“Today I will be happy.”
That’s how each page starts. That’s how each day starts.
“Today I will be happy.”
It’s perfect. Hanni never has to think. She could. If she wanted, she could think. But why? It’s all written so well. When you’re born you’re given your book. The story of your life. What you will decide to eat every day. How many errands you’ll run. The people you’ll meet. Who you like. Who you hate. All of it foretold for you. Your first day of school. Your wedding day. The day you get your wisdom teeth pulled. The birthdays. The sick days. The lazy days. The memorable moments. All written down. Black and white. Clean page after neat, clean page.
And, “Today I will be happy,” atop every one of them.
“Today I will be happy.”
Hanni stretches. Because that’s what her book says.
“Today I will be happy. And to start today I stretch.”
She scratches her cat, Jax, behind the ears. She showers. Eats eggs. Makes her bed. Hanni dresses for work. She grabs a bottle of water and an apple and is out the door. Because that’s what her book says. And each day is just like this.
“Today I will be happy.”
Stretch. Cat. Shower. Eggs. Clean. Dress. Water, apple. Work. Stretch. Run. Relax. Read. Bed. Sleep. Happy. Stretch. Cat. Shower. Eggs. Clean. Dress. Water, apple. Work. Stretch. Run. Relax. Read. Bed. Sleep. Happy. Stretch. Cat. Shower. Eggs. Clean. Dress. Water, apple. Work. Stretch. Run. Relax. Read. Bed. Sleep. Happy. Stretch. Cat. Shower. Eggs. Clean. Dress. Water, apple. Trip.
Hanni trips. She glides down her front steps like every other day. Her office is 8 blocks from home. And at the third block, Hanni trips. Her arms reach out in a quick attempt to save herself, but it’s too late. She had never planned on tripping. The apple rolls to her right and her water bottle and book fly into the street. A car passes over the bottle and water explodes in every direction. And Hanni’s heart breaks. The book is drenched. She can’t remember seeing this in the book ever. She can’t remember anyone ever ruining their book. Hanni snatches up her book and returns home. No one calls to see why she’s not at work. No one has a book that says she will not be at work. Her life was simple. She had skipped ahead several times and she knew that she was happy. Her life, happy and unremarkable. She would stay happy and healthy until retirement. At which time Jax would pass. She would be happy though because he lived a long, happy life with her. And she would take her retirement money and travel. A new city to be happy and stretch and make the bed in every year until she died herself.
Unremarkable but happy. She could keep going on. She mostly knew the plan. After all, it was unremarkable...
Tomorrow Hanni would wake up and continue the way she had been.
Today I will be happy.
And Hanni’s doorbell rings. Before her eyes are even open, her doorbell rings. That has never happened before. She opens the door and finds a new book on her steps. A red ribbon tied around its leather bound pages.
This book does not say she will be happy.
This book is empty but for one page.
The words are scrawled in her own writing.
They are not neat. They are not even straight or centered. There are splotches where it looks like someone may have not only spilt coffee but also cried. And along the edges someone has inked in little roses and vines. And somewhere in the mess, in Hanni’s own script is just one message.
“Today I will live.”
I lie on the couch listening to my husband of nearly three decades playing the guitar. I watch his fingers light upon the strings, his eyes closed, his face alive with emotions set free through each note. I fell in love with the music a long time ago.
I was so sad when it ceased. I had worried that childrearing, mortgage and bill paying, endless hours of money-earning and in-laws intruding had killed it.
Then, one day, my son started playing the guitar, picking up songs by ear that my husband had played once upon a time.
And then, my husband started teaching him. Their heads bent together, my son watching his father, my husband watching his son. No arguments or outbursts. No impatience or anger. Music filled my home once again and I watched as son and father found a new harmony together. My heart was full.
And then there’s the music.
I lie on the couch listening as he plays the same song over and over again, this man of mine. Milonga. A tango. My heart begins to melt filling my eyes with tears, as I hope we share this tango long after he plays the last note.
Happiness hides around the corner
envelopes of flowing water
breathes without thinking
little nudges to the soul
changing wind lifting spirits
Happiness peeks around the corner
whispers in my heart
seconds of silken air
shining light of ice crystals
the open window of joy
Happiness walks into corner of life
murmurs dance of meadows
a feeling, not a destination
laughs on a warm summer day
love in the middle of the night
Happiness: A Gift You Can Only Give Yourself
It seems that happiness has always been one of the fundamental pursuits of humankind. Our founding fathers thought that this pursuit was as important as life and liberty, and they included it among the tenets we based our war of independence on.
The problem is, they got it wrong.
Happiness—like success—is not a goal to be pursued. It is not the prize at the end of the journey, but is rather a state of mind, and can be found in the journey itself. In your life, you can set out on the road to adventure, to wealth, to fame . . . and as you travel this path you can, and will, be as happy or as miserable as you choose to be.
Many people are so caught up in trying to get to a place where they will be happy, that they fail to see this basic truth. Happiness is available to all of us, at any time, if we truly want to be happy.
