A Flicking of the Switch

I won't mask this in a faded gray font. There shall be no need for dictionaries. I am me and you are you; the cowardly use of pronouns--he, she, they--was done away with when the boxing gloves came off after coffee #3. If I want to address Angela or Stephanie or Joy I will do so. It doesn't matter. Their last names are different now anyway, and rightfully. But Mike Vahsen? (Do you hear that, Mr. Editor? It's Mike, not Michael.) He's been the same since seventeen, at least when it comes to the core and its termites; still searching, still stinging--both getting and giving.

The sentence has been excessive. It's going on two-and-a-half years now in solitary confinement. If a court had been involved I'd argue the Eighth Amendment, but in this case it's merely karma and fate. I come home to an empty apartment on Main after working alone with the boys from the hall. A crew of fifteen, all with their partners, except the odd man who sees his way out. I joke with the steward, mentioning the necessity for a dog, though a shameless accomplice is all that I want: a brilliant belle with a laugh that's infectious for whom I can bring sincere bread to the table. 

Instead there are stand-ins, holders of places; women who throw the predictable pitch. One makes the perfect Bloody Mary, multiple variables be damned. Another has the ultimate lust handles. Way up north there's a reflection of my mind who may be too much like me for her own good. There's always an artist, some self-loathing muse--the beautiful trainwreck the knight longs to tame. These archetypes continue. Don't feel so left out; likewise, I mean not to lessen your worth. I suspect the desire to fall in love with the writer. They'd settle for the steady steamfitter, get stuck with the part-time plumber. For that I pity them. Life's so unkind. I know all of their lines before they can say them, with their eyes or otherwise. I've read too much Hemingway. The dialogue's predetermined. These poor souls don't see the script that they're reading, or maybe they do and stare through the act. 

The coffee's yielded to its cousin. A waxpaper cup filled with water collects the remnants of one vice, though maybe it's time to invest in an ashtray. Kristen would kill me for smoking inside. Kristen would kill me for smoking in general. And to set the record straight, Kristen never killed me. It's the blur of the sidewalk and the weight of my Levis that make it seem wiser to put a box fan in the window and suck out the stench of a man's last cancerous refuge. I lied again: look up "hiraeth".

The solution sounds simple. Keep my head down and work. Be a productive member of society. Install the pipes required to heat and cool, clean and nourish, move some fluid from Point A to Point B. But I've seen what complacency does to a man, the soul's slow erosion that drains one of talent and dreams. I know great tradesmen who've honed their craft exclusively, giving up on passions that once pulled their veins. Look into the eyes of a colleague on coffee break. Find the sacrifice, expose the dull ache. I fear becoming that man who's got nothing but pension credits and consolidated debt to show for the decades. Most are divorced, some went to rehab. Half have some kid whom they see once a week. The dream is a tease. We punch cards for nothing. Then, once we've realized, it's time to pick plots. Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Leave the rest for the coyotes.

But it's not what you think. There's no cry for empathy. You may keep your shoulder. I've got two of my own. Those blessed with this affliction don't do it to see their names in print. It's not about the glory, nor the mercy, nor the sex. We type to suck the poison like the fan propped in my window. Maybe someone gets it. From this stage I see no lighters; some yawning, a few cocked arms, and a more-than-met two-drink minimum. 

Your ears I'm now returning. My feet are all I need. Tomorrow my alarm clock will silence the madness of dreaming. (She lays her head down nightly somewhere safely far from me.)

I wonder how much less we'd respect our favorite mentors if they didn't show discretion that we amateurs ignore. My defense reverts to childhood: that monster in the dark disappeared with bulbs electrified.

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