18APR2017 – In the dream I’d been swimming all day, lap after lap, gracelessly flopping forward until I was bone exhausted. It felt good. I remember thinking how hungry I was. It just so happened I was leaving the base at the time of evening colors so I stopped, set my bag down, faced the flagpole and did what I was supposed to do. Just then, a crowd brushed past, mocking and jeering, bumping into me. I stayed where I was until the “ready two” sounded and looked down for my bag but it was gone. I set off in the direction I thought the crowd had been moving as fast as I could.
When I turned the corner, they had the bag open and were tossing my things around, one item at a time, dancing just out of range. My arms burned with exhaustion; I was nice until I was angry. I lashed out hard, catching the nearest of them in the face. A solid shot. It felt good to connect. Suddenly there were lawyers streaming at me from all directions, vaulting the bushes and piling out of doorways like a scene from the Matrix, hundreds of them waving sheets of paper, jumping up and down yelling, “My client! Rights! Assault! Lawsuit! Restraining order! Injury! Forfeiture of pay!” The ones who’d stolen my things were hanging out behind the lawyers, grinding my possessions into the dirt, laughing and pointing as the lawyers were frantically shouting over one another, charging me money for just standing there and threatening to sue me so hard I’d be in debt until I died. I tried to get through to get my things. I tried to explain what had happened. They circled ever tighter, yelling more complex legal terms and waving even more papers. There was no way through. Finally I slouched to the curb with my arms around my head and tried to ball up small, tried to ride it out, but they wouldn’t go away. Then I woke up.
Life can be no more real than this; it is only as true as I understand it and only for as long as I remember what I thought I understood at all.
Sitting in PHL waiting for a connecting flight north. Nothing ever seems to work in this airport. Every time I come through here the construction has shifted to the next terminal, or the outlets are dead, or the flight is late or the last chicken salad sandwich is gone and I’m left with ham or turkey. The bread is always wet.
The boarding announcement for the next gate over is garbled, shouted: A helicopter sets down in a hot LZ, the telltale sign of small arms fire plinking against the too-thin metal as people scurry like mad to sling their bags aboard and claim a bench seat. Drink service is a passed canteen. A business man buckles in behind the co-pilot, hurriedly fumbling open a magazine to hide behind, trying hard to look nonchalant. The door gunner counts ten aboard before leveling his sidearm at the passengers waiting to board coach. “Next bird! We’ll send another!” He gestures to the pilot who revs up fast. The rotors kick up a shit ton of dust as the bird lifts away, circling overhead and veering north in a hurry. The rejected passengers scurry back to the safety of the tree line, impatiently checking their watches and trying to maintain some semblance of cover…
At one time I’d have been completely captivated by the girl sitting opposite me; tall and willowy with clean lines about her neck and jaw, sharp green eyes, dense eyebrows and large ears. Perfect teeth, dimples. Wire frame glasses, her attention on a book in her lap. Part of my brain races ahead to the moment we’ll begin speaking: We connect hard, so much in common. We keep in touch, turns out she lives near me … six months from now, we’re somewhere, doing something together. Finally, it’s all going right. She’s complete and I’m whole. We make a Venn diagram between us. She’s leaning against my shoulder, contentedly. Everything is perfect … I waste a further ten minutes daydreaming that I could take her out to dinner and she’d laugh at my jokes. Shake it away. Move along, nothing to see here.
Now in Portland, Maine. Wandering the streets along the waterfront. A sign above the door reads “Meals and memories made here.” I can vouch for this. The food was delicious but I’m having all these detailed glimpses into my life as a motorcycle mechanic in rural Iowa. To the best of my knowledge I’ve yet to set foot in that state.
Breakfast, the next day. The radio is playing “Teenage Wasteland”. My omelet is fantastic but the orange juice is too sweet. Sometimes I open this notebook and I feel like I’m the cool kid in high-school trying to think of something nice to write in this random yearbook that’s just been thrust into my hands. I take the easy route: “You seem like a pretty cool kid, have a great summer, Class of ’89 rules.” What the yearbook’s owner probably wanted was something more personal, more revealing, a promising shift in their perception. Sorry, man. Those don’t come easy. Still, if I wasn’t writing something or thinking about writing something, or buying my next box of Sharpies or another notebook to bash up and fill with desperate gibberish I don’t know who I’d be. I just wish I had something important to say.
I’m tired of talking about KWM. That was years ago, old news. “Hey, I heard you wrote a book! Would I have heard of it?” The questions make me wince. I wonder more and more if I did a terrible thing writing it at all. Fantastic execution, painful content. Story of my life.
An object at the edge of my consciousness has come loose in some way. I am trying to coax it back into position with rare earth magnets and pulses of light without actually looking at it, but the hole keeps growing and I know it will only get worse. It is clear to me in some manner that I’m not supposed to know this problem exists, or know that the thing is broken, or even how to fix it in the first place.
I’ve been thinking I should talk to a pro, get some stuff off my chest. CUT TO: me, dragging a dry erase board into their office and scribbling away with markers for a full ten minutes, establishing lines of impact, lines of effort, fishbone diagrams and organizational charts of dramatis personas in all four colors. “Here,” I’ll say, circling a portion of the timeline for emphasis. “This is right about when I started thinking I was crazy.”
When I was younger, I wanted the luxury of losing my mind and writing my way back to sanity because I knew I could do it. I had it. I was there. What keeps me from writing now? I’ll tell you. Hurting people. The idea that someone would take something I’ve done or something I’ve written and throw it back in my face in some passive aggressive display of whatever. “Must be nice to have the time to write… must be nice to have the luxury to live the life you always wanted.”
Life doesn’t reflect art. It kills it.
Everything is a good title for something.