3.14.4.18

One.

The first time I saw you:
You were magnetic
With your cracked tooth grin
Tattoos gracing your skin
Your steel toe boot
Stomp across a scuffed
Hardwood floor painted
The color of one hundred
Midnight hours passed
In delicious summer stillness
Your eyes
Catch mine
You smile
And I smiled back
The humidity hanging
Thick in the air
Turned electric, sending
My skin tinging
For a moment
Like an alien
Sensing a kindred spirit

Two.

Two hours later
Dancing at the show
Sweaty and smiling
On the precipice
Of “punk for life”
I wonder
Just when we get
Too old for this
Fifteen years after
I screamed the words
“Young until I die!”
For the first time
The band
Right on the cusp
Of stardom, or what passes
For it down here
On this dirty living room floor
Is giving it their
Absolute all
You introduce yourself
In the sweaty afterglow
Wild hair stuffed
In a knit black beanie
Despite the summer heat.

Three.

Two years on
All fucked up
On sleeplessness and loss
And expensive liquor
Twenty-one days since
A single shotgun shell
Shattered the world
Of almost every person I know
Back home

So I came out here alone
Breaking in steel toe boots of my own
Praying to stomp my way down
Enough strange streets
Turn down enough blind curves
Walk up enough steep hills
To outrun this
Sadness swallowing sadness

We share a drink
And a fierce affinity
For one another
Intelligent eyes
Growing harder
And harder
I look at you
And see a mirror.

Four.

You are my friend
And one of the
Best and brightest
I know
Sitting in your parking spot
Making the most
Of our small hours
Before the dawn

I wouldn’t go back now
To visit those hours
Inhabit those shed skins
But I wish
I could visit
To hear the grace
Of your laugh
And the light
Behind your eyes
One more time

Five.

The sharpness in
Your words matches
The razor glint
In your eyes
I’ve seen that malevolent
Glow pouring out of my
Own skull, tasted that venom
Dripping out of my mouth
So many times before

Blessed as we are
With this curse
Brilliant minds, that move too fast
And suspicion to match it
Paranoid thoughts pushing
A soul past the red line
Like the time
Our friend kissed
That boy who
Wasn’t your boyfriend
But you wanted him to be
Even though you claimed
It was all no big deal
Later.

You sent a text
To our other friend
Telling her you hoped
Her clit shriveled
And fell off

“Goddamn, girl.
I wish you hadn’t said that.”

“What?
She fucked me over
And now she doesn’t
Deserve to ever
Feel pleasure again
I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Like it was the most rational thought in the world

I shuffled my feet nervously
Beneath the table
Reminding myself
To never get on your bad side
After all
We are so much alike
And I been on my own shit list
For most of my life.

Six.

I have been in bed
For four days now
The diagnosis came Monday
And with it a shattering
A feeling of never being
Able to trust myself again
I could stay here
In this room
Forever
Let heart starve out
Go to oblivion
Nobody calls on the phone
And I feel a loneliness
Like I’ve never known

And then you are at the door
Pulling me up into your arms
And into the world outside my window

“Come on, let’s get something to eat
Your brain may be trying to get the best of you
But this shit doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”

Seven.

Christmas comes.
And you, Josef
And I, are all alone.
Running from the worst
Goddamn heartbreak
I ever known
And the kind of cold
That cuts to the soul.
I made the three
Of us dinner
And we ate together
Thankful for the sanctuary
Found here in one another
From the heartless
Rain of this wretched city

I didn’t take any pictures
Of that night
But now I wish I had
You were too on edge
Looking out the windows
Over your shoulder
As if some unknown enemy
Would cross Eastside Street
And knock on the door

I mostly remember trying to play off the tension
And Josef hating the movie I pirated
And with good reason
That shit was way too violent
To watch on Christmas

And I see now
All the little red flags
I should have seen back then
The Storm getting ready to rage
Suspicion bordering on madness brewing
In the world behind your eyes

Eight.

New Year’s Eve
And We’re fighting
In earnest now
Outside a bar
That I didn’t even want
To be at anyway
Feeling like a thousand
Eyes are staring at me
In judgement
And condemnation
The beginning of
A long and painful
Process of separation
From this city

The same city
We both arrived in
With such cautious hope
Once upon a time
Like shaking hands
With something waiting
To gnaw at your insides

Struggle to comprehend
The reason and rationale
Behind your wrath
But the silence
And the evasive glances
Drive the final nail
In my new year.

Call it good
And leave the party
Before the countdown
To midnight even begins
Walk the tracks
Alone all the way home
In the bitter cold
Which I like
More than rain soaking to the bone
Ring in the new year
On the phone
Sitting at my desk
Staring out the window
Whispering nervously over
The phone to my best friend in this world
Because I got a feeling
That all hell
Might be coming home
For both of us
In the year to come

Nine.

I see you crossing the street
Through the fog
Walking home alone
The rumors been swirling
Around this lonely
Little town for weeks now

We all know
But don’t know
How to hold
Or how to even sit
In proximity to your pain
And the paranoia that follows
Praying to all the gods
Above and below
For your freedom
The best lover not a one
Of us ever got to know
From sorrow
Thirst
Hunger
Want
And loneliness
To wrap you in its arms
And bring you safely home.

Ten.

