Everyone knows what must come
regardless of choice, illusion of freedom.
And even as we sit, comfortable in our old
places, watching the wind as it moves
the rain, textures like the tree of life form
in the circles, the flurry, secure in the coming
morning, as certain as we are in every nightfall,
somewhere, just like every moment,
another face breaks, another being crumbles,
another shattering second
steals assurance, answers a plea.
Afternoon and Late Nights
She kisses my neck, under my chin. Such gestures among strangers are chilling. Lower, lover, let your lips slide over my shoulder. If it were dark I could tell her this must end in sadness. Why my weakness, my fear, makes everything red turn gray. Which is as honest as saying it might end in shared tattoos, a passionate moment in the park, or that living together would inspire me to write something pleasant about her.
An ending obscured in accents and food means as much as any promise of love or commitment.
Her words could be said by anyone, anytime, but I believe when she says they are for me. She looks into my eyes and I am unsure if she looks for lust or if she wants me to trust her more than I should trust any stranger, regardless of a perfect smile, a crooked wink, subtle hints that it might be worth falling. And in falling, find that the tumble is not a downward slide, a pleasure ride that ends in a pile of sand, filled with the laughter of children, but a drop, hard and flat. So surprising and sudden that when I look around, the world has changed, colors are new, staleness has vanished and the wind tastes different off her skin.
She touches my hand then my arm. A sigh. She walks to the car, drives away.
When she is gone, when the breeze caries off all trace of her, when the ground beneath my feet grows solid and the whisper through the trees stops making sense (the shock of the fall numbing away), I can open my eyes, wipe my chin and check for marks.
I never find any.
Tun, Tan, Getan.
Low. Under passing
airships, I slip undetected into
the backyard, up to your sliding
glass door. Low. All fourteen
years of you opens up, invites the devil in.
Chocolate and raspberries spread neatly
on the top bunk in your room. Sheet draped
loosely over you and the edge
of the mattress. Outline of your rounded
shoulder peaks beneath your hair. White skin,
pale like the sky fast turning dark, turning away
from us. Climbing the stairs to the attic loft
where you sleep when nights are too hot,
where you hide your secret things.
Everything lives here: the night shadow,
ghosts of dolls, the kisses we shared
the summer before. They slip in and out
between old phonographs and rocking chairs.
Your arms wrap from behind around my waist,
your breath short on my back.
You never speak.
There are rules for Mormon missionaries, designed to keep them focused on the work at hand, minimizing as much as possible, the effects of the ‘world’. These rules include: No dating. Staying in the same room as your companion whenever possible. Avoiding television, movies and music.
While in the Missionary Training Center (MTC), I spent the first two weeks following each rule with exactness. On a snowy night, the Monday of my final week in the MTC, I borrowed a friends portable radio, went outside and listened to music for an hour. I convinced myself that this was the final opportunity to listen to the music that I loved for the next two years.
I should have known myself better.
After three months in New Hampshire, I began to put together a collection of tapes, music I thought I couldn’t live without. Friends sent me mix tapes. I purchased used materials from local record stores (when I had companions who shared the same desires or didn’t make a fuss). All told, I came home with just over 100 tapes and a few compact discs.
At first, listening to music I previously owned satisfied. It didn’t take long to get the itch for new things. My Best friends started sending me samples of new bands, music they thought I would like. For the most part they were right. I was introduced to late 80’s, early 90’s bands like Faith No More, Soup Dragons, and the Beloved.
One day I received a tape of Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails (thanks, Reynolds). I could not get enough of it. I think I played it thrice daily, sometimes more. I shared it with like minded missionaries. We played it in the car on the way to meetings, sitting around the apartment, wherever and whenever we could. It finally gave up the ghost two months before I came home.
It was a long time before any new music from NIN. The Broken EP filled the void, hinting at an entirely new sound. I was still craving more.
Music is often associated with memory and moments. When I was going through my crisis of faith, music helped me a great deal. The darker the theme, the better. Because of that, Nine Inch Nails second full length record, The Downward Spiral, had a huge impact on me.
