Monday, May 22, 2017

Horizon



       Guilt is like an old open wine that cannot be swallowed. It fills your mouth with it's bitter gull, but you carry it around with you because you think you deserve it. It's revolting, but you are unable to do the very simplest of things; to spit it out and let it go.

This post is only gonna start sad.

        I'm gonna start with apologies that I should have made when they were alive. I didn't know I owed them until they were gone, because I was selfish and short sighted. In hindsight we are all geniuses right? I have to let the guilt go now. Honestly, I'm so tired.

Will.

You called me in utter distress and I gave you the wrong advice. I should have shut my ignorant mouth and said "I don't know." Instead, I told you what I was programmed to tell you. I'm so sorry.

I took advantage of you like so many other people did. I should have been a person that would never do that. I should have always protected you. You spent hours fixing things for people. You got very little pay or appreciation for it. But it was your time. It was precious moments of your life. Those hours are priceless now to me. I'd give you all of my money to get them back.

I didn't have the strength to go into that garage the day you died and face you. When Joe called me, I went into a different place and went to the basement and sat on a laundry basket. I sat there not knowing what to do. I took the longest route to your house trying to figure out how to handle what was about to cross my life. I walked inside and did not go there to face you. Everyone else did. Not me. It was a cowardly thing to do. If I could do it again, I would have been braver.

Joe.

You were so much work. You lied all the time. You were always crying wolf. I knew you were in trouble. I acted, but not in the ways I should have. At some point, I forgot about that enormous heart you had for me and my family. I forgot that you would have always died for me. That's one of the biggest regrets of my entire life Joe. This one sits in my stomach. I swallowed this bad wine. It sits in my stomach now.

I didn't respond to your text. You texted me the morning you left. I didn't hear it because I decided to leave my job for another that required me to work nights for a time. You texted me at 10:12 AM.  I had worked until 7:30 that morning. I responded at 2:58 PM when I woke. I didn't get a response.

I'd give anything to have that conversation.


Now.

        Like all of their family and friends, I'm finding my way out. I'm trying to find a way to enjoy the sun again. I've made some bad habits that I need to remedy, and I'm almost ready to do that. I have to cut my emotional attachment to feeling bad for something that they did. In the end, they were grown adults that made these terrible decisions that changed the lives of everyone around them. My brother Andy told me in a text the night Joe died, that I had no reason to be blamed. Joe had laid waste to everyone that loved him. I get it now. I didn't then. I could only see guilt. Those left behind, get to deal with the disaster they left behind. We end up trying to fix people that you broke.

        I went through some photographs yesterday. There were so many of you two fooling around. I looked at the photos and realized that they didn't make me hurt in my chest. They made me smile like the photos of my kids when they were babies did. This wasn't always the case. Most times when I see photos of us together, I get and instant stomach ache and it doesn't leave until I pay some penance, usually in the form of an embarrassingly honest post on this blog.

        I've settled in to a life without you two in it. The adjustment period was pretty strenuous, and I'm not saying that's over, but the the crisis part is. I'm enjoying watching my kids grow and become their dreams. I'm enjoying a marriage that is based more on quirky loving banter and less about what lies beneath our everyday speech.

       I think about them everyday, but now I smile. They aren't always ghosts. Sometimes now, they are memories that remind me that I need to be a better person in this sometimes terrible world. I need to fight harder. I need to work on myself and close open doors to darkness.

        All that being said, I'll never stop being sad I don't think. I don't want to. I think sadness allows me to empathize with others. I think it's the reason why God let it happen in the first place. He knit me together knowing I would be garbage to some people. At least I would experience it that way. He also knew about that unspeakable joy I would have in my heart when I got everything I had ever wanted. He gave me everything and took some too. In the end, I'm smiling and happy. I am absolutely broken, but full.

My son is just like me in both the good and bad.

My daughters are just like me in both the good and bad.

My wife is the difference. They resemble her the most in the way they present themselves. They respect themselves and know the difference between good and bad because of her. She is my hero and also theirs. I am happy and fulfilled because of her. I happy because of them. God knew she would be the person who saved me.

        I'll never figure out why my brothers were able to do what they did. I don't have to. For once in my life, I don't have to. They did it, and the "why" is over. I'll always miss them, but I don't need to keep that wine in my stomach.

 







Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Lion - A Short Story (Prequel to Hospice)



        The alarms went off and everyone started running in every direction. I only knew what way to go, and that was to her...to home.

        I ran as fast as I could. There wasn't even a bike I could borrow. I just ran, hoping I could outrun my death. I got about a block away from my house before I began to doubt that I would make it.

       My mom was special. She had cancer. Cancer isn't special. Cancer is a Satan and he was going to take her from me at 5 years old, I just knew it. I just remember feeling so hopeless watching the world darken and turn into terrifying shapes I will never forget. The wind picked up and the sky got really dark. I ran past the Whitakers and their wind chimes were singing a terrible song. Garbage cans and newspapers flew everywhere. But I pushed forward to my house, that held my mother.

        Me and my mom used to write on each other's backs at night. It was a fun game that we always played, no matter what. She would draw either a word or a picture on my back and I would guess. When one of us made a mistake, we would erase the entire palate like one would a chalk board. I would draw on her back, and she would draw on mine. We would do this until one of us didn't turn around for their turn. Then the other would know they were asleep, and then go to sleep themselves. Going to sleep felt so lonely to me.  I rarely slept first. I always waited for her. I had to protect her.

        Who else would? My dad left before I was born. I didn't have any siblings. I was the only "man." He left before I was born, denying all kinds of things. She didn't drag me through it...she walked away, risking our well being for my dignity. And now here I am running from a dark siege toward my home that I grew up in; that hadn't been fortified or fixed in decades, to get to my mom. I needed her and she needed me. We were each other's cure for loneliness. We were also each other's cures to the terror in the world.