You are my friend
And still one of
The best I’ve known
Pacing around in the back yard
Pointing the finger of suspicion
In every direction
We’ve all known loss before
But goddamn,
It never came to me
Quite like this
There’s a first time
For everything, I guess.

Watching the mask of sanity
Slip away not with a whimper
But with a plaintive wail
And every accusation imagined

I drive home
And want to cry
I want a flood
To fall from my eyes
To wash this city clean
From all the bitterness
And all the fights
And all the plots contrived
That drove us to this point
That we may finally sleep
Through the night

Twelve.

We sit in the sun
In the bed of my truck
Outside the storage building
Where we both rent units now
You smoke a cigarette
And we soak
In that familiar
Feeling of defeat
Staring down the barrel
Of uncertainty and instability
For the hundredth
Time in this life

When you sold
Most of your stuff
I never told you
How I raced down to Rainy Day
And begged them to sell
Your records back to me
“Look, my friend is just
In a very dark place
I’ll pay double whatever
You gave her for all this stuff
So I can keep it safe for her
Until she’s well again.”

I threw my hands up
In exasperation when the
Guy behind the counter
Offered to sell me the
One of your records I
Could even identify
For seventy dollars.

You give me your bookshelf
Saying you might come back
For it someday
Even though I know you wouldn’t
And we carry it into my unit
And I padlock the door behind us
I see the resignation
Like set deep in your eyes
And feel a morbid sense
Of relief at what
That resignation replaced.

Thirteen.

You send a text message
To my phone right before
You get in your car and drive south
Straight out of my life

“I’m sorry.
I know you did your best
And you’ve been such a good friend
I just don’t know what’s real anymore
And I have to go.”

Fourteen.

Everyone hates what happens next
All the worry
And the wishing
Praying to the gray
Sky above us
Even though we
Are no longer certain
It even listens
For you
To just
Make it out
Of this.

Fifteen.

The last time I saw you
You were scared
And all alone
Smoking a cigarette
Flying a sign at a rest stop
Outside your busted car
Somewhere along the I-5.
When I stopped to piss
I had a feeling I would
See you standing there

I said hello
Gave you fifteen dollars
Told you I loved you
I didn’t try and argue
Or even address the demons
Taken up residence
In your head

I got back in my car
Drove and drove and drove
Away from Washington
Through Oregon
Straight to California
Luna and I didn’t stop
Until Los Angeles
Where the sun finally shone above us

Standing at the observatory
above the glittering ocean
Of electric starlight
I wished for a way
For the light
To wash away
The resignation
That comes with
The knowledge
That you can love
Your friends
As hard
And as true
And as purely
As anything you have
Ever loved in your life

But sometimes that love
Is not enough
To keep a flame alive.

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3.14.4.18

The Road – 5/17/19-5/19/19

I got back home from Philadelphia late last night.  I spent just under 24 hours in the city of brotherly love, but I managed to pack those hours with as much living as possible.

In order, then.

Not a ton interesting to tell about the drive to Philadelphia.  I stopped in Lancaster to stretch, and dropped in Angry, Young, and Poor.  Partly for nostalgia’s sake, partially to look at boots.  I always want to look at boots.  I bought some records, but didn’t find much else I was stoked on.  I still loved the familiarity of being in the shop.  It felt like returning to a place I had known and loved after a long absence.  Punk Rock one hundred percent saved my life when I was a lonely teenager stuck in Southern Pennsylvania in the nineties, and this place was a lifeline back then. I even still have some of the records and punk rock t-shirts I bought at this place twenty years ago.  I made small talk with one of the owners behind the counter, joking about how I hadn’t set foot in the shop in just about two decades and I was just happy that it still existed.

“Well damn, dude.  Welcome back to Pennsylvania.”

Something hit me that would be a repeating motif all weekend, was how friendly and just how real punks, even jaded aging punks keep it on the east coast.  I couldn’t remember when a punk rocker I didn’t know in the Pacific Northwest was this friendly to me.  Even some of the ones I did know, well odds are just as good they are gonna pretend they don’t see you in the grocery store or at the show anyway.  Olympia is a cold fucking town and I was so glad to be done with it for good.  As if to punctuate all this – the friendliness of punk rockers, the eager kids still keeping it real – as I was getting ready to leave the shop, two young kids came in to buy t-shirts and patches.  Dude behind the counter eagerly engaged with them, asking them what they were looking for, instead of treating them like some chump posers who would be so lucky to shop at his spot.

I smiled to myself the whole way out of Lancaster.

Driving through Pennsylvania doesn’t haunt me the way it once did.  I used to not be able to roll through Southern York County and through the expanses of forest and farmland without returning to the eerie feeling of being trapped that accompanied the very first time I crossed the Pennsylvania state line with my mother twenty-eight years ago.  I remember it still, like it was yesterday.  Ten years old in the passenger seat of my mother’s car and feeling like the trees that lined either side of the highway became more ominous as the mile posts ticked ever upward until we were in Pennsylvania proper.  Even then, I had a sinking feeling I might never leave this place.

So it was a surprise seven years later when Momma moved away.  Still, the feeling of being ensnared by Southern York County lingered for years, decades.  This place was a backdrop, a foundation.  So much a part of me and the person I grew into.  I see this place in my dreams, in my memories.  I write about it often.

More on that later though.

