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The Second Dreaming

It feels like I write about my dreams repeatedly, but sometimes they are just so intense that when I wake up, my mind is still racing in time with the random sequences of events. I’ll still believe the majority of the happenings in the dream truly took place, I’ll still be afflicted with a thousand leftover emotions, and I’ll have no idea why I’m lying in bed with my face smushed into the pillow and a numb arm. I like to believe that in this small window of time, we are somewhere in between the Earth and the Nether, whatever that may be, and we have very, very briefly landed on the divide between reality and imagination, one foot into Infinity and the other resting safely in our warm beds. And then, after those few, precious minutes of mixed cognition have dwindled and passed, so comes the post-dream emotions, for me always either being extreme relief or extreme disappointment. Then the truth of your situation sinks in, and you’ll think something like, “Ugh, this sweatshirt is too hot. Great, I slept on my neck wrong. Both arms asleep, better flop around like a fish. Must…. Urinate…. but where did my pants go? Oh GOD, LEG CRAMP!”

I never dream in Maryland. As strange as it sounds, when I actually take time to notice where I am in my Dream-world, it is always some distant place that I’ve visited. Mostly I find myself in California, as I did last night; nostalgia runs rampant in my head when I lay down to rest, and last night was no exception. I was walking through the neighborhoods surrounding my old home with a few girlfriends who had never seen this place before, and I remember being so happy to show and share my former home to someone else, ridiculously excited to try to describe the environment that helped cultivate and shape me, a place partially responsible for who I was today, but above all, I was hoping I could meld the amazing people and dear friends I’d known all my life with more recent bonds. It’s hard to keep something to yourself when you love it so much; that’s California to me.

I led them all through the winding streets of my huge, suburban neighborhood, streets filled all with houses about the same size; standard, one-story, 1700-1800 square foot homes with tiny, fenced-in backyards pushed right up against each other, like a half-finished game of Tetris. As we neared the little one in the middle of a long street sharing the same name as Tillamook cheddar cheese, the sight of my old home was utterly demoralizing; it was derelict, dilapidating, slowly decaying into the folds of memory and time. The beautiful roses my father had once so loved were dead underneath the kitchen window. The stonework my mother had so carefully planned on each corner of the tiny house was crumbling away with the passing of the years since our absence. A blooming, silver web was stretched in front of the little alcove leading to the front door, a monstrous, hideous spider sitting in the middle, threatening us with her very presence. I walked slowly up the short flagstone path, my heart breaking with each step. This was what had become of a place where I had spent numerous Christmases sitting on the green carpet of the family room floor sucking on a candy cane as presents were placed in front of me; a place where I would wait in silence near the miniature pond in the backyard just for a water-bug to whiz by my face, the closest thing to ice-skating I had ever seen; a place where I would swing on a blue and yellow plastic seat and make up songs about my day and sing for what felt like hours as I swayed back and forth, the chilly evening rolling in over the mountains and foothills to greet me; this home was happiness, innocence, a place of purity before the rest of life came crashing down on top of me. It was the “deep breath before the plunge.” And now it was broken.

A shovel magically appeared in my hand at the very moment I wanted to smash that spider’s hairy body against the pavement; it seems my imagination was on my side. I gripped tight with both hands, and swung it up and downward over my head like a man chopping wood. The blade cut through the sticky, thin threads of web and lodged itself directly into the center of her fat body, a viscous, green substance beginning to ooze out of the cavernous trench that now lay in her abdomen at my doing, the long, spindly legs squirming and kicking the life out of themselves until they finally lay flat and unmoving. I’ll give her credit for dying so quietly. I left the shovel sticking out of her belly and motioned to my horror-stricken girlfriends to come inside with me, secretly praying to God that the roof would not collapse, nor that a second, possibly more horrifying scene awaited me.

