“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.
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?
Some things never change.
I still love the sound of rainstorm late at night as I lie awake in my bed. I still love the sight of a sky full of stars on a moonless night and the feel of hot water running down my neck in the shower. I’ll always love the smell of a woman’s delicate perfume and the undefinable taste of a cool glass of ice water on a hot summer day. All these little physical moments and memories will stay with me, simple and unchanging.
But then some things do change.
The way people you’ve known your whole life look at you or talk to you changes often. How people want you to be and how you want to be is never constant. Most of the things in your life will always be the same, but people are never the same. Sometimes people will just drop from your life without warning, or lose that light in their eye that you knew and loved. And then you can change too. You could turn that next corner in your life and become everything you had sworn you would never be. Does it ever stop? Or do you eventually become numb to it all, indifferent to who’s around you and who you really are at the core.
The physical things around me are my anchor and the people and my thoughts are the currents and tides coming and going, shifting me around. I can’t decide if I should let go. All I know is, either way, the storm of life will sweep me away someday. Where will I wash up? that’s the part that scares me.
“Thanks for comin’ out here.”
It was cold. A cloud of visible breath rose from his mouth into the starless night.
“I just wanted to say a few things, you know, about us.” There was something in his voice when he said ‘us.’ Something like uncertainty.
“Sure man, anything,” his friend replied, not showing any signs of uncertainty. His friend wasn’t just a friend though. He was a best friend.
“Okay, so, uh…” he trailed off, suddenly forgetting everything.
“Take your time buddy,” his best friend said, ever patient.
“Of all the friends I’ve had, none have ever given me such a profound sense of respect.” His best friend shrugged it off, “Of course, that’s what friends are for.”
“But…” He trailed off again. His best friend just looked at him this time.
“Remember when I’d spend the night here, way back when?” he said suddenly. They were standing outside his best friend’s house at the time. A gust of wind started up. The surrounding trees made whispers in the dark. He crossed his arms and shivered.
“Yeah, we’d stay up all night playing video games,” his best friend recalled, smiling.
“And I would always get too loud and excited about whatever we were playing, and I’d always wake up your mom, who would complain about my wall-penetrating voice,” he laughed, “and I would forget that whenever I lost a life or a race or whatever it was. Your poor mom hardly got any sleep whenever I was there. Or, here, I mean.” He looked at the ground and kicked his right toe into the moist grass beneath his feet. It didn’t really help him think. He didn’t know why he did that sometimes.
“Is this all you wanted to say?” his best friend asked.
“No, I…well whenever we were done playing games you would get in your bed and I’d lay on your couch and we would turn out the lights, leaving a crack in the door and the hall light on so it wouldn’t be too dark. But we wouldn’t sleep. We would talk to each other about everything we were thinking about or going through, be it religion or girls or school, as I stared at the ceiling. I can hardly think of other times in my life where someone would just listen to me so…honestly and completely, you know? And I would listen to you too. The conversations we’d have were so simple and true and we didn’t really care about all those little implications and junk that people worry about all the time in the real world when they talk to another person, see? I guess what I wanted to say was that I really miss that. Of all the things I miss about home these days, that’s one of the things I miss the most.” He looked his best friend in the face, smiling in a somewhat sad way.
“I guess I miss that too…” His best friend looked down at his feet.
“So, with that in mind, I wanted you to know that I’ll always love you as the best friend that you are to me. No matter where we go or where we end up, or whatever choices we make, I’ll love you and respect you. And if you ever want to talk to someone who will listen to you, who will talk with you like we used to, I’m just a phone call away. Always, as long as I’m not dead,” he exhaled, feeling relieved.
“Right. You know you can always call me too, bro,” his best friend grinned. “Now you know it’s freezing out here. Wanna get inside?”
“Yeah, just one more thing. Do you really consider me to be your best friend?” he muttered quickly. He was somehow anxious.
His best friend’s eyebrow shot up in a look of confusion. “Of course not.”
There was a moment of silence and stares. The eyebrow stayed up.
“I kid, I kid. Of course I do, I always will.” His best friend replaced the ridiculous look with with a simple half-smile. “Forever.”
I think therefore I am.
Some like to say that this is all we really actually know. They say that since all of our information is given to us by our brain, we have no solid proof as to whether or not our world actually exists. Sure, we can reach out and touch something and ‘feel’ it, but all we are doing is receiving an interpretation of what our brains have received from our nerves. Who’s to say life is not an invention of the mind, that reality is as real as a dream or a nightmare?
But we think, and that means that we at least exist; we are some sort of entity with an active conscious. There is also a gut feeling we all have, something else we ‘know.’ At some moment in time, my mind, or whatever drives my conscious, will critically and absolutely fail; I will die. Being a conscious, all I have ever known is existence, so no amount of evidence or speculation will reveal to me without a doubt what will occur when this failure happens.
Maybe religion has the right way of it. Perhaps there’s some conscious greater than mine which is the origin of everything I have ever ‘known’, a conscious that created me out of its own righteous ‘goodness’, or maybe just curiosity. When the body I have been given fails, a spirit from within me will rise to meet this great thinking entity that floats outside of reality and I will be judged on the quality of this spirit or ‘soul’, which is actually me, my conscious. I will be helpless and powerless to control the fate of my after-life.
Maybe everything is in fact a dream and death will just be the end of a story. I will just be borne onto another reality or my life will repeat like a broken record, and I will never gain awareness of this. I will just go on existing and re-existing until the end of time, entirely oblivious of what is really driving my reality, if anything at all.
Maybe just before the light leaves my eyes my conscious will become acutely aware of its mortality and frantically fight to revive its dieing engine: my brain. My life will flash before my eyes and I’ll see everything I’ve experienced, every person I’ve known. But this will not last, and I will sink closer and closer to non-existence. Finally my conscious will be reduced to a child-like state, crying and crying and crying for the comfort of life or just someone I love. Then I’ll lose all grip on thought and it’ll be as if I never existed and pain and love and everything else won’t matter anymore.
I would like to hope that in my last moments my mind will cling to my conscious, that I will fall into an everlasting shelter frozen in time where I will know that I am dead, where I can reflect on my life and create any new world or scenario I care to imagine. I will be able to fondly recall everyone I have ever loved. A perfect dream. A heaven where I am my own god. Everything I could ever want.
Or perhaps it will be like dreamless sleep. I’ll close my eyes and my conscious will simply wonder off into oblivion, hoping against hope that the darkness will end and I’ll wake up to the morning sun of a fresh new day.
I should probably just stop thinking and go to bed.
You’d often sit in the living room chair
until the early morning.
Reading about things in which
I had lost faith years ago.
Sad and confused,
I would come talk to you.
You cared so much,
worried so much. I hardly understood.
Now, I’m around these people
I don’t even know.
And in the darkest night of my life
I forgot about you, I was entirely empty.
I think I understand.
I want to break down and plea.
Mom, I’ve been bad
and I want to come home.
But I won’t because,
well, you would smile and know
that you are right about everything.
And you know I can’t stand that at all.
~ Nice and polite
~ Confident, talented, and smart as a student
~ Law abiding
~ Good friend
~ Difficult to anger
~ Funny stupidity
~ Socially awkward
~ Sometimes arrogant
~ Underestimating/Not trusting
~ Buzzkill/Rarely leaves comfort zone
~ Lacks common sense
~ Weird voice
~ Tries too hard to be an individual
~ Occasionally depressed
~ Over thinks things
~ A Casanova