Gratitude

Here’s the funny thing about gratitude:
no one really gives a shit.

That sounds very much like a

glass-half-empty sort of argument.

Regardless of the inherent pessimism,

I promise to do nothing but to be truthful.

There is such a thing as feeling,

feeling too much for things that don’t exist.

It’s not a seance if the one with whom

you are trying to commune

is just 14 paces to your left adjacent;

she breathes the same air

you do.

You’re not bringing back the dead

with your mindless and hurried chatter.

You’re simply adding soil to the top

of the grave of what could have been.

Because the more she gets to know you,

the more repulsed she becomes.

Her slippers would never move in time

to the beat of the a capella songs you write

for those too pained to sing.

Sure, she might have been a dancer.

This gave her the gift of holding

herself like a flute of fine wine

in the hands of a debonair debutant.

Don’t confuse beauty with longing.

Because the sunset doesn’t wish you

to tuck it in at night.

The Auroras that flicker to the north

have no wish to feel your lips pressed

against her lightening waves.

That scarlet cross that weighs heavy

on each of your cheeks flushed

with longing and confusion

is as sanguine as you could ever hope

her lips to one day be.

Chapped by being swallowed by another.

-d.f.b.

Happy Mother’s Day

Hey Mom,
A few things have happened since I last wrote you. I wrote a book, it’s mostly about you, and a little about another woman who doesn’t really matter too much in comparison. It’s what you would have wanted me to do. You always had so much faith in me as a writer, even when I didn’t believe it to be true myself — in fact, especially then.
So, besides writing the book, I’ve been writing another one. It’s about the background radiation of bullshit (excuse my language) that I deal with from day to day. However, it’s also written in a happier voice than the one that said goodbye to your body for the last time. 
Apart from that, my Article 15 expired the day I decided to write this. That means I can reenlist and PCS without restriction. It’s the end of the long road I’ve walked since I made my last horrible mistake. I remember you not yelling at me when I told you, and I remember all the times I called you to council me when I was so scared that the world was falling around me. You told me I was strong enough to get through it, and you were right. So, today, when I learned that my punishment was finally over; the first person I wanted to call was you.
That used to happen a lot more often, and this is the first time it has in a while. It still hurt me as bad as when I first found out you were gone. But, this isn’t a sad story. This is a story of recovery and transformation. Even though it will never stop being hard, the hard gets outweighed by the good more and more every day. Soon the days I wake up happy will outnumber the days I wanted to join you on that long lost shore that lies behind the endless horizon of living. I know you’re proud of who I am now, because who I am now is who I was before I made the mistake of forgetting what you taught me. 
I can’t visit you on Sunday, but I want you to know that from the bottom of my heart I appreciate everything you did, and everything you gave up for us. Because I can’t visit you Sunday, I want to wish you a happy Mother’s Day: I’ll never forget to call you again.
Best wishes, love your head,

-Dylan

Burning Bridges

What I want most is for these old songs to remind me of someone else.

For the scars on my hands to bring back memories of when I wasn’t fighting for your attention.

I wish the blood that burns in my face would be still when you’re around.

That my knees would buckle less when you catch my eye before casting it aside.

I want to break free from the cord that tightens round my chest every time you walk away.

I wish I could dream a little less and live a little more.

I want these old songs to stop dredging memories of you from the river’s depths.

That’s why I burned the bridge.

Because I’m worth more than the compounding list of could-have-beens dissolving into never-weres.

They fall like ashen snowflakes all around as the bridge is violently consumed.

I just wish these old songs would stop reminding me of you.

Two Months

Dear Mom,

It’ll be a whole two months since you died tomorrow. I’m still really waiting for it to hit me. I don’t think it ever will. I don’t think this is the type of thing that hits you in one big wave, the kind of blow that sends all the air whistling out of your lungs. It’s like having a rotting tooth, a dull omnipresent ache. It never goes away.

I haven’t been thinking about you much lately, but I’ve been thinking about you all the time. I still feel like there are things you could have taught me, and things I could’ve taken the time to learn. Unfortunately, neither of us have any choice in that anymore. I remember the last time we really talked, it was fantastic. I don’t quite know 100 per cent why that night I decided to open up the floodgates and lower all my defenses. I remember when you told me you were going to be fine.

