Sunday, February 28, 2010

George Up A Tree

A small man sat on a knoll of dried grass. If he looked closely at the ground he could see a few blades of bright green, but it was mostly a bed of pale yellow, and though he didn’t think about it too much, his body remembered the season and the wind and the reasons the ground was dead.
The hill looked down on a small village in the distance, and beyond the village was the sea. In the late afternoon light, the water glimmered like forgotten jewels. The man on the ground was round, nearly the same shape and color as a russet potato, and he knew it, people had made fun of him his whole life for it. Covering the sloping shape of his shoulders was a red and black checkered flannel coat, which was just heavy enough to stop the gentle breeze that blew through bare branches. He looked up into the branches above him and saw the familiar shape of a young man.
“Are you ever going to come down from there?” There was no answer, just the sound of the wind blowing between them.
After a long pause, he said, “did you hear me George?”
Still, there was silence.
The man called everyone George. He had discovered early on that he could never remember a name, and in the village, it was rude not to address people by name, so being a child and resourceful and creative, he had come up with a simple solution, everyone was “George.”
“Hello George!” he would enthusiastically say to the girl delivering milk bottles.
“Thanks George,” he would say to the gas station attendant. His brother was George, his friends were George, the dogs were all named George.
The old man looked into the tree once again, a wide-boughed oak that twisted and turned in sinister wonderment. There was George, sitting in the thin branches closer to the top. He had been there for nearly three months. Some in the village thought he had lost his mind. Some said it was a girl. But the old man did not listen to rumors. He had been an outcast his entire life, and when he heard about the boy who went to the tree, he packed a small sack full of apples and bread and went to the yellow knoll at the end of town.
“Don’t you think you’ve made your point? Don’t you think everyone gets it? Because they do. We all get it. Come down and end this already.” He was startled by the pleading in his voice and looked around, slightly embarrassed. Still, there was silence.
“George, answer me.”
But George wouldn’t answer. His vow many months ago had been real and serious, and though he smiled at the little round man that had faithfully come everyday to the tree, bringing fruits and bread and nuts and concern, he would not break his vow. He could not, and unfortunately, there was just no way to communicate this.
The old man looked into the twisted black branches and spotted the eyes of George. They held contact for a few seconds and then the old man looked away, exasperated.
“It’s over, like I told you. Just get back here on solid ground, will ya? There’s no need for this anymore, it’s over.”
He said it with authority, with absolute assuredness. There was nothing wavering in his mind, no colors between the spectrum. There was dark, there was light, and nothing in between. And once again, he was surprised by the sound of his voice. And once again, he gave a second thought to his desire. Just why did he come to the tree everyday, bringing food and a simple request?
And though he heard otherwise, nothing was over, not for George. There were more sunsets to come, more sunrises, other days. And there were vows. Simple. Nothing was complete and his task would remain, even after the tree burned, even after his body fell, even after the old man left.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


The sun shone in through the open window into the little kitchen of an apartment nestled in the Marina. Kim arranged the red bell peppers on a cookie sheet lined with foil, taking great care to place them just right. Soon her guests would arrive; her mother and step father and baby nephew Andrew, and on the other hand, her boy friend and her old college room mate. She would wow them one and all with her culinary supremacy, starting with these roasted peppers and finishing with a desert of sour cream dipped strawberries and brown sugar. With the peppers in the oven she moved to the skillet where she planned to fry some spicy Italian sausages. The olive oil was warming in the pan when the phone rang in the living room. She turned off the fire and hurried to answer it.
“Hello?” she said into the receiver barely catching it on the sixth ring.
“Hi Baby, how’s it going?” asked Max, her boy friend.
“Great.” She chirped, “Are you almost here?”
“Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to make it.” He said. His tone was too calm, too untroubled. There was a stunned silence on her end. In a moment, however, she recovered her tongue and launched into an interrogation. She wanted to know whether or not he was high, why couldn’t he come if he wasn’t high, he was supposed to have been on his way a half hour ago, what happened, who was he with, didn’t he know how hard she had worked, didn’t he care at all, and so on. Her voice rose in pitch as she fired questions off with the rapidity of a small dog’s angered barking. His answers all came barbed with criticisms of her and relics of ancient arguments, insinuations of her own guilt in this matter of his absence. Soon she was crying and he was yelling and then she was screaming and his voice was shaking. They chased one another in circles with their ring around the words game, each participant growing more and more hysterical as the match progressed. The apartment filled with smoke. Kim scarcely noticed it until suddenly she was roused from her nightmarish entanglement via the telephone by the sound of the doorbell. It was then that she noticed the smoke. She could barely breath.
“I have to go.” she snapped into the receiver, “My apartment’s on fire.” And she hung up and hurried to the door flinging it open. Her mother and step father stood there with baby Andrew between them. They coughed and stared in horror at the smoke pouring out to greet them. Kim scarcely looked at them with her tear streaked face. All of the mascara had run off her lashes and formed morbid black circles around her puffy red eyes. They cringed at the sight of this creature with billows of smoke rushing out of the door past its forlorn shape. She turned on her heels and ran coughing to the kitchen.
“Oh my God Kim!” Her mother was saying, but Kim was already out of sight, braving the inferno. The smoke alarm began to howl belatedly and the telephone proceeded to ring and baby Andrew, not to be outdone at the fine age of two, joined in with his own wailing.
“I’m going to take the baby outside.” Her mother said scooping weeping little Andrew up in her arms.
“I’ll see if Kim needs a hand,” her step father said, stepping over the threshold into the smoky apartment. Her mother snorted in response and headed back towards the elevator.
“Kim?” Her step father called over the din, batting at the smoke with one hand. “Is everything okay?”
“Everything’s fine!” she shouted too passionately for the words to be convincing.
She came flying out of the kitchen and started throwing open all of the windows.
“It’s fine, it’s fine.” She repeated, chest heaving as she jerked the phone out of the wall and threw it on to the sofa silencing its jingle. Then she leaped over an easy chair, skirt flapping, and snatched the welcome mat from the floor. She was still vigorously fanning the air near the smoke detector when her old friend Emily stepped in. Kim’s step father had ventured into the kitchen and now re-emerged with a cookie sheet upon which eight small charred lumps were smoldering.
“What’s this?” he asked, eyeing the lumps curiously.
“Dinner.” Kim huffed before bursting into fresh sobs.
Emily who had been surveying the scene felt her jaw drop. Then she said,
“I’ll order a pizza.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Water Magic

