Short Story – Coming Home, Part 1

Posted on 19 min read 17 views

(Written 2007)

I wake to the sight of white. Lines cut across the white. Most of them are perfect squares but some bend and twist, searching for a destination. On these lines there will be things, things too small for me to see, but I know they are there and go about their lives in the same way that I left them.

 

“Welcome home, Mr. Scott.” The woman hands me my passport.

“Thank you.”

In the taxi the driver is quiet, which I’m grateful for, and I fall asleep with my head against the window. The taxi stops in front of a large brick house enclosed by a black gate. Home looks the same as when I left, except there’s a new Lexus in the driveway and snow on the ground. White Christmas lights pop against the perfect pine-tree background. The lights’ warmth has melted small areas of snow, and I can glimpse the living tree beneath.

The arched front door is locked so I go around to the back. There is a cleaning woman in the pantry, someone I have never seen before, and she makes no sign of noticing me when I walk in.

“Mom…Dad…I’m err… home.” I hear footsteps coming down the spiral staircase in the next room. It’s my brother.

“Hey Kyle.” I reach out to hug him with one arm. “How was your trip back?”

“It was all right.” I slip off my bags and feel the burn on my shoulders. “I took some Ambien and passed out for most of the flight.” I look past him into the hallway to see if anyone else is coming. “Are Mom and Dad here?”

“Uh no, they told me where they were going. Maybe Virginia or something,” he shrugs and I don’t persist.

I stare at the floor until he hugs me again. I reel backward and almost fall over my bags. When I find my footing I hug him back, and I can tell that he is glad to have someone to share the house with.

“Sorry about that,” he says when we separate. I look past him. “Need some help?” he asks, pointing at the bags.

I’m staying in the attic which is empty and clean, and allows me to spend my days in the light of the large, circular cut windows.

“So, tell me bro, how was it?”

“I can’t really describe it.”

“Shut the fuck up. Tell me how it was.”

“I don’t know how. If I start, I’ll just keep going…I haven’t given it much thought, but I was happy.” I stop walking up the stairs and stand in place, “I felt at home…I didn’t know it until now, but I finally felt at home.” He notices me glance around the house when I say this. I smile, swing the strap over my shoulder and continue walking up the stairs.

When we get to the attic we sit on my bags and talk. I’d missed my brother. I tell him about living abroad, and he watches me wide-eyed, silent except when I mention women. I ask him about high school, but he has little to say. He is taller and stronger than me now. He leaves and I fall asleep. I wake up and it’s three in the morning. There is a film covering my teeth and my clothes stick to my body. I change, clean myself, check my email, and try to go back to sleep, but can’t and instead watch Brick, and Ghost World until its morning.

When it is late enough, and the sun is full in the windows, I leave the house. I take my dad’s Benz and drink coffee and drive around the city. There is a craving and the coffee gives me a tingle and minor high. I try to hold the feeling but I know it will fade like everything else I do in the city. Downtown is busy. People and cars crowd the streets and push the fresh snow into the ground until it forms a dirty layer of ice over the asphalt. I go into a used bookstore where the clerk knows my name. He asks me where I’ve been, and I tell him.

“That sounds like a really great time, I’m jealous. I had the chance to go abroad. I should have, but I was worried I wouldn’t graduate on time.” I nod because that’s what I do when people say this. “But now you have to return to the real world.” My mind wanders from the conversation and I tell him what he wants to hear about hardship and careers, and let the conversation collapse.

I buy Faust and The Metamorphosis even though I don’t think I will read either. The day has become warm for January, but not warm enough to melt the snow. My coffee high has worn off, and as I walk the streets I realize there are no homeless in the cold. I’m disappointed because I think giving away some money would make me feel better. Eventually the cold creeps through my jacket and I leave the streets to take the skyway. I walk down the wide hallways of bustling life connecting the skyscrapers, which reflect everything in their blue glass. They hold people inside, safe and warm from the white winter.

 

That night I call my friends from high school, and we get drunk on wine from a vineyard that my family owns. Our dealer doesn’t answer so we pop all of the Vicodin and Tylenol 3 that we can steal from our parents. Blitzed and numb, we go to a party thrown by some kid from a neighboring school. We break his hot tub by stuffing jumbo tampons in the jets, and I’m thrown out after I throw up red and white in the living room, and pass out in his twelve year old sister’s bedroom.

