A rose for every enemy, save two.

294×109

He lies in a bed with his best friend.  The two of them drew the curtains closed tight against the South Florida Sun.  The air conditioning keeps the sweltering heat from encroaching into the room too much.  The dark adds a layer of cool blanketing their young skin.  He stares at the fan spinning on the ceiling and sighs.  His friend stole the Lita Ford/Ozzy Osbourne Close My Eyes forever cassette single from his older sister, and the two of them listen to it obsessively, flipping the cassette over almost as soon dead air fills the speakers and the sound of the spindles grinding away fills the room.  They talk about the mysteries of death in the language of children.

As trite and cliché as the lyrics might end up sounding thirty years later, they are transfixed in this moment.  Death is a door.  Death is a shock sometimes.  Death is a choice sometimes.  Death is not the end.  He hears Lita singing to them from the perspective of someone who has taken their life and come to regret it, a moldering corpse, singing from the grave:

“If I could have just one more wish, I’d wipe the cobwebs from my eyes.”

“What the hell are you two doing?  Give me my tape back!”

The sister is onto them.  The gig is up.  The boys race out of the house, onto their bikes, and they take flight, soaring through the steam rising from South Florida blacktop, out in the sun; full of life.  Out on their bikes in the park, they make the figure eight on the path over and over, watching the wild parrots jump from transmission tower to transmission tower, the static hum of civilization ever present, but enough to drown out their songs.  They halfheartedly look for ghosts.  They never see any, for the sun is still shining down on South Florida and whoever heard of a ghost appearing during the day anyway?

378×109

The ocean is warm and gentle.  The day is already hot, and the early morning breeze feels perfect on his tanned skin.  His mother sets up her umbrella, and puts her day bag down in the sand. He is already racing for the surf with his friend when his mother warns them not to go out too far.  Those riptides can come up out of nowhere and drag you out to sea forever before you even know it, she says.

Out in the swell, he is elated and alive.  He knows he should be afraid, but he is not.  His friend tells him that his older brother told him there is a sandbar roughly a hundred yards out.  The ocean feels like a warm and loving embrace.  They reach the sandbar and sit there letting the waves lap at their bodies.  Their knees sink into the soft sand, allowing their bodies to rest.  The horizon stretching out to infinity, and the distance from the shore gives the boys an illusion of being in the middle of the sea.  His mother looks like a small dot in the expanse of alabaster.  He wants to taste the precise feeling of forever that must exist out where the sky and the sea meet in a brilliant expanse of blue.

His friend looks nervous, glancing back to the shore.  He asks if he thinks they should swim back in, just a little closer to the shore.  What about the riptides?  What about sharks?  Just a little bit longer, he implores.  They hold onto one another’s arms, bracing one another against the timeless roll of the waves, resting on the soft precipice of forever.

 504×109

He stands on a small dirt hill in a neighborhood where the all the kids all ride bikes and play flashlight tag during the summer.  He isn’t it, but he wants to hide anyway.  He feels safer in the dark, away from his friends, even though they are his friends.  He looks up at the stars flickering in the sky and has a feeling he will always be alone.  He stretches his arms to the sky and inhales, breathing the late summer in.  Something in the night makes him feel at home.

Last week, he watched unflinchingly as his friend got unceremoniously  dumped by his girlfriend at the carnival.  They were standing just in front of the tilt-a-whirl when it happened.  His friend cried all night and he feels only a little embarrassed for him when they get home and he breaks down into his tears in front of his parents.  He is genuinely confused when the parents inquire on his emotional well-being and tell him they knew he loved the girl and that there are other fish out there in the sea.  They sleep in his friend’s room later, and he can hear him stifling sobs from his makeshift bed on the floor.  Sometimes his friend starts late night wrestling matches that go on for too long and his friend inevitably ends up on his stomach, pushing himself against his crotch.

