Friday, July 30, 2010

What Came

There was the white light.

Bright. With nothing.

There was the light.

Bright and full, encompassing all in its circular embrace.

Out there, high above.

White light.

A spark fell, a round pearl falling in the night, finding a body. A tiny wet body, shivering in the sudden burst of life. Out there, high above is the white light, but a piece of it dwells in the crisscrossing fabric of sinewy muscle and roadways of veins. It was in here, in the body, that mound of hard flesh on the verge of decomposition, the body, the blend of will and spirit. Here where the pearl fell, on loan from the aeons.

Out there is the light. It dwells, lives, breathes, expands where space cannot be described because words cannot follow, out there where minds cannot begin to turn words into recognizable shapes, giving them color, giving them some sort of meaning that goes beyond simple curves and right angles. It is out there, where the light is bright, so full of nothing that has turned and curved back on itself and become everything. Out there, but here too. In this and on loan.

It was from the white light that they leaked. Like comets. Like long streaks of colored light on the fourth of July. They sprung forth, manifestations of the white, embodiments of the absolute that holds all and nothing. All and nothing. All and nothing. The Aeons, bursting from the fullness of that which does not exist, bursting from the stillness of everything, all the beings that had not been born and the trees that had not yet swayed in a unmoving wind. Across the sky in streaks, dripping like stars with curly iridescent tails and stretched umbilical cords.

There were more than two hands could count. Sophia called into the darkness, hearing the sound of her own pretty voice. It echoed on something, planets that were not yet formed, mouths that had yet to smile. From her sprung what cannot be named. She looked to the angels around her, long streaks of light across the sky. Orange wings outlined with gold. She looked to them and called, “Brother, sister!” each turned to the music, hearing a pretty voice, a sound so rich and full it contained nothing. A voice so clear and empty it could not help but contain everything that would ever come to be.

It was this mouth, red and full. This mouth, the opening to the land of spirit. This mouth, dripping with lust. From it would fall what can not be named, for it is not a pretty sound. It is not orange wings and gold tipped light. It is not nothing, it is not all that ever was, not all that ever wasn’t. It cannot be named and yet it holds the power of naming. And it stood alone, for a time so long that we cannot count it and then, after that long time had passed, our history began.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unknown Event

Something passes overhead, underneath, a shadow jumping from the darkness to take shape before my eyes. Once I was like you, I saw as others saw, but that was before the unknown event, before the thing that happened that so changed my thinking that I can no longer say what it was. I went in one end of the carnival tunnel called time at 1:00 am and came out the other at 1:15 am, three days later, unsure of what had happened.
Oh indeed my mind made many suggestions about how the sky changed color and the clouds gathered in a swirling mass over my head before the lights overtook me. Someone, some thing ran around the perimeter of the field, something small and quick, always just concealed from my direct sight, making the tall wild grasses ripple. I felt an even measure of awe and fear. The realization that nothing like that should be here is what made it terrible. Perhaps if I had forgotten the other world entirely, the world where you are walking down the side walk with a scarf wound tight around your throat clutching a steaming paper cup in your hand, if I had lost all memory of that world that we have shared, then perhaps I would not have thought,
“These things should not be here.”
And if I had not thought that, then I might not have been frightened. But reality, you must understand, was being torn slowly, painfully torn up like a dirty worn carpet. Is there anything worse than seeing your living room floor without the familiar carpet? Seeing the concrete or wood that lies underneath, hard and cold and comfortless? So imagine this terrible thing happening to the fabric of reality, the world where you are hurrying away from an argument with me, waiting for the traffic on the corner and frowning without noticing that you are frowning, the fabric of that existence being jerked out from under me, the me that I was at 12:59.
Realize that by 1:00am I was already becoming a new person. I was frightened, but curious. I needed to see that those shadows were nothing, or that they were something, so I ran after them, hearing the grasses whip around ahead of me, following that sound until we came to the bridge that crosses the river, to the place where the trees rise up and crowd around, tall and skinny and white.
I stood on the bridge and the wind whirled around me, making my clothing flap like flags around my skin. They were among the trees now, and I shivered with the impression that they were like something I had glimpsed before. What had I heard about such things as these? Terrible frightening things.
But then I thought, wait, I have yet to see them directly. I should not confuse these things with old stories. I wanted to run away, now more than ever, but I felt the importance of remaining calm. I was already being transformed by this occurrence, I knew already that the me of 12:59 was gone forever, and I understood that what I did now would define the me that was in the making.
What does steel do when it is being forged into a blade? It holds still, in fire, under the hammer, and in water, it holds still and lets the smith shape it.
I stood on the bridge and the light from overhead grew brighter and brighter and I thought,
“This is the fire! Be still or you will melt into nothingness!”
At least this is what I now tell myself that I told myself as the brightness engulfed me and held me for an agonizing second.
Then I was standing on the bridge alone. The sky was dark and the air was still. Shadows were behaving once again as shadows should in this world that I have shared with you. I looked at my watch and it said 1:15am. I felt as if I had been dreaming and couldn’t remember precisely what had happened. My mind had been altered, stretched during the course of the unknown event, and now that it had shrunk back to scale the unknown event could not be recalled as it had happened. I arranged this story when I returned to our little apartment and you screamed ,
“Where have you been? God damn you! Where have you been for the last three days?”
I told us both something we could understand, even if only vaguely, even if you called it an alien abduction. I cannot call it that.
Once I was like you, I saw as others saw, but that was before the event, before the thing that happened that so changed my thinking that I can no longer say unwaveringly what it was. I went in one end of the carnival tunnel called time at 1:00 am and came out the other at 1:15 am, three days later, and I could not say what had happened in the tunnel, only that something had transpired there, something that is only known to the me that I was between 1:00am and 1:15am for those three days that I was gone. To this other me, the one that now talks to you, that something is and will remain unknown.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Second Later

I find myself standing on a hill of light brown grass and scattered oak trees. It is a place that I vaguely recognize although I can’t quite remember when I was here or why I came. I may have seen it only briefly, maybe in a photo, maybe as I passed by on my way to somewhere else.
It is nighttime and the wind is very cold against my skin, making me shiver. I hold my left elbow with my right hand, hugging myself to find warmth in my own heat. The wind makes a sound like loud whistling as it rides along the tips of the overgrown dry grass. The brown leaves dance all around me, a troupe of manic dancers glad to find some kind of audience.
There is some kind of processing plant in front of me, at the very top of the hill. It is enormously tall and strangely old, marked in black and brown by the passage of time. It towers above me like a giant palace of gray concrete, heavy and ominous and silent, completely silent except for a low drone that seems to slide out from the depths of its underground bowels, a low drone that I can feel crawling up my legs and making its way to my heart.
I recognize this as well, this huge droning building in the middle of nowhere. I can remember the two tall red walls which stand apart from all the grayness, I can recognize the half open metal gates, open just wide enough to let me in. I recognize the twin chimneys pouring translucent white smoke into the dark sky, swallowing the moonlight and turning it gray and thick and poisonous.
I turn around briefly to examine the rest of my surroundings. A wide flat valley surrounds the hills in all directions. I can see vague lights in the distance, maybe a road full of cars, maybe a small town, but nothing is clear or defined. Just tiny lights in the far distance that could be anything, that could be nothing. Here there is only the grass and the night and the large building with its giant tubes vomiting thick clouds of shining smoke.

His words come back to me. I don’t even think of him or wonder what to do. His words are just there, suddenly, without any previous announcement. They echo in my head like a soft melody played against the ambient background of the wind and the drone.
“The way in which I see this… the way in which I perceive it. You had a window of opportunity, a small window just large enough to move through, a tiny moment in which you saw something clearly, in which that something was shining brightly before your wide open eyes. It was there, for that one moment, and then it went away.”

I look down at my feet. By the light of the full moon, I see that I am standing on a dirt path that makes its way up the hill to the place where the metal gates are half open, inviting me to enter. I could easily follow the path and make my way into the processing plant. I envision dark tunnels that smell like the smoke that pours out of the chimneys (smoke which is too far away for me to smell and yet its thick appearance somehow lets me know how it would smell if I were close enough to fill my lungs with its gray chemical body.) I envision narrow walkways, I envision steam and hot metal tubes, I envision large underground chambers full of rumbling noise and the scattered echoes of some dripping liquid in the distance.