I have no car so I take a taxi to a former girlfriend’s house. I give the driver a hundred, and he tells me, ‘thank you’, and gives me his business card and says that I can call him any time, ‘day or night’. I look at him with skepticism but take the card anyway. Getting out of the cab I trip on the black protector inside the door and fall onto the curb, where I start bleeding from my elbow. He helps me up and takes me to the front door. I tell him thank you and promise him that I will be all right. He continues to ask if I am fine until I tell him that I will call his, and only his, card if I have any trouble. This seems to satisfy him and he leaves me standing in front of the two high wooden entrance doors.

I try ringing the doorbell but nobody answers so I begin throwing rocks at a window on the third floor but I can’t hit it, so I give up and lay down. I call the girl’s cell phone but there is no answer, and I try to stop myself from crying, but I can’t, and I don’t know why. When I wake up I’m on a couch. There are bits of grass in my mouth, which I must have been eating, and mud stains on my pants. Looking around, I try to take in the situation. It’s not my former girlfriend’s house, but I’ve been here before, I just can’t place when. After I sit up I begin to wonder whether someone brought me in the house or if I committed a felony to get in. The last thing I want to do is stay and deal with the drama of finding out, so I get my shoes, which are waiting for me neatly beside the door. When I’m outside I stop in the front lawn and look the house up and down, then glance down each street. The house belongs to my former history teacher, and I leave a note saying thank you, hoping he will be able to understand why I’m writing it.

The walk home is long, but I don’t mind; I want it to stretch on for hours. I stop once to throw up in a sewer drain, where I confirm that I did in fact eat grass, from the half digested green chunks that get caught in my teeth. At home I wash out my mouth, brush my teeth and go to bed. When the sun forces my eyes open its noon. I look for my brother but he isn’t home, so I check my e-mail, but there isn’t anything I’m hoping for. I stare at the computer screen unmoving and unable to think. I slide down into my chair and stare at the ceiling. Hours pass, and I can’t tell if I fell asleep or simply stared at the ceiling. I take some of my dad’s Klonopin and begin to read The Sheltering Sky. I read until its dark outside and then doze off.

I wake up to my phone and I answer it without checking who is calling. It’s my ex-girlfriend. Her voice carries a mixture of frustration and concern, and it’s obvious she has been waiting all day to call me.

“What the hell were you doing last night, KYLE?”

“What do you mean?”

“What the fuck do you mean, ‘What do I mean’? I’m asking why you were outside my house at two in the morning crying and making a scene. You know my parents woke up from that.”

“Well, I wanted to see you; I would have thought that was obvious.”

“Don’t you dare patronize me Kyle! You’re such a child, you know that? I knew this was how you would react but I called anyway because…well I don’t know why, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are incapable of handling anything like a grown-up. And when anyone tries to help you, you don’t even make an attempt to listen. That’s your problem-.”

“Help? Who’s helping anyone?” I say, beginning to lose my patience.

“Yeah Kyle, that’s what I’m doing, I’m trying to help you. Why else do you think I called?”

“Because you felt guilty about not letting me sleep in your house last night.”

“Fuck you, asshole.”

“Well I was hoping we could have done that LAST NIGHT.”

“You know what? That’s it. I don’t know why, but that’s it. You’re hopeless; I don’t know what I ever saw in you. You’re a complete waste of a-”

I hang up the phone before she can finish and get a beer out of the fridge. I contemplate renting some movies but instead watch The Dreamers, and Igby Goes Down which are covered in dust and lying on top of my television. I check my email. Around ten my friends call, and they tell me to meet them downtown. I drive despite the fact that I’m pretty worked.

Downtown we go from bar to bar, trying to get wasted on dirty martinis and grabbing at anything that comes within arms length of the table. We meet girls who take us to get high in the bathroom of a fashionable Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant. They are annoying and chatter away like monkeys while we smoke. Eventually the restaurant manager shouts into the bathroom about police being outside and how charges are going to be pressed. We walk out and threaten to sue him for assault after he grabs us, to prevent us from leaving. He lets us go and raises his hands in apology, and when he tries to ask us questions we destroy them with a mixture of extreme aggression and accusatory defensiveness. I can hear the girls that we have left in the bathroom crying.

While the police go in the front of the restaurant we dump garbage on all of the employee cars in the back and let the air out of the tires of several more. My friends get bored and leave, but I throw a trash can through the back window of a luxury car before leaving. As we walk they try to convince me to go with them to a strip club, but I don’t want to, so we walk around looking for something else. I suggest we buy cartons of milk to throw at oncoming traffic. We look for a convenience store but nothing is open, and I agree to go with them to a strip club.

