I have been thinking about a title for this piece of writing. The only one I can come up with at this point that sums up the feeling I have for what my life is now: “Work in Progress.” For the last two months it seemed as if any movement was painfully slow, when I was moving forward at all, usually in a more holding on or sliding back movement. Now I can say that I may be moving in a positive direction toward something. I can’t really say for sure except that I want to work with people on something that matters to me and other people and gives me a good living. I haven’t a good feel for how the rest of my life comes together. But, no matter where I am headed, I will use writing as my scaffold. I write to explore what happened up to this point and find the structures that will keep what is left from collapsing altogether. I write to have something on which to hang the loose debris from my life as it has been up to this point. I write as support for new ideas. Writing slows down my thoughts to a speed at which I can examine and organize them. It helps me try out new ideas of who I am. More than anything I need a new image of myself functioning in the world.
I guess I could also call this project “preview of coming attractions” even though it may not end up being so attractive. My mind is starting to show me some trailers of movies that I would want to see myself in, instead of all those film noir versions of an older man sinking in a quagmire of loneliness and poverty. I can see a place that is mine and actually want to live there. The situation may still suck, but my attitude is improving.
In the afternoon sunlight his face twitches into many expressions as the dream of his childhood in the mountains changes into an urban nightmare where he skateboards through mazelike alleys crowded with dumpsters overflowing with soggy piles of refuse. Finally a smile relaxes onto his face as he reaches his destination, a circle of mirrored sky, rippled smudges of clouds herded across in a sweet warm breeze. Peering into the water he sees great white birds gliding in precise, complex patterns.
“These birds are trying to tell me about the mountains,” he mutters to his reflection in water. “I wish they would be more specific.”
His hand slashes at the water disrupting the image of a lined face framed in frosty stubble with eyes sunk in dark circled rings.
As he wakes blinking into the brightness, he feels the gentle rocking motion and muffled clatter of the train moving deep under the seat. Slowly the ancient gray city comes into focus, as the train’s clatter shifts into a higher register on the trestle as the ground drops away below into a sluggish, murky river. A queasy feeling engulfs his entire being as he remembers why he is on the train and what the birds were saying as they wove patterns in the dream sky.
The light of the world comes sifted through a filter of haze he carries. Confused and weary he wanders into the streets from the massive girded construction of the station. The street names are mythological creatures: Minotaur Road, Chimera Way, Medusa Drive, Sphinx Avenue. How can he find his way to his destination 26 Winterbower Parkway. Nobody he asks knows the way.
An ache begins behind his eyes and spreads back through his head joining the uneasiness in his stomach. His footsteps become tentative he stops in front of an apothecary shop, Dr. Black’s Drugs and Remedies and under these large neon green words, a painted shingle, If We Can’t Help You No One Can.
There was a day long ago, lounging on a small flower patterned sofa in a large white walled room, his attention shifting between an intricate story about poets in Mexico and the summer blue sky, a breeze washing through wide windows carrying the familiar voices in quiet conversation mixed with the shrieks and giggles of children in the sprinkler next door and disturbing the drifting motes of dust as flies perform figured shapes of ancient rituals they flew before the great, great relative came from the east to the mountains with a vision of a day when a farm and house would frame and cover the grass and scrub woodland of the natural clearing followed by groups of houses and a general store and other businesses, and finally a town with tidy suburbs edged in woodland. Still the flies trapped in the wooden box searched for the deer scat in the threadbare carpet, their wavering buzz humming in his head as he gazed at the flickering neon of the sign in the city that existed for hundreds of years before white people sailed to the eastern shores of the land he grew up in. Everything had been moving west, a tidal flow of history he swam against coming up against this feeling of circles traveled inside larger circles and on shifted levels and dimensions, invisible trails traveled by birds and insects over millennia. Other people moved east, some came all the way around or up one side and down, like birds flying 24,000 miles without resting their wings over the cold deep water connecting the life of the planet to the skies, and around again.