        The wind blew me down to the ground, planting my face into a wheat bail. I got up immediately and started running, while also staggering toward the front door. The wind struck again, throwing me onto the bending stalks of corn. I got up again and set my eyes to my home. I ran toward the door as the wind pushed me to the right, then suddenly to the left.

       The front door burst open and there she was. My mom came running out. I knew she would. I knew she had to be there. I was scared she wouldn't be, but I just knew she would. The wind blew her down the moment she stepped out of the house. She got back up and forged ahead to me. I wasn't as brave as I was a moment ago. When I saw her, I became a kid again. I was scared and showing it. She fell several times before she reached out her hand and grabbed onto my shirt. She pulled me to her chest, then dragged me staggering to our house, closing the door before we were sucked out.

        There was this time that she wrote on my back that I had gotten the honor of captain of the safeties of the fifth grade. Another time. she wrote that grandma had died, then wrote that she was sorry. Another time, she wrote that the Tigers had won the world series. I laughed and shook my fist in victory at this. Then the time came that she wrote that she had cancer, and would have to leave me. She didn't write all of those words, but that's what I got. She erased what she wrote at least a dozen times before she let it go to me.

        I had made it home. She pulled me by the hand to the bathtub and as we sat in it she was sitting with her back to the storm and me sitting between her kegs, with her arms wrapped tight around me. I felt safe. I was home, and that was all I needed to be.

        The wind blew the roof off and sucked every piece of furniture out of the house. It was a slowly twisting mass of darkness that took all of our things and brought down the wall joists and load bearing walls on top of us. Everything was shaking and I could here my mom grown as objects hit us from every side. I heard her pray to God for help. I heard her cry and beg for God to save me... Me.

        Hours later, we laid at the bottom of a lot of rubble. We couldn't see sunlight or hear any commotion. We just laid there in the bathtub, below everything that makes a house. I felt a familiar finger on my back. She said, What do you call chase...no cheese... that's not your own? I had already heard it, but I shrugged my shoulders anyway. I pretended to laugh at her answer by shaking my tiny diaphragm. She wrote everything about her life on my back and kept shaking me to keep me awake. She wrote that she loved me so many times I lost count. I couldn't answer, something kept me from speaking. There a was a pressure on my chest and a weakness in my throat.

I told her I loved her back in my mind, every time.

        We laid there until be both fell into a deep sleep. To be honest, I fell asleep first. I don't know how long she wrote on my back. I don't want to know. But I do know that at the darkest point of consciousness,  I saw the sunlight. I opened my eyes to it first and immediately looked for her. Things were blurry, but I found her hand hanging from a gurney. I tried to get up. I tried to shout to her. I couldn't produce anything that would disrupt the atmosphere. I thought she was dead. I fell asleep again.

        I would wake days later with an IV in my arm, staring up at ceiling tiles. It took a few moments for me to remember who I was, or where she was.

        Then I heard her voice. I looked to my left and she was reaching for me. I grabbed her hand and we both cried for very different and the very same reasons.

     

       




Sing.
Migrate.



Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Little Depression to Make Your Day Better

         When something dies, it's body begins to shut down, starting from the least important organs to the most. Our anatomy is really intelligent and reactive to our physical and emotional situation. Eventually, without a cure, the body will begin to let go of it's most important organs...until the heart succumbs and the rhythm of that soul has ceased. Everything that person has experienced has become an archive. Very few will remember him and even less as the years add to their numbers. 1% of the earth's total population will be remembered by the future. 99% will go off into oblivion without a soul eventually remembering their existence.








Sing.
Migrate.


Thanks for reading...Z

Searching for Sophie



        I sat in the corner of the room furthest from anyone that would notice me. I sat biting my nails. I have the hardest time with crowds because I feel like they are all looking at me. I say strange things and have a twitch that begs people to ask questions that make me even more nervous. I came to the party because I needed something different. I've grown tired of living where no one else dwells. I'm in a basement, staring out of a blurred glass block window at the sounds that resinate from other peoples lives. Their lives were filled with laughter and I wanted that. I wanted to let every part of myself go.

        I went to the party: I used the same coping mechanisms my father; who was stricken with the same fear, taught me whenever I refused to let it go. "When you decide to see the world, go to the corners and watch for your moment," he would say. I haven't spoken to him in a decade. He passed on holding my mom's hand as he let the leukemia take him suddenly. He was working on the fire pit in the back yard and collapsed. It took the disease two days to take him from us.

        I was about to leave the party. I had lost hope of any "moment" happening that would change anything going on in me. I thought about what he had said to me and it made me mad, because he was wrong, but even more it made me miss my dad so much. I was almost in tears when I felt the cold rush of some kind of fluid run down my back like a knife to my lungs. I turned and looked at her right in the eyes as she stood over me sitting on the basement stairs. She grinned and offered no apology. I looked at her again, this time with a little anger in my face. She smiled at me full out.

       "What? Really?" I said. She just looked at me. I nodded and got up from the stares to meet her hand on my shoulder pushing me back down. "You're an idiot," she said. "All of this life in this room, and you're in the shadow of it, playing with the assholes in your mind telling you to stay out of it. I just looked at her. She was beautiful. She was so pretty that I couldn't speak. I had seen her before in a couple of undergrad classes. She was always loud and making jokes. As far as I could see, she didn't have a lot of friends, but she was always engaging people. Like, this guy did an assigned presentation in front of a class of 100 students and at the end part when he asked if there were questions, she asked five. None of the questions were really answered.

