Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Night the Birds Fell From the Sky

My eyes opened at twilight. The empty city was bathed in the ghastly glow of diminishing bursts of light from abandoned streets and dimly illuminated windowsills. The quiet roll of waning thunder and the glorific medical center lights beyond the silhouette of trees just outside the window were all that could be seen beneath the blanket of darkness creeping out of the city.

I woke up on a porch somewhere in Houston. Now, I know exactly where, [my cousin’s apartment], but instead of a comforting familiarity to welcome me back to consciousness, I instead felt an lingering uneasy sense of betrayal, abandonment, and foreign, merciless vindication. As if we had somehow merited the wrath of the dark and deadly storm that had passed, that we somehow for some reason had been punished. A cool, unfettered breeze brings comfort now in this dark sweltering world, remnants of the monster that had come banging on our weak and unprepared doors. A waning memory of the howling wind that would shake your very soul serves as the only reminder that taking anything for granted is the deadliest sin of all.

It was morning. Water flowed in canals we used to call streets. A melancholy hush swept across the stretch of town completely empty of traffic but boasting a rush of stragglers curious to see what the storm lay waste to. There is a constant industrial grinding of generators and other machinery in the distance cutting through an uneasy silence of a community sleeping through recovery, struggling slow attempts at picking up the pieces.

Ike is its name. Boasting power this city had not seen in a storm for quite some time, and undoubtedly weakening in its own path somewhere northeast of us, a widespread devastation left in its wake. The flicker of candlelight weakens as the moments pass, my ambitious writing growing faster and more frantically illegible on this scrabble scorecard, a remnant of one form of entertainment we needed to turn to in this ordeal and the faint aroma of grilled meat from our recent makeshift dinner hangs in the air. All constant reminders of our very limited resources, and our confused and fearful minds. How long can we keep this up? The bellows of faint traffic sound every now and then, the city’s failed attempts at achieving normalcy immediately after quite the apocalypse. We looked up at the grey cold sky that loomed above us, giving no trace of the danger that came before it. We looked up a lot. And for fun, just for fun, we then looked down. And saw them. The birds lined the streets. Broken wings. Broken necks. Everywhere. And then slowly…as time went on, as days went by and turn into weeks…the birds went back up into the sky. And I will always be sitting here, watching those birds in the sky, waiting for the next moment to happen.

I find myself at the mercy of a nightly bottle and a repeat run of the hit show The World’s Funniest Moments. Life is getting quieter again. Life is getting lonelier again. And I’m coming home much more exhausted, staying in the company of my work past lights out almost nightly. Miles between here and home are racking up as the days go by, and the happiness I find in typing jokes to my closest friends through online chat rooms during the workday is a good indicator that something vitally cathartic and necessarily visceral is rendering my life, at the moment, severely incomplete. I can only reflect on the words I read that won’t stop running through my mind, “Trust me homes… when we look back on how great this COULD have been, it will be on you,” and it is all I can do, NOT to ultimately believe them. So I’m sorry but sometimes, it is nice to forget about things, the same way they have forgotten about you. Even if you have to make it happen. Even if it means having to destroy your coffee table. I'll make a list of things to do. I'll make a list of things to be. I'll make a list of things never to look forward to again. And i will make a list of things I will wait til world's end to see one last time.

I’ve never been through an apocalypse before. I didn’t ask for a front row seat. All the same, I hear this whisper in the distance…of a bigger storm yet to come.

Current Songs: Dashboard Confessionals – Stolen, Saliva – Rest in Pieces

Earth-Shattering Revelation #23: It’s okay to feel like less than a part of your life sometimes. Or less than a part of others'. Even in the ones that are most important to you.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Two Epic Tales You Don't Need To Read

So tomorrow, i guess, the drama culminates, and hopefully concludes. Pretty much just a matter of accepting that things are changing possibly for the worse and possibly for good on that front, admittedly or not. Don't know what to do and don't know what I did, but everyone else seems really optimistic and excited about everything. And my head is just filled with a blur of thoughts. Didn't even get a phonecall. Going to miss my friend.