I rolled into Philly through rush hour traffic and went straight to pick up J for the show.  I know I used to talk shit on cities, and the gray concrete expanse of Philadelphia does make me feel a little bit claustrophobic, but goddamn.  This city has some beautiful architecture.  Rush hour sucked, but I was happy to take a breath and marvel at the buildings.  The whole northeast feels fresh like this for me, really.  I think this feeling is another product of living in the drab as shit, Pacific Northwest for five years.  I remember when Hannah visited me there a few years ago and she commented on how drab and lifeless, without history all the buildings and houses looked.  She’s not wrong.

I picked J up and we went to the show.  It was at some bar in South Philly.  Inside the show, the feeling of familiarity found me again.  I commented to J about how little the Philly street punk aesthetic had changed in my twenty-year absence.  I even saw a few kids with Blanks 77 and Violent Society patches on their jackets, bands I loved and absolutely lived to see when I was a kid who I don’t think have put new records out since before I was old enough to drink alcohol.  I think I read somewhere that Blanks 77 are playing shows again, but I don’t know.  They’ve been off my radar for years.

I don’t remember the name of the first band.  The Stance played second.  They played the gruff brickwall Oi that the punks and skins go nuts over.  I liked it well enough.  A little too gruff and not enough melody for me.  If I had any complaints, it was that the show felt a little bro-heavy, but I was still happy to just be out in the sea of smiling punks.  When the pit started too close to me, I just kept a side eye on the crowd and kept an elbow out, a tactic that has kept me safe for well over two decades now.  I thought about that time kids in Olympia jumped a dude, drug him out of the bar and broke a pint glass in his face for dancing too hard.  Color me relieved to be far away from reactive nonsense like that.

I grabbed some water at the bar before Battalion Zoska.  Pat was up there grabbing a pitcher of water for the band at the same time.  We made small talk for a second when he complimented me on my “Sometimes Antisocial, Always Antifascist” shirt.  Thanks dude.  I awkwardly shuffled through saying that catching Violent Society shows when I was a teenager was like finding an island in a sea of dead eyed pop mediocrity when I was a kid.  I went on to elaborate that watching one of my best friends deck a Nazi skinhead with every ounce of strength and bravery in his teenage body at a Business, Warzone, Vision, Violent Society show in April of 1997 was one of my introductions to antifascism, and gave birth to a lifelong hatred of Nazi skinheads, full fucking stop.  He said thanks for telling him that story, and walked to the stage.

Watching Battalion Zoska, felt so much like coming back home to the kid I once was, enthusiastic about punk and guarded all the same.  I only felt sad for not knowing any of Battalion’s songs.  I did, however admire Pat’s vest from the front of the stage – it looked like the kind of thing any one of us would have worn as a kid, but made by a man well into his forties, decades past giving a fuck about what anyone at the show thought, and if they thought he was a poser for having a Sex Pistols backpatch or not.

The Boils played next. I’d been so out of touch with their music, that I didn’t even realize that they had more or less retired a decade ago, only reuniting occasionally for special one-off gigs.  The kids and the middle-aged weirdos absolutely fucking lost it from the first note, to the last echo of feedback.  I stood onstage occasionally ducking a stage diver or crowd surfer doing their best to get into the light fixtures hanging from the low ceiling.  I smiled and got that feeling in my body that shows gave me before I left the east coast – the one where you feel at home and like this room is the center of the world for a half an hour, and that’s just fine.  All the war and oppression, and atrocity that you worry about 8 out of 10 of the days can wait at the door for a bit and you can just be.

I’m well aware that I’m idealizing a scene a bit, but goddamnit if I don’t need to believe in something right now. When I was a kid, punk kept me from killing myself I don’t even know how many times because it was there to remind me of the good inherent in my fellow human beings.  Right now, I want to remember that more than anything, so it’s what I’m running on because it’s a thousand times better than bitterness, emptiness and misanthropy.

Lion’s Law played, and shit was energetic, flawless, but less emotional.  I sang along to the songs I like and wondered how skinheads make those tiny cuffs in their jeans.  I’m more paranoid about germs than I used to be, and it’s funny.  I have papercuts all over my hands from work, and was constantly trying to touch sweaty crowdsurfers as little as possible for this reason.  The set ended, I bought a shirt and J and I drove back home listening to Bell Witch and making plans for a trip down south later in the summer.

I stayed up way too late talking to N, well past three AM.  The next morning all three of us went out for breakfast and coffee.  I felt hungover despite having consumed not a drop of alcohol the night before.  Just ragged from no sleep and movement.  I was happy to sip strong coffee and think about how much I love punk and my friends.  Maybe I was drunk on how real J and N are, and how sorely I have missed that authenticity while sequestered in the gray land of passive aggressive cliques and infighting.

Driving through Southern York County felt like searching for something without knowing what I was looking for, as it often does.  I followed my routine of going to the Shrewsbury Wal-Mart that opened in 1997, reshaping (read decimating) the economy of this town, like I always do.  I go to the bathrooms in the back of the store to piss, then I buy some tea.  I am always ready for someone to recognize me and make what-have-you-been-doing-all-these-years small talk, but it never happens.

When this fluorescent lit monument to consumerism opened in 1997, all my friends, and my mom got jobs here.  Before the Wal-Mart opened, these were just some vacant hills that kids rode their dirt bikes around on homemade trails.  Those days are long, long gone.  You stand in the parking lot now, and it’s almost impossible to imagine there was anything but a Wal-Mart here.  I cannot help but wonder how long the structure will stand after humanity starves itself off the planet?

