Posts tagged “regret

the unsent letter…again….

I wanted you to know that I love you.

I wanted you to know that I still love you.

I wanted you to know that, even with everything that has happened between us, and even not between us, but between those others who we loved or love, that I still love you.

I wanted you to know that there is a piece of my life that is missing because you aren’t a part of it like you used to be.

I wanted you to know that even when my words have been infrequent or nonexistent, my heart still speaks; it still loves you and misses you.

I wanted you to know that even when you’re gone, I will still love you.

I wanted you to know that I will still love you when I’m gone, whenever and however that might happen, or whatever that might mean.

I wanted you to know that even though you’re gone, I still love you.

I wanted you to know that I haven’t taken you for granted.

I wanted you to know that I haven’t been uninterested in you and your life just because I haven’t asked you questions about you and your life…I was giving you space.

I wanted you to know that the others still ask about you, still think about you, still wonder about you.

I wanted you to know that it’s not too late.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry that I wasn’t what you needed me to be when you needed me to be different than I was.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I didn’t grow or change fast enough to make the difference that you needed me to make.

I wanted you to know that I was there when you thought I wasn’t, but I didn’t know how to make myself more known to you.

I wanted you to know that my anger was really sadness…or shame, but I didn’t know how to express it as such.

I wanted you to know that when I seemed to be distant and unconcerned, I was really hiding inside myself because I was hurting, too.

I wanted you to know that I never meant to hurt you…even though it appears that I didn’t try hard enough in meaning to not hurt you.

I wanted you to know that there were times that I was selfish and wasn’t thinking about you and others, and I’m sorry for being that way.

I wanted you to know that I know the past cannot be undone and that some things cannot be fixed.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry that I hurt you when I did what I did.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry that I hurt you when I said what I said and wrote what I wrote.

I wanted you to know that I will understand if you can’t forgive me, if you don’t forgive me, if you won’t forgive me.

I wanted you to know that I still love you.

I wanted you to know that what you did to the others hurts me, too, and I don’t know what to do about it.

I wanted you to know that regardless of the decisions you made yesterday, or last week, or last month, or last year, I still love you.

I wanted you to know that regardless of the decisions you make right now, or tomorrow, I will still love you.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I didn’t protect you when I should have.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I didn’t speak-up for you when I should have.

I wanted you to know that I don’t expect you to be like everyone else; I love you for who you are.

I wanted you to know that I don’t like the distance that exists between us, the obstacles of time and place and not-talking and isolation that have grown like fences and rivers and mountains and dotted lines on maps…like boundaries that split and divide us.

I wanted you to know that I love you, still.

***This is a Favorite Re-post from May, 2010.

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faces on the wall….

The man sat in the dark and thought of the pictures on the wall and the eyes that looked out from their frozen images of faces and whatnot in the chemicals that held them in such places from their making until they left in some manner or other, moved to another wall, moved to another house, passed among the things that leave when he would leave on that unknown date and then.  The eyes that could bore through their selved-images into the eyes of the man who sat in the chair with heavy lids and pondered those things as night wound into itself and him and the sounds of day’s passing had become the creaking and yawning of the presence of its neighbor and twin, the one who exists on the other side of the thoughts of himself.

Picture frames glowing or reflecting the light that sneaks in through the windows from the posted light in the yard, that one thing that illuminates the darkened corners where what was present in the day has crawled into itself and themselves and exist only in shadow form or memory, but not sight, as they are hidden in the black and gray of their shadowed selves.  Those eyes accuse and remember in their fixed gazes and the man stares at the blank middles of the frames at what he knows is there but cannot see for the passed and past day and the dark inside the four edges covers but doesn’t hide the faces he knows.  Night doesn’t cover his heart and his wandering soul and it doesn’t relieve the ghosts that walk in his mind and in the fibers of the carpet and lay like a film inside the paint and wooded textures of stair railings and benches, those things that capture sounds and emotions as they are fleeing in their shouted births and deaths of echoes and remain.

Hollowed eyes and grins and thoughts and cheekbones and lips that lie in a stuck rictus, like painted and dead clowns and he doesn’t know who is inside, who is behind those portals of life and then, and he turns away and closes his eyes and hears the ringing in his ears as the cat talks not walks down the hall and a hidden beam somewhere in the wall creaks or sighs as the house wonders at the man in the chair in the dark, wonders at his thoughts and sitting there while others sleep and dream and think of nothing in the passing of the stars and moon in their circuits as the heater kicks on and whines through the vents and blows in its blowing and warmth of breath and stops with a shudder and how, as the man’s foot twitches as sleep tries to pull him deeper into the chair as his heart beats and beats and his eyes open at the cat’s passing and scratching on and of the one corner of the rug that has its frayed spot and spot as the eyes on the walls sleep in their openness and hide their thoughts in front of him as he looks away and remembers a younger self that fled a smile in furrowed brows and pursed lips of anger and rot, his eyes scorned and shaken and cast away and aside and down and away from any who would look.

He remembered the thick hand that smacked his mouth when his eyes were closed and thought the Divine was blind as the prayer was stuck in the swirl of ceiling paint as the black eyes bored into the smaller one’s eyes as his mouth throbbed and his heart ached and his mom sat at arm’s length away as her man’s hand smacked her child’s mouth and she kept her eyes closed as the sound echoed in her ears and she squeezed her eyes closed as she smelled the dinner cooling on the table in front of them and wondered how the paint could keep the prayer inside the ceiling as it rolled about and thinned against the summer air and finally withered and faded and was gone in the tears that rolled down his cheeks as hate breathes by itself in blank picture frames and white rocks cast along the way, tripping the travelers who dare not watch where they are walking, who are blind to the path and stumble in the dark footsteps that lumber ahead of them.

This is a Favorite Re-post from February, 2010.


As she lay sleeping

From one day…so many years ago….

