god knows

By: Joe Federer God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It¶s as simple as that. --Joseph Campbell

I only knew Her for this blue night, and I guess that¶s all she was. She¶s still around ± must be, she¶s here at least, very close. See, I saw her look over and I looked over, she looked down. She was very pretty, very, and very modest seeming. I love a girl who¶s modest. Anyway, she was in love and I was. I mean, you know, love and hello I love you, and won¶t you tell me your name? Red and pink and white, ribbons without edges. And Pink and how and why pink and I laugh to myself, how sexual a thing it is and how cleanly separated. No you won¶t Shut up yes I will And I thought I¶d go over there, over by her, but I just stayed. Talking to my table and I suppose words to the heat of deeds too cold a breath gave. Besides, that would have been rude, going over there when I was at a table already. He kept telling me to talk to her, but I just didn¶t want to and I couldn¶t and we laughed at the table like a couple of hyenas. She came over, though. She was with her friends, and some of them came over and then I was in love with one of them, brunette. She had on these really interesting earrings. I couldn¶t get over her stupid earrings, they were just very, very interesting, What¶s the idea? Nothing, no idea« I just think they¶re so« interesting. Are you making fun of me? That really just annoyed the heck out of me, when I was being quite sincere about liking her earrings, she was going to sit there and accuse me. They really were interesting earrings, I have to say. They were silver, and they were shaped in these kind of rings, and you know they¶d get smaller and smaller as they got to the center, and then a little glassy bead sat in the center. And here¶s the thing ± each ring had its own kind of axis that it spun on, so they almost made this sort of sphere, with all of the little rings floating around their different axes. It was kind of depressing to see them displayed on ears, they really were some kind of art. I started to see she thought she was quite sexy, too. She must have thought I was a real dope for staring at her earlobes given the setting, her attire. She liked my shirt. And we were in love together, but I don¶t think she liked me all that much and she wasn¶t very interesting, so I just went and fell in love with the first girl. She was pretty, not sexy or anything, just pretty. I guess that¶s why I ended up with her, sexy girls are too much. They¶re too serious about it, I think they must be faking how serious they are. Seems like if you¶re really serious about love, then you can¶t enjoy it. How corny. I think they enjoy it, the sexy girls, like old cartoons with bugs bunny. They put on some real fancy music, classical style while somebody gets hit in the face with a pie. I guess they get it from movies, movies are really sexy sometimes, but it¶s kind of like physics, you know, you can map out the problem and the solution, like if a ball is falling from some building, but then there¶s air resistance and wind currents or maybe somebody catches it or it bounces on their head. Movies don¶t have any air resistance, so to speak. Anyway, she came over with her group of friends, another one of them was trying to be all sexy with one of these guys. I started talking to that real sexy one, they usually turn out to be all deep and philosophical, once you get past that sexy shell. Whenever I¶m sitting somewhere, just thinking how someone is just faking and how I can tell, I wonder which person is looking at me, thinking about how I¶m just sitting there faking. I¶m pretty fake sometimes, maybe a lot of the time. But if it¶s my fakeness, I think it might still sort of be me, so I suppose I can¶t really tell anybody else they¶re faking either. I have wind resistance, so it has to be part me. I guess I was faking when I was talking to that sexy girl, the one I thought was going to be really

philosophical. I wasn¶t really interested in what she was saying, but she thought I was. I mean, I think. Who knows. I guess her. Maybe God. That¶s what she wanted to talk about. God. That was just too much, damn near killed me. I told her about my mom, and I guess that¶s why she brought it up. I guess she was trying to comfort me or something like that. But it just damn near killed me. She was being all sexy with this guy and then she wanted to tell me about God and all, I tried to sneak back out to her sexy shell, but I guess it was cracked or something, if I¶m going to extend the metaphor. I didn¶t really have a choice, I guess I could have just talked about God to her, but I really didn¶t want to, so I teased her a little about it and she faded into somewhere deeper than that. I felt kind of bad about it, I didn¶t plan to get so damn deep inside her sensitive psyche in fifteen minutes of conversation. When you get too far into someone, it gets embarrassing. A lot of times when I get too far inside someone¶s head, I can¶t look them in the eyes anymore, it just gets too serious. Why are you guys talking about this junk We¶re just getting to know each other, you know, hard stuff first, I said, but I was lying. He kind of grabbed my shoulder and handed me this piece of glass, I guess he was pretty far into his head, you know, the booze and all, because he wasn¶t making sense. ³Take this, man. Just hold onto it,´ he half laughed, and he bumped into a server carrying a few drinks, which spilled and shattered and made a bunch more glass go everywhere, probably into a thousand pieces, maybe more, I can¶t tell between a thousand and ten million, it¶s all infinite to me. What are you, blind Might as well be. What a weirdo, no joke. ³Well that was interes-³ I began to gather shards of conversation from before with that sexy girl. ³Ohh, Christine!´ and she walked away. It¶s kind of strange to me. How God is so close to that outer shell. I imagine a textbook¶s drawing of the earth with a chunk cut from it, and I think that describes it concisely enough. That outer shell of hers, though, that was a lot thicker than the Earth¶s. You always hear about how barriers need to come down and how you¶re wearing a mask and all, but it¶s not like we walk on the inside of the Earth. It¶s a good thing Earth has that hard outer shell or we¶d probably be swimming around in lava or something. The problem when you crack someone¶s shell is that all this lava and soft stuff comes leaking out. I mean, it¶s fine if you have something to hold it all, if you¶re ready for it, sure that¶s no problem. But you don¶t want that stuff to spill out when there¶s nothing to keep it off the floor. Lava is probably really hard to clean up. I guess you couldn¶t touch it right away, just have to wait until it hardened, I guess then it turns into something hard, like the shell. And I guess that¶s how Earth formed. I mean, I can¶t remember that far back or anything, but maybe a bunch of lava at the surface just hardened because it was too cold in the atmosphere. Makes sense to me. I¶m not sure, I¶m not a scientist or anything. People have a few different things right under the shell, but a lot of people keep God right there. I don¶t really get it. I mean, if something¶s going to spill out and turn into some hard stain on the floor, I wouldn¶t want it to be God. I don¶t really think he would appreciate that too much if he was watching. I wonder what would spill out of my shell if someone cracked it. Who knows, I sure don¶t. Anyway, that girl spilled God all over our table, and I didn¶t like how it smelled, so I got up to walk around a little bit. It took a little distance to realize that the first girl was Her that night. You know what I mean ± she was who was, or something like that. Anyway, I didn¶t want to look all rushed or

stupid, that might scare her away, and who knows when I¶d find Her again. She was pretty much everything that night. I didn¶t have anything going on, and it was a Saturday, so it¶s not like I had to wake up and do anything tomorrow. So to kill some time, I went to use the bathroom, I looked up from my urinal at the condom machine, and it had a sticker of Elmer Fudd. I was never sure how to take Elmer Fudd when I was a kid, I mean, he was always shooting at Bugs Bunny with this big shotgun, quite graphic if you think about it, but he never actually shot him. I wonder if he knew he¶d never catch Bugs Bunny. A lot of things are like that, stuff you¶re always running around shooting at and just end up with pie on your face or something. Sometimes I think I end up missing, messing up on purpose. Like there was some part of my head that didn¶t want to see me succeed. You imagine why I would have developed some kind of self destructive thought process. You have to wonder about some of these traits that natural selection let slide, you really do. Anyway, what I wanted was for her to have a sense of safety, not like stalking up on prey, just like trying to walk up to a rabbit. You know, just putting your hand out a little, maybe even let that rabbit smell it if you¶re really close. Anyway, the point is, you¶re not trying to hurt anybody. I was pretty deep inside my head at that point, the booze and all. When I get a buzz going, I feel like I sink somewhere deeper into my head, like my body is doing more of the acting and I¶m just sitting back and watching. Which is not a bad gig for a few hours, if you think about it. It¶s kind of nice, I guess that¶s why people drink. She had a drink in her hand, but I think there was only about a two sip vacancy. She was too classy to drink quickly. I kind of realized, not in my conscious thinking or anything but somewhere, that she was in complete control of the present and future. Humbling but comforting, in a way. But it¶s never too great a feeling to lose control. I sat down next to her on a stool which served to dwarf me. Just my imagination though, and I knew it at the time, I really did. I could tell the stools were really the same height, but she just seemed much taller. She smiled down at me, and I looked unnervingly back. Maybe from the drink or maybe some stolen glimpse of the future, I held this moment of fear, of utter otherness, as long as I could, and I kind of like the sensation. She extended her hand and we left together into the night, black now, speckled with street lamps and stars and planes. Hands clasped and fingers knotted, we moved faster than light a few blocks down to Her apartment. I had Her, She had me, it was all kind of corny if I¶m telling you the honest-to-god truth about it. Before I had taken myself back, She slipped right out of her, fickle as She was, just slipped out of her, right under my nose, maybe even hers, and we slept entangled like some ancient hermaphrodite, but a hollow one, or a cheated one. Awoken abruptly, I could see him leap from her bed, very theatrical. Her eyes had grown black and empty and stretched into the distance. I could see it from above or beside or through him, I can¶t remember, it was more of an awareness if that makes any sense. Then these snakes. They were her hair, shedding skins which burned on touching the ground. He was also touching the ground and began to burn. Singed and caged by these fiery skins, he grabbed the glass from his pocket and threw it onto the ground, he seemed really desperate, but at the same time he did look quite confident. Damn confident for the position he was in. And the glass kind of shattered and stuck to the ground, and the shards became this giant tree, taller even than the She was. The tree was made of glass, and it too began to melt. He began to climb, but he was not burned by the flowing tree, and that surprised me, it really did. He climbed fast, and although the flow had slowed him down and Her jaws snapped ever closer, he just kept on climbing, I thought he was a goner for sure, and it got to be quite frightening. He jumped upon a melting branch and over the

cage of fiery skins to the cool blue floor which made a flat, hollow sound as his feet slapped down on it. It seemed like he just sort of sensed her elongated neck looming overhead, he ran down a dark corridor, a hallway in her lair, where he found two holes. The left hole was black and speckled with little and big flashes of white, and the right hole was a deep blue, which grew deeper in color as he looked, startling in its purity and starkness. He glanced backwards and, seeing her jaws opened, he spotted a small jewel between two of her teeth. She shrieked a ferocious shriek, and he grabbed the tiny jewel, right from her mouth, you should have seen this move he made, very sly, very agile and all. Then the Goddess, if that¶s what she was, began to shrink. When she began to shrink, so did her lair, and it looked like he¶d soon be crushed by the shrinking room, collapsing walls and ceiling and floor. He leapt for the hole speckled with stars. The hole grew smaller and smaller, and he was unable to fit through. He squeezed and squeezed until his head and shoulders were through the hole, but the hole had closed around his waist too tightly, and he threw the tiny jewel high above. It kind of took on a speed of its own once it was in the air, flew right up into the sky. Abound were stars speckled the dark sky was clear in the solitude of the ship, the anchor had long since fallen deep below the dark lake, and waves rocked the boat gently. It was not the world but he that swayed in the current and waves, but would be impossible to convince perspective that it was as such. In the dark sky welded together with the sea without a joint. That stark lake lays dark, the land is lighter but almost imperceptibly so. The night tames the world to subtleties, the dramatic speckling of starlights. Rose above the world, and they remained, and this was one of the dark places of the earth, and he sat on the street, the pavement scraped against his skin and he knew he was here again. The smell of early dew on the cityscape was grounding and real and sad. A cycle of cars stopped and honked at the young man who had broken their morning round. He looked around in all directions. It became very apparent that the world and perspective are shaped in a circle. It had been a strange encounter, and I cannot say that I was used to such ceremonies. I could feel something lurking along the horizon, but the thing was intangible, defeated in the daylight. And the city seemed such a patterned thing, too engineered to trust, a conspiracy of atmosphere. I walk down a straight and narrow sidewalk along a large and busy street, his office was white, the waiting room with patterned tile. Clear doors looked out onto the parking lot, an old woman sat knitting away at black thread. She looked homeless, but her build sturdy, her neck fixed solidly to a thick neck, and I wondered what she was knitting for. The receptionist looked blankly up towards me. Or not blankly, and certainly she expected me, or someone, but she looked at me and he was made quite apparent to her. Her glare could only be called swift and indifferent, she seemed to know all about them ± all of these patients who sat for the Doctor who could see them. The Doctor sat behind the dark door, sat loudly on the white walls. She led me back to the room where he would inspect me. He walked in the door, and I was amazed at how small he was. His confidence supersedes his stature, he walks with a hand behind his back, his beard sits thick and ironic beneath his bald head, and his glasses have dark rims and thick lenses. He greets me and is friendly and sterile. His motions are slow and calculated and confident. And is anything feeling abnormal or painful or do you have any concerns

No, I don¶t think« Mmhmm. And how much do you exercise I try to get some« Okay, and let me just« He checked my pulse, and I heard the pop, and the pop, it seemed quite unnatural. Do you have a history of mental illness in your family, he asked it without consequence, as matter-of-factly as he might be asking the time. No. Not that I know of. Are you a psychologist or«? No, no, but we should all dabble, and he grins at me. So mental illness is pretty likely to be inherited? Well yes, I mean to say, you have an increased chance in general of having a mental illness. Is there something in particular you¶re wondering about? N-no, I¶m just curious ± it¶s all very interesting to me, I¶m not sure why, exactly. Certainly, the mind is a complex thing ± it¶s natural to be curious. I¶m curious myself, despite it being extraneous to my work, and he waves his hand as if I hadn¶t realized what his job was. He continued, And considering the mind is like a paradox, a steady morning shore, fog holding cover over either end, and certainly the beach continues onwards, and you float up and downstream. And the shore may go on for miles and miles. The end might not make sense, and what if there is a right way? But certainly the beach continues onwards, and certainly the end was far from here. His eyes come to a glaze, and he rests his weight upon his brown leather chair. His chest sinks below his shoulders, and he stares past me. And there it is before you ± smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering. A thing which is still in the making, which is still to be discovered. Yes, I have a passion for such things, as you see, and he smiles embarrassedly at me. It has been a strange exposure of himself to me, and I am embarrassed to have seen it. However beautiful the thought. And his smile continued, as if at some quiet joke. And are you feeling at all« depressed«? What is your general mood? I« I, no, I mean, I¶m not depressed. Just my head feels a little off« but I think that¶s pretty natural. Well, I suppose you¶ll learn what¶s in there. It¶s an infamous journey, Interesting too. I guess that¶s all I expect. He nods at me in acknowledgment. And I suppose I won¶t see you again. Why do you say that«? You¶re young, you¶ll move to other places, other neighbors, other doctors, etcetera. But it would be quite interesting to track the mental changes of individuals ± e²even, I mean, in the healthy mental state you¶re in. I nod, Yeah, I¶m not sure I¶d necessarily want that history tracked by a doctor, and I grin at him to lighten the statement. He continues to smile, his face remains unchanged, What you say is probably erroneous, as I say, you¶ll more than likely have a new doctor in the next year. I roll my eyes and don¶t quite understand his request. Or not his request as it applies to me. I avoid his eye contact and look around the room. On the wall is a framed painting of a little sea-going steamer entitled The Swedish Captain, it seems a bit clichéd to me, but the longer I

look at the painting, the more I enjoy it, and I think there must be a reason that it has been clichéd. On the shore portrayed, a thick, rotting stream into mud, water thickened into slime among the brightness of life and green, left behind by the two men on the ship. One wore a shirt you might expect on an old picture of a Frenchman, striped red and white, a small black round cap on his head, but he looked off into the painting¶s distance, and I could not see his face. Been living here long? Yes, but I second guess myself, Well, I guess that¶s relative. Certainly, certainly, and you obviously like the city? Yes, I really do. It¶s the right size. I appreciate that there¶s plenty to explore. Mm I see, well it is a great place for that. And I think you¶re all set, everything looked fine, but his mind was elsewhere. Well thanks, I¶ll« I suppose I¶ll see you again if I need to come in again. Certainly. And please, if you¶re feeling in any way feeling down« you know it¶s not anything abnormal, these are all just parts of the mind, sometimes they become« strained. Don¶t worry, you¶re not going to have to take me up after I hang myself or something« These are only small parts of my thinking. The process is a beautiful thing, even should the product be gloomy, and I smile at him. And he nods back in acknowledgement or something like that. And when I walked outside to his white waiting room and black door and clear windows, the afternoon suddenly turned to evening, and night was ominous, inevitably. The sun was dying slowly as an enemy or a criminal might. Nothing earthly now²nothing but black shadows riddled with stars. And the stars lying confusedly in the orange gloom almost hides them. There is no temperature and the orange of a street lamp. I can hear singing of an old song among strange friends, ones I¶ll never know, they are a group, together, I don¶t quite know how to do that. I see a web of phone lines, there are three poles with lines coming from all directions. It is a strange sight, the street light rests in the middle. The orange is sterile and obtrusive, it is issues, it is purely out of necessity. The delicate black lines only alluded to in the dark sky, but there were certainly more lines than were obvious. Again as if in her lair, he looks out from his seat in an open room and the orange shines in his eyes and his face protects its left side, though he can¶t see out of his left eye for anything. The web of phone lines and how many people are connected by these and here they are, in front of me. And again, the opposite side of the song, He could hear them too and he hummed along with them. Love is more than just a game for two two in love Her web light from that single source which shined from her center. It makes for dramatic shadows. They¶re wet with fresh rain and drip every so often. And every drop becomes further and further apart and I¶m in a dream or a painting of a drop from a sakura blossom which falls into rough water, blue-green from the reflections of leaves, though the blossom¶s reflection is conspicuously absent. I hear the drops falling on the wooden porch around me, or maybe from the radiators, it¶s unclear. Flashes too. But from manufactured electricity, I¶m not sure. The hiss of steam. He sits and hears them and he thinks to go over there Hey guys, what¶s going on I live across the street Hey, would you like a beer?