The only light inside of the club is blue light. I break dance with the strobe to my friends’ laughter. On the sound system rap music is blaring, and I climb on top of a table and dance like a ballerina while my friends clap. One of the bouncers takes me down and tells us to behave so we take a seat at the end of the stage. Only drunk blue collar workers are still in the club, so when the first girl comes out she immediately walks toward us. She has a long face but her pole dancing is good, and we whistle and clap to cheer her on. One of my friends calls her over, and she dips herself low while he puts both hands on her ass as it bounces with the music.

“I love this place,” he calls over to me. “It’s so ghetto.” When he says this he moves one of his hands over the small line of fabric separating his fingers from the inside of her.

More girls come out, and I’m enjoying myself while I drink whatever beer we are buying. The girls are mostly short with big fake tits, but I don’t mind because it’s what I want to see.

“I’m going to get a lap dance, you want one?”

“Fuck yeah,” I say.

While girls move up and down with their chests in our faces we talk about being abroad and the hot girls we slept with, the shitty food we ate, and the foreign drugs we ingested. I describe to him the live sex shows. He tells me about being beaten and arrested after urinating on a military building. I complain about the over-abundance of hash and lack of weed. He tells me about ‘accidentally’ defacing a painting in one of the castles he toured. While we’re talking the stripper begins to rub me until I’m pushing up against my jeans.

“Do you like that sugar?”

“Sure, of course.”

“Good, I was worried you were more interested in your friend than me.”

“No, that’s not true.”

She laughs, “You’re a cutie.” I thank her and she continues to dance on me. While pressing her tits against my chest she begins to unbutton my jeans. I stop her.

“That’s ok,” I say trying to smile.

“I like you, sugar,” she tells me. “You want to go to a VIP room?”

I think about it, but it doesn’t excite me and I have no condoms. I tell her, ‘no thanks’, but the girl is persistent and continues to rub her hand over me while looking directly into my eyes. She tells me how pretty my eyes are. I tell her thanks. She asks again if I want to leave to a VIP room, to which I respond that ‘I would love to, but can’t,’ which is half a lie. I want to save her from the embarrassment of rejection, but she doesn’t get it, and goes on to tell me that I there is nothing to worry about because she is, ‘totally clean.’

I’m starting to get bored and annoyed so I tell her, “I would but my herpes are active right now.” When I say this she goes stiff and takes her hand away. While trying to climb off me she loses her footing and falls over, I don’t laugh at her and stand up to leave.

“Hey, Kyle what’s wrong, you don’t like her? Want an Asian or something?”

“Nah man, I’m done… I’ll call you tomorrow,” I’m trying to wipe the glitter off my clothes as I walk through the blue light. Outside the air burns my eyes and the temperature has fallen below zero Fahrenheit. I hide in a storefront looking up and down the street for a taxi. I bury my hands deep within my coat and find the card from the previous night.

 

“Yeah this is Tim,” the voice on the other end informs me.

I check the card and confirm that Tim is the name of my taxi friend.

“Hey Tim, are you driving right now?”

“Yeah, who is this?”

“I don’t know if you remember me, but you gave me a ride last night. You told me to call-”

“Oh hey, of course I remember. Do you need a pick up?”

“Definitely, it’s pretty cold right now.”

He laughs, “Just tell me where you’re at. I’ll be right there.” I read the name of the strip club off the sign. “I know it; I’ll see you in a few.”

I drink from my flask until I’m warm enough to wait beside the road. In five minutes I see Tim’s taxi coming toward me. He flashes his brights to let me know it’s him. When I step in the car he greets me with a smile and asks how I’m doing. I tell him ‘good.’ He asks me again how I’m doing, and I tell him again that I’m doing ‘good.’ He looks at me with skepticism but doesn’t ask a third time.

“So do you want me to take you to the same place as last night?”

“No, that place is dead to me,” I can feel that stupid grin plastered to my face. “If I ever ask you to take me back there, don’t do it, no matter how much I beg, just don’t do it. That place is dead, like a ghost, ok Tim?” I pause. “Ok Tim, ok, ok, ok?”

He turns around and smiles, “Ok, it’s dead.” I settle into my seat and try to watch out the window, but it makes me feel sick so I stop. After a few moments Tim breaks the silence.