Today I walked over to the CVS for some lunch. They told me at the counter that I get a free toothbrush. I've been wanting to buy a toothbrush for quite sometime now. It is a shame when your toothbrush gets worn...and you just never get around to moving on from it. Lazy? No. Maybe. Regardless, CVS gave me a free one and it made my day. My week. I just thought that was nice.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Never Enough...

...Shade in the deepest reaches of a forest from the harsh, bright summer sun.
Thoughts and voices in your head to keep you from really listening.
Words to describe someone’s anguish, solace, misery or sorrow.
Time to sit, breath, listen, speak, wait, grow, learn, or become.
Plans to be made and broken, promises you forget to keep.
Truth in the world to mend the destruction of a single lie.
Change to make things really, truly or ultimately better.
Distance between people, truly destined to be together.
Jokes can be made to keep the laughter from stopping.
Reflection to make the mirror show you the true self.
People in the crowd to make the loneliness go away.
Breaths to catch when you’re calming the madness.
Hours in even the longest and most trying of days.
Justifications that prove it really isn’t your fault.
Prayers to keep your darkest demons at bay.
Voices to keep whispered secrets quiet.
Music heard beyond the noise of life.
Destinies driven by your memories.
Fear of the things you can’t help.
Shards of one’s broken heart.
To keep them from leaving.
Moments to really live.
Tears to wash away.
Stars in the sky.

To be truly sated with any of these things, is to know ancient truths about existence, to resolve the epic struggle between the heart and the mind. It’s not possible. And if it is, please tell me how. I would really like to know. If you got the time.

But in the meantime, I will keep following the fire in the sky…and THAT, my friends, will always have to be enough.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Let’s see. The complete degradation of my emotional drive. A re-evaluation of my character and spirit in context of losing sight of everything I held important and enlightening. Loss. Regret. Shame. Coming to terms with who I am without the context of close friends and family. Coming to terms with the realities of my decisions, realizing the consequences of them as they befall me. But finally getting my integrity back, having inadvertently grasped my destiny.

I was in awe one year ago stepping onto a new personal frontier, not aware of the darkness that was about to happen in the coming months. Initial pitfalls and an enexpected scramble for solid ground at the beginning colored an outlook I had to reshape about my life here in Houston. I buried myself in a depression that now realize spanned the good part of months of that year, with residual effects felt even now. Alas now I am just able to stand and finally start becoming the person I want to be, a year from when I felt on top of the world. Tough part of being on top like that is that it entails the hardest fall for those without a proper foothold. I guess when I hit bottom, I realized it was because I learned that I finally had to let go of a lot of … things.

This is an excerpt I came across in that time, given to me by one of my closest friends here, Andrea (thank you). It helped. Even for just a little bit. Even for just a little while. As did the rain. And some important phonecalls.

Being Twenty-Something

They call it the "Quarter-life Crisis." It is when you stop going along with the crowd and start realizing that there are many things about yourself that you didn't know and may not like. You start feeling insecure and wonder where you will be in a year or two, but then get scared because you barely know where you are now. You start realizing that people are selfish and that, maybe, those friends that you thought you were so close to aren't exactly the greatest people you have ever met, and the people you have lost touch with are some of the most important ones. What you don't recognize is that they are realizing that too, and aren't really cold, catty, mean or insincere, but that they are as confused as you.

You look at your job...and it is not even close to what you thought you would be doing, or maybe you are looking for a job and realizing that you are going to have to start at the bottom and that scares you. Your opinions have gotten stronger. You see what others are doing and find yourself judging more than usual because suddenly you realize that you have certain boundaries in your life and are constantly adding things to your list of what is acceptable and what isn't. One minute, you are insecure and then the next, secure. You laugh and cry with the greatest force of your life. You feel alone and scared and confused. Suddenly, change is the enemy and you try and cling on to the past with dear life, but soon realize that the past is drifting further and further away, and there is nothing to do but stay where you are or move forward. You get your heart broken and wonder how someone you loved could do such damage to you. Or you lay in bed and wonder why you can't meet anyone decent enough that you want to get to know better.

