j: heaven is worthless without the people you love.
we watched it burn from the roadside,
the hills alive and snarling, paper claws sweeping at the
galley of faces turned towards
the malformed skeleton of an apartment complex.
we wondered how midnight could be so bright,
the begging moon rose as we opened our mouths,
but no words came out.
without meaning to, all our sentences end
picked apart by smoke and vultures;
we hated it but could not avoid the fire, offering stones
like prayers, on a cold october night.
– san diego / 2003
It seemed like a good idea at the time but one can never be too certain, pulling back the velveteen blue curtain at the freak show and watching him saw off his limb. He looks up and explains to me, “These days, they want more, another inch off my leg and another hand sown on backwards.” I stare at him, his eyes pleading. “They just want more, they just want more,” he laments. But I do understand. It is human nature to become inured to the grotesque after repeated confrontations. Even sitting there across from him, disgusted, I cannot take my eyes off the bleeding stump, the jagged sutures patching his immense yet strangely hollow torso, the sicken shock of white bone. “What is your name?” I ask, getting up to leave, suddenly upset with myself. “My name? Why, I thought everyone knew me,” he replies.
Oct 20 Friday night youth group. Anna’s BDay Bash @ v2o.
Oct 21 Focus @ Russel’s w/ James, Willis, Amy, Naoko.
* * *
Imagine you are in a prison. Inside this pastel cell of persimmon pink and lilac lamps, there is a porcelain toilet, spotlessly white. You must escape, you feel oppressed by this room, it reeks of desolation and spirals. Every second locked away, you grow weaker and weaker, fighting back polka-dotted waves of nausea. You look at the toilet and it looks back, offering clues, a hint. There must be something about that toilet. And then you notice it. The seat flap is open. The answer hits you. It is an open invitation to expunge your inner bile, the concocted disaster you drank down earlier from tumblers and bottles, the drunken rumble roiling within. So you crouch down, knees on either side of the floor, and stick an index finger down your throat, tapping at the uvula in Morse code, the signals knifing through your brain with such urgency. Acrid. It takes a moment. You choke. Tap, tap, tap. And as you vomit the clear liquid, the walls shake and the bars become transparent. Freedom, you think, and it is so close you can almost taste the blue mountain springs. But the bars still remain. The prison is all too pink. It’s just another tingle-tangle tango.
She remarked on the weather. Nostalgia, she said, for simpler times. How it’s all in the clouds, watching autumn drift in and I believe it, that these clouds took all those years to reach us and they were the same as they were then. But oh, doesn’t it feel like the end of the world in mid-October.
But then again, was there were ever a simpler time?
We don’t mean to but it happens. The weather changes and you could be at a desk, the pile of work set aside as you clutch your head, trying to figure out how the days passed you by. Something’s ringing in the background but it’s just a phone, it’s your mother, she’s calling to see if you’ve eaten yet and to remind you that you’re still a failure. She wonders why you still don’t want to see her. But you do.
You have to suffer. Your goals have to be unattainable. Lightning, like love, doesn’t strike twice. And then you wonder.
Do clouds go people watching?
There’s strangeness I have yet to comprehend. The past nights since my return, I have lain in bed with a book; I am reading voraciously, devouring each page as if starved for literature, but just as the clock ticks 10 PM, my mind is suddenly overcome by heavy mist. Utter weariness. My cousin walks into the room on each occasion, I have promised to go for a movie, dinner, a drink… something of the sort. But the off-switch has been depressed, energy winds out in a slow hum, the squealing click. I pass out completely. There is only the memory of voices trying to rouse me.
At 5 AM, I jolt. My room is still brightly lit but even when I crawl over to shut the lights off, I am unable to fall back into repose. There is no significance but at that moment, I feel like I am on the brink of something familiar, teetering in between recognition and purpose. When did the pattern begin to assert itself? Last night, it happened again. My body caved in on itself just as I was contemplating dinner. So now, here I am, fully conscious, famished. I don’t have any food within my quarters, and there’s nothing to cook. But looking on my desk, there is one thing.
I walk downstairs wearing the blue slippers, the ones with the teddy bear sown on the top. It looks ridiculous but then, I have never purchased slippers in my entire life and besides, the tiles are cold. I carry my book outside and light a cigarette. The smoke hovers in between the porch bulbs. It is a beautiful time to be awake, certainly, watching indigo waver above the rooftops. Maybe this is it. I want everyone to be frozen except me, for time to stop. This is what I wish, to just watch the world end, endlessly, from the beginning. Nobody around, and nothing else to do.
* * *
The book: Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
Searching for evidence on another continent,
You come across two elderly men sitting on
A concrete bench in the middle of a loud
Promenade; it is noisy, thousands of people
Are talking all at once, laughter, festooned tourists,
Street performers brilliantly painted in uncanny poses,
Gold, silver! Vendors hawking green maps,
Women in red dresses, singing,
Lean boys smoking against the brown streetlamps.
You watch two elderly men, spotted with age,
Tune a plastic boombox, the black dial
Swiveling across years, swimming in gray static,
Until they find it, yellow music of big band jazz
Sweeps into your ears, the elephant horns bellowing;
They swing their thin arms, stomp their feet
And dance in their seats, oblivious
Of the blue sea crashing around them,
Smiling as they must have in younger years.
Home has a nice ring to it.
Our connecting flight from Chicago to Los Angeles was delayed by four hours due to a problem with the ignition. As we clambered aboard the plane, the pilot announced over the PA that the maitenance crew had to perform some last minute repairs. Don’t worry, he said, we have redundant systems just in case. The passengers looked at each other, some joked, others laughed fearfully. We heard the whine of engines, the coughing choke, the lamps above us flickering. The smell of smoke pervaded the cabin. Lights on the right side of plane suddenly go out. As we taxi off, the lights struggle to come back on. Another voice, the air hostess, she tells us that in order to prevent further delays, the maintenance crew could not perform every single repair. We will not be serving hot coffee or tea as the water heater is not powered.