Tonight, the girlfriend has since taken his friend back, and he spent the night following her around the labyrinth of well-manicured lawns like a happy puppy.  At 8 PM, The Simpsons comes on and all the kids want to make sure to catch it, even though it’s a summer rerun.  One of the neighbors has brought a television out onto his patio.  The neighbor invites all the sweaty youth to watch with him.  There’s plenty of patio chairs, after all.  He sits away from the crowd and broods.  His friend and his girlfriend share a wicker chair with a cheap cushion beneath them.  They are all smiles and sneaking desperate kisses, holding hands in the cathode glow.

He tilts his head, and catches the two when they think no one is looking.  Something about the way their forms molding into one another makes sense to him, while feeling alien all at once.  Like he is catching a glimpse of a world he will never truly feel part of.  He can almost taste the longing at the back of his throat.

546×109

He met her in the spring of 7th grade, and they become fast friends.  They pass notes in class during the day.  They stay on the phone late into the night.  She sneaks the calls, because she isn’t allowed on the phone after 7 PM.  He picks up on the first ring so as to not wake up his mother, who sleeps fitfully, if at all these days.  His father has been dead for six months.  His mother still sleeps in the room where his father’s heart stopped beating in the middle of the night.  She can only sleep through the night if the television is on, turned up so loudly that he can hear it through his bedroom wall.

She is the realest person he has ever known, despite her sheltered upbringing and the fact that they are children.  They flip through channels on late night television together.  “Do you like this song?”  “Do you like this show?”.  They make small talk about the details of their slow as molasses summer days.  He finds himself looking forward to the small instances during the long weeks with no school where they can see one another.  He feels himself softening into more than the couch of his mother’s living room.  Staring out the window into the waves of grain and sea of cornstalks that cover the darkened countryside, he asks if he can tell her a secret.

The words fall from his mouth before he can even stop them and all the shame and rage he held for so long is laid out there it’s like a dam breaking.  His tears fall until they stop, and they talk of other things.  That was the night he learned that there are some secrets that a soul doesn’t have to bear alone.

588×109

All the small town freaks dance in the back of a rented church hall with one set of fluorescent lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling illuminating the room.  The band is all clumsy chords ripped jeans and waving hair.  He falls in love with the feeling of dancing the Doc Marten stomp in a circle so hard with his friends that he’s sure it might burn holes in the dirty brown carpet below them.  The words ring in his ears with the echo of feedback, and he feels like everything he knew before tonight is a lie, he’s locked into some truth that the dull-eyed masses around him will never know.

After the gig, some rednecks wait for him outside in the parking lot.  They wandered into the show.  Nobody knows why, or what they think is here for them.  They taunt him from their pickup truck, swearing they’re going to beat his ass for the unforgivable transgression of “being a faggot”.  As always, he is the smallest of his friends.  The rednecks move in, and his friends surround him.

“Sorry boys, y’all gonna have to go through the rest of us first.”

He hears the flicking of a butterfly knife unfolding behind him and he smiles.

630×109

They were young, loyal, violent, and most all, they were in love.  They made their plans one Sunday night in spring.  Wait for Monday morning, stick the blade into the back of  the boy who did their friend wrong and fuck the consequences.  They’d go out in a blaze of outlaw teenage glory before they let this sin slip under the rug unpunished.

They see him in the morning, and he hands her his knife without a second thought, like he was passing her a cigarette, or a bottle of wine.  They follow the boy in the hall for a while, and they lose their nerve.  The rest of the day comes and goes.  All without a single small town burnout bleeding to out on a lunchroom floor.  The summer follows the same way.  He never even knew.

714×109

They make out clumsily and say their goodbyes, too young to know how to make the other one cum.  After she leaves, he locks his door and takes off all of his clothes.  He jerks off into the empty corner of his room, right where his stereo speakers used to be.  Two nights ago, almost every single one of his friends came over and they laid waste to the house downstairs, kicking holes in the walls and spraypainting pentagrams all over the basement.  His mom cried.  What if we got a miracle, she said.  He doesn’t believe in miracles anymore.

