Poetry for 3 AM

10 01 2011

Trains

Chase me subway train,
Kill me with your steely eyes
I am waiting for my stop—
Really waiting to get on
And she tears me up just wafting by

There are bare feet on the floor
Attached to footless people
We stop, start, push shove
Then my toes crawl away
To find some string and a needle

I lie down on subway tracks
Somehow they leave
They carry people away
They give them new feet
But they don’t come back

Castles

You’re just tired and it shows
Each little sigh is a tiny blow
Like a wish made out of bones
Far from your father’s home
The thousand places you’ve outgrown
The million times you called me on
I’ve spent so many nights wondering oh
How your bed turned so blue
How time had never changed you
How the sun obscured the truth
How everyone is starting new
And where you had gotten to, gotten to?

You’re an animal, a monster, something I can’t describe
You’re an animal, a monster, something I want to get behind
It’s like a brigade tumbling down a cascade
Or a renegade superhero taking free days
Troubled by the hives, you can never stay alive
You’re on the run, on the run, and I know you’ve got a gun.

You’re alarmed and I know
You’re dying with every throw
Of every little stepping stone
That grew from miles below
Or from a place that he never cared to go
I suppose that’s exactly where you dared to roam
(It’s giving me some vertigo)
How I spend my nights wondering oh
How your bed turned so blue
How the night can swallow you
How quickly she withdrew
How happily she pursued
And where we had gotten to, gotten to?





A theory for theories

23 09 2009

We sat there in the dull and quiet room, waiting to hear the news that didn’t matter. Content had leapt from matters serious, becoming frivolous; creativity seeped from the wall; hope and change were splattered like shot against a battered target. Post-modernism was upon us: theory resplendent. OR, we had become modern again! that nirvana of oscillations between signal, sound, metaphor, and pure, furious noise. Then, swiftly in the night with feathered hooves, meaning crawled back into words. The long, electric dark of the twentieth century stood up on coke-dusted heels, rising with a riveted chin as illusionment drove lattices into still, vibrating space. Words had and did not have meaning then, and now meaning itself lies naked and so, in the modern sense, wasted and understood. It was both constructed and deconstructed: bearing no distinct fruit.

“The test results were negative.”
“The book is in good hands now.”
“She was never going to leave you that house.”

Dizzy in my pocket. She spoke unnervingly eloquently. On 12 Serly Road, we walked out that room, my girl and I, out that detestable space, into Serly Road. Structure, structure, structure. The structure of a dream.

Awake. Tense, escaping tradition, I woke up in a sweat, her words bouncing in iambic pentameter. Shakespearean prose swam through my veins, the effects of falling in love bleeding out a conceit stitched together like a broken capillary. Upwards, of course, I pressed the button to floor 9 ¾. It made sense, like an Arabic narrative, or love in the Russian winter, like Melchizedek storming through Mos Eisley while in search of Lara. I awake again, consciousness snapping forward, the recognition of the dream that exempts you from its grasp. Then complications begin to subside.

The words relax. They loosen their thorny grip. The cup I hold as I wake up is brittle and full; the people around the table are merry for my waking up. I don’t wonder where the thirteenth hand comes from or plot a conspiracy. I am content to swim around above what I believe to be the gentle currents below. And while so many have swum far out to embrace some extraordinary unison between letters and spirit, I will leave myself content at the shore, to walk upon well-known lands in ways well-known men have never known.





Two Kidnappings (Spanish-only)

15 04 2009

Dos secuestros

Así empezó, sin duda y sin compromiso allí en la calle en donde la gente desaparecen. La señorita Leira Iturralde, quien trabajaba para la CIA en el división de narcotráfico, estaba caminando bajo la protección de dos agentes. Tenía solamente unos treinta años de edad y ya a cargo de la división, después de haber interceptado veinte toneladas de cocaína en un barco yendo a los Estados Unidos. Nació en Argentina y creció en los Estados Unidos desde cuando sus padres se mudaron en 1982. Era la hora de revolución, la hora de niños desaparecidos y de adultos desanimados.

Primero, yo encontré los cuerpos de los dos agentes, Jackson Trivers y Allison Hanning, quienes habían trabajado por cinco años juntos antes de conocer a Leira. Los dos cuerpos estaban en la calle a la vista, con un punto rojo en su frente. Era tarde pero las luces en la calle iluminaban el charco de sangre que manchaba sus camisas y que pintaba sus caras. Trivers y Hanning fueron importante, pero más que nada, teníamos que encontrar a Leira. Escrito en un papel que estaba en el bolsillo de Trivers era: ≪No las vas a encontrar. Ni en el cielo, ni en el mar.≫ Sí, la señorita Leira estaba caminando por estos calles y ya no.