“The sun’s light has faded and gone with its setting more than two hours ago.  The star of stars ended its daily cycle behind our valley’s western mountains as it has done every evening now for what must be the past several million years.  Now, left in the twilight created by the nearly concealed bathroom light around the corner from where I sit, my eyes perceive this bedroom-world in hues of light and dark.  Only gray, black, and lighter gray can be divined by my night-adjusted eyes.  In focusing upon the slowly closing eyes of my little loved-one, they disappear with my concentration, but if I look to either side, I can see them clearly, rather, as clearly as the suffused light will allow.  My baby’s purple dinosaur pajamas are only a darker gray than the blackened, navy sweat-shorts that I am wearing.  She is singing ‘I love you’ in her fifteen-month-old’s dialect as she fights the valiant efforts of the Sandman.  Holding her on my lap, I can smell the fragrance of her baby-shampooed hair, just as she, maybe, can smell the scent of ground weeds and back-yard vegetation that lingers on my hands as I caress her ever soft cheeks and jaw line.  The contest is finished, and that enchanter of sleep, Mr. Sandman, is victor yet again.  His wooings are too much for the protestations of my little one.  She has succumbed to the calling of sleep, where, hopefully, she will rest the night through – so that my bride and I can do the same.  Good night, Fair One.  Sleep well and know that you are loved.”

And from another….

“The Angel sleeps in the lighted room, peacefully unaware that the sun is as bright here as it was in the out-of-doors where she spent the afternoon playing.  Looking at her sleep, I am captured by the essence of a baby completely at rest.  The tiny curls at the back of her neck are slightly wet and somewhat darker than the rest of her not so long crowning glory.  Lying on her belly with the two middle fingers of her left hand motionless now, still from their suckling, she is oblivious to my presence and adoring eyes.  Her feet are bare, thanks to her own playfulness; you know she is proud that she removed the socks, smiling with her eyes almost closed to slits…she sleeps.  Tousled hair and tiny ears adorn her face and perfectly shaped head.  Her right arm is thrown forward and up where it rests on her favorite blanket; miniature lungs cause her little back to rise and fall with sustaining breath; sleep my Little One.  Rest safely for another day.  Sleep at your ease.  When she is gone, my chest will be empty where my heart now beats.  I never knew I could love like this.  I never cherished holding a tiny form as I do now when I hold her.  I was reborn too late.  My soul is miserable for not knowing how to love my own then, as I do her, now.  Those ticks of the clock have ceased even their echoing.  I hope they will forgive me.”

*****

This is a Favorite re-post from March, 2010.


Under the Cherry Trees

The man stood in the doorway for a moment before grabbing the elongated brass handle to open the door.  He was looking at the house to the west of his and noticed how the image of the lowering sun was about to touch the roofline.  The slate roof seemed to dip in the moment of the sun’s contact, causing the illusion that the weight of the sun was bearing down on the roof, or maybe the roof was molding itself to the shape of the sun to give it a more comfortable resting place at the end of its long day.  The sun was bright, of course, but softened somehow in the closer atmosphere and haze of industry and pollen and life that existed above the horizon’s curving line, so the man stood there with unshielded eyes and continued to watch the sun’s dip into and below the roof line.  He turned away and the golden glow remained in his eyes as he looked through the door’s glass to find his son.  It was time for dinner and the boy was somewhere outside.

The door handle lowered without a sound and the door swung open quietly as the man pushed against it and walked out onto the back patio of the house.  As he passed the mustard-colored and rectangular-shaped charcoal grill, he noticed that it still smelled of burnt sugar from the last time he barbequed ribs.  It had been a couple weeks or more, but the scent still lingered.  The man was barefoot and noticed, too, that the cement of the patio was still warm from the day’s sun, but the grass was cool as he stepped into it and began his search for his son.  The man turned to the left from the patio and looked into the back-yard proper, gazing at the rock-fronted embankments that supported the tiered lawn that rose from the yard up to the street that ran behind his house.  As he walked toward the front of the house that faced the town’s park, he craned his neck to look further into the yard to where the boy liked to play around the young, conical pine trees that resembled miniature Christmas trees when they were dusted or coated with December’s snow.

The evening was peaceful, now that the neighborhood kids had left the park and gone home or wherever after playing soccer for most of the afternoon.  Looking toward the east and over the hills that fronted that side of the town, the man noticed the swallows darting over the park for their evening feeding and play-time.  Overhead, the clouds were pink and orange and white and darkening gray with the falling sun and approaching night.  Further north, he could still see the white line of a plane’s contrail that was still intact even though the plane had been gone for hours…just the singular, lined cloud was left in its passing.  The man didn’t see his son anywhere, not in this side of the yard and not out in the park.  He thought about calling-out for him, but didn’t want to break the quiet by raising his voice or yelling.  Instead, he retraced his steps around the house, passed the back-door patio, and toward the other end of the yard, the side that fronted their street.  The man walked along the low hedge that separated his yard from the neighbor’s and then past the gooseberry bushes and toward the side of the house where he could peek around the corner to see if his son was playing under the cherry trees.  His step was quiet in the cool grass and the moss that grew thinly among the grass where he was, but was thicker under the trees.

Because the sun had completely lowered itself beneath the roofline of the neighbor’s house by now, there was no chance of the man’s son seeing his father’s shadow intrude into his quiet play.  When the man slowly moved his head around the corner, he saw that his son was sitting cross-legged, facing away from him, and leaning forward with his hands busy at some task.  The boy had his tan and green army-men positioned in loose rows and partially hidden in the moss, or situated behind various military vehicles and broken sticks from the trees above him.  He occasionally leaned back or to the right or left to straighten a fallen man or to move a truck closer to the grouped men, enacting some strategy or maneuver of protection or attack.  The boy even rolled a golf-ball or lightly tossed a shiny, black cherry in the direction of the men, imagining that they were rockets or some other projectile, sometimes knocking over one of the men or coming to rest next to or on top of one of the vehicles, and sometimes not.  With the impact of the cherries or golf ball, the boy made his eleven year-old’s version of a soft explosion…a hushed “pkshew!” that he thought only he could hear.

The man smiled to himself as he watched and listened to his son.  He saw the purplish-pink stains on the boy’s white t-shirt and imagined the cherry-fight that he had had with his friends earlier in the afternoon…the cherry-fight that he wasn’t supposed to have had.  As the man attempted to kneel down into the moss and grass next to the house, his shorts scraped on the prickly stucco finish on the house and startled his son.  The boy was in mid-reach across his battlefield and gasped and dropped one of his army men as he jerked and turned around to face his father.

