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Meeting the wee small hours.

There’s something about Christmas and Karaoke and me. We all three seem to stumble into each other when I’m in a state of massive flux, and before I know it these two end up simultaneous contributors to the highlights reel that is my existence. It’s like having two goofball high school buddies who somehow know to come knocking on your door once every few years, with a six-pack of beer or a bottle of Maker’s, right when you need a kindred spirit and a laugh.

The last time the three of us hung out like this was in 2010. Massive changes from within and without had me in the thrum of transition. I was visiting my parents in Spanaway, WA, and through some miracle of nature my elusive hermit of a brother was home. That night, the two of us walked a few blocks to TJ’s, a run-down little dive bar on Pacific Avenue, to grab a beer. Karaoke night was in full swing, and the first thing we saw was a tall, gangly, long-haired guy in his early thirties croaking out The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira.” A few beers later, I’d acquired enough courage to get up and do James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” Screw M&M’s: Nothing makes friends faster than getting a roomful of drunk people to shout “Get on up!” in repeated call-and-response.

Around 11 that night, my brother, five other patrons and I were crowding the floor of the place, singing a Village People song at the top of our lungs. To my right was the lost Oak Ridge Boy, and next to him was a pretty young woman just out of rehab, her elfin-beautiful features and childlike exuberance only slightly offset by the meth-darkened teeth she’d acquired as mementoes of her past. Her serviceman boyfriend, protective and almost paternal, had his arm around her waist as we all belted out “Macho Man.” To my left was my usually-taciturn but now-exuberant brother and a benign-looking married couple who’d talked about being swingers over beers a few minutes before.

There’s no way any of us (my brother and I excluded) would ever see each other again, never mind hang out in real life. But as we danced, yowled drunkenly, and hoisted pints of Rainier under the glow of vintage beer signs, we were a bunch of misfits united by the need to be someplace besides solitary and homebound. In its own weird rattletrap way it was just what a bunch of Christmas orphans needed.

It’s only appropriate that my two goofy pals Christmas and Karaoke would show up for a reunion in 2016, a year that’s pimp-slapped me into such a state of flux that it’s a miracle I’m not a bunch of disjointed atoms floating around haphazardly. I’m restless and itchy for something to do after returning from a Christmas visit to my parents’ house. Salvation comes in the form of an invite to Karaoke at Bar Sue, a bar on Capitol Hill.

There’s no reason to think, given what a mean bastard 2016’s already been, that Christmas wouldn’t fall right in line with the preceding 11 months. Of course, it throws one more epic body blow in the form of George Michael’s death. But I join a whole roomful of drunk Christmas orphans/night creatures/misfit toys as we tell 2016 and Death to fuck themselves, largely to the tune of George Michael.

It feels a little like a wake. Dressed-to-the-nines Christmas party defectors and a cross-section of every species of Capitol Hill denizen sing, dance, and drink. George Michael pops up on the cue, time and again. Somewhere amidst the caterwauling but fun renditions of Michael’s hits, it hits me what a brilliant pop songwriter he was. I think with some sadness about how I’d literally grown up with him, and how he’d never record again. But the people jammed in Bar Sue do their unintentionally pivotal part to kick any moping to the curb, damn quick.

Not every reveler busts out a Wham or George Michael song. Jeannine, the issuer of the karaoke invitation, owns Bowie’s “Oh! You Pretty Things,” leaning forward and twisting ‘round and singing like Iggy Pop in a dark velvet dress. A faultlessly-pretty man with a shaved head and nose ring sings a pop song I’m too old to have heard before, in a lovely high voice, and the whole room dances. I’m socially-lubricated enough to throw my hat into the ring, not at a George Michael song (not even gonna try for those blue-eyed soul boy high notes) but at “Ziggy Stardust.” And I’m just tippled enough to be certain that I kinda kill it.

Some kid in a Christmas sweater is belting out a nu-metal song when I wind my way through the packed bar to leave. I bump into a girl in a spangly jumpsuit and pixie haircut who’s been dancing near me for a fair amount of the night. She smiles at me and gives me a random hug. Then out of nowhere we wind up kissing for several seconds, like it’s midnight on New Years Eve and fate has pushed us into each other’s orbit. It’s a sweet, innocent moment that gracefully fades out with both of us laughing a little as she kisses me once more on the cheek and I walk out the door. My mind turns down the nu-metal, and I’m hearing the bittersweet wee-hours beauty of “Kissing a Fool” in my head, as I head home.

