Asphalt Dreams and Other Strange Things

It always comes back to roads.  In almost five decades of summers, I’ve run down a lot of roads.  Sprawling interstates.  Back country lanes scratched out of the holler.  Familiar flyover county lines strapped on a grid of rigid Midwestern flatness.  Asphalt and Michigan gravel; concrete and Georgia clay.  Ocean views and cement tunnels that felt like coffins.  Even foreign motorways with their strange signs and nonsensical flow.  Always pushing the posted limits.  Ignoring responsible rest areas for the promises hiding just up ahead, behind that next mile marker.  Stopping only long enough to tank up on gas station chemicals; burning tobacco on an endless loop.  Mashing a path through muddled playlists, struggling to find the most significant copilot to help fill the space between miles. …

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Post Box Blues

I sent her letters.   Maybe I sent too many; maybe I didn’t send enough. I have never been a reliable judge of the post.  In fact, I live in fear of that terrifying black box nailed to the front of a little blue house.   Because it generally contains bad news.  Or other angry reminders that I lack proper adulting skills when left unsupervised.  So it is impossible for me to confirm with any certainty.   She sent only skeletons in return.  And that’s probably fair.  We were never anything but ghosts anyway.   Two inconsistent creatures stalking the night  across two different time zones.  Coming at life from very different stations.  Her view of these flyover fields from the mountains was obscured by the allure of affluence.  The …

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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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1989 Was Yesterday

32 years ago, we sat beside a river.     Adolescent love; hand in hand.  Snow fell.  Conversation froze; breath caught, suspended.   She spoke of tests; a brutal admission triggering thirteen months of unwinnable battles.   I lived my lifetime stuck in that conversation.  And drank my coward’s death in her results.    Her reality taught me to always raise a toast.  To send that letter.  Answer any call.  To go running after love, even in the rain.   Constantly embracing the ridiculous– and never fucking letting go.  Anything to make time matter.    So we chased the stars together.   We crashed; we fell.  We flew back up together.   We burned back down.    We danced across the belly of an Indiana skyline.  Believed in naked …

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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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