Crosshairs drifting over an ever-elusive target. His leather aviator helmet / hat wrapped snug around Joe’s facial perimeter. A little more snug than he would have liked. His eye protectors also secure around both sockets, an elastic strap holding them in place. He tries to keep his breath steady as he ascends clouds and notices a little less oxygen in his cockpit. The plastic windshield feels like I could just fly away at any moment. He feels the vibration of his controls with his hand on the steering shaft. Mouth dry from nerves. Heart pounding. A little more fearful than exciting. Peering down at farmland below, he tried to gauge his location. Enemy territory for sure. He briefly wonders for a moment if, why anyone would do this for fun. He had a buddy back in Tuscaloosa who loved flying, couldn’t stop talking about it. Joining the Air Force wasn’t Joe’s choice. It was his father’s. And wanting to honor the man who gave him life and livelihood, Joe didn’t know how to turn him down. Despite not wanting it, he tried his best to get it. The Colonels were impressed at this skill and visual acuity. He wasn’t colorblind and didn’t have flat feet. He didn’t get air-sick. He was in formation, just behind the lead plane. He wanted this war to be over. There was nothing fun about knowing you could die at any minute of any day. He had friends and acquaintances who if they didn’t burn up on impact or get taken prisoner, they fell so fast out of the sky and into the ground below, they made their own graves. All they had to do was cross two sticks and tie them, marking the site. Joe felt on edge, having slept minimally the night before. He had gotten a letter from his wife that his baby son was sick. It tore him apart to read that.
Sneakers and the touch of skin in a heartfelt hug or handshake. So tightly-knit the thread or yarn could never be unraveled unless it was deliberately cut or set on fire. The bonds are mostly weatherproof. Wind just barely cuts through. A quilt of sisterhood, brotherhood, siblinghood. Feel how feet hug the earth one step after another patrolling a piece of land that is ours, owned by mind to renegades. Any other rules are cancelled out and fall short if they aren’t our own. We walk close to share body heat because no one should go cold in winter. No sibling of mine. Pride, warm beating hearts. Incredulous thought at hypothetical betrayal. Who would do that when we don’t have fathers, when we don’t have mothers? The closeness never achieved with family we achieve everyday now. Live and die by it. Isn’t that what family is? If there was no death, no possibility of it, how would anyone take this seriously? The promise of emotional stability is a steady game, even if it lends itself to emotional irrationality. I see a crowd of people I call family, that call me theirs. Hear their unique voices in my head so I may remember all their names. Taste the promise of tomorrow in this honeymoon honeyed head. Where everything is pure and nothing can go wrong. But after death all the blood drains from my face and I am shallow. I fall to my knees on cold grey winter pavement and place my hands on pre-crime scene street. Where the cement has taken payment in blood for our ownership. I mourn the loss. And feel the wetness of the flood spilt, but it does not transfer to my own hands.
All I can think about is a track star running in slow motion in elliptical fashion. If I become him, my I can feel my taut muscles pressing against my skin as they move. When my arms swing back and forth, my bicep presses on, begging to be included in this mass oxygenation of my body. Smelling freshly mowed grass and feeling that spark of adrenaline ignite in my brain at the excitement of moving and of winning this race. Breathing deeply, I can feel the air fill my lungs to capacity. It is sweet with spring and fresh mowed grass. As my eyes focus straight and peripherally, I see the track in front of me, the fence along side the outer edge and the families and friends in the stands cheering and calling. They are unimportant watercolor blurs. I feel wind move past me, against me as I stomp forward, feet hitting the reddish track, my white sneakers contrasting against the colors. I feel those ricochets of contact moving up my legs with each step. I taste the saliva in my mouth. It is desperate, my body getting tired and wants a drink. I also hear my own breath rumbling in my body as I try to breathe steady. It is this internal vs. external. My breath and internal heartbeat rhythm vs. this crowd, my shoes, the other runners whom of which I’m barely aware of. I am a competitor, but I am only competing with myself. Even if I don’t come in first in this race, I must come in first for myself. I strive to be better than my last race. My knees won’t stay young forever. My heartbeat thuds back in agreement. My lithe, thin body won’t support me forever. Doesn’t life have a knack for getting in the way, setting one off course? Aren’t we always transforming into something else? And there is something else underneath my Zen. And it’s fear and it’s anxiety and it’s Ego. And I try to push it down and focus on other things. Like how my back has started to sweat and has made the back of my shirt cling to me. Or the sound of my shorts rubbing against each other as I will my legs to move faster.
