My grandpa only ever knew me as a little boy. I only knew him as an old man. But every day I work on his land, I stand under his trees, hold his soil in my hand and watch it drift away in the breeze, he knows. He sees.
I’m no longer a little boy.
The old man is buried beside a church in town.
But when we pick up antiques and put them to work, when we give our backs to what we’ll never get back, we can no longer call it memory.
Eternal life might be secondary to eternal use.
That’s why I prefer stories to memories.
Anytime I get to choose.
At some point, you submit. If it is happening this way, then it is on purpose, there was never any other order of things. I don’t know what this is, just what it isn’t, and primarily, this is not an accident. I know that is hard to read. I’ve lost people. I’ve failed at things. I know you may have told yourself it was a deviation from the plan, but it wasn’t. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God what is God’s. And blame for the things we do to one another falls in no way on the divine. Though the humans who use them would have you believe it’s out of their hands, all weapons are shaped for them. A thousand ways to feel washed clean. One form of filth.
The only sin is born in a decision you know you shouldn’t make as you make it. That’s it.
It has always been up to you. No matter how fervently you deny it.
Maybe God made a lumpy rock with saltwater licking shorelines. But it did not invent America. Or life. Or humans. Or the disgusting way a millipede’s legs all work together in waves.
Maybe God invented the perfect atom, brick, building block, with just enough consciousness written within, that this brick is one part mason, one part chemist, one part pragmatic technician, one part way back in the rear, engineer. Brick all the same.
Which would mean we truly own our choices.
Our hardfought, often unnested consequences.
I know this hurts. But we are doing this to ourselves.
I blame God for creating potential.
But this, reality, all of this.
This is on us.
Little board sliver slithers soft forked maple fangs into the palm of my hand.
It bit me. This thing I am ripping. Stripping.
Nibbling no more than an eighth an inch a pass.
Rabid dog mahogany.
Cherry red in the tooth.
Creamy peanut butter pine
with rotten streaks of jelly.
My mom says I love you with her hands.
She spells it out for us. With her smile. With her eyes.
My mom doesn’t say anything unless she believes it is true.
Mom walks out of her room in pajamas at nine thirty on Sunday morning
we all know what it means.
Like a brim that wiggled off the hook but kept the bait.
We sleep in the results of the decisions she makes.
Answered prayers. Skipping church.
My mom has climbed into every trench with me chucked a grenade overhead
and charged the enemy inside me. There is no moment in existence more poignant
than when your parent looks at you honestly afraid and asks ‘what’s next?’
Life. Robin. The early bird who could not wait to get to us. Robin.
Egg cracked many months too early. You knew to hurry and get to her.
You carried her to us like a robin fills the little yellow triangles chirping in her nest.
My mom is her mom.
My mom had to also be my grandma.
Before she was ready. She was handed a burden
I will never in my lifetime be strong enough to bear.
Because my mom is here.
She fights for it.
She outpours it.
She says I love you with her hands. Some fingers bend and others straighten.
She spells it out. My mom shouts I love you across the room.
And no one hears it.
But her children.
Each scuff on the stage is some poor character’s misstep.
Clunky unfamiliar shoes. Heavy heeled.
Scarred the thick black matte some poor soul was paid to paint.
So many scuffs in the same space seem to create a scar.
A gouge. A place gone bare.
Where now the plywood can be seen.
Like a relative.
Like a minister of some kind closing only one eye with a headnod.
A family made up solely of the unfamiliar.
Strangers. Who share blood. When we squeeze the egg.
Globs of it left out glistening on the floor.
So many scars and you start to see real damage.
Splintered fibrous tissue torn up through the paint.
Wide eyed wonder and anchor jawed acknowledgment.
Brakes struck down through the boots now officially digging into the structure.
The lumber-boned and lead-skinned body of our theater. Footsteps.
Stumbles. Outright tumbles. Foot falls. Close calls.
So many misdirected footsteps wearing unfamiliar shoes.
Then new paint.
What is new paint put up against the past.
Scuffed. Broken. Peeled up.
But if we didn’t paint it every year
there’d be no stage left.
Here folks is my confession. I am the memories of lots of things I’ll never have the courage to tell you about. I love you all the same. With an honestness, and an innocence, that I don’t doubt could hold ten thousand pounds. I have hated myself. I have hated you. I love you all the same.
I struggle, on a daily basis, doing simple things, like smiling at sullen faced strangers and forgiving my neighbor’s dog as I would my own. I’ve put peanut butter clean through the bread on innumerable occasions. My fault for liking crunchy. When I’m looking hard at something that needs to be done, thinking hard, moving, working hard, I find I start to talk hard to the people I love, like you were a stubborn piece of wide white oak or dried on oatmeal left in a coffee mug for a day. I use the scratchy metal brush on you.
I scrape the fine China of other people’s porcelain feelings.
But I leave them clean. And the white oak planed and routed.
And I eat just plain ugly peanut butter sandwiches with the doughy battered up bread.
And I still lick the spoon.
Bleach and soapy water.
I am a bad person.
The way a dish is dirty. Like laundry. I am ruined. By my very purpose.
I talk hard. I’m way too sensitive and serious. Unforgiving. Made wretched by the wrenching of only all my own devices. I’m biased. And wrong. About a great many things. Yet eloquent. And convincing. I am a talker. And all talkers are sensitive
about being told they’re all talk.
I confess I’m not immune to that.
So I do more than I thought I ever could to stay a step ahead of my greatest fear about myself.
Yet. That is what it means to confess. Not to do. Not to offer. Just to speak out loud.
Memories. Thoughts. Worries. Daydreams. Candy kisses and spellbound wishes.
Saying them changes them. Changes everything. Just saying it.
A good confession. No.
It is not your next hot meal.
But it might be the plate it gets served on.
Must put the small talk out of your head.
Lay it in bed. Like a baby.
Even before it is ready.
Sometimes. Ignore it a minute.
Honking the exact opposite of a wake up alarm.
Don’t get too much out of this.
Be afraid to be made happy by this conversation hallway.
Word fires circled by people warming their cold fingers.
Every word ever written is another word for need.
Writing is not an easy trade. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written that had any kind of impact, interesting, moving, even annoying or dissonant, it’s because I have practiced at this every day since I was young. I’m continuing my education pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing. And I’m not afraid to say it, I’m good. Frayed around the edges. Diamond self-banished to the rough. But diamond all the same.
Reach out to me, let’s have a conversation,
I might be able to help, whatever the issue.
For all my faults, I have formed at least a thousand thoughts.
I have more than enough to share.
It would be safe for all of us to never again commit to the fallacy of thinking someone doesn’t matter. Or that their mistakes wouldn’t look different if you knew their context. Not read it once. Not looked it up online. To know their context. A professor of philosophy once asked a room of students if they could become any animal whatsoever, which animal would they choose. The professor called on a young man who had given up an easy answer. A dog. What would that be like, the teacher asked. It’d be all smells, and windblown ears, and sniffing other dog’s asses. The class laughs. So where are you in that description? The laughter stops. I’m the dog. Well that’s different than being a dog, isn’t it, if it is you, a human, early twenties, all your experience, then being dressed up as, or imitating, or some sort of virtual reality is the experience you’re describing. I asked if you could become a dog, what would that be like? Well, the student began nervously, I’d have to completely give up being me first. Therefore, the question is a fallacy. The idea of becoming another thing casually, without the sacrifices required of that thing. Context. Backstory. Are beyond important. They’re imperative.
“Hey. Park. What are you staring at?”