Rehab pt 2: Cheater – Jasper Kerkau

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      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.

Malaise – Jasper Kerkau

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Depression

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.]

Dream Jasper Kerkau

There is a story there waiting to be picked out, among cigarette butts and gravel, underfoot, after the rain. The moon bodes well to such feelings, spread out and pieced together after the fact. “I don’t remember things that way.” The hush and hurry of things, the relentless wars we wage, the conversation that we never had; it was like I was never here.

Tomorrow the hours will align, the glass will shatter and be swept up again. “If I can only hold my tongue.” There is nothing but relentless now, oft forgotten days that are never as good as they are bad. Perhaps tomorrow I will dream. Perhaps the water will run clear, and I will find it all over again. I smell the fragrance of her, the scent of inevitability. There is a story here somewhere.

Jasper Kerkau is co-founder of Sudden Denouement Literary Collective and Publishing. He likes to write about dumb luck and the hours between hours.

Suddendenouement.com

Coffee Time: Conversations part 2 Jasper Kerkau

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“By the time we got there it was over—everything was ruined, do you remember that?” I do and I don’t. It is kind of a blur. I shuffle a bit, adjust my shoelace under the table, readjust and look at the menu.

“Yes, of course. We got there and it was ruined,” staring down at my phone.

“Oh my God, you don’t remember.” I sense the growing aggravation. I am straining to piece it together. What was it, and why was it ruined by the time we got there? Perhaps I should have paid closer attention.

The idea of sitting and drinking coffee doesn’t appeal to me, seems like a waste of money. It is one of obligatory things normal people do. This feels like an interrogation. I watch clean faced couples shake off the cold and laugh as they make their way to the counter to make their orders. I wonder if their lives are as simple and happy as they seem. They seem untouched by the darkness that hovers over me.

“Did I tell you about what happened to me yesterday? The story about the dog?”

“Please don’t patronize me,” grabbing my phone and putting it on the table. “You haven’t paid attention to a word that I said.” Her light frustration is turning into something more. I can feel the throbbing anger from across the table.

“You have my undivided attention. It was a bad night. I forgot the tickets. We had to go back, and, of course, by the time…” She stops me mid-sentence.

“For the record, you are insufferable. You are making shit up as you go along.”

“I am joking.”

“You passed out in the bathroom getting ready for my fucking birthday party.” She reaches over and grabs my hand and looks in my eyes. “I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“I made mistakes,” nursing my coffee, staring at people filter in and out.
“You ruined everything. You destroyed me—us. Does anything really matter to you?” I feign a bite of a pastry she insists we get. I do it because it seems like the kind of thing I am supposed to do. I am going through the motions.

“I just don’t remember any of it. I don’t remember funny and happy either. It was so long ago.” My eyes move downward, away from her watchful gaze. A sick feeling swirls in my stomach. “Hey, let’s forget all of that tonight. We are together, and the world is wonderful.”

She turns away and dabs the corner of her eye. I can see the toll all of this is having on her. “It is late, and I am tired.”

“I can be better. I really can.”

Jasper Kerkau is co-founder, managing editor, and writer for Sudden Denouement Literary Collective and Publishing.

Tell My Son I Love Him.

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Tell my Son I love him.

The end is so grim; a late summer, afternoon rain invokes sadness and revelation; it is time to quit fighting. My words are yoked to the hollowed-out promises, the dismal experiments that left me bereaved, stretched out in the wee hours, smoking forgotten cigarette butts, wandering the rooms of a previous life. It is over. Nothing will be the same again. The summer of happiness never came, three years on; I am resigned to this tragic fate, a foul Cressida, a broken home, laughter scattered and an insecure expression on the innocent face of my son. He knows the clouds, the hard rains; he worries after me, hand on my shoulder. My pain is on his face. My fear and failure is rooted inside him. I hug him tightly, whisper in his ear, “everything will be alright.” He clutches me. I have to go, but I will shine like the sun. All the good in my world is hung on his smile. I leave wearily. One day everything will make sense, maybe one day we will both understand.

[Jasper Kerkau is writer/editor/co-founder of Sudden Denouement Literary Collective and Sudden Denouement Publishing.]

Writing Anonymously

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I write anonymously so I can breathe, so the peering eyes of non-believers does not drive away the purity in my words, cast out the flow of magic that travels from my psyche to my fingers, creating gold out of the black soot that tarnishes the little pieces of furniture in my life. The only salvation for the non-profane is words, words, and more words, little miracles woven into life that leaves some flummoxed, unable to decipher the tea leaves—codes of misery and happiness right around the corner. My words are my children, my lovers, and the passive-aggressive enemies with smiles hanging around waiting for me to make a mistake. There are those who would steal my words with prying eyes, leave them orphaned with curiosity, bringing their light to my darkness. All I want to do is write, to be left to alone to try and type my way out of the noise, the broken televisions, the meandering conversations, the phones and nightmares that leave me gasping after a long day which brings me one day closer to death. I write because I have to, because everything is nothing, and I don’t have anything except tortured sentence structure to bring any semblance of order to my universe. I will create a thousand names and pour my hope, and horror on the world in the most intimate and public way possible. Bowling would be easier, but we do what we are called to do.

Summer – Jasper Kerkau

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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.

Suddendenouement.com