Heaven’s Gate

Phone reads 7:47, but it won’t take me anywhere. Flashing screen, it was a late night, and I didn’t get much sleep. They say appearances are only skin deep? It means nothing if no one sees me; that’s evasive equality. A year ago, my bed was the happiest place; now it’s lonely. Never did I feel more like Clooney and Keibler; not elves in a tree, but on red carpets being the dreamer. I’m trying to be optimistic, but my anxiety’s so Deepak Chopra; it looks like me, but it acts like a distant stranger. The date on my TV’s wrong; it says July twenty-three. My mom told me to stop stressing, especially when I’ve got everything. This is who I am now? No, this is exactly who I was then. Hid it pretty well, right? Well I’ve had help since. Well I’ve made friends since, but it’s my fault that I cut myself off when I did, and now I’m totally off the grid. Ironic that you’ll read this. Ironic that I wrote it. Why couldn’t I pick up the fucking phone? Because social media’s the real joke, and I am just a hipster troll.

I cry at TV funerals; Kutner, Petrelli, McGarry. The series finale of The West Wing wrecked me. The season finale of WNG still haunts me; that I did that, that I did SL.UT.S!, that I almost forgot me. They turned the Blockbuster I went to into a restaurant that’s Japanese. It’s the night of the reoccurring  and I am living in my own surrealities. Sometimes I think I’m still nineteen; it must be some Freud shit. That was my age when I left, but hadn’t let go yet. I still haven’t. I’m older than most everybody, by at least three years, but I’m still pretty immature. They say money talks. I tell them I don’t watch Ratner. I am just heart, and it’s okay if I shatter. I do not talk. I am just a writer. Half hearted is that nice ring he got her. The mind is restless; about what it knows not. Functioning’s the easy part; just can’t let them see the malfunction. I’m erroneous, acrimonious, and have certainly become unceremonious. I think my mom is the best cook. Family hates me at potlucks. I think loyalty’s a burden. Explains why I’ve never been chosen.

You’re really something, you know that? When I ask you a question, you stop me mid-sentence, smiling, as if I already knew the answer. And then if I become quiet, you pester me with questions, smiling, as if I already know the answers. I only have one question, to which I will never know the answer: who am I to you?

I had a good Friday, but I’m back for a great resurrection. Far from the ruins of happiness, collecting the ashes of sadness. Deep sorrows gasp for air. I suffocate them–out of jealousy, out of purpose, out of acceptance–that happiness isn’t immortal. Silence. I never thought about how deathly it could be. Suspended, quiet, unassuming, guilty. Silence. Your smile isn’t innocent, and neither are your eyes. They don’t like questions, but they really hate my answers. What I wouldn’t do to keep you staring; keep you fixated on whatever it is you choose to see in me. You kill me every day you don’t utter a sound. I’ve never known a person to go to his death smiling. I never understood how reading the last page of a novel could ever give anything of real substance away, from the chapters before it, but more importantly, from the story as a whole. I always write the epilogue first–not as a way to pace myself, but as a way to make peace with myself–so if I never finish, I’ll always have that sense of closure, however first draft, unfinished, and unwritten. My prologue’s too promising, my chapters’ too complex, and my epilogue’s an eternity.

I don’t believe silence is golden. I think the conversation’s just broken. I wish somebody would find it; all the lost time that’s been stolen. The real world is frozen. It doesn’t own us. We were handwoven in the moment of the poisoned erosion of truth wrapped in explosives. I think I’m corrosive, but I’ve got too much emotion, not to mention devotion, to me, myself, and all that I’ve spoken. My name’s not token. My name’s not Hoboken. In music, it’s elegant; Ellington was a showman. In Spanish, it’s birth control; in Canada, it’s a state garden. I wish somebody who knows me once knew me. I’m Ted Mosby, clanking Arizona bottles like they were forty’s, and B.L.T. is not a sandwich, it’s a heartbreaking blog post. We weren’t magic. We were magnets. Flash bangs of flashbacks, [my] writing made [you] immortal. Our initials were almost the same, so I could probably pull a Jack White, and take your last name.

I think I’m starting to sound like the songs of Toni Braxton.
Jesus’ bacK, and I longer need to be signing off with —

Rinse, repeat

I left my heart and half my things in Toronto.

