How can I begin to wonder about life further on when all I see is a poor man continually struggling on How does a person seek riches when thy neighbor is down on their luck How can I look towards the years of me without coming unstuck These shoulders I bare thoughts upon lay heavy full of guilt To think I once had everything from what once I had built A fine man I used to be until they came The people in body armor struck, it was a day of raw emotion and downfall Of a man with everything who ended with nothing A life that was but seemed a dream We die the same with the last tear in our eyes Oh lord please take me now I am ready to fly.
On a hill far away from the city In a beautiful distant galaxy, Live a boy and a girl so happily... Daddy he loves Mummy Mummy she loves Daddy Daddy he loves Mummy Mummy she loves Daddy. Where the stars like glitter forever shine, Where the rivers bubble with rose red wine, While on sweet apples and oysters they dine, Daddy he loves Mummy Mummy she loves Daddy Daddy he loves Mummy Mummy she loves Daddy. Where the weather will always be just fine, High among the stars, floating on cloud nine, Whispering to each other "You are mine"... Daddy he loves Mummy Mummy she loves Daddy Daddy he loves Mummy Mummy she loves Daddy.
The holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas were always my favorite times of the year. Times in which familial bonds felt their strongest. It was so easy and wonderful to be swept up in the whimsical magic of the holidays. Little problems or concerns are forgotten for the sake of repeating another year of well-constructed joy.
I would shiver with glee as we unpacked our three-foot-tall artificial spruce, set it on a stack of boxes covered with sheets, and decorated it with care. Proudly displayed in the window of our single wide trailer. Every night before bed I'd stare at it admiringly.
It ******* glistened.
My mother and I would piece together a jigsaw puzzle on a card table set up in our living room while watching Christmas movies on TV. It was humble, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I recall being upset one year when my father (correctly) guessed that I bought him a Buck Knife for his Christmas gift. He then made a comment suggesting that he didn't need another knife. It crushed me because I thought it was the perfect gift for a man I tried so hard to relate to.
Most of my childhood memories are filled with joy.
Pretending my G.I. Joes inhabited the branches of our softly lit tree. The elf and angel ornaments were either friend or foe and offered either shelter or a diabolical plot of destruction. The angel atop the tree (from my mother's first marriage in the '70s) was the queen that all the other ornaments and soldiers bowed down before.
She was a goddess.
These days I can't help but be brutally honest with myself and acknowledge that the connection to my biological family is barely existent.
There are no jigsaw puzzles. No Buck Knives. No glistening lights. No tree.
Just me alone in an apartment with a glass of whiskey.
There was a time when I carried on the gleeful tradition of the holidays. With my own three children by my side, I carefully placed that angel from the '70s atop the tree.
I think they were as enamored by her as I once was. I could see the innocent thrill in their eyes.
I haven't looked into their eyes for over a year.
The naive childhood excitement of the holiday season is a distant memory. Now, these days on the calendar remind me of things I will never experience again. They gently, but painfully enter like a dagger between my ribs.
The wound is reopened every ******* year.
I look around and see happy little families shopping for holiday meals and gifts as I push my humble cart around the grocery store alone. I imagine them with a crackling fireplace in their living room like I once had; decorating the tree and listening to holiday tunes. Dancing and giggling.
I can't help but wonder if my children are placing that angel atop the tree with their new dad.
The angel their grandmother passed along.
Her broken marriage. My broken marriage.
And still, that cardboard angel sits atop the tree spreading joy.
I've come to realize the fragility of life itself as of late; a delicate dance of psychological and physiological elements, converging in the process of sustaining a human life.
These components become so complexly intertwined; wrapping themselves around each other whilst expanding and contracting.
My biological systems may keep humming along, subconsciously—yet it is in my mental environment that I choose to allow them to continue. A fascinating concept.
Neurons fire in my brain, telling my arm to extend itself outwards in front of me as if to point at something interesting. More signals are sent, instructing my arm to bend at the elbow; I am now staring at the palm of my hand that rests a few inches from my face.
Neurons continue to spark and my hand slowly twists for me to examine its backside, and then it returns to its original position. My eyes are entranced as they explore the landscape of my palm; its creases and folds resemble a map of sorts.
Fingers methodically open and close—fist, open palm, fist, open palm. My grey matter is aglow as a colorful lighting storm of activity pulses throughout.
Eyes close for a moment. Thoughts. Memories. Thoughts.
They open up again to glare at this dead hand. That’s the fascinating part, the fact that the very signals that are sent to trigger these hand movements—or to trigger my lips to form a pucker or toes to tap, tap, tap to a beat—can also instruct those fleshy appendages to move in such a way to extinguish my own life.
No safeguards? No life-preserving big red button that my subconscious can press in order to save itself?
Nope. A choice. A dance.
And I’ve decided tonight…I’m staying alive.
Because somewhere buried deep in my psyche is a little wrinkled-up piece of notepaper with the following words scribbled upon it:
“The sunrise is just over that hill. The worst is over.”
I always wake during the strangest of hours. Time is supposed to be a foundation—something in which to measure and organize our existence. For me, it slips through the fingers of an outstretched hand and dissipates into vapor. There is no comfort in its passing, only a fleeting shadow of an old friend. I recently drove through the worst fog imaginable; every moment was a struggle to remain between the worn-out lines. I squinted even harder and my singular headlight tried its best to help illuminate a path. Its efforts were valiant, yet meager. This is how it is for me now. This is how the days flicker by; in fog, in a haze, no true distinction from one to the next. I squint. It is in vain.
3:00am. I abruptly sit up and my eyes dart around the room that has become mine for but a little while. My conscious mind is still unscrambling data—separating dream from reality from memory. It all comes into focus and my chest heaves as I remember that my children are 539 miles away. They are in their own temporary rooms. My fingers touch the place on my bed where my son recently lay and told me how much he loved me during our last night together before the Five Week Separation. I cognitively continue to process the situation while simultaneously repressing it into deeper and more distant caverns.
My feet touch the floor and I find something to eat. I watch a movie to distract myself, but only feel all the more hollow. I shake my body into movement. I dress myself and head outside. An introspective playlist accompanies me as I walk along the Rock River. I drink in the breaking morning light until I become intoxicated by the sheer beauty of every single moment: the couple walking quickly by; the glow from a nearby kitchen window; the fishy smell of river water. This is the town of my youth, and in a few short weeks, I am leaving it far behind—yet again.
I walk the familiar streets and enter a café that is filled with countless memories of old friends, love, and laughter. The tables are now bare and the chairs empty, but I can still see the ghosts of memories projected throughout the room. The owner asks me how I am doing and how many kids I have now. I respond in as few words as necessary without being crass. I pay for my latte and scone, then turn away and wonder if I will ever buy coffee here again as the door’s abrasive dinging announces my exit. I slip my headphones back on and turn the volume down on the world around me. Everything seems more cinematic when I am orchestrating the score. Cars rush by and my scarf flutters in the breeze as a violin crescendos and a banjo jangles.
I trek back to the place of transient residence. Enough self-reflection for today. It’s time for some productivity. Everything is so very different now. Strange and painful, yet beautiful and mysterious. I am still me. My children are still my children. I think of them as I breathe in the damp morning air and slowly look around one more time, trying to record every detail in my memory. Everything is calm. I exhale deeply. As the breath escapes from my mouth it leaves a vapor that dances upward and disappears in a second. In that moment, time seems tangible again.