But don’t we ALL want to be happy?
Hmmm . . . that may just be the ultimate question. I sometimes think that a lot of people either feel guilty for being happy, or they are so busy looking for a magic formula that they forget this one simple fact:
HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE.
I’m not the smartest guy I know, but I do know this:
The only thing in life that you have complete control over is how you respond to what happens around you.
Read that again . . . it’s THAT important.
How you respond defines you, and sets the foundations for everything else that follows each event in your life. You cannot control your spouse, your children, the stock market, the fall TV lineup or the weather, but you CAN control how you respond to any and all of these things.
Do I get upset when things don’t go my way? Sure—but I don’t let that emotion dictate my response. After all, even though my team lost, next week there will be another game (and hopefully those blind ref’s will make the calls RIGHT), the spinach will wash out of the baby’s hair, and that bad lasagna I ate, well, like all the other bad things . . . ”This too shall pass.”
Happiness is NOT a lack of sorrow
I’ve heard it said that courage is not a lack of fear, but how you react when you are afraid. In much the same way, happiness does not mean you don’t have sorrow, grief, anguish, and pain in your life. Life is not fair, and we all experience a lot of pain and heartache along the way—but again, we can ALWAYS choose how we respond to the negative events in our lives.
Does being happy mean that I don’t hurt and cry? No . . . It simply means that even though I hurt, I choose to focus on the good. As I cry the tears of sorrow, I try my best to smile; after all, the only people who don’t feel pain are those who feel nothing at all.
When my grief for loved ones lost, or my sorrow over bad decisions I’ve made, lies heavy on my heart and mind, I let myself cry—for there is no better pain reliever known to man than tears. Once my tears have washed away a little of the harder edges of my pain, I choose to smile, for life is far too short to spend it being unhappy. We all have a finite and limited number of minutes to spend with our loved ones, and I choose to keep the percentage of my time spent negative, as small as possible.
I may not be pleased with some of the things that have happened to me in my life, nor with all of the choices I’ve made—but I prefer to respond to these negatives with a positive outlook. Far too many people walk around in a gloomy mood, wearing either sad ‘feel-sorry-for-me’ expressions, or with anger boiling just beneath the surface of their faces, and subsequently, their hearts. I decided long ago, that I would rather get better, than be bitter.
The next time you are upset, or angry, or scared, or sad, I challenge you to try this little experiment. Find someplace private, and look into a mirror. Now make yourself smile. As hard as it may be, really make yourself smile into a mirror . . . I will guarantee that you cannot remain negative while smiling at yourself, for more than about 5 minutes, before the sheer silliness of your expression makes that smile become real.
Once you realize that happiness is truly a gift that only you can give yourself, you will be well on your way to living a much happier life. The next step towards fulfillment comes when you learn that smiles are as infectious as yawns, and that you’re happiness can go a long way towards helping others allow themselves to be happy too.
Smiling at others feeds one of the basic emotional hungers we all have. Nothing will improve your ability to experience happiness more than making a conscious choice to spread happiness to as many people as you can, simply by smiling at them.
In the end, the amount of love, laughter and happiness that you have in your life, is only determined by the amount you let yourself experience, and that choice is yours and yours alone to make. Choose to be happy, and then let it happen, every day, as often as you can. You might just be amazed at the differences you will see in everyone around you.
"An idea is the most dangerous parasite in the world. It spreads through the mind like cancer consuming its host. An idea is resilient and once it takes hold, it feeds. Think of what truly powerful ideas have done: changed lives, altered histories, shaped the world.”
- Captain Christopher Monroe
* * * * *
Insanity, it is said, is the repetition of the same process expecting a different result. As I unsaddle Ulysses, I cannot resist re-defining the term for I feel madder on the nights I fail to repeat what has become an addictive routine. As the weeks persist in their forward march, so too do my midnight rides to the Bohemian’s Tavern. It becomes difficult to admit that I feel more normal discussing fiction with academics or reading poetry with piss-poor students than passing my time in the so-called comforts of home.
Do I have the courage to fuel my heart’s flame? Or will I recognize the chink in my sanity if I continue playing the role of the politician’s daughter? These are the questions I ponder when I slip into the manor house by the back door and notice that I’m being watched. Even by the dim lighting, I can see Father’s beak-shaped nose cast upward, his condescending expression reaching me from down its crooked curve.
“Is this my punishment?”
Of the legion of questions with which I expect to be cross-examined, this one catches me off-guard. Yet, it shouldn’t have surprised me because it places the Almighty Mr. Darling center stage in someone else’s drama. I don’t know how to tell him the script of my life’s production has no part for him.
“You give yourself too much credit,” I answer. “Not everything I do pertains to you.”
“Does it not?”
I have seen Father upset before, but the tension in his clenched jaw suggests he is seething. When he rises from the upholstered chair and takes a step toward me, it sends a shudder down the small of my back.
