Heavy

A heavy sheet of paper is tucked, folded into thirds in a nightstand drawer. I read it exactly once, when it arrived in mail a year and a half ago.

The naïve boy in me did not see what was coming. She was busy, I was patient, and reading into situations is not my strong suit; I am a face value kind of guy.

If there are pink slips in relationships, they are actually yellow and ruled.

“It’s just a girl,” they say. “You’ll get over her.”

It is not that simple – for a fella who is okay with words, I am still unable to express the attraction, the…stuff that made this special. History has a little to do with it, so very little because I never told her then.

And you never knew
How much I really liked you
Because I never even told you
Oh, and I meant to

– The Smiths

This morning I picked up the paper by accident; it’s one of those things I’ll never be able to read again. It felt heavy, like all of my feeling, the same feeling I have missed since reading it, was sucked into the words and weigh down the page, and the emptiness inside is largely due to a lack of care.

Dead.

One time I wrote a thing describing how my heart and mind work independently, never together:

“I’m not looking for any trouble here,” I say while tearing my beating heart from beneath my ribs and offering it to you.

Chest still empty, heart – whereabouts unknown. Maybe my heart beat only once when I was born and every sound it has made since is merely an echo.

Fringe

There is no poetry more perfect than my first thought of you in the morning, before eyes flutter open or fingers reach for a pen, while you are still on the fringe of my fantasy, smiling in faded departure.

Interest(ing)

…written in a series of four tweets.


Today a pretty woman smiled as I studied each of my steps while walking past her in a pet store. I don’t look up because this never ends well.

By my age, everyone has a someone and I’m not that lucky to be caught in open windows, between heartbeats, within a stolen glance.

The last time I responded to being noticed was a long time ago; like reading fiction, wishing to be in the story.

Alas, life has become a dull, grey tale with no denouement. The natural conclusion is merely a continuation of uncertainty.

Empathy, Part Infinity

Fog blows in over Pleasure Point bringing a chill to an otherwise warm, spring afternoon. Coasting up on my bike to the liquor store with blank windows, this will be the last stop of my day and I am not in the mood to talk with anyone. This isn’t news, really; people bother me, but I know how to handle spontaneous conversation.

Dave Wood seems to know me, but we have never met. His breath smells of vodka, which has affected his speech, and he seems to have begun the conversation well before I arrived. His tense smile reveals two missing teeth.

“Look at all that hair on your face. Some people lose hair when they get older – what are you, 80?” He removes his baseball cap to expose a full head of unwashed and uncut grey and blond hair.

As I unpack my messenger bag to work, I sense Dave needs to be acknowledged in the way he wishes – my smile and minimal eye-contact while I work are not sufficient.

“I’m 52, but I’ve seen some things,” I replied calmly. “Raising kids will do that to ya. And I think the beard is just my hair migrating from the top to the bottom of my face.”

Dave is not amused. My history is closely guarded and I will share only with those whom I trust. I don’t know Dave’s backstory, but I was about to find out.

“My 16 year-old son doesn’t talk to me. Well, I can’t find him. I don’t know where he is.”

He goes on with a stream of consciousness, becoming louder and slurring his speech further.

“I used to be a professional fertografer, man. Then I was riding a bike this one day, up to Sand Point, ya know? I wasn’t wearing a helmet and now I have this detached retina. Do they pay you to tape this paper to windows? You think I could get a job there? I can’t ride bikes anymore though.”

He claims an expired poster I had removed from a window while regaling me with his story and happens to be carrying a brand new black Sharpie, which surprised me. I gave him my first name and showed him the patch on my bag with my company’s contact information, which he wrote down, misspelling every word, including my name.

Dave becomes increasingly agitated when foot traffic from the liquor store flows around him as he is standing directly in the path to the store’s entrance. I gently guide him to one side of the entrance to avoid people, who walk by with an obvious effort to not look at us.

After talking about West Side vs. East Side homeless politics, and my overlooking his tangent about women’s grooming habits (I don’t know where some of this came from – I mostly listened), his face relaxed and his eyes became soft, like he was going to cry.

“Thank you for talking with me, Rob. No one gives me the time of day if I ask. I will remember you.”

Dave doesn’t need to know what time it is. Dave needs to know someone cares, even if they can’t help.

—-

Every day I ride my bike for work in this town, I encounter homeless people. I don’t know for certain if they choose to be on the streets or if they are trying hard to become active participants in society. No one can know for sure without an evaluation. Being around people, strangers in public, makes me anxious, but I have to do it sometimes. One of the things I am good at is feeling a person’s pain even if I don’t know the origin, and making them feel a little more comfortable, which is contrary to my own anxiety.

This post was inspired by a teacher I follow on Instagram. Kindness is not just absence of malice, it must be active and one must be aware of their surroundings to make it count for all it’s worth.

