Sunday, November 15, 2015
The problem with war, as I have pointed out many time over the years, is it’s like tossing a handful of unknown seeds into the air and then coming back a year later hoping to harvest a certain crop. You may have some idea what might happen but in the end that rarely is what happens. It’s one of those strange things that whatever reason you go to war and whatever outcome you might imagine the reality of war is unknown and unknowable. That’s why anyone with a sense of history avoids it all cost if they care about humanity.
If you look at the war in Syria it seems like a fairly cut and dried problem; the man running the country is an evil human being and getting him out would mean good things, right? But that was the case in Iraq. We discovered that by interjecting a massive amount of firepower and money into a region and then destroying the political infrastructure, we created a massive amount of power that emptied that part of the world of a lesser power, and then we left leaving a vacuum that was filled by the most violent entity that arose after we were gone.
Anyone who reads history saw this coming.
What all armed conflicts cause is a massive amount of both soldiers and arms left over once some semblance of peace has been cobbled together. After the American Civil War both sides contributed to the wayward and senseless slaughter in Kansas and the American West. The native population of this region should have known as soon as the combatants were done tearing their own country apart they would look to keep the battle going with someone else.
The very sad truth in all of this is as long as there is an obscene profit to be made in war there will be those who will sell arms to anyone, and worse, everyone, so that no one is left without the means to kill a lot of human beings as swiftly as possible. The Americans left billions of dollars’ worth of war material in Iraq and those who opposed the Americans also invested in arms so what to do with all that equipment meant for humans to wage war on one another?
We might not like to admit it and we certainly aren’t going to speak aloud about the root causes of terrorism, what happened in Paris was something that has happened many times before in many places, recently, and in the past. Anyone psychotic enough and sociopathic enough to run a terrorism campaign successfully also knows that the only way to keep the war alive is to keep killing people. And they also know as long as they can kill there will be those willing to fund the killing so even more weapons can be sold. More than ideology, pure predatory capitalism, in other words greed, fuels terrorism.
Without money terrorism ceases to exist on a global level. Without greed the need to fund terrorism ceases to exist. Without war, the industry which supplies the basic needs and the basic conditions for terrorism ceases to exist.
Paris will happen again and again just as long as we, the people of planet Earth, continue to fund it. As long as we listen to those who would divide us with religion, politics, false nationalism, and invented racial rifts, we will continue to fall prey to delivering our resources to those who plan, begin, propagate, and profit from war, conflict, fear, and terrorism.
At some point in time, we as a species, will have to realize that resources are finite and we must care for these resources or we will most certainly become extinct, along with most of the species that share this earth with us. Yet as long we fall prey to the conditions of greed and war, we will see only those false and immediate threats that devour our spirits as well as our time, our treasure, our humanity and our young.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
In 1979 I was voted “Most Likely To Die Before 21” by my High School peers. This wasn’t printed in our yearbook or anything like that but it was widely assumed that I would be dead, and dead very soon. I spent more time in my Senior year passed out in the parking lot than in the classroom. In today’s world someone would get involved in something like that but back then serious drinking was what men did and I did it too. My problem wasn’t a secret to anyone who had known me for any length of time at all.
I turned fifty-five on Monday which is a terrible day on which to have a birthday. Worse, it rained all day long, but I decided to stay home, socialize with the mutts, and write this. I’m still alive, by the way. All attempts at causing anything other than this condition have clearly failed.
I’ve been shot at once in my life and I didn’t like it. I’ve never shot at anyone. I held a gun on a deputy once but that was a misunderstanding and I had a cop in Tampa hold a gun on me once, and that also was a misunderstanding, but when it comes to guns there cannot be misunderstanding without the very real possibility of tragedy. But I am still alive.
There have been four wrecks since 1979 and I’ve managed to walk away from all of them without serious injury. The last was in 2013 and because I was doing Yoga three times a week I wasn’t even sore.
A friend of mine, a lifelong friend of mine, died in 2013. Smoking finally caught up to him, as we all knew it would, and back in 1985 he told me he thought he would live longer than he would. We talked about that, even when he was going through chemo and radiation and all of that stuff, he never truly gave up the idea he might beat it. It’s hard to grasp the ending of life and I thought I had made peace with it decades ago but I realized when my friend died that I hadn’t. Or maybe I’m more willing to let go of my own life than anyone else’s. I can deal with my own death because I don’t have to but losing someone else is a lot harder.
