Sweet Tooth

You give & you give & you give.

Mini Kit-Kats. Red Sticks of Laffy Taffy. Baby pouches of Sour Patch Kids. Pumpkin-shaped Reese’s.

You pick goodie after goodie out of your plastic, bulbous jack-o-lantern head for each friend who asks to steal a Twix bar because they never got one of their own.

But it isn’t until you’ve returned home to your bedroom, holding your pumpkin bucket upside down over your astronaut bed, shaking it like crazy to find one piece of candy that’s not a 4-pack of Whoppers or a spearmint sleeve of Lifesavers, do you realize that there’s nothing left.

The uplifting and heartfelt power of Christmas giving, instead on an exhausting Halloween. How wonderful does it really feel to be a good person?

I pulled into my ex-boyfriend’s apartment complex around 9p.m. on a Saturday night. I came for the bittersweet nostalgia, but stayed for a peak. He works doubles on the weekends, and used to come home late to a happy Luke who would have been waiting all day long to hold his hands and kiss his nose.

I officially set my mind on the stakeout operation when I couldn’t remember what his car looked like, much to my frustration. I remembered it silver. But also black. I think it was a Hyundai. Acura, or Atari, or Alcatraz. I couldn’t remember.

Why the fuck couldn’t I remember?

I’ll sit here, I thought. I’ll catch a glimpse of him when he pulls in. Then, I’ll leave. No funny business. I swear.

An hour went by, then two, then three.

I didn’t keep my car on that long, of course, out of gasoline conservation as well as discretion. Couldn’t have my headlights calling any attention to myself. Not on my mission impossible.

Even with my windows rolled down, the Oklahoma summer heat waded its way inside. I sat in pitch black silence with sweat pooling across my forehead. Mosquitoes buzzed in to poke bendy-straws into my ankles and forearms. I chose not to care. A form of self-punishment. You fucked up the relationship, the least you can do is can sit here in the suffocating heat and let a couple of insects live their goddamn lives. Someone deserves to be happy.

When the fourth hour of the stakeout passed, I finally gathered enough courage to get out of my car and touch his bedroom window. I thought about taking a piss on it, but remembered I kinda loved him and shit.

Time moves slowly when you’re bored. Weekday shifts at work, a long sit in the salon chair, some civilized-white-people-history class your college requires you to take. That overwhelming internal sensation of “I just want to fucking leave already.”

But I wasn’t bored sitting alone in my car for five hours. I had absolutely no desire to leave. As much as I wanted to shower, or sleep, or eat my feelings with whole pints of Ben & Jerry’s in the comfort of my air-conditioned apartment, I persisted.

The mind forgets much faster than the heart. Trivial details like the make and model and color of your ex-boyfriend’s car.

That’s why I didn’t want to leave.

I wasn’t waiting for my ex-boyfriend to come home from work.

I was refusing my subconscious the chance to let go.

To forget, to move on, to drive away.

Not just of the chance to let go of him but of the chance to let go of every selfish boy in my life who took a piece from my candy stockpile until it dwindled & dwindled & dwindled down to absolutely nothing.

You give & you give & you give, but how wonderful does it really feel to be a good person?

Jesus Christ, you dumbass. He works a Sunday double too. He’s gonna spend tonight with his family in Yukon to be closer to work in the morning.

So I went home.

And I got in bed.

Tomorrow, I told myself, I’m gonna buy a fucking Snickers.

The Great American Sex Crisis

It’s a culturally integrated facet of American living. Yet no one has any real, substantial  answers. We define sex positivity as an E! Network marathon re-run of Sex and the City, which still today faces endless online criticism from parental censorship boards merely because women have the audacity to speak about sex or to dare utter the word “panties.”

I’m not afraid that my children will be sexually traumatized because they heard Kim Cattrall talk about the clap on T.V.

I’m afraid that my children will be sexually traumatized by an unforgiving and selfish society of people just as crazy as the smut we blast on high-definition in our living rooms.

The media we consume is a painfully up-close reflection of who we really are. Written and produced by a Hollywood team made up of people from the same generation and upbringing as even the most devout and disciplined parents. At least in this instance, someone is making a nice income off the perverse thoughts the entire country is undoubtedly having.

I’ve concluded that 100% of people are thinking about sex 99% of the time, only to be offset by a 1% when people are actually having it. Everything in the world is about sex, with the lone exception of sex itself.

