The city of lights has gone dark.
Kenya is bleeding
The Cedars of Lebanon have been cut down
Syria bathes in fire, her scorched black arms
crumbling when she tries to embrace her children.
War walks where innocence sleeps,
Nameless faces in the night,
The world stands wounded on bruised feet,
Wringing aching hands
While her children weep.
The skies are silent but for the screaming of drones
And Earth trembles, as Atlas shrugs.
It is night. We are sitting on the steps among fallen leaves, looking out into an eerily empty scene. Pale blue light shines on the weathered concrete where a single white car is parked in a forgotten spot. It's strange without people, the bustle, constant hum of voices, engines, the occasional horn.
It feels more alive to me now. The place in and of itself alive-- as it would have been if man had never existed. If our existence had been lost somewhere up among the few stars that now dare to shine through. Those few (happy few?) who dare to look upon the tragic, transient, mortal beauty of men.
The familiar symphony of night sounds can be heard in the little line of trees before us. The wind is plucking leaves from branches. They fall brown and lifeless at our feet. I wonder if trees miss their leaves, or if, perhaps, they have accepted the perpetual cycle of loss and renewal mankind has yet to make peace with. Each year shorter than the last, each day longer than the first. I have always loved the melancholy of autumn, its bittersweet solitude, the leaves as quiet reminders of mortality-- tiny deaths to foreshadow our own. No, I do not wish for death. I have, but not tonight. Tonight the air is soft and cool, and the air and sky are clear. I am finding peace in the mundane chaos.
He is next to me, thinking. Solemn, with a tinge of sadness, but for what I'm never sure. He laments the loss of our child-like wonder, and I question if it can be regained. I would like to think so. I think somewhere, inside all of us, our childish hearts remain, molten core of memory, identity, the first, the fairest of us. Who we were before the world beat it out of us.
He has a soft, deep, murmur of a voice. A tiny gap between his two front teeth I notice when he laughs. A lovely laugh that shakes through his willowy, wiry frame. His eyes are kind and thoughtful, yet serious. When he looks at me, it feels as though he is trying to stare right through, and I turn away. For all my wanting to be known, perhaps I am not ready--yet. But parts of my spirit which have long lain dormant are surfacing again, coming towards the light. Timid, they step out, unsure of where they are, what the footing is here. But so far, solid.
I am driving home under the melancholy grey sky that reminds you of the empty spaces in your chest. Sickly yellow street lamps are coming on, one by one, highlighting the potholes and cracks in the road. I can't help but picture what it might have looked like in the 60's. The still all American heartland town, when the rusted buildings were new and shining, when the once grand houses had fresh paint, well manicured yards, un-littered by fake deer and old tires. I remember old news papers from estate sale boxes, pictures of women in smart dresses with cinched waists, sitting prettily in the society section. They are probably dead now. Buried in the cemetery on a hill that overlooks the city, and down onto the tiny matchbox houses now boarded up or falling into disrepair. Still yet it seems maybe it was never new. There was always the dust, the smudge, the ghostly fog on old mirrors. I wonder how it will continue, or if it will at all, perpetually rise and fall, as all things do, or simply fall, the lifeblood of youth trickling out and down the freeway, or soaking into the already saturated ground.
Hopeless seems so dark a word, but the truth was never pretty, was it? Perhaps, here, is the hardness of truth, in its grit, its blood. The pebbles that stick in your palms and skinned knees. They once said the depressed were the most realistic of us all, that it was the perpetual state of the human mind-- everyone else in optimistic denial. I was inclined to believe them. Our rose colored glasses taint the world cotton-candy pink while E-flat minor and discorded harmonies echo somewhere in the mountains, longing, hard, sad.
