Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Dearest Friend: Memory

My Dearest Friend,

How are you on this bright Sunday morning? How do you spend your time in Heaven? Are the streets lined with gold as the scriptures suggest? Or is your Heaven more tailored to you? I imagine the roads to be made of soft dirt, like the ones we spent our child hoods playing on. I can see you swinging on an old porch swing, all the while looking out on the horizon, planning your day. A little fishing, perhaps? A good book, maybe? I envision your heaven to be a subtle one, less glam than the one the good book refers to.

I thought about you the other night. I was jolted awake by a sharp pain somewhere in my torso. My mind, struggling to locate where my body was, found a noise tapping against the window. When I had fully awakened, I realized it was sleeting outside. Just the thought of the frigid temperatures made me shudder and I quickly pulled the covers around me tighter. Unable to fall back into a slumber, my mind conjured you up.

And that's when the loneliness and sadness set it.

I know that time is a silent thief. It takes memories and runs with them, never leaving a clue behind as to where it is going. Or where it's hiding them. Had I known in the years of our friendship that I was going to lose you like I did, I would have photographed you ever chance I got. I can not remember what you look like. My dreams of you, once vivid and in color, are now dull and gray. You are a shadow, a voice spoken offstage, that I can not see. How can a person who once met the world to someone become nothing more than less than a memory? And now that I can not remember you, it is like I am grieving all over again.

I can recall experiences with you. I remember how you held me at night, wrapping your arms around me, telling me that my hair was in your way and how you'd threaten to cut it while I slept. We would laugh, and when I tried to move away, you would only hold me tighter.

But, what color was your hair?

I remember standing at the bathroom sink, fresh from the shower, clothed in only a towel. My hair was dripping wet and I was just about to perform my daily hair routine. You stood in the doorway. Watching me. Studying me.

"You're beautiful Wes," you said.

How handsome were you? Did you turn heads when you walked into a room? I want to say you did. But, I can not recall exactly. My eyes are brown. Weren't yours......blue?

I don't know why this is so important to me. I can recall, without much effort, our many times together. So what if I can not say how big your cheeks were. I know you were tall. Taller than me. I know, because I remember looking up at you and shaking my fist in your face many times. I remember you throwing your head back and laughing at me.

You always laughed at me.

And I remember your laugh. Deep. Loud. It would start in your gut and rise up like lava bursting out of a volcano. It was musical. It startled me the first time I heard it. The first time you laughed at me, I felt how personal your laugh was and how you ought not share it with just anyone. I thought you to be too open. Too vulnerable with it. I wanted you to keep that laugh of yours hidden from others. Not everyone deserved to hear it. When I tried to explain this to you, you just laughed even harder.

"Look at the pot calling the kettle black," you'd say.

We spent hours on that subject, didn't we? Me being so open. Me wearing my heart on my sleeve. I try to cover it up. I try to be the stoic individual, but I get lost when I attempt to be who I'm not. My emotions tend to swim within me, they invade my mind, making the simplest task the most difficult. So, I let everything go. Free my mind of whatever it needs to be unburdened of. I speak and lay waste to the unsuspecting victim that is standing nearby. I pray they are strong enough to hear the words that I must speak. To shoulder the message that I must convey. A lot of times they aren't.

That might explain the reason I'm alone a lot.

But, I could always talk to you. No matter what was on my mind, I could say the words to you and you would hear them. You would digest the message with ease. But, more importantly, you would give me feedback. You knew that was what I craved. Feedback. Dialogue.  Someone to keep my ball rolling.

I just wish I could remember what you looked like while doing it.

A funny thing has been occurring at work these past couple of weeks. My imagination has been cutting into my day job. It has been knocking on my mind's door and refusing to go away. Worse than a cop serving warrants, it knocks, then when I refuse to answer, it beats on my mind, until I drag out a sheet of paper and begin to write whatever it has to say. Sometimes it's just a couple of lines that seem to make up nothing. Other times it's a whole poem that speaks volumes of where I'm at in my life. My imagination seems to resent my day job and I can't blame it. I have been lazy when it comes to writing lately.

Lazy in my depression anyways.

I hate that I can't conjure you up like I used to. I'm sure that it's best that I can't. I'm sure there's a blessing hidden somewhere in all this mess of grieving. After all, it's been over a year. Surely, I should have let your soul rest by now. Surely, these letter should have stopped by now.  Surely, I can say you're in a better place.

Surely.....

I miss you so much at times that I can not even speak. It is like my soul has stepped out of my body and wanders aimlessly. And how awful is it that it continues to search for you. I long to be whole again. To be able to rest. To feel complete and not out of sorts like I'm the only one that daydreams monsters into existence.

If only I could remember what you looked like. Maybe then I would feel a little better. A little more whole.

As always,

Wes

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nobody's Somebody


Ah, to be Nobody's Somebody
How delicious can it be?

To go here, there and everywhere-
With no arms to keep me still.

No kisses to touch my cheek.
No hands to hold my waist.

Just me with my thoughts
And my hair untouched

How glorious to be Nobody's Somebody it is!

I feel for the Somebody's Somebody
I really really do.

I'm sure if they had a moment to think
Well, they'd rather be a Nobody's Somebody too.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Dearest Friend: 5 am

My Dearest Friend,

Do you recall my night time routine? Please forgive my getting straight to the point on this letter. I have barely noticed my surroundings lately, nor have I encountered anything to make mention of. My daily routine is the same as always. Work. Children. Meals. Prayers. Listening to this one and that one. So, there's really nothing new to discuss there. It is the night time that holds my attention.

Or, rather, the hours right before dawn when the house rests under the weight of its occupants. This is when I can breathe. When I feel myself relax and let go of the turmoil that has begun to engulf my life.

It used to be that 3 am my eyes would pop open. Some unseen force, rather it's my subconscious telling me there are things to analyze, or it be Insomnia, Himself, bringing out my demons march in front of my line of sight, but something would always wake me up at this un-godly hour. I used to tell you that 3 am was my witching hour and it was then, and only then, that my imagination really came to life. The shadows that lived in the lived in the corners of my bedroom woke up alongside me, and together, we would travel down some fantastic roads.

Do you remember? Can you recall the odd hours we'd stay up to? And how I'd explain my dreams to you? There were times you were so silent that I'd wonder if you were still with me on my journey. But, you were. You always were. You never strayed. No matter where I took you, you trusted me enough to bring you back to yourself safe and sound. 

Man, I miss that. I miss you.

That no longer occurs. I have chosen a painless night over my imagination. Each night, I take a tiny white pill that promises long hours of sleep with no pain. In return, I give up my journeys, my dancing shadows, the demons that frighten me and fuel my hellish stories of Insomnia. I feel like I've made a pact with the Devil. I would much rather be able to bare the lightning strikes that run from my abdomen down to my toes and call forth my imagination.

I want my 3 am and my long talks with God. My 3 am prayers.  I just want my 3 am back.

Instead, I set my alarm clock for 5 am every morning. Monday thru Sunday, the morning hour of 5 sees me starting a pot coffee and cracking open the bible. At 5 am, I am studious, inquisitive, and intent. Most mornings, I am writing down a bible verse here and there that speaks to me or my situation. I write my thoughts on the verse. And, finally, I write my prayers.

I started this 5 am routine around the start of summer when I was told that I had fibromyalgia. While I had long suspected it, what I didn't anticipate were the medications and their hellish side effects and what they would do to my 3 am self.

When I tell people what I do at 5 am, they seem to look at me with much respect. What they don't realize is what I am doing. I'm trying to find my way back to my 3 am imagination. Strange. I know. But as strange as it sounds, I also know if I had tried to explain it to you, you would have nodded and immediately known what I was trying to say.

My imagination is where I see Him. Where I speak to Him. It's where He comforts me and He answers my questions. Without my 3 am connection, I have become lost.

Now, I read and pray like everyone else and try to establish a connection that I don't think I was ever meant to have.

This has all left me wishing and praying for one important thing. God, please give me a higher pain tolerance so that I may get off these little white pills. So that I may awaken at 3 am and go on these wonderful journeys. Or, better yet, so maybe, I can talk to you like I used to. Five am holds no magic for me. The house holds no mystery, no malice as it rests beneath its occupants. Shadows do not move in its corners. Night lights are not needed. Five am is nothing more than a morning like every other that I wake up at. I do not come alive like I did at 3 am.

My sweet friend, it's times like this that I miss you the most. I miss your understanding, not just of the situation, but of me as well. Perhaps, deep down, that is what I miss about you the most. Your understanding of me and all my quirks. I never realized it til now. How much I lack that in my life. Since you've left, I haven't had another you. While you, yourself, will never be replaced, I do hope to have another friend to understand me as you did.

I miss you, my Dear Friend, more than you can see from your spot in Heaven.

I must go now. Now that I sleep past my witching hour, my alarm is set for 5 am. And it comes awfully early.