The boy’s heart was pounding and his mouth was suddenly dry.  “I didn’t know you were there,” he said.  His mind was racing back through his day, wondering at what he might have done wrong, wondering what little or grand sin had been revealed and was now set to ruin what he thought was an otherwise good day, and wondering why, if he hadn’t done anything wrong, his father was there on the side of the yard looking for him…and getting ready to sit down like he was planning to stay for a while.

“Well, I wasn’t here for very long.  What are you doing?”

The boy tried to swallow.  “Just playing…Army.”

“Weren’t your friends out here earlier?”

“Yes Sir, but they had to leave.”

“Which friends were here?”

“When?”

“You said your friends were here earlier.  Which ones were here?”

The boy looked across the gravel and grass driveway and out into the park where the swallows were still darting around.  He saw a couple boys at the water fountain at the far side of the park.  “I…don’t know,” he stammered.  “I don’t remember.”

“But they were just here,” the man said, “who were they?  You’re not in trouble, Stephan, I’m just asking which friends were here.”

“Hansi and Martin.”

“Isn’t Hansi’s father the butcher?”

“I don’t know.  I think so…maybe.”

“Isn’t he one of those older boys that you were playing with in the spring and got into trouble with?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t remember,” the father said, “when you guys stole the bratwurst and then went off into the woods and cooked it?  You don’t remember that?”

“No Sir.”

“What?”

“Yes Sir…I…think I remember.”

“Wasn’t Hansi one of those older boys?”

The boys had moved from the water fountain and were now kicking a soccer ball out on the field at the park.  “I don’t know.”

The man sat down in the grass and moss and leaned against the house.  “Stephan…look at me.  You’re not in trouble…we’re just talking…ok?  You can answer me,” said the man.  “Look…here,” he said, pointing to his eyes.  “You’re ok.”

The boy turned his head from watching the boys with the soccer ball and met his father’s eyes.  He didn’t answer him immediately, but just looked at him.  This was unusual for him; the boy…he felt odd, bold somehow…maybe even brave.  His father’s manner and voice were unsettling.  There was none of the harshness or sarcasm that he was used to…and his eyes didn’t look angry.  It looked like his father was really just asking him a question…not investigating an offense.

“Augie’s father is the butcher,” said the boy, “but Hansi was part of the group that did that, yes Sir.”

“Is that Hansi out there playing soccer?”

The boy looked at the two other boys out on the field for a couple seconds and then turned again to his father.  “No Sir.  Hansi had to go home.  He said it was almost getting dark and he had to go in for dinner.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Why?”

“Why what?” said the man.

“Why’d you want to know if that’s Hansi out there playing soccer?”

“Nothing, Stephan.  I was just asking…nothing.  Relax, would you?  And stop calling me ‘Sir.’”

The boy looked at his father’s hands for a couple seconds and then moved up to meet his eyes.  The eyes were still dark brown and still set deep into his father’s head, but the prominent brow-ridge seemed less severe as his eye-brows were raised in a gentle and almost inquisitive arch.

“What?  Just call me ‘Dad’ now.  Say ‘Yes Dad,’ not ‘Yes Sir.’  That seems wrong somehow.”

“Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Can I ask you something and not get in trouble?”

“Yes…ask or say anything you want.”

The boy just looked at him.

“I’m serious…really…anything…you won’t get in trouble.”

“What happened to you in the wreck?  I know you broke a couple ribs, but what happened…you know…inside your head?  Mom said it went through the front window, right?”

The man looked at his son…intently, gently…and picked a tuft of moss from the ground.  He moved his eyes to the moss and then asked, “What do you mean, ‘What happened in my head?’”

“You’re not like you used to be,” said the boy, looking past his father, but still watching him, trying to sense if he was going too far.  “You’re different.”

“Almost dying in the wreck like that made me think about my life; it made me think about how I was treating people…how I treated you and your mom…and I decided that I needed to be different.”

The boy looked out into the park again.  He didn’t want his father to see the tears that were starting to spill from his eyes.  “Just like that…you ‘decided’ that you needed to be different?”

The man looked down and watched his fingers as they slowly tore the moss apart and let it drop back into the grass.  “I guess so.  When I was laying there in the hospital with my neck in that brace and my face all bandaged-up and tubes sticking out of my lungs, I thought about how lucky I was that my heart was still beating and that I wasn’t hurt as bad as I could have been considering what I had been through.  It almost seemed like I was being given a second chance or something, you know…somehow…maybe…to do things right…if that’s possible.”

The boy turned back and looked toward his father, not meeting his eyes exactly, but looking through him at some point directly behind his head.  “If you could just decide that you needed to be different when you were laying there in the hospital, why couldn’t you have decided a long time ago that you would be different…why didn’t you decide when I was a littler kid that you weren’t going to be so mean…that you could talk to me instead of hitting me, or that I could talk to you like you were just my dad and not some…kind…of…whatever you’ve been?”

“I don’t know, Stephan.  I guess it took me almost dying to realize how much I love you…I don’t know.”

“Oh.  Well, that’s when I figured out that I don’t love you,” said the boy, “when you were in the hospital almost dying.  I always thought I did, or wanted to, maybe.  I thought that if I loved you more you’d be nicer to me, but it didn’t work.  So when Mom told me that you might die, I was hoping you would, because I knew I wouldn’t have to try to love you anymore.  It would be ok that I didn’t…and now you’re not dead and I still don’t love you.”

The man turned his eyes to watch the neighbor drive past in his blue Saab.  He followed the car until it stopped at the water fountain by the corner of the park and then turned down the hill where it disappeared behind the Vivo store on the opposite corner.  Then he turned slightly in the other direction and watched the kids chasing each other and kicking the soccer ball for a few seconds.  Finally, he looked back at his son and said, “Wow…I don’t know what to do with that, Stephan.”

“I don’t either,” said the boy as he reached for one of his army men.

“I guess I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?  Give you a reason to love me?”

The boy pulled a handful of moss and began to gently tear it apart and lay the pieces across his army trucks, camouflaging them against the enemy that was lined-up behind the moss and grass berm that he had built close to the trunk of the nearest tree.  He then absently grabbed a cherry from the ground and slipped it into his mouth.  He bit down on the sweet flesh and then used his tongue to separate the seed as he slowly chewed and swallowed the tiny fruit.

