As Long as You Are with Me Will You Remind Me of This Moment When I Am Lost?
This is the part where we do what we can to make it all work because we can hear life’s clock ticking . . . as a reminder of this, we should all own clucking clocks with funny birds inside of them that come out every hour and do hilarious things like chirp, waddle, and splay.
I saw a black orb in the sky. It looked like a planet or a space ship or something not of this world. I told my friend’s dad about it and he said he didn’t see it. I pointed at it and said “it’s right there!” which it obviously was. He said there was nothing there. I’ve never forgotten seeing that black orb and now I understand why he didn’t admit to seeing it which I’ll never understand.
I wish she would have waited until we got home from Florida to tell me what was bugging her. She pouted the entire plane ride down there. At first I thought she was unhappy with the amount of orange juice they gave her on the plane. “Why can’t they just give me the whole can?” Then I thought she was annoyed with the size of the towel at the hotel. “It’s too small! It barely covers my body.” Then I thought she was mad because they didn’t give her enough melted butter for her lobster. “I’m going to soak it all up with the first dip!” She broke up with me in the frozen goods aisle of a Supermarket in Coral Gables. I told her I’d see her back at the hotel. I remember looking at the the lines on the floor. There was a green one that led to the produce. There was a red one that led to the meat department. There was a blue one that led straight out the door
We didn’t see any ghosts that day because everything we looked at was real. The woods sat in silence listening to the joy emanating from the people gathered there. The day ended and we had to go home but if I was standing there now I would still see the people I was with. I often have wondered if that’s how ghosts are made, moments like that, because every once in a while there is a day that never leaves you. Then life becomes like that.
At family reunions in Omaha, Uncle Jim’s house smelled like beer, cologne, whiskey, stewed tomatoes, coffee, mowed grass, cabbage rolls, cigarette smoke, kibbeh, hot concrete, bacon, perfume, and cola. I loved that smell.
We traveled to another planet on a rocket ship. It was strange to finally hurdle through space after staring at it our entire lives. The beings there led us into a structure. There was carpet on the walls, magazines were shaped in circles, pictures were under a clear substance on the floor, the ceiling was transparent, and they were kind to us.
My ability to think, evaluate, grow were all degenerating: arboreal, amphibious, human, ghost. I see now, as I begin to recall what exactly happened, that life is so simple, so resolute in the functions that we have, where we place our arms and so on.
I can see the sunset through the front picture window in the reflection of the back window. The sky is purple, beauty looming above me, in reflections, in air, in sight. I’m holding back information because the moment I reveal anything I will be thought of as insane. Even more frightening to me is the fact that if I start telling you what happened I will have to relive the experience. There is a knife in these memories, they blindfold me and push me down stairs.
The red and blue rooftops are in black and white. I stand inside a picture from my past reacting to the flash. The purple sky is gone; there is no beauty to distract me as my future runs viciously through a foot of mud. I am an elephant crashing down into sleep. In the darkness I can see the lights of airplanes coming and going, moving across the sky like crabs move across the sand. I can hear the highway racing all around me, the city lights buzzing quietly in the grid.
I learned how to be funny from my Grandpa. He was a ham. I don’t think there is a better word to describe him because I remember his house in the woods often smelling like ham. He fought his way through many disappointments in life, one of those people whose smile got bigger the more you knocked him down. I get my sadness from him too. I realize now how much that man felt.
Photo by Christopher Jug George *St. Croix River* October 26, 2011
There’s pain in there somewhere, I realize, pain I thought I’d conquered. It poured out of me this past weekend and I started to wonder if it was real. Had I been guessing when I told myself I was ok? On Christmas Day I was watching 8mm home movies of people, of family, of strangers, of strange family, of Christmas, some of them I used to know, some I never met, one who disappeared from the world on that very day. They were so happy or pretending to be happy or sad, I couldn’t tell. I forgot what year it was on the street in front of my house and had no concept of time inside my house. I was lost and overwhelmed and had to press stop. I went outside to feel the present. I found myself on a path cutting through the park that ended in the middle of the road where I was dodging cars and further still, along train tracks then sitting beneath the Summit Avenue bridge watching my dog bark at birds as the world darkened and while sitting there I went further into the woods, where I saw something I thought I’d lost or forgot or made up. I saw a flash in the distance and even though I couldn’t see it clearly it was enough of a glimpse for me to know I’m not the great conqueror I thought I was . . .
