Summer is a destructive force. The dank humidity leaves me brooding and exhausted; Houston is unforgiving. The cement, cars, and teaming masses, coupled with my incessant ambition, leaves a trail of sweat, puts me in dark rooms, huddled by the throbbing sound of fans, hiding from the relentless assault of the merciless sun. I dreamt last night of the snow from a failed conquest in Northern Virginia years ago; the result was the same, hiding, smothered, seeking refuge from icy February that left me longing for the comfort of home, the soft Houston late-winter. The result is the same; I spend my life hiding from the world, looking for artificially, temperature-controlled spaces. In the end, I spend all my time hiding from everything. Loud people with abrupt personalities. Shiny, bright sorts with abrasive opinions and sharp condemnation. The truth is that I am a coward. None of it is for me. I am given over to fits of intuitive paranoia, deep sympathies for the outcasts, feeling the deep burden of guilt for failures, lost in a world of vapid people with sharp agendas packed away in pockets and purses. The summer is unbearable. The disappointment is too much to bear. There is never a point which I feel at peace with the universe. It is all slipping away, as I clutch my confused life with sweaty hands, secretly afraid of skin cancer and the world getting hotter by the day. I am one of the ones who ache in rooms with small talk about politics, puffed up bravado about personal exploits. I just want to sit in silence and breathe, feel the love and positive energy at the core of it all that is often so elusive. The heat will devour me. I will lose myself in August, burn and sweat out pounds. There is no escape. The world and all the magic it possesses is fleeting. For the time being, I sit and wait for this all to pass. Eventually, this summer will end, the superficial people will go away. I will be able to soak in the beauty of the life. Find happiness not tarnished by all the disappointment in the world. Everything will be okay. I just need to get through all of this heat. The world is a beautiful place. I just need to sit and ponder the future.
Jasper Kerkau is co-creator, writer/editor for Sudden Denouement.
At some point, towards the end of the night, I get into the pool with my clothes on. Adults are on the patio talking in hushed tones about divorce and lost nights from the early-nineties. Kids laugh and squeal, chasing each other through the house and around the pool. I hold my breath and float to the bottom, thinking of the mess I have to clean up. My life is falling apart. I gave my debit card for someone to get orange juice an hour ago. I ponder this and pull myself back up and repeat the process several times meditating on the mess, the residue from ribs, beer bottles, mistakes, dead ends. Eventually I sit on the edge of the pool and try to light a cigarette. My fingers are wet. The cigarette breaks. My f’ing luck! My son waves with a big smile, he is elated. I love you daddy. I lean over and hug his small, wet frame in the pool. My mind races. I have to get up. I have to get up. Everything will be okay. Everything will be okay. Eventually the house empties. I put the kids to bed and darkness washes over me. There is no path. I have to start over tomorrow. I have to keep moving.
Jasper Kerkau (8/17/16)
My father had a heart attack on a treadmill. He retired two weeks earlier. He lived to work. I lived a life of leisure waiting tables and drinking. I pulled up to the house I shared with friends and my sister was in my front yard crying. She didn’t have to say anything. For a week we sat at the hospital, each in a different state of denial. I felt his finger move that time. I was too old to be waiting tables without a wife or a home of my own. My life was a failure. Deep shame. I would talk to his co-workers or relatives and see the look in their faces as I told them what I did—or rather, what I didn’t do. Eventually it hit me. The shame and anguish of my life burst open as I realized that my father was already dead–he was a shell being kept alive by a machine. Shortly thereafter he was pronounced dead. My mother, sister, and I ate at a cafeteria and had an upbeat conversation and laughed. It wasn’t funny but that is what people do sometimes in the face of tragedy—they laugh. Life wasn’t funny for a long time after that. But, like anything, it eventually got better. I don’t think about it now, his ashen face, his blue lips—the nothingness. Only periodically, when I work too much, does it come to my mind, I think about being sprawled out on the floor of a gym with strangers standing over me pumping my chest wildly, breathing in my mouth. Feeling the life slowly move out of my body. Sometimes the irony of life is perplexing.
Jasper Kerkau (8-19-16)
In my next life I want to write happy, funny stories of weekends that went off without a hitch, photos of back-slapping with funny hats and exotic drinks. I will have a happy, quirky blog chronicling my life of leisure and success. I can’t write those stories, it isn’t my life, and if it were, I wouldn’t be able to write about it. My writing comes from dark places of hunger and pain. I find words peaking out of restroom in the middle of the night, face pressed against the cold, glossy door. Gasping for air, fearful of shadows. There are no words to be captured in neatly set tables, left-overs and urbane exchanges dumped in the trash; my words are born of starvation. I sat in front of the computer for ten years in my martial home, patting my protruding belly, waiting for something profound to say. Nothing. Blinking cursor on blank document. It is pain that drives me, wakes me up in the middle of the night, sending me under the bed with pen and paper to scribble out secret passages detailing stinging fear and loss. I waited on inspiration for a decade in a happy house, and it always managed to sneak out the side door gracefully, leaving disappearing footprints. With each new notch I find in my belt, I find out more about myself. I discover illicit secrets and explosions of ecstatic emotion that give way to words falling out of mind, through fingers, into the world.