“Stephan?  I said I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?”

“I don’t know.”

The man slowly stood and then leaned over to stretch his legs that had been folded under him while he sat and talked with his son.  He said “Ok,” and then turned to walk back around the corner of the house.  After a couple steps, he turned around and leaned down so he could see his son better under the cherry trees.  “You need to come in now.  The streetlights are coming on and it’s time to eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

The man raised his voice a little – “Stephan, I said you need to come in.”

“Yes Sir.”

*****

This is a Favorite re-post from May, 2010.


it rained again

It rained again in that place where memories are stored, where the synapses fire and storm and lay things waste and then they are gone again or whole again and the images and sounds and scents live in the memories where we laid them those years ago, where they got tucked away somehow and have been waiting, if memories can wait, for us to rekindle them to their cogent prescience, for us to make them live again. 

Those pictures lived, then, they were images and words wrought together with footsteps down hallways, belts rattling into their drawer at the end of the day, a rough hand on a cheek, the smell of gum and tobacco smoke, and the image of a big yellow car slowly easing itself into the driveway,Vitalis in his hair and the shuffle and hitch of the arm or hand into his waistband, keys and coins rattling and black-framed glasses surrounding the dark, sad eyes again…and the gift of a shiny red pocket knife…and after sand through the glass, a car in a time of need, a gesture, an attempt…what can I do?  Moments and years and two or three lifetimes and the breath stops and the cheeks are tucked into place with clay or toothpicks or whatever the embalmer uses, and a little smile lives and holds that rictus shape until the crematory’s fires take it away.  He was an old man early, and gone, limiting his life by wanting to live only so long, so that’s what he did, just for so long…testify, prophecy….  And I wonder what he really wanted, what he really desired and didn’t quite get.  What dream remained unfulfilled, what heights weren’t reached?  I don’t know.  I have tainted memories and the taste of ocher, but that was my experience…what was he to someone else, what was he to his friends, what redeemed him when nobody else was around, or when he was in some others’ eyes, and not mine?  What unconfessed sins tormented his soul, or what happiness lived there, even, beyond others’ eyes and mine?  I don’t know what made him happy, or sad, or what left him feeling empty, what defined loss for him, or love…what stranger did he long for, what living or dead person didn’t fill a void that he needed filling, what or whom did he mourn, or caused him to smile when nobody was watching?  Did he really believe in a god, did he really believe that he was going to live with a heavenly father when he died, that he would walk on streets of gold up there when his life was informed by asphalt and broken concrete…was that going to be his reward, really, did he actually believe that…did he have to turn off a part of his brain to do so, or did it just come naturally, did he like flowers or football, or what about weeds and wild grasses that grow along rushing mountain streams?  Did he love his father, or even know him…or forgive him…or sin against him and not forgive himself after all those years?  I don’t know…and at the end of it all, it’s for naught anyway, the deeds are done, the tears fallen, the regret swallowed and poisoned the body to the marrow, and maybe the only redeeming truth is that he didn’t know how to be what he was, didn’t know how to be what he wouldn’t have chosen to be, and he had no guide along the way to steer him out of the footsteps that had been laid before him….

And it rained again as the thoughts fired upon themselves as the fingers tapped the keys and as the neurons kicked themselves and rocked themselves and curled around their own shadows again and shot again into the void, into the primordial abyss of eternity that ranges in the wasted spaces between the fibers and strands of the cerebral mass. 

Why are you crying, Daddy?

*neuron activity photo found via google at www.darkgovernment.com


Yes, I Spoke of You

Yes, I spoke of you when the scratching of pen and the tapping of keys were my voice.  I called on our histories and the unborn worlds that became ours when we became what we did in the friendships of our time, the friendships of our time in the workaday part of our lives, the part of our singular and collective existences that formed when we joined in that common purpose of answering the call and sending help as we did and then.

I did speak of you as I recalled the image of you standing on the flight deck of your floating city and felt the peace of your First-Mover in the Pacific sunset, as I recounted the shaded and glimmering crystals sent from that wayfaring soul to your shared and beloved tree-hugging figure-skater, my noble mariner friend with a heart reaching ever outward from your chosen desert home toward that “known region where nature’s god kisses and nurtures its inhabitants with a clean respect and calmness and ease of simpler life amid the beauty that consoles an aching heart.” I spoke of you when I shared those thoughts of hope and dreams and inspiration and risk and the cost of pursuing those things that rile and soothe the heart and soul, when I weighed the future against the present and sought determination and resolve, those words echoed in my mind about seeking the success in those things, for nobody sets out on a venture to fail, you said, they strive and make things happen in as much as they are able.  Thank you, my friend.  I spoke of you….

I spoke of you, too, who guided me in my learning, and told me to just say “10-4” when six-thirty-four-king told me that he was “ten-seventeen to six-hundred for one-oh-five with a ten-forty-two and had ten-thirty-one to complete before going ten-seven…” or something like that.  “Roll Fire,” you said, “Do this, do that, stop thinking about what they said and just repeat it before I hit you with this parrot.  Check your messages, answer the phone, type and talk and don’t say that number again or I’ll smack you, you know I will, and yes, you heard him correctly, clear for his sergeant like he asked, get a dog and the air-craft and send a message to the Radio supervisor and quit thinking, you do fine when you just do….”  And, god, did I ever tell you “thank you?”  Did I ever thank you for your mentoring that allowed me to achieve and advance and reflect again on life and responsibility and accountability for self and others?  Did I ever tell you how you were there for me in the dark night of my soul, those rough days and long weeks of wondering and how?  Thank you, dear friend, from my beating heart to yours.

We were and are members of a menagerie of faces and eyes and paths walked together and then, as we sat for hours and became part of each other’s existences, our forevers.  Our friendship spilled-over one day, yours and mine, in the sharing of words, the sharing of a sentiment from an unexpected source.  I looked at you in your hazel eyes and wondered at the depth of your question on that August day, those months and months after the changing of courses in your life and mine and others, too, our babies in a same and similar place with one left behind…and I wondered at the depth of your question, I did, when you said, “But how are You?”  I was touched then as I am now, again.  That was the drop that pushed this over.  That was the day that I looked at you anew.  Please thank your mom, again, my friend, for those Christmas cookies…and cheesecake…and you.  Yes, I spoke of you.

