Inperitive Eyes

Dark manticora eyes
The damn toaster is set at two.  That won’t do.  Turn it to three at least.  Not five – unless burnt toast is the goal for starting the day?  Some day it will be, either way.  Coffee’s done.

It snowed just twelve miles away yesterday.  Snowed.  In April.  Nearly May.  Probably need to wear a thin layer under a button down again today.  Leave the window blind up; the sunshine is looking mighty nice right now.  Remember to get creamer at the store on the way in.  They’ll be closed by the time you get off.  Um – toast should basically be a boat for butter; keep going.  There’s some Apricot marmalade in the fridge – use that too.

Take the empty egg cartons to the farm people today.  May not need more eggs, but they look messy piled up there on top of the fridge.  Floor could really use a good mop in here too.  Not now.  Only two hours before the first meeting.  Better get busy scarfing that toast and coffee down.  Take the eye vitamins and immune system supplements after you finish the first piece.

No, there’s no time to read that chapter.  It’s an eat and run morning.  Should have thought about that last night when sleep wasn’t intriguing enough to cajole.  A little effort wouldn’t hurt on those nights.  Four hours rest isn’t what those degenerate eyes need.  And a ten o’clock wake-up (in order to get them an hour and a half more) lacks style.  Really.  Could have hit the 4000 word count with a decent night’s sleep this morning.

Leave the heat down.  Save on the power bill.  Speaking of bills – open that one from yesterday and text the amount to M so she can pay it.  After that NSF from the local bank last week, it might be a good idea to close that account today or tomorrow.  Lady tried to say the online transaction records are updated daily.  So not true.  Best close it and just work with cash for the small amount every month.  And check both post offices on the way too.  Otherwise that Walmart package will get sent back.

Hit the shower.  Use the shower cap.  Hair looks serviceable (smells fine too).  No point in wasting time messing with that plain-Jane cut.  Tomorrow’s the bigger meeting, so save those pants for that.  Wear the greenerish-brown pair.  Otherwise it’s the same black pair worn yesterday.  Bad enough only three or four pairs fit, but do try and keep an appearance of variety.  Thank goodness for all these shirts.  They need to be rearranged again to hang in ROYGBV order.  Too much hurry whenever coming or going.  There are probably still clothes in the dryer crowding wrinkles into each other.

Just a hint of blush.  No age spots to cover up yet – small blessings.  Wow! What was that dream last night?!  Someone with makeup done sparkly?  And a hubbub of argument about “being out of uniform?”  How fun to still be at work during the scant hours of sleep managed.  Seriously.

Leave the books.  No time to read them at work anyway.  Lunch consists of a can of fruit at the overflowing desk or while standing in the front office.  Stop kidding yourself.  They’ll still be here when the day is done.  You have time.  Belt.  Don’t forget the belt.  Brown one would work with this.  Maybe ice the eyes before leaving.  The cold would feel good, and it wouldn’t hurt the bags under them either.  Stop worrying.  “could be twenty or thirty years,” he said.  There’s time.


 

This piece is the result of following Brian Kiteley’s second writing exercise in his book, The 3 A.M. Epiphany.  If you can get past the introduction, I highly recommend this to any writer with a day job.

 

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War with Me

Every night I wage a war.  The enemy crawls into the room and begins its familiar bombardment, first with feathers and then with rubber bullets.  In a matter of minutes I’m surrounded by fire breathing dragons screaming with urgency – I must enter their realm.  I refuse, at least for a few more hours.  It’s about the fight, yet I don’t even know where my objection starts in me.  This battle makes no sense and doesn’t do me any good.  But somehow, Sleep has become my enemy.

Its army comes at me as if I’m expecting it.  Like I’ll throw myself at their mercy once the grenades are thrown.  I shake my head and pop my lids open again, a yawn stretches me but I stay connected to the wakeful world … with my eyes.