Or maybe I’m still that boy from 1999 who wrote the same thing, in a 12 years ago way, in a novella:
I had to run but all of these people stepped in my path with indiscriminate looks on their faces, faces with no real connection to my current situation but rather just happening to move that foot, inch, or five feet in my direct line so that I was running through them and they were only concerned about tea, or how to get to the Nevesky bridge or what was said about them under someone’s breath, and every large person in the district gathered in one spot and pushed their pianos to that spot with them, and I scaled them swiftly as if I had the ability of the tiger that I saw within my dead Uncle, and next a thicket of thorny bushes that attached to my jacket only to get to a brick wall that I somehow managed to pass through, orange and black stripes flashing through my skin only to encounter every one in the Nevesky Prospect eating dinner in a straight line that adjusted to my path so that I stepped in people’s soup and on their meat and they acted as though they would be disappointed if I didn’t when finally I reached this point of isolation, these woods surrounded by birds . . .
I’ve been battling forever: with myself, with others, with memories, with life, with death. Fighting in a quiet way, mostly with my eyes and my thoughts. I’ve run from you, I’ve hurt you, I’ve tried to dismiss you, but, ultimately, I just ignored my wrongs, my rights, my gifts, my pain, my struggles with reality and then I think of a day like this one, when I was happy and oblivious. When I realized, for the first time, the world sometimes looked like my dreams and my heart pounded because of how golden yellow could be, how beautiful dying things were, how the landscape rose and fell, and gracefully gave into forever.
Photo by Christopher Jug George *St. Croix River-Gold River Diana* 4/28/10
You are a river, Diana, you are high. You are rushing and taking lives. I’m not even sure when you took mine. I’ve been negotiating a merger between the surreal and real for a long time. The deal is about to be struck. I was not here before, I will be gone again.
My brother Jimmy is named after my Uncle Jim. When I was a kid I thought I had a bunch of uncles and aunts. I eventually found out they were all greats so I didn’t know any of them very long. I have known my brother forever. He made it a point to save my life.
Photo by Christopher Jug George *Brugge, Belgium* October 1996
It was the last year of the century and we were walking the city streets during the good part of that summer. It was our favorite thing to do. We stood in front of an apartment building on Spruce Pl. and I told her that I thought Keith might live there. I pointed at a random window on the third floor and we both started yelling “KEITH!” “KEITH!” I remember her feet leaving the ground on one of the yells and I put my hand on her shoulder to keep her from floating away. I already knew she was going to float away.
Photo by Christopher Jug George * St. Croix River * July 21, 2010
I wondered why that older lady from across the street didn’t eat any watermelon. Everyone else had red juice all over their fingers and chins. She sat there smoking and scowling. It was like she wasn’t even there. Eventually, her patio chair lifted off the ground and she floated into the sky like Mary Poppins with a frown.
Photo by Christopher Jug George * St. Croix River * September 1, 2011
We drove to the country to see reindeer in a valley. I was very excited. It made me think of Christmas and all the stuff I would get. The reindeer were gathered around a feeder and I realized they were just big deer. Then I remembered the day I saw a dead deer strapped to the roof of a car in the driveway next door to our house. I will never forget the way those eyes didn’t look at me.
This is my life with him here. My wife is in the bedroom sleeping; my children are in their rooms sleeping. We are talking about the kids. He adores them, he sees himself in them. I see myself in him. I’m old enough to know him. I’m old enough to realize the parts of me that are him. This is life if he never died.
I saw a child’s bike lying alone in a field next to some woods. It made me think of a neighborhood girl I liked as a kid. I was with her and she said something about hating her home. I told her she could come live with me. She said that she didn’t want to be in any homes. She left her bike and walked into the woods. Before she did, she kissed me on the cheek. I remember thinking that at least it was summertime and she’d be warm in there.
Like boxers the people remain in their corners, sometimes peeking out windows at each other. There is tension when two people arrive at the same time in opposing driveways, how they have to figure out if they are going to acknowledge one another. The world has changed and getting inside quickly has become the fad, as if the air is poisonous, the trees are scary and front porches shy from contact. They run even when the world is warm and beautiful and green. They no longer need one another.
Photo by Christopher Jug George * St. Croix River * September 1, 2011
Some people might call Frankie and me fuck-ups but it isn’t like that at all. There is freedom within life if you can find it, a freedom without the perks, that’s what Frankie calls it. He told me about it one night when we were sitting around the yard with Lisa and Betty. Frankie said “If you forget about everything and everyone, well there you are, alone in your own world and hey, if you have friends along with you for the ride, well that’s even better.” It’s friends, you see, that’s what Frankie taught me, real friends make all the difference in the world when you decide to live in your own world.