The Only Way Home
Chris reluctantly left behind his last regarded safe space as his foot propelled him off the school late bus and into an anxiety-filled evening. Taking this specific bus was the only available option for him to catch a ride home each night due to his recent choice to join the school’s football team. A decision for him, that was quickly becoming a regrettable one. The accordion door closed swiftly behind him forcing an air tight seal between the security of the bus’s interior, and the cruel fall night where he vulnerably stood.
It was as usual this night as it always was. He was very much exhausted from a full day of schoolwork followed by barely surviving another evening practice, which he recently determined was designed to kill him. Chris Sighed. He heaved his backpack over his shoulders, and turned to face the mile long hill he was soon to embark on for the last time this week. The wind was ripping through from the west, attempting to pull the dancing trees from their roots, and creating ominous shadows that stretched across the winding road. The spider-like branches creepily scurried out of sight and disappeared into a vortex of darkness that even the moonlight could not seem to penetrate. Chris remained frozen still.
The air brakes on the bus released all of their pressure dispersing a cloud of pebbles and dust into his face. In a flash of a familiar faces mixed with a yellow blur flickering across his view, the bus exited down the road rapidly out of sight. Chris’ hands waved a clearing through the dirt cloud that surrounded him, paused, then dropped them to his side with a dispirited thud. There was no one waiting at the foot of the hill, and though he had gotten used to maintaining the lowest of expectations that he would be warmly greeted and lovingly embraced, he still had held onto a bit of hope.
Unfortunately, the reality that this weekend was starting the same way the last ten before it had, begun fully sinking in, and he had to walk this hill once more this week.
Perhaps he was a burden, or his parents’ decision to make him walk alone was a life lesson he would later learn, whatever their excuse was, the refusal to offer a ride, even once in a while, was rude and unsupported. He hated this hill. He also hated the dark, and this country back-road offered both. It was the worst part about his decision to join the team second only to the physical death that he endured during every practice. Although, despite the setbacks, Chris regularly reminded himself that this was a calculated attempt in expanding his physical and social experiences while also allowing him to escape the alcohol-fueled arguments plaguing his home.
Chris usually diverted speaking of home when asked, and mostly avoided the subject all together. Similar to the others they lived in prior, this dwelling could not be claimed as their own, and for the past five months they had been squatting on someone else’s land, only to recently move inside just before winter. The Property belonged to a middle-aged woman, Mrs. Hixon, who was a kind nurturing lady, and was known to be most loyal to her flowers and garden throughout the year. She remained a dedicated state employee for over 20 years, which was a direct contrast to the personalities and lifestyle of his freeloading parents. The news they had gathered from local neighbors eluded them to believe that she had moved out after a lengthy divorce only a few years prior, and no one had seen either of them since. However long they would live at this house remained to be seen, but Chris concluded that it was far better than the tents that sheltered them over the spring. Its not like he could do anything about it anyways, so he never complained, but morally and ethically it never really settled well in his thoughts.
“Let’s do this,” he said to himself with an encouraging whimper.
Despite getting bulked up for the football season, tonight Chris’ fear of the dark woods and the creatures that lurked within them was not dissuaded, and he stood there as if he was the worlds tiniest mouse. Though, he was full of paralyzing thoughts, he eventually managed to muster a bit of courage; A combination rooted out of necessity, a growing pain in his stomach, and him channeling his favorite film hero played by Sylvester Stallone. Chris took a deep breath, then exited the edge of the street lights into the darkness that had become his familiar way home.