That didn’t quite happen, but neither did a lot of things. That’s why I’m trying to live every day to be a bit better than I was the day before. I know you said you’d always be watching over me, and I still want to believe that — even if I don’t believe in God anymore. I still feel like you’re here sometimes, when I’m lonely and sad and I look at the moon, like you used to tell me to when I was lonely and sad. I like to think you’re still looking at the same thing whenever I do. I like to think a lot of things.

You were right about everything mom, and now I’ve got to spend the next however many hours I have left learning to accept that. I need to push myself further in the little things, and not let the little things push me around. Let it roll off my back, “walk it off, snack fairy,” and so on. There are times when I need to let go, and let what’s going to happen happen.

It still doesn’t seem all that fair. I know plenty of wretched people who are still breathing, but you didn’t get that same opportunity. You deserve to be here more than they do, and I’m still angry whenever I think about that.

Mom, I wish you were still around to help me with these things. I wish you could have seen what I’ve learned in these last two months about myself, about the people around me, about love and loss and anger and grief and hate and confusion and crying, so much crying.

Maybe I’ll tell that to the moon tonight, and maybe you’ll smile.

Best wishes, I love your head.

-Dylan

Solemn Starlight

You’ll never forget the girl with Starlight eyes,

How she breathlessly beckoned with taut lips,

Maybe she’d have been the one.

 

But there will be others.

 

Remember and find solace in the fact,

That the stars you wish upon died,

Long ago while you slept in angry protest,

Defying the natural order of the heavens.

 

You pray that the light,

The brilliance you basked in,

That its cold warmth might shine on you,

Maybe tomorrow.

 

But, son, keep this in mind,

While an ounce of wine may absolve all your sins,

The bottle itself will never bring you comfort.

 

The dream of campfires high above you,

Will never warm your beguiled heart.

The Closed Door

Hi, my name is Thomas, and I have a problem.

*Hi, Thomas*

So, I don’t know when to begin this tale,
Maybe it was when my father turned tail and
Ran from all the problems he’d ignored for so long.

The boy sat in the stale air outside of a door
Closed, sealing both in solitude.
He just wanted to be normal, throw a ball.
He wanted to be alone with his thoughts and his Maps, guiding him to imagined bliss.

The door was old and crooked and too loud to
Crack without breaking the man’s concentration.
Too scared to knock, too scared to be an Inconvenience, a bother, a son.

The boy, now a man, is sat in the cool fall
Air, it felt like daggers in his lungs as old
Pain came forth from the back of his mind

Was he good enough?

He scrolled through the messages, the binary
Request for affirmation, for affection for the
Love he’d never felt returned from a closed door.

The apartment door behind him opened and he felt
Excitement quicken his pulse. He turned to see a Stranger, her friend, not her, of course.

She smiled weakly, uttering another’s halfhearted
Apology, depositing the cross and medal into his
Hands, shaking with anger and sorrow.

This boy felt more than he should, so much it was
Unhealthy — that’s what his friends say to make him
Calmer, when his dizzy mind finds a new object of
Misplaced affection.

He develops these feelings for those who give him
Hope, the ones who make it seem like the door might
Crack, and no retribution will come of it.

He falls for those who bring him a brief moment of
Comfort, those who lift the weight of that heavy
Cross that cuts too deeply into his shoulders.

Who makes him feel good enough
Who might want to play catch
Who might want to play house.

He replaces one addiction with another saying he’s
Cured, but he can never fill this void, this
Empty space where the love should have been.

He’ll never feel good enough.

Hi, my name is Thomas, and I have a problem.

*Hi, Thomas*

Bitter Drink

I stepped out of the passenger seat and held on to my briefcase loosely. I looked down at the floor before I slammed the car door shut. My sister’s decrepit handbag lay on its side; its mouth was agape in a manner that could either be interpreted as mild discomfort, or unfathomable disinterest.

Beside the handbag (which I decided was unfathomably disinterested in its mild discomfort) sat an extremely gnarled sheet of paper. At one time the paper might have displayed Google Maps directions from my home address to the lost city of Atlantis. Unfortunately, the paper was stained and discolored by melted snow, mud, and potassium chloride making its secrets completely indecipherable.

Fun fact for those interested; it wasn’t really a map to Atlantis. It was actually a set of directions to the Mayan city of gold.

A smirk crept across my face as I thought of adventure and Mayans and wealth beyond measure (every dime of it donated to charities intended to decrease World-Suck.) My fantastic story came to a screeching halt when I heard a voice calling me back from El Dorado.

