Something New

Waking up before my alarm in after-season cold–in a melatonin haze meant to replace the lithium days. Can’t eat much in the mornings anymore. Is that just part of getting older, or is something else at play?

Cat’s got to eat, so I might as well wake up and open a can for him. I still have to chastise him for scarfing his food down too fast, warn him that he’s going to choke until he finally listens, stops eating, and starts licking his chops instead. Same routine every morning just about, and the way that we’ve bypassed trying to cross the language barrier–now I just grunt at him and he murrs back.

I cut my hair the other day, and in doing so found a gray patch I’d never noticed before. A memory: The first gray hair I ever plucked from my head, and how I pressed it into one of my old journals at the time. I don’t know where that journal ended up. I probably lost it in a move.

Aches and pains last for days at a time now, and there are muscle striations there that Iā€™d never seen before. There’s also this great patience, this abiding calm that’s as foreign as it is welcome, a non-Pollyanna attitude that reminds me that things will be okay, that I can and will get through anything.

I treasure simple things like walking to work in the mornings as the sun is just starting to rise, a time when people honk less and drive slower, their consciousnesses in a reboot state.

Waking up early has never been difficult for me. Eighth grade days of waking up at 5:30 in the morning to catch an episode of Ed, Edd, n Eddy that I’d already seen ten times before. Now it’s getting up before dawn to sit in a quiet room alone, to write stories like these, and to hear only the sound of my cat purring on my lap before I leave, the birds as they wake up outside.

Coming home is choosing focal lengths on the walk back, whether mottled sky or shaking branches or the inside of my skull and its constant turnings.

I’m trying to eat healthier now. I’m getting good sleep. I take time to meditate, or at least time to breathe. I want to be here a while. And that’s something new. So I guess that’s progress.

Even the Good Ones

Sitting on a reclining chair with my cat on my lap before 8 a.m., watching the city come to life through my window, hearing its faraway trains blare on horns that from this distance sound more like suggestions, watching the sky wake up by degrees as well, its oranges and blues fading to something more muted, something more mature.

Being used to chaos, you end up craving quiet while not knowing what to do with it once you get it. It’s a paradox. You can do the breathing exercises, you can sit still with your hands forming a perfect circle in your lap, and you can light that incense and wait as the smoke fills the air, all while battles and carnage play through your mind. You learn how to quiet this a bit, or at least make it appear invisible from the outside, invisible to the people who don’t know you enough to recognize, but that deep breath has something more behind it, that tension in your shoulders isn’t just stress from work, and they will ask their questions and you’ll do your best to answer them, all while memories come in scattershot–in sawed-off sprays of light, waking you up when you try to sleep.

Not all of them bad memories, but all of them vivid, even the good ones, the moments you’d forgotten about: running around town at seventeen, shooting a short film with friends, using a crappy old JVC you thought was state-of-the-art at the time, and kind of was, it’s all relative, and you’re kind of glad this was the hobby you guys chose, because you can still find some of these short films on YouTube (the ones that are still up there), and you can download them in case ancient accounts ever get deleted, and you can watch these living time capsules and remember even more.

It’s amazing how much things stick, now more than they ever did before, or maybe just in a different way–the objective versus subjective, digital to replace analog, and the way that you will sometimes not want to watch the video because it will change what really happened, or at least what your brain tells you happened, filling in the gaps with fiction and coloring all the facts with bias, because in this world of data it’s if-then arguments, binary constructs, zeroes and ones–hardly any more sophisticated than the dots and dashes of the Morse code days and yet worlds apart technologically. So sometimes you just want to let the truth have its day. Sometimes you want to keep the memories as they are.

They All Fall Down

You can smell violence like you would a dying flower in an empty lot, mold gathering in all the cracks, hearing the distant sound of sirens, eating a honey bun you got with your last $0.50 from a convenience store you haven’t been to in years, understanding that this is the place, this is the time, this is where you make your stand, on the street corner standing opposite the ones who wave confederate flags, showing toothless grins, with beards the color of puke, knowing that this place you now call home is not where you were born but where you were born again, and all of these fuckwits come in with out of state license plates, cheesing for the cameras, trying to get the next soundbite that will go viral, no real conviction behind their words, and you can tell that last part by how they look at you, or rather how they look away and won’t meet your stares with their own, because they haven’t been through real hardship, really, maybe drink and drugs but not poverty, not violence, not the gnawing sense that you could be hurt or killed at any moment just stepping outside your door, being told not to leave your home or go certain places at certain times, having to take precaution always, not knowing if you can trust your own neighbor, you’ve been there but they haven’t, because you can see it in their eyes when they spout their slogans, when they sing their dixie, you can see the death in there–a death that their bodies and brains haven’t caught up to yet but their souls have already suffered, and what comes out of their mouths is a result of fear, and all fear can be exploited–you know this as you stand in front of them, some of these old men still playing confederate dress-up, LARPing as johnny rebel even though they’ve never had to fight their entire lives, only fought by choice, always on the losing team, the wrong side, and when you stand in front of one of them and ask him if he knows that he’s on the wrong side of history, he’ll say this is his history, this alternate story constructed in his brain, and you know he’s not worth the effort to swing your fist, not worth the effort and yet there might be one in the future who is, so you show up every time because this isn’t done until it’s done, statues aren’t gone till they’re gone, and you have to show up, have to be present, have to be visible so that they know they will be fought every step of the way, so that they know their ideology is cancerous, so that they lose the same battle their ancestors lost before them–because these wars are not won with rhetoric or even argument. They all fall down, but they have to be made to fall.