Leira se despertó en una cama fría bajo una colcha sucia, lleno de lagrimas, tierra y manchas de sangre. Analizó su entorno. Medía todo que podía: el cuarto era 2.5 metros de altura por 4 de ancho y 5 de largo, la puerta estaba en la esquina 3 metros de su cama. No se oía ningún voz. La bombilla estaba colgada desde el centro de la habitación. Ella se sentía muy cansada. Pensaba que si no la hubieran matado entonces ella habría sido importante para mantener vivo. Los pensamientos que no vinieron de inmediato de su formación llegaron lentamente. Era probable que la habían drogado, creyó ella. Después de lo que pasaron unas horas se dio cuenta de que tenía hambre, y que no sabía cual grupo le secuestró, y si sabían donde estaba, y si …

Segundo, busque en los papeles que estaban sobre la mesa encontré mucho. Con el permiso del gobierno, miré los websitios donde andaba Leira antes del secuestro. Vi fotos y videos y correo electrónico. Todo pasó muy despacio y yo me preocupaba por su vida más y más. Yo seguía buscando en cada carpeta de la computadora. Tal vez fue un recuerdo de una cosa que me había dicho de su breve tiempo en Argentina o tal vez fue suerte. Abrí una carpeta titulado “Corrientes.” La carpeta tenía seguros muy avanzadas pero no impenetrables. La vida de Leira, siempre envuelto en el misterio, estaba a punto desenredarse.

El día siguiente, leí todas la información en la carpeta. Leira trabajaba con ambos lados en la guerra contra los narcotraficantes. En 2003, cuando había hecho su gran descubrimiento del cargo en el barco, ella había mandado un correo electrónico a Carlos Ramas, el cual es un sobrino de Pablo Escobar, para notificarle del descubrimiento. Ramas respondió, ≪Bueno. Los demás tienen azúcar. Asegúrese de que no analizan los paquetes marcados con una etiqueta amarillo. Ojala que asciendas con esto. Estamos tomando un gran riesgo contigo. No nos falle.≫

En el cuarto sucio, Leira esperaba ver sus secuestradores y amigos, Ramón y San Pedro. Todo salió más o menos conforme a sus planes. Tenía más hambre. El reloj en la pared de que ella no se había dado cuenta le dijo que eran las cuatro. No sabía si fuera de la mañana o de la noche. Entró un hombre al cuarto, mirando a ella. Leira no le conoció. Por primera vez empezó dudar que estos fueron sus amigos del FARC. El plan era permitirla desaparecer para usar su información de la CIA y para no estar viviendo como traicionera con la posibilidad de ir a la cárcel. Pero no deberían haberla drogado. El secuestro no iba ser cuando estaban presente Trivers y Hanning. Los hechos no tenían sentido. Cuando vino el hombre, no mostrando comida sino puntando un pistola en su cara, ella sabía que estos tipos no eran ni del FARC ni de la CIA. Se levantó con la agilidad de una mujer de veinte años. Ella sabía que sabía demasiado. Por eso no la mataron. La droga ya paró de afectarla. Sus pensamientos tenían claridad. Miró a su secuestrador, memorizando su rostro como si le pudiera parar de hacer lo inevitable. Miró al cielo, a tiempos pasados, a horas desapareciendo dentro de otras horas tras la espalda de un reloj antiguo en donde la gente se pueda escapar y en donde nunca le llega su hora. Empezaron las preguntas.





About the Author

13 04 2009

http://www.kevinverbael.com





Lent without Caffeine. 12:01 am Easter: A Can of Coke.

11 04 2009

And it was delicious.





ThesisTrack Word Cloud

9 04 2009

ThesisTrack Word Cloud

Link to full-size image 776px x 367px, generated on Wordle.net





Edges

2 06 2008

This is what it feels like to be free.

    The steering wheel feels light under my fingertips as I carefully match the curve in the road. It would be so easy to slip, a miscalculation, a too-long glance down at the radio. Possible excuses.

            A barbell suspended above my head wants desperately to return. For a moment, I consider letting it fall, where it might crush my skull, tear indifferently through my brain and lie quietly amidst a greying body and ashen faces.

            Words form in pools inside my brain, the synapses of which are waging war. Some with the engineered desires to survive. Some with consciousness.





A Collection

2 06 2008

The windshield collects fog as my tepid body creates some dissonance with the air outside. I fail to flip the defroster on, seeing no point as the length of the drive was only five minutes. The fog crowds the window to the street, filling in from the bottom until I have to sit straight to see out. My girlfriend talked with me on the phone, before I had left the gym. She was going to sleepover at James’ dorm. It was a fun day for her: the supermarket, video rentals and now some cooking and movies in pajamas. A few minutes ago, she said my melancholy is only some manifestation of my envy; that she was out with friends and I was not.

            No person handles being analyzed with much grace. Naturally, I respond that this was an oversimplification, that I was not jealous, but instead lonely. The problem was not what she had, but that I had so little of it. “It wasn’t loneliness either,” I think as I begin, once again, some devolution into a prototypical teenager. I believe, momentarily, that my life is insoluble, rich, and complex. Then, mirroring some prior apathy, I see how well labels can encapsulate a being. I connect the two.

Still, it wasn’t jealousy.

            She talked with me on the phone for two or three minutes. “I could go to the beach,” I mused. I didn’t feel like eating anything, even In’n’out which was, incidentally, about ten yards from where I had parked my car to go to the gym. I didn’t want to bother her anymore, nor did I particularly desire the company of my cousin with whom I had arranged to meet. I was and am still, somehow lifeless. However, I know that I am alive, figuratively, because there are things I want to do more than others. I have some passion. At least, I have less apathy for some activities.

