Light the Match, Ignite the Torch, Burn it Down, Walk Away.

HouseFire

I carried around a burning coal in my chest for longer than I choose to remember as my memory currently will not allow me to recall the time. My face showed scorn with a curled up lip and furrowed brows when I thought about what you’d done, what you were doing, what I didn’t do to deserve this. I didn’t deserve this, I don’t deserve this, I will never deserve to be treated like this. And I carried around that open flame with me to work, to church, and to my friends who were kind enough to listen to me when I related the newest revelations I had gleaned from the fire burning the layers of paper wrapped around this issue.

I was the burning man
with burning steps
scorching the earth
wherever I roamed
You lit the fire
You ignited the flame
But I had to carry the torch
inside me, not you
And there was no one to put it out but me
No one but me.

I ran over and over in my head scenes of violence where I put my fist through the face of the guy you ran away with. I hold him responsible too, even though it was mostly your fault. And it was your fault, not mine. No matter how angry I got I could never hit a woman and so he would pay the price and you would have to suffer as he suffered my wrath, the consequences be damned. I wanted to rip your whole world to shreds as you had mine. I wanted you to suffer the way I did and sometimes still do when my memory or subconscious allows you to creep up on me. The visions I had of you and him, having come true, were replaced with scenes of violence and vengeance that kept me awake some nights; the adrenaline from the thought became too much for me to control and would not allow me to rest.

I gave you everything and more. I told you everything and more. I don’t trust easy and I don’t take abandonment well and you knew that, you knew that better than anyone and you went ahead and kicked me to the curb without having the common fucking courage to say it to my face or at least over the phone. Distance was your shield and you hid behind it and fired an arrow with a note and a flame attached to it and you incinerated my world, you coward. And rather than own up to the garbage you backed into a corner and attacked like a wounded animal when I was the wounded one. After all that, I hoped everything in you hurt. I wanted to know you were unhappy and know you deserved it.

I wanted to set fire to the pictures I saw of you and him. Not out of jealousy but out of sheer malice and rage. I wanted to crumple up the photographs of your faces and have you feel it in your skulls. I wanted to take a lighter to it and watch the smiles curl slowly into a black nothing because that’s what you deserved.

Your whole world in flames; I wanted to see your world burn to the ground around you.

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 Things I Know

Listen, if I didn’t have so much of this life all wrong… I would have gotten it right by now. I talk a whole bunch but I really only know a few things so I ain’t saying to follow along verbatim here. I’ll just tell you the things I tell myself, the things I know. You can see what sticks. – Buddy Wakefield, “The Information Man”

I spend a lot of time being wrong. I’ve spent a lot of time with my nose in books and researching things that seem to catch my eye and finding out that my preconceived notions about a topic were incorrect.  The customers I talk to on the phone at my job spend a lot of time telling me I’m wrong or I will look into a problem and find out that what I told the person was incorrect.  It is then up to me to swallow my pride and let my customer know that I was wrong. It’s not easy to do but it’s a lot easier because I don’t have to do it face to face. I purposely stay quiet out of what I call humility during conversations and classroom discussions sometimes but I’m not really humble, I just don’t want to be wrong. I think everyone has, to a greater or lesser extent, an innate fear of being wrong. It’s just part of being broken and prideful that we, as the center of the universe, cannot be wrong.

The thing I’ve discovered about being wrong a lot of the time is that I only know a few things. The things that I know are things that I can always be certain of and maintain my confidence that at least in the things I know I can’t be told that I’m wrong.  I was thinking about this today after I shook the sleep out of my eyes at the crack of noon today after staying up too late watching a movie.  I can’t tell you how I got down this road of thought because it’s just more proof that I’m wrong a lot of the time but I decided to entertain the thought process that followed.  I was able to come up with three things that I know with great certainty, without a doubt, 100% foolproof. Just do me a favor and don’t try and prove me wrong with these three things.  They’re all I’ve got.

The first has a lot to do with my personality and talents.  First of all, I’m really good at being overly analytical.  I will scrutinize something down to its most basic molecules if I have to. I will understand what I am analyzing and I will make sense of it even if it drives me to the brink of insanity. I’m pretty sure this is why I’m single but we won’t go into great detail about that.  Second, I am really good at reading people and sometimes even empathic.  I can’t tell you how many times this particular portion of my gifting has decided to rear its head.  I can’t really control it, per se, but I can decipher the signals it sends to my brain however I sense things. I have been able to tell when people are depressed, anxious, or just trying to lie to me.  It’s just been something I’ve always been able to do. It’s like that scene in Good Will Hunting when Skylar (Minnie Driver) asks Will (Matt Damon) how he figures things out in minutes that takes her hours to comprehend. He goes into this long explanation that used Beethoven and Mozart’s understanding of the piano about how they could just play and when it came to the understanding the difficulties produced by Ivy League academia he says, “When it came to stuff like that, I could just play”.  That’s the best I can describe it: I can just play.

Now when you combine analytical abilities with my interpersonal skills and severe empathy and you get a man who has easily been able to discern what a person is like, things they’ve done or something as weird as how many siblings they have and what gender those siblings are. It’s weird, really, really weird to me sometimes when things like that come to me so easily especially when, just by looking at one of my friends, I was able to tell that she had been a part of a mutual friend’s infidelity.  It is stuff like that I really don’t want to know.