“When you eat, it is only because I feed you. When you put on your pants to go riding God knows where at this unseemly hour, it is because I clothe you. When you recline in the library and poison your mind with liberal ideas about self-expression, it is only because I give you the roof under which you do so. Everything you do pertains to me because I am your father and…”
“Father, I never asked…”
My attempted interruption ceases with the generous force of Father’s hand. The initial impact stings my cheek, but it grows into an incessant burning as the shape of his palm brands my face. I touch the edge of my lip and pull back a crimson-tipped finger.
“Your wanton disrespect will no longer be tolerated. You were taught better, but despite my pleas, you continue to embarrass your family with your thoughtless actions.”
“What are you talking about?”
The desperation in my eyes betrays my ignorance.
“You insult my intelligence, Stella. You expect me to believe you’re not fleeing your home to attend your inflammatory writing workshops? If not that, then perhaps some gentleman caller. Whatever the reason, not only do you disgrace yourself, but your behavior implicates the family name. I will not continue having my name slandered by your carelessness.”
“Father, I swear I’m not…”
“We’ve asked very little of you in exchange for the comforts you enjoy. But you’ve made your contempt for us painfully plain, Stella. Your mother and I are in agreement. Henceforth, you are being disavowed. We’ve arranged for transportation to America, where you will stay with your mother’s sister. After you disembark, your life is yours to live however you please. You can tarnish your own reputation without damaging ours any further.”
I hear the words and yet my first thought is not of losing family or any young girl’s dream of the perfect doll’s mansion for a home. It is of a modest tavern with a leaky roof somewhere in a countryside I will never see again.
* * * * *
The boat drops anchor in New York Harbor on the last day of 1969; the thematic irony couldn’t have escaped my poet’s heart if it tried. With nothing to my name but the two suitcases I carry off the boat, I trudge all over the docks searching in vain for an aunt I’ve never met. After the disembarking crowds dissipate, it becomes easier to take in the American portside. Narrow brick shop fronts litter the docks like toy soldiers. Vendors cry out sales pitches in muddled accents, attempting to drown out the bellowing horn blasts of docking ships or the constant whistling of nearby factories. It seems like every decibel of the general din is competing for the attention – and pocketbooks, it must be said – of every casual passerby.
It isn’t a sound that arrests my own attention, but the sight of a decorative wrought-iron sign hanging from one of the brick shop fronts. Outside a bookstore called Inkwell’s, I see a motley gaggle of people watching what I assume is a street performer. When I get closer to peer through the wall of pea coats, I see a solitary figure performing some kind of dramatic reenactment.
The actor is a whirlwind of energy. It isn’t his youth that gives him that advantage, but the vulnerability of his performance that makes my heart flutter. He is reciting the conclusion of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities and perfectly executes both characters in the work’s final installment: the condemned seamstress and the martyr Sydney Carton. He manipulates his voice expertly between a high-pitched Cockney and a husky baritone eerily close to Father’s tone. Once the seamstress’ death is nigh, he dramatizes Carton’s famous monologue, left unuttered in the novel. The soliloquy is captivating.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
As he bows his head, the audience is left in suspense, waiting on tip-toes to see if there is more. In those moments, I cannot hear fog horns or factory whistles or aggressive salesman. I am locked into the sincere delivery of one of literature’s most famous concluding sequences. I can see how much the actor believes in the words, how they fuel his white-knuckled fist held frozen over his heart, how they pulse in the crow’s feet radiating from the corner of his closed eyes.
When he finally lifts his head, I remember to breathe. Despite a thin glaze of tears over them, his eyes seem to grin in the satisfaction of having done the words justice. I wonder if I’d ever be the same. Every individual applauds fervently, some whooping and hollering, while others remove dollar bills from their pockets.
His performance was magical.
The young man removes the bowler’s hat from his head and shakes the hands of those who fill his coffers. He displays such charisma, such sincerity, such joie de vivre. As he works through the crowd, I can’t control my racing pulse. No man back home ever elicited this kind of response in me, despite several having tried, probably motivated more from a desire to impress Father than to win me over. My saliva evaporates and as his grinning eyes find my fluttering ones, I wonder if I’ll survive the encounter with his bubbly ease. He is so…American.
“You look like a gal worth meeting,” he says, offering his hand. “Enjoy the show?”
His accent is coarse and unrefined, nothing like the characters he had been impersonating not two minutes ago. But those grinning eyes held me prisoner. I don’t have to ask to know this man was worth meeting.
“I’ve read it half a dozen times,” I reply, trying to conceal how taken I am. I shake his hand and go to pull it away, but he tightens his grip. “Though hearing it performed aloud does give it a life of its own.”
“Fresh off the boat, huh?”
“Pardon?” I can’t help placing my palm on my chest.
“That accent ain’t from this side of the Pond. London?”
My cheeks flush and I nod.
“I knew you were worth meeting,” he says. He kisses my hand before letting go.
“Is this how you make your living?” As the words float in the air between us, I realize they are tinged with a hint of judgment, involuntary though it is.
“Dickens got paid by the word, my fair lady,” he answers quickly. “It’s no coincidence his entire first paragraph is one sentence. Check again if you don’t believe me, but why shouldn’t we profit for saying the words he got paid to write, every cent of them?”
