Spontaneous Regeneration

There’s a green light in my eyes,
and my lover on my mind,

I hate weddings; past, present, and future. Reading email in a tux, I call it GMail swag. Piano plays inside, I hope you can ballroom dance well to that. I never learned to waltz, or salsa, but I repped hard on those bhangra tracks. Now I hate those very parties that brought me up to be a family man. It was like Godfather loyalty, that no one ever questioned or gave a damn. The invitation that sits on my desk has been opened many times, until orange juice RSVP’d, and ruined a Tropicana paradise. Stain defender Dockers, with a corduroy sweater vest seems like a waste of an outfit, especially in all of those pictures. I still remember that winter outside of your apartment wearing nothing but pajamas and a Ninja Turtles t-shirt. The smile on my face then vanished without a trace then, only to find itself hanging out in the open bar in this place instead. I stole some nicely folded napkins, and name tags from nearby tables, reserving myself some center pieces, along with some new identities, hoping to go home with a personified math problem; a plus one by the way of a long con, and because of our [hours] long division, we never multiplied—only subtracted away until we were odd numbers.

and I sing from the piano,
tear my yellow dress and,

I hate rejection, and they’ve all spoken; closed the door on any further education. I came out of university living up to my degree; I am an honored bachelor who means nothing to nobody, and comes home to me, myself, and all my movies. At the time of this writing, I binge ate the following: a small bag of Ruffles’ chips, a handful of Honey Nut Cheerios, and two (make it three) chocolate chip cookies. Classical music in the background, where Für Elise is still my favorite piece, musically and spiritually, since I learned to play it on my Fisher Price piano when I was three. I used to be smarter then, back when I was taking fake phone calls with Shredder’s henchmen, while a video camera taped my every move, and my every speech. I guess some things never change. I come from grudging on Tyra Banks, and Vaseline namesakes. I monologued about Sly Stallone’s career path, and a note on a microwave was insanely cute, and made us all laugh. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that it only took two years to make so many memories instantly. My first bootleg was Mulan from Columbus’ flea market, and it was free. This is my thought catalog, no need for a therapist. On the latest Community, I tell Britta I’ve had enough of this, and that we’re better off just being friends? I wrote that episode six months ago Jim Rash, but freaky Friday never goes my way, and things are pretty bad if it took TV to do something I never dreamed of with someone I only dream of—but never had.

cry and cry and cry
over the love of you.

I hate receptions; my phone’s with you, and after weddings. I’m almost done this script, creative non-fiction for the win, but nothing is distinguished by mere distinction thirty pages in. The only thing that’s extinguished are the intimate lives of those infinite lies caused by spontaneous combustion. Think of the implications: I know you’re not supposed to put so much emphasis on one person. I don’t know why, but I know that it’s not true. I know my faith, I know my God, and I know that it’s not you. Open eyes can’t stand the sight of me, but when closed, mine still fill the darkness with yours. Shot like HRG, I need a blood transfusion; hurry up, find me someone who’s got the ability of spontaneous regeneration. I chewed gum a lot; well now my jaw is broke. I feel dislocated, disconnected, and it pains too much to yawn. It finally shut me up though, seeing as talking was my fatal flaw. I wear a safety vest at work, and tell ’em I’m under construction. My rubble tells a different story from Barney’s, of a bedrock’s destruction. Hi my name is Jack, and I wish I could forget that you’ve already forgotten—that I’ve already been forgotten.

I think that voice held him most, with its fluctuating, feverish warmth, because it couldn’t be over-dreamed—that voice was a deathless song.

Boston

This is a huge departure from what I usually write but I hope you’ll bear with me because I needed to.

“Boston is a tough and resilient town; so are its people”

Now I haven’t had much time to process the recent marathon bombing. I went from straight being in shock last night, to being desperate for news and unable to contribute to a lecture I was supposed to be leading, to bawling over Sweet Caroline a few hours ago. So I’m going to see if I can put some of my thoughts down because this one drives home for me.

I grew up in a town fifteen minutes away from Boston. We were the last stop on the Orange Line, and I often took the last outbound train home to spend as much time as I could in the city.

I applied to earn my undergraduate degree in Boston, the only city I truly wanted to go to college in. I was accepted to Emerson College and Boston University. Due to financial difficulties, I was forced to relocate out of my city and out of what I truly called my home.