A car crash took the lives of five young men I knew back in 1980. It was a strange thing, really, for five people to die at once, that quickly, and I didn’t even know about it until after the funerals. A log truck driven by a man with a history of seizures crossed over into their lane and in whatever time it takes for two vehicles to slam into one another was how long it took for five lives to end. Hopes and dreams, loves and memories, bodies and souls, all of that was gone in less than a second. I still remember my sister calling and telling me about it.
Of course, back when no one thought I was going to live long enough to be able to see twenty-one, I didn’t have a niece of a nephew, and neither of my sisters had been married. It would take another twenty-two years before I would get married and that ended poorly, but we both lived through it. No one saw me joining the Army, surviving that, and no one ever thought I would live to see thirty, or forty, or, damn, fifty.
Yet I am still here.
Do they ever wonder, those people who saw me carried out of class in High School, limp as a wet rag and unconscious, did they ever stop and wonder that perhaps even as large of a wreck as I might have been, that even at that very moment, I was outliving them? They colored inside of the lines, showed up for class, studied hard, went to church, and now, forty years later, I’m still here. How does this sort of thing happen? How did life not punish someone who lived on the edge for that long? I hitchhiked across country, smoked more pot than any other two people in High School, drank like a fish, lived in terrible neighborhoods, caught venomous snakes barehanded, and dated redheads.
How the hell am I still alive?
The simple truth is life is filled with chances to die every day. Some people are lucky and some people are not. I’ve been lucky to the extreme and some people die young for no good reason. For all my addictions and habits I have pretty much lived a quiet life for the last twenty-five years or so. I’ve rescued dogs and one or two humans. I’ve read more than any two people back in High School and I’m pretty sure I’ve written more than anyone else who ever knew me. I think at this age I’ve pretty much outlived all the bitter old women who tormented me in grade school. They’ve torn down that building that I regarded as a prison. I meet people who tell me that High School was the best four years of their lives and I can only pity them for that.
It’s odd, really, being fifty-five. It’s like being in a place I had no idea I was going, didn’t want to be there, but here I am. There’s a good half dozen or so people I would like to speak with before I die and I would like to ask them was it worth it, to live by the rules, and to not do the things that Mike did, and to spend a life in the same small town waiting to join the rest of the family in the same grave plot, I mean, really?
I do not feel fifty-five. I feel as if there are more rules to be broken, more excess to be explored, and more memories to be made. I feel a certain kinship with that kid back in High School where everyone was sure he was going to die, just because he lived.
You are all going to die anyway, bitches.
You might as well live.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
It was a little warm for a letter jacket but Terry wanted everyone to see him wearing it before he handed it over to Debbie. Everyone already knew they were going steady, and everyone was so jealous. She wanted to wear the jacket to the concert but hadn’t said so, and Terry wanted her to ask. He wanted her to ask him to take it off, and he was going to, but she had to let him take her shirt off first. Debbie had been very firm up until last night about letting him touch her but last night… Today, however, ARS was playing here, in Dothan Alabama, and Terry had great seats. Coach Riverdale had somehow gotten four tickets and so he, the backup quarterback Michael and his girl, Cill, and Debbie were off to their first trip in Terry’s father’s car. Man, was this great or what? He was the youngest starting quarterback ever at Hopkins High. His driver’s license wasn’t a month old and he was already at a ARS concert with Debbie. But right now he had to pee.
He used the bathroom and washed his hands and something was all over them. Something came out of the water faucet and…Terry looked up and there was a monster in the mirror. He screamed, fell, and scrambled to get up but nearly fell again. His legs…his..oh God. Where was he? Terry looked around and he was not in Dories Auditorium. He was in a tiny stinking bathroom and it was incredibly cold. He stood up and the monster looked back at him from the mirror. Terry took a step back and fell again. His legs didn’t work at all. He hurt his arm and when he looked at his hands he screamed again. They were covered with sores and they were wrinkled, shriveled, and veins bugled out.
“Oh God” Terry whimpered.