Jasper Kerkau (8/14/16)
There is a place I can dwell, removed from silent gore of emotional life tied to humid residue of lost summers. From failure springs the renewing waters of new worlds laid out–removed of the impurities of dysfunction, bad relationships, tarnished pasts, regressed lives spoiled under the hot sun. A celebration of life! Turning from folly, the endless cycle of death and resurrection, the desire for absolution from a human problem: Lost in people, feeling tied to desire for healthy relationships, nuclear domestic dynamics. It is all so fleeting!
There is a place I can dwell, upright, given to spontaneous laughter, at peace with the balance of universal order, finding a person in the mirror I can live with. Slowly the last forces come in from remote villages, shoulders slumped, spirits broken, bones shattered; the light from their eyes extinguished by the long battle. Longing for the peaceful, tender embrace of loved ones, starting a new life devoid of the endless war against everything, their shattered nerves begin to calm. There is solace in the sun rise, the ceasefire that brings lost souls from a life of peril–and conflict–to the hearty meals, comfort on either shoulder: Silence. Is this merely a mirage?
There is a place I can dwell, benign rumors of demise, refuted with archaic parchment written on the heart, shown to elders who rub long beards, nodding silently as bread is broken, ceremonial wine consumed out of ornate cups. A world of possibility beckons with the hustle and bustle, normal lives being led in quiet satisfaction: Ah, everything is actually going to be alright! The grass eventually pushes the dark red stains of war off its leaves. The moon hangs passively in the sky as tired souls find solace in soft bed, the smell of candles and the laughter of children. The war over, the battered souls finally at rest. I find my place there, away from the carnage, emotional wounds heal slowly; at last, the world opens again with all of its blissful majesty.
Jasper Kerkau (9/27/16)
“You are a runner with a stolen voice. And you are a runner. And I am my father’s son.” (Wolf Parade)
The weather is changing. In the morning I can feel it. It is just a matter of time. Eventually a cold wind will blow away all the dank humidity. I think about running, my lost passion. Before the bad back, before the squeeze of domestic responsibility, I would put on my running shoes on a cold Sunday morning and run until I had exhausted my legs, lost my breath. It was exhilarating. My life transformed when I was running; it was the action from which all good things sprang. I could never envision a life without it. Of course, I didn’t visualize the obstacles life would put in my path.
Years ago my mother gave me some dusty mementos of races my father ran in the early-eighties. I never thought of him as a runner. Later in life he had a big belly and was a connoisseur of indulgent, greasy meals. He labored at times going up stairs and seemed frail. I wondered why he quit. Thought that perhaps if he wouldn’t have stopped running his heart would not have exploded two weeks after retiring in his late fifties. I thought of him as I ran. I felt close to him. Understood what he went through getting up on an early Saturday morning and facing down a half marathon. Perhaps I understood him in a way that I never did. It was something that we had in common all these years after his death.
Like my father, I stopped running. Life happened. I think the end started with a back problem that eventually became an excuse. I slid into a life of leisure. The drive vanished. Again, I understood him; the distractions, the work, the family all became more important. Suddenly, it became easier to stop running. I wonder to myself if he ever felt the guilt, pined for the long runs, or the silent meditative runs when all the problems of the world seem to be held at arm’s length, at least for an hour. If he would have lived to an old age, we would have those conversations. We would realize that we have a lot in common. Maybe we would have a laugh and realize that I am my father’s son.
Today, as I eagerly anticipate the first cool air, I think about him. I also think about running. My life fell apart; unlike my father, I was not able to hold it together. Now I have half a family, smoke constantly, and find myself given over to the same indulgent meals—though I have not yet fallen prey to the protruding belly. I don’t know how to fix everything, but I am sure that the only thing I can do now is take action, put one foot in front of the other and spend hours chasing the silent meditation that led me out of the darkness years ago. It is so far away but so close. All it takes is action, putting on the shoes, grabbing a water out of the refrigerator and start running.
Jasper Kerkau (11/29/16)
Waking up before the sun peaks into same window. Earl Grey and dogs changing positions, watching the silence of early Fall, trying to remember. The end is the only thing that matters now, the evolving, the crushing weight of change, being contorted and twisted like the vintage trees, ring of lives past. Nothing up to this point really matters. The burden made proof of worth; the end result greater than the tragedy—a strange world.
A life tattered and transformed by destiny—or a seemingly random sample of events that left me buried in bathtub, risen with shield of words, powerful symbols of magic and life. I will not be vanquished; there are cherubs playing my melody, singing a beautiful song, baffling gods and dark nymphs. I find my new place disconnected from the hive, separated from form, existing in truth etched in marble stele, consisting of heart and blood. I dine on truth. Existing. Baptized by the whimsy of dreamers. Emancipated!
I stroll through days, decoding smiles, passive-aggressive shrugs and look for the miracles in everything, meaning pulled out of nothingness. It makes sense now, it really does! No one is going to save me, no salvation in feminine wiles; salvation is beaten out of earth, shaken out of the sky, found in the ephemeral beautify of perseverance and experience. I woke up in a strange life. I make it my home, hang pictures in awkward corners. I own this place. This is my world.
Jasper Kerkau (10/8/16)