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I finished clearing out the apartment. I moved out the tools and cleaning supplies, tossed the trash, and vacuumed the last strip of carpet. I locked the door and left with the nagging feeling that I had left a shoe behind the bed or something, except I had not left a bed; just an imprint on the floor where one used to be.
At the office I updated the manager, signing a paper saying they could show my apartment and rent it to someone else. It was not likely, she warned me. She had two others vacant just like mine.
I see some junk on the inyernet the other day that the average American IQ is 97. I am not surprised. I see some junk on the inyernet today that the average American IQ is 103. I am not surprised. Maybe the average American IQ is 100 plus or minus 3 points. Maybe it is 97 plus or minus 3 points. Maybe the information poured into the inyernet is accurate plus or minus 97 points and nobody really cares becauseÖwell, it is irrelevant? It is a thing in your face on the inyernet, a flashpoint for attention for five seconds.
I have some idea about what I will be doing today. Iím thinking today will be better than yesterday. Actually, I have some fairly firm ideas about today, and while some of them are a little unsettling, well, I am going to follow through. Yesterday was more than unsettling. It was one of those combo-rides: manic and depressed at the same time. Yes, that one. The nasty one. The really bad one that doesnít look like much on the chart. The one where your BiP friends go poof in the night and donít come back if they are not well-protected.
When my daddy came back from the war, he wasnít my daddy yet, but he was before long. He wouldnít talk about the war. But he had brought dreams. His airplane was going down, flipping over and over in the frozen metal bleeding knuckle air and no chutes open. He was stuck in the chicken coop with a toy gun and a tank was getting ready to run over him. I had those dreams right along with daddy and never understood them until one day I asked him about them. That was the first time I saw my daddy cry.
I turned on the air conditioning, which seems extravagant to me, although it is no more extravagant than when I lived in the apartment. Itís not that warm. It is just that I feel I cannot breathe with all the pollen in the air. One side of my head has completely closed down and I have to go see a doctor about the ear ache there this afternoon. I havenít been to the doctor that much in the past several years, but I have been maybe five times in the past three months for similar things. Maybe I am sick.
The window rattles as the garbage truck rolls by for the third time. It has been freshly painted to a green design. Everything is going green the color of the decade as we finally choke and rattle ourselves to a green death of unintended consequences.
Two men hang off the back of the truck, caps turned backward, shirts flapping in the breeze. A third is spread on the roof receiving the sun. A small boy with a huge grin is actually driving the rig. Red hair, freckles and thick heavy-framed glasses. He seems to be sitting up on something, balancing.
This was the first of the twenty rooms. I am not sure how they were counted. I must have counted some hallways and baths when I wrote the original Twenty Rooms. This was my study at the time and it is in process of becoming one again. I believe it was a daughterís bedroom at one point as well. I donít know why it is picked out as study except this seems to be a good place to write. I will be testing that theory over the next couple months I imagine. Now, the geometry of this house confuses me.
This was the first of the Twenty Rooms. Why am I come back here? So much of my life seems a penance, and I donít know what it is I have done. I know why I am come back here. I have come back here for my son, sort of my personal no child left behind program. I feel the popping rumble of his motorcycle starting in the garage beneath this room. There are limits to the changes you can make to the life of a twenty-year-old man. But, if you are careful, there are no limits to the changes.
This was the first of the Twenty Rooms. I have been here this week organizing, wading through impossible piles of papers, wires, adaptors, office supplies, and memorabilia. I would be better served perhaps by throwing everything out and starting over. This thought is immediately replaced by the realization that I should keep the tax files, that I should keep the desk, that I would need a lamp anyway, and I am left with the original task. I know I am making headway, even though it seems to get worse daily instead of better. One piece of paper at a time.
This was the first of the Twenty Rooms. The desk was closer to the window then, and children were slowly circling the mouth of the driveway weaving in and out on their bicycles making intricate flashing patterns in the sunlight. This is before something happens and Amanda is hurt. I believe she must fall off her bicycle. Kyle helps her up the stairs. Her knee is bleeding. That was then. Amanda is a Junior in college now. Kyle sells drugs and drywalls homes. Yet there is a moment of the bicycles movement, a moment of that pattern I still remember.
