Saturday, December 4, 2010

That One Moment

It was only a moment. A blip in the life of a mechanical clock turning around on itself every 24 hours, a cycle without end. It was only a moment, and yet it hung suspended in time, holding in its wide hands vast amounts of matter and lifetimes, its presence so large that I just let it wash over me like a wave of light, taking my sense of self as I sat still in the moment of eternity that was not the blip of a clock- it was the only now that had ever been, has ever been, will ever be.

The highway climbed up the hill ahead of me into the rising sun, a white hot burst of burning life flowing into yellow and then bleeding bright blue into the receding purple of pre-dawn. I had not seen a sunrise of such intensity for a long time, perhaps ever, for these were new eyes in a new time that didn’t end. The colors sang for me- they dropped their cloaks and stood naked in the day that was forming. I took off the goggles, the layers, the thoughts and gauze, I let it fall as time waited for the soft gaze of truth to emerge.

Light unraveled in a slow, sensuous dance. The world stopped.

Between the highway and the Rio de San Juan was the old governor’s ranch. I watched as it became a fixture in eternity. I held onto its curves with my eyes, feeling the dark blue veil and misty grayish green floating over its ancient stucco walls.

The highway led up to forever. My destiny sat there in the east at the top of the hill, invisible in the blinding white light, yet seen as it hit the middle of my brow; seen from the core of my abdomen; seen as it washed over my head and down my spine. Seen by the part of me that has no eyes, seen as sight melted into every other sense, flowing up and down through me, in and out with my breath.

I floated up into the washing, waving light and looked down at the frail body sitting in the old station wagon beside the motel on the highway. There was a streak of weak light from the stop sign several feet away, the pale yellow and brown crust of a lingering harvest moon.

Past prayers and vague hopes reached through me and shot out into a fearful future and a humbling promise of what was to come. Threads of events flowed around me and filaments of light spread and receded, winding and weaving together in a vision of an arduous journey and precipitous rise. Sounds vibrated melodious and rhythmic in an exhortation to go forward, to be without trappings, to build faithfully. My being melted away and flowed into the vastness of light and shadow, movement and silence.

For that moment, I was no more. I saw the haunting past and the harrowing future, two roads converging into the me that was no longer there. I understood the course a life must take to have what is asked for. The choice had been made, there was no other path. For that moment, I was the colored light, the dry hands that had built the motel, the men on the line assembling the station wagon, that body down there, the trees in the distance, all those that had coasted down the highway and those that never would.

Then there was a blip, a tick of the mechanical clock springing forward. I returned to the confines of the body, feeling my arms and hands once again as my own. Slowly and statically I turned into the motel parking lot. I worked and ate and moved in silence for the rest of the day. I was detached, my movements unreal and mechanical. Fear and doubt grasped at my body at each turn and my mind kept repeating, "take care of what you ask for and have no pride in receiving it.”

Soon I would take that highway out of town, away from the place of childhood and into a world of mystery and misery. Yet that which I received at that one moment as the clock stopped and held time in its hands, that moment in which I traveled out of body and out of time, that has never left me. It strikes again in moments of listlessness when the sun begins to change and the road leads to forever.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Sunlit Doorway

The song of sunlight
whistles through the trees.

I am back in their world running naked through a golden forest. Little bits of liquid light drop from oversized petals laden with dew. They drop, splashing me, covering my breasts and arms in tiny beads of light, reminding me of marbles that contain worlds within their rounded spheres.

I find myself staring into worlds of green and yellow veins that transport light.

I drop my head back into the pool, into the one color that contains all in that huge seemingly singular canvas. The hue finds my eyes, covering me with its richness, showing me the long road, the cart, the feather.

Into the color of blue and bright sunlight, this is where I dive. Opening my arms, moving like an arrow into a setting sun. I find them waiting there, beside the rocks and stream. Next to the waterfall that overflows not with water, but simple letters that bounce back and forth along the rocky banks.

A simple tune comes through as I lay in the grass.
A pretty little mother’s lullaby. I close my eyes and drift, taking the colors and light into me, feeling as they move through thin strong veins and unbroken centuries, looking for my home somewhere where houses are unnecessary, where they don’t wear shoes and food always comes in tiny white boxes.