It was a bright day and most of the town’s inhabitants were lounging in the speckled shade. With her mother and sister, Istra sat among the locals, enjoying the fine atmosphere of the town’s central plaza. Towering above them were thin trees, filtering and cooling the sun with their leaves, they cast warm green light upon the idle dwellers. On their right, a stone’s throw from their earthly seats, was the town’s main attraction: an elevated rock formation, only 30 feet wide, but running the entire length of the village. The boulders were deeply carved in the middle, cradling within their granite arms a gently cascading river, and, by the borderlands of the town, a set of petite waterfalls.
The air was full of oxygen, moist and light. The gurgling sounds of moving water danced through the light air like a company of fairy ballerinas. Cool sprinkles landed upon the skin of all who sat by the waters. There was a calm sense of activity, brought into existence merely because of the rivers, for no one else was doing much. The villagers were not burdened with the thought of duties or enterprise. Some were busy with black-smithing or tending to children, but if one desired to luxuriate in the company of the sacred waters, it was judged as a good use of time.
Far beyond the natural boundaries of the village, far into the sprawling empire at the base of the mountains, the river bed was known to be alive. For longer than anyone could remember, the villagers had boasted about the pureness of their water source, the rejuvenating quality it granted the thirsty, the liquid salvation it brought in its elemental state. Travelers and heros on quests journeyed for months, sometimes years, to sip at the banks of the meandering liquid stream.
The rock wall formation was at least a hundred feet overhead, but some clever men of the village had constructed a little faucet close to the ground. Copper in origin, it now was covered in turquoise rust, and soft patches of emerald green moss grew in the cracks of water moistened stone.
As Istra sat, enjoying the weather and ambiance, she saw a handsome traveler. She watched him as he passed through the natural archway in the boulder, the passageway granting access to both sides of the village. Her eyes rested upon him as he approached the faucet. He filled his jug with the delightful liquid from the earth and then he vanished.
She marveled at the idea. Although she had seen the faucet, it hadn’t occurred to her to fill her glass jug. She had been so entranced in the movements and elements, her rational mind hadn’t put logic into use. She ran over to fill her bottle, acutely aware of the two young men close to the spigot that openly stared at her derrière, exposed in all its soft whiteness to the sun, riding the edge of social acceptance by covering only the most crucial parts with small red panties.
She waited for her clear jug to fill, quickly growing cool to the touch. Still behind her, they watched her flesh ripple; conscious, but unaffected with their attention, she concentrated on the water, the gurgling sound it made, changing in melodic pitch as the bottle filled. She felt its coolness, the air around her was different in its presence, more alive, like all the elements were converging with the jig of life.
She held the clear vessel to her mouth, savoring the liquid sweetness it held in its charge. She had never experienced water so delicious and perfect. Remembering her mother and sister, she refilled the bottle, bringing it to them for a taste. As she approached them, not a 100 steps from the faucet and steps from her kin, the water turned a reddish brown and became thick and cloudy. It separated, the essential elements running away from each other like oil and vinegar and small sudsy soap bubbles began to spill from the mouth of the bottle. Istra was confused with the change, explaining to her mother that she had just drunk the same pristine water only minutes ago. Her mother looked startled, her eyes darted about as if in a daze. She hadn’t even noticed that they were sitting by a river nor had she heard the soft burbling of the water. Istra then hesitated to look around, for she was suddenly aware that if she were to turn, the running waters might not be there at all. No water, no faucet, no waterfalls. Nothing at all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Past and Future Memories

So beautiful I could cry.
Friendship is a mysterious ephemeral thing. We all do know from experience that no one gives us anything for nothing. Everything has its price. And yet sometimes, rarely, once or twice in a lifetime, someone looks at us and their heart is so brimming with compassion that it spills out through their eyes and they offer us something that no one should ever offer; something so good one usually keeps it all to one’s self. True love, pure love, friendship, compassion.
One and the same, these many words, these many unhinged words.

I have lately made very good friends with a big green reptile with razor sharp teeth and a hefty appetite. What he hungers mostly for is watermelon, and purple cabbage, and green grapes, but now and again he pretends to want to eat from my hand just so that he can get a taste of my fingers to determine whether or not he’d be better off just eating me and foregoing all social niceties. Here in this special place, he looks at me from behind alloyed bars and nods to his empty food dish while I try to press all of the stray voices out of my head. He has no need for words. He only knows hunger and pleasure.

My life again. Wondering about the story of my life, how it will read, what it will awaken in the reader. Will my life bring others to life? Or will it go out like a light, extinguished with a clap so that only empty darkness will remain? What has been done to us? Have we really done this to ourselves? Have we betrayed ourselves so that we are no longer free? No longer free to live.