Although I hadn’t lived there since I was seventeen, I always pictured myself going back. Every winter break, every reading week, every summer. I would drive myself the eleven long, painstaking hours just to see the harbor again. I would take a sixteen-hour bus to sit on a bench in the Commons and people watch. I would take a taxi to a bus to a plane to the T to my friend’s car waiting for me outside the subway station. I would do anything to see my city, I would do anything for my city.

A month before my final exams in my last year of undergraduate in Canada, I was applying to graduate programs. For my application to Boston University, I was instructed to create a video documenting why I wanted to attend the particular institution, who influenced my life the most, and what I wanted to do with my degree. I remember being able to answer the first question instantaneously, perfectly without missing a beat. The other questions were harder but they all related to the first response – that my home was Boston and it was time to return. I can’t remember the exact words and the video is still floating around old youtube accounts. I just remember the feeling I had. After all this time – my new experiences and my three years away in a different country – I was surprised that I would still feel so passionately about a city and remember its details so vividly. I was never one to travel to Cuba on spring break; I opted to go back to tour the Museum of Science, to order Sam Adams as a domestic brew, and to shop at both the stores on Newbury Street and the underground stores in Cambridge. See, I could fill dozens of tourist guidebooks and memoirs with my fond (and not so fond) memories of the city, but I’ll try to piece together certain ones that stand out.

The free open-air concerts at the Hatchshell for EarthFest and July 4th, and the Phoenix-hosted Best Music Poll at City were quintessential to my high school years. The smells of Quincy market and the quacks of the Duck Tour (which in my middle school years I accidentally piloted into a rock) were always part of my childhood. There is not a second of my last two decades on this planet that I don’t thank the universe for allowing me to have lived in Massachusetts.

I was allowed to eat the blackberries my parents haggled for, fresh from the farmer’s market on the weekends. I surreptitiously chipped off a millimeter of paint from the Green Monster on a middle school field trip (which is still stored somewhere in the back of my closet in a box labelled “Beantown”). I tried my first clam chowdah in the city, sprinkled with the perfect ratio of clam to potato. I saw my first concert in the city (The White Stripes at the Orpheum). I bought a collection of novelty moustache-themed items from Newbury Comics that I never would touch again. I made the mistake of walking the entire length of Comm Ave instead of taking the T. I witnessed street (or should I say vehicle) performers break dance on the red line. I spent three years in high school trying to pinpoint a mysterious Au Bon Pain that existed a few times on State near an outdoor fountain that was never to be seen again. I taught my friends that the Wonderland stop on the T was not to be trusted. I could walk to any alternate T stop after a large Red Sox game to avoid bodies of tourists and out-of-towners in the subway. I learned how to drive in Boston and my Agganis driving instructor let me take the car into the city to grab Dunks, because I had mastered the art of the rotary. (I had also mastered the art of cutting people off if they were going too slowly, flipping them the bird, and never letting anyone merge.) See, I knew how to drive through the tunnel, in and out of the city, without dying – (my friends and parents always made me drive and that much hasn’t changed, five years later). I had a regular table at the Cheesecake Factory in the Pru because my friends and I frequented it so often when my parents worked long shifts. I remember taking the T to Harvard Square and seeing an (exceptionally high-tech for that time) advertisement come to life in the tunnel for Coraline and for a whole year, I craned my neck to make sure I hadn’t just dreamt it. I was in Harvard Square, interviewed by a local TV station, when the last Harry Potter book came out. I have always taken as many American Revolution classes as possible in college, knowing that I would appreciate them much more, having climbed all 294 steps of Bunker Hill. In 2011, I cheered and sung with the crowds as the Stanley Cup was held high by our beloved Bruins.

In 2012, I moved back to New England. For the last thirteen years, I have rang in each and every new year in Boston. In my older years, I hobbled along the cobblestones of the Haymarket stop in stilettos, hoping that I wouldn’t fall headlong into a tourist or worse, a Boston resident. I rang in this new year in the city, chanting down to 1 as the clock struck midnight and 2013 came upon me and my city. Happy. Hopeful.

