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.
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.
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.
Please take what you will.
I’m young. I know everything.
I might never die.
It’s nights like these where it never stops. As the residual alcohol from the night’s ventures flows through my veins, I can’t avoid contemplation. What’s worth it? I always scramble for some answers and I always end up with the usual fare. Friends, family, love and all that. But is that it? I mean I’ve pretty much always had a loving family and friends I’m stuck to worse then glue (in a good way)(no really, like the best way possible). It’s just on nights like these that I feel like I don’t really love anyone enough even though so many people in my life really deserve it. I should think about them more but somehow I don’t. It seems like I could drop into some void away from everyone I know and just be apathetic about it. That scares me. The worst part is what I’ve done to the few women in my life. I always start out with good intentions, just wanting someone to love. But then I end up ditching them or fading out of their lives as soon as I come to the conclusion that it won’t work out anyway. Being as afraid of confrontation as I am, I don’t even try to explain. I just leave. What kind of asshole does that? I do that to friends too sometimes when I feel like being antisocial or I decide that spending time with them just isn’t worth it to me. Growing up I tended to think of myself as a nice kid that should be liked and all, but really I’ve just been this passive jerk my whole life. I guess it’s the result of a combination of fear of people’s feelings, awkwardness, pessimism and misguided priorities.
I’ve also always felt like there’s someone out there special I just need to find and hold onto and I’ll learn my lesson and my life will straighten out in this area. But how can that ever happen when I’m like this? I’ll probably just get nervous and avoid them or make some lame excuse like I always do. Just so I can be comfortable being like this because I’ve always been like this.
And here I am writing about me and my problems. Sure, these problems are essentially about how I am with other people but this whole thing I’ve written is just too selfish.
You shouldn’t read it.
An acoustic guitar rings quietly into the ether.
It is out of tune, a veteran of various hands and various songs, its wooden body chipped and lacking the sheen it had while rolling down a Chinese conveyer belt. A low voice hums, adding melody to the noise. It is Marshall’s; he sits merely five feet away from the two other figures basking in the singular light of a fluorescent bulb, basting in the hot summer night. The three are sitting on a familiar old porch, its creaky wood bearing the weight of a bench with floral print cushions, a few lawn chairs and a tiny fold-out table, enough to hold up a few empty bottles.
Marshall, the singular presence that he owns, sits alone and cross-legged on one of the old plastic lawn chairs, perpetually noodling away at the guitar, old chords he barely remembers how to play. The tunes that escape his throat are more guttural noises than melody. “I’ve just about kicked that self-depreciation habit of mine.” Simon mentions, half-lying, as he swallows a volume of lukewarm ale from a bottle he’d been holding for about fifteen minutes. He readjusts himself on the second lawn chair, watching a moth flutter towards the sterile light illuminating the scene.
“Really now?” A third, feminine voice, cuts through the heat. She is the figure lying on the bench, lengthwise so as to not allow for anyone else to intrude on her comfort, staring at the paint above her. “Last I checked on you, you were wallowing in the pits of your own inexplicable despair.” Marshall hits a dead note and grunts, half chuckling at what he just heard. “Last I checked…” she turns and faces the boys, resting her head on her hand, and her shoulder on the flowers, “Last I checked, you were crying on your bathroom floor.”
“Were you really?” Marshall scoffs, pausing again to reach underneath his chair for a beer of his own.
“I’d rather not talk about it, really.” Simon burps as softly as he can, hoping the others would ignore his slight bit of being improper. “Mia, I fucking told you that in confidence, anyway.” She shrugs and reaches towards the floor for a pack of cowboy killers, made heavier by a butane lighter. “Seriously?” Simon says to her, “I thought you quit.” After a pause, Mia shrugs again. She tosses them to Marshall, who immediately lights one up. “There’s something different about me now, I don’t really know what’s quite changed but I know it just might be for the better.”
Marshall savors his cigarette, the embers falling lightly between guitar strings. “Does that mean we’ve run out of things to talk about, now?” He places the lighter back into the pack and tosses the bundle back to Mia, who catches and opens it again. “Shit, if we’re not listening to you bitch about life then what’s the point of talking outside past midnight?” He grunts a laugh, “Guess this means we actually have to start enjoying each other’s company, now.”
Mia laughs alongside him while letting out a drag. “You know, Simon, something has changed in me too.” Simon, meanwhile, had been emptying his bottle at a greater pace. “Yeah?” He replies, half-wincing, awaiting the punchline. “And what exactly has changed?”