Love You So Much,

Wes

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Restore Me

Restore Me oh Lord
To my future Self
Pass by my times of trials
And have Mercy on my wounded soul

Restore Me oh Lord
To what You will mold me into
I am nothing but clay in Your hands
But the process is so long and my skin oh so bruised

Restore Me oh Lord
Back to what I once was
Innocent of the world
Unknowing of You and the sins of my nature

Restore Me oh Lord
For I do not wish to see tomorrow
But it is the day after that most intrigues me
I have grown Weary on this journey

Restore Me oh Lord
I pray on fallen knees
Lift me and Carry me into the Future
And away from the trials of today

Restore Me oh Lord

Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Ramen Noodle Life

So, there you stand, caught in a decision that many overstressed, overworked, and underpaid have faced before. It's been one of those days where you were ready to commit murder with the business end of a water bottle just so you could go to prison and get some rest. That's right. You're actually viewing the big house as a place of solace. After all, you quietly surmise to yourself, there aren't any children demanding that their tiny needs are met there. Bill collectors, ever so persistent in their attempts to squeeze blood from your precious turnip, wouldn't dare call you why you're inhabiting a 10x10 cell.

Yes, prison, even with the ugly orange jumpsuits and the rank smells of some unknown odor, is starting to look more appealing than the day-to-day struggle of the life you're living now.

And it's ok that you briefly wanted to trade it all in for a cot and three squares a day. Don't judge yourself too harshly. We've all been there.

 So, just stand there for a little bit. Bask in the cool air and inhale the different smells of the grocery store you're standing in. It's ok, really. Take your time Sweetheart. Pay no-nevermind to the little old lady as she pushes her buggy past you for the third time. Don't worry about the stock boy who keeps reaching around you to restock the shelves. There's no rush. Take all the time you need. And while you're busy taking what you need, feel free to take advantage of the precious moments you're getting to spend away from the kiddos.

Shhhh. It's ok. Don't feel guilty that a trip to the grocery store is like your own personal vacation. No one needs to know that you take a few extra  minutes picking out the right kind of cereal for your precious cherubs. We all know, that by now, you've memorized their favorite foods. You could go shopping for them with your eyes closed. I know that extra time you spend debating between Captain Crunch and whatever other cardboard tasting sugary concoction someone has created is really extra time you relish in not hearing your name being called.

Really. I get it.

But, now here you stand making the biggest decision of your week. This could determine whether you have that nervous breakdown and start screaming at the ankle biters because you stepped on a lego, or if you simply melt into the sofa and let them destroy the rest of the house. I know you feel guilty. I can tell as you finger the last remaining ten dollars you have in your pocket. The rest of the items, the crap the kids wanted and you wouldn't touch if you were starving, can be bought with your foodstamp card. But, you still feel guilty.

Ahh, yes. Good o'le Uncle Sam and his judgemental cohorts at the Department of Social Services. If it weren't for these proud folks, you and your demon spawn would be living the high life eating ramen noodles and drinking kool aide. Generic kool aide for that matter. But, since you are considered to be the 'working poor', the government has thrown you a bone.

God bless America.

So, swallow back that guilt forming in your throat. Don't worry about the looks you're gonna get from the other shoppers or the cashiers.  They don't understand your life and how stressful it is. You need this. You really don't want to lose it over a misplaced lego.

So, go ahead. Be that person. That foodstamp person that uses her foodstamps for food and her last remaining ten dollars on that delicious bottle of red wine you're reaching for now. Don't worry about judgement.

However, wait until the kids go to bed before you open it. And, for godsakes, use a glass.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Dearest Friend: Starting Over

My Dearest Friend,

The seasons are changing and ushering in the start of a new school year. The kids are excited for this school year they start in a new home with friends they've known all their lives. These friends they now look upon as brothers and sisters. My children are happy with the turn their lives have taken.

I am a little less than thrilled. But, I am thankful.

The house that I was renting got sold. Frustrated and unable to find anything else affordable, I moved in with a childhood friend of mine. There are now seven of us sharing a three bedroom house. four children and three adults. Once again I am faced with starting over. Once again I am looking at a road stretched out in front of me and I wondering if I am strong enough to walk it alone with the two little ones that I must support.

Once again I am damning my poor life choices.

My thoughts I keep going back to writing. The more stressed I get, the more I want to bury my head in my imagination. After all, that is where you live. Where I hear your laughter. Where your touch still caresses my hair. In my imagination I face impossible odds everyday, and I defeat monsters more hideous than anyone could ever imagine. I write because I feel that it is all I have in this world. I hold on to my writing because in this world full of heartbreak and nonsense, it is the one thing that does make sense to me.

God, in all His mystery, demands that I rely on Him through faith. My writing demands nothing more than for me to take its hand and let it lead me on a wondrous journey.

My sweet, long, missed friend, how I wish you were by my side. I do not miss your council. I do not long for our talks into the early dark hours of morning. No, it is none of that. I simply wish to be able to lay my head on your chest. In the night, when the pain rips through my body and I can not roll over, I pray out that you can hear my cry. I pray that you are in Heaven and you can send a sweet kiss down to me to soften my fears here on Earth. Your mere presence is all I long for now. My body aches for yours in the same way that a child yearns for the safety of his favorite blanket.

I am lucky though. Lucky that I am so loved that people have allowed me to live with them. Lucky that others were willing to help me move my belongings at a moments notice. I am loved. I have often said that for all the wrong I have done in my life, I must have done something right.

For I am loved.

I must go now. Dinner is cooking and the children are getting restless. Their laughter is a different kind of medicine that my soul feeds on. When I close my eyes tonight, I pray that I see your smile in my dreams.

As always,

Me

Monday, September 2, 2013

His Perfect Tattoo

Alex had always wanted a tattoo. Even as a little boy, while his peers were off playing kickball down the street, Alex would hang out at the corner of Elm and Lakewood with the various bikers that loitered the area. There, skinny and drowning in his over-sized glasses, Alex would try to blend in with the hulky men and listen to their stories. While his ears took in the tales of war, depravity, and love lost, Alex's eyes absorbed every mark of every tattoo they came across. The colors, the nautical signs, half-naked women, and meaningful sayings, called out to him in a language that touched his soul. These tattoos were more than pictures on bare skin. They were works of art that screamed out to the world all the adventures these men had experienced. To Alex, they were proof that this motley crew had actually lived, damn it. Alex wanted the same for himself.

Instead of the usual childish toys that most boys his age requested for Christmas or birthdays, Alex always asked for books. Specifically books with pictures. He requested comic books the year he turned nine. At age eleven, he matured to graphic novels. His teen years saw Alex devouring any art book, no matter how abstract, that he could get his hands on. His parents, happy that their only child was obsessed with pictures instead of drugs, obliged him in his demands all through his youth. They accepted that Alex was quirky and a loner. They stayed up late at night discussing how proud they were of their sixteen year old son who did well in school and didn't seem to have the same girl troubles of his cohorts.

He'd find himself someone special one day, they told each other. Just you wait and see.

It was around this time that Alex got a job at the used bookstore three blocks down from the local biker hangout. To Alex, the gig was perfect. It was right after school and it gave him unlimited access to hundreds of books. Alex couldn't have been happier.

But, his parents could've been.

The first sign that Alex's obsession was bordering on that side of obscene was during his senior year in high school. While all the other seniors were receiving admission slips to various colleges, Alex showed no interest in a higher education. In fact, Alex had no interest in anything other than finding the perfect tattoo. It seemed to him that at some point during his life long quest, and while pouring through countless books of art, history, and even the occasional porn mag, he would've stumbled on to what he was wanting. Some picture of something somewhere should have spoken to that inner need that he couldn't describe. But it hadn't happened yet. And the longer it took, the more depressed Alex became.

His parents worry only increased as Alex entered his twenties. He showed no signs of getting a full time job, moving out, or getting a girlfriend. They began to worry that their son's quirkiness was something deeper and darker. His mom thought he may be bipolar. His dad figured Alex to be a sociopath.

Either way, the kid just wasn't right.

It was four days after Alex's twenty-eighth birthday that the old woman walked into the store. Philip was standing behind the cash register flipping through a People magazine from 1987. Glen Close was on the cover looking, as far as Phillip could guess, very appetizing to every straight male in the late 1980s. Phillip could only guess because he hadn't been straight since that night he played Seven-Minutes-In-Heaven with Tracy Carmichael back in the seventh grade. He hadn't lasted seven minutes, hell he had barely lasted two, and the experience was nowhere near heavenly. Phillip had both figuratively and literally come out of the closet that night.

Phillip had hired Alex simply because he'd seen the boy around and knew he didn't have any friends. He figured the the quiet loner wouldn't be much trouble and he wouldn't have to worry about Alex missing work to do something stupid like hanging out with his friends. Of course, he'd had no idea that Alex would try to retire from the bookstore that Phillip had opened some twenty years ago. But, what did he care?

The old woman was the first customer that Tuesday afternoon. Both Phillip and Alex had spent the day sorting through boxes of old magazines and books that someone had dropped outside the front of the store. Alex normally didn't work Tuesdays, but Phillip was feeling his age that particular day and just didn't want to go through all six of the boxes by himself.

The old lady, Phillip didn't know who she was, approached the counter cautiously. She was short, maybe five feet tall on a good day, and shuffled her feet ever so slowly.  Her grey hair was long and in desperate need of a washing. It fell around her shoulders and into her face. She was white with crooked yellow teeth. Phillip took in the woman's wrinkles, the way she hunched forward as she walked, and her long (almost too long to be natural) fingers that held a thin book in them, in one glance. But, it was her eyes that made him do a double take. They weren't a color he'd ever seen on the color spectrum before. And as a former art student, he'd seen them all.

