Monthly Archives: December 2015

Second Fragment

There was a time when the question wasn’t if, but when. A time when he asked when will our time come and a voice from inside said, “patience, it is coming.”

He turned on some music, puttered around the house, putting things away and making piles of things to give away and a song distracted him.

Something in the lyrics caught his ear and made him think about the promises he had made to himself and the goals he had set.

That moment was part of what he loved about music, the song had triggered a flood of memories and thoughts about many different things.

But it had also made him focus upon his goals, his dreams and his wishes.

So he closed his eyes, centered himself so that he could focus upon those things, an internal examination that would serve as a tool for helping to eliminate what was no longer important.

A short time later he opened his eyes and smiled because he knew again where his focus must be and where it should not.

And then he thought about how odd it was that a storm that had almost destroyed his life might have actually saved it.

Might tie it into this piece, or I might not.

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Fragments

Way back in ancient times when he was a school boy there was a song called Always Something There To Remind Me that was played on the radio.

It told the story of a boy who couldn’t forget his ex because there were always reminders of the girl he loved floating around him.

One of his ex-girlfriends had said she hated the song because it was “cheesy” and because it was too obvious.

“Of course there are reminders everywhere, he/she is always going to be in class with you. But when we get out of school that will never happen because we’ll be smart enough not to date people we work with and when we are done, we’ll be done.”

It made sense from a 20th century perspective but less so from a 21st because modernity had brought multiple changes.

And in the days of social media if you ran in the right circles or groups you could easily stumble across news and or pictures of your exes.

Sometimes you’d see their picture and smile because time had not been kind to them and sometimes it was the exact opposite.

The smiling face in the picture would be one that you remembered focusing on you and you would wonder how they won the genetic lottery that allowed them to look so damn good.

He and the boys had talked about it recently because one of them had seen a shot of his ex-wife and mentioned how it was shallow but honest to say he felt better that she looked awful.

When they asked him if he had ever gone looking for photos of his own exes he said not really and moved onto the next topic.

A couple of weeks before he had coffee with an old friend who was telling him about life as a single mother.

She had asked a similar question and he had responded the same way, except when he said he didn’t she didn’t just let it pass the way the guys did.

They went back and forth a few times about it, but he never confirmed nor denied he had looked.

“If we have mutual friends in common I have probably seen something flash across the screen, but I just never pay attention. Out of sight, out of mind.”

She told him she didn’t believe it and he said if it made her feel good to think so that was fine with him.

Had he been honest with himself and her he would have said he had just seen a picture of one and it had stopped him in his tracks.

That had been a surprise, not that she still looked good to him but how sexy she had been in the photo. It was a posed picture, but not the sort of boudoir type shot that some women took around middle age.

Something about it made his heart skip a beat, might have been the way her hair fell around her shoulders or the look in her eye or something else.

Didn’t really matter what or why because the reality was that it just did it for him and he wasn’t sure what to do about it because sometimes circumstances presented opportunity and sometimes it kept opportunity at bay.

So he tried to forget about it so that he didn’t have to deal with the frustration of not being able to act upon his feelings.

 

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Something Said Or Sensed

Many years before when he was old enough to have had some life experience but not so old as to have been jaded a woman shared some advice with him.

“Never compare the woman you are currently sleeping with one you used to be with unless you are telling the current one she is better. And even then you shouldn’t do it because you’ll open up a can of worms you don’t want to deal with.

We never forget what you said and we always remember what you don’t.”

He had told her that he thought that was ridiculous and then asked if she was trying to say every woman was the same.

“Of course, we aren’t the same but there are enough similarities among us to be able to make some general statements. If you find a girl that is dumb enough to let you put it wherever you want it then take my advice and just shut up.

We can talk ourselves into liking you when we don’t and we can talk ourselves out of liking you just as quickly. Sometimes less is more.”

He shook his head and made a comment about less sex leading to more divorce and she shook her head again.

“Get into her head and her heart and you’ll never worry about having to get into anywhere else.”

That last remark was the one that had resonated the most with him because it was the one he understood best. It was no different with men, the girls that had found their ways into both places had stuck with him the longest or maybe it was the opposite.

Didn’t really matter much which came first because the outcome seemed to be the same.

The rest stop he had stopped at was a clone of the others scattered across the interstate,”Clean bathrooms, showers and laundry plus good grub.”

They were right about the bathrooms, those were generally well maintained, you never worried about not finding toilet paper in the stalls and they generally didn’t smell.

Even though he wasn’t especially particular about any of that, he appreciated it. If you had to stop and go it was always more pleasant not to be assaulted by the aftermath of the random people who had used the place before you.

