Reality is clearly something to be avoided to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons, perfumed, yet its fetid stench is always lurking in the background waiting to pierce your nostrils in an incautious moment until you retch and bring up the bile that marks the darker moments of your life, the kind that lingers in the throat which no chocolate can erase. Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it or hide it behind masks, or offer it willingly to others, a gift in surfeit. It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook periodically, and thrashes you at will, the barb tears through new flesh, setting itself deeper, intractable. You and I are dying, as I write, as you read, an ugly thought particularly lying in bed staring into darkness, no motion or sound from your spouse, mate, paramour, friend, significant other or teddy bear, where God is too busy to respond at the moment and sleep is perched in the bleachers, held back by the usher for want of a ticket stub, content to watch the game from afar. I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality as though the divorce from the words will erase the little pains and anguishes of our ever distancing marriage, while holding vainly onto the warm and sweet, the far side of the Mobius of reality (the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring). We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries of words to cover the flawed, stained walls of our minds, like so many happy endings, requisite in the script. Basho knew only too well that truth of beauty should be captured in few syllables.
First Appeared in Chaminade Literary Review, Vols. 16-17, Fall 1995.
He said he would ghost me but I know you don’t tell someone and in any event, even though I do not very much like him I do not wish him dead, and he wouldn’t make a very good ghost anyway, since he barges and not sneaks.
He said he would unfriend me, but since we were never friends to begin with, how can you unfriend someone who barely considers you an acquaintance, that feeling no doubt mutual.
He said he might spam me, but that, too, is hopeless for I have been a vegetarian for two plus decades and did not eat canned spiced ham spread when I ate meat.
He said he wanted nothing at all to do with me, and on that point we fully agreed.
Ever since I was a child I spoke a language known only to me. I’ve had great conversations on all matters and weighty topics. I don’t speak this language in public, for people are increasingly scared of things they assume to be foreign and truth shown to them is no defense. That, and I’m certain some would think me crazy, like the one man who overheard me and said as much to his imaginary friend. And that’s the key difference: everyone knows imaginary friends can’t answer you, you’d be nuts to think otherwise, but to speak a language known only to yourself and to speak it fluently, is a linguistic feat not to be trifled with.
You read the obituaries every day not only for the affirmation that you are not listed among them The key five words there are not only for the affirmation, particularly upon hearing the gentle man you liked, that you valued as a friend and craftsman is gone, but you didn’t say goodbye, that you thought “better him than me,” that you hated that thought, that you hated yourself for thinking it, that nonetheless you are glad it wasn’t you, was someone else just not him, just not someone you knew. You weren’t in the obituaries today and when you are gone, you won’t be here to read it anyway, and you won’t think “better him than me,” and you promise you will forgive those that think it.
You never know how the news will arrive you are just certain of its arrival. You know it on some level, even as the event is happening, but that doesn’t blunt the piercing tip of the blade that finds the soft spot in you and cuts deeply. You hoped for a miracle for her, for her son, her husband, for those who knew her gentle smile, warm compassion, cutting wit, when the situation demanded. She was a friend who would appear when needed most and slip away when the need began to dissipate. The news came today, the hole is fresh and you can only attempt to fill it with memories, knowing even as it seems again full as do so many others as you age, when you step into it you will plunge back into the well of loss and again struggled to find the sun hiding in a too often darkening sky.
It is incredibly frustrating that no matter how long I spend in discussion with the egret, he will tell me nothing of his life, of what it is like to be able to perch on long legs, and then take glorious flight. The limpkin will speak endlessly on this topic, but he really has nothing to say of any importance. Still, I’m not giving up hope, for a friend said that he had it on good authority from a passing wood stork that the egret is planning to write a tell all book, once he figures out how to use a computer.
You read the obituaries every day not only for the confirmation that you are not listed among them. The key five words there are not only for the affirmation, particularly upon hearing the gentle man you liked, but you also valued as a friend and craftsman is gone, and you didn’t say goodbye, that you thought “better him than me,” that you hated that thought, that you hated yourself for thinking it, that nonetheless you are glad it wasn’t you, was someone else, just not him, just not someone you knew. You weren’t in the obituaries today and when you are gone, you won’t be there to read it anyway, and you want think “better him than you,” and you promise you will forgive those that think it.