I lived in Lake Elsinore for years but I didn’t really know where it was that I lived, I didn’t know that these streets meant, what the lake itself meant, what memories were buried under the burning asphalt of its wide streets. So I made it my job to find out.
Now I look at a dead ship and I feel that it looks back at me, I feel that it is in me, in a different incarnation.
The Lake Elsinore princess was imported from Long Beach to be made a spectacle of in a mud hole imbued with mystical powers. From its glass bottom, the denizens of this fair town enjoy looking down past their sandals at the murky green water fed by over 300 hidden springs and the San Jacinto river. The great lake eventually degenerated to the rank of a puddle lost at the center of a pestilent pit of mud laden with decaying fish, their eyes eaten out by the very gnats that they themselves had once eaten. The cattle got stuck in the muck in search of water, and there they mooed mournfully until the heat did them in. Then the gnats could start on them too, joined by the turkey vultures and crows, who cleaned away the carcass until only the bones gleamed white under the glaring sun, before returning to their post in the big blue sky, circling and waiting for the next bovine to expire. At the heart of the puddle a small geyser erupted and a fountain of sulfurous water the color of blood gushed wretchedly, flaunting itself before the thirsty herds.
It is by this mud hole that I lived my early years, it is here that I learned what the world looked like, what it should be, what it meant and how it worked.

No longer free to live. More unhinged words. Free. Live. They have all come undone. Words and more words. They all mean nothing because they refer to experiences that we have never had, experiences that our parents have never had, I certainly never caught a glimpse of them from the edge of my drying lake.
Someone did have these experiences, once upon a time, someone must have. Bursting with the heavy burden of newfound knowledge, he endeavored to explain, to share by virtue of oral communication, spilling pearls out onto the grimy sidewalk before pig faced orphans that grabbed them all up and snuffled them and rubbed them in sweaty hands and passed them on to a new generation of piglets.
There are still a few fools rattling around out there, a few who have had the experience and then watered at the eyes realizing that they had said compassion, they had said love, they had said discipline, responsibility, freedom, but had never experienced any of them until this moment. Now in this unique and eternal moment the words meant something, for the first time ever.

There in an empty overwhelming darkness that clings to us on all sides. This one life, this one moment, perhaps infinitely more complex than we realize, like the insides of a pomegranate.
Can it be lit like a fuse? Make it bright, dazzling for a moment so that we can see the delicate tendrils that connect so much to so much else?
I will do it with pictures, with stories.

I imagine that eventually the world will be covered in ash and all that I have known will be forgotten. By then there will be no one left but roving bands of mutant cannibals with eyeballs blinking from their shoulders, the survivors of a nuclear holocaust. Their ancestors will have drifted to the bottom of the pot and wallowed in the darkness of underground shelters and they will have eaten glowing green roots to sustain themselves and they will have died by age 12 of cancer but not before producing some deformed offspring to ensure the survival of the species.
By the time those marauding bands of cannibals traipse over this desert that was once a lake, they will not have an inkling that the world was ever otherwise. They will never even dream that anything secret lies buried beneath their feet, any more than you now suspect some lost civilization might be buried deep beneath your laundry room or the local mall. Like you, they will not spend much time imagining the strange life forms that they may have evolved from, they will do this no more than you fantasize about your beginning as a humble single celled amoebae drifting aimlessly through the hot seas.

Enough time passes and the slate is wiped clean.
All things are forgotten in time.

Small crimes disappear, larger infractions get smudged, blurred like a poorly developed photograph until no one can remember what happened clearly. Those on one side of the event will have a vague feeling of displeasure that signifies that some overly intense feeling of rage or sorrow or jealousy has been buried under the sands of the hour glass.
Those on the other side may forget entirely. Eventually both parties will be sent to lay six feet below the green grass, under the timid wild flowers that are considered by trained gardeners to be weeds. Their flesh will rot and peel away from their bones and it will be consumed by worms, some of whom will suffer some slight indigestion due to the overly spicy emotion that had boiled down into sleepy forgetfulness like a film on top of hot soup whilst the most potent component separated and drifted to the bottom of the pot, the innermost chamber of the heart accessible only by the aorta.

The slate gets wiped clean, and whoever is has always been and will always be, until the slate gets wiped clean again, and again, and again, so that ages of strange dreams are layered one on top of the next like the steppes of an enormous wedding cake or the steps of one of those pyramids that once stood in the wet jungles beneath the equator with blood flowing down their grandiose stairs. Those that are now, they walk over the ghosts of those that were, and beneath them, the ghosts of what will be, completely unsuspecting of the fact that they may be under the influence of these worlds imperceptible to them.

They used to cart people down here to this lake in wheelchairs to dip them in the water. The hot sulfur ran from the tap in every house in the valley until the 1960’s, turning the children’s teeth yellow. At the bathhouse built in 1884 they built a swimming pool in the 1920’s. A little boy drowned in it though and after that they filled it up.

Dogs, no doubt, do not think of what they don’t know. Like you and I, what they are seems to them worthy of perpetuation into infinity, so they hump in the streets and dig in garbage bins and evade the dog catcher with as much zest for life as you or I.
The confines of the animal mind are so safe and self assured, why ever would we dare to dream that something lies beyond the border of our own encapsulated consciousness. That would only lead to a headache of enormous proportions, to the splitting of one’s self into pieces so that the insides flow out like melting Jell-O to rejoin the primordial jell of the universe that lies beyond animal confines.
There is something outside of our perception, distilling at the bottom of the cauldron while we bubble dreamily at the surface before bursting into oblivion.

