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, with that thin, vertical, double red line on the left.

“She’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.

Maybe my heart beat just once when I was born and every sound it has made since is merely an echo.

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.

Needs

Also from my old Tumblr, again, as inactive as my romantic life…

The world shrinks. No exposure to current events, cutting ties with social media, and allowing in only people whom I trust with my life.

The forest, the plains, the ocean all wait quietly, going about their natural day while we bury ourselves with our own lives. It is time to unwind, time to smile, time to giggle, time to take chances, time to be real, time to live, and time to love.

Now, I don’t know how to do that last part. I’m going to need patience and tolerance and help with my timing and warm hugs and calmness and a hand to hold every day.

Every day.

She cannot be afraid of goodness and must trust my rough edges and know that at the end of the day she will be safe next to me as she falls asleep with my gentle breath trickling down her clavicle and my hand on her hip.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

This one has been sitting in drafts since July 28. All contents remain valid.

…but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.

Life has evened out recently. After a turbulent decade which has resulted in discovering my own identity, other changes have ensured that life never gets so easy that it loses its edge. Injurious family quarrels. Time away from bikes (injury). Loneliness.

After losing my job and moving back to California, taking a lower-paying yet more satisfying job, and meeting more people in six months than I have in the previous five years, change has become relative. Knowing what I want and what I need are more clearly defined, yet still separated. Sometimes they are the same, or they exist on both sides of the delimiter.

What I need is touch.

It has been so long since anyone’s fingerprints have been on my soul that any ensuing reaction to touch that deep would be alien, leaving me to wonder if I’d truly experienced touch.

With relocation being the most sensible alternative after being unable to gain new employment in Colorado, I was forced to leave my house in the Centennial State to renters and live in the family compound in California. It is a senior community tucked in a quiet nook in a now busy and crowded beach town.

Each morning, people within this community walk their dogs or simply stroll through the grounds to take in the fresh ocean air. Among these people are barky dogs who seem to forget who their neighbors are each morning, and cranky older folks who won’t acknowledge a wave and a smile.

But who stands out are a couple, walking at a brisk pace while all the time never losing contact of held hands. They’re adorable.

This is what I want.

This is what I need.

It can’t be gifted, it needs to be earned. Even fought for. Every last platitude has worn thin, and I no longer just sit and wait for the universe to drop in my lap that which everyone says I deserve. That which we all deserve.

True love.

But how do we know what we’re looking for? When the radar has been quiet for so long, do we broaden the search radius? If so, where?

Many an online romance have been whammied by distance, by current relationships, and by age. Sometimes a combination of all of them. Talking platonically to married people seems ok because we’re all adults, but those conversations shouldn’t ever influence the outcome of an existing relationship. It is a dangerous path. Someone will be hurt.

Distance is tricky because most people are tied to where they live; for family, for work, or any other number of reasons. Often times passports and societal elements are involved. That’s never easy.

Age. This seems to be the one variable posing the least amount of complication. Assuming the two individuals are local and single, all that’s left is what they have in common; how their souls match up. Is there chemistry?

Of course chemistry plays a part in any relationship, and it is difficult to find that with people a generation removed in either direction. Chemistry needn’t be immediate; some reactions are a slow burn, but a more successful result for the wait.

In a perfect world we end up marrying and dying with the girl whose hand we held walking with, hip-deep in snow to kindergarten (Hi, Lisa Sartore), but the world isn’t that kind or that simple, so we learn as we go and adapt when needed.

It’s been six long years, and the radar pings regularly at 12 o’clock just to let me know I’m alive.

Soft Moments

“Fate is the collision of patience and coincidence.”

Satisfied with this assessment of the present, he leaned back and squinted at the words, sprawled across the screen like a banner headline during wartime. Fatalists squint a lot because there are so many signs to read, and we’re always looking for directions. At least we men are.


MAY 1993

Open windows of the rickety U-Haul scooped in fresh, arid, mountain air.

“Utah gets a bad rap” he thought, winking smoke away from his eyes. The truck bounced like a rollercoaster, accompanied by the tinny sound of talk shows and latino music fading in and out over the AM radio.

The cigarette ash was longer than it should have been, yet it clung to its butt for dear life. The passenger seat contained an atlas and a half-empty pack of Lucky Strikes.

Packed tight with a life lived thus far, the truck coasted to a halt, punctuated by gentle crushing of roadside gravel. It was time to stop and take stock of progress.

cracked-cloudy-roadSlowly, the cab door creaked open in an place that couldn’t produce even a faint echo. Surveying the landscape in both directions, he ambled to the yellow stripe dividing lanes and stood staring at the horizon with hands on hips like a superhero, the sweaty concert t-shirt on his back a mock cape. The tarmac was warm and surprisingly inviting.

He was made for long journeys featuring uncertain outcomes. That’s what superheroes do: They grind out victory from a handful of uncertainty.

“There’s destiny up there.”

He allowed his hands to fall into the pockets of his plaid bermudas. There was no traffic. The sun beat down on his strong, young body, a bit weary from the miles, but he was always good when the heat was on. Returning to the cab, he extracted a cigarette from its rumpled pack with his teeth and flicked the lighter.

Again.

Again.

Damn.

There was a lighter in a box of miscellaneous belongings packed near the back of the truck. Straddling the trailer hitch (a car was being towed), he lifted the portcullis to his mobile life.

*plop*

A larger box had dropped as if being pushed, and a book tumbled to the ground. It was a dark blue hardback with silver accents and the pages were grey like those shirts that garage mechanics wore in the fifties. Squatting down and resting his arms on his knees, he picked up the book which had opened to the homecoming section, but before closing it, took a long gaze at a picture catching his eye without release.

She was radiant in black and white. A focal memory in a gown and a mischievous smile, filed away under What If a decade prior. Her eyes were certain and confident, right brow lifted slightly, accessorizing the smile. Her arm rested gracefully within the arm of the boy accompanying her on the court, a lucky boy whose name was I Once Wished That Were Me.

“I should’ve asked her to prom. I should’ve been more confident. You weren’t that goofy of a kid. Sure, quiet and shy, but maybe she would have said yes.”

He paused and looked up from the memory, blinking rapidly.

“No one should wield the power after an entire decade to stop a man cold like that in scorching desert heat. It’s just not fair,” he mused to himself.

It was so quiet on that ribbon of highway, he wondered if he’d unknowingly spoken the words.

Desolate silence provided the score as he sat, perched on the yoke of the trailer with the book in his palm. Rummaging through another box with his free hand, the lighter was found and he Struck Lucky. Only a few more moments of this utter silence, after which the pages of the past were pressed back together with a sigh of resolve. Life was pretty complicated right then and was only going to become more complicated. He knew this, so these soft moments counted extra.

The book remained closed, but in the front seat for the remainder of the trek to the Rocky Mountain plains.

She wouldn’t cross his mind again for almost seven years, but every time she crossed it, she left faint footprints.


Coincidental fates are determined by time and patience. What one wants and what one needs will blend when the time is right, and we don’t dictate time. Time is steady, independent, and consistent, like Capricorns. Soft moments are to be savored, for I believe if we truly appreciate the moment and file that moment away, it will remain preserved for when we need that lump in our throat, that butterfly in our stomach, or a soft moment to ponder…

…fates.