Glass Orb

If you gaze into a solid glass orb, you’ll notice that the whole world appears upside down.  It’s disorienting, confusing, and in the palm of your hand it’s even sort of fun. But if you wake one day and everything appears to be that way, as though instead of gazing into that glass orb you are trapped inside staring out at everything you knew, only it’s all upside down, turned around and backwards. All the things you thought to be true and real are now all wrong, something changed and what once was is now no longer.

You ever feel like you go to the kitchen and everything you try and pick up spills or tips and you can’t seem to hold onto anything right. Or maybe nothing is where you normally set it, your keys aren’t on the table by the door, or on the hook in the hall but instead are in the dining room, or your shoes are in the living room and not by the door to the garage, as though you suddenly forgot where everything is?

Maybe you begin to doubt your reality, maybe everyone else’s reality seems different than yours, when did things change, how did they change? Why? The very words you use are no longer appropriate, relationships change and you feel like you must have been asleep for months or years or you woke up in some reflection of your own life accept that everything is just the opposite of what it was. It makes no sense and you can’t quite wrap your head round it, one day you knew how things worked and the next it’s like you totally forgot and all you can do is stand there like you don’t speak the language and nothing makes any sense and everyone else looks at you with different eyes, you run to the bathroom to look in the mirror to check and you see the same person you’ve seen all along.

It feels like a nightmare that never ends, it just keeps rolling on and tortures your mind, wrenches at your soul and tears at your heart, day after day, week after week, year after year and it’s no longer your keys that are missing, but it’s your children, one by one they suddenly look at you as though you’re the devil and they just disappear without a word, they walk away and you can’t seem to catch up to them as though your legs don’t work any longer and eventually you lose sight of them and they’re just gone.

Its like a scar or a tattoo in the end, one you didn’t want, and you can’t shake it because it’s always there, when you wake up, when you go to bed. When every holiday comes round, or you smell a smell that reminds you of the days when you sat on the couch with your young child propped up on your lap, and you’d lean in and close your eyes and breathe in the aroma of innocence and trust, with your lips pressed against their soft, silky hair.

It’s like the absence of light on a sunny day, it doesn’t make sense, and its always cold, a cold that’s forever there, just under the surface.

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The Real World

There is a place between the real world and the world we find ourselves in throughout our lives. In this other world it doesn’t matter if we have someone to hold at night, if we are alone at Christmas and it doesn’t matter if we look anything like we feel deep inside.

But in the real world, the one that hurts when we are in it, the one where it matters if you come in first, we have to wear our masks and hide and go seek isn’t a game. We have to bury our feelings in this world and parlay our emotions so we can survive.

In the real world you’re lonely most when you’re among friends and in the other world you’re never lonely when you are by yourself.

When the sun sinks below the horizon most people in the real world seek out light, they seek shelter in it and are always looking for more. When I am in my other world it is the darkness I feel most comfortable in, in the darkness there aren’t any shadows to follow me and when it rains it’s like my soul pouring out all over the ground, spilling all my truths across the pock marked asphalt and seeping into all those little crevices, slipping away once more into the dark cracks in the Earth. The rain washes over me, holds me and comforts me.

Don’t get me wrong I like the sun; I like its warm, caressing rays. But it burns me too; it wants to peel back my skin allowing all to see my faults and my secrets. So I play with it, I bare myself to it, allowing it to sear my armor, my suit of lies that both protects me from falling apart and keeps me prisoner at the same time. And then when the day is long I step back into the cooling safety of the shadows, crouch down among my treasured fears and watch everyone walk by whispering dirty things to each other, things that I don’t understand, things that make me feel small and weak and lonely.

Have You Ever…?

Have you ever peered into the eyes of someone completely lost, hopeless, forgotten? To look into their eyes and see nothing, no dreams, only despair? Often when folks see a homeless person, they will joke that they are talking to themselves, have you never spoken to yourself? Maybe you didn’t feel like there was anybody else to talk with, no one to listen, no one to validate your existence.