The dangers of the Kardashians or Family Guy or Law and Order are easily outweighed. The Great American Sex Crisis: a story told by an irresponsible nation of sexually repressed old people and sexually confused young people.

That first time he told you he loved you, your hands in his hands, the same hands that have since then fondled another woman’s breasts, grabbed another woman’s hips, caressed another woman’s cheek…

Forgiving him because you have only ever been shown weakness.

Between 1978 and 1991 , Jeffrey Dahmer raped, killed, and dismembered 17 boys and men from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, later eating the skinned and severed body parts of his victims for dinner, or preserving beheaded skulls to make as toys for masturbation. On rare occasions, he’d drill holes through his victims’ heads while they were still alive and pour acid down the pierced brain channels. Just a little laboratory experiment for one hell of a mad scientist.

Upon conviction, Jeffrey Dahmer told the courts that many of his victims were so beautiful that he simply couldn’t let them go.

Disturbing, demented, disgusting – and romantic.

Often times, I wonder what would hurt worse.

Having a Home-Depot wielding cannibalistic necrophiliac take power tools to your cranium and turn you into a human hydrochloric cocktail…

…or watching from the sidelines as the love of your life sticks his dick inside of someone prettier than you.

Hyperfocus

I have spent my entire life greedily indulging in alone time.

Much of our existences are consumed inside the same suburban family home, or drowning in the same daily sea of rowdy high schoolers, or with the same exhausted college peers, or with the same hideous following of our own reflection.

When I can escape the hustle of day-to-day stress & frenzy, sink beneath my comforter, & snooze without any alarms, I have the renewed strength to face the fast-paced world again.

Because of this reason, I have always wanted to live alone.

Because of this reason, and also because my last roommate stole my laptop and moved to South Carolina.

But now, as I do live alone, I am upon a crippling and debilitating deficit of human contact.

I’ve never been introverted, quiet, or timid. I’ve never  been estranged from human contact.  I’ve always been seeing, hearing, talking, and touching others – from when I would wake up to when I would go to sleep.

Or in the best case scenario of the human contact spectrum, I would sleep in the arms of someone who loves me. Wake up each day and never face the agony of loneliness.

I’ve learned recently that alone time is only rewarding in its hypothetical. A “first world problem”, if you will.

When you’re alone, miles away from your suburban family home, or from your rowdy high school alums, or from your sleepy college peers, you develop a much stronger sense of appreciation.

The haunted house eyes of my hideous reflection trace each step as I move across my single bedroom, cat-like concentration on my whereabouts.

Hyperfocus.

That’s what I call it.

A noun for the intense, deeply rooted fixation on being so alone that you’re forced to look and think completely inward. An extrovert’s nightmare.

Yesterday, in a particular bout of loneliness, I took a little car trip north to see my family. Our 6:30 dinner plans ended near 7:45 when my father stormed out of the restaurant after yelling at me in front of a crowded dinner rush.

An unproductive night for me, except in the sense that I found one small piece of realization – I definitely didn’t miss my family.

Tonight, in another particular bout of loneliness, I waited up late to see my boyfriend after his long shift at work. I felt so slumped that I simply couldn’t wait until the next day to interact with a human.

Our 11:30 dinner plans ended near 1:00 when my boyfriend slammed my car door shut, raced to his car, & sped away from my apartment complex. We had gotten into a fight sitting at an IHOP & I cowardly addressed my problems the only way I knew how – by yelling at him in front of crowded dinner rush.

I trudged inside my dark apartment, followed intently by the haunted house eyes of my father’s reflection. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree as it rolls down the hill further & further away from its branches. Bruised by the journey, browned by the sun.

One rotten apple sleeping alone with only 550 square feet to call home.

 

Sleepwalking

Fear the fire and walk through it anyway.

And if we have to tackle our worst nightmares to overcome them, then I’d play football for the first time in my life. Affixed a piercing glare through the metal bars of my helmet to lock eyes with you.

My opponents are big and strong and rough. Too big, too strong, too rough, I’d tell myself. You can’t do it. 

Tackle your worst nightmares to overcome them, your therapist tells you. But what makes him afraid? When has he sat on the other side of the office, unprotected by his clipboard and chaise lounge and framed diploma, to embrace the nightmares?

Fear the fire and walk through it anyway.

So what have I to lose? Ignore all the odds. I’ll tackle my worst nightmares to overcome them.

You’re fat, Luke. You’ve got baby weight and like donuts too much. I feel your soft sides and your giant ass. The boys online are prettier than you. Tanned skin, thick muscles. Deep V-lines and great selfie angles. One hundred thousand retweets.