        I didn't know what to say to her, so I said, "I'm just putting the feelers out." She laughed at that and sat down next to me, right in a puddle she had purposely made with the drink she had purposely dumped down my back. "My mom was crazy you know," she said and continued, "She kept setting things on fire until she ended up in an institution. How does that make you feel?" she asked. "It makes me feel bad for you," I reply. "See that's the thing; people always want to feel bad when someone tells them a bad story. It's a part of human nature that is flawed. People want to respond by saying they're sorry because they imagine their mom being mentally sick. They project their lives onto others. They never want to think about the alternative way of feeling. They don't want to think that the other was spared from a life of terror and even death by fire from an unstable person incapable of loving." I didn't know what to say, so I didn't.

She continued...

        "My dad raised me alone. He never did a single thing wrong. He was too anxious to make mistakes. I think my mom and dad attracted to each other because of their similarities. It was their differences that saved my life. She let it all go and burned down all of us. He kept his white knuckles on the reins and held me behind him as he took the bullets." "Where is he?" I ask. "He died in a house fire in the middle of the night the year I went away to college," she replied and continued. "He took her back and she wrecked the world that keeps spinning all around us. It's funny when you think about that. In reality, we circle the sun, revolving around every day that revolves into years. The entire time, we think the world is revolving around us."

        "I think that's why you're so scared," she said.


        She got up and walked away; through the small hallway and out the front door. Everything inside of me screamed in my father's voice, "This Is Your Moment!!!!!!" I took a few really fast breathes and got up and ran to the door chasing her. I reached her as she was about to get into her car. "I want to know you!" I said in an urgent tone that I regretted, but not really. I did want to know her. She seemed to see right through me like she knew me, and I wanted to see her. She looked at me and kissed me on the lips. The entire world became still and watched this moment as the world spinned around the sun slowly. I felt my body tremble incessantly and my fear begin to melt into the moment of kissing my first love...kissing this girl I barely knew, but somehow was the closest person to me in the entire world.

        A tear rolled down her face as she looked at me. She didn't say anything. She held my face in front of hers with her hands and looked directly into my soul. It seemed like an hour, but was only minutes. It took a few seconds for it all to implode me as she got into the car and drove away, leaving me without any words. I hit my knees and cried like I had never cried before. I felt like I was aligning with the world and we were becoming a part of each other.

She was gone.

       I searched the entire earth for her for years and years until I gave up searching. I graduated university and got a degree in bioengineering. I was successful from the very start. I made a million dollars my first year out of college and almost doubled that the next due to investments. None of it made any sense. I was being driven by a force that was a ghost. She was so active inside me, yet no where to be found. I worked as if she could see me, because I always pictured her watching me from wherever she was.

        Ten years after college I was sitting on the bench in front of a hot dog stand eating a coney I had bought. I was reading the paper and on the seventh page of the "local news" section, it read, "Body found in Gregory Park identified as Sophie Hawkins." The article contained a photograph of the only love of my life, just as I had remembered her. I saw her photo and lost my heart onto the cement. I had missed her for so long and here she was in the newspaper, telling me she had gone missing the night we met. Everyone in the world was searching for Sophie as I was; only to find her lying as bones in the brush behind an old abandoned horse shoe pit.

        They didn't ever figure out what happened to her. She was a ghost to me that I would never know anything about. But what I hold on to is the moment she put the guts inside me to chase her. That night, she was the "moment" my father was talking about.

I would learn to live for the moments that gave me a chance and drive to leap from the twisted knot that imprisons me most days; searching for Sophie.



Sing.
Migrate.



Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, May 1, 2017

Boxes



         I live in a square box. I look up and there is this square that restricts the rain, and also my accidental ascension into the sky. I live in squares. Little boxes sitting next to little boxes. One of those boxes is covering my son. He is a typical teenager. He can be annoying sometimes, and maddening others. But if I were to have a pick over who will be left standing in the end...I'd pick him. He has suffered a lot, yet there is an inner strength that I see and admire so much about him. He isn't an average kid to me. Just like your kid isn't average to you. We are hopefully all proud parents.

       Under another square ceiling in her box is my daughter. She is sensitive and picks up on the most subtle of nuances. She would walk through fire for those she loves. Her fuse is short for people because she expects a lot from them, but she will fight and claw her way to whatever she sets her eyes on. She will always see through your bullshit. Just like her mom. It's like a super power really.

        Under a box that lives over an hour from me, lives this adult little girl that has no idea the emotion it brought the first time she called me dad. She is a strong girl and so smart and seemingly unaffected by the awful in the world. She is beautiful in every way.

        I lie under my own square that I share with this girl I met. We didn't really make any plans when we got married. We only knew that we wanted each other to be old with. Still do. Marriage takes a lot of heat because of it's ever increasing failure rate. I can't speak on that because I am so happily married. This isn't "bragadocious," it is truth. When people decide to make promises, they do everything they can to keep them. That's marriage. It's not about me, it's about every person in square boxes connected to you.

        There are little boxes that hold our parents in their homes, nursing homes, or hospitals. Little boxes that hold our grandparents in the ground. Little boxes that hold my brothers' ashes. Little boxes hold and protect everything. I think the point is that people make boxes to protect what is precious to them from the elements. No one wants those that they love to not have a place in the earth.

        My kids each have their own rooms, thank God. But on nights when my youngest daughter is tired and vulnerable, she opts always to sleep in her brother's room on the top bunk. This is connection. We feel comfort when we are next to people that we trust, even if they piss us off a lot.

 





Sing.
Migrate.






Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, April 17, 2017

Why I left...

     
        I got into youth ministry because I was one of the lost children. I felt what no one ever wants to feel. After the worst things happened, I found myself covered in God. I dedicated all of myself to letting other kids like me know that they are not alone, and that even if they didn't feel it from any human...they are loved. At the very least by their maker from very far and very near.