“So where are we going, kiddo?”

I tell him my address and he turns the car around in the middle of the street.

“Hey, I know it’s not my place to ask, but honestly is everything alright?”

I’m lying down in the back seat and have to struggle to lift my head. I try to say something but stop. He waits until he realizes I’m not going to comment. “The reason I ask is every time I see you, you’re just so fucked up.”

I nod my head but remain silent.

“That was too harsh, but honestly what were you doing these past two nights?”

“I was out with friends,” I say.

“I’ve never seen you with friends.”

“You’ve only seen me twice.”

He responds in affirmation. I’m looking at the stained upholstery. “Tonight I left early.”

“It’s almost four o’clock in the morning,” Tim says. It doesn’t seem right and I don’t believe him. I can’t read the hands on my watch. I need to keep down the vomit.

“Well, anyway, I was out with friends, what’s your excuse?”

He laughs again, “I’m working. This is what people on the other side of the world do.”

“That’s bullshit, people on all sides of the world work.”

“It’s an expression.”

“Yeah well humans aren’t made for the night, so what’s your excuse?”

“I like the night-time, I’m an insomniac.”

“Uh-huh, and I bet you work long hours too. Maybe every day of the week, you educated bastard. What did you get your degree in Tim, history? Yeah…I bet you did; I bet you did, and here we are talking in a cab at four in the morning.” I emphasize the last words with obvious sarcasm. He doesn’t laugh this time; instead he shifts uncomfortably in his seat. I lay back down on the seat. “We all have problems Tim, not just me.”

“I’ll tell you why I’m here if you want to know.” Tim says.

“No, not right now Tim, I just want to go home.”

After a minute I tell Tim to pull over and I pull myself out of a car. Propped against a light post I dry heave until my throat is burning and I can taste the coming bile and fresh blood. I steady my breathing and stop myself, and once I’m composed I get into the cab.

Tim asks me questions when I get into the cab but I can’t answer, only hear the voice’s steady tonality. Lying down, the bumps in the road go through my stomach and I pull my body up. Unsupported my weight presses my head against the window. My hair mashes into the window and against my forehead, and as I struggle it makes the sound of stepping on dry leaves. The cream in my hair leaves a stain on the window when I pull it away. I try and use my finger to draw a shape in the stain but the cream doesn’t move right on the glass.

“You want to go do something, Tim?”

His voice cuts clear this time, “Yeah what do you want to do?”

“Well actually… I need you to pull over again.”

I barely get my head out of the car when I lose everything in my stomach. The smell is wrong. It is too rich, not sour enough, and I know that there is blood in the vomit. I have the desire to drink salt water and feel the distress as the water burns on my exposed throat tissue. Tim gets out this time to check on me and I tell him to go back into the car. He looks worried but I tell him that I’m feeling better and that gets him to sit in his seat with the door open. The cab is freezing with the doors open. Tim drives once he is sure that I have recovered and my coughing takes a more healthy tone.

“I need to go home Tim, it is too cold not to be home tonight.”

“I know Kyle, we will be there shortly.”

“If I were to sleep outside I would die.”

“We’re going to get you home, it is too cold tonight.”

I breathe on the window and write my name in cursive.

“Right, Tim?”

“Right.”

 

In the morning when I wake up, I’m in my parent’s bed, rolled in the comforter like a sleeping bag with my head in the pillows that are for decoration. The embroidery on the pillows leaves lines on my face. In the kitchen my brother and a girl are eating breakfast. The girl has on a small black dress but her hair is matted. We greet each other and I pour cereal and start to eat it slowly but my stomach doesn’t feel good, so I chew on Tums and dump out the cereal.

The two of them are talking about nothing, and I sit there in silence looking at the snow outside. It seems bright and sunny but the snow does not melt, and I know it is sharp and cold in the way that your breath stops and your lungs are rushed clean.

“Kyle, what are you doing tonight?”

I turn when my name is said. They are both looking at me, “No plans, I will probably go out, but there is nothing for sure.”

“If you want you can come to a party with us tonight. It should be a pretty good one.”

“I think I’m a little old, I don’t want to be that creep.”

“No, it’s her party, not mine.”

The girl with matted hair looks at me and nods her head, “Yeah, its downtown being thrown by a friend I go to the U with. Her family bought her a really nice loft, and we party there all the time. You are totally more than welcome to come over.”