As I gingerly pushed open the door, the soft glow of light, like from a dim lamp in the evening, pervaded the room, and the sounds of pots and pans being moved, clanged, rang in my ears while a wonderful smell wafted from what I knew was the kitchen on the other side of the wall. Once inside, the house looked exactly as it stood in my staunch memory. I swing open the iron gates installed to keep Max out of the living room, and the man himself comes to greet me tail-wagging, a goofy smile across his face, and as I bend down, lip trembling, running my fingers through his long silky coat, pressing the sides of our heads together while I scratch behind his ears, I whisper, “I’m sorry.” As I begin to survey the room, I see faces from all avenues of memory; a woman who used to be good friends with my mother’s is standing in the kitchen next to the 30-year-old son she lost to cancer, both standing over a stove brimming with steaming pots and sizzling pans; my oldest friends from preschool are sitting feet away around the antique dining set, cramming themselves next to each other, engaging in lively and animated conversation with each other; my handsome, grey-haired godfather is leaning casually against the counter as the crow’s feet around his eyes tighten with laughter at the father of a family friend, whose beautiful daughter is my age, and is standing in the corner next to the garage door chatting quietly with her equally-beautiful mother. The feelings running through me at this moment are indescribable, euphoric emotions, all with lives of their own, the vivacity of this scene breathing a thousand lifetimes. The house is filled with people, just everyone, everyone I ever knew or loved. As I’m still crouching on the floor in my beatific stupor, I feel someone wrap their arm around my shoulders and stand me up to face the entirety of the room; they begin to run fingers through my hair, prolific chills climbing my spine like a ladder with every brush of their fingertip. The thought of my own death flits through my mind. Just as the consideration that I might not have woken up this morning hits me, I am at once okay with that if this is my heaven. The fingers stop their journey through my hair, and someone bends down next to my ear, with sweet lemon on their breath, and says, “I love you.”

This line immediately throws me out of my dream-world, sucks me back through the space-time continuum, and leaves me so full of everything that was ever possible, yet emptier than the desert moon on a cold night. I wake with my heart beating frantically as if Death were creeping ever closer as I slept. And as I lay there, trying to take in and sort out all that has happened, but hasn’t really happened, the pang of embitterment and loss is felt in all corners of my body.

Characters: Kramer the Game Master

Image

Late on a Monday afternoon, most college kids around here will tell you that the Cafeteria is not the place to be. But having just left the gym, and having gone almost five hours without a meal, I was not about to drive the several blocks to Chipotle, as I probably would have totaled the car speeding down Route 2 in my haste to satiate my hunger. The Cafeteria was a safe walk (sprint?) from the gym, and thus, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to kill anyone. If I’m hungry, I’m probably raging, too.

Per usual, I sit down at the corner of a big table next to a window, facing inwards to survey the rest of the room. There are a few loners like me, scattered here and there along the outskirts, scarfing down their food in the same barbaric manner as I; the joy of late classes is felt throughout the room, and all sympathetically smile at one another whenever eyes meet, as if to say, “I feel you, bro.” The lucky kids, however, are those sitting in the center of the room; groups of about four or more boys sit at each table, all completely shunning the outside world, their entire beings rapt in their cards. The only sounds in the whole Student Union are the chewing of the Loners, and the whisperings and occasional victorious or anguished outbursts of the Gamers. It’s like an invisible Comic-con, a convention I have always wanted to go to, or an anonymous tournament of sorts, except without the costumes. Well, some of them may have been in costume. I’m not sure.

As I sit alone, digesting my food, I watch what seems like a strange, tribal ritual; what are apparently Magic cards are fanned out in front of faces, hiding nothing but the eyes, eyes which are always watching, scanning the table, the piles of cards laid in front of them. I have no idea what’s going on, but damn, they sure do. One among them stands out, a hard feat to accomplish in this group, and seems to preside over the others. He’s the elder, the alpha male, the overseer, the “man” the underlings are fond of “sticking it to”. He’s wearing a crisp, clean, white collared shirt, sporting a fluffy, curly hairstyle that’s freakishly similar to Kramer’s, a tiny mustache that might have been modeled after Kip, and is casually leaning back in his seat with his arms folded across his stocky chest. His jovial, rosy cheeks are contrasted sharply with the little smirk playing around his mouth as he contemplates the cards on the table in front of him, and you can see in his pale face that today is a good day. Somehow, I get the feeling he’s not this same kind of person when he’s, say, in class, at the bus stop, at home, at the mall; this is his expertise, and he’s damn good at it. He now studies his cards, pulls one surreptitiously out of his hand, and presents it like Vanna White to his cohorts with a knowing smile. One of them immediately drops his head to the table with an audible thud. I hope they weren’t playing for keeps.