When my mom briefly worked here, it was the first time I had seen any trace of hope on her face.  She even chastised me viciously for bleaching my hair blonde while she was at work.  “Now you look like a San Francisco Faggot, and I can’t take you to meet my manager!”.  It was like she believed a nine hour a day, forty-hour week at nine dollars an hour shift might let her re-write her story just enough to let her forget that she spent most of her days wanting to die.  The despair crept back in within a month.  The work was grueling and thankless, and for scraps at that.  The final straw came when one of her co-workers told my mom that their manager had been mocking her for wanting to change her schedule enough that it would allow her to see me on some days.  Writing this twenty-two later, I still feel incredibly anger at the insidiousness and heartlessness it must take to exploit the fading dreams of all the small-town suckers like my mom and my friends, desperate to change their stories.

It’s strange to think about my mother wanting to see me, considering how little she has “seen” me my entire life.  She saw what she wanted to see, putting the low down and dirty of who I was from her mind.  She still does this, I just resent her less for it now than I used to.  I mostly feel bad for her.  She missed out on the entire adult life of her only child.

I remember when one friend quit this place when she went to the hospital for her eating disorder.  That trip to the hospital began a downward spiral into heroin addiction that I don’t know if she ever recovered from.  I lost track of that friend over two decades ago. My other friend, the same aforementioned one that punched out the Nazi skin at the show worked there too.  He quit in style, just a month or two after my mom.  He came over directly afterwards, laughing and telling us how he balled up his apron and threw it in the shift manager’s face, telling him to go fuck himself.  This was the same manager my tangled with.

After Wal-Mart, I drove to the Shrewsbury Cemetery.  I’m always drawn to this spot anytime I’m back in Southern York County.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because it’s in such close proximity to where I attended my first punk show, at a rented church hall across the street.  Maybe it’s because it’s where my friends and I rotted away countless crawling hours that seem so serene and idyllic now.  D and I would hang out in the gravel shack during slow as molasses summer days, doing graffiti while D smoked weed.  We’d stand on the hill at the south end of the cemetery and look out off into the distance, into Maryland.  Watching the radio towers blink red steadily in the distance reminded me that life, an entire world existed outside of this tiny town, and one day we’d all escape it.

I couldn’t tell what, but something felt missing, like I was being pulled somewhere else, so I got in my car and moved on.

From the cemetery, I drove south on whatever that street that runs parallel to Main is.  It exits on Tolna, right near where E and L lived when we were kids.  Tolna Road is unrecognizable now, and part of me felt sad about this.  I drove down Main and took note of what all has changed at the intersection of Constitution and Main. I surprised myself at being disappointed that the Getty Mart is gone.  Torn down who even knows when to make way for a Walgreens.  The shopping center next to it looked like it had changed, but it was hard for me to tell, never having been as much of a focal point for my friends and I.

I thought about driving through the neighborhood where I had my first job – a paper route when I was 13, but skipped it.  Instead I drove South on Main as it gave way fully to Old York Road.  I passed the hill near the baseball field where DS broke his arm in 1993.  It’s still there.  I wondered how many kids have broken bones on it since.  There was the house across the street from the hill where I used to awkwardly fool around with a girlfriend in the basement when her parents thought we were watching movies when I was fifteen.  I thought about pulling into the bank parking lot further down the street to snap a photo of the spot in the parking lot that my friends and I utilized for skating late at night, but thought the better of it.  I try and spend less time looking sketchy nowadays.

My old neighborhood has changed considerably.  The last two years mom and I lived there, developers were building a new street and new houses at the end of our road.  J, A, and I hid up there one night when it was still relatively empty to smoke weed.  That’s my big memory.  Not worth driving up for.

My childhood home looks significantly different than it did the last time I drove past it.  It doesn’t look at all like the dilapidated repository for my mother’s dead dreams that I left behind two decades ago.  No overgrown lawn.  No peeling paint.  No foreclosure notice tacked to the door.  The owners built a new front porch, vastly extended from the stoop that my friends and I once sat on, listening to tapes and talking.

I left my neighborhood and headed back to New Freedom proper by the back road that I surprised myself by remembering my way around after two decades since the last time I walked it.  I remembered this one night during the summer between seventh and eighth grade when M and I were spending the night at his parent’s house.  I was on the phone with two girls across town while M tried to fall asleep watching TV.  The girls asked if we wanted to come over and make out.  I was into it.  I asked M if he wanted to go, and he said no.  Too worried about getting caught.  I tried to implore him to go along, telling him we could take this road, and not a soul would be on it at this hour and see us.  M wasn’t having it and went to sleep.  I got off the phone.  I remember little about those two girls past that night.  I fell into punk, and they fell into the background, significantly less enchanting then the world full of joyous outcasts I was falling in love with.

In New Freedom, I went to the Rutter’s to buy coffee and piss again.  I skipped going up Third Street.  I don’t even remember if M’s parents still live in that house.  I think she told me that they had long since left.  I think I remember the last time I drove east on Third, that K’s old trailer had been demolished.