I wonder what she thinks of me. There, a thought, an idea. Something to pass the time.

            My girlfriend is good. No slut or idiot by any means. She has a simple charisma to her, like what one might conceive of as a southern belle with a pan-American accent. Remembers details, diligent, personable, careful, plain-spoken. To know what someone thinks of you, you have to figure out what you think of them. I justify, I apologize, again.

            She rounds out my wrongs with good faith, giving me a clearly defined benefit-of-the-doubt. She knows that my persona is constantly sublimating into something else; that it is semi-cyclical. I worry that she is able to compartmentalize me because she knows my past so well. Like having the book on predicting the weather, she is able to box me in. Like the weather, I have my occassional surprises, to which she learns a posteriori how to respond. Then those responses become programmed in, too. What I’ve painted in the last few sentences sounds cold and impartial, but understand that it is completely the opposite. The system is tailored to me; she knows how best to quell the fits of emotion, to encourage a positive, fulfilling means for their expression. Is it perfect?

            I make many more mistakes than she does. For each time she’s hung up the phone in the middle of conversation, I’ve done it five times. I’m sorry. I have lost interest in this too. The fog in the car has taken the night whole. 





Waves and Radiation

4 04 2008

Nominal

The compulsion to write is embedded in the doctrine of human affairs. It is in our psychology, the impulse to communicate. And to share stories, true, false or otherwise, is in that evolutionary condition. We innovate like young lieutenants on a warfront, trying to convey the distinctly novel while timidly assimilating the knowledge of years past. Authors, television anchors, corporate figureheads have all appreciated that bitter struggle between apprentice and master; between reading and writing.

An excerpt from a student in my Social Economics course at Millson College. Despite the regurgitation from lecture, the poor use of simile, the confusing and possibly contrived set of three workers, I sense he is approaching a real thought towards the end of his blue book, a shame perhaps that the exam only ran for an hour and a half. What clever deduction about the human condition might have escaped his hands?

We discuss the conventional topics in our marble floored halls. We employ the dichotomy of nominal and real to its extreme and question it. What we affix to things, that power we give it by naming it, possibly Biblical, is fundamental to existence. It is fundamental like the struggle between reading and writing: our names in themselves mean nothing believed only by a rogue; only with a compliant cohort does it become relevant. Then these nominals take on real value, extinguishing themselves only as the language and society themselves erode. Symbolic generation. The creation and destruction of meanings in markets, Schumpeterian, keeps the underlying social contract relevant and understood.

The students often file in quietly to my lectures, aware of my sternness, my acrimony for ignorant questions and unabashed hand-raisers. Lectures are an escape from interaction. I speak and they listen, annotate, record. Those who do not want to come are not welcome. I speak with the precision of a physicist exhorting the finer points of his incisive proof and the rigorous dullness that becomes inescapable at forty-three. I imagine that there are more exciting speakers, but no more exciting material than we cover. Hear the voices of science churning to answer the questions of life, of dynamic social interactions, of government and psychology. In mid-lecture I sometimes become passionate, my striding pace quickens, my hands wave more fluidly. Then I see the students smile their attending curious smiles. They type or write in their code, bulleted and in Times New Roman or perhaps with loopy o’s and undotted i’s. They wear the shirts of contemporary bands, of their respective dorms, of their culture expressed through the market system, itself excited to innovate with progressively more imitative art. The shirts in particular are a fascinating time-series. The frequency of collared-shirts, densely populated in the front rows contrasted with the cliques of girls hiding towards the sides beneath Millison sweatshirts. In a few weeks, they reorganize as the girls in sweatshirts begin dating those with a need to declare their musical preference with clothing; they separate from their herd only to be reunited with them after Spring break. The collared shirt crowd sometimes puts on the suit and tie, ostensibly for an interview with a financial firm. Sometimes one or two stop coming altogether, disappointing me most. These are not my contemporaries, they are more important. These are those who in their casual judgments decide the life expectancy of my thoughts. Despite my disregard, I am dependent. I fear they know this, too.

In the background of my life there is a murmur of solitude. Perhaps it explains my compulsion to write. Perhaps it explains the absence of my wife, long separated now. The solitude is in bed with my personality, the two conniving pieces of my life that have worked in unison, feeding upon one another. A positive feedback mechanism, my students would tell me. I have meaning because of my contributions to the literature. My contributions to society are tangible in the papers written and cultural analyses that have made my students a self-selected and prestigious group. They are mine. I know their names and histories, their stories. They are the ones I will give anything to. At office hours, I hear their academic struggles and they hear my personal ones. At lecture I become the analytic animal; in person, the social animal.

Still, loneliness pervades my life. After the year passes and my select seniors graduate, the most I hear from them are what is written in the college newspaper. The college paper, the unimaginatively named “Times,” has the cloudlike sensation of ivory-tower delights. It bears the burden of fact with the restless guile of indolent, casual sensibilities borne in the undergraduate ethos. Sparkling champagne and cheap beer, discarded pizza boxes, uneaten cafeteria food, ambiguous regretful hookups and misguided after-school events litter the social scene. Nothing here pretends to be more than camp for the well-educated and the well-endowed.