“The only thing that matters, the only thing that is truly crucial, is that when you see that small window again, when it is right there before you… what matters is that you move towards it, that you jump through it. This has to happen right then, right when you see it. It can not be any later, not even a second later. Right when you see it is when you have to move, there is no other time, there is no other chance.”

I turn my back to the large plant (now I think of it as a large factory) and I look towards the bottom of the hill. There is a single car parked there. I recognize it immediately. It is my car. Not the car I own, not the car I usually drive, but it is my car nonetheless. I know it. I search for the keys in my pockets but I find nothing there, no wallet, no money, no keys.
I look up at the sky above the parked car and I make a loud sound with my mouth, my lips make the shape of an O and I sing a long howling open vocal that sounds loud and shocking in the droning silence of the dark hill. I make the sound three times and then I am quiet again.

“When I say that it can’t be a second later, I don’t mean that as an exaggeration. I mean exactly what I say. You have to move in that very instant when you see the window opening. To stop to think is to lose it, to weigh possibilities is to lose it, to seek advice is to lose it, to do anything but to jump through is to lose it. And once you lose it, it might be a while before it comes back… if it ever does.”

I suddenly know that I am not supposed to be here. I have meant to visit a processing plant, some kind of large building, something somewhat like the one that stands at the top of this hill. I have meant to come to a place like this, but not to this one, not to this particular one. I am standing by the wrong one. I am at the wrong place.
The clear and sudden knowledge comes upon me with a rush of physical sensations, a wave of shifting tiny dancing rainbows that makes its way down my body from the crown of my head to my chest and down to my genitals and my legs, shifting everything it touches, changing everything it dances with along the way.
Right then is when I see the crow. It is flying in small circles above the car, spiraling lower and lower each time it comes around.
Without thinking, I walk towards the circling crow, towards the parked car. I can barely see the dark bird in the shadows, but the keys that hang from his beak betray him. The light of the moon shines against them and they act like a beacon that lets me know where to go, a beacon that lets me know where to find them.

“I emphasize this because it is extremely important. It is in that singular moment that the door opens. It opens clearly and distinctly, but only right then, only in that single moment. If you don’t cross it without hesitation, the door is lost. You won’t even know where it was or how it appeared. It will simply be gone, lost beyond recovery.”

I am standing by the car looking up, maintaining my eyes glued to the shining keys, my ears glued to their light tinkling sound. Just as the crow makes its lowest and smallest circle yet, I reach up quickly and close my fingers around the keys that hang from his beak.
The crow does not surrender them easily. He tries to pull back and away from my grip. I close my fingers tightly and pull down as hard as I can. The bird flaps its dark wings furiously, hitting my arm, scratching at my flesh with fierce claw that move too quickly for me to avoid them. His attack is harsh and painful but not lethal. I shake my head to resist the pain and I pull even harder.
Suddenly the bird is circling away and the keys are in my hand. I run to the driver’s door and unlock it. I jump in and start the car. The motor rumbles and the wheels start to turn as I push on the familiar accelerator. Everything about the car is familiar even if I can’t remember ever having driven it.
Without knowing where it is that I am going, I move westward (somehow I seem to feel where the west is, as if the wind itself can tell me, as if the road has west painted all over it and I only have to follow its subtle signs.) I drive on an extension of the dirt road on which I was previously standing.
The tall dry grass dances on the edges of the road and shines almost bright yellow under the lights of the car. I hear the wind outside louder than ever. I keep my eyes forward, fixed on the road ahead of me, never turning around.

“You can see it as a kind of game, a game where you have to jump at a very precise moment. The quality of the jump is important, you have to jump well enough to make it. But if you make the perfect jump too early or too late, then it won’t matter, it won’t matter at all. If you jump too early, the door will not be there yet. If you jump too late, then the door will be gone and you will just be back where you started, wondering what happened, wondering what went wrong.”

I hear the crow flapping his wings over the noise of the car. Somehow it is still following me, somehow it is close enough that I can hear its loud squawks. It must be flying low over the roof of the car, keeping pace with my movements. I can’t see it. I can’t see anything other than the road and the dancing grass and my own hands grabbing tightly onto the wheel.
I then hear a sound very close to me, only a few feet away. It is coming from inside the car. I hear it again and I realize that it is the sound of breathing. Someone is sitting next to me on the passenger’s side. I don’t turn around or try to speak. I simply breath in time with their breathing. We sit there quietly, breathing together, neither of us saying a word, neither of us turning around.
Maybe they jumped like I did, maybe they come with the car, maybe they were with me all along and I never noticed. I don’t turn around. We both continue to breathe slowly, in a soft rhythm that somehow matches the rumbling sound of the motor and the shaking of the old doors.
The dirt road turns into a highway and we move much faster now but I still don’t around. Not until the time comes, not until I am ready to meet the other’s eyes.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Man From The Trees

It was such an ordinary street, or at least, it had been an ordinary street with tall wooden telephone poles and sidewalk cracks and several forgotten soda cans. It had been all that before the man had showed up. And to the average person who squinted down the long street with only a momentary glance, it still was an ordinary street. Every few minutes the tri-color signals would change, indicating who should come, those who should stop and the others that needed to slow down. When the red would change to a circle of bright glazing green, cars would rush in a singular, eager line towards the next signal.
It was a city street, not totally busy, but far from desolate. The day was clear, and a muted winter sun hung in the sky, as strong as it could be. Black and white pigeons ate debris from the gutter and several individualistic seagulls roamed the sky in search of food.
The man arrived a little before noon, wandering in from the park that stood at the city’s edge, materializing from the shadows between the pine trees. He had a clean face and pale olive skin. His hair was cropped short, but greasily clung together in thin chunks. There were gray hairs close to his temples, lingering like an omen of impending death. His eyes were mostly green, and had small slivers of bright brown embedded in their layers, but no one ever came close enough to see that, so no one ever noticed.
The man appeared on the street, close to noon. He sat on the dirty cement corner of Folsom and Howard, sitting cross-legged against the yellow stucco building that had been on the corner for almost forty years. The man sat. He looked around the small space around him and gathered some of the discarded refuse close to his shoes. He brought it close, building a sort of nest by his legs and shoes. He added a few rocks to the pile, a few crumpled leaves from the ginko tree close by, a tiny piece of paper that came from a torn-out newspaper advertisement.
When he had gathered all the little bits around him, he sat there and watched the clouds move across the sky. From time to time, he turned his attention to the items around him, looking one by one at the gray rock, the weathered leaf, the pebble of gravel, the sticky soda can. He would wash them all with his gaze and in turn, they all began to vibrate under his stare. When each item had turned to a new frequency, he placed them around his legs in a more careful small circle. With a slow, steady hand, he placed each thing around him in intervals. Again he took his time, looking at the clouds and beyond to the blue sky, then back at all the shining things surrounding him.
When the sun had moved so that it was no longer overhead, he began to blur his eyes slightly. The shapes not only bounced with new life, but they lost the colors and forms of their previous identities. What had once been a leaf was now a jagged bit of pale brown. What had been the advertisement in a newspaper lost all intellectual meaning and the letters turned into pure lines without concept.
He looked at the items, each one simultaneously, then held out his hand and held it several inches over each item, letting it linger, letting it vibrate and feeling the silver thread that connected hand to form.
When the time was right, he moved on to the next shape, connecting himself irrevocably with its life.
“What had once been, what now is.”
He began to say the words in his head, over and over, then he began to whisper them, then on his lips, the syllables grew louder and louder until they were a low chant. The back of his throat rumbled and his eyes wobbled slightly in their sockets and then rolled back to his brain.
The man didn’t take any notice of the coffee shop across the street. He smelled the roasting beans, but never looked into the plate glass window, never seeing the young woman with a red rose nestled above her left ear. She had been there for hours, sipping slowly on her tea, and then when her cup was dry, she just sat there still, watching the man on the corner.
When the sun was hovering low in the sky, the chant slowly ceased, once again filling only his mind, then stopping altogether. With one quick brush of his hand, he scattered the items onto the sidewalk. The pale brown circle once again became a rock, the ephemeral message became a newspaper clipping and the man walked back into the shadows between the city trees.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


