Figuring It Out

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Well, another day, another dollar. Aren’t I just the greatest thing that ever existed? The peak of existence, I tells ya. Yeah, see. I’m just so great… well, maybe. Or maybe I’m just full of shit.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Well, don’t you know it, a woman with a stroller is getting on the bus. Is this going to fuck up my routine, my rhythm? What the hell, she’s taking forever!

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

But her face is strained, she looks tired. The kid isn’t really paying attention to anything that’s happening, and this poor lady is just trying to figure out how to get to her destination without completely losing it.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

This mother is doing everything she can! Look at her, taking the bus on her own with a big-ass stroller that’s taking up way more space than she would care to take up in the first place.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I make brief eye contact with her and we exchange knowing glances, even though I know absolutely nothing (first-hand) about being a mother or providing for a family. Even being a woman, for that matter.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I get a look at the kid in the stroller, their eyes darting around to see the new sights, soaking them in like a sponge. Inquisitive. Colors everywhere. Information streaming in that may never leave.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

We lock eyes. I grin from ear to ear. He/she/they smile back, and keep the eye contact going. I have to look away after a couple seconds, for fear of other people noticing this interaction with a small child.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I think that this person could be a leader, a future president. I don’t want to spoil their innocence by selfishly avoiding their gaze. Their innocence can only stretch so far in the face of cynicism. I put my hand in the air and wave.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

I look at the time, and it turns out that I’m going to make it to work without delay anyway. All that worrying, all the hand-wringing for things that were ultimately out of my control.

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Where is this kid going, anyway? What are they going to want to do with their life? They obviously have a mom who wants the best for them. These are all things that probably won’t be reckoned with for some years (hopefully, if ever).

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Was I like that bright-eyed kid on the bus when my mom was taking me to work with her on my days off from school? Hopping on the blue line and talking about the little things we noticed on the platform and in the tunnel? Were there older people on the train making that same kind of eye contact with me? Did they avoid my gaze after a couple of seconds?

Don’t fuck up, don’t be late, don’t make people hate you.

Here’s my stop. One last glance at the mother and child is enough to charge me up for work, to give me that one last pause before I have to deal with the deluge of humans who may or may not know what’s good for them. But hey, we’re all figuring it out in our own time.

Family First

Gee willikers, Ebony! I sure as sugar won’t be able to make it out to that party tonight. Look–believe me–it’s not that I don’t want to. You know that! It’s just that I have so much cleaning up to do around my place. I’ve been putting it off for ages, and now my roommate’s dad is going to be in town for a few days–spur of the moment thing as usual–and he’d rather stay with us than go to a hotel because he wants to be closer to his son. I mean, I get it, they have a very strong relationship. I admire that dynamic, but of course also resent it at the present. Why do I have to be the one to pretty up our sty before he gets here? Just because I made 90% of the mess doesn’t mean I should be cleaning a full 100% of the space. How is that fair? The displaced 10% probably represents another 40 minutes of cleaning that I’m going to have to do instead of living it up with you! Trust me, I’ve tried getting around this, but there’s just no possible alternative. The next time your brother’s having a going-away shindig before shipping out to do a tour of duty in a war-torn expanse of the Middle Eastern desert, I am SO there.

Thanks, Dad

“Parallel entities befit madness, my son.

“You should never turn your back on those other dimensions our forward-thinking predecessors have been touting for some time now, or your attention will lose its cosmic importance, the aggregate of local souls gradually easing you out of their observational patterns–though it’s the last thing they would do if given the choice.

“While you are charged with keeping your attention beyond the present actions contained within our visible plane, you mustn’t let the responsibility weigh on your consciousness too much; although you know everything is simply an illusion, you are an integral part of the chain of illusions keeping our earthly consciousness afloat.

“When you shudder, know the implications. When two birds meet on a wire and appear to converse, understand that their dialogue fits into our space on a level wholly undisturbed by our own idea of language. No need to fret over payment, my first lesson is always free.”

“Thanks, dad.”

——

First draft posted on 10/12/11,
originally entitled #40

Wooden Spoons

Double up the foundation dust,
trouble finding lurky lust while wincing
under beveled falls; egregious
concertina riffs agree with Wes
(our father’s postman): the passion
never does leave the feet.

Snowcapped griffins found asylums
rich in iron, poor in aprons.
Mythology holds no place
in institutions of higher psychology.

Where reprimands come for assurance,
our collective mothers grease their wooden spoons.
We may only marvel as to which grease traps
were harvested for such a folksy purpose.

You insist that I have a soul for dingers,
I retort that your trout lost its diaper yesterday.
You ask what that means, and while
seething in your stupor, I quip
“which radishes peak first?
Why, only the early growers, son.”

——

First draft posted on 6/11/11,
originally entitled #10

Systematic – 07:22GMT

Heaven-bent for suicide and lifted from a promissory life, I spent my passion undermining solitary refuge as a systematic impulse-follower.

She said to me, “listen son, I’ve gotta tell you something you may not wanna hear. I ate that last piece of taffy you had saved up, and it was glorious. I know you were planning to give it to your grandma next week, but guess what? Now we’re even. Don’t you go around promising me trips to Hawaii anymore, you arrogant prick. Just because I birthed you doesn’t mean I need to be your friend. Fuck those stereotypes. Now are you staying for dinner or aren’t you?”

Is that all I am? A systematic impulse-follower? I can paint over my stripes, but it’ll chip off and reveal my ugly nature before too long.

I miss having the option to chew my food.
I really wish I could use my arms, too. Fork, knife, the whole deal.
Maybe I crossed too many people to be a free man.