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there is an infinite ocean beyond this shore. it has no horizon, no beginning, no end.
the waves wash up gently upon the sand -- miniscule variations of their more violent cousins. they appear to be distant though they are very near. sometimes they fail to return, leaving behind little patches of gray nothingness. soon enough the nothingness will eat up everything, but it is moving very slowly -- creeping along so that nobody will notice its malicious proceedings.
I feel nothing beneath my feet and nothing around me. the sand has fallen away; off of this swiftly tilting plane.
rain lashed at the tin roof, hammered the thin metal. it dripped through rust holes, formed pools on the floor. his broken glasses glittered in the fluorescent lights on the ceiling. they swayed with the violent gusts of wind outside.
the concrete floor was slick with water. he walked between rows of metal shelving -- came to a heavy steel door, pushed it open. it swung open, the wind nearly ripping it from its hinges. black and white waves crashed against the dark shoreline, broke on the wharf and threatened to eat him alive.
he stepped outside into the storm.
the rain threatened him every way it knew how; soaked his clothing with bitter cold, plastered his dark hair to his face. he kept walking, one unsteady step at a time. waves clawed at him from all directions, stinging his skin -- ripped his glasses from him, clouded his eyes. he walked blindly forward into the ocean, slipping on the wet rocks.
the pier suddenly ended. he stood still, gazing into the vast nothingness that was the sea. a black wave loomed over him, moving in slow motion -- seeming to stretch infinitely into the sky.
it pulled him under.
the dirt clung to the cuts his hands and crawled beneath his nails; tiny fragments of rock and bone scraping the tender skin there. it slipped between his fingers and fell back to its original resting place, seemingly unaltered and undisturbed; he covered it back with moss and brown leaves -- covering the limestone and clay that lay beneath.
he stood, disregarding the soil on his shoes and knees. before him lay fields and fences, floodplains and gates. fields of corn, tobacco, sawgrass, and wheat.
the river trickled, anticipating the winter freeze. though in summer it always ran furious deep.
I remember it like this:
he smiled at me through his broken glasses. a warm sort of smile, long having forgotten the reason that the glass was splintered and a minute scar traced the lines beneath his eye. he took my hand, gently -- though his hands were disproportionately larger than mine -- curled my fingers beneath the weight of his own.
his eyes closed and his hand grew weak then limp then lifeless and he was gone again. his lungs did not move, but his heartbeat slowly tapped out a message telling me he was in a better place.
when he awoke he smiled at me gently again; his true nature showing through his hazy, sunken in eyes with pinpoint pupils. not a wild monster but a kind, intelligent child. I reached out and touched his face and he closed his eyes. all he could feel was absolute warmth and love in its purest form. and the warmth was not only a feeling, but a state of mind. he had just been to the kingdom, and with the kingdom comes unconditional understanding and peace -- a heroin fueled awareness of the most miniscule yet most important facts behind life.
I do not like water, but I like
water. I will stare at it for hours and stand on the shore, walk along wharves and piers and rocks at the water's edge. but I can not set foot into it. I will not leave the firm foundation what lies beneath my feet.
I am frightened, I suppose; not of its power and enormity -- as I am not afraid of such things -- but of the minutiae that lie beneath its surface. it has a clever way of hiding what it really means, only letting me see what
he stared at his coffee. the bubbles on the surface caught white light from somewhere and shone brightly with it. for a moment he thought he could see the stars in each one, but the nation quickly vanished as the tiny spheres began to dissipate of their own accord; pool themselves into a singular entity. all the stars they held within them changed, in favor of creating a different sort of picture. they danced about as static until order forced itself back upon them, aligning the pinpoints of light into a reflective surface. a mirror that did not reflect him.
I always wonder why he calls. he was never there when I was a child, never there when I was growing up. all I ever heard from him were subliminal insinuations that I was not what or how he wanted me to be. all he ever did was argue with my mother and complain that we cost too much.
when they finally divorced I was grateful, thinking I'd never have to hear from or see him again. but he still calls. for no reason at all. too cowardly to say what he really means or admit that he did wrong.
these boys make pretend that they are monsters, giants, valiant knights. they imagine worlds where their hurt and sorrow can not reach them. but they can never fool themselves well enough.
your façade does not fool me either, boy. I have seen too much harsh reality to believe you.
so you cling to me -- curled up like a small, frightened child. bury yourself in my embrace, dig your glasses into my collarbone, clutch at my small frame; red seeps into the corners of your eyes, threatening tears. I look away, wait for the warmth to seep into my shirt.
my collar is damp by the time you're done. you stay silent, still -- asleep or pretending to be. I take your glasses; fold them neatly, set them on the floor. the fingers around my shoulders tighten, shaggy hair bristles against my neck. you do not play dead very well, dear.
there is simply nothing to say.
