I read for the first time in over a year. It was a graphic novel so it flew by in specific colors without the need for much focus. Something sparked and I said, “Damn” so I read a book. It wasn’t easy; I kept finding myself scrolling through the lines with my own thoughts, completely missing what I was reading. Or the television was too loud, and then the music in my earbuds would be just as distracting. But gradually, my speed picked up and the story in my hands was the only thing before me.
Hot damn! One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to force myself to either read or write. Put my dull brain through the sharpener and see where it went from there. I reached for another novel and a few pages in I kept hearing the sound of my pug’s nails across the kitchen linoleum, though her food bowl is a step down on carpet. She was in front of the door. Waiting, then pacing around, waiting again. Tapdancing to get outside.
I let her out and began to feel the polarities of the balance, my own dance, moving through me. I tried to figure out whether or not I was hungry. It seemed for over the course of a year I had been doing the domestic tango, wearing a chef’s hat most irregularly, going through the motions of trying new recipes back-to-back, around the clock and then not, resorting to that feeling when you’re past full and it feels comforting, fulfilling, an attainable happiness, and the photo-posted quotes on social media had told me that caring for the ones under my roof was greater than any craft I could be dicking around with, outside…
Was I hungry? I had just eaten a few hours ago. Wasn’t I just feeling a little bloated? Maybe I didn’t eat enough. Is it HUNGER, then, am I hungry. As if I suddenly don’t know what I knew.
Daniel is in his office, making a presentation and as I walk by I see a slide that is asking the class something like WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE STORY and as I make my way up the stairs, his stairs, I say to myself: TO SAY SOMETHING. Either for the point of saying it or maybe even more.
It goes deeper than that, sometimes. Even when it doesn’t, it’s still good if it’s genuine. Why worry about whatever specific point the piece was made about? TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT WHATEVER THE HELL THE TITLE IS. TO GET PUBLISHED. TO GET PAID. TO BE GRADED. ‘Why’ is suddenly so relative and I think, THE TEACHER SHOULD COME UPSTAIRS AND READ IT TO FIND OUT.
He’s so cute in his Oliver People’s glasses, those wide, geeky, Wallstreet frames I picked out. They’re s much better than those narrow, condenscending drames he always wore, always looked over to see things farther away, like he was looking down on everything else. Like an asshole.
Looks can be deceiving. I considered changing the title of my blog to Tales From The Other Side Of The Garden Fence.
Yeah, I scaled over the bitch. And not being the most coordinated person on earth I landed on my ass. I can bring you the inside scoup. Though, admittedly, I don’t always because the lines are blurred but thin between the big white boxes and my waking life, these days. If I tell the truth about everyone in my current time, they may not look so hot. And if they ever read what I wrote, they may get hot. The risk of it doesn’t entice me – the leaking tabloid life doesn’t reward my spirit. It just gets me in to trouble.
Last year I joined FaceBlah and sent a message to Justin, the main character from my Flint Chronicles. This year I thumbed to his profile again, only saying, “Happy Holidays, Jbird.”
He answered right away, seeing that he’d missed the previous year’s instant text. He claimed having no idea how it had gone unnoticed and wanted to catch up right away. Not expecting to actually revive that dying light, I refrained from answering for a while. Then in slow bits between noneventful moments I would answer a question or reiterate that I was glad to have found him, again.
This morning I saw a message he had left at 2 a.m: Are you still up? I can’t sleep.
Back then, in that 18-21 coming-of-age era, 2 a.m. was somewhere around 9:30. And having known Justin, it was still probably pretty early for him. But I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of his lonliness, his untimely gesture to reach out. It made me sad. I had been in situations, phases before, where I may have been wandering the grounds in the wee morning hours, seeking a connection. And I have a younger brother who may very well get the urge to text me lyrics to Van Morrison even later than that, and it makes perfect sense to me.
It didn’t make sense, to Justin’s wife when she saw what he had done.
His number called a few times while I was at work. I answered when it called again, after my shift. Attempting to greet an old friend again, Justin began rattling on about his current plans for an uncertain future, the kinds of events that you just know may never transpire. And just like old times I mostly gave him the option of ranting on. He was always good for stories and you never assumed that they were truthful. Unfortunately he had awkwardly tried to explain our history, of my accompanying him through Flint, MI for the sake of everyone’s energy and the story of the city – and how our relationship to each other was entirely void of the kind of attraction he sought chasing after promiscuous girls.
Of course, he didn’t say it like that. He didn’t know to. That was my perspective. He knew I had been there, enjoyed the trips through clubs and tattoo parlors, and that I stuck around a while after the other supporting characters, nearby residents and schoolmates of his, had started to go separate ways. Uninspired and without a lot of options, Justin had enrolled in the Marines a few weeks after I went home one day and never came back.
He wrote me letters from Iraq, like he did to his mother. My mom helped me put together a care package and we mailed it over, possibly the only thing he received from any of us. Then Justin had his elbow blown off. He came back a hero with a purple heart and I was still too immersed in my own world to go see him. Years passed. An entire era passed. The vagina-chasing, compulsively lying, directionless scrub from Flint had turned his legend around and I never congratulated him. My chronicles ended with rusting street signs, the looming fear of a doomed city, and the absence of closure that comes from our never-ending lives.
“My wife was so upset when she looked at my phone. She thought I was cheating on her. I told her, it wasn’t anything like that. I said, ‘We never even dated! She was never my girlfriend! She was my best friend.’”
My heart was so flattered, even if it was a title I knew I didn’t deserve. How about the guys from childhood, the other ones I wrote about? What about my then-sidekick, Mandi, who had originally brought me in to the whole thing? What about the other redhead who was getting me to drive out there because she dared to follow her heart? The two of them made a lot of mistakes together… what about her companionship?
It all made me stop and think about where we all are. The dances we learned vs the ones we’re doing now. I can just see Justin’s shirtless, skinny, 18 year-old-self breaking it down, leveling with us about the shit we’ve mucked up and and shit we ought to do. He was never one to speak but he spoke, alright.
I think about the years I was cooped up in my hometown, an eccentric hermit, believing I had a tortured old soul even though I hadn’t even really ever made my personal adventures the main story, yet. I had written a passage about a dark barn where old, black machines were covered in tarps. Occasionally there would be a spark or a noise, the idea of it in my head. And I longed for the romantic brains of an engineer who could recognize the once-oiled parts and declare that it all still worked – that I, could still operate on potential.
I feel the weight of the tarps now, more than before. The dust itself adds weight. I’m blinking and muttering. I’m not sure whether or not I’m even hungry.
And I can feel, at the source of the levers and wires, that there is Good. Still good.
Still good, Autumn.
So maybe we need some polishing. Maybe the horizon is still way over there.
Grab an extension cord, girl.
Let’s plug this fucker in.