You called me adventure girl, as we drove down the QEW. But you’re wrong I’m a drifter; I never once thought of you. You as an anchor, as all I need; to tie me down, for once to keep. But I always set the sails for you, nothing borrowed, nothing blue. Life in the past and nothing’s new. But you can’t stay for someone and a person is not a home. What more is this life for anyone, but a loan? Or maybe it’s alone, just figments and flesh and bone. Really, it’s Faustian, the way I need you. Even though I know I’m damned I give to thee my soul. I’m only kidding, I don’t think I’ve ever had that, I’m too cold. But this devilish bargain, what could go wrong? I’ve waited this for so, so long.

My love is selfish If I can’t have you, no one can. I hear the drums of revolution beating, Iran. “This is my home now” I say to no one and nothing in particular. Our lives are parallel, not perpendicular. When opportunity comes knocking, I’ll weld that door closed. We’re down at the local bar again, trying not to go home. Pints to feel relevant, but I’m not buying it, all of our flaws, clasped. Our plans, half-assed. Our memories, just straws, grasped. I fell down the rabbit hole but there’s no tea party. Doesn’t matter, I don’t want Mr. Darcy. Flash forward. A giraffe’s heart is thirteen pounds, average, and I know how that feels: savage.

So many fair weather friends, could’ve used an umbrella. All these loose ends, and love locked in the cellar, given away. As I lay down my fate, I’m not sure what to take, the hurt or the defense, this is my mind on the fence. We’re all just collateral damage, and impressions of everyone else, every memory, every past self. I reinvent and cut open, and forget to sew the wound shut. All the words left unspoken, and somehow I’m still spilling my guts. You say you want to destroy me? Joke’s on you, I can do that on my own. You know, I like the universe. With my luck, who would’ve known?
What is the point of you? I’m only worse off alone.

But seriously, why am I still recycling the same shit and making the same lists and reviving old grievances so that even I don’t believe in it? Only when I’m done telling my story to infinity and beyond that it finally dawned. Over and over until it becomes someone else’s burden and just another story about a sad girl in my collection, re-spun until I’m done being the master of rejection.

-Ani, professional shit disturber

The Red Door [Chapter 1]

[Prologue found here.]

Five Years Gone

A suit jacket with a tie draped around its collar lies on the bed. Patrick paces from one end of the room to the other holding flash cards, his shirt still unbuttoned. His wife Teresa exits the bathroom in a navy blue dress, fixing her earrings.

“Why aren’t you dressed yet? We’re going to be late for the fundraiser.” She fidgets with her watch.

“We’re making a quick detour.” He finishes buttoning his shirt, and tucks it into his pants.

“Where?”

“The Red Door.”

“We’re supposed to be there in an hour.”

“We can be a little late.”

“Not when it’s for you we can’t. What’s at The Red Door?”

“Jack invited some of the old crew back for a sort of reunion.” Patrick slips the flash cards into his back pocket, picks up his tie, and stands in front of the mirror. Teresa joins him, as they both stare at their reflections.

“Why now?” She fixes her hair.

“Heard he’s been going through a tough time.” He fixes his tie.

“When’s the last time you even talked to him?” She lightly pokes him.

“I don’t know, I might have texted him a few weeks ago.” He begins moving sideways towards her, gently pushing her out of the mirror’s gaze. She playfully pushes him back.

“We’ve invited him to visit, you even asked him if he wanted to help out with the campaign.” She turns away from him, grabs the coat off the bed, and holds it out for him. Its back faces Patrick. “Face it, he’s just distant.”

“He’s been busy doing his own thing.” He puts his arms in the coat’s sleeves, before swinging the coat over his back. The wind messes up her hair.

“He didn’t even come to our wedding, Pat.” She straightens his collar, running her hands across his shoulder.

“And we didn’t go to his, so I’d say we’re even.” He fixes her hair, as they hold each other in their arms.

“That’s different. We weren’t even invited. You know I still haven’t met his wife?”

“You’ve met his wife Teresa.”

“Not in that context.”