I smooth your hair away from your face; trace my fingers down and across your neck; stare at the clock, counting the seconds until your shallow breath becomes steady and your resolute grip loosens. I fight off sleep to listen to your dreams.
I can barely see beyond the dim beams the headlights cast on the road. the pavement is darker than the sky, monotonous, uninterrupted. I almost can make out faint traces of stars through the clouds. the radio is on low; a song with words I don't know.
I lean back, rest my feet on the dashboard. I don't know where we are going. I start to think that the road we are on leads to nowhere and never ends.
I open my mouth to ask but stop mid-way. he watches the road intently, his broken glasses reflecting the console lights.
today is his birthday. I think he turns twenty, but I'm not sure anymore. then again, I am never sure of much. it has a been a very long time, so long that I'm not sure why I remember the date, much less the person. I should have forgotten, but I only forget things that I wish I could remember and remember things I wish I could forget.
however, this time I am not bothered. this time I will not cry myself to sleep or dream those dreadful dreams that I liken to pleasant nightmares.
I have finally moved on.
I dangle my feet over the edge, swinging them childishly. though, I am not a child playing a game. I grip the cement, trying to dig in my fingers. I am serious this time.
the white light draws ever closer until it is upon me, blindingly bright. the noise is deafening. faster than I can comprehend, the machine roars past beneath me -- threatens to rip me off my perch. the metal cars scream as they fly by, nearly brushing the bottom of my feet; toss sparks into the night.
suddenly it's all over. and my head is left reeling.
he stares at me, as if it had all been a dream. gawks openmouthed at my cut lip and bruising jaw line, my blackening forearms. it is as if he doesn't understand how such a thing has happened. as if he was never there to start with. and he wasn't.
his splintered glasses hide his eyes, but I surmise that he's tilted his head that way for a reason: so I can not see the red that is seeping into the corners or the size of his pupils.
he takes my hand gently and folds something small into my palm.
he is too shamed to look at me. eventually he rises from the makeshift table and disappears into another room. I uncurl my fingers once he has left: a present to help make the throbbing in my head disappear.
I pour the fine powder on the glass in front of me, scrape it into thin lines; I will not be artistic this time. I can't wait to inhale, breathe it in.
the stark cold room blurs and warms. my jaw no longer aches, my hands are no longer part of my body. everything is right again, but it's only temporary.
we used to do noting but drive.
I would sit back with my feet on the dash and stare out the window; he'd keep on hand tentatively on the wheel, talk, take my hand is his -- when he got tired we'd only stop briefly, long enough to exchange seats and a little saliva; pick gas cans off porches and lay lines across the dashboard.
when I had the wheel I barely paid attention to where the car took me, only gazed blankly at the endless pavement ahead and followed the his quietly spoken directions that lead us to nowhere.
a neat row of orange bottles stared at him from the table. each one was empty.
he had never anticipated this.
he dropped to his knees, ran his hands along the floor wildly. there were none. he brought his hands to his face and licked them clean of the residue they'd collected, though it was nothing but dust.
his head spun and he fell to his elbows. the room was blurry and his joints were starting to ache. he clawed at his hair, gnashed his teeth, but it wouldn't stop. his arms gave in; all he could do was scream.
his face was bruised and his eyes too dilated to see through. he creeped across the floor, every muscle aching, stiff, sore. his hands shook and he could barely find the strength to lift himself from the ground; to raise a cup from the chipped formica.
he drank hesitantly. no sooner had the water wet his mouth than it came back up again with mucous and acid and bile. it burned his throat and his nose ran but he didn't bother to wipe it away; simply let himself fall back to his knees and retch until the room faded away.
in fall I walk picket fences, tree lines, telephone poles, country roads. come winter the roads turn paved and lead east to the shore. the sun sets and lights sparkle on the water. the swamp recedes and the wooden docks turn to wharves and piers. the power lines multiply and start to crackle in the cold.
the fields and swamps of summer and fall slowly turn to cities and skylines. streams into rivers and rivers into oceans. in spring the buildings will melt away and trees will grow out of the crumbling pavement.
