Ian Maass

In the early morning light, one could see the way the house sucked up the dim light. Like a suburban black hole, it seized any light that may have it its poorly whitewashed walls and rendered it into a dull gray. Not even the early morning birds would sit at the branches of one of two willows that swayed in the front yard. Crunching across the masses of dead leaves in the yard, one came to the heavy front door. It had an oak frame thick with youth, but bleached into an unbearable dimness. It never shined, even on the sunniest days of the year. Just on the other side of the door was a brick walkway. High heels click-clacked on its service. Immediately forward was staircase the led straight up. Several weary souls had fell down it over the years. It remained the unforgiving cliff of the house with its unusual steepness. Stained white carpeting the color of old socks covered the steps, rendering each step into an eerie softness that betrayed the staircases’ reputation. Up the stairs was a landing, the railing shot shadows across the walls at almost every hour. Of all the places in the cold, spooky house, this was the place to tell horror stories. At any hour, the shadows of the rallying columns would hit the walls like thick sentinels. Thoughts of Alfred Hitchcock films and Poe tales danced in everyone’s thoughts as they made their way across the landing to the first room. The door of the first bedroom did nothing to illuminate the rest of the house. No matter was teen idol was hung, no matter what insolent phrase was painted, the door remained more like a long tombstone than a door. The knob was a creaking viewless hole, a flaw in the white tombstone’s coat. Just beyond the door, the dull carpeting continued along the floor until it flowed under a great bookshelf at the far wall. Papers and books were scattered along the floor with a frustration that had long since died and been given proper burial. A lone figure sat on the cot along the right wall. Get a job they all said, but was he just that? Was that what he was worth? A job and nothing else? Somehow he hoped for more, to be considered more than just another breadwinner. Surely he deserved more than this! The days of dreaming and assuming were over. He was to choose his path now. The paths of life were more visible to him than ever now. And what of these paths? Was it even a matter of what he deserved? The choices that lay before him were the only things clear to him at all. In one path, he saw himself

taking what everyone else was taking: finding the right career, attending the right classes. It was up to him to perform the ritual of life to support himself, to live up to the expectations put to him, to fulfill all the needs of his body: to satisfy hunger and thirst. Yet, he felt that there was something more to life than that. His mind told him to come to grips with reality, to take his place in line and shut his mouth. At the other end, his heart told him to think before choosing his place in line, to find the right one and work for it, to take his place and speak with all he could. To live. All about that horrible house he had wandered those last few days, unyielding to anything. The faces of his family were just empty spaces among poor word usage. Their seemingly petty lives becoming everyday more and more distant from him. The path he traveled was for him alone, no other soul could follow the path the fates had left him; no one could possibly know how he felt. In the midst of his sentences, his family was the grammar, the empty spaces the writer complies with in order to be accepted, to be understood, to be considered normal or even human. The basic conflicts rang through his head, suddenly appearing there as if on some kind of cue. Man against nature Man against Man Man against himself The last rang through his mind again. Man against himself. When he wasn’t comparing his life to movies, he was comparing it to books. It was as if he were recording his thoughts in a book, or acting out a character in some Suncoast art film. Many years of pretending to be movie stars with his friends came back to him. At times he was playing the machine, The Terminator. When he drove his car, with his music playing on the radio, he envisioned himself in a music video. Not in one of those bubblegum videos with flashy girls and big stars, but one of those music videos with what he envisioned to be “quality” filmmaking. Other times, he knew himself to be Dicaprio’s character in Titanic, wooing girls with his artistic aspirations, dragging his friends to the mall to chase a whichever girl caught his eye. To him, the art of storytelling wasn’t lost in the cinema. To read was to feel and think, to watch was to see and feel. The cinema was art that screamed for more attention to be paid to it. Hundreds of students yearly are exposed to great literature, but few are shown good filmmaking and are able to appreciate it, not so much as the story and the acting, but the simple visual art that came with film that so few seemed to recognize. A film was indeed, a painting in motion, the motion picture. Instead of brush curves, there were lines to be recited, unlike the theatre; cinema wasn’t limited in setting or effect. Lately, he’d immersed himself with Stanley Kubrick, one of the few film directors whom he truly considered brilliant. Kubrick’s movies he just got, as if that was all there was. There was nothing else, he just got it. He’d talked with many a movie lover who’d simply not got it. They could read the sentences all they wanted, but they couldn’t quite get the meaning of the passage. They said only words, not sentences. These people ruled the earth, they held industry and science at their fingertips. This puzzled him. To find that the world thinks differently from you is always a puzzling experience. These movie buffs weren’t alone. The psychologists would tell him that what he was feeling was withdraw from the “social scene” or at least a rejection, as if he were a