What haunts you? I want to ask the old rail road tracks. Who died here? I say to the gaping cinder block house. Do you remember what laughter sounds like? I know you remember the bark of dogs, the screech of tires, gunshots or fireworks, who can tell. Dust the memories off the way we dusted sawdust and insulation from the boxes in the hoarder's attic-- find them suspended just the way you left them, open the room-- unchanged since the children left. The toys lie on the floor where they fell from small hands. The safest memories are the ones unremembered. The more they are recalled the more corrupted they become till we are painting our own picture all over again, and we are Van Gogh on a rainy night. Is that what happened? You remembered them all too often. You stared at the sun till you were blind and wondered why you could not see the stars. Yes, that must be it. You clutched those slips of laughter so greedily-- recalled them again and again until they faded, till now you hear nothing but the wind, and cough nothing but ashes.
The years have not been very kind to you. You look older than your 26 years, haggard, cracked. Your hair is close cut, but you're nearly bald now. You once said it was from stress, but I remembered the genes carry from a mother's father, and I almost ask, then remember you never knew your mother. The only grandfather you can remember was cruel and drunk, and poured whiskey on a beetle while your uncles laughed. Your eyes are still those of a frightened child, a well-like soul, lit with some insane fire. You're thinner than I remember, but still not thin enough to fit into your dress blues. Where are they now, I wonder? Probably in the house that never felt like home, sheathed in plastic, smelling of cigarette and marijuana smoke. You're smoking again. I watched you leaning against your old truck, talking to someone, flicking the butt into the grass. I entertain the idea of stopping to speak to you, some primal urge of a broken heart. The broken heart that isn't sure if it still loves you, or your memory, split and driven by the reminder that some things simply aren't meant to be, no matter what the books say.
My heart leaps to race again, like a frightened rabbit, unsure where to go, or what to do. Going back was never an option. I turn away.
At work I glance in the bathroom mirror, I am very pale. You don't frighten me, but there is some storm which has blow up, confused, convoluted with time and the gilding of memory. I remember you fondly, if that is any consolation.
I told someone how I loved you, and he asked, half mocking, if I would go and find you. It stung. He was jealous, maybe. He'd already given me flowers, though with promises of friendship, unlikely more. He and I don't speak much now, and it hurts. You and I, another story. We spoke once a year, twice maybe. Always ending with the same scabs tearing off, the same regrets, the same pleading from you, and the same apologies from me as to why it is so impossible for us to relight the drowned kindling that once kept us warm.
We walked such different paths. Life is unfair, that way. You surmounted Everest, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, only to arrive in a barren, muddy place, without the terrible desolate beauty they sometimes possess. You said I once calmed the storms in your soul. I've never forgotten that. It was always the wrong time, the stormy time, with you. Abandoning a ship you know will never truly make it to harbor, though it may bob and sink and drift for years before running aground, sails tattered, anchor lost.
If I did stop to speak to you, I don't know what I'd say. If it were a film I wouldn't need to say anything, I might run up and throw my arms around you before you could think, and kiss you, long and sweet. You would taste like smoke and coffee and rain. I would draw away, and say something about how I never go to kiss you goodbye. Which is true, I never really did. The last time I saw you, our hands didn't even touch. But this isn't a film. If I did stop, I wouldn't know what to say. You might not either. If I tried to kiss you, suddenly, I might scare you, set off the combat-tested reflex of self-defense, paranoia, panic. You would taste like coffee and tobacco, maybe pot. The pungent smell would be noticeable on your clothes as you pushed me away from you, cursing me, reminding me you told me never to speak to you again, unless it was to say I found some impossible way to return your dogged love. Your hands would be rough, dwarfing my small arms, your tall body dwarfing my small frame. I felt beautiful when I realized how small I was next to you. I still remember that night when you put me on your shoulders like a child, and carried me back to the car, as I bent down every so often to kiss you, wearing your hat. You'd cut your hand badly at work, but still insisted on holding mine.
I don't know what you'd do now. I don't know what I would do now. What should be done? I know I do not want to rekindle the drenched flame, but care is still lingering. I think of leaving a ten under your windshield wiper, hoping you'd buy yourself a meal. I consider writing the title of the song I wrote about you in the bill's margin. I wonder what you'd think now if you heard it. I can't remember if I ever sang for you. Probably not. We never got drunk together, and I've only ever sung in front of others slightly intoxicated.
But I'm drunk now. Drunk on rainy-day memory and what if's, and I realize I will never sing for you.