As I sit there, the nerd inside of me begins to freak a bit. I remember creating a virtual world for myself once, where I was successful and happy. That world sucked up most of middle and high school for me, and though some might think I suffered or missed out on “important life experiences”, it didn’t, and nor will it ever, feel that way at all. He and his companions are joyous in the confines of their imaginations, and so am I. Kramer and I have so much in common, and he’ll never know. This is about the point where I want to stand up and scream something like “I’M ONE OF YOU!” or “I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!”; but of course, nothing like that happens. Instead, I sit and watch and smile, silently sharing in their revelry, sort of wishing I knew how to play (I didn’t see any ladies at any of the tables; surely they might want one?). Instead, I clean up my trash, glance one last time at Kramer as he begins to laugh like a child at his birthday party, and regretfully walk away.

Hands

My hands were really cold tonight, so I wrote this for you guys.

handprint on window

Flex, and straighten, fists curled, white knuckles.

Ten fingernails, ten knuckles, innumerous creases and crevices,

Places where memories were trapped and held into infinity

So that I might find them again one day and smile or cry

At their behest.

If I curl and cramp these fingers and hold them taught, tense

 And form tiny little cages

Mistakes and regrets would be shoved up against one another

In my left palm

Clamoring like a circle in hell, screaming at me

Through my fingers, threatening to crack my bones

While in my right, hopes, dreams, ideals, loves

Would be caressing and embracing one another

Asking me to join them

Begging me to free them

Wishing I’d favor them.

In my palms, I once held

A happy puppy, a brandy snifter, a witch’s broomstick, a stuffed lion

A tendril of Mother’s hair, a tarantula, a laden bus tub

A microphone stand, a wrapped paper gift, a letter of acceptance

A pool of blood, a rollie pollie, a pair of handlebars, a vase of yellow tulips

But ne’er felt so good as when

Hands found another’s shoulder blades as

Arms wrapped around each other,

As when a palm placed over a chest proved to one that

Life was still alive, hearts were still beating

As when one’s fingers molded into another’s

And each tip clung to each knuckle

A perfect lattice of love, filigree of fidelity.

All hands were made to know.

And now, as I look down at mine

I see the blue fingernails losing feeling

As they move faster across the keys

Cracking skin stretched thin and taught

As fingers move to punch another button

Tiny, undefined veins creeping under the cover of skin, stifling blood flow

All hands were made to know.

All hands were made for another’s.

The Dreaming

It isn’t very often that I wake up from a dream with a full, vivid, sensual recollection of everything that occurred, from beginning to end. Bits and pieces will come back to me as I awake, but by the time I’m finished my coffee, the rest of the neural journey has dissipated into the nether, dissolved into the back of my mind where it will wither and languish, an untimely end to the random firing of neurons in my brain. Again, all is quiet, empty. There’s little room in there for anything besides GPA’s, study guides, and the people I share my life with on a daily basis.

I woke this morning from a vision, to that little galling man knocking at my brain again, asking me to reevaluate. Where was I this time last year? Two years ago? Three? In the reality of the space-time continuum the seemingly infinite thing that is the Universe sees an infinitesimal, miniscule amount of transformation in that amount of time. But in relation to my human life, it is like one flash of a smile that demolishes the wall of prejudice, a brush of the hand or tap on the shoulder that renews the need for human connection, the sweeping gesture of a lecturing Professor performing the dance of enlightenment, the brief eye contact made with another that preserves them in your thoughts until you relapse back into the dream-world at night, the crinkly turn of a page that asks you to reconsider your long-held beliefs and staunch values, the first step outside and intake of breath on a day that tastes like the coming of newborn Spring; these moments and happenings are the bricks of adaptation, building us up little by little, unnoticeable and impossible to perceive until that one day when we wake again to proclaim, “I am different.”