Two days ago I went to the eye doctor and he tells me I have slight cataracts in my left eye and the onset of macular degeneration in my right.  What’s left to fight with if I don’t have my eyes?  The monster approaches tonight and my weapons start to ache.

All these years, for reasons I don’t comprehend, I fought sleep off.  It isn’t insomnia; it’s a conscientious, albeit an underground and seditiously layered response.  My mind wants to stay rapt with the happenings of the day or the fantasies I’ve missed while doing the responsible job thing.  It wants to read new depths and experience different worlds, scan new perspectives and flex different thoughts.  It’s crosshairs are a pair of blue peepers I’ve had since I was born.  Now the weapons of choice are losing their effectiveness yet the enemy is in no way breaking its stride.

It certainly occurs to me (on a regular basis, should you question my clarity on this matter) – sleep would assuredly heal my situation,  or at a minimum slow this eye-death process.  Would that I could allow myself to be taken prisoner.  To surrender.  The sheets and the pillow call my weary body.  Why can’t I give in?  Shell shock?  Post traumatic stress syndrome?

But I still fight.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop this madness.  No doubt if I could just figure out what started this war for me, I’d be able to agree to a cease-fire, draw up a peace plan.  Resolve to do what’s best for my sanity.

Alas, I fear that peace may never come.

Flow Engaged

Cotton Candy

There’s a swish and I’m disengaged.  It’s that moment between wakefulness and sleep, when I can still hear the crickets or the podcast, but I don’t feel the rest of my body.  That moment when my inner self tells me, demands me to rest.  I rarely listen.  I fight my own parts, surreal and tangible, and instead grope at one last thing.  I work all day and tend to chores and “have to” items when I get home.  What ever happened to that swirled fabric of space/time, wrapped around us like cotton-candy, that we used to call “free time?”

In my aged writing state, there’s a different sort of existence that happens nearly every day.  It comes when the ocean of fatigue begins to swallow me, and I fight tooth and nail, to regain the surface.  That one-more-thing is waiting, I know it, like an inflated raft marked “good book,” or a piece of driftwood known as “write something.”  It would feel so good to just let the waters have me, yet I want just one more thing in my head, or out of it.

It’s at these times that, if I’m smart and lucky, I can write like a pro.  There’s enough energy to hold real still and let my fingers do the talking, as my creative energy flows to the keyboard without the daily grind inhibitors or the analysis corruption that happen when I’m fully awake.  That’s when flow occurs for me.  It’s not good for my heart health, but perhaps it’s less harmful than cigarettes.

The Politics of Esteem

Havre Train Station - Amtrak

On a 20 hour train ride from Spokane to Minot I overheard a conversation that resulted in my sadness and poor outlook on the human race – myself a member.  Somewhere around Havre, MT two women got on board with a wealth of other new passengers.  Those of us who had treasured our two-seat comfort were disappointed, but it was to be expected sooner or later.

These two women were fascinating to watch because, although they shared a common language (accent) and geography, they were the epitome of night and day.  Julie was thin, fit, and of average stature.  Janice was shorter and rotund, and her shirt revealed her backside whenever she bent over to get anything out of her bag.  Julie was stylish in her stone washed jeans, layered fashion t-shirts, and textured Justin boots.  Apparently Janice and her husband used to live across from Julie and her husband years ago.  And today they had met at the Havre train depot, both of them headed back to Minnesota.

In listening to their conversation, I learned that Julie is a cancer survivor.  Janice sent her a card after she learned about her former neighbor’s plight months ago.  She asked if Julie got it.  She did.  She had just decided not to respond.  Who knows?  Maybe surviving a near death experience like cancer makes you simplify and you worry less about social expectations like returning a correspondence.

During their initial exchange, Janice made several attempts to reconnect.  She even settled for getting their husbands (who apparently used to be good friends) back in touch.  Julie’s husband was up in Canada on his Harley enjoying a ride so that he wouldn’t miss Julie as much while she was gone.  I got the feeling that Janice’s husband still works.