You’re ugly, Luke. You are naive and immature for thinking you could ever look like America’s Next Top Model. For everything you have to offer, there is always someone better. You’re single because there is always someone better.

You’re not talented, Luke. Mediocre at best in all aspects of life. Writing or singing or dancing or loving others. Especially loving others.

You have no potential, Luke. You have ridiculous expectations. Unrealistic ambitions to change the world and bring joy to others. Childish ideals of being famous or successful or proud.

You’re selfish, Luke. You listen selectively but speak consistently. You seek personal benefit and develop dangerous apathy. You are a cliché millennial, losing touch with compassion and snail mail.

You’re a bully, Luke. You’re mean because you’re lonely and scared. You push others away as a means to protect. Cheers to the fall.  Humans are not built to be so mighty. You cannot make a wall of one in place of many. We are born to need others.

So, is that a touchdown? How will we ever know if we are completely unafraid?

Fear the fire and walk through it anyway.

I crossed hot coals to find you, Luke, but now all I have is seared heels and a lurking subconscious.

I tackled my worst nightmares to overcome them, but now I have nightmares when I daydream. I am sleepwalking, side by side with insecurities that grew into monsters after I fed them acknowledgment.

Coat your therapist in gasoline and toss the match so he can know how it feels.

Fear the fire and walk through it anyway.

But I took the fire with me.

 

For Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day hits us like a brick wall, head-on, high-speed, full-force. Busy & consumed by our own lives, we often forget the impending calendar date until its morning arrives. A lackluster “Happy Valentine’s Day” from a passing coworker at the coffee machine connects the dots in our sleepy brains. It is right then & there, in the bleak minefield of cubicles, wearing red on accident, that your heart sinks. Instantly reminded of another 365 days that left you alone on cold nights when you needed someone to hold. You fake a smile anyway, pretending that you wore red on purpose. Really, you just liked this shirt today.

I know the brick wall is ahead. I have anticipated the collision. I have prepared for the impact all year long, an allowance for time in advance to embrace the embittering cynicism and corrosive loneliness. Valentine’s Day hits me, instead, like a soft snowstorm, a gradual fall of layers.

Though as it might appear, a soft snowstorm is by no means softer than a brick wall.

The weatherman never braces you for the days before the storm – the ice that took out your porch lights, the pipes that burst your plumbing, the bare cold that killed your engine, the wind that chapped and bloodied your cheeks. We only talk of the snowfall, of a white Christmas, of the impact. Sometimes, it’s not the impact that hurts us the most. Sometimes, it’s what we don’t expect.

And the unexpected nights hit me like a brick wall, head-on, high-speed, full-force. Busy & consumed by my own life, I can do very little to prevent the unforeseen collisions of me versus a stark loneliness. An October 6th. A November 19th. A January 31st. An April 8th. A June 11th. Curled up beneath the sheets, arms wrapped tight around my knees, I fight against the antagonizing frustrations of sleeping alone on cold nights when I needed someone to hold.

I save hope for a better tomorrow but some tomorrows don’t mend the wounds. Optimism is like jamming rounded pegs into square holes, an ironic mismatch of effort against outcome where trying and trying and trying just grows to be fruitless and exhausting. I can’t depend on tomorrows because they will always be out of my reach.

Boys take what they want and leave when they’re finished. Tomorrow could be tomorrow – or in three years – or in ten minutes. When a boy has what he wants, you walk back out to your car and turn the music up so loud that you can’t hear the screeching accident up ahead that wreaks havoc inside your mind. A twenty-car pileup on a clogged interstate.

And now, on an October 6th or a November 19th, a January 31st or a an April 8th, or a miserable June 11th that hits me like a brick wall when I don’t expect it, I squeeze my pillow as tight as I can and whisper an “I love you.”

For if tomorrow I am cold, I’ll rock myself to sleep.