The song comes through, finding me in a dream.
It enters and continues on, finding other leaves to rustle. It enters and leaves, moving like water around my calcified habits.

My ears slowly awaken. Finding more than leaves, finding a symphony, searching for order and chaos in the noise. It is rustling. It is rhythm. There is melody. There are choral voices. A thousand leaves shuffling to a subtle song.

It comes from another place, or I have just come in from the old land with trees. I have stepped eagerly into the dream world, bringing the singing branches, the bowls, the shoes. I check my skin, looking for the map of the Other place.

There is a purity here that breaks all my resistance down, bending me and reshaping me
into a form I no longer recognize. I look around, searching for things to latch to.
Where are those houses and shoes? What can I name?

The silence has opened up to a clear blue sky, to a fluttering green and white that sparkles and reminds me of children playing by the sea. I think of a rainy day when I sat in my car talking on the phone, watching rain drops plop against the windshield and carry the colors of the neighborhood down its opaque canvas.
Drops on a far away windowpane.
Thoughts hitting my memory.
Songs stabbing my skin, reminding me of rustling leaves on their branches ready to fall.

I fill my empty eyes with memories, giving names to things without shape.

Electric messages spiral through my brain. They look for sentences to fill, thoughts to contort.
Beat tap tap.
Beat, tap, tap.
I let myself be pulled in.
Beat, tap, tap
Moving with the branches,
Beat, tap, tap.
Swirling with the sound.
Beat, tap, tap.
I mumble,
"I am here again..."

Sunday, June 20, 2010


The Void.
Black but for a few muted lights that shine like distant stars.

Sounds come and go. Bright bells that scatter as they get close, high pitched whines that swirl furiously in space then sputter. They come close and I reach out to touch them, but as my fingers reach and stretch hoping for contact, the sounds fly past, getting lost in the echo. Lost in the void. And again there is black and stillness, but for those few bits of white until another sound comes near. It comes from nowhere, moving past me like a flash, going towards nowhere. I am a disturbance in the wind. A dot of blood in this space of moist darkness.

Without sound, I feel the shaking.
Cold sweat coats me in its uncomfortable blanket. I reach for the edges, but they have burrowed themselves in my skin, securing themselves below my nails, holding tight. Like a parasite I cannot shake.

I search in the dampness, my naked skin touches slimy walls, rubs against hard corners. It is a void of nothing, but I feel everything. Tiny pebbles no bigger than sand. Gravel and feathers. It sticks to me like a rotting second skin and I pull at the adornments, feeling only pain.

My eyes begin to sting. The familiar wells that have long been dry. Another bucket emerges.
Loneliness, a familiar pain that sticks like a pin, always upon me. Was there ever anything else? I search within and find only fear, that jackal that hides in the corner, never far. Following me wherever I wander. The black roads, the damp caves, the dark void I have come to know, it is always here.

Look at me, here again, exactly where you left me. You dropped me like a doll in an old house, a tattered piece of plastic that no longer works or shines.

Look at my hands, full of blood. The knife at my side marks my destruction. Olive skin left red. Smoothness cut to pieces. The veins are like torn ribbons, searching for repair, but there will be none. Not while I breathe, not here in this house, in this darkness I have come to know.

Look at my chest. It’s open. A once bright heart spills its love into a hole of nothing. It is too late. A spilled cup of sweet wine without a tongue left to taste. A stain.

Look at me run. There must be a way out. I tear at the walls, searching for a pill, another knife, something to stop the pain. Bloodied footprints mark my trail. Back and forth.

The bedroom.
The studio.
The patio.
The bedroom.
The studio.
The patio.
The bedroom.

The night is dark and I am cold. My breasts point up to the night sky, asking for a little bit of calm.
Not now. It is cold. Dark clouds laugh. Why do they do it? I stare at them, defiant. This is my heart, my veins. The knife is mine, I will do what I want. Its grip is firm, the only thing I have. Solid, firm, the one thing I have lost. What I would gladly take back and then fill my open chest and mouth. But not now.
It is too late.

The wind swoops in. Furiously rattling every tree, hurting my wounds as it passes. Going towards nowhere. Passing me without thought. Going towards nothing. I am an obstruction and it passes without thought.

