Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Short Story


I woke up today to my alarm. I didn't mind waking up to my alarm. In fact I like the morning. Things are new, people are getting ready, there is a quiet sense to all the shuffle that is going on. The sun breaks through my contraptions. Duck-taped curtains, rows and stacks of money, circus games from lines of coke bottles, maps that show me the world from long ago, and sketches of people and their faces, made up of lots of black lines. The shower is hot and the steam rolls along the floor and shifts itself to fit under the door and peek out. Glancing and then spreading itself evenly on the floor in the hallway, making a nest until I open all the doors and it disappears.

I figured the morning is beautiful. That people are beautiful in their weird ways, their sparks of amazing flames just going in and out. I don't want to kill that. I want to hold onto that. But it’s getting really hard sometimes. To want to spend time at the lake with them, to just sit out, sitting side by side reading books, talking about really good music. It’s all slowly slipping into worse things, being kind of mean or terrible. Not respecting the fragile nature of everyone else, just as we are fragile in our own weird ways. I’m slipping; and all sorts of dark things just lie there waiting with long slender fingers, touching the nape of my neck as I brush my teeth in the mirror. It is dark. It is getting darker. And then something magical, like a brush of light, or a simple password uttered from someone’s lips, brings me back; out of this fugue like state. ‘Your in a cave. Your lost in a cave.’ Everything is piling on top of everything else. Should I let it? I am asking, that person staring back at me. ‘When did I stop?’

I am spending the morning looking out of my window every so often seeing all the cars sitting silently, waiting to be turned on and driven away. The gentleman and lady are sitting on wooden benches sunning themselves. Drinking cold drinks at 10 in the morning with nothing but big creases on their faces because they are smiling. I am going to write. Unfold my blank sheets of paper and scribble away as the sun shines on them. ‘Shouldn’t you be somewhere else? Doesn't that seem important?’

What do I do when I go back to my past self and I look at that person and all the things that world was. Popping in and out, castles and knights and soldiers off to fight wars against evil. I was good. But that me would have never looked at me and said, ‘This is you. That’s you,’ pointing with a steady finger at a picture of me now. And there isn’t a neatly trimmed lawn, fountains with goldfish swimming back and forth, purple flowered trees. White flowered trees that drop their petals when summer comes, and go-kart rides off hills and dunes and crashing on the soft earth ground. Both of us died. ‘Don’t know who’s looking at what. Who he is.’

A Walk From Kringsja to Downtown, Then Back Again:

On Tuesday I started out at the foot of my steps and was sitting around just looking out and decided I had to do some things. Stories about children marching up and down avenues in tin pasta strainers, spoons as swords, and my dear mother walking our grunting dog along sidewalks came to my mind as I sat there just looking at my dirty shoes.

I picture my beautiful mother standing there and the kids come up to her and they pet the dog and they wave around. Babbling how they are thirsty and that their own mothers are out for the day. Smoking and standing around Laundromats. Or out with their sisters shopping. Two, no, make it three girls are in the little posse, and so my mother talks to them and the dog grins widely like a Cheshire cat, while they rub his stomach and then he wags his tail and they bound away with dollar bills so they can go to the 7-11, and buy drinks as a miniature version of Napoleon's army.

I started walking out and went down the street. I remember a man on his bicycle struggling to get up the hill. And I was listening to music, jamming, glancing back and forth and forward. Sun always there. Each day it’s more and more, always there.

I like to walk on the very edge of the road, along the part that is bricks. It is as if I were a kid back at my old house on Pebble Street, walking along the walls. I’m a tightrope act for the actor Julian. I used to just sit hunched on those concrete walls like a frog, and then I would go from one end to the other, jumping past any gaps. But there aren't any walls for me to walk along, so I just pretend they are there using the edge of the street instead. I do that until I get past the crosswalk. I step off and walk on the sidewalk now because buses and trucks roar past me. They bring a rush of wind and dust and I have to close my eyes and shield myself for a couple minutes until the storm passes.

At one point, before I cross over the bridge to get to the other side, where there is a soccer stadium and a petrol station, I get stuck behind a group of kids. They do that thing, where in large groups, people tend to make a long horizontal line and then no one can pass or move forward. It’s not on purpose, just to try and keep things equal I suppose between all of them. But it’s frustrating, and I have to retaliate with that awkward squeeze move past one of them on the end, almost knocking myself in some bushes. I manage. My acrobatic artistry goes unnoticed and I am over the bridge trudging along.

