Smoke and Mirrors

Lisa used to smoke her clove cigarettes in the booth at Village Inn. Her heart-shaped face framed with long hair that was nearly black. Spaghetti straps of her summer dress riding on the sharp lines of her collar bones and Doc Martens which she rested casually on the vinyl diner seat. What a dirty habit I thought, but the scent was like nothing I had known before. Warm and sweet, aromatic.

She was so cool in her vices. Though younger than me, she seemed much more worldly. Twenty-five years has passed. I haven’t told many people about her.

Tonight I pull on a soggy cigar and fill the block with my own smoke. In my black hat and beard and missmatched shirts to keep the cold spring night air away, I watch the smoke run. The distant chorus of frogs emanates from the silver slash of the pond which separates me from the grey smudge of the mountains. The sky is tinged copper at the last place where the sun had been. I am caught between the melancholy of memory and wanting to forget. While still wanting to remember other times so sharply that my teeth hurt like drinking ice-cold lemonade.

K, the last woman I kissed, had breath of cigarettes. American Spirits. Teal, like her favorite color. She was a whole lifetime from Lisa. I still see her with lips pursed around the butt of that reeking cigarette yet her voice still somehow sweet, holding it downwind from me. I knew then I had lied when I said I wouldn’t change a thing about her. I would have wanted her to quit so she could live forever and her voice wouldn’t take on that husky timbre the way Lisa’s already had at seventeen.

Somewhere in between, I picked up my own vice from another woman whose name also begins with L. I can feel these Fridays like the ones we used to share like a bell ringing, resonating in my jaw and bones. My second beer. My fifth piss of the night. And just one cigar (I tell myself every time it will be the last one). I’ve smoked it down to the wrapper. It is hot between my fingers and the smoke is hot inside my mouth, making my tongue bitter. I’m too stubborn and broke to put it out.

The streetlights come on and offer a little bit of color to the grey of the evening. The sky is a smudge of tarnished tears. That distant lake a mirror to a gloaming sky.

They are all gone and I’m still here.

The woman whose name begins with L would have hated it outside tonight. Her lean and tall body would have shivered in the cold with long arms to reach up and take that blooming starlight. Even under my jacket. The liquor store lights down the street flicker like a false dawn. She’s still here with me sometimes. I wonder if she knows. But does every sparrow that flies past remember you watching it from the ground?

I flick the last of the cigar into the street, watching the sparks kick up against the dark asphalt. Women are a bad habit I’m trying to kick.

Remnants

One of the hardest things about social media is that for whatever reasons, someone building the sucker thought it would be a good idea to give you little reminders of things that happened on that day over the last several years.

I keep opening up these things and finding little reminders of people who are no longer in my life. Pictures. Comments on my posts. And even the negative space of likes or reacts that still show up in the tally, but since the person is blocked, there is nothing there anymore. You see three heart reacts and only two of them are attributed to anyone, you know damn good and well who the third was. And you miss that interraction with them.

You miss that time shared with them. You think of them, and doubt they think of you anymore. Unless it’s to tell their friends how awful you were.

I guess it’s fine. Whatever they have to do to get through the day.

The other night I had a hard time falling asleep because I had forgotten the name of someone’s kid. It bothered me. The name was just a blank in my mind owned by a smiling face. Is that what happens? Little moments like that are just taken away, like standing on the shoreline and watching the ocean eat pieces of the land until one day it will all be gone?

In that moment I had a flicker of thought that said “You could just text them and ask.” No. You can’t.

Thing is I’ve woken up years and years later and wondered what the hell I was thinking to push people away. Jeez, I thought I had it all figured out. Now I just have a few trinkets or pictures to remind me of them. It isn’t the same. But, not everyone was meant to come with us on our journey. Sometimes we lose them along the way. Maybe we get to carry with us the memories of them.

I’d rather be reminded of them from a moment that sets a memory to living flame in my mind, rather than be beaten over the head with it on some algorthimic anniversary, reminding you how much further away from that last time you were happy is from now. And it just keeps drifting further and further. Until one day, it will wink out like a porch light on the horizon.

Those days you wish you could share something cool with them you’ve seen or experienced. Telling them a joke you heard that you knew would have made them laugh.

All my life I’ve watched people go. I think about them still. I doubt they even remember my name. Those who do probably wish they didn’t. But I still think of them. I hold onto those times like those stories might be the only thing keeping them on this world. How easy it is for some people to just let go.

That’s not me. I weave them into my stories so they have a place to live. Long after they are gone.

It’s okay. It will pass.

Letting the ghosts in

Today I was sitting at my desk, drawing a blank as to what I could write. My thoughts have been pretty sanguine lately. My mind this morning has been on some weird level of equilibrium. I know that I have some stuff going on…but I’ll get to that later.

Usually to get the process moving, I have a number of things at my disposal. I often write a post here over something I’ve been mulling around in my brain, but really I have come to realize sometimes that I am just signalling for attention and validation at times when I feel lonely. Or there’s something intense I’m chewing over in my head which I’m trying to process. Or I’ve come up with a bada-bing! moment in my head and I’m eager to share it. I’m not really feeling that today.

The other thing that I do is sometimes I’ll sit down and write a letter. But I’m not going to do that today. My fingers are cold anyway, and my handwriting is bad enough. Another thing that I do is get myself nice and caffeinated. I’ve had plenty of coffee with breakfast today–my mom and I hung out and eventually got chased out of the cafe long after we ran out of coffee.

There are times too that when I need to write about something, I go back to my memories and I let the ghosts of my past back into my mind. I think about these moments and they tell their own stories. They need to be told to find their peace.

Right now, I’m just kinda like…huh. There’s not a lot going in to my brain to focus on in some weird ornithomantic way of looking at the murmurations of starlings or the pecking orders of finches that will illuminate my future. So, not bird stuff. And if there’s nothing going in, there’s not a lot going out.

Well, that’s not true exactly. Remember earlier when I said there was some stuff going on? It’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s like a giant iceberg weighing on my conscience. Just this morning I’m not looking directly at it. I’m avoiding it, but I can still feel the chill coming off of it. It is a heavy presence. More of an ice dam than iceberg. And if I look, it will start to melt and quickly break down and flood everything with frigid waters and gnarled tree trunks and rocks and water that just never stops.

Right now, I can hear it in the back of my mind. That “plink, plink, plink” as it melts. Like the sound of a ticking clock. It’s only a matter of time before I have to think about it. Before I have to deal with it, and it’s going to suck. And dealing with it might not lead to anything good. But it is going to have to happen. It’s a process I started a year ago, which has completely spiralled out of control. It has become like those storms earlier in the week. Tornadoes have spun off in every direction. The whole thing is nebulous. Ice. Wind. You can’t step out of it. Maybe right now I’m just standing in the eye of it.

When I write about things usually, it is that feeling, that itch, that usually tells me a thing needs to be written about. But this…boy today this is too big. Or is it? I don’t know. What I do know is that opening up to it is going to suck. But, the story is waiting. It is demanding to be told. And that itch is there. Behind all that wall. I just have to look at it for a minute.

That feeling. The one that you are afraid to look at…go towards it. Find out what happens next. Time to let the ghosts in.