Living the American Nightmare

It was in the between years when I functioned best.     Those chunks of sticky time that aren’t really story worthy.  Yet still somehow remain stubborn enough to fester in these later years.  They were an unstable foundation of mortgaged mediocrity that I knew was poisoning me.  Killing me slowly in measured servings of bland suburban nothingness.  Because the American dream only really works if you are sleeping.  And everyone surrounding me was dutifully tucked in, on the clock, and snuggled deep in their 401(k)s.    But I almost never sleep.  So I saw it all.  Like a map inside my head.  The pitfalls and overlapping social implications.  The selling out when certain lines intersected.  The consequences of betting bad on desperate odds– it was worth …

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Cliff Notes

She’s not anything at all like the others.    I endured sleepless nights walking the face of this city trying to figure her out.  But all I discovered was vacant streets.  Empty bottles under bridges over a river that isn’t the Kankakee. Blinking WALK signs meant for other, more mindful pedestrians.  And a worn out pair of boots that squeaked from all the rain.    My first instinct was to run after those walks.  Because that is what previous circumstances taught me to do.  History dictates that complications frequently get ugly.  Emotions get roguishly invested.  Words are written—or said—that can never be taken back.  And then it all breaks down when exposed.   I learned to always have an exit strategy after tasting the first swindle …

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Blueberry Whine

Outside, the face of a sunny Monday has collapsed into darkness.  Inside, blueberry wine is poured into a stained coffee mug.  Because it was her favorite.  But I can’t even do that without somehow soiling it.   It was a long battle.  One she had fought previously on two occasions. And somehow managed to win.  But the third time was not her charm.  Those misguided percentages were just another fucking lie.   Through it all, I cheered for her.  Celebrated her songs.  Learned all the words.  Debated that cross-country trip when I first heard the news.  She helped me to live; I wanted to help her die.  But, I didn’t go.  Because when that idea was proposed, we were still lying to ourselves—everything would be okay. …

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Flapper Dreams and Other Strange Things

  There is nothing worse than finally meeting the woman of your dreams, in your dream, only to wake up and realize that you’ll never see her again.    And just to twist the knife a little bit more, when you do finally wake up, there are messages waiting.   Messages from a girl who has come the closest so far to meeting the imaginary benchmarks set inside the unpredictability of those dreams.   Much of it was washed out and ethereal, as dreams often tend to present themselves.  But some of the specifics stuck inside my head–hard.  And their lingering presence made me ache desperately to return to their simple, uncomplicated joy.   We were browsing at some ridiculously large antique mall.  Obviously on the hunt …

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Helplessly Hoping

Monday emails are always a mixed bag.    Sometimes, they are reminders about upcoming bills you’re not sure you’ll even be able to afford that month.  Occasionally, some marketing crap, making empty discounted promises, sneaks through the filters to clog an inbox already in a state of job hunting disarray.  But well into the evening hours an unexpected reply hit a phone I had honestly been trying to avoid.  Because it seemed like it was only full of rejections.   She said my recent writing “reminded her of…us.”  And that scared the shit out of me.  Even though it was just two little letters, they still carried a significance I haven’t yet fully mastered.  And that left me feeling a long-forgotten panic as questions began to …

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The Green Eyes Have It

She took me by surprise.   It was shaping up to be just another cookie-cutter Tuesday night, here in the wintery flyover fields.   After having sent out another series of resumes in an attempt to keep looming homelessness at bay, I had settled in to put the final touches on a ridiculous poetry project I recently completed.  Outside the windows of a little blue house, the January winds blew in heavy heaves and sighs- there wouldn’t be any aimless wandering the city streets with weather like that threatening.  So I just hunkered here in a rented bunker to chew up the empty overnight hours with more literary shenanigans.   Then my phone bleeped.   At first, I figured it was just another rejection for a job …

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Perfume

I stole my first real breath in the whisper of that perfume.  A scent powerful enough to loiter for decades.  A fragrance capable of surviving cold bottles.  And of sparking heated battles inside the furnace of old sin.   I catch hints of it in my blackout dreams. Or during my sobering nightmares.  It lingers there, hard and unapologetic.  No matter what I smoke.  Or drink.  Or fuck.  It reaches out across the memory of wasted years to remind and rekindle as I struggle to breathe free.   Instead, I am left alone to suffocate in the crush of stubborn recollection.   In desperation, I take to the low company of high-proof co-conspirators.  I hide inside polished words.  And scribbled prescriptions.   Anything to mask the sting …

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Scars

Born into an abundance of melancholy, I somehow survived with a stubborn gratitude for the unpredictability of biology.   I was born a broken child in a broken world; mine was a throwaway first breath.  I grew, terrified.  And then I was loved.  Which confused me.  And taught me to never trust.   I was the wrong kind of sick to sustain empathy.  So I became a destroyer of fragile connection.  An unrepentant killer of ego.  My words the brutally efficient weapon of choice.  Strike first; hit hard.  Be clever; be unclean.  Be willing to cross boundaries designating safe zones to leave no potential left standing.  Just blowing it all the fuck up– before it could ever let me down.   Because the catastrophic hurt of abandonment …

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