Probably just as well.  Who knows what kind of energy would still haunt that place?  I think about that house, and being there as a wide eyed and scared kid.  Watching K’s mom nod out, watching her sketchy murderer boyfriend drink beer after beer. I remember listening to sad songs in K’s room, huddled around her small boombox and CD collection like it was salvation, or at least an escape from the kind of listless summer drudgery that I could almost wish for now, in that our days were filled with more boredom than worry.

Somewhere in the winter of ninth grade, K’s mom disappeared for a few months.  She ended up living with relatives.  One night she spent the night at my house just as the nights were their frozen nadir.  My mom made her sleep in the guest room, as if I wouldn’t end up just sneaking out of my own room and sleeping next to my friend anyway.  If my mom knew, she never told me.  Nothing happened that night anyway, aside from shared secrets.

K told me how she lost her virginity to a boy she was dating a few months earlier.  He was older than us by a couple years.  His name is lost to the years now.  Something beginning with a J, I think.  She told me how they had nowhere to go to have sex, so they broke into her mom’s vacant trailer and she had sex for the first time there.  When they were done, the boy held her all night.  They broke up a few months later.  I always thought that the trailer was maybe totally empty, and they must have fucked on the floor, but I think how little sense that made now.  K was living in the trailer with her mom and a different sketchy boyfriend by that next summer.  D, L and I went to see K shortly after they moved back in, and all the furniture was still there, smoke stained and sticky, just like it had been the year before.

I drove north to Glen Rock, and found the high school without a GPS after a friend challenged me to see if I could do so. I was only a little disturbed to find out I could still remember the way.  I drove around the parking lot and remembered being up there fucking around with D one summer and seeing this other fuck up that I knew only as someone who one of our friends had tried to stab in the neck with a pencil that year over him violating one of our other friends. The boy was driving his parent’s van fast over the speed bumps in the parking lot to see if they could get all four wheels of the van airborne at once.  Everyone in the car was laughing.  I noticed a younger girl in the passenger seat that I didn’t recognize.  The next school year that girl was dead from an accidental overdose after the boy broke up with her.  Everyone blamed the fuck up boy their friend’s death. So much so that he had to change schools to escape the bloodthirsty groups of kids out for him.  A few of us found out where he lived one night later that fall and threw forty bottles full of piss through his car windshield.  I remembered driving away laughing, and seeing him darting out to his front lawn to stare down our taillights.  I remember how angry and defeated he looked standing there in the lawn, fists balled up at his sides.

I thought about hanging out at school to write and let my dog run around, but the memory (and many others left a bad taste in the back of my mouth).  It felt too weird being there, almost like an atmospheric pressure, telling me I was in the wrong place, to keep moving.  I took a picture and left.  Eager to put distance between me and the place that had done it’s best to indoctrinate me and kill my creativity.  It didn’t even feel like a victory, writing there.

I drove to Glen Rock proper, left at the intersection where J and D and I once stalled out in a stolen car.  I drove past SM’s old house which I had totally forgotten about.  I instantly remembered how F told me he was out walking with his niece one night, and had seen the cops in front of the house, looking for SM.  They walked by later, just as SM was coming home.  F told me how he saw SM’s dad on the porch, waiting, and how hard he shoved him, right there on the porch.

I have always wondered if that was that awful night.  Driving past, I wondered if SM’s parents still lived there.  I heard somewhere that his mom never got over having to bury her firstborn baby.  I felt for SM’s mom, and his dad, and his brother and sister, and his own children.  Weird how different people can have different perspective on a life and its loss, and how time can soften that perspective.

I wished that the Wetzel’s was there, so I could go see if DS still worked there.  I haven’t seen DS in twenty or more years.  I’ve heard things here and there though.  F and L both told me that he worked at the meat counter there since just after high school.  That’s twenty years and a thank you for all your hard work and good luck out there.  I just googled it.  Wetzel’s was open for thirty-three years.  That means D worked there for twenty of the thirty years the store was in business.

I wonder how that was for him.

I drove back down Old York Road from Glen Rock, trying to find a place to write in Shrewsbury.  The park was filled with cub scouts.  Not really who I wanted to be near while I sat around and chronicled my lost youth and dreams dried out.  I went back to New Freedom to sit b J and L’s graves for a few minutes.  In another month, they will have been gone for twenty years.  I remember how significant that death felt at the time.  We were so young.  I sat with them for a minute, said hey, and moved on.

I used to skate in that church parking lot. A and I used to meet there to make out too.  I wasn’t allowed at her house.  Both because I was a bad kid, and because she wasn’t allowed to see boys yet. So that left the church.  The day before ninth grade, we met there to talk and make out.  She was mad that I had cut my long hair in favor of something I could put into liberty spikes.  We kissed goodbye and said we’d see each other tomorrow.  The next day I passed her in the hall, said hi, and she ignored me.  That was it.  We never spoke again.

I think we saw one another one more time after that.  On D’s porch.  She came over with her cousin who I had also dated to score weed.  I was visibly uncomfortable, and I remember D joking that I should make an ex-girlfriend club.  I heard later that she was seeing SM.  I worried for her, knowing the monstrosity that guy was capable of.

I finally settled on New Freedom Park to write.  I sat at a picnic table beneath the bandstand and wrote a love letter to C, wanting to share a significant and strange part of my history with them.  While I was writing, I noticed Crip and Blood graffiti on the table, which amused me to no end.  I told C a few things I remembered about the park and told them I missed them, but I was maybe glad they weren’t here.  I thought it would just be boring for them.