Five hundred some miles down and many more to go meant that he wouldn’t just shake the weasel and roll on out, not anymore at least.

Twenty years ago he wouldn’t have needed the extra time to stretch or cared about refilling his thermos with coffee

But it didn’t matter whether his mind remembered what his body had once done or didn’t require because time didn’t care. The clock would have its way with you and all you could do is try to slow it down knowing you would never beat it.

The clock would have its way with you and all you could do is try to slow it down knowing you would never beat it.

Most of the time he didn’t care because he figured it vertical was always superior to horizontal, he was above ground and lots of friends and family weren’t.

Every day was a new beginning and a new chance at adventure. That didn’t preclude the odd moment of frustration with time and or himself and new discoveries.

The mirror wasn’t always a friend and it didn’t help that his ego held him to impossible standards.

“You’ve always been your own worst critic and sometimes your worst enemy. But you always have been dumb enough to believe you can overcome anything too, so I guess it balances out.”

When he realized he had said the words aloud he chuckled and followed up with “you just might be spending too much time alone.”

All that time alone wasn’t likely to change any time soon either, it was part of the job and unless he won the lottery he wasn’t going to be able to retire for a good long while.

His reverie was interrupted by the alarm on his phone, it was supposed to have woken him from the nap he had planned on taking before he started driving again, but he hadn’t been able to sleep.

That was one thing that time hadn’t impacted, he had never needed much sleep and still required less than other people but he tried to plan for the future so grabbing twenty winks had seemed like a smart idea.

******

The rest stop’s claim about having “good grub” was a bit of a stretch. If  you liked fast food or overpriced chips, candy and soda it was accurate, if you liked those things.

That was another thing that time had changed. It had made him a bit of a food snob, he would eat the junk if that was his only option but given a choice he preferred a sit down meal with food that didn’t come from a can or microwave.

Since it wasn’t an option here he did the best he could and walked over the Starbucks that was across the street from rest stop to refill the giant thermos.

Hadn’t been there more than two minutes when he felt someone put their hand on his hip and push by him.

She was a brunette with a ponytail and a phone stuck up against her ear, “tell me again what you want, I am almost back.”

“How can you be almost back when you weren’t here.”

She surprised him by turning around and saying she had left her wallet in the car.

“Kind of entitled, aren’t you.”

Her response left him speechless.

“You have nice eyes.”

He hadn’t gone in expecting a fight nor had he planned on having one with the line cutter, but habit had made him expect their exchange to go that route so the compliment threw him.

Lost in thought he almost didn’t notice her looking his way, three cups of coffee balanced in her hands.

“How would you feel if some strange man put his hands on your hips?”

Now she was the one who was stunned into silence, at least initially she was the only one because it took five seconds for him to realize what he had just said.

He almost followed it up with an explanation about how she had touched him as she passed by but he couldn’t think of a way to say it without feeling stupid so he just remained silent.

That feeling of foolishness moved him from the line back to the car where he sat and tried to shake it off, but it didn’t stop him from thinking about a different moment from the past.

*****

Somewhere in a drawer was a handwritten letter that he had never sent.

We were strangers. We were lovers. We were best friends. We were people who got caught by timing and circumstance. Now we are something else that remains undefined.

We aren’t the only people to go through this. We aren’t the only ones who have wondered what if or tried to figure out if the window is open, closed or just jammed tight.

If I heard you were getting married I would be like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate and I’d interrupt it.

I’d grab you by the hand and tell you that you didn’t really love him and take you away and we’d start our life together.

And if you weren’t, well I’d demand you kiss me and tell me you felt nothing. I’d demand you sleep with me and say you felt nothing.

I’d look you in the eye and good things would come from it because life favors the bold.

The letter remained unfinished and unsent because he never felt like the words were quite right or that he got the sentiment down the way he wanted to.

Instead of taking a chance to prove that life favored the bold he had played it safe so that he wouldn’t feel stupid and wouldn’t risk hurting his heart anymore.

And then he thought again of the woman who had told him never to compare women to each other.

“Most women will tell you that we always know how far we are willing to go on a date before we go and that we usually know who we might sleep with and who we won’t.

But sometimes you surprise us.

A guy I worked with once showed up at my door and told me he had fantasized about being dominated by me. Most days that wouldn’t have been interesting to me, but something about the moment and how certain but vulnerable he was caught me.

I invited him in and it was incredible. It only happened that one time, but only because he was an idiot. I’ll tell you that story a different day.”

Thinking about it made him chuckle, if that didn’t prove you never knew what would work and what wouldn’t, well nothing did.

Good old time and timing always played a part.

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He Still Loves Her

No one asked him how he felt and he had no reason to offer it to anyone if they had.