“I suppose I never…”
“And acting is simply a passion project. I work…here.”
He points to the wrought-iron sign hanging outside Inkwell’s.
“A bookkeeper?” I ask, trying to choke down the laughter bubbling up my throat. A chuckle hiccups out of my mouth and after that, it is beyond my help.
I can only respond after composing myself.
“My family disowned me for my love of literature,” I explain. “Father found my poetry inflammatory. His socio-elite sensibilities were easily offended. It’s quite ironic that the first American I meet works at a bookshop.”
“I knew you were worth meeting, Miss…”
“Stella,” I finish his sentence. “Stella Darling.”
“Darling indeed,” he replies. “Can I let you in on a little secret? Bookworm to bookworm?”
He beckons me closer and I lean my ear closer to his lips.
“I’m not a bookkeeper. I’m Inkwell’s resident playwright.”
I can’t help but flash a smile to the leaden sky above us.
“Well, your passion for the written art shows in your performance,” I say. “It was lovely to meet you, Mr…”
“Leaving so soon?” he says, without providing his name.
“I’m staying with my aunt, but I can’t seem to find her.”
“Then, let me cook you a warm dinner. I live in the loft above the shop. If you join me for dinner, I’ll give you my name and then we won’t be strangers anymore. Please, I’ve never met someone quite as…ladylike as you.”
He knows before I can utter a word that he has vanquished my resistance and I follow him to the loft. The actor’s attempt at a roast beef stew leaves much to be desired, but the conversation is delectable. Hearing him describe the written word as nourishment of the soul makes me feel weightless and triples the distance between me and my old life across the Atlantic. He speaks of chasing dreams and his addiction to ideas and how his writing aims to change his audience fundamentally. It’s all music to the ears of an impressionable young poet.
After hours of animated discussion, I find myself yearning to know every ounce of him. I was his from the first moment I saw his grinning eyes. So, when he kisses me, my fate is cinched as I let all inhibition melt away. We give ourselves to each other in the waning moments of the 1960s. After, we lie in his cot, half-covered by a pile of clothes when I hear fireworks explode somewhere in the distance, signaling the turn of the decade.
“You owe me a name, young man,” I say, trying to lather him with a forced coquettish air. I expect to be swallowed by his grinning eyes and am instead met with a pallid, mournful gaze that looks alien on his face.
“Life is so cruel, Stella,” he says. “I am so very sorry.”
He rocks my head off his chest and finds his pants strewn over the bedside. As he searches his pockets, I feel scared that I had been too trusting and wonder if I am in legitimate danger. But all he removes from the pocket is a folded piece of yellowish paper. As I unfold it, he caresses my cheek.
“I didn’t mean to deceive you, Stella. You have to believe me. I promise I didn’t mean to take advantage of you. But when I saw you, I couldn’t help my gut feeling that you were a gal worth meeting. My Lucie Manette.”
I saw the picture of an old Uncle Sam whose point is screaming, “I Want You!” William Richards had been conscripted to the United States Army to assist in the escalating conflict in Vietnam.
“What does this mean?” I ask, feeling every blow in the battle waging inside my belly between sadness and shame.
“I report for duty in two days.”
“When will you be back?”
I saw two answers hover between his lips, but much like Sydney Carton’s prophetic last words, they were left unspoken. I could see the words nonetheless. He didn’t know when he’d be back. But he also didn’t know if he’d be back. Ah, how fleeting feels can be. Despite the near freezing temperatures outside, I throw on my clothing and haul my suitcases down the stairs, hoping no one would look twice at my disheveled state. Despite the wisdom that the docks after midnight is not an ideal place for a young lady, I run as far as my legs will take me.
I remember New Year’s Eve 1969 not as the day I arrived in the United States, or as the turn of a tumultuous decade, or even as the first time I gave myself to a man, my life changed forever.
It will always be the day I met, and then lost, Billy Richards.
Exactly What Is Happiness
It has been described as an over-riding joy. So tell me, who was it that rode over Joy and was happy about that?
Seriously though, joy can be defined as something that happenes in the here and now, not the what was when we were younger. Joy can be seen in a mother’s eyes giving birth to her child. Joy can be winning the lottery. Joy can be like having the best sex of your life that no other partner could ever measure up to.
But is that happiness? Yes and no. The baby grows, the mother becomes (along with the father), a teacher, a guide, more so than a parent, the happiness once felt; now, it many respects becomes an obvious duty. Win the lottery? Hooray for whoever, but at what price? Privacy is gone, and relatives you never knew you had, climb out of the muck to ask for a buck (or two-thousand). Best sex ever? But then there’s the thing of maintaining that level of “best ever”. Eventually, it won’t add up to a dozen doughnuts and a good bag of chips.
Here is an enlightenment for you ... happiness is an overall appreciation of one’s life as a whole. Happiness is how you see yourself. Not as other’s do ... just you. I am reminded of the statement, “you are what you eat”.