Like most back roads, the ones in Vermont are reliably unforgiving, usually littered with pot holes, loose gravel, and the occasional slippery dirt, thus guaranteeing a bumpy ride and an even more sketchy hike. Thankfully for Chris, on this night, the moon dimly guided his climb to the top whenever it had a chance to peek through the patches of clouds rolling overhead. The wind busted through the bushes and quickly howled across his feet. As if a pack of wolves were nipping at his heels, his pace hurried onward, careful to glance over his shoulder every few steps. Shadows danced over him from the branches above as leaves and twigs snapped off in a winding flurry of chaos. They fell fast and hard into the deep ravine below, but not before beating themselves across Chris’s face. Somehow, he was in their way to their final destination. The branches reached out their monstrous arms seemingly trying to grab at him which surely was as an attempt to pull him into the darkness where he feared he would be lost to the endless depths of the forest, forever. He wasn’t curious enough to learn that fate and instead ducked and dodged around every reaching limb as if his thick lineman legs were that of an agile running back avoiding every tackle to score a game-winning touchdown.
“Almost there,” he whispered to himself.
He stumbled forward, kicking the rocks along the road that he could not see, and attempting to stay upright while muttering pale attempts to build his bravery enough to make it home. His steps grew faster while he began using the energy that his coach demanded he was to leave on the field a few hours earlier. Tonight, he was glad that he had not. Chris’ mind was a mad alchemist fabricating the darkest woodland of evil around him, and causing his jutting eyes to search every direction for the next potential thing that could observably kill him. He twitched with anxiety. A crack of a twig frantically snapped his head to the right. He was in a whirlwind of fear. His footsteps mirrored his heavy breathing, and he tightened his shoulder straps to lessen his body from over-swaying.
“Just get home,” he urged.
The pointless conversation he was having with himself calmed his nerves at best for a few moments, but did little to nothing to scare off the increasing hallucinations of the flickering pairs of eyes that starred back at him from behind the trees. They tortured him by keeping their distance. He wondered why they wouldn’t come out from the shadows and just take him alive. It would be easy to end it quickly, yet the monsters that followed him remained there still and motionless as if they were mocking him. A rustle in the bushes flipped him around, forcing him into a backwards jog. Being on high alert meant that every shadow was a demon and every sound was a coming attack. Chris began sprinting, and covered a quarter-mile in what seemed under a minute. He was singularly focused on getting home safely, and as quick as his energy would allow, until a flickering light began dancing through the trees just ahead of him. His pace slowed as the familiar porch light illuminated through an opening in the woods.
His fear induced thoughts of the eerie forest, the dreadful trees extending their claws to snatch him, and the howling wind that chased him up the hill, began to recede, yet he realized in actuality that all the perils from the woods, he had just arguably and perceptibly survived, were likely minimal, in comparison to the real darkness that remained hidden from him behind his own front door.
Chris stood at the foot of the driveway, and decided to stay a little longer, in the dark…
Baptism by Rain
Just like swimming in the pouring rain,
your presence alone tingles my skin,
as millions of your tiny oceans splash against me all at once.
With goosebumps of yearning reaching through my skin-wrapped soul,
I am drenched in your symphony of adoration,
and bathed in your showers of rehabilitation,
left drowned in your puddles of commiseration.
My sins now, are washed away in your purity,
and as I rise from the depths of what was once a dried-up lake, now refilled,
I emerge a better man.
She lied when she told me that I hadn’t seen her cheating on my father that night, yet immediately petitioned me, her seven-year-old son, to become her abettor, and pleaded that I not tell my sister.
In his Eyes
I hovered over him panting with anger, and bellowed the guttural grunts of my primal rage all over the room. Instantly, I transformed into a dragon, discharging my fiery breath of pent-up frustrations into his prickly pale face. A mist of drool spewed out of my mouth with every dejected howl I belched, and my throat grew raspier with each bark. Though, I was fueled by all the absent years of his love for me, I was mostly super-charged by the meat cleaver he had chased after me with only a minute earlier. I was in fact just defending myself. So, on this night, either by my cold-blooded hands, or on my own two feet walking out of this place, my choice to become step-fatherless seemed inevitable.
