Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Lion - Part 1 and 2



         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 legs, 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 hear 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.



…………..


Time flew by. It was weeks, but she was gone in what seemed like a day…

She had two options that she could figure. She looked at him as he slept in that bed she got him from the Salvation Army. The corners of his lips turned up when he was relaxed...when his face could feel nothing. This was the first thing she noticed about him while running her fingers across the contours of his face, moments after giving birth to him. He was a first grader now. He was a really good kid.

She believed he was no reflection of her. She believed he was the very character of God, rising with Him with the sun. She wouldn't soon deserve him. She couldn't. She was only mistakes. She had to choose between the sickness and the sanity of her son. She would have to choose later, she could not right now as she watched him sleep. He didn't deserve that.

         His father was a married man. She didn't even know his name, but he wore a wedding ring opposite hand of his 1977 class ring. He would come and give her money and she would make believe love for him. She didn't even know how long this went on for, but knew he had a disgusting smell to him. His hair smelled like old sweat. His beard smelled of garbage. He was always sweating on her.

He would get up when the love faded and leave the hotel room smiling and forgot to say goodbye every time. She didn't care, she desired him dead when he used words, she desired him dead anyway. She didn't even tell him he had a son, she just ignored his calls and got a job at a supermarket bagging groceries.

         Her two options now? Take her life now or let it happen. Just let the cancer slowly eat her away while he watched from just below the bed rails. Using her head, she could only come to one logical decision. She had a sister who was much better off than her and loved her son as if it were her own. She had a big house with an extra room and two kids the same age. If she just said goodbye now, her son would be OK.

But everything that isn't supposed to feel logical told her to stay. Every moment would be worth a pound of gold to both of them. She would give him the world even as a skeleton.

         She had this choice to make. She had a tube down her throat that would not let her speak to him. At night, he would crawl up on the bed and they would take turns writing things on each other's backs and guessing what the other had said. This night was the THE NIGHT. She had to make a decision before she couldn't anymore. She had to give him something. She couldn't lie anymore or wait for some miracle to happen.

This was her life. His life was about to change. Soon enough, she wouldn't know his face or even be able to see it. Soon enough he would be dead to her mind...a thought that was more torturous than anything she could think of. She knew that he knew she was going away. He just couldn't say it. 

         She flicked his ear to wake him. He stirred and she knew he was listening. He always seemed to be listening. She began drawing on his back. Her hands shook with every letter and she could feel his body tremble with every completed word. Her tears made it hard to keep going. His tears made it hard to feel what she was trying to tell him, but he knew I think.  Her hand stopped at his lower back and he felt her squeeze his small frame against her even smaller one. He braced himself and closed his eyes to think about when she was well.

He went to this thought every time he was scared. He went to he time he fell out of the tree in front of his house and she rocked him back and forth like the wind as it blew storm clouds through the trees. He remembered when she held him when his friend was hit by a car and killed. He didn't understand death until he saw his friend lifeless in a coffin.

         Then he only knew death as just being plastic looking. He closed off the entire world, even when he felt the gasp of his mother's chest and the alarm sounding on the machine next to her. He was definitely crying, but could and would only allow memories of laughter to flood his brain. He would never see the tube in her hand. He would never see all that she sacrificed for him. He would never understand that Salvation Army Bed that took the last of the money she had made with a legitimate job before she started to get sick.

         He would never know all that her life had produced, but he would never forget what she was to him. 









Sing.
Migrate. T




Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Because....



Me.
        Light beams through every small hole or slash without mistake. Anything open will be filled with it's energy that came from something that gave it up upon death. Energy cannot be destroyed. It must go somewhere. So in part, when something dies, it travels to us and becomes a part of us. We become a part of their story, and theirs ours.

...

        My father suspended his energy. I was 12 when he was about to die of liver cancer, then was immediately placed into a machine that froze his body to a temperature that would "preserve him." My mom told me I'd see him again in this world, and that he wasn't dead like grandma. He was just sleeping until something wonderful would wake him. I always believed he would wake like she said. I never closed the book as a child. I waited. I waited until I was no longer willing to wait and I stopped believing. He was dead, and I was cheated of saying goodbye.