Maybe if someone had made him believe he was open to talking he would have said he never stopped loving her and then engaged them about whether he should write “loves” or “loved.”

Loved sounded like past tense but everyone knew it wasn’t what he meant, it was just what was said to protect himself.

As certain as he was about it and her he couldn’t help but retain enough uncertainty to wonder if he should protect his heart so he said “loved” and not “loves.”

Figured it was easier to hide in plain sight and pretend that he was as cool as they came.

But he wasn’t.

Sometimes at night when the lights were low or turned off he would let himself believe that maybe dreams could come true.

He’d close his eyes and review a checklist of reasons why it had worked, could work and might yet work again.

But daylight would come and he’d once again slip into his armor and pretend that his tiny black heart had stopped beating.

(Editor’s note: This originally appeared over at the “Medium” blog but since it seemed like something that might be useful as part of the fiction here I figured I’d add it to make sure it wasn’t lost. Don’t know if it will ever be incorporated or if it is just going to stay a fragment, but better to stay ‘organized’ where and when we can.)

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Doing The Dance

Jim Croce is singing Time In A Bottle or at least he was, we are not so sure if he is now because it sounds like it has changed.

Yeah he is onto that I’ll have to say I love you in a song piece which we used to kid about from time to time.

Can’t quite figure out what happened to Time in a Bottle or should we say the time surrounding the song because one minute it was on and the next it wasn’t.

Did we space out or fall asleep?

Maybe, hard to say because our head feels like a transmission that keeps slipping in and out of gear.

It is a bit concerting this feeling, this sense of things being sort of off. There is this contradiction going on now, a sense of an uncertain certainty about the moment and a feeling that all is fine.

The goal is to accept and roll with it even though it is uncomfortable. Hell if you go with the modern parlance of stepping outside your comfort zone this is what it is like.

We stepped out of it and haven’t quite found our way back into it.

Two steps forward, three steps backward is how this dance goes, with the odd twirl and dip included.

So we close our eyes, take a deep breath and look for our center. All around us we hear noises and wonder if what we are echoes of the past or echoes of the future.

And as our breathing slows down and becomes more rhythmic we think of other moments where we found our rhythm and wonder if the clickety clack noise of a headboard banging is coming from our imagination or the neighbor’s house.

One more deep breath is taken and we go deeper within, eyes still closed there is this overwhelming sense of you looking back and we wonder what would happen if we opened our eyes and discovered your face next to mine, er ours.

Would the mental reflection we see inside mirror reality or would we discover the joke that started the world crying.

And the carousel continues, horses rising and falling in a grand circle we can’t quite see but sure can feel.

 

 

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Working Backwards

“We were together. I forget the rest.” ― Walt Whitman

“How many girls did you use that line on?”

“That’s not the kind of question a 50-year-old man really wants to answer.”

“Maybe it is because you are 85 and not 50.”

“Dammit, I was hoping that someone taped an old picture of me where my reflection normally is. I don’t feel 85, hell I don’t know what 85 is supposed to feel like.”

She brushed her hair out of eyes and stared at him and said nothing but he knew the silence wouldn’t last.

“Are you going to answer the question or play one of your silly games with me.”

“Woman, I only play silly games with the grandkids. I take everything you say seriously.”

She rolled her eyes at him and shook her head.

“I should know better. You have spent the better part of 30 years ignoring anything you didn’t like hearing and doing whatever the hell you felt like doing. I don’t know why anyone puts up with you, least of all me.”

He took her hand in his and smiled, “maybe it is because I know things or maybe it just dumb luck. Maybe it is just love.”

She smiled back and kissed him.

“This could have easily gone a different way. Could have been a different ending. No one really knows how these things work. Did I share that quote with other women?

Yeah, but I don’t remember it ever having the same meaning with anyone else. I loved you before I know you. I loved you first. I loved you best and I loved you longest.”

She shook her head again and asked him how he could still make her cry.

A knock at the door distracted them both. He helped her stand up and watched her walk to the door.

It really could have gone a different way and life would have been different.

It is a conversation he had with his kids and grandkids more than once and might even have a time or two more.

They liked reaching out to the old folks to see if maybe living longer had taught them a trick or two the young hadn’t figured out.

What Is And What Will Be

What the young didn’t get was how much of life they filed under “what is and what will be” as if they had ultimate control over it all.

It felt good to think you had complete control. It felt good to think you could pray for help to some higher being too.

After all the life he had lived he was certain you never had complete control and as for a higher being, well he was agnostic.

One day he’d close his eyes and they wouldn’t open again. He didn’t fear death or worry about what might happen afterwards.

If he went first he hoped she didn’t spend whatever time left she had mourning him.

They had lived a life. It was everything a person could ask for.