"How can I help you?" He asked her. Phillip tried to casually meet her gaze. Unfortunately, whenever he looked into her eyes, all he could do was stand there like he was in some sort of trance. Her eyes were hypnotic.

They weren't brown or gray or blue or any of the other conventional colors. They were dark, yet he could see flecks of purples, reds, and other colors that could not be named. The old woman's eyes held no life. No emotion. She held the look of a human with no soul.

She scared the hell out of Philip.

"I'm here to see if I can get some store credit for this picture book." Philip was amazed at how young and sharp her voice was. Had he first met the old woman by telephone, he would've never guessed she was this old half-dead looking being standing in front of him.

"May I?" Philip gestured towards the item she was holding. He watched her carefully place the thin hardback book into his hand. He held it up and carefully examined it.

The book was thin. He guessed it held maybe fifty pages, if that many. The cover was black fake leather with bright yellow Xs marking the front and back. There was no writing to indicate a title or author. Phillip set it down on the counter to open it.

"Wait," the old woman grabbed Phillip's hand. Her grasp was firm. Her flesh was hot. "Do you have to do that now?"

"Don't you want to know how much credit you're gonna get in return? I have to look inside the book to determine the amount."

"No. Never mind." She shook her head in disgust. "Can you just leave the amount on a sheet of paper or something?" The old woman asked in that too young voice. "I can come back another time."

"Sure," Phillip eyed her suspiciously. "I can do that. What's your name?"

The old woman stepped back from the counter and looked at the book as if it were a long lost love. She appeared heart broken and rejected. Phillip thought, almost felt, that she'd change her mind and yank the book out of his grasp. He could almost see the gears in her brain kick into reverse.

However, the old woman did nothing but shake her head once more and walk away.

Phillip watched the odd woman walk out of the store. The memory of her eyes gave him the chills. He could still feel her gaze on him even after she'd left.

Phillip did the best he could to shake the sensation away.

You're crazy, he told himself. He wondered what it was about the thin book that caused the old woman to behave the way she had. He placed his hand over the leathery cover and felt an electrical charge shoot through his hand.

"What the hell," he muttered.

"What the hell, what?" Alex asked. Phillip wasn't sure how long Alex had been standing in front of him with that amused expression on his face.

"Nothing." Phillip snatched his hand away from the book. "A customer just brought this in for store credit. You wanna have your way with it before I store it some place?"

Grinning, Alex picked up the book only to immediately drop it. "What the fuck?"

"Problems?" Phillip asked.

"Nah. Static electricity or something. Is this the only thing she brought in?"

"Yep." Both men looked at the book laying on the ground. Neither seemed too eager to pick it up. "You gonna get back to it or what?"

"Yeah." Alex replied. Picking up the book, he shook off the feeling that something was wrong it. Books were books. Paper with ink. They did not give off electrical charges. He grabbed the thing up and headed to the back room of the dusty bookstore to see what it contained.

Meanwhile, Phillip couldn't get the old woman's eyes out of his head. Not only did they creep him out, but they reminded him of something. Something chilling, but he just couldn't figure it out. Doing his best to shrug off the image, Phillip returned to Glenn Close. Yep, he thought, still gay.

Alex's favorite spot in the store was an uncomfortable wooden chair in the corner of the backroom. One had to maneuver their way through a maze of boxes and stacks of books and magazines to get to the chair. He would lose track of time pouring through book after book looking for a picture of his perfect tattoo. About five years ago, Alex even took to praying to whichever deity would grant him his wish. When he got to his favorite spot, book in hand, he was hoping that maybe he'd finally gotten his prayers answered.

Opening the book brought a charge straight into his hands. His fingers seemed to fall asleep. It took him a few minutes of flexing them before he could get his blood to circulate properly. His ears picked up odd tones that they didn't pick up before. His pupils dilated. None of this registered with Alex. He didn't pick up the change in frequency or how lightening seemed to shoot up both his legs at the same time. Alex didn't seem to hear the whispers or feel the hot breath of the unseen being that whispered them. He took notice of nothing but the face that stared off the page and into his eyes. It was the image that he's been searching for his whole life.

His perfect tattoo.

It was a face. Black and white with scattered pixels. No mouth to speak ill of him. No ears to hear anything negative others may say. The eyes were sunken so far back into the skull, that one just assumed they were there. There was not any evidence to suggest they actually existed. But, to Alex, they were there. They spoke in a language that he heard and understood. They acknowledged his deepest secret desires. Like how he longed to wrap his hands around someone's throat and feel the life beat out of them one pulse at a time. The secret eyes knew he looked at the pretty red head that browsed the bookstore every Thursday with a sadistic interest. They seemed to know more about him than even he knew.

This was it. All his searching was over. He looked one more time at the face staring back at him and, with book in hand, ran out of the store. Away from the dusty corner that heard his pleas. Away from the puzzled expression on Phillip's face. He ran away from it all and towards the only place in town that could give a man a decent tattoo.

Tony's Tattoo Parlor and Other Things was a staple in the small town. Tony was in his seventies with a crew top hair cut and long arms. He claimed to be only 6'5", but some speculated that he was taller than that. Tony was skinny. Real skinny. Skinny enough to cause people to question why and if there was something really really wrong with him. Tony liked to let them talk. He figured it gave the townspeople something else to moan about besides their pitiful excuses for lives.

No one knew what the 'Other Things' on the marquee stood for. And Tony wasn't telling.

On that particular Tuesday that saw Alex's dreams come true, business had been painfully slow for Tony. He hadn't seen a customer all day and was starting to calculate how much it was costing him just to run the lights in the joint when Alex busted in through the front door.

"Holy shit in a fucking corn basket," Alex exclaimed. "I've finally found it."

"Found what?"

"It! My tattoo. The one I want you to tattoo on me right now. Right this instant."

Tony had known Alex all his life. He knew about Alex's bizarre obsession and even spent a considerable amount of time contemplating what was wrong with the kid. Some subscribed to the theory that he'd been working with that homo, Phillip, for so long that the kid had actually turned queer. Others believed that he was some sort of eccentric genius that hadn't quite discovered what he was a genius of. There were some, still, that thought Alex to be a momma's boy and he figured all he needed was a good ass whipping. Tony didn't really subscribe to one theory over another. He just knew Alex gave him the creeps. He didn't like the kid. Never did.

"Calm your ass and let me see what you're talking about." Tony reached out his hand to take whatever picture Alex had.

Alex went to hand over the book, but found he couldn't let go. Not 'let go' in the sense that the book held some special meaning to him, but more he couldn't let go because he couldn't get his fingers to do what he was instructing them to do. The tendons in his hand were contracted, and no matter what kind of instructions his brain tried to give them, they just didn't want to let the damn thing go.

"Well?" Tony asked.

"Here," Alex said thrusting the book at him, "take it."

Tony took the book from Alex. The young boy didn't seem to want to let it go, but after a considerable tug, Tony got the damn thing out of his hand.

And that's when Tony thought he was having a heart attack. The lightening that hit his heart traveled from the book and up his arm. When it hit the old ticker, all Tony saw was a burst of purple and red flashing in his corneas. Heat radiated down his torso. And for a moment, a brief ever so frightening moment, a face appeared in his mind's eye. A face that didn't have eyes, but he thought they were there anyways. Hidden. Judging.

"Well, open it." Alex prodded him.

"Uh. Um, I'm not sure I can do anything for you today, bud." Tony stammered. He could still feel the heat running through him. His heart, once under attack, was beating at its normal rhythm. "I'm really busy right now."

Alex glanced around the empty tattoo shop. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a clump of bills. "Here's a thousand dollars. To be sure it's not more than that. Open the book and tell me how much you'll charge me. Whatever it is, I'll pay it. I have the money."

But, Tony didn't want to open the book. He didn't want the creepy kid in his shop. He didn't want the freakish images in his brain. The heat had spread from his torso and was now circulating his ball sack. Nah, Tony didn't want any of it.

But, he sure could have used the money.

Tony reluctantly opened the book and stared into the face that he'd seen only minutes earlier in his head. He quickly snapped the cover shut.

"Two thousand dollars and it's a deal."

Alex whipped out another thousand and instructed the older man to place the tattoo on his back. While the young man was taking off his shirt, Tony began to get all his gear in order.

Colors. What colors should he use?

Purple.

That's gay. Has to be more than purple. A dark purple, yes, but what else?

Reds and grays.

What about those other colors? The ones that don't have names. How do I make them?

They'll come on their own. And when you're done....

And when I'm done?

Die.

Alex had no idea about the exchange going on in Tony's head. He had already positioned himself on the chair and was trying hard not to giggle with excitement. He felt like a teenage boy getting his first glimpse of a pair of tits. He heard the needle come to life. The bussing sound gave Alex a hard on.

"Hold still," Tony growled.

Hours. That's how long the process took. As Alex's blood mixed with the ink, hours passed and Tony began to see his worst fears come to life. There in the sunken eyes, Tony saw what he never wanted anyone else to see. He saw that girl he met when he was in his twenties. She's said no, but foolishly Tony had thought if he'd just pressed on, she'd begin to really enjoy herself. For a skinny guy, Tony was very strong. Especially in his prime. She had left him, limping, bloodied and crying, swearing hell and damnation on his head.

He'd moved after that. Taking the secret with him.