I was wrong, it does pretend. I pretend. I pretend for the sake of advancement, that if I redefine the environment; if I write a constitution, contribute in to the ethos, it will change. Let it become something.

The letter from my wife that night said, “The papers have been filed today. I missed you Eric, but I am not going to let my life go by.” That was real.





A song without a tune

4 04 2008

Redemption

“it was just a kiss? darling, what is just a kiss?”

I waited for you by the patio steps
Holding a bouquet of flowers and keeping my breath
When I saw you with him
You looked straight through me,
There’s redemption in those eyes,
I braced for the lies,
Because there’s nothing to share,
He’s standing right there
At the door to our house,
She buttons her blouse..

There is something to be said for love,
Something to be said for many things,
I don’t know where the trouble is,
But my troubles sure found me.

I opened the door from the patio steps
Holding flowers for a heart that already left,
I remembered you, and what you’d said
About not being satisfied.
Commitment slurred by the wine,
Our kids are resting their heads
As you slip into bed,
I figure out where to go,
It’s your silhouette on the window.

There is something to be said for love,
Something to be said for a lot of things,
I don’t understand much of this,
What am I supposed to be?

I opened the door to the local hotel,
Where I found Mary Jane ringing the bell,
Booked a room and Jane came inside,
I told her “no,”
At least for tonight,
Passed her my flowers,
We lay there for hours
She told me everything
Married and divorced, living the American dream
In a duplex house on 120 Penny Street.

There is something to be said for love,
Something that eludes me,
Softer now do our voices call,
So much more quietly

For the girl of my dreams,
The boy of her fantasy,
All the more quietly





This Side of Morning

17 12 2007

 

She was the kind of girl who makes you write. Write after a long day, sitting in your threaded shirt that you wear three days in a row because it’s her favorite and nobody minds. And you find yourself missing out on essays and poetry in favor of a diary entry that hopes to catch what happened in that blur of hours where we’d done what – hold hands? talk about life? do the simple things? It’s like eating vegtable soup with a fork. Oh, yes, see these entries tend to devolve into freshman metaphors and simile.

My favorite scene: wire-iron chairs seating the contented couple outside some small-city café, they are discussing the laissez-faire ethos. Let’s get a little closer, not enough to interrupt but to hear Jean tell me, “Why for the world would you dare give up something wonderful now for something just as good later? Only the most patient man does not see a difference between having x now and x later.” Please notice her smile, curiously hidden behind a bookish take on something simple. My reply, reflecting my not being a philosophy major, “but sometimes, I think, we wait for something because we enjoy the pursuit.” Haven’t we all chosen not to sleep with someone we could to enjoy the space between first kiss and comsummation? as if the climax portends the inevitable decline.

Again, on an airplane turning miles and I wonder what was it that made soda taste better in the cabin upon the sky than at a restaurant on ground. I’m noticing that, unlike margarine and butter which were once indistinguishable, I’m losing the ability to taste air-Coke as better than regular. Was there really no difference: was it merely a childhood imagination back when flying was novel? Or was there a genuine difference: something to do with consistency and air pressure and tiny carbonated water molecules? Look at Jean drink her Coke; she does not think about it and there is no need to. Like many others, I will not share this story. I will not complicate her life.

I can hear Jean’s voice put me to sleep after a long day; she had compassionate instincts, a warm eye for distress. Only when I couldn’t respond would she open up to me. In the restaurant, only when food was served and my mouth full. In the bed, when I was half-asleep. And in that moment, the one where our timelines crossed paths and mangled each other before cutting free.

The insolence of life’s brevity! How insistent it is! see this moment wind up like a pitch: with that exhilarating still surprising delivery landing upon such expectant tongues. She walks on the stage, entering from the right: she cannot see me yet. She asks the waiter if there is a reservation. There are none for a party of two. She sighs a modern sigh, an attractive twentysomething relegating her free time to internet-arranged dates. She looks around, skipping her eyes over me, and in them I see a string of one-night stands, dinners alone, and window-staring on empty mornings. Those glass orbs reflect pains, old abuses, unborn children, unwritten diaries, and still, behind them even further I saw a woman who prided herself on small personal successes. Who carries with her a knowledge, a confidence that eclipses the shadow of the past. Each flitting glance before introducing myself was a peek at the answer key before the exam. Before the defenses would go up. And, yes, fall down.

“Hello, Jean my name is Lacome.” She smiled, her cheeks pushing a little too hard. Her eyes lit up, her smile grew more genuine. Though I had never seen the woman before in my life, and there is no other way to put it: we remembered each other. Then, without warning, she collapsed and we were on the way to the hospital.





Spider

27 09 2007



Spider

Originally uploaded by Kevin V.

Crawl by, please don’t notice me.
I’m just a giant in your eyes. Nothing
but giant that goes by
(and takes pictures of you while you eat).

In other news,
Hello, world. New camera: Rebel Xti!
(There are ~15 new pictures including one of my (messy) room).
Also, apologies for not writing for so long.





