who are most important to me.
That night leads to shoe shopping, which leads to a happy life together. We have monogrammed towels and discuss the front-page story of the newspaper while our dogs, Aloicious and Potato, yip at our feet and beg for splashes of orange juice to hit them on their noses. The sun shines and the birds sing show tunes.

The candy man can ‘cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.~

I look up and see that you are not at the café. Either you haven’t arrived or I managed to just miss you. Poor timing is just such a thing I would do.

I get my hot water for my tea. I say hello to people familiar and unfamiliar. I leave. I wander the market aimlessly and I go shoe shopping. None of the specifics of my day diverge from the plan I made up in my head. Almost everything happened that I thought would. The sun was out and I had a smile on my face. It was a nice, normal, ordinary day. I suppose I can’t really complain.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

fly zone

I fly through the air. I fly, not like a brave, graceful Eagle—not with the ease that comes from the knowledge that you are on the top of the food chain. I fly like a baby bird uncertain of her wings ability to keep her up. A baby bird that longs for nothing else but to remain in her nest having anything necessary from the world brought to her—the safety of not having to see the superfluous aspects of existence.
I am like the baby bird who has been pushed out on a perch and told to go for it.
But, I don’t want to. I can’t do it. I want to be back in my nest. I want to be anywhere but here. I can’t be this person for you. I can’t be this person for myself. I can’t. I can’t! I can’t!!

Here I am flying. Soaring. Questioning. Doubting. Struggling. Fighting. Conquering.

My demons? I cannot make them out. They are so far beneath me when I am up this high. I can’t even make out that they have faces. I can only see their silhouettes. They are rendered expressionless to me.
It is like when you are racing in a canoe away from the shore. You get to a certain point when you can see people and they are flailing their arms around, but you can’t tell if they are cheering or jeering and it doesn’t matter. Regardless, they are too far away to influence your feelings on the situation. They could be raising the dead or commencing a wild rumpus. This is of no consequence to you.

My demons cannot reach me. I am untouchable in this space and time.

I am far away from even myself. I have never had this feeling before. It must be what dying feels like. I am not hovering over myself, watching myself say inappropriate things to the people I care about. Instead, I feel myself go through cell division. There is me over there and me over here and I can’t tell which me is in the foreground and which me is in the background. Which me is judging me and which me is receiving criticism. However, the animosity comes as soon as division takes places and the divide increases exponentially until I am so far away from myself that I am unsure whether I really exist. I swipe the air, but I can’t touch me. I feel as though something clings to my hands, like reaching into a spider web. Those are the traces of me I have left behind, but I can’t actually feel the substance of me. This is an amalgam of relief and anxiety both of which I can neither feel nor register while I am in the air.

My flight is my death and my birth. As I dive into the grave, I simultaneously feel my head emerge from the womb. I am coming as I am going. This is why I think things fell apart for us. I am an un-anchored tangent and you are a tetherball. You bounce and fly through the air, but you are centered. On my best days I am inconsistent. This led to mirrored resentment. We hated each other for everything we were not. We hated ourselves for everything we were.

In the air, I have no recollection of you or us. If I passed you flying, I might look at you with a strained recognition. Where do I know you from? I might think that I saw you on the train, but it wouldn’t occur to me that we shared intimate moments. That at one time we pressed our heads together in the dark and dreamed each other’s dreams.

Up here there is no trace of anything. There is no mourning. There is no regret. There is only newness and excitement. There is clarity and a faint whistling of air that sails past my ears, like the light tickle of a feather.

My flight is my bliss.

Monday, March 01, 2010

right shoe to left shoe: a proposition

[A man in his early 30s enters the room. He is not the type of man who takes joys in frivolous expenditures of money. However, he does appreciate having nice things. This is evident in the shoes he chose to wear on this particular day. Upon entering the living room, he walks over to his favorite chair and sits down. He is looking over the NASDAQ figures. There is something about reading stock market fluctuations that makes him feel ill at ease. His pigeon-toed posture often gives this uneasiness away. This puts his left and his right shoe toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye. While he takes in the paper, his shoes are take in each other. This ritual has gone on for sometime and is one that is comforting and enjoyed by all involved parties. These moments are candid and treasured.]