We will not remain, not as we have come to know ourselves. We will be forgotten. Terribly and mercilessly forgotten.
Meanwhile, some thing rattles down in the bottom of the kettle informing the next set of bubbles on the surface of the particular shapes it might take based on where they stand in the pyramid’s construction. We are churned from the cream skimmed off of the top.
All things are forgotten in time

Look at the woman sitting on the flat trailer bed in her red and white striped dress, singing, while the man drives the tractor round in circles. What does it tell you?
The buildings are stretched squares making them rectangular and they are frosted with white stucco and pale blue stucco and the pigeons stand around kissing on top as though they were the adornment of a dirty wedding cake. The thick black power lines hang crossing and re-crossing over the streets, making the sky into a piece of modern art when viewed through the eyes of the round boy in his stained white shirt and black pants looking up as the flock of pigeons flies from one frosted rooftop to the other, basketball gripped under his arm. There are iron bars on the windows and gates in the garages and front entry ways so that small brown girls stand behind them looking out like prisoners before retreating to ride pink plastic tricycles in the gloom. At the end of the street the chain link fence stands between the apartments and rows of head stones besieged by mustard yellow lichen, keeping company with decaying bouquets of both organic and synthetic flowers. A fence to protect the dead from the living, and a wide green lawn punctured by words, where memories go to slowly fade away.
A mysterious, ephemeral thing.
So beautiful I could cry.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Fire Hydrant

“What has gotten into you Jonathan?”
It was the voice of his mother. He didn’t have to look up to see the deep lines of worry etched in her pink forehead, or the downturned pale lips that seemed to tremble while waiting for an answer that would never come. He could picture her hands on her hips, the gold band of her wedding ring glinting in the sun, her gray-blue eyes darting back and forth from the neighbor’s house to him, and then up once again, scanning the cul-de-sac for curious eyes and sneaky glances.
He lay on his stomach above the sidewalk, the cold cement had worked its way through his clothes, and now the cool hand acted like an anchor despite the wind of worry beginning to blow.
He let her sounds float over him, drifting away like a bad smell. And when it cleared, he took a deep breath and renewed his attention on the fire hydrant towering over him. He had been sprawled on the sidewalk in front of his mother’s house for nearly two hours, taking photo after photo of the worn yellow hydrant. After each click of the camera he saw something new, a spider web, a crack, a spot of rust. And as he looked, he went deeper and deeper, seeing variations in color he had not seen before. It kept going and going. He had walked out of the door just to take a simple picture, but the hydrant was a door, and the moment he looked at it, the world opened and he could not look away. There was more to see, so much more. He could feel the chains of earth calling, it was a voice he recognized.
He had been in a frenzy over the past week, that’s what she called it. He would take photos throughout the family’s house until the camera’s battery died, then he would plug it into the wall and while it charged, eat like a voracious animal. After the meal he would crash on the nearest padded piece of furniture, the couch in the living room, the easy chair in the dining room, or in his bed if the family’s large German shepherd had not already claimed it. His mother had begun to worry about him. She had never seen him like this. He had always been a creative boy, painting and writing and making things out of clay, but he always did it in his spare time, after classes or on the weekend, not for hours and hours, letting his cycle of sleep revolve around the battery instead of the moon. Something had snapped or changed and she was not sure why or how, but it worried her. There didn’t seem to be anything else in his life, just photos, just the camera.
She stood next to him on the sidewalk in her slippers and bathrobe. She looked around nervously, wondering if the neighbors could see them through their curtains. She hoped not, there would be little she could do to prevent the rumors from starting.
“Do you hear me Jonathan? What has gotten into you? Laying on the sidewalk, out here in the cold for hours, what could be so interesting about the hydrant?” She looked at his subject with a critical eye. It was yellow, but with cracks on the sides and rust along the edges, but it was a hydrant, and if he had not been out here, she would have never given it more than a second of her time, she never had before.
“I’m worried about you.”
He did not look up. Now he was only vaguely aware of her presence beside him, and it came only from the dull nagging sensation pulling on his skin, making it just a little more difficult to work, just a little harder to find new angles and cobwebs and worlds. He would not respond, he knew words would do little to appease her. He knew it did look strange, he was strange, but he could not stop. There were doors, there were angles, there was eternity to capture.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Details and Simplicity