He pulled himself up and looked in the mirror. The monster was him. His hair was long, greasy, and matted. His face was wrinkled too, and his teeth were yellow and crooked. There was a couple missing. PAIN! Suddenly his body was racked with pain. His knees hurt, his back hurt, his mouth hurt, and Terry moaned out loud. What the hell was this? He pulled at the hair and it hurt, too, the hair was real. He shuffled to the door, crying, and when he opened it a blast of cold air hit him. Snow fluttered around him and Terry walked out into the freezing cold. What had happened? Where was he? Terry staggered back into the bathroom and stared at the mirror. He was a million years old, at least. How could this be? Terry tried to remember something, anything, but his last memory was of going to the bathroom in Dothan. Was this Dothan? Did he get amnesia and…? Terry doubled over and threw up. Blood. There was blood in his puke. Oh Jesus. Pain racked his body and Terry fell into the puke. He tried to get up and fell again. His legs, his legs didn’t work right, his back hurt, his hips were on fire, and…
“Okay, Kevin, get the hell out of there dammit, Jesus you’re bleeding, just get the hell out will you?” A policeman stood in the doorway.
“Please, Officer, please help me, my name isn’t Kevin, I’m…, “ Terry tried to explain but the cop grabbed him and flung him out of the door.
“I’ll Taz the hell out of you, you stupid jerk, now get the hell out before I start cracking some ribs.” The cop advanced on Terry and before he could stand up the cop kicked him. “Go on, get the hell out of here, dammit.”
Terry half crawled and was half kicked away from the bathroom. He was at a gas station but there were a lot of pumps, and the cars… Terry stood up and stared. None of the cars looked right. They were smaller than his dad’s Monte Carlo by far, and no one had a Trans Am or… Terry stumbled towards the parking lot and nothing seemed real. There were tall buildings, snow, and small cars. Where was he? Almost everyone he saw was talking to the palm of their hands held up to their heads, or poking at something in their hands. What were they doing? He stumbled away from the gas station and down the street. There was a bar of some sort and they had the biggest television terry had ever seen in his life. The thing was enormous. Wait! The giant televisions were everywhere! The bar had one on every wall.
“Hey!” a man said to him, “Beat it!”
Terry stumbled away and sat down on the curb of the street. He hurt all over. His ribs ached. Terry looked through his pockets and found nothing at all worth anything at all. A newspaper rolled like tumbleweed past him and he grabbed it. The print was small, and blurry, but he could make out the date; 4 February, 2011. Terry stopped breathing for a few seconds. 2011? 2011? Oh God he was..fifty? No. No. He couldn’t be fifty! He looked at his hands. His body ached. Where was he? The paper was from Las Vegas, Nevada. What was he doing here?
Terry found another gas station and watched the cars. He saw one every once in a while that looked familiar but mostly they were alien. The people were talking and pushing buttons and he saw tiny television screen in odd looking vans. The billboards were giant televisions too, and the people looked weird. Some of them had bits of metal stuck in their faces. Terry couldn’t figure it out. How did this happen? What had happened to him?
“Are you okay, sir?” There was a woman standing there, with a bible.
“My name is Terry Sirmans, “Terry said, “and I am lost.”
The woman took him to a shelter and they fed him, and gave him some new clothes. “I want to call my mom, “ Terry said, and they explained to him how a “cell phone” worked. Terry punched in his parents’ number and waited. The thought hit him like a hammer. They were likely dead by now. What if they had moved?
“Hello?” it was a woman’s voice, but she sounded very young.
“My name is Terry Sirmans, “ Terry blurted out.
“I’m sorry you have the wrong number,” the woman said and hung up.
Was his parents dead? Terry felt his eyes water and he wondered what the hell had happened to him. When did they die? What had happened? Did they know where he was? Has he been…? What? What had he been?
“Would you like to look for your family on the Internet?” The bible woman suggested. Terry couldn’t remember her name.
“The Internet?” The woman asked again. “Face Book, maybe?”
Terry still couldn’t get over the “lap top” which looked like a tv had mated with a typewriter. But the bible woman had found his old address, and they had looked at the house he felt was still his home. They couldn’t find his parents.
“Debbie Smitheart.” Terry blurted out, and the woman began to type. They found a Debbie Smitheart Collins in his hometown and the bible woman sent this woman an “instant message”. The woman led Terry to a room with a cot and he fell asleep almost immediately. It was a dream. He would be back home in his own bed when he woke up.
“Mr. Sirmans?” It was the woman. Terry looked around and it was light again. He hurt all over. The woman handed him a tiny phone.
“Hello?” he spoke into the phone.
“Who is this?” a woman asked.
“My name is Terry Sirmans” Terry said.
“What year did you graduate from High School?” the woman asked.
“I didn’t,” Terry said, “I went to a concert one night and suddenly I was here. I don’t remember anything past that night, Who is this?”
“This is Debbie.” And suddenly it sounded like her.
“Debbie?” Terry tried to remember what she looked like.
