Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Glimpse of a Stranger

I had just turned the corner, leaving the humid bathroom to billow steam in my wake, and I took another few steps, passing the short wall between the bedroom and kitchen. It was there, on the paneled gray wall of my bedroom, that I first glimpsed the stranger. She was naked and glistening, as through a towel had not fulfilled its duty. Small beads of water clung to the ends of her curling brown hair, they stayed on the tips, threatening to drop, threatening a free fall at any minute and a plunge to the linoleum below, but they never seemed to release their hold. In the long rectangular mirror that affixed itself to the wall like an open window to another realm, I saw a stranger.
I had almost missed her, I had passed by quickly, barely making eye contact, but in those brief, almost incalculable moments, I witnessed a stranger in my home, and I returned to the window. They were eyes I have never seen. Droopy and slightly sad…how long had she been crying? After a momentary glance, I almost remembered a girl like this, where had I seen her? Was it the same skinny, long face? No, it couldn’t be, this one’s much more pale. Isn’t this the girl with a collection of eccentric clothes that spill from her closet like oozing rainbows? No, it can’t be, this girl is too thin, the clothes would hang from her like unkempt rags on a maypole. Maybe it’s the same girl that lives in a converted garage, in the small space that has turned a Korean family into landlords. Maybe she listens to the sounds above, to the ever-present noises of their life…to their booming TV, always in the midst of an action film, to their garage door opening as someone backs the minivan down the driveway, leaving to purchase more of life’s material essentials. Is it her?
If I stretch my mind like an unbaked pretzel, I can almost remember a time when we might have been friends, perhaps even shared the same warm bed and soft lover. But his person… there is nothing familiar in her almond shaped eyes. Her pale lips are nearly invisible among the angles of her face...she looks so sad. Has she always been like this?
Is this stranger always at my side? Driving with me to the supermarket on dark, cloud-filled nights, grabbing a fistful of Kleenex while tears escape like convicts in a jailbreak or laughing with me after a long session of love making…am I this stranger? She is in my home, but could this, in fact, be her home? Who is the stranger? Who is the one thinking? Which one of us is writing? Which one of us is gazing at the stranger…her or me? Could we be the same?
I have her dreams and curse her parents. I know the names of her long-lost friends that never call, memories of working at Baskin Robbins and laughing at a coworker who collected calculators. Why do I think I know this person? I share her memories, but, who is she? Her eyes are slightly wide in alarm, her face betrays her fear. Is she dead, or struggling within a rock? A rock that has all the illusions of life, a life submerged in hard soil and buried beneath a condo complex, but yet, she can look out her window and see rain.
The stranger grabs a lipstick from the bathroom, she puts a thick coating on her lips. She rubs a little pink blush on her face, like an out of focus image whose lines begin to merge into shapes, the stranger begins to fade. Now, she is a little more familiar. But is the stranger gone? Or just buried a little deeper in the soil? Another mask hides the inconvenient truth, another masks hides the pain of reality. Do you want to accept the illusion or face the fact?
You are an illusion. I AM an illusion. I am a stranger. You are a stranger. I coat it with makeup and clothes, with stories and memories and hopes and desires, but I am living within the body of a stranger. Shall I become a part of the circus, forgetting my character, forgetting that I am confined within a rock that keeps a thousand chains around my neck, holding my heart captive? And yet, I think I can drive anywhere. I think the ability to take a plane ride makes me free.
