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

Monday, December 19, 2016

Those Christmas Lights



        They don't see what's broken inside of you because your broken parts are part of your perfection to them. They are family, and to them, you cannot be replaced in a world where everything is replaced.

        I've always said that you can choose your family. This isn't popular with people who have great families and I get that. Laura has a great family, and they are always there for each other. Others who's families could fit into a small room may see it differently. I had two blood relatives at my wedding. My mom, whom I love, and my brother, whom I love. I think that family organically happens with life. You meet these people that you like for one reason or another, and they end up being uncles or aunts to your children. Laura has friends that are family to us and so do I. I think it's beautiful. I think the world is disconnected and separated into terrible categories and labels. It's a really nice feeling to know that someone in this world loves you no matter what. That they are gonna take your side in this world, and kick your ass in private.

        I got to do something really fun and cool today. I got to take the ice where the Red Wings play. I got to play hockey with my friends. We were excited and came out to the ice early to look around and take pictures. As I looked into the huge arena, I got to see all of the families of my friends that came to celebrate a really good day with their dad, or brother, sister, friend, or child. Watching them all take pictures with their family put things into persepective for me. I've been in a bit of gloom this year as I usually am this time of year, but watching these people love each other deeply is a reminder that this life is so great. It's great that I see these terrible things at work, which I've desensitized myself to, then come home to a little boy and two girls that don't see my faults, or forget them quickly. And a 19 year old girl who will drop whatever she is doing to see me. I'ts a warm place. Today felt like Christmas. Any day that feels like Christmas is a good day.

        It is way to easy to focus on the negative. Laura and I find ourselves thinking this way so much and we often remind each other that although the negative is destructive, the positive is a really good reason to keep smiling...to keep forging ahead...to keep reaching our hands out to other people. I'm so thankful for the people in my life that have reached out their hands to me when I needed help to get up. You all know who you are. I hope I've told you how great you are. If not, I will.

        I went to lunch with Will and Joe's mom and dad last week. I struggle when seeing them during the holidays because I don't know what to say to them. I think about my own kids and what it would be like to lose them and I cannot figure out a way to reconcile the fact that those two are still standing...and smiling. As my brother's mother was taking me home, I got this overwhelming sadness all of the sudden that she was going to drop me off and that would be that for Christmas. I had this feeling of dread that I had wasted the time I got to spend with them feeling uneasy. It was at this moment that I remembered that I slept under their roof probably a thousand times. I ate at their table. Their dad took me to canoing trips with them.

        In the car, and all at once, I remembered that they are my family and they chose me as much as I chose them. I felt gratitude. I felt love. I felt sadness, but also togethernes in that sadness. I felt so thankful, because at some point in our history, they stopped seeing me as this loud and often annoying kid and they started seeing me as family.

I can't wait to see the rest of my family this Christmas.

       







Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, December 15, 2016

It Effaces Every Piece of Light



You ask why I keep still
Why I don’t pour it out into the night
You know
You know if it rises and floats
It effaces every piece of light

- Soap & Skin (Cradlesong)


        When we were kids and had just graduated, all three of us had serious questions about what we would do next. Part of the theme of the "Dead End Kids" was that none of us would make it out, and I guess we all assumed none of us would. Then Joe decided to leave. I showed up to his house one night after a really bad night during a series of very bad nights. I was living in my car at the time. I had just been caught sleeping in my car in the park by police and treated really badly. I was upset. I was hopeless. 

        I showed up to Joe and Will's house in a pretty bad place. I sat down in the living room and Joe sat on the couch. He was really quiet. This was really unusual for him as it is for me. After a lot of yes and no answers to my queries, he asked me to go have a cigarrette with him outside. The answer to this question was always yes. While we were smoking, he started shaking his hands and breaking up in his speech. I couldn't get what he was saying, so I asked him, "What's wrong man?" He told me, "I enlisted in the Navy." It was final. There was no getting it back, Joe was leaving the Dead End. To me, he was leaving me...a moment I had feared more than anything. 

        A few months past and the day came when Joe had to go. He didn't want us to go to the airport with him. He didn't want an ordeal. We all stood outside and watched him hug us and tell us he loved us and then walk away and get into a car and fade away into the darkness as the lights dimmed, and disappeared. Once I lost the lights, I lost my guts. Joe's mom was there to grab my head and pull it to hers. I cried like I had never cried before. I had definately never let anyone see me as an adult cry like that. She just stayed silent and rubbed my head.