I have today off. Most of it’s been spent in the throes of mundane necessity—going over bills with a fine-tooth comb, cleaning, picking up groceries while I still have unlimited use of my vacationing neighbors’ car. George Michael’s been on the radio as I drive, and on my computer streaming steadily via YouTube videos all day. God help me and my too-low voice, I’ve been singing along.

The richness and complexity in so many of his songs is intense, and all the more resonant given the state of upheaval my life’s been in lately. I notice how the seductive baby-making groove serves as ironic counterpoint to the bitterness and anguish in “Everything She Wants,” and how an exultant retro-soul number like Wham’s 1984 single “Freedom” comes equipped with a sense of defiantly fighting against the inevitable. Those songs and at least a couple dozen others just demonstrate the guy’s genius. He made heartbreak and pain into sing-along fodder as catchy and exhilarating as the joy tautly running through the irresistible hooks of “Faith.”

There’s consolation in the fact that so many people around the world were replicating what was happening in Bar Sue last night. George Michael gave the world a bunch of songs with enough staying power to keep people singing along for decades. That’s as satisfying a middle finger in the direction of Death and the rest of this shitty year as you’re gonna get.

2017 will be better. We’ll make it better. You gotta have faith. Or at least a late-night reunion with Christmas and Karaoke, just when you need it most.

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Rainsong

January 6, 2013

Someone I love dearly with every fiber of my being is leaving; going somewhere mysterious yet fulsome with a promise of abiding peace and comfort seldom attainable in this ivy-threaded coil. The finality and magnitude of that journey come in the fullest rush of clarity as I’m walking in the luminescence of a sunny winter morning.

It hits me just as the song begins, a plaintive acoustic guitar strumming out chords as an electric guitar thrums out a languid counterpoint. The melody lulls me and I glance up at the sky and its blue vastness, when the final guitar note of the introduction bends. It’s a strange sound, mournful and alien, coloring the air and reflecting the heady unpredictability of the journey in ways a pile of empty words never could.

But words fill my head as the strings soar and notes from a piano strike purposefully. Those strings keep surging, and sentiment brushes aside stupid propriety, granting me permission to feel and love and cry and care. And this human being who taught me to feel and love and cry and care is inexorably winding around every note as the song continues.

I think back to the first time I heard the song, when I was a spotty 15-year-old kid just starting to perceive how hearing a piece of music could preserve a moment in time–an entire life, even–with total fidelity. The notes continue their strangely-soothing pathway along my present-day ears and in my present-day head, and I remember how rich it sounded to me the first time I heard it. The lyrics speak of the passing seasons with undisguised romance and melancholy, with fragments of melodic beauty so vivid they ache. In a little over seven present-day minutes the song stirs reflection and contemplation like nothing’s stirred me before.

A stately wash of strings builds. I start feeling moisture insinuating itself behind my eyes. I’m thinking of her and the lushness of the music draws a flood of reminiscence and it’s like her life (or at least my perception of it) flashes before me, as I’m convinced it’s flashed before her. All the pain and struggle she’s been through, choices both wise and reckless, battles large and small, and the defiant spirit that survived them all pour from the notes and chords like sand tumbling through a freshly-turned hourglass. Then the note bends again and tears burst fully to the fore. The unknown, and the weight of the loss, have surfaced.

I’m breathing in the sadness and yet some sense of hope and release is rising. The music telegraphs the change of seasons and the approaching hour of departure with total fidelity. She’s surrounded by loved ones, and her fiery shock of red hair has faded to a hue that’s faintly golden in the half-light. The trek has begun: I can see her walking into the unknown and looking into it with flashing violet eyes, even as her pale form lies on the bed breathing shallowly.

We all take turns leaning into her ear and whispering words of consolation and devotion. The rattle of her breaths is an unsettling, ugly thing at first. But after awhile it sounds like what it is–the idling of a fleshly vehicle that’s finally broken down, nothing more or less. And she’s done what any courageous traveller would do under the circumstances: She’s left it and bravely undertaken the rest of the journey alone and on foot.