        I did a very thankless and grueling ministry for the next 11 years. Youth ministry could be described to sports fans as college football recruiting, except, no one wants to come to your program. You come to them and plead...because you care. They almost always walk away from you laughing at you. But the real reason you stay is because some of them say yes. Usually, they are the most rejected ones. They are the ones who live invisible lives. They are looking for meaning anywhere. They are usually the ones abused for false pretenses.

        I never came to anyone with false pretenses. I told them all that living as a Christian in this world would be hard. I told them that people will reject you because of your faith. I wasn't a good youth pastor in the eyes of many. I didn't look at the implications of some of the things I did. I didn't know how to make my vision happen. I didn't know how to make a small group of kids into a successful youth group that could withstand the endless cycle of teenagers. At this time, people demanded numbers in churches and youth groups. Everyone wanted a megachurch. People were wrong, and the right churches were dying because of it. They were being swallowed by megachurches with big production.

        The church was always supposed to be about individual people, so that was my focus with these kids.

        I taught them differently. I spoke to the teenagers like I would have when I was a teenager. I told them the unpopular truth; that life was gonna suck for some of them for a good amount of time. I told them that nothing that they wanted would come from faith alone. It all would come from hard work. I didn't believe that God dealt with handing out free successes to people that weren't trying. I wanted the kids to know that their value would be placed on how God sees them and how hard they worked to earn their place in whatever part of this world they chose to dwell. I used words sometimes that the "church" wouldn't approve of to reach them. I went a long distance to reach them.

         I faced some criticism from some people in our congregation. Some of them wanted to see numbers to justify my employment. The numbers weren't bad at about 30 teenagers, but they didn't justify to them the 30 K that was being spent on me. I started at 30K and ended at 30K a decade and change later. It hurt at the time, but I can see it. People wanted to have a building they could call home and were frustrated with the transient church. They were tired. I was on the chopping block.

        Meanwhile, the church was teeming with young men and women that had come through the youth group, serving those that wished to demolish it. It was absurd. But I couldn't take the heartbreak of having my low paying and thankless job in jeopardy of being cut every year for the desire for bricks. I went back to school out of fear and some common sense insight. I was going to be terminated because I couldn't be who some of them wanted me to be. It would happen eventually. I was wildly supported for the first few years, but I could not keep myself from the thought that I was not valued as a minister to the teenagers of our community. I didn't know how to convince them otherwise.
...

        Then something happened that ended my hopes of keeping the career I had loved so much and hoped to keep forever. My best friend took his life. Part of the difficulties with taking on the role of trying to help troubled youth, is that you have to learn to lose them. I lost a lot of them and I had tried so hard not to. But losing my best friend to suicide; the best friend that had protected me from suicide... that broke me. I lost faith in everything. His name was Will. He always loved me unconditionally.

        Whatever drive or passion I had to continue being the youth pastor that focused on troubled kids was evaporated. I was evaporated. I wasn't the person my wife had married. I was angry and right back in the same angry place I was when I had started. I was lost. I obviously couldn't do the job anymore, so I quit because it hurt so bad to try. It was like a fake and stupid betrayal of what I was actually feeling to tell these kids that life gets better. I had forgotten that life isn't supposed to get better. Just like a stupid American would.

        I quit.

        It wasn't out of anger or resolve. I just couldn't do it anymore. This was my dream job. I can honestly tell you that I haven't been happy since. But I could not lie. I could not continue being passionate about things I didn't know if I believed anymore. It was gut wrenching to leave the service beside 2 of the most honest, kind, and intelligent pastors I could imagine. It hurt so bad that I accepted the reaffirmation of my position and had to go back and decline later. My heart was spilling over and I didn't know how to cope with feeling out of control.

...

        Before I realized God...at my lowest point in my entire life: I laid on some train tracks. Miracles happened to save me. I had spent so much time trying to figure out what and why I was alive. I had to finally admit that God loved me. It was hard to do that because I was born with 2 strikes against me it seemed. I never caught a break. Then out of no where, I got everything I had ever wanted. I got this wife who has laughed with me in every joy, and held my head up in all of these sorrows. She is an angel. I got these kids that are perfect to me, no matter what they do. It gives me a better picture of the grace of God.

        I tried to recover. I couldn't. A few years later, after so much turmoil, Joe would kill himself too. Another brother. Another reason to believe that life is a cruel joke that gives you your dreams, then strips them from you like some prank where everyone is laughing but you.

        So I stayed away.

        I tried to work on Sundays. I tried to make any plans I could on Sundays, so I wouldn't have to go. Sometimes I would just lay in bed staring at the ceiling. But every once in a while, I would go to church on Sunday. Every single time, I felt joy in my heart. I felt the desire to let it go and fall into wherever God is taking me. I wanted so badly to embrace what I let go. I miss them. I cannot seem to fix the things that have been broken in me. In my heart, there was resentment, unforgiveness, and anger. I didn't want to go because I didn't want anything to do with God. Because He was disassembling me again, when I was happy. I felt as though God had hurt me.

        I guess this throws a wrench in my understanding of God and who He is related to who I am. To put it frankly, He is a perfect God and I am an idiot who doesn't understand what's even happening to me; because I cannot find a way to be perfect. This is sin. This is the very reason I sought to help those kids. I wanted to take profoundly imperfect kids and let them see a God that sees them perfectly. Like I once did.




Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Running Westward



        A modern day anti-depressant deals with the amount of serotonin that is sent and received from the brain. This chemical controls different emotions that rule a person's life. Those with an imbalance in this chemical will have a difficult time being human here, with or without the medicine.