He figures he will leave just one more parting gift encrusting the carpet for the bank when the come to take the house.

756×109

The two of them sit on mountain overlooking the city.  He’s read about spots like this in books and seen them on movies, but has never actually been to a place like this before.  They spent the night together for the first time a few weeks ago.  Two nights in a row.  The first night they stayed up all night talking about their lives, waking up two hours later to go to school.  The second night they shared an illicit kiss.  Infatuated, he broke up with the girl he was dating the next day and never looked back.

Now it is love with wild abandon, the kind that only comes when you are young.  Before you accrue scar upon scar on your heart.  She straddles him on a rock and they kiss, while the lights of the Coors brewery twinkle below them.  His fingers trace the scar on her leg, given to her by her last boyfriend the night he got drunk and pulled a knife on her and her friend.

The secrets they share run deep and shine bright, like black wells with stars burning in the depths.  She tells him that with all the quiet atrocities endured in her short life, even with a genetic time bomb ticking in her DNA.  The one waiting to wage war on her body and brain before she turns 40, that she loves her life.

The certainty in her voice shakes him to his core.

924×109

An older woman kisses the two of them on the cheek as they march down a pink brick South Florida Street.  They hitchhiked two thousand something miles to across five days to reach this exact point.  He can see the armored phalanx of riot police in the distance; already beginning to smash their clubs against their shields, clamoring for an asymmetrical war.   The sound terrifies him.  On the way downtown, they drove past one of the police staging points and he heard a commanding officer rallying the officers under him:

“Alright.  Everyone get ready.  Strike fast, and kick ass!  This is what we’ve been training for!  Let’s make these pussies regret ever coming to the city of Miami!”

The bark and bite in the officer’s voice reminds him of portrayals of Nazis war criminals in films and it terrifies him.

“That’s for luck.” The old woman says.  I know what you and your friends are here to do, and I know what you’re up against once we get to that wall.”

1.008×109

He hears the woman standing behind him scream.  He feels the car collide with his body.  He is surprised when it doesn’t feel like anything.  It just feels like something kind of bumped into him.  He feels his body hurtling forward.  “Oh shit.  I just got hit by a car” is his last cognizant thought before blacking out.  He comes to on the street, with a woman holding a napkin to his bloody mouth and nose.  “I’m on the street.” He thinks “How did I get here?” The recollection of the car hitting his body creeps in.  He wiggles his toes inside of his boots, realizing with relief that his back is not broken.  An awareness of pain in his mouth creeps in, and he presses his tongue to the front of his mouth, where his teeth should be.

The doctors tell him later, colliding with the street face first saved his life, or at least saved him from a traumatic brain injury.

He thinks there is a victory to be found here, in not being able to win them all.

1.05×109

She helps him sew together his first skirt.  They buy underwear at the store that will flatter his ass, and hide the harder parts of him.  He clumsily applies lipstick, eyeliner, mascara.  Before they go out, they share a kiss.  He has never been kissed like this before.  He asks her to please put her hands on his new body.  She spits on a finger, reaches down and slips it inside him.  He moans softly into her mouth.

Out in the sun, they nervously think about what to do with their day, and her in her fresh skin.  They settle on the bookstore and reading comic books.  She reads The Punisher Volume 5: The Slavers.  She reads Marvel Zombies, and doesn’t care for it much.  She only worries a little bit about being noticed when she goes to take a piss in the woman’s bathroom.

1.134×109

The river was low that fall, right after their friend died, stabbed to death and set on fire thousands of miles away.  The sick horror of it sticks with her at night.  She wakes from restless sleep to pull swigs from a bottle of whiskey next to her bed.  She stares through the dark at the ceiling until the alcohol warms her body and numbs her spirit enough that she can fall into dreamless sleep.  Everyone around her is heartbroken, and with good reason.