“Terry, your folks moved to Montgomery. They’re still alive. Oh god is it really you?”
Terry sat on the edge of the bed in the hotel room and stared at the television. It was huge, and flat as a pancake. His brother, Richard was flying up to get him and take him home. But Terry wondered what home would be like. What had happened to him? Why was he so old? He had spent hours talking to doctors and looking at their internet and so much had happened to the world since that night. What had happened? It was time. He walked down to the hotel lobby and waited. A man was walking towards him, Richard? And there was a much younger man with him, was this Richard’s son, they looks so much alike. Suddenly Terry realized how much time was gone.
“Did you do this to someone?” Colleen asked. “Why? Why would you, why would any one of you, do this to someone?”
“Why did you take the life of the animal that you took for breakfast, Colleen?” Rhiannon asked. “You think it cruel to use a human being in this manner? How many animals spend their lives in a cage for your amusement, or tied to a tree until they die of old age?”
“You stole his life.” Colleen was furious.”You ruined the lives of everyone who loved him.”
“This is still kinder than how you treat those animals you use. I needed a host. He was a host. It’s the same way you use animals. ” Rhiannon said simply. “And I do not like your tone.”
“I apologize.” Colleen said. She looked down.”It won’t happen again.”
“See that it does not.” Rhiannon told her. “Regal cannot protect you from me, and you know it.”
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
The woodpecker tree has fallen. I never could get a good photo of it while it was standing because there are, there were, so many other trees around it, but now that it’s on the ground I can explore it at my leisure. It was tall enough to hit the trail and I didn’t think it was, but about two meters of it slammed into the dogs’ path late last night or sometime today. We’ve gotten over four inches of rain here in the last twenty-four hours and I suspect that had something to do with it. It’s a little sad to see it down. The damn thing had stood up there, dead as a hammer, for years.
I remember when it first died, and started losing limbs, I started to cut it down then because of the threat to the dogs, but the woodpeckers need such trees. They find their food in rotted trees and they build their nests there, too. Most people will take dead trees down very quickly and this is a good thing from a human point of view, or even a dog point of view, but from the point of view of the woodpeckers it’s a death sentence. So the tree stood there and did what trees do when they die yet die standing.
Most people do not realize that trees simply die. They get hit by lightning or they get a disease and some trees aren’t long lived to begin with. But this was an Oak tree and I suspect it was lightning or bugs but not lightning bugs. Whatever killed it did so quickly and after a while the woodpeckers discovered the vacancy sign was lit.
Before the woodpeckers moved in there had to be a transition between life and death. We humans couldn’t produce anything similar to a tree to save our lives, and we might want to think about that. This is a structure that stands upright with nearly all of its mass above its center of gravity. It withstands hurricanes and storms yet it still stands. It carries a bough full of leaves and limbs and branches high into the sky yet even never fails. Even in death, the limbs and branches fall, yet there is the trunk, ten meters tall, standing as if death itself must wait on trees to fully die.
The very top of the tree and a couple of limb broke off last year and one piece was driven deeply into the ground. This is a real hazard, but I’ll take photos of the tree and you might be amazed; there is no sign the dogs have traveled around this tree in a couple of years. That’s right, the dogs, all of them, have avoided getting near the dead tree. Do they know? I think they do. What this does is keep my mutts safe, certainly, but it also allows underbrush to grow near the tree which means saplings have risen up near the tree. A parent tree, even in death, protects its young.
So seasons have come and gone, years have come and gone, dogs have come and gone, yet there’s this dead tree, a condo for wood peckers, hanging in there and standing like a wooden obelisk waiting for this day to arrive. A couple of months ago I noticed a lean to it and too some pictures of it. I know full well that once a dead tree starts leaning the end isn’t too far away at all. Now, the home of wood peckers becomes the home for all the land dwelling wood eaters and eventually, this tree will become soil.
I’m very likely to line my compost pile with the corpse of this tree. It’s perfect for the job and there’s very few things that go a compost pile as good as those things that are already eating away at the dead tree. There’s a virtual soup of living creatures in that wood, large and small, and the compost pile needs the residents. Compost kickstarter ex woodpecker condo; it sounds like an alternate rock band from Colorado.