        I'll go quietly in the night, unlike when I came screaming in the day, I'll go remaining who I am. I'll go because the entirety of my life has been torture with this hope of getting better that has faded out like a light shining in the night, devoid of power. I'll go to sleep and it will all be over soon.

        The medication stops the brain from telling you that you are sad. But it doesn't tell you that you are happy either. It just makes you look at things for too long without any reason for watching. So I stopped taking them. I stopped everything because things don't get better just because people tell you they will. "The drugs don't work, they just make you worse, but I know I'll see your face again." These are lyrics from the last song I remember remembering the words to. Then everyone I loved died in the fire, and it was only me and my thoughts. In a lonely hotel. Alone.

        This was the last entry into my journal before I started running. I had been an avid runner before, but nothing serious. I found that running would solve some anxieties I had in life. I had a lot. Now I need to do it to save my life.

...

     
        I started running west. I had brought only a cell phone and a small bag. I needed so badly to see humanity again. I ran from Michigan through Ohio and Indiana. I ran straight through the middle of America. I carried no money with me. I only asked for assistance with lodging and food from the internet forums. I really needed to see that there was still beauty in the world, and that someone could love someone they didn't know just because they were human. The news started following me in vans at one point. I guess I was looked at as a charity case or a mad man...I don't know. I had met so many people that took me into their houses at night. They were so nice and I shared everything with them. There was not reason to hold back. Might as well be completely honest with them. I got some advice from wise old women and I got some help from athletes about my pains. My legs hurt so badly. But everything else hurt worse, so I could take it.

        I spoke to a single woman who took me in...a man. She gave me a bed to sleep in because of my letter that I posted. I had posted a call for help before I left running to every city that I would be stopping in on my run to the Grand Canyon. This woman sat on the porch with me and shared a bottle of wine with me. She told me about her failure in marriage and her fears about loving again. I just listened and stared into the beautiful sky that hovers above everyone everywhere. She was soft spoken and gentle and careful about her words. She reminded me of my wife, who is dead. She was a real person in a world full of data people.

        I met a man who had a hook-up with a bed in the basement of a bolt factory. He worked there during the day and slept to the hum of the machines at night. There was this exhaust fan that blew hot air out of the back of the building. They let him put a mattress on the ground in front of it outside to sleep and keep warm at night. At first, I thought what you may be thinking; that it isn't much good. But when this man invited me to stay with him there, I laid down in front of it and felt it's heat and spent the night looking up at the stars with an overwhelming wonder and joy of being alive. I got the knowledge that everywhere is home to someone.

        I met so many wonderful people. I got up every morning and put on my shoes and my pack and started running again. I ran thinking about all that I had seen.

...

        When I was a kid, I had an ingrown toe nail. I went to the doctor and he snapped a rubber band on my other toe right before he pulled out the piece of the ingrown toenail. It was to distract me from the pain of pulling out a nail. It worked then. It didn't work now. The distractions didn't work because the original pain is permanent. There isn't a distraction big enough, but I'll try still...because of them. I learned to live with all of the pain on my trip pounding against the surface of the very earth I was born on. The inside of my legs were worn bloody, despite my use of lubricant. My feet were deformed and agonizing. My shoulders felt heavy. Everything felt too heavy and I always felt that I couldn't bear the weight. But I did. I kept standing. I want to see humanity again desperately. I want to suffer one last time. I want my suffering to become a witness to my family. My wife. My  two daughters. My two sons; they all left this world screaming in agony.
     
        So that's why I run. I had been sitting on my porch without anything to do with my hands. I didn't much care for anything else, so I started running to the Grand Canyon, because that was the place I most found myself in wonder. The carving of the rocks and the depth of the fall. These were the things that drew me there. I just knew that I had to release their ashes to the abyss and move on.

...

        I was an orphan. I was raised by everyone, good and bad. When I met her at the dance I knew she was my entire future. I felt it. I just knew. She did too. We married and we had 4 kids, two boys, two girls. I made life long bonds with all of them. They became the reason I got up for work every day. My girls and my boys. My two boys were just about to go away to college. They were twins. We had just had their graduation party with the slideshow and the food and everything. We were all sleeping and a blazing fireball from the sky struck the roof. The blaze didn't set in until we were sleeping. I got out only because my wife told me the kids were with her on the way out. I got to the curb and found myself alone. They wouldn't let me go back in. What a coward I was to believe her. I think I wanted to.

        The house burnt down in front of me. I didn't hear them scream. I didn't hear anything from them. I watched the fire burn until it was coals. The news told me that my home had been struck by a small plane that had lost control during a wind storm. "The midwest is known for it's windstorms," the guy told me while I was waiting to be released from their emergency services. It was a moment in a series of moments that don't feel real to me now.

...

        By the time I reach Missouri, I had become famous. My past is known to everyone. They know my criminal record, my medical history, and my personal struggles. Everyone speaks to me as if they know me when I reach their city. A lot of people offer me shelter, but I always ask the people that aren't offering. During my journey, I meet the best and worst of America. There are the genuine lovers of humans and there are the documentarians who film my every move for films that will never be produced.

        I was sitting in a public library watching television in the lobby when the pictures of my family reached the screen. They were telling a story that didn't belong to them. People I had never met spoke with authority about me. Everyone seemed to be so excited that I was still on my feet. One guy said that I was what America needed right now...an inspiration. I got up and pushed the door open harder than I should have and ran through the night in anger. I didn't want to be their inspiration. I didn't want their pity or their martyr songs. I just wanted to let my family go from me.

        I reached Arizona broken. The climate got too hot and I found myself doing more walking than running. I felt weak and run down. People were scattered along the route shaking my hand and cheering me on. As I got closer to the canyon, the crowds got more dense and the road became a spectacle. I could hear the loud speaker near the base of the rim of the canyon. The guy was announcing my arrival. Reporters were running next to me with microphones in my face. More were waiting at the lip for me.