Absolutely Quit zonin¶ out dude, and I laugh Sorry, sorry, and he grins at me. ________________________________________________________________________

Are you awake Yeah I can¶t really sleep right now Yeah me neither My brother and I shared a room, we were visiting somewhere, we slept on strange couches, we are young. I want to play mega man We would get in trouble I don¶t think mom or dad would hear do you? I think so but I don¶t know What colors would you want to be Do I just get to pick one? Okay pick two I would be the red and gold quick one and the metal one I would take the blue one and the freezing one Why would you be the freezing one? He can stop time and shoot you, you couldn¶t do anything Yeah actually that¶s a good one How do you know what colors you see are the ones I see Because we can both see red is red? No but what if I saw red as your yellow, but we just learn them as the same Hmm I don¶t know« that is weird I know, weird I wouldn¶t want to be the green one But what if he was actually the pink one We continue laughing They both kind of suck No they don¶t! We laugh I know, the pink one is good Yeah I know! We laugh It would be cool if you could get multiple lives Yeah, that would be cool. And if you could just find them around, like on different levels. You could get a bunch of them stored up. That would be cool, I bet we would be good too. Yeah, really

But what would happen if you didn¶t have any more lives? You would just die You don¶t think you would start over? Hmm« maybe Yeah, maybe« I wonder what it¶s like to be dead. I don¶t really know. I think it would probably be dark, but that¶s about all I know Unless you were in heaven Yeah, then it¶d be different I wonder what heaven is like I don¶t know, I just think of a bunch of clouds and light things and a blue sky Yeah, I think of that one too, and God has a beard that¶s white Uhhuh. I wonder what Hell is like. Shut up, I don¶t want to talk about that! Okay, I just mean I wonder what, you know« Are you okay? Yeah It sat heavily upon both of our minds, we no longer spoke, we both looked blankly towards the white ceiling turned black with shadow. A fan hummed slowly above, we both watched it carefully, the severity of an eternal torture fresh and new, unexposed to the staleness it would eventually carry. The staleness of a red devil with a mustache, a pitchfork, the severity not yet diminished for repetition. The fires and orange and demons and torture, and to be cast away from god and everyone else who went to heaven. And in the scope of one hundred years of life, eternity was anything but trivial, the implications of an afterlife were far but real. But children go to heaven, as long as they¶re baptized, maybe even if they¶re not, it¶s not obvious. And where was death, how would I know it was coming, how could something be forever. Do you think you could really live forever? I think so« what else would there be? I don¶t know, you would just« not be there anymore Hmm« Isn¶t it kind of scary to live forever? Yes« but dying is scary too Yeah« We are lost in the predicament, and which is weightier. Are you crying? Yes. It¶s okay« it¶s not going to be for a long time probably. Probably? Well yeah, well« I just think it¶s far away Okay, yeah, me too The light is gone save stars in the window, but they are mild and distant. The darkness encompassed the room, left the possibility for anything to exist in that intangible space. What do you think dad meant on the phone. Do you think mom is sick? No, he just said she had a cold, she¶s not really sick Oh okay, who was he talking to?

I don¶t know, maybe the doctor¶s office. And they said she was okay? Yeah, she has medicine, dad picked it up. I was a little bit worried about her Yeah, I think she¶s fine though. A short pause enters the conversation, we digest the conversation, he says it first What if mom was really sick I don¶t think she is. I know, but what if she got really sick? And silence slips into the conversation, into our thought processes. The possibility is unreal, it presents itself as an alien, it is impossible and amazing, it does not connect to everyday life. It is the other, real¶s counterpart, and slowly, slowly the realization came. The thought processes synergized, and the gravity of what this might mean was overwhelming. It would be okay because she would go to heaven, and I exhale, I have solved the problem Yeah, and I can hear him sniffle. The thought has him crying again, harder, it is painful and logical with the world as I know it. Coco died, I will die, Mom will die. But no one knew quite what it was to die, because no one could tell us. We knew only that it was quite separate. And so we must simply believe. And I try to believe, but I am not quite sure what it is. But if I was the blue one, I¶d freeze time, my grin invisible, but he could hear it. And he laughed, we laughed. And you¶d just be stuck with the pink one. Shut up, I wouldn¶t be the pink one! We laugh, Fine, fine. Did mom say you have a baseball game tomorrow? Yes, in the morning. Can I use your glove? Why, I ask, but I already know. You already have one, and I know how he¶ll respond. Because« you know why« Mom wrote my name in big letters all over it, it looks so stupid It really did look silly, I would have been embarrassed to wear that glove if I were him. She had this big black marker and wrote his name and phone number in big letters across one of the fingers, and again on the inside of the glove. So whoever was throwing to him saw all this writing with his name and some numbers, and it really did look silly. I let him sit there in the dark for a little while though. It was my glove after all. I didn¶t really want him getting it all beat up or throwing it around or something. He probably wouldn¶t though. Fine, I guess Thanks, I could tell he was smiling And the darkness to overwhelm the conversation, sleep to follow, rhythmically, the breathing in the room was grounding, he turned under his blankets and rustled his sheets. The sounds of the room, and the darkness of sleep. I remember he was standing in this dark alleyway ± or right outside of it. He had long hair down past his eyes, it was white. His eyes were shaded dark. His outline was rough, hardly defined from his environment, cast in frenetic space. But he was so sad and dramatic. I hate it for its simplicity, and yet its efficiency of communication ± or that feeling, so pointed.

His hair down over his eyes, that was so important. You can¶t see his eyes. As simple a metaphor as we can draw. One of his knees was bent as he leaned against the side of a weathered brick building. He was flipping a coin. The coin was in the air, a sharp white cast by the streetlamp above. It lit in a loose circle as I had estimated, casting light over graphite and charcoal. Or under it, the lamp¶s light was only a lack of mark, the sharp white of the surface. A barred window in the corner of one With a black frame dulled the layer of dust. The black frame which contained it was a truer black than the darkest graphite shadow, the depths tamed in a context which flattened it. It draws a smile back onto my face, and I thought I had just woken up. It was cold and late, the moon shone brightly above, full and yellow, a strange sight to behold. Looks a little too ominous, I smirk to myself, it is much too obvious and dramatic. The streets are frequented by small groups of people, dressed particularly and with great care, but timid still to the potential of interaction. The groups pass one another, often do not acknowledge the others¶ presences. But upon entrance into a bar establishment, the social laws changed. Interaction encouraged if still chancy. Sexuality insinuated, simply inherent in the function of a bar. I didn¶t want to go to the bar, I don¶t know I don¶t care whatever you guys want to do. He went, And started talking to this girl. He always picked out one girl, it¶s a mistake we made from our first experience with a girl, it was always one girl. You can¶t really get away with sticking with one girl unless you know she likes you, then for a night or however long it seems like it should last. He was sticking on this one girl and they were hitting it off but I didn¶t think it was going to go anywhere. One of those conversations that¶s going fine but is void of anything. Relax, he¶s having a good time. Yeah, I know, it¶s fine She was pretty, but only the way he thought girls were pretty. He had an offbeat sense of attractiveness in women. Obviously he didn¶t think so, it came to his attention after years of conversations with other young men about the general female population, those conversations which shape who a man will marry and why. It¶s one of those snaps away from his own perspective, he fears them. He was bored and I was ready to step out of the conversation. You¶re like a schizo Schizophrenia is so innocent, I¶m fully aware. What I think I just turned around and left, what point would there be in waiting for a response. I¶m terrible about bearing my soul to strangers, it¶s another bad habit. When I talk about myself, especially in plain emotion, I find that I don¶t have to talk much. I get more advice than I can process because people have figured me out. I moved along to the left side of the bar, flashing lights and scattered groups of bodies sweating, twisting on a dirty wood floor, small shards of glass to cut feet, the girls wore heels. I move along with the music. I am good at reaction, less so with action. I remember my first attempt to pursue a woman. Or my first attempt to pursue a stranger. A strange woman. Which appealed to me all the more. And I was sincerely interested. Her name was rose, she worked at a

retail store I shopped at, I shopped and made a point of talking to her. Attempting to impress her with unimpressive conversation, She tolerated me only for the natural calculation of attractiveness, social status and eligibility which proved me to be a statistically worthwhile interest. But only interest and not investment, and she was not quite ready for investment. She questioned and recalculated, we discussed mundane things in smooth conversation which no palette would reject, entirely plain. Did you find everything ok? Well I had some trouble with this Rose character that works here Oh yeah? You wanna tell my manager on me? Hmm maybe, why don¶t you send her out Maybe I¶ll just ring you up, she winks, we laugh I guess that works« just don¶t let it happen again We laugh. Okay well maybe I¶ll see you if you come in and use those coupons Sure, yeah, that sounds good or I hmm and hesitate Hm? She looks on with expectation I fail to take her phone number, I leave the task unfinished, and the chaos of the world. I call to her work and leave my phone number for her, but I know that she will not call my phone. That is unreasonable given our gender roles. She knew I had missed my opportunity, but she did not know whether I had done it intentionally. But I called her work, and I left her a message, and now she would have to know that I was interested, not desperate, but almost. I remember a few years later, I came back to the same store with a long-time girlfriend. She was extremely pretty. I saw Rose working in the back room, I remembered her in pieces, she remembered me. I smile up at my girlfriend, she is trying on a dress, Oh I like that one Do you really I¶m not sure Yeah I think I like it. We both buy clothing, rose rings up our purchases, I smile awkwardly, Hi, how¶s it going, Great, how about you, and I did not feel gratified, I felt as if I had done this intentionally. I did not come to gloat ± or not consciously. We continued to look around the store, hand in hand, I felt guilty in front of this girl to whom I¶ve no attachment, interest. She asks me to explain, I cannot, she is annoyed. I learn a lesson of engagement and honesty and boundaries. She coughed on the phone and it was hollow. Yes he¶s home for the week it¶s so nice to have the family all together Yes okay well I¶ll talk to you next week about bible club Oh stop it you¶re so bad Okay bye have fun at the lake Oh we will bye bye, and a pause How are you feeling, Mom? Oh so much better today you know I¶ve been taking a new vitamin I think it¶s helping. You know all of that stuff is junk ± but as long as you¶re feeling better. I was worried Oh stop it you know I get these colds every year I¶ll just get an antibiotic next week. Okay mom Are you coming to church with us tonight I don¶t think so I mean« you know it¶s« Why don¶t you just come since you¶re going to be home Fine I will

And take the communion in front of your sister Whatever mom I can¶t believe you agreed to come and she laughed Yeah I know you were laying on the guilt Oh I know but I¶m just glad you¶re coming I know I know Are you going to shower No I¶m just going in this and I laughed back You¶re all gross and sweaty I know shut up mom I¶m joking Well hurry up you know dad always wants to leave early Yeah so we can get the best seats Oh hush The sun has begun to set, the orange sky grays to a deep blue above, and the onset of night. I sit looking towards a blue gray wall, a door in the right of my periphery camouflaged by the painted wood paneling. A broom red handle hung down to the ground hung the nail to the wall. The light shines far right casts a dramatic shadow left of the broom handle, the nail draws a thin and perfect shadow. The red handle alludes to light shining from inside a cracked door, a living room painted red, a dull red lamp shade. Only the pieces perceptible, only implied. A poor man A homeless man crosses the street, I make eye contact with Him and nodded he nodded. A horn honked behind him in the alleyway, He glanced up at me and moved slowly past, looking straight forward, entirely. I wonder how does he sleep and where does he take a shit and would I be able to do that. It is a fake question with a formulaic answer, I could if I had to, I probably won¶t have to. I am walking into a train station. I pat my pockets for bills and coins. I have too many coins. I sit upon the platform awaiting the next coming train, the next train coming rhythmic thuds along steel tracks. The train crashes by, rushing the opposite platform, its red brakes flare as it passes, a red light, another train crosses perpendicular. I smell cigarette smoke, I see it gather around the lights. Fall has begun but the heat lamps were dormant from Summer, They don¶t come on until Winter Oh damn really. Yeah it¶s kind of cold. And I¶m just feeling sick. A heart carved into the plastic of the train¶s shelter, it had a word scratched under it, but carved sloppily and left illegible. The word to sit forever sealed, and I smile at how dramatic it is, such a small detail. I sit on the train alone and I see there are some women across the isle, their accents reveal that they are simply visitors here. They are dressed to-go-out, they are entirely uncomfortable, they do not speak to one another. They are each evenly unattractive, and I laugh to myself. That¶s rare, there¶s usually a standout, one way or another. They catch me looking over at them, I must have been looking while I thought about them. I glance away, up to the train sign which I¶ve long since known by heart. They smile at one another. They get off at the next stop, one stumbles as she leaves the train the others laugh. I leave two stops later. I wonder if the people around had noticed the exchange. The car was silent, I do not think anyone noticed. I walk through turnstile, escalator, waiting area I reach my gate seven minutes before the flight is going to take off. I get on the plane, I cannot find a place for my bag. We may have to check it sir. We can¶t check it we¶ve already started moving.

Well you just need to find a place for it. I find a place for it. I sit down and begin to read Falkner from a fraying paperback. We take off, I continue to read but glance occasionally towards my periphery remains elusive, the window¶s blinds open, clouds in organic patterns and characters, rounded cliffs, giant stalagmites, the puttering white loners in the distance. And the land below is simply that and occasional roads, they contain the world The grids formed below loosely, some left untouched, I continue to read. He smashes the pocket watch on his dresser. I smirk, I like its ridiculousness, I follow closely for a time and drift suddenly away. I dream of a snake eating a tree, the tree¶s branches outstretched, the snake coils, underground woven. It is contained within a circle and either mirrors its shape, each completing half. The point of action, of the beginning of destruction frozen in time, and it is a beautiful moment which seemed to last. The smashed stopwatch, the time is forever, or not at all. I awaken occasionally to look out the window down to the streets and lands, grids below. I close my eyes again. When I awake, lights glow in checkered patterns cleanly below on the now darkened landscape, the outskirts of a city, They began to gather more quickly, and fill the city in the distance. I look for patterns, characters, shapes in the lights, but none recognizable. What are you reading there? Oh um it¶s Faulkner Yes, my husband has been trying to read that for ages. John do you see what he¶s reading Sure hi there Hi I look back down to my book, unsure of what the interaction was supposed to mean, I absorb into its pages, He reminds me of Holden Caufield, all of the madman stuff that happened. The airport comes and goes. I sit outside smoking a cigarette with my friend. Glad you came in, man. Yeah I am too, it¶s good to see you His life is pieced together cleanly by his hands. As if every piece were intentionally placed, perfectly logical And I laugh to myself at how pieced together my life might look. And I am on the right track for the right life. Only comical because I have not planned it. I have understood it to be the manifestation of my archetype, It should have happened had I planned it or not. And what would it mean to plan It is a fiction, in as much as it is written, recorded by a perspective, interpreted or not interpreted. You ready to get back or do you want to kill some time? Let¶s kill a little time, I¶m not in a rush to be back yet. And we attend a museum¶s galleries of perfectly contained pieces of protest. Ancient, antiques ± even the contemporaries. They are ensconced in Museum ± the untouchable, the social commentaries inspired smirks and smiles, the art retired. I wonder if my work will ever hang in a museum, and I think, how arrogant am I. But then you come across a guy like Jackson Pollock and he was crazy and cocky as hell. And he was a genius, and his works hang in these museums ± retired, yes, but beautiful and priceless.

And I have to wonder what makes a work worthwhile, and what is art and what is artifact, or are they maybe the same. We observe for a moment a row of ancient artifacts, the simple stone carvings line the entrance of the museum, lit ironically from below and above, an effect which would, for the maker, be nearly impossible to predict, to replicate. The artifacts, beautiful in their own rights, were displayed more for their historical significance than appreciated in some capitalized Art. I smile, the work began abstract and has become abstract, a stark irony I think. But is an artifact, an arrowhead, an object with a practical use, and how relevant are those to the thing we call art? Then what is a practical use? I think of his chalice as he holds it over the altar, the intricate engraving, molding, impression of the object, but which is it? Or are art and artifact simply the same ± and artifact we call a product of an ancient culture for its distance, its seeming irrelevance, and art we call the artifacts which we can claim some comprehension of. But still the artifact and the art are separate, in concept and in reality to some capacity. An intangible but definite departure in observing an arrowhead than a modern impression of an arrowhead. But should art have some element of artifact inherently ± should it represent a perspective, larger than one¶s self. How narcissistic a thing to create art from a single voice. It does not matter, and I cannot help but laugh at myself for such a self-indulgent exercise. Because what is it for? Do you like this one? I don¶t get it, and he¶s looking impatient among these. I wonder how he can possibly not like these, and he wonders how I can possibly like these, and I found it quite a funny situation. I obsess over the differences in these canvases, but how different can two things be on a canvas, how different can paints be and blue here or yellow, or not. And how can a single perspective know artwork and why does it matter what other art is. The answer is that it should not matter ± what other art is. It should exist independent of other artwork, but it most certainly doesn¶t. There is a reason art is inherently expressed outwardly. In fact, I think it¶s a requirement of artwork ± a thought is not a piece of artwork. Or at least I can¶t think of one that is. My environment is such that I am meant to be an artist, they must have been just right or wrong. And I wonder if the epitome and final resting place of my own artwork could be a museum. I cannot decide which answer appeals more to me. Oh have you seen this Kline before? No no, let¶s see the Norman Rockwell exhibit Yeah, that¶s the temporary one right? Yeah, I think he does some interesting stuff, little social commentaries and all We laugh And all of them bite sized, digestible, and palatable. I appreciate his slyness, his paintings should not often go misinterpreted ± or in as far as something can be misinterpreted. I consider Kline¶s large canvases and their infamously minimal black lines. They may allude to myriad realities but are so stripped and acontextual that they become abstract, and lines and lines of paint, the paint thick upon the canvas, then again thin the brush strokes left intentionally, beautifully as brush strokes, portrayed prominently as opposite their background. For the painting is a painting, and it ought to acknowledge the paint from which it is created. And for such reasons the interpretation of a Kline is not in a certain revelation as much as it is a process of connections, of appreciations and complexities and subtleties. The heats of his blacks differed subtly, protruding certain lines and depressing others, a delicate dance of colors, almost imperceptible and found only as the eyes process.