The park was eerily empty, save for a few kids playing on the other side of it, near where A and I once made out.  I left and went back to the cemetery in Shrewsbury to say goodbye to Southern York County for now.  The moon rose red and low in its majesty just as I pulled up.  I felt so thankful to greet it.  I looked to the south at the radio towers that my friends and I used to watch when we were kids, desperate for any sign that life existed outside of this place.  They were there, like always.  Blinking softly in the fading light.

When I looked to the south, I felt an old lover out there, somewhere else and I smiled.  I said hello to their spirit out in the night and thought about love, and time, and movement and letting go.  The sun was down, and it was time to get moving, to go home.  It was sweet, and I was ready to leave Southern York County.

I drove through the night, arriving home reinvigorated and relieved to live on the east coast once more.

The Road – 5/17/19-5/19/19

Night On Earth – 11/9/18

L and P are asleep in my room with me.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor is playing softly on the stereo.  Okay, P isn’t actually asleep.  I just heard quiet laughter and noticed that they are actually looking at memes on their phone.  Kids.

While I cannot totally account for where today went, the company of two sleeping friends in my small warm bedroom leaves me feeling more content than I have felt all week.  I woke up not feeling well, staring forlornly at the gray sky outside of my window.  I can see across downtown, into the West Side, and to the mountains beyond that.  Sometimes looking out at this city, I struggle to account for where exactly the last five years went.

I’m thinking about my ex.  The one that emailed me a few days ago, who I never seem to feel fully disentangled from.  Connections are sometimes so weird and beautiful and painful.  We learn the worst and best about ourselves through them.  I would feel self-conscious about mentioning them here, if I thought that more than a few individuals read this nonsense, or if I thought they remembered my URL.  I guess I also don’t believe in doing anything aside from splaying my messy heart across my throat in lieu of those tattoos I have yet to work up the nerve for.  That is to say, with one glaring exception, I don’t really give a fuck who reads this.  Vulnerability is strength, and some days feeling everything as hard as I do, vulnerability is the only thing I have going for me.

I daydream about moving home.  I live with my chosen family in the mountains, and write and garden.  I finish my BFA.  I work on journalism, and chronicle this world I love so deeply burning down.  I somehow work it out with the various heartaches that have kept me away from home for so long.  I try to will it all into being with how much energy I pour into these fantasy scenarios.  I wonder if it’s all wasted effort.  I wonder if I should leave my bedroom.  I realize more and more how comfortable with that great and dark unknown I am.  I have no idea what my ex will say in their follow up email.  I have no idea what this winter and its travels will hold.  I have no idea what my upcoming visit with C is going to be like.  I have no idea what changes the spring will hearken.

I have felt strangely comfortable with my solitude lately, almost uncharacteristically so.  The burning need to have someone else soften the edges of the void that lives inside of me has receded to faint background noise, a minor discomfort.  I want it to stay that way.  There is this part of me that doesn’t want to need or want anyone.  I just want to be hard and cold and efficient forever.  It’s the perpetual BPD dilemma, between feeling everything so hard that it keeps you immobile and doing your best to deaden your nerves just to get through the day.  What a hilarious joke it is to know that the answer lies within a middle path, but to be cursed with a way of seeing the world that often leaves room for only two extremes.

Right now, I just feel strong and content.  The void feels like a pinprick rather than a gaping wound.  I am happy writing these words, essentially a reminder of how to breathe and a love note to myself and listening to a record I have been listening to for 18 years while two of my favorite people drift off to sleep around me.  The room is filled with music, magic, and friends.  My window opens to a view of a city I have always hated, but have strangely come to love in the most adversarial ways.  I know I will get out of here one day, just like I know years from now I will remember time spent in this room and with these people with an unvanquishable fondness.

I dream of escaping the rain and the petty bickering of my so-called community almost daily.  I dream of some grand escape.  Some more contented life waiting for me out there.  I feel like I have been going through the motions and missing a sense of home for five years now, ever since I came to this city all broken and fucked up.  My first winter here, I used to panic sometimes when the sun went down.  I would literally work myself up into a fear that it might never rise again.  Tonight the clouds blot out the stars, like so many nights before.  I always talk about nights here as abyssally dark.  The cloud cover cuts off the light from the stars and the moon, and you get the feeling as if the sky might reach down to swallow you whole.  There are candles lit, and my friends are snoring, and it is enough to keep the sky from swallowing us.

Maybe if I got out of bed and went for a walk, I would be able to find some comfort out there, some semblance of kinship and solidarity on the cold street, beneath the streetlights.  The other night, L and I walked home through downtown.  During our walk, we passed two different tent cities.  Both of them are a few blocks away from one another and prominently located downtown.  It felt like walking through a warzone of human suffering, the ultimate expression of an endless low intensity class warfare.

I thought back to sitting next to the water beneath a burning yellow sky, thick with wildfire smoke this summer on my first date with C.  Such a strange feeling of giddy first date nerves and impending doom at the thought of just how much of the Pacific Northwest was currently on fire.  C and I talked about the perpetual state of crisis wrought by late capitalism and the hopelessness it breeds.  Always a visitor to this city, never a denizen, they commented on the tent cities as well.  They weren’t here five years ago when C last came through town, because most of these folks had homes and jobs.  Yuppie scum, and business owners want to front like some horrible moral decline exists within their city causing people to sleep on the street, all the while blissfully ignoring the conditions that breed desperation, homelessness, and grinding poverty.