The phone tore me from a delicious sleep. I got the receiver and answered. ďIs Ty there?Ē ďNot right now. Theyíre sleeping.Ē ďThis is Wahkeem. Iím calling to wake her up for work.Ē I hammered the phone down and looked at the clock. Seven A.M. Out of bed. Down the stairs. Down the Stairs. Down the stairs. Knocking on the door. Knocking on the door again. Finally delivering the message to silence, and then TY and MJ screaming at one another. Dragging back up the stairs with the screaming behind me, I realized it was Saturday. Ty didnít work Saturday.
It is supposed to be over 80 outside, but I leave the air off and the windows open. There is a playful breeze exploring the house and the temperature feels right. My mind wanders out into the sunshine, slipping over the green lawns and into a crack in time where I am a small boy in Ohio with the sun bright on my head. I am riding a bicycle on a dirt road that runs by my parentís house. The bike is much too big for me. When I step off the pedals, the handlebars are even with my nose.
Out the window I see into the trees and into an older time. It is there, in the older time that I see Matthew squatting at the base of the tree, carving his runes into the soil. He is wearing his comfortable clothes. I remember stories again Ö and I run into that word and it hangs in my head. I cannot put it on him today. I think to whisper to him that Susan needs him. But he is ignoring me today. He knows I am here. He is absorbed, perhaps in his work. That would be like him.
Iíve been in the house for nearly two months now. It has been an endless mind numbing process of repairs, cleaning, and sorting and throwing stuff out. At least I am getting a better idea of what I want to keep and what I want to throw out. One thing Iíd dearly love to throw out is my sonís girlfriend, Ty. Oh yeah, and her little dog too, but that mostly because she would be the last one to do anything to take care of it or to clean up after it. Heigh Ho, itís the family life for me.
The lights are out and the choir is practicing in the back of the cathedral, the wind choir. They need no light and they need no director, and unlike the regular choir they sing on key. Their voice finds the resonance of the chamber with ease and the notes play against the dome like children finding themselves suddenly capable of joyous flight, bouncing from rafter to rafter, leaping from pane to corner to vestibule. They sing the cold in the night and the wind pressing against the church. They sing of the wisps of clouds moving across the clear sky.
I was to meet Jennifer at five for dinner. I waited until ten minutes to five before calling to confirm. There was no answer. She is chronically late, getting that from her mother, who in turn got it from her mother. I assume it is a sex-linked genetic characteristic that has been passed down through countless generations. I left for the restaurant at 5. My cell rang as I was making a left turn and I missed the call, but I could see it was from Jennifer. The message said she had hit some bad traffic and was running late.
The memory of my friend Matthew visits me again this morning, a peaceful visit this time. He is sitting on the ground outside, drawing with a stick. It is raining, yet the place Matthew sits is dry. We had unfinished business, Matthew and I. I look at him. He nods in agreement. I wonder if that means I can keep him here if I donít finish the business. His death has been a terrible lesson in loss and surprise to me, things I already knew well. He smiles patiently, nodding back at his drawing. I cannot see it from here.
I got this thing sitting on my floor. It is a Whiz Bang 5000 compact disk player that Harry at Audio Dementia gave me to take home last time I was in Royal Oak. I need to take it back to Harry, because it is an expensive piece of gear even though it is the Mark II version while Harry is currently selling the Mark VII version. He admitted later on that if heíd known I had already lived with a Mark II, he would have given me something else to play with. I only took it to be polite.
I donít know. Iíve been told that when I say I donít know, that I do know, that I just donít want to go there, that my brain is a recalcitrant and spoiled puppy of a thing that will not yield up things that are too unpleasant for it to easily contemplate. I am not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I cannot evaluate it properly. There have been times when I have caught myself holding the ďI donít know,Ē and have forced myself to look at what I was holding. Yes, I did know.
I have decided to base a small series of 100 words on the new Moby CD, Wait for Me. In doing things like this, I am making small statements about writing in general, and more significant statements about myself. You see, I canít say I donít know, because I do know. Where will I go with this? Well, I know. You will just have to wait for me to find out both where it is and whether it was worth it. Life is full of difficult decisions and trials far more difficult and far more often avoided than we realize.