The day after Halloween, three of them clamor over the rocks usually submerged beneath the rushing right and light candles.  Someone pulls tarot cards for each one of them.  She burns an effigy not of their friend’s murderer, but of the forces that motivated him.  They drink one beer each, and watch the candles lit for their dead friend burn low.  Before walk over the rocks and to the shore, she spraypaints “PATRIARCHY KILLS” in angry red letters on the pillar.  One of her friends paints “Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living” in beautiful flowing script.  They walk up the hill in the gloom, hearts held fast against the gathering dark.

1.134×109.2

She meets him at a party and is standoffish immediately.  “Who is this old man asking me who I am and what my story is?”, she thinks. Unaccustomed as she is to genuine interest from her elders.  Guarded by nature, she responds to his inquiries tersely.  She feels herself warming up to him despite herself.  At the end of the night when it’s time to leave the party, he simply says “I hate that y’all are leaving” in a drawl more affected by a life well-lived and filled with the deepest love for everyone around him than anything else.

The next time she sees him, it’s because the grease trap at the restaurant she works at is broken.  A struggling business, run on lofty anarchist principles, they can’t afford to fix it.  He comes in and spends hours installing the piece.  When they ask him what they owe him his response is “Not a damn thing.  I’ve had one hell of a good life, and I try and spread it around.”

She starts to get an inkling somewhere that this man is going to affect the trajectory of the rest of her life.

1.218×109

She got married in an April Fool’s Day prank that got out of hand, but the story really isn’t that interesting.

1.344×109 (give or take)

Her heart pounds in her chest thunderously, for months now.  She sees demons dance behind her eyes.  She hears the voices of the restless and angry dead when she is in a room by herself.  She sees an emaciated stranger staring back at her when she looks in the mirror.  She walks like a ghost haunting herself, eyes grown bitter by the sight of almost every single thing she thought she could rely on ripped away.

Zie is there, standing tall like a pillar made of glass, beautiful and fragile.  They don’t mean to fall in love, it just happens.  A few months ago, her horoscope told her she was going to re-learn everything she thought she knew about love.  She had hoped the lesson wouldn’t be quite this fucking hard and leave so many bruised hearts in its wake.

1.428×109

She tells hir she sees hir the darkness zie walked in for much of their life, and that she is not afraid.  The words hang there between them, brave in the dark.  The moon is rising outside the window, old and red.  Zie takes the words to heart because nobody has ever said them to hir before.  A week later, zie’s lost in the crowd with everyone else.  The Nazi skins put the word out that they were roll downtown and stomp every faggot commie and Black Lives Matter motherfucker they can find.  The punks wait, all brave with their baseball bats and blades on 4th and Adams to see if the fash will actually show up.  She told hir later how she drove by the crowd on the way home to get her kid to bed, craning her neck nervously out the window to see if she could spot hir shape in the sea of black masks.  Her child asked a question:

“Momma what’s that?”

“Uh.  It’s a crowd of people who are trying to defend our city from these bad people called Nazis.”

“Momma, is hir out there?”

“Yeah baby, but zie is really smart and really strong and will be safe.  I promise.”

“Momma, does zie have hir dog with them?”

“No, baby.  I promise the dog is at home safe and asleep.”

The fash get beat back, straight out of downtown and zie goes home close to four AM when zie is sure that every one of their friends is home safe, and the streets are empty.  Zie calls her to let her know zie is finally home and will be surrendering to well earned sleep shortly.  Zie loves the sound of her voice, and won’t lie that zie wishes that zie was curling up next to her for the night.  Being so near to danger and death makes their exhausted sex the next day all the more sweet.

Hearts open, and hearts break.  Tender trespasses and broken promises.  Neither one of them will ever forgive the other.  Zie thinks what a shame to watch hard earned intimacy die and rot into nothing at all.

1.428×109.2

They have been out hunting all night and, just became the hunted.  The van screeches to a halt in front of them.  Zie is sure at least six Nazi skinheads are going to jump out.  “This is it” Zie thinks.  “I am going to die with my friend right here on this street in a city I can’t even bring myself to love.  Or we are at least going to the hospital.”  Everything moves in slow motion, just like they say it does in moments like this.  Zie puts one hand on hir friend’s shoulder, and feels every muscle within it tense, poising to strike.  The feeling sends a shockwave through hir hand.  Zie puts hir other hand in hir pocket, and feels hir fist curl around a cold metal cylinder and waits for the moment to come crashing in, and for the world to spin right again.