Yet with all of this comes some sadness. A tree has died and finally fallen. Part of my daily routine in walking with the dogs was to try and spot wood peckers on that tree, to see if it was still there, and wonder if and when it would finally go. It was, and still is, a testament of how perfectly well evolution has shaped trees to be the sky reachers and sunlight drinkers that they are. Nature has perfected the tree so that even as it dies it becomes useful to other creatures and when it falls it feeds many more. In life and in death, trees are some of the most versatile and certainly the most beautiful beings that have ever inhabited this earth. Unlike most organisms, and certainly unlike humans, as they reach their full maturity they serve a vast number of other species, with shade, food, homes, as a travel way for squirrels, a rest stop for birds, and for an oxygen pump for everything that breathes on this planet.
As the compost pile is blessed by the parts of the tree that decompose, my garden will issue forth peppers and tomatoes and yes, flowers, that will feed upon what was once this tree. There will be no waste, there will be no remnants except those that are alive because of what the tree gave. There will be insects that come to feed on my garden and there will be birds who capture them and eat them, and all of this because of a tree, because of all trees, and because this is the way that nature has always been, if we allow Her.
The tree has fallen; its reign in that part of the sky is now over. My world is a little less than what it was when that tree lived and when it stood. Yet I will follow my obligation to see that which stood in the sky will return to the earth, again.
Monday, November 2, 2015
Six months after…
“Hey DeMurrey, I hear you’re leaving us,” the guard said and Larry couldn’t remember his name. The new prison was full of new faces and he couldn’t keep up with everyone’s name anymore.
“Yeah, me and the wife are moving to Florida,” Larry replied. “It’s time to move onto bigger and better things. I got my degree now. I can be a real detective.”
“Your wife’s a dentist?” the man shook his head. “Get out of this business while you still can.”
“It’s something in my blood.” Larry replied truthfully.
“You heard about Timmons?” the man asked.
“Timmons?” Larry knew he was bad at names now. A man whose name he couldn’t remember was asking about another name he couldn’t remember.
“Yeah, the FBI Agent you worked with before the flood.” The man said.
“They found him dead up in Montana.” The man replied as he left the locker room. “Suicide. He’s the one that kept trying to find Fuller. He never gave up on that, you know?”
“Yeah?” Larry replied. “I think she drowned.” And Larry never wished for anything to be true like he did that.
Two years, six months later….
Susan brushed her daughter’s hair while listening out to whatever it was that had made Timmy go silent. A quiet little boy was a little boy making trouble for his mother and Susan silently slipped away from her daughter to find her son contemplating a climb up the drawers of the cabinets to gain the countertop where cookies were cooling.
“You were not, were you?” Susan arched an eyebrow at him and Timmy fled to the safety of the living room where Larry was supposed to be watching him, but had fallen under the spell of a football game. What on earth is he going to be like when he’s big, Susan wondered and she knew, if genetics meant anything, he would be a lot like his father.
Larry’s sister was coming down in the next day or two and all four kids of the cousins would be together for the first time. Debbie was barely two, her brother Timmy nearly five, and Bryce’s two were just a bit older. Susan couldn’t see how Bryce and Larry grew up in the same household but her sister in law still had that heart of gold thing going for her. The tattoos were a bit much for Susan and she fought back the images of Debbie getting inked up like that when she was old enough. It had been since…Susan went through the math in her head, damn, well over a year since she and Larry had a weekend away together. It was time. Whatever else could be said about Bryce, children and dogs loved her. Was it time to get the kids a dog? Susan smiled at the thought. Another child, but in fur.
Destin was as far from Jacksonville Florida, where they had moved over two years ago as any place could be and still be in the state. Susan loved the white beaches and clean water. Larry liked to drink beer and float. They had made a vow of silence, to never speak of certain things, unless it was absolutely certain no one else could hear them. Larry pushed Susan out on a float until they were a hundred yards out or so.
“Are you sure about this?” Larry asked.
“Yes,” Susan replied and put a hand on his shoulder. He was still working out and it was still working. “The kids need to grow up in a smaller town. But not too small, Bryce has a perfect set up and she needs some help. And she has a fenced in backyard.”
“You never let up, do you?” Larry laughed. “Yes, we will get a dog.”
“You’ll like it out west.” Susan told him. “And we need to put some distance between us and the past. I can set up shop anywhere. You can finish your next degree. I need an accountant and we need to be able to explain why we’re, uh, well off.”
“As long as there is beer, and the kids, and you.” Larry sighed.
“And a dog.”
Susan walk along the beach alone. Larry was napping at the hotel after they had feasted on fresh seafood and great wine. She had slipped away unnoticed and she hoped to be back long before he awoke. She cut back up to the hotel with the lighthouse on top of it, and then down a side street, away from the tourists. There was a pink house with a sign out front that read, “Madam Murrey Fortune Teller” and Susan went into the house without knocking.