He seems to me an artist focused on the process of creating his painting. His brush strokes are large and raw, his artwork itself a physical interaction with his large canvas. And to view it is a physical interaction. It must be walked along, moved further away from and angled, and in close to gather texture. He seems so driven by the process of painting, his architectural allusions built in paint. And where is meaning to be found but in the process of it, and the pure intellectuality of the thing so beautiful in itself, and can the concept be a piece of the art? The innocence of the process, delicate and internal. It is a different sort of artist who might create political or social artworks, artworks with messages attached and prescribed matrixes of thought. But how dramatic and how different can paints on canvas be ± it is only the interpretation which is valuable, the interaction with the item. The item is not so valuable itself, it is the craft which formed the artwork to be valued. Certainly concept is a part of craft. Not that it matters much, Concept isn¶t the loudest of the painting¶s characteristics, so it¶s hasn¶t the quality of infatuation. Or not inherently. Maybe we now have too much good art, and the choosing parties are overwhelmed, I¶m not too sure to be honest. Or perhaps there simply isn¶t the demand. There isn¶t much money in Art though ± there¶s a little in art. And that¶s a little sad, because it would be a shame to lose Art.

I board the train in a suit at 5:45pm, I am runninglate to a workrelated dinner, networking, a funeral homage to a woman who worked and died. I look around at ties and jackets and plain shirts and small glasses filled with rich liquors, they stand in small groups, none becoming too large for sake of organization and properness. Each conversation coordinated, a business question, an answer about the trends and the questions, and disagreements dissolved imperceptibly into conversations. Oh hello, I think we worked together a few years back Yes I remember what have you been working on lately Oh just this line of new brands, very dynamic stuff Yeah that¶s something I¶ve always been interested in but have just never had the chance to learn about Oh yeah, I know what you mean it¶s all very interesting Oh definitely. It is a benefit dinner, it is businessmen patting themselves on their backs for thirteen scholarships I look around and discuss my work I discuss my work, and I am indifferent to successes, losses I explain my perspective in flat and even language I laugh to myself at such narcissism, as if they care any more than I do A man, honored guest at the dinner arose to give a speech to a crowd of drinks, and his posture was that of a grandfather whose family he addressed. I spent some time in Europe studying Cathedrals They are interesting things ± Cathedrals. It is a universal human experience to walk into a temple, I think, and to be utterly awestruck by the potential of Man¶s construction. The works of his hands, the detail, the care, and I am interested in the perspectives of the myriad artists who worked on those great Cathedrals.

For example, the Milan Cathedral, a beautiful piece of architecture which we call gothic. I had studied that Cathedral for about a week ± It is the second largest gothic cathedral, magnificent, unbelievable. The buttresses adorned masterfully with spires which spanned the length of the other surfaces of the Cathedral¶s exterior. And to walk inside it, pillars which rose stories above, carved identically into intricate patterns. In fact, if you should ever visit the Milan Cathedral, I suggest you visit it for at least two days ± I was in such awe of the Cathedral¶s walls, paintings, windows and stone carvings that I needed an entire second day to appreciate the patterns on the marble floors. And the artisans of this Cathedral had certainly put me in a state of awe, which I think is its purpose. I remember the last day I was in Milan, I sat and looked at the Cathedral from the outside ± I saw it in its external glory ± the container which held such magnificence. Now I¶m walking around this magnificent piece of architecture and was almost totally unaware of who was around me. Well, until these two« well there were two quite attractive young women who were pointing over towards me, and I couldn¶t quite understand why ± being that these women were coming towards me rather than fleeing as they do normally. We laugh as a crowd. Now before all of this I had worked for a leather manufacturer ± which made wonderful leather jackets. I don¶t think there¶s a better leather company around, to be honest. And when I switched companies, my coworkers gave me a wonderful Timberland jacket with my name stitched finely onto the leather. And so I¶m wearing this wonderful leather jacket, and I think to myself, maybe these girls are pointing at my jacket And then I¶m thinking to myself« Well these guys really do make some great jackets fades into a laugh. We laugh So these girls come over, and they¶re taking pictures with me and leaning against me, and I¶m thinking to myself, Milan¶s a great city. And in a flash they were gone. And of course my wallet and passport were missing. We laugh He laughs Well you guys can think its funny but it sure was a pain at the time. More to my pride than anything ± quite a last day in Milan. But the Milan Cathedral took more than five hundred years to build. It passed through generations of architectural styles and men. The first generation of men who worked on that temple. They knew that their time in this world would not be enough to see the end of their work. The final pieces of glass and stone, the completing. The building, they began their work with no realistic notion of seeing their work finished. Each stone peak a monument purely to the time the Cathedral consumed, required to complete. I believe there is a piece of that in every man ± the idea that one¶s life work is merely a piece of the construction of a greater end. It is less the life of a bird to build a single nest, more the complexity of a community of insects, a colony for containment, organization ± structure. Perhaps our defining feature. And we do form great Cathedrals ± perhaps less visual today but certainly requiring an artful coordination of artisans. That ability to coordinate groups of talented artisans is one which I, myself, respect above all else in a coworker. And it is that feat of management, of coordination which I saw in Betsy. She had a manner of instructing, questioning, accountability and yet such a friendly motivation which made her a great leader. I remember Betsy and I tried to visit disaster sites whenever we represented someone whose business was affected, He names disaster sites, relevant, interesting, and told in compelling ways, he is eloquent and personable. He is formal and commands the audience and

he speaks to each of us individually. He makes formal jokes which are genuinely entertaining, he is entirely camouflaged in this environment. He understands the subtleties of speaking to a trained, refined organization of smiles and competitiveness. Yet he alludes to the utter complexities of what capacity we humans have of metaphysicality, of the universal human drives ± and integrates them seamlessly into oblivion, the formulated homilies. I am envious, beyond that, impressed and in awe of the rank he has achieved with full knowledge ± having emerged from the cave. And guilty, empty, perhaps sinister as I have felt. The man has known, he seems aware of his function in this system and, he has risen through the ranks, endured the full knowledge of the nature of his work, our work. I hope to catch him after the other speeches have ended, but he leaves promptly, he is obviously hurrying to get home. The hour is late for those who wake up early. I wonder if I can continue to move forward, upward I suppose. I was placed in a new position today ± a position I have wanted. It is gratifying, and yet I am guilty to have accepted another rank, higher and higher from the ground. The jumping off point which was only feet so shortly ago had grown higher, the jump impending, dooming, it would take a mountain for me to jump now. I started walking back to the train station to catch a line home, and the reflections of stars off car windows and buildings and puddles seemed to multiply their light forever, torches of some ancient army. I walked through a turnstile and thought how permanent a thing that turnstile was. And home the destination without question, but there was something unsettling about the permanence of their click, the bars, locked by design against the designated backwards. I imagine some dire situation in which I may need desperately to return from the platform. I suppose I could jump back over if it were necessary to return to that other platform, but there is some subtle social grudge in that could. The threshold and yet so plain. As I walked up a flight of stairs this new space, the platform, I noticed smoke fogging the lights of the platform. A woman in red was standing under the last light of the platform, smoking a cigarette billowed more smoke than it should have. She seemed unaware, or at least indifferent, of my entrance, and I walked to an adjacent platform light to wait. The tiny orange embers at the end of her cigarette stood out against the yellow starlight and street lamps. Glancing down the track in the wrong direction, she inhaled again, deeply but quickly, and released her borrowed offering into the night where it danced along the tracks and platform before being consumed by the dark The wind pushed an exceptionally coherent collection of smoke toward me and inhaled, borrowed again from her and the night. Whether it was my interference with her offering or some slight gift of warmth offered by the night, I wasn¶t sure, but I held the smoke inside myself for a few seconds where it refused to burn. I must have awoken something within that smoke, rebelling against its newfound prison, I kept it for a moment more, but the angry rush of the train reminded me to whom the smoke belonged, perhaps I had kept it longer than I should have. The train was empty save my self and the woman. The wheels shot lightning on the round of the tunnel, and I could hear a man chopping forks underneath my train car. The rhythmic patting of the train was itself a dialect, and for a moment, We knew each other, engaged in the chase of men and women. We stopped three times at barren platforms, and waited for passengers who didn¶t exist yet. We tunneled in and out a few times until we reached a clear flat of dark blues and purples and blacks, the night was a bruise in the day. I sat and wondered about dark and light until I was pulled back to my self by that awfully red dress and it - her. She, too, had settled with herself in the train, and she pulled her hair back like the

unwrapping of a mummy¶s face. Her face seemed to distort in the dimly lit car. She didn¶t seem to notice my conspicuous stare at first, but her vision inevitably fell on me. Only one of her eyes appeared under her control, the other seemed to look forever out the window, onto the sky and stars and streetlamps. I looked away, down onto my seat, crumbs from corn chips from the last person, I smirked to myself and thanked the Train, whose doors opened, and I stepped back onto the platform. It rushed off and blew air up my back, brushed the guardian. I woke up in my bed, alone, cold, the morning had just begun to slip light through ethereal clouds and the sun rose just above the firm horizon. I walked outside, the light¶s warmth had yet to coerce tears from the cool air, and I shivered as I passed by a crippled homeless man, and I thought about the irony and I was guilty. He smiled up at me from his wheel chair and said nothing. My heart sort of broke for him, but irresponsible as my front pocket was, had developed a hole, I wasn¶t sure when. Nothing was left inside. Sorry man, I really am. Yeah, god bless. I really was sorry. I mean, sorry he was that way. I walked a long way. And the sun smirked overhead but this constant wind kept the air from yielding heat. I could feel the city¶s glass, it was cool rushed down my throat. The well kempt city littered with men to clap along the trapped streets are striped. And trafficked eternally, they pulsed through stop lights and sidewalks. I sat a third of the way up my building, the clouds the clouds. Blue spotted a yellow reaching far above, it cast menacingly down upon the concrete. I cannot help but smile for the scattered bits of wood and leaves. And up into my building, the elevator glided swiftly. I sit at my computer. It is my first-real-job, I have just received a formal position. A stack of papers I wouldn¶t need, they scattered left along the hard plastic of the desk. I want another glimpse out the window, but to look out a window would hardly be productive. Which would certainly be noticed by coworkers. And that wouldn¶t be a positive image to have. Perceptions of the self, I wonder. The potential embarrassment, What would my parents think. My fingers sit and the keyboard crunches at words. I live in this Building up to the Sky. And I was an alien in my own right, I didn¶t belong here because I refused to ± the purist, idealist, and the least wise to self preservation. Entirely self. The guitar strummed for me, the music to my life would follow. Weren¶t events to the self first applied, the pieces making up the day¶s mythology, the bland day¶s mythology. And I live in this building up to the Sky. The smell of quick coffee, hazy steam up from lid vents. Good morning good morning Were you here late last night Oh yeah for a little while Oh that¶s too bad I hate that Oh you know well Any weekend plans Stir my coffee, the steam has stopped and cooled. I sip and lean against a counter. I listen, respond appropriately, walk back to my desk, my seat, I lean back. I look at terrible photographs of wonderful paintings.

I stare into my computer for the majority of my day ± Where the Clock ticks blue in a Window. It is a social thing though ± to work. It is important for capable and intelligent adults to have a forced social interaction. It gives them direction, accountability, manageability. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands up on the wheel And the piano blinks and blinks, the harmonica¶s buzz and his rasp, and the bass to anchor them. Yeah in the back of the roadhouse I got someone to love. To consider the implications of Work is not a part of that Work. I am free to spend my off hours with such thoughts. It is an interesting existence. To work for a company, and to be lauded for such a means. The job; the measure of success. To turn these wheels, but how fast are we turning them, and how much do we have left to use? But to have a job, a Job, to be a part of a company, a group, and to serve something larger, but not necessarily greater. And it seems to me that I probably see the world quite differently. I have lived on paved streets and in airconditioned houses and well-lighted streets, and it¶s too far an exploration beyond perspective. Which is just too small a thing. Or perhaps I am the mistaken one, the ridiculous one to which I am unfortunately oriented. And suddenly I return, the chair leans back slightly, black plastic arms glide just under the gray plastic desk, my computer monitor a relatively ancient cube, distortions in the glass of the monitor alluded to its two-dimensionality which served as a healthy reminder of perspective. But precious seconds lost in thought, I sit and click through windows, find my place, where was I going here we go. And down my head, drawn by the computer, wires connected to my ears. As I listen to music, advertisements interrupt. It is an odd thing to be spoken to directly by a message with no immediate sender ± spoken directly and yet only one in a mass. With earphones attached, I am engaged in three of five senses. With coffee, five. I wonder how the repetition will affect me, us. But it cannot be so rare to a generation ± a repetition. Only the intense connectedness differentiating the world at present. And I feel unconnected partially, ironically, but not entirely. It is not so natural a thing to be as connected as I am, and we are, and that is a comforting thought. I think a relationship probably meant a much different thing then than it does now, and word would certainly have more weight. And a message a careful thing, a delicate thing as the mediums which carried them were mortal things. The uniqueness of a message on paper, and to travel so precariously between one another Have you had a chance to finish that thing yet? Oh jeez, no I haven¶t« give me fifteen And the sensation of having forgotten a school assignment. I am irresponsible, how could I have forgotten, do you know how much this could affect your grade, future. Second only to the scolding mother, but the wrath of authority is just the same. And Authority and God and to these we are accountable absolutely and with only as much relativity as one could muster. And against these all things were measured.

It is my grandparents¶ house when he was dying. He was full and thick and large laid permanently to bed and We can¶t really carry him we¶re going to need more people. But embarrassment was a drop to the river and now she would be all alone. But, She¶ll be okay she has her clubs And they live around here and they¶ll keep her company. I sit in the living room and remember winters in this house. The snow always fell thickly, I remember it waist high. The living room windowed the world outside, we sat warmly, the red lamp cast orange in the nights. And only the Christmas lights showed through its bright reflection. And the tree cast reds and whites in neatly wrapped rows, and the walls distorted their patterns and the windows preserved them. I sit on the floor with a pillow, the couches filled with family You¶re young enough you go sit down there and we laugh. The striped couches worn and known, comfortable and familiar. My grandfather sits in his designated chair ± he had some trouble walking, but he also liked to have his seat. He slips in and out of conversations, passing comments in lumps. They sit in a half circle of conversation, their focus returns to me. They tell me stories of when they were children, they ask me about my interests, I wonder if they¶ve developed yet or if he¶ll remain impressionable. So what is your favorite subject in school I don¶t know I like to draw Oh really are you going to be an artist? I don¶t know maybe We laugh You better make it big or you won¶t make too much at all Oh he¶ll be a little starving artist! We laugh Oh he has some good drawings though you should see some! Oh really? What do you like to draw? Mostly things I just make up Oh have you tried to draw from images? Not really I don¶t like it as much Oh well you will eventually, but that¶s a good step Yeah sometimes I like to draw things I see. That¶s a good thing to be able to do. I remember the conversation distinctly, he was a very practical person, I knew from hearing previous conversations And he does very well financially. It is difficult to be practical in art though, I think. I wonder what is the most expensive painting in the world, and I wonder why it is. If it was because it was really the best painting or would it be its history which would make it valuable. I said, do you also like to write? I remember that I wasn¶t sure how to respond to that question because I had not considered writing a thing to be liked or disliked. It to me was purely communication, and it had taken on no character. Before artfulness, before literature. Only the most simplistic stories communicated in as direct a way as possible. I guess so. That¶s another good thing to be able to do. I decided that I liked writing. I liked to think of a writer at his work, I imagine him with a typewriter, the process physical and direct. He sits and thinks of interesting places and different

things that they do, the other places they visit, who they meet. And he is misunderstood, sarcastic, a simple and heroic archetype.