And you, too, with the blueberry muffins on a Saturday morning in a frightening time where peace was found in words and phrases and reflections and then, I spoke of you.

I saw the end of a particular time drawing nigh and wondered why, in this passing life, that our various paths didn’t cross and intertwine outside of our workplace, why life was so busy and busy and we remained contextual friends.  We never walked the back-nine together, never had that soda together on a Thursday afternoon that was the only afternoon in our uncommon weekend days, never traded mock and practiced blows in a dojo on your side of town, or met for coffee or pasta at your favorite north-side café…we never herded our collective mass of kids to a playground or park and watched the birds dart and dive in the light of the waning sun, never sat in our favorite bookstore over a cup of Joe, and never took the city’s train together to the museum or ballpark or…we remained as we were in the confines of our own gothic and cinder-blocked fortress of a workplace and laughed as we would laugh, poked fun and commiserated, and mourned our collective and individual losses that mounted in the passing years.  There were rare hugs and frequent jabs, smiling barbs hurled with gentle hands and eyes that earnestly watched to make sure they weren’t too rough.

And time has passed as it does and will and we come to these moments that are fewer in number and falling down…and what didn’t happen didn’t and won’t, and distance will grow between us and our laughter will resound in our memories only, and sometimes they will be cut short by tightened throats and misty eyes and we will wonder at ourselves and each other and the falling sand.  We will wonder how we might cherish the remaining moments so they will be sweeter in their detail in the tomorrow of our tomorrows where they will linger like a sweet perfume that is heady and strong in the first reckoning and then fails with the continued ticking of the clock…like a passion, hard and urgent, that wanes with a changing thought or an unexpected breeze.

I spoke of you, my preacher friend, when I wondered at the purpose of friendship, when I marveled at your tender father-soul and felt my own heart breaking in vicarious love for your grown baby who is fleeing in time with the clock’s wind, up and away from you.  I cheered and cried for you and your quivering chin when you thought nobody was watching, and I relished in the magic of words and inspiration.  I spoke of you when I understood that we are friends only because we are, and our spirits are made deeper by that connection and then, by that fibrous reaching across time and space and experience and lived lives and we are not so different and we are…as your gentle heart chastens and encourages me.

And I spoke of you on that November Sunday morning when “I was just sitting there reading something on the computer or studying the board to make the proper chess move and a friend walked in and gave me a Bavarian crème donut…and the smell was rich and beyond my morning grasp of words…rich sugary and warm with chocolate icing and then…wrapped in waxed paper and held with simple paper towels from the work kitchen dispenser…and it was so simple…so real…an emotion and a donut.” Those other moments we shared in heated conversation about things being right and not, about how contradictions flow with an inordinate ease in bureaucracies of might, and how one person gets something that another person can’t get and we have to be careful in our caring and our pressing that might go too far and your gentle innocence and quaking heart compelled me in new directions, caused different words to be uttered up a chain and out into the ether where they were wasted and gone and consoled nobody…and I tried…and spoke of you on a Sunday morning.

I spoke of you when sparked and fiery brands fell from the covered sky onto your tormented soul and the barbs sunk deep and your misery was wrought in twisted words from angered minds.  My heart stumbled in memories of vermillion pathways and sought solace and strength in those hedges and byways.  I spoke of you when I uttered that “Visible or imagined circumstances are mated with ill-conceived thoughts and a new ‘truth’ is born.  It breathes with a life of its own, spread and passed-along as righteousness…contextual and circumstantial truths that reek in filth and deception until they are discovered and ripped apart with the knife of examination, eviscerated under the light of explanation and detail…but the damage is still done, the seed was planted and doubt has grown, sprouted and is thriving in another life with its germinal droppings carried by the wind of conversation and whispered in hushed tones of ‘Have you heard?’” So, I thought of you when I found the regal words from an uncivil time about how we forget the words of our enemies and remember the silence of our friends…so I spoke for you.  And I wonder what glorious shades and rainbow hues will show forth on your wings as they unfurl from your chrysalis-like hideaway?  What new spirit lives with resolve and unconcern for those dropping barbs and stumbling blocks of chatter and sway?

And now I speak of you, of one and all, named here or not, and reflect upon our unchangeable past and unknown futures, the beating of our hearts that separate and move in different directions now that things are done.  I embrace you in my heart of hearts and thank you for enabling all of those other worlds to be born in mine, those multiple universes of thought and emotion that only came with your bidding, that only came with your bringing them to exist within me and the lives that we have shared.  These words are few, yet weighted with a love and emotion that knows no name other than “friendship,” and I thank you for who and what you’ve been to me in our times passed and passing.


Violent Night, Holy Night

It’s not that sacred December season, but I could not help but make the connection with all the mayhem that is and has befallen our city in the last evening and early morning hours.  I realize this is another somber and distressing post, but I think my cup is full and the meniscus of sadness is about to overflow, as its already feeble boundary or edge of fragile instability sways and quakes in the beating of my heart and tightness in my throat.

I sat there with my headset on and waited for what might come through the phone and happened to look up at the clock and noticed that it was 9:06 a.m. on our Sunday morning at work.  In our police radio talk, in our city anyway, “9-0-6” means that we are to send help quickly.  When we hear it on the radio, we know someone is either getting their ass kicked or they are about to.  It’s not as bad as “9-9-9,” but it means that there is serious trouble and the officer needs help right now, this instant, this moment, immediately…a second ago, please.  It’s appropriate now, I think.  We need help.  Or maybe it’s just me.

