In the wooden house up on the rock a family sips on cold tea, glasses sweating, their agony kept at bay under layers of illusion. The house is painted red, a mournful red, a dull red. The family is consumed, obsessed, scrawling their desperation on ragged paper at the end of the day, a hint, meditation, words that reek of despair.
Myself, I am a wanderer. I need a confidante, someone to hunch in, to feel my pulse. To look me in the eye and say, hey fella, it’s fine. It’s all fine.
You are the hard worker. You need a new job, a new car, a motherfucking sandwich right now, something to take the edge off these days of repetition. A whiskey. The biting hunger at your gut. The answer to the question of where the money’s coming from, how to maintain this thing you’ve built. And again you cleave the masses, the hunger pressing against your midsection.
That glassy eyed man, he needs his memory. He needs to reclaim his years of wild youth, to acknowledge that maybe the past is not done but will recur, come back to him in myriad wondrous ways. He needs reassurance that what has been will be again, and the end is not the end. He needs a promise that life will come to him again. He needs lies.
That old woman? She hates her body breaking, how time has destroyed her, her balsawood frame collapses, creaks and cries. She is frustrated by how her lips do not seem to keep the spittle in, how the dreary line slips down from the cleft of her mouth and makes a puddle on her blouse. She used to be so controlled, so elegant, graceful, perfection in satin shoes and a white dress. What’s happened to her, drooling all over herself. She eats breakfast at the table in her kitchen for 38 years. Her eyes tear, her tongue salivates, the bile in her throat is bitter and she sits and thinks of the better years, the golden years.
That married couple? Their blood boils. They argue over mirages. Murder flickers over their stop-sign faces. Their eyes flash. Abuse rages in their fired-up furnaces, runs heavy tonight. They are on opposite sides of the room, weary, but still they exchange brass librettos of anger, heels dug in like packhorses. They criticize as if neither had feelings to hurt. As if they’d ever known anything but this. And that floor over which they once waltzed just kindles under the volley of their cruelty. From the stairs stares a photo of them honeymooning in Montenegro. Its silence is divine.
Over there, in the pretty park a siren rings out in the open air, it brings with it an unfelt feeling of hysteria. They hear sirens all the time, that lounging public, and the thought of a distant crisis is utterly unthinkable today. Now they only throw Frisbees and smell the grass succulently. They don’t look up from their paperbacks, their circles. A siren without an ability to alarm. And yet deep underneath their diversion is an ovation to disquiet, an unsettling realization that some soul is in utter unrest, going to the hospital, to the jailhouse, to the morgue, to meet his maker. Inside those weekending bodies dwells the knowledge that all is not well with the world.
The sadness grows. It always does, and we deny it. We cover it with laughter and work and things, but by nature at night we pine for the grievous, we hunger for their sorrow. We feast on the knowledge that the world’s divine drama is perilously out of control. And to its desperation, we desire.
Yet, we are not victims, we. Myself, I live out my day optimistic of the welcoming wind of kinship. And you, hard worker, will get your sandwich, if you want it, and your unchanging days will be filled with quiet amusement. The gentle forgetter, he takes so much comfort from his shoebox of photos, makes time for a retreat to Mendocino. The old woman? When night falls her petal perfect eyes drift again to the closet and the ancient white dress and she whispers how good life has been. In general. And she awaits the End with its old embracing arms.
The arguers? At the end of the melee, their eyes teared out, they move back to their suffered closeness, and go to their gallant bed. They hold each other there for sleep. What else can they do? Truth sometimes lies at the back of the labyrinth.
In the park, the sun sets on the last stragglers of the day, the day has gone splendidly. It was really quite pretty today. Streaked with color and splashes of the sublime. It was a day to remember. And it will hang on through the night.
On the rock, the red house stands still as starlight. And the night sky presses in, dense as a shroud. Eventually the light will come.
Top photo by bunchadogs & susan, the rest by the author.