“You’re grasping at straws now, honey.” He kisses her, before making his way to his bedroom’s window. He peeks outside. It’s lightly snowing. He removes the flash cards from his back pocket, and stares at his scribbled notes, before placing them into his jacket’s inner pocket. “It’ll take us at least an hour to get down there. It’s almost the holiday. There’s bound to be traffic. I’ll tell him we’ll be a little late.”

“You make your speech, shake a few hands, and we’re out of there. I promise.” Teresa sits on the bed, putting on her heels. Patrick takes out his phone, and scrolls through his contacts, before holding it up to his ear.

“Hey Jack, where are you? Yeah, how can I forget?”

“Ask him about his wife.” Teresa stands, puts on her winter coat and signals to him.

“Hey, is, uh, your wife going to be there? Uh huh, yeah, no, I was just wondering, because Teresa could use the company.” He makes a face at her. “It’s starting to snow, and there might be some traffic on the way, so we might be a little late buddy.” He clears some fog on the window with his hand. “Thanks man. See you soon too.” He hangs up.

“I do not need the company.”

“It is the old crew. We were mostly a bunch of guys. Here’s hoping they all bring their wives. I really don’t want to be that guy.”

“Doesn’t Alice’s flight land today?”

“Landed a few hours ago. Ryan went to go pick her up.” Patrick takes out his flash cards and taps them on his palm. Teresa quickly takes them, and tosses them into her purse. “Now is really not the time Tess.”

“You’ll be fine. You can recite it to me in the car. It’s going to be a long drive.” Patrick puts on his winter coat, gives her a hug, and the two make their way downstairs.

[Chapter 2]

Your Writing

Your writing
is not a sitcom;
not everything has
to be witty or clever.

Your writing
is not a drama,
with multiple spinoffs
and serial killers.

Forget syndication.
Your writing is
cancelled and
never renewed,

after only one season,
or in this case,
with every blog
post that you do.

Your writing
isn’t Emmy nominated;
it’s not given an Oscar
for being original or adapted.

It’s classified,
for your eyes only,
and public privacy’s
redacted.

It doesn’t evoke
anything else,
or
anyone else.

It’s lost in translation,
and
has no explanation,
even though it’s in English.

Your writing
isn’t about web hits,
or
about girls from your past.

Though both
seem like constants,
in that you can’t
get either to last.

Your writing
is heartless.
You writing
is hurtful.

Your writing
is heartfelt.
Your writing
is heartbroke.

Your writing
is
your writing
to
your writing
of
your writing.

One for the Road

Read this before you read this; for context, for meaning, for a life that’s always fleeting.

The clock directly faces my side of the bed, making my eyes glow a digital red. If I squint hard enough, I can make out the time clearly. Though even without glasses, I know that it’s early. It’s 4:23 AM. I sit up, rest my back up on a pillow, and stare out at the darkness, this weird calm that permeates my room. I grab two remotes from behind the clock, turning on the PlayStation 3, and then the TV, to continue my week long movie marathon with The Godfather. I imagine that’s how I’d like for it be announced. Sal Tessio walks into the room, and delivers a fish wrapped in a colorful turban. My folks would be horrified. They don’t eat fish.

I don’t open the blinds. They cause a glare. It’s now 8:42. I’ve since showered, and should probably get there. She’ll be waiting for me, and we’ll no doubt catch up on lost time, though that concept seems dated now. I never liked airports. They’re the pinnacle of the personification of the goodbye. Sure, they had homecomings, but their primary purpose existed solely as the go between–from where you are, and where you’ll be, and everyone you’ll meet, had once met, and left behind along the way. Dreams embarked upon half finished vacations, and business meetings cross dressing as affairs. I’m halfway done composing a symphony across the board of flights all marked “On Time,” when a once familiar voice greets me, or rather scolds me, on my lateness.

It’s hard not to smile at her. I haven’t seen her in a few years, and we’ve only talked through texts and email. I remember her hair being longer, tied up, and a a shade darker. She tosses me one of her handbags. I pretend that it’s too heavy for me. Sad part? It kinda is, and it’s too late for me to go to the gym. We walk to my car, and she inquires about work. I tell her I’ve got the day off, and she doesn’t believe me. None of my answers will satisfy her today, and I don’t blame her. Very rarely was work not used as an excuse to see her in two years. I drove her away, because I just couldn’t see us. I ask if she’s hungry, it must’ve been a long flight. They don’t serve you as well as they used to, not even a coloring book or Rubik’s Cube. Clearly, I’m still bitter at not being eight again on an airplane.