I had returned from the Land of Many Wonders, a distant place which had been difficult to get to and to which I might never return. Suffering Girl was with me. She was sitting up on her rumpled bed, wearing only a thin white T-shirt and very thin white panties that distinctly outlined the shape of her crotch. I found the vision delightful and immensely desirable.
We were sitting by the tall half open windows of her room. A yellow light streamed through the glass and the thin brown curtains, turning everything in the room into a twilight shade of sepia. I could feel the soft cushion of her futon underneath me. My right hand was on her naked thigh, my left hand was pressing down against the white sheets that were crushed underneath my own weight.
I was looking into her eyes and she was doing her best to maintain her eyes on mine. Every so often she would look away, as if forced to do so by a force greater than her own will. She would then look towards the windows, towards the bookshelves where all her school books were waiting, to the notebooks that were still lying open in the middle of the room.
Her black hair was uncombed and a few strands were draped over her forehead and her eyes, in a way that made her even more desirable. When she spoke, her voice was soft and cautious, as if she was also aware of the delicacy of the moment, as if she knew how easy it would be to make it all go away.
“I really do need to understand it… I want you to listen to me and take what I say as seriously as you can… because I really do need to understand…men are like a strange mystery to me… for all the years that I have been around them, I can’t bring myself to a place where I feel safe in knowing what they really want…what are the thoughts that go on behind their eyes… I feel like I can never know their true hidden intentions…”
I looked at her eyes which were shifting again. For a moment her attention was lost outside as a car drove by, covering the tall windows in bright white light. The light splashed over us, and for a moment we seemed to be frozen white statues, captured for eternity in this second of tentative contact.
“The first time I ever felt like I could grasp the masculine point of view… it was when my friend told me about a friend of hers… an older man… I may have met him once… he wore overalls and drove a large pickup truck… maybe it was someone else…she said that he had slowly progressed from being just a man… a sometimes happy man… a regular man… he had progressed from being what I had known… what I had maybe known… he had gone from that to a state of total impotence and insecurity…a state where he couldn’t do anything, where he didn’t have any strength or power of his own…and it had all happened because of his relationships with women… women had done this to him…that was the first time I understood that just like men can destroy women, so can women destroy men…”
Her black eyes opened up wide and she tried to explore my thoughts without asking, silently begging me to say something, to make a comment, to agree with or contradict what she was saying. I let my eyes remain on hers and I waited for her to continue.
“I need you to tell me the details of what happens… I need to know what it’s like from your perspective… I need to know how things truly work behind your eyes… do you understand?… I need to go deep beneath the surface to find out what it is that you are hiding… what it is that you are all hiding. “
She took a deep breath and her small breasts rose up towards me. Her dark thick nipples poked against the fabric. My hand moved up her thigh and came to rest on her hip. I pushed my fingers under the elastic band of her panties and felt the softness of her soft flesh against my hand. She shifted on the bed slightly and the weight of her right leg came to rest on my knee.
Her eyes looked back at the window for a moment. A car drove by again, but this one was further away so the light didn’t hit us like before. We could only hear the sound of the motor as it approached and then faded away.
“I need you to tell me the details… you have to talk to me in a very clear and direct language… it is only through details and through simplicity that one can arrive at a complete and full comprehension of the spiritual state of another being.”
Her last sentence echoed through the room like a big brass bell. Her voice had changed as she said it, it had become thicker and stronger and much more precise. I took a deep breath myself, sensing that something else had entered the room and that it was now my turn to speak at last.
“I believe that the way in which you are now speaking contradicts what you are apparently saying.”
As soon as I said it, she got very flustered. Her head shook and her eyes darted from one corner of the room to another. Her mouth opened and her white teeth pushed out between her thin lips, in a kind of nervous smile that begged for a kind of underlying sympathy. I stayed still and watched her. I couldn’t say why my words had the effect they were having but it was clear that something had been stirred within her.
“What was wrong with the last sentence I spoke? What was wrong with it?”
Her whole face was now a mask of fear and insecurity. It slipped through her black eyes like cold water pouring softly onto the bed where we sat.
“It was not just the last sentence… it was the last several sentences that you spoke…”
I looked down at her naked thighs and my fingers traced a curved shape around her hips, trailing slowly towards her buttocks. Her brown nipples were distinctly outlined under her white T-shirt and I felt a strong urge to pull it over her head to reveal them in their complete nakedness, to make them vulnerable to my hungry mouth.
“Please explain what you just said… please explain it to me… I need to understand it…it is very important for me that I understand…”
I shook my head slowly, with a sense of finality that she immediately recognized.
“I would rather kiss you,” I said and, before I was finished saying it, my face was moving slowly towards hers, as my right hand fingers closed around the soft flesh of her upper thigh.
She nodded just as slowly, lowering her eyes, as if resigned to the invisible cage of our mutual desire.
“Ok, then kiss me…”
I pressed my lips against her mouth and my tongue sneaked out to meet hers in a no-man’s land of shared saliva and burning lust. But then I felt a certain taste that I didn’t recognize, it was on her lips, on her tongue, on her teeth.
I pulled away and looked at her. Here, in this quiet space of flowing words and effortless movement, the taste had been a warning, a clear message from places I couldn’t yet reach.
My thoughts suddenly turned back to the Land Of Many Wonders. I traveled back to the one moment when, staring at a barren cliff made of broken silver stone, I had decided to return to this place, to this city where I now found myself.
I knew then that, notwithstanding any other reasons I may have said to myself in that one moment of cold monumental darkness, the real reason I had returned was here before me, it was sitting across from me on her rumpled bed, wearing only two small pieces of clothing that she was eager for me to remove, looking at me with wide black eyes and wondering why I had stopped kissing her.
I had wanted to return. I had left behind all the many possibilities of that far away land to which I might never return. I had done it all for her, for the dream that was her, for the unresolved story that was her, for the flesh and the bones and the generous open wounds that were her. I had wanted to return so I could hold her and kiss her and penetrate her and dissolve myself in her, for as long as I could imagine doing so.
Now I was doing what I wanted. She was here, she was mine, she was ready to give herself to me in any way I decided. And I suddenly knew that I had made a terrible mistake.
I reached towards her again. I kissed her neck and her cheeks and her collarbone. I told myself that here she was, what I had wanted then, what I had wanted before, what I had always wanted. Here she was. Here it was. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
But the sudden understanding would not go away. It had come to settle upon me like a big black bird that opens his wings in a clear majestic gesture before coming to rest on the peak of a mountain. It was here within me and it was here to stay.
I eventually kissed her again, and her tongue ran over mine and my own ran deep into her open mouth, licking at her cheeks from the inside, at her teeth, at her thin pale lips. The choice had been made, and the Land Of Many Wonders had vanished behind a veil made of soft white flesh and moist pink desire. It was too late to turn back. It was too soon to move forward. For now I could only love her. For now I could only enjoy all that would soon go away.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Itch

The light was dark in the old barn loft. There was a solitary window that looked out over the nearly barren lawn, just a few patches of green left, trying to hold onto life as long as they could. Rays of light that illuminated dancing dust landed on the old man’s arms. He wore a long plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He stood nearly motionless, watching through the window as his most beloved grandchild packed the station wagon with all the essentials: a tent, a few folding chairs and a large cooler filled with homemade apple juice and enough canned fruits and vegetables to last three months.
He was the oldest of the grandchildren, the most wild, the most adventurous, the most like himself. He watched the scene stoically, the boy’s mother helping him load the back seats, the barren trees around the circular drive, the chickens that walked along the ailing lawn looking for breakfast. There was a flutter in his heart, and a deep body knowledge filled him, for he knew the energy of the quest.