And yeah, if he had the power there were a few things he would change, but they probably not what people would expect because it wasn’t the past he would tweak, but some of the present and the future.

Mostly it would be time, he’d extend the time they had together and make sure they were both healthy.

But the past, well that old bit about people not being who they are without it was true.

And even though there had been some very hard times he knew his appreciation of the present and all that had come with it wouldn’t be the same without it.

“Old man, are you still here or are you lost in thought again about god knows what.”

“It only took you an hour to stop talking to her.”

“Women like to talk, get used to it.”

“I don’t have to. Are you going to keep lecturing me or are you going to sit down and turn on the movie?”

She smiled, sat down, took his right hand in her and in a soft voice asked if he would get her some popcorn.

The end.

 

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Fun With Numbers

9 19-20-9-12-12 12-15-22-5 25-15-21

It was nothing but numbers on a page, no rhyme or reason that could be seen.

They did their best impression of Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown but still they couldn’t quite figure it out.

Turned on Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits, grabbed a couple of beers and a pizza and tried to figure out if perhaps they were missing the obvious.

It was clearly not a reference to Hilbert’s problems, or at least they didn’t think so. For a while they had thought maybe it was, but that was only because someone had suggested it might be.

But the misdirection of the obvious plays its own role in obfuscating what should be known and understood.

relativity

They stared at the words on the page and thought about another quote often shared,

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. ”

Maybe the answer lay there. Maybe it was somewhere in the middle and midst.

“Men can stick it anywhere and as long as you find a willing participant you are happy.”

He shook his head, “that is something people say because it makes them feel good, but it is not true.”

“What is the truth?”

“Most women wouldn’t know it if it bit them on the ass and said hello.”

“There is no point in being rude.”

“There is no point in being nice either, neither serves its master as well as people want them to.”

She told him to be straight and he said he’d think about it.

“Figure out the code and maybe I’ll share what I know and what I think.”

“That is obnoxious.”

He just smiled and walked away.

“Where do you think you are going?”

“To find my shadow and or answers to some serious questions.

A bell made her turn her head and when she looked back he was gone.

“Where are you? Come back. It makes me nervous when you disappear and I don’t hear anything from you. Don’t mess with me, it is not nice.”

The silence of his departure grew louder and she began to wonder whether it was real or temporary.

Meanwhile on the other side

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Burning

That crazy feeling comes and goes, a burning sensation like resembles a fire that is never extinguished.

Sometimes you tamp it down and it turns into hot embers but it doesn’t much to become a roaring inferno again.

There is no rhyme or reason to it, you won’t find answers in a library or a book about physics.

No succor in math or science to be found either.

It simply is and sooner or later those embers become red hot flames and you remember what you always knew.

There is no going back, only forward down a path whose final destination can only be felt and not seen.

You can dance in the fire and enjoy the burn or you can fight the flames and feel the ache.

The choices you make all lead to the same place. It is an intersection you were always going to reach and a place you were always going to visit.

The question isn’t if, but when.

Life is a mixture of magic and madness and a double dose of laughter and love.

It is always best to ease on down the road to find the witch or the wizard who shares that path, but we don’t always choose what’s best.

That is because what is best isn’t always easiest.

Sometimes we choose not to fight inertia because we choose easy thinking it is synonymous with right, but it doesn’t work that way.

What is good is not cheap and what is cheap is not good. The prize is not handed out, it has to be earned.

That is what the burning is about. It is what wakes you up and asks you to pay attention.

Once you become aware of it you won’t ever forget about it.

That burning and that ache will continue until you find that one person or thing and then and only then will you find peace.

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Can A Kiss Change Your Life

Anyone who has been kissed the right person(s) knows the answer is that a single kiss can change your life but only a few have ever shared the story and or stories of those kisses.

Cue Phantom of The Opera and All I Ask Of You.

The scene moves from the present into the past and then hits several key moments in time.

We see a man and a woman and watch as they come together, get pulled apart and find their way back together.

They take turns proclaiming why it will never work and why it has to work. Each intersession bookended by a kiss that reminds them of why they cannot seem to separate.

Unlike the audience they do not ever gain the full picture of what happens to the other during the years in which they are apart.

All they have are small glimpses and questions about what may or may not be happening with the person they think may or may not be for them.

Of course that is intermixed with questions and suspicion about what that other person is doing during this time.

Yet those questions are erased by the kisses and the idea of separation being anything other than short term begin to become more painful and more difficult.

Perhaps if they had access to the whole picture granted to the audience they would feel differently.

Maybe it would push them together or maybe it would pull them apart, one never knows and that is part of what sets the intrigue for the audience.

And then comes a time of reckoning when choices are made and they find themselves…

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