January 5, 2015

Total Trash

I'm forty years old, listening to Sonic Youth, and I just spent an hour working on a short story I am writing for middle school kids about how the cool kids treated me like shit when I was thirteen. It feels lukewarm and cliche, and the story isn't going any where either. I was hoping to maybe write a batch of stories about said issues for said audience, but now I am not sure. I  have a 47,500 word memoir thing of vignettes and snippets that lack any sort of plot, conflict or point sitting on a file on my computer. I'm not sure where to take it.

I know I want to write more this year. That was my goal, but these nights when I ignore my work responsibility and start to write it feels awkward and clunky and not right. Last night after I wrote this, I lay wake in bed grappling with my own mediocrity.

What if I will never be good enough to match my own expectations? What if my lack of talent or the lack of dedication I showed in my youth toward any kid of craft can never be surpassed in my middle age? What if I now know that I will never be good enough? Forget about the need to be famous or good or any of those pipe dreams, but what if I won't even be able to write for my own needs?

It was a hard night before bed, but then there was this memory:

There is a pounding. I can hear it loud and clear. Unbound sets of waves crash like lifetimes against an invisible shore. The sky. A sea. Blurred by an inky shadow, which is only highlighted by cresting liquid rims. Could that be the cold wet sand quivering beneath my feet as they shout and revel in the freedom of a night, tossed so carelessly out of time and place? They are there I am here, but I should not be alone. I look for her hand, but she is nowhere. I am here. I am alone.

I can hear them laughing. Raving. Howling. They must be mad. Drunk with the wanton power of these hidden breakers. The incurious moon covers her ears and rolls over, turning her back on the thoughtless soul-slaking below. A patch of bashful stars peaking from behind the remnants of a sole cloud, giggle and point, twinkling in an otherwise empty sky.

I can smell the pressure before I can feel it. The scent lingers in the air entangling my equilibrium with its condensed phases. It is a measure of the tendency of molecules and atoms to escape from a liquid or a solid. I am evaporating. Volatilized. It is too dark to tell if I am alone or if the entire beach is disappearing.

There is a flickr. A flash. Ignition. The sea is on fire. He is on the wrong side of the breakers behind a wall of fire. They are kicking the empty gas can into the water. He’s laughing. Swallowing gasoline. He is on fire. It’s difficult to tell if the screaming from shore is shaped by panic or ecstasy. I can see his distorted face shimmering through the blaze. Although he’s finally removed his burning jacket, his face is still tainted by the terror of being trapped behind a watery inferno.

I can’t make out any words. The wall of fire burning ten feet high as verdant petroleum doused waves crash through it has me mesmerized. The wet sand between my toes is the only thing that’s real. Fear is only what we refuse to look at head on. It is only what we allow to take us from the present moment. 

There is no fear in the unfragmented now. I see it all. Feel the heat from the flames both outside and within. The cool breeze of the raw night and the victorious applause.

They have gathered at the end of the fiery line, now subdued and brilliant in its azure and violent glory. He ambles out from the surf as I run over. We don’t even have a towel for him. I will never know whether he won or lost. The fire and the night both die to black and nothing is left.

So who knows?  What else is there in the face of doubt, but to keep at it. Maybe I will be the story they tell when I am eighty, "He didn't get going till he was in his 40's. It was like he suddenly got it. Or, he finally dedicated the time to his craft and began to write well well after he was forty. Maybe they will say, yeah he didn't even write a song till he was fifty."

Or maybe, they won't say anything and I will fade into obscurity having said nothing. A random scattering of digital detritus in the forms of these blogs blowing through the emptiness of cyber space. Melodramatic? Yeah, maybe, but you didn't hear what Thurston Moore just did with that guitar.

It's never the same
It's more than a game
Can't take it away
Can't kill all the shame...

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