Hello, old man, time to go. You've done all that you could. Made a family. Made friends. Made enemies. Made a career. Gained respect. And, at times, lost some. But your time has come to an end. You've aged gracefully. You've gotten everything you could from this body. And this mind. The hereafter is calling. It's a quiet request. No celebrated goodbyes. No fanfare. No big news. Just slipping away from the here-and-now, to the ether of memories. You've done what was asked of you. To live. Mostly well. Sometimes imperfectly. But who among us should judge? And does it matter at all? Memories will live on. Until someday, even those will pass into oblivion. Still, you were here. You left an impression. That impression will be visible in other people. And when they pass, they will leave their mark on still others. Like the continuous collapse of an parade of dominos moving towards the horizon. The previous one falls, knocking down the next, and the next, and the next, until it's impossible to tell how exactly the chain is moving, but we know it is moving. Ceaselessly.
Wasting time worrying. Wondering about what-could-have-beens. Wishing you'd taken a turn back there. Moving ahead, but thinking behind. Noticing the tick, tick, tick of that existential clock in the sky counting down to zero, always fretting when that zero will turn up. It's chasing you. Running you down. You don't bother stopping to smell the roses. That would keep you from moving. There's surely something more important you could be doing. Something more to achieve. Something more to possess. Something more to put on the scoreboard. And when the clock shows zero what will the scoreboard show? What will it mean? Will you have won?
It's nasty, cold storm charging in the distance. The men and women of power who are entrusted to protect us are dancing gaily in their ivory towers, acting as gourmands while the hoi poli fend off the constant barrage of societal ills, and foreign invaders looking to steal their livelihoods, and security, and sanctity. But a mass is gathering at the tower's base, an angry, vicious mass pressing against the foundation, its weight and perseverance beginning to loosen and crumble. And while any shift in its foundation is imperceptible to those blithely ignoring them at the top, the rot of cement and concrete from decades of pomposity and conceit and waste have taken their toll. Those with the power of governing, whose control also includes the Law, and law enforcement, who fumble the reins of this mighty nation and use their positions as stepping stones to celebrity and wealth, are deaf to the shouting from the streets, indifferent to the brittleness of the tower, naive that the reckoning that shocked the world not long ago is gathering acceleration. And heading in their direction.
"I'm just going to grab this," he said, leaning into her. He grabbed a cloth that the bartender had being using to dry the wet residue from beer bottles and spills from tipsy patrons. Though the room was relatively loud, he thought he heard her breathe in. A sweet, flowery scent wafted into his nose, then he turned towards her. "That's a wonderful perfume," he said. "Thank you, she demurred. "It's my favorite." "I'm just going to tidy up our space at the bar a bit." He wiped down the area in front of both of them. "Wouldn't want you to get anything on your blouse." He laid the cloth back down, just below the bar's edge and when he leaned back against the stool, his hand brushed along her bare thigh. "My apologies," he said. "I think it was on purpose," she said. "Maybe," he said. "Maybe not." "I think a guy tried that kind of move on me back in the 80s when my girlfriends and me when to Lauderdale for spring break." "Did it work?" "Not with that guy," she said. "So you're saying I may be, or not be, using moves from some drunken frat boy thirty years ago?"
You used to be mine. You'd smile and tell me everything was fine. Now I sing it as a song line. I used to be yours. I'd smile and tell you it was just words. Now we are just part of the past. But more times than I care to admit, then I'd ever commit, to the truth. You dance in my mind. I brush you away. You rest in my head. No matter what we said. So I take a deep long breath, and hold it. Whatever happened between us, I own it. You're someone else's and I turn away. It's a fine sunny sky, but I live each of a rainy day. I can't stop thinking about you, but I've got to stop. There's only one answer, I hope it's not. 'cause you used to be mine. You'd smile, turn away. Nothing was fine. 'cause you used to be mine.