basketball. It upset him, the fact that people appeared to dig through him like that. It wasn’t as if he was an orphaned poor boy taken into adoption after years of bruises and cigarette burns at his cheek. But then, who wasn’t? Who isn’t abused in some way or another? Everyone in this planet was a protagonist surrounded with antagonists and a supporting cast. There he went again, comparing his life to movies and books! Man against nature. Man against man. Man against himself. The paradox of remaining human refused to leave him, the sudden irrevocable opening of his eyes forcing his confidence into a nosedive. Oh how so few can truly know who and what they are in another’s sight! Those that lived, breathed, and talked near him only came through in blurry mental pictures that went away as quickly as they disappeared. At times he knew it was his own fault and tried to blame no one and eventually began to turn the blame to himself, that it was his fault that he felt, that meaningless things meant something to him. They prayed at the sunrise and he prayed at the sunset. He pondered the isolation from the outside world as the birth of an artist. In his heart, he knew he was an artist. The struggle was to convince his critic of a mind of the same thing. And what was an artist? His mind would ask him, and his heart would search for the reply. It took all this misery to appreciate the beauty of those around him. In order to know the light, one must know the dark. Sometimes, sometimes, illumination would burst through the wall of burdens that surrounded him. Several weeks ago it was the pigeons in central park. He remembered that wretched old woman, with gnarled hands peeking out of shabby rags and greasy gray hair to match. She’d sat at one of the park benches, just another hobo on the street, without a home and without hope. The boy had seen her walking along the streets, her crusted lips muttering in the language of the far-gone. That afternoon she’d sat on the bench in park and had withdrawn loaf of sliced white bread from her filthy jacket. The loaf was still in it’s plastic wrapper and was most likely taken from some convenient store somewhere, the clerk not having the heart to take it back from her. The minutes flew by as he’d watched her sit down and proceed to give away an entire loaf of bread to the birds in the park. Her mind was sick with voices, but her own voice sometimes came through. At every sight of the birds, her eyes had lit up. To her, they weren’t the burden that the other visitors to park viewed them as. Don’t feed the birds unless you want your picnic raided. Don’t encourage the birds. She’d given away her chance of ending her physical hunger for a chance to see the birds, for a chance to have creatures who cared not of the sickness of her mind, but simply there for the bread she held in her arms. A simple reason for simple companions. It was then that he knew that there was more to living than what Darwin and all the others had said. There was something, something deep inside that few could see. Those moments of existence when the truth seeped out the seams and we showed the world who and what we are is the very fabric that keeps the universe at bay. When the moment had passed, he’d gone home to draw her, to draw those few moments of hidden content, hidden pleasure, hidden love, but he’d ripped the drawing to shreds after an hour of frustrated line drawing. The art of lines and colors had led him to a dark highway cut off with an invisible wall of steel. He was Wiley Coyote smacking into his own illusion. To him, the artist saw the beauty because of his own isolation and was able to

show the others what he’d found. The Mona Lisa herself is not able to actually able to step out of the painting and admire it to see how beautiful she really is. The artistic mind that demanded perfection had killed so many artists, but the local currency had ruined more, producing so many as pure as the can of Spam downstairs in the pantry. Hoards and hoards of Campbell's soup and it took Mr. Warhol to point it out. Even then, few of his audience understood him, just like the rock stars. He went downstairs in a tranced walk and prepared himself a cup of tea. It was early in the morning and not a soul was about. He sat at the kitchen table, the cup of tea at his hands, sipping at it slowly. Another fifty to sixty years of this? Putting bread on the table all week and then going to the movie on the weekend? He chuckled at what his girlfriend called it. Quarter life crisis. Was this it? Was this it? He hoped that it wasn’t just more years of everyone just misunderstanding him, like they did so many others. Fresh out of high school and already he was lost. Clueless and afraid he sat at home, unable to face the world. More words of the psychologists came to him: Now that he was loved and had found a stable base, he needs to find an outlet for expression, whether that resides in children, career, or artistic creation is up to him. He stood up. That was it! Everyone worth mentioning was an artist. Whether they where fathers, mothers, lawyers, or flipped hamburgers. All that is required is that you do it to survive! He thought of the old woman in the park. It took an artist to recognize an artist. Survival as an art form? How far would that go with the “philosophers”? He recalled talking to one of the “PhDs”. Those they called “philosophers” who stated that no new ideas were going to unveil themselves, when that statement in itself was a new idea. In the midst of most philosophical argument, he found that philosophy was the art of argument and memorization. It was the mathematics of concepts. Evil people plus good people equals divided world. David Bowie came to him: “I don’t want knowledge, I want certainty.” Without a word, he ran upstairs to his music collection. It was large, containing everything from Mozart to Pantera. Time passed as he flipped through his collection until he found the one he was looking for. Soon the player was pulsing dully with David Bowie. “I’m afraid of Americans, I’m afraid of the world, I’m afraid I can’t help it, I’m afraid I can’t.” The song’s melody swept through the early hours of the morning. The words of that song hit him with a comforting edge. He was able to strangely relate to the lyrics. After all, he was an American himself and he was afraid of them; afraid of their “intellectuals”. Racism was colorless, to think it not was to just as ignorant as those they call bigots. Opposition breeds hatred, whether that opposition is “justified” or not. Now whether one nurtures that hatred is one’s choice, not all opposition leads to evil. Yet, was it his right to say what was right or wrong? He’d found out the world was objective, that humanity was objective. There was a line, a line between love and hate, a line separating good and evil. Hundreds denied it, even more modified it to fit their greed. And yet, with all this evidence, he still needed God and Man to tell him so, to say that he was right, even though he knew he was right. He needed to matter; he needed love and

support, just like all the rest. He was a fool. The truth presents itself all around; does it take the brilliant mind to see it? They acted all their parts out, within and without fiction, people are people. He thought of the old woman again. Oh, how he wanted to feel, to express, but that page of scribbled lines he’d made echoed in his mind’s eye. In the midst of this reverie, the back of his mind kept repeating Get a job. Get a job. Taco Bell. Get a job. Jack in the Box. Get a job. Macdonald’s. Get a job. Peasant. Get a job. He picked it up. Get a job. He placed it in his mouth, shiny and cold to the touch. Get a job. He pulled the trigger. Get a.................................................................

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