1.47×109

She wrote him a letter twenty years later after their youthful plot to stab to death a boy who had long since died in a car wreck over a friend who had long since moved on.  He received the letter in the small town he moved to on the other side of the country from the small town where they grew up.  It said:

“Sometimes I think that everything I ever needed to know about loyalty and being a good friend, I learned from being friends with you when we were fifteen.”

He was sitting alone at the kitchen table in his house on a dead end street, in the dry, rainless depths of a nowhere summer with the constant hum of heartache and regret ringing in his ears.  She had no idea how much he needed to hear those words at that exact moment in time.   He didn’t believe in coincidences.

1.512×109

Aging lovers in a small room, they were tired.  Tired, from the past few months, the past few years.  Maybe it hit them all at once tonight.  The road that led them to one another had been at once both winding and strange, and fraught with fear.  All the same, he could see where the path will diverge in the very near future.  They weren’t the last great love of his life, but was as close as it was going to get with his giving up on love and all the headlines screaming hate and war.

Their wild Friday night date consisted of watching hurricane footage down south that filled his heart with ice and made it ache for home all the same.  On their laptop, they looked up survival gear and talked about what to order their family he’d never be a part of for the apocalypse everyone can feel building. They watched a movie and cried together at the ending, knowing the tragic hope in fiction and the improbability of happy endings for people like them.   With heavy eyelids, they slipped into one another for what ended up being the last time.  They grind, and moan, and giving into one another and then to rest.  In the morning they leave.  He smiles alone in his room, his eyes already gazing towards some other horizon, knowing this one will never burn any brighter than than this, hoping for the best, planning for the worst.

“If they take you down, I wanna mourn you.”

1.554×102

He pulls the car over on the highway in the desert beneath a sprawling sea of stars.  He needs to stretch, and they want to look at the sky.  The kid has never been to the desert before.  So they sit on the hood pulled to the side of an empty country road and listen to the engine cool in the darkness and look up.  The majesty of the night sky goes on forever, and he feels safe out there, in their solitude.  The kid still winces at far off headlights, as if even the visibility their glow brings could stain their skin.   He subconsciously touches the knife on his belt as if to remind them of the safety it brings, that he made a promise, and he’d be cold in the goddamn ground before he let any harm come to them.

“What is that glow in the distance?”

“Oh shit.  Baby, that’s the moon rising.”

“Oh!  What the fuck?  I’ve never seen anything like that!”

A coyote howls and he makes a note to tell his dad who isn’t his dad how if he can be just half the elder to this kid that his dad who isn’t his dad has been to him, he will have done one thing right with his fucked up mess of a life.

A week later, he does just that.  He is sitting on the porch in the cicada swell of summer with his dad who isn’t his dad but goddamn close enough.  They are holding hands and crying when he tells him.

“Well goddamn, son.  Thanks for picking me.”

1.554×109.2

He takes a photograph of the moment the kid’s feet meet the warm waves of the Atlantic for the very first time.  He thinks about the thousand tiny victories that surmounted to this precise moment on a spinning earth.  The sun burns down on both of them, and it is delicious.  They wade into the water and feel the waves roll.  The dog swims back and forth between the two of them, happily bobbing with the waves, making sure both of her humans are safe.  He tastes the salt crossing his lips, and remember the ocean’s worth of tears both of them cried before this immortal moment presented itself to them.  How every one of those tears, worth their weight in salt dried eventually.  Tears fall.  Tears dry, and more tears follow.  We keep living and we remember how that counts for everything.

All you can do is keep living.

Until the last beat of your heart, and even then maybe death is not the end.

Advertisements
A rose for every enemy, save two.