“Thanks, I’ll think about it. I may have plans.” I leave the two of them and go up to the attic. It is warm in the attic and I begin to unpack my bags. I put my clothes in piles on the floor, jeans in one, shirts in another, sweaters in another, and the largest pile of unsorted clothes that needs to be washed. These I dump into a basket and put by the edge of the stairs. When I pull off my shirt I can smell myself so I shower and then dress in clean clothes that are loose when they should be tight.

The computer waits for me when I finish putting myself together. My email loads quickly and I sort the inbox and see a message with no subject. It’s what I’ve been waiting for since getting back, and it makes me smile, just a simple smile that can’t be faked.

 

Ahoooy Kyle,i hope your flight to USA  was good.I just want to tell u,that it was so nice to meet person like u and i had the greatest time with u.
Now i am sitting at school trying to write some homework , but  i am not so succesful the person,no better say animal,u should see him or her,i  didnt recognise yet, if it is woman or man,only god knows the thrue..but ok is not important,but he is smelling like something what never used bathroom before..and he is next to me, makes really weird sounds…so i can not concentrate because i am feeling that i am in zoo in cage with monkeys.
Anyway, Kyle i really miss u,ever since u went away and i really want to see u again…i am not professional at expressing feelings,but i think u know..what i mean..
Ok i am going to escape from this zoo,i hope u write me soon.
P.S.drink milk every day,eat vegetables and fruit (due to vitamins..),go to the church every sunday,never try alcohol,drugs and sex..and don’t be bad boy!miss u.
papa
sincerely yours…

Nina

 

The message makes me laugh, and I have that feeling in my chest that keeps you up at night, but not an ache, one of fullness. I try and write a response but I’m not sure what to say and I just lie on the floor and let it all sink in. It had been healthy and fun. It was easy but it had been over from the beginning, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault but the circumstances, still I was the one that boarded the plane. I could have stayed, it would have been a mistake but I could have made that mistake for her. She would never have asked and because of that I would have done it for her.

I go downstairs. The girl has left and I feel hungry again so I try to eat but my stomach still has pain and I stop. I drink milk so that my body has something to feed on. It feels good and I drink more and then I eat yogurt and it feels good too. I try to eat bread, chewing it thoroughly until it is like a paste in my mouth and it is alright.

“Hey man, are you busy? I need to get my car,” I say to my brother.

Ultimate Sex Survey

Posted on 1 min read 18 views

In line for a coffee, I notice a free local Boulder magazine called Rooster sitting on a rack near the barista. On the cover is a wide-eyed drawing of a girl in a small referee outfit, cradling a baby that appears to be wrapped in a burqa. In the heading is written, “Ultimate Sex Survey”. The entire cover is weirdly sexual, and concerning, because I find it concerning. I can’t tell when this type of thing started to make me squeamish. When did sex start to make me awkward? It pours out of everything now, much as it did when I was young, but it seems so disheartening. A familiar recklessness that’s finally lost its control. When I was in the middle of it, it was like standing in the center of a storm, everything spiraling and deliberate. The things we used to do in public bathrooms send a chill down my spine. Were we really that young?

Fucked Up Long-Distance Relationships

Posted on 1 min read 10 views

I’m drawn to relationships with people that live in different cities. To quote True Detective, “You know how it is. You want a wife, but only half the time.” And for me the distance provides me with everything that I want in a relationship: intimacy, without the commitment.

Yet beginning a relationship in a different city is a doomed proposition. It leaves only two exists: too fast or too slow. You’re flying all over to meet up, and it’s all fun-drunk-good-time sex filled weekends. But that’s too much work for hotel sex, and the inconvenience of the situation causes it to suffocate. Or it develops rapidly; in which case you have to make a serious commitment to someone you’ve known through short bursts of honeymoon.

It doesn’t allow for anything natural to build: going out for drinks, low stakes, hooking up occasionally, and every once in awhile, organically, something meaningful grows out of that. Instead what you’re left with is either an extremely inconvenient fuck buddy, or a rushed long-distance relationship (long distance already being terrible, now without the basis of shared time).

A Happy Day, Then You’ll Pay

Posted on 1 min read 15 views

What is it about alcohol that leaves me in a dire mood the next day? I never used to feel the depletion of dopamine, but now Elliot Smith lyrics pound in my head next to a dehydrated hangover. ”A happy day, and then you’ll pay.”

