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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Kissing the Kankakee Goodbye

We pushed west burning out on crushed ephedrine energy, ignoring reflected cautions and riding the empty overnight hard.  Blackness yawned in fields of dead corn—just empty space where headlights punctured conversation.  And that blankness gave our demons more room to play.   Chain-smoking prepackaged intentions.  And drinking preconceived confessions.  Allowing angry bluegrass to help keep the time.  Leaving a window cracked to let the smoke merge with the first hits of an indignant dawn rising behind in a blurry Indiana rear-view mirror.    She sat quietly—a detached passenger, as Starke County disappeared.  I did my best to give chase—in-patient freedom waited, impatiently, just across state lines.  But only if I pushed hard enough.  Because I knew we had to gain the ground before those damn demons …

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Corn Stalks

Early on a Tuesday– they think it must have been after midnight– a good friend followed through on a promise.  A promise I had unfortunately heard often, and with shifting levels of conviction, over the last several years as personal challenges mounted.  But somehow, I always managed to talk her back from that ledge.   This year, though, it was different.     Instead of picking up the fucking phone, she first picked up the bottle– I wonder if she suspected I’d just use clever words to change her mind.  All I know for certain is that she wrote a note filled with regret on cheap motel stationery.  A brief synopsis of a life she felt she lived…wrong.  Nothing but naked regret and echoing apologies ringed in …

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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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