When all else fails, doctor the truth up for entertainment value.

"I was out last night and had some stuffed flounder
that reminded me of your mom's. That was always my favorite
recipe of hers. I still remember the time the two of you made it
on my birthday years ago."

I like to catch 'em off-guard
with a random opener like that sometimes,
its the equivalent of having pole position in a race.

"Wow," she says, "long time no talk. How've ya been?"

I stubbornly ignore her question
like I foolishly ignored her love
at the end of our time together and get right
to the meat:

"He doesn't need to know the whole story, Beth."

She flounders for a few awkward syllables.

"Whattaya mean by that?"

"Oh, you know...the minor details."

Again, more floundering. I stoop down to the level
I'm pretending
not to be at for the time being
and get good and specific.

"Look, he was my friend long before he was your lover."

A series of rhetorical questions that might've worked
seven years ago when we were an item
and not the present strangely familiar strangers
like the thumb tack on the floor and the somnambulist,
followed by a request to explain further.
(Apparently 'specific' varies according to gender.)

"We always hate the ones who've done our women
wrong in the past, and we all know my modus operandi.
Keep it vague for my sake, OK?
I'm tired of losing friends over women."

Suddenly it clicks in her head and she swears to leave me out of it,
whatever picture she intends to paint when the time comes.
I have enough shame to live with as a result of the last few years
and thankfully she respects that
which is far more than I deserve.
I counter with a truthful blessing:

"I'm happy for the both of you. The more I think
about your personalities
the more sense it makes. You guys deserve each other,
in a good way."

I practically watch her blush though we can't see each other.
Yeah, that's the reaction I wanted; let her know he wasn't lying
about how surprisingly supportive I was when he broke
the news to me
at the bar that night:
my high school sweetheart fell for him
and vice versa.
It must've come as a shock to them, but nothing
these days.
Like I told her, I've lost enough friends over women.

We make small-talk for awhile.
Then she decides to try to return the favor
by hitting me with a back-handed compliment of sorts:

"Dave, you were right about Liz."

I keep talking like I didn't hear her, to no avail.

"She's a bitter back-stabber."

More rambling on my part.
Anything but the "You told me so about so-and-so" speech, not now.

"I see her for what she is finally. You're a good judge of character."

Oh Lord, haven't they learned that giving someone like me credit
for mere observation (which is all any of this is)
is just more pissing in the wind?

"Well, let's just hope that's true and I really did place my bet on the right new couple."

There, I disarmed it with a positive spin
for the time being,
just like I always do
for the amount of time it takes to end the conversation and get away.

"Goodnight, Beth."

"Ditto, Dave."


But for Christ's sake,
Why can't they just let me be wrong when I want them to?
I'd like to believe that the cynic in me is as terribly mistaken
as the realist.

Currently reading:
"The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps" by Charles Bukowski.


A Mission Statement, An Explanation, A Reason To Wake Up.

It came up in the shower today, my stance on death and dying. Perhaps the chain of thought was brought about by the combination of the act of scrubbing the dead skin off my body and the fact that today at a gas station I ran into someone my former self once almost knew before another 'death' of sorts occurred. Parts of us, physical and otherwise, die every day: the body gives way to wear and tear, the soul takes beatings from which it can never quite recover, the spirit recesses back into the smallest speck of light behind the eyes. My entire identity died and shed like the exoskeleton of a cicada when I came home from college prematurely, despite my full scholarship. For the record I didn't fail out, or even technically drop out, I was asked to leave to gather what was left of myself. In a way I'm grateful, a new man. This second post-college phase of my life has proven to take me in an entirely different direction than I'd ever expected. Each morning, other than Sunday, I don workboots and make my wage through physical labor as a proud union tradesman. I never thought I'd be the type to have to shower after work instead of before, but some things don't pan out quite as we plan them. Ones dreams are usually the first part to die, at least until new ones are born.

As I lathered the shampoo I chuckled sinisterly to myself while thinking back to my first reflections on the topic. Notions of an unexpected passing of a sacrificial nature snuck into my head even at a young age. I specifically remember this warped fantasy I had about wanting to save the lost ring of the cute little twelve-year-old I had a crush on from the raging inferno of our school. The recurring daydream ended with my charred remains, ring in clenched fist, being discovered by construction workers hired to clean up the debris. Pretty morbid stuff for an elementary school kid, probably inspired by watching "My Girl" one too many times. In my disturbed little mind I tried to save the girl and died in the process and in a lot of ways the scenario hasn't changed. It wasn't until this evening that I realized the connection, though. And as I get older and love and lose more and more the parts of me I swore I'd save for someone go with them. Sometimes I wonder if I'm still as immortal as I felt at seventeen, and who would care to what extent if I were wrong. Would they play a song at my funeral if I asked them?

It's only now that I can talk freely about these candid issues because, quite frankly, I'm already seen as a lunatic by enough people to justify total transparency. My parents had me in therapy on and off while growing up because of the divorce, but it was always "I don't like when Mommy..." or "I feel bad for Daddy when..." kinds of discussions. Unfortunately, and to my detriment, I never really said all that I felt and thought about. There has never been a venue to bring out such dismal things like my eagerness to go quickly and unexpectedly as opposed to slowly and painfully in a hospital bed somewhere with tubes and needles penetrating my wrinkled skin and a few cards from multiple generations of aloof offspring propped open on a nightstand. Is it so wrong to want to somehow go down swinging? I had no choice in the decision to be born, I've made a couple foolish decisions to die in multiple forms in the past, and now I'm choosing to live again on my own terms. That's why I hope that someday I get to die on my own terms, too, and that I still have enough left of the Me that I feel I really am inside somewhere to justify this name being inscribed on the headstone that will mark the final resting place of the shell of the man that never gave in until the twelfth round.

What matters now is how I get there, like a writer who knows the beginning and end of a book but leaves the middle to be figured out over the course of those long nights behind a blank page with a bottle close at hand to keep warm. I may be my own worst enemy, but I'm also my biggest critic in many respects. That being said, I can honestly say I'm still no Failure. I know who I am and what I'm meant to do with my time on Earth. I may have strayed from the original path, but that doesn't mean I'm down and out just yet. Maybe it'll come time to check out the next time I pick up a hitch-hiker without thinking twice, or I'll be forced to swerve into a tree to avoid a kid on a bike, or get shot by a stray bullet fired during a scuffle while trying to stop a hold-up at a convenience store. No, it's time to put away childish things; there never was any ring to rescue to begin with, there aren't any heroic ways out now. It's the middle of my book in which I'll prove my worth, the part where I finally get all that I want: a secure job, a nice house with a nicer mortgage, and a loving wife and two-point-five kids to make it worth waking up every day. You have to eat a fair share of what Life deals you in order to appreciate the longing for the American Dream. And as for the grand finale, the most I can ask for is to go in my sleep, the kind of deep sleep that happens after you've already woken up once during the night and rolled over gracefully after checking the alarm clock and seeing that there are still several hours left to rest. Yeah, that's the way.

Currently reading:
"Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch" by Henry Miller.