There is positivity in the recovery. A creativity in the dark mood that infects the day after. Is this what it means to get older? I feel better at 31 than I did at 30. And I felt better at 30 than I did at 29. But now there are intrinsic changes happening, even while the core muddles on in the same way it has for 15 years.

Does the sunlight look different today? What has changed? Because something has, but I can’t tell what. The change is irreplicable and catalytic. Like all change is. But I’ll have to wait for years, simply to understand what’s happened to me today.

Dream

Posted on 1 min read 15 views

She holds my face. Looks at me. Kisses me on the cheek. And then kisses me on the other check. She repeats this a dozen times. I wake. It’s a memory that has infected my dreams.

As I lie in bed I imagine that moment, think of it over and over again. Then my thoughts leave my daughter, only for another memory to bring her back. And I feel regret that my thoughts ever left her at all.

Sundance 2016

Posted on 2 min read 14 views

Sundance is one of the few constants in my life. Every year I go with the same friends, to the same condo, and watch a relentless amount of movies. And despite the hundreds of movies over the years, the luster of sitting in a cramped theater and leaving the left side of my brain for the right, has never worn off.

And yet this year I’ve seen the other side of the film festival: a commercialism and cynicism that underpins everything. It’s not Sundance’s fault. It’s not a slow creeping change. It’s the reason these festivals exist in the first place. Over the years I’ve accumulated a number of friends in the entertainment industry. And every year more invites come in, more events open up: IMDB lounge, AirBnB house, Kickstarter parties, Chase Sapphire Event Center, Acura parties, Samsung parties, VR parties, Variety/Fandango/Dockers Studio. Company signs plastered over the already obnoxious establishments. IMDB is Tao, which used to cost $16,000 for a table before IMDB booked it out. In what world can that make sense?

But nothing it does is wrong. It simply is. It’s SXSW, it’s CES. It’s all of the events that people like me flock to, and talk about with friends as we spontaneously shop for 3D printers at 1 am.

And so I’ll keep coming every year. I’ll skip the opening weekend. That’s an assault on the senses that even I can’t handle. But I’ll stay for the following week. And I’ll go to the parties, and continue to spend time with people that have been here for 5 days, but have neither skied not watched a movie. Because that’s what we do. And now anything familiar brings a comfort that is harder and harder to replicate.

Like Prague in it’s Heyday

Posted on 1 min read 13 views

I come home alone, by choice. We kissed as we said goodbye in the parking lot. She asked me to come back with her. Her brother watched from the window of her car as we stood out in the cold.

I sit in the driver’s seat for a long pause, watch her car drive away, and then finally check my phone. There’s a line of text messages that I scroll through. A multitude of people, mostly women, had written. I had resisted the urge to check my phone during the concert. But she stood pressed against me, and felt the texts vibrate in my pocket with the same frequency that I did.

My sex life is like Prague in it’s heyday. Except that in Prague, I had an existence that was tailored for that kind of lifestyle. This, I don’t remember signing up for. It crept up on me. And a sense of dread persists, because I’m old enough to know how rapidly it can go from feast to famine. Each of the connections that I’ve made, that I rely on to keep some semblance of composure, instead becomes a liability.

And so I wade deeper into the ridiculousness, and the debauchery, and the self-destruction. With a caution from experience that can only check me temporarily, but never stops me.

Realization on a Saturday

Posted on 1 min read 11 views

The early mornings on a Saturday. This is the time when I should be able to concentrate. Instead, I feel the creeping of my approaching birthday, and the lingering effects of a five day bender that lead up to New Years. The radio doesn’t help either, it’s playing music that I can’t recognize, but is eerily similar to the Omaha based record labels I used to listen to in the early 2000’s.

I need to dry out for a month. It’s not a New Year’s resolution, but an actual need. What will dating be like without alcohol? When was the last time I spent the night with someone, without at least two drinks in me?

Day of a Younger Me

Posted on 1 min read 14 views

Two wine glasses. An empty bottle. Clothes all over the floor. A sock missing. I drink what’s left of an open bottle of San Pellegrino, as I limp through my morning preparations. This is a day of a younger me.

The calls and tasks begin coming in at 8 am. A normal day, but a normal day is unremitting.

“Hey, what’s going on?” I ask, as I answer the phone.

“What?” she calls from the bedroom.

“Did you get the email I forwarded?” a voice on the other end of the line answers.

“I skimmed it,” I respond. I have no idea what he’s talking about.