The boy must go,
and he might return,
and if he does,
he will be different…
as it should be.

He had done the same, leaving his mother in tears at the door of their small wooden cabin. Her own father, his grandfather, had held her up with his strong arms, explaining to her in a soft voice that it must be done, that all who yearn must go seeking.
Sixty years ago, when he rode out of the farm in the most beat-up truck the farm had, he had gone off in search of the thing he could still only describe as an itch, a sort of uncomfortable feeling that gnawed at the core of him for a few years until it pounded and beat on the walls of his flesh and rattled his lungs. He ignored it as long as he could, until the only thing that seemed right was to leave and look for the thing out there, perhaps the thing that would give him peace, perhaps the thing that would give him a small rock to hold on to, some sort of line in the storm.
And he had gone, and he had talked to so many people and he had discovered something, and that thing brought him back to where he began, only he was different, and looked at it all through eyes that were both older and younger.
Now he watched his own grandson do the same thing, knowing that there was something out there that needed seeing through another set of eyes. The boy must do, see, and experience. Explore beyond the known gates of the farm, something past the family and social ties. The boy went to look for the thing, following the itch, the thing bursting within him.
The boy looked up and saw his grandfather’s eyes in the small window of the two-story barn. The window was nearly a reflection of the sky, a palette of blue and white, but he saw life behind the glass, the deep set eyes that had found their place within a stormy landscape. There was a solidity in those eyes, knowledge that held on like a rock to something even stronger, and when he saw those eyes, he was sure.
He turned, gave his mother a kiss, and walked towards the car.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Day Without Sunshine