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

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

Maybe we’ll work it out when we’re ghosts. (How it hurts to outgrow.)

I had the dream again last night. Similar variation to the one I have been having on and off for five long years now.

My life’s greatest heartbreak and I. Someplace warm and safe. We forget just how fucking mad we were at each other. We forget all the petty bullshit. We remember the love we shared, and let go. We don’t try and start over. We don’t try and repeat toxic patterns. We just lovingly let go.

The other night Relic and I were talking about our belief in ghosts, how maybe the places that were significant for us hold our imprints and this is what ghosts are. My first thought was “Holy fuck, my sprit better not go back to Grail Street.” Because Grail Street was significant, but goddamn was it miserable. Nothing says “healthy life choices” like destroying one another and then continuing to be neighbors, too stubborn to give up cheap rent; coughing up black mold and haunted by strangers with familiar faces for a full year. I hope they don’t go back there when they’re gone either. I used to sit in my room, beneath the sound of furtive footsteps I knew too well and write stories that I never had the nerve to publish about what I hoped our specters would say to one another if they were to linger on the steps or behind the walls of Grail Street too long. When I was finally done being mad, I’d tell myself:

“Maybe we’ll work it out next time around.”

Gods, I’ve been fucked up and sagging under the weight of depression for days but I love being alive right now. I love it harder than I’ve ever loved anything or anyone in the world, because it’s the one thing I can count on. I thank every heartbreak for never breaking me, but giving me the opportunity to reconstitute myself into a different form. I thank the heartbreak for bringing out the absolute worst in me so I can learn to never be that person again.

Once upon a time we were fucked up kids who saw the best in one another. We were the loving reflections offered to haunted and straining eyes when the mirror was too painful to behold. I’ll never not be thankful for that. There are nights where I wish we could just see the best of what we’ve become. I never quite know how to reconcile that feeling. The knowing outgrowing connections is okay, and sometimes painfully (agonizingly) necessary, but you still wish you could visit every now and then. Just because whatever, five years on you are so over whatever the fuck it was you were pissed about and you can see how thoroughly someone coming up at the right place and right time fundamentally changes you forever. You want people to know that they had a profound effect on you, even when they’re gone and you’re reflecting on a dead connection.

So if we meet when we’re ghosts:

I’d say in all the years that went by, I never forgot:
How much I love your awkward teeth.
And the sound of your laugh.
I still can’t refrain from breaking into a grin when I tell the story of your icy stare freezing a confused nurse while I pathetically laid on the waiting room floor.
I’d say I finally learned how to stop hating myself.
I’d say how sorry I was for my lack of patience; for not letting you grow.
Seeing the best in you was never an excuse.
I’d say whisper how sorry I am for letting you down.
For not knowing how to let my anger calm.
For holding on so tight that it stifled us both.
I hope you are warm and well, and that your demons finally laid down to rest.
I hope your body and spirit are hale and whole.
Always.

Maybe we’ll work it out when we’re ghosts. (How it hurts to outgrow.)

Punks is sharks.

Adrift and sinking, out where the horizon unfolds
Into rows of waves crashing down
Our lifeboats are full of holes
And someone threw away the oars
Our boats are taking on water now
As the lives and loves We forged sink below…

I just want a metaphor
For how we’re maybe out of our depth here
Where the water is deep and dark
Maybe we’re out of our depth here
And way out here there’s sharks.

Maps marked with blurred lines
and the last of a sky so blue
Just as summer gave way to fall
“You have to breathe. You have to breathe.”
Swallowing mouthfuls of air where the traffic snarls
Marveling at just how fucking ugly
Of a picture this world will paint you
Right as it runs you through

We’re out of our depth here
With blurred lines inked indelibly into skin
Too tender, too thin
Blurring the line again
Always between the intimate
And the violent
We’re out of our depth here
Because nothing prepared us for trespasses like this
Or taught us how to love without fear

The hour is now late
Ashore, annihilation comes home to call
With a knock knock knock at the door
Wolves hunger at the windows
Sharks circle the shallows
Murderers who murder each other
Set loose to stalk the halls

Punks is sharks.