If you eat cookies and ice-cream this would translate that you are as sweet a person as can be. If you eat foods that don’t set well to your taste ot stomach, you will be irritated, grumpy and more than likely ill. See the point made here?
It’s how you see yourself, not how other’s see you, for really, in the long run, other people see of you only what you choose for them to see.
There are valid claims that there has been a transition over time from emphasis on the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness. Happiness may be said to be a relative concept; the source of happiness for one person might not be the source of happiness for another. And to co-join this with the word love, like love, happiness can neither be touched ot tasted, only felt and seen through the eyes of those who become happy.
And not surprisingly, not all cultures seek to maximise happiness, and some cultures are averse to happiness.
What does this tell us? We can’t make everyone like us all the time no more than we can make everyone around us happy all the time, but one thing we can do; find our own nitch, and have the happiness we deserve for ourselves regardless what anyone else thinks.
I have read on Prose so many disheartening pleas of angiush, and within those words, I read hope for a better tomorrow, a better life, and a place of acceptance. What do all these posts lack? Happiness.
Happiness for many it seems isn’t all that much of a used word any longer and it needs to come back into vogue, if for no other reason, than yourself.
This comes from Bob Marley’s - Don’t Worry, Be Happy:
“In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double,
don’t worry, be happy.”
Find your rising sun, your setting moon and your own place among the stars, and call it your space. That is happiness alone.
The Dandelion Smile
Jenna Woodlan’s stories always made me smile... even when her passion made her cry.
I read every word she gave me, delighted or impassioned line by line, praising and cherishing these products of her mind. She and I talked often, but I knew her truly by reading her words. I knew her brightest joys and deepest despairs by the things she poured onto page that she would not normally articulate.
“This one’s fine,” Jenna said, sliding one of her papers across the coffee table, “and this one. Mm, don’t touch that one yet.”
I sat back on the couch as she sifted through her pile of hand-written short stories and poems. Her almond brown hair was unpinned, tucked behind her ear, and she had dressed simply, black longsleeves and leggings, her feet bare. The longer I watched, the more I fell for her.
“Here,” she said finally, and slipped back onto the couch. She pulled her feet up and settled into my shoulder, holding the page she’d chosen. “What do you think of this one?”
I took the page and shifted, holding her gently. It was a poem, written in her half-cursive hand in the very middle of the page. She rested her head, intent, so I began to read aloud.
Soft her steps on wooded floor
Soft her voice above
Dry her eyes at every door
Cry her little dove
Wilting flower upon the sill
Wilting whisper of
Mild and melancholic ill
Child she couldn’t love
I read it a time or two over to make sure... it was about her grandmother.
Jenna was watching me, her eyes searching. “What?”
I brushed my fingers through her hair, lost in her. Her eyes drew mine in, and I could do nothing but comply. My chest falling slow but deep, I breathed in her rose-petal-salt smell. Where... where did you come from?
“I love you,” I said simply, the words drifting out, a feather on the wind.
Her eyes lined with involutary tears and her breath pulled in deep. She slipped her arms around me and clung harder, burying her head in my chest. “I love you,” she cried, her breath rising and falling with mine.
“Jenna Woodlan,” I said. “From whence did she come?”
“Stop it!” she laughed, slapping my shoulder. “That’s mocking me.”
“Yes, madame. I’ll keep my Shakespeare out of my next compliment.”
She laughed and hugged me tighter. “You’re so pathetically clueless.”
“I know,” I said, reading through Jenna’s poem again.
Wilting flower upon the sill...
I sighed and set the paper down, then held her tight. I held her as she bundled in my arms. Even with tears she could smile.
Her dandelion smile.
The first time Dr. Abel Kane ever heard mention of it was at his grandson’s funeral. While admittedly grown old somehow, and out of the loop, Abel Kane did try to stay in tune with the world, and with it’s goings-on. Abel scrolled through the trending internet news sites while drinking his morning coffee, and he fell asleep at night with the Channel Five News, so that he was not completely out of touch. His work at the clinic required long, stressful hours. There was simply not much time to worry about the world outside of his own little bubble. It is always so easy for things to squeeze by a busy man.
But this “Karma” thing? What was this? A drug that destroyed a bright young man’s mind to where he would cheerfully throw himself from a city roof-top while his friends and family watched? That was the frightening part. The boy had appeared happy when he took the running start, hopped lightly onto the low, brick wall, and dove head first from ten stories up. And this at his own high school graduation party? Dr. Kane knew drugs. He had spent the past forty-some years making and testing drugs. He knew what they did to the brain, sucking away the oxygen it feeds on until it is choked dry. He knew what the drugs did to the body, hardening and weakening the heart, the liver, the kidneys, and the arteries that carried them nutrients. But the drugs were also necessary, weren’t they? Surely, when used properly, the drugs were enriching more lives than they were destroying? At least, the drugs created at “Life-Line”, the lab where he worked, did. The drugs Dr. Abel Kane made were intended to aid in healthy living, not to destroy the life. But they could do that too, couldn’t they? And what about these other drugs? These bad drugs? Who was it out there making them?