The sky was endless blue, so bright and clear, it could have been water. He rested his back into the thick trunk of the village’s largest banyan tree and stared towards the heavens. So clear. So absolutely blue it hurt his eyes. Squinting, he noticed a small flock of black birds darting back and forth, their small shapes looking like chaotic falling stars in a world of inside-out colors. So blue, so absolutely clear.
It had been that way for years, for as long as he had been a farmer and looked into the cloudless sun-filled sky and wondered when it would rain. His body was still lean then, and firm, and he walked as straight as the tallest tree. He remembered looking at his little sprouts of millet just emerging from the soil, then praying for the water to give them life. They were so tender then, bright green and as big as the nail on his smallest finger. Each one so delicate and precious. Looking at his rows of crops, he felt a love for each little shoot, a love not quite the same, but not completely different from the affection he felt for his children, for all the children in the village. For the fields were life too, raw and bright and moving towards the sun with all the power and knowledge they possessed.
He imagined a day when the spouts would grow, till they reached his shoulders, and in his mind he could almost hear the raucous chants of the harvest festival and the overwhelming sense of happiness, knowing that for another year, the people would be fed. He would be fed, and really, it was all that he cared for, knowing that the children could grow to be men and beautiful women.
That’s what he wanted, as a young man that first year with fields of his own to sow and plant and harvest, he wanted what each farmer would have wanted, but in the arid plains where he lived, there must be rain. And after the spring rains many months before and after the small buds of life had begun, the skies cleared and never clouded again.
Everyday his heart sank a little deeper as each of the small millet sprouts shriveled and burned beneath the unrelenting sun. The scales of the earth had tilted, there was just too much heat, too much power. The rain never came. Not that year, not in the years that would follow. He grew old waiting for a cloud.
His muscles had softened, his hair had grayed. He had spent his life looking to the sky, asking, pleading, begging for one day without sunshine. Just for one day, just so the soil could drink and life could begin once again, green and tender.
But the sun did not answer. The burning light never softened, it refused to smile shyly and recede, relinquishing its light so a thick layer of clouds could roll into darkness. His knees had grown weak from kneeling, from pleading beneath the unmoved sun. Could it not feel? How could it shine, shine year after year, while they starved beneath the endless blue sky. And though he was hungry, and though he was weak, he got on his knees, as he did every day, asking quietly for a day without sunshine.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Fortune could be so cruel. She had been a real beauty in her day; rosy cheeked, blue eyed, with hair of strawberry gold. A sun bonnet, a crisp blue and white striped dress, two dainty white booties, she had had them all. People, women and children especially, had passed her by and paused to look at her. She could see how they longed to hold her, to touch her dress, to stroke her silky hair. They looked at her with such wanting, and it filled her with pleasure and pride, exciting her beyond measure. That had been when she was new.
She had long since learned that it was not her that they had coveted, but rather her newness. She had possessed this quality then and they had adored her for it. Those had been wonderful days, when she shone bright and clean behind a wall of plastic. No one had dared handle her roughly then. The desire of these passing strangers had awakened desire within her, and soon when they stopped and admired her she wished that they would take her out of the box and clasp her to their breasts. She yearned for them to stroke her hair and touch her dress and cradle her in their arms.
One day a woman with soft white gloves fastened at the wrists by tiny pearls had stopped and smiled at her. Then, joy of joys! The woman had lifted her box from the shelf and carried her away to the man with the black mustache who sometimes dusted the shelves. As the woman carried her away she caught a glimpse of many other beauties behind plastic. They lined the shelves, some smaller, some larger, all watching her leave their ranks with apparent envy. It made her giddy inside.
In the woman’s home she met her first disappointment as the lady left her in the box and did not take her out and hug her as she had supposed would happen. She consoled herself with the woman’s charming smile, and the way she held the box and looked at her with such immense satisfaction. Then the lady put her in a dark closet and left her there for a few days. They were a terrible few days in which she thought that the woman must not have liked her at all. It seemed that she must have thought her so unattractive that she should be shut away in darkness where no one could ever see her again. But after those few days the woman took her out of the closet and smiled at her again and her fears were eased for a moment before the lady wrapped her box up in brightly colored paper. She was once again encapsulated in darkness and suspected that the woman was very unsatisfied with her and it depressed her very much.
She was carried away and heard so many strange sounds during the travel and wondered what was happening and whether she was still with the woman or not until the noise reaching into her dark cell was a positive uproar. She was set down and left stationary for quite awhile and she listened with a certain degree of fearfulness to the din outside. Then suddenly the paper was torn and she was abruptly blinded by the brightness of the world. As her vision came into focus it was the face of a little girl that peered down at her through the plastic. The girl beamed, and shouted,
“Oh! She’s so pretty!”
“Thank your Aunt Gertrude.” Another woman’s voice commanded and the child complied with a sugary sweet,
“Thank you aunt Gertrude.”
And she heard the woman who had first worn the gloves with the pearls say,
“You’re welcome darling.”
Then she had been set aside where she could see a number of children sitting around on a green rug and the little girl continued to open more brightly colored parcels. Each time she was reminded who to thank and then she would deliver another mechanically sweet,
“Thank you.”
And some little girl would smile and say, you’re welcome, or a little boy would stick out his tongue or blush. Then at last they had all gone away and sang and it wasn’t until much later that the girl had returned and opened the box and taken her out.
How to describe that first moment, as the box opened and she felt her spirit whirl like a dozen butterflies and then hot little hands had gripped her, and at last, at long last, she had been hugged. She was pressed against a beating heart and listened to its rapid thumping.
And after the girl had been helped into her pajamas and had brushed her teeth she had been tucked into bed, and who was tucked in beside her? Who was snuggled and cradled in little arms? Who listened to a child’s breathing grow quieter and slower until it was a soft rhythmic whisper and then listened to the heartbeat slow and join the chorus of sleeping sounds? That had been the best night of her life. She had been so happy. That was the first night that her newness began to be rubbed away.
The rest of it was stripped rapidly from her in the following days. She was taken into a garden and made muddy during a tea party with a stuffed bear. A shoe was lost during that same trip. Then her clothes had been stripped from her, and with horror she watched as they were placed on another, another whose face was already dirty and whose hair was already matted and who sneered at her after she was clothed in her dress. She was given something else to wear, something ripped and torn. She was spanked for being a bad baby who cried too much and was pushed under the bed. She was taken into a bath after which her hair lost its silky shine. Her head was pulled off another time and had to be put back on by mother, and another time she was even forced into a sexual encounter with the stuffed bear she had met at that first tea party.
There were moments when she felt a glimmer of that first happiness, when the girl hugged her again and seemed to love her. More often she was subject to every sort of humiliation that a child can contrive for a play thing, or simply neglected entirely.
Years passed by. She could not have said what had become of her shoes or her dress. A new baby doll wore her bonnet. She lived most of the time in darkness somewhere, under a bed, in a closet with other sad things.
Then one day a smaller child with big blue eyes had stumbled into the girls room and found her under the bed. This child was more of a baby than a little girl, but for the first time in a long time she felt a glimmer of happiness as the little creature rescued her from the gloom beneath the bed and cooed at her and giggled and sucked on her hands. When this child was put down for its nap it held her tightly and nearly never let go of her after that. She still saw the girl from time to time, but she was never bothered by her again. The littler blue eyed girl loved her now. As the blue eyed girl grew up she attended more tea parties and was given different dresses to wear. Mothers help was enlisted to clean her plastic skin of grime. The games were gentler than they had been with the first girl. Most nights she was kissed and tucked in bed beside the blue eyed girl. All in all it was a nice time and as the blue eyed girl grew and was home less, she was given a place on a shelf and no longer was played with or carried to bed. During that time though, she was safe and clean and given a place where she could see the comings and goings of the blue eyed girl until one day when blue eyed girl was much taller she left and never came back.