Everyone has a backstory. Know this before you say one word to a stranger.

Twenty Minutes Fast

A young girl stands in the doorway pressing the screen on her mobile phone, oblivious to my need to enter the building. I am not in a hurry. Her jeans may be a size too small, her shirt may be an undergarment. Had I not known how to read a calendar, this could have been 1984. I ask politely if I may pass and she smiles and steps to the side but does not break eye contact with her phone.

The only television in the place features a baseball game. The clerk behind the counter is the owner of the deli, efficiently taking orders with a smile as the group of hungry high schoolers begins to filter to booths and tables.

As I unpack my messenger bag and get to work, I can feel eyes on me while I quietly remove old content from the store window and replace it with current, upcoming events. Who is the white-bearded man, older than any of their parents? He’s too young to be retired, but too old to be putting up posters for music festivals in local storefronts.

Thirty-four years ago I roamed the same halls these students walked to get here – the deli is right next door to the high school from where I graduated. I feel these students watching me and immediately think of The Breakfast Club, when Carl the jancarlitor enters the library. You all know the scene.

These kids have no idea who I am or where I have been, or that I am from here but in a different time.

Just a short couple of years ago I was making six times as much money in the IT industry, working in a cubicle Monday through Friday. This felt…normal for a man my age. This is what we do before we retire and play golf or watch Murder She Wrote at 1:00 in the afternoon while we wait to die. Riding a bicycle to deliver parcels and post playbills is not where I saw myself at 17.

Or 47 for that matter.

An urge to stand up and gather the attention of these young minds was overwhelming, but I did not. These children, discussing weekend exploits at parties, video games, music, and sports didn’t seem to have a notion of what happens outside the walls of adolescence. I remembered being that young and thinking the world will take care of me, from my first job to my last. From my wedding to my retirement.

I was unprepared.

The message would have been to begin planning for your future immediately, because the world changes faster than a clock can tick, especially in this modern era. If you’re not careful, before you blink you will be 30 years old and a young parent without a career, scraping by doing what you are good at to put food on the table. All of your money will be spent supporting a family rather than saving, and before you know it you are 50 with a meager nest egg and a need to work for the rest of your life just to survive.

Truth be told, no one cares that much about who I am or what I do. They were probably looking at the big white beard and thinking this is what I do in retirement for fun. Regardless, I felt like Carl the janitor, doing a simple job and brimming with ample amounts of wisdom.

Yeah, my existential crises are pretty tame and yeah, my kids are probably pretty tired of it

Rapture

Ninety-nine percent of the time my writing is about love or melancholy or a feeling of some sort. Rarely do words fall out attached to a name. Lately I can be found at the bottom of a barrel scraping up words to begin a sentence. A conjunction, anything to tease out the feeling inside.

One time a girl inspired so much writing I couldn’t stop. Pulling over to the side of a road to document a poem on the way to work, waking in the middle of the night to save a thought before being consumed in a dream, exiting the shower to write down a seed of an idea before it fleeted.

And then I was alone. The words stayed for a while, but rather than tapering and fading, one morning I awoke to silence. She was gone.

If ever again a woman inspires such rapture within me, I will need my hands on her body, her lips on mine, my fingers wrapped in her hair and my name on her breath. She must be that close.

It’s Not As Bad As It Sounds

Fascinating. Intriguing. Mysterious.

Just a few of the things I have been called by people who read me or speak with me privately. Of course I am flattered because they took the time to say it; compliments dressed in reality in a virtual world.

My life is pretty simple and I like it like that. The only effort put forth is to be as real and as honest as I possibly can. This is why rejection hurts so much; there is nothing else on which to blame a departure when I am not hiding behind pretense.

The last rejection nearly killed me. I used to joke about dying inside, but now I’m actually standing over my own grave. She was special, an unknowing muse responsible for all of my smiles in nearly a decade. Concentrated, saturated emotion soaked up from the cracks of a dying heart. Frankly I was surprised to even hear her voice once, to see her, to exist in her world. I have said on a couple of occasions girls like her don’t talk with boys like me. That used to be all about confidence and self-esteem, but now it’s more about time and water flowing under bridges.

Time has always been my problem, be it in years apart or stations in life or duration of time spent together. Out loud, the conversation sounds like a pity party, but on paper it makes a little more sense.

Or a little less sense because how can this much…nothing happen to one person?

The look on the bright side crowd will tell me I had this small collection of really good moments, but my interest is thus far in volume. When I am able to more consistently collect good moments, perhaps then I will believe a little bit in fate and her plan.

Right now I visit my own grave each morning and go about my day so when night comes I can sleep and spend a little time dreaming anew before the daily mourning for dreams I once had.