Being homeless, even for one night can be scary, it can be devastating for a parent with children, there are families separated because there might only be a room at a shelter for the wife and children, not for dad. In general, society tends to look the other way when they come across homeless people, mind you I said homeless people and not “the homeless”; the later is a way of disassociating them from society. Someone whom is homeless already feels alone, in fact it might be the absolute loneliest a person can ever be, and then on top of that for others to literally look away or cross the street to not have to come close is demoralizing at best. Not only are they marginalized but then they are simply ignored or admonished by the public as trash might be.

What put the homeless people onto the streets, why are they there? What happened to lead them into the shadows, to live under bridges, in sewer and run-off tunnels, along the river in tarp covered hovels built from fallen trees and branches, during the winter? Did they succumb to a mental illness not having insurance or ran out of money due to an illness? Did they lose their job, their home and their family?  Have you ever felt so desperate that you found yourself sifting through someone else’s garbage? Have you ever been so distressed that you did things you might never have dreamed of doing? Things that made you feel dirty, immoral, disgusted with yourself or even less than human?

I am not attempting to make anyone feel bad or guilty, I just want people to remember there are folks out there barely surviving, they are sick, they cry at night because they are beginning to forget who they are, they fall asleep at night wondering if they will wake up, if they will be raped, if they will get to that point tomorrow where they will finally give in and do something they won’t be able to forgive themselves for, will they become the people they used to see wandering the dark places, ghosts of society, whose only thought each day is how to keep their selves or their children alive one more day.

This happens every single day, even in your community, believe it or not no city, neighborhood, community is immune. I know, I’ve seen those eyes before, I’ve stared into them, looking for some flicker of hope, some remnant of a bygone dream, I have looked past the dirt, the shame, the guilt, into the reddened, yellowed tired eyes through a broken mirror.

There is a reason lives are counted officially by souls, its because no matter your religion, race, culture, political stand, sexual identity, economic level or you live in the suburb or the city, in an apartment, a home, a car in a parking ramp, or under a bridge, we are all souls in the end, thriving or barely alive. We can never forget that.

Her Broken Cocoon

The sun, try as it may couldn’t get through the clouds on Saturday morning, so she lay in bed, tucked under the covers, pulled up to her ear and tried to dream of warmer, sunnier days but the imagery was washed away by the pelting rain hitting the windows’ at the foot of her bed. The past week was dreary to say the least, no sun and too many clouds.

Leaving the house meant getting wet; normally this isn’t a huge issue, but day after day with no direct sunlight, no reprieve from the cold, barrage of precipitation makes it difficult to swallow. So she lay under her comforter attempting to fill her mind with thoughts of anything but negativity and her reach for any sort of respite was met with frustration and a growing darkness.

Eventually she slid from her broken cocoon, opened the shades and watched as rain drops rolled down the glass like unending tears.  Against the heaviness she tried to breathe in deeply but her lungs felt shallow. She stripped the bed and attempted to push back the impending sadness.

She opened the bedroom door and the house felt empty, lonely and quiet, the floors cold and walls a little too close. Even a glass of water couldn’t rinse away the feelings of melancholy.

She brushed her teeth and searched her reflection in the mirror for comfort but in her dark eyes she saw only gloom. She brushed her hair and even that felt annoying, she was losing the battle, the weight of so many things began to bury her from the floor up, impeding her step, slowing her climb from this wretched valley no light seemed to reach. And her only companions, hiding in the shadows beside her are all the things that scare her, that threaten her well-being, her strength and the warmth of her soul.

Now with her sight skewed, the fog of depression manipulating all around her, making it difficult to see a way out, she swallows hard, reaches in and pulls out from behind her a rope, a heavy, old rope and throws it as far as she can. Hoping for someone to see it, to pull back and find her before its too late. Before her tears make it too difficult to hang on and she loses her grip.