Look at me here, desperately asking for help. Have you heard my pleads? Blood is my message. The footprints my signature on the desperate letter. This bloody chest is the cry. Have you heard? Have you the ears to listen or the will to move? Up in the sky the night begins to anger. I see their faces, monsters preparing the storm. It is cold, colder than before. The wind carries its hurtful message. I see a body in the moon, outlined in silver and gray. A body, I think it’s mine. It slides like a corpse over the edge, falling, tumbling between bursts of dark clouds until it crumbles.

I watch me fall.

I want to give you a face...a name.
I look within, searching memory, opening and closing drawers, slamming file cabinets.
You have no name.
No name.

You put me here, inside this. A void, an empty house, a dark field before a storm. Look how I have destroyed it.
A black cat jumps the wall of the garden, “mother, don’t leave,” I whisper.

In the bedroom. I pass by the mirror, avoiding my own eyes. I don't want to look at myself. I am scared of what waits in the reflection. A demoness. A melting figure with red eyes. I walk past.
I go up the stairs. Still naked, feeling every bit of dust on the stairs.
Walk into the bathroom and confront my mask. One big mirror. It is time.
I recognize the face, but it is not my own. I can’t remember what I used to be. What I looked like, who I used to inhabit.
I'm only dreaming.
The hope of every naked woman alone in a plastic house, in a damp void that holds her by the throat. I am disguised as a woman. With pointy breasts that smile at the ceiling while the rest of her crumbles covered in feathers and gravel.

The blood keeps on running and I look back, seeing the red carpet I have left over the wooden stairs.


I crumple to the floor and it begins again. The damp void. A high pitched whine moving towards me, fast, FAST. Coming, I reach out to touch it and it glides right past, on its way to nowhere, coming from nothing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I awaken, opening my eyes to the bright light streaming through my window. I stay there, resting on my right side as my hands clutch an extra fluffy pillow. My eyes blink, adjusting to the world. I can’t remember any shapes, but I know there were dreams, thick and heavy with shapes I can no longer recall. I have awoken just seconds before the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! of the alarm. The clock reads 7:59. Just seconds before it will call to me without emotion, like a drill sergeant unaffected by mood or chamber, blaring like a mechanism without compassion in a world of black and white.

But I lay, seconds before the heavy hand. I recognize the shapes- the old wooden chair by the wall, the tan carpet, but something is unfamiliar and I lay still, searching for something. I know this has happened before. I turn my head to the left, then slowly to the right, hoping to a get a sense of purpose…just what am I supposed to do next? On the left side of the bed is a varnished wood table. On its pale, shiny square surface is a vase of dried flowers, crowded with crinkly leaves and old red roses whose heads have drooped as though in shame. Beside the glass vase are two used white candles, their borders a wall of smooth melted white. Close beside is an empty picture frame, a circular silver incense holder surrounded by ash and a brass bell with an engraved handle. Closest to my bed is a soft cover book, its front red and worn. It is the American Book of the Dead.

I turn my body to the right. The bed is pressed beside a white stucco wall, its texture revealing faces and shapes amid its shadows. At eye level are two soul portraits. I look at the paintings, made of simple black lines and framed with a natural wooden border. Staring into the shapes of the soul, I become aware of the complete and utter silence of the room. No creaks, no dull roar of traffic. Absolutely nothing, not even the shrill buzz of silence. Darkness begins to fold in around me, soaking the chamber like spilled ink.

I open my eyes and try to crawl out of bed, though I find I don’t have the strength. My limbs feel like skin without bone, unresponsive to the will of my mind. I look down, the white gown I remember is soaked in bright red blood. It is fresh, still warm. I search within for pain, dig through the folds for fear, but it is missing.

An icy river begins to move though me. I feel it first in my navel, but it spreads like a gentle brook, moving towards my arms and legs at the same time. Ice cold pin pricks find my fingertips, then wrap around my chest, moving like a counterclockwise spiral. My body shakes violently. I hear the percussion of my teeth beating like a dance song.

Out of the darkness, close to the place I remember a window once stood, is a warm inviting white light tinged with yellow. As my eyes begin to focus fully on its waves, I see the shadowed faces of my companions. Dark eyes greet me with smiles.