That had marked the definite end of newness, although in truth it had already worn off some time ago. Mother put her and many others in boxes and they were all sent away. She fell into the hands of several children after that, none quiet as kind as Blue Eyed girl had been and a few nearly as cruel as the first girl. Head on, head off, clothes on, clothes off, in a box, out of a box, under a bed, in a box, out of a box. But none of the boxes that she was put in during all that time was ever like the first box with its plastic window that could protect her. At last she passed out of the hands of children all together.
Then she lived in a musky old shop in an antique baby buggy with a handful of others. It was a retirement home for things whose newness had been done away with long ago. Everyone had been cleaned. Everyone had something to wear. Now sometimes people passed by as they had done in the very beginning and paused to look at her, but never with the longing that she had seen in their eyes in her youth. Now they looked with curiosity or sympathy and occasionally with something like fear. She had been a real beauty in her day; rosy cheeked, blue eyed, hair of strawberry gold. Now she was faded. Now she was among those things which had passed far beyond the interest of the young and lively, but just because they no longer wanted her, it did not mean that she no longer wanted them. Despite all of the pains that had bit at her heart, she still longed to be held, longed to have someone touch her dress and stroke her hair, just once more.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Thad stood by the wall waiting for her. His dark hair hung around his pale face making his blue eyes blaze as though they were lighted stained glass. When she came he watched every detail of her, the jaunty walk that carried her, the long dirty blond hair swaying, the fingers that pushed it back, the smile that flashed across her face to greet him. He was so absorbed in all of these details, drawing them in like a plant drinking up sunshine, that he hardly moved. His smile was brief and only skin deep, his eyes blazed on like deep blue wounds, unaffected by the momentary twitch of his lips. She had the camera in her hands and was already raising it to take his photo. Now he moved, raising a hand.
“Wait a minute, your taking my picture?”
“Yeah.” She said looking at him above the camera, still smiling.
“Why?” he asked, and she shrugged in response,
“Because you look good.”
“I mean what are you going to do with it? It’s not for a project or something, is it? I don’t want to see myself on flicker.”
Now it was her turn to ask,
“Why?” she let the camera drop a little.
“Because I don’t want other people looking at me, I don’t like feeling like I’m on display. You’ve been taking all these pictures. What are you doing with them?”
“Well,” she said, lowering the camera entirely, “Nothing yet. What’s the matter? I thought we were having fun?”
“We have been, it’s just that I want the fun to be between us. These are our moments. I don’t want to share them.”
Her cheeks flushed with color. He watched the smile and the warmth flee from her eyes. When it went away he felt as though he was being stabbed in the heart. She was drawing it back into herself, refusing to share.
“Nothing is ours, Thad. We’re borrowing time from death.” She said coolly.
She was being philosophical, as she was prone to be. So beautiful, so warm and open and then so cold and incomprehensible. Why? Why couldn’t she just enjoy being together? Why did she have to constantly take pictures and say things that baffled him?
“What do you mean?” he asked her.
“I mean that we don’t own anything. We are temporary occupants of these bodies, and this world. These aren’t our moments, these are just moments that we are a part of.”
These words pushing him away, he struggled for a foothold.
“It’s like you don’t even want to be in the moment. You’re just hiding behind the camera. What are you hiding from?”
Now her eyes seemed to be screaming, icy gusts of wind howling around his bones. Her voice was rigid, measured.
“I’m not hiding.” She said, “I am here. I see the moment as precious too. And I know that it’s temporary, that it will vanish, so I seize it, I do something with it, instead of letting it wash passively over me. I engage it. Because I care. Because it isn’t just about me.”
The sun was sinking behind the buildings at her back, tucking its light safely away.
“You’re trying to capture it, but then it’s just dead.” He said.
Shadowy coolness kissed their skin.
“Don’t tell me what I’m trying to do.” She answered. She didn’t yell, but the words were severe, punishing. “I know what I’m doing. And I can do it somewhere else, with someone else if you don’t want to.”
She stared at him and their eyes locked in a silent battle, a tug of war between souls. Then she turned her back on him and walked away, a breeze catching her hair as she went.
He watched her details receding, drew them into himself greedily, stoking the green fires in his gut, wanting, and hating simultaneously. She disappeared out of the gate and around the corner, leaving him alone, standing by the wall in the diminishing light, a picture that would never be taken.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Walk Under Moonlight

She stepped out the front door and into the warm summer night. Behind her was a cream colored condo, consisting of the same shapes and lines as the hundreds identical to it along the street. Above, there was the white shape that greeted her each night. Always there, always present, whether she looked or not.
Tonight, it was full and shadowed lightly by just a few transparent clouds that glowed in its light. She could still feel the yellow light of her house, the florescent bulbs of the kitchen, the deep gold of the lamps in the living room, she could see more coming from the windows of her neighbors, but with each step she took, she shed it just a little more, like soft filament falling from her skin.
The world beyond the walls of her small house were alive, illuminated by another type of light. She heard frogs somewhere close by. The night was electric with stars, each competing for the brightest twinkle. She brought the long tail of her headscarf around her neck with a gentle tug. In the moonlight, no one could tell its color, but it was her favorite silk scarf, a mixture of orange, gold and pink.
She was not sure what compelled her to paint her lips and wrap her favorite, most exquisite possession around her head, especially when she just needed to walk three blocks to the small store on the corner for a gallon of milk, but she had felt the urge and didn’t stop herself.
The wind was soft and rippled the edges of her scarf with a delicate hand. She felt something that night, something so light and ephemeral it could have just blown past her, like a crumpled leaf forever drifting to the edges of the world. But though it was soft and delicate, she felt it so strong that it sunk in deep, it buried itself in memories and held on.
That night, more than any other before it, she felt relaxed in her pale white skin, beautiful and alive and open to anything that might come her way. The dark bushes along the sidewalk edges looked inviting and beautiful, like they were ready to play. She took her steps carefully and slowly, savoring the breeze and her time alone in the night. She allowed her feet to feel each step along the uneven sidewalk.
She smiled at the tree roots, claiming their dominance over concrete. She nodded, it was how it should be. She smiled faintly to herself, so happy to be outdoors, so happy in the night, so relaxed and beautiful and under a white moon.
It was her calm, easy breaths that made her pretty, her openness to the dark sky and the colorless leaves and the sidewalk on its way to destruction. Briefly she wondered if her inner change was brought by the orgasms she had had in the afternoon, or the warm bath, or the hours alone in her room with a comforting cigarette and plenty of water and apples.
In those hours alone, in the light of the afternoon that slowly shifted to blue, and then black, she had looked into the mirror and she saw what others could never see, perhaps what she did not allow them to see. But now, on her way to the store, she allowed her insides to pour out.
“Here I am,” her body shouted, only there was no one there.
She longed for conversation, for something meaningful and enchanted to spring from the bushes or emerge from the cracks in the sidewalk, but no one stopped, no lips, no man, no pulsing fairy. It was just her, and the trees and the bushes, the sidewalk and the stars. The darkness, and the walk to the store.
She was there, as pretty as the most masterful painting, and she walked, with her head up and looking towards the moon. With each step, her gaze softened just a bit more and her smile grew with seduction. Only, there was no one there. No person. So she let the night rub at the edges of her body, she let the moon invade her as it wished. The night was hers and she belonged to the night.