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)

She Was Too Much

She fleshed gluttony: too talkative, too loud, too desperate. Although she feigned conversation with her companion, she delivered her monologue to her captive audience. We weren’t captivated with interest; it was need. We needed procedures. We waited in the waiting room; we were bound to listen. I looked over my iPad to see the source of her disturbance. She sprawled across her seat and rested from shin to shoe on the tiny table provided for toddlers. The table toddlers touch. Her shoes soiled their play surface. I was too sick to take a stand.

Amid

middle-manMidlife: the captive of couldn’t. Boundaries: physical boundaries. Cautionary lines drawn by consequence. Medical care: continuation and not cure.

Midlife: the midst of people – surrounded by the people who’ve been chosen to matter.

Midlife: centered. The centerpiece. Emotionally, familially, and responsibly the center of care. Careful. Caretakers. Caregivers.

Remains of Ours Days

20170722_170845I’m in the mood to write but I’m not in the mood to edit. So read or not. It’s all good. I feel like a celibate man who just discovered porn. I’m full and it’s time for the release. So. Blurt.

I had a wonderful weekend. I love a road trip. I haven’t done a let’s-get-in-the-car trip since, well since my brother and I took a week and traveled middle America in 1992. As I straddled the suspicious spill/leak in a men’s room at a truck stop in Stuart Iowa, I realized I’d forgotten rural America. I’d forgotten the cds of Merle Haggard on the gas station counters. I’d forgotten the abandoned farms. I’d forgotten the carcasses of cars left on the weed-filled yards.

He walked into the bar at the Magnolia Hotel in Omaha Nebraska and I hadn’t seen him since 1992. He was my best friend for a year. And then I was the first to quit our pursuit. I left the seminary in December and he left at the end of the year and like combat casualties, we avoided the battlefields: we left the friendship and we left The Church.

One awkward reunion in 1992. A supper shared of trivial conversations and avoided topics and all buffered by our dinner companion: my brother. And then silence.

But I missed him and finding out my heart was broken made it necessary to see him and say a hello and a goodbye. And so he walked into the bar at the Magnolia Hotel and I stopped the tears from skiing down my cheeks and I stood and met him. I smelled the cigarette as soon as my arms reached around him for a hug. I pulled back and said, “You sonofabitch! You started me on Camels!” I remembered. We laughed. And then I said, “I’m tempted to lick your face. I so miss nicotine!” He laughed as we walked to the stools. “Jesus Christ Trost, you haven’t changed a bit!” The ice was broken; we could be our us.

Drinks. Foods. Banter. Caught up with catching up. And then substance. “So are you still Catholic?” Real. Raw. “With a capital R,” I said. “Are you?” “A small c,” he replied. And then the kind of conversation I crave. All about honor and manhood and goodness and careless and sins and souls and God and failures. And I sat back in the chair and I started to cry. No one but God knew I cried. But, I cried.

I’ve wasted so many of my last moments having conversations about nothings and lesses and commons and chatter. Why have I become so content living without content? Why have I allowed myself to skim?

And I’m not talking about “fellowship.” I hate shit like that. People sitting around congratulating themselves on accepting their failures. “I’ve realized I’m flawed but I’ve offered it up to Jesus!” Oh Christ. Bullshit. Challenge to change & amend or shut up. Theology is not about acceptance; it’s about ascension. Baptismal water is for cleansing not floating.

I loved seeing him. He didn’t disappoint me. He reminded me. He reminded me of my theological passion. He reminded me of my uncompromising values. He reminded me that the man I was remains and the memory of who I became will be my legacy. A good weekend.

I have no ending here. Maybe there isn’t an ending. I’m seeing everything so finite now. Maybe life isn’t a noun. Maybe death is a verb. I’ll think about it and ask my friend for his opinion.

A Matter of Trust

crossed-fingers-behind-backOkay look. If you lie to someone – you exploit their vulnerability. The aspect our bullying society forgets: we’re all vulnerable adults. Vulnerability is all about degrees. Some people have a higher tolerance for your pain.

So listen up: you don’t get to decide which commandments are your easiest. Probity has no degrees. You’re either honest & decent or you’re not.

Liars exploit others dignity, vulnerability, and generosity.

Predators exploit emotionally, sexually, or financially.

Predators exploit; liars exploit.  Pure & simple. 

Fucking someone’s sense of trust for your own gain is prostitution. 

(Photo courtesy of fukuleaks.org)

Licking The Wounds

bicycle-1869176_640I write my wounds. Every day.

And people ask me why I do. I don’t know. I just do. And often my words come back to bite my ass. Often I’m still the punchline. And even at this age, it hurts to get punched.

Last week I stood in my kitchen and made a grilled cheese (lent) sandwich with provolone cheese. And I thought, I used to work in a deli. All at once I wanted someone (anyone) to know I had worked in a deli. I wanted someone to be aware of that fact. I didn’t want it to be forgotten. And I know how foolish that is. Who gives a shit? But I fear I’ll be forgotten.  And I know it doesn’t matter that I worked in a deli. I knew my lack of proportion. But it’s the fact that’s disproportional; it’s not the fear. And I know that.

And I know I’m not read anymore. But sometimes it matters more it’s in words than whether or not it’s read. So. I’ll blurt without edit.

I had such a lovely weekend. I’ve had a lovely week. I thought today about 55. I’m almost 55 years old. You know what’s great about 55? I’ve learned balance. I can do balance.

Physically the weekend has sucked. The medicine doesn’t seem to be working anymore. I’m weak and I’m having trouble breathing. I’m so nauseous and I’m so lightheaded that I’m having difficulty trusting my actions. But it’s okay. I’m not afraid anymore. My foot is now bleeding from three separate ulcers. I’m using 4×4 gauze pads, gauze, & surgical tape to wrap my foot. It’s okay. I’m not afraid anymore.

I took my parents on a car ride today. I wanted to show them the potential theaters for my play. The theater I had chosen is closing May 17, so I’m searching for a space again. While driving around MPLS I saw so many bicyclists and I started to cry. I’ll never bike again. Biking was huge to me. And I’ll tell you why.

When I was a boy I rejected sports. I saw the cruelty of competition so I stopped competing. It was a very difficult moral decision. It meant I excluded myself from most male activities and consequently I wasn’t included in male friendships. I had a lonely childhood. It was easy to label me gay since I wasn’t like most boys. And homophobia was as prevalent in the 70s as pot. I began to question my masculinity. But not my sexuality. I knew I was straight; I worried I was less a man. Eventually I discovered the joy of companionship with the opposite sex and I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life enjoying the company of women. But I did miss male companionship. As I aged, I developed fruitful male friendships. But there remains a gap in every group. I have very limited knowledge and no talent of sports. So in many ways I can’t participate in the sport of masculine conversation.

Until I bicycled.

I love bicycles. I love the physical challenge and the achievement of the physical activity. And in a very real way – I felt more masculine. I felt more like a man.

So today when I saw the bicyclists, I wept.

I won’t bicycle anymore.

And then I saw my sin. My perspective is wrong. I shouldn’t lament something I can’t do. I should be grateful for something I did. And I silently bowed my head with gratitude for the moments of joy I experienced.

Yes. My foot is bleeding. But you know what? At this very moment I have 7 friendships that are direct descendants of my foot problems. I wouldn’t have met these men or formed these friendships without the trauma to my toes. Now I reject the whole Pollyanna bullshit as unrealistic and simpleminded so I’m not going to claim the friendships were worth the costs of my toes. But I am aware that life is a balance of scales.

I’ve had a great life. I have great friends. I’m grateful for the moments of joy I’ve experienced.