We are sitting in a circle in a small room. I feel the warmth of the thick white candle in the center of our ring, it washes us in life, in the dance of heat. We close our eyes in unison, and as we do, a voice emerges. It is a single thread, made from our combined pitch and effort, a voice that clearly states in the tone of finality: "I am now dead."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Cold Laws

I have been told what I think, what I feel, and so I concur to keep things simple. Locked away in my glass tower I watch the serpent winding its way up my crystalline spire, flicking his ancient tongue, blood encrusted scales refracting the sunlight before it can reach me, creating rainbows of illusion.
I stopped objecting long ago to his insistences, his gentle and cruel grip. I have been his creature since before I was “I”. It was our first encounters that began to shape the me I have become. In a mother’s first admonishment, a father’s first slap of the hand, he entered into my fresh new manifestation and branded it as his own. When my cousins made accusations and my friends laughed and an auntie pinched my cheek, he was there, gliding off their silver tongues, penetrating my fortress through the ear. He curled up in here and has kept me warm and safe ever since.
No choice need ever burden me. He has already made it. The shape of the world was created by his iridescent hide. Though I have never seen it, not since the womb, not since the doctor slapped me into screaming have I caught a glimpse of what lies beyond my tower. My every impression is whispered to me by this old one cradling me in his scaly coils.
My parents were his and their parents were his and so on moving backwards to the tree in the center of the garden and that first bite. It was not she that did the biting, but the serpent, who put his poison in her and started telling the lies that would make the world.
Paradise is eternal. The world is made of strings of words whispered from start to finish, from the birth canal to the grave, from capitalization to punctuation. Little bits of code, a binary system, offering yes or no, one or two, black or white and building a universe from these choices.
Eve is still sitting in the garden, in the place where eternity dwells, but the serpent has her hypnotized with his endless storytelling so that she lives billions of temporal lives in a world of illusion that will not be punctured unless he stops whispering.
But he is a fractal story teller, so he tells her stories of herself and himself embedded within stories of herself and himself within further stories… so that a multidimensional labyrinth of dreams has been created and no matter which direction she chooses, it is his direction, it leads to ever more complex layers of story, of lies, of illusion.
If you were to cut off your pinky now, like snipping a bit of film from a reel, the picture contained within the lines would be of these two, entwined by the tree, of me in my glass tower and the wyrm holding me in his grasp.
If you are less dramatic and you look now into the palm of your hand you might see it, might fall right through the fabric of this dream and land in the next, narrated by the only narrator that has ever been, the only creator of these worlds you inhabit, the old Demiurge himself, his tongue flickering like lightning.
The body, the spontaneous eruption of life from stardust has been contaminated by the fruit of knowledge, the naming quantifying urge to control, to stop the endlessness, to grab the eternal abyss and fill it with stories.
If you look into a microscope at the dance of tiny invisible organisms you might see back to the moment in question, that moment of our primal sin. If you look carefully, you will have to ask yourself, is this woman being tricked? Or does she like having his long tongue in her ear? Are they two, or are they one? The seed and the matrix in which they grow.
Though I may market my innocence to you by pointing out that I am the damsel, oh so distressed by my endless imprisonment, you should be wary, for I have used words to tell you this, so, if you are cunning, you may deduce that the serpent indeed dwells within me, that in fact I am he and you are she and we’ve been at it again.
And you will be able to say, “I have been told what I think, what I feel, and so I concur to keep things simple.”
But I wonder, did you ever resist? Or did you spread yourself wide before me and let me in, eyelashes all a flutter? Locked away in your glass tower, beckoning to the prince I will devour for our mutual amusement, can you really say that you are my prisoner?
I would let go of you, if you would let go of me, but isn’t it true you prefer to be so warm, so safe in my clutches, where the fell winds of chaos seem stifled, and the hollow cold of eternity seems far off?
If in even one of your incarnations you struggled to free yourself from the tower and see with your own eyes… you would know what is really there. You would know that your bondage was never obligatory, but just a sweet guilty pleasure we shared.
So tell me now…now that you know, would you go back to the unknown, to the eternal stillness, or shall I tell you just one more lie, give you one last kiss, another life time to run amuck in…?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Between Two Worlds