I could not help but be affected by my dispatcher’s quivering chin as she fought back the tears after working a suicide call that involved an officer from a neighboring city.  “It’s so sad,” this little one said, as she voiced her distress and concern at what might have been so bad in the guy’s life that he wanted to end it all as he did.  He had left a note at his computer on the desk in his office, giving his wife very specific instructions as to what she should do.  He told her to call 9-1-1 and then take their daughter out front to wait for the police.  She called us and said that she found the note and was scared to search the house for him or to go into the garage.  She didn’t want to find his body.  My dispatcher entered the responding officers’ radio traffic into the call, typing a narrative of what the on-scene officers said, noting the officers’ identifying call-sign, and then what they said.  The Air Unit was overhead and did a search of the property after patrol units had arrived and checked the inside of the house.  The sergeant said to keep the wife and child out front and to block off the road from passing traffic.  The Air Unit’s observer then told the officers standing with the wife to turn-down their radios so she wouldn’t hear what he had to say.  He then told the dispatcher and the other listening units, and me, that the officer was sitting on the swing in the northeast corner of his back yard.  He said that it looked like a gun lying on the ground by the man’s left foot and it appeared that he had shot himself.  The observer said that the guy wasn’t moving and then told us to stand-by; he was going to get lower and check to make sure.  A couple seconds later, the Air Unit observer told us that the man was definitely shot.  The patrol supervisor told the units to secure the dog in the backyard, and then to secure the handgun and to roll Fire.  We don’t leave officers dead in their backyards for hours while we investigate what happened.  Roll Fire – get the guy to a hospital, away from the house, from the family, from the swing-set in the backyard. 

I wonder what that means, the symbolism in the man taking his life on his six year-old daughter’s swing-set in her backyard?  Does it mean anything or nothing?  The possibilities of freighted meanings are too much to contemplate.

My dispatcher’s eyes were sad and her voice was calm as she said thank-you as I got her a relief to sit there as she went down the hall for a few minutes after she finished the call.  She was back on the radio then, half an hour or so later, and was giving the details of another hot call she was working with a hit-and-run accident victim who was chasing or following the suspect vehicle as it left the scene.  She’s ok.  She handled everything fine.  She copied and repeated what the officers told her and she got it all typed into the call.

And so we go on.  “9-1-1, Where is the emergency?”

This was only the second “serious” call of the morning.  An hour earlier someone called to tell us that there was a dead transient in our city’s downtown “Heritage Square.”  Another hour or so later, a son called to report that he found his 70 year-old father cold and blue in his bed on the west side of town.  Another couple hours later, an off-duty fire-fighter and paramedic called to tell us that he found a deceased transient lying against the back wall of a dollar-store on the city’s south side.  And almost finally, just before the end of shift, a young man called to tell us that he was hiking at one of the city’s mountain parks and found what appeared to be a 55 year-old man who had been shot in the chest…just laying there in the middle of the hiking path.  Officers responded quickly with their lights and sirens and did, indeed, find the man lying there…and with a gun nearby.  As I was about to step off the pod at the very end of my work-day, I noticed a message on my computer’s screen notifying me of another injured-person call…a two year-old was found floating in the family’s pool.  The message had been there for a minute or two, so by the time I looked at it, the operator had added a couple more lines to the call.  The last line said that the baby was awake and responsive…crying.  “Code-4, clear it.”

And I’m 10-7, goodnight.

No TV tonight…no cop-shows…no news…and hopefully, no dreams about work….


Under the Cherry Trees

The man stood in the doorway for a moment before grabbing the elongated brass handle to open the door.  He was looking at the house to the west of his and noticed how the image of the lowering sun was about to touch the roofline.  The slate roof seemed to dip in the moment of the sun’s contact, causing the illusion that the weight of the sun was bearing down on the roof, or maybe the roof was molding itself to the shape of the sun to give it a more comfortable resting place at the end of its long day.  The sun was bright, of course, but softened somehow in the closer atmosphere and haze of industry and pollen and life that existed above the horizon’s curving line, so the man stood there with unshielded eyes and continued to watch the sun’s dip into and below the roof line.  He turned away and the golden glow remained in his eyes as he looked through the door’s glass to find his son.  It was time for dinner and the boy was somewhere outside.

The door handle lowered without a sound and the door swung open quietly as the man pushed against it and walked out onto the back patio of the house.  As he passed the mustard-colored and rectangular-shaped charcoal grill, he noticed that it still smelled of burnt sugar from the last time he barbequed ribs.  It had been a couple weeks or more, but the scent still lingered.  The man was barefoot and noticed, too, that the cement of the patio was still warm from the day’s sun, but the grass was cool as he stepped into it and began his search for his son.  The man turned to the left from the patio and looked into the back-yard proper, gazing at the rock-fronted embankments that supported the tiered lawn that rose from the yard up to the street that ran behind his house.  As he walked toward the front of the house that faced the town’s park, he craned his neck to look further into the yard to where the boy liked to play around the young, conical pine trees that resembled miniature Christmas trees when they were dusted or coated with December’s snow.

The evening was peaceful, now that the neighborhood kids had left the park and gone home or wherever after playing soccer for most of the afternoon.  Looking toward the east and over the hills that fronted that side of the town, the man noticed the swallows darting over the park for their evening feeding and play-time.  Overhead, the clouds were pink and orange and white and darkening gray with the falling sun and approaching night.  Further north, he could still see the white line of a plane’s contrail that was still intact even though the plane had been gone for hours…just the singular, lined cloud was left in its passing.  The man didn’t see his son anywhere, not in this side of the yard and not out in the park.  He thought about calling-out for him, but didn’t want to break the quiet by raising his voice or yelling.  Instead, he retraced his steps around the house, passed the back-door patio, and toward the other end of the yard, the side that fronted their street.  The man walked along the low hedge that separated his yard from the neighbor’s and then past the gooseberry bushes and toward the side of the house where he could peek around the corner to see if his son was playing under the cherry trees.  His step was quiet in the cool grass and the moss that grew thinly among the grass where he was, but was thicker under the trees.

Because the sun had completely lowered itself beneath the roofline of the neighbor’s house by now, there was no chance of the man’s son seeing his father’s shadow intrude into his quiet play.  When the man slowly moved his head around the corner, he saw that his son was sitting cross-legged, facing away from him, and leaning forward with his hands busy at some task.  The boy had his tan and green army-men positioned in loose rows and partially hidden in the moss, or situated behind various military vehicles and broken sticks from the trees above him.  He occasionally leaned back or to the right or left to straighten a fallen man or to move a truck closer to the grouped men, enacting some strategy or maneuver of protection or attack.  The boy even rolled a golf-ball or lightly tossed a shiny, black cherry in the direction of the men, imagining that they were rockets or some other projectile, sometimes knocking over one of the men or coming to rest next to or on top of one of the vehicles, and sometimes not.  With the impact of the cherries or golf ball, the boy made his eleven year-old’s version of a soft explosion…a hushed “pkshew!” that he thought only he could hear.

