I breathed her name in an invocation of memory, a strange ritual of lust and remembrance. The broken vases of time, the scattered embers of chance encounters and goodbyes that sting forever. “I will love you for a thousand years,” I wrote it on her heart, devoured her flesh, swallowed her as we dug into a new place. But everything is fleeting, people become strange and distant. Little miracles happen in life that takes us to different worlds. I remember the fights, the ashtray she threw at my head and didn’t remember, the comfortable make-ups that would last until they didn’t. We carved each other’s names on our skin that brought up beads of blood that stung when submerged in alcohol and the year that everything turned inside-out. In my dreams we dance and kiss one last time, shedding the new skin, bathing again in the glow of our young love.
We yielded, then danced, crashing into each other. Our teeth clashed as the sadness washed the soot away. It was a moment that flashed and receded in the soft shower of time.
Shook out of another dream. “There is blood all over the patio.”
“There is always blood on the patio,” lighting cigarette butt from ashtray.
“This is different and strange.”
“Do you even remember last night?” I didn’t, and her tone reveals a lot.
“Of course I do. We had some people over, some laughs.
“Jesus fucking Christ.” She leaves an angry void in the doorway.
“I guess we didn’t have any laughs,” I mumble to myself digging in the grimy half-light for my pants.
I have a brother that I ghosted like everyone else. Too strange to call now, too many storms and a mother who is mine and not his. I screamed at her. She didn’t blink. One day she will go to ash, and I can make it right.
It is an arduous task keeping him on topic. He has a way of veering away from questions, steering back to his days selling black molly’s and eventually methamphetamines. There is also the distracting way he repeats himself. Eventually, we have worked up a signal. I will tap him on the arm when he begins to tell the same story over again. It was thought this peculiar habit was a by-product of what is referred to as the alcoholic wet brain. While thought to be irreversible in a lot of situations, Dave seems to be slowly making his way back to normalcy, whatever that is for Dave.
“Now look, you have to keep your eyes peeled, if you know what I mean.”
“Peeled on what?” We lite cigarettes and sit in chairs for most of the day, watching people come and go, patients and staff hurry back and forth while we sit and talk, smoke, and gossip about everyone.
“That fucking kid. You know the one.” He has a serious tone. He leans back in the patio chair, as it lazily rains, “you need to find a cheater.”
“A cheater?” I sit up slightly, preparing for the unexpected humor.
“Well, you saw what happened. That fucking kid charged out of the group and right at the male nurse. Mind you he is, or was, a male nurse before he got ate up with the Demerol, he don’t come across like a punk.”
“Yes, I think he pulled his punch at the last minute.”
“I spent time in a federal prison behind a raid on my junk yard in 1983. Only thing those punks could get on me was a bullet…” I tap him on the arm. He gets my signal, readjusts and smiles. “The point is I may be old, but I ain’t no fucking punk.”
I sense his general fear and decide to needle him a little bit. “That fucking kid, you don’t know what he is going to do. You can reason with a sane man,” I say stamping out another unnecessary cigarette. “You can’t reason or anticipate crazy. That kid is nuts.”
“You know his momma is a good-looking gal. She was a Cowboys cheerleader years ago. She still has a figure. Probably married well. She has dumped him here to warehouse him while she gets passed around.”
“Passed around?” He doesn’t hear me or doesn’t respond.
We watch the rain that hasn’t stopped since I arrived. It has rained every day for three weeks. My vomiting withdraws eventually gave way to routine and sitting and waiting. The absence of television has left Dave as my sole source of entertainment. We have gone through every possible story imaginable. Kevin’s unprovoked attack on the “male nurse” has provided a break from the same ole same ole, as Dave fidgets and plots his defense.
“You mentioned a cheater?” I break the silence again.
He leans in and his eyes dart back one way and the other. “I have been looking around my room for a piece of metal that I can sharpen. I am not telling you your business, but I would find something. I am no punk, but I am not going down without a fight.”
“You think I need one?”
