Memoruins

That first month or so was the purest time. None of us knew anything.
None of us knew each other. We just knew we were making something;
granted it was something stupid, but never had I met and enjoyed such company.

Slab; white walls now cover up those white voices, while cubicles show us that we were perhaps never needed. We weren’t diversity in name only, even though that’s what the whole school probably wishes. Not enough of a response was given? All we had were our emails, never used along with our females, and I’m pretty sure we were all homeless at one point, double sided glass acting like our window-sill, where drawn on mustaches were eventually replaced by phallic symbols, and heartfelt messages about how we were all still single, and still had futures. We were hardwired for three years, to inspire mostly just ourselves, and to continue living in our own world, where respect was only earned through a complisult at our own expense. Now I wonder where that time all went, and why I can’t recapture it.

I don’t think I gave that place anything. I certainly don’t take credit for anything.
If I did something, I think it was finally making us be our own focus.
That might’ve been our greatest strength, and perhaps our ultimate downfall.

We were nameless, like a cloud formation, seen from afar, but your mind couldn’t place us. Not enough of an ad stream, we never made posters, and the only one I ever saw, I vetoed, it was pure shit. There was never any stage fright, because everything was confined until equipment went missing, or people didn’t show up. Our eyes shined bright, and our mouths never stayed closed, and our thoughts were always too big for our vision. Our material now feels old, you’ve already heard it practiced, podcasted, and we can’t forget amateurly acted. We didn’t seem happy? We were living a type of dream, complete with access cards, and stolen furniture, not to mention a blanketless couch, empty fridge, and notes on the microwave. Meetings didn’t happen because meetings weren’t what we had to gain. We were a company made up of company. We were clueless, like a wrong season, felt for a moment, but your mind couldn’t care less.

The narrative being put together was becoming more and more obvious:
I ruined a good thing, and I ruined the best thing to ever happen to me,
for crumble the empire must, but I didn’t mean for it to destroy what we had.

Night’s pitch black, so let’s be honest, I’m probably going to settle, I’m probably going to forget it, but please don’t tell my parents, who place bets on my marriage, not knowing money is my matesoul, and who don’t think twice when I’m talking to that Asian girl at computing services, thinking I’m asexual, when she’s really aromantical, towards anything that I say or do, though I guess it was always about me, and not you. Elevator smelled of weed and booze, and leftover wings, cheesecake, and pub food, where Pam was our designated driver, who heard it all, from confessions to professing feelings, and losing her amid thunderstorms. Stolen bell, we were all ringers, hunchbacks with our own lost lovers, atop not a church but a brotherhood’s prayer space.

I wasn’t the leader, and I was barely the glue.
Everything I was, it was all because of you.
We were far from Not Ready for Prime-Time, we were the Not Ready for On-Line crew.

We came out of the rabbit hole, and never brought Alice; she was just some random girl who emailed about working with us. We told her no thanks, we were already overrun by Cheshire cats, who started off all smiles, and disappeared by year’s end. Sometimes I felt invisible. Sometimes I feel responsible. I think I’ll miss that editing suite most, both the dungeon and the hotel room; still have my key but, she’s not here to take her there. We made and lost a lot of best friends, and wingmen, and girl-friends, and best friend’s girls, and the occasional club who didn’t know what they were in for. To those that said they always watched, to those that said they never did, to those that remained nonexistent, but were shouted out and pointed to; to that once [un]faithful audience, lift those glasses up top, because we’re going down that well again: we never gonna’ stop.

[Static.]

Deleted Scene [Part II]

INT. APARTMENT COMPLEX – JACKSON HEIGHTS, NY – NIGHT

Jai stands near the entrance by the intercom. Light snow amasses upon his green plaid pajamas and navy blue t-shirt. Farah stands on the sidewalk in front of him, smiling in a winter coat over an elegant purple dress, with newly done hair, and holding a small white rose in her left hand.

“Well, don’t I feel under dressed,” he starts, arms folded, and leaning against the glass.

“What the hell, why aren’t you ready yet?” she begins to make her way towards him, “If we don’t get there early, we won’t find seats.”

