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!
Take up arms, people! We live in a violent world. A world where a certain segment of the population knows no boundaries, abides by few rules. They look to prey on the weak, those who are unaware, the people who are blissfully content to believe that if they live a just life, and are fair in their dealings with others, that no harm will befall them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Arm yourselves with weapons. Arms yourselves with knowledge. Arm yourselves with awareness. Arm yourselves with the ability to move from quiet defense to balls-to-the-wall offense at the flip of a switch. Your life will depend on all of these. There are people living among us who are seeking any opportunity to take advantage, for that sliver of vulnerability, of our bodies and our minds, to harm us in the physical world, in the digital world, in the psychic world. We must remember that life is not fair, life doesn't not protect the good and decent, life is completely and utterly neutral on ethics and morality. And when we are in battle, know that it is the ultimate zero-sum game: One person wins, another loses. It's as simple as that. There is no room for what is "deserved." There is no room for "fairness." There is only survival. And when someone is trying to take something from you, you must take up arms. In every way possible.
Our mothers said we took baths together when we were babies. I splashed you; you splashed me. And it was sitting under an oak street, out in the fields behinds your house, that you told me we'd be married forever. We shared an ice cream cone and I showed you how to throw a pine cone. You tried your best, but it didn't go too far. And we giggled at that. I told you that after our high school graduation we'd start looking for our own place together. It had to have an extra room, you insisted, for the future. But the workadays turned into workaweeks, which stretched into workayears. And with the slow, quiet passage of time, you floated one way, while I drifted another. One day, a friend told me you were getting hitched with a guy from your circle of town acquaintances. I wondered if you'd ever thought of me. I wondered if you'd remembered the oak street, or the melted ice cream, or me kissing your cheek before you stood up for your diploma? Did I cross your mind, or had I become just a long ago playmate that stayed for a while but then passed through your life?
I'm wishing. And thinking. And dreaming of you. You step out of the background, when I'm weary and wanting, to offer your hand. And your heart. And your lips. And everything else. And I'm crying. I'm weeping. I'm seeing your face, but know it's a long ago flashback. My dream is some other guy's reality. You holding his hand. Sharing each other's secrets. Having the same wishes for the future. Making love. I've seen the scene. I've lived the movie. Each time the lights go up as the curtain comes down, I'm alone, no one around. I shuffle out the exit, searching for an entrance. Wanting to make my own movie with you. But the script changed a long time ago. Pages were cut from the final draft. Didn't matter anyway, anymore, I'd have been left on the cutting room floor. It's yours and his film, and I'm no more than a lonely man sitting in the balcony, watching your life with another guy, wishing I'd been somewhere in the credits, hoping I'd be the start in the sequel. But there's not going to be a sequel, and I'm not movie star. I'm just a guy in love with a girl. Watching from afar. Wishing...
Technology is a disease. Killing its way through our lives. The battle began decades ago and now we are losing the fight. It's infiltrating our minds, turning us into extensions of metal and silicon and glass and mechanical parts. We are no longer skin and faces, and expressions and voices and intonations and slumping shoulders or arms raised in fury or exultation. We are screen images, some small, some large, nearly all forgettable. We have lost the animal nature within us, the one that instinctually knows how to survive the searing sun and horrific tornados, and biblical floods and limb-numbing frigid cold. We no longer love by touch, by nuzzling ourselves against a lover's neck and breathing in their essence, or sensing them turn rigid as we caress the soft inside of their thigh, or experiencing the thrill of that first kiss with a soon-to-be companion where intimacy is everything and, for a time, nothing else in the world matters. When your mind can focus like at no other time, when you are so into the moment that you understand what's happening in your muscles, and on your skin, and the swirling thoughts dancing in your brain as you smell and taste and feel the lips of another human being and you hope and pray that every inch of their flesh is running on overdrive as much as yours is, and your only wish is that this experience lasts as long as possible.
I step out into the sun, eyes hazy from a restless sleep, mind struggling for balance. To my left cries a tomcat, pleading for his next feline conquest, while tall oaks stretch through a turquoise glimmering sky. A puff of warmth settles upon me, sending subtle sweet shivers rippling along my skin. I am nourished, I think, but it's going to be a long, lonely day if I don't find my way back. Two nurses, clad in black, shuffle past me, bowing their heads out of concern. I call out for help, but help is a long time and sad place away, And, besides, I've never been particularly interesting to nurses or nuns, nonetheless. Lift your head to the sky. Lift your arms up high. Find the life that suits you right. Never believe you can quit the fight. I've got no time for questions, and I don't bother learning the language. I just spin in a circle, and shout at the tomcat to stop the barbecue from being so hot that our sustenance is engulfed in flames. Then again, a rainbow ain't nothing but colored light if all you find is fool's gold.
Alfred C. Martino
Updates from everyday life as seen by me