Division is a rough-cutting knife, a slash, a tear. It is a photograph never taken of two people torn from one another. You are standing on a too-narrow sidewalk angling up a too-steep hill winding through bricks and closed shops. It is foggy morning and the shops are closed. Your head is down, hands in your coat pockets. You are feeling for a cigarette, but donít know it yet. I, on my half of the photograph, am in an empty field, wearing only a t-shirt. There is no fog, but my image is dim. You can almost see through it.
Pale horses are gathered at the gate in the morning. They lift their heads, tossing hundreds of pounds of bone and flesh with tight articulation. The air flowing from their nostrils would feed a Grand National under full throttle. But this strength is their gift, and they are unaware of it other than the sense of joy it brings them in full flight. This then is how we understand our own gifts, not by their weight or size, because they are so much a part of us. We only know them by the joy we feel when we touch them.
I went back to the apartment today.
Yes it is still mine.
After all this:
An empty third-floor apartment
With 18 feet of glass
Facing the sun.
They havenít touched it yet,
Have not begun to plug holes,
Or fix the spot on the bedroom ceiling
Where the sky fell in one winter night
Wet and full of stars.
It is hot today
Like one of those lodges
Where old men go to sweat
And have visions
I am thinking
Why, with the magic strong,
But the power of this place
Has already broken my heart.
They say he was shot in the back of the head. We can see him in the pale light this morning, lying on the sidewalk. The concrete beneath him is broken in a strange way, almost as if he smashed it when he was tossed to earth there. Why the black leather jacket? Was that to ward off the bullet that eliminated the organ of identity? We are circling around him, leaning over, cooing. There are others, more substantial than we are. They are ďworking the sceneĒ. But so are we. We look up at one another into identical eyes.
She says she came to the University to study war. But she said it in a way that made it sound like something different, as if she were studying me, as if the battles were over and there was some question as to whether I was to be taken or left on the field to take up new burdens. She spoke it as the beginning of a question, number one on an entrance exam. Take up your pencils. You may start. Of course I am naked and unprepared in this dream, and the first question is in a strange language.
I would ask you to walk with me.
I think you meant to.
I believe you meant to.
Oh yes it is already time
For a subordinating conjunction
I could stop here.
One small useless word
Points the way for the rest.
Walk with me.
Put your hand in mine.
You did and this touch was a switch
As your smile burned everything else
To a fine scattered ash.
I took a step and a second.
I didnít even feel a tug
Didnít notice until the light dimmed
That you werenít there.
I wonder where my old radios went. Iím not sure. I might have been a collector. I used to have several, have had a number of them of different sizes and shapes, but as I unpack from the move here, I donít find any of them. Did I forget to move them? Did I sell them or throw them away? There were little table ones, and big stand-up ones with pull out fronts and turntables. They had tubes, transformers, rust, and pieces of hard hooked wire that went nowhere. They were Bakelite and wood. A few of them actually worked.
It is sometimes a mistake to write on an empty stomach. Iím not sure the coffee and cream are enough to drive the engine. Still it would not be the first mistake Iíve made or the first time Iíve made this particular mistake. Some would say I am fond of one particular mistake and like to make it over and over, replicating it each time wish as much precision as possible. This is my life. It would not be polite for someone else to assume it was a mistake. Sometimes, I do feel the urge to break things, large things.
ďYou got the boat.Ē My friend was at the door with a big grin. ďWhat?Ē I asked. ďTomís boat. Itís in your back yard.Ē I remembered. My son Tom bought a boat. He got the fever bad a couple months ago. He finally found a 50-year old runabout with an 80 hp Mercury and trailer for a grand and bought it. On fatherís day, it showed up here, well because I live near all the lakes, and thatís what parentís back yards are for. I was told I would get the boat. Now if I can just get the keys.
The scream pilot reclines in his control center, following the curve of the sunset around the earth, coasting in orbit. He is harvesting screams flying from open mouths birthing the red-tailed harpies at roughly 760 miles per hour. Vehicles following behind are seeding new screams to be harvested tomorrow. It takes 24 hours to get a good scream, although they are notoriously unpredictable. Dangerous too if he tries to take one too large and too long as he slides through his orbit, or if he takes it at the wrong angle. A bad one can slice the ship in two.
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