“Hello, sir! What can I get for you today?” asked the girl behind the counter.

I strode confidently forward, leaning against the counter. Looking down at the badge on this exceptionally gorgeous girl’s apron—Maggie—I smiled broadly.

“A tall cup of something worth trying,” I said as seductively as possible as I gazed deeply into her honey-colored eyes.

She was taken aback for a moment, and then—smiling quite mischievously—she made a few hasty marks on the cup. She took great care in ensuring I wouldn’t see what was written, then handed the cup to her associate.

He looked at her notes and grinned.

“You’re in for a treat buddy,” the male barista laughed. After combining a curious concoction of colorful syrups in the cup with inexplicable speed and dexterity.

Finally, the barista—Titus, according to his nametag—placed a lid on the cup, and handed it to me gingerly. Looking down at the cup I was feeling a mixture of uneasiness and excitement, this was as close to adventure as anyone living in Missoula, Montana would come.

I took a tentative sip, and immediately felt a feeling of bliss rush to my cheeks, a wide smile spreading across my face as I swallowed. It was fantastic.

“What do you call that one Maggie?” I asked, looking back behind the counter where she waited with a look of anticipation.

“Ambrosia,” she said, sporting a half-smile that was impossibly bright.

Ambrosia,” I repeated quietly to myself. “It is heavenly, so I suppose the name fits.”

“I doubt it will grant you immortality, though. Sorry about that.”

I was becoming more and more impressed with this girl by the minute. Not only was she a top-notch barista, but she knew a thing or two about Ancient Greek mythology. She was special, and I knew I wanted to get to know her better. Unfortunately, I have a slight problem with Introducing Myself to Girls; in the sense that I have a seemingly insurmountable barrier.

I had a good feeling, though, and so with all the confidence I could muster I walked back to the counter.

“Hello Maggie, my name is Oliver.”

“I know, I had to write it on the cup,” she interjected.

“Ah, um, yes. Well, I was wondering if I might be able to get your phone number.”

“It’s on the cup, under your name. Text me around six when I get off work.”

“Right! Um, will do. Thanks!” I stammered and, making a quick about-face, walked out the door.

“What did you get?” my sister asked, eyeing the cup in my jittery hands. “You usually don’t get this wired just because of coffee.”

“Maggie.”

“What?”

“Ambrosia, sorry, it’s called Ambrosia. I dunno what’s in it, but it’s marvelous.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” she said bluntly, obviously annoyed

My sister was never very fond of caffeinated beverages. She doesn’t like coffee, or soda, or tea, or anything of the sort. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how someone who does so much work gets through it without the aid of caffeine.

As we drove home I finished the last of the Ambrosia, which did not lose its flavor despite having cooled off quite a bit. I was exceedingly impressed, and inexplicably enamored. Glancing at my watch I realized there was still some time to go before six o’clock, so I situated myself at my usual perch at what once had been the dining room table. Presently it serves as my desk. Three stacks of books overshadow my laptop; a sporadically-used ashtray sits beside my long-neglected briar.

I booted up my laptop and spent the next four hours laying waste to the Darkspawn menace attacking the good people of Ferelden.

 

*****

After glancing at my watch for what had to have been the 30th time the face read six-fourteen. I whipped out my phone and punched Maggie’s number into my address book.

“Hi there, this is Oliver. You made me Ambrosia earlier and gave me your number.”

I locked the phone, sat it on my *desk* and waited impatiently. Nothing.

“It’s probably fine,” I muttered to myself. “She’s probably been held over at work, or she’s driving home. Really, it’s not a big deal.” With that, I went back to my game.

*****

Two hours later I sent her another text, and I was beginning to worry.

“Maybe I did something wrong?” I thought. “Maybe I said something I shouldn’t have? I don’t know.”

Suddenly my phone buzzed on the table. I snatched it up excitedly only to see a Facebook message from someone asking about the AP Lit homework. After tapping a hasty reply about what the reading was supposed to be, I decided that I was going to give Maggie a call. I dialed the number and waited. It rang once, then again, then an overly-exaggerated voice straining at seduction relayed the following message:

“Hey baby, welcome to NightChat Montana. There are some steamy singles in your area just waiting for your call…”

I hung up embarrassed, ashamed, and depressed. Another strike.