It all started as a mistake, really. All of it. A casual mistake, involving strange people along the freeway. The prairie winds blew. The road signs twinkled and there was that exit that they should have taken. So now they are lost in a land of personalized license plates and amusement parks. The sun beats down on them and they try to shift into a higher gear. Their baggage is well secured, though, so there’s that. One must always have secure baggage in this amusement park world. What started as a wedding wish ended as a facial twitch. But I’ll tell you all about that if we get more time. Right now I am too busy being a good passenger; One arms length away from the steering wheel, one dream away from reality, one car door away from death and rapid pavement.
She was a real lanky winner, a first grade teacher. Her words were sizzling butter, and their little minds were popcorn kernels on the verge of exploding. Each lecture was a sermon, each student was a miracle of God. They raised their hands and she would point. They spoke, she redirected. It was a symphony of shared experiences. Yeah, there were trouble-makers and rabble-rousers, but they disappeared like ghosts in snow. There were ideas and clever drawings made from crayon. There were silly jokes and fancy objects at the show and tell. Sizzling butter flooded their ambiance. Miracle children floated on their fancy objects, passing lonely, angry ghosts trapped in snow.
"The rules are here to serve us," I pleaded with the officer from the higher guard of traffic lore. I pointed at what I interpreted as evidence and said, "look at the rusted locks!" He just shrugged and pointed to the sign, of which I was in clear violation of. I walked away, muttering "that's ridiculous." But I knew that a day was coming when the parking officer would get his. When love blows in and re-orients all our intentions, there will be no parking tickets. When God's hyper angels march through our towns and rip our parking signs from their concrete feet. When God's ambitious angels jam all our anal-retentive, revenue generating oppression poles into the smiling faces on the bullshit billboards, when God's prophets come over the hill laughing and singing their authentic songs, then we'll see who is pointing at the signs, and the nature of the signs they are pointing to.
I was in a dangerous space, stuck in a contracting crevice. I was being crushed by the consequences of my past actions. I was drowning in the results of some highly destructive behaviors. But you came to me with your life jacket and tow-rope, and now we’re standing on the hill staring at the skyline of our city. Now we’re making plans for a more productive, fulfilling future. We’re making vows to save money, to eat healthy, and to sleep on a regular basis. You nod your head. I clap my hands. The deal is sealed in spiritual concrete and cosmically valid. We won’t under-sleep. We won’t over eat. We’ll buy things with cash and put our credit cards in canisters surrounded by fire and electric fences. There are not too many mornings left, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give them to ungrateful credit card executives, or to anxious restauranteurs.
When she walked through the garden, she was looking closely at the flowers. She was seeing faces in the textures of the flower pedals. Forcing images, if you will, upon nature. It was a bit pretentious, but it all worked for her. She stepped and stooped, then stepped to the next. "There, that looks like a civil war soldier longing for home," she says, then steps and stoops. "This here looks like a school master angry about the falling rain. " Step and stoop. "This one looks like a police man with a mustache observing the conduct of the pedestrians." She strolled through the garden casting her images wherever she wanted to. She respected no boundary between her mind and the tangibility of nature. She walked as an authority. Tall and strong, with a dress that made the garden keepers envious, as it drew everyone's attention away from the flowers.
Start at the dot, end at the parking lot. Follow your map to the spot. Bring your hat and binoculars. Two sisters eat sandwiches on a park bench while birds fly over their heads, flying far out, somewhere into the far reaches of their context. The park bench is all theirs. No room for anybody else. The first sister is an ambitious woman, with a career goal. The second is a pathologically driven thing with a dream of being in total control of her destiny. Their aunt was an alcoholic, but that doesn’t ever come up in conversation. They talk of prospects and potential lovers. They talk of objectives. They talk about what they call “a woman’s limitations” in their warped view of the world. I don’t know why they talk in the park. They could just as easily meet in a restaurant or a bar. I guess it is more nostalgic to meet outside, surrounded by wind and leaves, cars and streets, birds and context. A sisterly, conversational ambiance.
So I was wiping the sweat off my face reflecting on our victory. Once you get the lead, once you get ahead, then you can REALLY take some chances. You can really lay it out there and take your shots. As it happened, things started off tough. I was the perpetual-second-place-guy. Nothing happened as planned. Nothing happened the way it was supposed to. Expectations were meaningless. All I had was "nothing to lose," and I used it. There was nobody to let down. The bridge collapsed at the worst time, but it was the right time. Vulnerabilities grow and merge and flow from the earth to the brain to the soul, until the inertia of instability is too great to stop, then BOOM! Broken bridges. Take your shots while you are ahead, because you can fall behind for a long, long time. So people adjust and adapt, though. And once I get ahead, I’m really going to take some shots.
