I wish I could choose desertion from my body worn ragged and afraid, but the war between myself and sleep wages on in hand-to-hand combat fought in the battlefield of my couch. I tell myself I’m going to get up and surrender with gentleman’s grace in a well-made bed and a stripped-clean face. But, instead, the fight gives way to fantasy, clashing with the echoes of recently-transpired reality. Every stutter, every stumble, is hellbent on disrupting the meditation in the refuge of an empty home. All I choose to fill it with sits at risk of becoming embers as the torches glow outside the window.
This night—or evening, at best—the torches struck the rays of the sinking sun to form a blinding prism projected through the window of my living room. Thirty-two ounces on the streetcar and 16 more in the forefront of my fridge for good measure, I was succumbing to the light before I even had the pleasure of indulging the canvass of darkness, as I had so planned. There went the two succinct clacks of my pen hitting the hardwood, my arm slumping over in its footsteps. It was my routine for manic Mondays that inevitably give way to paralyzed mania; a dark theater with a single screen showing one picture on an endless loop. I felt my consciousness, still hinged by puppet strings, sink up above, growing and shrinking in endless dance accompanied by potions throwing hands at neurotransmitters.
I could see the hands that had left me in prayer and applause quickly being greeted by a million lower-sitting palms ready to catch me upon delivery. Yet, from white to white, I was burning with a single pair of arms stretched down from a tower I was expected to fight to climb. The skin was too arduous to grip, too traumatically familiar in shape, too filled with holes I wasn’t cultivated to fill. And so, I tumbled down, embarrassed, hoping I would be met with an additional six feet by two. Maybe then, I would be filled with the weight of the earth moved by the heart of those hands.
I flatlined into slumber, but the visions still didn’t ease. I could see arms stretched above her head. Dark hair strung messily. Face down, breast molded over like clay. Blue and chipped with slices of grey, skin laid barren apart from intentional marks of human remarks. She was like an alien awaiting dissection on the unsensed coolness of the steel table. Her lower half remained shrouded to orchestrate the circus of post-mortem modesty; the confines of past life seeping into our projections of the gap in what lays ahead, like a child with a coloring book.
A pile laid under the cover to her left, leaving me uncertain about her processing position. First or last or maybe somewhere in between, I stood silently before being airlifted back to a dying laptop reading a pathetic 8:59. The best of intentions lost to a second roll-over, and I sunk back to watch more visions, but none I can still see to this day.
As the week grew on, my rapid-cycling size fell stagnant at small enough to slip through the floor cracks. It was a notification that had restored time within the context of any sense of awareness. Southport had posted in the Eyehategod event that I refused to believe was already this Friday. Surely, it was still 4th of July – a piece of life being lost on a lantern-lit ground, drowned under the weight of profound loneliness too binding to allow reaching out for any source of feeling, bad or good. Yet, that death, too, had miraculously passed to make way for the murder of another piece. Having been flicked by the hands from which I sought approval to my opposite end of the city, I felt the need to pour salt in my shame by staying imprisoned by cushion. But, under the guise of optimistic Friday morning promises, I made my bed in preparation to be welcomed back later that evening after being rocked by the show I had seen a lucky seven times prior.
Promises I’ve come to keep tend to be the product of trial and error and error and error until the gears start to turn in the direction of etching a lesson learned. Choosing to sufficiently caffeinate before falling down the trapdoor is just one. As I hit the final stage of getting ready, I hit my first stage of acid – five ounces of 32 clashing with the malarial pool of Monster and Maxwell House inside me. But, in a rare instance, I didn’t mind easing the flow of the former. The tranquility of my silent bedroom made me ease into a natural downer that awoke the sowing of seeds over my previous decay.
Just a brief ride over parish lines and I was already in a land I’m often too quick to forget – a piece of civilization, past, anchored to an anvil in the railroad tracks. I felt myself screaming in a crowd suspiciously placid, cursing my Northern-rearing of clenched fists and clenched assholes. I kept a dark corner warm in the safety vest of a cigarette and Snap stories, but as I could hear Negative Approach leaving stage, I knew I had to abandon my post to build anew in the hopes that my newfound belongingness within myself could transcend into what laid all around.
I’m will call, I said in a tone embarrassingly wavering, ripping the superglue that serves as safety net of levels of introversion I wouldn’t wish on the woman wearing the ring pushed onward by my desired hands. I was wondering when you were going to come over, he said. I stuttered over my last name a few more times to round out the beats of the measure, but I felt less alone as he simultaneously struggled with the spelling. I’m Italian, I said – a reasonable excuse for chaos in any context. He smiled and said well, I know not to mess with you. Punctuation, a stamp swinging across my wrist.
I took my new-old post front row on the left edge by Brian – Jimmy’s side being too prone to affectionate airborne beers, the middle too prone to three kids kicking at the ghosts of childhood’s missed hugs. And so, the safety of the silent kids’ club is where I stayed, watching vape pens being passed and IX standing tall. I felt myself being lifted up to marvel at the aerial views of the progress made down paths that just that April in a church in Philly had been trekked with every tooth and every nail. It was all so easy; standing too transfixed to remember the High Life in my hands, watching Aaron double-over in soul that defies death by emotional toll. If they could find ways to plug the bullet holes caught marching onward, then certainly I could, too.
Out of the darkness and into the light of the woman’s room, I waited absently in the ubiquitous obstruction of two drunk friends discussing penis and Papa John’s. I was too distracted reading the dates on the Ghost Bath poster to take offense, but I was met with sincerest apologies as the reality of the wait they were inflicting got in their goggles. I just had so much pee to get out of my vagina, slurred one, bug-eyed. No, it comes out of your urethra, her friend insisted. URETHRA, the other shrieked. Laughs bounced. Feeling content with meeting my quota of human interaction for the weekend, I was ready to initiate my slow withdraw back into the land where the torches don’t burn.
Eyelashes pulled off and sheets pulled back, I climbed into the beauty of a promise to which I was the only one who would reap reward. The war, or at least this measure, had ceased with gentle surrender.