11

11 years ago today, I became a writer.

This was my first piece:

The Exquisite Slips And Slides Of Life

a19ebf48b38e48c02b82cec82240e588--sons-daughtersYou take his hand as he toddles across the living room. You take his hand as he walks across the street. And then one day his backpack is strapped over his shoulders and he slips his hand from your grasp and he walks through the playground toward the door. Your heart shatters. You remind yourself you’re on view and you gather your tears as you inhale and you slide into your car and you leave the lot.

And then one day you’re walking and he silently slides his fingers into your hand and your knees buckle with the gratitude that he hasn’t forgotten who you are and he remembers what he means to you. And your heart breaks. You remind yourself you’re on view and you gather your tears as you gently grasp his hand. And you exhale in the moment of the exquisite peace.

You take his duffel from his hand as you wait for the announcement of the flight. He’s not holding his favorite stick. He’s not holding a fistful of his brother’s hair. He’s not holding a baseball bat. He’s not holding a fishing rod. And you reel with the knowledge that soon he’ll be holding a gun. And you hold him tight without a care of the view or the cost of the tears. A shake of his hand and a kiss on his cheek is all you’ll have to hold.

He tells you of his duty and you remind yourself of your duty. You dutifully wish him farewell. You watch him slip out of your sight as he slides out of your life. You silently scream as you walk out the terminal door. You tremble as you fumble for your keys. You slide into the seat. The sadness crushes your lungs and you experience a grief that no man should have to endure. But you endure. You haven’t other options. You promised him you would the first time she slipped him into your arms.

On The Surface

“Jesus Christ! We’re painting this room grey!”

“Swirling Smoke.” Jack dipped the roller into the pan and traveled the incline until the roller was damp. He lined from baseboard to molding and rapidly smoothed the trek with hurried whisks. He bent to the pan and rewet the roller.

man-with-paint-tray-looking-up-at-white-wall-184314540-57c868465f9b5829f4ca3ea3

“Swirling Smoke. That’s ass. It’s grey.” Tim lifted his sweatshirt from the waistband and mopped the sweat from his face. He dipped the brush into the can, soaked it with paint, and edged the window. “And I’m stuck doing the goddamned trim!”

Jack methodically moved along the wall: roll, sop, whisk.

Tim set the brush on the drop cloth, grabbed the sweatshirt from the waist, and pulled it over his head. “What the fuck is this heat on?”

Jack turned and saw Tim pinching paint drops from the hairs that descended from his navel. “Quit bitching. We’ve got to get this room finished by the weekend. You bitching is just going to make it worse.”

“I don’t want anyone in here. I use this room. This room is mine. I don’t want anyone in here.”

Jack set the roller on the lip of the pan, pulled the plastic paint gloves off his hands, and walked over to the pack of Camels that balanced on an ashtray that sat on the floor in the corner. He lit a cigarette and took a deep drag. “Listen to me. This is our room. Ours. Just because I don’t use it doesn’t mean it’s not ours.”

“Fine.” Tim snapped. He grabbed the sweatshirt off the floor and used it to wipe the sweat from under his arms. “How long are they staying?” He picked up the brush and returned to the window.

“Just the weekend. Annie and Dave are coming Friday night and Joe is coming Saturday morning.” Jack exhaled and tamped the cigarette in the ashtray.

Tim pitched the brush at the drop cloth. “No fuckin’ way! Joe isn’t staying here! I can’t stand that sonofabitch!”

Jack silently walked out the room; Tim’s volume followed him into the kitchen. He withdrew two beers from the refrigerator and returned to the room. He handed one to Tim. “Yeah, he is.”

“No! He’s not!” Tim twisted the top and took a pull.

“Yeah, he is.” Jack took a long drink. “Now let’s get back to work. I don’t want to spend all day on this.”

“You fucking know I don’t like him. Why the hell did you invite him? You know I can’t stand him! Our house – our invitations. You should have asked me!”

“You want to know who I can’t stand right now? You. And you’re staying here.” Jack slid a smile on the left side of his mouth and then drew his mouth into a line. “Now are you listening Tim? Are you really listening? We’ve been on the brink of a major fight. For about a month. We can have it, or not. It’s up to you. But right now we’re going to paint this room. We can do it and be in love or we can be quiet when we do it or we can fight. You decide. But, we’re painting this room.”

“It’s kinda hard to fight in a grey room.”

“It’s Swirling Smoke.”

“You should have asked me.”

“I should’ve.”

Tim crossed his arms over his chest and leaned into his words, “There’s another option here.”