       I reached the lip and took a walk away from everyone who were congratulating me. I went into the restroom to grab my journal. I sat in front of the door so no one could follow me. This was my account of my journey: I ran alone. I would face the abyss alone. I would jump off alone. The world is full of both God and the devil. I'm also full of both. God is with me, even if He doesn't agree.

        I will go to the lip of the Grand Canyon and dump my box of family into the the place no one can return. I will not look at the crowd. I will jump.




Sing.
Migrate.



Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Eli

   


        "It's dark!" I said in my head. A head that felt like hundreds of pounds. "I can't see! I can't speak!" I started to really freak out. Calm down. I've been scared before, freaking out never helps. I have to take a mental inventory of myself.

1. "Where am I? I don't know."
2. "Why is it dark, am I blind? I don't know."
3. "Am I breathing? Yes."
4. "Move your toes. Ok, done."
5. "Raise your arms. Ok, done. It was difficult though and I can't be sure they actually moved."
6. "What does the air feel like? It feels cool. A little wet. It smells mossy. There is a breeze blowing across my nose and through my eyelashes."
7. "Open your eyes Reid. Reid? Is my name Reid? It is. I'm Reid Samson and I'm going to open my eyes because I am not blind. I pulled them from the top eyelid as hard as I could until the piercing lights punched through whatever shades had been drawn on me.

        I began looking around. I was in  the woods, laying on the ground. The wind was  blowing through the trees and the branches were swaying as if they were dancing. It was peaceful, but my body wouldn't respond to simple commands, so I felt so uneasy. I don't remember how I got into the woods. I laid there for a few hours trying to figure out my own body. After intense effort, I was able to lift my head from the ground for a moment. By the next morning, I was able to sit up. Then on the evening of my third night in the woods, I rose to my feet.

        I was wearing a grey suit. Above my head on the ground, I found my grey fedora that I had no idea was there until I stood above the place I was laying. I had always kept my wallet in my inside pocket, but it was missing. I had something crusted on my neck, but I couldn't tell what it was. Some came off in my hands and it looked like mud. I began my search for home. I wanted to see Eli so bad. The longing was more than I had felt for anything in my life. I needed her.

        Eli was 6 when her mother died of the flu. We were each other's legs. We could not stand without each other. We weathered this terrible storm that tore us to pieces, but we had each other. She was my little girl and I was her protector and her papa. I thought about her with every difficult step out of the woods. I knew that there was an end of the woods in every direction, so I just put one foot in front of the other and tried to make my feet dance like the branches of the trees. I needed to become one with everything around me to take my mind off of the confusion I was feeling.

        After 5 nights and 6 days, I emerged from the woods. I grabbed the last tree in front of me and thanked God for my arrival. I didn't recognize what was in front of me. It was a giant building made of bricks, and I'm guessing painted blue and white. I had never seen a building so large before. I heard there were big buildings in the city, but I had never left home; never found a reason to. Everything I wanted was right here. I walked around the perimeter to what looked like the face of the building. It had a large sign that said, "Walmart." I had no idea what that meant, but it looked like a city center with people coming and going. I moved to the front door, which opened by itself and caused me to shout in fear...and everyone around who looked strange to look at me strangely.

        I walked through the doors and was gut punched with confusion and stimulations. Everything was moving and so loud. There were so many people and so many shiny things. I got nauseous and got sick onto the mat on the floor. I said I was sorry to the person in front of me and hurried out the door. I started walking as fast as my heavy legs would limp. I had one goal, and that was to get to Eli. But first, I had to figure out where the hell I was.

        After a lot of questions to strangely dressed passerbys, and a very nice man in some kind of truck, I arrived at my home. I thanked the man and got out and hurried to the door. My stomach hurt I wanted to see her so bad. I didn't understand the longing, and I didn't think too much about it. I had just seen her this morning when I dropped her off at the bus stop. I had made her a butter and cheese sandwich for lunch and hot cereal for breakfast. She had asked me for 5 cents for a Coke a Cola that she would get on a field trip to the zoo. I gave her 10 cents for two.

        I got to the door and knocked. I was impatient, so I knocked again. The door swung open on the third knock, with an angry young negro glaring me in the face as if he were trying to vaporize me. "Hello... I'm Reid, who are you?" "I'm Calvin, and you can get your ass off my porch. I don't want anything you got. And don't walk across my lawn on your way back home." "Boy, who the hell do you think your talking to?" I asked. "What did you call me? Boy? Get the hell outta here before I kick your ass into the grass." I said, "This is my house, and where is Eli, my daughter?" He replied, "I certainly don't right know who da hell you talkin bout massa, but I'zza try to figga that one out foi ya. Now if you could get the hell out of here before I have to kill you, that would be great."

        The name plate on the door said Jackson. I was confused by that at first, but now I was questioning my sanity. "Sir, I don't quite know what's going on, but I'm looking for my daughter Eli. I thought that this was our home, but I must be mistaken. I'm sorry for the offense, I just want to get home to her." He looked at me silently sizing me up. "Why are you dressed like a crooner?" he asked. "I'm a vacuum salesman sir" I replied. "Like Kirby vacuums or something?" he asked. "Electrolux sir," I replied. He asked me my name and I told him. We spent the next hours going over who I was and when I last saw my daughter. Every clue led to this house, but nothing about this house matched. He asked me three times if I was on medication. I don't know why, but he kept looking at me funny. I walked out the door more confused than when I walked in.