Boredom won’t get us tonight.

Hello!  I’ve been mostly posting poetry here lately.  The winter gloom has fucking worn me down, and a few lines at a time have mostly been what I could focus on for the past month or two.  I managed to make some progress on a as yet untitled book I’ve been working on about rural punks in the nineties for the past year this weekend, and I’m going to post a segment of it here.  I’m not sure if this will make the final draft, but I’m pretty proud of it regardless. Some names were changed to protect the anonymity of those involved in this story.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you for reading.

Take care of yourselves, take care of one another.  ❤

We sold weed sometimes too.  Weed was never a huge part of my life.  I had had a brief infatuation with it that previous winter, but it cooled quickly when some of the kids I smoked up with moved onto shooting dope.  Dylan and James smoked it when they could.  Skinhead Jimmy smoked sometimes, but mostly liked to drink.  I had been sober since spring, taking the lyrics of that Minor Threat cassette Forrest loaned me to heart.  I just had no interest in, (and far too many opinionated teenage judgements about) drugs.  However, I had no qualms whatsoever about selling weed to Kenny, who lived down the street.

Kenny was one of those dudes who was born to spend his life in Southern York County, loud, entitled, and dumb as all hell. He was the kind of douche who made those “Looney Tunes wearing generic hip hop clothing” t-shirts so popular in small towns in the early 90’s.  We had been friends a few years back; back before my dad died, but that might as well have been a lifetime ago.  We’d have sleepovers and late night wrestling matches often went on just a tad too long, and ended up with him pushing his ass back against me and breathing heavily until it got awkward.  We would never talk about it in the morning.  We drifted apart before middle school was even over.  The irony of his referring to me as “faggot” when he passed in the hall once we hit ninth grade was secretly delicious.

Faggots or not, we still wanted his money.  He would show up at the front door of Dylan’s dad’s house and start pounding on it.

“Dylan!  Open up!  I wanna buy weed!”

Dylan and I would share a look.

Fucking idiot.  He’s going to get us all goddamn busted.  Luckily Kenny was never dumb enough to show up knocking the door down on a night when Dylan wasn’t home.  The presence of Dylan’s not conspicuous at all Chrysler Cordoba was telling like that.

This particular night, it was just Dylan, Skinhead Jimmy and I watching some long forgotten zombie movie in the living room, waiting for Dylan senior to drink enough cheap wine to pass out.  We’d hit the streets and wreak whatever havoc we could after that.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

It was Kenny and his neighbor.  They were drunk on rum they had stolen from Kenny’s parents and swaying.  They wanted to buy enough weed to go smoke a joint on the baseball field.  Kenny shot me a look through the door.  I did my best to shoot one back that said: “You talk tough now, motherfucker.  I know how much you wanted my cock in your ass just a few short years ago.”  I don’t know if it translated.  Dylan told them to wait outside and he would go see what he had.

Dylan, Jimmy and I practically raced one another to the kitchen.  The act of summoning dimbebag out of kitchen spices to sell to Kenny and his friends was a tried and true routine between Dylan and Jimmy, and one I took much delight in observing.  Dylan stepped into his room, and returned with a baggie full of green leaf and some Elmer’s glue, the exact same kind I used to spike up my ‘hawk.  Jimmy rifled through the spice cabinet.  There it was.  Oregano.  This would be hilarious.  Since time immemorial, many a burnout in this town were known to shuffle through the halls of our high school selling dimebags or oregano.  We were not original in this endeavor.

I liked to imagine that none of them took as much malicious amusement in selling bogus weed as we did though.  The vein that bulged in the shape of an X in Dylan’s forehead when he laughed was practically jumping out of his skull as he sprinkled some weed on the counter to mix with the oregano in Jimmy’s hand.  Jimmy in turn, was giggling viciously and muttering under his breath.

“Fucking idiot.  I can’t believe he keeps coming back.”  Jimmy said.

