pepper

Pepper steak and eggs on a diner platter. There is a clattering of dishes as busboys clear tables. There is a smattering of lips smack across the restaurant, as all its patrons delve into breakfast pancakes running thick with rich syrup, savoring the salt of bacon and the pillowy, hot, fresh biscuits that seem to be coming out of the kitchen in conveyer belt-like fashion with no signs of stopping. There is no hesitation for the waitress to fill up coffee mugs with the steaming fresh pot she carries in her hands. Chrome-plated, red white and blue color scheme dances in neon bright lights, carrying some opposite SOS beacon across the water like, “Please don’t bother us. We’re having such a nice time!”. The trivial joys are rudimentary if you are lucky enough to not be taken prisoner by your own thoughts. Salt and pepper eggs with the runny yolk being caught by well-done toast. Corned beef hash can be a religion if you really close your eyes and try. Or not try. It actually doesn’t take much trying, it’s so delicious. Clearing your throat. Eating beyond your means. This grandiose American culture and entertainment. I unwrap my paper napkin rolled utensils. And begin to brace myself for my first bite. It will be triumphant fireworks reminiscent of the 4th of July.

crowd

Three’s a crowd, three is company. Modern marvels watch like windows looking outward to the world, inside there is black marble and onyx. Granite columns holding up the titans and giants of financial industry. It is crowded and I can’t breathe. Supreme disappointment, aggravated nonsense. Claustrophobia. Snake in a tube, wriggling through. Coiling. Getting ready to strike. Remembering the roomy darkness of the wicker basket. The snake does not like crowds.

I do not miss packed and crowded PATH trains and subways. Sardined just inside the closing doors. Trying not to breathe, not to sweat, not to look anyone in the eye. Just get there by sheer force of will and the power of God, and soon I will be off this bullet and climbing stairs (cursing every one) until I am above ground and now sweltering in the sun, to hopefully soon enter some grand cavern of air conditioning. And I will internally weep as it hits my glistening skin, and simultaneously marvel at the fact that years ago A/C did not exist. And I will think of Mad Men and Don Draper drinking dirty tap water. Feeling like we have gone everywhere and nowhere all at once. Strawberry mistakes with red juice around your chin.

Crowded ballrooms where the voices rise up in a deafening din. There is a DJ fighting for amplitude. My eardrums are pulsing and cursing the day. There needs to be a separation. No more crowds now. Anxiety first. Elementary school gym class and lifting up the multi-colored parachute. I used to love those gym class days. Always so much fun. I hadn’t thought about that in awhile…Crowded clubs and street sidewalks. Long lines. Crowded nest where the runt of the eggs gets kicked out to die and starve. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it happen on camera. It’s true. And breaks your heart. Crowded because of clutter and depression. Interior panic. Crowded parking lot. There are no spaces. Time to move on. Packed festivals and carnivals. Makes you want to be a card-carrying nihilist.

stain

Stain on freshly washed clothes. Almost immediate. As if the bleached whites are asking for tomato spatter. A caprese accident Jackson Pollock style. It's not enough to look like a design. It looks like an accident. A "before" photo in some godforsaken detergent commercial. This stain warrants Billy Mays to rise from the grave and sell me Oxyclean just one more time. Alien slime stickers from early-aughts vending machines that beg for quarters. The colors are cheap, the materials are toxic and made in China. But the childlike satisfaction at turning the germ-infested metal knob and having that prize come out is worth it. The price of the experience. The token is unimportant and will probably get lost, break, or collect dust in less than a day. Wine, coffee, and tea stains. Stains on teeth. Wine-stained cheek bone pleasurous treasure. Gumption and guppies and parafin wax. Skateboard, surfboarding. Storms coming. Better get inside. Stains of ash and electricity on a shocked tree stump. As if getting cut down wasn't bad enough. Wilder notions have come to me during storms. Cut down all the power lines. Leave it up to God. Some people would. Some people can. Racing down freeway with gum strips in cup holders. Welded together by some heated miracle.

swing

There is a park atop a hill in a quiet suburban town. At night, when the wind is still and all local residents are asleep in their beds, the swings pendulum back and forth, footsteps appear in the gravel and mulch; There is a barely perceptible echo of children’s laughter. An owl hoots in the distance, hungry. The haunting lasts throughout the darkness, until a sliver of sunlight appears. And right about the time vampires close back down their coffins, belly full, the play equipment stops moving, the voice die down, and the owl heads back to slumber (his belly full as well). And when the children come to play during the daytime, there is no way for them or their parents to know what happens here at night, how the swings come to life and how paranormal energy ricochets and bounces off the metal slide and monkey bars. It is all animal crackers and juice boxes and scraped knees. Benevolent spirits wishing they could take a sip, having a bite, play tag. When the last car leaves the lot, tires squealing goodbye, it gets awful lonely. There is a sadness that hangs in the park after dark. But one evening, something is left behind. A cell phone from a multi-tasking parent. It buzzes and vibrates, the parent in question no doubt calling herself. Of course no one answers, but the after-dusk residents of the park are intrigued. The owl hoots, disturbed, not trusting this great, big, buzzing light that has been left on the bench. The vampires ignore it, as it does not smell like blood – and the light is too much for them to bare; The avoid it all together. The child spirits are fascinated by it, but cannot pick it up, cannot hold it, but find a way to keep the battery charged by surrounding this mysterious device. On the witching hour, there are tires against the gravel the start and stop. Car door slam. Footsteps. The swings stop swinging, the children stop laughing, and the owl decides to go hunt somewhere else as this park is not as peaceful as it once was, and with beak upturned, flies away. The metal gate to the park creaks open, as it internally prays for oil. Mom has another phone with her and and she’s calling hers.

horns

Trumpets resound in thick, brass tones announcing the entrance of royalty, a king. Crown of weighted gold - real - upon his head, the air from these horns lightly breezes the bristles of hair on his neck. He wears a sash encrusted with jewels and as the trumpets resound their last note, the chamber echoes with the energy of all who has come and died before this altar, this throne. Questioning properties forever forbidden from his hall as it actually does not make very good politics for this time period. The king's shoes are new and after crossing his legs, he remains stock-still, gazing at their beauty. A goblet is brought to him. And regards it carefully, looking into the eyes of the page who has brought it - deeply. Resigned, he accepts the chalice and smells the sweet wine within, takes a sip and calls the page back. "Take it away, I am finished with it". His queen has died not long ago. And he feels as empty has the hall is now; echoing, resounding, reverberant with nothing to reflect the noise of the soul off of. Eyes cast downward, nursing his spiritual hangover. What is a king to do, this messenger and representative of God, this god-like being himself, this pure bloodline inbred; What's a king to do when he no longer believes that God exists? How this invalidates his very purpose, his role -