Awakening directly from a dream is a violent process, a new set of laws in place, no longer controlled internally. I feel guilty but am unsure of what ± some sin in the dream, or sublimated its particular counterpart. I know I must start my morning ritual, I grab socks and a pair of pants, my closet for a collar, I rush to turn on the iron and breakfast quickly. I eat and I am reminded that this is the very thing for which I am guilty. This morning routine, this daily routine to which there is no end. I laugh to myself, for so many before me have worked long hours in demanding jobs. And I wonder if this is the thing against which I rebel ± the insignificance. A symptom of the world, the communities which stretch cities and countries and continents. The gateways, the differentiators seem so few and unreachable, and I laugh at how ironic this isolation is, by saturation. And in the morning I ride the train seventeen stops, I have a short walk from the train stop to my building. There are two direct paths which I switch between, though this too becomes a repetition. I walk into my building scan my ID walk to the escalator, hope to remain unblocked while walking up the escalator. My elevator is across the entry from my escalator, I ride the elevator walk into my office floor, Hi Susan Hi How¶s it going fine fine. I walk down a hallway to my cubicle, it sits furthest from the entry. I sit at my desk and type and click interrupted by coffee and Goodmorning and Hey what¶s up how was your weekend Good good how about you what¶d you do Oh you know. I smile and nod and we have a perfectly nice exchange and we both walk to our desks satisfied with the encounter. I laugh to myself how strange we are from each other despite the repetition. And flash my box Are you in your cube? Oh yeah sorry, had my headphones in haha lol did you see me email from earlier? Yep, sending to you right now thanks!! And the window closes and I cannot help but smile when I think of this as window, the irony is too thick. The pit pit pit pat tap clacks of surrounding cubicles becomes commonplace like the sounds of the city to a resident. And I know something is happening, but I don¶t know what it is, as I listen unconsciously to music as I work, but only in my right ear. And I leave my headphones plugged into work¶s permanency, I don¶t like to use them, they detract too much from reality. I wear them only when reality is contained within neutral, warm tones and the bright light of a single monitor to contain consciousness. I do not like the loss of awareness, perception, and That¶s just askin¶ for trouble. Ooooohh you gettin out of here early today? She smiles and upwards it curls. Yeah, was actually hoping to make a train, but we shall see, I smile We laugh She pushes her words, heavy with insincerity, or simply for commonness of them in the day¶s repetition. Her teeth strain the sounds, her tongue coerces them through, her lips remain curled on their weight.

Oh jeez sorry I have to take this! Okay, well have a good weekend. She waves, I smile silently. I leave the office, I walk to the train station, I carry a backpack in addition to my brown leather satchel. I hurry across streets and down into tunnels, I had left later than I had planned. I cross the turnstile and hear the rumbling of a nearby train and I jog to determine whether or not it¶s mine. It¶s mine, the doors close, I grab them with both hands clamp they open back up, I fit myself and my bags tightly into the packed train, now the annoyed, packed train. The train empties entirely in the next three stops, I sit with my bag and fall asleep against the window, my bags tucked safely under my legs and arms. I awake at each stop, paranoid that I have somehow slept through my destination. I look out the windows at telephone poles and houses painted chipped red and yellow, small patches of green grass as novelties along the streets. A wall painted over graffiti, but the graffiti showed rebelliously through, only veiled in the neutral paint. The train winds its way through tunnels and tunnels, yellow the light and black yellow like stripes, they stretch across the canvas, I reach an underground stop and there she stands, old and small. Her back looks fragile, she bends precariously to play her guitar. And attached to her guitar, a violin on her shoulder, taps on her shoes and tiny symbols on her fingers, they smacked together and tapped her shoes. Strummed the guitar, then picked, then picked her violin and tapped and smacked. Her song foreboding, her whistle climbed and dipped with the sounds of her guitar plucked. And she tapped the guitar with her bow, played her violin all the same, and humbly she stood, her hat covered her head and ponytail, her eyes hidden by sunglasses, though the light did penetrate their surface. Her eyes visible and convinced, eyebrows raised in concentration, her mouth, rigid and serious. And the song laid perfectly over the evening, I smiled at her, pulled out some money and gave it to her, she stopped and smiled. Thank you thank you very much you know I really appreciate it. Yeah, sure, you¶re. You¶re amazing. Well yes, thank you thank you, you know I praise jesus Yeah. Are you around here very often? Yes, Yes I am. I come here to hope to make enough to eat for tomorrow, you know I praise jesus I eat most days. And it is a sensible tactic, but it is overstated. I smile at her, I have already given more than she could expect, and I am lost for a moment, but the song has ended. I have forgotten the rush. But rush the reality becomes apparent, and I move away from her. I have lost her in her ulterior interest. But the song she played echoed in my mind, from the sounds of the escalators, announcements and projected voices, squeaking of wheels on the slick floor. My bags swing clumsily around me, the glow of excitement and Art and realization, reality is understated, suddenly of secondary importance. Her head bent to accommodate her violin, eyes closed, face concentrated, her hands attuned with the music. Her song was familiar, it was tangible in the way she moved and pronounced it. She knew these notes well, handled them carefully but with strength. I can remember it vividly as I walk despite her presence having been left behind. I am amazed at how durably her arms moved given her fragile appearance. But it is still a sad thing to see a woman as talented and fragile as she is. Her livelihood as simple as the change given to her within the

station. Simple and poor and great, she lives on the city¶s change. It is an amazing thing that she appears yet unrecognized. It is a disheartening prospect for an artist, to encounter the artist who has mastered her craft and to still go unappreciated, or at least unrecognized from the other perspectives. But voices project from above, call me back to myself, I forget again the rush and again the rush remembered. It is less than an hour before my flight, I left two hours ago and I should have been here earlier and Hello sir would you be interested in upgrading No thanks Okay well here you are then. My flight was delayed half an hour, I am able to slow myself. It becomes an interesting thing to have time with which nothing can be accomplished. Simply time ± an unnatural thing, I think to myself.

I walk into my parents¶ house. I am twenty nine years old. The house is well kempt, the bushes are trimmed, as are the trees. The grass is cut and wires around new plants in a half advertisement. The backyard where we played baseball is overgrown, a tree transplanted in center field. The sky is a deep gray, exposed in flashes of heat lightning with speckles of distant yellow flecks. They flaunted their age over my head, their mannerisms which I recognized as my own, as my origin. His hair grew thin in the center of his head, not bald by any means, but noticeable and telling. His gray eyes began to droop down his cheeks. Her hair curled grays and browns, her cheeks near to fold. And how similar they are, they were to myself. The pattern to finish as thousands of generations of parents and children before. I see in this house the future from which I may very well replicate my own. Hey! You look so good Oh stop it, Did you see the new bushes in the front yard? Yes, they have such nice white flowers, they¶re really beautiful Oh I¶m so glad you like them How¶s work been going? Not bad, you know, same old stuff I suppose. Know what that¶s like We laugh Hey how are you feeling mom Oh you know it gets better some days Can I get you anything No no Her neck is braced, she sits on a recliner, tubes attached like ivy. The house grew ivy on its east side. The warm paint intentioned for the outside brick had dulled and cooled to a neutral. And the green ivy shown dramatically. She, months left to live ± that¶s what they predicted. It could depend on a number of things. Like what kind of things They¶re fairly abstract«

The« the reason some outlive others is often« unclear, it¶s difficult to say what criteria identify what will allow longevity in some patients and not others. And longevity seems like a death sentence. As opposed to what, my mind asks immediately, and I understand that it is simply illuminating parts of the future. The odds are that this will be her end. An end is natural, inherent in existence as far as one can tell, it is now simply more apparent what will bring about her end. She was pale, sleepy and off, from the pain medication. Oh is it time for another one of those yet ± darn those are really working. And she appears to smile. It is a delicate process to dance around the subject of a one¶s own death, and she did so well, though she saw it lurking on the horizon. How are you feeling How do you think I¶m feeling. How can I take a piece of time to save for later. Time was such a frustrating substance, entirely stubborn, unmanageable, irrational. And she is going, I am here, and I can be with my mother for now but I only want to save it for later ± to know it will be there some day. My mind, equally stubborn, dwells on the passing of time, the futility of the present, and weeps for her. And I know that death is the ultimate completion of birth and it should be as natural and violent. I am afraid for her, an obliteration of the self, yet perhaps it leads to some kind of peacefulness, but Heaven was invented for old maids! I am as sad as I have ever been as I leave her side.

The classroom is dim, windows shut and the day¶s light sneaks through in slivers around the rectangular blind. And the effect multiplied to each window, each blind gray and matte, a line of long strings hung with light metal rings attached to their ends, a single window¶s is missing, now left to rot though nature won¶t allow, or now hidden under some permanently installed desk lost til the building should fall, or perhaps some proud trophy, sacred amulet to a student A wooden crucifix hangs above the chalkboard. It is the same crucifix which hangs in the other classroom in the school. I have seen a number of crucifixes by now, hundreds, thousands, those numbers from which I cannot differentiate. It is a number which I have encountered ± it is a sum of my experiences, it is real and measurable, and yet I have no concept for it. In part due to its largeness, a non-vital piece of information disposed of, not retained. And still, many of those crucifixes coming from the same mold, only to further confuse the number, the same tortured Christ, his head bent low, quietly and sadly. A silvered plate holds the cast metal Christ to his unfinished wooden cross. The only object hung higher than the crucifix was the clock read 10:13 and there were 27 minutes left in the class. And the earth revolves around the sun, as we all know, yes? I think that in some movie, this is where a person might act out unreasonably. To poke the question, probably lacking all seriousness, but the challenged redirected, as he had opened the statement with a challenge. You do agree, question marked. No student thinks to question such a commonly understood truth. Well we didn¶t always believe that. For a long time, humans thought that everything revolved around the earth. And it doesn¶t really seem like bad logic, does it? It kind of makes sense, right? At least that¶s the way it seems to us. That¶s how we experience everything, right? In relation to ourselves.

It came as a hard revelation for people, too. You see there are two basic models of the universe which we have believed. The geocentric model ± geo meaning earth ± placed the earth at the center of the universe. The heliocentric model ± helio meaning what? A brief pause and, The sun ± placed the sun at the center of the ³universe´ ± really, the solar system. An Italian astronomer named Copernicus lived in a time period you¶ve all learned about ± the Renaissance. So that¶s about when? And the class is silent and heads drop to desks. About 1500, right? And we all nod. Well that¶s right about where he was studying the stars and the sun and the other planets. Galileo hasn¶t yet invented the« what? A brief pause, The telescope, and again we all nod. So Copernicus never had the advantage of seeing the detail of these heavenly bodies which Galileo had. However, he was able to record patterns of the planets and stars in the night sky. His most important observation came when he found that for certain period in time, mars travels backwards in its¶ revolution, which was a problem when the Catholic Church taught that the universe revolved around the earth. You see, Mars had a strange pattern of movement in the sky. It was the only planet that really caused some problems in understanding the ³revolution´ of space, and he made the quotes with his hands. It is difficult to explain why Mars appears to go backwards in the night sky« See how that could be a problem in understanding how the universe works? I nod, now consumed. The solution to this problem, however painful it may have been for the Church to hear, became a much more reasonable answer to the sky¶s phenomena than the geocentric model of the universe. The earth¶s revolution around the sun in patterns echoed by similar planets, he manages the entire sentence with inflection although his meaning floated far above our heads. Copernicus was able to deduce that the planets and sun and stars did not revolve around the earth but the earth and other planets revolved around the sun. Think of how he could possibly discover this from his own perspective on one planet. It¶s a wonderful point of discovery in human history. Remember that Copernicus never saw the curvature of the earth from space ± that is something we have only seen in the last hundred years. Does that make sense? Would you guys be interested in looking at the patterns of Mars in the sky? Seeing what he saw? No we get it, in chorus. He smiles and shakes his head. Fine, fine. Well people weren¶t quite ready to accept the idea that the earth was not at the center of the universe. It challenged religious dogmas ± How could God place something other than Us at the center of the universe? A God who is watchful and loving, who had bestowed such power and wisdom would certainly place us at the center of the universe. He has creates us as a fragile blue crescent, fading to become an inconspicuous bastion, an ultimate form of creation against the citadel of the stars. Think about what impact that might have on scientists. From our perspective, why not believe that this is the center of the universe? The ³universe´ is a distant afterthought for us. And now we switch from being the static center, to this moving, rotating, flying through space and he makes a gesture with his hand across his body. It must have been quite humbling. Can you imagine what the models of the universe looked like before Copernicus? He displays a slide on an overhead projector. It is silly and unrecognizable, heaven marked simply as a layer, simply contained in this same model of spheres which is our perspective. And think about that, class. Think about how perspective can limit us. So our discussion questions today will be these: Should we question the model of our own universe? Do we have enough

technology to understand the world around us better or is it possible that we too may make some discovery which causes a« And he motions again with his hands, A paradigm shift in science? Okay, who wants to start? We are intimidated and intrigued by his questions. No one? How big is the universe? That¶s a good question, and I don¶t care what anyone tells you today, we really don¶t know. In fact, some scientists think there are multiple universes ± can you imagine that? Bu« and a student in the back of the class realizes he reacted so quickly that he never raised his hand, and his face turns bright red. What is it? The teacher smiles, What was your question? I know I heard a but ± not that kind of but, and he looks over at a pair of giggling students. The student is given away by the rest of us, and he knows he¶ll have to finish his question, But how would we call something another universe? Isn¶t the universe just« everything? A very good question, the teacher responds as he consciously forms an impression of the student who asked ± it was obvious that he had not taken notice of the other student before. I look down at my desk and wish I had thought of it. When we say ³other universes´, and he forms the quotations with his fingers, it means a universe which exists totally independent of our own. We have a pretty good image of the universe around us ± to a point. We have a nice zoomed-out view of it. But some scientists think the universe is one of many universes. Universes that we can never reach ± or not as far as we know now. What happens when the universe ends? Another student at the front of the class, a prominent student, probably instigated by the interaction between the other student and the teacher. Another good question. Do you think the universe ends? And he looks at the student, charges him with an answer, I am glad he is not looking at me. I guess« you would just die« Or you wouldn¶t be able to go past it. How would it stop you? I don¶t« I don¶t know« He laughs, we follow, These are simply questions ± I don¶t know the answer, your parents don¶t know the answers, no one knows the answers ± except God that is, and he smiles to the class« It¶s okay to sound silly, or not to know the answers to these questions. You really can¶t know the answers, so how can you be wrong? How can you be right? And I thought it was a little corny. But one thing we do know is that the universe is very, very big. What do you think it¶s like on other planets? I bet Mars is really hot! Another student enters the conversation, and I smile because I have read about Mars before, and it is not hot. He laughs, Actually it¶s pretty cold there« livable though, and he winks. What about planets from other solar systems? What could they be like? He stops the conversation a moment to allow the thought to seed and develop. Okay, how about if we discovered life on another planet. Would that change how we think about life on our own planet? Do you mean like aliens? The first student is perturbed.

Well yes, and when you use ³aliens´, and he uses his fingers again to quote, we simply mean other. Sometimes we call people from other countries ³aliens´ ± it just means they¶re from somewhere else. In this case, another planet. Would God have made them too? I blurt the question without being called on. Well of course, who else would have made them? But« But what? It is perfectly reasonable for God to have made them. Would they have souls? No, for a reason which He has not revealed to us, we humans are the only beings with souls. Even if they were smarter than us? Yes, you see human beings are specially made by God. We are made in His image. And that is a unique thing. Do you think there are smarter aliens than us? Another student charges the teacher. Well I personally think it¶s a little far-fetched, and I can tell he still knows it¶s a weakness. It weighs on my mind for long after, and He certainly didn¶t make much sense making the whole universe just for us. ________________________________________________________________________

So how did it go? It was really interesting, I had time to think about a lot of things and I asked this priest a lot of questions. We had a really interesting conversation, and I think he was really surprised. Oh yeah? What did you guys talk about? I don¶t know« you know, philosophy stuff« I was asking him why he believed in god. And what did he say? He« well« he said he had spoken with god, but he couldn¶t really explain what he meant. It was hard to understand what he was saying, he kind of used his hands to talk about it. Well you know that¶s something your dad and I are very passionate and« strict about this whole religion thing. You can disagree with a priest, but it does not necessarily mean you disagree with the Church or with Christ. I can¶t help what I think« It¶s something I¶m curious about, I just want to decide what I think« what I think is right. Do you know how many people believe in Christianity? There are a lot of very, very smart people who are Christians. Do you think you¶re smarter than all of them? Doesn¶t that sound silly? Well«I mean I don¶t think it¶s that easy to« So do you believe in some kind of higher power? What do you mean when you say that? You know« something beyond our physical world, something watching over us, something to live for? What is our purpose in life? How did we get here, to this place, and time? How would the universe get here? I don¶t know. And her smile is wide and understanding. She puts a hand on my shoulder and looks towards me, You know we love you either way.