Heave Ho

I was in the desert.
it was hot.
and it was dry.
and I was thirsty.

heave ho, I said,
a dull shovel cocked
above my shoulder.

deep breath in,
heave.

deep breath out,
ho. 

they say it is only a man
of the greatest perseverance
who would dig
and dig
and dig
all the way to another end
of our earth just to find
his oasis.

deep breath in,
heave.

deep breath out,
ho.

hundreds upon hundreds
of meters beneath the surface,
as I tunnel my way through.

not a drop of water yet,
but it is only a man
of lesser perseverance
than I
who would give up now.

deep breath in,
heave.

deep breath out,
ho.

thousands upon thousands
of meters beneath the surface,
as I tunnel my way through.

not a drop of water yet,
but it is only a man
of lesser perseverance
than I
who would give up now.

deep breath in,
heave.

deep breath out,
ho.

millions upon millions
of meters beneath the surface,
as I tunnel my way through.

not a drop of water yet,
but it is only a man
of lesser perseverance
than I
who would give up now.

deep breath in,
heave.

deep breath out,
ho.

and when I have finally
tossed so much sand
over my aching back
that I have reached
another end
of our earth,
do I find myself
in a new desert again.

I am, at last, a man
of the greatest perseverance.

but without a drop of water,

it is still hot.

it is still dry.

and I am still thirsty.

 

When The Light Hits The Water

Inspired by Matthew & The Atlas…

Sitting back at a distance, criss-cross in the soft grasses by the shore, when the light hits the water, can I see the glisten where the sky touches us below.

But only at a distance, criss-cross in the soft grasses by the shore, when the light hits the water, can we see that glisten.

Restrained behind red velvet ropes, the slow claps of the tides dance beneath the fleeting sunset’s outreached hands; our admiration is an untouchable museum exhibition. Unable to preserve what humans grasp and grapple with grubby thumbs, the art within the nature moves away from a severe humanity.

Nature adapts to our existence, the rivers barricaded behind dams, the black rhinoceroses hidden from poachers, the polar bears fruitlessly treading the warming waters, the rainforests at the greedy wake of our bulldozers. When the light hits the water, it refuses to be touched, afraid of our exploitation and insatiable needs.

I know because when I stand up to get a closer look at the sparkling performance of rays against waves, a tall shadow of my own covers the glisten.

I sit down only to stand up again, slower, quieter, sneakier – a childish game of cat versus mouse, in naivety of the inevitable. The mouse, propped and pulled by puppet strings, will always win against the cat who knows no difference between PetCo toy and home-invading rodent.

But I can’t miss a chance. I peel off my shirt and dive in. And when the light hits the water, I can stare directly at the sun. Nowhere else but beneath the waves can we affix our gaze at its unforgiving brilliance. I admire the blues and whites and yellows painted above me as I sink deeper beneath the warm embrace of the water.

And it is right here and right now, when the light hits the water, away from your exploitation, away from your insatiable needs, away from your love, that I let myself drown.

Just Because

Curled up in a ball on the carpet in front of the TV, I now find it funny how many mornings I spent as a little boy watching the news.

Watching it just because. Listening, but not learning. Seeing, but not understanding. Not playing with toys or tugging on my Mom’s leg as she got dressed for the morning, but watching the news.

My only lasting memory comes from Smucker’s campaigns that give a shoutout to any senior citizen who’s reached a century or more – a meek congratulations in guise of a birthday wish instead of the jelly commercial it really is.

But I remember caring. Really caring. When I was 6, I wanted to be 100. I tucked that optimism away in my back pocket, giving myself a concrete goal to inspire me.  I’d go to school with a little bounce in my jaunt, a little sparkle in my eyes, a little sunshine in my heart. Didn’t matter what being 100-years-old really accomplished, but I could strive for it just because.

A little purposefulness just because.

But when you get older, you think about dying a lot. When. Where. How. With whom by your side. When I was 14, I said bold, insensitive teenage things. Old people are gross. Their bodies are decomposing alive, sour shadows of beautiful black-and-white scrapbook polaroids. Shorter, softer, weaker, thinner, paler, delirious, incomprehensible, immobile, sick, dying, dead. What a horrible way to go out. I’ll go out kicking and screaming, I’d say. A fabulous crime scene. Feather boas and steel bullets. Scorned lovers and scandalous revenge. Dark, rich blood stains and a fully packed funeral. I would hate to live to be 100; I want to die beautiful.

A little narcissism just because.

When I was 17, my first grandmother died. I was deeply frustrated and confused as to why life mercilessly rotted the lungs of a woman who never smoked, never missed a Sunday morning congregation, and never forgot to walk her dogs. As she withered away, I watched that beautiful woman, somehow, out of all my misconceptions, become more beautiful.  I could see the timeline of her entire life through her eyes. I redefined beauty, and promised myself to be a more beautiful person. As her ghost sits next to me now, I hope she sees the person I’m trying to become for her.