        As I stepped down the porch stairs that had somehow repaired themselves overnight, Calvin stopped me. He took me to the garage and led me inside. He turned on the lights and pointed me to an epitaph on the cement in the corner. I didn't even need to get closer to recognize it. I began to cry and could not stop myself from trembling. I walked closer watching the words appeared more clearly as I got closer. Eli and Papa 1961. I ran my fingers over where hers had carved out those words. I didn't know why I was crying so hard. Calvin didn't either, but after a few moments I realized that he was full on hugging me.

        I pushed away and asked if he knew where my daughter was. He didn't, but led me to the house to pull out the deed to the home. It told me the house was sold from Eloise Samson to Calvin Jackson on December 19th 1988. I didn't understand. He asked me a litany of questions. I answered them all wrong. I was wrong about everything it appeared; even the year. During the vigorous interrogation, I broke down again: Again, having to push away from Calvin's embrace. It was now my understanding that it was the year 2017, and I was 54 years old. I had aged 38 years in one long night in the woods. I had lost 38 years of my daughters life. We had a lot of drinks and Calvin found my daughter on a machine. He pulled up her picture, almost instantly. It didn't look like her, but it also did. She wasn't little. She was beautiful, but not what she was yesterday.

        Calvin asked me if I wanted her address. I told him I did. I had to see her; even if she wouldn't believe who I was. He wrote down the numbers and I stood up and walked out the front door. As I got to the side walk, Calvin shouted from the porch, "How you gettin there boy?" "I was gonna walk. The cars around here are a little bit scary." Calvin flipped his keys around his finger, "I'zza good driva Miss Daisy, I'zza could take ya myself." I smiled and headed toward his car in the driveway, and we were off.

        My daughter's house was almost as big as Walmart's house. She must have married rich...if this really was 2017. Calvin shook my hand and told me he'd wait for my signal on whether he should leave or start the getaway plan. I thanked him for everything and walked to Eli's door and knocked with the big brass lion that hung there. I was less impatient this time, and far more scared. The door opened to a young man in a t-shirt and plaid pants. He smiled and asked what he could do for me. I asked for Eli. He asked again who I was. I told him that I was an uncle from her childhood. Frank was my name. He let me in and went to get her. "Eli! he called. You have an uncle who looks like an ex boyfriend here to see you."

        I waited at the bottom of the stairs clinching my fists. I was sweating and my stomach was in knots. How was I going to explain something I didn't understand myself to her? What if she didn't believe me? What if it wasn't even her? It seemed so long and  I waited anxiously for her. Then she entered my eyes. I knew it, even though my vision was blurry. It was her. She walked the same. This was my little girl in front of me grown up. She came down the steps and I lost any words and just stared at her. She looked at me in bewilderment at first, waiting for me to speak. I couldn't say anything. She looked at me for a few moments, then her eyes became glossed and pink. A tear rolled down and she she said one word; "Papa?"

        I told her everything I knew and remembered. She affirmed the things I knew and filled in some blanks. Some of the blanks were that I went missing while she was at school. The police came and took her to my sister's house, who is now dead of cancer. They suspected that I had seen something I shouldn't have while trying to sell a vacuum to the wife of a mob boss. They never found my body. I was laying there alone for 38 years and Eli was looking for me. But she eventually moved on. She got an education and never married. She became the CEO of a huge financial company. None of it meant anything to her.

        We spent all night talking. We shared memories of each other and she told me what life was like without me. My gut wrenched at those parts because she spoke while her hands were shaking. I felt her words. I told her about the cement in Calvin's garage and the difficulty getting here. She explained to me what Walmart was. We talked until 4:30 in the morning when her eyes began to flicker, then fade into the darkness. I let mine close too; somehow knowing the shades would never be pulled again and I would have to let Eli go. I woke up somewhere different.
     




Sing.
Migrate.





Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Problem with Autobiographies


        I once wrote a screenplay about my life. Narcissistic I know, but my friends kept telling me I should. They told me I saw things differently...I do love to write. I do see things differently. If you give me a choice between the positive and the negative, I'm gonna choose the negative, even though I desperately need the positive. It's the classic attitude that everyone sees the positive and I see the truth , situation. That's me. I've seen enough negative to know when it's gonna win.

       I finished writing the screenplay on my in-law's pontoon boat in the middle of the lake that was named "Doc and Tom," after two horses who had drowned due to a winter electrical storm that drove them into an unseasonably thin iced over lake. I typed the last sentence and took it in. I just finished my life as I knew it at that very moment alone, on a boat, with no one cheering me on. It reminded me that most people die with no one watching and without applause. The narcissist in me wants the applause.

        I showed the script to my brothers Will, Joe , and Andy anxiously. People are very sensitive to how they are portrayed to other people. I was nervous to give it to them. A few days later, I got a call. Then another. Joe thought I made him too absent minded, but liked that he was a hero in the end. Will asked to be at the filming to help get it right.

        We were able to score a little money and casted the film through a talent agency with actors that just wanted a screen credit. I ran the casting because I wanted the perfect people for the roles. I casted well. We filmed most of the movie in a couple of months. My wife had a baby during the filming, so of course "Adam the Narcissist" took over and I spent too much time away from them. During filming, one of the lead characters tragically died. She had beaten cancer after a really long fight. She had been in major motion pictures before, so she gave my script the honor of making it her comeback. This was supposed to be her re-birth and she died during filming suddenly; leaving her son, who was also in the movie. This was the biggest reason we killed the film.

...

        I look back now at the footage that will never be seen, that I got it right. The actors were who they should have been...except the one that played me. I purposely left out that I'm not some sad bastard my whole life waiting for something to go right. I laugh more than that. I make jokes because I love when people laugh at them. I'm a clown. I'm and idiot, but I'm sincere. I wrote my best qualities out of my own character. The actor who played me, was really, really good. He played the part I wrote with great precision...but that wasn't me.