A synthetic drug. A drug made from chemicals. Not so uncommon, but the drugs were made from poisons, poisons issued in small enough doses so as not to kill the entire body. Poisons that target the cells that a doctor wishes to kill. Poisons acting as tiny assassins on a “Fantastic Voyage” to kill the malignancies and parasites that grow in the animal, and to save a body from it’s own genetic mis-steps. Of course, they also killed collaterally, destroying unintended cells, and permitting us the somewhat humorously long list of disclaimers at the end of the television commercials. “Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms...” Those disclaimers were really only funny until they became personal.
As good as Dr. Kane knew his work to be, as humane, and holistic as the drugs he made could be, should be, there were always those who would mutate the good to suit their own “Wacko” needs. That was Dr. Kane’s word for those who use drugs recreationally, “Wacko”. What kind of a Wacko would willingly poison themselves for a few hours of entertainment, inserting God knows what, God knows how, into their nostrils or veins for a “high”? Really!
And his own grandson, Justin?
Straight “A” Justin!
Accepted by MIT, Justin?
How does someone like that, a good kid, get mixed up in all of this? It angered Dr. Kane so that he wished he was the kind of man to seek out and kill those who made it happen, the drug dealers, and the manufacturers of the “bad” drugs, whomever they were. But he was not that man. All the same, there must be something he might do? Some way he might make a difference?
“Karma”. Something called “Karma” had killed Justin. But Karma did not kill Justin alone, it had destroyed the most important parts of Dr. Kane’s own, happy family. This should be rectified! Melissa was distraught, lost, so lost that she might never find herself again. She was taking her own “meds” now, and so many people never stopped taking the pills these days once they began.
Melissa was the apple of Abel Kane’s eye. When he looked at her, he still saw the curling pig-tails, the bright eyes, and the freckled nose of thirty-five years ago, but in the past two weeks that happy girl-child had slipped away. Now there was a hurt inside those eyes that manifested itself over the entirety of her still youthful face, drawing the skin tight around the eyes themselves, and around the corners of her mouth. There was a plea in those eyes, a plea for what cannot be, for what will never again be. A mother’s plea for her child.
Someone should pay. Abel Kane swore it on his very being. Somehow, someway, someone should pay for the pain inflicted on “his” little girl, and on her child. But how? What could an old man do?
k a r m a.
Dr. Kane carefully typed the letters into the search bar. He tapped enter before choosing the “Wikepedia” definition. It was, apparently, not an overly complicated drug. Strong Beta-blockers to slow the heart rate, mixed with hallucinogenics and Nootropics to keep the mind active. The Wacko sleeps for two to four hours and awakens crazy, was how the definition of the effects read to him on the screen. Abel Kane clicked on the link to a story, the story of a young man who had survived the drug. The boy spoke of being in Heaven, and of seeing God, and of his unflinching desire to get out of the facility he was confined in so that he could taste Karma again, “to return,” he had stated, “to find God again.” Dr. Kane tapped the return key. “Stupid kid. Saying shit like that will not get you out of any facility on this Earth! Had the damned kids just gone crazy these days?”
He was on his fourth story, tapping on the links in the order they were listed. The stories were all similar. The kids taking this Karma were either killing themselves, or they were being locked up in padded cells. The really strange part was, they were happy. Insanely happy. Happy to die? Abel was reading about a kid who had used a gun to blast his life away when a crazy little dream of an idea popped into his head. It was a little idea at the start, a tiny, little, miniscule idea. The idea floated up to him, like in a speech bubble from a cartoon strip. “Try it”, it said. Dr. Kane saw the words in their bubble, rather than hearing them spoken. He felt a shiver. What would happen to him if he did try it? Would he go crazy too? Certainly not! He was a strong man. He had life experience. Dr. Abel Kane was not a young, impressionable kid. He was educated, so he could deduce what was happening as it happened. And he was atheist, so he would not be cowed by any halleucinogenic visions.
But still the shiver? Every kid who survived the drug spoke of seeing God.
“Try it”. Dr. Abel Kane’s hands grew cold on the keyboard. From what place inside him did the words come? Why would he even think to try it?
How could he ever know what it was that threw Justin off of that roof if he did not try it? He would try it. He should try it. And then he could tell the world what was happening to these children.
It came from the police station, not from the streets. Well, originally it came from the streets, but it was Judge Trimble’s court order that acquired it for “Life-Line Labs”. It looked like poluted clay in the plastic tube with its taped down top, its contents identified by a number scrawled in red ink across its lid. It looked nasty, “yucky”, like sulferous chalk clumps, brownish-yellow. It looked like the poison that it was.
Dr. Kane checked his watch. It was 3:15 pm. The lab employees would begin clearing out at 4:00. Abel would wait until 5:00 to do the deed. That was how he thought of injecting the street drug into his veins... as “doing the deed”.
It was a lab. He had the tools. He removed the label, and the vial’s plastic lid. He poured the moist powder into a mortar, the better to pound it smooth. He lit the burner early, simply because he had always loved the sound and smell of a Bunsen burner, the gaseous, intelligent smell of it. He then poured the churned powder into an Erienmeyer flask, which would do nicely for the cooking as long as he did not let it get too hot.