And I know that as she rounds the corner she hears the voices of those she’s forced to leave behind. She’s smiling that smile informed by mischief and passion as she’s looking behind her. She’ll see us all again soon enough. And she doesn’t have to fight anymore.

I listen to the song again days later, walking a rain-smeared route from her house to the home of my childhood–a route I walked scores of times growing up. This world used to feel cramped and dull, like a too-tight garment that confined and held me. Now this slick street off the beaten path in the suburbs feels unfathomably massive–infinite, even.

The trees, bare and moss-encrusted and grown to cloud-scraping breadth, catch the rain and the streetlights, and the brightness and wetness stir and flicker. I hear her feet, small but sturdy, pattering in the pools of precipitation.  She’s part of all of it now, one of the forces of nature moving the branches alongside the wintry gusts of wind and the sheets of rain. She’s just ahead of us now.

She’ll see us all again soon enough, smiling that mischievous smile even as she tells us everything is happening for a reason and that everything will be OK. And as tears put the suburban wilderness into soft focus, the last three words she whispered into my ear a few weeks previous, before that vehicle could no longer fulfill its end of the journey, are tumbling from my lips: I love you.

The Last Another Busy Day

December 20, 2012

He chanted this part and between the Latin syllables reflected on speckled marble and salt

Maybe it’ll all tumble down the sky and all maybe but then again maybe not and that’s for it to kind of know and for you to do something about

“If I don’t do this, it’s our last day on Earth,” Doug chanted. “I’ve got work to do.”

He stood in the middle of the living room, arms aloft. He was swaddled in an oversized wizard’s robe–whether it was a Halloween costume he’d dug out of the closet or what, he didn’t say. Somehow, it seemed to make sense.

The loose and flowing sleeves descended just about to his elbows as he began gesturing; fingers clawing, stretching, contracting as though he were casting some arcane spell. His bare feet partly submerged in the green shag carpet, and his head was downturned like some sort of pantomime version of a badass. The hood of the robe hung over his head and most of his shaggy blonde hair, so all you could see was his angular nose and chin as he continued talking. Sometimes Doug was like this when he’d had a lot to smoke, but he kept asserting that he was herb-free this time. “I want to see it all with clear eyes right now,” he said. “When I’ve saved us all, then I’ll celebrate. The Holy Fool will celebrate.”

Eric looked up from his philosophy book at the silly wizard in the living room, contemplating what was going on. It was 11:57pm and in three minutes the world would end, if a bunch of Mayans who’d been chipping away at a giant stone disc weren’t just blowing smoke or chewing cerebellum-painting mushrooms. He had a final in less than ten hours: The apocalypse couldn’t be counted on to postpone it, and Doug’s flights of batshit-weird were starting to wear a little thin.

Rain spattered intermittently against the apartment’s front window as Doug upturned his palms, segueing into a story about a girl he’d kissed earlier that week. He slowly raised and lowered his hands repeatedly. “She was a sea siren,” he said with the stable lucidity of a broker rattling off Stock Exchange numbers. “Tasted like salt and her hair was restless, and she told me about how it was gonna end. Old world getting gulped up by pulsing red ichor lava, new world coming in a big gust of amorphous snowstorms and continent-scraping glaciers and shit. But I got magicks. I think I can counter it.”

“Cool, Doug. Do it,” Eric deadpanned.

The rain spatters abruptly shifted to a squall, water smacking against the window as the thrum of the wind began rattling the pane. Doug went silent for several seconds, looking down at the carpet. The silence roused Eric into looking up again.

Doug’s head remained downturned, and the robe’s hood continued to conceal most of his features. He stood in profile in front of the window, silhouetted against the light nudging its way through the gaps in the curtains. Then the illumination grew in strength. Eric reckon

 

ed it was a car pulling into the complex’s driveway, but it kept getting brighter, like a sunrise at time-lapse speed. The window rattled louder, until a clap of what sounded like thunder punctuated the groaning of the glass.