The ride. I tell you, it’s numbing. My ass has been bouncing around on this hard back seat forever. Jeff has us listening to Ennio Morricone, which is somewhat enjoyable, but Reed keeps trying to talk over it, so he has to shout to be heard and everyone else screams, ”What?” and he repeats himself even louder. Meanwhile the windows are rolled down so the wind too is roaring in my ears and blowing my hair back. To make matters more difficult Dean keeps drinking out of my water bottle and I can’t tell if he means to or if he’s just clueless.
Twenty minutes ago we were paused by the railroad tracks of some little town, I think it was called Crows Landing. Mostly dirt and fields and sagging houses. The main street had a taco place with those round tables with the permanent umbrellas stuck in their middle, the kind that are made out of plastic or something else hard so they look more like flying saucers than umbrellas. There was also a barber shop, no barber pole or anything so quaint, just a white sign with a head of hair on it, a picture that seemed like it too hailed from 1976 or maybe 81.
Jeff had taken out the map and spread it over the steering wheel and after a few moments of examination he’d said, “The way I see it, we can keep going this way, or we can cut over this mountain right here and hit the 380 which is what we want to do eventually.” Somehow or other we decided that the mountain would be a nice change of pace since we’ve been driving all over the San Joaquin valley for two days straight, looking at fields and orchards and a lot of flat land. All this is Jeff’s idea, a road trip for the band, full of dusty ghost towns and farmland where we can stop and pose for photos to fill the sleeve of our next CD, which of course, we haven’t even started recording.
So here we were bouncing up this sub standard road, the sun gleaming like brass as it sunk, tall wild grains waving around, positively golden under that hot sun. Suddenly there are long horn cattle everywhere, grazing in the rolling hills, standing in the road. I reach my hand out the open window. They are so close I can almost touch them, but I always pull my hand back the instant it seems possible.
I start to shout, “I want to get out and pet one!” Jeff just laughs from behind his mirrored shades but I keep insisting, shouting over the sound track of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, “I really want to touch one!”
Reed is looking at me in the rear view mirror, wisps of dark hair hanging over his brown eyes. The nostrils of his banana nose flair a little, which I know means he’s annoyed or disgusted or something. His gaze shifts from me to Dean and I catch a really strange look in his eye, but he quickly turns his attention back to the road ahead before Dean notices he’s being observed.
I stop shouting to give Reed a break. After all, we’ve still got a long ride ahead of us and I myself am not all that happy with the close quarters. Reed’s been moody all day, looking at all of us as if this was the stupidest God damned bunch of fools he’s ever been stuck with. It doesn’t bother me too much because Reed is generally a little snobby, a feature that I, as a west coast native, attribute to his upbringing in New York. In the last year and a half that I’ve played with him I’ve come to be fascinated with his mannerisms, including his manifestations of annoyance.
Dean is another story. He’s only been around for a month or so. I’m not sure if we’ve ever had a drummer that I did like, but if so, it definitely isn’t Dean. I can’t even say why. Maybe it’s because he’s too tall and gangly and has those pale freckles all over his face, but today the problem is that his breath is atrocious. It’s the main reason I’ve been willing to cope with the added noise of rolled down windows. That and his cracked and peeling lips malingering on my water bottle are wearing on my nerves.
“Look at that.” Reed bellows over the din.
That’s our cue. We all shout, “What?”
“I said LOOK AT THAT!” Reed’s pointing out his open window ahead of the car. Jeff starts slowing down.
“Holy crap.” Jeff yells, “Look at that.”
I do. We’re approaching a little turn off whose main feature is an outcropping of stone covered with swastikas. The thing is at least three times as tall as I am and completely covered in paint. There are even swastikas spray painted in the middle of the road. Jeff pulls over and we all get out to look at the bizarre monument.
I grew up in a semi rural area and there you’d see rocks covered in graffiti along the road, stuff like ‘L.M. heart B.G’ or ‘Fuck’ or even ‘God Bless’, but I have never seen anything quite like this. There’s nothing else visible on any surface of the massive body of stone. It’s swastikas all the way.
“That’s weird huh?” Jeff says and I just shrug. The turn out drops off into a little valley and some cows are down there grazing happily. I go over and look at them and Jeff gets out his camera and takes some shots of the Nazi rock while Dean takes a piss on some bushes and Reed lights a cigarette. After a minute Jeff comes over and stands beside me taking pictures of the animals meandering below.
“What’s that?” he asks pointing at something big and white resting on the rolling brown grass of the little valley.
“A boulder.” I tell him.
“Are you sure?” He asks.
Even though I am sure, I’ve got to prove that I‘m right. I start making my way carefully down the slope. I’m still wondering what would happen if I tried to approach one of the cows but their long horns urge me towards caution. They are all pretty far out of my way and I head straight for the boulder. I slow way down when I‘m about 15 feet away and begin to realize that I am wrong.
My heart starts beating rapidly and I can barely breath. I have a feeling, like I want to run away, but I keep walking right into the stench, because there’s this other urge propelling me, the urge to be sure of what I am seeing. I come right up on it and try not to throw up. It’s a dead bull, solid white, except the head is completely gone and maggots are pouring out of the open neck.
I start waving frantically to Jeff and Reed and Dean. While they scramble down the embankment I make a careful study of the corpse. I look around first of all for the head. I keep thinking it could have died of natural causes, but where is the fucking head? I walk slowly around it and see that its anus is gone and in its place is a burnt out hole, big and perfectly round. The genitals are also gone and there are burns on its back. I wonder where the blood is. It seems like there should be some, but there isn’t. I’ve heard of things like this, but I never dreamed I’d ever encounter it.
By then Jeff and Reed show up, covering their noses and exclaiming things along the lines of
“what the…” and “Holy Shit.” and “Fuck.”
I’m feeling a little out of it, really dizzy, trying to make reasonable scientific observations because it seems terribly important to do so.
“This shit is beyond bizarre...” I hear Jeff say.
“If animal mutilation scares you, then I hate to burst your sense of security, but human beings are being mutilated as well....” Reed announces covering his nose and mouth with his arm. His chest is heaving and it seems like he might be about to hyperventilate.
“What?” Jeff looks at him. Dean has just caught up and joins us near the neck where we are watching the maggots wriggle.
“Gentlemen, some of these alien scum are hostile....” he tells us shaking his dirty blonde head.
I am trembling but I take Jeff’s camera out of his hands.
“Nothing proves aliens did this.” I tell them and start taking pictures. I’ve got this feeling like it’s my responsibility to document this. I can almost picture it being analyzed by the cattle man and the local Sheriff and agents Mulder and Scully. I’m freaking out, but I move as slowly and calmly as I possibly can, trying to stay in control of my shaking. Trying with my critical attention to make it less terrifying
“You seem so sure of that…” Reed challenges, “You do know that it is not only cattle being mutilated, but an entire variety of animals, including humans?”
“It’s not aliens. It's humans with nothing else better to do. Think about it. Bored people do weird stuff. Especially red neck neo nazis.” Jeff says it, but I’ve been thinking it. I just can’t imagine it being that easy to cut off a bull’s head. I wonder what they could have used, and speculate that the bull could have died of natural causes and the skinheads might have come along after the fact and done the mutilating… my head is swimming.
Now Dean clears his throat and tells us,
“I’m an abductee.”
We all stare at him. Even me. This is the guy I’ve been sitting in the back seat with all day, watching him eat my pork rinds and slurp my water. You think you know a guy.
“Nothing bad has happened to me.” He continues. “My girlfriend at the time was impregnated though, somehow.”
“What?!” Jeff erupts, sweat pouring over his brow, “You fucking moron! ‘Somehow’? She was your fucking girl friend! It was probably your baby! I’ll tell you what got the cow, it’s those mother fucking maggots, not hogus bogus aliens!”
Jeff’s face and neck have turned all red. He looks like he wants to strangle Dean, or maybe Reed, but can’t decide which one. This doesn’t surprise me. Jeff’s got a temper. We’ve been recording music together for seven years and have gone through dozens of bass players and drummers. Our deal is that he gets to be an asshole to everyone but me. What does throw me for a loop is Dean’s response.
“You’re the true moron. They’ll take your daughter, your son, and at the end of the day, all you’d do is call your own children morons. You deserve to have your adrenal glands eaten as if it were cocaine! Aliens don't eat our adrenal glands, right? Bunch of bullshit.” He kicks the ground and shoves his hands in his pockets.
“Yup. Luckily I got a chip in my head,” he withdraws one hand to tap his temple then puts it back again, “that prevents me from spoiling when it hits. This oil spill in the gulf, is just the beginning...” he stalks away from us in the direction of the sinking sun.
Jeff seems to be stunned, because he doesn’t do any more shouting. He waits till Dean is out of ear shot and whispers,
“He’s nuts.”
Even Reed is rubbing the stubble on his chin and eyeing Dean nervously.
“Yeah.” He says quietly, “I mean, this cow could have been mutilated by Aliens, but Dean… he’s just plain psycho. You remember when we stopped in that grocery store in Escalon yesterday? I couldn’t tell you because we’ve all been jammed together in that piece of shit car, but he got into a fight with the butcher over the price of ground sirloin. He’s about to pull the guy over the counter, he actually reached out and grabbed his collar! I’m like, what are you doing buying ground beef anyway? We aren’t grilling. He just took the meat and stormed off, so I finished getting drinks and snacks and stuff and when I came out of the store he was standing out side, EATING THE RAW HAMBURGER. He tried to throw it away so I wouldn’t see what he was doing, but I saw it.”
Now I’m really nauseated. We stand there looking at each other and at Dean’s back.
“We’ve got to get out of here.” Jeff says, then he looks at me and Reed meaningfully and adds, “Without Dean.”
“What?” I say, “We’re just going to leave him here? With that?” I gesture to the mutilated cow. Jeff nods slowly.
“Don’t worry.” Reed says, “I’m sure ‘that’ is a picnic as far as he’s concerned. He’ll probably eat it, maggots and all.”
I consider it. Dean might really be an abductee. If he is, maybe the cow really was mutilated by Aliens. Maybe the Aliens are Nazis. Maybe they’ll give him a ride home. I’m feeling really altered, as if I just swallowed a handful of pills or something. My heart is racing and my skin is crawling. My mind lurches. Maybe there are no aliens and Dean is a homicidal maniac. He craves raw meat. He doesn’t respect boundaries. Just like the red neck Nazis, he’s going to cut our heads off and… I mean, we all know Dean is weird, we just don't’ know how weird...
”Right now,” Jeff says, “We’ve got to go right now, come on.”
We three start to walk hurriedly away from the headless steer. The valley is full of shadows and the sun is out of sight leaving the sky streaked with pink. I’m not sure what I’m afraid of anymore. Nazis? Aliens? Dean? Somehow, all of us moving quickly together sets me off. I start to run and Jeff and Reed start to run too. We three climb frantically up the hill and scramble into the car locking the doors as if something were about to get us.
“Hurry up.” Reed is saying as Jeff fumbles getting the key in the ignition.
Dean hasn’t even missed us yet. Jeff starts the car up and takes off up the incline. Within a matter of minutes, trees are lining the road and we’re in a whole new terrain. The stereo is silent now and we’ve rolled up the windows and none of us says a word. I look over at the empty seat beside me covered in crumbs and half emptied water bottles and I think ‘We left Dean.’
The forest outside is growing dark around us and I shiver. Nobody says a word.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Motel Room