Soon the powder was liquid brown, like a Guinness stout, and with the same frothy head. He removed the flask from the burner to cool. His teeth pulled the medical tourniquet tight on his arm. Immediately a blue vein popped out at the ready. Abel’s heart went slow and steady, thumping his chest, and his banded arm, and his ears like the metronome on a grand-father’s clock. He supposed that he was ready. He stuck the needle deep into the chemical broth, pulling the plunger back, watching as it sucked the Karma in. When the liquid filled the syringe he drew a deep breath and pushed the air in the syringe out, along with that in his lungs. He told himself that there was no need to fear, but his breathing was labored all the same. This was only science, he told himself, but his hands shook. He was a scientist, and a doctor, and was about to be a guinea pig, but this was how he could understand. And this would allow him to teach. He hopped up onto the lab table and waved to the security camera. The Board of Directors would get a kick out of that later, if something bad were to happen.
The needle pinched sliding into the vein. Dr. Kane pushed the plunger in. He pulled off the tourniquet and laid back on the table. Nothing yet, he told himself, but there was something, wasn’t there? A cold tingle inside. He did what he always did when nervous, or bored... he began to recite. He chose the longest poem he knew, hoping to get all the way through:
“Once upon a midnight dreary
while I pondered, weak and weary...”
And then the end began.
At first there was only sleep. Deep sleep. The deepest of sleeps. His heart rate slowed, and slowed, until his body, for all intents or purpose, lived no more. He saw the body there on the table. His body. It was dead. He was dead. He watched it as he drifted away. He watched it get smaller, and smaller. He watched it not because he cared what happened to it, but because he did not want to turn. He did not want to see what was behind him.
And then he did turn. Slowly. Something called to him, something from the darkness. Deep inside the darkness, and a pinpoint of light. He moved toward the pinpoint, but he did not walk. There were no feet on no ground. There were no arms to swing, there was no voice to sing, there was nothing. A vacuum. He could still be analytical! It was a vacuum. He clung to that, clung desperately because he had thought of it. He had thought it!
“I think, therefore I am.”
Had there been a mouth, it would have smiled. He had remembered Nietsche. He could still remember!
The light was closer. But it was no longer light. It was colors, now. Prismatic and bold colors. Rainbow colors wrapping around him, embracing him, touching every part of whatever it was that was him. Warm and wet were the colors, like lotion caressing, squeezing, like vaginal walls pulling. Like wet, warm vaginal walls massaging, and squeezing him inside to a place that he did not even know that he could not have resisted.
Had he a mouth it would have kissed. Had he a dream, the dream would be this.
And then it was done. And then he was there. The ears were music. The eyes were light. The mind was wonder. The body was gone. There was nothing else that mattered.
Abel Kane had come full circle, born of the Mother, taught to suffer, and returned to the Father.
Had he a mouth, it would have screamed!
Had he a dream?
It was the heart that brought him back. The damned, fool’s heart. The heart that knows not what it wants, and so reaches for everything that looks like a sugary-tit. The battered, broken heart. The heart that beats not in glorious Heaven. The pitiful heart, the lost heart. The heart that aches, and wishes, hungers and waits. The foolish heart that beats when it could stop. When it should stop. It was the heart that brought him back. The damned, fool’s heart.
Dr. Abel Kane was an intelligent man. He knew enough to know that he now knew nothing, had always known nothing. He also knew enough to know that he now knew all. Yes, Dr. Abel Kane was an intelligent man. He would take what was left of his Karma and he would give it to Melissa. It was the last and best thing he could give to her. She would find happiness in it, as he had.
Abel Kane had finally found happiness. Abel Kane had finally found God. But that happiness could only be had when with that God in his Heaven. Every moment away was a moment wasted... and so Abel Kane must go. He would give his Karma to Melissa, and then he too would gleefully jump from that city roof-top, and into the heart of God.
Why are you so elusive?
Leaving me pensive.
How can I connive?
To make you arrive.
Let’s stay together,
Why can’t I tether,
You to linger,
In all weather.
What a mess,
And if I press,
Then there is more stress.
Filled in the silence,
With the brilliance,
That left with me with essence.
There is guidance,
Find your defiance,
For any other alliance.
Now I know,
Why you left me low,
I would follow,
To find the rainbow.
One more thing
“It’s not just about the sun. I can’t really say exactly why it makes me so happy. It’s all of it. Even driving there. No. I’ll go one step further. Just the suggestion of the word makes me goose pimply, and tingly, all over. You saw where we hung the sign you gave me for my birthday? It wasn't my idea alone to hang it there. Dan agreed wholeheartedly. Do you think he had an ulterior motive when he jumped up and hung it over the entryway to our bedroom? .....boomchickawawa....” Alexa nodded in the direction of her bedroom and chuckled in an octave unfamiliar to her best friend Marilyn.