“Do you think she could change your life?” Doug whispered. Suddenly his right hand shot out, palm turned towards the window. The light intensified outside, and he continued muttering in what sounded like tongues or a foreign language flecked with cryptic fragments of English. Eric started watching Doug and noticed that the window’s rattling muted when Doug pushed his open palm in the glass’s direction. When he eased his hand, the rattling regrouped.

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“Put your hand back up, Doug,” Eric muttered–no longer annoyed, no longer amused, but definitely freaked out.

A louder blast of noise caused the window to rattle so loudly it sounded fit to shatter. Doug raised his palm again. He was a good ten feet away from the window, but as he thrust his palm towards the pane the shuddering calmed and the boom-echo eased. Doug’s whispering elevated to an audible, clear chant. Eric still couldn’t understand half of what his roommate was saying, but he was staring mesmerized now as Doug lowered one arm while keeping the other aloft.

The light beyond the beige curtains flared to an even greater intensity, and another sustained boom shook the place. The sound continued to reverberate, and soon the entire apartment felt like it was trembling in response. The rumble reverberated in Eric’s chest now, and he squinted at the near-blinding glare assaulting them. Doug continued chanting, lips moving beneath the hood with the regularity of a metronome clicking away. His arm stiffened midair, as though it was fighting with the shuddering of the windowpane, and he continued chanting–through clenched teeth, now. The vibrations of the apartment building made the black sleeves of Doug’s robe billow like seaweed caught in a current.

“Do you think she can change your life??!” Doug yelled. He thrust his raised right palm decisively in the direction of the window. One deafening clap erupted from outside, and the blazing illumination that had immersed the entire outside world extinguished with the abruptness of a light switch being flipped.

Just as suddenly, the rain winnowed down to a trickle. Eric stared, transfixed, at his roommate. Doug stood stock-still, right arm still raised and palm still upturned, but he’d grown silent. For a good minute, the only audible sounds were his ragged breath and the pinging roll of rainwater cascading through the apartment’s gutters.

Doug lowered his right arm and pulled the hood off of his head with his left. Perspiration had adhered his hair to his forehead and temples. Then he walked over to the dining room table, slumping with a loud gust of air into one of the wooden chairs.

“Sorry man, but you’re totally gonna have to take that exam tomorrow,” he sighed.

Arturo watched as Corvio and Lorena danced.

“Damn the devil; it is sweltering,” Grandfather muttered. “How I hate days like this… How I hate this place.”

Arturo sat on the warm earth as his grandfather ranted. The boy had spent several minutes playing with a stout, long blade of wild grass, pressing the slender green leaf between his thumbs and puffing away at it until it buzzed and whistled.

The two lovers some 100 feet away swayed under the weight of the horizon-warping sun. Lorena’s black hair danced on the warm Brazilian breeze like tendrils of a richly-rooted plant. Corvio’s fingers ran through the licorice strands as a distant steel drum band pulsed away.

“If you hate this place so much, Grampa, why don’t we leave?” Arturo asked innocently.

A dry laugh escaped from the old man’s striated and bearded face. “When you are poor and old, boy,” he sighed, “your feet magically disappear.”

Arturo became restless and rose to his feet, walking towards the center of the intersection. He walked past the dancing couple, strangely distracted by Lorena’s flashing, unsolicited smile.

A wooden bucket sat just shy of the street corner, worn and faded-brown from sitting in the sun. Slick sheets of soap coated the surface of the still water within. Arturo pulled the strand of grass from his lips, stood up, and walked to the container. As his bare feet scraped against the dry grass kicking up tiny plumes of dusty earth, he curled the long green blade in his fingers into a loop, twisting the bottom until it formed a perfect ring. 

Then the boy dipped the grass ring into the soapy standing water and removed it with a jerk. A rainbow sheen of soap swirled prismatically at the ring’s center. With one puff from his lips, Arturo sent a flurry of bubbles into the waning glow of the dusky air.

Arturo soon followed the swirling mass of shiny globes towards a cactus at the center of the street’s intersection. The government had killed many plants on this patch of land, but spared this one native piece of vegetation. All who gazed on it knew why.

An uncharacteristically slender base stem supported a mass of seven cactus branches, each festooned with blossoms and spines. Reptiles and insects alike gravitated to the organic structure, exploring its vividly-colored blossoms and sharp white barbs. Several honeybees drifted around the scarlet blossoms decorating the cactus’s green framework. All Arturo knew was that the cactus–’seven of hearts,’ his neighbors called it–was a tiny fount of indescribable beauty.

