Sabbath.

Let’s treat today like the seventh day

And just rest.

Let the dust trod by our tired feet

Settle to the ground

Let the roads which curve just ahead

Keep their mysteries for now

Come rest with me a minute

The only work we will do

Is

To fill this moment with silence.

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Sauna.

I entered the sauna and it was pretty full: faces, towels, varicose veins. Most of the occupants had bunched at the door as if expecting a fire alarm to go off at any moment, so I put on what I thought was my most “excuse me” smile and stepped past most of the legs, faces, people, up onto the top of the two benches that ran the length of the two furthest walls, and turned and sat directly where the two walls intersected. I had to set my back against the wall gingerly because it was just that hot in there.

Silence for a breadth, then the man sitting nearest to me got to his feet and fetched the empty pail and the ladle sitting next to the bank of hot rocks near the sauna exit.

“Mind if I get some more water to create some steam in here?”

To which the other people in the sauna all agreed excitedly, exclaiming various types of affirmative gestures: here an enthusiastic hand wave, there a loud “ohhhh yesss.” It felt to me that everyone was a little too excited for the idea of adding some water to a bunch of heated rocks, but shit, maybe these people were just that jazzed about everything, the kind of people that view life as a ripe fruit dangling loosely from a fertile tree, begging to be plucked and bit into, fruit soft and wet, the juices running down their chin.

He moved to exit, and then he was held in place by a small murmur. “Actually…”

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Songs in the key of life.

 

All I Want, by Kodaline. 

We were at the river. At our spot. It wasn’t much; a thin spit of rocky beach that you reached by fording across a waist-deep stretch of river, shoes in hand and backpack on back. Feet slipping on the mossy rocks, the push of the river’s current against your legs both gentle and yet innately powerful; a father’s hand cradling his newborn’s head.

It wasn’t much but it was ours.

We spread out an old sleeping bag to diffuse the angles and harshness of the rocks underneath. We sat and watched the river plod by, endlessly. Sometimes when you see things that will endure long past you, you get a negative feeling, a feeling of your smallness and temporariness. Not so with the river and its flow; its enduring nature was a source of great comfort: you worrying about how the world will go on without you, and the world turning and smiling at you, and saying that it would be all right.

Wind whistling through the high leaves on the other side of the river, limbs undulating like the arms of worshippers at a holy service. Eddies swirl lazily along the edge nearest us. She dips her toes in and turns to me and smiles and oh god, I’m falling again.

Save for the wind and the water and the small birds dipping and diving into and out of the river, we are alone. We make love there, on my dusty old sleeping bag. I don’t use “make love” lightly or meaninglessly; I have loved two women in this world, and she was one of them, and when we came together, it was with a different connection than simply just fucking. You know what I’m talking about. Even though you are an awkward construction of limbs and hips and heart and mouth, you fit together perfectly, with a satisfying click of fitting the last piece into a jigsaw puzzle that you’ve spent your whole life building.

After, spent, we lay next to each other. I had brought my wireless speaker because I love having a soundtrack to my life everywhere I go. Music is not a distraction but an amplification of life. This song came on, this perfect song, and as I lay there, the warmth of her body still fading from my skin, the heat of the sun on my back, the water gurgling past just feet away and the wind sighing through the trees – nature working to create its own song to fill in the occasional silences of the song coming from the speaker – as I lay there, and the song built into a glorious crescendo (from 3:30 – 4:30 if you’re listening along) I felt completely and complexly satisfied, all needs and urges and insecurities and distractions for a moment all silenced, lulled to sleep by melody.

Sometimes I catch myself staring into the mirror, or staring at the ceiling at night in my bed, and this feeling hits me, this feeling that none of this is real. That I somehow died that moment at the river; my heart stopped, or the world itself decided to stop turning, and it all ended right there, along that rocky bank, and all of what has passed since then has been my mind’s last fevered dream, some sort of death throe where it creates an illusion that is just simultaneously shitty and wonderful enough to pass for reality so that I won’t realize that I am dead, so that it can continue on in this illusion, and thus maintain some approximation of life.

And then I catch myself thinking that if that is true – that if that day at the river was my last day – then that is perfectly, wonderfully all right.

And if that wasn’t my last day, and if one day I will lay in my real twilight hour, I feel assured that this moment at the river will be one of the last moments I think of. And if I have the mind and muscles to do so, I will smile.

Wherever you are, R, thank you for being a part of that moment with me.

Night’s Watch

Look outside, it’s screaming at you.

Leaves waving in the wind. Cars driving by wildly, people living lives idly. Grocery store once more, chicken is on sale and your chips have gone stale so it’s time to restock, fill the cabinets with the quiet satisfaction of knowing you have something to fill them with, all the time feeling the emptiness within you, and you make some ridiculous metaphorical connection to your kitchen cabinets and the cabinets and chambers of your heart, and boy don’t you feel fucking intelligent doing so, mighty satisfied with yourself, and congratulating yourself that you are mighty intelligent and that you are deserving, you pour yourself a drink, and keep pouring it over the ice cubes until the ice starts to melt away, and you recognize another metaphor, and like the person who found Waldo first on the page, you feel proud of yourself and a bit haughty and you beam silently, smiling to the empty room, because there’s nobody there.

There’s nobody there.

