All the Way to Mexico

rear-view-mirrorWe drove down from Maine. Just hopped in the car and hit the interstate, spur of the moment. Headed south. It was mid-winter and the snow was falling down in sheets as we drove. The car stereo played 90s on 9, one of the perks of having XM radio, and we pretended it was 20 years ago, Melinda and me. We rocked out to Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning” as the mile markers blew past in a blur.

“Where are we even going?” I asked over the noise of the car and the song.

“All the way to Mexico,” she replied without looking over.

“But I don’t have my passport,” I said, like a kid who doesn’t want to eat his spinach.

“Neither do I,” said Melinda, laughing.

“So how are we going to make it into Mexico?” I asked, confused.

“We’re not,” she answered with a twinkle in her eye.

And the conversation was closed, like what usually happened with her. She was spontaneous and exciting, but when she didn’t want to continue a discussion it died a quick death, stinking like sulfur when it was done. The road stretched out behind us for miles while ahead was a mystery wrapped in 90s nostalgia and blank space. Melinda hummed as she drove further into it.

The landscape changed from white to gray as we kept heading south, and night fell like a curtain in the distance. We seemed to be getting closer to Mexico with every rotation of the car’s wheels, but what that really meant eluded me. Melinda’s white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel reminded me that she hadn’t been the same since Leah left, not as sure of herself as she used to be.

“You know it wasn’t your fault,” I told her while we drove through Tennessee in the early morning hours on the second day.

“That doesn’t make it any easier,” she said in a voice barely above a whisper.

“And it shouldn’t. She’s still gone, but you can’t go on blaming yourself,” I insisted.

In the background Shanice was singing “Smile” even though neither of us had that expression on our faces. Instead it was like we had just fought a war and were reluctant winners. The silence between us had the finality of a dirge and the weight of five years behind it. That night we slept in the same motel room but in separate beds as we had done before, but in the middle of the night I heard the sound of wracking sobs across the empty space. Instead of ignoring them to preserve her dignity I got up and crawled under her covers. We fashioned ourselves into a seamless spoon with no words, and I awoke alone in her bed.

Then it was back on the road with no discussion of the night before. That was her way. It had become our way, and I found some solace in the familiarity of it all. And I noticed there was something different about the mood in the car, that it was somehow lighter than it had been the previous two days. While Young MC rapped about busting a move I tried to place my finger on it, but it still didn’t hit me until I saw the next road sign.

“Hold up. We’re going north again,” I told my mercurial driver, astonished at our trajectory.

“I know,” she replied, eyes firmly fixed on the road.

“But we’ll never get to Mexico,” I almost said, but it hit me before I opened my mouth. The trip had never been about Mexico at all. Maybe it just took a change of scenery for her to really open up in a way she never would have if we had stayed in Maine.

All the way to Mexico indeed, I thought, as Depeche Mode told me to “Enjoy the Silence.” And I did.

Sam

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YoVille

yoville-1
My first stop in YoVille.

Did you know I used to be a billionaire, amassing a massive fortune in a short amount of time, staying up until all hours of the night to do so, and at the same time forging a series of connections with other billionaires that helped us all get even richer? And I did it all from the comfort of my own desk chair.

I used to play YoVille all day every day. Back in 2009 that was my world more than this world was. Indeed, the first thing I did every morning was sign into Facebook so I could open my YoStore or go into a YoAuction House, even though my time was limited. Then it was off to real work, but I would be thinking all day about what was going on in YoVille without me. As soon as I got back home I would log back in and operate my YoVille avatar until deep into the night, way past the time I was supposed to be asleep.

I lived in a haze back then brought about by a massive addiction to a virtual world. And it started innocently enough when I saw a small ad on the side of my Facebook page. Then I began getting requests from friends to help them out in this place called YoVille. I had heard of people getting addicted to FarmVille, but YoVille seemed to hold more promise for me. So I clicked on the link and there was no looking back.

At first I just wandered around the random YoVille town, talking to other people’s avatars and working at the factory to make a little money to live on. After a while I amassed enough to buy some goods and furniture at the store to spruce up my place so I could invite others over. That’s when I should have realized it was only going to be an avalanche from there. Back then I only went on every few hours to work at the factory, to buy a couple of items, and then log off again. Before long, though, I got hooked on the conversations with others I would come across in the streets of the YoCity. Continue reading “YoVille”

Wanting to Die

kurtcobainperformance_638_0“No one wants to kill themselves. It’s simply a by-product of wanting to die.” ~Anonymous

I’ve long said that I have no idea what goes through the minds of people who commit suicide, but I think now that perhaps I do. It’s not much more than goes through the mind of anyone else who’s had a bad day, who’s had a series of bad days in a row, and who wants relief from them. It’s not much more than goes through the mind of anyone else who feels left out and misunderstood by others, who wants to be accepted by their peers, and who has been depressed for one reason or another. It’s not much more. The only difference is the end result.

The difference between wanting to die and actually attempting suicide can be as simple as one day where no one says hello, that tipping point that by itself seems small but that added onto the overwhelming list in the person’s mind becomes monumental.

Death is glamorized in today’s media too, what with the love of vampires, zombies, and various other undead creatures in books and movies, and the songs about dying early that seem way more prevalent these days than they used to be. When someone is already depressed and seeking ways out, seeing or listening to something that praises death can’t possibly be a good thing.

