Walkabout

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It began as a penal colony. No. That is not entirely accurate. As far as the history books were concerned, it began as a penal colony. It was an isolated mass of land where criminals could be put out of sight, and thereby out of the minds of those who had been wronged by their acts. In truth, it had existed long before the pragmatists devised a purpose for it.

Like all continents, it had already served as a home for many. In an effort to bring justice to the land, unjust men laid waste to the native inhabitants. Blood had been spilled onto sandy soil where little of value might grow. These rational minds — progressive thinkers and planners for their time — sought to sow seeds that would bare fruits of ill fortune. Strange, then, that such a blossom of staggering beauty had managed to grow from all of that pain and suffering. Continue reading

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Broken Crown

Amandine,

This atmosphere is… it strains me, to put it most mildly. At night they crack the door open and stand guard at all times, and the ceiling lights from the hall breach the tranquil black of my eyelids. They are dim, yes, but just bright enough to be a bother. I’d liken it to trying to sleep while a television plays in the background, and you well know how impossible a task that is for me. Continue reading

Expelling Demons

The sky above Pemmington Station is wet and gray. There isn’t a soul on this platform, save for me. I think for a moment that the train might barrel on past. The conductor will overlook me and see no reason to stop. It will be like all those other times — circumstances being the only difference. It will be rid of me, and the passengers and the city will be all the better for it. But I need so desperately to leave.

The breeze flirts with the lilacs nearby, wafting their scent into the air. In that instant I am taken back to my sophomore year, to Caterina. That rusted blonde hair that rode waves down her back, hung in curled ribbons that fell carelessly in front of her eyes — those polished mahogany gems that drew me to her in the first place. They spoke of the duality of life; admitted to the sadness and the pain, but promised its beauty lay in wait if only one might see past the rest.

I think back to the impromptu dance routines on her driveway, Her clumsy, excited spasms to music that was as poison to my discerning ears. But she was so spirited, so refreshing and without inhibition. How alien she seemed to me, incurably nervous introvert that I was. If there was ever another soul on this planet to withdraw me from my shell — even if only for a moment — for certain it would have been her. How I’d damned myself so by keeping behind those walls.

I think about the husband and child she has. The beach house. The slow weekends spent listlessly in love down by the shore line… I forget myself, I think so damned much.

To ease the transition back into my patient waiting for the train, I remove the MP3 player from my jacket pocket. I exhale the scent of lilacs from my nose, and swat at it as if I’m chasing away a bothersome fly. I insert the headphones, and set the device to shuffle.

There are film scores, mostly. Lamentations of strings, bold declarations of brass and drums. They help to reset my concentration. They settle my nerves as would a flask of pear brandy to a decades-long drunk, or a shot of heroin to a junky. I can function again.

After an arpeggio comes to a close, without warning, the rock steady beat of 1970s England curb stomps my concentration. I look at the screen, see that it is “Mirror in The Bathroom” by The English Beat. I seem to remember removing the song from my playlist, but here it is. And here come the traces of Amandine.

We were clandestine, and as such could never last. She was as alien as I. Where I wore suits and smoked from a pipe, she adorned her lithe frame with leather and denim, and smoked from pipes of a different sort. I quoted Aristotle, and she recited Joe Strummer. We were different in almost every conceivable way, but in being so we were drawn to one another.

We met on the dance floor in some shitty dive on the beach front. I swayed to the calming wiles of Reggae, and she thrashed to the pulse-maddening accusations of Punk Rock. Later, under the spell of Victor Ruggiero’s sultry, seductive crooning, we fell hopelessly in love. But we were a daydream. She hadn’t the desire for sentiment, and I was a beast born with that saccharine syrup running through my veins. I rotted her teeth, and she made hollow my heart.

The song comes to a close, but Amandine never fully leaves me. Her died blue hair, standing on end and sharpened with egg-whites… her uneasy eyes that changed color with the weather; crystalline pools of hazel and green, only later to transmute to glistening gray oceans…

I pull the plugs from my ears, and in one desperate gesture I hurl the device onto the tracks. May the train grind it to dust upon arrival.

And the train does arrive. To my surprise it slows to a stop, and I can tell my neurosis to quiet itself for a moment. I board, taking a seat next to one of the many windows. It is empty, save for a scant peppering of riders in the cars behind and ahead of me.

The stale air in the car recalls no fonder times; no days spent in love, nor nights wasted in lost affections. There is nothing to remind me of older days, to which I am hopelessly bound. What lies ahead is a clean slate built with steel and glass, looming on the horizon and born with the crowning of the sun. There is naught behind me but what I leave to the past.

May I rinse my hands of it completely. May what comes tomorrow haunt the innumerable yesterdays to be.

Of God On High

Harmon stood atop the rails on his balcony. It was made of stone, and was very much a selling point to him when the realtor showed him the place. Place? The apartment was a palace; a metropolitan Taj Mahal. It had cost him nearly every cent from his third book deal.

In previous years, Harmon had been the subject of much adoration. He wrote purely, and honestly, and to his surprise the people below had respected him for it. They liked lies. Preferred even for their daily news programs to air fairy tales. Still, somehow, they had been taken by Harmon’s scrawling.

He wasn’t the voice of a generation. He certainly hadn’t converted any one to his philosophical camp. The people below seemed merely to enjoy his books for their characters, and perhaps because Harmon didn’t condescend to them. Not any more than most other writers, any way. He had monetized his inner self, which was the surest way to success in America, and he did so gladly.

In the years that followed, however, Harmon found himself wanting to reverse his good fortune. He had written honestly and purely, yes; but, his intentions were as gaudy as they were misunderstood. He didn’t want to entertain, but he had longed to thrive. He wanted to pontificate, to change minds and start dialogues. He wanted to be taken seriously, but found himself prostituted along with all the other novelties.

He had his penthouse palace, yes; he had his comfortable existence; he loomed over every one else while he ate his bacon and eggs. But, under no circumstances, was he content. He was a jester seated in the King’s throne, but he wanted to be taken seriously. That had always been his aim. Life and his ill-conceived reactions to it had made that impossible.

His writing had become misconstrued as satire, or parody. He had represented the truths authentically, but they were so absurd that the people below could not receive them as such. He could hardly blame the people below, for the manufactured truths they were fed were more palatable in every way. Through the lens of fiction, benefitted by structure and character arcs, clear protagonists and antagonists, everything made more sense. Harmon had long known this.

His father had been a pastor when he was young. The people seated below the pulpit had taken the man very seriously, though he proselytized lie after lie — however well intentioned they were in the eyes of all who knew well enough. The people had turned to the man for direction, for advice on how to better lead their lives. They wanted to be like Jesus, because being themselves was not good enough.

His father had told him that being a writer was no way to make a living. The same was said about being a pastor, but of course there was an imagined distinction between the two: One wrote tales to entertain, the other bellowed tales to enlighten. This lunacy had persisted because of the great lie of religion: The stories of Jobe or of Revelations had not been written by men looking to tell tales, but were the immutable words of God himself.

Harmon had more in common with God than did his own father, or any of the dedicated damned who spoke His word. He created, and had his creations ruined by those who received them. For all the good his words might do, the counterweight was far too great. It pulled at his legs, forsake them with its heft.

He wavered atop the stone barrier. A lit cigarette clung to his middle finger, having been adhered to it by the faint misting of sweat that seeped from his skin, and which had mostly dried in the howling autumn breeze. He had considered the cleaning woman before relocating outside. That was his last good deed.