There are times when I fight with myself whether I belong here or not. That’s a question more of belonging than of living or dying. I’ve spent the spin of the full rotation of the hands of the clock debating with myself the merits of a mold. And I listened to the choir outside my window singing that same old song I’ve heard so many times. I tried to ask them politely to please keep it down. When I stuck my head outside that window they wouldn’t look me in the eyes and their light was so overbearing it was like staring at the sun. So, I soundproofed and sealed those panes and blacked out all the sky that tried to fight its way in. Then when I took a look around my room there was nothing to illuminate it but the candles behind my eyes. It’s a lonely task staring straight on into black both thick and solid.
But I’ve got these long lists of names of people who say we got something in common. So, I wrote out their names individually in my own, personal scrawl, balled ’em up in my fists and tossed them at the fire in my chest I ignited for every one of them at one time or another. The ones that got out of the heat quickly will forget the burns easy. They’ll heal up nicely but the ones who remained in the flames I keep their names zipped up and locked up tight in the place where they met me wherever that may have been and might be.
And I carry this weight behind me in this endless number of chains that rattle and shake, dragging behind me like a heavy metal cape, welded to my spine where the tempestuous thoughts in my head balance on the weight of the world spread like knight’s armor across my shoulders. Each chain connects to one of too many things from my past. People, places, and things, each with a length of links connected to their ankles or fingers or waists bearing weight against a loop of chain and a padlock. One by one I try to let ‘em all go, so there’s some empty links dangling free. But there’s more than enough locks there to keep me from ever breathing freedom again, I think.
Once I received a letter from the bottom of my stomach, from such indecipherable, indescribable depths that I had to swallow gasoline and a match to illuminate the words. And then I put a lighter to my lips and blew fire out against a piece of paper and the flames burned those words into one page after another. It was a note scribbled above the official greeting, stated “Dear self, I know it’s been a while since we’ve spoken face to face. It’s been ever since your reflection mocked you mercilessly until you took your fist, cracked and fractured that silvered surface that he hid behind. Unscrew your eyes to the open position and read and listen closely to the things the inside of you’s been saying.”
So, I tell you what I did because I’m a mighty big coward and a fool. I put that letter down, folded and sealed it in an envelope with a ball of melted wax and the signet ring on my right hand that bears the symbol of my fear. I addressed it to armageddon (hoping to myself that it’d get here soon) and left it clandestine in a wooden treasure chest I keep beneath my bed. It’s carved with depictions of pirate ships, treasure, rocks, birds, and skulls and above its golden latch it reads, “A thousand pasts with no future.” I lifted its lid and shut my eyes and gently dropped that letter soft, like a crow’s feather inside and quickly closed it again, allowing the air trapped between my ribs to escape.
But there’s this old, antique phone that operates by a tarnished, silver rotary dial and a hand piece the exact length of my boot. Don’t know how I figured that out but I can’t help but think every time I pick it up I’m putting my foot in my mouth. But this phone isn’t hooked to any wire, jack, or service but somehow it still functions when I pick it up to use it. I don’t know the number I dialed though my fingertips know it by heart so I trust that when I pick it up I’m dialing the right person. I pick it up and wait for the ringing in my ear to stop. When I hear the line pick up I vomit what’s on my chest and the person on the other line just listens and waits patiently for me to stop. When I’m done I stare down at the floor and listen. And listen… And listen… Sometimes the voice speaks real loud like my house is being struck by lightning and I often afterwards find myself in the duck and cover position. But a lot of times I have to listen hard. There’s a lot of static from the feedback in my head. But the voice is there. I can hear it more quiet than the whisper of a child, nights darker than my room at when the sun quits fighting.
So, I do my best to remember but the low-fidelity recorder in my head has scratches in the tape that I don’t think I’ll ever get repaired. I tried to write it down but I quickly ran out of paper and even the things I did write down have taken me a lifetime so far to try and understand. I can’t tell you what I’ve been told. It’s not meant for your fragile ears. I’ve only got a pocket full of ashes to give you and a handful of nothing to hand you and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more clear in conveying to you what the voice on the other line told me. But I can tell him he’s got a caller waiting and have faith he’ll get to you soon.