“Yes, may I…” a small woman with grey hair walked into the room but stopped speaking when she saw Susan. “Who are you?” she asked.
“You’re a psychic and you don’t know who I am?” Susan laughed bitterly. “Yet I found you.”
“I knew you would come one day, Susan.” Christa said as she sat down across the table from Susan. “You were one of the few people I could never see. I thought that was perhaps because you could see me. I was right.”
“Your vision was derived from death, my own from childbirth,” Susan said, “and no, Larry doesn’t know where I am, or where you are.”
“What do you want?” Christa asked.
“I have something for you.” Susan slid a large envelope across the table. “There’s fifty grand in there. I recommend some place outside of the states.”
“I understand.” Christa said but she didn’t pick the envelope up.
“You were already out of that cell before the dam broke, weren’t you?” Susan grinned. “You conned Timmons into helping you get out right before all hell broke loose. Once the power was down and the walls fell you two just walked right out of the front door.”
“The more simple a plan is the better chance there is that it will work.” Christa smiled. “You of all people should know that.”
“I know that the further away you are the safer my family will be.” Susan said bluntly.
“Then why not turn me in?” Christa asked. “Why not collect the reward money?”
“You still know that Larry and I killed someone.” Susan said as she stood up. “That will hang over our heads forever and I won’t risk my kids to see you put to sleep like an ailing pet.” Susan hesitated. “Why did you never have kids, Christa?”
“The abuse from my stepfather damaged me.” Christa told her.
“You wanted to, didn’t you?” Susan pressed.
“Yes,” Christa looked away, “your vision is clear.”
“Yeah, I thought so,” Susan walked to the door and turned around, “and that too, I think you’re a product of how men treat women, and I can’t say I condone what you do or what you’ve done or what you will do, but maybe one day you’ll make someone think about it.”
“I still have no idea why I cannot see you and you can me.” Christa said.
“Leave the country.” Susan replied. “And you’ll never have to worry about seeing me again. If you don’t I’ll take it as a threat.”
“I already know you are capable of killing, Susan, and I know he will kill for you, and I know the two of you would blot me out of this world with less care than you did for your lover.” Christa opened the envelope and smiled. “I will leave the two of you alone, and I will go to Mexico.”
“Are you capable of not killing?” Susan asked.
“No.” Christa whispered.
“Good bye.” Susan said as she walked out of the house and closed the door behind her.
Susan walked back to the beach and looked behind her. She felt as if Christa was going to follow her, or harm her, she would know. Susan closed her eyes and allowed the world to flow around her. She waded out into the water and sat down in the clear sea. One more, she thought, a boy, a girl, and a surprise, this time, she wouldn’t look, but she had stop taking the pill over a month ago. Here, in this place, at this time, she would conceive once more, for the last time. Her vision cleared and she saw a small woman, with grey hair and her back bent, passing into Mexico where she would lose her aged appearance, and once again, hunt.
Susan stood up and walked back to the hotel room and woke her husband up. “Get me pregnant,” she said.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
It’s an odd feeling. Suppose at any given moment during the day someone asked you how your socks felt and unless there was something stuck in one of them, or they had gotten wet, or it was cold out and you were wearing wool socks, you might not have noticed them at all. It’s that kind of feeling. I’m dreaming and I know I’m dreaming but it’s a Sock Feeling, that knowing that I’m dreaming, and it feels good to be sitting in the park again.
There’s several dreamscapes that reappear in my dreams and one is of a small, clean, and neat little city where there’s never any people but the buildings are nice. There’s a long rectangular park, greenspace surrounded by buildings on the west end and homes by the time the park ends at the east end. There’s a walking track around it and the track had two colors; one for runners and the others for those who walk, and the walkers walk counterclockwise and the runners run in the opposite direction. There are three fountains and each of them look exactly the same. One is near the west end, one in the middle, and one near the east end. I know this city by heart, but most of my wanderings, in my dreams, have come on the east end where the comfortable homes with their nice lawns are. There’s a house there, a normal looking wood frame house with a porch and shutters and columns on the porch to hold the roof up over the porch but everything is painted white. Trim, the front door, the swing, the columns and even the mailbox hanging beside the front door is painted picket fence white.