***

If you are in need of help, if you suffer from eating disorders, there is help out there. One of those places is Living Proof Minnesota at http://www.livingproofmn.com

The Rain

He looked out over the parking lot through the windshield in his car. All was silent but for the heavy rain drops that pelted the sunroof above his head. He could hear his breathing, shallow, quick, stuttered. He kept trying to count the rain drops as a way of attempting to derail his thoughts, thoughts that took him down a path he knew well but didn’t want to go. In the middle of the lot there was a light, a tall, rusty steel lamp post atop a large round concrete footing. He watched as some guy walked across the lot to the lamp post, he stopped facing the post, and  just stood there looking at it, he couldn’t see the guys face, just him from behind as his jacket turned a much darker shade of its natural color as it became saturated from the freezing rain.

He sat in his car watching this person, his windshield wipers squeaked across the glass, leaving a small streak at eye level so he had to hunch to see this figure that just stood there. He couldn’t see his face but he could see plumes of the figures breath waft away and get broken up by the now driving rain. He opened his car window a crack and tried to yell at the person standing there, tried to get his attention to no avail. As he sat there in his warm car he thought, he thought about the woman he loves, about how he can’t have her, how he can’t give her what she wants, how he feels like such an idiot for taking things so far with her, knowing deep down inside there no finish line there.

He’s embarrassed and begins to cry. His stomach hurts, his mind seems tortured, his heart aches, imagines himself tearing open his chest just to pull out his heart and throwing it out the car window into the puddle there to keep it from hurting, he imagines watching it as it tries to beat but without a blood supply its color and movement begin to wane and the puddle grows deeper and swallows it. Now he feels nothing, the pain is gone and he is so lonely, in some attempt to reach out and feel he yells out again at the person in the rain. But the person doesn’t seem to hear him.

He got out of his car, looked around the lot, it was cloudy dark, he glanced down at his Bush Nuns which were soaked, half submerged in the puddle next to his still, faded heart. He pulled his collar up close to his chin and walked forward towards this figure in the rain, what would he say to this person, why is this person standing there and what is he or she doing? As he approached the person he began to feel afraid, something was telling him to stop, to turn back but he couldn’t just walk away, what if this person needed help. So he continued, the rain was driving sideways now and his face was dripping and he had to turn his head slightly to keep the rain out of his eyes.

Something about this person was recognizable, he paused just behind them, then spoke softly…”heh are you ok, do you need help, are you lost…did you love her too?” and suddenly the person turned, he knew this person, it was unmistakable, the black framed glasses, the empty look in his eyes staring back at him, all of sudden the rain just stopped, drops hung in the air all around them, there was no other noise but one of them breathing heavily, then abruptly he could hear what sounded like a roaring fire, he couldn’t see anything but the sound was unmistakable, the crackling of burning timber, the low rumble of billowing  smoke.

He looked down at his pants and saw they were completely soaked, he was shivering, he could hear his own teeth clattering against themselves, and when he turned round again to see the figure he was gone, and he facing the lamp post, alone, then something from deep inside of him, controlled him and before he realized what had happened he’d flung out his fisted hand and struck the lamp post hard. Pain shot through his hand, travelled up his arm and into his chest, it felt so good, so warm and real. He breathed deeply, closed his eyes and tilted his head back and allowed the rain to fall upon his face, blood dripped from his knuckles onto the flooded pavement and washed away.

He opened his mouth and let out a yell, a carnal, desperate yell, until the water filled his throat and his mouth drowning out his voice, it spilled from the corners of his lips and down over his ears. Then he fell backwards, all the sound came rushing back and when he hit the ground there was no pain, only water, spilling over his entire body, enveloping him as he sank below the surface of the icy water, when he opened his eyes he could see a light above him, maybe the sun, far above him, he floated just under the surface, he remained there for a long time.  He felt void of pain, desire, need and hope and he felt naked, free from the binds that usually restrain him, so he opened his mouth again to take a deep breath and found himself choking and gagging as he thrust himself upwards and vomited bath water over the side of his tub. He struggled to breathe as he pulled his body from the tub and onto the tile floor. He lay there as the shower continued to run, water rushing across the bathroom and out underneath the door. He lay exposed, cold, and vulnerable and began to weep.

