Ambiguity

Just as easily as one walks through a doorway and into another room, so did Jacob enter into a relationship with a young woman, whom he had met sometime at someplace. She arose out of non-being, arms wide, a yellow hat and a yellow coat—but with bright red shoes, providing both a contrast and a question. An exact date is impossible; sometime in the springtime, just before everything starts growing, when the birds sing from leafless trees and the grass is dead and brown.  Just as easily as one walks from one’s apartment to the space outside, Jacob crisscrossed a nearby park and watched the dim sun trying to raise itself higher in the sky.

Out of non-being arose a woman, slender, in a red coat that stretched down to her knees. She walked in front him and passed and, as he was sitting on a bench staring across a small pond, she disappeared back into the nothingness from which she arose. He had not glanced at her but had only noticed the red coat. A particular absence left in her wake; he waited for his own young woman, whom he had agreed to meet in the park.

“Jacob!”

He turned, and she walked, skipping almost in the same red shoes. She approached and stood in front of him, filling the whole of his vision.

“Hello!” he almost shouted.

Objects have a tendency to fill our being. Even in rather expansive moments, when, perhaps, we stare at the stars and wonder about the filaments in the nightsky, questioning what and why—though distraction is never far away. Indeed, the danger in such moments is that they leave us too quickly. A hole replaces them. Loss is felt. Even grief maybe, at one end of the spectrum.

They hugged.

Cecilia looked over Jacob’s shoulder and saw a pigeon eating something off the ground.

They stepped back from each other.

Between the two existed a certain harmony. Jacob recognized Cecilia and she recognized him. Out of this recognition both stood firm.

“You got the job?” Cecilia asked, looking Jacob in the eyes.

Involuntarily Jacob gazed passed the pond again.

“No, not yet. I still have another interview. I will. I’m confident.”

They walked arm in arm around the park.

Cecilia assumed that Jacob had already started his job. She was disappointed that he still had another interview. Feeling in her jacket pocket, she fumbled for a cigarette and lighter, then lit it, releasing herself from Jacob’s arm.

“Do you see that woman in front of us?” she asked.

“The one with the red coat?”

“Yes, that one. I saw her earlier. She was walking very strangely, almost with a limp. And her face was even worse. She had the strangest smile. Almost twisted, one side of her face was limp and the other turned up. Like a stroke victim.”

“I didn’t notice, but I did see her.”

Cecilia took a drag off her cigarette and blew out the smoke and expanded, evaporating into the air.

“All around these people find us. We’re surrounded by the surreal and the strange. Can’t you feel it? It’s spreading.”

Cecilia had inhaled her cigarette rather quickly, with a shaky hand. She glanced nervously around.

“I just see people. What’s so strange? Are you nervous?”

Jacob turned and looked around the park. An old couple sat silently on a bench, both hunched over; the man had a low-hanging hat and the woman curly gray hair that meandered in the breeze. She clutched a handbag.

“I don’t understand,” Jacob said.

“We’re not talkers,” she said.

Jacob looked at her; she refused to look back. The sun reached towards the apex of the sky (ultimately it will miss it, in the coming hour). Light suffused the air with a gray-white, though clear, haze.

Jacob remained silent. Some moments have a sense of foreboding, an awkwardness sometimes punctuated by anxiety and the desire to speak, act, or move. Suggestions can follow; usually the moment is surpassed by just such a suggestion: “Let’s go here.” Or perhaps “Care for a drink?” This moment, however, stretched into an abyss between the two. Silently the two looked at each other, neither really seeing each other and neither thinking about what was happening between them. Neither felt awkward or otherwise felt a need to change the situation. No goals. No plans. Nothing.

Finally Cecilia spoke, though not out of a desire to end the situation.

“You know I have something to tell you.”

“I know,” replied Jacob.

Jacob gazed at Cecilia with tenderness. Her shaky hands, her red shoes, and her yellow coat. She was young and short—almost a foot shorter than he was. Her eyes were black orbs, with a little brown around the edges of her pupils. Her cheeks were red; the tip of her nose turned downward.

“We’re not talkers,” she said again. And again, Jacob remained silent. A thin pause—and this one was the kind of pause that became awkward, a hole needing to be filled. Vast yet quick.

“I had an abortion yesterday,” she said. Her eyes flickered and she looked passed Jacob at the old couple on the bench. Jacob remained frozen. Her hands were still shaking.

“I didn’t know–” started Jacob, shocked.

“I didn’t tell you,” interrupted Cecilia.

Jacob breathed deep.

“We’re not talkers,” repeated Cecilia.

“What does that even mean, ‘We’re not talkers’? I don’t understand anything you’re saying.”

“There,” she said, pointing at the couple. “Can’t you see them?”

“I see them,” said Jacob, looking over but without understanding why.

“Everything, everyone, is so strange. The sounds are surreal. The air is off somehow. Even you…” she said, trailing off

She looked directly at him, face-to-face. Taking him in.

“I’m off?” asked Jacob. “What’s so strange? You had an abortion without telling me? What is going on with you?”