Growing up, my parents were never really the social butterflies you see on those sitcoms where neighbors talk to neighbors over the fence and have the occasional barbecues.  And even today, when I move to a new place, its very difficult for me to be neighborly.  But Julie and Janice, from the clues in their conversation, had been the kind of neighbors that take baked goods to each other and collect each other’s mail when they’re out of town.  I was having trouble liking Julie as this went on.

Julie said words that were to be expected when Janice spoke.  She replied at the appropriate times and even came and leaned on the empty seat in front of us near the end of the conversation to face her “friend” and engage fully.  But Julie spoke a different kind of language with her body language, the words she chose, and her tone.  In Julie-language she quite obviously said, “I’m so far past you … so much better than you … this won’t go anywhere after we get off the train.”  Her replies near the end said, “I’ve been there, done that,” or “Oh, I can do you one better.”

Julie has beaten cancer and she is happy to talk about it to anyone that wants to hear.  She likes the way they look at her after she tells them.  As soon as a fellow passenger (a rather artsy looking Seattleite with long, well kempt hair and Birkenstocks) heard a name he recognized, he joined in the conversation.  Visually comparing the two, Julie quickly dropped Janice like a hot potato.  Janice may not have noticed, but I did and for some deep seeded reason I felt pissed.

Doug and Julie realized they had several relatives in common and began talking about what a small world it was and how uncanny it was to discover each other.  Julie got the attention she’d been seeking, in the package she preferred.  I know the label is used more commonly on men, but I have to say that Julie was a tool.  I watched as Janice slowly settled herself in for a long train ride next to a total stranger (me) who didn’t like to talk much.  Was I projecting some underlying sadness of my own in this social defeat of Janice’s?  Perhaps.

But with each conversation, each one so unlike me to instigate or perpetuate, I was speaking to Janice in Julie-language.  “We’re real, dammit.  We matter.  We GET that everything in life doesn’t work out perfect and fit in neat little designer Justin’s or Birkenstocks.  Our joys are just as important as anyone else’s.  Our pains are just as relevant.  We may not have been to the chemical warfront and returned to tell our stories over scars and glasses of fine wine.  But cancer comes in many forms.  Self-serving social cancer can hurt people too.  We will pray for Julie’s condition.”

My Hugging Coach

When I tell you that I went to a “hugging coach,” it’s important you know two things. First, it was by accident that I became a student of the hug. Second, it is the only subject I ever failed.   For reasons I will not explain at this writing, I am a very socially awkward individual. In crowded settings I squawk like a chicken and screech like an eagle while people are, all around me, whispering. I’m speaking metaphorically here, of course. I don’t actually make those noises; I’m actually rather quiet. But that’s how it feels to be in social settings without a clear mission.

When I was younger, I was spared some terrible embarrassment when, seeing I was new and shy, an 11th grade English teacher pointed me toward the Drama Club. Learning how to come out of my shell and pretend I had other traits and skills was essential to my development into, and survival as, an adult. My favorite trait to imitate is confidence. An element I lack, that I try to overcompensate for when necessary, is affection of the sentimental type. I don’t mean I find it difficult to show or express love to someone I care deeply about. I don’t have much trouble giving hell to people I dislike. The complication exists when people that I’m not so adamant about attempt to express something, sort of, in the middle. I mean, well let me paint a picture.

Picture it – 1998. A swarm of teenagers in uniform transformed from stationary pillars of silence, in neat little ranks and files – to a raucous gaggle of excited children, racing for their parents’ arms. I had just dismissed the cadets from the final formation before liberty. My boss and mentor at the time smiled at each of the staff as he thanked them, and wished them a pleasant time off duty. With each hand shake, he pulled them in for a hug, and sent each one hot-stepping it home for some much needed “R & R.” I felt my face blanch and casually disappeared below decks to log off the computers and gather my things. He headed me off as I tried walking past him on the gangway.