The lipstick is another layer of delusion, a way to comfort the discomfort when confronted by the stranger. A stranger that leaks out of every pore, every open hole, every fleck of brown within the iris. You can see it. That stranger is here, now. Right in front, naked and tattooed, a skeleton with breasts that moves as the earth turns, every second, but does not feel a thing. She does not feel it all shifting, she does not know that it all stays the same. She knows nothing, and she stares at herself, wide eyed and scared.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rising Demons

The demons are playing in the pools again, the abandoned waters where many children have drowned. They are long neglected waters, growing algae and fungus, a heavenly breeding ground for tadpoles and mosquitoes that feast on dead skin and coagulated blood. And, unlike swimming pools that have boundaries defined by concrete and steps and diving boards, these waters are uncontained. They are endless, stretching north and south, starting at my feet and plunging beyond my imagination. Beyond the voyages of Jacques Cousteau, higher than the furthest solar system. They are depths beyond measurement. They are heights beyond calculation. The pools are all I see, and even more clear than the black waters are the open mouths that just barely peak over the water line. The waters they lurk in are as thick as molasses, made even thicker by the ink of my fear. Purple flowers dot the murk, their presence in the blackness is a lifeline between despair and the memories of work, a glimmer of the beauty that can emerge from death. But most of the time, I cannot see the blooms, they are hidden by other life forms that are not so forgiving. They are the demons who feed on my sweat. Their long, nimble tongues miss my clit and instead, gather the salty drops of my fear. Their feeding does not release me from the trembling or worry, they allow me to reel, allow me to cry; they play with my pain like maniacal children in a park of carcasses and chewed bones. They like the taste of my tears, like cheap wine mixed paranoia and salted with tears. These are winos of the highest order. Boozers and drunks. Pure addicts. They cannot live without my doubts. Without my anxiety, they shrivel like vampires in the sun, only unlike the undead, their death is not eternal. Their ashes may drift in the wind, sometimes for days, other times for a few fleeting seconds, but no matter where the current has taken them, they can smell me in the air. In Paris, blowing across the steps of the Louvre or perhaps in the middle of the sea, cavorting with whales and mermaids; no matter how far away, they are triggered by my stumble. They smell my salt and the sudden rush of darkness that wrestles anything else to the ground. My altered mind, my anxious heart…they come running. Within the time it takes to blink, their forms coalesce once again. Quick and hard, their dark mouths take shape. Like a flash of brilliant lighting, something moves within them, giving life to their ghastly forms. They wait silently at my heels for a time, within the first moments of my fall, they wait patiently like a puppy learning to beg, waiting for the scraps of its master. But then, as the seconds pass and I begin to fall further into the pit, they start to nibble at my heels. They lick my toes in small circular patterns. Sometimes there are just a few, other times, dozens, each vying for a feast of my despair. And as the first tear falls, they are climbing up my calves like skilled mountaineers, scratching the smooth skin of my toes with sharpened nails and small metal tools. There is plenty for all. Each angry beat of my heart moves into an open mouth, each salty drop slides across their tongues like delicious nectar from a flowing well. They are ravenous, but always patient. My blood is never enough, but when the waters within are still, they don’t cry out. They wait, silently, always alert, always ready to come to my heels, to come to my cries, and delight in the earthly splendor of my recurrent pain.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Brush With Real Contact

Nuuuutthhhhiiiinnnnggg eeeehhhhveeeerrrr haaaassssss haaapeeeened. I pronounced each word with extreme intent. Longer, more thorough syllables than I had ever spoken, never had I focused on the journey of sounds, so subtle and overlooked. Like the beautiful mountain I can see looming over me outside my bedroom window, yet I never really see it. I don’t notice it because its always there, there’s no novelty in its large, booming form and its shrub covered face never seems to change, so close every day, its enormity escapes me. And these words, the thousands of words I speak every day, I have never before paid attention to their short lives…from beginning to end. They are born, cease, and then are born again, every time I wiggle my tongue and shape my lips.
Even now, as I can hardly speak, my voice taken by germs, I move my mouth in the shape of their expected form. Barely a whisper, Nuuuutthhhhiiiinnnnggg eeeehhhhveeeerrrr wiiiilllllll haaapeeeen. My soft pink tongue, barely used in the past couple of days, presses against the wet roof of my mouth, in the space right behind my top teeth. A deep breath moves inside my lungs as the almost imagined sound of the "ugghh" mounts and then, the finale, my tongue finds itself between the space of my upper and lower jaw, right below my front teeth, disturbing the outward flow of air and producing a subtle hissing sound. It all ends in the back of my throat, as the thickest part of my tongue reaches up and makes soft contact with the space at the back of my mouth. I feel it all…as long as I keep noticing, as long as the tenuous thread of my attention moves seamlessly though the center of each word.
With each second of claimed attention, the light between us shifts. Sometimes, a slight haze creeps between us, in the tangible space that only my attention can bring forth in this small house. To my amazement, my absent voice is not missed. Because of its absence, I have become clearer in intent and with this, there is a space for him to come. Like a slow moving spiral, each inflection and shift of my tongue brings him closer. His two dimensional picture emanates light from behind his head. Radiant yellow lifts his image off the page and, slowly, ever so slowly, it appears that we are here, together, face to face, eye to eye, in clear contact. And then, sometimes, he retreats…then, comes forward, like a game of catch, where the ball is my attention, and maybe his. Then…waves of violet blue, mostly hazy, but distinct clouds that spring from his face. Last night, his face became a bumpy, pebbled surface, so strange, so strong, I felt myself recoil.
In my mind, I hear the words. I think them, I feel them, I imagine their shape and implications. In my mind’s eye, I see blackness…a circle of blackness like an enormous pool filled with even darker water. Is he but a drop? Is he all of them? One? Do I speak to them all now? Is it all of them that rush to my words and attention, ready to meet me as far as my body will allow? I vaguely see their forms, shapeless and as colorful as ghosts, manifest in a reality I cannot remember. With colors and light, he is not he, he is more than one. He is something else, a drop of water spat back into the eternal ocean. A breath inhaled, then exhaled, sent into the atmosphere, into a realm of colors that my eyes can see only sometimes.