She spots a small coffee shop in a corner plaza that takes a U-turn to get to; it’s old school, mom and pop, the kind of places we grew up around. We exchange small talk, of our families, old friends and jobs held, and the way we were. She checks her phone a few times, while I draw on a stack of napkins. I ask her how long she’s staying; says she’s only in town for the night. I thank her for spending her first of my last with me. She appears puzzled, but laughs all the same. These end of days I think, are so trivial, so plain. Years from now she’ll wonder, I wonder, why I chose today. Was it something she said? Was it something I did? I wish I could tell her then, that I just needed to witness perfection one last time.

She finishes her tea, while I’m still taking small bites of the same piece of cookie. She makes fun of me for wasting perfectly good napkins on what I consider artwork. My doodles consist of a multitude of different self signatures, something resembling a flux capacitor, and a few head shots of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Her eyes land on what she calls the “upside down peace sign.” My life seems to have found new purpose. She’s never seen Back to the Future. I invite her over, an attempt to kill two birds with one stone; it’s the last one on my marathon’s list. I keep hearing Doc’s voice in my head, Tell me Future Boy, how do you see this end? She declines, says she’s got some errands to run, but maybe later tonight. I respond with “Yeah, sure, anytime” before neatly folding the napkins into my jacket pocket. She reaches her hand out and touches mine, pulling one of the sheets from between my fingers. She unfolds it, and lays it out on the table, taking out its wrinkles. It’s Raphael, with half a sai drawn to his left. She wants to keep it.

The drive to her hotel is mostly technical jargon; her position, what it entails, and the people she works with. She makes her way through my instrumentals CD, fast forwarding through tracks 15, 16, the works of John Williams, Ennio Morricone, and Mozart. When we pull up to the front entrance, neither one of us moves for a while, as the violins in The Village soundtrack play over our silence. She’s the first to break it, thanking me for picking her up. I hear myself mumble throughout, “Yeah, sure, no problem, anytime,” as if the words were stuck on a constant loop. She’s still talking, but I’m no longer listening. I’m just watching her; watching what I let go. Still talking, she reaches to grab her bag in the back seat, her body resting on my arm rest. Making a face as her fingers tiptoe around the handle, she faces me. And then I kiss her. Gently. Mid-smile. It lasts a few seconds, before she pulls herself away.

She gets out and collects her bags, while I stare at the steering wheel. I think I hear the words “unexpected,” “wrong,” and “with someone.” I’m not quite sure. I think I apologize. I’m not quite sure. I think I catch a faint smile. I’m not quite sure. After a few moments, I unclick my seatbelt, and open the door, but she closes it from the outside. I attempt to budge the door, but she’s pressed against it. Our eyes meet–hers adamant, mine confused–while our faces begin to get lost in the slow buildup of fog on the window. We both mouth what sounds like “don’t leave me,” feels like “wait for me,” and looks like “don’t you love me?”

Tabula Rasa

How’s this for a paradox? I like girls who can pray and shit talk. I’m not a defender of the faith sheerly out of faith. It’s more like fate lied to us, and now we’re stuck with it. I always seem to fall for the Jesus freaks, those blond hair and blue eyes make my head light and my mind weak. Probably because I lack both, and the ability to make a fake oath, taken upon stacks of holy books with a narrow minded outlook. It’ll divide you, and hide you, from the cult that’ll no doubt find you, and chastise you, until you subscribe to its lunacy of false purity; of heaven and hell, like hearts and minds, respectively, who never come together like tragedy, and even though one’s above the other, they still defy the laws of gravity. When did rose colored glasses become stained glass windows? Sure life’s gotten more colorful, but I still feel so alone. Sometimes I wake up, and tie a shitty turban, and think tying it again would be kind of a burden, because who am I trying to impress behind the counter, where I have to constantly beg your pardon, because the truth of the matter will always be: I wasn’t in the original Garden.