I found myself blindsided in the fresh heat of a household disagreement, which was a common way of communicating for my family, but I was not quite sure how this one began. Somehow, I was caught between my mother demanding that I start producing rent, only two-weeks after graduation, and my step-father telling me to move out with immediacy. It's not that I didn't foresee having to grow up, pay bills, or start partaking in society like everyone else, but I had a hard and confusing end to my senior year that I was still mentally recovering from. Two big spoilers; Before the football season even began I had broken my leg, which literally shattered any opportunity to a college scout seeing me on the field. Implausible, yes. Impossible, not quite. In ninth grade, I was named Vermont's Best Lineman, and we won State in the same year, though Florida was a different breed of humans, and I was small, there was still a chance for a smaller school to pick me up. Secondly, in the final weeks before graduation I had lost my opportunity to a academic scholarship, mostly due to the fact that my parents neglected to get me properly prepped for S.A.T.'s. Though having been loosely-diagnosed with A.D.H.D, which did affect my test-taking abilities, it was mostly a financial issue that was exacerbated by lack of saving anything, the lack of care from my parents, and the failure to see the benefit of investing in their talented son. I in fact was closely a straight-A student, on the honor roll for more quarters that I could remember, and among the top percentile of my class. It certainly wasn't a intelligence thing. I remember my mother words of wisdom spoken out of the corner of her mouth as she handed me the sixty-two dollar money order for the last possible test that I was able to schedule of the year.
"You got one shot, don't fuck it up!" while she puffed her cigarette, and placed the car abruptly into park at the school entrance minutes before test time. The weight of my future rested upon my success.
Both of those things could have gotten me out of this place, and both would have prevented this night from happening. I was overwhelmed with anxiety fueled by the stress of abruptly needing to find a home or a job, or both. So, I walked away like I was taught to do by my therapist ten years prior. I found a brief comfort inside my so-called bedroom, which was a walk-in closet inside my parents room. Her slow-relaxed voice resonated over and over in my head while I attempted to control my breathing, and plan my next move. Count to ten. Think before you speak. Create space and allow time before reacting. I knew that going outside would be good for us all, especially me, and listening to music would be relaxing while I went for walk in neighborhood park. So, I had a plan. I slammed my feet into my shoes with no time to tie them, then made sure to grab the ear buds off the dresser while hastily shuffling towards my bedroom door, but I was met in the doorway by my step-father yielding a large knife that was intended to chop through bone. Accompanying him was my mother actively fighting him off, and with a strained urgency, instructed me to leave.
Maybe I was in shock from seeing the bright flash of the sharpened metal when the knife caught the light just right, or perhaps the overall excitement from the heightened stress and immediacy of the moment, nevertheless, I continued towards the exit without a reaction, and blindly obliged my mothers request to leave. I brushed passed them unaffected until my hand eventually found its way to the knob, and I began turning it. Even though my back faced them I could feel their animated presence behind me, which re-enforced my need to leave. My awareness of the room had lifted the hairs off my skin in anticipation. Each one was fully erect and standing at attention; Ready for their assignment; Ready for war. My heart thumped inside my chest pumping apprehensiveness throughout my veins, but I continued opening the door knowing that I was only inches away from being safer on the other side. In one moment, all of my efforts to calm and distance myself from the situation were sabotaged as I was struck from behind by a massive blow to my back. I carried enough momentum to slam the door shut with my head, and my survival instincts immediately took over. A six-year flame ignited into a wild fire within me. My step father, and I became entwined into a pretzel of a anger, and I speedily salted him with my years of pain-turned-hate.
When someone says they "blacked out" its hard for another person to comprehend what that really means. I think that our minds protect ourselves, and default into a sort of "survival mode," so that we won't have to deal with the emotional side when we are forced to recollect the horrible events. Maybe there is truth in that, or perhaps we really just black out in a blind rage, but I don't think it's an absolute thing, and I assume it's not the same for everyone or the same every-time; It's circumstantial.