There’s a building near the west end of the park and I got lost in that building one day because of all the sameness in it but other than that building and that white house, and the three fountains, now that I think on it, everything else is just as normal as anywhere else I’ve been. I’m sitting on a park bench looking west and the top of the building, which looks like a five story office building of some sort, is perfectly aligned with the the fountain, which has three fluted tiers for the water to flowing into and drop out of, and I can tilt my head, change the focus of my eyes, and it looks like the top part of the fountain is sitting on top of the building.
That would be different, if an office building had water slowly moving through it all day. The workers would wear swimsuits and paddle around the break room but cell phones would be out of the question or enclosed in waterproof cases. I like the idea of an office building being part of a fountain and I like watching the sun going down and the water lights up.
“Human create their own viruses” a man sitting next to me says and he wasn’t there a second ago. Scared the hell out of me he did, but I stay asleep. “Ebola is being found dormant in survivors and we don’t know why it’s there but our bodies keep it alive. We’ve been looking for the host all these years and we never realize it was us. But that’s what we do,” the man adds with a sigh, “we keep alive those things that keep repeating themselves; reproduction is why we exist and it is our existence. We create the viruses to kill off enough people so the rest of us can survive, so even when we kill it’s so that we can keep replicating. It’s like throwing up to eat more.” The man falls silent and I wonder if he’s about to pull a knife or something. He looks homeless, like someone with nowhere to go and all the time on earth to get there, but he’s nearly lucid, as if part of him resides in the real world while part of him is living in a dream.
To a degree he can’t be argued with. The office building has identical floors, someone, even if it was me, designed the park with matching fountains. It’s only recently that people thought that mismatched socks might be cool. But even in our works that are vastly different those works are very much the same, are they not? Look at “Lord of the Rings”. It’s still made out of the same letters that some child’s story about a frog who became king of New York. Each person is made up of the same genetic building blocks as the amoeba floating around in the water spilt from the fountain.
The sameness of our world catches up with me as I wonder why humans react so strongly against anything that is new or different or alien. Could it be that we’re hardwired to see anything that isn’t replication as a threat? I hear him get up and move away from me and I’m glad to be alone again. The sun is sinking lower than the building and the light begins to fade. I know I cannot stay here much longer and I feel the urge to walk, to move from one place to another, the ultimate act of replication as one foot is put in front of another and repeated endlessly. Is this why so many of the homeless drift from one place to another? It’s an act of repeating, of creating another version of something the same; the day before.
“I’ve seen you here before” the woman says and this time I half expected it. She’s replaced the homeless man and it almost looks like she’s wearing his coat. She’s a small woman but she’s wearing a winter coat that covers most of her body, and only her legs from the knees down are visible. She’s Asian, maybe, but the accent is European. Her face smiles from the eyes and I have to remember it’s impolite to stare.
“Yes” I reply simply and I stifle the urge to tell her she’s beautiful. It’s the eyes, really, dark brown to the point of liquidity. It’s never a good thing to tell a beautiful woman she’s beautiful until after she has allowed, until after she has encouraged, the first kiss. She’s been told she’s beautiful endlessly, thoughtlessly, as all beautiful women have been, and it’s meaningless to her now, and it will be until there’s an emotional charge, a lightning strike, that goes with it.
“I went to Paris with some friends,” she tells me as she reads my thoughts, “and the first morning we were there a man took my picture, came in from my right side and surprised me by snapping a photo of my face, and he was no more than a meter away from me. It irritated me, shocked me a little, and I wondered what the hell he thought he was doing.” She stopped and shifted around and she looked at me as if she wondered if I was still listening. I tried not to stare at her legs. I could tell she had some serious inkworks but I couldn’t see the details. She continued…
“Later that day, we were standing in line at The Louvre when he came up to us. He was with a tall blonde woman who translated for him. He didn’t realize I spoke German, and I knew enough French to be dangerous. The blonde’s name was Kathy and she told me that he wanted to sculpt me. Yes, here I am, an American tourist in Paris, there for less than a week, and this man wants to turn me into a piece of artwork.” She laughed as if she still found it amusing but at the same time she looked as if the wonderment of it all still surrounded her at all times. “I said no, but when he looked at me I knew that he knew I would do it. Kathy wrote down an address to his workshop where he trained students and did his own work. My friends were totally against it, but later, after we had been drinking French wine for far too long, we decided to investigate him.
His name was Lexington, no last or first name, and he was locally famous in Paris. Kathy and he were in nearly every photo of his work, when anyone at all was, and his studio/ workshop/ classroom was in a building that was an abandoned factory of some sort. We had to go, just to look, and we did.