“Good job Team Leader S,” he grinned and reached an arm out toward my shoulder. He was going for that hug. I grimaced and leaned in slightly. I felt the coach-like pat on my back as our shoulders bumped. I was thankful that I had thought to carry enough out so that both my hands were encumbered, leaving me no arm to return the “Go Team!” hug. “We’ll make a hugger out of you yet, Ms. S.” His laughter wasn’t mocking, or demeaning. He was a good mentor and I appreciated his outlook and experience. But he knew, along with everyone else on the team, that I was not that particular brand of person described as, “a hugger.”

This is one story, one of many that preceded and followed it, that outlines my social adversities as they pertain to hugging (among other situations). It wasn’t until, close to 8 years later, I started dissecting my mental insides and deduced – something was rotten in the state of me. That’s when I was referred to a hugging coach. That wasn’t what was on her business card, sure, but that’s the essence of what she was.

With her help, I delved into the family tree, sought roots for my various jungles, and found trails I could hike to escape, survive, or make peace with my fears run amok. I did some journaling, reconnected with my spiritual beliefs, and talked more to her than to any other person prior to that time. Life was okay, and then life was good. The most memorable aspect that still resounds in my head from those sessions is the “hug practice.”

I had explained that I was uncomfortable, for many reasons, with hugging everyday friends. Which angle do you use when going in for the hug? What do you do with your arms and hands? What about people who are different heights? What if you hug one person who is standing next to someone you don’t want to hug, and they indicate a hug is in order? It’s all so ridiculously horrid to have to decipher and process!

My hugging coach did her best. She provided simple logic to these and other questions. We practiced scenarios; she even taught me a particular hug that seemed to solve all my problems. The “Sideways Hug” allows you to keep the front of your body free from bodily contact, while still offering an arm to the person who feels they absolutely must be hugged by you. If done correctly (I should say, “skillfully”), the two of you will resemble a greeting card to onlookers. It will be as if you are posing for a picture.  If don’t clumsily, the accosting hugger will try to fold that card, thereby negating your attempts at diplomacy, and throw their second arm around your neck. This not only defeats the purpose, but results in a situation exponentially more uncomfortable than if you had just stiffened and allowed the original hug attack to occur.

Kidding aside, I know that a person who feels the need to touch another person in public, to enter their personal space, does not always do so callously. For some, a hug is a great way to punctuate a final, parting sentence, and is no more an invasion than a “high five.” For others, perhaps they subconsciously sense a connection with you, and want to physically acknowledge it in a way that makes you aware of it too. So … just to clarify, hugs are not always attacks. Regardless of how thoughtless and assuming huggers may seem, I don’t take their advances to heart anymore.

That said, I never mastered the art of the hug. I was able to identify, to analyze, to compensate or overcome. I turned much of what I learned from my “hugging coach,” into ink or bytes. Scripture says blood is the life of the animal; I think ink is the life of the imagination. And while I may not be likely to welcome a hug physically, I am certainly interested in receiving “hugs” in the form of feedback in the comment section. Let’s hear it. How many artists out there identify with a distaste for crowds, an awkwardness in social settings, or are prone to verbal faux pas?  Any other non-huggers out there?

Fragments of Inertia

 

Waking up with a terrible thirst and reaching for the bottle of water on the one night you forget to put it there.  Pulling on a clean T-shirt to sleep in, and itching all night because you used the wrong detergent.  Choosing PM instead of AM and missing your alarm, hence jumping up in a panic that follows you the rest of the day.  Developing a slight case of paranoia from sleep deprivation and a lowering of self-esteem because your diet’s not working and you are too lazy to exercise.  Overcompensating for your fatigue with caffeine, thereby instigating an apparent mania that you know, inevitably, will crash you to a record low.  Reverting to a stubborn, disobedient child in your mind when it comes to taking care of yourself because you are homesick and depressed.  Staring at a blank white screen because you can’t accept that you are barren of words and your body and mind is in revolt against your dream.