I don¶t think I believe in god And her smile fades quickly, her forearms upon the steering wheel, her mouth downturned and her eyes redden and moisten. She presses her forehead firmly upon the wheel. Holy« Mom pull over« She snaps, Don¶t you say that I nod severely and my mind¶s eye rolls, it is all fairly dramatic. I stare out the window down towards the curb has broken and bits of mulch spill from an otherwise clean island of grass. She smacks the wheel with her hands, again, again, she missed and hits the horn and jumps and ruins the illusion. She stares at me, face streaked with tears and eyes red and squinted, and I suppose I understood why it mattered to her so much. I know that it is difficult for her to understand, but I fail to understand why it is so painful. I wonder if she simply wants to have her way, but I suppose it is more severe for her. Perhaps this means my inevitable judgment and hell, and that would certainly be a scary thought for a Christian. But she seemed to believe that most people were heavenbound, I didn¶t see why I couldn¶t be a good atheist. An atheist, she mouths. The word itself, strong a, sinisterly crossed t builds to h ramps back downward through eis, then contained again, t. It is a word she has been taught to fear. That there might be a special place of hatred god harbors for total nonbelievers. It would be a sensible teaching for churches to implement, logic is not on the side of the believer, and many questioners appeal to logic for an unbiased answer. And I have lost myself in my head, it is a simple escape, I look back toward her, I didn¶t mean to make you upset« It¶s not like I¶m sure« I¶m just trying to think about things, you know? I know, I know, she wipes her eyes. I¶m just frustrated with some other things, this isn¶t just you. But please think about what it could mean for you, think about what it would mean to believe in God and be wrong or to not follow God and be wrong. Okay? Yeah, I know. But if god gave me logic, why would it lead away from him? The evening comes to me slowly, she hesitates, staggers the light, and the sunset hurries to keep pace. The clouds scatter the sun bare, it slips down towards the lake and under. The clouds again gather, they buzz in the ungoverned sky. They fade and wander, then masked by the darkening sky falls closer to the world. And the awakening street lamps flicker to solid, They shine down obediently. And the shadows dance in patches of light, telephone wires and tree branches magnified and their movements distorted. The streets shine with headlights, they flash and sweep unpredictably under the steadily blinking satellite. Honking horns and the pat tap of myriad feet, too complex to palette as rhythm, it washed the night and the moon was absent. And patter my heart to ground the night, it blares white and I move quickly from its path, the initial shock, then the realization. My consciousness snaps to the immediate reality but drifts back upwards to the night. I stare at the humbling towers, I wonder if people think I have never seen one before, it does not bother me because they amaze me just the same. I wonder what unlucky workers sit in the lit windows of skyscrapers, the signal all the more heavy having occupied the same space. She parks the car and leaves without saying anything else, grabs the keys and jingles too nicely as she finds the key to the door. The air smells of the cold, the wind carries it through the city. It brushes my face, blue and red. I feel the lights, they pierce the wind, and I think to hide my face with my hand, but my hands are stubborn. I turn down a smaller street, houses with small yards and the orange shot off

the green oddly, left the shadows dark and soft. A single car¶s lights turn on and roars the engine, it rushes away to more trafficked streets. ________________________________________________________________________

It is dim and summer, but the cool breeze smells of fall. The deck is warm under my feet, and the electric orange of my street lamp fries the night. The swirl of smoke in the twilight¶s air. But it is his night too, the end of it, and I deny him the satisfaction. She is gone tonight and so it is just the two of us and I suppose I look for her. And I think about the capitalization of words and where they fit and why it happens. I am hackneyed, and it is not what I produce, the things which I produce, It is me, the hackneyed, and it is frightening to be as such. There is, however, a kind of gentle obliteration once these terms have been accepted. Only one apartment light shines blue through the orange lamps. My dog is dying. She. Golden and scraggled and innocent to her bones. She is guilty, feels guilty when she kills an animal ± she used to eat birds. But it is what she was born to do ± it is absolutely innocent. She is still young, dying from disease, something invisible. I feel guilty and she cannot understand what is happening. Or maybe she can. I am terrified for her, she has not even considered the afterlife or the lack thereof. And she is with doctors, alone, or she may as well be. She would rather have the attention of her family than eat. And she is alone, or with doctors. And I am her, outstretched my arms for examination. A crown of tubes. I believe that she will feel some primal onset of death. She has been without appetite for weeks, and she must have some knowledge of her end. I am entirely heartbroken for what I imagine is her inability to fathom the significance of her final days. I am so purely sad, so hollow for the inevitable loss of life. And she loved me more than anyone. And she would cry when I came home to see her. I missed her before she was gone, Gone. I think about an afterlife and where would it be. And why is death sad for the theists and heaven-bound. I think everyone must be faking their faith in God, god at least to some extent. If I was entirely sure god was watching me, or even existed, I¶d be happy for her. For anyone who died, really, because that¶s where happiness is, or that¶s how I understand it. I¶m not though, and neither are they, and I¶m my damn dog again. She was so excited to see me and would she be able to recognize me and what drugs did they have her on. I hope she wasn¶t in pain, but I hope she can feel everything. I wouldn¶t want to be fucking high for my last few hours of life. Maybe I would, if It hurt a lot, maybe I would. The wind is blowing and these leaves are making sounds like a gate opening or footsteps, and I would rather it not hurt, I think.

I sit smoking a cigarette on a wooden deck it stretched high above a street below. People walk in a steady flow beneath me, they walk along the street lights, the shadows of cars lay dramatically upon the pavement in two directions. A woman with a knit hat, it lays far down her hair, she clacks along boots and leaves. She swings her bag as she walks, briskly and frightened for dramatic effect. A man leaves his white minivan, he is balding, his jean jacket is torn for stubbornness, he would not acknowledge its retirement.

He carries shopping bags in his right hand, he lifts the trunk swings upwards, he ducks to pull out a box which he carries under his arm. He shuts the trunk with his left hand and he fiddles with the keys with intent. The van¶s lights affirm, it is safe and blip a nod. He places his keys in his pocket and pulls out other keys with which he fiddles, he finds his Key, he enters his house and slams the door and clicks the lock. A woman across the street from his house walks her dog, she walks in the sidewalked shadows, her dog is dark and large. It is alert and watchful, it shrugs its shoulders, it looks around. It poops across the street from my deck. She knows I am here and I saw it and a car drives by and sees it. She looks around to make a quick getaway. Another car¶s lights, she must have thought them so vicious, appear along the road. She reaches back and pretends to pat herself down for a plastic bag. Miraculously, she finds one, her mother handed it to her on her way out, Of course! She reaches down and picks up the dog¶s droppings only to complete the round ± to complete the task she knew was required of her, her trial, and now resolved. I laugh downward to myself, and smile for my god damned dog. If she¶d have been there, where she¶d have been. I fall asleep on the couch outside, I awake to morning fog and singing birds and drift back along. I dream of a great transparent dragon, it wraps itself around the seeing sun. The rays of light pierce it in places, allowing only an outline and a light shading along its stomach. And suddenly its skin blocks light, as if the thing were true and tangible, though a moment after it fades, ethereal. It twirls into the distance and out to me, its head is the closest, it has overlapped the sun¶s rays menacingly. It is frozen, the dragon¶s head has curled above and beyond the orb of the sun. It stares directly, its eyes yellow, its mouth opening. I awake again and head back to my bedroom. I am late, I must get on the train. I gather my things, Did I grab Okay Where is my Damnit. I laugh to myself, I am not as concerned about my lateness as I ought to be. I sling my bag over my shoulder, I look at myself in the mirror, I brush my teeth thoroughly, I go at my hair with gluey fingers, keys to lock the front door, I walk to the train and it begins to rain lightly. Heavily, So quickly that I cover my head with my jacket, I run towards the overhang across the street. Orange hand, can¶t walk and the rain is soaking my clothes. I laugh at myself, all my grooming efforts for naught. I cover my bag with my jacket, don¶t want my stuff to get any wetter, I grab for my wallet. It is on my bed in my apartment. I cannot grab it and I walk and jog back to my apartment. I run into a woman who is walking her dog, I¶m so sorry are you ok Yes I¶m fine sheesh watch Okay thanks and I wave. I walk back into my apartment and if only I were sick, and I know that doesn¶t help anything. Hey what¶s up man You runnin late or something? Yeah. He¶s still in school, he¶s showering before class. I wonder if I will be in a class again, and what a rare opportunity that was, and how did I not appreciate it then, but I can¶t help but smile. I look at my phone and Shit I gotta run later man Okay seeya. I jog back to the train, resoaked not that I had dried much. I reach the platform and watch the streams of concentrated rainflows trickle off the metal roof, flows heavily then slows again. The train pulls along the soaked station and sprays the front lines of soon-to-be passengers. I was standing close behind a tall and wide man, sheltered from the train¶s spray, I jump up in front and shoulder through to a seat, I open my bag and read that book. I am in the perspective of what seems to be a small child, Benjy, he is frightening to the passers-by, though he seems only to be a toddler. I cannot decide whether I believe he is an older mentally challenged man or a slow child. I am intrigued with his obsession with his sister. I depart the train and walk to my office.


We woke up one day and went. We came without money and brought, if you will, malicious intent in currency¶s place. We walk to some unfamiliar shop, the place doesn¶t matter, we take something which matters even less. It was wrong and we deserved to be punished, but I could feel this clicking, like these turnstiles and it¶s quite cliché, but it allowed me to justify, and that is an important factor in a decision. And it was like some sort of shattering, or maybe just shifting, I couldn¶t tell, but it was a change, a fast change, and it happened quickly. Not like a part of me died or anything dramatic like you might be thinking. None of the parts were lost. After our bags and minds were content we walked outside. And I think we knew we were going to get caught somewhere I knew that we were already caught, like the wheels were already in motion or the cogs turning or something, and that same part of me just begged for this ironic cliché, something I had seen or read before ± as we were walking down a street, I said, ³See, there aren¶t consequences, nobody really lost anything there. The store loses what, like $15? And what were they charging for it? I mean, whatever, let¶s just walk.´ And no sooner did this dwarf of a man who must have been the shop keeper, stout, hairy, and frowning, appeared from below, I didn¶t even see it coming, and he wrapped his stocky arms around my shoulders, knocking over adjacent stores¶ glasses and bottles, a few of which shattered as we both hit the ground. My companion, or ex-companion as he might be appropriately labeled, began to run down a side street. My captor sent his small horde after him, but their legs were shorter than his, and I assume he escaped because they didn¶t bring him back to the store or anything. Content with his tall trophy, the shopkeeper walked behind me, parading me down a street of curious onlookers. It was pretty embarrassing to tell you the truth. He had bound my hands behind me and walked behind me and the smell of rubber and broken glass and guilt became overwhelming. We walked back to the store, and I was placed in this strange back room which was clearly not suited for this situation. The room lacked seriousness, the walls covered with light colors of cheap paint and a few pieces of furniture with lavishly cushioned seats. Enormous, foreign looking pillows littered the floor. The shopkeeper pushed me clumsily into a table where a delicate, thin glass was sitting. The glass, disgruntled by all the damn ruckus, hopped off the table in a dramatic gesture but was caught by a loudly purple and equally stubborn pillow. I surrendered any remaining maliciousness I was feeling towards this guy, I sort of felt bad for him after having seen his strange shop interior and his small stature and his probably poor and troubled history, and I just kind of dropped heavily onto this large yellow pillow, and I could see a pair of yellow trees out the window which stood and hung and swayed kind of like sleeping guardians or something. It was a cliché thought, I admit. The shopkeeper grabbed my arm, pulled me to my feet, and yelled incoherently in some ancient language. I contemplated escape but found that my arms and legs were occupied and bound. The metal rubbed and clanked, deafeningly and foreboding and melodious. The shopkeeper pressed a stool against the back of my legs and pulled at the chain around my ankles, successfully seating me on his chosen chair, simultaneously bringing me to eye level. I had not realized how round his face was or how dominant his nose until we stared at this neutral position. The textures of his cheeks and mouth seemed like they could be an old map or something, just

wrinkled and thin and like they just might tear. Lights overhead cast an odd shadow onto his face and nose, the old sun dial, but the hanging light fixture seemed to indicate that time had stopped or something. I guess you¶d just figure it out if your sun dial wasn¶t working. Depends on how familiar you are with sun dials I guess. He snarled at me, again incomprehensibly, and I wasn¶t totally sure it was his tongue and not my ears. He had this tightly flexed forehead compounded by these giant, unkempt eyebrows, and that was the only communication I could find. He babbled something at me and raised one of his bushy eyebrows, I nodded sort of, just kind of trying to agree and acknowledge. He placed a hand on his chin thoughtfully and cocked his head sideways, and did that sun dial change quickly. Again he directed this flow of syllables at me, now raising both eyebrows and pointing with his free hand, not necessarily towards me, but in my general direction, I¶d say. But I could only look back to him, he didn¶t seem to understand that I didn¶t understand. I looked around the room for a conveniently placed clue, and in its stead was a very strangely placed opening in the wall, maybe a door to this small shopkeeper and his workers, but even they would have to duck a little bit. I stared at the door, it was framed with stone which looked like it might have been more at home in the depths of some mine in the center of the earth, just these big rocks right in the wall, a steel frame, the door was brown and plain and open. It was strange ± there was really no covering for the opening save a tan and tattered cloth. It was misplaced visually among the bright and rich colors, its faded neutral tan. A number of curious tears and a slight breeze emanating from within pushed the cloth from the center of the door and allowed me a slight glimpse through the doorway. A flickering orange and yellow glow illuminated a downward sloping roof of rough stone. For a moment I thought I saw the familiar silhouette of a Woman I couldn¶t place, but I was soon snapped back to attention with a swift prod to the middle of my chest. The shopkeeper seemed interested, again he raised an eyebrow and pointed towards the door. I looked back to the door and watched the shadow glide slowly downward, into the orange and yellow depths, and I thought the glow seemed ironic. I glanced back to the shopkeeper and shook my head. He nodded, almost before I had replied and reverted to his previous, angry demeanor. He circled my chair and stubbed his finger back into my chest and shouted something again, and somewhat stunned by his swift switch, I could only look dumbly back. Outraged by my insufficient reply, he repeated the sounds. It was an odd thing to be so removed from words which were hard symbols to this man. How patterned they sounded - I tried to synchronize the clinking of my chains with his words or something, but I couldn¶t really get them in the right rhythm. I tend to play games like that when I¶m in a nasty situation, try to synchronize sounds and perspectives. If I play them out loud, it gets me some strange looks, it really does. I was held until enough men in grave shades of blue came to take me to another station, from which I would be released. I said that I was fine to walk to wherever I needed to go, if I could just be released here, and they laughed a little bit, but no one answered me. She handcuffed me again, it is surprising how uncomfortable they are. And I remember the wall between the front and back seat kept my knees shoves up and cramped against them. Well it ain¶t exactly s¶posed¶a be a fun ride, and she smirks back at me. Fair enough. I¶m sitting at a bus stop, the sky lit in grays, rain drops lazily down from orange clouds, the city¶s idle lights dangle, a car slosh the pavement and wet bricks dim, dramatic, rich reds and

yellows and browns. Rain presses in upon the bus stop¶s small shelter, it drenches the bench waterlogged and swollen. And she¶s disappointed, and I can tell by the night, slick streets glossed to the touch. If she had known, if she would know or if she found out. The evil of a sin fell flat on indifference and minimized by repetition. I stand and glance down either side of the street, a bus from somewhere, a bus north, but only small lights in the distance, though close enough not to be buses. A car drives past the bus stop, I stand back to avoid a cliché sling of mud water, I am amazed that it looks so similar to a movie scene, the water washed up in a wall, brown, a symbol of bad luck ± either as a precursor to the unfortunate events to come or to conclude and signal an end to a streak of them. Small splash of water on my pant leg, I look down and grin and I wonder if I had done this intentionally. Would I stand intentionally near enough the water to get wet? I laugh to myself, I think I have signaled the end to my bad luck. A bus comes a moderate amount of time later, it cuts through the perfect puddles which captured the orange clouds. The small red flashes of a jet high above, contained and multiplied and destroyed in the small wave of this puddle. The bus glows yellow, its seats are blue, its residents are half awake and frowning. It apparently does not usually fall within one¶s s intended daily course to be on a bus at 3:49am. I sit fairly far away from the other residents of the bus. Across the aisle are two tan women with dramatically rimmed black glasses, one taps her leg in a quick rhythm, the other is absorbed in headphones, a homeless man is asleep against the window near the front of the car where he is able to stretch out. I sit near the back in a row of otherwise vacant seats. A newspaper was left on the seat, I look through it and grab the crossword from the paper. I remember reading the first clue: You sit in it. I thought That is so vague, I could sit anywhere, that¶s so stupid and I nodded off to sleep. I woke up as my street was announced and rushed to the door and made him open it again. It is still raining. I jog to my house, I run by groups of people who are suddenly frightened, a single male, a dangerous demographic. I am at first quite bothered that people are afraid of me, I am self conscious, but I know that it will not matter, as soon as I run past they are not afraid, As long as he¶s not after me And again, I laugh to myself, that is an instinctual thought process, it isn¶t their faults. But it isn¶t my fault either. I cross the street, look over my right shoulder for cars, nothing remotely close. I grab my keys as I cross through the wire gate, I unlock the door and walk inside. No one awake, I take off my shoes, set them inconspicuously aside, and I walk upstairs to my room. I cannot fall immediately asleep, I relive the day¶s events repeatedly, and I sleep in bouts, and my mind in circles. As I walked into the structure, I was affronted by sharp, misplaced looking tools, apparently used to handle the massed quantities of papers being shuffled in from some invisible provider. The constant clicking and punching of stacks of the papers, which it seemed nobody read, was a heartbeat, too perfectly timed for life to exist within it. Maybe the sound was engineered to keep pace, maybe simply an irritating accident. Yes yes yes, we¶ve got you, yes we¶ve got you right here, he seems to repeat the words intentionally.