I stood beneath a white four-legged canopy, content that a bit of canvas was blocking the full force of the summer sun. In front of me was Kevin, the customer who always wore politically slanted marijuana related T-shirts.
“Do you work for an advocacy group? I always see you wearing those political marijuana shirts.”
He looked down a bit startled, unsure of what he wore.
“Oh yeah, I used to when I lived in DC.”
“Cool.” I said nodding, “do you know Craig Reinarman, from Santa Cruz?”
He looked into my eyes deeply for several seconds then I saw something flash.
“Yeah, I do. He does some good work, has written some good books.”
“Yeah,” I said, nodding again, “His sociology class really altered the course of my life.”
There was silence between us and we looked at each other. Then another customer walked up to the table laden with breads. I turned my attention on the new person, smiling help. I smiled at Kevin while I packed up pretzels for the other woman at the table and he walked away towards the chocolate seller.

Next week was the same. Another sunny Saturday shielded by the white canopy. Kevin came up to the small booth and bought a loaf of bread. I asked him a question, something so simple it slipped through the grasp of memory. When I was waited for his response, he started to nod, his head bobbed up and down, almost like a tick. It looked like the words where getting caught somewhere between his brain and mouth. I looked at him with a soft smile, his eyes were looking down, then to the left, then the right. I was not sure what was happening to him, but I felt amused and wanted to watch, like a puppet was trying to come to life.

He looked up.
“You know,” he said by way of explanation, standing a little on his toes when he finally got the words out. “I’m self conscious almost to the point of it being crippling. I’m working on it though.”
“Oh really, I never would have known if you didn’t say anything.” My face was covered with the expression of shock, my eyebrows raised slightly by the information. “But I know what you mean. I’m self conscious too.” He looked up, a bit surprised. “I wouldn’t say its almost crippling, but I do know what you mean.”
He nodded. “You are easy to talk to.”
Then another customer walked up and asked questions about the pastries. Kevin waved a silent goodbye, tucked his loaf into his yellow bicycle bag and walked towards the small hill behind the line of booths. I turned and watched him take a seat on the grass next to a slender black woman who I assumed was his girlfriend. I had seen them sitting in the same spot every Saturday, sometimes they would lay in the sun, letting the sun bathe their skin in warm light.

Kevin and I were in a motel room together. There were two full beds in the room separated by a small end table and wall-mounted lamp. The room was filled with the same yellow light that always exists in all motel room chambers. He had offered to help me with my German lessons and there were several hardcover course books on one of the beds. I sat on the floor and flipped through the numerous workbooks I had. I knew there was a particular assignment I was supposed to do, but after I flipped through three different workbooks, I couldn’t find it. I wondered if the pages had gotten torn out somehow.
It was very late and I gave up one finishing the assignment. I started packing my bag. I looked over at Kevin, he was topless and in one of the beds under the covers, his left arm holding onto a pillow.
“Are you sleeping here tonight?” I asked.
While I waited for his answer, I looked around the room. It was full of my things. Clothes, my artwork and photo albums, the pieces of fabric I had been collecting for a decade, some scrapes from Kauai I hadn’t seen in years. My red guitar was on the other bed, sitting right on top of the nicely made bedspread.
“…is it because we haven’t made love?” Kevin asked.
I was sitting on the floor by the door putting my jewelry into a box.
“I have a boyfriend, so that never would have happened.” I said it looking down, keeping most of my attention on the jewelry, yet feeling the air between us change.
I felt his body stiffen with my words. He grew more quiet, though he had not been talking anyway. I stood up, putting another box of my things by the door. I felt fine now to say anything since the delicate balance between us had already been broken. I didn’t look at him as I surveyed the room.
“People are only nice when they think they can fuck you.”
The words came out harsh and I was startled by the accentuated way I said “fuck.” It sounded so cold, like steel that could never grow a heart. “You know, you never asked me out.” Even as I said it I wondered if it was true.
I knew he was mad and I knew I needed to leave, but my things were everywhere. In every drawer I opened where more albums and CDs and artwork. I knew I needed to take everything I cared about because he was angry and I thought he might start to destroy my things. I put the stuff I wanted by the door, opening it slightly and positioning one of my jewelry boxes to hold it open.
When I opened the door, I saw a blue plastic shopping cart in the hallway and thought I would be able to put a lot of my things in there. I stepped further into the hallway and onto the maroon carpet. My sleeping bag was all spread out on the ground, I wondered how it had gotten that way since I didn’t remember doing it. I looked up and saw a man in the doorway of his room.
I turned and went back inside to gather my things. Everything was a mess, completely disorganized. I didn’t want to leave anything, but I needed to prioritize what I would take since I couldn’t bring everything. I thought that even if he didn’t destroy my things, I had no idea how I would be able to get the rest of it in the morning after checkout since I didn’t have a key.
I stepped into the hallway once again and turned to the camera.
“See, this is the reason we fought over the joint earlier. Whoever got it would be in power.”
Ultimately it had all been about power, it was laying right under our feet all along, precisely where we weren’t looking.
Without looking back, I started to walk away.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

