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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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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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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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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