Another film of soap clung to the interior of Arturo’s grass ring. The bees drifted lazily in the air above the alien-beautiful cactus, buzzing slowly but certainly towards the boy’s head. Arturo forcefully exhaled another puff of air through the grass ring, and another fleet of soap bubbles burst forth.

One of the honeybees accelerated forward into the sea of bubbles, until it pierced one of the globes. Instead of bursting to nothingness, the bubble continued to surround and encase the bee hovering wishfully above the cactus blossoms. A lizard, its compound eyes mesmerized by the floating soap globes, began snapping bubbles up with its tongue. Lacquered and armored beetles squirmed methodically along the cactus’s surface.

The bubble-imprisoned bee buzzed directly into Arturo’s surprised face, until its soap prison burst and scattered droplets of moisture about. The boy followed the insect’s progress around his head, watching wistfully as it ascended towards the hot yellow sun.

The cliffs sat along to my left, slicked by the incoming mist carried surreptitiously by the winter breeze and one ribbon of thin white foam cut across the rolling blue; more blue cerulean maybe

 

skittered above the green of the remaining coastline, frosted decorated by pillows of lazy diaphanous something

Just past the foam and the green blue water the whistle symphony rose; oh my ears and the chorus blanketing the whole of view of time and tide; two people far down the beach

 

melding with the cool saltwater-saturated sand ambling, oblivious to the sound or maybe sculpted by and growing from it

Maybe I dreamt them but did not dream the scarlet.

One rock jutted forth from the waves and foam, and a vermillion cloth bobbed and eddied at its base. Opaque amber seaweeds encircled, threading around the red mass and obscuring its edges. two air pockets at its center caused the crimson to bulge in fulsome curves red bosom or muscle pumping saltwater blood

and the chorus–gulls harmonizing with watery whispers–kept persistently thrumming buzzing purring as I walked into the water immune to the cold engulfing my legs then enveloping my midriff and shoulders. Breeze continued bringing the mist and it clung to my face and lightly stung my open eyes

Floated closer to it, I did; those coils and tubes of sealife forming vessels and arteries around the red silk muscle at the hem of the rock’s skirt and I checked my ocean heart’s pulse

putting hand to it as it beat and the amber veins and tubes threaded through my outstretched fingertips, musky saltiness filling my open head

Circa 1975, it was, I think. I was seven years old, on an Arkansas-bound Trailways bus with my mom and little brother. My mom sat next to John, and I sat across the aisle from the two of them, stretched out between two seats and looking out at the deep indigo sky as the silhouetted landscape zipped by.

At some point the bus stopped to pick up more passengers at a brightly-lit terminal somewhere around what I think was Idaho, and my stretched-out reverie was broken when a woman stepped on to take the second seat on my side. I politely shifted to the window seat while she took the aisle.

She made me nervous at first; just because I was a shy kid, too young to understand females in general. Strange, floral-scented aliens, they were, I thought. But after a few minutes of silence she noticed the book in my lap–Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea–and asked me how I liked it. I started talking to her about how full of strange and wonderful things it was; how different it was from the Walt Disney movie I’d seen a few weeks previous, and yet how similar it was. And she responded in kind by talking about that book and other science fiction books she’d read. She was going to college, she said, and loved sci-fi.

After awhile my shyness began to thaw some, and I looked up at her. She was slender; with long, straight blonde hair and alert-but-kind green eyes. She wore a pink T-shirt and faded bell-bottoms, and laughed a lot. She was older than me, but younger than my mom and most of the other adults I knew. In the course of a few minutes time she was talking to me like an equal, engaging me in conversation and addressing me in a way that no adult before ever had.

She began telling me stories about the highway down which we sped. At one point, an illuminated cross pierced the night horizon, glowing about a mile away from the road; and she told me how it had been erected to commemorate the passing of a sports star who’d perished in a plane crash. She told me a lot of other stories, too; about places she’d seen, books she’d read, people she’d known. She looked young, yet seemed to know so much about the world.