        My father was a pianist. He was famous for pretty much everything he did. He also sang. He also was an actor. He also wrote screenplays, and once wrote a novel. He never paid too much attention to anyone else. He also was an alcoholic. He was stoic, then angry and violent, then stoic. He slept-in most days until at least 2 PM, and worked on his projects throughout the night. He drank all day and whenever I saw him. So why would I even care right? I was connected to him in a way I cannot explain.

        I don't miss him though. I don't think much about him at all. I never knew the guy. My mom says he was once pretty great, but even she couldn't find any reason to stay at the end. He got sick, we moved away. The last thing he said to me was "Why are you staring at me? Look away." This came directly after he had called my mother a bitch, and I was shocked into looking at him.

        The asshole had himself frozen he was so arrogant. So talented, but so awful. He never did accept that I was not him. I am gifted at literally nothing. I am as average as you get. I got average grades, graduated from and average college with an average psychology degree that I don't use. I got a job in the automotive industry as a laborer, and make average money...relatively speaking. So you can see his disappointment when I couldn't and didn't want to play even "Chopsticks" on the piano.

...

On October 23 this year, he was thawed. Cancer had been cured. No one had ever been thawed to life before.
...

Him.
        The very first conscious thought or feeling I had was my sense of hearing. I couldn't tell at first whether it was a dream or real. I had at least thousands of unique images in my head that I don't remember any context to. What I heard was different that dreaming. I had been "kind of" dreaming for 30 years. I remember the face of a woman that re-occurred. No idea who she was or what she wanted from me. At times I heard the music, but so distant that I could only barely make it out and recognize it. I remember one song in particular. I don't think I'd ever heard it, at least I don't remember it. I think I would have remembered it though. It was breathtakingly sad and beautiful. Whatever limited brain activity happens during that ice age will always be unknown. I heard a man's voice speaking in words I tried but failed to decipher. It was being born again into the world I left decades ago. I experienced limited sensual capabilities over what they told me was two weeks. Then one day I understood what they were saying and I tried to speak. I wanted to tell them that I was cold. Instead, I spoke without real words.

        It would take months before they would release me into the world. They had called all of my emergency numbers and the numbers were all disconnected or other people. I guess I didn't take into account that I would awake to everyone being dead. My kids were too young to have phone numbers, so they gave me the money I had deposited with them with interest and called me a cab I guess. I walked out into a world that I didn't recognize, nor did it recognize me.

        I looked for a payphone to look at the yellow pages. There was no payphone and there was no yellow pages. At the library, a nice girl showed me the internet. Don't ask me to repeat a single thing she said, but she found my son and directed me to him.

...

Me.
        I had learned about energy from science class. It always fascinated me. During a drunken night in college,  a question occurred to me; "Where does talent go if talent is energy and energy must be funneled elsewhere?" It didn't go to me. It didn't go to my mum. It didn't go anywhere as far as I could tell. My only guess was that the bastard was holding on to it like some petty gambler who lost and turned over the table while still holding on to his money.

I always remembered what he looked like.

        When I opened the door, I was stunned, then shaken, then angered. I shut the door on him. I was reeling. I didn't want to be mean to him: I just reacted. When I opened the door again, he was still standing there, except his back to me as though he were looking at my neighborhood. "What's your birthday?" I ask. He tells me and I know it's him because of his voice. He had this booming voice that gripped you. "So I guess you're feeling better then?" I asked. He just looked at me and tears began filling his eyes. He dropped to his knees and began convulsing. He was unconscious and not responding to anything. He kept saying, "Tha tha tha tha tha." He said nothing else. He would shake for a while, then be calm and sleep until he woke again. This went on for weeks. The physicians kept telling me it was normal. He had no where to go, so he took the guest room. He didn't speak really. He just mumbled beneath his breath.

        Until he asked for grits. This was the first thing I could understand since his re-birthday. He wasn't himself. Months went by and he was alive, but not the same person I knew then. He was actually the opposite. I asked him to play the piano that I bought just to have as furniture. He couldn't play anything. As soon as his fingers touched the keys, he would shiver and shake, then leave the room as fast as he could. He was only interested in my kids. This is strange because he had always hated kids. He was honed in on everything I had wanted as a kid, except it creeped me out now. It was like looking at an incredibly familiar person that you'd never met.