        I wanted to shock people. I wanted them to wonder what was wrong with me. I wanted to be someone that people would remember. But instead I wrote my brothers as I saw them, but should have written myself how they saw me. Joe read the script and came to one of the shoots. He watched the shoot and said it was awesome, and that it was accurate...except for my character. He told me that that wasn't me. I wasn't the person I had portrayed myself to be.

        During filming a very fun and intimate scene, Will came out to watch. After the scene was over, he came to me and had tears in his eyes. He told me that he was back there again and that the scene was like a time machine...but...my character wasn't me. I wasn't who I portrayed myself to be. He saw me differently. Joe saw me differently. I saw myself differently.

        I think it takes a good amount of our loves to figure out who we are. I'm not sure this me is the real me either...but I'm gonna live it because right now it feels like home. Maybe things change in a while, but this is me right now writing on a laptop in my basement about the time I wrote about a fictitious character on a pontoon boat on a lake that killed two horses.






Sing.
Migrate.

Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Milk - A Short Story


"She sent me out for milk...how cliche." -Walter

        I was driving down the utility road that rolls adjacent to the interstate. The nearest market was about 10 miles from my house, so sending me for milk meant that she either wanted a break from me, she was pregnant, or that she carried a lover. I went either way really. It didn't much matter, I have always accepted fate as it comes.

...


        We met at a bandshell dance, which was held by the local charity to raise money. The Bandshell was this pompous outdoor stage with a shell-shaped cover. I'd go every Friday night looking for a girlfriend. I was a lonely 15 year old that had never attracted the attention of girls. All of my friends had girlfriends and I didn't...it was embarrassing. I wore the right clothes that night. I wore my ripped up jeans I modeled after a Def Leppard video. I wore a sweatshirt that only the rich kids in my neighborhood could afford...I had stolen mine. I saw her at the ticket counter. She was with two girls that had previously rejected my advances. 
-->
        I remember the first time I saw her. I was trying to impress her friend, who didn't care whether I came to school or not. She kissed me once at a party during a game of "Spin the Bottle," but didn't acknowledge me after that. The lunch lady came by and asked if I was finished with my tray. I hadn't touched my food really; maybe a couple bites. I always got nervous around her. I told the lunch lady I was finished, but it would be a shame to throw the food away with so many hungry in the world. I said this because I wanted to show my "bleeding heart" to the girl. In reality, I considered myself one of those starving kids in the world.

        Her friend looked at me right in my eyes. It was a piercing and unlookawayable look that paralyzed me. She said, "That's very nice of you." It was then that I looked at the object of my affection and thought, "I want to be everything to you, but I also hate your guts." I turned my attention to Sarah; her friend...my wife. She was to be my new obsession. I wanted her to love me like she did the time that she told me I had done a nice thing. So I followed her. I learned what she likes and doesn't like. I learned what she did after dinner. I learned what time she got up in the morning.

        I wasn't a pervert. I didn't try to see her showering or anything...I just wanted to know her like a husband knows his wife; except before we are married. At the bandshell, I walked up to her at the concession stand and asked her to dance. Her friends...the awful assholes I told you about earlier who didn't care about my existence, encouraged her to walk away from me. I must have said a lucky thing, because I am not charming, and she agreed to dance with me. 10 years later, this girl married me.

       On the day of my wedding, I sat in the limo, thinking about the events of our relationship. I got mad for a moment about all of the rejection. Everyone was celebrating with champaign and vodka, splashing about in front of and all over me. Watching them celebrate me was a reminder that I had gotten the greatest girl of all, and she had married me that very day. She didn't marry Todd, the football guy, or Steve, the guy that she dated before me, who got a scholarship for soccer. She married me because I paid attention to who she really was.

...

        This night was dedicated to milk. She never asked for much. I gave her anything she desired, mostly before she asked for it. I have always thought of ways to keep her with me...it rules my mind really. We have three daughters just like her. They pay attention to details. They correct me all the time. They are beautiful. They are pictures of their mother at different ages. They are the very reason I write this now...to you...whom I will never know...Who may never read this.

        In all honesty, she sent me out for milk because she was having an affair. I've known about it for weeks. He left a message on our answering machine thinking it was her voice mail. I deleted it and have spent weeks trying to put it out of my mind. I can't live without her...and especially can't live without my little girls. I do everything so that they will love me. I wouldn't be able to live without them, so I try to forget.

        As I drove to the market, these things lurk behind my thoughts about today at work in the train yard. A few guys asked me to go for some beers, but I said no...as always because of the thought of her. I pulled into the parking lot and sat for a bit before getting out of the car and moving through the parking lot. There was a song on the nostalgia station that reminded me of when I was a lonely little kid lying on the dryer, praying for something better, absorbing it's heat.

        I got out of the car and walked to the doors of the market and looked up to the sky just before I heard the alarms. It looked like a bullet followed by flames above my head by about 300 feet. I watched it trail across the sky and seem to dissipate into the darkness above. I was waiting for the boom. I was waiting for the end of all things. It didn't happen then. It happened in small increments over the next few months.

        The television told me that the bomb had landed 350 miles from the supermarket; spreading it's venom to all inside of a 1200 mile radius. I didn't come home that night...or the next. I sat in this motel room writing this to you...because me and everyone else I care about will be dead in a week.

        The problem is that I don't know what to say to her. It doesn't make much sense to tell her I know now. That doesn't serve much of a purpose. So I tell her I love her and that I have always loved her. I told her that from the moment that she told me that I was nice, I believed that she was mine. I told my girls that they were my entire heart. I told them I would walk to the edge of the world just to die for them.

I coughed.
Then they coughed.
We bled together.
Then we died together.


At least that's what I hope happened.










Sing.
Migrate.



Thanks for reading...Z