In The Theater of Red Twilight

We walked down a narrow alleyway, an inconsequential little street I knew from another time full of gentle repetitions and harmless routines. Now, even though we were still in the world as we knew it, even though the cars still honked at each other in the broad main street we had just left behind us, even though there was still the sound of drum machines and glasses clinking against each other coming from the bar that stood in front of the spot where we left our car, even though people still turned away to avoid our eyes and there was still a general sense that there was a world and that it moved in its usual ways, the ways we had come to expect from years of recurrent reassurance, even through the world was still normal, whatever it is that we really mean by that, even though all this was true, there was already a sense that something was different, something was not as it should be, something was already in the process of changing.
We turned into an open black doorway, a gateway that led into red and black shadows. We stepped into this other world and by then, by the time our feet had crossed the edge between two lights, it was already too late, the change had happened and all that had been vaguely prognosticated by the tiny hints outside came into full manifestation before our eyes, under our eyes, all around our eyes. The world then ceased to be a rough mixture of faded colors splattered over gray concrete and blue asphalt. Instead it became a thick sepia that invaded our senses like smoke, a dark twilight that covered our faces with a sense of a long awaited goodbye, a final embrace before the looming journey. The long walk up the stairs finished formalizing the change that had already been evident as soon as we stepped into the twilight. The stairs were dark red and the banisters were covered in gold or in something that looked like gold in the shadows, and we quickly surrendered to this new state of things, to this new world where the rules had changed and consequences flowed in all directions.
Mother moved slowly and I was painfully aware of how slowly she truly moved, slower than I had realized, slower than ever. I slowed down my own movements so that I would stay by her side and it was clear that the walk up the long staircase was a very painful journey for her increasingly fragile body. She exhaled loudly every few steps, took a moment to rest and then made an effort once again, holding on tightly to the golden banister with wrinkled weak white hand. I helped her when I could, and I talked to her so as to distract her from her discomfort. I talked of anything and everything that came to mind, as all words had changed meaning as soon as we crossed the doorway and I was still in the process of discovering what there was for me to say in this new chamber we had only begun exploring. Soon we would be up where we needed to be, soon we would find our seats and begin the process of waiting. After a space of uncertainty that had lasted weeks, now everything was clear and certain, everything rolled like a mechanical train on perfect tracks across a red landscape frozen in time.
It had been harder than expected to be here. It had been easier than expected to be here. Both sentences were equally true and neither would surrender its truthfulness to the other. Neither could be resolved by pushing down on the other one, neither could be broken by the cutting sharp edge of the other one’s knives. Nor were they neutralized by each other’s presence. They were both true in a way that was resonant, a way that staked its claim to reality in a radiant pulsation that could not be denied.
My heart was hurting in a way that I had learn to accept, it was no longer truly painful, it was more a kind of intense pleasure that was difficult to sustain, something that would be delightful for an instant but which became like torture when it went on for minutes, hours, days. Here, in this world of twilight, the pain increased with each step up the staircase. Up, up, up we had to go. Further than it seemed necessary. All the way up, as high as it was possible to climb. And Mother was moving slowly and breathing heavily and I was making an effort to keep on talking, even when the air itself seemed so thick that I could only barely manage to take it in and then use my still open eyes to explore this newly discovered land of murky brilliant shadows. There was pain in the air itself, a pain that mirrored and resonated with the pain that I felt within me, but it was not being talked about, not by me, not by anyone else. It only floated on the surface of the twilight like a shallow coating of transparent milk, only barely visible if one looked at it sideways.

When we found our seats, the place was still mostly empty. There were small groups of fellow attendees that talked incessantly, maybe doing what I had been doing as I walked up the stairs with Mother who couldn’t speak. It was then, when the seats were mostly vacant and there were only a few people here and there looking to find their place in the red and black world, it was then that I began to realize it, it was then that I began to notice that I knew everybody, every single person there, everybody. I noticed that I knew them all or that I should, or that I would, or that I could. Everybody. Every single one. All faces jumped out at me with a burden of stories that I could only barely begin to disentangle before another face stood in the way, also carrying a new offering of memories that I couldn’t place, dreams I could not remember, unknown places that I couldn’t shake away, false histories that I tried in vain to disentangle from others that were true, others that I believed to be true and yet here they had become undistinguishable from the others.
There, that old woman, did I not spend years working with her, in weekly meetings in a basement off of 16th street, surrounded by smoke and the smell of old printers and photocopying machines, did we not share a hundred hardships travelling over land to Central America, trying to learn to haggle with merchants of the road, trying to deal with soldiers who looked at us as intruders and possible victims, as vulnerable strangers who had clearly overstepped their bounds without a clear sense of consequences. No, that never happened. Not to me. Not to the me that could still remember walking in here with Mother, walking up a red stairway and moving through the red twilight. Not to that me. There, that young girl in a black dress that revealed her slim brown shoulders shining in the twilight, did we not love each other desperately in a house in the Sunset district, just a few blocks away from the ocean, thick brown curtains and empty cartons of Chinese take out spread all over the floor, a stereo playing old rock songs in the room below us, the sound of waves in the distance, always seeming to come closer, closer and closer, as if the salty water was about to burst through the windows, splashing us with its taste of cold freedom, did we not become drunk with each other’s ecstatic exclamations for nights and days and more nights of sexual abandon, long hours when her body became mine so completely that I could no longer distinguish where her flesh began and mine ended, moments when her eyes rolled back towards the top of her head and I recognized an instantaneous and eternal Nirvana in her momentary silence before breaking into thick exhalations of physical recovery, did we not stay like that, together in her private darkness, until it all became too much and we had to say goodbye, if only to save our lives, our individual sanity, our sense of place and time and memory? No, that never happened. Not to this particular man who now sat next to Mother, waiting for something to happen, waiting while everything was happening all around us already, waiting for another event in a sequence, just as events themselves seemed to have slipped out of sequence altogether and were now fumbling about in all directions, without a clear sense of cause or effect. There, the overweight man with the little black beret, did we not play protest songs for years, did we not learn to know each other’s musical habits so well that we no longer needed to plan ahead for a performance, did we not learn to perfectly harmonize each other’s improvised melodies, did we not smoke marijuana for days on end until we no longer needed to speak out loud to hold a long and rambling conversation, until the distinction between music and silence became irrelevant and the sounds of the city itself became our endless lullaby, did we not together find a kind of silent love that was only possible though acoustic guitars and the gentleness that came with the sound of nylon strings vibrating? No, that never happened. Not to the one who now writes these things that you are reading. Not to the one I have come to know as me.
“She is bound to be here,” Mother said and I agreed. She is bound. To be here. She is bound.
And there, that girl in a thick white shirt and long dress pants, did we not meet in a faraway place of thick sweat and long green leaves and the recurring calls of endured hardship cutting through the thick heavy air full of black smoke? Did we not turn each other’s lives around in a whirlwind of passionate love and obsessive desire that changed what could have happened and what never did? Did we not discover that all things that are so pleasurable are also paid for at a very high price and the price is never stated clearly at the outset? Did we not learn to forget what we had known and ultimately stare at each for only seconds at a time while cold entities of the world decided our fate and dictated our divided future? No, that never happened. It couldn’t have. Not to her. Not to me. Not to the one who looked down at her as she walked up the steep steps between the red seats that were quickly filling up.
“There she is,” Mother said and then she was silent. Unsure as to how to proceed. Did the moment call for silence or for an outburst of speech? Did it call for roughness or kindness? Did it call for empty gestures or subtle sincerity? And if we took one route, would we ever find out what waited at the end of the other one?
I smiled and waved at her and she approached us, smiling tentatively, as if embarrassed to show her underlying happiness, as if swallowing into herself years of decisions that had turned her past into a soft gooey mulch and her present into a many colored vortex made of living questions.
I reached over the metal barrier that separated us and I placed my arms around her shoulders. I kissed her on the cheek and she smiled when I did, she smiled hesitantly but truly, she smiled from deep inside and her face had just a bit of trouble catching to her inner impulse. Then she greeted Mother as well and Mother responded with a smile and a warm greeting. That was all. No true silence, no true explosion, and yet a silence of sorts, an explosion of a certain kind. All in that one passing smile, all in the kiss, all in her eyes. She left, to join all the others that were here, all the others that I knew, all the others that were here that I didn’t know, all the others that I couldn’t know and yet I did.