Cecilia kept her eyes on Jacob and fumbled for another cigarette. Never taking her eyes off him, she lit it and blew out a stream of smoke.

“Everything is so strange,” she said, her eyes sinking and falling into some abyss. “But,” she paused, tilting her head, “you’re the only thing that isn’t.”

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Morning

Early morning.

A lake approximately oval in shape cascades in light. Gentle waves lap the Western shore, cresting and crawling up onto the beach and tanning the sand a dark brown; an older gentleman, Henry, sits in a chair in front of his house and gazes out at the water. Both he and his house sit atop a bluff overlooking the nearby beach, and surrounding the house is a sparse, tall forest whose canopy blooms a bright summer green. When a breeze picks up, which is often enough, the air fills with the scent of fresh water and becomes chilly.

Henry turns on a nearby radio. A clear male voice comes to life.

“Yesterday in London, police seized a car…”

Looking across the lake, there is a dark green sliver: trees line the horizon; and interspersed amongst them are spaces with white dots–the faint, fuzzy outlines of other houses. Henry eats a handful of sunflower seeds, taking them out of a jar sitting on the grass. The jar is half full: the rest of the seeds having been reduced to wet shells, which litter the ground next to Henry’s chair.

Chewing loudly, mashing his teeth, one hand perched on the armrest to take the shells out–he licks his lips and wipes his mouth on his tan arm. Spit follows his mouth down his forearm and onto his wrist, leaving a trail of smeared hair. Craning his neck, he stretches backwards until he is looking straight up into the morning sky. His upper lip quivers, then his left eye. He keeps chewing.

“Police have yet to find those responsible for the London bombings, and have yet to release any new information. There are, however, reliable reports that the type of material in both bombings was the same. This is unconfirmed…”

Henry clears his throat and shifts in his chair, then reaches for the jar of sunflower seeds. Behind him a white cat rubs against the corner of his house and starts digging frantically in the ground, its paws churning the dirt. He coughs hoarsely; a sunflower seed flies from his mouth. A minute passes. The cat bounds across the yard and sits down on the front step. Henry cranes his neck and looks over his shoulder, then gets up and walks inside.

Inside his bedroom, he is kneeling in his closet and digging for something. The bedroom window, which faces the front of the house, lets in the morning light, which is then diffused through the drapes into a hazy green. Dust drifts silently in the sunbeams. Henry stands up with some difficulty, then sighs and leaves the room. He returns minutes later with a large cardboard box, which he sets down on the bed and begins to rummage through. After a few minutes of sorting through various papers, he finds something; his eyelids peel back and the corners of his mouth turn up in smile; his nostrils flare, he raises his eyebrows, and he involuntarily tugs at the buttons of his shirt.

London, July 30th, 1956

Dear Henry,

I miss you, and can’t wait for you to come visit us in London! We’re going to be there through the 28th (or so my dad tells me). In any case, make sure you bring the suitcase I left at your house. Actually you should bring both your green one and my red one–I’ve collected some things here that I need to bring back! I have a surprise for you too! I’m sure it will make the whole trip worth it–it is just that good! I really miss you, and I love you. I love you! I’ll see you soon!

Love,
Nicole

In his bedroom, the dust swirls in the sunlight, having been caught by an errant breeze. Henry sits on the bed, the letter in his lap; he gazes at it for perhaps a full minute without reading it, then looks up, his eyes following a fleck of dust spiraling up towards the ceiling. The house creaks. Setting the letter aside on his bed, he scratches an arm, then goes back to rummaging through the box. He continues looking at old letters, newspapers, and photographs for perhaps the better part of an hour, the green haze busily brightening as the sun climbs. Afterwards he sits on the edge of his bed, hands resting on his knees.

Late morning.

The lake has stopped shimmering and now small waves are cresting green and brown; white froth marks the outline of every disturbance. A sustained wind has picked up, rustling and creaking the trees as their wood bends. Beneath the bluff, a few neighborhood kids play on the beach . A small child stands in perhaps a foot of water and is looking out towards the middle of the lake. Another one stands hands-on-hips further up the beach. The sky is a blue diluted into a foggy white, and the sun, high above, is beginning to shine fiercely, baking the sand–the hands-on-hips boy must shift feet in order to stand still. Henry sits in his chair. The radio is blaring, and he is chewing handfuls of sunflower seeds.

The morning ends.

Metamorphosis

Blasé.  Apathetic.  Impertinent.  Squire.  Death.  Music.  Mosaic.  Multitude.  Squiggles.  Incest.  Antiseptic.  Precision. Octagonal.  Cringe.  Inducing.  Indigestion.

A multitude of insects flooded the space around me: I raised my arms in flowing euphoria, my heart pulsing acceptance and repentance through my veins. The insects were ferocious, devouring me. I became them and fluttered away, my arms now wings beating to the rhythms of the sky. The blue opened before me and the garden disappeared below, becoming a square dot against the green flora of the park–I could look back no longer and I became king, the sun extending a finger to touch my outstretched and sensitive antennae–the meeting making me blush and me, surprised, becoming warm with the joys of freedom and deliverance.