But wait you got a text message, and you bound across the room and snatch your phone up and open to the message, breath held, the harsh electric light playing over your features harshly, turning you into a ghoulish Halloween decoration strung up with kite string over the hedges to harass the approaching mad crowd, and there, now you don’t feel so alone anymore, because whosoever is texting you, and if whosoever is texting you, why, you have purpose once again, and connection, and you beam again, taking care to put the phone down lest you text them back too quickly and they assume from that that you have nothing better to do, that you weren’t in the middle of climbing to Machu Picchu, or running at the gym, or at a dinner with friends, or even (and they gasp at the terrible thought of this) with another woman or man or whoever they must imagine in order to blend their liquid thoughts into a frothy mixture of jealousy and doubt.

But eventually, counting the minutes, the seconds even, you relent. And text them. And then the wait, the watch begins.

We are every one of us the Night’s Watch, peering into the blackness, waiting helplessly for the coming light.

Yawn yarn.

Ugh. Having to resort to writing prompts already. Where is this ceaseless fount of creativity that I claim to have within me, by fashioning myself an artist, a writer?

I’m bored of writing. Write write write and nothing changes. Word after word after word, sentences jilt-y and uninspired, the cadence fragile and mundane, the bedridden whisperings of a man who has lost his mind and regressed to baby talk. I am not the man who looks at a blank canvas and sees a masterpiece waiting to be created. I am a man who looks at a blank page, at the blinking cursor, and sees only an uphill climb, a ceaseless struggle to put thought to fingers to page. Even what I’m writing now makes me bored. It’s inescapable, this feeling.

I’m bored of me. I’m bored of the same endless peaks and valleys that I travel over and into, the same anxieties and weaknesses that persist through my occasional attempts to break myself of them. As of now, January 21, 2016, I am refocused: I am taking time away from dating, taking time to write and play guitar and go to the gym so I can be the person I’ve always imagined myself to be, in my rose-colored mind’s eye. And yet still, just to the side of my focus, like a mote caught in the edge of my eye, there remains the truth that instantly deflates: that I am the same man I always was, that the habits of mine are too deeply ingrained; wheel-worn grooves in a rutted dirt road.

Or maybe, and even more devastating, I think that because I so want to go back to my old ways: by pretending there is no chance of changing, I can more easily accept defeat and revert back into those grooves. Maybe I like these grooves. After all, because they are still warm from when I first crawled my way out of them, they are so comfortable and inviting.

See? This is the roller coaster I find myself on. Some might find it exhilarating; I find it boring, watching as if from a distance with the same glazed, uninteresting look of someone who is watching a movie they have seen, and disliked, and are forced to watch again.

( YAWN )

Songs in the key of life. 

Inside out, by Spoon. 

We lay naked in bed, my arm under her neck, her head on my chest. It was late, and we were talking about music. I asked her what she was currently grooving on now; I find this question so much more answerable and discussable than the generic “what music do you like?” She told me how the latest Spoon album had been on repeat for her, and that one of the songs specifically was her jam. In her excitement, she took out her iPhone, opened Spotify, and queued the song.

It starts slowly, ethereal tones, with a subtle tone on every second and fourth beat, and then, about thirty seconds in, suddenly, wonderfully, the full song kicks in. It feels like an opening, the blooming of a pastel flower in a warm spring morning. The beat is simple but driving, the bass and drums coordinating together to create a sound that is simply impossible not to nod your head to.

I loved it, and I loved that she loved it. Hell, maybe the latter was why the former.

Now every time I hear that song, I think of her, and us, and our first epic date: drinks in the covered patio of a dive-y downtown bar, bass heart-beating into our feet and up through our bodies, meeting up with her friend and her friend’s date at the next bar, playing pool and drinking and laughing, the four of us almost giddy with the unspoken fact that all of us would be getting laid that night. The staggering journey to a hotel a mile away, and, because her friend hadn’t planned on walking and was wearing uncomfortable heels, the nostalgic humor of her saying, over and over, “are we there yet?”, which ended when her date hoisted her onto his back, and that look on her face as she nuzzled her head against his shoulder, my mind taking special care to snapshot that moment of pure, contented bliss. The way my date held my hand and also my arm and lingered close to me, our steps moving in time with each other effortlessly.

The way she and I came together in the hotel room, the bland anonymity of the room contrasting fiercely with the intimacy and ferocity that we shared.

The moment when I kissed her, and I thought the words “she tasted like cigarettes” in Forrest Gump’s drawling, inarticulate voice.

The moment where you realize that there is nowhere else you’d rather be and no one else you’d rather be with, and how that thought births happiness in places in you that had long been unreached; an explorer’s flashlight in the dark of a long sealed tomb.

Not long after, she texted me to tell me that she had met someone and was head over heels. I texted her back and congratulated her, and told her that if there was anyone who deserved love and happiness, it was her, and I meant it. And though I knew we weren’t “the ones” for each other, and though I had kept her at arm’s length because I still doubted the ability of my wounded heart to love, I couldn’t help but feel a little melancholy over it all, a feeling most approximated by the saying “always the bridesmaid, never the bride.”

I do still love the song, both because it is a wonderful song, and because it reminds me of our (brief) time together. Wherever you are, C, and whoever you are with, I hope you are happy.

Arizona: day three.

The airport, like Vegas, never sleeps. It’s six in the morning but it might as well be midday. People everywhere, hustling. I’m on the flat escalator, catatonic with sleep deprivation, watching the airport workers outside. Their activity can best be described as ant-like, both in their movements, which you can describe as “scurrying” at this distance, and also because of the idea that each worker has a job, a purpose, seemingly disparate, but if you pull back far enough, you realize that they are all working toward one goal. That goal being: to get your ass and luggage to their destination in one piece.

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