Then he saw the bar fight he was in. Just him and some greasy Mexican that talked too much shit. They'd met in the back alley after final call, settling some stupid argument once and for all. Red had flashed in his eyes, and it wasn't until his vision had cleared, that he'd seen all that was left of the Mexican was a bloody head and body.

That was another move.

As the face from the page came to life in front of him on Alex's pale white skin, Tony saw all his sins come to life. The wife of his best friend that laid in his bed countless nights. That girl that wasn't quite of age. The thousands of dollars he'd stolen from the old lady two moves ago just to get the shop up and running. They were all there asking him when did he plan on making amends for the wrongs he had done.

Funny thing was, Tony had never looked back. Never given any of it a second thought.

Hours went by. The sun set and the moonless night said hello as Tony was just putting the finishing touches on his masterpiece. The colors were perfect. The face was there with the eyes that no one could see.

As tony blotted away the blood that seeped through, he noticed Alex's breathing. It was irregular. Shallow even. Like the air in the shop lacked the ingredients he needed to sustain his life. Blood mixed with sweat trickled down his back. Welts rose from his ribcage as if someone had been whipping the poor boy.

"You ok man?" Tony asked.

"I'm perfect." Alex replied in a whisper. He slithered out of the seat and asked for a mirror. Standing with his back to the big mirror on the wall, Tony tilted a smaller mirror so that Alex could see his handy work.

"Perfect indeed." Alex murmured.

Alex left the money behind, along with his shirt, and walked out of the tattoo shop. Tony looked after him in simple astonishment. He was so focused on Alex's odd behavior, and the images in his head, that Tony never took notice of the pools of blood that had collected on the floor. It was not common for a person to bleed that much during any tattoo session. So, Tony didn't realize that the blood, mixed with the ink and sweat that had trickled down Alex's back just moments earlier, was collecting in a pool right around his feet. And since he didn't notice, or realize, what was going on (especially with his eyes still on the door and his thoughts still on his sins) it came as a complete shock when he slipped in the wetness on the floor and hit his head on the table on his way down. The crack was unnatural at best.

Tony didn't have time to think of karma or any such nonsense on his way down, because as soon as his head hit, and it made that awful cracking sound, his eyes closed and the face appeared once again. Only this time the backdrop wasn't some black mixed with funky colors. It was the pits of hell and, this time, Tony could feel the heat on his face.

Alex walked home in a daze. The people who passed by him on the street, once seeing the face on his back, gasped in terror. One old man made the sign of the cross. One little girl clung to her mommy as she began to cry. One teenage boy, just moments away from deciding which college to apply to, went home and hung himself. All these goings on to the back of Alex did not make an imprint on him. He didn't hear any of the commotion. All he seemed to hear was the sound that played at that unnatural frequency. A frequency that humans aren't supposed to hear sound at.

He walked into his house and headed to his room without saying anything to his parents. Once in his bedroom, Alex closed the door and collapsed, face down, onto his bed. There he slept.

Alex slept for three days.

The second day that Alex was a no-call, no-show, Phillip began to worry. A call to Alex's parents revealed that the boy must have the flu since he'd been sleeping for a couple of days straight. But, Phillip wanted to see Alex. He needed to talk him and tell him about Tall Tony biting the dust in his shop the other. Phillip needed to tell Alex about the old woman and her crazy eyes, about the book that had something wrong with it (no matter how crazy it sounded), and about his nightmares. Phillip had been having all kinds of crazy dreams and just needed to know if Alex had been having them too.

But, Alex's mom was insistent that  her son had the flu and shouldn't be bothered. Well, as much as Phillip could figure out, the old twat didn't know what she was talking about. Some weird shit was going on and he needed to warn Alex about it.

If it weren't too late.

Phillip drove over there Saturday afternoon. It was a beautiful day. Temps in the mid-seventies. Over half the town was out and about, and Phillip secretly wondered why the weather couldn't reflect the dread that was going on in the pit of his stomach. In the movies, it was always cloudy or storms were striking outside when evil shit went down. But, not in real life.

As Phillip stepped onto the front porch, he could hear the boy's parents arguing inside.

"What the hell do you mean leave him alone?" Alex's dad shouted. "Have you taken a whiff of the shit belly odor coming from his room?"

"He's sick," the mom cried. "We need to give him some time."

"The boy needs to get his lazy ass up and shower. Or at the most, he might need an ambulance. Either way, I'm going in."

Phillip didn't bother knocking. He walked into the house to see the parents of his longest working employee glaring at each other with murderous looks.

Phillip didn't bother to access the situation or to even say hello. He headed straight upstairs to Alex's room. Never mind that he had no idea which room Alex actually inhabited. But, he didn't need to know. The smell that greeted him at the top of the stairs was enough to knock him back a few feet. The closer he got to the door at the end of the hallway, the stronger the pungent odor became.

Is he dead? Phillip wondered.

He put his hand on the door knob and felt the electricity that had shocked him days earlier as it flew out of the book.

Breathe, he told himself.

Taking the bottom portion of his shirt, he covered the doorknob and opened it that way. He flew the door open without bothering to enter the room.

Phillip couldn't enter the room. He couldn't move at all. He stood rooted to the spot, his eyes taking in the walls of the room.

When the house was built in the early eighties, Alex's father had all the walls painted white. His reasoning was that white went with everything and it were easier to clean that way. However, gone were the glossy finished white walls. Instead, they were a mix of colors that found no home on the color spectrum. They seemed to ooze paint and something else. A something else that Phillip did not dare investigate. The walls shuttered under the weight of the sound that no one but Alex could hear. But, Phillip had the feeling it was there. His ears just couldn't pick it up. But, the goose bumps that rose on his flesh indicated the sound existed.

"Well?" Alex's father asked. "Did you wake him?"

"No. I don't want to go in there."

Alex's mother stood behind her husband, and with pleading eyes, asked someone to please check on her only child. She couldn't do it. She was too afraid.

"Oh hell," his dad said as he shoved passed Phillip into the bedroom.

It wasn't the sight of the body that caused Alex's father to scream. It wasn't the way all the fat and fluid seemed to be sucked out and so all anyone saw was skin, bones, and veins. It wasn't the protruding eyes, or how Alex's head seemed to lay to one side at an ungodly angle. No, it wasn't any of that. And it wasn't how his hair had turned gray and was trying its best to fall out. Nor, was it his tongue, long, thick, and purple, almost like a cow's tongue, laying out the side of his mouth. It wasn't the shallow breathing that came from what looked like Alex's corpse. It was none of that that cause his dad to scream.

When asked later, what terrified him the most about seeing his only son laying there, more dead than alive, the young man's father could only give one reply as he shivered in the memory of it all.

The tattoo had winked at him.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Darkness

I have to write fast, you see. Time, never one to stand still, or obey the desires of the needy and hubris, races on against my will. I feel raped of goodness and want nothing more than to wrap myself up in blankets and the clothing that has been stripped off of me.

But, none of that matters. I don't have to analyze any of it. I have to write. I have something to say. A last testament, if you will. I sit at the hard wooden desk with my back dripping beads of perspiration. My hair stuck to my shoulders, neck and back, with a plaster made of my own sweat mixed with blood.

The blood is foreign to me. My naked body, shivering in the heat, and long stripped of of its protected clothing, is void of any gashes that would allow blood to seep from it. The dark red body fluid that I wear is of the two dead bodies that call the dirty hotel room floor home. The blood has hardened on my light brown skin and provide a protective shell against the heat of the night. The sweat that slithers along this covering could not even penetrate it.

"Write faster," he tells me; nudging the back of my skull with the barrel of his gun.

"I am." I tell him. My adversary is shaking.

My quick response to his, and his cohorts, planned attack was not what he had expected. All thee men; tall, muscular, and heavy handed as they proved when they grabbed me, figured they could have their way with me. I'm sure they had anticipated some sort of resistance on my part. I think, deep down where secrets are buried and inner voices are heard, they looked forward to it. What they didn't bargain for

                                                           what they had no way of knowing

   was that inside my petite frame resided a darkness, that when unleashed, reviled Hell's deepest pit.

They never got the chance to rape me. Pinning me down, one man keeping my arms held in under his weight, while the other two busied themselves removing my clothes.

There were tears of course. As I write these words I find them to be useless. They don't convey the horror of the moment. The terror that he is experiencing right now as I feel the gun tremble against my bloody head.

"What the fuck are you writing?" He whispers. Spittle forms around his mouth. His eyes, once blackened by the sheer harm he intended me are now a light brown and bulging from their sockets.

The sight of the gun, held intently in his hand, was such a surprise moments earlier, that I had paused in my retaliation. The pause

                             that split second of humanity that had shown through the blackness

was enough to cause something within me to be still once more. That stillness was what gave him his edge.

I have to bring back that darkness in me. The evil that lurks down below. I have to capture it all so I can finish what I started.

My failure to answer his question does not cause my enemy to pull the trigger. He is in too much shock to end my life. He stands behind my blood drenched body

                             with his sweat soaked striped shirt and piss stained brown pants

with a morbid curiosity that I'm betting he's never experienced.

As his weight began to cut the circulation in my arms, the other two monsters were preparing their decent into my world. The darker one, with numerous prison tattoos and long blond hair, pushed my legs open. He laughed, even high fiving the blond, pale skinned man that sat at my rib cage. He wore only his socks and shirt. His small erection told me he was ready to meet me next.