Oh great, thanks Sure sure no problem at all And he¶ll be down here at the end of the hall? Should be Thanks I walk in time to the rhythm to the end of the hall The structure of his doorway is formed cleanly of dark metal, the floors are neatly shaped marble tiles, and I wonder what shape marble is to begin with. As I turn the corner, I hear him sit quickly, I smile as it seems he had sensed my presence and preferred to be sitting when I walked in, but I suppose I wasn¶t entirely sure. When I walked in, he made this big dramatic gesture to stand up and shake my hand across his desk. It was a great looking office, very clean and modern feeling. He was a strange looking man, his glasses were slightly too small for his eyes, and his large face was no help in minimizing their smallness. But he was a nice looking guy, he wore a blazer with a clean, probably very expensive t-shirt underneath, and pants with a very modern looking belt. It was clear that his appearance was no accident, and that this was, in fact, the characteristic he intended to communicate. And so I understood him for a very modern guy, it seemed to me logical. Hi there nice to meet you Yes, nice to meet you too So did you have a chance to see any of the others¶ work yet? Well I« I mean that¶s what I was coming here to do, and I smile Certainly« Certainly« Well here over in this room over to your right is all the work I have from the others. Why don¶t we take a look. Sure, that works ________________________________________________________________________

By now, I sit the world cornered, split into four uneven rectangles by dark beams. The beams line the lower divisions, and a bush¶s bare branches shoot business, those bare branches and a few leaves dangle, they call for the green of the grass. This largest upper left quadrant swallowed the greens in yellows and browns and the leaves had turned. The intricacies of each leaf only a pattern from afar, overwhelming and beautiful and impossible, flattened the blue sky faded from deep to light in a simple gradation. It darkened the browns of the trees, they yielded to its brightness. A hawk floats high above, black in the blue it swoops upwards and glides downwards, it dives below the line of buildings, swallowed the black speck the white paneling, worn and chipped all along they towered. Charcoal shingles shaped points like teeth they rest against the bright blue sky. Are you out here again she smiles Yep, have to enjoy it while it lasts, can feel the cold coming I know, I can¶t believe you¶re out here Ah it¶s not that cold right now, I¶m well bundled We laugh It seems like it¶s been such a long summer

And fall¶s already halfway through Yeah, it is, I wish we could take some of that time back It¶s difficult to accept time ± it¶s so permanent, so strict. What do you mean«? Hm. I don¶t know how to describe what I mean ± I¶m very frustrated with the substance of time. It¶s so fleeting, mortality, you know? Ah, I can¶t quite explain what I mean... the end of something is so sad, I suppose I can only imagine something without an end because that¶s how a mind works ± I bet everything has an end at some point, She looks off into the sky, vivid and blue, I felt as if it might have been inappropriate, the amount of blue, I was embarrassed for her to see it in such a way, so loud and saturated. I think I know what you mean, like I really wish sometimes I could go back in time you know? Well« yeah, I, yeah I know, I nodded skeptically, I hoped she wouldn¶t follow this line of thought, It¶s like sometimes I just could have seen things coming so much better if I could just go back and warn myself not to waste my time on this guy I broke up with or that job that I hated, you know? Or if I made a mistake or something« But do you think you¶d be the same person if you hadn¶t been with that guy? Or worked at that job? I¶m not sure you¶d really be able to transfer yourself at a one to one ratio« er, I mean ± you¶d have changed. Well yeah but I would still be the same person you know? Maybe« yeah I think I know what you mean, and I have come to accept that I will probably not be able to articulate to her that I mean that even the simplest decision, affirmed or reproved, shapes her as this person. That ³person´ isn¶t quite as sturdy a substance as she¶d like to think it is. She might not feel the changes, but only because they¶re making up the very perspective through which she is immediately conscious. She¶s different now than she was three years ago, and she wouldn¶t disagree. But she would also say ± no, she is the same person only grown up since then, and that is partially true. She laughs, what, why are you looking at me like that? I laugh, Nothing, I... I just think we understand things very differently. What do you mean? I smile, You don¶t want to hear me ramble, I just think everything has« an impact. Like everything has a reason? Sort of« that might work, but only after the fact. She rolls her eyes, What are you talking about? See! I point at her dramatically, she laughs. There is a lack of substance to the exchange, but it does not bother me. Her makeup is applied too heavily, but she is certainly an attractive woman. Her beauty is loud and immediately apparent, and she is quite beautiful. And her smile is warm, her lips rich. She is ethereal, she will disappear as quickly as she arrived. It makes the thing all the more beautiful, its impermanence, the façade of innocence, but I think an unspoken, or maybe unconscious understanding of the reality of the thing. I smile at her and she smiles back with as much innocence as a smile can hold, and it is amazing how a perspective can distort. And her mind has managed to convince itself that this is real and that she is real. But I know that she is not real, she knows that she is not real, somewhere, she has convinced herself that she is, however. Her pink cheeks and dark eyes, she

must know what she is for it is she who created it. And I am reminded how conscious a decision appearance is, how telling and important. A perspective is perhaps the most important part of a person ± it is not society but her perception of society to which she has reacted and formed a self image. Where are you? What? Sorry, wandering in my head You¶re so absent minded, and she smiles at me Are you patronizing me? And I grin at her Me? Never! with too much emphasis, even for its joke, and we laugh. And I could look down towards two others just like us, and I think how silly it seems that I am an individual. That this is something which we tell every person, when we are all quite similar. And to be dissimilar would not be a thing to appreciate. And it should then not be such a painful thing, it has happened millions of times before, it will happen millions of times after to people across the world. And a billion pin pricks lose their sharpness over the surface area. The whole thing too dramatic, But They were of the same glass cast. Beautiful and delicate, curves the melded together without to seam, not because that seam was well forged but because there was no seam in its inception. Tarnished, smudged with hands, there was no compromising its structure until something hard enough to shatter that glass had struck from above. Or perhaps from below or the glass had struck the thing itself. It is hard to tell from very close whose force causes which reactions. And glass, however beautiful the shards upon the shattering, cannot be remelded. He knew the fragility of the thing he held so dear. She had no idea, or perhaps it was worth less to her, but it was still early. I¶m sitting there and he¶s on this white chair looking at the porch and he sees the single light source, orange in the night. The shadows are too dramatic and he finds it cliché. White lights of a car to the wall spat and distracted the orange but its gaze upon him returned. The slam of the car door, they¶re walking right past, the three and he¶s singing and another one laughs. The orange lamp sits thirty feet in the air and is interrupted by buildings though in a distorted synchronization. The speckles now of lights in distant apartments. The bars of his porch cast lean bars of shadow at forty-five degree angles. The chair backs in bars horizontal as the wooden framing stands intimidatingly upright. The shingles on houses form acute angles with the wooden paneling of a neighboring house and a row of leveled apartments fades to a single line above. And they point to that orange source and he thinks he is entirely hackneyed for considering these metaphors for jail bars. And the stripes of old uniforms striped in black and white which form right angles against the bars themselves. But what should be trapping him but himself, I¶m wondering. The world around him is readily available, he an easily cast hero character in his mythology. And he thinks of the glass around the street lamp and the bugs it acquires and the intense heat it must withstand. It burns holes in his eyes and he is unable to see. The car¶s doors slam again and the visual is interrupted forever, and again people are talking and the closing and unlocking of doors intersected conversations. It was too chaotic now to be artful, he decided. Yes, you know, I love to do art because art is simply« a lifesource for me, he was flamboyant and old, dark skin and light gray hair braided in two long tails, his glasses speckled like animals, his beard equally gray to his braids but unkempt

Oh yess, do you like that one? I remember I was sitting on the boardwalk and there was this woman. This woman stretching, this woman leaning to her side and flexing, this woman was so sexual, his inflections fluctuate dramatically, a master story teller. And here she was, and I just felt the sexuality of. Of the universe just right in the sexuality. His rhetoric stumbles, I see it, he knows that I have recognized it, and I am impressed that he noticed. He will be more careful with his words. Could you tell me about the orientation of these figures on the left? They¶re fairly naturalistic, which is certainly« strange in the context of the piece, but they¶re oriented differently too, and sort of« abstracted from the abstraction, if that makes sense? Yes«yess you know I think I know where you¶re coming from. You see, these pieces, they are an experience, the word has suddenly found added meaning in the inflections, the production which it became. Let me ask you this question ± I don¶t mean to be offensive. It is a series of questions which I ask myself constantly. Why do you prefer to work in pencils? A photograph seems as if it might better capture the experience, as you put it. A drawing is filtered through the creative brain, distorted and piecemealed and reassembled almost unrecognizably on that canvas. The camera captures the original imagery as it actually appears to us. Is it then something within the filter that we find valuable, worthy of appreciation? What makes that filter valuable? Hmm. Hmm you know, that is an interesting question. Well is it my job to show you the beach as it was? I exist in a perspective, and you exist in a perspective, so why would I simply feed you an image exactly as it was? I¶ll give you an image as I found it. The image as it appears in a photograph has very little to do with how I experienced this day. There is time contained within this drawing, the work of my hands. I am impressed and humbled by his answer. Had I come with a malicious question, I hope I had not offended him, attacked him. It was a logical answer, and I appreciated his engagement with the question. He had considered the question, his answer was thoughtful and valid, however large a production it became. Yeah, that¶s something along the lines of what I hope makes the whole process worthwhile. And it is. The photograph is not at necessarily representative of the experience. Very rarely are the details of the image filled in, only the basic information, often abstracted, is retained. Well yes, we¶ve been doing art for thousands of years, of course it has value. We create it, it is unique to us. At any time, our art is our art. To create something is certainly a valuable process, do you agree? I¶m sorry, I¶m kind of coming off a mild disappointment« I¶ve just been rejected from a gallery which I thought was interested in my work. But I« well yes, I would say that creation is certainly a valuable, well« but I don¶t know if that really solves the problem«And I¶m not sure there¶s such a thing as creation. What do you mean? I-I¶m sorry about the gallery, but I¶m curious about what you mean by that. So let¶s take the realists for example ± early artists, realists and naturalists, you know. We can say that the artists are successful in communicating an image, perhaps the right word is to create an illusion, allusion to reality. That we can fool our own perspective to think that these two dimensions are three. Perhaps cameras have taken away the responsibility of retelling reality on the canvas, but if we reduce the process of art to its pieces, the artist takes from his reality, the

reality is filtered through his ± artistic process ± we can call it« and the result is transcribed with a medium. I¶m not sure if anything is created, because what does it mean to create? I¶m not really sure there is such a thing. What do you mean there is no creating? He seems offended at the question, he deems it ridiculous and yet awaits my answer, perhaps threatened. I wonder how much of his interest in art had invested in the idea that he was creating something. It was a difficult revelation to accept when I first came upon it, and I would imagine that if this logic would resonate, it might well become his revelation. But the skeptical look on his face was indication enough: Well I mean, all we can really do is move around the pieces which we already have. Think about language. Language contains only the ideas which have already been discovered and labeled. And short of inventing a word, the creation process has not occurred. So look outside of language, what can you think of which you have created? He looks at me, his hand to his beard and bats his eyes mischievously. Some threat to the magical world, and I thought he seemed like a Puck or a Robin. Well you know I create in my head. Where else can you create but in your head? You have created the world around you, you have made it with your thoughts and your impressions, have you not? He opens his eyes dramatically, sucks his lips together and his head is drawn back by his neck. I smile, Yes, of course. It is interesting, perhaps the pieces which change most from perspective to perspective are things we call art. Oh that¶s just cheesy, and he laughs and flicks his wrist. We laugh, and humbled, I walk towards the bar, the wooden floor splintered unnoticeably, and the worn stools feel intentional. She hands me a glass of thick and dark beer, the head falls over the edge of the glass, downwards onto the grated surface. And it sings: Through the clouds, with a circus mind That¶s running µround I close my eyes a moment and I think that it is an odd song to sing at a bar. But the crowd fit nicely, the place fit nicely. The waitress synchronizes too perfectly with chimes of the bells, and I knew I must be deep. When I¶m sad, she comes to me With a thousand smiles, she gives to me freely The beer deceptively cool, thick and substantial, glowed red in the light, the clear glass invisible. The bar tender places another glass under a tap, pulls the handle, the light shines through the stream of thin yellow beer glowed golden. Anything. Fly on µscuse me, what are you looking at? Oh I¶m sorry I was just Whatever buddy Close my eyes and frustration disperses in purples the floor lights from a colored lamp above, they scatter in different colors throughout the bar, flashing upon the people moving. The wooden stools were worn and comfortable, the cracks in the wood felt casual and familiar. But they are quite stationary, and it is an uncomfortable feeling to sit amongst a moving crowd. I walk with a small smile on my face. I find that it evokes the most positive response from the largest number of people. I exchange my empty cup for another, the glass is smaller, the

thick and brown buried in ice, I leave a small tip. My feet and legs are rigid, moving them seems cumbersome, almost dangerous. My reactions delay, my mind processes social interactions first and focuses on little else, for little capacity to consider anything less immediate. She has curly hair and she smiles over her shoulder, and it is far too cheesy. I can imagine her sitting at the front of a classroom, she looked studious, however mischievous at present. I cannot help but smile back, though starting a conversation was not an enticing prospect. I walk past her, I could risk the changing currents gathering her before I should return. I can¶t help but laugh at the fickleness of perspective, to be immersed in conversation about abstraction, the limits of man¶s understanding of man, and suddenly, I¶m aware only of the mildly sexual encounter I create on my way to the restroom. As I walk past, I glance over my shoulder, in no particular direction but certainly in her general direction, and I see her look quickly away, and I smile to myself and nod, and the wheels in motion drive me from the natural course. And why should I resist the natural course ± what would be the point? Yet it is a response to the knowledge of the natural course, which serves as an opponent. That the ritual is stale, the bar hardly a place to determine common interest, and still the most appropriate ± most straight forward ± place to broach the subject. Hi, can I say I like your earrings? And I did like her earrings ± that was the truth. Um, sure, I guess. She was obviously unimpressed. And unimpressed, I didn¶t quite care for. I still don¶t quite understand why ± in this day of gender equality, I guess that¶s what we call it ± that the ritual still exists as it does. That I have to go around and impress Her, to be some instigator, to pry my way into an unwelcome situation. And it is certainly unwelcome. And often if the introduction is welcome, a girl still acts like it¶s a burden to sit and talk for a little while. I was pretty turned off after that, and I wasn¶t going to force a conversation someone didn¶t want to have. It just seemed like shouting a message to people who didn¶t want to hear. And I can¶t stand doing that. I¶d rather just not talk at all before I started talking about something nobody wanted to hear about. I mean at least stuff that I think people don¶t want to hear about. Unfortunately, I¶m confined to this one perspective, so I misjudge sometimes, but it doesn¶t change the fact ± I¶m not going to talk to someone who doesn¶t want to talk to me. Who wants to be a burden, my god. Everyone grew quiet, and I sit amongst the crowd, and he was up the stage. Lights at his back framed him too tightly, the lights on his face showed imperfections, amplified, exaggerated. Excitement in him blinding and made known his blindness in waves out to us. Four stood raised up but he showed first and last and above. Upon the first note struck his audience like a brick, bore his soul out naked on his face and his chest¶s center, too his fingers dancing. I saw him, his face, his soul or what have you. It shot out from him faster than I could run. He didn¶t smile, couldn¶t. These songs, notes were his and he stood ± to share them with us with no hope for return to the blue from where they came. I hated it and him for, for trusting my single face in an audience of too many. The indecency of nudity in a crowd which steals silently from some distant beauty, or some iteration of the beauty of a private exposure. And I hated the crowd for him ± because he was as oblivious to me as he was to the depth he had reached, communicated, successfully engaged and born to his fellow person. He sang through his soul, and his soul chopped notes in two, and he sang unknowing. I left feeling dirty. I left before it was over ± the moon ± was out. Looked up and saw it glowing down, face dull in gestalt of the man I had just watched ± seen. Alone in cool streets,

the blue night again and this was beautiful. Not some exposure, some mass exposure, provocative showing in dark rooms curtains closed and colored lights. Quiet blue and cool, a light in the moon and a few street lamps kept her from the immaculate, tiny imperfections, they kept her from sterility. Streets speckled with people, they came in ones and twos. An occasional pair of headlights shone obtrusive to white the world out, but it always came back mostly the same. Hey which way is Clyborn. I didn¶t hear him for minutes after I had walked past and he had stopped and stared and turned around and his face scrunched in a futile show of disapproval for no one to see. I smiled to myself at that wasted gesture and how it vanished from his face and how he may not have even known what it meant. I wondered if that performer had crossed me on a blue and orange night like this, his face showed too much, but nothing so artificial as an his scowl on the stage I liked him more after that, the performer. I promised myself that should I ever see him again, I should have to apologize for hating him during his show. I felt guilty again, and I hated my guilt because it was as futile as the scowl on that stranger¶s face. There was no obligation to feel guilt for something no one knew, and if someone did it would have been too far down to bring words to, a thing sealed. I¶m walking down the street and the horizon lines. The streets, buildings, point somewhere and I¶m not sure where. The familiarity of a mystery. The sky is darker and smiles from strangers in the cold. The frustration of a body strapped and bound cast unmoving mummified in dark streets. The lamps were people and faded into each other. The light of one shone bright around itself and brushed shyly against its neighbors. Interconnected by a cycle of lights and broken by the dim and out. I wonder if I¶m dim or out, break in the circle. Selfishness and self righteous and aloof and natural. Walked under a lamp unlit, there dangerous the unknown approached, summoned from the point at the horizon where the sun was once and infinite. The street went on as far as I knew, but the roar of a train on tracks above announced some challenge. I met it and boarded, entered a car through clinking metal and an incoherent screech from the train¶s conductor. As if it were four hours. Before, then. He was on the train to, not from. The car was littered with people and shadows, the window set the sun all orange. A man with dark glasses, too dark to see, a dog at his feet with burdened eyes. Looked up at me from the ground, tongue mouth chest gyrating in succession, tired and hot. I looked into its shared eyes. You like dogs? I did. I told him. He smiled. He didn¶t quite know how because he hadn¶t seen someone smile before. I think. It was artificial and quite natural. I waited for him to say something else. I felt sorry for him, and I hated it, and he couldn¶t see it. I¶m glad he was blind. I couldn¶t stand him seeing it. He didn¶t say anything. I waited and kept waiting. The wisdom in blindness and seeing through a dog from knees up. He must have been saving it for someone else. He only held that smile, strange and perfect in its naivety. His glasses were dark enough to reflect everything and I was suspiciously absent. I¶m sure I was there, I just couldn¶t see well enough. Unsure, uncomfortable in staring at a blind man¶s glasses and ridiculous for being uncomfortable. Laughed silently at myself. And the light flicked brightly as if the sun shone brightly in my eyes. And the train turned, the car shook