Big Boys Don’t Cry

Sitting against the wall in his room he looks around and at the old wood paneling and the green shag carpet. The sun flows through the window at the top of the wall, the glass is the color of root beer and textured, the light shining through is dark and mellow. Its 1979 and he listens to 10CC crooning out the lyrics “I’m not alone…” and gets mad. He wipes away the tears that stream down his cheeks onto the sleeve of his second hand Sergio Valente shirt. His bedroom shares the basement with the wet bar his parents entertain in periodically, no one is home but crawls behind and hides below the bar anyway and drinks his mom’s Drambuie. He is twelve.

His adoptive dad is travelling on the road, his mom is out with her boyfriend and boss, and his little sisters are at sleepovers. This is typical, if his mom is home she is drunk and passed out on the couch, so he would feed his sisters and then put them to bed. He can’t take his mom’s car this time so he takes his bike to Rockefeller’s arcade, scores some pot and rides to the river where he climbs down the sandstone cliffs to the shoreline, there he smokes and watches the dark, cool waters slowly drift by.

He feels powerless, abandoned, desperate and lost. He smokes until it doesn’t hurt as much, until the pain runs like an undercurrent; it never quite goes away but is always there just under the surface. He doesn’t quite realize it at first and when he does he doesn’t care that his Nikes are almost completely submerged in the dirty Mississippi River. He lets himself fall back until his long hair is trapped beneath his back and the grey mud that makes up the beach between the reeds and the water. He lies there staring up at the stars, he feels like he’s floating somewhere between the earth and the space, somewhere no one can reach him, where the pain and the angst falls away for a little while, into obscurity.

The trouble with obscurity is that no one is there to see you, or to feel you or hear you and he realizes that’s where he is already. With that he feels a sudden thud as he falls back to earth. Like opening a door in the midst of winter and catching the cold air in your face as it steals your breath, he is suddenly aware of everything that hurts, its late September and he can see his breath, its cold and when he rolls over to stand up he plants his hand in freshly fallen snow. He stands there looking out over the fast running water shimmering under the moons light at the darkness all around him and he makes a promise to himself. His father always told him that big boys don’t cry. It’s time for him to be a big boy.

The tears stopped flowing. He swallowed hard and buried the pain, and all of a sudden he felt awkwardly comfortable in the darkness, it made sense to him, it seemed to welcome him, there was a safety within it he liked and he would own it. And it would serve him well.

When you feel all alone

When the sun goes down and you feel all alone and the shadows are your only company,

When that feeling in the pit of your stomach makes you feel like you’ve missed out on something and you’re scared but won’t let go of the darkness,

When you feel like you should be crying but the tears just aren’t there

When you begin to retreat within your own skin so that you won’t feel so vulnerable,

Know that I love you, know that I’ll be there, that when I look at the ground I know that you are somewhere standing on the same earth that I am.

Walk outside and close your eyes, breath in a deeply, fill your lungs with the cool night air then look towards the starry sky, blow it out and let your sweet breath ride upon the late summer breeze to me.

And in the morning when the sun comes rising up behind the trees, step out into the light, close your eyes and feel the warmth of my body carried to you on the winds of a new day.

Can’t See the Happiness through the Pain

It rained today as I walked along the shoreline of a pond; I stopped to watch the drops sink below the surface of the water strewn with dark red leaves, and studied the shallow ripples as they rolled together, slowly dying out.

The air was quiet, dull, thick and moist and as I walked the fallen leaves made no sound below my feet.

I didn’t mind the rain, it was light and the drops seemed to float to the ground in no big hurry.

I wasn’t really cold nor was I warm, and the rain on my neck didn’t bother me much.

I didn’t care that I had to go back to work soon and I didn’t care that the trees were bare and the sun was away.

In fact the only thing that seemed to matter was the lack of everything; I felt no connection to the Earth, the trees or the sky.

But pain is always there to welcome me, there is a sense of sadness, a feeling hidden somewhere beyond the colors of the fall and the reflections of me in the raindrops.