 

What do all these sentences have in common besides being fragments?  They are soap scum in the tub of my self-pity.  One of these days I need to find a Sweeper that will do his damn job.

English: A brick wall (stretcher bond) Françai...

BANG HEAD HERE. English: A brick wall (stretcher bond) Français : Un mur de briques (Appareil en paneresses). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

cancer

You know how, on those National Geographic nature specials, the speedy stalking animal takes down one of the herd? And the narrator explains how the prey is one of the slower, sicker, or younger members of the group?  They claim that the hunter or pack pursues the prey in a way that eventually separates out one or more for their dinner.  But it doesn’t always line up, this explanation.  Sometimes the victim seems perfectly fine, not noticeably sluggish or weak – just unlucky.  That’s how I feel about cancer.

I recently heard somewhere that more and more women who have lived healthy, tobacco free lives, are getting lung cancer. Continue reading

trust

Don’t give up on me.  I strive for perfection and fall short every time.  I don’t sleep regular hours and rarely stay down all through the night, but that’s not why I’m restless.  Stress throbs my temples and you know what that feels like.  Bear with me.

I only give up about ten times a day.  If I had a dime for every time I got side-tracked …  Just have a little faith.  This could get scary and time is the only damn thing that will tell.  There’s a lot riding on my efforts so have a heart.

All I need is your confidence and occasional encouragement.  I can watch as the cracks form in the sky.  I don’t mind bearing the weight of the continents on my shoulders.  I can take it when all seems lost and tomorrow could totally crumble around my weary corpse.  Don’t look at me.

I don’t care about the money, or the clock ticking.  I will keep moving forward little by lots, blow by blow, life and limb.  Just don’t ever give up on me.

Play crack the sky.

Play crack the sky. (Photo credit: timothygareth)

this i’m not (Oct 1999)

in the ring or out
does the loser stay lost?
is the beaten always beat?
does the paying always cost?

this is not my song
suffering hard and long
my story is not one
of painful days are done

i’m no victim.

no sorry, beaten, broken
little shaken token
of hard knocks and heavy blocks
of treacherous walking and tearful talking
painful draining
shoulders straining
weighed down with no crown
to show for
the thousand different
fuck-ups and suck-ups
troubles doubled
that have me flattened on the sidewalk.

what i am i don’t always know, but this i’m not.

Underground

Stay With Me

It lulls me and coos.  It strokes my heartbeat and calms my go.  It turns off messy noise and folds in the sound of the air vent and the distant airplane to whip up a symphonic lullaby.  This is the lingering sleepiness after I wake up that tries to suck me back in and miss the day, or at least the morning.

Like a forgotten lover, my shrugged off sleep whispers me longingly to touch it again.  “Don’t leave me,” it says as I try to move on.  “Come back to me,” desperately singing it’s song.  And after I stand and reach for my next, it bitters up and acts spurned.  That’s when it sends in its cousin to protect its honor; so fatigue wracks my shoulders.  My back needs a stretch and my joints feel so old.

Coffee.  You new and wonderful fling.  I want you to be my trophy-wife now.

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto: Taso de kafo. Français : Photo d’une tasse de caffé Español: Taza de café (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Photo by inturruptingcow

What’s Wrong? aka The Three Stooges of Depression

For many people who have never experienced major depression, it can be hard to understand why, on any given sun shine laden day, a person can be low and have no apparent reason to explain it.  Those who have experienced it will tell you, there’s no question more annoying, or that can turn the pain into a burning desire to rip someone’s head off, than this one: “Why are you sad?”  Even marginally intelligent people, when dealing with an actual tangible “something” that makes them emotional, can figure out a way to deal with it.  Asking questions like, “What happened that’s got you down?” to a major depressive is like asking a Harley owner if her bike is broke because it needs a new fan belt.

