It’s on the tip of the tongue, just beyond the edge of thought. That’s how it has felt for a long time in my life as a wonderer. There are times when conversations get down to the brass tacks of emotion: suddenly we’re talking about what we want out of life. Someone asks me how I feel or what I think and I say:
“I don’t know.”
They usually don’t believe me. Should I say that I’m sad? Should I say that I’m lost? It doesn’t change my answer. Occasionally a thought full of purpose will come along and convict the very world around me of sin and virtue and I’ll get caught in the wave. Here is what I’ve seen of purpose:
1. It hovers, poised to strike the contemplative conscious.
2. It is volatile to the same degree that its occupied mind is impatient.
Somewhere along the course of our thoughts a good many of us catch onto the habit of contemplation, but much more fail to learn patience. I am in both the former and latter categories, stuck in the throes of inconsistent thought like so many others. The other day I might have preached to you of love, enraptured by my theories of purpose. I may have called myself a Humanist and convinced you that there is gold in the hearts and minds of children and women and men, gold that we have made in the struggle for a serene sentience. I’d tell you this gold is a deep understanding, a loving kindness innate to all of us, and that it’s directed at ourselves and the world. But alas my mind is restless and I am on the ebb instead of the flow; purpose in my thoughts today is about as reliable as a radioactive isotope. I could perish as a miserable wreck, aching and weeping but for a reason. Also like so many others.
I’m going to write here a statement from me to you. I want you to know that it is the most sincere communication I have ever made in written words.
I love you. I hope you figure it all out and I forgive you if you never do.
“That’s a nice car.”
A grin. “Why thank you.”
“Is that a new paint job?” The elderly woman is standing by the passenger side of a pick-up, her weight resting on the inside of the open door. She’s looking at the sports car parked next to the pick-up.
“No, it came like that. I got it in ’09.”
She misheard. “What year is it?”
“Two thousand and nine.”
“It looks better than the ones we had back in my day. It’s so new.”
“I don’t know, you can’t really beat the old ones. I’ve got nothing on the classics.”
“I went to the doctor today. I had surgery three months ago, they removed several tumors from my left knee. They said it was fixed.”
My eyes dart to her left knee.
She continued, “Today they told me that they’re back.”
I look back at her face. Her eyes are looking somewhere far. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”
“I’m going to have to get surgery again.” Tears well up in her eyes. “It’s going to be very difficult for me. I don’t know what to do.”
“God bless you ma’am, I’ll pray for you.”
I’m an atheist.
“My husband and I live up in the mountains. It’s about a 40 minute drive to get down here, after all the flooding. So many roads are taken out. And so many people lost their homes, lost everything. They’re all suffering.”
I don’t know what to say.
“I don’t know what this world is coming too. Maybe it’s not worth sticking around anyway.”
“I’ll pray for you, don’t give up.”
“I better let you get going. Thank you for talking to me. And you have such a nice car.”
“Thank you. Have a good night.”
I slip into the driver’s seat of my car.
“Good night,” she says. She sounds lost. She lifts herself into the passenger seat of the pick-up.
“Never give up hope,” I half say, half mumble before closing the door.
I drive off.
A few minutes ago I was doing laundry, thinking of my plans for me. The woman walked by me in the laundromat, I asked her to excuse me, I was polite. She was walking with a cane, relieving the weight on her left leg.
A song is playing in the car. It’s mellow and longing.
…like whispering you know me, you know me.
I cry. I sob. I break down.
Settling down, nestled on the roof top.
Flashes of lightning and thunder cries
caught betwixt the heart stops.
tease you for that searchy look in your eyes
You said I could talk to you safely
but how many people have I called lately.
Then I think I don’t care if you don’t care about us.
I tried the man I wanted to be.
I was off the mark.
Now I’m lost and cannot see.
My conscious is pale, paper thin
grabbing at thought for a seeming surmise.
I’m decades ahead, looking at where we’ve been.
try to compliment you, take your heart by surprise
How could I know the cost.
A throbbing sincerity now covered in frost.
Then I think I don’t care if I don’t care about us.
I tried the man I wanted to be.
Virtue, true and stark.
Now I’m a ghost of what you saw in me.
Nostalgia sulks like many dreams.
I hunted for reason in your heavy sighs
when I was together, tight at the seams.
praise you here then cut the ties
I tried for you, all those lies
however they’ve killed me, my own device
Then I wish I cared but I don’t care about us.
I tried the man I wanted to be.
Leave me in the dark.
Now I’ll make a monster of me.
Air: crisp, humid, full of promise,
as a golden apple.