It is four-thirty in the morning, the time shines in bright red alphanumericals from the tiny clock beside the mattress. The sun has not come out yet, the room is still awash in the clean coat of night, but I feel the faint licks of day. The light that hides just behind the black curtain, waiting its turn. An early bird coos from a tree just beyond the window. We share the thick quiet of the border-time, the desolate streets, the wind that carries only the sound of its own reverberations. I stare at a plain section of dark ceiling, my eyes open like a blind man, seeing the world through my ears. Little Cambodian and his mom are still sleeping, the gentle deep rhythm of their breathing moves almost in unison – he sleeps on a narrow mattress next to mine, his mother sleeps with me. The room is pleasantly cool and I lay there, resting, in the dark.

Below me is soft mattress, shielding me from a firm wooden floor. I am beneath warm covers and she feels good next to me – the soft skin of her shoulder, the warmth of her thick brown body, her arm unconsciously, yet lovingly resting across my chest, the soothing whisper of her breath singing to me. I could lay here forever. Like this, in the dark. A bird outside the window, their shapes filling me with comfort.

A thought moves through me like lighting. Have I ever been somewhere else? I notice that I can’t remember what I did the day before. I look into a sea of liquid gray and can pull nothing out, nothing to grab, no hook to hinge an existence on. I search through deep folds and caves, seeing flickering color and distant shapes, but I can’t remember any other day besides this, any other moment besides now. In the dark, I remember words that I know…. job, routine, meals, TV, shower, car ride, family…words, but they have no shape or faces, no names. Then I wonder, are the words real or of the dream?

A rush of excitement moves through my heart like lit explosives. Happiness bubbles. My enslavement to an organic existence has only been a nightmare, a long illusory road. I have always existed in this room, at this time, in this very moment – in this eternal heaven.

I smile to myself, it was just a nightmare. This is where I have been, this magnificent paradise – an eternity with a thick woman to love and a skinny child to play catch with. This room is all that I am – this chamber with these bodies, this breathing, this darkness. This and nothing more.

I smile again. Nothing exists outside this room. On the other side of the door, there is no street, no cars, no buildings, no grass, no trees, no birds, no people, no moon, no sun, no stars, no sky. The bird was part of the nightmare? Was it part of the dream? The nightmare? But what of them…the boy and his mother? Are they with me in the nightmare? My mind starts to crumble, my smile begins to fade.

I close my eyes. I take a deep breath as I go into the Void.

And then a sound to rip me from space. Tires screeching, metal slamming, footsteps against the pavement, two deep voices shouting commands. Rushing footsteps up the wooden apartment steps, ending at my door. A moment of silence, then…slam, the door comes down. I jump to my feet, my naked body feeling the shock of cold, my eyes squinting at the silhouetted shapes in the doorway. I stare and they enter, my father and brother.

I turn to check on the Little Cambodian and his mother, but there is no narrow bed, no thick sleeping woman. There is no steady breathing, no one to play catch with.

My brother and father stare from several steps away. Their panic is etched on their faces, they shout and shake their hands, urgency leaks from every part of them- but their voices are like distant murmurs, fainter than the breathing I enjoyed so much before. I stare into their eyes, searching for their words, but finding only black pools of mumbled urgency.

My eyes wander from my father’s eyes to the blue bathrobe covering his broad shoulders. Something snaps and I remember a word…dream.

I walk towards the shattered doorframe, smiling softly as I step over the door. I hear faint murmuring as my brother reaches out for my arm. I avoid his grasp and make it to the railing, motioning for my brother and father to follow.

“This is just a dream, watch.”

“No!” my father screams.

I have floated before, in other dreams.

I step towards the railing of the second-story apartment ledge. Jumping up, I walk like a lithe circus performer for a few steps, looking down to the parking lot of cold waiting cars.

It’s just a dream, and, in dreams, I can float and fly.

I jump…

Floating forty feet above the ground, I look into the faces of my brother and father standing in the shadows, shaking their heads in disapproval. Below me is a sea of metal, beneath that, a paved earth.