C’s last night in town, we went to the store to procure ingredients to make dinner.  We had parked at separate entrances and I was walking back to my car alone when I noticed the moon, low dirty and red in the sky above us.  I texted C “Look at the moon!” and they responded with “I was just thinking the same thing at you!”.  I appreciated the quirky tenderness of the moment, given the gnawing dread that accompanied the rust colored moon.

Driving home, I thought about my first affinity group.  Shit.  I guess it was actually my second.  We named our first affinity group “Wet Hot” because my friends and I all quoted the movie Wet Hot American Summer at one another incessantly on the road to the protest we were headed to.  It served as a brief moment of levity in the coming days of fleeing riot cops and clouds of tear gas in the searing California sun to yell “Wet Hot!” any time we got separated in hectic streets.  Or to announce “This is the Wet Hot affinity group reporting in” at nightly spokes council meetings.

“Blood Red Moon Crew”.  More of a loose knit group of vandals and street artists, all obsessed with the apocalypse.  The name stemmed from one of us who was raised Christian in the sterile Denver suburbs.  Late one night she remembered a sermon quoting a bible verse where a moon the color of blood heralded the end of all things.  We had the name of our crew.  Young and desperate, eyes pried awake from the complacent sleep and naiveté of childhood, but still immersed in youth.  We were awakening into a world we fervently believed to be burning down.  We spent countless hours hunched over typewriters and drawing boards, skating to the Xerox machine and back, writing our missives and warnings to anyone who would listen.

Tonight I’m thinking about love and loss.  About moving on.  About sickness and anxiety.  About what fifteen years lived in the last days have done and how a moon the color of rust is pretty close to the color of blood.  I’m thinking about how times seem desperate in such a way that makes our restless youth seem quaint and comfortable.  I’m thinking about how everyone I love is scared, and I don’t know where to be.

Night On Earth – 11/9/18

For My Mother and Desmond Dekker

Sixteen years old
Doing my chores
On a summer afternoon
With the window opened
Out over the rolling hills
Of Southern York County
Desmond Dekker sings to me
On the stereo for company
I can hear the world waiting
In the soundwaves
Making their way down the street
Reaching escape velocity
On their way out out
Of my lonely little town
I will make it out one day too

Scrape the dried Elmer’s glue
Off the sink with a smile
Check the stiffness of my hair
In the mirror for the tenth time
Spiked towards the sky
Like a middle finger aimed at every sideways eye

My mother sticks her head in the door
“Oh! I like this song!
I remember when it was on the radio”
Back when I was young
She hums along
With a rare smile
Cracking across her face
Remembering a life
Thirty years gone

All the sudden
My mother is no longer
The narcissistic monster
Living as a prisoner
To her suffering
Tethered to this decrepit house
Raising a selfish afterbirth
Already racing for a world
With no room for her in it

I see you as you were, mother
Young and full of hope once
Summer of ’68 in the desert
With the radio on
A glint of moonlight
Catching in your smile
Your broken home caught
In the reflection of
A rearview mirror
With good things on the road
Ahead of you

Raised ducking for cover
Seeking shelter from gathering clouds
And the chill winds
Blowing ill from a cold war
Summer of ’68
With power’s proxies catching a spark
From fires lit before you were ever born
Your older brothers
Jump from from iron birds
And into the firestorm
With not a reason why
But to do and stay alive
One took a bullet
To the thigh
And never quite got right
The other made it home
And never talked about
The War Again in his life

You grew.

Into the mother
I once knew
Tiny and sometimes cruel, filling the world
Smart and sharp
With a quick wit
And the bitterness lingering
Below the surface to match it

You taught me well
How to stand up for myself
To everyone save
For you
You taught me to lock
All the doors at night
Hide my heart
Hide my light

I see you there sometimes
Out there in the shadows
Lonely and uncertain
Where I am sixteen years old, steel-toes
Stomping up the stairs
To the sound of Desmond on the Stereo
Singing for every mouth to be fed
And waiting for the war’s end
Where all our noble failures born
From the best of intentions are forgiven

I see you now, in the lateness of the hour
The mother who
Did the best she could
With the mess and neglect
And violence
She was given
Spent a life running
Looking for the calm
After the storm
Looking for her son
Without seeing the one she bore

I will meet you there
When sun finally breaks through the thunderheads
Where Desmond Dekker is singing
For every mouth to be fed
Holy forgiveness
And every war’s end

Desmond Dekker

For My Mother and Desmond Dekker

Untitled

12:42 AM
Drunk, but not too drunk
Just marveling at
The taste of alcohol on my tongue
After five years of
World crushing panic
Every time I tipped a bottle back

Lying in bed
With candles lit
My last great love’s
Scent lingers on the pillow
Long after the echo
Of their laughter
Exited the room

Lingering on
Like cigarette smoke
Permeating hair
Painfully aware
Of toil dragging a body down
Taste the weight of age
Gravity gripping my face
Fear the grave
Lick my lips
Taste a long kiss goodnight
With all the beauty and bitterness
Of mortality languishing on my tongue

Untitled

I don’t Know What To Say

I was six years old the first time I was sexually assaulted. I can recall the majority of the details with clarity and alacrity. This is a blessing and a curse, I guess because the memories have stayed strong and present with me all these for the past three decades. I have spent the majority of my adult life wrestling with them. Like many survivors, the memories often come bursting out of me with little warning, and at inopportune times. Sometimes during the summer if I am sleeping in a room with a ceiling fan, I wake up with a start thinking it is someone’s breath on the back of my neck. I have spent much of my life in and out of various states of dissociation and bottomless rage. I have spent much of my life like I still don’t know how to say no, and often find myself intimate with individuals who know just how to exploit that.