For me on this night it was a total darkness that infected my sight, my mind, and my heart for short periods of time, and I am left with snippets of silent, black and white, time-lapses of going ape-shit crazy. There were moments that I remember pounding his body like one would imagine a silver-back to do when protecting its troop; my shirt ripping to shreds over my head with every strike, and with every uncontrollably scream. It was the purest of rage that I delivered to him. It was the most honest I had ever been with him since he and my mother met. Unfortunately, it was the most painful of honesty, the kind that actually hurts. Then there are the moments that may never be found, lost in the black hole of hatred, and tumbling through the endless void of my minds darkness.
AFTER THE AFTER
I gathered any moisture I could find in my mouth, and hocked it into his face with cruel intentions, then dug my elbow deeper into his neck ensuring I would employ more pain. I wanted him to feel my strength; To inflict a sense of humiliation into him. I was empowered, yet still in total fear for my life. I was barely in control, and running on adrenaline, which is not a good combination for a kid who lacked maturity and had nothing to lose. Every vein pumped with the compulsion to end him quickly. I had the capability, and I had the motive. I was compelled to finally stand up for myself, prove I could be a man, and to gain the respect any loving son would deserve even if it meant beating it out of him. So there I was, eager to inflict pain into him, and watch his life wither away slowly, so that it may match the loneliness that I felt inside. Having the urge to fight to the death was only natural, as men have been doing it for thousands of years, but for whatever reason, that night, I didn't kill him despite having an undeniable justification to do it. Maybe it was my mother pulling and grabbing at me or her constant pleading for my release of his throat. Maybe it was a lesson for me to observe what I am capable of, and where my demons can lead me if left unchecked or they became inflamed. Maybe seeing what a man looks like when he thinks he's going to die or that I am even capable of making someone think or feel that way is what saved his life that night, because when I looked into his eyes, I was afraid, but I was mostly afraid of myself.
I let my grip up just enough to allow air to enter into his lungs, yet maintained most of my weight on his body, to ensure he would stay put. He was frozen in place. His tail was tucked between his legs, and he stared at me with enormous dread, as if he accepted his fate, and he knew he was going to die. My spit rolled down his cheek, and onto the carpet as tears pooled into the corner of his eyes. His pupils were dilated, and remained that way without fluctuation regardless the light. The fear in his face was impactful to me, but only in retrospect. As I retell it, I also relive it. With each time, the memory is branded deeper into my soul, and I can assume I will only be relinquished of it, many years from now when I pass on. I will never forget the glossed over stare he held on me, while he anticipated my next infliction. His eyes seemed to conclude that it would be the last feeling he would ever experience, but it would have been something to experience instead of the raw emptiness that existed in his death. His head was jammed into the carpet and pinned between the couch, and my arm. I straddled his body pressing all my weight onto him, but it was pointless as he stopped struggling almost instantly after our brawl had started. He just laid there like when a dog cowers down showing its belly in surrender. As if he realized he was not the alpha wolf anymore, or that he never really was, yet he was the grown man, and I was only seventeen, fresh out of high school. How was I the stronger one? Why is he cowering to me?
Though I believe I was right for defending myself that night, its what I did afterwards, that bothers me to this day. He deserved his ass-beating, and I would do it again with the same intensity and the same brutality, but taking from him the tiny part of manhood that he had left, destroying the bits of pride that remained within him, and the humiliation that I inflicted after he was already down and had given up, was plain wrong. It was arrogant and destructive. It was a horrendous act of violence against a persons soul. It is saddening to live with. We can all heal from the bruises, the broken ribs, and the concussed head like he did, but it takes a lifetime for some, to mend a broken and battered soul. Even when I remember his glazed eyes staring back at me, I can't help by see a hurt boy staring at a hurt boy, both of which never healed, never had a real father to look up to, never had time to mature, and both were never taught how to talk about it. In a fucked up twisted kind of way, that day was the moment that I realized, that he and I were more similar that we ever thought. The day that we chiseled in stone a permanent void between us was also same the day that we connected the most, and actually shared our feelings with each other, not with our words or our fists, but instead with both sets of eyes.