Now they're wheeling me through the hall on a squeaking gurney. I was following the premises all the way down to the conclusion. Now their dragging me across broken glass and rose petals. I was trying to create a new thought. I was remembering my youth. I was pondering my future. Now their reading me my rights and garnishing my wages. All our systems collapsed down on me at once. Now their poking me with IVs. I’m on a slow potassium drip and my fluid levels are unstable. I’m on an oxygen machine, and my thoughts are disintegrating. I’m behind the second curtain, toying with the bed controls. I’m ringing the nurse’s bell and waiting for assistance.
Think about what you've got. You're extant. You're extended. You occupy a shape in this realm, parallel to all the non-existing souls who will never fill a proposition referent to a real object. You're floating along on a magic mattress, half awake, half asleep. You're distinguishing what you see from what you dream. And images are metaphors that confront you, and prod you to be all you can be. You're shrugging off the scenes and humming down the street. Snowflakes are invisible in this 90 degree heat. But they are here, in a parallel universe, incubating. Evolving, growing. We will see them shortly after Christmas. And we will stop what we are doing and stare, as they gently flutter across our scenes.
"I'm not immortal," she told me, from a hospital phone. "In fact, I died." I got up from the couch and walked into the back yard. "Why are you calling me," I said, looking over my shoulder to ensure I was alone. "Because I died. I'm better now." I could hear the medical machines beeping and breathing in the background on her side of the phone. On my side, the frogs in the neighbors pond were beginning their all-night chorus. She continued: "Sometimes people connect at a certain time, and it is the wrong time. And it might even be the wrong people. But the connection was still right. And just because it was the wrong time, and maybe the wrong people, that doesn't mean there was anything wrong with the people." I agreed. My eyes were adjusting. The moon was now visible between some parted clouds. "I agree," I said.
I'm assessing all my symptoms and gathering up all my complaints. A busload of doctors are eager to see me, with their hypotheses and notepads. "How long has this been happening," they'll ask. And, "Does it hurt when you touch your toes?" I'll point out various observations and they will add these to their diagnosis criteria. "There's a clicking sound when I chew," I say. And, "When I dream I poop my pants." They'll recommend vegetables and exercise, then they will scribble out a prescription. Some sort of capsule that will alleviate swelling and foster neurobiological activity in the right areas.
Shake that vending machine, pilot. The good pilot and the dangling candy bar. That glass is so thin… you could smash right through it, if you had to. But if you just jolt it… If you jolt it just right, it should shake free and fall to your candy outlet. Push your hand through the door. Aaaah…. Heaven. And in heaven, at the gate, Peter. And staggering towards Peter, in a flowered nightgown, Betty. And Betty screams with joy at the marvelous wall and glorious gate. “Is this heaven,” she asks. “It is,” says Peter. And Betty spins around with her arms out, wearing only one slipper. And thoughts of eternity dance in her head. And she runs to Peter and embraces him. “Can I bring my couch in there.” No. “But I just bought it and it reclines.” No. “But I bought a 10 year warranty and I’ve only owned it for a week.” No. Betty stepped back and looked at the heavenly fortress and wondered if she could some how sneak the couch in. Maybe jolt the wall just right. Peter leaned back against the wall and scratched the back of his head, and said “In God’s kingdom, all are welcome.”
Fancy people stepping out into the sunshine. Bold steps to let the world know they exist. Proposal constructers shrugging off their woe. Sunshine steppers answering their phone and proposing where to go. Fancy people casting pertinent gestures. Murmur kings slouch in the shade. Gossip queens turn their head to let out the toxic gasses from their throats. Fancy people with ideas knock over tables and turn the water to wine. Rolling down the television, fancy people wave to lesser fanciness. Kings and queens decay in the streets. Tongue-tied salesman gesture to their product-things, which are meant to make your fancy lives easier and more enriching. Product-things that prevent drooling, gossip, and falling apart.
We sit in the middle of an intricate explosion of pathways. We rest at the precipice of infinite possibility. When I slurp the final drops of my comfort beverage and stand, I must decide. I can go here or there. Three hundred and sixty degrees of possible directions. And each path changes future actualities in subtle, imperceptible ways. Of course, some things are written in stone. The speed of the earth, the movement of light, the pull of gravity. But within these grand constraints there are a billion mazes, each one leading me to different pieces of cheese. I reach my foot out to step, then, at the last moment, pivot slightly. You must keep the calculators of fate, chance, and happenstance alert and engaged. You must always push against the constraints of your default inclinations.
There are these scary feelings that creep around my screens... Heavy-hearted feelings that slope my grin earthwards. A fear that... I can no longer translate to the page what I want translated to the page. A fear that I've lost control of words. They no longer obey my commands. They shrug off my requests and go their own way. Their own pedestrian, boring, sexless way. They walk in front of my readers and stimulate no winks and prompt no whistles and provoke no affection. I have this fear that my fingers no longer tap out the words so easy. It's like I can't focus like I used to, and my words now lack life. They are corpses on the steel table, under the bright light. I cut them open for the autopsy, but the cause of death eludes my analysis.