Monday, February 19, 2018

Everyone Was Beautiful and Everyone Hurt

it's a different kind of pain, i guess, but it's pain all the same. isolate yourself and feel left out and forgotten and have nobody to reach out to, to do things with, to enjoy things with, eaten up inside by loneliness and boredom and a lack of self-worth, fear of being in public alone, a restaurant, a theatre.

get to know people and then the pain is just in a new form, people you know leaving, dying, struggling under the weight of their own trauma, shared tears aren't so different from alone tears in that everyone involved is crying, worry over the health and well-being of everyone you know, worried about losing them like all the books and movies say you will, fear of having to say goodbye and needing to but never getting the chance, and then all that happens is your back in the restaurant alone, this time with both types of pain on yr shoulders

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Saying Goodbye

This is a true story.

Four years ago I drove westbound on a two-lane highway to the beach. I’d been on the road hundreds of times. My parents always warned me as a teenager to be wary of drunk drivers on it coming back home from a raucous night or weekend in the sand and water. It's about a 45 minute drive all on the same road from here to Lake Michigan, where you can sit on a bench near the sand or on the roof of your car and watch the sun drop over the water and break the surface with its orange and red and yellow and purple evening hues.

There was a tree, a dead tree, about twenty minutes into the drive, just on the outskirts of a small village that was collected along a flashing four-way stop, only a gas station and a few houses and a few old and dilapidated brick buildings nobody ever could tell the status of. A billboard advertising a strip club many, many miles away sat above one of the buildings for years.

The tree was gnarly, twisted, sort of U-shaped but ungainly and pale and uneven, with one wing significantly taller than the other, like a person with one fully outstretched arm to their side at an angle and the other arm too tired to lift as high. I loved that tree. There was something striking about it. It was the only tree for a good hundred feet in any direction, perched just off the side of the road. I always thought about taking a picture of it. It’d make a good album cover, maybe with a washed out filter and containing a bunch of sad indie tracks about life and travel and the loneliness of the open road. I’d always convince myself there’d be another time, that I could take the picture next summer, and then next summer would come and I’d put it off again, and I kept putting it off. After several years, I still hadn’t taken a single picture. Not that I was a professional or anything. I’d probably make it look way worse in digital form than it did in real life. And I sure as hell wasn't making an album.

The other day someone told me they loved me for the first time and I didn't really know them at all as a person so I avoided facing it head on and just told them they were good and hoped that cut it as a response. I still don't know what I should feel. Maybe we never do. Everything takes forever until it happens and then it happens too fast and all at once. 

Someone I used to talk to quite a bit and eat pizza with unfriended me on Facebook in the past month. I last saw them in September on a late Tuesday night for a quick bite to eat, them frazzled at working two jobs at near minimum wage, a commonality amongst many I know in this generation, work weeks elongating until they dwarf all other modes of existence and sleep and job is all you know. I was sort of sad at it but I also knew our values were in somewhat different places, and they had said some things that made me uncomfortable, but it was still weird to see another person disappear into the aether, nothing more now than a memory that will fade, my meager Facebook friend count depleted by one, still the smallest amongst all that I have friended on it. I never even got to say goodbye. The last words I said to them were "sounds good" after they had said "maybe we can hang out this weekend."

I found three stink bugs in the span of one day in three different rooms, I was surprised, usually they don't show up that much when it's this cold, only when it gets warmer and they all seem to wake up as if it's spring even though there are still many weeks of winter to go. I joke that they are the only truly unintelligent creatures on the entire planet, but I think that might be true, you can pick them up and they don't move and you can drop them outside or in a toilet and I don't think they ever have a sense of the impermanency of their existence. Maybe that makes them enlightened, and I have misjudged the entire situation and spectrum of intelligence they wield.

Perhaps we're constantly dealing with a sense of impending crisis as if there isn't time to do something, and maybe that's true and maybe it's not. You're statistically likely to live to age 80 or so but you don't know for sure, and you do know you can't do at age 60 what you can at 20 or 30, you do know that the hostel you stayed at in Chicago years ago had a bunch of people and the max age of anyone was 29, and that's basically you now, so I guess that's a thing.

Desperation often drives you to either hole up and not deal with the sense of impending crisis or to just go for it because you have nothing to lose, I guess it depends on how it presents itself and how you react to it, which is true of many things I suppose. It got that way with me. Maybe it always was. My reaction just slowly changed. Or maybe I did. Is there a difference?

Someone performed spoken word poetry in the kitchen the other day while dinner was cooking and it was very good, they had a sense of intonation and passion and comfort and the imagery the poem opened with was melancholy and immediate. I took three poetry classes through high school and college. Sometimes I wonder if I should have gotten into it more given my love of music; I don't really ever write or read it, but then I remember how bad I am at writing fiction even having done that my whole life and decide perhaps I don't need to spread myself even thinner when there is nothing there to spread in the first place.

I made myself a promise that I held onto for over a decade that a Tuesday early next year would be my last day on the planet, if I even made it that far, lived that long, I certainly tried to prevent myself from doing so in my earlier years. I don't know how to feel about it being so close now, that it's next year, relatively soon. I no longer have the same immediate fatality around the day, but it's strange, and I know it will be a hard day, like they always are.

Early October last year was surprisingly warm. Summer had its tendrils into fall and it made being outside perfectly comfortable without a jacket much later than it usually was. So I decided to go for it, like I had gone for some things over the last few years but still not enough, perpetually feeling like improvement existed but was fleeting and nothing would be good enough for me. There's a tenuousness to adult relationships and in the last week two things cancelled I was supposed to go to and be with people at, in both cases because of the weather, so I guess chalk up one more reason to hate this place. Kidding, the weather has always been one. So yeah, like I said, I went for it. I was alone at home, it was after work, and I had nothing better to do. I grabbed my phone, my keys, threw on a hoodie, and made my way out to my car. If I timed this right, I could get a photo of the tree with the setting sun as the background. It would be everything I could have ever wanted and more. The red and orange and purple hues sprayed out across the sky above and behind the withered, decayed tree, vibrant and lively set against dead and decrepit.

