Where Are You Now?

“Where are you now? As I’m swimming through this stereo, I’m writing you a symphony of sound.” ~Jack’s Mannequin [“The Mixed Tape”]

no_looking_backDo you ever wonder where they are? I mean all the people you’ve left behind, or the ones who’ve left you behind? I sometimes do. In the darkest shadows of the night, when I should just move on, I can’t seem to do it, because they come to me, like ghosts, vestiges of the persons they were when I knew them, when we were new and unblemished. But this distance, it blemishes them, it stains them with broad brush strokes that I wish I could unsee.

And I guess you can say I’ve been stained too, that I am not the same person I was either, that some of that is my own fault, or even if it isn’t, it’s fair to say me feeling that way makes it so. It’s even funny in a way because of all the things I could regret in life, some of the biggest regrets are the ones I don’t even remember, because something, in some way, alienated people from me. I shouldn’t even care. I should say that it’s their loss, but I somehow can’t bring myself to look at things that way. Maybe I’m a masochist.

I hear songs that we shared and I think of them. I listen to the melody and I can’t help but relive the memories that we still share, except now separately. When my phone vibrates I still think on some level that it might be them, that they might be texting to make amends, or at least to explain. Because the lack of an explanation is what makes it all so… incomplete. The lack of an explanation is the difference between the shadowed nights with ghosts and a good night’s sleep. When my phone vibrates I keep hoping that it’s the one line that will bring me closure.

“It was never you; it was all me.”

“It just wasn’t the right time for me, emotionally.”

“You never listened to me, and I couldn’t deal with it anymore.”

I firmly believe that some people are only in our lives for an age to teach us lessons, to be there for that moment, to be a brief impetus in our lives, and that these people inevitably move on. But I can’t bring myself to think when the time’s up that only one of us would know about it. Maybe I’m just not the kind of person who can move on to the next thing if something is left unsaid, even if I know the time has come to separate from whatever I’ve had with someone else.

Now that I’m older I’ve taken to reminiscing an awful lot. I find myself seeing time ago through some colored lenses, letting the blacks, whites, and grays blend together to form a kind of muted rainbow. I find that I think back a lot less, but that when I do it’s for those people I really thought would be around my life forever, either because they said they would or because, to me, it was merely understood. And for those ghosts I can’t help but hear specific songs and get brought back, every single time.

In spite of myself.



The Quiet Ones

iStock_000014423397Small-646x363The serial killer’s neighbors always say, “he seemed like such a quiet guy.” Yeah, he was quiet because he didn’t want anyone noticing that he was taking bodies back to his house in the dead of night and burying them in the backyard. The neighbors never say he was a disturbance, that he ever made any noise, because those are the things people tend to grasp onto for memory’s sake. They don’t remember the nice guy who never said a word… because he NEVER SAID A WORD. Which is strange for this day and age, don’t you think?

Perhaps those quiet people really are hiding everything, aren’t they?

We like to paint pictures of the quiet ones because there they sit in black and white, messing up our idea that we know everything about everyone. So we fill in the silence with words, lots and lots of words to describe something we’ve never seen but was only ever hinted at. It’s like the mummy in the closet, or the ghoul under the bed: we never see it so it takes on an entire mythology that gets added to liberally as time goes on.

The serial killer’s neighbors say, “looking back, he was just way too quiet.” What does it mean to be too quiet? Well, it means now that they know he was a serial killer all along the angels of the silences have now become demons, Lucifer-style. If hindsight really is 20/20 it’s also LOUD, telling us that there was something wrong with all that silence. It didn’t make them good neighbors. It made them creepy, but yeah, at the time we had no idea. All we knew was that there was something not quite kosher about that guy.

So what are these quiet people really hiding? Why are they so quiet in the first place? They’re obviously not all serial killers. They’re NOT all serial killers, are they?

Maybe they’re not hiding anything. Maybe they’re just quiet. Some of them aren’t serial killers. Some of them just prefer a quieter type of existence, living in the shadows, doing what they have to do and nothing more, enjoying their games of solitaire (who knew you could play a game by yourself and have so much fun?) and their cats, and keeping their houses clean. I admire those people, the quiet ones who keep to themselves and don’t seem to crave human contact the way that I do. It’s less messy that way, isn’t it? You know, unless they really are serial killers.

The serial killer’s neighbors say, “we never saw it coming.” That’s because they never felt the need to fill in the silences. They just accepted them for what they though they were, and now they feel stupid because they didn’t see the signs. That’s because THERE WERE NO SIGNS, though, so they can’t be faulted. That’s because the quiet ones really are like the ghoul under the bed, aren’t they? We know they’re there but when we look we see nothing. Perhaps we should invite them into our world, or try to insinuate ourselves into theirs. Maybe then we would see that they really aren’t ghouls at all, just people who are different from us but who are no less dynamic.

The serial killer’s neighbors say, “he seemed like a regular guy.” Um, well, he was just quiet so you wouldn’t get suspicious. He was never really one of the quiet ones. And that’s a good thing.


The Watcher

I’m a people watcher. I always have been, since I was yoing and I would give my mother fits when we went out in public. Because not only did I watch people back then, but I also gave them names and loudly called them by their “names.”

Before you think that I took pleasure in torturing my poor mother, I reasoned it all out. We weren’t supposed to talk to strangers, so if I knew their names they weren’t technically strangers anymore. I left out the part where I didn’t really know their names, but that was all semantics anyway, right?

Then, as I grew older, the game grew to making up backstories for every new person I came in contact with, and that was quite a hoot too. I would see two people talking and they became Brad and Amy, recently divorced couple who still slept together to cure the loneliness they themselves had caused.

These stories would have been just fine had they stayed in my vast imagination, but, alas, I had to share them or I would burst into a million pieces! And, unfortunately, I had no volume control back then, so if I said it everybody heard it, including the people I was watching.

I’ve learned since to keep my people watching to myself, or at least to my writing. Now, when I’m around people I find interesting I pull out my phone and type down their life story instead of saying it out loud and embarrassing the people I’m with. Some of these life stories turn into wonderful beginnings to short fiction.

And every once in a while I put myself into the stories, the man who sat on the bench across from them and listened while they spoke.


Every Day

The rain in the street washes down to the gutter

while birds stand watch on telephone wires.

Dark night drifts like a cloud over parked cars

and finely dressed homeless men.

Every day at this time, in these places,

life is distinguishable from death by the thinnest of threads,

by the nodding of heads as my shadow passes swiftly.

The rain in the street washes away from the gutter

towards the end of town,

and I wonder if it will ever change.

Light of day creeps like an infant scorned,

spreading plumes of wonder.

Every day in these crowded street scenes,

through binoculars long since faded,

through the lenses of indifference,

we come into contact with ourselves.

And we all fall together, every day.