The Wallflower Blooms

16 08 2007

THE WALLFLOWER BLOOMS: Part One

Speak, silence: for now I listen. This girl knows she is not alone. Books dissected on the floor represent not what has been made for the world, but what she has done to find herself. Everything is written on the subject of cleverness, on lovers, about dawdling little feet that fail to float on the dance-stage. On any subject, scientists and novelists can better explain my own experiences than this account. Yet in a string, these chance coincidences become me. This silence you are is my emergence, quiet – a head pushing up, out from a watery vacuum.

Then I am. Suddenly flailing about, arms thrashing while papers flutter beside me. An essay, there: a novel’s opening. And there: my life, scattered diaries. And there: a photo of the Oceanside pier. Stuffed animals line the walls and start a dance as I spin, a girl only seventeen aspiring. I forget why I am crying and  then three things happen in sequence to remind me.  Click, I stop crying, click mother opens the door, click my cell phone vibrates. She must’ve noticed the tears not yet evaporated. She knew, I think, before I did. She saw my teenage years come and, like me assuming, figured they’d pass by uneventfully, short-circuited by my early graduation from high school (finished when I was sixteen, I could barely drive). The poetry slows down here: the meter breaks down: and down on a piece of paper (now framed and fading) says Jennifer L. Sanel, Class of 2010, Harvard College. Which places me in sophomore year at seventeen.

Class president, not me. Captains of the cheerleading, soccer, and math team. No, no, no. Grades were a saving grace, I suppose; but being driven to learn the material (I was desperate to find out all of the things more important than myself), the grades were not hard-earned. I managed to pass through high school universally known of, but not known well. I kept to myself, I passed by quietly committing the social sins of eating alone (many times), avoiding conversations (more than a few times), and meeting with teachers out of class (it was nice). Who I was then is merely the stirrings of what would be, notes jotted down to flesh out a fictional character. Somewhere along since those notes, like a baby born a mistake, Jen the mistake rupturing from the wall, alive. Sigh.

Colors are more vibrant now. The blues, bluer; the crimson, darker, the yellow sharper. My eyes weave around the room, floating from painting to painting, instrument to instrument, inwardly expressive devices lying listlessly. And each elevated to life by my casual glances, memories almost painfully searing to consciousness: reminders of the pseudo-introvert. I preferred company; the happiest moments in high school were those when I flirted with boys I liked, discussed philosophy with a girl before the bell, conversations worth remembering; and better were the events: dances, trips to theme parks, sleepovers. More, I wanted. Less, I got. Over time, I learned to expect less and desensitized myself whole. The child in utero, remember, does not live. Does not feel or breathe, think or amalgamate. Only grows, waiting for a birth that it cannot know to expect. And then, life in color: two months ago during the middle of my internship at Calnext Financial, I meet Rose Salinas and Ivan Literski. The first, a timid amicable brunette and the second, a laid-back (read: lazy) intelligent black-haired man. Rose, the secretary from the fourth floor who underwent a divorce last Christmas and still wears her ring. Ivan who is currently dating a girl from Seattle, spends more hours at work playing games than anything else while managing to outproduce the others in his department. Rose, pained goddess wearing plaid. Ivan, simple cherub wearing denim. I fall in love with both. 





Something Nice

1 06 2007

Another Word for Being

The lights flicker and the music is heavy, she holds a glass in her hand waiting to dance. This is not complicated, this is not difficult; the girl there, Isabel, is my date – the slender shine of youth streaking down her brown hairs. The glimmer of light reflected by the disco ball lit her face in spots, making her steady pose appear to change from annoyed to content to blasé to expectant. I noticed the glass was empty; so to stall, I offered to get it refilled. She smiled and said she was grateful, “pink champagne.”

Walking to the barstand where a few drunken chaperones traded stories of their childrens’ exploits, I tried to compose myself. I wanted to impress Isabel, prove to her that I was equally well-connected. I asked the barman (who I’d never seen before) if I could “have another glass of champagne” hastily adding “sir.” I met the girl at a party at most two weeks ago. Isabel immediately was charmed by my reserved, quietly self-confident demeanor; she saw in my wallflower smile not some fraction of me but instead the boy who was awkwardly moving the hands, arms, and legs of a garishly lanky man. He poured me the drink which I brought back to the table, the table covered in the cafeteria’s white tablecloths.

I thought about lunchtime, about her high-spirits- the laughing that accompanied discussions of high school romances. Last Tuesday, the invite to be the boy at the table; this is one of two things, it is either the best opportunity for a boy to get to know several girls intimately, to know their secrets and share your own, to express a sentimental side. Or if you’re too sentimental then you become a girlfriend to them, not date-able, not a boyfriend but a best-friend – the wrong “bf.” I treaded carefully in this distinction with Isabel, being curteous, thoughtful and considerate, but not relinquishing self-confidence, not falling into the nice-guy trap. I handed her the glass and sat down.

