Charcoal etches a fine design. Like wisps of carbon and ash and coal, whispering shapes to live, to life. Lines drawn and coaxed so that their edges are relaxed. All rounded bends and no sharp corners. It tastes bitter in my mouth remembering the remembrance of you. Saintly slips of the tongue usher in new awakenings and new boundaries. Rocketships take flight, acknowledging the first pang of love. The pre-flight checklist in confirming its certainty. Sweets seem bittersweet; Bougie chocolate chips, gripping my wallet and sucking my teeth begrudgingly paying, on line at the grocery storm, store, story. Simplest of feet shuffles. Red converse and the scuffed toe that tells a non-eventful story of not picking up my feet enough. Depression from the head down. It falls like cold, frigid air. An open window above my bed in February. A month known for its dreary frost. Where one has thoughts about, “will winter ever truly end?” So much for sailboats and warm winters in coastal southern cities. A 70 degree Christmas. Art museum excursions. Hallucinating sounds of seagulls, circling. Pavlov effect where I can hear the ocean and taste saltwater in my mouth. Where my mind is about to breach with summertime manifestations, hopes and dreams and memories. All signals point. Granted, it’s whatever I say it will be. Major investments in law and banking. Snarky grumbles and grimaces of men sitting in teak rooms; They are wide and their faces are large and pig-like. I cannot find commonalities with them. Gentrified neighborhoods suffering their own fleeting deaths. Marble countertop monthly installments. Getting a grip. Baseball bat, choking up. Same marginal difference. Rutland. Wetland. Christ for Christmas. Lederhosen antiquities. Time and place. Rushing the eventualities. Needing a pause. Questioning none. Roots dig into fertile ground and rustle the soil in slow motion. Sometimes the ground can get really stubborn. I am wanting and wishing forever. Putting on airs and glancing at troubadours past. Unnecessary homework. Grimace and shake. McDonald’s drive-thru convenience. Coming up crisply, Crispix cereal. Halloween, nighttime. Glance at pumpkin. Razorblade sharp. Billow and bend. Creating cracklings around.
Wash and rinse. Shampoo, blow-dry. A thorough baptism in the beauty salon. Weighted in the chair, feeling heavy with the smock over my body and the towel momentarily over my eyes. Mouthwash routine. Getting the plaque out, getting the germs out. I will do this for the rest of my life, morning and night. Stumped about a question I cannot answer. Rinse my brain with beverage. Carbonated and frothy and will at least get me to bed. Not that I’ll sleep well, but it’ll at least get me there; Make me agreeable. A cold frosted glass versus a room temperature piece of plastic. A good versus evil of sorts. Socks spit out of the sock drawer. It’s a paranormal event where a ghost is not sure when he should wear to his first day of school. All I can see is a multi-color hurricane avalanche. It’s time to tuck your chin under and roll. It is multi-color gymnastics. Not only costumes and outfits, but equipment. It’s the 90s. That gym seemed so big when I was 5 years old. Swishing around the memory and spitting it out. The reverberation of the room, staying put before moving on. A pitchfork in a bale of hay near a trough where horses lackadaisically drink. Droughts bring conundrums. Old West. Oregon Trail again. September leaves are calling in the wind, whipping them up into a tailspin frenzy. Rockets take off from the Cape without a sound I bet; Some future distant daydream (again). Hard to pinpoint the silence. Could be you’ve just gone deaf. Magic happens when we least expect it. It sometimes happens with our eyes closed in the dark. Deplaning all doubt, registering what comes next. A flow chart and each potential possibility. The mouthwash goes from one cheek to another as I may awkward eye contact with myself in the mirror. Having a laugh, taking it easy, spitting out the foam. Fake rabid dog at play. Old Yeller. A movie that felt like a previously recorded national event. “Will you please rise for the national anthem?” Uniformity in nationalism; The deviation of black keys from white keys but the piano still plays. Marvelous milling about outside a ball game. The smell of Premio sausage getting toasty on the grill. Overpriced everything, go into the debt and leave that game wishing you could just beam right out. “Scotty, where are you?” – Instead of taking the B train (by total accident), all local stops, back to Penn Station from Yankee Stadium. God, I long to do it again. It’s been lonely without a ballgame that means something, that counts for something. Dusty feet bathing in dirty water. A washbasin made of worn plastic. A copper wire.