What’s really frustrating is that there are times and there are people when these abilities carry absolutely no weight. It’s like someone just emptied my head or flipped off some kind of switch.  Some people are just really hard to read.  I would like to think that through my abilities I have gained some sort of insight into the inner workings of the human psyche and, to some degree, it has. I know a lot more about people than they realize a lot of the time.  But then I will see things that make absolutely no logical sense and it becomes unbearably frustrating.

This leads me to the first thing that I can tell you that I know without a doubt: There are some things I will never understand.  I will never understand why people who had a horrible go around when they dated will break up and then get back together. I will never understand why at the age of 25 I was diagnosed with a heart condition that’s typical in people in their 50’s.  I don’t understand why people hate, why people can’t be honest and why it took me so long to figure this out.  Some things just will not make any sense.  But at least I know it and someday, if you don’t, you might understand this particular truth.

Which provides absolutely no segue in to my next paragraph so I’ll just bumble into it.  I’m not a pro at this, I just speak what’s on my mind and heart and hope it makes sense.  I’ve always been that way, I guess.  I’ve been writing prose and poetry since 7th grade.  That was when the ability to communicate via paper and pencil was really unlocked. I had the most fantastic English teacher in Miss Fischer, a woman whom half the guys in the class had a crush on. I came to know her as more of a friend because she treated me like a human instead of the freak that everyone thought I was. I was a loner back then and writing was kind of my gateway out of that mindset.  Just as I’m doing now, I would write down how I was feeling and eventually I found someone influences that really altered and gave me a stronger voice. Self-expression is necessary, I think, for everyone. It manifests itself in many ways but it’s always there.

I’m still a loner now and I still write as is evident by the 1,200 words I’ve spewed forth thus far. And I still retreat to a form of writing to make sense of things in life. I’m really good at feeling alone in a room full of friends still.  It just goes to show you that some things never change.  And that is the second thing that I know.  I know that no matter what happens in your life, my life and everyone else’s life there are some things that will never change.  In a world where “the only thing that stays the same is change,” there are actually a few things that are not blanketed by that statement. Autumn will always be marked by the colors changing of the leaves, the tides will always be affected by the moon and even though their positions may apparently alter slightly, the stars will always shine in the sky when the sun sets.

There is something else that never changes.  You know, as much of a heathen as I have been through the span of my life I have always believed in God.  He may not have looked or acted like the God that I’ve studied and believe in now but he has always been there. In theological terms, people like to say that God is immutable, that is, he is not changing or able to be changed. This is something I know about God.  It’s hard to comprehend but it is indeed the truth.

My friend Ben says he’s wrong 20% of the time but that’s only because the other 80% of the time he’s talking about Jesus. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  I believe Jesus came down in the form of a human and was tempted like we are tempted every day. And I think even worse because Satan himself really went after him first in the wilderness and then through Judas Iscariot who turned Jesus over to the authorities to ultimately be crucified.  In theological terms, Jesus’ nature can be defined by the hypostatic union, that Jesus is fully man and fully God.  Because of the former it was written in the letter to the Hebrews, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus is that high priest.

With all of this in mind, I think there’s really only one more thing I can say I truly know.  While I know that some things I will never understand and there are some things that will never change, I think I’ve discovered something that is ultimately far more important. I know that God understands and he never changes.  That’s something, above all else, that I can cling to and tell people I know.  All other issues are unimportant by themselves.  When you add them up, however, and lay them like bricks in front of you the end result, because what I’m telling you is the truth, the road you build will lead you to the God I speak of.  I know that it’s narrow and there are few that will find it.  If it’s truth you seek, if it’s understanding you desire, then there is a God who knows you more intimately than any person ever could because he knew you before you were formed in the womb and before you were born he called you out and he wants you to know him.

Washed to Eternal

Hair sweeps past eyes like curtains when their ropes are pulled, released like a kamikaze waves of blackout. I have come to this moment with the reality of myself stripped bare and broken from chains with the manacles still ’round the wrist and a link or two attached, bloodied but you never cared for that I guess.  You look right through it… ahahaha… you always did and you always do, that is you in the plural and not so much in the singular anymore.  All you see is the black and the white, the dyed fibers of the cloth covering my body and my skin, like wax, white and lacking any sort of tone.

What I am not is what you see and what I am you don’t for that is the very nature of humans: to look only at the barrier that we all put up, everyone one of us, instinctively, whether we realize it or not.  We want to be cellophane, transparent.  We want to tell the truth but lies drip from our teeth like poison and we dare sink them into each other every strike of the clock of every minute, bearing the weight of it.

But it is in this moment that I want you to see me for who I really am and not who I’m trying  to be.  I can do nothing with the exterior so I’ll just open up my chest compartment and let you feel around a little bit and let you guess the object contained within since you can’t see it.  Here and now catch me falling or lead me to my knees for this is all I have to offer and I’ll give it away freely if you want.

My Father has taught me well and perfect the laying out of our servitude like grace we don’t deserve, like the  death that was undeserved and yet we take advantage of it and cheapen it because that’s what we do, isn’t it?  I mean, the blood is on your hands as well as mine and yet we’ll gladly stuff our hands in our pockets and hide it, pointing things out with tilts of our heads.  But it’s this blood that spills like a pitcher poured out and covers us all so that we all look the same on the outside, redeemed.  So, when you look at me and I know you do a lot longer than is necessary to actually just see me, you ought to have seen the exterior enough to be able to look past it into me and I’m here to tell you, brothersisterstranger, that all things you need to see are here.  And I’ve cracked open, laid out on my spine like an old Bible so that you too, can see the work of the Truth.