Or maybe you love someone but love someone else too and cannot figure out why you are doing this because you know that you aren't a bad person. One night stands and random hook ups start to look cheap. Getting wasted and acting like an idiot starts to look pathetic. You go through the same emotions and questions over and over, and talk with your friends about the same topics because you cannot seem to make a decision. You worry about loans, money, the future and making a life for yourself.....and while winning the race would be great, right now you'd just like to be a contender!

What you may not realize is that everyone reading this relates to it. We are in our best of times and our worst of times, trying as hard as we can to figure this whole thing out.

I'm moving again. Tomorrow in fact. And i'm okay with it. I feel like this apartment knows more of my darkness than many people in my life. Its seen the worst of me. It's kept me company and consoled me. It shielded me from the storm. And i pay it gratitude by leaving it behind. But it and I are not bound, in fact, we realize that though this "place" was and will always be important to me, it is an important part of what once was, and it's now time from something new again. Something different. But something just as important. It is true about my first home here in Houston, and it is true about a lot of things in life.*

I’d like to dedicate this year to perhaps the one person (second to my family) that really, truly and unselfishly helped me in my first year here, from the moment I arrived. Unrelenting support and humor is what you get from friends like this…the closest of very few people who you hold in highest regard, whose friendships you fiercely guard and defend, because you realize that the importance of that friendship is the thread that holds you hanging above life’s thorns. He helped me realize realities that would have come harder and tougher to bounce back from later on, made me acknowledge, without destroying my spirit, the consequences of the impulse of decisions, and the inevitable disappointment you find in the most unlikely of situations. He told me he was proud of me, and that I inspired him. He forced me to, despite the challenges that lay ahead and the emotional wounds of departure from State College and arrival in Houston, get up and begin the life I was so desperate to find here for a reason he never had to ask for. He knew I wasn’t doing well, and without asking or having me explain anything, he always just knew what to say, how to say it, or when not to say anything at all. He helped me realize things about the nature of people in my life. Taught me to let go. He assured me that those at home who were still important still supported me. His words rung with clarity in a time when my head was filled with discord and utter dread. He shortened the miles between here and home. And he promised, when he left, that I would never be forgotten…a promise I needed so desperately at that time, when the safety of a promise lay broken beyond repair.

And unlike many people in my life, he kept that promise.

Thank you, Paul, for making my anniversary a pleasant one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Conversations with Mirrors

There was no towel, besides the one I wrapped myself in, to wipe the steam off the coldness of glass before me. I used my hand confidently, creating a streak of reflection, beads of water forming in its wake on the cold hard surface of the bathroom mirror. I stared at myself. The steam permeated all possibility of sight except for right there in that streak; took one of those baths you know you take when the time suits you that are just hot as hell, but not uncomfortable; a jetstream surrounds you as you close your eyes, and when its all over, you walk back into the cold grey world. The day inevitably came when I had had enough of the life I had made for myself these past eight months and acknowledged that I didn’t decide to pack my car after almost a year of careful planning to work in retail in a land where I had very few true, honest friends who cared and saw how depressed I was; I did not plan heartache, I did not plan bouts of alcoholic sadness, and I certainly did not plan on sitting alone in dark rooms so very much. Bastard liars get paid tons of money to write books that tell you making it all better is in your power, but more times than not, its really really not. Self-image, self-worth, self-esteem; these are extremely fragile little gems. And their frailty mostly manifests at times when you feel you need them the most to keep you sane and to keep you relevant in worlds and relationships that have forced you out. Even when surrounded by people you’ve loved and cared for or even by that one person you thought did, you can feel so very alone. Are you cool enough? Interesting enough? Funny enough? Such dangerous questions you know you ask yourself. Or at least I did. Every night, for months. And every night, I negotiated and deliberated with myself and renewed a temporary sense of self-awareness that I knew would wane the next day. Or at least until the next session the next night before I fall into uneasy sleep. And the day came that I had had enough and I quit my job. That was all I had and I let it go. I said as I looked into my reflection so disapprovingly the last time I told myself I would, with coldness and confidence: no more pep talks in the mirror.