From the opening track, Mr Self Destruct, the sound was heavier, darker, more powerful (to me) than anything previously released.
Many of the songs dealt with anger and frustration, often at God, (which I could easily relate to at the time) or difficult relationships. I could read myself into almost every song, every lyric. At the time, I was confused, self destructive, searching for meaning, reasons for all sorts of things. Often I just needed to scream these songs (in the house, while driving) to make myself feel better. The darkness of the record never left me in a dark place. In fact, it often lifted me out of them.
This music is not for everyone and I often wonder if it would mean as much to me if I had encountered it later in life. Regardless, I am thankful for it and thankful to the friend who introduced me to them in the first place.
Some other songs off the record that had impact for me-
I have said it before.
I used to love basketball more than almost anything.
When I was in my early 20’s, the University of Utah basketball team was just coming onto the national scene, mostly thanks to Coach Rick Majerus. He recruited the best talent the school ever had, coaching with a passion and determination that demanded the best out of them, not only as players but as human beings. His NCAA runs to the Elite 8 and the Championship game are some of my favorite sports memories.
Coach Majerus died last week after years of poor health, and while his passing was sad, it was not unexpected.
During one of these video presentations, a man waking down the isle towards his seat looked up at the screen and blurted out everyone’s favorite obscenity along with its accompanying hand gesture. My first reaction was shock. Not at the obscenity, but the audacity of his actions. My next thought-he is a disgruntled Boise State fan, pissy that his team is getting beat down, but that thought was proven false as he continually cheered for the Utes during the second half.
All I could figure, and I think this is very likely the case, is he disliked Majerus. Really, really disliked him.
And I can understand that. Coach was hardly a saint. Stories abound of players he verbally abused to the point of tears. Some left the team. He drove assistant coaches away, including Ute basketball royalty (Jeff Judkins). Early in his Utah coaching career, Majerus brought in talented players in bunches but as his health deteriorated and his motivation to coach waned, so did his recruiting. When he left the University, most local kids were attending other Utah schools, rather than Utah. The program suffered (continues to suffer) from it.
Coach was the reason Utah basketball mattered in the 90’s and partially why it doesn’t matter now. This fan knew that and it bothered him (a guess I know, but a good one).
I question whether last night was the proper time or place to share such sentiment. In addition to the thousands of fans who came to pay tribute to Coach Majerus, there were children all around. There are times to let things go, let things slide. This was one of those times.
This boorish behavior is too commonplace at sporting events. I understand passion for a team and living and dying at every win and loss. I don’t understand meanness directed at college kids(or in this case, a deceased coach) by grown adults. My anger during a sporting event is a very controlled anger, a fake anger of sorts (not that it justifies any anger at something as trivial as a sporting event) and I have learned to vent my frustrations in a way that allows me to still like myself afterward. I was embarrassed for this man, his seemingly useless anger and overblown reaction to something or someone he did not like.
If nothing else, it made me determined to be better. I guess that is something.
Wednesday December 5th twothousandandtwelve
1. We only have a few weeks left before the Mayans return as zombies and eat our brains.
2. Drink plenty of water. Hydration is the key.
3. I prefer bats to swords.
4. A shotgun would be a nice Christmas surprise.
5. I am nearing the completion of two studio album collections (The Who and David Bowie). Funny how that matters to me somehow.
6. The picture on my desk is from 2001 or 2.
It’s a glimpse into a past when my brother had a clever beard and both Sheryl and Emily had short hair.
It is also a reminder of a time I had some hair, which is overrated, but still interesting.
7. Steel cut oats are tasty with brown sugar and half and half.
8. I think I have found a vitamin and supplement combination that allows me to function normally. If I die from some strange reaction to the pills, I’m sorry.