...

Him
 
        I saw him and my heart broke. I had written about heartbreak and put it to music my entire life, but I had never felt it I don't think until today. It hurt so very much. His face was familiar because I knew him when he was little, but also because I think I saw him while I was cold...maybe saw him a lot.

        He looked at me at first as if I wasn't there, then closer. After a moment, I felt his eyes inside of me. He asked me my birthday, and the answer came across my lips before I could even figure it out. I panicked and tried to speak, but only looked simple. I was still the blubbering idiot I was at first thaw. In his eyes, I remembered him running around the yard in his little cape, pretending he was the most powerful force on earth. I remembered holding his little frail body when he was born. I remembered him trying to suck on my nose.

I remembered feeling so intensely that I walked away from them. I didn't want to feel it. So I went.

        I worked and worked. I buried myself in whatever misery I could glean from leaving them
in the same house I still lived in. I became a wild success. I remembered feeling so happy and so accomplished winning awards and having people notice me. It felt like being someone else...this huge star that would never burn out.

        But I can remember things now from when I was frozen. I remember emptiness. I saw myself being adored. I hated it. I didn't deserve it. I don't remember many specifics, but I do remember a sequence in my dreams or whatever you want to call them, that focused on me as a little boy. I was speaking to another little boy, who appeared in front of me from somewhere. He looked like my son. but he was older. I remember thinking that it was him, but wound up just staring at him. It was a memory. I was trying to play baseball with the kids from my block. I was always a band geek, but I wanted to have a friend. I kept trying to join their game. They kept refusing. I asked if I could just sit and watch or be the referee. The kid I most wanted as a friend told me to just "Go Home!" In this sequence of dreams, I kept hearing a variation of this kid and my son shouting for me to "Go Home."

        So when I woke and my body could move again...I went home. I travelled through a foreign world to a foreign house. But I got to look into the eyes of my son, who was anything but foreign to me. I looked at him and I saw him. It made me sad that so much time had past. My stomach drops to think about it. All of those times of celebration, mourning, and milestones were spent on earth without me. I was in a cooler when his mother died. He was alone. All of those years spent when he was just a kid one room from me. I closed the door on him. I put my fingers to the piano keys and sold my son.

...

Me

        I never married. I didn't want it. I never had kids. I have been lonely my entire life, waiting for something good to happen. But I wasn't really trying either. A friend once told me that good things happen to the people that are really trying at something. Something like God helps those who helps themselves. I don't know. I just didn't see much use in putting in the effort for a long shot.

        In my first year of college, I took a creative writing class. I never thought of myself as creative or poetic or anything my father was. But I took this class because it seemed to be an easy way to get those English credits. I wrote about my father. I wrote the paper during a drunken night, the night before it was due. I wrote whatever without anxiety. I just wrote. A week later, my professor would email me. He had given me an A. I expected this, creative writing is a blow-off anyways. But he also wrote something in the email that touched something in me. He told me, "I love your words. In fact, your words continue to echo in me. But I knew it before you wrote them. You wear those words all over. Keep making words, and keep wearing them."

        I felt valued and validated. I had always wanted some piece of creativity. I wanted anything but who I was. This meant a lot to me. Over the next two months, I put all of my energy into the class and writing about things that mattered to me. I got stumped with the right words and it never came naturally to me. I got C's for the rest of the semester. On my last paper. the professor accused me of plagiarism. He told me that these essays were not written by the same author as the one about my father. I got C in the class. I never picked up a pen again to express anything.

        Then he shows back up and I don't know how to take him. So I ask him where he has been. I ask him why I didn't matter to him.

...

Him

        "You always mattered. To me you mattered. I didn't know how to react to feelings that felt good. Good feelings never inspired me. When I was feeling good, I couldn't be me. I walked away not realizing that you were the very reason to play that piano, and to play beauty into the abyss." I told him everything. He was my son and the only thing I wanted left was for him to forgive me and love me again, like when he was just a kid.