The bags were going to fall, the one on my shoulder, the one on my other shoulder, the three in my hand and the one on the last finger in the other hand, the rest, dedicated to directing the key into the keyhole that led into my home. I’ve been having problems with this lock for quite some time, and I knew today was not going to be an exception, I inserted the key, lacking the wisdom to lay the bags on the ground before doing so. The strain on my hand as I jostled the key in its hole so very painfully as the bag handle twisted my fingers into a grinding pretzel became too great. The key turned much too much and much too strong and snapped cleanly in the doorknob. I stood there, in complete sympathy for myself as the rain mercilessly continued to bathe the trees and the ground and me in its indiscriminate cold. I looked at the doorknob. I looked at the bags. I sat down and felt sorry for myself, next to the mud puddle that formed just beyond the stone walk that evaded the rain and was adequate for sitting. I began to plan the next few moments, began problem solving, but was so exhausted I decided to sit and breathe instead. I looked down, and there I was again, looking up at myself from the mud puddle. My features were blurred in shadow and silt but I knew it was me. Even in unseen features I could make out the bags beneath my eyes, and the tears that were always ready to form behind them. It was just one of those bad days. The worst of the worst when you feel you’ve lost all sense of self in one fell swoop and you don’t know when bottom has been hit, or if it is even possible. Its one of those “sometimes” you stumble on when the limitations arise that remind you of the things you can’t be or the things you can’t do. And then your key breaks. And your doors won’t open anymore. And your body is hurting and you’re left out in the rain. And all you can do is sit and breathe and wait until the next sane moment might provide some peace. Just maybe.

Warm bursts of water popped and subsided at the surface of the hottub, deeply contrasting the peace of the bitter night air and the coldness of the starless sky that blanketed the grey earth beneath it. I had only set the jetstream for mere minutes of glory in the hottub; a half-hour before that I had bought a six-pack of celebratory beer and yet a half-hour before that I had quit my job after eight excrutiating months of listless, unproductive labor. I sat with a full head of thoughts and a heavy heart in that small pool and expected the next thing in my life to suddenly make its revelation. Nothing came. I call people. And no one came. They were all either working through their own worlds of torment, or enjoying slumber. I always enjoy the end of things. I always found that a terminal state was a constant reminder of the next thing, which is at once encouraging as well as saddening. It’s a time of ultimatums, goodbyes, hello’s, and longing for what was once, and a wonderment or fear of what will be. It’s dynamic. And these thoughts raced in my head with no definition at such a defining moment, until the bubbles stop, my time had run out and jets that fed into the pool faded and ceased, leaving me still, with a warm beer in my hand, alone and anxious in a quiet pool, quiet again as the sky above. And then I found it: clarity. I saw myself in that water again, a reflection that manifested from a light above the pool I did not notice illuminated the space, and a longing for identity. The water was still now, I saw my face and at the same time I saw the bottom of the pool. I could see my feet as they wavered at the bottom, I could see the color of the tile beneath them, and I could see the lines in my hands. Familiar places and familiar faces flooded my head this time; not regrets, not secrets, and not heartache. I felt myself asking the question, whatever happened to the “growing up” part of growing up? And the answer was in moments like this. I called my friend that night and I cried. And he made me feel better, like everything wasn’t falling apart.

I’ve written about my rearview mirror before. It’s one of those metaphors you use when you are nostalgic and you feel like writing about your car, but I couldn’t help using it here. The day after I left work the last time, I took one of my epic drives around Houston (one of many I take when feeling alone in the world manifests as actually being alone, only comfortably so as I take in new sights). I kept looking into the rearview mirror, at cars that weren’t there, at friends who weren’t in the backseat. But instead of being sad about this, I decided to reminisce and smile about remembering friends being in the backseat, passed out from a good night of being together, friends who were carpooling with you to go to a class you all didn’t want to go to, or on the way to the liquor store or bottle shop, I remember my parents being there when I was learning how to drive, or even my dog on one of our joyrides as he gleefully stuck his head out the window to take in every possible smell the central Pennsylvanian country side had to offer. I am now on my way back to Houston from State College, and here on the plane, though there are no rearview mirrors to help the metaphor along, I can still look back. Fresh in my mind are my feelings of being left out of new conversations between old friends, of being out of place with new ones, and the idea that life went on in my absence, and I’m finally okay with that. It’s what’s right about all this, because it makes going back to my life in Houston necessary and important.

