Monday Night Nonfiction: The First Chill of the Year

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The first cool weather of the year. Every time.

A normal person’s mind glides through life unphased by little accidents of nature. The first unseasonably cool day in August or a week of fog in April doesn’t set them spinning. In early August, I notice the noon shadows being just the slightest bit off center and know that summer has begun to end. It’s the littlest panic before the panic. It’s knowing that the days will get shorter, that cold will come, that nights will grow longer, that I will not want to go outside, and everything will feel dark.

Last winter was better than the one before it. Maybe this one will be better as well. Maybe I will find some sunny place for a weekend in November. Maybe I will work in the warm light of my livingroom, contented with coffee or booze. Maybe something unexpected will change, and I’ll be wrapped up in the excitement of some new adventure. But maybe not. And because there is room for doubt, doubt takes root cancerously quick and becomes fear, then panic. Before you know it, you’re taking a walk on a buttery bright autumn morning and crying because you’re pretty sure you’ve done everything in your life wrong. Everything ever. And even as you’re having this thought, you can see the full scale ridiculosity of it.

I know my life is pretty good, but sometimes I seem to only be able to see the worst in things. Once I get into that way of thinking, it’s hard to switch it off. That’s why I meditate, of course, and do yoga and write. But sometimes using those things as relaxation is hard to do when I’ve also made them my job.

I’ve been in a funk lately, but it’s lifting. I’m always tempted to run around doing things to fix whatever is wrong with me, which only ever adds to the frustration. Learning how to see it coming is much more helpful. I see the depression coming and say, “Oh, hey, I remember you.” I think about writing poems about it, but depression is not very pretty, so I can never come up with anything worth saying about it. So I just give myself time, try to be kind, take my vitamins, drink my coffee, sleep regularly, etc. It passes.

 

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Monday Night Nonfiction: Arson

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He said, Go write. Write what? Write something just for you.

Everything I write is for me. Get in the moment of ink in pen on page stop thinking thinning out like hair growing up going up to some height unseen uncomposed undreamed. Forget to plan the right word foot in mouth disease like the dis-ease of life watch my glass ice melting smoke fills this room in me. I am a house on fire, and inside me, someone’s choking on smoke. Those poems I used to write. I was a natural. I was brilliant beautiful unedited, uncensored, unplanned. I was surprise. On the page making myself, many versions of myself, cry. Laughing so hard at how ridiculous life is all the times you’re so desperate to feel something you’ll pretend to be in love. Then real love throws you for a loop, and you have to admit to all those years of lying. But you weren’t lying. You were just pretending. It was a game. I don’t care if she doesn’t get it. I don’t get a lot of writers and I don’t expect them to write me a preface.

There is no preface to me. This is, I am, writing is experience. I am asking you to submit yourself to this experiential learning. Conceptual ideas abstractions don’t work here. We’re talking about abstractions already. You can’t make abstractions about abstractions. That’s just stupid. That’s why we never get anywhere. So that’s it.

Stop and take a sip. Get your head together again. Relight the incense. Be glad you can’t erase this. If only all life really were recorded in some great book. Memoir is how we make up for all our lost belief. There is no god to tell me I’ve been good and treasure all my deeds, so I commit them to pages and leave them to you, world.

Stop stopping to think goddamnit. He said write something for you. Do it. I don’t know how. How how how to be mine and that’s what’s scary. Yes to the night. Yes to time. Yes to smoke filling that room inside me.

Get out goddamnit get out. Climb the ladder of my lungs and slide down my tongue to freedom. Open the shades of my eyes and jump for crying out loud. Get free. Get out. Smoke is filling that room, smoke from an infinite fire, and you’ve got to open up some doors or die.

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My One Rule

I live by one rule and one rule only: Sincerity.

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Be sincere. Be real. Be true. Be honest. Don’t fucking fake it.