I am sitting, my ass pressed into a hard wooden chair, yet I am floating, tethered, yet somewhere above this little white body. But perhaps I am here, in this garage, without a body, without this tongue that still rolls in its attempt at syllables, and as I feel the shift, I focus on the words more intently. They are my map, my guide and my ropes.
I look at this picture, at a man that is my grandfather, yet never was. A man of my DNA, a being set adrift. And within his body, within the grandfather I never knew as a man, is a being that is me. A being that is you. In the middle of the night, he told me he was leaving. In the deep hours of darkness, he woke me from sleep with a punch to my heart and I knew, in the calm certainty of the half conscious, that he had left his body. While his machine began to decompose under a thick pile of dirt, the Being hovered around us. The space above the coffin became blurry and misty and clouded my vision and swirled like heat rays off of black pavement. I traveled to be close.
And when my mind wanders, as I read the prayer…as I perpetually criticize my current life and plan my next meal, I feel him drift from me. The light between us is nothing but the florescent hue from my continuously buzzing lamp. I am talking to a photo, a photo of a man who looks slightly insane, with bulging eyes, one slightly larger than the other.
And the moment I realize my fall, the second I begin to concentrate on the movement of my tongue, on the sounds of the words, on the meaning of the sentences and his eyes staring at mine, then the being reemerges. It comes back with the force of a strong wind, like a burst of colored light that waited for me to receive its return. It is there, for me. It is here, for me. Here…yet needing my attention. Here…yet invisible until I really look. Here…yet waiting for my heart to open. Here…needing the life of my breath. Here…as a gift. You meet me where I am. You are here when I am here, absent when my mind is elsewhere. While my armor was down, weakened by coughing fits and diseased lungs, we met. We met here. The same as always. Here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Book

I sat back on the bed, reclining more fully into the arm that held me up. It was late morning and the light filtering in through the blinds of the small rectangular window was soft with the promise of a sun filled day. I had just realized something very large and a sense of awe had come over me akin to looking up at the star filled night sky and sensing the enormity of it all and my very small place within it. My words were stolen with the impact of the realization.
"Everything we know about Jesus comes from the book. There are no other sources that verify his existence."
I saw the bloody bodies on the path made by the crusaders. I saw the witches burning and the missionaries in the tropics. I saw the abortion clinics in flames and men strapping bombs to their chests. All of this, and so much more…all starting with a book. The written words of scribes cast two thousand years ago.
The planet we live on, amongst countless stars and endless phenomena, is the source of many questions. Why does the moon cover the sun in a total eclipse? Why does the earth sometimes shake and why did my sister die under piles of broken bricks and mortar? Why does the sun come back every morning?
Humans need a reason for the mystery, an explanation for the unseen. The answer most often given is God…God’s will that decided it, God’s will that made it happen. God is the answer to the unknowable. The answer to the questions that burn and consume. Without an answer, the enormity of the Universe is lonesome.
The mechanical impulses of birth, copulation and death are too gray and stark. Humans need a reason. A reason to be good, a reason to be clean, a reason to exist; otherwise, what is the point of the suffering? The supposed word of God has been used as a foundation for all endeavors.
Circumcise your males…because God wills it. Bury your dead in three days, because God wills it. Abandon your olive groves and pyramids… because the real God wills it. Vote for this man… because God wills it. And always, it is the masses following the words of the few.
The ancient rabbis were considered to be the most educated among all the people, and perhaps they were. They used the idea of God, the threat of God’s wrath, to control large masses of illiterate peasants. Judaism has over 400 rules of hygiene and all of it is directly practiced and enforced under the permanent threat of the fearsome wrath of God.
In the United States, there is a huge political force of Christian fundamentalists who do as they’re told. They follow the word of their preachers who are supposed to be in direct contact with God. They follow an ancient book written for a distant time and a different people.
The believers follow the interpretations of rabbis and priests, but it is still a book. Is there direct experience with something like God? Is there real evidence in their lives of the promises that the Bible prescribes? Religion is a set of dead answers to living questions. They provide the comfort we seek, the final death to our sense of yearning and the hope of a clear explanation to all the mysteries of the Universe. The word is considered absolute, the modern interpretation easily molded to fit into specific current ideology.
We do not ask for faith. We ask for an open heart to experience the Absolute without interpretation or ancient dogma. We do not want to believe. We do not want to have dead answers, we want to drink deeply of the living questions.