The dog was massively gargantuan and black as the night that enveloped it; it frightened me. I could see it out my window, walking slowly down the street with its head bowed low to the ground, skulking, sniffing out my fear. It walked straight up to the door, scratching meekly as I frantically pushed my weight against it, as though the thing could burst through it at any moment. The scratching grew more urgent, and his whining escalated to desperation, begging me to reconsider my rejection; I could see the shadow through the window of the door, a shadow with sad, yellow eyes, hackles raised in fear of things to come, seeking a friend to share in his trepidation. I slowly opened the door, and he sauntered in to lie next to me, and this behemoth curled into an immense heap of black fur before me on my floor, shivering. I lowered myself to his level, lying right down in front of his face so he could read my eyes as well, and wrapped my arms around his colossal, furry neck. I asked him what a giant like him would be afraid of. What could possibly hurt him that he could not deter with his mere appearance? And then all at once as he was looking at me so desperately, his hind leg caught fire, ferociously blazing and eating away his fur and flesh as he let escape a piercing, primitive howl. I jerked to my feet and held my face in my hands, gaping at him hopelessly, helplessly through my fingers, tears brimming to the surface, mind racing, scrambling for a solution, heart pounding in agony, the heat of the blaze threatening me with each attempt I made to approach, when in my hand I found a cup of water. And then, the floor was littered with cups of water, resources appearing on every surface imaginable, invisible to me until just now when need was most dire and life felt most destitute. It felt like hours passing as I hastened to and fro, greedily snatching up cups in all directions, his cry of pain penetrating my conscious as I gingerly poured them one by one over the flames still licking his body, continuing even after the conflagration had died, eradicating the demon of decay; the water was suddenly not only a flame-squelcher, but a healing salve. Wherever the liquid began to roll over his body, so too began the reconnection of charred tendons, the rejuvenation of seared flesh, the re-growth of his burnt coat. His whole being absorbed the draught, drank in its nourishment, reveled in its pabulum; he, by degrees, became himself again, that strange, intellectual in-between of canine and human. He was more than he was before. I could feel it in his pulse as I ran my fingers through his coat, and as I laid back down next to him, nose to nose, soul to soul, the tectonic plates inside me shifted and jarred me to my core, the most minute change painfully, yet irrevocably tempering and pushing me towards the person I will always strive to become.

Characters: The Woman I Hope is Irish

She’s looking at me like she really wishes I wasn’t here. Her mop of red curly hair in sitting precariously in a frizzy ponytail on top of her head, and her bangs are sticking out every which way, clearly impeding her vision, but she seems past the point of caring. She has kind of a funny accent that I cannot place, and thus the only thing I can think when I see her is: Irish. She’s in the throes of middle-age, the lines creeping across her forehead day by day, the weariness setting in under her eyes, nestling in until death. I can hear the stress in her sweet little voice as she stares me full in the face, both hands now on the counter in front of her, and asks me, “What d’ yeh want?”

She’s the perfect model of the busty, bawdy bar-wench one sees in the fantasy settings of stories such as Robin Hood or A Song of Ice and Fire; she’s beginning to age, she’s abrasive, she retains many of her womanly features through all this, and she doesn’t take any of your shit. All she’s missing is a course leather bustier, a stein brimming with ale, and a lute. So, naturally, this woman scares the living daylight out of me.

I fumble about for a moment before producing the carton of milk I had completely forgotten I originally intended to purchase. With that same I’ve-seen-some-shit attitude, she leans over, eyes me up and down like a hog ready for slaughter, pulls one hand off the counter and plants it with a smack! on her hip that is now jutting out to the side, and exclaims “Yeh need more than milk fah lunch, de-ah, that’s plain!” I start to mumble something about the granola in my bag before I can see she’s already hawking the next victim in line, and I jump at the chance to scurry away, the alpha-female victorious once again.