The man smiled to himself as he watched and listened to his son.  He saw the purplish-pink stains on the boy’s white t-shirt and imagined the cherry-fight that he had had with his friends earlier in the afternoon…the cherry-fight that he wasn’t supposed to have had.  As the man attempted to kneel down into the moss and grass next to the house, his shorts scraped on the prickly stucco finish on the house and startled his son.  The boy was in mid-reach across his battlefield and gasped and dropped one of his army men as he jerked and turned around to face his father.

The boy’s heart was pounding and his mouth was suddenly dry.  “I didn’t know you were there,” he said.  His mind was racing back through his day, wondering at what he might have done wrong, wondering what little or grand sin had been revealed and was now set to ruin what he thought was an otherwise good day, and wondering why, if he hadn’t done anything wrong, his father was there on the side of the yard looking for him…and getting ready to sit down like he was planning to stay for a while.

“Well, I wasn’t here for very long.  What are you doing?”

The boy tried to swallow.  “Just playing…Army.”

“Weren’t your friends out here earlier?”

“Yes Sir, but they had to leave.”

“Which friends were here?”

“When?”

“You said your friends were here earlier.  Which ones were here?”

The boy looked across the gravel and grass driveway and out into the park where the swallows were still darting around.  He saw a couple boys at the water fountain at the far side of the park.  “I…don’t know,” he stammered.  “I don’t remember.”

“But they were just here,” the man said, “who were they?  You’re not in trouble, Stephan, I’m just asking which friends were here.”

“Hansi and Martin.”

“Isn’t Hansi’s father the butcher?”

“I don’t know.  I think so…maybe.”

“Isn’t he one of those older boys that you were playing with in the spring and got into trouble with?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t remember,” the father said, “when you guys stole the bratwurst and then went off into the woods and cooked it?  You don’t remember that?”

“No Sir.”

“What?”

“Yes Sir…I…think I remember.”

“Wasn’t Hansi one of those older boys?”

The boys had moved from the water fountain and were now kicking a soccer ball out on the field at the park.  “I don’t know.”

The man sat down in the grass and moss and leaned against the house.  “Stephan…look at me.  You’re not in trouble…we’re just talking…ok?  You can answer me,” said the man.  “Look…here,” he said, pointing to his eyes.  “You’re ok.”

The boy turned his head from watching the boys with the soccer ball and met his father’s eyes.  He didn’t answer him immediately, but just looked at him.  This was unusual for him; the boy…he felt odd, bold somehow…maybe even brave.  His father’s manner and voice were unsettling.  There was none of the harshness or sarcasm that he was used to…and his eyes didn’t look angry.  It looked like his father was really just asking him a question…not investigating an offense.

“Augie’s father is the butcher,” said the boy, “but Hansi was part of the group that did that, yes Sir.”

“Is that Hansi out there playing soccer?”

The boy looked at the two other boys out on the field for a couple seconds and then turned again to his father.  “No Sir.  Hansi had to go home.  He said it was almost getting dark and he had to go in for dinner.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Why?”

“Why what?” said the man.

“Why’d you want to know if that’s Hansi out there playing soccer?”

“Nothing, Stephan.  I was just asking…nothing.  Relax, would you?  And stop calling me ‘Sir.’”

The boy looked at his father’s hands for a couple seconds and then moved up to meet his eyes.  The eyes were still dark brown and still set deep into his father’s head, but the prominent brow-ridge seemed less severe as his eye-brows were raised in a gentle and almost inquisitive arch.

“What?  Just call me ‘Dad’ now.  Say ‘Yes Dad,’ not ‘Yes Sir.’  That seems wrong somehow.”

“Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Can I ask you something and not get in trouble?”

“Yes…ask or say anything you want.”

The boy just looked at him.

“I’m serious…really…anything…you won’t get in trouble.”

“What happened to you in the wreck?  I know you broke a couple ribs, but what happened…you know…inside your head?  Mom said it went through the front window, right?”

The man looked at his son…intently, gently…and picked a tuft of moss from the ground.  He moved his eyes to the moss and then asked, “What do you mean, ‘What happened in my head?’”

“You’re not like you used to be,” said the boy, looking past his father, but still watching him, trying to sense if he was going too far.  “You’re different.”

“Almost dying in the wreck like that made me think about my life; it made me think about how I was treating people…how I treated you and your mom…and I decided that I needed to be different.”

The boy looked out into the park again.  He didn’t want his father to see the tears that were starting to spill from his eyes.  “Just like that…you ‘decided’ that you needed to be different?”

The man looked down and watched his fingers as they slowly tore the moss apart and let it drop back into the grass.  “I guess so.  When I was laying there in the hospital with my neck in that brace and my face all bandaged-up and tubes sticking out of my lungs, I thought about how lucky I was that my heart was still beating and that I wasn’t hurt as bad as I could have been considering what I had been through.  It almost seemed like I was being given a second chance or something, you know…somehow…maybe…to do things right…if that’s possible.”

The boy turned back and looked toward his father, not meeting his eyes exactly, but looking through him at some point directly behind his head.  “If you could just decide that you needed to be different when you were laying there in the hospital, why couldn’t you have decided a long time ago that you would be different…why didn’t you decide when I was a littler kid that you weren’t going to be so mean…that you could talk to me instead of hitting me, or that I could talk to you like you were just my dad and not some…kind…of…whatever you’ve been?”

“I don’t know, Stephan.  I guess it took me almost dying to realize how much I love you…I don’t know.”

“Oh.  Well, that’s when I figured out that I don’t love you,” said the boy, “when you were in the hospital almost dying.  I always thought I did, or wanted to, maybe.  I thought that if I loved you more you’d be nicer to me, but it didn’t work.  So when Mom told me that you might die, I was hoping you would, because I knew I wouldn’t have to try to love you anymore.  It would be ok that I didn’t…and now you’re not dead and I still don’t love you.”

The man turned his eyes to watch the neighbor drive past in his blue Saab.  He followed the car until it stopped at the water fountain by the corner of the park and then turned down the hill where it disappeared behind the Vivo store on the opposite corner.  Then he turned slightly in the other direction and watched the kids chasing each other and kicking the soccer ball for a few seconds.  Finally, he looked back at his son and said, “Wow…I don’t know what to do with that, Stephan.”