Credit or debit? It’s Visa. Insert here, it’s backwards, the chip on the card shouldn’t face her. I’ve done this, I think I’m done this; before, during, and after. Smoke brands blur together; shape, size, and color. Me not impressed with the wet floor sign mocking my lack of freedom. On the way home, I chase an ambulance, like, I straight up follow it. It was dark, and I missed my street’s turn on purpose. Must have gone twenty miles before my sense of purpose got lost in my senses. Face bathed in flashing orange lights is the only time my eyes will be blue. I couldn’t hear the siren over the wind blow through my window. Late night thoughts sitting on a bench outside of a Chapters, as I look past her, I almost call it Borders, forgetting that we’ve both been bankrupt, financially and emotionally, respectively, that’s all bullshit, but I am kind of spent, using the past to forget about my future turned out to be dangerous, like a paradox that’s paying less, and taking more than I can give, to a life without the live and [I don’t really] let [myself] live.

Half of a helix, I call it godsend, double down makes DNA, and heart clogs like Burger King, but beats on for long lost Queens who never wanted a Joker’s wild, and left him to die in a pack of total darkness. I always liked playing Asshole, some call it President, something I will never be, but the former I’ve mastered. Poker in Physics, movie game champion, homeroom class clown, and to everyone else a deviant, who never understood anything, so he just wrote about it; student politics, and behind the scenes of a TV channel. My plans for the future include buying a Quick Stop and running it myself, while never forgetting that my true love lies next door at RST Video (which probably soon won’t exist anymore). Things to cross off my bucket list, not because I’ve accomplished them, but because they’ll never happen again, include a guest spot on Oprah (the show, because I have no Master Class), renting myself from a Blockbuster, and never having to return my past. I’m like an Etch A Sketch, shaken and erased, but you can still see the traces of gray residue after multiple use.

Jack doesn’t want to Know

The Red Door [Prologue]

[Based on a true dream.]

Homecoming

The customer service line at Wal-Mart begins to wrap itself around unsuspecting shoppers, all decked out in some sort of  snowflake sweater and scarf combo. In line, Jack carries a folded plastic bag underneath his arm, observing a man trying to figure out what a Redbox machine does, while his children clamor to sit on a bench with Ronald McDonald, chipping away at his paint in the process.

“I can help who’s next,” the woman at the front desk mumbles, attempting to put a frying pan back into its box. She finally gives up, and stashes the box below her desk with a handle sticking out. “What’s your return?” Jack unfolds the plastic bag in front of her, and takes out a sealed Blu-ray of the Back to the Future trilogy. “I don’t get it. What’s wrong with it?”

“I have no use for it.”

“So why’d you buy it?”

“I didn’t. It was a gift from my wife.”

“You’re terrible.”

“I’m terrible? She should know I already have this. It was the first thing we watched together when we started going out.”

“That doesn’t sound romantic. Why didn’t you watch Titanic instead?”

“Because she’s already seen that. We both have. Enough times to kill me.”

“How about The Notebook?”

“How about you just return this?” She rings up the disc on her system, opens the register, and carefully counts the change one coin at a time before placing it in his palm with a few bills. “Thank you. Have a happy holiday.”

“Is that why you’re wearing that bright, ugly turtleneck? It doesn’t even match your green–” Jack snatches up the empty plastic bag before she can finish, shoves it into his jacket pocket, and walks away. On the way out, he passes a man sleeping on the job behind the lottery counter. His head rests against the wall next to a calendar marked December 12, 2017. Jack’s phone rings.

“Hey Pat, I’ll be there in a bit. Just leaving the Wal-Mart. Remember when you used to work here?” He steps outside. It’s lightly snowing. “Yeah, she might swing by later from the university. Yeah, it’s all right. I’ll see you soon.” He hangs up.

Shoppers make their way in and out of the store, quickly grabbing and discarding carts along the side of the road. Jack finds his car parked in the far corner of a secluded section of the lot. Upon starting it, they both sit idly for a few minutes. Jack takes out his phone and scrolls through his contacts, before putting the phone up to his ear.

“Hey, um, not sure when you’ll get this, but we’re all meeting up at the Red Door in like, half an hour, and it would be great if you could make it. All right. Just let me know. Thanks, bye.” He quickly hangs up, tosses the phone on the passenger seat, puts the car in drive, and speeds out of the parking lot.

[Chapter 1]