There were a dozen students inside, all of the working on stone, rock, anything difficult and impossible, this is where it was born. No one stopped working, no one looked up as we entered the building but Kathy greeted us, in a fashion, and she told me that I would be allowed to go further but my friends would not. There was no way they would leave me alone in a strange building in Paris but I surprised them and followed her to an ancient elevator that was powered by students who suddenly rushed to turn the wooden wheel that operated it. It creaked and shuddered as if it might fall apart itself but we arrived at the second floor.
The workshop had in it several amazing pieces of artwork, carved out of stone, and it was like standing at the birthplace of creation. Here, was a life sized sculpture of a little boy, his left hand outstretched, palm upwards, with a tiny stone toad craved out of the same rock as the hand yet seemingly independent. Kathy translated from the Lexington, no, not Lexi, or Lex, that this was to be a memorial for a child who had died very young and his parents wanted a memorial that would matter and reflect. There was a statue of carved pillar of stone; its detail painfully exquisite. It was a match to one found at Pompeii and accidently destroyed. This was to be the replacement.
‘Why am I here?’ I had to ask the question even though there would be no other reason for me to be there.
They led me to a corkboard on the wall where the photo of my face had been printed out. I had turned towards him in surprise and slight irritation. There were red marks on the photo as if he had been making measurements. He pointed to a massive piece of marble in the middle of the floor, it looked as if it were half a mountain to me, and told me he wanted to carve this into me, and me into this.
How could anyone say no to becoming art? It would be me but three times my size, to scale, and I went down to say good bye to my friends and to tell them I would be staying. When I returned to the workshop he photographed my face again, and my body in various positions. Kathy told me that I could keep my clothes on and I knew that before we truly began that I would be nude. I had never taken my clothes off for a stranger. I had never taken someone I didn’t know as a lover and every women who has a young daughter knows that each encounter with a man might be the same encounter her daughter might have, years later. A mother wants her daughter to be immunized to mistakes her mother has made but deep down inside she knows that physical attraction is an addiction very few can withstand. Even as this young man with a small beard and a covering of dust studied me I knew that he was thinking of more than just a woman made of stone and despite myself, I was thinking of what it would feel like to be more than made of stone. The divorced had crippled me emotionally yet in this ancient building with a piece of a mountain waiting to be a mirror, I felt the stirrings of life again.
What does a woman tell her family, her friends, her employer, herself, when at thirty years old she quits her life to stay in Paris to become a model? Yet my children were young and they would agree it was the right thing to do, and forever they would live to see the day they might dare some adventure. But yes, it was selfish of me, and the second day that I spent sitting for hours, first in one position and then another, with a man standing, walking around me, looking at me closely, standing across that great room from me, and asking me, motioning to me for he spoke little English and I very little French, finally, I walked out and gathered my things at the hotel, and I moved into the studio. It was an explicit surrender to the process and to the artist. It also prompted Kathy to move out.”
I began losing her. The sun was going down and I knew when darkness fell things would change. She curled up on the bench and faced me, and suddenly, I knew under that coat she wore nothing at all, and she had walked around the city, naked but covered, that day.
“The next day I took my clothes off for the first time for a stranger and sat still and waited. My body reacted to his words, his gestures, his gentle repositioning, but he didn’t touch me except as an artist. There was to be another two days of this, with he looking and I sitting still, he would touch me, reposition me, guide me, and I could feel my body willfully obey and my mind saying it was madness and my heart saying to leap into this. Finally on the fourth day we kissed and for that moment on my body was his to command during the process and during the night. We lived together, cooked together, drank together, and we turned a stone into a reflection of who I looked like during this time.
It was finished. I stood and marveled at it and that expression on my face was the very first and the very same in the photo. Kathy returned, as she always did, for the one feature what was not mine was the long hair of the statue, which belonged to her; I cut mine before the trip, from past my shoulders to as short as you see me wearing now. Oddly, he meant to carry the sculpture out to sea and leave it in water that was ten meters deep. It was a popular site for divers and forever I would remain there, with that expression on my face as they explored me. I returned home to my family and everyone was excited over what had happened. It was difficult for me to explain what had happened to me in the last nine months, but it was the same length of time as a pregnancy but this time I had given birth to myself.”
Without another word she got up and walked away, a slight swaying in her walk as if she were still at sea, still adrift, but happily, in the City of Dreams.