I’ve never felt in danger in Boston. After 9/11. After Columbine. After Newton. After each and every tragedy that has shaken the American nation. It has always been a piece of my past tucked away in sepia-toned lenses of safety. I have never felt unsafe even when crowds got rowdy after big game losses (or wins) or when my friend lived in her basement apartment near Suffolk with strangers she had just met. I had been able to navigate the streets better than my family and most of my friends by the time I was fourteen. I always knew where danger lurked and how to deal accordingly. Danger lurked in the darkness of Roxbury, danger lurked in the 3AM walks around the city, danger lurked in the catcalls on my way to the last outbound line. I knew how to avoid these dangers – by avoiding certain areas (as is the case with any city), by returning home before last call, and which homeless or drunk men of the streets I could placate with a Marlboro and which ones I had to jog by. But danger did not, does not, and should not lurk in our celebrations. Danger should not be in the form of my friends in the area running from bombs, fearing for their lives; in the form of panicked loved ones Facebooking and texting in lieu of calling because phone lines are down; in the form of not hearing someone’s voice until a full thirty hours later. Danger does not lurk in our sunny days and internationally/nationally broadcast events. And the thing is: it still doesn’t. Hope shines in our marathons and our parades, hope shines on Patriot’s Day, and hope shines in the beauty and courage of those that did everything they could to help on Marathon Monday.

The stories that have emerged have been so crucial in revealing the nature of humanity. The nature of resilience, courage, and the human spirit. Hope shines through in these stories – of runners continuing to run so that they could donate blood to victims; of Boston’s finest fearlessly rushing in literal heartbeats after; of the people running towards the explosion and not away, all in the hopes that they could help; of the citizens of America and of the citizens around the world that have helped donate blood, airmiles, money while sending well-wishes, prayers, and pizzas. Hope in the unity of the American nation as sports rivalries are put aside and as each MLB game tonight sang along to Sweet Caroline in the eighth inning to honor Boston and its traditions. We do not shrink away nor do we let fear consume us. We carry on and carry those with us who cannot go forth by themselves. We are never going to stop running towards something better.

If you know me you will realize that I have always avoided any consistent concrete identity. I have never called myself Canadian. I have never called myself Chinese. I have never called myself American. Instead, I have always chosen to call myself Bostonian each and every time. Given the question “where are you from”, I would never falter to answer, “Boston”.

My city is soft and bold; we are compassionate but we are strong. Humanity is at its best when we face challenges and tragedies together. This is my city and this is my home and nothing in this world will ever change that. Every single person who spends any amount of their life living here will understand – that this city is not static. It is a dynamic, evolving, ever-breathing living organism. Its lifeblood, its love, and its strength are in every person who has been lucky enough to call it home. This tragedy does not just affect me, nor does it affect the current residents of this little revolutionary city. I am intrinsically tied to Boston – its past, present, and future. It hurts my heart to see my city in distress. But, it gives me infinite hope to see it lift its head seconds after.

Boston is my home and it will stay strong.

A

Autopsy [feat. F. Scott Fitzgerald]

I was on my way to work when it hit me, going back and forth between NPR and Culdesac. My light was green, but the rain blinded me; black eyes of black magic, they stole my dreams. Driving parallel to the sunrise when it blindsided me, listening to the violins from Final Fantasy. Shards of glass floating seemed like tranquility, cut across my cheek, let the air out the bag that was supposed to be protecting me. I shattered my time bone, and time is not the antidote. They told me to stop dreaming. I’m not sure when I stopped breathing. I am not the lead, I work better in ensembles. I am nothing without We, the People (see: The Preamble). I seem to only get Christian Mingle and J-Dates in my inbox, when I’m an atheist in bed, I’m holding out for my own house. They say that’s where the heart is, but the two of us, we’re separated. It was an asshole, and with my brain it always feuded. I was just trying to be your friendly savior; they called me Buddy Christ. You could easily find my hidden thoughts; you read me like I was Kids’ Highlights. A year ago, I was the very definition of an April’s Fool. Now, an empty bench among gravestones to me seems kind of beautiful, like a kind of truth; it’s a kinder truth.

It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart. Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure and the memory so possessed him that for the moment there was nothing to do but to pretend. I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others–young clerks in the dusk, waiting the most poignant moments of night and life.

The wind only blows back echoes, while it carries forth our memories, that you never hear, down in the canyon beneath my wings. Sinkholes, a new Pope, and you know what’s the real tragedy? We used to fly kites, and dream bigger than reality. You exist in words now, no longer in my heart; trust me, that’s better. I used to have a pool table, now I don’t have a leg to stand on. Sometimes I wish I had a similar fate to my character from The Election. Fake is now the real real, and fake is now the only truth that’s being told, and I’m starting to feel solely responsible for everyone that chooses to forget me. I mean that internally, I’m talking about myself there. We’ve been at war with terror since I was aged just twelve years. I’m the enemy within, who signs off on all his own wire taps; reverse Driving Miss Daisy, at midnight, hoping to fall into a speed trap. Sure I’m designated, but you want to talk generation gap? I still watch Rugrats, and these six year olds don’t even have an app for that. They used to call me Crab, I finally get that now. I’ve finally added Hermit to it, throw me back into the marina now. Reminiscing about the past is not at all like how it sounds. They used to call me back, but I finally shut that down; finally shut me out.