A Sixth Grade Summer- Millennial Edition
The tug on the end of the filament, moments after fresh bait had been secured to your hook. An exhilarating fight between boys versus nature and the appreciation of the need for both to co-exist.
The late nights munching on, popcorn, cheeseburgers, and fresh cut fries, while perched on the hood of your parent’s ford escort; Your faces illuminated by the drive-inn screen showing the movie that you now call “Classics” of your childhood.
The nights of the confusing glow from the sun burning through your eyelids until you finally fall asleep, because daylight savings was in effect, and 9pm was time to go to bed on a school night.
The first lick of a soft serve crèemee under a scorching sun, mid-day; Chocolate, with chocolate sprinkles, the only way to have it, and no one could tell you otherwise.
The careless adventures of riding bikes all over town or walking the trails in the Vermont backwoods with your best friend; Building forts, burning wood, and a late curfew that kept us away from home a few more hours, and outside to get in more trouble.
Collecting loose change, you found on the ground until you had enough to buy a tootsie pop at the local candy store, and hoping it was the one with a star on it so you could redeem a free one.
The endless weekends filled with video games and soda stains. Crushing on girls in magazines and recording over songs on blank cassette tapes.
The good times. Perhaps they were among some of the only good times, before I watched my best friend, James, ride away in the backseat with his hand pressed on the window like you would see in the movies. My presence in the middle of the street was left empty and friendless. I stood there until the car left my view, and a little longer to confirm if it was a joke.
...It was not.
The Coal Miner
At first you were reluctant.
In fact, you turned away.
Perhaps it was too dark inside,
or too dangerous for you to stay.
But your urge to find a diamond,
among the heaping piles of coal,
overcame your impulses to avert the dangers,
and so, you entered bravely with a pick axe, and a hoe.
You dug it deep, and trenched a path,
to the center of that pitch-black mine.
And when you finally struck a bleeding heart,
You had met me for the first time.
“Hello.” I echoed out of the darkness to you,
reaching out my trembling hand.
You said “Hey” in return, and introduced yourself.
Now our conversation has yet to end.
You shined my heart, polished my soul,
and smoothed down the jagged bits of remaining coal.
You formed and formed me, then sharpened my lines,
and turned me from a crumbled stone, into one that brilliantly shines.
Now, I grab my tools with no exit or return time,
to step deep inside your shaft-tunneled mine.
I begin to dig down, blazing inside you a new ditch,
With no intentions to stop, until I too, strike it rich.
The first time I had exposed my soul to a page was immediately following the rejection from a girl I asked out in high school.
I opened the portcullis of my fortress to her, only to be told I couldn’t be her king and I wouldn’t be her knight either. She did however entertain court jester.
I found myself picking pieces of my heart off the cobblestone courtyard after she had catapulted my towers with repudiation—my perimeter crumbling on all fronts.
my ego was decapitated in one abrupt swing. Its head brutally affixed to a one-hundred-foot stake for the rest of the world to see, thwarting off any approaching attackers, and making a mockery of a young man’s try at love.
I used the spilled blood gushing out of me, to build a moat around my kingdom, filled it with alligators and leaches, then sewed my scars onto banners to be hung as heraldry on its exterior walls.
I plastered her image into the joints when I rebuilt it, as I knew it would harden stronger than any mortar by itself, and then withdrew my bridge to dissuade any visitors for years to come.
The only road map leading back to the kingdom was drawn in a notebook, lost on a single page, and signed by its cartographer with an invisible tear at the bottom—Left in a cold, dark dungeon below its city streets with no key to enter, and no candle to illuminate the paper.
The words broke through my doors, took my spirit hostage, ripped it out of me at sharpened pen-point, then tortured me by forcing me to write it out, until I heeled.
Then I healed.
To Be Heard
The man without a voice, obtains one.
A life full of deaf ears,
never being listed to.
