The Stoplight

He found both solace and torture in music.

There, were, of course, certain songs that he had shared with her that specifically breathed life into the memories he had been trying so violently to kill. So, he did the exact opposite of what would seem logical in this situation. Most people would avoid those songs that they had shared in such a situation but he dove head first into the deep end, trying to desensitize himself to times that the songs would bring up. This was the soundtrack to his heartbreak but he didn’t care. He wanted her purged from the folds of his brain so he could move on with his life. He had no other choice at this point since she acted like he no longer existed. Trading lacuna for lacuna, he trudged forward.

What he realized was, of course, he could listen to almost anything after a while without feeling as if she were sitting right there with him, especially when he was alone at night in his car. But one time out of a thousand her hands would grip his neck and a song would take him back to the place where here eyes would light up the darkest night. Then the dam of his eyelids would have to fight to hold back the overflow of water. Most would change the song but he couldn’t. He needed this, to get over this. This was his music first. It had been there before her and it would be there long after she was gone.

His car rolled to a stop. It had just rained, so the reflection of the red light made the soaked streets look like they were oozing incandescent red blood cells. His eyes were too focused on waiting for the light to change and his mind too wrapped up in the music to notice his newest passenger.

“Why do you do this to yourself?” The ghost from the park was in his passenger seat, facing forward and lightly bobbing her head to the song on the stereo.

He jumped and slammed himself up against the door, bumping his head against the window as if he could somehow permeate the steel and glass. Actually opening the door hadn’t really occurred to him.

“How’d you get in my car?” He stared intently, waiting for her to turn and show him glowing eyes and then evanesce into the ether somewhere.

She didn’t say anything. She simply reached for the door handle and opened it. “You left the door unlocked.” She pulled it shut again. “You didn’t answer my question,” she said as the track changed to another tune to which she felt she could move herself to in the tiny space of the passenger seat.

He was slightly put off by this but he pulled himself back into the regular seated position he had been in previous and then just stared at the center of the steering wheel. Or maybe he stared through it. He looked up to see the light was still red.

“I can’t let her take this part of me with her. This music is what keeps me together on days when nothing else can. She already took my heart and broke it. I can’t have her take this and misuse it too. This music is mine.”

She nodded her head. She seemed to understand better than most. This seemed to be the running theme in their conversations and his curiosity was piqued but she seemed relatively unattached, as if she were just there incidentally. He wondered who she was and why she kept showing up in the strangest of places.

The light was still red.

“Music is like that for a lot of people. She’ll take it regardless and she’ll think of you whenever she hears it. Whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is a question you may never get the answer to. But keep fighting, crusader. You seem to be doing much better than when we first met, much calmer and with thoughts more directed and even a little happier. Keep going. You’ll get your question answered.” She picked at her nails then patted him on the thigh.

“What question are you talking about?” He turned to look at her as she reached for the door handle and pushed the door open.

“Aliquid stat pro aliquo…” She shut the door before he could ask her what she meant.

Then he heard a horn beeping behind him. The light had turned green.


The Streetlight

The sidewalk.

The park.

The bench
under the street lamp, everything tinted by the radiation of its bulb, electricity lightly humming. And he knew that feeling well.

But just then he didn’t. His mind was swimming with swarms of thoughts circling around his head like killer whales around an ice floe covered in seals. His chin rested in his hand, his elbow propped against his lap as he stared at the concrete. He was more looking through the concrete, beyond the concrete into a space which only he could see, beyond the crust and mantle and into the space where pure imagination dwelled. It was where the movie studio in his mind directed a thousand scenes, edit, revised and reviewed scripts and he let the actors play out their roles. Indeed, all the world was a stage in the space between his ears but the actors were real people and the names were not changed to protect the guilty. And, right now, the actors in his head were guilty.

Soft footsteps approached.

“So, you’re the one burning holes in the sidewalks around here? I figured it was some pyromaniacal kids with fireworks, considering the time of year.” It was her again. She must have seen him come into the park again. It was nice to know he wasn’t the only one who had nothing better to do at that time of night but, after their last encounter, he was a little wary of her.

“I saw you walking here again. I thought I’d check to see how you were doing and to see if you took my advice.” She sat down next to him, her face obscured by the curtain of her shoulder-length hair. She was like a ghost but she could breathe, a puzzle to be certain.

“Well, did you?”

The train roared past, catching the back of his jacket in the wake in his head. “Yes, I did.”

“Good,” she looked up into a nearby tree, “How do you feel?”

The question rattled him for a moment. It felt like he had trekked a thousand miles since someone asked him that question. So much time had passed and so many resolutions made regarding his heart and his head had been made and dismissed in so small a space in time. The hammer flew end over end and disappeared into the headlamp of the train over and over again.