Jaw moves like a hinge in a shadow doorway. Squeaks like it’s unoiled, needing lubrication. Creak of the floorboards in the haunted house that is your past life, you unforgotten psyche. Crystal ball glowing purple and pink to see the electricity within. Yellow gold streaks of lightning. Cloudy outlook. Unreliable email. Clenching the mandible I feel the tension, pressing down hard gripping my teeth. Molars bearing down like a battalion with their shields up. Taste the saliva tinged with blood. Metallic warmth. Melting down shrapnel in my mouth. Balling it up to load in shotgun. Front seat to all of this. I see the skeleton through the man’s face. X-Ray vision that you can’t turn off. Radiation through the eye sockets, now glowing green like X-Men. Feel the bone and it’s surprisingly rough to touch. It’s hinges connected to so much more above it. Like an apartment or good plumbing. If I were to touch it disconnected from the rest it would feel heavy yet hollow in my hand. Turn my hand to skeletal stone. It could be ground to dust. Feeling the fine powder run through my fingers and feel it hit the Earth. Like gentle comets. Gentle laundry detergent. A callback to a different time. A clock with letters and not numbers. Timeline with no dates. I thirst for focus and non-distraction. It is trying today. One more flip of the calendar and we’re in next year again. Two pairs of glasses, which one can you see better on? X-Ray vision or normalcy? Counting down moments until we can start all over again. Renew with no regret. At least until we remember again. Mandible handlebar bicycle with streamers at the end. I will steer you down the street. Busy New York City with car horns and mortality reminders at every corner checkpoint.
Gripping ceramic handle, or forgoing it completely, instead opting for rounding my left hand around the cup itself so I may more directly feel the warm contents with in. Coffee, black. Bitter notes skate along my tongue constantly questioning, “Do I really like this?”. A 10 fluid ounce customary staple in a house or dorm or apartment or anywhere. Personal or plain. At risk of shattering everyday due to the overflow. The surface is smooth and well wrought. But it can break just as easily. Wondering about who first invented this apparatus that could hold liquid so well. Could make it portable and manageable. What an invention of it’s time. Probably some Neanderthal daydream following the discovery of mud and clay. Could it have been the Native Americans? Or Natives of another land? How they must have discovered how to dry it in the sun. I have broken many mugs. And glasses. I’m 29 years old. It would have been astonishing if I never had.
Mug as face as mugshot. Blinding flash holding my number and information. The smell of vomit and stale beer and paperwork. Freezing cold, my skin prickles and hair stands on end. I am so anxious I’m calm. Glazed over eyes. Righteous in my stance. Not defensive, just standing there. Taking direction like a trick pony as I change my angles. Cold metal bars, dirty concrete floor. Moaning of a hangover come to quick or come too late. It will be printed out on photo paper gloss and uploaded onto the Internet. It will exist forever in time, even after I am dead. A silly misunderstanding or a big thing that got caught like a fish on a pontoon in the deep sea. Heavy hooks piercing weak bait. The end of the food chain. The beginning of it. Coffee gets cold and can no longer keep its heat. Open air open mouth. Steam disappears out and drifts off take it’s heat to do die out in the open air. The mug’s use is temporary. Until the liquid grows cold, until it breaks. Until both. Having to clean up ceramic shards dreaming of gluing them back together.