I used to spend a lot of energy trying to fit in, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t fit in. I couldn’t be like everyone else. And the harder I tried, the worse it was. I remember a moment in junior high when I realized fitting in was never gonna fly for me. I was changing in the school bathroom with the other girls in my class, getting ready for something … a basketball game, maybe? Or a school dance? We weren’t allowed to wear makeup to school, so we were all putting on our mascara and junk in the big plate glass mirror. I was putting on eyeliner, and this girl everyone liked who I always thought was kindof a jerk said, “Don’t do it like that, Mary! You wonder why why the guys call you a weirdo … if you do it like that you’ll really look like a freak.” How was I supposed to do it? I had no idea. I tried to mimic what she did, but it didn’t work.

It was such a quick moment, and I’m probably the only one who remembers it, but that was when I decided I was fed up with fitting in. I was tired of being harassed by people who were frankly not that smart or that interesting. That girl’s greatest skill was being able to impress seventh grade boys, and I finally realized that I really didn’t need her approval.

For a while, I went off the deep end in the other direction. All the clothing, music, friends and pastimes I chose were specifically selected to piss off the status quo. But after a while, that got tiring, and I realized trying not to fit in was just as fake as trying to be like everyone else, so I made my one rule: Be sincere.

Don’t lie. Don’t pretend. Do what feels true. Speak only what resonates with your inner reality.

Sat nam!

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the family smirk

It’s not the cost of the ticket that makes it so hard to see you. The things that come between us make a long list.

Oceans of land between us. Oceans of minutes. Oceans of blinks. Oceans of dreams. Oceans of life.

We sit around the fire a while, conjuring new ghosts.

Buddha sits blindly on the bookshelf. I am stretched out on your rug, making myself at home. You are smoking and smouldering. You are apologizing insincerely. This is your home. I shrug. Take adavantage. Pour a glass of absinthe.

The livingroom is bathed in syrup light. The house smells sweet and dirty and coffee.

“This is nice.”
“What?”
“Just sitting here. Being quiet.”

Outside, oak trees are uprooting the sidewalks humorlessly, methodically. It has taken them centuries, and they will never stop. No one dares to stop them. You and I, we know the inevitable decay. It embraces us. We are part of it.

The karaoke bar smells like a plumbing problem and sounds like an education problem. I am the education problem. You are working out the chords. Note the crazy horn player who doesn’t make any music, just bleeps and bloops wildly, the highest level jazz you ever heard. Songs like a drunk animal on the sidewalk.

In a bar red and empty as a heart, we watch biker films and speculate, I speculate, on what it would be like if this bartender were my sister. Her name is Jenny, and you have to ask her out on a date. The parents would hate her, but it could be so much fun. I explain to your friend how we are a cult. He says he knows, and I’m a little insulted.

The things that come between us sometimes dissipate. A bunch of feral cats moved in on your back patio, and you play guitar for them. The sun sets over an endless lake. We are twins separated by this lake of years and space.

The way we recoil like misfired guns. The way we mirror the family smirk.

Abandon all metaphors of windows. Your windows are floor-to-ceiling. Might as well be doors. I am staring at the ceiling and clucking like a dumb old hen.

Forgetfulness rolls in. The bedroom air is cold and dry, but by morning, I’m sweating and parched. I wake to the sweet smell of rain in New Orleans. A crack of light slides in between the floor boards. The cats are calling. You are cursing, lying in bed, one thin wall away, stretching and grunting alone in the nearness.

A siren whistles over the city. It never gets closer or further away, just echos off everything between here and there.

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on the ramp

This is a guest post by my friend Joe Spiggle, who is currently deployed overseas with the U.S. Army. 

I’m riding on the ramp. It’s my turn because my crew chief and I decided that switching from the right gun to the ramp every other flight would keep us sharp and less complacent since we wouldn’t get comfortable in one position.