A little self-dedication just because.

Today, as my second grandmother dies, I am acutely aware of purposefulness. And to think that any facet of our lives is the result of the just because is a mistake beyond our knowledge. We set purpose to fill our dreadful existential crises. We live narcissistically to make up for lost self-love. We embark on personal dedications to satisfy our aching insecurities.

We refuse to look at the motives behind our actions because we are afraid of the answers. Rooted in fear, the bliss of ignorance is not an aspect of the just because – it’s an aspect of intrinsic human nature. If I ever say I’m doing what I’m doing just because, it’s because I’m afraid of why I’m doing it.

She can’t speak anymore, propped upright in her bed, affixed at the morbidly neutral-colored confines of her hospital room. She can’t speak anymore, but I hold her hand anyway as her weary brain slowly recognizes my face and reminds her who I am. Her hand is small and soft and warm. I want to squeeze it as tight as I can, but I’d snap every bone in an instant. I capture a permanent image of her hand as it rests in mine.

I am holding her hand just because.

L.C.M.

Arson

Experts say that it’s not a question of if smoking kills, but a question of how.  And we know it well with every puff we take of the creeping inevitability – cancers and tumors, facial sinking and aging and burning, gingivitis and balding, tracheotomies and stillborn children.

And we, as unsympathetic patrons of a world on fire, haven’t mustered up enough compassion to search for solutions, justifying our weak efforts with posters that plaster a lackluster catchphrase about the detriments of smoking or of fear-tactic commercials that promote mere chewing gum in place of a severe chemical addiction.

If our neighbors could quit, then they would. Instead, we’ve sat in silence, and in clouds of secondhand smoke, as our fellow humans become pawns to an industry whose marketability preys upon those simply seeking peace in a frenzied and overwhelming society.

I wonder every day why it’s illegal to burn buildings, but no one bats an eye as we burn ourselves. I watch you choke and cough your way through the forest fire that has engulfed your dry wooden lungs; our bodies are of the easiest flammability. No draught in California has better conditions than you to spark a  colossal fire, ulcering your tissues, corroding your organs, clotting your bloodstream, incinerating who was once before. Just the shadow of someone who couldn’t get enough goddamn peace.

Maybe it takes more than a campaign to end smoking. Maybe it takes more peace.

Grandiose flames dance in place of the matchstick you used to be. But a matchstick can only burn for a few moments before it turns black and short and ashen.

L.C.M.

Dear God By My Side

“College is such an invigorating & intense experience, isn’t it?”

*Dear God this middle-aged woman is batshit crazy.*

Yes ma’am! It’s so new and it’s so wild, but it’s so worth it.

*Dear God I couldn’t take my voice a pitch higher if I tried.*

“Think you can handle it? How ya hanging in there!”

*Dear God aren’t you just the worst? Can I handle it? I mean, you handled it. Think you’re better than me, Becky?*

For sure! It’s all healthy stress – the best kind! Haha!

*Dear God, why am I laughing? I hate laughter.*

“And what’s your major, Luke? Found your calling?”

Yes ma’am! Professional Writing.

“Oh! Uh huh… Oh my! Now that’s… hmm…”

*Dear God.*

“…ahem, and, uh, what are you intending to do with that type of degree?”

To write, I tell her. Professionally.

I give her the best smile I can – sincerely this time. I mean it. I hope she sees in my eyes how much I want this smile to radiate into her presence. She needs one today. Everyone does.

I know that she truly doesn’t mean any harm. Just another family friend at a dinner party whose son is on football scholarship at an Ivy League university with a governor’s internship and a collection of cufflinks and a girlfriend! Dating women. What a concept!  I digress before I get too excitable and let my blog post explore heteronormativity.

Rather, it’s just about plain ol’-normativity, modern normalcy in an age of expectation. Millennials will never be able to afford avocado toast if they don’t “maximize their potentials!!!”

And you know what, I wish every day that I could be normal. I would do anything to make someone proud of me. Most importantly the boy staring at the dim blue of his laptop screen right now, a hot tear perched in the crook of his left eye, suppressed, because if just one rolls down the surface of his cheek then everyone who wants him to be an engineer or a field hockey star or a woman-dater (is that what they’re called??) wins.

Dear God by my side, I am passionate about writing. I hear a  voice in the sun and the clouds and the stars and the rain who says Luke you are a writer because I gave this gift to you.

I am happy because I am writing, and I am writing because I am happy.

That’s all I need.

L.C.M.