“She’s your roommate,” he gives her a smug smile, “if she didn’t reserve you a table, then I think it’s time to seriously reevaluate your friendship.”

“I hate you,” she stops a few inches from him. A smile escapes her lips. “Can’t you just let me be mad at you?”

“Not when you look like that I can’t.” He waves his hands over her hair. “Wouldn’t want to mess up this Anastasia look you got going on.” She grabs him by the arm, and drags him into the lobby.

“Get up there, put on a suit, and meet me down here in ten minutes.” She does a miserable job of pouting, yet is quick to push him into an elevator. He stops the door from closing with his foot.

“Aren’t you coming up? Plenty of room.” He gestures towards the empty elevator space like a magician’s assistant.

“Do you need help picking out a shirt? Because I’m not your mom.” She pushes the up button. He lunges forward and stops the elevator with the side of his arm.

“Just for that remark, I will not be matching my tie to your dress.”

“Okay. Don’t. Now go.”

They slowly back away from each other; he to the far end of the elevator, and she towards the reflecting wall behind her. The elevator door closes.

Lit my first cigarette; got choked by my own second hand.
I read my own shit and laugh, because I am my biggest fan.
I am my only critic who’s worth it and/or gives a damn,
yet I still write myself hate mail, with death threats and stalker spam.
I watched it burn out beneath my feet; I sympathize, it used to be me.
If love is truly blindness, then I’m going to need an organ donor.
Forget human interaction, nowadays it only takes a computer.
I think 21st century American Lit should thank me for not drinking,
or else I’d Hemingway this shit; no disrespect, but I’ve been thinking
that young and beautiful were never really my adjectives.
They were always yours to represent, and for me to bask in.
All it ever took from you was a “how are you doing?”
I should’ve stopped you [and me] right there with a “thanks for asking.”

Yes, my hear’ts a mess, but you’re getting harder to miss;
in the lost cause of hopelessness lies the source of my anonymous failures.
Pillowcase dreams ruined by bedsheets’
ghosts from the past that we can’t repeat;
offenders of time, we never had a chance to meet
the parents we’d become if we ever got some sleep.
Walking by, stealing glances, and breaking hearts weep,
while distant eyes painfully continue to seek
affection not limited to everything we read
in chapters bleeding indigo tears so sweet;
hereafter, the future looks bleak without your smile as my peak.

My Nissan uses a push button to start, but I miss turning the key.
I keep looking back in the rear view, and your face there seems like a distant memory.
Believing in that green light goes against all that’s in my red,
to never feel yellow about expressing being blue forever in your head.
We are not together Nick Carraway, you’re full of shit.
West Egg went ahead and cracked into a self-made Gatsby omelet.
My dreams are now more ambiguous; why do you think I’m writing this?
Horoscope told me to indulge in simple pleasures, and I was clearly not listening.
Told me to accept the inevitable, when it was just an abandoned script I wrote.
Now I’ve got writer’s block after sixty pages, and
this is on the cutting room floor?

Jai strains his eyes staring into the metallic control panel of the elevator, trying to loosen his purple tie. He finishes tucking in his shirt. He reaches into his suit’s pocket and pulls out a pack of gum, taps it on his palm three times, before lifting the tab and pulling out a stick of gum with his teeth. He lets it linger on the tip of his tongue before withdrawing it between his index and middle finger. He unfolds, puts the piece in his mouth, and crumples the wrapper into a tiny ball. The elevator door opens before he has a chance to flick it away. He steps out, notices a trash can, and tries to toss it, yet even from a short distance, it’s an air ball.

“I hope you’re happy,” he bends down to pick up the wrapper and throws it away properly; underhand. “You know how long it took me to tie this? Why do I even have a purple tie?” He turns around and notices Farah fixing a tie of her own; it’s Zakhir’s, and it’s yellow. When she sees Jai, a smile escapes her lips, causing Zakhir to turn around and face him.

“Well aren’t we all just dressed to impress today?” Zakhir tightens his tie.

“I’d say you have me beat there sir.” Jai makes his way towards them.