We’re flying out of the base right now, around 500 feet and it’s pitch black outside. At this altitude, all the warm air from the hot day has risen to meet the cold air from the higher altitudes that falls slowly to earth every night. It’s around 3 in the morning, and the moon has yet to rise. In fact, the moon will rise with the sun tonight; it’s going to be dark while we’re out doing business. The air is hot and stuffy where the warm air meets the cold in an impasse. I stare outside the ramp and look at our sister ship trailing behind us. She can’t be more than 50 feet away. It’s a tight formation on nights like this in case we lose each other in the dark. We always need to see the other aircraft. We navigate far from the base to a mountain range just outside the desert. It’s always eerily quiet like this. All the talk on the radios is just white noise in my ears. I comprehend all the military jargon that is being spit out, but I subconsciously store it for later use. The noise of the helicopter beating the air along with the constant whine of the engines creates this loud sound bubble. It feels like you’re stuck in this jello blob riding along on a plane of air. The entire world is green under the goggles strapped to my helmet. Seeing things outside the helicopter is easy, however anything within 15 feet is a blur. Over the years, I guess you get used to doing things half blind when you can’t see what you’re touching half the time.

Minutes pass while we are in route to the objective. It feels like years. I dangle my feet off the edge of the ramp, the only thing that holds me in the helicopter is a strap attached to my armor that runs the length of the ramp and bolts to the floor in the cabin. I’m literally being held in by a piece of fabric as I lean out to peer below me, always searching for something in the night.

Is it bad guys I’m searching for? I don’t know anymore. I just look out for anything. Maybe I should be searching for something more important. Little tents pass below us where the migratory natives have set up for the night. I like the idea of that. It’s simple. They just drive their herd of cattle around the desolate wasteland selling junk and animals to passersby. There’s no electricity, no iPads, nothing. Is that what being free is? Who knows. I have been told all my life to find something I love in life and try to get paid for it. I don’t know what that means anymore. Staring down at the people sleeping in their tents makes me wonder when I lost passion for things in life. Sure, I enjoy what I’m doing … but is it a lie I tell myself so I can wake up every morning and put my uniform on and go work like a good little brainwashed soldier?

I’m not in the mood for this sort of thinking right now. I have to be focused on getting the ground guys out of the area and bringing them back to the base. The campfire from the tents is hard to see now in the distance. “Bye, little simple people. Good luck, I guess.”

We are inbound to the landing area now. An aircraft miles above us lights up the landing zone with an infrared light. You can only see it under the night vision goggles. Do the men and women we are coming to pickup wonder if it’s a light from God sometimes? It sure as hell looks like it. Their salvation from the harsh climate of the desert. Just another day in the office for us in the helicopter. Under the green night vision the light looks just a bit brighter than everything else. That’s how it is at night. Everything is different shades of green. I’m starting to hate green a little more everyday. That’ll pass when I’m home. It’s dusty out, so I can trace the beam from the ground all the way up into the sky. I can see the aircraft shooting the beam from the window I’m staring out of. Nope. It’s not a higher being. Just some guy putting on a light show and doing his job. Maybe he likes it. I don’t care either way.

The ground comes up fast. It always does.

At this point I turn off all the sane parts of the my head like we’re all trained to do. It makes landing a 150 foot long helicopter in the dust much easier when you don’t think of how stupid it is. When we are just about to land, the dust sweeps up past the cabin and completely engulfs us. We are blind now for all intents and purposes. Welcome to what should be a nightmare. Landing a giant tin can blindly in the night covered in a dust storm you just created is as bad as it sounds. The troops pass below us and we pass them right as the aft landing gear touches the ground. Speaking of the ground. I always have it in sight. The visual reference to the earth is what keeps me from losing it every time we do this. You lose sight of good ole ground, you also lose your shit. Sure the pilots know what they’re doing, but they’re just as blind as me and everyone else in this pickup truck. The forward gear touches. Ladies and gentlemen climb on board and make it fast. Sure there isn’t any living creature around for miles, but I still hate sitting still in the flying box.

The team runs inside the pitch black cabin. It’s always a mess when they get in. They can’t see anything and just shoot for the front and find a seat to plant their butts in. Our trail aircraft is nearby. The rotor blades strike the air with such speed and force it creates massive amounts of static electricity. It looks like a halo spinning around the top of the aircraft. Maybe we are angels and that magic beam of light that tells us where to land is divine.

They’re all on board and seated safely. The ramp comes up and we take off into the night. I return to my spot on the edge of the ramp and stare out again at all the things we pass.

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