Poor foolish bastards. Men, with their straight spines, large hands, and alpha thoughts, they always think they are stronger than their opposite gender. How wrong these imbeciles are.

How deadly wrong.

I felt his heat before he entered me. I know this now. I am also sure of the knowledge that it is this heat

                          the fire if you will

that diminished the light within me. That brought about my darkness.

"This isn't going to happen." I told him. And before he could laugh and mock my stupidity, I began to eat him.

Quickly.

I targeted the jugular. As my mouth quickly filled up with the bitterness of his life, I reached over with my left hand and tore his partner's jaw completely off.

I can not tell when the man with the gun leaped off of my arms.

Blood. It is an unusual substance. I have found in my past adventures that the taste has often reflected the owner's soul. These men

                                        monsters

were rabid at heart. Their darkness contained demons that seemed to have escaped from the darkest corners of Hell.

The second monster's body began to seize as I ripped open his throat. His blood was rancid. It burned as my saliva mixed with it and carried the fluid to the acidic home of my stomach. I could feel it churn as it made its way through my digestive system. I almost vomited back up.

Almost.

"Stop," the man had screamed. My head, snapping to look in his direction so quickly that my neck bones cracked, held a smile that appeared to frighten him more than the carnage that lay out before his eyes.

"Uh....stop." He whispered.

I stood up slowly, all the while swallowing back the rest of the life I had drained.

"So," I said. "Are you next?"

"Fuck you. You're going to fucking die, you fucking whatever-the-fuck-you-are."

"I have to write first," I told him. "I have to tell my story. When I'm done, then you can put a bullet through my head if you still want to."

He eyeballed me suspiciously as I reached behind me into the desk, that I'm now sitting at, to pull out a pen and stationary. Forever the wanna-be monster, his eyes took in my small breasts. He looked hungrily at my sex, and then snapped back to the reality of the present.

"Hurry up."

I smiled and began to write.

I was normal once. As I sit here, bathed in someone else's blood  and angry over the events that brought me to this moment, I have to remember that I was once normal. Of course it wasn't these men that caused the darkness to form initially. No, they just turned off the light. Not, it had happened a long time ago.

One day I walked this world normal. Then one night I broke. Simple. In a moment's time, I fell apart. And I was never the same.

He's telling me to write faster. He is in a hurry to end my life. I do not know the time. There are no windows in this room. How did I find myself in an old roach ridden hotel room with three strangers? Easy. I was searching for pills. Pills that would forever keep me walking in darkness.

I know they planned this. There is no guessing to it. As I write these words, retracing my steps of placing the phone call that lead to the dealer, who gave me the directions to this run down hotel room, I see that they've done this to countless women before. Of course, admittedly, none of that crossed my mind as I returned the brutality. Now, though, I can even hear their past victims screams. They echo off my skin, having been released from the monsters spilled blood that I wear. I hope my words calm them like a lullaby soothes a disgruntled infant.

The man's

                my wanna-be monster

curiosity has turned to impatience. He has yet to say it, but I know he will soon inform me that my time is up and he will expect me to make good on my promise. What he has yet to realize

                          and what I can not figure out

is that I rarely speak the truth. I am not sure what's inside of him that has caused him to believe that I would ever allow anyone to shoot me. Or cause me any harm for that matter. This statement is simply to inform those who happen upon it of the facts behind the carnage that will be found after I've left the room.

He is starting to shift his weight again. I don't have much time left at all. My window of opportunity is closing and the darkness has returned. I will lower my pen now. His neck is exposed.

The darkness is hungry.

 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Dearest Friend: Pain

My Dearest Friend,

I would have thought my writing these phantom letters to you would have ceased after this much time had passed. Yet, here I am, writing to you with an urgency that is just as great as the day you died. I can not help but think of you and the joy you brought to my life and wonder if you received the same type of happiness from me.

I hope you did. I pray that you did.

Afternoon storms have become the norm for this season. I can not help but be grateful for them. They mirror what is happening on the inside of my body. The mornings find my insides calm and without pain. I walk with a heaviness that I can not shake. Yet, as the day wears on, and right as the lightening strikes outside my office window, the electricity is turned on inside me and something catches fire. Whether it's my surgical incision, my torso, or just my arms, something feels like it is engulfed in flames. My body becomes tired, worn down from being awake, and every nerve ending I posses becomes angry. They argue, fight, and scream at one another.

On the outside everything appears normal. On the inside I am in pain.

The worst part of all this is my hands. They are always hurting. Sometimes they throb. Sometimes the lightening shoots through them, making something as simple as holding a fork impossible. And this scares me more than anything else. More than the lesion that occupies my kidney. More than the follow up CT scans that I must keep every six months. My hands are my gateway. They are what keep me sane. They are how I write. If I can not write, then I cease to breathe.

The doctor calls this pain Fibromyalgia and is in the process of trying different pain medicine for me. One medicine helped with the lightening that ricocheted throughout my body, but it colored my days a shade of black that I had never seen before. I could do nothing to escape it. Food lost its taste. There was nothing behind my smile. One night I viewed the shotgun that sits beside my bed, not as a last line of defense, but more of something that would allow me to escape all the blackness.

I went back to the doctor the next day. I welcome the pain over the blackness any day. 

I try to look back over the past year to see when the pain started. But, it never really ended from the tumor. I can almost pinpoint the moment my hands started to hurt. When the itching started. Sleep is now a joke. I know if I do not take something, I will not sleep. My mind, forever vigilant against whatever goes bump in the night, will not allow any medicine to put me to sleep for eight hours straight. I am constantly waking. I am constantly on guard.

I am constantly hurting on some level.

In the year since you passed, I have become a loner. A hermit. I eye people suspiciously. I am not worried about what they want from me, or need from me. Rather, it is the time they ask of me. Enough time has been robbed of me in the past, that I am skeptical of anyone else wanting more. I am less than willing to share my time with just anyone.

Instead, I spend most of my alone time in reflection and prayer. 'Reflection' and 'Prayer' are terms that I use interchangeably with writing. I do not talk to the sky for God is not there. He does not live amongst the clouds. Instead, He is here. With me. He whispers to me in a soothing manner when I am upset. He sends me His message of hope and reassurance through those I do trust when I need it. He walks with me because He knows I can not maneuver this life without Him. He gives me patience. He blesses me.

I must leave you now. My hands have begun to ache and the children are ready for my attention.

As Always,

Wes 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Love in the Cornfield


"I'm sorry," he whispered. "But, I'm going to hurt you."

I looked into the brown eyes of the man I loved. We were standing at the edge of a cornfield. The cloudless night revealed a full moon that was breath taking. Stars littered the sky. The wind, soft and warm, rustled through the stalks as it played with my hair. It was a perfect Autumn night.

He had brought me here to talk. Talk about us. About the future that seemed ripe with promise. We'd been flirting with the idea of a relationship for over two years. While I'd quickly fallen in love with his dark skin and black hair, he remained on the edge with me. Never really trusting my smile or my good intentions. He never fully believed that I was who I claimed to be.

But, I trusted him. I believed in that wide smile that spoke softly. I understood the curious look that peaked out above his eyes. I held firm in the belief that we were destined to be together. His arms, strong and protective, locked around my waist. It kept me safe, away from the big bad monsters of everyday. His scent, warm and inviting, calmed me as I inhaled him. This man was not just a man to me. He was home. He was a little piece of heaven that God saw fit to put here on earth. Just for me.

I nuzzled into his neck. "What do you mean?"

"I'm going to hurt you," he repeated as he stepped away from me. In the moonlight, he looked like an angel. I could see the worry cross his face. He took two steps back and looked me up and down. I could imagine what he saw.

I am taller than most women. My hair, black and curly, falls into untamed locks around my shoulders. My skin, a light brown, is always cool to the touch. My brown eyes mirror his. Where he is muscular, toned, and athletic, I am slim with a wide frame.

I shook my head. "I don't understand. How are you going to hurt me? Are you going to hit me? What?"

Again, he took another step back. Shaking his head, he apologized softly. "I'm so sorry. I never set out to hurt you."

Confusion clouded my thoughts. In the years that saw my pursuit of him, he had often hurt me unknowingly. His reluctance to accept me as his was enough to send me to bed with tears in my eyes. Countless nights I had cried over this man and begged God in all His mercy to end my suffering and send me someone new to love. Yet, God, in all His infinite wisdom, is mysterious as He is silent.

My prayers were never answered. And my love for him continued to grow.

Shivering in the warm wind, I wrapped my arms across my chest. "Explain yourself," I demanded.

"I'm going to break your heart."

With that simple statement, my heart froze. The air turned still. The corn stalks, once rustling in the wind of the evening, now stood quiet in anticipation of my next move. He waited, looking at me with those lovely brown eyes of his. I tried to breathe, to get the organ that resides in the center of my chest to take up its beating once more. I inhaled deeply. Yet, the air that I took into my lungs was stagnant. Empty of anything that could sustain life. Dizzy, I bent over, putting my hands on my knees.

Breathe. Breathe. 1....2....3....

I wanted to ask why. Why would he do this to someone who loved him? How? How could this be? Words swam through my mind, barely touching the transmitters that would bring the message to my lips. I opened my mouth, ready to spill forth my questions.

Instead I vomited.

"Are you ok?" He asked as he approached me.

"Stay back," I whispered. I held out my hand to keep him at bay. "Don't you dare come near me."