Then, somewhere along the way I end up at school, on campus from the top end. Lots of the walk is a blur. Caught up in my own world, listening to music and enjoying the freedom the day has to offer.

While writing this, I say to myself, as the writer, this needs more drama. It needs more than just 'you' walking. More than just that mentality that, 'hey man, things are going to be okay.'

Because they aren't. Oh no, it’s me now, wandering down the street clutching my stomach every so often. 'I'm hungry. I am poor. And destroying the very life I am trying to create! What am I going to do? Maybe I should steal,' and my eyes wander around the kids sunning themselves out on the steps of the school. They have giant white purses that are too large to carry anything important. They have giant gold loops and faux leather skin pressed against their sides. Inside must be credit cards, wallets full of Kroner. 'I should steal one,' I mutter. I clutch my stomach again. I sit on a wall and look down at my feet. My shoes are dirty, my face feels small and I feel gaunt. Maybe my cheeks are starting to sink in I think. I think yeah, must be happening. Maybe I am just going to fall down right here.

My finger points down, I trace a rectangle in the air of the floor about my height and width. 'I'm going to lie down right there. I'm going to lie down and not wake up because why wake up. Why bother living through all the absurdity,' I tell myself. But I don't. 'Don't, look, behind,' says a girl who taps me on the shoulder. But I do, and she disappears. I see the most beautiful girl walk by me. She is smoking a cigarette without ever removing it from her lips. She has black sunglasses on, very chic, long dark hair and she is just so fucking beautiful. She doesn't even see me as I have gotten off the bench and walked by her. I turn around but she gets swallowed up in the other people walking to class. I sort of do that semi-reach out with my hand.

'Way to hook me school,' I shake my fist in the air. I shake it long and good but it doesn't do anything. She's gone. I feel gone. I move along. We all move along.

Passing the school, passing every Norwegian student that has packed every sitting stone, every lump of rock, chair, bench, street corner, light to lean on, building to stand against, every lap and every seat that is from one end of campus to the other. All of them sunning themselves, they have a word, a specific word for something along the lines of, 'Glorious sun, sunning myself, I love the sun,' a phrase like that.

Outside the gates of the prison, I made my way along a large hill. Now this hill is high up, and overlooks half of the city, the sky is beautiful here, more beautiful than most other spots. Its like lying on a hill in a movie and watching the clouds roll by. If we were kids still, we could stretch our legs on the cool grass, the still air, the clouds like white ships and we would pretend to be sailors. If we were sailors we could just ride the ocean until we were tan and old. Happy, full of salted pork, vegetables and fruit, all grilled in homemade bbq's of hard wood and metal tops on the deck. We would find pirates and save the women they captured. And the women in our crew would tame the pirates. Then there could be parties on the deck at night with the stars and Chinese fireworks lighting our way on the ocean waves. Whitecaps looking like the tops of old bald men. Explosions shattering our eyes until all the revelry dies out, the laughter just falls apart and we close our eyes sleeping right there on the deck with a cool breeze, summer night, and the ocean beneath us on our lumbering, creaking, steady ship.

The hill was just green grass and no one was on it. I passed it, walked down towards the soccer fields and watched children kicking the ball around. Parents dozing off in the sun, and a couple of coaches shaking their heads. I wonder if that’s how my little league coaches felt. Trying to get these kids to work together, form some sort of team. I mean, my thoughts back then don't even exist now in their present form. I have no idea what the hell I thought except most of the time I felt miserable having to go out into the outfield. But I did like to pick grass and watch the bugs. I just never understood why I was out there playing baseball like that when I wasn't even very good at it. I enjoyed it some of the time, but that was only when I was playing with people that I liked. And then those kids throwing the ball around, sends shivers down my spine. Remembering how after each game the second in command--the assistant coach--would walk and down the dugout. Looking at each and every one of us. As if we were soldiers.

'Alright men!' He would bellow out. Wearing his cap. The head coach was off in his car. Maybe talking to his wife. Maybe he was in the stands talking to another woman.

'Alright men! Today. Today we did good! But who did the best?!' He would search through this, his, ragtag bunch of kids and try and determine, who would be the king of the day. Then wave the ball used for the game. 'This is the game ball.' Everyone would get even quieter. A dead silence, as if a hand was around each of our throats. They would all look at the ball, following it as he shoved it back and forth in erratic gestures. He was making sure, we knew, oh we knew. That ball was the key to all power. 'Okay, today, it goes to...,' and a friend of mine might get it. Or a kid I really hated. I think I got it once. And I felt trapped, terrible, and like the greatest baseball player that had ever lived. In one moment, flashes of grandeur ate away and I thought of myself out on some field at the age of twenty-one hitting home runs. I clutched the ball riding home from the game. I think I threw the ball out years ago when I found it again. In some dusty box, looking at it, crying as I touched the skin and then just being fed up and throwing it in the garbage bin.