We had come one last time together, here in this twilight world, to pay homage to a dream that had been slowly dying, a dream that it was finally time to release into the great open void so that it could be finally broken apart, ready to be reconstituted into new dreams that none of us yet suspected. I knew it. Mother knew it. We all knew it, even if some would have been very reticent to express it, even if some still vainly struggled to keep it alive. But it was no use. It was time for a dream to die.
Some souls did cling to their dreams more tightly than others. Some still screamed for armed revolution, for a free Cuba, for an insurrected freedom that would slide through the sweat of cracked brown hands and reinvigorate the earth itself so that it would become fresh and new again, all in a cloud of burning gunpowder and young men in improvised sweaty red masks. Some still believed, some still wished to believe, even here, in the theater where all such things had to finally come to an end.

“Sueña lo que hago y no digo
Sueña en plena libertad
Sueña que hay días en que vivo
Sueña lo que hay que callar “

“Dream what I do and don’t say
dream in full freedom
Dream that there are days in which I live
Dream what must be kept quiet…”

It was to dream that we were here, and it was his job to lead us in our collective dream through the shapeless shadows of emptiness, it was his job to lead us back to when the colors of the old stories were full and strong and they hadn’t yet faded into barely recognizable hues, to bring us back to a place of collective hope that sparkled with the incandescent shape of infinite possibility. He appeared so suddenly that there was no time for wonderment, it was simply him and he was there, in full physical form in front of us, something that couldn’t happen and yet it was happening, now and not later, now and not before. And once he was present, there could be no further questions.
When I felt that I knew him, that he was clear and evident before me, and that I shared the life of his dreams and that I shared their death as well, their long agonizing decline, then it was clear that I truly did know everyone here, as much as they knew me as well, as much as they knew me so well that they would search in vain within the valise of their memories for a clear signal, a solid reply, something that would finally tell them who I was in their life and why I was here, why we were all here to listen to this man tell us our own dreams that had slowly escaped from our grasp.
His voice was soft and pure as always, crackling with age and experience that wasn’t quite there in the recordings I remembered, and yet a young boy still peered through the gaps between the syllables, letting us know that nothing ever truly ends, it only goes into temporary hiding. And yet, in those times when it is hidden, it is as if it had gone forever, it feels that way, it feels like the colors won’t ever return, like life had been banished and it won’t ever come back. When he sang, everyone responded, people screamed with exclamations that came from deep within them, deep in their bodies and deep in their shadow minds, spontaneous invocations that proclaimed the ideals of a time that had already passed, a time that was already a double exposure on the old black and white photo of history, a wish that had turned its eyes from the future into the past but we just didn’t quite know it yet.
I could only wonder if this theater of dark colors, this theater of gold and red and sepia that was itself revived from a time that nobody truly remembered, I wondered if this theater had never really been opened at all, if in fact this theater was still closed and forgotten even as we all sat within it, and we were all just wandering ghosts that had been called forth by a master magician that had sneaked his way into an empty stage, in the hope of reviving voices that had long been kept silent.

“Hoy llevo el doble dando coordenadas
pero nadie contesta mi llamada.
Que puede haber pasado a mi senal?
Sera que me he quedado sin hogar?”

“Now I do my job and send my coordinates
but nobody answers my call
what could have happened to my signal
could I have been left without a home?”

Each of them that I had loved, each of them that I had lived a long life with, a life that was as much mine as it was theirs, each of them was a lost segment of time that I could vainly hope to recover, an old photograph slowly dissolving into nothingness under an unforgiving rain. And so it was with her, the one that sat behind us, only a few feet away, so close and yet so far away, so familiar and yet so strange, so present and yet so absent But maybe it was only that the memory of her was freshest within me, maybe it was only that I could still smell her sweat and taste her lips, maybe it was that her one memory had jumped out among the others and projected itself into the past so intensely that it had blurred away all the others, made them less tactile, less firm.
Each one of them gave me their memories, and to each of them I gave mine, and to each of them I silently called, even if it was only by looking and looking and looking again, into their clothes, into their bodies, into their faces, into their shapes cloaked in twilight. There had been no clear response, no clear reaction that would let me know that there was someone on the other side. But I knew that they were there.
It was difficult to know when to call and when to wait. Here was a moment when an outside force had been necessary, something greater than any one of us, something greater than all of us combined, and this great outside force had turned into a guitar and a small man, a man so tiny I could only barely see him, down there in the bottom of the great theater where he was almost lost in the enduring twilight of red and black and gold. This tiny figure with a voice so sweet, so tender, so forgiving, he was the one who now called and we all responded, in a way that obliterated all differences, it was a call that we couldn’t help but answer, it was a call that emerged fully formed from deep within us, deep within the us that was not a plural but a singular, the us where we could no longer be distinguished into me and you and them. It was only much later that we could then say that it was a man, that what we had seen and heard had been a man, only a man, a man playing a guitar on a stage, so many feet down below us, so far away that he was almost lost.
There was a call, a signal, and an answer, and in this place of darkness and ghosts, we all found a home and in this place we were also to finally understand that all homes are temporary, that everything truly changes, changes as much as we could have ever imagined and even more so, that everything must end sooner than we expect and that what is left is always, will always be, as beautiful and perfect as what was there to begin with; that it will then, as now, be our duty to find once again the beauty that we thought was gone, the beauty that was only hiding. The tender call of the tiny man with a sweet voice, the call told us all of this, and we responded by becoming one, by becoming one as we always been one but had forgotten, we responded by remembering and forming the lost home that once we had so yearned for, the lost garden that we had dreamed of, for so many years, for so many eons, for so many lives.

“Hoy viene a ser como la cuarta vez que espero
desde que se que no vendras mas nunca.
He vuelto a ser aquel cantar del aguacero
que hizo casi legal su abrazo en tu cintura.
Y tu apareces en mi ventana,
suave y pequeña, con alas blancas.
Yo ni respiro para que duermas
y no te vayas.
Que maneras mas curiosas
de recordar tiene uno,
que maneras mas curiosas”

“Today would be about the fourth time I wait
since I know that you won’t ever come back.
I have once again become that song of the tempest
That made hugging your waist almost legal.
And you appear in my window,
Soft and small, with white wings.
I don’t even breathe so that you can sleep
And you don’t leave.
What strange ways
We have of remembering
What strange ways…”