“They’re pushing the launch until late 2016,” the voice tells me.

“What did you say?” she asks, bursting out of the bathroom, trying to fasten her bra as she walks.

“Hold on a sec…” I say, to the voice. I turn to her, “Nothing. Sorry, work call, didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Oh, you didn’t wake me.”

“Do you want breakfast or anything? Or a shower?”

“Some breakfast would be good,” she says.

“Help yourself to anything in the kitchen. I’m just going to take this real quick…” I walk downstairs where it’s eerily silent, where I can concentrate.

“Sorry about that. Ok, here’s what we need to respond back with…”

Collections – Nowhere

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Germany, Iceland, Denver, Boulder – 30

What magic there once was in Europe seems lost to me forever. Even Iceland is gray, miserable and suffocating. Physically, I’m depressed and grimy. My laptop was stolen in Amsterdam, but that happened a week ago, and I quickly moved passed it. An expensive mistake on my part, that’s all it seems like now. Instead, the malaise is a spread of realization. The time to play, and be happy, has passed. Now it’s seriousness in life, career, and the care for those around me. However, Europe had seemed to escape these symptoms of growing older.

But now, practicality has made short work of the memories I had of Prague, Madrid, Istanbul, Berlin, and the other dozen or so cities I used to “know”. Europe has become a place like any other. My pulse doesn’t quicken with anticipation when the plane lands. Instead, I think of how long it will be until I can fall asleep in an uncomfortable bed.

No single factor is to blame. Working in Prague brought me joy. But the thought of taking a job in Germany is suffocating. I’ve spent too long being the boss, even if a middling one. I have a taste for it now. So I’m trapped in a situation with more closing doors than opening ones. And for the first time ever, both age and circumstances, have turned against me. And then there’s that guilt, the guilt about being happy that I’ve carried with me ever since I was little. If I did manage to kick it for part of my 20s, then today it’s back in full effect. I feel it in every action, and the repercussions those actions have upon the people in my life.

On the plane, everyone is covered in blankets and sleeping, even though it’s early where we came from. I fill out an immigration form, and visualize the small international terminal of the Denver airport: a scarcity of passport control stands, two baggage carousels, and a waiting area with Russians huddled outside, watching for their arrivals.

How did I end up back in this city? I left college, and Denver, behind with Clorox still on my hands from cleaning at 4 am. I drove 12 hours to a new life in Chicago, and never missed it here. College was brutal, beautiful, and monumental. But Denver was never home. Now I consider spending the rest of my life 30 minutes away, in Boulder, which I used to detest. I’ve become docile, and I find this place comfortable and pleasant.

I dream of made up memories.

I’m in a pretentious bakery and delicatessen, and become furious because they tore down the restaurant that was there before. They ask me to leave. I sit outside and remember detailed scenes: taking girls on dates here, calling lost loves from the tables. I feel as if I’ve lost a part of my youth. And as I wake up, I realize that all the elaborate and detailed memories have never existed.

My eyes are always bloodshot. I don’t know if it’s the computer screen, the dry air, the restless sleep, but they never have the clear quality they used to.  Maybe it’s another effect of age? But I refuse to buy that yet.

At least the days are distracting. I work late and read HP Lovecraft, Poe, and Bierce to fall asleep. When I spend time with friends, we watch movies and regurgitate the Economist. All things designed to distract. Because I know what will come out if I don’t keep busy.

When I wake up on the plane, I think we’re in the middle of think clouds. As I come to, I realize they’re not clouds, but that the ground is completely lost in opaque snow. It reminds me exactly of the opening to a short story I had written nearly a decade ago called, Coming Home. Except that had taken place in Minnesota in the dead of winter, and this is Denver. It had been 60 degrees when I flew out 3 days ago.

Somehow despite the complete blanket and continuing snow, it’s the most on-time flight I’ve had in years.

If someone could freeze this moment: 30 years old, standing in an HM with blaring music, a sweatshirt in one hand that’s 10 years too young for me, and a latte in the other, it might be the definition of a mid-life crisis.

It’s not a question of how I got here; even if the years are muddy, the days are very clear. I’ve become what I wanted to be, and if I’m being honest with myself I expected it to feel like this when I got here. But there’s much less quiet dignity in loneliness, and instead just a general dullness and confusion. I would say things have become less bright, but my eyes have taken on a new sensitivity that has me wearing sunglasses all the time.