        But he didn't. He asked me to leave. I left his house and walked down the street shaking. This wasn't because I was cold. It was because I had finally felt what it feels like to be warm and then be stripped into the cold. I felt the feeling of being left when you are the most vulnerable. Like he was.

        I walked to a motel and checked in. I went into the bathroom and took down the shower curtain. I twisted it until it was a large rope and tied it around my neck and fastened the other end to the shower pole. I said a prayer to a God that I've never been sure exists and I let me legs go limp and closed my eyes, trying not to struggle. I thought about my son and my wife. I thought about that beautiful song I couldn't remember. I thought about everything and realized that for once in my life I had to try. All of this musical talent came easy. Being a good father was the hard part. The part I was terrified of. I found my legs and stood back up. I loosened the noose and went to the bed and sat down.

        I had to be a different person than I was before I left. I had to try. Then a knock on the door.

...

Me

        I couldn't watch him leave again. I was so mad at him, but I couldn't let him go again. I followed him as he walked to the motel. I sat in my car in the parking lot just trying to figure the whole thing out. I weighed it all together. I remembered the bad times and remembered that feeling of inexplicable connection I have to him. I think about my mother and her funeral. I remember that she died still believing he would come back. It all didn't make any sense. Why now?

        I turned my key and backed out of the parking lot. I turned on to the main street and sped off as fast as I could. I wanted to be as far away as I could from my father, who left me. My father. My Father?!? I stopped, got out of the car and ran to the motel door. I slammed my fist against it without anything from the other side. I banged and banged and no one answered. So I took a running start and threw my body into the door and it broke open. I found myself on the floor of the motel room looking into the eyes of my father who was sitting in the bed bewildered.

        I got up and sat down beside him. We didn't speak for a while. We both just sat there.

...

Him

        He busted through the door. He was the last person I thought I would see. There was knocking on the door, but at that moment, I wasn't up for visitors. Then he came in. He sat down next to me and we both became silent. I couldn't figure him out. I was so confused, Why had "God" even woke me in the first place? Why did they thaw me? So I asked him. "Why did you come for me?" He didn't answer at first. He just sat there thinking about it. After grueling moments, he replied, "Because you came home."

        "Can we just go home now."
     



Sing.
Migrate.


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Where have I been......?



        "Do I know you? Do I even know you?" - S. Carey (Brassy Sun)

        I was watching this Netflix show called "Flaked." You all should watch it. It's funny, yet dramatic and the characters are real. In the very first episode of the second season, there was this scene that I won't spoil. But it punched me in the gut though, like so hard that it took my breath away. The song above played during.

        These words cut into me. "Do I even know you?" It's not speaking to me about knowing you. It's speaking about knowing myself. It hurt because when I look in the mirror most days... lately.... I don't recognize the person I'm looking at. I'm just a person looking at a person. I stand in the shower, the place that I used to do most of my praying, and I find someone just trying to get clean and get out.

        The problem is that I can't just get clean and get out. I have to put in the work and I don't want to. For me to get clean, I have to let go of some things that will bring me great pain to let go of. I'm not ready to do that. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready to do that. But I can't continue being who I am now. It isn't me and my entire soul is in mourning because of it. I have to find my way, apart from every dark place that lives inside of me.

        I'm gonna find my way.
        Even if it takes them from me.
        I have to find my way.
        Even if it takes everything I have left.
        I'll find my way.
        With the help of my God, and my family.
        I'm gonna find my way...

        To You.


I'm searching for whales.
I'm searching for me.





Sing.
Migrate.




Thanks for reading...Z

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 legs, 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 hear 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 stairs 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 just stared into the sky. I felt like I was aligning with the world and we were becoming a part of each other. And she was gone.

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 reached Missouri, I had become famous. My past was known to everyone. They knew my criminal record, my medical history, and my personal struggles. Everyone spoke to me as if they knew me when I reached their city. A lot of people offered me shelter, but I always asked the people that aren't offering. During my journey, I met the best and worst of America. There were the genuine lovers of humans and there were the documentarians who filmed 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