9. I am rarely filled with regret, but the things that get to me really get to me.
10. Robert Smith of The Cure used to be skinny.
11. Heavy sounding bands with female singers make me happy.
12. The annual Arizona trip is a week away. I wish you were coming.
13. It is now over three years since I have had a coke (braggart!), and I really haven’t missed it. The only time it becomes an issue is when I find myself at Lagoon or the zoo. Strange places to crave sugar.
15. I am considering hair dye, mostly because my kids say I look like a gray old man, which shouldn’t bother me but really does.
16. I am also considering lasik as wearing glasses, while not all that irritating, sometimes causes me stress
17. That blue shirt is one of my favorites.
18. So is that BBQ place. Kaiser’s is the name. They have killer ribs.
19. I have started writing the same book three times. Each time I am sure I have it figured out.
20. I could use another coffee.
21. I have discovered a fantastic creamy chicken soup recipe. Alterations have included adding celery, sweet corn (which ruined it) and recently, turkey. I am going to make it this Sunday for some of my family.
22. I have never been to Ohio. Should I remedy this situation?
23. I miss the library less than I thought I would.
24. I really, desperately want to live in NYC.
25. It still surprises me that Star Trek-The Next Generation was picked up for a second season.
26. I own an iPhone, iPod, iPad but refuse to purchase a MacBook. It makes little sense.
27. Pettiness is unattractive, especially if it makes you write a manifesto.
28. I want to bake cookies today, but won’t
29. If you feel like it, bring me dark chocolate from Amano Artisan Chocolate . It would make me extremely happy.
30. If nothing else, enjoy this song.
I offered an open door. You, dressed in drab yellow (accenting your olive skin), tight leather boots, and your sickly sweet friend (denim skirt, faded baby blue blouse and mouse brown hair), are all smiles in the hallway. I stand to the left and let you in.
From the table, smells of cooked flesh, foreign spices bring you closer, almost tripping over boxes on the floor, a scattered game of RISK (never to be finished) and empty drinking glasses, once filled with sweet wines and other dark liquids. You eat with your fingers while your friend, call her Misunderstood, stands in the center of the room. She fiddles with her hands, feigning smiles and laughter, clever as she is, in spite of her silence. She is forgiving, Misunderstood, to the point of forgetting. She loves me intently, all the while knowing I only see your dark brown eyes, Mediterranean skin.
The ocean crashes and churns outside in evening hues. It is this that has brought us together, a night of waiting and watching to witness a last sunrise (for who among us is promised any more), together before it ends. A chance to watch the day, a last day, begin.
A rented beach house, rickety, worn by the elements.
The fourth, tall, blonde, slender (call him Catalyst), sits drunk in the dark green chair. His eyes, once deep blue, now cloudy, almost sea gray, dart from you, to me, Misunderstood, and the space between his knees. Effortlessly, almost silently, invisibly, he stands. One step and he takes you by the hand, then me, while Misunderstood, shifts nervously, her hands still fidget, wring themselves over and over. Her lips part and she inhales. She moves forward takes your other hand, rather than mine. Is it defiance or fear? I am careless, intrigued by the callouses Catalyst rubs against my palm in deliberate semi-circles (up and left, down and right). I reach out for Misunderstood, completing our circle. And we sit, the four of us, on the worn wooden floor while the wind rises unnoticed outside.
Catalyst has turned on the music. He sings along, pitch perfect (which I hate about him).
Hours slip by, our hands locked, then unlocked; sweaty, thigh-rubbed-dry, then locked. Our conversation, one dishonest story after another. The lies bringing us closer, making what must follow a certainty rather than an act of courage or will.
At 4 A.M. the circle breaks. Catalyst leans forward, whispers in your ear. You smile. A breathy laugh sneaks between your teeth. From the bedroom, he retrieves three large blankets, throws them in haphazard piles.
On your stomach, one arm under your head as a pillow, face turned to the right, Catalyst rubs your shoulders while my fingers trace your eyebrow, then over your cheek and chin; your lips. Someone kisses someone else. Sitting with her back against the wall, Misunderstood weeps. The room blurs and darkens, while outside, the sun rises certain and inevitable. Irrevocable.