Friday, June 11, 2010

"Pen and Paper" or From "Found" (5/5)

Written, as has been stated, before 4/5. Glad to be done with the sections of "Found" for the blog, because they were troublesome. But writing is always fun or it doesn't get done. At least for me, that seems to hold true most of the time. You have to wait it out. I did and it worked. We'll see if I can make up for days lost. The ideas are there; this is almost the reverse of February, where I ran out of ideas quickly, but was never in danger of falling far behind on poems. I wrote this on the way to visit family in Orlando, with my dad driving. It's a roadtrip segment. It was great to write because it was going again, the story was flowing. Sometimes the way to do that is to break the chronology. And that's about all of your time I should take up. I'll casually disappear and you can enter the world of what some have called the illeist narrator, although I won't admit it yet.

A car on the road with two occupants—the traditional driver and passenger—silence playing throughout the vehicle like a lovely ballad, comfort in the bones like a marriage of fifty years; which means they’re twenty-years-old, which means he’s cloud-gazing.

“First poem I ever wrote,” he breaks the still air, “was about lying back on a picnic bench and watching the clouds move above me, this continuous cycle that I had no impact on—it wasn’t a good poem, attempting to capture too strong an image. Not that I’ve written any good poems, but it was bad by comparison.”

“Shut up, Carl.” She takes a quick look at him and then back at the road. “I won’t take that kind of pessimism from you. Whatever happened to dream big? What happened to aim for the moon and at least you’ll land among stars?”

“I don’t think that’s scientifically sound.”

“Damn it, fuck the logic, you know what I’m saying.”

“Maybe it’s a comfort zone issue,” he engenders, “you build your philosophy on humility, on putting yourself down, and maybe this has to do with your mental status. My worldview depends on my mediocrity.”

“So what you don’t know can hurt you?”


“Yeah, I was just trying to say something that it seemed like a character in a book might.” So he thinks she’s trying to be more writer-like, possibly approaching each new conversation with a mental quill and all sorts of parchment ready.

“Who are we, really?” he asks, face still in the window, as if he were offering this question to those all-wise clouds.

“And what do you mean? There are several ways—”

“Who are we? Are we anyone? Is there a danger of us becoming the same person? Would there be something lost? I don’t buy the whole retro-fantasy; I look back at 1950s America and I cringe. Is, then, young love something else to be dealt with? Our youth, inexperience, creating within us only wet clay structures which are homogenized in the bedroom by the pure force of our significant other—created in final form by just that, an other?”

“Whew, slow down ole boy, you know what I think?” he turns toward her, but is forced to squint in the sun coming in through the driver’s side window. He’s shaking his head; it takes her a minute to pick him up in her peripherals. This is tough for him, she thinks, he’s had his say and he doesn’t want to verbalize more on the matter. The look in his eyes is that of the cubicle resident who has just accidentally hit “Reply All,” the person turning around to find the VIP who they’ve been criticizing standing right there behind them. “I think in that sense, we’re never anyone. My mother told me—and my sister too—that she never really felt herself change. The world around her changed. Other people, places, and things morphed and molded, staggered and shape-shifted, she met my father and he was a man, while she was still a girl. Then, a few years later, I actually heard my dad say the opposite. She was a readymade wife, he said, I didn’t want anything about her to change, because I was no husband, I was a wee little lad, and any impact I had on her would surely have been negative. Another night, when she was sick and he was reflective, we were treated to this gem: ‘Meeting your mother for the first time, I felt like a peeping tom—” Carl chortles, she smiles. The atmosphere has changed. No longer so much static in there, no longer so much potential for heat lightning.

Every long car drive is a marathon. Carl’s trying not to fall asleep, because he’s the only one who knows where they’re going when they get off the interstate, and even so, he’s not overly certain when he comes down to it. It’s an awkward moment in his memory, how his parents moved almost immediately after he left for college. The room he’d had for almost ten years no longer his, it was jolting to think that staying with mom and dad felt like vacationing, like being a guest. And now this was only compounded by him bringing someone with him. But this deep thought is not the type to keep you awake, he thinks to himself.

“What’s your nightmare about?” he asks in his most concerned voice, but is he concerned? A question that bothers him because he is starting a conversation to keep himself awake; is this just a mock tone to start some mild small talk? And if so what does that mean for their relationship? That he has to act like an overzealous boyfriend…

“Well,” she starts, “it’s not nearly as fresh as it was that morning, but surprisingly it’s still mostly there. We were in a canoe, or rather I was, but I was watching myself paddle from outside of myself, you know?” He answers affirmatively. “And then I looked into the water and the reflection in the water was of your face—which wasn’t odd or anything, in the dream, but waking up, I realized I must’ve been you—and caught up temporarily in that reflection, I only moved when I heard a splash, and then I, me, my body, whatever I should call it, it was gone. And you, me, whatever again—there was only one person in the boat. Immediate first thought in the dream was, these waters are dangerous and you’re not a very good swimmer, referring to myself—which is actually half-true—and so I dive in after myself, or you go in after me, if you will, and suddenly I’m sinking, running low on air, and I look up to the surface, to the canoe, and see, just in my line of vision, my body, but as if I were a mermaid. Then I close my eyes and open my mouth in despair, which causes me to wake up sucking in air, as fiercely as if I had been holding my breath in my dream.”

“Well, that is an awful amount of detail, isn’t it?”

“The dream’s somewhat recurring … but this felt like the worst one yet and I couldn’t calm myself. But I knew you were just down the hall…”

“Right, right, I can remember the rest from there,” he says, smiling, brushes a length of hair behind her ear. It has started raining. “How often have you had the dream? It sounds like a wrecker of the day at least.”

“Well, how long have we been together? I’ve dreamed it maybe five times in the last four months. And it was a horrid thing to wake up from, but this last time, like I said, the worst dream, it was the easiest to get over. She takes one hand off the steering wheel and puts it on his, squeezes lightly; he returns the gesture.

Carl turns his head, not really tired anymore, watches the raindrops hitting the window. When he was a kid, he’d pretend they were in a race across the glass, being swept backwards in various cars’ air wakes. Now he thinks of a colony of amoeba collecting, engulfing, compiling, but also splitting, dividing, separating. And what happens exactly to the boundary of one raindrops as it splashes into another? Did you know, he tells someone in his mind, that it is now commonly believed that the cell began as just that? A drop of liquid that held a unique blend of chemicals.

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