She tasted it and I could see something was amiss. She put it down and looked like she was about to yell, then suddenly she started laughing. “You realize, Austin, that this is actually champagne? I watched you the whole time, figured they’d laugh at you or some silly thing like that.” A joke; unexpected, but I wasn’t played and I still made her laugh — good so far. She explained, “Alright, maybe I should just come clean about this whole thing. I have had a crush on you since we met — maybe before, but I’m not going to get into that just yet — and I had no idea who you were, really, so I invited you to sit with me, but you didn’t talk much. You really haven’t said much about yourself, and I figured you were either taken or gay. [At this point my face must have appeared to fall] No, no, I was just waiting for you to make a move. Waiting for you to do something, anything really. And you asked me to prom, but still we haven’t really said much. We needed some kind of icebreaker. I figured if I waved my glass around enough, your silly chivalrous conscience would offer a refill. I figured if I asked for champagne then you’d get rejected, maybe even thrown out and we could go do something more .. fun.”

At that point I had to kiss her. She had played a little game with me, something I’m not usually fond of, but her face during the miniature confession was adorable, two large brown eyes looking up at me seeking approval. I kissed her with a grace I had not felt surge through my body before; it was the concerted contraction and extension of muscles that pushed my face close to hers. At last, merely inches apart, our faces themselves propelled lightly forwards and I could feel upon the skin of my lips the ridges and valleys of hers. Two wallflower eyes locked together once again in a speechless understanding. I could smell the passionfruit perfume, the vanilla shampoo, the ambrosiac smell of liquor, and even my own cologne wafted out of hiding.

She brought her hands forward to touch my face and we were there, the two of us and not a living breathing soul otherwise — and suddenly we were outside racing to the car, beneath the broken streetlamp — suddenly escaping life’s myriad complications, exchanging years of ardent meditation for the moment of spiritual surrender.





Written. No.1

22 05 2007

This is not a novel, by any stretch of the imagination.
This is your life story. I would like it very much for you to see it that way.
It begins with a letter.

Kevin,
It has been a week since we’ve started seeing each other and already I am in the mood to write love letters.

. . .

Today I found out what is wrong with the human race. Or maybe the life that lives around me. The problem is that all of who we are and what we do, rational and otherwise, is so similar. We are bound by the appeals and assaults of common institutions to our desires, the accepted drugs that they are. We do what we do because it is, out of a wide variety of potential options, the optimal choice for us. This optimal choice, the “best thing,” tends to be the same thing. Yes, I remember from third grade: “We are all different. Everybody is special.” True. But we eschew that individuality in the light of simple pleasures. The post-modern housewife insists that she chooses this life, that she enjoys it. The businessman insists that his job is his personal pursuit. And if these things themselves do not bring us joy (as we will sometimes admit behind closed doors), then it is “for the greater good” in some respect. For family. For her. For him. For us. Again, what brings us joy tends to make us all similar in the aggregate.

I feel like I have been married for an interminable number of years.
I have cheated on my girlfriend a total of zero-and-onehalf times.
I spent all my money on trying to make her happy.
I spent all my money on trying to make us happy. She would like that sentence more.
I work all day in a chair bound to the tedium that I cannot escape.
I listen to all different kinds of music and don’t admit that I really do have like five or six favorite groups.
I enjoy reading about fame, fortune, and scandal.
I am pretty much anyone.

Outline

She was born.

She lived.
Being American,
she died.





I Feel I Must Interject Here

22 05 2007

When I told you how I felt before all of this began, I was being honest and that is how I continue to feel now. Much as I might hope for or try to materialize some profound emotion for you, I cannot. That night, partly under the influence and partly by discretion, I led you to believe otherwise. I said things I should not have, perhaps suffering the delusion of infatuation then, things like, “I love you, I have loved you since we met.” Things that make sparks fly, romance ensue, and mistakes made.

I have gone back to that night many times over. Different from the other nights I’ve drunk, this one is hazy in memory. I can see myself telling you this and leading you to believe I felt this way, but must, at the same time, excuse myself because I had told you how I felt. I was curious, yes, and have even considered excusing myself from the whole thing as an escapade, an adventure in satiating curiosity.

There are two avenues for me. It is quite simply a binary choice today in my life. I can be first, the girl I have always been: the one who intended to save sex for marriage who could never justify sex with curiosity, hedonism, or momentum. I would have to say that I regretted my first time, that my lack of a love for you makes these acts sinful; the first of many regrets of my adult life, ones that I indeed learn from, but as such are regrets nonetheless. For who needs to jump off of a bridge to learn that such an act is senseless?; an individual can learn that lesson another way, to learn it by the act is regrettable.

The alternative is accept what I did and, given my objectivity about the entire event: my declarations of non-love towards you, my curiosity, my hedonism and rather than condemn it, be merely neutral about it. This would be a different, more modern version of myself; this is the adult that everyone becomes, who am I to be blamed for it? While I regret being disingenuous in telling you that I loved you, I do not regret having done what I did. My moral codes have adapted to a new life.

In the first avenue, a girl such as myself could not proceed in the relationship with you in any normal sense. We would go back to the basics: dates, dinners, theme parks, and movies. The occasional kiss and what-not is acceptable. We would have to ignore what happened this weekend and be simply good friends, perhaps friends with a few benefits like kissing. Beyond that, however, is the realm I reserve for whom I love. And I am not there yet with you. I do not know if I will ever be; and to continue the motions would be, in each event, a sort of lie – one not made to you, but a breaking of a personal promise. I make no promises and we can be excellent friends and maybe more. I wish I could offer you the moon, tell you that sex catalyzed my love, give you emotion that I have not. I cannot. I can only promise a glimmer of hope, chance buried next to possibility.