A slurry of cool coffee and cream
moistens the tongue. Caffeine diffuses.
Morning traffic on the interstate.
Into the west, through miserable
Nebraskan corn fields
and arid mountains beyond.
A sole companion rides along:
a knot of homesick
deep within the belly,
Dancing red and then violet
through waves of clear water,
the light brings life to night.
It seems out of place, as I.
And yet, in a blur of longing
I speed under sodium lights
into open arms of one
who once urged caution.
Words in the dark
so sincere, but unclear
with time and space.
A knot is unwinding.
In memory, furled cities unwind.
A golden sunset accompanies
buildings and water, as alcohol
accompanies blood and wit.
In the dead of another night,
mountains and lights reside by
a sleeping metropolis and nervous youth.
A drive for clarity turns murky.
Hope and dream delude, I wander
as a homeless stranger.
The knot is undone,
the rope is taught and fraying.
A few months ago, my parents disconnected their home phone line. When I dialed “Home” from my contact list after this had happened, I was informed by a pleasant robotic female voice that the number had been disconnected. I called my mom’s cell phone and she told me they had it disconnected because it cost too much money and it wasn’t all that necessary to keep. It all made a lot of sense.
I’ve never been much of a talker (or listener), so I almost never used the home phone growing up. I never liked answering it; I’d always try to pass it off to my mom or dad or brother when I had the misfortune of being the one closest to it when it rang. When I had to answer it or my parents made me, I would hesitantly press the green button on the phone and bring it to my ear and listen to the quiet buzzing static for a moment, then mumble a timid hello.
More recently, up until it was disconnected, the home phone was what I’d dial to check in with my parents. I’ve been in college and away from home for over two years now, so I have called the home phone quite a bit as compared to before. It was a little odd for me when I dialed Home and a cold automated voice picked up my call. Lately I’ve been thinking back on this. Somehow I’ve developed a small feeling of loss when I do. Today I discovered that I hadn’t deleted the contact “Home” from the contact list in my phone. Of course upon finding this I deleted it. It made a lot of sense.
It seems that the home phone really was a part of home for me. I didn’t feel all that attached to it, but now that it’s gone home is different. Now if I were to dial Home I would get a robot telling me Home is disconnected.
I’ve slowly been accepting that home isn’t what it used to be. Pets die, people move, furniture gets rearranged. But there’s something about “disconnecting” that bothers me. Nothing I could say to that robotic voice would get through to Home. What if I was suddenly “disconnected” from a friend? Second chances aren’t a guarantee. One moment everything is the same and your second chance waits for you to pick up that phone and the next moment it’s gone.
When those second chances are stripped from you, what can you do? Choke on all the words you should have said? Think on all those things you should or shouldn’t have cared about? Just accept it? Perhaps some people can live without second chances. Maybe they don’t believe in second chances; maybe every moment for them is all or nothing, every action a carving in stone. They are few and far between, but they’re more alive then the rest of us. They hold themselves accountable for every second they spend here and for them regret isn’t even an option. I’m not one of those people. They could even be fictional. Yet somehow I believe they’re out there. Somehow I think one of those people is hiding somewhere inside fogs of paranoia and false pride.
The key lies in these second chances we hold on to. Every opportunity should be a new one. Every second should hold a new way for your existence to leave a mark on your world and your life and those of others. You only feel these second chances creep into your conscience when your actions and thoughts lack their full integrity, when you water yourself down or just drown entirely.
The next time the phone rings, I might hesitate to answer. When I want to call someone, I might stop and think I could just do it later. It’s comfortable to live this way. And when the phone gets disconnected I’ll curse my luck and my choices and miss my second chances. But is that really living?
It’s not so much that I wish I was depressed, I just wish I had the right to be but then wasn’t.
Maybe all I want is to have someone to keep me company at night. Then when I’m stuck lying awake in the dark I can wonder what she’s dreaming about as her soft rhythmic breathing soothes me back into slumber. And in the day I can smile and love her and we can share our worlds and be happy.
Lately my want for this has been crippling. But that’s not what wanting does. Wanting makes you motivated; wanting leads you into a determined pursuit. It’s needing something and not getting it that slows you down.
Do I really need this? Am I really that weak and impatient? Or am I just paranoid of dying without it?
I always thought I was better than that, honestly.
don’t break your own
You stand shattered
saying I can make my own, I’m flattered
Through roads and highways connect
every word and thought I will dissect
And from this a conclusion
not a solution
don’t lose your own
Now, breaking hearts
that’s where I’ll start