it’s nothing more than a changing feeling.
the other end of the line was silent. he breathed in and exhaled. the receiver hummed its incessant telephone tone and the walls in the room melted into a warm pool around my ankles.
he didn't say anything because he didn't have to. and neither did I, since I‘d already spoken my mind; said those terrible, frightening three words. he told me he would be here in a second. I nodded until I realized that the phone could not convey motion and whispered okay. the line went dead but I barely noticed, half suspecting that it had hung itself up.
it's been about two months. all I want is to have a relapse.
the only things I can think about are little white pills and amazing nothingness that they provide. I can barely function. I am tired and distracted and bored and emotional; and they fixed all that. with them I can be calm and collected, indifferent and rational. they made me sleep at night and when I woke I was rested, calm, focused. I felt so good.
this promise is so hard to keep. I do not know why I made it or how I've made it this far.
I try to walk on eggshells but they all beak the moment I open my mouth. nothing I do is right when I'm around him. my hands shake and my eyes will water but he does not care. I wait for him to notice, but he will have none of it. all I want is consolation, support, acknowledgement; but all of that is being withheld. it's a sadistic joke being played on me. he stands resolutely, ignoring me while I kneel at his feet.
I do not want to touch him, even, for fear of the punishment I will receive.
the radio was on loud and we both laughed through the blast-beats in the background; he tapped his fingers on the wheel in time with the music; our arms hung out the windows, floating up and down in the wind. we flew around the curve, the tires screamed at him. I glanced at the speedometer just as it jumped past one hundred. it still had more to go.
he started grinning, as if some sudden idea had struck him. before I knew it we were headed back the way we'd come, faster than before.
I put on my seat belt.
he never whispered those three horrible, horrible words to me but once; and I the same. saying it cheapened the meaning and failed to convey the feeling. it was a rule that we never spoke what we really meant, since we both knew our words were never, ever sincere or simple.
when I took the shattered glasses off his face I could read it in the lines around his eyes and when he reached out I could feel it in the gentleness that lay within his massive hands. I knew and somehow he knew, too. that was all that mattered.
we drove around all night; windows down, metallica blaring on the radio. his glasses hid his eyes but his grin always gave him away. he turned up the music and bobbed his head to it, hands barely on the wheel. he knew I was watching him; the second I looked away he reached out and grabbed my hand, forcing me to dance along with him.
I smiled and laughed and through my bleary, half-closed eyes I thought that I saw shattered glass and jet black hair.
he is the same boy with a different face. I am sure of it.
he made me say it the other night; all but beat it out of me while I stalled to get out of the truck. I suspect he did it so he knows what he can get away with – so he knows for sure he can get away with all of the fucked up shit he does to me.
I shouldn’t have given in, but I really don’t have a choice. I rely on this one too much. he can play whatever game he wants and get away with it, as long as I have somewhere to go at night.
old habits seem to be die hard.
nearly every night I find myself pilfering alcohol and medication so I can drink and drug myself to sleep. I literally eat handfuls of various and assorted over the counter pills -- chew them up so they work better and faster -- then wash them down with as much beer as I can covertly sneak away.
it doesn't do a thing for me. it's just so I can get to sleep and even then it doesn't always work. sometimes I'm just left nauseated and a little dizzy; sleepless, restless, fucked up, and alone.
he doesn't understand why I'm content to simply sit and stare out the window while the trees fly by; doesn't understand how I never have a place I want to go.
he settles for a just because, but I know as well as he does that it's no excuse. I don't know how to or if I can ever tell him the real reason.
for now I'm just along for the ride and I don't really want it a different way. I smile, agree, nod, object, but I am lost out the window and have been for quite some time.
I always find myself beyond my own years and consequently beneath them. I am never at the level of understanding I should be, as I am usually far beyond it.
when we kiss it is not so much an act of sexual beings but instead basic and innocent. it has nothing to do with the action at all. it's simply a reiteration of attachment and trust; in it is the affection between a mother and a child, a willingness to forfeit customary defenses for an indeterminate, unclear commitment.
it is the only time he lets me take off his glasses.
there is a place we used to go. I still call it part of Tillman, though I'm not sure where it is or if it still exists. these days I know it wasn't special; just a leveling system they used to make sure the water was the right height. but back then it was the holy land.
we would lay on our backs on the cold concrete and stare at the sky then nod off into oblivion. every morning the sluice gates would open; the fine spray from the water rushing past beneath our feet would baptize our sins away.
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