“I don’t either,” said the boy as he reached for one of his army men.

“I guess I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?  Give you a reason to love me?”

The boy pulled a handful of moss and began to gently tear it apart and lay the pieces across his army trucks, camouflaging them against the enemy that was lined-up behind the moss and grass berm that he had built close to the trunk of the nearest tree.  He then absently grabbed a cherry from the ground and slipped it into his mouth.  He bit down on the sweet flesh and then used his tongue to separate the seed as he slowly chewed and swallowed the tiny fruit.

“Stephan?  I said I’ll have to work on that, won’t I?”

“I don’t know.”

The man slowly stood and then leaned over to stretch his legs that had been folded under him while he sat and talked with his son.  He said “Ok,” and then turned to walk back around the corner of the house.  After a couple steps, he turned around and leaned down so he could see his son better under the cherry trees.  “You need to come in now.  The streetlights are coming on and it’s time to eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

The man raised his voice a little – “Stephan, I said you need to come in.”

“Yes Sir.”


The Unsent Letter

I wanted you to know that I love you.

I wanted you to know that I still love you.

I wanted you to know that, even with everything that has happened between us, and even not between us, but between those others who we loved or love, that I still love you.

I wanted you to know that there is a piece of my life that is missing because you aren’t a part of it like you used to be.

I wanted you to know that even when my words have been infrequent or nonexistent, my heart still speaks; it still loves you and misses you.

I wanted you to know that even when you’re gone, I will still love you.

I wanted you to know that I will still love you when I’m gone, whenever and however that might happen, or whatever that might mean.

I wanted you to know that even though you’re gone, I still love you.

I wanted you to know that I haven’t taken you for granted.

I wanted you to know that I haven’t been uninterested in you and your life just because I haven’t asked you questions about you and your life…I was giving you space.

I wanted you to know that the others still ask about you, still think about you, still wonder about you.

I wanted you to know that it’s not too late.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry that I wasn’t what you needed me to be when you needed me to be different than I was.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I didn’t grow or change fast enough to make the difference that you needed me to make.

I wanted you to know that I was there when you thought I wasn’t, but I didn’t know how to make myself more known to you.

I wanted you to know that my anger was really sadness…or shame, but I didn’t know how to express it as such.

I wanted you to know that when I seemed to be distant and unconcerned, I was really hiding inside myself because I was hurting, too.

I wanted you to know that I never meant to hurt you…even though it appears that I didn’t try hard enough in meaning to not hurt you.

I wanted you to know that there were times that I was selfish and wasn’t thinking about you and others, and I’m sorry for being that way.

I wanted you to know that I know the past cannot be undone and that some things cannot be fixed.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry that I hurt you when I did what I did.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry that I hurt you when I said what I said and wrote what I wrote.

I wanted you to know that I will understand if you can’t forgive me, if you don’t forgive me, if you won’t forgive me.

I wanted you to know that I still love you.

I wanted you to know that what you did to the others hurts me, too, and I don’t know what to do about it.

I wanted you to know that regardless of the decisions you made yesterday, or last week, or last month, or last year, I still love you.

I wanted you to know that regardless of the decisions you make right now, or tomorrow, I will still love you.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I didn’t protect you when I should have.

I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I didn’t speak-up for you when I should have.

I wanted you to know that I don’t expect you to be like everyone else; I love you for who you are.

I wanted you to know that I don’t like the distance that exists between us, the obstacles of time and place and not-talking and isolation that have grown like fences and rivers and mountains and dotted lines on maps…like boundaries that split and divide us.

I wanted you to know that I love you, still.


As she lay sleeping

The Angel sleeps in the lighted room, peacefully unaware that the sun is as bright here as it was in the out-of-doors where she spent the afternoon playing.  Looking at her sleep, I am captured by the essence of a baby completely at rest.  The tiny curls at the back of her neck are slightly wet and somewhat darker than the rest of her not so long crowning glory.  Lying on her belly with the two middle fingers of her left hand motionless now, still from their suckling, she is oblivious to my presence and adoring eyes.  Her feet are bare, thanks to her own playfulness; you know she is proud that she removed the socks, smiling with her eyes almost closed to slits…she sleeps.  Tousled hair and tiny ears adorn her face and perfectly shaped head.  Her right arm is thrown forward and up where it rests on her favorite blanket; miniature lungs cause her little back to rise and fall with sustaining breath; sleep my Little One.  Rest safely for another day.  Sleep at your ease.  When she is gone, my chest will be empty where my heart now beats.  I never knew I could love like this.  I never cherished holding a tiny form as I do now when I hold her.  I was reborn too late.  My soul is miserable for not knowing how to love my own then, as I do her, now.  Those ticks of the clock have ceased even their echoing.  I hope they will forgive me.

The sun’s light has faded and gone with its setting more than two hours ago.  The star of stars ended its daily cycle behind our valley’s western mountains as it has done every evening now for what must be the past several million years.  Now, left in the twilight created by the nearly concealed bathroom light around the corner from where I sit, my eyes perceive this bedroom-world in hues of light and dark.  Only gray, black, and lighter gray can be divined by my night-adjusted eyes.  In focusing upon the slowly closing eyes of my little loved-one, they disappear with my concentration, but if I look to either side, I can see them clearly, rather, as clearly as the suffused light will allow.  My baby’s purple dinosaur pajamas are only a darker gray than the blackened, navy sweat-shorts that I am wearing.  ‘I love you’ is being sung in her fifteen-month-old’s dialect as she fights the valiant efforts of the Sandman.  Holding her on my lap, I can smell the fragrance of her baby-shampooed hair, just as she, maybe, can smell the scent of ground weeds and back-yard vegetation that lingers on my hands as I caress her ever soft cheeks and jaw line.  The contest is finished, and that enchanter of sleep, Mr. Sandman, is victor yet again.  His wooings are too much for the protestations of my little one.  She has succumbed to the calling of sleep, where, hopefully, she will rest the night through – so that my bride and I can do the same.  Good night, Fair One.  Sleep well and know that you are loved.