“Windsor?”

“No, I’m actually from Jersey.” Zakhir smiles, and points to Jai’s tie. “Oh, right. I don’t know, it was probably made in like Sri Lanka. What ever happened to clip-on’s, am I right?” He raises his hand midway for a high five.

“Zakhir, this is–” Farah manages to step in.

“Jay.” He turns his failed gesture into an extended handshake.

“It’s nice to meet you Jay.” The two shake hands. “How do you know Farah?”

“I live in the same apartment.” Farah eyes widen, making a ‘go die’ face, as Jai continues to smile at her. “The floor. I’m in 1212.”

“That’s great. Where are you headed tonight?”

“Just a small party up in the East Egg.”

“That’s great. I’m pretty well connected up there. What do you do?”

“I’m a comedian.”

“Oh, that’s rich. Are you performing for them?” Farah runs her hands over Zakhir’s shoulders, clearing some leftover lint. “Right. We should actually get going; running a little late for this reception, but it was nice to meet you Jay. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again. You could even MC our reception if you’d like.” The two shake hands. “Honey, I’ll bring the car around.” Farah nods, as Zakhir makes his way out of the lobby.

“So, yellow, huh? Bold.” Jai strokes the purple silk on his chest.

“Shut up,” she lightly flicks the tie out of his hands, “yellow compliments purple.”

“And clearly purple hits purple.” He fixes the tie, closing the buttons on his coat. “Make sure you let me know when you’re on your way back, and I’ll try to be out by then.”

“Out? Come with us. Tell him your party got cancelled, and I’ll suggest you come along.”

“You know I can’t do that Farah. Didn’t you hear? I’m performing there.”

“He didn’t mean it like that, and what am I supposed to tell Alice?”

“It’s okay, she’ll understand. Besides, I already got to go to her wedding with you.” He gives her a wink and a light nudge. “You’re going to be moving into a full-time job, and I’ll rent out a place closer to the club. We always said this would only be an arrangement of a few weeks. I’d say this is end of the line.”

A car horn honks twice from outside.

“I guess it is.” She smiles, and closes are coat by wrapping the buckle around her waist.

“You should tell your folks about him. Yellow tie aside, he’s quite the catch.”

“Yeah, he’s great. So, I’ll see you tonight?”

“Something like that. Have fun.”

She gives him a hug, and hands him the white rose. They slowly back away from each other; him towards the elevators, and her towards the lobby doors. The elevator opens, and he enters, never glancing back to see her drive away.

She asked me why I was smiling.
I told her, it’s been a good night.
She said it still was, and could continue to be.
I told her, it’s been a good night.
I’m finally going to see
Cloud Atlas.

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]

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]

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?”

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]

Bed&Breakfast&Heartache

This room you sit in now has none of your belongings.

The sun shines through your old bedroom window, illuminating tear stains left on the pillow, from the night before you walked out our door, and into another’s life as someone’s wife. No longer our little girl, I remember when we brought you home.
Seems like only yesterday, that you were born, and came into our lives like an angel,
and now things seem too quiet around the breakfast table. We knew from that very day,
that this moment was to come, that these moments couldn’t last, that you’d eventually be gone, that you’d eventually move on, and that this stay was only temporary, more like a home-tel, a twenty-five year sanctuary. There are still days when I walk past and feel the tears stream, landing on the carpet where you once spilled a drink and dreams. I thought about possibly coming in and rearranging things, but my heart won’t let me even change the sheets, and it’s been weeks. Lights on and off in the hallway seems unnecessary, for no one wakes up in the middle of the night with a nightmare scary enough to wake, and no one bothers to call out my name, to the point that I’m starting to forget it’s true meaning. You never have to worry about me not hearing you, I always will. These objects in your room all stare back at me perfectly still. Amid the fights, the hard times, and the last calls for dinner, I still half expect you to come running down the stairs. You don’t have to wipe the tears from my eyes, I like them. They tell me I’ve succeeded where so many others have failed. What I wouldn’t do to trace your face again, and move your hair from your eyes into place again, and slow down time to a mother’s wish and embrace again, and give you space again.