On the other side of that survivorhood, I distinctly remember being thirteen and my male friends and I figuring out that that there was a blurred line between persistence and coercion. To our young minds, the absence of physical violence somehow differentiated us from the individuals who assaulted me years earlier. Furthering that idea, when I was fifteen, a group of boys abducted one of my friends and took her to a party where they assaulted her. This crime was never reported, but served as singular turning point in the young lives of my friends and I; a reminder of sorts of the secret truth we had always known, encoded in our young bodies: The bad men were real, and they mostly got away with what they wanted. My best friend and I walked around school carrying knives secreted away in our pockets the rest of that year, swearing that we were going to stab the one perpetrator we could identify to death the first chance we got. We never did. He went on to live a normal life until dying in a car wreck on the run from the law ten years later. I was at a party when I heard, and I laughed audibly, comfortable in the certainty that my friends and I were so different from this sorry, dead asshole.

When you are a young person, especially when you grow up in punk, you define yourself by what you are and what you are not. You delineate everyone into a clear “them” and “us”. You surround yourself with other freaks and outcasts and convince yourself you somehow live outside of the unrequited-blood soaked horrorshow that is life on this planet. My friends and I naively believed we were somehow different, all the while shutting out the voices of the women and queers in our lives who have been imploring us to just fucking listen and do better. The few deeply intimate relationships with I have had with men have been with fragile boys with fragile egos, unable in varying degrees to examine hard truths about themselves, always wondering why their lives are perpetual disasters and their exes fucking hate them. Don’t worry. I am counting my relationship to myself in there too.

I wrote letters to two of the individuals who assaulted me at the beginning of my thirties, never having the nerve to send them. Two years back, I decided to send them while trying to reconcile and change my own patterns of abusive behavior towards intimate partners. I held the naïve belief that maybe these two men would hear me out and open a dialogue and that maybe we could sort out some of this mess together. One of them responded. I obviously could not hear the tone in their voice as they composed an email, but I am fairly certain it differed very little from Brett Kavanaugh’s as they berated me, simultaneously calling me a liar and weak for still feeling the effect of their actions thirty years later. They included their phone number in the email, demanding that I call them, which I never did. I have no doubt that had we spoken on the phone, they would have sounded *exactly* like Judge Kavenaugh did on television the other day.

This individual also came out to me as trans in their email. Two days later, they committed suicide. I blamed myself for the death of another trans woman, and wondered what kind of common ground we could have found had they just listened. I wondered how similar the paths we had walked really were. I spent the next week certain their ghost was in the room with me at night and slept very little. I left my room only to eat or walk my dog. I told my friends I was sure that they would be waiting for me in hell when I died. The crushing feeling of guilt stuck with me until I thought about what an utter fucking chump move it is to hurl yourself into whatever afterlife will claim you rather than take responsibility for your actions.

My heart feels ripped out of my chest this week. My heart is broken for all the people I love who are survivors (and that is almost everyone I know.). My heart is broken for all the people I love who are raising children, especially daughters in this thresher. My heart breaks for the kids who come after us, who were supposed to inherit a better world. My heart breaks for the people I love who live the duality of being both survivor and perpetrator this week, because every person I have loved the most has endured/is capable of/has inflicted some serious harm, and we have to live the lives we’ve made and pick up the pieces. My heart breaks continuously thinking about the people who I have done harm to. My heart breaks thinking about what it is to live in a culture that benefits you so intensely that your hard-learned life lessons usually come at the expense of the people you love the most, and that is treated as normal.

I am tired. We are all tired. We are all tired and heartbroken, and I have no optimism with which to end this post, only a small body filled with venom and unwavering love for my friends doing the best they can.

I don’t Know What To Say

7/25/18

’67 Airstream with the radio on
Sweaty Appalachian air thick with heat
Cicadas sing me to sleep
Out in the restless southern dark

The night called me home
With song and blood
Skin never quite shed
Right here
Where god spoke to me
For the very first time
Once upon disaster and nuclear atrocity

Outside the trailer door
You can still smell the scent of it
In the air like a thousand sleepless hours
Passed in this city before this moment

This city
Always in my heart
There was never any choice
I loved this place ever since the moment
An angry kid first set steel-toed boot
To heat-cracked pavement
In the rush of misspent youth

I love it now, still
Walking alone on tourist-choked streets
As an outsider to my former home
With aging eyes searching for familiar sights
Across this beloved skyline
I lost my heart in the shining
Concrete and glass relics
Built for a collapse yet to come

Down in the dives
My friends and I
Drink our liquid bread down
Grown like bitter weeds
Breaking through cracks in the concrete
Poisoned plants from poisoned roots
Choking on words wielded like weapons
Smoking cigarettes and talking trash
Breathing in bitterness like our lungs could last
Building lives out of sculptures of ash

7/25/18