And it was the fourth or the fifth or the hundredth time since I had known that you would never return. It became clear one day but, like all such days of intense clarity, it is now lost in the subtlety of its own absolute knowledge. Big empty things are easy to remember, true knowledge is easy to forget, all it takes is a moment of distraction, a moment of looking elsewhere, a moment of falling in for an old habit, a moment of saying those sequences of words that you know so well, saying them quietly to yourself while nobody is listening, saying them in the most silent voice that exists, the loudest voice that rules our dreams, your dreams, my dreams, and then it is over. We have once again forgotten and it is time to start again from scratch.
And it was that one day I knew that you were gone and you would never come back, maybe it was a windy afternoon with a gentle sun that refused to fully show itself and refused to fully die, or maybe it was very early in the morning and the birds were just starting to sing outside my window and maybe one of them was click clacking with its beak against the glass and I thought of you and knew all I would ever need to know, or maybe it was a dream where you sat by a rolling cliff, with your long white dress rolled up to your knees and your eyes down turned as you told me “I understand what happened but she won’t ever understand, and so I won’t ever come back, even if I want to, even if I really want to…” Maybe it was none of those and it was some other time, some other dream, some other afternoon that was as lost as she was. But one thing was clear. It was too late, definitely too late, much too late to try anything, even if I still would keep on trying, anything, everything, much like an actor that continues in their role minutes and even hours after they have left the stage, maybe even hours after every single last member of the audience has gone home. So I would continue to try, I would continue to call and explain, and come up with new ways of saying what I had already said, and I would run my eyes over a white wall marked by graffiti while I heard your voice through my cell phone, saying “yes” and saying “no” but always saying the same thing, the thing that would not break apart, the thing that somehow withstood all my attempts at contact. I would continue to try even if I knew it was hopeless, even if everyone around me knew it. I would continue to try only to fulfill the temporal shape that was my duty, the duty of my role in this drama of which I form only the tiniest part.
But I knew, ever since that moment of clarity, that the result was already written, maybe I knew it even back then, when that other woman of wisdom said “she will do what she will do, you can’t stop that from happening, just be as kind as you can be and let things go where they will..” and I listened and knew that she spoke the truth and that it would be just as she said that it would be but I still had to try, I still had to make an effort, I still had to sing the main theme as softly as I could manage, even when it became too soft for anyone to hear.
And now, when it was so late that it seemed that the bridge that once connected us had altogether disappeared (even though I still felt it, I could only resign myself to knowing that you had bombed your side of the construction, destroying it permanently and making sure that it would never be built again) then a window opened, and you came through, a ghost being called by another ghost for the sake of a third.
Did I call her or did she call me? Such questions become pointless when you sit in an enormous old theater full of ghosts, an abandoned husk where only wraiths can congregate. We all called each other through the voice that we manifested from nothingness, the voice of our purest dreams, our most hidden fantasies, our most perfect heavens, our most desired hells. And there she was, soft and small, and I couldn’t bring myself to breathe much, so that she wouldn’t leave, even though she had to, sooner than later. It was all such a delicate maneuver, holding onto a single instant of time long enough that it would become eternal, and then it would make no difference if she left or if she didn’t, then it would be too late, for we would once again be together, forever, like before, like later, like always.
Where we then remembering the lost dreams of a generation or the private dreams of two people that swam in each other’s waters so deeply that we nearly drowned and only barely managed to come back to find the light? It was both, there was no distinction here in the world of the twilight. A voice had seduced us into believing in revolution, a voice that I once only knew as an old fragile cassette tape that had to be hidden under layers of wood and clothing, so that soldiers would never hear it, so that soldiers would ever find it. It was the same voice that had seduced us, me, us into believing in eternal romantic love, one single voice, here manifested as a small man with a guitar, almost lost in the shadows.
To believe that all things could change and become as they should be and stay that way was as illusory as believing that two people would be joined once and for all time, and nothing would ever come between them, that all it took was that single moment of recognition in a narrow living room of books, small paintings and diplomas and that single moment had enough fuel to last a lifetime. Two illusions, two symbolic beliefs. In both there was a true eternal effort that was occluded, in both the effort was hidden by stylized drawings made in chalk, in both there was hope without work, there was belief without knowledge, there was wishing without sweat.
But the voice itself was made of effort, it was made of work and of knowledge, it was made of all that we had hidden from ourselves, its fundamental materials were in the shapes that our minds could not decipher, it was in the curves in the air that we had come to call sound, it was in the mathematical symmetries that we have come to call form, it was in the repeated patterns that we have come to call beats, it was in the nothingness that curled up around itself to become something, even if it was only briefly, even if it would eventually return to the void.
We took the voice in, but we only took part of it. And we came here now to listen again, maybe this time the message would at last be completely received, maybe at last it would finally come through with all its truly shining colors. Maybe some of us, maybe one, maybe later, maybe now.
But before and after, there would be that you that smiled for a single moment, there would be that you that offered her cheek and took my kiss as if we had always been together, as if nothing had happened in between that first kiss in the living room and that new kiss in the theater of ghosts, there was that you that was shining through trembling eyes, the you that looked downwards with an innocent embarrassment that once seemed to have died under layers of acquired sophistication and anger. And you were an old thin woman that I used to know, a “gringa” that helped me when I was sad even if it wasn’t your job and we had much more important things to do with our time, what with the war and the violence, and you were a young girl that I used to know, a girl that kissed me with tenderness in the darkness of an afternoon touched by sunlight and reminded me that days can last forever, that days can last too long, and you were a fat man that I used to know, a man that, after too many songs would lean back with a hand made joint in your hand and would point out my mistakes with such sweetness that I couldn’t help but laugh and accept and try to fix them, and you were a brown girl that I used to know, a girl that stood by a black window in the middle of the night and offered all that you had to give, offered it all to me, even if you didn’t know who I was, even if you didn’t know who you were, even if you didn’t know what you were giving. You were all and none. There was only you and there was no other. Nothing, no one, nobody other than you. And I could only hold my breathing, hoping to hold you for just that instant of recognition, and that instant was all I needed, that instant was all I could ever have. You that came and went, as you had to, as you would have, as you always would, as you always will.

“…esta la escribi porque cuando era chico en mi cuarto habia un grabado de dos angeles que llevaban a un chico atravez de un puente…”

“I wrote this song because of a portrait I used to have in my room when I was young. It showed two angels who were guiding a young boy to safety across a bridge…”

I leaned back and gave myself to the red darkness and allowed him to sing purely into me, I allowed the theater to fade and all the others who were my true companions to fade away as well, I allowed the shadows at the edges to grow and grow until they swallowed all and everything that was around me. When I was done, he came fully into me, in a way I didn’t know was possible not too long ago, in a way that was easy to forget. I saw across the gap that divided us, for he was only a man, a man with a guitar, a man so small and so far away that he nearly faded into the same shadows that had already swallowed everyone else in the theater. I saw light all around him, bright clear light, and I saw the same light around the beings that were around him, the ones who were his companions, the ones who were his help. I saw that here, in this chamber that was truly eternal, completely separate and away from the flowing current of time, as eternal as all true chambers are, I saw that here they were the guides and it was my job to let them guide me, to let them take me where they wanted me to go and to simply follow. I focused as much of my attention as I could manage, trying to release all that had previously distracted me. There was no further reason to think of you, I had swallowed you in that moment when I kissed you and you now lived within me, as strongly as you ever had, and there was no further reason to think of the old woman, or the thin young woman, or the middle aged musician with the beret, there was no further reason to think of Mother who believed, who still wanted to believe even though I could see the belief sliding out of her skin like tears flowing from every pore in her body. There was no reason to think of anything or anyone at all.
And as I let them into me, as I let it into me, for in that moment they were no longer several but one, one that was several, and as I saw the bright light that was there all around them, all around it, I suddenly knew them for what they truly were, I could see then what had been hiding. I knew then that belief ended tonight, there was no more use for it. There had been a time when belief was necessary, there had been a time when without it the entire world would have turned to a strange nothingness without a beginning or an end, a hot soup ready to explode to form the universe of twilight in which I now breathed. There had been a time for belief, but that time was over. What was left was only clear light and a voice, the real sound of waves moving through the air, waves that were the gift of the Absolute that is nothingness, a gift that I received and tried to transform in my own way. That was all I could do, that was all I could ever do and I was finally truly knowing it, now and not later, now and not then, now and not forever.
As belief faded away, what was left was not a vacuum, it was not sadness, it was not disillusion, it was not hopelessness. What was left was five figures in the distance surrounded by bright clear light, and the sound of ghosts responding, grunting and screaming and singing and calling, and it was Mother sitting quietly, with wide open eyes and shifting hands, and it was all the ones that were here and all the ones that were not here for this one night (for there were so many that were heavy and present in their absence), all that I had ever known, and all that I could ever know, for they were one and the same, they had always been so, only now it was evident. What was left was all stories and all legends and all myths, all breathing and living here in this place that had gone past the boundary of belief into the gaping mouth of the twilight.
And just as I had swallowed you, it swallowed me. I surrendered, and in surrendering, I allowed myself to be guided and I went where they took me with no wish to return.

“Si no creyera en la balanza
en la razon del equilibrio
si no creyera en el delirio
si no creyera en la esperanza.
Si no creyera en lo que agencio
si no creyera en mi camino
si no creyera en mi sonido
si no creyera en mi silencio.
Que cosa fuera”

“If I didn’t believe in balance
in the order of equilibrium
if I did not believe in delirium
if I did not believe in hope.
If I did not believe in what I work at
If I did not believe in my path
If I did not believe in my sound
If I did not believe in my silence
What would it be?”

