There were black flies buzzing about my head, when you and I gave a slight wave of recognition. I haven’t seen you in a long while. I’d really been hoping never to see you again- now that we were done with college, and upon leaving we mutually decided not remark any sort of goodbye. So it was, that we’d passed from each other’s lives.
But in this unexpected encounter, we have ruffled the undergrowth of the land I’d now decided to reclaim in peace. It was where I’d laid out to dry the spot cleaned fibers of my youth, and shook out the dust against the side of the old college apartment.
I knew looks on my back, so I was twitchy, walking the hiking trail stalked by my old friends- the benevolent and righteous observers.”You’d better get mean too boo”, and so it was then in my head the last time we spoke.
Since then I’ve become aware that calcified grudges are hardest to weed from the garden.
We were all just kids then, but old enough for my own paranoia to seep in to the fungal tissue of my brain, like spores which make good on their promise in age. In the growing moss on the spinal column, and raised heartbeat as we pass one another, there is a certain sickness in the growing mass which hopes to spread. But I know that no one will ever truly win this war of my own imagining.
I know there is no parade in the city, nor felled opponent at high noon in the desert.
Rather, there is a quiet field of black mushrooms, come up out of the ground, in the spot where our mutual hatred silently slipped past one day in July outside the library.
Give up on that 70’s and 80’s music , like giving up on your weekend plans. Listening to words is something not typically associated with your miscellaneous habits, of which have existed since Shaker Heights and the jumping off the water fall and the mob bombings in your hometown.
Cleveland Ohio, where the suicidal men in station wagons are discovered by you and your friends parked late at night nestled with a 12 gauge, and children have been known to shoot out the windows of their neighbors garage. House of your stepfather, House of the golden child, and smiling 35mm film snapshots. You left quite a paper trail on the outskirts of your youthful rebellion. I’m somewhere up on the fourth floor, in the creaking night with my brother watching television. We called several times, staying up till someone got home, scared to death of burglars and God knows what else.
It was only later, when I’d grown up a little, and you’d left my mother and were living in the next town over, that I thought of your childhood home while sitting on the porch my own- the one we now had to sell. There is no third or forth floor, just the second floor and the basement, my humble monetarist by the sea in the face o your Gothic cathedral. Still, both places are quiet enough now that their children have grown and left. Walking through my empty childhood bedroom is like walking through a crypt on the second floor. I imagine it must be similar for you. What was it then, that drove you to such lengths to run away? I am at the top of the stairwell outside what used to be yours and my mother’s bedroom. Is it wise to linger in places such as these?
The abbey beneath the mountain has a voice all its own. What did the voice of your parents house tell you? Did it recall dreams of your teenage parties, girlfriends, and adventures? Did it make the rift in you that you sought to fill with a new family, new friends, and new children? Or was there something unsaid in the product of the soil, the broken lawn mower in the shed, and the waterlogged firewood by the porch? Maybe it was simply the act of questioning what mystery lay within the locked doors upstairs, where you once lay prone on the roof smoking cigarettes with your brother. They are not evil spirits, certainly, but the poltergeist in us all has an innate longing for the past, and will do anything to make it so.
Board games on the coffee table with the dual innocence where we once were as children,
but now soiled skin.
There’s too much baggage in our collective bedrooms. So start anew at six and seven. Benefits of skipping the younger years, maybe fashion someone that will share in your condition.
Throw open the sash after Christmas, a spring cleaning of sons. I should have noticed sooner,
but you covered your bases, assured me of the unchanging nature of things. I remember your embrace when I left for Ireland at the airport.
But of course it’s changing. And you knew that even then, since November or before. You delayed me- got to me first. Before I was standing at the sink, holding the electric kettle under the tap, when I noticed and forgot the water running cool over my hands.
The thought came then.
In some ways, I wish college and traveling abroad wasn’t sold to us as such a unanimously great thing. That is not to say that I regret my choice to travel to Ireland. However, this notion that traveling abroad will be “the time of your life” is utter bullshit. I suppose it’s more difficult to convey the message, “Go see the world, and yeah we’re not gonna lie, people you love will die, your home may or may not fall apart, and you’ll feel like you have nowhere to go back to. But you’ll grow so much in such a short time”. The articulation would be difficult on any brochure.
So in one sense, I have no regrets. But in another I am forced to admit that I am not happy, and have not been in some time. I’ve had my good moments sure. But they have been hidden in blank stares, and late at night, my mind wanders to visions of you breathing oxygen when the mitral valve in your heart gives out. In that moment, I will check to if my hands are still smaller than yours in those final moments just as they were in those first. I think of my mother, and her disdain. I think of my younger brother, and his arms larger now than mine, with hints of topography in the scar tissue.
Heaney once called it “The Music of What Happens.” But how the fuck do you translate it? Am I expected to learn to sight read? But I’ll end the tortured metaphor where it lies. It doesn’t really matter, in much the same way that writing doesn’t matter. Not really anyway.
No matter what clever little words or enjambments I might conjure, I am left then with photographs taken of a young me with teeth I no longer have next to a snowman in Rhode Island. There is another of my brother and I amongst a pile of dead leaves. Wedding photos on Martha’s Vineyard after you both graduated the college I now attend. Kodak film. My mother’s camera she used in college. Acrylic sleeves in black faux leather albums. The frames are displayed on the mantle wherever it is you live now, or smashed by my mother on the front lawn you used to cut in the summer.
I can’t say I’m one for a rainy Tuesday. There”s the smell of coffee and the sound of drums in the distance. I can see shreds of the long winter resting on the ground.
I can remember your run down little kitchen, when snow fell and the radio hummed a warm heatless sound. Electricity that pulsed in winter, and we danced and the faucet leaked and I was content.
Days like today remind me of you, though I can’t quite remember why. Maybe it was all the hurt on both sides, yet I felt nothing but the October air blow in through my open window.
But that was years ago, and I still can’t remember why.