This room I sit in now has none of your belongings.

— From my sleep I was Jolted by a mother’s wishful thinKing

A paradox, lost in translation.

We’d be together in a room. It’s the evening. The fireplace crackles with a simple, orange grin. You’ve been home for an hour or so. I had the day off and spent the second half writing about my journey in the local woods I took during the first half. We dined together on something humble and shared. I’m cozily sandwiched between a number of Egyptian throw pillows we’d found on sale at a decor outlet, wrapped in a blanket older than my father. You’re sitting cross-legged on a 60-year-old office chair, upholstered with fabric hyacinths and azaleas we’d picked up at a warehouse; purveyors of the finest, mildly used hotel furniture. You’re wearing an old sweat of mine: solid grey, slight dark stains, no, shadows still on the breast, of the letters than once slept there. You have your headphones on. My nose is firmly in between the pages of a book that rests each night on the bookshelf next to the other bookshelf, on top of our other bookshelves, as part of our shared library. In true fashion, we even paired up the books we have in common.

I read a funny passage, and whisper a comment to myself. You respond with the most perfect reply, with eyes still fixed upon the paragraph before you on the computer screen, the small hum of a steady bass line permeating the air between us. Though we both smile, our reactions go unnoticed by the other. Silence.

A few moments pass, and you say something. In return, you hear a mumbled, and unfinished response. You turn to look, and notice the book collapsed on the ground beside me, arms strewn about the couch. You dim the monitor, pause your music, and move towards the couch. You pick up the novel, placing it open on the most recent page – you know this because the corner is folded – as a bookmark for my next adventure. You kiss me on the forehead and whisper good night, whereupon my eyes open slowly, and I finish the rest of my thoughts from your question.

You chuckle in a stunned disbelief, and your eyes widen slightly until they settle in an expected, relaxed grace. You look as beautiful as you do serene.

I whisper about the song you were listening to.

And you respond as I drift off once more, both of us at ease.

—-

Little bit of a background: I have these weird dreams, sometimes. Sometimes, they mean and force me to do a whole hell of a lot (one of my ex-girlfriends became the target of my affections after such a dream.) Sometimes, they mean and force me to do absolutely nothing (this one time, I was a ninja. It was superb.)

But one thing remains true for all of my dreams – they’re typically a distorted version of my reality, peppered with fictional condiments. Sometimes, they have me doing things I would never do – do you know how many people I’ve killed? – and usually in places I’ve never been – the cuisine of Addis Ababa is to die for, which likely explains the Ethopian population (I kid, Ethiopia, you know I love you.) – and this usually helps me achieve lucidity within dreamland.

And having been a fan of Little Nemo and Kirby as a child, I’m familiar with dream lands. Very familiar.

And so, upon waking, sometimes I need to take a second to debate internally whether or not what I’ve just experienced was real, and soon, the loopholes make themselves known. Loopholes, that in the past, I have often interpreted as being real.

I’ve had dreams that have come true. Deja vu, if you will. Multiple times. Is this possible? I don’t think so, but my experiences have repeatedly shown me otherwise.

And so I live with this paradox before me: I dream the future, that occasionally comes true, and yet put no faith in the concept of being able to do so, while repeatedly telling people this story. And though I don’t believe it, it continues to occur. As the cherry on top, sometimes these dreams, though seeming so real, can simply never come to pass due to what occurs within. We have for you my paradox.

And now that it’s been poorly described, it can never be lost in translation.

Tired, lazy, and needing to go to work,

– Joseph

Lifeblood

I killed a man today.

It was extremely slow and painful. For him. See, when the wound opened across his throat – and it was a gaping wound: jagged, forced, slow – the blacks and blues that powered his soul oozed forth in jubilation, an expression of their freedom. They coloured the floor like a starry night, the same hues, the same haze.

I killed a man today.

And when I read the eulogy at his funeral – for, who knew him better than his own father, who had been there for all the scrapes and bruises, for when his mother died and the two of us strode step in step, a fresh melancholy forcing upon us a weight we’d previously been oblivious towards – not a tear was shed.