After the moment passed, I stood erect. Unable to make eye contact, he looked away.

Bastard. 

"Why?" I asked him.

He began to speak about prior obligations. He spoke of work and how he had no time for anything other than the tasks he had previously sat before him. But, I knew these were all lies. Obligations are nothing more than a mask that he wore to hide the fear that he carried with him everyday. Fear of me. Of us. Fear of getting close. Of loving me. Of the possibilities. Of what could be. But, I doubted he was scared of getting hurt. He left that cliche behind when he past his thirties and greeted his forties as a new man. No, it was something else. He was fearful of things working out. He was scared of being happy.

As the minutes wore on, his voice was replaced with a wooshing sound that echoed throughout my head. Waves upon waves of despair crashed through my vision. I could see nothing but anger. Red lights flashed about. As I stared at him, the corn that provided the backdrop to this horrible sight erupted into an ocean of fire.

Oblivious to what I could see, he continued on. "I am so sorry. You are so sweet. I never intended to hurt you."

Intent. Intent is nothing more than energy that propels an action into existence. Without the intent, the action can still occur, but at a much slower pace.  Pain, when inflicted with the speed and force of a hurricane, can render the recipient unconscious. However, when pain is delivered slowly.....thoughtfully....it can make your knees buckle. Under the slow delivered pain, a person can be tortured to the point that they no longer recognize themselves or their surroundings. Their insides will contort, twist with each hurtful word, until the only thing left for the victim to do is to summon up their last little bit of strength and strike back.

It is much better for both parties involved if the hurt is administered swiftly. Like lightening.

With one sentence, one utterance of his intentions, he had managed to strip the soul away from my body. All that stood was a breathing carcass that wanted nothing more than to tear him limb from limb. The whooshing sound that I heard gave way to the sound of my heart beating. Echoing in my ears. Violently, my chest shook with each brutal thump. I clutched at the center of my core, hoping that my hand could calm what rose from underneath. I tried, in vain, to breathe through it all.

But, I couldn't. All I could do was surrender to the rising of the red current that swept over me. Knocking me off my feet, the tide threw me to the ground. On my knees, I began to eject black vile onto the dirt.

"What the hell?" He whispered.

I desperately tried to shake the images and sensations from my mind's eye. I begged for God to take it all. I was going insane at that very moment, crouched down at that particular spot. But, I couldn't let it go. The pain and anger consumed me. It filled me with fire and as I began to feed off of it. I realized that it pleasured me more than it hurt.

On my knees, surrounded on three sides by corn, with my back to the car and the old country road, I threw my head back in pure, unadulterated bliss. It felt as if there were thousands of tiny knives penetrating me from every angle. I began to rock back and forth with each puncture.  I inhaled deeply, feeling the pain turn to a sweet sensation that started at my finger tips and swept through me at a speed that took my breath away.

The remains of the black sludge that I'd thrown up just minutes before dripped from my mouth. I traced my tongue over my lips, tasting the acidic vile. Feeling it dance around my taste buds, I grinned sweetly at him as I swallowed it back.

"Oh God," he said.

"God is gone," I said matter-of-factly. "He left you to me."

Run....

I watched with satisfaction as the man I loved tore into the cornfield behind him.  I did not give chase, rather I waited until I heard his screams. I knew they were coming. I knew he wouldn't get far.

Fear. Such a senseless emotion when it is conjured up out of thin air. It wrecks havoc on an otherwise peaceful existence. More times than not, fear is an imaginary creature. The boogey man that lives under the bed that disappears once the light is turned on. I would show him what real fear is.

I am the monster that lives in the light.

I followed his screams to the center of the field. The corn stalks parted, allowing entry into its maze. The air was thick with malice and regret. Blood splattered across the corn stalks, painting them with polka dots of crimson red. I traced my finger across the stalks and licked the sweet blood from my tips. Up ahead, I heard the moaning of a wounded animal. It withered in pain, begging for forgiveness and mercy.

As I made my way to the sounds, leaves reached out to me. They slid down my back side, caressing me along the way. The stalks twisted around my neck and torso, assuring me that they would be on my side. That they would do my bidding.

I found the animal in the middle of the field. The corn stalks had laid down in a circular pattern, allowing for a clearing for me to do my work in. He was spread eagle, a stalk having each limb and pulling it tightly. Blood was everywhere, splattered against the corn and all over the ground.

How is this thing still alive?

"Please," he whimpered. "Please. I'm so sorry. Don't kill me."


"I don't understand why you did this," I said. "Why hurt me?"

"Trust me," he croaked. "Had I known you were capable of all this, I would've never pissed you off."

The stalks tightened their pull and I vomited once more as he screamed. The black vile shook my body as it rose up out of my throat. I watched, in disbelief, as the slithery vile made its way towards him. Even in the still night, he could see the thick liquid approach him.

He began to scream.

"What the hell? What the hell? Oh God. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Please."

Amazed at what my body had produced, I watched as slithered up his leg. It disappeared under his pants leg.

He stopped screaming for a moment as he tried to see what was taking place.

"What the hell? Get it. Don't let it go any farther. Stop it. You gotta stop it."

I was powerless over the whole scene. I could do nothing, so I simply sat down on the corn stalks and watched in amusement.

"Do you what that is?" I asked him.

"I don't give a fuck," he cried. "Get this shit off of me."

Ignoring his response, I continued. "It's anger. It's fear. It's what happens when you play with someone's heart. When you proceed with no intention of loving someone. That is hurt. That is terror. And it's going to hurt you. Worse. It's going to violate you."

The look on his face was pure horror. The black slime made its way up inside him. His screams were animistic. He screamed. Cried out in agony and terror. His body began to contort and seize as he tried in vain to escape what was inside him. Blood spewed from his mouth as his insides were torn to shreds.

After what seemed like eternity, but was very well only a few moments, the black sludge made its way out of his mouth and back towards me. I sat calmly, waiting for it to return home.

The corn stalks retreated back to their original positions as they let him go. There was no concern over his running away. His face, frozen in horror and pain, was empty of any life.

The liquid pooled itself beside me, giving off a burning heat. I did not welcome it back. I wished to leave it where it was. Understanding my silent command, it disappeared into the soft earth.

Eventually, I calmed down. My anger, once pulsating and alive, seemed to retreat with the corn. I made my way back to the car to head home.

Tomorrow I would try to love another. But tonight...well tonight...I was done.





 



Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Waiting Room

He lays there, somewhere out of my reach, away from the sound of my voice, breathing shallow breaths. I search his face, his hands, the rise and fall of his chest, for any sign that he is returning back to me. That he has left the mysterious place where the dying go before they breathe their final breaths that signals the beginning of their judgement.

I wish my touch could find those tiny nerve endings embedded within his skin so as to allow his brain knowledge of my existence.

Just twenty-four hours prior to this I was sitting beside his bed and looking into his eyes. Just a full day ago, I was asking him if he knew who I was and feeling my heart soar with relief as he slowly nodded yes. Today, however, his eyes are closed. He no longer belongs to this world. His world is that of a waiting room. One that he sits patiently in as he counts down the minutes til his heart stops beating and it is his time to stand judgement.

I wonder about this Waiting Room with grey walls and beige chairs. I think about the out of date magazines lining the shelves and coffee tables, the vending machines with their stale wheat crackers that lack any taste that would be pleasing to the pallet, and the dim light that makes seeing a little uncomfortable. I imagine the music that could be heard over head is instrumental, probably reflective of some long ago time that no one can recall.

And all the while, I imagine him sitting there, quite content within himself. He thinks thoughts that he never really cared to share with anyone else. He's happy in his own mind. He's safe there. He trusts his thoughts for he has complete control over them. They keep him company as he waits for his name to be called.

I imagine there are others sitting in the slightly uncomfortable chairs of The Waiting Room. I don't believe the dying would be divided up by something silly like age, race, gender, or even religion. I think it is a place we all find ourselves when our soul arrives at the occasion where it needs to wait for its body to die. For whatever it is that ties us to this world when we are clearly no longer for it. Whether it be breathing tubes or the sheer power of a loved one, our soul must wait somewhere before it is to be judged.

I watch him as he sleeps. The rest of the world falls away easily. He opens his eyes briefly and then closes them. I don't have to wonder if he sees me. He knew of my existence before he closed his eyes. Before he left for The Waiting Room, I was able to look into his eyes and tell him all the things he needed to hear.

I imagine him in The Waiting Room quite bored. He'd have his head lean back against the wall. It's probably quiet in the space that holds each soul. The ticking of the clock, signaling time, insignificant, to anyone reading it, would be the only sound. Maybe a clearing of the throat here and there. But, he would not pay any slight noise any attention. He would wait patiently for his turn, entertained by the images in his own mind.

Do the dying dream? Is it all colors and flashes of light that illuminates the different portions of their life? Are they allowed to view the road less traveled to see if it actually would've made all the difference? Do the neurotransmitters continue to fire as each cell slowly dies? What happens within his body as his soul waits around to be released?

His mother comes in and fusses all around him. I watch this display of affection with awe and jealously. I'm in awe because the strength this woman display is beyond my understanding or grasp. Jealous for I do not receive the same type of affection from my own mother.