I was just sitting there listening to the animals play a song, and I only knew not to do what he had done. The fall air smelled of cinnamon and rotting leaves, the earthen colors of a dying fire. There are people across the street getting into their cars or out the feet crunching on gravel. I look out toward my street lamp and the orange floods onto cars and roads. And it is apparent how blue the black sky was against its orange. A cold naval passage speckled with unsteady lights. Or too steady. Swallowed space behind it in the finitely distant sphere. And I rest my hand on my head and press my thumbs in at my eyes. And squint the world for the obtrusive streetlamp. We were both awake during those late and hours lonely and dark, the profound blue of twilight sat sterilized by those orange streetlamps. We didn¶t talk, just sat, not even together ² And intimacy stood there, and he sang the king had no wife. It was She, perfect and She was lying there awake. I could tell because her breaths were too close together for rest to have found her and we were hidden away from it. We laid there, two harmonious in lonesomeness, and words archaic. Silence the moment¶s catalyst, how much more is a rain drop in the dry air. It was raining without many clouds and those orange street lamps were reflected back up from the watery pavement. The tears were outside, we were dry together inside that room, lying on my bed together, side by side, our fingers in knots, and which were Hers or mine made no sense. In those two moments, we had forged a self, artificial and beautiful. And it was immediate, I think, and physical, and the thing is fleeting and beautiful, a pin prick, a flicker, and time seems too large, scopes out, the glint of a tiny insect in the sky flashed outside the window, or was it a fiction.

It is a fantasy I have had for years and I have played it out in reality. And I have played it out in reality. I am seven years old, the movie has ended, and he has lost his lover at the end. And I feel a longing for the two to be united, but I am not sure what it means. I recognize the signals of a solemn scene, the hero having befallen a great and painful loss. What should I know about the bond between lovers but that they are tied dramatically to one another. And it is clear that the hero is only a half. I think an interesting disposition, not having been exposed to what constitutes the physical act, or how the ritual works. But these are the stories, the formulae which deliver the answers we give. The mythologies and narratives, how different, how much less influential as the interactions of first person. . And they are as bound as I am to this mortality, this reality, coil sprung from the bed and a smalldirty apartment, and drudgery ± no, drudgery is too fantastic a word. Disappointing, tedious, earthen world. And Plato and academia and a church and stories, they exist and are quite beautiful but theirs is another type of beauty. As if they may weigh down, and I am afraid that I¶m not so sturdy as to hold up the fantasies. Dark blue sheets wrinkle and fold and I have tossed the black blanket from myself. The room is slightly warm, it lays upon the blankets together and one, it lies upon the sheets. This thing which we have made. And time has ceased but the wind whispers, and I wonder how it could happen without time. And the clouds have all gone to bed, the sky clears and a deep blue fills the windows. I would have liked the sheets to be slightly darker, or the sky slightly lighter, their colors were too

similar, it might have been a painter¶s faux pas. Her breathing has slowed and I know that rest has found her. I will welcome it too, but it has not come upon me yet. It is a silly thing, to wait for sleep, and I wonder how unnatural a thing it is. What other creature suffers from insomnia, I smile to myself and shake my head. I guess we don¶t move around enough. I roll my eyes as my mind drifts to work, Work and I implore rest to come more quickly, more quickly. The window is spattered with the final clinging raindrops, they shatter the orange light of a street lamp on the distant corner. A cab pulls by, his sign lit sideways, pink and illegible through the distorting raindrops, and I am enclosed here, and safe. A captivity, a shelter, a safeness in the smallness of the space, and variables seemed more limited. A distant bird flashes in the window, I wonder where it was during the downpour. I wonder where birds go when it storms out, when it sleets and hails and thunders and lightnings. They must find shelters, but could they all find shelters? I guess they couldn¶t die from sitting in the water, I guess they¶d just try their best to find shelter. I smile at the mastery of my surrounding shelter. The bird slips again subtly into black on the night sky, I wonder could it fly in the storm, could it fly above the storm clouds, and what was above? I fly above, the dark clouds, the lightning flashes unnaturally upward, and the storm a Storm, and a total surrender. It flashes near a wing, I bank left towards the clear sky, a river in the distance, a mountain behind. The rain beats thunder pounds rhythmically, dramatically, the sun hangs brightly overhead, the dark clouds threaten from below but cannot block the sunlight. I swerve blindly, hope to avoid the storm¶s strikes. I smell something burnt, I glance to my sides, my left wing has been burned through by a shot of lightning, I feel no pain, but know that death is a thing which faces me in the coming moments, near below the dark clouds, I glide towards the open sky, I begin to feel the pain I should have felt moments ago, and the surrounding feathers continue to smolder, the end of the wing crumbles and falls, I decide to dive, I narrow myself and aim towards the yellow of a lone tree before the river. My wing resists its commands to flap and slow my decent, adrenaline coerces it to endure but another moment of pain, and safety. My right wing flaps forward, the rest of my left follows, my right compensates, I spin to meet the earth and roll and open my eyes, and I am still conscious. And I still have a chance. A large rock behind the tree offers ample protection from the dark clouds now overhead. I can rest, and the night¶s peace. My hair is wet, I stepped out of the shower minutes prior. She drove me to the airport, we left at 9:27, got to the airport at 9:41, said goodbye until 9:45, was on the plane at 9:58. Plane left at 10:01. You was sure cuttin it close thar Yeah, seriously« fell asleep on the couch, didn¶t have my alarm next to me Oh dang, you surreous? She talked through smoketortured throat Well I¶m on the plane, that¶s all that matters MmMhmm She smelled of tobacco and perfume, her curled gray frills. Whatchyou doin in Narth Carlina for? Just visiting a friend, and I must have paused for too long between visiting and a friend, Oh yeah? She purrdy cute?

I laughed Yes, she is. I was surprised by the acute observation, disarmed by her accent. Well a¶s good Yep« You know if they give you cokes on these planes Sorry? Cokes. They give you them on this plane? Oh, yeah I think they do Whole can? I think so« Shit, I hope so, and I grin and We laugh Yeah I was visitin the zoo. Second best zoo in Merica Wow really? I thought St. Louis had the second biggest Nope, came saw it just yesterday. You seen it? You gawda see it. Yeah I was only in for a few Yeah you oughta go see it has this system and know what they based it off of? No, what Hills and valleys. You just look on up from the hill and look straight on down, you see all them, y¶know animals at the bottom. She swoops her hand down to illustrate the valley. Oh yeah I can see how that would work Yep they can¶deven get up the hills and touch yah, you just sittin up there on top of them, lookin down and you get some real good views of em. Yeah I¶ll have to check it out next time I¶m there MmMhmm You lookin pretty tahrd, you up late Yeah, kind of hung over Aw dang, that ain¶t fun been on a airplane Yeah, tell me about it. You out at the bars and whatnot? Yep, out a little too late, drank a little too much Yeah know what you mean, I been there fersure Not too fun Nope« so¶s at your girlfriend? Yeah I guess you could say that Mmhmm Yeah, one of those weird situations Ain¶t funneither Tell me about it Well shit least yer on the plane, and We laugh. You wan flip that window down? Lookin like yer gonna be µsleep Yeah, I guess I am« Eh you can leave it open it won¶t bother me You sure? Yeah, I¶m cashing out whether I want to or not. We laugh She looks intently out the window, captivated by the size distortions.

Sheyit you seen them little boats they look like like liddle tadpoles. Oh dang that lookin too bright fer you, Im¶own put it down. I begin to fall asleep, I see her popping her head in three directions getting views out of other windows. I am guilty and I sleep lightly. The plane hits patches of turbulence. I remember doing the same thing as a child, everything new ± I found it odd at her age, as she had begun to gray. We have turned on the seatbelt sign please remain in your seats until the sign is turned off I sleep in spite of it, a patch of rough air knocks my head against the wall of the cabin, I awake and read Falkner. And Jason loves power and resents those over whom he has it, and these qualities feel too familiar. I fall asleep against the cabin again, my book open, page held, I have a nightmare which I cannot remember. The plane lands. You want me to grab one yer bags up top here? If you think you can grab it, but we¶re not goin anywhere soon so no rush Awright well Im¶own let you get itµen We laugh again. Fair enough, we leave the plane, Oh dang I fergot my bag. Well have a good one She turned back toward the plane, partially frantic. I walked along blue lined hallways, Restrooms, food and souvenirs with the same words, Convenience, Gates C1-18, I walk backwards through security. I can take anything out of the airport, I laugh to myself, I remember my days with Her, and I am sad for the time having passed, I flew away, and I wonder when I will see her again and what that has meant, will mean. When I land, the sky is gray and clouds furl like hair overhead, and rain patters steadily upon the terminal windows. I toss my hood over my head, it is not an unpleasant rain which seems to have gone on for hours. The world outside is uniformly soaked, a steady saturation, the world all water finds its way under overhangs and eerily close to breaking the curbsides. It is a very different experience to encounter a storm and, what a storm means, or if it simply is, and what it meant and what it has meant. The long rumbling storm perhaps some imbalance in the world, the omnipresence of the sky. An extension of the supernatural, a communicator, a mediator. And the sky does roar after the lightning¶s crack. I understand, the feeling of a great tragedy flitters on the sky¶s wild winds. It does not immediately occur to me that I have left her, and I think, This surely must be the great tragedy. And surrendering to the train, I hailed a cab, Just head north, keep going straight. Where you going? Just up to fiftieth Whatever you say bud. Pretty nasty out, guess that makes it a rough day« in your line of work Ey, you know it is. But I, see. I get all around here, I just pick them up and drop them off all around here, makes it pretty easy. Yep, that makes sense. Did they say anything about when the storm is supposed to end? I got the music on, haven¶t heard anything really.

Ah yeah, understandable. Doesn¶t really make a difference does it? Nope, drivin¶s driving. I kind of disagreed with him, but I grinned and nodded. The greens of the grasses brighten among the grayed landscape, we pass along the wet bricks which build the shops and the slick concrete side walks. Suddenly the rain stops, and the sun shines brightly down to the darker world, and just as suddenly, the clouds again block the sun, and lightning cracks dramatically. I wonder if it is raining where she is. I feel tucked safely away in the cab, an ironic solitude, as a man sat feet away from me. I am protected from the sky, from the storm, but I am also enclosed. And it is quite an uncomfortable feeling. He pulls down the few blocks, Yeah just turn here, This is me. Thanks, and I give him all the money I ought to give him and I do not need anything back. I exit the cab and into the rainy street, I jog across, a car slows down, and I wave. My keys to unlock the door and quickly, quickly, and it slides in familiarly, a twist and I am home, and I lock the door behind me. I wonder if she is sitting on her couch, if she wonders if I am. It is a strange sorrow, it is one I would not wish away, and I cannot pinpoint the reason. It seems such an antiquated disposition, one which is apparently too far ingrained within my mind to negotiate, and I do not know what it means ± that she will be gone forever.

The phone rings, and my wandering mind snaps. Hello? Hello, my name is Thomas, I¶m calling from the Waits gallery. I was hoping to discuss the work you submitted to the Arnold gallery. This is mister« Yes, it¶s my work. Did you mean just over the phone or would you like to see some of the physical work? Well, I¶d really just like to know a little bit more about them. Would you say you¶re influenced by the Minimalists? I mean« I, yeah, I¶d say that. Mhmm very unique I laugh, Not all that unique Tom clears his throat. What would you say the pieces are about? I don¶t know if I can really answer that without looking at them« There is a lot of thought which goes into each painting, but I don¶t know what they¶re about, to be honest. He chuckles, Well shouldn¶t the artist have some idea? I guess I do« I have theories about them, I can show you strings of thought and describe the relationships of each piece, but I don¶t like to have all that much control over the things. I guess that¶s fairly cliché, but it gets to what I mean, if you know what I mean. Certainly, certainly, so you wouldn¶t say that they¶d fit well in an exhibition featuring pop-art? I guess I couldn¶t really say, just considering a genre. You know? I couldn¶t tell whether or not my stuff would fit« I¶d be interested to see who the other artists are, I could give you a better opinion that way.

Hmm. Well I suppose that makes sense. I can give you a list of their names, I do have a bit of work from each artist in the studio now, now that I think about it. Could you come in some time this week? Sure, I do work until about five o¶clock, could we plan on some time after six this week? How is Thursday Yes, think that works. Okay well look forward to speaking with you Yes, you too, you too. And while it wasn¶t a victory, it was an exciting exchange. I really hoped my stuff would fit with the other artists¶ work. I know I shouldn¶t have gotten really excited or anything, but I was, if you want the honest truth. It¶s not too often you get a chance to talk to somebody about your work. Kind of strange how life kind of bottlenecks in points like these. I know I was hoping which way it would go. It¶s funny, if you ask me about philosophy, I¶m a determinist, I really am. It makes the most sense to me. But it gets to be a situation like this, and I just can¶t help but get all excited and flustered. Anyway, I called my mom right away, she was about twice as excited as I was. You take a mom, and all they really want to hear about is how their son is some hot shot. And today I was feeling a bit like a hot shot, I hate hot shots usually though. Didn¶t change the fact that I was feeling like one. I was pretty confident that if I got to talk to Tom in person, he¶d see that I certainly would fit among these pop artists. I just hoped the pop art was good pop art« I think that¶s one school of art which can get cliché pretty easily. I think it¶s because sometimes it gets so close to reality. You take the guy who put a pink toilet on display as a piece of art, and people always use that one when they attack art, or call it cliché, or they say Well I could do that. That thing really did cause some emotion though, the toilet I mean, probably a lot of hatred or maybe envy, I mean whether or not that¶s a good thing isn¶t all that clear to me, but you know, it affected people. Anyway, you take a thing like a pink toilet, and it¶s too close to the actual toilet for people to appreciate it. And that¶s not to say it applies to all artists ± I bet there are a thousand of them who defy that rule, but for the most part, artists have to at least make something other than what is already there ± and don¶t blame me here, I¶m just saying this is how I feel like most people interpret it ± I think you¶re not going to get a whole lot of respect in the art community if you don¶t make something unless you¶ve got a big name behind it. But suppose you made the toilet yourself ± if you had carved it from something, or built it somehow, and then you painted it pink, then I think you¶re due for some recognition ± it¶s not like you just found a toilet and painted it pink. I mean if you wanted to make the Mona Lisa¶s sequel or something, you wouldn¶t be making a toilet. Now I¶m trying to say that the Mona Lisa is great, it really is. I saw it once, I was in France on a school trip. But that¶s neither here nor there. I walk up my apartment steps and remember the apartment steps of a childhood home. A home between homes, we had settled in a temporary apartment, from which we knew we would move. But when we would move, we couldn¶t be sure. And that feeling is familiar, I still feel that way, sometimes. Because you never know when you¶re going to move. When you¶ll have to, if you¶ll even want to. But that world is still distant, and academia laid out to the seemingly distant future. And the stairs to my door green brick like the steps of that apartment, But these bricks were more faded, were littered with leaves, and the door is one from a certain building on my high school campus. An old building, a worn gymnasium, but the door knob was gold. In that

building it had been painted green. Strangely, thickly, the handle chipped in pieces as the paint had broken and worn from the door¶s moving parts. I turn the door¶s handle, contribute to its decay, and the sky has turned an unnatural yellowgreen, its light seems not to come from the sun as it usually does, but there is, of course, a scientific explanation for it. A flash of lightning resonates on the clouds, crawls slowly outward and retracts as slowly revealing the ridges of its casting clouds, the point of lightning obscured by the brick of a chimney sat on the rooftop in the shape of a headstone. I open the door to a mass held much too seriously in a worn gymnasium. It is amazing how a reality can be altered in its memory. His hands are thin, revealed by his robes fall heavily on his tall shoulders. A red stripe down its center, contradicted by a perpendicularly red strip, and his head was bald, the lights from above shined down upon it reflected them with surprising detail. I could see it then, I could see the lights reflected on his forehead. However holy the light seemed as it fell, his clean, bald head reflected it as any other light it might reflect. A hole in the ceiling was cut in a perfect circle to allow the sunlight to shine down upon the altar, for his chalices to shine a heavenly shine, that the bread alight when raised before HIM. But the night falls black on the round window matted and reflective only of the lights cast from below the sky, attached in circles on the ceiling. And spotlights cast light upwards on statues, the spotlights were half covered in faux plants, but they stood undisguised like spotlights below billboards. And before him, the ceremony was performed, illuminated in torture, in death glorified, the passing through death to defeat Death, and I saw his thin arm extend commandingly, the lower jaw moving, the eyes of that apparition shining darkly far in its bony head which nodded in tune with its conversation or monologue. The lights above his head forced shadows upon his eyes, and it became a thing of terror, but it hadn¶t the faintest idea. Never would he know how he looked as he spoke to His people. « are part of His flock And so you see, the good things which you do for others are done out of love for Him. It is He who lives in us, and it is He who knows us as sinners. All the good that we do is good because He allows us to do it. For He is the source of all things good, And I wonder how He can be all of the good without being all of the evil, a question with which my mind wanders, wonders if It can be can be described in such simple terms. And even as I sit a youth in these pews, I knew that simplicity was often illusion« Are we worthy of His love? Perhaps not, and a silence over the congregation ± previously imposed, but his voice artfully removed, the effect was moving, he looks over the congregation, his eyes scan above the heads of the furthest row as his vision angles between Him and us. His face frozen, severe and enlightened among a crowd of viewers. His performance mastered for repetition and passion, for it was not sincerity that he lacked. The smile on his face started slowly and spread quickly, It is a difficult thought, isn¶t it? We are not worthy of Him, he pronounces each word emphatically and individually. His smile remains, and he enjoys the humbleness he imposes and exemplifies. Not on his own behalf, but on the behalf of the ancient and living God. And I wonder how the bread is flesh is living has died for us. The contradictions are too simple to overlook ± why are they so far removed from the world as it is? As I have seen it, felt it,