It’s there always, rising from the ground like humidity in the desert brilliantly reflecting everything back at me, making everything appear real, but I know it’s just a vision, a transparent image that hides the hurt until I need it again.

Sometimes though, the reflection hides even the good, the happiness, and then I can’t see it through the pain.

The Sidewalk Never Really Ends

It’s not too often these days that I find myself unable to sleep; last week though was a different story. I found myself walking along a boulevard, great big Elm trees lined one side of the walk and cars, oddly silent, drove by on the street on my other side. It seemed to be a nice afternoon with the sun high above the trees and a slight breeze meandering its way through the neighborhood. I could hear birds in the background and there seemed to be no one else around except me, and that’s when I noticed a small, frail hand with delicate little fingers wrapped around mine as I walked. I looked down and saw one of my daughters; she smiled a big crooked smile up at me. Her fat little cheeks glistened in the sun and her long brown hair flowed down around her face and fell over her shoulders like smooth, rich chocolate.

I don’t know where we were going, but I could hear her voice, it was sweet and velvety like pure whole milk. I couldn’t understand what she was saying but I could hear her tone and it was pleasant. As we strolled along she would periodically adjust her grip within mine, nothing feels as safe and warm and wonderful as the delicate grip of a daughter’ hand, when I looked down at her hand again it was a little bit different, her nails were painted, messily and her fingers stuck out from my big hands now. I looked at her again and she’d gotten slightly taller.

In fact the further we walked the taller and older she became, her face changed from a look of wonder and unabated excitement to investigative and yearning. Her voice grew a little deeper and more experienced, her grip a little more relaxed. So I tightened mine just a bit.

We walked on, we laughed, then the sun disappeared and the wind swirled around us and the air grew colder and she looked at me and she was scared, I held her hands and then held her, she cried and I wiped her tears away with my aging fingers. The darkness faded and so we began walking once more, the wind died down and the sun seemed to be closer to the horizon, the light around us was more amber than before and my daughters hand slipped in mine so I held on a little tighter. We talked some more, laughed some more and she grew taller yet, the look on her face now experienced and aware.

I began to get tired suddenly, her pace was now quicker than mine and I had to lengthen mine to keep up with her, she turned and walked backwards for a moment as she looked deep into my eyes and then flipped back around and I grabbed her hand again and held on. There was an air of sadness now in spite of our smiles. There was also a feeling of impending change, I didn’t enjoy the feeling, it scared me and I worried. When I fell behind she stopped an waited for me to catch up and took my hand this time, I tried to hold on even tighter but my grip was failing, suddenly as I tried desperately to move my feet I found myself sort of stuck, she stopped and looked over her shoulder at me, she smiled a huge crooked smile at me and then her brow relaxed and her bottom lip became pursed.

She stepped back to me and took my hands once again, in both of hers, they were soft, and no longer disappeared inside mine. I couldn’t hear what she was saying but she looked a little sad, I felt desperate to understand what was happening as she pulled away. I gripped tightly around her hands, I tried to hold on but she kept pulling, I didn’t get it, why was she still pulling, I tried to tell her that I just can’t hold on and she smiled and her fingers slipped away. She stood for a moment a few feet in front of me and blew me a kiss. Then she turned and waved as she walked on.

I yelled at my feet to move, I struggled like a fish against the current and fought against my own failure to keep her in sight but she turned the corner and I lost her. When I turned to she was gone, I could smell her fragrance but I couldn’t see her. I cried and felt completely lost, I looked behind me but all I could see were places we had been together and it took my breath away. I turned in circles and looked inside my hands but they were empty.

I think Shel Silverstein was wrong, the sidewalk never really ends, and it doesn’t continue for all of us, it just changes. I found myself on an unfamiliar sidewalk now, alone, trying to catch my breath and then suddenly I found myself lying on my back watching the ceiling fan above me. I stumbled out of bed and rinsed my face off and sat on the couch in the dark. I knew when she left for college that I would be sad. She is a grown woman now and she will have many sidewalks to discover on her own, and she needs my hand no longer. There was a time when I thought that walk may never end, and now I wish it hadn’t.