Concerns (December 31, 2008)

I’m going to get a black marker and start writing the excuses down my forearms. Personal difficulties and chemical imbalances. Self-destructive confusion and sudden, suffocating, lapses of paranoia. I used to write Candace’s name down my arm in black marker, and she’s dead now. And I miss her when I think about her, now and again.

But I still need a black marker.

Run with your wrists slit until the blood loss gets you. The head spinning, the nausea of… consuming demise. I could see what’s next being a long straight road I’m supposed to just… run. Eternal back streets and dark alleys, past buildings and stores left for dead. I once gave Red Cross a pint of blood and went straight to a treadmill for sprints. It was as close to drunk as I’ve ever been, short of the early nineties when GHB was an active ingredient in bodybuilding supplements. I'm just as curious as you on what comes next. Heaven and hell and the fictional places in between. You want a heaven? Well I do too, and when I go (checking watch now) picture your best memory of me, that rare time you saw me smile and mean it. The time you saw me cry I was so happy.

And that’s all there is. And a song.

I need a song. Rule out Ian Curtis and Joy Division… too cliché. Rule out Iggy Pop… it’s already been done. (See: Ian Curtis)

I saw my millionth dead body last shift. Eyes on the ceiling, cold uncolored-touch skin. It was in an assisted living house, a building where nightmares of growing old are born. A place where so many are cared for by ghouls that work their temporary jobs with no effort or empathy or humanity. Because life is temporary. The man had calmly stopped breathing and he wasn’t coming back. I read the cards on the wall, the same handwriting and words scrawled on the bottom of every one. “I love you- Mary”. Each card written in the same bend with the same pen and the same positioning. It could’ve been a rubber stamp. Christmas cards, birthday cards, and Valentines Day cards, get-well cards. I counted 45 cards in all.

The paramedics ran the tests to prove his heart was through and I read the walls.

“I love you – Mary”

The narcissist in me truly believes I could give Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” a run in muckraking on the assisted living houses of Norwood, East Lake and Elyton. Peeled paint walls, rotten furniture, and rats and roaches under the floorboards. The “caretakers” will leave for hours at a time and the residents will sit mindlessly in circles, dripping of bitter resentment toward the family members that are long gone, or that have come and gone and left them behind. So many of them beg to be taken to the hospital, not because they’re sick, but because it will be somewhere else. Have I ever let on how much I hate rats?

Is Don Henley and the “Boys of Summer” too corny? How about Simon & Garfunkel’s “I am a Rock”? I really like that line “I never will forget those nights, I wonder if it was a dream”. It plays over and over in my head like a broken… Damn, again the wording is too predictable.

Maybe that’s what growing up really is. Predictability. Brush your teeth the same number of strokes, the same time of day, in the same spot. Spray paint an X on the bathroom floor in front of your mirror if you're scared you’ll forget. But you wont, and I know I won’t either.

I’m just too predictable.

When you find my body I’ll be in front of a mirror, a predictable narcissist to the very end.

Swing from the rope until the oxygen-lessness becomes too tiresome. I can see the sunset skylines from my desk, as well as a picture of Ian Curtis holding his face in his hands. Outdated CDs cover my walls and a City of God poster, still rolled, sits on top of the stack. Pretty far from the slums of Brazil aren’t we? The homeless pre-teen gangsters of South America would call the Tragic City a paradise.

The woman wasn’t topless but her shirt was soaked with so much blood that’d she’d tried pulling it off, unsuccessfully, because of the stab wounds. Maybe the one in her neck, or the ones in her back or the ones in her arms. It’d been two men with two knives and the wounds seemed personal.

“I think she’s dead,” a cop said as we stared down at her, face down, in a pool of red.

“I’m not dead. I’m just scared to move,” she said

Minutes later we pulled up at UAB, everything blood stained. Clothes, equipment, memories.

Life isn’t always fantastic.

And someday I’ll believe in life after death. But not today.

Is it bad to stand over the dead and dying and pray for fire? The click of the printer and the address, the ear crushing tone, the dispatch operator reading out the initial responders of the first alarm. Maybe you can see flames or smoke billowing across the highway, tearing down Richard Arrington Blvd or in the turn lane of Arkadelphia heading into 18’s territory. If angels never answer then unheard prayers have to be acceptable, even if it’s for fire. I no longer JUST want to matter. I want to burn as well. I know I'm a broken fucking record.

I think it would be too ironic to go with ‘Last Goodbye” from Jeff Buckley, who drowned in the waist deep waters of the Mississippi River. I carry my daydream memories of him in dirty New York coffee shops, playing for pocket change, singing bleeding emotion, and dying too young…

As for a heaven…

My best memory of me will be at the beach with Janey. News crews were on the shore for something insignificant, a puff piece on tourism or a shock story on sharks, and I told her it was for a kid’s surf contest. She rode wave after wave, belly down on the board, smiling for the cameras and laughing, HARD. She was so… proud, if five-year-olds can feel pride.

I stood out in the waist deep water of the Gulf, her name recently inked across my chest. I watched her make it to the dry sand of shore over and over. Waving at me, waving to the camera crew and beaming. The sunlight fading too fast, the salt in her mussed-up brown hair… That’s where I’ll be when they find me. Cause that’s all a heaven is, or needs to be.

This may sound too late eighties re-hashed interest, tie-dye shirts on skateboarders with long dark hair and red-stoned eyes. But I think it will be Pink Floyd, and I hate Pink Floyd. The nostalgia of East Lake, two decades gone, and leaning against junkyard cars in 2 am parking lots is too much to resist. That, and the lines of “Wish you were Here” haunt me. “Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?” or “Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”

Life is not always fantastic but it can be, even if just for a second in the waist deep waters of the Gulf; a pretty brown-haired girl waving at you from the shore, her name stinging ink in your skin. The sun fading away, far too fast...

(Half of this I wrote six months ago and hated. In the time that’s lapsed the woman I mentioned who had been the victim of a brutal stabbing came up to me outside Station 14 and thanked me for helping her. I didn’t recognize her at first, without the blood and wounds, but she pointed down 8th Avenue West where a cop mistakenly pronounced her dead and I remembered. And I’ll never forget.)

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