Not exactly an auspicious start.
The entire flight was an incredibly frightening experience. It is enough to make you wonder exactly which components were non-functioning. Lift off was wobbly, the plane shook from side to side, even while still on ground. In the air, it would leap and drop like a fly caught in a hurricane. I closed my eyes, strapped on the iPod to drown out the prayers. Four hours can change a person’s life. I no longer enjoy the company of babies, those deceitful cherubs that can sustain an unwavering note for an entire east-west coast flight. When we landed, the audible relief spread. Behind me, I heard a monotone clap, a reflex to be alive but devoid of emotion or joy. We were all glad to have survived, but the little light within us has died.
Sitting in the airport terminal, I am glad the restrooms are clean. This is probably the cleanest airport I’ve ever been in, very bright and airy, lots of space. There’s even this funky colored internet terminal from which I’m writing from. It costs only .10 euros per minute; pretty cheap, but I think it is that way only because the keys stick and are metallic. Everything needs to be typed in twice and it takes considerable effort to jam each letter down. Still, I like the ambiance a lot, which is important since we are camping out in it for probably the next two days.
Long story short, we were not aboard the plane when it flew off, and everything is overbooked until Monday. I won’t go in the nasty details on how it is *mostly* not our fault and how customer service can be downright hostile (except for the last guy who helped us, he cool) but we are unwinding and taking all of this rather well, if I do say so myself. Reflecting on the past two weeks helps with the de-stressing. We even got our names thrown on tomorrow’s standby list. I might be able to get to work on time! Shucks!
With all this time to think, I am a little sad about our impending return. It feels like judgment day, the light coming in from all the wrong points. I have been spending my time reading this random, depressing-as-hell book purchased just around the corner from McDonald’s and smoking nonstop at the entrance gate. There are all of these thoughts but they sort of run together. I don’t mind sitting here for hours, it is peaceful, maybe this is what being homeless feels like… time just trickles out and stops being meaningful. My discarded cigarette is all smoke and grime now, fanning lazily like a tracer. It is a signal, intent on seeking rescue, but the other cigarette in my mouth calls off the rescuers. Chill out, it tells everyone.
I want to stay in transition. My neck hurts from smoking. Too bad there are no seats at these damn internet terminals. Can you believe it took an ungodly 45 minutes to post this entry?
I lied about the last post bit. Last night we tried to attend a flamenco show but it was sold out. We semi-befriended the bartender with our foreign antics and broken speech, he’s a funny guy, reminds me of someone but louder. We attempted to go again tonight, and as it was right next door, we got there at a prompt 10:30 PM for the midnight show. Apparently, everything here is last minute. We were not allowed to buy tickets until 10 minutes before the show, much like we were not allowed to know which train or plane to board until 15-20 minutes before boarding. Que es esto?
While my sister flirted with some gitano (gyspy) guitar player, this female flamenco dancer was all up against me while ordering some tapas. Goodness to God, she was a classy broad, her twirls and doing an impromptu dance for us. My heart beat the music of a one-winged butterfly. It was amor. All over the place. Dirty. Flamenco is awesome and what’s more, it’s awesomer in Madrid. Happy dreams for at least the next twenty thousand nights. Drink some more, it is good to have lots of beer. Helps with the jet lag, so I hear.
* * *
More Canadians! And two American servicemen currently stationed in Germany.
Madrid is a dream. We are staying at Cat’s Hostel, a renovated palace with a beautiful interior, old style wood paneling and all the trimmings of royalty. The outside is not much to see though, embedded in a dark alleyway just a stone’s throw from the main streets. Unfortunately, it is just as loud (if not louder) as our previous hostel, HelloBCN. People have been very generous with advice and assistance.
Because we have been taking it a notch slower, every day sort of blends together. I can’t remember when we jumped out of city borders to Toledo, Segovia, or across Madrid to the other side of town. There are gems throughout. In Madrid, El Parque de Buen Retiro is the most beautiful park I’ve ever walked through. According to my sister, it is greater than or equal to New York’s Central Park. How lucky that it is autumn and the trees are beginning to show their plumage! We saw couples swinging arms together, breathing each other’s joy on park benches. A massive lake sprawls from the center and we saw more couples kissing in rowboats. So much goddamn kissing.
Segovia is breathtaking; the Alcazar castle rose out of the hills like a fairytale, its spires and romantic perch nestled over the plains and looking down at the scattered forests below. We had prayed for more mists but the sun shone brightly and burned off whatever layer might have desired to haunt those aging stones. There was also an ancient, still-functioning Roman aqueduct but then, who’s there to see that when there’s a castle in the sky.
Today is our last day. Tomorrow doesn’t count, we are plane jumping early in the morning to Chicago, then to California. But what a wonderful day it has been for a last day. We ambled throughout the shopping district of Madrid, listening to music for three hours at FNAC, and then coming out to watch Devil Wears Prada (today is opening day in Madrid) in Spanish. I couldn’t understand a word of it but the most important thing is that Anne Hathaway made that movie because she knew my sister would drag me to watch it.
Ironically, we caught an open air fashion show going in full swing just as we stepped out of the movie. I have pictures/videos of some Spanish supermodels on my camera, but the battery’s dead and I’ll have to save the drooling for back in the States. Okay. This will be the last post I write from Europe. It’s too loud to concentrate here and no breathing room for musing. Especially when thereÂ´s live reggae going on. It tight.