Dissasisfaction

Enjoying the taste
of stomach fat and acids,
It curls up snugly,
Waking up every few hours
For a meal.
It eats away
(though ingesting nothing)
and creates a pain.
It climbs up into
the chest when It is sated
and weighs down
until It grows hungry again.
It is insatiable.

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Otherness

The words came slowly. So slowly that they got stuck in his throat multiple times. It shouldn’t be so hard to say it, he kept thinking. It didn’t make sense. The body doesn’t work that way. There’s no mechanism for keeping words inside because they’re painful. The vocal chords work on command and don’t go on strike because of what they’re forced to say. The difficulty lay in the mind, in the heart, in whatever otherness lay deep in his chest and swelled painfully.
He couldn’t say it. He could. He couldn’t. He had to. He wouldn’t. It was too hard.
“I…”
But one word wasn’t enough.
“I think… I think I-”
Three words in the first sentence of a long paragraph that he’d practiced in his mind over and over again. Maybe it was all wrong, really. Maybe, in the end, when it came right down to it, he’d been kidding himself. He could never do this sort of thing. He didn’t know how. Other people did it every day, sure, but they must have something that he didn’t, something sick and unhealthy, or maybe he was the unhealthy one.
“I…”
He tried again, but it wasn’t working. It wasn’t happening. He was going to give up. He had to give up. There weren’t many choices left, if any. A part of him sighed in relief, admitting defeat. He’d known all along he couldn’t do it. Why had he tried at all? There was absolutely no point.
At the moment of giving up the otherness that weighed him down panicked, suffocating. In a gush of air and a burst of passion, it shoved the words out of his mouth.
“I think I don’t love you anymore.”
He stared at the face across from him, watched as it crumpled slowly, and could almost see the otherness that lay in the chest that belonged to that face. That otherness, which moments before had been cushioned comfortably in the knowledge of safety, was crying out in pain, its shrieks not heard but felt. Even as he felt every conscious part of his mind collapse in on itself in the shock and horror of what he’d said, the otherness in him breathed two words into him, words that only years later he’d be able to appreciate and agree with: “About time.”

Acceptance

Acceptance is a good word. For starters, it has two kind of “c” sounds, a delicious “p” and a lovely ticking “t.” It’s a fun word to say. I accept the fact that not everyone agrees with me about the deliciousness of words – for which I must, again, thank Fry, S. J. – and so I’ll elaborate beyond the mere clicks of tongue and lips together. “Acceptance” is a good word because it has good connotations. It sounds positive in every respect:

We talk about accepting someone for who they are – accepting their faults or quirks, their weaknesses and passions. We talk about feeling acceptance from others – becoming comfortable with people, being who we feel we really are with them, shucking off the shells we build around ourselves to guard our hearts from strangers. Children are taught to accept others who are different than themselves, to ignore skin-color and race, cultural barriers or freckles.

“Acceptance” also brings to my mind the feeling of my stomach leaping upwards in a sweet rush when I find out that I’ve passed a test to get into a program, or gotten a big envelope from a college. It means being good enough, proving myself both to others and to the inner-critic.

But “acceptance” can also be a horribly sad word. When someone dies, we need to learn to accept their passing – not necessarily for anyone, but merely because there’s no choice. Life can’t go on unless we accept the death of a loved one. Even if we fight it, life has a knack of getting in the way and forcing us into realizing that we’ve accepted the horrible truth that someone we love will never hug us again, never smile at us, never blink or speak or cry. It’s natural, though, to accept this. If we wouldn’t, we’d go mad with grief at every death, every breakup, every parting.

And yet, there’s a part of me that rages at the acceptance, that feels as if it’s an insult to myself and my emotions. A part of me wants to scream out from the rooftops and subject the neighborhood to the keening sounds I hear only in my mind. A part of me wishes to give up entirely, to lie in bed and never rise from it. But that part is stuffed down, hushed up, quieted, because life goes on whether I want it to or not.

All is Fair in Love

“I don’t want to.”

“But we have to.”

“I know…”

“I don’t want to either. I love you.”

“Do you?”

“Of course I do! Don’t you believe me by now?”

“I do… It’s just me and my issues, you know.”

“I know. Believe me, I don’t want to either.”

“But we have to.”

“Yes.”

“At least for a while.”

“Exactly. I think it’s important.”

“I do too.”

“You really do, though, right?”

“Yes, I swear! And we’re not closing any doors, right?”

“Of course not. No closing doors.”

“And we’ll always be there for each other.”

“Always.”

On Command

“Sir-yes-sir!”

Lyle was practicing in front of the mirror again. He had on the army uniform costume that he’d worn on Halloween, and he’d stolen the medal out of his mom’s sock drawer. It was draped around his skinny neck, the gold-colored part resting somewhere around the level of his belt. He marched up and down in his room, trying to make his limbs as stiff as possible, and then turned back to the mirror.

“Sir-yes-sir!”

Under different circumstances, the sight of an eight-year old boy wearing a Halloween costume and walking like a robot would have been amusing. But as it was, it made Robby, Lyle’s older brother, throw his backpack violently across the room. It hit Lyle, who went down right in the middle of another salute.