He lived on the fringe;
Out of their trash-bins,
feeding off the scraps they shoved into him,
like he was a baby bird,
yet he was hungry,
and ate any piece of meat,
regardless of its authenticity,
He was either stuck in the nest until he died,
or forced to jump out.
A spiral straight to the bottom,
he fell flat, but now had a story to tell.
His written words carefully chosen,
inked into a font that sets the mood,
and placed on uniformed paper as if he’s in control,
as if there is order in his life,
as if he is preparing his last Will and Testament.
The importance of detail is crucial,
this may be his only shot.
He layers his compilation like a baker building a cake.
A life full of stories, oven set to 450.
A speechless assault on society,
An examination of the human soul,
an autopsy of himself.
An opportunity to entertain, to uplift,
to speak from the heart without ever having to say a word in front of a crowd,
because people scare him;
Trust doesn’t come easy anymore.
He unclogs his arteries,
filled of repressed suffering and inflicted pain,
then soaks the pages with new blood.
Sealed and bound into a time-capsule,
he then shares with the world.
He gains a watchful eye, attached to a mind, attached to thoughts,
and can now send sparks of inspiration directly into their souls.
An electric connection of black and white;
A static symphony of contrast.
The simplicity in his words forms a complex message,
asking questions and demanding answers.
and a man who never had a voice,
now sends shock-waves around the world,
to be heard.
I have lived in the sewers of my mind for as long as I can remember. It’s filthy and dark down here. A bottomless staircase spiraling straight to hell. I call it home. When I descend, there is no railing to hold onto or candelabra to guide me. I’m left clawing the edges as I circle deeper into the catacombs. My fingers become split and swollen from gripping craggy stones, but I’m no rock climber. I struggle with each step slipping as I go. My rent is paid far in advance so I come as I please, no questions asked. Especially since the landlord skipped town last week with all of my cash. Who knows if he’s ever coming back? Most times I am alone, even sitting next to the ones I love. I choke that stale air down only for it to projectile vomit back up. I am left feeling uneasy and disconnected, but yearning for a deeper dive into self-pity. I know nothing of what I want and want nothing of what I have. There is a grunginess to the sewers that leave stains on skin, something that one can’t just scrub off, but it’s real god dammit, and I’d fucking rather have real, than anything else.
At least I can feel real.
Recipe for a Brisket
“Flavorless. Without Seasoning. A bland chunk of meat. That’s what I’d be.”
I’ve been through a few things and wouldn’t be myself without them. Instead, I’d be a stranger I've never met—I’d be undercooked ribs attached to the bone.
You could waste time wondering what life would be like without your issues, hell I know I have, but as I did, you may fail to realize you’re still alive and end up pondering forever. You got through all that fucked up shit somehow and found a way to crawl out, so take time to realize it and savor it. I get it, it can be nearly impossible to distinguish whether you are indeed out of it until years after the fact. Perhaps, you chose to be deaf to the wise, hardheaded, and ignorant like me; Blazing your path and hammering through every brick wall you came across when you could have easily just walked around them. Maybe you felt like you were forced to, as you were stuck in first gear chugging through life in survival mode for nearly twenty years; Something you were taught at an early age how to do; How to be a navigator, never the driver. It’s also possible there is a reason never to be understood. Hell, I still don’t know.
For whatever causes got us here, our experiences are who we are now; aged pieces of meat slow-cooked to perfection and nothing to be ignored. What was once, a tough, flavorless slab of flesh just required time and patience to become an Umami masterpiece. Hot off the grill and well rested, let everyone grab a plate. Make sure to add a kiss of motherly alcoholism, a sprinkle of homelessness, and a dash of mental health issues to taste, then finish it off with a few globs of other fattening shit to clog the arteries. Make them grease the corners of their mouths and line their bellies until they are sick.
I would rather be dry-rubbed in my special blend any day than be seasoned like all the rest. So, serve me up until I’m gone, and save the garnish for the weak.