“Which is …?”

“We could fuck in the room and then paint it.”

Jack laughed. “As tempting as this is, we’ve got to get this room finished!”

Tim walked over to him. “On my side? It’s not a big fight. It’s a lot of little fights. And I don’t think we need to have it.  I think there’s stuff we’ve got to get over.”

“I don’t need to have it. But we’ve got to do a talk.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

Tim kissed him. “Paint then fuck?”

Jack laughed.

Tim bent down and picked up the brush. “Then let’s paint this fucking room!”

Jack laughed as he saturated the roller, drained the excess paint, and turned the corner and resumed his rolls.

 

(Photo courtesy of fthmb.tqn.com)

Clique The Likes

hard_wired_to_hate_networkingI should be working but feel free to surf.

Okay a couple of weeks ago I had a conversation and for the love of God, I can’t remember who had it with me. I do remember the conversation: “how many people have you met who are honestly marriage material?” That’s how it began. I think. It’s the gist. I broadened the conversation over the next couple of weeks until it was, “how many people have actually met in your life you honestly like?”

Now anyone who knows me, knows my rote, “I fall in love every day.” And I do. I meet someone and I’m touched by his/her humanity and at that moment, I love them more than I’ve ever loved anyone. Truly. It’s not sexual; it’s spiritual; it’s communal.

But how many people do you actually like as human beings? How many people do you encounter a day who make you feel peaceful? Joyful? Happy? Content? Communion? Among? How many people enrich your life?  How many people offer additions?

Too damn few.

And how many people do you love? How many people make you feel happy that you simultaneously exist with them? And I have those people. I do. I could list at least 10 right now.

How many people do you actually hate as human beings? I’m saying how many people have you met in this world who lower the bar of humanity? You know, you dislike them with a passion that clouds your vision. And don’t give me bullshit. Unless you’ve got low expectations and/or pliable principles – you know people who are disappointing as human beings. I have no problem admitting this. I’m not a hog that eats anything thrown in the trough. I don’t like everyone.  Well, because we’re not usually that alike. And honestly, some people suck.

I’m 55. I’ve reached that age. I’ve reached the age that I no longer tolerate people who are scum. And there are people who are scum. Please know that or at least know not to offer yourself for the panel of a selection committee. In the past I’ve tolerated people because a GF liked/associated with someone cringe worthy and so I tolerated the putrid with a hope for sex or to avoid the argument. All men have.

But I’m too old for that now.

And I’ve learned how to avoid the sickening spouse. You aren’t allowed to voice it – but it’s truly not that difficult to avoid the rancid. You’re just busy. And it never needs to be voiced because everyone in the situation knows how insufferable the spouse is.

And I’m not a dolt. I know there are many many people who do not like me. I am very polarizing. I’m okay with that.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to socialize with someone who is so sickeningly vile I can’t tolerate his essence. Seriously. I find myself balling my fists in his presence and silently praying to control myself. And I don’t like living that way. And you know me. I have to make lists and comparisons. It’s who I am as a man. The other day I thought, “I’d rather spend time in an ER waiting room than be around him.” Truly. The fortunate aspect: he’s my buddy’s friend so I don’t encounter him often.

If there is one benefit to this political climate – I call it the cockroach syndrome. We live in an era of enlightenment. There’s this gigantic light that instantly illuminates the vermin as it scurries. You know where to step when you’re walking through their filth to get outside of it.

Here’s the aspect of all this that upsets me: I keep narrowing my social circle. I have to guard myself I don’t create a noose for those who are merely nuisances.

(Photo courtesy of knowledge.insead.edu)

Hardened Feelings

FistEveryone holds a grudge. Everyone.

Some hold it in their hearts. Some hold it in their minds. Some hold it in their fists. Some hold it in their glasses. Some hold it in their packs. Some hold it in their words. Some hold it in their choices. Some hold it in their convictions. Some hold it in their amendments. Everyone holds a grudge. Everyone.

(Photo courtesy of neurosciencenews.com)

Going Through It Together

20171019_061617The best aspect (okay only) of being sick? Examinations of Conscience. Inactivity makes one introspective and fear makes one reflective. I haven’t been as good of a man as I should have been. I should have been a better friend. Now I sit in waiting rooms alone and I know:

I’ve known people who were sick and I didn’t help them.

I’ve known people who were confined and I didn’t visit them.

I’ve known people who were alone and I didn’t sit beside them.

I’ve known people who were afraid and I didn’t soothe them.

I’ve known people who were troubled and I didn’t even ask them how they were.