In the end, some would release and some would hold on, and that was the way it was, and that was the way it should be. Some would call for the words that they knew, screaming their requests over and over, demanding that the guide should speak in the precise way that they desired, in the phrases that they were accustomed to hearing. “Sing the song about Chile! Sing the song about Nicaragua! Sing the one about the Bay of Pigs!” Some would simply proclaim their love in a thin trembling complaint that would echo in the halls of the old theater and then be lost without reply. “I love you! Thank you!” But all of them, screamers and silent mouths alike, they would all know that they had gone somewhere, somewhere that was not so easy to reach, a place that they very rarely went to, a place they might not find again in a very long time.
For me, for there was still a me even if it had been blurred into near complete dissolution, even if it had been rendered completely out of focus, and yet there was still something within my breathing body that clung to a presence, to an identity, something that could set out the limits of what was possible and what was not, something that could plan and worry and lay out entire worlds in great detail, for me I could sense that as belief vanished, only clear and intense work remained. Even as knowledge came over me, it immediately tried to escape, it tried to fly out of my ears, it tried to find a secret door out of the pupils of my eyes, it didn’t want to be here, in the here that was me, the here that I still imagined was me, this me didn’t want knowledge to reside here.
Soon it would be gone, there was no way to hold on to it for too long. But the passing of knowledge would leave behind a trace, and I had now learned that a trace was enough, a trace was all that was necessary. I would use that trace as a map, a map to that place where an eternal question could be answered: what would it be if I had none of what had made me, if I had lost what I had been? And the answer would not be a word but an action, and the trace spoke of the action in just enough detail that I could begin to act. That was all that I needed, that was all anyone could ever truly need.

“la era esta pariendo un corazon,
no puede mas se muere de dolor,
y hay que acudir corriendo pues se cae,
el porvenir…
por cualquier hombre del mundo,
por cualquier casa,
por cualquier casa…”

“The time is giving birth to a heart,
it can’t handle it any longer
it’s about to die of pain,
and we must go to help it
we must go running
for destiny is about to fall.
We must do it,
For any man in the world,
For any house,
For any home.”

Here, in the final words, was encapsulated all that I had seen and all that I had been unable to describe, all that I am still unable to describe even if I persist in trying, all that escaped from between these sentences that I now try to put in some semblance of order, something that might approximate a clear communication. It must undoubtedly fail in this task, even if it will dissipate into incomprehensibility the moment it is touched by alien eyes, even by my own eyes after some days have passed.
It was that time, the time when we all dreamt of a change that would be unchangeable, a change that was not touched by the dirt, by the shadows, by the night, a change that we would all bring about together and that would save all of us at once, it was a time of flowers and guns and strong unified calls and lonely horrified screams of ultimate loyalty, it was a time far enough away to be forgotten but not so far that it couldn’t once again be remembered, here in this final theater of twilight. Everyone here, Mother, me, you, her, him, them, we had all tasted of that same dream and we had all lived long enough to see that it, like all other things, was bound by change and by the law of falling. It was drawn in blood and blood must eventually turn to dirt and rain and ocean water, and all things that were united once must some day be spilled apart, and all things that break apart hold within themselves the possibility of uniting once again, one of many, many of one.
And so we all had dreamt, we dreamt wide and far and in all the imaginable colors. And here, in this theater, the Real, hidden within the illusion, had come back to pull us back up, to pull us through the narrow gap between Mother’s legs, to pull us beyond the words we had known, the words we would always remember, it had come back to tell us, yes, the time, this time, this age, is birthing a heart, exhaling a heart. It is happening. It is happening now. We, you and me and all the others, we were that heart, we are that heart, now, not so many years ago, not in the past, and not in some future that is yet to be determined. It was here once again that the time breathed and was ready to give birth and it was us that were born from it. We had come as ghosts and we had returned to life, even if only for an instant, a brief instant that was more than enough for eternity to hold, frozen and perfectly alive. We would leave as ghosts once again, but that instant would remain, like all the others and maybe even more so.
As we left, some of us stayed behind, trying to hold on to that moment a little longer, trying to grasp at the wet remains of a wave that had washed over all of us and was now returning to the unknown place from which it came. I saw a woman staring at the closed curtains with a sense of loss, her eyes lost in a sadness that couldn’t be placed because it was not borne of matter. I heard a man trying to put into words what had been spoken to us from a land where words don’t matter. I felt the crowd wishing that it could always be so, that the grayness didn’t have to return, that the colors could remain.
We walked out together as we had come, Mother and I. It was clear that we had always been together, for this night held Always within itself, it held Always in the palm of its sepia colored hands. We were back on the street but the theater still lived within us, and the voice was still singing behind our ears, still whispering in phrases of delicate perfection. It was only temporary, this separation. It was only temporary that we drove away, that we began to talk as we were bound to, that we began to worry once again about the future and the past. She would look for money to pay the bridge, I would worry about my schedule for the next day, wondering how to best arrange the various units of time.
It was only temporary. Sooner or later we had to return. We had to return to the theater of twilight, we had to return to the encounter with the ancient voice, we had to return to the songs that flowed like mathematical flowers swimming over oceans of infinite fractal complexity and simple rainbow perfection. We had to return.
And when we did, we would find ourselves once again in the presence of the one true voice, the one voice that had so many shapes, so many names, so many bodies, so many songs. When we returned, we would realize, once again, as we always did, as we always had, that we had never left, that we could never truly leave. And even then, we would realize, that soon we would forget again and an old song would start all over again.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Forbidden

Bright yellow sun shone down on the grass covered knoll, its heat sending out the subtle smell of earth and fresh green sprouts. The first day of spring brought with it a rare sunny day, and the little mound in the park was filled with all types of people, all of them with their heads facing the heavens, basking in the rays of sunshine that found them equally. A small group of hip young lesbians lounged on a Mexican colored blanket while their small children squirmed over them. A young couple with bronze skin lay contentedly together, lazily stroking each other’s skin. A man sat next to his bicycle eating a dark croissant slowly. Three children played with the dropped fronds of a nearby palm tree.
“Ahhh!!” came the delighted scream of a young Asian woman. She sat on top of her boyfriend, a young white man. She moved her arms close to his body, trying over and over to tickle him, but he was doing the same, lunging his hands towards her torso and ribs. He grabbed her and threw her to the ground playfully. She wiggled under his weight, laughing, trying to find his ribs with her hands. She screamed softly with delight. It was an intimate display of friendship and trust, and they played, rolling and mounting each other, laughing and lunging. Their bodies were not just covered in cloth, but also with wide smiles.
Next to them, a young black girl, no older than four, watched the couple with curiosity. The girl’s hair was braided with rainbow colored beads at the tips. Her eyes were wide open, and a faint smile rested on her lips. Next to her was an older white woman, the girl’s mother, a woman well past middle age and wearing only white. The woman looked at the couple with quick shots of disgust, then gently pushed the little girl’s head back towards her and away from the couple. As soon as the woman took her hand away from the girl’s head, she would turn to look once again. This time, her smile brighter, for now she knew this was something she was not supposed to see.
“Ahhhh!!” the Asian girl laughed. The white woman turned to them, a look of disgust etched across her face. She held her hand in front of the little girl’s eyes, blocking her view, but the girl squirmed and moved her head and looked at the couple again, captivated, knowing that what they did was forbidden and wrong, and the more her mother sighed and cleared her throat, the harder the girl tried to look, her own delight growing with the conflict.
The older woman’s look cried, “There are children here for goodness sake! Children!” In her purity and chastity, she forgot that it was scenes like this that made children, the very child in front of her that she now tried to protect from the urge that kept the planet spinning with cats and flowers and honey. In another moment of ecstatic union, perhaps alone on a bed, the couple might one day create a new being. But now, there were no thoughts of the future. There was only play. There was tickling mixed with kisses and tiny screams. There was grass and sun and the sense that there was no one else around them, though there was. Their shared delight rose into the warm afternoon, creating waves of pleasure for those that could watch without fear, sadness, jealousy or disgust.
The woman looked at them with hard eyes. How long had it been since she had been like that? Alive, laughing uncontrollably, her body thrown every so often to the ground by firmer hands. The child kept finding openings to watch, the annoyance of her mother making the scene so much better. Her eyes fought through the hand that tried to protect her, realizing there was something she should not see, that somehow, for some reason, her mother didn’t like it. She watched, bringing into her two of the many different strains that would one day be a fundamental part of her. Curious fascination with sex and the memory that it should not be happening, her mother told her so, her mother had clearly expressed it without a single word.