Just chalk it up to gang warfare in the brain.  As best I can tell from what I’ve read or been told, it’s like this.  There’s these three stooges on the molecular level who like to call themselves “The Monoamines.”  Individually they are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine*.    Serotonin is a sort of “trafficker,”  and deals with neurotransmitters in the brain to help move messages around.  When it gets low or doesn’t show up in force, messages don’t move like they should and symptoms can occur.  The other two fools are like enforcers, only in a positive way.  They don’t break your knee caps when you don’t pay up, they give you a high when you do.  That’s why some depressives turn into addicts – because drugs and alcohol can serve to boost these two clowns (at least for the short term).  If you prefer to see the movie rather than read the book, check this video out.

Video on this Brain Gang

So you would think that someone with major depression would want to take advantage of prescription drugs that help fix these brain wire wars.  Maybe save everyone else the mystery of being around them?  Some do.  Some have played that drug roulette and won with a solution that helps them.  But try and see it from my point of view.  Let’s say you just bought a shiny new sports car.  Imagine someone telling you they have done the research and had some trials and would like to use this new chemical to help keep it shiny when it rains.  This new batch of chemicals will not only keep it shiny when it rains, but it will keep off the dust and dirt when driving it regularly.  Are you skeptical?

You should be.  What are the unseen effects of this sludge that keeps your car looking so good?  What if it means that your car will lose its resale value in half the time it would have otherwise?  What if it looks great, but smells like a paper mill?  What if it looks great, smells just like a new car, but there is a very slight chance that you will encounter circumstances while cruising that cause the chemicals in this auto-pharmaceutical to explode, killing you and everyone around you?  Would you take that chance?

lambourgini

Never trust an MD to prescribe any kind of antidepressant.  I suspect many of them work for the sludge companies.  Either that, or they are just blissfully ignorant; Hippocrates be damned.  I once had an MD see me for under 10 minutes, ask me a few questions about the depression I reported experiencing, and prescribe me Effexor.  It was the 24 hour capsule and, although I feared taking drugs for my funk, I was desperate.  I waited until bedtime and downed the thing at 9pm that night.  I had the deepest, most disturbing sleep I’ve ever had … every two hours.  I dreamed of dark shapes, muggy, stale air, and reptile like movements.  I sat bolt-upright in a cold sweat every two hours on the dot.  I felt creepy-crawlies on my body and sensed evil demonic elements all around me.  I checked the clock each time, went into a brief panic-mode for fear I would not make it to the morning; then I convinced myself I preferred the dark tank of my dreams to the freakish alter-reality around my wakeful self.  I had to be driven to work and home the next day, and had to get help finishing sentences on a project I was on. The drug committed homicide on every thought I had before I could finish them.  It held me, a helpless hostage, until it finally wore off that evening at bedtime.

The sludge lackeys recommended I try a different sludge.  Trial and error no doubt.  No thanks.

There’s another, non-medical way to look at depression.  Spiritually, depression is quite easily explained as severe selfishness.  Don’t get flustered with me.  I’m not one of those religious ignoramuses that blame people for lack of faith or prayer when they are depressed. I know this explanation sounds shocking and insensitive. Americans especially don’t like that word.  Hmm.  Try and see it in a non-blame way – a kind of psychological diagnosis.  Because my experience is that it really applies.

Of course, don’t ever tell that to someone who might be dealing with depression unless you are just evil or cruel.  Instead, ask them for some help.  Seriously.  Be sensitive to their stripped-down exposure by putting yourself out there with them.  That’s the highest form of love.  And if you have no need of help in any way (talking about a struggle you have and asking them for advice, or help moving some things from one place to another, or help getting organized) … then do this.  Find a volunteer service project and tell them you need someone to go with you because you want to help, but feel awkward going alone.  It’s brainwave therapy for the mind.