And it is amazing to me that we continue to sin. Though He died for us. For us. Can you imagine? That we, these imperfect creatures, can continue to rebel against our great Father¶s Will, and he looks up as he says Father¶s Will, and he might have motioned up into a beam of sunlight if the matte black of the windows had not refused the sun¶s light. And the earth had rotated halfway around itself, the sun to round perfectly upon the earth was blue, and the shadows of the night as we look onward into a void, into blackness, depth and distance, and peacefully the earth rounded itself, lonesome and insignificant, a spot suspended on a sunbeam, and I wonder if his will can be measured by speed. So what reasons can we imagine that we sin? For the things which are material, and he answers his own question. Imagine the implications of an eternity, and again he is silent and silences. Now consider the things which are material. These things give us a fading pleasure, a terrible pleasure. Those things which bring us pleasure immediately. That is greed, pure and simple. ³It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.´ A needle, ³than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.´ And he mutters That¶s, um Matthew, chapter oh« Nineteen, verse twenty four, as he looks humbly down towards the white marble floor of the apse. I didn¶t think that bode well for my parents, and it worried me then. That my parents might not be going to heaven ± no one could know for sure besides God. And that was a scary thought ± and that God already knows if they¶ll be in hell. And it didn¶t make much sense. But it didn¶t have to. The world is the way it is, and the way it was, and the changes in the world are small and slow, or they can be. As he spoke, his thin arm lifted occasionally, fell occasionally, a commanding device, and his power over his people. But it does not feel like a power over ± it feels like a given. That he has provided the knowledge of the supernatural, the immaterial, or that appear to be immaterial. He is connected with this world of immaterial, and his closeness to Him should model for us, but should be much stronger than ours. I wonder why, but I believe I know now. As His chosen people, we are called to lead others as followers of the faith. Our faith in Him, our dedication to His Will, require us to be leaders of others. We must show His way by our example. This is our duty to Him, for He has given life to sinners, And I wonder how we could be sinners without life. Do you know the greatest pain of all? You have all felt it before, though certainly not to its greatest end. Though you haven¶t felt joy at its greatest end either. The Greatest pain, the absolute worst sentence a man can receive is to be removed from the presence of God. There is no greater pain than to be removed from His love. And he smiles as he preaches, his smile a reminder that the power is ironically ours to decide whether or not we will be eternally removed from this sole source of hope. The tactic is fresh in my mind, and I recognize it but not for what it is. But, and he pauses. God has given us choice. We may choose to love Him, or we may choose to reject Him. And so I say to you, It is not our job to force people to choose one side of this reality or the other. It is our job to present this peril, to alert those who will stand before Him and be judged. All people. People in India, or in China, or in Iraq, they will all face God when they die, just as we do. And do you know the punishments which await you in Hell? Can you imagine turning your back on the heavenly Father whose love has born your very soul? The images I will share

with you are graphic, and they are violent, but they are reality. As real as the pews on which you sit, and moreso. We define Hell as the complete removal of the self from God, and yet Hell itself is a place which God Himself has called into existence for the eternal punishment of sinners. Consider for a moment the darkness of Hell, darkness without the Light of God, for the stuff we know as light is a mere creation, perhaps a replication of the substances beyond the universe as we know it. And therefore, the suffering of eternity reaches far beyond the bounds of pain as we know it here on earth. We know pain as it is attached to our bodies, as it attaches to our emotions and our thoughts as well. But God¶s love has always shone upon us. We can have no concept for the eternal tortures which reach beyond the boundaries of our bodies and directly into our souls. Hell is a place of stagnation. We think of heaven as a place of eternal glory, of eternal love for and from God, but we must think of Hell as equally eternal. Consider our earthly metaphor ± what would it be like to remain still forever? To be completely constricted, all movement constrained. Can you imagine the spiritual equivalent? Saint Anselm writes in his book on similitudes, they are not even able to remove from the eye the worm that gnaws it. The damned lie in darkness, the flames which fail to consume their flesh give forth no light. An everlasting firestorm which blazes darkness and lashes at prone skin, bodies heaped in burning brimstone ± these are real and true images. And they are only that ± Images. However divinely inspired, our mortal selves will not come to the realization of the extent of eternal torture until our souls complete their journeys and shed their mortal weight. And the saints speak of a rotting stench, the darkness reeking of burning flesh and brimstone. Consider the stench of a body which burns continuously but fails to decompose, for the fire of Hell has the property of preservation, a preservation of that which it burns, and though it rages with incredible intensity, it rages for ever. Simply burns and produces fumes to choke the air, and saint Bonaventure said that a single one of these rotten bodies would suffice to infect the whole world. The very air is pestilent and foul, unbreathable, and you continue to choke, but you never lose consciousness. Can you imagine eternal consciousness? Consider the great vastness of creation, and consider the heat of a star, of the hottest star, and consider that this is no testament to God¶s fury, that it is a thing which He created out of love, and yes, even this testament of God¶s love holds things terrible to us. We can simply have no concept of the fury of God. These words themselves have no weight as to the strength and quality and boundlessness of this fire, and that should make you all to pause, to consider the weightiness of your eternal soul. His eyes were shadowed dramatically by the light directly above his head, he looked out towards us and his gaze continued through us. The terror in his voice was enough to convince me, the realness of his fear a testament to his Truth. So to anyone who says that you may not deliver the Good Word here or there, you simply do not understand! We see the truth, and we must simply present the problem. Do you know someone who you believe is going to Hell? Do you love the-lord-our-God and do you love your brothers and sisters? A resounding wave of nods, each in its separate and intentional rhythm. Good! Then it is your job simply to alert them to the problem! Imagine that you are walking along a bridge. The bridge is rickity in places, but you¶re confident that you can make it

across, and you continue down your path, the bridge seems sturdy enough for a while, and whoops, lost your footing, but you caught yourself pretty easily on the ropes, you look down and see that a great fire consumes the world beneath the bridge. As you look down the path of the bridge, you see children playing on the bridge, they swing from the ropes, the walk with their hands innocently outstretched to balance along beams. What do you do? Do you run to the children? Do you tell them to stop? Or not to stop, simply to look down, look at the fires burning below, surely they will know the Truth, they will walk carefully along the bridge and remain certain that each plank has its purpose. I step back from his image, and wandered to its periphery where a designer watches as his inferiors walk across a bridge. A bridge that at any time he might break, throw the person into the fire, but the choice is theirs as to whether or not they should continue to walk. Otherwise they may choose to stay idle upon the bridge or to cast downward into eternal fire. And eternal is certainly a malevolent concept. He continues, You see, it is out of love that God made man. And the gift of choice bestowed on men, this is evidence of His love for us. It is a gift which is not unique to us, however. Does an animal choose? Certainly ± a dog can choose just as we can choose, but their behavior is simply a reaction to the physical world ± they do not have such concepts as we of God. Does that mean that they do not know God? I don¶t think so. And let us not forget the angels ± Lucifer, the Light-Bearer, the greatest of all angels, chose against God. And now he lives on without God. Who could know what tortures an angel suffers in Hell? Certainly they are not physical ones ± they are not physical things. But let us also remember Michael, prince of the heavenly host, a sword of flame in hisright-hand. And what joy might it be to serve God eternally? To be looked on in His favor forever, and to be surrendered completely to Him. We know that Heaven is a place of eternal happiness because we know that Hell is a place of eternal torment. Consider the torments of hell, and know that your reward in Heaven will be equally severe. And so we hold this mass to commence this retreat from your lives as you know them. And what is meant by the word retreat, And he looks out over the audience as if someone might answer. His pause draws on, and the women look to men and the men on to women, a time of reflection imposed, unsuredness controlled carefully. A retreat, he says, signifies a withdrawal for awhile. A withdrawal from the cares of our workaday world, from the cares of our lives, from the Day, he says it with such emphasis. It is a time to reflect on the holy mysteries of religion, to better understand why we are here in this world. You will learn from inside. Not from your intellect but from your spirit. By Him from your spirit. During these few days, I tell you of the final four pieces of the life of a man. Of what you will go through, what your parents will go through, which everyone has and will encounter ± they are death, judgement, hell, and heaven. I will present these thoughts to you, however, it is you who will make the decision. God has empowered You to make the decision between Heaven and Hell. You will change over these next few days, but it is for your very selves which we present these problems unto you. For you are our future, God relies on you to spread His Good News.

And as you know, I am sure, we are sent into this world for one thing and for one thing alone ± to do God¶s will in order to save our immortal souls. For what thing in this physical world can compare to eternity? From where does our life spring? Certainly you believe that one thing alone is needful ± that is the salvation of your soul. Your immortal soul, And he allows us to digest that notion of eternity, he waits patiently. This congregation has come to bear witness to your souls before God. He knows their hearts simply by their presence. So clear your hearts today, and the next three days will purge you of the sins you have thus far committed. Certainly none of you shall be beyond God¶s love now, so it is important that you take time to know Him in your hearts. To know He is there, and to believe. For belief is a power from within, and it cannot be shaken. And I will ask you, therefore, to put away your minds in these few days ± all your worldly thoughts, of study or pleasure, happiness and sadness, and focus your attention on the state of your immortal soul. For certainly God holds you to higher standards, as you have been given the gift of His word at such a young age. So it rests upon you to save your immortal soul. And the souls of all others around you. If I may ask only one thing of you in these few days, it is to reflect upon this question ± When God looks down upon you, what does He see? As the mass ended, we walked up the aisle in front of the remaining rows of people, but after the priest. The faces were smiling, some severe, their mouths unflexed, sat slowly under their eyes. The organ moved, and He¶ll hold you in the palm of His hand. Tears of gravity, of emotion and passion for the beauty of the symbols, and I held my head down as I walked past. The night was long and full of questions which went strangely unanswered. As we walked through the night across the street to an entourage of vans intended to lead us to this retreat I looked up at the night sky, the stars hidden behind the orange streetlamps. A defective one shone above our heads a nearblue, and insects speckled its surface. A spattering of clouds reflected orange in places, but the world seemed quite small in the scope of things. This temporary realm, the heat of the van, the hunger before supper, these worldly needs pale in comparison. I cannot imagine how or why people sin if God is indeed is watching. If this world is so temporary, why should anyone neglect His will? Or had everything already been decided? These dulled senses, and He was so tangible, so real in my perception. A force for Good, no, the Good itself was Him. After dinner, we walked to a series of small compartments which would be our confinements for these few days. The bed fit neatly between either wall of the room, the ceiling curved inward on either side, forming a point along the room¶s center. I would stare blankly at the blank ceiling for a portion of the night, and I would continue to ask Him questions, and I continued to hope for a response. A response of any kind would have meant the world, but the responses as others found them seemed to remain intangible. I wish for something tangible, alone in that blank room, and the ceiling is blue with the light outside. The preacher¶s hoarse voice stirred suddenly in my mind, the faint glimmer of fear, and the fear became terror, the death of the body, the judgement of the soul. And the night would bring judgement, of His or mine, I couldn¶t be sure. But death, the dramatic reenactments were readily available, but I had never seen a person die. The veiling of the eyes, the bright centers of the brain extinguished one by one like lamps, and the powerlessness of dying limbs. The speech which thickens and wanders and falls, and the slow pounding of the heart, it struggles and it struggles.

And into the grave with it, nail it down into a wooden box, a thing now and not a person, and so disposed of, a hole cut perfectly to house a sealed coffin, lined with fabric, enclosed eternally, relatively. Out of sight, out of the house, under the ground and beyond the world, but where has the soul gone? On, perhaps, to torture beyond the buried and the eaten, decomposed and reincorporated. Eternally is a malevolent invention, and it weighs proportionately on my mind. An image of the deathbed, and the surrounding onlookers who would witness the exodus of the soul, and at the last moment of consciousness the whole earthly life passes before the vision of the soul, and I wonder how God can record such an amount of information, and I do not realize that it is an insufficient metaphor. How terrified the soul must be to sit before God, to be judged for everything. To be judged for everything, and the God who had long been merciful would then be just. But sleep comes, and I might have dreamt about God. About God doing something real, or God defeating death, but I have dreamt about too many things to deduce that they were God. The morning comes slowly and early, and the birds fail to chirp, the silent orange gradient and its source, and morning dew rests delicately on the grass in the courtyard, the building is tall, taller than it had been in the night, the points of medieval castles impossibly, only an allusion to, and a reminder of. But an archer might have sat in the high tower, but the priests remain below as they tend rituals which feel ageless, but the rituals too have evolved. It¶s something I won¶t see for a while. We walk single-file along the side walk lined green and brown, the orange had risen and devoured since we had first seen it, the day is measured acutely until the earth no longer reveals its parts. The shadows of trees grew dramatic, but would soon tame. The sidewalk winds along irrationally, the trees are bare, and winter¶s ice had begun to drip and chip in places, but the trees are bare still. As we approach the chapel, we stare and point towards the stone carvings of devils tormented forever on the tympanum, the impression fell flat, the devils like cartoons. We enter His house under threat of death, death as an immortality of suffering. Now my brothers and sisters in Christ, have you all had time to consider my words? Or have you already allowed your minds to wander from their intentions, and he stares inquisitively, interrogatingly at certain children, he didn¶t look at me. I kept my head down for respect, this man had opened my eyes to the severity of life, to the consequences of every action, the reminder of a judgement to be placed on each decision. Consider the angels, my brothers and sisters, who have rejected God. Who praise the name of Beelzebub above the Lord-our-God¶s. Do you remember why Lucifer rejected God? Lucifer, the light-bearer ± the closest of God¶s angels to God¶s own knowledge? Because he refused to serve us in our quest ± our quests to salvation. We, an inferior creature in power of spirit, but made loosely in God¶s own image. And we are unique in that we are created of this earthly world, yet we have an immortal soul which lives on forever. As Lucifer was commanded by God to serve us, he rebelled from God, waged war on God¶s kingdom, but Michael, the archangel, the fiercest archangel, quieted Satan¶s rebellion, and God cast Satan in all of His power into the depths of Hell, away from His love and His mercy. So consider the terrible grudge against man which Satan and his angels harbor ± It must certainly be intensified by His love for us.

And consider these devils, these damned souls, these devils which Saint Catherine of Siena once saw, are the most terrible things imaginable, encompassing them and beyond them. Saint Catherine of Siena has written that, rather than look again for a single instant on such a frightful monster, she would prefer to walk until the end of her life along a track of red coals. Consider the most terrible thing which you can imagine. And consider that your thought is limited to this physical realm ± for what knowledge could we possibly have of the terrors which await in Hell? Populated with once beautiful angels ± angels now as hideous and ugly as they once were beautiful. Why do we sin? He says it louder, Why do we sin? Why do we lie, Why do we turn away from God? Why do you reject His everlasting love for you? For you? He who loves you eternally only wants you to embrace His love. But when you stray from the bounds of His mercy, He will judge you justly. Your soul, having rejected the love of God, And he smacks the altar loudly, Will shrivel and be at the mercy of those terrible souls which have this sinister inspiration to torture you, and you should be exposed for eternity. Why did you lie? He stares intently forward, his legs have not moved, and he encompassed the room. Beyond the room rain pelted the glass windows, the wind whipped at the trees, and the sun had hidden itself away. The storm beyond all noise, trees themselves by their bottom roots, the sky grew dark and contained in the steady lights of the chapel. What divine salvation is achieved through a storm? And as such, unimportant to our immediate lesson, our ultimate lesson, the storm pelted away outside, and yet it lacked noiselessness. As the rain fell itself harder and down the glass of the window, our preacher¶s voice was drowned partially, and I thought it a funny decision for God to make.

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