“You can’t fight crazy, like you said. That fucking kid is not only a dandy but he is bat shit crazy. You can see it in his eyes.” I snicker to myself as we go back to watching the back and forth. Patients carrying notebooks with their 4th step work, standing at the office door waiting to ask a counselor about a weekend pass or wanting to get new toothpaste. I see Dave’s neck twist as he peeks to watch someone approaching. He gives me a kick as a signal. I turn and see Kevin, with his tall and lanky frame. He moves very quickly, wearing sunglasses, as he does at all times obscuring a clear view of his eyes. There is a surprising quickness to his gait. He is on a mission, heading directly toward Dave, who seems to pull back and grasp the chair in anticipation for anything.
“Hey Dave. Can I have a cigarette?” He stands motionless over us. I watch Dave’s expression, looking for any indication that in his defensive posture he is moving toward a hidden weapon.
“Sure buddy,” says Dave pulling out his cigarettes slowly. “Why don’t you take a few of them.” We both stare at him as he pulls four cigarettes out of Dave’s pack. I watch Dave’s eyes as he follows Kevin as he darts away disappearing between buildings and an area that is restricted.
“You need a fucking cheater.” He leans over and pulls up his pantleg displaying a piece of wood that has been broken and fashioned into a weapon. “It is just a matter of time.” I feigned a cough to hide a laugh that was trying to burst out of me. I didn’t have a clue that I would soon be wishing I had a “cheater” to protect myself against Kevin’s madness.
I spent weeks and months hiding in a little room, waiting for appropriate hours to fall back to sleep, waiting for work, working through jokes and long hours of meaningless labor. My body aches and I tire. I watch the clock and rush out the door, retiring again to hid, to bury myself, to wait for life to happen again. “You need to get your mojo back,” someone tells me. I blink and listen, realizing that I don’t know what that looks like or how I will ever get back.
Memory is fickle. I can’t remember normal, a time before. It seems like it was always about ignoring, burying myself, ghosting everything as I struggle to dig meaning out of the soil, find a magic core that will bring me salvation. I tell one of my bosses that I suffer from malaise. “Your energy is charged to loss and failure.” He stands with his arm crossed talking in a calm tone. “You have to become aware to become aware. Magic is something we can’t see until we open our eyes.” I nod and squint, wondering what he is talking about, realizing that he is either touched by the hand of God or as lost as I am.
One day I will wake up. The losses will eventually give way to small victories, a reversal of a karmic whirlwind that puts me on the downside every time. I stand at the counter of a corner store seething over the foppish lady in front of me making a singular, simplistic transaction as difficult as possible. Her stupidity and selfishness drive me to a slow burn. Immediately, my grand plans for the day are displaced. I am going to have to go back to my little room and dig some more. I am going to have to “become aware,” though I cannot in good conscience say what I am becoming “aware” of besides the fact that each day I am pushing further along the path. Eventually I will get so far along, none of it will matter anymore. I will have squandered my life pondering, hiding, gasping for pure air and a gentle breeze that makes it all worthwhile again.
[Jasper Kerkau is co-founder, writer, and editor for Sudden Denouement Literary Collective and Publishing. He speaks several dialects of gibberish and has the forth largest collection of The Love Boat memorabilia in North America.]
[photo Helena Blavatsky]
There is a god in the rumble, a shriek and laugh in the rain; the storm comes in waves. I hear it when the world sleeps, smoking cigarettes and smashing butts on cool concrete, watching dim lights upon the horizon. I need a reminder that the world is vast, a universe is just beyond my reach, piled into a box of misunderstandings, errant thoughts scribbled on computer paper and folded into airplanes that nosedive after launch. “I am doing this all wrong; everything is wrong.”
I have to learn to listen to another song, something besides the babble in my head, the lurid squeal and howl of misshapen ideas blowing through my strange sphere. “This is all really nothing,” a voice speaks to me, wakes me from a dream. “You can walk whenever you like.” I listen to the static of broken conversations; no remedies in chaos, only me, me, and more me. Baffled and ruffled. A great quest not far out of reach.
I leaned into her, placed her hand in mine. We sat silently watching the sun break the plane of dreams plunging the world into light. The past was the past was the past, but it was always too late for me. I touched my lips to hers but was already dead, a ghost of another time, the ache and fold of reality, shook out of rug, kids running through the living room chasing one another forever. It can be something. Everything can be more than what it is. I can do this if I will just learn to listen more.
[Jasper Kerkau is co-founder, writer, and editor for Sudden Denouement Literary Collective and Publishing. He like to write tortured sentences and make like of bad situations.]