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 don’t have a future, Luke. You have ridiculous expectations. Unrealistic beliefs about changing the world and bringing joy to others. Childish ambitions to be famous and successful and proud.

You’re selfish, Luke. You listen selectively, but speak persistently. 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. The longer you stand strong alone, the closer you are to crumbling alone. 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.

And 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.

L.C.M.

 

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.

Lost in Navigation

If at first glance, you think they have their lives together, then you’ll need a second or third.

Our eyes are drawn to those around us who are more involved, more esteemed, more professional, more presentable, more charismatic, and more accomplished. We zoom in on others through a lens of not only comparison, but of competition, subconsciously and adjacently ranking our personal attributes and fruitlessly chalking at a mental scoreboard that encourages us to be more like her and less like him. 

I bet you can see where I’m going with this.

Not a single person around you has his or her life together.  Awards, internships, opportunities, promotions, marriage, children, popularity, physiques, affluence, titles, vacations – it’s all outward projection to make the rest of us feel like not having what she or he has is ultimately synonymous to being unsuccessful.

There are two hugely detrimental aspects to this frame of mind. First, we make the dangerous assumption that we are alone at rock bottom. If we envision that everyone around us is thriving and content, we consequently gain a false sense of self, equating ourselves to the utmost superlative form of failure. Our delusion takes over and  convinces us that we are wasting away in our lives,  left feeling isolated from others who likely empathize with our insecurities.

Second, we make the dangerous assumption that “success” is a predetermined and tangible quota – a checklist of achievements that will provide validation to our existences. But success can only be defined by a custom-made and individualized set of personal goals, limitations, wants, and values. There’s no accurate way to compare ourselves to others because the rubric isn’t the same.

Recently, a worried friend noted her envy of the “direction” I have in life.

I assured her I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing in life, but that I do know how I want to get there. I am ferociously and passionately dedicated to nothing, holding tightly as I can to a thin thread of anything or everything as long as it’s something. Where I lack direction, I compensate with aggressive determination.

I do my best not to look too hard at everyone else’s life.

And I do my best not to look too hard at my own.

Sometimes, the only thing we can do in the face of uncertainty is paint on some eye black, lace up our boots, and muddy up our fatigues. I will keep up my fierce attack at nothing, trying and trying until my little heart gives out. Afraid of failure and the unforeseen, yes, but afraid of getting my hands dirty, no. I don’t need any directions to find my direction, just faith, drive, courage, and passion.

L.C.M.

 

In Observance

a lazy night’s shift at the local red lobster,
first server in, last server out.
exceeding my duties and expectations as usual,
and reprimanded regardless.

“we’re hard on you because we believe in you”
a contrived smile from a middle-aged Copenhagen addict
who knows little to no details about my personal life or feelings,
taking his frustrations out on a hypersensitive 18-year-old
because I’m the closest pushover in proximity.

as if I haven’t been handcrafting artificial compassion
out of my ass for the last six hours
to elderly white churchgoers who,
despite today’s uplifting sermon,
have called their waiter a
“fucking little faggot boy”

I am more than accustomed
from my loyal employment
to that corporate-mandated seafood circus
to closing up shop at the end of the night
with no money in my pockets.
but it never got easier
to hear harsh words from strangers,
leaving those double doors
without any income
or dignity either.

then again, no other place has taught me
more about my fellow humanity,
in observance of those who chose not to care,
and in observance of a drastically mere few who did.
in observance of those who left me thinking
even after I crawled out of my uniform at night.
I still remember the old man
in the blue button-down
at table forty-nine.

just a quick dinner break from the all day visit
to his sister’s hospital room,
the last leaf of his family tree fading on winter branches,
silence has encompassed him as he watches
the silence encompass her.
his last living relative is so close to gone,
and now he is looking for someone
anyone
who will listen
even if its merely his server
on a lazy night’s shift at the local red lobster.

isn’t it amazing how we all sit mindlessly
trapped behind cold plexiglass walls
rubber bands tied tight around our pincers
and watch in the encompassing silence
as everyone around us
dies.

L.C.M.

Loving Boys

He shouldn’t have to tell you how special you are to him.

Instead, you should feel it radiate when you’re in his presence because he can cherish you without words too. I’ve always found that the need to explicitly declare derives from a place of inadequacy – an integral characteristic of humans to overcompensate.

You are not a point to prove.

You are worthy of love because you were special before he told you so.  Learn to fall in love with others because of how special they are – individuals of unique, indescribable, remarkable, unrecreatable beauty. He should want you. He should want only you. He should need you, and only you, and keep wanting more and more, bursting at the seams because he couldn’t’t possibly resist the ache to just be sitting next to you in complete silence, his thigh pressed against yours, perfectly content among the quiet.

And if he does tell you that you’re special, I hope you don’t misuse the context as validation.

When he discovers how beautifully special you are, then you will feel its radiance in his presence, and you will be cherished without his words.

You are not a point to prove.

You were special before anyone told you so.

L.C.M.