Flames from the fireplace went from placid to angry in an intsant, as the swirling winter winds outside battered the house's windows and frame. He held up a Polaroid of her. It was slightly faded and yellowed. She was smiling awkwardly. No one ever had to know that the moment after the photo was taken she had pursed her lips and said to him, "Okay, you took one of me. Can I go now?" then quickly shuffled away, clutching her books as she made her way to the corner then turned down the street towards her house. The Polaroid had sat on his window sill for some time. Sunlight and humidity had taken their toll. That was okay, though. On the back, in a red marker he drew the shape of a heart, and wrote his name and her name inside. "You'll be mine..." he whispered. "You'll be mine, soon..." As sure as he knew tomorrow would follow today, he felt her hand in his. The kids at school would learn their lesson. All the ones that mocked him. The two of them would walk the hallways side-by-side and relish the stunned looks. The warmth of the fire brushed his cheeks, as he stared through the flames. You have to believe, he told himself. You have to believe... When the storm subsided momentarily, he reached his hand out and dropped the Polaroid. The edges curled inward while her face turned distorted and grotesque, until the image bubbled and disappeared, and the paper backing turned fiery, then black, and, eventually, ashes.
It's a dog eat dog world, and I ain't gonna be a Chihuahua. Creeping around the corner, melting in the shadows, a chill runs up my spine, on my way to the gallows. Sirens wail unanswered over on the next block, screaming their fury across burned out lots. Women turn warriors just to survive, their eyes burn with the memory of another gone-away neighbor. Teenagers embraced in fear devouring each other with one final kiss. A brigade of the last of the V8 Interceptors rushes down the street, crushing hope and dreams, forcing the the weak to scurry quicker than cockroaches in a sudden bright light. Rotties stand guard obeying the commands of their masters, lips foamed with the froth of innate anticipation, while the little ones run in hiding under crumbled cement stairs, their eyes peering out from a hidden fortress like faraway stars flickering ten million light years in the future. Wail for better days, wail for peace that once lived in the undercurrent of the dank, treacherous sewers, poisonous and putrid neon green. But no one hears those wails, and no one can remember the days of tight lawns stretching from park's end to park's beginning, as white lily-dressed women floated like painted nymphs along a pristine walkway, bowing gently to each proper passerby.
We're not in Hamilton anymore. On a crowded posh balcony, I saw the city council excising the mayor's appendix with a rusted borrowed crucifix. Haunted by the train derailment of '96, Jefferson middle school played a game of chicken on the Turnpike Extension. They screamed when they lost. The tree tops were bare, the branches cracked a bluebonnet sky. And the storms rolled in from PA. Yes, the storms rolled in from PA. Jimmy will you hum a few bars with me, the sorcerer said, picking scraps from my stoop. We're all going to Hell anyway. We sang a birthday dirge, while the dogs barked and bayed. Some of the street zombies walked on. But some of them sure stayed. It was high noon, but they're always hungry anyway. Elementary teachers hike up your skirts, put away your primrose pince-nez, Enos Jones has fallen, Van Vorst is a crying mess. We've got to battle our way over to Paulus Hook, or by crook.
Don't get too close to me. I'm not who you want. I've been fighting battles inside myself, since before we met. You think you can tame the monster in my mind, but that is folly. The monster inside my head is me. You can reach out to me, but I may not hold your hand. Sometimes the pain paralyzes me. Sometimes I wish I were a man on an island, though I am an all aone in a world surrounded by people. Your soft touch quells me for a moment, but that is fleeting and the rage is awakened. And it is building, ready to explode from my head. And shower its rein of fury on anyone around me. So I push you away. Without hesitation. Without feeling. Knowing you are better off without me, and I must be without you. I live with the monster in my mind. It is a symbiotic relationship. It feeds off my soul. It thirsts for my essence. It breathes through my mouth. And I am what the monster is, and does, and hates, and hurts, and crushes, and kills. The monster inside me, of me, is me.
Something a little different today. I'm a fan of the website IMDB and often peruse the site to see where actors/actresses are from, how old they are, and, of course, what films they've been in. I looked up Molly Ringwald today and saw that in 1984, 1985 and 1986, she starred in "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "Pretty In Pink," respectively--three films that forever defined the "teen movie" genre. Anthony Michael Hall starred in "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "Weird Science." In both cases, these were three films they did consecutively. That's a pretty damn good run. But the actor who really blows me away is John Cazale, who famously played Fredo in The Godfather I and II. Cazale acted in only five films before passing away at 42--but what a Murder's Row of films it was: "The Godfather," "The Conversation," "The Godfather II," "Dog Day Afternoon" and "The Deer Hunter." Just amazing!
Alfred C. Martino
Updates from everyday life as seen by me