“I’ve taken up smoking again.”
I made this in October and didn’t want to post the script for a few months after it was finished. And now is the time. Link to the final product is in the title. Enjoy.
A Half-Remembered Dream
by Joshua James
INT. MICAH’S HOUSE – BDEROOM – DAY <>
Micah sits alone ina messy bedroom. His eyes are open but he isn’t looking at anything.
INT. MICAH’S HOUSE – DEN – NIGHT ##BLACK AND WHITE SEQUENCE##
Micah crouches over the body of a girl with a pool of blood seeping from the back of her head. He cannot see her face.
MICAH (V.O.): What just happened?
INSERT CUT <>: MICAH GOING THROUGH HIS MONRING ROUTINE, READING, WATCHING TV, DOING HOMEWORK ONLINE.
MICAH (V.O.): Start witht eh basics. Who am I? Im’ Micah Johnson I’m an intellectual. No, I’m a college student. A community college studnet. Okay. You know who you are but who is she?
INSERT CUT <>: MICAH SITTING OUT ON THE PATIO WITH ONE ARM AROUND THE GIRL. SHE RELAXES HER HEAD ON HIS SHOULDER.
MICAH (V.O.): Is she my girlfriend?
INSERT CUT <>: MICAH IS CLEAING BAKING SUPPLIES OFF THE COUNTER AS THE GIRL WASHES DISHES. THEY’RE LAUGHING ABOUT SOMETHING. SHE SPLASHES WATER AT HIM. HE SLAPS HER ARM WITH A SPATULA.
MICAH (V.O.): No. That doesn’t feel right. Maybe she’s a friend. It feels different from taht though. It’s like I’ve know her my whole life.
SHE TURNS HER HEAD TO FACE HIM POISED FOR A COUNTERATTACK. AS SHE TURNS HER FACE IS REVEALED.
MICAH (V.O.): What happened to you, Kathryn?
RAMONE (O.S.): What happened to her? Micah, what happened to your sister?
Micah stands as he sees Ramone walking down the hallway. The young man reaches down to check her vitals.
RAMONE: Talk to me, man. What happened?
MICAH (V.O.): You’re Ramone.
MICAH: That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
RAMONE: Well, part one of the mystery is solved. Your sister’s dead.
Ramone rises to his feet quickly and hits a wall with all his might. He begins to pace.
INSERT CUT <>: RAMONE AND MICAH WATCHING TV, PLAYING VIDEO GAMES, TALKING, ARGUING, HUGGING, WRESTLING.
MICAH (V.O.): I’ve known you more than half my life. You’re family. You care about her as much as i do. Why am I so mad at you then?
INSERT CUT <>: RAMONE, MICAH AND KATHRYN WATCHING TV TOGETHER. RAMONE SAYS SOMETHING TO HER AND SHE LAUGHS AS SHE SLAPS HIS ARM.
MICAH (V.O.): We’re all friends. You’re like a brother to me…
INSERT CUT <>: RAMONE IS LEAVING THE HOUSE. HE GIVES MICAH A QUICK HUG AND ANOTHER TO KATHRYN BUT SHE HANGS ON A FEW SECONDS LONGER. THEY SMILE AT EACH OTHER BEFORE HE LEAVES.
MICAH (V.O.): …and to Kathryn. Aren’t you?
INSERT CUT <>: MICAH AND RAMONE PLAYING A VIDEO GAME.
MICAH: Can you look out for her while you two are up there? Keep her out of trouble.
RAMONE: Of course, man. Whatever you say.
MICAH: Ramone. I mean it, man. It’s her freshman year. She’s the best girl that ever lived but she can’t always see the truth about other people. I need you to keep her safe.
RAMONE: Okay. I understand.
KATHRYN ENTERS THE ROOM WITH A SODA FOR BOTH OF THEM. SHE PLOPS DOWN NEXT TO RAMONE.
Micah looks toward Ramone who has now crouched down next to the girl, cradling her head in his arms.
MICAH: If you told me to protect your sister…
INSERT CUT <>: MICAH WALKING TO HIS ROOM AND HEARING VOICES COMING FROM KATHRYN’S ROOM. THE TWO SIT ON THE FLOOR ACROSS FROM EACH OTHER. SHE TAKES HIS HAND, LEANS OVER AND KISSES HIM.
Ramone turns to see Micah and notices the paperweight in his hand.
MICAH: …what would you do if I decided to kill everything we stood for?
Ramone sets Kathryn donw slowly and begins to rise.