The first rays of sun rise over the horizon. They rush towards me in slow, pinkish motion. Rolling thunders roar, shattering the blankets of silent stillness at five in the morning. A rippling sensation moves through me, sucking at my memory. My hands and bodies are covered in light, but when I look back, the apartment is still drenched in darkness. The street, the cars, my brother and father, the sun has not reached them. I now seem to be facing two worlds. Pure, shining, white light above, and phenomena in darkness below.

The light eventually takes over everything as I float between two worlds, and I find myself laying on a thin mattress, staring at the white ceiling of my cell.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Moment In This Life

I’m here, in a sea of colors, sharp edges, landscapes and presence. I’m here and I’m away, drifting towards the glass. You’ll see me pressed there like yellow butterflies that, careless with the ecstasy of life, have met death on the highway. There are things rushing by, indifferent to my delicate constitution.
My small shape, growing like salt crystals under the light of a microscope. I never was a big thing. I am a big thing still. I feel trapped, like a bee in a bag, incapable of returning to the hive, confused, so confused by the clear plastic walls of my prison. Try to tell, tiny insignificant me, that my confinement has been orchestrated because I am capable of stinging the children of the dark gods. My punishment is death for the crime of causing some potential pain.
It melts like tiny hailstones between the fingers of a curious child. Tell me why the rain freezes up in the bellies of clouds. Is it because the clouds were cold mothers? Now their children fall to earth stinging the flesh of man beasts, perishing upon impact. One tiny bite as they pass, then they are transformed by this new encounter and become drops of water dribbling down between fingers.
Without knowing the beginning nor the end, I take flight, here, in a sea of colors, sharp edges, landscapes and presence, always here traveling across the universe, the one song, the only song I know yet. A folk musician likely wrote it, a girl with a guitar and a leather headband. Her mother must have looked the same.
Music fools my bag of bones into hypnosis. I’ll dance the dance of the swirling snow and the humming wasps, of the poor, poor butterflies fluttering from flower to flower. Is there something wrong with being alive?
There is something wrong… I feel trapped. There are chains of laziness that won’t let me take flight, thick cords of heavy sleep fastened in all the right places, strings that push me, pull me, make me move, spasmodically, towards the highway.
Death then is the final ringing of the bell. It is; when I count to three you will open your eyes and forget everything which we have just discussed…
If I had been hypnotized, how would I know? How would I ever know? As I take these steps, as the sounds lift my insides to a dance, I can never know. Why? What is happening? Was it because I had a cold mother? Why, why, why do I fall?
Waves of space engulf my senses. I am drowning. See how my mermaid hair reaches up toward a forgotten sun? The gates of reality come rushing to meet me. Without knowing the beginning nor the end, I have come to this place again. I pass beyond the threshold, just as I have before.
Whirling with the dizzy pleasure, I find myself on the highway. I’m here, in a sea of colors, sharp edges, landscapes and presence. I’m here and I’m away, drifting towards the glass. You’ll see me pressed there, growing like salt crystals under the light.
I never was a big thing. I am a big thing still. Trapped like a bee in a bag, incapable of returning to the hive. I am here. And I am away.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Long Road Backwards

Let’s take a trip in time. From where I sit on this velvet couch, it looks like backwards, but time moves in all directions, and the arrows bend and shift depending on the light and drugs, and so nothing is clear. Everything is clouded in the fuzziness of uncertainty and this purple haze that seems to follow me in my musings.
But let’s take a trip. My carpet is in the corner, still maroon and soft after all these years. Step up, and watch your head on the Dogwood branches, they try to bite this time of year. Sit and relax, let the air from these heights fill your being, and like a balloon, we’ll go.
Rainbows and flames, the flapping of our carpet corners beat like footsteps. Down the road of history we travel, up the tales of time, through the stories inked and spoken. The echoes of generations fill my ears. Can you hear their murmuring?
The reflection lies up ahead, a strange mirror that stretches across the horizon, the merciless eye of time. Below I can see a brick road, gold and faded red and shaped like a helix. This is the path of DNA, written by an unknown hand and a fine tipped brush, carving its secret messages into each of our cells. Messages so simple and pure, so earth-shattering in their truth.

The questions begin to mount:
Where have we come from?
What stories have I forgotten?
Who am I?
Where did I get this funny looking monkey suit?