I fight against yelling into his ear. I have no need to wake him from his dying slumber, but an overwhelming urge to see if he hears me where he's at. Over there. Away from me. I want to test the boundaries between us. To see if I can reach out to him one last time to say what has already been said. More for my benefit than his.

I doubt they offer coffee in The Waiting Room. If they did, I'm sure it would be room temperature and bland. I can see the coffee pot, stained from never being washed out, giving off an aroma, that while not unpleasant to the senses, does nothing to entice them either. I can see all of this from my perch beside his bed.

Before leaving the room, his mother encourages me to speak to him. I nod, silent in my refusal. I said everything that should've been said when his eyes were still open and he knew of my presence. I am content in holding his hand. Besides, I reason within my own mind, it was never my words that he longed for. Rather, it was the feel of my fingers as they interlocked around his that he hadn't known he's been missing. And it was the soft kisses across his brow that brought a smile to his face. My words to him were few and far between. It was our silence that bonded us. The silence of the dying and the broken hearted.

Days before the twenty-four hours before he closed his eyes, he spoke of secrets and regrets. I wonder, as he sits there in The Waiting Room, if those same secrets cross his mind. In my world, this world, he worried over them. He feared I would judge him harshly for the sins he'd committed across his lifespan. Sins. We spend our whole lives focused on them. We're either committing them, running from them, or begging to be forgiven of them. We're never truly free.

It feels like time has ceased to exist as I sit here by his bed. When my attention was focused elsewhere, his breathing became rapid. Any movements are involuntarily. Nervous impulses running along his body. I stand to summon his father, but once I do, he seems to calm down. I am quickly reminded of something he once said in the hospital. The memory is so vivid that I have to look twice to make sure he did not actually speak out loud. I want to cry. But, I don't. I return to my seat to watch him breathe.

I doubt there's much talking in The Waiting Room. I imagine each person there is trying to recall every sin they've ever committed. After all, isn't that what judgement is all about? Making us answer for our crimes? We all have something to be shameful of. The thing is not to panic when the nice lady comes to The Waiting Room and calls your name. Don't back away and try to run when she tells you it's your turn. There's nowhere to run to.

I've gotten close to him over the past couple of months. I have shared stories of my life as he's shared his. As I come back to the hard wooden chair that is now my rightful place at his side, I tell him about my daily activities. I keep my eye on the rise and fall of his chest as my voice trails off. Nothing seems important anymore. So, I repeat what I was able to tell him before, when his eyes were open. Then I say nothing else. There is no any indication that he's heard any of what I've said. I didn't expect there to be. You see, some may still pray for what they consider to be a miracle. Him opening his eyes. Calling out for his mother. To me, that is just pushing back the inevitable. The miracle has already occurred. God brought us together. Bonded us together within a few short months so he would know that someone loved him. And, as he was dying, right before he closed his eyes to me, I actually was able to make him laugh.

His mother arrives after I finish speaking softy in his ear. She fusses over me as if I were her own flesh and blood. I fight the urge to turn from this sweet woman. Rather, I close my eyes and indulge in one of the few pleasure that I rarely experience. A mother's love. I am never touched. No one holds my hand. Few people hold me. And no one...no one...does what this precious being is doing at this very moment. Plays in my hair. She is not doing it for my comfort. Rather, it is her way to express her gratitude for what I am doing. She has difficult expressing exactly how much my presence means to her. I say something to make her laugh. The brevity of the moment gives her a chance to let out a breath she has been holding for quite some time.

I keep imagining him in The Waiting Room. But, there is nothing that I can add or subtract from the scene to warrant any re-visitation.  He, like the rest of us, must remain patient until his name is called.

This whole experience has restored faith that I didn't know I'd lost. While he laid in the hospital, long before the twenty-four hours prior to the closing of his eyes, we were able to say so much to each other. I let him direct the conversation any which way he wanted. When nurses came in and asked him who I was, he would respond with, "She's beautiful." Most of the time we would hold hands and relax in our silence.

During the twenty-four hours prior to the closing of his eyes, I said to him three things everyone should hear. Three small sentences, when spoken from the heart, can change a person's existence.
                    "I love you. You've made my life better. I think of you when we're not together."
He had smiled through his tears. The next day, he'd closed his eyes.

I imagine when the nice lady opened the plain white door to call him to come into The Judgement Room, he didn't stand immediately when he heard her. No, he didn't jump to his feet at all. I'm sure he must have been a little nervous. We all would be. But, as he followed the older lady down the long corridor to the small office, he wasn't too terribly apprehensive. After all, he had already asked for forgiveness.

I know. I was there when he did it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Seek Out the Pow Wow



I need the Drums.
As I need Air.
They are Life sustaining.
They are Sweet.

I require the voices.
The Singers and their Chants
To nourish my Spirit.
To replenish my Soul.

The Dancers are here,
In their colorful regalia,
Telling me the stories of the Ancestors.
It is my Story
Told by their Steps.
It is how I know we
Are all Connected.

I need the Pow Wow.
Just like a homeless man Needs shelter.
Like a starving man Craves bread.

I will seek out My people.
I will close my eyes and soak in their Sound.
I will see their feet Dancing.
I will feed off the Drums.

I will seek them All out,
Because my Soul depends on it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Dearest Friend: Concentrate

My Dearest Friend,

Concentrate. Concentrate. Concentrate.

That is my mantra for the time being. I try to keep focused. Try to keep my head in the game. Try to see the bigger picture. It's difficult when all the immediate stuff, no matter how small, is staring you in the eye. They're daring you to flinch. I have to keep calm and remember that it all happens in due time. I have to remember to concentrate.

But, it's hard.

I keep looking to the future. A future where I may be able to add income to the dismal pay that I'm earning right now. A future that sees a little more wiggle room in my back account. A time where I don't feel that I am carrying the world on my shoulders. I keep my eye there, because when I look at the here and now, I am overcome with a sense of dread. Panic sets in and I simply can not give in to that particular emotion at this moment in life. I have too many other emotions to sift through.

I wonder about your life in the Navy. What was it like carrying all those memories of me with you? What were you like before that night? Before you raced to my side only to find me in the grips of a horror movie unlike any you'd ever seen? Were you optimistic about people? Did you believe we all held goodness within ourselves? Were we actually made in God's image or did we reflect His opposite? Did you leave your faith behind that night you took me to the hospital?

We never really spoke of your love life. The stories you told me were of nameless women. Anonymous was the only person you allowed near your heart. You seemed better acquainted with the ones that you couldn't remember. Did I have something to do with that? During the twenty years you spent apart from me, what did you concentrate on? Why did you never make more our of your life than you did? Most men your age would have had children to claim. Broken hearts to match up with love stories. But, you had none of that. There was no one that got away. There was no child that could claim your smile. Instead, you spent your life concentrating on something that you weren't even sure existed. Why was that? What were you looking for?

I concentrate on my writing. I spend more energy on it than I do on people. I find that I can breathe when I write. The air leaves my lungs with each tap of the keyboard and returns upon the beginning of each new sentence. There is magic there on the screen. It brings to life the things that I wish for. The images that are caught in my mind's eye. My emotions burn bright like flames burning into the night. I trust the spirit that lives in my fingers. The one that tells my hands what to write. I sometimes write with a pen, putting all my stories onto paper. I have to use that old fashioned method when my thoughts are coming faster than I can type. Writing by hand forces my mind to slow down and lets me catch up. I concentrate hard. I put in everything I am, and when I am done, I am tired. Tired and empty. These are the best feelings to me.

I am days away from the first reading of the play. I am filled with so much dread. To hear my words in another's voice is surreal and terrifying. Not only are my thoughts on that paper, but my emotions are as well. I laid myself naked for all the world to see. I am kind of wanting to take it all back now. Take back the thoughts and clothe myself in secrecy. But, I was not made to be that. I was not made to be a statue made of secrets and lies. I have to live exposed. Otherwise, there is no point in all that has happened to me. If I can not make others aware, then why even go on?

 I threw your journals away months ago. There was no way that I could move on from your memory while they existed. I found myself going to them more and more. Time passed, but you still lived within the pages. I poured over the text. Looking for lost clues as to why you lived your life the way you did. Most of the stuff you wrote about regarded me. Your life seemed to begin the night you met me and it never really moved on passed that. It seemed you lived that one night over and over again. For twenty years, you screamed in horror just as I did. I tried my hand at a normal life. Yet, you did not. I am not sure if you show more strength that I do because you admitted to what your life had become. You surrendered to your memories. You embraced it all while I tried to move on. I ran away from it all. I buried my head and concentrated on having a normal life. A life full of boyfriends, friends, family, and children.

My children were my saving grace. What was yours?

Concentrate. I try hard to look towards a time when I don't think about you. When the gas pump is not dangerous territory. When life is as normal for me as it is for someone else. I concentrate hard on the small things that make me happy. The children. Writing. A friend here and there.

I concentrate hard on the computer screen. I look at the light as it guides me towards the finishing touches of whatever it is I am working on. I focus hard on it. Simply, because it's all I have.

And sometimes I think it's all I want.

~Wes

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My Dearest Friend: Life Choices

My Dearest Friend,

This Sunday is a beautiful one. It is the kind of Sunday that would have seen us sitting on the porch discussing our life choices with one another. You would comment on the soft breeze as it blew by. I, no doubt, would make a snide remark about how loud the birds are chirping.

We would laugh over nonsense. Over nothing at all. Oh, how I miss you.

