Monday, May 23, 2016

Horizon Line (AKA Hell Is For Heroes Part V)

From my bedroom window I watch tiny pinpricks of starlight dance defiantly like seraphs on the backs of each crashing wave. Salt water droplets slowly crystalize into random patterns on my window pane and the mild scent of salt water permeates the room.

There is a distinct feeling of anticipation and discovery coursing through the veins of the city tonight: ions displacing air molecules and the iridescent whisper of jetstream confessions bearing witness from the backs of raging Atlantic Ocean waves.

I can feel my body begin the disintegration as I slip silently down the old staircase and into the waiting arms of the city. Concrete alleyways unfold before me in every direction, illuminated by the afterglow of street lamps reaching out like halos from above my head. A single snowflake lands at my feet, a silent harbinger of the storm brewing just beyond the horizon line.

My sneakers kiss asphalt, each step a silent gunshot slicing through the humble streets ahead. It has been years but my grandfather's dying words still echo in my head: "The world feeds on us all . . . "

No one ever told me that growing up would entail having to bear witness to the irreversible decline and inevitable demise of the people that I love. Such is the ironic duality of existence: with every passing second I am dying here in front of you. It is the inescapable curse of every living creature.

And yet, don't we all at some point feel as if we will live forever? That we will outlast the sun, the moon, the stars and all men? Immortality is an unfamiliar architecture to the dead and the dying (and by living are we not dying the slowest of deaths?)

Or all we all just funerals-in-waiting? What is our contribution when the end result is always the same: Inhale, exhale, repeat and die.

My grandfather was correct. The world does, indeed, feed on us all.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Post-Life (AKA Hell Is For Heroes Part IV)

"This way to the great egress," Katy whispers, pulling back the covers and revealing the pistol hidden amongst the detritus beneath her bed. With a steady hand she pulls back and releases the slide, chambering the cartridge with a familiar cha-chink that echoes off the bedroom walls. Katy considers the weapon closely, turning it over in her hands - potential energy made kinetic. A tear slides down her right cheek, staining the carpet at her feet. I reach for her hand and in one fluid motion she takes a step back, raises the weapon to my chest and cocks the hammer.

A tremor passes through my body and disappears into the floorboards. I raise my hands slowly and stifle the scream attempting to tear its way out of my throat.

"Do you think it hurts to die?" she asks.

"It can't be any worse than living," I reply.

"Good answer," she says with a smile. "Life is a terminal disease and the cure is waiting for us on the receiving end of this barrel."

"Then what are we waiting for?"

Katy's smile fades and she averts her eyes.

"I . . . I don't think I'm strong enough to do myself. Will you do it for me?"

I lower my hands. " . . . Sure."

The smile returns to her lips. She loosens her grip on the pistol and I take it from her. The grip is slick with her sweat. I wipe the sweat away with my sleeve as Katy takes a seat at the foot of the bed. Out of the corner of my eye I watch her roll her left sleeve all the way up to the elbow, revealing an arm-full of angry pink scars. As this intimate moment unravels Katy begins to weep and I take a seat next to her on the bed, slipping the pistol into my jacket pocket as I do so.

We sit this way for a long time, the silence punctuated by her softly fading tears.

"Do you know what the funny thing about life is?" I ask after an indeterminate amount of time. Katy turns her head and looks at me with black eyes and a blank expression but says nothing. Her lower lip quivers and I turn away.

After a moment I manage to regain some semblance of composure. Again I try and find the words that will break the tension between us . . . and perhaps save us both.

"The funny thing about life, Katy, is that it only hurts until you die. We have our entire lives ahead of us, with death to look forward to at the end of it all. Death is both infinite and assured, so tell me why our idea of fun is digging our own graves."

"Digging our own graves . . . " she echoes absently to herself.

"Some things in life simply aren't worth rushing. Life will still suck tomorrow so how about we sleep on it?"

A long pause, followed by a heavy sigh of relief . . . and a laugh.

"You always were the rational one," she says, acquiescent.

(The next morning we went downstairs, drove to the waters edge and threw the pistol into the Pacific Ocean. Neither of us ever spoke of this incident again. That was years ago but there are pieces of you in me that I still cannot escape.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I've never fully understood how fucked I am until this very moment.