I’m glad I’ve felt it.

Now I’ll amend my life.

Colors My World

I don’t think of my past anymore. I’m too pressed by my present to contemplate where I’ve been. The play and rehearsals take my allotment of my creative time.

Yesterday I scheduled a rare daytime rehearsal. And I like to bring bottled water to my cast. I use my mouth so much I just assume they grow as dry throated as I do. Yesterday I ran late so I dashed into the local grocery store and I grabbed 4 chilled bottles from the cooler near the cashier. I swiped my debt card and waited for the bagger to place the bottles into a plastic sack. The grocery store hires baggers with special needs. I think it’s admirable and laudable. Yesterday I felt irritated. The young man struggled with his task and my temper ticked away the time. I grabbed the sack and raced out the door.

8577686249_ee25c50e85_bAnd I remembered my Aunt Margaret.

Aunt Margaret was my favorite aunt. My Father has two sisters. My Mother has a sister. Yet when I think of aunts my maternal grandmother’s sisters are at the forefront. My Grandmother – Mary Maxine (Fitzpatrick) George was the eldest of the clan and she had six sisters. And Aunt Margaret was next in line yet foremost in my heart. I loved my Aunt Margaret.

Aunt Margaret had a withered leg and a left arm that pulled up to her chest. She toddled in orthopedic shoes and secured her “pocketbook” with her stiffened elbow pit. She was strong of spirit and had a staunchly Catholic stance. Her limbs had withdrawn – her tenacity had not. She took me everywhere she went. She hadn’t replaced my Mother in my heart – but she had a prominent place alongside her.

Aunt Margaret would grab her pocketbook – and her keys – and me – and I’d ride alongside her as she ran her errands.

We lived in Junction City Kansas – not quite the south yet life was accented by more than southern colloquialisms. Junction City is the home of Fort Riley and I remember seeing soldiers on the downtown streets and servicemen’s wives in the downtown stores.

Yesterday I remembered 1969.

The Vietnam War. I was 7 years old.

My memories are impressionistic. Less Seurat and more Manet. Memories that are clearly defined but still clouded by colors. Yesterday I remembered my introduction to colors.

Kansas has oppressive heat in the summer. Short legged pants deny young skin respite from a sunbaked car seat. My Aunt Margaret drove her decade old Chevy. I sat at her side. She drove to the “Colored” section of town. I didn’t know what that meant. Aunt Margaret had a friend who ironed Aunt Margaret’s clothes and washed her laundry. On this day she was giving her friend a ride home. I don’t recall her friend’s name. I remember the color of her skin – I remembered they called each other Mrs. I remember she called me “Sugar.” And I remember she sat in the backseat. It was a pleasant ride. One filled with laughter and ease. It’s a memorable memory because I remembered going into a section of town – and Junction City was a small town – that I had never heard of and never visited.

I knew Aunt Margaret’s friend. I had seen her sit alongside Aunt Margaret at Mass each Sunday. Aunt Margaret would pick her up – accompany her to Mass – and take her home. We lived blocks from the church – Saint Xavier’s Catholic Church and my parents walked our family to Mass each Sunday.

I don’t know why I was in that car that day. But I remember it. I remember that I sat on the front seat and Aunt Margaret’s friend sat in the back. I remember the joy of their conversation and the awe I felt to hear adult conversations about subjects I didn’t understand. Words like hysterectomy and “female troubles.” I knew they were friends. But I didn’t feel like an interloper. It was as familiar as family.

I remembered Aunt Margaret yesterday. Yesterday I was irritated by a man with a withered mind as he struggled to complete a meaningless task. And as I rushed out the door I passed a bench. Two elderly women sat and waited for their ride.

I live in an affluent neighborhood. The neighborhood is in revolution. The young replace the old. Newly built assisted living facilities are being built with a rapidity that echoes schools and playgrounds during the baby boomers births. Vans travel from facility to facility and transport the elderly from need to need. Yesterday two elderly women waited to go back. I started to type home but I backspaced. They don’t have a home anymore. They have a place.

A day comes when active men and women no longer have activities and so the mundane task becomes an extraordinary achievement. And so the lonely dress for the event. Yesterday the elderly women sat side at side adorned with their Sunday clothes. One woman was black and one woman was white. Their conversation was animated and affectionate. I saw the similarities and I saw the distinction.

I wish I would have known to scoot my seat into the back. I could have watched both women as they bobbed their heads with laughter. I could have giggled as their shoulders shook with joy.

But I didn’t know. I was 7 years old.