Big brown and green contraption smells foul and rank. Flies buzz about and it is difficult to approach. The closer one gets, the more difficult it becomes to bear. Hiding my face with a red handkerchief as I look away; The smell stings my eyes. Garbage abound, this dumpster is overfilled and was skipped on its last delivery. The decomposition of food waste and lord knows what else is absolutely unbearable. It is a hot summer day and it has not even reached its peak. 8AM produces a balmy and humid 88 degrees. It’s going to be a scorcher. The man on the radio said so. I had turned the volume up so I could hear the weather report better. The 1994, hand-me-down Mercedes-Benz that someone in the corporate world bought for top price because they saw it in the catalog; for prestige; for wealth; for envy. All the good, wrong things you’d expect. Sometimes people can be stereotypical, predictable, caricatures. Sometimes not; Sometimes we think we know everything and are often surprised by what we discover and find. Like maps and compasses on the bottoms of overturned rocks in the middle of nowhere. In thirsty desolation, isolation; In drought. Dried up riverbeds that have skulls and cracks. Oregon Trail mural that will never be as entertaining or cool as the original computer game. A game with a mission. Good marketing. Guess it worked. Like some CompUSA Shakespearean play that just never worn out its welcome; An instant classic. Instant oatmeal, instant coffee, Sanka. Pathetic crystals. But I guess it was good marketing; I guess it made sense at the time. With the space program and all, and with NASA getting off the ground. Space age caffeinated crystals. Back when the populace didn’t realize the coffee they were drinking was shit (well, who knows if that know that now)? Icicle, ice cream cones, I mean, anything to drift my mind from this heat and stench. The dumpster in the empty parking lot has a mattress sticking out and I wouldn’t mind knowing its history, but from a distance, please. I’d watch the movie. Well…maybe I wouldn’t. Wooden palettes, broken and dilapidated, lean up against the beast as best it can. And when the truck finally does come to put that dumpster away, to dump its contents out, it will be loud and I want to be nowhere near it. Office Park parking lot. Middle/central New Jersey. Those long stretches of roads that are like a time machine back to the 1980s, where there is marble in the lobby and wood panelling in antiquated offices. Where there is still a box of Sanka tucked away somewhere that is a sort of running joke of the office that everyone makes fun of from time to time, but won’t throw out. Jupiter, Mars, Uranus, and Saturn. Planets and orchestral scores that exist in a child’s room who will know nothing of this future because what importance or relevance does it have. The signs that used to hang that said ‘No Smoking’; In stairwells, lobbies, hotels, and restaurants – Airplanes.
Each flower that blooms is inertia in motion. Someone planted a seed in this spot once – intentional. It got watered by the rain and watering can, and before you knew it it burst forth on one dewy morning to kiss the sun rays. A surfer passes this flower on his way to work, carrying his board to the nearby beach. The air smells sweet like salt and suntan lotion. He locks his car by pressing the keys inside is swim trunks’ pocket. It is 7 AM and the dawn is breaking. Still cool, still chilly. He is wearing a loose, blue sweatshirt. It fits baggily on his fit body. Approaching the water, his feet touch cold sand and it is at first, jarring to have this sensory experience. He knows the water won’t be forgiving, but he goes forth. It is a ritual. Every morning before eggs and coffee he must commune with the great yawn of ocean in his backyard. Every morning he wills himself to be baptized and reborn upon ocean shores, spit out by waves like a less glamorous Venus. He has a secret. He has a vendetta. He has lost someone. He thinks of that flower. That yellow daffodil he passed this morning as he paddles out and beyond. He sits on his board and looks around, relishing the solitude, knowing it will not last. Proving something to himself and to God that yeah, he’s here – again. He did this. He got himself here. Because 80% of life is showing up, and shouldn’t that count for something? Sometimes it’s not how fast you do a thing, but the consistency at which you do it. The salty air saturates his nostrils and he hears the gulls circle and cry out. He’s been riding little speed bumps of waves, but has not intuitively selected the one he’s going to start out with this morning. Finally he feels a stirring, a rumble. He paddles forward and brings himself to stand with bent, flexible knees. He focuses all his energy on his abdominals and the balance he requires of them. His stance is wide. He rides that wave down the coastline before it collapses and him along with it. Submerged, peaceful again, rock and roll waves rush over his head and he thinks to himself, “What if I didn’t get up?”
“Do you wanna know what I think?” she offered. “I think that you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Presents are wrapped with ribbons askew. The corners of the boxes have too much paper smushed and frantically taped along the edges.
“I never said I was good at this but they’re wrapped, aren’t they?”
Lyla laughed out loud and said, “I suppose they are,” in an amused sort of way. She tucked her chuckle back in her throat and walks out of the room, nearly tripping over a large cylinder of cellophane. The plastic wrap, sheen, but loud and crinkly. See-through, opaque with mild distortion.
“Have you wrapped the basket for the baby yet?”
“No,” Laura responded in a gruff, annoyed tone.
“Well,” Lyla waits and considers what she’s about to offer, just in case. “Why don’t I help you?”
Laura tosses her a skeptical look. “You’ve been teasing me all day about this and now you’re playing Mother Teresa? I may be a lost cause, but I don’t need charity.”
“No, no! I want to help. I have nothing better to do anyway. Look,”
Lyla grabbed the tube and the basket at the foot of the bed. Arranging the baby items in some QVC display fashion she must’ve learned in some godforsaken, stereotypical high school elective geared toward domestication, Laura thought; Lyla suddenly created a piece of art out of tissue paper and ribbon, filling the basket with blue booties, binkies, and bottles. In the back, she added little books and in the front she arranged the toys so that all could be seen. Then she fearlessly released the cellophane from it’s containment and rolling out a ginormous piece, centered the basket on top of it, smack dab in the middle. Once Lyla was satisfied, and with an all-knowing smile, she used scissors to cut and grabbed both ends.