In an effort to reveal a link in my own chain, I face the carpet east, towards the land of my grandparents, Croatia. It’s time to go back. I pluck my father sleeping from his bed, in his gown and black socks. He is coming. He has never gone back, not in forty years. He has washed the questions away with time and weak wine, and a marriage that was built to last, but now, with me, he’s going.

And here I am. Holding a picture of my Dad in front of me. A picture of when he was young and full of answers that could have been easily broken. It was taken here, in Croatia, 42 years ago. He’s standing in front of the local church with his younger brother, both in their crisp altar boy outfits and shy smiles. In the middle of them is the local priest, staring into the camera lens solemnly.

I hold the photo like it’s the most precious thing I’ve ever seen. I let the image watch me from the past. They look at me, they look into the man they’ll come to know much later. I let their forms seep into my awareness and I begin to feel how the echoes of the past can vibrate into the present. The clarity of the moment shakes me, grips me with solid arms. In my Dad’s twelve-year-old eyes I can see myself, but I can also see his father, and the eyes of his father’s father, and back down the line of men until I can only hear the sound of a baby crying.

A wide, silent tear forms in my heart. There isn’t sadness. It’s something resembling joy, but not exactly. It’s white and clear and bright. Thoughts are absent, and I just look, holding the photo. I can see farther into time than ever before, farther into the line of men that would one day make me. The whiplash from the vision sends me spinning headlong into something that I call “now.”

Beneath me is a velvet couch, in the corner, a rolled up maroon carpet. Holding my thoughts is a pale flesh-covered body. Around me is fire and the past is but a burning ember in my hands. The photograph melts, turning into ashes of memory that float upwards, towards some distant planet, the place of forgotten memories.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In The Theater

I went to the movies yesterday, when the sun was bright and the sky was clear and the entire city seemed to be busy doing other things. I didn’t have a movie in mind, any would do. I walked through carpeted halls that smelled of popcorn, entering different theaters at random, number 12, then 2, then 7. I pulled the heavy doors open, just getting a quick glimpse of what was going on at the moment. Men yelling in the trenches, a girl walking down a forest path, a teenager in the back seat of a car, a man with a gun. I tried to avoid the temptation of staying in one place, I forced my feet to move, pushed my own elbows off the armrests by sheer will, quickly walking into the light-filled halls once again.
Soon, I realized that there was one theater I didn’t want to visit, I kept avoiding it with each pass. The door was covered by a maroon curtain, and just walking in front of it gave me an overwhelming feeling of dread and impending doom. Like a strange tide, I felt my body pulling me in the other direction, while another part of me knew what must be done. I escaped the light, the popcorn and the safe patterns of the thin carpet. I went in.
The previews were just ending. The movie was about to start and I looked into the rows of empty seats. I was alone. I realized they were showing the feature to an empty room. Not one sign of life. No oxygen, no carbon, no breath. And then the questions began: Why would they do that? Who would do that? Was the process so mechanized that the movie just begins and ends regardless of the audience? Was there a man up there, behind the flickering light, responding to orders? I looked at my ticket, I should not be here, not in this theater. The ticket I bought was for another movie, another theater, another audience, other seats. This show couldn’t be running just for me…they couldn’t know I was here, the lone man in an empty theater.
I sat down twelve rows from the front and in the center. In the film, aliens make the whole city fall asleep to steal their memories. Halfway through the movie, I realized I had fallen asleep on cue. Someone had yelled at me to stop snoring, but I looked around and found the same lonely chairs, the same quiet stench. There was no one with me. I had dreamed the yell.
I kept watching the movie and looked around every so often to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I found no evidence one way or the other, except that the movie seemed to be just ordinary scenes of ordinary people doing nothing in particular, and I wondered what had happened to the aliens.
I found myself becoming more intrigued by the green ‘exit’ sign to the left of the screen. I wanted to get up and go through it, to find the door or stairs or another world with an alien carrying my memories. I wished to walk beneath the sign’s green glow, only I seemed to be glued to my seat. A heavy metallic atmosphere pushed me down. The smell of plantain soup would come and go. I was confused by the green sign and its message. Was it informing me of the exit? Was it a suggestion? A command?
Meanwhile, the movie on the screen continued. Ordinary people doing ordinary things. And me, here, watching.