        I was sad because my friend was leaving. But more than that I was sad because I think I got the reality check that I couldn't hold on to them forever. Someday they would go. Everyone moves on. Some to other states. Some to other countries. And some to Heaven. Joe came back after a couple of years, angry that I had moved on and made a home for myself. I think he got the same reality check that day. He was so much of part of my life, but he wasn't any longer the center. 

...

       I've spent a lot of time this last 6 years in this basement...in front of this computer...writing about the "Dead End Kids." Sadly, much of that time has been spent as Christmas lights twinkle on the tree right behind me, going unnoticed. I always find myself going back. I think it's because feeling sad about them is all that is left of them. Joe came home from the Navy and we had the greatest and most terrible times together. Then he went away after his brother went away. And here I am...totally unwilling to follow them out of the Dead End. I love my life. I wish they had loved theirs. God, I wish I could have put the love of living in them. I couldn't do anything. 

        Two years today Joe. Happy birthday kid brother. A conversation with you comes to my mind right now. We were in high school. We were sitting on my bed and you had said something outragious. I laughed, and you said, "Sorry buddy." I said, "No problem man." You said, "No seriously, I'm sorry buddy" and pointed to my bed, which was completely soaked with the root beer you had spilled from the two liter bottle you had been carrying around. 

        When I think of times like this, it doesn't feel so dark. It just makes me miss you. I miss your raspy smokers cough laugh. I miss the embelleshments of your stories. I miss being able to sit in a room and be able to say nothing without any awkwardness at all. I miss fishing with you in the middle of the night. I miss every incredibly stupid thing we did together as kids. I miss the way we could look at each other and speak without words. Goodnight little brother. Be happy and be perfect. I'll see you again sometime. 

        





Sing.
Migrate.



Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Ghosts of Christmas' Past



        Nothing really has changed about Christmas. Every year, I get excited to put the lights up on the tree and string them across the front of my home. There is something so gratifying about putting lights on my home for me. It's mine. What lives in it is mine, and I am theirs. I work all week and enjoy listening to the same Christmas music on my way that I listened to last year and the years before. They all take me back to the reasons I have always loved Christmas. No matter how bad things had been for me in my life, there was always a savior for me on Christmas.

        I was such a lonely kid. But when I think about Christmas now and remember, everything was so beautiful and perfect. I'd sleep under the Christmas tree, or alternate between the tree and the floor heat register and watch the lights promise me something that no human could ever fulfill in me. I can't think of a single Christmas growing up that was ruined by anything. I'm sure my mom had a few, but she was strong enough to not let me see that. She was always really good at redirection with those kinds of things.

        I moved out and experienced Christmas on my own. This was in a really bad time in my life...the worst actually. Christmas became a thing of sadness for me for reasons I could not even describe at the time. I'd think about all of these great Christmases and get really sad and feel more lonely. So I'd walk around the neighborhood and look into people's front windows to see them be families. Super Creepy, I know.

        I married this woman this one day, and got what I was promised under that tree. I made it my mission to string up the lights on Thanksgiving or a day or two after. Took them down in March, but who's counting. I got to be the family in that front window. My kids came into the world and the only thing I wanted to do was what my mom did for me. I wanted them to believe something very special about Christmas. Something very comforting about a savior being born that would make it all better. Even if everything seemed hopeless.

        The last bit of Christmases have been marred with some pretty terrible stuff. It makes it difficult because I have become at odds with my favorite time of the year. The feeling now makes me so happy and so profoundly sad. My favorite thing is when I get to see Andy and when I get to see Jeff and his family. These are people that are family to me and I don't get to see them much. Then, that reminds me that two of the most influential people in my life aren't here anymore, and that is my worst thing.

                                     I guess the word I would use to descibe it is: Disappointment.

        They were supposed to always be here, with me and for me. But they aren't anywhere I can see them. Me and Will used to cut class and sit on top of his car in the park to kill time. We weren't killing time. We were making the very best of it. We would talk about our future and we were both present in each other's. Me and Joe use to used to carve our names on everything because we wanted to come back decades later and remember what we were when we were kids. So I guess the Ghosts of Christmas' past come to haunt me now.

                                                                          The good news.

        God is still good. Jesus is still our savior. I am still the guy I wanted to be in that front window, albeit a bit more broken. I string up the lights and love watching my kids play in the snow that is now blanketing Michigan, giving millions of kids a day off of school tomorrow. I shield my kids from the things they don't have to see. I think of times with my brothers who were everything but blood to me, and smile. I don't get lonely at Christmas anymore. I am full. I am what little kids under trees want when they are praying hopefully and lonely to an invisible God.