“Shut up, you idiot, mom’ll be home soon!” Robby gave his brother an extra shove and went to the bathroom to shave. He’d been with his girlfriend after school, and she’d told him she didn’t like his itchy stubble. Trying to calm himself, Robby took out the old razor and placed it on the sink. He lathered his face with lotion, and began, with hands still trembling with anger, to scrape the old, thin blade across his cheek. He managed not to nick his right cheek, his upper lip and his chin, and moved on to the left cheek.

A scream seemed to tear the house into pieces. In the bathroom, Robby cursed as the razor blade cut into his cheek and blood started to seep out of the thin slice. It mixed with the shaving lotion until the lower half of his cheek looked like a marshmallow. Rinsing himself off, Robby got a wad of toilet-paper and held it to his cut as he opened the bathroom door with a crash. A horrible scene met his eyes.

Lyle was face down on the floor, his mother leaning over him. She had the ribbon the medal hung on in one thin, wasted hand, and she was pulling at it, hard. It was still around Lyle’s neck.

“Mom!” Robby dashed forwards, and forced his mother’s hand to let go. He heaved her backwards, away from Lyle, pushing her until she was leaning against the far wall. Her eyes looked dead, and she made no move to go back to strangling her son, so Robby left her and bent over Lyle, turning him over. He was breathing – crying, choking on his mucus and tears, but breathing nonetheless. He huddled in Robby’s embrace, hiding from their mother. Flashing a look of scorn towards her, Robby picked him up and carried him to their tiny, shared room. He took the medal off of him, got him out of the costume and put him in bed. He drew the covers over him and tucked them snug. Lyle was already asleep when he left the room, curled up into a ball.

“How could you, Mom?” Robby faced his mother, who still hadn’t moved from where he’d pushed her. He held the medal forth. “This is what you want? This stupid piece of tin and some gold paint? Take it! Here, take it!” He threw the medal at her feet. Her eyes moved towards it, and she finally moved, kneeling down to pick it up. She looked at it lying in her hand, caressed it, and then held it closely to her breast. Raising her eyes, she gave Robby a withering glare. He didn’t budge, didn’t say a word.

“You never – do you hear me, son? You never talk about your father’s memory that way again.”

She rushed into her bedroom, closing and locking the door, before Robby could scream at her that his father was dead, that he died in a stupid war, that the medal didn’t really mean anything, that his father’s memory lay nowhere near the stupid thing. He slumped against the wall. It was too much, suddenly. It was all too much. His mother had never gone this far before. And Lyle – Lyle was just like her! Why did her need to steal that thing out of her drawer every other day?

Trembling, forgetting about the tissue that was still stuck to his face, Robby went down the hall to where the phone rested on a small table – his father had managed to get a great bargain on it at the flea market, Robby remembered that day… Without dwelling too long, though, he picked up the phone and dialed.

“Aunt Jenny? It’s Rob. Robby. My mom – she – Lyle – I just… We need help.”

Click

Click. Click. Click.

Thomas followed one link after the other, eyes wide, mouth hanging open. It was incredible. For the first time, he saw some meaning in the world. He clicked the next link, and it took him to yet another website, with another link. Clicked again. And again. He leaned closer and closer to the screen and his eyes started to tear up. For the first time in his life, he prayed. He prayed to the grand intelligence that was leading him, was showing him the truth. He prayed that he would never lose this connection, that he would keep feeling as inside and outside everything. He prayed that he’d get sucked in to the computer itself, wished that the molecules in his body could turn into bits of information, switching on and off, ones to zeros. Then he could follow the design of the powerful being he’d discovered.

Click. He kept going. Click. It never ended. Click. Thomas could feel the belief in him spring from a well he thought had always been dry. He felt as if light and warmth were flowing through his veins as he clicked again. But he was no closer to the truth! He knew it was there, he knew that he was seeing fleeting parts of it, and clicked onwards, trying to understand, trying to get to the root of it all. He knew that if he were a machine, if he could see things in absolute dichotomous terms of on or off, then he’d understand. He would surely understand. For now, all he could do, was keep faith. He felt as if the force that was guiding him was growing stronger by the minute. He knew, he was confident, that he’d be shown the way.

Thomas sat and stared and clicked and clicked and clicked.

His parents stood outside the door, peering in through the small window. All they could see was Thomas leaning forward on his bed, drool dripping out of his open mouth. His eyes seemed to be trying to burst out of their sockets, he was staring so hard. His hand, which rested on his knee, was the only part of him that was moving. And it wasn’t even the hand that moved – just the index finger, moving quickly, going up and pressing hard on the knee when it came down. His parents were both weeping quietly as the doctor ushered them away soothingly, explaining about treatments and options. They couldn’t listen properly. All they could see was their son, deranged.

But Thomas was seeing the truth, for the first time in his life.

If Life is Indeed a Cabaret

If life is indeed a cabaret,

Then how is it that every day,

We simply make our weary way,

From sunup ’til in bed we lay?

**

If the world is merely a stage,

Then why work so hard for wage?

And why then do we fear to age,

If elders are supposedly sage?

**

If we’re meant to see ourselves as flowers,

That bloom and wilt after some hours,

Then why does Death make us cower?

And why does his nearness make us sour?

**

But let us say life’s a show,

One that is unnaturally slow,

And if we accept there’ll be some woe,

Does it make it any easier to go?

**

No, it doesn’t, that I’ll say!

For if life is good, we’d like to stay.

And even if it’s not, that’s still okay,

Death will come sometime, anyway.