In the second avenue, a girl such as myself could continue to have relations with you in any way that we see fit. If I feel like screwing you and you do as well, then wonderful – we will. An amalgamation of “carpe diem (seize the day)” and “ce la vie (that’s life);” I would live for today, a today without consequences. What makes me happy constitutes my existence, and before you judge, I want to say that there can be nothing wrong in thinking this way. I can separate sex from love (that great adult subtraction problem in the heart). I could learn to have sex with you and later perhaps learn to love you. Whatever happens, happens.

This really isn’t this complicated. Either I give a damn about what I did and move on or I don’t and I move on. I am sorry for lying to you in either case because my views on sex shouldn’t affect my honesty. I am sorry for coming close to using you. I am almost sorry for not loving you – you appeal to all my rational faculties, but then I cannot apologize on behalf of my heart – I am what I feel. I care for you as a friend and I think we can make “just friends” work out. Would you like to start by going with me to get some ice cream?





Practice Paragraphs

28 04 2007

“Spring”
I became comforted by the sounds of the passing cars; motion, it seemed, meant life, and life meant happiness, and so the sounds of happiness were all around me, grumbling uncontrollably from exhaust pipes. It was the beginning of summer yet again, the Yard in full algaeal bloom draining the nutrients from the pipes and the students around it. As we approached finals season, the vitality outside beckoned; clearly, summer vacation was the product of our collective understanding that these green outdoors must eventually win. And so, spring finals became an endurance test for those who could focus.

“Fall”
The novel begins as would a movie, credits roll introducing you to the actors and actresses by names they don’t go by in the plot. Margaret. Kevin. Maybe a few you know already, some others you can only remember seeing before, and the rest mean nothing to you. The background is particularly well edited: a collage, likely, of leaves falling and soft focus shots of the campus. You know that it is Harvard campus because you’ve seen the cover, you predict the plot somewhat. The first few minutes get everyone on even footing, those who had heard of or seen the trailer and those who just sneaked in. The actors become their respective roles, these new characters emerge, and suddenly a suitcase is dropped on a rough wooden floor the title flashes (something clever, but also reflective of the whole piece) and our lead steps into the dorm-room.





Four 40 Word Stories

19 04 2007

#1
Looking deeply into his widening eyes, she told him “goodbye,” forgetting the bruises, caused and forming. Rain falls, a gunshot. She takes a few more steps, smiling weakly – he did not have a blank inside the barrel that time.

#2
Venice was not for business. He looked at his wife, admitting to nothing about beautiful Jane, informing the Mrs. instead that the contract went through successfully. She laughed, seeing through his lies easily enough, and remembering Venice as “Jane.”

#3
It was easy enough to wait an eternity for her. Her performance had just finished to great applause, and I was backstage with red roses after years of friendship bordering on romance. She finally came forth and introduced me to “Michael.”





Deborah

23 03 2007

PART ONE

I have spent the last twelve years of my life attempting to understand the events that unfolded the day my daughter, Deborah, disappeared into the Sargasso park near our home. The difficulty has always been in tracking down where she went in the short, unforgiving interval of an hour between picking her up from school and our late-lunch, early-dinner. You must forgive the rather straightforward speech that this text will put forth. I promise that it is not due to the coldhearted prose of a lawyer but instead caused by three years of crying myself to sleep. Years filled with prayer and wilting hope, a heart that has met a cold end, one that I imagine is not unlike Deborah’s.

She was ten years old. She would be turning twenty-two this coming seventeenth of April. She was born during a storm, the largest the state had seen. Hurricane Jamie tore apart the downtown hospital, they sent an EMT to our area to provide relief. Our basement was, as I had designed it, perfectly safe; still we had to abandon it to run over to the mud-covered ambulance. In my wife’s diary was a note: “We were almost hit by a tree the day Jamie was born.” We were considering the name Jamie long before the hurricane, but after a few discussions we settled on Deborah, my father’s mother’s name. This was the first time I correlated sirens with Deborah.





The Author

17 03 2007

Kevin begins talking, he looks upwards clearly in a deep state of thought. Where do you think our thoughts and feelings go after we say them out loud?

Maddy responds in a similarly quiet, meditative voice as if they are aware that their conversation was scripted. I think they get said and immediately they become a part of ourselves again. When we share a feeling that is a fleeting second or two of what we feel right now, and then that moment kind of passes you know. And eventually, when the time is right it gets said again. They are said because we need to say them; there’s this compulsion inside of us that makes us say these things. Desires, wishes, feelings all of them coming up to the top and when we need to say them we do.

So it’s kind of like breathing or heartbeats.

Maddy misses the small verbal hit. Yes, it’s a cycle. We say it and it comes out and we swallow it back in though we try to share it between us for as long as possible. Kevin, I love you. I say that because it it’s always there brimming at the surface, waiting for a pause in conversation or a dull moment so that all else an be outshined.