Every now and then, she’d lean over me to point out some building or unusual tree. My eyes would follow her finger as it pointed against the window, and occasionally I’d find myself looking at her as she described the world beyond that glass. Little kid enthusiasm would play against her features, and that exhuberance was infectious. It was the first time I’d met a (pretty much) grown-up who possessed that kind of energy. After what was probably a good couple of hours I began to get drowsy. I stifled a yawn, and she smiled. “If you’re tired, you should go to sleep,” she said serenely. Truth be told, I wanted to talk with her some more; but exhaustion overtook me and I drifted off.

The next morning I woke with a start. In the place of the blonde girl who’d kind of enchanted me was a heavy-set Mediterranean-looking man with a jet-black cookie-duster of a moustache. The blonde girl was gone.

My mom gently needled me at breakfast about chatting up the girl the night previous, a concept that made my seven-year-old face flush slightly. That flush turned to full-blown tomato redness when a middle-aged African-American woman who’d befriended my mom on the bus said, “Tony found himself a girlfriend!” with a restaurant-filling chuckle. Of course I was embarassed: I was crushing hard on a girl–a woman–for the first time, and it was pretty uncomfortable being outed.

Days went by. My mom reconnected with close family, and my brother and I experienced a humid, fulsomely green land of adventure. We stayed at my great-grandparents’ house, a two-story white structure that looked big as a southern plantation to my child’s eye. Katydids chirped deafening choruses amongst the trees at night; John and I walked along the sidewalk shaded by oak trees as the sky drenched us with warm rain; my great-grandma fed me beefsteak tomatoes the size of my head; and my brother and I sat in a paddle boat with our Uncle Dane one hot spring night, watching a creek bed that teemed with masses of tadpoles and watergrasses that seemed to descend to infinity.

Then one morning my Aunt Brooke packed my brother and I into her giant station wagon, and she drove us to a burger place for lunch. On the way, a song came on the radio. And for some reason, that tune instantly took me back to being on that bus several nights previous. In about two-and-a-half minutes I found myself reminiscing on the conversation, on the world that stretched beyond that bus window, and on the pretty college girl who’d opened my eyes to that world for a couple of hours.

The song that played on Aunt Brooke’s AM radio was “To Sir With Love” by Lulu. And long story short, it still makes me think of that girl on the bus every time I hear it.

Varla on the Mind

February 5, 2011

We’d been driving down the highway for a good hour, and we were just a mile or two from the Nevada border. A red/orange slash of cloud cover sliced against the ebbing blue sky. I navigated the car around the automotive husks littering the asphalt, and every now and then I’d glance at her, appraising her as intensely as I could without rolling off of the asphalt.

She was reclining in the partly-lowered passenger seat of my Mustang, cigarette propped between her white teeth. God or the Devil—damned if I knew which, damned if I cared—had poured her into a pair of snug black jeans, and I navigated her every mouthwatering curve with my eyes. She looked up at me, a lazily-sensual hedonist’s smile lighting up her face. An inch or two of her taut midriff peered from beneath her black T-shirt; and her restless, stilettoed right foot kept pulsing against the car floor. We finally hit a clear patch—only a few stray vehicle carcasses blemished the largely open highway ahead—and I was ready to open up the engine. Her sweet vermillion gash of a mouth drew back a deep drag of smoke as I stomped on the gas.

The tires tore into the pavement with a falsetto scream, and the car rocketed forward.

A pattern dances on the curtain so inconspicuously that I forget its color and structure the instant my eyes leave it. No matter. The ghosts are here, filling my eyes and (accidentally, imagine that) my head.

The two bulbous-nosed rounders laughing and embracing fraternally as they’re showered with halycon celebration and the realization that the frozen moment is the most joyful either may ever experience;

Mom sitting on the steps dreaming of the man who sired the children peppering the weathered wood around her like sentient mushrooms;

The two troubadours, one who only opened his mouth once and the other who laughed off his heart because to not do so would leave the wound in its place gaping and stung by the open air;

Him, smiling and wealthy but doomed to never want or need to fit;

She with the gorgeous profile, next to the man she’d loved and still danced with once the kisses ran dry;

The Muse of the man whose chaos lived in the rest of the world’s eyes (nothing compared to the one that’s breathed life here);

The younger-than-yesterday girl surrounded by ebony-skinned wraith-angels who had no idea she’d join them soon;

…And the last one who reminded me that I wasn’t too old to steal a kiss

                           sans fidgeting.