God is good.
God is with us.
God saved me.
Even when it hurts everything inside me to admit.




Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z

It is God

I am weak. I am strong. I am weak. I am strong. I am weak. I am strong. I am human. Humans are weak. Yet somehow, we take credit for our strength. It is God.




Sing. Migrate. Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, November 28, 2016

About Them

   
       
        I've been taught my entire life that Jesus is coming back soon in church.The writers of the New Testiment also told us that Jesus is coming back soon. This gives me the same feeling that sitting in Mr. Winnick's pricipal's office does, waiting for my discipline for mooning the entire 3rd grade class. Obviously there is a big difference in perception of time between us and the writers 2000 years ago...or Jesus returned already and we didn't even notice; a thought more sad than waiting forever. So if we are to see time so linear that soon may be almost forever, than we ought to start thinking about the future with the expectation that we are stuck here for now. We aren't orphans, but currently homeless.

        I told myself this very thing as I slept in my car after high school. Things were going really badly and I was accepting one mistake after another...because I was proud and angry and especially stupid. So in principle, I rejected conditional living and chose to face my mistakes head on...while making new and more audatious mistakes. I slept in the back seat of my car. My back hurt and I would lay awake all night with the awful feeling of a future being flushed away. I had walked away from a basketball scholorship, from any further education...because I knew it all. I didn't ask for advice. I didn't listen to anyone. I just acted out of pure emotion and rage against pretty much everyone. Laying in the back of that car in the cold, I told myself that this was only temporarily and I was only currently homeless. This was true. I got an apartment with friends soon after.

        As I was walking out of the Chinese food take out place tonight on my way home from work, I watched the "Open" sign flash through the reflection of my headlight. The parking lot was empty and the night was particularly dark tonight. I got this lonely feeling that at that moment, there was only me, this flashing light, and a little old Asian woman left in the entire world. It made me think of time. How terrible it is that time passes without you knowing how important it is.

        One day, no one will remember a single thing about our culture experientially. Maybe pictures. That flashing "Open" sign will be a joke of primitive technology. I think we all will be a joke of primitive humanity.

        I write a lot of short stories about the very distant future. One thing that has always intrigued me is wondering what the distant future will think about the things we have left behind. It's kinda sad and lonely and that's probably why I like it so much, but I really never have thought about what the not so distant future looks like. What will my great grand children think of me...if at all. What a disasterous world we have made.

        It is likely that this is not the end of "Us." We should start thinking about "Them."



Sing.
Migrate.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, November 21, 2016

Her

   
 
         I'm thankful for my wife. I write about her often because I need to get it out. She hates it. She doesn't like attention...that's me, I like attention: It's like gasoline to me. She is quiet and subtle. She saves everyone in this house and no one knows it but us, so I always feel the need to tell everyone because no one has ever loved me like this. There isn't a place I wouldn't go for her. I'd give everything that I like about myself for her, but she would never ask that of me. She is beautiful. She works so hard for us. She is anxious because she cares so much. She will find me in whatever darkness I go to hide. She will strip away any bravado or membrane I use to protect myself and reach in for my hand. I love her and am so very thankfull for her this Thanksgiving.







Sing.
Migrate.





Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Super Powers



        The world would be a different place if people had x-ray powers that saw into other people's souls, but I don't think we really want to have to see all of that. There are a lot of super powers I would love to have. I would love to fly. It would be so great to feel the wind hit you, then cover you, falling behind as you burst through it's invisible membrane. It would be great to move things with my mind. I'd love to move every slow moving vehicle out of my way during my commute to and from work. People driving slow in the fast lane would finally pay for their ignorance!

        Most of all, I'd like to travel through time. I'd love to go wherever and whenever I wanted without any ability to change anything. Some would say that would be cruel because we often visit our moments of regret in our memories. But I don't regret anything. I didn't do anything that didn't make me who I am. I don't like some things that happened to me and I don't like who I was, but I like that I feel a little better about myself now. I, for the most part, like who I am. There are many things I'd like to change, but I think I am pretty OK in the things that matter to me. I'm a good husband and a good father and I think I'm a pretty good friend.

        I don't much care for the other things. I care for relationships. If we love each other, I'm all in. I'm never halfway about the people I care about. I ask difficult questions and tell you what I really think. I do it because I care and I can't stomach small talk with people I want more from.