The drive was uneventful. At this time of year, even with it being mild, nobody was headed to the beach. The 2 lane highway was decidedly quiet. I reached the 4-way stop village that the tree sat just outside of, passed through, and… didn’t see it. I shook my head. Am I misremembering things? Is it farther along? I drove. For five minutes. Then ten. I didn’t see it. It was impossible to miss, as close to the road as it was. I turned my car around and came back. I slowed down just outside the village, where the tree should be. My heart sank. There, lying in the tall grass, was the tree, toppled over, nothing left standing but a white stump in the ground. I pulled my car over and got out, walking through grass that reached to my knees. The tree itself looked the same as ever, each curve and weathered bruise was intact, but time and wind had done its damage. It no longer stood like it had for years, and my procrastination had cost me a simple photo that I could have taken any summer for the past several.

I didn't know how to feel then. I wanted to kick the tree, to yell, to cry, feeling a hundred things all at once, many of them not even tangentially related to a mere inanimate object. I didn't even know why I was so emotional. It was just a tree. But it's more than just the tree in that moment. It's a missed opportunity, a delayed thing. This was so simple. Twenty minutes. And maybe the photo would have been no good and maybe I would have forgotten it but the harm was... what? Feeling a bit anxious standing on the side of the road taking a photo? I mean right now you are crying over a dead tree. Crying. Over a dead tree. In the grass. Surely that is the worst outcome here?

I tried to convince myself otherwise. I was never a photo taker. I was bad at trips and shows, more interested in my eyes than the screen, bad at holding my hands steady and bad at uploading photos or revisiting them anyways. It would have looked much worse on a screen than the combination of the lighting then and my eyes and the values I had imbued it with created. But it still stung. Because the opportunity, for better or worse, was now gone. The tree had fallen over, and would never get back up. And if I couldn't do this, how was I supposed to take the proverbial photo, take the proverbial drive, for something in life much harder, much more important, much more time constrained?

I turned my head and looked toward the setting sun. The colours flared across the sky like cans of paint had simply been thrown against the atmosphere. I looked back at the tree. It didn’t look as haunting now, as peculiar, as grand. It looked simply dead and forgotten. I thought about how we all shared the same fate. I knelt down and put a hand on the tree.

“Goodbye,” I said.

I drove home. I slept through the evening and night, dreaming of places and people and shores I would never see again.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Corny Title; Compliment the Chef

We're coded to not build someone up too much with praise and compliments and while that's true and we all know spoiled kids and adults who think they deserve it all, it seems to me the opposite is the bigger target, depression and suicide now globally one of the single greatest sources of disability adjusted life years, deaths of despair spiraling out of control in the richest country on the planet, so maybe we should err on the side of dishing out too much, of making someone feel good, telling them they're smart or cute or whatever and guess what you might get a smile or a thanks or realize you made them feel good and if they go home and yell at their parents for not spending $2000 on a new PC for them well that is clearly bad, but if they go home to their room glowing and looking fondly upon an interaction that they seemingly lack all too much, well that is clearly good, and when most people hate their job, and are trying to fix their existence with way after way out, maybe a compliment won't cause someone to inflate and float away, it'll just simply get them back on solid ground.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Feeling Better is a State of Mind but not a State You Can Just Change

"Chin up" people say and focus on the good because it's that simple and everything can be better, you know, it's positive attitude. Hard to leave the room when it's comfortable and you know the blood from when you used to self-harm on your bed sheets is home. But enough drugs and alcohol, and fear can subside a bit and then you're back to getting out there and wondering why you never did this in the first place. And maybe drugs and alcohol aren't a lifelong solution but when the alternative is panic attacks and death and fear at all corners, the alternative isn't acceptable. There is no easy solution or quick fix and some times it's not what you need but in between the sushi and the sake and the sharing of deep dark secrets and sympathy maybe you'll find that home is not bleeding out from a razorblade on your arm but instead is with someone who you can talk to. Someone recently asked me what friendship is and maybe this isn't perfect an answer but I think friendship is regular socializing that involves emotional labor without any expectation of ownership. And I am weird but that's really what any relationship is, intimate or otherwise, you just don't often fuck your friends or live with them, although I suppose millennials these days do the latter a lot and maybe more the former. Where was I? Oh yeah. The secrets shared and the laughs had don't fix the income, they don't fix the dying rust belt city, they don't scare away the fears, but when you're at the restaurant or bar or movie the razor blade and alcohol and benzos and sad music about dying sit unused on your shelf for a little bit, and maybe that's for the best.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

If This Is Heaven Then Why Isn't The Parking Free

This is a short epilogue of sorts, maybe a bit of reflecting, a bit more personal and also maybe a little bit less of a telling of constant events and a little more an observation of daily foibles, although it hues similarly in terms of style and structure and does take cues from my previous entry. It is mostly for my own sake and nothing else, getting thoughts down, whatever. It probably will make sense without reading We Are All... but I think some of the context and some of the references might lose some effect. Like before, this is basically entirely true, with just some minor details and settings and things slightly scrambled to prevent any identification. I wrote it in a few hours this afternoon and evening since my previously started follow up was awful in every way, although I suppose this is too, and I honestly can't really bring myself to get it critiqued or whatever, so what follows is what follows and nothing more.

CW for depression and suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. The language is a lot less caustic. We all grow up eventually.

I'd say "enjoy" but you're free to do what you want.