“And I swear that I don’t have a gun. No, I don’t have a gun. No, I don’t have a gun. No, I don’t have a gun.” ~Kurt Cobain

And having friends or a loving family doesn’t necessarily preclude someone from being a candidate for wanting to die either. How often have you been shocked by someone who has committed suicide because they seemed so outgoing, because they had so many friends, or because they had a loving family? No one knows what goes on behind closed doors, or behind the eyes of each individual, and who are we to judge someone’s happiness? Too many people are too good at pretense, which is so sad when that pretense does what it’s meant to do, namely lull others into thinking they’re okay. Continue reading “Wanting to Die”

Settling

Broken-old-houseThe house protects its own
With its whispered creaks and moans
Stretched to its very limits
By the secrets it withholds

Outlasted by time’s cruel show
Blazing sun dancing in windows
Traced around shadow and light
Like salty tears to dust

Seasons blend together as rain
Coalescing into prismatic refrain
While wood calcifies like bone
Weathered by this consequence

The house rattles its shutters
Screaming for a deep release
Awakening this deep nostalgia
That sighs in the sloughing wind

But it tiptoes around the truth
The aching need for a change
Surrounded by a host of ghosts
Begging for a slow release

It eases weary bones into the earth
As it settles.

Sam

Ogres and Old People

38_year_old_birthday_designs_stickers-ra29a1bc1f8734c9ba17b6eb38a04b160_v9wf3_8byvr_324When I was 10 I thought 38 was ancient, that the space after 35 was inhabited by ogres and old people, and that if I ever got to that point someone should probably take me out behind the barn and put me out of my misery. I would see people on the streets and shake my head, knowing that if they weren’t already at that point that they were getting there soon. But one thing I knew for certain was that I would never get there myself. You see, when we’re 10 the world is such a small place, and time is such a vast concept that we can’t quite wrap our brains around it. When we’re 10 we think about forever being 10, not growing older.

But I didn’t stay 10 forever. I kept getting older while the world got larger and time began to shrink. As I motored past 20 it was about shaving and parties. Then 25 came and I noticed a few aches and pains that hadn’t been there before. That’s when I noticed the people in my life who were past 35 weren’t that far away age-wise from where I myself had gotten to, and that woke me up to an extent. Once 30 was in the rearview mirror I began looking at the mirror more myself, noticing the gray hairs that had started to creep in and that were trying to take over. Then 35 hit hard like a hammer slamming against an anvil, and I woke up with a start.

Either I was an ogre or I was {gasp} OLD. I think at that point I preferred the ogre.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t think of my parents or other relatives in that way. They were simply themselves — ageless in my book — and defied characterization. However, everyone else was fair game, and as I hit that magical number myself I began to notice those who were younger looking at me the way I used to look at “old people.” It was a mix of pity and awe: the pity because I was old, and the awe because somehow I was still walking around and talking to others. Yeah, the ogre seemed a lot more humane when I started noticing those looks.

Then I saw signs saying “40 is the new 20,” showing photos of women who were apparently 40 but who looked 30, as if we could bend time back around and get younger Benjamin Button-style without fading away. But I would look into the mirror and I wouldn’t see 10-year-old me with the wide open world view and the judgmental glasses. I would see 35-year-old me with a little extra weight on the mid-section and with the crinkles around my eyes that showed wisdom as well as age. It was as though 10 had been just a mirage. I would look at the young kids as I passed them and shake my head in wonder that I was ever that age, that I had ever thought like that about aging, about the myth of 35.

Now I’m 38, and I’ve only been 38 for a few hours, but I know what it means now. It doesn’t mean I’m an ogre or that I’m an old person. It means I’ve gotten older, for sure, and it means that I do have more aches and pains now, but they’re war pains, the result of a life lived, and still being lived. See, I don’t want to be taken out behind the barn and put out of my misery now because life isn’t misery. Sure, it can be tough sometimes, and the years have taken a toll on me physically and emotionally, but it’s all part of me now. That’s what 10-year-0ld me could never have understood, that getting to and past 35 means knowing yourself more, means learning how to be content with aging because it’s not going to slow down.

And yes, those ogres might still look enticing from time to time, but they’ll never be me. I’m simply growing older.

Sam

Dear Journal: Addresses

zoom-v1-AB7TR1BLKDear Journal,

I have an actual address book. It’s black, and leather, and I’ve had it for probably about 12 years now. The problem is that hardly any of the addresses in it are accurate. In fact, two of the people in it have passed on, and several of the others are names I don’t even recall. Maybe if it had faces to go with the names and addresses, but it doesn’t. It’s old school, and I’m thinking of getting rid of it, but for some reason that makes me sad.

Maybe this is an opportunity to reconnect with some people, if I can, so I’ll have updated information. Or perhaps it’s really a cleansing of sorts because perhaps I was meant to lose touch with those people. Sometimes I think that most of them were only in my life for a time and now that time has passed, so why revisit it? And I guess the only answer I have is that maybe I pulled this address book out from the cobwebs for a reason. Maybe someone in that book needs an echo from their past to help solidify their present.

Or maybe it’s just me who needs it, who needs a reason to feel missed, who needs to rekindle a connection because I don’t know why it ended in the first place. In my mad search for answers I’ve hit something of a dead end with this book because it was so long ago and so far away, and the people in it as distant as dots on the pavement. Their names read like a hazy remembrance that doesn’t quite mesh, and I haven’t made up my mind yet whether or not I’ll use this new technology to try and reconnect or if I’ll just throw the whole address book in the trash and with it the questions it poses.

Sam

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