‘Til Eyes 1

January 9, 2011

It was the perfect adjective as the mist slicked the pavement and caused scars of white light to slash across the surface. I walked over to the grass just

 

beyond the sidewalk and laid recklessly in it; placing my hand to the moist earth,

 

deliberately stroking and fondling the moist blades, feeling the wet soil as my fingers dig

into it and that silty earth insinuates its way under my fingernails.

I’m still psychic;

 

saw your dark eyes as they surveyed a figure televised in a messianic pose. Rain rolls down my face and runs into my eyes.

 

Then you gaze upon her angular face with the huge all-encompassing eyes. I sent her to you because I knew you of all cosmics would see inside in ways that no one else would.

Her dress could’ve been any color really but your mind fills in the gaps as it should be; swimming? No. It’s just the wind winging its way through her hair and the folds of the dress; dark but ambiguous in hue because you’re dreaming and for once there’s no color

 

                                                        just fluid linearity and a slender shoulder upon which her chin rests. Maybe I throw down the gauntlet to whisper or scream or dance ridiculously while my shirt clings to my sodden form

 

and I fall back into the mud.

  

  

 

 

Basic. Touch your fingers to earth; the back of your head sits in the silt, ringlets of brown curling tentacled around your face like octopus halo. Camera in your eye stares heavy-lidded upward and you see the battering rain steering currents that make that succulent brown mass  of  hair move and cling fortuitously to that forehead and cheeks

 

Call

                                                    Response

I was grade-school age and my face was pressed to the window of my dad’s orange Chevy. It was my window to the world during our family outings. My parents never had the money to take us to Disneyland or even across state lines when I was little, so we saw as much of the state from that rolling orange bear of a car as a full tank of gas and my dad’s behind-the-wheel stamina could bear.

Ma and Pa never were much for music: It was always background to them, as it was when we drove through the Cascades (or at least that’s where I think we were) that Sunday afternoon. My brother fidgeted in the left passenger side next to me, picking purposefully at the black faux-leather seatback like it was an especially itchy scab. Fun and funny as he was, he sometimes didn’t have the patience for the long drives. Me, I liked letting the scenery and the music carry me at their own pace.

The piano galloped on the AM radio, echoing throughout the car because it was too chilly outside to roll down the window, and because my parents were too preoccupied to turn the radio down. So I associated–for years–the grandeur of those conifers jutting from the countryside, and the winding roadways opening up to increasingly spectacular vistas as the car glided along the ill-tended asphalt, with those loping ivories and the way the clapping and drums loped along.

Frankenstein in glittering platforms, stomping through the fuzzily-scenic woods.

They didn’t really have any literal connection, the forest and the massive beauty and that song, I guess. But it all made sense and still does to my insides; the part of me that knows that the song and that drive celebrated something alien-beautiful and silly and wonderful about what my eyes and ears were absorbing that day. I remember the taste of the glass and the condensation of my breath on the surface as Elton John playfully hissed out the S in Jetssssss, and it spikes directly from the little kid sitting in that car to the ostensible adult occupying this particular space during this particular Now.

Underneath the branches of a faintly-moss-dusted and winter-bared tree I sit on a picnic bench in Seattle, listening to the song and remembering. The night sky’s draped in the same gauzy beauty-haze as it was that afternoon in the Cascades or wherever we were, all those years ago. A full moon stares down (he can always be counted for memory spikes, no matter what the hour). And it’s the exact same temperature–I’m sure–as it was that day, when after what seemed like ages I cranked down the rubber handle of the Chevy’s rear window and stuck my head out.

I feel the air in my lungs, and in a slow-motion replay of that afternoon long ago the rushing breeze is buffing my cheeks to a numb sheen; nostrils and mouth flooded by the coolness so headily that I chomp at the air like a dog, gulping oxygen and shivering slightly. And I realize that the balding sparkle-adorned imp singing those alien-silly lyrics in unearthly falsetto and tickling those grand piano keys was some sort of an angel for five minutes of my life.