I killed a man today.

This man was a murderer, a rapist, a pedophile, an arsonist, a torturer, a spy, a collaborator, a human trafficker, a drug dealer, no, pusher, a slaver-owner, a loan-shark and a thief. But he was also a father, a son, a husband and lover, a doctor, an inspiration to many, a hero, a volunteer firefighter, a deacon, and a maker of lists.

I killed a man today.

And in the blink of an eye, everything he was came to an end. As though the pages of his life were doused in kerosene and lit ablaze. And in the void left by his body remained only smouldering embers, the last shrieks of his once-boundless energy slowly coming to a close. A lesson in entropy.

I killed a man today.

And I did it because his life-line came to an end. There was a moment of rising action that needed a catalyst, and so he became our Ferdinand, our Bouazizi, our Caesar. I made sure to see he would never fade from history.

I killed a man today, because the value of his blood, moreso than his breath, was the only thing that could keep my story’s heart beating.

—-

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking “Who is this chud?”

And, frankly, it’s a fair question. You see, my name’s Joseph. And I went to school with all of these folks. I’m a friend of the others. I also write. And I have a blog where I do so. But, this piece? Doesn’t really fit my theme. What theme, you might be thinking? I’ll concoct a fitting answer one day.

I don’t have some fancy signature at the end of each post, nor do I have a propensity to reference anything whose name includes at least one letter (That’s a lie; See Paragraph 5 above). I know nothing of frat houses, accidental deaths, or the ingredients of beer. I hold Shakespeare and mud in the same esteem; high, because who the hell doesn`t like mud?

So what I wanted to do, to spare my lovely chaps and chapettes the need to write something for this lovely, soon-to-be-snow-filled Canadian Friday (except for Ani, American scum.) was to write something small and thought-provoking.

I have done so.

And as destiny dictates, now I need coffee.

Cheers,

– Joseph

Kindred

He lay motionless on the dull teal carpet. There’s hardly any furniture in the rooom, save for the cream colored sofa, a matching loveseat, and a television in the corner. Various magazines, and books with stickers of the public library’s barcode on them make up the surface of a nearby coffee table. The phone atop the most recent TV Guide continues to ring.

***

Our maroon Dodge Caravan pulls into a neighborhood of townhouses, passing by those mailboxes that are shared by multiples residents. I tell myself I’ll never have one of those, as we reach the driveway where a Volkswagen Jetta is parked. Standing immediately next to it is Bhajan Uncle, a man in his 60s, about 5’8, with salt and pepper hair, and a matching mustache and beard. He smiles, and adjusts his glasses as he makes his way over to the van, sliding the backdoor open to reveal my brother in the backseat, and me clutching a Sony PSP in my lap. I slide over, careful not to stretch the wire leading to the tape deck.

“Pinky saab (sir),” he exclaims, “thank you for taking me along with you every Sunday.” He takes a seat next to me, slides the van door closed, and says hello to my mom sitting in the passenger seat ahead.

“I made you that curry you like,” my mom says, handing him a container of the saffron sauce.

“You’re too kind bhabhi-ji (sister-in-law),” Bhajan Uncle laughs, “taking care of an old guy like me, you know.”

“It’s no problem at all Bhajan saab,” my dad chimes in, steering us out of the neighborhood, as we make our way to temple.

***

Doctors said it was a heart attack, and that they were lucky to have received the call when they did. They won’t say how long he’d been laying there, but thank God for people still calling to wish others a happy new year. While I type up an Excel spreadsheet, my mom walks into the back office with the phone.

“He’s right here, talk to him, and don’t worry, you’ll feel better in no time, and come visit soon.” Her rapid succession of thoughts bother me, as if she was reassuring herself more than the person on the other end. She points the cell phone at me, and despite making a face, I put it to my ear.

“Hello?”

“Jaskaran!” Bhajan Uncle’s hearty voice greets me, and I feel my eyes getting moist. “How are you beta (son)?”

“I’m good uncle, how are you?” My voice slightly shakes. “You gave us quite a scare.”

“Just old age, you know,” he continues. “How’s everything? How’s school going?”