I shall go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a meaningless life. I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life. I hope something happens. I’m restless as the devil and have a horror of getting fat or falling in love and growing domestic. They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered. There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired. I’m a romantic; a sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.

Read Across America no longer means the same thing. Sure I did it for some Pizza Hut, but I also did it with sincerity, and a lot of those books still remain with me, not only on overlooked shelves, but on my mind, and in my speech, with some sense of regularity. Touch screens are the tyranny, as such familiarity is a rarity of prosperity, when the only true clarity is the dexterity of feeling those pages turn in your own hands like therapy. So austerity? You can find it all in a good book for free like charity. Legacy. Community. Britta’d them like she ruined me. Unfiltered, making videos, shouting “Campus News!” while my heart was broke. Went around and touted that we never gonna’ stop. Well, them stopped us. Period. And me no pause, because me upset, that we all forget, is it over yet? Is this a thing now? Throwing cats and pasts in boxes and drowning ’em? Fuck you Cameron, you don’t know unobtanium. People will read this and say I’m acting Childish. You’re right, I mimic, I don’t even know what my own voice is. Unless you put it up on screen, I don’t know what you mean. All I see is static, channel flips on my dreams. So the good old days? Yeah, I miss them, but they’re history. That was my story. Those were our lives clouded in memories. Shot, captured, edited, uploaded. We were uprooted. We went unnoticed. Now I just sit back and watch our self-created Zapruder films.

He’s sensitive and I don’t want him to break his heart over somebody who doesn’t care about him. If he had to bring all the bitterness and hatred of the world into his heart, he was not going to be in love with her again. Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear. Beauty means the scent of roses and then the death of roses.

I’ve started framing rejection letters. It feels good to be discarded. Tired of being a WNGWhore, anonymity is how I started, back when I didn’t have an email, and had concerns that I’d be fired. My diploma’s still sitting in its envelope, buried underneath my Blu shelf, for even when it dies, this well will forever be tapped. I’ve been on Oceanic, now I just want to take Ajira back. I miss eating Girl Scout cookies. I like the smell of things burning. Intelligent conversation is my idea of intelligent design. If I moved into the basement, my roommate would literally be God’s lines. My sense of faith is akin to Affleck’s in Dogma. I squandered it, but at least Serendipity was an honest bitch, while I was a douchebag of Congressional proportions. Last year, I was living like an Archie comic. Betty and Veronica? I only had eyes for [redacted]. Let’s be real a sec, and pretend that I’m no longer single, and think of how many hearts I’ll really break with that revelation? A year ago, was a century, of when we hit the iceberg. We didn’t sink, at least not until the exam was finally over. If I’d have played my cards right then, I might be celebrating an anniversary. We were never meant to be, but this is not the end of me, and this is not my chapter eight, though we were both Gatsby-esque. You were always American Lit, while everyone called me American-Lite. My idea of Daisy isn’t a blonde Carey Mulligan, so please try again, and please try brunette. Runaway yellow car, this accident is hard to forget.

April is over, April is over. There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice. I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendoulsy sorry, I turned away. I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go.

Roads are paved with the accidents of drunk drivers, and crying mothers, mechanical pencil weapons with Beanie Baby ammunition. Everything I put in my mouth is a cigarette, from gum to pens; how’s that for an oral fixation? Life was construction paper, and Elmer’s glue; I used scissors wrong for much of the first grade. Pretzels and fruit punch bottles on field day, it was Honors Geometry that really kicked my ass. Now the only given I know is that I have proofs of all my failures. I couldn’t toss a washer, serve and volley, or even stack cups, but I was good at crab soccer (namesake irony, go figure). In the war against dreams, reality took many casualties. Went to Wal-Mart, and bought some licensed tees, from the kids’ section, boys, ages seven to sixteen. My mom doesn’t ask why I feel the need to wear Renaissance names on my chest; she knows they’re not painters, they’re my childhood friends. I used to wear plaid button downs, now I bleed the colors of my uniform. Time of death, no pulse;  it’s whenever I hit publish, it’s whenever I hit pavement. The best ones usually aren’t our own; stories, words, friends, loves, and deaths. I feel bad for whoever has to follow you; to pay the price, for not being the muse.

