Me, When I Was Young
Before we could retreat to the coveted safety of easy-chair
routines, we found ourselves tending to needs that took us by the
throat. Windows were left open during a storm that formed
with no warning. The candles have all melted down to one side.
Our shielded corners have been torn to shreds. Cleverly phrased
t-shirts turned inside out. Mattresses left out on the sidewalk,
stained and soaking, exposing dirty secrets to pedestrian observations.
The score took matters into its own hands. Settling itself on
terms that darken the eyes of seasick representatives. Losing
battles bleeding into frightened agreements. Negligent
understandings drawn to mistaken identities. Formal arrangements
thrown overboard in an attempt to cleanse the decks of tainted
cargo. Casual mishaps of monumental proportions going down
on every level.
They raided the commissary and came up with a lethal inventory
of poorly sealed canned confections. They scoured the logs
for hints of clandestine stops in unfriendly ports. They
raised the sails to test the truth of their fiber. They
paid off their informants in bankrupt futures. Wasted time and wasted
souls...all for a worthless stash of borderline contraband
that, if one were to measure carefully, might approach amounting
to a hill of beans.
Sign up for another hitch. Either that or deal with the
exhausting effort of unpacking your gear and landing a decent
job inland. Stories drift along the weathered docks of
unkind conditions waiting on the other side. Stilling the
hearts in many a muscled chest. Things are not as you left
them. Your best gal ran off with a traveling salesman.
And the cemetery was dug up to make room for climate-controlled
office space...now a ghost town with tilting 'For Rent' signs
and rusting machinery. The factory has long gone silent.
Needless to say, the demand for your particular set of
attributes is not exactly booming.
Morning spills into day. Day spills into night. Life
spills into nothing.
The lamp that lit so many a happy homecoming has gone dark...
creaking in the damp evening air, along with your aging bones.
You've arrived in a place you once commanded with your presence to
discover empty relics and forgotten allegiances. You've found
that time does not remember. It doesn't even make a minor
allowance for great deeds done in its honor. It just crosses
the street when it sees you coming, to avoid the unpleasant
task of passing you by.
Muttering to yourself. Pouring your sanity into the harbor.
Grabbing the first person who gets close enough. Recognize me?
Look into my eyes. How about this profile? Remember the time
we threw our wishes into the sky?
Everything was possible so many years ago. We held the Universe
between our fingers. We danced with abandon. We whistled tunes
that were never written. We set out to find the edge of the
world. We returned to someone else's parade.
They invented loneliness to ease the pain of being alone.
They invented sorrow to light the hollowed-out path of
rotten love and terrible fortune. Good ideas gone astray.
Big plans fallen to pieces. Finding yourself at the center
of a tattered landscape, holding the crumpled brochure that
filled your eyes with possibility and then sent you packing
with bad directions. Transmitting distress signals to
broken receivers. Resolving yourself to holiday dinners
on a wobbly end stool before the wiped-down counter of a 24-hour diner.
The warmth of a neon sign beside an empty highway. The
friendly sound of an old song. The smile that forms with
the taste of tears. A faded photograph taped to the rearview
mirror. The strength that keeps you moving forward...into
the unforgiving depths of the road ahead.
~ ~ ~
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