“Graduated now.”

“Congratulations. Making your mom and dad proud, you know.”

“Talk to dad now.” I hand off the phone, and listen to his voice trail off, citing good health and promises to visit.

***

The van whisks by the other cars on the highway, as I try to remember when this tradition started, of bringing Bhajan Uncle along with us to temple. He stops by the Exxon all the time, for coffee and small talk, and he’s a friend of the family’s, but I realize I know very little about him. He makes my parents CDs of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan songs. He’s single, and has been for some time. They tell me he’s been married once, but it’s rampant speculation at best, as he doesn’t says a word, nor does anyone ask. He repeats things a lot. He’s enamored by my MP3 player’s ability to hold multiple songs, and often asks in intervals how I “record” them. After a while, he starts asking me about artists’ names, and commenting on the songs I play. He’s a history buff, having been in the U.S. since the 60s, and knows a great deal about everything. He reads a lot, and him and I share a fondness for going to the public library. He talks of reading the Qur’an while finding similarities among all the holy books. He’s a fascinating man I know absolutely nothing about.

***

I stare at the pile of laundry on my bed. For a day off, Saturdays are usually spent engaging in such mundane activities. I never get up to put the clothes away, nor do I ever dust my room or vacuum with the same amount of energy I use to try on clothes or admire myself in the mirror. I just stare; out the window, at the computer screen, at a television that’s not even on, or just at the poorly vacuumed carpet below my feet. My mother calmly enters and sits down on the chair by the door, phone in hand, resting her head against the wall.

“Ma, what happened?” My brother jolts up in bed, afraid he’ll be criticized for slouching again. I take the headphones out of my ears, and listen for something, anything, but my mom refuses to speak, continuing to rest her head.

“Bhajan Uncle,” she begins, her voice low. My heart sinks. My stomach follows. I don’t want to hear it. “He’s in a coma.” The room is silent, save for a bit of music that escapes my headphones.

“But we just talked to him,” I stand up now, “and he was fine, he sounded better, and wasn’t he out of the hospital when we talked to him?” I find myself folding laundry.

“We don’t know the details, he just–it doesn’t look good. They’re saying they’ll have to put him on life support.”

“We just talked to him, Ma. He sounded fine. What are they even doing over at that hospital? Are they not monitoring his vitals? A man doesn’t just slip into a coma.”

I hear how irrational that sounds; waiting room talk. A man does just slip into a coma. A man who’s had heart problems in the past. A man who lives by himself, with very little interaction with others, outside of getting gas and groceries. My mom blames the move, and our reluctance to insist he come visit more often. She says he could’ve stayed at our place, and felt more at home here, in the company of his own food and people. She says she’s happy that I got a chance to talk to him.

***

He calls me the ronaki (jolly) son.I don’t go to temple every Sunday morning, or even Friday nights. It’s nothing against the establishments themselves. It just doesn’t feel like my temple. I hear how irrational that sounds. A stack of Nusrat CDs collect dust in our basement, on a shelf that also houses old cassettes and VHS tapes. He used to give me money for my birthday, and tell me to buy CDs with it. I haven’t gone back in three years, and this is not the homecoming I want. I watched my Mazda get sold off my driveway–turning miles to kilometers–distances I’m unfamiliar with. He’s seven hours away from us. This new one hails from 2010, an Altima, my alternate, that ultimately fails to live up to its name (again). Sometimes I just drive around in it, getting used to it, getting lost on purpose, while street signs blur to tear stains to the soundtrack of Schindler’s List. Life support from comatose, all I’ve got is all I wrote, and all I have for you is hope, to die another day. Please.

Updated on February 2, 2013. Reprise. Remorse. Regret. I’ll never get to talk to him again. My tears can’t even visit. You deserved better than you were given.

— AaJ Ki baat phir nahi hogi, yeh mulaqaat phir nahi hogi;
aise badal toh phir bhi aayenge, aisi barsaat phir nahi hogi.
(The words spoken today will never be spoken again, and never again shall we meet;
so while the clouds will still continue to form, such rain will never repeat.)