The Red Door [Chapter 2]

Prologue      I     Chapter 1

Fight or Flight

Alice stands outside by the terminal marked “International Flights,” a handbag in one hand, and a suitcase resting alongside her feet. Her coat lies sprawled across the top of her luggage. The sleeves overlap over part of her name tag, decorated in stars and stripes. Every so often, she shifts her position behind one of the pillars to avoid the sunlight. It illuminates her sleep deprived face, hair that has likely fought with a stewardess or two, and eyes that have watched reruns of Community one too many times. She’s midway putting on her coat when Ryan’s car pulls up in front of the entrance.

“Get in!” He shouts through a small slit of window. Before Alice can register anything, he’s already beside her, grabbing her suitcase and tossing it in his back seat amid campaign posters. She still stands by the pillar, even when he rushes back to take her handbag. He gets back into the car when he notices she hasn’t moved. “Alice! Come on!” She slowly makes her way towards the car, and gets in. Ryan begins to drive, checking his rear view mirror, before finally exiting the ramp onto the highway. “Pretty sure that cop back there’s been following me. I’ve circled the terminal four times.”

“It’s cold.” Alice murmurs, rolling up her window. Her stare looks through the terminal’s clear glass entrance where future travelers–mostly women pushing their luggage and children in carts–set to embark upon a much needed vacation. “It’s a winter hellscape.”

“The irony of that sentence aside, they say it’s supposed to snow in a few hours. What’d you expect from the middle of December?” He’s wearing sunglasses and his hair is slightly longer than the last time she saw him. It moves gently across his forehead with the wind.

“You could roll up your window for starters.” She rests her head against the seat, opening and closing her eyes rapidly as she looks out the window. The skyline appears and disappears into darkness with every blink, as the sound of Ryan’s voice acts as a sort of running commentary.

“You do know you used to live here once upon a time, right?”

“I think you answered your own question.”

“I imagine a lot’s changed for you in almost, what, like five years?”

“Or it’s stayed exactly the same, and I’ll just never know.” Alice continues to stare outside. The roads seem newly paved, and what used to be long stretches of developmental housing–literal Jenga pieces piled upon mounds of dirt–are now rows of townhouses and apartments as far as she allows her neck to strain itself to see. “Where’s my bag?”

“Back seat.” Alice turns around to check the back seat, and underneath her suitcase and handbag are multiple signs. She can only faintly make out the words Buch 2017.

“Congratulations. I haven’t been keeping up as much since you guys announced, but you and Pat were bound to find your way into politics sooner or later.” Alice takes her cell phone out of her bag, and sets it inside one of Ryan’s cup holders  She also takes out some make up, pulling down the mirror in the visor to apply it. “Thanks for picking me up by the way,” she says through fluttered eyes and newly glossed lips.

“Where are you staying?”

“I’ll probably crash at Jack’s. I sent him a text when I landed.”

“We’ve got a cot. You could always sleep in the office.”

“I stopped doing that years ago.”

“How long are you in town?”

“Just a few days.”

“You came all this way for the Red Door?”

“Not just for the Red Door. I had some time off, and needed to spend it–”

“Home?”

Alice gives him a wry smile. Ryan stops the car and looks at her. He puts it in park, and turns off the engine. Alice puts the make up away, and fixes her hair. Closing the mirror, she puts the visor back up, and focuses outside. The car is parked in front of Buchanan Campaign Headquarters. It starts to lightly snow.

“Why are we here? Is Pat here?”

“Just needed to drop off these signs. Pat should be coming down in a few hours. You hear from Jack?”

“Not yet.”

“Help me set up some things for the fundraiser, and then we’ll head to the Red Door together.” The two exit the car, and grab their stuff from the back seat. “You can leave your suitcase here.” Ryan pulls the signs out and carries them under his arm to the front door. He stacks them vertically against the window, covering up Patrick’s face on a poster in the process, while he takes the keys out of his jacket pocket. Alice looks around at the quiet street corner. The CN Tower is seen in the distance.

“Welcome home, Alice.” Ryan opens the door, switches on the lights, and tosses the signs through the front door, making a loud thud as they hit the hardwood floor.

“Don’t flatter yourself Toronto.” Alice takes one last look around, as her breath begins to form in the cold, and enters the office.

[Chapter 3]