St. Anne’s reminds me of some of the smaller cathedrals of Rome. Though deeply nested in the likes of the Montrose area of the inner loop, I feel like the outside world is banned from within these walls, sacred and silent and true. Every whisper is heard, every thought rings with clarity. I trudged in humbled and contented just being inside these walls, thankful for the job I was just given, and thankful for the hand that turned the page to a new chapter in my life. I ran my finger across the surface of the holy water well at the entrance to the first set of pews, the damp marble lip cool to the touch. And as the water rippled to stillness once again, I caught a glimpse of myself in it. Another unexpected mirror in another unexpected place. This time, as the illuminated space provided more of an image, I was able to make out a smile, one in celebration of this new phase of growing up, one of a hopeful stint at peace, one of a renewed faith and hope, and one for the repair of the love in relationships I singlehandedly let be broken for so long.

Renewed relationships with those I love It was one of those “good days” I kept hearing about and was reassured would eventually come. But unlike most, I preferred to proceed with cautious optimism and cherished this time of repair, not blinding bliss. And in forging ahead, I continued my search at comiccon for purpose; though my time there was also quite lonely, I found that doing what I needed to do to give myself purpose was a great mode to be in to displace the loneliness that is inevitable.

The human condition makes no concessions for heavy or broken hearts or promises, is absolutely merciless towards those who let themselves fall behind in relationships and self-knowledge and is absolutely intolerable to the acknowledgement of having done wrong to another, especially the ones you love. But have faith. Find yourself. Maybe in others. Maybe in your own reflection. Life’s answers can’t be found in the barrage of fortune cookies or hallmark cards. Its not always about never giving up. Have the decency and self-worth to look into those mirrors, and realize some things are not worth fighting for. Read the lines on your face and let them tell you how old these pains and truths are making you and move on from them. And inversely, find the things that bring you back to where you used to be, to the unconditional happiness summer vacation brought you to the surge of energy from the first kiss shared with someone you care for. And maybe then, at least, can this shitstorm subside long enough for us to prepare ourselves for the next one.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barely There

Beads of sweat formed where I didn’t think they could. I guess it was just dreadfully strange to have a heatwave begin in March. I sat in bed at a time of night when I would still be up doing mundane, useless activities, but instead left desperate to catch sleep but inevitably unable to do so in the sitting, stale, dry night air. Unaided by the ceiling fan working so hurriedly above me, streams of streetlight beaming fiercely through the blinds, I stared blankly at the wall, alone again with my thoughts and insecurities, mentally itemizing a to do list that will never lessen in priorities, pondering faces and events of the past and envisioning the next fifty projects that may never happen. With the low industrial hum of the ceiling fan to aid the movement of thoughts in my head, I felt a peace broken by silence and frustrating inner turmoil. The light through the window cast a glow against the world, encroached by the growing darkness that night offered, but as my eyes shifted to this and as my sitting up lent even more to being awake at a time when others seek refuge in their dreams, I sought so desperately to stop the thoughts that sped infinitely through my mind. But so appropriately, I felt I could not be in a better place than my black and white existence in this little room. The drawings on the walls danced as illustrations of my thoughts, at once encouraging me and taunting me to share them with the world. I felt myself begin to cry. Tears that would not be seen by people who used to be so close, tears of excitement for possibility, tears for dread that mistakes have been made. And this is each of my nights.

It is days after the stuffy night in the black and white room. The cool spring air grazes the fresh wound on my face; an annoying little gash over a huge mound that has formed around the bridge of my nose that has manifested from a night of drunken solace and a much needed bout of dancing to ridiculously infectious trance and techno music mid-week. With falling and tripping and wrestling with a friend outside the club to a group of onlookers who subsequently appalauded to our drunken shenanigans, the night, though not fully pieced together in my mind, was absolutely the most fun I’ve had here in a while. One of those “fuck-it” decisions you never really regret. And as a complete departure from the events of that evening, I’ve stowed away here to the park to draw during this fine day and spread out my materials and enjoy the awesomeness of existence again. It worked. I think I may have listened to my ipod playlist at least twice over (I’m gifted with one gig of memory on the pod) before I realized how I’ve missed being lost in a piece of artwork again. How it is such an easy way to forget so many problems at least for a bit. And this is each of my days.