I could sit and imagine that a husband or two have seen the whites of her knuckles too close for comfort a few times and a half, but her superiority complex is completely understandable in a place like this. She’s a menopausal woman in a smock, serving coffee and sandwiches to college kids. Her happiness may depend on her daily scoreboard relying on the amount of clean, unblemished 20-somethings she can spoon-feed a taste of reality with a quick quip of her tongue. I think she may find a smile disarming, if anyone dared; not a meek, my-face-is-frozen-fear kind of smile, but a large, round-faced, touching-your-eyes kind of smile. Maybe I’ll try that tomorrow. If I can grow a pair by then.

Characters: The Perpetual Bus Stop Dancer

He’s alone, at the bus stop. He’s maybe eighteen, of Latino heritage, and possesses an angelic face; it’s a face no mother could deny. He looks around occasionally, maybe to see if anyone’s paying attention, maybe to watch for his ride; either way, he’s alone at the bus stop. But he honestly doesn’t seem to care. There’s no music, but he’s kind of strangely bouncing around to a ghostly beat, muttering what I assume to be lyrics occasionally at the cars that pass by, as if they could hear him. He loses his baseball hat at one point and runs out into the street to retrieve it, and then reverts back to his previous state of music-less bliss. He’s rocking back and forth, shifting from one foot to the other, almost like a bizarre mating ritual common among birds of paradise. There’s no methodic calculation or choreographic ingenuity, no concern or misgivings apparent on his young face. His eyes are closed, and he is closed, shut away from the world.

A random passerby might see him and think “People are so strange,” and walk away. They would be correct. But as I watch, I envy him completely. He’s gone, in a place of his own creation, available for inhabitation whenever he needs it; he’s trained himself so well, is so fine tuned to his own channel that he doesn’t even need to carry his music with him. It’s always there. I can see it flowing through his mind. He, like so many of us, will be a victim of his own ideals; but in those few precious moments, before a car pulls up next to him and beeps, knocking him out of his ecstasy, he is perpetual.

Characters: Introduction

Your Extraordinary Mind, Andre Jordan

Hello, invisible audience and readers! I am proud to announce my newest venture in the science of enculturation, and the art of writing. I will be attempting to understand the age-old conundrum that many before me have described as the “human experience,” an elusive, vague depiction of what it is to be a part of the only species known thus far to possess the capacity to think logically and feel illogically, to recede entirely into the depths of our infinite imaginations, and to be able to perceive the universe in entirely different ways. I realize that there are and have been many other much more qualified attempt-ees before my time, and there will be many more after my time. Unlike the Psychologists, Biologists, and Anthropologists among us, (whom I have nothing but respect and adoration towards) I will not provide a detailed theory or hypothesis, or a book full of statistics and data; I will not give exact measurements, and there is no degree hanging on my wall; my attempt may have no scientific relevance whatsoever, and I am okay with that. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to gain (there ALWAYS is). This in itself seems like a vague and hefty task, I know; but think of it as a letter from one student-of-life to another, and let me tell you exactly how I plan to bring to you, with one click of a button, a portrait of humanity (or at least, your community).

I plan to display, right here on this blog and as frequently as I possibly can, a miniseries of sorts, of which I am calling “Characters”. I will attempt to seek out one person who intrigues me during the course of my routines, whether by actions or appearance or any other number of factors. I may know nothing about this person, or I may be very familiar with them. There is no limit on age, race, gender, class, occupation, relationship to myself, whatever; to me, you are all fair game. There will be no intentional slandering or glorification; only hopeful objectivity, even though that is damn near impossible to attain. You might also be wondering, “How would you know enough about a stranger to write an entire essay on them?” and you would be absolutely correct in that I have precisely no way to extract every detail in the life of that person without violating their privacy; so this is where something called “creative liberty” and inference come into play. My aim is not to lie to you, but Literary Non-fiction is what I do best. So if you see some girl staring at you and scribbling in a notebook from across the room, or park, or street, you’re allowed to be a little creeped out, but please don’t run away. A little smile would be nice, too.

I am so nervous to start. But, a great music teacher once told me, “That is good. It means you care.”