RAMONE: Micah, you don’t want to start this. I don’t to finish it.
INSERT CUT ##BLACK AND WHITE SEQUENCE##: MICAH WALKING TO HIS ROOM AND HEARING VOICES COMING FROM KATHRYN’S ROOM. RAMONE TOUCHES HER FACE. SHE TURNS AWAYS.
KATHRYN: No. This doesn’t feel right.
RAMONE LEANS OVER AND KISSES HER.
MICAH (V.O.): How can I trust you with my life if I can’t trust you with hers?
INSERT CUT <>: KATHRYN SITS AT THE TV WITH MICAH.
KATHRYN: There’s something I have to tell you. I’m dating Ramone.
HE DOESN’T REACT. HIS EYES NEVER LEAVE THE TELEVISION. SHE WAITS AND FINALLY LEAVES.
INSERT CUT ##BLACK AND WHITE SEQUENCE##: KATHRYN AND RAMONE TLAKING IN THE DEN.
KATHYRN: He hates this. I knew this would happen.
RAMONE: That’s okay. We don’t need his approval.
KATHRYN: But I don’t want him to hate me.
RAMONE: That’s alright.
RAMONE GRABS HER AND TRIES TO KISS HER. SHE RESISTS
KATHRYN: No, Ramone. Stop.
RAMONE: It’s alright. Just let me-
HE TRIES TO KISS HER AGAIN; GRABBING HER STRONG, TRYING HARDER TO PRESSURE IT.
KATHRYN: No. Stop it, Ramone. I mean it. Stop. Stop!
SHE SLAPS HIM AND RAMONE IMMEDIATELY SHOVES HER BACK. SHE STUMBLES AND FALLS, THE BACK OF HER HEAD LANDING ON THE HARD SURFACE. RAMONE SEES THIS AND BEGINS BACKING AWAY.
MICAH (V.O.): Traitor.
Micah lunges at Ramone who redirects him away from teh girl. They fight for a few brief moments with Ramone fending off the barrage from his old friend until he finds an opening to get control of him and pin him down.
RAMONE: What is wrong with you, man?!
MICAH: You killed my sister. What do you think is wrong with me? You took me away her innocence. Everything that made her special is gone. Every bit of faith I had in you is gone. Everything I stood for is gone. You betrayed me. I might as well make sure it stays that way.
RAMONE: You think I killed her? Why would I ever kill her? I loved your sister.
INSERT CUT <>: KATHRYN TAKING HOLD OF RAMONE’S HAND FOR THE FIRST TIME, LISTENING TO HER TALK, READING CHILDREN’S BOOKS TOGETHER, HOLDING HER AS SHE CRIES, COLORING WITH HER.
RAMONE (V.O): She’s always had a special palce in my heart. You guys have always been like a family to me but Kathryn was always a different part. My other half and that held true through the laugher, the tears, the arguments. Wtih everything that has ever been, the way I’ve felt has always been teh same. I could never hurt her.
Ramone takes his paperweight and throws it to the side.
RAMONE: At least not the way you could.
MICAH (V.O.): Clarity.
INSERT CUT <>: THE GROUP PREPARES FOR A PICNIC, KATHYRN SHOWS OFF HER NEW DRESS TO RAMONE AS MICAH FINISHES PUTTING SNAKCS INTO THE COOLER. RAMONE SMILES AND SAYS SOMETHING TO HER. SHE KISSES HIM. MICAH LEAVES THE ROOM. KATHRYN FOLLOWS.
KATHRYN: What’s so wrong with us? Can’t we all be happy? The three of us together.
SHE WAITS FOR AN ANSWER BUT IT DOESN’T COME.
MICAH (V.O.): The things we don’t say, sometimes are the most damaging.
KATHRYN WALKS BACK TO THE KITCHEN. RAMONE IS BRINGING THINGS OUT TO THE CAR WHEN SHE WALKS BACK IN THE ROOM.
KATHRYN: I think I’d rather stay in today. I’m tired.
LATER THAT NIGHT, MICAH IS WORKING AT THE COMPUER. HE PICKS UP A PAPERWEIGHT AS HE IS LOOKING THROUGH A BUNCH OF JUNK FOR SOMETHING. KATHRYN WALKS TO THE FRONT AND STARTS TO WALK BACK UPON SEEING HIM BUT TURNS AROUND AGAIN.
KATHRYN: You know, I can’t be without you. I’m not that strong. I need you. I’ll always need you but I need Ramone to.
MICAH: Shut up.
KATHRYN: I love him, Micah.