The girl at the counter stares me in the eyes when I check out. Young, very young, and light blue. I’m unsure how to feel. I’m unsure what the eye contact means. I don’t even have an idea of what I look like in her eyes.

Ironically, I’m sitting in a bar, when for the first time in a week my mind comes into focus. I look at my fingers. The cuticles have been chewed off. On the fingers are cuts that have reopened and bled through the Band-Aids. My clothes are noticeably stained with what I think is coffee. My lips are broken, and I can feel the bags under my eyes. I run my hand through my hair, it, at least, feels kept.

I’m two drinks, into the first drinks, I’ve had this week. I wonder what the rest will feel like. I can’t place the events of the past week. There are some moments: resting my head against a medicine cabinet, the public urinal between speaking engagements. But most of what I’m left with is a feeling- complete exhaustion.

I remember at that moment that my daughter has the flu, and I feel guilt. Guilt for where I am now, and guilt for how little I’ve been there for her.

I try not to cry when I’m saying goodbye to my daughter. It tastes like blood in my mouth.

I’m at a hole in the wall coffee shop on Blake Street in Downtown Denver. There are two sharply dressed Europeans, with small carry on bags for a flight. They move between English and what I think is Russian. I realize that I still miss Europe, and it seems strange that two people sitting at an espresso bar would bring that out in me.

My mind quickly goes to thoughts of ex-girlfriends. Nothing sordid, in most cases it’s a struggle to even try and remember their faces. I think more of the locations, the music, the smells and sometimes the touch of sleeping next to someone in an oddly shaped bed. There’s not much left for me there, but it’s good for these rare moments where I find myself with nothing to concentrate on.

She used to hate my apartment; she called it the ivory tower, which is sort of apt. The thought of that never depressed me until recently. Now, I can only return late at night, when the Denver skyline looks beautiful, and hides the shit tan, red, sand, rock, gray, dirt, brown, mixed with whatever the fuck garish color palette they used in the 70’s, during the city’s previous boom.

Nothing in New York is ever as it seems to me. I doubt I will ever love this city, because the fanatical love that most people have for it makes the task overwhelming. I’ll never know it as well as everyone else; it will never reveal its secrets to me. Yet, I come here, and a little of the onion is peeled off every time. It’s a softer city than I ever knew it to be. People live in such close proximity that everyone is always in a mild state of annoyance, yet most people are willing and open to making connections with others. It’s unlike Minneapolis today, or the Denver of my college years.

This bar has taken a turn for the worst. It was a nice bar when we entered, nicer than the average Chicago bar, and seedier than the average Manhattan bar. But the night’s descended into orderly nothingness. Is this what it means to be waspy? Is this white trash? People pair off into disgusting twosomes. Someone in the group next to me keeps screaming the word ‘goy’. As I reach for my drink, a couple falls on top of me. An indistinguishable hand traces its path up my jeans. Did I ever like this shit? And if I did, what the fuck is wrong with me now? I’m fully aware that the problem could be me. Everyone is descending into hell, and it’s stupid to assume I’m the odd one out.

Out of the blue, an old girlfriend from Prague calls me. She was always very happy. And again, she tells me that she’s happy. But she doesn’t sound happy. She only mentions that she feels older, that she’s looking at new jobs, that she moved to apartment by a large lake. Berlin would be a tough city to get older in.

She’s going on a holiday to New York, and invites me to come join her. I tell her I will. I don’t really have much else to say. It seems like ground that’s been tread many times before. There were so many years when I would have loved to have had that call. I thought about that call every day, sometimes every hour. And then when it finally comes, you’re not sure why, and there’s nothing left to feel. Afterwards I eat a sandwich, and then go to a friend’s birthday party. It isn’t until late the next day that I even remember that the call happened.

I leave my grandmother’s house in Fort Collins. As I leave, the conversation ends with my family discussing if she should move to assisted living. I’m the only who appears to feel strongly that she should stay in her home. It’s not an old house, or the one from my childhood, but she keeps it immaculate, and it’s comfortable, and it’s close to the church where she volunteers.

There’s a hole in me that seems to be growing larger. I haven’t unconditionally loved anyone for a very long time, but now it’s returned in the form of my daughter. However, it’s not fair to put something so important onto someone so young. So it ends up pouring into work, into friends, and it’s just like learning to walk, or to speak, or some other skill that’s needed to exist. You’re trying to learn how to survive, by learning how to live without them.