After the soccer fields I entered the city. A girl with big sunglasses and jeans walked side by side with me for a long while. Later I would see her hanging outside of a cafe with her friends and we would look at each other for a moment. We traveled, if briefly, together, for a small portion of our lives. That was the look. Along the street everyone stopped. And then motorcycle cops, on what looked like Kawasaki Ninja Street Punk motorcycles drove by. They would wave all the people away. Then clear the street, and with their neon green jackets and visors on their helmets sticking up, they would ride down on just their back wheel, kicking the bike up, doing wheelies, and zooming along. Then came the black SUV's and the glares from all the undercover detectives. Maybe the King was driving along to go out to the forest and countryside. Eventually they passed.

People here on the street were all going somewhere. They were shopping, buying underwear, sipping coffee. Everyone had sunglasses on, so when I looked at their faces I saw less human, more just a member of society. I like seeing people's eyes because it makes me feel like 'you, me, we are both connected.' Maybe that’s the same reason I like wearing sunglasses in the first place.

Eventually I was downtown. I failed in two things I set out to do.

1. Purchase something. A pair of sunglasses, cheap plastic ones that could fall to the floor and not break.
2. Get a refund on a ticket.

The third item was to get a haircut. Which I did. And I sat in a cafe for a while omitting people from all the words and places of my mind.

After my haircut and the cafe I sat in a bar drinking a beer and listening to a Dylan cover, then the Arctic Monkeys, a Johnny Cash cover, then Johnny Cash actually doing one of his songs; from there my mind blurred because I wasn't listening. The beer was okay. Just okay. Sometimes in the afternoon, sitting in a bar, a beer can be really good. Its like the whole world sits in perfect place. But this beer just seemed to be killing time. I finished it quickly. Outside, the patio part of the bar was packed. There was a Kid Rock impersonator wandering about collecting glasses and smiling with a giant grin. I left, grabbed my coat, and decided I'd walk back.

The walk back was mostly long strides. I didn't get lost at any point. I didn't see large churches or run into construction workers eating egg and bacon sandwiches with beers on the side of the unfinished building. There were however, kids drinking beers in the grass at school. And lots of people just kissing against walls and then looking around as if the police were going to catch them. I passed by the same houses that I always pass, and the same dogs that bark at me as I always walk by. When those dogs stop barking I am going to turn right back around because something will be wrong.

I came back home and immediately drank a cup of cold ice water. Then a second and third until my stomach felt full and ready to burst. I took off my clothes, threw on a white t-shirt, and threw the covers on while playing some droning music and closed my eyes. I let the world evaporate. It was dark out by now, I had never bothered to turn the lights on. It felt good not having to go through with that specific motion. Then, the world slowly started to dissolve. From top to bottom. All the images of my long walk, from all the way up here in the mountains at Kringsja, to the far away lit up downtown ticked off in my head. Karl Johan's gate was packed with people. I remember the walk back leaning against the fence with the sunset--feeling the last bit of warmth of the day--watching the children become replaced with men kicking soccer balls around. Then, the lights inside of me went out to. The world was just grains of sand and faded skies.


Right now it’s my favorite part of the day. Its around noonish, maybe 15 minutes past, I have some good tunes playing and the sun has moved just enough past directly aiming at my window so it slices into the room instead of blaring at it like a stereo at full blast. The subtlety of it is great. I have light, and the whole room is calm. My plants are stretching, reaching out and growing. My orchid is still in full bloom, all the coins are stacked neatly on top of my journals and papers. I drank a cup of ice water and ate a salami sandwich with spinach. There are British Pound notes from my travels on the desk, accompanied by sunglasses and a passport. All that represents a nice calm. Something I don't feel often. There are significant moments in every life. I stare at the sea of coke bottles over on my dresser. Maybe twenty glass coke bottles lined up neatly, and I think about going to the fair as a kid and throwing rings on the bottles. Trying to land one on the slender neck to win a prize. I think I won a prize. Aren't I glad? I am. A beautiful way to spend the morning, from nine to noon. Till noon to late afternoon. And my wandering mind. I love this time of the day. Its mine.

always coca-cola

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