“I’m not entirely certain. There’s a large part of me that wonders how much of it was actually real. I can trace the end back and link it to so many things now that I’ve had time to reflect and I keep wanting to know, wanting to ask how much of it was real and how much of it was just… ” He grasped for a word that wasn’t there, despite the innumerable ideas in the shape of flies that floated around his head. His right hand motioned in forward circles to signal his brain to get unstuck from the mud but eventually gave up with a sigh.

“Yeah, I suppose that’s a fair question. But would you really want to know the answer to that? I mean, if you had a lot of good memories then does it do you any good to find out that she was just placating you so you wouldn’t know what was going on? That’s just more pain and misery, isn’t it?” She kicked a small pebble across the concrete.

His eyes burned holes in the sidewalk again. He stuffed his hands in the front pocket of his hoodie and rested them there.

“I suppose it would be. I don’t know. Part of me is curious to know if any of it was real or if it was just filler until something better came along.” He let out a deep sigh and looked down at his lap.

“You’re looking at it the wrong way, I think.” He felt her hand reach out and brush his hair out of his face and back behind his shoulder. He knew she could see him but he couldn’t see her as that seemed to be the way of things. Her touch felt so strange to him that he almost recoiled out of instinct, like someone about to be hit. He just kept looking down trying to keep calm as he felt anxiety bubble up. He felt damaged, inhuman though her touch implied nothing. She pulled her hand back and had leaned closer.

“If there’s anybody waiting for something better to come along it should be you.”

He furrowed his brow and turned to see her face.

Then the streetlight went out.

The Pictures in My Head/The Monsters Under My Bed


I think you saw me confronting my fear, it
Went up with a bottle and went down with the beer and
I think you ought to stay away from here
There are ghosts in the walls and they
Crawl in your head through your ear.

Do you know the difference between imagination and reality? That is, do you know what is a product of your cognitive faculties and what is real? They say that perception is reality but that statement that says more about the beholder than the one being beheld in my opinion. I have been asking myself these questions a lot lately. Nevermind the circumstances because it’s really not the point, is it?

My brain has been on overdrive this last week. So much so that it has impacted my ability to sleep which then impairs my ability to function during the day. Mental health professionals would call this “catastrophic thinking”. I just cannot get my mind away from all the ways things can go wrong and how it would affect me. The scary part is that there is a little touch of reality to all of the things I think of in that they could happen, they have some grounding in reality. These are things that are often plausible but not probable but a mind that knows no creative boundaries thinks of everything whether it wants to or not. This is the boat I’m in.

Especially at night.

Nighttime is when the shadows dance on the walls and the monsters crawl out from under my bed and into my head through my ear. When I close my eyes I see nightmares when I’m wide awake and they’re so real that it messes with my emotional states. The people are real and I see scenario after scenario where the ending is sad or I am left alone. One time I even imagined myself checking into the local psych ward as a result of the story I was telling myself involuntarily. It plays on my fears, my insecurities and my neuroses until I can’t stand it anymore and I open my eyes. They’re still there most of the time but it can be distracting enough to break it all up for a short time.

I’m so tired.

As I said, my mind has not allowed me to rest much this last week or so. One might wonder why I don’t try and control these thoughts or try and interrupt this treacherous flow of cognitive falsities. Believe me, I’ve tried. But it’s the other side of a double-edged sword I’ve discovered. The creative part of me that lets me put words down on paper, tell stories and write poetry is part of the same creative force that destroys me and gets me so strung out that I have to fight off panic attacks. My mind is in constant motion and, up until a few weeks ago, I was operating on 14-16 hour days where I was constantly engaged in something. Now that my days are about 12 hours long I have to wonder if my brain just isn’t acclimated to the lack of stimulation. It has to be something. Because I’ve spent nights trying to tell my brain to shut up so I can sleep.

And it keeps going… and going… and going.

What I don’t understand is why the lack of rest hasn’t wrestled this problem to the ground. I can function on 4-6 hours of sleep but I rarely wake up rested anymore. I feel like I’m running in my sleep and tripping over my own feet in the process. The morning feels like my face ground into asphalt and my body in a wreck, my mind so jostled from the impact that it doesn’t recognize more sleep is needed and I’m instantly wide awake. I have no motivation right now, no drive. I feel like my mind has rebelled, can’t be contained by the boundaries of my skull. At night all my anxiety, fear and insecurity is trapped in a dark room with me and as soon as they are released they bounce off the walls until they eventually come back to me.

Sometimes, I wish my brain would leave me alone.