I guess the idea is to breathe again. And it’s happened. A bit harder in a stuffy room or suffocated by a million thoughts and insecurities, but it happened. I mean a new surge of energy has gone back into my day-to-day, stemming from some broken pieces put back together and a new sense of purpose, but a cautious optimism looms over this new energy. Honestly, I feel like the dust has been swept under the rug again and I can’t help it. Reality is such a fragile thing. And when a breath of fresh air seems to restore some of it, provide clarity, justice, calm and peace, I always tend to anticipate something to stir it up again. And I guess this is where my problem is. Being another year older doesn’t help, it just makes things more pressing and urgent. Being home again was nice. Very nice. Seeing friends old and new gave me back something I felt I had lost and longed for for the longest time here in Houston; I was relieved to see that things were still happening but felt a sense of justified abandon when I felt that I was no longer needed there, that I didn’t belong. And I was ok with it. Finally. The job hunt, I feel, is futile. I am now beginning to be fueled by anger and frustration rather than longing, and I feel that this may make me be more vigilant in my attempts to gain a foothold in my career.

Many of nightmares have gone away…but then so have some of my dreams.

However, a new hope has emerged. And all I want to say is one word: Marvel.

Current Songs: Cassie - It It You, Janet - Curtains
Earth-Shattering Revelation #24: Gotta Try.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rain, Don't Ever Go Away

We wear masks. Costumes. That’s all it really is, isn’t it? No crap about belief or faith or understanding can possibly fool people into thinking you are who you seem to be. Because just like everyone else…

…you lost that a long time ago.

I search my closet every morning for what to wear. The cold days are the easiest; more things to wear, to hide in, to conceal what I guess I don’t want the world to see or hear or feel about me. You know, the things that go on in my head. And have you ever had that one thing in your mind that sweeps up your every second and has you thinking about it and only it for the majority of the time you're awake, having you dream about it the majority of the time you're asleep ... all the while not relinquishing to you any attention to or control over your own thoughts?

Always felt or wish I can say exactly what I wanted to say to the people I wanted to say them to. Opened up every latent thought, every burning inclination, and verbalized passions and furies I would otherwise keep buried. But then the world wouldn't need important and necessary words like secret, solace or self.

I guess the way I operate these days is in cyclical patterns. Since past distractions are now absent and I remain absolutely at the mercy of my reluctance and a host of newfound insecurities, I find myself doing psychological damage control on a regular basis. And in so doing, for anyone, there comes a renewal and redefinition of what you will tolerate to keep yourself sane, and, if at all possible, happy. There also emerges a reaffirmation that those things you have needed to stay the same, and sweet, and comfortable and promising have been turned upside down and inside out. You can’t expect from those things anymore. And you certainly must accept them as they are now, despite any inclination to hold on to what no longer is or can be.

Yeah the cold weather definitely is nice. It’s the most familiar thing I’ve encountered here in Houston. It’s quite possibly the only thing I’ve been able to expect anything from. That and the rain. Every time it rains, nothing makes me happier than to sit next to the window, alone naturally, and listen to the sound it makes on the weathered brick of the courtyard beyond the glass of my window. I would turn off the lights, and watch as it cleanses the dirt and filth, the runoff slowly seeping back into the cold wet Earth. And with it, the burdens of my mind, the holds placed on my heart, and as the rain finishes its run across the city, it reveals in the emergent path that the world is as it should be.

It got up, moved on, and is inviting me to do the same.

But I have this dreadful feeling. This dreadful feeling that all we’ll ever be is ok.

Current Songs: Alicia Keys - Like You'll Never See Me Again
Earth-Shattering Revelation #23: Don't worry. Everyone else is going through it.