        But back to time travel. I'd like to go back and watch all of these moments in my life and learn more. I'd like to learn more about how my memory betrays the truth or how I have blocked out details that change the narrative. I'd like to go back to feel many things I did as a careless and stupid kid again. That's a great super power. The best superpower...because you can't hurt anyone with it. You can only relive your own life moments.



       





Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Life Isn't Short, It Just Has a Poor Memory

     
     

        I like to go back to the many places I've lived. As a kid, we moved more than the average family for many reasons. For specific reasons I like to go back to each place. Some places are close enough for me to add them to running routes, others I find ways to pass pretty often on my way to nowhere near their location. I think life has gone by too fast and it's nice to go back and try and visit some moments in whatever way you can.

        I drive by certain ex-homes and find them occupied with really, really old people. Or drug addicts. I drive by a house and see myself throwing a football into the air as a kid and running underneath it to catch it just in time before my imaginary defender tackled me in the end zone. Sometimes I even wore a fake Chicago Bears uniform. I drive by others and see where I would build snow forts, shoot blow darts at ducks, shoot rockets, hide knives, and drink booze. Every location reminds me that there is so much stupidity, yet so much beauty in being young and learning how to be ok in a world that eats it's own.

        Life is way too short. We should all be able to lay down at night in comfort because we are eternal and God is good. But some people, like me, believe all that stuff, yet find themselves in dread most of the time.

        When I think of these times when I was just an ignorant kid trying to cope, I tell myself, "I wish I knew then, what I know now." Then there are other times that I say, "I wish I knew now, what I knew then."

        The world takes things from you. It takes moments....days....weeks. Everything that causes stress and anxiety fills us in and pushes something beautiful out. Our minds seem to only protect the truly sacred moments. Other wonderful moments go into this fie cabinet in the back of the room that someone has lost the keys to. Like and undeveloped roll of 35mm film laying in an attic.

        Until a grandkid finds that film and has it developed, bringing back everything all at once. It may be a smell or a song. It may be a place or a little strange crack in the sidewalk that brings back these beautiful moments you wish you would have stored in the sacred. Because life was too short when you made those memories and you forgot to remember them for what they were. They were your childhood, and you don't get another one of those.

        If there is a moral to this, it's to try to stop forgetting the great stuff. Forget the bad. We tend to always remember all of the bad because we like to feel sorry for ourselves often. Let that stuff go. Hold on to the things that make you happy and make you smile. It's way harder than my words make it out to be.





Sing.
Migrate.


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Losing Time

       
       


        It's so cruel that we cannot live forever. That we have to grow old and one day die after years of not being able to do the things you used to be able to do. Laura tells me stories about her grandmas all the time. I met them when they were both pretty old, so I didn't get to see them in the years that they were strong. I don't think that's fair. I don't think that we should have to get old and frail and I definitely don't think we should ever have to die unless we want to. Maybe death is better for some people who are so tired of being frail. I don't know, but I one day will because most of us have to go to that place.

        It seems so recent that sat in that elementary school, smelling the pencil shavings that filled the halls with it's perfume. I can't help but to feel that I didn't do enough kid things. I did a lot...even into my adult years... But I'd really like to hold on a bit longer. I'm not old. I'm 38. But I feel like I was just 15 yesterday. I can't help but dread what's ahead a little, even knowing the good stuff is there too.

        Every year I get older, I become more and more purposeful in my actions with my kids. I want them to remember what a good dad they had, so that my son will be a great husband and dad and so my daughters will choose guys that are like me, who love them with every part of themselves.

        Don't get me wrong, there are still some things that I still want to accomplish and I'm not weak just yet. But lines annoy me more now. Traffic is more irritating. People talking in my face about things uninteresting is now so cumbersome. I feel maybe like I'm losing minutes that would be better spent holding my kids or sitting with my beautiful wife. But then there are those moments.

        Those moments remind you that you are still here and not going away. When I hear a great song, I wish I would have sung it. When I read something beautiful, I wish I would have written it. I've always been a person that sees something that they think is good and tries to create something better. I'm am still someone that sees the art in everything. This motivates me to be who I am right at this moment, not fear for who I will be sooner than I wish. I want to do things that will help other people find peace, and inspire them to create something better than me.

        There is something so beautiful about hearing a song or reading poetry so good that you want to cry because you don't have that in you, but you are so glad someone else did.





Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z