I had to cover my mouth for fear of Kenny hearing my laughter outside.  I watched with amusement that bordered on amazement as Dylan and Jimmy poured some shake into a baggie and then poured oregano in after it.  My amazement turned to sheer awe as I watched them roll some oregano and shake together with Elmer’s Glue, and then jab a stem into the whole semi dried mess in order to make a fairly convincing bud.

Kenny was known to brag to anyone who would listen how fucked up the weed he bought from us always got him.  I didn’t know the chemical make up of Elmer’s Glue, but I wondered if he wasn’t getting at least a little buzzed from smoking it.  I imagined sticky brown residue filling his lungs and killing his brain cells all at once.  I couldn’t convince myself to feel particularly guilty either way.  He was after all, such a little asshole.

Dylan and Jimmy took their crafted dimebag back to the front door where Kenny and is friend were waiting eagerly.  Kenny was leaning against a post on the front porch for support, eyes half closed and grinning.  I hated him in that moment.  I hated him for the ease with which he walked the through the world, like it owed him something.  I hated him because of the stories I had heard about how he acted around girls at parties.  I hated his douchebag swagger, and the way he tried to make his voice sound deeper than it was when he spoke.  I hated him for convincingly playing the part of mommy and daddy’s good little Christian boy and then being such a piece of shit as soon as he was out of their sight.

Dylan palmed him the bag of mostly fake weed.

“Ten bucks” He said flatly.

Kenny laughed easily and pulled out his wallet.

“Here you are, my man.  My dude here and I sure do appreciate it.”  Kenny slurred.

“This shit got me so fucked up last time.  Goddamn.”

Kenny’s friend did his best to look hard.  I wondered if it was his first drug deal, and he was going off what he had seen in the movies or some shit.  I mean, I guess Jimmy with his shaved head, boots and braces was an intimidating sight, but we weren’t in one of those movies these sheltered ass small town white kids were always emulating to try and act hard.  That reality would have eaten them alive.

Whatever.  We took their money and sent them to smoke their dirt weed, oregano and glue combo at the baseball field.  Ten bucks would mostly fill up the Cordoba and we had the satisfaction of ripping off someone we all thought was an asshole.  The three of us busted out laughing almost as soon as Dylan shut the door behind him.

The ten dollars we made from poor Kenny took us no farther than driving aimless circles around Shrewsbury all night.  It was enough.  Dylan and Jimmy in the front seat, and me stretched out in the back.  The windows rolled all the way down and the AM summer air mixing with a tape of Subhumans Time Flies, But Aeroplanes Crash EP playing on the stereo.  The speakers sounded just fucking awful and perfect all at once.

I thought about Kenny, all those years ago writhing beneath me in his underwear, neither of us ever quite brave enough for what came next.  I thought about my boys in the front seat.   I loved them both as bravely as I knew how.  I loved them both in a way Kenny in all his stumble, swagger and posturing would never understand.  Jimmy and Dylan were both laughing freely.  Jimmy launched an empty glass bottle carelessly out the window to hear the sound of it smashing on country blacktop receding in the distance.

I imagined all the lights that small town streetlights flickering to the south of us.  I imagined those lights leading our way to everywhere else, giving way to the lights of all the cities I couldn’t wait to see.  Five miles to the south of us lay the Pennsylvania state line.  Another forty miles of rural highway and you were in Baltimore County.  Those exit routes counted for something.  In that moment I knew all of us would make it out of this place and might even have a chance of growing into the people we always wanted to be.

This tiny, shitty world we were stuck in for at least another few years may cater to Kenny and all the other thoughtless Neanderthals just like him, but tonight we had gotten his money and converted it to just enough gas for a brief respite.  With the music and our laughter cascading out the windows and into the summer air, we knew some things they would never know.  We went south on main, towards the Getty to turn right on constitution and creep the long way home through New Freedom, the threat of boredom and entropy vanquished for another night.

Boredom won’t get us tonight.