The chemical mafia that controls moods can affect your thinking patterns.  We could argue the chicken-egg question – is it selfishness that causes depression or depression that causes selfishness? None of that is the point.  When you can’t own a gun because you are afraid you might use it on yourself one day – who the hell cares about the blame game?  Point is – doing things to help others and giving of your time helps shift thinking patterns and the types of things the brain focuses on.  This, in turn, helps adjust production of the three stooges and can improve mood.

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Flow (a childish tribute to e.e. cummings)

do i stay or do i go?
which to ebb and what to flow?
keep my life an even keel
charring what is left to feel?
make a move while in my prime
or should i live the life of crime?

what to do, which door to choose
quit the game, or win, or lose
tell a tale, or spin a lie
bite my tongue or have a cry
chip a tooth or break a bone
playing tag while all alone?
freak of nature, Heaven sent
doomed to picture memories bent
amusing no one
carrying a ton.

pity me, monster manunkind
not, i got only what i brought
sift through sobbing
stories bobbing
down memory lane
inside, insane
me.


 

I went looking for my favorite e.e. cummings poem and found this little blessing – Thanks to Mr. Jason McLaughlin for arranging it with my favorite instrument (aside from my mac):

Then there’s the actual artist – ee himself reciting his poem … click for more–>

 

Words (March 1999)

if words were like pennies i would truly be rich
for all the things i want to say to you
swarm my brain like pissed off bees defending their hive.

if words were ice i would truly be frozen
by all the icicles hanging in my skull
like dripping daggers painting to my heart.

is words were brush strokes on canvas i would be world reknown
for all the masterpieces i have created for you
in many hues of blue and blue and blue.

if words were clouds the world would die
smothered in the darkness my words keep me under
in my strain with the pain that lingers everywhere in me.

if words were bullets i would perish
in the prison of my love that cages me
while i aim at you and point the barrel at me.

if words were weeds i would pick up gardening
and pull them ’til my fingers bled and my hands stiffened
and my back broke and my body was covered in the earth

but they would keep growing.

in reality –
i am broke, warm, and of average artistic ability
i see the light most times
i am alive and i don’t care to week a garden
of my bitterness.

i feel –
rich with hurt, frozen from intimacy, a maestro of the pallet,
darkness surrounds me,
i am dead and can’t see it through vines of
betrayal that grip my legs
wrap around my neck
and swallow me whole.

if words were freedom I would truly be free.

[Blue grotto, Capri Island, Italy] (LOC)

Vernon Montel

He had so many visitors passes to retirement and assisted living homes he had to keep them organized in several index card boxes. He knew this obsession of his was strange and morbid, but something compelled him to go, each weekend or afternoon after he clocked out of his mundane job.  It had started as a tiny idea. After all, maybe this would form the body of work that would become THE BOOK that he always wanted to write before dying. The idea was a survey. He had always assumed that there was a large majority out there that wanted to write a book but never did before dying. But was this truth?

And then the troubling dilemma of how to find out. If he asked people in health, how would he keep track if they did or didn’t before they kicked the bucket? If he asked them in sickness, the problem still remained unless they died the next day. So he took to traveling.  He had already visited the places most useful to his purpose in his own county. One could easily spot him there, for while most people’s faces were troubled and streaked with tears or shadowed by sadness … His was the look of a tigress stalking her prey, hungry, mouth watering, eyes and nose already locked-on the wounded stragglers who graced every common area and room.

He didn’t find his Ninny Threadgoode and he was certainly no Evelyn Couch*.  His mission began as a curiosity, a nose-poking to see what was there.  He was kind and giving at first, because he was testing the waters.  But once he found his timing, his pace was set.  He took as much as he could get, and didn’t leave much in his wake.  And while most of his visits found his subjects dupable, one would-be target was not fooled by his facade of interest.

Vernon Montel was a veteran, a former construction contractor and mason.  He was not about to let this drab little putz walk away from his domain with nothing but meaningless numbers that would get lost in his nightstand drawer.

London 026 Parliament Visitor pass March 25 2013

London 026 Parliament Visitor pass March 25 2013 (Photo credit: David Holt London)