Everyday.  Pertinence.  Barb.  Harp.  Anthropological.  Beat.  Patience.  Cramp.  East.  Emptiness.  Star.  Handle.  Surgical. Chevron.  Excellence.  Statesmen.  Tolling.  Father.  Ethnic.  Severance.

baseball – dream american

the baseball field grasses grow wild, and as you field a ball you trip over a mound of grass in the infield, falling on you knee and scraping it badly.  you get up and make the throw and the runner is OUT and everyone claps and your coach yells.  moving back to shortstop you realize that your pants are ripped on the kneecap and through the hole you can see your scrape, bloody and full of dust.  it stings but you pretend it doesn’t, and soon the next batter is UP and I’m set

hey batta batta batta batta batta SWING batta batta batta batta

he swings

the sun is setting just behind home plate and you have to pull your cap low, squinting

through the chainlink behind home plate there’s a commotion and people are crowding around some guy and yelling “give him room”; through your squinted eyelids peeled open and now the game has stopped, waiting, you take your cap off and hold it above your eyes for more shade, and IT’S DAD (you start towards the fence).  Two steps, three steps, faster with everyone.  Dad is grunting, with his shoulders bunched up by his neck and his arms crossed clutching himself

MOM?

rainburst (2007)

Time in bars Chahl’s rain, rain hard dripping flood door cut hole garbage bag to wear over our head.  Panels drip fill-bulge with water then burst to the floor bursting while hicks while people keep drinking, taking mystery shots talking and mixed drinks talking looking mystery shot in standing water an inch deep.  I am an interruption.  A man talks about cowboy hats from Valentine Nebraska complement him, leave tells me it’s the style, the style, the style argyle socks pants rain leg rolled up they think I’m gay.  Cousin point stare laugh look I wear argyle socks I laugh I scream I scream, I laugh I leave panel bulge-burst with water I run rain paste our face our cry arm splatter bag-paste to face I am laugh, laugh, laugh.

Iraq War – dream american

walking through a sunlit meadow, the colors of wildflowers swirling around your feet, bright blues and soft greens; in the air little pinpricks of light dance, and in the middle of this meadow a wooden plank stands resolutely, having been stuck in the ground some time ago. Barely weathered, the corners are smooth, but otherwise the plank is unimpressive. It’s just THERE and not in the roofing of the nearby farmhouse, so pretty and cozy. Hands out now, passed the plank, feeling the grasses creeping slowly up to waist-length feeling every stem and no stem

back home dinner is set “did you feed the dog?” asks mom, and yes, you did feed the dog. The air inside is sticky-hot and you wash up, lathering the bar soap onto your face and arms but still now sweet sweat beads around your elbows and one drop falls to the floor. “I did ___ today,” you say. Dad looks at you between bites and doesn’t smile, his jaw chewing cud in big closed circles, you smile, he smiles, he takes his fork and in one deft motion stabs a piece of meat and chews it up like some

you say “Mommy, can we talk to ___ today?” and Mommy doesn’t even look up, her eyes are on her food and she’s not even eating. Her red potatoes sit on her plate, arranged perfectly precisely by the meat. The forks and knives. Finally she closes her eyes and puts her napkin on her legs. Her eyes focus on your dad

SON, there’s something we have to talk about. We can’t call ___ tonight because he’s gone,

at this point dad looks straight at you and holds your gaze

SON, he died, someone killed him in the war, so he won’t be coming home

a light breeze wafts in through the window and ruffles the off-white curtains

you are young, and your dad is telling you something that will change everything, and your mouth is open, his lips pursed, his arm now resting on the table by your red potatoes, fingers lightly clenched

SON, this will be hard but we will have to make the best of this

mom cries

SON, you’re going to have to help more now, keep working and we’ll all get through this

dad’s rock-hard jaw quivers

SON, we have to work our way

the drapes puff

SON, it will be ok

mom is shaking

SON, gone

DAD, I know

nursing

A young boy holds puzzle pieces between his fingers and, standing in a hospital room, stares on as a large nurse rips a long brown tube from his grandmother‘s nose, then turning her over and exposing her sagging backside to the room–a boy, now without puzzle pieces (a hand has replaced them), is led out of the room.

Now outside, the puzzle sits half finished (a crab is taking shape). The boy sits at a card table next to an open window–a crisp breeze streams in, brushing his bangs back–outside, through the frame of the window, leaves twist downward onto the white foam of a brown river, swept downstream and through downtown (which is cupped in a bend of the river like an egg delicately held in a hand).

From the grandmother’s room, a high-pitched wail, a constant beeping–round, glob-like beeps–in rush nurses clad in green smocks, and some doctors in blue. A man in a flannel shirt slowly leaves the room, frown lines extending to his chin. He scratches his short beard and turns to the boy, who is still sitting at the table. The boy looks up. A tuft of his hair wafts in the breeze. Sunlight, golden green, streams through the window, illuminating them both; looking in with it, we see:

A small chest rising and falling; two large hands now resting
On a boy’s slouched shoulders. The right, patting slowly
Up and down, squeezing–

and from it, expanding outwards,
A gentle warmth with feeling.

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