-Can I ask you a question?
=I hope that was satisfying.
=Your question.
-I’m sorry?
=Your question, You asked me a question. I was wondering if it was satisfying.
-I’m confused.
=People often ask one another if they can ask a question without acknowledging that the inquiry is itself a question posed. I find it humorous.
=if I had a question, I might announce that need or diplomatically state: “With your permission, I have a general inquiry.”
=(a look of concern sweeps over the room) I’m sorry. I’m being difficult. … Again.
-Yes. It’s fine.
=You were going to ask me something, before I went on my tangent of grandeur.
-Well, yes. … I have something to tell you, but I need to know something. I am wondering if you will promise not to get upset?
=I don’t know how to respond to that.
-(meekly) With a smile? A nod in agreement?
=You’re asking me to listen to something and not get upset. This leads me to believe that you believe whatever you’re about to tell me would upset a rational being, that you’re going to tell me this something regardless and expect me to transcend my natural emotional state and not get upset. You know I’m not an existentialist!
-You’re partially right. You’re partially wrong, too.
=(Has progressively inched forward up to up until now. At this point, reclines a bit) Enlighten me.
-Well, first off, I would never say what I am about to say to you to a rational being. So, that part is moot. However, all that other stuff you said about transcendence was spot on.
=(brief pause) Well…I’m going to tell you yes, but really I am not sure if this is a promise I can keep.
-I did this all wrong. I’m terrible at this sort of thing.
=This sort of thing?! What does that even mean? I feel like I should be bracing for impact.
-I have been think a lot about you and me, me and you—us and something has popped into my thoughts that I just can’t seem to shake. I don’t know exactly how to put it, but—
=Oh god. Here it comes.
-I should just have out with it, before you faint…again.
=(pause) That was one time and I told you that when we got to the butterfly house that insects make me nervous. It doesn’t matter if they are beautiful insects. A bug is a bug. I knew I’d never live this down—
-I think you’re neurotic! There it is. I said it.
=(straightens up in a corrective posture)
-See?! I knew you’d be upset.
=That shows what you know, Nobel Laureate. I am not upset. Not upset in the slightest.
=Offended, but not upset. Perhaps it is neurotic to note the difference?
-You’re taking this the wrong way.
=So, I’m neurotic AND wrong?!
-I keep saying things wrong—err..poorly. What I meant to say is that you’re acting like being neurotic is a bad thing.
=Well, isn’t it?
-I suppose it could be to some.
=To some?
-Yes, I suppose, but not to me.
=I wonder what we should put on the plaque?
-You’re being sarcastic and I’m being serious.
=How can you blame me? We start with you telling me that you’re going to upset me, but I shouldn’t get upset. We beat around the bush, for what seems like an eternity. At one point, I thought I was going to get the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech. This quickly devolved into the “it’s not me, it’s you” song and dance when you so callously called me a lunatic and told me not to worry, because it’s a good thing.
-We started with me asking you a question and, for the record, I said you were neurotic not a lunatic.
=Don’t be shirty.
-I’m not. Let me explain where all this came from, so you can understand why this is a good thing.
A handful of months ago, I thought I wanted to take a break from us.
=I need to lie down.
-Stop that. Let me finish. I have a point.
=Carry on.
-Thank you. This thought came to me during hot yoga. I felt incomplete and wondered what type of mate would complete me. Everywhere I went, I thought about this and not a sole I encountered satisfied or satiated my curiosity. After about a month of this, it occurred to me that this idea of completion is kind of bullshit.
You know?
There is nothing missing in me, I don’t require completion or the supplementation of another being. Figuring this out became a sort of centering and defining moment. An awakening, if you will. I might even call it an epiphany—perhaps.
I digress. This has also led me to think more freely about you and this is when I noticed your neurosis. You are so tightly laced, because you fixate on minutia. You notice the little things with ease, because you are tightly laced. You rarely filter things out in social settings, because you’re mind is always elsewhere. We see new places and encounter new things together. You listen to me with one ear and the world with the other. Because of this, you are always discovering new things. You surround yourself with creation. Your collections are diverse and thought provoking. In short, you stimulate and intrigue me.
If you weren’t neurotic, you would be another boring lost sole. I would never see you. I would never notice you.
I don’t want to be completed anymore than I want to complete you. What I do want is for us to occupy each other’s time for the near, foreseeable, and distant future. I kind of hope you feel the same.
=(long pause) It seems you might be a tightly-laced lunatic, too.

[He is done reading the paper. He gets up and prepares breakfast.]