Painted in a cerulean shade of blue, overlaid with white wisps, the background of the art decor introduced the clouds dancing in the sky. Marilyn knew her friend. More often than not, if she needed to buy a gift, she’d head over to the Bee Crazee gift shop downtown. Shopping local was her thing. The shop wasn’t just about bees and she had wondered if they made the right choice in naming the establishment. Stepping over the threshold, the jingle of the bell signaled her arrival. The pleasant ding-a-ling, mixed with the slightly musty aroma, enticed her in an unexplainable way. Having lived in Roslyn her entire life, she could not count how many times she had walked through that door, and would not know how many times she was carried through, because her mother loved to browseabout town with Marilyn papoosed. On a mission, she proceeded right past all the bee insignia to the left hand corner of the shop, crammed and stacked with various shells, tiny anchors and ors, and everything else nautical. There was always a new arrival. Pleased, she looked up and saw one; the artistic sign with the letters BEACH could have been custom made for Alexa. “Done.” She said out loud to herself, then thanking the owner of Bee Crazed on her way out, she smiled contentedly as she closed the door.
“It looks great there. It compliments the grey walls and white moulding. I love what you’ve done with the place. I say if Dan likes you walking into the bedroom daily all goose pimply and tingly, you are a lucky lady.” Marilyn winked, tisked her tongue, made that corny six gun gesture with her finger, before she poked Alexa’s funny bone.
“Nah.” Alexa said coarsely yet affectionately. “In my dreams. You know me. I sometimes say things for the shock affect. Gotcha! Dan and I have been together too long for nightly fireworks. But back to your question about what makes me most happy…..
The two friends had grown up in the same town and had been friends since kindergarten. They didn’t get together as much as they used to since Alexa moved to the south shore of the island when she got married, but they made a point of celebrating each other’s birthday, conveniently six months apart, and here and there in between. After her home renovations were complete Alexa called Marilyn and asked her to come down for lunch and a walk on the beach. Marilyn admittedly wasn’t a beach bum, she was more of a museum, art gallery, indoors bookworm sort, but never said no to a day at the beach with Alexa. Likewise, Alexa would grit her teeth while driving away from the shore, but if Marilyn invited her to a gallery opening, she was there. Between bites of chicken caesar salad, and sips of raspberry iced tea on Alexa’s patio, the question was hurled by Marilyn to Alexa about happiness. Maybe not as far back as kindergarten, perhaps somewhere between fourth and sixth grade, the two best friends began their philosophical banter. “What do you think happened to the dinosaurs?” “Why are there so many languages in the world?” “What do you think happens when you die?” “How do you think the world began?” They both turned to each other with their inquisitive minds, because home for each of them was not a place for questions. Home for them was the bottom of the ocean, dark and suffocating, but as young girls, sitting outside stuck to the grass and each other, they made their own home base while contemplating the mysteries of the universe.
There is that curious period of time from birth to around three or four that adult humans cannot recollect, so Alexa would not remember that one day in time, but could she have subconsciously remembered the way she felt on that perfect ten beach day with her mother and father? Maybe, maybe not. It was her third birthday, June 29th, and her parents promised to go one whole day without fighting. “For the kid,” he said. “For the kid,” she said back mocking him, but he was too inattentive to notice. Alexa’s mother bit her tongue and thought, “What, 2, 3, 4 hours tops before we’ve all had enough sun and he’ll be ready to dump us, running off to the bar. I can do this for my daughter.” Alexa’s father lived fully in the moment, and wasn’t quite ready to settle down as a family man, nonetheless, he was serious about enjoying his daughter’s birthday at the beach. And they did. The three musketeers, as all for one and one for all, they built sandcastles, buried each other, collected shells, ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and potato chips, washed down with grape drink, but Alexa’s favorite part of the day was the water. The ratio of air to water temperature was perfection and since Alexa was too young to stand in the surf alone, her parents held on tight, each to a tiny hand, saying wee and wee between giggles over and over, lifting her up as each wave came. Nary an unkind word was said the whole entire day and Alexa didn’t even think about sucking her thumb or snuggling with her teddy. There was an old polaroid taken on that day by another beach goer, it’s whereabouts unknown.
″…..even the sand at the beach makes me happy. I’ve heard people complain about the sand sticking to them. Not me. Bring it. I can literally sit on the beach all day, reading, while circularly massaging my feet into the sand, until the hole gets too deep. When it does, I fill it in, and then start the process all over, not wanting to leave, giving myself five more minutes again and again. And I can’t go to the beach without plunging. My head has to go all the way under the water, and I’m often compelled to splash my remaining body parts around like a five year old. Ask me if I care who sees me or what my hair looks like when I come out. What can I say Marilyn, other than, the beach truly is my happy place. And you? What makes you happy? Wait. One more thing. Truthfully my friend, having you in my life makes me happy. Happier, or almost happier than the beach.” And then it was Alexa that poked Marilyn in the funny bone.
“Tell me my friend, what makes you most happy? Alexa repeated the question with sincerity. “I think we should go sit on the grass and talk some more about this subject.”