Kevin begins talking. And does not stop. I think … when we say something … that what we’re thinking or feeling – it goes to the other person. They own it, it becomes theirs, and we lose control over having said it. And these stores of words representing emotions and thought decay on their own. It is by repeating it that I can make what is said meaningful. I think of love, right, and I see it as this finely tuned garden that I want to maintain. Not just any garden but a Zen sand garden, and there I am with my rake cultivating my sand. My energy goes into it so that the sand and the texture is well-defined, so that the words are clear and the meaning vibrant. I know that what I’ve said to others will erode, but what efforts I make to maintain this garden, this is what defines me. And maybe that’s a part of the reason I don’t tell my friends I love them often enough is because when people meet me I want the them not to browse but to see this one singular part of me, this spectacularly ornate design I have not only managed to make but to keep up. So some of these things I say often so that they never fall apart, so that they never even for the smallest second escape a perfect understanding. Maybe it’s somewhat routine, but there are other things, like telling you how beautiful you are, things that should be cultivated and aren’t. I bet you’re sleeping by now, aren’t you? Maddy is not sleeping, she is smiling, crying quietly with her back to Kevin perfectly still. He begins to stroke her hair carefully with a face that looks up and down trying to recall something. He moves to lean to look at her face; sensing this, she responds:

No, I’m awake. I’m about to fall asleep. She does.

Kevin begins thinking out loud or talking to himself, he can’t decide which and he knows one sounds worse. Why do people concern themselves with profundities? No one is capable to answer anything, only to produce a working model of an imagined solution. An imititation of something imaginary. I need to be in love, or I need to be laid, or cared for, or have a respectable job or degree. I need a family or a few more friends, yes I should spend more time with friends. I should write more, get a novel published. At some point, other people will want to write about me. There’s enough going on in life without contemplating the why. Fuck. The what is enough.

I want to know what it means to be American and also why everyone can lie so much. Or be hypocritical, I’m not sure which is worse. Everyone claims to be American but even though we praise ourselves on the fact that we make ourselves, that this is the closest meritocratic experiment .. whatever, this .. this is boring philosophical things. I should be seeing the bigger picture, getting business cards passed out, being known if not popular. Who cares about popularity. Well, if I want to do politics, I should care. But I’m not charismatic, well. Maybe I am; what about law. You need law to be good with making laws, but then look at Reagan or even that fucker Jackson, both of them weren’t lawyers, though they also weren’t very good people – funny though them not being lawyers and all. I shouldn’t say fuck. It’s out of character. Why do I think of myself as being in or out of character. I am. That’s it, there is no not being me when I’m doing something. Hell, this is the fucking epitome of being me. I need sleep. Or maybe a good movie. Damn this is probably boring the hell out of my roommate. Why do I think out loud?

He opens a computer. The screensaver is an image of a field, vast open, with a small house featured. All is perfect except that there are bloody handprints on the roof. No explanation. He opens a chat dialogue with a “Rebecca.” He begins to type. Maddy turns over and snores semi-loudly. He turns to her and takes a deep breath. She seems to be lying to him. He sends the first real message (after a few hi’s and hello’s).

Kevin: I feel like when she’s sleeping her calmness is a sort of lie. when shes awake shes basically the same.
friend: do you let her sleep enough?
Kevin: she’s not under my mind control, you know. and I don’t mean she’s sedate when she’s walking I just mean she is always calm
friend: so what’s the problem, you’re lucky boy
Kevin: I just don’t understand what that’s like, the security of being loved like that.
friend: you’re sure she’s not just content knowing she loves you. I mean you’re not exactly the reasurring type.
Kevin: you should have heard what I said today. any girl would have fallen in love all over again if they heard that
friend: but you didn’t write it down did you, you forgot, then you complain to me that you’ve got nothing to wirte about
friend: *write
Kevin: let’s talk about something else
friend: okay, about that poem you wrote, the one on your website
Kevin: i write many, be specific
Friend: the one with the tom and anna references
Kevin: maddy i guess in a way
Friend: hmmm
Friend: expand
Friend: please
Kevin: debating the existence of desitny most fitting
Kevin: destiny being real to maddy and not real to me
Kevin: one day though in talking it out with my roommate i figured out that my frustration with a lot of what happened is that i either want the relationship to have a sense of cosmic destiny or i feel it already does
Friend: ah
Friend: i see
Friend: so to you destiny is much more major than perhaps just what meaning you find/are going to find by the end of your life
Friend: but rather
Friend: it going beyond that
Kevin: i feel that destiny has more to do with taking away my ability to excercise free will .. i mean something so special should be pure because it’s the best choice not because so paternalistic deity thought it best for me
Friend: i agree
Kevin: though considering i more or less equate God and love .. i guess having love pick who I fall for isn’t the worst idea

He closes the computer. He flickers the room’s lights repeatedly. He shoots himself. No, too messy. He drinks every ounce of liquor on the fourth floor and dies brazenly holding his beloved copy of Hamlet. No, too pathetic – it isn’t real enough. He falls asleep next to his girlfriend. There, real. Natural, calm. He thinks of something to say to his audience, that burgeoning crowd inside his mind expecting a finale but ultimately prepared for disappointment:

And so the street, being blind, ceased its endless flurry of footsteps for one moment as if it knew that because they shuffled by quietly, a young boy would be able to rest his weary mind; a casual nap, a lenten vacation, a small sanctuary from a long day.