My son has started baseball. His sister, not really one for organized sports, is drifting towards the arts. Music and drawing have become her passion. Her requests are many. Mostly, she longs to begin some sort of piano or guitar lessons. She wants art lessons as well. She begs for some type of instruction that will broaden her scope. She knows money is tight and she is patient with me.

And I am frustrated.

Life choices. I wish God would grant me a do-over. A second chance to attend college and get some sort of education and skill behind me. I wish I wouldn't have quit that job or left that man. Would it have made a difference, you think? Would I be better able to provide for my children now, had I not been so stubborn and refuse to take the road most traveled? Maybe if I'd applied myself a little bit more in high school it would have made a difference now.

These are foolish questions that do nothing more than make me insane. I know, deep down, there's nothing I can do about the past. It has taken its hold and worked its voodoo over my present. The only recourse I have is to apply my skills to the here and now and hope my future is better for it. Hope that my children's future is better. Yet, I still wonder......

                                                       ........still question......

......whether I am actually doing right by them. I don't think reassurance will ever come.

I cried a few days ago. Cried out my frustrations at my inability to redirect the earth's rotation. I feel powerless over it all. Work had me stressed to the breaking point. Fear of having to start all over again when I have barely begun again had me in tears. I barely made it to work. Barely made it through the day. That morning, I yelled at my children. I raised my voice out of grief and impotence. The look on their faces haunted me the rest of the day. It seems that my biggest fear is coming true.

I fear that I am turning into my mother.

I never understood the woman that gave birth to me. Growing up, her stress played out like a shadow over my childhood. I understand that type of stress now. How she must have longed for a better life for herself. For us. Like me, her life choices brought her to the breaking point as well. Now, some thirty years later, my mother is sick in mind as well as body. I pray for her nightly. But, I can not bring myself to visit as often as she would like. I tell myself it is because the time spent with her is too stressful for me. In reality, it is because I sense that she is my future.

And I can not bare it if that is the case.

My dear, sweet friend. You used to always question why I would never take you to meet her. I think, deep down, it hurt you to be kept a secret from my life. From my friends, family, and the rest of those that make up the world in which I live. The truth of the matter was that I didn't want to keep you from them, but it was them I was keeping at bay. They are all little snippets of me. I didn't want you to bring it all together. To see what I would eventually become. I had hoped that if you went untouched by my life that you would be able to redirect the path I was walking. That your goodness would influence me in such a way that I would be safe.

Plus, you were such a special creature, I wanted you all to myself.

I have written a play. It has been such a scarey experience, that I am not clear if I will ever attempt another one. There are people working behind the scenes now to see it to fruition. But, as of everything else in my life, I am frightful of the outcome. I am filled with so much self doubt. It is this doubt that creeps up on me at night. That keeps anxious knots in my stomach. What if the play is not any good? What if no one comes to see it? Or worse, what if it is a success?

You would laugh at me over these silly questions. You would tell me that if God gave me a gift, it is not for me to doubt it. You would say that I am doing what I was meant to do. Then you would hug me. And we would return to our casual conversation about nothing.

And all would be right with the world once more.

I have a series of projects that I am lining up in front of me. They both include photography and writing. Most of the projects I can complete alone. Some, I must enlist the assistance of others. I am doing this so I can keep my mind off the larger picture. The picture that keeps me lonely and isolated.

I have become so bitter in my loss and disappointment that I no longer trust others. 

It is not just the loss of you. You were a powerful blow to my heart. But, I know that tomorrow is never promised. I have lost enough loved ones, young and old, to know how to handle grief. I know the process and I can recite the steps as if I were reciting the alphabet. But, it is the loss of the living that has caused me to turn inwards. Those that promise their friendship and then snatch it away when they discover that I do not fit into their puzzle. Those that get close and retreat without a moments notice when my thinking is too much for them.

The worse thing to experience in life is not the death of a loved one, but the death of a friendship.

They steal your time, these people who claim they never want to hurt you. The ones who talk in soft tones and make you laugh. The ones who invest their time in you and establish themselves as part of a routine only to snatch it all away like a magician doing a slight of hand trick. It is heart breaking. And I have had enough of it. I dare not invest in another soul the way I have invested in them. I keep to myself. I accept calls from those that need an ear to listen. But, I do not exchange emotions with them. I do not let them get close to me. I no longer rely on them for anything.

My heart is fragile. It has not been glued back together after the last break and I don't think it ever will. I no longer feel safe with anyone. This causes me more sadness than I can openly admit to. Without our friends, those that we can trust to keep our hearts and minds safe, we are nothing more than an empty shell that can never be filled.

I've been through way too much to be like this now. I have lived when I should have died. I have regained my trust and faith in humanity when any sane person would have slept with one eye open. So, why this? Why now? Why was it a single person with brown eyes and a sweet smile that ultimately was the straw that broke this camel's back?

I do not understand this path that I walk down. I doubt if you were alive you would understand it anymore than I. But, I do know, that if I had your voice to listen to, your words to take in, I would have some other idea of what to do with all this pain. Or maybe not. Maybe I am supposed to put it all into my little projects. Maybe God has given all this to me as material to use and to prosper from. It would be nice to think that is the case.

I must go now. My sweet daughter wants my time. I am happy to oblige her. Take care for now, my sweet friend. Perhaps my next letter will have more news of good rather than despair.

With All My Love,

Me

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Silence

"I need to tell you something." She said. He could see that she was nervous. Her fingers, long and thin, twisted the strands of her hair like a young girl nervous before a recital. She repeatedly cleared her throat. Swallowing over and over. He waited patiently to see what she would reveal to him.

"I....I mean...I know you don't want to hear it, but I really must tell you something."

He couldn't fathom what she'd possibly have to say. He sat upright on the couch and gave her every ounce of attention. He trained his eyes on her. They were large, brown, and intense. Unknowingly, he caused her more anxiety with every passing minute that he held her gaze. She secretly begged him to look away.

But, he couldn't hear her thoughts.

And that was the problem. He couldn't understand her words. He didn't speak her language. He had trouble reading in between the lines of what she was trying to say and what really wanted to say, but lacked the courage to do so. Because of this, she viewed their communication as broken. Incomplete. He thought everything was fine.

Yet, it wasn't. He caused her pain. Whenever he spoke, small piercing jolts of pain made their way to her heart. Blood pumped a little bit faster in her veins. Her palms became sweaty. Her tongue thickened inside her mouth. She constantly had to close her eyes and bite her lip to prevent herself from crying. He thought himself candid. Honest. She found him to be hurtful. Confusing. An enigma of a man that would forever remain unsolved.

She didn't know what to do. How to proceed with her days in this ball of confusion that he'd wrapped her in.

"See, it's just that, well..."

"Go ahead." He urged her. "I'm listening. What is it?" He tried to speak quietly. Soften the tone of his voice that he knew could be harsh at times. He hoped that she'd see him as ally and not a threat.

"I adore you. That's it. I adore you completely. I'm not in love with you. Not really. Too soon for that. There's still too much to know about you. About the way you operate through life. But, I adore you. I think about you every day. I worry over you. I wonder if you're happy. That's really important to me, you see. Because if you're not happy then there's no way that I could ever be."

She hoped she was making sense.  She prayed that she wasn't driving him away. She wanted to reach out and touch him. Sooth out the wrinkles in his shirt. Hold his had. Inhale his cologne. She wanted to make him dinner and then watch him flip through the channels of the tv. She wanted to do every mundane task possible together. She wanted to hear his breathing at night. Feel him rustle the covers as he switched sides during sleep. She fought the need to check on him throughout the day. Was there anything he needed? He desired? She wanted more than anything to provide these things.

But, he wanted no part of it. He provided for himself. He saw to his own needs and it had been that way for years. His reluctance to allow her to be what she knew she could be for him was hurting her more than she cared to admit. With her new found revelation of adoration, she risked alienating him. She'd been thinking about this for quite some time. Should she stay in the background, always clutching her heart with one hand while forcing a smile on her lips with the other? Or should she go for the gust-o and come clean with how she felt?

What made the decision for her was a simple realization. A pause in her routine. She had awoke one morning. The sun had yet to rise on the horizon and the occupants of her house still slept. She'd felt the stillness all around her. It was a sense of loneliness, a sort of heavy quiet, that kept her seated on the edge of her bed. It was concrete. Permanent and unwavering. She came to the conclusion that her life would always have that edge of nothing to it. She'd forever be what she was. A mother and a friend. A daughter. A family member of some sort. But, she would never be the love of someone's life. This last thought made her knees lock in place. And as she sat there, she began to cry. Not loudly and without sobs. The tears slipped down her cheeks in the same hushed manner that her heart broke in.

Her confession to him was her last attempt at something in her life. Something other than the extensions of herself which drove her to live everyday. Something that was all her own. A separate creature that would love and appreciate her for being the woman she had grown into. And not a mother that nature had turned her into.

The clock ticked away the minutes. They both stared at one another. Him, sitting on the couch, looking into her soul and contemplating her meaning. Her, standing in the middle of the room, palms sweaty, wishing she could rewind time and erase the words that she'd just spoken.

When at last he cleared his throat, he could do nothing but speak the truth. His truth. "I'm sorry. I can't. We shouldn't be friends anymore."

The weight of the silence after he left crushed her. She cried out as loud as she could. But, there was no one around to hear.